From New York Times bestselling author Emily March comes Jackson, the newest novel in the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series.
Sometimes it takes a new beginning
Caroline Carruthers thinks she buried her dreams along with the love of her life…until a stranger named Celeste dares her to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline’s new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off.
to reach a happily-ever-after
Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he’s been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in lovehe even has the old song lyrics to prove itbut the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who’s moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption’s healing magic is true…and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all?
“A brilliant writer you’ll love creates a world you’ll never want to leave.”Susan Mallery, New York Times bestselling author
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About the Author
Emily March is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the heartwarming Eternity Springs series. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.
Read an Excerpt
Bang. The judge's gavel fell and officially crushed Jackson McBride's heart. He closed his eyes. Bleak despair washed over him. Up until this very moment, he hadn't believed she'd take it this far.
He'd thought she'd come to her senses. He'd thought she would recognize that this proposal was not only nonsense, but truly insane. He'd believed that somewhere deep inside of her, she still had a spark of humanity. That she wouldn't do this to him. To them. He'd been wrong. Damn her. Damn her and the yes-men she surrounded herself with. Damn them all to hell and back.
The enormity of what had just happened washed over him. Oh, God, how will I survive this?
On the heels of his anguish came the rage. It erupted hot as lava, and it fired his blood and blurred his vision with a red haze of fury. He'd never hit a woman in his life. Never come close, despite plenty of provocation from her direction. In that moment had she been within reach, he might have lived up her accusations.
It scared the crap out of him. That's what she's brought me to.
Abruptly, he shoved back his chair so hard that it teetered, almost falling over. He strode toward the courtroom exit. "Jackson? Jackson, wait!" his attorney called, hurrying after him.
Jackson waved her off and didn't stop. There was nothing left to be said. Nothing left to be done. No place left to go.
No little girl waiting at home to hug and cuddle and kiss good night.
The tap on the toes of Jackson's boots clacked against the tile floor of the courthouse as his long-legged strides ate up the hallway. He shunned the elevator for the stairs and descended three flights at a rapid pace, then headed for the building's exit. In a foolish bit of positive thinking, he'd driven his SUV to the courthouse this morning. Now the sight of the safety booster seat in the back seat made him want to kick a rock into next week.
He didn't want to go home to a quiet, empty house. He shouldn't go to a bar. Alcohol on top of his current mood could be a dangerous combination. Somebody probably would get hurt.
He got into the car and started the engine. For a long moment he sat unmoving, staring blindly through the windshield, his hands squeezing the steering wheel so hard that it should have cracked. When his phone rang, he ignored it.
A couple of minutes later, it rang a second time. Again, he ignored it. When it happened a third time, he finally glanced at the display to see who was calling. His cousin. Okay, maybe he would answer it.
"How did the hearing go?"
Jackson couldn't speak past the lump in his throat, so he said nothing.
Following a moment's silence, Boone got the message. He muttered a curse, and then said, "I'm sorry, man. So damn sorry."
"Well, it is what it is."
"You can take another run at it."
"Yeah." In three years. Three years. Might as well be three decades. He cleared his throat and changed the subject. "So, how are things in Eternity Springs?"
"Good. They're good. My friend Celeste Blessing visited my office a few minutes ago and spoke of her granite-headed cousin. Naturally, I thought of you."
"Naturally," Jackson dryly replied. But he felt a little less alone.
"Do you have plans this weekend? I could use your help with something."
Pretty convenient timing. Knowing Boone, he had a spy in the courtroom. But Jackson wasn't in the position to ignore the bone he'd been thrown. "I'm free. Whatcha got?"
"I'd like you to meet me at home."
Jackson straightened in surprise. "You're going back to the ranch?"
"No. Not there. I'm never going back there. However, I am talking about Texas. The Hill Country in particular. A little town west of Austin called Redemption."
"Redemption, Texas?" Jackson repeated. For some weird reason, his heart gave a little skip. "Why there?"
