Authors: Eva Charles
By Eva Charles
Copyright © 2016 by Quarry Road Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form whatsoever without express written permission from the author or publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. All other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, places, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Cover by Marianne Nowicki
Faith Freewoman, Editor
Formatting by CookieLynn Publishing Services
For more information, contact
To survivors, and to those who love them,
Welcome to Meadows Shore! Out of all the wonderful books available, thank you so very much for choosing
. I hope you enjoy reading how Drew and Cassie met, as well as their journey back to each other after eight years apart. Eight long, lonely years marked by grief and suffering … and success.
Their story begins a couple of months before Cole and Alexa’s wedding (
My Sweetest Sasha
), and while there is some overlap, you won’t find any repetition. But you will get to catch up with some of your favorite Claytons and Harringtons, and you’ll meet some new characters, and I do mean
! Just wait until Cassie’s former college roommate and best friend, Reece, shows up. Like all the Meadows Shore novels, romantic love is front and center in
, but there is also familial love between siblings, cousins, parents, and grandparents.
Many of you have probably noticed that each novel in the series touches on some societal blight that the characters grapple with to find their happily-ever-after. In
Cassie and Drew’s relationship is challenged by breast cancer and major depression, along with the aftereffects of those most serious illnesses.
While there are countless survivors in the world, each with her own unique story, this is Cassie’s. Diagnosed with breast cancer at twenty-one, the story tells how she copes in the aftermath of the tragedy, and fights her way out of the shadows and into the arms of the man she loves. Although her story will be different than yours, your sister’s, mother’s, or friend’s, I have done my very best to tell Cassie’s story in a way that honors and respects all survivors and those who love them. More than anything, I hope these courageous characters bring you a smile and heartfelt hope.
If you’ve visited Meadows Shore, welcome back! If you haven’t,
bem vindo à família,
welcome to the family!
Angelina DaSilva married Guilherme Sousa (d) and they had two daughters:
Maria Liliana (Mary) (d)
Maria Margarida (Margaret, Maggie) (d)
Mary married Samuel Clayton (d) and they had five daughters:
Maria Sophia (Sophie) + Max Parker = Liliana Clayton Parker (A Wedding at Meadows Shore)
Maria Natalia (Talia)
Maria Isabella (Ella)
Maria Helena (Lainey)
Maria Juliana (Ana)
Maggie married Nicholas Harrington (d) and together they had six sons:
Cole + Alexa Petersen (My Sweetest Sasha)
Table of Contents
Drew Harrington wandered around Fort McHenry searching for inspiration. Why not? Francis Scott Key had found his there. And after last night’s baseball game, God knows he could use some. That along with an ace pitcher and a few hot bats.
As the general manager of the Boston Blues, the buck stopped with him. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and last night had been butt-ugly.
Crying the Blues
was the headline in the Boston paper, in bold black letters plastered above the masthead, a space normally reserved for reporting the death of a sitting president or a devastating stock market crash. But it was Beantown after all, a city that prided itself on the success of its sports teams.
The local sportswriters had a field day writing his obituary yet again. It didn’t matter one bit that it was the season opener. They were a ruthless bunch, and their mantra was “what have you done for me lately?” Fortunately, the team was on the road, and that helped shield his young players from the worst of the harsh hometown critics.
It was a soupy eighty-seven degrees in Baltimore, with the air thick and stale when he made his way out of the Fort. It was only the beginning of April, but it felt more like the dog days of summer. He’d run down this road yesterday, and noticed a bakery just up ahead. Another half block and he arrived on the doorstep with his shirt clinging to his back.
Ahhh, air conditioning!
A blast of cool air hit him when he opened the door to Lola’s, a cute little place with a handful of tables and a showcase full of mouthwatering goodies. Bite-sized éclairs, ginger scones, lemon squares … and
. His heart clenched, and he swallowed the large lump forming in his throat before it completely blocked his airway.
Some called madeleines cookies, others, miniature cakes. He rarely saw them outside of Starbucks, triplets wrapped in tidy cellophane packages, displayed in a careless pile beside the cash register.
They resembled Cassie’s cakes, with their elongated shape and honey-blond hue, but he knew they wouldn’t taste the same. The rich, buttery texture that had melted on his tongue and seeped into his soul belonged only to Cassie.
It was impossible to separate her from the tiny sponge cakes, and every time he saw one, it tore at him, leaving him raw and edgy, jonesing to storm through the city swinging a smooth ash stick, whacking at everything in his path. He’d all but sworn off Starbucks, because these days he couldn’t afford even half an hour spent licking his wounds—self-inflicted wounds.
