TOUCHSTONE BY KAREN STIVALI
Release Date: June 29, 2021
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Audio → https://geni.us/AudibleTouchstone
Series Page → https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/speakeasy-taproom/
Cover Design: Elle Maxwell Designs
About the Book:
Sam doesn’t think love is in the cards. The cards disagree.
When Phoebe Stevens’ life implodes in a spectacularly public fashion, she’s desperate to escape Manhattan. So the offer of a job setting up a new Vermont gastropub couldn’t come at a better time. Driving a U-Haul on winding mountain roads is Phoebe’s personal version of hell. But when the caretaker of her guesthouse answers the door tousled, shirtless, and baking cinnamon rolls, her first impression of Vermont dramatically improves.
Sam Trembley believes everyone gets one true love, but he’s already blown his chance. He’s spent five years avoiding relationships. Now he’s back in Colebury where sunrise tarot draws and moonlit hikes soothe his soul. But why do the tarot cards keep showing him this nonsense about soulmates? Could it have anything to do with the jaded city girl on his doorstep?
Playing tour guide is fun, but taste-testing her culinary creations as she shimmies her luscious hips around his kitchen is downright irresistible. Soon their chemistry burns hotter than the pub’s wood-fired oven.
Has fate brought them together for a summer of love…or a lifetime of happiness?
Touchstone contains craving-inducing menu planning, a sassy white witch grandma, seismic sexy times, and tarot cards on a mission to prove soulmates are real.
I’d changed into a black tunic swing dress and capri leggings, and a gust of air flared the skirt Marilyn Monroe-style the second I stepped outside.
“Hey.” Sam’s grin was like a beacon luring me toward him. “Did you get a chance to rest from your drive?”
“Nah, but I did get in a shower. Those rainforest showerheads were amazing.”
“Glad you enjoyed them.”
Was it bad that I was hoping I’d just made him picture me naked? What was wrong with me? I was never this flirty, and not just because I’d been in a relationship the past half-decade. I just…wasn’t. “So whatcha cookin’?”
“We’ve got some jerk pork, some cilantro-lime chicken breasts, and some asparagus. There’s potato salad inside and some fiddleheads.”
“Ooh, fiddleheads. I’ve actually never had them. I thought they were only around in early spring.”
Sam shook his head, deftly turning over pork chops with his tongs. “Not up here. All depends on the winter and when the snow melts. This is a little later than usual for them to be around, but we had snow until May this year so…”
“May? Is that typical?”
He laughed. “The only thing typical about New England weather is that you can never tell what to expect.”
“I can’t imagine having snow until mid-spring. I’m used to Manhattan where a few inches slows everything to a crawl. But I do love when it snows at night. Empty New York City snow-covered streets are a thing of beauty.”
“That does sound nice. Did you grow up in the city?” Sam flipped the asparagus and lowered the lid on the grill.
“Yep. Lived there pretty much my whole life. I spent most summers at the beach, with a good friend. And I did an internship one summer during culinary school, in Boston. That’s where I met Audrey.”
“Right. Audrey. Is that how you wound up with the Speakeasy gig?”
“Yup. I needed a job and her family needed someone willing to get the gastropub up and running.”
“Sounds like divine timing.”
I shrugged and stared at my feet. Flashes of the scene that had led to me needing a job bombarded my brain. “Something like that.”
“You want a beer? Or I have soda, juice, wine…”
“Beer sounds great. Thanks.”
Sam jogged back to the house, hair bouncing. I tried to decide if he looked better coming or going. Which made me wonder what he looked like coming.
Phoebe, stop it. You’re here to do a job and make a plan for your fucked-up life, not to fuck it up more with…complications.
I forced myself to take a deep breath and focus on my surroundings. I hadn’t really looked around when we were moving all my shit into the cottage. The space between the main house and the guesthouse was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill back yard. It was surrounded on all sides by hundred-foot trees—a mix of evergreens and probably oaks, based on the acorn remnants I’d seen on the driveway. There were elaborate flower beds all around the house and a rock garden with enormous sparkling rocks—pink, gray, some sort of marble, maybe? I assumed that was a perk of owning a rock shop. And frog statues. Were they…doing yoga?
Sam appeared and handed me a chilled, bright-yellow can. The cheerful label said Sip of Sunshine IPA. “Your official welcome to Vermont.” He clinked my can with his, and we both drank.
It tasted bright and hoppy and instantly refreshed me. “I take it your aunt likes frogs?”
Sam opened the grill and plated the asparagus. “Actually, I’m to blame for the yoga frogs.” He gave the asparagus a quick squeeze of lemon and then set the plate on the wooden picnic table alongside the grill.
“Oh really?” I sipped some more, hoping to quell the fire or whatever it was that tingled through me every time Sam spoke.
“Legend has it that when I was three or four my grandmother took me to the Christmas bazaar at the all-season market, and I saw one of those frogs…” He scanned the yard. “That one, there, in the lotus pose. And decided I had to get Aunt Iris that frog for Christmas.”
“I was a cute kid. There’s photographic proof in some of the old photos in the house. But apparently Iris made such a huge fuss about how much she loved the frog, I got it in my head she needed another one every year. And now it’s just tradition. Every Christmas I get her some sort of frog. She took most of them with her when she moved into my grandmother’s house. There are salt and pepper shakers, creamers and sugar bowls, a teapot, bookends, a nightlight…”
“Wow. That’s dedication.”
He chuckled. “I’ve been traveling the last few years, and no matter where I was, I bought frogs wherever I saw them. I’m stocked up for a few Christmases now.”
I ran my hand over my beer can, tracing the logo. “It’s great how close you are to them. I’ve never had anything like that. Not with family at least. I’m closer to my best friend’s family than my own, but I don’t even see them much anymore.”
“I get it. Growing up, my best friend spent most of his time at my house. His parents were getting a divorce and my grandmother all but adopted him for a few years while that played out.”
“Does he still live in town?”
“Nope. He moved to Maine a few years ago. You’d probably like him—he runs a small bakery and makes crazy-good desserts.”
“Nice. Too bad he’s not closer. I’d hire him.”
Sam stuck an instant-read thermometer into one of the pork chops. “I’ll let him know in case the bakery doesn’t work out.”
“Can I help you with anything?”
He threw me that heart-stopping smile, and my insides flip-flopped. “Nope. You’re gonna be cooking for half the town soon. Tonight, let me do the cooking. Just don’t get too used to it, because I have a very small repertoire.”
“I can teach you a trick or two.”
He muffled another giggle and let his hair swing forward, but not before I caught the hint of a blush on his cheeks. For someone who rarely flirted I sure was managing to make everything I said sound sexual.