Uncertain Fate

Uncertain Fate
Ken Casper

October 2012 $12.95

ISBN: 978-1-61194-173-9

Book One of The Return to Caddo Lake trilogy

Our PriceUS$12.95
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Return to Caddo Lake

Uncertain Fate – Ken Casper

Uncertain Past – Roz Denny Fox

Uncertain Future – Eve Gaddy

Nineteen years ago, Frannie Granger disappeared . . .

Since then, the land at Beaumarais near Caddo Lake, East Texas, has hidden the secret of her fate. Now that secret is out, but a mystery remains: who is responsible for what happened on her last hectic morning so long ago?

The local sheriff is convinced Jed Louis, heir to the antebellum plantation house, breeder of Percheron horses, and the eldest of the three foster children Frannie raised as her own, is responsible for what took place.

Gwyn Miller, who leases land from Jed, is equally committed to proving the millionaire horseman was in no way involved.

She’s also determined to show Jed that nothing can ever threaten what they have with each other, not even his Uncertain Fate.

Ken Casper is the author of more than 25 novels, including AS THE CROW DIES and CROWS FEAT, the first two books in The Jason Crow West Texas Mystery Series.He and his wife raise horses in West Texas.


"A nice, light romantic read with just enough mystery thrown into the mix!" -- Valerie Galluppi, NetGalley




Uncertain, Texas

Tuesday, May 4, 1982

"WHERE’S THE admission request?” Jed asked as he bolted from his bedroom into the kitchen. He rifled among the bills and other papers Frannie kept in a square, shallow basket on the end of the counter, pulled out the form and scowled.

"I didn’t sign it,” Frannie told him over her shoulder as she scooped up the cornflakes Emmy or Will had carelessly spilled on the counter. Probably Will. The sixteen-year-old was still having a hard time learning to clean up after himself. She should make him take care of it, but everyone seemed to be running behind this morning, and Frannie had more important things on her mind than worrying about a few spilled crumbs. She wasn’t looking forward to the confrontation she knew she was in for.

"Sign it now,” Jed demanded. "I have to turn it in this morning.”

"I’m not going to sign it,” she responded in as calm a voice as she could muster. "I told you that last night.”

"Damn it, you promised to help me.” His deep voice was raised enough that Emmy and Will, gulping cold cereal at the kitchen table, stopped their chewing and gaped at him. Frannie adjusted the waistband of her loose-fitting work jeans and moved to the sink.

"Watch your language, young man. This isn’t a locker room.” She glared at him, her anxiety starting to rise. "I agreed only to think about it, and I did. But I haven’t changed my mind.” To the others she said, "Hurry or you’ll be late.”

She could feel the angry tension pulsing in the towering teenager. Where did he get his incredible size? His mother had been a pale wisp of a thing, and his father... well, maybe that was where the dark hair and lanky frame came from.

"You can’t do this to me,” he shouted, his blue eyes blazing. "You can’t screw me like this.”

"Jed Louis,” Emmy yelled in her high-pitched voice from the table, "don’t you dare talk to my Mom Fran like that.”

"Keep out of this, Emmy-M,” he said offhandedly to the thirteen-year-old while he continued to glower at Frannie as she wrung out a dishrag at the sink. "This is my big opportunity.”

"Jed, you’re a good fiddle player. I don’t deny it. You’re very talented, and I’m proud of you. But you’re not concert quality—”

"Maybe not yet.” Frustration rang in his voice. "That’s why you’ve got to sign that paper. So I can go to Juilliard.”

"Jed—” Frannie’s tone softened with sympathy "—if I believed you were another Isaac Stern or Itzak Perlmann, I’d sign that piece of paper without a second thought. But all the Juilliards in the world aren’t going to put you on the stage in Carnegie Hall. Go to college, son. You’re good in science, and you’ve been offered a basketball scholarship—”

"I want to play the violin,” he insisted.

Frannie shook her head. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to make a living as a professional musician, especially playing classical violin?”

"I don’t have to make a living,” he reminded her. "In three years and two months, when I turn twenty-one, I inherit Beaumarais. I’ll have all the money I need.”

Frannie leaned against the counter and crossed her arms. "Is that what you want to do with your life, Jed—live off your uncle’s money? You have an obligation to yourself to earn your own way, to be self-supporting—”

"Oh, I get it. Other people can inherit wealth, but not me. I’m nothing but a bastard. Bastards don’t deserve anything.”

Appalled at his bitterness, Frannie replied kindly, "Jed, I never said that.”

"The hell you didn’t.”

Will got up from the table and carried his empty bowl to the sink. As he passed by his foster brother he muttered, "Cool it, man.”

"Mind your own damn business.”

Emmy shot Jed a withering glance, then jumped up from the table. "We’re going to be late for school.” She dashed into her room and retrieved her books.

Jed held the form out, stiff-armed, to Frannie. "It has to be turned in today.”

"I’m sorry, Jed—” she shook her head in heartfelt commiseration "—I won’t sign it. It’s not right for you.”

Jed slammed the paper down on the table. "Damn it. Every time I want to do something, you tell me it’s not right for me. I can’t even take Amanda Jennings on a date without you saying she’s no good—”

"Amanda, huh!” Emmy sneered. "That stuck-up snob. Just because she’s got big boobs—”

"Emerald Monday, you watch your mouth, too,” Frannie warned. "I don’t ever want to hear you talking like that again. Do you understand me?”

"Yes, ma’am,” Emmy said contritely. "But you ought to see the way she keeps coming on to Jed and Will, rubbing up against them and practically sticking her tongue in their ears,” she added belligerently.

