Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Romance excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded Barbara Bretton’s Shore Lights (Jersey Shore Christmas) (New Jersey Shore), you’re in for a real treat:
SHORE LIGHTS was on the USA Today Bestseller list for 4 weeks.
There’s nothing more dangerous to a woman’s heart than a man who is single, straight, loves his kid, and doesn’t kiss and tell . . .
“Beautifully told, with characters who touch the heart.” — Detroit Free Press
“No one tells a story like Barbara Bretton.” — Meryl Sawyer
“Soul warming…powerful relationship drama.” — Midwest Book Review
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Seattle, Washington – late summer
Once upon a time in the Emerald City there lived a woman named Maddy Bainbridge who believed she could move back home with her mother and not lose her mind.
Now, Maddy was old enough to know that the things that drove you crazy when you were seventeen would probably drive you even crazier when you reached thirty-two, but her mother’s offer came at a moment when her defenses were down and her options extremely limited.
“I need help and God knows you need a job,” Rose said during the fateful phone call that changed their lives. “The inn is doing turn-away business and I’d rather share the profits with my daughter than a perfect stranger.”
“I appreciate the thought, Mother, but I’m just going through a dry spell here.” An eight-month dry spell but Maddy wasn’t about to put too fine a point to it. “I’m sure the voice-over work will pick up any day now.”
“You’re an accountant, Madelyn. You have a degree. You can do much better than voice-over work for a used car dealership.”
“I was an accountant,” she reminded her mother. “Not much call for bean-counters when there aren’t any beans left to count.” The great Dot.Com collapse of a few years ago had littered the landscape with the fallen careers of fellow accountants from Washington down to Baja.
“Be that as it may, you have a child to support and no husband to help you out. You need a chance to get back on your feet and I need someone I can trust to help me with the business. Give me one good reason why this isn’t the perfect solution for both of us and I’ll never broach the topic again.”
Are you listening, God? Just one good reason . . .
On any other day, Maddy could’ve given her twenty, but that evening she couldn’t come up with a single one.
“Hannah has a brand-new dog,” she said finally, knowing her mother’s negative stance on anything furry or four-legged. She had spent part of her childhood wishing she could turn Rose into an Irish setter. “Her name is Priscilla and she has a few issues.”
“What kind of dog?”
Oh, how she longed for something large and prone to drooling. Bulldog! St. Bernard! Irish wolfhound with an overbite!
“A poodle,” she mumbled, praying it sounded like bull mastiff on Rose’s end of the line.
“Did you say poodle?”
“Yes,” said Maddy. “A poodle.”
“How big a poodle?” Rose sounded amused.
Maddy glanced down at the tiny bundle of curly fur asleep in her lap. Sometimes the truth was a royal pain. “Too soon to tell,” she said, “but her paws are gigantic.” For a stuffed toy. There was always the chance Priscilla might make it to a whopping five pounds if she pigged out on Purina.
“No problem,” Rose said calmly. “Just so long as she doesn’t piddle in the common areas.”
Was this her my-way-or-the-highway mother talking, the woman revered in three counties as the undisputed Queen of Clean? Rose had been known to change her sheets after a fifteen-minute nap.
“Okay,” Maddy said, “now I get it. My real mother is trapped in a pod in the basement behind the washer and dryer.”
Rose’s answer was a surprisingly long span of silence. No snappy comeback. No withering maternal observation. Just enough silence to unnerve her only child.
Maddy would have liked to match her mother silence for silence, but Rose had thirty years on her and she had no doubt her mother could stretch that silence until Christmas if she felt like it. “I was making a joke, Mother. You were supposed to laugh, not take me seriously.”
Rose cleared her throat. “Quite frankly, I don’t see what’s holding you there in Seattle now that Tom has . . . moved away.”
“He didn’t just move away. You can say it. I promise I won’t fall apart. Tom married somebody else. I’ve made my peace with it.” Which, of course, was a big enough lie to grow her nose to a size worthy of the men of Mount Rushmore.
“Maybe you have,” Rose said, “but Hannah certainly hasn’t. She’s the one you should be thinking about.”
Instant guilt, supersized with fries. This was no pod person; this was her mother.
“Hannah is the main reason I’m staying in Seattle. This is the only home she knows.” She paused, waiting for a response from her mother. Rose, however, remained silent which caught Maddy’s attention. Her mother had never been one to play silence to such advantage. “Besides, Hannah will be starting preschool in a few weeks.”
