SOMETIMES THE PAIN OF LIFE BRINGS A NEW BEGINNING…
Widower Dominic Dunn isn’t sure what to think of his wife’s pre-planned trip for him a year after her death. It’s her effort to force him from his work desk to the coast and the peacefulness she’d found at the Carolina Cove Inn.
Innkeeper Ireland Cohen is a single mom with an impressionable son, and after the kid gets himself into trouble, Dominic offers to lend a hand. It’s the least he can do when Ireland was such a good friend to his wife after her diagnosis.
As the hot summer days at the beach turn into breezy evenings, Ireland and Dominic find their shared memories and friendship turning into more. They’re drawn to each other, fighting an attraction neither of them want because of their pasts.
He’s only visiting, and Ireland has a strict rule about dating tourists. But as his trip draws to a close, they both wonder—is this their last goodbye?
The Last Goodbye is the first book in a five book series set along North Carolina’s beautiful Wilmington coast.
About the Author
Kay Lyons always wanted to be a writer, ever since the age of seven or eight when she copied the pictures out of a Charlie Brown book and rewrote the story because she didn’t like the plot. Through the years her stories have changed but one characteristic stayed true— they were all romances.
Published in 2005 with Harlequin Enterprises, Kay’s first release was a national bestseller. Kay has also been a HOLT Medallion, Book Buyers Best and RITA Award nominee. Kay’s current Seaside Sisters Series is set in and around Wilmington, NC, and is available from Kindred Spirits Publishing.
Kristen McKay and Tyler Kincaide have a past—one that has left her with a bone-deep animosity for him. And a secret.
After seventeen years away, Tyler has returned to his hometown of Northridge, complicating Kristen’s life and dredging up conflicting emotions she’d rather not confront: the shame of that night so many years ago, coupled with the confounding and unwelcome physical attraction she has for him; the desire to keep her secret and the guilt over doing just that.
For his part, Tyler tries to renew his once-casual friendship with Kristen, but is greeted with open hostility for his efforts. He can’t understand why she feels about him the way he feels about Brussels sprouts and kale—intense loathing. What did he do that was so unforgivable? And what can he do to make her view him with less distaste than she would gum on the bottom of her shoe?
When they’re roped into working on a project together for the town’s Economic Development Council, there is no denying their chemistry. The heat between them grows into something more than sexual attraction, leaving Kristen no other alternative. She must confess her secret, even though she knows it will tear them apart. In an ironic twist, she finds she must seek forgiveness from the very man she swore never to forgive.
Other Books in the Seasons of Northridge Series:
A Season to Dance
Seasons of Northridge, Book 1
Publisher: Rebecca Heflin Books, LLC
Release Date: December 13, 2018
Olivia James and Zach Ryder were high school sweethearts, but at age eighteen, she left small-town Georgia for the bright lights and satin pointe shoes of Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. Seventeen years later, Olivia’s come home for her mother’s funeral, nursing an injury that could likely end her meteoric dance career. Being back home stirs up old heartache, and seeing Zach again is not on her to-do list. Her best bet is get in, get out—a week at most. Then she’ll return to Chicago to rehabilitate her injury and salvage her career. But best laid plans often go astray . . .
Zach has never really recovered from Olivia’s departure, even though he always knew she was destined for fame, while he was destined for small-town life. Now Olivia’s back and he’s determined to protect his heart. But when he learns she’s staying in town longer than originally planned, Zach knows they are going to have to face the past to move on. He’s just not prepared for the beautiful woman she’s become or the effect she still has on his heart.
Small towns being what they are, Zach and Olivia are constantly thrown into one another’s paths, and it soon becomes apparent they still love each other. Will they give in to their rekindled desire and seize a second chance at happiness?
Rebecca Heflin is a bestselling, award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job at a large state university.
Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.
Returning home to the Oregon town of Graciella after twelve years away, international real-estate guru Turner Brockman intends to make amends for having disappeared, then vanish again. He didn’t plan on meeting a figure from the past he tried to escape—beautiful Lily Moreno, now all grown up and the independent creative owner of Dragonfly Design & Construction.
Lily never expected to see Turner again and she’s determined to hide the love she’s felt for him since she was a girl, when he crushed her heart and killed her trust in men. Creating and owning the top construction company on the West Coast and being there for her friends and family are Lily’s only desires now. Except…there’s an intense chemistry between her and Turner, one she gives in to, only to harden her heart after every encounter.
