I loved the characters Lindsay and Chad, but I made the choice to extend their story in a sequel. I think my readers will be satisfied with the continuation of their story-line as well as that of the feisty Cook, Elaine, Walter and a couple of others to really shake things up! 😉
Lindsay and Chad reunite and consider if they have what it takes to continue to pursue their relationship. They each have grown since confessing their feelings, but now they wonder if there is room in their new lives for each other. They soon find out that success brings new challenges. Lindsay will also have to contend with Chad’s sister-in-law, Eleanor, who makes it abundantly clear how she feels about Lindsay. Cook also makes a reappearance and she is feisty as ever!
Elaine emerges from the background as one of the main characters. Suddenly her past is crashing with her present. She will need to figure out how to confront old issues while determining if those old scars will hinder her from new love.
Walter has held his own since stepping into Chad’s shoes. He continues to move forward in his growth from mistakes made in his past. Can he continue to be the backbone and support of everyone at Serenity Inn?
Check into Love Embraced, the second installment in the Serenity Inn Series and discover what new drama awaits you!
Here’s an excerpt:
Elaine gently fluffed the red roses that she’d just cut and placed in a clear vase on the dresser in one of the guest suites. She’d been at Serenity Inn nearly two years now and her life was the better for it.
When she arrived in the small town outside Lynchburg, VA, she’d been hoping to track down some relatives she’d recalled her mom telling her about in her childhood, before she died. But unable to locate them, she set her sights on the diner off Main Street. Her intent had been to see if there was an open server’s position in the diner. She’d just climbed onto a stool at the counter when she overheard Cook telling her boss at the diner that she’d been offered a position at the new bed and breakfast. When Cook came to the counter to take her order, she impulsively admitted she’d overheard her conversation and asked if she knew of any other available positions. She’d never forget the intense gaze that Cook placed her under. Then as if she made up her mind, she gave her the phone number and address to contact Chad.
It had been a chilly morning with a piercing wind that sliced straight through her threadbare woolen coat. She still remembered how she trembled while standing on the porch after ringing the doorbell. When Chad opened the door, she was dumbstruck at his sheer handsomeness. But moments later, while thawing out as she sipped hot cocoa, he’d immediately put her at ease. She didn’t know whose desperation got her the job, hers or his at wanting to impress Lindsay.
“You wanna join me for some lemonade out by the pool?” Walter’s deep, velvety voice cut into her thoughts.
She turned to look at the man that suddenly appeared at the door. “It’s kinda early to knock off, don’t you think?”
Walter moved further into the room. It was already to Elaine feeling smaller by his presence—all six feet four of him. She glanced up at his cocoa brown skin that no matter what time of day, always seem to have a five o’clock shadow. She marveled not for the first time how he always managed to look gorgeous in what he could be found wearing most days, a dark t-shirt, form fitting jeans and Timberland’s. Still, for all of his natural swagger, he never made her feel as if he wanted something from her. He made her feel respected from the very beginning, though it took some time for her to relax enough to see it.
“You know as well as I do that we’re closed down for the next two weeks—surely enough time to be ready for our next guests.”
“That doesn’t mean we have to wait until the last minute. Besides, keeping busy soothes me,” she said as she moved her dust rag across the top of the walnut grain.
“Why don’t you admit it distracts you?”
Her eyes snapped to his. “What?”
“I know a person running when I see one. I was that person myself, for a long time. One thing I’ve learned is, no matter how far you run, you are always gonna be at the destination.”
Running her rag along the edge of the wood she wondered if she should ignore him or address the statement he’d just made. The fact of the matter was it was more than facing herself that had her past crashing against her present.
“What do you think about Yvonne and Evan?”
Walter seemed to take a moment to reflect on her question. He always seemed to do that. It was another reason why she was curious about what he would say.
“They seem nice enough to me. They pull their fair share of the work and are professional to the guests. That’s really what matters the most to me. Why?” Dark intensity mixed with curiosity pinned her.
She returned his gaze through the bureau mirror. “Thing’s just don’t feel the same since Jason and Jonathan left. For a little while, it was like we were a … family.”
Walter nodded. “Yeah… I miss them too. Change is always challenging.”
“And I guess I don’t react to change very well. Never have, really.”
“Most people don’t. But that’s what living is all about. We’re always being affected by things beyond our control. Sometimes we’re better people for it.”
“Will they be at the pool as well?”
“I didn’t invite them. But of course there’s always a chance they could join us. Would you have a problem with that?”
