Grace Hammond lost the most important person in her life, her grandmother, Juliet. Left with little beyond a failing farm and not much clue how to run it, she's trapped-- either she gives up three generations of roots and leaves, or she finds some help and makes it work. When a mysterious letter from Juliet drops a much needed windfall in her lap, Grace knows she has one chance to save the only place she's ever called home and posts a want-ad.The knight that rides to her rescue is Robert Zhao, an Army veteran and struggling college student. A first generation Korean American, Rob is trying desperately to establish some roots, not just for himself, but for the parents he's trying to get through the immigration process, a secret he's keeping even from his best friends. Grace's posting for a local handyman, offering room and board in exchange for work he already loves doing, is exactly the situation he needs to put that process on track.Neither is prepared for the instant chemistry, the wild sweet desire that flares between them. But life in a small town isn't easy. At worst, strangers are regarded suspiciously, and at best, as profoundly flawed-- and the Hammond women have a habit of collecting obscure and ruthless enemies. Can their budding love take root in subtly hostile soil and weather the weeds seeking to choke them out?View More
*Rob*It's agonizing for me, but Margie decides to wait until after Dan and Ella return from their honeymoon before dropping by the farmhouse one blustery January day.As seems to always be her way, she arrives with a labeled storage box of the township's newspaper history that Dan carries for her while I help the aged woman up the veranda stairs to the door."Oh, well now," she says pleasantly, taking a seat on the sofa near Grace. "No wonder you're keeping to yourself and looking so content here. Rob's got you a nice fire built and the house toasty warm. Good for him."Grace flashes that gorgeous smile of hers, all the more beautiful because she carrying my children, tugging her lap blanket up over her rounded belly, and I frown. "Do you need another blanket, Grace? Are you warm enough?"Rolling her big ocean blue eyes, she
*Sam*The Nazis were responsible for many—innumerable—war crimes, many of which it was, unfortunately, my job to observe and secretly report to the Allies, before finally receiving orders to sabotage. Some of that was because available communications were not what they are now, but in part, it was because there was so—much.That I didn’t learn of research experiments, couldn’t stop them long before I was clearly commanded to, dogs my every day and will until the last one God gives me, and I’ve spent a great many of them trying to drown those memories in booze, exercise and work, prayer and loving care for Juliet and Julia, trying to attone for it.Having Juliet as an unwavering conscience is of small solace as I prepare the cold cellar around Junior—move visual distractions outside the close circle of light he’ll have over him,
*Juliet*With a contented sigh, I collapse against Sam’s chest, sweating despite the cold, heaving oxygen into my lungs.“I love you.” Sam’s panting whisper sounds as sapped as I feel, but pleasantly so, and his arms slide from where he held my thighs, over my back to cradle me against him. “I love you.”“I love you, Sam.”Time drifts in an exhausted haze, warm welcoming sleep wrapping its cloak of peace around us both, bidding us rest. Still kneeling on top of him, I relax heavily, his arms relaxing heavily over me in return. Every part of me still tingles faintly, absolutely satiated with the love we’ve made.Downstairs, the mantle clock chimes faintly, once—the half hour—though I have no idea which half hour that is and care even less.
*Junior*I had no idea where I was going when I ran off after the trainman yelled at me. And frankly, I’m not all that certain I knew where I was anymore. I don’t remember even seeing Father Brennan’s house. Or the church. And I didn’t run through the cemetery or see the train tracks or the shops along Main Street. My head wasn’t particularly clear.
*Juliet*A gust of wind picks up my braid and sets my skirts clinging to my legs as Sam and I follow Julia and Ajax to the truck across the front lawn’s yellowed grass. Overhead, it drags at the last few dried leaves clinging to the bare maple branches, rustling them ominously. “Wind’s picked up,” I mention mildly.“And shifted direction,” Sam adds. “Julia, you’re too little for that. Wait for Mommy or me to open the door.” He jogs ahead and scooping our wayward daughter up around her middle with one arm, tucks her into a giggling squirming football carry, swinging her just a little wildly out of the way just so he can get a thrilled squeal out of her as he opens the driver's side door.Righting her on her small feet, he gives her a light smack on the bottom. “Now, you can get in. Ajax.” With a graceful bound,
*Juliet*Yawning quietly, I snuggle under the covers against Sam’s broad warm back a few minutes longer, watching with disappointment as the creeping sunrise brightens our bedroom. The mere fact that he’s still asleep after dawn and after me, tells me more than I know he wants about how he felt going to bed last night. It was sign enough he blocked the stairs to keep Ajax upstairs with us, but when he went back down for his second pistol he usually keeps downstairs, it was a sure tell he was considerably worried. We'll both be chasing a nap later this afternoon.Catching the rancid musky odor was enough to relax me. I’m confident at this point it was some sort of stray animal that made its way along the house while we were at Stew and Alice’s to watch the Christmas specials, and I feel bad that Sam didn’t rest well over something as common out here as that.
*Juliet*Though it had come early with the whiteout squall Sam and I’d had on the Isle Royale, the winter started out like any other. Children and adults alike brought their snow gear out of the cedar chests and armoirs and prepared to salt the streets and sidewalks.Driving was a bit more treacherous, but we’re used to this inconvenience, and with Julia still at home another year before kindergarten, Sam and I had only rare occasion to leave home anyway, weekly for mass and once a month for groceries and pantry staples. And it wouldn’t be the winter season without a few cold-weather aggravations as far as we were concerned.True to his word, with nothing else to do on the farm, Sam tore our bathroom apart and built a fine vanity with double sinks and a GE Textolite countertop. He made a special trip to the city and brought home and installed shining
*Junior*Everybody in the township knows the original church, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, was build on the hill beyond the cemetery from where the historical building stands now. It was an actual log cabin structure—which, in the 1840s in a logging community, nobody’s surprised—and it burned a year after it was constructed. Naturally, since people don’t learn, another was erected on the same spot. That one made it ten years before it burned to the ground, but by that time, the township was firmly established and a wood frame structure was built where the current church stands.On the high ground location of the original site, a rectory and a barn was erected, and a parish priest was permanently assigned to the township by the Catholic diocese because by that time, this township was the largest of the four that intersect here. When the wood frame structure burned another de
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