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Camille Eide writes romantic, inspirational dramas about love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, oldies Rock, and Peanut M&Ms.
Let her be okay ... Please, God, let her be okay ...
Flashing red lights blinked like buoys in a sea of sand and sagebrush from half a mile away. When Emily turned onto Salt Flats Road, she spotted the sheriff’s car in front of the house along with the emergency rigs. But as she neared the house, the flashing stopped. Uniformed EMTs worked at the back of their ambulance, locking compartment doors. A couple of firefighters reattached something to the fire truck.
No crackling flames. No smoke. No sheet-covered stretcher.
Still, Emily couldn’t breathe. As she braked, the Jeep ground to a stop in the gravel, sending up a cloud of dust. She dashed up the steps and across the covered porch.
A thick, noxious blend of odors met her at the doorway, setting her heart pounding.
“Aunt Grace?” Inside, Emily took a quick glance around the front room and found her great-aunt snuggled up in her favorite corner chair.
A uniformed fireman stood nearby while the EMT on the loveseat beside Aunt Grace packed up a medic kit.
Grace’s soft, wrinkly face drew wide with a smile as Emily came near. “Ooh, here ye are dearie. Such a kind lass. Did ye bring the mail? We’ll be getting a letter from Maggie and Ian today.”
That was good for a partial sigh of relief. “Are you okay?” Emily touched her aunt’s thin shoulder, then bent over the little white-haired woman and kissed the top of her head. “What’s going on? Have you been baking?”
“Aye. Lemon cookies for tea to go with Maggie’s letter.” The old woman nodded, leaned closer, and whispered, “But I’m afraid I misplaced my spatula.”
Oh, Lord, not again. Emily glanced at the fireman, a guy from their church.
He greeted her with a nod and glanced down at Aunt Grace, his drawn brow deepening his look of uncertainty. “You ... might want to start by looking in the kitchen.”
Emily let out a pent-up breath and forced a smile. “Good idea, Brad. Thanks.” She smiled into the old woman’s clouded eyes, once the color of autumn sky. “I’ll be right back.”
In the kitchen, another fireman with a clipboard tossed her a nod and kept writing.
She recognized him too, one of Jaye’s recent crushes.
The pungent smell of burnt cookie and melted plastic stung Emily’s nose.
On the counter, a few dozen lemon shortbread cookies stood stacked in tidy rows. The oven door hung open. Inside, a batch of charred cookies rested peacefully, including what was left of the missing spatula, partially melted at a weird angle in the middle like some kind of eclectic pop art. Though every window was open, a gray haze hovered near the ceiling. Aunt Grace’s favorite Nottingham lace curtains fanned the acrid odor with the help of a gentle breeze.
Emily rubbed her tingling nose. After a last glance around the kitchen, she returned to the front room.
“Did ye find it?” Grace asked, still whispering.
“Yes, I did.” Emily couldn’t help a faint smile at her great-aunt’s concern that someone might discover she’d lost a kitchen utensil. Never mind nearly burning down a house. “It’s right where you left it.”
“Ah, good. Thank ye, dearie.” Her soft Scottish brogue and cheerful smile returned.
No harm done.
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