Olivia Michaels, a realtor in search of her own dream home and a way out of her parents’ attic, takes on a client who can help get her that much closer to affording her freedom. Little does she know that it isn’t the perfect home that she finds but through Wesley Pierce she manages to find herself. And maybe, if she’s capable of taking the leap, she might even manage to find love.
This novel, not unlike its predecessor in the Rider series, The Wanderer, is not a story about life altering suspense and mystery or a love that seemed impossible from the very start. Instead, this story is of love in its purest form. In life it isn’t mystery and excitement that drive our hearts but trepidation and the moment in which we all decide to jump unguarded into the arms of another.
For as long as she could remember, the two things Olivia Michaels wanted was to be a successful lawyer and to live in a log cabin like the ones she had seen featured in Cabin Life Magazine.
Rolling off of the blow-up mattress set up in her parents’ attic she began to doubt that either would ever happen. In fact, her dream had shifted considerable since graduating from law school when her career goals took an abrupt change in course. Her new digs, however, pushed her that much closer towards fantasies of a stone fireplace and a loft that overlooked the living room.
Propped up beside the wanna-be-bed, as if to mock her, sat her law degree from George Mason University in an old barn wood frame. Tucked inside a plastic sleeve, appearing to be no more than an ordinary piece of paper, her realtor license leaned up against the glass of the brilliantly displayed Masters.
Life, as her favorite quote by John Lennon went, is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
The partially finished attic, despite the premise of living in a room intended for storage, had been painted a warm teal color with antique lace curtains that hung in front of the single window. Olivia’s collection of old blue mason jars lined the windowsill with sprigs of eucalyptus and dried lavender arranged in each, emitting a soft sweet smell that filled the room with a soothing aroma.
Draped over the double-high blow-up were a set of teal jersey sheets and a purple patchwork quilt with matching pillow shams. At the end of the bed sat a ruffled antique white afghan with long fluffy fringe.
Aside from the subtle splash of rustic décor the rest of Olivia’s belongings, apart from an antique dresser full of clothes, remained unpacked. Though it had already been almost three months of living back home with her parents, she was determined that it would remain only a temporary arrangement.
Tip toeing around the black and tan mass of dog that rested at the side of the bed, Olivia collected her hamper and heaved it up into her arms, being careful not to straighten completely and bump her head on the slanted ceiling. At her movement the Rottweiler’s big weighted head attempted to rise from the old wood floorboards.
“Its okay, Melon, I’m just doing a load of laundry before our walk. Stay put.”
The dog’s eyes squinted and he opened his wide jaw to moisten his dry tongue with a few lazy laps of his tongue before resting his head back down.
“Good boy,” she cooed then slipped her feet into an old pair of flip flops and descended the steps.
“Sweety?” a muffled voice called from down the hall, “is that you?”
Poking her head into her parents’ bedroom Olivia smiled sweetly. “Morning, mom. Just doing some laundry.”
Her mother, a slender woman with hair that was once as golden as her own, dulled with age, lay curled up in the crook of her husband’s right arm. Olivia’s father, still fast asleep, had his arm delicately wrapped around her shoulder. The sight, agelessly romantic any other day, made her heart ache now.
Jerry had broken things off after spending their entire college career together, completely inseparable. When she’d renounced her dream of becoming the Erin Brockovich of Binghamton, Virginia he all but kicked her to the curb. In the end it shouldn’t have surprised her; he’d called her crazy when she began showing an interest in real estate. Add to that the fact that he preferred Italian brick to rustic log and it was pretty clear that their romance had been doomed from the start.
“I never know if it’s you or that horse you insist on calling a dog coming down those stairs,” she said with good humor. “I’ve started up so many conversations with Melon thinking he was you that I half-expect your father to put me in a home.”
“I’m sorry,” Olivia said with a giggle. “The stairs creek a little. I hope it doesn’t wake you.”
“Don’t be silly, Sweetie, it’s no problem. I must ask though, why do you insist on living up there? You know the spare bedroom is all yours when you’re ready to move down from that spider infested hole-in-the-wall attic.”
Olivia shivered at the thought of spiders in her bed. “Mom, we like it up there. Besides, you know it’s not permanent.”
The words never left her lips but her mother smiled sadly as if to give her condolences for the hundredth time for having to move back home after fleeing the nest. Now, with her wings clipped, Olivia was starting over. She’d managed to put a good sized chunk of money away in the bank but until she found her dream house, she was determined to keep her feet planted in the dusty old attic, settling for no less than the home of her dreams. Considering her location and occupation it was only a matter of time. There were plenty of log homes in the area and if she was patient the one meant just for her was sure to go on the market and present itself to her.
Or at least that was the hope.
With her darks sloshing around in the washing machine Olivia called Melon down from the attic and began fixing his breakfast. With all one-hundred and twenty pounds of him seated in the kitchen, his uncharacteristically long tail wagging happily against the floor, he waited patiently as she finished up.
Melon scarffed down his food, Olivia downed an apple fritter and some coffee, then they headed out for their morning walk.
