The Best Is Yet to Come (Summer Lake 1) - Page 11

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She'd stared at him, then scanned the four walls of the cottage as if she could find an escape route if she looked carefully enough. "Of course you can do it."

She hadn't needed to say anything more. Those six words had made everything perfectly clear to him. But he'd still pushed. Still hoped.

"I need you."

He'd watched the care, the love, with wh

ich she carefully laid his clean and dry sister down in the donated crib and covered her with a blanket, kissing her on the cheek. Jordan had waved an arm in the air and Sarah had caught it, holding on to it with a smile for the little girl. Hope had flared in his chest one last time as he watched the sweet interplay between the two people he loved most in the world. But then she had turned to him, and he'd read the truth on her face.

She wasn't going to stay.

"Of course I want to help you. I'm going to come home and visit you whenever I can, on weekends and school breaks, to help you through this."

"I thought you loved me."

"I do love you, Calvin. But you know I can't stay here. I can't live in Summer Lake. And if I defer for a year, I'll get so behind I might never be able to catch up. You know I've waited my whole life to get away and become something. Please don't ask me to give it all up now."

Reality had hit him then, like fists pounding all over his body, and a deep rage had taken over, so swift and strong that he could no longer stop himself from giving in to it.

"Just go!" He'd yelled the words so loud that he'd startled his sister out of her sleepy state, and she'd started to whimper from her crib. But that hadn't stopped him. "You'd better hurry back to school, or you might miss an important test."

She had come toward him, her arms outstretched. "Please don't be like this. Please don't push me away. I can still be there for you. I'll come home on weekends, and whenever you need to talk on the phone."

But he'd gone to the door and flung it open. "I need to concentrate on Jordan right now. Not a long-distance relationship."

"So this is it? You're breaking up with me?"

"You're the one who's already leaving."

And a few seconds later, she did, heading back to a life that had nothing to do with him.

The scene replayed over and over inside his head all morning as he showered, dressed, made breakfast, then got in his truck to head to the meeting he had in a town half an hour away.

Betsy had taken Jordan and Kayla to school this morning after their sleepover. There was no reason for Calvin to drive past the school. But he sat outside the building and let his brain play tricks on him anyway.

He and Sarah had gone here together. He'd pulled her pigtails, and she'd knocked him off the monkey bars. They had been too young to admit their real feelings for each other until they were sixteen.

Seeing her again was a big deal. A huge deal. All of his old feelings were much closer to the surface than he wanted them to be. Not just his latent anger, not just the fact that he wanted her more than he'd ever wanted anyone else...but also the fact that he still felt a strong emotional connection to her, even after all this time.

He'd let down his guard in the bar for a split second, had let himself forget everything but her sweet smile and soft laughter, had even let himself give rise to the secret hope he'd held on to--that one day they'd meet again and it would all work out.

Boom! That was when she'd come in with her condo plans. He'd felt so burned, so crushed, like such an idiot for letting himself start to fall again when he knew better--and yet again, he'd lashed out. Said things he shouldn't have said. Things he didn't mean.

She had wanted to clear the air last night, and now he knew she was right. There was no question that they needed to say whatever needed to be said, to let bygones be bygones. And when they were done settling the past back in the past where it belonged, then they could have a rational discussion about her condos. The rational discussion they should have had last night.

But first, he owed her an apology.

*

Sarah woke up on top of her covers, her laptop teetering precariously on her stomach.

With the sun streaming in over her pillow, she had no choice but to drag herself into the shower. She stood beneath the warm spray, but none of her muscles relaxed. Not when she'd been a ball of nerves since the moment she'd seen Calvin last night. Earlier than that, actually. She had been wound up like a tangled ball of yarn from the moment she'd blurted out to the Klein Group that the condos should be built at Summer Lake.

From here on out, she needed to focus on work. It had always saved her before. It would save her again now. And Lord knew, after working the previous day at the store, she had a ton of her own work to tackle today. Especially, she thought with a frown as she toweled off, given Calvin's enormous objections to her project.

She was reaching for a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt when she realized that dressing down in the middle of a workday was exactly what she shouldn't do. She wasn't here for a vacation--she was here on a business trip. She selected a navy-blue dress from her garment bag, and by the time she had a little makeup on, her earrings in, and heels on, she felt a little better, as though she was wearing the proper armor.

