Sweet Tea B&B
Sometimes, family comes in unexpected ways... Mia Carter's life has always been about her family and their charming bed and breakfast in the idyllic Blue Ridge Mountains. When her mother passes away, Mia is left to run the Sweet Tea B&B alone. But a routine DNA test changes everything. Mia discovers she has a sister named Kate, who lives in Rhode Island. The sisters meet for the first time at the will reading and are shocked to learn that their mother's final wish was for them to run the B&B together. As Mia and Kate try to honor their mother's wish and work together to run the Sweet Tea B&B, they find themselves navigating the challenges of family, business, and love. Mia rekindles her relationship with her high school sweetheart, while Kate falls for a charismatic local man. But when they discover he was Mia's high school bully, their newfound harmony is threatened. As Mia and Kate work to overcome their differences and build a future together, they must also deal with an unruly teenage niece, who has a knack for causing chaos. Through it all, they learn about the power of forgiveness, the strength of family bonds, and the sweetness of second chances. Set in a charming small town and filled with heartwarming moments of love and friendship, The Sweet Tea B&B series is a clean and romantic women's fiction that will leave you yearning to stay at this cozy B&B in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Release date: March 10, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 158
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Sweet Tea B&B
“Three-hundred and sixty five days. That’s the number of days in one year. Sometimes, it seems so long, especially when the year has gone like this one. Watching cancer ravage my Momma, who lived twenty thousand seventy-four days, one day shy of her fifty-fifth birthday, has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
To some, those thousands of days may seem like a long time. To me, it all seemed awfully short. She didn’t live enough days to see me meet the man of my dreams. To see me walk down the aisle at my wedding. To see me raise my own children. She didn’t live long enough to play with her future grandkids. So much life will be missed.
But she did live long enough to know I loved her, that we all loved her. She knew that I was happy and that I would take care of her beloved Sweet Tea B&B.
She was the heart of the B&B, and her spirit and soul will be missed, but I know my Momma will always be here with me. My tears may soak my pillow every night for the rest of my life, but I know where my Momma is, and I feel so thankful to have been her daughter. What a blessing from God. Thank you.”
As Mia stepped away from the pulpit, where she stood in front of a packed crowd of people in her mother’s home church, she let out the breath she’d been holding for days.
Public speaking wasn’t her forte, especially when she was so entrenched in grief.
When the service wrapped up, she found herself surrounded by well-meaning friends, each of them hugging her tightly and telling her time healed all wounds. She’d always hated that saying. After losing her dog of twelve years when she was twenty years old, she knew that saying was a bunch of crap. She still missed Ranger even though she was thirty-four years old.
“Oh, honey, I’m going to miss your sweet Momma,” Olivia Winegarden said. She’d been a longtime customer of the B&B, always showing up around Thanksgiving to spend time soaking in the beauty of the north Georgia mountains.
“Thank you, Miss Livy. I hope you’ll still come stay at the B&B.”
“Of course, my dear,” the older woman said. “I sure hope your Momma left her peach cobbler recipe, though. I’ve come to look forward to that every time I visit.”
Mia smiled. “I have it in a safe place, trust me.”
As everyone filed out of the church, Mia felt the grief start to wash over her again. It was hard having no family to turn to. Sure, she had friends and customers, but her mother was the only one who shared her blood.
Mia’s mother, Charlene, had only been twenty years old when she’d given birth to her, yet Mia had never lacked for anything. One day, she hoped to be half the mother Charlene was. She’d always been involved in Mia’s school, volunteering as room mother and chaperoning field trips. Working three jobs for most of Mia’s formative years, Charlene had seemed like a pillar of strength, never showing the inevitable fear she must have felt trying to raise a child on her own for so many years.
They’d grown up together, really, with Mia watching her mother date. Finally, when Mia was ten, Charlene had married Bobby, a nice enough guy who worked as an electri- cian. They’d gotten along well, and he had always treated her mother well. They bought their first house together, and Charlene started a business as a caterer.