“We have schools here in New Jersey.”
“All of her friends are here.”
“She’s four years old, Madelyn. She’ll make new ones.”
“Seattle’s our home.”
“Home is where your family is. What Hannah needs right now is to be surrounded by people who love her.” People who won’t leave her. Oh, Rose didn’t say those words but then she didn’t have to. She had already wheeled out the heavy artillery and aimed it straight at Maddy’s heart.
Oh God, Mother, you’re right . . . of course you’re right . . . I can’t argue the point with you . . . was this how you felt when Daddy went back to Oregon . . . did you lie awake every night and stare up at the ceiling and worry about me the way I worry about Hannah . . . it’s been so long since I heard her laugh . . . I can’t even remember how long it’s been . . . I don’t go to church any more but maybe I should because I’m beginning to think it will take a miracle to make Hannah happy again.
But she didn’t say any of it. The words were trapped behind all the years they’d spent away from each other, all of their differences both large and small. The ghost of the lonely little girl she once was rose up between them and she wouldn’t go away. Only this time, the little girl looked like Hannah.
How Hannah adored her father! Her world had revolved around their Sunday brunches, their excursions to the Space Needle and Mariners games, strolls along the waterfront where he taught her how to eat crab. The loss of those weekly visits had turned her happy child into a sad-eyed little girl Maddy barely recognized. How did you tell the child you loved more than life that not every man was cut out to be a 24/7 father?
“This wasn’t part of the plan,” Tom Lawlor had said the day Maddy told him she was pregnant. It hadn’t been part of her plan either but sometimes life handed a woman a miracle and trusted her to do the rest. Tom’s children had children of their own and he had been eagerly anticipating retirement from the company he owned and a life that didn’t include potty training and the Tooth Fairy.
Not that Maddy had been ready to punch her ticket on the Baby Express herself. Children had been out there somewhere in the shadowy future, a concept to be dealt with at a later date. She had never doubted that somehow, some day, Tom would warm to the idea of another child but until then she was quite content with the life they shared. She took her birth control pills religiously, popping one each morning with her orange juice, trusting her future to God and country and modern pharmaceuticals.
A fierce bout with the flu – and one tossed pill – had shown her the folly of her ways.
The easy carefree relationship she and Tom had enjoyed before her pregnancy was soon nothing more than a memory. He still cared for her and she knew he loved Hannah, but sometimes it seemed to Maddy that he loved their daughter the way you would love a Golden retriever you had to send to college. A part of his heart remained distant and not even the sheer wonder of their little girl had been able to change that fact.
Why didn’t they tell you the truth when they handed you that squalling, slippery, precious newborn? They congratulated you and wished you well. They gave you coupons for disposable diapers and baby wipes but they didn’t so much as whisper about the things that really mattered. Why didn’t they tell you that the feeding and diapering were the easy part; a baby cried when she was hungry and she fussed when she was wet. Even the newest of new mothers could figure that out without too much trouble. If only someone, somewhere, could tell you what to do for a little girl with a broken heart.
“Promise me you’ll think about the idea,” Rose urged as they said goodbye.
“I’ll think about it,” Maddy told her mother and then she did her level best to put the entire idea from her mind.
But a strange thing happened. The more Maddy tried not to think about Rose, the more often her thoughts turned to her mother. Twice in the next few days she found herself reaching for the phone, only to catch herself mid-dial. What on earth would she say? It wasn’t like she and Rose were friends. They didn’t share the same tastes in books or movies. Their child-rearing methods were poles apart. Rose was a realist who believed only in what she could see and hear and touch. Maddy believed in those things too but she knew there was more to this world than met the eye.
The first time Maddy brought home an invisible friend, Rose put the entire family into group therapy so she could figure out where they had gone wrong.
When Hannah showed up with her first invisible friend, Maddy set an extra place for supper.
Still this odd yearning for her mother lingered. Rose was the last thing she thought about at night and her first thought in the morning. So much time had passed since they had last lived together under the same roof. So many things had changed. Maybe the idea of moving back home again wasn’t quite as crazy as it sounded.
“Leave Seattle for Jersey?” her cousin Denise emailed her when she first got wind of Rose’s offer. “Are you nuts?” What woman in her right mind would trade life in the Emerald City for a one-way ticket back to the Garden State. Crazy didn’t begin to cover it.
“DON’T DO IT!” Her cousin Gina’s warning practically leaped off the computer screen. “You’re the only one of us to make it west of the Delaware River. Don’t blow it now!”
The senior members of the clan also weighed in with their opinions.
“You’ll make your mother so happy,” Aunt Lucy IM’d her then surrendered the keyboard to Aunt Connie who added, “I don’t know why you moved out there in the first place. We have coffee in New Jersey too, Madelyn.”
Every morning Maddy woke up to an inbox stuffed with emails with subject headers like “Come Home Maddy” and “Don’t Do It!!!” until she began to feel like she was being spammed by her own family.
The weeks passed and she was still no closer to making a decision than she had been the day Rose made the offer.
The day before Hannah started preschool Maddy was rummaging through a huge trunk of old clothes that she’d stashed in the condo’s storage area when she came across the beautiful fisherman’s sweater Rose had knitted for her when she started grade school. The thick cream-colored wool was still supple and lustrous and smelled only faintly from Woolite and mothballs. Large bone buttons marched smartly down the front, fitting neatly into the beautifully finished buttonholes. Rose was a perfectionist and her needlework showed it. Every stitch, every seam was meticulously crafted and designed to last. Only the pockets showed serious signs of wear, faint ghostly outlines of small fists jammed deep inside, of crayons and candy bars and half-eaten PBJs.
That sweater was probably the last gift Rose ever gave Maddy that didn’t come with strings attached. Even the presents for the baby had come with warnings about the perfidy of men, about the impermanence of love, about how if Maddy had half a brain she would stop wishing on lucky stars and start pumping up her 401(k). All the things her nine-months-pregnant daughter hadn’t wanted to hear.
All the things that had turned out to be painfully true.
September waned and she continued to duck Rose’s demand for an answer, but the yearning for something more than they had shared before, lingered and grew stronger. In early October she packed Hannah and Priscilla into the Mustang and drove down to Oregon for her father’s seventieth birthday party. He knew all about Rose’s offer and Maddy’s reluctance, and his take on things surprised her.
“It’s time you went home,” Bill Bainbridge said as they watched Hannah pretend to have fun with his neighbor’s children. “You need your mother. You both do.”
Maddy pondered his statement. Was that possible? She was a grown woman, the single mother of a small child. She was long past needing anyone. She was the one who wiped away Hannah’s tears, the one who lingered at the bedroom door, listening to the holy sound of a sleeping child. Rose hadn’t done any of those things for Maddy when she was growing up. At least not that Maddy could remember. Rose had been too busy selling pricey real estate to people with more money than brains, sure that the example she was setting for her daughter would put Maddy on course for success.
Nothing had prepared Rose for the rebellious underachiever who sprang from her womb with a mind of her own.
“It’s not that I don’t love Rose,” she told her father as they wiped away the remnants of cake and ice cream from every surface in his kitchen. “I just think we do much better with a continent between us.”
“She’s reaching out to you,” Bill said as he tossed a used paper towel into the trash.
“The way I reached out to her when I was pregnant with Hannah? She didn’t even show up for the birth.” Nothing Rose had ever done hurt Maddy more than that.
“Did you ever ask her why?”
“I don’t care why. There’s nothing she could say that could explain not being here.”
“People act in strange ways sometimes, Maddy. Sometimes they’re just not thinking clearly.”
“How come you always take her side?”
“I’m not taking sides. I’m just saying maybe it’s time you gave her another chance.”
“Easy for you to say,” Maddy grumbled as her father pulled her into a clumsy hug. She was desperate to change the subject. “You were only married to her. I’m her daughter: I’m doing life.”
They both laughed but Maddy sensed Bill’s heart wasn’t in it. She wanted to kick herself for making such a thoughtless remark. It was no secret that her father had never quite managed to get over his first wife. He had gone on to make a successful second marriage that had ended with the death of his beloved Irma, but there was little doubt that the love of his life was the fiercely independent redhead from New Jersey who didn’t believe happily ever after existed anywhere but in the movies.
“We don’t get a lot of second chances in this life,” Tom said when he kissed her goodbye. “Go home, Maddy. Give it a try for Hannah’s sake if not your own. You won’t regret it.”
“Hannah and I could move in with you,” she said, only half-kidding. “I’m a pretty good cook and Hannah’s great company.”
He smiled and shook his head. “You know your old man’s hitting the road next week. I promised Irma I’d make that trip we’d been planning and it’s a promise I intend to keep.” Oregon to Florida and back again, with scores of stops along the way. Irma had been working on the last of the itinerary when she lost her long battle with breast cancer.
