Joshua Canfield stared out the front window of Carson’s Pizza and Sandwich Shop. Fall flowers in large stone urns stood sentry along the street, rustling slightly in the wind. In a few weeks, it would be Halloween. This time last year, he’d been somewhere cold and rainy. Portland, Oregon? Or had he made it as far as Seattle? Not that it had mattered. Wherever he’d traveled, the stop had been temporary. Sometimes days, other times weeks. On one rare occasion, he’d spent a full two months on a ranch in Montana. The weather had been bitter cold and the work grueling. But each night, he’d slept in the same bed.
Funny the things that he’d come to see as a luxury.
The entire past year had been a far cry from the life he’d lived before. One he’d taken for granted until the day his father had handed him a packet of cash, a burner phone, and orders to leave home. According to James Canfield, the family had been in danger, which had made Josh all the more determined to stay. Until he’d been told that the ultimate threat was to his mother, and as long as Josh was alive, his mother would be safe.
“Don’t call or contact us in any way. Above all, do not have any contact with Uncle Toddy. I can’t reveal anything more. Just know that your leaving is the only way to keep your mother safe. There’s only one person you can trust.” His father’s palms had landed on Josh’s shoulders, and his eyes had reddened with unshed tears. “Trust Ben Hampshire.”
Trust his life to a man he barely knew?
Josh had accepted his father’s word, and he’d trusted Ben. A good thing he had, for it was Ben who’d sent warnings whenever searchers had been close to finding him, giving Josh time to escape. Ben had taught him how to disguise himself, how to hide his trail, how to fight.
How to kill.
The only thing Ben hadn’t been able to do was save James Canfield’s life. As for Uncle Toddy, aka Nathan Stoddard, he was dead now too. His body had been cremated, the first step in sending whatever soul he’d possessed to a much warmer climate.
Josh shook away those memories. His mother was safe. They were both here on Providence Island, and he was putting his own life back together. Walking to the entrance of Carson’s, he was reaching out to flip the lock closed when the door opened. He stepped back, narrowly avoiding a collision with a young woman, who halted midstep.
“I’m sorry,” she stammered. “Did I hit you?”
A bit skittish, he noted. More so than she should be over a minor mishap. He smiled, sensing she needed the reassurance. “Not a scratch on me. We are closed though.”
“I’m here about the Help Wanted sign.” Her shoulders sagged. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”
A year on the run had taught Josh how to size up strangers, and this woman was no threat. A quick once-over showed she was tall and slim, almost too slender for her height. The plaid jacket looked well-worn, the jeans a bit on the tattered side, but both were immaculately clean. Smooth skin free of any cosmetics showed a hint of pink from the outdoors. Golden brown hair flowed around her shoulders. But what caught his interest the most was the weary resolution clouding her hazel eyes.
“In that case, you’re just in time. Come on in.”
The faintest of smiles appeared, and she stepped inside. Josh locked the door and turned the Open sign to Closed. He held out one hand. “I’m Joshua Canfield.”
She put her hand in his for a quick shake. “Lila Grainger.”
“Glad to meet you.” He swept a hand toward the back of the room. “There’s a table in the rear where we can talk. Have a seat while I grab an application.”
The wary expression on the woman’s face showed she’d expected a different reaction from him upon hearing her last name. Granted, the Graingers were infamous due to their disregard for a lawful way of life, and Josh had had a close—and unpleasant—encounter of his own with one of them several months ago. Neither of which meant Lila was cut from the same cloth.
Judge not was his credo.
Excerpted from Crossroads by Dianna Wilkes. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reprinted or reproduced without permission in writing from the author.Return to Crossroads