By Elley Arden, author of Emerald Springs Legacy: Chad’s Chance (coming to Crimson Romance April 7, 2014)
“Maybe I am crazy,” Richard Whitman said as he stood on the back patio, braving the New Year’s Day chill, clutching his morning cup of Earl Grey tea, and staring at the murky horizon line where the Pacific Northwest sky met five acres of lush green ground. He hoped to fill this land with camellia sinesis plants, but after last night, he wasn’t sure. “Maybe Joe is right. Maybe growing tea is Washington is a pipe dream.”
The screen door creaked behind him and Sheila wrapped her long arms around his waist, warming his back with her body. “All genius is a little crazy.” Her lips landed soft and heated on his cheek. “I believe in you.”
“You matter most,” Richard said, facing his wife and pulling her into a hug until her head rested against his chest. He watched steam rise from his mug which pressed against the small of her back. “I’m doing this for you and the boys. If we want this farm to flourish and support multiple generations, we have to make a name for ourselves. We have to do something nobody else is doing. But I need Joe to believe in me, too. We’re partners.”
“He’ll come around.”
“What if he doesn’t?” Joe’s stubborn streak had caused more than a few arguments lately, but this one felt different, more serious.
“It will all work out in the end.”
Richard chose to believe her. He showered, dressed, and helped Sheila in the kitchen. Trying his best to keep his mind on slicing potatoes for the holiday dinner instead of tea leaves and seeing Joe again. But it was difficult. He’d never seen Joe so despondent over an idea before.
“Maybe I could’ve handled the announcement better,” Richard said, dumping the sliced potatoes into a pot of water Sheila had set on the stove. “Maybe I shouldn’t have sprung it on him like that.”
“Richard.” She gave him a pointed look, and then added a smile. “Stop worrying about it. When he gets here, you can apologize for the surprise announcement, and then you can explain everything in better detail…after dinner. Everything will be okay.”
Laughter from the next room added to her positive pronouncement, and once again Richard relaxed. He cleaned homegrown vegetables while he whistled “Auld Lang Syne,” and guarded the cooling pies from his boys’ grubby hands.
Richard was chasing Chad from the kitchen with a wooden spoon when the phone rang and Sheila answered, “Hi, Rebecca.”
The silence that followed was deep and thick.
Worry plagued him again, and when Sheila hung up the phone with a frown, Richard knew everything wasn’t going to be okay.
“They’re not coming,” he said.
She nodded her head. “Jacob is sick.”
“Jacob looked fine to me last night.”
Shelia walked to him, wrapped her arms around his neck, and nuzzled her cheek to his. “It’s going to be okay.”
This time, Richard doubted her. Joe had been mad before, but never mad enough to skip a holiday dinner. No, this was different. This was…
“Happy New Year!” Richard’s brother, Sam, said as he walked into the kitchen, chasing Richard and Sheila apart.
“Happy New Year, Uncle Richard and Aunt Sheila,” Richard’s niece, Ashley, said before she left to join the boys.
Twenty-four hours ago Richard had expected this to be the happiest New Year yet. Now he just hoped it didn’t end up being the year he was forced to choose between business dreams and his best friend.
Check back next week for the next installment in the Emerald Springs Legacy prequel!