Second Chance (Cold Springs Series Book 1)

BOOK: Second Chance (Cold Springs Series Book 1)
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Second Chance

Book I, Cold Springs Series

By Nancy Henderson

Copyright 2016.  Nancy Henderson.

 

Second Chance is a work of fiction.  The characters, names, situations, and all dialogue are entirely fictional and are not in any way representative of actual people or events.  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. 

 

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission by the author.

 


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http://www.always-a-story.com

 

Thank you! 

 

 

To second chances…


 

 

Second Chance

By

Nancy Henderson

 

 

 

Chapter One

             

“Who is this again?” Samantha Stone plugged one ear as she pressed the other to her cell phone. 

              “Ian Woods” came the voice at the other end of the line.   “Burt Tuttle gave me your number.  He said you’re taking over Jean’s place and it needed some work.  I’ve done a number of jobs for Jean in the past and know the property pretty well.”

              Sam listened to the rough voice at the other end of the line as the Amtrak train she rode on clicked and rocked rhythmically.  The phone connection was poor, but not so much, that she couldn’t notice the ruggedness in the caller’s voice.   An unexpected warmth radiated through her.   

              This couldn’t be the same Ian Woods from school.  The wild, unpredictable boy who she had crushed on all through elementary and junior high, then in high school…he had broken her heart.

              He must be a good contractor if Burt recommended him.  Burt Tuttle, Aunt Jean’s significant other, was someone Sam would trust with her life if need be.  Even if he were sometimes wrong, Burt always had the best intentions behind his actions.  Still, Sam was mildly irritated that Burt had volunteered her money like that. Especially if the guy was that Ian Woods.

              Ian went on about the pipes needing rework.  Sam listened and politely thanked him, told him she’d have to get back to him, then hit “end” on her cell. She leaned her head against the window of the Amtrak as she watched the New York City skyline fly by.  Doubt plagued her like a nagging toothache.  Would this end up being the worst mistake of her life?

              She tried to concentrate on the magazine that lay open in her lap but failed miserably.  She would miss her Manhattan office on Sixth Avenue, as she would miss the lights, the noise, and the pulse of the city.  Not that she partied, mind you.  If she went to bed past nine o’clock without a stack of contracts to draft or manuscripts to read, it was considered a late night.  New York was paradise for anyone who liked to be surrounded by books, authors, and the business of publishing, and that was what Sam had devoted the last ten years of her life to.  Up until now.

              She was leaving the city life behind for Cold Springs, the town in which she grew up.  Coming home permanently was something she never thought she’d be doing until six months ago when Aunt Jean had died of an unexpected heart attack.  They said her aorta had ruptured, that death had been instant and nothing could have saved her.  Aunt Jean had passed doing what she loved, working in the little diner, the business she’d built from the ground up.

              And now it belonged to Sam.

              No one could have been more dumbfounded about it than Sam.  Aunt Jean had left her everything, right down to the silverware and the tiny “Welcome to Jean’s” custom coffee coasters.  Sam didn’t have a clue how to run a business, much less a coffee shop.  Her restaurant experience went only so far as to order a large espresso at the coffee stand on her way to work each morning and the occasional cheese omelet on Sunday mornings when she allowed herself to stop working.  The first thing she’d done was hire a lawyer, which she planned to see right after leaving the train.  He had the keys and the final paperwork. 

Despite being fairly happy in the city, she missed small town life itself. The quaintness the beach by Lake Ontario where she escaped as a kid and a teen, and despite having troubled relationships with Mother and Theresa, she found it strange in the city not being able to count on anyone witnessing her life as it were.

Thoughts of Chet Tyler came to mind.  She tried to push them away, but the hurt remained constant, even though there was nothing she could do about it.  Chet had thought she was crazy for going through with this move.  He had told her to sell the diner, get what she could from the sale, and buy herself something nice with the money.  It was the only sensible thing to do as far as he’d been concerned.

Chet was always talking about what was sensible. 

