Irresistibly drawn to a mysterious little building in a small town, Rossie impulsively buys it and makes big plans for an eatery that her late husband would have loved. Things are not always as they seem in quaint small towns, however, and she begins to wonder if the challenges that she faces are insurmountable. The determination of the fearless military wife is strong, but will she prevail as a stranger in a strange land?
Add to the mix a body found on her property, and scary strangers randomly appearing to torment her, and you set the stage for the first book in the Hawg Heaven Cozy Culinary Series. This poignant tale of courage in the midst of adversity will inspire you, and leave you hungry for more.
|Product dimensions:||5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.56(d)|
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Patriot's Passing Book 1
Hawg Heaven Cozy Culinary Mysteries
By Summer Prescott
CreateSpace Independent Publishing PlatformCopyright © 2017 Summer Prescott
All rights reserved.
Rossalyn Channing sincerely wondered if her throat would ever stop aching. There'd been what felt like a permanent lump in it from the day she'd learned that her husband, William, had been killed during a mission in Afghanistan. The Marine had served his country with honor and dignity, and had died fighting for it, but that didn't make the loss any easier. When a young man in dress blues moved toward her folding chair with measured steps, formally bearing the flag which had covered her dear, sweet Will's empty casket, she drew a shaky breath, determined not to fall apart ... again.
"Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry. You can do this," she whispered to herself over and over, hiding a bit behind the curtain of long, dark hair which had fallen into her face as she bent her head in grief.
Despite having the best of intentions, slow tears rolled down her cheeks and she clenched her back teeth tightly as she accepted the flag with trembling, ice-cold hands. Rossalyn knew that once she was home, once the guests had gone, and the mountains of food, provided by those who meant well, were tucked into the fridge, she could safely fall apart. She'd worked so hard to hide her tears from thirteen-year-old Ryan, still reeling from the loss of his hero father. The young man was the anchor in the storm that helped Rossalyn keep herself together, no matter what. Though she might be dying inside, she had to be strong for her sweet, sensitive son, who looked so much like his daddy.
The rest of the funeral passed in an eternal blur of words, tears, hugs and handshakes. As they lowered Will's casket into the ground, it began to rain, which seemed entirely appropriate. Guests hurried to their cars after quick kisses on the cheek and pats on the arm, disappearing back into real life. Rossalyn stood by the gaping hole in the earth, clutching Ryan at her side, the two of them staring soberly down at the raindrops spattering the top of the gunmetal grey casket. Mother and son stood together, lost in time, lost in memories, just lost ... until Rossalyn's mother came and silently wrapped her arm around her daughter's thin shoulders.
"Come on, sweetie ... let's get Ryan out of the weather," she whispered, steering the bereft young woman gently away from the grave.
Ryan sobbed silently, swiping at his eyes and nose with the sleeve of his uncomfortable grey suit, and held his mother's hand as they made their way back to the limousine provided by the Mortuary.
"He'll always be with you, Rossie. There's an angel watching over you now," her mother soothed.
It was a small comfort, when she thought about the fact that she'd never be in the arms of her beloved husband, ever again.
* * *
The last box had been loaded into the moving van yesterday, and Rossalyn was numb as she got into their worn but reliable SUV, realizing that this was the last time she and Ryan would be leaving the neighborhood on the Marine base that they'd come to know and love. The neighbors were other Marine families, and the Wives Club had been a source of nurturing support for her. The thought of leaving those ladies made her throat close, and caused a heaviness in her chest that no amount of deep breathing could erase. Her world had crumbled, her love was lost, and she had no idea what her future held, but catching the chocolate brown eyes of the amazing kid beside her, she swallowed past her tears, smiled, and said, "Here we go, kiddo."
Ryan looked at her solemnly and nodded. "We're gonna be okay, Mom," he said, fiddling with the cord of his earbuds.
"I know Ry. I know," she pushed a lock of shiny brown hair back from his forehead; he smiled and shook it back down again.
The pair was headed to her parents' house in Illinois. Rossalyn had no idea what to do with her life now, and her childhood home would provide a much-needed refuge while she figured it out. Her dad had connections and would probably be able to help her find a job, and she'd even thought about going back to school for her master's degree, despite the fact that she hadn't exactly utilized the bachelor's in business that she'd earned before getting married.
It would take at least a couple of days to travel to Illinois from North Carolina, and Rossalyn planned to take it slowly, stopping whenever she or Ryan saw something that looked interesting. It might be the last time for quite a while that they'd have the chance for such quality mother/son time, and she was determined to make the most of it. Ryan planned to pass the time listening to music and playing video games on his phone, and Rossalyn dreaded the possibility of having so much time to fall victim to her thoughts, fears and loneliness.
Ryan fell asleep roughly half an hour after they left the house, and Rossalyn envied his escape from reality. She looked over at his mouth gaping slightly, all the cares and worries temporarily erased from his face, and felt a warm rush of emotion. She loved this sensitive young man fiercely, and was determined to make a life for him, even now that she didn't have Will by her side. She didn't think that she was ready to be both a mom and dad, but she didn't have much choice in the matter, so she'd do the best that she could, come what may. She'd been a Marine wife long enough to know that the strong survived, adapted and made their way in the world, sometimes against all odds.
