Only You

Only You

Deborah Grace Staley

$14.95 May 2009
ISBN 978-0-9821756-3-7

A charming romance about the lives and loves of people in a small Tennessee town. In the tradition of Debbie Macomber.


Our PriceUS$14.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Hey, ya'll. Dixie Ferguson here. I run Ferguson's Diner in Angel Ridge, Tennessee. Population three hundred forty-five.

It's a picturesque town in the valley of the Little Tennessee River, established in 1785. In the early days, its first families--the McKays, the Wallaces, the Houstons, the Joneses, and, of course, the Craigs--staked their claims on hundreds of acres of the richest bottom land anyone had ever seen.

After all the years I've spent behind the counter at Ferguson's, I could probably tell ya'll a story about near everyone in town. But we only have so much time, so I'll narrow it down to just two for now.

This is a story about coming home. It's also a story about acceptin' folks for who they are. You could say it's a story about Josie Allen, a librarian, and Cole Craig, a handyman, but I say it's a story about finding love where you'd least expect to.

Deborah Grace Staley is the multi-published author of romance novels. She and her family live in a historic farmhouse in the hills of Tennesee. Visit her at





"Anyone seeking a sweet old-fashioned contemporary regional romance will enjoy Only You." -- Harriet Klausner, Genre Go Round Reviews

"This is one sweet romance, almost nostalgic in a way you'll hate to see end. Only You is sheer escapism with a feel good story in a town you might wish you lived in." -- Pudgy Penguin Perusals Blog

"Only You is a charming and sweet story...This book reminded me of the hit television show, The Gilmore Girls. Josie is Lorelai but not as kooky,. Cole is Luke. The quiet, simply but sexy guy next door. Anyone looking for a good romantic read, try Only You. This series can only get better from here!" -- Cheryl's Booknook Blog

"Deborah Grace Staley has a true storyteller's voice." -- JoAnn Ross, New York Times Bestselling author of Out of the Blue

"Only You is a charming 'feel good' romance in a town you'll want to call home." -- Debra Dixon, Co-Creator of the bestselling Mossy Creek Series

"This is a strong small-town romance starring two terrific protagonists, a host of wonderfully eccentric locals, and a fire exhaling town matriarch. The fun story line focuses on whether two individuals seemingly from different educational backgrounds can make it. Fans will treasure this deep character study." -- Harriet Klausner, The Best Reviews, Five Stars

"I adored this story! Deborah Grace Staley has truly captured how a lot of small southern towns still are today and brings those loveable country characters to life. All the characters have vivid personalities that make this simple romance seem real. I can't wait to read more of the Angel Ridge series. Simply a must read!" -- Angel, The Romance Studio, Five Hearts

"Deborah Grace Staley has written a wonderful book, a great start to her Angel Ridge Series. I wasn't able to put this story down. You won't be disappointed with Only You: it has great characters, a lovely romance, and an interesting plot. Deborah Grace Staley has written a prize of a story." -- Fallen Angel Reviews

"With Only You, Deborah Grace Staley brings to home nostalgic memories of silent crushes and wistful longings. Only You is Book I in Grace Staley's Angel Ridge Series. Well-written with finely tuned characters and dialogue, it's a warm apple pie, cozy kind of story, that is sure to tug your heartstrings and leave you smiling." -- Romance Reader at Heart, Four Roses

"This first installment in the Angel Ridge Series is a sweet, old-fashioned romance, which makes for an enjoyable diversion on a rainy Sunday afternoon." -- The Best Reviews

"This is a warm touching story of love and includes many quirky residents of Angel Ridge, social politics, and the famous angel from which the town got its name. I look forward to more books in this series." -- Rendezvous

"This wonderfully funny and romantic story had me by the heart strings. I was in love with Cole before I knew it and as emotionally stressed as Josie. I wanted to rant and rave at the unfairness of some people and applaud the bravery of others. As this is the first story in Deborah Grace Staley's Angel Ridge series, I know that I'll be waiting (impatiently) for the next stories and another visit to a small town that I'm coming to fall in love with." -- A Romance Review







Hey, ya'll. Dixie Ferguson here. I run Ferguson's Diner in Angel Ridge, Tennessee. Population three hundred forty-five. Even though I wasn't born here, well, I call it home now, and most of the locals accept me as one of their own. Let me tell ya a little bit about our corner of the world.

