Here in Georgia, we’ve had drought, lots of rain, and now it’s humid. Melting in the heat as a snowman in the sun. I hope you are faring better!
We’re taking it a day at a time.
Here’s a peek at Choosing Ally.
Let me know what you think.
Love is more powerful than reason.
Tate Stone grew up chasing a dream. He was determined to rise above his family’s modest status in Marshville, Georgia.
Ally Matthews, who grew up privileged, chose to chase Tate Stone.
Since middle school, wealthy Lucas Marsh chose to befriend Tate Stone.
Both men disregarded a warning that one day their friendship would come home to bite them. Both were determined to guard their friendship, their bond against Lucas’s father, Judd Marsh, against all odds.
Ally and Tate disregarded speculation of a difficult involvement, and vowed to marry one day.
Lucas’s father, Judd Marsh, was a man who attained whatever he went after. And…he would do whatever it took to join Ally and Lucas, to bind their family’s bloodline.
Lucas hadn’t counted on falling for Ally, his best friend’s girl.
Tate hadn’t counted on Lucas as a bitter opponent for the love of his life.
Until Tate realized he and Lucas were in love with the same woman.
Tate would do anything to save his relationship with Ally. His dream. His future.
Until Judd Marsh dropped a secret in Tate’s lap.
Until Tate’s mother didn’t deny the secret.
Tate swore he’d get even with Judd Marsh if it was the last thing he did. Judd, with his high and mighty attitude, had glowered down that aristocratic nose at him for the last time.
A promise Tate made to himself. He always kept his promises.
Ally’s family was the second most wealthy family in Marsh County. Ally wanted Tate and a family, never mind how much her father protested.
Lucas wanted her because his father wanted the two together. He thought.
When Tate Stone’s mother lay dying of cancer, old man Marsh sent flowers, had even visited on one occasion. Oblivious to anyone else being in the house, twenty-two year old Tate overheard a discussion that changed his life forever.
Old man Marsh was his father. He was a slime-ball. Not once had he said anything to Tate about it. Heck, he barely knew Tate was alive.
Tate Stone grew up chasing his dreams on the wrong side of the tracks, while privileged Ally Matthews grew up chasing Tate Stone. They had each other in times of trouble and didn’t need, nor want, Lucas Marsh poking his nose in their business.
“Thinks he’s so high and mighty. Just because his old man, Judd Marsh, owns half the town doesn’t give him anymore rights than anyone else, to go around thumbing his nose at us,” Tate said. “We grew up being best friends. I guess that’s over now.”
“I don’t think he still feels that way, Tate. He’s changed, yes. You can’t hold a grudge against him forever, because of what his father is.”
“Yeah? Judd Marsh never once called me son or told me he loved me. He treated me as if I were dirt beneath his feet. The only time I remember him speaking to me, was the night I graduated Marsh High. Came over to shake my hand. Didn’t even put his hand on my shoulder. Some father. I want what’s rightfully mine, and I’ll see to it Lucas Marsh and everyone else in this town, knows I’m a Marsh. Not that being part of his family matters, or that I want to be his son, but Judd’s rubbed my nose in dirt long enough. He had to know I was his son years ago. It’s time he paid homage to the rest of his family.”
Tate stepped onto Marshville’s cracked sidewalk. He felt home again. A home that he’d left to forget.
He wondered where Ally was these days. He hadn’t heard from her since he’d packed a duffle bag in the middle of the night, five months ago, and took off for Montana. Montana, where the skies were bigger than anything he’d ever seen before. Bluer than the open skies of his beloved Georgia.
Tate pushed open the door to the restaurant. Herrin’s. He closed his eyes and inhaled the scent. Fresh potato yeast rolls, creamy/cheesy seafood dish surrounded by mashed potatoes and baked on a wooden slab. He’d never forgotten that food. Too good.
