Rose Harbor in Bloom, p.1Debbie Macomber
Rose Harbor in Bloom is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Debbie Macomber
Excerpt from Starry Night copyright © 2013 by Debbie Macomber
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, Random House, Inc., New York.
BALLANTINE and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Rose Harbor in bloom : a novel / Debbie Macomber.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming title Starry Night by Debbie Macomber. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
1. Hotelkeepers—Fiction. 2. Life change events—Fiction.
3. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
Jacket design: Belina Huey
Jacket illustration: Tom Hallman and Richard Felber/Garden Picture Library/Getty Images (waterfront)
A Note from the Author
Other Books by This Author
About the Author
Excerpt from Starry Night
Welcome to the second installment in the Rose Harbor Inn series. Jo Marie is eager to update you on what’s been happening at the inn. The inn is booked solid this visit and you’ll enjoy meeting Kent and Julie Shivers, who are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary—the only problem is they can’t seem to get along. Their granddaughter is refereeing them and dealing with the boy next door, who was nothing but a pest … except now he can’t take his eyes off her. And then there’s Mary Smith …
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. This happens with novel writers. We fall in love with our stories and characters and have trouble not blurting out the entire plotline.
What I really want is for you to make yourself at home at the inn. Jo Marie is baking cookies for this big shindig she regrets … oops, I’m getting ahead of myself again. And of course there’s the handyman Mark, who … okay, that’s it. I’m not saying one more word. I’ll leave it to you to turn the page and get started reading.
Now, please, sit back and relax. I promise I won’t give anything else away. Everyone at Cedar Cove is eager to update you on what’s been going on, and, as always, that seems to be quite a lot.
Something else writers like … feedback. I’d love to hear what you think. You can reach me in a variety of ways. My website at DebbieMacomber.com is one, Facebook is another, and then of course you can always write me at P.O. Box 1458, Port Orchard, WA 98366. I’d love to hear from you.
Rose Harbor was in bloom. Purple rhododendrons and red azaleas dotted the property. I stood on the porch, leaning against the thick white post, and looked over the property for my bed-and-breakfast. The Inn at Rose Harbor was beautifully scripted on the wooden sign and was prominently displayed in the front of the yard along with my name, Jo Marie Rose, as proprietor.
I never planned on owning or operating a bed-and-breakfast. But then I never expected to be a widow in my thirties, either. If I’d learned anything in this road called life it’s that it often takes unexpected turns, rerouting us from the very path that had once seemed so right. My friends advised me against purchasing the inn. They felt the move was too drastic: it meant more than just moving and leaving my job; it would mean an entire life change. Many thought I should wait at least a year after losing Paul. But my friends were wrong. I’d found peace at the inn, and somewhat to my surprise, a certain contentment.
Until I purchased the inn, I’d lived in a condo in the heart of downtown Seattle. Because of my job and other responsibilities, I hadn’t had pets, well, other than as a youngster. But shortly after I moved to Cedar Cove I got Rover. In only a few short months, I’d grown especially fond of him; he’d become my shadow, my constant companion.
Rover was a rescue dog I’d gotten through Grace Harding, the Cedar Cove librarian. Grace volunteered at the local animal shelter, and she’d recommended I adopt a dog. I thought I wanted a German shepherd. Instead I’d come home with this indiscriminate mixed-breed short-haired mutt. The shelter had dubbed him Rover because it was clear he’d been on his own, roaming about for a good long time.
My musings were interrupted by mutterings from the area where I planned to plant a rose garden and eventually add a gazebo. The sound came from Mark Taylor, the handyman I’d hired to construct the sign that stood in the front yard.
Mark was an interesting character. I’d given him plenty of work, but I had yet to figure out if he considered me a friend. He acted like my friend most of the time, but then every so often he turned into a grumpy, unlikable, cantankerous, unreasonable … the list went on.
“What’s up?” I called out.
“Nothing,” he barked back.
Apparently, the ill-tempered monster had returned.
Months ago I’d asked Mark to dig up a large portion of the yard for a rose garden. He’d told me this project would be low on his priority list. He seemed to work on it when the mood struck him, which unfortunately wasn’t often, but still I thought a month or two would be adequate in between the other projects he’d done for me. To be fair to Mark, though, it’d been a harsh winter. Still, my expectations hadn’t been met. I’d wanted the rosebushes planted by now. I’d so hoped to have the garden in full bloom in time for the open house I planned to host for the Cedar Cove Chamber of Commerce. The problem, or at least one of them, was the fact that Mark was a perfectionist. He must have taken a week simply to measure the yard. String and chalk markings crisscrossed from one end of the freshly mowed lawn to the other. Yes, Mark had insisted on mowing it first before he measured.
