Royal Skater Chronicles
Skating for Grace
Excerpt from Skating for Grace...
Jacqueline joined Brian as he walked the beach, water splashing at her bare feet. It felt good. Brian told her a little bit of the history of the place. His eyes shone when he talked about the extravagant projects planned for the near future.
He laughed and told her that the locals liked to show that they could keep up with the world. Jacqueline allowed his voice to wash over her. She didn’t care what he talked about. As she walked through the water, she suddenly felt the pressure of the past half year. It was as though it threatened to crush her and leave her buried. To take another step would be too much for her. She felt her strength drain out of her, and she slowly sank down into the wet sand. She sat there gasping for breath. Brian, who had stopped talking, continued to walk until he realized that she was not next to him. He turned to find her sitting on the wet sand, head in her hands, gasping for air. Quickly he was by her side.
“Hey,” he said softly and put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right?”
She couldn’t answer. Jacqueline buried her face in her arms as tears streamed down her face. She didn’t have the strength to talk. Brian just sat next to her, arms wrapped around his knees, until the tears stopped and her breathing returned to normal.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped. “Am I too young to have a nervous breakdown?” she croaked and shot him a crooked smile. “I don’t normally break down in front of people like this.”
“It’s okay,” he mumbled. “With your schedule I’m surprised you are not in the nut house. I don’t know how you do it.”
“Me neither,” she whispered and wiped away her tears. Her parents would be mortified if they knew that she had fallen apart like this. They sat side by side, not talking, and Jacqueline felt the strength slowly returning to her limbs. Her feet started to tingle from the cool water. She looked out to the sea, enjoying the quiet.
“I am so tired,” she whispered. “I just want to sit and watch the waves. I don’t think I can do anything else. Isn’t that horrible?”
“No,” Brian answered. “I guess I can understand it completely. What you do is pretty amazing.”
Learning to Trust
Jacqueline Chevalier has her share of ups and downs since becoming a Christian. She has to learn that even though Christ may be with her, she's not exempt from the pain and suffering that can happen in this world. The one constant is her friendship with the twins, Brian and Grace. She finds herself more and more drawn to Brian, who has many objections to her relationship with Christ. Is there a future for them, even though he doesn't believe the same as Jacqueline? Jacqueline must learn to rely on Christ in every circumstance in her life, including skating and her relationships.
Will she be able to trust God???
Excerpt from Learning to Trust...
Even though Jacqueline was dying of thirst she picked up the dirty cup and threw its contents at baghead. He cursed and spun around to stomp up the stairs.
“You’ll be sorry for that!” he yelled.
Jacqueline breathed heavily. That felt good! She wasn’t going to sit here and take whatever they had to dish out. She was going to make this as difficult for her captors as she possibly could. Next on the agenda: formulating a plan of escape.
From her vantage point it looked pretty impossible. She pulled at her metal tethers, trying to find any weakness.
Hot tears ran down Jacqueline's cheeks again. She got up slowly and walked around the room, avoiding the junk pile. Upon inspection, Jacqueline found windows up high, but they had been barred and covered with thick, black material from the outside. If only she could get up there to remove the black covering and let light in. She looked at he junk pile and shuddered. Weakness overwhelmed her and Jacqueline decided to wait until later. She barely made it back to her haven of safety; the filthy mattress.
Once there, she closed her eyes, willing herself to fall asleep. But sleep did not come. The mice scattered around the room, keeping her awake. She was fearful of any noise. The terror of thinking that her captors might be returning kept her from sleep. Every time Jacqueline heard their footfalls above her, their laughter and loud voices, she trembled. Listening to them for what seemed hours, she figured out that there were at least five different people up there. The voices she heard were all male voices. Dread gripped her and caused her to roll up in a tight ball again, shaking uncontrollably. Then she remembered. She was not alone, and yet she was. The darkness crept into her making her afraid to move.
Jacqueline must have fallen asleep finally. The voices upstairs had become quiet. Nobody moved around except for her mice company. The room was pitch black and she could see nothing. She didn’t know if her eyes were open or closed. Her stomach rumbled and complained and she was weak with thirst.
Then she remembered!
Help me! she cried out weakly. Help me, Lord!
