What if you can go home again?
Ten years and two hundred miles. That's what separates Andi Powell from quiet, secluded Emerald Lake-and that's exactly how she likes it. But now her job brings her back to the hometown she's tried so hard to forget . . . and to Nate Duncan, the man she's never been able to.
Nate once looked at Andi with love in his eyes. But that was before she left him in the dust to pursue her big-city dreams. Now he's the town's ruggedly handsome mayor with the power to break Andi's career like she broke his heart. As the two clash over the future of Emerald Lake, the sparks that fly between them rekindle a passion neither of them can deny.
Andi may have left town looking for the life she thought she wanted. But could everything she needs have been in Emerald Lake all along?
About the Author
Bella Riley has always been a writer. Songs came first, and then nonfiction books, but as soon as she started her first romance novel, she knew she'd found her perfect career. Since selling her first book in 2003 (under the name Bella Andre), Bella has written more than twenty "empowered stories enveloped in heady romance" (Publishers Weekly). Her books have been translated into German, Thai, Japanese, and Ukrainian, and two of her bestselling books have been Cosmopolitan Red Hot Reads. When she's not behind her computer, you can find her reading, hiking, knitting, or lunching with her favorite romance-writing friends. Bella and her fabulous husband and children divide their time between Northern California and a ninety-year-old lakefront log cabin in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
You can learn more about Bella Riley-and her alter ego Bella Andre-at:
Read an Excerpt
Home Sweet Home
By Riley, Bella
ForeverCopyright © 2011 Riley, Bella
All right reserved.
Andi Powell couldn’t believe she was back home.
During the five-hour drive to Emerald Lake from New York City, Andi had felt her stomach tighten down more and more with each mile she covered, each county line she crossed. She’d pulled up in front of Lake Yarns on Main Street five minutes ago, but she hadn’t yet been able to get out of the car. Instead, she sat with her hands still tightly clenched on the steering wheel as she watched people on Main Street. Mothers pushed strollers, shoppers moved in and out of stores, and happy tourists walked hand in hand.
Through her car window, Andi could see that the warm days of summer had already given way to a crisp, cool fall. She would have had to be blind not to notice that the thick green trees around the waterline were transformed into a dazzling display of reds and oranges and yellows.
No wonder why everyone on Main Street looked so happy. Utterly content. Emerald Lake was picture-perfect: the sky was blue, the lake sparkled in the sunlight, and the white paint on the gazebo in the waterfront park looked new.
But Andi wasn’t here to become a part of picture-perfect. She had a job to do. Which meant it was time to unclench her chest, to untangle the knots in her stomach, and to get down to business.
The sooner she dealt with Emerald Lake, the sooner she could head back to the city.
Pushing open her car door, she grabbed her briefcase and headed toward her family’s store. The Lake Yarns awning was bright and welcoming, and the Adirondack chairs out front welcomed knitters to sit for as long as they had time to spare.
She smiled her first real smile of the day, thinking of how much love and care her grandmother and mother had put into this store over the years.
The shiny gold knob on the front door was cool beneath her palm, and she paused to take a deep breath and pull herself together. Entering a building that had practically been her second home as a little girl shouldn’t have her heart racing.
But it did.
Opening the door, the smell of yarn was what hit her first. Wool and alpaca, bamboo and silk, cotton and acrylic all had a specific scent. Although Andi hadn’t touched yarn in almost two decades, somehow the essence of the skeins lining the walls, in baskets on the floor, knitted up into samples throughout Lake Yarns had remained imprinted in her brain.
She hadn’t come back to Emerald Lake to play with yarn, but as Andi instinctively ran her hands over a soft silk-wool blend, thoughts of business momentarily receded. The beautiful blue-green, with hints of reds and oranges wound deep into the fibers, reminded her of the lake and mountains on a fall day like today.
From out of nowhere, Andi was struck by a vision of a lacy shawl draped across a woman’s shoulders. Strangely, the woman looked like her.
“Andi, honey, what a lovely surprise!”
Andi jumped at her grandmother’s sudden greeting, dropping the yarn like she was a thief who’d been about to stuff it into her bag and dash out the door.
What on earth had she been doing thinking about shawls? This creative world where women sat around and chatted and made things with their hands had never been hers.
She let herself be enveloped by her grandmother’s arms. At barely five feet, Evelyn was eight inches smaller than Andi. And yet it never ceased to surprise her how strong her grandmother’s arms were. Warm, too. They were always warm.
“Your father’s commemoration isn’t until next weekend. We didn’t expect you to come home a week early.” Her grandmother scanned her face for clues as to why she was back in Emerald Lake.
Andi forced a smile she didn’t even come close to feeling. Lord knew, she certainly had practice pretending. In the year since her father’s sudden death, she’d been going into the office every day with that same smile on her face, working double-time to make sure her work didn’t suffer in the wake of her grief.
But it had. Which was how she’d found herself about to lose her biggest client ever in a meeting a week ago.
The Klein Group wanted to build beautiful vacation condominiums in the perfect vacation town. They’d shot down every single one of her proposals—Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod. Her boss, Craig, had been frowning at her the same way for three months, like he didn’t think she could hack it anymore, and as panic shook her, Andi’s mind had actually gone completely blank. That was when her phone had jumped on the table in front of her, a picture of Emerald Lake popping up along with a message from her mother.
It’s beautiful here today. Makes me think of you.
Before she knew it, Andi was saying, “I have the perfect spot.”
Just that quickly, the old energy, the excitement she used to feel during pitches, rushed through her as she pulled up one beautiful picture after another of Emerald Lake on her computer in the middle of the meeting.
No pitch had ever been easier: The condos would have a spectacular view. There was an excellent golf course close by. And best of all, their clients would be only hours away from New York City, close enough to take a break from the stress of their real lives but far enough removed to get away from it all.
Andi would never leave the city, but that didn’t mean she didn’t see how magical Emerald Lake could be for the right kind of people. The Klein Group had agreed.
The previous Wednesday, she’d been ecstatic, but now that she was back in her hometown, all she could think was, What have I done?
In lieu of going into a detailed explanation about her sudden appearance, Andi asked, “Where’s Mom? I was expecting her to be in the store with you.”
“Carol had some errands to run in Saratoga Springs and won’t be back until late tonight. Will you be able to spend the night before heading back to the city? I know how much your mother would love to see you.”
