From the Heart Friday: The Key to Everything

Are you looking for a heartfelt #weekend read?
Take a peek at this week’s From the Heart editor’s choice:

The Key to Everything

About the book

When nurse practitioner, Dr Genny Sanders inherits her late grandmother’s house, she moves back to her hometown of Worthville, Georgia, determined to leave her past—and her scheming ex—behind her with a new job and new friends. But during a meeting with her grandmother’s estate attorney, David Worth, she learns of a threat to her property. A local developer wants to buy her land and demolish her house.

Genny refuses to sell, but the land developer isn’t taking no for an answer. As if personal threats aren’t bad enough, a foreclosure proceeding looms, and a fire flashes in the night. Everything Genny holds dear is threatened. If she can’t find a way to save her grandmother’s house, Genny will be forced to give up the fresh start she so desperately wants. And to complicate matters further, she’s falling for David.

While going through her grandmother’s belongings, Genny finds a mysterious key with a red ribbon. What does it fit? Could it possibly be the answer to her problems? What do the messages of love and forgiveness she keeps hearing have to do with everything? As she searches for these answers, she learns more about herself and her grandmother’s legacy than she could have ever imagined.

Take a peek!

CHAPTER 1

Tires crunched on the gravel driveway outside Genny Sanders’s house, and a car door slammed. Her handyman, Al Trenton, hadn’t had time to go home, get his lawn mower, and come back to mow her grass, so she stepped to the door and, as a precaution, latched the screen. People in Worthville didn’t lock their doors, but it was hard to shake her New York sensibilities. Her stomach tightened a bit as a handsome man in his thirties holding a briefcase approached. Had she forgotten an appointment? Who was this tall, trim guy in an expensive suit?

“Sorry to disturb, but are you Dr. Genevieve Sanders?”

“I am.” She brushed bangs from her face and hoped she didn’t have packing peanuts in her ponytail. A broad smile eased across his face, disarming Genny with its charm, but she regained the game face she’d learned to have as a medical professional. “May I help you?”

“I’m David Worth, attorney and executor of your grandmother’s estate.” He extended his business card.

Genny read the card through the screen and nodded. “Of course. We spoke on the phone. I’m sorry. With all the moving drama, I’d forgotten you were coming by. Call me Genny.” She unlatched the screen door and opened it for him. As she did, one of the hinges snapped, and the door sagged. She sighed. “I have a few repairs to make.” Her grandmother had been without much help for a couple of years since Al’s father, Lester, died. Al had retired from his factory job in recent weeks and stepped in to help. “I haven’t made much progress unpacking. I’ve only been in town three days. As I told you on the phone when we scheduled this appointment, I came for the funeral when my grandmother died two months ago, but I had to go back to New York right after, until the doctor I worked for could find my replacement.” Why was she rambling? Must be moving exhaustion. She gestured toward the sofa. “Have a seat if you can find one.”

David moved a box from her grandmother’s comfortable old sofa and took a seat.

Genny eased onto the wingback. “Not many lawyers make house calls these days. “

“Small town, you know. We do what it takes.” David squirmed in his seat and unbuttoned his jacket, seeming to grow uncomfortable. He ran a hand through his black hair, which held a slight curl. “I won’t keep you long, but before you get too far with your unpacking, I thought I’d make you aware of a situation.” He cleared his throat. “Saul Lance, a developer here in Worthville, has put together a land parcel for development. He plans to make Worthville a retirement destination. It’s close enough to

Atlanta and the cultural advantages there, yet these houses would cost far less than a similar one in the Atlanta market. We expect it to be a huge success.”

Genny leaned back in her chair and shrugged. “How does that affect me?” She slid a magazine off an end table and fanned herself.

David cleared his throat. “Lance needs more land for his development.”

Genny couldn’t imagine what this might have to do with her and meant to convey that through her “So what?” look. She put the magazine in her lap and twirled her ponytail, waiting for an explanation.

David opened his briefcase and took out a paper, which appeared to be a plat. He pointed to an area. “The project is planned for this area.” He circled an area on the plat with his finger. “Your fifteen acres sits where he’s planned the grand entrance with his clubhouse and pool.”

Genny sat erect in her chair as she understood David’s suggestion. “My property is not for sale.”

David shifted in his seat, and a bead of perspiration tracked down his face. He took out a monogrammed handkerchief and wiped his face. “You might not want to make that decision in haste. Since he needs your land to proceed, he’d be willing to pay top dollar.”

