"Now they hold their own, out on the liner…" I came in with the harmony, goose bumps raising up on my arms at the sound of our voices blending together. Out on the floor, the two-steppers swung into action. It was the perfect two-step tune.
As I watched, my eyes were drawn to a tall, lanky cowboy wandering through the dancers, his intense blue eyes staring into mine, his thick cowboy mustache twitching with a smile that I knew only too well. He walked right up in front of the stage where I stood and crooked his finger at me. He was asking me to dance!
I started to shake my head, my knees trembling just as they had that first night during my audition.
Down on the floor someone shouted, "Go on, Maggie, do it! Dance with him!"
Jack wandered across the floor, still blowing his harmonica while Sugar Bear sang.
"Go, Maggie, we got you covered," he said. He was smiling, and I looked behind him at the others. They were all smiling, and Sparks was actually motioning me off the stage. This was planned. Weathers had set me up again. Only this time I didn't mind at all.
I walked to the edge of the stage and down the steps and into the arms of my blue-eyed cowboy. I looked back at the stage. Jack was mouthing something I could just make out: "Breathe."
Marshall's arm slid around my waist, one firm hand pressing gently against my back, the other resting on my shoulder. We moved off onto the floor. I was dancing, floating in his arms. The boys chimed in behind Bear, blending their voices to make a perfect three-part harmony.
"I've been waiting a long time to do this," he said, his eyes reaching into mine.
I looked up at him and smiled. "A girl could do a lot worse," I said. He laughed and pulled me closer.
Mama's voice floated across the years, taking the place of the music for a brief moment. "Oh, you'll know, honey," she'd said. "You'll just know."
In its own wacky way, this book is about the importance of family I would like to acknowledge mine. Without their love and support, this book would never have become a reality and Maggie Reid would never have gotten her shot at stardom.
I am also very grateful to Cpl. J. F. Whitt of the Greensboro Police Department. His assistance was invaluable. His mustache, unforgettable. He put up with me on a regular basis for the months it took to write this book, and always, always came to my assistance and answered my questions. My thanks, also, to the officers of the Greensboro Police Department who rode me around town for hours and told me their stories. In particular, I would like to thank Cpl. Stan Lawhorne for the tour of Greensboro at dawn.
Harmonica Jack and the Boys in The Band provided the backdrop for Maggie's music. We shared a special time in our lives. We grew up together. I will never forget those days, nor cease to be grateful for the friendship and loyalty I found at the Ranch.
I set this book in Greensboro, North Carolina, the town that I have called home for four years. I have moved and created landmarks and streets. I have taken liberties with a beautiful city. All the mistakes and creations are mine alone and none of the characters are meant to resemble anyone, living or dead.
I want to thank my loyal critique group: Nancy Gates, Wendy Greene, Chris Farran, Carla Schwarz-Buckley, Ellen Hunter, Charlotte Perkins, and Renee Gilleao. I also wish to thank Irene Kraas for saying, "Write it, kid!" I am deeply indebted to my editors: Jeffery McGraw for his tolerance, kindness, and nutty sense of humor, and Carolyn Marino for adopting Maggie into the HarperCollins family.
Perhaps the biggest thank-you belongs to those who have to live with me: my husband and my children. They gave me wings and let me fly. They rarely complained about cold suppers or eating among the manuscript pages. They believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.
I am so fortunate to have such an unconditionally loving family, both immediate and extended, in-laws and out-laws. They read my works in progress, they forgive my oversights and forgotten birthdays, they brag about me, even when I am most outrageous. This large, eccentric family of mine has taught me the most important lesson of alclass="underline" Family is everything. Treasure it. Scoop up your babies and hold them tight. Listen, even when you disagree. We have only each other, and only this one moment. Thanks, guys. I love you, too!