What a huge understatement that was. Andi’s mother would be heartbroken if her daughter came and went without seeing her, but Evelyn had never believed in guilt. She had never once pressured Andi into coming home more often or sticking around for longer on the rare occasions when she did visit. When Andi heard her coworkers talk about how their families were forever pressuring them to move back to their hometowns, she was glad her own family was so hands-off with her. They would never try to convince her to come back to the small town she’d grown up in. They respected her goals and plans too much to ever bombard her with hints that they missed her.
Wasn’t she lucky to be so free?
“I’ll probably be here a week. Maybe two.” And then she would leave again, returning back to the city life she’d chosen as soon as she’d graduated from Emerald Lake’s small high school. “It’s a bit of a working vacation actually.”
Fortunately, her grandmother had never been interested in talking business—yet another way they were different.
“Two weeks?” Evelyn looked like she’d won the lottery. “What a treat to have you here, especially when we’re having such a beautiful fall.”
As a sharp pang of guilt at not seeing more of her family settled in beneath Andi’s breastbone, she followed her grandmother’s gaze out the store’s large front windows to the lake beyond the Adirondack chairs on the porch.
“Fall was always my favorite time of year at the lake,” she admitted softly.
Andi’s career as a management consultant in New York City meant she’d barely been back to Emerald Lake for more than a weekend, even over holidays. Growing up watching her father do such great things for so many people as senator had fueled her to want to follow in his footsteps. Not as a politician, but as someone who worked hard, cared deeply, and felt joy at a job well done. After graduating from Cornell University with both an undergraduate degree in economics and then an MBA, she’d chosen Marks & Banks carefully based on their commitment to the environment and the fact that they did more probono work than any other consulting company out there.
Her father had always encouraged her to “go for the brass ring,” and even if some nights she fell onto her bed fully clothed and woke up the next morning with mascara smudged around her eyes and her stomach empty and grumbling, that was exactly what she’d done for the past ten years far away from her teeny, tiny hometown. Emerald Lake was barely a speck on the map, a blue stretch of water surrounded by rolling mountains.
Andi pulled her gaze away from the sparkling lake. “The store looks great, Grandma.”
Evelyn frowned as she scanned the shelves. For such a tiny woman with a sweet, pretty face, her grandmother could be one of the most blunt people Andi had ever come across. The polar opposite of Andi’s mother Carol, actually, who simply didn’t believe in confrontation. But they were both small and gently rounded. Andi had always felt like a giant around the tiny women in her family.
“I just don’t know about the changes your mother made.”
Seeing the way her grandmother hated to move even a couple of skeins of yarn from one side of the store to the other, had Andi second-guessing her project for the Klein Group again.
Why couldn’t she have blurted out any other Adirondack town than Emerald Lake? Still, she was glad for her grandmother’s unintended warning to tread carefully. The condos were bound to be more change than this town had seen in fifty years at least.
Taking the time to notice the changes in the store, Andi said, “Actually, I think the changes help liven up the place.” And then, more gently, “It’s still your shop, Grandma. Just a bit shinier now for the new generation of knitters.”
“That’s exactly what your mother said. Two against one.”
Andi didn’t want her grandmother to think they were ganging up on her. Just as she would have approached a potentially disgruntled client, she took another tack. “What have your customers said?”
“They love it.”
Andi had to laugh at the grudging words. “Good.”
“Well, since you’re going to be home for so long, I’ll be expecting you to finally pick up the needles again,” her grandmother shot back.
Barely holding back an eye roll, Andi said, “We both know that isn’t going to happen, Grandma.”
“You used to love to knit when you were a little girl. I’m telling you, it’s not natural to quit knitting one day and not miss it.”
“Are you calling me a freak of nature, Grandma?” Andi teased. Only way down deep inside, joking about not belonging didn’t really feel like a joke.
Instead, it felt like a reality that she’d tried to pretend hadn’t hurt all her life.
Evelyn picked up a few balls of yarn that were in the wrong basket. “I’m saying I think you must miss it.” She looked thoughtful. “Perhaps it’s simply that you haven’t found the right reason to start knitting in earnest yet.”
“I just don’t like knitting, Grandma. Not like you and Mom do.” Andi hadn’t thought about knitting, hadn’t been into another yarn or craft store for nearly two decades. Clearly, the yarn addiction hadn’t passed through to the third generation.
“You know, my mother tried to get me to knit for years before I really fell in love with it.”
“You’re kidding me?” Andi assumed her grandmother had been born with knitting needles in her hand. “What changed?”
Evelyn sat down on one of the soft couches in the middle of the room. “I met a man.”
“No. Not Grandpa.”
Andi’s eyes went wide with surprise as she sank down beside her grandmother.
Evelyn reached into a basket beside her seat and pulled out a half-finished work in progress. As if she was hardly aware of the movements of her hands, she began a new row.
“Everyone was doing their part for World War II. I wanted to help the soldiers, and I was always good with knitting needles. I knew our socks and sweaters were giving joy and comfort to men, strangers I’d never meet, but who desperately needed a reminder of softness. Of warmth.”
Andi thought about the tiny caps and booties her grandmother had always made for the new babies at the hospital. Andi had made them, too, when she was a little girl. She’d loved seeing a little baby at the park wearing something she’d made. But her grandmother was right. That hadn’t been enough to keep her knitting.
“So it wasn’t just one man who made you love knitting,” Andi said, trying to keep up with her grandmother, “but many?”
“I knit for the cause, but that’s all it was. A cause. It wasn’t personal. Not until him. Not until I made his sweater.” Evelyn’s eyes rose to meet Andi’s. “Every skein tells a story. As soon as a person puts it in their two hands, the mystery of the story is slowly revealed.”
Andi’s breath caught in her throat as her grandmother said, “Hold this, honey.” Since she didn’t know how to knit anymore, Andi laid the needles down awkwardly on her lap.
“Those fibers you’re holding can become anything from a baby blanket to a bride’s wedding veil,” Evelyn said softly. “But I’ve always thought knitting is about so much more than the things we make.”
Andi looked at her grandmother’s face and saw that Evelyn was a million miles away.
“Sometimes yarn is the best way to hold onto memories. But sometimes, it’s the only way to forget.”
Andi found herself blinking back tears.
This was exactly why she never came back to the lake. There were too many memories here for her. Memories of people that had meant so much to her.
The walls of the store suddenly felt too close, the room too small. She needed to leave, needed to go someplace where she could focus on work. And nothing else.
