USA Today Bestselling Author
Getting into Hathaway House before his friend wasn’t the plan, but that’s how it worked out, leaving Spencer in a state of waiting for his buddy to arrive. In the meantime, he has work to do. Right from day one he wants to establish and to maintain some independence in this way-too-busy center, luckily meeting the groundskeeper on his first attempt at getting coffee.
Bella has been looking after the Hathaway House grounds for over five years. Although she’s seen and interacted with many of the residents here, she never really got close to any—until Spencer. Now she can’t help but watch his progress in awe, as he moves through his program with dedication. Is he trying so hard to show off to his soon-to-arrive friend? Or for her sake? Or because he’s eager to leave the center and start his new improved future?
A future that won’t be in Hathaway House and one that might not include her …
Spencer Newcomb and Timothy Watkins were roommates at a VA hospital when Timothy looks into Hathaway House. He and Spencer discuss it and then Spencer reaches out to Lance and Percy. On their recommendation he fills out the application and encourages Timothy to do the same.
The last thing he expected was to get in before Timothy, but because Timothy tends to procrastinate that is exactly what happens.
As with most newcomers to Hathaway House, Spencer is a bit overwhelmed when he arrives. He does notice the difference in the place right away, starting with the view of horses from his bed.
Bella Camden is the head of landscaping here a Hathaway House and as the only full-time member of her team she also has an apartment on site. That’s just one of the many perks of being employed here. Meals in the cafeteria, use of the facilities when not in use for patients is another. She often begins her day early with a swim before diving into the day’s projects, then having breakfast at her break. That also meant finishing up early before the heat of the day hits in the summer. On this particular day she’s a bit late for lunch and she just happens to meet Spencer who just followed his nose to the food.
This is a favorite scene.
When she saw the fish sautéed in butter, she immediately pointed it out. “You do fish so well here, and I never even used to eat it.”
“Tsk, tsk,” he muttered, with a smile. “Come on. Let’s get you a plateful.”
By the time she had that and a huge salad and some steamed veggies, she was good. She took it all outside, where she sat down on the deck. As she watched somebody she hadn’t seen before, a man in a wheelchair at the entrance to the deck, she smiled at him. “Hey. Are you eating out here?”
He winced. “Honestly I have no idea. I think I’m lost.”
“Did you eat?”
He shook his head. “No, I didn’t, and that’s probably part of the reason. I followed the scent of food, but I might have missed the lunch hour. I just arrived today.”
At that, Dennis walked over. “I heard you are a new arrival. You must be Spencer. And I’m Dennis.” He reached over and shook Spencer’s hand.
“What can I get you?”
“I don’t want to be a bother,” he replied hurriedly. “I didn’t realize that I had slept so long.”
“You’ll find, in the first couple days, that you’ll do a lot of napping.” Dennis smiled. “Most patients expect to be in better shape when they arrive, but, the fact of the matter is, it takes time to adjust.”
“If you say so.” Spencer looked over at her plate. “Her selection looks great,” he noted, “but maybe a bit of carbs to go with it.”
“Absolutely on the carbs,” Dennis agreed. “Just sit here with her, and I’ll see what I can do.” And, with that, Dennis disappeared.
Spencer looked at her and hesitated.
She smiled. “Please join me.” She motioned at her table. “I work here. I’m one of the people who keep the grounds out there beautiful,” she added. “And I was late myself, so I missed lunch too.”
He smiled. “Probably not a good thing to do around this place,” he stated, looking at her plate.
“That’s quite a nice selection of food.”
“And one thing you’ll learn very quickly here,” she shared. “Not only is the selection nice but it’s good fresh food, and the cooking comes from heart, which always seems to make a difference.”
He looked at her in surprise and then nodded. “You’re right. A lot of food that my grandmother made I never particularly liked, but, because she made it, it always tasted so much better than the same stuff that my buddies’ mothers would make,” he said. “I never told them that of course.”
“Sometimes that happens.” She chuckled. “Dennis and the kitchen staff are wonderful. You’ll have to meet Ilse. She’s the chef in the back. I see her more often than anybody just because I’m up and in here early in the morning. They run a wonderful place here,” she added. “You’ll do just fine.”
“Thank you.” Spencer nodded. “I came because of the recommendation of several friends, so I’m hoping that you’re correct. I’m hoping everybody’s correct. It’s hard to know what to do sometimes. You give up on having any options, and then suddenly there’s one, and it makes you nervous to even follow through because you don’t know if you can believe what people say.”
“I get that,” she agreed, with a smile. “I think that’s life. We hear so much stuff, and you never know how to filter out the good from the bad and what’s even realistic versus somebody’s overenthusiastic pipe dream.”
He chuckled. “I was thinking the same thing.” He pulled his wheelchair closer to the table. “Do you mind?” he asked hesitantly. “I don’t want to disturb your meal.”
“Absolutely. I don’t mind. This space is for everybody here. I’m Bella Camden, by the way.”
“Spencer Newcomb.” He smiled. “I could take another table, if you wanted to be alone.”
“I’m good,” she said. “As soon as I’m done eating, I’ll go for a swim.”
