Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dangerous Mercy - Chapter 1

Dangerous Mercy
David C. Cook (October 1, 2011)
Kathy Herman

Chapter 1

Adele Woodmore steadied herself with the hand-carved Black Forest cane she had bought in Germany and hurried across the living room and into the coat closet. She left the door cracked and dabbed the perspiration on her cheeks and nose with her monogrammed handkerchief.

“O-kaaay,” she sang out. “Come and find me.”

“Where are you, Addie?” the little voice replied.

“I’m over heeeere.” Adele smiled, wondering how she had survived all those years without knowing the joy of loving a child.

She heard the sound of little feet racing straight for the closet. The door slowly opened, and Grace Broussard, looking like a Hummel figurine with her rosy cheeks and blond pigtails, peered inside.

“Peek-a-boo. I find you!” The two-year-old squealed and clapped her hands with delight.

“Goodness! You found me again.” Adele came out of the closet and straightened Grace’s pink-and-white sundress. “Addie needs to cool off. This July humidity gets to me. Why don’t we sit down and have our ginger cookies and milk?”

“I want this many cookies.”

Adele met the child’s pleading gaze and kissed the three fingers she held up. “Why don’t we start with two and see if you’re still hungry? We don’t want to spoil your lunch.”

“I wuv cookies!”

Adele chuckled. “Me, too. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear we were related.”

She held Grace’s tiny hand and walked out to the kitchen and pushed the button on the intercom.

“Yes, Mrs. Woodmore?” Isabel Morand’s voice filled the room.

“We’re ready for that snack now, hon.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be right there.”

Grace’s topaz eyes grew wide and animated. “Where Izzybell?”

“She’s in the laundry room, darlin’. When I talk into that silver gadget on the wall, Isabel can hear me, and I can hear her. It saves Addie from having to shout or go looking for her.”

Grace cocked her head, a smile dimpling her cheeks.

“Clear as mud, eh?” Adele brushed the little wisps of curls that framed the child's face. “After we have our cookies, I’ll show you how it works.”

Isabel breezed through the door, her thick, dark hair falling over her shoulders and down to the middle of her back. “Ready to try those gingersnaps we made?”

Grace gave a nod. “I wuv cookies.”

“Let me get you some milk to go with it.”

Adele got Grace situated in her booster chair while Isabel set the plate of cookies, a glass of milk, and a sippy cup on the table.

The doorbell rang.

“Gee”—Isabel winked at Grace—“I wonder who that could be on a Monday morning?”

“It’s probably Murray,” Adele said. “Would you let him in, hon? I asked him to come paint that back bedroom a nice shade of pale blue. I’m not fond of lilac.… Why are you smiling?”

“I was just wondering what you’re going to do when you run out of things for Murray to fix, paint, or remodel.”

Adele felt her face warm. “He needs the work. And I always have something that needs attention. He’s the most reasonable handyman in Les Barbes.” Adele smiled in spite of herself. “Are you going to let him in or not?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m on my way.”

Isabel left to answer the door.

Half a minute later Murray Hamelin came into the kitchen, holding his gold New Orleans Saints cap in his hands, his carrot red hair showing a line where the hat had been. “Hello, Mrs. Woodmore. Little Miss Grace. I hope it’s okay that I brought Flynn Gillis from Haven House to help me move furniture so I can paint.”

“Of course it's okay.” Adele held up the plate of cookies. “Better take a handful of these gingersnaps with you. Take some for Flynn.”

“I wuv cookies!” Grace set her sippy cup down, using the back of her hand to wipe away a drop of milk that had escaped her smile.

“I knew that.” Murray took a generous handful of cookies off the plate, his boyish grin and red hair reminding Adele of Richie on Happy Days.

“Were you able to get the paint I picked out?” Adele asked.

“Sure was. Should be enough to do the job and leave a little for touch-ups later on.”

Touch-ups. Adele smiled to herself. That back bedroom would likely never be used. “Will you finish today?”

“I should. But I’ll need to let it dry. I’d like to bring Flynn back tomorrow to help move the furniture back—if that’s okay with you.”

“It is. I’ll be here.”

“We’ll go get started. Thanks for the cookies.”

“You’re welcome, hon. Come and go as you need to.”

“Murray is nice.” Grace’s words were muffled by a mouth full of gingersnap.