“Grandma,” she said as she stood up, “I need to go.” The needles and yarn fell from her lap to the floor.
Frowning, her grandmother bent to pick them up, but suddenly she was racked with coughs. Fear lancing her heart, Andi automatically put an arm around Evelyn and gently rubbed her back as if that could make the coughing stop.
Her grandmother tried to say, “I’m fine,” but each word was punctuated by more coughs.
Evelyn Thomas was a small-boned eighty-eight-year-old woman, but Andi had never thought of her grandmother as frail or fragile. Until now.
As her grandmother tried to regain her breath, Andi couldn’t believe how translucent her skin had become. Evelyn’s hands had always been one of the most impressive things about her with long, slim fingers and nails neatly rounded at the tips. So strong, so tireless as she quickly knitted sweaters and blankets, the needles a blur as she chatted, laughed, and gossiped with customers and friends in Lake Yarns.
“You shouldn’t come to work if you have a cold.” Fear made Andi’s words harder than they needed to be, almost accusing. “You should be resting.”
Mostly recovered now, her grandmother waved one hand in the air. “I told you, I’m fine. Just a little coughing fit every now and then.” At Andi’s disbelieving look, she said, “Things like that happen to us old people, you know.”
Andi hated to hear her grandmother refer to herself as old, even though she knew it was technically true. It was just that she couldn’t bear to think that one day Evelyn wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be living and breathing this store, the yarn, the customers who loved her as much as her own family did.
A twinge of guilt hit Andi even though there was no reason for her to feel this way. Her mother and grandmother had always run Lake Yarns perfectly well by themselves. Nothing had changed just because Andi was going to be in town for a couple of weeks.
Still, she couldn’t help but feel that she should have been here before now. What if something had happened to her mother or grandmother while she’d been gone? Just like it had happened to her father.
“Have you seen Dr. Morris yet?” Andi asked, immediately reading the answer in her grandmother’s face. Sometimes Evelyn was too stubborn for her own good.
Andi grabbed the cordless phone and handed it to her grandmother. “Call him.”
“I can’t leave the store unattended.”
“I don’t care about the store, Grandma. I care about you. That cough sounded awful. You need to get it checked out, make sure it isn’t something serious.”
When Evelyn didn’t take the phone, Andi decided to take matters into her own hands. “Hello, this is Andi Powell. My grandmother Evelyn has a terrible cough and needs to see Dr. Morris as soon as possible.” After a moment of silence, where she listened to the friendly receptionist’s questions, Andi shot Evelyn a look. “She isn’t calling herself because talking makes her cough. Yes, she can be there in fifteen minutes.” She put the phone down on the counter. “He’s squeezing you in.”
“I won’t put a closed sign up in the middle of the day on my store. I’ve been open rain or shine for nearly sixty years.”
Andi found her grandmother’s purse behind the counter and forced her to take it, just as Evelyn had forced her to take the needles and yarn. “I’ll watch the store.”
Evelyn’s disbelief was right on the edge of insulting. “Yes, me. How hard can it be?”
One neat eyebrow moved up on her grandmother’s pretty face, and Andi realized how insulting her response had been.
“I didn’t mean it like that, Grandma. Look, the register is the same one you had when I was a kid. I couldn’t have forgotten positively everything about knitting. If I don’t know something, I’ll figure it out. I promise.”
“Well, if you think you can handle it for an hour…”
The challenge in her grandmother’s voice had her saying, “After your appointment, I want you to take the rest of the day off. I’ll close up.”
But after Evelyn left, the bells on the door clanging softly behind her, Andi stood in the middle of the store wondering what the heck she’d just signed up for. With all the money Andi made in skyscrapers and on corporate campuses, she had absolutely no idea what she was doing in a place like this.
Still Andi told herself there was no reason to panic.
Anyone with half a brain could run a yarn store for a few hours on a Monday morning.
A few seconds later, the front door opened and a gray-haired woman walked in.
“Hello,” Andi said in an overbright voice. “Welcome to Lake Yarns.”
“Thank you. I’ve heard such good things about your store that I drove all the way from Utica to come take a look.”
Andi’s eyes widened. “You drove an hour and a half to visit this store?”
The woman gave her a strange look. “Yes, I did. Several of my friends simply rave about your selection and customer service.”
Andi hoped she didn’t look as horrified as she felt. This woman had traveled one hundred miles to shop here…and she was getting stuck with someone who didn’t even know how to knit.
Sorely tempted to run down the street to call her grandmother back, Andi told herself she was being ridiculous. How much help would someone need in a yarn store? If you were a serious knitter, shouldn’t you already know everything?
With another wide smile, Andi finally said, “Be sure to let me know if you need anything.”
She stared down at the ancient register, not really remembering how to use it at all, and wondered if there was an instruction booklet somewhere under the counter. She didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of her first customer.
Andi straightened up from her fruitless search for a manual. “Yes? Is there something I can help you with?”
The woman held up a skein of yarn. “It says this is superwash, but I’m a fairly new knitter and I don’t know whether I should trust the label or not. Can you tell me how this actually washes? Does it pill or felt if you leave it in the dryer for too long?”
Andi carefully studied the label as if “100% Superwash Merino Wool” meant something to her. If she said she had no idea how it washed because she didn’t knit or know the first thing about any of the yarns in the store, the woman would be—rightly—disgusted. But if she lied and said it would wash well and then it didn’t, Lake Yarns would have lost a customer for life.
She’d never thought she’d have to think so fast standing in the middle of a yarn store.
How wrong she’d been.
Quickly deciding the truth was her best option, Andi said, “Actually I’ve never used that particular yarn.”
The woman frowned. “Is there anyone here that has?” she asked, craning her head to see if there was some yarn guru hiding in the back of the store.
“I’m sure there’s some information online about that brand. It will just take me a minute to look it up.”
Thank god she never went anywhere without her tiny laptop. Unfortunately, it seemed to take forever to start up. She felt like she was standing in front of one of her clients who wanted answers about their project and wanted them now. Andi usually worked double-time not to be put in this kind of position.
But her grandmother really had sounded terrible. Watching the store was the right thing to do.
“I’ll just find an Internet connection and then—”
Shoot. All of the nearby wireless providers were locked tight with passwords. Working not to let her expression betray her, Andi reached for her phone. But after what seemed like an eternity of trying to pull up her search page, all she got was a message that said, “Cannot connect.”
She couldn’t believe it. She was being beaten by a yarn store.