"It's a long story. Too long for a phone call. I'll give you the entire skinny when I see you. When can you get there?"
After today's debacle, Jackson had absolutely no reason to remain in Nashville. "When do you want me there?"
"I'll be in later today. I'm in Austin now. I've been helping a friend with a project. I have a flight back to Colorado Sunday evening. The earlier you can get here the better, but I'll make anything work."
Jackson figured the distance and the drive time. "I'll meet you tomorrow afternoon. Where?"
"Great. I'll text you the info when we hang up. Bring camping gear."
When a sound behind him had Jackson glancing up into the rearview mirror and the booster seat caught his notice, he made an instant decision. "Can't. I'll be on my bike."
"You're gonna ride your motorcycle all the way from Nashville?"
"Yes, I think I am."
"Okay. I'll bring stuff for both of us." Boone hesitated a moment and added, "Hang in there, Jackson. It'll get better."
No, I don't think it will. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Jackson ended the call and finally put his SUV in gear and backed out of the parking place. With the distraction of the call behind him, fury returned, and by the time he reached home, he felt like a volcano about to explode.
He threw a handful of things into his tail bag, filled his wallet with cash from his stash, and ten minutes after his arrival, he fired up his bike and took his broken heart and headed out of Nashville. He left behind his home, his work, and his one reason for living, his six-year-old daughter, Haley.
As the motorcycle picked up speed, he recalled their last goodbye when he'd dropped her off at her mother's at the end of their regular weekend. The nanny met them at the curb, as usual. Haley had given Jackson a hug, then taken the nanny's hand and walked up the hill toward the mansion's front double doors.
Jackson always waited to leave until she was inside. She always watched until the door completely closed. This time, she'd held the bright pink stuffed rabbit she slept with at his house in her arms. Bunny-Bunny. Ordinarily, she left him at Jackson's, but last Sunday, she wouldn't leave him behind.
He thought he'd probably see that flash of neon pink every time he closed his eyes for the next six months. For the next six months while Haley and Bunny-Bunny traveled the world. Six long interminable months before he'd be allowed to see his sweet baby girl again.
Caroline Carruthers covered her mouth with her hand as she watched her husband of twelve years lean over and tenderly kiss the cheek of another woman. Caroline knew all about the woman. Her name was Gina. She was twelve years older than Robert's forty-eight. She was a widow with two children and five grandchildren. Holding hands and smiling, Robert and Gina walked away from Caroline on their way to the community room.
Caroline blinked back tears. Her beloved husband was in love with another woman. Intellectually, she was okay with that. Emotionally, some days, she couldn't deal. It was too much to see him flirting like a teenager with someone else. Today was one of those days.
Today was her wedding anniversary.
Her husband didn't have a clue who she was.
Caroline turned on her heels and fled the Easterwood Memory Care Center where Robert Carruthers had been living for the past four months. Most days when she visited, she could look beyond her own heartache and be thankful that he was comfortable and happy, but she simply didn't have it in her today.
She missed him so much.
Tears blurred her eyes as she signaled the attendant at the door to release the lock so she could leave the building. It was a blustery spring morning with temperatures in the mid-seventies and thunderstorms forecasted later in the day.
Lost in her own misery, she narrowly avoided bumping into a silver-haired woman who rounded the corner of the sidewalk. "Excuse me," Caroline said, dodging out of the way at the last minute.
The woman looked at her with cloudy blue eyes. "I'm sorry. My fault. I wasn't watching where I was going. I just ... I don't feel well. I ... oh." The woman swayed, and then her eyes rolled up and her knees gave out and she started to collapse at Caroline's feet.
Caroline gave a horrified gasp and lunged for the older woman, managing to catch her below the shoulders and ease her to the ground. "Ma'am? Ma'am?"
Was this a heart attack? A stroke?
Caroline touched the woman's face. She feels warm.
