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First pages

Prologue

11 Years Ago

 

Fifteen-year-old Mandy Hudson lifted her chin and squinted. Sunlight filtered through the canopy of the maple tree creating a kaleidoscope of colors. A gentle breeze mixed the scent of soil with sun-warmed leaves. She took in a deep breath. This was one of the many things she loved about her grandparents’ land.

A voice filtered down from the tree above her. “Are you coming up or not?”

She tossed a glare at her friend, Preston Yarrow. At sixteen, he enjoyed teasing her and liked to boast about his climbing skills. He’d dared Mandy to join him on the branch at least twenty feet off the ground. Mandy had no doubt in her ability to ascend as high as him. She just couldn’t do it nearly as fast. Then again, those crazy long legs of his gave him quite the advantage.

“Hold your horses.” Maintaining three points of contact, Mandy picked her way through the branches until she was sitting on the same thick limb where Preston waited, watching her. With one arm wrapped around the trunk, she shifted until she was comfortable, her other arm resting on one knee.

From where they sat, they saw her grandparents’ home, the Hudson Bed and Breakfast. Sun made the nearby river glitter as if someone had sprinkled diamonds across the surface. Grass and trees stretched as far as they could see.

Once Mandy had her balance, she let go of the tree trunk. The bark left grooves in her palm, and she picked off a piece of debris.

Preston’s gray eyes reflected the blue sky. His dark blond hair had lightened after a summer of spending time outdoors in the sun. Mandy swore he’d grown two inches in the last year and now seemed to tower over her when they stood side by side. He looked thoughtful, almost pensive, as he scanned the view below them.

They sat in comfortable silence until he spoke, his deep voice filling the surrounding space. “I’m going to college when I graduate. Then one day, I’ll own a place like this.”

He’d been saying that regularly for years now. She shot him a teasing look. “You’re going to run a bed and breakfast?”

He countered her tease with an exaggerated scowl. “Funny. No, I want to build like your grandfather does in his spare time. Except I want to turn it into a business.”

Papa had spoken highly of Preston’s skills when it came to woodworking. Mandy gave him a smile. “I hope you find a place like this and all your dreams come true.” She took in the beautiful view around her. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

When her parents divorced and started new lives, they’d happily signed away their rights and left Mandy behind. Their ability to disregard their eleven-year-old daughter like yesterday’s paper had broken Mandy’s spirit. But her grandparents gave her the love and time her parents never had. Moving to the Hudson B&B had brought her a loving family she desperately needed, not to mention a friend in the boy who’d mowed the lawn and helped Papa since Preston was twelve.

Preston glanced at the watch on his wrist. “I’d better get back to work. Mr. Hudson wanted me to help him repair part of the back fence that blew loose with the last storm.” He grasped the limb he was sitting on and swung himself down to the one right below. He continued to make his way to the base of the tree.

She followed him, landing on the grass-covered ground with a grunt. She dusted off her shorts and held a hand above her eyes to block out the sun. “I don’t know how you manage all of your homework with as many hours as you work here.”

He shrugged. “I’m saving every penny. I’ll need it to buy land and build my own house.” He focused on her face and grinned, his eyes lighting up with mischief. “One day, I’ll have a wife and spend every day building on my own land.”

He’d always had his future lined out while Mandy was lucky to think further ahead than next week. She chuckled. “Sure. And where do you think you’ll find all that?” When he didn’t answer right away, she looked up at him again. He shifted, allowing his height to block the sun for her.

He held her gaze, his expression serious. “The house and land? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I already know who I’m going to marry.”

She took a few moments to fully grasp his meaning. Her eyes widened and she gave a quick shake of her head. “Well, I’m never getting married. My parents and their messed-up lives taught me that.”

Preston raised an eyebrow as though he considered her statement a challenge. Without hesitation, he leaned in and gave her a quick peck on the mouth. She’d barely registered the feeling of his warm lips touching hers before he pulled back again.

“Never say never, Mandy.” With a mischievous wink, he took off toward Papa’s workshop situated behind the house.