Normally, I’m not this impatient, but enough was enough. Mark was a skilled handyman. I had yet to find anything he couldn’t do. He was an all-purpose kind of guy, and most of the time I felt lucky to have him around. It seemed as time progressed I found more and more small jobs that required his attention.
New to this business and not so handy myself, I needed someone I could rely on to make minor repairs. As a result, the plans for the rose garden had basically been ignored until the very last minute. At the ra
I watched as he straightened and wiped his forearm across his brow. Looking up, he seemed to notice I was still watching him from the porch. “You going to complain again?” he demanded.
“I didn’t say a word.” Reading his mood, I forced myself to bite my tongue before I said something to set him off. All Mark needed was one derogatory word from me as an excuse to leave for the day.
“You didn’t need to say anything,” Mark grumbled. “I can read frowns, too.”
Rover raised his head at Mark’s less-than-happy tone and then looked back at me as though he expected me to return the verbal volley. I couldn’t help being disappointed, and it would have been easy to follow through with a few well-chosen words. Instead, I smiled ever so sweetly, determined to hold my tongue. All I could say was that it was a good thing Mark charged by the job and not by the hour.
“Just say what’s on your mind,” he insisted.
“I thought I’d told you I wanted the rose garden planted before I held the open house,” I said, doing my level best not to show my frustration.
“You might have mentioned this earlier, then,” he snapped.
“Clearly it slipped my mind.”
“Well, don’t get your dander up.” It wasn’t worth fighting about at this late date. The invitations were mailed, and the event, ready or not, was scheduled for this very weekend. It would be nothing short of a miracle if Mark finished before then. No need to get upset about it now.
Actually, I was as much at fault for this delay as Mark. Often before he ever started work, I’d invite him in for coffee. I’d discovered that he was as interesting as he was prickly. Perhaps most surprising of all was that he’d become one of my closest friends in Cedar Cove, so naturally I wanted to find out what I could about him. The problem was he wasn’t much of a talker. I’d learned more about him while playing Scrabble than in conversation. He was smart and competitive, and he had a huge vocabulary.
Even now, after five months, he avoided questions and never talked about anything personal. I didn’t know if he’d ever been married or if he had family in the area. Despite all our conversations, most of what I knew about him I’d deduced on my own. He lived alone. He didn’t like talking on the phone, and he had a sweet tooth. He tended to be a perfectionist, and he took his own sweet time on a project. That was the sum total of everything I’d learned about a man I saw on average four or five times a week. He seemed to enjoy our chats, but I wasn’t fooled. It wasn’t my wit and charm that interested him—it was the cookies that often accompanied our visits. If I hadn’t been so curious about him he probably would have gone straight to work. Well, from this point forward I would be too busy for what I called our coffee break.
Grumbling under his breath, Mark returned to digging up the grass and stacking squares of it around the edges of the cleared space. He cut away each section as if he was serving up precise portions of wedding cake.
Despite my frustration with the delay and his persnickety ways, I continued to lean against the porch column and watch him work. The day was bright and sunny. I wasn’t about to let all that sunshine go to waste. Window washing, especially the outside ones, was one of my least favorite tasks, but it needed to be done. I figured there was no time like the present.
The hot water had turned lukewarm by the time I dipped the sponge into the plastic bucket. Glancing up at the taller windows, I exhaled and dragged the ladder closer to the side of the house. If Paul were alive, I realized, he’d be the one climbing the ladder. I shook my head to remind myself that if Paul were alive I wouldn’t own this inn or be living in Cedar Cove in the first place.
Sometimes I wondered if Paul would even recognize the woman I’d become in the last year. I wore my thick, dark hair much longer these days. Most of the time I tied it at the base of my neck with a scrunchie. My hair, which had always been professionally groomed for the office, had grown to the point that when I let it hang free, the tendrils bounced against the top of my shoulders.
Mark, who rarely commented on anything, made a point of letting me know I looked like I was still a teenager. I took it as a compliment, although I was fairly certain that wasn’t his intent. I doubt Mark has spent much time around women, because he could make the rudest comments and hardly seem aware of what he’d said.
