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She half-laughed and half-sobbed, wrapping her arms around her knees as she sat on the small sofa.

Most people in Holland Springs had probably lined up hours ahead of time to watch. Heck, they were probably bidding on it, just to make things interesting, because they sure weren’t coming to her store.

She had even heard rumblings of a party to celebrate the whole occasion. No one had done a thing to help her, not that she wanted their help anyway.

The box of clothes Gabriel’s church had sent her didn’t really count. And neither did Haven’s offer of a place to stay or the luggage she packed with all those clothes. Well, maybe that wasn’t completely fair.

She frowned and placed her chin on one of her knees. Gabriel’s church did that for anyone in need, regardless of reputation or economic status. Haven probably wanted to keep their business relationship on good terms.

Then again, maybe no one knew where she was. Her store was on a side-street that only those with a purpose to shop at Carolina Dreams came down. But Haven knew, she’d taken her to the fire station near her house to get her Jeep. According to the owner of the B&B, a good Samaritan had towed it there right after emergency crews had arrived on scene.

For almost the entire weekend, she had hidden in her little apartment, only venturing out to have dinner with Skye before she left for Colorado. Skye had driven them to an out of the way café near Wilmington. They’d spent hours reminiscing and Rose had made a promise to include her in more than just the mundane things of her life.

Then she had waited until her baby sister had said good bye and driven out of sight before she let herself cry. And that wasn’t until she’d been safely locked in the bathroom, hot water falling on her head and mingling with her tears.

Rose glanced around the room. Empty shelves lined the wall where all of her extra products had once been. Her apartment felt like a place, not a home.

The fridge’s fan kicked on, humming. Other than that it was quiet. Stifling. Suffocating.

Leaning over the back of the sofa, she opened a window and peered out. Sheriff Turner walked right under her window, carrying a box. He knocked on her front door, but she‘d be damned if she answer it. Every time David showed up, he brought nothing but bad news and that box looked like it could hold more than she could handle.

Who was she kidding? The head of a pin could hold more bad news than she could handle right now.

At least she couldn’t see the courthouse from here, but she’d find cold comfort where she could. For a long time, Rose had thought she’d always done fine on her own, but a man with moss colored eyes and a sexy smile had shown her just how wrong she was. She had been completely unprepared to be alone, not fully comprehending how big of a void Ivy and Sasha had filled in her life. But now…

Now they were gone and while she might see Ivy again, she had no doubt Sasha would never come back here. No he’d soon be off (if he wasn’t already), charming his next victim out of whatever his uncle wanted. And if his next victim were a woman, he’d be charming his way into her bed.

She gave a little snort, then a soft cry. As if he needed to do that. All it had taken for her was a nap, cheesecake, helping her clean vacation homes, bringing back her chickens, cooking her dinner, painting her toes…She drew her brows together.

Sasha had done a lot for a man intent on seduction. He’d done things that most men wouldn’t have dreamed of doing. Although she could chalk it up to his training, his life for the past several years. A life that, according to him, he wasn’t allowed to live like he wanted.

Unwrapping her arms, she stood up and moved to the top of the stairs. There had to be something she could do to keep her mind off of the auction. Off of Ivy. Off of Sasha.

She jogged down the stairs and slipped into her office, powering on her desktop.

The clock on the right hand side of the screen read 2:15.

Taking a steadying breath, she began to surf the internet. With only a couple of clicks she tortured herself with pictures of Sasha. She made a face at the screen and moved to x it out, only to stop when she felt someone looking over her shoulder.

She tentatively glanced back and her mouth dropped open. Her heart resurfaced from her stomach and began pounding furiously in her chest.

“Momma?” Rose jumped up from her chair, her fingers automatically searching for the cross that Sasha still had.

Azalea Holland smiled, hair the color of honey framing an ethereally beautiful face dominated by bright lavender eyes. Impeccably dressed in a suit and skirt that matched her eyes, she looked nothing like the woman Rose remembered. A woman who’d favored lived-in jeans and form-fitting t-shirts from her favorite concerts.

Rose wanted nothing more than to curse the woman, yell at her, or even tell Azalea to get the hell out of her store, but tears clogged her throat and blurred her vision. All she could do was stand there and stare.

“Oh, sugar, it’s not that bad.” Azalea didn’t move any closer.

Waves of embarrassment washed over Rose, leaving her cold. She wanted her mother to hug her. She pressed her fingers to her eyes, trying to get her emotions under control. “Where have you been? Where were you when I needed your help?”

Azalea dug into her wide purse, pulling out a handkerchief and a manila folder. She handed Rose the handkerchief and set the folder on the shelf beside her. “I wasn’t anywhere good. And I sure as hell wasn’t fit to help you then, but now…” She tapped on the folder.

Drying her eyes, Rose pressed her mother for more answers. “But now you are? Does your suit have superpowers or something?”

“Only to make my assistant, Barney, cry in less than five seconds when I fuss at him for not recycling.” Azalea brushed a curl behind Rose’s ear. “So pretty. I always knew you’d be a stunner.” Her eyes dropped to Rose’s neck. “Why’d you run him off, sugar?”

Rose stepped back, bumping into her desk. “Stop it. I want you to answer my questions, not ask ones of your own.”

Azalea moved the desk chair from behind Rose, sat down and crossed her legs. “Fire away.”

For the life of her, Rose couldn’t come up with a single one.

“Why don’t I help you out?” Azalea leaned forward in her chair. “I’m not proud I did what I did. I chose to run off with one of my gentlemen friends, leaving you girls behind. Those were some dark years for me. I got caught up with the wrong people, filled my body with the wrong things.”

“I didn’t need that much information,” Rose muttered.

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