Mandy planted her fists on her hips. The nerve of him! She touched a finger to her lips and ignored the way her cheeks heated as she realized she’d received her first kiss.

It didn’t matter.

No one would change her mind about marriage, and that included Preston Yarrow.

Chapter One

Preston knew the moment Mandy walked into the sanctuary. Hushed voices became even quieter, except for Mrs. Whipple who didn’t bother whispering when she said, “There she is. Bless her little heart.”

Several people offered their condolences and gave Mandy hugs or pats on the back. She returned them all. Both Mandy and Preston had practically grown up in Clearwater Community Baptist Church in Clearwater, Texas. It was natural for so many people to express how sorry they were for the loss of Mandy’s grandmother, Samantha Hudson.

Preston could tell by Mandy’s tight jaw and wide eyes she was barely keeping it together. He left his seat next to his parents, stepped into the aisle, offered her his arm, and motioned behind him. “I saved you a spot.”

Mandy followed him in, taking the seat to his right. Everyone else took their cue and found their own places before the memorial service began.

Mandy adjusted the skirt of her black dress. She looked uncomfortable, shifting several times before clasping her hands in her lap. It was only the second time he’d seen her wear a dress. The first was at her grandfather’s funeral almost a year before. Preston had done yard work for Barry Hudson since he was a kid, and the man had been a force to be reckoned with. Mr. Hudson had taught Preston everything he knew about gardening, repairs, and woodworking. It was that last subject Preston had enjoyed the most as he spent hours watching Mr. Hudson craft fences, furniture, and even small boats by hand. Preston couldn’t imagine missing his own grandfather more, and still felt the loss keenly every day he continued working at the Hudson Bed and Breakfast.

Mandy picked at her left thumbnail, and Preston resisted the urge to reach for her hand. Dealing with her grandfather’s death last year had been hard enough. But with her grandmother gone… Well, she was alone now. And she’d made it clear she wanted no one to get overly sympathetic with her. She looked down at her hands, her straight, dark brown hair acting as a curtain to hide her face.

Preston’s parents, Stanley and Ellen Yarrow, sat to his left. His mom leaned over and whispered, “I hope she’ll be okay. I still can’t believe Samantha’s gone.”

All he could do was nod his response. Mandy would be okay, but it wouldn’t be easy for her.

By the end of the memorial and graveside services, Preston easily detected Mandy’s weariness even if no one else seemed to be aware of it. Mandy continued to thank everyone for coming, never once letting her emotional control slip.

The muggy mid-September afternoon fit right in with this unusually warm fall.. Sweat dampened Preston’s shirt as he waited, back to a tree, until he and Mandy were the last two people in the area. When her shoulders sagged, he pushed away from the trunk and stood next to her. “You all right?” She shrugged. “Dumb question, huh?”

“Maybe. But what else is there to say, right?” She stared, unseeing, at her grandmother’s grave. “At least they’re together again.”

The newly dug grave would soon be blanketed with grass like the one next to it. Preston thought about the way Mr. Hudson would’ve welcomed his wife in heaven and smiled. “Mrs. Hudson was never the same after he passed.”

“No, she wasn’t.” Mandy swallowed hard and blinked several times as though trying to keep tears at bay.

Preston didn’t remember the last time he’d seen her cry. Had he ever? He knew she was determined to stay strong, a fact she’d harped on many times in the years they’d been friends. But it wasn’t healthy to bottle emotions up like she did. “You know, it’s okay to cry. No one will fault you for it. I certainly wouldn’t.” He’d shed tears himself at the loss of two such important people in his life.

“Uh-uh.” Mandy crossed her arms in front of her and straightened her spine.

“Why not?”

“Because if I start crying, I may not quit.” Her deep brown eyes shifted to his and begged him to understand. “I’m alone now, Preston.”

“No, you’re not. I’m still here.”

He silently prayed she’d find the strength to make it through this. It wasn’t fair. The poor woman had suffered more loss than anyone ought to deal with. Well, he wouldn’t let her face it on her own. No matter how much she insisted on doing exactly that.

