Rose Harbor in Bloom

by Debbie Macomber

Book Details

Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Published: August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover, e-Book, Audiobook, Large Print
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ISBN13: 978-0-345-52893-3
Pages: 336
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About the Book

Paperback on Sale July 29, 2014
Hailed as “the reigning queen of women’s fiction” (The Sacramento Bee), #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber is renowned for her novels of love, friendship, and the promise of fresh starts.

Now Macomber returns to the charming Rose Harbor Inn, where each guest finds a second chance and every room comes with an inspiring new view.

Since moving to Cedar Cove, Jo Marie Rose has truly started to feel at home, and her neighbors have become her closest friends. Now it’s springtime, and Jo Marie is eager to finish the most recent addition to her inn. In memory of her late husband, Paul, she has designed a beautiful rose garden for the property and enlisted handyman Mark Taylor to help realize it. She and Mark don’t always see eye-to-eye—and at times he seems far removed—yet deep down, Jo Marie finds great comfort in his company. And while she still seeks a sense of closure, she welcomes her latest guests, who are on their own healing journeys.

Annie Newton arrives in town to orchestrate her grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. While Annie is excited for the festivities, she’s struggling to move on from her broken engagement, and her grandparents themselves seem to be having trouble getting along. Worse, Annie is forced to see Oliver Sutton, with whom she grew up and who has always mercilessly teased her. But the best parties end with a surprise, and Annie is in for the biggest one of all.

High-powered businesswoman Mary Smith, another Rose Harbor Inn guest, has achieved incredible success in her field, yet serious illness has led her to face her sole, lingering regret. Almost nineteen years ago, she ended her relationship with her true love, George Hudson, and now she’s returned to Cedar Cove to make amends.

Compassion and joy await Jo Marie, Annie, and Mary as they make peace with their pasts and look boldly toward their futures. Rose Harbor in Bloom is Debbie Macomber at her heartwarming best.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Rose Harbor was in bloom. Purple rhododendrons and red azaleas dotted the property. I stood  on the porch, leaning against  the thick white post, and looked over the property for my bed-and-breakfast. The Inn at Rose Harbor was  beautifully scripted  on  the  wooden sign and  was prominently displayed in the front  of the yard  along with my name,  Jo Marie  Rose, as proprietor.

I never  planned on  owning  or  operating a bed-and-breakfast. But then I never expected  to be a widow  in my thirties, either.  If I’d learned  anything in this road  called life it’s that it often takes unexpected turns,  rerouting us from the very path that had once seemed so right.  My friends  advised  me against  purchasing the inn.  They felt the move was too drastic:  it meant  more than  just moving  and leaving my job; it would  mean an entire life change. Many  thought I should  wait at least a year after losing Paul. But my friends  were wrong. I’d found  peace at the inn, and somewhat to my surprise, a certain  contentment.

Until  I purchased the  inn,  I’d lived in a condo  in the  heart  of downtown Seattle.  Because of my job and  other  responsibilities, I hadn’t  had pets, well, other  than  as a youngster. But shortly  after I moved  to Cedar  Cove I got Rover.  In only a few short  months, I’d grown  especially  fond  of him;  he’d become  my shadow, my constant  companion.

Rover  was a rescue dog I’d gotten  through Grace  Harding, the Cedar  Cove librarian. Grace  volunteered at the local animal  shelter,  and  she’d recommended I adopt a dog.  I thought I wanted a German shepherd. Instead  I’d come home  with  this indiscriminate mixed-breed short-haired mutt.  The shelter had dubbed him Rover because  it was  clear  he’d been  on  his own,  roaming about for  a good long time.

My  musings   were  interrupted by  mutterings  from   the  area where  I planned to plant  a rose  garden  and  eventually add  a gazebo. The sound  came from  Mark Taylor, the handyman I’d hired to construct the sign that  stood  in the front  yard.

Mark was an interesting character. I’d given him plenty of work, but  I had  yet to figure out  if he considered me a friend.  He acted like my friend  most  of the time, but then  every so often  he turned into  a grumpy, unlikable, cantankerous, unreasonable . . . the list went on.

