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Matters of the Heart (eBook)

Matters of the Heart (eBook)

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The genie is out of the bottle. After decades of secrecy, Stella has finally made her resort’s natural hot springs available to guests. Little does she know, the waters have magical healing powers. Not only do the springs cure physical ailments, but matters of the heart as well. When word gets out, she has a riot of opportunity seekers on her hands.

Excerpt

I stand on the stone terrace of my castle, looking out over my kingdom. In my modern-day fairytale, my castle is a restored historic inn and my kingdom the encompassing seventy acres. The new Summer House Wellness Center, which includes a spa and pool complex, is at the bottom of the hill on a natural lake where guests paddleboard, kayak, and fish for small-mouth bass. To the left, nestled amongst the trees by a gentle-flowing stream, is a row of weekly rental guest cottages. Woodlands extend beyond the property lines with hiking trails leading into the Virginia mountains.

I count my blessings every day, thanking my father for trusting me with this jewel. Recently, though, the strings attached to those blessings have been strangling me.

When I came to Hope Springs thirteen months ago, I’d only planned to stay long enough to satisfy the three-year obligation stipulated in my father’s will. When that time was up, I had every intention of selling the inn and hightailing it back to my beloved New York. But I fell in love instead. With the charming town. With a handsome contractor who is now my husband, Jack. With the biological family I never knew about—Opal, my grandmother; Brian, my uncle; and Jazz, my eight-year-old half sister whom I am now raising as my daughter. And the memory of my father, whose presence I feel in the sacred halls of the inn.

Because of his declining health, my father neglected the inn during the last years of his life. I embraced the challenge of overseeing the extensive renovations. But now that all my projects are complete, I find the day-to-day running of the inn mundane. Our nightly rates are high. But our five-star service is unsurpassed. Yet guests still find reason to complain. I spend most of my time putting out fires.

I’m complaining like my pampered guests when I should be grateful for the inn’s success. For a brief time after we reopened, I worried the inn wouldn’t make it. But thanks to my dedicated staff and talented marketing team, we’re booked solid through the end of the year.

Upon opening in the spring, the new wellness center has put us on the map as a hot spot for destination weddings. I notice my event planner, Lia, on the lawn with a long-legged blonde beauty and an elegant middle-aged couple—a bride and her parents coordinating the details for the big day.

Lia spots me and motions for me to join them. I walk down the stone steps to the sidewalk and cut across the grass to where they’re standing near my grandmother Opal’s favorite dogwood tree.

The daughter is her mother’s clone with crystal blue eyes, pearly white teeth, and toned limbs. Mother and daughter are wearing brightly patterned sundresses. The gentleman, in khaki slacks and a navy linen blazer, carries an air of dignity, and I’m not surprised to learn he’s a state governor.

Lia sweeps her arm at the family. “Stella, meet Governor Dupree, his wife, Luann, and daughter, Peaches.”

“Peaches! What a cute nickname.” The words depart my tongue before I notice Lia vigorously shaking her head.

Peaches raises her chin, looking down her nose at me. “It is not a nickname.”

With an incensed humph, Luann says, “My daddy was also a Georgia governor back in the sixties. As First Lady, his wife, my mama, was much loved by the people of Georgia. Her name was Sarah Jane, but they called her Peaches, because she was as sweet as a Georgia peach. I felt it fitting for my only child to carry on the name.”

“Well . . . Welcome to Hope Springs Farm. What brings you to town?” I know the names of all our summer brides, and Dupree does not ring a bell.

“I’m planning my wedding,” Peaches says.

Lia, as though sensing my confusion, explains, “Our bride for the fourth weekend in July came down with a case of cold feet and called off her wedding.”

“I only got engaged a month ago,” Peaches says. “But I had my heart set on a summer wedding. When I found out about the cancellation, I jumped at the chance.”

My eyes naturally gravitate toward her midsection.

Peaches huffs out her annoyance. “I’m not pregnant, if that’s what you’re thinking. My fiancé just moved to London for a new job. I miss him like crazy, and I can’t stand the thought of being without him for months on end.”

