TPCR: Chapter 2 and Chapter 3
Time for Lucas and Erin to meet for the first time in seven years!
(By the way, it is quite clear, despite Lucas’s phone calls and emails to his family, that Erin has had absolutely no contact from him for seven years. Though she has heard that he is back in town because of Grandpa Asshat’s will.)
One of Erin’s rescue horses is having a difficult labor, and she’s called the vet. But instead of the expected Tweed (a transplant from Jolly Old England complete with “crisp British accent” and tweed cap), Lucas comes to her farm. Turns out he became a vet, and was hired, apparently immediately upon setting foot in town, by Tweed.
Not two minutes before, Erin was imagining how much she could have helped her horse if she had become a vet, like she always wanted. Instead, she took over the diner after her mother died. And now Lucas is a vet instead. That’s gotta sting.
They’re both surprised to see each other: Erin for obvious reasons, and Lucas because he didn’t know who he was coming to help, and he assumed she still lived in the same house she lived in as a kid. Which strikes me as an oddly realistic touch—this guy leaves town and, though he changes a lot, assumes that everything and everyone he left behind remained exactly the same.
Together, they deliver the foal, and they are pretty gorram civil to each other, considering. Though Lucas does flash back to the night he ditched her, when he called her a coward for not going with him. We don’t get present-Lucas’s thoughts about this flashback, though, so no regret. At least not yet.
The flashback does clue us in, though, that Erin was no doormat that night: she told Lucas straight up that he was wrong for thinking if he ran away, he could actually ditch his problems, which included grief over he recent death of his dad. So, good for her.
As all this emotional stuff is transpiring, Lucas’s sister Mei (adopted, and apparently the heroine of the previous book in the series) appears with the little boy, Max, in tow. Perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently rough on Lucas and Mei’s mom—she has barely interacted with the child and refuses to sit for him, ever, while Lucas is working. So Mei has had to play babysitter (she’s a substitute teacher). And now she has tracked Lucas down (probably not too hard in this bitty town), to drop off the kid because she has to work.
And so we set up the Big Misunderstanding: Lucas says to Erin that “He belongs to me.” Which, like the best Big Misunderstandings, is a statement that is true yet can be interpreted in multiple ways.
And since Erin has sorta been Saving Herself for the imagined day when Lucas came back, you can imagine what a shock this is to our Good Christian Heroine. Not that I entirely blame her.
Also in the best Big Misunderstanding tradition (chalk it up to Poor Communication Killing), Lucas doesn’t clarify what he means, and neither does Mei, for that matter. Now, I don’t yet know how much Mei knows about Lucas and Erin, so I can give her a pass, but Lucas has every opportunity right now to explain the situation, but of course, does not.
Cut away from the Big Opportunity Lucas had to explain his relationship to Max, to Erin in the diner, serving Our Villain, the guy from the dastardly other branch of the family tree, Vincent. I’m not clear on whether Vincent will get money if he can keep the Real Heirs from fulfilling the terms of Grandpa Asshat’s will, or if he’s just your standard stock Mustache Twirler, but he makes a bunch of snide comments about Lucas and about Erin (he suspects (correctly, of course) that she’s holding a candle for him), but also lets loose that Max is adopted (or soon-to-be-adopted). Erin has a “reaction” to this, and though I’m sure it’s mostly relief that Lucas didn’t find Someone to Have a Baby with Who Wasn’t Her, this is a Christian romance, and you know they won’t say that in so many words. But Vincent doesn’t pursue this specific point, instead making ominous predictions that Lucas won’t last the year.
I would love to read this will and the technicalities of this bizarre and hurtful requirement. Does the clock start running for each individual heir, or does it not start until Lucas, the last of the bunch, shows up? What does “live in town” mean, precisely? Could the heirs maintain a residence and P.O. box but still keep their lives/jobs in their own towns? So many questions!