He never wanted their relationship to move forward, had insisted it was just fine the way it was.  Maybe it had been fine, but Sam couldn’t help but wonder that if the relationship was solid, would she have really even considered moving back to Cold Springs in the first place. She supposed that was the part that hurt, that there had never really been anything solid in their relationship.

She dozed off and on and gradually woke to the realization that Syracuse would be coming up shortly, which was where she needed to get off.  Syracuse was approximately thirty-five miles south of Cold Springs.  Memories flooded back to her. Saturday afternoon trips to the city, of going to the mall or the crowded farmers’ market to buy flowers or vegetables.  How long had it been since she’d last visited?

              She’d flown to Aunt Jean’s funeral but hadn’t taken time to visit her mother or Theresa, her sister, just made it to the last ten minutes of the graveside service, enough to say a final goodbye and get back on the plane.  Mother had a fit about that, as did Theresa.  It was to be expected.  But Sam had a full schedule that week, and she was upset enough as it was. 

              Guilt came fast and unforgiving.  Sam hadn’t come back or visited her family in so long.  It wasn’t due to hard feelings, but because she was simply too busy.  Being part of Hodkins and Hochberg Literary Agency was no easy task.  She had worked her way up from administrative assistant to senior literary agent in ten years.  It was a feat she was more than proud of.  It was her identity.  Work was her whole life, her vibe.   Her colleagues promised to hold a position for her in case she wanted to come back.  For that, she was eternally grateful, but she also did not want to come back tail between her legs and have to work her way back up the ladder.  Plus people would talk. They would think her a failure.  She didn’t want that either.

              She simply couldn’t fail.  Ever.

              Syracuse was announced as the upcoming stop.  Sam closed the magazine still in her lap, slipped it in her laptop bag, and stood.

              Syracuse had not changed, she noticed as she watched out the windows.  People bustled about outside like fire ants.  In the distance was the baseball stadium and The Regional Market.  Sam exited the train as quickly as possible and spied Burt Tuttle waiting for her.   Just looking at him brought memories of Aunt Jean.

Burt and Aunt Jean had never married or lived together, both claiming they were too set in their ways for commitment, although Sam surmised it had more to do with Social Security and pensions than independence.  Burt stood waiting, dressed in his usual jeans and beat-up red flannel shirt, leaning against a blue Ford Ranger.  He checked his watch, looked around as if he were in a hurry and wanted to be anywhere but here in the city.

              She ran and caught him in a hug.  “Hi, Burt.  It’s so good to see you.”

              “Why didn’t you fly?”  He took her bags.  “Only cheapskates and bums take the train.”

              “Flying makes me nervous.”  Sam had never been comfortable flying since 9-11.  She had not been directly impacted by the tragedy, but it had shot fear straight in the heart of every New Yorker just the same.

“You need to get a car if you’re going to stay here,” Burt said.  “Something good in winter.  You didn’t forget how bad winters are up here, did you?”

Sam hadn’t forgotten.  Northern New York winters were hardly forgettable.  Cold Springs had the double advantage of being located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains where the elevation was higher, plus it received lake effect snowstorms off Lake Ontario. However, economically, Cold Springs thrived off the winter tourists with snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. 

“I’ve already set up a lease.” She hopped in the passenger seat of Burt’s truck.  “I got a small SUV.”`

“When?”

“Last week.  Over the Internet.”

“The Internet?”  Burt shook his head, put his key in the ignition, and started the truck.    “You can’t order something like that over the Internet.  How do you even know if it has good tires?”

“I already did, and it’s an SUV.”

Burt just gave her one of his disgusted looks combined with an eye roll.  “When do you pick this fool thing up?”

“Right after you take me to the dealership.”  She smirked and was met by another look.  “Then I have to go to the lawyer to pick up the building keys, and after that I’m a Cold Springs resident.”

“Jean would be real proud of what you’re doing.” 

Sam reached over and squeezed Burt’s hand.  Jean’s death had taken a toll on Burt.  She could see it in his face.  He was half a person without her.  Probably always would be.

“Ian Woods called me,” she said to break the silence.

“Oh, he called you, did he?  Good.”

“No, not good.  I know you’re trying to help, and I appreciate that, but I rather you didn’t give my phone number to strange men.”

