- Publisher: Grand Central
- Release Date: 2015, 2012, 2000 & 2001; Silhouette 1984
- ISBN-13: 978-0446603096
- Available Languages: French (2), Japanese (4), German (3), English (UK), Bulgarian, Italian
- Available Formats: Audio, e-Book, Print
Caroline Dawson survived the town gossips. She survived the slow death of her husband, Roscoe Lancaster, the richest man in the county and her senior by three decades. But she feared she wouldn’t survive Rink Lancaster, her late husband’s son.
Years before she married, when she and Rink were teens, he had introduced Caroline to her first taste of love – and then broken her heart. Now Rink is back. He says he wants to settle his father’s estate. But what he really wants is to settle the score with Caroline.
The doctor nodded bleakly. His operating room greens were still fresh. He hadn’t been in surgery long enough to sweat them. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Lancaster. It’s extensive and rampant.”
“There’s nothing you can do?”
“Beyond keeping him comfortable and as free of pain as possible, no.” He touched her arm and glanced meaningfully at the man standing by her side. “He doesn’t have too long. A few weeks at the most.”
“I see.” She blotted her eyes with a crumpled, damp tissue.
The doctor’s heart went out to her. When family members reacted to bad news with hysteria, he felt competent to handle them. This valorous acceptance from a woman so feminine and frail-looking left him feeling callow and awkward. “If he had come in for a checkup sooner, maybe…”
She smiled a sad, wistful smile. “But he wouldn’t. I begged him to see you when his stomach kept bothering him. He insisted it was nothing more than indigestion.”
“We all know how stubborn Roscoe can be,” the man with her said. Gently Granger Hopkins folded Caroline Lancaster’s fingers around his arm. “Can she see him?”
“In a few hours,” the doctor replied. “He’ll be under anesthetic until this afternoon. Why don’t you go home for a while and get some rest?”
Caroline nodded and let Granger, an attorney and friend, lead her toward the elevator. They waited for it in glum silence. She was dazed but not surprised. Never had her life been rosy and without complication. Why had she idealistically clung to the hope that Roscoe’s exploratory surgery would prove that he had nothing more than a treatable ulcer?
“Are you all right?” Granger asked softly when the elevator doors closed behind them and they were free from prying eyes.
She drew in a deep, shuddering breath. “As all right as a woman can be when she finds out her husband is going to die. Soon.”
She looked up at him and smiled. Granger’s heart melted. Her smiles, which were often sweetly apologetic for some invisible deficiency, had a way of touching both men and women. “I know you are, Granger. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have you as a friend.”
They crossed the lobby of the newly refurbished hospital. Personnel and visitors glanced at Caroline and then quickly away. The averted faces were curious but deferential. Everyone already knew. When a leading citizen in a town the size of Winstonville was dying, the news spread like wildfire.
Granger escorted Caroline to her car and opened the door for her. She got inside but didn’t turn on the ignition. She sat, staring dejectedly ahead, lost in thought, in worry, in grief. So many things to see to. Where would she start?
“Rink will have to be notified.”
The name went through her like an ice pick, cold, needlesharp and piercing. It punctured all her vital organs. His name thundered through her head. The pain of hearing it paralyzed her.
“Caroline, did you hear me? I said—”
“Yes, I heard you.”
“Before he went into surgery, Roscoe made me promise to contact Rink if the prognosis was bad.”
Eyes the elusive color of woodsmoke sought the lawyer’s. “He asked you to contact Rink?”
“Yes. He was most emphatic about it.”
“I’m surprised. I thought the quarrel between them was irreconcilable.”
“Roscoe is dying, Caroline. I think he knew when he went into the hospital that he’d never leave it. He wants to see his son before he dies.”
“They haven’t seen or spoken to each other in twelve years, Granger. I don’t know if Rink will come back.”
“He will when he knows the circumstances.”
Would he? Oh, God, would he? Would she see him again? How would she feel when she did? What would he look like? It had happened so long ago. Twelve years ago. Her hands gripped the padded steering wheel of her Lincoln. Her palms were damp. She went damp all over.
“Don’t worry about it,” Granger said, sensing her distress. “Since you don’t know Rink, I’ll call and tell him.”
Caroline didn’t correct his assumption that she didn’t know Rink. That they had known each other had been a well-kept secret for twelve years. She didn’t intend now to start revealing it. Instead she laid her hand over Granger’s where it rested on the windowsill of the car door. “Thank you for everything.”
A Note From Sandra
Originally published under the pseudonym Erin St. Claire as Silhouette Intimate Moments #76