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In a small Oregon community, Sara Andersen finds herself in possession of an old farmhouse in desperate need of renovations. Brian Farris is a builder who is new in town, but intimately acquainted with Sara. His purpose is not to restore only the house, but his relationship with her. The only problem is that Sara doesn't believe Brian has undergone any soulful renovations of his own.
In a small Oregon community, Sara Andersen finds herself in possession of an old farmhouse in desperate need of renovations. Brian Farris is a builder who is new in town, but intimately acquainted with Sara. His purpose is not to restore only the house, but his relationship with her. The only problem is that Sara doesn't believe Brian has undergone any soulful renovations of his own. (Christian romance)
Book One in the Oregon In Love Series
Sara Andersen swiped at her wet cheek with the back of her hand, wishing for a hanky. A quick search of the glove box yielded an ice scraper and other useless odds and ends. In her own car, she could’ve counted on one of the many fast food bags to contain at least a napkin or two. Sara gripped the steering wheel and sniffed.
She sat at one of the two traffic lights in the tiny downtown section of Buell Creek, Oregon, mildly surprised at the amount of cars on the road. Sara remembered the town as a sleepy hamlet nestled in the Cascade Mountains. Lately, it had become a Mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts. The subsequent tourism, along with steady population growth to the Pacific Northwest, helped bring much needed revitalization to the area.
The new storefronts and renovated buildings, however, didn’t interest her at the moment. The loss of her grandfather, Eli Andersen, lay heavy upon her heart, along with the guilt in knowing she hadn’t visited him often enough in the last year. Somehow, Sara assumed he’d always be there, praying for her and encouraging her in her dreams.
Sara sniffed as a tear dripped down the side of her nose. The light turned green. She went through the motions of driving her aunt’s old Toyota Corolla. Shove it in gear, let off the clutch, step on the gas, and drive a few yards to the second stop light.
Through the blur of moisture, Sara glanced out the left window. She caught sight of a blue pickup passing by on the opposite side. Something about the driver riveted her attention. She craned her neck to get a better look.
Her heart did a somersault. It couldn’t be...
Blaring horns startled her back to the traffic. Sara slammed on the brakes. She let out a gasp, realizing she went straight through the second light.
A red one.
Cars on either side squealed to a stop, missing her by inches. Sara intercepted several angry glares as she inched across the intersection. Giving an apologetic wave, she punched the gas and scooted out of town like a dog with its tail between its legs.
Leaving the downtown area behind, Sara thought of what flustered her enough to run a red light. Or whom. The split-second glimpse of the blue pickup driver reminded her of someone from her not too distant past. She compressed her lips as the memories flooded to the fore.
Brian Farris— beast, womanizer, wolf in sheep’s clothing.
A reluctant smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. He acted more like a wolf that never bothered with sheep’s clothing. That’s what made him so dangerous— dangerous to a stupid girl who should’ve known better.
The traffic infraction reminded Sara of how close she’d come to running a moral red light with Brian. For every insult leaping to mind, her responsibility for her own downfall pained her deeply. She gripped the steering wheel, pretending it was Brian’s throat.
Thank goodness he’d never be caught dead in a town like Buell Creek. Brian preferred the fast life of southern California. Fast waves, cars, and women. The only fast thing here was the corn growing in the fields. Sara gave a delicate shudder, not daring to believe she saw Brian Farris in the flesh.
A few minutes later, she pulled into a dusty driveway and came to a stop near her aunt Hattie’s single-wide mobile home. Emerging from the car, she entered the trailer through the screen door and set the grocery bag on the Formica-topped dining room table. Sniffing the yeasty aroma of rising bread, her gaze roamed the familiar space.
Green shag carpet, a faux leather couch, hanging macramé plant baskets, and beaded lampshades adorned the living room. The kitchen boasted dark walnut cabinets, avocado appliances, and orange counter tops. Crocheted hot pads and a green ceramic frog sat near the stainless steel sink. Although the decor was hopelessly out of date, the familiarity gave Sara a real sense of comfort. She peeked out the back door.
Sara watched Hattie Andersen brush her hands on the apron worn over polyester pants, and wipe the soles of her Keds on the mat. As she came through the door, Sara experienced a rush of affection for her aunt. She understood why people mistook Hattie for her mother. A late and unexpected addition to the Andersen family, Hattie was technically a great-aunt, though only in her early fifties. She wore her dark hair neatly swept up in a beehive and her blue eyes sparkled with warmth. Sara appreciated her even more after the loss of her grandfather.