It was late March and the air already gave promise for a long and hot summer ahead. Birds chirped happily and bugs filled the air with their steady hum. Though the weather was uncharacteristically warm she couldn’t say that she minded. The winter had been wet, cold, and rainy and any snow that had turned up had been heavy and wet. She would probably wish away the strange warm weather once it became unbearably hot but for now she was happy to take advantage of it.
Making their way down the sidewalk they headed for the cemetery, Olivia’s favorite place to walk Melon. When she’d attended the university she had taken up walking through the neighboring cemeteries for their peacefulness; Arlington being among her favorites.
When she had gotten Melon, against Jerry’s persistent objections, she found that walking him in heavily populated areas often lead to more frustration than relaxation. Pedestrians would grow wide-eyed as she and Melon ambled toward them as if they were sure to be eaten. Some even went as far as to risk dodging traffic to make it over to the other side of the street. In general she found the company of the dearly departed much more soothing. Among the gravestones she found peace, a place to clear her mind and think with little distraction.
As they walked beneath the wide stone archway of Binghamton Cemetery a cool breeze picked up, complimenting the warm kiss of the morning sun against her skin. Dressed in a loose fitting pale pink shirt and cutoff denim shorts Olivia knew that by the end of the walk she’d be sweating generously. With Melon’s black leash secured around her wrist she took a hair tie and pulled her long honey colored hair up into a loose ponytail.
The paths in the cemetery were many, some more pronounced than others with a solid path of white quartz pebbles. Others, hidden among the tree-scattered hills, were made of no more than heavily traveled maintenance vehicle tracks carves into the grass. The headstones varied as well. Some, dating all the way back to the civil war, were chipped and faded over time. Other headstones, smooth and polished, donned signs of frequent and recent visitors. Fresh flowers and small religious statues were delicately arranged at their base.
As Olivia walked along the path, covered by small patches of shade cast by the tall pines that littered the cemetery, she took in a long and savory breath. Jerry thought it was a strange practice to walk through cemeteries and doubted that she really felt as at peace as she claimed. He always refused when she invited him along.
As she walked she couldn’t help but think of him and how wrong he’d been to say that the setting was even remotely depressing. The way the sun beat down, already warming the soft breeze; it was as if she was the only person in the world.
This time of day, around ten o’clock, Olivia was very often the only guest in the cemetery. It wasn’t uncommon for her to feel, if only for the duration of her walk, that she was in fact completely alone with her thoughts.
Most often her thoughts drifting from one frivolous thing to another. Very often by the time she left she couldn’t quite recall what she’d even been thinking about in the time she’d been walking. In a way the thoughts were sacred and remained in the cemetery to await her return.
As Olivia continued along, enjoying the solitude, she noticed a quick brush of color against the faded surroundings up ahead. Another visitor making their way through the graves. She reined Melon in from lifting his leg to a previous dog’s territory, wanting to show her respects to the stranger if in fact they were visiting a loved one. Most often she saw other people out enjoying the quiet paths as she did, walking their dog or jogging through. However, on the off chance that someone was in fact grieving a loss she did her best to keep Melon from defacing the grounds.
Making their way over the hill that the streak of dark blue had vanished behind, Olivia felt her breath hitch in her throat as she noticed a state trooper stop at the base of a headstone and remove his hat. She halted for a moment, automatically putting her fingers to her lips. Her heart twisted instinctively, certain that he wasn’t there simply to admire the view.
With a single red rose between his fingers the officer lowered into a squat and placed it on top of the headstone before him. Leaving his hand on the top he bowed his head in grievance. Though it was too far away to tell for certain, Olivia could swear that she saw his shoulders shutter with the onset of unadulterated tears as he cover his face with his other hand.
The path she was on cut right past where he stood and she was half-tempted to turn back and go another way. Feeling her throat constrict even more at the sadly heroic scene, she wasn’t sure it was her place to interrupt. As she considered her options Melon barked up at her, perplexed as to why they’d stopped moving.
In the same instant that she jumped with surprise the police officer turned his attention in their direction and stood up. Wiping roughly at the corners of his eyes she knew now that indeed that he had been crying. And she’d shattered his sacred moment of mourning in addition to managing a fair amount of humiliation of her own in the process.
Fearful of what he might do, as if he could haul her off to jail for ogling, Olivia shuffled forward. “Thanks a lot, Melon,” she scolded through the edges of her lips.
As they walked closer she wondered what she should say to the man, if anything at all. Standing up straight and still as a status the police officer continued to watch her, convincing her that the smart decision should have been to turn around and avoid the close proximity. No matter what the circumstance cops made her nervous and this one was no different. It didn’t help that he watched her curiously as the space between them shortened.
His dirty blonde hair, buzzed along the sides, glistened in the sun and she could see now that his eyes were a soft shade of blue. Tall and lean, he towered over her, surprising her with an unexpected smile and a tip of his hat. “Morning, ma’am.”
“Morning,” she replied shyly, averting her eyes from his glassy gaze as they passed.
He was younger than she had originally perceived him to be from a distance and she thought offhandedly that he was pretty cute. But what captivated her most, what drew her in and pulled at her curiosity as well as her heart, was the question of who he was visiting.
Once back home, preparing for one of the local open houses, Olivia’s thoughts continued to drift to the police officer in the cemetery and the resilient look in his cobalt blue eyes.
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