Book Quotes

“but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”― Jane Austen

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spring Meadow Sanctuary by Lynnette Bonner - FIRST Wild Card Tour



It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!
 Enjoy your free peek into the book!



You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.

Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.77

Paperback: 286 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1480156949

ISBN-13: 978-1480156944


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER: 

Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.



Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.






She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.



The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.



For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.



Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.



A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.



Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.



Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.



All her life she’d wanted only one thing.



Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.



Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.



Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.



She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”



Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!



Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.



Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.



“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.



“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”



He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”



“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”



“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”



“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”



“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.



Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?



She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.



Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.



Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”



The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.



A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.



UV







Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.



The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.



He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.



“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.



“Whiskey. Make it a double.”



The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.



Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.



The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.



Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”



Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”



Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.



Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”



Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.



Good. He had the man’s attention.



“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”



Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”



The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.



Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.



Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.



One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”



No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.



Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”



Judd cleared his throat loudly.



Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”



Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.



Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”



"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”



Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.



The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.



Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.



They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.



Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.



Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.



Lord I hope we were right on that count.



He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”



Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”



Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”



“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.



Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”



Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.



Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”



Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.



Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”



Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”



Judd glowered at him.



Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.



Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”



Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”



Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.



Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.



“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.



Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.



Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.”  He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.



“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”



Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.



The report was a little loud, but about right.



Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.



Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.



Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”



Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.



Rocky’s eyes narrowed.



“Four… three…”



“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.



This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.



He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”



Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”



Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.



Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”



Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.



Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”



Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.



Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”



With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.



A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.



I haven't finished this book yet but will post my review as soon as I can.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Communal eating

I love sitting in my rocking chair and watching these pretty birds as they work on getting those yummy seeds out of this bell. I think they're some kind of Tufted Titmouse but I'm not sure. 




They're beautiful and funny to watch. Every now and then they hang on the screen and peer in the window. One even went so far as to "knock" twice.  


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping.
Edgar Allan Poe
The Raven.


I think this little bird has something to say...




Matthew 6:25-27  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"

They're not the best shots. I had to take them through the screen and my camera is a Kodak Easy Share. Maybe I just don't know how to use it correctly either. I edited with PicMonkey and a background paper from the Art Painted 5 Sunset Papers that I purchased from My Memories.  


Have a great day in the Lord!


I'm linked to Rural Thursday.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

~ Happy Thanksgiving ~

Microsoft Image edited with PicMonkey

A Psalm for Thanksgiving.

100

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
 Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
 Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
 For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.



Have a great day in the Lord!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Thousand Sleepless Nights by Michael King ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!




You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Realms (October 16, 2012)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mike Dellosso, writing also under the pen name Michael King, is the author of numerous novels of suspense, including Darkness Follows, Darlington Woods, and Scream. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and is a popular conference and workshop teacher. He earned his BA degree from Messiah College and his MBS from Master’s International School of Divinity. He lives in Hanover, PA, with his wife and daughters. Mike is also a survivor of colon cancer, diagnosed in 2008.



Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Set in the beautiful horse country of northern Virginia, A Thousand Sleepless Nights is about a family torn apart by neglect and hurt and brought together again by a most-unlikely force.









Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (October 16, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616388358

ISBN-13: 978-1616388355


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Nena Hutching loved being out on the porch first thing in the morning; it was her favorite time of day. On clear mornings the sun peeked above the black willows and painted the sky brilliant shades of pink and orange. Sometimes deer would gather in the front lawn as they crossed from one pasture to the next. She’d seen upwards of thirty or forty at a time. And if the temperature gradient was just right, a low mist would settle across the ranch, hovering like slow-moving water, giving the whole property a dreamlike appearance.







But Nena’s dream had long ago been shattered. Gathering her legs under her, she pulled the blanket up to her shoulders and took a long slow sip of her tea, letting the mug linger at her mouth so the steam could warm her face.







As a child she used to sit here with her father and watch the sun rise, listening to the sounds of the ranch stirring. The smell of cut grass and her dad’s coffee, the sounds of Spanish chatter and horses nickering for their morning meal, the hum of truck engines and men shouting . . . it had all been so familiar, so com- forting. There was a sense of peace here, of purpose and right- ness that she had come to rely on.







But now the place was a ghost town. The pastures were over- grown, the stables empty. The hands had moved on long ago, finding work and fulfillment elsewhere. The black willows, once the landmark of the St. Claire ranch, had aged without care. Some had died and been cut down; others were in desperate need of pruning. And the ranch house, once so noble and pris- tine, the signature of the success of Jack St. Claire, had fallen into disrepair. Porch paint peeled like an old sunburn, one of

the steps needed a new board, and the wisteria had long ago stopped blooming.







Jim did his best to keep up with the place, but it was just too much work for one man. Nena took another sip of tea and listened to the silence. There had been no sunrise this morning; the sky was heavy with dark gray, furrowed rain clouds. A storm was on the way, and in her bones Nena felt it would be much more than just a meteorological event.







The bleeding had started three weeks ago. At first it was spotty, nothing too alarming. But as the days passed it increased, until finally an appointment was scheduled, a colonoscopy performed, a tumor found. Now Nena could do nothing but await the results of the biopsy. Nothing but sit here haunted by regrets, sipping her tea, reminiscing about the better days the ranch had seen.







The sound of tires rolling on dirt broke the morning silence, and Nena saw an SUV making its way down the lane. She knew immediately who it was—Dr. Les Van Zante—and called for Jim to join her on the porch.







Les had never made a house call before. Of course, she told herself, maybe it wasn’t a house call. Maybe he was just stop- ping by to say good morning and tell them he hadn’t gotten the results yet, so she should stop fretting and breathe easy. He’d been their family doctor for well over thirty years; more than just a physician, he’d been a friend. But the lump in her throat and the chill that crept over her skin told her this was more than a cordial visit.







Jim emerged, coffee mug in hand, hair still disheveled, face unshaven. “What’s the matter?”







Nena nodded toward the vehicle halfway up the lane. Jim sipped his coffee and said, “Les.”







“Why do I feel like an innocent defendant about to receive a guilty verdict?” Nena said.







Jim rested his hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Don’t do that, Nena. You don’t know why he’s here.”







The SUV stopped in front of the house, the engine shut off, and the door opened. Les stepped out and closed the door behind him. He nodded. “Jim, Nena.”







Nena noticed the absence of a “good morning.” Clearly it wasn’t a good morning.







“Morning, Les,” Jim said.







As Les made his way up the steps, avoiding the rotting sec- tion of the first board, he neither smiled nor frowned. His face was as stone-still as any world-class poker champ. He shook Jim’s hand then Nena’s.







The knot in Nena’s throat tightened, preventing her from swallowing, but her mouth had gone so dry there was nothing to swallow anyway.







“No ‘good morning’?” she said.







Les was a tall, handsome man, with a long face and sharp nose framed by a thick crop of woolly white hair and a neatly trimmed beard. His deep-set eyes were such a light shade of blue they almost appeared to be gray. Creases outlined his eyes and mouth, and deep frown lines appeared when he was in thought. He shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels. “Nena, Jim, we received the biopsy results.” He scanned the land around the house as if searching for a way out of deliv- ering the news.







Nena tilted her head to one side. “And?”







Les rubbed his nose, ran his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, Nena. You have colon cancer.”







The last two words that registered before everything blurred were “colon cancer.”







Les kept talking, but Nena heard little of it, just bits and pieces, like scattered raindrops that occasionally land on your nose, catching your attention. She heard “MRI” and “ultra- sound,” “surgery,” and “chemotherapy.” But they were just isolated words, foreign almost. Her ears picked up the sound of them, but to her brain they made no sense.







She looked at Jim, her husband, the man who had fought for her all those years ago and risked his life and won. The man who had never left her side because he’d promised he never would. His eyes were glassy and distant. He nodded in time to what Les said, but he too appeared to be in some other place, a place where couples grew old together and enjoyed reasonably good health, where they traveled and spent lazy afternoons walking outside or sitting on the front porch, where they spoiled their grandchildren. A place where people weren’t blindsided by cancer. He held her hand, but she didn’t feel it. Her body was numb, paralyzed. She wanted to get up and run off the porch, find a safe place in the stables, but she couldn’t. It was as if she were glued fast to the seat of the wicker chair.







Memories came clanging into her head, just images really, her father sitting atop Warlord, his prized Arabian. Her mother hanging laundry as her hair blew in the breeze and a smile crinkled her eyes. Her three children, running, laughing. Rocking her baby girl, her youngest daughter, and singing her a lullaby—Baby, my sweet, don’t you cry. Baby, my sweet, don’t you fear. Mommy will take care of you, I’m here. Her children, grand- children . . . how long had it been since she’d seen them?







As these thoughts drifted in and out, that word, that awful word clamored like an old noisy cowbell. She hated that word. It had taken her father and her grandfather, the only man she genuinely admired (except for Jim, of course). The word itself sounded like a sentence, like Les was not really telling her “You have colon cancer” but “You’re going to die.”







The porch began to spin then, slowly at first, in a perfect circle, then faster and faster and off-center. Her head suddenly felt as light as helium, and she thought she would vomit.



“Nena, honey, are you okay?”







Jim held her with both arms. She’d slipped from the chair. Had she fainted?







Somewhere in the distance, in the pasture behind the house, she heard a horse whinny. Or was it only her mind playing tricks, hearkening back to a time of simplicity and innocence?







“That’s enough for now,” Les said. He too was near her, his hand on her shoulder. “Nena, we’re going to fight this thing. We’re going to throw everything at it.”







Jim helped her to her feet, but her legs were weak, and the porch undulated beneath her.







“We’ll set things up for the MRI, CAT scan, and surgeon,” Les said. “Someone will call you with the appointment times.” He bent forward and looked Nena right in the eyes. “Nena, are you sure you’re okay? We can bring you into the office and check things out right now.”



She shook her head. “No. I’m fine. I just need to get back in the chair, have some tea.”







“Are you sure?”







“I’m fine. Jim can help me.”







But could he? Could he help her this time? It was cancer, after all, the same cancer that had taken her father and grand- father. A monster that had tasted blood, and not just anyone’s blood, but her family blood.







She drew in a deep breath, but the air was so heavy with moisture and the promise of rain she had a difficult time filling her lungs. Les said his good-byes and left, promising to call later and see how she was doing.







When the SUV had disappeared down the lane, Jim stroked Nena’s hair and said, “Nena, it’ll be all right.” His other hand rested on hers, but she still couldn’t feel it. It would be all right. How did he know? He didn’t. That was the plain truth. Those were the words everyone said, the words everyone would say to her. It’ll be all right.







Jim said, “Did you hear what Les said?”







She shook her head. “No.”







Her throat felt like it was the size of a straw.







“He’s going to set you up for tests to see if it’s spread to any other organs. Then we’ll see a surgeon and talk about getting it out of you.”







It. He couldn’t bring himself to say the word: cancer. “The surgeon will set us up with the oncologist,” Jim said. “And then what?”







“Radiation, chemo.”







“More tests, prodding, poking, cutting.”







“Probably. But I’ll be right next to you the whole time. We’ll beat it, Nena. We will.”







“Maybe it’s not that bad,” she said. “Maybe it’ll just be a matter of cutting out the tumor and being done with it.”







The words sounded so hopeless, like someone lying there with a compound fracture, bone jutting through the skin, leg cocked at a sickening angle, saying maybe it was just a sprain.



Jim looked out over the ranch, his eyes so distant and worried.







“Maybe.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

WINNER!!!

CONGRATULATIONS!!!


~ CHERYL BARANSKI ~

You won Susanna's Christmas Wish by Jerry Eicher!



Have a great day in the Lord!



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review ~ Sofia’s Secret, River of Hope Series Book 3 by Sharlene MacLaren ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!




