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Tearoom owner Ana Hanson felt she worked harder than most. Nothing ever came easy and, to make matters worse, she’ d never had luck in the romance department. It was difficult to ...
Tearoom owner Ana Hanson felt she worked harder than most. Nothing ever came easy and, to make matters worse, she’ d never had luck in the romance department. It was difficult to believe in faith… until she met Rock Dempsey, who was there in her time of need. Who would have thought that what she needed… was him?
He loved the way the small island off the Georgia coast lay tossed like a woman's dainty slipper near the mainland. He loved the way the island sat at the mouth of the Savannah River, the land caught between a glistening oval-shaped bay and the ever-churning Atlantic Ocean. He loved having the sunrise to the east over the sea, and the sunset to the west over the bay.
As he stood in the middle of his workshop, with the ocean breezes coming through the thrown-open doors from the ocean on one side and the bay on the other, Rock decided a man couldn't ask for much more in life.
Unless that man was pushing thirty-five and his whimsical mother was still asking him when he was going to settle down and produce a passel of grandchildren for her to spoil.
"Roderick, I could die and go to heaven without even a memory of a sweet baby to carry home with me," his mother, Eloise, had told him in a gentle huff just that morning when he'd stopped by for breakfast.
They had this same conversation at least once a week. It was never a good sign when his mother used his given name in a discussion. But then, his brothers Stone and Clay had to hear it from Eloise, too, each time they came to visit.
In her mid-fifties and long widowed, Eloise Dempsey kept close tabs on her three sons, properly named Roderick, Stanton and Clayton, but affectionately nicknamed Rock, Stone and Clay. She fretted that none of them had yet to make a lifetime commitment to one woman. If Rock blamed their artistic mother and her flighty ways for her sons' obvious fear of commitment, he'd never say that out loud to Eloise. She'd had enough heartache in her life, between being disinherited and then losing the man she had loved - and had given up that inheritance to be with - to the sea in a terrible storm. Even if she had sacrificed quality time with her sons to become one of the most famous sculpture artists in the South, Rock was trying very hard to come to terms with his lovable mother's flaws. And his own.
Rock reminded himself that Eloise was trying, now that she'd found success with her art, to make things up to her children. Still, the memories of eating TV dinners and going to bed tired after watching over his two younger brothers always left a bad taste in Rock's mouth.
Growing up, he'd often dreamed of a traditional family, with a mom and dad who were devoted to family and children, with good, home-cooked meals and nights spent together watching a movie or sharing a supper out on the shore. Rock and his brothers had missed out on those things. While their mother pursued her art, they had had to find odd jobs here and there to make ends meet. The islanders had been kind and watchful, and Eloise had continued her work, unaware and undisturbed, while her children had the run of the land.
If he closed his eyes, he could still hear the hiss of her welding torch, late into the night. The glare had always been too bright for Rock, but the sound of it never went away. If he looked north toward what the islanders called the Ankle Curve, he could just make out the turret of the rambling Victorian beach house where his mother had lived and worked for so many years. He could still see her there, in the big barn settled deep in the moss-covered trees that she used as a studio, bent over yet another bust shaped from clay or an aged cross forged from wood and stone. His mother's hands had created beauty.
But he'd missed those same hands tucking him in at night.
Not wanting to dwell on his mother's shortcomings - or his own in the love department, for that matter - Rock turned back to the cabinets he'd been restoring for Miss McPherson. Now, there was an available single woman. She was in church every Sunday, tithed regularly, cooked everything from Brunswick stew to clam chowder and had a smile that lit up a room. Too bad she was pushing eighty.
"One day I'm going to get up the courage to ask Miss Mac why she never married," Rock said to the gleaming oak cabinet door he'd just finished vanishing.
"Do you often talk to your cabinets?" a soft feminine voice said from the open shed doors.
Rock turned to find a petite, auburn-haired woman staring at him, her green eyes slanted and questioning, a slight smile on her angular face. He stood there like a big dummy while she walked into the quiet cool of his work shed, her crisp white cotton shirt and polished tan trousers giving her an air of sophistication.
Coming out of his fog, Rock grabbed a wipe rag and ran it over his hands. "I'm afraid I do tend to talk to my creations. A bad habit." Tossing the rag aside, he leaned back on the long, dented work table. "What can I do for you?"
She pushed at a wave of burnished hair that kept falling over her chin. "I'm Ana Hanson. I just moved into the Harper house - soon to be Ana's Tea Room and Art Gallery."
"Oh." Trying to hide his surprise, Rock pushed off the table to extend a hand. "My mother told me about you."
And had urged him to get to know the single newcomer to the tiny island a little better. "Ana will be lonely, Rock. Invite her to church, at least. Just as a way to break the ice."
"Well, don't look so glum," the woman said, her head tilting in defense. "Did I come at a bad time?"
Despite his mother's very obvious suggestion echoing through his head, Rock tried to stick to the here and now. He felt horrible at the way he'd sounded. "No, no. It's just - I had expected - I thought you'd be older, more like my Mother's other eccentric friends." Feeling more foolish with each word, he quickly added, "Mom said you needed some new cabinets?"
Ana nodded through an amused smile, causing the same silky length of curls to fall right back across her face. "Yes. As you probably know, the Harper house needed major renovations."
Excerpted from The Carpenter's Wife by Lenora Worth Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.