Time Will Tell
(Hackle County Book 1)
“Oh! I loved this short Time Travel Romantic Suspense!”– Audiobook Fascination
Hackle County health inspector April Islip believes handsome tavern owner Clay Nolan might be Mr. Right—until he refuses to make his customers wear masks. Local residents are riled up about COVID-19, threatening April when all she’s trying to do is save lives. When one of Clay’s irate customers runs April’s car off the road on the Fourth of July, she’s mysteriously transported back in time to 1970 and given the chance to right a past wrong. Can she thwart a dangerous plot involving Clay’s grandfather that doomed Hackle County’s future and her relationship with Clay? A time travel romantic suspense novella.
Available in ebook, print, and audiobook
Time Will Tell. Copyright © 2021 Pamela Ferguson
Published by Winged Publications
Health inspector April Islip cruised through the jam-packed parking lot, the Fourth of July heat plastering her hair to her neck. Figured she’d get the ancient county car with the busted air conditioning. Barely noon, and Nolan’s Tavern was busier than the Department of Motor Vehicles on the last day of the month. Folks stood shoulder to shoulder on the log building’s sunbaked deck, declaring their independence with raised glasses and outlaw country music.
Not a mask in sight. As if partying in a rustic outdoor setting were safe. Hadn’t they seen any of the health warnings her office had issued?
She scanned the crowd for Clay Nolan’s lanky frame and chiseled features. Relieved when she didn’t spot him, she snapped a few photos and drove around back. If Clay had opened his ears just a crack during their argument yesterday, he would have closed his tavern to the outdoorsmen and hangers-on who claimed it as their watering hole.
But money ruled Clay’s thinking. Along with almost every other local business owner, he believed the Hackle County Council had threatened his livelihood by implementing strict pandemic safety policies.
Policies that she enforced.
It wasn’t as if business had been booming in the region. Faded billboards and abandoned strip malls told the story of local decline. Mountains scarred by mining and rivers recovering from toxic runoff meant no influx of tourist money. Despite all that, COVID-19 had opened a Pandora’s Box of resentment. Decades of economic downturn now had a scapegoat. And if her human behavior courses had taught her anything, it was that everyone needed someone to blame. Like when her high school softball team lost the county championship because five of her teammates played hungover. Afterwards, players still blamed the umpires.
She parked near the rear entrance. So much for enjoying Independence Day. Between inspecting virus testing sites and closing unlicensed summer camps, the Health Department’s three inspectors were working 24/7. Not that she was complaining. With local unemployment soaring, she was lucky to have a job. She stepped out of the car and plucked the damp fabric of her pink cotton dress away from her legs.
“April!” Clay strode down the wooden steps maskless, arms wide, as if he’d been waiting for her to return and admit she was wrong.
She slipped on a medical mask, wishing her heart didn’t quicken whenever she saw him. “Stop right there, please.”
He jerked to a halt and grinned. “Anything you say, darlin’.”
She flipped a page on her clipboard. “Clay Nolan, are you the proprietor of Nolan’s Tavern?”
“Yes, I am.” He winked. “You didn’t need an excuse to come back.”
She steeled her expression and checked a box. “This business is in violation of Hackle County Code 16.9.7.”
“Is it now?” He shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and gave her the aw-shucks look that normally turned her insides to mush. “Knew you’d miss me.”
She circled a paragraph. “All businesses must operate at no more than twenty-five percent capacity indoors, and outdoors only with strict social distancing, enforced by the proprietor.”
He took a step towards her. “Hard to keep my distance from you.”
She held up her hand. “Six feet, please. Otherwise, I’ll have to cite you for intentionally endangering a public health official.”
His smile faded. “You’re serious?”
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Her voice shook with frustration. “Last night, Gobs of Ice Cream customers beat up a kid working behind the counter because he asked them to wear masks.”
Clay spread his hands. “I’m not responsible for what some idiots did at Gobs of Ice Cream.”
“When your business doesn’t enforce social distancing rules, it encourages that kind of behavior.”
He looked away, resting his gaze on the log building. “Grandpa Nolan was tough. Inherited this cabin and the land from his father and started Nolan’s Tavern. Wouldn’t let anybody tell him how to run his business.”
“So, now we’re talking pedigrees! Well, Mister Clay Nolan the Third, my grandmother Monica Islip was the first woman to work as a Hackle County health inspector. She cited your grandfather dozens of times.” April clutched her clipboard to her chest. “Please. Adapt to the new reality. Enforce the rules.”
He snorted. “Kinda tough to enforce rules when your customers don’t believe in the virus.”
His jaw dropped. He folded his arms over his chest. “Are you done?”
Moisture stung her eyelids. How could she have fallen for a guy who put profit above the health of others? Unable to look at him, she scrambled into the blazing hot car and slammed the door. Gravel flew as she drove around the building. What had she been thinking, starting a relationship in the middle of a pandemic? She’d propose rules for how they could safely date and avoid catching the virus, and he’d agreed to follow them. Until he didn’t.
She skidded to a stop beside the elevated deck, snagged her clipboard, and climbed out. Her grandmother Monica Islip would never tolerate people flaunting public health rules. She wouldn’t, either. “This gathering is in violation of Hackle County pandemic codes.”
“What did she say?” a woman wearing a red-white-and-blue bikini top and white jeans yelled over the music.
April stuck an official county violation notice on the building’s ground floor entrance. “Everyone must be socially distanced by at least six feet.”
A guy with scraggly long hair and a full beard leaned over the deck railing and cupped a hand to his ear. “Sorry, honey, we can’t hear you.”
The music stopped. Clay appeared on the deck, maskless, his expression indecipherable.
So, that’s how it was going to be. Her chest tightened. Best to find out what Clay was made of before she started thinking they might have a future together. “As I said, this gathering is in violation of county pandemic codes. Law enforcement will arrive shortly to disperse everyone.” She hoped.