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Acclaimed for her insightful depiction of the magic and mystery in everyday life and relationships, Luanne Rice is one of today’s most gifted novelists. Now the author of eight consecutive New York Times bestsellers delivers her most powerful book yet—the story of a man and woman forced to choose between the past that haunts them and the love that won’t let them go.
Jane Porter left the apple orchards of rural Twin Rivers, Rhode Island, years ago, fleeing memories that could tear two families apart. Now she has been unexpectedly drawn home to her mother and only sister. Dylan Chadwick has come back, too, shedding the steely exterior he wore as a federal agent in order to follow in the footsteps of his apple-farming father and forget the life he once lived. Amid this landscape of loss and renewal, a haunting story of converging lives, small-town secrets—and the magical sway of unexpected miracles—unfolds. Deeply moving and richly told, Dance with Me explores emotional connections at their very core, with keen insights into the lives of mothers and daughters, sisters and lovers that will resonate long after the final page is turned.
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Luanne Rice is the author of The Perfect Summer, The Secret Hour, True Blue, Safe Harbor, Summer Light, Firefly Beach, Dream Country, Follow the Stars Home—a recent Hallmark Hall of Fame feature—Cloud Nine, Home Fires, Secrets of Paris, Stone Heart, Angels All Over Town, Crazy in Love, which has been made into a TNT Network feature movie, and Blue Moon, which has been made into a CBS television movie. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
You weren't supposed to have favorite children. If there was one thing Margaret Porter knew, it was that nothing could divide a family faster than showing favoritism, even in the most minor circumstances. When the girls were small, she had always made sure to let them take turns riding up front next to her, pushing the shopping cart, picking out the breakfast cereal. So that neither of them could ever say to the other, "You're Mom's favorite."
Now, lying in her bed and waiting for Jane to come home, she watched Sylvie folding the laundry. Her second daughter was thirty-three, unmarried, devoted, and she creased each nightshirt sharply before tucking it into a perfect square. When one tiny mistake was made, one sleeve marginally out of line, the shirt was shaken out and the entire endeavor repeated.
Margaret would have liked some tea, but she didn't want to interrupt. By her silence, she hoped to show Sylvie how much she appreciated her. Nevertheless, she was beset by nervousness. Would Sylvie finish in time to meet her older sister's train? Margaret reclined on her pillows, finding it a bit difficult to lie still. She calmed herself by seeing the scene as a movie. In some eyes, this would be the very picture of mother-daughter contentment: dutiful child, loving parent, clear March light streaming through the big windows.
"Goddamn it," Sylvie mumbled, shaking out the blue Irish linen nightshirt for the third time. "I can't get it right."
"Perhaps you could hang that one," Margaret said. "Instead of folding it. Wouldn't a hanger make all the difference?"
Sylvie gave her a look that could only be described as murderous. It truly made Margaret flinch. Not because she imagined Sylvie genuinely wanting to send her to eternal rest, but because in spite of her best intentions, Margaret had hurt her feelings.
"Oh, honey, never mind. I didn't mean that," Margaret said.
"It's okay, Mom."
"You're doing such a beautiful job."
"Thank you." Sylvie gave a lovely smile. Margaret lifted her head to see better. It was truly a smile to launch a thousand ships. Sylvie was a radiant beauty, but she kept her light hidden--both the girls did, as if they had become afraid of who would follow it to their doors.
Their fresh-faced beauty was surpassed only by their brainpower. Sylvie had gone to Brown University, with a semester at the Sorbonne. Jane, who had made her mother proud by entering Brown two years before her sister, elected not to graduate. Eschewing academics, she had chosen . . . a career in baking. In New York City.
While Sylvie had stayed in Twin Rivers, Rhode Island. Until recently, she had been the librarian at Twin Rivers High School, where Margaret had been principal. Education was a marvelous field for a woman: It kept the mind rigorous, it offered free summers, and it provided an excellent benefits package. If one wasn't going to marry--and sometimes even if one was--one had to make sure not to overlook practical matters like health insurance.
Neither of her girls had married, and although Jane hadn't finished college, Margaret was proud of her independence. In that way, she supposed that she had been a good role model. For although she had been married, she had, for all practical purposes, raised her daughters on her own.
The wall clocked ticked loudly, and as the hour advanced, she could hardly contain her excitement. Usually time's passage signified things medical and mundane: time to take her medication, time for a dressing change. But right now, it meant time to meet Jane's train. She gazed across the room at Sylvie, still working on the laundry. She cleared her throat.
"What is it, Mom?"
"Isn't it time for you to go?" she asked, unable to hold back any longer.
"Didn't I tell you?" Sylvie asked, not looking up as she creased a pair of striped pajama bottoms. "Jane's taking a cab."
Margaret's mouth must have dropped open. She lurched forward, as if to launch herself out of the bed. She would drive to the station herself, if she had to.
