From her free-spirited mother, Sunny Goodwin learned the value of peace, love, and Jerry Garcia. The inheritance from the father she never knew? That’s a little more complicated...
Sunny never expected to find herself owning a centuries old silk mill in the shadow of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains . . . or becoming a half-sister to a ten-year-old named Bailey. Once the shock subsides, she plans to cash in and head back home. But the overgrown greenhouse she finds on the property calls out to the gardener in her, and she senses Bailey’s need for nurturing too...
And someone else is making it hard for Sunny to leave: Sawyer Hartwell, an Iraq War hero who wants to make the old mill a creative hub for the artisans of Blue Hollow Falls . . . and wants Sunny to share his vision, and his life. But sexy as this ex-soldier may be, she’s not sure she’s ready to give love a chance...
“We all know where there's Donna Kauffman, there's a rollicking, sexy read chock‑full of charm and sparkle. Kauffman's characters are adorably human and so very magnetic.” —USAToday.com
About the Author
Donna Kauffman is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over 70 novels, translated and sold in more than 26 countries around the world. She is the recipient of multiple RT Book Awards, a RITA® finalist, a National Readers’ Choice Award-winner, and a PRISM Award-winner. Born into the maelstrom of Washington, D.C.’s politics, she now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia surrounded by a completely different kind of wildlife. A contributing blogger for USAToday.com, she is also a DIYer, a baker, a gardener, and a volunteer transporter for the Wildlife Center of Virginia and Rockfish Sanctuary. Please visit her online at www.DonnaKauffman.com.
Read an Excerpt
Blue Hollow Falls
By DONNA KAUFFMAN
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Donna Kauffman
All rights reserved.
In the span of one hour, twenty-nine-year-old Sunny Goodwin had gained an eighty-five-year-old father (recently deceased), a ten-year-old half sister (very much alive), and a seventy-two-year-old stepmother (possibly immortal). She'd never heard of any of them, much less laid eyes on them. In fact, she would have sworn, with utmost confidence — on a stack of Bibles even — that since the death of her mother eight months ago, she had no living family. Or she could have, if you'd asked her anytime up until about, oh, an hour ago.
Sunny was also the proud new owner of a two-hundred-year-old silk mill. Well, part owner. Along with her new baby sister, stepmama, and someone named Sawyer, who hadn't even bothered to show up to claim his share.
"So," she murmured under her breath, still trying to absorb it all. "That just happened." She stood on the front steps of the Rockfish County courthouse, deep in the heart of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, and took a slow, steadying breath. The tiny town that housed the county seat, charmingly named Turtle Springs, was tucked up into a crook of the winding north fork of the Hawksbill River, which hugged the little burg from the west. The courthouse faced the ancient, time-worn tumble of boulders and thick forest that made up the Blue Ridge Mountains, which rose up right at the edge of town to the east, with only a lone stretch of two-lane country highway separating the two.
Trying to take a moment to get her bearings back, she was instead caught up immediately in her surroundings. She breathed in the crisp scent of the late-September air, lifting her gaze to the rise and fall of the smaller hills that led up into the bigger, taller mountains, whose alternating rounded and pointed peaks marched along the horizon as far as the eye could see. The rich array of colors that all but burst forth from them made it look as if someone had tossed the most beautiful handmade quilt over the entire range, cloaking every ripple, accentuating every fold, in the impossibly rich hues and shades of early autumn. The overall pattern was so stunning, it made her heart fill right up. It was hard to believe she was in the same state she'd grown up in, a mere few hours east of that very spot. Her home in Alexandria was tucked along the far gentler curve of the Potomac, facing the equally majestic peaks and spires of the nation's capital just on the other side of the river.
Tearing her gaze away from the oil painting view, Sunshine Meadow Aquarius Morrison Goodwin stared down at the official legal documents she held in one hand, and the key to the mill dangling from the other. Then she shook her head, a rueful smile curving her lips as she looked up at the wide open sky, her thoughts pushing beyond that gorgeous expanse of aquamarine blue to the heavens beyond. She was sure Daisy Rose Rainbow Love Garcia Goodwin was loving every moment of this. Thanks, Mama. She jingled the keys, then curled her fingers around them. Thanks for the warning.