“What’s up?”  I called out. “Nothing,” he barked back.

Apparently, the ill-tempered monster had returned.

Months ago  I’d asked  Mark to  dig up  a large  portion of the yard for a rose garden. He’d told me this project  would  be low on his priority list. He  seemed  to work  on it when  the mood  struck him, which unfortunately wasn’t  often,  but still I thought a month or two would  be adequate in between  the other  projects  he’d done for me. To be fair to Mark, though, it’d been a harsh  winter. Still, my  expectations  hadn’t   been   met.   I’d  wanted  the  rosebushes planted by now.  I’d so hoped  to have the garden  in full bloom  in time  for  the  open  house  I planned to  host  for  the  Cedar  Cove Chamber of Commerce. The problem, or at least one of them,  was the fact that  Mark was a perfectionist. He must have taken  a week simply to measure  the yard. String and chalk markings crisscrossed from  one end of the freshly  mowed  lawn  to the other. Yes, Mark had insisted  on mowing  it first before  he measured.

Normally,  I’m  not  this  impatient, but  enough   was  enough. Mark was  a  skilled  handyman. I  had  yet  to  find  anything  he couldn’t do.  He was an all-purpose kind  of guy, and  most  of the time I felt lucky to have him around. It seemed as time progressed I found  more and more small jobs that  required his attention.

New  to this business  and  not  so handy  myself, I needed  someone I could rely on to make minor repairs. As a result, the plans for the rose garden  had basically  been ignored  until the very last minute. At the rate  Mark worked, I’d resigned  myself to the fact that it wasn’t  possible  for it to be ready  before  Sunday  afternoon.

I watched as he straightened and  wiped  his forearm across  his brow.  Looking up,  he seemed  to  notice  I was  still watching him from the porch. “You  going to complain again?” he demanded.

“I didn’t say a word.” Reading  his mood, I forced myself to bite my tongue  before I said something to set him off. All Mark needed was  one  derogatory word  from  me as an  excuse  to  leave for  the day.

“You  didn’t need to say anything,” Mark grumbled. “I can read frowns, too.”

Rover  raised  his head  at Mark’s  less-than-happy tone  and  then looked  back  at me as though he expected  me to return the verbal volley. I couldn’t help being disappointed, and it would  have been easy to  follow  through with  a few well-chosen words.  Instead, I smiled ever so sweetly,  determined to hold  my tongue. All I could say was that  it was a good thing Mark charged  by the job and not by the hour.

“Just  say what’s  on your mind,” he insisted.

“I thought I’d told you I wanted the rose garden  planted before I held the open house,” I said, doing my level best not to show my frustration.

“You  might have mentioned this earlier,  then,” he snapped. “I did.”

“Clearly it slipped  my mind.”

“Well,   don’t  get  your  dander up.”   It  wasn’t  worth fighting about at this late date.  The invitations were mailed,  and the event, ready  or  not,  was  scheduled for  this  very weekend. It would  be nothing short  of a miracle if Mark finished before then. No need to get upset about it now.

Actually,  I was as much  at fault  for this delay as Mark. Often before he ever started work,  I’d invite him in for coffee. I’d discovered that  he was as interesting as he was prickly.  Perhaps  most surprising of all was that  he’d become  one of my closest friends  in Cedar  Cove, so naturally I wanted to find out what  I could  about him. The problem was he wasn’t much of a talker. I’d learned  more about him  while  playing  Scrabble  than  in conversation. He  was smart  and competitive, and he had a huge vocabulary.

Even  now,  after  five months, he avoided  questions and  never talked  about anything personal. I didn’t  know  if he’d  ever  been married or if he had  family  in the area.  Despite  all our  conversa- tions,  most of what  I knew about him I’d deduced  on my own.  He lived alone. He didn’t like talking  on the phone,  and he had a sweet tooth. He tended  to be a perfectionist, and  he took  his own  sweet time on a project. That  was the sum total  of everything  I’d learned about a man I saw on average four or five times a week. He seemed to enjoy our chats,  but I wasn’t fooled.  It wasn’t my wit and charm that  interested him—it  was  the  cookies  that  often  accompanied our visits. If I hadn’t  been so curious  about him he probably would have gone straight to work.  Well, from this point  forward I would be too busy for what  I called our coffee break.

