alexis morgan's snowberry creek

alexis morgan aka pat pritchard


a reason to lvoeA REASON TO LOVE
by Alexis Morgan
Snowberry Creek, Book 3
ISBN-13: 978-0451417732

Signet Eclipse
May 2014

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A Snowberry Creek novel.

All roads lead home in Snowberry Creek...

After a devastating tour in Afghanistan, all Spencer Lang wants is for life to return to normal. But when he rides into his hometown on his Harley, he learns that his friends and family have tried to move past their heartbreak since he was reported killed-in-action—and the woman he loved is about to marry his best friend. Now, all he can do is pick up the pieces of his life.

Years ago Melanie Wolfe left town, with no intention of ever coming back. But when her father dies, she reluctantly returns home to salvage the family business. Reuniting with Spencer, her high school crush, complicates the already thorny situation, especially when she begins losing her heart to him all over again.

As Spencer and Melanie work to restore order to her family's company, two damaged hearts face an unexpected new future that is filled with possibilities...and love.

 

excerpt

Chapter 1

A last name shouldn't be a burden, but Melanie's sat as a heavy weight on her shoulders as she strolled through the cemetery. The pressure increased dramatically as she passed the neat rows of nearly identical markers, all bearing the familiar inscription: Wolfe.

The library in town had the same name carved in the arch over the front door, and the name appeared on the local high school as well. As the sun edged its way down toward the western horizon, Melanie moved on down the hillside, taking her time to enjoy the fresh air and the last of the warm sunshine.

There was no escaping her family heritage here in Snowberry Creek. Her great-great-grandfather, Josiah Wolfe, had parked his covered wagon next to a small stream tumbling down through the foothills of the Cascades and planted the family's roots down deep into the rocky soil. He'd been an ambitious man, one determined to make his mark in the world—and the town of Snowberry Creek was his creation.

There, under his firm hand, the family had proudly flourished in both number and wealth for two generations. Even the stock market crash and the Great Depression had been mere setbacks. Since that time, the size of the family had dwindled dramatically until now there were only two Wolfes left in town: Melanie and her mother. At least their family fortune was rock solid.

Or at least that was the fairy tale Melanie had always been told.

She reluctantly started down the slope to where a new granite headstone had been set in place. Her mother had instructed Melanie to ensure that everything had been done properly. Melanie had bitten back the suggestion that if her mother was worried about it, she could always come back to check it out for herself. After all, there were other more pressing things on Melanie's to-do list screaming for her attention right now.

Instead, here she was, playing the dutiful daughter again. It was a role she'd never been well suited for, but right now she had no other choice. Not when something inside her mother had shattered the day her husband's heart stopped beating. Three weeks after the funeral, the reality of their changed circumstances had come crashing down. She'd immediately left town on an extended visit with her sister Marcia down in Oregon, abandoning Melanie to deal with the fallout from her father's death alone.

It would take a better person than Melanie not to resent having her whole life uprooted, especially when she'd worked so hard to escape the confines of Snowberry Creek in the first place. But unfortunately, according to Melanie's aunt, Sandra Wolfe had become little more than a shadow of herself and only rarely left the house. Figuring out what to do about that was also on Melanie's list.

She coasted to a stop a short distance from her father's grave. From afar, the gray granite marker blended in seamlessly with all the others. It was only on closer inspection that she could see the polished stone was a little shinier than those on either side of it.

Edmond Wolfe would've approved. Even in life, he'd preferred to maintain a quiet, dignified lifestyle. The only anomaly had been a bright red pickup truck that he'd loved to drive around town. Looking back, Melanie should've known something was wrong when he'd sold it only days before he died. What other signs had she missed that all was not as it should be? She'd grown up believing her parents were financially secure and that her father had inherited her great-great-grandfather's head for business. It had never occurred to her to doubt that.

As it turned out, she'd been wrong on both counts.

The silence in the cemetery was oppressive, but what could she say to a slab of granite? She settled for the obvious. "Well, Dad, looks like they got everything right on your headstone. It suits you."

Considering all it contained was his full name and the years that spanned his life, there wasn't much that could've gone wrong. The Wolfe family didn't go in for inspirational sayings or emotional displays, in public or private. Melanie snapped a picture with her phone to text to her mother later. For now, she set down the small bouquet of lilies she'd brought for her father's grave.

Staring down at the headstone, she whispered, "Dad, I'm doing my best to figure things out, but I've got so many questions I wish I could ask you right now."

Not that he would've liked answering them. He'd never discussed finances with his wife, much less his only daughter. No, like his father before him, her father preferred to shelter women from the hard realities of the business world. Well, that train had left the station. Melanie now knew all too much about the precarious state of the family's finances.

