Repairing Her Heart
Businesswoman Celeste Thompson has one goal: to make her restaurant and hotel a success. She doesn't need any distractions, even from handsome contractor Gage Purcell and his two adorable little girls. Besides, single dad Gage is just biding his time before a big job at the mines comes through. But as Celeste's project springs to life, their arguments transform into attraction. Gage isn't looking for romance, especially not with another career-driven woman like his ex-wife. But openhearted Celeste is more than just another work-consumed client. She might just be his happily-ever-after.
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Perhaps love wasn't a fairy tale.
Watching the bride and groom share their first dance, Celeste Thompson was taken aback by the longing that filled her heart. She'd never been one to entertain romantic notions. Yet she suddenly found herself wondering what it would be like to be in love. To share your life with someone. To give that person your whole heart.
Celeste froze, the long pearl-handled knife midway through another slice of wedding cake. She could never trust her heart to anyone. She laid the piece of raspberry-filled white cake on a plate. Precisely why she was the caterer, not the bride.
As the romantic ballad came to an end, her eyes again roamed the crowded, dimly lit reception hall in Ouray's Community Center. From all appearances, Cash and Taryn were the epitome of forever and always. Yet how could anyone promise forever? People change. At least that was what her mother said. Countless times. Usually followed by a less-than-flattering remark about Celeste's wayward father.
Celeste glanced down to see small fingers gripping the edge of the lace-covered table. A pair of large sapphire eyes framed by white-blond curls peered up at her.
A smile started in Celeste's heart, spreading to her face. "Well, hello there, sweet girl." The child was adorable, her frilly lavender dress making her look like a princess. "You must be the flower girl."
The little girl nodded, her mischievous grin hinting that she might not be as innocent as she appeared.
"Emma " A man with dark brown hair and Emma's same blue eyes sauntered toward them. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his tuxedo slacks and his loosened bow tie dangled from beneath the unbuttoned collar of his starched white shirt. Very GQ. Tall, dark Of course, at five foot two, everyone seemed tall to Celeste. One of many reasons high heels were her best friend.
He stopped beside the child. "You've had enough cake, young lady." His baritone voice was firm. Unyielding.
Emma frowned. Her bottom lip pooched out as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Cassidy had two pieces."
"Your sister ate her dinner." The man stared down at her, seemingly unfazed by the pathetic look.
"No fair." The little girl stomped her foot.
He held his hand out to the child. "Let's go see if we can find some more of that brisket. Then we'll discuss cake."
Emma's lip quivered, her eyes welling with tears. Her face reddened and contorted in ways Celeste had never witnessed firsthand. Nonetheless, she recognized the markings of a tantrum. And, from the looks of things, this was setting up to be a good one.
Perhaps she could find a way to change the subject. She opened her mouth, but the man she presumed was Emma's father held up a hand to cut her off.
"I've got this."
Fine by her. After all, Emma was his daughter.
He dropped to one knee. "Emma, please. Not here."
His plea was met with a loud wail.
Celeste bit back a laugh. Seemed the poor man had been through this before.
Pulling his daughter close, he begged her to stop crying. His tuxedo jacket was doing a fair job of muffling Emma's sobs, still he glanced up at Celeste, defeat and perhaps embarrassment marring his otherwise handsome features.
Surely there was something she could do.
Then again, Emma's father had made it clear he didn't need her help.
The child let out another cry. This time loud enough to be heard over the music.
People started staring.
Celeste couldn't help herself. While she might not be an expert with kids, she'd quelled many an executive tantrum in the boardroom. Perhaps those tactics would come in handy now.
She wiped her hands on a napkin and rounded the table. Knelt beside the pair. "Emma?" She touched the baby-fine curls.
Emma hiccupped then slowly turned her head until her red-rimmed eyes met Celeste's.
"Have you ever had a birthday party?"
The child nodded against her daddy's chest.
"And all your friends and family were there?" She looked at Emma's father, afraid he'd tell her to back off. Instead, he seemed to wait for his daughter's reaction.
Emma nodded again, this time lifting her head.
Celeste continued. "Now, suppose one of your friends got mad and started crying at your party. How would that make you feel?"
The child's eyes darted back and forth across the wooden floor. She wasn't answering, but she wasn't crying anymore, either.
"Would that make you sad?" Celeste offered.
Emma nodded, gnawing on her thumb.
"Well, this is Cash and Taryn's party. You wouldn't want to make them sad, would you?"
Emma shook her head, her eyes growing even bigger. "Tawyn's my aunt."
"I see." She dared a glance at Emma's father. He seemed to have relaxed, though he didn't necessarily look happy. "Well then " Her gaze shifted back to Emma. "You want to be a big girl for your aunt Taryn, right?"
Emma's smile returned. She nodded once more.