“May I help you?” asked the fresh-faced clerk in a bright green and white striped apron. Her ponytail bobbed behind her when she tilted her head to give him a flirty smile—one without the slightest hint of recognition. What a relief to be somewhere where he could blend into the woodwork, especially after last night’s fiasco.
He studied the large chalkboard hanging on the wall behind the register, idly admiring its gilded frame. It described a wide range of offerings, iced and hot, but his needs were simple.
“A large iced tea to go, please. Plenty of ice. The house blend is fine.”
“Something to eat with your tea today?”
He gazed longingly at the case. Expertly-shaped pastries lounged on silver pedestals enclosed in a counter-height antique glass case, the kind where a society maven might have displayed her treasures a century ago. Jam-filled cookies, one-bite pecan tarts, and heart-shaped fudge brownies dusted with white powder. They were tantalizing, but nothing tempted him as much as the shell-shaped cakes, food for mermaids, the ones Proust made famous, and Cassie perfected.
“We make everything in-house,” the young woman gushed.
“It all looks great, but I think I’ll pass. These last few days, I’ve been enjoying too much of what the city has to offer.” He patted his stomach and grinned. “Next time.”
After handing him his tea, she began to ring up the purchase.
He reached for his wallet, struggling to ignore the allure of the pastry case. But the madeleines were beckoning, crooning softly, daring him to take a taste.
Just one little taste
He knew better. He’d played this game before, and it never ended well. But he couldn’t help himself. “Sorry to do this, but those madeleines are calling to me. Would you mind throwing a couple in a bag to go?”
“I’d be happy to. They’re seductive little creatures, awfully hard to resist.”
Don’t have to tell me.
He paid the clerk, shoved a bill into the Mason jar on the counter, and took a big swig of tea before sticking his hand into the white bag.
And one bite, that’s all it took to whisk him back to another time, to another medium-sized East Coast city, where life had been full of promise. It’s all it took for the anger to swirl with the pain until they were almost unrecognizable as separate emotions. He couldn’t bear it, and dumped the bag along with its contents in the trashcan near the exit.
“Lindsey, I’m going to run over to the bank. Do you need anything while I’m out?”
His knees buckled when he heard the sweet, familiar voice, and thankfully one hand was on the doorknob to steady him, otherwise he’d have landed in a heap on the cold floor.
The blood pounded in his ears, and, for what seemed like an eternity, everything was a blur. He wanted to swing himself around, he wanted it so badly, but like a man who’d just experienced a stroke, his brain couldn’t will his body to do its bidding. When everything was finally firing properly again, he turned, and stood frozen, still propped up by the door, not fifteen feet away from her. Eventually she looked in his direction, and her golden skin paled.
He couldn’t hear the word, she’d spoken it so softly, but he read her lips, and he knew just how her voice sounded when she said his name. In bed between giggles when he tickled her, on the way to the library while they debated economic theories, or in his ear as they danced pressed against each other at Fish Co., the bar Brown students patronized on Wednesday nights.
He’d heard her moan it, whisper it, say it in prayer while they explored each other endlessly, making love in every imaginable place and in every imaginable position. No, he didn’t need to actually hear her say it. The sound was forever etched on his soul.
Her name tumbled easily off his tongue, but it had been so long since he’d said it out loud it sounded foreign to his ears. Not a day, not a single day had gone by that he hadn’t thought about her. There was always something to remind him, to torment him. Something delicate and sweet—something smart and beautiful—something so Cassie.
For well over a decade, she’d occupied a place in his heart, prime real estate, and no matter what he did, how much he tried, he couldn’t evict her. He just couldn’t.
He’d unwittingly pushed her out of his life, but there was no way he’d ever give her up completely. Not for anyone, not for anything, not even to save his sanity. No damn way.
He inched closer to the counter near where she still gripped the door, her white-knuckled hand trembling.
“It’s been a long time,” she said softly, so softly he wasn’t certain whether he’d actually heard it, or if he was lip-reading again.
“Too long.” Overcome with emotion, he could barely string together the few words it took to form a coherent sentence. “Sit with me?” It was more of a plea than a request.
She hesitated, and for a moment or two he wasn’t sure she was still breathing. And while the clock ticked on, he forced himself to breathe, too.
“I don’t have much time, I’ve got an errand to run,” she finally answered, before turning to say something to the clerk behind the counter that he couldn’t hear. And then she led him to a small table by a bay window.