It's a picturesque town in the valley of the Little Tennessee River, established in 1785. In the early days, its first families—the McKays, the Wallaces, the Houstons, the Joneses, and, of course, the Craigs—staked their claims on hundreds of acres of the richest bottom land anyone had ever seen. They built large homes near the meandering river and operated prosperous plantations.

Well, all except for the Craigs. They were traders and craftsmen. Men of commerce, as it were. Meanwhile, the town developed above the river on a high ridge.

In the early 1970s, the Flood Control Board came in and bought up about all of the property along the flood prone river, and those stately homes that some called relics of a bygone era, were inundated in the name of progress. But those who built more modest houses near town up on the ridge, well, their homes are still standin'. Of course, the families who lost theirs to the newly formed Tellassee Lake moved up to the ridge as well and built elaborate Victorian mansions such as this quaint little town had never seen.

Most of the families I mentioned earlier are still around. These folks are hardy people. Why in all the time they've lived here, they've endured Indian attacks, floods, divided loyalties in the Civil War, and yes, even feuds. The older folks are still marked by the hardships of the past, but the young people of the town hope to move beyond old hurts to create a new generation made strong because of their roots, yet free of the past.

After all the years I've spent behind the counter at Ferguson's, I could probably tell ya'll a story about near everyone in town. But we only have so much time, so I'll narrow it down to just two for now.

This is a story about coming home. It's also a story about acceptin' folks for who they are. You could say it's a story about a librarian and a handyman, but I say it's a story about findin' love where you'd least expect to. Ya know, those kinds of things always seem to happen when you open up your heart to possibilities. Of course, a little help from our hometown angels and yours truly don't hurt none either!

So, come on along to Angel Ridge. Sit a spell and enjoy.

A man is not where he lives,
but where he loves.
Latin Proverb


It was one of those days. Mid-May...spring on the cusp of summer. A rare day. One with the bluest of skies dotted with cotton ball clouds and the temperature perfect with a cooling breeze blowing up from the lake. No one could ask for a better day, but not a thing had gone right since Josephine Allen's feet had hit the hardwoods of the turn of the century Victorian that had been her childhood home in Angel Ridge.

Josie had lived on the ridge up until she'd gone away to college. She'd been away for nearly seven years; but now she was back. The town had chosen her as the "right person” to take over the directorship of Angel Ridge's most prized possession: The Angel Ridge Library. Expectations were naturally high for the town's golden child.

So far, she had not delivered.

It had begun with the pronouncement by her parents that they would be moving to a retirement community in Florida. The house, of course, would be hers now. Whether she wanted it or not? Not an option. And then there were the problems with the cataloging program that had been keeping her at the library every night to all hours.

So, she'd awakened this morning to no power, no alarm clock, no curling iron, and no hot water. After a late night at the office, was a hot shower too much to ask? She did the best she could with her appearance under the circumstances. No time to check the fuse box. She'd barely make it to open the front door of the library by eight. There were probably people already lined up on the steps anxious to hit the genealogy room. They always came early and stayed until closing.

Two hours later, things at the office weren't going any better than things at home.

"Dr. Allen? Cole Craig on line two for you. He says it's urgent.”

Josie turned from her computer screen to look up at her secretary standing in the doorway of her office. "Thank you, Teresa.”

Josie removed her wire-rimmed glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. The library's out-dated computer system had crashed twice already today, and it wasn't even lunchtime.

Cole Craig. Cole Craig. The name rang a bell, but her brain was so scrambled, she couldn't match a face to it. She punched the button below the blinking light on her phone, picked up the receiver and said, "This is Dr. Allen. How may I help you?”

"Is this Josie Allen?”