Celeste pushed to her feet.
So did the child's father.
She took hold of Emma's hands and spread her arms wide. "Look at your pretty dress." She let go of one hand and twirled the child with the other. "That's a dancing dress if I ever saw one."
Emma giggled, and Celeste didn't know if she'd ever heard a sweeter sound.
"Now" stopping, she smiled down at Emma "do you think you can do what your daddy tells you?"
"Good girl. And then, maybe, if it's okay with your mommy and daddy"
"I don't have a mommy."
Celeste blinked, her cheeks growing warm at the child's candor. "Oh. Well then " She swallowed, her gaze flitting briefly to Emma's father. "If it's all right with your dad, I can send a piece of cake home with you for later. How does that sound?"
"Yay!" The little girl just about bounced out of her white patent leather shoes. She tugged her father's hand. "Come on, Daddy. Let's get some more bisket."
"Brisket, sweetheart." As his overzealous daughter pulled him toward the buffet table, he shot Celeste an irritated look. "Thanks for the help. But I can take care of my daughter."
Celeste bristled. She hadn't expected his praise, but she hadn't expected him to be so rude, either. That'll teach her to get involved.
Shrugging off the exchange, she watched the pair walk away. Emma obviously knew she had her father wrapped around her little finger. But did she have any clue how blessed she was to have a father who cared?
I don't have a mommy.
Celeste ached for the child. And wasn't there some mention of a sister?
She shook her head. A single dad with two daughters. No wonder the guy looked defeated. He didn't stand a chance.
She turned as Erin, one of her part-time servers, approached.
"We're down to crumbs on the brisket."
"No problem. I've got another tray in the kitchen." Celeste pointed to the cake. "You mind taking over?"
"Not at all." Erin picked up the long knife as Celeste started toward the swinging door. "Sausage is running low, too."
Celeste waved a hand in acknowledgment and continued into the community center's small yet efficient commercial kitchen. The groom's request for Texas barbecue seemed to be a hit with the guests. Good thing Granny had taught her the art of smoked meat. Building the catering side of Granny's Kitchen was important to her bottom line. As were those old hotel rooms over the restaurant.
Donning her oven mitts, Celeste grabbed another foil-covered pan of meat from the oven. The smoky aroma wafted around her as she carried it into the main room. It had taken her all summer to decide how best to address the upstairs units, but she'd finally decided to convert the cluster of six tiny rooms into three large suites. All while remaining true to the building's character and Victorian architecture.
She set the pan into the chafer, thinking of all the beautiful millwork throughout the upstairs space. The wide baseboards and detailed moldings quality like that was hard to find these days. She could only pray God would lead her to the right contractor. One who didn't cringe when she mentioned the word salvaging.
After replenishing the sausage, she topped off the grated cheese and bacon bits at the mashed potato bar, pleased that everything had turned out so well. Word of mouth was a powerful thing, especially in a small town like Ouray.
A popular tune boomed from the DJ's speakers and people flooded the dance floor. Celeste paused to watch. Young and old, everyone appeared to be having fun. Including two little blond-haired girls in lavender dresses. Emma held her daddy's hand, as did the other girl Celeste presumed was her sister.
Although she found Emma's father to be a bit on the arrogant side, the adoring look on his face as he twisted and twirled his two precious daughters around the dance floor melted Celeste's heart. His girls were obviously the center of his universe. And though they were without their mother, Celeste got the feeling that Emma's dad was the kind of guy who would do whatever it took to be both mother and father. He would never desert them, like Celeste's father had.
A sad smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Those two were lucky girls indeed.
Gage Purcell escorted his daughters, Emma and Cas-sidy, off the dance floor. In the year and half since his wife, Tracy, had left, Emma's tantrums had grown more and more frequent. Maybe it was a coping mechanism. Maybe she blamed him for her mother's absence. Whatever the case, he needed to find a way to make them stop.
The fact that a total stranger could settle his daughter better than he could had bugged him all night. Not that he wasn't appreciative of the caterer's intervention. The last thing he'd want to do is ruin his sister's special day. Still.
He raked a hand through his hair, eager to call it a night. Dinner and dancing had gone on far longer than he anticipated, though the latter had afforded him some special moments with his daughters. But now that the bride and groom had made their exit.
"Time for us to think about going, too, girls. It's way past my bedtime." Gage wove his daughters between the round cloth-covered tables to retrieve their sweaters.
"But you go to bed after us, Daddy." Seven-year-old Cassidy peered up at him with serious eyes.
"That is true. So it must be way, way, way past your bedtimes."
"I'm not" yawning, Emma leaned against a folding chair "tired."
He chuckled, knowing his youngest would likely crash before he even put his truck into Drive. Kneeling beside her, he held up her pink sweater. "But your old dad might fall asleep at any" His eyes closed, he lowered his head and pretended to snore.
