The Nearness of You


By Dorothy Garlock

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Hooper’s Crossing, New York, 1952. The post-war boom seems a million miles away . . . especially for a sheltered librarian who longs for the adventure and excitement of the big city.

New York City. The hustle and bustle. The people and the excitement. It’s all Lily Denton dreams about. But ever since her mother died, her overprotective father won’t ease up on her. So she spends her days working at the library and her nights hoping life doesn’t pass her by . . . until the Fall Festival. As tourists fill the streets, the crisp autumn air sneaks in-as does the thrill of a far more dangerous kind.

Some men have a gift for avoiding trouble. Professional photographer Boone Tatum isn’t one of them. In fact, that penchant for trouble is exactly what landed Boone in this small town in the middle of nowhere in the first place. Yet the moment he meets beautiful Lily Denton and snaps her photograph, everything changes. Suddenly leaving is the furthest thing from Boone’s mind-or his heart.

But danger has slipped silently into this sleepy town, marking Lily as its own. And Lily and Boone’s dream of a life together is thrown into peril-unless Lily finds the courage to stand up for herself and a man she only just met . . . and can’t live without.



SARAH DENTON LIFTED a damp blanket from the wicker basket at her feet and draped it across the clothesline, careful to smooth away any wrinkles before clipping it in place with wooden pins. Shirts hung next to tablecloths, napkins, bedspreads, and so on down the line. The spring air was filled with the scent of detergent and bleach.

High above, the early-afternoon sun shone brightly in a nearly cloudless sky. The blowing breeze was soft, unable to move the washings, but strong enough to stir the newly budded leaves on tree branches. Ladybugs momentarily lit on the line, their red-and-black shells standing out in stark contrast with the white fabric, before again taking flight. Bees weaved between the stalks of flowers. Birds collected twigs, looking for the perfect place to build a nest.

Sarah didn't have that problem. Her nest was right here.

Her family's two-story home wasn't much, but it was theirs. Sure, it had its share of problems: pipes that shook when the spigots were opened in winter; a staircase that creaked with every step; a jamb that hadn't been set quite right, making it impossible to shut the door; and from where she stood in the backyard, Sarah could see the spot just below the eaves where the squirrels squeezed their way into the attic. But for all of its faults, the house was as cozy and comfortable as a favorite sweater. She knew every inch by heart. It was crammed full of memories, of laughter, of good meals around the table in their cramped dining room. It was lined with photographs, holiday decorations, and boxes of toys. It was—

A sudden, lancing pain in her temple ended Sarah's reverie. It was so intense that she had to steady herself on the clothesline. Fortunately, it quickly lessened. The truth was, she hadn't been feeling well all morning. Most likely, she needed a glass of water and to lie down for a while. But there was still the half-full basket of laundry that needed to be hung. First, she would finish her chores, then she could take some time to rest.

That is, if Lily would let her…

As if in answer, Sarah's six-year-old daughter burst from the back door, the screen banging against the side of the house, before leaping off the porch. Her arms and legs pinwheeled every which way, her blond pigtails bouncing as she laughed, a whirling dervish of energy. Lily made a beeline for her mother, occasionally glancing back over her shoulder.

The girl weaved among the wash, darting in and out of sight until she collided with her mother's leg. Lily's face lit up like the sun, with fetching blue eyes, a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and a smile that was perfect even if it was missing a couple of teeth. Moments like this one, ordinary and innocent, were still capable of taking Sarah's breath away.

"He's coming!" Lily hissed in a whisper that was anything but quiet.

"Are you and your father playing a game?" Sarah asked.

"Hide-and-seek! He's looking for me right—"

Before the girl could finish, the sound of heavy footsteps came from inside the house. "Now where did she go?" a voice boomed.

Lily burst into a fit of giggles, then tugged at her mother's skirt. "Hide me!" she insisted. Sarah did just that, tucking her daughter behind her, then raised a finger to her lips and made a soft shush.