Sunny's mother had spent a good part of her younger years out here, though a bit farther down the range, and higher up in the hills. Daisy Rose had been born Deirdre Louise Goodwin, daughter of Chuck Goodwin, who'd run his own contracting business, and Betty Dayton Goodwin who had been Chuck's secretary before they married, and a mother and homemaker from about eight months on after they said their I do's.
Dee Dee, as her mother had been known during her childhood, had grown up in the fifties and sixties and by her twentieth birthday, she'd become a bona fide peace-loving, war-protesting, commune-living, flower child — much to her suburban middleclass parents' bewilderment — and had remained such all of her life. More in spirit than actuality during Sunny's lifetime, but once a free spirit, always a free spirit. The legal name change had come when Dee Dee had turned eighteen. She'd just moved into a hippie commune that specialized in, uh, herbal farming, located about an hour south of Turtle Springs, nestled way up in the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge.
Daisy Rose had explained her chosen nom de plume to her young, inquisitive daughter, saying she'd wanted to honor her flower power culture, the full spectrum of the colors of the universe, the commune's mantra that love conquered all, and, last, but never least, her personal spiritual guide, Jerry Garcia. Yes, the Grateful Dead's own Brother Jerry.
Sunny, unfortunately, had had no say in hers. It came with the birth certificate. Daisy Rose — and her mama had always been Daisy Rose to everyone, including her daughter, as she was firmly against people being called by titles or labels, no matter how beloved the job itself might be — had explained to her only child that she'd named her daughter to honor the glory of Mother Nature, the celestial alignment of the stars and the moon on the day of her daughter's birth, and, because Daisy Rose had still been grieving his loss some twenty-odd years after his death, her not-so-spiritual, but still mystical and, yes, oh-so-sexy, personal guide, Jim Morrison.
It could have been worse, Sunny had reminded herself. So many, many times. Her mother could have been more deeply infatuated with Blue Oyster Cult. Or Engelbert Humperdinck. Their music had also been on rotation during the soundtrack of Sunny's childhood. Her mother's tastes were nothing if not as eclectic as her name.
In Sunny's younger years, usually after a particularly challenging day being tormented by her classmates over her name, she'd promised herself she'd be like her mother and change it the moment she reached legal age. Only, in Sunny's case, she'd be changing it to something as normal and mundane as possible. She'd spent long hours doodling in her school binders, trying this name and that on for size. But the world worked in mysterious ways, and by the time Sunny had reached her eighteenth birthday, the roles of mother and daughter had long since reversed.
Her mother's ongoing health issues had put Sunny in charge of her care, and pretty much everything else, by the time Sunny had hit puberty. And somewhere along the line, Sunny's own eclectic string of names had gone from being fodder for peer group torture to something of a cause célèbre amongst her now older and envious classmates. Yes, envious. They'd all been at the age of trying to figure out who they were, and Sunny had already cornered the market on being unique, no self-realization required.
It hadn't hurt that her closest acquaintances had also met her mother by then and fallen under Daisy Rose's charming, ditzy dreamer, Peter Pan spell. Her friends had adored her mother. In fact, Sunny wasn't too sure that some of her friends hadn't put themselves in her orbit expressly so they, too, could spend time with her infectiously likable mama. Everyone wished their mother was like Daisy Rose. Everyone, that is, except the only one who actually had her for a mother.
Not that Sunny hadn't loved her mother; she had. Deeply, and with all her heart. She wasn't immune to Pan's spell, either. But Sunny knew, in great and sometimes alarming detail, just what the cost was for the person responsible for being ... well, responsible. A trait Daisy Rose hadn't been blessed with, even in passing. Love might conquer all, but love didn't pay the bills. Or cook the meals. Or clean the house. Or oversee medication dispersal. While simultaneously being the overmedication police.
