Authors: Donna Alward
He passed by her, carrying a box of peppermint soaps and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “You look good around all those kids,” he said in her ear, the feel of his breath sending tingles along her neck. “Just be sure you don’t overdo it.”
“Get going and stop distracting me,” she answered, smiling widely. Then Chase Brubaker started dripping glue and she dashed off to divert the emergency.
When the day was over, Tessa went home, carrying her Christmas bonus, and Jess asked Meggie to hang back for a minute. They were sitting with a cup of tea in the workroom, chatting about the success of the day when Jess finally got up the nerve to break the news. “Mom, we wanted you to be the first to know. Rick and I … we’re getting married.”
She’d expected shock. She hadn’t expected her mother to grin from ear to ear and clap her hands together.
“It’s about damn time!”
Rick burst out laughing. “She was pretty worried about telling you. I know it’s kind of sudden.”
“Oh, honey, it’s not sudden at all. You two had eyes for each other before either of you hit puberty. Then you just got … caught up in troubles and forgot for a while. Those troubles are over, though, right?” She looked sternly at both of them.
“Meggie, troubles are never completely over. But I started seeing someone to help me deal with stuff rather than trying to drink it away. And Jess … well, she’s the strongest woman I’ve ever known. We just take it a day at a time and get through it together.”
Meggie reached over and took his good hand. “And that’s the only way to go through life. I’m happy for you both. I was starting to worry Jess would never get married!”
Jess raised an eyebrow. “Well then, the next news should totally freak you out.”
Rick started to laugh and then bit it back. Jess gave him an elbow, but the both of them were smiling like fools when they faced Meggie again.
“We’re having a baby. Hope you don’t mind being a grandma again.”
“Mind? Are you kidding? I’m thrilled! Even though you kind of did things out of order.” She waggled a finger at them. “You’re feeling okay?”
Rick put his arm around Jess’s shoulders and she nodded at her mother. “A little sick in the mornings, but otherwise fine. And Rick’s taking good care of me. He’s going to make me go home and put my feet up now.”
Meggie’s eyes watered. “I wish your dad were here to see this. And your mom, too, Rick. Roberta would have been so happy for you both.”
Jess reached out for her mother’s hand. The rest of the news—about Rick, about Marian, all of it—could wait for another time. “Now you just have to worry about Josh.”
“Don’t get me started. He’s buried himself in work lately. You’d think he was chief of surgery at some big hospital rather than a small-town GP…”
Jess smiled to herself. It would be nice to have Josh be the focus of everyone’s concern rather than her. “We decided that we’re going to live in Rick’s house. It’s made for families. Maybe a dog. A little craziness. And Rick’s going to use my loft as his studio. The space and lighting are perfect.”
“And have you set a date?”
Rick nodded. “Next week, at Abby and Tom’s in the drawing room. Just family.”
“Next week?” Meggie’s mouth dropped open.
Jess looked into Rick’s eyes.
“Well,” he said softly, his loving gaze locked on hers, “when you find the person you’re going to spend forever with, you want forever to start as soon as possible.”
Read on for an excerpt from Donna Alward’s next book
Summer on Lovers’ Island
Coming soon from St. Martin’s Paperbacks
As punishments went, Lizzie Howard could have done a lot worse.
The “recommendation” was for her to get out of town for a few days, and so she’d chosen to visit her best friend, Charlie, in Jewell Cove. Charlie and Dave’s home was a few miles from town limits, nestled along a curve in the road and with a cedar deck overlooking the shimmering waters of Penobscot Bay. Gray shingle siding and white-trimmed dormer windows gave the cottage a cozy, worn-in look. The trees and lilacs were budding, unfurling their new spring-green leaves to the sun. At a small, white picket gate was a quaint little sign that read,
Lizzie loved it immediately. It was like something off a postcard.
As she got out of her car, she realized that the walkway to the door was lined with shells. She let out a soft laugh. Her best friend was living in an idyllic world far away from the high-class suburb of Boston where she’d been brought up. Charlie’s future was looking brilliant, while Lizzie’s “charmed” life had fallen spectacularly apart.
But Lizzie pushed the thoughts out of her mind. They had no place there today and she was happy for her best friend. She breathed in the sweet-scented air and smiled to herself, thinking of the shell-studded candles she had in her bag as a delayed housewarming present. Her only regret was that she hadn’t come sooner.
Lizzie shouldered her travel bag and blew out a breath, determined that she wouldn’t be dragged down again. She’d make the most of the days ahead and recharge her batteries. This was only a weekend, after all. Didn’t she deserve that much of a break?
When Lizzie returned to Springfield, it would be time enough to fight to get her job back. This forced leave from the hospital was utter nonsense. If there was a lawsuit, it would be settled, just as they always were. She was a good doctor. Everyone would move on …
She was halfway up the shell-lined path when the screen door slammed open and Charlie was there, bouncing on her toes and with one hand on her slightly rounded belly. “You’re here! You’re finally here! At my house!”
