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Authors: C H Admirand

One Day in Apple Grove

BOOK: One Day in Apple Grove
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One Day in Apple Grove
C H Admirand
Sourcebooks, Inc. (2013)

Welcome to Apple Grove, Ohio (pop. 597), a small town with a big heart.

Caitlin Mulcahy loves her family. She really does. But sometimes they can drive her to her last shred of sanity—from her dad ("I'm not meddling, I just want what's best for you") to her eight-months-pregnant older sister to her younger sister, who will do just about anything to avoid real work. Cait just needs to get away, even if for only an hour.

When she sees someone in need of help on the side of the road, of course she's going to pull over. She might even be able to fix his engine—after all, the Mulcahy family is a handy bunch. She's not expecting that former Navy medic Jack Gannon and a little black puppy named Jameson will be the ones who end up rescuing in her.

Copyright © 2013 by C.H. Admirand

Cover and internal design © 2013 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover illustration by Tom Hallman

Cover photo © Luciano Bibulich/Dreamstime.com

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

FAX: (630) 961-2168

www.sourcebooks.com

This book is dedicated to my personal handyman: my darling husband, Dave. In the thirty years since we’ve lived in our home, we’ve done most of the work ourselves, with the help of our families before we had kids…and our kids once they were big enough.

I already knew how to paint, put up wallpaper, and garden—and knew the difference between a Phillips-head screwdriver and a flat-head screwdriver—but since I’ve been married to Dave, I’ve learned how to mix concrete, put up sheetrock, and even install a wood laminate floor in our kitchen this past fall. But more importantly, I learned NOT to take photos in the middle of a project that was not going according to plan. I still have this image in my head of the frame for the shower plumbing flying out of the bathroom and hurtling down the cellar stairs. Yep, now I take pics before the project…when he goes outside for more materials…and when it’s done. :)

When we were dating, he needed me to remove the alternator from his Fiat 124 Spider—smaller hands were needed for that tight fit—then there was the time he taught me how to change the oil filter in my first car, but that’s another story for another day…

And to the real Jameson, a.k.a. Jamie, who healed our hearts after losing our faithful shepherd/rottweiler Ginger, with his exuberance, lavish puppy kisses, and his little black lips and underbite.

A Taste of Home Cooking from Apple Grove

Buttermilk Pie

Makes two pies

This recipe has become a favorite of my guys, discriminating pie experts. Pie—it’s what’s for breakfast! ~C.H.

1 tablespoon butter

4 tablespoons Heckers unbleached flour

3 egg yolks, beaten

1 cup sugar

2 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon concentrated lemon juice

Your
favorite
piecrust—or mine, if you email me!

Blend the butter and flour and add egg yolks and sugar, stirring until smooth. Slowly add the buttermilk and lemon extract until thoroughly mixed.

Line two eight- or nine-inch pie plates with piecrust and pour in filling, dividing equally. Bake in a 425 degree oven for ten minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees for twenty to twenty-five minutes, or until set.*

*Remove and cover with meringue (recipe on next page), baking for an additional ten to twelve minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned.

**Alternative topping: freshly whipped cream and raspberries—easier and just as delicious!

Meringue Topping for Two Pies

3 egg whites

3 tablespoons white sugar

1/4 to 1 teaspoon concentrated lemon juice

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; slowly add the sugar and lemon juice and continue beating until stiff. Spread over the tops of both pies, forming tiny peaks if you’re feeling creative; if you’re pressed for time, like me, just spread it out flat. Bake in a 350 degree oven for ten to twelve minutes.

© 2001 C.H. Admirand

Apple Grove, Ohio: Population 597

Apple Grove has always boasted that it’s a small town with big-town amenities. Some of the local hot spots are:

Honey’s Hair Salon
—Owned by Honey B. Harrington, who has weekly specials from cuts to coloring and likes to advertise the weekly special by changing her hair color every week. (She’s been trying to snag Sheriff Wallace’s attention for the last fifteen years, but he’s firmly holding on to his bachelorhood.)

The Apple Grove Diner
—Owned by Peggy and Katie McCormack, featuring Peggy’s Pastries.

Bob’s Gas and Gears
—Owned by Robert Stuart, former stock car driver who doubles as the mechanic.

Murphy’s Market
—Owned by the lovely widow Mary Murphy (who has her eye on Joseph Mulcahy—and he has his on her), where you can buy anything from soup to nuts—the metal kind—but it’s her free-range chickens that lay the best eggs in Licking County and have people driving for miles to buy them.