Before he died, Mr. Hudson asked Preston to keep an eye on his girls. Considering Preston had been in love with Mandy since he was fifteen, it was an easy thing to agree to. He had every intention of continuing to fulfill that promise.

~

It wasn’t even six Friday morning and Mandy stood in the kitchen at a complete loss. After having closed the B&B for the last week, she’d opened the place back up for business. They had guests scheduled to come in this afternoon. Even though people had cautioned her about going back to work two days after the funeral, she needed to stay busy. Besides, the place had been struggling financially since Papa died, and Mandy couldn’t afford to turn down the business.

The back door swung open and Jade Wilkes came in. Her graying hair was pinned up in a tight bun, and she frowned. “I wanted to check on you this morning. Honey, you should wait another week. Everyone would understand.” She engulfed Mandy in a hug. Her honeysuckle-scented perfume tickled Mandy’s nose. Jade had cooked breakfast at the B&B for years and always claimed it to be her second home.

Mandy steadied herself after being released from the suffocating embrace. “I can’t. We have reservations, and I refuse to cancel them.”

“Then you’ll want me to be here like usual tomorrow to cook up breakfast?”

“Yes, please.”

Customers often mentioned Jade’s amazing meals in reviews. B&B repeat customers raved about her breakfasts. The older woman perused the thick recipe book that always sat on the island. Granny never put it away because she was constantly in the kitchen baking something. If it wasn’t chocolate chip cookies to hand out to the guests, it was blueberry muffins for Mandy.

At the realization Granny would never again bake her a blueberry muffin, Mandy’s heart gave a painful twist. This place wasn’t the same without her grandparents. But she’d do everything she could to keep the B&B running like they’d want her to. And that meant there was no time to feel sorry for herself. She’d done plenty of moping around when she was a kid, and it got her nowhere.

Jade jotted several things down on a slip of paper. “I’ll swing by the store and pick up a few supplies. How do homemade bagels and an omelet bar sound?”

Normally, the thought of Jade’s omelets would make Mandy’s stomach growl and her mouth water. But today, she had to swallow past her dry throat and her thick tongue. “That’ll be great, Jade. Thank you.”

“Absolutely.” Jade patted her on the arm, a sympathetic expression on her face. “I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow.”

Mandy waved goodbye. The moment the kitchen door closed, she sagged against the counter and let out a slow breath. The key was to keep as busy as possible through this long day. If she could do that, maybe she could banish the pain of no longer having Granny there to the back of her mind. “God, how am I supposed to do this without them?” No answer came, only more of the same hollowness in her chest.

When guests stayed at the B&B, there was always something to do. But for the moment, everything was under control in that department. Jade would have food covered for tomorrow. And Elise Johnson said she’d be in at her normal time to clean and make sure all three rooms were fresh for the guests. Granny had hired her two years ago to come every morning to clean them and do any other related chores around the house as well. Both women had been friends of her grandparents for years.

After Papa died, Granny just didn’t seem to care about maintaining the B&B like she used to. Elise had taken over more cleaning than normal to help out. Mandy was thankful. While she was at the house all day, she had a long list of clients who paid her to build and maintain their websites. That was a full-time job all on its own and, frankly, the income from that was what kept the B&B running.

Then there was Preston.

He’d been helping Papa with repairs, yard work, and more since before Mandy had come to live with her grandparents. Preston was probably out there somewhere right now, working his magic. He usually stayed on the property until lunchtime. At that point, he left for his job at the local lumberyard.

Before Papa died last year, he took care of anything else that needed attention the rest of the day. Now, Preston came back late evenings to deal with any problems. Granny only called him if it was an emergency, and Mandy intended to follow suit. She didn’t know how the poor guy fit everything in during the day without wearing himself out.

Mandy depended on Preston, and she couldn’t imagine her grandparents’ place without him. Preston was a good friend and a huge blessing in her life.

She normally stayed indoors during the morning, helping Granny bake or taking care of phone calls and managing the B&B’s website. In the afternoon and early evening, she’d handle everything her web clients needed. But the place was way too quiet with Granny gone. Echoes of what used to be—the laughter, teasing, and joy—were gone. The house echoed like an empty shell, and it drove Mandy crazy.

