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Hannah Wagner strolled down Seapoint Boulevard, autumn leaves swirling around her feet as she walked. The air was crisp and cool with a small bite that told her the temperature was sure to drop—nature’s way of saying that Thanksgiving season was past and it was time to usher in Christmastime. She wasn’t sure which holiday she enjoyed more. Both equally, if anyone asked. But the truth was, as much as she adored the colors of fall and the spirit behind time spent soaking in all she was grateful for, the magical feeling that floated around Christmas would always be her favorite.
Seapoint Boulevard was essentially the main street of downtown Silver Bay, a place that had been home to Hannah her entire life. She wandered by Well Read, the local bookshop, and smiled at the sight of the owner, Mrs. Kendall, who was sitting at her perch behind the register with a book open in her hands as usual. Her bouffant hairdo that forever sat high above her head was now a deep shade of red and her reading glasses, which were attached to a dainty chain around her neck, rested on the end of her nose. She saw Hannah through the window, took the glasses off her face and stuck them right into her hair. She waved and smiled.
Hannah waved back and kept strolling. A smile remained on her face as she thought of all the times she’d taken Abby into Well Read for story time. Enthralled by not only Mrs. Kendall’s hair but also her heavy makeup containing every color of the rainbow, Abby would sit with rapt attention as the woman read to her and the other children. Of course, Mrs. Kendall was also phenomenal at reading to children. She could alter her voice for each character and animate the story so it came to life for everyone listening.
Hannah walked by Atmosphere, Kate Harden’s interior design store. The front window was half full of decorations for fall, the other half empty, awaiting Christmas lights, trees, and all the wonders Kate would come up with to create a visual delight for the season. Hannah peeked in the window but didn’t see Kate so she kept going. She would swing by later and say hello.
Walking slow to enjoy herself, as well as soak in the alone time she had for the morning, she was on her way to Baylee’s Bakery to meet her friend for tea and whatever baked goodness Baylee had in mind for the day.
It never ceased to amaze her how odd it felt to be by herself. She and Paul had adopted Abby two and a half years ago. A gift from heaven, she was all Hannah had dreamed of and more. After trying to have their own baby for years, they’d begun the adoption process and been blessed with Abby. The thought of Abby’s big brown eyes and soft brown hair against her hand when she combed it made Hannah smile. She was with Paul for the morning having some quality Daddy and daughter time, while Hannah got some time to herself as a bonus. It wasn’t that long ago that her days had been spent running the real estate agency she owned with Paul. They both still worked, and no one could have prepared her for how much Abby filled every other facet of Hannah’s world. To be able to put her “Mommy antenna”—a phrase she’d learned from Baylee and now understood—down for a few hours was restful in so many ways.
The bell above the door at Baylee’s Bakery tinkled as Hannah entered. The heat inside wrapped around her like a welcoming hug as she left the cold. There was a line of people waiting to buy baked goods and every table but two were occupied. Hannah sat down at one of the open tables and took off her coat. She was happy for her friend. Baylee was new to Silver Bay having moved to town two years ago with her son, Casey. And, only weeks ago, she had married Drew MacIntire, a pitcher for the New York Empires. They’d returned from their honeymoon days ago, but it looked as if the bakery hadn’t missed a beat in her absence.
Baylee emerged from the back of the shop and waved to Hannah. She put up a finger signaling she would be just a minute.
As she thought about what sweet treat Baylee might have in store for them, the bell tinkled again as Drew and Casey came through the door.
“Well, hey, you two! It’s so good to see you.” Hannah stood to hug them. She had to be on her tiptoes to hug Drew, who was tall and built as one would imagine a professional baseball player to be. She had to squat down a bit to hug Casey who was about seven and had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Not one for hugging, he had warmed to Hannah over time and allowed her to put her arms around him for a quick squeeze when she saw him.
“It’s good to see you, too.”
“That smile on your face, as well as a nice tan you’ve got going, says your honeymoon was warm and happy and I hope restful for the both of you.”
Drew laughed and even blushed a little. For being so well-known he was more on the shy and private side. He had learned he could trust friends in Silver Bay though and, from what Hannah knew, loved everything about the town, most of all its beautiful blonde bakery owner.
“It really was. We had a great time. I only get a short time off between seasons so it was nice not only to marry the woman of my dreams, but get to take a tropical vacation with her as well.”
“Hey, you two!” Baylee joined them. She hugged her son then received a big kiss from her new husband whose eyes brightened at the sight of her.
