Mr. Crane’s skinny face flushed. “There’s still the matter of the three stained glass suncatchers—each one had a different symbol.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But she did. Three small squares. One with flowers, the second with a sun setting, and the third with angel wings. All gifts for the people she’d loved. A twinge of guilt, like a wasp’s sting, pricked at her.
“Fourteen years and counting, Miss Holland.” Mr. Crane tapped his head. “Like a steel trap.”
Of that, she had no doubt. “Why don’t you have me arrested?" Way to go, Summer. The urge to slap herself rode her hard. But could she really change years of habit, years of being on the defensive, every time she stepped foot in this town in only a matter of days?
Mr. Crane’s face softened. “Little girls trying to think of others don’t rank high on my list of reasons for calling the sheriff, even if they go about it the wrong way.” He retrieved the candle out from under the table, and then glanced at her. “But you’re not a little girl anymore, Summer.”
Unsure what to make of his conflicting statements, she searched through her purse, pulled out two twenties from her wallet, and smacked the bills on the table. A hard look into his sympathetic eyes almost made her apologize.
“I was never a little girl,” she said. Not like he meant it. Little girls worried about being invited to their friends’ birthday parties, not if they had enough food in the pantry. She sure as hell never worried about being invited to any parties—mostly because she’d never been invited by other girls her age.
Dark clouds swept in. The wind picked up, swirling the loose pieces of hair around her face. Maybe she was crazy for coming here, for wanting to be a part of a family again, but she longed to be a part of Ivy’s life.
Only she wasn’t quite sure what her role would be. The loving aunt who just happened to be the biological mother? The loving aunt whose butt would be hauled off to jail if anyone ever pressed charges against her?
Awesome role model for Ivy.
In the park across the street, she saw Jemma Leigh, Janie Leigh, and Jeremy playing on the swings. They all sat in one, pumping their legs and laughing. The little girl smiled and then jumped, falling to her knees. Both of her parents rushed to her, and Summer’s heart caught in her throat.
Little chubby arms reached for them. Gentle words and comforting kisses chased away the tears, but not the storm rolling in. The three of them gathered their things and headed to the parking lot nearby.
The wind blew harder. Leaves shook on trees.
Now Summer knew exactly why she’d come back to Holland Springs. She knew exactly what she had to do. All she needed was some guidance on how to go about it.
A quick stop by Pellum & Foster confirmed what she knew, or an appointment wouldn’t have been available otherwise. It was a sign that she was on the right track, and no matter what, she would stay on it.
Exiting the building, dandelion puffs floated in front of her, carrying with them the scent of freshly cut grass. Of sunshine. And…strawberries. Her lover smelled of all these things.
He wasn’t her lover, had never been her lover—not in the way a man and woman came together. In the past, she thought he hadn’t wanted to be her lover, and would never be her lover with the way fate interfered in their lives.
Breathing deeply to clear her head, she opened the glass doors to the bank and went inside, blowing past all the customers, the tellers, and even the bank president’s secretary.
“You can’t just go in there without an appointment,” his secretary all but screeched at her.
“Watch me.” Summer twisted the doorknob and let herself inside.
Harrison Collins, the bank’s president, sat at a desk large enough to command Wall Street. He didn’t look surprised to see her as he removed his glasses and rubbed them against a cloth to clean them.
“I need to get money from the bank,” she said.
Replacing his glasses, he said, “This is a first—a criminal informing the victim of her intent before it happens.”
Wasn’t this just her day to be reminded of her past deeds? She crossed the room to his desk, plunking her bright green purse down on the mahogany surface. “Stick to your day job, Harrison.” She sat down in one of the high-backed chairs in his office. “Rose said you would be able to help me. I’m running Carolina Dreams while she’s gone, and I’d like to be able to shop.” And eat. Basic things she would never admit to him.
“Rose asked me to set up a separate account for you.”
Her stomach plummeted to her feet. Rose didn’t trust her.
“She wanted you to have something of your own.” He slid a small card her way. “This is the account information for the store.”
“What password would you like for the log-in portion?”
“Isn’t that supposed to be private?”
“Isn’t arson supposed to be illegal?”
Regret poked at her, but only for the hurt she caused Rose. Burning down Strawberry Grove had made Summer’s heart dance and sing. Setting fire to a legacy that had done nothing more than confine the women in her family to a role the newest generation of Hollands no longer wanted to play had given her pure joy.
As she watched the flames grow, the pain that had been living inside of her seemed to extinguish, but only for a short time though. She had been shortsighted, unable to touch an enormous sum of money that would’ve made it possible for her to never come back to Holland Springs, possible for her to take care of her daughter, without worrying about food, shelter, and clothing.
Eventually, she’d given it all to charity. Specifically she had anonymously donated every penny to the organization Gabriel had started with his church. It served at-risk kids in the surrounding counties.
“Angel,” she managed to say without blushing, even as Harrison cast her a sharp look. Of course, she’d pick the nickname of the man who’d wanted to save her. Gabriel was always on her mind.
Glancing around the room to avoid his knowing eyes, her own widened. There were pictures everywhere… of her. Of Rose. Of Skye. And not creepy pictures either. School pictures of the three of them, graduation pictures (though not of Rose), baby pictures—
She swallowed, her fingers digging into the arms of the chair. Pain radiated from the tips. He had pictures of Ivy. A knot grew in her throat, breathing a soon to be impossibility.