Life could be a dream...
Goal-oriented and gorgeous, Caitlin Timberlake's dreams took her to the top of the corporate ladder in New York City. Now years later, her goals have changed. She wants to come home to Eternity Springs and build a business and a family of her ownwith the new man in town. So what if sexy mechanic Josh Tarkington wants nothing more than a fling? Caitlin is a patient woman who knows how to work hard and strategize to win what she desires. She desires Josh. Unfortunately, he has other plans.
If only things were different...
Josh craves Caitlin and all she has to offer. However, he is a man with secrets. He has worked hard to overcome his tragic past, but he's afraid to risk having a future because he knows trouble is never very far away. When a selfless act brings that trouble to his door, he stands to lose everything he cares aboutincluding Caitlin. Will her love and the healing magic of Eternity Springs be enough to save him?
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Caitlin Timberlake exited the Telluride Regional Airport terminal and turned in a slow circle as she feasted on the scene. Colorado's Western Slope was a world of jagged, rocky mountain peaks, of icy-cold streams that burbled and frothed and grew silvery fish that tasted like heaven when cooked over a campfire for breakfast. The San Juan Mountains in summertime presented a banquet of color — hills of green and gold; red rocks and alpine meadows blanketed in wildflowers of pink, blue, purple, and yellow, all presenting majestically beneath an azure sky.
She filled her lungs with clean mountain air, smelling pine and fir and forest, and tension melted from her bones like snowfall in spring.
For the better part of eight years, she'd lived in New York City, hustling and bustling and busting her butt as a textile designer, trying to build a life for herself. She specialized in fabric design for bedding and while she liked the creative aspects of the job, work fulfillment remained elusive. After all, pretty bedspreads would never change the world, and Caitlin wanted her work to matter. She wanted her life to matter.
Caitlin's discontent had been born in the moment when she'd learned that her brother Chase had gone missing in a war-torn part of the world, and it had grown in the weeks that followed. His safe return home hadn't squelched the emotion. She'd discovered too much about herself and her wishes and desires during that troubling time.
Primarily, she'd recognized that she'd spent too much time living thousands of miles away from those she loved. It had taken her some time to figure out what she wanted to do about it and even more time to make the decision to act. A few significant hurdles remained in her way, but she was closer than ever before to becoming her own fairy godmother and making some of her wishes come true.
She exhaled loudly, grinned, and announced, "Hello, Colorado. I've missed you."
She'd have sworn she heard the wind whisper back, Welcome home, Caitlin.
"I'm doing the right thing," she told herself. Now if she could only convince her mother of that fact.
Well, that was a battle for another day, one after she'd cleared her hurdles and had her fairy wand in hand. Today it was time to shift into bridesmaid mode.
Caitlin had flown to Denver yesterday after work and spent the night in an airport hotel. This morning's flight into Telluride had landed right on time, and the hotel shuttle was waiting for her. After wrestling with her purse, her tote, her computer case, and two suitcases stuffed to overflowing with necessities for her role as bridesmaid, she wanted to kiss the friendly van driver who introduced himself as he took the burdens off her hands.
The fact that Will Gustophsen was cute and about her age didn't hurt, either.
A year ago when her college friend, Stephanie Kingston, asked her to be a bridesmaid at her destination wedding, Caitlin hadn't hesitated to say yes. She just wished she'd known sooner about all the stuff Steph needed her to bring with her and she'd have shipped it ahead.
"You here for an extended stay?" Will asked as he lifted a suitcase into the back of the van.
"Because I have so much luggage?" Caitlin smiled ruefully and explained, "I'm here for a wedding."
"Ahh. In that case, you travel light."
With the luggage loaded, she climbed into the shuttle and, as the only passenger, had her pick of seats. She buckled her seat belt, then settled back for what should be a short drive to her hotel.
As the driver turned onto Last Dollar Road and headed down the big hill he asked, "Where are you from?"
"Here. Well, not Telluride. I grew up in Denver. But I went to college in Tennessee and moved to New York City after graduation."
"Should I offer my congratulations or condolences?"
Caitlin laughed. "I'm glad I had the experience. I'm ready to come home, though."
"Back to Denver?"
"No." Her gaze focused on the small town nestled into the valley below. "I've developed a fondness for mountain towns."
Will Gustophsen glanced into the rearview mirror and wagged his brows flirtatiously. "Please tell me you're moving to Telluride."
His obvious interest soothed the spot on her heart still achy from a breakup last Christmas. Doug Wilkerson hadn't broken her heart when he dumped her, but he had bruised it. "I doubt it. This place is a little too pricy for me. Besides, I have family in Eternity Springs."
"That's a nice little town, but then so is this. It's possible to live here without breaking the bank. You just need to be smart about it." He launched into a Telluride pitch that sounded as if it had been written by the Chamber of Commerce.
Caitlin couldn't argue with him. The scenery was spectacular and the activities he rattled off sounded inviting. As they approached her hotel in Mountain Village, the pedestrian-friendly, European-style planned resort community built above Telluride and connected to the historic mining town by a gondola lift system, she was anxious to get out and explore. She'd been a kid the last time she'd visited this part of Colorado, and she was sure the place had changed. She had a few hours to kill before meeting Stephanie for a drink, so this was her time to play tourist.
