Front Porch Promises #4
December 14, 2017
Available in: e-Book, Trade Size
A Song to Call Ours
This contemporary Christian Romance is the fourth book in the Front Porch Promises series.
Amanda Reynolds has always dreamed of being a songwriter and recording artist, so she drops out of music school and heads for Nashville. But when her car breaks down in a tiny eastern Tennessee town, her dreams take a big detour.
Mitchell Cunningham loves running his garage and repairing cars in his small hometown. But Amanda’s appearance makes him reconsider his priorities, especially the one about staying away from any woman who doesn’t share his small-town dreams.
When a big break in the Nashville music scene comes Amanda’s way, what will Mitch do to keep from losing the woman he loves?
The car sputtered to a stop. Amanda Reynolds scowled at the check-engine light that had appeared like a flash of lightning on the horizon. She let out a heavy sigh and stared at the road sign. Pineydale, Tennessee, Population 4,132. She doubted a town this small would have a place that repaired foreign cars. She didn’t want to think about being stranded in some out-of-the-way place in East Tennessee.
She had plenty of gas, unless the gauge was incorrect. What else could be wrong? She didn’t have a clue. Setting the car in neutral, she hoped she could get this hunk of junk she called a car off the road. She got out, and with the door open, she pushed with all her might and managed to steer the car toward the shoulder.
Mission accomplished, she wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand, then pulled her hair off the back of her neck. Her dreams of getting to Nashville waved goodbye right along with the heat waves rising above the pavement on the road ahead. She kicked at the tire. It didn’t help. She should have opted for a reliable sedan rather than her father’s discarded sports car.
The sound of an approaching vehicle made her look up. A faded-blue pickup truck rumbled toward her. She wasn’t sure whether to be happy or cautious. A lone female on a deserted stretch of road might find an unsavory character behind the wheel. As the pickup drew closer, she could see the male driver. Would he stop or drive right by? Her heart thumped against her rib cage like the tires bumping along the uneven pavement.
As the vehicle slowed, Amanda prayed for safety.
The pickup stopped. The driver lowered the window. “Need some help here, or did kicking the tire solve your problem?”
Amanda didn’t appreciate the joke coming from the man with the good-ole-boy accent. She couldn’t see his face, obscured by the shadow of his ragged blue ball cap, sporting a big red A. She wished she could come up with some smart retort, but nothing came to mind. Did he intend to be helpful or just make fun of her situation? She wouldn’t let him know he had annoyed her.
“I do need help. My car stopped running.”
The man leaned toward the open window. “I can give you a ride into town.”
That was an invitation she didn’t want to accept. Would he get help for her? She had to take that chance. “I think I’d rather just wait here with my car. Could you get a tow truck for me?”
He took off his cap, revealing chestnut-colored hair cut in an almost military-style, twinkling blue-gray eyes, and a face she could only describe as movie-star handsome. He looked younger than she’d estimated at first glance. He probably wasn’t much older than her twenty-five years. He grinned, revealing straight white teeth, not the missing teeth she’d expected.
“I sure can, little lady, but I got good air conditioning in here that’s a lot cooler than standing out there in the heat.”
She grinned back. “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll take my chances with the heat.”
“Suit yourself.” He put his cap on and shifted back behind the wheel. “Someone will be here to help you out shortly.”
“Thanks.” As Amanda watched the truck rumble down the road that carved its way through the deciduous forest, she hoped she wasn’t making a mistake by sending him away. After the pickup disappeared over the hill, she kicked the tire again. The action wouldn’t make her car start, but it relieved some of her frustration.
While she waited for the tow truck, she tried to start the car again. It made a terrible noise but didn’t start. She should leave it alone, or she might do more damage. The heat was stifling inside the car, but it wasn’t much better outside. The midmorning sun beat down on her. Was it supposed to be this hot in Tennessee in early June? Her pale skin was sure to sport a sunburn if she didn’t get out of the sun. She slid back onto the driver’s seat.
