Coming Home to Love (Lakeside Porch Series Book 2)

BOOK: Coming Home to Love (Lakeside Porch Series Book 2)
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Table of Contents


Lakeside Porches Series Book Two



New York




Cover Design by Niina Cord

This book is a work of fiction.  The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher.  The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.  Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Published in the United States of America by

Soul Mate Publishing

P.O. Box 24

Macedon, New York, 14502

ISBN: 978-1-61935-

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

I am indebted to Dr. Ellen Horovitz

who has worked miracles

through Yoga Therapy,

and to Dr. Bonnie Cronin

the intrepid Naturopathic Physician

who tracked down gluten as my number one enemy.


Heartfelt thanks to the anonymous contest judges of the Golden Claddagh and Golden Rose who freely shared their expertise to improve the telling of Justin and Gianessa’s story. Warm hugs to my test readers—Kathy, Jackie, Debbie, Anne, and Martha. Respectful bows to the authors who critiqued sections of this novel: the Lilac City Rochester Writers and the Sunday Afternoon Critiquers. I couldn’t have done any of it without the Early Birds.

Chapter 1

Gianessa jolted out of her meditation as her roommate pounded down the stairs.

With a breathless, “Later,” Sara slammed the front door, but not before frigid wind swept in a few snowflakes.

Gianessa pressed her fingers to her forehead and chuckled. “Ohmigod, I’m living on the polar ice cap.” She tugged the lavender pashmina from the ottoman behind her and wrapped herself in its soft warmth.

“Breathe,” she told herself and tried again to find her center. It grew harder every day, and she knew her galloping roommate and the arctic blast were not to blame.

She was stuck.
I hate stuck. I’m tired of stuck
Coming here was about getting unstuck.

Joel had brought her to Tompkins Falls to redesign the spa at his luxury Manse Inn and Spa, but the week she arrived he’d been horribly injured in a car accident. Two weeks in a coma, and he was still in a hospital in Rochester and faced months of rehabilitation.

Now here she was, three thousand miles from home, broke, with no car, and stuck giving massages at the spa until Joel got back on his feet.
Thank the universe for Sara.
The spa’s one-off hair stylist was letting her share her townhouse, in exchange for great meals every day.

There was only one downside. Sara was determined to find Gianessa a husband.
I will not tell her that my
marriage ended in a shameful divorce, and that I lost custody of my beautiful baby daughter, Isabella
. It was far too painful and private to share. For now, the plan was to get her career on track and make a new life in Tompkins Falls.
No dating. No husband

With her body heat restored, she loosened the pashmina, opened her arms, and rested her hands on her thighs, palms up. Back in her meditation pose, she spoke her mantra, adding positive thoughts and images.

I know my professional life will be back on track once Joel recovers.
Big, shimmery worry bubbles floated away with her breath.

I will buy a toasty warm winter coat
. Frosty bubbles vanished from sight.

I will
get a car
. This time, the bubbles were circles of exhaust from a cartoon car that putt-putted across her vision.

I will make wonderful new friends and be part of my new town in the Finger Lakes
. Champagne bubbles rose in crystal flutes. “No!” Her eyes popped open.
No champagne! What am I thinking

She closed her eyes and replaced the bubbles with the faces of sober friends at her very last AA meeting in Northern California—old and young, men and women, some in suits, some in jeans and T-shirts. Was it a month ago she had boarded the bus for Upstate New York? No, six weeks already, six weeks without a meeting.
No wonder my energy is blocked

That was a problem she could fix. In one fluid motion, she stood up from the floor, let the shawl drop from her shoulders, and bowed. “Namaste” brought her meditation to a close.

Cell phone in hand, she found the number in her contacts for the local AA office. Joel had written it down for her when she met him at the conference in October, and something had made her program it into her phone before she’d even made the decision to come east to work for him.
Why did I wait so long

“AA Central Office,” a woman answered on the third ring.

“Yes, hi, I’m Gianessa and I’m an alcoholic. I live in Tompkins Falls, and I need a meeting today or tonight. Thank god you picked up the phone.”

“Right back at you, honey. My name’s Carol, and I’m an alcoholic. Are you sober today?”

“Yes, but I’m a little crazy. It’s more than a month since I moved here, and I haven’t been to a meeting.”

“We’ve got just the thing, the Top Shelf Women’s group. We meet tonight at seven at the Presbyterian Church downtown. Do you need directions?”

Gianessa gave her the address of Sara’s townhouse, and Carol told her how to navigate the five short blocks to the church.