In this third installation of the Royal Skater Chronicles, Jacqueline Chevalier is finally free to live her life outside the strict confines of her family and the expectations that come with it. She finds that she struggles with things she never had to deal with before. Jacqueline has to learn to balance her desire to pursue a dream to become a vet with her demanding training schedule. She has to figure out her priorities and how they fit in with her dreams. Her relationships become more complicated. In short, she is learning to become an adult.
Tragedy strikes everyone, even the royal family of Lichtenbourgh.
Jacqueline finds herself in the midst of it and is personally affected by the sins of others. It changes her future forever.
Excerpt from Broken...
After half an hour every guest had been greeted and her feet were beginning to throb. Jacqueline made a beeline for the dessert table, which held her favorite snacks. She looked to see if anyone was watching her. The coast seemed clear as guests walked around the room oohing and aahing over the little islands. Their laughter and voices vibrated throughout the room.
Just as she was about to sneak a little dainty pastry, someone knocked into her gently.
“I’m so sorry, Miss. Oh, pardon me, Princess Jacqueline.” The offender flashed her a brilliant smile.
She was tempted to shield her eyes against the brightness. She almost burst out laughing but hid it behind a discreet cough.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the gentleman said as he puffed out his chest, his crisp white shirt stretching to its limit underneath the tuxedo.
Jacqueline forced her lips into that well-practiced sweet, innocent smile, hoping she would not burst out laughing. When he reached for her hand to slobber it with kisses, the hilarity of the moment passed very quickly.
“My name is Tony Beiler, from Switzerland. My father, Joseph Beiler, has recently opened our export business to your family. We trade in cheese, the finest cheese, in Switzerland.”
She attempted to remove her hand from his grasp. “Herr Beiler, it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Her smile didn't waver one bit, even though she fought to keep her voice sweet and gentle.
“Would you do me the honor of a dance, once the musicians start?” her tall, muscular companion asked smugly, and looked around as though he was daring someone to interfere.
It's just one dance, it's just one dance.
“Why, of course,” she answered as kindly as she could.
This is going to be a long night.
Herr Beiler gallantly offered her his arm and she was forced to take it, trying not to wince at the strength of his grasp. Slowly her fingers were beginning to go numb as the blood supply was cut off. As they walked around the room, he made a point to stop and chat with different guests with whom he was acquainted. Jacqueline was beginning to feel very much like a trapped lobster, unable to get away. When little trays full of appetizers passed by her, she managed to fill a plate.
Eating would be a challenge.
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Restoring the Locust Years
Jacqueline Chevalier has spent six years pretending to be someone else, never allowing herself to become close to anyone. After accepting a position with a veterinary clinic in rural Connecticut, she is faced with more obstacles. Terrified of more change in her life, she turns back to God to heal and restore her. Will she be able to fully trust Him again to lead her down a new path?
Dr. Peter McDonald has no use for his new mousy coworker. He is sure that she won't make it in their physically taxing profession. Even though the sparks fly, when he gets to know her both professionally and personally, he starts to see her differently. Now he considers the possibility of a future with her.
But how can he break through the walls she's constructed?
Excerpt from Restoring the Locust Years
Right before he opened the door to his apartment, Dr. Spencer walked into the hall behind him. A wave of concern for her gripped him.
“Are you sure you're okay? You looked like you saw another ghost this morning.”
She turned to him, lifted her chin, and met his gaze.
“I know what you think of me, Dr. McDonald. You think I'm some vet wannabe, still wet behind the ears, incapable of distinguishing a cat from a cow.”
She lifted her finger, silencing him in mid-sentence. “I assure you, I know perfectly well that cats go meow and cows give milk.” To prove her point, she poked her finger into his chest.
He fought the urge to laugh.
“Furthermore.” Another poke. “I can assure you that you needn't come to my rescue. I won't faint at the sight of blood, nor when I smell manure. I've had plenty of experience with both.” Poke. “I'm not a greenhorn.”
He lifted his hands in surrender, clamping his teeth down hard to prevent himself from laughing.
“My apologies, Doctor. I was concerned more on a personal level. You had a panic attack. Last night and this morning. I'm slightly troubled that there is something going on that you're not telling us.”
She turned her back to him. When she unlocked her door, her hands were trembling like aspen leaves.