By nine, she was over the quiet and the memories that kept encroaching on her attempts to focus on other things. She headed outside. Preston tended to the landscape, but surely he wouldn’t care if she watered the flowers growing in the bed along the front of the house.

The moment Mandy crossed the threshold and stepped foot on the large covered porch, she sucked in a breath of air as though she’d been deprived of it until near suffocation. Her eyes slid closed. She focused on the breeze as it played music in the trees nearby while birds sang songs to each other. The familiar sounds brought her comfort. Grounded her.

Out here, she could pretend everything was the way it used to be. Papa was in the workshop putting another coating of sealant on his newest project. Granny was inside making those strawberry scones everyone loved. And Mandy was right where she needed to be: home.

Unwilling to let that go, Mandy picked up the end of the hose with a spray nozzle, turned the water on, and began to soak the gorgeous flower beds Papa had spent years cultivating. Colorful roses the size of Mandy’s palm, Texas sage, and firewitch welcomed the spray. Marigolds, pansies, petunias, and other bright flowers joined the shrubbery, creating the beautiful sight which welcomed guests to the Hudson Bed & Breakfast.

Mandy wondered how long she’d been watering the flowers when Preston rounded the corner of the house, a pair of work gloves tucked under one arm. When he saw her, he altered his trajectory and came to stand next to her.

“I’d have taken care of that.”

Mandy nodded. “I know. But I needed something to do.” She hedged a look at the front door of the house as though something dangerous might lurk inside.

Preston’s gray eyes studied her until Mandy let her gaze return to the shower of water. Other than her grandparents, Preston knew her best. She’d never been able to hide her emotions from him—something that had irked her growing up.

He motioned to the flower boxes. “These need to be watered every morning. You’d be doing me a favor if you wanted to take it over. You can always tell me if things get too busy and you need me to go back to watering them myself.”

“I’ll see to it they’re taken care of.” Mandy looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She thought he would say something else before he hesitated and finally closed his mouth again.

“I’d better get back to work. I should have everything done by eleven, then I may spend a little time in the workshop if that’s okay.”

She released the trigger on the spray nozzle, stopping the flow of water, and turned to face him. “You never have to ask for permission to use the workshop, Preston. Papa loved it when you worked in there. I think…” her voice cracked, and she swallowed. “I think you were the grandson he never had.” She ran a hand through her hair and pushed it away from her face. “Losing Granny doesn’t change that.”

“Thanks, Mandy.” He rested a warm, calloused hand on her arm. “Remember you’re not alone. I’m praying for you. My parents are, too.”

When she avoided his gaze, he leaned over to make eye contact until she nodded. “I appreciate that.”

Preston’s thumb brushed across her arm twice before he let his hand drop. With a last comforting smile, he turned and headed toward his truck in the driveway.

Mandy went back to watering flowers. She still felt his hand on her arm. How was it possible a simple touch from Preston made her heart pound in her chest like she’d just finished running a marathon? It was maddening.

Preston Yarrow had a way of affecting her since the day she met him. She’d done her best not to let him know it, though. There’d been a time when she’d had a schoolgirl crush on him. A devastating prospect to a girl whose life and family had been ripped apart by her parents’ infidelity and inability to put their family first. Mandy had long ago decided she wouldn’t give her heart to a guy. It wasn’t worth it, not after all she’d seen.

And she’d been able to push how she felt about Preston into the shadowed recesses of her mind. But every once in a while, at times like this when he reached her in ways no one else could, she wished things were different.

Chapter Two

Preston lifted the last of the concrete blocks into the back of the black pickup and closed the tailgate. He turned to the woman purchasing the heavy load of supplies. “They’ll ride fine until you get home. I hope you have someone to help you unload all of that.”

She smiled. “I’ll be waiting for my dad and brother to come over tonight.”

“Sounds like a plan. You have yourself a blessed day, ma’am.”

“You, too. Thanks again.”

