Read The Inn at Laurel Creek Online

Authors: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction

The Inn at Laurel Creek
















Booktrope Editions

Seattle, WA 2014




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Cover Design by Tatiana Vila

Edited by Clarice Joos

Lyrics by Daniel O'Connor



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.



PRINT ISBN 978-1-62015-550-9


EPUB ISBN 978-1-62015-566-0


Library of Congress Control Number: 2014916575


Table of Contents






For Jack

Who taught me that time

doesn't determine love.





in miracles," I told Stan Brinker, the owner of The Inn at Laurel Creek Bed and Breakfast. I'd just checked in, and as we walked to my room the old man told me stories of miracles and
romances that happened when people stayed at the one hundred
and twenty-two-year-old home.

"You don't got to believe me," he said. "Just you wait and see. All sorts of miracles happen here." He pointed to a set of opened French doors at the end of the hall. "Seems a lot of them happen right out
there, too." He dragged my suitcase to the last door on the right,
next to the French doors, labeled the Serenity Suite, and opened the
door with his key.

That's just what I needed, too. Serenity. "Thank you, Mr.
Brinker," I said, grabbing hold of my suitcase and pulling it into the room. "Like
I said, I don't believe in miracles but if I do happen to see one, I'll
make sure to let you know."

"It's Stan to family, and anyone that stays with us here at the Inn
is family, you hear?" He tipped his beat-up, brown cowboy hat
me and smiled. "You have a mighty fine stay, Ms. Howard. My wife,
Lou, serves dinner in the dining room at six o'clock sharp. Tonight's
fried catfish, her specialty. You ought not to miss it. If you need anything before that, just holler at one-a us. We're here to please."

"Thank you," I said, closing the door behind him.

I flung myself onto the four-poster bed. "Ah, serenity," I said out loud. "Exactly what the doctor ordered." I scooted to the top of the
and lay my head on the pillows. They were soft and fluffy, and all I wanted was to bury my head into them and sleep for five days
Unfortunately, sleep wasn't what I came to the Inn for. I'd come to have a little me time, to gather my thoughts and figure out how to mend my shattered heart. I was determined to pick up the broken pieces of it
Matthew Bollander left three months ago when he walked out of my life
and straight into the arms of another woman. While Matthew and his
fiancée—yes, it happened that fast—spent the weekend with friends and family during their elaborate southern wedding, I intended to
move on
with my life. I didn't know how, but I had five days to figure it out,
and I'd be damned if I wouldn't succeed.

I dragged myself off the cozy bed and meandered around the room, inspecting every corner and knickknack, my hand sweeping over the furniture like a kid in a candy shop. The soft pink chair,
pushed into
the corner by the window, reminded me of my grandmother's. I
plopped onto the cushion and wiggled into the seat. "This one's just right," I said. "Perfect spot to list the reasons I'm better off without Matthew."

I dragged myself from the snug, cushy pink patterned chair and
wandered over to the fireplace, a bricked in, old school one, with
three logs all set for a relaxing fire. I imagined sitting next to the fire that
night, working through my emotions with a bottle of Alto Adige
Bianco. I opened my suitcase, took out the bottle and placed in on
dresser, and then unpacked the rest of the suitcase, placing my
toiletries in the bathroom.

"Oh wow," I moaned. "That tub is amazing." An old-fashioned
copper claw-footed tub sat in the corner of the room, surrounded by
candles in all different shapes and sizes. A white velvet robe lay over the tub. I picked it up and held it to my face. The silky smooth
material melted into my skin. "Perfection."

I finished unpacking, changed into a fresh pair of cut-off jean shorts and a tank top, grabbed my journal, my iPod, a pen and my
ear buds
and headed downstairs. Lou was dusting furniture in the main sitting room. "Hi," I said. "I'm Carly Howard. I'm staying in the Serenity Suite."

Lou smiled, wrapped her arms around me squeezed. "Oh,
to meet you, my dear." She stretched out her arms, holding me at
arms’ length. "Why, aren't you just the prettiest girl ever?"

My face warmed with both pleasure and embarrassment. "Thank you."

From the looks of her skin, she'd spent too much time in the sun, age and laugh lines imbedded into her face. Her long, white hair,
back into a bun, was smooth as satin, and she had a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Lou was probably fifty to fifty-five but looked older. She absolutely radiated sincere sweetness and I instantly adored her.

"My husband said you got here safe and sound. He didn't go on
about those miracles now, did he?"

I nodded. "Maybe a little."

"That Stan." She waved her hand. "He's always tellin' our guests about 'em. I keep tellin' him he's gonna scare away our visitors, but he
keeps on talkin'. Yackity, yackity, yack, all day long. Lawd, my ears.
He's lucky he's cuter than a pig's tail or I'd-a kicked him to the curb by now." She winked. "But even though this old house is full of
talkin' about it doesn't make it happen for ever'one. Sometimes it don't
happen at all. It's gotta be the right person, and the right time."

I giggled. "It's okay. I don't believe in miracles anyway."

"Oh, well you just might after a night or two here." She went
back to her dusting. "And it just might be you one happens to."

"I can deal with that," I said. "Oh, do you happen to have a
water? I'd like to take a walk by the creek and maybe sit there for a
bit. It's a little warm out, and a water would be nice."

She put down the duster and motioned for me to follow her. "I've got just the thing for ya," she said. We walked into the back hall near the kitchen, and she pulled open a drawer under the stairs.
"This here's our
hiking kit," she said, handing me a small drawstring bag. "It's got a little
throw to sit on if you need to rest for a spell, some bug repellant,
because them bugs over at Laurel Creek are ever'where
this time of year." She
crooked her finger and headed into the kitchen. I followed. "I'll get you a few bottled waters and some snacks. Skinny thing like you." Her eyes traveled down my body and back to my eyes. "You could
stand to get some meat on them bones."

I wasn't as skinny as she thought, but I wasn't going to turn down snacks. She handed me two bottles of water and a bag with homemade
chocolate chip cookies. My mouth watered from the smell of the
freshly baked little bites of heaven. "Those look yummy," I said.

"Just baked them a bit ago. It's my momma's secret recipe. Been
the family for years, but if you're as nice as you seem, I might could
give you a few hints."

I took a cookie from the bag and bit into it. "Oh my gosh. This is incredible."

Lou winked. "It's all about the secret ingredient," she said. "Now, you take that bag, and you go and have yourself some good ol' quality time up by the creek, ya hear?"

I nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

Lou walked me to the door. "Thanks for the snacks, and the throw," I told her. "I didn't think to bring a throw with me."

She patted my back. "Don't you worry about a thing, honey. That's
what we're here for. We aim to make you feel right at home." She
my back one more time, and as I walked down the front porch steps said, "Now, walk on out that-a-way, and go left on down yonder by
the fence
gate, and the creek is just a stone's throw up the path. Now don't you
be late for supper, you hear? It's at six o'clock on the spot."

"Yes, ma'am." I said.

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