Trudi’s Garden Center
—Owned by eighty-year-old Trudi Philo who likes to wear khaki jodhpurs and Wellingtons everywhere; she specializes in perennials and heirloom vegetables and flowers, and has been planting and caring for the flowers in the town square since she was in grade school, taking the job over from her grandmother Phoebe Philo, when she passed the business on to her fifty years ago.

The Apple Grove Public Library
—Run by Beatrice Wallace, the sheriff’s sister—open three days a week!

The Knitting Room
—A thriving Internet business run by Apple Grove resident Melanie Culpepper, who had to close up her shop when she became pregnant with twins.

Slater’s Mill
—Built circa 1850, this converted mill and historic site is a favorite among locals both young and old. Famous for its charcoal-broiled burgers and crispy fries served in the first-floor family restaurant, it’s also been a favorite place for the younger set to congregate at the mile-long bar on the second floor.

Chapter 1

Dr. Jack Gannon closed the door to his office, looked down Main Street, and smiled. Spring in his hometown meant green and growing—nothing like the Middle East desert peppered with hiding places where insurgents had lain in wait. He shoved those thoughts, and his years as a navy corpsman, back into the tiny box he’d visualized so many times while lying helpless in that hospital bed.

After all the stories he’d heard from this father, Jack had been the first one in the navy recruiter’s line all those years ago. But none of the places he’d traveled as a hospital corpsman held a candle to the town he called home—Apple Grove.

A soft breeze caressed his face, a loving touch and gentle reminder that he had so much to be grateful for. The marine he’d been struggling to save when they’d been hit filled his mind. Struggling to bury the memory, and the guilt, deep, he focused on one of the lessons he’d learned early in life: There is a time and purpose for everything. He remembered floundering when he’d woken up strapped to a gurney as he was rushed into surgery. A year and a half later, he’d been able to stand, to walk and was alive—applying his experience in the navy toward college credits and then med school—he had a life…choices…unlike the marine he’d tried to save but couldn’t.

Growing up in a town where farming was a way of life for most, he’d come to appreciate that spring was the season for growth. Sinking his shriveled roots back into the warm, rich, life-giving soil of his hometown just might satisfy his need for personal growth. No one in town knew the depth of his pain or the extent of his injuries. To them, he was simply old Doc Gannon’s son coming home to pick up where his father left off, taking care of the people in this tight-knit community. If he could continue to keep a lid on the roiling pot of guilt, pain, and uncertainty, no one would ever have to know the truth—that he should have been the one to die.

The wind shifted, clearing his head of the thoughts haunting him. He caught the fleeting, teasing scent of fresh-baked pies wafting toward him from the open door of the Apple Grove Diner. Glad to redirect his thoughts, he wondered if the diner was still gossip central. It had been for as far back as he could remember—the latest news, good and bad, served up with a man-sized slice of pie, a hot cup of coffee, and a smile. “God, I really missed this place.”

As a teenager, he couldn’t wait to leave; now he took the time to admire Miss Trudi’s flowers, a riot of color circling the gazebo in the town square, the focal point of countless Founder’s Day Picnic speeches. One of Apple Grove’s more outspoken octogenarians, Miss Trudi was a marvel. How she managed to do so much at her age amazed him. He’d have to stop by and check up on her this afternoon…without letting her know what he was up to, or else she’d never let him hear the end of it. A more capable woman over the age of eighty simply didn’t exist.

The breeze rustled the broad green leaves of the sugar maples lining Main Street. The trees graced the sidewalk and shaded his steps from the front door of his office clear down to the sheriff’s at the other end of the street. He’d make a point to see Mitch, Sheriff Wallace, today as well. His day was rapidly filling up with people he needed to see, not all of them for medical reasons. He had to start that list—which was the main thing he intended to discuss with Mitch—of some of the older people in town and schedule routine check-ins—even if they were likely to be crabby about it. But in Apple Grove, people always wanted to help.

The tantalizing scent of baked goods was stronger as he drew closer to the diner. Stepping through the open door to the diner, he paused at the threshold, drawing in another deep breath. Freshly brewed coffee and the scent of just-baked sweetness beckoned to him. Jack smiled, knowing it would be a McCormack who would greet him.

“How was your flight back?” Peggy McCormack asked. “You flew right through that rainstorm.”

“Uneventful,” he said, smiling at the older of the two sisters. “Just the way I like it.”

“How many broken hearts did you leave behind, Doc?” Peggy’s sister Kate asked. When he just shook his head, she added, “There are plenty of women in town who’d be more than happy to take the edge off…if you know what I mean.”

