by Marci Boudreaux
When life throws a widowed innkeeper and a world-famous movie star together they share an unexpected romance. But is their love strong enough to survive their real lives?
Desperate to keep her ailing mother-in-law, Doreen, in the woman’s home, Carrie Gable agrees to board a handful of Hollywood’s most elite actors at the manor. Despite her resentment of the demands being placed upon her, she can’t help but be taken in by actor Will Walker.
Will, in a last-ditch effort to save his career, has agreed to a project he has no interest in. The more time he spends with his egotistical co-stars, the more drawn he is to Carrie. Long nights spent talking about the paths their lives have taken make him realize he’d rather have a simpler life, but his ties to L.A. aren’t as willing to let him go.
With the temptation of stardom pulling Will in one direction and the need to care for Doreen tugging Carrie in another, the couple struggle to hold onto the happiness they were missing until finding each other.
Note: This was originally published in November 2012 by Musa Publishing. It has been newly edited.
Genre: Contemporary RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Movie Star, Innkeeper, Second Chances, Widow, Alzheimer's Disease, Family, Iowa, Hollywood
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Excerpt & More
Carrie stared out the back door.
“Hey.” He swallowed when she jolted and spun around. He had never seen such sadness and raw desperation on the face of a person who wasn’t acting.
“You scared me,” she said, forcing a laugh as she turned her back to him. Though she was clearly trying to hide it, he knew she was roughly wiping at her cheeks. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Sorry,” he said quietly. He watched her dry her hands on her jeans. “Are you okay?”
Inhaling again, she gave him an unconvincing smile. “I’m fine, Will.”
“Oh,” she exhaled, “the usual.” Pushing past him, she set her mug on the counter. She looked at the clock and cursed. “Damn it. Where did the day go? It’s almost dinnertime and I haven’t even started anything.”
He realized she was trying to change the subject, but he was determined to make sure she was okay. “It must be heart-wrenching to see Doreen fading away like that,” he said.
Carrie’s face sagged. “It isn’t easy.”
“It’s a lot of work trying to keep up with her.”
“Sometimes,” she said dismissively as she walked to the refrigerator and looked at the menu. She looked at the clock again and laughed bitterly. “Well, I won’t be slow roasting chicken tonight, will I?”
“I’m worried about you.”
“About me?” she asked lightly. “Why?”
“This is a lot for one person to handle.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Because I am.”
“Carrie,” he coaxed gently.
She turned from the fridge, her eyes pleading. “What do you want me to say, Will?”
“You can start by telling me how you are doing.”
“How the hell do you think I’m doing?”
He took in the deep creases on her forehead and the puffiness of her eyes. “Not nearly as well as you’d like everyone to believe.”
“Falling apart is not an option right now.”
“Well, burying all of this isn’t either.”
Carrie opened her mouth as if to argue with him but, after a moment, she stepped back, putting space between them. She pulled out a Dutch oven and carry it to the sink.
Moving to her side, he looked down at her. “Can you just talk to me? Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“What I’m thinking?” She laughed softly. “I’ve spent the last two years pretending that my husband is at the grocery store.” She sat the pot on a burner. “Returning insane purchases, picking her up from all over the county after she’s driven off to some place that no longer exists—if it ever did exist—but somehow it all didn’t seem real until today.”
“I know,” she said turning to look at him. “I know what it does. But I never really felt it. Pretending Mike is running errands, taking away her access to money, hiding the car keys, it all seemed so ordinary. Laundry? Check. Dishes? Check. Lie to Mama so neither one of us have to confront what’s really happening with her? Check.”
He saw fresh tears shining in her eyes before she turned toward the drawer where she’d hidden the knobs for the stove.
She grabbed one and tried several times to fit the knob in place. Cursing under her breath, Carrie slammed it down and faced him. “I’ve read the books, I’ve done the research, I’ve talked to support groups and doctors, but nothing they said could have possibly prepared me for this,” she said as tears returned. “Nothing could have prepared me for her not knowing who I am.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, as he reached out to her. When he wrapped her in his arms, she leaned into him and buried her face in his chest. A sob escaped her, shaking her shoulders, and he soothed her by whispering softly and running his hand over her back. “I’m so sorry you’re going through this,” he said after several moments.
“It’s the way it is,” she said, leaning back. Wiping her cheeks dry, she inhaled deeply and looked up at him. “I appreciate your concern, Will, really I do, but there isn’t anything that can be done. We’ll get by for as long as we can and then…”
She closed her eyes and shook her head before sighing. “I really have to get dinner started.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do. My guests do not want to be kept waiting,” she said, reminding him of what Donnie had told her that morning as she’d sat heartbroken amongst the movie stars while Mama insisted on serving breakfast alone.
“I’m taking care of dinner tonight.”
“You’re cooking?” she asked with a smirk of disbelief.
“I’m ordering in. My treat.”
Putting his hands on her shoulders, he gently squeezed them and held her gaze. “You do not need to be taking care of all those people tonight.”
“It’s my responsibility to take care of them.”
“Not tonight. Let me do this for you. Please.”
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