Girls Write Out
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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Knit One, Love TwoBy Diann Hunt


Chapter One

The Sit ’n Knit was Anna Thomas’s world. Her definition of family had widened to embrace the women who came into her yarn shop—especially the regulars.
Some days that was enough.
Anna inhaled the scent of coffee that always perked on the counter behind her. She tore open her UPS package—a high-grade merino-nylon blend of yarn—and smiled. Warm and versatile, the yarn was a great choice for sock knitting. Some people grabbed cheap yarns off the shelf of a department store with no idea of the difference quality yarn could make in a project. She looked around her shop at the bins filled with colored textiles, some bulky, some intricate and thin for lace projects, and gave a contented sigh. She offered quality—and a piece of herself—with every sale. The women in her shop, there for the lesson on picking up stitches, milled around, commenting to one another on their projects, laughing together. Anna’s business also offered a place where women could encourage one another in their creativity and with life in general. Who could ask for more?
The bell on the shop door jangled as someone stepped inside. Anna gathered her ball of cotton yarn, knitting needles, and half-finished peach-colored dishcloth, then bent over and tossed them into the bulging bag where she kept her current projects. She stood upright and stretched a bit. It was then she spotted a man of about fifty. He had a firm, strong jaw; a trim, fit body; and salt-and-pepper hair that looked good on him. His smile was warm and welcoming, and his blue eyes sparkled.
He looked familiar. The lopsided grin on his face told her he knew she was trying to place him. Her heart gave a funny leap as he walked toward her and stretched out his hand. “Michael Conners,” he said. “That’s my mom, Emma.” He pointed her way.
His hand was strong and warm. It shamed Anna that she didn’t want to let go.
“Oh, Emma is one of my best customers. A lovely lady.” She’d spoken of her newly-retired-from-the-Marines son often and fondly. “Nice to meet you. I’m Anna Thomas.”
“Yes, I know.” He paused. “We’re neighbors.” There was a teasing glint in his eyes that caught her a little off guard.
“Oh, so that’s where I’ve seen you. Sorry, I—”
He raised his hand. “No need to apologize. I’ve only lived there about six months. Came back to Smitten to help Mom.”
Emma had cancer. Her body grew more fragile with every passing day, but she still managed to come to the Sit ’n Knit. When Michael looked away, Anna studied him. It was noble of him to come to his mother’s side. Still, Anna would be careful. Clearly, he didn’t plan to settle down in Smitten. Not that she wanted him to. So why was her hand still tingling?
She nodded, trying to calm the unsettled feeling in her stomach.
“Well, good to see you.” He walked over to his mom. Anna watched his every step, her heart pounding as though she’d been running. What was the matter with her?
When the knitting class was over, the ladies spilled into the other rooms, pouring cups of coffee from the brewing pot, browsing through knitting books, touching cashmere yarns. Anna walked around the chairs and scooped up yarn debris, then dropped it into the trash can. Arms elbow-deep into the sofa, then the chair cushions, she dug around for lost hooks and needles. Her efforts were always rewarded. She found several crochet hooks and threw them into a large plastic container with other strays.
Michael, who had suddenly appeared beside her, winced.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
“Would you like a rubber band for those hooks? That would keep them all together so you wouldn’t have to dig around for them.”
“I—well, uh, yeah, I guess.” Embarrassment warmed her cheeks. Did he think her incompetent?
Michael walked over to her counter, picked up a rubber band, then playfully stretched it in front of him, acting as though he would snap her with it. She smiled in spite of herself.
He picked the hooks up one by one from the container in her hand, bunched them together in a single bouquet, wrapped the rubber band tightly around it, and offered it to Anna with a slight bow. “For you, ma’am.”
Was that supposed to make her feel better? Was he hitting on her? Did this work with other women? Was that what they taught him in the military? Please. Her husband had been a military man. She wasn’t going back there.
“Thanks,” she said, tossing the bundled hooks back into the container and snapping it shut. She forced a grin, then picked up her load.
“Can I help you carry that?” Michael asked.
“No, I’m fine, thank you.” She was a woman, not a weakling. Her feet moved faster than the rest of her, and she nearly lost her balance. What was wrong with her? She turned for one last glance at Michael and saw him helping his mother out of the shop.
Once inside the sanctity of her office, Anna closed the door and tried to calm her pounding heart. She couldn’t imagine why Michael had unnerved her so. Maybe because he was a man of uniform—or had been. She’d been there, done that.
When she regained her composure, she went back into the store and walked over to Sally Sanderson. Sally was one of Anna’s dearest customers and friends. “I’m going to the bakery, Sally. I’ll be right back. Will you watch the shop?”
“Will do,” the older woman said.
Anna would rather walk down to Mountain Perks, say hello to her niece Natalie, and grab a mocha, but she thought her customers might enjoy some cookies.