“Don’t scare him off when he’s only just arrived,” Peggy told her. “We haven’t gotten any news from him yet.” Making a shooing motion toward the coffeepot, she smiled at Jack and told her sister, “Grab some coffee for Doc.”

Jack hesitated, wondering if he should leave now, before they picked his brain clean, or if he should stick around for a slice of heaven on a plate.

“What?” Kate frowned, reaching for the coffeepot and turning back around. “How many women have you heard make that offer while waiting for our hometown hero to return?”

Jack raised his eyes to the ceiling and fought his embarrassment. He should come back later, when it was busy and he could be ignored.

Peggy’s question interrupted that thought. “How ’bout a piece of our grandma’s buttermilk pie to go with your coffee?”

Kate motioned for him to sit down while Peggy sliced a piece of pie for him. A stronger man than him could forgo the flaky confection calling his name. Where pie was concerned, especially from the Apple Grove Diner, he had no choice. He gave in, had to have that pie.

“Thanks.” Taking a seat at the counter, he shifted on the vinyl stool until he was comfortable—his leg ached—they’d be getting rain by nightfall. Doing his best to ignore the pain, he looked up when a fragrant cup of coffee and a megaslice of pie appeared like magic.

“Did you know one of the hardest parts of leaving town was missing Grandma McCormack’s pies? You can’t get service or baked goods like this where I’ve been.” He took a bite and sighed in pleasure.

“It’s been a while in between your visits home,” Kate said while he ate. “Peggy and I were trying to remember how long but can’t.”

With his mouth filled with the decadent combination of lemony-flavored custard and delectable meringue topping, he couldn’t answer right away, so he chewed, swallowed, and said, “A while.”

Forking up another bite, he gave in and let himself enjoy the flavors dancing on his tongue. It had been quiet for a few minutes before he realized the sisters were watching him closely. He lifted a forkful of pie and said, “Delicious.”

“Thanks,” Peggy said. “So, how many years were you in the navy?”

Blowing across the surface to cool his coffee, he paused and glanced up. “Almost ten.”

“And then you went to school,” Peggy added.

He took a sip of his coffee and said, “I had earned plenty of college credits, so finishing up and going to med school didn’t take as long as I’d thought it would.”

“Do you miss it?” Kate asked.

“The navy or med school?” he asked.

“The navy,” Kate said.

“Why couldn’t you spend the last two years doing rehab here?” Peggy wanted to know. “Couldn’t your dad have taken care of you?”

Jack nearly snorted up that last mouthful of fragrant brew. Had he really thought they wouldn’t touch on the parts of his military career he hadn’t wanted to discuss? This was one aspect he hadn’t missed—being grilled so that the midmorning crowd coming into the diner would have fresh fodder to pass along.

He didn’t want to talk about it, but maybe if he told them something no one had heard before, the sisters would be satisfied for the next little bit.

Jack met Peggy’s gaze and said, “They didn’t think I’d survive the plane ride home.” While the reality of his comment hit home, he looked at Kate and hoped to distract her by saying, “My mom and dad wanted me to say hello for them and to ask how your parents and grandmother are doing.”

Peggy was the first to recover from the gossip-worthy bomb he’d dropped. She grasped his hand and squeezed it tight before letting it go. Her nod told him that she’d let the subject drop. “Are your parents really going to buy that house in Florida?” Peggy asked. “Wouldn’t it be better to keep renting? They might change their mind during another wicked hurricane season.”

“Mornin’, Miss Kate. Mornin’, Miss Peggy.” Deputy Jones walked into the diner and smiled at the sisters before turning to look at Jack. “Morning, Doc. Heard you’re meeting with the sheriff later today. It’s a good thing you’re doing for Apple Grove.”

Jack shrugged. “When Mitch was filling me in on the latest emergencies at the office, we got to talking about how to avoid some of them. We think it’ll work.”

Deputy Jones was fighting not to smile when he added, “We may catch some grief from the people on that list.”

Jack agreed. “Most of them won’t mind, but there are a few independent curmudgeons who will.”

“What have you two cooked up?” Kate asked.

“You have been busy,” Peggy said, at the same time, handing a paper bag and two coffees to go to the sheriff’s right-hand man.

“Duty calls. Thank you, ladies,” Deputy Jones said with a wave and was gone.

Kate sighed as she watched him leave, while Peggy waited for Jack to answer.

Jack finished his pie and the rest of his coffee. “My dad planted the idea. Mitch called me right after I hung up with my dad, and between the two of us, we figured out a way to implement it.”