Morris Denton stepped into the sunlight and gave his wife a knowing smile and wink, with no doubt as to where his child was hiding. "Now where in this big yard do you suppose Lily is?" he asked, which made the girl tremble, so desperate was she to hold back her laughter.

Sarah watched her husband peek behind the birdbath, push apart bushes, and peer into flower beds, all while loudly announcing what he was doing as he came steadily closer. It was something of a comical sight. Morris was a big man in both size and personality; he liked to joke that the only thing larger than his waistband was his love for his wife and daughter.

"I wonder if she scurried down a rabbit hole," Morris said as he began to push his way through the drying laundry, giving his wife a wink. "Maybe she flew up into the treetops like a robin. Or maybe…" he continued, drawing the word out, "she's hiding right here!"

Morris pounced, landing beside his wife with his hands raised and fingers splayed, the huge smile on his face making him look comically ferocious. Lily squealed, half from delight, the other out of genuine fright. But instead of running away from her father, she dashed toward him, grabbing him tight.

"You found me!" the little girl exclaimed.

"It sure wasn't easy," Morris explained as he wiped sweat from his brow with a handkerchief, a playful smile teasing at the corners of his mouth. "Lily's the best in all Hooper's Crossing when it comes to hiding. For a while there, I thought she was gone for good!"

"Mommy helped," Lily admitted.

"Only a little," Sarah said.

"Partners in crime," Morris added, planting a kiss on his wife's cheek.

"Again, again!" Lily pleaded, jumping up and down.

"All right. One more time and then Daddy needs to sit down for a bit," her father said. "Run away, little mouse, and hide as best you can!"

Lily set off to do just that, but when she turned she wasn't looking where she was going and ran right into her mother's laundry basket. Clean washing spilled and was then trampled underfoot.

"Watch where you're going, Lily!" Morris barked.

"I'm sorry!" the little girl replied, tears already filling her eyes.

"It's fine," Sarah soothed. "Nothing's ruined." She knelt down to pick up the laundry, but when she did the pain in her head returned, making her vision swim. Wincing, she fought it down, focusing on the mess and her daughter.

"She needs to be more careful," her husband continued.

Sarah ignored him. Instead, she gave Lily a smile, wiped a stray tear from the girl's cheek, and then planted a kiss on her forehead. "Hide really good this time," she said in a conspiratorial whisper.

And off her daughter ran, having already forgotten her chastisement.

But Sarah hadn't.

"You shouldn't be so hard on her," she told her husband. "It was an accident. She's just a kid."

For an instant, it looked as if Morris wanted to disagree, but then his features softened. "You're right," he said with a nod. "I just want Lily to grow up right, to be the sort of lady I know she can be."

"She will, even if she knocks over a laundry basket or two."

Morris chuckled, a sound that never failed to warm Sarah's heart. His laughter was one of the many things about her husband that she loved, part of a long list that included how he occasionally surprised her with a bouquet of flowers, the tuneless songs he hummed while shaving in the bathroom sink, the contented way he patted his belly after a big meal, and especially his ambition to become someone important, strengthening both his family and community. But even as Sarah smiled, another wave of pain washed over her, erasing it.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Morris said, rushing to his wife as her knees buckled, pulling her close, his strong arms keeping her upright.

Sarah managed to steady herself. "I haven't felt all that well today."

"Looks to me like you're the one who needs to lie down for a while," her husband replied. "Why don't you go inside and I'll finish the laundry."

She shook her head. "I'll be fine," she said. "Besides, someone is waiting for you."

"She won't be hard to find," he explained. "Lily will be either behind her bedroom door or under the bed. It's always one of the two. And even if, by some miracle, she decided to throw me a curveball and mix things up, all I have to do is follow the sound of her giggles. She won't stay hidden for long. I might even have time to stop off in the kitchen for a glass of lemonade first." But then Morris paused, looking at his wife with no small amount of concern. "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked.

"Go," Sarah answered, though her vision still swam a bit.

