Return to Moon Lake

Return to Moon Lake

Return to Moon Lake

Love on the Lake Series, Volume 3

Lisa Addario returns to Moon Lake to make peace with her mother, and learns her mom is selling the family house that’s been passed down for three generations. Lisa must choose between the fresh start she made for herself in the big city and a town full of people who know every mistake she’s ever made.

In the years since Army Lieutenant Greg Mora got home from Afghanistan, he’s struggled to slip back into normal life, losing his longtime girlfriend and trading in his dream of a medical degree for a handyman job where no one’s life hangs in the balance.

Sparks fly when Lisa moves into the house Greg is renovating and the attraction between them can no longer be ignored. Can two broken people heal the wounds from their past, or will their demons destroy their chance at happiness forever?

Published:
Excerpt:

Sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands.

Barbara Addario shifted in her seat, leaning forward to see out the window. Maybe today would be the day her daughter would return.

There was a knock at her door. "Mrs. Addario, it’s Gwen."

"Come in."

A smiling young woman entered, carrying a small tray. "I have your medicine. How are you feeling this morning?"

"Fine." Barbara took the cup of pills from the tray. "I was hoping it would be you this morning."

Gwen smiled. "I thought Elena was your favorite nurse."

"She is."

The woman’s face fell. "Oh."

"But you and I have to have a chat. My daughter Lisa is coming to town for a visit."

"Oh, that’s nice. I didn’t realize you had another daughter."

"She’s very concerned about my health."

"Has something happened?"

"No."

"Then why…"

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"That’s not important. What’s important is my legal right to privacy. You can’t share information about my health with anyone. Is that right?"

"Of course, not."

"Good. So if one of my daughters asks you how I’m doing, you won’t say anything."

"Right."

"Good. Let’s practice." Barbara cleared her throat and feigned a look of concern. "Is my mother okay?"

"She’s fine."

"No! You say, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal any information about her health.’"

Gwen narrowed her eyes.

"Now let’s try again," said Barbara. "My mother seems to be doing well."

Gwen crossed her arms. "What are you up to?"

"A lawsuit, if you’re not careful. I’m old and I have lots of free time for capricious litigation. ‘My mother seems to be doing well.’ What would you say?"

Gwen sighed. "I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal any information about her health."

"Has my mother seen a doctor lately?"

"I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal any information about her health."

"Good." Her face crumpled. "I can’t believe my mother’s dying."

Gwen’s mouth dropped open. "You awful…"

Barbara raised one eyebrow, staring the young woman down for a long moment.

Gwen rolled her eyes. "I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal any information about her health."

"Very good." She smiled. "Anything fun on the agenda this morning?"

"Pickle-ball in the gym and Mahjong in the community room."

"Pickle-ball… Trudy Johnston’s begging for a beat-down. I think I’ll go there."

"It’s wrong to lie to your family, Mrs. Addario."

Barbara gestured to the slight bump in the nurse’s abdomen. "One day soon, you’ll understand. You’ll do whatever it takes to save them."

* * *

Chance of showers, my foot.

Lisa Addario gripped the steering wheel tightly, rain coming down so hard her wipers couldn’t keep up. Lightning flashed brightly, booming thunder almost instantaneous, and she jumped in her seat.

"I hate this, I hate this, I hate this," she chanted. It had been months since she’d driven a car, years since she’d driven in weather like this.

You didn’t need to drive in Manhattan.

You didn’t have to do anything in Manhattan.

Unlike Moon Lake, where everyone has something to say about how you’re doing everything.

She shook her head. She shouldn’t have come. This was a mistake.

Her headlights illuminated a painted wooden sign welcoming her to Moon Lake, and her stomach rolled. It had only taken five hours to get here, but she’d been transported to an entirely different world. The storm-darkened sky made Lisa wish she’d used her vacation time to enjoy a sunny beach and a cold margarita instead of this pilgrimage to her hometown.

Like I had a choice?

She’d been standing at the sink in her apartment, staring at a dead cactus on the windowsill.

How had she managed to kill a cactus?

