A woman, a man and a child with nothing in common but their respective troubled pasts. Three wounded souls determined to survive alone until they realize all they need to heal is each other.
Download to your Kindle (eBook)
Download from Smashwords (eBook)
Grace Brannigan Author
Grace Brannigan Romance Author
ECHOES FROM THE PAST
By Grace Brannigan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means
whatsoever, mechanical, photographic, electronic orin the form of an audio
recording or stored in a retrieval system, transmitted or otherwise be copied for
public or private use -- other than for brief quotations in articles and reviews
without prior written consent from the publisher Questor Books.
P.O. Box 100
East Jewett, New York, 12424
Christie Jenkins once again counted the bills in her pocket. Seventeen dollars. The gnawing
hunger in her stomach attested to the fact that shehadnít had a decent meal in two days.
Shading her eyes against the bright sun, she let her duffel bag slide to the cracked
pavement and stared at the royal blue sign beside the road, at the beginning of a long, curved
Winding Creek Farms
The same address as her sister Judithís letter.
Christie stuffed the crumpled bills back in her pocket and looked up the curved driveway
lined with dusky pink Dogwood trees. Various barns and sheds sat at the top of the drive where
gently rolling hills and ribbons of white fence seemed to go on forever. Horses grazed lazily in
fenced paddocks and a short distance from the barnsstood a house, the midnight blue roof and
cupolas lending it a fairytale look. Pure heaven. The sharp nag of pain in Christieís gut cut such
thoughts short. Given the events of this year, she was certain there was no heaven on earth.
As she reached for her bag Christie suddenly noticed a movement in the tall grass beside
the driveway. A child of about eight or nine, creeping on her hands and knees, pushed her way
through the grass. Long blond ponytails fell acrossher pink shirt. When the childís feet cleared
the grass, Christie smiled to see that red cowgirl boots peeked beneath denim overalls.
"Here, Albert." The childís voice was coaxing. "Come on, now."
Thatís when Christie noticed the small gray kitten near the drivewayís edge. A sudden
swipe of the little girlís hand as she tried to grab the kitten sent the animal darting out onto the
dirt driveway. With the unpredictability of cats, it just as quickly stopped in the middle of the
driveway and hunched its back upward. Cautious again, the child slowly rose to her feet to
follow the kitten.
Christie heard a new sound and noticed a large hay truck pull away from one of the barns
and start down the driveway. The child didnít seem aware of the vehicle as she continued to coax
the kitten toward her.
"Hey!" Christie waved her arm at the child.
The little girl stopped abruptly and looked toward Christie, her eyes wide with alarm.
"Get out of there!" Christie called. The hay-laden truck sounded like it was slowing
down,but it didnít stop moving toward them. The little girl finally looked at the truck, staying
almost frozen in the driveway. Afraid, Christie raced toward the little girl.
Garrett McIntyre heard his daughterís scream and spun from the barn doorway. Hannah!
He ran toward the driveway, fear a tight fist gripping his throat when the sound of grinding metal
followed Hannahís scream. The hay wagon that had just loaded up at the barn veered off the
driveway. He saw a dark-haired woman pull Hannah into the grass. Garrett ran hard. The truck
rolled past the woman and Hannah into the small gully beside the driveway. It rocked to a
A trail of smoke. The little sports car tilted nosedown into the ditch. The unending blare
of the horn.
When he reached Hannah, the woman had her arms around his little girl. Hannahís eyes
were closed, her skin stark white. Terror pulled his breath away and he dropped to his knees in
the tall grass. He couldnít pass out.
Garrett met the womanís dark eyes, reflecting the terror he was sure was in his own. His
gaze jerked immediately to his child, then the truck sitting at an angle behind them.
The knot in his throat restricted his voice, but hetried again, his first fear for his
daughter. He touched her cheek, then the dark blondhair that was so much like his own.
"Hannah, are you all right?"
She gave a quick nod as a tremor shook her body.
"She was suddenly in front of me, Boss!" Emmet blurted, dropping from the driverís seat
to the ground. "I couldnít stop. The brakes!" Emmetwas barely out of his teens and right now his
face was drained of all color. Droplets of sweat beaded his forehead as he rushed on, "This
woman pulled Hannah out of the road -- God Almighty! I thought I was gonna hit Ďem both."
"Sit down, Emmet." Garrett thought the young man looked ready to fall down.
Emmett pushed his lank dark hair from his forehead and dropped to the grass. "Yeah. I
feel sick." He put his head against his up-drawn knees.
"Come here, Hannah."
The dark haired woman removed her arms from around his daughter. Hannah leaned
toward him, her deep blue eyes awash with tears. "Iím sorry, Daddy. I know Iím not supposed to
be down here. I was trying to catch Albert. I didnít want him lost."
Garrett sucked in a deep draft of air. "Albert the cat? Heís long gone." The animal was
nowhere in sight.
"Oh! Albert is gone!" Hannah launched herself into Garrettís arms and began crying
loudly. Garrett quickly checked her legs and arms f or injury, all too aware of how his hands
"You could have been hurt bad." His jaw hurt from holding it clenched. "Itís a good thing
youíre so tough. Dammit, Hannah, I couldnít take itif something happened to you, too."
"Iím not hurt Daddy, but Albertís gone forever!" Hannah wailed, tears now streaming
down her face.
Garrett felt the back of her head carefully, makinghimself stay calm for her benefit. No
blood, no bumps. "Hannah, barn cats arenít used to being carried around. Anyway, he takes
better care of himself than you seem to be doing lately. Come on, weíll go to the house and have
Ruth check you and this young lady out." He stood and held his hand out to the woman whoíd
saved his daughter. "Thank you." Quickly, he added,"Are you all right?"
She nodded, taking the hand he held out, letting him help her to her feet. She pushed the
hair back from her forehead. "Iím okay. At least nothing hurts."
Taking stock, he noted she wasnít very big, maybe five feet six inches, well under his
six-one height. She looked to be in her mid-twenties and had a slim, athletic build. He knew most
of the people in Emerson, so she wasnít a local. Deep brown eyes framed by dark lashes watched
him warily,and he muttered a curse when he suddenly noticed aslight purplish bruising over her
"Youíve hurt yourself." Concern made him gently touch the slight swelling about the size
of a quarter. She gently moved his hand and explored the bruise with her own fingers.
"Itís nothing." She dismissed the injury with a lift of one shoulder as she stared at
Hannah. "I donít think your little girl got hurt, abit shaken maybe. Iíd definitely have her
"I intend to," he said. "Itís inadequate as hell but Iím sorry youíre hurt but darn happy
you were on the spot." How had this happened? Garrett hated the unaccustomed moment of
helplessness. She was a stranger on his property and sheíd been hurt because of Hannah. For a
brief moment he thought of the ramifications of a lawsuit.
"I didnít see Hannah until the last minute," Emmet muttered, still sitting on the grass. He
lifted his head. "Iím sorry Miss, for the scare youhad."
"It appears no oneís hurt seriously. Thank God," the woman said. Looking into Hannahís
red, tear-streaked face, she asked gently, "Are youokay, honey?"
"I had my cat and now heís gone," the child muttered. "You scared him away."
Garrett sighed with impatience. "Hannah, I canít believe you were down here by the
road." He kept a tight rein on the worry riding him. "This woman very likely saved your life.
Donít you think you should say something to her?"
Hannah jutted her lower lip and hunched a shoulder."I was going to get out of the way
by myself," she muttered sullenly, but not before Garrett had seen the flash of fear. "I wasnít
going to die!" Hannah pulled her hand from his and ran several feet up the driveway.
She stopped in her tracks but did not come back toward him. "Albert is gone." Her voice
rose in pitch. "Iíll never see him again!" She pointed her finger at the woman. "Itís her fault!"
Hannah turned and ran toward the house, ponytails flying out behind her. Garrett resisted
ordering her back, knowing it would make the growing rift between them worse. But dammit, he
couldnít let her ride roughshod over him,either.
"Wait for me in your room!" he barked. Hannah hunched her shoulders and continued
toward the house at a fast walk. Garrett closed hiseyes and muttered, "Sometimes I wonder what
the hell I know about raising a child."
Shaking his head, he looked over at the woman. "Sorry," he said ruefully. It wasnít this
womanís fault sheíd witnessed his apparent lack of control over a sixty-pound,eight-year old,
but he hated like hell that sheíd seen it anyway. "Iím Garrett McIntyre." He held his hand out
"Christie Jenkins." She took his hand in a firm shake, then released it and brushed at her
"My housekeeper is a retired emergency room nurse. I'd feel better if she took a look at
that bruise before you leave."