The Cooper Family
Love the Lord your God with all your heart
AJ Carter lives in a recurring nightmare at her father's heavy hand. She had worked hard to keep this shameful secret hidden from everyone, except from her best friend. Even though AJ has been a Christian all her life, God seems very distant, an uninterested third party. When Mac Cooper presents her with an offer she can't refuse, she is given a glimpse at God. But it's certainly not the way she's pictured Him, nor is He anything like she learned in Sunday school.
Meanwhile, Mac Cooper has his own battles to fight. He's learned that he can't fight them without Christ's help. He has done everything by the book, and yet life has taken sucker-punches at him numerous times. Mac knows that even though things may look bleak, God is at work. When he is given an opportunity to help AJ, he finds himself very intrigued by her struggles to rely on God.
But will God help him earn her trust? And perhaps her love?
Excerpt from Love the Lord your God with all your Heart...
Her father spun around to face her, eyes gleaming with anger and rage.
“Where the heck have you been?” he growled, approaching her menacingly like a tiger about to pounce on his next meal. AJ stumbled backward a few paces until her back came into contact with the solid wall.
“I-I took on extra hours today because people are still snowed in,” she mumbled. “I n-need to talk to you.”
Her father loomed close. AJ should have waited to tell her parents that she was moving out and that she had no desire to go to law school!
“I was offered a really good job yesterday,” she said, her voice still trembling slightly. “It involves working with horses on a full-time basis. I was also offered a place to stay. I accepted the job and the apartment.”
Her father's face was inches from hers. She could feel the fear and despair catch in her throat, causing her to lose her courage again, quickly. Her breath came quickly and raggedly and she felt sweat bead on her top lip. She licked it away before her father recognized just how terrified she was.
“Working with horses is not a job,” he growled. “It is a hobby. You will never be able to make a decent living with it. Get that through your stupid head.” He boxed her ears, hard.
AJ felt the stinging of his blow. Trouble! If he was already mad that she was going to be working with horses, the next part would send him over the top.
“And, I won't have you living somewhere else. You are still under my authority! I have not allowed you to leave. And, I won't now!” His eyes pierced hers, menacingly.
“I am a grown woman.” Her words were not coming out as strong as she would have liked. “I don't need to live under your roof anymore. I can leave any time I want to. You can't keep me here!”
“I am your father,” he yelled and raised his hand.
AJ steeled herself for the blow that came. It snapped her head back and banged it into the wall. She felt the tears sting her eyes.
No crying! Keep it together!
“I am leaving in a week,” she said when she was capable of speaking again.
“You are doing no such thing!” her father roared. Again his hand connected with her face. “What, you want to move in with your boyfriend? Live in sin, you little slut? I taught you better than that!”
AJ was shaking from the blows that were raining down on her. She couldn't retreat, either, pinned between him and the wall.
“Frank, stop!” her mother yelled.
AJ groaned. Oh! Mom, no!
Her father spun around to face her mother.
“Figures you would stand up for her. You and she are so alike! I will have you know that nobody leaves here unless I give them permission! And, you don't have it, Abigail Jane. You won't get it, either. Until you go off to law school, you live here!”
AJ straightened out again and pushed away from the wall. She stood near the door to make a quick getaway. Her father spun around and grabbed her arm to keep her from running. His hold was like a vice, making her wince and cry out in pain despite her best efforts not to.
“I have something more to say,” AJ hissed out through clenched teeth. “I will never, ever become a lawyer! I refuse to go to law school! I would rather die than work with you!”
She wrenched her arm free in just enough time too, because her father, eyes were burning with anger, looked like a rabid animal. AJ shrank away from him but he pounced at her and pinned her against the door.
“Don't you ever say that again!” he screamed, spittle hitting her face.
She turned away from him to avoid the next foray of blows, but they didn't come. Instead, the vice grips reattached themselves to her arm and pulled her along with him. She wanted to scream and howl but AJ knew that he was so enraged, that nothing she did would stop him.
“Frank! Stop it!” her mother yelled.
Nothing could stop her father now.
Todd and Brenna Cooper are happily married. Six months of marital bliss! Then Todd is ordered to return to his carrier group, somewhere in the Arabian Sea. Will this long term separation be a death blow to their blossoming relationship? Brenna finds herself having to deal with a whole lot of life on her own.
For Todd the challenge is to rise above his past and temptations that await him on board and in dangers in the sky. Can they really stay close when thousands of miles separate them? They both find themselves clinging to the Lord together, yet on their own.
