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There's No Place Like Home...
Grace Mulcahy thought she'd finally gotten Apple Grove, Ohio, out of her system. Then she's lured back for a family barbecue and spies a broa...
There's No Place Like Home...
Grace Mulcahy thought she'd finally gotten Apple Grove, Ohio, out of her system. Then she's lured back for a family barbecue and spies a broad-shouldered hottie hanging out at the grill. He somehow seems utterly at ease, whether flipping burgers or horsing around with her hellion nephews. Why didn't her brother-in-law tell her he had such gorgeous friends? Suddenly her mouth is watering for more than her best friend's famous pie.
Some fires aren't meant to be fought
When firefighter Pat Garahan sees Grace, it's like a five-alarm bell goes off and he's the one ablaze. She says she wants to leave Apple Grove, but he will do whatever it takes to keep her around. The life of a firefighter isn't an easy one though, and he'll have to prove their immediate spark can have a lasting chance at love..
“Gracie, please tell me you didn’t have a glass of wine before you picked up those scissors.”
Grace Mulcahy stared down at her reflection. Why hadn&...
“Gracie, please tell me you didn’t have a glass of wine before you picked up those scissors.”
Grace Mulcahy stared down at her reflection. Why hadn’t she just set the scissors down and stopped fiddling with what was left of her hair?
“How does it look?” Her phone was on speaker—good thing her friend Kate McCormack was back in Apple Grove, Ohio, and couldn’t see her right now. When Grace didn’t answer right away, Kate asked, “Well?”
Grace sighed. “I can always let it grow out.”
Her friend groaned out loud. “Is it fixable or too short?”
Grace turned her head to the left and then back. “Fixable…probably…maybe—heck, I don’t know!”
“Text Honey B. that you have a hair emergency.”
“Not gonna happen. You know she’s too busy juggling her kids and her business.”
“True, but you know she’d want to help.”
Grace sighed. Honey B. was her sister Meg’s best friend—since forever. “It’s not quite a disaster.”
Kate laughed. “Honey B. makes her living fixing hair disasters. Remember that time we decided to go red?”
Grace chuckled. “Lord we shouldn’t have used that Kool-Aid instead of real hair dye.”
“Hey,” Kate said. “It was way cheaper.”
“True…but the results—”
“Were fixed by Honey B.”
“I guess she did fix the Thompson twins when they snuck away from the school gym and cut each other’s hair for their school pictures.”
“Mrs. Thompson was seriously PO’d.”
Grace agreed. “I’ll think about texting Honey B.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kate said. “I’ll text her. You know she has a soft spot for all of the Mulcahy sisters.”
“But I don’t live in Apple Grove anymore—”
“What in the world does that have to do with anything?” Kate wanted to know. “We take care of our own. No matter how far away you travel, Gracie, you’re still an Apple Grover.”
Grace had another gulp of wine to cover the snort of laughter.
“Hah!” Kate said. “Made you laugh.”
She admitted defeat. “OK, but seriously no one who lives back home calls themselves that.”
“That’s because they didn’t think of it,” Kate reminded her. “We did in second grade.”
Grace wished she’d been able to convince Kate to move with her to Columbus. Maybe she should try to tempt her again. “We could get a two-bedroom apartment like we had when we roomed together at college, Kate. It’d be like old times.”
“Except that I’d have to get up at three o’clock in the morning to get to the diner in time for work. You’re not going to get me to move out there, Grace. Besides, there’s too much work for Peggy to be opening by herself.”
“You could find work here,” Grace began, although she knew it was a moot point. Kate and her sister, Peggy, ran the Apple Grove Diner and had ever since their mom decided she was tired of getting up before dawn to make breakfast for the town and handed the reins of the business over to them.
Instead of arguing with her, as Grace expected, Kate said, “I’ll text you the time for your appointment.”
“Wait!” Grace began. Too late, her friend had already disconnected. “Great. Now the whole town is going to think I’m depressed…drinking wine while cutting my hair off.”
But that wasn’t the case. She was donating her hair to Love Locks. The shortest she’d ever gone was shoulder length—but chin length? It was drastic, but she’d wanted to make sure she had enough to donate and only had a yardstick to measure with.
“Yardsticks aren’t flexible.” That was one of the first lessons she’d had in measuring from her father—who ran Mulcahys, the family’s handyman business, for years before finally retiring and letting Grace and her sisters take over. “Can’t get an accurate measurement with one,” her father had insisted.
