Heat Level: 5 Flames
Melanie has always known she was attracted to women and not men. Kicked out of the only home she's ever known when she was eighteen, Melanie has been on her own for years. Verbally abused her whole life by her mother because she is tall, big boned, tan, and god forbid, a brunette, Melanie used her mother's disappointment in her sexual orientation as an excuse to chart her own course. But when a bus ticket along with a plea to come home for Thanksgiving arrives out of the blue, Melanie is less than enthused, and suspicious. However, it is not her mother who arrives to pick her up at the bus station, but a familiar and beautiful blond.
Melanie and Loraleigh fall hard for each other, but Melanie's mother has other more sinister plans. Will they be able to stop Melanie's mother and have their fondest wishes or will their dreams of the future go up in smoke?
I hate going to mama’s for Thanksgiving. Why did she even bother sending me the ticket? She knows I’m not going to change for her. Why am I even on this bus? Not for the first time Melanie stared out the window at the passing scenery. Because you know it would hurt her feelings if you didn’t come, and she paid for the ticket. Crap.
As the bus drew ever closer to her home town of Murphysboro, Illionois, she couldn’t help but feel her stomach tighten, and bile start to rise up her throat nearly choking her. She couldn’t help it that she was attracted to women instead of men. Her mama just didn’t understand, and had even banished her from coming home for two long years until a card had arrived the week before that said, “I’m sorry,” with a bus ticket attached.
For the last two years she had been getting by working two crap jobs while she tried to get her degree. It hadn’t been easy, and she’d had to count on the good graces of her friends on more than one occasion when a landlord wouldn’t wait an extra week for the rent, or she ran out of groceries two or three days earlier than she’d anticipated.
I just don’t get it. Why now? She refused my phone calls for two years, even going so far as to change her number and make it unlisted. And how the hell did she find me?
The bus hit a pothole, and just like that it jolted her back to the present. The bus pulled to a stop at the tiny Greyhound bus
station and Melanie glanced out the window to see if her mother was there. When she didn’t see her, she followed the other two people on the bus to go get her suitcase with wheels. That and the duffle bag she had on her shoulder were all that she’d brought with her.
The cold icy wind cut through the thin parka Melanie had on like a sharp knife. I forgot how cold Illinois winters can be, I should have brought my heavier coat. Pushing her gloveless hands into her pockets she stared off into space while she waited for the driver to open the compartment under the bus where the luggage was kept.
Please God, don’t let my bag have gotten lost between Seattle and here. Melanie let out a sigh of relief when the small black suitcase with wheels appeared, and nearly fell out when the door was pushed up.
“Excuse me, are you Melanie?”
Melanie turned quickly at the voice, “Yes.”
When she was finally able to get a good look at the owner, she almost groaned. The woman personified everything Melanie was not, blond, perky, slender, short and she had a gorgeous smile that stretched over perfect white teeth. She was beautiful, but Melanie knew with her luck, the woman would not only be straight, but wouldn’t care for her tall, brown curves, and unruly curls. Melanie knew she would have fit right in during the 40’s, well, except for her tan, but these days no one was interested in curvy brunettes. It didn’t matter how hard she tried to lose weight, she just couldn’t without starving herself.
“Hi, I’m Loraleigh.” The woman gave a little wave. “Your mom sent me to pick you up.”
“Figures.” Melanie muttered beneath her breath.
“Actually, I’m renting your room. Hope you don’t mind sharing while you’re here.”
Melanie’s stomach dropped to her ankles. She’s already replaced me. “I can just sleep on the couch. No big.” She finally said, not looking at Loraleigh.
“Your mama really is sorry, you know?”
Melanie felt a hand grab her elbow, hard. She looked down into ice blue eyes. Loraleigh was at least four inches shorter than she was. Yet another of my failings in mama’s eyes.
“No really. She is.”
“Whatever.” She looked away, and then shook her elbow until Loraleigh let go, moving to put some space between them.
“You’re still pissed, huh?”
“Something like that.” God, why does she have to stand there and remind me of everything I’m not. She’s exactly what mama wanted, so why am I here?
“I’m a PI. That’s how she found you, actually. She asked me for help, told me that she wanted you to come home for the holidays. So, I helped.” She shrugged.
Melanie turned incredulous eyes on the blond pixie. “And you’re telling me this why?” She finally asked.
“Just thought you’d want to know.”
Instead of asking Loraleigh why in the world would she want or need to know, she just shook her head.
When the driver looked at her questioningly, and then at her bag, Melanie realized they’d been standing there jawing for who knew how long.
“Thanks.” She said shortly, grabbing the handle of the suitcase and lengthening it so she could pull it along behind her.
Melanie followed the shorter woman whose white blond hair was actually longer than she’d originally thought reaching to nearly her ass. And oh, did she ever have an ass. As the woman’s hips rocked back and forth, Melanie watched Loraleigh’s rump cheeks shift in her jeans with the movement. What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on that. Yum.
When Loraleigh stopped beside a shiny black Ford Explorer, Melanie just shook her head. Figures. PI, big black Ford Explorer. The girl has a thing for big things, a big job, and a big truck. Wonder if she likes her women big too. A wry smile popped out at the thought.
“Hop in, the door is unlocked.” Loraleigh called.
“Thanks.” Melanie opened the door and threw her suitcase and duffle bag in the back.
“Sure, no problem.” Melanie climbed in and buckled her seatbelt, her thoughts in chaos.
“Um, I hope you don’t mind but I need to make a stop before we go to your mom’s.”
“That’s fine.” It’ll give me some more time to avoid her. I’m not really even sure if I want to see her. I really shouldn’t have come here. I should have just gone to the Greyhound station and cashed the ticket in. Hell, I would’ve had a week’s worth of groceries then, instead of an empty kitchen when I get back.
“Oh, good. I was worried you’d want to go straight home.”
“Well, that works out for me then.”
Melanie had been afraid the woman would chatter the whole way to wherever they were going, but instead she was quiet leaving Melanie to her thoughts.
"A Gift From Home is a page-turner. Magnolia’s actions were intense and definitely portrayed her character to the hilt. I found Melanie to have a secret strength inside that was dying to come out. With Loraleigh’s help, I believe she was able to conquer the challenges set before her. Ms. Paul instills a dynamite story about finding the right love, while forging through all the obstacles that life throws in our way. With incredible compelling characters, and canvassing Melanie, with a depth of emotions, and expressions to shower every page, this story power punches. There is a tenderness to the storyline that could really reach out and grab the heart."-Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance & More