Valentine Serial 2016
The Sweethearts of Truffle Manor
He found the antique ring when he was going through the old fixer-upper house on Candy Lane. It was tucked in a cranny inside the closet of the master bedroom upstairs. Like so many of the items he’d stumbled upon after buying the huge house, the ring had been hidden. Someone must have loved scavenger hunts or keeping their treasures in secret places.
Devon Hershey stared at the art deco style ring nestled in red velvet inside the intricate gold box, thinking the solitaire mounted on a silver filigree band had to be at least a carat in weight. Not something a construction contractor could afford.
But then, he was single and aimed to stay that way. His work kept him on the move day and night. No time for romance. And now, no extra money for anything.
“I need to visit Mrs. Dunkleman and give her this,” he said, his words echoing out around him like lost memories in the empty, eerie house. He stood in the massive entryway of the two-story Tudor mansion he’d paid way too much to save and wondered again why this huge, rambling place had captured his heart.
But he knew Candy Dunkleman had a lot to do with that. The woman could persuade the ganache off a cupcake. And she made the best cupcakes. Or used to.
“You’re the one, Devon,” she’s mumbled from her bed at Nougat Peak, the assisted living place on the other side of Rose Lake, where she was finishing out her last days. “You can make Truffle Manor come alive again.”
Devon first met Mrs. Dunkleman when he’d visited this home with a church group one Christmas. She was an amazing woman and this house was impressive, an estate that encompassed a large acreage and a stunning view of the lake. Bailey and Candy Dunkleman had created Dunkleman Chocolates and Confections over sixty years ago. In love from the very first chocolate truffle, Mr. Dunkleman had named the street after her and the house after her favorite treat. But the Dunklemans hadn’t always had happy times. Their only son and his wife had died in a plane crash several years ago and Mr. Dunkleman had passed last year. Now they would leave a legacy for their only remaining relative, their granddaughter, Adette (which meant sweet, Mrs. Dunkleman always told him with a smile). But their granddaughter lived in New York City and she wasn’t interested in saving a crumbling estate on a lake in North Carolina.
So the Dunkleman Candy legacy would be gone unless he saved the house they’d built on Rose Lake. He couldn’t wait to get started on the renovations. He’d borrowed a chunk of change to make his dream a reality but Mrs. Dunkleman had given him a fair deal and her blessings. It would take everything he had to make this work, but Devon was determined to save Truffle Manor.
But first he had to get this ring to its rightful owner. Closing the box with a snap, he turned to leave.
And found a raven-haired woman wearing a flowing red dress staring at him from the open doorway. “Who are you and what are you doing with my grandmother’s ring box?”