“He is nice.” Adele glanced up at Isabel. “And he’s a fine handyman. It’s always good to have someone I can trust.”

“Murray seems nice enough,” Isabel said. “But you really don’t know anything about him. Just because Father Vince discovered that Murray’s good with his hands is no guarantee that he’s honest.”

“I’m a pretty good judge of character, Isabel.”

“Ma’am, with all due respect, a few months ago he was homeless. Don’t you wonder why? How do you even know that he’s who he says he is? Or that you can trust that Flynn fella he brought with him? I saw him standing out in the driveway. His hair is longer than mine, and he looks tough as nails. He could be casing the place.”

Adele took a bite of cookie. “You let me worry about the people I hire. Murray’s been nothing but polite and efficient. If he needs Flynn to help move furniture, who am I to second-guess him? He deserves a chance to get back on his feet.”

“Maybe so. Just be cautious. You’re so trusting and accepting of everyone.”

Adele fingered the gold cross around her neck. “I don’t necessarily trust everyone, hon. But I trust God. He brings people into my life for a reason.” She smiled at Grace. “I take them as they come.”

“Well, they’re coming in the front door.” Isabel arched her eyebrows. “Take a look at this Flynn character, and see if you’re still comfortable letting him in your house.”

Adele heard the front door open and close again. A second later the two men stood at the kitchen door.

“Mrs. Woodmore, this is Flynn Gillis.” Murray nodded toward a man who reminded her of a young Willie Nelson.

“Nice to meet you,” Adele said.

Flynn gave a nod and mumbled something, never making eye contact.

“We’re going to get started now.” Murray tipped the bill of his cap.

“Good. I’ll be eager to see what a difference the pale blue makes.”

Murray and Flynn turned and walked down the hall.

“Well?” Isabel whispered.

“I’m not in the habit of judging a man by the length of his hair, hon. If Murray asked him over here, he trusts him. And I trust Murray.”

Isabel didn’t reply.

Adele mused. Of course she trusted Murray. Hadn’t he proven himself time and again? Yet something about Flynn was off-putting. Was it his long hair? His lack of manners? She couldn’t put her finger on it, but it was a moot point. He was already here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Captive Trail - Chapter 1

Captive Trail
Moody Publishers (September 1, 2011)
Susan Page Davis


Taabe Waipu huddled against the outside wall of the tepee and wept. The wind swept over the plains, and she shivered uncontrollably. After a long time,the stars came out and shone coldly on her. Where her tears had fallen, her dress was wet and clammy.

At last her sobs subsided. The girl called Pia came out of the lodge. She stood before Taabe and scowled down at her.

Taabe hugged herself and peered up at Pia. “Why did she slap me?” Pia shook her head and let out a stream of words in the Comanche language. Taabe had been with them several weeks, but she caught only a few words. The one Pia spat out most vehemently was “English.”

“English? She hit me because I am English?”

Pia shook her head and said in the Comanche’s tongue, “You are Numinu now. No English.”

Taabe’s stomach tightened. “But I’m hungry.”

Pia again shook her head.“You talk English.Talk Numinu.”

So much Taabe understood. She sniffed. “Can I come in now?”

“No,” Pia said in Comanche.


Pia stroked her fingers down her cheeks, saying another word in Comanche. Taabe stared at her. They would starve her and make her stay outside in winter because she had cried. What kind of people were these? Tears flooded her eyes again. Horrified, she rubbed hem away.

“Please.” She bit her lip. How could she talk in their language when she didn’t know the words?

She rubbed her belly, then cupped her hand and raised it to her mouth. Pia stared at her with hard eyes. She couldn’t be more than seven or eight years old, but she seemed to have mastered the art of disdain. She spoke again, and this time she moved her hands as she talked in the strange language.Taabe watched and listened.The impression she got was, “Wait.”

Taabe repeated the Comanche words. Pia nodded. Taabe leaned back against the buffalo hide wall and hugged herself, rubbing her arms through the leather dress they’d given her. Pia nodded and spoke. She made the “wait” motion and repeated the word, then made a “walking” sign with her fingers. Wait. Then walk. She ducked inside the tepee and closed the flap.

