Dusk lent a certain mystical quality to the air. Driving
past the newly planted fields, she could just imagine
faeries flitting about, waving magic wands over the earth,
pond, and trees as vines, flowers, and buds burst into
bloom. Letting her imagination wander, she almost didn't
see the car parked at the side of the road until she was
just about to pass it.
Only one car in town had a paint job like that: Doc
Gannon's Jeep. Meg told her his friends had painted it in
army camo as a joke to welcome him home after his first
Why had he stopped? She pulled off the road in front of
his vehicle, got out, and started to look for him.
"Hey, Docâ€”where are you?"
The silence had her gut icing over before she
chastised herself that people only parked their cars and
disappeared in the movies...like the one she'd watched
trying to unwind after a long night in her woodshop .
She called out again, "Do you need help?"
When he still didn't answer, she pulled out her
cell phone. If anyone had gotten sick out on Eden Church
Road, Peggy would have heard and would let her know. She
was about to hit the speed dial when she heard a deep shout
coming from across the road.
Turning toward the sound, she was knocked off
balance by a small, black, fuzzy missile. Wrapping her arms
around the animal so it wouldn't get hurt when she landed,
her backside took the brunt of the impactâ€”so did her
phone when it hit the pavement. Luckily, it was still in
"Hey," she said, as she looked down at the
quivering puppy in her arms. "Where did you come from?"
The puppy's tiny pink tongue bathed her face, and
he nipped the end of her nose. When Cait laughed, the puppy
did it again. She snuggled him close and bent reached to
pick up her phone.
"Don't let go of him!"
His deep voice grabbed her attention. The tall,
broadâ€“shouldered man moving across the road toward
her looked worried. Cait remembered how upset the whole
town had been to hear of his injury. Rev. Smith had even
started a prayer chain. Had Doc aggravated his wound
somehow chasing the puppy? She took in his broad shoulders
and tall frame. Yes, he was limping but trying to ignore it.
She'd known Jack Gannon all her lifeâ€”well, a
younger version, before he enlistedâ€”but for some
reason, she didn't remember anything about him looking so
ruggedly handsome. Had she only seen what she expected to
in those brief glimpses of him those few times she'd seen
him home on leave?. There was definitely more here than she
Coming to stand beside her, he stared down at her
for a moment before holding his hand out to her. "Are you
She had to clear her throat to answer. "Yes, I'm
fine. But what about you? What happened?"
He chuckled and it sounded rusty, as though he
wasn't used to laughing. "The little rascal ran out in
front of me," he explained, pulling Cait to her feet. "I
had to swerve not to hit him. I've been chasing him for
last fifteen minutes. Thanks for catching him."
"All I did was show up. He's the one who decided
jump into my arms." She jiggled the puppy she held. "Hey,
fella. What're you doing out here?"
He Jack smiled, revealing a deep dimple.
"Wait a minute. Are you Meg's sister Caitlin?"
She felt the blood rush to her cheeks and hated
that she blushed. "Yes, I am. And you're Apple Grove's
hometown hero. We've been waiting for you. Welcome home,
A dark shadow crossed his features as his lips
thinned and a grimace took the place of his smile, catching
her off guard. What had she said that changed his mood?
"I'm no hero." He let go of her arm.
Unsure of how to continue, she looked up at the
sky. "They're saying we'll have rain by midnight."
He shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets.
The silence weighed heavily between them. Wanting to get
back to the friendly banter of just a few minutes ago, she
asked, "So how was your first day back in town?"
He sighed. "I guess everyone in Apple Grove knows
got back last night ."
She smiled. "If they didn't, Peggy and Kate
wouldn't be doing their jobs down at gossip central."
He tilted his head to the side and his features
softenedâ€”not quite a smile, but no longer frowning.
The late afternoon sun glinted off his crew cut. She
remember his hair having a reddish tint. How many other
things had she forgotten over the years or not paid