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Love at Wolf's Springs

Love at Wolf's Springs

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He shapes clay into art.
She helps the wounded heal.
Together can they form a love story?

Can they both prove that love has a way of healing all hurts and bringing meaning
to their lives?

Main Tropes

  • Grumpy Hero
  • Forgiveness
  • Women Friendship


He shapes clay into art. She helps the wounded heal. Together can they form a love story?

Ryan Cartia knows how to work with clay. With his famously skilled hands, he canmake his medium do whatever he wants, and he trusts the process implicitly. Ifonly the injury in his leg were so easily manipulated, and if only people were soeasily trusted. The only person he trusts is his sister, Layla. But she can't takecare of him after he has a surgery to help his leg do some healing.Caring for people is what Alexis Baker does best, and she’s been doing it all her life.Even after her husband passed, she’s been taking care of his mother, who neverrecovered from losing her son. But now she’s gone too, and with no work history,Alexis needs to find a job to provide for her and her ten-year-old daughter. She mayhave found the answer when she finds within her mother-in-law’s personal effectsa letter from a town called Inheritance Bay. This could be her chance. But her newpatient is the grouchiest man she’s ever met.Ryan can’t believe he is letting a stranger take care of him. No matter what Layla says,he doesn’t even need help—and certainly doesn’t need it from a woman with a child.Ryan’s going to prove he doesn’t need anyone. Alexis is going to prove she has worth.Can they both prove that love has a way of healing all hurts and bringing meaningto their lives?

Intro into Chapter One


problem with being desperate was that everything sounded good in the beginning.
Alexis Baker was standing on the doorstep of her newest incognito patient. She
had been hired by Layla Cartia who wanted her to do a trial with her brother in
Inheritance Bay. Alexis had been without a job and one step from having to go
to the welfare office when this “opportunity” came along.

retrospect, maybe it wasn’t an opportunity but a confirmation of how dire her
situation was. Really, who got a job offer in a little town in the middle of
nowhere and packed up their life and moved on a two-week trial? The truly hard
up was who.

here she was, thirty-year-old Alexis Baker, bearing gifts on a beautiful fall
day outside a lovely home on the waterfront inhabited by a talented,
temperamental grouch—that is if his sister was to be believed. She didn’t like
coming here as a neighbor instead of what she was—a caretaker—but again, his
sister, Layla, thought if her brother, Ryan Cartia, liked her, checking on him
would be infinitely easier. However, the fundamental flaw in this plan was
Alexis was a terrible liar. It also didn’t help that, out of the numerous
people who had applied, she was one of the few who agreed to move on the
two-week trial. Alexis planned on making this work, but if it didn’t, the two
week pay, and the relocation fees reimbursed were worth it.

Alexis had gotten this offer, she had been sorting through overdue bills and an
eviction notice. She thought it had been a sign that things were looking up.
Then, when she had met Layla, there was no way to turn her down. She was sweet,
in a pixie creative kind of way. She said her brother was her fraternal twin,
so Alexis had expected a meek, slim male who lived in his head too much.

had seen Ryan Cartia, and the stories of him being fragile, weak, and creative
were grossly exaggerated. He was five-foot-ten, and if he was weak, then people
who lived by lakes had a different definition of weak. Ryan’s corded muscles
rippled as she had sat in her car, driving by his place. He was hobbling on a
cane, but that was the only weakness in the man. With brown hair and a beard,
Ryan Cartia would be what her best friend called “a hottie”.

my brother is all bark and no bite. He got surgery on his foot so he could walk
without a gait after he had an accident at one of his gallery houses, and he
didn’t tell me so I wouldn’t hover.”

thought you said his injury was caused by a fan.”

we were going to an open house event for him, and then the crowd began to
stampede. While he was protecting me, he got hurt. We had already received a
threat for that night, but Ryan had brushed it off as an obsessed fan. It left
him with a limp. We were going to have another open house in Inheritance Bay
and that night it was raining, so he slipped, re-injuring his ankle.”

replayed the conversation. She hadn’t been prepared for Layla to admit her
brother didn’t want help. Now that it was time to play the role, Alexis was
getting cold feet. It was a little tug on her side that gave her the courage to
go forward.


you sure he won’t mind us stopping by Ma?” Tara asked. Tara's eyes had a solemn
look about them that bespoke her ten years. Tara had learned how to ask
questions in low voices and not to move suddenly. Living with her mother had
taken a toll on them both, but that was over and here they were.

we step back slowly, he won’t even know we came,” Tara said.

looked at her daughter and did what she often did after looking at Tara. She
found her spine and remembered she was doing this to help salvage what she
could of Tara’s childhood. Once upon a time, Tara had laughed and played like
other children, but her poor decisions that she had thought were safe hadn’t
been so right for her daughter.

was hoping to put down roots here for Tara’s sake. This would be Tara’s first
year going to a public school. She had been homeschooled all her life.

round tin was full of cookies and cream puffs. She had better hurry and get
them to her neighbor, otherwise the puffs would wilt, and the cream would start
to separate and run in the tin. She smiled at Tara and then nodded.

was looking at you and thinking how lucky I was to have you and totally forgot
what I was doing, pumpkin.”

that comment might have enlisted a giggle from another child, Tara gave her a
small smile and nodded back. This was why she was at this door: to make a
better place for Tara.

when I told you we were going to check out a person to see if he really needed
our help?”


the other thing I found out is the man is like an old fussy bear who has a
thorn in his paw. He wants it out, but he’s really cautious of people. So, I
want to make sure I have my ‘I’ll eat you bear’ look on my face.” Alexis
deliberately narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. “You think I have the right


let’s do this.” Alexis knocked on the door, and it opened.

Cartia? Hello? It’s your next-door neighbor, Alexis Baker.”

to meet you, and you can close the door as you leave.”

a moment, Alexis was stunned still by the rudeness. Then when she felt Tara
tighten her grip on her hand, she put a very large smile on her face and looked
at her daughter.

see? Grumpy old bear growl,” she whispered to Tara. Alexis needed this job, and
Mr. Ryan Cartia was about to learn about being neighborly and nice no matter
how bad you were feeling.

would you hold this tin? I need to talk to the grumpy bear,” she said.

pulled the tin close to her chest, and Alexis worried about the contents for a
second until she was distracted by the complaining coming from the next room.

bear sounds angry,” Tara whispered.

just because he’s hurt. I’ll be right back. You stay right here by the door.”

walked through what looked like a small living room that opened into a family
room, complete with a large television, love seat, and an overturned small
table. At the bottom of the legs was a cane. She could see Ryan Cartia had
tried to pull the tray closer and instead had toppled it over.

that didn’t go well. Do you think you need some help now?” she asked.

you didn’t leave, you might as well do something useful and help,” he snarled.
“I would have gotten the tray to me just fine if I hadn’t been surprised by the
knock on my door. When I turned toward the door, the cane was still in my hand,
and instead of pulling it to me, I swiped it on its side.”

looked at him and the tray then looked him in the eye.

make it a practice to announce myself before going into someone’s home. I hear it’s
the polite thing to do.”

glared at her. “Well, I hear it’s polite to wait for an invitation before you
go to someone’s house. If that had happened, the mess before you could have
been avoided.”

needed this job. She needed to make sure she could provide for Tara, but she
wasn’t about to become a doormat. Her grandmother had said make sure you start as
you mean to go.

sister invited me over, but I’ll let her know she shouldn’t invite anyone to
your place.”

looked at Alexis and then leaned his head back on the love seat and let out a

she called me, she was outside, and it was windy. I thought she was coming by
because the only part I could hear was stopping by later.”

the conversation, Ryan had righted his cane and was trying to move his casted
ankle onto a little ottoman that looked to be just the right height for his
injury. She could tell he was in pain from the grimace that passed across his
face as he moved his leg.

was clear to her was that no matter what he said, he was in need of some help.
They were going to have to work on that bear attitude. Realizing he was never
going to ask for help, she went forward and then hooked her hand around his
ankle. Then she looked up at him.