My hairstyle wasn’t the only change in my appearance. Gone were the crisp business suits, pencil skirts, and fitted jackets that were the customary uniform for my position at the bank. These days it was mostly jeans and a sweater beneath a bib apron. One of the surprises of owning the inn was how much I enjoyed cooking and baking. I often spent the mornings in my kitchen whipping up a batch of this or that. Until I purchased the inn there hadn’t been much opportunity to create elaborate meals. These days I found I could read a recipe book with the same rapture as a New York Times bestseller. Baking distracts me and provides afternoon treats for my guests and wonderful muffins and breads I take such pride in serving for the breakfasts. I’d put on a few pounds, too, no thanks to all the baking I did, but I was working on losing weight. Thankfully, my favorite jeans still fit.
Some days I paused, wondering if Paul would know the new me—mainly because I didn’t recognize myself any longer. I’d changed, which I suppose was only natural. My entire world had been set upside down.
After dipping the sponge in the soapy water, I headed up the first three steps of the ladder, ready to wash off several months’ accumulation of dirt and grime. I wrinkled my nose at the pungent scent of vinegar, which my mother had recommended for cleaning windows. Unfortunately, I failed to write down the proportions. Seeing that it was a big bucket, I emptied half a bottle into the hot water. At this point, my bucket smelled more like a pickle barrel.
“What are you doing?” Mark shouted from across the yard.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” I asked, refusing to let his bad mood rile me. Being Mark’s friend required more than a fair share of patience.
He stabbed the pitchfork into the grass and marched across the lawn toward me like a soldier heading into battle. A thick dark frown marred his face. “Get down from there.”
I remained frozen on the third step. “Excuse me?” This had to be some kind of joke.
“You heard me.”
I stared at him in disbelief. No way was I going to let Mark dictate what I could and couldn’t do on my own property.
“Ladders are dangerous,” he said, his fists digging into his hip bones.
I simply ignored him, climbed up one additional step, and started to wash the window.
“Don’t you know sixty percent of all home accidents involve someone falling off a ladder?”
“I hadn’t heard that, but I do know sixty percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.” I thought my retort would amuse him. It didn’t. If anything, his frown grew deeper and darker.
“You shouldn’t be on that ladder. For the love of heaven, Jo Marie, be sensible.”
“Me?” If anyone was being unreasonable, it was Mark.
“It’s dangerous up there.”
“Do you suggest a safety net?” He made it sound as if I was walking along a window ledge on the fifty-ninth floor of a sixty-story building instead of on a stepladder.
Mark didn’t answer my question. He pinched his lips into a taut line. “I don’t want to argue about this.”
“Good, let’s not. I’m washing windows, so you can go back to planting my rose garden.”
“No,” he insisted.
“I’m staying right here until you give up this foolishness and come down from there.”
I heaved an expressive sigh. Mark was treating me like I was in kindergarten instead of like a woman who was fully able of taking care of herself. “I suppose I should be grateful you’re concerned.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” h
“How kind of you,” I muttered, unable to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. His attitude as much as his words irritated me, so I ignored him and continued washing the windows. When I was satisfied the top two were clean, I carefully backed down the rungs just to prove I was capable of being cautious. Mark had his hands braced on the ladder, holding it steady.
“Are you still here?” I asked. I knew darn good and well he was.
Again he ignored the question.
“I’m not paying you to stand around and watch me work,” I reminded him.
He narrowed his eyes into slits. “Fine, then. I quit.”
I didn’t believe him. “No, you don’t.”
Within seconds he was off the porch and stalking across the yard, every step punctuated with irritation.
I jumped down the last two rungs and followed him. I don’t usually lose my temper, but he was pushing all the wrong buttons with me. I’m far too independent to have anyone, especially a man, dictate what I could and couldn’t do.
“You can’t quit,” I told him. “And you certainly can’t leave my yard torn up like this.”
Mark acted as though he hadn’t heard a word I’d said. Instead he gathered his pitchfork and other tools, most of which he’d left in the grass.
“We have a contract,” I reminded him.
“So sue me.”
“Fine, I will … I’ll have my attorney contact you first thing in the morning.” I didn’t have an attorney, but I hoped the threat of one would shake Mark up enough to realize how foolish he was behaving. I should have known better; Mark didn’t so much as blink.
Rover followed me across the lawn and remained at my side. I couldn’t believe Mark. After all these months he was ready to walk away over something completely asinine. It made no sense.
With his pitchfork and shovel in one hand and his toolbox in the other he started to leave, then seemed to change his mind, because he abruptly turned back.
I moved one step forward, grateful he’d come to his senses.
Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes