Newport_SarahCummingsHere’s an excerpt from THE INVENTION OF SARAH CUMMINGS, which releases September 15. Enjoy!

She came back.

Simon hoped he sufficiently concealed his relief when he looked up to see Sarah Cummings standing in his doorframe for the second Friday in a row.

“I’m glad to see you again, Sarah.” He stood and nervously jingled his keys in one hand. “The girls have been talking about the class all week. We may have one or two more who would like to join.”

Was that a smile that crossed her face? Her glance would not meet his, but she had come back, and for today, that was enough.

“Jane seems to have her eye on something green,” Simon continued. “She’s been practicing her stitches every spare minute.”

“I’ve told her she must master the stitches before she can manage that fabric,” Sarah said. “Crepe snags easily. She must be confident in what she’s doing.”

“She seems quite determined.” Simon gestured that Sarah should walk ahead of him into the hall.

“The fabrics are beautiful,” she said, “but not all of them are suitable for beginners.”

“It will give them something to look forward to,” Simon said. “It was far easier than I imagined to get the donations. Just let me know what you need.” A few notes, a few telephone calls—he would find whatever she asked for.

“Something sturdy,” Sarah said. “Plain colors they could use to make skirts to begin with. Jane may be a little too . . . ambitious just now.”

They walked to her classroom, and he put the key in the door. “I’ve kept everything locked up, just as we discussed.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

Sarah stepped past him through the doorway, and Simon inhaled her lingering lilac scent.

“Have you experimented with the machine?” he asked.

“No.” Sarah’s answer was quick, final. But her tone relented. “I suppose I will have to, because the girls will want to learn in time.”

She was planning ahead. She would come again.

“Perhaps you’ll find it more useful than you suppose.” He grasped for something substantial to say but found nothing.

Sarah carried a small bag the same beige shade as her dress. The thought flitted through his mind that the garment lacked the finesse of the ensembles he had seen her in previously, but he did not mind. His eyes fixed on her grace as she laid the bag on the table and glided to the cupboard. Opening it with one hand, she quickly reached in with the other and ran her fingertips down the ribbed stack. She was right, he could see now, about the fabrics. Although she could do wonders with any of them, they were not practical for the girls. Simon made a mental note to procure a wider selection of sensible choices for next week.

Would she have tea with him? he wondered.

She found a length of lightweight gray wool and unfolded it. A shock of hair escaped its pin at her left temple, and reflexively she reached to tuck it back in place.

“Do you have a regular day off?” Casually, he straightened a chair.

“Wednesdays,” she answered, turning again to the cupboard, “as soon as breakfast is cleared, and every other Sunday for half a day.”

Simon nodded. Was it too much to suggest dinner? He could afford a nice teashop with a simple menu. Sarah stooped to pull a basket of threads from the bottom shelf of the cupboard. Even her unadorned beige skirt moved in a graceful arc as she bent, then straightened with the basket in her hands.

“It must be just about time for the girls.” Sarah looked at him, expectant brown eyes wide.

He did find her utterly lovely.