Frowning, the woman -- Christie -- suddenly looked around. "My bag!" She twisted
around. "Whereís my duffel bag?"
Garrett spotted it in the ditch, partly under the front wheel of the truck. His guts churned
thinking of his daughter or this young woman in that ditch instead of the bag. "Itís right here."
Her apparent distress surprised him a bit. Warily, he said, "It looks okay. Youíre not
going to cry, are you?" Hannahís mother had been a woman who lived solely on emotion. Life
had been a constant in emotional highs and lows.
Christie sighed. "Of course not. I was surprised tosee it under the wheel. Hopefully,
nothing is crushed."
She pulled at the heavy canvas. Garrett gently urged her aside. "Let me get it."
Garrett signaled to Emmet to get on the opposite side of the front bumper. "If we rock
this you can probably pull the bag free."
It only took a few rocks of the truck back and forth before the bag came free. Christie
lifted the bag and loosened the drawstring to look inside. She didn't say anything but he saw her
"That bag must be mighty important."
"It is, but no harmís been done." She lifted her head, giving him a half smile. "Thank
"Yeah." He turned his attention to his hired hand and the hay wagon. "Emmet, see if you
can find Sam. Have him bring the tractor with the winch and pull this thing out. Iíll call my
"Sure, boss." Emmet scuffed his boots in the dirt, his face working. Finally, he said, "The
brakes were a little spongy. I should have told you." Emmet swallowed. "Do you want me outta
Garrett looked at the young manís closed expressionand realized Emmet expected to be
fired. "I realize youíve only been here a month, but I need any problems brought to my attention
The woman stepped closer.
"This wasnít anyoneís fault," she said quickly.
Pushing his hat back, Garrett studied her worried expression. Mildly, he said, "I don't
plan to fire Emmet."
He looked at Emmet. "Take care of the truck. The hay will have to be unloaded if they
need to work on it. Iíll talk to the mechanic and let you know."
Emmet tipped his hat, appearing relieved. "Okay, boss." He looked at the woman. "Iím
glad you werenít hurt, Maíam." He left, walking up the drive toward the house and barns.
Garrett turned back to Christie, took in her dark, dusty jeans and what looked like once-white sneakers. Her blue T-shirt had pulled out of her jeans, exposing a small section of pale
skin. She couldnít weigh more than one-thirty, soaking wet. He rubbed his forehead with the
back of his wrist. "It's been a heck of a day so far." He looked away from her, toward the house
and shook his head. "My daughter . . .."
"I'd be worried too," she said. "No one needs that kind of trouble, a child getting hurt."
Garrett allowed himself a rueful smile. "If Hannahís involved, there's always something
Just then his yellow Labrador dog came streaking down the driveway, tail wagging
furiously as she moved in eagerly against their legs. In her enthusiasm ,she knocked against the
woman. Quickly, Garrett said, "Bo Peep, thatís enough!" The dog backed up and sat down, then
watched him with her head cocked to one side.
Christie knelt down and began to make a fuss of thedog. "Your dogís name is Bo Peep?"
she asked, a hint of humor curving her full lips asshe looked up at him.
"My daughterís idea. So Christie, tell me, what areyou doing out here in the middle of
pretty much nowhere?"
Her smile disappeared and she came to her feet oncemore. "I, uh, was on the road when
I saw your daughter in trouble. Actually, Iím looking for Judith Kelly. The last address I have for
her is this place."
The hair on the back of Garrettís neck stood up anda band tightened around his chest.
"Do you know her?"
Know her? Garrett stared at Christie, searching forGod knew what. He saw only honest
inquiry on her face. "Why do you ask?" he said instead, knowing there was an edge to his voice.
"Sheís my sister. I need to find her."
"Christ." Garrett took a deep breath, then another.He cleared his head. "Judith had no
Now Christieís eyes widened. "She left home a long time ago, but she had family."
"Can you prove that?"
"I -- I canít. At least, not at this moment. I had a letter from her."
"Let me see the letter."
"I donít have it on me."
Beginning to feel annoyed, Garrett half turned away. "I need my housekeeper to look at
your head and then I'll call you a taxi." Christie hurried behind him as he walked up the drive to
"Listen, just tell her Christieís here," she said urgently. "It's been a long time but I know
sheíll see me."
"You canít see her."
She grabbed his arm. "Iíve come a long way."
Garrett stopped, fighting the dull numbness inside his chest. He faced her squarely. "My wife Judith died almost two years ago."