The deep voice laced with a smooth southern drawl flowed through the telephone line to caress her ear. Chill bumps raced up her arm. "Um—Yes,” she managed through a suddenly constricted throat.

"This is Cole Craig. I'm sorry to bother you at work, but there's a problem at your house.”

She frowned. She knew that, but just how did this person also know? "A problem?”

"Yes, ma'am. I was cuttin' Miss Estelee's lawn this morning. I had just cut it on Monday, but with all the rain we been havin', I decided to cut it twice this week. So, when I stopped by her place today, like I always do on Thursdays, I decided to cut her grass again, and when I was around on the side of the yard closest to your house, I heard water runnin'.”

Josie could have gotten lost in the verbal maze, but instead, a bell went off in her head. Cole Craig. Of course. How could she ever forget him? A couple of years older than her, they'd gone to middle school together, but she'd heard he had to drop out of high school to help his ailing father keep their farm going. He'd never finished school, but he, like his father and grandfather before him, had not only supplied the town grocer with produce and the butcher with meat, but had also built houses for the poor and rich alike.

The Craigs were the founding family of Angel Ridge, much to the chagrin of the more prominent McKays and Wallaces. The Craigs had never been rich, but they'd worked quietly and with dignity in the community for generations. They were always the first to lend a helping hand around town. And everyone knew that Cole Craig was good with his hands.

"I hope you don't mind,” he continued, "but I looked around a little and noticed water running down your sidewalk to the street, so I took a peek at your crawl space.”

"Of course I don't mind. What did you find?”

"Well, it was just what I thought.”

Josie waited. When he didn't supply any further information, she prompted, "What was that, Mr. Craig?”

"Oh, please. Call me Cole.”

That odd warmth poured through her veins again. He had the most lyrically beautiful voice for an uneducated man. Cole. The name seemed incongruent with the voice. "What did you find?”

"A busted pipe.”

"Oh, my.” She involuntarily winced at the slang usage of the verb "to burst.”

"I went down to the water meter and shut off the main. But there's no tellin' how long that thing had been sprayin' water. You've probably got some wet floors in your house.”

"Yes, I'm sure you're right.”

"I'd be happy to fix it for you, Jos—um ...I mean, Dr. Allen.”

He said the word "doctor” like it felt foreign on his tongue. It was probably difficult for him to reconcile the young girl he remembered to Dr. Josephine Allen, Director of Library Science to The Angel Ridge Library. She wondered if he'd ever set foot in the library? Probably not.

"That's kind of you, Cole, but I'm sure you had other things planned for today. I'd hate to put you behind.”

Josie hadn't been back in Angel Ridge long, but she knew that Cole Craig was in demand. Anyone in town who had something that needed fixing called Cole. She smiled. Her memories of him were of a big, beefy boy who'd always been kind to her despite the teasing she'd received in school for her bookwormish ways.

"Oh, it's no trouble, ma'am. That place of yours must be a handful since you don't have your folks around tendin' to things. It was a terrible loss for the town when they moved away. They were fine people.”

He made it sound as if her parents had passed away, when what they'd really done was left her holding the bag in the form of a drafty old house that needed constant attention. "Yes, I don't really have the time or the knowledge needed to keep up such an old house.”

She'd thought of taking a condo in Maryville, but her parents had nearly had heart attacks when she'd suggested it. So, she'd resigned herself to living here. It was her home, after all, and she did enjoy the short walk to work. How many towns remained in America where one could walk to work?

"You're lucky to have it. They don't make 'em like that any more.”

Josie wouldn't know. How she longed for a nice, cozy place that was warm in the winter with no yard work in the summer. Something that wasn't in the middle of a town where she'd always been under a microscope and had never fit in.

"I'm more than happy to oblige,” he was saying.

She couldn't help smiling at the quaint turn of phrase in Cole's slow, southern drawl, even though she wasn't quite sure what he meant by the statement. "I'm sorry. You're happy to oblige?”

"Sure. I can crawl up under the house and have a look at that pipe, then I could run down to the hardware and get what I need to fix it. I expect I'll need to get a look inside to see if there's any trouble in there, though.”

