Janice Kay Johnson
Janice Kay Johnson
FROM THIS DAY ON
Harlequin Super Romance Series, #1867 (August 6, 2013)
A new beginning from this day on.
Jakob Nilsson has tried to keep his distance from Amy. Like a forbidden temptation, he's always known his weakness where she's concerned. Then an unexpected weekend brings them together. Despite the torture of being so close to her, Jakob is glad he's there?especially when the opening of a time capsule reveals a confession that upends Amy's world. Nothing is the way it was.
But that revelation also means the barriers between Jakob and Amy are gone. Finally he's free to pursue the woman who has always fascinated him. The challenge now is to convince her to look beyond their past. And to consider a future that includes him.
Well, that was weird.
At first only puzzled, Amy Nilsson flipped the crisp white envelope over, as if the backside would offer any illumination. As she'd expected, the only printed information was on the front: a return address of Wakefield College in Washington State, and her mother's name and address. Her mother's full name, Michelle Cooper Doyle, followed by Class of 1980.
To the best of Amy's knowledge, her mother had graduated from the University of Oregon. If she'd ever attended any other institution, she hadn't said so. She'd never so much as mentioned Wakefield.
Mom's mail had become one of Amy's responsibilities when she moved into her mother's house to care for it while she and Amy's stepfather were abroad for two years. Ken Doyle, her stepfather, had accepted a visiting professorship at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Probably it was dumb, but Amy had been convinced that living in Mom's house, living her life, in a way, would give her insight into who her mother was. And how pathetic was it to realize your best chance of getting to know a parent was in absentia? Michelle Cooper Doyle was so closed off emotionally, she felt increasingly like a stranger to Amy. And yes, the whole living-in-the house strategy was working to some extent—she inadvertently made small discoveries almost daily about Mom.
Sadly, the mail had been a huge disappointment so far. Mom was handling bills online. What little came for her was junk. A gardening magazine seemed to be her sole subscription.
But now, something out of the ordinary. A real clue.
Maybe, Amy cautioned herself.
The scent of fresh-brewed coffee filled the kitchen. She dropped the handful of mail onto the table atop the Or-egonian and concentrated for a few minutes on pouring coffee, dressing it up with sugar and one percent milk and toasting a bagel. She felt like a kid eyeing packages under the Christmas tree. Anticipation was half the fun. Amy wrinkled her nose, thinking it. Sure, right. In her experience, gifts were as often socks or underwear as they were anything fun or exciting. Chances were, this package was nothing but a solicitation for money.
Yes, but why ask her mother if she had no connection to the college? And…why did someone there think Mom had attended?
Then she sat back down in the dining nook, where she could see her mother's rose garden through small-paned French doors. Amy had sworn, cross her heart and hope to die, that she would take care of the garden in exchange for living in the house.
She briefly admired the roses, still in full bloom and looking pretty darned good, if she did say so, thanks to the soaker hoses she was religiously turning on every evening, as well as the last application of manure tea. Making it was one of her newly acquired skills.
Setting aside the newspaper, Amy tossed most of the mail into the recycling bin she kept beside the table. Square in front of her sat the mysterious envelope from Wakefield College, which had the formal look of an invitation.
So much for anticipation. Open it, already! Sliding her finger beneath the flap, she suppressed a tinge of guilt. In theory, she was supposed to forward anything that looked personal to Mom. But really, she convinced herself, how personal could this be?
It actually was an invitation, she discovered. An astonishing one that had her reading and rereading. Former students of Wakefield College, who as English majors had put an item into a time capsule almost thirty-four-and-a-half years ago, were invited back to the campus for the capsule's premature opening. Apparently the relatively minor earthquake that had shaken eastern Washington and Oregon had damaged the foundation of one of the buildings on campus. Although less than thirty-five years old, Chea-dle Hall was to be torn down and replaced. Upon reflection, college administrators had decided to open the time capsule now rather than put it in the foundation of the new building and wait until the planned fifty years had passed.
Amy kept grappling with the fact that the college thought her mother had been on campus thirty-four years ago, putting something—who knows what—into this time capsule. And yes, when she grabbed the envelope again, it was definitely addressed to her mother, Class of 1980. Cooper was Mom's maiden name. Doyle was her current last name. There was, of course, no mention of her former married name, Nilsson.