“No…of course not.” But she wondered if her high pitch had given her away. She hadn’t really gotten to know Yvonne in the few weeks since she’d arrived. She was polite while they worked together but mainly stayed to herself. Elaine was no social butterfly herself. But it wasn’t Yvonne that filled her heart with trepidation. It was Evan that did that. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she recognized him from her past. A life that she thought she placed a lid on and sealed as tight as a nail in a coffin. It wasn’t anything he said as much as how he looked at her; as if trying to place her as well.
It was a look that chilled her to the bone, as it seemed to search and sift through her in a glance. Each day that passed since he’d arrived had her nearly a nervous wreck as she feared her life would unravel right before her, ruining any prospects for a solid future, free from her sordid past.
Elaine’s mind was miles away until she felt a hand on her shoulder. Her gaze locked on his.
“Walk with me.”
Dropping her shoulders, she followed.
Now beneath one of the umbrella sheltered tables beside the pool. The weather was balmy for a September afternoon. The pool would be closed by the time the guests resumed, but due to the unseasonably warm weather, Walter allowed them to keep taking dips.
Elaine enjoyed the colorful burst of colorful leaves in their autumnal splendor. The sound of familiar footfalls preceded Walter’s scent, which she had to admit she enjoyed immensely. He slid into a chair at the table extending a chilled glasses to Elaine.
They sipped on the clear soda to the background cacophony of birds engaged in the chortles, hoops and other calls of birdsong amidst the clicks of various insects.
Elaine let her eyes drift across the acres of green edged by the bordering woods. She felt at peace, calm and safe. Safe was a big word to her. It was why she considered her home here at Serenity to be so precious. It was why she was willing to fight for it at all costs.
“So?” she finally spewed at Walter, unable to remain silent any longer.
Dark eyes shifted to her—amusement danced in them. “Did you have something you wanted to say? Don’t wait on my prompt…by all means go ahead and share.”
“Why do I feel like a rat you’re about to torture?”
“Who me?” he said throwing his hands up in mock surrender. “I’m completely harmless. If you would like to share something and clearly you need to, I’m all ears.”
Elaine settled her gaze on him. She searched his face, but she already knew. She knew she could trust him. Still, she wasn’t ready to tell it all. She couldn’t handle taking the risk that he would look at her differently. For some reason what he thought mattered to her.
“Thanks. It’s nice to know if I need a shoulder I’d have one in you.”
Walter leaned back and studied her beneath hooded lids. He gave her a small smile before drinking the last of his soda.
“Did I ever tell you that I was in prison for three years?”
Elaine’s eyes widened and then she looked down at her hands that she’d placed on the table before she lifted her gaze to meet his again. “I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be sorry. I deserved it. I was with the wrong crowd of guys. I mean it wasn’t anything like murder or nothing—but it could easily have been. I was a bad dude or I should say I was trying to be gangsta. It was certainly a wake-up call. Life inside ain’t no joke.”
“I’ll bet.” She tapped her nail against her glass.
“But I’m not telling you this just to pass the time away. I’m telling you so you can see that I’m the last person to pass judgment on anyone. No matter what —“
“I—I know that Walter. Trust me, I would feel comfortable telling you…that is if there was something to tell,” she said dropping her eyes.
The sound of voices nearing them had her head snapping in its direction. She stood up suddenly, nearly tilting the chair over. Quickly reaching behind her and righting the chair, she said, “I uh just remembered that I meant to take care of something. I’ll see you later, okay?”
His eyes searched hers. “Okay. Later.”
“Hey guys,” she said in passing. Soon after, Elaine’s toned brown legs were quickly carrying her toward her room, where she breathed a sigh of relief only after leaning against her closed door. She exhaled a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and tried to figure out how to handle her problem.
Meanwhile, Yvonne and Evan slid the wrought iron chairs back, the regular screeching sound only muffled by the green outdoor carpet, added to give the impression of grass, as they sat down across from Walter.
“What’s up guys? What’d you get done today?” Walter asked.
“We decided to help each other by cleaning two of the four guest cottages. The linens have all been replaced and they are now ready for guests.”
Walter looked at Yvonne, who volunteered the information. “That’s good. Teamwork can make a difference especially with something as large as the cottages. Were you planning on doing the others tomorrow?”
Yvonne looked at Evan, who merely shrugged. He moved his mouth around the toothpick stuck in the corner of his mouth, his usual accessory. “I guess we can Bossman. I mean I guess cuz we were the last hired, that automatically means we get the bulk of the work—but that’s okay. It’s a job, right?”
