Truly Madly Yours

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Death comes, as it must, to all men and with it the inevitable separation from loved ones," Reverend Tippet droned in his flat solemn voice. "We will miss Henry Shaw, beloved husband, father, and prominent member of our community." The revered paused and glanced about the large group gathered to bid their final farewell. "Henry would be pleased to see so many friends here today."

Henry Shaw would have taken one look at the line of cars backed up to the gated entrance of Salvation Cemetery, and he would have regarded the respectable turnout as somewhat less than his due. Until he'd been voted out of office by that yellow-dog Democrat George Tanasee, he'd been mayor of Truly, Idaho for over twenty-four years.

Henry had loved his position in the community. He'd been warm and generous with those who'd agreed with his opinions, but if you weren't Henry's friend, you were his enemy. And when they'd pulled his charred remains from the inferno which had claimed his life, there were some members of the community that felt Henry Shaw got exactly what he deserved.

Delaney Shaw, Henry's stepdaughter listened to the bland Muzak quality of Revered Tippet's voice and cast a sideways glance at her mother. The soft shadows of bereavement looked good on Gwen Shaw, but Delaney wasn't surprised. Her mother looked good in everything. Delaney returned her gaze to the spray of yellow roses on Henry's casket. The bright June sun shot sparks off the polished mahogany and shiny brass handles. She reached inside the pocket of the mint green suit she'd borrowed from her mother and found her sunglasses. Sliding the tortoiseshell frames on her face, she hid from the stabbing rays and the curious glances of the people around her.

She should have tried. She shouldn't have stayed away so long. She shouldn't have let so many years pass, but she'd never thought he'd die. Not Henry.

A sound like the wrath of God rolled in the distance, and Delaney glanced to the heavens, half expecting to see thunder and lightening bolts, certain that a the arrival of a man like Henry had created turbulence in paradise. The sky remained a clear blue, but the rumbling continued, drawing her attention to the iron gates of the cemetery.

Straddling gleaming black lacquer and shimmering chrome, windblown hair tousled about his broad shoulders, a lone biker bore down on the crowd gathered to bid their farewells. The monster engine vibrated the ground and shook the air, the act of committal suffocated by a set of bad-dog pipes. Dressed in faded jeans and a soft white T-shirt, the biker slowed and brought the Harley to a rumbling stop in from of the gray hearse. The engine died and his boot heel scraped the asphalt as he laid the bike on its kickstand. Then in one smooth motion, he rose. Several days' growth of beard darkened a strong jaw and cheeks, drawing attention to a firm mouth. A small gold hoop pierced his earlobe while a pair of platinum Oakley's concealed his eyes.

There was something vaguely familiar about the bad-ass biker. Something about the smooth olive skin and black hair, but Delaney couldn't place him.

"Oh my God," her mother gasped beside her. "I can’t believe he dared to show up dressed like that."

Her incredulity was shared by other mourners who had the bad manners to break into loud whispers.

"He's trouble."

"Always has been bad to the bone."

Levi's caressed his firm thighs, cupped his crotch, and covered his long legs in soft denim. The warm breeze flattened the shirt against his broad muscular chest. Delaney lifted her gaze to his face again. Slowly he removed the sunglasses from the bridge of his straight nose and shoved them into the front pocket of his T-shirt. His light gray eyes stared directly back at her.

Delaney's heart stopped and her bones fused. She recognized those eyes burning a hold into her. They were the exact copy of his Irish father's but much more startling because they were set in a face typical of his Basque heritage.

Nick Allegrezza, the source of her girlhood fascinations and the origin of her disillusions. Nick, the slick-talking, smooth-tongued snake. He stood with his weight on one foot as if he didn't notice the stir he'd caused. More than likely he did notice and simply didn't care. Delaney had been gone ten years, but something obviously hadn't chanced. Nick had filled out and his features had matured, but his presence still attracted attention.

Reverend Tippet bowed his head. "Let us pray for Henry Shaw." Delaney tucked her chin and closed her eyes. Even as a child, Nick had attracted more than his share of attention. His older brother Louie had been wild too, but Louie had never been as wild as Nick. Everyone knew the Allegrezza brothers were crazy, impulsive Bascos, quick fingered and as horney as parolees.

Every girl in town had been warned to stay far away from the brothers, but like lemmings to the seat, many had succumbed to the call of the wild and thrown themselves at "those Basque boys." Nick had earned the added reputations for charming virgins out of their undies. But he hadn't charmed Delaney. Contrary to popular belief, she hadn't knocked boots with Nick Allegrezza. He hadn't taken her virginity.

Not technically anyway.