The minutes crawled. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Maybe the guy never planned to send a tow truck, and the joke was on her. She got out again. Even her sunglasses did nothing to blunt the sun’s rays. Shading her eyes with one hand, she peered down the road. Nothing.
The sign said she was in Pineydale, but no house or buildings of any kind were in sight. Just trees, trees, and more trees of every description lined the road as far as she could see. She couldn’t believe no other cars had come by. Was there another exit off the interstate leading to the little town? After her car had started making noise, she’d taken the first exit available, and it had led to an empty road in the middle of nowhere.
Could she walk into town?
Glancing down at her platform wedge sandals, Amanda wrinkled her nose. Her shoes weren’t suitable for walking on uneven ground. She’d walked in these kind of shoes all over the city of Boston, but there sidewalks provided firm footing. She let out a heavy sigh. Was this a sign she should’ve stayed in Boston? Her father thought so, and he would not be sympathetic to her plight.
Amanda tried to dig out one of her suitcases from under all the paraphernalia in the trunk. Hopefully, she remembered which bag contained her tennis shoes. After she managed to get the suitcase out, she rooted through the clothes. Triumph rode in like a conquering knight as she pulled the red tennis shoes from underneath a pile of blue jeans.
As she held the shoes, she looked down at the mess she’d made. Could she get everything back into the suitcase and into the trunk? First things first. She had to change shoes. With the car door open, she sat on the seat while the steering wheel poked her in the ribs. She unbuckled her sandals and put on the tennis shoes.
She walked to the back of the car and repacked everything, then slammed the trunk closed. She stared at the vehicle. Would it be safe if she left it by the side of the road? Not that anyone would want a car that didn’t run, but she didn’t want to lose her other belongings. She couldn’t leave her guitar. It was too visible lying there on the passenger seat. It was the one possession she couldn’t afford to lose.
With another sigh of resignation, she retrieved her purse and the guitar in its case.
She had fled from Pinecrest because she despised living in that little town. The joke was on her. Now she was stuck in a place called Pineydale—Pinecrest all over again with a southern accent.
“Hey, Boss, where ya goin’? Ya just got back.”
Mitchell Cunningham leaned out the window of the tow truck as he looked at Bobby Crawford, the high school kid who worked for him on Saturdays. “Got a tow on the outskirts of town. Be back in a few.”
“Okay.” Bobby stepped back from the truck. “I’ll keep an eye on everything while you’re gone.”
“I won’t be long.” Mitch motioned toward one side of the garage. “Have Johnny get that bay ready for a repair.”
“Sure thing.” Bobby hurried to obey orders.
As Mitch drove through town, he wondered about the young woman he’d encountered. What was her story? She was good looking with long auburn hair with a tint of red visible in the bright sunshine. Her white short shorts displayed a pair of long, shapely legs. He shouldn’t have been ogling them, but he couldn’t help noticing. And her sandals looked like they were impossible to walk in. Her foreign faded-red sports car and fashions told him she probably came from privilege, but she needed his help now.
He came around a curve and spied a lone figure walking alongside the road. As he drew closer, he recognized the young woman. She had replaced her ridiculous sandals with a pair of bright-red tennis shoes, and she carried what looked like a guitar case in one hand.
Slowing the truck, he rolled down the window. When he was beside her on the road, he stopped. “You fixin’ to walk to town anyway? Couldn’t wait for the tow?”
The woman tucked one side of her hair behind her ear. “I didn’t know if you would send anyone for me, so I wasn’t going to sit there and wait forever.”
“I said I’d send someone for you.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know you. How could I trust that you were going to do what you’d said you’d do?”
“People around these parts can be trusted to do what they say.” Mitch raised his eyebrows.
The young woman shrugged but didn’t say a thing.
“You want to hop in, and we’ll get that car of yours into town?” Mitch flicked back the brim of his cap and grinned as he read the hesitation in her expression.
After a few seconds, she hoisted her guitar case and stepped toward the truck. “Thanks. What should I do with my guitar?”
