Daliah Owens needs a new start. With accusations of theft plaguing her, she leaves Smithfield in search of a new home.
Will Needful, Texas fit the bill?
Spencer Gaines wants nothing to do with love. His life has been filled with travel since the loss of his beloved wife, but his son needs him and this wagon train trip to Needful, Texas will change everything.
Targeted Age Group:: 20-65
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I love second chances books, with a hint of mystery. Romance comes slowly in this story as a new town is born.
I wanted this story to speak of hurt, healing, and hope.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I like to draw on real people and experiences to create my characters. Daliah was lost and alone. A unique individual with a unique name but no family to turn to.
Spencer is the kind of man who feels pain deeply so avoids it. His son, Chad is so like some of the former students I taught in another life.
“Miss Owens, if I could see you in my office please,” Mr. Bradford the bank president motioned Daliah to his open door.
“Yes sir,” Daliah was quick to comply, she’d been working at the Smithfield bank for nearly two years, and aside from her interview, she didn’t believe she’d ever said more than good day to the bank president.
“Please take a seat,” Mr. Bradford said, indicating a chair before his oversized mahogany desk.
Daliah slipped into the proffered chair nervously toying with the lace at her collar. It had been a hard sell for her taking over her brother’s job at the bank when he’d been killed by the crossfire of a botched bank robbery. With no prospects of making it on her own without her brother, she’d done the only thing she could think of and had practically begged the wealthy businessman for her brother’s job.
“Is something wrong Mr. Bradford?” Daliah finally asked as the rather rotund banker settled onto his chair with a protesting screech.
“I’m afraid that your till has come up short,” Mr. Bradford said, looking at her over his wire-rimmed spectacles. “This is highly irregular,” he continued. “Mr. Shaw our new manager has advised me that your drawer has been nearly two dollars short twice this month.”
Daliah’s mouth fell open in horror. “I assure you Mr. Bradford when I returned my drawer to the safe each evening my numbers tallied perfectly.” How could she be short when she’d kept impeccable records, turning them over each day to the new bank manager?
“Miss Owens, this sort of thing cannot be overlooked. I know you’ve been a stellar employee to date, but if there’s some problem; some need at home, perhaps we could work something out.” Mr. Bradford’s expression was firm but not unkind, and it made Daliah squirm.
“Surely you can’t believe that I’ve shorted the bank on any transaction,” she protested. “I’ve never had so much as a penny go wrong in two years.”
“Mistakes do happen,” Mr. Bradford suggested, “but Mr. Shaw was very adamant that you have been short twice.”
Daliah shook her head, “I’ll fetch my records,” she suggested rising to her feet.
“No need for that,” Mr. Bradford said, dismissing the thought with a wave of his hand. “I’ve already seen them.” He tapped a pile of neat papers on the end of his desk. “Now do you have anything to tell me?” He asked again.
“Mr. Bradford,” Daliah said, feeling the blood rush to her face as her heart began to pound. “My drawer has never been short, there has to be a mistake.”
“Miss Owens, perhaps if you could explain the circumstances that have brought you to this desperate measure, we could work something out.”
“Circumstances?” Daliah gaped.
“Yes, I know how hard it has been for you since your brother passed. I only gave you this position because he had been such a wonderful asset to the bank. With your parents gone and then losing your brother, I thought it only fair to give you a chance, but if this is how you repay my benevolence…”
He let the words drift away as his dark eyes tried to peer through her.
“Mr. Bradford, are you accusing me of stealing from the bank?” Daliah asked her voice shaking.
“I wouldn’t put it that way but there have been these two irregularities.”
Daliah felt the world spinning out of control. “If I might see my ledger please?” she asked reaching out a hand toward the papers on Mr. Bradford’s desk.
“Mr. Shaw and I have been through every page my dear; you are exactly four dollars and seventy-four cents short this month. That’s more than some men make as wages in a week. I’m afraid that if you are not willing to confess and explain why you have kept back that amount, I have no choice but to let you go.”
