Georgia pulled into the driveway of her new cottage. The house reminded her of her parents’ home. It had three levels, four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and an unfinished basement. She bought the house as a foreclosure and was slowly renovating it. The outside had flower beds across the front, a stone pathway leading from the driveway to the front door. She had spent an entire weekend repainting the front porch and trim. It had been super cold but worth it because the outside of the house no longer looked like a haunted house.
Currently, she was working on finishing the basement to make an office and a play space for her nieces and nephews. Her favorite hobby was fixing up her home. She left the wiring and plumbing to the professionals. Everything else, she did herself.
Stepping inside, she set about putting away her groceries. If she started the stew now she could write for a few hours before it was ready. She loved crock pot recipes. She could set it up in the morning, and by evening she had dinner. When she got to writing, she could go for hours without stopping to eat.
Ring, ring, ring.
She pulled her phone out and didn’t recognize the number.
“Georgia! How dare you leave town and send me an email telling me you’ve moved!” Bert, her ex-agent yelled. She pulled the phone away from her ear and groaned.
“Bert, I told you they have offered me a better contract with White Valley Publishing. They are offering me double the royalties and a less strict timeline.” She began chopping onions, potatoes, and carrots for her stew.
“You can’t leave! We have a binding contract,” Bert explained, his voice deathly quiet.
“One I ended when you sold one of my book ideas to Shelley Mansfield,” she explained, searing the stew meat in her large dutch oven.
“You have no proof! Expect to hear from my lawyer!” Bert hissed and hung up. Georgia rubbed her temples. Bert would not let her go easily. When Shelley Mansfield debuted a story about a bear cub shifter and his friends, Georgia had been livid. She’d pitched that idea to Bert months ago. Bert told her to stick with Bethany and Felix and not try to branch away from a wonderful thing. Then Shelley announced a new children’s chapter book series showing Arthur the bear cub shifter and his best friend Joey.
Georgia loved writing about Bethany and Felix the dragon, but she wanted to branch out toward the young boy market. She was working on her fifteenth book of the series. Saturday she would read her fourteenth book aloud, Bethany and Felix: The Big Camp Out. After the reading, she was doing a book signing. She loved doing the signings and seeing all the children who loved her books.
Living in White Valley, she felt renewed and ready to start a new chapter in her life. Her lawyer was trying to help her out of her contract. She knew she could end it but would lose all rights to the books she published before under her old publishing company. She wanted to fight Bert and expose him for the two-faced snake he was. She wouldn’t put it past Bert to bribe her lawyer, after all, he was his most successful author.
Checking her emails, she saw one from Roxie Austin. They’d connected through Roxie drawing the new cover for her book. About six months ago she’d seen a landscape of the woods by Roxie. She went to Bert and asked if they could persuade her to do the cover. Georgia was competent at drawing, but she wanted more. Roxie was the more she needed.
I heard you moved into the cottage by the national park here in White Valley. Turns out we’re practically neighbors. I want to invite you to a girls’ night tomorrow at seven. I can introduce you to some other women in town. Let me know if you are interested. I will send you my address if you are.
Georgia quickly replied that she’d be interested. Caroline had told her all about their girls’ nights and how friendly everyone was in town. Moving to White Valley, she had left her friends behind in D.C. and her five brothers and sisters were spread out all over. Her sister Caroline lived in the area with her son Liam, Virginia lived in Maryland with her husband Owen and their children Tyler, Jacob, Ruby, and Valerie. She, Virginia, and Caroline were the triplets their parents hadn’t been expecting. She was also the only one of her siblings who wasn’t married or had kids. Thankfully, her parents let her be, they never pressured her to marry. One thing she loved about her family was they supported each other in everything they did.
Closing out of her email, she pulled up her next book about Bethany and Felix. They were going to the beach with Bethany’s family, and Felix would find a mermaid to help. Stretching her fingers, she dove into the world of Bethany and Felix, ignoring all else.
BANG, BANG, BANG.
She jumped, hearing banging on her front door. Blinking away the blur of the words from her computer screen, she went down to her front door. Opening the door she saw her sister Caroline and Liam standing there holding a covered dish.
“Hi. Was I expecting you?” she asked her sister.
“No. I know how you are. I am sure you were working away and missed dinner, right?” Caroline asked, pushing her way into her home.
“I have dinner in the oven. My timer hasn’t gone off yet,” she said looking at her phone. She had several more minutes before her dinner would be done.
“Perfect timing, then. Come on.” Caroline marched into the kitchen, Liam hot on her heels. Georgia closed the door and watched as her sister made herself at home. Caroline was the oldest of the three triplets by five minutes.
“Mama was worried about you,” Liam whispered, Georgia gave him a soft smile. He rarely spoke and when he did, it was in a whisper.
“I know,” she replied and held her hand out for his coat, gloves, and hat. He handed them over and she went to hang them up.
“Liam, come help set the table,” Caroline called and Georgia watched him run back over to help his mom. Georgia helped them set the table and looked at her sister.
“Why are you really here?” she asked.
“I told you. I wanted to make sure you were eating correctly,” she replied.
“And…” she prompted, knowing her sister wanted more.
“And I want you to attend a Mate Me event hosted at the Inn on Sunday.”
“Because I think you need a mate. You’ve moved out here to White Valley with a ton of shifter men looking for a mate,” Caroline replied, taking her stew out of the oven and ladling three bowls. Georgia poured water into the cups and put out the crusty bread she had brought earlier.
“What did you bring over?” she asked, pointing to the covered dish.
“I brought you peach cobbler, your favorite. So are you going to come to the event? My friend Josie has been hosting them for over a year and has a very high success rate on finding mates.”
“I’ll think about it. I have a book reading on Saturday morning and I am trying to get out of my contract with Bert and his publishing company. I don’t think finding a mate is at the top of my priorities. Why don’t you find one?”
“I have Liam. I don’t need one.”
“And I am too busy dealing with Bert to need a mate. Oh, Roxie invited me to a girls’ night on Saturday.” She hoped changing the subject would make her drop the matter of a mate. Besides, she’d met a wonderful man at the supermarket with a sweet little girl. Jordan was everything she wanted in a man, he was tall, blond with amazing green eyes. His daughter was super sweet, and something about them pulled at her heart.
“Perfect. You will get to meet Josie at the girls’ night. She is Roxie’s sister-in-law,” Caroline said, giving her a bright smile, and Georgia moaned. She walked right into that one. Shaking her head, she settled at the table and ate dinner with her sister and nephew.