Saving Heart & Home
by Nikki Bergstresser and Denise Jaden
Small town love with a big time problem...
Emma Hathaway finds joy in the small town life of Juniper Falls caring for the seniors she has grown to love at Heart & Home assisted living facility. Emma insists she is content to avoid dating and the heartbreak that can come from falling in love. After all, she has her rescue dog Charlie to keep her company. Yet, others notice her loneliness. The zany elderly residents make it their mission to find their beloved nurse a date before Valentine’s Day. Financial problems arise threatening the future of Heart & Home, along with Emma’s job.
Attractive and ambitious, Jake Rothstein blows into town from his big city life with plans to move his grandmother, one of Emma’s favorite residents, to a care facility in the city. But first, Jake must sell the family house he grew up in. He is determined to leave Juniper Falls behind him, along with the painful memories he has buried.
In hopes of changing his mind, Emma offers to assist Jake in packing up the family house. Met with reminders from his past and unexpected feelings around every corner, his heart begins to soften. But when Emma is faced with losing what matters most to her, Jake takes the brunt of her pain and is ready to run from his hurts again. Can both hearts heal to allow love to find its way home?
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Release Date: February 9, 2021
Genre: Contemporary | Valentine's Day
A White Satin Romance
Some people dreaded Washington’s grey skies and rain. Not Emma Hathaway. She appreciated everything about a rainy day. Lifting her head up to the skies, she paused and closed her eyes, breathing it all in. The aroma of cedar filled her lungs, and a sense of calm eased her soul. She could feel her heart rate slow as peace took over her mind. To Emma, the small town in which she lived looked almost storybook-like with its tall fir trees lining the road leading into the heart of the town. Walking to work was one of her morning rituals she had grown to cherish since moving to Juniper Falls.
Emma always tried to arrive at work earlier than ten o’clock, when her shift began. It was her time to connect with some of the elderly residents at Heart & Home without the responsibilities that came with being an on-the-clock nurse of an assisted living facility. Today she had an extra skip in her step as she looked forward to spending time knitting with Mrs. Rothstein.
A wet nose nudged at her hand and she was brought back to the realization that she also had another purpose for her morning walk to work.
“Sorry Charlie, didn’t mean to slow you down.” Emma reached down and ruffled the dewy fur on her loyal companion’s head. The yellow lab responded with a shake of his body, sending a shower of droplets in all directions. He proceeded to guide his owner along the pathway, occasionally stopping as he became tempted by an unknown scent or the perfect-sized stick to carry along on his journey.
Emma paused by the local coffee shop to consider picking up a treat for her knitting partner. Mrs. Rothstein loved tea lattes: skim milk, half sweet. However, peering in through the window, she noticed a long line of patrons waiting for their caffeine fix and a rather flustered looking barista. A young woman opened the door attempting to balance a drink carrier with two cups in her arms. Emma reached out to lend a hand as the one cup began to teeter.
“Thanks! That could have been a real mess!” The woman readjusted her load so she had a better grasp on the tray.
“No problem. Why the long line-up today?”
“2-for-1 special for the first.” Emma must have looked confused, for the woman explained, “You know, February, the month of love, and all.” She moved past Emma and down the street, calling, “Thanks again!” as she went.
Emma was left still holding the door, which allowed a wafting of freshly-roasted beans to greet her nose. Knowing she was already pressed for time, she decided her kind gesture would have to wait for another day.
As they left the coffee shop and continued on their walk, Charlie began to pull on the leash frantically, almost knocking Emma off balance as another dog out on a morning walk approached. Tail wagging and always eager to greet a new friend, Charlie pulled ahead so he could get face to face with the black cocker spaniel. The dog was dressed for the weather in a hot pink rain slicker complete with matching booties. Emma was amused by how a few articles of clothing could create such an air of pretentiousness from a dog. However, Charlie was not dissuaded from giving his full attention to his new friend.
“Fiona is rather cautious of larger dogs. Aren’t you baby?” The owner bent down and scooped up his dog, while accidentally dropping one of the pink booties in a puddle. He looked annoyed at this inconvenient meeting of pooches. Emma wondered if Fiona was cautious or her owner simply overprotective. She smiled at the man as Charlie scooped up the drenched bootie in his mouth and lifted his face up to the man, waiting for him to retrieve the lost item. The owner did not make a move toward Charlie’s offering.
“It’s okay. Charlie’s just helpful. He’s really friendly. Honest.” Emma put her hand out and Charlie dropped the bootie into it. She handed it over to the other owner who still looked distrustful. However, he accepted the item from Emma and put it back onto his dog who seemed eager to get down.
“Thank you.” Fiona’s owner grasped her tighter, and Emma felt badly for the poor little dog. “Fiona is a purebred and I just can’t have her associating with every dog she comes across. You know how disastrous that could be.”
Emma did not know and did not feel like waiting around to hear more. “No worries. Come on, Charlie, let’s go.” Emma tried to coerce her dog away from the cocker spaniel and arrogant owner, but Charlie was smitten. As her owner finally set her down, Fiona pranced away and poor Charlie pulled to follow along as his love interest disappeared around the corner.
Emma just shook her head in disbelief. Unrequited love. Charlie looked up at her with a pitiful look in his eyes as if to say, “I can’t help myself.”
It began to drizzle again, so Emma opened up her favorite umbrella, a bright yellow one with a happy face at the base of the handle and managed to convince Charlie to move on with a little help from a dog treat she had stashed in her bag. Rounding the corner by the bookstore, a new display in the window caught Emma’s eye. Book titles such as It’s Never Too Late, Finding Mr. Right at the Wrong Time, and Love By Moonlight’s Glow were displayed for the hopeless romantics at heart, or those desperately seeking. Emma was contentedly neither. For the first time in her life, she felt satisfied with her life. Since her last failed relationship, she had worked hard to repair her heart and she was not willing to throw it all away on some romanticized ideal. Maybe she just wasn’t meant for that kind of love. Some might call it cautious—her sister called it avoidance—but Emma just called it being realistic. Why search after something you don’t even know if you actually want in the first place? What Emma wanted most was to get through this “month of love” without having it thrown in her face at every turn.
Emma and Charlie continued on their walk and soon approached the gardens of Heart & Home. Trails meandered through the gardens and benches dotted the pathways for those needing to stop and rest or admire the blossoming flowers during spring and summer months. It was a tranquil place with a small koi pond and numerous bird feeders, giving the residents some wildlife entertainment on their daily walks.
But as serene as it was, Charlie was done with exploring. His friends were now close enough that all he could think of was them. Emma let Charlie off his leash, and he rushed on ahead where the automatic doors at the front opened to let him in from the drizzle. Emma lowered her umbrella and shook off the excess water before closing it. She was relieved to know that for the next eight hours she could lose herself in her job, enjoy time with the residents, and not have to think about anything the least bit romantic.