Ally sat inside the cafe and stared out the window across the street. She couldn’t believe what she saw. Tate was back in town. Oh, Lord. Now what? As much as she’d cried and tried to reach him, he’d proven he could get lost and he’d done just that.
Okay, she could do this. If her legs would hold her up that is. What would she say to him? Would he even want to see or talk to her? She hadn’t been the one to leave, to break a heart. Tate had refused to believe she’d rather be with him more than Lucas.
Not in a million years would Lucas stand up to or would mean more to her than Tate. She hadn’t been able to convince Tate though. The Marsh’s had finally gotten to him. He’d given up. Given up on her and the life they’d planned.
She watched as Tate climbed back into his truck, then pull away.
Ally had a million questions for him and hoped he’d come into the café. When he didn’t, she paid her bill and slipped out the door, then headed back to her dress shop two doors down.
She called the one reliable person that kept up with everything and everyone in town. Flora, a cashier at Winston’s grocery store.
“Tate is staying in his family home. Won’t be here long though. He has to get back to Montana,” Flora revealed.
Tate had found work on a sprawling Montana ranch rounding up cattle. Not that he’d had to work, he’d saved more than enough to last until he could find something worthwhile. But it wasn’t in him to do nothing, to sit and simply fade away. For the first week, he’d done just that though. He’d fought off the bottle. Drinking his troubles away would do no good. Starting a bad habit wouldn’t change a thing.
He’d been determined to get his head on straight and keep it straight. Had to wrap his head around the fact that Ally and Lucas might eventually get together. He wasn’t going to stick around to watch that. Heck no. Not when she’d been the love of his life for better than seven years. Why would he go back? He had no reason to be back in Marsh, except to visit his mother’s gravesite, contract a renovation on the home he’d bought before leaving, then he’d head back to Montana. He’d made a new life. A life without Ally.
It hadn’t taken long for him to realize it would take a long time for this new place to feel like home. He had no friends and that, he supposed, would remain the same until he decided he could handle opening up to another set of friends. The other ranch hands had tried their best to befriend him. They’d shared their lives and asked questions of him. Questions for which he had no answer for them. He was a loner, and that’s the way he wanted to remain. He wasn’t ready. He worked long hard hours everyday. The ranch hands finally let him be.
He pushed aside the curtain and stared out the wide window of the motel at the vast land surrounding the small town of Deer Creek. He’d need to look for a more permanent place. One that would at least be better than the four walls he stared at everyday. The walls had begun to close in, even after a week. He was used to wide open spaces, thank goodness the motel was temporary.
It wasn’t home. The Georgia farm had been his life, though aspirations of a better life persisted.
Of all the people to run into, Tate hadn’t dreamed the man would be Lucas. He wasn’t about to back down. They both stood in Ally’s dress shop glaring at each other, while Ally grasped an armload of dresses, a frown on her face.
Ally had contacted him for help and he wouldn’t refuse his assistance. Whatever he could do to help her, he would. No matter what resentful memories the past held.
Tate’s temper reared, while battle-scars hammered in his taut stomach. “I don’t think you’re needed or wanted here, Lucas.”
“Stop, Tate.” Lucas said, with a sneer. “Nobody’s interested in your opinion. And as far as I’m concerned Ally’s fair game. Always has been.”
“Fine. Allow her to make the decision,” Tate said.
Lucas’ family had paid Tate good money while he worked for them over the years. He’d saved almost all, and that meant he could buy that little ranch, East of Marshville, he’d had his eye on.
Before Tate had taken off for Montana, the more Lucas had known about him, the worse he’d treated him. Tate hadn’t wanted Lucas to know his wants and desires. He’d kept them to himself.
Now, standing face with his old friend, and now the rival, Tate’s smoldering fuse was ready to ignite. He’d taken the brunt of Lucas’ verbal abuse more than once, and wished he’d never sacrificed his personal values for a fist full of Marsh dollars.
