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“A masterful fictional re-telling of a biblical story. The characters were well-developed, which made it impossible not to feel their pain, fear, and ultimate joy. Great job.” Amazon Reviewer
 Rahab, a resourceful beauty, struggles to survive in the pagan culture of ancient Jericho. As years of harsh labor begin to lift her and her family from poverty, a foreign army threatens the well-fortified city. Rahab is forced to make an immediate decision. Will she put her faith in the fabled walls of Jericho or the powerful God of the Hebrews? Either choice may cost her life.

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014© Carlene Havel & Sharon Faucheux

 

Are these men up to no good? While attempting to believe there was no cause for alarm, Rahab considered whether she might need to defend herself. Was the baking paddle enough to frighten the men away? Or was it better to snatch her knife from the holster over her shoulder and scream for Karmot? These men looked healthy and strong enough to overpower her and her father. Yet they did not strike her as violent, merely unusual.

Pulling the perfectly browned bread from the oven, Rahab put on a bright smile. “Oh, I am sorry. Were you speaking to me?” She turned the fresh bread onto the stone table. “Smells delicious, does it not?” she asked. “With my good wine and ghee made just this morning, you will be refreshed from your journey.”

“Thank you, mira.”

The travelers looked similar enough to other Egyptians who passed through Jericho occasionally. Was it their slightly different manner of speaking? Perhaps they were not from Alexandria but some more remote area of the land of the pharaohs. Regardless of where they came from, they were foreigners. Therefore, the king’s men would make it their business to evaluate whether or not the visitors had legitimate business in the city. Because of the Hebrews, the king’s men were especially interested in anyone who passed through the city gate these days.

Rahab decided to bide her time and keep the strangers occupied until the soldiers came to question them. She was confident in her ability to kindle her male guests’ interest. “You have traveled many days from your wives and families,” she said as she served wine. “No doubt you miss them.”

The tall man continued to eat, while the shorter turned his face toward her.

“My inn offers you nourishment and lodging,” Rahab continued. She stretched her arms and trailed the fingertips of her right hand slowly along her left forearm. “There are times when a man needs more than food and shelter.”

The men’s reactions were not in accordance with Rahab’s expectations. The tall, quiet one seemed amused, while the shorter man wore a look of surprise. Tossing her hair, Rahab slowly licked her lips. At this point, most men began to negotiate a price for her services or—more rarely—gave her a reluctant refusal. These fellows did neither. Why were they so slow? Do they know nothing of how to conduct business?

Rahab went to stand behind the men. The taller one continued to eat and drink, as if unaware of her presence. She leaned over the shorter man to rearrange the food on the stone table. As she did so, she rested a hand lightly on the man’s shoulder. He jumped away, as if her touch burned his body. “You are a harlot!” he exclaimed. The tall man stifled a laugh.

“Yes, I am,” Rahab replied, drawing her hand away. “What do you expect at an inn?”

“I expect decency and honor in all things,” the shorter man said. “But then, I suppose I forget what kind of pagans—”

The tall man held up a hand, and his companion fell silent. Rahab was accustomed to men too poor to afford her services, but the reactions of these two puzzled her. One seemed completely indifferent, while the other made her feel unclean. The truth flew into her mind with such force it escaped from her mouth. “You are Hebrews.”

“Yes, we are,” the tall man said, much to Rahab’s surprise.

They were such beautiful young men. What a pity for them to be impaled in the public place. “Do you not know the king’s men keep track of foreigners in Jericho, because of all the trouble across the river? If you hurry, you may be able to escape.”

The shorter man quickly pushed his food away, stood up, and shook out his clothing. The taller one turned and faced Rahab. “Will you hide us?” he asked.

“I could be executed for helping you. And my whole family along with me.” Looking into his eyes made her heart beat faster. Yet his face would no longer be handsome after a beating from the soldiers’ rods.

The tall man spoke gently. “Help us and you will live when we take this city.”

“Take Jericho? You cannot,” she whispered. “Our walls…”

“Your walls are nothing to the Lord. We will conquer this city and all others who stand in our way, just as we have overcome the Amorites.” His manner conveyed absolute confidence. “Our lives in exchange for yours. Yes or no?”

