It’s almost here! YAY! One week…The Countdown is officially on! I am so excited to give you a little peek at this story. Read on and there is a special surprise for you all!
About the Book
An unexpected mother-to-be
A romance-leery composer
And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures
When Julia Jenkins’ great-aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.
Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.
But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?
A cacophony of noise greeted Henry before he’d stepped onto the front stoop of Nate and Kay Jenkins’s charming colonial home. The scurry of sounds crashed in contrast to the late spring symphony of birdsong and the hushed brush of the wind through the newly budding trees. He almost asked to linger outside in the spring-chilled air to enjoy the unfamiliar music of nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains instead of spending the next few hours navigating the unpredictable world of social interactions.
His mother berated him for his introversion, labeling him a people-hater, but it wasn’t so. He enjoyed people, especially familiar people—watching them, learning from them, sometimes having a mental chuckle at their antics—but finding words to say, participating in small talk, attempting to appear smart and engaging… He swallowed through his tightening throat. He’d never managed those experiences well, especially in a new place.
Perhaps, Wes would ease the way with his natural friendliness and deflect a large portion of the attention, as he usually did. It proved beneficial during times like these to have an actor as one’s best mate.
He squinted to clear the vision in his swollen eye as Eisley opened the front door of the house. A sudden burst of welcome pushed the volume in the room to a forte, and Henry’s tension took an upsurge. His feet froze in place while he observed. Chaos of people and noise rushed forward, engulfing him. He even took a step back in retreat, but Eisley grabbed his arm and pulled him through the doorway into the massive foray of people. Wes had told him of Eisley’s large close-knit family, even shown him photos on Eisley’s social media page, but words, and even those snaps, failed to give an adequate depiction.
Laughter surged forward in a rush of welcome, bringing with it an immediate sense of hospitality, boisterous hospitality. So many people spoke at once, all in this new Appalachian dialect, he barely knew where to affix his attention.
Oh no, he’d never experienced anything like this.
“Wes, we’re glad to have you back for another visit.” A petite woman with blond and white shoulder-length hair emerged from the throng scattered throughout the vast living area and equally impressive kitchen. Her blue eyes held a striking resemblance to Julia’s. Dark, rich—an unforgettable hue.
He gave the room a brief scan for the younger Jenkins. Julia. The name suited her. The blend of consonants and vowels a gentle melody of sound fitting for the ethereal-like beauty. What was it about her? Some balance of everything right merged in their interactions, even the awkward ones, leaving a strange pang in his chest. Like a battle of nerves, only less nauseating.
“This is my best friend, Henry, whom I’ve told you about. He’s writing the musical score for the movie I’m here to film, and”—Wes shot Henry a grin, which provided a boost of reassurance— “I think he’s hoping for a much-needed holiday from his busy schedule. Henry, this is Kay Jenkins.”
The matriarch of the Jenkins family offered her hand, her smile as inviting as the salty aroma wafting from the kitchen. She certainly didn’t look old enough to be the mother of children his age, let alone seven of them.
“It’s real good to have you, Henry.” Her words soaked in her accent with a calming effect. “Welcome to Pleasant Gap.”
Henry swallowed through his dry throat and attempted to hone his focus on the woman. “A pleasure, Mrs. Jenkins. Thank you.”
“Please, call me Kay.” She offered a quiet smile, almost in apology. “And things are bound to get a little rowdy ‘round here. We can’t have a whole crew of people in one place like this without some noise.”
As if in response to Kay’s words, a squeal split through the conversations. “Oh my goodness!” A young woman with soft honey-colored hair and wide eyes bounded toward him. “Another handsome Englishman!”
“That’s Sophie. Brace yourself. She hugs,” Wes warned right before the young woman took Wes into a hug, complete with another ear-piercing squeal.
“You smell just as a good as the first time we met.” She sighed, lingering at Wes’s shoulder before she turned her sparkling hazel eyes in his direction. “And you must be Henry.”
The embrace transferred from Wes, and Henry steadied himself for the impact. “Mmm, you smell like vanilla.” She closed her eyes, smile wide, and nose sniffing the air near his neck. He stiffened like the Venus de Milo. “That’s such a delightful scent.” Her eyes fairly twinkled. “Like a cupcake.
“Thank you?” Henry wasn’t quite certain whether the unsettled twist in his stomach meant he needed a laugh or an escape plan.
“She’s harmless, really,” Eisley whispered on Henry’s other side. “Every family needs a resident Disney princess, you know?”
And then other people came forward, each adding a new face and name. Henry turned from Eisley to Wes, attempting to interpret the scene but failing to find clarity before the conversation bled into another one. Or more than one. It was difficult to tell when there were four people speaking at the same time…on differing topics.
“I’m Rachel.” A dark-haired woman offered her hand then gestured with her chin. “Looks like Dad already got a hold of you. What happened to your eye?”
Comprehension stuttered. “Pardon?”
“Julia accidentally hit him with the door at the bakery.” Eisley offered an apologetic shrug and lopsided grin. “Henry’s had quite the introduction to our family.”
“And it’s only just begun,” Wes added, his smile giving Henry no comfort.
A burly man, his brown hair and matching moustache framing his stern face, walked forward while wiping his thick palms on his hips. Henry needed no introduction. Wes’s description had been perfect, right down to the intimidating stare.
“Daddy, be nice to Henry, okay?” Sophie linked her arm through her father’s and shot Henry a bedazzled grin. “Julia’s already hit him once.”
“Julia had to hit hi—” Nate Jenkins’s dark brows shot into a furious V, and he targeted his narrowing gaze on Henry. “What did you do to my girl? You good for nothin’ foreigner.” He barreled forward, fists at his sides, and Henry stumbled a step back into the wall. “If you so much as—”
“Whoa, whoa, Dad.” Julia stepped between them, seemingly out of nowhere, her palms on her father’s chest. “You know the stairway door at the bakery? I opened it and Henry was coming up the stairs. The same thing happened to George Pinkerton last month when he stayed at the apartment, remember? The door hit him in the face…and you never came by to fix it.”
“The— What?” His furious gaze darted from Julia’s face to Henry’s. “Door?”
The wall prevented Henry from fleeing the premises altogether. Perhaps accompanying Wes to Appalachia was a bad— possibly life-ending—idea.
“Really, Dad?” Eisley slapped her father on the shoulder. “Did you think we’d let a jerk hang out in the place Julia runs?”
“He’s the best of men, I assure you. True as an arrow.”
Wes placed his hand on Henry’s shoulder, his lips upturned in good-humor, though Henry had difficulty understanding how anything good could come from seeing his life flash before his eyes.
“You…you didn’t have to hit him?” Nate kept his focus on Henry, though his tone slightly softened.
“No, Dad, but maybe now you’ll fix that door?” Julia glanced at Henry and mouthed ‘I’m sorry,’. If he hadn’t understood anything else from the twelve conversations occurring at once around him, those words would’ve been enough. “Like Wes said, Henry is the good sort.”
Her comment pushed through the growing anxiety in his chest and dispersed a sliver of calm. Belonging. Like when they’d discussed music together.
The man’s moustache twitched while he drew in a deep breath, measuring Henry from head to toe. As if he’d made up his mind, he sighed. “Well, I reckon we got more important things to do than to stand around and ogle over another sissy boy visitin’ the family. We got supper and some serious basketball goin’ on.” He shot an eyeroll to the ceiling and murmured as he turned to walk away. “Smells like vanilla. Crazy women.”
© Pepper D. Basham 2018