Hi! My name’s Liz Flaherty. Nan and I are friends, good ones. We write together, travel together, moan to each other in long poor-me texts we’d never let anyone else see, and travel all over Indiana to have lunch together sometimes when it’s been a while. We are, we say, sisters from different fathers—and mothers. We are kindred spirits.
We sound like the oldest of friends, don’t we?
But we’re not.
I’m not exactly sure how long we’ve been friends—several years now—but in the short list of my BFFs, her name was added last. Doesn’t make its spot any less firm, but the ink is darker.
Which brings me to telling you about Summer in Stringtown Proper, the love story of Molly Linden and Joe Rahilly—the banker from New York City and the carpenter from Stringtown Proper, Kentucky. She’s divorced, he’s widowed, and neither of them is in the market for a relationship. Of any kind. They’re done. They’re fifty and not the least bit interested in starting over again.
But then they meet.
It’s fun to have made such a good friend at Nan’s and my…er…experienced ages. Part of that fun is the unexpectedness of it that comes with differences; the laughter-laced meshing of city and country, my bigger family and her smaller one, and her ability to work at night while my brain says buh-bye after noon.
This is also the fun of writing about protagonists who are grown-up…and then some. Who aren’t in their first rodeo—they’ve loved before and chances are good they’ve loved well. They have kids and grandkids and retirement accounts. They’re probably not all that career-minded anymore and if they are it may very well not be their first career.
They don’t expect to meet anyone who makes them feel “it” again, who they lie in bed and think about, and who gets their blood moving in all kinds of delicious ways. They don’t want to be in love again because they know no matter it comes to an end, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to leave a mark, a big one.
But, like a friendship that happens unexpectedly, falling in love when you’re not looking for it is wonderful. It’s the kind of story I love to tell.
Banker Molly Linden never expected to be alone and unemployed at fifty. Buying hunky carpenter Joe Rahilly’s saloon takes care of the employment situation, but she’s still alone. Or is she?
They finished the dishes in silence. When she let the water out of the sink and turned her head to meet his gaze, he was waiting. His hands grasped her forearms gently, pulling her to him. Fitting her into the lines of his body in a way that made her knees shake and the saltines in her stomach swell and flutter.
“You, too,” he said. “You laughed about martinis—you wouldn’t have done that a month ago.”
She wouldn’t have. She’d have resented being teased about what he perceived as snobbery.
“A month?” She looked at the clock on the wall as though it would tell her how long she’d been on the Ridge. “Have I really been here a month?”
“No, actually you’ve been here six weeks. Not that I’m keeping track of you, but Dad said this morning he and Sadie were going out to celebrate their six-weeks anniversary tonight.” He held her closer, and she felt his heartbeat. Strong and steady. “Makes it our anniversary, too, doesn’t it? I held you that day, too. When we danced three times. Remember?”
“I do.” She shrugged, just a little lift of her shoulder. “Sort of. I wasn’t remembering things too well by the time the reception was over.”
He snickered. “Wine from the Ridge got you.”
“It did,” she admitted. “But I remember that I liked dancing with you.” This was flirting. It was fun. In younger days, she’d have thought it was a little dangerous, something that might get in the way of whatever goal she’d set for that particular time. But now, today, it was delicious.
“Me, too. With you, I mean.” He dipped his head to hers, taking her mouth. And keeping it. Teasing at first, then not so much.
He touched her, his hands first on her back, then on her hips. He held her ever closer, but didn’t push. Didn’t demand. Didn’t…oh, God, his mouth was wonderful. Had she ever in her life been kissed like this?
“I don’t remember,” he murmured against her lips. “Are we to second base yet?”
Laughter rippled between them like a musical balm, and she rested her forehead against his shoulder. She had thought she would never trust anyone with her heart again, yet here she was getting ready to…oh, hell, steal second base and hurtle on to third if he was asking.
“Can I take you home?”
She didn’t want to go home, even to the safe haven that was Sadie’s house. She wanted to stay here in his arms, where she felt more alive than she’d felt in…years. God, yes, years.
But life wasn’t that way. Not real life. In real life, her cellphone rang from the table before her, its dirge-like ringtone the one she’d assigned to her mother’s number in a what-the-hell moment.
And while you’re out, stop by Word Wranglers and say hello or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org