Morris looked at her for a moment longer, then leaned close and kissed her softly. "I love you," he said, then started for the house.

Watching him walk away, Sarah found herself thinking about the future. She understood that she would always be the one standing between Morris and Lily, tamping down her husband's high expectations for their daughter, as well as bucking up the little girl's spirits whenever she was feeling down. She would have to keep a close eye on Morris's expanding waistline and mend the items Lily broke as she tornadoed around the house. But for all the obstacles that they would need to overcome, Sarah believed there would be many happier memories, a veritable flood of smiles and laughter. Maybe there would even be an addition to the family; she was still young enough, and surely Lily would enjoy having a brother or sister to share in her mischief. Either way, with love, hard work, and the fact that they would always have each other, all their dreams would come true. She was sure of it.

It was then that the pain returned, stronger than ever.

This time, it struck hard and deep enough to force a cry from her lips. Sarah swayed, her face twisting in agony, then dropped to her knees. Desperately, she grabbed a damp sheet, not wanting to fall farther; the fabric stretched, straining against the pins that held it in place, before finally giving way. She collapsed to the ground, the basket once again knocked over, laundry crushed beneath her, the pain incredible and endless.

"Morris…" she managed, knowing that her voice was too soft, her husband too far away to hear.

Lying in the grass, Sarah struggled to keep her fear at bay as darkness closed in from all around. She fought against it as hard as she could, not wanting to give up, not wanting to lose all she had, but in the end it was a fight she couldn't win. She could feel the warmth of sunlight on her skin. She could hear the flutter of laundry in the gentle breeze. She could smell the scent of detergent mingled with spring flowers. She felt hot tears spill down her cheeks. She remembered the joy of watching her husband and daughter play hide-and-seek.

And then she was gone.

Chapter One


LILY DENTON STOOD beneath the maple tree in front of her house, an ocean of fallen leaves at her feet. The night sky was cloudy, the moon playing hide-and-seek, and it was breezy enough to make her shiver, forcing her to pull her coat close, stamping her feet for warmth. She worried it might rain. A battered suitcase, painstakingly packed with what she thought she'd need, as well as a few treasured mementos, lay on the ground beside her. A dog's sudden bark startled her and she stepped deeper into the shadows, fearful of being seen.

"This is crazy…" she muttered to herself.

Every few seconds, Lily looked up and down the street, the sidewalks lit by streetlamps, hoping to see the familiar red Oldsmobile, but the road remained empty. There was no point in checking her watch again; she'd done it so many times that she knew it was a handful of minutes past eleven. She had been standing beneath the tree for almost half an hour and was chilled to the bone. Lily hoped that she wouldn't get sick, because the last thing she needed was to—

From the far end of the street, a pair of headlights interrupted Lily's thoughts, making her heart hammer. She bent down and grabbed the suitcase's handle, feeling both nervous and excited. But just as she readied to run to the curb, she saw that it wasn't the Oldsmobile but a dented pickup truck. As it drove past, she once again found herself alone.

Not for the first time, Lily thought about giving up. Her father would likely still be in his office, writing or talking on the telephone no matter the late hour, so she would have to sneak inside, but worry was starting to get the better of her. Even though she'd been planning this moment for months, daydreaming about it for years, Lily had always known it was a house of cards, and that one strong gust of wind would knock the whole thing to the—

The honk of a car's horn startled her.

She stared in amazement as a red Oldsmobile zipped down the street toward her before finally coming to an abrupt stop against the curb.

"Hurry up, slowpoke!" Jane Dunaway shouted out the driver's-side window. "Let's get this show on the road!"

Lily ran to the car, the suitcase banging against her leg. She was convinced that every last person in the neighborhood had been woken, that porch lights were about to come on up and down the street. She didn't dare glance back over her shoulder, certain that her father would be at the window, watching her with an angry, disapproving look on his face.

"Keep your voice down!" Lily whispered fiercely as she opened the passenger's door. "You're going to give us away!"

