Authors: Joan Kilby
Tags: #Summerside Stories
“Life’s short,” Jack said flippantly. “I live for pleasure.”
Suspicion clouded her expression. “Then how do you get money?”
“I’m not a drug dealer. Nothing illegal is going on.”
“But you must have worked at some point.” She leaned on the porch railing, studying him. “Are you really content with just hobbies?”
He sensed she wanted to like him. He wasn’t being egotistical to think that. And he was attracted to her. Yet it was clear she couldn’t help judging him. Self-indulgent. Lazy. Hedonistic. He could almost hear the pronouncements flowing through her mind. Those qualities weren’t what she, a doctor, stood for.
“I’m not a bad person,” he said, attempting to make a joke of it. “In fact, you and I operate by the same code—first, do no harm.”
“You don’t do
by having a job.”
“I had a job once.” He shrugged. “I got tired of it.”
It had been a great job, too. One he loved. But he’d screwed up. And Leanne had paid the price.
My life, knock on wood, has so far been free of major misfortune. When I hear or read about people whose lives have been taken from joy to tragedy after a fatal accident, it tears at my heart. They will be living with the physical and emotional consequences of their trauma for years to come.
How do they cope? What do they endure? Family and friends play a major role in helping people heal. But sometimes that’s not enough. I wish I could give everyone out there a happy ending, but as a writer all I can do is give my characters a happy-ever-after and hope that their stories will touch hearts and give hope.
Jack Thatcher, hero of
Her Great Expectations,
is beloved by his family, friends and community. Three years after the death of his wife in a plane crash, Jack appears to be coping but inside, guilt and grief have him in their grip. It takes an outsider, Dr. Sienna Maxwell, to see that Jack is still broken. She challenges rather than coddles him, forcing him to confront his darkest fears and, finally, to heal.
Her Great Expectations
is the first book in the Summerside Stories series. These stories are about siblings Jack, Renita and Lexie, and their lives and loves in a small Australian town by the sea. They’re about family, friendship and community, all the things that make the world go around.
I love to hear from readers. You can email me at www.joankilby.com or write to me c/o Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, M3B 3K9 Canada.
941—THE CATTLEMAN’S BRIDE
965—THE SECOND PROMISE
1030—CHILD OF HIS HEART
1076—CHILD OF HER DREAMS
1114—CHILD OF THEIR VOWS
1236—A MOM FOR CHRISTMAS
1324—PARTY OF THREE
1437—NANNY MAKES THREE
1466—HOW TO TRAP A PARENT
He placed the kiwifruit in the woman’s basket, gently squeezed her shoulder and moved on, only to be stopped by a hearty greeting from a man with a beefy red face. Relaxed and cheerful, the Clooney look-alike cocked a hip and leaned on his cart to settle in for a chat as if he had all the time in the world.
A warning vibration burred in Sienna’s jacket pocket—her phone alarm giving her a ten-minute reminder to get back to the clinic for her first patient of the afternoon. She’d rushed out during her lunch break to pick up a few specialty items she needed for a Thai curry because Glyneth and Rex were coming out from the city. Sienna had rashly promised her friends a special dinner, boasting she was going to cook it herself.
Distracted by snatches of the man’s smooth deep voice, she found her gaze drifting across the store again. Now a woman in her thirties towing two young children had stopped to say a few words to him. While they chatted a retired couple waved and called out a greeting. He seemed to know everyone in town.
In stark contrast to her own situation. When she’d moved to the village she’d had a romantic notion of hosting casual dinner parties. Two months in, she still didn’t know anyone she could invite over for coffee, much less spend Saturday evening with. She was simply too busy working to find the time to make friends. Oh, she had Oliver, but he was spending more and more time with his mates from school.
Sienna remembered she had a grocery list and checked it. Kaffir lime leaves, whatever
were. As she turned her cart toward the Asian food section, she cast a last covert glance at the dark-haired man. She didn’t know if she wanted to
him. Not that she was in the habit of “doing” anyone. At least not in a long time. But there was something about this guy that was stirring her dormant hormones to life. How was it she’d been in Summerside for three months and never run into him before?
Dark eyes set in a tanned masculine face met her gaze across the central display of cut flowers. A small smile played around the corners of a mouth with just the right combination of angles and curves to be ultrasexy.
Heat rose in her cheeks at being caught staring. Sienna blindly pushed her cart forward, noting with clinical detachment her rush of adrenaline and increased heart rate.
Get a grip.
She was an adult, not a teenager. A doctor, with loftier thoughts than rampant sex among the squashes.
Abandoning her quest for lime leaves, she grabbed a plastic bag and filled it with whatever was in front of her. Just when her pulse was back to normal and she’d regained her composure, that deep low voice sounded not three feet away. He’d crossed the shop and was exchanging pleasantries with the woman standing next to her. Sienna forced herself not to glance over, but her nerve endings prickled with awareness. Then the female shopper moved along and nothing but two feet of air separated her and George Clooney’s brother.
That was when she spied the Kaffir lime leaves on the shelf. Grateful for the distraction, she stretched her fingers out. Clooney reached for the same packet at the same time. Their fingertips touched. She yanked her hand back and the plastic container tumbled to the floor. She crouched to pick it up.
