Saturday Excerpt: Starting Over on Blackberry Lane by Sheila Roberts

Get ready to start your weekend with the latest release from Sheila Roberts!

About Starting Over on Blackberry Lane:

Stefanie Stahl has a husband with renovation ADD. He can’t seem to finish anything he starts and her house is littered with his “projects.” If he doesn’t smarten up, she swears she’s going to murder him and bury him under the pile of scrounged lumber in the backyard.

Her friend Griffin James is suddenly single and thinking maybe she needs to sell her fixer-upper and follow her career bliss up the ladder of success, even if that scary ladder is clear across the country. Getting her place ready to sell proves harder than she originally thought. She needs help.

She’s not the only one. Cass Wilkes, their neighbor, has an empty nest—with a leaking roof. When her ceiling crashes in, she knows it’s time to do something. When Grant Masters offers his handyman services at a fund-raiser auction, the three women go in together to outbid the competition and win their man. (Cass’s friends think she should win Grant in a different way, too!) Now it’s time to make some improvements…in their houses and their lives.

***

Cass Wilkes had wanted to liven up her empty-nest existence, but having her dining room ceiling fall in was not on her list of ways to do it. She’d just come home at three in the afternoon from the usual Saturday swamping of customers at her bakery, Gingerbread Haus, with sore feet and a desire for a bubble bath and a cup of chocolate-mint tea. Looking at the water and the soppy chunks of Sheetrock on her dining table and floor, and the white glop everywhere, she now had a desire for something with more of a kick.

Currently there wasn’t anything stronger than cooking sherry in the house. That meant there was only one way to deal with this situation. She walked right back out the door and to her car. Destination: Zelda’s, one of Icicle Falls’ favorite gathering spots, owned by her friend

Charley Masters. Charley would give her a Chocolate Kiss, a boozy chocolate number that was one of the restaurant’s specialties, and hopefully she’d also dispatch her husband, Dan, owner of Masters Construction, to deal with the ceiling problem.

 

Back in her car Cass texted her friend. Emergency. Have Chocolate Kiss ready.

You okay? came the concerned reply.

Yeah, but my house isn’t.

Uh-oh, Charley texted back. Will have drink ready.

On my way.

The restaurant was empty, set up for the evening rush, which would start around five with the sundowner crowd, seniors taking advantage of the early dinner bargains. By six thirty there wouldn’t be an empty seat anywhere, and people would be crowding in, waiting for a table. She was glad it was quiet now. If she had a complete nervous breakdown the only witnesses would be Charley and the staff.

True to her word, Charley was at a booth in the back of the restaurant with a Chocolate Kiss martini set at Cass’s place, along with a plate of nachos. “The crisis kit,” she said, stealing a cheese-drenched chip. “Chocolate, booze and carbs.”

Cass slid into the banquette. “Bless you.” She took a sip of her drink and then dived into the nachos. “I so needed this. Well, not my butt.” That seemed to be ever expanding. “My soul, for sure.”

“What’s wrong at your house? Did your rotting deck finally fall in?”

“Worse than that. Half my dining room ceiling is now sitting on the table.” Grandma’s dining table. Her grandmother had given her that when she first bought her house in Icicle Falls. She only used it on holidays but it had huge sentimental value. If not for the protective pad and a tablecloth it would have been completely ruined.

Good friend that she was, Charley looked properly horrified. “Oh, no.”

“Oh, yes,” Cass said miserably. “I knew I was going to need a new roof soon, but I didn’t think it was this bad. I didn’t go up to the attic to see what that’s like. It must be grim, since my dining room is now a war zone. Please tell me Dan can fix this so I don’t have to pull out my hair.”

“Dan can fix it,” Charley assured her. “But count on him telling you that you need a new roof.”

Cass glanced out the restaurant window at the rain dumping on the window boxes of the various shops and buildings, bouncing off car roofs and slithering along the street in streams. April showers bring May flowers, her mom liked to say. They also brought roof leaks and wrecked mahogany dining room tables. Ugh. How long had that water been collecting in her attic before it crashed through the ceiling? And shouldn’t it have given her a warning by dripping a little?

Except when was the last time she’d been in her dining room to notice any drips? Other than hanging out with her pals for their chick-flick nights, she hadn’t had much of a social life. Her daily schedule consisted mainly of work, eating takeout from Zelda’s or the Safeway deli while watching TV, and sleeping. Repeat. This was alleviated by occasional visits home by the kids, but those visits weren’t nearly frequent enough, and motherchild text sessions never lasted long. Afterward it was just her, rattling around in a house that was as much in need of fixing up as she was. This was her life now that the last little chick had left the nest.

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