It's a magical tale of trust and betrayal...
A frigid February wind blasted the streets of Cupid’s Hollow and hurried Valentine Arciere’s steps as she and her grandmother arrived at Valentine Sports. Val unlocked the door. The buildings on either side of the store stood dark and empty, snowdrifts banked against their entrances. The desolation painted a grim contrast to the bright, bold posters that decorated every window on Main Street advertising the Valentine’s Day Gala just two weeks from today.
She sucked in a deep breath and raised her chin as she pushed open the door, the brass bell tinkling overhead to announce her arrival. She’d hung that bell the day she signed her name on the deed beside Gram’s. The bell’s tone sang out the sound of hope, the sound of independence, every time the shop door opened. Which, lately, wasn’t often enough.
She flicked on the light and saw a crudely lettered warning lying on the floor. Again. She stooped to pick it up before her grandmother, who was right behind her, could see the lettering. But Gram plucked the paper from her hand. The wrinkles around her mouth puckered.
“Sell now or you’ll be sorry?” Gram blinked up at her, her eyes magnified comically behind her new bifocals. The paper rustled in her hands. “Valentine, what is this? Who’s threatening us?”
“It’s nothing, Gram.” Val plucked up the paper, wadded it, and tossed it into the recycling bin behind the counter.
“Maybe we should lease out the store,” Gram whispered. “I could retire. You could travel. It might not be such a bad thing to find out what else life might hold in store for you.” If Gram believed that, why did she sound so devastated—like she’d given up? But Val noticed Gram hadn’t gone so far as to suggest actually selling out. The family business still meant everything to her, just as it did to Val.
On the wall above the counter, a photo of her parents showed them laughing in the sun on their sailboat, Salacia, somewhere in the Mediterranean. They’d e-mailed the shot a day before a storm sank their boat. That photo, and the sports shop her parents had named after her, were all she had of them. All Gram had of her daughter.
“This store is my life, Gram. I don’t need to travel to find out what’s important to me.”
Gram’s mouth bunched in a soft smile. “I know, little Valentine. Your mom and dad would be very proud of what you’ve done with the store—and with your life—and so am I. I’ll be in the back if you need me, making a paper airplane from that offer we got from Jupitropolis.”
Val laughed. But after Gram trundled into the office at the back of the store, she braced her hands on the glass top of the counter and breathed deeply. Gram had never said anything about retiring before, so this was the first time Val had thought of her grandmother as anything but a sprightly older lady, the one person in her life who would always be there. But Gram was getting older.
Every business on Main Street except theirs had eventually sold out when Jupitropolis offered sums that to the small-town shop owners seemed outrageously generous. Jupiter’s megastore was offering jobs, pensions, even a modest health care plan. When the first letter arrived offering to buy the sports shop, standing her ground had seemed like the only sensible idea. It was a matter of principle. A principle, it seemed, that only Valentine believed in anymore.
If she gave in, Cupid’s Hollow would become just one more community powered by the gaudy plastic heart of Jupitropolis.
If she refused to sell, she would be singlehandedly responsible for destroying the economy of Cupid’s Hollow.
Buy Wooing Cupid at Amazon.
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