Rich in Love

Rich in Love

Lindi Peterson

July 2013 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-295-8

Book 1 of the Richness in Faith trilogy

Our PriceUS$13.95
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Three magnificent mansions share a cul-de-sac on a beautiful Florida bay. But for three unforgettable couples, the exclusive neighborhood opens their hearts to the humble richness of hope, love, and faith.

When Ann Thomas is summoned to Florida for the reading of the will for the father she never knew, her life is forever changed. She learns she has a half-sister, she has the chance to inherit millions, and her name is really Angelina. Brett Hamilton, CPA, is assigned to help Ann spend a lot of money in a short period of time. As soon as his ‘assignment’ with her is over, he’s headed to Peru to be a missionary, something he’s felt called to do his whole life. Ann still lives with the pain of having a mother who chose world missions over her. Can Ann risk giving her love to someone who might give it back, or should she ignore her growing feelings towards Brett to keep her heart safe?

Award-winning author Lindi Peterson lives in north Georgia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with her husband and a lively array of cats, dogs, and birds. She loves sharing life with her family and friends. Her passion for reading led her to writing, and then God spoke words of love into her heart, changing her life forever.

Visit her at:;;; and on Twitter: @lindipeterson.




"Heartwarming and powerful . . ." —Ciara Knight, author of The Neumarian Chronicles

"Sweet, funny, and [a] great exploration of relationships with moms, all wrapped up in a lovely, satisfying romance."—Angela Breidenbach, author of A Healing Heart, a Quilts of Love Book

"I give Rich in Love our highest recommendation. It's a dynamite read."—Ane Mulligan, Novel Rocket





HAVE YOU EVER wished for an April fool’s joke?

Right now I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport atrium waiting for my mom to bring us coffee. My mom, the queen of arriving at the airport hours early. My mom, the queen of world missions.

My mom, the reason I was fired today.

I was recently overlooked for a promotion, but managed to work through my feelings of disappointment. Imagine my surprise when the related-by-marriage-to-the-owner-of-the-business recipient of the promotion gave me a pink slip today. I waived it in the air and asked her if it was a joke. You know, I said, because it is the first day of April.

She assured me it wasn’t a joke and reiterated how sorry she was before leaving my office.

And, okay, I guess I can’t really blame it on mom. And they didn’t use the word fired, per say. They said I was laid off. But if I hadn’t asked off half a day to take my mom to the airport they would have had to wait until five o’clock to let me go and I would still be sitting at my desk preparing excel spreadsheets for clients.

"Here you are, Ann. Extra sugar and a dollop of cream. Just like you like it.”

"Thanks, Mom,” I say as she slides the brown paper cup towards me. She settles into the chair while I don’t mention that I don’t like any sugar let alone extra, and I load my coffee with creamer. Any kind. And dollop? Really, who uses that word?

But that’s okay. Trixie, my mom, has other things she remembers to perfection. Like making sure her passport is current. Like mailing my birthday cards from wherever she is in the world. Even if they do arrive a few days late.

I spent the first fifteen years of my life traipsing around the world with her, then the next fifteen years saying good-bye when she left. By herself. I was through.

Honestly, if you were fifteen and had a choice between embracing poverty to show people who Jesus is or watching cute Leonardo DiCaprio on the big screen (even though he did go down with the ship) which would you have chosen?

So while mom played traveling missionary I lived with my Aunt Venus, Mom’s twin sister. Twins, but they couldn’t be more different.

Mom reaches across the small, round table like she’s going to brush my hair out of my eyes. Startled at the unfamiliar gesture, I lean back. "What?”

Her lips are pursed as she rubs her thumb and index finger together. Then she retreats to her side of the table. "Nothing. I was just going to pluck out that gray hair I saw.”

I straighten my shoulders. "I don’t think so. I don’t have gray hair.”

"My eyes see differently.” She kind of rolls her eyes.

I sigh. "Impossible. You’re almost fifty and don’t have any gray.”

