Falling For Grace<br/>

Author: Maddie James
Publisher: Maddie James
Published: 2010-04-06
ISBN(s) 9781935817093
Illustrator: Calliope-Designs
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Romance, Romantic Suspense, Women's Fiction Read Excerpt >


Tick. Tick. Tick.

Gracie listened closely. She arched a brow and glanced toward the antique anniversary clock perched on top the oak mantel she used as a display prop. Nope. It wasn’t the clock, was it? She shook her head. It had to be. That damned, incessant ticking was coming from the clock. Right?


The clock didn’t work. Hadn’t since she’d placed it there six years ago. She knew that as well as she knew her name was Grace Elizabeth Hart.

Damn but that blasted ticking wasn’t in her own mind.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Shaking her head she turned back to her work, only to end up staring at her computer screen, trying hard to dismiss the troublesome click. She tried to recall...when had it started? Last year? The year before that? She wasn’t sure. But out of the blue one day that ticking just sort of erupted in the middle of her thoughts, and she knew right then and there what it was. No one had to tell her.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Gracie slammed a hand down on the top of the old library table she used as a desk. “Oh, all right! What in the world do you expect me to do about it?” she said loudly. “I mean, it’s not likely I can do much about the situation all by myself, can I?”

She stood and paced the room. No one answered her query. Not even Claire, her Calico shop cat, curled up into a lethargic lump of cat flesh in the storefront window, lifted an ear to her question.

No one had to tell her that the hands on her baby-making clock were swiftly sweeping the numbers.

Glancing about, she took in the shop around her. This was her second home. In fact, if she would go so far as to count up the hours, she probably spent more time here than she did in the apartment upstairs she called home. But that was to be expected.

After all, she was a businesswoman. And to run a successful business, one had to spend an enormous amount of time and effort in seeing that that business flew. Everyone knew that.

Especially during the first few years.

Well...ten years should more than do it, she guessed.

And with the time she put into her shop, why in the world did she think she would have time for a baby?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

There would be no denying from anyone, she was certain, that Romantically Yours was a success. Everyone said so. Her accountant. Her best friend, Amie. The members of the Chamber of Commerce. The Book Club. Why, even old Mrs. Talbot down the street complimented her every time she came into the shop to buy bath salts.

Yes, little Gracie Hart, homegrown and homespun, finally recovered from that awful experience in New York, was a success. Everyone in the small, central Kentucky town of Franklinville said so.

Then why didn’t she feel like a success? And why was that incessant ticking still tapping away at her brain?

Time. It’s running out, Gracie.

“Stop that. I know it. You don’t have to remind me.”

She turned her back on her computer and the anniversary clock then, and stepped to the rear of the shop. Gracie poured herself a decadent rich café latte and sank into a forties style, overstuffed chair in the corner. She crossed her legs and perused her surroundings. Vintage clothing from the 1920’s graced one wall. Reproduction Victorian jewelry dangled from a display rack on the counter. Aromatherapy products, from candles to bath salts to herbal sachets, were scattered about the shop.

On the back wall her collection of classic romance novels and other vintage books waited for adoring customers to lift them off the shelf and take them home. At the right back corner of the shop, one could order custom-designed romantic gift baskets. Everything from chocolate to wine to lingerie could be included in the basket according to the tastes of the receiver or the whim of the giver. Anything from her shop might do. Cards. Romantic knick-knacks. Massage oil. Or any little trinket or one-of-a-kind antique accessory she had hand-picked to be placed in her shop for the romantically-inclined.

Reaching out, Gracie fingered an ivory, crocheted doily sitting beneath a reproduction Tiffany lamp on a dark cherry table. She lifted her hand to carefully turn down the light. It was late, her shop had closed hours ago, and it was time to dull the day’s events with some low lighting.

This was her favorite time of the day and her favorite corner for lounging and mulling. She had arranged an eclectic collection of overstuffed chairs and side tables where one could sit and peruse a novel, partake in tea and scones, or linger through her collection of catalogs from which Gracie would special order. It was where the Book Club met on Friday evenings, the same five women, week in and week out. It was where her regular customers lounged and quietly gossiped about the town’s affairs.