Welcomed back into the beauty of Graciella and the family farm with loving open arms, Turner falls quickly for Lily, but faces his greatest challenge yet—seducing Lily into trusting him completely. Will his intense love, patience and good old-fashioned wooing be enough to capture his dragonfly’s heart?
Lily snaked her truck through the construction signs and orange barrels from the road crew that was working on Main Street during the week and parked at an angle that would make getting the long boards of wood out of her truck and straight into the theater easier. Lily put her earbuds in, cranked up Brandi Carlile and got to work.
Brandi was in the middle of an angsty love song when the two by fours Lily carried over her shoulder smacked against something behind her.
“Holy hell!” she swore as the impact jarred her. When she turned to inspect what had gotten in her way, her heart flipped over. Not something, someone. No. No. No! It can’t be. Not here. Not now. Not ever. She slammed the wood to the ground and sucked in a breath. Turner Brockman in the flesh. Lily ripped out her earbuds, her music replaced with a shadow from the past.
“I’ll second that,” he said, rubbing his shoulder. She followed the motion of his arm. She’d smacked him with her two by fours. Appropriate. His voice was deeper, but, even with his pissy tone, she’d recognize the sound anywhere.
“I didn’t see you…” No one’s seen you in twelve years. Her heart hovered and fluttered in recognition. Oh, no you don’t, you traitor. We do not love him anymore.
“See me? What about hear me?” he said, his voice edged with cold annoyance. “You left your truck blocking the road. I honked at you, twice. What kind of an idiot leaves his truck in the middle of the street full of lumber in broad daylight?”
Lily’s shock and surprise flipped over into anger. Idiot? Honked at me? ‘His’ truck? Oh, hell no! She wasn’t prepared for his return. She’d told herself he never would. It was the only way to exist, to move on once she’d picked up the shattered pieces of her young heart. Oh, how naïve she’d been. Thank goodness she’d grown up.
He stood there lecturing and thinking she was a man. Why had she ever fallen for him? Jesus, he didn’t even recognize her. She’d often wondered what kind of an impression she’d made on him. Now she knew—absolutely none. The jerk he’d been as a teenager seemed to have exploded into its full identity. And he was in her face. Great! Just fricking great!
She turned and stalked outside. Just who’s the idiot? She made it to her truck and could hear Turner yelling after her. She dug in the bed of her pickup for her toolbox and tried to regulate her breathing. Seeing Turner had knocked it loose and it skimmed and fizzed out of control, like scrambling to find breath after diving into freezing water.
About the Author
She has over fifteen years of creative non-fiction and memoir writing experience, and you can find her essays at Anderbo.com, Feminine Collective, Mothers Always Write, Her View from Home, Under the Gum Tree, and in anthologies such as Are We Feeling Better Yet? Women Speak about Healthcare in America, Take Care: Tales, Tips, & Love from Women Caregivers, and Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Although she’s the author of many essays about life, grief, motherhood and the connections we make through delicious food and shared meals, Sara loves creating imaginary worlds with tight-knit communities in her romance novels. She credits her mother, Mary, Nora Roberts and Rosamunde Pilcher for her love of romance.
If she’s not reading or writing, you will most likely find her in the kitchen creating scrumptious meals with her two kids and amazing husband, or perhaps cooking up her next love story.
She once met a person who both “didn’t read books” and wasn’t “that into food” and it nearly broke her heart.
After her father’s accident, Corrie Lancaster moves back to the family farm just in time to help with the harvest. With a bumper crop of wheat waiting, the farm’s only hired hand quits, leaving Corrie with no choice but to accept the help of her old boyfriend’s older brother, Aaron Tuttle. It seems like the perfect plan until Corrie realizes ex-flame Luke isn’t over her. But even with Luke’s apologies and attempts to rekindle their romance, Corrie can’t forget his past betrayal.
Between harvesting, keeping tabs on her younger siblings, and watching her parents’ marriage crumble, Corrie leans on Aaron for emotional support. Wading through jealousy was never on Corrie’s to-do list, but as she navigates the choppy waters, she finds herself falling for Aaron’s good looks and charming wit.
Just when Corrie thinks she has everything under control, a stranger seeking shelter comes to the farm, and an old nemesis returns for revenge. As destructive forces align against her, Corrie must decide which man’s love will bring her back to life and restore her faith in herself, her family, and her purpose.