Mom pats her pixie cut. "Good genes.”

Rubbing strands of my hair between my fingers, I broach the forbidden subject. "Of course, I could have genes from the other side of my family. But you won’t talk about them.”

She takes a long swig of her coffee then starts fiddling with her backpack before setting the little zippered wallet that houses her passport and tickets and whatever else it is she needs to travel the world, on the table. "I should get to my gate if I don’t want to miss the flight.”

I pull her wallet toward me. "You have plenty of time. That’s why we’re here now. Early.” I sigh, taming down the frustration which surfaces whenever I bring up the subject of my father. "I won’t bring up the ‘other’ side anymore.”

Once again I glean no information from my mom regarding my dad. I’ll be thirty next week and to this day mom refuses to talk about him.

She drags her wallet back to her. "I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding a job.”

Change of subject done quickly. Trixie-style. "I hope you’re right.”

"You have savings, right? You’ll be okay for a while if nothing comes through, won’t you?”

"I guess. I did just buy the condo six months ago. Between the down payment and the incidentals my nest egg needs more eggs.”

Immediately I regret my words. It wasn’t my intent to burden her before she leaves for another month.

"I told you purchasing the condo might not have been the best move. I mean, you seem like you know what you want in life, but you never know when Jesus might take hold of that heart of yours again and send you with me. You know, like before. When we did this together.”

Her big smile and dreamy gaze quit making me feel guilty years ago. "I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

"Those were such fun days, Ann. Remember the Psalms? How we used to sing them all the time? Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name...”

Psalm 8:1. Some habits never die. "Stop singing, Mom. It’s not working.” She doesn’t understand. I’m not like her. It’s her dream, her calling, to live in airports and impoverished villages with people who don’t speak the same language and whose eyes are filled with hope.

A hope I don’t understand at times. How can they keep hoping when nothing ever changes?

And I love Jesus. I just choose to love him in the Atlanta area.

Locally. "Mom, you know the condo was a great purchase. I bought it for half its original price. I’ll figure it all out. Like you said, I’m sure I’ll have no trouble finding something else.”

I speak the words with a confidence I don’t feel. Jobs are scarce. And I need a high-paying one, like the one I left. Or rather the one that left me.

My mom’s fingers brush the top of mine. "You know, Ann, I do enjoy and appreciate this time we have together. I know I’m never home for long, but it does my heart good to see my girl when I’m here.”

A lot of moms would have tears in their eyes at a moment like this, but not mine. I believe she firmly means what she says, but I learned long ago that Trixie either has no emotions or she keeps them hidden. I guess if she didn’t it would be too hard to live through her days in the mission field.

The only topic that seems to unnerve her is any discussion of my father. And that has been frustrating. I’ve seen my birth certificate. I know my father’s name. Antonio Thomas. I also know I was born in Hampton Cove, Florida and my father’s occupation was listed as unemployed.

Maybe that’s why mom left.

A strange sense of loyalty to my mom keeps me from digging deeper right now. Maybe later. But the older I get, the harder it is to squelch the urge that will probably be her undoing.

BACK IN MY condo I’m supposed to be looking for a job, but instead I’m scouring the internet for shoes. Not just any shoes, mind you. No, I’m looking for very special shoes.

Shoes I can’t afford.

Crazy, isn’t it? But it’s my obsession I guess you can say.

Looking is my obsession, not buying.

I tried one time. Tried to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes with a surprise bonus from work. I planned to walk into the shoe store and purchase the beautiful shoes I passed by every day, wishing they were mine. I did make it through the door.

I actually sat in the luxurious chair and gave the sales girl my shoe size.

But while she went to the back to find the amazingly beautiful shoe I panicked.

Okay, maybe using the word panic is infusing a little too much drama. But visions of my mom, visions of the people she ministered to day after day, year after year, walked that Jimmy Choo shoe right out of my mind.