Although she didn’t have the talent to fix things the way her older sisters did, she was still a hands-on type of girl—hands on the computer, accounting software, filing cabinet, supply shelves. She did her part for the family business for years until she simply couldn’t contain the need to follow her dream in the direction it pulled her…away from Apple Grove, Ohio, with its tiny population and close-knit community.
Grace dreamed of the bright lights and the big city. Well, not as big as New York City, but compared to her tiny hometown, Columbus was the big city—the largest in Ohio. She loved going to museums, fancy restaurants, and having coffee at the outdoor café by her office building—seriously upscale compared to the bench on the sidewalk outside of the Apple Grove Diner.
She longed for something different, to meet someone different. Suave and debonair. But that reminded her of her ex, so she might have to rethink the suave part. Maybe she should think about a man with workingman’s hands—broad and strong, able to fix anything—like her dad.
Of all the memories she’d stored up to take with her when she left, Grace wished she hadn’t seen that split-second look of shock on her father’s face when she’d finally told him she didn’t want to live in Apple Grove. He’d been quick to cover it with a knowing smile, telling her she should go after her dreams, reminding her that she’d always be welcome to come back and visit. That look on his face now resided in the tiny corner of her mind alongside the last image she’d had of her mom in that hospital bed, battered, bruised, and broken from the accident.
Pushing those images aside, she focused on the positive changes she’d made in her life. In the year since she’d left her hometown, she’d landed a great job as an administrative assistant, working in a gorgeous office with all the latest technology. But the best part was that she wasn’t the only one responsible for holding down the fort—she was one of over a hundred employees.
She liked living in Columbus, but sometimes, at night when she was lying there listening to the sounds of traffic instead of hoot owls, she felt the distance—depending on how long it had been between visits home, it was either a thank-God-I-left-town kind of way or a what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-to-leave kind of way. She’d hoped to cement her relationship with Ted by moving to Columbus—he wouldn’t dream of living in a town without streetlights or traffic lights. Too bad she hadn’t realized their disagreements went much deeper than that—a whole lot deeper. He was now her ex.
Grace didn’t want to end her evening thinking of what might have been with Ted. So, she looked in the mirror and held up the ponytail she’d snipped off. “My hair is going to a great cause.” She’d done her research.
Setting the bathroom to rights and putting the scissors back in the kitchen drawer—so she wouldn’t be tempted to fiddle with the slightly uneven ends—Grace sat down at the kitchen table and fired up her laptop. She sent an email to Stacy at Love Locks and received an enthusiastic response almost immediately. Knowing that her donation would make such a difference in a little girl’s life lifted her spirits. Helping someone in need always did—she’d learned that lesson as a kid growing up in the Mulcahy household.
Not everyone who needed repairs or fixer-upper jobs had the money to pay. That never stopped her dad from continuing the tradition her great-great-grandparents had begun of working for trade. Mr. Weatherbee made gorgeous wind chimes. Mrs. Winter baked the most delicious cherry pies. Sometimes when business at her garden center was slow, Miss Trudi Philo would send Cait or Meg home with a few pots overflowing with heavy blooms.
Cutting off her hair had been a bit drastic because she’d worn it long for years, but it was still in that time-honored tradition of helping others. After she sent off the email to Stacy, she decided to clean out her inbox. It took longer than she thought. By the time she finished, she felt the quiet surround her. She poured a second glass of wine and took it over to her favorite spot by the window: a comfy, overstuffed easy chair blooming with pink, cream, and green cabbage roses and ribbons. Setting her glass on the end table, she sank into the chair and relaxed. Curling her legs beneath her, she stared out the window and her thoughts drifted toward home. “I wonder what Cait’s doing right now?”
The middle Mulcahy sister was probably sitting on the sofa with her feet up and a little black dog in her lap, while she leaned against her handsome husband—a second-generation small-town doctor taking care of the good people back home. Her last email from Cait had Grace worrying about her older sister’s health, suspecting she was overdoing it to keep Meg and her father from arguing over hiring someone from outside the family—again.
She’d been there for the first argument and had been on the receiving end of her father’s formidable Irish temper when they had been going at it over who to hire as Grace’s replacement. It hadn’t gone as she’d planned—at all. Pushing those thoughts aside, she let her mind drift back to Doc and Caitlin the last time she’d seen them, sitting on a bench in the Mulcahys’ backyard, gazing into each other’s eyes, so obviously in love that their happiness spilled over onto everyone around them.