“It’s been a long time,” she repeated, tucking her long, dark hair behind one ear.
The air surrounding her was charged, and he half expected her to begin to hum under her breath. It’s what she did when she was nervous.
“I’d have recognized you anywhere, Cassie. You look exactly the same, and I bet if I leaned across the table, your hair, your skin, they’d smell like almonds and honey.”
She looked like she was about to bolt from the table.
What was he thinking, blurting out the unfiltered thoughts swimming in his head? But the waitress saved the day, setting down another glass of cold tea for him, and a small pot for her, along with an array of treats that looked almost too good to eat.
“You made the madeleines?” He asked the question, though he already knew the answer, but it was far safer than indulging the thoughts whirling in his head.
She nodded with cheeks still devoid of color, and eyes glazed over.
“I knew as soon as I took a bite. Like Proust’s narrator, I was transported back to another time.”
A happier time.
She gave him a small, guarded smile, and he felt his brow crinkle. It was unlike her to be so reserved. Normally, she gave away warm, generous smiles to everyone, friends and strangers alike. At least she always had.
“I think you have a lot to fill me in on. How did the woman groomed to take over her father’s Wall Street firm end up baking
Proust’s cakes in Baltimore?”
“It’s a long story. A very long story. We don’t have enough time to cover all the sordid details.”
“Why don’t you begin now, and you can finish over dinner.”
. Just shy of forever
I don’t think dinner is the direction we should be heading in.”
No, it’s not, but it’s a start
He could feel her slipping away, and small talk was the straw he desperately grasped at to buy him some time before she disappeared again. “Did you bake everything in the case?”
“I did.” She smiled modestly, but a glimmer of pride shone in her eyes. “I’ve been going it alone, but I just hired another baker so I can take some time off here and there. It’ll be nice to get out of the city a bit over the summer.”
“You own the shop?”
She nodded, pouring herself some tea.
“Earl Grey?” he asked.
“Yes.” It was an audible gasp, accompanied by a small shudder that caused a few drops to land in the saucer.
“With local honey, if you have it,” he said. Her face softened and her eyes glistened. “I remember everything, Cassie. Everything.”
“Drew,” she cautioned.
He started to say that he remembered every single thing she loved. Everything she hated. The joys that made her face glow, and the sorrows that turned her chocolate brown eyes into washed-out pools. He hadn’t forgotten a thing. Not a damn thing. But it wasn’t true. He’d conveniently forgotten she was married—wiped the bitter memory clean away.
His heart stopped when the jumbotron at Yankee stadium popped up on his mental screen. It had been
years, but the picture that played in his mind was vivid.
She said yes! Accompanied by an image of Cassie, his Cassie, with some jackass. The crowd roaring, chanting kiss, kiss, kiss, and then right there, in front of everyone, in front of him, she let the jackass put his lips on hers. Apparently they’d become engaged the day before. At first, the sweat streamed down the back of his neck, and he wanted nothing more than to hunt the guy down and kill him. Tear him limb from limb, watch him die a slow, agonizing death, but the bile rose in his throat, so instead he raced to the men’s room, where he emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet. He’d been back to that stadium dozens of times since, but he’d never once, not once, looked up at the jumbotron.
“Any kids?” he asked, attacking his tea with the long-handled spoon, pushing the ugly memory aside.
“Uh, no. I just thought that since you’re married … maybe … you’d always wanted a bunch of kids,” he stammered, like the idiot he was.
“I’m not married.”
“I was at Yankee Stadium the day it was plastered on the big screen. You and … and …
. I didn’t imagine that.” No, he hadn’t imagined his heart ruthlessly yanked out of his chest. It was in the running for the worst day of his life, which was quite an accomplishment, given the competition.
“We were engaged, but we never got married.”
“I’m sorry.” He said it because it was expected, but he wasn’t sorry, not one bit sorry. Well, he was sorry if she’d been hurt. Maybe. He felt like a heel, but his heart was thumping wildly, and he was struggling to fight off the shit-eating grin threatening to set up shop on his face.
“Some things aren't meant to be,” she said, staring intently into the teacup, as if she might learn her fate from the few leaves that had settled at the bottom.
“How are your parents?” He quickly steered the conversation away from
some things aren’t meant to be.
A remark that seemed as much for him as for Mr. Jackass.
“They’re doing great. My dad sold the firm, and they still keep a small place in New York, but they spend most of their time between Miami and Greece now.”
She visibly relaxed when he changed the subject, and was able to meet his eyes, again. “Your grandparents?”