Slipping my own worn-out sandal on my foot, I high-tailed it out of the store. Once at home, I mailed a check to HOW, Hearts of the World, the organization my mom missions through.

That’s how I became a monthly donor to HOW.

But the longing for nice shoes is still there. The Jimmy Choo page looms in front of me. I can’t look too long before reality sets in. No job and a one-room condo. A condo with a mortgage.

And I love my condo.

The Atlanta skyline is visible from my window. Tall buildings of different heights jut toward the sky. Today low hanging clouds and rain put a damper on the normally beautiful view. Thunder rumbles a short distance away.

I hope this weather isn’t a forecast for the rest of spring.

But even though the weather is dreary my condo is cozy. My daybed with its chocolate, sky blue and white striped comforter sits along the same wall as my desk. Two wall screens, arranged perfectly, give the illusion I have an actual bedroom. My fluffy white cat, Princess Sari, otherwise known as PS, sits in the middle of my bed bathing herself. PS is terribly spoiled, but I can’t help it. I take care of what I love.

And I love my little abode. So I realize the need to minimize the Jimmy Choo page and start submitting my resume.

The need?

The mortgage company.

Running my tongue over my lips reminds me how thirsty I am. I grab a Coke from my apartment-sized refrigerator. A real Coke. Not a fake, diet one. Making my way back to my desk I wonder how long I will stay a size six without trying. Thirty will be here next week and I hear things go downhill from there.

I hope not.

They are already pretty much at the bottom.

Digging a hole might be an option, I guess. Burrow down just a little deeper.

With a sigh I minimize the JC page. With a bigger sigh I stare at my resume.

Ann Thomas. Accountant.

Really, can I sound any more boring?

I wish I could send a picture when I send my resume. Not because I’m beauty personified or anything. I just don’t think I look like an Ann Thomas, numbers cruncher. That girl sounds like she’d have drab brown hair, maybe some out-of-style glasses and a collared shirt with a big bow.

I was blessed with my mom’s red hair. (Earlier, I searched for that stray gray my mom pointed out, but I didn’t find it.) A couple of friends have commented how my hair has just the right amount of blonde in it. It hangs below my shoulders and has a lot of body. Okay, I’ll be totally honest. All my friends want my hair.

And my eyes? I once had a guy tell me they were green like the emerald lakes in Ireland. There are no emerald lakes and he was never in Ireland. So much for flattery. In this case it got him nowhere.

Frankly, right now I’d trade the hair and the eyes for a more interesting name.

Back to the resume.

I’m compiling a list of firms to send it to. I really need to make a few calls, see if anyone has any leads.

A knock sounds on my door causing me to jump. It’s now late afternoon on this Friday, my mom is safely on her way to South America and I’m not expecting anyone, which is why peepholes rock.

As I put my eye up to the little window a delivery man of some sort is distorted on the other end. Only after securing the chain do I open the door slightly. "Can I help you?”

"I have a delivery for a Miss Ann Thomas. It needs to be signed for.”

"Delivery? What kind of delivery?”

"This kind.”

He holds up a standard overnight letter package then shoves an electronic device at me. I’m thankful this can all be done without taking the chain off. A woman can’t be too careful in these times.

In moments he’s gone and I’m holding a white express envelope marked urgent. The return name and street address I don’t recognize.

The city, I do.

Hampton Cove, Florida.

As I sit down, my swivel desk chair rattles slightly, kind of like my nerves. Hampton Cove, the city listed on my birth certificate. My fingers shake as I pull the tab to open the package. Inside I find a single sheet of paper addressed to Ann Thomas.

That would be me.

As I start reading my breathing becomes somewhat erratic. I squint, an unnecessary action, as if it will change the words. But the words don’t change.

My presence is required at the reading of a will of one Antonio Thomas. And the only Antonio Thomas I know of is the one who was listed on my birth certificate.

The name listed as my father.

And now this man is dead?

I read the letter three times, each time understanding less than I did the previous time because the letter becomes more real.

