A handmade happy-ever-after! The Twenty-First Wish Anne Marie Roche and her adopted daughter, ten-year-old Ellen, have each written a list of twenty wishes - at the top is learning to knit. Like many of their wishes, it's come true. But Ellen has quietly added a twenty-first wish: that her mum will fall in love...Coming Unravelled When Broadway doesn't give Robyn Mulligan her big break, she packs her bags and heads home. Helping her grandmother run the knitting shop is more rewarding than she thought, but the customers seem more interested in matchmaking than knitting! Return to Summer Island After a devastating accident, Caro McNeal recuperates on sleepy Summer Island. Welcomed by a community of knitters she finds healing, exchanging letters with a local marine serving in Afghanistan she finds purpose. Will Caro follow her heart wherever it takes her?
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Debbie Macomber, with more than 100 million copies of her books sold worldwide, is one of today's most popular authors. The #1 New York Times bestselling author is best known for her ability to create compelling characters and bring their stories to life in her books. Debbie is a regular resident on numerous bestseller lists, including the New York Times (70 times and counting), USA TODAY (currently 67 times) and Publishers Weekly (47 times). Visit her at www.DebbieMacomber.com.
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women. Publishers Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Susan lives in Seattle with her husband and her tiny but intrepid toy poodle. Visit her at www.SusanMallery.com.
Christina Skye loves a good adventure. Living in Arizona gives her plenty of room to practice target shooting and to trek off-road on her motorcycle, researching the details for stories rich with “snappy dialogue” and an unerring ability to keep “the narrative energy high and the pacing swift” (Publishers Weekly). With over two million books in print, her novels appear regularly on national bestseller lists. Visit her online at www.christinaskye.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Today I sign the papers on our new house! I'm excited and exhausted and feel completely out of my element. I have so much still to do. I should've been finishing up the packing or cleaning the apartment before the movers arrived. But no. Instead, I sat down and began to knit. What was I thinking? Actually, knitting was exactly what I needed to do. Knitting always calms me, and at this point my nerves are frayed. I haven't moved in years and I'd forgotten how stressful it can be. Usually, I'm organized and in control, but today I'm not (even if I look as though I am). On the inside—and I don't mind admitting this—I'm a mess.
Mostly, I'm worried about Ellen. My ten-year-old has already had so much upheaval in her life. She feels secure in our tiny apartment. And it is tiny. It was just right for one small dog and me, but I never intended to stay here so long. When I moved into this space above the bookstore it was with the hope—the expectation—that Robert and I would reconcile. But the unthinkable happened and I lost my husband to a heart attack. After his funeral I remained here because making it from one day to the next was all I could deal with.
Then Ellen came into my life and it was obvious that two people and a dog, no matter how small, couldn't live comfortably in this minuscule space, although we managed for more than a year. I did make an earlier offer on a house but that didn't work out.
After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Ellen had ended up with her grandmother, who died when she was eight. So Ellen needed stability. She'd endured enough without having a move forced upon her so soon after the adoption.
In retrospect, I'm grateful that first house deal fell through, since it would've happened too fast for Ellen—although I was disappointed at the time. Even now, Ellen feels uneasy about leaving Blossom Street, although I've reassured her that we aren't really leaving. Blossom Street Books is still here and so is the apartment. The only thing that'll be different is that at the end of the workday, instead of walking up the stairs, we'll drive home.
Sitting in the office of the Seattle title company, Anne Marie Roche signed her name at the bottom of the last document. She leaned back and felt the tension ease from between her shoulder blades. As of this moment she was the proud owner of her own home. Today was the culmination of several months of effort. She smiled at the two sellers who sat across the table from her; they looked equally happy.
"Is the house ours now?" Ellen whispered as she tugged at the sleeve of Anne Marie's jacket. "It is," she whispered back.
A few years ago Anne Marie had merely been going through the motions. Robert, her husband, had died, and she'd found herself a widow at the age of forty. She had no one in her life who loved her, no one she could love. All right, she had friends and family and she had her dog, Baxter, a Yorkie—admittedly a special dog—but Anne Marie needed more, wanted more. She'd craved the intense, focused, mutual love of a spouse, or a child of her own. Then she'd met Ellen through a volunteer program and they'd grown close. When Ellen's grandmother, Dolores, who'd been raising the girl, became seriously ill, Anne Marie had stepped in—at Dolores's urging. She'd taken over as the girl's foster mother and, after Dolores's death, adopted her. Dolores must have known she was reaching the end of her life, and when she saw how attached Ellen and Anne Marie were, she'd been able to die in peace, confident in the knowledge that her granddaughter would be safe and, above all, loved.
"You can cross finding a house off your list of twenty wishes," Ellen said, referring to the list Anne Marie had compiled with a group of widowed friends the year she'd met Ellen.
