Sampler: So Wonderful As Want by Joyce DeBacco

Plenty of colorful characters, seething drama, small-town politics, and a masterful plotline.

She wanted the world. All he wanted was her.

Set among the natural beauty of Southwest Florida before and during the land boom of the twenties, Dinah’s childhood dream of leaving her small riverfront town seems doomed until she meets charming Tyler, an ambitious land developer who’s interested in more than just her land.

Zach also has a dream. He wants to be his own man, go his own way. But when tragedy strikes Dinah’s family, his soft heart won’t allow him to walk away.

Her dream within reach, Dinah must now choose between the man who can make her dream come true or the man who’s been there for every joy, every sorrow in her life.

Joyce DeBacco

Sampler: So Wonderful as Want

Dinah spent her last week in Caloosa straightening the house, washing linens in the new wringer washer Zach gave her on her birthday, and making sure the pantry was stocked with canned goods.

Torn between her feelings for Zach and her growing feelings for Tyler, she agonized over her decision. She didn’t want to hurt Zach, but she knew she would. And it all could’ve been avoided. Had he not been so good and decent, he would’ve gone off to school, earned his degree, and become the professional man he was meant to be. Instead, he took on responsibilities that weren’t his.

Now he was using the children to isolate her in Caloosa, knowing how much she always wanted to live in town. If he hadn’t been so stubborn, she could’ve sold her property, they all could’ve moved into town, and that would’ve been the end of her involvement with Tyler.

By Thursday evening the house was spotless and Dinah was edgy, wanting to pack but fearful of discovery. She didn’t plan on taking much—the children’s favorite toys and a few personal possessions. Tyler promised to replace everything else.

That night, too keyed up to sleep, she looked back on her years with Zach, sorry for every gibe, every snippy remark she’d ever thrown at him. It had never been her intention to leave him, only Caloosa. But he gave her no choice, and she wouldn’t let sentiment or guilt hold her back any longer.

She glanced at his shadowy profile next to her, not surprised to find his eyes open. In recent weeks, his wakefulness often extended into the wee hours of the morning. She knew this because she, too, had spent many hours awake.

Suddenly, quite unexpectedly, she felt a great wealth of feeling for the man whose only offense was loving her. Feigning sleep, she rolled toward him. Her breast brushed his arm, and he moved away. Her bare leg touched his, and he stiffened. She flung her arm across his chest, and seconds later, he covered it with his. Not wanting to, she knew, but compelled to.

“Are you sleeping?” he whispered.

She hesitated before answering. “No.”

He pulled away. “Then don’t.” His tone was a warning as well as a plea.

Needing to settle a vague disquietude within, she reached out again. Again he turned her away. She urged his cheek to the pillow and touched her lips to his. He inhaled sharply but didn’t return the kiss. She kissed him again, harder, her body tingling with a strange excitement. And though he tried to resist, tried to push out of her embrace, in the end he surrendered, abandoning pride with a long, low moan.

* * *

Waking early, Dinah gazed at the sleeping man beside her, so like their son she almost brushed his tousled hair from his forehead to leave a kiss. Realizing such a gesture would only mock the genuine love he felt for her, she rose and went about her morning routine, thinking at every step that this was the last time she’d fix coffee in this house, the last time she’d set this table, feed this dog.

After breakfast, Zach kissed the children goodbye, looked questioningly at her then left a light kiss on her cheek as well. And as he walked to the door, she silently counted his steps. Five. Five steps and he was gone.

She heard his car start, stall, start again. She heard the clunk as it shifted gears, the chugging as it picked up speed. Then she heard only the sound of her own rapid breathing.

Confused by the dull ache in her chest, she stood rooted to the floor. Then, with his kiss still warm upon her cheek, she went to her room to pack. Her eyes fell upon the family portrait beside their bed. Picking it up, she lightly caressed his smiling face. Then she tucked the photo in her bag, safely cushioned between her periwinkle blue scarf and lacy camisole, both bittersweet reminders of their life together.

The sudden crunch of gravel in the yard added an extra beat to her heart. “Dinah, are you ready?” Tyler called through the screen.

She cleared her throat. “Yes. Come in.” She knocked on the children’s door. “Emily, Quinn, come here please.”

The children, puzzled by Tyler’s presence, asked if they were going to the beach again. Dinah instructed them to get in his car and she’d explain later. She took one last look around—from the freshly papered shelves lined with canned goods and jellies to the chipped porcelain table where she cut out the twins’ first birthday outfits; from the modern bathroom Zach installed for her to the many small, whittled creatures that always needed dusting. Then she closed the door on all of it.

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