Rahab never understood exactly why she believed the Hebrews would prevail. Yet in that moment, she knew it was true. Jericho will fall before the powerful God of the Hebrews! So many thoughts swirled in her head. She remembered the morning when she broke away from her father’s household to find her own way in the world. Others called her actions foolish, but in the end her family benefitted from her boldness. Was this another such opportunity? If so, she must again act with speed and courage. She might scream for Karmot, and turn these men over to the King of Jericho—or trust her unexplainable feeling the God of the Hebrews was both real and all-powerful. Were the stories she heard all her life about His parting of the Red Sea actually true? Whichever way she chose, there was no turning back.

Once she made her decision, calmness fell over Rahab like a warm cloak. “Yes. We have an agreement. Pour the water from that large crock on the ground,” she told the men. “It will take both of you to lift it. Then go quickly up those stairs,” she pointed to the central staircase. “On the roof you will see many bundles of drying flax. Hide among them and wait. Show yourselves to no one until I come to you. Hasten.”

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Hounded by Anita Klumpers

Elise Amberson’s husbands always die before she can get the marriage momentum going. At least this last one left her with lots of money. Now she can hang out with her dogs, avoid men, and try to keep off God’s radar.

But her dogs are behaving oddly, a pesky pastor can’t keep his hands off her soul, and God is backing her into a corner.

It’s all more than a rich, beautiful young woman should have to bear. But when someone begins targeting Elise, she’ll have to figure out why before she becomes the late Widow Amberson.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2016 © Anita Klumpers

This funeral was so different than the last one. Both drew large crowds to the visitation and service. But the first one had been filled with messy grief, loud sobbing and noisy comfortings. In this regal cathedral with its carved altar, high-backed pews and vaulted ceiling, outward manifestations of grief were unseemly. Even the elaborate stained glass windows transmuted bright sunbeams into particles of understated pastels.

Elise looked at Timothy’s coffin. Pounds and pounds of hothouse flower sprays crawled along its cover. Standing arrangements with pride of place near the open lid reached slouching lilies toward Timothy. Such a futile gesture. His powdered nose couldn’t smell them. Lucky guy. Elise wanted to gag from their stench.

Christopher’s coffin had been closed, nothing but a pressed American flag on top. They all agreed—Elise, Christopher’s parents, his siblings, that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Wounded Warrior Project. The morning of Christopher’s funeral Elise had walked alone down country lanes and gathered armloads of Queen Anne’s Lace, yellow tansy, and sky-blue chicory. The law frowned on picking of wildflowers but she gravitated to those lowly species considered weeds.

The Reverend Lucille Montague began winding down. She’d extolled Timothy’s virtues, his contributions to the betterment of society and the express hope that his soul would live on in his children and grandchildren. Poor Lucille. She hadn’t much to work with in the spiritual realm. Timothy in life remained a devoted agnostic who gave the church great sums of money in its quest for social change. If all went according to Timothy’s plan, he was now, body and soul, really truly dead forever.

The family was being called to come forward before the lid closed on Timothy. As his widow, Elise should have led the procession, but the head pallbearer instead extended an elbow to Timothy’s daughter, Vanessa. At the same time, his brother Palmer leaped from across the aisle and tucked Vanessa’s arm in his. Shaking off both men, and never taking her eyes from the coffin, Vanessa marched forward and in a booming voice to jar the gilded chandeliers, said, “Rest in peace, Daddy.”

Timmy Junior tottered forward. Associate in his father’s law firm, two children of his own, and still known far and wide as Timmy Junior, he had all his father’s handsome features, but on Timmy they looked just this side of finished, a sort of modeling clay version of Timothy. The slightest pressure and his face would be quashed into flatness. Elise snorted at the image and was horrified that she had been audible. She pressed a lacy handkerchief to her nose and hoped anyone in earshot would assume she had been overcome with grief.

They wouldn’t, though. And she wasn’t. At Christopher’s funeral she had maintained a brittle poise and fooled no one. They knew hot grief surged just beneath the frost line. This time the freeze went deep. All the way to the soul Timothy claimed she didn’t have.

Timmy Junior’s wife accompanied him to the casket, gripping his arm as he swayed over his father’s body. When he flung arms wide as though to embrace the cadaver, she dragged him back to the pew. Their two small children hadn’t come. Timothy’s grandchildren must be home with the long-suffering nanny. Elise rose briskly. No matter what the chief of the pallbearers had been told, she intended to go before Timothy’s parents and certainly before his ex-wife. At the coffin she stopped and looked critically down at its occupant. The morticians had done an excellent job. No one would guess the entire back of Timothy’s head was caved in.