“It’s less than ten minutes. We’re around back and down the stairs. Will I see you there?”

“You will see me there tonight, Carol,” Gianessa committed. As soon as she ended the call, her phone chirped and displayed the number for the spa.

Oh no.
Had she been scheduled to work today and forgotten? “Hi, Remy,” she said with a quaver in her voice.

“Remy just went home sick. We need you,” Grace the unflappable implored her. “I know you were counting on a day off, and I’m sorry but—”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

am I going to pull this off
? Her uniform was in the laundry hamper under her sweatiest sweats. Still, if the spa manager was out, no one would care what she wore. A call to her neighbor Linda netted her a ride in return for an hour of babysitting later in the week.

She grabbed a quick shower and dressed in a clean white T-shirt, one of a dozen she’d brought in her little duffle from the West Coast. She added a cheerful skirt and her favorite sandals. The weather had turned frigid this week, and she desperately needed a coat and warm clothes
Truthfully, she needed more money than a few extra hours would give her.

I can’t put it off any longer
. She had to sell the necklace her ex-husband, Les, had given her when Isabella was born. With a decisive nod, she took a lumpy blue pouch from her top dresser drawer and shook out a heavy necklace.
Someone besides Joel has to know where I can sell this.
She placed the double strand of platinum and gold hearts around her neck. It fit as if it had been made just for her.
Maybe it was made for me.
Les had spared no expense for his girls
She fussed with the elaborate closure and arranged it so the big, round amethyst rested in the hollow of her throat. Surely she could get five thousand for it.

She grimaced in the mirror at the show of wealth, the last token of her old life with Les
She would invest the proceeds in her life going forward: get a coat, put something down on a used car, look into getting her physical therapy license in New York State. She vowed she would never again hook up with someone like Les who pampered her out of her independence
I swear

As she struggled to undo the clasp, a horn sounded. Giving it up, she raced, coatless, out to Linda’s waiting car.

“Brr. You’ll catch your death, girlfriend. I’d have loaned you a coat if you’d asked. Pretty necklace.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know where I could sell it, would you, Linda?”

“Other than that seedy pawnshop on the way to Rochester, I have no idea. But they’ll cheat you, so forget that.”

“Thanks anyway, and thanks a million for the ride.” Gianessa rubbed her arms and watched the passing scenery to distract herself from the cold. “Those white houses with the gingerbread trim that look like they’re marching up from the lakeshore—what street is that?”

“Aren’t they sweet? That’s Lakeside Terrace. Your boss, Joel Cushman, owns them and lives in that last building, way at the top of the bluff.”

“Must be a fantastic view of the lake.”

“They’re apartments, two or three flats in each building. I understand his grandmother Bridey Tompkins built them many years ago. Her idea was for the young faculty at Tompkins College to rent them during the school year, and then tourists would rent by the week or the month during the summer. She was a romantic, the way I heard it. She wanted every young professor to find his or her true love in their first year, marry in the summer, buy a home and start a family.”

Gianessa responded with her musical laugh—two notes, low then high—that sounded like the start of a happy song. “How funny that her name was Bridey.”

“I love your laugh. They say, while Bridey was alive, most of the professors who rented at Lakeside Terrace married quickly and happily. She brought her magic with her from Ireland and built it into every apartment.”

“What a way to see the world. How sad that she died.”

“It was a terrible accident, drunk driving.”

Gianessa shivered, although Linda had turned the heat as high as it would go. “Was she an alcoholic?”

“Nope, not Bridey. Her son-in-law, Josh Cushman, Joel’s dad, was driving. The whole family was killed, except Joel who was just a boy then. Joel’s uncle Justin—”

Gianessa laughed. “They were into names starting with ‘J’ apparently.”

Linda nodded. “Family tradition. Anyway, Justin came back from Europe and did his best to raise his nephew. Poor Joel was traumatized, though, and took years to straighten out.” She sighed. “And now Joel’s been injured again. Not drunk driving this time. Just black ice and bad luck. Have you heard how he’s doing?”

“They say he’s out of the coma and will need one more surgery and months of therapy, but he will recover. Joel’s a hard worker and very strong in himself.”

“I heard yesterday his Uncle Justin is back in town to manage Joel’s affairs. He’s an international financier, so he’ll be glad it’s not forever.”

Gianessa froze.
What if he’s going to manage the Manse? And the spa?

“Tell me the secret,” Justin coaxed with a whisper. He cupped a hand to his ear, half-expecting an answer.

“Where do I need to look?”