"That’s enough, young lady.” To the boys, Frannie said, "I want both of you to stay away from Amanda—”

"Why?” Jed challenged. "Isn’t she good enough for me, or am I not good enough for her? After all, her daddy owns the only bank in town, and I’m nothing but a bastard.”

Frannie took a deep, fortifying breath. "Jed, stop it. I don’t approve of Amanda Jennings because she’s a troublemaker. As for Ray Jennings—” she paused, choosing her words carefully "—he owns the bank only because he married into it.”

"Oh, so now he’s not good enough in your estimation, either.” Jed snorted contemptuously. "Does anybody live up to your high standards? Well, look around. You have to close in the porch so Will and I can have our own rooms. This isn’t exactly a mansion we’re living in.”

Frannie’s lips quivered and her eyes grew suddenly moist. She swallowed hard before answering. "No, it’s not, Jed,” she said softly. "But it’s the best I can do. I want you to do your best, too. It’s the only way you’ll ever find peace of mind.”

"Peace of mind. Yeah, right. You’re ruining my life!” he shouted. "I’ll show you.” He grabbed the piece of paper and strode to the back door. "You’ll be sorry you didn’t help me.”



Chapter One

Uncertain, Texas

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

GWYNETH MILLER liked small towns, which was why she’d chosen Uncertain, Texas. She’d asked several residents how it came by its curious name and had received a slightly different version of its history every time.

One was that back in the 1880s, when the location was little more than a campground and fishing site, it was "uncertain” if a horse-drawn wagon could get through on the muddy roads after a heavy rain. Another was that when the town was established and the residents wanted it be recognized, a county clerk erroneously recorded the preliminary request on which the name of the place had been annotated as "uncertain,” because they hadn’t yet decided on what to call it.

Not that it mattered. The place had appeal. It was quiet, clean, unhurried and friendly. Gwyn wasn’t fond of big cities or even living in their shadows. This little town on the Texas-Louisiana border was well beyond the pale.

Its location wasn’t exactly convenient for her business as an animal manager, which involved making animals available on a short-term basis for private and commercial projects. Texas roads were so good, however, that being off the beaten track wasn’t a serious problem.

Having finished feeding all her animals, Gwyn headed toward a family restaurant in town for a second cup of coffee. She’d stopped at the Caddo Kitchen on her first visit to the area. It was every bit as shabby as it was cozy. The walls were covered with fishing nets, poles, reels and mounted trophies above pea-green vinyl-upholstered booths that were faded and cracking. When she’d remarked to the waitress that she was looking for a house to rent and some pasture to graze horses, the four men drinking coffee around the one occupied table had unanimously recommended she check with Jed Louis. He apparently owned a considerable number of lease properties in the area, as well as farm and ranch land. They knew his telephone number by heart.

This morning, middle-aged men wearing baseball caps with farm equipment logos were finishing up platters of sausage patties and eggs or biscuits and gravy at most of the tables. Gwyn found an open stool at the counter and slipped onto it.

"What can I get you, hon?” a gum-chewing woman, who probably wasn’t much older than Gwyn, asked from behind the counter.

"Just coffee, thanks.”

"Coming up.” The woman snagged a heavy china mug from a stack behind her, plopped it down in front of Gwyn and filled it in one quick confident motion without spilling a drop. "You’re the gal who was asking about land for horses.”

Gwyn smiled. "You have a good memory.” It had been almost two months since she’d been in the place and then just the one time.

The woman proudly patted the exaggerated-red curls on her head. "Always was pretty good with faces. I don’t imagine any of the guys around here forgot yours, either.”

The compliment was so unexpected Gwyn felt a rush of heat to her cheeks.

"Cassie, you planning on serving number six or jawing all day?” a sweaty-looking, overweight man in soiled cook’s whites called out from the window behind her.

"Hold your grits, Jake. I’m coming. Men,” Cassie huffed. "Always want it hot and quick.”

Gwyn snickered and sipped the steaming brew. Her instant coffee back at the house tasted better.

"Somebody told me your horses are those little ones,” Cassie commented over her shoulder a minute later while she loaded a couple of slices of white bread into an old-fashioned rotary toaster. "Bet they’re cute. My daddy bought me a horse once. A Shetland. Pretty as a new button and mean as the dickens. Never cared much for the critters after that. But those little ones now... I just might change my mind. Do they bite?”

Gwyn chuckled. "Mine don’t, if you treat them right.”

"I heard you can potty-train them. Is that true?”

Gwyn laughed. "I wish.”

"That’s what I figured. Like trying to housebreak a man. Not in this world.” There was more affection in her voice than complaint. "Maybe I’ll drop by sometime and you can let me pet them.”

Gwyn just smiled. She would gladly show Cassie the horses if she visited, but Gwyn didn’t want to encourage everyone in town to do the same. She was grateful that the grazing field Jed Louis had leased her was well off the road, beyond the piney woods, and safely out of sight. The miniature palominos were natural attractions, which made them extremely marketable, but they needed careful guarding, too. If they were too close to a road, there was a distinct danger of their being lifted over a fence and stolen.

"Heard you’re renting Frannie’s old place,” Cassie prattled on as she tore open a foil bag of ground coffee, dumped it into a paper filter and set a glass pot under the drip spout of the coffeemaker. "Reckon you’re going to be in for a few official visitors.”

Gwyn’s ears perked up. "Official visitors? What are you talking about?”

Cassie reached around and grabbed the abandoned newspaper a couple of places down the line. "I guess you haven’t seen this.”

Gwyn stared at the headlines, then slowly read the article. She seemed to have opened Pandora’s box. She finished her coffee and pulled a couple of dollars from her jeans pocket. Throwing them on the counter, she went out to her Rover. Maybe it was time to mend some fences.


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