Don't Let Go

By: Sharla Lovelace

Acknowledgments





Love forever and always to my wonderful readers, who have waited a long time for this. I hope it was worth the wait! I’m so excited to bring you Jules and Noah’s story in Don’t Let Go, and introduce you to the quirky little town of Copper Falls, Texas. Love happens here. Life happens here. I hope you laugh and cry and feel these people like I do.

Don’t Let Go wouldn’t be out in the world without my Wonder Woman agent/cheerleader/hand-holder/champion, Jessica Faust, of BookEnds Literary Agency. It wouldn’t be wonderful without the editing skills of Bill Harris. My happy dance is dedicated to you both for being the best team ever! You rock.

My everlasting love, appreciation, and deepest thanks go out to my family, with huge hugs. My kids may be grown and gone, but believe me, they still hear about my journey way more than they probably want. And my husband—let’s just say he gets the brunt. He not only listens to me rant but listens to me do it about fictitious people who aren’t following directions, and then reads the finished product even though he would most likely rather jump in front of a bus at that point. He’s my hero.

I love hearing from my readers, so please shoot me a line on Facebook or Twitter (@sharlalovelace) or from the contact page at www.sharlalovelace.com. And there may be a surprise for you at the end of the book . . . because I’m a big believer in sharing.

Enjoy!







Chapter 1



I love red. It’s my absolute favorite color.

I have a red car, a red coffeepot, have been known to have a red purse on occasion, and there is one accent wall in my living room painted a dark red. This was done both to make me happy when my daughter and I moved into my mother’s old house and to spite my mother. Who hated red. Two birds and all that.

Certain times of the year, however, the color red gives me the willies.

The end of January, for example.

January—let’s be honest—is a dead month. The hype of the holidays is over and people are back to work, slaving to pay off the credit card bills they just amassed. Resolutions have already been attempted and failed, for the most part, after the first few weeks. All there is, is cold. And wet.

In Texas, that wet cold is very rarely white. It’s pretty much just gray. In fact, I’ve seen it actually snow—and stick—probably four times in my whole life. One of those times was when my daughter was in the sixth grade, and the whole school district shut down for the three inches we got. Kids were having snowball fights on the playgrounds and the high schoolers had a snowball war on the football field. It made the local news.

Most of my winters have just been rainy, misty, freezing misery, with the occasional brisk pretty day that fools townspeople into thinking throwing a carnival in the middle of it is a grand idea.

The Copper Falls Winter Carnival is chaos, themed red in honor of the chili cook-off, and offset in white by the ridiculousness of a fake snowflake parade. That about covers it.

They get giddy over this mess. Making floats for a parade that will kick off carnival rides in the icy rain and turn all their papier-mâché and Ivory soap creations into paste. Every year.

Everyone except me. And my Nana Mae, who finds the festival and the whole snow thing in a town right off the Gulf of Mexico as silly as I do. Well, except for the chili part. That part was pretty good, and Georgette Pruitt from the flower shop usually made the best one, if you could ignore the blinged-out snowflake hat she always insisted on wearing.

But it wasn’t just that, either. And it wasn’t just the cold rainy ick in the air and people progressively losing their sanity over a lame festival that essentially celebrated nothing. Or from having to watch my otherwise intelligent neighbors self-implode every year debating whether deer meat chili is better than beef or trying to one-up each other with one hundred and one versions of fake snow crafts for their floats. No, I think that’s just extra icing for me.

I had my own reason for the event to push me sideways every year. The cheesy festival and music and lights and red flyers on every street post, the smell of chili, cookies, and homemade candles, and the weeks preceding it when no one talked about anything else—those were just markers. Big obnoxious signs that hung that reason right out in front of my face.

And then, even that felt different this year. I felt lopsided.

I should have taken some time off from the bookstore to read or reorganize or clean out closets for the giant communal garage sale that was also part of the fun. Something brainless that didn’t require thought or hand-eye coordination. I should have, but as usual I didn’t. And my nerves had about had it.

This particular morning was not a winner. Like a jolt from a dead sleep at two in the morning. That tends to mess you up a little, overly zealous neighbors or not. I cracked my knuckles and rolled my neck, trying to pull my foggy head together.

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