For the last eleven years, Savannah Callowell has led a peaceful existence in Bitterly. As the owner of an old farm, she’s mostly kept to herself, not daring to let anyone get too close. None of her neighbors know that she’s haunted by tragedy, and she’s done everything possible to escape her ghosts. She thinks she’s succeeding, until her new foreman shows up—and he’s far from being the college kid she was expecting…
A worldly former professor, Adelmo Gallegos has his own reasons for wanting to hide out on Savvy’s farm, and he isn’t about to share them with anyone, not even his enticing new boss. Still, Ade can’t help himself, the more time he spends with Savannah, the more he longs to lure her out of her protective shell. But how can he convince her that opening her heart is the only way to heal? Especially since he too has secrets he’s unwilling to share? Only when the past catches up with them may they be able to free themselves of it…
“Terri-Lynne DeFino writes my favorite kind of romance, delightfully real and straight from the heart.” —Sarah Hegger
“A touching story with memorable characters. Beautiful, heartfelt storytelling expresses a well-developed plot with the perfect blend of tension and emotion.” –RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
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By Terri-Lynne DeFino
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Terri-Lynne DeFino
All rights reserved.
memories of other days
I didn't like fireworks when I was a squirt. That boom. Ugh. It made my stomach swish. Having to sit through them ruined the Independence Day picnics for me. I always wished Mom and Pop would let me go home instead of making me stay. Though, really, our house was too close to town for it to have made a difference.
I can't count the Independence Days that've come and gone since then. Time doesn't pass the same way it used to. One minute it's high summer and the fireworks are booming, the next, I'm leaving pebbles in a shoe by the light of the full Hunter's Moon. Maybe that's why I'm still here in this Nowheresville of Nowheresvilles having conversations with myself as if someone's listening. As if I'm telling a story.
* * *
Thunder rumbled in the blue, July sky. Savannah Callowell understood New England storms well enough to know when the mountains would guide the black clouds beyond Bitterly, and when they'd let them in. Today felt like a welcome mat set out for the electric boom.
She stepped into the yard, shielding her eyes from the sunshine. The Fourth of July town picnic had, once again, been a raging success. In all the years since she moved up from Georgia, there had not been a single rainout. The produce was gone down to the last potato. The few soaps and jellies left were mostly back on the shelves in the farmstand store. Lambs in their pens, chickens in their coop, Savvy's was as restored as it could be until the next harvest came in.
"Good morning, boss." Benny picked her way across the yard, her eight-month old daughter in a baby sling strapped to her chest. Ever since her own life had gone from miserable apathy to marital bliss, Benedetta Grady-Hendricks-Greene had been on a mission to rid the world of unhappiness. Darling Benny. She had no clue, and Savannah wanted to keep it that way.
"Did you get a good rest yesterday?" Benny asked, hefting her baby higher and adjusting the sling.
"I did, thanks." Savannah rubbed at her forehead. July 5th's typical banger of a headache had dulled back to the familiar throb. "Has Dan recovered from the tug-o-war?"
Benny rolled her eyes, added in a dramatic sigh. "My husband seems to think he's still twenty. He'll survive. Probably just a pulled muscle in his shoulder."
"So, what brings you here this morning? You have the next two weeks off."
"I was hoping you had some of that liniment Darla and Sandra make. Dan isn't just delusional, he's stubborn. He won't go to the doctor about his shoulder even though he groaned all night long. As if Irene doesn't keep me awake enough."
Savannah laughed. "I think there might be some left. Come on in."
They went into the farmstand store. Savannah flipped on the lights. Rummaging in the lone box as yet unpacked, she called, "Why don't you make us a cup of tea?"
Savannah only pretended to look for the liniment until she heard Benny clattering around in the office. This time of year left her feeling fragile, and unable to cope with the cheerful chattering her friend was famous for, the chattering that usually brought an affectionate smile to Savannah's lips. Watching Benny's transformation the year prior, from grieving widow to wife and mother, had been magical. For a time, Savannah thought, maybe, her joy would rub off. Honor. Determination. The ferocity that took her from temperate Georgia to finicky Connecticut. Such things gave her purpose, but they were not joy.