So did he, getting there first. Holding out the lime leaves, he said, “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” Meeting his gaze made the warmth rise in her cheeks. She scrambled to her feet before he could offer assistance, and, flustered, scanned the shelf. “There are more.”
“Plenty,” he said, dropping another packet into his cart. “Are you making curry?”
Sienna tucked back more wayward curls bent on escaping her loose ponytail. Recalling the complicated recipe she’d cut out of a magazine, she nodded. “Thai green curry. With chicken.”
“You’ll also need galangal, green chilies…” As he spoke he took the items from the shelf, piling them up in one broad hand. “Fresh coriander, ginger…”
Eyeing the unfamiliar ingredients, she was starting to wish she’d picked an easier dish to learn on. “No, please, I won’t take those. I wanted to be adventurous, but I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’ve got a jar of curry paste I bought at the supermarket as backup.”
“The bottled stuff is never as good.” He hesitated, but only for a second. “Would you like to come to my house for dinner tonight? I’m having a few people over. You can be adventurous without all the chopping.”
Sienna chewed on her lip.
Say yes, you idiot. Are you kidding? I don’t even know him.
Just in time she remembered Glyneth and Rex. “Thank you, but I’m busy.”
“I don’t blame you for being cautious,” he conceded. “But you can ask anybody—I’m a good guy.”
“I don’t doubt it after seeing you work this shop.” The phone in her pocket vibrated again. Five minutes. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work.”
“Drinks are at seven o’clock. We don’t usually sit down to eat until nine. So, will you come?”
“Seriously, I’ve already got plans.”
“Next Saturday, then. Mark it down in your diary.”
Sienna couldn’t help laughing. “Do you have a dinner party every weekend?”
“I’m not sure if it’s worthy of that title,” he said with a shrug. “I make a big meal and whoever shows up scrambles for a place. If there are too many people I haul out the card table.”
What a contrast to the dinner parties she and Anthony used to give in Melbourne. Formal events, planned weeks in advance with elaborate place settings straight out of
magazine. Catered mostly, because she never had time to cook and because among their circle of friends the competition to provide the fanciest food was so steep it was completely beyond her. Name cards, floral decorations, three different wineglasses and twice as many forks. She had never been relaxed enough to enjoy them. And she’d ended up positively hating them after she’d found out what Anthony and her so-called friend Erica had got up to in the pantry between courses.
Her smile faded. She still couldn’t get her head around the fact that her marriage had broken up. That sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen in her perfect world. “I have to go.”
“I’m Jack.” He pulled out his wallet and withdrew a card, which he pressed into her hand. “Here’s my address in case you change your mind.”
She glanced at the card. Jack Thatcher, Linden Avenue. Before she could reply or tell him her name, an elderly man—obviously hard of hearing, and holding a cane—spoke in a loud voice, one gnarled hand cupped behind his ear. “How ya going, Jack? The missus wants to know why you haven’t been around for a slice of her lemon cake lately.”
Sienna backed away, sliding his card into the side pocket of her purse. She hurried through the checkout and out of the shop. After crossing at the pedestrian walkway, she continued up the street, past the pet store and the chain grocery toward the clinic on Main Street at the end of the two-block commercial area.
Although the sun was still above the treetops, a light spring breeze made her glad of her jacket; here on the peninsula it was always a few degrees cooler than the city. But the tiny coastal town felt right for her at this point in her life. Professionally she’d made a significant career advance in becoming head doctor at the busy Summerside Clinic. And now her encounter with Jack Thatcher had left a pleasurable buzz in her veins, as though good times were just around the corner.
Bev, the well-groomed fiftysomething receptionist, was clacking away at the computer when Sienna entered.
Sienna greeted her and went through into the area behind the reception desk. There she paused and eyed Bev speculatively. Summerside was a small town, only around five thousand people. The gregarious receptionist could likely give her some background on the man she’d just met.
“Oh, Bev,” she said casually. “Do you by any chance know Jack Thatcher?”
Bev stopped typing and swiveled her chair to face Sienna, unconsciously lifting her bejeweled fingers to groom her sleek blond bob. “Everyone knows Jack,” she said with a little sigh. “He’s famous for his dinner parties.”
“Is he married?”
“Widower.” Bev glanced around to see if anyone was close enough to hear, then lowered her voice a notch. “His wife died in a light plane crash a few years ago. Terrible tragedy.” She tilted her head to regard Sienna. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason. I met him in the shop just now.” She never would have guessed there was heartbreak hiding behind that affable smile.
“A word of warning.” Bev cast a knowing eye at Sienna. “Plenty of women have made a play for him, but he never dates. Ever. They say he’s still in love with his wife.”
in him,” Sienna replied quickly. “He seemed very friendly, that’s all.”
“He is friendly! With everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, rich or poor, Jack would give you the shirt off his back. He’s a great guy. He’s just not a good prospect, if you know what I mean.”
“He invited me to dinner tonight.”
“Really?” Bev said, looking interested.
Bev would have gossiped all day long, but Sienna gave her a gotta-go smile and carried her shopping into the staff room. She hung her jacket in the closet and put the groceries in a corner of the kitchen counter where they’d be all right for a couple of hours. Peeking into the bag, she shook her head. She’d left the shop without everything she’d gone for. And ended up with a whole lot of items she didn’t even recall putting in her basket.
All because a charming man with a smile like George Clooney’s had locked eyes with her across a busy shop.