Jane answered with a loud laugh. "Who cares?" she asked. "No one can stop us now. Throw your stuff in the back and get in!"

Before Lily could even shut the door behind her, the Oldsmobile was already moving, the engine loud as it sped down the street.

"Isn't this great?" Jane shouted over the cold wind rushing in through her still-open window, making her long black hair whip in every direction. She reached over and squeezed Lily's hand. "New York City, here we come!"

Lily managed a weak smile, but she couldn't match Jane's enthusiasm. The reality of what she was doing slowly began to sink in.

She was running away from home.


Hooper's Crossing was located in upstate New York, alongside a crook in the Porter River and nestled among the Adirondack Mountains. The town's name had come from a centuries-old British trading post that had long since burned down. It was a quiet, scenic place; few of its six thousand inhabitants caused much trouble. Victorian houses, complete with white picket fences, had been built on wide, tree-lined streets. Hooper's Crossing was the ideal American town.

But for as long as Lily could remember, she'd wondered what it would be like to live somewhere else.

She'd spent countless hours staring out the window at school, lying in her bed late into the night, walking down Main Street, and sitting in a church pew, daydreaming about other places. Lily had tried to imagine the bustling crowds of a big city, the quiet solitude of a farm or a windswept coastal town. She even fantasized about the exotic life to be had in a city like Paris or Honolulu. She wanted to spin a globe, drop her finger on some random place, and then be instantly transported there. Instead, she never left Hooper's Crossing.

Mostly because of her father.

Morris Denton had been the town's mayor for more than a decade; some of Lily's earliest memories were of her father campaigning for office. In the months and years after the sudden, tragic death of his wife, Morris had thrown himself into his work. He was a tireless advocate, welcoming businesses that created jobs, as well as fund-raising for a new roof over the elementary school and a pavilion in City Park. Morris knew everyone in town by name, from the president of the bank all the way to his paperboy. He'd made it his mission to help his community and, by nearly all accounts, had succeeded spectacularly.

He was also a loving father, indulging Lily in clothes and books, whatever he could afford to provide. He championed her education, encouraging good marks at school. Morris had tried to broaden his daughter's horizons; he bought tickets to concerts, introduced her to everyone-who-was-anyone around town, and had once taken her to Albany to meet the governor.

But to say that Morris Denton was protective of his daughter would have been the understatement of the century.

When Lily was little, Morris had picked out what she could wear, had told her what to eat, where she could go, and especially what kids she could be friends with. No detail was too small to escape his attention. Any disagreement was met with a lecture that might last an hour. No matter how much Lily cried or argued, her father always won, not because Morris was mean or shouted at her, but because he believed so strongly in his convictions that he couldn't be persuaded. Deep down, Lily knew that her father had been trying to do right by her, that as a widower he didn't have a spouse to go to for advice, but all throughout her childhood, she'd felt smothered.

Even now that Lily was twenty-one, her father continued to meddle. When she'd wanted to move out, to find a place of her own, Morris had discouraged her. When she suggested going off to college, he'd gotten her a job at the library instead. Worst of all, Lily was convinced that he had chased away romantic suitors, men who might've asked her out on a date. No one was good enough for his little girl.

Because of Morris's standing in Hooper's Crossing, nothing was going to change anytime soon. The only way she could leave was in her dreams.

And so Lily had been caught off-guard the afternoon three weeks back when Jane had leaned against the library's front desk and asked in a soft voice, "Want to run away to the big city with me?"

Jane had been Lily's best friend since kindergarten. Her father owned Dunaway's Department Store and was one of the friendliest people in Hooper's Crossing. But while Jane's two younger sisters flew straight as arrows, she liked to dance to the beat of her own drummer. Jane had never been afraid of a little trouble. She had been the first among their classmates to skip school, to take a sip of alcohol and puff on a cigarette, and she always seemed to have a hemline shorter than what was considered acceptable for a young lady. She certainly wasn't shy when it came to flirting, laughing, or voicing her opinion. Any one of these reasons should have been enough for Morris to order his daughter to stay far away, but because of her father's standing in town, he reluctantly gave the girl a pass.