An ache of sorts fills me. How can I be numb at the passing of someone I’d never met?

Grabbing my cell phone I speed-dial my Aunt Venus. Other than Mom, Aunt Venus is the only family I have.

Or rather, the only family I know.

"Aunt Venus. Thank goodness you’re home.” A bit of relief flows through my tense body.

"Ann, what’s wrong?” Her calm tone does nothing to calm me.

I jump up and shove my feet into my two for five dollars flip-flops. You know, the ones I can afford. "I’m fine, but I need to talk to you. In person. I’m on my way.”

I click off my cell phone and shove it in my purse before grabbing PS. Yes, my cat goes with me.

The rain and the Friday afternoon traffic in Atlanta make the drive to Aunt Venus’s a slow, tedious one. My nerves aren’t helping either. The traffic light turns red, causing me to slam on the brakes. The letter slides off the passenger seat and floats to the floorboard, where it lands on PS, who is curled up on her zebra-striped bed.

I reach down, then set the letter back on the seat.

My palms are sweaty as they grip the steering wheel. They probably wouldn’t be sweating if I was driving my dream car. A picture of a Jaguar XK rests next to my odometer. At approximately one hundred thousand dollars the car will always remain a dream. But I’m thinking the luxurious interior would be of some comfort in times of chaos.

Right now Aunt Venus is my only hope for comfort.

And answers.

I’M TAPPING MY foot, trying not to burst out of my skin. Aunt Venus has read the letter, but wants to make some coffee before we discuss.

Are you serious? My mind screams the words, but I don’t. I stay seated in her cheery yellow kitchen wishing I could be just as cheery.

PS purrs gently on my lap. At least she’s content. She has no idea that her world might be turned upside down by a letter from Florida.

"I still don’t understand why you have to take your cat everywhere you go. It’s not normal, you know. And I told you I might be allergic.”

Aunt Venus is standing in front of the coffee maker, waiting for the brown liquid to fill the pot. She has the creamer and the sugar at the ready. Two mugs decorated with peace signs sit on the counter.

"The Princess is special, Aunt Venus. She loves to travel. And you’re not allergic.”

"Well, the last time you brought her over I had to go to the doctor the next day because my throat was scratchy and I kept sneezing. If it happens again I’m sending you the bill.”

I’m not sure if she’s trying to take my mind off of the letter, or if she’s simply being Aunt Venus. I wouldn’t know what to do if she ever changed. She’s the only constant I have in my life. As short as my mom’s hair is, Venus’s reddish-brown hair is long. She always wears it in a bun or ponytail. I think she does that to show off her big earrings. Her face has a few wrinkles, a few laugh lines, but her bluish-green eyes still have a sparkle to them. Her long-time boyfriend Trevor plays a big part in that sparkle. They’ve been dating over twenty years and Aunt Venus still sticks to her mantra that she will never marry.

Trevor seems okay with it, but for some reason it bothers me.

Blue jeans and loose, colorful shirts are her normal attire. What she switches up are her shoes. My love of footwear came from her. She has the coolest shoes, sandals and boots. If our feet were the same size I’d never have to worry about buying shoes. I’d simply shop in Aunt Venus’s closet.

A really good coffee smell fills the air. When the coffee maker beeps, Aunt Venus pours the brew. I like coffee okay, but today it’s all about having the mug in front of me. Having something to do with my hands.

"Would Her Highness like her own cup of coffee?” As Aunt Venus sets our mugs on the table, she nods toward PS.

"Very funny. Besides, she’s sleeping at the moment.”

Aunt Venus takes the letter off of the counter and lays it on the table in front of her chair. She’s moving methodically and slowly. I’m sure it’s an avoidance thing.

She has her hand on the back of her chair, like she’s about to slide into it. But she doesn’t.

"We need a snack. I think I have some shortbread cookies in the pantry.”

My hand juts into the air, palm out. "Stop, Aunt Venus. Sit. Please? I don’t want a snack. I want to know about the letter.”