Downstairs the kitchen was quiet, and she guessed that her mother was already at the store, opening it up for the day. As always, Sarah was drawn to the leather chair by the fireplace where her father used to read his stacks of newspapers. She ran her hand over the high back remembering how, when she was a little girl and he would be gone for weeks at a time in Washington, DC, she used to curl up in his chair with a blanket and fall asleep because it was the closest thing to being in his arms. And when he was there, she'd spend hours sitting beside his chair while he was on the phone, wanting to be with him but knowing she had to be quiet and not disturb his work.

Uncomfortable with the memory, she headed for the screened porch at the front of the house. As she opened a door, the high-pitched squeak that echoed into the front hall made her realize just how lonely it must be for her mother to live in the large house by herself.

Still, despite its scope--the whitewashed, two-story house was one of the oldest and biggest in town--her mom was good at making each room homey. The screen porch, with its wooden planks and the bright reds and yellows and blues on the furniture's upholstery, was a bright retreat even on rainy days. And of course, there was the basket of knitting in the corner by the couch and a similar basket in every room. Knitters loved to start projects but loved finishing them a whole lot less. Thus, the piles of work in progress near every comfortable chair in every room.

Every time she came home for a visit, Sarah was struck by how different her childhood home was from her city loft. Much like her father's apartment in Washington, DC, she'd always tended toward minimal color, mostly black and white, whereas this house was stamped with her mother's eye for design and color. Fabrics that would have been out of control in anyone else's hands looked just right together the way her mom had arranged them.

Sarah felt simultaneously comforted--and completely out of her element.

She hadn't come home for more than a night or two in ten years, but as she turned around to look out at the rising sun sparkling on the blue water, memories rushed her.

Waking up to go meet Calvin out on the beach to pick blueberries for her mother's blueberry pancakes.

Warm summer nights in front of a bonfire, roasting marshmallows together.

Saturday afternoon sailing races in her Sunfish on perfectly still days where they practically had to paddle their way around the buoys.

Sitting out on the end of the dock on Adirondack chairs, watching the sun fall behind the mountains, making up stories about the images they saw in the clouds.

She'd expected her father's memory to assault her at every turn. But apart from the leather chair in the living room, she saw Calvin around here more than she saw her father. Probably because Calvin was the one she had always gone to after her father left again, always the one who had comforted her, soothed her.

Her heart squeezing, she left the porch and headed around to the back of the house and across the lawn that led to her grandmother's cottage. Sarah saw the top of a large straw hat in the field of yellow and white chrysanthemums before she saw the rest of Olive.

Her grandmother looked just right among the blooms, as pretty as any of the flowers, as much a part of this

land as it was a part of her.

You're not from here...you were never from here.

Calvin's harsh words whiplashed through her head again. She shook it to try to get them out, but they were already lodged way too deep.

She'd only just reached her grandmother when Olive asked, "What's wrong, honey?"

Last night, she had decided she would work things out on her own, but she was defenseless against her grandmother's very real concern. "Calvin and I had a big blowup last night."

Her grandmother handed her the shears, and Sarah was glad to turn her focus over to the beautiful mums for a moment rather than her too-strong feelings for Calvin. She was supposed to have gotten over him a long time ago. Moved on with her life, with her heart. Only to find out within minutes of seeing him again that she hadn't actually managed to do any of those things.

"I know how much you've always cared about him," her grandmother said. "Do you want to talk about it?"

No, she wanted to pretend none of it had ever happened. But she was also wise enough to realize that no amount of ignoring the situation was going to make it go away. "I'm working on a new project. It's the reason I'm here, actually. I have a client who wants to build some residences on the lake. Calvin doesn't think they'd be good for the town."

"And you do?" Thankfully, there wasn't any judgment on her grandmother's face.

Sarah dropped the stems into the basket on the grass. "Yes. And not just because of the money they will bring the town, but because of the new life it will give to the waterfront. That old carousel is nothing but an eyesore."

Olive stiffened. "I thought you were talking about some new buildings. What do they have to do with the carousel?"

Suddenly, Sarah had that same feeling she'd had the night before with Calvin--the one that told her she should not only tread carefully, but probably not tread at all. Yet again, unfortunately, she'd already said too much to turn back. "That's where my client would build the condos, Grandma. Where the carousel is sitting."

"No, they can't do that. Absolutely not." With that, her grandmother turned and walked away.


Tags: Bella Andre Summer Lake Romance
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