"Of course—”

"I'll just mosey on into town to get some supplies, then. If you could swing by here at lunch to let me into the house?”

Josie looked at her watch. "I could leave now—”

"Oh, no ma'am. There's no need for that. It'll take me a bit to get what I need and come back here to start work on it. Noon'll be fine.”

"Noon it is then. Um, Mr. Craig?”

"Cole, please. Mr. Craig sounds like somebody's daddy.”

His warm, soft chuckle heated every ounce of her blood. The images running amuck in her mind weren't the least bit fatherly.

"I'll call Mr. DeFoe at the hardware and ask him to bill me for the supplies.”

"No need. We'll settle up later.”

"You're sure?”

"Yep. See you in a bit.”

The line went dead. Josie replaced the phone and sat back in her leather chair. A burst water pipe. Her house was probably a mess. She should go assess the damage. But Cole seemed to have everything under control. She rolled the mouse to disable the screen saver on her computer, and the stupid thing locked up again.

If only Cole Craig could work his magic on her hard drive....

* * *

"Afternoon, Miss Estelee,” Josie called up to the elderly woman rocking away the afternoon on her front porch.

Miss Estelee had been the Allen's neighbor for as long as Josie could remember. And for as long as she could remember, Miss Estelee had taken tea and cookies on her front porch at noon, weather permitting.

Josie shaded her eyes against the noonday sun. "How are you today?”

"Oh, can't complain. No need, even if I was want to.” She laughed. "Can I offer you a cookie?”

Josie smiled. Miss Estelee's homemade sugar cookies were the best, but she said, "No, thank you. I'm meeting someone.”

"That nice young man who cuts my grass says there's trouble at your place.”

"Yes, ma'am.”

"Well, if it can be fixed, Cole'll fix it. But be careful.”

Josie squinted into the bright noonday sun at her neighbor. "Careful?”

"Mmm.” Miss Estelee took a bite of her cookie, rocked back in her chair, and gazed up at the clear blue sky. "Them angels is a workin' mischief today.” She shook her head and cackled, then slapped her knee. "Might have a mind to take you in hand, missy.”

"I'll take that under advisement, Miss Estelee,” she said indulgently. "Good afternoon.”


Shaking her head, Josie walked around to the side of her house. Poor Miss Estelee. No one really knew how old she was, but she'd been ancient for, well, forever. The sweet old lady seemed to always be telling anyone who cared to listen of the exploits of the angels living on Angel Ridge.

Curious, Josie had done a little research in the town archives at the library about these "angels.” Legend had it that an angel appeared to the first Craig settler back in the early to mid-1700s and told him to name the town Angel Ridge. The early settlers built forts to protect themselves from the Indians in the area, and the story went that when the Cherokees threatened an attack, some of the locals took refuge in the Craig Fort.

After Cole's ancestor agreed to name the town Angel Ridge, the tale went that the Cherokees passed up the Craig Fort and attacked the McKay Fort instead. Funny. There'd always been bad blood between the McKays and the Craigs.

The account of the attack on the McKay Fort was documented. But the legend about the angels appearing to the Craigs? Well, that's all it was...a legend.

Dear, sweet Miss Estelee. But who could argue with her? She was the town's oldest resident.

"Afternoon, Josie Lee.”

Boy, that brought back memories. No one had called her that since...Josie turned the corner at the back of her house, and there he stood. Cole Craig.

"I'm sorry. It's Dr. Allen now, right?”

All she could do was nod. Gone was the beefy teenager she remembered from middle school. In his place stood a tall, muscular man with blond hair that grew past his shoulders, chiseled features, and eyes that rivaled the blue of the sky. The mud splattered on his faded jeans and tan T-shirt complimented his rugged good looks.

"Sorry to call you home in the middle of the day like this.”

Josie cleared her throat and found her tongue. "I'm the one to be thanking you. I'm fortunate that you were nearby and observant enough to see that there was a problem.”

A lazy smile pulled at the corner of his mouth, and a mischievous light danced in his clear, blue eyes. "Miss Estelee would say it's them angels workin' their magic.”

