Making It Right

By: Kathy Altman

CHAPTER ONE

“THAT’S FAR ENOUGH.”

Kerry Endicott lifted her gaze from the graveled path and stared into the scowling face of the man she’d traveled five hundred miles to see.

“You need to leave,” he continued, his tone curt. “Now.”

The man who obviously had no interest in seeing her.

Even after all this time.

After all she’d been through.

A cold, quiet curl of hurt lodged in her chest. But what did she expect, after what she’d done?

Kerry drew in a slow breath and gazed mutely over his shoulder, at a trio of Quonset huts. Shadowed rows of hanging baskets inside each plastic-wrapped structure accounted for the rich odor of damp earth delivered by a teasing April breeze. Weathered outbuildings and shrubs with spindly arms bowed by the weight of sunshine-yellow blooms dotted the property around the huts. To the right of the driveway, at the crest of a long, gentle slope, sat a two-story farmhouse, its plain white exterior brightened by apricot shutters. To the left, the backdrop of feathery pines gave way to vivid green Pennsylvania farmland and a horizontal strip of blue that had to be Lake Erie.

This place—Castle Creek Growers—was much nicer than he’d described. Then again, that last mention had been more than two years ago. They’d talked only once after that, when she’d begged him to visit her. He hadn’t even hemmed and hawed. Just offered a naked no.

“It’s beautiful here,” she said.

He took a hesitant step forward. Kerry held her breath. Then a woman called his name from inside one of the huts and he pushed out his chin and widened his stance, as if prepping to protect the owner of the voice.

From Kerry.

She tightened her grip on the keys in her right hand and a sudden staccato blare made her jump. Her heart flung itself into a slam dance. Car alarm. Chill. Stones skittered as she whirled toward the driveway and fumbled to press the panic button again on her fob.

Finally, silence. An echo pulsed in her ears, but it wasn’t the rhythmic shriek of the alarm.

“You need to leave,” he’d said.

Slowly she turned back to face him. “Dad,” she croaked, half greeting, half protest. “Aren’t you going to say hello?” No response. Her cheeks heated and her eyes burned. “I’ve been driving all day,” she said thickly.

His gray-blue eyes had gone hard. “No one asked you to.”

God. She’d known this would be tough. She just hadn’t expected it to be this tough.

A door slammed. A girl in jeans and a pink sweatshirt clomped down the porch steps. His boss’s daughter? Nicole? No. Natalie. As she jogged around the side of the house, she aimed a curious glance at Kerry.

“You’re late” came the gruff words from Kerry’s father.

The girl’s gaze moved to the older man. “Can’t help it. Mom made muffins. Growing bones and all that. Banana chocolate chip. Too bad I didn’t save you any.” With a smart-alecky grin and one last glance at Kerry, she took off across the yard, toward the nearest Quonset hut, brown hair bouncing on her shoulders.

Harris Briggs’s snort bore more affection than pique. “If she thinks she’s going to eat all the muffins and get out of snail duty, too, she has another think coming.”

“What’s snail duty?”

The indulgence on his face dimmed and his gaze dipped to Kerry’s ankles. He wouldn’t be able to see anything, since the hem of her dark gray pants reached nearly to the toes of her high-heeled boots.

“Been six months already?” he asked, almost idly.

“All things considered, time went a little slower for me.”

He grunted. “I have to get back to work. Anyways, the answer is no.”

She stuffed her hands into the pockets of her light wool jacket to keep from yanking at her hair. “I haven’t asked a question.”

“You didn’t come all this way just to show off your bare ankle. You should have saved your gas money. I’m done opening my wallet for you.”

“I didn’t come to borrow money. I came to return it.”

Her father, a former marine with more hair in his eyebrows than on his head, folded his brawny arms across his chest and waited. Good grief, he looked even more intimidating than she remembered. But she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

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