Shooting her clearly irritated customer a reassuring smile, she said, “I’ll have the information for you in another few moments,” then picked up the cordless phone and local phone book and went into the back.
Flipping through the pages, she found another yarn store in Loon Lake and quickly dialed the number. “Hi, this is Andi Powell from Lake Yarns. I have a quick question for you about—” The woman on the other end of the line cut her off. “Oh yes, of course, I understand if you’re busy with a customer. Okay, I’ll call back in fifteen minutes.”
But Andi already knew that fifteen minutes would be way too long. Desperate now, she walked out the back door and held her cell phone out to the sky, praying for bars.
“Thank god,” she exclaimed when the word searching in the top left corner of her phone slowly shifted to the symbol that meant she had a wireless connection. Typing into the web browser with her thumbs, she actually exclaimed “hooray” and pumped her fist in the air when the information she’d been looking for appeared.
A moment later, greatly relieved to find her customer was still in the store, she said, “Good news. It seems that everyone who has used that yarn is really happy with how well it washed. Plus it evidently doesn’t itch in the least.”
The woman nodded. “Okay.”
Uh-oh. That was less than enthusiastic.
Hoping that talking about the woman’s intended project might reengage her earlier enthusiasm, Andi asked, “What were you thinking of knitting with it?”
“A baby blanket for my new granddaughter.”
The woman pulled a picture out of her purse. The baby was chubby and bald and smiling a toothless grin.
“She’s beautiful,” Andi said softly.
The woman nodded, her previously irritated expression now completely gone. “I learned to knit for her.”
Just like that, Andi suddenly understood what her grandmother had been talking about: this baby was the reason this woman was falling in love with knitting. As Andi instinctively ran the yarn’s threads between her thumb and forefinger, a shiver of beauty, of sweet, unexpected calm suddenly moved through her.
At long last, the knot in the center of her gut came loose, and she told the woman, “I think it will make a really beautiful baby blanket.”
Andi wasn’t trying to sell the woman anything anymore.
She was simply saying what she felt.
Nate Duncan heard the phone ringing on his way out of his office at city hall, but he didn’t want to be late to pick up his sister, Madison, from school. He was waiting on a call from the Adirondack Council about funds for an important riverbed restoration project, but he didn’t believe in mixing work with play.
His sister was the most important person in his life. The people of Emerald Lake who had rallied around him when he needed them most came next. Everything else could sit on the back burner, if necessary.
Before jumping into his truck, he made sure the canoe, paddles, and fishing poles were secure. It was time for their first fall fishing trip.
Madison swore she hated fishing, that she’d rather be doing anything else. Nate smiled, thinking that her complaints didn’t change the fact that his ten-year-old sister was one hell of a fisherwoman. A picture of Madison holding the sixty-pound pickerel she’d caught last winter when he’d taken her ice fishing hung above their mantel at home.
Pulling up outside the elementary school, he saw his sister talking animatedly with her best friend, Kayla. Her friend’s mother, Betsy, smiled along with the girls.
As soon as he walked up to the group a minute later, his sister hit him with, “Nate, can I sleep over at Kayla’s house tonight?”
“It’s a school night. Besides, we’re going fishing.”
“But Kayla’s my partner in natural science, and we were going to work on our wildlife project together. It will be so much easier to do it at her house. And Kayla’s mom was going to feed me, too. I can easily get there in time for dinner after fishing. Please, Nate, can I sleep over at her house?”
Betsy gave him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, Nate, I shouldn’t have planted the idea in their heads. I just thought they could work on the project. Would it make things better if I fed you dinner, too, Nate?”
He and Betsy had so much in common. She was a single mother, and he had been a full-time parent to his sister since she was a month old. Plus, Betsy was an attractive blond, always smiling, always happy to take Madison for the night if he needed help. She looked great in her jeans and sweater, like a woman who was comfortable with herself. He loved that he could count on Betsy to look after his sister when she was with Kayla.
But no matter how much he wanted Betsy to be his type, she wasn’t. For some reason Nate couldn’t understand, he hadn’t yet managed to fall for her, even though she was a sweet, attractive woman.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll have to take a rain check on dinner.”
He didn’t want to give Betsy false hope. She was too nice to get tangled up with a guy who didn’t have anything to offer her.
“But I can go to Kayla’s tonight, right, Nate?”
On the verge of saying no, Nate looked down at his sister’s pretty face, her hopeful eyes, and saw himself for the sucker he was.
“Fine. But you’re not ditching out on fishing with me first.” He looked between the girls, who seemed positively gleeful about their new plans. “And you both have to promise to go to sleep at a reasonable hour.”
Madison and Kayla both nodded and said, “Of course we will,” at the same time, but he’d been raising this little girl for long enough to know better.
“I’ll drop Madison off in a couple of hours if that’s all right, Betsy.”
He could tell the woman was smiling through her disappointment. “Great. And if you change your mind about dinner, there will be plenty.”
Feeling like an idiot for not wanting something any other sane guy would have, he said, “Good day at school?” as he and his sister walked to the truck.
“Yup,” she said, tucking her backpack under the passenger seat before she climbed in and put on her seat belt.
Used to be, he couldn’t get her to stop talking. Four, five, and six had been the chatty years, when he thought his ear was going to fall off from the long, winding stories she would spin for him day after day. Lately though, getting anything out of her was like pulling teeth.
“Anything exciting happen?”
She didn’t say anything at first, and when he looked over at her, she was blushing. “There’s a new kid.”
“What’s her name?”
She shook her head, just like Nate had suspected she would. “It’s not a girl.”
Working to ride the fine line between interested and neutral, he asked, “What’s his name?”
Nate was split. On the one hand, he thought it was cute that his sister had her first crush on a boy. On the other hand, she was only ten. He hadn’t thought they’d be getting into boy-girl stuff for at least a couple of years.
He’d thought he’d get her all to himself for a little while longer.
“Cool name,” he finally said. “So where’s he from?”
“California.” The floodgates suddenly opened, and she told him, “His parents are scientists from Stanford who are studying stuff in the Adirondacks. But he’s only going to be here for one year.”
Nate’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. It figured that neither he nor his sister could do things the easy way, didn’t it?
Instead of falling for people who were going to stick around, they couldn’t stay away from the ones who were inevitably going to leave.
But he could tell she was dying to talk to him about the kid, and he’d always vowed to be there for her. So he said, “Tell me more about him, Mads,” and for the next fifteen minutes, he heard more than he’d ever wanted to know about a ten-year-old boy. Fortunately, by the time they paddled out onto the cool lake, his sister seemed to be all out of Jaden fun facts.
