Always on My Mind - Bella Andre Page 0,1

down harder on the gas pedal and sped toward what she could now see was the teeny-tiny Pescadero Main Street.

The car rental lady had been right about the pretty green fields and the cute sheep, but she’d somehow forgotten to mention how quiet silence was...or how lonesome.

Lori had filled her world with loud music and tall buildings and vibrant people for so long that it was strange to be surrounded by none of the above. She’d flipped on the car radio at one point, but it had felt akin to turning on a boom box in the middle of a church, so she’d immediately turned it off.

Still, for all that her mood wasn’t exactly at its best, since it was the first sunny day she’d seen in weeks, she was determined to enjoy the warm sun and blue skies. Plus, just as her auto-mechanic-slash-mogul brother Zach had always claimed, there really was something about getting in a car and going for a drive. Granted, she thought as she looked down at her little rental car, he usually did his joyrides in a Ferrari. Besides, he didn’t do them alone anymore, now that he and Heather were in love and engaged.

Lori pulled up in front of the Pescadero General Store just as a little girl walked outside carrying a big bag of dog food and wearing a huge smile. A man Lori easily assumed was her grandfather was barely a beat behind her holding a brand-new dog crate. Wearing cowboy boots and well-worn blue jeans, they both fit perfectly into the farm town.

As she got out of the car, Lori saw the girl’s puppy. His leash had been tied to a nearby post and when he caught sight of the little girl, the black and white dog started wagging its tail so hard its whole body looked like a kite flying in the breeze. The girl immediately dropped the dog food bag on the ground and picked up the puppy in her arms to give it kisses. The grizzled old farmer said, “You’re going to spoil him,” in a gruff voice, but his eyes were full of love.

For the second time, Lori felt her eyes start to water. She’d gotten used to the bright sunlight and had flipped her sunglasses up on top of her head a while ago, but now she plopped them back over her eyes.

As she stepped onto the sidewalk, both the man and the girl stopped to look at her, each of them doing a double take. She couldn’t figure out what had shocked them so much...not until she finally looked down at herself.

Oh yeah, this was why. The form-fitting, sleeveless, bright-pink top covered in multicolored sequins that ended at mid-thigh, and nearly opaque tights combined with the glittery heels she’d been dancing in, were a little strange to be wearing in the middle of the day. Not just here, but anywhere, really.

She’d completely forgotten what she was wearing when she’d stormed out of the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, thrown her things into her suitcase at the hotel, then headed to the airport to catch the next plane to San Francisco. She’d wrapped an oversized scarf around herself on the plane and in the airport, but it was so warm and sunny during her drive that she’d stripped it off and had left it on the passenger seat.

Of course the puppy didn’t care what she was wearing, and when she reached for it, he wriggled his furry body toward her. “What a cute puppy,” she said to the little girl. “What’s his name?”


“That’s a great name,” Lori said as she smiled and patted the dog, but just as her fingertips stroked the soft fur between the puppy’s ears, the girl’s grandfather dragged them away.

A moment later, when Lori turned to head for the General Store’s front door, the ground felt as though it was moving beneath her. Bracing herself against the wall, Lori realized she hadn’t had anything to eat for nearly twenty-four hours. Despite what most people thought dancers’ lives were like, she had a healthy appetite and a fast metabolism, and knew she shouldn’t have gone so long without eating.

It was just that food hadn’t sounded very good for a while now...

With renewed purpose, she pushed through the door. Animal feed and supplies ran the length of one entire side of the store. In the middle was a display of knitwear, jeans, cowboy boots, and what looked like packages of underwear and socks. The other