Emma giggled. "Wake up." Her tiny hand nudged his shoulder. "Wake up!"
"What?" He jerked his head. "I must have dozed off."
Emma shoved her arms into the sleeves of her sweater.
Turning his attention to Cassidy, he held up the purple sweater.
His oldest complied immediately, a dreamy smile lighting her face. "I loved this day."
Standing, he donned his tuxedo jacket and stared down at his two beautiful girls. Their usually straight blond hair had been curled and pulled back on each side and their fingernails were painted the same pale purple as their dresses. "I guess you did. You look like little princesses. And you got to hang with the big girls."
"That was the best part," said Cassidy.
A twinge of guilt prodded Gage. With their mother out of the picture, the girls didn't get to do many girlie things, so he was glad Taryn had included them in all the primping and pageantry that leads up to a wedding.
"Don't forget the cake, Daddy."
He should have known Emma wouldn't forget. He could only hope the caterer didn't.
Taking his daughters by the hand, he started across the hardwood floor.
"Hey there, Gage." His old friend Ted Beatty, a shift supervisor at one of the mines outside town, walked alongside them.
Gage had been trying to get a job with a local mine since moving back to Ouray last year. So far, though, not one nibble.
"Whatcha know, Ted?"
"Not much." He stopped.
So did Gage. He eyed the man who was a little older than his thirty-one years. A deep love of mining and its history had bonded the two from a young age.
"Any hiring going on?"
Ted shook his head, his lips pressed into a thin line. "Don't give up, though, buddy." He gripped Gage's shoulder. "Things could change at any time."
Easy for him to say. Ted had remained in Ouray, getting his foot in the door early when the first gold mine had reopened. Gage, on the other hand, had gone off to Colorado's School of Mines for a degree in mining engineering. If only he'd hung around. Maybe he'd be following his dream instead of biding his time working construction.
"Daddy what about the cake?" Emma squeezed his hand, bringing a smile to Gage's face.
His girls were the reason he gave up his dream job in Denver and moved back to Ouray. He needed the support of his family. And he'd do it a thousand times over, whatever it took to provide a stable, loving environment for them. He only wished he could say the same for their mother.
He shifted his focus back to his friend. "We're on a mission, but let me know if you hear anything."
"Sure thing, Gage."
Emma skipped alongside him as they continued on to the kitchen. He hoped she wasn't getting a second wind. If that happened, they could be up all night.
He carefully pushed open the swinging door.
"Nana!" Both girls bolted toward a long stainless steel work table as his mother, Bonnie Purcell, stooped to meet them with open arms.
Behind her, the caterer moved aside and busied herself at the sink. But not before her deep brown eyes narrowed on him.
"Oh, my precious girls." Mom embraced her granddaughters. "You were so good today." She released them, smoothing a hand over her shimmering dress as she rose. "Gage, have you met Celeste?" His mother's gaze drifted between him and the caterer, that matchmaking twinkle in her eye.
Man, Taryn hadn't been married but a few hours and his mother had already set her sights on him.
Well, she could try all she wanted, but Gage wasn't going down that road again. He was a failure at marriage and had no intention of setting himself or his daughters up for another heartbreak.
"Not officially." The caterer grabbed a towel from the counter. Chin jutted into the air, she held out a freshly dried hand. "Celeste Thompson. Nice to meet you."
Recalling the irritation that had accompanied his parting words earlier in the evening, he reluctantly accepted the gesture. "Likewise."
Long, slender fingers gripped his with surprising strength.
"Celeste was telling me that she's looking for a contractor to do some renovations in the space above her restaurant." Mom fingered Cassidy's soft curls, her attention returning to the caterer. "Gage has quite an eye for detail."
"Well, it just so happens that I'm a detail kind of girl. I'm very particular about how things are done." Her smile teetered between forced and syrupy. "But, if you think you can handle it, you're welcome to come by and look things over."
"Oh, don't be silly." Mom took hold of his daughters' hands. "Gage can handle just about anything." She beamed at Celeste first, then Gage. "Come on, girls. Let's go say good-night to Papa."
The trio stole through the door, leaving him alone with the caterer. Talk about awkward.
She stepped toward the counter and retrieved a disposable container. "Here's the cake I promised Emma. I included enough for you and her sister, too."
He wasn't sure how he felt about that, but accepted the package anyway. "Cassidy."
"My other daughter is Cassidy. I'm sure she will appreciate the cake every bit as much as Emma and me. Thank you. And " He forced himself to meet her gaze. "Thank you for helping me out earlier."
"You're welcome." Her golden-blond hair was slicked back into a long ponytail. Save for one wayward strand, which she promptly tucked behind her ear. Her expression softened. "Look, I realize that was kind of an uncomfortable situation with your mother." She peered up at him with eyes the deep, rich color of espresso. "If you'd like to drop by and check out the project, great. However, I understand if you don't have time."