Sunny had wished, many times, that she could just up and run away from home, from being responsible, or come home to a mom who was normal, or at least more like the other kids' mamas were. But no matter how trying Daisy Rose could be, she'd always had an unflappable faith in things working themselves out for the best, and she'd had a way of making Sunny believe that, too.
Questions about her father, whom Sunny had wasted a fair amount of her youth praying would come rescue them, had always been met with a wave of a heavily beringed hand and a smile ... and no explanation of who he was, much less where he'd gone. "You're my miracle baby," Daisy would always say. "A gift from the stars." Daisy Rose proclaimed that the universe had decreed she and Sunny were their own special tribe of two, and wasn't that just grand?
Sunny hadn't always thought so, but her mother was a force of nature whose unending sweetness and perennial optimism would seemingly indicate a doormat type, while in reality, Daisy's ferocious need to believe in all things good had been far more steamroller than pushover. No matter what life handed her, Daisy Rose Rainbow Love Garcia Goodwin had faced it with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. Mother Nature would take care of them. Things were tough, yes, but they had each other, and that made them rich beyond the stars.
Stars were big with Daisy. She'd always claimed she had these mystical powers and would pass along her "revelations" to all of Sunny's friends, who had affectionately called her Mrs. Goodwitch, even though there had never been a Mr. Goodwitch. And the only Mr. Goodwin had been Sunny's grandfather, Chuck, who, along with her grandmother, Betty, had passed on before Sunny had been born.
Sunny knew from her mother's stories that their sudden, untimely passing in an automobile accident had been the reason Sunny had been born at all. Apparently, her grandmother, Betty, had held out hope that someday Daisy would meet a "normal" guy, fall in love, get married, and somehow morph into the regular, everyday suburban housewife Betty had always hoped she'd be, a daughter she could connect with, have something in common with. She'd be Dee Dee again, give them grandchildren, and through that miracle of birth and raising her own kids, she'd see her free love, flower power, commune living past as just a crazy phase she'd been going through. The immaturity of youth.
Daisy had indeed met her share of men — more than her share, if all of her colorful stories and the trunk full of scrapbooks she'd created were any indication — but Daisy had also always been careful to the point of being a little paranoid about things like sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies. Betty, perhaps, could at least take credit for instilling that bit of wisdom in her daughter. When her parents died so suddenly, so tragically, Daisy's attitude changed somewhat, and she became convinced that she had to bring two souls into the world to somehow make up for the two souls who had departed before their time. Something about life cycles, the universe, and balancing the scales.
At thirty-seven years of age, Daisy had gotten pregnant with Sunny, only it hadn't been an easy pregnancy. The birth, overseen by a midwife who had come by the job title simply by being the one in the commune who had helped deliver the most babies, had been nothing short of harrowing, coming very close to costing Daisy Rose not only the life of her baby, but her own life as well.
Shortly afterward, amongst a host of other postpartum complications, Daisy had had a complete hysterectomy — performed in a hospital, thank God — meaning Sunny's soul would be the only one brought forth to balance the spiritual scales. But even a life-threatening birthing followed by drastic emergency surgery hadn't resolved all of her mother's medical issues. Daisy Rose had never regained full health and her physical limitations were many. Commune living, therefore, hadn't been a wise option for her and her newborn daughter.
Sunny had been forever grateful, more times over than she could count, that one of her mother's free-love, commune-living beaus had been so smitten with her that he'd deeded her his family's empty, unused Old Town Alexandria row house after Sunny's near-tragic birth. He'd renounced city life, but knew it was Daisy's best bet to be as healthy as possible, while giving her daughter a decent chance.
Had it not been for her mother's benefactor, Sunny knew they'd have been forced to find a way to exist in commune living, or a shelter. Or worse. As a child, Sunny had often wondered if that mystery man had been her father — who else would give Daisy a whole, perfectly good house? But when she'd learned from snooping through those copious boxes of mementos and endless piles of journals and scrapbooks that their erstwhile benefactor was close to twenty years her mother's senior, Sunny's adolescent brain had assumed he couldn't be. Too old. Standing on the courthouse steps, she stared down at the papers in her hand once again.