"I get off work at six," Gustophsen said. "I'd love to show you around. Buy you dinner."
"Thank you," she responded, meaning it. Having a cute guy hit on her was nice. "But I'm afraid I already have plans this evening. The bride arrives this afternoon and the weekend is jam-packed from there."
He gave an exaggerated sigh. "Always my luck."
The friendly chatter continued until they arrived at the hotel. After he wrestled her luggage from the van and gave her his number in case her plans changed, she gave him a large tip and thanked him for the hospitable welcome.
Caitlin checked into her room and spent some time answering a few of the unending stream of work-related e-mails. She would miss a few things about her job. The mountain of e-mails that required her constant attention wouldn't be one of them.
With her professional fires put out, she shut her laptop with a satisfied thump, grabbed a hat and sunscreen, and left the hotel. She walked around Mountain Village a bit and was suitably impressed with the style and elegance of the resort town. However, she didn't feel quite at home until she took the gondola down into Telluride and wandered up and down the streets, reading historical markers and inspecting the shops, comparing them to those in another small, historic mining town near and dear to her heart.
Eternity Springs might not have a gondola and ski runs, but the bakery, handmade soap shop, and Christmas store could definitely hold their own against these. People came from all over the country to shop at Vista's art gallery and Whimsies glass studio, and her mother's Yellow Kitchen was the best five-star restaurant in Colorado.
She couldn't wait to be there.
She ate lunch at the Thai spot that her driver had recommended, then indulged in a chocolate ice cream cone for dessert. Taking a seat on a park bench near the gondola station, she savored her treat and people-watched.
The town was bustling this August weekend with tourists and locals alike out enjoying the afternoon sunshine. She grinned as a pair of preteen boys whipped past her on mountain bikes, their mud-caked clothing providing as much evidence of a fun-filled, reckless ride down the mountain as did the joy in their smiles.
Too bad her weekend was packed with wedding activities. She wouldn't mind giving that a try herself. She was impressed by the way the ski resorts had found ways to attract vacationers, athletes, and daredevil fourteen-year-old boys during the off season. Such was the way little mountain towns became tourist destinations and supported thriving economies throughout the year.
She knew that such success didn't happen on its own. She'd had a front-row seat during the revitalization of Eternity Springs and saw how people had worked together to make it happen.
Eternity Springs. It's funny how the little town called to her. It wasn't even home. Not the home of her childhood, anyway. She'd never even visited Eternity Springs until her parents lost their minds and separated after she went off to college at Vanderbilt and her mother ran away from home.
The ringing of her cell phone interrupted her thoughts. She dug the phone from her backpack and checked the number and the time. Stephanie. They were due to meet up in Mountain Village in half an hour. "Hello, bride."
"Hey, Cait. You won't believe what happened. Our plane out of Logan was late and we missed our connection. We won't get to Telluride until late tonight."
"Oh no." Potential ramifications of such a delay flittered through Caitlin's mind. "What did you have scheduled for today? What can I do to help?"
"It's all covered. I built extra time into the schedule, thank goodness. I'm just really disappointed that you and I won't have our girl-time this afternoon to catch up, and of course, missing dinner with George and Nathan. Nathan was really looking forward to spending some time with you before we dive into wedding business. Tomorrow will be jam-packed."
Stephanie had been trying to set Caitlin up with her work friend ever since Doug dumped her. However, the guy's Instagram was a total turnoff and Caitlin simply wasn't interested. Unfortunately, Stephanie was a terrier when she set her mind to something, and she'd decided Caitlin and Nathan were made for each other — despite the little issue that she lived in NYC and he in Miami.
This plane delay might be a blessing, Caitlin decided. "Don't worry about it, Steph. You and I will both be at Marsha's wedding in October. We can have a nice long visit then."
"That's true. And maybe you and Nathan can find time to grab a drink together tomorrow. It might fit after our spa appointments and the guys' round of golf. I don't want you to miss the opportunity to meet him. Telluride is such a romantic place."
Caitlin closed her eyes and worked to keep the sigh out of her voice as she said, "Telluride is beautiful, Steph. It's a gorgeous place to have your wedding. And the weather for Saturday is supposed to be spectacular."
They discussed arrangements for meeting the following day. Before ending the call, Stephanie said, "If you happen to meet a tall, dark, and handsome stranger tonight, feel free to invite him to the wedding. I had six last-minute cancellations, and I've already paid for the meals."
"I thought you have your heart set on me and Nathan."
"I do, but it never hurts for a guy to have a little competition."
Thinking about her lack of a love life put a damper on Caitlin's day. Maybe she should have taken the shuttle driver up on his offer, after all. As luck would have it, as soon as she slipped her phone into her backpack, her gaze landed on a couple about her age, holding hands and stealing kisses as they walked along the sidewalk. This time, she couldn't hold back her sigh.