Floating on the lake, surrounded by the patchwork colors of the mountains, hearing a loon calling out to its mate a hundred yards away was the perfect way to spend a fall afternoon, especially when Madison reeled in another good-sized bass with a grin.
“I’m on fire today!”
Nate recast his line. “Got any tips for your big brother? If it weren’t for your success, I’d swear nothing was biting.”
“Yeah, I was thinking it was weird that you’re not catching anything. What’s up with you today?” Madison suddenly frowned. “Hey, you know what I’ve just realized? You haven’t done your fall speech yet.”
She lowered her voice and imitated him. “Look around, Mads. You see the leaves changing on those trees? You feel the nip in the air? It’s fall and there’s magic everywhere. Anything is possible.”
Laughter rumbled through him, joining with Madison’s to skip across the surface of the still water. Of course he’d had hopes and dreams that he hadn’t been able to see come true. He’d never been able to play college football. He’d never experienced carefree dating. He never got the chance to live in a big city and be surrounded by all that speed and light and sound and excitement.
But getting to laugh with his happy sister, being able to see that pretty smile on her intelligent face, was easily worth any sacrifices he’d had to make during the past decade.
Finally he felt a nibble on his line. He gave a quick yank to set the hook and reeled the fish in.
“Wow.” Madison’s eyes were huge as she looked at the huge pickerel flopping around on the bottom of the canoe. “I think that might be bigger than the one I caught last year.”
Nate didn’t even have to think about it as he carefully unhooked the two-way spinner from the fish’s toothy mouth. This might be the biggest fish he’d ever caught, but there was no way he was going to beat his sister’s record.
“This guy looks like he’s got a lot of life still left in him. Want to bring a little fall magic to his life and help me throw him back in?”
His sister cocked her head to the side. “You really are acting weird today, you know.” But she picked up the back half of the fish, and they threw him back in the lake on the count of three.
As they watched the fish float there for a few seconds before abruptly coming back to life and swimming away, Nate actually envied the fish his second chance…and found himself hoping that the fish managed to escape the lure the next time it flashed before him, so shiny and tempting.
Finally alone again, Andi tried to focus on tidying up the yarn displays throughout the store. But it was difficult to keep her focus on yarn when she knew she was only avoiding the inevitable.
Nate Duncan was the town’s new mayor and, as such, head of the architectural review board. Andi should have already called him to set up a meeting, but every time she’d picked up the phone, something had stopped her. Nerves that didn’t make any sense. Along with memories that were too clear, almost as if she’d said good-bye to him yesterday instead of ten years ago.
Instead of getting the job done like she always did, Andi had let the idea of coming back to the lake—back to Nate—completely unravel her.
No. She wouldn’t—couldn’t—let that happen.
Resolved to take care of business as efficiently—and with as little emotion as possible—Andi quickly found the phone book and looked up the number for the mayor’s office. If she was at all relieved that her call went to voice mail, she would never admit it to herself.
“Hello, you’ve reached Nate Duncan at city hall.”
Relief didn’t last long, however, not when the sound of his voice immediately had her palms sweating and her heart pumping hard in her chest. It had been so long since she’d spoken to him, and in her head he was still the same boy he’d been at eighteen. Not a man with a deep voice that rumbled through her from head to toe before landing smack-dab in the center of her heart.
“Nate, it’s Andi. Andi Powell. I’m back in town for a little while and, well, it’s been a long time, and I was hoping we could catch up on old times and get current with each other.”
Pushing aside the little voice inside her head that told her she should be more up front with her reasons for wanting to meet with him, she quickly said, “I’m free tonight, if there’s any chance that would work for you. My cell phone reception is pretty spotty, so if you want to call me back, could you try me at Lake Yarns?”
She knew she should hang up already, but now that she was finally—almost—talking with him again, she couldn’t bring herself to sever the connection so soon. “I’ll leave you a message at home, too. Hope to hear from you soon!”
Feeling like a thirteen-year-old who’d just left a rambling, somewhat embarrassing message for the boy she had a secret crush on, Andi forced herself to quickly make a second call to his house. When she finally hung up, she had to take a few moments to try and regain her composure.
What was wrong with her?
Anything that had happened between her and Nate a decade ago was water under the bridge. They’d thought they were in love, but really they’d just been childhood sweethearts who couldn’t have possibly known what real love was yet. Besides, everything had worked out perfectly for both of them, hadn’t it? She was a successful management consultant now, and he was mayor.
Everything would work out fine.
After dropping Madison off at her friend’s house and going for a punishing run up a narrow mountain trail, Nate was about to crack open a beer when he saw the blinking red light at the bottom of his phone.
Something had happened to Madison.
This was why he hated letting her stay over at a friend’s house, why he knew he sometimes hovered over her.
He couldn’t stand the thought of something happening to his sister. Almost ripping the phone off the wall, he dialed his voice mail code, but it wasn’t Betsy’s voice that came over the line.
It was Andi’s.
Even after ten years, he would know the slightly husky voice—so at odds with her polished veneer—anywhere.
Nate’s relief that everything was okay with his sister was quickly replaced by surprise—and alarm—that Andi was calling him out of the blue to get together and catch up on old times.
Instead of slowing down, his heart rate sped up even more.
For ten years he hadn’t heard from her. Not a birthday call or a Christmas card. Why would she be calling him now?
Even though something told him it would be smarter to keep his distance, the truth was, Nate simply couldn’t resist the thought of seeing Andi again.
He picked up the phone and dialed Lake Yarns.
By 5:25 that night, mere hours after Andi had made the bold—and incredibly foolish—offer to watch the store for her grandmother, her heels were killing her feet and she was dreaming of a hot bath and a bottle of wine. Scratch that, two bottles.
All afternoon she had been running around the store, helping customers, searching for colors, needles, patterns. How, she suddenly wondered, did her mother and grandmother do this six days a week?
With only five minutes until she could lock the front door and collapse on one of the couches in the middle of the room, two women came in through the front door, laughing and carrying big felted bags.
“I’m sorry,” Andi said, although she was anything but sorry about kicking them out. “I’m afraid the store closes in a few minutes.”
The two women shot each other a look, but Andi was too tired to worry about being rude anymore. The yarn would be here tomorrow. They’d just have to wait until then.
