"No, Jords," he said, his love for his sister rounding out every short word. "We cannot put it in the backyard."
But Jordan's idea got Sarah thinking. What if they moved the carousel? She couldn't foresee having the money to actually rehab it--not yet, anyway--but maybe they could find a good home for it, at least. Somewhere kids could still play on it and pretend that they were in the circus, just like Jordan had.
Stuck at a surprisingly long light in Lake George, Jordan's eyes got big as she looked out the window at a huge entertainment complex. "Look, they have an arcade!"
The blinking lights blinding her, Sarah said, "I'll bet they can see that neon sign from space."
"Can we stop here on the way home from the hospital?"
Calvin snorted. "No way. You still have homework to do."
Jordan's mouth went flat and her arms crossed over her chest. "I wish we had an arcade at home. It's so boring sometimes." She shoved her earbuds into her ears and cranked the music up loud enough that everyone in the car could hear it.
Feeling Calvin tense beside her, Sarah tried to comfort him by saying, "It's perfectly natural for any kid to want what they don't have. You know, the grass is greener and all that." When he didn't respond, she added, "You're doing the right thing, raising her at the lake where everyone knows and loves her."
"I know. But one day she's going to be old enough to make her own decision about where she wants to live. And it breaks my heart to think it might not be here with me."
Sarah wanted so badly to make him feel better by saying, She'll choose the lake. She'll want to stay with all of her friends, with you. But she couldn't. Not when she hadn't chosen that path herself.
And not when she knew that Calvin couldn't possibly control his sister's desires and dreams. Those would have to be all her own, even if Jordan's choices sometimes hurt the man who had given up so much to raise her.
The three of them knocked before walking into Olive's room, and when they didn't hear a response, Sarah's heartbeat kicked into overdrive as she automatically assumed something must be wrong.
But when she flung open the door, her grandmother was sitting up in bed with a finger over her lips. "Your mother is sleeping," she whispered.
Sarah would have swapped places with her exhausted mother in a heartbeat. But she knew how important it was to Denise that she stay close to Olive. It was better for Sarah to run the store.
Still, there was one big reason to celebrate: Her grandmother's fingers were flying with her needles again, which had to mean she was feeling better.
After they had all given her a kiss, Jordan immediately focused on her knitting. "What are you making, Mrs. Hewitt?"
"Something very special."
Sarah had never seen a pattern like this one--a long oval that almost looked like fabric, it had been so painstakingly created. It wasn't a scarf or a sock or the front or back of a sweater. Sarah supposed it could be a strangely shaped shawl, but even that didn't seem quite right.
Jordan moved closer and Olive put the intricately knitted white silk yarn into her small hands. "Wow, it's like a spider's web. How did you ever figure out how to do this?"
"It isn't nearly as difficult as it looks. However, it does take a great deal of focus." She shifted her gaze to look at Sarah. "You can't give up on it when the going gets rough."
Sarah gulped in air at the pointed comment. Just one more thing to fill her already conflicted, confused head--and heart.
Needing to get back on steady ground, Sarah filled her grandmother in on the comings and goings at the store and asked for advice on various issues that had crept up in the past couple of days. When the nurse poked her head in to tell them that visiting hours were over for the night, she went to kiss her grandmother good night.
Calvin was next, whispering something that had Olive's eyes widening, her cheeks crinkling into a wide smile.
A few minutes later, when they were back in the truck and Jordan had her earbuds in, Sarah said, "It was so good to see Grandma smile. What did you say to her?"
"I'll tell you later." He smiled at her, one filled with both love and heat. "I promise."
She drank in the gorgeous lines of his face, the shadows of stubble across his chin that had darkened throughout the evening. She couldn't remember a time she hadn't wanted to be with Calvin. Five or fifteen or nearly thirty, she had always been drawn to this man sitting beside her.
"Tell me what you said," she insisted. "Tell me why she smiled like that."