The casket cover closed and so did the Celebration of Life. Lucille announced there would be no graveside ceremony in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. Everyone could just follow the family—she hesitated a brief second before nodding coolly at Elise—into the church fellowship hall for a catered meal. Pallbearer-in-chief appeared torn, but parked himself next to the pew where Elise had been sitting in solitary, and she followed the satin-lined mahogany casket down the aisle and out of the church.

In the fellowship hall—surely too homey a term for this drafty, echoing space with its antique wooden tables covered in white linen cloths and gleaming silverware—Elise looked hopefully for someone to sit with. Her parents were in an assisted living center, leaning more on assistance and less on living, and she’d told them they needn’t attend. Her only sister lived in France. But all the friends from high school. Where were they? They’d come out in droves, flocks, herds, to Christopher’s funeral. They’d fluttered around her, sobbing on her shoulder, acolytes begging the chief mourner for comfort.

An arm lifted from a far corner and agitated in her direction. Thanking God for angels among us, Elise waved back. The angel attached to the arm had a high forehead sloping into a grove of bright brown curls, only marginally less dense than in high school. The neon-blue eyes in those years had winked through glasses, usually lopsided or cracked.

“Russ! You got contacts!”

Russell Martinez unfolded his lanky self from the chair and folded her in long arms. Now would be the perfect time to break down and cry. Elise twitched her eyes experimentally. No tear lurked, and she refused to produce false sobs.

“Elise, I’m so sorry about Timothy.”

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Talking Love With Anita Klumpers…

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Old Maid, Do-Si-Do, and the Bottomless Cup of Love

Anita Klumpers

 

By the time I was twenty-five my mother had given up on the hope that I would marry. She bought me pots and pans and Pfaltzgraf and flatware because, she reasoned, even single women need to live. And, Lord willing, I wouldn’t live with her and Daddy forever.

Dad wasn’t too concerned. After all, he hadn’t married Mom till he was in his early 40’s. And if God didn’t want me to wed, then I could follow in Cousin Angie’s footsteps and be a missionary in Africa.

The idea of a single life filled me with dread. Please, please, PLEASE God, don’t be equipping me to remain unmarried. I developed crushes. Friends tried setting me up with their relatives. I went out dancing with friends. To bars. After all, I was a nice Christian lady at a bar. Why couldn’t there be nice Christian guys there too? Maybe there were. I never met one.

A few months shy of my 27th birthday I decided I was tired of looking for potential mates. Although not at the point of picking up books on how to enjoy the gift of singleness, I figured it might be time to focus on my relationship with God. So, along with several wonderful single girlfriends I went to a spiritual winter retreat for young adults from a dozen churches across our state. Did I mention I’d determined not to check out every eligible young man also in attendance?

I meant it. So when I took note of a devastatingly handsome man with dark eyes and a dimpled chin sitting across the room, it wasn’t his good looks that got my attention. Arms crossed, looking bored, he was the only one sitting out the square dance mixer. In gracious and generous Christian-girl fashion I thought ‘Jerk,’ and went back to dancing my little size 9’s off and trying to remember my allemande left from my do-si-do right.

Later that night, after devotions, a group of us played cards. A game I didn’t know, called euchre. I’m a dab hand at Old Maid but this one had me flummoxed, and a group of generous friends tag-teamed trying to teach me to play. It was hilarious. Really hilarious.

Later that night a group of us went into town for coffee. The dark-eyed square-dance-boycotter came too. He sat across from me and told me he got a kick out of watching me laugh over euchre. He flirted just enough to make me feel interesting but not so much as to make himself look insincere or lecherous.

We went our separate ways after that weekend and didn’t meet up till early summer. It took him till late summer to ask me out and in the meantime one of my major crushes from the previous few years, a Christian marathon runner and photographer I’d met at work, finally returned my interest and began asking me out. After I lectured God about his timing I realized maybe He knew what He was doing. I had to make a decision between two attractive men (my daydream back in the days before I realized it would be painful) and I chose the right one.

Wouldn’t my story make a fine romance movie? Sort of an ‘At Long Last Love’ type of life? But now, three sons, four grandsons and countless prayers and tears and rejoicings later, I realize that my entire life has been filled with love.

From birth, before my birth, my parents loved me, and continued until their last breath on earth. Aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens meant extended love and the kind of safety net children long for but don’t always enjoy. Then there is my family in Christ. Brothers and sisters more than the sands on the shore, and wherever there are God’s children there is my family, and we love each other. We don’t always play well together, but the love is there.