“Mr. Worth, this is where my grandmother raised me.” Genny stood in defiance. Who does this man think he is? “I’m not about to sell out to some quick-money developer who wants to build a bunch of McMansions.”

“I thought before you established roots, you’d—”

“These are my roots.”

David rose.

Genny stepped face to face with David. “You were my grandmother’s estate executor and her lawyer.” She edged even closer. “How long has this been going on? Have you been representing her interests or Mr. Lance’s? Looks like you’ve had a conflict of interest.” Genny pivoted, moved to the door, and held it open.

David mumbled something like “Call me if you change your mind,” strode to his car, and spun out of the yard, leaving a plume of Georgia red clay dust in his wake. Goodness, she hoped this wasn’t a foreshadowing of what life was going to be like in Worthville. The nerve of him, thinking he could march in and negotiate her right out of the home her grandmother left her. As the dust settled in the yard, she tried to let her flurry of emotions settle by relaxing her rigid posture and unfurling her fingers.

Genny turned, took a deep breath, and moved around the room, surveying the furnishings. She’d spent many an evening in this room, working on homework while her grandmother read. She stopped at the green striped wing chair, caressing its back, noticing her grandmother’s well-used Bible on the table. Her grandmother’s faith was constant, yet her own faith…well, not so much. A mystery from one of her grandmother’s favorite authors also lay on the table. Genny lifted the novel, noting the

bookmark her grandmother used to mark her place, the last words she’d read—the last mystery.

She moved to the fireplace and gazed at a landscape painting hanging above it. Her grandmother painted it long ago from a spot at the base of the back stairs. She recognized the scene by how the fences lined the pastures behind the house. This picture, created by the hands of the woman who meant so much to her, magnified Genny’s sense of loss, causing that old, familiar ache to rise in her heart again.

She pulled her T-shirt away from her sticky body and shook it to wave cooler air next to her skin, and then turned on a fan sitting between open side windows. With the early-summer heat beginning to build and her grandmother never having central air-conditioning installed, it would be something to get used to, for sure. Maybe she’d buy a window unit or two.

Genny spied Al rolling back into the yard. He declined the offer to use her old push mower. She believed his exact words had been “Ain’t used a push mower since Reagan was in office.” She called to him through the screen, “When you start mowing, be careful of the chicken.”

As if on cue, her grandmother’s beloved hen, Elizabeth, flapped onto the gray painted wooden porch. The hen strutted around a moment before Genny stepped outside and scooped her into her arms. “Don’t worry, girl. You’ll be safe.” Elizabeth eyed her almost as if the bird understood what she said. She deposited her on the porch, and the chicken continued her patrol as if surveying her kingdom from the porch.

Genny went back inside to unpack boxes, and in her peripheral vision, Al glided by on what appeared to be a new mower—not a small one either. Looked like one of those heavy-duty models. Expensive. How could he afford a new mower like that? She grabbed a box cutter to open a box near the sofa and thought of David sitting there trying to manipulate her out of her inheritance. Was Worthville named after David Worth’s family back somewhere along the line? Maybe he thought he could do anything he wanted to because he bore the same name as the town.

“We’ll see about that,” she said aloud. Then she sliced through the tape and tore open the box.

After unpacking most of the boxes in the living room, she needed to take a break from the back-breaking bending. She wandered out into the yard. Al had mentioned the gutters needed cleaning and that she had a tree growing in one of them. She didn’t see how that was possible, but when she stood under the shade of the old magnolia and looked up, there it was. Just over the right corner of the wide front porch, a small Georgia pine sapling sprouted from the gutter. How long had it been since the gutters were cleaned? One more job she needed to take care of.

She faced regular upkeep with things like gutter cleaning in addition to repairs just because the house was old. Decades ago, her grandfather had built the original two-

story central part of the house and then over the years added one-story wings on either side. Dormers topped the additions, giving the appearance of having a second story over them, making the house seem bigger than it was, but they merely balanced the outside, as there was no access to the space there.

Not a big house, and not worth much on the market. Few people wanted to live out here. Well, up until now anyway. David Worth told another story.

This house was her salvation when she was a child—and her grandmother’s last gift to her. She’d never let it go. Never. Some slick-talking, albeit nice-looking, lawyer was not about to cause that to happen.

Nice-looking and slick-talking were Kurt’s calling cards too, and where did that take her?

Calamity.

Like what you see?

Grab a copy of The Key to Everything here!

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