Perchedhigh in her Peterbilt semitruck, Corrie Lancaster winced as the leather seat sucked at her tanned arms. She swiped at the sweat dripping down her nose. Didn’t matter. She loved harvest time. Consistent and efficient. Just what she liked.
Enclosed in the cab cocoon, she waited out the cloud of dust and chaff spewed out by the back end of the combine as it inched across the wheat field. She counted down the seconds until the last of the dust storm passed, then she opened the door and hopped down from the sweltering cab. Even a hot day felt like a fresh breeze after being trapped like that. Filling her nostrils with the smell of wheat and dirt, she shuffled through the stubble and knelt. With deft fingers, she moved aside the chaff and scoured the ground for wheat kernels.
Seeing only two, she exhaled. The old girl kept chugging along. If the 9600 John Deere combine could keep doing that for the next two thousand acres, they’d be set. With the years of drought and bad grain prices, the piggy bank had squealed its last a long time ago. A good harvest was the only hope for reviving it.
Corrie straightened, brushed her hands on her jeans, and readjusted her dark aviators as her gaze darted over the field she’d planted and cared for. Ambling to the semi to wait for the next load, she groaned when a familiar rusty-orange Ford F-350 tore into the field, wheels spitting up chaff in their wake. George, her hired man, slammed the door, the pickup shuddering with the force.
“Here we go again,” she mumbled, posting herself next to her semi, careful not to touch the black paint molten in the sun’s heat, and waited for the large oaf to close the distance. “George, what’s the rush?”
His tongue darted out and licked his chapped and peeling lips. His licentious gaze raked her while still communicating disdain. Quite a trick for someone with mush for brains. She hugged her arms around her chest.
“The rush?” George spat. “Rush is I quit.”
Her arms fell to her sides. “What?”
“You heard me.”
Corrie balled her hands into fists and kept herself from planting them in George’s overfed face. “You can’t quit.”
“I ain’t about to work for no woman for minimum wage. Especially a woman like you.”
Bright? Diligent? Caring and responsible? Words he probably didn’t know.
She narrowed her eyes. “Fine. Quit.”
“Or you could do what any reasonable woman would do. Sell the farm. To me.”
Corrie snapped her mouth shut on a nasty swear word. “When pigs fly.” She clambered up the semi steps and slammed the door.
Hot humid air and her heavy breathing filled the cab as George sped from the field, truck tires making a permanent rut. Corrie pawed at the window knob until the coolest breeze a ninety-five-degree day could muster blew through. Laying her head back against the headrest, she closed her eyes and, for the first time, longed to be back in Sioux Falls and ached for a juicy story to unfold to the readers of the Argus Leader. Impossible of course. Her family needed her.
She jumped in the seat and banged her knees on the steering wheel. She couldn’t remember praying for patience, but she made a mental note to remind God she didn’t need any more for a while.
“Nathan! You scared the living daylights out of me.” She quirked an eyebrow. His fifteen-year-old face resembled a Cheshire cat’s. “Did you scare me on purpose?”
“No.” Tinges of crimson crawled up his neck. “I swear on my ability to drive, I didn’t mean to.” His blue eyes radiated innocence, but he’d made her look like a fool before.
“If I even get a hint, a breath of a hint, that you did it on purpose, I’ll take Old Bertie away for two days.”
“How am I supposed to practice driving if you take the truck away?”
“You shouldn’t have sworn by it, then, should you?” She reached out and ruffled Nathan’s hair. Ignoring his scowl, she asked, “Why are you here, anyway? I thought you had a grain bin to clean.”
“The auger’s broken, and I couldn’t get ahold of George to fix it. I thought he’d be here with you.”
“George quit.” And all she wanted to do was find ways to exact revenge upon him. Ex-lax in his morning coffee? Too messy. A new mouse infestation in his pickup? Too mousy. “Losing” his last paycheck—
“Corrie? Are you there?” Nathan waved a hand in front of her face.
“What do you want me to do?”
Go find the loser and run him over. No. That wouldn’t help. He would be only slightly less useful dead. “I’ll figure something out. Did you finish the rest of your chores?”
“Yeah. I was just about to finish cleaning out the grain bin when the stupid auger broke. Can I still go to the lake with my friends?”
