A Time to Dance
A Time to Dance
"These heartwarming romances will pull you in and leave you with a book hangover long after you’ve read the final words.” Julie Grant
Deni Sparks has closed her heart off after a painful breakup, but that doesn't stop her next-door neighbor, architect Joel Anderson, from trying to win her over. When her late friend wills her a derelict lakefront cottage in need of repair, Deni and her Labrador, Hershey, hit the road. Despite the cottage's state, Deni is determined to restore it to its former glory. Meanwhile, Joel is determined to use the cottage for his development project, the key to saving his declining hometown. Will one of them succeed, or will a love story evolve instead? Diana Lesire Brandmeyer's A Time to Dance is a heartwarming novel full of mystery and unexpected love. Pick up a copy today to find out!
*NOTE: This is an eBook edition that can be read on an electronic device, iPad, Tablet, Nook, Phone, Computer, Kindle, or in the BookFunnel App.
Read the first chapter!
A moving truck swerved in front of Deni Sparks’ Jeep, coming within inches of her bumper. She slammed her foot against the brake pedal. Heart thumping, she smacked the horn. “Please don’t let the man behind me require introductions and an exchange of insurance cards, God.” Traffic bumped through the pockmarked potholes of the St. Louis Poplar Street Bridge, slowed to a crawl, and then stopped. Ahead of her, a bridge patrol tow truck squeezed through the snarled traffic with its yellow lights blinking.
“There is nothing like a stalled car, a flat tire, or a wreck to start your Saturday morning off the right way.” Deni checked the mirror for the telling red splotches that always appeared when she was anxious. Her neck was strawberry red. Of course, it was and likely to stay that way if she didn’t control her frustration. She groaned. She hated being late to anything.
She picked up the letter lying on the seat next to her as if by reading it, she could change the time of the meeting. The time on the paper remained the same. Ten o’clock at the law office in Belleville. She tossed it back on the passenger seat and twisted the air conditioner fan down a notch to combat the untypical June heat and humidity. “Please, God, make this traffic move or grant me extra patience.”
She glanced over at the river. Through the passenger window, she watched as a barge pushed upriver through the muddy Mississippi making better time than her. The traffic in front of her snaked into the left lane. Flipping on her blinker, she looked over her shoulder. The driver in the next lane waved her over. Another glance at the clock on the dashboard. Ten minutes to cover twenty miles. She pressed on the accelerator and sped toward the Belleville exit and to the answer to why she needed to be at the reading of Ann’s will.
Deni drove around a fountain and turned left on Washington Street. She squeezed her Jeep into the parking space in front of a brick Victorian building. In the small front yard, an iron and gold sign that proclaimed Abernathy & Abernathy Law Offices swung in the warm breeze. She’d made it, and almost on time.
What had her grandmother’s best friend Ann left her that required her presence at the reading? She gathered the letter and her purse. Please God don’t let anyone be upset that I’m here. Ann’s relatives should be inheriting whatever it is, not me. She sucked in a deep breath and opened the door.
The gentle breeze twisted her skirt around her ankles as she read the tiny print on the parking meter sign.
“The meters are free on Saturday.”
Startled at the deep voice, Deni turned and found her focus centered on a chest. A manly chest. A strong looking—I can protect you from anything—chest. She tilted her head back and found herself lost in eyes of brown caramel. “I didn’t want to take a chance. I’m from Missouri.”
He flashed a dimpled smile at her before walking away. “Welcome to Illinois.”
“Thanks.” She whispered under her breath, “Friendly town.” Deni watched his tanned, muscular calves flex as he walked. She didn’t look away until she no longer saw the blue of his shirtsleeve as he slid into the sleek, black sports car parked two meters down.
Shoulders back she turned and faced her destination. The black iron gate beckoned and with a touch easily swung open. Her heels clicked across the pink cobblestone walk. She stopped to admire the craftsmanship of the stained-glass door with hues of yellows, greens, and purples. It had to be original to the building. The porcelain doorknob was cool in her hand. She twisted it and stepped inside.
A receptionist sat behind an imposing desk that seemed to take up most of the waiting room, had her attention riveted to the computer monitor.
“Excuse me, I—“
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Yes, with Mr. Abernathy. I’m Denise Sparks.”
“He’s waiting for you. You’re late.” She looked up as if demanding an excuse.
“I’m sorry. Traffic, it was, it was backed up. Past Market Street.”
“It’s the first office down the hall on the right.” The receptionist waved in the general direction and went back to looking at her monitor screen.
Deni snuck a quick glance at the monitor as she walked by. The woman was on Pinterest. No wonder she didn’t want to look up from the feast of food splashed across the screen. Deni found the office and tapped on the door frame.
Mr. Abernathy bobbed up from behind his laptop. “Denise or rather, Deni. Ann said you preferred that name. Come in, come in. Have a seat.”
“I do. It’s what my parents called me. The room was empty. Where was the line of chairs filled with people, holding tissues ready to cry? Maybe that only happened in the movies. Instead, two modern-looking chairs stood in front of his desk. She set her purse on the seat of one and slipped onto the other. “I didn’t think I was that late. Have the others left already?”
“You are the only one who needed to be here for this part of the will reading. The office was able to administer most of Mrs. Rosen’s estate through the mail as it was small.” Mr. Abernathy glanced at the papers on his desk. “You may not have known but Mrs. Rosen didn’t have any living family and most of her money was used for her care.”
“At the nursing home.” She tucked her hair behind her ears and leaned forward. “Now I’m even more curious. But, if you mailed everything, what couldn’t be mailed?”
“The property at Silverton Lake. I believe you stayed there with her a few summers ago. She left it to you.”