“I’ve got the perfect place for it.” Mitch got out and walked around to where she was standing. “Give it to me.”
“Okay.” She handed over the case.
Mitch stowed it behind the front seat, then looked at her. “Go ahead and get into the truck.”
She quickly hopped onto the passenger seat and buckled her seat belt. He didn’t know what to make of her quiet demeanor. Was she wary about accepting help from a stranger? Probably.
She sat there stiff and tense. “Why didn’t you say you’d be the one returning to tow my car?”
“What difference does it make?” Mitch put the truck in gear.
She didn’t answer as she stared straight ahead.
Mitch started down the road toward her car. “I’m Mitchell Cunningham. My friends call me Mitch. Do you have a name you’d like to share?”
She still didn’t look at him. “Amanda Reynolds.”
“Hello, Amanda Reynolds. Headed to Nashville?”
She finally looked his way, her green eyes full of surprise. “How’d you know?”
“The guitar.” Mitch nodded toward the back seat.
“Oh.” She turned toward the front again and crossed her arms over her torso, tension still evident in her shoulders. “Good guess.”
He could say something about her joining the hundreds of wannabes who flocked to Nashville each year in hopes of landing some kind of recording or songwriting contract, but he decided against it. She didn’t need him to pile on after her car had broken down.
After he parked the truck in front of her car, he looked over at her. Her grim expression pricked at his heart. He hoped nothing major was wrong with her car. He’d fixed enough cars to know that some repairs ran in the thousands of dollars. He instructed her to stay in the truck while he made quick work of getting the car up on the back.
He slid behind the wheel and looked her way. “All set.”
She turned to him, worry in her eyes. “Is there someone in your town who works on foreign cars?”
Mitch grinned. “You’re lookin’ at him.”
“Oh, so you’re the mechanic as well as the tow truck driver?”
“You got it.”
She turned her gaze back toward the road, as if to dismiss him. She didn’t seem too sure that he knew what he was doing. He would have to show her. They rode in silence for several minutes. He cast a surreptitious glance in her direction. She sat with her arms still crossed. Her expression made him think she was close to tears. What was her story besides her destination? Would she tell him if he asked?
“Where you from?”
She turned to look at him but remained silent, a shrug lifting her shoulders. “All over.”
“Does that mean you’ve lived a lot of places or you don’t want to tell me?”
“Lots of places.”
“And what constitutes a lot?”
“Well, maybe not a lot. California, Washington State, and Boston.”
“No specific towns in California and Washington?”
“You wouldn’t have heard of them anyway.” She lifted one shoulder and let it fall. “I figured you’ve heard of Boston.”
“And what were you doing in Boston?”
“Nosy, aren’t you?”
“Just trying to make conversation and get to know you.”
She let out a heavy sigh. “Going to music school.”
“And now you plan to put all that knowledge to work in Nashville.”
“Yeah, or that was the plan until this happened.” She waved a hand toward the back.
“This is just a minor delay. You’ll be back on the road in no time.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Mitch slowed the truck as he came to the edge of town. He tried to gauge her reaction to the place where he’d grown up. He drove by a gas station that housed a Quick Shop with a bait and tackle section for locals and visitors who tried their luck at fishing and camping in the nearby lakes and hills. A steak house also greeted people on this end of town with its large wooden sign. A church, the post office, and town hall occupied the next block, the brick buildings a testament to better times in Pineydale.
When Mitch stopped at the first of the town’s three traffic lights, he looked over at her. She appeared to be surveying the place. What was she thinking after living in Boston?
Campers and fishermen in the spring, summer, and fall kept Pineydale alive, with the added bonus of leaf peepers in the fall. She’d probably find this place lacking, especially in shopping venues. One small clothing and shoe store had managed to hang on after the big box store had opened on the edge of town when he was in high school.
As the light turned green, he wanted to ask her what she thought, but he decided against it.
The combined elementary, middle, and high school building took up the next whole block. It had seen nearly a hundred years of graduates. He still liked to attend the high school sporting events and cheer on the local boys and girls.