"What will she think?" Margaret asked. "She'll be hurt, she won't feel welcomed, she'll . . ."
Sylvie gave her a wicked smile. "Just kidding," she said. "I'm going."
Margaret tried to smile back, but she couldn't, quite. She felt rocked inside, as if she'd gone off the tracks. It wasn't easy, being the mother to such sensitive girls. Not picking Jane up at the train--that could cause a resentment that would send her away for the next ten years.
"Is the little rock ready?" Margaret asked.
"The wedding cake."
"Mom," Sylvie said, finally ceasing her folding, coming to the edge of the bed. "What are you asking me?"
Margaret smiled, feeling that awful panic. She knew the word she wanted, it was right there, on the tip of her tongue.
"Mom?" Sylvie asked again.
Sixty years ago, when Margaret had been the championship speller in this same small town--as Jane was to be years later and Sylvie after her--Margaret had had moments like this. She would know the word, she could see the proper spelling in her mind's eye, but the order of the letters would be momentarily elusive. But if she just focused, held on, it always came to her.
"Is the . . ." Margaret began again. Something was supposed to be ready. She knew that, and all she had to do was remember what it was. So she could complete her question without Sylvie noticing that she was drifting. She told herself she didn't want to worry her daughter, but deep down it was something worse: she didn't want her daughter to put her into the same home where Margaret had put her mother.
"Is Jane's bedroom ready?" Sylvie asked, helping her out, and Margaret could have grabbed her hand and moaned with relief. Instead, she restrained herself, as if nothing major had just happened. Perhaps Sylvie hadn't even noticed.
"Yes. Is it? I'm sure it is. You're so good, Sylvie. You always take such good care of the house, and me, and--"
"It's ready," Sylvie said calmly, straightening a book on the shelf, lining it up perfectly with the one next to it.
"Sweetheart," Margaret said, taking her hand. She caressed the small hand, thinking of what a porcelain doll Sylvie had been. She had made heads turn at school, at the beach. And she was still, at thirty-three, a beauty of the first order. Not that Jane wasn't also lovely, but just--not so classically pretty. Just a bit different.
"Individuals," Margaret said out loud. "You're both so special in your own ways."
"Don't get out of bed while I'm gone, okay?" Sylvie asked. "I don't want you to fall."
"Both so pretty, and smart, and talented. I can hardly believe your sister is coming home. To have both my girls under the same roof again."
"Not for very long," Sylvie said impassively, her eyes blank and inscrutable. "Don't get your hopes up, Mom. You know she's very busy."
Margaret smiled. The girls had been so close as children. She had been so happy to have Jane, and then she'd been thrilled when Sylvie had turned out to be a girl and not a boy--to give Jane a sister. There had been some difficult years . . . but now that the girls were older, and the family was going to be together again, everyone would have the chance to get to know each other--in a new way.
"This is just marvelous," Margaret said. "I feel like Marmee, in Little Women."
"Marmee had four daughters, not two."
"Two are plenty! My girls have more life in them than any four I can think of. Who needs four when I have you and Sylvie?"
"I'm Sylvie, Mom," she said dangerously.
Margaret's stomach thudded. "I know. I said Jane."
"No, you said Sylvie. But never mind. I know what you meant."
"Are you sure? Because I meant to say--"
"I know. You meant to say her name. Bye, Mom. Be home soon. Don't get out of bed."
"I won't. Oh, you take such good care of me!" Margaret said, beaming. She smiled as wide as she could, and made sure to show the light in her eyes. Sylvie had to know how much she was loved and appreciated. No daughter could ever be so generous with her affection and her time. She had sacrificed a lot, taking this leave of absence to stay home with her mother. Margaret had to make sure to show her thanks to Sylvie now--before Jane arrived.
No one could ever accuse Margaret of playing favorites. She had made other mistakes in her life, but not that one. Inside, she thought human nature to be very unfair. Because of course, no matter how hard a person strained against it, one always had a favorite. Presented with two of anything, one couldn't help judging, weighing, determining which--however slightly, however secretly--was dearer to one's heart.
Life's challenge had always been to keep it hidden.
The train was late. Of course.
And not just a little late, but a full forty minutes overdue. Apparently, there was track work in Kingston, and the train wouldn't arrive in Twin Rivers till three-thirty. Sylvie didn't really mind. It gave her a chance to be alone. She got so little time to herself these days. But she couldn't wait to see her sister, and in some ways it did seem symbolic: If anyone could cause an entire railroad to run late, it would be Jane.
She double-checked--with the trackside tote board and with the stationmaster. Sylvie was known for her punctuality; she was never late. So, with forty minutes to spare, she drove the station wagon out of the parking lot, onto Route 1.
Development had really changed the Twin Rivers landscape. Set between the two...
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