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THE TROUBLE IN WILLOW FALLS
Willow Falls Series Book 2
BY PAT NICHOLS
Scathing publicity threatens to undermine Redding Arms’ grand opening and Willow Falls debut as a North Georgia tourist destination.
Rachel Streetman is one audition away from advancing her lackluster acting career. The shocking outcome sends her reeling back into Charlie Bricker’s arms. Following a successful audition for a resected director she faces a moral dilemma. Another career disappointment could crush her dream.
After waiting for months to hear from publishers, Emily Hayes receives one response—a rejection. When famous artist Naomi Jasper offers her much-needed cash to finish writing, then cast and direct a play about Willow Falls’ colorful history, Emily faces a difficult decision—postpone rewriting her novel or accept the project. After convincing Rachel to partner with her, she agrees to take on the play. Failure to deliver is not an option.
Five newcomers and one British tourist test the town’s quirky but lovable residents, who dig deep to surmount the conflicts and catastrophes that challenge Willow Falls’ small-town charms. But the avalanche of trouble in Willow Falls may remind all its residents of what binds them together: honesty, love, loyalty, and a sense of humor.
Rachel Streetman stood on the sidewalk in downtown Atlanta and imagined living on the street. Sleeping in a doorway or on a bench in Centennial Park. Penniless. Alone. Men and women stepping around her as if she was nothing more than an obstacle blocking their paths. Children staring at her.
She tilted her head back and gazed at the top of the seventy-three-story circular Peachtree Plaza Hotel. Until a dizzy sensation threw her off balance and forced her focus back to ground level. She pressed her hand against a light pole. A week away from the most important audition in her life, she couldn’t risk passing out and breaking her arm or a tooth.
When the spinning stopped, she glanced at her watch. Fifteen minutes before lunch with her former assistant. She walked across the street and spotted a young man crouched on the sidewalk. His dog sprawled beside him. Brown hair brushed against his shirt collar. A scruffy beard covered the lower portion of his face. Was he the guy she’d befriended last year, before she resigned as vice president for her father’s company?
She moved closer and pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head. “Dennis Locke?”
His eyes widened. “Ms. Streetman?” He stood and wiped his hands on his jeans.
“It is you.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been around in a while.”
“No need to apologize. I didn’t expect a fine lady like you to keep coming back.”
She swiped a layer of sweat from her lip. Should she give him money and walk away? Or do some audition pre-work for the role—Penelope, a homeless woman who finds a winning lottery ticket. She stepped beside Dennis, relieved he smelled of soap and shampoo. “Are you still staying at the homeless shelter?”
She leaned back against the wall. A man wearing expensive shoes and a three-piece suit tossed a handful of change toward the ball cap serving as Dennis’s collection plate. A quarter and three pennies missed the target and landed on the pavement. He moved past without making eye contact or uttering a word.
Heat crept up Rachel’s neck. “I guess he didn’t want those pesky coins rattling around in his pocket.”
“Don’t give him a hard time.”
“He could have said hello or at least nodded.”
Dennis shrugged. “Why would he?”
Rachel turned her attention to men and women rushing past without acknowledging their existence. “It’s like we’re invisible.”
“Easier for them.” He slid back to the pavement.
She sat beside him and imagined this was her spot, her cap poised for contributions. How would it feel to be hopeless and invisible, then suddenly have enough money to turn your life around? Frightening? Challenging? What if she had no place to go? No one to love?
She swallowed the lump in her throat as images of Charlie, Mama Sadie, Emily, and Willow Falls played in her mind. Her refuge. She glanced sideways at Dennis. Maybe he needed something … or someone to motivate him off the street. A bizarre idea bubbled up. “July Fourth is in a few days.”
He swatted a fly from his face and wiped sweat from his forehead.
Words tumbled off her tongue before she had time to think. “Why don’t you spend the holiday in Willow Falls with me and my family? Emily, my twin sister, owns a lovely inn. You can stay there.”
What are you doing, Rachel? You don’t need responsibility for a homeless man days before your audition. She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around her shins. Should she withdraw the invitation? Treat him like everyone who passed him by? She couldn’t do that.
“Look, I know I’ve caught you off guard. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised myself. The invitation still stands. I’ll come by the shelter on the third and pick you up.” She opened her wallet, removed all the bills, and dropped them in his cap.
Pat Nichols, award-winning author, proves it’s never too late to follow your dreams. She draws on her twenty-seven-year corporate career to create emotion-filled, character-rich stories about women facing challenges in pursuit of their dreams. Pat lives in an Atlanta suburb with her husband of fifty plus years. She is the mother of two and grandmother of four–one is with the angels. Pat received a 2018 NGCWC Georgia Peach Award for her short story, The Vet and Valentine’s Day and is a Selah Award finalist for her debut novel, The Secret of Willow Inn, Willow Falls Series book one. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Wordweavers International
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