Her chair scrapes across the tile floor. After sitting, she places her hands on the table. Her coffee sits untouched, and I wonder if she even wants to drink it.

My nervous feeling has now ramped up quite a bit thanks to Aunt Venus’s behavior. Because I know Aunt Venus knows something.

"You’re probably wondering why I’m stalling.” Aunt Venus sips her coffee after she speaks.

"You’re stalling? Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

"Ann, this isn’t my story to tell. It’s your mother’s. But on the other hand, I don’t want you to miss out either.”

I sit straighter. "Miss out on what? It says in the letter a man named Antonio Thomas has passed away. That was my father, right? And now he’s dead?”

Aunt Venus is flushed, and I don’t recall ever seeing her this uncomfortable.

"Your mom loved him so much. I just knew in my heart they were destined to be together forever.”

"Considering I never met my father, forever didn’t last very long.” Wondering how my mom is going to feel, I run my hand over PS. Maybe her soft fur will steady me.

I can’t believe the finality of it. That I’ll never have the chance to know him. A part of me reasons I can’t miss what I never had, but another part of me is sad at what I might have missed.

I will never know my father.

But if this Antonio Thomas was my father, then maybe I have other blood relatives in Florida. Relatives who could tell me about him.

"So you think the letter is legit?” The minute Aunt Venus read the letter and started acting weird, I knew in my heart the letter was real, but I want to hear her say it.


"So, should I go to Florida? Should I try to call Mom? She’ll probably have a signal when she arrives at the airport. If I leave her a message now, surely she’ll check before she delves deep into the recesses of the jungle.”

I think PS senses my stress. She stretches and looks at me, her golden brown eyes barely open.

Aunt Venus cocks her head before giving me the look. "If you even have an inkling you’re going to Florida you better not call your mother. Understand?”

I nod my head. "She would try to stop me. Tell me not to go.”

Aunt Venus sips her coffee then sets her mug down. "She hasn’t talked about this in thirty years. For whatever reason she didn’t want you to know your father. I can’t say it was the right decision, but it was her decision.”

I think about Mom, spitfire that she is. Her beautiful face, short haircut. My green eyes and red hair come from her. Do I look anything like my father? Maybe my olive-toned skin has come from him since both Mom’s and Aunt Venus’s skin-tone is moonlight white.

"Did you know him? My father?”

"No. I didn’t. Your mother and I grew up here in Georgia. When your mother was eighteen she went on a mission trip. She was supposed to be gone a month. But she didn’t come back with everyone else. She called me to tell me she was staying in Florida. She’d found a great job, great apartment and a great guy.”

"Mom said she started doing mission trips when she was young.”

"Your mother has always loved the Lord. But I sensed a change in her while she was in Florida. She told me about Antonio, but I never met him. Then one day she showed up here. You were three months old. Your mother asked me not to ask any questions, so I didn’t. I wanted to talk about it, but I soon learned I needed to let her work it out. So here we are. You, me and Trixie.”

While this information sheds a little light on the situation, it certainly raises more questions than it answers.

"In your opinion this is real. My father, whom I never met, has died and apparently left me something because I’ve been called to the reading of his will. In four days. On my birthday no less.”

Aunt Venus reaches out to cover my hand with hers. She smiles her sweet smile. "This is real, Honey. And we’ll celebrate your big three-o when you come home.”

"You want to go on this road trip? You know, for support?”

She gives my hand a squeeze before settling back in her chair. "I have a ton of work to do. Besides, I think this invitation is solely for you.”

"Invitation? More like a summons. But PS will accompany me, of course.”

"Of course.”

We sound so matter-of-fact. Like my trip is ordinary.

I wish I had the Jaguar XK.

If I did, I’m sure the trip would be fabulous.




REMEMBER HOW I wished I had the Jag? The wish has turned into a need. I need the Jag! I’m slowly driving the streets of Hampton Cove, Florida. I’m less than two miles from the address I was given by the attorney, and I’m surprised I haven’t been arrested for driving under the affluence.