“Were you able to find the cookies I wanted?” Hattie asked, giving her usual welcoming smile.
Sara rummaged in the paper sack and held up a box of imported English tea biscuits. “Last one on the shelf.”
“I made iced tea and now we’ll have a nice after-dinner snack before I go into work tonight.”
Sara arranged cookies on a pretty CorningWare plate, while Hattie pulled flower-print glasses out of the cupboard. Settling at the table and reaching for a cookie, Sara listened with half an ear while her aunt prattled about the lush growth of her vegetable garden and her plan to take fresh vegetables to some of the patients on her rounds. Sara smiled absently. Her aunt, who worked as a home health nurse besides working three night shifts a week at the community hospital, undoubtedly blessed everyone she came in contact with.
Sara’s thoughts returned to the driver of the truck who nearly caused her accident.
“Hattie, something odd happened on the way here.”
“Oh? Tell me about it, dear.”
Sara felt heat creep into her face and lowered her eyes before her aunt’s keen gaze. “On the way home from the grocery store, I saw a man who looked a lot like Brian Farris.”
The glass slipped from Hattie’s hand, hit the tabletop, and tipped, spilling an ocean of iced-tea. They jumped up to avoid getting doused. Sara grabbed a nearby towel to mop up the mess.
“So silly of me!” Hattie said on her way to the kitchen. She returned to the table after rinsing out the glass.
Sara dabbed at a wet spot on her jeans, feeling rather rattled by the sudden turn of events.
“Do try a biscuit, dear. They complement this tea quite nicely,” Hattie said, waving her toward the chair.
When seated, Sara took an obligatory bite of her cookie and returned to the matter uppermost in her mind. “Um, like I was saying, I thought I saw Brian Farris. But I can’t imagine he’d come to a small farm town like this.”
Hattie gave a little cough. “I suppose one never really knows.”
“He’d have no reason to be here. There are no beach bunnies in Buell Creek.” Sara grimaced at the memories, feeling the old resentment take hold. The intensity of her emotions surprised her. It had been two years. Shouldn’t she be past this by now? Sara glanced at her aunt, and seeing the twin spots of color on her softly lined cheeks, shook her head to clear it.
“Enough of that.” Sara noticed Hattie often appeared uncomfortable when talking about romantic issues. She remembered hearing tidbits over the years of a failed relationship, apparently responsible for Hattie’s ongoing unmarried state. Whenever she asked her aunt directly about it, she acted skittish and changed the subject.
Sara decided to take the same course of action. Leaning forward, she took her aunt’s hand and broached the other subject burning in her mind. “I would really like to see the house now.”
“I know you would, dear.” Hattie sighed and looked away. “But you’ve been so sad lately, and I don’t want you to do too much too soon. Going to your Grandpa’s house might be more than you can bear right now.”
“I think I’m ready. It’s been a week since he passed away and my comfort is knowing he’s with the Lord.” Sara blinked away fresh moisture in her eyes. “I only have happy memories of being there, and I think it would be good to go.”
Hattie’s smile seemed strained. “But there’s a tenant in that little cottage at the back of the property. It might be awkward to go while someone’s there.”
Sara frowned. “Why hasn’t he or she moved out yet? Haven’t they heard what happened?”
“Remember when I told you your grandfather had given his permission for, um, the tenant, to stay as long as he wanted?”
“But Grandpa left the house to me in his will. Since it’s now my property now, I have the right to ask this tenant to move.”
“Eli was very fond of this man and housing is scarce in Buell Creek,” Hattie said, crumbling a cookie into a small pile on the table. “Maybe you should wait a few more weeks before going over there. You’re still quite emotional, and I feel you need more time before facing any additional upset.”
Sara stood. “Unfortunately, I don’t have a few weeks. I have to get back to my job. Besides, how upsetting can it be to politely ask someone to find new lodgings? They’re probably expecting my visit!”
“I doubt that.”
Sara looked sharply at her aunt, wondering what the muttered words meant. Before Hattie talked her out of going again, she picked up her purse.
“Thanks for the snack, but I really do need to do this today. I’ve waited long enough.” Sara bent down and kissed her aunt’s cheek. “You baby me too much, you know. I’m nearly twenty-five and old enough to handle this.”
Hattie stared at her for a long moment. She jumped up from her chair.
“I’m going with you.”