Embracing Her Heart

By: Melissa Foster

The Bradens & Montgomerys

(Pleasant Hill – Oak Falls)

Love in Bloom Series

Chapter One


Brindle? Grace blinked awake at the sound of whispers in the dark room. It took her a moment to remember she was in her childhood bedroom at her parents’ home in Oak Falls, Virginia, and not in her Manhattan loft. She narrowed her eyes, trying to decipher which of her five sisters were intent on waking her up at…She glanced at the clock. Four thirty in the morning?

“Shh. You’re such a klutz.”

Sable. Of course. Who else would think it was okay to wake her up at this hour besides Brindle, her youngest and most rebellious sister, and Sable, the night owl?

“I tripped over a suitcase,” Brindle whispered. Something thunked. “Oh shit!” She tumbled onto the bed in a fit of laughter, bringing Sable down with her—right on top of Grace, who let out an “Oomph!” as her parents’ cat, Clayton, leapt off the bed and tore out of the room.

“Shh! You’ll wake Mom and Dad, or the dogs,” Sable whispered between giggles.

“What are you doing?” Grace tried to sound stern, but her sisters’ laughter was contagious. The last thing she needed was to be awake at this hour after a grueling week and a painfully long drive, but her sisters were excited about Grace coming home, and if Grace were honest with herself, despite the mounds of scripts she had to get through during her visit, she was excited to see them, too. Other than a quick trip for her friend Sophie’s wedding, she hadn’t been home since Christmas, and it was already May.

“Get up.” Brindle tugged her off the bed and felt around on the floor. “We’re going out, just like old times.” She threw the slacks and blouse Grace had worn home the night before in Grace’s face. “Get dressed.”

“I’m not going—”

“Shut up and take this off.” Sable pulled Grace’s silk nighty over her head despite Grace’s struggles to stop her. She knew it was a futile effort. What Sable wanted, Sable got. Even though she and her twin sister, Pepper, were a year younger than Grace, Sable had always been the pushiest of them all.

Grace reluctantly stepped into her slacks. “Where are we going?” She reached for her hairbrush as Brindle grabbed her hand and dragged her out the bedroom door. “Wait! My shoes!”’

“We’ll grab Mom’s boots from by the door,” Sable said, flanking her other side as they hurried down the hall tripping over each other.

“I’m not wearing cowgirl boots.” Grace had worked hard to shake the country-bumpkin habits that were as deeply ingrained as her love for her six siblings. Habits like hair twirling, saying y’all, and wearing cutoffs and cowgirl boots, the hallmarks of her youth. She stood on the sprawling front porch with her hands on her hips, staring at her sisters, who were waiting for her to put on her mother’s boots.

“Step into them or I swear I’ll make you climb that hill barefoot, and you know that’s not fun,” Sable said.

“God! You two are royal pains in the ass.” Grace shoved her feet into the boots. They’re only boots. They don’t erase all of my hard work. Oak Falls might be where her roots had sprouted, but they’d since spread far and wide, and she was never—ever—going to be that small-town girl again.

The moon illuminated the path before them. The pungent scent of horses and hay lingered in the air as they crossed the grass toward the familiar hill. Great. They were taking her to Hottie Hill. Grace groaned, wondering why she hadn’t tossed them out of her bedroom and locked the door instead of going along with their crazy like-old-times plan. Three weeks at home would be both a blessing and a curse. Grace loved her sisters, but she imagined three weeks of Sable playing her guitar until all hours of the night and her other younger sisters popping in and out with their dogs and their drama, all while their mother carefully threw out queries about their dating lives and their father tried not to growl at their responses.

Brindle strutted up the steep hill in her boots and barely there sundress, expertly avoiding the dips and ruts in the grass, while Grace hurried behind her, stumbling over each one as she tried to keep up.

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