Tube of liniment in hand, she joined Benny in the air-conditioned office. Her friend was just pouring hot water from the kettle, and Savannah's frazzled nerves became somewhat less so. She handed over the tube in exchange for a steaming mug. Snuggled against Benny's bounteous chest, Irene slumbered as deeply as only a healthy, happy baby could. Savannah remembered the feel of soft, sweet breath on her neck, in her nostrils. She remembered the heft of not one but two contented little bundles on her chest. She remembered.
Blowing across the top of her mug, fragrant steam carried unwanted thoughts away. "Mmm. Is this the chocolate mint?"
"My favorite." Benny wrinkled her nose. "Dan nearly murdered me when he found out I planted a patch out back."
Savannah's muscles bunched. "Don't say murder. I bet he wasn't even really angry. You're so dramatic."
"True. But it did take over, and started threatening his precious lilies. I should have known better. Mint is so aggressive."
"Did you ..." Savannah sipped down the lingering jitters along with the tea. "Did you sow them directly? The mint?"
"What do you mean?"
"Are they in the ground? Or in pots?"
Savannah took another soothing sip. Talking about plants carried her further from that word, from the past. "There's only one way to keep mint from spreading. If you don't want to container-garden, you have to dig up that whole patch and replant a few bunches in those clay chimney flues sunk in the ground. That'll contain the root system. As long as you clip them before they flower and fall, your mint will behave."
"Oh, really? That's so cool. How'd you figure that out?"
"I didn't. Until coming to Connecticut, I never even planted a flower in a pot on my porch. Edgardo and Raul taught me everything I know."
"That's crazy." Benny tugged at a lock of long, dark hair caught in the shoulder strap of the baby sling. Cursing under her breath, she unslung her infant. "I finally got my hair to grow past my chin and I want to hack it all off again, but I refuse to do the new-mom-pixie-cut thing."
Benny set Irene down on the cot in the office. After all the years they'd been friends and coworkers, she still didn't seem to get that there was a reason Savannah gave all her workers two weeks off after Independence Day. Before last year, when Benny came awake again after too many years grieving, her oblivion was understandable. Now, her oblivion felt a little forced. A lot forced. Savannah wouldn't rise to the bait. Not even if Benny asked her outright why she became a hermit for two weeks every July.
"Did Edgardo and Raul get off all right this morning?" Benny sipped, looking at Savannah over the rim of her mug.
"As far as I know. They left on time, at least. I heard them at around three this morning."
"It's so strange to me, them living apart from their families most of the year."
"They must be used to it." Savannah sipped. "They've been working for me for eleven years, and I'm not their first American gig. They're here to plant the first seeds in March and stay until the last of October's pumpkins are cut. At least they go home for these two weeks. I force them to."
"We're lucky to have them." Benny leaned in, whispering, "They've got to be getting old though, don't you think?"
"They can't hear you, Benny."
She slouched back in her chair. "You never know who's listening."
"Well, the pictures tacked to the wall in the double-wide never change. Children? Grandchildren? I have no idea. Maybe both."
"Grandchildren? You think? But they don't have a gray hair between them."
"No, but their faces are lined like roadmaps."
"And yet they don't seem old." Benny harrumphed. "Why do men age so much better than women? Not fair. Not fair at all."
Savannah relaxed despite herself, as the minutes ticked into a chatty hour. Benny laughed easily, drew the same out in her. Even the throbbing in Savannah's head eased. Irene stirred, and then she whimpered. Benny sat on the edge of the cot and nursed her happy again. The back of her tiny blonde head, thick with curls like her daddy's, made Savannah want to twirl her fingers in the swirl at her crown. Baby hair, like baby breath, was the sweetest of things she could imagine.
"Savvy? Yoo-hoo, earth to Savannah." Benny was no longer sitting on the cot but wrapping her baby into the folds and twists of her sling.
"Sorry, my mind wandered."
"Your headache okay?"
"My — oh, yes." Savannah touched her head. "It's fine. What were you saying?"
"I was just saying that I'd better get this little biscuit to her grandma and grandpa's so I can get ready for my big date. It might take a little while to squeeze myself into the dress I bought. Svelte, I have never been. What was I thinking, buying something so tight?"
