When Sara Hardy inherits a cottage in the small town of Redemption, Connecticut, it is just the break she needs to draw a line under her past—to begin again, on her own.Sara never thought she’d be starting over. She was married, successful, and the mother of a beautiful girl. But the life she thought was on the right path has taken a series of wrong turns…Meanwhile Jake Mathieson has a lot on his plate. Still reeling from a tragedy for which he feels responsible, he finds himself unexpectedly caring for his six-year-old nephew. In desperation, he comes to Redemption to enlist the help of his Aunt Cilla, a widow with demons of her own.Jake is intrigued by Cilla’s cautious new neighbor. Like him, Sara is desperate to put the past behind her but not quite sure how to begin. Can Redemption offer either of them a second chance to find hope and happiness—perhaps even to take a risk on new love?
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The size of the coffin struck Sara Hardy most the day of Lucy’s funeral.
Small. Incongruously small under the pretentious flowers.
Lilies. Sara hated lilies. Their cloying, overpowering stench pervaded the air, clung to her clothes, her hair.
They draped the coffin in an obscene, cascading wave, obliterat¬ing the polished wood, a wood she should know from her past but couldn’t remember. Not that it mattered.
None of it mattered. Not anymore.
“Sara? Sure you want to do this?”
She wrenched her gaze from the coffin and focused on Greg, her blinding grief mirrored in her husband’s bloodshot eyes.
“People will understand if you can’t.” He gently squeezed her hand and she flinched, hating the contact, hating the wounded expression crinkling his face more.
He cleared his throat. “Maybe I should—”
“I’ll do it.”
She was my child, my baby, Sara wanted to scream, as iso¬lated in her grief as she’d been in her marriage even when Lucy was alive.
Greg had cared more about billable hours at the firm than qual¬ity hours at home with their child. But he wasn’t the only one guilty of putting work before Lucy, and that knowledge tore a gaping hole in her grief anew.
“She’s with us, you know.” His tremulous smile grated. “Always.”
He tapped her lightly on the shoulder this time, not keen to repeat his mistake of hand contact, and she shrugged him off, com¬pressing her lips to stop the angry, bitter words from spilling out in a blistering torrent.
Greg was full of crap, couldn’t stop it from flowing even at their daughter’s funeral.
Lucy wouldn’t be with them always.
She was in that repulsively small coffin with the hideous flowers and that’s where she’d remain until they buried her. Then she’d be in the cold, hard ground, subject to New York snow and Atlantic winds and the odd heatwave.
The seasons would change, every mourner in this church would grow older, but her precious Lucy would remain three forever.
Three, dammit. Three freaking years old. Where was the justice in that?
An eerie silence fell over the crowd as Sara stepped up to the podium, taking care not to lean too close to the microphone as she’d been taught early in her career.
Though what did it matter if feedback screeched through the silence? It wasn’t as if Lucy would cover her ears and yell “Mommy!” like she always did when a stray fork scraped a plate during the washing up.
She swallowed, twice, desperate to clear the lump in her throat.
She had to do this.
Placing her hands flat on the podium, Sara studied her chewed nails, the ripped cuticles, and the faint tan line where her wedding ring had resided, testament to more guilt. More pain. More regrets.
The priest cleared his throat from the pulpit, a pointed prod for her to hurry along, and she dragged in a breath, several, before finally raising her head.
Oblivious to the crowd she stared at the coffin, her belly churning with a sickening mix of sorrow and revulsion, hollow yet twisted, her heart gripped in an icy fist that squeezed with relentless persistence.
Her baby was in that coffin.
Her gorgeous, cheeky, blonde-curled little girl who lisped, who laughed at anything on Nick Junior, who preferred Thomas the Tank Engine over Dora the Explorer. Who adored purple and despised pink. Who ate green vegetables over orange.
The lump in her throat expanded, slid down, wedging in her chest like a Sumo wrestler pinning her to a mat and sitting on top of her. She could barely drag in a breath but the longer she focused on the coffin the harder she fought.
Sara had to breathe, had to breathe for both of them, and just like that the air forced itself past the tightness in her windpipe and the words followed, tumbling from her icy lips.
“Lucy-Lou, we used to wish upon the stars every night. You wished for so many things. A pony, a trip to Disneyland, a Barbie fun house. I didn’t make any wishes because, cuddling you in my arms as we stared up at the sky, I already had my wish. I had you.”
Sniffles, a sob, punctuated her pause but she didn’t stop. She couldn’t. The tidal wave of agony was growing, bigger, faster, threat¬ening to swamp her, to sweep her away from her baby, to whom she had so much more to say.
“But now it’s my turn, Lucy-Lou. Now’s my turn to wish. I wish I’d bought you those extra Happy Meals. I wish I hadn’t told you off for splashing in the bath all those nights. I wish I’d taken you to the park those sunny days rather than placing you in front of the TV so I could squeeze in extra work.”
The sobs grew louder but she was on a roll, the words spilling as swiftly as her tears.
“I wish I’d let you wear those awful, patched purple overalls you loved so much every day, rather than forcing you to wear sensible clothes to preschool. I wish I hadn’t yelled at you every time you wanted ice cream before dinner. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about what you were going to be when you grew up and concen¬trated more on making the most of every minute we had together.”
Greg half stood, took a step toward her, and she realized the loud, heart-rending sobs weren’t coming from the congregation: they were bubbling up from deep within her.
Nicola Marsh is a USA TODAY bestselling & award-winning author of 60 contemporary romances. She currently writes women’s fiction for Amazon’s Lake Union imprint. Her latest release SAVING SARA is out now. When she’s not tied to her keyboard, she’s raising two young heroes, cooking up a storm, cheering loudly for the North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL team or curling up with a good book.
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