You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born and raised in western Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. After graduating, she traveled, then married one of her childhood friends, and together they raised two ldaughters. Now happily retired after teaching elementary school for over 30 years, “Shar” enjoys reading, singing in the church choir, traveling, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren—and, of course, writing. Her novels include Through Every Storm, Long Journey Home; the Little Hickman Creek series, the acclaimed historical trilogy, The Daughters of Jacob Kane, and the first two books in her latest series, River of Hope: Livvie’s Song and Ellie’s Haven.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


 The River of Hope Series, set in the 1920’s, continues with the story of Sofia Rogers who is pregnant, unmarried, and guarding a secret. Nobody in Wabash, Indiana seems to know her real story and Sofia isn’t about to share it. She’d rather bear the shame than face the threat of consequences. When Eli Trent, the new doctor in town, gets involved, trouble escalates in the form of thievery, arson, and death threats. Nevertheless, Eli remains determined to break down the wall of silence behind which Sofia hides her secret. He is out to convince her she is not alone and to help  her come to the realization that trusting him—and God—is the only thing that makes sense.


Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 160374214X

ISBN-13: 978-1603742146


My Thoughts


This story was not what I expected. It was better! Not having read the previous books in this series, I was afraid I might be lost and not know what was going on, but that was not the case. I thought I would casually read a few pages/chapters over the course of several days (it's a hefty sized book at 432 pages) but I was so taken by surprise at the depth and subject matter, that I read it in less than two days.

The characters' spiritual battles are real, their decisions weighty and costly, and the humor that is interspersed in just the right places is tremendously enjoyable. Sharlene is a master story teller and this one is big!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes getting thoroughly immersed in a meaty story but be prepared to let the laundry pile up and dishes go unwashed because if you're not already a fan of Sharlene MacLaren, you will be!

Whitaker House graciously supplied my review copy. I was not required to write a positive review, just my honest opinion of the book, which I have done.




