Will a hidden secret hinder her chance for happiness?
Jen assumes she can escape her past after she testifies against Robert, her human trafficking mogul husband, and enters into witness protection under a new identity. That is until a baby shows up on the stoop of the library where she works, and another man from her past, Tom, appears in her living room. Now she must relocate again under yet another name and memorize a new set of legitimate lies to explain who she is.
When Robert discovers her latest identity, he has other plans for her, such as enslaving her in a Tudor manor in Southern England. The scandalous family secrets she discovers may hold the key to her and the daughter of the manor’s freedom. But first she must tunnel through a myriad of lies, including the dark sin which has held her own heart captive. If the truth is revealed, will it hinder her one chance for happiness?
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Copyright 2014 © Julie B. Cosgrove
Did I really want this baby? Yes.
Wait, no. Absolutely not.
I recognized her—and that wounded me deeper than I’d ever imagined.
The barricade of lies, which I’d droned into my head over the past few months, crumbled the moment little Josh Holder discovered her on the front steps of the Bonita Springs Public Library. She lay on the hard concrete, swaddled in a pink crocheted throw. Innocent eyes, tucked into chestnut skin, widened as they peered into mine. Thick, straight strands encircled her head in a coal-colored halo.
“Look Miz Williams. It was taped to her blanket.” Josh teetered on his eight-year old tiptoes to show me.
My business card—“Sheila Williams – Library Assistant.” What on earth? I tucked a fly-away strand of auburn hair behind my ear and flipped the card over. On the back a familiar handwriting scrawled, “She’s yours if you want her.”
Mine? If I want her? The card trembled between my fingers. A tumult of emotions swirled inside of me like a Dervish dancer. Anguish because she was my now-imprisoned husband, Robert’s, illegitimate child. Anticipation she could be what I’d secretly desired—a baby of my own. Anger over the fact she existed at all. My nerves mimicked the twirling leaves on the sidewalk in front of the library, whipped by the tropical storm brewing above us.
Thunder rumbled. Or did my heartbeat thump a warning inside my eardrums? No one from my past in Texas had been told I now lived in Florida. Except for Becky, who’d help me settle into my new life. But she wouldn’t tell. Her federal job depended on secrecy. So, who dropped off this child?
I scanned the city block. Then, I spied him. Tom. The one man I’d almost trusted. A smile eased across my lips. So, he’d kept his promise to Robert after all. He’d made sure the baby lived. Now, Robert’s hold on him was broken. The old Navy buddy debt paid.
Oh, how I envied Tom’s freedom from my husband’s evil vice-grip. My thumb rubbed the place where my wedding ring once sat on my finger. My faith told me I remained shackled to Robert—for better or for worse—even though the Feds had changed my identity and my marital status when I entered witness protection.
Tom tipped an imaginary Stetson in my direction. My mouth opened, but no words came out. There remained too much to say, and none of it mattered now. So, I returned the gesture with a slight nod, a heart to heart silent code I hoped he’d interpret as, I still love you.
Josh tugged on my sleeve. “Who’s that?”
“Just a man saying, ‘Hi’, I guess.”
Tom had been so much more. My husband’s friend, turned Federal asset, had become my protector. My comforter. And a fellow victim of Robert’s manipulative schemes. As our feelings for each other developed, he represented the forbidden fruit—a constant reminder of the wrong choice I’d made with Robert before God and man at the altar five years ago amidst roses, white lace and taffeta. But, a vow remained a vow.
I wrapped my arms around my chest and watched Tom walk away, his hands tucked deep into the side pockets of his well-fitted Dockers. My feet yearned to follow him. My brain knew better than to respond to their request. Instead, I pushed the soles of my shoes against the concrete with locked knees. Any feelings for Tom, and his for me, rested in God’s hands. I’ll wait, Tom. I’ll always wait. Does your finding me again mean you will too?
With a deep sigh, I tapped the business card against my palm. My thoughts returned to the cooing bundle on the stoop. So he’d brought the infant to me. Great. Now what do I do? I crouched down to peer at her.
A chill zipped up my spine. How had Tom gotten one of my cards? Wait—how had he found me? Isn’t WITSEC supposed to keep my whereabouts a secret? Wasn’t that the whole point?
Even if my and Tom’s ties to Robert were severed, the federal agents forbade any connections with my past. Tom knew that. Did that also hold true for this tiny child at my feet? My eyes stung from the question. Oh, why on earth did Tom give you to me, little one? And where is your mother?
A clap of thunder shuddered against the library building. Quarter-sized raindrops polka-dotted the paved stoop—first a few, then more. The warm, moisture-laden Gulf wind spritzed my face, hiding the tears that welled in my eyes.
“We can’t just leave her here, Miz Williams. She’ll get soaked.” Josh scrunched his third grade eyebrows together. It made him appear wiser than his years. Perhaps he was.
I blinked the emotions back into the dark crevices of my mind. “Okay, Josh. Let’s take her inside the library.”
He dashed up the steps to open the door for us.
“But,” I raised the baby girl to my shoulder and whispered into her little ear, “I just can’t let you into my life. Not yet.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie B. Cosgrove is a freelance writer, professional speaker and published author. She is a member of Advanced Writers & Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, North Texas Christian Writers, The Christians Writers Group Two, and Christian Writers Fellowship International.
She represents Women at Risk International, a Christian missionary group who sponsor safe houses for women and children snatched from human trafficking and slavery in thirteen countries and is actively involved in Prayer For Freedom, a nonprofit anti-trafficking ministry.
As a speaker, Julie has achieved the highest level of communication award, the Advance Communication Gold, in Toastmasters International. She has led quiet days, workshops and retreats as well as spoken to many women’s and church groups throughout Texas, Louisiana and Florida, and in Indianapolis.
Julie writes regularly for several Christian websites and publications. In the past three years alone, her articles have been featured in Devozineand Alive Now Magazines published by the Upper Room, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness, Faith-filled Family Magazine, Good News Daily, The Secret Place, Light from the Word, and The Journey.
She has also published five nonfiction works: P.R.A.Y.I.N.G.: Bringing Power and Purpose to Your Prayers (2009), Song Notes: Devotionals from the Book of Psalms (2010), What Can She Tell Us? (2011), Between the Window and the Door (2012), and Squeeze More God-time Into Your Day (2013).
Julie has authored three contemporary faith-based novels. Focused, set in the Texas Hill Country, which follows a woman’s journey to find God in her empty nest, was released in 2012. She is working on the other two novels in that trilogy, Grounded and Rooted. The sequel to Hush in the Storm, Legitimate Lies, launches through Prism Book Group in early 2015.
Contact her at www.juliebcosgrove.com or through her blog, http://WhereDidYouFindGod Today.com