The Best Is Yet to Come (Summer Lake 1) - Page 40

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Catherine's face softened slightly, just as Christie murmured, "It's pretty darn easy to fall into that people-pleasing trap."

Sarah shifted her gaze to her new friend just as Christie twisted her diamond engagement ring. Maybe one day soon she would feel close enough with her, comfortable enough doing the girl-sharing thing, that she could ask about her relationship with Wesley. And if everything was okay.

"I never meant to come back here and upset everyone," Sarah said. "So many times, I've wondered if I did the right thing coming back at all."

"I know I told you that your coming back into Calvin's life has been bad." Catherine looked more than a little uncomfortable now. "But I'm not sure I got it completely right. It's more that he's been different since you've been back."

Sarah had given Catherine the perfect opening to jump all over her admission, to agree with her that she shouldn't have come back to town, to maybe even pack her bags and drive her back to the city to make sure she really left. Hardly able to believe her old friend hadn't taken the chance to slam her down again, she asked, "Different how?"

"After years of seeing someone be up and energetic all the time, you sort of forget they're ever any other way," Catherine said. "These past couple of weeks, it's like his outer layer has started to drop away, like something has changed inside of him, way down deep, like I'm finally seeing the real Calvin Vaughn." Catherine shook her head. "I'm more than a little ashamed that I didn't realize he was covering up part of himself all this time. You touch him, reach him in a way no one else has, Sarah. In a way no one else ever could."

Sarah was afraid everything she felt for Calvin was written on her face. She tried to contain it out of sheer habit, but then it hit her: What was she doing? Why was she always trying so hard to hide from what she really felt? Where was the gain in that?

"I love him, Cat." The childhood nickname slipped out right alongside her true feelings for the man they had both been friends with as children.

Surprise flashed across Catherine's face a split second before she said, "I know you do." She paused, almost as if she was giving Sarah time to catch her breath. "So, what are you going to do about it?"

Sarah gripped her shiny red mug tightly, even as she tried to still the panic rising inside of her. "I'm going to try to make it work."

She'd never moved forward on anything without a plan. Not until Calvin had touched her. Not until Calvin had kissed her. Not until they'd made love as adults. But the truth was, she simply hadn't had a choice. Not in any of it. Because she'd always loved him.

And she always would.

When Catherine's voice came again, it was softer, gentler. She reached out, put her hand on Sarah's arm, regret mingling with shame in her eyes. "I'm sorry I've lashed out at you so many times. I had no right to say those things at the knitting group on Monday night."

Sarah looked down at Catherine's ragged nails, a Band-Aid strip wrapped around her thumb, the same friend who used to take such care with her appearance. "You're Calvin's friend. You just want what's best for him. I can understand that."

"Just because I'm his friend doesn't mean I should be acting like this. Not when I know firsthand how hard love is."

Sarah could almost see the olive branch being extended across the table. It was habit to proceed cautiously, to make sure she didn't connect too closely with anyone--and to make sure she didn't let Summer Lake or the people in it reach out and grab hold of her, of her heart. But she didn't want to live that way anymore.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I married the wrong guy is what happened."

Sarah frowned. "When did you figure it out?"

"When I found him in bed with another woman."

"Men suck," Christie said.

Catherine raised her eyebrows, obviously just as surprised by Christie's emphatic statement as Sarah was. "What are you talking about, Christie?" Catherine asked. "Wesley's the perfect fiance. You couldn't have found a nicer guy if you'd tried."

Christie looked so uncomfortable that Sarah dove in to save her. "I've got to tell you guys about my crazy dream."

She never would have guessed it was possible from the way their coffee break had begun, but over their emptying coffee cups, the three of them were soon discussing contest ideas and possible patterns for knitted saddles and bridles for carousel horses. And Sarah was enjoying herself. So much that she wanted to believe she could have more than one afternoon like this, chatting over coffee with girlfriends.