She climbed into her truck, and Preston took the push cart back to the front of Clearwater Lumber and Supplies. He parked it with the others and entered the air-conditioned building. Sweat dripped down his back due to combining ninety-two-degree weather with heavy lifting. The day fall weather truly hit would be a welcome one. He stopped in the breakroom to get a long drink of cool water before wandering back to the checkout lines.

Preston had a variety of jobs at the lumber store where he’d worked for the last eight years. He could handle almost anything he needed to do. Most of the time, though, he either carried things into the store, or hauled them back out for customers.

A side effect of that meant he didn’t need to go to the gym. Which was a good thing. Between this full-time job and working for the Hudson B&B, he didn’t have spare time to even consider a gym membership.

Mandy came to his mind for the twelfth time today, and he said a silent prayer for her. She’d seemed lost this morning, and it nearly broke his heart. Losing someone you love was never easy. But it seemed like Mandy refused to let herself grieve. There’s no way that made things any easier.

He hoped things went smoothly today and there weren’t any emergencies requiring him to return to the B&B when he got off work. At the same time, an excuse to check on her would be nice. Especially since tomorrow was Saturday and he didn’t normally go to the B&B over the weekend unless an urgent situation came up. Maybe he’d call Mandy tonight or tomorrow sometime and make sure she was doing okay.

He felt a little better with the decision and turned when someone called him over to help a customer load up a large order of lumber—something which proved challenging given the size of the vehicle. But he got it all arranged, pulled his gloves off his sweaty hands and tucked them under his arm, and went back inside in search of more water.

The rest of the evening dragged. It wasn’t nearly as busy as usual for a Friday. Preston knew this was thanks to the new big chain home improvement store that opened a block away almost a year ago. Ever since their grand opening, business at Clearwater Lumber had steadily dropped. Preston, along with his coworkers, had hoped to see things improve soon. After all, Clearwater was a small town of almost twenty-five thousand people who usually looked out for their own. But apparently, the cheaper prices and bigger selections of the larger store trumped even that loyalty.

Preston kept busy moving some of the new plants to their places in the garden center. Chet, one of his coworkers, approached him, a look of apprehension on his face. “Mr. Logan wants to see everyone up front as soon as the doors close.”

Preston’s brows rose. An all hands on deck meeting? Not good. He swallowed his concerns. “All right. I’ll be there.” He checked his watch. Fifteen minutes until the nine o’clock closing. He finished up his current task and made his way to the front of the store.

Team members, some in uniform and others in street clothes, leaned against check-out counters or visited with each other. Clearly, many employees had driven in specifically for this meeting. The second Mr. Logan approached, everyone became quiet.

If Preston didn’t already suspect bad news, the regret on Mr. Logan’s face only confirmed his misgivings.

Mr. Logan hooked a thumb through one of the belt loops of his pants. “Hey, everyone. I called and invited as many employees to come for this meeting as could make it. The rest I’ll call tomorrow.” He paused and frowned. “As you all know, my daddy opened this store back in the 1940s. I grew up working here, and it’s been a privilege to follow in his footsteps and keep this place running for the good people of Clearwater.” He swallowed. “Despite my every attempt to do so, we can’t keep up with our newest competitor.”

He didn’t need to specify which business he referred to. Everyone else nodded as murmurs of agreement and even a few unkind words filled the air.

Mr. Logan held up a hand to stop the chatter. “I have no choice but to sell this place and move forward. It’s the last thing I want to do, but I’ve been offered a price that’s more than fair for the property and the building. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be placing everything on sale to liquidate the inventory here beforehand.”

Now everyone seemed to talk at once. Chet turned to Preston. “I knew this was coming.”

Preston cringed. “Yeah. Seems like it was inevitable.” He turned his attention back to Mr. Logan.

“Unfortunately, it means I’ll have to let y’all go. Consider today your two-week’s notice. Clearwater Lumber will close its doors the Saturday after next.” Mr. Logan looked like he was firing family members. And for a lot of these people, Preston included, he’d known them all their lives. He folded his arms over his chest. “I’m sorry, y’all. If there was anything I could do, you know I’d do it.”

