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Widowed Adam Engler can’ t wait to be rid of the crumbling Victorian. Haunting memories lurk in every ...
Widowed Adam Engler can’ t wait to be rid of the crumbling Victorian. Haunting memories lurk in every dusty corner— including the memory of his young wife’ s tragic death. But with the help of Melanie and his young daughter, Adam slowly begins to see that the house could be his dream home… but only with Melanie by his side… .
Supposedly Helen Engler, her next patient, lived here. It had taken her half an hour with two
wrong turns and directions from a young woman out riding her horse to find the place.
She turned into the driveway bordered by willows on one side, swooping poplars on the other.
Puzzlement was overridden by happy memories of this place as she finally recognized the
driveway. When she used to visit here she had come from a different direction.
It had been fourteen years since she'd lived in the town of Derwin, yet she knew she had been
here before. She was also sure that she knew the name Engler. But the name and the place
didn't mesh in her memory.
She rounded the last bend into an opening and came to a stop in front of a Victorian-style
A deep porch shaded the front and side of the house, its curved pillars creating a sturdy,
welcoming place. Gingerbread trimmed the large bay window across the front, echoing the trim
above the dormer windows perched along the top floor. Brightly colored petunias and lobelia
spilled from baskets hung from the ceiling of theporch, giving it a festive, welcoming air.
But best of all, set alongside the house, flowing out from it and softening the angles, stood a
turret topped with a conical roof. The four-sided tower overlooked the yard sheltered with
deep green spruce and aspen.
Melanie stepped out of the car, a thrill of pleasure and surprise coursing through her.
It was the house of those childhood dreams, Melanie thought with a smile, hitching the strap of
her briefcase over her shoulder. The Shewchuks must have sold the house, and now it belonged
to the Englers.
Melanie took a moment to listen to the sighing of the wind in the trees surrounding the house,
her mind sifting back fourteen years. Her good friend Dena Shewchuk had lived here and
Melanie had been envious not only of her large family, but of Dena's house. A home.
The same home her wandering father had always promised Melanie and her mother.
As a child Melanie had woven countless daydreams around this home. She had promised
herself that someday she would have a house, a home exactly like the Shewchuks. The memory
had stayed with her during the intervening years.
But as she walked closer to the house, reality intruded on her memories. Blistered paint peeled
off the house's wooden siding, dust coated the windows. The weeds choking the flower bed
were an ironic contrast to the flowerpots decorating the porch.
She had taken a few steps up the porch stairs when she heard the deep sound of a man's voice.
Curious, she walked along the veranda to the yard beside the house.
Sunlight, diffused through the softly swaying aspen trees overhead, dappled the two figures on a
lawn that had been hidden from view. A tiny girl about three years of age threw a bright blue
ball to a man who sat only a few feet away from her. The little girl wore pale pink coveralls, the
man blue jeans and a white T-shirt.
As Melanie watched the idyllic scene, the little girl suddenly turned away, trundling toward the
back of the house, her curls bouncing on her shoulders.
"Tiffany," the man called out. "Come back here, sweetie." But the little girl, now gone, didn't
come back, nor did she respond.
The man pushed himself to his feet to follow her.
From where she stood Melanie caught his expression of pain, at odds with the charming scene
she had just witnessed.
He stopped as soon as he saw Melanie, lifting his hand to shade his eyes.
"Hello," Melanie called out. "I'm Melanie Visser. The health nurse. I've come to see Helen
The man walked up the three steps on the side of the veranda and as he came toward her,
Melanie took a small step back.
"I'm Adam Engler. Helen's son." His handshake was firm, solid, his height on the borderline of
The introduction wasn't necessary. Adam Engler had, one time, been as much a part of her
dreams as this house and the Shewchuk family.
His once-blond hair had deepened to a sandy color, but he still wore it a little long, curling at the
ends. His deep blue eyes that had once sparkled with fun and enthusiasm now looked older.
However, they held hers with a faint intensity, his head angled to one side, as if studying her.
He didn't remember her, she realized with a brush of regret. And why should he? When he'd
come to her rescue those many years ago, she had been a mere junior high student. He an
exalted high school sophomore.
"My mother is in the house," Adam continued. "Just come around the back with me. I have to
make sure Tiffany went inside."
Adam half turned, gesturing for Melanie to go ahead of him. As she passed him she chanced
another glance, trying to reconcile this older, harder man with the laughing teenager of her
memories. To her increasing confusion, Adam looked directly down at her, a faint frown tugging
at his sandy-colored eyebrows as if he was searching for the memory Melanie had found.
As they approached the back door, Adam reached past her to pull it open, his arm brushing
Melanie resisted the urge to pull back, flashing him what she hoped was a casually thankful smile
before she entered the porch. She blamed her bemusement on an assault of memories. This
house and unexpectedly meeting Adam, a young man from a happier time in her life.
She stepped past a small pair of sandals the same size as the running shoes lying haphazardly
beside them. They looked lost on the large porch that Melanie remembered chockablock with
shoes, boots and the occasional pair of wet socks.
As she stepped into the spacious kitchen, her hungry eyes flitted over the room, revisiting other
The walls were more scarred, the floor more scuffed. The counters that followed the two walls
no longer sparkled, the white paint dulled by collected grime.
In spite of the neglect, the room still exuded the same welcoming atmosphere. The bay window
with its deep seat still invited a lonely soul to sit in it and look out over the secluded yard.
A feeling of melancholy filled her. Mixed through that was an emotion she experienced only
when she thought of Derwin.
Excerpted from Toward Home by Carolyne Aarsen
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.