She’d bought it expressly because it was impossible to kill, but somehow she’d managed that accomplishment without much effort. No effort at all, in fact. It was a tiny little cactus in a tiny little pot, the price tag still stuck on the side, and in that moment it seemed to represent far more of her life than she wanted to admit.

The phone rang and she glanced at the screen.

Mom.

Lisa had her own number listed in the phone book quite deliberately, if only to prove to herself that it wouldn’t make one lick of difference. No one would call. Her family didn’t want her in their lives anymore than she wanted to be in theirs.

Or did they?

"Come home, Lisa. I’ve been sick, and well… I just want to see you."

Panic was quick, instantly reminding her of her father’s sudden illness and death. "What’s wrong?"

"A lot of things, I’m afraid. I live at St. Anne’s now, and they take pretty good care of me. For the most part, anyway. But there’s only so much the doctors can do."

Lisa held her hand to her forehead. "I don’t understand."

"They say I could have a while yet, or maybe not. They’re just not sure."

She’s dying.

Lisa was suddenly lightheaded. She braced herself on the counter. "Why didn’t you call me?"

"I’m calling now. Will you come home?"

"Yes. Of course, I will."

That was yesterday, and she felt like a madman ever since. Putting in for leave at work, breaking down in tears in front of her boss. Packing all her underwear because she didn’t know how long she’d be gone. And today, driving through this storm, fearing for her mother and remembering the issues that had driven Lisa away from home in the first place.

Her teenage years were a blur of rebellion and family arguments, punctuated by bad decisions, a string of loser boyfriends and enough alcohol to make it all seem okay.

All right, maybe more than just her teenage years, and she hadn’t seen anything wrong with that until Brandy’s visit.

Lisa frowned. Her best friend had come to her apartment in New York more than a year ago and held up a mirror for Lisa to clearly see her life. It wasn’t a pretty picture. But Lisa had blamed Brandy instead of herself, tearing apart the only real friendship Lisa had ever known.

Thunder clashed and rolled.

Lisa felt so guilty after Brandy left, emptier than she’d been in years, it seemed.

She took a shaking breath in.

And this town is filled with people who wouldn’t give me another chance if I arrived with a gold-plated apology.

The road went under an overpass and the car plowed through a frighteningly deep puddle. If that part of the road was flooded, Cross Creek was sure to be in the middle of State Street.

She rounded a wide corner and the intersection came into view. As predicted, there was a police barrier, an officer in a fluorescent yellow coat waving her onto a detour.

Great.

She came to a four-way stop and narrowed her eyes, trying to remember the back way to the house. What was wrong with her? She’d learned to drive on these roads. Walked home from school with her sister and walked to friends’ houses hundreds of times in this neighborhood. Now she could barely make it home without GPS.

Home.

The word resonated inside her. The house she grew up in had been built by her great-grandfather and passed down from one generation to the next. The girls had always been told it would pass to one of them someday. Lisa frowned. Had Melanie taken over the house, now that Mom was living at St. Anne’s?

The thought made her profoundly sad. Lisa was the one who loved that house, not her sister. And if Melanie was living there, Lisa would have to find somewhere else to stay during her visit.

It began to rain harder, visibility now virtually gone as the thunder and lightning continued. Lisa moved the car at a crawl, half the speed of walking, and still wondered if she should pull over to wait out the storm. A stop sign sat beneath a street light, and she worked to read the street sign beside it.

Ohio Avenue and Dellinger Street.

Her house was two doors down on the right. She smiled with relief at having reached her destination, pulling through the intersection and off to the side of the road to park.

She didn’t see the back of the pickup truck until she hit it, the height of her rental car seemingly made for crushing its bumper. She smacked the steering wheel with her fist and swore mightily, then backed up and stared at the damage.

Welcome home.

Writing her name and cell phone number on the back of the rental car agreement, she hopped out into the pounding rain and tucked the paper beneath the truck’s windshield wiper, then ran toward the house, taking the porch steps two at a time in a race to get under cover.

Relief filled her at the sight of her childhood home. For no matter the mistakes she’d made in the past, this place grounded her, wrapped itself around her like an embrace and told her there was somewhere in this world where everything would be okay.

