By Geri Krotow
Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Books S.A.
Just as she’d done with the rest of the staff who’d become her family at BTS, Val invited Lucas to a welcome dinner in her farmhouse home. It was the oldest original building on the property and she’d refurbished it with modern conveniences, while retaining its century-old hominess.
Maggie and the other gals were taking care of the trimmings—salad, bread, dessert. All Val needed to do was grill the Sockeye salmon to perfection and chill the chardonnay. Three of the staff were recovering alcoholics, so she made up a huge pitcher of iced tea with fresh mint clipped from her kitchen windowsill pots.
As she brewed the tea, she reflected on how much she’d learned since she’d first opened BTS. From her own experience and her career as a social worker, she’d thought she understood the effects of addiction on an addict and his or her loved ones. But until she saw counselors working with the families who tackled their addictions head-on—making no excuses for having lost a family member in the war—Val hadn’t recognized the depth of commitment required to achieve recovery.
She was grateful she could enjoy a glass of wine and stop. Her father hadn’t been so fortunate.
A quick knock at the door was followed by Gloria, one of the counselors, coming in with a round casserole dish in her pot-holder-covered hands. Gloria lived in one of the on-site apartments, closest to the farmhouse.
“Hey, Val! Here’s dessert. Maggie’s bringing the ice cream.”
“Mmm, that smells fantastic. Your marionberry crisp?”
They laughed. For these welcome dinners Val liked to serve local fare. Marionberries were unique to the islands of the Pacific Northwest, a cross between a blackberry and raspberry. They were delectable in pies and crisps.
Lines appeared between Gloria’s perfectly plucked brows. “Do you still have that heavy cream in your fridge from our dinner last week?”
“Great. If you don’t mind, I’ll whip up some of it before we eat. I’ll keep it in one of your stainless bowls until we’re ready for it.”
“You know where everything is. Thanks for taking care of it. I’ve got to get the salmon going.”
“Go ahead, I’ll answer the door for you.”
Val slipped out to her deck with a glass of the chardonnay, a Washington State label she enjoyed. The night was dark as charcoal, typical for early evening in mid-winter. The northwest stayed light until almost eleven at night during the summer months and she missed the lengthened twilight. Still, snuggled in her favorite hoodie and sheltered by the tall fir trees that surrounded the resort, she was comfortable.
The deck was her refuge after a long day at BTS, and her favorite place to have breakfast when the weather cooperated.
The stars twinkled in the small patch of sky she glimpsed through the high branches. It was a time for new beginnings, but not with Dr. Lucas.
She lit the gas grill and waited for it to heat before she placed two large salmon fillets in a fish basket and set the contraption on the grill. After ten minutes or so, she grabbed her pot holder and started to turn the basket over.
“I’m good at the grill if you’d like a hand.”
Val paused mid-flip and turned toward Lucas. His voice was already familiar. Or more accurately, still familiar.
You’re in trouble.