Taabe shivered. Her breath came in short gasps. She would not cry. She would not. She wiped her cheeks, hoping to remove all sign of tears. How long must she wait? Her teeth chattered. It is enough, she thought. I will not cry. I will not ask for food. I will not speak at all. Especially not English. English is bad. I must forget English. She looked to the sky. “Jesus,help me learn their language. And help me not to cry.” She thought of her mother praying at her bedside when she tucked her in at night. What was Ma doing now? Maybe Ma was crying too.

Stop it, Taabe told herself. Until they come for you, you must live the way the Comanche do. No, the Numinu. They call themselves Numinu. For now, that is what you are.You are TaabeWaipu,and you will not speak English.You will learn to speak Numinu, so you can eat and stay strong.

She hauled in a deep breath and rose. She tiptoed to the lodge entrance and lifted the edge of the flap. Inside she could see the glowing embers of the fire. The air was smoky, but it smelled good, like cooked food. She opened the flap just enough to let herself squeeze through. She crouched at the wall, as far from Pia’s mother as she could. The tepee was blessedly warm. If they didn’t give her food, she would just curl up and sleep. Since she had come here, she had often gone to bed hungry. Pia didn’t look at her.Pia’s mother didn’t look at her.Taabe lay down with her cheek on the cool grass. After a while it would feel warm.

She woke sometime later, shivering. Pia and her mother were rolled in their bedding on the other side of the fire pit. The coals still glowed faintly. Taabe sat up. Someone had dropped a buffalo robe beside her. She pulled it about her. No cooking pot remained near the fire. No food had been left for her. At least she had the robe. She curled up in it and closed her eyes, trying to think of the Comanche words for “thank you.” She wasn’t sure there were any. But she would not say it in English. Ever.



Faster. Taabe Waipu had to go faster, or she would never get down from the high plains,

down to the hill country and beyond. South, ever south and east. Clinging to the horse, she let him run.The land looked flat all around, though it was riddled with ravines and folds. She could no longer see any familiar landmarks. The moon and stars had guided her for two nights, and now the rising sun told her which way to go on her second day of flight. She’d snatched only brief periods of rest. At her urging the horse galloped on, down and up the dips and hollows of the land.

Taabe didn’t know where the next water supply lay. The only thing she knew was that she must outrun the Numinu— Comanche, their enemies called them. No one traveled these plains without their permission.Those who tried didn’t make it out again. She glanced over her shoulder in the gray dawn. As far as she could see, no one followed, but she couldn’t stop. They were back there, somewhere. She urged the horse on toward the southeast. South to the rolling grasslands where the white men had their ranches.Where Peca and the other men often went to raid. Where Taabe was born.

The compact paint stallion ran smoothly beneath her, but as the sun rose and cast her shadow long over the Llano Estacado, his breath became labored,his stride shorter.Where her legs hugged his sleek sides, her leggings dampened with his sweat. He was a good horse, this wiry paint that Peca had left outside her sister’s tepee. Without him she wouldn’t have gotten this far. But no horse could run forever.

Taabe slowed him to a trot but didn’t dare rest. Not yet. Another look behind. No one. Would she recognize the house she’d once lived in? She didn’t think so, but she imagined a big earthen lodge, not a tepee. Or was it a cabin made of logs? That life was a shadow world in her mind now. Fences. The warriors talked about the fences built by the white men, around their gardens and their houses. She thought she recalled climbing a fence made of long poles and sitting on the top. When she saw fences, she would know she was close.

At last she came to a shallow stream, sliding between rocks and fallen trees. It burbled languidly where it split around a boulder. She let the horse wade in and bend down to drink. Taabe stayed on his back while he drank in long, eager gulps, keeping watch over the way they’d come. She needed to find a sheltered place where the horse could graze and rest. Did she dare stop for a while? She studied the trail behind her then took her near-empty water skin from around her neck. Leaning over the paint’s side, she dangled it by its thong in the water on the horse’s upstream side. She wouldn’t dismount to fill it properly, but she could stay in the saddle and scoop up a little.She straightened and checked the trail again.The horse took a step and continued to drink. She stroked his withers, warm and smooth. With a wry smile, she remembered the bride price Peca had left. Six horses staked out before the tepee.A stallion and five mares—pretty mares. Healthy, strong mounts. But only six.

The stallion raised his head at last and waded across the stream without her urging. They settled into a steady trot. Tomorrow or the next day or the next, she would come to a land with many trees and rivers. And many houses of the whites.