She was an amazing cook, always coming up with new and innovative recipes, especially for such a rural area. Charlene was sought after, always providing food for parties, weddings and other events in the area. As time went on, she and Bobby bought what would become Sweet Tea B&B, fulfilling Char- lene’s dream of owning a bed and breakfast in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
When Bobby keeled over with a massive heart attack, Mia was eighteen years old. Instead of leaving for college, like she’d planned, she’d stepped in to help her mother run the B&B. It was supposed to be for a year, just until things got up and running again after Bobby’s death and Charlene’s grieving period. But, she’d never left and would continue to run the B&B now that her mother had passed away.
True, it wasn’t her lifelong dream at first, but she’d grown to love the place and the people who came through the large home over the years. Couples on their honeymoons, women starting over, families on vacation, friends making memories. Every person who stayed there had a story, and Mia loved to hear them all.
Her mother had often said that she had one of those faces that people saw and immediately wanted to tell their life story to, and that was pretty accurate. Mia loved to sit and hear the stories that her customers brought with them from around the country. Some stories of heartache, others of triumph. She often felt trapped a bit in her small part of the world, holding down the fort at the Sweet Tea B&B. Not that she didn’t love it, but sometimes there was a void.
The void of not having love in her life was the biggest one. It was times like this that she wished she had a man to put his arms around her and tell her everything was going to be okay. That he would back her up. That she wasn’t alone. Yet, she was alone, literally and figuratively.
As she stood in the middle of the little Southern Baptist church, complete with wooden pews and musty old hymnals, she felt more alone in the world than she ever had.
Kate stood in the middle of the large banquet hall. The Seymour wedding reception was one of the biggest parties she’d ever planned, and she was currently sweating bullets over the whole thing. Tomorrow night would either be the biggest moment in her career, or she’d been run out of town by angry Seymours carrying pitchforks and chanting “death to Kate Miller!” Or maybe that was just a bit dramatic.At thirty-seven years old, this party planning company was her second act. After her divorce five years ago, she felt adrift in her life. Not knowing what to do after being a stay at home mother for most of her married life, she was left a single mother with no education or experience. Starting her own business had been both a dream and a terrifying night- mare that sometimes woke her up out of a dead sleep, sweat dripping down her face.“Kate?”She turned to see Holly Jameson, the bride to be, standing behind her. Holly was the epitome of a young woman who came from a wealthy Rhode Island family. Perfect, long blonde hair swept up into a messy top knot that was actually made to look messy but probably took an hour to do. Perfect makeup with highlights and lowlights painted on like a piece of artwork. Perfect clothing from only the most expensive stores in town. And she was perfectly awful to work for, as if being demanding and rude seemed to be hobbies of hers.
“Hi, Holly. I didn’t know you were here yet.”
She looked down at her Apple Watch and then wrinkled her nose a bit. “I’m always early. Punctuality is one of the cornerstones of who I am.”
Kate stared at her for a moment, silently trying to figure out who would want to be married to her for the rest of their life. She cleared her throat. “Right. What can I do for you?”
She scrunched her nose again, something she would inevitably get filled in when wrinkles started showing up in a few more years. “I have to say, I’m just not overwhelmed with these decorations. I expected the flowers to be… more…”
“More what?” “Floral.”
Kate felt an urge to throat punch someone for the first time in her life.
“Floral? But, aren’t flowers inherently floral?”
“One would think. I feel we need some pops of color.
After all, this is my wedding. It has to be perfect!”
Kate thought back to her own wedding to Brandon all those years ago. They were really just kids themselves when they got married, and it didn’t go well from the start. Having their daughter, Evie, was the glue that held them together for so many years. Without her, they would’ve divorced early on. They stayed together until she was ten, and then Kate just couldn’t take it anymore.
Now fifteen years old, Evie was a handful. The school was constantly calling, complaining about her skipping school, acting out and just generally being a bad kid. Kate often wondered where she’d gone wrong in raising her daughter. She’d had a wonderful single mother, so she tried to model her late mother’s strong spirit. Most of the time, she just wanted to lock herself in her walk-in closet and cry. She had no idea what to do with her daughter.
Brandon was in and out of Evie’s life, but mostly out. He’d been good in the first couple of years, taking her on daddy daughter dates every other weekend and even showing up at her soccer games. Then, he met Kara and moved to Mexico to start a new family with her. Evie definitely felt abandoned, but she wouldn’t voice it. She acted out instead.
“Hello?” Holly said, waving her fake fingernail laden hand in front of Kate’s face.