So because Jane could be prone to big, impractical plans and flights of fancy, Lily had laughed off her question. "How about tomorrow?" she replied with a smile. "I'll have to check my calendar, but I think I'm free."

"I'm serious," Jane said. "As soon as I have a little more money saved up, I'm gone. I want you to come with me."

Lily knew that Jane's reasons for leaving were different from her own. For one, she was a knockout, the sort of beautiful woman who could turn a man's head halfway around his shoulders just by walking down a sidewalk. With her friend's long black hair and sharp feminine features, Lily had always expected Jane to end up in Hollywood making movies or be on a billboard advertising clothes or cigarettes. Running off to New York City was likely a step in that direction. Jane believed that Hooper's Corner was holding her back from bigger and better things.

She wasn't the only one who felt that way. Lily knew she wasn't as attractive as Jane. Sure, her shoulder-length blond hair was curly and her eyes a sparkling emerald green, but whenever she looked at her reflection in her bedroom mirror, what she noticed was the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and the soft curve of her cheeks and chin, details she thought made her look a bit childish. Lily didn't think she was an ugly duckling, but if she was standing next to Jane, few people would have thought her to be a swan. Still, Jane's offer was the opportunity Lily had been waiting for, a chance to finally escape her father's controlling ways.

In the end, it was an offer she couldn't refuse.

"I'll go," Lily had answered.

For the next few weeks, they'd made plans while talking on the telephone or meeting during Lily's lunch breaks at the library. She withdrew her savings from the bank, hoping the money would last until she found a job. They wrote out lists of what they wanted to take, crossing out some items while adding others; at first, Jane simply didn't understand why she couldn't take all her wardrobe. Everything was meticulously packed in the suitcase she then stashed in the back of her closet, though she constantly worried that her father would somehow find it. But he hadn't and the days kept ticking by until finally it was time to go.

That afternoon, Lily had gone to the cemetery, to her mother's granite tombstone where she'd talked and cried, often at the same time. Sitting on the grass, watching leaves fall from the nearby trees, she spoke of her hopes and fears, attempting to explain herself to someone who couldn't reply. Later, back home, she'd written her father a letter. In it, she tried to tell him why she was leaving, to make him understand. The crumpled pages scattered on the floor around her were a testament to how hard it had been to find the right words. At the end, she had told him not to worry, that she would write when they reached their destination, and that she loved him. Just before she snuck out, she placed the letter on her pillow; when Morris realized that she was missing, he would quickly find it.

This was a new beginning, the very thing Lily had always wanted.

So why did it feel so wrong…


Jane steered the Oldsmobile through the quiet neighborhoods. Rather than take the shortest route out of town, she turned onto Main Street as if she wanted one last look at the place before leaving. Staring out her window, Lily watched the familiar sights roll by: Will Burton's barbershop, the post office, Sally Lange's bakery, the Hooper's Crossing Bank and Trust, as well as the library in which she'd spent so many hours. On the corner opposite the movie theater was the business Jane's father owned and ran, Dunaway's Department Store.

"There's a place I never want to see again," her friend said, frowning as they drove past. "If I had a nickel for every box of mousetraps I unloaded, screwdriver I priced, or can of tomatoes I lined up on a shelf, there'd be enough money for us to fly to the city."

"I always had a soft spot for the candy counter," Lily replied. "Your dad always had the best lemon drops."

Jane shook her head. "Maybe so, but no candy is worth sticking around here," she said with a wink. "There's better where we're going, anyway."

Main Street ended where it ran into City Park. Wooden booths in various stages of completion lined the sidewalks under the streetlamps. Homemade banners advertised NEW YORK'S TASTIEST APPLES, WOOL SWEATERS—STITCHED TO YOUR SIZE, HAND-CARVED BIRDHOUSES, and dozens of other goods. Strings of lights, currently unlit, had been wound into tree branches and stretched toward the pavilion in the center of the park, the very one Lily's father had been instrumental in having built; in a matter of days, musicians would play and the park would overflow with hundreds of people, many dancing under the stars. The Hooper's Crossing Fall Festival, an annual event that drew people from hundreds of miles in every direction and culminated in a Halloween night party and parade where almost everyone wore a costume, was about to begin.