“I’m glad we can accommodate you.” I gesture at my event planner. “You’re in expert hands with Lia. I’m certain your wedding will be lovely.”

I start to walk off, but Lia calls after me. “Stella! Wait! If you have a minute, we could use your input. Peaches has some . . . um, interesting ideas. Things we haven’t done before. I’d like to clear them with you.”

I turn back toward the group. “Of course. I’d love to hear your ideas. What’re you thinking?”

“Well, let’s see.” Peaches spreads her arms wide at the main building. “The ceremony will be on the terrace with clear Lucite chairs for the guests and a pathway of white rose petals leading to an arbor covered in peach peonies.”

Peaches turns around, placing her back to the building. “The reception will be down here on the lawn. I want sailcloth tents, the authentic Sperry Tents, on either side of the sidewalk, one for the band and the other for the food.” She taps her chin with a french-manicured fingernail. “We’ll have a champagne fountain, lobsters flown in from Maine, Chincoteague Salts oysters from the Eastern Shore, and Wagyu beef from Japan.” She glances over at her mother. “What am I missing?”

“We’ll release a thousand peach balloons when you’re pronounced husband and wife,” Luann says.

“Right! And fireworks when we leave the reception. We’ll be departing by helicopter.” Peaches spins around in a circle. “There’s plenty of room here to land it.”

“We’ve blocked off all the rooms for our guests,” Luann says. “But the band will need accommodations. Is there another hotel in town?”

Peaches claps her hands and bounces on her sandaled toes. “I forgot the best part! You’re never gonna believe who the band is.”

Lia, who has been hanging on Peaches’s every word while rapidly typing notes on her iPad, says, “Who?”

“Earth, Wind, and Desire!” Peaches says, doing a little victory dance.

Excitement flutters across my chest, and for a brief second, I forget I’m the manager of a five-star resort. “Shut up! The Earth, Wind, and Desire?”

Peaches bobs her head. “Daddy is friends with the manager.” She flicks her wrist in her father’s direction without bothering to look at him. 

“My father was a musician. He’ll dance on his grave when Earth, Wind, and Desire plays at Hope Springs Farms.” I notice Luann glaring at me, and I straighten. “To answer your question, there is no other hotel in town. But we’ll figure something out.”

“I have some concerns about your ability to pull off our elaborate affair,” Luann says in a condescending tone. “We’ve met the key members of your staff. They are all so young. I worry they lack the experience to give us what we want.”

Pink dots appear on Lia’s cheeks. She’s been on staff only since Christmas, and she’s doing an excellent job despite her limited experience. But our guests host enough parties and weddings to keep three event planners busy. As of now, Lia only has our summer intern, Emma, to help her.

I gather my wits. “My staff may be young, but they’ve proven themselves with their strong work ethic and innovative ideas. I am certain they can deliver on your expectations.” I turn my attention to the governor, who hasn’t spoken since the introductions. “The wedding your wife and daughter describe will be costly. If you’d like to proceed, I’ll draw up a proposal and send it to you.”

Peaches presses her hands together under her chin. “Please, Daddy!”

Despite his enormous power and influence, I don’t imagine the governor ever wins an argument with his wife and daughter. “Send me the proposal,” he says, handing me his business card, which includes his cell number and personal email address.

Taking the card, I turn back to Peaches. “How long are you in town? We should have a sit-down meeting to discuss more details.”

Peaches beams, her sun-kissed complexion aglow. “I’ve rented a cottage on Cottage Row! I’ll be here until the wedding!”

I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This is going to be a long two months with Peaches Dupree underfoot. “Wonderful.” I lock eyes with my event planner. “Lia, I’ll leave it to you to set up a meeting for early next week.”

Relief crosses Lia’s face. “Will do.”

“Good day, folks. Enjoy your stay. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anything. You can reach me through the front desk.” I wave in parting as I continue on toward the wellness center.

The original summer house was nothing more than an oversized screened porch, but I kept the name to honor the good times enjoyed here by generations of families over the decades. While the building was built to look like an old farmhouse, the new facility sports all the modern conveniences.

The first floor houses a healthy lunch spot and a sporting goods shop where guests can purchase high-end outdoor attire, book hiking and fishing outings, and rent paddleboards, kayaks, and fishing equipment.

