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The Good, the Bad, and the Pugly (An Alpine Grove Romantic Comedy Book 7)
 

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The Good, the Bad, and the Pugly (An Alpine Grove Romantic Comedy Book 7)


  The Good, the Bad, and the Pugly

  An Alpine Grove Romantic Comedy

  Book 7

  Susan C. Daffron

  Published by Magic Fur Press

  An imprint of Logical Expressions, Inc.

  PO Box 383, Sandpoint, Idaho 83852, USA

  This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business organizations, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2015 by Susan C. Daffron

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher.

  ISBN:

  978-1-61038-037-9 (paperback)

  978-1-61038-038-6 (EPUB)

  Digital Edition 1.1 – November 8, 2015

  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Copyright Page

  Table of Contents

  Synopsis

  Chapter 1 - Grocery Trauma

  Chapter 2 - Introspection & Judge

  Chapter 3 - The V Bar H

  Chapter 4 - On the Trail

  Chapter 5 - Nugget & the Arabian

  Chapter 6 - Stinks & Storms

  Chapter 7 - Meetings

  Chapter 8 - Moods & News

  Chapter 9 - Consequences

  Chapter 10 - Conversations

  Chapter 11 - Fur Ball

  Chapter 12 - Epilogue

  Thanks for Reading

  Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  Books by Susan C. Daffron

  The Good, the Bad, and the Pugly

  An Alpine Grove Romantic Comedy

  Book 7

  by Susan C. Daffron

  Synopsis

  After a freak shopping cart accident, Brigid Fitzpatrick takes stock of her life and wonders what happened. Determined to reinvent herself, Brigid sells off everything and rents a cottage in the small town of Alpine Grove. Thanks to her military widow’s pension, she can take a much-needed summer vacation.

  Armed with piles of self-improvement books, Brigid sets out to rebuild her life. When she adopts a sweet little dog named Gypsy, Brigid finds out Gypsy isn’t the only homeless dog in Alpine Grove. Compelled to help animals with nowhere to go, Brigid forges a plan when compassionate horse trainer, Clayton Hadley agrees to help. Forced to face deep-seated fears, Brigid finds herself intrigued by Clay’s uncanny insights. Plus, how often do you get to meet a real life cowboy?

  The Good, the Bad, and the Pugly is a romantic comedy novel of approximately 84,000 words.

  Chapter 1

  Grocery Trauma

  Brigid stood in the serpentine grocery store check out line, leaning on her cart waiting. She looked down at the items she was buying. That tub of designer ice cream was going to be soup by the time she got out of here. In front of her, the grocery clerk seemed to be moving items across the scanner in slow motion. Was it absolutely necessary to look at every side of every single box to find the bar code? It was like the guy had never seen these things before and that each item was a huge revelation. Oh look, it’s a box of Rice-a-Roni! Where do you suppose the bar code might be? Brigid dropped her head and stared at the floor as she shuffled her feet to move the cart forward a few inches. All she wanted was a little comfort food.

  A shriek came out of nowhere and then a crash. When Brigid opened her eyes, she squinted up through her eyelashes at a bright florescent light and a hideous putrid green ceiling. What a disgusting color. It was probably supposed to be soothing, but it was the color of overcooked cabbage, which made her feel mildly nauseated. A woman in a white coat looked down into her face and waved at someone else in the room. “She’s awake!”

  Brigid said, “Where am I?”

  “You’re in a hospital. Do you remember what happened?”

  “I was watching my ice cream melt. I swear that grocery store has the slowest checkers in the known universe.”

  “Do you know your name?”

  “Brigid Simmons…I mean Brigid Fitzpatrick.”

  “Which one is it?”

  “Brigid Fitzpatrick. I took my maiden name back.”

  “What year is it?”

  “Nineteen ninety six.”

  “Okay.” The woman grinned at her. “I think you’re going to be fine. You hit your head, and we were a little worried about you. I’m Doctor Lawrence.” She gestured toward another woman. “This is Sally. She’s a nurse here.”

  “I don’t remember hitting my head. Am I in a hospital? Did I get shot or something? I heard a scream. Was the store robbed?”

  “No. You were hit with a shopping cart.”

  “What?”

  “There was a little boy and he was playing. The cart sort of got away from him. There was a big bag of kitty litter in the cart, so it had some real momentum. His mother says she’ll give him a good talking to.”

  “I was run over by a bratty kid with a shopping cart?” Brigid wanted to giggle at the absurdity of the situation, but couldn’t quite muster up the energy. A comedian would have a field day with this—she could imagine the audience snickering at Jerry Seinfeld quipping, “You really know your life is in the toilet when you get run over by an out-of-control shopping cart full of kitty litter.”

  Doctor Lawrence leaned over and shined a tiny flashlight in Brigid’s eyes. “The clerk pulled the cart off you. We checked and it doesn’t appear you have internal bleeding, but you do have quite a bit of bruising.”

  Brigid moved experimentally. The pain in her midsection definitely wasn’t funny. “I think I’d like to throw up now.”

