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Authors: Katy Regnery

Frosted

BOOK: Frosted
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FROSTED

 

 

Katy Regnery

 

 

 

FROSTED

Copyright
© 2015
by Katharine Gilliam Regnery

Sale of the electronic edition of this book is wholly unauthorized. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part, by any means, is forbidden without written permission from the author/publisher.

Katharine Gilliam Regnery, publisher

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

Please visit my website at www.katyregnery.com

First Edition: January 2015

Second Edition: April 2015

Cover Design: Marianne Nowicki

Katy Regnery

Frosted : a novella / by Katy Regnery – 1st ed.

ISBN: 978-0-9909003-1-3

 

Because it’s never, ever too late to fall in love.

 

And with gratitude and love to
Jamie, Jennie, Kate, Susan & Veronica.

Rock. My. World.

Chapter 1

 

Grace Luff stood in front of the sliding glass doors of her hotel suite balcony, eyes narrow and jaw set as a mug of hot coffee warmed her hands. Just outside, two Adirondack chairs were covered in several inches of fresh snow, much like the expanse of lake beyond—white and cold, as far as her eyes could see.

She glanced down at the neatly stapled packet on top of a nearby end table that read: “Agenda: Silver Wings Singles Weekend—Day One.” Chewing on her bottom lip briefly, she knocked the packet off the table and into the trash can with one slippered foot.

When Grace’s children had arranged for her to attend the weekend retreat for mature singles at a resort in the beloved Adirondack mountains of her youth, she had balked before finally accepting their gift. But upon waking up this morning—the dubious “Day One” of said packet—she wished she’d just stayed at home.

She knew their intentions were good, but she bristled at the idea of needing the help of a “Singles Weekend” to meet a man. Surely she would meet someone the old-fashioned way—by accidentally bumping her cart into his at the supermarket, or standing behind him on line at Starbucks. Perhaps her running club would pair her with a good-looking older man for one of her morning jogs around the Central Park reservoir. Eventually she’d meet someone who didn’t just see dollar signs when they looked at her, right?

The truth, however, was that meeting someone new was challenging. The large fortune left to her by her husband made Grace suspicious of the men she met. She was never sure if they liked her for her, or if they were just interested in her fortune, and she was weary of the guessing game that came with being the widow of the late Harold Luff.  Calling the inn and changing her surname from Luff to Holden, her maiden name, had been the only way Grace finally felt comfortable attending the weekend…not that she didn’t like being Grace Luff, or—more accurately—Mrs. Harold Edwin Luff III. She
had
liked it. Very much.

Though their marriage had not been romantic, it had been one of warmth and friendship, kindness and companionship. Grace had honored her vows to the very end, holding Harold’s hand as he finally drifted away, after battling cancer for five long years. And Grace had mourned him with true—if unromantic—affection.

That said, her grieving process had been atypical—instead of taking quiet moments to remember good days and process the pain of her loss, Grace had almost immediately launched into a plan to build a new hospital wing at New York Central Hospital, managing every detail of its execution, right down to hand-picking the marvelous staff, all of whom she knew by name. When the Harold Edwin Luff III Cancer Research Wing was finally completed last month, it was Grace, flanked by her step-children, son, daughter and beloved grandchildren, who had cut the light blue ribbon and opened the doors to the state-of-the-art facility.

Although Grace felt a quiet satisfaction that she’d not only fulfilled Harold’s dying wish for a treatment and care center, but overseen the project on her own, she had to admit that since the opening of the wing, she’d finally felt the impact of his loss.

Staying very busy with the project for three solid years had supplanted opportunities for loneliness. In the past few weeks, that had changed. Though her children, grandchildren and activities kept her busy, a bit of melancholy had intruded on her quiet thoughts lately, despite Grace’s best attempts to ignore it.

She was no longer someone’s wife, and she had no important projects with which to occupy her time and avoid contemplation of her future. The questions of “Who am I now?” and “What do I want?” hovered imminent and nagging over Grace’s head.

Who am I now?

Well, prior to meeting Harold, she’d been a nice girl from a good family who’d received her bachelor’s degree and become a grade school teacher at a small private school in Connecticut. She’d met Harold, a financial wizard and the single father of one of her most challenging students, at a parent-teacher conference in the fall of her first year teaching. Later, he told her that it was directness—she’d gently, but firmly, made it clear that Harold’s son was sorely in need of parenting—paired with kind blue eyes that had led him to choose Grace for the job of stepmother.

Used to getting what he wanted, Harold had pursued her doggedly for several months, and they eventually became good friends. Even though Grace wasn’t in love with Harold, she’d eventually relented and accepted his proposal. He was funny and kind, and his vast fortune could offer her a very comfortable and interesting life in Manhattan—and in exchange, Grace would help the busy widower raise his two rowdy, motherless boys.

And so, on one sunny, spring day, seven months after that fateful conference, Grace Holden, who was barely an adult herself, had become Mrs. Harold Edwin Luff III.

After thirty-one years of marriage, raising two stepchildren and bearing a son and daughter of her own, Grace felt eons away from the awkward, coltish twenty-two year old that Harold Luff had married. Over the years, she had settled comfortably into her role as Mrs. Harold Edwin Luff III, society matron. She was respected and well-liked. All four of her children were successful and well-adjusted. But, now that the children were grown and Harold was gone, did she want to go on being Mrs. Harold Edwin Luff III?

Something about recreating herself appealed to Grace and she yearned to rediscover the girl she’d been before meeting Harold—the girl who’d loved reading and teaching, who’d felt more connected to the country than the city, and preferred fresh air to stuffy fundraisers—and the idea of adding a new chapter to her life appealed to Grace. The problem was that she’d been Harold’s wife for so long, she wasn’t certain it was
possible
to be someone else. She simply didn’t know how to start over.

What do I want?

That answer came so much more swiftly to Grace:

Warmth. Romance. Love.

Though she’d never articulated it to her friends, or even to her daughter, Adelaide, to whom she was very close, Grace longed for romantic love in her life. She would always cherish the friendship and partnership she’d shared with Harold, but he’d chosen her out of necessity, and she’d accepted him out of friendship. Theirs had been a contract, not a love affair. In the past three years, whenever Grace read a romance novel or watched a love story on TV, her yearning for passionate love would swirl up, so thick and strong, it would leave an uncomfortable lump in her throat. And yet…after a marriage that had spanned decades, a body that had borne two children, and a bank account that muddied the waters of a suitor’s intent, Grace had no idea where to find what she so desperately wanted.

So she remained where she was: her identity in limbo, and her life increasingly lonesome. Grace’s daughter, with her trademark sensitivity, had noticed.

“You seem down, Mom,” said Adelaide at lunch last week.

“Not at all, dearest.”

“Just a little?” asked her daughter, peeking at her mother over the rim of a Herend tea cup.

“Addy,” Grace said, giving her a look. “I have my hands full with so many activities and commitments, I’ve no idea where the time goes. I have you and your brother...and Harold’s boys, of course. Little Jillian and dear Edwin come every Wednesday afternoon for granny-time. Goodness, I don’t have a moment to be…
down
.”

It was a lie. Grace
was
feeling down, but admitting that she was devolving into some lackluster widow who passed the rest of her days being paired with other women at her jogging club, delivering cookies to the nurses at the hospital and attending book club meetings was too self-defeating to admit.

Adelaide had reached across the little dining table at the club and grasped her mother’s fingers gently, lowering her voice, but keeping it firm. “Mom, it’s no use denying it. I can see it. I can
feel
it.”

Grace had withdrawn her fingers immediately, uncomfortable with such a public display.

“Feel what, exactly?”

“Your loneliness.” Adelaide sighed, sliding her abandoned fingers back to her lap. “Daddy’s been gone for three years. Isn’t it time to…”

Grace felt her cheeks flush, so she purposely lifted her cup to take a leisurely sip of tea before looking up at her daughter with carefully blank eyes.

No stranger to her mother’s sense of propriety, Adelaide’s expression was compassionate and kind as she tried a different avenue, saying softly, “You and Daddy were…good friends.”

“Yes, we were. The best.”