He reached into his pocket, but before he could take his wallet—or his hand—out of his pocket, Peggy patted his arm and said, “It’s on the house.”

“You won’t make any money if you keep giving away what people will pay good money for,” he warned her.

Peggy and Kate smiled, and he knew there was one more reason why people in town flocked to the diner—the friendly smiles and caring that lay beneath the sisters’ need to spread the news.

“Now you sound just like him,” Peggy said.

He tilted his head to one side and asked, “Who?”

They laughed, drawing the attention of a few early morning regulars. “Old Doc Gannon,” Kate told him.

He smiled. “So what does that make me?”

Kate grinned. “Young Doc Gannon.”

“Hey, wait!” Peggy said, as Jack got up. “Aren’t you going to tell us who is on that list?”

He shrugged. “I thought I gave you enough to talk about this morning.”

“Hot roast turkey sandwich platters are the lunch special today,” Peggy said.

He paused in the doorway. “With cranberry sauce? Corn bread stuffing?”

Peggy nodded.

He’d missed home cooking most of all. “I’ll be back after my noon appointment. Save me some.”

“Doc?” Kate called out.

He paused and glanced over his shoulder. “Yeah?”

“Apple Grove has really missed having your dad taking care of what ails us.”

His dad had told him of his search and finally finding a replacement. Had Doc known the physician wouldn’t stay, leaving the job waiting for Jack when he was ready for it? Knowing his father, he probably had.

“None of us was surprised when his replacement moved on to a hospital in Columbus.”

“It was touch and go there for a while when he first left,” Peggy admitted.

“The hardest part for some of our older residents was trying to find a way to get to the clinic over in Newark,” Kate told him. “Waiting for you to get back, we had ourselves a meeting and were hoping you’d continue one of your dad’s habits,” Kate said.

“Which one?”

“Making house calls for folks like Mr. Weatherbee, Mrs. Winter, and our grandma,” Peggy answered. “It would be a godsend if you could.”

Drawn by the worry in Peggy’s voice, he turned back around. “I plan to add house calls to my weekly schedule.”

She sniffed and nodded. “Thanks, Doc.”

“Welcome home,” Kate called out, as he walked through the door.

“Good to be back.” And he meant it. He had a practice with patients anxious for him to get started, a plan he and the sheriff wanted to implement to minimize emergencies, and had had his first taste of home-cooked heaven. Maybe it wouldn’t take as long to find the balance that had been missing in his life during the long road to recovery. Thinking about the scheduled appointments for the day, he didn’t hear Peggy follow him out the door.

He had just passed the Mulcahys’ shop when he heard her say, “We’re trying our hand at beignets tomorrow.”

He turned and waved. “I love beignets.”

Thinking about the lightly fried doughy goodness sprinkled with powdered sugar, he crossed Dog Hollow Road. When he walked by the
Apple
Grove
Gazette
, Rhonda was waving at him from behind the antique printing press. He waved back. It felt good to be in a place where people knew him…he had done the right thing coming back to stay when his dad had retired.

He hoped the folks in town would be able to trust the younger Doc Gannon the same way they’d trusted his dad. Walking up the flagstone steps to his office, he was ready to greet the day. Having gone over his father’s most active patient files the night before, he was confident he’d be ready for whatever medical troubles were in store for him.

“Morning, Doc,” Mrs. Sweeney, his receptionist, called out.

“Morning, Mrs. Sweeney. How’s your cousin doing?”

“Holding his own, Doc.” She sighed. “If only he wasn’t so stubborn and one of his boys would move back home.”

Jack had already added her cousin to the list of those who were on the Apple Grove Health Watch. “We’ll keep doing what we can to make sure he’s taken care of.”

“You’re just what this town needed—just like your dad.”

He smiled. “Thank you.”

The sound of someone clearing his throat caught Jack’s attention. Joseph Mulcahy sat reading a magazine in the tiny waiting room.

Jack looked at his watch and then at Joe. “Am I late?”

Joe shook his head. “Nope, I’m early.”

Jack knew that the success of his father’s practice had been because it was based on mutual trust between doctor and patient. Jack planned to work hard to establish a similar trust with the townsfolk. He’d start with his high school lab partner’s father.

“What kind of pie did you have?” Joe asked.

Jack laughed. “Buttermilk. I haven’t had any since the last time I was home on leave.” Jack ushered Joe into one of the examining rooms. “Have a seat while I pull up your chart.” He turned on his computer, donned his white lab coat, and placed his stethoscope around his neck—he didn’t miss the flak jacket.

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