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Road to New Beginnings (eBook)

Road to New Beginnings (eBook)

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The exciting conclusion of the bestselling Hope Springs series where some journeys are ending while others are just beginning.

Excerpt

Standing at my front door, I stare across the street at Hope Springs Farm, the historic inn and surrounding buildings my grandfather built in the early 1920s. I feel as though I’ve lived in Hope Springs my whole life, when I’ve been here only a short sixteen months. During that time, I renovated the inn, fell in love and got married, made friends with women I admire and respect, and established relationships with the family my mother kept from me for reasons I won’t go into here. I moved from New York to the mountains of Virginia, looking for a fresh start. I found that and so much more.

Shrieks of laughter break my reverie, and I return to the doorway of the family room where my husband is waltzing around with a life-size teddy bear—a shower gift from Jazz, my half sister, soon-to-be-adopted daughter. Jazz insisted she pick out a special present for the baby, just from her. After setting eyes on the bear at the toy store, she refused to consider any other options. I smile at Jazz across the room, and she gives me a sassy I-told-you-so head bob in return.

Presley is like a child on Christmas morning as she tears through her shower gifts. I’m encouraged to see twinkles of excitement have temporarily replaced the sadness that has taken up residence in her gray eyes of late. She hides it well, but I can tell Presley’s troubled by the rumors circulating social media about the affair between her country music star husband and this year’s American Idol winner. I admire Presley’s courage. Being a single parent is not what she bargained for when she married Everett. But she’s fortunate to have a network of family and friends to support her.

Presley receives a car seat from her grandmother, a stroller from her mother and aunt, and a Pack ’n Play from Jack and me. Cecily, head chef at the inn, gives the baby its first feeding set—complete with a bamboo plate, cereal bowl, and toddler-size eating utensils. And Ollie, manager of our wellness center and director of mountain excursions, contributes a hiking backpack which doubles as a diaper bag.

The number of gadgets and gismos needed to care for a newborn baby overwhelms me. Come next March, I’ll be needing double of everything.

Parker, the inn’s bartender-in-chief who I hired for the afternoon to serve and clean up, passes flutes of champagne and sparkling cider for the games portion of the baby shower. Laughter fills the house, and the ladies appear to enjoy themselves. It’s nearly six o’clock in the evening when most of the guests finally leave.

Jack enlists Parker to help take Presley’s gifts to the inn so I can have some time alone with my friends.

Jazz skips across the room with our golden retriever bounding behind her. “Can Angel and I come too?”

Jack smooths back her flyaway hair. “Of course, kiddo. We can use an extra set of hands and paws.”

Jazz plants her fists on hips. “Ha ha. Funny. Not funny.”

I laugh. She’s eight years old going on sixteen.

Once they’re gone, my friends help me transport the dirty glasses and food platters to the kitchen. Cecily changes the background jazz to country music and turns up the volume. She pops the cork on a bottle of champagne and fills two flutes, setting one down on the marble counter in front of Ollie.

Ollie pushes the flute away. “I can’t. I have an early flight in the morning.”

Cecily slides it back. “Come on, Ollie. I hate drinking alone. And since Presley and Stella are pregnant, you’re it.”

“All right,” Ollie says reluctantly and accepts the glass. “I guess a little won’t hurt.”

I turn down the volume on the stereo. “I have news, which I believe calls for a celebration.”

My friends are suddenly all ears. “Do tell,” Cecily says.

“When I went for my checkup on Thursday, my doctor heard two heartbeats. I’m having twins!”

Presley clasps her hands together. Ollie lets out a squeal. And Cecily offers me a high five. “That is fabulous news, girlfriend. Congrats.”

“We haven’t told Jazz yet, so please”—I hold my finger to my lips—“keep it between us for now.”

Presley furrows her brow. “Are you worried about how Jazz will react? I would think she’d be thrilled.”

Moving to the sink, I rinse glasses and place them in the dishwasher. “Jazz hasn’t been herself since school started two weeks ago. She insists nothing is bothering her, but I can tell something is off.”

Ollie joins me at the sink, filling the second basin with sudsy water to wash the platters. “So, you’re thinking it has something to do with the baby coming?”

I shrug. “Maybe. Or maybe we were premature in assuming she was coping with her mother’s death.”

“It could be anything.” Cecily smooths her honey hair into a ponytail, securing it with an elastic band. “Maybe some bratty kid is giving her a hard time at school.”

