Love's Paradise

Love's Paradise

by Celeste O. Norfleet

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Original)


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373534531
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 10/25/2011
Series: Mamma Lou
Edition description: Original
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

An award winning and national best-selling author of over thirty critically acclaimed novels, Celeste O. Norfleet is a prolific writer of both romance and young adult novels. Her young adult novels are realistic with a touch of humor. They depict strong characters with unpredictable plots and have exciting storylines that delve into dramatic fiction reflecting current issues facing American teens. Celeste currently enjoys a quiet life in Virginia with her family.

Read an Excerpt

The Hamilton Development construction site was located on the southwest shore of Crescent Island. The site was busy as usual. Six months into an eight-month project, the final stages of construction were almost complete. Still, staying on schedule was important. The main building, situated on fifteen acres of land, was a breathtakingly restored nineteenth-century farmhouse manor. Once it was completed, it would be the most impressive corporate resort on the island, and the crowning achievement of the development company. As the main site neared completion, workers were beginning to turn their attention to a secondary site.

Two men stood over a deep hole as a third man pulled a thick rubber hose out of the murky pit of water. He turned and waved. "Okay, turn it off," he yelled. A fourth man flipped a switch and the sound of the generator slowed to a halt. Water trickled from the end of the hose into the hole.

"There, see, look. I told you something was sticking out of the ground down there. It looks like some pieces of wood."

"Yeah, all right, I see it." The foreman got down on his knees, extended his arm and tried to pull out a bowed piece of wood, but couldn't. "It's buried too far down to pull it out."

"We've got to excavate this area and make it level. Skip the pump, get the backhoe up here. And clear that other stuff out of there. Let's get this done before we leave here today."

Moments later a large backhoe ambled up along the side of the area and parked beside the hole. The steel shovel gouged into the earth, dislodging sludge, soil and scattered debris. The shovel shifted to the side and dumped the contents and then plunged back into the hole a second and third time. The fourth time there was a loud scraping sound and the equipment shut off completely. Everybody stood back. "What the hell is that?" the operator said as he cut the engine, leaning out of the cab.

"Sounds like you just hit something." The men looked down to see sludge and slats of wood protruding from the hole. There was a bottle floating in the sludge. One of crew grabbed the bottle, wiped the sludge away then tossed it to the side with the other debris. Another worker walked over and picked it up. "Yo, I'm gonna keep this," he said. "My girlfriend is gonna love it. She collects old things like this."

"Nah, it doesn't work like that on this construction site, dude. Whatever we find goes to the office. No exceptions."

"Yo, man, it's just an old medicine bottle. No big deal."

"No exceptions. Losing your job isn't worth a souvenir, is it?"

The worker grudgingly tossed the bottle to the side with the other debris. Then the man in the cab tried to start up the backhoe again. It made a grinding sound then sputtered and stopped again. "Damn, I think the crane's jammed. It sounds like there's something wrong with the hydraulics."

"Whoa, check it out. That's a lot of wood sticking out on the side down there."

"No big deal, it's just some wood."

"I don't think so, call somebody up here."

One of the crewmen standing around pulled out his cell phone and called the on-site manager. "Yo, Ian. We need you up here at the secondary site, man."

A few minutes later Ian Parker approached the site. He looked down in the hole and then at the broken backhoe. He shook his head in frustration. It was going to be one of those days.

Sheri Summers was feeling restless and impatient and it was driving her nuts. She glanced at her watch. It had been three hours since the conversation that had started it all. She was still seething. Her boss Jack McDonald's final assessment of her job performance was clear. He thought she didn't have what it took. She could still hear his words echoing in her ears. You need to have passion to do this job. You don't have that. Besides, we need you back here in D.C. sooner rather than later.

Was he kidding? She had more passion for her work in her pinkie finger than most people had in their entire body. Yeah, she was furious. He couldn't be more wrong about her. And given the opportunity, she intended to make him eat his words.

Sheri turned and looked out the window. It was the beginning of fall, her favorite time of year. She suddenly felt the temptation to go out and do something wild, something rash. It was a sense of restlessness and anxiousness that she always felt around this time of year. Her grandmother Camille, a fortune-teller, called it her psychic nature coming to life. She didn't know about all that. All she knew was that she had a feeling that something was in the wind, she just didn't know what it was.

She was counting the days until she would have to leave, and time was not on her side. She took a deep breath and felt the energy around her. Everything she knew and loved was coming to an end. Distracted, she closed the book she'd been only half reading and pushed it aside. She stood and walked over to the large dormer window in the attic and looked out at the view.