Would she have stayed if Peca had left twenty horses? Fifty? Not for a thousand horses would she have stayed in the village and married Peca—or any other warrior. Staying would make it impossible for her ever to go back to that other world—the world to the south.

Eagerness filled her, squeezing out her fear. She dug her heels into the stallion’s ribs.Whatever awaited her,she rushed to meet it.

The paint lunged forward and down. His right front hoof sank,and he didn’t stop falling.Taabe tried to brace herself,too late.The horse’s body continued to fly up and around.She hurtled off to the side and tucked her head.

“Today’s the day, Ned.”


Ned Bright coiled his long driver’s whip and grinned at his partner in the stagecoach business, Patrillo Garza. He and “Tree” had scraped up every penny and peso they could t outfit their ranch as a stage stop, in hopes of impressing the Butterfield Overland Mail Company’s division agent. Their efforts had paid off. Tree was now the station agent at the Bright-Garza Station, and Ned would earn his keep as driver between the ranch and Fort Chadbourne.

“Never thought everything would go through and we’d be carrying the mail.”

“Well, it did, and as of today we’re delivering,” Tree said. “Now, remember—the mail is important, but not at the passengers’ expense.”


Ned took his hat from a peg on the wall and fitted it onto his head with the brim at precisely the angle he liked. “But if we lose the mail on our first run, we’re not apt to keep the contract, are we?”

Tree scowled. “We ain’t gonna lose the mail, ya hear me?”

“I hear you.”

“Right. We’ve made this run hundreds of times.”

It was true. The two had hauled freight and passengers to the forts for several years. They’d scraped by. But the contract with the Butterfield Overland would mean steady pay and good equipment. Reimbursement if they were robbed.

Naomi's Gift - Chapter 1

Naomi's Gift
Zondervan (September 12, 2011)
Amy Clipston

Chapter 1

Caleb sucked in a deep breath as the taxi van bounced down Route 340 toward Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. After nearly a decade, he’d returned to the town of his birth. He clasped his hands together. Why was he nervous? This was supposed to be a happy reunion with his family, and yet, his palms were sweaty with anticipation despite the biting December wind.

Dat!” Susie said, grabbing the sleeve of his coat and yanking with one hand while pointing toward the indoor farmers market with the other hand. “Dat! Can we stop there? Can we? Please? Please?”

“Why would we stop there?” he asked. “We have a farmers market back home that’s much the same.”

She blew out an exasperated sigh and glowered with annoyance. “To get a gift for Aenti Sadie, of course. Teacher Linda says that you should always bring a nice dessert to dinner. Please, Dat? I’ll pick something out fast like we do at the market at home.” She batted her eyelashes and gave her prettiest and cutest smile. “Pretty please, Dat?” She looked like a mirror of her beautiful mother, and his heart turned over in his chest. At the tender age of eight, Caleb Schmucker’s
daughter already knew how to wrap him around her little finger.

He gave a sigh of defeat, and Susie clapped her hands while grinning with triumph.

“Driver?” Caleb asked. “Could we please make a quick stop at the farmers market?”

The middle-aged man nodded and merged into the parking lot.

“We have to make this quick,” Caleb said as the van steered into a parking space. “Your aenti and onkel are expecting us. They know that our train arrived less than an hour ago and will worry if we don’t get to their house soon.”

“I’ll be quick. I promise.” Susie nodded, and the ties to her black winter bonnet bobbed up and down on her black wrap. “We should find a nice pie to bring for Aenti Sadie.”

“That sounds gut.” Caleb touched her nose and smiled. Oh how he adored his little girl. There was no greater love in his life.

Except for Barbara.

Pushing the thought from his mind, he took Susie’s little hand in his and they climbed from the van. He glanced across the parking lot toward the highway, and his eyes fell on the Kauffman & Yoder Amish Furniture Store, owned by an old family friend, Eli Kauffman. Caleb’s elder sister, Sadie, had married Robert, the oldest of the Kauffman sons, while the youngest Kauffman son, Timothy, had been Caleb’s best school friend. He wondered how his old friend was doing these days. He would have to stop by and visit him before he and Susie returned to Ohio.

Dat!” Susie yanked Caleb toward the entrance to the farmers market. “Let’s go.”

Caleb stifled a laugh. The little girl had her mother’s impatience too. “I’m coming, mei liewe.”

They stepped through the double doors and the holiday smells of freshly baked cookies and breads, spices, and pine assaulted Caleb’s senses. The market bustled with customers, English and Amish, rushing to the many booths. Scanning the area, Caleb spotted booths for baked goods, jellies and jams, crafts and gifts, and paintings. A sea of shoppers pushed past Caleb and he dropped his hold of Susie’s hand as he approached the baked goods counter.

“What kind of pie did you want to get, Susie?” Caleb asked. “Do you think a pumpkin pie or apple?” When his daughter didn’t answer, he turned around and found a group of English customers pushing toward the counter.

“Susie?” he called. “Susie?” He glanced through the crowd, finding only unfamiliar faces. “Susan? Susan?” Caleb’s heart raced as he pushed through the knot of holiday shoppers, searching for his only child. “Susan!”

Naomi King straightened a king-size Lone Star patterned quilt and glanced at her best friend Lilly Lapp, who was glancing through the order book. “I can’t believe Christmas is next week. Where has the year gone?”

Lilly shook her head. “I don’t know. That’s a very good question.” An English customer approached and began asking Lilly questions about custom ordering a queen-size quilt as a gift.

Turning her back to the counter, Naomi hummed to herself while mentally listing all she had to do before Christmas. She still needed to shop for her parents and her eight siblings. And then there was the baking for the cookie exchange. And she had to — 

“Excuse me,” a little voice asked, interrupting her mental tirade.

Naomi spun to find a little girl leaning over the counter and pointing toward the king-size Lone Star quilt Naomi was draping over a wooden dowel. “May I help you?”

The girl adjusted the black bonnet on her head. “Did you make that?”

Naomi nodded. “Ya, I did.”

“It’s schee.” The girl studied the quilt, her eyebrows knitting together in concentration. “My mamm made a quilt like this once, only she used blues and creams instead of maroons.”

Naomi smiled. “I bet that was schee.”

“Can I touch it?”

“Of course.” Naomi held the quilt out, and the girl ran her hand over it.

The girl studied the quilt, her eyes trained on the intricate star pattern. “My mamm promised she would teach me how to quilt someday.”

“I bet she will. I think I was about your age when my mamm started teaching me.”

The girl looked up, and Naomi was struck by her deep green eyes. They reminded Naomi of the deep green the pasture turned every spring.

“My mamm is gone,” the girl said, her expression serious.

“Gone?” Naomi set the dowel in the rack and leaned over the counter. “What do you mean?”

“She’s in heaven with -Jesus.” The girl ran her fingers over the counter.

Naomi gasped, cupping a hand to her mouth. “I’m so sorry. You must miss her.”

“I do. I was only — ” she began.

“Susan!” A man rushed over, his expression full of fear. He placed his hands on the girl’s shoulders and angled her to face him. He crouched down and met her at eye level. “I turned my head for a moment and you took off. Do you know how much you scared me? I thought I’d lost you. What were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry, Dat.” The girl shook her head, tears filling her striking eyes. “I saw the quilt stand, and I wanted to come see the quilts.”

The man sighed and closed his eyes for a split second. Standing, he took her hand in his. “Don’t do that ever again.” His voice pleaded with her. “Promise me?”

“Ya.” A tear trickled down her rosy cheek, and she sniffed.

His expression became tender, and Naomi’s heart swelled.

“Don’t cry, Susie,” he said, brushing her tears away with his fingertip. “It’s okay, mei liewe. You’re all right, and that’s all that matters.” He glanced toward the clock on the wall. “We need to get going. Your aenti is expecting us.” He turned to Naomi. “I’m sorry for creating such a scene. My dochder took off and scared me so.”

Naomi opened her mouth to speak, but her voice was stuck in her throat for a moment. Her eyes were lost in his, which were the same deep shade of emerald as the girl’s.

“It was no bother,” Naomi finally said. “We were having a nice discussion about quilts. I’m sorry she scared you.”

“Danki.” He glanced at his daughter. “We must be going.” He turned back to Naomi. “Frehlicher Grischtdaag.” He smiled, and his handsome face was kind. Yet, there was something sad in his gorgeous eyes. Naomi surmised it was the loss of his wife. Her heart ached for him.

Before she could respond to his Christmas greetings, the man and the girl were gone. He held the girl’s hand as they turned the corner. The girl waved at Naomi, and Naomi waved back, her heart touched by the sweet gesture.

The customer who had been chatting with Lilly walked away from the stand.

“What happened?” Lilly asked, leaning over to Naomi.

“What?” Naomi asked, searching the crowd for the man and girl.

“What was all the commotion with the man and the girl?” Lilly closed the order book.

“The girl wandered off from her father, and he was worried about her.” Naomi leaned against the counter. “She told me that her mother made quilts.”

“Oh, that’s sweet.”

“Ya, it is.” Naomi lifted a twin-size quilt from the bag below the counter and began to fold it. “But she also said her mother had died.”

Lilly frowned and shook her head. “How bedauerlich.”

“Ya, I know.” Naomi glanced toward the door, wishing she could see the girl just one more time. “There was such sadness in her eyes. I saw it in her father’s eyes too.”

“I can imagine that the sadness was from losing her.” Lilly
straightened the pens by the register. “I know how hard it was to lose my mamm, and I’m much older than she is.”

Naomi touched Lilly’s arm. “I know. There was just something . . .” She let her voice trail off and pushed the thought away. She’d been burned more than once by misreading her own thoughts and feelings. It was silly to even consider she’d felt something for the man and the girl, but the feeling was strong, deep in her gut. She’d wanted to hug the girl and ask her how long her mother had been gone, to take away some of the pain in her eyes.

But that wasn’t Naomi’s business. She didn’t even know the girl or her father. She’d never seen them before. She wondered which district they belonged to. Were they from Lancaster County or were they visiting for the holidays? Now she would never know. The moment was gone and so were the girl and her father.

“What is it?” Lilly asked, a grin splitting her pretty face. She jammed a hand on the hip of her purple frock. “You’re scheming something, Naomi King.”

“Don’t be gegisch.” Naomi draped the quilt over a dowel. “I was just thinking about that poor little girl without a mother. My heart goes out to her.”

“Is that it? Or were you thinking about her father who misses his wife?”

Naomi frowned. “Please, Lilly. I don’t know his name or even what district he’s a member of. There’s no such thing as love at first sight. Love is a feeling that grows over time. It can’t just appear out of thin air.”

Lilly’s expression was pensive. “You’re different than you were when you were seeing Timothy Kauffman.”

Naomi shrugged. “No, I’m not different. I just matured. My mamm told me I was boy crazy and made a fool of myself the way I ran after Luke Troyer and then Timothy.”

Lilly touched Naomi’s shoulder. “That’s not true. You were never a fool.”

“Ya, I was.” Naomi cleared her throat to prevent a lump from swelling in her throat as the humiliation rained down on her. She could still feel the sting of her mother’s harsh words after she and Timothy broke up. “My mamm told me that I need to concentrate on my family and stop worrying about finding a husband. So, my focus now is my siblings. If I’m meant to find love, God will bring it into my life. But honestly, I think God wants me to help my mamm raise my eight siblings.”

Lilly shook her head. “You don’t honestly believe that, Naomi. God wants us to get married and have kinner.”

Naomi busied herself with hanging the quilt onto the rack in order to avoid Lilly’s probing stare. “Ya, I do believe it. I tried love twice and failed. That was the sign that I wasn’t meant to find true love, if there even is a true love for me.”

“Naomi.” Lilly took Naomi’s hand and gave her a gentle smile. “Listen to me. I didn’t think there was a true love for me, but I was wrong.”

Naomi raised an eyebrow in surprise. “You found love?”

Lilly’s cheeks flushed a bright pink.

“Why haven’t you told me?” Naomi asked. “I thought I was your best friend.”

“You are.” Lilly sighed and sat on a stool. “We were going to keep it a secret until we get published next year.”

Naomi gasped. “You’re getting married?”

Lilly smiled, and Naomi shrieked and hugged her.

“Is it Zach Fisher?” Naomi asked.

Lilly nodded. “I wanted to tell you, but we’re trying to keep it a secret.”

Naomi smiled. “That’s wunderbaar. You deserve to be froh.”

Lilly touched Naomi’s arm. “You do too. God will lead you to the path He wants, and I believe He wants you to find true love. You’ve been hurt in the past, but that doesn’t mean you’re meant to be alone.” She gave a gentle smile. “Just remember this verse from Corinthians: ‘And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.’ ”

Naomi nodded in agreement, but she struggled to believe she was meant to be with someone.

“Excuse me,” an English customer said, approaching the counter. “I would like to pick up a -couple of quilts for my kids for Christmas. Do you have any queen-size quilts available that are Christmassy?”

“Yes, ma’am, we do,” Lilly said, moving to the rack. “Let me show you what I have here.”

As Lilly pulled out two quilts, Naomi glanced toward the market exit and wondered where the handsome widower and his daughter were headed when they left.

Here’s to Friends - Chapter 1

Here’s to Friends
David C. Cook (September 1, 2011)
Melody Carlson

Chapter 1


Still trying to catch her breath and barely able to put one heavy foot in front of the other, Abby shuffled her way into the women’s locker room. Feeling twice her actual age, she eased herself down onto the only unoccupied bench and gazed blankly around the steamy room as women in various stages of undress—with firm, sleek, healthy bodies—paraded themselves around as if they were trying to rub it in.

Lowering her eyes in defeat she stared down at her pudgy white thighs and suddenly found herself craving cottage cheese. Without a doubt, she had lost her ever-loving mind. Why else would she have allowed Janie and Caroline to talk her into this? And why would she have bragged to Paul about her grandiose plan to join the fitness club. “I’m starting tomorrow,” she’d boasted last night. “After I become a member, I’ll start of by taking—what’s it called—a circuit something class, I think that’s what Caroline said.”

“You’re starting with a circuit training class?” he frowned at her. “You sure you want to do that?”

“Janie and Caroline said it’s really fun. A bunch of women in one class with upbeat music working out. It’s probably like aerobic dance. I loved doing that back when the girls were little.”

His mouth twisted to one side. “Yeah, but circuit training is hard work, Abby.”

“Are you saying I can’t do it?”

He shook his head. “I’m saying you should start with something easier. When I joined the club, I started with a trainer and a special—”

“Yeah, well, you were recovering from a heart attack, Paul. I’m in a lot better shape than you were.”

He looked skeptical.

“I’ve been walking three or four times a week. I’ve even lost a little weight this fall.”

“Yeah…but starting out with circuit training—”

“Why do you always have to rain on my parade?”

“Because I know you, Abby.”


“Meaning if you start out with something too tough, you’ll give up.”

“I will not!”

“I’ll be you don’t last a week.”

“I will!” she insisted. “You’ll see. I’m going to join the club and take that class. And maybe I’ll go in five days a week at first, to jump start things. I could swim on Tuesdays and Thursdays and—”

“Why don’t you just use that a free one week coupon I gave you,” he suggested. “Just to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you plunk down all that dough.”

“I know what I’m getting into. Janie and Caroline swear by that class. They go three times a week—and love it.”

He looked like he wanted to say something, but stopped himself. “All I’m saying is that the club is pretty expensive, Abby, and I think—”

“You think I’m not worth it?” She shook her fist at him. “Sure, it’s fine for you to belong to the club, but poor old Abby doesn’t deserve—”

“That’s not what I’m saying.” His brow creased. “You’re worth it. I just don’t want to see you pay all that money up front and then change your mind.” And, of course, this was his opportunity to start listing all the activities Abby had started but never finished. But instead of falling for that old bait and getting into a ridiculous fight, Abby had taken their counselor’s advice and the high road.

“If you love me,” she calmly informed him, “you will support me in this. I’m making a healthy decision for my life and you should respect that, Paul.”

He held up his hands in a surrender position. “Fine. Just take it easy, okay? Don’t kill yourself on the first day. Remember slow and steady wins the race. Pace yourself.”

“That’s exactly what I plan to do.”

But like mice and men, Abby’s plan had fallen by the wayside today. It wasn’t so much that she was trying to impress anyone in the circuit training class. She knew better than that. But going from station to station, attempting to figure out the confusing machines and realistic weight amounts and form was more than she’d bargained for when she’d joined the club and paid her membership fees this morning. And trying to stay one step ahead of the perky energetic woman who followed Abby in the circuit had been no picnic either. The petite blond kept nipping at Abby’s heels. “You know there’s a special class for people who don’t know how to properly use the equipment,” she sniped as Abby untangled herself from one of the machines.

As she tried to hurry along, Abby decided to call this snippy woman Trixie (after an ill-tempered Chihuahua the girls had begged her to get for them long ago—fortunately Paul got fed up and found the feisty dog another home).

“Maybe you should try out the pool aerobics,” Trixie said in a snarky tone. “I hear the older ladies really enjoy the slower pace.” She folded her toned arms across her flat front, leaning against a pole and scowling darkly as she waited for Abby to move to the next machine.

The last straw came about midway through the class. Abby knew it was midway because she kept one eye on the lethargic clock the entire time—she’d never seen a minute hand move so slowly. But when Trixie laughed loudly to discover that Abby had been using the biceps machine with no weights actually plugged into it, it was just too much.

“You gotta be kidding,” Trixie said in a deriding tone. “You’ll never get into shape doing that.”

Fed up and worn out, Abby had released the handle, letting the bar slam loudly back into the machine, which she knew was a no-no. Then glaring at Trixie, she’d turned on the heel of her frumpy walking shoes and stormed out of there. No doubt, Trixie had been hugely relieved. Right now, she was probably telling everyone how hopeless and out-of-shape Abby was—and how fat old women like her should be banned from circuit training and maybe the whole fitness club altogether. So humiliating.

At least Caroline and Janie, stuck in a bank appointment regarding Caroline’s mother’s estate, hadn’t been there to witness her embarrassment. That was something to be thankful for. What had made her think could pull off something like this? She felt like crying. Paul had been right—she had wasted their money. She really was a failure.

As she slowly stood, searching the room for some sort of a stall or private area where she could discretely disrobe, she wondered how hard it would be to convince the club to refund her membership fee. Maybe there was some sort of 24 hour cancellation clause. She would have to find out. But first she needed to find a place to change.

“Excuse me,” she asked one of the only women with clothes on. “Where are the changing rooms?”

The woman laughed, waving her hand around the open area. “This is it.”

“Oh.” Abby nodded stiffly. “Yes…okay…I’m new here.” Wondering why she hadn’t noticed this insane lack of privacy when she’d been given the tour of the club this morning, Abby picked up a white towel from the neat stack and sniffed it. At least it smelled clean. And it was actually rather soft and thick. Nice. As were many of the other amenities that had distracted Abby from noticing the absence of dressing stalls earlier.

It figured that she’d been too busy checking out things like attractive tile designs and chic light fixtures and rain shower heads, too distracted by fluff to be concerned with function. And, she reminded herself, she’d arrived here in her workout clothing (workout clothing that, like her, was out of style and out of shape) but consequently she’d had no need for a changing room then. And, really, she should just get over herself and strip down and not worry about what anyone else thought. That’s probably what Caroline and Janie did when they were here—why couldn’t Abby?

“Janie and I have so much fun at the club,” Caroline had told Abby and Marley last week at the Clifden Coffee House. The four Lindas had been discussing their upcoming cruise, talking about things like spray-on tans, waist-trimming swimsuits, and how they only had six weeks to get into shape. Motivation was high. Especially with the holidays upon them. And, for Abby, the initial thrill of winning her Mexican cruise for four was quickly turning into high anxiety. She hadn’t purchased a new swimsuit since her girls were small. And the sorry threadbare thing she wore in the hot tub was not fit for public viewing. Neither was her body!

“You and Marley really should come try out the club,” Caroline urged Abby. “We can get you free passes.”

“I know,” Abby said, “Paul’s always telling me that.”

“But if you guys joined, we could do classes together,” Janie said. “We could encourage each other to get fit.”

“And the club’s running a special until the end of the year,” Caroline told them. “If two people sign up, the second one is half off. You guys could split it.”

“I don’t know.” Marley shook her head with a doubtful expression. “I’ve never really been a fitness club sort of girl. I think I’d rather do yoga or pilates.”

“They have those classes too,” Janie told her.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Doctor's Lady - Chapter 1

The Doctor's Lady
Bethany House (September 1, 2011)
Jody Hedlund

The Doctor's Lady

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wings of A Dream - Chapter 1

Wings of A Dream
Bethany House (September 1, 2011)
Anne Mateer

Wings of a Dream

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To Have and to Hold - Chapter 1

Bluegrass Peril
Bethany House (September 1, 2011)
Tracie Peterson

Judith Miller

To Have and To Hold

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Whisper of Peace - Chapter 1

A Whisper of Peace
Bethany House (September 1, 2011)
Kim Vogel Sawyer

A Whisper of Peace