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
—Psalm 51:17
June 1930
Wabash, Indiana
The blazing sun ducked behind a cloud, granting a smidgeon of relief to Sofia Rogers as she compressed the pedal to stop her bike in front of Murphy’s Market and, in a most inelegant manner, slid off the seat, taking care not to catch the hem of her loose-fitting dress in the bicycle chain. She scanned the street in both directions, hoping not to run into anyone she knew, then parked the rusting yellow bike next to a Ford truck. These days, she dreaded coming into town, but she couldn’t very well put off the chore much longer if she wanted to keep food on the table.
Her younger brother, Andy, had won the race to their destination. His equally corroded bike leaned against the building, and he stood next to it, his arms crossed, a burlap sack slung across one shoulder. As she approached, a smug grin etched his freckled face. “Didn’t I t-tell you I’d b-beat you?” 
“That’s because you had a full minute head start on me, you rascal.” Sofie might have added that her present condition did not permit the speed and agility she’d once had, but she wasn’t about to make that excuse. “Just you wait. I’ll win on the way back home.”
“N-not if I can help it.”
She pressed the back of her hand to her hot, damp face and stepped up to the sidewalk. “We’ll see about that, Mr. Know-It-All.”
Andy pointed at her and laughed. “Now your face is all d-dirty.” 
She looked at her hands, still soiled from working in the garden that morning, and frowned. “I guess I should have lathered them a little better when I washed up.” She bent over and used the hem of her skirt to wipe her cheek before straightening. “There. Is that better?” 
He tilted his face and angled her a crooked grin. “Sort of.”
“Oh, who cares?” She tousled his rust-colored hair. “Come on, let’s get started checking those items off my shopping list.”
They headed for the door, but a screeching horn drew their attention to the street, where a battered jalopy slowed at the curb. Several teenage boys, their heads poking out through the windows, whistled and hollered. “Hey, sister! Hear you like to have a good time!”
At their crudeness, Sofie felt a suffocating pressure in her chest. With a hand on her brother’s shoulder, she watched the car round the bend, as the boys’ whoops faded into the distance.
“Who were those guys?”
“Nobody important.”
As if the baby inside her fully agreed, she got a strong push to the rib cage that jarred her and made her stumble.
“You alright?” Andy grabbed her elbow, looking mature beyond his eleven years.
She paused to take a deep breath and then let it out slowly, touching a hand to her abdomen. Even in her seventh month, she could scarcely fathom carrying a tiny human in her womb, let alone accept all of the kicks and punches he or she had started doling out on a daily basis. She’d read several books to know what to expect as she progressed, but none of them had come close to explaining why she already felt so deeply in love with the tiny life inside of her. Considering that she hadn’t consented to the act committed against her, she should have resented the little life, but how could she hold an innocent baby accountable? “I’m fine,” she finally assured her brother. “Let’s go inside, shall we?”
Inside Murphy’s Market, a few people ambled up and down the two narrow aisles, toting cloth bags or shopping baskets. Sofie kept her left hand out of view as much as possible, in hopes of avoiding the condemnation of anyone who noticed the absence of a wedding band on her left ring finger. Not that she particularly cared what other folks thought, but she’d grown weary of the condescending stares. Several women had tried to talk her into giving the infant up for adoption, including Margie Grant, an old friend who had served as a mother figure to her and Andy ever since their parents had perished in a train wreck in 1924. “The little one growing inside you is the result of an insidious attack, darling. I shouldn’t think you’d want much to do with it once it’s born,” Margie had said. “I happen to know more than a few childless couples right here in Wabash who would be thrilled to take it off your hands. You should really consider adoption.”
Because Margie had long been a loyal friend, Sofie had confided in her about the assault, including when and where it had occurred. As for going to the authorities and demanding an investigation—never! Margie had begged her to go straight to Sheriff Morris, but she had refused, and then had made Margie swear on the Bible not to go herself.
“That is a hard promise to make, dearest,” Margie had conceded with wrinkled brow, “but I will promise to keep my lips buttoned. As for adoption, if you gave the baby to a nice couple in town, you would have the opportunity to watch it grow up. That would bring you comfort, I should think, especially if you selected a well-deserving Christian couple.”
“I can’t imagine giving my baby away to someone in my hometown, Christian or not.” 
“Well then, we’ll go to one of the neighboring towns,” the woman had persisted. “Think about it, sweetheart. You don’t have the means to raise a child. Why, you and Andy are barely making ends meet as it is. Who’s going to take care of it while you’re at work?”
“I can’t think about that right now, Margie. And, please, don’t refer to my child as an ‘it.’”
