Published by: Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications
Release Date: April, 2007
Contributors: Jenna Victoria
Genre: Sweet Romance
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Bookkeeper Mollie Wright knows about living on the streets, and her purchase of sweet Lilac Cottage is a dream come true. She is determined to stay and fight when a legal error puts her ownership at risk.
Attorney Sean Grady never wanted his great-aunts to sell their cottage in Westchester County, New York, so when a paperwork snafu puts the deal on hold, he moves swiftly to evict the pretty, feisty squatter.
Mollie finds unexpected allies in Grady Cove neighbors and a member of Sean's own family but knows the clock is ticking. Will a theft and her past secrets force a showdown to heartache, or will Mollie and Sean discover home is truly where your heart is?
She held the brass ring in her fingers at last.
A social worker once described Mollie's childhood as a merry-go-round, but it wasn't a compliment. Mollie's merry-go-round had chipped wooden horses that inflicted splinters and a calliope organ that played only unhappy tunes. The nightmare carnival ride of her youth had stopped spinning ten years ago. Now, at age twenty-eight, she finally claimed its metaphorical golden prize.
She tossed a throw pillow in the air and caught it mid-whirl. The flower-patterned square became her ballroom dance partner, and they waltzed together in a circle around the room. Mollie placed it back on the love seat and carefully smoothed away the wrinkles from the fabric.
Her own furniture. All second-hand, but the mortgage papers and deed she'd signed that morning were iron clad. Lilac Cottage and its contents belonged to her. Five years of driving a beat-up car, working overtime, skipping meals and eating Ramen noodles in bulk had yielded their reward. She owned a home.
Never look back.
Mollie had been terrified that some glitch would delay, or worse, prevent her from fastening the old set of skeleton keys to the special ring she'd bought way back when—when she'd first dreamed of a house no one could take away. Life did not often go in Mollie's favor, yet the entire real estate closing process had unfolded as seamlessly as a bolt of well-made silk.
For once, the carousel had stopped within arm's reach of that treasured brass ring, and she'd reached out and grabbed it tight.
If Lucille and Bryce could see her now...
Never look back.
For a moment, she forgot her motto.
She practically skipped into the kitchen. The old double range still needed a lit match to work and was big enough to cook for a dozen, but she didn't mind. It represented a proper home.
Even a mundane task, such as preparing a cup of fresh brewed tea, seemed significant today. Mollie waited for the leaves to steep and considered menu ideas for her celebratory meal. She'd scoured yard sales for a selection of used cookbooks, and Mollie now admired their glossy spines where they sat ready to be sorted and shelved next to the pantry.
She pulled over a vintage church social cookbook. She could prepare roast chicken and new potatoes...
Mollie jumped, splashing tea onto the table. She was not expecting any company. Other than her realtor, attorney and bank manager, every other person in Grady Cove remained a stranger.
She returned to the front room where she'd left the inner oak door open to catch the late May breeze. A petite, white-haired woman stood outside. She wore a crisp blue polyester pantsuit, frilly white blouse, and held a bouquet of flowers. Clearly this wasn’t a saleswoman, but her first visitor.
Mollie unfastened the screen door hook. “Can I help you, Ma'am?”
The woman smiled. “I'm Emily Rogers, dear, your closest neighbor to the left, and this is Juan and Maria Perez who live in the cottage beyond mine.”
She moved aside, and Mollie saw a plump, elderly couple standing on her walkway. They were dressed more informally, but each carried a covered dish.
“Buenas tardes, Señorita. Welcome to our Cottage Lane.” The man stepped forward and lifted a pan towards her. “Chili con carne. My most requested receta.”
“He means recipe.” Beside him, Maria offered a shy grin. “And I bring the corn bread.”
Flustered, Mollie held open the screen door with her elbow and took the man's dish. “I'm Mollie. Mollie Wright. I didn't expect...well, please come in.” She stepped back and let the trio enter.
Emily strode towards the kitchen as if she knew her way around. “What Juan did not say, Mollie, is that he and Maria own La Pancheta, the most delicious Mexican restaurant in Grady Cove. You are in for a treat.”
Juan followed Emily, with Maria and Mollie close behind. “Correction, Emily. It is the best Mexican restaurant in entire state of Nueva York.” He paused at the stove and shook the teapot. “Ah, tea. Exactly what we need.” He added more water at the sink then skillfully lit the flame from the nearby box of camp matches.
He, too, acted familiar with her kitchen.
Juan settled himself at the table as Maria put the corn bread down next to Emily's wrapped bouquet. She pulled mugs and tea bags from the cabinet while the other woman stepped into the pantry.
“Alma used to keep spare vases here on the top shelf...” Her voice floated out from the small alcove. “Here we are.” Emily emerged holding a cut crystal vase covered in dust. “I know she and Genevieve left things behind in the cottage when they moved last year.”
Her face softened, and the old woman's eyes glistened with tears. “Such a sad day.”
Emily turned and washed the container with brisk swipes of a damp sponge and filled it halfway with water.
Mollie stood in the kitchen entrance still holding the container of chili. Sad day? Was Emily referring to my buying Lilac Cottage? No, that didn't fit in with their cordial welcome.
I guess she means having to say goodbye to the two sisters who put the cottage up for sale, after living here for more than fifty years.
She pushed away a shiver of unease and placed the chili on an unlit stove burner.