Title: Maisie’s List
Author: Beth Warstadt
Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
A year after his wife's death, Peter Hunter juggles raising their two precocious children and running his veterinary practice. When he receives a mysterious package from his late wife, Maisie, he discovers her matchmaking list of four potential mates. His office manager, Caroline, encourages him to trust Maisie's judgement and give love another try. But dating is never easy, especially when his school-age children have opinions on everything. Will he ever find another woman who can make them all happy?
Peter sought a few quiet moments to finish his coffee, but it was not to be. A large mailing envelope had appeared on his desk, his name written on the front in all-too-familiar handwriting. He dropped into his chair and ran his fingers lightly over the script. Peter closed his eyes and wished it had all been a terrible mistake, and Maisie was standing in the door, laughing at the joke. “Caroline, what is this?” he asked, carrying it out to her desk like it was filled with nitroglycerin.
“It’s a package,” she answered without looking up.
“I can see that.” He clenched his jaws so his voice wouldn’t shake. “It’s from Maisie.”
“Really?” Her voice stayed emotionless, and she kept her eyes glued to her computer screen.
“Maisie is dead.”
This package was a crack in the wall he had erected to protect himself from his grief. “Where’d it come from? Did you put it there?”
Caroline slowly swiveled her chair to face him. “I did,” she said softly. “She gave it to me with instructions to give it to you when I thought you were ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“She said I’d know. I think she meant when it was time to get on with your life.”
He let the package drop to his side. “Who the hell are you to decide that?” he growled. He’d choose when he wanted to get on with his life without input from anyone else.
Caroline didn’t move away or lower her eyes. “I miss her, too, but she never wanted you to stop living because she had. It’s been over a year, and it seems like the right time for you to read what she had to say.”
He stormed into his office and slammed the door. He fell into his desk chair, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. He could see Maisie sitting at the kitchen table writing out the grocery list, wearing her favorite gray sweatshirt and blue jeans, stray strands of auburn hair falling loose around her face. Had she been sitting there when she did this? He took a deep breath. On the one hand, he thought he couldn’t stand to pull the scab off the wound of his wife’s absence. On the other hand, she had physically handled this envelope. He could touch the page she had touched and the writing she had written.
Buddy laid his head on Peter’s feet, compassionate dog eyes fixed on his master’s face. Peter looked down at him and said, “I guess there’s only one thing to do.”
He tore open the package. The clean, rosy smell that had always clung to her hair and clothes wafted out like the captive air of a long-sealed treasure chest. He sat a moment and breathed deeply, allowing the fragrance to create a bridge between them. He dumped out the contents on his desk: a letter and four sealed envelopes written on the expensive monogrammed stationery her mother had insisted match their wedding invitations. Maisie had moved it in and out of the desk drawer for years, always saying what a waste of money it had been. She had finally found a use for it.
My dearest love, How I miss you! I know you miss me, too.
Miss her? Yes, he missed her. So much that he could hardly bear to hear her voice in his head as he read.
I am so sorry to abandon you with all the responsibilities of the children and the house when work keeps you busy enough. It’s not what we wanted, but here it is.
Yes, here it was. He knew it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t ask for cancer, and she fought hard to beat it. But part of him was still angry with her for leaving.
I’m sure you are not ready to date again. If I had to live without you, I would never want anyone else, but you have the clinic to run and two children to raise. I’m sure you’ve given it your best effort, but let’s be honest. Taking care of the children was supposed to be my end of the bargain. Logan is easy. All you have to do is feed him and get him to practice. Lacie is going to give you a run for your money. You need a woman’s help, someone who will love her but be unintimidated by her precious, precocious personality.
I fell in love with you on sight, so there was no wooing involved. This time, it has to be different. You’ve got baggage, and any woman our age will have baggage, too, so I have selected a few whom I think you will like. I know them from your practice, from the kids’ schools, and from the gym. They each have something different to offer, but they are all good for you in one way or another. Open them in order, and don’t open number 4 until you have tried the others. If one of them works out, you may not get that far, and that’s okay.
Love you in this life and beyond. Kiss our babies for me.
Peter wished his heart would stop beating.
From the first sentence of anything she writes, readers have no doubt that Beth Warstadt is a southern girl, born and bred in Nashville, Tennessee. She met her Connecticut Yankee husband while they were undergraduates at Emory University, where she achieved her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English. They live in Suwanee, Georgia. Maisie’s List is her third book and first with Wild Rose Press.
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