She was actually giving him an out?
He hadn't expected that.
Unfortunately, his finances dictated he not turn down a job. "How about Monday at two?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this story. The story world was so rich and real and that is true of most Love Inspired books. Celeste is not what she appears at Gage’s first glance. She is kind and carries wounds that help her to see the world differently. Gage’s vow to stay away from women crumbles pretty easily around Celeste. Then we have Gage’s sweet daughters. They will melt your heart. The romance is a slow build and wonderfully done between these two. If you like a good romance you will adore this book. A copy of this book was given to me through the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance in exchange for an honest review.
We all have pasts. Sometimes it becomes difficult to share those pasts with someone we have fallen in love with for fear that they will reject us if they know the truth. Even if God has already forgiven us, it can be hard to open up because what if we do and they simply chose to walk away? That is the decision that Celeste Thompson will have to face if she is honest with how she feels after vowing to never fall in love. After her own father abandoned her when she was little, between how her mother raised her, she was bound and determine to hold up her side of that agreement. When she first moved to the small mountain community of Ouray, to reopen Granny's Kitchen, a restaurant her grandmother used to own, she had hoped that would be enough to keep her busy. Then came the possibility of adding 3 family suites above the restaurant if she can find someone to help renovate them in keeping with the feel of the restoration she wants. She isn't looking for a complete tear down and redo but more along the lines of restoring them to their former beauty but with more modern conveniences. She only hopes the contractor that she has been referred with be one willing to work with her. Gage Purcell had hoped that a job would open up for him in the mining time of Ouray, that is the reason he decided to move back to town, along with finding a fresh start for him and his young daughters Emma and Cassidy. After all that time in school obtaining a degree in becoming a mining engineer he had hoped that would be a no brainer, but with no work possibilities on foreseeable horizon, he agrees to check out a restoration project for the new owner of Granny's Kitchen. What he discovers is that she appears to be exactly just like his ex-wife Tracy, who walked away from their family after the birth of their second child and never looked back. He has women like this all figured out, all business and only one thing in mind, their next business prospect. But it is possible he has it all wrong? I received A Father's Second Chance by Mindy Obenhaus compliments of Harlequin Love Inspired Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation, aside for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is such a heartwarming and quaint romance just perfect for this time of year. It's short enough to finish in a day but feels as if you have read a full length novel. Reminds me of the kinds of stories I wrote when I was much younger and ones I still very much enjoy today. This time with a country cook and a handsome handyman with two adorable daughters added to the mix, makes for a wonderful 4 out of 5 stars in my opinion.
“A Father's Second Chance” by Mindy Obenhaus is a book that is connected to her other two books set in Ouray, Colorado. Though there are plenty of connections to the other books this is a perfect on its own book for everything needed to be told throughout the story. Here is a story of man planning but God having better plans. I can understand why each Celeste and Gage are so set in their plans for their perspective back stories are told to where it is hard not to feel something for each of them with their pasts. Something really surprising comes out with one of them, but it is so clear to see that this event changed the character and if put in the same position they wouldn't think of repeating the same event. Celeste is a woman who is discovering something truly important to her and when pushed to the limit she has to make a choice as to what she is willing to stand up for. Her selflessness was shown throughout the entire story for she was constantly giving of herself to help plans for things to happen, when she saw there was a need in time of an emergency she was there with all she could do to help and she never seemed to complain or get angry without a just cause, and when she did there was really a just cause for her complaints or anger. Gage is a man with one goal in mind and that is to be there always for his precious children. He does have a dream job but until things are right he is doing what he can to be there for his girls. Gage is a an honorable man who will do what he needs to do in order to take care of his family including working with someone who reminds him too much of his own past, with a grin and hopefully pleasant attitude, but he will not go against what he feels is right no matter what. There is something special about a man who is so determined to stay on one path but to watch them trip up completely like this one did. There are plenty of ups and downs within the story that had this reader crying at times because of what was happening. I found it interesting how things were not exactly easy at times with certain situations but no one gave up really no matter how hard it was to get to the other side. The determination of them to move forward regardless of what they had to go through or who they had to deal with showed how each of them had a strength in them that helped out when things got uncomfortable. That strength was also shown when neither Celeste or Gage was willing to back down or step back when things got extremely uncomfortable and hard. It is because of their strength that really made each of them the people they were. I hope all who pick up this book will enjoy it as much as I did, and laugh like I did at the plans that man made as God's plans were unfolding along. I understood the feelings of the man, and was relieved to see that those who made the plans were not so stubborn that sooner or later they came around to the better plan for them. It is worth reading in my opinion so pick up a book and loose yourself in a fall landscape of Colorado.