Susan Combs had long ago found the love of her life. The only problem was the other party still didn’t know he had been found.
Every day Susan saw Calder Hurtz, her next door neighbor and childhood best friend. They always enjoyed the short drive to school down the dusty streets of their small Texas town. She was happy in those perfect moments, for her life at home was most imperfect. The challenging homestead she inhabited was also the favorite subject of local gossip.
But one autumn day she overhears two boys having a conversation. This occasion of accidental audience sets Susan’s life on an unforeseen path. In the seasons to come, her future will be changed by two hospitalizations, two confessions of love, and one betrayal.
Compulsively readable, The Simple Soul of Susan is an engaging, soul-endearing romance and a mesmerizing debut.
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Susan grabbed at the “Have a Nice Day” sticker and pulled it off.
“The greeter said I had been a ‘really good girl’ so he gave me a sticker. I tried to reach out for it, but he just stuck it on me…there. He…he was just being nice.”
“Susan.” Calder put his hand on the buggy to stop her. “He was not just being nice.”
“I don’t think…”
“You should report him.”
“It’s just a sticker, and I’m… I mean, they can’t prove anything.”
“I can tell you didn’t like that.”
“Well, no, but…”
“No buts. He shouldn’t have done that to you.”
“I’ll just forgive and forget…”
“I won’t.” He turned around and headed back to the store.
“Calder, really there isn’t anything that can be done…”
“Be right back,” he called.
Susan loaded the lantana into the back of the truck and wondered what Calder was doing in the store. Seven minutes later Calder was back. He jumped in the passenger’s seat and put on his seat belt.
“What did you do?” she asked suspiciously.
“Nothing.” He smirked.
After a quick stop at the sheriff’s office to drop off food for Calder’s dad, they unloaded the plants together, first heading to Susan’s barn to grab a wheelbarrow.
As they rounded the corner from the house, Calder stopped and stared. “Whoa. Did you paint the barn?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Susan replied dismissively. “And reinforced the supporting beams. The city was going to write a violation.”
Calder scratched his head. “But where did you—” he began.
“What is the mulch for?” Susan interrupted, nodding to a small bag Calder carried.
“Hiding the evidence,” he concluded with a wink.
They confirmed that Goat was still where they had left her in the shed. Goat shot them a rebellious glare regarding her confinement. Calder had procured a shovel and was removing the bushes when Susan came back outside after putting away a few groceries she had bought.
“Hey, what are we going to do with these old ones?” Calder asked, grunting with the effort of pulling a plant while trying not to tear the root system.
“Oh, I know! I’ll buy them from you and put them in my yard,” Susan offered.
“Sounds good, minus the buying part,” Calder said as he pulled.
“No, I will pay you back. It was my fault Goat got out.”
“They’re a really early birthday present. This way you’ll get flowers from me every year,” Calder quipped.
“It’s a nice thought, but what if the frost gets them before then?”
“Then I guess I’ll just have to buy you some,” Calder said as he loaded a newly excavated plant into the rusty wheelbarrow.
It was a sweet answer, but Susan didn’t take him with any degree of seriousness. He always said nice things to girls, and she knew better than to take his words to heart.
“Why are there stickers all over your rear end?” Susan exclaimed as Calder turned from the wheelbarrow to retrieve his shovel.
“Ha, dagnabit! I forgot to take them off!”
He pulled off one of his work gloves and threw it down to begin pulling the stickers off one by one.
“Calder, what happened? Just tell me!”
“Nope. Did I miss any?” He looked over his left shoulder and then the right to inspect the back of his work jeans.
“I’ll use your middle name,” Susan threatened, ignoring his previous statement.
“Sue! Is that how you treat your friends?”
“Friend. I only have one apparently, remember?”
“I wanted you to hear it from the gossips in town,” he almost whined.
“Just tell me!” Susan ordered, all playfulness set aside.
“Fine. I passed the greeter who did that to you and demanded a sticker for my rear. He refused, so I made a comment about him putting stickers in inappropriate places for other ‘youngsters.’ And then I grabbed one and made a scene.”
Susan laughed. “Thanks, Calder. But how did you end up getting so many stickers from him?”
He stopped shoveling, crossed his hands at the top of the shovel, and rested his chin on top of them. “Well, you see, Sue, I was a really, really good boy.”
Born and raised in a small Texas town, Noel Branham started her career
in digital communications after graduating with a degree in English. An
award winning communicator, she now writes from her home in Florida about
things closest to the heart: home, family, and love. Her debut novel will
be published Fall 2017.
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