My friends—oh, my friends! When I bemoan my limited practical skills and meager dose of common sense I remember my glorious friendships with some of the most godly, delightful, gracious, fault-overlooking women as can be found. I would rather have my friends than an artist’s eye, a singer’s silver tongue, or an athlete’s supple limbs.

On all this abundance of love God set a gem of a husband. He is as attractive, open, and affirming as when I first met him, and he still refuses to dance. Those three sons love me in spite of a plethora of faults and mistakes and my little grandsons still give me smooches in public.

Do I know I have been gifted far and above anything I could think or ask, much less deserve? You bet. But what if God had not seen fit to give me a husband, children, grandbabies? What if my parents had been cold, negligent, absent, and I didn’t have some sort of strange ability to find wonderful friends? Would I be any less blessed? No. Not a bit.

God loves me. God has loved me before I knew what love was. If I had never known human love, God’s love would be beyond the heights and depths and breadths of what I think I need. Jesus prayed for me the night before His death and prays for me today and the Spirit intercedes for me with sighs too deep for words and the Father’s love is vast beyond all measure. What wondrous love is this?!

Family, friends, husband and children have all hemmed me in love, and the love that comes from God is greater than these.

Anita Klumpers 

 

Check out Anita’s Friday new book release, Hounded, the first in Prism’s Love Is series.

Elise Amberson’s husbands always die before she can get the marriage momentum going. At least this last one left her with lots of money. Now she can hang out with her dogs, avoid men, and try to keep off God’s radar.
But her dogs are behaving oddly, a pesky pastor can’t keep his hands off her soul, and God is backing her into a corner.
It’s all more than a rich, beautiful young woman should have to bear. But when someone begins targeting Elise, she’ll have to figure out why before she becomes the late Widow Amberson.

 

 

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Salsa and Speed Bumps

One moment of sin leads to a path of pain …and unexpected love.

Stephanie’s life hits a speed bump in the wake of her boyfriend’s sin. Splitting up with him, she faces a future of difficult choices shaded in shame. She wants to do what is right but the new man in her life leaves her fantasizing about a future that is now beyond her grasp.

Roberto finds his heart and professional world turned upside down by the beautiful bombshell. He struggles with his own inner demons and past so he’s not about to cast stones. When he is accused of immoral behavior, and temptation haunts him from every side, can he stand true to the calling God has given him?

Joining forces to face the future though comes at a high cost for them both as their individual pasts rise up to destroy them and their relationship. Integrity comes with a high price tag. With a deep faith in God and the help of friends at Orchard Hill Church, can they find happiness and love they long for?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2016 © Susan M. Banagz

 

“Suck it up, Steph. You can do this,” she whispered to herself. A lame pep talk as she rubbed her shaking hands on her skirt. She’d always enjoyed her job, but today? Today, she prayed she’d be able to keep from running to the bathroom to throw up. She swallowed hard and pasted on a smile as she stepped forward to greet the staff of Every Child a Home by name as they entered DeLuca’s Cucina for their fundraising luncheon. She knew many of them from church and from having hosted this event in previous years.

“Miss Simson, how good to see you again.” Max Bixby, the President and CEO of the non-profit adoption agency approached her. By his side was a handsome man in his early thirties with straight dark hair parted slightly off center and falling down on his forehead. His sapphire blue eyes twinkled, probably made even bluer by the cobalt shirt he wore with his snappy charcoal suit. “I have a new associate I would like you to meet. This is Mr. Roberto Rodriguez from Harrington and Associates. He is serving as legal counsel.” He paused and looked around. “I see another benefactor coming.” Mr. Bixby walked away, leaving them alone.

Stephanie reached out her hand. The attorney took it and raised it to his mouth while maintaining eye contact. “A pleasure, Stephanie.” His voice had a rich, deep tone. She repressed the shiver of delight that coursed through her body as his lips touched her fingers. She forced herself to slow her breathing as she gave him a smile. He released her hand, and she froze—speechless. His eyebrow quirked before he spoke again, preventing any awkwardness to arise between them. “You appear familiar…do you attend Orchard Hill Church?”

Stephanie nodded. “Yes—for years, but I regret I’ve not noticed you there.” Oh, she wished she had. Given her present life circumstances, it was probably better she hadn’t. Nothing good could come of getting acquainted with any eligible bachelor at this point, no matter how handsome he might be.

