Page 43

Author: Jill Shalvis

“And Sawyer will find the guy,” Mallory said. “You can lay money down on that, you know you can. Matt’s helping him. Together they’ll handle it.”

Amy nodded. Sawyer was a good man. Matt was a good man.

The best.

Riley had support. She could make it through this.

The question was, would Amy?

Chapter 23

Chocolate cures adversity.

Matt spent the next long hours dealing with bureaucratic bullshit. His superiors were taking heat from Trevor Wright’s parents, who were filing civil lawsuits all the way to hell and back. Matt’s own interdepartmental inquiry was in two days. He had no idea how it would go, but given the meetings he’d had so far, things weren’t good.

It was late, but he made yet another stop at the hospital. Trevor was still too doped up to talk. Matt was just leaving the hospital when someone whispered for him.

“Pssst. Ranger Hot Buns. Over here.”

He turned and found Lucille standing in the doorway to the staff’s break room. She was wearing sunshine-yellow sweats that made him wish for his sunglasses. “You did not just call me that.”

She grinned unrepentantly. “Sorry, you don’t like it?”

Before he could strangle her, she laughed again. “Guess you haven’t been checking Facebook, huh? The poll there is two-to-one in favor of making a Ranger Hot Buns calendar. In your honor, of course.”

He shook his head, trying to rid his brain of that image. “What are you doing here?”

“I volunteer here.” She gestured to her badge. “I bring patients magazines and read to them, that sort of thing.”

“In the middle of the night?”

Lucille smiled. “It’s bingo night, and it went late on account of Mr. Swanson falling over in the middle of calling out the numbers. He wasn’t our first choice—Mr. Murdock was—but he lost his dentures, so Mr. Swanson filled in. Anyway, he was calling out the numbers and then he started clenching his chest, saying he was dying of a heart attack. I followed the ambulance here because I greet all the new patients and also because I was his date. Normally he’s quite the live wire.”

“Is he okay?” Matt asked.

“Oh, sure. He’s made of hardy stuff, that Mr. Swanson. Peasant stock, he always says. Turns out, he ate fettuccini and sausage for dinner and had heartburn but they’re keeping him overnight for a few more tests. I was just sitting with him for a while until he fell asleep.”

Matt felt dizzy. It was a common condition when he was in Lucille’s presence. “I’ve got to go.”

“I know. You’re probably still looking for evidence that those punk-asses were doing something you can nail them for, right? Like, say, underage drinking and smoking?”

“I can’t discuss the case with you, Lucille.”

“Well of course not. But I can discuss it with you.” She whipped out her phone. The screen was a picture of her art gallery, which reminded Matt of Amy—as if he needed a reminder. She was a hole in his chest at the moment, and now he felt a headache coming on. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Lucille, I don’t really have time for—”

“You’re handsome,” Lucille said. “I’ll give you that. Probably in the top five here in Lucky Harbor, though Mr. Swanson himself could give you a run for his money. But looks aren’t everything. Brains are, and the thing is, I figured you for having some.”

He narrowed his eyes at her, then took another look at her screen. Facebook, of course. “Now,” she said, “you wouldn’t be able to see this picture because you’re not his friend. But I automatically friend everyone in Lucky Harbor. I do that because I’m nosy as hell, and it keeps me up-to-date on the goings on.”

“Lucille.” He needed Advil. An entire bottle. “I don’t—”

She thumbed to a different page. Caleb Morrison’s Facebook page. Caleb was Trevor Wright’s best friend and had been one of the uninjured climbers the other night. Caleb’s latest Facebook post said: Check out our latest climb! This was accompanied by a photo of four guys in climbing gear sitting on a group of rocks with Widow’s Peak behind them, all of them smoking what appeared to be weed.

Lucille smiled at the look on Matt’s face. “Who do you love?” she asked.

“You,” he said with great feeling.

“Aw.” She beamed. “Honey, you’re just the sweetest, and very good-looking, as I’ve mentioned. But I’m trying to land Swanson right now, so you’ll have to be satisfied with being just friends.”

Amy lay awake staring at the ceiling. She’d really thought she’d been onto something good, that her life here in Lucky Harbor was going to be the life she’d always secretly wanted.

But she’d been too afraid to really go after it.

After all she’d been through in her life, was she really going to let her own fears of trust and love hold her back?

Her mind wandered to her grandma’s journey. Hope. Peace. Heart. Her grandma had found the courage to come out here to find her heart—

Whoa. Wait a minute. Amy sat straight up in bed and opened the journal, skimming to the part she wanted.

It’s been three weeks since we’d last been on the mountain. A long three weeks during which I refused to give up my newfound hope and peace.

Good thing, too, because we needed both to get all the way around and back.

Full circle.

It was worth it. Standing at the very tippy top, looking out at a blanket of green, a sea of blue, and a world of possibilities, the whole world opened up. I would never settle. I would never stop growing. I would never give up.

And as the sun sank down over the horizon, we were suddenly at the beginning again.



And something new as well, something that brought us full circle. Heart.

Full circle. Without thinking, she picked up her cell phone and called her mom.


Amy winced at the husky tone of her mother’s voice. “I woke you, I’m sorry.”

“Are you okay?”

Amy couldn’t speak for a minute, stunned that her mom would ask.

“Amy? You still there?”

“Yes,” she managed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think about the time. I’m fine. I just wanted to thank you for sending grandma’s drawings. They’re beautiful. I had no idea…”

“Her drawings were personal to her. She kept them hidden. I think they reminded her of Jonathon.”

Amy nodded, which was stupid, her mom couldn’t see her. “He died before their trip.”

“Yes, of course. I thought you knew from the journal.”


“I guess it was too painful to write about. Jonathon lived longer than was expected, and she always said that the trip, taking his ashes to his favorite spots on earth, gave her the tools to go on.”

Tools. Hope. Peace. Heart. In her own heart, Amy knew that was it. “I was just wondering if you could remember anything about grandma’s journey at all. In the end, she went full circle but—”

“I told you, she never discussed the trip details with me. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” But it wasn’t. The disappointment was a bitter pill.

“I don’t mean about that. I… I don’t know how to say this, Amy,” her mom said. “I made a lot of mistakes with you.”

Amy opened her mouth, shocked to discover that hearing those words actually meant something to her. “Well, I made mistakes, too.”

“No,” her mom said. “Well, yes, but not like mine. I’m the mom. I’m supposed to believe in you, every time. Nothing can undo what happened, I know that, but I wanted you to know, I think about you. I think about you all the time.”

Amy had spent so much of her life mistrusting everyone, especially her mom, but the fact was the woman was as human as Amy. No, nothing could undo the past, but if Amy held onto that past, she would turn out like her mother. Full of regrets. She didn’t want that. For either of them. “I think about you, too.”

“Take care, Amy. And maybe you’ll call.”

“Yes. And maybe you will as well.”

When she’d set her phone down, Amy sat there in the dark, the ache in her chest just a little bit less intense. She and her mom had come full circle, it seems.

Full circle…

She blinked. Maybe Rose and Jonathon had gone full circle, back to where she’d started, at Sierra Meadows. It seemed exactly like something her grandma would do. And Amy would bet that it’d been an accidental full circle, which meant her grandma had come at Sierra Meadows from another way, possibly stumbling into it again by sheer luck. There was no way of knowing for sure, but Amy was willing to give it a shot.

Hell, she needed to give something a shot.

Before dawn, she was packed. No mistakes this time, no more being unprepared or getting lost. She had a journey to finish, and there was nothing to stop her.

Not a runaway.

Not a man.

Not her own hang-ups or history. After all, she’d just lectured Riley on not letting her past rule her life, so it was time to live what she preached.

She sent texts to both Grace and Mallory with her hiking itinerary. Just in case of… well, anything. She started at the North District Ranger Station and purposely didn’t allow herself to look for Matt’s truck. She’d checked out the map and had planned her route. She managed to move along the trail at a good clip. Apparently she couldn’t get her life in order, but she’d accidentally gotten in shape.

Good to know.

She adjusted her backpack and kept going.

And going.

She was going to figure out this last leg of her grandma’s journey if it killed her. Which she knew it wouldn’t. She’d experienced much worse and was still breathing.

By late afternoon, she was approaching Sierra Meadows from the opposite direction as last time. She was exhausted, but forced herself to keep going, and just when she thought she couldn’t take another step, she turned a particularly tight switchback corner and… came out at the top of a ravine that looked down at Sierra Meadows.