"Wow, those dark clouds came out of nowhere." Christie pointed out the coffee shop window toward the lake. "There's definitely going to be a storm tonight."

Sarah shivered even though the cafe was perfectly warm.

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

Sarah hadn't been to a town hall meeting in a decade. The din of voices in the big red barn hit her first. Every seat was full, and people were lined up along the walls. People were chatting easily with one another, passing Thermos flasks of hot drinks and baskets of brownies and cookies back and forth, but she'd been to enough town hall meetings to know that the mood in the room could--and often would--turn on a dime.

Calvin was standing on the stage that had been erected in the front. Sensing her presence, he looked up at her from the stage and smiled. Her lips actually tingled in response, as if he'd managed to send her a kiss from all the way across the barn.

A hand brushed her arm, and she pulled her gaze away from Calvin to see who was trying to get her attention. Her eyes widened in surprise.

"Mr. Klein?" When had the president of the company she was here to represent decided to show up?

"This is quite a lively town you've got here."

She nodded and worked to compose herself. Ever since her grandmother had ended up in the hospital, Sarah had been living in jeans and long-sleeved T-shirts. Tonight, thank God, she'd run home from the store to change into a suit, fix her hair, and put on makeup and heels.

"Are you planning on spending the night in town?" she asked. "If so, it would be my pleasure to give you a tour of Summer Lake tomorrow." It would take approximately thirty minutes to show him the stores on Main Street--and then she'd have to start dancing around to keep her client entertained if he was judging Summer Lake by city standards. Maybe, if she was lucky, he'd like hiking or fishing, and then he'd be in heaven here.

"Yes," he replied. "I'll be at the inn tonight. It was dark by the time I arrived, but I'm certainly looking forward to getting to know this town and the Adirondacks better. Be my guest for breakfast."

Sarah knew she'd better get her lips up into a smile, and fast. "Breakfast sounds great."

"One more thing I wanted to mention before the meeting begins. Back in the office, we've been tossing around the idea of acquiring at least one of the old buildings on Main Street to put our own contemporary stamp on it. Of course, we will assist the current stores in finding excellent non-lakefront locations. Perhaps you can give some thought tonight to which buildings would be best to target."

Sarah couldn't manage to fake a positive response. Not when she absolutely hated her client's idea. At least now she knew how to use her time with him the next day--she would have to use every skill she had in her arsenal to convince him to keep his hands off the historic buildings.

And yet how could she be angry with him? He wouldn't even have known about Summer Lake if not for her. And she was the one who hadn't cared about the history of things like the carousel. Her stomach roiled at the thought.

What had she done?

Just then, her mother moved to her side. "There you are."

They'd spoken earlier in the day after Olive had been settled back into her cottage. Helen was with Sarah's grandmother now so that her mom could attend the meeting without worrying.

"Mr. Klein, I'd like to introduce you to my mother, Denise Bartow."

His attention shifted to her mother so completely that Sarah almost felt as if she'd disappeared. "How do you do?" Instead of simply shaking her mother

's outstretched hand, he took a more old-fashioned approach and bent over her hand to press a light kiss to it.

Sarah couldn't believe her mother's reaction--her blushing cheeks, the light that jumped into her eyes. She was clearly exhausted from all those hours in the hospital, and yet a stranger was making her look prettier than Sarah had seen her in a very long time.

"It's nice to meet you too," Denise said, before turning back to Sarah. "I've saved you a seat if you need one."

Stunned by the chemistry between her client and her still-grieving mother, Sarah somehow managed to say, "Thanks, but I'll be sitting up front on the stage so that I can give my presentation and answer questions."

Looking almost shy, her mother shifted her gaze back to Mr. Klein. "In that case, would you like to sit with me? If you're not used to it, these town hall meetings can sometimes be a little overwhelming."

"I'd like that very much, Denise. Thank you." Before they walked away, he said, "I'm looking forward to hearing your presentation, Sarah."


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