“But I didn’t do it,” Daliah wailed rising to her feet, “I’ve never had a single coin go astray, and now I’m being accused of stealing. This isn’t right, it isn’t fair.”
“Miss Owens if you are determined to make a scene I could call the sheriff, as it is I have decided to dismiss you without reference out of my affection for your late brother. If you’ll please gather your things I’ll see you out.”
Daliah rose, clutching her bag and fighting back the tears. She couldn’t understand what was happening. She’d been a diligent employee for two years. Not only was this her only means of support, it was also her joy in a job well done. She’d even been of help to those less educated in sums and numbers in the community, many of whom asked for her regularly.
Mr. Bradford was opening the door and the bright light of day dazzled her making her blink. “I’m sorry about this whole mess, Miss Owens,” the banker was saying with a shake of his head. “If you have anything else to say?” he finished hopefully.
Daliah shook her head as she stepped through the door. What could she say, she had no idea what had happened or where the lost funds could have gone. Instead she stumbled toward the home where she rented a tiny room from an elderly couple.
“Daliah my dear, what are you doing home so early? Are you feeling well?” Mrs. Hampton hurried to the door as Daliah stepped through. “You aren’t getting ill are you?” the older woman asked reaching out to feel her forehead.
Daliah shook her head as the tears she’d been fighting the whole way home began to flow. “I lost my job,” she sobbed letting Mrs. Hampton guide her to a chair in the kitchen.
“Sit here dear,” Mrs. Hampton said, pulling a handkerchief from her sleeve and handing it to her young boarder. “I’ll make us a cup of tea and you tell me what happened.”
Daliah poured out her heart to the slim gray haired woman, as she struggled to understand what had happened and to figure out what she would do now that she had no job. Surely others would hear of her shame and what reputable business would hire her after she had dismissed her from the bank. Mr. Bradford would be forced to tell any prospective employer why she’d been let go, and no one would ever hire her. With a moan she laid her head on the table and sobbed.
“Daliah Owens you sit up and drink your tea now,” Mrs. Hampton said, her harsh words making Daliah jump. “This is a terrible thing, it is, but it ain’t the end of the world. We’ll figure out something, and God will see you through.” Olive Hampton patted the girl’s back as she placed the cup on the table.
Daliah took the tea cup in shaking hands and sipped the sweet hot brew. She needed to pull herself together. Sitting and blubbering about her situation wouldn’t fix it, and she didn’t have a soul in the world she could count on to sort it out for her.
“You’ve been through worse than this now,” Mrs. Hampton said, taking a seat and patting her on the arm. “When your folks were killed along the trail to Missouri, you and your brother managed, and when you lost your dear brother, you found a job and a place to stay. I know God must have a plan, even if others are the ones making things bad for you.”
Daliah looked up into the narrow face of the woman who had taken her in when she had nowhere to go and tried to smile.
“I don’t know what I’ll do Mrs. Hampton,” she said. “At least when Joe and I arrived here in Smithfield, he was able to get a job and look out for us, even after…” she hiccupped softly dabbing at her eyes, “even after I lost Joe, I had my reputation as an honest worker.”
Mrs. Hampton nodded and listened as Daliah worked through the issues, a keen light shining in her eyes.
“We’ll wait until Orville gets home,” Mrs. Hampton finally said, “and then we’ll see. I’m sure he’ll have a few ideas of his own.”
Daliah nodded. Orville Hampton was well known and well liked in Smithfield. He’d owned and operated the sawmill that had practically built the town, and even now as age and physical limitation prevented him from working such long hours, many looked up to him as a pillar of the town.
“Now you go wash your face and hands and say your prayers,” Mrs. Hampton said, picking up their empty cups and turning to the sink. “We’ll discuss everything over dinner tonight.”
Daliah rose, feeling slightly encouraged by the older woman’s sage words and tripping to her bedroom she did as she was told, whispering prayers for help along the way.
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