Welcome to Last Chance Online - Hope Ramsay

CHAPTER 1

One ticket to Last Chance,” the agent said as he took Jane’s money. “The bus leaves in five minutes.”

Jane picked up the flimsy slip of paper and hurried through the Atlanta, Georgia, Greyhound terminal. She found the gate, climbed aboard the motor coach, and sank into one of the plush seats.

She tried to think positive thoughts.

It was hard. She had five dollars left in her pocketbook, a zero balance in her checking account, and bad guys in her recent past. Her dreams of making it big in Nashville had just taken a dive over the cliff called reality.

Thank you, Woody West, you peanut-brained weasel.

The diesel engines roared to life, and the bus glided out of the parking lot heading toward South Carolina, which was not where Jane really wanted to go.

She took three deep breaths and tried to visualize her future the way Dr. Goodbody advised in his self-help recordings. If she could just unleash her inner consciousness through positive thinking, the Universe would give her a road map for success.

That seemed like a good plan. She needed a road map to a better future in the worst way. And where better to seek a new start than a place called Last Chance? She had never been to Last Chance, but the name sounded hopeful.

She sank back into her seat and tried to see the place in her mind’s eye. She imagined it like Pleasantville, where the streets were picturesque, the people friendly, and the job opportunities plentiful.

Eight hours later, reality intruded.

The Greyhound left her standing on a deserted sidewalk right in front of a place called Bill’s Grease Pit. Fortunately, this establishment was not a fast-food joint but an auto-repair service that doubled as a bus terminal. Both the garage and the terminal were closed for the night.

She looked down the street and knew herself for a fool. Last Chance had exactly one traffic light. The only sign of life was the glow of neon shining like a beacon from a building two blocks down the main drag.

Okay, so Last Chance wasn’t Bedford Falls, from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. She could deal.

She told herself that where there was Budweiser and neon there was hope of finding some dinner. Although how she was going to pay for it remained a mystery. She fought against the panic that gripped her insides. She hugged herself as she walked up the street, running through her usual list of positive affirmations.

She would get herself out of this mess. She had done it before. And the truth was, she should have read the warning signs when Woody walked into the Shrimp Shack six months ago. If she had read those signs, she wouldn’t be standing here today. Well, every mistake was an opportunity to learn, according to Dr. Goodbody.

The bar bore the name Dot’s Spot in bright blue neon. It sported a dark wood exterior and small windows festooned with half a dozen beer signs. Jane stood in the garish light cast by the signs, thinking it would be truly awesome if she could walk through that doorway and find Sir Galahad waiting for her. But wishing for Sir Galahad was not positive thinking. Heroes didn’t magically appear in southern honky-tonks on a Wednesday night.

Besides, this particular fantasy of a knightly rescue had gotten her into trouble every time she allowed herself to believe it. So she pushed it out of her mind. She needed to focus on manifesting a hot meal and a place to spend the night. Period. She fixed that positive plan of action in her mind and pushed through the front door.

Hoo boy, the place was like something right out of a bad country-and-western tune. Smoke hung over the place and a five-piece country band occupied a raised stage at one end of the barroom. They played a twangy Garth Brooks tune in waltz time. No one was dancing.

The men in the band were, by and large, a bunch of middle-aged geezers, with beer bellies and wedding rings and receding hairlines.

Except for the fiddler.

Jane stared at him for a moment, recognition washing through her. No question about it—there stood another peanut-brained weasel in the flesh. She could tell this because he was a big, powerfully built man with a ponytail and facial hair. He also wore a black Stetson, and a black shirt, and black jeans that hugged his butt and thighs, and a gem that sparkled from his earlobe like a black diamond.

What was that thing? A sapphire?

He