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Shadow of the Canyon by Tracie Peterson
Book 1 of the Desert Roses series. Working as a Harvey Girl at the luxury resort of El Tovar, located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Alexandra Keegan feels she is in a dream come true. But when her father’s indiscretions come to light and her mother is suspected of murder, Alex finds herself the center of some unwelcome attention. Will she soon find herself alone in the world?
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El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon, 1923
And in here,” Alexandria Keegan announced, “are the bulk refrigerator storage areas.” Alex stepped past the new Harvey House recruit and opened the door to the unit. “We keep all manner of fresh produce, fish, and …” She fell silent as she heard the new girl gasp.
“Oh, Miss Keegan,” the girl said, blushing red and turning away.
Alex couldn’t imagine what the problem was, for the girl looked positively mortified. Turning to look into the unit, Alex fully expected to see a dead rat on the floor. Such a distasteful occurrence didn’t happen often, but there was that rare occasion when something unpleasant marred the Harvey restaurant’s otherwise impeccable reputation.
Alex grimaced at the scene. It was a rat, all right. But this rat was the two-legged type. Worse still, this rat was her father.
Rufus Keegan, well-known for his philandering ways, was at it once again. Pressed into a compromising position in the corner of the room, one of the newer Harvey Girls appeared to be enjoying Rufus Keegan’s lack of discretion.
Alex felt her cheeks grow hot as embarrassment washed over her. How many times would she have to endure this shame upon her family? How could her father just go on humiliating her mother like this, never concerning himself with the pain he caused? Alex felt tears come to her eyes at the thought of all her mother had endured.
“Bernice, please go to the main dining room and bring Mrs. Godfrey.” Alex steadied her emotions. She knew it would be better to have the dining room manager and housemother take charge of the situation.
Bernice, whose face was nearly as red as her bobbed hair, hurried off down the corridor. Alex turned to find her father smoothing the wrinkles in his clothing.
“Do you never tire of bringing shame to our family?” Alex asked, her voice a deadly calm.
“There needn’t be any shame if you keep your mouth shut. Honestly, Alexandria, I don’t see why you concern yourself with matters that have little to do with you.”
Alex forced herself to remain silent and looked past her father to Melina Page. The girl was clearly embarrassed, but she didn’t appear overly worried as she adjusted her black Harvey uniform.
“You should gather your things, Melina. I’m certain Mrs. Godfrey will have no further use for you,” Alex said, staring hard at the girl.
“But you said you’d keep me from getting fired,” Melina said, turning to Rufus. He only shrugged and chuckled. “But you promised!” Melina’s voice raised an octave.
“He promised my mother a great many things, as well,” Alex said. “But so far, he doesn’t seem to honor any of those promises, either.” Without conscious thought, Alex reached for the closest object—a plump, ripe, California tomato. “You are without a doubt everything the newspapers say about you and more. I’m ashamed to call you Father.”
“Then don’t. And don’t take that tone with me. You don’t have to call me Father or even acknowledge me as such, but I won’t take a dressing down by the likes of you or anyone else. I don’t take that tone of voice from the governor of this state! What makes you think I’ll take it from my daughter?”
Shame was quickly overcome by anger, as years of betrayal seemed to culminate in this one act. Without warning, Alex threw the tomato. She picked up another tomato and then another. Hurling them mindlessly at her father, she shouted a tirade of disapproval.
“You don’t care anything about my mother. You’ve caused her nothing but shame and anguish. Her health suffers because of you and she has no friends because you can’t even give the pretense of discretion.”
The ripe tomatoes splattered against the wall, against Melina’s dress, and against the stun-faced Keegan.
Uncaring about the mess she was making or the vegetables she might destroy, Alex only knew that she wanted to hurt her father as badly as he’d hurt her mother. “We’ve suffered so much because of you. Mother can’t even go to church for fear of what will be said to her!”
The voice of Mrs. Godfrey caused Alex to pause. She looked momentarily at the confused woman, then picked up an apple. “My father and Melina chose to make this their trysting place.” She hurled the apple, which her father barely managed to dodge before it hit the back wall with a dull thud.
Mrs. Godfrey reached out to Alex. Her grasp on Alex’s left hand did nothing to waylay her from securing another apple with her right. This time she aimed for Melina.
“He doesn’t deserve to get away with this.” Alex nearly screamed the words, not caring who heard.
“Hey, what’s happening? I heard the hollering going on all the way down the …”
Alex turned, catching sight of Luke Toland. The tall, lanky cowboy had his hat pushed back on his head, his sandy-colored hair hanging down over his left brow. He appeared shocked to say the least, but Alex could take no more of her father’s indiscretion.
She jerked away from Mrs. Godfrey and reached again for the nearest object. It just happened to be a large stalk of celery. Before she could throw it, however, Luke stepped in and took hold of her.
“I don’t know what’s happening here, but I’m sure throwing this celery isn’t going to remedy the matter.” He spoke softly and eyed Alex with grave concern. His gentleness was her undoing, and her tears overflowed as she collapsed against his chest and began to cry.
“He doesn’t care how much he hurts us,” she sobbed.