TITLE – Saving Charlie
SERIES – Stories of Serendipity
AUTHOR – Anne Conley
GENRE – Contemporary Romance
PUBLICATION DATE – Nov. 15, 2014
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) – 75K
PUBLISHER – Anne Conley
COVER ARTIST – Vanessa Booke
100,000 children are sexually trafficked every year in the US. In the 1990s, Charlie was one of those children. She’s spent her adult life getting past that, trying to become a successful business owner in Serendipity, TX. Relationships are not goals for her. In fact, she’s not even sure she has what it takes to be a part of one.
Les is a fool for love. All he’s ever wanted was a girl. Now that every last one of his friends are married, and in happy relationships with families, he can’t stop thinking about the sexy lady who sells house parts, even if everything about her screams at him to stay away. He just can’t.
When they are thrown together on a cross-country road trip, Charlie’s past comes back to her full-force, long-buried memories inundating her. Les seems to be the only thing grounding her to the present, when everything else seems to be trying to tear her apart.
While it has a HEA, the road getting there is long, rough, and dark. Enjoy the ride.
When the crowd began to disperse, there was a small torrent of people standing and walking past her chair, just before someone whispered in her ear. The voice froze her in time, and she closed her eyes as it grated across her skin.
“You are my diamond in the rough.” Not someone. Him. His voice sounded weaker than she remembered, but it was unmistakable.
Her head and body spun around to see The Man while her heart stopped. There was nobody behind her, where the voice had come from.
Les asked her, “What’s wrong, Charlie?” When she turned back to her front to face him, her eyes caught on her empty place setting, where the servers had cleared everything away.
The raccoon was sitting on the table in front of her. He’d left it for her.
“He’s here…” She whispered it to herself, but Les heard her.
“Who? Charlie, you’re so pale.” He grabbed her hand and saw the small child’s meal toy on the table. “What’s this?” He picked it up, and she smacked it out of his hands. It bounced across the table, where Les’s friends were all looking at her, mouths in various stages of openness, silently staring at her outburst. Charlie didn’t care.
“Don’t touch it. It’s evil. He put it there.” She wasn’t making any sense, but didn’t see how she could. Her vision was tunneled on the innocent looking creature, lying on its side on the other side of the table, a child’s toy that represented a childhood she’d never had.
Her heart pounded in her ears, a loud whooshing sound that wiped out all ambient noises. Her bowels loosened and she could feel the blood drain from her face. She knew she would pass out if she couldn’t get her body under control.
Charlie stood, her entire body shaking, as she spun around, trying to find The Man. She knew he was here, and she was angry that he had reduced her to a trembling mass of fear. She suddenly wanted to kill him.
If she could find him.
“Charlie, what’s wrong?” Les’s arms were around her. “Oh God. You’re shaking like a leaf. Let’s get out of here.” He tried to turn her, to lead her away, but Charlie resisted.
“Find him, Les.” Black started creeping around the edges of her vision, and she knew the night wasn’t going to end well for her and Les.
Les’s face was fading away into a fog, but she saw concern clearly etched on his features, as he asked the final question of the night. “What man? Charlie?”
Holding her limp body in his arms, Les felt impotent. Frantically looking around, he found Rachel’s astute gaze on them.
“You know something about this?” She shook her head.
“Not really, but I think I can find out. Let me go make some calls.” Rachel stood and stoically left the table, while her husband, Sam, came around to take Charlie’s pulse.
“She’s okay,” Sam said after a quick examination. “She’s just fainted. She might need some oxygen, and I’ve got a tank in my Jeep, but other than that, she’ll be fine.”
Les scooped her up in his arms and started carrying her out of the crowd. “Move back, please. I just need to get her some fresh air.” He heard the command in his voice and honestly had no clue where it was coming from. He was scared shitless. Somebody had come into his function and scared the life out of his girl, and he was going to find out who it was, and what had her so terrified.
Renae followed him to Sam’s Jeep while Sam unlocked it. Rachel had disappeared when he’d given his instructions to find out what Charlie was talking about, and Les knew she was on the job. Her tireless efficiency and endless resources were a boon to the Refuge, and Les would use them to his advantage.
Renae’s voice broke through his fog. “I saw who it was, Les. I mean… I didn’t know him, I’ve never seen him before, but I got a look at the man who was talking to her when she… reacted.”
Sam had the Jeep door open and Les deposited Charlie on the seat. “Get with Rachel. She may want you with one of the composite artists to get a picture. I want this guy.”
Putting the oxygen mask over her face, Sam asked, “Who do you think it is?”
Les raked his hand through his hair in a gesture of complete and utter frustration. “I have no fucking clue, but he’s the key I need to unlock what the hell has happened to her. And I’m going to find him.”
"SAVING CHARLIE" BY ANNE CONLEY - Ms. Conley has done it again! Another gem of the Serendipity series. Please note that despite being part of a series, this is easily read as a stand alone. Now to the good stuff - Les and Charlie. Wow! Charlie has a hell of a life, literally, but she is one strong woman making a good life for herself. But, because of her past, she is unsure if she wants a relationship. Les is amazing! He is everything a woman dream of - strong, funny, kind, gentle and patient with Charlie. The road to love is not an easy one for Les and Charlie - there are many dark places along the way but Ms. Conley does an excellent job and leading us to the light. I couldn't put this one down!
Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She's been writing for public consumption for the last four years. Currently she is writing two romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God's four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in love and becoming human. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.
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