His large boots thumped on the running board. Just this morning, he’d complained they were getting tight on him.
“Yeah, you can go.” Before he could hop down, she grabbed his arm. “Double-check with Mom and make sure you’re home by five to relieve Nikki. She’s been in that combine since eight.”
He beamed at her and walked away with a lanky stride caused by a six-foot frame and an arm span to match.
She hollered, “Why didn’t you just call over the radio?”
“Broken,” he yelled over his shoulder before he slammed the door to the old red manual pickup he’d learned to drive.
Rage exploded from deep inside. With a scream, Corrie scrunched up an empty Pepsi can, and pretending it was George’s head, she chucked it out of the truck cab. For all his horrible qualities, George had worked hard. And he didn’t earn minimum wage. He earned a dollar an hour more.
An approaching tractor’s purr drew her attention. Her cousin Joey bounced up and down as the John Deere inched closer. He lined the grain cart up to the semi and began dumping golden wheat kernels into the trailer. After several minutes, he pulled away and headed down the rough field to await another combine hopper.
She started the truck and drummed her fingers while it aired up. When the red light signified the truck was ready, she shifted into first, exited the field, and began the twenty-mile drive into Sandy. Metallica screamed through the truck’s speakers, and she bobbed her head to the vicious beat.
They would have to hire another person. A person crazy enough to work for a dollar an hour more than minimum wage.
* * * *
A full moon illuminated the well-kept Lancaster farmyard as Corrie pulled into the driveway. She hauled herself out of the pickup, every muscle in her body threatening mutiny.
“Well, Old Bertie, you did well today. I hope Nathan’s treating you right.” Giving a tap to the pickup’s hood, she chuckled. “I’ll have to remind him you’re three hundred thousand miles old.”
Trusting that Nathan had fed the dog, she rattled the doorknob on the barn to check the lock and trudged to the large two-story colonial-style farmhouse. Its brick façade with white windows and a red front door welcomed her home. She scratched the panicked idea of going back to Sioux Falls. As much as she enjoyed the city, she needed the country and its peaceful quiet and its meandering back roads.
She inhaled the cool summer air bursting with the scent of her mother’s pansies planted snugly in terra-cotta pots. She sank into a white wicker rocking chair. A plane’s red lights blinked in the starlit night, and a shooting star soared into the black abyss.
Nearer, farm equipment not being used in the field hunkered down in the tree belt, far past the reach of the single farm light on the barn roof. Most of it would have to wait until spring to be brought out and put to use. Corrie shook her head. Although perhaps idiotic and slightly neurotic, she couldn’t help feeling as if the planting equipment stewed in jealousy and dejection for most of the year. Maybe her parents had read her too many Corey Combine books. Apparently, they had thought she would be a boy and had chosen the name before she drew her first breath. Surprised but not beaten, her parents had ditched the spelling and kept the name. With a grunt, she heaved herself out of the rocking chair and tiptoed into the dark house. Nikki, Nathan, and her mother would have gone to bed hours ago.
One person, however, would still be up. After kicking off her shoes, Corrie walked into the living room. The fresh scent of furniture polish spoke of her mother’s Friday cleaning. The television glow illuminated vacuum tracks in the plush white carpeting. A solitary figure sat in a brown leather recliner.
“Hey, Dad.” She stooped and kissed the top of his head, noticing for the first time the lines and wrinkles edging his eyes, signs of aging he’d always hidden.
Jake responded with a slurred variation of her name and a wobbling smile. She muted the game show. He’d never liked game shows, and now the Game Show Network was the only thing on when he was in the house. The no-nonsense man she’d known all her life had died when a semitrailer slammed into his truck one icy December evening.
As she did every night, she sat by his slippered feet and told him about her day. The damage hadn’t touched the part of his brain that loved and lived off farming. Every day convinced her even more that his love of the land was nurtured not in his head but in his heart. Nothing could kill that.
“George quit today.” Corrie saved the worst news for last. Her father’s eyes met hers and reflected the anger he couldn’t formulate with words. Then a sliver of worry crept around the anger in his eyes. Wanting to reel the words back in and swallow them, she sighed. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll take care of it. I’ll find someone to replace George.”
The worry and anger didn’t leave his eyes. With a sigh, she got off the floor and laid her hands on his once broad shoulders. “Don’t stay up too late. Morning comes early on the Lancaster farm.” She pressed a kiss to his forehead and left him watching Deal or No Deal. He would be up for hours.
