A little sneak peek of Book 2 in the Finding New Hope Trilogy
Striding along Main Street, Jill Howell bundled deeper into her coat, bitter wind lashing her bare cheeks. For a born and bred Wisconsinite, forgetting a scarf on the last day of March was an unforgivable rookie mistake. She curled her fingers in her leather gloves. In her rush to arrive before her assistant at her new job, however, she forgot the basics.
After waking before five and drinking a pot of coffee, she considered her options. Her racing pulse eliminated a nap. Instead, she dressed in her favorite power suit, stuffed her heels into her purse, and strode toward New Hope, Wisconsin, in a wool peacoat, knit hat, and warm boots.
Initially, the cold air neutralized the effect of caffeine on her nervous system. By the time she reached the diner two miles away, however, her skin burned from the twenty-degree wind chill. She couldn’t slow or reverse course. If she achieved her goal, she guaranteed a start to her day free from the tuts and sighs of her inherited employee.
With less than a mile to her final destination, she surveyed the quiet stretch of street. In a few hours, the town of a few thousand would teem with life. Only a year and a half ago, New Hope was practically abandoned. With determination and a brilliant idea, the town reawakened. The problem with achieving a dream, however, was waking up the next morning and putting in the hard work to maintain the reality. A week into her mayoral term, she understood the weight of the community’s faith. For the past ten days, she slept poorly, anxious for each day.
In her pocket, her cell vibrated. She retrieved her phone and swiped icy fingers over the screen, pulling up the text from Dani Winter.
—I have something for you at the theater.—
She dropped the cell back into her pocket. If she delayed, she wouldn’t arrive at City Hall first. A brisk wind howled. Knowing her assistant, she was probably already too late. She wouldn’t mind warming up. At the next block, she turned down the alley and entered a brick building through the side door.
Warmth enveloped her like the flannel duvet on her bed. She sighed and stomped her snow-and-slush-covered boots on the mat. Turning, she muffled the sound of the swiftly shutting door and scanned the surroundings. She stood in the carpeted hallway, running the length of the building. Angled on a slight incline, mirroring that of the auditorium, she blinked and adjusted to the dim light cast by the original, brass wall sconces. In the renovations, the space hadn’t been updated.
With Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day in the rearview, Holidays, Inc.—her family’s former movie theater turned into her friend’s holidays-only dinner theater—was quiet. The crew enjoyed a well-deserved day off. She pounded the carpet through the personnel-only hallway and knocked twice on the office door.
“Come in,” Dani Winter, proprietor, said.
Jill twisted the knob and stepped into another world. The pale blue paint covering the walls, built-in shelves, and ceiling matched the summer sky. She dragged in a deep breath and sniffed citrus-scented room freshener. If she shut her eyes, she was transported to a bright July day. When Dani first arrived in town, she brought California sunshine to the failing town. In the first nine-and-a-half months of operation, her business rapidly revitalized a once-forgotten manufacturing community.
“Madam Mayor.” Behind the desk, Dani stood and grinned.
The petite blonde with sapphire eyes shone in her tiny office. After growing up as a child actor, she carried herself with a different charisma from the rest of the Midwestern community. Jill finger combed the too-long bangs, peeking under her hat. Compared to Dani, she lacked sparkle and remained as worn-out as the town’s before picture. “I don’t know about addressing me so formally.”
“I like the title.” Dani stroked her chin. “It suits you. You won by a landslide.”
Her friend’s self-assured words radiated pride. Jill dragged in a shaky breath. “I had a lot of help.” Dropping her bag to the ground, she tilted her flushed cheeks from her friend’s gaze. For the second time in forty minutes, she regretted leaving her scarf at home.