The tourist season was almost over, yet there were still some vacationers lingering on the island, enjoying the last days of Indian summer. The leaves on the trees hadn't turned colors yet. But the October wind seemed to creep through the drafty old building, sending an imaginary chill through her body. Although it was unseasonably warm outside, inside it seemed much colder. Sheri wrapped her arms around her body, knowing it wasn't the weather that had raised prickly goose bumps on her skin.

The attic was on the fourth floor of the Crescent Island Museum, which was at the far end of town. The museum, a popular tourist attraction, was perched high on a hill, overlooking the city like a guardian angel. From her vantage point, she could see Main Street, the main ferry station and several boutiques and souvenir shops, some of which had been there for well over a century. She reflected on what she liked to call the margins of history.

A deep sense of pride filled her. This was her hometown. Crescent Island was steeped in culture and tradition. Its past was the foundation for what she hoped would be a promising career as a historian. The island's charm, warmth and hospitality were well-known, drawing visitors from across the country. It was also becoming the summer destination for Washingtonians and those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard.

This is where she'd grown up. But soon those memories—that history—would no longer be relevant. All her life she'd heard stories about the island's rich history from her grandmother. And as the museum's resident historian and research coordinator, she took pride in preserving its past. Still, the idea of change weighed heavily on her. Her grandmother would say it was foreshadowing a new life. But she was a pragmatist by nature and didn't believe in all that fortune-telling mumbo jumbo. All she knew was that change was in the air and not necessarily for the better.

To ease her restlessness, she settled back into one of the old, uncomfortable chairs that was in the corner of her makeshift museum office. She pulled another book from the stack of dozens that were piled high around her. She had to focus and not let the feeling of melancholy affect her.

She heard her cell phone vibrate. She looked over at the device sitting on the tabletop. She wasn't in the mood to talk, so she picked up the phone to check the caller ID since she'd been screening her calls all afternoon. Looking at the number, she closed her eyes and shook her head, knowing she had to get this over with so she might as well do it now. "Hi, Mom," she said.

"Hi, Sweets. I just got a phone call from Mamma Lou. She wanted to make sure we were attending her gathering Friday night. Are you still going?"

"Yes, I'll be there. No problem, as long as there's not some guy she's set me up with waiting for me with a wedding ring in his pocket."

"What are you talking about?"

"Mamma Lou and her matchmaking," she said. Her mother chuckled. "It's not funny. I'm starting to get paranoid about it. Every time I see her, I'm afraid someone is gonna jump out and propose to me on the spot."

Lois laughed this time. "Come on, Sweets, you're being unreasonable. Besides, do you know how many women would love to have Mamma Lou find them a mate?"

"Well, not me. She tried to set me up with a guy about a year ago. He was totally wrong for me and he was a jerk. He spent the whole date looking at other women."

"Well, knowing Mamma Lou it's highly possible that she's got somebody in mind for you. But I think she's been too busy with the foundation to play matchmaker Friday evening."

"I hope so. I'm not in the mood for more drama."

"More drama? That doesn't sound good. What happened? How did your review go with your boss this morning?"

"Not well," Sheri said.

"What do you mean not well? What did he say?"

"Jack's transferring me back to D.C. He said that I'm overqualified to be curator of the museum and that my enthusiasm was mediocre at best. And I lacked the kind of bold vision and initiative needed for the job. His exact words were, 'You need to have passion to do this job.' According to him, he just hasn't seen it and they need me back in D.C as soon as possible."

"Oh, that's ridiculous. The man is obviously an idiot. He wouldn't know talent if it jumped up and bit him. This is about being a curator in a small museum, not brain surgery. Of course you have passion! Anyone with half a brain can see that you're passionate about your work. What's wrong with him?" Lois Chambers said testily.

Sheri's mother had always been her daughter's champion and a constant source of support for her children. She was loving and nurturing, and also smart and savvy. So it was no surprise that she ran the most popular and successful bed-and-breakfast inn on the island. "You're an exceptional scholar and historian. And you're brilliant at your job. Crescent Island Museum would be damn lucky to have you as its full-time curator. If he can't see that then he's a bigger jacka—"

"Mom, it's okay, really. I tried. That's all I can do and I did my best. When my tenure here is up next month, I'll just go back to the Smithsonian Institution."

"Sheri, you can do battle with the best of them. I've seen you with your brothers for heaven's sake. When you want something, you're tenacious. Fight for this if you really want it."

Her mother was right. She could stand toe-to-toe and do battle with anyone. And given the opportunity, she was going to prove it. "…when you follow what's in your heart, you are unstoppable," her mother said. "I've seen it too many times…

"Sheri. Sheri, where are you?"

Sheri looked up as her assistant, Eugenia Hopkins, called out her name. "Mom, I gotta go. I'll pick up Grandma tonight and call you later. Bye." She ended the call.

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