After a quick trip to the bakery, Anna stepped back inside the Sit ’n Knit, brushed the snow from her shoulders, and pulled off her coat. “I’m back.” She hung her coat on the wooden rack, then walked over to the group of knitters sitting in the circle, needles clacking away. She waved her bag through the air. “I got some cookies from next door.”
Ooos and ahhs followed.
“You’re too good to us,” Sally said. “But I like it.” Her needles paused long enough for her to pluck a cookie from the bag. “Mm, they’re still warm.”
“Count yourself lucky,” Anna said, straightening her checkout station. “It’s getting colder outside. Wind gusts up to thirty miles an hour.”
“Brrr,” Debbie Matney said with a shiver. “That’s why I love being in here where it’s warm, knitting with my favorite people.”
The others nodded while munching on their cookies.
Anna smiled and counted herself blessed. How many people could say they had a job they could hardly wait to get to in the mornings? When Joe left her ten years ago, she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to smile again, let alone own a business. But with the encouragement of her girls, she’d invested her divorce settlement money into her dream business: a yarn shop where women of the Smitten community could gather to craft, create, and share life. Anna loved the feel of the yarn between her fingers. It gave her pleasure when a customer brought in a finished masterpiece: a sweater, a hat, a blanket. She rejoiced in their creation. When a customer brought in a project gone bad, Anna enjoyed that too. She loved helping them get their stitches back on track, bringing hope to the project.
It had occurred to Anna more than once that God did the same for her when she got off track . . .
The bell on the door jangled. Zoe, Anna’s youngest, stepped inside, stomped her feet on the mat, and walked toward her mother. “It’s freezing outside.”
“I’ve got some cookies and hot chocolate or coffee, if you have a minute,” Anna said.
“No thanks, Mom. I just wanted to pick up another skein of yarn. I underestimated what I would need for Will’s sweater.”
“Hi, Zoe,” the ladies called out.
“Hello, everyone.” She bent down to look at Sally’s knitting. “Beautiful scarf.”
“Thanks, sweetie,” Sally said, winding her yarn around the needles.
Anna couldn’t be happier that God had brought William Singer into Zoe’s life. He was a wonderful young man. The future looked bright for her youngest daughter.
“Let me see. What dye lot have you got there?” Anna took the wrapper from Zoe and matched it with the wool blends in the appropriate wooden bin. “You lucked out. One such animal left.” She waved the coveted skein and walked it over to the cash register.
“I love this stuff. It’s so soft. It will make a nice sweater. I’m getting Will ready for his first Vermont winter.” She leaned in to her mom and whispered, “Hopefully the first of many.”
“How’s the dating business coming along?” Sally asked.
“It’s a little slow, but I believe it will catch on,” Zoe said.
“I still say you need to find romance through the normal course of life. You can’t force these things,” Anna said, ringing up Zoe’s purchase. She tucked it into a pretty bag and closed it with a raffia bow.
“I don’t force things at Cupid’s Arrow, Mom. People have to fill out information. No one makes them date anyone they don’t want to date.” Zoe shook her head and smiled at Sally.
“This world, she is a changin’,” said a woman named Betty. “What with the Internet and all, people are finding each other who never would have the chance otherwise.”
“Exactly.” Zoe grabbed a cookie after all and nibbled at it. “I just want to spread a little love in Smitten.”
Anna poured a cup of hot chocolate and held it out to Zoe.
“Oh, I really don’t have time. But how about I take it with me? Thanks, Mom.” She pulled on the blue woolen scarf, mittens, and hat that her mom had made her last Christmas. “See you, ladies.” Drink in one hand, handbag and purchase dangling from her other arm while she held onto her cookie, Zoe kissed her mother’s cheek and sped out the door.
“Kids, they never have time these days to sit and smell the roses.” Anna shook her head and threw away a customer’s forgotten receipt.
“You still doing Sunday afternoon meals with your girls?” Sally asked.
“Yes, thankfully. I love those days.”
“You’re lucky to have them. Most kids don’t even live around their families anymore. We live in a mobile society.”
“So true,” Anna said, feeling sorry she had complained. Sally’s boys lived in another state.
Anna didn’t know what she would do without her girls, her mom, and her aunties. She loved how they took turns hosting Sunday dinners, the hubbub of family, the chaos and the peace, all of it. She prayed it would never change.
The doorbell jangled again. Anna looked up, and her heart caught in her throat. She couldn’t imagine what Michael Conners would be doing back at her yarn shop.
“Well, well, we meet again.”
All smiles and brawn. Mr. Confidence himself.
“Michael Conners. Back so soon?” Anna gazed around her station to make sure it looked tidy.
“Yeah, but not for long. I’m headed to Sugarcreek Ski Resort.”
“Oh, yes, your mom mentioned you worked there part-time.”
“I do, but I’m off today. Just want to get in a little skiing.”
“I see.” Anna knew very little about skiing, so she didn’t comment. “So do you knit?”
His laughter rattled the windows.
“The boys back on the base would have a good laugh over the thought of me knitting.”
“Some men do,” she said, her tone a little sharper than she’d intended.
“Some men. Not me.” He lifted his calloused palms. “See these hands? They were built for man’s work. I’ll leave the knitting to you women.” He looked toward the circle of women and winked, and they all smiled.
A fire kindled in Anna’s belly. “Are you implying a man can’t be manly and knit?”
He shrugged. “To each his own, I guess. Just don’t expect you’ll ever see me doing it.”
The fire in her belly grew. Did he think it would be beneath his dignity to knit? That these women were frivolous time-wasters to do such a thing?
“Then what brings you here?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest and tapping her foot.
“Mom wanted some new yarn, and she forgot to get it when she was here.” He gave her a smile. “Knitting here with the ladies seems to calm her. I have you to thank for that.”
The words humbled Anna. If she could play a small part in encouraging Mrs. Conners, she was privileged to do so.
Suddenly the deafening sound of needles gone quiet filled the air. Anna looked at the circle of knitters, and they were all staring at her.
She ignored them. Well, she tried to anyway. “What is your mother making?” Anna said in her most professional voice.
“Uh, I don’t know.”
“Then how do you know how much yarn to get?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know what type of yarn she wants?”
“The fuzzy kind?” He grinned. When she didn’t smile back, he cleared his throat. “I thought you would tell me all that.”
“Well, I can hardly do that if I don’t know what she’s making.”
“She finished those tricky slippers she was working on this week,” Sally interjected. “Why don’t you give him some of those pretty new cotton shades that you have for making dishcloths? That would give her something easy to work on for a change.”
There was a definite twinkle in her friend’s eye as she spoke. A twinkle that Anna didn’t like one little bit.
“That’s a good idea.” With her chin hiked, Anna walked over to the cotton bin and showed Michael the different colors. She refused to look up at him, but she felt sure he was watching her and not the yarn.
“Yes, these will work,” he said, plucking a couple of skeins out of the bin without so much as a second glance.
Did he have any idea the work that went into making these yarns? Did he touch them to get a feel for them? Consider the perfect color? Of course not. What was he doing here anyway?
He tossed the skeins of durable worsted weight yarn in the air and began to juggle them. Anna glanced at the women in the circle, and their hands were still quiet. He had them mesmerized. She wanted to bop every single one of them—or at the very least take back her cookies.
She rang up the yarn and announced the price.
His eyes widened. “Wow. Yarn doesn’t come cheap.”
“You get what you pay for, Mr. Conners,” she said.
“Please, call me Michael.”
The way he said that made her guard drop a little. She put his purchase into a pretty bag and took great delight in winding the raffia into an especially elegant, feminine bow. He rewarded her with a frown.
“Thank you. I’m sure Mom will enjoy this.” He turned to the group and tipped his head. “Ladies.” With that he headed out the door, pretty little package dangling softly from his big, manly-man hands.
Anna covered her mouth to stop the giggles until the door closed, then let her laughter out.
“Why did you do that?” Debbie asked.
“What?”
“Well, you weren’t exactly friendly,” Sally piped up.
“That man just irritates me.”
“Or not,” Sally said.
Her words boiled in Anna’s midsection. “He’s just so full of himself.” She busied herself straightening some of the bins. When she got to the cotton bin, she noticed it was already straightened. “Well, of all the nerve.”
“What is it?” Beth wanted to know.
“He straightened this bin.”
“Wow. Gorgeous, and he cleans too? Grab him.” One look at Anna, and Sally’s smile left her face. Without another word she swept her needles into full running motion.
Michael Conners may have these women fooled, but he didn’t fool Anna. She knew his type all too well.
[ds]
“Not the friendliest sort around,” Michael said in answer to his mother’s question.
“Don’t be too hard on her, dear. She’s been through a lot. Her husband up and left her awhile ago. Her three grown daughters all live in town, thankfully. They’re a fine family.” Emma Conners’s soft, age-spotted hand patted Michael’s hand the way she had when he was a boy.
“Now don’t you go getting any ideas,” Michael said. “I’m just fine living on my own.” Though he had to admit, the spark in Anna’s gray eyes and melting smile made this woman a definite consideration.
“Sure you are.” Another pat. “That’s what all men think. But we women know better.” This time she squeezed his palm lightly, and Michael laughed.
With his mother settled in her room at the Smitten Assisted Living Center, Michael stopped by the church to see if they needed help with the set for the Christmas program. Pastor Walden assured him they had plenty of helpers, so he headed on to the ski slopes. The snow was sticking to the ground and seemed to be heavy enough to pack. Good news for the slopes.
He the wipers on to brush away the falling snow. Try as he might, he couldn’t get over Anna Thomas’s reaction to him. Not rude exactly, but he obviously had irritated her. He couldn’t imagine why. Maybe his presence intimidated her for some reason.
Not that it mattered. He was in Smitten to help his mom. Period. He had no intention of getting involved with a woman. Once his mom was gone, there was still more of the world he wanted to see, and he couldn’t do that holed up in a small town.
The turn signal clicked off time while Michael waited for a car to pass, then he maneuvered his car into the Sugarcreek parking lot.
He shook off his mental ramblings. This was going to be a good day. He hefted his skis from the backseat. A very good day indeed.

Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:56 AM  
  Comments (15)
 
 
Delicious Delicious
15 Comments:
At 11:09 AM, Blogger Cyndi said...

Love to see the older generation gettin' smitten! ;-) Good to see you writing, Diann!

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger Grace said...

Looks like a good book!

 
At 1:34 PM, OpenID treblesteph4 said...

I'm getting more and more excited to read the new book. I hope all is well, Diann

stephjackson4(at)gmail(dot)com

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger Claire Anderson said...

Every week I log into this blog to see what my favorite authors are writing and every time I do there is something insightful posted. I hope you all keep doing what you're doing, because I love it!! I loved "Smitten" and I'm sure I'll love this book too! I'd love to be one of the first to read it all :)

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger susanngarrylee said...

I loved this first chapter. I too am a yarn enthusiast. LOL. Loved the post. Blessings, Susan Fryman

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger Elizabeth Dent said...

Smitten is sounding so good. Anna & Michael are sounding good also . Neighbors. "yes, I know," he paused. "we're neighbors ." Love this . Thanks for the give away.

 
At 5:44 PM, Blogger Mary-Louise said...

Anyone who is in a yarnshop and on the ski hill on the same day deserves to have their story read.

=D

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger Jackie Smith said...

I am so excited about this new book.....can't wait to read it!
Thanks for the giveaway.
Jackie S.

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Jaime Halbrook said...

Can't wait to read more! Thanks Diann Hope your doing well.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Cindy Regnier said...

Great Diann. So excited to read more. Prayers and hope for you!

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger Rina said...

Makes me want to find a yarn store and learn how to knit better!
kentiapalm(a)gmail(dot)com

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Rhonda said...

Can't wait to read!

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Michelle V said...

Such a teaser - looking forward to the rest of Anna's story!

 
At 5:49 AM, Blogger DovSucar said...

I am smitten about this book! Can't wait to read it all!

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger karenk said...

looking forward to readin this story

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

 

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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

www.KristinBillerbeck.com

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

www.ColleenCoble.com

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

www.DeniseHunterBooks.com

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

www.DiannHunt.com

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

www.HannahAlexander.com

 
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