Believing Love

By: Betsy Horvath

1





June Esperanza was crouching behind the old wooden bar that dominated the empty taproom of the Country Time Bar and Grill putting away some napkins when she heard the tavern’s front door open and quick, light, footsteps echoing across the antique planked floor.

What the hell? They were closed for an­other hour, and the door should have been locked. Hannah must have forgotten to secure it again when she’d gone to get some stuff for the party they were hosting later that evening.

June stood, ready to throw out the intruder, but hesitated when she saw an elderly woman standing in the middle of the room looking around with a vague expression. Her white hair was cut in a short, stylish bob, and she was clutching a large purse to her thin chest. She looked familiar, although June couldn’t quite place her. She just knew she didn’t belong there.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” she said, leaning her forearms on top of the bar. “We’re not open.”

The woman turned, chocolate brown eyes wide and confused in an oval face, and June drew in her breath.

Eva Hardy in the flesh, by God. Unofficial queen of Hardy Falls, the little, pissant, whitewashed, Pocono Mountain tourist-trap town where the Country Time was located, and where June had, for some inexplicable reason, lived for the last sixteen years or so.

“Mrs. Hardy,” she said, straightening away from the bar. “What are you doing here?” Her voice was cold, but she couldn’t help that. She hadn’t spoken to Eva in years—hadn’t even seen the woman in at least three—and could happily have gone a while longer without re­newing their acquaintance.

Instead of giving her the confident, superior, smile June remembered so well, Eva appeared even more confused, her dark brows furrowed over her thin nose.

“Do I know you?”

“Yes,” June said slowly, belatedly remembering that Eva had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It had appar­ently gotten significantly worse over the past year, which was why Calvin had moved back to town three months ago.

Calvin Hardy. The only child of Ronald and Eva Hardy.

And an asshole.

“No, I don’t. I don’t know you.” Eva threw back her shoulders, the habitual movement emphasizing how thin she was now. “Where’s Fred? I’m looking for Fred,” she demanded querulously.

Fred? Was she talking about Fred Frederickson, Hannah’s father? Yeah, he used to own the Country Time, but he’d been dead for more than two years. Hannah ran things now.

“Ah, he’s not here,” June said, trying to think of what to do. She moved cautiously out from behind the bar and walked toward the other woman, not wanting to say or do anything to upset her more. Did people with Alzheimer’s get violent? June didn’t think so, but she didn’t want to find out. All she’d need would be for Chief Kline to arrest her for getting into a smack-down with Ronald Hardy’s fragile, little wife.

But how the hell was she going to get her out of there? Christ, was Eva still driving? If she’d driven, June would feel obligated to make sure she got home, which would be the freaking cherry on top of her freaking day.

Eva frowned. “But Fred told me to come. We made arrangements to meet here.”

Interesting. June hadn’t known Eva and Fred were that close.

She considered the other woman for a moment. Even with the ravages of her disease imprinted on her face, she was still lovely and had probably been quite a babe when she was younger. For his part, Fred had been one hell of a good-looking man. Heck, June had actually given some thought to the highly inappropri­ate proposition he’d made to her when she’d first started working for him, even though he’d been a good twenty-five years her senior.

In the end, she’d decided against it. He hadn’t been married—Hannah’s mother had been killed in a car crash a few years before June blew into town—but there had still been too many complications to make it worthwhile.

Fred sure hadn’t liked it when she’d turned him down, though. Over the years, she’d discovered that most women came running when Fred showed interest.

Had Eva been one of them? She’d certainly been a Country Time regular back in the day, spending many an evening here at the bar talking to Fred after bowl­ing with the leagues next door at Murphy Lanes. If June remembered correctly, Eva’s husband had rarely joined in the discussions.