A Will and a Wedding

By: Judith Yates

grew up in a tiny New England town where she secretly wrote novels after school. After such an early start, she finds it ironic that she didn’t get around to “following her bliss” of writing professionally until after working for years in Boston and Washington, D.C., marrying and starting a family.

When she’s not busy writing and taking care of her two small children, Judith volunteers at local schools and enjoys speaking to young people about writing— especially those who are secretly working on novels after school.

Chapter One

Amy Riordan’s heart was at odds with her better judgment. The choice between facing the past and leaving well enough alone was tough. Very tough.

Explaining her final decision to her mother was no day at the beach, either.

“Mother, I have to go out there to take care of this. They’ve backed me into a corner.”

Amy gazed across the polished mahogany table at her mother as the maid cleared the remains of another oh-soelegant yet dull Windom Thanksgiving dinner.

“Oh, honestly. You don’t have to deal with anyone you don’t want to,” Joan Holt Riordan Windom insisted, her manicured hand rapping the table in emphasis. “Certainly not that woman and her daughters.”

Joan’s objections came as no surprise. Still, Amy was relieved her mother had managed to hold her tongue until after the others had tottered off to the living room for dessert and coffee. Hearing the unsolicited opinions of her aging stepfamily was the last thing she needed.

“According to the lawyers, that woman and her daughters were like family to my father.” More family to him than she’d ever been.

“Then Gregory should’ve left that entire godforsaken inn to them in his will, instead of tangling you up in this ridiculous legal snare. Why would you want part ownership?” Joan said, her voice edgy with indignation. “Even without your business, you’d have no financial worries—and Greg knew that!”

Why, indeed? It was the question Amy had been asking herself often in the months since she’d been notified of her father’s death and the terms of his will. Why had he left her a half interest in the renovated old inn nestled deep in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia?

She hadn’t seen Gregory Riordan since her mother had divorced him when Amy was six years old. For a while, she’d heard from him twice a year—with a card and a ten-dollar bill on her birthday and at Christmas. But never a phone call or a visit. In time, her memory of her father had grown so vague she could recall only a gruffsounding laugh gentled by sparkly blue eyes, and long, strong arms that would lift her onto the backyard tree swing. Then he had pushed her to exhilarating heights and they had played Touch the Blue Sky, a singsong game he’d made up especially for her.

“Someday you’ll touch the blue sky, Amy sprite,” he would call over her delighted giggles. “The elves will shower you with luck when you touch the blue sky.”

By the time she was twelve, however, the cards had stopped coming. Save for that one enchanting memory, her father, for all intents and purposes, had disappeared from her life.

Her mother had had little to say about it except that she wasn’t surprised. Her stepfather, Thomas Windom, had tried to explain—in his well-intentioned way—about men who drifted through life, incapable of family responsibilities. “Men like Greg Riordan can’t be counted on,” Thomas had cautioned. “You may never hear from him again.”

Yet Amy did hear from Greg—years later, after she’d emerged from a stormy adolescence and was living away from home for the first time. She’d been in the throes of an important college romance when Greg had sent a letter, via Joan, announcing he’d just achieved a lifelong dream. He’d purchased an old fifteen-room inn in Tremont, Virginia, less than two hours from the Windom home in Washington. He had big plans for renovating it, and he had invited Amy to come see the inn—and him— whenever she wanted.

Whenever she wanted?

Her father hadn’t been around all those years when she’d really needed him. And then he’d chosen to reappear when life was exciting and bursting with new possibilities. Was she supposed to be thrilled? Amy had waffled for weeks over how—or if—to respond. But when her mother had revealed that Greg had settled down at the inn with a woman who had two teenage daughters of her own, Amy’s resentment intensified into anger and hurt. Clearly Greg Riordan didn’t need her in his life, and with all the callow presumptuousness of a nineteen-yearold, she had concluded she didn’t need him. Not ever.

These days, at age thirty-one, sadder but wiser after a frustrating string of relationships, Amy realized Greg could have been reaching out to her with that letter, trying to reconnect. Maybe he hadn’t been looking for a handout, as her mother had suspected. But then, why had he tried only once? Why hadn’t he tried harder? For now all she had left of him was the special memory of their private game, Touch the Blue Sky. And, of course, the inn

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