Benny leaned in and kissed Savannah's cheek. "You really are still tired," she said. "It's Dan and my anniversary, remember? You were my maid of honor."
"Oh ... oh! Benny, I'm so sorry." Savannah hugged her tight. "Happy Anniversary, sugar. May this be the first of many happy years to come."
"If the rest are only a quarter as happy, I'll count myself lucky. Thanks, Savvy."
Savannah walked Benny outside. It still surprised her to see her friend climb into the hybrid car Dan surprised her with on her birthday, rather than onto the scooter she had always ridden. Strapping the baby into her car-seat, Benny said, "We leave for Bar Harbor tomorrow. You sure you have enough help while I'm gone?"
"Don't start that again." Savannah laughed. "There is almost nothing to do but watch the vegetables grow. Besides, I have enough kids available to fetch and carry for me if I need them. Go. Have fun camping. I'm green with envy. Bar Harbor is one of my favorite places on the planet."
"Thanks for the recommendation." Benny tossed the baby wrap into the car and opened her arms to Savannah. "I'll see you in a couple of weeks."
"Bring me back some seashells."
Waving her friend away until her car was a red speck in the sunshine, Savannah's mind raced with all there actually was to do on the farm despite her assurances to the contrary. Watering and staking, feeding, weeding, pest-detecting and eradicating. There were secondary crops to start and seedlings to tend. And the lambs ... the spring lambs were nearly ready to go, whether to slaughter or sale. Picking which ones would go where was a task she hated, and one she wouldn't foist onto someone else, not even the brothers Gallegos, for whom such a task wasn't so heartrending.
Savannah Callowell would dive headlong into all these tasks that were better than being idle this time of year, better than having to be with anyone she loved. The high school students who changed by the year were all she could handle.
Heading back to her office, the lists and the planning and the ordering of her present filled her thoughts to capacity. Savannah watched her feet instead of the sky now black and roiling and rumbling thunder, just as she predicted.CHAPTER 2
July rolled along, and with it came the sort of heat wave Savannah would barely have noticed in Georgia, but one that flattened Bitterly, Connecticut like a soggy pancake. The air conditioner in her office whirred nonstop. She had taken to sleeping there rather than in her un-air-conditioned house. In all the years she lived in the north, she had never needed one.
Edgardo and Raul would be back in two days. Savannah had exhausted every effort to find a window unit for their doublewide. Though the men would put up craggy hands and, in a combination of English and Spanish, assure her it wasn't necessary, she wanted one for them. She wanted them to know she regarded them as more than men who worked her farm. They were like beloved uncles in this town of more acquaintances than friends.
Delivering the window fans she had managed to find at the local thrift store to their home, the unmistakable sound of masculine voices in the kitchen halted her. She paused. Spanish. Definitely the rural variety she had come to recognize, and not the one she learned in college. Savannah relaxed and set the fans onto the floor.
The voices abruptly halted. They whispered. Edgardo, the elder and taller brother, hurried out of the kitchen, followed quickly by Raul.
"You're back early," she said.
Edgardo shuffled from foot to foot. "Only two days. We talk, okay?"
"Sure. Of course. We can go to my office if it's too hot ..."
The brothers laughed. "Not hot," Raul said. "Is cool, no? Like Alaska."
Savannah laughed with them. Sarcasm or comparison to Ecuador, she couldn't tell which. Still shuffling foot to foot, casting glances at one another, the men fell silent once more.
"Okay, guys. What's up? Just tell me."
Raul nodded, urged his brother to speak with a gesture, and stepped back. Edgardo placed a work-roughened hand gently to Savannah's shoulder. "We work many years, good years. Now is time we go home. Stay home."
Savannah only looked at that hand on her shoulder. Dark on dark, yet not at all the same. She studied the contrast while her brain tried to process what he'd just said. Leave Bitterly? Leave her? This sudden loss trembled through her, ice down her sweating back.
Her slow fingers grasped for his. "I ... I don't know what to say."
"Is sorpresa, si? Forgive for that. La jefa, she say is time. I am no young. She is right. Is time."
