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“That’s good to hear,” he mumbled, looking down and fiddling with his fingers.

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”

“What do you see when you look at him? What do you see when you see Finn?” he asked, his voice filled with uncertainty.

I paused for a moment, lowering myself to the floor, and then I looked up at him. “I see my past. I see everything I was, and everything I was not.”

“And what do you see when you look at me?”

I swore there was a small spark in his eyes that healed parts of me that I hadn’t even known were broken. I ran my hand through my hair, bit my lip, and gave a slight shrug. “Possibilities.”



I was shocked when Sunday morning rolled around, and Loretta Harris was knocking on my door. As I opened it, I noticed her in her Sunday best outfit with her big floppy hat and steamed dress. Standing there poised, she looked as southern as a woman could look.

I hated that her face matched her daughter’s. It made it harder for me to despise her.

“Shouldn’t you be on your way to praise that God of yours?” I asked her, leaning against my doorframe with my arms crossed.

She didn’t arrive with the same spitfire that she’d brought my way the first time she barged into my shop. She wasn’t barking demands or shouting at me. She was hauntingly calm and collected.

That brought about some unease.

“I haven’t spoken to my daughter in days,” she told me. “And the last time I saw her, I said things I regret.”

“Yeah, well, perhaps you should’ve thought things through before speaking. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have things to do.” I began to close my door, and she blocked it with her arm. I cocked an eyebrow. She quickly dropped her arm.

“I’m sorry, it’s just…” She sighed and shook her head. “I saw her in town, and she looked away. She has this crazy red hair and tattoos, and this just isn’t who she is. She hasn’t even been attending church.”

“I wouldn’t either if the people talked about me the way they do her.”

“You think I enjoy it? Hearing what those people say about her?”

“No”—I shook my head—“I know you don’t enjoy it, but I also don’t think you try to stop it.”

She parted her lips but paused. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a check.

“I thought I told you I didn’t want your money,” I scolded her.

“Maybe you would if you looked at the price. It’s enough to give you and your father a good life. You could start over anywhere in the world.”

I took the check and ripped it in half. “I don’t care about your money. You’re not gonna run my father and me away from our own land. Besides, what does it matter? Grace is going back to work in a few weeks.”

“Yes, but she’ll be back for holidays, and you’ll still be here. Then she’ll make weekend trips to visit you. Then she’ll find a job closer by. Don’t you see? You’re messing with her mind, making her think she could someday fall in love with you. You don’t see it, do you? The way she looks at you?”


How did she look at me?

“I don’t want any trouble,” I told her. “You should leave.”

“Jackson, please, you must be realistic. Gracelyn has already been through enough, and on her path to finding her footing, she doesn’t need distractions that might knock her off-kilter. I know you’re trying to help her, but you’re really hurting her, and yourself. I’ll write a new check,” she said, going to dig into her purse.

“Again, I don’t want your money. Plus, Grace is a grown woman. I’ll let her make the choice of shutting me out.” I went to close the door, and she shouted my way, making me come to a full halt.

“It was my Samuel!” Loretta shot my way.

I cocked an eyebrow. “What?”

“It was Samuel.” She cleared her throat, and a few tears fell from her eyes as I watched her body tremble. “It was my husband—the man who your mother loved. Samuel was the one she was leaving to be with that night.”

My hands formed fists, and my mouth grew dry. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you lie about something like that?”

“I’m not lying. I found out the night of the storm. Samuel told me about how he’d fallen in love with a woman who he was leaving me for. Though, he didn’t tell me her name.” She narrowed her eyes and shook her head back and forth as she studied the wooden porch. “Before your mother, the women were just an escape. He never developed feelings for them, and he always came home to me. Because even when he faltered, I was still his end game. I was the one he crawled into bed with each night and whispered ‘I love you’ to. I was his forever, and he was mine.