Hope Blooms [NOOK Book]


Helen Schaefer isn't getting married

That's what she's decided, anyway—because she simply can't stand to think she could love and lose again. After the death of her husband, she let her daughter down terribly and she's not about to risk hurting Ginny a second time.

And meeting widower Alec Fraser—who's still dealing with his own grief—isn't enough to change her mind…at ...

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Hope Blooms

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Helen Schaefer isn't getting married

That's what she's decided, anyway—because she simply can't stand to think she could love and lose again. After the death of her husband, she let her daughter down terribly and she's not about to risk hurting Ginny a second time.

And meeting widower Alec Fraser—who's still dealing with his own grief—isn't enough to change her mind…at first. But after Helen spends some time with him, she starts to realize how much they have in common. Is it possible that Alec might want to have a relationship without commitment? And what will she do if he doesn't?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459221284
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/1/2012
  • Series: Under One Roof
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Sales rank: 1,382,576
  • File size: 285 KB

Meet the Author

The author of more than seventy books for children and adults, Janice Kay Johnson writes about love and family - about the way generations connect and the power our earliest experiences have on us throughout life. A five time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA award, she won a RITA in 2008 for her Superromance novel Snowbound. A former librarian, Janice raised two daughters in a small town north of Seattle, Washington.

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Read an Excerpt

Helen Schaefer drove the shiny blue pickup truck across the bumpy field and steered down an aisle of gaily colored tents. Strings of flags hung overhead, unmoving in the still air.

Thank you, Logan, for loaning me the pickup! Helen thought. Without it, she would have had to make three or four trips from the house off Roosevelt in Seattle in her old Ford escort to haul all the goods to set up a booth of Kathleen's Soaps at this craft fair on Queen anne Hill.

She and her business partner, Kathleen, had a wish list, and a cargo van was at the top of it. They were now doing dozens of fairs and craft shows a year, as well as delivering soap to the stores that sold their brand year-round. Logan, Kathleen's husband, had been generous in letting them use his pickup, but he was a cabinetmaker and often needed it, too.

Helen glanced at the paper on the seat beside her. Number 143. Yes, there it was, printed boldly on a card pinned above the wide entrance of the booth. Number 144 next door was nearly set up, while 142 remained empty. Other exhibitors were working in tents across the aisle.

Helen rolled to a stop in front of her space and turned off the engine. Made it! she thought with relief. The pickup was big, and she was so terrified of hitting something, she was always glad to arrive safely.

"Hi," she called, getting out.

The woman rolling a rack of silk-screened dresses into place turned with a smile. "Helen! I saw that you two were going to be my neighbors."

"Let's hope this weekend will be better than last." Helen headed toward the back of the truck and lowered the tailgate.

Lucinda Blick scanned the sky. "No kidding! So far, so good."

"The weathermen claim it's going to be sunny and hot through Sunday."

With practiced ease, Helen slid a pile of folding tables out onto the tailgate, then grabbed the smallest one and carried it into the red-and-white-striped tent. This card table sat at the back and held the cash register and business cards. The others, longer and sturdier, along with half a dozen folding plywood pedestals built by Logan, would display the soaps, shampoos, shower gels and bath oils made by Kathleen.

Helen and Lucinda, an improbably blond amazon who had to be in her sixties, continued to chat as they spread tablecloths and stacked wire bins that held bars of soap in Helen's case and tie-dyed socks and scarves in a variety of hues and sizes in Lucinda's. Other exhibitors wandered by to say hello and commiserate about last week's downpour that had made a disaster of a craft fair in Pierce county.

Helen loved this sense of community she and Kathleen had found among other artists and craftspeople. There was gossip and jealousy, of course, but mostly they had met with generosity and friendship. All for one and one for all, as Kathleen had put it. On a good weekend, everyone profited. On a bad one, they all packed home the goods they had hoped to sell.

"Who's in the next booth?" Helen asked, nodding to the one east of hers.

"Shannon Palmer. Have you met her?" Lucinda shook out a tablecloth. "Stained glass?"

Helen pursed her lips. "I think so. Wasn't she in Anacortes last summer?"

"Probably." Lucinda paused, apparently scanning Commercial Street in Anacortes in her mind's eye. "Wait. Yes!" she exclaimed in triumph. "She was just past what's-his-name with the flying elephants!"

"Oh, right," Helen agreed. "He got mad when her rack collapsed."

"He gets mad if he thinks one of your tables pushes the tent wall two inches into his space. Try not to get stuck next to him if you can help it." Lucinda shook her head. "I never can remember his name," she muttered. Hands on her hips, she contemplated her progress. "I'm starving. Will you keep an eye on my stuff?"

"Of course."

"can I bring you anything?"

"I packed a sandwich," Helen said, "but thanks."

The other woman picked up a bar of soap and sniffed. "Nice. What is it?"

"Tarragon and geranium."

"You guys use the most peculiar combinations." Lucinda grinned and headed down the grassy aisle. "See you," she called, with a flap of her hand. enjoying the warm early-summer evening, Helen continued arranging their wares. Baskets, spray-painted and decorated by her, brimmed with selections of soap and oils and gels. Bars of soap, clear and shimmering with color or milky and dark-flecked, went into labeled bins. carefully constructed stacks of soap went on pedestals and tables, along with bottles of soapwort shampoo and herbal hair rinses and wintergreen-scented bath oil.

New this year were the pet shampoo, the herbal bath bags and the gritty bars of soap for gardeners or mechanics. Helen expected them all to be successful. She was amazed at Kathleen's creativity. Lucinda was right: the oddest combinations of herbs and essential oils sometimes produced heavenly scents.

She felt incredibly lucky to be Kathleen carr's partner. It hardly seemed fair that she should be an equal partner, considering Kathleen made all the soap. Helen had been the one to suggest that her housemate turn a hobby into a business, however, and she had taken over the task of selling the wonderfully fragrant bars. The packaging was hers—she continually tinkered to improve it—and she was the one who girded herself and approached store owners and buyers to try to persuade them to carry Kathleen's Soaps.

She helped as much as she could when Kathleen went into a frenzy of soap making. Helen did clean-up and stirred and sometimes added pre-measured oils to the bubbling brew when Kathleen told her to. She unmolded bars that had cured with designs imprinted in them and carved into bars glycerine soaps that had been made into long loaves.

But in fact Helen was the business partner, Kathleen the creative one. Extraordinarily, in only their second year Kathleen's Soaps was taking off. Dozens of retailers, from small gift shops to health food stores and co-ops, carried their soap now. And in a good weekend at a big craft show like this one, they would sell most of the stock Helen had hauled down.

Both Helen and Kathleen still held other jobs, but now worked only part-time. Last summer, the craft fairs had involved a nightmarish juggling of schedules, with everyone else they knew called in to help when both had to be at their other, more mundane, jobs. Even Kathleen's teenage daughter, Emma, had manned booths alone.

On a day like this, with the sun shining and plenty of time to set up, Helen felt more relaxed and…happier than she had in years. Since before Ben's cancer was diagnosed.

How amazing! she thought, pausing for a moment. She'd never expected to be happy again.

"Hello," a man said behind her.

Her reverie interrupted, Helen lifted a basket from the tailgate and turned with a pleasant, "Hi."

But the man standing there wasn't one of the craftspeople she knew. In fact, he didn't look like an artist at all, although she wasn't quite sure why. Thick, dark hair cut a bit too short, maybe, and graying at the temples in a way that appeared distinguished rather than scruffy.

He was very handsome, with sharply drawn cheekbones and a strong, cleft chin. Despite that hint of gray, she doubted the man was over forty. In jeans and a polo shirt, he was well-built, perhaps six feet tall, with dark blue eyes that appraised her over the bow that decorated the handle of the basket she clutched.

"Alec Fraser." He nodded at the basket. "Can I take that?"

"Oh…thank you." Helen held it out. "I'm Helen Schaefer. Just set it anywhere over there." She reached back to grab the next, more to give herself a moment to recover her composure than because she actually needed to keep working. She hadn't felt any romantic reaction at all in so long she was surprised she recognized it. Maybe it wasn't specific to this man, she comforted herself; maybe the brief flutter in her chest was related to the giddy knowledge that she had learned to be happy again.

Waiting inside her tent, Alec Fraser turned slowly to look at the displays she was setting up. He sniffed. "Smells great."

Feeling steadier, she said, "Oh, thank you." She was so used to the fragrance that filled their house and cars and even clung to her clothes that she scarcely noticed it anymore.

"When they're browsing, people pick up every soap and sniff it. I love watching their expressions. They'll go from delight to 'yuck' in a heartbeat."

He laughed, turning handsome into devilish and—oh, no! there she went again—sexy.

"You mean, the vanilla fan doesn't like the, uh, avocado-dill soap?" He took an experimental whiff of that one and looked torn.

Helen smiled at his expression. "Exactly. I've wondered whether you could generalize about character type from responses to particular scents, but I'm afraid results aren't consistent."

"What about you?" Alec Fraser asked, nodding toward one of the pyramids of soap, his blue eyes not leaving her face. "What's your favorite?"

She knew she was blushing; her cheeks were warm. "Oh, I'm afraid I'm bland. I like gentle, homey scents. Vanilla and cinnamon and blueberry."

"And yet—" he lifted a hand as if he were going to touch her auburn hair, secured in a ponytail, before he seemed to think better of it and let his arm drop "—you look as if you could be fiery."

Fiery? The idea was laughable. A mouse like her!

"Appearances can be deceptive," she told him, her good mood crumbling at the edges. She made her voice deliberately polite. "Do you have a booth here?"

"No, I'm with the committee putting on the fair. I'm just making the rounds to welcome everyone. I think I forgot to say thanks for coming."

"You're very welcome." She made a business of returning to the truck, only to discover she'd grabbed the last basket or box within reach. Hoisting herself onto the tailgate wasn't the most dignified performance to put on in front of a man Emma would say was "hot—for an older guy."

"Let me," the older guy said, and swung himself up with a fraction of the effort it would have taken her. He then very efficiently moved boxes and the few stray baskets to the tailgate, where she could reach them.

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