Grumbling under  his breath, Mark returned to digging  up the grass  and  stacking  squares  of it around the  edges of the  cleared space. He cut away each section as if he was serving up precise portions of wedding cake.

Despite  my frustration with the delay and his persnickety ways, I continued to lean against  the porch  column  and watch  him work. The day was bright  and  sunny.  I wasn’t  about to let all that  sun- shine  go to  waste.  Window washing, especially  the  outside  ones, was one of my least favorite  tasks,  but  it needed  to be done.  I figured there  was no time like the present.

The  hot  water   had  turned lukewarm by  the  time  I dipped   the sponge  into the plastic  bucket. Glancing  up at the taller  windows, I exhaled  and dragged  the ladder  closer to the side of the house.  If Paul  were  alive,  I realized,  he’d be the  one  climbing  the  ladder. I shook  my head to remind  myself that  if Paul were alive I wouldn’t own this inn or be living in Cedar  Cove in the first place.

Sometimes  I wondered if Paul would  even recognize the woman I’d become in the last year. I wore my thick,  dark  hair much longer these days. Most  of the time I tied it at the base of my neck with a scrunchie. My hair, which had always been professionally groomed for the office, had  grown  to the point  that  when  I let it hang  free, the tendrils  bounced against  the top of my shoulders.

Mark, who rarely commented on anything, made a point  of letting me know  I looked  like I was still a teenager. I took  it as a compliment, although I was fairly certain  that  wasn’t  his intent. I doubt Mark has spent much time around women, because he could make  the  rudest  comments and  hardly  seem aware  of what  he’d said.

My  hairstyle wasn’t  the  only  change  in my appearance. Gone were  the crisp  business  suits,  pencil  skirts,  and  fitted  jackets  that were  the  customary uniform for  my position at  the  bank. These days it was mostly  jeans and  a sweater beneath a bib apron. One of the surprises  of owning  the inn was how  much  I enjoyed  cooking and baking. I often spent the mornings in my kitchen  whipping up a batch  of this  or that.  Until  I purchased the inn there  hadn’t been  much  opportunity to  create  elaborate meals.  These  days  I found  I could  read  a recipe book  with  the same rapture as a New York Times  bestseller.  Baking distracts me and provides afternoon treats  for my guests and wonderful muffins and breads  I take such pride in serving for the breakfasts. I’d put on a few pounds, too, no thanks to all the baking  I did, but I was working on losing weight. Thankfully, my favorite  jeans still fit.

Some days  I paused, wondering if Paul  would  know  the  new me—mainly  because   I  didn’t   recognize   myself  any  longer.   I’d changed, which  I suppose  was only natural. My entire  world  had been set upside  down.

After  dipping  the  sponge  in the  soapy  water, I headed  up  the first three steps of the ladder, ready to wash off several months’ accumulation of dirt and grime. I wrinkled my nose at the pungent scent of vinegar,  which  my mother had recommended for cleaning windows. Unfortunately, I failed  to  write  down  the  proportions. Seeing that  it was a big bucket, I emptied  half a bottle  into the hot water. At this point,  my bucket  smelled more like a pickle barrel.

“What are you doing?” Mark shouted from across  the yard. “What does it look  like I’m doing?” I asked,  refusing  to let his bad  mood  rile me. Being Mark’s  friend  required more  than  a fair share of patience.

He stabbed the pitchfork into the grass and marched across the lawn  toward me like a soldier  heading  into  battle.  A thick  dark frown  marred his face. “Get  down  from there.”

I remained frozen  on the third  step. “Excuse  me?”  This had  to be some kind of joke.

“You  heard  me.”

I stared  at  him  in disbelief.  No  way  was  I going  to  let Mark dictate  what  I could  and couldn’t do on my own property.

“Ladders are dangerous,” he said,  his fists digging  into  his hip bones.

I  simply  ignored   him,  climbed   up  one  additional step,  and started to wash the window.

“Don’t you  know  sixty  percent  of all home  accidents  involve someone  falling off a ladder?”

