The Best Is Yet to Come (Summer Lake 1) - Page 25

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"Maybe your sister should go with you," her mother replied.

Seeing that her mother was still half focused on the game, Olive said, "I'll be fine biking home alone with the full moon out tonight."

Her heart raced with delicious anticipation as she rode her bike through the crisp night air. Though she assumed he would be waiting for her at her house, when she approached the park at the edge of the downtown strip, she was surprised to see him leaning against the carousel.

For a moment she felt like a little girl as she dropped her bike onto the grass. But then as she walked across the stretch of green and saw his eyes on her, dark blue eyes that were full of the same need she was feeling, Olive felt her first real rush of feminine power. And pleasure.

Reaching the carousel, she put her hands on one of the horses' flanks and stepped up onto the platform. Running her fingers along the painted beasts, she slowly moved to the two-person sleigh being pulled behind a pair of horses and sat down.

Her heart raced as he climbed up on the carousel. She was frightened of the strength of her feelings, the strange sensations that had taken over her body, inch by inch, from the first moment she'd set eyes on him.

Carlos was graceful as he moved toward her. And then he was kneeling in front of her, ignoring the open seat next to her. "Pretty Olive."

She took his face in her hands, the solid lines of his jaw firm against the flesh of her palms, the dark stubble across his chin rough against her skin.

Just as the fireworks that marked halftime at the football field exploded in the sky above them, she pressed her lips against his...and knew that she was his forever.

Nothing--no one--would tear them apart.

Not without tearing her apart too.

*

Present day...

The whole time Denise held her mother in her arms on the floor and in the back of the ambulance, as they waited for news in the hospital, she hadn't stopped thinking how right the needles and yarn had looked in Sarah's hands tonight at the knitting group.

Then there was Calvin. Denise had known him his whole life, knew what a good boy he'd been, what a wonderful man he'd turned into.

These past hours Denise watched him watching her daughter and saw what Sarah hadn't dared tell her. The love between them had never gone away.

Calvin loved her little girl with such devotion, such purity, it simply took Denise's breath away. Did Sarah know? Did Calvin? And even if they did, would it matter? Would it change anything for her beautiful daughter?

Even as a child, Denise had marveled at the fact that Sarah was actually half hers. Not so often when she was young and they would bake together or play with yarn or fabric or make sand castles on the beach. But later, when it seemed as though Sarah was going out of her way to grow up too fast. When the only thing that mattered was what her father thought. When her sole purpose was getting out of Summer Lake.

Denise had loved her husband, even if she hadn't always understood him. But now she was afraid that those things she hadn't understood--the pressures he had always put on his only child, the way he'd repeatedly told their daughter that she had to be more, bigger, stronger--had only been magnified in death.

Denise was afraid that James Bartow now loomed larger over Sarah from the grave than he had as flesh and blood.

She was afraid that just as she'd never known how to be the kind of mother her daughter really needed as a child, she didn't know how to help her as an adult either.

She worried that Sarah's return to Summer Lake would only make those demons that ate at her daughter's heart and soul stronger.

But most of all, she worried that this time, if Sarah left for the city again, she wouldn't be coming back.

So many questions, so many worries. Too many for this hospital room full of beeping machines and bright lights.

But through it all, she held on to that picture of Sarah with the barely begun blue shawl on her lap...and how right it had looked. As though her daughter was finally coming back to a home she never should have left.

"Thank you for being here with us, Calvin," Denise said. "You should go home and get some sleep. Sarah, you too."

Her daughter looked surprised, then stubborn. Always so stubborn.

Even when something as beautiful as true love was staring her straight in the face.

"I'm staying here. With you. With Grandma."

But for all that Denise had rarely pushed her daughter to do anything she didn't want to do, she wasn't afraid to do it now. "Since the day your grandmother opened Lakeside Stitch & Knit, her store has been open Monday through Saturday. Not once in fifty-five years have the doors been locked shut. We're not starting now. Not when she's counting on us. The doctor and nurses have already told me that I can stay here with her as long as I need to." Denise gestured to a pullout couch that had been supplied with a pillow and blankets. "You've got to get some sleep with what's left of the night so that you can run the store."

Sarah's eyebrows rose in surprise. Denise held her breath as she waited to see if she would call her bluff.

She worked to hide her relief when Sarah nodded. "I'll do whatever you need me to do. Anything, Mom. You know that, don't you?"

"Of course I do," Denise said in a softer tone, letting go of her mother's hand long enough to hug her daughter.

When Denise turned to hug Calvin, he whispered, "I'll take care of her," into her ear.

"I know you will."

But would Sarah let him?

*

Calvin drove Sarah back to Summer Lake in the car his ambulance chief had left for him, but when they pulled up in front of her mother's house, her legs didn't want to move.

"Don't worry, there's no way you're going back to that big house all alone." He came around to her side of the car and opened her door. Taking her hand, he said, "We're going to pack a bag for you, and then you're coming back with me. To my house."

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew it wasn't a good idea, that she should be strong enough to sleep in her mother's empty house. But God, how she didn't want to--which was why she threw some clothes into a large shoulder bag, along with her toothbrush, and got back into his car.

Calvin parked behind his house and she got out. But instead of heading inside, the next thing she knew she was on his dock looking at the lake.

She didn't hear him come up behind her, didn't know he was standing right there until he said, "That one looks like an elephant."

Her brain tried to restart, but it was like an engine without any oil. The key had turned, but all it could do was sputter before dying out again. His hand slipped over hers, and she curled her fingers into his and held on for dear life.

"The one over to the right looks like a h

eadless horseman," he said.

She finally realized he was looking up at the sky, up at the clouds lit by the moon. She couldn't believe it when her mouth almost found a smile. This was a game they'd played as kids, lying out on the end of the dock watching the clouds change shapes.

Her heart and her head were both glad for the chance to focus on something that didn't hurt. She finally found her voice. "That one's a witch on a broom."

Calvin moved closer, pointed upward. "And she's being chased by three little witches."

Maybe it was the fact that she didn't have to try to fall asleep in her mother's big, overly quiet house. Maybe it was the relief that Calvin was always there when she needed him. Or maybe it was simply how he always found a way to make her smile. But as the clouds moved apart in the sky and covered the moon for a second, her heart also split open for the second time in as many days.

As Calvin's arms came around her, holding her tight, she cried for her grandmother, for her mother. She cried for herself. For everything she didn't understand.

And for everything she wanted but had never let herself have.

When her tears dried, Calvin led her back up the dock and into his house. She barely noticed Dorothy getting up off the couch and saying, "How is she?" Barely heard Calvin's reply. And then he was taking her into his bedroom and helping her pull her sweater over her head. He took off her shoes, her jeans, and settled her into a large bed.

He was pulling the covers over her, whispering, "Good night, sweetheart," when panic settled over her.

"Please," she said. She couldn't be alone. Not now. Not anymore. She was so tired of being cold. So tired of feeling empty. "Please don't go."

Her eyes closed of their own volition before she heard his response, but she was still awake when the bed dipped. She sighed with relief, finally letting herself fall all the way into blessed darkness just as his body found hers and pulled her back into his chest.

For the first time in a long time, she wasn't alone.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Sarah woke as the first, faint rays of light began to brighten the sky outside the bedroom window. She hadn't slept many hours, but they'd all been good ones, safe in Calvin's arms.


Tags: Bella Andre Summer Lake Romance
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