three, I’ll lift it. Are you good with that?”



brought back memories of working with her mother-in-law lifting her from the
bed as she hurled accusations at her that she was the reason her son was gone.
It brought back memories of the night she and her husband had counted down to
the New Year, full of hope and promise, only to drive home and be hit by a
drunk driver. Her husband had died on impact, and she had survived relatively
unscathed. All things her mother-in-law bombarded her with.

day with her mother-in-law had been a roller coaster ride of uncertainty and
despair. She had trapped herself into a situation where she had no friends and
no close family to turn to. All of those memories were wiped away when Ryan
blew out a breath and prepared for the move. Without much fanfare, she had
lifted his leg to the ottoman.

much longer do you need the cast on?”


if you overwork it, you will be in it longer,” she stated. “It looks like
someone set up the tray. What happened?”

of my assistants came by for me to sign some papers and brought some things
closer to me. I sent her away after that. I was sure that my sister would
eventually make it over here.”

Cartia was off with her fiancé, getting her wedding dress made for the historic
event. When they did come back, Layla and Nolan were thinking about upgrading
the security around the lake after the protestors had threatened one too many

this mean you don’t know where your sister is now?” she asked.

course, I know where my twin is,” he said. Sable brown eyes turned to her and narrowed.

tell my sister I’m a big boy, and I don’t need someone to watch me. I have all
I need as long as I have my phone.”

she didn’t ask me to stay. However, I did bring over some desserts, thinking
you would like something homemade.”

he echoed.

was always funny to Alexis how food was the great equalizer when it came to
peace offerings. With the pain gone, she could see the firm jaw and the
inquisitive eyes that roamed over her looking for the promised treats. When he
leaned too much to one side, she saw the pain grip him as he maneuvered back to
sitting straight and not pulling on the leg one way or another.

birth had been long and hard. Alexis never forgot how it felt to be helpless in
the bed during the delivery. It was even worse after the induced labor and
C-section. She spent three additional days unable to move before she had been
cleared to get out of bed. It had been the longest three days of her life. She
could only imagine the helplessness that Ryan must feel. Ryan was a potter, and
he was used to being up and working with his hands. Now he would not be working
with his hands, and he couldn’t get the cast off until a minimum of two weeks.

homemade desserts,” she repeated. “I only brought a tin’s worth, not knowing if
you liked cream puffs and cookies.”

a tin, you said?” Ryan eyed her skeptically.

I have the tin, and I’ll bring it.”

as Ryan was about to say something, Tara came through the door.

tin is here. My mom always tells the truth.” Her voice was firm, but low.

thank you.”

came in to make sure he was old and grumpy, and you weren’t in trouble.”

looked at Tara as she took in the whole room. Alexis was ready to jump in to
protect Tara or save Ryan, whichever was necessary.

name is Tara. Are you Ryan?”

looked at the young girl but didn’t make a move. Alexis wasn’t sure if he was
shell shocked seeing Tara or just didn’t talk to children. She had definitely
heard that enough.

Cartia, this is my daughter, Tara,” Alexis said. No one said anything, so Alexis
jumped in again. “He’s a famous artist.”

cocked her head to the side and gave Ryan a long look. “Artists are supposed to
be special with really good vision. Are you?”

I am a good artist and I think my vision’s okay, but my sister’s is better.”

expression lit up when he mentioned his sister. Gone was the gloom and doom
that had been residing on his face. In its place was a lightness that she
suspected came when he talked about Layla.

you should ask your sister to teach you how to be better. My mom says that you
should never be too proud to ask for help.”

know, you’re right. I'll make sure to ask my sister the next time I see her,” Ryan

wasn't sure what to do. She could see the slight uptick of Ryan's mouth as if
he were trying to hold back the laugh.

why don't you come with me, and we will go and put some of the desserts on a
saucer for Ryan?”

looked at her mother and then shrugged her shoulders.


remembered when she came into the house that she had walked into a living room.
It appeared that the house was like a railroad house. The walkway went straight
through the house, going through each room on the first floor. As they walked
into the kitchen, they could tell no one had been there to help Ryan. Alexis
looked at the sink of dishes and the random plates on the small table. While
she was thinking about how to clear it up and itemizing what to do, Tara was
more vocal.

this grumpy bear really needs help. I don't even know if bears live like this,”
Tara exclaimed.