Hannah sighed. Paul used to greet her that way, too. She frowned. Why did she think of that in the past tense? She found herself doing that more often lately and wasn’t fond of it.
Drew’s voice brought her back to the moment.
“Casey left his glove in your car. I wanted to swing by and get it before we went to the park. And… I wanted an excuse to see you.” He hugged Baylee and kissed her again, this time on the neck.
Baylee giggled. “Okay, okay. Too much of that and someone’s going to snap a photo of us and use it on social media somewhere.”
“Let them.” Drew grinned as he looked at Baylee as if she were the only person in the room.
Casey tugged on Drew’s arm, his signal that he was done and ready to go.
“My car is parked in the alley out back. Keys are in the office.”
“Okay. Thanks, babe.” He kissed her one more time for good measure. “Bye, Hannah. Good to see you. Let’s do a dinner one night, the two families. I want to see as many people as I can while I’m home.”
“Sounds good. I’ll talk to Paul and coordinate with Baylee.”
Drew nodded as Casey pulled him toward the back of the bakery and his baseball glove.
Hannah smiled as they left then hugged Baylee.
“Those two.” Baylee sighed as they both sat down. “I could not be more in love if I tried.”
“You are both glowing. Like, literally. You’re sweeter than anything you’ve got in this whole entire bakery.”
Baylee laughed. “People are going to get sick of us.”
“No, they won’t. Envious, maybe. But not sick of you.” Hannah winked at her.
“Well, you have nothing to be envious of, my friend,” Baylee said as she reached across the table and patted Hannah’s hand. “Because you have an adoring husband, as well as a beautiful daughter, and best of all, my maple scones are fresh out of the oven and go perfectly with your favorite cup of tea.” She patted Hannah’s hand once more and stood. “I’m going to go get us some and will be right back.”
Hannah smiled and nodded at her friend.
Her smile faded into a frown, however, as she thought of what Baylee had just said. She knew Paul adored her and Abby. But lately she’d begun to feel as if they were like two ships that passed in the night. Or if they did get time together, passed out from exhaustion. Paul loved her; she had no doubt of that. And she loved him. But did they still have that sparkle in their eyes that Drew and Baylee did when they looked at one another?
She took in a deep breath and let it out. What was wrong with her? She was just tired. That was what was wrong. Of course, she and Paul were fine. Drew and Baylee were newlyweds. Every couple looked like that in the beginning. Every relationship had its ebb and flow. They were just in a place where they were adjusting to a toddler and not enough sleep while also running their own business. Who wouldn’t be tired with eyes that didn’t fully sparkle? They were fine.
“You’re really deep in thought there.” Baylee returned and set two plates down, a fresh maple scone on each. One of her employees brought over two cups full of steaming tea. “Thanks, Mia.”
“You’re welcome.” The young woman smiled at them then turned to go back behind the counter.
Baylee sat. “Now, tell me what’s on your mind.”
Hannah smiled. A twinge of Baylee’s Texas accent came out from time to time. It was one of the many endearing things about her.
“Not much. Just happy for you.” Hannah took a sip of her tea.
“I appreciate that. I have to be honest, it feels pretty darn good to be this happy.”
Both women laughed.
“You deserve it.” Hannah tore a piece off her scone. She popped it in her mouth. The maple melted on her tongue as the sugar crystals mixed with the flavor of her tea, the entire experience a decadent moment of perfection. “Oh my gosh, Baylee. As always, this… is… ridiculous. So amazingly good.”
“Thank you! These are truly one of my favorite things to make, and eat, and I love that you are a kindred tea spirit.” She lifted her mug in a toast before taking a sip.
“Okay, I want to know all about the honeymoon.”
“It was amazing. If you’d told me a year ago that I was going to meet someone as amazing as Drew, travel the country watching him play baseball, then marry him and settle down in Silver Bay, I would have laughed so hard I’d split my sides. I would say that I am walking, talking, living proof that life doesn’t always turn out as you plan it.”
As she took another bite of her scone, Hannah agreed that certainly was the truth. But for her, how exactly was it turning out? Yes, she had a husband who loved her, a healthy, happy little girl, a job she enjoyed, and she got to live in her hometown—the only place she ever wanted to live. On paper, her life looked pretty darn perfect. So why did she still have days where it was hard to get going? Days where she felt something was missing? She had the kind of life that so many people dreamed about. And she was grateful. She was. But even in the midst of her gratitude, her heart longed for… for what?
End of Excerpt