“Not surprising, considering the size of the congregation. I moved into the Milwaukee area about two months ago.”

“Welcome. You chose a wonderful organization to collaborate with if you were seeking a ministry opportunity. Every Child a Home has been doing great work in this area for years and has a wonderful reputation.”

Mr. Rodriguez glanced over to where Mr. Bixby visited with some couples who had just arrived. “I’ve heard good things about them. How did you know I joined them for the purpose of ministry?”

“As legal counsel, I assumed your position was volunteer. I suspect most lawyers would not find working adoption cases to be highly profitable. Forgive me if I’m wrong.”

“Correct. But I’ll tell you a secret.” He leaned forward and whispered in her ear, causing a delightful shiver to course through her. “My wonderful Christian parents adopted me, and I want to help others because of the gift I was given by my birth-mother.”

His breath tickled her skin and she detected a scent of wintergreen. “What a great reason to serve, Mr. Rodriguez.”“Call me Roberto, or Robbie, please.” He stepped back, giving her space.

“Okay. Roberto. Lunch will begin soon, and I need to get everyone seated. I hope we can talk again. I would love to learn more about the work you do.” She took a step towards a group of people mingling nearby.

“Are you available for lunch on Sunday? After church?” He spoke only loud enough for her to hear.

She stopped mid-pivot, placed a hand on her chest, and tilted her head to the side. “Are you asking me out? We just met.”

He shifted on his feet, her only indication he might be nervous. “There’s no ring on your finger, so I assumed you were single. Forgive me if I was wrong, but yes, I am asking for a date.”

Stephanie tried to hold back a giggle and her hand moved to cover her lips for a second before dropping again to her side. “I accept. Sunday, after church. Shall we meet in the café by the fireplace?”

Roberto smiled, and she noted a dimple on his right cheek. What was it about Hispanic men that got her heart beating faster? Or was it just this particular one? Luis had never made her feel like this.

“Sounds good. I will let you get back to work, but first”—he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a business card—“in case anything comes up. My cell phone is usually used for work, so getting a call for any other reason would be refreshing.”

“Thank you.” She took the card and slid it into the pocket of her skirt.

“Till Sunday.” Roberto winked at her before he moved away to speak with other people who were arriving.

“Till Sunday,” Stephanie whispered.

She hung in the background during the luncheon, refilling water glasses and listening to the stories from those who had adopted through the agency. A birth mother talked about how she made the difficult choice to give up her child. Stephanie stood in the back of the room and moisture came to her eyes at this young woman’s story, so similar to her own. She rested her hand over her stomach. Could she be that courageous? She willed the tears away while scanning the tables and found Roberto watching her. He smiled, and she returned it as the heat rose in her cheeks.

She had made a date with this man. A stranger. At the same time, Luis, her ex-boyfriend and the father of her child, worked in the kitchen preparing the food for this event. She refused to talk to Luis for the past several weeks. He tried to approach her every Sunday, but she rebuffed him. He texted her daily, but she didn’t respond to his pleas intermixed with insults. He was the biological father of their child, but she could not envision marriage to him.

The man was egocentric and macho, and she was beginning to question whether or not he was even a Christian based on his actions, words, and especially how he had treated her. He had only wanted her for sex—sex she had refused. His greater strength prevailed. She experienced a shudder of revulsion at her remembrance of that night. She had been a fool and had never reported him, feeling somehow she was to blame for what happened. Shame had wrapped around her since and increased even more now that she was faced with the consequences of that experience.

Her eyes wandered back to Roberto Rodriguez. He seemed like a gentleman. Was it fair to accept a date with him? She was three months’ pregnant. An unwed mother whose life was upended, and she was undecided about what to do next. She wasn’t showing yet, but soon enough, she would be unable to hide the secret from a new beau, assuming one date led to another.

Physically, she found Roberto attractive. She already resolved that a kiss on the hand was fine, but not on the lips this time around. She would follow her friend Renata’s rules and not be alone in private with a man until she was married. She wanted a guy who would love her for who she was inside, not for her body. She sighed. Her body wouldn’t be looking so hot before long.

She would keep the date. What could it hurt? She fingered the business card in her pocket and smiled. God, what are you up to bringing a new man into my life now?