He stared at her. “A swim?”
She chuckled. “If you look over the railing, there is a pool and a hot tub.”
At the sound of that, his face lit up. “Now that would get me going a lot faster than a lot of things. I saw the horses”— he pointed to the fenced-in area in the distance and the beautiful black horse that was the closest—“ and I haven’t been on a horse in a very long time. I never thought I might get back to riding again,” he shared, “so I was surprised to see them here.” He stared, a look of rapture on his face, before his shoulders slumped, and a heavy sigh slipped out.
“That’s one of Dani’s projects,” Bella stated immediately wondering at the thoughts running through his mind. “Those are her babies, and I think some of them are used for riding sessions with some of the patients. So, if it interests you, let them know. I think they’re open to doing whatever works for you.”
“And that … would be amazing in itself.”
Such hope filled his gaze that she couldn’t help but add, “I get it. My brother was here years ago, and I came to visit him one day, and I never left. See the little llama out there with the horses? She’s a sweetheart too.” She laughed and gave him a one-arm shrug. “At the time they needed somebody to do the gardens, and I’m an arborist, so this was right up my alley. Trying to keep this place as lush and as happy as possible for a lot of people appealed to me. So I just moved on in. Now that my brother’s doing well on his own, it’s all good.”
“Wow, I heard something similar from Joseph.”
“Joseph’s a crackerjack.” She grinned and gave him a knowing look. “He’s got a heart of gold too. Almost everybody here does. You can’t do this job without that.”
He nodded. “It certainly helps to have that personality. Sometimes when we’re at the VA centers, it seems to be just a job to people, and even the staff don’t appear to want to be there either. That makes it so that none of us want to be there, especially those of us who have no choice.”
“Yep, I heard the same thing from my brother. But you’re here now”— she nodded, with another big grin—“ and you have no idea how your life is about to change.”
At that, Dennis walked back out on the deck with a huge platter.
“Wow. I am hungry, but I’m not sure I can eat all this.”
“One thing around here is, we won’t starve you, but we don’t like to waste food either,” Dennis shared. “So, at each meal, assess your appetite, so you’ll know more for next time. Plus I’ll see how you do, so I can assess your appetite for next time too,” he explained, with that contagious big Hathaway House smile. “Other than that, you eat up and enjoy.”
Spencer tucked into the food. Hot. Fresh. Tasty. He stopped several times to assess the amount of food on his plate, shook his head, and dug in some more. Good food, great company, and unbelievable surroundings. So far, it had been a strange but amazing arrival.
“Not sure what the reassessment is every time,” Bella admitted, “but just watching you eat is fun.”
He looked at her in surprise. “Honestly I’m startled because it’s full of flavors. You get used to a place always pushing through a lot of people, and the food tastes as if it were pushed through too. It’s usually bland because they’re going for the lowest denominator in the taste of the food,” he stated. “And it ends up having zero flavor. But this stuff? Wow, this is good.”
“I’m sure you’ll break some hearts here telling them that. Everybody at Hathaway House works hard to keep the patients happy,” she declared. “So you’ll be easy to please.”
“I’ll be easy to please as long as I see some progress,” he replied, with an unhappy sigh. “I want other people’s stories to be true, but I’m worried that their recommendations are not even close to being possible for me, and that I give up on it.”
“In that case,” she suggested, “reserve the judgment and do the best you can to just see how it goes initially. … Absolutely nothing here says that this has to be an all-or-nothing proposition. The Hathaway process is very much about finding what works for you. And then, if you ever want to get out and to get away for a bit, just let me know.” She pointed to the grounds. “I can wheel you to the gardens, where you can sit and commune with Mother Nature for a while, just to get away from everything inside.”
She continued. “The rehab program demands everything from you— hard work that leads to success. Yet it’s not always easy being surrounded by all these people here because a lot of patients will have progress that you might think you should have. However, you can’t compare yourself to everyone else. First off, they’ve been here longer than you have. And second? They aren’t you. Your body isn’t theirs,” she stated quietly.
“And, on the flip side, everybody needs a timeout at some point. You can’t always push yourself without your body paying the price.” And, with that, she stood. “I’m heading home for a bit.” She waved at him and added, “Take it easy and adjust. It’ll all be good.” And, with that, she was gone.
Dale Mayer. Spencer-A-Hath-Dale-Mayers-re (Kindle Locations 250-321). Kindle Edition.
As Spencer begins his journey to treatment, Bella works on her plans for the grounds, which includes benches and picnic tables.
It’s a while before she sees Spencer again, mainly because of the differences in their schedules. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking of each other. There is definitely an attraction between them.
Bella and Spencer get to see each other quite a bit and a relationship begins, then Timothy arrives and he’s in bad shape but then it gets worse when he ends up in the hospital again. Spencer is going to have to understand that he is not responsible for any of Timothy’s issues and stay focused on his own recovery.
I love the way these books document the process of healing from all the different angles and include a bit of romance as well. I can’t wait to read Timothy’s story.
5 Contented Purrs for Dale!
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Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).
She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!
To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.