“Ian’s not a strange man. I’ve known him for years.   And you’re going to need him.  The place needs work.”

Sam could tell Burt was getting upset, so she dropped the subject and went on talking about incidental subjects like the weather.  She wondered how impossibly difficult it must have been to have to clean out Jean’s possessions.  Personal things like her clothing. Guilt stabbed her again.  She should have come up to help him, not left him alone to do all that.  She hadn’t even helped Burt make the funeral arrangements.  How could she ever make that up to him?  She didn’t know if she even could.   

Burt drove her to the dealership where she picked up her SUV.  After convincing him she would be all right to drive the rest of the way to Cold Springs, he left her there and went home. Four hours later, and now not only physically exhausted but mentally as well, Sam stopped at her lawyer’s office to finalize paperwork and collect the keys to the property.  It was late afternoon by the time she was finished, and she was hours behind the self-imposed schedule she’d set for the day.

Thank heavens the drive to Cold Springs was uneventful.  Not that she expected any problems.  Cold Springs was a one-horse town with zero possibility for expansion.  There was talk of dissolving the town due to the lack of businesses left, but as far as she knew nothing had been decided yet.  However, if one wished to get away for a weekend or retire to peace and quiet, Cold Springs was perfect.  Sam had no regrets growing up there.  It was a town where everyone knew each other and had left her with fond memories.  However, there had been no room to become a professional there or anywhere in the vicinity of such a small town.  No ladder to climb and the only hard work came from farming, something she knew nothing about.  It wasn’t personal.  Cold Springs was just not a place where she could reach her dreams.  It had nothing to offer her.  Until now. 

Sam got off the highway and drove down Main Street.  Aside from the post office, Aunt Jean’s diner was the only establishment in town.   Houses filled up the remaining part of downtown Cold Springs.  It was a cute, picturesque little town, really, with trees lining each side of the street. The leaves had now turned brilliant shades of reds, oranges, and yellows, making it seem like a piece of stationary.

She pulled to the curbside and stared.  Memories rushed back, cruel and bittersweet.  A two-story brick building, Jean’s Diner stood right next to the railroad tracks.  Sam recalled with sadness how the dishes would shake in the cupboard when the train went by.  Weeds grew by the door and grass poked up through the cracks in the sidewalk out front.  The sign still hung on rusty hinges over the door, reading Jean’s Diner, Best coffee anywhere.  Aunt Jean had only been gone fewer than six months, but the place looked as if it had been deserted for decades.

Anxiety built in her throat.  How stupid was it to take on a business she had no experience running?  Her life had always been so calculated, right down to what she was eating for dinner. 

She swallowed hard, struggled to push all negativity out of her mind.  Getting out of her SUV, she pulled the diner’s key from her purse. The key jammed in the lock, but her hands were shaking badly.  With a slight amount of force, she opened the door.  

The smell of stale air hit her as soon as she entered.  The place looked exactly the same as she remembered.  The ruffled yellow and white curtains with chickens imprinted on them.  The red plastic booths lined one side of the room.  Some of the plastic was torn and repaired with silver duct tape.  Sam couldn’t remember exactly when she’d last been here, but strangely, it seemed like yesterday.  Any minute she expected Aunt Jean to come bursting around the corner, telling her to sit down, that she must be hungry. 

She made her way through the kitchen and back storage room then upstairs to the tiny apartment Aunt Jean had lived in for over forty years.

She opened the door and stepped back in surprise.  It was as if Aunt Jean were still alive.  All of her possessions were here.  Her lamps, books, the furniture.  Sam hurried to the closet and opened the door.  Her clothing hadn’t even been cleaned out.  Burt hadn’t done anything.  Certainly clearing out her things would be personal, no doubt painful, but she would have thought he’d had asked someone to do it.

Sam touched the apron hanging on the back of the closet door and felt tears well up.  Grease stains dotted every corner of the fabric.  Well used, just like Aunt Jean had hung it here after a long day.  Everything was here, her presence, her spirit. 

BOOK: Second Chance (Cold Springs Series Book 1)
13.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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