But will that sustain them when loneliness arises?
This is a test of their relationship with Christ as well as their relationship with each other.
Excerpt from Dangerous Relations...
“Get dressed, Bren,” Todd whispered. “We are going to have a good time tonight.”
He handed her the box she had discarded onto the bed. Brenna wrenched her eyes to the long box. She opened it and gasped. She lifted the soft material out. It was a deep blue dress covered with sequins that glittered in the light coming through the window. She pulled it out of the box. This was a dress she would not be caught dead wearing, on a regular basis. It was way too flashy, too fancy!
She looked back at her husband, who was watching her intently.
“Why are we going out tonight?” she whispered, tears glistening in her eyes. “Are you being shipped out again?”
Todd swallowed hard and buckled his belt. He turned around so his wife couldn't see the sadness creep into his face. Her arms came around him and he could feel her face press into his back.
“Yes, Bren. I am being deployed.”
Brenna gasped! She knew it! She dropped her arms. He could feel her breath on his back and knew that she was struggling to hold the tears at bay. He hated seeing her cry. He hated seeing the pain in those green eyes.
“When?” she whispered.
She slapped her hand over her mouth, but a cry escaped anyway. Now it was Todd's turn to wrap his arms around her. He pulled her close, the tears slipping down her face soaking his good dress shirt.
“But Mac and AJ are supposed to stay a week,” she sniffed. He nodded. He had asked his brother and his wife to come for that reason, so Brenna didn't have to be alone for the first week while he was gone.
“You knew, didn't you!” Her voice was laced with anger.
Good. He could handle her better angry than sad.
Rescuing the Weak
Andy Cooper is the youngest of the family, the golden boy. He grew up expecting to do something out of the ordinary, something great for God. It never occurred to him that he would walk away from Christ, bitter and consumed with sin. When his life takes a turn for the worse, and he is forced to take a hard look at himself, he has an unexpected run in with an old friend.
Will he allow God to change him or will he continue in his wayward past?
Victoria Chen has made a decision to hide behind her good work for the Lord, concealing a horrible past. Picking up on her missionary parents example, she has dedicated her life to those who can't help themselves. On the outside she is a strong, confident and successful young woman. Alas, the facade is cracking and the walls she has worked so hard to construct to keep her past from hurting her over and over again are under attack.
Will she allow Christ to heal her wounds?
Will she allow Andy to play a part in that process?
Excerpt from Rescuing the Weak...
He spun around to face the bright eyes latching onto him from across the parking lot. He staggered backward into the wall.
“Are you drunk already?”
The question hit him hard and he fumbled to catch the wall to steady himself.
“No,”he grunted in disgust. “I'm not drunk. I just got here.”
He had to defend himself. He didn't like the way this conversation was going. Victoria walked closer and stood - face to face with him. She was a tiny thing, really. She was five six, maybe a hundred and twenty pounds. He could snap her wrists with his two fingers if he chose to do so.
“There are other places in town, you know.” The tone of her voice was soft but it was laced with sarcasm.
“No, I'm not drunk. I was just going in to get one drink.”
She pinned him in a gaze. “Really! One drink? Didn't you tell me earlier that you couldn't stop at one drink? Are you really so desperate?”
He stepped right up to her, his anger kindled. This slight thing was accusing him of lying!
“I'm not desperate,” he growled.
“Right.” She didn't step away, but met his challenge. “Hand me your keys. I'll swing by your house on the way home and drop them off.” She waited expectantly, holding out her hand. “And I might just call you a cab. You have a couple of hours left before closing. So, that should give you enough time.” She reached into her pocket for her phone. Andy wrapped his hand around her wrist with a vice grip. She didn't wince but the intensity of her eyes increased, if that was at all possible.
“Don't bait me,” he whispered.
“Let go of me!” she hissed back. “Or I will punch your lights out! I don't care if you were a friend.”
“Right,” he said but didn't let go.
Her free hand shot out as quick as lightening and connected with
the soft part of his temple. He grunted and went down, hard. Pain exploded through his head.
Victoria knelt next to him. She regretted having punched him, but somehow her instincts had taken over. Her training snapped into high gear when he had grabbed her wrist. She had almost shrunk away in fear. But then she had steeled herself.
Now he was out, cold.
Stand alone novels
Running the good Race
Tiffany French works around men and cars seven days a week. When it comes to the finer things in life, she's slightly out of her league. When she is forced to dress up for a party to celebrate a successful race, she finds herself in a very unusual situation.She is forced to look at herself from God's perspective, and what she finds surprises her.
Now she has to embrace who God designed her to be.
He is Patrick Chip Moore. His name is a household name around the world. There isn't a person who hasn't heard of him. He has access to the best parties, drives the fastest cars, and yet... Is there something he's missing? Is it even possible? When Tiffany gives him a glance at the truth, will he embrace it?
Is he willing to give up everything, or has he gotten too used to the fluff of his life?
Tiffany's eyes were drawn to the one frivolous thing in her very ordered life. She fingered the soft material of the midnight blue, ankle length dress that her best friend Anna had talked her into buying just last week. It had cost her a pretty penny, too! But it was so very soft. Tiffany stared at it for a long time, her stomach knotting with trepidation. She had never worn anything like this in her life. Even to her prom she had worn slacks. She wasn't about to change that.
And yet, she had a dress. One dress! Tiffany drew in a sharp breath, noting how the muscles around her stomach tensed.
What was so wrong with her only having one dress?
Anna had looked at her wardrobe, pity in her eyes when she saw it a week ago.
“You need to expand your horizon just a tad,” she had said when she stood there, hands firmly on her hips. “We're going shopping.”
Tiffany hated shopping!
It was an utter waste of time. It was time she could have spent tinkering on her car, watching a race, or just walking at the beach a block away.
To placate her best and probably only friend, she had gone and came away with this thing, hanging in her closet. Tiffany ground her molars together tightly, and looked at the shoes Anna had forced her to buy.
How exactly am I supposed to walk in these?
A long, drawn out groan escaped and she had her hand over a pair of gray slacks, when a knock on the door reluctantly drew her away.
Tiffany strode to the door and looked through the peephole, the scowl on her face deepening.
“Exactly what are you doing here?” She exhaled tiredly as her dark-haired neighbor pushed her way into her apartment, ignoring the irritated question.
“I am saving your social life, my dear,” Anna said, a bag clutched in her grasp.
Tiffany eyed it suspiciously and pointed.
Anna grinned and pinched her cheek. “Call it tools of the trade, my naïve friend. Come along. By the looks of you, we have a lot of work to do.”
“I didn't ask you to get me ready for this, you know.” Tiffany followed her, the muscles in her forehead beginning to throb.
“I know, but you really should have. Because if you had asked me to do this for you before, you wouldn't be mulling around in your apartment, all alone.”
Tiffany crossed her arms tightly over her chest, the disapproval evident in her stance. “Wait a moment. Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting? that I go look for a guy?” Her scowl only deepened. “You know that I'm not looking for anything. I'm just going because my boss won the stupid trophy.”
Now it was Anna's turn to frown at her. “Sometimes I don't get you. You rub up against these gorgeous people and you do nothing. I mean, you work for the cream of society, and yet... You would rather wear jeans to a party than this gorgeous creation.” Anna fingered the dress and shook her head. She turned back to Tiffany, a determined look on her face. “Realize that Doug and I are getting married in the fall and that you, dear girl, will be on your own. I can't-” She put her hand to her brow dramatically and tilted her head back slightly. “I can't, in good conscience, leave you alone in the world.”
Anna was a nurse, but she should have been an actress on Broadway!
“You are too dramatic!” Tiffany growled, irritation now totally out in the open. She was about to be girlified! What would her father say if he were here? She shuddered and rubbed her hands over her arm
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A rash decision. A trip with consequences.
Emily Martins has a comfortable life back in the States. The one thing she doesn't have is someone to share it with. A trip to help Pakistani orphans seems just what she needs. Thrust into a different world, nothing goes as planned. Emily finds herself surrounded by unusual sights, and people with different customs. She begins to realize that her trip may have been a mistake, when together with her unexpected traveling companion – an American computer engineer – they find themselves in a life and death situation. She must allow herself to trust someone she has only just met, someone who is more than meets the eye.
Will she give up her dreams and embrace God's plan for her life?
Excerpt from What if...
The compartment door opened, admitting more heat and humidity as well as another fellow traveler. This passenger – a westerner – entered and glanced around, then his gaze rested on her for just a fraction of a second.
Just her luck, because he took his seat across from her, and stuffed his ticket back into the pocket of his light tan suit coat after checking his seat number. For a second, Emily caught herself watching him out of the corners of her eyes.
Emily Martins! Get a grip!
She swallowed a laugh.
The compartment was virtually empty, allowing him to sit anywhere.
Why did this guy have to sit near me? I don't want to talk to anyone! Least of all a...
Emily forced her attention back to the mayhem outside the train. With the compartment still close to empty, would they be waiting until it filled like all the rest of the trains? If so, she would get out at the next station – six hours away – and rent a car.
She allowed herself to get lost in the chaos outside her window, watching a group of children – no parents in sight – push through the crowd. Nobody seemed to bother with them. Their attire looked dirty and worn, their faces grubby.
Emily had heard about the plight of children in this country. When her pastor had spoken about the number of abandoned babies that sometimes ended up as slaves, her heart had been touched. At first, it was just a slight, tender prodding. When a speaker from India had come in to talk to their congregation about the orphan problem in his country, she had felt that nudge intensely and – in a typical Emily fashion – had started to do her research that afternoon.
Four days later she had made contact with a representative and two months later she was on a train traveling to a remote village in the Himalayan foothills in Pakistan.
I hope I didn't make a mistake.
It took another ten minutes until finally, the train pulled slowly away from the station. The platform, and with it the masses, receded into the distance and Emily settled herself in her seat, her forehead pressed against the window, the vibration tingling through her.
Once the train left the station, she became thoroughly aware that she certainly was no longer in her comfortable, wealthy town in Connecticut. They passed mountains of rubbish. Her heart contracted in sympathy when she spotted a small hut made of what could be gathered from the heap of garbage. A wrinkled old man sat on his haunches surrounded by trash, staring at the passing train. Slowly, as if he barely had enough strength, he lifted his hand in a greeting.
An almost inaudible moan escaped her mouth as Emily felt drawn into his sad, tired expression, and she fought the tears that burned in her eyes. The man's eyes were filled with sorrow and loss. She felt it so deep in her soul that she nearly burst into a sob. When he finally disappeared from her view, Emily felt the weight that had slowly been pressing down hard on her chest lift, and she was able to breathe easier again.
What must it feel like to live without hope?
An Unusual Adventure
She needed more than her small town could give her.
Judith Stone longs for an adventure, something to challenge her busy mind and her thirst for more. Austin Harding, her childhood friend, and the boy she has secretly loved all her life, returns after several years of absence and offers her exactly that. She jumps at the chance to spend her life with him and to see places of wonder.
Along the way, they are met with unexpected danger.
Austin Harding is about to take the trip of a lifetime, and he's decided to make Judith part of it. As they embark on their journey, he quickly finds out that trying to keep her safe is not as easy as he thought.
Judith and Austin find themselves in the thrall of an unusual adventure, set in the barbaric Middle East.
Will they make it out alive?
Excerpt from An Unusual Adventure...
Connecticut, May 1880
“Good afternoon, Miss Stone.”
Judith’s head snapped up and her spine straightened as though a dog sunk its teeth into her backside, which presently was sticking up like a flagpole. She wiped her sweaty face with her hand and regretted her foolish move. Her hand, which a moment ago had been pulling out some most stubborn weeds, was covered with dirt. Deep, rich soil, which undoubtedly now smeared her flushed face.
She might as well get this humiliating moment over with. She turned and smiled demurely, something she was practicing lately, at the sheepishly grinning man on the other side of the picket fence. For a moment she felt like a little girl again, trying to keep up with her oldest brother’s best friend. His dark brown hair was still as unruly as it had always been. It hung over his eyebrows in an almost roguish way. The amazing eyes, deep set and light gray today, twinkled in such a mischievous way, that Judith was wondering just what was going on in that brain of his.
The only feature that marred his face was the crooked nose. The one he had broken when he had fallen off his horse, soaring over a wall that was too high, racing against an especially uncouth girl. She justified herself that this incident had awakened a passion for medicine in him, so she had done him a favor.
Besides, his face would have been far too handsome for his own good.
“Good afternoon, Mr. H-” She paused. He wasn’t Mister anymore, was he? “Good afternoon, Dr. Harding.”
She noted that Austin worked his jaw to keep his face neutral. The sight of her, her backside sticking up into the air, must have made it hard for him. She couldn’t imagine what strength it took for him not to break down in hilarious laughter. He had grown up.
“Are you well?”
“Well enough, sir,” Judith answered, running her apron between her dirty fingers. It was a nervous habit she had not grown out of.
“And your family,” he asked. “Are they well?”
“They are. Thank you for inquiring.” Judith paused, aware of the awkward silence. “And yours?”
“Well, thank you.”
“They must be so proud of you,” she said and realized she had spoken too familiar. Not to mention too fast. “And happy to have you home,” she continued, lowering her head to avoid his amused and almost too bold gaze.
Journey to Joy
Excerpt from Journey to Joy
Somewhere in Massachusetts, 1837
"Girl! I asked for a pint of ale ten minutes ago!” An inebriated man glowered over the empty tankard.
The girl in question spun around, her hands fluttering to her filthy apron, and almost tripped over the hem of her tattered, stained dress.
“Let me teach ya a lesson, wench!”
The man reached forward and managed to yank her hair back, hard. Before he could do anything else, the innkeeper stepped in. He quickly and mercilessly slapped her face. Joy lifted her hands in self-defense.
“Yer more trouble than yer worth!”
The innkeeper glowered at her and went after her as she tried to cower in the corner of the noisy filthy tavern, where the bugs were more plentiful than the paying patrons. Curling into a tight ball against the wall, she protected herself against the brunt of the blows that rained down on her. A kick made it past her defenses and she whimpered, hating herself for the show of weakness.
“Ger-up! Go an’ do what I pay ya fer! An’ dinna let me catch ya fallin’ asleep on the job agin! Next time I won't treat ya as kindly!”
Joy tried to catch her shallow breath. She pulled her hair away from her face and touched her cheek. A sharp pain stabbed through her.
She had neither time nor energy for this.
More fabric ripped as she stumbled to her feet. The hem of what was supposed to be a dress was now hanging down and she was sure to trip on it. She tore it off the rest of the way. What did a little less material really matter to her? It wasn't as though she was going to a ball any time soon.
Desire of the Heart
It all started with a hike…
Cady Jackson’s vacation plans were simple. Go to Yellowstone National Park, enjoy the scenery, take lots of pictures. She and her cousin, Ashley, have grown up in a strict, conservative Christian family in upstate New York. Cady has never been encouraged to spread her wings. This trip is an opportunity to do so. Only, she doesn’t know how much her life is about to change when she has an unfortunate encounter in the middle of nowhere. Why would God take a personal interest in someone like her?
Grant McClintoch generally loves his job as a ranger in the oldest national park in the country. That it includes rescuing stranded visitors to the park is unfortunate. He has been trying to rebuild his life after it had nearly been destroyed. Grant doesn't realize that God isn't done with him yet when he stumbles onto an injured hiker.
But can he place his past in God’s capable hands where it belongs?
Could this view be more breathtaking?
Cady Jackson set her backpack down and leaned against the Rocky Mountain Juniper behind her. The stillness of the early morning hour, the golden glow of the light and the breathtaking beauty around her made her gulp in the cool air as if she were starving. Starving for another breath. Wind tousled her long brown hair. It touched her cheek, just like a soft kiss her mom used to give her before bed.
A sudden longing for her mom's soft arms overcame her, made her shake her head in disbelief. She had only been gone from home for a day, and already she couldn't handle the solitude. Technically, she wasn't even all by herself. Besides her cousin Ashley, God was with her – wherever she went.
It was both a sobering and pleasant thought.
Taking another large gulp of air with the slight but permanent sulfur odor, Cady pulled out her camera and started snapping away, trying to capture the way she saw the beauty around her and knowing that she never could.
The sky alone was amazing. Azure blue, it went on forever, only interrupted by white, puffy clouds bouncing into each other. The majestic mountain range surrounding the expansive fields with knee-high yellowing grass, demanded to be noted, respected.
Coming to this National Park has been a brilliant idea.
Cady patted herself on the back mentally while she raised her camera. The clicking of the shutter was the only sound that disturbed the quiet of the morning.
“I can get used to this place,” she whispered.
A bald eagle came swooping from over the treeline surrounding the field. Her lens followed the majestic animal as it touched down beneath the tall, yellow grass and seconds later took off with a large rodent clutched in its sharp talons.
A shiver passed over her as the bird of prey let out its shrill call of triumph.
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