Caroline gazed around quickly. Had anyone noticed? Was help already on the way? She needed her purse ... her phone ... to call 911. She'd dropped it when she'd grabbed for the lady. There. It had fallen just beyond reach. "Ma'am?" she repeated as she reached for her bag.
The woman's eyes opened. Brilliant blue, but cloudy. She blinked rapidly, repeatedly, and struggled to sit up. "Oh, dear," she said, her voice weak. "I'm so sorry. I got a little dizzy."
"Careful. Hold on. Why don't you stay down? Let me get help."
"No, no, no. Not necessary. I know what the problem is." Her smile was wan, but reassuring. "You need not be concerned that I've exposed you to something vile, my dear. I suffer from a recurring fever — Lyme disease — and I suspect I'm having a bit of a flare. I just need to get back on my feet, and then I'll find a shady spot and sit a spell. I could probably use a glass of water. Dehydration can be a problem in the elderly, you know."
Caroline took the older woman's hands and gently levered her up. She gasped in pain.
Immediately, Caroline supported the woman's weight. "You're hurt."
"My ankle, I'm afraid."
"Is it broken? Let's set you back down. I'll call nine-one-one."
"No, no, no. It's not broken. Just a little tender. I fell on it wrong. I think if I get ice on it for a few minutes, I'll be fine."
"Still, let's sit you back down. I'll run inside and get a wheelchair."
"Oh, no. No, no, no. A wheelchair isn't necessary. I can walk. I see a bench over there beneath that lovely magnolia tree. Perhaps you can help me over there?"
"But ma'am —"
"Celeste. I'm Celeste. Celeste Blessing." She patted Caroline's hand and asked, "What's your name, dear?"
"Caroline, have you noticed how life has a way of knocking one's feet out from underneath one?"
What? She couldn't help but give a little laugh as the vision of her husband and his new love flashed in her mind. "Oh, yes. Yes I have."
"Well, if you'll indulge a bit of advice from someone who has, shall we say, extended experience in the area of life, sometimes getting mobile again does require a wheelchair. Sometimes climbing in and letting someone else take charge is exactly the proper response. You just have to sit back and roll with it."
"Okay." Caroline wanted to insist that now must surely be one of those moments. What do I know? I must be forty years younger than her.
Celeste leaned heavily on Caroline and hobbled forward toward the bench she'd pointed out. "Now, other times, it's possible you can lean on someone and limp along. That's okay. Sometimes that's the way it's gotta be. Life throws injuries at you that flat-out hurt, and the support of family and friends is exactly what you need to enable you to take those necessary steps forward."
"Lean on me as much as you need, Ms. Blessing."
"Call me Celeste, dear. Please. And before we go any farther, may I trouble you to pick up my bag for me?"
Now Caroline finally noticed the tote on the ground and the small bottles and bars of soap that had spilled from it. "I'll come back for it."
"No, no, no. I can stand by myself. I practice diligently." She gave Caroline's arm a little squeeze that summoned her attention. The blue eyes that had been hazy moments before now appeared clear and crisp as a winter morning as she directly met Caroline's gaze and said, "You see, dear, sometimes wheelchairs and leaning on others aren't the right solutions. Sometimes when life knocks you down, the best thing you can do for yourself is to stand on your own."
Caroline flinched and drew back.
"Because, when you stand on your own, you stand tallest. When you're standing tall with your chin up, you see your future, and your future sees you." Celeste gave Caroline's arm a second squeeze, then released it, encouraged her with a warm, friendly smile, and then made a shooing motion with her hand toward the spilled tote.
Oh, jeez. The way my luck is running today, she'll tumble again the moment I'm out of arms reach. Caroline dashed for the bag, bent and scooped the contents back into it, then rushed back to Celeste. She didn't relax until she'd once again taken hold of the older woman's elbow. "That soap smells wonderful."
"Isn't it fabulous? It's handmade by a friend of mine. Heavenscents Soaps. We were exhibiting her products at the trade show of the innkeepers' conference at the hotel down the street. It ended at noon. We like to donate our leftover samples to nursing homes at the end of the event. I saw this memory care facility and thought it would be a good choice."