* * * *
Corriegroaned into her pillow and hid from the protruding fingers of sunlight soaking through her window shades. If only she could cover her head with her comforter and fall back into her wonderful dream about Middle Earth and hobbits, but she couldn’t afford the luxury. Not with a truck full of grain to take to the elevator. Not if she wanted to beat the line so she could get back and service the combine. Nikki could take care of the other morning chores, but the combine was Corrie’s baby. Nobody greased it except her.
Bacon and eggs sizzled as she entered the bright kitchen. The west wall, full of floor-to-ceiling windows, faced her mother’s garden. As a child, Corrie had loathed weeding and watering the garden. Now, a day in the garden would be a nice reprieve.
“Good morning, dear.” Corrie’s mother, Cynthia, greeted her with a smile.
“Good morning.” Corrie took the proffered tongs and flipped the bacon, careful to avoid the splattering grease. “How’s Dad this morning?”
“Fine.” Cynthia no longer cried when she talked about her husband. A steely reserve now crept into her eyes and flared whenever Jake was mentioned.
Corrie took the hint to shut up. After transferring the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, she set the table. She watched closely as Cynthia stirred the scrambled eggs with a little more force than necessary. Corrie stopped herself from chewing on her bottom lip, a. A bad habit carried over from toddlerhood. She wanted to ask her mom about her dad, needed advice about the future of the farm, of them, but all was cut short when a herd of stampeding feet echoed down the stairs.
“You two make enough noise to scare the dead,” Corrie scolded as Nikki and Nathan scooted around the corner.
“We’re just hungry. That’s all.” Nathan nipped a piece of bacon. “Where’s Dad?”
Before Corrie could intercept the question, Cynthia spun around with a spatula covered in scrambled eggs and whipped the air with it. “Eat. Now.”
Nathan ducked his head. “Sorry. I just wanted…” Corrie’s hand squeezed his shoulder, stopping his comment.
Cynthia threw the spatula into the pan of eggs, tossed a potholder on the table, and slapped the pan down, egg shrapnel exploding over the table. She left the kitchen, and when the master bedroom door slammed shut, Nikki and Nathan jumped in their seats.
Several minutes of awkward silence, thicker than bacon grease, permeated the kitchen. The cheery yellow of the walls and crystal-clear glass of the white cupboard doors did nothing to stop the shadow of doubt lurking in every corner. No one mentioned the unspeakable but not improbable event they most feared.
Nikki exhaled. “Do you think they will… you know… get a divorce?”
Corrie shushed her and grabbed the salt and pepper. She no longer had an appetite, but it would be a while before a meal came her way. Forcing herself to swallow, she glanced at Nathan as he scraped at his full plate. “You need to eat, Nathan.”
“I’m not hungry.” He scooted back his chair and stalked out of the house. Nathan ran across the farmyard and into the barn, where he would most likely find solace in the soft fur of his miniature Australian shepherd, Bacon.
After the barn door slammed, Nikki turned back to her food. “So, do you think Mom will want a divorce?”
Corrie winced at the pain radiating from her seventeen-year-old sister’s eyes, the same glacier blue of their father’s. Nikki twirled her curly blond hair around her index finger, warming Corrie’s heart for a moment with memories of holding her baby sister, mesmerized by the tiny index finger creating equally tiny curls. Her chest swelled as she surveyed her sister, a combination of dirt and the most delicate of wildflowers struggling to soak in the last raindrops.
“I don’t know. I really don’t.” Corrie finished her orange juice. “I can’t imagine what Mom is going through right now. I don’t think I want to.” She started cleaning up. “We need to keep praying.”
“It’s not working.” Nikki swirled the rest of her scrambled eggs around on her plate.
Corrie abandoned her task of clearing off the table and sank beside her sister. “I know things are hard right now. Trust me, I feel the weight of all this. Sometimes, we can’t see where God wants us to go. And sometimes, instead of smoothing the mountain for us, he gives us the tools to climb that mountain, and only from there can we see the beauty and majesty of his plan.”
Nikki laid her head on Corrie’s shoulder. “I’ll keep trying. I’m just really tired.”