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Time Tsunami

 

To stop a cruel serial killer, she must travel twenty-four years into the past… 

Gil Montgomery, a cadet in the Temporal Counseling Program, can’t wait to pass her field exam and become a professional time surfer. The TEMCO program targets death-row offenders for time-based counseling while they’re children. For her exam, Gil will travel twenty-four years into the past to counsel ten-year-old Danny Winston before he murders his abusive babysitter, Rick Olsen. Preventing the stabbing should stop the chain of events leading to Danny’s eventual execution.

Gil’s assignment seems simple until her advisor, Dr. William Ableman, learns that Rick is a serial killer targeting Danny’s mother. If Gil stays and protects the Winstons, she might not survive. William wants the woman he loves to be pulled from the field, but if Gil fails to complete her assignment, it will unleash a Time Tsunami and destroy the timeline.

As TEMCO undergoes an emergency lockdown, and Gil’s fellow cadets try to figure out what’s happening, Gil and William learn the importance of faith and the price of true love. Everyone’s fate is resting in Gil’s hands, but does she have the strength she needs to defeat a ruthless serial killer intent on annihilating everyone in his path?

Will she return from the deadly mission?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Danele J. Rotharmel

 

As a blue glow filled the room, Gil looked through the time portal at William and Director Matthews. Her heart missed a beat. She didn’t know what was going on, but judging by the men’s tense expressions, it wasn’t good.

“Hi, guys, what’s up?” she asked in a deliberately casual tone.

“We’re thinking of pulling you from the field,” William replied.

What?”

“Rick’s more dangerous than we thought.”

“I don’t care if he’s Jack the Ripper,” she said flatly. “I’m staying.”

Director Matthews picked up a handful of printouts. “He isn’t Jack the Ripper, but he might as well be. I’ve found evidence that he’s killed at least ten women.”

“I don’t care.”

“You’re facing a serial killer,” William said. “You must realize the seriousness of the situation.”

“I do realize it. You don’t. Today’s Danny’s D-day. If I abandon him, he’s gonna die on death row. I love that kid, and I’m not about to let his life be destroyed. Where’s Dr. Nelson? She’d agree with me.”

“She said it was our decision,” the director replied.

“It’s my decision too, and I’m not about to abandon—”

“It’s not abandonment,” William interrupted. “GAP’s only predicting a fifty percent chance that it’ll make a difference to Danny’s future if you stay. Regardless of your hard work, Daniel Winston may be destined for death row. We’re not risking your life over a hopeless—”

“There’s no way you’re getting me out of here! If there’s a fifty percent chance that Danny can be saved, I’m taking that fifty percent chance. It’s my life I’m risking. Not yours.”

William ran a hand over his face. “We’re all risking a lot.”

“I don’t care. I’m not—”

“Enough of this!” William said harshly. “Let the director speak. When he finishes, we’ll discuss things.”

“Here it is, Gil,” the director said. “Bald facts. Fact number one: Rick’s a serial killer. He strangles women with a red cord and hangs their bodies to mimic suicide. He does his murderous work so well, that unless a coroner’s an expert, the homicide is missed. At this time, it’s impossible to know how many murders Rick’s committed.

“Fact two: Rick’s meticulous and methodical—that means he’s dangerous. He’s undoubtedly been planning to kill Sue for weeks. He’ll already have things set in motion.

“Fact three: GAP’s predicting a 98.8 percent chance that if you stay, you will be hurt. Since Danny has only a fifty percent chance of escaping death row, you’ll be risking your life on a gamble.”

Gil sat quietly for a few moments. “I’ve heard what you’ve said and understood it. Will you respect my decision?”

“Yes,” William replied. “It’s your decision to make.”

“Then my answer’s the same as it was from the beginning. I’m staying. Now, give me all the information you can about what I’m facing, and please do it fast. I don’t have much time, and I need all the help I can get.”

Director Matthews picked up a stack of files. “Autopsy photographs show Rick’s careful not to leave bruises on his victims’ bodies. When he strikes, he strikes fast. There won’t be a long struggle when he attacks Sue today. You won’t have much time to save her.”

“What else?”

“It takes several days for the bodies of Rick’s victims to be discovered.”

“Why’s that important?” she asked.

“No one hears his attacks. He takes his victims by surprise and prevents them from screaming.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it?”

“Extremely. The lack of crime-scene evidence shows he’s a planner. He probably has things hidden or set up around Sue’s house to expedite his attack.”