"That's a lovely thought. I'm sure they'll appreciate them." Caroline looked closely at the woman. Her cheeks were rosy and her eyes had gone hazy again. Bet she is feverish.
"I'm so sorry to cause all this trouble."
"Sure, I'm trouble. But don't worry, Caroline. When I'm involved, everything always turns out fine in the end. Oh, my. I am hot. Distract me, dear. Tell me about yourself. You live in Austin?"
"It's a lovely city. I live in Colorado now, and I make regular visits to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but this is my first visit to Austin in years and years. I've enjoyed my stay so much. People have been so kind."
"I'm glad we gave a good impression." Having finally reached the bench, Caroline settled Celeste and helped her prop her ankle up. "I'm going to run inside and get you some ice for your ankle."
"Bless your heart. You're so kind, Caroline. By the way, I do love your pearls. Such a classic look."
"Thank you." Caroline swallowed hard. "They were a gift from my husband." For their first anniversary. She hurried up the front steps, buzzed the intercom, and once inside, made her way to the onsite medical office where she explained the situation to the nurse.
A few minutes later, while the nurse went outside, Caroline ducked into the community room to get Celeste something to drink. Robert was sitting on a sofa with his Gina, watching TV and holding hands. Caroline filled a paper cup with sweet tea and thought longingly of a gin martini.
It was her anniversary, after all.
She wiped new tears off her cheeks as she returned to the bench outside to find the nurse wrapping Celeste's ankle with an ace bandage and saying, " ... bring down the fever. I suggest you spend the rest of today in bed. Resting your ankle and keeping it elevated will make it happy, too."
"Oh, dear." Celeste sighed heavily. "I'm supposed to drive over to the Hill Country this afternoon."
"That's out of the question," the nurse replied.
Celeste worriedly clicked her tongue. "This is frightfully inconvenient. I promised to help an industry colleague out of a bind and now I'm in one! We have appointments set up for tonight and tomorrow in Redemption — it's a lovely little tourist town a couple hours west of here — to research an article for an industry publication that is due Monday morning. My colleague's daughter went into early labor this morning, and I told her I'd take the meetings and write the article. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. What to do, what to do, what to do? This is going to inconvenience a lot of people." Celeste looked hopefully from the nurse to Caroline. "Have either of you ever been to Redemption, Texas?"
"Not me," said the nurse.
"I'm afraid not," Caroline said.
"I'm told it's a lovely little town." Celeste folded her hands prayerfully. "I feel so terrible. They were counting on me. How can this problem be solved?" She lifted her gaze, met Caroline's, and held it.
Caroline heard herself say, "I'll do it."
Celeste's brows arched innocently. "Oh?"
"I'm a writer. It's what I do for my job. I write travel articles. I could do this for you if you'd like."
Celeste beamed and clapped her hands. "Oh, Caroline. That would be fabulous. Simply fabulous. Although, like I said, these meetings are today and tomorrow. Could you clear your schedule?"
Caroline thought of Robert and their wedding day and how he held Gina's hand. "Celeste, this project could not come at a better time for me."
The angel wing earrings dangling from Celeste's ears sparkled in the dappled sunshine beneath the magnolia tree as she said, "In that case, what a fortuitous fever this is. God truly does work in mysterious ways. You just never know when leaning on a friend can change the course of one's life, do you? And isn't there such power in climbing back up onto your feet and standing tall and strong?"
Caroline didn't know why a shiver ran down her spine at that moment, but it did. Fifteen minutes later when she left Easterwood Memory Care Center for a second time that day with a mission and a notepad filled with details, her spirit was lighter than it had been in months. As she climbed into her car, she blew a kiss toward the center. "Happy Anniversary, Robert. My love."
Then Caroline drove home, packed a bag and headed west, leaving half of her heart behind.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Jackson"
Copyright © 2019 Geralyn Dawson Williams.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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