About Starlight on Willow Lake
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Mira (August 25, 2015)
Join #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs on a journey to a charming Catskills town that feels like home and where a cast of brilliantly drawn characters awaits in a poignant story of reconciliation and the healing power of love.
Mason Bellamy’s world is fast, loud and decorated with the most extreme risks. Nothing can tempt him to give up his high-rolling Manhattan life and high-maintenance girlfriend—not even family. When he’s called home to upstate Avalon to help his quadriplegic mother in her deepest time of need, he sets his mind on temporary, determined to craft a way to care for her from a distance.
Alice Hayes is supposed to be his best solution. Hiring the gentle-hearted yet struggling caregiver as a live-in nurse gives Alice and her two daughters shelter, his mother companionship and Mason the freedom to escape to his adrenaline-pumped, no-attachments routine. But Alice’s beautiful presence promises to repair Mason’s frayed family ties. And his unstoppable attraction to Alice could lead to the most exhilarating thrill of his life.
“Wiggs’s storytelling is heartwarming… [for] romance and women’s fiction readers of any age.”—Publishers Weekly
Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America.
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Shit.” Faith McCallum stabbed a finger at the keyboard of the ancient hand-me-down laptop. “Come on, you son of a bitch, work for me one last time.”
The job posting had finally brought results. As her email had flashed past, she’d seen the subject line: “Response to your posting.” But the moment she’d clicked on it, the damn thing had gone into blue-screen meltdown.
She had rebooted, but now the computer screen was frozen on its opening page—daily devotions for diabetics. Today’s thought was particularly annoying. Leap, and the net will appear.
Faith had done her share of leaping but so far, she hadn’t accomplished anything but a bumpy landing. Leap of faith. Ha ha.
She got up in frustration, went outside and refilled the cat’s water dish. It wasn’t her cat. It wasn’t even her dish, for that matter. The stray had started coming around a few weeks ago; it wouldn’t let anyone near it, so Faith named it Fraidy and put out food and water under the stoop.
Returning to the computer, she stared for a moment at the still-frozen screen, then tried clicking the link to the job posting site she had been checking three times a day, without fail. Her search for a new position was getting desperate. The home health care agency she had been working for hadn’t sent anything her way in three months. Even when they did find work for her, the outfit didn’t pay her enough to sustain a pet gerbil, let alone two growing daughters. Faith was already two months behind on the rent, and the place was under new management.
In desperation, she had posted her résumé on every home health aide job site she could find, hoping to negotiate a living wage on her own rather than going through yet another agency that helped itself to a hefty percentage of her wages.
Finally, the sluggish browser responded. The mobile home park’s “free” Wi-Fi unfurled at leaden speed. She usually got several chores done while waiting for a page to load.
“Mo-oo-om!” Faith’s younger daughter, Ruby, stretched the word to several whiny syllables. The little girl stomped inside, slamming the door open wide. The impact caused the rented double-wide to shudder. “Cara forgot to wait for me at the bus. And she stole my lunch ticket—again.”
“Did not,” said Cara, following her younger sister into the room and flopping down on the tiny swaybacked sofa. With elaborate nonchalance, she opened her AP biology textbook.
“Then where did my lunch ticket go, huh?” Ruby demanded. She shrugged out of her backpack, depositing it on the built-in table.
“Who knows?” Cara asked without looking up. She twisted a strand of purple-dyed hair around her index finger.
“You know,” Ruby said, “because you stold it.”
“Stole,” Cara corrected her sister. “And I didn’t.”
“You’re the one who took it last time.”
“That was a month ago, and you were sick that day.”
“Did you eat anything for lunch?” Faith broke in, exasperated.
Ruby pulled her mouth into a pout that somehow made her look even more adorable than usual. Sometimes Faith believed Ruby’s cuteness was the only thing that kept her alive, she was so fragile. “Mrs. Geiger gave me half of her tuna fish sandwich and a carton of milk. And those yucky dried apple chips. I hate tuna fish. But then after school, Charlie O’Donnell gave me Bugles during soccer practice.”
Ruby had a little-girl crush on Charlie O’Donnell, an eighth-grader who helped coach the primary school soccer team.
“Get some water and sit down,” Faith said. “We’ll check your levels in a little bit.” A familiar knot of tension tightened inside her. Every day, Ruby’s type 1 diabetes brought a new worry, and a new challenge. She turned to Cara. “You’re supposed to wait for her at the bus stop.”
“How can you forget something you’re supposed to do every day?”
“She knows the way home.”
Faith suspected the real reason was that Cara didn’t want people to see where they lived. Lakeside Estates Motor Court wasn’t all bad, but no kid wanted to admit she lived in a trailer park. Despite its name, the place was not beside the lake, and it was far from an estate, but it was safe and close to the girls’ schools.
The page finally loaded, and Faith turned her attention to navigating her way to the job-posting response. Outside, the Guptas’ dog went crazy barking, heralding the daily arrival of the mailman in the central courtyard. Ruby, who was scared of dogs, cringed at the sound.
“I’ll go.” Cara shoved aside her homework and went to check the mail.
The response to Faith’s carefully worded posting, offering her services as a skilled caregiver, looked promising. She leaned toward the screen, her interest piqued. “We’re looking for an experienced individual to supervise all aspects of in-home care for a wheelchair-bound lady with a spinal cord injury. Salary and benefits package to include on-site living quarters.”
Okay, so maybe not. Faith and her girls couldn’t all fit into a closet-sized guest room in some woman’s house. Still, the position was right here in Avalon, which made it worth looking into, because the girls hated the idea of changing schools at the very end of the school year.
She wrote down the contact information in case the laptop crapped out again. Then she replied to the interview request, suggesting a meeting the following morning. Tomorrow was Saturday, so Cara would have to miss work at the bakery to watch Ruby, which meant squabbling, but that was too bad. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
Cara came in from the motor court, sorting through the mail. “Bills and junk,” she said.
“You were expecting maybe we’d won the Publishers Clearing House?”
Cara dropped the bills on the counter next to Faith and put the rest in the recycle bin at her feet.
Faith picked up a glossy brochure. “What is this from Johns Hopkins? It’s addressed to you.”