Maddy’s eyes filled with tears at the memory of her stepmother. “Has it gotten any easier?”
“Nope.” He glanced away toward the curb where her Mustang idled loudly. “Didn’t expect it to.”
“You’ll stop by and see us in Seattle during your travels, won’t you?”
He grinned and tugged on a lock of her hair. “Not if you’re in New Jersey.”
“Six months,” he said as she hugged him goodbye. “Give your mother six months. What can you lose?”
“My sanity,” Maddy said and they laughed, but the truth was out there and she couldn’t take it back. She wanted one more chance to get things right because sometimes even the most independent woman was only a daughter at heart.
Paradise Point, New Jersey – three weeks before Christmas
Rosemary DiFalco swore off men in August of 1992 and as far as she could tell, that was when Lady Luck finally sat up and took notice. All her life Rose had been waiting for her ship to come in and when it finally sailed into view she swam right out to meet it.
You didn’t get anything in this world by being shy and you sure as hell didn’t get anything by waiting for some man to hand it to you on a silver platter.
For longer than she could remember her mother, Fay, had rented out rooms in her ramshackle old Victorian house, sharing their living space with retired schoolteachers, penniless artists, and an assortment of hard luck cases whose only common ground was the bathroom on the second floor. When Fay died almost five years ago, she left the house to her four daughters, three of whom wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. Rose, however, saw possibilities lurking behind the cracked plaster and faded carpets and she bought out her sisters’ shares and settled down to the hard work of building a new life for herself at a time when she needed it most.
She took early retirement then traded in her fancy condo on Eden Lake. She cashed in her 401(k) then plowed the proceeds into the house where she had grown up, a wreck of a Victorian that just happened to boast ocean views from almost every bedroom.
The Candlelight Inn was born and Rose never looked back. To her delight, she found that she enjoyed the constant parade of guests. She loved the challenge of staying one step ahead of the needs of a nineteenth-century house with a mind of its own. Most of all, she loved the fact that the Candlelight’s success had made it possible for her to offer her daughter a way out of the mess her life was in.
Anyway you looked at it, this should have been a slam dunk. Rose needed help running the place; Maddy needed a job. The perfect example of need meeting opportunity.
So why did Rose wake up every morning with the sense that she was preparing for war? She had created an oasis of peace and tranquility for her paying guests, a place people came to when they wanted to leave the stresses of the real world behind. You would think at least a tiny bit of that tranquility might spill over onto the innkeeper’s family. Take this morning, for instance. Maddy had been holed up in the office working on the Inn’s website for hours now. Rose hadn’t seen hide nor hair of her since they’d laid out the breakfast buffet in silence. They had exchanged words late last night over something so trivial that Rose couldn’t even remember what it was, yet the aftermath had left her wondering for the first time if she had made a terrible mistake inviting Maddy and Hannah to come back home.
It was painfully clear they weren’t happy. Her daughter was prickly and argumentative, more reminiscent of the seventeen-year-old girl she had once been than the grown woman pictured on her driver’s license. And Hannah – oh, Hannah was enough to break your heart. The delightful little girl who had entertained Rose with her songs and stories last Christmas in Seattle was now a withdrawn and painfully sad child whose smiles never quite reached her stormy blue eyes.
Rose knew that Tom and Maddy’s breakup had nothing to do with her, but decades of guilt were hard to ignore. She hadn’t prepared Maddy for the real world of men and women. She had taught her how to balance a checkbook, shop for the best auto loan, and make minor plumbing repairs, but she hadn’t taught her the fine art of living with a man.
The truth was, she hadn’t a clue herself. Rose had grown up in a world of women, with an absentee father, three sisters, and more aunts and nieces than you could shake a bra strap at, and between them all they had about as much luck at keeping a man as they had at the slot machines in Atlantic City.
Some women were lucky in love. Some were lucky in business. .One look at the bare ring fingers and flourishing IRAs of the four DiFalco sisters and you knew which way the wind blew. Lucy, the eldest, said a DiFalco woman couldn’t hold onto a man if she had him Krazy Glued to her side. Over the years Rose had come to realize the truth of that statement.
