Title: Love's New Beginnings
Author: Diana Stout
She's a concert pianist whose life has been turned upside down and inside out where she trusts no one. He's a single dad, managing her grandfather's apple orchard business. With his death, they've each inherited half the business and she's forced to remain in the house for six months or lose everything. Set against a rural small community in the colorful fall setting of Michigan, along with two sassy talking birds, and an adorable five-year-old boy, is it possible that everything they once that they wanted will disappear?
Charlene was surprised that anyone else would be at the reading of her grandfather's Will.
Hearing a deep rumbling voice, her curiosity got the best of her. She peered around the chair but he was already so close, she had to look up. The bluest eyes she had ever seen stared at her, his gaze pinning her to the chair. They reminded her of the sky on a clear summer's day. A memory tugged at her.
The deep base timbre of his voice was a soothing sound to her ears. His large hand engulfed hers. Immediately, she felt his warmth. Despite his strength and that his hand was twice as large as hers, he held her hand gently. She could feel callouses across his palm.
He towered over her like a Sequoia.
"I'm sorry about your grandfather," Logan said. "He was a nice man."
She looked up again. For the second time, she was spellbound by the brilliance of blue and a memory she couldn't pinpoint. "Thank you."
Though she couldn't name it, the atmosphere in the room had changed. It was charged now, and she sensed the source was Logan.
Norton spoke. "With your permission, Charlene, rather than reading the entire Will and boring you both, let me explain the terms as simply as I can. You and Logan have each inherited one half of the orchard and its business, a hundred acres total, fifty each."
Charlene was dumbfounded. She had no idea who this Logan Taylor was, but certainly he didn't deserve half her grandfather's livelihood.
Her heart racing, she peeked a glance at Logan. He sat stone-like, not one emotion displayed on his face, his gaze focused on the attorney.
"Charlene," Norton continued. She turned her gaze back to the attorney. "You've inherited the rest of Charlie's assets, chiefly the house, its contents, and his cash holdings. About five hundred dollars in a savings account.
"Charlie's Will stipulates that neither of you can sell the orchard to an outsider."
"That's ridiculous!" Charlene burst out. She glanced at Logan again. Still no reaction. She frowned.
Norton continued. "You can only sell to each other. And only after a year's time."
"A year?" All her plans—
Norton continued. "Unfortunately, it made sense to Charlie. There's more. Neither of you can make any changes to the orchard nor its operation without permission of your partner."
"Explain to me how this makes sense?"
"Your grandfather knew Logan was interested in owning the orchard and if Charlie had had no family, he would have given Logan the entire property."
Norton addressed Logan. "Charlie fully appreciated your hard work and realized during these last years you were responsible for the orchard's success."
"You worked for Gramps?"
He looked at her, his gaze steady. "Yes."
Norton spoke again, this time to her. "Your grandfather always believed in family. He believed the orchard should remain in the family. He knew you felt the same way."
Charlene felt guilty. She might have felt that way earlier, before the accident. Before the mess that had become her life. She had come to Willow Junction prepared to sell her grandfather's property—everything—to the highest bidder.
"As to the house," Norton continued.
Charlene closed her eyes, shuddering at what stipulations might be attached to it. Opening her eyes, she prepared for the worst.
"You've inherited it, providing you live in it, starting now, for the next six months. If you return to New York, you forfeit everything."
* * * * *
Out on the sidewalk, Logan waited for her.
Once she spotted him, he saw her hesitate. Charlene Walker, world-renown pianist, looked just like her publicity photos. Picture perfect. The forest green silk suit hugged her lush curves, the breeze ruffling the smooth material tight against those curves, the skirt hugging her thighs. Earlier, it'd been difficult keeping his gaze on Norton when he'd rather watch her skirt creep up her thigh. Now a strand of brown hair had escaped the confines of the bun at the nape of her neck that was her signature hairdo.
He wondered what her hair looked like down.
Coming out of the door and down the steps, she looked frail, her hand clasping the handrail in a death grip. For just an instant, he considered stepping forward and helping her.
Then he saw her lift her chin and straighten her spine, a purposeful look in her brown eyes.
He didn't want to care one hoot about this woman even if she was his partner. The first chance he had, he was buying her out. Yet, he couldn't stop watching her. He felt like an over-stretched rubber band, the tension so taut, he thought he'd snap.
With precision and grace unlike anything he'd seen before, she walked toward him, then stopped. She had to. He blocked the sidewalk.
He looked down at her. No bigger than a child, he thought, slight and obviously tired, but she looked ready to do battle. "We have to talk," he said.
"I agree," she replied. "I want to know your intentions, your plans, and what kind of influence you had over Gramps."
Logan squinted his eyes. Of all the raw, rotten—
"Right now isn't a good time. Can you meet me at Gramps' house, say in two hours? It's the best I can offer."
"Fine. I've got some repairs to finish anyway." He knew he sounded waspish, but at this moment, he didn't care.