She'd been very wrong.
Doyle Bartholomew Hartwell, eighty-five-years-old upon his death and eighteen years older than her mother, had, indeed, been Sunny's father.
No point wishing now she'd pushed her mother harder, or pushed her own curiosity further. Both of her parents were gone now. And what would have been the point in hunting for a man who'd obviously thought enough of her mother to take care of her and their child, but not enough to marry her, much less bother to ever meet his own daughter?
Sunny looked at her name, all five parts, typed in on the line of the deed that said "co-owner." She smiled. Love it or hate it, she'd never changed it. Her own personal tribute to her frustrating, challenging, yet beloved mama. That said, if Sunny were ever of a mind to add to the planet's population, she wouldn't be passing that tribute down to her own progeny.
The heavy, double oak doors to the courthouse were suddenly thrust open behind her, bumping her off balance. She grabbed the handrail to steady herself, and turned to find her brand-new extended family emerging from the big, red-brick building. I won't need to populate anything, she thought, still feeling more than a little bewildered by the day's events. My life just got populated without my even trying.
"There you are," her newly inherited stepmother said. Addison Pearl Whitaker was another aging hippie, but that was where the comparison to Sunny's own mother began and ended. Where her mother had been all fluttery scarves, flowing gypsy skirts, and love beads, Addie Pearl was more the tie-dyed, oversized T-shirt, faded old green Army shorts, and well-worn leather work boots type. Her gun-metal gray hair was long — very long — and plaited in a single, narrow braid all the way down her back, past her wide waist, to the equally wide, but flat-to-almost non-existent fanny below it. Her face was well-tanned, well-worn, and deeply creased, but her eyes flashed the most peculiar shade of crystalline lavender, which made her look both kind and a bit spooky all at the same time. Her smile, which she flashed naturally and quite often as she spoke, showed two rows of well-maintained, perfectly aligned dentures. She used a walking stick made from a hand carved oak tree branch, though Sunny was fairly certain from the woman's sturdy arms and legs, not to mention her bubbling energy, that she could climb Everest without aid of walking stick or Sherpa. Her posture was a wee bit stooped, but even standing perfectly erect, Sunny figured Addie would top out a good five or six inches shorter than herself, no taller than five-foot-one or two at most.
Addie Pearl, as she'd asked them to call her, was followed out by ten-year-old Bailey Sutton. Apparently, Doyle had continued to father children out of wedlock all the way into his mid-seventies. At least that they knew of. Only, in Bailey's case, her mother had taken Doyle's support money, dumped her infant daughter into the foster care system, and headed off for parts unknown, never to be heard from again.
Bailey looked tall for her age, thin but in a wiry way, not frail. She had naturally pale skin, freckled cheeks and nose, strikingly bright blue eyes, and a waterfall of strawberry blond hair — heavy on the strawberry — that hung in rumpled waves down to the middle of her back. She had on old but clean blue jeans, a western-style, teal blue and green plaid shirt buttoned up over a pale yellow T-shirt, and beat-up cowboy boots on her feet. All she was missing was the wide-brimmed cowboy hat, and Sunny didn't doubt she had one tucked away somewhere. Possibly with a horse or three.
Sunny looked behind Bailey, assuming the young girl's caseworker, who'd accompanied Bailey to the legal proceedings, would be stepping out next. Only, the door closed behind Bailey. And stayed closed.
Sunny looked at Addie Pearl. "Where's Miss Jackson?"
Addie shrugged one knobby shoulder, but the gleam in her ethereally colored eyes was an undeniably satisfied one. "On her way back to where she came from, I guess."
Excerpted from Blue Hollow Falls by DONNA KAUFFMAN. Copyright © 2017 Donna Kauffman. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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