The child's straight brown hair brushed her shoulders, with a tiny red bow clipped at each temple. Her eyes were wide with expectation—and a little fear. Anne Marie hoped Ellen would quickly adjust to her new home and neighborhood, although Ellen kept insisting she liked her old one just fine.
"We want you to be as happy in this home as we've been," Mr. Johnson, the previous owner, said. With a great deal of ceremony he and his wife handed the house key to Anne Marie. The Johnsons, an older couple who'd lived there for more than twenty years, planned to move to Arizona to spend their retirement near friends.
"I'm sure we will," Anne Marie said. She'd looked at a number of places and this was the first one that felt right, with its large backyard and spacious rooms. Ellen would be able to go to the school she currently attended, which Anne Marie considered a bonus.
She would do whatever she could to ensure that the transition would be a smooth one for her daughter. Ellen had made friends on Blossom Street, people she visited almost every day, and she could continue doing that. Her favorite stop was A Good Yarn, Lydia Goetz's store. Both Anne Marie and Ellen had learned to knit, thanks to Lydia.
"You promise I'll like the new house as much as Blossom Street?" Ellen asked with a skeptical frown.
"You're going to love having a big bedroom."
"I like my old bedroom," she said, lowering her head.
"Yes, but you'll like this one just as much." This was a conversation they'd had a number of times already. "And Baxter's going to enjoy racing around that big backyard, chasing butterflies."
The hint of a smile touched Ellen's face, and Anne Marie put her arm around the girl's shoulders. "Everything's going to be fine," she said. "You'll see."
Ellen nodded uncertainly.
Now that the paperwork had been completed, Anne Marie thanked the title agent, who'd been so helpful.
With the house keys safely inside her purse, she stood and reached for Ellen's hand. "Mel's taking us out for a celebratory lunch," she said on their way out the door.
"What's celebratory mean?"
"It means we have something to celebrate, and that's our brand-new home." New to them at any rate. She raised her voice to show how pleased she was that this day had finally arrived.
"What about Dad?"
"We'll see him later." Over the past few months, Anne Marie's relationship with Tim Carlsen had become...complicated. He was Ellen's biological father and hadn't known he had a daughter until after Anne Marie had adopted her. Tim had connected with Ellen through a long and indirect process. Anne Marie had reluctantly—very reluctantly—granted him permission to visit Ellen. Thankfully, Tim, who'd acknowledged his problems with drug and alcohol abuse, was now clean and sober. He'd turned his life around several years before, unlike Ellen's biological mother, who was still incarcerated. She'd surrendered her parental rights, which had made it possible for Anne Marie to adopt the child. It was only after Anne Marie saw how much Tim loved his daughter that she'd softened toward him. All too soon, a rosy, and completely unrealistic, picture had formed in her mind—the three of them together, as one happy family.
Then Tim had dropped his bombshell and that dream had been blown to smithereens. He was engaged to Vanessa, a woman he'd met at his AA meetings. Anne Marie had felt incredibly foolish even entertaining the notion of the two of them as a couple.
Shortly afterward she'd met Mel through her friend Barbie. He was a widower, the same age Robert would have been—close to twenty years older than Anne Marie. Mel was a comfortable person, easy to be with, unthreat-ening and undemanding. He got along well with Ellen, too. They'd been dating for a few months, and while it wasn't a steamy romance or an exciting one, she was content.
Mel's attention had helped soothe her ego after the letdown she'd experienced with Tim. The ironic part was that shortly after she'd started seeing Mel, Tim and Vanessa had parted ways. After her disappointment with Tim, Anne Marie wasn't willing to make her heart vulnerable to him again. She'd made that clear and he'd accepted her decision. She let him see Ellen, however. Her daughter loved being part of her father's life and looked forward to spending time with him.
"Where's Mel taking us to celebrate?" Ellen asked as they rode the elevator down to the ground floor. There was a light drizzle outside, not unusual for April in Seattle. It wasn't heavy enough to warrant an umbrella, but damp enough to curl Anne Marie's naturally wavy hair.
"We're meeting him in Chinatown," Anne Marie answered.
"We're having Chinese?"
This was Ellen's all-time-favorite food. "Can I order chow mein with crispy noodles?" she asked.
"I'm sure you can." How thoughtful of Mel to remember Ellen's preference for Chinese cuisine. He really was a good man; she doubted there was anything he wouldn't do for her if she asked.
"What about almond fried chicken with extra gravy?"
"You'll need to discuss that with Mel." Once out on the sidewalk, Anne Marie took Ellen's hand again, and with their heads bowed against the cold and the wind, they hurried toward the restaurant.
Mel was already there and had obtained a booth. A large pot of tea with three small ceramic cups rested in the center of the table. Anne Marie was grateful Mel had thought to order it.