My car is only five years old, but it might as well be fifty years old. The houses aren’t houses. They’re mansions. Big, beautiful, so not-what-I’m-used-to. My mom left this kind of lifestyle?

Maybe not. It was thirty years ago. And my father was unemployed when I was born. But even if he did have money, it wouldn’t have impressed my mom.

I can still hear her telling me not to hoard and store up treasures.

I’m sure there are plenty of treasures in these houses. I’d also bet there are a lot of Jimmy Choo shoes in the closets of these homes.

Nervous beyond belief, I follow the directions my portable nav is speaking to me. PS is oblivious to what is going on. As usual, she’s asleep in her bed on the floorboard.

"It’s almost time to wake up, PS. We have less than a mile to go before we arrive at the address.”

I’m still driving slowly when I come to a cul-de-sac. Three concrete driveways shoot off the circular edge while the middle of it boasts a nicely landscaped area with a beautiful white gazebo. A couple of fancy-looking benches sit among the palms and other bushes and flowers I can’t name. I wonder if anyone really leaves their elaborate homes to come and sit in the gazebo in the cul-de-sac.

Seems highly unlikely to me. Unlikely, yet intriguing.

I jump at the dinging noise my GPS makes before the computerized voice starts speaking. "You have reached your destination.”

My destination, my foot. I don’t know what I have reached. Turmoil, mystery? Although luxurious, it’s still scary.

I round the probably-never-used sitting area until I see the mailbox with the numbers I’m looking for.

Swaying trees, with their green leaves, block the view of the house. Being this close to the water I assume there’s always a breeze. A circular drive beckons me. Taking a deep breath, I steer my car onto the drive, fighting everything that screams for me to pull away from this place as fast as I can. I manage to stop mid-way down the concrete path.

A short stone walkway leads to a small wrought iron gate flanked by two of the biggest palm trees I have ever seen.

It takes me a couple of minutes to gather my things before I walk up the stone path, PS in her carrier in my left hand, my small purse and backpack slung over my right shoulder. Some habits are hard to break. Living out of a backpack for years might have had a few benefits. Learning how to pack light being one of them.

But I don’t think I’m anywhere near equipped to handle what’s inside this house. What I’m going to need you can’t put in a backpack.

The breeze feels nice. It almost makes the heat seem non-existent, and carries that you’re-in-Florida-near-the-ocean scent. Candles can try to recreate it, but they fall short. There’s nothing like the real thing.

The gate creaks slightly as I open it. It clangs shut behind me causing me to jump. I turn to the right where three broad steps lead me to a path to the front door. Two concrete lions greet me on either side.

This place is very symmetrical.

I continue a short distance and hang a left to the front door. Using my free hand I ring the doorbell. An ominous sound, really it’s not foreboding at all, echoes through the house. Prelude to an emotional slaughter?

I’m being overly dramatic, I know. But at the moment I’m not feeling like a confident grown woman who crunches numbers for multi-million dollar businesses. Or used to, I guess. Right now I’m feeling like a little girl who wants to hide in the corner.

The lock on the door clicks.

My heart races.

Taking a deep breath, I paste on a smile.

The door swings open.

My heart pushes so far into my chest I wonder what’s keeping it in. The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen stands in front of me. I wonder if her smile is pasted on her face too, or if it’s genuine.

"You must be Ann. We’ve been expecting you,” she says. "Come in, please. Can I help you with anything?”

She holds out her hand apparently willing to take some of my baggage. But I’m not willing to give it up. "No. I’m fine.”

"Is that,” she bends a little, her gaze locking onto PS’s carrier, "a cat?”

"She is. I hope she’s not going to be a problem. I didn’t have anyone to keep her.”

A slightly mischievous look passes on the woman’s face. "Oh, no. She won’t be a problem at all. What’s her name?”