“Better get your priorities in order Lucas Marsh, and lock that temper of yours down. Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m here because Ally called me for help, and I won’t stand by and watch you use her again. By the way, she isn’t a game. Not someone to be won in a lottery. Better get used to it.”
“You left her, remember?” Lucas drawled.
“I’ll take care of Ally.” Tate studied Lucas with mild curiosity. Yes, he’d have to keep a close eye on Lucas. He’d seen the jealously brewing in Lucas over the years. He was an old friend, but the last two weeks before he’d left for Montana, their bickering over Ally had proven a flaming battle ground between the two of them.
“Keep in mind, Tate Stone, you were my employee. We’ll let Ally decide, when and what she wants to do.” Lucas threw Tate a sarcastic glance. “Who she wants to be with. I hardly think she’ll choose the wrong side of the tracks again.”
Tate felt the old chill spread across his chest. He wanted to kill Lucas. He clenched his teeth, and tightened his fists as he moved toward him.
Ally’s nerves bundled up around her shoulders, all the pent up anger exploded. The stack of dresses she’d thrown across the sofa, caught a cup handle, sending amber tea running onto the Persian rug—the one precious item she’d salvaged from the house. Another stain in her life.
“Stop it. What’s wrong with you two? My God, haven’t I enough to deal with without you acting like two juveniles in heat?”
Tate and Lucas exchanged murderous glances, each blaming the other for upsetting Ally.
Ally would rather have bitten off her tongue than ask. “Tate, mother’s plot is on the grounds, two-hundred yards east of the barn. I wonder if….”
“Use it, of course. I have no objections. Whatever you need,” Tate said.
Tate mentally kicked himself for not remembering before she was forced to ask. The graveyard was on the property, her family’s property, he’d purchased weeks before leaving for Montana. The oldest private graveyard in the county, of course she wanted to bury her Mom there. God, she was a proud one. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss away the hurt. but he no longer had the right to do so.
“I’d like to buy back the house and land, Tate. Will you consider it?”
It probably wasn’t the house she wanted back but the memories. “Wha…what?” Tate’s heart jumped to his throat. No way was he selling. “Ally, you know I’ve already started renovation.” The plans, he’d waited for all these years. “Now Ally, honey. You know I said I’d help you out, but this is taking it too far. Besides, what would you buy it back with?”
“I’m not your honey any more. And who gave you privy to my financial status?” Ally seethed at his indiscretion. “Tate, please go, before we both say something we may regret. Is there nothing sacred in this town?” She turned to let both of them know their meeting was over, “Oh, Tate. I forgot. My lawyer called to say the papers I had him draw up on the house are ready to be signed. A little something we haven’t done yet and need to go over. When can you meet with me?”
Tate ran a hand down his face. “Ally. You had no right. You should’ve discussed your wishes to buy the house earlier. Before you went to the expense of hiring a lawyer.”
“Lucas tried to tell me how you were in the beginning. I should have listened, but I trusted you. I loved you. Now you’ve thrown my feelings back in my face. Because you lied, we fought. There’s no truth in you, you’ve always lied to me about him. I’m just sorry it took me this long to find out.”
“You’re wrong, Ally. I’ve never lied to you,” Tate said.
“You wouldn’t recognize the truth if it slapped you in the face, Tate. Why did you come back? You haven’t changed. You’re still the same rotten person you were when you left here five months ago. I’m warning you, don’t mess with me. You’ll be sorry you ever came back.”
Tate smiled, leaned over and nuzzled her ear. “I don’t think you’re in any position to be giving orders. Smile, Ally. Your peers are watching.”
In that moment Ally sent Tate an icy glare. “Play it for all it’s worth, Tate, because it’s the last time you’ll have the upper hand. I will get my family’s property back if it’s the last thing I do.”
Customers had gathered around the bottom of the stairs. All eyes focused on Tate holding Ally firmly by the elbow as he led her down the stairs.