It was time to get moving. She had other, happier places to be this evening. But as she turned to leave, she realized she was no longer alone on the hillside. A man dressed in a camouflage uniform stood by a grave on the far side of the cemetery. He had his back to her as he stared down at one of the markers. From the slump in his shoulders, the name on the headstone had to be causing him great pain.

She knew why because she knew who was buried there: Spence Lang. Last summer, the whole town had turned out for his funeral to pay homage to one of their own. The war was being waged on the other side of the world, but that day it had come home to Snowberry Creek.

Although she'd been living in Spokane at the time, Melanie had taken the day off work and driven down to attend the service.

She'd owed Spence that much. The solemn ceremony had been excruciatingly painful in its intensity. As the final strands of "Taps" faded away, the army honor guard had carefully folded the flag that had covered the coffin and presented it to Vince Locke, Spence's uncle.

Melanie bet she hadn't been the only one who had wanted to snatch it right back out of that bastard's hands. Considering the despicable way the man had treated his nephew in life, Vince didn't deserve the honor of claiming that last reminder of Spence's service to their country. It had been a relief to see Callie, Spence's best friend, take it away from him before he left the cemetery.

Even now, months later, the memory of watching Spence's coffin being lowered into the ground still made Melanie's heart ache. He'd been such a force of nature, always a bit wild but with an easy smile for everyone.

Even the shy daughter of the first family of Snowberry Creek.

God, she'd had such a crush on Spence back in their senior year, not that she'd ever admitted how she felt about him. If anyone had found out, it would only have embarrassed Melanie in front of the whole school. Not to mention her parents would've been horrified to learn their daughter was attracted to the town bad boy.

No doubt the soldier had come to town for the wedding, the same one Melanie was about to attend. Callie was marrying Nick Jenkins, who had served in Afghanistan with Spence. The couple had met when Nick drove across the country to bring Callie the dog their unit had adopted over there. The couple might have bonded first over their shared loss, but there was no doubt about how much they loved each other. In truth, Melanie was a little envious of the connection they shared.

It was time to get moving if she was going to arrive at the church on time. But before she left, the least she could do was introduce herself to the soldier and maybe nudge him along, too, since he hadn't moved since she first spotted him. Visiting Spence's grave was no doubt hard for the guy, and who could blame him? How many of his other friends had been wounded or killed over there?

As she made her way across the cemetery, she decided to do more than simply exchange names. For Spence's sake, she would offer to show him the way to the church. If he was in town by himself, maybe she would even invite him to sit with her. That way he would have met at least one other person in the crowd of locals besides the groom and his best man, Leif, another member of Spence's unit.

If the soldier was aware of Melanie's approach, he gave no sign of it. He remained frozen in that one spot even though Melanie made no effort to be especially quiet as she approached. She stopped a few steps away, pausing right in front of the double headstone that marked the grave of Spence's parents.

"Excuse me? I don't mean to intrude, but I was wondering if you were in town for the Jenkins-Redding wedding. If so, I'm headed there myself and thought you might like to follow me to the church."

The soldier's shoulders snapped back as if he was coming to attention. He didn't turn to face her, but something about his rigid stance and clenched fists bothered her. Melanie backed up a step, keenly aware that she was a woman alone with a strange man on an isolated hillside.

Suddenly, she didn't want him to turn around even if she couldn't pinpoint the reason for her misgivings. When he finally glanced back over his shoulder, her pulse went into overdrive as she tried to make sense of what she was seeing. That jawline. That profile. They were all too familiar even as her head tried to convince her heart that what she was seeing—no, make that who she was seeing—just wasn't possible.

"Melanie?"

With that single word, her lungs quit working altogether as her knees buckled and the ground came rushing up. She heard a muttered curse as a pair of strong arms caught her right before she hit the ground. She stared up at the soldier's face, blinking hard as if that would clear her vision. When that didn't change the new reality of her world, she pointed out the obvious.

"Spence?"

 

reviews

"This sweet, romantic charmer will resonate with fans of small town stories." --Publishers Weekly

5 stars, Top Pick! " . . . a wonderful story with well-rounded characters you just can't help falling in love with . . ."--Night Owl Reviews

"a romance you will feel in your heart long after you finish reading the book." --Harlequin Junkie, TOP PICK!

"Morgan maintains her winning combination of small-town tenderness and sexy, wounded heroes." --Kirkus Reviews.

"...the sweet, sensual romance between Melanie and Spence is refreshing and believable..." --Publisher's Weekly

"A Reason to Love is a great mix of heartbreak and hope." --Wit and Sin Reviews

"I highly recommend this book..." Night Owl Reviews, 5 stars TOP PICK!

 

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