The store’s phone rang and Andi grabbed it. “Lake Yarns. How may I help you?”
“Andi, it’s Nate.”
Oh god, she’d been so frazzled for the past few hours that she’d actually forgotten she asked Nate to call her here. Now, with her guard completely down, the sound of his low voice in her ear had her reaching for the counter to steady herself.
“Hi.” She couldn’t say anything more for the moment, not until she caught her breath, not until she pulled herself back together.
And then he said hi back, and ten years fell away so fast it made her head spin.
She was a teenager again and they were on the phone and she was so happy to be talking to Nate even though she didn’t have the first clue what to say.
“So, about tonight.” He paused and she actually held her breath. “That sounds great.”
“It does?” She cringed at her clearly flustered response.
“How about we meet at the Tavern at seven thirty?”
If she left right now, she would have time to take a long shower and change and redo her makeup before heading out to the Tavern. Looking down at her previously pristine black dress and sheer nylons, she noticed that she was covered head to toe with little threads of color from the yarn she’d been handling and brushing up against all day long.
“Seven thirty is perfect.”
“See you soon, Andi.”
She put the phone down and was reaching for her bag when she realized she wasn’t alone. The two women she’d spoken to at the door were sitting on the couches in the middle of the room looking like they planned to settle in for the night.
Didn’t they know she needed to get out of here to get pretty so Nate wouldn’t think she’d turned into an old hag in the past ten years?
“I’m sorry, but I really do need to close the store.”
The older woman with bright red hair nodded. “Of course you do. Our knitting night is about to begin.”
How could she have forgotten about the Monday night knitting group?
Her plans to go home to shower and change before her meeting with Nate went up in smoke. Andi looked down at the tiny threads of cotton and wool stuck to her sweater.
Oh well, Nate wouldn’t care what she looked like. It wasn’t like they were going out on a date or anything. Tonight was simply two old friends catching up with some business tacked on to the back end.
Scrambling to cover her gaffe, she said, “It’s been such a busy day in the store that I almost forgot it was Monday night.” The women just stared at her as she babbled unconvincingly. “Can I get you two anything?”
The slightly younger woman with shiny gray hair laughed. “Not to worry, honey, we always come prepared.”
The women produced four bottles of wine along with a big plastic container full of big chocolate chip cookies. Andi’s stomach growled as she tried to get her exhausted, overwhelmed brain to remember where the glasses were.
Fortunately the knitting group regulars were way ahead of her as they opened the small doors of the coffee table and began to pull out mismatched tumblers for the wine.
More long-buried memories came at Andi, joining all the others that had been scrambling into her brain all day. It had been her job, after everyone had gone, to wash out the glasses in the kitchen sink and dry them and put them back under the coffee table. Her grandmother always told her how important her role was, that wine made people comfortable, that it let them talk about the secrets they shouldn’t be holding inside.
The Monday night knitting group had been going on as long as her grandmother had owned the store. Evelyn always said the group was as important to her as family—and that they were responsible for keeping her sane more than once over the years. As a little girl, Andi had loved sitting on the floor, listening to the women talk, laugh, and cry. But by ten she had grown out of it. Not just the knitting group, but anything to do with yarn or the store.
Andi still remembered her last ever Monday night at Lake Yarns. She had been sitting next to Mrs. Gibson and only half listening to her complain about her swollen ankles to the woman next to her. Andi swore Mrs. Gibson was always pregnant. One of her kids was in Andi’s fifth-grade class, and John had five younger siblings already.
Andi had been working on a scarf for her father in a zigzag pattern, but she kept screwing it up. Bad enough that she needed help unraveling it and then getting it back onto the needles so she could fix her mistakes. Her mother and grandmother were both busy helping other people, and she had no choice but to turn to Mrs. Gibson.
“Of course, I’ll help you with this, honey,” the woman had said. “You know, it’s no surprise you’re having trouble with this scarf. John told me how smart you are. You’re going to go out there and do big, important things like your daddy. You really don’t belong here with us knitters, do you?”
Andi was pulled back to the present as she heard a throat being cleared and looked up to see that the red-haired woman was holding out a glass of wine, saying, “I didn’t know Evelyn and Carol had hired anyone new.”
Andi gratefully took the glass and was about to respond with her name when the woman said, “Wait a minute. I need to put my glasses on.” Later, after a few moments of peering, she said, “Andi? Don’t you recognize me? It’s Dorothy. Dorothy Johnson.”
Andi suddenly realized why the woman looked so familiar. It was her hair that had thrown Andi off, red instead of dark brown, and the fact that she seemed to have shrunk several inches in the past decade.
Dorothy introduced her to Helen who had moved to Emerald Lake five years earlier.
“I would have eventually guessed who you were,” Helen said. “You really are the perfect combination of Evelyn and Carol.”
“I look more like my dad,” Andi said automatically.
“I can see Richard in you certainly, but if you ask me, you take after the women in your family more. I’m so sorry about his passing, honey. We all were.”
It was hard to hear her father’s name on a stranger’s lips, harder still to be reminded that he was gone.
Andi briskly smiled. “Thanks. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with,” she said before moving to the door to welcome in more Monday night knitting group members.
Fifteen minutes after six, the wine was flowing with nary a needle in motion when one final woman pushed in through the door.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“Brownies will make it all better,” another woman said. “You do have brownies don’t you?”
“Why do you think I’m late?” the latecomer replied with a laugh, but to Andi’s ears it sounded forced.
She put the tray of brownies on the table, then looked up in surprise. “Oh. Andi. I didn’t expect you to be here.”
Andi hadn’t seen her old friend in years. Now, as she took a good look at Catherine, she almost didn’t recognize her.
Andi remembered her as being a cute blond, not a mousy brunette whose once fit frame now carried around an extra thirty pounds.
“Catherine, how are you?”
Andi wasn’t prepared for her onetime friend to look her straight in the eyes and say, “Apart from divorcing my rat bastard husband, I’m all right.”
The women all around them still chatted as if everything was perfectly normal. Andi scrambled to find an appropriate response. But really, there wasn’t one.
Catherine shrugged, a show of nonchalance that Andi didn’t buy.
“Welcome home,” Catherine said before going and sitting down on a couch in the opposite corner.
Andi hadn’t even known Catherine had been married. Then again, she hadn’t gone to any of their high school reunions or registered at any social networking sites.