  The doctor turned toward Sally, who handed her a metal pan that she thrust in front of Brigid. “Here!”

  After purging the contents of her stomach, Brigid felt worse, not better. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. How disgusting. “I’m sorry about that.”

  “Now that you’re awake, we’d like to run some tests and make sure everything is okay. Is there someone we should call? Husband? Boyfriend? A family member?”

  “No. My husband is dead. My family is all out East and half of them hate me. Never mind. No, there’s no one. Just me.”

  “We will need you to fill out some forms, if you’re up to it.”

  Brigid groaned and tried to sit up. “Only if you give me some better drugs.”

  “Let me look you over again first.”

  As the doctor poked at her, Brigid tried to focus her mind on something other than nausea. She was just so tired. Tired of everything. All she wanted to do was sleep, but reality kept intruding. “Supposedly, I still have military health insurance. I’ve never made a claim before and I hate to think about the forms they’re going to need. They’d better cough up for this—I really can’t afford to be sick right now. Ouch, what are you doing? Cut that out!”

  Doctor Lawrence stood up straight again. “Okay. I’m done. We’re going to keep you overnight and I’m going to schedule a few more tests.”

  Brigid slumped down on her pillow. “This is so stupid. All I wanted was some ice cream.”

  The doctor put her hand on Brigid’s shoulder. “I know. And I’m sorry. Sometimes accidents happen.”

  After Doctor Lawrence left the room, Brigid tried to roll over onto her side, but it hurt too much. Just when you think your life can’t get any worse, you get run over by a shopping cart. Who knew going to the
grocery store could be so dangerous?

  The next day after multiple tests, exams, and what felt like four thousand extremely personal questions about every possible nuance of her female anatomy, Brigid was allowed to go home. They called a cab for her and she waited for it, sitting in a wheelchair outside the hospital entrance with her hands folded in her lap. Her car was undoubtedly still sitting in the grocery parking lot. She could get it some other time when she wasn’t on heavy-duty pain killers. Although she had been given a clean bill of health as far as the shopping cart incident went, the tests revealed something else. It was unlikely she’d ever be able to have children.

  She and John had talked about having kids dozens of times, but Brigid had never been ready. Particularly after he’d been deployed to Iraq, she had been firm in her decision. No babies until he was stationed somewhere in the United States. Never seeing her husband was bad enough. She didn’t want to be one of those bitter military wives saddled with twelve children that she had to move all over the globe. The idea of having little kids repeatedly asking “Where’s Daddy?” had always made her want to cry. Even worse, if she’d had to say, “Daddy is never coming home because there was a helicopter crash.”

  Brigid wiped away a tear. Fine. She’d never have kids. It would be okay. She’d never been particularly maternal or found children fascinating and adorable like some women did. Not everyone had kids. Plenty of women led perfectly happy lives without children. She’d just have to get used to the idea.

  With her Irish temper and sarcastic sense of humor, Brigid had always worried that she wouldn’t have been a particularly good parent anyway. But John would have been worse. Any kids they had probably would have ended up needing years of expensive therapy. Maybe this was actually a blessing in disguise. Although part of her was heartbroken that the choice now seemed to have been taken away from her, one thing she knew for sure was that having children with John would have been a terrible mistake.

  After the cab dropped her off at her apartment building, Brigid slowly shuffled up the path to the doorway. Her whole body ached and all she wanted to do was take a few more pain-killers, crawl into bed, and go back to sleep.

  She opened the door to the tiny studio apartment and gazed around the room. The sparsely furnished space was spotless, utilitarian, and about as interesting as a monk’s cell. John hated knick-knacks, or “dust collectors” as he used to call them. They were just one more thing to pack when they’d had to move again.

  Brigid sat down on the ugly gold sofa and put her face in her palms. When was the last time she’d actually been happy? Really happy? It felt like forever since she’d even laughed. She’d been trying for the last year to grit her teeth, go to work, and get on with her life now that John was gone and she didn’t have to worry about him and their disintegrating marriage.

  After John died, she went to counseling for widows like everyone said she should. Enough time had passed that the shock and pain of his death had dulled somewhat. Mostly she just felt numb and tired. They said that her nightmares would go away eventually, and thankfully, they had. Being able to sleep again was no small thing, and she slept a lot. Sleep was her refuge from well-meaning people and her own depressing thoughts.

  Everyone had been extremely nice and claimed to understand how she felt, but they really didn’t. No one did. What people didn’t know was that what Brigid really felt was angry and disgusted with herself. And that, coupled with guilt for not feeling what she was supposed to feel, was more difficult to deal with than missing her husband.

  At this point, the years she’d spent with John were starting to feel more like a recurring bad dream rather than something she’d actually experienced. But it still was like she was in some limbo land waiting for that bad dream to end. She’d spent most of the last year jumping through hoops and red tape, fighting with countless military offices to receive her survivor’s benefits. In the end, many aspects of that bureaucratic battle had been largely futile, filled with more unwelcome surprises.