It seemed undeniable that Michelle had attended Wakefield for at least a couple of years. Which meant either she'd lied about having graduated from the U of O, or she had transferred after—what?—two years at Wakefield? Three? And why had she never mentioned it?
Amy reread every scrap of text yet again, searching for answers. The fact that the college knew her mother's married name suggested that she'd stayed in touch. Why had she done so if she'd chosen not to finish her undergraduate education at Wakefield? And why had she left a highend liberal arts college to finish her education at a big state school? Money?
Lots of questions, no answers.
If this was a clue, Amy had no context for understanding it.
She could email her mother, but Mom never liked talking about the past, and especially her childhood or young adult years. Mom got impatient whenever Amy asked questions about her marriage to Josef Nilsson, too.
"For goodness sake!" she'd exclaimed the last time Amy had tried to learn more about her dad from her mother's perspective. "Any relationship is between the two of you. It doesn't have anything to do with me." She had cast a suspicious glance at Amy. "Why are you asking? Did he say something?"
Since she talked to him maybe three or four times a year, Amy could reply with complete honesty, "No."
End of discussion.
But.. Wakefield College. Where did it come into her mother's history?
Doing some math in her head, Amy frowned. Her mother had to have met Josef somewhere around the same time the capsule was set into the foundation of this Cheadle Hall. Amy had been born early the next year. So probably that was why Mom had transferred to U of O—because Dad was there. That made sense. The mystery was why the subject of Wakefield College had never come up at all. No, Amy and her mother were not close, but she'd still have thought that, at some point, Mom would have said, "I went to Wakefield for a couple of years." Especially since it must have meant something to her, or she wouldn't have given the college her married name and address so she'd continue to get mailings.
More than weird.
Amy eventually went out for groceries. As always, she browsed the store's magazine section carefully. A freelance writer, she regularly published articles in half a dozen of the magazines that were displayed. She was always trying to come up with the right angle to get in at others.
Today, though, she remained distracted, even unsettled, for reasons she didn't altogether understand. Wasn't this what she wanted? She'd believed she could solve the mysteries of her own life if she understood her mother better. Here was an opening. So why did she feel…hesitant?
Oh, boy. Was it possible to want something, and not want it, too? The truth was, she had never liked thinking about her childhood, either. Her mother and she had that much in common.
She had been deeply hurt by her parents' divorce when she was six. She had adored her father. Dad had been the loving parent of the two, but somehow all that changed after the divorce. Her bewilderment at the way he distanced himself had become anger. Every-other-weekend visits gradually dwindled until, by the time she was a teenager, she wasn't seeing him more than a couple of times a year—a few weeks in the summer, Thanksgiving or Christmas, sometimes spring break. By then, she'd been in full rebellion.
Her mother had never been an affectionate woman; Amy had since realized she was the kind of woman who should never have had children at all. Probably she'd realized that, too, because Amy had no sisters or brothers, unless she counted her half brother, Jakob. Which she preferred not to. He'd apparently resented her existence from the minute she was born, and their relationship had never gotten any better. Until three months ago, she hadn't seen or heard from him in years, although she got occasional updates on his life from her father.
Founder, owner and CEO of an outdoor gear empire, Jakob lived in Portland. After Amy moved into her mother's house several months ago, he'd called to acknowledge that they were now in the same city. They had spoken politely about getting together but hadn't made any plans. He hadn't called again, and she didn't expect he would. She had every intention of making an excuse if he ever did suggest they get together for a cup of coffee or dinner. Her memories of Jakob were not, on the whole, positive.
That evening, Amy told herself it was only curiosity that prompted her to phone her father. He had relocated to Phoenix when she was about ten, one of the reasons her visits with him had been pared to two or three times a year.
"Amy!" he said, sounding surprised but pleased. "How are you?"
They chatted for a few minutes about work, weather and a few items from the news before a pause in the conversation gave Amy her chance.
"Something came in the mail today that surprised me. I didn't realize Mom ever went to Wakefield College."
There was a small pause. She couldn't decide if it was significant.
"Yes, she decided to leave after her sophomore year."
"Because she met you?"
"No, I happened to get a job in Florence that summer. We met in May, right after she got home f...