Town of Chance: Sweet Caroline

By: Dixie Lynn Dwyer


The Dare Series 5

Town of Chance: Sweet Caroline



Prologue



“You must be so excited about your sister moving out here. When do you expect her?” Marlena Courts asked Shelby Ann. Shelby exhaled. She felt so nervous about her sister getting here safely. She couldn’t wait to hold her in her arms and hug her tight. The last several months had been hell for her sister, but she was finally getting away from Cameron.

“Hopefully before dinnertime. I’m a nervous wreck,” Shelby said as she wiped her sweaty palms on her dress skirt. She’d stepped into Rita’s diner to grab lunch with Marlena. They had become friends when Marlena worked at the diner and they hung out a few times with other friends like Eliza Grace. Eliza Had a photo shoot today out of town and couldn’t make it. Shelby had moved here on a whim a little more than a year ago. Similar to her sister Caroline, she had been in an abusive relationship. She swallowed hard and her chest tightened just thinking about the hell she went through, which made her wonder why the same thing had to happen to Caroline. All she could think was that it was their poor upbringing and their desperate need to feel loved and special. No one in Chance knew Shelby’s secret, and no one would know about Caroline’s. She would be safe here. Cameron would never find her because Caroline had never told Cameron that she had a sister she was close to. It was best that way. Shelby was in hiding and nothing would change that.

She swallowed hard, feeling a bit guilty. Marlena and just about everyone in Chance were good, trustworthy people. The sheriff, one of Alicia’s men, was a force to reckon with. They had resources and people who lived in town or nearby that helped anyone in trouble, but they couldn’t help Shelby. If Skip found her, she was as good as dead. Nothing mattered more right now than her sister Caroline. She’d sounded desperate, scared, and she felt that fear through the phone line. Caroline’s voice penetrated Shelby’s gut instincts and a familiar feeling that remained with Shelby even now, nearly two years later. Caroline was hurting, and her boyfriend Cameron was to blame.

Shelby Ann felt the hand on her hand and looked up at Marlena. She smiled.

“She’s going to be just fine. She’ll get here in one piece and you’ll help her to move on with her life, with a better life.”

Her chest tightened.

“Oh God, I sure do hope so, Marlena. It’s hard to concentrate at work. I worry all the time, waiting for that phone call that she’s in the hospital, or dead. She’s the only family I have. I guess I’m just a little overprotective of her.” The tears filled her eyes and Marlena squeezed her hand again.

“It’s going to be just fine. You’ll see. She’s headed here. She’s hours away now. That protective big sister instinct of yours will ease up once she is here. Then you two can spend lots of time together. You won’t have to worry so much. Remember, if you guys need anything at all, if there’s more to your concern, that we’re all here for you.”

“Marlena, I told you, Caroline just had a falling out with her boyfriend and she’s sad and brokenhearted. I’m just being silly. Ignore me. Like you said, once Caroline is here, everything will be perfect.”

Marlena gave her an expression that told Shelby she wasn’t buying her story. Shelby was sticking with it, just like she stuck to her story when she moved here. Single, white female, twenty-six, looking for a change and yearning for warmer days and cool nights in a southern state. Of course she never expected to find Chance, but the job offer was just too good to pass up and she had been desperate.

“I know. You’ve said that before, but it’s the way you worry, especially now, and it’s like there’s more to her story. I may be reaching, but it sounds like you’re trying to hide the fact your sister may be in danger. You can tell me, Shelby. I can help you, and her.”

Shelby panicked but somehow she remained calm.

“We’ll be just fine. I appreciate your offer, but mostly I appreciate your friendship, Marlena. If things get sticky, I know you’ll be here for me and Caroline, just like Eliza Grace and Missy Ann.”

Marlena smiled and nodded, dropping the questions for now. She’d bought herself more time. All she seemed to do the past year and a half was buy time, tell fibs to cover her life story, and remain under the radar.

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