Despite the drastic change of scenery, most of the trip passed in a blur, until Rossalyn stopped for gas in the tiny town of Chatsworth, Illinois, roughly three hours away from her parent's house. Clearly, the town existed simply because it happened to fall right at the crossroads of three major highways. There was a gas station right near the exit that she took, which presented a much-needed opportunity to fuel up, stretch their legs, and peruse the snack selection.
Ryan yawned and stretched when he got out of the SUV, then made a beeline for the bathroom, while his mother monitored the gas pump as it glug-glugged along. Road weary and tired, Rossalyn glanced across the street and saw something intriguing. There was a deserted little building, painted a gloomy sage green, which had a sign over the front door that read, "Sugar Shack," in faded pink lettering. There was a For Sale sign in the frilly curtained window of the place, and she tried to imagine what kind of business had once been there. In her current hungry state, she guessed that perhaps it had been a candy shop or a bakery of some sort. She was oddly fascinated by the simple building and continued to stare at it, not even realizing that the gas pump had clicked off.
"Mom, it's done," Ryan was amused at her spacey expression and pointed at the pump.
"Oh, right," Rossalyn shook herself mentally and tapped the edge of the nozzle delicately on the rim of the gas tank before hanging it back in the holster on the pump. "I'm going inside for a minute. Did you get everything that you needed?" she asked, surveying the bottles and bags in his arms.
"Yeah, I'm good," he nodded, heading for the passenger side.
Normally, she wouldn't dream of letting her son nosh on pre-packaged gas station snacks, but it had been a long journey for both of them, and a few sodas and some other not-so-healthy items wouldn't hurt Ryan in the long term. Rossalyn knew that her mother would have a hearty, nutritious dinner waiting when they got there in a few hours and was looking forward to having a home-cooked meal. A dose of Mom's comfort food sounded like a slice of heaven right about now.
Returning to the SUV with a bottle of water and a bag of trail mix, Rossalyn pulled out of the gas station and impulsively turned into the lot across the street, parking in front of the Sugar Shack.
"What are we doing?" Ryan asked through a mouthful of honey-roasted peanuts.
"I don't know," she shrugged, turning off the engine and getting out.
She walked toward the little building, thinking how charming it must have been when it was open for business. The location was good, it probably had a ton of traffic from travelers who stopped for gas or to find a hotel room, and she could imagine the parking lot filled with cars. Ryan recapped his cola and joined her as she walked around the little shop.
"What are we doing?" he asked, trudging through tall patches of weeds.
"I just thought that this place looked ... interesting. I don't know why, I just wanted to see it," Rossalyn murmured, distracted, taking in the building from eaves to foundation.
Ryan rubbed some of the dirt off of one of the front windows, making a clean circle to gaze through.
"Doesn't look like anyone has been here for a while," he commented, straining to see inside, and barely making out a deserted counter and bar stools. "There are tons of cobwebs."
"Looks like it was just frozen in time, doesn't it?" his mother replied, peering over his shoulder.
"Yeah, pretty cool," Ryan nodded.
Something skittered in the patch of weeds next to them, startling them both.
"I guess that's our cue," Rosslyn chuckled, putting her arm around Ryan's shoulders and walking back to the car.
"Guess so," the teenager replied agreeably.
"Ready for Grandma's mashed potatoes?" "Heck, yeah!" was the enthusiastic response as Ryan buckled his seat belt.
"Me, too," she lied.
Food just wasn't appealing to her right now, it hadn't been for quite a while, but she had to make sure that she kept up appearances for Ryan's sake. The road back to some semblance of a normal life had, so far, been a rough and rocky one, but together Rossalyn was sure that she and Ryan would make it.CHAPTER 2
"Something smells amazing down here," Rossalyn remarked, coming down the stairs from her childhood bedroom.
Her mother, always an early riser, had been cooking up a storm — all morning apparently — and the air was redolent with the combined scents of bacon frying, coffee brewing, and a pan of sausage gravy simmering merrily. Rossalyn was relieved to see Ryan sitting at the table, in a ratty old superhero tee shirt and a pair of black sweatpants, digging into his breakfast with gusto.
"Someone's up early," she observed, ruffling his hair on the way to the coffeepot.
"Well, good morning, sleepyhead," Rossalyn's mother, Margo smiled, spatula in hand.
She'd said those very same words nearly every morning that Rossalyn had come down the stairs, as far back as she could remember, and they made her daughter feel very much at home.
"Hi, Mom," Rossalyn kissed her cheek on the way by.
The two had always been the best of friends, and had missed each other terribly from the time Rossalyn first left for college. Pouring a cup of coffee, she leaned against the counter, just like she used to, watching her mother cook.
"Some things never change," her grateful smile was tinged with sadness.
She loved being home again, but had no idea how to go about rebuilding her life. Her parents were wonderful, but staying with them long term was not an option. Rossalyn had always been strong and independent, and though she was still reeling from her terrible loss, she had vowed to get back on her feet and make a good life for Ryan.