The man was strikingly beautiful. For a moment, Josie forgot to breathe.

Cole moved forward and touched her arm with a gentle hand. "You all right, Dr. Allen?”

She blinked. She hadn't been this tongue-tied in—well, she couldn't ever recall being speechless in the presence of a man. This was just Cole Craig of the blue collar Craigs who lived at the back of the ridge. If anyone were to be tongue-tied, she should think it would be him. After all, she had three degrees and he hadn't even finished high school. But that aside, his touch sent shivers up her arm, leaving behind a delicious warmth.

"Dr. Allen?”

Josie took a step back. She must get hold of herself. Her behavior was perfectly ridiculous. "I'm sorry, Cole. It's been a long morning. So far, anything that could go wrong has.”

He frowned. "Sorry to hear that.”

From his expression and tone, she could see that he truly was sorry that she was having a bad day. She shrugged and said, "Happens to everyone from time to time. Were you able to repair the pipe?”

He wiped his hands with a red rag and nodded. "Pretty much did everything I could out here, but I'd like to have a look inside.”

"Certainly,” she replied, and then led him to the back door. She pulled her keys from her purse and inserted the correct one into the lock. After several tries with the old skeleton key, the tumblers finally turned. When she pushed the door open, a gush of water rushed out onto the back porch, splashing across her new leather flats. "Oh no!”

Cole grasped her arm and pulled her out of the way of the stream of water running past them, then looked around her into the house. He assessed the situation, removed his work boots and socks, and preceded her into the kitchen. Though dread pulled at her, Josie slipped off her soaked shoes and followed him.

"Well, it's not too bad. Could've been much worse,” he said. "Looks like most of the leak was confined to the kitchen area. This won't take long to clean up.” He turned to her and said, "You just go on back to work and leave everything to me.”

There was something very intimate about seeing a gorgeous man in well-worn, threadbare jeans and a form fitting t-shirt standing in the middle of her kitchen barefoot. Again, Josie had difficulty forming a coherent sentence for reply.

This must stop.

She cleared her throat and focused on the fruit bowl sitting on her kitchen island. "Cole, you've already done more than any reasonable person would expect.”

"Just bein' neighborly.”

That aside, she didn't want to further inconvenience him. "Cole, I appreciate all that you've done, but—”

"What are you afraid of, Dr. Allen?” His easy smile disintegrated into a flat, hard line. "Think I'll steal your valuables?”

"No, of course not!” She was appalled that he'd even think such a thing. She was not prejudiced. She'd grown up watching how people up on the ridge treated everyone who lived on the back side of the ridge like they were beneath them. She'd hated that.

But even as she thought it, she reminded herself that she'd been thinking all morning how much more educated she was than Cole. Her thoughts must have shown through. Ashamed, she didn't like herself very much at the moment. This man deserved nothing less than her respect, and she intended to prove that to him.

"Cole, I realize that up until this point, I've done nothing to indicate that I am not at all like some of the people who live up here. I genuinely do appreciate what you've done for me today, but I wouldn't think to impose on you to clean up this mess. I'm sure you have other things to accomplish today.”

He looked away and swallowed what Josie hoped was his irritation with her. Or should she say "her kind?”

When he turned back to her, he said, "I just wanted to help out. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Josie looked into his eyes, and her heart tightened at what she saw. This proud man had spent his entire life helping people. She remembered him showing kindness to her on more than one occasion. But she, like the majority of the people up here, had not treated him as an equal. Josie Allen would no longer be counted among them.

She extended her hand to Cole and said, "Thank you. I appreciate your kindness.”

Without hesitation, he took her hand, which had never worked on anything harder than a computer keyboard, and engulfed it with his, that had known nothing but physical labor from the time he was a boy. At that moment, she felt the tenuous thread of an unlikely friendship form.

"I'll lock up when I leave,” he softly promised, still holding her hand in his.

Josie nodded and pulled her tingling hand back, then delved into her purse to cover her reaction. "Let me write you a check.”

