Momma says a body reaps what they sow, and Clarabelle’s planted the seeds of trouble. The year is 1933, and not much else is growing in the Oklahoma dirt. Clarabelle’s gone and fallen in love with her best friend, so she figures it’s time to go out and see the world.
If she’s lucky, she’ll find the kind of girl who’ll kiss her back.
Clarabelle heads for New Orleans, and that’s where she meets Vaughn. Now, Vaughn’s as pretty as can be, but she’s hiding something. When she gets jumped by a pair of hoodlums, Clarabelle comes to her rescue and accidentally discovers her secret. She has to decide whether Vaughn is really the kind of girl for her, and though Clarabelle started out a dirt-farming Okie, Vaughn teaches her just what it means to be a lady.
Change of Heart is a story in the Hours of the Night series. Jump HERE to learn more about Vespers, Book 1 in the Hours of the Night. Also, keep watching *this* page, because come February, Change of Heart is going solo, with pretty new cover art and everything. Clarabelle & Vaughn are a couple of my favorite characters, and I can’t wait for you to get to know them.
Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite. Clara’s breakfast beignet doesn’t go quite how she expected…
Vaughn came along next, surprising me so much I choked on my coffee. A wide-brimmed straw hat kept the sun off of her face, and her raspberry pink day dress should have clashed with her hair. Instead she looked radiant. Before I could think of a reason not to, I jumped out of my chair and ran to the door.
“Good morning!” I came near to tripping her with my enthusiasm.
She stopped, smiled, stepped close enough that I could smell the rosewater she always wore. “What’s your story, morning glory?”
My cheeks got so hot I could have crawled right under the sidewalk. “Having a cup of coffee.” Did I dare? “Want to join me?”
Vaughn’s upright posture softened. “Sure thing.”
We laughed over her breakfast order, though really I could have died of embarrassment. I didn’t have on any rouge or lipstick, and my brows needed plucking. Vaughn’s make-up was perfect despite the early hour. I could talk to her fine at work, but with our knees bumping under the table, words took a holiday.
For her part, she seemed content to watch me. I took a sip of my coffee to give myself something to do, and her eyes followed the motion of my hand. Oh for pity’s sake. We were both goofy.
My mug hit the table with a thunk. “What are you doing here so early, anyhow?” I wasn’t sure where Vaughn lived, but a big car drove her home every night after work.
She sipped her coffee, lips leaving a coral smear on the white porcelain. “I’m headed to the market.” She tapped the mug’s handle, her fingernails painted the same color as her lipstick. “I wanted to wander around a bit, but I’m”—color rose in her cheeks—“it’s nice to see you.”
“Well it’s nice to see you, too.” Did I dare suggest we could wander around together? Nerves had me picking at my beignet, which sprayed powdered sugar everywhere and made things worse. “I ain’t working till nine.” There. She might catch my hint.
“Yeah, the boss sure likes it when you’re there. Lorraine doesn’t have your charm.”
Our eyes met and held for one solid minute, and I came close to blurting everything out—how she was the prettiest woman I’d ever seen, how I wanted to leave lipstick smears all over her delicate collar bones, how I wanted every bit of her skin rubbing against mine.
Instead, I blinked. “Charm?” My laugh came out more harsh than polite. “I think he just wants to play mattress polo.” The thought made me sick. The boss was well into his thirties and had more hair under his nose than he did on his head. “Fat chance.”
She smiled like we were sharing a big secret. “That’s why he likes you. Guys always want what they can’t have.”
Guys. I didn’t waste much time thinking about them. I mean, some of them were handsome enough, but most of them were slobs. “Making whoopee with a billy goat.”
“You’d know.” Her grin turned saucy. “You’re the farm girl.”
I snorted into my coffee.
“I mean”—she propped her elbows on the table, her coffee mug held in both hands—“if not a billy goat, there must have been some boy back home.”
“Nope. Not me.” My smile felt too tight, and my heart tripped over itself. I’d die before I told her about the girl back home. I’d come to Sodom and Gomorrah so I could have some fun, but people were the same everywhere. I couldn’t simply walk up to Vaughn and ask her to kiss me, could I? “I expect after a while I’ll go home and find one.”
“Hmm…you deserve someone special.” With a little frown, Vaughn’s gaze followed an old milk truck rolling past, spewing exhaust from the rear end. “I doubt I’ll ever find a boy for myself.”
Now that comment gave me hope, and my mouth took off without my brain. “Well, maybe one day we’ll be a couple of old maids together. You can make the dinner, and I’ll sew our clothes.”
“You sew?” Her gaze pinned me, leaving me breathless.
“I made this.” I picked at my skirt. My pink calico shift wasn’t much, but the gathers were neatly done. “Back where I’m from, ladies been asking me to make them things since I was twelve.” I hadn’t stayed in school long, but at times my old Singer earned better money than Dad’s farm, which was why I still sent Momma a check every month.
“Did you do the embroidery?” She gestured to the neckline of my dress. “It’s lovely.”
“It’s only a chain stitch. I can do much fancier stuff than this.”
She grasped my hand, and the shiver she sent through me landed in the pit of my belly. “If I sketched you something, could you make it?”
I pulled my hand away—not to be rude, but so I wouldn’t embarrass us both by lacing our fingers together. “I could, but I left my sewing machine behind.”
Crossing her arms, she tapped a peach-painted fingertip against her matching lips. “I’ll ask Leo if he’s got a machine. We could be partners.”
“Leo?” She’d said she didn’t have a boyfriend.
Her laugh set me at ease. “No”—she took my hand again, leaving me breathless—“he’s my friend. An old, old friend.”
“All right.” I couldn’t bring myself to draw my hand away. “If you find me a Singer, I’ll make you a dress.”
“Sweetheart, if I find you a Singer, we’re setting us up a shop and dressing the finest ladies in this town.”
I nodded vigorously, but in my mind I planned the dress I’d make for her. Amber, to bring out the warm tints in her hair or maybe a soft green to show off her eyes. Silk, to drift over her shoulders and fall low in the back. She’d be so lovely. She was so lovely.