Rose sighed and went to answer the door. She wasn’t expecting anyone, and she didn’t know how many more surprises she could handle in one day.
She had just lost her grandfather, inherited a town, and, apparently, a mountain of debt to go with it. Not to mention feuding brothers who were foaming at the mouth to take the town over, ostensibly for development.
She loved this town, but she didn’t know what, if anything, she’d be able to do to save it. It made her sad to think this very house might be torn down in the name of progress.
But she couldn’t shake the notion that there was something more to this. Something she was missing.
“Are you going to just stare at the door, my dear, or do you plan to open it any time soon?”
Rose blushed and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, then reluctantly opened the door.
As she’d feared, Mason stood on the other side, his arms laden with what looked like very old books. The historian in Rose brightened, but she wasn’t positive it was the historical documents that were making her heart beat faster.
Mason’s glinting silver eyes were doing that.
Oh, why did he have to affect her so?
He was part of a problem, not the solution.
“May I come in?” His voice was unusually low and husky.
“Yes, s-sorry,” she stammered, standing aside until he passed through. She could tell herself she didn’t care for Mason until the sun went down, but even though she knew she couldn’t fool heart, she would deal with those feelings later. Right now, she wanted to see what he was holding.
“Hey, Eden,” Mason greeted as he placed the pile of books in the middle of the table.
To both of them he said, “These diaries were included in your grandfather’s possessions. He left them to you, Rose. In all the stress of the moment, I’d forgotten them. I am hoping maybe we can find some answers in here.”
“Diaries?” Rose couldn’t keep the excitement from her voice. There was nothing more fascinating to a historian than an old diary. Original source material! And Mason had brought six of them.
“Excellent,” Eden said, reaching for the top diary. “Where do we start?”
“At the beginning, I suppose.” Mason took the second diary and pulled up a seat at the table.
“And we’re looking for what, exactly?” Rose asked. These were her great-grandmother June’s diaries, a direct link with her past, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to share them with anyone, at least not yet.
But time was of the essence and she couldn’t afford to be greedy, so she took the third volume and flipped it open to the first page.
She had a town to save.
Mason was grasping at straws to be near Rose, and he sent God a silent prayer of thanks that he’d remembered the diaries.
Whether or not they proved useful, they’d literally gotten his foot in the door and given him a reason to be near Rose.
Maybe he could even convince her he was not the enemy here.
Eden chuckled, and Mason and Rose looked up from their reading.
“I’ve got thirteen-year-old June. She’s a riot.”
“I’ve got June’s older years, after she’d married Matt Redmond. The day to day joys of motherhood,” Mason added.
“I’ve got—oh.” Rose’s voice dropped off and Mason’s protective instincts kicked in.
Rose’s amazing blue eyes glittered with tears and he reached out his hand to her. She didn’t pull away.
“It’s the story of the first time great-grandma June met my great-grandfather. She was walking by the lake. . .”
She paused and her face reddened as she shot Mason a meaningful glance full of emotion. He swallowed hard.
“Listen,” she said softly. “We’ve only been in Lovelace for a week. I was walking along the lake today when I came upon a young man. I took one look into his blue eyes and I am lost forever. I know, just know, that he is the one for me. My Matt.”
“She clearly had good instincts, since she married the man,” Eden said with a chuckle.
“Yes, Rose agreed quietly, and Mason wondered if she was thinking about the same thing he was—their first meeting by the lake when they were teenagers, and the second as adults.
The room became silent as the three continued to scan the diaries. There was a lot of history between those pages.
“Here’s something odd,” Mason said. “June mentions that Matt has gotten into the habit of taking off in the evenings, meeting with what he will only call The Four. He was all secretive about it. June suspected he needed time out with his male friends. He mentioned Luke Grant. That’s my great-grandfather.”
“But what is The Four, and does it have anything to do with our problem now?”
“I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling the answer to your question is yes.” He pulled out a torn, aged paper that had been tucked into the diary’s pages next to his great-grandfather’s name.”
“Look. This piece matches the one we found in your grandfather’s documents,” Mason continued.
“The second of four.”
“Third,” Eden said, revealing the part of the map in her possession.
They placed the three together but it still didn’t make sense. They needed that fourth piece.
“So they tore the map into four pieces. Do you think that was what they were referring to?” Rose asked.
“Perhaps,” Eden agreed.
“Or maybe they were referring to themselves,” Mason suggested. “You know how guys are about forming secret clubs.”
“Wait,” Rose said, a peculiar expression covering her face. “Eden, your husband’s name was John. Is there any chance it’s a family name passed down from generation to generation?”
“As a matter of fact, it is,” Eden confirmed. “My John was the third Damask boy to be so named.”
“So your grandfather, who somehow had a piece of this document, was called John.”
Eden nodded as Rose paused, deep in thought.
“Matt—Matthew Redmond, Luke Grant, and John Damask.”
The lightbulb flared on in Mason’s head and his admiration for Rose swelled in his chest. She was not only beautiful, but brilliant. There was no other woman like her in the world.
Mason grinned. “I guess we’d better start looking for Mark.”