She was alone. Again. Still. How was it that she could live and work in a city of more than eight million people and always feel alone? Even when she was dating someone? But she did feel alone and she was tired of pretending otherwise. Tired of pretending, period. Hadn't she been partially relieved when after eight months of dating, Doug sat her down and gave her the "just friends" talk?
Thinking about relationships while sitting in a mountain town caused her thoughts to drift back toward her parents. In hindsight Caitlin could see that she shouldn't have been so hard on her mom when Ali ran off to Eternity Springs. If Ali Timberlake's feelings back then had been anything like those Caitlin experienced now, then Cait could better understand her mom's actions. Ali had tried to explain, using terms like "lack of fulfillment," "yearning for more," and "unwillingness to settle." Caitlin hadn't wanted to hear what her mother had been trying to say. For a while, neither had her father.
But Ali hadn't let anyone stop her, had she? She'd left Mac, left Denver, and eventually opened a restaurant in Eternity Springs. She'd made new friends and a place for herself in the community. In proving to herself that she could live without Mac, Ali had realized that was the last thing she wanted to do. Living alone in Denver, Mac had come to a similar conclusion.
"And all was well that ended well," Caitlin murmured, tearing her eyes away from the lovers. Guess her parents hadn't lost their minds when they separated, after all.
Caitlin polished off her ice cream, licked her sticky fingers, and decided she'd had enough sightseeing. She'd go back to the hotel, maybe change into her swimsuit and do a few laps in the indoor pool. Shoot, maybe she'd change her clothes and rent a bike and act like a fourteen-year-old boy.
Making her way to the gondola entrance, she took a place at the end of the line. A group of college-age tourists fell in behind her, laughing, talking loudly, smelling strongly of weed.
Caitlin stepped forward and as the gondola attendant opened the cabin door for her to climb inside, the constant stream of foul language coming from two girls behind her put her off. She stepped aside. "I'll let them go first."
They giggled and stumbled and f-bombed their way into the cabin. The attendant met Caitlin's eyes and rolled his, then shut the door.
As she watched the next cabin approach, a male voice spoke behind her. "This is one of the pet-friendly cabins. I hope you don't mind sharing with my dog?"
Caitlin glanced over her shoulder and saw a tall man with sun-streaked dark hair and striking high, defined cheekbones. But it was his eyes that demanded a woman's attention. Framed by long, thick lashes, they were the color of a stormy spring sky, and they were mesmerizing. She stared into them just a little bit too long.
What had he said? His dog. "I love dogs."
Embarrassed, she finally jerked her gaze away from those fabulous eyes and toward his dog. Because he'd asked if she minded sharing, she expected to see a big, hairy, scary-looking dog. Instead, she saw a pretty miniature long-haired red dachshund with her hind legs propped up by a doggie wheelchair.
* * *
The hot blonde went gooey. They always did. It was one of the few perks Josh Tarkington had found of being the owner of a dog with a broken back.
"Oh no." Her moss green eyes softened, her bee-stung mouth rounded. "What's wrong with him?"
"Her," Josh corrected as the cabin arrived and the attendant opened the door for them. "She's a girl. She jumped down from a sofa and hit wrong. She's paralyzed from the middle of her spine down."
"That's so sad," the blonde said, stepping into the cabin and taking a seat.
"She's actually a happy girl." Josh scooped up the dog and wheelchair and set her on the seat opposite the woman. He shrugged out of his backpack, sat beside his dog, and smiled at his gondola companion. "The woman who owned her at the time of the accident said Penny was depressed for about three days, but after that she recovered her usual sunny disposition."
A large group of children and adults asked to wait for the next cabin since they traveled together, so the attendant shut the door with Josh and the blonde as the only passengers.
"Her name is Penny?" she asked.
He nodded, and when the woman extended her hand to let the dachshund sniff her, Josh noticed she wore no ring on her left hand. "Copper Penny. I'm Josh, by the way."
She lifted her gaze from the dog and smiled at Josh brightly. "Nice to meet you, Josh. My name is Caitlin."
"Are you a local, Caitlin, or are you visiting?"
"I'm here for a college friend's wedding. I live in New York. How about you?"
"I'm playing tourist here this weekend. This is my first trip to Telluride."
"It's the first time I've been in years. It's gorgeous here, isn't it?"
"Definitely." Josh said it without looking away from her.
Judging by the flutter of her smile and sudden shift of her gaze, his subtle flirtation did not go unnoticed. Caitlin returned her attention to the dog and asked, "So, how long have you had this precious Copper Penny?"
"Not quite a month. Her owner had to move into an assisted living center that doesn't allow dogs, so she asked our local vet to find Penny a home. I'd gone to the adoption center to get an appropriately manly dog. I'm still not sure how I walked out with a crippled doxie."
"Obviously, you needed a little good luck."
Josh needed a couple of seconds to make the connection. "Ah, as in 'See a penny, pick it up?'"
"And all the day you'll have good luck," Caitlin finished.
Excerpted from "The First Kiss of Spring"
Copyright © 2018 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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