Dorothy tapped her wineglass several times with a knitting needle. “Everyone,” she said authoritatively, “please say hello to Andi, Carol’s daughter.” The woman’s eyes twinkled. “Even if you already know each other from her years growing up here, be sure to tell her something unique and memorable about yourself.”
Andi looked up from her spot behind the register. She’d hoped to be able to sit there and hide out for a couple of hours while the knitting group did their thing. But when Dorothy scooted over on the couch and patted the seat beside her, Andi knew she was cornered and cornered good.
“Andi and I have already met,” Helen said, “but just to be sure you don’t forget me, you should know that I have never so much as stuck a toe into the lake and never plan to.”
Andi was so stunned by Helen’s admission that she completely forgot her manners. “Why not?”
“I had an unfortunate incident with a swimming pool when I was a child,” Helen said with a shake of her head.
“But swimming in the lake is incredible.”
From the time Andi could walk, she’d loved to run off the end of her parents’ dock and cannonball into the water, whether eighty degrees at the height of summer or somewhere in the sixties in the late spring and early fall.
Andi was surprised by a fierce—and sudden—urge to run out of the store, strip off her clothes, and go running off a dock, any dock, just so she could experience that glorious moment when she hit the water.
Being surrounded with floor-to-ceiling yarn all day had clearly started to make her go a little nuts.
“I’m sure it is,” Helen said regretfully before turning the table over to the middle-aged woman sitting next to her. “Your turn, Angie.”
“I have four little monsters at home, and were it not for the fact that I knew I was going to be able to escape to this group after a weekend when none of them would stop screaming, I might very well have had an unfortunate incident of my own in the lake. On purpose.”
Everyone laughed, but Andi struggled with knowing what the right response was. It had been years since she’d known the comfort of being around other women. At work, she was primarily surrounded by men, and given her rule about no emotional entanglements in the office, Andi spent the bulk of her time with people who were pretty much just professional acquaintances.
Catherine was next. “Andi and I go way back. She doesn’t need to hear me bore her with stories about how things have gone since high school.”
Andi might not have been particularly well versed in girl talk in recent years, but she had a pretty good sense that Catherine wasn’t thrilled with her being back in town and running tonight’s knitting group.
Fortunately right then, another woman, who Andi judged to be around her same age, smiled and said, “I’m Rebecca. I help run the inn on the lake, and it is such a pleasure to meet you, Andi. I just adore your mother and grandmother.”
The pretty woman with the long, straight golden-brown hair and startlingly green eyes looked down at the diamond ring on her finger, drawing Andi’s gaze down to it.
“And what about you, my dear?” Dorothy asked. “What brings you back to town?”
Andi froze. She didn’t want to lie to these women, but she needed to sit down and talk about her project with Nate first. He would know the best way to present her building plans to the townspeople. Perhaps if she’d come back to town more since high school, it wouldn’t seem so strange that she was here now, but the constant demands of her job had always come first.
“Fall on the lake is always so peaceful, so quiet. This seemed like a good place to focus on a big project at work.”
“Quiet?” Dorothy and Helen both laughed. “Emerald Lake is a hotbed of excitement and intrigue.”
“Okay, who’s got gossip?” Rebecca asked, obviously trying to change the subject and take the focus off of Andi, who felt more and more out of her element with every passing second.
“Not so fast,” Catherine said. “Andi hasn’t told us something unique about herself yet.”
Andi felt another rush of blood move up to her cheeks. She dearly wished Catherine hadn’t drawn attention to her, not when she was trying so hard to fit in seamlessly with these almost strangers.
“I can’t think of anything,” she said, but she was met with a wall of raised eyebrows. Realizing they weren’t going to move on until she gave them something, she said, “I can’t knit.”
Oh no, she hadn’t just blurted that out, had she?
Dorothy scrunched her face up as if she was trying to access some long-lost information. “Wait a minute, I remember a little girl who looked like you sitting right here and knitting many, many years ago.”
Andi held up her empty hands in an effort to defend herself. “I haven’t knit since I was nine or ten. I seriously doubt I remember how.” She certainly hadn’t earlier in the day with her grandmother.
“Nonsense,” Dorothy said as she reached into her canvas bag for some large needles and soft blue yarn, so much like the skein Andi had been admiring earlier that morning. “It’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget how to knit, no matter how long it’s been. Take these.”
Keeping her hands firmly on her lap, Andi said, “Thanks, but you don’t need to give me your—”
Andi immediately responded to the firm note in the older woman’s voice. “Okay.”
She sat awkwardly with the things on her lap when Rebecca took pity on her.
“I can show you how to cast on if you want.”
Wishing she could be anywhere but Lake Yarns on a Monday night, Andi nodded. “Thanks.”
Rebecca deftly wound the yarn around the needles. “Any idea what you’d like to make?”
Andi began to shake her head, but then she realized that if she had to sit here all night, she might as well start something she might use when she was done with it.
“A shawl.” The one she’d been wearing in her earlier vision.
Rebecca nodded. “Good idea. With the size of these circular needles and the gauge of the yarn, it should knit up really quick and look great. How about a simple triangle pattern? You’ll only have to do a yarn over at the beginning and end of every other row with all the other rows being a simple knit stitch.”
After Rebecca quickly showed her how to do the alternating rows, Andi softly said, “You don’t know how much I wish you’d been here this afternoon when I took over the store for my grandmother. You would have been so much more helpful than I was at answering customers’ questions.”
“I’m sure you did great,” Rebecca said kindly, “but definitely call me next time you need help. I can run over from the inn.”
Oh no. Andi had learned her lesson and learned it well. There wasn’t going to be a next time for her at Lake Yarns. From here on out, she was going to focus on her real job and leave the yarn to people who knew what the heck to do with it.
For the next hour or so, while the women in the group tackled their works in progress and talked about people she didn’t know anymore, Andi worked diligently on a shawl she’d never planned on making. She wasn’t a real member of the knitting group, and yet it was sort of nice to be in a room with a group of women relaxing together.
Suddenly Nate’s name came up in conversation. “I hear things didn’t work out with the woman from Albany.”
Andi’s heartbeat kicked up. They’d broken up so long ago that it shouldn’t matter to her if Nate had recently been involved with someone. Then again, nothing had made sense since the moment she crossed into the Adirondacks.
Maybe it was all the fresh air, all the beauty that was mucking with her system after a decade of pollution and recycled office building air?
“I don’t think she was too gung ho about having a ten-year-old girl around all the time.”