“I know.” Adelaide cleared her throat, holding her mother’s eyes. “But I never sensed that you were…passionate about each other. You know, in love.”

“Addy!” Grace warned her daughter, looking around quickly to be sure they weren’t overheard.

Adelaide leaned forward, lowering her voice even further. “Mom, I don’t mean any disrespect to Daddy or his memory. I loved him, too.” She drew her bottom lip into her mouth and gulped softly before continuing, “But don’t you—don’t you
want
someone? Don’t you want to
be
with someone?”

Another rush of blood heated Grace’s cheeks, surely coloring them from pink to crimson as she looked down, reaching for her tea again. It was like Addy had some magical insight into her mother’s mind, her observations were so astute.

Don’t you
want
someone?

Yes, of course she did. But, where to begin? It was all too overwhelming. She didn’t trust the men she met socially in New York and didn’t know how to meet someone to whom she would be anonymous and new.

Instead of tackling the uncomfortable quandary, she backtracked the conversation to Harold. “Addy, your father and I had a very strong, respectful, um, stable—”

“Are you talking about a marriage or a business arrangement? Strong? Respectful? Stable?” When Grace looked up, a mildly exasperated Adelaide cocked her head to the side. “What about love, Mom? What about passion?”

Her daughter’s eyes were soft and searching. Grace sighed.
Damn all those romantic movies we always watched together when she was little. I should have added more documentaries to the mix.

“For heaven’s sake.” Grace scoffed lightly. “I’m a
grandmother
.”

“For heaven’s sake, indeed,” said Addy with a subtle eye roll. “You’re only fifty-six. You’re still young.”

Grace stared at her daughter in surprise for a moment, her eyes filling with uncharacteristic moisture from Addy’s sweet words. Oh, how good it felt to hear them. Despite her relatively-young age, during the years she had nursed Harold and even after, she hadn’t felt very young at all. Hearing Addy say,
You’re still young
was a balm, a blessing.

“Thank you dear, but I’m sure I’ll meet—”

“I want to help.” Adelaide’s sweet face was slightly sheepish as her words came out in a whispered rush. “I know you might not—well,
love
my idea, but it’s perfectly respectable and please just promise me you won’t say no without thinking it over.”

“Thinking over
what
, exactly?” asked Grace, her heart picking up speed.

Adelaide had lifted her purse from the floor and extracted a white envelope simply addressed “Mom.” She placed it on the snowy white tablecloth between them and then slid it to her mother with a quick nod. Shrugging quickly into her coat, she stood up and leaned down near her mother’s ear.

“Please go, Mom. It’s all arranged,” she whispered in Grace’s ear. “Three years is long enough to grieve someone you weren’t in love with.”

“My life is not a rom-com, Adelaide,” she said softly, glancing at the envelope without touching it.

“But it
could
be,” murmured her daughter before kissing her mother’s cheek good-bye.

A frown pulled down the corners of her mouth as Grace took another sip of the weak, hotel-room coffee, still staring out at the frosted lake
.
Addy’s gentle, but persistent hope and a misguided search for “could be” had somehow led Grace to The White Deer Inn…and now here she was, feeling irritated and disappointed and the weekend had barely begun.

In the week following their lunch, the envelope Addy had given Grace, which held a brochure about the singles weekend and a pre-paid voucher, had plagued her.

When Grace was paired up with another fifty-something widow for her Saturday morning run, the idea of going north to Deer Mountain had pestered her with every stride she took.

When her grocery cart didn’t magically bump into the cart of an eligible, unknown, single man at the store on Tuesday, she heard Addy’s words—
don’t you want someone? Don’t you want to be with someone?
—loud and strong in her ears.

When her good friends announced at book club on Wednesday that they’d found the perfect bachelor for Grace to meet, if she was willing to date “a very young eighty,” she had finally dug the brochure out of her purse again.

And when she arrived at the hospital wing on Wednesday afternoon with cookies for the nurses, and ended up staying to comfort a recent widow, she swore that brochure finally grew hands that reached out and shook her. Hard.

But she was still dragging her feet until Thursday night when, damn it, she’d caught a late-night viewing of the classic Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn movie,
Desk Set,
on TV.

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