“To, to me?” Why didn’t she bring tissues? She sniffed. At best she’d hoped for a cookbook or one of her beautiful cross-stitched pillows. Never the house. An image of the comfortable cottage flashed in her mind. The hours she and Ann put together puzzles in the evenings while sipping tea and eating popcorn. And the soft, gentle wind that came off the lake at night, and walking the coastline with Ann. Listening to her reasons why Deni had to learn to trust God’s plan even in the dark days.
“However, there are—“ Mr. Abernathy’s voice interrupted her thoughts. She squirmed in her seat. What had she missed? She looked up. Had he noticed?
“There are a few things that go along with getting the property. As I said, you must decide if you will accept the conditions of the will within the next twenty-four hours.”
“What conditions?” Her stomach jumped.
“You’ll need to uproot your life because you must live in the house for three months and move in within the week.”
“But...” She gripped the armrests as her stomach contracted in a spasm. Could it be possible God had provided her a way out of the nightmare she now lived? I need to decide and move into the house in seven days?
Mr. Abernathy held up his hand. “Before you answer too quickly, there are things to consider. You need to know the house has been vacant for three years. A caretaker was hired to watch over it, but I understand he did minimal upkeep on the house.” Mr. Abernathy gathered his papers into a neat pile, clipped them with a paper clip, and set them on the corner of the desk. He settled back and the leather chair protested with a hiss. “Do you understand the stipulations of the will?”
Deni stared out the office window. “The summer my grandmother died, Ann took me and took good care of me. She and my grandmother were best friends. We were both grief-stricken.” She swiped a wayward lock of hair away from her eye. “I still don’t understand why she would leave the house to me.”
“She knew you loved the lake, and more importantly, the house. When we wrote up this will, Ann knew it would be the right place for you to open your business. She mentioned how upset you were when you had to return to the university.”
“I planned to stay with her and finish the last semester in Illinois at the local college, but several of my classes wouldn’t transfer. I promised to come back the next summer. Then her hip broke, then pneumonia.” Deni paused tasting the saltiness of tears building.
“I visited her at the We Care Center as often as I could. It’s so hard to think she’s gone.” She studied her hands, blinking back hot tears.
“Ann encouraged me to start my stained-glass business. She told me I was wasting my gift from God.” Numbness settled over her. “All I have to do is live there for three months?”
“That and sign this.” Mr. Abernathy shoved a cream-colored document toward her. “Sign by the X’s; here, here, and here.” He tapped the lines with his pen before handing them to her.
Deni took the pen and signed. She held the paper for a second. Once Mr. Abernathy took the document her life would change for the better, she hoped. “Here.”
“That should do it. You can pick up the keys from Chad Hastings. He owns the boat shop at Silverton Lake. You’ll see it before you reach the turn-off for Ann’s house or rather your house now.” He stood and shook her hand. “I hope this works out for you, Deni.”
At the door, she hesitated, “What happens to the house if I don’t stay?”
“Provisions have been made for someone else to take over the property. Are you having second thoughts?” Mr. Abernathy rubbed the back of his neck. “You don’t have to accept the house. Better to decide before you uproot your whole life. I’m sure Ann would have understood.”
“No. I want to do this. If Ann believed in me that much, then I want to try.” She took a breath and blinked back tears. “I won’t need the twenty-four hours to decide. I’m going to live my dream.”
***Joel Anderson sat in his car and studied his opponent as she left the lawyer’s office. This Sparks woman was tiny, but that didn’t mean anything in a real estate war. Tiny often meant ferocious, like those little dogs whose demeanor said, “Pick me up.” Then they snapped at you as soon as you got close. Her floral skirt swished around perfect ankles and caught his eye. Probably a romantic. That’s what his sister, Lucy always said. Women who wear flowered clothing are often romantics, who are fond of old books, good movies, cats, and lifetime commitments.
The woman’s flushed face and her huge smile must mean she’d taken the challenge of living in the house.
Then he saw the circle of white on her neck. Pearls. She wore pearls, like Aunt Bee on that old Andy Griffith Show, and he knew, at that moment, this woman would fight him. She would strap on an apron, wear those pearls and embed herself in that house like gold in a mine. Make that a mine two miles underground.
As the Jeep pulled away from the curb, Joel touched the steering wheel to activate his Bluetooth. “Call Chad.”
Before the first ring was completed his friend answered. “Did you get it?”
“Ann left the house to some woman.”
“A woman? Why? How could she? Who is she? Do you know her? Do you think she’ll sell us the house?” Chad’s voice pitched higher with each question.
“I’ve never met her. I don’t know why Ann left her the house. Abernathy says it’s hers for the next three months. But if she doesn’t stay, then I’m next in line to get the property.”
Chad let out a breath. “There’s hope then?”
“Maybe she won’t stay once she inspects the place. Plus, it’s a bit out of town so she might not like being out there alone.”
“We have to find a way to make her turn it down.”
“Yeah, but if the house doesn’t scare her off, I don’t think there is much we can do.” He recalled the pearls and his shoulders slumped.
“We’ll have to think of another way to carry out our plan for the resort. We’ll discuss it when I get back.” He gripped the steering wheel hard. Why did she leave it to this woman? He’d been close to Ann forever. He had hoped the house would go to him. When had she met Ann? And why had Ann never mentioned her?
His dreams would come true with or without the property. He’d spent too much time planning to give up now. A resort would bring in money for the small town. The money they needed for a better library and community center. It would bring him more business, too, and that he could handle.
For now, he had another challenge. Stick it out for three months and hope that the pretty Denise Sparks wouldn’t stay.
Pretty? Now, where had that come from?
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