Savannah searched his dear, lined face. Had Benny known something she didn't? Guessed something she'd been too preoccupied to even consider? Breaking the unspoken rule between them, she hugged Edgardo tight. The man fidgeted, but held her in return.
"Lo siento, Savvy."
"Don't be sorry," she managed to say. "I'm just going to miss you, is all."
"We stay the season," Raul said. "Teach mi sobrino what he do."
When the men spoke to one another, it was full of the rural lilts and slang she recognized but couldn't decipher. When they spoke to her, they stuck mostly to English peppered with the Spanish she knew. And Savannah knew that word.
"Your nephew?" She looked from man to man. "You brought your nephew here to take your place?"
"My son." Edgardo patted his chest proudly. "Adelmo. College boy, si? He study many years. He come here, work para ti. Learn. Next season, he be ready."
"Good boy," Raul added. "Very good. You like him."
Trading two seasoned foremen for a college kid made her uneasy. Savvy's had a good reputation as a farm that, while not certified organic, was close to it, all thanks to the experience of the two men smiling and nodding uncomfortably before her. "Well," she sighed, "where is he?"
"Not here," Edgardo told her. "Two days, he come. Five o'clock airplane. Okay?"
"Okay. Yes, good. Thank you, gentlemen."
She took a deep breath, let it go along with the dread. They were leaving her. Edgardo and Raul, who had worked the farm as long as she had, were going home as they always did in October, and wouldn't come back. Ever. In their place, a boy without their experience, a boy she had no attachment to, but would, in time, because no matter how hard she tried not to care, Savannah Callowell usually did.
"I brought you window fans." She turned abruptly and headed to where she left them. "There isn't an air conditioner to be had in all of Connecticut or Massachusetts. If it gets too hot, you can sleep in the office ..."
* * *
The dark crescent that always preceded a full-blown headache appeared in her periphery. Savannah padded to her bathroom and grabbed the bottle of pills Margit had prescribed for her. Of all those she left behind in Georgia, her friend and doctor was the only one she kept in touch with, under sworn promise not to tell anyone where she was. Ever.
Through Margit, Savannah got her medication and any pertinent news of home. Her adoptive sisters and brother, old friends and ancient Auntie Bea had not changed, as far as she could tell. Keeping in touch made it easier for Savannah to stay away, to pretend doing so somehow helped.
Swallowing down the pills, she closed her eyes against that crescent harbinger. The medication never averted the headache, but it did help. She jiggled the bottle. Only six left, and it wasn't even August yet. Savannah put it back in the medicine cabinet, fished the cellphone from the pocket of her tattered robe, and punched up Margit.
"Hey, Margit." Savannah cleared the gravel from her voice. "It's me. Savvy."
"I can read my caller ID." The sweet, rich voice on the other end laughed. "Out of meds?"
"Almost. Can you call it in?"
"It's been over a year since I've seen you, Savvy. You know I can't prescribe these meds without seeing you annually. Come home."
Excerpted from Waking Savannah by Terri-Lynne DeFino. Copyright © 2016 Terri-Lynne DeFino. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
Savannah and Adelmo both have secrets. They are haunted by their pasts. They both want to achieve their goals But those goals might not be what they once were. Savannah is a doctor who bought a farm and moved north from Georgia to Connecticut. She has been in Bitterly for over a decade and has friends – good friends. When she finds that her trusted farm workers are leaving but have provided a nephew to take their places she is skeptical but prepares for the arrival of a young man – but the man who arrives is not what she expected – not at all. With instant chemistry not acted upon they start to get acquainted. Adelmo meets the community, learns the land and begins to find out who he really is and really wants to be in the future. Savannah is dealing with headaches that have plagued her for a long long time. When a friend suggests a theory for the headaches Savannah is unconvinced but the idea does begin to grow on her. What I loved about this book: * Both Savannah and Adelmo are intelligent, educated and self-aware * The fact that Savvy and Ade take time to know one another and care before taking their relationship further. * The issues both have to deal with are real, deep and not easily brushed under a rug. * There was discussion of there being “more” than what the eye can see and I do believe that, too. And more than anything – this book spoke to me and made me think and made me care. I like books like this one and highly recommend it to you. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for the copy to read. This is my honest review.