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Stones of Sandhill Island

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 66,265
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There’s a new jazz singer on Sandhill Island. Billie Stone, named for the late jazz great, Billie Holiday, has her own set of pipes. She grew up on Sandhill Island and has come back home to heal her psyche after a tragic accident took her family. Billie’s mother falls ill, and now, she has a new role as caregiver. Once again, her mental health takes a back seat.

Joe Franks, drunk and on the wrong side of the road late one night, crashes into the minivan that came out of nowhere. But after a year in jail and penniless, he thinks he deserves another chance. No one will hire a jail bird, and he’s not cut out for pizza delivery.

Just when Billie seems to be on the cusp of healing—and finding a new love—Franks’ rage spirals out of control. Have Billie’s losses made her strong enough to overcome once more, or will this final disaster be her undoing?

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Billie put the mirror back on the dressing table. “Of course, if your mother says it’s okay. But it will be about six weeks before they are old enough to eat food and not be dependent up on their mom.”

“That’s okay, I can wait. What’s that? It is so pretty.” The girl reached for the mirror on the dresser.

“It belonged to my mother. It had been her mother’s. I have no idea what to do with all this stuff, but it is lovely, isn’t it?” Billie gestured to the mirror in the girl’s hand.

“It looks like Giselle. I can see her using it.” Carol smiled as she ran a finger over the handle.

“Would you like to have it to remember Giselle by? I think she would like knowing you have it.”

“Really? I can have it?” Carol turned the mirror over and looked at herself in the reflection.

“I want you to. I think Mom would want you to, also.” Billie smiled at the girl who was so much like a daughter to her. “Which puppy do you want?” Billie smoothed the doily where the mirror had lay.

“I want a girl dog. I know that much. But I haven’t decided which one. Can I go look at them again?” Carol looked up hopefully.

“Yes, but remember to move slowly and speak quietly so not to disturb mother or babies. She has them right under the porch. You can see them from outside.”

The girl turned and walked quietly out the door. Billie thought she would be good with a puppy.

Once again inside the closet, Billie saw the hat box. Her mother said it held mementos. She placed the round box on the bed near the window and lifted the lid. Dust motes floated in the afternoon sun as it shone in the window and onto the aging box. There were letters, ribbons, and programs from evenings at the ballet. Her mother’s memories, and Billie felt the stab of pain once again. Her mother’s entire life in one box on the bed. How would she get through this again?

The pale blue padded envelope lay in the bottom. She gently lifted the lip, and the edges of the paper crumbled in her hands. Inside she found a note written in heavy scrawl, and a black book of matches with gold filigree letters told of bygone days when all the best clubs gave out matchbooks to their patrons. Johnny Fats, it read, and she flipped open the cover. The matches were dry and probably still worked. She laid them aside and read the letter.

“My dear Giselle,” it read. “I will never forget the night we met, and I await your answer.”

No signature. Her mother must have known who sent it, or she would not have kept it all these years.

Her mother always said that Billie’s father was a dancer who could not marry her. She said no more whenever Billie brought it up. Could he have been the man who sent the note, and if so, what answer did he await? She would never know. Why did she wait so long to open the box, and why the big secret? She and her mother had a beautiful life together, so what did it matter? But she wanted to know.

She fingered the matches as her heart once again ached. It felt like a new cut on top of an old wound that still had not fully healed. And the infection bubbled to the surface.