Shaking his head, he clasped her forearm and pulled her hand out of her bag. "Consider it a welcome home gift.”

"Oh, but I couldn't—”

He laid a finger against her lips. She blinked, startled by such intimacy, yet intrigued at such openness. He slowly trailed the tip of his finger along the curve of her lip before easing his hands into his pockets. She pressed a hand to her chest, more to make sure her heart didn't race right out of it than anything else.

"Course you can. I insist.”

Josie smiled. Everyone knew there was no arguing with a Craig when they refused compensation. She'd just have to think of another way to repay him.

* * *

Josie Lee Allen.

Cole watched her walk barefoot down the sidewalk in front of her house carrying her wet shoes as she headed back to town. She'd been pretty as a picture when she was a little girl. Her mama had sent her to school in those frilly dresses with ruffled petticoats and curled her golden red hair into ringlets that fell clear down to her waist. She'd gone through an awkward stage in middle and high school, but she'd come through it real nice.

He sat down on her front steps and gave the memories free rein. Growing up, he was sure she'd been given everything a little girl could ever dream of. She should have been happy, but she'd always seemed more suited to the company of her books than people. He remembered staring at her as she read, wondering what she found so fascinating in those boring books. So fascinating that she never even gave him, or anyone else, a second glance.

Now that little girl had grown into a woman so beautiful just looking at her made him ache. Even with her hair wrapped up in a tight knot at the back of her head and wearing a shapeless suit, when he'd stood close to her, it had been all he could do to keep his hands to himself.

Josie Lee Allen. God had been smiling down on him today when he'd found that leaky pipe under her house. He'd been looking for an excuse to speak to her since he'd seen her sitting on the park bench under the old oak tree in Town Square a week ago. She'd been eating an apple and reading a book. The scene rocketed him back about ten years.

He'd been painting the gazebo that stood in the middle of town. She'd been sitting on that same park bench reading. He kept stealing glances at her, wondering what she was reading. She wore that gorgeous red hair in a ponytail back then. Her drab sweatshirt and long skirt weren't becoming, but there was something about her that intrigued him.

About that time, some preppy rich boys who'd been tossing a football around called out, "Hey Coal Bucket, I think you have more paint on you than that wood.”

Cole ignored them, even when they said something about him being dumb as a coal bucket. Real original. But when they turned their attention to Josie, that was another matter. He put down his paint brush when they called her curly red hair a rat's nest.

"She's got mice livin' in there.”

"Yeah. They're her pets. Wonder what their names are?”

"Leave her alone,” Cole warned.

"What are you going to do about it?” one of the boys asked.

Cole took one menacing step toward them, and they ran like he'd figured. The surprise came when Josie stretched out a leg and sent one of them sprawling face first into the brown mud.

"Now who looks like a coal bucket,” she commented with an innocent smile.

He'd known right then and there—Josie Allen was a mystery he wanted to solve.

Still wanted to solve. Which was why he'd cleared his busy schedule and made sure he could be in town for the next couple of weeks, hoping to find an opportunity to talk to her. He'd seen her out a couple of times in the past week, but she'd always been in a hurry with her mind too focused on other things to notice him. Not much had changed there.

He'd even gone into the library to check out a few books hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but her office was way in the back of the huge old building, and she hardly ever came out of it. In fact, from what he could tell, she practically lived there. By the time he got to Miss Estelee's on Monday and Thursday mornings to mow or take care of whatever needed tendin', Josie was already gone. Most nights, when he drove by the library on his way home, all the lights would be out except for the one on the ground floor in the back of the building that had to be her office.

Sighing, Cole stood and sauntered around Josie's house to the back door and into the soggy kitchen. He found a mop in the pantry and got to work.

Yep, Miss Estelee's angels had finally smiled down on him today, because she'd seen him. Really seen him.

Standing here in the kitchen of her fancy house on the ridge, she'd looked into his eyes. She hadn't looked down her nose at him like most folks up here did either. She'd shown him respect. And dare he hope? Something more. Maybe friendship.

That wasn't anywhere near what he had in mind, but it was a start.

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