Exhaling slowly to calm her nerves, Gil asked, “Anything else I should know?”

The director looked grim. “I’ve tried to find instances in which women have escaped a red-cord strangler, but there aren’t any. If Rick gets his hands on Sue—or on you—the chances are high the outcome won’t be favorable.”

Gil swallowed the lump in her throat. “What about Danny? How do I to increase his odds of escaping death row?”

“All I can suggest is keeping him out of his house and away from knives. Danny’s fate may rest on a split-second decision, and I don’t want to lie to you—from what GAP’s telling me, that decision may cost you your life.”

Looking down at her hands, Gil said hesitantly, “If I don’t go through with this—if I come home now—what will happen to everyone?”

“Danny will end up on death row, Sue will be murdered, and there’s a 99.2 percent chance that Sam will vanish, and years later, his skeleton will be found in the forest behind Sue’s house.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.”

“Technically,” the director said, “Sam and the Winstons met their fate almost a quarter of a century ago. There’s no shame in coming home. In fact, I think it’s highly advisable.”

“Maybe so,” Gil said quietly, “but I’m staying here regardless.” She looked through the portal at William. Seeing his tense posture, she said softly, “You’ve been awfully quiet. What are you thinking?”

William brushed a shaking hand over his face. “That I’m proud of you, but I’m terrified for you. I wish I knew if you’re putting yourself in danger for nothing.”

“It’s my decision,” she said gently. “You have nothing to do with it.”

“I have more to do with it than you realize.”

“You may’ve recommended me for this assignment, but it was my decision to come—just as it’s my decision to stay. If I went home now, I’d never forgive myself.”

“I know, but please be careful. I’ve arranged for a portal to be fixed to your temporal position. If things get out of control, you can use Extreme Exam to surf home without waiting for lab authorization.”

“You sound like you’re anxious to see me.”

“I am,” he replied, giving her a crooked smile. “Contact us at the usual time—sooner if needed. We’ll be in the lab until D-day’s over.”

Hearing the concern in his voice, Gil said softly, “Everything’s gonna be fine. God hasn’t brought us this far to drop us. He—” her voice came to an abrupt halt.

“What’s wrong?” William demanded.

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “Did you hear that noise?” Her body tensed as she stared at the door. “There it is again…I gotta go. Someone’s in the house.”

With a swift movement, Gil stopped Extreme Exam and flattened herself against the wall.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Danele J. Rotharmel grew up with a love of the literary word, and by age five, she knew she wanted to be a writer. However, her life took an unexpected turn when a mysterious illness brought her close to death. Eventually, she learned that a low-level carbon monoxide leak from a faulty furnace in her home was slowly poisoning her. This poisoning triggered severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and partial amnesia.

During this time, the hardest thing she faced was a crisis of faith. She had to quit her job and stop going to church. She couldn’t write, couldn’t drive, and could barely remember who she was. To say she was upset with the Lord was an understatement. She began reexamining her faith in light of her illness, and eventually, she came to the firm conclusion that God is real, God is good, God is interested and involved, and God is trustworthy regardless of tragedy.

When her illness became even more severe, she was put into quarantine and could only talk to friends and extended family through the glass of a window. This quarantine lasted for seven years. During this time, she wrote the first six books in The Time Counselor Chronicles.

Danele currently lives in Colorado where she continues to write. Although her journey back to health was long and difficult, it provided her with the opportunity to grow closer to God and to write her books. For that, she is forever thankful.

You can learn more about Danele by visiting her blog athttps://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com.

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Outlaw Jack by Terri Crews

Devastated by the tragic loss of her husband, widow Jacqueline Wallington seeks revenge against the man who betrayed him by robbing his banks and giving the money to the poor.

Deputy Gavin Ward is elated when his bullet hits its mark and takes down the well-known outlaw who just robbed his town’s bank. That is, until he gets an up-close and personal view of the elusive “Gray-eyed Bandit.” Guilt ridden over shooting a woman, Gavin tends her wounds and hides her at his cabin until he can figure out what to do about her.

Gavin soon learns that this beauty isn’t the outlaw that the posters proclaim her to be, but a sweet, troubled young woman ravaged by terrible twists of fate in her life. Gavin relates with his own demons to slay. As he finds himself falling head over heels for his patient and captive, he becomes determined to clear her name and right past wrongs…but is he fooling himself to believe Jack’s name will ever be cleared? Or will the woman he loves hang?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Terri Crews

 

 The downstairs door banged open.