Ally shook off Tate’s hold on her. “Everything’s fine folks. Let’s call it a night. Thank you all for coming. We’ll open again in the morning.”
Lucas glanced toward Tate’s thunderous glance in approval, taking the stairs two at a time chuckling to himself.
Tate smiled to himself. One down. Poor Lucas, he didn’t know he’d been suckered. Tate almost felt sorry for him. He must be getting soft in the head. But making the Marsh family suffer was part of why he came back wasn’t it? To suffer as he had? Each tick of the clock brought him closer to his revenge.
The emptiness mushroomed with each movement of the swing. She wished Tate had never come back. He’d only complicated matters, and she cursed him for arousing old feelings she’d rather have kept deep down inside. It was hard to hide her inner desire any more than she could forget the schoolgirl crush she’d had on him since the age of fifteen. Those burning kisses haunted her, so easily remembered, only heightened when she closed her eyes. The past wouldn’t let her go. Tate was trouble with a big T. Yet she couldn’t avoid drowning in those big blue eyes and wondering what it would be to feel those lips on hers again.
A week later Ally visited Tate. “We need to talk.”
Mistaking Ally’s mood, Tate decided to take matters in his own hands. He raked a big hand through his thick black hair shaking his head, in wonderment. He hadn’t come back to fall in love all over again. She sure was messing up his plans, still…She needed someone…and God help him he wanted to be that someone.
“I have an idea, Ally.” He flashed a smile and pushed a copper curl off her forehead. “I know a little place in San Francisco, where you can sink your teeth into the best Seafood ever. What do you say, ready to set the folks of Marshville on its heels?”
Ally cut her eyes up at him, holding back a smile. “It’s impossible, Tate. No. It’s too soon after mother. Besides, I have the shop to run, and you have a job on your hands, and…well, Tate…We aren’t on the best of terms.”
“Your assistant will take care of everything at the shop. You’ve already said Rona runs the shop as well as you. We’ll only be away for a couple of days, so what’s your next excuse?”
This would definitely stand the folks of Marshville on its ears. True, Ally had complete trust that her assistant at the dress shop could handle anything that came her way. Rona was her right arm at Matthews Real Estate. Extremely meticulous, on even terms with the clients–but the deal with Brian Associates…well, she was sure it would be cut and dried, but in the Real Estate business, it was a dog eat dog world, and she wasn’t about to throw away such a big deal. Her profit alone would amount to more than a years regular commission. Still, when she weighed her options, being with Tate won hands down.
It didn’t matter. The townspeople were going to gossip regardless, and since she had no one to answer to, she couldn’t think of any reason not to go. San Francisco, was a long way from here, but it might be what she needed to prove to herself there was nothing between them, and it would be good to get away.
“When do we leave?”
“I’ll make reservations out of Atlanta.” Tate’s cocky grin spread across his face. “Be ready in an hour.”
Lucas pushed the old red truck as fast as he dared, hoping to reach Ally before someone else blurted out the news. First her mother, now Tate. He disapproved of their relationship, but she had to make her own mistakes. And as her friend, he’d be there when she needed him. Even if it included information about Tate.
The doorbell rang as Ally closed the last suitcase. “The door is open, Tate. You’re late.”
Lucas stepped over the suitcases, put two and two together and cursed. Tate’s suitcases were strewn over the road where he’d slammed into the tree.
“Lucas. Well…hi. What’re you doing here?
Lucas took both her hands in his. “Can we sit? I have some news,” he said, then pulled her toward the sofa.
One look at Lucas’s face, painted a picture that made her want to run. As blood drained from her face, her legs went weak. “What is it?”
“Ally, honey…there’s been an accident. It’s Tate. He’s been shot.”
I hope you have a wonderful July Fourth and Summer and hope the beach is calling you!
Sink your toes in the sand and rushing waves…
I wish you Butterflies and music. But most of all…Love.