Several people asked questions Mr. Logan did his best to answer. The fact no one took their anger or disappointment out on their employer spoke testaments to the fairness with which he’d always treated those who worked for him.

They were all assured their normal schedule would remain for the last two weeks.

“What are you going to do, Mr. Logan?”

The question came from Cindy. Everyone stopped talking, all gazes trained on the man whose eyes had widened.

“Well, my wife insists it may be time for retirement.” He barked that husky laugh everyone associated with him. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that. But maybe I’ll finally get around to writing the great American novel I’ve always wanted to pen.” He winked at them.

Preston chuckled. Truthfully, though, he worried about Mr. Logan. The guy had worked non-stop since he was a kid helping his dad. He deserved to retire in comfort. But with the economy the way it was anymore, it was getting harder and harder for people to do just that.

His thoughts shifted to his own father who struggled every day to bring enough money in. Preston had seen his parents fight for everything they had and still not come out on top. Preston knew that’s exactly what he’d been doing most of his life, too.

And now one of the two jobs he relied on for everything was coming to an end. No, neither job was what he’d envisioned himself doing when he was a kid. But they paid the bills, and he didn’t hate them.

Especially working for Mr. Hudson at the B&B. Except now he worked for Mandy.

It’d be nearly impossible to find another job with an employer who would understand his time commitments to the B&B. The thought that he might have to give that job up in favor of a better paying full-time job made him feel sick.

He’d cross that bridge when he came to it. The time would go by fast, but for now, he had a two-week reprieve. One thing was certain. He had no intention of breathing a word of this to Mandy. The last thing she needed was yet another stress on top of everything else she was dealing with right now.

~

“Thank you, Preston.” Mandy stood and watched as he finished installing the new doorknob on one of the guest rooms. “I couldn’t believe it when Mr. Palo had to call me and tell me they were stuck in here.” She might’ve found the whole thing amusing if she weren’t so exhausted. It was only Monday, but it seemed much later in the week.

“Did you move them to a different room once you got the door opened?” Preston tested the knob and then turned to face her.

“I did. They’re staying through today and going home tomorrow. Thankfully, they had a great attitude about the whole thing. I gave them a gift card to Terry’s Diner for lunch. That’s where they are now.” She had to admit she preferred the quiet when her guests were gone. That was not always the case. But right now, she’d rather not have to fake a smile or chit chat.

“Are you pretty booked?”

Mandy cringed. “We don’t have nearly as many reservations as I’d like.” Having guests at the house constantly could be exhausting, but it was good for business. Plus, it helped keep her too busy to think about much else. The lack of reservations meant not as much money coming in and way too much time on her hands. “Everything going okay for you so far this week?”

Preston hesitated before moving to place the screwdriver back into his tool kit. “Same old thing. Work and more work.” He gave her one of the winks that always had other ladies in town swooning.

Mandy refused to let those winks, or anything else Preston might throw at her, affect her in the same way. Ever since the day he’d kissed her under the tree, she’d made sure he knew she was not going to get involved with him or anyone else.

But there was something in his gray eyes suggesting he wasn’t being entirely truthful. Things weren’t always easy at home, especially since his dad’s kidney transplant six years ago. Last she’d heard, Mr. Yarrow’s health was stable. “How’re your parents doing?”

“They’re good, thanks.”

She still thought he was avoiding something. “I’m here if you need to talk.”

One corner of his mouth hitched upward. “I appreciate it, Mandy.”

The sound of the bell at the front door echoed upstairs. Mandy threw Preston an apologetic look and hurried down the narrow stairs. She’d expected to see a delivery of something, or a new customer inquiring about a room. The man in a smart business suit carrying a briefcase made her pause. “Can I help you?”

“Are you Mandy Hudson?”

“I am.” She stuck a hand out. “And you are?”

He took her hand and gave it a firm shake. “Brock Walters from the Walters Brothers Law Firm. We’re located on Rosewood Street. Perhaps your grandmother spoke of us?”