“I hadn’t  heard  that,  but I do know  sixty percent  of all statistics are made  up on the spot.” I thought my retort would  amuse  him. It didn’t.  If anything, his frown  grew deeper and darker.

“You  shouldn’t be on  that  ladder. For  the  love of heaven,  Jo Marie, be sensible.”

“Me?” If anyone  was being unreasonable, it was Mark. “It’s dangerous up there.”

“Do  you  suggest  a safety  net?”  He  made  it sound  as if I was walking  along  a window ledge on the fifty-ninth floor  of a sixty- story building  instead  of on a stepladder.

Mark didn’t answer  my question. He pinched  his lips into a taut line. “I don’t want  to argue  about this.”

“Good, let’s not.  I’m washing  windows, so you can go back  to planting my rose garden.”

“No,” he insisted. “No?”

“I’m  staying  right  here  until  you  give up  this  foolishness and come down  from there.”

I heaved  an expressive  sigh. Mark was treating me like I was in kindergarten instead  of like a woman who was fully able of taking care of herself. “I suppose  I should  be grateful  you’re concerned.” “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “For  all I care you could  break your  fool  neck,  but  I just  don’t  want  to be around to see it happen.”

“How kind of you,” I muttered, unable  to keep the sarcasm  out of my voice. His attitude as much  as his words  irritated me, so I ignored  him and continued washing  the windows. When I was satisfied the  top  two  were  clean,  I carefully  backed  down  the  rungs just to prove I was capable of being cautious. Mark had his hands braced  on the ladder, holding  it steady.

“Are  you  still here?”  I asked.  I knew  darn  good  and  well he was.

Again he ignored  the question.

“I’m  not  paying  you  to stand  around and  watch  me work,”  I reminded him.

He narrowed his eyes into slits. “Fine,  then.  I quit.” I didn’t believe him. “No, you don’t.”

Within  seconds  he was  off  the  porch  and  stalking  across  the yard,  every step punctuated with irritation.

I jumped  down  the  last  two  rungs  and  followed  him.  I don’t usually  lose my temper, but he was pushing  all the wrong  buttons with me. I’m far too independent to have anyone, especially a man, dictate  what  I could  and couldn’t do.

“You  can’t quit,” I told him. “And  you certainly can’t leave my yard torn  up like this.”

Mark acted  as though he hadn’t  heard  a word  I’d said. Instead he gathered his pitchfork and  other  tools,  most  of which  he’d left in the grass.

“We have a contract,” I reminded him. “So sue me.”

“Fine, I will . . . I’ll have my attorney contact you first thing in the morning.” I didn’t  have an attorney, but  I hoped  the threat of one would  shake Mark up enough  to realize how foolish he was behaving. I should  have known better;  Mark didn’t so much as blink.

Rover  followed  me across  the lawn  and  remained at my side. I couldn’t believe Mark. After all these months he was ready to walk away over something completely asinine.  It made no sense.

With  his pitchfork and  shovel  in one hand  and  his toolbox in the other  he started to leave, then  seemed to change  his mind,  because he abruptly turned back.

I moved  one step forward, grateful  he’d come to his senses. “Give your lawyer  my cell phone  number.”

“Yeah, right.  You forget to carry it half the time, and if you do, the battery is low.”

“Whatever. Give your attorney the number to my business  line, seeing that  you’re so hot to sue me.”

“I’ll do that.” My back went rigid as Mark stalked  off the property. I looked  down  at Rover,  who’d cocked his head to one side as if he, too,  found  it difficult to understand what  had just happened and why. He wasn’t  the only one.

“He isn’t worth the angst,” I advised my dog, and then, because I was  half  afraid  Rover  might  be  tempted to  run  after  Mark,  I squatted down  and  patted his head.  “Everything takes  ten  times longer  than  he estimates, anyway.” Raising  my voice in the hopes that  Mark would  hear me, I added, “Good riddance.”

I stood  back  up  and  remained in the  middle  of my yard  until Mark was completely out of view. Then and only then did I allow my shoulders to sag with defeat.