Something told him the answer to all his problems was in Joel’s apartment. He wanted what his nephew had gotten for himself the last few years—vigorous good health, the respect of his community, personal integrity, and a high-spirited, beautiful woman to share his bed and his future.

Justin’s life’s work the past two decades had been successful beyond all measure, but it gave him no satisfaction. It was founded on values he no longer espoused. Six years ago, the woman he thought he would spend his life with had cheated on him, and every relationship since then had been shallow and pointless. And for the last two years he’d battled a mysterious illness that continued to sap his strength.

He was a shadow of his former self, and his high-priced doctors were still unable to agree on a credible diagnosis. Lately he wondered if they were just in it for his money, milking him for donations while they ordered one expensive test after another and argued about the results.

Is there anyone I can trust?
He had reached out to four long-time colleagues and friends over the past year, asking what they thought his fundamental problem was.

His mentor in London told him to see a psychiatrist for his “bloody anger issues.” Justin had protested that he thought of himself as jovial, and wasn’t he entitled to a good rant from time to time, especially when someone crossed him? His mentor had snapped, “You bloody think the whole world is trying to cross you, starting with every woman you meet.”

Justin had laughed. “Poppycock,” he’d told his mentor. He stroked his chin now.
When did we last talk
? Surprise registered.
Not since then

He’d also asked Bhaskar, the international negotiator who facilitated several of his multi-million-dollar deals in Asia. “How do you see my problem?” Bhaskar had chastised him for making deals that benefited no one but himself and told him his digestive problems were karmic payback. “I can believe that,” Justin had acquiesced, “but surely karmic payback comes with a diagnosis and treatment?”

Bhaskar had shrugged and turned away.

Third on Justin’s list was his Swiss banker. Jean-Claude advised him to forgive his old lover, Alexa, marry her, and have a bunch of children to keep her at home. “That makes no sense,” Justin had argued. “Even if Alexa agreed, she’d just hire nannies for the children and continue to do what she pleased
” Jean-Claude knew as well as he did what Alexa wanted. “You mean, spend your money and run around with any man who catches her eye? What’s wrong with that, my friend?” Justin seethed, even now.

Fourth and last, his old lover from Chicago had put her hands on her hips and told him to try an AA meeting. “Ridiculous, Syd! I haven’t had a drink in six years.” A hollow laugh escaped him now.
My life’s a bigger mess sober than when I downed a pint of Absolut every night

If his trusted colleagues and friends didn’t have the answer, any more than his doctors, who did?
Joel. Joel has the answer

Justin eyed his nephew’s plush, serene living room. Pale gray sofas and chairs with big, soft pillows in shades of blue and gray, sleek ebony tables, a wall of windows with French doors to a porch with a lake view.

“Give me a clue, nephew.”

Wind pummeled the doors behind him.

Justin jumped. “You old fool.” He goaded himself with a chuckle, as he checked that the doors were secure. His gaze wandered to the gray, windswept lake, and a long-forgotten memory tugged his mouth into a smile.

He had come here for tea with Joel’s grandmother Bridey O’Donohue Tompkins when he was twenty-four, just over twenty years ago. It was Bridey’s private, getaway place, but she issued a special invitation to Justin and her grandchildren to join her. Joel was eight then, Christie eleven—both of them full of mischief.

Bridey served them on her delicate Belleek china and pretended to read their tea leaves. How he missed Bridey! If he could share his desperation with her, she’d point him to the answer.
What did she read in our tea leaves?

Christie’s fortune was, “You will shine brighter than the sun.” Christie loved that. She tossed back her blond hair and puffed out her budding chest. Christie perished five years later in the fiery crash that killed Joel’s parents and Bridey, too. He sighed heavily at the memory.

Bridey had been accurate in her tea-leaf prediction for Joel: “You will kiss many women before you find The One
” At the time, young Joel had screwed up his face and told them, “I’m not kissing anyone until I find her. And maybe not even then.” They’d all laughed, but she was right. He had become a womanizer.

It was only a few years ago that Joel had sworn off women and moved here, to Bridey’s old apartment. Alone. He was “on a quest,” he’d told Justin, to redeem himself, after a mindless bed-them-and-leave-them tear that followed the demise of his engagement to a wealthy heiress named Lorraine.

To hear Joel tell it, he’d been without sex for two or three years when he met the irrepressible Manda last winter. Joel had known immediately that Manda was The One. And now they were engaged.
Or will be if I can find the engagement ring and take it to him in the hospital.

BOOK: Coming Home to Love (Lakeside Porch Series Book 2)
12.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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