Maggie’s Fork in the Road is book two in Linda Bradley’s Montana Bound Series. Maggie Abernathy is back with the precocious eight-year-old neighbor, Chloe McIntyre. In this Women’s Fiction novel with threads of romance, the cast of misfits will captivate your heart as they continue their journey.
Maggie Abernathy learns that pesky neighbors, John and Chloe McIntyre are moving to Montana. The only problem is…she can’t fathom living without them now that they’ve stolen her heart. While trying to digest the news and accept John’s decision to leave Michigan, Maggie ventures to Chicago with Chloe to see Chloe’s Hollywood mother in a photo shoot, where the three kindle a quirky bond making it even harder to say goodbye. With the support of Maggie’s meddling mother, best friend Judy, and a surprise visit from Montana rancher, Winston Ludlow McIntyre, Maggie begins to wonder which fork in the road leads home.
MAGGIE’S FORK IN THE ROAD
John’s news knocked the wind out of me leaving me breathless, speechless . . . paralyzed.
Breathe, I told myself.
The dim room grew foggy as my eyes searched John’s face. “Really,” I said. “Why now? And why here?” What was it about delivering bad news in a restaurant? First, Beckett, now John. For the love of God, I wondered if breaking a woman’s heart in public got them into a secret men’s club.
Letting my guard down proved one thing. Hurt was inevitable. John and Chloe’s absence would leave a hole in my heart, a gorge of sharp edges. We were more than neighbors. We’d become friends that navigated life’s ups- and-downs together. And now they were moving. I’d have new neighbors and I didn’t want new neighbors. I wanted John and Chloe. I needed John and Chloe. We bonded last summer when I dealt with breast cancer. Their craziness made mine seem normal. John and Chloe weren’t any ordinary neighbors; they were family, eccentric misfits, like myself that conformed to the beat of life while traversing the bumps in the road.
Massaging my temples, I caught my breath. The throb pierced my skull. Since John and Chloe’s arrival, there’d never been a dull moment. Mom came around more often. And Chloe’s mother, Brook. Jesus, she flitted in and left like a summer storm leaving sky-high humidity and heat that scorched everything in its path.
Broken-hearted, Chloe had wept over false promises, her bags packed, her hopes magnanimous. And God, Beckett.
My ex-husband found his footing with a new lifestyle that didn’t include me, or any other woman. I’d heard through the grapevine that he was dating and wondered if his better half was as handsome as he was.
I searched John’s face for an answer.
“I didn’t know how to tell you. I’m sorry, Maggie. I don’t belong here,” he said, lowering his voice. “I can practice medicine in Montana and my dad could really use the help.”
Montana was one hell of a long ways away. I swallowed the sting of disappointment. John’s eyes searched mine. His news left a bitter taste at the back of my throat. “You can’t leave. I love you,” I whispered.
The pressure behind my eyes burned something fierce. How was it possible that I felt so much for someone I wasn’t romantically involved with? I certainly thought about it enough and the few recent kisses we shared established a deeper connection spurring buried promises that I’d made to myself. Moving forward in the wake of waiting for perfect timing proved difficult.
The corners of John’s mouth drooped. His jaw clenched.
“I can’t believe I said that.” I stared into my half-empty glass of Merlot, my cheeks smoldered from the realization that he didn’t return my sentiments. My chin quivered as he touched my hand from across the table.
“I want to put the house up for sale when Chloe’s school year ends.”
My forced smile hurt. It was the kind that everyone knows is fake and by John’s expression, my attempt to lighten the moment had failed. He squeezed my hand. I sipped my wine trying to avoid eye contact with the waitress. Her return with the dessert tray came at the most inopportune moment. After listening politely, John asked for the check. I wrapped my shawl around my shoulders trying to hold myself together. “I’ll meet you outside,” I said, fumbling with my purse.
“I won’t be long,” he said. “Maggie—”
The leg of my chair got stuck on the carpet. I shook it loose in disgust, studying the face of a man that I thought just might be a permanent fixture in my life. His eyes sadly apologetic.
“Damn, you’re beautiful.” With a heavy sigh, he paused. “I’ll be out in a minute.
The cool spring breeze sent shivers down my spine as I exited the restaurant. I caught my breath. How could I have told John I loved him? Why now? I wrapped my arms around myself. If I could survive cancer, I’d survive this. Hearts mended. Beckett taught me that lesson the hard way, but this was John and Chloe. Our attachment was the seam that mended that wound, made it invisible.
John opened the car door for me. I climbed in. His stare rustled my nerves. Pretending to rummage for something in my purse, I rooted around inside my bag and finally decided I was searching for my sanity. It wasn’t there. I even checked the hole in the satin lining. Nothing. How could I be so upset over something I didn’t ever really have? John reached over and buckled me in before shutting the door.
“I know you’re not okay.” He turned the key in the ignition. “This wasn’t an easy decision,” he added.
I studied his profile. “I know it wasn’t easy. I know you’re unhappy here in Michigan.” My heart skipped a beat. Saying the right thing tasted bitter. I wanted him. I wanted him before, but couldn’t admit it. I wanted him now, but he was leaving. “Thanks for dinner,” I said, trying my best to be grateful.
