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Authors: Cara Lynn James

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A Path Toward Love

BOOK: A Path Toward Love
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Acclaim for Cara Lynn James

“A charming peek inside life during the Gilded era. Highly recommended.”

—C
OLLEEN
C
OBLE, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF THE
M
ERCY
F
ALLS SERIES, REGARDING
L
OVE ON
A
SSIGNMENT

“Cara Lynn James brings the early 1900s alive with this tender inspirational love story. Her cast of delightful characters will warm your heart and stay with you long after you've turned the last page.”

—M
ARGARET
B
ROWNLEY, AUTHOR OF THE
R
OCKY
C
REEK
R
OMANCE SERIES, REGARDING
L
OVE ON
A
SSIGNMENT

“James' debut novel is filled with romance, laughter and secrets, which will delight fans of historical romance. Four stars.”

—
R
OMANTIC
T
IMES
R
EVIEW OF
L
OVE ON A
D
IME


Love on a Dime
is a touching, well-written novel whispering the theme that all things are possible with God.”

—
CBA R
ETAILERS AND
R
ESOURCES

“Her growing fan base won't be disappointed.”

—
P
UBLISHERS
W
EEKLY
REVIEW OF
L
OVE BY THE
B
OOK

“James is a wonderful author who writes her characters as though they were real people, with their flaws and weaknesses laid bare for the reader to see.”

—
R
OMANTIC
T
IMES
4 -
STAR REVIEW OF
L
OVE ON
A
SSIGNMENT

A Path
Toward Love

Also by
Cara Lynn James

The Ladies of Summerhill Novels

Love on a Dime
Love on Assignment
Love by the Book

A Path
Toward Love

C
ARA
L
YNN
J
AMES

© 2012 by Carolyn James Slaughter

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail [email protected]

Scripture quotations are taken from KING JAMES VERSION of the Bible.

Publisher's note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

James, Cara Lynn, 1949-
   A path toward love / Cara Lynn James.
      p. cm.
    ISBN 978-1-4016-8517-1 (trade paper)
1. Widows--Fiction. 2. Life change events--Fiction. 3. Choice (Psychology)-Fiction. 4. Citrus fruit industry--Fiction. 5. Hernando County (Fla.)--Fiction. 6. Adirondack Mountains (N.Y.)--Fiction. I. Title.
   PS3610.A4284P38 2012
   813'.6--dc22

2012016580

Printed in the United States of America

12 13 14 15 16 17 QG 6 5 4 3 2 1

I'd like to dedicate
A Path Toward Love
to
Jase Slaughter, my youngest grandson, who
brings such warmth and joy to my heart.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Reading Group Guide

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Chapter One

H
ERNANDO
C
OUNTY
, F
LORIDA

July 1905

K
atherine Osborne couldn't escape the numbers. She dragged her gaze from the lush orange groves right outside her office window to the ledger open on her desk. Why had she ever believed she could run a business with little experience and less capital? The numbers screamed bankruptcy and the end of her dream—unless she quickly obtained a loan to tide her over. She hoped an answer would come in the afternoon post. All she needed was a little more time . . . surely business would improve.

For a few moments she gave in to her mounting fears and buried her head in her hands, allowing the warmth and stillness of the afternoon to wash through her. But at the sound of footsteps, Katherine glanced up and smiled at her maid. Etta Mae, young and pretty, strode through the doorway holding out a stack of mail. “For you, Miz Osborne.” She grinned and her teeth glistened white against her dark skin.

“Is there a letter from the bank?” Etta Mae always riffled through the mail before she turned it over to Katherine.

The maid shook her head. “Sorry, ma'am.”

Katherine nodded. No word from the loan officer killed her hopes, but only for the day. Perhaps tomorrow she'd finally receive her response.

“There
is
a letter from New York,” Etta Mae said, holding out the envelope.

Katherine ripped it open and scanned the creamy page filled with her mother's spidery script.

My dearest Katherine,

Papa is on his way to Florida to visit you at Buena Vista. I expect he'll stay for a week or so, possibly longer. He's scheduled to arrive late afternoon on Monday. I do hope this letter precedes his arrival so that you can give him a proper welcome.

Today! Katherine's heart sputtered at the thought of Papa coming to Buena Vista. She missed him terribly, though a pinch of anxiety tempered her joy. Why was he traveling all the way from New York in the heat of the summer? Her family always spent the season at their camp on Raquette Lake tucked into the rugged Adirondack Mountains. The air was cool and fresh— nothing like Florida. Only something important would drive Papa from Camp Birchwood in July. She'd wager it involved her mounting problems with keeping the citrus groves operating.

Katherine glanced at her pocket watch pinned on her plain cotton shirtwaist. Papa's train would probably arrive within an hour or two. She needed to tidy up her appearance, and above all, calm her nerves. She continued to read Mama's letter.

I do so wish I could join Papa, but I'm afraid my social obligations prevent me from traveling so far.

Aunt Letty is with me at Camp Birchwood for the summer. Our weather is delightful. That's such a blessing since we have a houseful of guests to entertain. I do wish you could be here to vacation with us. Try to join us whenever you can, my dear.

Katherine placed the letter on her lap. How she wished she could visit her family. She hadn't seen any of them in eight years, ever since she'd eloped with Charles against her parents' wishes. They'd never extended invitations to spend summers in the Adirondacks when he was still alive. They detested him—with good reason, as she discovered too late. With a deep sigh rising from the depth of her lungs, Katherine lowered her gaze and read the next few pages of the chatty letter. At the bottom of the last page she found a postscript.

P.S. I neglected to mention that your old friend, Andrew Townsend, will accompany Papa to Florida. I'm sure you'll be anxious to see them both.

The letter fluttered to the floor in a humid breeze that blew through the window.
Why was Andrew coming too?
She couldn't begin to imagine. A picture of her tall, blond neighbor flashed across her mind. They'd been the best of friends for most of their youth. But when she married Charles, he ceased communication. There'd only been one brief note from him when her husband died.

She rose and went to the window, staring outside at the acres of lawn edged with flowering bushes. Her heart squeezed painfully at the memory of arguing with Andrew in the parlor of her parents' Fifth Avenue home right before her marriage. Red faced, her usually mild-mannered friend succumbed to his frustration as he paced the length of the parlor.

“Please don't marry him, Katherine. You'll live to regret it.”

“You're maligning a wonderful man,” she countered. Anger swirled through her, and she exploded with the hurt of Andrew's criticism. But at eighteen, how could she know Charles was not the gentleman he seemed to be? His suave manners and dashing clothing had swept her off her feet. Why hadn't she seen the real man beneath the facade of wealth and good looks? She thought he loved her deeply. In her naive mind, she imagined she'd become the center of his universe. How could she have been so wrong?

Her romantic notions had all been in her young and foolish mind. She'd rejected Andrew's sage advice and run off with Charles the very next day. Now here she was: a widow with little money, a business in shambles, and bitter memories of a marriage gone bad.

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