“Yes, I’m here.” Lizzie laughed, her dark thoughts banished by Charlie’s enthusiastic greeting. “I promised, and here I am.”
Charlie came down the stone steps and drew Lizzie into a hug. “Gosh, it’s good to see you.”
Lizzie felt Charlie’s strong arms around her and closed her eyes. It wasn’t one of those polite, restrained hugs full of pretension that Lizzie was used to—hugs out of social obligation rather than a real sense of intimacy. This was big, hearty, and full of affection. She could feel the firm baby bump against her own tummy and laughed, drawing back and framing the gentle roundness with her hands.
“My God, look at you. You’re beautiful.” Tears pricked her eyelids and she laughed self-consciously. “And showing already.”
Charlie laughed too, wiping her eyes, then tucked her dark hair behind her ears. “Dave says future linebacker in the making. I’m not due until September.”
“He could be right.” Lizzie straightened, looked at her best friend, and couldn’t stop smiling. “You’re glowing, Charlie. God, I’m so happy for you.”
Charlie sniffled and beamed even as she flapped her hands at her tears, dragging Lizzie into the house. The inside was as charming as the outside, filled with sun-strewn windows whose light bounced off walls the color of the sand on the beach below. The flooring was wide plank hardwood, stained a gorgeous shade of oak. White country cupboards filled the walls in the kitchen and a stunning butcher block held a bowl of lilacs, bringing the fragrance in from outside.
Lizzie put down her bag and went to the windows. The kitchen overlooked the ocean, the sun glinting almost painfully off the constantly shifting surface. She knew why she was here and it had little to do with birthdays. She was running. Running from her grief and running from her problems, pure and simple. Running to escape truth and inevitability and the terrifying fact that her life felt utterly out of her control.
A lone sail bobbed on the water, skimming parallel with the shoreline. She squared her shoulders. Not running. Regrouping. There was a difference.
She found Charlie in the kitchen heating the kettle. “Tea,” Lizzie said with a smile. A plate held several cookies. “And shortbread. Did you read my mind?”
“Orange spice. Told you. Jewell Cove has all sorts of treasures and I’m going to show you them all tomorrow. We’re going to hit all the shops along the waterfront.”
“You wouldn’t still happen to be trying to sell me on covering your maternity leave, would you?”
Two weeks ago, just before Lizzie’d had news of her “break,” Charlie had called asking if she wanted to do a locum. Leaving Springfield right now wasn’t an option, not when what Lizzie really needed to do was get her act together. She had a job, a reputation at stake. Responsibilities. Like proving to Ian and the rest of the administration that she was worthy of the faith they’d placed in her. Proving to herself that she hadn’t lost her edge. Physicians lost patients; it came with the job. They had to deal with it.
Besides, family medicine in a small town would bore her to death, even for a few months.
Charlie handed over the mug, a saucy grin lighting her lips. “Shamelessly. Is it working?”
Lizzie’s gaze caught on a small sailboat slowly making its way around the point, heading out of the bay towards open water. The words on the side were still clear:
. How could she be anything but cheerful when faced with such a scenic picture?
“I don’t know where I’d live,” Lizzie said softly. “And don’t say with you and Dave. No way. I refuse to impose on you two that way. And then there’s my mom…”
“Not that it would be an imposition, but I already thought of that,” Charlie replied smugly. “And as far as your mom goes, it’s not that long of a drive. With your schedule, it won’t be difficult to visit often.”
Lizzie let out a deep breath, really considering the situation. She should have known. Charlie always had a contingency plan, always had her bases covered. Lizzie suspected she’d never stood a chance. Not that she’d truly put up much of a fight. God, she was weaker than she thought.
“Does this mean you want the job?”
“Are you really going to make me ask?”
Charlie’s smile was so big Lizzie thought her cheeks might crack. “You’re really thinking about it?”
Charlie looked so excited it was impossible to remain immune to her enthusiasm. The idea of going back home right now filled her with dread. There were memories back there too, memories she’d rather not face. Why not give herself a break?
Lizzie threw caution to the wind for the first time in her life. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this. I’m not just thinking. I’m offering.”
Charlie let out a squeal. “Hot damn, Dave owes me ten bucks. I told him I could do it!”
The House on Blackberry Hill
FOR THE FIRST NOVEL IN THE
The House on Blackberry Hill
“Wonderful, witty, and memorable … A heartwarming, delightful debut to an engaging new series. Readers will love discovering the richly layered stories and enticing secrets residing in Jewell Cove.”
New York Times
bestselling author Shirley Jump
“A wonderful story with plenty of sizzle and the perfect hint of mystery. Donna Alward writes with emotion and heart.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
“Donna Alward writes warm, memorable characters who spring to life on the page. Brimming with old family history, small-town secrets, and newfound passion, you’ll want to pack up and move to Jewell Cove, Maine!”
A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog),
believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. To learn more, please visit her website at
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
TREASURE ON LILAC LANE
Copyright © 2014 by Donna Alward.
Summer on Lovers’ Island
copyright © 2014 by Donna Alward.
All rights reserved.
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St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / November 2014
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