In the best of times love was a puzzle Rose had never been able to unravel. She had married a wonderful man, the salt of the earth, and still hadn’t been able to find a way to hold onto love for the long haul. He offered her the world and she had found herself longing for the stars. She had a beautiful daughter who was bright and talented and loving yet somehow that wasn’t quite enough for Rose either. She wanted Maddy to have everything she never had, to be everything she could never be, and when Maddy had turned out to be lacking the ambition gene, Rose’s disappointment knew no bounds.
Maddy was a dreamer, same as her father. She followed her heart wherever it led and she never thought to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so she could find her way safely home. Maddy’s unplanned pregnancy had filled Rose with a combination of elation and dread. She hadn’t known Tom Lawlor well, but she did know that he had already earned his parenting stripes and wasn’t in the market to add a few more to his sleeve. He was her age, after all, and she understood him even if she didn’t approve.
But not Maddy. Not her day-dreaming, foolish optimist of a daughter. She hadn’t seen it coming, not even when he spelled it out for her in neon letters a foot high. She had still believed they would find a happy ending, believed it right up until the moment Tom and Lisa flew off to Vegas for one of those quickie weddings in a chapel on the Strip.
She longed to gather Maddy and Hannah up in her arms and kiss away their tears, mend their broken hearts until they were better than new.
All of the things she didn’t have time to do when Maddy was a little girl.
Instead there she was, a successful sixty-two year old businesswoman with the hottest B&B between Rehoboth Beach and Martha’s Vineyard, trying to summon up the guts to knock on the door to her own office and see how her daughter was getting on with the website. Rose had bearded wild bankers in their lairs, charmed free advertising out of jaded local radio stations, spun pure gold from straw. Spending five stress-free minutes with her only child should be a piece of cake.
So what if she and Maddy had exchanged words last night. It wasn’t the first time and God knew it wouldn’t be the last. They were mother and daughter, hardwired to get on each other’s nerves. Nothing was going to change that fact, but she could make it better. She knew she could.
If she could just bring herself to knock on that door.
“Oh, no!” Maddy hit the backspace key three times then retyped the number. This was no time to screw up, not when the auction was sliding into its final minutes and she was struggling to maintain high bidder status over some surprisingly stiff competition from someone named FireGuy. You wouldn’t think there would be so much action over a dented teapot but she’d had to raise her maximum bid twice in the last hour just to stay in the game.
The computer screen went blank. The hard drive grumbled then groaned. She held her breath until the screen refreshed itself and her new bid appeared.
“Okay,” she said, grinning at her reflection. “That’s more like it.” Now all she had to do was ignore the fact that her mother was lurking in the hallway like your average peeping Tom and keep her mind on making sure that old samovar was waiting for Hannah under the tree on Christmas morning.
Priscilla pawed at the door. She looked up at Maddy with limpid brown eyes then yipped one of those high-pitched poodle yips capable of breaking juice glasses two towns over.
“Yes, I know she’s been standing out there for the last ten minutes, Priscilla, and no I don’t know why.”
The door swung open on cue.
“Very funny,” Rose said, her cheeks stained bright red. “I was polishing the hall table for your information.”
“I polished it yesterday,” Maddy said, one eye locked onto her computer screen.
“We polish daily around here these days,” her mother said. The usual edge to her words was absent. “The paying customers expect it.”
Maddy forced herself to relax. “I have a lot to learn about being an innkeeper. I bumped into the Loewensteins in the upper hallway last night and almost lost five years of my life.”
“You’ll get used to it.” Rose hesitated then stepped into the room. She smelled like Pledge and Chanel No. 5, a combination that suited her mother down to the ground. “I don’t want to interrupt you if you’re working on the web site.”
Maddy reached for the mouse to click over to a different, safer screen but she wasn’t quick enough. Her mother leaned over her shoulder and peered at the image and the accompanying information.
“For Hannah?” Rose asked.
Maddy nodded, wishing she had faster fingers or a less curious mother. Asking for both might have been tempting the gods. “You know how she is about Aladdin. The second I saw this, I thought it would make a perfect magic lamp.”
“I thought you’d finished Christmas shopping for Hannah.”
“I thought so too, but she came home bubbling about a magic lamp she saw in a coloring book at school and – well, it’s Christmas and she’s my only child.” She looked up at her mother. “You know how it is.” Didn’t you feel that way when I was little? Didn’t you want to gather up the stars and pour them into my Christmas stocking?
“You spoil that child.”
“She deserves a little spoiling. She’s had a tough year.”
“That teapot won’t change anything.”
