Mr. May is book 5 of the Heroes of Rogue Valley: Calendar Guys series.

Chapter One

For the first time in almost a year Deanna Oliver felt like her old self—determined and ready to make her dream a reality. Her mind spinning with ideas, she exited the General Hardware parking lot and turned toward home. An almost twenty-mile round-trip drive, but the class she’d taken for do-it-yourself remodelers this morning had been worth the time.

Patching walls, priming and painting—she had those down now. She also had names of reputable experts, people far more knowledgeable than Rusty, to help renovate the B&B, aka Oliver’s Bed & Breakfast.

Who needed him, anyway? She could and would do this alone. Deanna raised her chin. Unlike her mother, she refused to turn a blind eye on a man who lied and cheated—nor was she going to leave Guff’s Lake. This was home and always would be.

Horn blaring, siren screaming, and lights flashing, a fire truck some distance behind her warned vehicles out of its way. Deanna pulled her hatchback onto the shoulder of Kirkdale Road. Somehow when she hadn’t been looking fall had crept up. The fields and trees in the Rogue Valley had responded with their usual array of autumn colors, brightening the otherwise gray morning.

The truck roared past. Another soon followed. A fire requiring two trucks must be a bad one. Feeling for the poor family or business owner involved, Deanna shook her head. Once the vehicles barreled by and passed out of view, she returned to her thoughts.

The down payment on the property and additional costs of fixing up the bungalow adjacent to the bed & breakfast so that she and Rusty could move in had all but emptied her savings account. In the year since he’d left, thanks to careful budgeting and her two jobs at the Guff’s Lake Resort Hotel, she’d replenished it enough to continue with the renovations.

By nature impatient, she preferred immediate results for her efforts. But making her dream into reality? For that she had abundant patience. As long as she moved forward, slow, steady progress would do.

She’d already decided on a color palette—soft, soothing colors for the bedrooms, bright, cheerful colors for the bathrooms, the glistening warmth of the natural wood wainscoting for the living and dining rooms, and for the stairs leading to the second floor. Faux oriental rugs over the wood and new carpeting in the bedrooms would add a homey touch and mute footsteps, with new lighting to further enhance the feeling of comfort and welcome.

She would use the rest of today and all day tomorrow, her days off, to line up bids for installing drywall and, even if she didn’t have the funds yet, for refinishing the wood floors and the risers. Maybe she’d check out carpeting for the bedrooms.

The exit for Guff’s Lake Resort was just ahead. Deanna’s property lay five miles south of the resort, which made commuting quick and easy.

She signaled and headed toward the lake, which lay nestled in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains. Despite the thick clouds obscuring the snow-dusted peaks of the majestic mountains, they and four-mile diameter lake made for a spectacular view she never tired of.

The siren’s howl again interrupted her thoughts, growing louder by the second before it abruptly stopped. Where was it coming from?

Not the resort, she hoped. She pulled into the parking area and drove slowly around the premises. To her relief, everything looked normal.

Then where? Alert and seeking the source of whatever had summoned the two fire trucks, she cracked the window open and continued toward home. No scent of smoke or signs of a fire anywhere—until she approached Ridge Road, where she lived.

There it was, the ominous smoke she’d sought out. It shrouded the windshield and all but obscured any visibility. Deanna slowed to a crawl. The acrid smell filled her nostrils.

A sudden gust of wind cleared the air and she could see again. The smoke seemed to be coming from her neighborhood.

Oh, no. Please don’t let it be Bea’s place. Her elderly friend lived on a fixed income and was in no shape to deal with a fire.

Sick with dread, Deanna drove the last few miles to Ridge Road. Bea and a handful of neighbors had gathered around the fire trucks, one parked on the street and the other in the driveway at Deanna’s house—what was left of it.

The tiny bungalow she’d called home for the past fifteen months was a pile of smoking debris that reeked of loss and ruin. The adjacent bed & breakfast still stood, but the side facing the bungalow had been damaged.

With a mounting sense of horror, Deanna jumped out of the car and dashed forward.

 

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