She sat down on the top step, watching lightning punctuate the downpour. She thought of her father, and how much she missed him. She thought of her mother, separated from Lisa as if by that rushing creek running between them.

The rain began to taper. A shape became visible on the front lawn. It looked like a sign of some sort.

Oh, no.

She walked slowly down the steps, the rain still falling as she walked to the side of the sign, already knowing what she would see.

FOR SALE.

Call Alana Cullen Today!

Her mother was selling the house without even asking Lisa if she wanted it! Anger and hurt blended together in her belly. Did she matter so little to her mother that this would somehow make sense?

At least Melanie’s not living in it.

She walked back to the porch, and what sounded like a hammer beat in the distance. She furrowed her brow. The noise was coming from inside the house. Opening the door, she followed the noise up the stairs. Rounding the corner of the master bedroom, she gasped when she saw a man hammering the bathroom floor, tiles flying with every whack.

She stopped at the threshold. "What are you doing?" she yelled.

The man turned around and their eyes met, and she took a quick breath in.

Greg Mora.

Melanie’s boyfriend.

He stood up slowly, turning his massive body to face her fully like some kind of guard. "What does it look like I’m doing?"

She crossed her arms, aware of the heat that was traveling up her chest. "Ruining a perfectly good, hundred year-old tile floor?"

For a moment he seemed to consider whether to answer her at all, then he raised his hammer toward the hole in the floor, making his muscled arm stand out against his t-shirt. "The subfloor’s rotten, maybe even the joists. Water damage from a leak in the pipes."

It was suddenly hot in the small room. "There has to be another way to fix it without plowing through a century of original marble."

"Nope."

"At least you could have called a contractor to do it right."

He gestured to the printing on his shirt. Mora Construction.

She squinted. "You’re supposed to be a doctor."

He leaned against the bathroom sink. "And you’re supposed to be someplace better than this, favoring all the beautiful people with your very existence."

She felt her cheeks begin to flush. She supposed she deserved that after the way she left town, all bravado and savvy, determined to become a successful artist in New York. The fact that it hadn’t happened was more than a little humbling, though she certainly wasn’t about to tell Greg that.

She lifted her chin. "My mom asked me to come."

"The prodigal daughter returns. You going to stick around this time, or you just come home to whine for a few minutes and go back to the big city?"

Lisa grit her teeth. She was determined not to let her emotions get the best of her, no matter how much he egged her on. "You’ll have to do this project later. I’m staying here." Or at least she hoped she was staying here. She really ought to ask her mother.

"The house is on the market. It needs to be fixed now."

She fought the urge to stamp her foot, forcing herself to stay calm. "We’re not putting the house on the market."

"Already done. I’m going to guess you just got back into town."

She shrugged. "Yeah, so?"

"Things aren’t what you expected. Your mother’s moved out, your sister’s gotten married…"

The room seemed to melt around her.

Melanie and Greg had gotten married, and she hadn’t even been invited. How much did her sister have to hate her that she hadn’t even called?

She longed to run straight back outside to her rental car and drive away from this place for good, back to the city and her dead houseplant and her friends she didn’t really like, but her feet were rooted to that spot, unable to walk away from what Greg was saying.

"…and your mom’s selling the house."

"Not if I have anything to say about it."

"But you don’t. It’s not your house. You don’t get to decide what happens next."

"And you don’t get to run roughshod over me, just because you married my sister."

He narrowed his eyes. "I didn’t marry Melanie."

Lisa stiffened. "You didn’t?"

"No."

Greg and Melanie were no longer a couple?

Those two were like a nut and bolt rusted together, the metal more likely to snap than unscrew. The question was, which one had done the breaking?

And who was keeping Greg warm now that Melanie was not?

A warm tingling sensation rippled through her lower belly. She’d been envious of their relationship, jealous, even, but she never expected to have a chance with this man.

He picked up his hammer. "I’ve got to finish this up."

"How long is it going to take?"

"A few days. Maybe a week." He grinned. "Looks like we’ll have plenty of time to catch up, you and me."

Lisa rolled her eyes and left the room, the quickening of her pulse belying her exasperated sigh.

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