Tara, what did I tell you about not having something nice to say?”

 Tara looked at her mother and then looked at
the kitchen.

also told me that I should always tell the truth,” Tara said, looking
triumphant at her mother.

oh truthful one, you can bring the dishes from the table to the sink, and I
will clear up the ones in the sink.”

was happy to hear Tara sounding a little louder than her small voice that she
had at the door. It also made her happy to see Tara wanting to help out in the

he have any gloves? I don't know if I want to really touch any of those plates.”


don't you wait on the side, and I will clean up a plate for him and you can use
that to put the desserts on?”

a nod of her head, Tara pulled a chair out and sat down while Alexis proceeded
to take care of the dishes in the sink. The moment almost felt normal. As she
was cleaning up the dishes, she thought about Ryan. He was going to need more
than just some desserts to make it. She also thought about how he had a problem
lifting his ankle up to the ottoman.

  Washing the dishes took about ten minutes. When
Alexis was done, she looked over at the garbage to see it filled with fast food
containers. It was such a shame because in the kitchen there was a convection
oven, an industrial microwave, several pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, and
a set of cutlery knives that looked as though they could have been in any
chef's kitchen.

wasn't her kitchen, although as she looked at all the items in there with
longing, she knew she shouldn't get attached. The saucer was dried, and Tara
had placed two cookies and cream puffs on it. Alexis picked up the saucer and
went into the room with Ryan.

must be a local favorite with the delivery guys,” she said. Tara came in and
made sure that the tray was set up so the saucer could be placed on it. Alexis
didn’t look at Tara but was really impressed that she wanted to help.

eyed the saucer and then reached over to pull it to him. He took a bite, and
when his eyes closed, he looked as though he was having a heavenly experience.

good,” he said as if he were surprised. Alexis wasn’t sure if she should be
insulted or not. She guessed he was prepared to eat the food, regardless of how
it tasted. Alexis looked around. His cell phone was on the other side of the
room, plugged into the wall.

you have a portable charger?” she asked.

would I need a portable charger? The electricity works just fine in that wall.”

 Alexis shook her head in frustration.

are already having problems moving, and you want to leave your phone across the
room? What happens if you need to get to it or it starts ringing? There's no
way you're going to be able to run over there.”

 “Everybody who knows me understands I am
recuperating at home. They will leave a message, and as soon as I get to the phone,
I'll call them back.”

wanted to just shake him.

while you are making your way over there, hop along, everyone else is worried
sick there is something wrong. Maybe they're calling to check up on you.”

that's why I left the phone over there,” he grumbled.

stood up and scowled at him. He was acting like a petulant child. There were
some things that she felt as though she had to stand up for. When you had
family that cared about you, you should never put them through changes or hoops.
Ryan didn't know how lucky he was to have a family, and here he was digging his
heels in the ground for nothing.

understand that people who love you can seem to be a bother, but what happens
if something really does go wrong?”

happens, I'll take care of it.”

no problem. I can bring over a portable charger, and what we’ll do is leave it
here on your tray table when I come back.”

a moment, Alexis thought he was going to fight her on this, too, but then he
sighed and sat back, taking another bite out of the cream puff.

can bring the portable charger over, okay?”

nodded and decided she wasn't going to push her luck.

you sleeping out here?”

shifted in his seat and gave her a frown, showing his discomfort with the

easier for me to stay here than going back to my bedroom, but I have slept in
the bed.”

I'm here, I can straighten it up for you.”

you don't have to do all this for me. I appreciate you being neighborly and all,
but I can manage.”

looked at the loveseat where he was sitting and realized there was a blanket
but no pillow.

notice that you don't have a pillow, but you're sleeping out here.”

looked at the loveseat and then crossed his arms over his chest.