The woman’s face had softened then, and she’d enfolded Sofie in her arms. “Well, of course, I know your baby’s not an ‘it,’ honey. But, until he or she is born, I have no notion what to call it—I mean, him or her.”
“‘The baby’ will do fine.”
Margie had given her a little squeeze, then dropped her hands to her sides and shot her a pleading gaze. “I sure wish you’d tell me who did this to you. It’s a crime, you know, what he did.”
Yes, it had been a crime—the most reprehensible sort. And it was both a blessing and a curse that Sofie couldn’t remember the details. The last thing she could remember was drinking her habitual cup of coffee at Spic-and-Span Cleaning Service before starting her evening rounds. She’d thought it tasted unusually bitter, but she’d shrugged it off at the time. Half an hour later—at the site of her job that night, at the law offices of Baker & Baker—she’d been overcome by dizziness and collapsed. She’d teetered in and out of consciousness, with only a vague notion of what was going on. When she’d awakened, it had been daylight, and she was sore all over. Fortunately, it had been a Saturday, and the offices were closed; no one had discovered her lying there, nauseous and trembling, her dress torn, her hair disheveled. A particular ache had given her a clue as to what had gone on while she’d been unconscious. As the sickening reality had set in, she’d found beside her the note that had haunted her ever since.
Breathe one word about this and you can say bye-bye to your brother.
It had been typed on the official letterhead of the sheriff’s office, making her even less inclined to go to the authorities. Whoever had assaulted her had connections to the law, and she wasn’t about to risk her brother’s life to find out his identity. Plus, without a name, and with no visual or auditory recollection, she had nothing to offer that would aid an investigation.
By the time she realized she’d gotten pregnant, two months had passed—too late to go crying to the authorities. Not that she’d planned to. Her attacker’s threat had been enough to keep her quiet. She could bear the scorn and the shame, as long as he left her alone. And the only way of ensuring that was to comply with his demands. No, she couldn’t say anything more about it to Margie.
“Margie, we’ve been over this. It’s better left unsaid, believe me.”
“But, don’t you know people are going to talk? Who knows what they’ll think or say when you start to show? If they learned the truth, perhaps they’d go a little easier on you.”
“No! I can’t. No one must know—not even you. I’m sorry, Margie.”
Margie had rubbed the back of her neck as if trying to work out a kink. A loud breath had blown past her lips and whistled across Sofie’s cheek. “You know I love you, and so I will honor your wishes…for now.” Then, her index finger had shot up in the air, nearly poking Sofie in the nose. “But if he so much as comes within an inch of you again, I want you to tell me right away, you hear? I can’t abide thinking that he’ll come knocking at your door. You must promise me, Sofia Mae Rogers!”
Sofie had hidden the shiver that had rustled through her veins at the mere thought of crossing paths with her attacker again. Why, every time she went to work, she couldn’t get the awful pounding in her chest to slow its pace until she was home again. She’d stopped drinking and eating at work—anywhere other than at home, really.
“Show me your list, Sofie.” Andy’s voice drew her out of her fretful thoughts. She reached inside her pocket and handed over the paper. When he set off down an aisle, she idly followed after, her mind drifting back into its musings.
***
Dr. Elijah Trent parked his grandfather’s 1928 Ford Model A in the lot beside Murphy’s Market. As he climbed out, he was careful not to allow his door to collide with a bicycle standing nearby. Another battered bike leaned against the building. It looked as if it could use some serious repair work. He closed his door and took a deep breath of hot June air, then cast a glance overhead at the row of birds roosting on a clothesline that stretched between two apartment buildings across the street.
When he pulled open the whiny screen door, an array of aromas teased his nostrils, from freshly ground coffee beans to roasted peanuts in a barrel. As he stepped inside, a floorboard shrieked beneath his feet, as if to substantiate its long-term use.
“Afternoon,” said the shopkeeper, who glanced up from the cash register, where he stood, ringing up an order for a young pregnant woman. Beside her, a boy dutifully stuffed each item into a cloth bag. The young woman raised her head and glanced briefly at Eli, who sensed a certain tenseness in her chestnut-colored eyes. Then, she shifted her gaze back to the clerk.
“Say, ain’t you Doc Trent’s grandson?” the man asked.
“That I am, sir. Elijah Trent. But most people call me Eli.”
The clerk stopped ringing items for a moment and gave him an up-and-down glance. “Heard you’re takin’ over the old fellow’s practice. That’s mighty fine o’ you. I understand you graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, an’ you worked at a Detroit hospital for two years, but you were itchin’ for small-town livin’. Timing’s good, since Doc’s retirin’. S’pose you two been plannin’ this for quite a while now, eh? Hate to see Wilson Trent retire, but most folks seem to think it’ll be good to get in some new blood. Get it? Blood?” He gave a hearty chortle, causing his rotund chest to jiggle up and down.
