Home > A Slow Dance Holiday

A Slow Dance Holiday
Author: Carolyn Brown

Chapter 1


   Jorja Jenks had never been one to take risks.

   She wasn’t the type of woman to quit her fantastic job in Nashville, Tennessee, on a whim to move to Mingus, Texas (population two hundred), but she did. She had worked in the accounting department of a big record company ever since graduating from college eight years before. She had never even thought about owning and operating a bar, but she was about to do just that.

   When her mama and daddy found out what she had done, they were going to have a hissy fit that went way beyond the one they’d had when her grandparents took her to the Honky Tonk on her twenty-first birthday. She was a preacher’s daughter and she didn’t belong in bars—according to what they thought.

   She dreaded telling them that she was now the half owner of a bar, that she’d left a lucrative job in Nashville, and moved to Mingus, Texas. She would have to come clean with them within the next week because they would be expecting her to come home for the holiday. Guess what? She wasn’t going to be in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, for Christmas dinner.

   She’d only been to Mingus one time in her life, and that was on her twenty-first birthday. Her maternal grandparents had taken her out for what they thought was her first legal drink. The Honky Tonk was a pretty neat little place back then, but that had been nine years ago. If the bar had changed as much as she had, there was no telling what it looked like now. Back then, she had danced with a couple of good-lookin’ cowboys, but that wasn’t anything new. In Nashville, where she went to college, she could have kicked any bush from Church Street to the Ryman Auditorium and a dozen cowboys would come running out wanting to sing a sad country song.

   Jorja had been wishing for months that she could get away from the big city and do something less stressful with her life. When her grandparents, George and Lila, and their friend, Merle Avery, had come to Nashville and Merle had told her that she was retiring and wanted to give her half rights to the Honky Tonk, Jorja had thought she was kidding. The offer of owning her own business, even if it was a bar in the little bitty town of Mingus, seemed like an answer to a prayer. She could leave the city, live closer to her grandparents, and she’d own her very own business. The only problem was that she had no idea what all was involved with securing ownership. She had thrown caution to the wind and signed the papers on impulse. Now that she was minutes away from Mingus and driving in a mixture of sleet and snow, she wondered what in the hell she had done.

   “I don’t take risks,” she whispered.

   But you did this time, her grandmother’s voice singsonged in her head, and you did it without batting an eye or asking a single question about Cameron Walsh, your partner in this new adventure.

   “I just hope the co-owner makes a good roommate, like my old high-school friend, Cam. I should call her this week and tell her about moving here. She’ll never believe it.” Jorja heaved a sigh of relief when she eased into a parking space. Her SUV was loaded with everything she owned these days. She located the key to the back door in her purse and pushed the driver’s door open. Icy-cold wind whipped through the car, and sleet stung her face when she stepped out onto the slippery concrete parking lot. Her red hair blew across her face as she hurried to unlock the back door. She brushed it away and attempted to insert the key into the lock, only to find that it was filled with ice.

   “Dammit!” She swore and ran back to her vehicle. Sitting in the driver’s seat again, she glared at the door, but her go-to-hell looks didn’t melt the ice caked around the keyhole. Finally, she remembered the cigarette lighter in her emergency kit. She opened the console, found it, and said a silent prayer that it still had some fluid in it—the thing had been in the bag of unused items her father had given her for at least ten years.

   “One more time,” she muttered as she opened the door and braced herself against the cold. She tried to jog from vehicle to door, but the second time her feet slipped out from under her and she almost fell, she slowed down the pace. She held the flame close to the lock, but the sleet kept putting out the tiny bit of fire. Finally, after a dozen tries, a bit of water trickled from the metal hole and she was able to unlock the door. She reached inside and found the light switch, flipped it on, and stepped inside her new apartment.

   “Holy damn hell!” She hadn’t known what to expect when she swung the door open, but it damn sure wasn’t what she was looking at. Merle had told her the apartment in the back of the bar hadn’t been lived in for ten years, but that had to be wrong. No way could that much dust accumulate in only a decade. Jorja was looking at forty years’ worth of stuff, at the very least.

   Two twin-sized beds were shoved against a far wall to make one bed. That would never work. Jorja would share an efficiency apartment with another woman, but she wasn’t going to share a bed. At the far end of the room was a small kitchenette with barely enough space on the right side of the sink for a dish drainer and on the left side for a coffeepot. The apartment-sized stove sat on one end and a small two-door refrigerator on the other. She walked across the floor, leaving footprints in the dust behind her, and found that the stove worked, but the refrigerator was unplugged. She pulled it out enough to get it going, killed two big-ass spiders that ran out from under it, and then pushed it back in place. When she opened the doors, she found it empty but at least clean.

   She opened several doors—one to a big closet, another to a bathroom, and finally the last one got her the utility room with a stacked washer-and-dryer combination and cleaning supplies and another door at the far end that led into the bar. She peeked inside and found it hadn’t changed since she’d been there all those years ago. She filled a bucket with water and another one with cleaning supplies and carried both out into the apartment. When it was spotless, she’d bring her things inside. If it wasn’t clean enough by bedtime, she’d drive back over to Mineral Wells and spend the night with her grandparents.

   “Where are you, Cam?” she groaned. “If I get this all cleaned before you get here, then you have to do the weekly cleaning for a month.”

   * * *

   Cameron Walsh was a big risk-taker.

   He didn’t care what other people thought about his decisions. He made them. He lived with the consequences, so basically whether they were related to him or not, it was none of their business.

   He didn’t hesitate about quitting his job or moving from Florida to Texas—not one minute when his grandparents, Walter and Maria Walsh, called and told him that their friend, Merle, wanted to give him half ownership of the Honky Tonk.

   God, he loved that old bar, and when he visited his grandparents in Stephenville, he had spent too many nights there to count. To be half owner of his own bar was a dream come true. He could live in the apartment behind the Honky Tonk with some guy named JJ. His favorite cousin, Jesse James, was nicknamed JJ, and they’d shared too many hangovers and good times together to count on their fingers and toes combined. He only hoped this new co-owner was half as much fun as his cousin had been. Just thinking about him being gone put a lump in Cameron’s throat that was hard to swallow down.

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