Wonder when Cait and Doc will start a family…
Will I ever marry and have children?
She’d never really given marriage a thought until her oldest sister, Meg, got married. When Cait and Jack were falling in love, Grace had been focused on getting out of Apple Grove and pursuing a career in Columbus. There hadn’t been a man in her own life since she’d broken it off with Ted, after catching him in a lip-lock with someone else had ended their relationship. Some things could be worked through, but fidelity was not one of them.
There was an upside to breaking up with him; she had plenty of time to work late and had earned a coveted promotion at work. Her phone chimed, bringing her back to the present. She picked it up and grinned. Kate’s text read: Fri 8pm @ Honey B.’s. Be there!
She sipped her wine and thought about whether or not to answer. She decided she’d just let Kate assume she’d show up. Grace wondered what her friends would think when they saw her again. She’d gained fifteen pounds from sitting behind a desk at her dream job.
She got up and moved to her closet. Flipping through her clothes, she realized most of the clothes that fit her now were only for work—a boring assortment of black, beige, and gray. Add in a pair of black pumps and she might as well add a sign that said: Grace Mulcahy—the invisible woman.
When had she decided to remove color from her wardrobe? A tiny voice inside reminded her that it was after she’d gained the weight. It was past time to make some much-needed changes to her wardrobe, beginning with a pair of jeans. She’d have to make time to pick up a pair on her lunch hour. She hated the fact that she’d have to buy them two sizes larger than she was used to wearing, but she needed something for casual wear when she went home. “Damn, I should have rented the cheaper apartment. I could have afforded a gym membership.” Maybe it’s time to reevaluate my priorities.
She had to be ready to leave tomorrow right after work. Knowing Honey B. would be keeping the shop open after hours just for her, she didn’t want to be late. She grabbed her overnight bag from the back of her closet and tossed in her spare pair of black heels, black wrap dress, and the clothes she’d set on the bed.
Her nephews, Danny and Joey, were bound to want to play outside with a soccer ball—just like their daddy, Apple Grove’s varsity soccer coach. “Maybe I should tell them I can’t and stay inside and play with baby Deidre.”
Their sad faces staring up at her filled her mind’s eye. She sighed aloud. Her darling nephews were three and a half years old and a handful; it would probably be better to help tire them out outside and then play with their baby sister. Definitely getting those jeans tomorrow.
Once she was packed, she moved to the bathroom, where she’d lined up everything she’d need toiletry-wise for the next two days beside her large cosmetic bag. Satisfied that she’d thought of everything, she rifled through her TBR pile and packed three novels—just in case she couldn’t convince Kate to go out with her—an eclectic choice to go with whatever mood she was in: inspirational romance, Western romance, or romantic suspense. On a whim, she tossed in a historical romance. “Never could resist a man in a kilt.”
By the time she’d finished, she was exhausted and had nearly forgotten about her hair, until she moved to push it over her shoulders to braid it for the night—part of her nightly ritual for years. “Well, damn,” she said. “Maybe I’ll be used to it by tomorrow.”
Back in Apple Grove, her sister Meg was on a conference call with Honey B. and Kate. “So she just cut her hair off?” Meg couldn’t believe it. “Does she sound depressed to you?”
Kate could hear Honey B. shushing her toddler, so she waited a moment before answering, “Yes, but I’m not sure if she’s tired from working overtime or maybe homesick.”
Honey B. spoke up. “When was the last time that girl went out on a date?”
Meg chuckled, and Kate huffed, “Not everything can be solved by having a man in your life.”
Honey B.’s delighted laughter had Meg chiming in. “Spoken like someone who does not have a man in her life right now. I could talk to Mitch and ask him to talk to Deputy Jones. Maybe he could smooth things over between you two.”
“I’m not speaking to Deputy Jones right now,” Kate grumbled.
“Um, Honey B.,” Meg said, “maybe you should ask that darling husband of yours first, before you go volunteering him for relationship duties. As the sheriff, he has enough to do, keeping the peace—and teenagers out of trouble—in Apple Grove.”
“Don’t you worry about Mitch,” Honey B. drawled. “He’ll do whatever I ask him to.”
Meg chuckled and told her friend to quit bragging.
