When Jasmine Walker returns to Legend after a fifteen-year absence—she doesn’t expect her troubled teenage past to collide with her well-planned, professional future.
Ms. Addie Bynum leaves something for Jasmine Walker in her will, and Jasmine returns to Legend to meet with the attorney about the estate. She learns she’s been left with the contents of a safety deposit box and a letter explaining Ms. Addie’s wishes. A letter with requests Jasmine may not be able to fulfill.
The thing is, Ms. Addie’s wishes do not align with Jasmine’s busy life in Atlanta. Neither does running into her old high school love, Jack Ackerman, who has his own requests from Ms. Addie.
A Tuesday in April, 2014
They say you can never go home again.
Jasmine Walker stepped out of her car, determined to focus on the positive aspects of the day, and then get out of Legend and back to Atlanta before nightfall. She sniffed at the crisp mountain air drifting into the valley from the Smokies, a hint of spruce and lingering wood smoke tickling her nostrils. The nights and mornings were still a bit cool, and even though it was approaching ten o’clock in the morning, the temperature was chilly. She pulled her jacket together and buttoned it.
The breeze played with her hair for a brief moment. Closing her eyes, she paused to let the essence of her hometown settle around her. She blinked, then moved out of the way and closed the car door. She headed for the sidewalk, turned, and scanned the town, glancing right and left.
Settling her gaze in the opposite direction from her destination, she searched just above the treetops, traveling the length of the street. Victorian shop fronts graced both sides, with mature trees, potted plants, street lights, and awnings, complete with small-town hustle and bustle.
Some things had changed. There were a few new stores, ones that if she’d had more time, she wouldn’t mind browsing—something she never did when she’d lived here. She spotted a chocolate shop across the street next to a bakery, and it looked like the library might have undergone an expansion. She’d spent a lot of time there as a kid. Much of the town was the same, however, as when she’d left fifteen years earlier.
What she was looking for wasn’t on the sidewalk or at the street level though, but in the distance above the buildings and trees.
Ms. Addie’s house.
Her stomach clutched as her gaze drifted up behind the courthouse to the big, white house on the hill a few blocks away—the one she had once called home. Suddenly, she had to shake herself. She’d been sad to learn of Ms. Addie’s death, and had it not been for the call from Graham Winchester, Jasmine might not have known. Or, she would have belatedly found out and sent a donation and simply reflected on her relationship with the old woman back in the safe confines of her condo.
Reflecting on the positives, of course, and not the negatives.
She strived for an optimistic life. Glass half full, and all that. It hadn’t always been that way.
But the call did come, and she’d made the day trip to Legend.
An older model pick-up truck with country music blaring whizzed by, pulling her out of her musing. At once, she was reminded of the more-than-subtle differences between Legend and where she lived now in Atlanta.
Jasmine glanced at her watch. She had ten minutes until her appointment with the attorney. Turning, she headed back up Main Street but stopped long enough to push a few coins into her parking meter before moving on. Two hours should be enough. She didn’t expect to be long here in Legend. There was nothing to keep her, no one to see while she was in town. She’d severed all of those ties years ago. Two hours should be plenty of time to deal with the business of Ms. Addie’s estate, and then head back home. She had a case that needed her attention tonight.
Her heels clicked on the sidewalk as she made her way down the street, a nagging question lingering in her head.
Why, after all this time, had Addie Bynum decided to leave anything to her?
“So, you broke up with her?”
Jack Ackerman winced at his brother’s question. Instead of immediately responding, he stared ahead through the windshield and concentrated on driving down the two-lane road on Legend Mountain. He really wasn’t up to talking much about the recent events with Miss Nora Patterson.
“I figured you knew.”
“No. Not until this morning when Mom called.”
Hell. He braked for a curve and nearly threw his brother into the door. “Mom called?”
“She heard it down at the Piggly Wiggly.”
“Shit.” He twisted the radio button to crank up Blake Shelton, hoping to drown out the noise starting to clatter in his head. That’s all he needed, for every woman of marrying age in Legend to be on his tail. How many single, thirty-four-year-old men were there out there, anyway? Not many. And he didn’t need the Piggly Wiggly gossipmongers on the trail.
They traveled along for several minutes, turning at the foot of the mountain to head along Lake Road, and then into downtown Legend. They each needed to run a couple of errands and then get back out to Haven’s Hill to prep for a big landscaping job at Suzie Matthews’ B&B later in the week.
Finally, he glanced at Sam. “Yeah. We broke up.”
Sam shrugged. “I don’t get it.”
“It’s for the best.”
“Becca never said a word.”
That surprised him. Becca and Nora being best friends and all, and Becca being Sam’s wife. “Guess that kills our euchre game night.”
He saw Sam’s nod out of the corner of his eye. Jack slowed as he approached Main Street and searched for street parking.
“Over there by the bank.” Sam nodded that way.
“Want me to drop you off at the hardware store?”
“Naw, I’ll walk.”
Jack parallel parked the pickup and turned to Sam. “Guess I’ll have to ditch out of that couples thing up at the lodge on Saturday. Hope you and Becca understand. Not sure I’m up for it.”
Sam’s brows furled. “That woman do a number on you?”
He shook his head. “Naw. It was mutual, actually. The relationship wasn’t going anywhere, and honestly, I wasn’t in love with her. Not like you are in love with Becca.” I want more. Like kids. The picket fence. Normal.
“There will be a lot of women up there at the lodge on Saturday.” Sam waggled his brows.
“It’s a couples thing, remember?”
“Sure, but it’s a benefit for the hospital, so I don’t think they’ll kick you out on your ear because you don’t have a date.”
Jack winced. “Yeah, but count me out. Not in the mood.”
“Ah. That’s all right.” Sam opened the truck door. “I’ll meet you back here in about twenty minutes. Just need a pair of long screws.”
Jack chuckled and watched his brother head down the sidewalk. You and me both, buddy.