It still intrigued Walter that Lindsay had hired him. He allowed his dark gaze to settle upon Evan, now. Fair skinned with yellow undertones, light brown eyes and brown hair with golden highlights, made by the sun. Redbone. His wiry, muscular build no doubt made him popular with the ladies and arrogant with the men. He was too young and inexperienced to know that arrogance could get you killed.
Narrowing his gaze, his lips taut, Walter stated, “Oh I’m not the boss. That’s Lindsay’s position. In addition to that, please believe that Elaine and I are working just as hard. Just because you don’t see us doesn’t mean we just chill all day. I actually had to make Elaine take a break.”
“Hey! No offense, Man!” Evan exclaimed while doing this silly finger snap with one hand before punching his other hand. It was a quirky nervous habit, Walter had observed about him. “I was just joking!”
“None taken, just stating the facts is all.” Walter kept his face devoid of emotion, his eyes cool, his tone more so as he observed the insincere gleam in the gaze of the man sitting across from him, mocking him now with a smirk.
But the new Walter had learned how to diffuse a situation. The old him seriously lacked impulse control. The old him would have jumped across the table and smacked the cocky grin off his face just for the fun of it. The old him would have beat him to a pulp just to see fear in his eyes. Fear used to denote respect in his eyes and respect on the street was essential. But now he kept the old him stuffed in a box under lock and key. Besides, Lindsay didn’t deserve to find that her faith in him was a waste of time, plus that was a life he’d left behind, one he didn’t have any desire to emulate again. Still, everything about Evan reeked of combustible materials, just waiting to blow.
Yvonne let her gaze swing between both men. She smiled and then laughed. “I thought we was gonna have to clear some chairs for a minute.”
Walter looked away from them out toward the trees. Trees always calmed him, and the property around Serenity was like a tonic for him. He swore once he was released from prison, he would never take the beauty of nature for granted. That nor his freedom as he contemplated leaving the table without another word. He hated dealing with idiots.
He had learned a long time ago to spot trouble at a glance and if that wasn’t enough, his gut usually kicked in. Right now, his gut was about to kick through to his kidneys. These two were trouble with a capital T. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was a certain intimacy about those two that was unusual to only have known each other a few weeks.
“It wouldna never came to that, right B… I mean Walter? I actually like calling you Bossman, but anyway…”
“That’s cool, as long as you understand I don’t hire or fire anybody.” Walter said as he swung his gaze to Yvonne.
“I don’t get down like that Yvonne.” He figured he might as well switch to the lingo these two would understand so that they wouldn’t misunderstand him.
“Back in the day, I wouldn’t have ever wasted time talking. If I had a problem with someone I would’ve just pulled my piece and let that handle everything.” He let that statement settle between them as he watched how it resonated on their faces. “But I’ve matured and now, I just clarify or …I walk away.” He gave them each a small smile.
“Nah man, it ain’t even that serious. I mean, I don’t even plan on being here that long. I only took this job because my mother kept nagging me to move away from the neighborhood. This was …a change of scenery. She’s happy about that. But ain’t nobody trying to make this a lifetime career.”
Walter chuckled at that. “You’d be surprised what a person would consider doing. I’m actually surprised Lindsay hired you if you expressed yourself the way you just did.”
“Now you know that’s not what I told her. I know how to interview—how to talk white,” he said complete with the air quotation marks.
Walter cringed inwardly, but said nothing.
“I have to admit that I almost fumbled when I first laid eyes on Honey—“
“When you say Honey, would you be referring to your boss, Lindsay?” Walter had, had just about enough. It seemed once he said he didn’t hire or fire, Evan had gotten all the way relaxed.
“Well you have to admit she is beautiful.”
“And she deserves respect in her presence or out of it. She is a person that’s all about giving people second chances. There must have been something in you that she saw needed a break. If I were you, I would take advantage of it.”
“You really believe that?” Yvonne blurted her gaze shiny as a new penny as they gleamed with a hope she hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Absolutely. Just ask her. She has a knack for seeing potential in people who don’t see it within themselves.” Walter now said while staring steadily at Evan.
“Is that why you’re here—cuz she saw something in you?”
Walter smiled at Yvonne, as he’d anticipating the question. “Actually, Lindsay didn’t hire me. Chad Lewis did, he was the man whose position I took over. Nice guy. Well, I’ve got some things to take care of. Later.”
Yvonne looked over at Evan after the footfalls became faint just as his gaze hardened as it slammed into hers.
“Don’t start buying into all that stuff. Don’t forget why we’re here.”
Yvonne sighed and looked away from him. It was nice to believe in the possibility of second chances at least for a little while, anyway.
I hope you enjoyed that snippet.
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