Home > Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)(15)

Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)(15)
Author: Alice Clayton

Lining the sides of Main Street, in between the leaves and the adorable kids, were rows of shops. In front of most, shopkeepers had mounded pumpkins, funky little gourds, hay bales, stalks of corn, and one rakish-looking scarecrow with a straw hat to guard them all. People walked along the street, darting in and out of shops with bundles and bags full of what they needed to have this beautiful fall day. And above it all, an impossibly blue sky soared. Not at all hazy or smudged, just gorgeous blue for miles and miles, dotted with white puffy clouds.

“Oh my,” I breathed out, practically hanging out of the window like an old hound dog. Snap snap snap went my camera, capturing everything I could for later inspiration.

While I would go to my grave saying there is nothing prettier than a fall sunset in New York City, Bailey Falls might be a close second.

And right smack-dab in the middle of Main Street was Callahan’s. The diner had been in Roxie’s family for years, and was the reason she’d moved back home. Running the diner for the summer while her mother competed on The Amazing Race had been the last thing she wanted to do, but it ended up being the very best thing she could have done. Now she had a burgeoning business, a hot guy, and this darling town in her life every single day.

I admired the large picture window, the tidy brick steps, the green-and-white-striped awning. It looked old but well-kept, with exactly the kind of nostalgia that weekenders ate up in droves. A peek of the good old life, the way things used to be—a life that was likely not nearly as interesting while actually in it, but that in hindsight was just peachy perfect. This diner had that in spades. And I hadn’t even made it inside yet.

“You’re meeting Chad for breakfast tomorrow morning, right?”

“Nine o’clock, bright and early,” I answered.

“Perfect. I’ve got to come into town for supplies, so I’ll drop you off.” She turned off the main street and into the town square. “Thought I’d give you the driving tour before we head back to my place.”

“Oh I’d love it!” I exclaimed as she turned onto the first corner. Drugstore, candy shop, one-screen movie theater, even the Laundromat was cute. Turning the corner, we drove by a few antique shops, a butcher, and oh, there we go, the cheese shop. Another corner, and even more adorableness. Kids’ clothing store, a coffee shop (no competition for the diner, thank you very much), a gourmet food shop next door to a good old-fashioned dive bar. And on the last street we turned onto, what looked to be city hall.

Four streets, four corners, with a sweet little park in the center with a duck pond, a summery-looking gazebo, and some early Halloween ghosts flying through the fall oak trees. And here and there, on the edge of town, a peek of the Hudson.

“Honestly, could this town be any cuter?” I marveled, already beginning to frame out shots for the photo shoot I’d be doing to capture the essence of this charming village.

I could see instantly the magazine ads, the copy I’d write, the perfection of making this place a must-see for weekend tourists. I’d bring New Yorkers here in droves.

“You think it’s cute now, but wait until wintertime.”

“Oh, God, I bet it’s darling at Christmas!”

“Sure, sure. And when there’s snowdrifts packed higher than my head and it’s below zero for days on end, then it’s positively idyllic.”

Though her tone was teasing, she was clearly enamored with her hometown in a way I hadn’t seen her in years.

“I’m glad you moved home. It’s nice having you back east,” I said.

She rolled her eyes. “I need to get you away from all this Norman Rockwell shit, its making you schmaltzy,” she said.

“Okay, so take me back to your farmhouse and cook me some of your allegedly fantastic food.”

“Driving tour over,” she announced, and we left the town square behind.

“I’ll see the rest of the town tomorrow; I’ll get Chad to show me around,” I teased.

“Don’t you be flirting with my high school crush! And sweetie, you’ve seen the rest of the town.”

“That’s it?” I exclaimed, looking behind me to see the town square fading away in the distance.

Roxie just laughed as she drove me into the wild . . .

I lay on the iron bed, which squeaked just from the movement of my breathing. I drew in a breath. Creak. I let it out. Squeak. Good lord, how do country people fuck without waking up the entire town?

I rolled over onto my stomach, smiling at the thoughtful touches here and there. Comfortable-looking extra blankets piled onto the antique chest in the corner. A few bottles of water on the nightstand. A stack of fresh towels. And my very own pumpkin on top of the dresser, facing out into the front yard. It hadn’t been jack-o’-lanterned, but was still a nice touch to an already homey room.

When Roxie had told me she’d found an old farmhouse, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was small, but that was okay. It was just her here, and it was nice and cozy. I got the impression that she and Leo had discussed moving in together, into his very nice house over on the Maxwell property, but I also got the sense she was pretty happy where she was, setting up shop on her own in her hometown. The house was clean, simple, and a bit old-fashioned, but in a nice way. It was a very Roxie-style house.

She was downstairs getting started on dinner, and had encouraged me to head up to the guest room and get comfortable. I’d opened up the windows, smelling more of that bracingly clean air. It smelled funny, but I could tell my lungs were appreciating it. Situated at the end of a road, almost hidden in the trees, the house was a world away from my townhouse in the East Village. And quiet! Oh my goodness, so quiet. Other than the creaky squeaks.

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