Eli smiled at the friendly man. “It sounds like Grandfather’s been keeping everyone well-informed.”
“He sure has. Plus, the Plain Dealer wrote up that article ’bout you.”
“Yes, I heard that.”
The woman shifted her narrow frame and fingered one of her short, brown curls, but she kept her eyes focused on the counter. Beside her, the freckle-faced youngster poked his head around the back of her and met Elijah’s gaze. They stared at each other for all of three seconds, but when Eli smiled, the boy quickly looked forward again.
As the clerk resumed ringing up their order, Eli reached inside his hip pocket and grabbed the short list his grandfather had scrawled in his somewhat shaky handwriting. In Detroit, he’d taken most of his meals at the hospital. Helping his grandfather in the kitchen would be an entirely new experience. At least it would be only temporary, until Grandfather’s housekeeper of twenty-odd years, Winifred Carmichael, returned from her two-week vacation out West.
“You lookin’ for anythin’ in particular?” the clerk asked.
“Nothing I can’t find on my own, sir.”
“Pick up one o’ them baskets by the door for stashin’ what you need. Name’s Harold, by the way. Harold Murphy. I’ve owned this place goin’ on thirty years now.”
Eli bent to pick up a basket. He hadn’t thought to bring along a sack in which to carry the items home. The store he had occasioned in Detroit had offered brown paper bags, but the trend didn’t seem to have caught on in Wabash just yet. “Yes, I recall coming here with my grandmother as a kid.”
“And I remember you, as well, with that sandy hair o’ yours and that there dimple in your chin.”
“Is that so? You have a good memory, Mr. Murphy.”
A pleased expression settled on the clerk’s face. “You used to ogle my candy jars and tug at your grandmother’s arm. ’Course, she’d always give in. She couldn’t resist your pleadin’. Seems to me you always managed to wrangle some chewin’ gum out o’ her before I finished ringin’ her order.”
“It’s amazing you remember that.”
“Well, some things just stick in my memory for no particular reason.” He glanced across the counter at the freckle-faced boy. “Young Andy, here, he’s the Hershey’s chocolate bar type. Ain’t that right, Andy?”
The lad’s head jerked up, and he looked from Mr. Murphy to the woman beside him. “Yes, sir. C-c-can I g-get one today, Sofie?”
Her slender shoulders lifted and drooped with a labored sigh. “I suppose, but don’t expect any other treats today.”
“I won’t.”
The brief tête-à-tête allowed Eli the chance to disappear down an aisle in search of the first item on his list: sugar. He found it about the same time the screen door whined open once more, with the exit of the young woman and the boy. Next, Eli spotted the bread at the end of the aisle. He picked up a loaf and nestled it in the basket, next to the box of sugar.
“Well, I think it’s plain disgraceful, her coming into town and flaunting herself like that. My stars, has she not an ounce of decency? And what, pray tell, is she teaching that brother of hers by not keeping herself concealed?”
“I must agree, it’s quite appalling,” said another.
Eli’s ears perked up at the sound of female scoffs coming from the other side of the shelving unit at the back of the store. He stilled, slanted his head, and leaned forward. If he could push a few cans and boxed goods to the side without creating a commotion, he might manage a partial view of the gossips.
“I always did wonder about her and that pitiable little brother of hers, living all alone on the far edge of town. No telling what sort of man put her in a motherly way. Why, if I were in her place, I’d have gone off to stay with some relative in another state. One would think she’d have somewhere she could go. She could have birthed the child, given it to some worthy family, and come back to Wabash, and no one would’ve been the wiser.”
The other gossip cleared her throat. “Perchance her ‘lover’ won’t hear of her leaving, and she doesn’t dare defy him. She always did come off as rather defenseless, wouldn’t you say?” 
“Yes, yes, and very reclusive. Never was one to join any charity groups or ladies’ circles. Why, she doesn’t even attend church, to my knowledge. As I said before, the whole thing is disgraceful.”
Eli shuffled around the corner and stopped at the end of the next row, where he picked up a couple of cans of beans, even though they weren’t on Grandfather’s list, and dropped them into his basket with a clatter. The chattering twosome immediately fell silent. Eli cast a casual glance in their direction, and he almost laughed at their poses of feigned nonchalance. One was studying the label on a box, while the other merely stared at a lower shelf, her index finger pressed to her chin.
When Eli started down the aisle, both of them looked up, so he nodded. “Afternoon, ladies.”
The more buxom of the two batted her eyelashes and plumped her graying hair, then nearly blinded him with a fulsome smile. “Well, good afternoon to you.”  She put a hand to her throat. “My goodness. You’re Doc Trent’s grandson?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Well, I’ll be. I overheard you talking with Harold, but I didn’t lay eyes on you until now.” She perused him up and down. “You sure are a handsome devil.” 
“Oh, for mercy’s sake, Bessie, mind your manners.” The second woman bore a blush of embarrassment. “Don’t pay her any heed, Doctor. She’s such a tease.” She extended a hand. “I’m Clara Morris, the sheriff’s wife, and this is Bessie Lloyd. Her husband owns Lloyd’s Shoe Store, over on Market Street. Welcome to Wabash, Dr. Trent. We read about your impending arrival in the newspaper. I hope you find yourself feeling right at home here.”
“I’m sure I will.” Eli shifted his shopping basket and extended a hand first to Mrs. Morris, then to the annoying Mrs. Lloyd. He would have liked to remind them that two upstanding women in the community ought to put a lock on their lips, lest they tarnish their own reputations, but he hadn’t come to Wabash with the intention of making instant enemies, so he restrained himself. “Nice meeting you ladies. You have a good day, now.”
He glanced to his left and, seeing a shelf with maple syrup, snatched a can and tossed it into his basket. Casting the women one last smile, he headed down the aisle in search of the remaining items.
“My, my,” he heard Mrs. Lloyd mutter. “I think it may be time for me to switch physicians.” 
“But you’ve been seeing Dr. Stewart for years,” Mrs. Morris said. “What about your bad knee?”
“Pfff, never mind that. I’d much rather look into that young man’s blue eyes and handsome face than Dr. Stewart’s haggard mug. Why, if I were younger….”
Eli picked up his pace and made it out of earshot before she finished her statement.
Several minutes later, he’d rounded up everything on his list, so he made his way to the cash register. As he did, the voices of the two gabby women carried across the store. Evidently, they’d found a new topic of conversation. “I went to McNarney Brothers yesterday,” Mrs. Lloyd was saying, “and would you believe they raised the price of beef by five cents a pound? Don’t they know times are tight? Before you know it, folks won’t be able to afford to eat.”
“She could afford to go a few days without eatin’,” Harold Murphy muttered. His eyes never strayed from his task, as he keyed in the amount of each item before placing it back in the basket.
Eli covered his mouth with the back of his hand until his grin faded. He decided it was best to keep quiet on the matter. Something else bothered him, though, and he couldn’t resist inquiring. He leaned in, taking care to keep his voice down. “That girl…er, that woman, who left a bit ago, who is expecting….”
“Ah, Sofia Rogers? She was here with her little brother, Andy.” Mr. Murphy rang up the final item, the loaf of bread, and placed it gently atop the other goods. Then, he scratched the back of his head as his thin lips formed a frown. “It’s a shame, them two…well, them three, I guess you could say.” He glanced both ways, then lowered his head and whispered, “Don’t know who got her in that way, and I don’t rightly care. When she comes here, I just talk to her like nothin’s different. Figure it ain’t really my concern. I know there’s been talk about her bein’ loose, an’ all, but I can’t accept it. Never seen her with anybody but that little boy. She takes mighty fine care o’ him, too.”
“She’s his guardian, then?”
“Sure enough, ever since…oh, let’s see here…summer of twenty-four, it was. They lost their ma and pa in a terrible train wreck. They’d left Andy home with Sofie for a few days, whilst they went to a family funeral somewhere out West, little knowing their own funeral would be three days later.” The man shook his balding head.
The news got Eli’s gut to roiling. Even after all those years of medical school, which should have calloused him to pain and suffering, his heartstrings were wound as taut as ever. He needed to learn to toughen up. Needed to accept that, thanks to Adam and Eve’s fateful decision in the garden, bad things happened to innocent people; that he lived in an imperfect world in which evil often won.
“Where do they live, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Somewheres out on the southwest edge o’ town. River Road, I believe, just off o’ Mill Creek Pike.”
Eli didn’t know Wabash well, but his grandfather certainly did, having driven virtually every street within the town limits to make house calls. But what was he thinking? He ought to bop himself on the noggin. He knew next to nothing about this woman, and the last thing he needed upon taking over Wilson Trent’s medical practice was a reputation for sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.
Eli paid the shopkeeper and took up the basket. He had a good feeling about Harold Murphy. “Nice to see you again, sir. I’ll bring this basket back next time I come in…or shall I return it to you tonight?”
Harold flicked his wrist. “Naw, you bring it back whenever it’s convenient. You give ol’ Doc a hearty hello from me.”
“I’ll do that.” Eli turned and proceeded to the door, shoving it open with his shoulder. The first thing he noticed when he stepped outside was the absence of the two bikes, and it occurred to him then that Sofia and Andy Rogers had ridden to and from Murphy’s Market on those rickety contraptions. A woman in what looked to be her seventh month of pregnancy, riding a bike clear to the edge of town? In a dress? And in this heat?
This time, he did bop himself on the head.


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