“I’ve thought about that,” I admit. “But second grade seems a little young for bullying.”

“Not necessarily,” Cecily says. “Kids grow up too fast these days.”

“I won’t argue with that,” I say.

Silence falls over the room as often happens when the subject of Jazz’s mother’s death comes up. Naomi had more enemies than friends. While no one wanted to see her die in a tragic car accident, Jazz is way better off living with me.

Presley sets the teakettle on the stove to boil. “So, Cecily . . . What’s going on between you and Parker? You seem like you’re really into each other.”

“We’re just friends. Friends without benefits, in case you’re wondering.” Cecily picks up a dish towel and begins drying the platters. “I’m not denying we have crazy chemistry. But I value our friendship. If we sleep together and it doesn’t work out, we could end up hating each other. Besides, I’m not ready for another relationship. I don’t even know if I’m completely over Lyle yet.”

Presley retrieves two mugs from the cabinet beside the stove. “Could’ve fooled me. I watched you and Parker today. I never saw you flirt with Lyle like that.”

Cecily stops drying and glares at Presley. “What are you suggesting? That I didn’t love Lyle?”

Presley pours steaming water over tea bags. “Love comes in many forms, Cecily. Some relationships are meant to be. Others aren’t. Sometimes love is strong enough to go the distance. Other times it’s not.”

“And how would you categorize your relationship with Everett?” Cecily asks in a sarcastic tone.

Presley spins around to face Cecily. “I have faith in Everett. I wouldn’t have married him if I didn’t believe in him.”

“Chill, Presley! I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

Presley softens. “No need to apologize. You’re the only one with the guts to ask what everyone else is thinking.” She turns her back on us. “Truth is, I wish I knew what was going on with Everett.”

“You’ll hear from him soon,” Cecily says with a note of confidence.

I cross the kitchen to the french doors. Throwing them open, I inhale a deep breath, filling my lungs. “Ah, the first taste of autumn. Let’s sit out by the fire pit.”

We take our beverages outside to the lounge chairs on the terrace. Cecily sits to my left with Ollie and Presley opposite us.

“Have you finished packing for your trip yet?” I ask Ollie.

“All but my toiletries.”

Cecily holds the champagne bottle out to Ollie’s glass. When Ollie waves her away, Cecily chugs straight from the bottle. “How long will you be gone?”

“I’m not sure.” A pained expression crosses Ollie’s face. “The prosecutor says the trial could last a week. And I need to meet with my parents’ attorney about their estate. If all goes as planned, I’ll put the vineyard on the market while I’m in California.”

Cecily’s hand shoots up. “Back up a minute. Your brother admitted to starting the fire. Doesn’t that make the case open and shut?”

Ollie looks away, staring across the lawn at the sun setting over the mountains. “Alexander now has an alibi for the night of the fire.”

Cecily stiffens, the champagne bottle near her lips. She lowers the bottle. “But you have his confession on the surveillance tape.”

“He claims he was under duress, that I was threatening him. He’s hired a psychiatrist to testify he was mentally unstable at the time. That he was distraught over the death of our parents.” Ollie’s voice breaks, and she brings a fist to her mouth.

I give her a minute to compose herself before asking, “Who’s the alibi?”

“His so-called girlfriend. Her name is Dana Reese, and she’s an executive at a cyber security firm. Multiple witnesses saw them having dinner at Ad Hoc in Yountville early in the evening. Alexander claims they went back to her house after dinner, and he spent the night. Dana is corroborating his story.”

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Synopsis

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. When their beloved teacher is suspended on bogus charges, Stella takes on the principal and the president of parents’ association.

Ollie experiences crippling panic attacks as she struggles to cope with her parents’ death. While she loves her new friends at Hope Springs, her job as wellness center manager is a pit stop on her journey of life. Her hopes soar when she discovers a vineyard for sale in the nearby town of Lovely. But there’s a catch. Why is the price of the property so low? Does it have to do with the current owner’s ancient feud with his neighbor.

Cecily is falling in love with Parker. But she’s worried it’s too soon after breaking off her engagement. Lyle begs for another chance, but Cecily isn’t interested. Lyle’s advances become increasingly more aggressive, placing Cecily’s life in danger.

Presley’s baby is due in a few short weeks. But she’s heard nothing from her country music star husband in months. Is it possible the rumors are true? Could Everett be having an affair with his attractive young co-star? Or is he hiding a more serious problem?

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.