"Aren't you going to miss this?" Lily asked as the Oldsmobile finally left town and headed for the highway.

"The fall festival?" Jane replied.

Lily nodded.

"Not in the least."

Lily couldn't help but laugh. "You make it sound like the worst thing in the world! You've had lots of fun there over the years!"

"All right, so it hasn't been all bad," Jane admitted a bit reluctantly. "Remember, that's where Jake Conroy kissed me behind the bandstand."

From there, it was as if the floodgates had been thrown open on their memories of growing up in Hooper's Crossing. Driving out of town, they reminisced about days long past: the summer afternoon they'd dared each other to jump off the bridge into the Porter River, both of them screaming the whole way down; Martin Bradley's ninth birthday party when Katie Sharp had eaten too much cake and gotten sick all down the front of her new dress; the shiveringly cold February day when Jane had caught Dave Cooke, the projectionist at the movie theater, shoplifting tins of hair pomade from her father's store. But even as laughter filled the Oldsmobile, Lily felt a strange sadness settle over her, and no matter how hard she tried to shake it off, it refused to let go.

On the road ahead, the car's headlights illuminated a large sign announcing that they were leaving Hooper's Crossing. It quickly loomed before them, its colors bright, then vanished and all was dark.

And something inside Lily cracked.

"Stop the car," she said, the words quiet and mumbled.

When Jane didn't respond, still talking about the time Matt Hoskins had forgotten the words to "Silent Night" during his solo at the school Christmas concert, Lily repeated herself, this time loud and clear enough to be heard.

"What for?" Jane asked. "Did you forget something?"

"Just pull over!" Lily snapped, the sharp sound of her voice surprising even her, her heart racing faster than the speeding car.

Jane did as her friend asked, guiding the Oldsmobile onto the road's shoulder and pressing down hard enough on the brakes to make the tires slide in the soft gravel. For a long moment, neither of them spoke, the only sound the ticking of the car's engine.


  • "Every Dorothy Garlock book is synonymous with a great read."
    --- Janet Dailey, New York Times bestselling author
  • "There is nothing better than Dorothy Garlock at her best."
    --- Sandra Brown, New York Times bestselling author
  • "One of America's most endearing historical fiction authors."
    --RT Book Reviews
  • "A gifted writer."
    --Chicago Sun Times
  • "A gentle tale of love lost and found...The charm is in the telling, with historical details and light touches to make the town of Sunset, Missouri, seem real, not idealized. A feel-good love story that comforts...Garlock excels at creating an experience her readers want, one that's still heartwarming..."
    --Kirkus Reviews on Twice in a Lifetime
  • "Garlock's terrific story, set in mid-20th-century Missouri, pairs a lonely single mother with a flashy auto racer...Garlock keeps readers so wrapped up in Drake and Clara's romance that it's impossible to put the book down. There's just enough tension, from a few different fronts, to keep things interesting. Thoroughly credible characters and the aw-shucks charm of their small town make this a winner."—Publishers Weekly starred review on Twice in a Lifetime
  • "Garlock's lovely, sweet novel is a testament to the last great generation."
    -RT Book Reviews on Take Me Home

    "Take Me Home has a unique perspective for a historical novel set during World War II." on Take Me Home
  • "The latest from romance doyenne Garlock mixes light suspense with traditional romance for an entertaining effect."
    --Booklist on Under a Texas Sky

On Sale
Jul 11, 2017
Page Count
384 pages

Dorothy Garlock

About the Author

Dorothy Garlock is the author of more than 50 novels that have sold 15 million+ combined copies and are published in 15 languages. She lives in Iowa.

Learn more about this author