Sleepless Nights (The Donovans of the Delta)

By: Peggy Webb

The Donovans of the Delta – Book 2





CHAPTER ONE

“Tanner Donovan looks every bit as handsome as he did when he was quarterback at Greenville High. Maybe better.”

Amanda Lassiter felt an odd breathlessness at the mention of his name. She must be crazy. Eleven years was time enough to forget anything, even a man as sinfully delicious as Tanner.

She made herself hang the antique petticoat carefully, before turning around to answer her assistant and longtime friend.

“No doubt he’ll set the hometown girls aflutter, Maxine. His wealth and fame are exceeded only by his reputation.” She hoped her voice conveyed exactly the right blend of nonchalance and disinterest.

“You’ve kept up?”

“No. I’ve read the papers, like everybody else.” Amanda sat down at her desk.

Maxine arched her eyebrows and tapped the newspaper with one long red fingernail. “How long has it been since you’ve seen him?”

“Not since the wedding,”

Maxine didn’t have to ask which wedding Amanda meant. Folks had talked about it for five years afterward. Some of them were still talking.

“I’ll never forget the way Tanner Donovan looked when you walked down that aisle with his best friend.”

Neither would Amanda, but she certainly didn’t want to dredge up the past.

“It’s ancient history.”

“Not as ancient as you might think. Just last week I overheard a group of young men at Doe’s Restaurant talking about the way Tanner stormed down that aisle and lifted you in his arms when the preacher asked if anyone knew any reason why you and Claude shouldn’t be joined in marriage. They even quoted exactly what he said, ‘I know because she’s still in love with me.’ That story is legend around here. The local kids love it.”

Amanda’s knuckles turned white as she clutched the edge of her desk. She closed her eyes as the memory washed over her. Tanner, sweeping her into his arms, challenging her with fierce quicksilver eyes to deny his words; and Claude, standing loyally by, as he always had; Claude, representing stability and children and a home; Claude, loving her, always loving her. She’d loved him too—but it hadn’t been enough. The memory of Tanner was always there between them.

Looking back now, it amazed her that they’d stayed married for six years. She’d wondered a hundred times since that fateful day what her life would have been like if she’d kept quiet, if she’d let Tanner abduct her.

“You’re bound to hear all sorts of things if you eavesdrop,” she said now.

Maxine chuckled. “If I didn’t eavesdrop, what would we talk about at bridge club? Besides, that’s all I have to do since I’m temporarily between husbands.” She looked down at the photograph of Tanner Donovan. “That man’s enough to set the old motor revving. While he’s home for the holidays I might take a crack at him myself. That is, if you don’t have plans for him.”

“I moved back to Greenville to open a business, not to try to renew an old romance. What happened between Tanner and me is over and done with.” Amanda hoped her smile was convincing. “You have my blessing. Not that you need it, of course.”

“Maybe you’d better look at this before you dismiss him.” She plopped the newspaper on Amanda’s desk. “I’m already in overdrive from looking at his picture.”

Amanda pushed the newspaper aside without glancing at it and smiled at her irrepressible friend. Maxine had breezed in and out of divorce court so often—four times at the last count—that the judge had declared his intentions of putting in a revolving door just for her. However, her apparent unsuitability for the bonds of matrimony didn’t keep her from the hunt. She stalked men with lusty good cheer, and it appeared she’d chosen Tanner Donovan as her latest quarry.

Amanda was surprised that the idea caused her a little twinge of regret.

“Do you think you can gear down long enough to help me move this case of jewelry before we close up? With Christmas coming, people will be looking for gifts, and these antique brooches will be perfect.”

For the next twenty minutes they worked together taking out the brooches, moving the small case closer to the front of the shop, and rearranging the jewelry. After the shop door swished shut behind Maxine, Amanda locked up and returned to her desk.

Picking up the newspaper, she stared down at the front-page spread on Tanner Donovan. The man’s dazzling charm, which she remembered so well, was not diminished by the black-and-white photograph.

Her eyes scanned the column. “Greenville’s most famous native son, Tanner Donovan, businessman-philanthropist, will be on hand for Saturday night’s American Diabetes Association charity benefit. Mr. Donovan, former outstanding quarterback for the Texas Titans, has contributed $100,000 to this worthwhile charity. His longtime interest in diabetes . . .”

Amanda stopped reading and sat staring into space. Unconsciously she caressed the photograph.

“Where did we go wrong, Tanner?”

The sound of her own words startled her into action. Picking up her bag and her hat, she started for the back door. Her little blue Honda Civic was parked behind her shop. She tilted her hat at a cocky angle, climbed behind the wheel, and headed toward her favorite coffee shop on the river. She’d be darned if she was going to sit around wallowing in self-pity, guilt, and old memories.