Return to Heartland
Dropping my bags, I press my hands to the sides of my face and peer in through the stained-glass in the front door. The same stained-glass that has graced the front door of my family’s home for over a century now. Homestead. Not a—whatever this Green Grub thing is supposed to be.
Is that a cappuccino maker, I see? Mom doesn’t own a cappuccino maker.
I scan the room, my vision slightly skewed because over peering through the stained-glass.
No sign of Mom anywhere.
I don’t get it. Wouldn’t she have told me if she’d moved house? My conversation with Mrs. Peterson comes to mind. I whirl around, unnerved, and stare out at the town. They didn’t have her put away, or something, did they? Surely to goodness, Aunt Penny would have called if that happened. My blood threads with panic. No, she’s here. She’s got to be here.
Unless… unless this is how they were planning to tell me. Maybe that’s why they summoned me here. To break the news. My mouth goes dry.
I run sweaty palms down the sides of my skirt. Whatever’s happened, I’m gonna find out.
I pick up my bags and charge on through the door— the heavy, ornately carved Victorian wood door of the home where I was raised, and where my mother still lives, according to the address on her mail. Or at least last Christmas. The door slams shut behind me, giving my spine a jolt.
Customer warning bells tinkle overhead that look suspiciously like the ones from my Mom’s store across the way.
“Oh, hey… hi!” A head pops up from behind a serving counter. A head attached to a very a nice-looking face, and I neck I sense I should be throttling. I repeat, there is a freaking bar-slash-serving-counter sitting smack dab in the middle of my mother’s formal parlor! And I suspect he’s the culprit that put it there. “Can I help you?” he says, and his eyes sparkle—a stunning shade of emerald green, rimmed by a thick set of dark eyelashes. Like that improves things. They’re set behind a sexy set of lenses. Clearly, he’s one of those guys who looks even better with glasses on. You know, the kind. Where the glasses just add to the already amazing features of his face. He’s sexy enough on his own, but the glasses take it over the top. Not that any of that matters right now. Neither does the fact that he has a killer accent—which, if my language sense serves me, I believe is Australian. Though it could be South African. No, definitely Australian. Again, not that it matters.
“Oh, jeez, where are my manners.” All six-feet whatever of him shoots forward, yanking an arborite chair out from under an arborite table, offering me a place to sit. In my own living room!
I glare down at the atrocity gracing my Mother’s parlor, then scowl up. “Who are you? Why are you here?” Is that a ketchup stain on the brim of his hat?
“Hello to you too,” he says.
“Where is she?” I look around, darting doorway to doorway.
He squints. “I’m sorry, were you supposed to meet someone?” He screws up his face.
“No, I’m not meeting someone here. I live here. Lived here. Now, where is she?” I drop my bags and kick off my shoes—cause, you know, habit.
“Are you always this friendly when you meet someone?” The stranger glares.
“Only when I arrive home to find a dazed-looking cook standing in my Mom’s formal living room.”
His stunning eyes flash. “Aah!” He finally clues in. “Oh, my gosh. That’s who you are! You must be, Becca!” He lunges forward, sticking out a hand for me to shake. I don’t take it. “Oh, excuse me.” He retracts his hand, wipes it off on the front of his grimy apron and sticks it out again, like that was the problem. “I’ve heard so much about you.” He breaks into an eye-squishing grin.
“Funny?” I cross my arms. “I haven’t heard a thing about you.”
I let his hand hang out between us like a cold, dead fish, ’cause you know, I don’t like him.
If I were forced to classifying him, say for my friend Tia or something, I’d go with the ‘ruggedly hipster urbanite’, which makes me wonder why he’s here, in the middle of backwoods New Brunswick, posing as a short order cook. He’s sports one of those scruffy beards that looks like he only half bothers to shave, and his curly hair is a mess under that baseball cap worn backward on his head. Gawd, that cap is disgustingly grimy. I’ve never understood why do men go for that look? I mean, sure, they don’t have to shave, but still, women might want to kiss them or run their hands through their hair. Have they ever considered that?
Not that I want to kiss this one or anything. It’s just an observation.
“Perhaps I could get you a drink or something?” He clasps his hands together.
“Perhaps not.” I poker-smile back at him.
My gaze runs up his muscled frame, along his broad, thick shoulders, and back onto his flawless face. Gosh, didn’t the buff-spirits give this one everything? But it’s all ruined when he opens his mouth. A bit of a smart-arse, isn’t he? “How about you tell me who you are, and why you’re here, and what you’ve done with my mother?” I growl, despite how good-looking he is.
“Your mother hasn’t told you yet?”
“Does it look like my mother’s told me?” I blink.
“Aaah…I’m Trent.” He tries to offer me his hand again, but I still don’t shake it. “I bought the place from your mom about a year back.”
“You what?” Now, I’m really not shaking his hand. I hope my voice didn’t just shriek as loud outside my head as it did inside. A year ago? I know I didn’t make it home for Christmas the past few years, but--
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