“Well, like I said, he’s always ever-so polite. He’s been especially interested in your romance with Hugh.” Gram smiled. “Asked me whom I thought was more fun-Hugh or himself?

I said Hugh was a rich movie star, who probably wouldn’t waste his time on an old lady. I told Zach he had nothing to worry about.”

Summer squeezed her eyes shut and counted to ten.

Kneading the knot between her eyes, she said, “Did you or didn’t you tell him I was coming home because I’m upset about Tuck’s job?”

“It’s hard for me to remember exactly what I do or say these days, but if I did tell him, what can it matter? You said that what happened between you two was over a long time ago.”

Summer frowned. Yes, of course, it was over. So, why was she obsessing about him?

“I think Thurman had Zach all wrong. I told your stepfather he was too hard on the boy at the time, that you were just youngsters in love. But Thurman doesn’t ever listen to anybody.”

He hadn’t listened when Summer and her mother had begged him to drop the charges against Zach, and the stress of that time had ended her mother’s remission. Her mother’s death was just one of the reasons Summer was estranged from him. The other had to do with a tiny grave in New Orleans.

But Summer didn’t want to think about that. “Okay, back to selling this place to Zach. That can’t happen.”

“I can’t help it if I’m not averse to moving into a modern condo, if Zach comes up with some favorable financin’.”

“But I love this house,” Summer protested. “I can’t believe you’ve actually gone this far with a deal without once mentioning it to me. What’s his next move?”

“He said he’d put an offer together, but so far he’s been too busy.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll stay busy,” Summer muttered, squeezing her eyes shut.

Somehow she didn’t really think Zach, who could be relentless, would leave her grandmother alone until he got exactly what he wanted. Had he hired Tuck to win over Gram? So she’d sell him her home, which had been in the family for more than a hundred years?

“Word has it he closed on that tract across from us just yesterday. That’s where he’ll build the dock,” Gram said. “So he’d like to control this property. He definitely doesn’t want me selling to anybody else.”

Inspiration struck.

“Gram, I’ll buy the house from you. Then you can live here or in a condo. Your choice.”


“I want you to call Zach and tell him you won’t sell. Hopefully, when he learns I’m here checking up on you, he’ll back off.”

Her grandmother watched her intently for a long moment. “You never looked at Edward the way you used to look at Zach. Fifteen years is a long time for you to still be bothered by a man,” said her grandmother wisely. “Have you ever asked yourself why?”

“No.” Summer yanked her scrunchy out of her hair and pulled her ponytail even tighter. “Because I’m perfectly happy with my life as it is. Can we quit talking about him and not start on your dissatisfaction with my single state?”

“Oh, all right, dear. I won’t bring him up again-or the fact that you’re an old maid-not unless you do.”

“Old maid? Gram, there’s no such thing anymore.”

“Maybe that’s so in Manhattan, but that’s definitely not so in Bonne Terre. Ask anybody.”

Gram’s set expression stung way more than it should have.

Tuck stuck his head out the door. “Zach called and needs me to come in, so I’ve got to get to work.”

“Hey, Tuck, your job is one of the reasons I came home. Can we talk?” Summer said.

“Later. He needs me to run an errand.”

Summer ground her teeth as she watched her brother lope out the door.

* * *

Tuck refused to quit his job. Summer and he had quarreled about it briefly, but Zach had just promoted Tuck to full-time status and he now spent his whole day running errands for Zach’s contractor.

As for Gram, she was as good as her word. Two whole days had passed without her ever once mentioning Zach.

She was the only one silent on the subject, however. The whole town was buzzing because Summer and Zach were both in town. Whenever Summer went shopping, the curious sneaked sidelong glances at her. The audacious stopped her on the street and demanded to know how she felt about Zach now.

“Do you regret what you and Thurman did-now that Zach’s so rich and nice and set on saving this town from economic disaster?” Sally Carson, the postmistress, had demanded.

“Your grandmother told me he’s been real sweet to her, too,” Margaret York, one of Gram’s oldest friends, said with a look of envy.

“Well, his return to this town has nothing to do with me,” Summer replied.

“Doesn’t it?” Margaret’s face was sly and eager. “Men don’t forget…”

“Well, I have.”

“I wonder how you’ll feel when you see him again. We all wonder.”

One of the worst things about fame was that it made everyone think they had a right to know about her private life. Some things were too personal and painful to share with anyone, even well-meaning neighbors.

So Summer stopped going into town. Instead, she stayed at the house to work on her script and formulate a new way to approach Tuck.

On this particular afternoon she’d set a plate of cookies and a glass of tea garnished with a sprig of mint beside a chaise longue on the screened veranda. She paced in frustration, gesturing passionately as she fought to discover her character, a young mother. The role eluded Summer because, for her, young motherhood was a painful theme.

But today she did something she’d never let herself do before-remember how she’d felt in New Orleans when she’d been expecting her own child. Suddenly, she broke through the protective walls inside her, and grief washed over her in waves.

Her eyes grew wet, and she began to tremble, but she didn’t relent. So deeply was she immersed in painful memories, she didn’t hear the hard, purposeful crunch of gravel beneath a man’s boots until he was nearly upon her.

A low vicious oath startled her. Expecting Tuck, Summer whirled, dabbing at her damp eyes with the back of her hand.

And there he was.

At the sight of Zach’s hard, chiseled features swimming through her tears, the pages she’d been holding fell to the wooden floor.

“Well, hello there,” he said.

“Zach.” She hated the way his low, velvet voice made her heart accelerate, made the air feel even hotter. Frantically, she dabbed at her eyes so he wouldn’t see her tears. “Gram said you’d been visiting a lot.” Her voice sounded choked and unnatural.

“Did she?” Black eyes narrowed as he pushed the screen door open. “She told me you were coming home.” Zach scowled. “You’re pale, and your eyes are red. Have you been crying?”

“No! It’s nothing,” she whispered. “I was just acting out a part.”

His lips thinned. “You always were damn talented at that.”

Good, he bought it.

Tall and dark in a long-sleeved white shirt and jeans, and as lethally handsome as ever, Zach’s tight expression told her he wasn’t happy to see her.

As she bent over to retrieve her script, his insolent dark eyes raked her body in a way that made her aware of how skimpily clad she was in her snug blue shorts and thin, clingy blouse.

Feeling strangely warm and too vulnerable suddenly, she bristled and sprang to her feet. “I told Gram to tell you. If she decides to sell, she’ll sell to me. So, why are you here now?”

“I haven’t spoken to her. My secretary arranged my appointment with your grandmother,” he said, striding

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