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The Box of Possibilities

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A Magical Second Chance

Quinn Hedges treasures her life and her friends in St. Louis. A chance to repay kindness from her past seems risk-free.Until a love from her past shows up.Doug Linton finally gets his life together. Still he wonders about his one true love from a long time ago.Seeing her again feels worth the risk.Neither expects a bizarre heirloom, and the potential of finally getting it right, to take them into the strange.Can Quinn and Doug find their way through possibilities to each other?

An excerpt from The Box of Possibilities:

Face-to-Face with What Could Have Been

The vehicle slowly resolved itself into a Jeep Cherokee, and a fairly new, nice-looking one at that. The lack of a front license plate was odd, since Illinois and Missouri required them.From what Quinn could see of the driver, Cousin Jenny was quite tall.And had unusually broad shoulders for a woman.By the time the Cherokee's turn signal flashed for some unknown and oddly hilarious reason out here in the absolute middle of nowhere, Quinn's heart sank and sped up at the same time.She kept looking at the passenger seat, trying to conjure the woman she'd never seen before. Perhaps accompanied by her husband or son.But the seat remained empty.And when the Jeep parked behind her car, Quinn finally stopped pretending.That was Doug.Even through the dusty windshield, there was no mistaking that smile.

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Chapter 1
Chapter 1 The once-beautiful old southern Illinois farmhouse had definitely seen better days. Quinn Hedges leaned back against her generic navy blue work sedan with a dorky realtor logo on the driver side door, trying her level best not to think the same thing about herself in the thirty-three years since she’d last stood in this spot. A broad expanse of weedy, overgrown grass rustled in the cool October breeze, brushing up against white siding gone more gray with time and dust. Most of the fake black shutters that had been nearly a legal requirement back in the Eighties were still in place. Like so many things from that gaudy, optimistic era, the remaining shutters hung a little bit broken and crooked in the cool reality of the late Twenty-teens. Thank goodness the rambling two-story house itself seemed solid enough from the outside. None of the support posts on the wide double porch that surrounded the whole thing were twisted or tilted, and by a small miracle none of the windows she could see were broken. A sprawling garage/barn combination looked every bit as sturdy, with both overhead doors pulled down and secured with padlocks close to the sloping concrete pad that continued inside. Above the doors, white siding that matched the house extended up to a second story with two broad, unbroken windows with their own black shutters. She knew without walking around that the barn went back twice as far as the walled-off garage section, and it held more garage doors along one side and a big sliding barn door in the back. The surprisingly comfortable and well-built interior was a fitting home for generations of tinkerers. Quinn stepped away from the car, absently brushing road dust away from her black long-sleeved t-shirt and the seat of her blue jeans. Perhaps not the best choice for a miles-long drive down farmland gravel, even if it was remarkably well-maintained. But the thought of stepping back into one of the haunts of her teen years left her feeling like that same awkward, insecure kid all over again. Pulling on a key element of her favorite wardrobe from her thirties and forties before she got on the road this morning helped her remember she was the adult now. Well into her adulthood, in fact, and solidly into middle-age at fifty-one. Just like everyone she remembered from this time and place: some of the most intense and dramatic years of her life. She turned away from the sad decline of the once-proud family home, facing into the breeze. Someone was burning something, probably brush, though she couldn’t see a trace of the smoke against the deep blue sky that dwarfed the house and the land and everything else. The pale gray line of the gravel road cut through stubbly brown fields, straight as the world’s longest arrow all the way to the horizon. Quinn didn’t need a map or a GPS or her smartphone to know the whole region was crisscrossed by more of the same lines. Almost all flat and intersecting at perfect right angles, to the point that any variation from the pattern provided a jarring contrast. The paved roads were no different most of the time. The novelty of a smooth, easy curve required a veritable forest of warning signs to keep complacent drivers from shooting right through the guardrail into some farmer’s back forty. She clearly remembered her driver’s ed teacher explaining how dangerous a curve like that could be, without a trace of irony or humor on his broad, tanned face. Decades of traveling all over the country and a good bit of Europe were her real education in tricky (and exhilarating) driving. As a stronger gust lifted her short brown hair away from her face, she imagined she smelled the ghosts of bonfires long gone by instead of a distant brush fire. A craving for hotdogs she didn’t eat anymore and marshmallow and chocolate s’mores she didn’t eat often enough set her stomach to growling. Unfortunately she was a long way away from anything besides corn and soybean fields stripped bare for the winter and an empty house. A house she’d promised to evaluate and appraise, as a favor for a family who’d always been kind to her, whether she could stand the thought of walking inside or not. In fact, she needed to get herself together and out of her nostalgia haze before the estate executor (and temporary owner) showed up to walk through with her. Quinn drew in a deep breath to steady herself and promptly sneezed hard enough to stagger back a step. Yep, the return to her native farmlands of Illinois rather than her grownup urban shelter of St. Louis inspired the return of her fierce dust and grass allergies too. She surprised herself by laughing out loud, then leaned down to check her face in the car’s oval side mirror. No damage done other than a little bit of a red rim around her brown eyes. Not all that much damage from all the years passing, either, when she was feeling confident enough to be honest with herself. A few smile lines around her eyes and mouth. A few scowl lines across her forehead. Enough silver twisting through her hair to look like highlights in the bright afternoon sunlight. Not bad for a woman a few years past skipping her thirtieth high school reunion. Shaking her head at her own silliness and dread over the day’s activities, Quinn walked through the crunching weeds toward the home of the same family for six proud generations. A family she knew quite well back in those high school days. About to become the home of strangers she had no desire to know anything about besides signing the papers. She’d agreed to take the job, but flatly and firmly refused any commission for her work. After all the kindness and love she’d experienced here, that would have felt too much like stealing. It would be all she could manage to keep up her typical light, breezy chitchat with some relative she’d never met, with her own memories rising up so thick and rich in every room. All things considered, of course, this unknown relative would be a hell of a lot more manageable than walking through with someone she had known from the family. Doug Linton, for example. Grandson of the sweet people who’d lived in the house back when she spent countless hours here herself. Doug had also been Quinn’s most sincere and serious boyfriend in all her years living nearby. She couldn’t properly call him anything other than her first true love, no matter how young they’d been at the time. And the one whose lovely green eyes always came to mind when melancholy thoughts of what could have been drifted her way.

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