Somehow I don’t think she’s telling the truth, but what do I know? "Her name is Princess Sari. I call her PS.”

"How clever. Hello, PS.”

As she ponders my Princess I take in the foyer. It’s beautiful and bigger than my whole condo. Luxury and richness hang in the atmosphere. I’m surprised my medium income lungs can breathe.

PS seems to have captured the attention of the woman with the brown hair. She looks to be about my age, brown eyes, tanned skin, nice figure.

And remember, she’s beautiful.

Momentarily, she straightens and holds her hand out.

"I’m Stace. It’s nice to meet you.”

"It’s nice to meet you. Stace?” I ask, shaking her hand.

She shrugs her shoulders. "Stace is short for Anastasia, an extremely cumbersome name.”

Cumbersome? I would give a pair of JC shoes for a name like Anastasia. If I had a pair of JC shoes, that is. What would she think if I called her Anastasia? "I think Anastasia is a beautiful name.”

She looks at me with a puzzled expression. "Thank you. But I don’t like it. Come on, I’ll show you to your room. How many more bags do you have?”

I shake my head. "None. This is it. I mean, I’m only going to be here for a couple of days, so I didn’t pack much. Oh, but I do have a disposable litter pan in the car. For PS. I’ll grab it after I’m settled in.”

"Nonsense. The help will get it for you. Is your car locked?”

I laugh. "No. It’s highly unlikely anyone around here would want to steal my old ride. The litter pans are in the plastic bag in the back seat.”

"Great. Come on.”

We wind our way up the staircase. At the top of the stairs, to the left, is a sitting area. A huge Zebra-patterned rug sits on top of the polished hardwoods. Sleek, modern furniture fills the space. It looks like a great place to hang out and read if you could ever get comfortable on the couch. The white couch that looks like no one has ever sat on it.

We continue down a hall.

"Here we are.”

I follow Anastasia into a room on the left. She sweeps her arm through the air. "You have a great view.”

A great view and so much more. A beautiful four-poster bed graces the room. Soft white fabric drapes across the frame. The same fabric hangs down by each post. A slight breeze from the open French doors causes the draping to billow slightly.

And the view! Blue water, sunshine and palms, a city in the distance. You can see forever. "I’m speechless. This is amazing.”

"Well, we’re glad you’re here. While you settle in, I’ll go see how the help is coming along with your cat’s accessories.”

Ooh. She can’t even say litter pan. "Okay. Thank you.”

I set my backpack, purse and PS’s carrier on the bed. I free PS, and cradling her we stand at the balcony. An ornate black wrought iron railing keeps me safe, but it certainly wouldn’t stop PS from jumping. We are up pretty high, so I don’t think her chances of surviving are great.

She’s purring which means she’s found a sense of peace I haven’t. I back up a few feet and sit on the end of the rounded bed. The brown comforter is going to look fabulous with PS’s white fur on it. Maybe I can find a blanket to lie across the bed.

My thoughts drift to Anastasia. Who is she? She looks familiar. Not celebrity-like familiar. She looks like someone I know. But I can’t pinpoint anyone. She’s definitely at home here. Does she live here? Could she be related to me?

No. She’s much too beautiful to be related to me.

I go to the bathroom to grab a towel to lie on the bed until I can find a blanket. The bathroom is bigger than my condo, also. Browns and corals combine for a beautiful color scheme. The tub is big enough to swim in while about twelve people can fit in the shower.

Shaking my head, I make my way back to the bed, lay the towel on it, then set PS on the towel. She immediately starts giving herself a bath.

Anxious and perplexed at this whole situation, I unzip my backpack then pull out a few items. I shake out the dress I brought to wear to the reading of the will. Closing my eyes I remember that my black pumps are still in my car. Oh, well, I’ll get them later. The empty closet has plenty of hangers so I hang up my dress. Since I had rolled it, the fabric doesn’t have too many wrinkles. I’m sure they’ll fall out before I need to wear it in the morning.