A state-of-the art fitness center featuring studios for exercise classes and a lap pool takes up the second floor. And the spa is located on the third. Walls of windows overlook the lake on the front side of the wellness center, and off the back is the pool complex.

The hot springs are located on the side of the building opposite the main entrance. The original hot springs were housed in a run-down hut. We tore down the hut and created an open-air space where guests can view the mountains during the day and the starry skies at night.

It’s almost lunchtime and my stomach is growling. Grabbing a blueberry and banana smoothie from Roots, I make my way through the building, stopping to chat with staff members and guests.

Claudia, the desk attendant in the fitness center, informs me Ollie is looking for me. “Last I heard, she was out by the pool,” Claudia says.

“Thanks. I’m on my way,” I say, and head off to put out another fire.

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Synopsis

Presley could use a bit of that healing magic. She returns to the inn for an unexpected visit, pregnant, planning to stay for the summer, and refusing to talk about her new husband. Did she leave Everett’s concert tour because of the pregnancy? Or is there trouble in paradise already?

Also on a collision course are Cecily and Lyle who’ve been living together for six months. Things aren’t working out as they’d hoped. Their separate roads in life rarely cross. Cecily knows she may have to yield if their paths are to merge. But at what cost? Is she willing to give up the career she’s worked so hard for?

Ollie is new on staff, hired by Stella to manage the Wellness Center. After a messy divorce and losing her family’s vineyard in a fire, she’s moved from California to Hope Springs in search of a fresh start. Most newcomers to Hope Springs are running, hiding, or searching. In Ollie’s case, it’s all three.

The magical healing waters of Hope Springs are powerful. But are they enough to set this group of sojourners on the paths that will lead to their ultimate happiness?

Other Books in the Series

Book Trailer . . .

About the books . . .

Dream Big, Stella!—Stella's life takes an unexpected turn when she inherits a historic inn from her sperm donor father. With only a flaky boyfriend and dead-end job keeping her in New York, she catches the next train to the Virginia mountains. She as unprepared for the inn’s dilapidated state as she is
for the hostile welcome she receives by the inn’s manager. Why does Naomi resent her? What is she hiding? And who was she to Stella’s father?

Show Me the Way—Presley Ingram has often wondered about her birth parents. Yet her 23andMe test kit remains unopened in her bedside table drawer. When she finds an address on a torn envelope in her adoption file upon her adoptive mother’s death, she makes an impulsive decision to travel to the mountains of Virginia in search of answers. In the charming town of Hope Springs, she discovers her dream job as event planner at the prestigious Inn at Hope Springs Farms and the potential for romance with a ruggedly handsome bartender.

Mistletoe and Wedding Bells—Stella is ready to marry the love of her life and
live in the home of her dreams. Yet her dreams are overshadowed by a battle for
custody of her spirited six-year-old half-sister. Meanwhile,
Presley juggles a secret of her own: orchestrating a surprise Christmas wedding
for Stella and Jack, all while wrestling with her own newfound passion. And
Cecily confronts doubt as her Christmas Eve wedding approaches, torn between a
career she's fought for and a marriage marked by her fiancé's sudden
recklessness. In a tale of love, family, and the search for stability, these
women must navigate the complexities of their hearts to secure a future filled
with hope.

Matters of the Heart— The genie is out of the bottle. After decades of secrecy, Stella has finally made her resort’s natural hot springs available to guests. Little does she know, the waters have magical healing powers. Not only do the springs cure physical ailments, but matters of the heart as well. When word gets out, she has a riot of opportunity seekers on her hands.

Road to New Beginnings—The staffers at Hope Springs Farm greet guests with smiles. But trouble brews beneath their calm demeanors. Stella faces her first crisis as an adoptive mom when a second-grade bully wreaks havoc on Jazz’s life. Ollie experiences crippling panic attacks as she struggles to cope with her parents’ death. Cecily is falling in love with Parker. But she’s worried it’s too soon after breaking off her engagement. Presley’s baby is due in a few short weeks. But she’s heard nothing from her country music star husband in months.