This was nuts.  Barely an hour  earlier  we’d been sipping  coffee and tea on the porch, and now I was threatening Mark with a lawsuit. And the way I felt right then,  he deserved  it.

Returning to my window washing, I was so agitated that  I scrubbed and washed  the glass until the shine nearly  blinded  me. I finished in record  time, the muscles in my upper  arms aching from the vigorous  scrubbing I’d done.  For half a second  I was tempted to  contact Mark and  let  him  know  I’d survived  this  dangerous feat  but  then  thought better  of  it.  He  would  have  to  apologize to  me  because  he’d  been  way  off  base,  treating me  like  I  was a child.

My  apologizing to  him  simply  wasn’t  going  to  happen. But I knew  him well enough  to realize how  stubborn he could  be. If he said he wasn’t  coming  back,  then I had to believe he meant  it.

My anger carried  me all the way into the evening. I didn’t want to admit  it, but the truth was I would  miss Mark. I’d sort of grown accustomed to having  him stop  by every so often,  if for no other reason  than  coffee. He offered  great  feedback  on the cookies  and other  items I baked. We’d grown  comfortable with  each other. He was  a friend,  nothing more,  and  I appreciated that  we could  be simply that:  friends.

In an effort  to distract myself,  I emptied  the dirty  wash  water from  the bucket  in the laundry-room sink,  rinsed  out  the sponge, and set it out to dry, and then went into my small office.

I had  guests  arriving  this  weekend, which  was  the  good  news and the bad news. The first name I saw on the list was for the mys- terious  Mary Smith. I took  the reservation shortly  after taking  over the inn, and it had stayed  in my mind.  Mary  had sounded unsure, hesitant, as if she wasn’t  sure she was doing  the right  thing  booking this room.

A party  had booked the inn as well. The original  call had come in  from  Kent  Shivers,  who  hadn’t  sounded the  least  bit  excited about all this hoopla his family had planned for him. Kent and his wife, Julie, were about to celebrate  their  fiftieth wedding anniver- sary  by renewing  their  vows.  Other room  reservations had  been added  at later  dates,  all from  family  members. Seven of my eight rooms  were booked for Saturday.

Only one of the guests would  be here through Sunday  evening, though, and  that  was  Mary  Smith.  Remembering her  hesitation, I’d half  wondered if she’d  cancel  at  the  last  minute, but  to  this point  I hadn’t  heard  otherwise. Her room  was made up and ready.

I didn’t  have much  of an appetite for dinner  and  ate chips and salsa,  which  wasn’t  anything I’d normally choose.  Because  I was restless and at loose ends I decided  to bake  peanut-butter cookies, one of my favorites. It wasn’t  until they were cooling  on the coun- tertop that  I remembered they were Mark’s  favorite, too.

Rover  curled  up on the rug in front  of the refrigerator, one of his favorite  spots. He seemed content, but I was restless, pacing the kitchen, and  then  a short  while  later  moving  from  one  room  to another. Once in my private  quarters, I tried to knit, but I ended up making  one  mistake  after  another and  finally  stuffed  the  project back  into  the basket. Television  didn’t  hold  my interest, either.  A book  I’d found  fascinating just the night before  bored  me now.

I might  as well admit  it. All this fidgeting  was due to my argu- ment  with  Mark. In retrospect I wished  I’d handled the situation differently.  But  really,  what   could   I  have  done?   Mark  seemed bound and  determined to argue  with  me. He  was  the one  who’d gone  completely off his rocker. Oh,  great,  now  I was  thinking in clichés, but it was true—our clash of wills was all due to his being high-handed and completely unreasonable.

Really, who else would  go ballistic over something so ridiculous as washing  windows because I chose to stand  on a stepladder? He’d been rude,  demanding, and  utterly  irrational. I wasn’t  putting up with that.  Not  from him; not from anyone.

Still, it saddened me that  it had come to this.

Rover  lifted his head  from  his spot in front  of the fireplace and then rested his chin on his paws.

“Just  think  of all the money  I’ll save in flour and  sugar,” I said in a weak attempt at making  a joke.

It felt flat even to my own ears.

Okay,  I’d admit  it. I was going to miss Mark.