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Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.


Smashwords Edition



To my mother, Jessie Ann Butcher, who gave me a love of reading

and to my elementary school librarian, Eleanor Riffle, who cultivated that love into a lifelong passion


One


Eight-year-old Charley Spencer bounded up the broad white steps of the porch of her curlicue-embellished Victorian home. She pushed open the heavy front door then turned back to the street and waved goodbye to her best friend Becca and her mother as they drove away from the curb.

She pushed the door closed and hollered, “Mo-oo-om, Ru-uu-bee.” The smell of fresh baked cookies made her smile. She dropped her knapsack by the foot of the elegant, curved wooden stairway that led to the second floor.

The tantalizing smell drew her into the kitchen with the single-minded intensity of a dog to sizzling bacon. On the counter beside the oven, a baking sheet sat half-full of sagging but still rounded globs of cookie dough. On the island, a dozen chocolate chip cookies covered the cooling rack. She snatched one and sank her teeth in – just the way she liked them, crunchy on the edges, gooey in the middle and sweet enough to break a heart.

She gobbled the cookie up in record speed then grabbed another one. The second one she would savor, taking tiny bites letting the chocolate soften and ooze across her tongue and allowing each little crunch of walnut to release a separate burst of flavor.

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