His eyes were on the dark road, lit only by his headlights, and yet she could feel his entire focus on her as he said, "I told her I knew exactly what she was knitting. And who she was knitting it for."
Within seconds, Sarah felt her throat close up, her breath catching inside her chest. Because suddenly, she knew exactly what her grandmother was knitting in her hospital bed out of the finest white lace.
Grandma Olive was knitting a wedding veil.
For Sarah and Calvin's wedding.
Clearing her throat, trying to focus on something else--anything but that white lace that she swore she could almost feel floating down over her head--Sarah said, "The town hall meeting is tomorrow night. Everyone's going to get a chance to give their opinion about my project. Including you. Why don't we talk about it now while we have the time?"
"The town hall meeting can wait until tomorrow night."
"But we haven't discussed the project since--" She swallowed hard. "Since Loon Lake." Since that night in the boathouse when they'd kissed...and then torn each other's hearts out.
"You're not going to back down, Sarah. I know that. I have never underestimated you. I'm not starting now. I know you're going to give a hell of a presentation to the town. And I know you're going to wow a good number of people too."
How could she find any space to put between them when he wouldn't even let her cut the ties that bound them together with an issue where they stood on opposite sides?
And that was what finally had her saying what she should have said all along. "I need you to take me to my house tonight." She had to end this.
Even though it was already too late to protect her heart.
Calvin didn't argue with her; he just took her home. Jordan was already asleep in the backseat, and she didn't know what to do, what to say when they pulled up in front of her mother's house. "Calvin, I--"
"You need time." His eyes were dark as he undid his seat be
lt. "Take it."
He came around the car, a gentleman as always, and opened the door for her. Knowing she shouldn't feel as if he were kicking her out of his truck--not when she'd been the one to insist on coming back to this big house she'd grown up in--she climbed out on shaky legs.
But even though the smart thing would be to walk up the brick pathway to her mother's front door and close herself off inside, Sarah hated the thought of being a coward and running from him.
She'd been a coward before, she saw that now.
She couldn't stand it if she repeated history.
"Calvin," she began, not knowing what to say or how to say it. "You're my best friend. You've always been my best friend. And making lo--" She faltered, not used to talking about sex. Taking a shaky breath, she tried again. "Making love with you is wonderful." No, that wasn't good enough. Not even close. "Beyond wonderful. Better than I remembered. So much better. But I can't do this. I can't be what you need me to be." And she couldn't say the three words he needed to hear, couldn't possibly admit to loving him again. "I shouldn't have stayed with you that first night. I should have been strong enough to sleep alone."
"Sarah, sweetheart, I wouldn't have let you sleep all alone in that big empty house that first night. You needed me. And I needed to be there for you. It's as simple as that."
She took a breath to try to corral her thoughts so that she could make sense of them. But he was so close. Too close. And his words were soft in the fall chill, wrapping around her like a warm blanket, the warmth she'd been craving for so long.
"I can't control myself around you anymore," she said. "It's not fair for me to keep pushing you away every morning just because I'm not strong enough to resist sleeping with you every night."
"Do you really think this is just about how much we want each other? Do you really think this is just about sex?"
She tried to breathe. "Calvin, please--"
"I love touching you. I could kiss you for hours and never, ever want to stop. The sounds you make when I'm loving you are the most beautiful I've ever heard. But this thing between you and me isn't even close to being just sex."
She worked to suck in any oxygen she could. No one else had ever talked to her like this. Because no one else had ever wanted--or loved her--this much.
He closed the small distance between them, brushing her hair away from her eyes. "Don't you know that I can see how you feel whenever you look at me?" He laid his hand over her heart, and she felt it race beneath his large palm. "Don't you know I can feel it in the way your pulse races whenever I'm around?" His mouth was a breath away from closing in on hers as he whispered, "Don't you know you give away your true feelings with every one of your kisses?" And then his lips were grazing hers, just enough to make them tingle, before he drew back slightly. "All day long I've thought about what you said to me last night. I grieved when my mother died, but when my dad shot himself--"