"Hi. I’m back. Here is your bag. And here, I saw these shoes in the back seat. I thought you might need them.”

Anastasia has the huge white plastic bag in one hand and my shoes in the other. I walk to her.

"Thank you. I appreciate this. But I thought you were going to get the help to do this.”

She smiles as she hands over my things. "I am the help.”

AFTER ANASTASIA gives me a blanket to protect the bedspread, I shut the French doors, leaving PS in my room.

Because Aunt Venus didn’t pick up when I called, I left a message on her phone telling her I arrived safely. I can’t wait to talk to her and tell her about this place.

Now I’m sitting in a luxurious kitchen. I will my mind to find another word to use, but luxurious is just so appropriate. Even though the kitchen is nice, it could use a little color on the walls. It’s certainly not cheery like Aunt Venus’s kitchen. This kitchen is more industrial with its big appliances and stark white décor.

And luxury.

Anastasia sets a glass of lemonade in front me as she slides into a chair next to me.

I still can’t believe she’s the help.

"So, what are you wondering? Why I’m in shorts and a t-shirt instead of a uniform? Come on, tell me what you’re thinking.”

"I don’t know what I’m thinking. Because I have so many thoughts jumbling around my mind they’re all crashing into each other and nothing is making any sense.”

"That’s a great big sentence to avoid answering my question.”

I pick at a non-existent speck on the glass table. "It’s the truth.”

"I have a college degree. In business management. I work at a nail salon and I’m saving my money to open my own salon one day.”

"Nice.” I’m not really surprised. Anastasia seems like a lady who knows what she wants. She certainly doesn’t seem hesitant in any way. And her nails are beautiful.

"Mama has been the housekeeper here since she was in her late teens. She always hires one or two girls to help her out. One of them quit about a month ago, so I’m filling in.”

"So, who lives here?”

Anastasia’s gaze cuts sideways. She almost frowns, but not quite. "Well, Mama still lives here. She has a suite downstairs. But since Antonio died, the house is empty.”

"You mean no one is living here?” All this space and beauty going to waste? It seems unthinkable. Just like bombarding her with questions about Antonio.

She smiles. "You are, now.”

"Ah, I’m only here for a couple of days. One of them being my birthday.”

Her expression turns to surprise. "Really? When?”


She reaches out, covering my hand with hers. "Me too. Tomorrow is my thirtieth. And I’m hoping my guy, Jimmy, will have something fabulous planned if you know what I mean.” She pulls her hand off of mine then uses it to tap her left hand’s ‘ring’ finger.

"Oh. You’re expecting to become engaged?”

"Expecting? No. He says he’s not ready for marriage.” She laughs. "Hoping? Yes. Maybe it’s more like praying. Praying he’ll change his mind. Fast.”

"Well, I’ll be praying right along with you then.” My hottest prospect for marriage, Jason, walked out about six months ago. But I’ve never been in a hurry to marry. I think Mom and Aunt Venus have skewed my vision of that institution.

"How about you? No ring, so probably no husband. How about a boyfriend?”

I shake my head. "No. I prefer to enter my thirties single without any prospects.”

Stace laughs. "You’re funny. Is tomorrow your thirtieth, too?”

"It is. Strange how these things happen, huh?”

Her expression turns serious. "Very strange. But tomorrow isn’t until tomorrow. Tonight Mama is planning a huge dinner. Seven o’clock.”

I have been up since two a.m. It’s now almost three p.m. I really hadn’t planned on an event this evening. I wonder what huge dinner really means. Lots of people or lots of food. I’m in the mood for neither. I’m physically and mentally exhausted. "I may need to lie down for a little while. It was a long drive.”

"I figured as much. Why don’t you go on up. Oh, and we dress for dinner, so...”

"So, no shorts and t-shirts?”

"Not tonight.”

It’s a good thing the dress I brought has just been cleaned. It looks like it’s going to get a work-out while I’m here


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