  Brigid’s job as a legal secretary was boring, but the people she worked with were nice enough. They had even sent flowers to her after they found out about the helicopter accident. Technically the Gulf War was over, and had been for years. Outside of the military, everyone had pretty much forgotten about it. Many people didn’t even know soldiers were still in Iraq in 1995. Operation Provide Comfort was supposed to be providing “humanitarian relief” but the misleading name had just made Brigid angry. Then after Operation Provide Comfort, the next military initiative was called Operation Provide Comfort II. Really? Couldn’t they think of something else?

  At least being a legal secretary was a step up from some of Brigid’s past jobs, and she’d actually had enough time in one place to get promoted. It still was just a job though, and she’d more or less been operating on auto-pilot since John died, which everyone at work had undoubtedly been too polite to mention. The idea of getting yet another job had been too exhausting. Brigid’s resume was a freakish mish-mash of secretarial, administrative, and random low-wage jobs, none of which had lasted more than a year. She’d been a dental receptionist, data-entry clerk, travel agent assistant, waitress, prep cook, and had even done a stint as a packager in a candy factory in that dreadful little town in the Midwest that had only three employers.

  Brigid sat up straight and turned her head to look around her apartment again. Enough was enough. She didn’t want to be this person anymore. The one her coworkers felt sorry for and pitied because of her empty, sad little life. What was wrong with her? Why was she even still living here? It wasn’t as if she loved her job or enjoyed living in sunny Southern California. With her freckles and pallid Irish skin, she had to practically douse herself in sunscreen just to go outside. Sometimes she forgot and burned herself to the point that she looked like an overcooked Oscar Mayer wiener. The tanned, plastic Malibu-Barbie people here in the Southland gave her pale complexion and wavy out-of-control red hair a snide, knowing look, as if to say, “Get some skin pigment, woman.”

  It was time to start over. Before she’d met John, Brigid hadn’t been this mopey useless person who was afraid of everything. In her family, she had been the sharp, funny one, always laughing and getting out and doing things. What had happened to that woman? The sad thing was that when one of the therapists had asked Brigid about her best memory, she had been so surprised and flustered that she hadn’t been able to think of anything. Her mind had been a complete blank. After so many years of John berating her opinions, maybe she’d been afraid that anything she said would be written off as stupid.

  Since then, she’d rolled the question around in her mind repeatedly. After some reflection, she decided that her best memories were from a trip her family had taken with friends when she was little to a little town near a lake in North Carolina. The rustic A-frame cabin had experienced some terrible plumbing problem that had frustrated her father, and Brigid remembered that she’d laughed one morning when he’d brought a mirror outside and stood in the lake next to the dock to shave. Even with the lack of amenities, it had been so much fun staying right on the water. Brigid had spent all day playing outside in the sand behind the cabin, watching people water ski and making up stories with the little girl who was staying in the cabin next door. Every day, she came in sun-baked and tired, but really happy.

  Moving across the country to North Carolina didn’t seem practical at the moment, but maybe she could find some place closer that was similar near a lake. Brigid stood up and grabbed an old newspaper off the table. What she really wanted was a little time to herself with no responsibilities to anyone. Not the military. Not her job. No one.

  She flipped the pages to the classified ads. Little kids got to take the summer off. Why shouldn’t she? After years of being the dutiful Army wife, she needed a vacation. It wasn’t much, but she had some savings and her widow’s pension. There was no reason she couldn’t take a little time for herself to figure out what was next. Who was she, now that she wa
sn’t a wife and was never going to be a mother? Brigid had absolutely no idea.

  She looked at the vacation rental classifieds. Alpine Grove? That could work. She had gone there on a weekend trip with John when he was on leave once. They’d fought most of the time, as usual, so it wasn’t much of a vacation. But she remembered Alpine Grove as a cute little town with a lake, trees, and probably thousands of hiking trails going off into the forest. Not surprisingly, John had hated the place. She grabbed a pen and circled the ad. It was perfect.

  With all of her experience in moving, it didn’t take Brigid long to find a house to rent in Alpine Grove, quit her job, and start packing. Her studio apartment was on a month-to-month lease. And because her landlord and everyone at the law office knew from the beginning that John was in the military, no one was particularly surprised when Brigid gave her notice. A well-attended garage sale at her apartment complex helped her get rid of the last of John’s things and the beat-up old furniture. By the time she was done, everything she owned in the world fit in her somewhat elderly, but reliable, Honda Civic.

  After turning in her keys to her landlord, she got into her car and pulled out all her maps for one last look at the route. It was exciting to be on the road at last. This move felt completely different because for the first time in a long time, the choices were all her own. The Army wasn’t telling her where to go, which was both liberating and a little nerve-wracking. Suddenly, she had no one to report to, nothing she was supposed to do, and nowhere she was supposed to be.

  Brigid had to keep reminding herself that the next few months were going to be a vacation. This was time she’d given herself. Time to relax, read, and just stare at the lake with no one telling her what she should be doing with the rest of her life. Although Brigid didn’t remember much about the area from the one weekend she’d spent there, if the pictures in the brochures she’d received from the Chamber of Commerce were any indication, Alpine Grove was beautiful.

 
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