“Me too.” Corrie pressed a kiss to Nikki’s hair. “Tomorrow is Sunday. We can rest then. Until then, we’ve got work to do. I’ll take the truck into the elevator and meet you at the field later.” She headed for the door. “Don’t forget to pack a lunch. I don’t want to have to go to the café again.”
Nikki rolled her eyes. “One time and I’m branded for life.”
“Forget again, and I’ll brand ‘lunch’ on your forehead,” Corrie teased. She laughed at Nikki’s pouty face and rushed across the yard.
Nathan was busy gassing up Old Bertie and making sure the fuel tank on the back of it was full of diesel. Corrie slipped into the passenger side and waited until he finished turning off the tank.
He ambled over to the passenger door, opened it, and blinked in surprise. “You’re going to let me drive?”
She chuckled. “Don’t expect this every day.”
He sprinted around the front of the pickup, hopped in, and started the old girl up. Stomping on the clutch, he slammed the stick into low gear then let off the clutch while easing the gas pedal down. Old Bertie responded with a grunt and spasm but obeyed with jerking movements.
“Okay. Now let the clutch fully out. Good. Give her a little gas. You’re choking her. Okay. Now ease in the clutch again and shift to first.”
He complied, and soon the pickup was soaring down the road toward the field. She glanced at his profile and wondered when he’d grown up on her. Gone was the scrawny boy who cried every time he came across a dead bird or a hurt farm cat.
“Are you okay? You know, with what’s been going on and stuff?” Good grief. As a reporter, I should be able to ask a better question.But this wasn’t some stranger or some big news-breaking story. This was her brother, and his soft heart was breaking.
His pronounced Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “I guess.”
“It’s just this morning you seemed… I don’t know…” The countryside whizzed by in a blur of color.
“I just miss Dad. I want him to be him again. You know?”
She nodded and bit the inside of her cheek to keep her tears in check. “Yeah. I do. But Dad will always be your dad. You have to know that. He still loves you, loves us, but he can’t show it like he used to. You have to have faith and believe he will get better. You never know. He might play football with you again or take you fishing.”
Nathan shrugged. “Sure. Maybe.”
In other words, conversation over. From the time he’d learned to walk, Nathan had been Dad’s sidekick. Now Jake hardly noticed his son.
Nathan brought the pickup to a jerking halt in the field, and she stepped out. “I’ve got to take this truckload in.” She poked her head through the open passenger window. “We’ll be okay.” Before he could reply, she jumped in the semi, started it, and after it aired up, drove into town.
After twenty miles of rolling cropland and pasture, she crested the hill into Sandy, South Dakota, a small town nestled against the Sandy River. At this time of year, it was more of a creek, but a river it would always be to the residents who’d grown up around its banks. She downshifted in the truck’s descent. Judging from the myriad trucks and cars, Corrie guessed Mabel must have cheese buttons as the café special. Corrie’s stomach rumbled. She could almost taste the cheese-and-onion mixture tucked deliciously in dough and cooked in cream.
The knife of memory slid and cut its way into her mind as she passed the VFW dance hall where she’d won her first dancing competition. Her father had been her dance partner for the waltz.
She blinked her stinging eyes. Amazing how one phone call could change a life forever. Like a tornado, it sucked her up, spun her around, and spit her out. If only he’d stayed home that snowy night nine months ago. He would be the one harvesting. He would be the one shouldering the farm’s responsibility.
Coming to the end of town, she turned right at the only stop sign on Main, pulled up behind a mile-long line of trucks, and inched up off the highway and onto the elevator’s graveled property.
“Good morning, Corrie.”
She beamed at the old man who hopped on the truck’s running board and stuck his head in her truck cab. “Good morning, Baxter.”
A proud working octogenarian, Baxter tipped his stained and dusty DeKalb seed cap. Upon close inspection, his crinkly face mirrored his life—full of happiness with a dash of adventure and a few sprinkles of sadness and loss. She loved to hear his stories even though she knew most of them by heart.
“You’re looking good.” He patted her arm with a veiny, rough hand.
Without a doubt, her wrinkle-free skin had grown new fissures over the past nine months, and baggy, dark circles sat like bloated toads under her eyes. No matter how many promises different shampoo brands boasted, her hair had lost its luster and hung limp in a ponytail every day. “You’re much too kind. But thank you. It’s nice to hear.”
“How are things holding up on the Lancaster farm, dearie?”
“Not so well.” She could never pretend with the old man. He was far too wise and knew far too much. “George quit yesterday.”