Or if one preferred, which Gracie did quite often in the evenings, one could simply curl up in a chair and silently reflect while a nice selection of classical music emanated from the CD player, incense wafted a light, floral aroma, and candles flickered a soft glow about the room. A glass of wine added to that scenario was simply the crème-de-la-crème. Only thing that came close to topping that was an hour long soak in her claw foot tub upstairs.

Romance surrounded her all day long. Her shop was her life. And it damned well had better be. It was the only romance she was getting. Hard pill to swallow for someone who was known as the local Diva of Romance.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“Oh, shut up, won’t you!”

“And to whom might you be talking?”

Jumping to her feet and grabbing her heart, Gracie whirled toward the voice. “Amie! You scared the heck out of me!”

Stepping into the shop, Amie Clarke gave a quick twist of the key on the fake Tiffany lamp, turning up the light and breaking the ambiance. She glanced about. “It’s like a tomb in here, Gracie. Don’t you want some light? And who were you talking to? Yourself again? And shouldn’t you be getting upstairs? It’s way past ten. Oh, and you have to lock that back door, one of these days the boogie man is going to get you.”

Sighing, Gracie stood, still trying to quell her rapidly beating heart. She stepped toward her computer and muttered, “Perhaps I should let the boogie man in. He would be the first man to grace my back doorstep in quite some time.”

“What? You were expecting a man to grace your doorstep?”

Gracie put the computer to sleep then eyed her friend and snorted. “Oh yeah, Amie. I was waiting for a clandestine liaison with the boogie man. He’s hiding in the back room waiting for you to leave.” She gestured toward the rear of the shop. “And do you ever not talk in circles?

Amie smiled. “Never.”

Gracie shook her head. “I know that already. You’re like a bull in a china shop and a whirlwind all in one. You never shut up. You never make any sense.” Gracie looked up at her friend then and smiled. “And you’re about the best friend a girl could have.”

Amie stepped up to the counter and fingered through some chocolate samples sitting in a crystal candy dish. “Mind if I eat these? I’m starving.”

Gracie shrugged. Again the subject was changed. “Help yourself. I’ll put out fresh candy in the morning.”

Amie smiled and munched for a few minutes and Gracie set about to closing up for the night. Going through the same motions she did every evening, she glanced about to make sure nothing was out of place and then stepped to the front door to recheck the lock.

Main Street Franklinville was relatively quiet this Thursday evening, which was not uncommon. Soft, flickering street lights lent a warm glow to the late spring evening. A few vehicles passed by on occasion but for the most part, the town was shut up tighter than a drum.

She glanced at the closed library across the street and up and down toward the other Victorian shop-fronts lining the up-scale, traditional little town sitting smack in the middle of Kentucky horse country. The cafés. The antique and craft stores. The fudge shop next door...

“So when do you think you’ll find a renter for the other side?” Amie called out, breaking the silence.

After a moment, Gracie turned and faced her friend, trying not to frown. She swallowed down the momentary upsurge of panic she always got when she thought about just that question. She didn’t want Amie or anyone else to know just how crucial it was that she rent out the other half of her building. Financially, she relied on that rental income, and six months was too long for it to go empty without her pocketbook feeling the effects. “Hopefully tomorrow. Someone is coming to see the shop and the apartment in the morning.”

Amie munched another caramel-nut candy and nodded. “Cool.”

Falling For Grace   by   Maddie James   |   See Bio >
Little Gracie Hart, homegrown and homespun, had finally recovered from that awful experience in New York. Right? Then why didn't she feel like a success?

Former ballerina Gracie Hart is now known as the Diva of Romance in small town Franklinville, KY. The owner of a successful, sophisticated boutique called Romantically Yours, she lives a quiet life, healing from the tragedy that took not only ballet from her, but her fiance, as well. Who would have guessed that she has no intention of ever falling in love again, no matter how loudly her biological clock keeps ticking?

That is, until her new tenants, Carson Price and his six-year-old daughter Izzie, arrive on the scene and proceed to wreak havoc in her life, and her heart. And when that happens, she has not only to face her past, but the future.

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