Maddy had the mouse in such a death grip that she was surprised it didn’t squeak in surrender. “I think I know what’s best for my child.” How could one five-foot tall woman reduce her adult daughter to the emotional level of a sulky teenager just by breathing?
“I thought she had forgotten all about Aladdin.”
“I don’t know what gave you that idea.”
“She’s too old for this kind of make-believe.”
“I suppose you would have advised Stephen King to get his head out of the clouds, too.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Keep your mouth closed, Maddy. For once in your life, just shut up.
She peered more closely at the computer screen in front of her and prayed Rose would take the hint. You spend three hours wrestling with cascading style sheets for the Inn’s new website and there was no sign of the boss lady, but the second you flip to Shoreline Auctions, she appeared like magic right over your shoulder.
Well, there was no hope for it. Hannah, a devoted fan of all things Aladdin, needed a touch of magic herself, and Maddy was determined to make at least one of her wishes come true. This samovar had seen better days but, polished and repaired, it would delight her little girl and that was the most important thing. With only five minutes to go until the auction closed, she wasn’t about to lose high-bidder status now.
“You’re going to give her unreal expectations, Maddy. The sooner Hannah learns she can’t have everything she wants, the better off she’ll be.”
Ignoring Rose was like ignoring a tsunami when you were trapped one hundred yards from shore in a rowboat.
“It’s only a teapot, Ma, not the keys to a Porsche.”
Rose made a sound that fell somewhere between a snort and a sigh. “That child needs a teapot like I need more rooms to clean.”
Rolling her eyes in dismay over her mother’s pronouncements had become a reflex action. The figures on the screen changed. Maddy groaned and quickly typed in a new high bid of her own. “That’ll teach you to mess with JerseyGirl.”
Rose whipped out her eyeglasses from the pocket of her pale blue sweater then slipped them on. “Tell me that’s not the price.”
“That’s not the price.” Unfortunately she wasn’t lying. The final price was bound to be higher. She refreshed the screen and watched as the numbers changed one more time. “You’re a tough one, FireGuy, but you’re not going to win.” She typed in yet another bid and pressed Enter.
“That’s his screen name.”
“What’s wrong with his real name? Does he have something to hide?”
“I’m sure his entire life’s an open book, Mother, but everyone on-line has a screen name. That’s how it’s done.”
Rose peered at her over the tops of her glasses. “Do you have one?”
“Of course I have one.”
“I hope it’s nothing embarrassing.”
When Rose was in one of these moods, the name Betsy Ross would be embarrassing.
“I don’t understand this obsession with on-line auctions,” her mother went on. “You could drive over to Toys “R” Us and buy one of those sweet Barbie teapots for half the price.”
“You’re welcome to drive over to Toys “R” Us anytime you feel like it, Mother. I’m perfectly happy with Shore Auctions.”
“Nobody should pay that much for a battered tea kettle.” Rose’s sigh sent middle-aged daughters across the Garden State ducking for cover. “Sometimes I worry about that child.”
“Because she has an imagination?”
“You’ve filled her head with fairy tales. Where is that going to get her in life? She should be making play dates with her school friends, not dreaming over magic teapots and flying carpets.”
And people wondered why she had left home at seventeen. Maddy bit her tongue so hard she almost drew blood.
“Have you heard a single word I’ve said?”
“Every last syllable.” Maddy turned from the screen. “Mother, if you make me lose this tea kettle to some bozo who’ll use it to store fishing lures, I’ll be forced to tell everyone in Paradise Point that your naturally red hair quit being natural around 1981.” Rose opened her mouth to protest but Maddy raised her hand. “I have less than four minutes left in this auction. You can finish the lecture after I nail down the kettle.”
It was the wrong thing to say. Maddy knew it immediately. If she was looking for the pathway toward peaceful coexistence, maybe it was time to stop and ask for directions.
“Mom, I’m sorry. If you’ll just –”
But it was too late. Rose wheeled and stalked from the room and Maddy had no doubt the rest of the clan would know about her latest transgression before it was time to rinse the radicchio for the dinner salads.
She knew she should run after Rose and apologize. Give her a hug and crack some clumsy joke to try and break the tension that had been building between them, but the clock was ticking on the auction and if she left her desk for even a second, she would lose the kettle and her only chance to make Hannah smile again would be lost with it.
She had waited fifteen years to mend fences with her mother. Another fifteen minutes wouldn’t hurt.