Excerpt from Return to Hoffman Grove (Book 3 of the Northwest Suburbs Series)
Thick tree trunk columns and high-beamed ceilings lined the way to the stone hearth. Next to it, a green and yellow parrot fluttered in its cage at one end of the reception desk. The great stone fireplace wasn’t lit this time of year, but people rested in front of it on the well-worn red leather sofas.
While he checked in, Brody glanced at the birdcage. An attractive woman poked her finger at the parrot and tried to get it to say hello in that odd parrot voice people affected. Didn’t she realize the parrot mimicked her, and not the other way around?
“Sir, can you sign here?” the woman behind the desk asked.
Brody nodded. When he’d heard the lodge was for sale, he’d hoped to pitch the idea to his boss, to give the old place venture capital for renovations. But seeing it with his own eyes, the Pioneer Trail was no longer an investment. It was a money pit. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to stay the night.
Memories from those last days of high school, the time he’d spent here with friends who had given him the courage to step out into the world on his own, held him firm. What’s one night?
He took one last look at the parrot and did a double take. He knew that woman.
Brody folded the copy of his bill neatly into thirds and tucked it into his suit coat pocket. He stared at his old-style room key, rehearsing what he could say to Cinda Cooper after almost ten years apart. He’d been in love with her once, and damn, if she didn’t still poke that spot in his heart. If he was smart, he’d walk away.
Brody shook his head. Not yet. Even after all these years he was drawn to her, and the desire to see her mismatched eyes, one blue and one hazel, conquered his indecision.
Cinda turned away from the birdcage and glanced toward the lobby bar, but she didn’t move. Her short, dark hair was streaked with purple highlights. The grass-green dress she wore clung to her curves and narrowed at her trim waist. Her long legs extended from the bottom of her narrow skirt.
Brody tapped her shoulder. “Hey, stranger.”
She wheeled around with a momentary look of panic, and then her million-dollar smile lit up her face.
“Brody Parkhill. Oh my God! I was just thinking about you—when we all came here after prom, of the fun we had.” She pulled him into a hug and he felt eighteen again, right down to the out-of-control hormones.
“What brings you here?” he asked, straightening his suit coat.
She started to speak and then clamped her mouth shut, a trait he remembered well. For all the secrets they’d shared growing up, some were harder to draw out than others.
She pressed her lips tightly together. He recognized that expression, too. Ten years hadn’t changed her. She was angry.
Brody nodded toward the bar. “How about a drink to catch up on old times?”
Cinda put her hands on her hips. “You walk out of my life without a word and now you want to have a drink, as if nothing happened?”