Authors: Misty Dietz
Come Hell or High Desire
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by
. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in
any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Cover design by Fiona Jayde
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-197-8
Manufactured in the United States of America
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners
of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Corolla, The Northern, Chumley’s, Boy Scouts, Jockeys,
Nymph and Satyr Carousing
, Kleenex, Salad Shooter, Swarovski, Bentley, Saran Wrap, Tiffany, McDonalds, Mountain
, Bradley butterfly knife, Arby’s, Red Hawks,
, Camaro, El Camino, Hummer, Pontiac Grand Am, Tupperware, Toscana’s, Drop Tower,
Flying Condor, Screamin’ Swing, Scorpion, Glock, UZI.
For Mae, an extraordinary grandmother. I treasure you.
And in memory of my other three remarkable grandparents.
I miss you.
Fargo, North Dakota
A slip of paper fluttered against his back door. Even from afar, Zack Goldman noticed
it immediately. He squinted through the trees and climbed the river embankment for
a closer look. Who’d be way out here this early? It hadn’t been there when he’d left
a half hour ago to let the hounds burn off a little ADD.
The dogs panted quietly at his side now, tired and grungy from a few dozen water retrievals,
their sawing notes a rhythmic accompaniment to the hollow drill of a woodpecker beating
its brains out. His footsteps quickened on the gravel path that detoured around the
crude fire pit, his eyes never leaving the piece of paper. He patted his jeans pocket,
but his phone was still on him, so he hadn’t missed a call.
The paper billowed once more in a mute breeze before he ripped it off the recently
re-stained oak door.
WHERE IS SHE?
He frowned, not recognizing the writing. Where is
? He didn’t have a lot of women in his life. Certainly no one romantically. There
were only three women he associated with, and though they didn’t share his blood,
they were like the younger sisters he never had. Ann, Morgan—
He strode into the bungalow, the dogs barreling in before the screen door slammed
on their backsides. Zack dialed Twyla’s home number and her husband, Archie, picked
up on the third ring.
“My one day to sleep in, and you gotta call to tell me about the nice fishy you just
bagged? This better be important, Goldman. My days for sleeping in are numbered with
the baby coming, you know.”
Zack sank onto the leather sofa and leaned his head against the wall. The dogs collapsed
on his feet like Sasquatch slippers. He rubbed his chest, exhaling as silently as
possible. “Sorry, man. Thought I was calling Ross. Catch ya later.”
He disconnected before his friend could respond. Archie and Twyla had enough to worry
So who’d left the note? It had to be a mistake. Someone had probably been lost, then
found his hideaway and thought they had the right place.
That would be a good hypothesis if he had any neighbors within a five mile radius.
But since he didn’t…
He had other things to do besides worry about a cryptic note. He leaned forward to
give the dogs one last rub, grabbed his keys off the kitchen counter, and walked to
where his truck sat under the shelter of a towering cottonwood. He needed to pick
up a few things in town: milk, bread, dog food…and the broken pieces of his promise
to John Samuel, his once-in-a-lifetime, charismatic mentor. A plain-speaking hulk
of a man. The only person he’d ever strived to emulate.
Buried for almost a year now.
A discordant splash punctuated the chatter of the morning birdsong. Zack paused beside
his truck and faced the river, inhaling the damp odor of vegetation. Here on these
banks, John had shown him how to quiet his mind.
Gather stillness like a shroud,
Wasn’t working for shit today.
Zack dialed John’s twenty-year-old daughter, Ann, scanning the woods while her voicemail
suggested he leave a message. A monarch butterfly landed on his arm, and he remembered
reading they could migrate more than twenty-five hundred miles.
Clearly appearances were often a poor representation of strength.
“Aw, ain’t that sweet? You’re such a nature boy, Zack.”
He disconnected and swung around to see Morgan Sawyer sashaying down the rutted gravel
road like she’d driven up in a limo instead of a Corolla sporting a spare tire. She’d
earned a PhD in urban wiles and tomfoolery when they were cubs on the streets. No
wonder he’d felt like he was being watched. He’d bet his acreage she’d left the note.
“You of all people should know seeing isn’t always believing,” he said.
Her head tipped back on a bark of laughter. “Touché.”
He ruffled her short, bleached blond hair and her baby blues twinkled. No doubt, she’d
punked him good this time. Warmth bloomed in his chest. Maybe this was John’s way
of telling him everything was going to be okay.
Or maybe you’re just turning into a sentimental dipshit.
He jammed his hands into his front pockets. “Haven’t seen you for a couple weeks.
How’d you manage to crawl out of bed before eleven o’clock?”
“Haven’t gone to bed yet.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You come all the way out here to spy on me, or are you finally
going to ask me for a job?”
“You’re too boring to spy on nowadays. I’d love to see you roll somebody over the
pool table at Chumley’s again.”
“Those days are long gone, Morgan.”
“Never say never.”
His smile slipped. “You had me going for a while. How’d you manage to write so properly,
or did you have someone else do it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The note. Didn’t you…” But based on her frown, obviously not. A cold sensation rippled
across his shoulders.
“What note? I just got here.”
“Nothing. I was thinking about something else.” His mind raced. Twyla and Morgan were
accounted for, but still no Ann. Who’d left the note? Why hadn’t Ann answered her
phone? And why was Morgan
out here so damn early?
And then he knew. “You’re dancing at the Northern again.”
She held up a hand. “Let’s agree to disagree, all right? It’s not like those poor
bastards are getting what really matters. You’re the one who always lectured me about
that. ‘It’s what’s inside that counts, Morgan,’ yada, yada.”
“You gotta want more out of life than a job that provides free drinks and coupons
to the adult bookstore, don’t you?”
“At least I’m not turning tricks anymore. Look, we’ve been over this a hundred times.
Jeez. You’ve changed enough that you fit into the buttoned-up world. Drop it, okay?
You’re getting me off track once again.”
Zack watched her kick rocks and wondered how John would’ve responded. “The past doesn’t
have to decide who you are today,” he said.
Longing shimmered in her eyes before she blinked it away. “Old Johnny sure sunk his
optimistic cleats in you, didn’t he?”
Why didn’t it work on you?
he wanted to ask, but said nothing. He’d brought Morgan to Sunday suppers with John,
but not often enough. A mistake he’d never be able to fix. “Okay, so what’s going
“What do you mean? Can’t I come visit?”
“At six-thirty on a Sunday morning?”
“I was getting to that.” She looked at the ground for a moment before meeting his
eyes. “Guys don’t appreciate foreplay of any sort, do they?
I want to have a shindig for Ann here at your place. When she’s ready to share the
news, of course. We’ll have a bonfire, drinks, and cookies in the shape of baby bottles.
Isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever heard? They make them at the deli on Thirty-Second.”
He’d derailed about a mile back. “Baby bottles?”
Her raised eyebrow indicated he was a member of the forty watt club, but he still
couldn’t wrap his mind around baby bottle cookies. “Why would you—”
Morgan cringed. “Ah, man. How can you
“What are you talking about? Ann’s as pregnant as I am.”
“Well, in that case, we’ll get more cookies.”
Her grin fueled his alarm. He drummed his fingers on top of his head, but that didn’t
help, so he cussed. A lot.
“Sorry, big guy. Guess she knew you’d react this way so she was obviously waiting
to tell you. She’ll probably thank me for breaking it to you, now that I think about
it. But yeah, she got knocked up.”
Morgan’s voice faded into the background while questions ran circles in his mind.
He was ready to throttle Ann for not telling him right away. But first, maybe he’d
better throw himself under a bus. Not fifteen minutes ago he was wondering if she
had a boyfriend so he could do a background check on the guy, and now he finds out
she’s having a
She’s just a kid herself.
“All right, joke’s on me. Give it up, Morgan.”
Her dimples deepened. “Better get your mad out before you see her.”
mad.” Really, he wasn’t. Just shocked. And guilty. John had made him promise to look
out for Ann when he was dust because she had no one else.
Zack’s heart battered his ribcage. That bug-under-his-skin feeling was back.
Oh, yeah, he was going to find out who the father was. The guy had better step up
to the plate for Ann. If not, well, old habits die hard, regardless of what he’d wanted
Morgan to believe.
“How is it she told you before me?”
Morgan’s face went blank for a second. “She didn’t exactly tell me. I kinda guessed
with her feeling sick so much lately.”
He’d chalked it up to the stress of her recent move and the coming anniversary of
John’s death. But then, he hadn’t asked, had he?
What were they going to do with a baby? He was acting like a stereotypical idiot bachelor,
. What if the sperm donor wasn’t there for her? He couldn’t let her kid grow up without
a father figure. John hadn’t come into his life until he was an adult and look how
adolescence had been.
He checked the time on his phone.
He tried Ann’s numbers again, leaving messages when voicemail picked up. Then he
slipped the phone into his pocket. “Who is it?”
Morgan had been squinting across the river. Her gaze scooted back to him. “Who?”
“The boogey man. Who else, Morgan? The
She shrugged. “No idea. Sure is a secretive little bug, huh?”
He frowned at her smirk and his gut cartwheeled again. “I’ll get back to you on that
party thing, okay?”
“No sweat, big guy.”
He heard her laugh as he jogged to his truck, swearing all the way.