A Family's Blessing - Carolyne Aarsen

Chapter One

So this was the town Sam had scurried back to thirteen years ago.

Hannah rocked back and forth on her feet as she looked up and down the main street of Millars Crossing, studying it through the eyes of one left behind for this place.

The downtown boasted older-style brick buildings and ash trees lining the street, the first hint of spring in the fresh green misting their bare branches. Pleasant enough.

Even though Sam wasn’t Hannah’s biological father, she thought his nine-year relationship with her and her mother would have given him some permanent stake in their lives. But this town and his extended family had obviously exerted a stronger pull, because in the thirteen years he was gone, he never came back for her or wrote or even phoned. Two days ago, however, Hannah received the news from someone named Ted that Sam had passed away three weeks earlier. Ted had politely requested that she come to Millars Crossing for the reading of Sam’s will.

Hannah glanced down Main Street and pulled a face. This town was too small for this big-city girl’s liking. Far removed from any major center and with too many pickup trucks, Hannah thought, her attention drawn by a particularly loud red one making its way down the street toward her.

Hannah flipped open her cell phone, and though she’d had it on since she left Toronto, she checked her messages again. Nothing from Lizzie, her business partner, about how things were progressing on the purchase. Hannah had been reluctant to leave, but Lizzie had encouraged her, saying that nothing was going to happen in the next week, so here she was. She didn’t need to meet with the Westervelds till tomorrow, but curiosity had her come a day early. Just to explore and familiarize herself with Sam’s surroundings.

Hannah pushed back her own concerns as she drew in a long, slow breath, catching the tantalizing whiff of coffee blended with the distinctive scent of yeast and bread.

She rolled her stiff shoulders as the light changed, already anticipating the bite of the dark brew combined with a warm muffin. Or maybe a Danish.

A couple of young girls slipped past her and dashed across the street, waving at the driver of the noisy red pickup who had turned onto the main street and was parking in front of the bakery.

Then one of the girls bumped into a little boy coming out of the bakery.

The boy dropped his doughnut, and his lip quivered as he looked at the treat now lying frosting-side down on the sidewalk. She hurried to his side and knelt in front of him. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“I am but not my doughnut.” His lip quivered, and Hannah felt sorry for him.

She checked her pockets for loose change to buy him a new one, but all that came up were a few nickels.

“Susie Corbett, get back here.” A man stepping out of the fancy red truck called out to the delinquent girls.

The shorter girl with the curly blond hair heeded the summons and slowed her steps. The other kept running.

“I said now, Susie.” While he barked out his demand, the man walked over to Hannah and the little boy.

“You okay, Todd?” he asked, though his gaze came to rest on Hannah.

His eyes, an unusual color of sage, fringed with thick, dark eyelashes, caught and held her attention. His finely shaped lips curved into a crooked smile, emphasizing his hollow cheekbones. His expression clearly had one intention. “Thanks for helping,” he said, the timbre of his voice lowering, and in spite of knowing what he was playing at, Hannah felt a lift of attraction.

“Back at you.” She kept her smile aloof. No sense encouraging one of the locals on a quick visit.

She forced her attention back to the little boy. “Sorry, I don’t have enough change for another doughnut,” she said.

He sighed and nodded.

“That’s okay. Susie will pay,” the man said as the girl came nearer. “Won’t you, Susie? I think you owe Todd about fifty cents.”

“Uncle Ethan,” she wailed, but even as she protested, she dug in her pocket. “You won’t tell Mom, will you?” she asked as she handed the money over.

“Of course I won’t tell your mom, you little twerp. Just don’t act like such a toughie.” He made the letter V with his fingers and pointed them at his eyes. “Remember, I see everything.”

Susie gave a nervous laugh.

“Okay, Uncle Ethan.” She took a few hesitant steps backward. “Can I go now?”

Uncle Ethan flipped his hand