“Did you go to school there?”
Mitch glanced over at her, surprised by her voluntary inquiry. “Yeah. If you live in Pineydale and the surrounding county, that’s where you go to school.”
“Kind of looks like where I went to high school.”
“We have something in common.”
“Does your family live in Boston?”
“No.” Her one-word answer, followed by silence, shut down the conversation.
Maybe she didn’t get along with her family. He wouldn’t speculate. He should just forget the small talk. She obviously didn’t want to reveal much about herself.
They rode the rest of the way to his repair shop without saying another word. He drove down Main Street, where he’d spent many an hour cruising with his friends on weekends. The barber shop and hair salon stood like bookends on a block that included the Pineydale Café, a bank, and a hardware store.
When they reached the other end of Main Street, Mitch turned left past a small lumberyard and stopped in front of the all-white block building with the large picture window emblazoned with big block blue letters that proclaimed Wilbur’s Garage.
“Is Wilbur your boss?”
Mitch didn’t know why it pleased him so much that she had asked the question, but her unexpected curiosity made him smile. “Not sure how to answer that question. Wilbur was my great-uncle. This was his garage, but he died several years ago. Now I run the place.”
Amanda eyed him. “I’m sorry about your uncle.”
“Thanks. He was a special man and taught me all I know about cars and engines. Cancer cut short his life.” Mitch pushed away the sadness that inundated him still when he thought of his uncle. “He and his wife never had any children, so they kind of adopted me. I spent a lot of time with them through the years. So I miss him a lot.”
“I’m sure you do. So now you’re the boss?”
“Yeah. I’m the boss.” Did that make a difference to her? He didn’t know why he cared, but for some crazy reason he did. “So we’re here. I’ll get your car into the bay and check it out.”
“Where should I wait while you do that?”
Mitch hopped out of the truck. “I’ll show you. Follow me.”
As Mitch made his way into the small reception area, he wished the chairs were better and the reading material newer. Why was he worried about impressing a woman who would get her car fixed and leave town without giving him a second thought? He didn’t need another woman in his life who was all about appearances and little else. He let out a sigh. He shouldn’t judge. Amanda was probably more than her impractical sandals.
After Mitch showed Amanda where she could wait, he got right to work. After listening to her explanation of what happened when her car stopped running, he had his suspicions about what was wrong. He quickly confirmed them. She wasn’t going to like what he had to tell her, but there wasn’t any point in delaying the bad news.
Mitch trudged toward the reception area and looked Amanda’s way as he stood in the doorway. She was reading one of the ancient magazines from the pock-marked coffee table. What could possibly interest her in one of the fishing and sporting magazines? Maybe he had completely misjudged her. He cleared his throat, and she looked up.
“Is my car fixed already?”
Her optimism made his task even worse. He shook his head as he stepped into the room and handed her the estimate. “I’m afraid not. Here are the damages.”
She took the paper and studied it for a moment. When she looked back at him, the expected incredulity painted every inch of her expression. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Thousands of dollars to fix that hunk of junk?”
“Yeah, the car probably isn’t worth repairing, but it’s up to you. The repairs cost more than the car is worth.”
Placing a hand over her mouth as if to stifle a sob, she closed her eyes. Her shoulders slumped. The hum of the ceiling fan filled the silence. Finally, she looked up at him as she let out a loud sigh. “The car doesn’t belong to me. It’s my dad’s.”
“So you need to talk to him? I can send him the estimate by fax or email.”
Amanda fished her cell phone from her tiny purse. “I don’t know what I want you to do right now.”
“Take your time. That car isn’t going anywhere soon.” Mitch walked back into the garage area, where he looked at the little red sports car. If he were Amanda, he wouldn’t spend the money to fix it. The cost of replacing the engine was more than the car was worth, but he could fix this car and make it worth something. Maybe he could buy it from her. Then she’d have some cash to buy a used car or a bus ticket to Nashville, which was probably a ticket to disappointment. More disappointment than a broken-down car.
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