He stood as they approached and leaned forward to kiss Anne Marie's cheek.
"Hello, Pumpkin," he said to Ellen.
"Hi, Punky," she returned with a giggle. Where Ellen had come up with that name for Mel, Anne Marie had no idea. Maybe her version of "pumpkin"? In any event, Anne Marie appreciated their relaxed, friendly relationship.
When the waitress arrived, they ordered far more food than they'd ever manage to eat.
While they waited for their lunch, Mel made conversation with Ellen. "This is perfect weather for Baxter to wear that sweater you knit him," he said.
Ellen had made her own list of twenty wishes, and learning to knit was one of them. Fortunately, Lydia's yarn shop was only a couple of doors down from the bookstore, and Lydia had encouraged Ellen's first efforts. With practice, Ellen had improved to the point that she was able to complete a sweater for Baxter.
"After lunch, would you like to show Mel the house?" Anne Marie prompted. She wanted Ellen to feel good about this move. Ellen had gone with Anne Marie to view various houses and had found something wrong with each one. It finally dawned on Anne Marie that Ellen simply didn't want to leave Blossom Street, which she should've realized from the start. The little girl wouldn't say so directly but she came up with convenient excuses to reject every home they'd seen—until this one. If Anne Marie had been more experienced as a parent she might have caught on earlier. But Ellen's resistance was the main reason she'd put off the search after the first deal fell through.
"Do you want to see the house?" Ellen asked Mel, sounding hesitant.
"I'd enjoy that, especially if you'd give me a personal tour."
Ellen glanced at Anne Marie. "Mel would like you to show him around," Anne Marie explained.
"I can do that," Ellen said, revealing her first enthusiasm for their new home. "I know every room. Did Mom tell you I have a big closet of my own and my bedroom faces the backyard, so I can look out my window and watch Baxter? He likes to chase birds and butterflies and bugs. I won't have to take him for walks anymore because there's a fence.... I can just open the door and let him go out."
"True, but it's still a good idea to keep an eye on him," Anne Marie reminded her. "And to take him for walks."
"I'll bet there are lots of kids your age in the new neighborhood," Mel said.
Anne Marie hoped that was the case, although she hadn't seen any.
Ellen toyed with her fork and plate, moving the fork around the plate's circumference. "I like my old neighborhood best," she muttered.
"But it's a retail one," Mel said.
Ellen looked quizzically at Anne Marie. "He means there are shops on Blossom Street instead of houses."
"I like shops. I have friends there. Susannah lets me help her with the flowers in Susannah's Garden. Last week I stood out front of her store and gave away pink carnations. Baxter was with me."
"That was fun, wasn't it?"
Ellen nodded again. "And Alix sometimes brings me leftover croissants from the French Café across the street."
Laughing, Anne Marie brought her head close to Mel's and added, "That doesn't happen often because they sell out of croissants almost every day."
"I like them warm so the jelly gets runny on them," Ellen said. "Mom puts them in the microwave for me in the morning."
"I'll have to try that," Mel told her. "Sounds good."
"Lydia and Margaret are my friends, too." Ellen continued to list her favorite people on Blossom Street.
"Lydia owns A Good Yarn," Anne Marie pointed out to Mel.
"Yeah, I remember," he said.
"Lydia and Mom taught me to knit, and we knit every day, don't we, Mom?"
Before Anne Marie could respond, their food arrived. The conversation lagged as they passed around the serving plates. Mel asked for chopsticks, but Anne Marie and Ellen used forks—although Ellen proclaimed that she wanted to try chopsticks next time. She was just too hungry today.
"You have lots of friends, don't you?" Mel asked
Mouth full, the girl nodded eagerly.
"But they're all adults. Do you have any friends from school on Blossom Street?"
After a short pause, Ellen said, "Cody and Casey, but they're older and they go to a different school than me."
Anne Marie could see that Mel was trying to help Ellen see all the possibilities that awaited her in her new home. She thanked him with a smile, and he clasped her hand beneath the table.
Half an hour later, when they couldn't eat another bite, Mel asked for the bill. Carrying their leftovers, Anne Marie and Ellen walked to the parking garage for their car. Mel drove to the house on his own.
Anne Marie and Ellen got there before him and after parking in the driveway, Anne Marie unlocked the front door, conscious that this was the first of many times. The inside looked different now that it was empty of furniture. The Johnsons had left the house meticulously clean, the floors scrubbed and polished and the walls freshly painted and unmarked.
Mel showed up soon afterward. "What a lovely house," he commented, stepping inside. He paused in the doorway to survey the hall and the living room.
"Come," Ellen said, grabbing his hand and tugging him toward the hallway. "My bedroom's this way."
"What about your mom's?" he asked, looking back at Anne Marie over his shoulder.
She nearly burst out laughing.
"Mom's across the hall from me," Ellen told him.
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