I could hold the blanket in one arm, but the cane was in the other and I didn't
grow a third arm for the pillow.”

I go, would you like me to get you one? Not that you need it, but because it
would make me feel better.”

Ryan could answer, both of their attention was drawn to the small giggle from
the doorway. When they both turned to Tara, her hands went to her mouth, and
she took a step out of the room.

sighed and shook his head.

would appreciate the pillow, if you don’t mind.”

didn't know what that concession cost him, but she wasn't going to wait for him
to change his mind. She walked through the kitchen, and the bedroom was located
through the doorway on the right-hand side.

she walked into the bedroom, she saw surfaces filled with unfinished pottery. There
was a large king-size bed in the room, and it was covered with a dark blue
duvet and dark sheets. There was no dresser. The only other furniture in the
room was a small chair for him and the flat surface was filled with pottery in
different stages of being painted or molded. She could tell they were
unfinished, as it still had that rough, unglazed look to them.

variety of the pieces themselves spoke so much about the man. There were
unfinished sculptures of men and women wrapped around one another until you
couldn't tell where one started and the other ended. There were hearts with
small figurines of children in the center. Every now and then you would see a
vase or a cup, but the majority of the work had to do with couples and children.

the lack of furniture had taken her by surprise, then the numerous pictures on
the walls were a close second as far as surprises went. It looked as if someone
had free-hand drawn pictures of an older woman. Sometimes she was smiling with
a little girl, but most times she was looking away.

woman’s resemblance to Ryan could be seen even from the charcoal drawings. The
similarities were in the lushness of her hair and how it curled about her face
like Ryan’s, and in the shape of her eyes, which were so wide and expressive. If
she had to take a guess, she would say the woman was his mother. There was love
in every stroke drawn for this woman. She had already met Layla and recognized
the little girl as a miniature image of her.

wanting to be nosey, she picked up two pillows and then left out of the room. When
she squeezed the pillows to herself, the earthy scent of clay rose from them.
It was strong, but fresh.

handed him the pillows, and he placed them next to himself.

they are. Now you don't have to worry about getting a crick in your neck along with
everything else.”


didn't know what she was expecting from him, but whatever it was, she certainly
wasn't going to get it from him today.

if you need anything else from me you can—”

won't need you!”

as if he realized how abrupt and rude he had been, he let out a breath and sank
back into the love seat.

sorry, that came out wrong. I realize that you're trying to help, and I'm sorry,”
he said.

think it's time for us to go,” Tara said from the doorway.

saw her daughter standing at the door, twisting her pant leg. It was one of her
signs of being nervous. Ryan Cartia might be one of the best jobs that would
come along for her, but nothing would trump her taking care of her daughter.
She moved toward the door and wrapped her arm around Tara’s shoulders.

I was trying to help, but if you need something and you think only a man can
help you, you might think about your other next-door neighbor. Have you met him?
His name is Matias Perez. You remind me of him. Both of you are stubborn and

looked as if she had said something offensive and then shook his head. “I
haven’t met him.”

well, take some time to do so. I can tell him to come over and ...”

I’m fine.”

saw the slight grimace he tried to hide and knew it was time to leave.

bring the charger tomorrow. Let me know if you need anything.”

he said, all but waving her off.

and Alexis left the house and walked to their home—a mere five-minute drive and
a fifteen-minute walk. This was the joy of small-town living. Being a neighbor
didn’t mean you lived on top of one another, there was still space between you
and your next-door neighbor. The rest of the lake was quiet, and Tara said
nothing on the walk. Alexis didn’t want to push Tara, so when they got to the
cabin, she didn’t complain when Tara said she wanted to go to bed.

Alexis had made sure Tara was asleep, she sat in the living room. Their boxes
were unpacked, and they were living out of suitcases. It was better that way
until they found out if this was going to work or not.   

Cartia wasn’t bad as a patient to care for. He was a bit gruff, but Alexis
could handle gruff. Now all she could do was wait and see.

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