Mandy nodded. “Yes, of course. She mentioned you in passing a time or two.” Preston came downstairs and paused. He gave her a pointed look, and she returned it with a little shrug.

Brock introduced himself to Preston, who returned the gesture, as they shook hands.

Mandy cleared her throat. “What can I do for you, Mr. Walters?”

Brock approached the oak table and rested his briefcase on it. He popped it open and reached inside for the papers.

Preston moved to stand next to Mandy, a gesture she appreciated. Did Granny have debts Mandy didn’t know about? She doubted it. But then again, she hadn’t anticipated a lawyer walking into the B&B and speaking with her, either.

Brock held two pieces of paper at an angle making it impossible for Mandy to catch a glimpse of what they might say. “We’ve managed the assets of both Barry and Samantha Hudson for years. They’ve been specific about their will and what they wanted to happen to their assets once they passed on.”

Mandy bit the inside of her cheek. The way he said it sounded cold and rehearsed. Her grandparents—the only real family she had—were dead. She didn’t care about assets. They wouldn’t bring her grandparents back to her.

Preston must’ve sensed the rabbit trail her thoughts had taken. He took a side step, allowing his arm to brush hers, and stayed there. Normally, Mandy would’ve moved to put distance between them. But right now, she needed the reassurance his touch was providing her.

Brock continued. “There are some things related to Mrs. Hudson’s will I’d like to discuss with you. Would a meeting tomorrow morning at nine work for you?”

Mandy blinked at him. What did he have to tell her that he couldn’t say right now? Her curiosity was piqued as was her anxiety. “I think so. I’ll need to speak with someone to cover for me, but it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Perfect.” Brock turned his attention to Preston. “How about you, Mr. Yarrow?”

That seemed to surprise Preston, and he looked at Mandy before responding. “I’m sorry?”

“There is business with you regarding the will. Unless you’d rather come to the office separately. That can certainly be arranged.” Brock pulled his phone out of his pocket and opened the calendar application.

Preston spoke hurriedly. “No, tomorrow morning at nine will be fine for me as well.”

Brock smiled for the first time since he’d introduced himself. “Wonderful.” He handed each of them a sheet of paper along with a business card. “I’ll need you both to bring at least two forms of ID listed on this paper to the address provided.”

Mandy’s eyes flitted over the information. “Any idea how long this meeting will take? I’ll need to let someone know.”

Brock’s eyes focused on the ceiling. “An hour for this first one should suffice.” He closed his briefcase with a snap, shook both of their hands, and headed for the door. “Thank you for your time. I’ll see you both tomorrow.”

Mandy continued to watch the door seconds after it closed, obscuring her view of the lawyer. “This first meeting?” she mumbled. “What on earth?” Her attention shifted to Preston.

He was studying the business card before he folded the paper and stuffed both into his back pocket. “I have no idea. You sure this guy’s legit?”

“Yeah, they went to see him once a year, usually in January or so. I can’t remember if Granny did this year, though.” After Papa died last year, Granny changed a lot of the things she normally did. “I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Melanie D. Snitker is the author of the Love's Compass series. She started out creating episodes of cartoon shows that she wanted to see as a child and her love of writing grew from there. She and her husband live in Texas with their two children who keep their lives full of adventure, and two dogs who add a dash of mischief to the family dynamics. In her spare time, Melanie enjoys photography, reading, crochet, baking, camping, and hanging out with family and friends.

Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote a lot as a kid, but it was during my college years that I decided to write inspirational romance novels. I published my first book, Calming the Storm (A Marriage of Convenience) in August 2014. Since then, I've published eight more.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
I want readers to come away from Marrying Mandy with the realization that sometimes we have to let go of what's happened to us in the past before we can move forward. Only then are we able to look around us and realize that we are exactly where we're supposed to be.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I'd love for you all to stop by my website: http://www.melaniedsnitker.com/ You can also find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melaniedsnitker If you're interested in the other books I write, you can browse through them on Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/melaniesnitker

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Romance
Prelude
You can't change fate--or can you?
Unremarkable
See the future—change the future?
Marrying Mandy
A marriage of convenience or true love?