“I know this wasn’t the evening out you were expecting.” He checked the mirrors and backed out of the parking spot.
The jazz on the radio couldn’t fill the silence between us. The ten-minute car ride by the lake seemed like an eternity. The sliver of moon like a dagger in my heart as its white glow washed over the glassy lake. I loved the lake. The lazy cove in Grosse Pointe was the place where my only son, Bradley, grew up. It was a place of solace, a place for meeting new friends like Judy and her two boys, Harry and Walter. It was the place I first saw that horseshoe tattoo on John’s left shoulder as he strolled down the beach holding Chloe’s hand. It was the place where Bones peed on Brook’s leg, the place where Brook and I bantered over Chloe, and took photos in an effort to prosper from our differences. It was the place where I held the snarky seven-year-old when Brook broke her heart and went back to Hollywood, California, after promising her daughter a life together.
John coasted into his driveway. “I’ll walk you home.”
A thin grin passed over my lips, lips that he’d kissed just before telling me that he was moving to Montana. My empty stone house waited for me, along with a wrinkly- faced Bulldog. I’d still have Bones, thanks to Mom. Maybe that’s how it was meant to be.
John parked the car then gazed into my eyes. He longed for something, something I secretly hoped would keep him here, close to me. He got out and walked around to open my door. As I swung my legs out of the car, my skirt cascaded over my freckled shins. He linked his arm with mine and led me home. “All seems quiet. Chloe must have been good for the sitter.”
“We’ll see. Only time will tell,” he said. “She’s older and wiser now.”
“She’s eight, and being in third grade doesn’t make you necessarily wiser, it makes you taller with bigger teeth.”
We sauntered up the stairs to the porch. Digging in my purse for the key to the front door of my house, I stood like a pillar of salt waiting for John to say something, to tell me he’d changed his mind on the way home. “I’m not sure what to say,” I whispered. John caressed my cheek. I shut my eyes, memorizing his touch. I nuzzled into the palm of his warm hand. Please don’t leave, I secretly wished. I had no right to ask. He stepped closer, his breath in my ear.
“You’re not making this easy. You never do, Maggie Abernathy. Look at me,” he murmured.
Afraid to open my eyes, I swallowed away emotion. John was always doing stuff like that, telling me I was beautiful, telling me I had a hold on him, but not a strong enough hold to keep him here. I gazed into his Irish eyes. I heard my heart shatter as it broke all over again, leaving me with a pit in my stomach. John led me inside, his hand on the small of my back. His eyes gleamed with intent. He tugged at the fringe on my shawl making it drop to the ground as he kicked the door shut. John picked me up then carried me upstairs. As much as I knew I should have stopped him, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to.
Moonlight flooded my bedroom. John took off his shirt then unbuttoned my blouse exposing my lace bra. He ran his fingers along the edge of the cup, tickling my skin, leaving me with goose bumps, wanting more. His mouth covered mine. Laying me upon the bed, I closed my eyes, and let him in.
Moonlight washed over his skin. It caressed every muscle and curve of his brawny body. I snuggled in behind him, tracing his horseshoe tattoo with my finger. “Did this hurt when you got it?” My lips grazed his skin as I whispered into the darkness. “Maybe if I got one, I’d have better luck.” I closed my eyes then crawled beneath the covers. John’s square jaw and simmering eyes held my stare. He crawled back to where I’d settled in and peered down at me. Lowering his head, his lips met mine. I squeezed my eyes shut damming the deluge. My heart pounded against my rib cage, telling me it was time, time to let go. John was leaving and this would be our perfect goodbye. “Chloe’s probably wondering where you are,” I said, caressing his whiskery cheek. “So, you’ve decided to grow a beard?”
“No, just a little scruff. I hear women like that.”
He leaned over me and kissed my lips as he brushed strands of stray hair away from my face. His Adam’s apple twitched when he swallowed. I waited for the words, the words I wanted to hear, but they didn’t come. “You’re so damn beautiful,” he said, caressing my cheek. “We should have done this a long time ago, Maggie Abernathy.”
Nervous knots filled my belly as I listened to his deep coaxing voice. My eyelids fluttered. Fierce emotion mounted beneath my calm surface. Reaching up, I wrapped my arms around his neck. “Yeah,” I whispered. “We probably should have.”
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Linda Bradley’s first book in the series:
Praise for Maggie’s Way, Montana Bound Series: Book 1:
-“Linda Bradley’sfresh voice will keep readers riveted from beginning to end. Bradley delivers aheart-warming story full of disarming honesty and beautiful drama…This onestands out!” -Jane Porter, New YorkTimes and USA Today Best Seller, Author of Flirting With Forty and It’s You
-“Maggie’s Way is aheart-warming tale of love and loss, fear and friendship. With charmingcharacters and a moving plot, Linda Bradley’s lovely debut gently remindsus that it’s never too late for second chances.” -Lori Nelson Spielman,International Best Seller, Author of The Love List and Sweet Forgiveness
-The Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice Awards – Summer 2016
-Greater Detroit Booksellers Best Award Finalist 2016
Contact Linda Bradley: