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Cover Art:

Michelle Crocker

Publisher’s Note:

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.

Solstice Publishing -

Copyright 2015 K.C. Sprayberry

Last Chance

By: K.C. Sprayberry

The Past

A soft breeze, the kind that came during the warming from winter to spring, ruffled Keri-Lynne Montrose’s waist-length blonde hair. Her hair wasn’t the blonde idolized as the perfect American female but rather a honey color with streaks of strawberry tones that never came from a bottle. Creamy skin most thought would burn under the South’s strong sun tanned gently. Hazel eyes surveyed a greenhouse hidden behind a high hedge, to keep others from knowing she was experimenting with the forbidden, but only forbidden by hidebound traditionalists who feared change.

“What today?” She examined the herbs she nurtured in this glass building. “I have to find a way to help Mother.”

A difficult birth three months earlier produced her delightful daughter, Caty. The discovery of cysts lining her uterus left Keri-Lynne barren and feeling like half a woman, even if her husband swore that he thought her more of a woman than anyone else. She and Jack owned a large plot of land high up on Taylor’s Ridge, right outside Landry. They lived in a cabin without many amenities as both preferred to stay as close to nature as possible. Deer feasted on plants around their home while squirrels used the century old oaks as their playground. A veritable zoo of birds nested in and around the cabin’s peaked roof. All in all, it was the perfect place to raise a child if not for one thing—Keri-Lynne’s mother.

“Mother offered us a place when I needed help after the surgery,” Keri-Lynn reasoned.

She knelt in front of a bed of chamomile. The herb was normally used in teas that helped people relax and sleep, but today she wanted to try something new, anything at all to stop the ravages of metastasized breast cancer from taking her daughter’s grandmother from this earth.

Failure marked Keri-Lynne’s first attempt to turn her botany and herbal science degrees into a reputation as an herbalist. She needed to find a reputable herbalist and study under him or her but there was no time. With Mother, there never was enough time to do anything but obey the whims of a woman who controlled everyone around her and extracted revenge whenever that individual failed to meet Celia Wilson’s demanding orders.

“The cancer will stop,” Keri-Lynne whispered. “It has to. This has to work.”

She piled the chamomile and a couple of other herbs into a basket. Keri-Lynne hooked the basket over her arm and crept out of the hidden garden. That was one of Mother’s strictest orders. No one must know of the garden or they would want what would save her, leaving far too little to beat the cancer ravaging her body.

The gate closing off the hedge squealed as Keri-Lynne opened it. She winced and looked around to make sure no one was close. Her eyes widened when she saw a man sauntering toward her from the portico in front of the kitchen.

“Afternoon, Keri-Lynne,” John Jacob Montrose called. “Got that stuff for Celia? She’s a bit upset that you’re taking your time.”

Jack’s father, John Jacob, made her nervous. John Jacob always seemed detached from everyone around him. His idea of family time was sending emails at the last second to explain his absence as he traveled the world and solved security issues for the wealthy. The man showed little warmth for Caty, preferring to send the infant expensive and inappropriate gifts instead of playing with her. A cadaverous looking man, John Jacob craned his neck forward and peered at the contents of the basket Keri-Lynne carried when they met halfway between the garden and the house.

“Those doing Celia any good?” His tone left little doubt as to how he felt about alternative remedies. “Sure doesn’t seem like it.”

“They’re helping,” she said in defense of her chosen field. “Mother just needs to maintain a routine rather than trying every new thing she reads about.”

Therein lay the issue. Celia scoured newspaper articles on the internet for information about alternative remedies for her problem, as she called it. But she also continued chemo and radiation therapies in the hopes a combination of every method of beating cancer known to man would do what no one else had accomplished—give her more than a few months to live.

“If you say so,” John Jacob smirked. “Tell Jack I’ll call him later. I have a job that’s perfect for him.”

Keri-Lynne bit back a heated response. She and Jack had talked last night and decided he would not accept his father’s offer to work for Montrose Security. A job there meant traveling most of the year. He had no desire to miss his child growing up, as his father had done to him. Jack had confided as they drifted off to sleep that his father’s constant absences were the only bad thing about his childhood.

John Jacob walked over to a huge SUV with darkened windows and drove off. Keri-Lynne stared at the rear of the vehicle and wondered, not for the first time, how the man survived without much contact with his family. Today was the first time she had seen him in three years. He showed up for the wedding but departed the reception after ten minutes.

“Keri-Lynne!” Her mother’s screech exploded out of the open windows of the Art Deco house she was so proud of. “Hurry up!”

“Coming,” Keri-Lynne called.

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