"I hope that's a good thing," Margo replied, flipping four strips of bacon all at once. "How was your trip? You two were pretty quiet last night."
"It was good. Long ride though," Rossalyn mused.
"We checked out this cool abandoned building when we stopped for gas," Ryan supplied, his mouth full of biscuit.
"Oh? Where was that?" she scooped up several strips of perfectly cooked bacon and set them on a stack of paper towels.
"It was this little town by the highway, called Chatsworth," Rossalyn explained, reaching for one of the sizzling strips.
"Oh, right. Your father and I have been through there. There's a bigger town nearby that has a ton of very interesting furniture stores," Margo nodded. "Put the rest of that bacon on a plate and take it to the table, Rossie," she directed, pointing with her spatula.
Rossalyn transferred the bacon from the paper towels to a plate. "Yeah, it was just this little building that had once been called the Sugar Shack, it was kind of cute, so we checked it out."
"Was it for sale or something?"
"Yeah, there was a sign in the window," she took a sip of her coffee. "But I don't even remember the name of the real estate company that was offering it."
"Williams and Lockman," Ryan supplied, ladling sausage gravy onto another round of biscuits.
Both women stared at him.
"How on earth did you remember that?" his mother asked, impressed.
"Dunno," he shrugged, chewing.
"I wonder if they have a website," Margo commented. "You could show it to me. You know how I love old buildings."
"Well, this wasn't exactly old, it just hadn't been inhabited for a while, and ..." Rossalyn began.
"Here it is," Ryan handed his grandmother his cellphone, on which he'd pulled up the listing for the Sugar Shack.
"Well, aren't you efficient?" Margo grinned, taking the phone and scrolling through the pictures, while her daughter stood at her elbow, craning her neck to see. "Oh my, this is really cute. What potential," she nodded.
"What does it say about it?" Rossalyn asked.
"It used to be a chocolate shop, but the owner died. It's been vacant for ... three years, and is priced to sell."
"Priced to sell? What does that mean?"
"It means that you could afford it," her mother turned to her abruptly, a gleam in her eye.
Rossalyn burst into laughter. "Oh, well, that's just what I'll do. I'll buy a cute little building in the middle of nowhere and start a business," she scoffed.
"Might be fun," Ryan observed, stuffing a huge bite of biscuit, dribbling gravy, into his mouth.
"Could be just the new start that you're looking for," Margo shrugged. "I hear Chatsworth schools are pretty good."
"You can't be serious," Rossalyn looked from the earnest face of her son to the challenging look of her mother in disbelief.
"You do have a degree in business, Rossie," Margo reminded her with a smile.
"Yes, but that means that I might be qualified to work in an office environment, not start a business that I know nothing about. What would I even do? I have no idea how to use that building. I'm not exactly the entrepreneurial type," she protested.
"You've always been clever and resourceful. Maybe it's something to think about, that's all I'm saying," her mother shrugged.
"I think it would be cool. I could work there after school and during the summer," Ryan piped up, taking his plate to the sink. "You know what Dad always said. Be brave, be true, get it done. We could get it done," he said casually. "I'm going to get changed and go help Grandpa in the garage."
Rossalyn stared after him, thinking how much he had reminded her of Will just then, and the lump in her throat came back.
"Don't stress out over it, Rossie, just don't dismiss the possibility out of hand. There's no reason that you can't start your own business and succeed. You're from good hearty stock," her mother winked. "Now sit down and eat some breakfast, you're nothing but skin and bones."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Rossalyn attempted to joke.
"You have to keep your strength up, honey. You can't be strong for him if you're not strong for you first," her mother counseled, sitting down across from her, coffee mug in hand.
"I know," Rossalyn murmured. "I just don't know what to do."
"Well, the good news is that the world isn't going to end if you don't make a decision right this second," Margo smiled and patted her daughter's hand.
The both heard the sound of laughter and looked out the kitchen window to see Ryan playing a game of one-on-one with her dad.
"He's such a good boy. He doesn't deserve all this pain," Rossalyn whispered, tears welling.
"Of course he doesn't, neither do you, but it is what it is, and you're a survivor. Will knew that when he married you. You're going to get through this. You'll choose a direction when you're ready, and in the meantime, you just enjoy being here at home, okay?" Rossalyn nodded, her tears spattering the table beside her coffee mug.
"Now, you're going to eat some breakfast, then I'm taking you downtown to get some clothes that will actually fit the new you. Your current wardrobe looks like it could fall off of you at any second, and that would positively scandalize the town folk," Margo teased. "Besides, a little shopping therapy never hurt anyone. Your father has a whole day of "man stuff" planned for Ryan, so we're on our own for a bit. Sound good?"
"Sounds really good, Mom. Thank you," Rossalyn attempted a smile.
"Oh honey, don't thank me just yet. I plan on exploiting your free labor. You're going to help me slice up apples for pies tonight. Deal?" "Deal."
"Good, now finish up here and we'll get started on our girl's day."
Excerpted from Patriot's Passing Book 1 by Summer Prescott. Copyright © 2017 Summer Prescott. Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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