“Oh, sorry. I zoned out there for a moment.”
“Please call the florist and work this out. We only have a few hours before we exchange our vows, and this place is not ready. Honestly, Kate, I hired you based on the recommenda- tion of my hair stylist, but I’m starting to wonder if you’re up to this job.”
Her blood was boiling. As much as she wanted to be successful in the wealthier circles in town, the people she had to deal with were some of the worst. She wanted to run screaming out of the building, but instead she pasted on a fake smile.
“Of course, Holly. Now that I know you need pops of color, I’ll drive to the florist myself and hand choose what we need. No worries. When you walk into this room tonight, it will be the reception of your dreams. Okay?”
She jutted out her chin and crossed her arms. “I certainly hope so.” With that, she turned to walk away. Kate started to raise her arm up to give her a special hand signal, but quickly thought better of it. Holly suddenly turned back around. “Oh, and please make sure the food gets here on time, but not too early. I don’t want the stuﬀed mushrooms to be cold and mushy.”
Holly walked out of the hall, her heels clicking across the hardwood floor. As Kate looked around at her handiwork, she was proud of what she’d done, but apparently her client didn’t feel the same.
Mia stood in the middle of the kitchen, her mother’s recipe cards spread across the island. Today, she was making her hash brown casserole, complete with real chunks of bacon. Guests always loved that for breakfast, so she’d gotten up early to make it since she had several new guests coming that morning.
She ran her finger across her mother’s beautiful handwrit- ing, her eyes welling with tears. It had only been a couple of weeks since Charlene had passed away, but to Mia everyday felt like a long, slow slog up a hill of quicksand. She missed her mother with every fiber of her being.
Not all kids had grown up with such a great mother, but Mia felt she’d been blessed. Charlene had experienced a rough upbringing herself, something she didn’t talk about much. But her inner strength in raising Mia had always been apparent. At thirty-four years old, Mia hadn’t found Mr. Right, so she’d never been married or had kids. Alone in the world now, she felt like an orphan and wished she had someone to turn to in times like this.
Friends and guests were great, and she adored them. But she wanted someone who shared her blood. Her genes. Her very life force. And now that her mother was gone, she would never have that. She would spend the rest of her life as the as the only one in her line of Carters. She sighed and tried to pull herself out of the funk she was in.
“Morning, Mia,” Dr. Allen said as he walked into the kitchen. He came to stay at the B&B with his wife a few times a year. They lived in Atlanta, so not very far away, but they loved the seclusion and atmosphere around the bed and breakfast.
“Good morning. I’m getting a bit of a late start today, but I’m making my Momma’s hashbrown casserole. I’ve already made some cheese grits if you’d like some. They’re in the pot over there. The biscuits are still cooking, but we’ve got some sawmill gravy in the other pot.”
He smiled. “No hurry, sweetie. I know it’s hard to run this place without Charlene. We’re so going to miss her. She was so young.” Dr. Allen was in his eighties, but still very spry and active. He loved playing tennis at his club back in the city.
Having retired from being a general practitioner for decades, he and his wife did a lot of traveling now.
“Yes, she was. It’s not fair, is it?” Mia took a break from stirring the ingredients together and pulled her thick, wavy blond hair back into a ponytail. At barely five feet tall, she had to stand on a small stool just to get things out of the cabi- net. Her mother hadn’t been quite as short at five foot three. Amazing how those three inches made such a diﬀerence in what she could reach.
“I’ve seen a lot of unfairness in life in my time as a physi- cian. But, we know where she is, don’t we?”
“Of course. And she’ll always be my angel. But still…” “Still what?”
“Oh nothing. I’m just being nostalgic.” “What do you mean?”
She smiled. “I’m a little lonely with no family left.” “None? What about cousins?”
“No one that I know of. Momma was an only child, and her parents died before I was born.”
“Well, that’s terrible, sweetie. Say, you know, I’ve heard about these DNA tests you can do to find extended family. Have you done one?”
“No, I haven’t. I mean, would distant cousins even want to have contact?”
“Well, I reckon they might if they’re putting their DNA out there.”
Mia thought for a moment. “You might be onto some- thing there, Dr. Allen. I might just give that a shot. Who knows? Maybe I have a famous or wealthy relative who will add me to their will one day,” she said, with a laugh.
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