“Then I say, good riddance. Besides”—Dorothy made an invisible ring around her mouth with her fingers—“she wore too much lipstick. That boy is a saint. Raising his sister, holding his family together after what happened with his parents. He deserves better.”
It was a forceful reminder to Andi that Nate was far more than just a loving older brother to his younger sister. He was eighteen years old when his mother died giving birth to Madison, and his father had shot himself one month later. From that moment on, Nate had been solely responsible for things like getting his sister to bed on time and taking her to the doctor for shots. Andi couldn’t begin to imagine how he had done it.
Catherine singled Andi out again. “Didn’t you and Nate go out for a while?”
Oh no. Why did Catherine have to say that? Especially when she knew darn well that she and Nate had been an item.
Knowing there was no way to get out of it in front of everyone, Andi nodded and forced another one of those smiles. “We did.”
Helen’s mouth was an O of surprise. “How could you have ever let a man like that get away?”
Excerpted from Home Sweet Home by Riley, Bella Copyright © 2011 by Riley, Bella. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ten years ago, Andi Powell left Emerald Lake for bigger and better things. When her job forces her to return home for a project, she finds herself falling back in love with high school sweetheart, Nate Duncan. There she reconnects with her past, her family, and learns what home really means. This is my first book by Riley, but it won't be my last. She has a wonderful writing style, and is able to describe the setting so you feel like you've been there. Nate was relatable and I rooted for him all the way. Andi could be a tad selfish, especially after the reader learns how they broke up. In part, her reasons are understandable, but I think some may feel she's hard to root for. This book was as much about discovery as it was about romance and coming home. Recommended.
Home Sweet Home by Bella Riley pens a heart warming story about love and second chances. Andi Powell left Emerald Lake behind ten years ago to make her mark in New York City. She couldn’t wait to leave small town life behind and explore the big city. Andi comes back to her hometown to promote a growth prospect for the town. Her first obstacle is her high school sweetheart, who is now the town major, Nate Duncan. Nate Duncan watched Andi Powell drive out of his life many years ago. He had his own dreams and desires but taking care of his then baby sister became his priority. Nate never forgot his first love and her being back in town has those old feelings rushing back to life. But Andi’s desire to add vacation condos clashes with Nate’s wishes to keep Emerald Lake just the way it has always been. Nate and Andi maybe be on opposite sides on how the town should grown and change but their old passion still simmers between them. Will Nate be able to change Andi’s mind about the joy of small town life and fight for what they could be? Home Sweet Home is an emotional journey that will draw you in and not let go. The Nate and Andi both have ghost from their past effecting their future. It will take love and patience to work through their problems. This book will stay with you long after you have turned the last page. Looking forward to the next book in this series.
This is a very enjoyable book. I liked the small town feel of the story, and the way everyone new each other. Andi Powell comes home for mixed reasons and finds that what you think like should be isn't always what it is. I have to admit at times I wanted to hit her in the back of the head for the way she acted but I understood why she was written the way she was. Nate Duncan on the other hand made you fall in love with him. Who wouldn't fall in love with a man that would do anything for those he loves. I think if your a fan of sweet, contemporary romances you'll enjoy this book.
I couldn't even get past the chapter. Very poor writing.
vERY ENJOYABLE READING
Loved it! I can't wait for the next book!
This is a cozy comfy kind of story. You feel good after reading it. I can't wait for the next in the series to come out!
Reviewed by Ellen H. for Readers Favorite Andi Powell is going back home to Emerald Lake. She could not wait to leave the small town behind after graduating; but now, her biggest client wants to build condos in her hometown. Going home, however, means seeing Nate Duncan, her first love. Nate has been raising his sister, Madison, since the deaths of their parents. He knew that Andi wanted bright lights and a big city, so he pushed her away when he became responsible for his sister. Nate is now the mayor of Emerald Lake and, like several other long time residents, is opposed to Andi's plan. After Andi arrives, her grandmother takes ill, and Andi is left running the family business, Lake Yarns. She begins to question decisions she has made in her life and starts to think that maybe she can find happiness after all. Truly a very cute book, I enjoyed this one very much. I loved all the different characters and how their lives are interwoven. Andi, a type A personality, questions what she has believed all her life. She and her mother come to a new understanding. Nate is a true alpha male with a very sensitive side. By the pictures the author creates, you can actually picture this small town and its residents. There is a lot of chemistry and history between Andi and Nate, and that keeps the book flowing from beginning to end. Home Sweet Home is definitely worth reading if you are a chick lit fan. I will be looking for more books from this author in the future.
This book started off slow for me since I initially did not like the heroine. However I absolutely loved Nate the hero. This is essentially a story of a second chance at love. It¿s also about learning the lesson that you don¿t know what goes on in another person¿s marriage not even your parents. I look forward to the next book in this new series.
This book was remarkably sweet. Andi is the main character. She is somewhat impulsive and prone to self-fulfillment at times, but she is a likable enough character. Nate is the love interest, he is also the man Andi left behind...in favor of her growing career. The sparks do fly in this novel, particularly between Andi and Nate because they do not often get along. The reader will find him/herself laughing at some parts of the story. The Goodreads Summary sums it up quite well. The ending is good, a little expected-but honestly, I wouldn't have wanted anything else. The characters were very well-developed, the secondary characters fun to get to know. The events were fast-paced when they needed to be, slowing down when the book slipped into a bit of a love scene. This book is recommended to adult readers.
A decade ago, Andi Powell left Emerald Lake, New York to move to the Big Apple. She has come home for short visits to family over the ten years she has lived in New York City. However, one year ago her father suddenly died stunning the still grieving Andi who glued a smile on her face everyday she entered the office of the Klein Group where she works. She has driven the five hours two hundred miles to sell a Klein Group proposal to construct condos in Emerald Lake for affluent Manhattanites. Andi's beloved grandma Evelyn opposes tearing down the magical old carousel. The boy she once loved, Mayor Nate Duncan is for condos but not at that historical location. Nate remains bitter towards the woman he loved and needed who broke his heart when she did her solo dream pursuit. Andi realizes she never stopped loving him and begins to reconsider what matters in life as she has a secret to reveal either to those she loves or her employers. The first Emerald Lake contemporary romance is a charming second chance at love tale. The lead couple is super as he tests the woman he loves while she struggles with her priorities; the support cast is solid although the small-town life is made too magical vs. urban avarice. Still readers will appreciate the profound debate between preservationists and developers as economics is the root of all arguments. Harriet Klausner