Baxter took off his cap and slapped it against his thigh. Dust flew. “That good for nothing…” He slammed his hat on his bald head. “That rat! Sorry to hear it, Corrie. If you need anything, please let me know.” He peered at her with wizened eyes. “I mean it, young lady. All you have to do is ask.” Someone inside the main building called for Baxter. With an apologetic pat on her head, he hopped off and ran to the weigh house.
“Spry old man,” she muttered as she shifted the truck from neutral into first gear for her turn on the scales. The red light turned green, and she eased onto the scales. She waited until the mechanical arm swung over from the weigh house and sucked grain into its proboscis and into the building. The red light flickered green, and she drove through the obstacle course of trucks and grain bins to the correct dumping site. She watched in her side mirror as elevator employees swarmed the truck’s hoppers like worker bees. Eventually, they signaled her to leave, and she waited in line again. Several smaller farm trucks waited ahead of her to go back on the scale. Ten minutes later, she stopped the truck on the scale until Baxter came out with her ticket telling her the bushels and moisture of the load she’d just dumped.
“Here you go, little miss. See you again soon for the same song and dance.”
Corrie laughed. “Save me a spot.” She glanced at her ticket before veering onto the highway. After doing some quick math, she gave a whoop. Eighty bushels an acre. “Praise the Lord!” That number was exactly what she needed to hear.
All day, she trucked back and forth between the quarter of land they were combining and the elevator. With all that time to think, she couldn’t figure out where she would get the extra help she needed. At eighty bushels an acre of wheat, she really needed extra help.
About the Author
Jessica Berg, a child of the Dakotas and the prairie, grew up amongst hard-working men and women and learned at an early age to “put some effort into it.” Following that wise adage, she has put effort into teaching high school English for over a decade, being a mother to four children (she finds herself surprised at this number too), basking in the love of her husband of more than fifteen years and losing herself in the imaginary worlds she creates.
Amey loves writing about different places because she grew up moving all around the United States. In her books, she explores the whole world. She is also the author of Baker’s Dozen, a Romantic Suspense Mystery. The Swiss Mishap won a Swoony for 2019’s Best New Adult Contemporary Romance.
She lives with her husband and three children near Austin, TX. Follow her on BookBub @ameyzeigler and sign up for her newsletter at www.ameyzeigler.com
For the last twelve years, more than half her life, Lainey Peterson has prepared to design, create, and produce quality chocolate bars. But when she discovers her chocolate internship at Switzerland’s prestigious Alpine Foods has been canceled, she vows to do whatever it takes to get to Chocolate.
Yves Claremont, a young, ambitious department chair, would sacrifice everything to rise to vice president at Alpine Foods and redeem his father’s name. Impressed with Lainey’s resume and charming determination, Yves offers her an internship in his Pet Care department, promising a recommendation for Chocolate if she does well.
Lainey is drawn to the enigmatic and passionate Yves Claremont. He cannot deny his growing attraction to her. But inter-office relationships are strictly forbidden by Alpine Foods, and a perceptive co-worker, jealous of Yves’ success, will undermine Yves and Lainey any way he can.
“Chocolate is more than understanding couvertures, Dutch processing, cleavage, undertones. Chocolate is extremely emotional. It carries nuances plain candy does not. You must discover which chocolate lights up your lover’s emotional center, the pleasure-seeking part of the brain.” “How do you find out? By asking him?” “Oh, no. Asking is for amateurs. First, I observe, learn something about him, know his tastes and dislikes. Then apply what I know to his personality. Nine times out of ten, I’m right about which is the favorite.” Yves stepped closer, his eyes still on her, challenging her. “What would you predict is my favorite?” Mlle Peterson met his stare. “You’re baiting me.” “Perhaps.” Then tilted his head down and whispered. “Or perhaps I want to see how well you have been observing me.” He scrutinized her reaction. “I’ve totally pegged you,” she said, not even hiding her confidence. He cocked his head. “You think you know me?” She thrust her chin upwards with confidence. “I know chocolate. And I’ve been on the streets with you for four days.” “Then guess.” This would be entertaining. “Well.” She stepped away from him, adopting an air of indifference. “Judging by the car you drive, your penchant for passion, and Merino wool suits, I’d guess Mandorie Noir?” He blinked, unable to believe how accurate she was. She had been watching him.