“Would you two quit kibitzing?” Kate hissed.
“So what really happened between you and that handsome deputy?” Honey B. wanted to know.
“I don’t want to talk about him right now,” Kate told her. “Besides, we need to focus on Grace right now.”
“Kate’s right,” Meg said. “I think I’ll send her a text, letting her know that we’re having a barbecue on Saturday.”
“Good idea,” Kate said.
“Honey B., what do you think of Pat Garahan?”
“Great guy, broad shoulders, big hands, and a bigger heart.”
“Soooo,” Meg said, “what do you think, Kate?”
Kate was having a hard time following Meg’s thought process. “About what?”
“Fixing him up with Grace.”
“Oh.” Kate tried to picture the former FDNY firefighter dating her friend. An image of the auburn-haired giant with the crooked smile and great personality seemed like a good fit. “Isn’t he too busy now that his firehouse has had to cut back and lay off firefighters?”
“There are still enough guys on shift that everyone gets time off,” Meg told her.
Kate wasn’t sure about his job though. “Why him?”
Honey B. and Meg paused as if considering Kate’s question. “As a friend of the family, he’s usually at our family functions. He and Grace always seek one another out to talk to if they’re thrown together. I think with a push in the right direction, they might discover that there are sparks there,” Meg said. “Besides,” she added, “we like him.”
“But what about his job?”
“At least he has a job,” Meg bit out.
“But it’s dangerous!” Kate said.
“So is Mitch’s, but I try not to let it keep me up nights.” Honey B.’s voice was calm and soothing.
“OK, well then, what about Grace? Do you think she’ll suspect that we’re trying to set her up?”
“Not if we’re sneaky enough,” Meg replied. “I’ll have Dan invite Pat to the barbecue on Saturday.”
“What about getting your dad to invite him to Sunday dinner?” Honey B. asked.
“We don’t want them to suspect anything by having Pop invite them Saturday and Sunday,” Meg said. “We should probably maneuver them together a few weekends in a row if we can swing it—spread it out a little.”
“Hey,” Honey B. said, “don’t forget the guys play pickup soccer at least once a month.”
“Perfect,” Meg said. “I’ll find out when the next game is and let you know. Maybe we can move the game to Dad’s.”
“Let me see if I have this straight,” Kate said. “You’re inviting Patrick to a barbecue this Saturday?”
“Yes,” Meg and Honey B. said at the same time.
“Then a game and family dinner over the next few weekends?” Kate asked. “What makes you think Grace will want to come back so soon?”
Honey B.’s delighted laughter caught Kate off guard. “What’s so funny?”
“Have you ever really looked at Patrick Garahan?” Meg answered. “The man is to-die-for handsome, and those shoulders of his…” Meg’s voice trailed off.
“We’re counting on his Irish charm to smooth the way,” Honey B. said, “and get Grace to come home for a couple of weekends.”
“What excuse will you use to get her home for the third weekend?” Kate wanted to know.
“I don’t know yet. Hopefully, we won’t need to think of anything. She’ll be smitten with the man.”
Kate laughed. “Smitten?”
“Grace fell in lust with Ted,” Meg said softly. “My baby sister needs something deeper, something to look forward to. A man like Patrick is just what she needs.”
“I hope you two know what you’re doing,” Kate mumbled. “I think Grace just needs time at home—not a man.”
“Everybody needs a man, Kate,” Honey B. drawled.
Meg and Honey B. were still laughing when Kate added, “We’d better hope that Grace doesn’t find out.”
“Did she say anything else?” Meg asked.
“Just that she was donating her hair to a charity that makes human-hair wigs for little girls and teenagers who are fighting cancer and can’t afford to purchase a wig.”
“My baby sister always manages to surprise me,” Meg whispered. “Honey B., I can’t believe that I’ve never really thought about donating my hair. It’s a great idea.”
“Well, you’ve been busy raising your sisters and working for your father, and then Dan Eagan moved to town.”
Meg laughed. “And that’s when my life turned completely upside down, but I do love that man.”
Kate interrupted, “So you’re going to donate your hair too?”
“Absolutely,” Meg said. “I braid it to keep it out of my way.”
“You have for years,” Honey B. added. “I like wearing mine just long enough to brush my shoulders. Gives your hair more bounce, more life.”
“I’m going to call Cait and tell her about our new plans for Grace and let her know that I’m donating my hair too.”
