Beyond Fate, a love story that will make you laugh and make you cry.
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Fletcher Maitland, perennial bachelor, falls in lust and love with the beautiful new arrival in Big Mama’s fish camp.
All he asks for is a cup of coffee.
What he gets is more … much more.
Cleo Anderson lives her life in the shadow of her mother’s sin.
As Cleo begins to fall in love with Fletcher Maitland, the demons in her past rise to taunt her.
Now she must choose between a life lived in guilt and shame or a future beyond fate.
The Old South! Heat and humidity, plantations and levees, rivers and swamps, bears, alligators, snakes, and wild hogs! If Cleo could get her hands on the travel writer who made Georgia sound so magical, she would’ve plucked his eyelashes out with tweezers. If only she had not made that left turn off of Interstate 10! But there was the sign: Suwanee River. More imaginary magic had somehow drawn her to follow a hand-lettered sign that read: FISH CAMP. The sun was a blast furnace, and sweat dripped into her eyes as she struggled with the bracing strut that clamped the awning to her Play-Mor camper. If she didn’t get the awning up, she’d bake to death.
A commotion in the overgrowth that surrounded her campsite distracted her. A wild hog? A deer?
She was on the verge of dropping the strut and stepping inside the camper for safety’s sake when a man burst through head-high palm fronds. He was striding fast and looking over his shoulder. She realized she wasn’t even on his radar.
“Hey!” she called, but the warning was too late. He caromed into her. The strut flew out of her hands. The canvas awning collapsed and enveloped them both. The sun was shut out, and Cleo found herself being dragged to the sandy earth, her arms and legs entangled with those of the man. Her first thought was of sand fleas and fire ants. Every site she had camped in from Texas to Georgia had been infested with the vile things. Once bitten, forever shy. In her imagination they were crawling over every inch of her skin.
“Christ on a crutch,” he muttered.
“Move,” she said to the man, panic a microsecond away. She kicked at his arms and legs and tried lifting the heavy canvas from her face.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Be quiet for minute.”
“Be quiet? Are you nuts? I’m suffocating. Get us out of here.”
The sailcloth, stiff and unmalleable from its winter packing, defied her attempts to throw it off. She sucked in a lungful of hot, musty air. She heard herself breathing; heard him, too.
“Are you okay?”
“No, you broke my arm.”
“Jesus Christ.” He scrambled over her legs and burrowed toward fresh air. Cleo crawled behind and atop of him. She wanted out.
But he didn’t crawl into the sunlight and heat-drenched air; he maneuvered out from beneath the awning, up the two pull-down steps, and right into her small camper. The screened door snapped shut, and the latch clicked.
“What the heck— Hey! Come out of there!”
“Lady, please,” came his whispered, pleading reply, “tell them I kept going…”
“Who? Tell who?”
“Witches and warlocks. They’ll be here any second.”
Oh, God, a crazy. A moment later the canvas was lifted by unseen hands. Cleo homed in on the light and scooted into sunshine and into two pairs of well-tanned legs. One pair was fat and solid, the other stick thin.
“Thanks.” She breathed as she got to her feet. Rivulets of sweat were running down her face and dripping off her chin. She took a swipe at them. She checked herself all over for ants.
“Is Fletcher under there?” asked the chubby blonde. She stomped about the canvas until it was flattened. Finding nothing, she gave Cleo a sidelong look of reproach—a look designed to make its recipient feel mildly guilty.
At the moment it would take far more than a look to make Cleo feel guilty about anything. She stretched out her arm. Not broken, but she bet she’d have some bruises. “Who?” she asked, and got busy dusting twigs and sand from her shorts.
“The tall good-looking guy. He ran into you, didn’t he? We heard you yell.”
“Something ambushed me. I didn’t notice what it looked like.” She took in the women. Two against one. Since she was somewhat in control now, charity reared its head. Cleo avoided glancing at the camper. “This guy you’re chasing, what’s he done?”
“Did you see which way he went?” asked Thin.
Cleo shook her head. Well, she hadn’t, had she? Now, if the woman asked, “Do you know where he is?” Cleo would have been obliged to tell. She had been raised to tell the truth, but sometimes it clotted in her throat and she could swallow it before it got out and did damage.
Ah, Cleo, you’re fudging, said a small inner voice.
I can’t talk to you now. I’m in a situation.
Sure you are, and the situation is there’s a strange man in your Play-Mor along with your traveler’s checks, your cash, your cameras and laptop, not to mention Gram’s last four pieces of Limoges.
I’m just doing him a favor.
A man you don’t even know?
He might be a rapist, a thief, schizophrenic, or worse—married.
Cleo flushed and forced a smile. “Look, ladies, I don’t want to get involved in a marital spat.”
Blondie laughed. “This is no marital spat. Fletcher’s the perennial bachelor.”
Thin didn’t look happy. “C’mon, Bev, if you pursue this, Fletcher will get mad and refuse to make a fourth at bridge next time we’re here.” Thin looked at Cleo, explaining, “Women have been hassling Fletcher ever since his book came out. Some want to convert him, and some want to kill him. Besides that, it’s gotten terrible reviews. Not that any of us care.”
“Book?” Cleo was trying to change the direction of her mind in mid-thought. The man was a writer. An unmarried writer. His book had gotten rotten reviews. The poor guy. A writer herself, Cleo had an instant affinity for the author. The woman called Bev thrust a thin volume in Cleo’s direction. She glanced at the title. For Men Only. 101 Ways to Stay Married. In very small print was, and Still Do What You Want by Fletcher Fremont Maitland. Cleo blinked and read the title again. What utter gall. Her ire rose. Empathy for a fellow writer evaporated.“No wonder he’s the perennial bachelor. No woman in her right mind would tolerate him.”
“Yes they would—and do. Fletcher oozes sex so thick you could eat it with a spoon,” said Thin.
“For God’s sakes, Clara, shut up,” Blondie said. “We just wanted his autograph. He promised, and now he’s trying to renege.”
“You’re looking for the guy who wrote this?” She was ready to tell them.