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Recently divorced and down on her luck, Lesley DeLoach is determined to make a new life for herself. When she inherits her great aunt’s estate, Rosalyn Manor, her future seems to be heading in the right direction—until she sees the home’s crumbling skeleton.
Widower John Hambrice is barely keeping his construction company afloat and his children fed, so when he’s offered a job restoring the Rosalyn Manor he can’t turn it down. But the big city client with the high falutin lifestyle reminds him too much of the last time he was burned by big money.
As the summer temperatures rise, so does their attraction. He learns there’s more to the city girl than he expected, while she learns the country boy’s gruff exterior hides a heart of gold.
But each has lost so much in love already…is the chance of another broken heart worth the risk?
Page Count: 410
Word Count: 100915
John Hambrice sat in a stiff, beige hospital chair next to his wife’s bed. The chair he’d come to know as the seat of angst had a permanent indention of his ass. Every day for the past two months, he’d planted his body right between Sandra and the large wall-to-wall window covered with the most sterile blinds he’d ever seen.
The humdrum sound of machines buzzing and beeping all around him had become a sort of music, a bittersweet symphony, letting him know she was still alive, leaving him another moment to kiss her, hold her, and let her know he loved her.
He turned his head toward the window as sunlight dared to peek through the crevices of the blinds, causing a reflective glow against the floor. Pretty soon, just like every morning for the past eight weeks, the sunlight would creep oh-so-slowly up the pale green wall—a paint color that was supposed to help soothe, a nurse had once told him.
What a crock of shit.
Paint couldn’t soothe a man’s heart as it shattered bit by bit while he watched his wife’s soul leave her body a little every day. A paint color couldn’t grow her hair back, find the cure for cancer, or even help her keep food down one meal at a time, one day at a time.
Paint didn’t soothe. That was just some lie the home improvement stores told their customers. He should know. He was, after all, a contractor.
Yet, out of everything he had constructed and rebuilt to its former glory, the one thing he couldn’t repair was Sandra’s body. A husband was supposed to protect his wife, his family…and he was failing her. Failing them all.
He gripped the arm of the chair until his biceps burned as he counted to ten to try and slow his racing heart. Despite the odds, he wouldn’t give up. As long as she would fight, so would he, even if that meant he had to sit in the same damn chair for a solid year, he would do it. Do it for her. Do it for his family. Do it for him.
Sandra took in a deep breath and opened her eyes. Her bright pink scarf that wound tightly around her scalp brought out the blue in her irises. “Good morning,” she said, her voice soft and her skin paler than the night before.
“Good morning, lovely.” He stood and reached to grip the hand that had become like a second skin to him. She was all he had ever dreamed and more since he was a boy. He’d loved her from the moment they sat beside each other in eighth grade science. There wasn’t much of a time in his life he could remember without Sandra in it. And he didn’t want to start now.
“What time is it?” she asked, her words soft and low.
He glanced down at his watch. “A little before seven.”
“When is Emma bringing the kids by?”
“Before preschool, so it should be soon. Do you want some breakfast? I can go to the cafeteria and get you something.”
She shook her head. No surprise there. The past few weeks, she’d eaten barely anything more than gelatin. Still, he could wish.
“John,” she began, her voice still low. “Come sit by me.”
Her gaze dulled of all shine. All the energy he was used to seeing from his wife, gone. Her body grew more tired every day, he knew, but she was strong. So strong. She can survive this.
He propped on the edge of her bed and kept hold of her hand. Her grip, though not as firm as it had been when she was healthier, held tight to him.
“John.” She licked her lips. “There’s something we need to talk about.”
She stopped and reached for her water. Aiding her, he handed her the cup and positioned the straw to her mouth. His heart pounded as she drank. Most days, she lay in bed, happy and content to just sit with him. Today, she had news. He pushed his fear of what she would say aside and concentrated on her. This was her time, their time.
She shoved the cup away with her palm, and he placed the plastic container back on her end table. “What were you saying?”
The little pitter-patter of footsteps echoed through the hall, and a glimmer, although slight, shown in her eyes for the briefest of seconds as she glanced to the door.
Sandra loved her children with the fiercest loyalty, just as he loved her.
His heart sprang for a new reason, happy to have his family all in one place—together. A soft smile touched his wife’s lips, and a tear pierced her eye. Each moment his family got to be together, holding each other, was a gift he cherished. A gift they all treasured, as Sandra’s body grew weaker with each passing day.
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