“I’ve always wanted to try a new hairstyle,” Kate said.
“You mean other than a ponytail?” Honey B. asked.
Kate chuckled. “Yes, do you think I have enough hair to donate it?”
“Tell you what,” Honey B. said. “Why don’t you meet us at my shop tomorrow night at eight o’clock and we’ll measure it then.”
“Sounds great,” Kate told her.
“Oh,” Honey B. whispered. “I just had this amazing idea.”
“What?” Kate asked.
“Honey B.,” Meg said, “are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Honey B. and Meg had been saying stuff like that to each other for as long as Kate could remember.
“I believe I am,” Honey B. told her. “We’d better get busy spreading the word; I expect I’ll have a long line of customers at the shop tomorrow.”
“What are you two talking about?” Kate demanded.
“We’re going to get as many people in town to donate hair as we can and make one large donation and let them know Grace gave us the idea.”
“Honey B.,” Meg said softly, “she’ll be so surprised…and touched. Thank you.”
Honey B. laughed. “Don’t thank me yet. So far we have you, Kate, and possibly Caitlin donating hair—we need a lot more people!”
“OK,” Meg said. “Let’s divide and conquer. I’ll call Miss Trudi—”
“I’ll call Mrs. Winter,” Honey B. said.
“And I’ll tell my sister Peggy,” Kate volunteered. “Between those three, the entire town will hear about Apple Grove’s Love Locks cut-a-thon in an hour—tops!”
“God, I love this town.” Meg sniffled. “Our neighbors and friends are always ready to lend a hand—or in this case their hair!”
“Me too,” Honey B. and Kate said at the same time.
“I’ve got to call Grace,” Kate said.
“Wait,” Meg said. “I think it should be our surprise. It’ll make Grace feel as if she’s still a part of Apple Grove, and I have a feeling that might be just what she needs.”
“Good call,” Honey B. said.
“All right,” Kate agreed. “I won’t spill the beans. Do you think we should ask Rhonda to run a special edition of the Apple Grove Gazette online tonight?”
“I’m not sure,” Meg said. “Grace might read it.”
“All right then. I’ll see you ladies tomorrow,” Honey B. reminded them.
“Night,” Meg said.
“Talk to you later.” Kate couldn’t wait to see Grace tomorrow night, but she didn’t have time to think about that now. She ran downstairs to tell her sister the news.
“C.H. Admirand keeps me glued to the pages waiting to see what happens next. There are surprises and plain old heartwarming feelings clearly defined between each and every character. &rd...
“C.H. Admirand keeps me glued to the pages waiting to see what happens next. There are surprises and plain old heartwarming feelings clearly defined between each and every character. ” - Fresh Fiction
“ A warning to those new to this series; as you open this book and lose yourself in the small town life of Apple Grove, be prepared to fall in love with the town and the people there. A delightful tale, I highly recommend it!” - Blue Ribbon Reviews
“This is a small town that is a delight to revisit. Fun and quirky characters are easy to like, and want them to get their HEA” - Under the Boardwalk
“A very down home setting with great secondary characters. The main couple is real and believable. Their romance is exactly what love should look like.” - Debbie’s Book Bag
“Every book I've read by C.H. Admirand has swept me away into a world that I don't want to leave. ” - What’s on the Bookshelf
“Another delightfully heartwarming addition to C.H. Admirand’s charming Small Town U.S.A. series” - Book Reviews and More by Kathy
“Amazing, Hopeful and Lovely.” - 23 Review Street
“Lots of fun loving humor, family and friend meddling and romance. A perfectly enjoyable read.” - Tome Tender Book Blog
“Strong, sensuous romance with realistic situations in a fun small-town setting. Fans of Debbie Macomber who also like some heat with their romance—along with recipes—will devour this thoughtful series. ” - Booklist
“Readers who enjoy lovable, realistic and wonderfully flawed characters will love this story. The dialogue is quick, often funny and perfectly fitting for a charming small town. 4 ½ Stars ” - RT Book Reviews
“FOUR & A HALF STARS! If a new story by Admirand is due to hit the shelves, you can bet that I am eager to get a copy in my greedy little hands” - Huntress Reviews
“Only Admirand manages to combine wholesome hometown stories with hot hunks and steamy story lines. Tremendous fun!” - Cayocosta72 Book Reviews
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 7.92 oz
Page Count: 320 pages