All her life she'd given her all to whatever goal she was shooting for. Now she realized all that hard work had been practice, training her for the ultimate goal, for the ultimate achievement.
With one of the horses giving her something that looked like a smile, Sarah knew exactly what she had to do. And this time she was going to follow her own heart all the way there.
For the next several days, Sarah was either on the phone, sending e-mail, knocking on doors, or gathering answers and papers and official stamps from government offices. Her mother and grandmother helped with her plan where they could, but mostly it was a matter of digging into old papers at the library, at the courthouse, or on the Internet.
Absolutely exhausted by Monday morning, she was glad to spend a few hours in the store surrounded by the busload of women that had arrived on their annual yarn crawl.
Sarah was warmed by the knowledge that she was finally in the right place. After all these years of searching, she had managed to find her home right where she'd started. Her family, her friends--they were all a part of Lakeside Stitch & Knit. They always had been; she'd just been too blind to see it until now.
She and Jenny were beginning to set up the store for the Monday night knitting group when the UPS truck parked outside. A minute later, Sarah had the certified letter she had been waiting for in her hands. Hands that were shaking.
Jenny told her, "I can handle the rest of this."
Sarah looked up at her friend. "I've never been this nervous." Because nothing had ever been this important.
Jenny gave her a hug. "For courage. Now go."
Calvin had spent more time with his ax in the forest behind his house this week than he had in the past several years. He and Jordan now had a pile of firewood that would last them practically into the next decade.
It was times like this when he wished he was a drinker. But that was exactly what his father had done--and when trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol hadn't worked, his father had opted for a bullet instead.
After a weekend of too much hard physical labor and not enough sleep, Calvin felt worse than he had since that weekend when he'd lost everything but his sister. He also felt guilty for walking into Betsy's house Thursday night, for giving her any hope at all that he might come around. She'd poured him a glass of wine, but he hadn't stayed to drink it. Instead, he'd grabbed his sister and gotten out of there as quickly as he could.
Jordan walked into his office on Monday afternoon without knocking. "Don't you have after-school art today?"
"It was canceled." She sat on the couch against the far wall and started playing with her shoelaces. "Mrs. Riggs threw up."
A pang of guilt hit him as he realized his sister was upset about something. He'd been so wrapped up in his own misery that he hadn't paid enough attention to her lately. "Everything okay?"
She shrugged. "Sure."
Uh-oh. He knew that shrug. Knew that sure. Trying to pull it together for his sister, he got up out of his chair and walked over to the couch, trying to figure out what she might be upset about. "Did you give Owen the scarf you made for him?"
She shook her head. "No. I'm not going to give it to him."
"He's not going to stick around. If I really let myself like him, I'll just feel bad when he goes back to California. I was thinking it would be better if I just kept it."
Suddenly, Calvin knew why he'd been chopping wood until his palms started to bleed, why he'd been unable to sleep. And it wasn't because Sarah had hurt him by not having the guts to claim him as hers during the town hall meeting. She'd asked him to forgive her afterward. She'd explained her momentary panic from standing in front of her client. And she'd begged for a chance to do it over and get it right this time.
No, it wasn't her behavior that made it so he couldn't look at himself in the mirror in the morning. The reason he couldn't live with himself was because he had screwed up again.
Sarah had made one mistake--a mistake plenty of people would have made if their jobs had been on the line--and he'd lost his mind, then come up with a hundred ways to justify it. Just like he had ten years ago.
"Owen might be leaving next fall, but he's here now," he said. "Do you like him?"
"He's pretty cool."
"Then give him the scarf. Because you know what I keep having to learn the hard way?"
She blinked up at him, her green eyes so big and innocent. "What?"
"There's a chance you might regret listening to your heart now, but you'll one hundred percent regret it later if you don't."
Catherine was clearly surprised to see Sarah entering Calvin's domain. Concern was only a beat behind. "How are you doing? I would have been over to the store before now, but I left town right after the meeting on Thursday and only got back a couple of hours ago."
"It means so much to me to know you care," Sarah said, meaning every word, more glad than she could ever say that their friendship had managed to survive the years after all. "And I promise I'll talk your ears off about everything soon, but right now I really need to see Calvin."
"I think he really needs to see you too. Jordan's in with him."
Sarah took a deep breath and gripped her slim package tighter in one hand as she turned the doorknob with the other. Brother and sister were sitting on the couch together, but as soon as Calvin saw her, he stood. "Sarah?"
She drank in the beautiful sight of him, the way his hair was sticking up on one side as though he hadn't remembered to comb it, the dark stubble on his jaw. The urge to apologize all over again for screwing everything up--and to beg for another chance--hit her so hard her knees almost buckled from the force of it.
Swallowing hard, she made herself take a
step toward him. She held out the slim package, waited for him to take it from her shaking hand. "It's yours now."
He looked down at the express envelope, then back up at her. "What is this?" But he was already reaching inside and pulling out the official notarized sheet. "The carousel?" He looked down at the document again, then back at her. "You're giving the town the deed to the carousel?"
Jordan grabbed the page from him as Sarah explained, "When I was doing my research, I learned that the carousel wasn't already owned by the town like I'd always assumed. A company in Rochester owned it, along with the land around it. I knew that if they ever realized they still owned a patch of prime Adirondack waterfront, they'd put it on the market. Something Jordan said one of the nights we all drove to the hospital made me realize that I couldn't live with the risk of someone coming in and buying it."
"Where did you get the money for this?"
"It isn't important." And it wasn't. He didn't need to know that she'd emptied her bank account. "All that matters is that the carousel--and the land it's sitting on--is safe now."
She knew she should leave before she started pleading with him to take her back, knew she couldn't possibly expect him to still love her after all the chances she'd already had, knew that even giving the carousel to the town wasn't a big enough gesture to win him back. But it was so hard to go. Not without saying just one more thing to him while she knew he was listening. And even though Jordan was in the room with them, this time Sarah didn't use his sister as an excuse to hold anything back.
"Over the years we were apart, I went back to eighteen all the time. And I always swore that if I had the chance to love you again, I'd love you right." She couldn't stop her tears from falling, wasn't sure she'd ever be able to again. "You'll never know how sorry I am that I didn't."
Running had never been the answer; she knew that now. But when Calvin didn't say anything, when he simply stood and stared at her as if he were seeing her for the very first time, there wasn't a single thing she could do but turn.