“Mrs. Jack, Mrs. Jack!” a young, anxious voice hollered.

She spread the dress over the mattress—white satin, off the shoulder, and undoubtedly the finest she’d ever owned. Yet another gift from Brody. They’d only been married for two months, and he continued to shower her with gifts. Leaving the garment upon the bed, Jack walked from her bedroom. Peering over the rail, Jack stared down at the boy.

“Cody Nicholas, what on earth are you caterwauling about?”

The lad caught his breath and wiped at his cheek. Tears streamed down his flushed face, leaving dirty tracks in their wake.

“Mrs. Jack, there’s…something terrible has happened to Pop Brody!”

The news made her heart race as she rushed down the stairs.

“What’s the matter? Tell me!”

The child of six sucked in more air to explain.

“One of them Longhorned bulls done charged and hurt Pop—”

Not waiting for him to finish, Jack gathered her skirts and tore through the front door.

“Brody!” she screamed as her heels hit the grass.

Vaguely, Jack noticed the other cowhands darting about to distract the unruly beast. Her breath was trapped inside her lungs at the sight of her husband sprawled on the ground. Her feet didn’t falter as she climbed her way into the pen.

“NoJack! Don’t come in here! The beast has gone mad!” Waylon shouted.

Refusing to listen, Jack dropped to her knees next to Brody and picked up his head.

“Brody!” He blinked at her as if trying to focus. “I’ll get you to the doctor. Waylon, fetch the wagon!” The man failed to move. “Waylon, hurry! Stay with me. Let me see,” she urged, pulling at the blood-soaked shirt.

“No, a doctor won’t help… I’m sorry, Jack…” he gasped, holding his chest.

His eyes rolled back in the sockets, and his body went limp in her arms.

“Brody!”

Fiercely, Jack shook him, but there was no response.

“Mrs. Jack, look out!” Waylon Nicholas yelled.

At the warning, she looked up to find the raging bull barreling toward her. Reaching down, Jack yanked Brody’s Colt free, waiting for Waylon to clear the way. Firing, the gun exploded in her hand, and the large steer dropped in a cloud of dust several feet away. Dropping the weapon, her greedy fingers clutched her husband.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Jack. The bull went mad or something, stomping and foaming at the mouth.”

His words fell on ears that failed to hear. Sobbing, Jack held Brody’s lifeless body to her bosom—there was nothing anyone could do now. Her husband was gone.

“Come on, Mrs. Jack. I’ll tend to him,” Waylon said.

Reaching down, he grasped her arm to pull her to her feet, but she tore away from his hold. Gut-retching sobs echoed in the silent air.

“Please, Jack, let me tend to him. I can at least do that for you.”

One last painful cry ripped from her chest as Waylon hauled her to her feet.

* * *

A week later, life remained dark and dormant around the ranch. Brody’s memory saturated every corner, and she vowed to do her best to take care of his home, a place she adored. Her plans included Waylon and Cody. They had managed thus far to continue as close to normalcy as possible.

Brody Wallington had treated her better than anyone else in her entire life. The older cattle rancher had taken her in and blessed her with a roof over her head shortly after a tragic fire claimed her folks, destroying all they had.

Missing Brody provoked a deep longing and restlessness inside Jack. Her days seemed empty, and nothing brought comfort.

How could she go on? Would life ever be happy again?

The wind rustled with more than just the promise of rain over the land. Any other time, the storm would be welcomed. However, the rider’s presence blew in with it like a bad omen. Recognition of the stranger only added dread and misery to her already tortured soul.

Why was he here? To pay his respects?

She doubted he possessed such sentiment.

She’d never liked Bill Terrell, never trusted him. As he slid down from his horse and approached with a leering glare in his eyes, she was reminded why.

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Seasons of Love

LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS. LOVE NEVER FAILS…

An Apple a Day

Dr. Brian Coridan needs a break. He vacations in quiet Blossom Lake, Wisconsin where he plans to ponder his future as a physician. He never expects to be distracted by Talia Fountain, the town’s “health food nut.” She’s both charming and annoying and their philosophies about medicine are worlds apart. Then why can’t Brian keep his distance? Could it be she holds the key to what’s been missing in his medical practice?

September Sonata

Krissy and Blaine’s marriage is in its autumn season…or is just over? Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has grown dull. Boring. But there’s a handsome, sophisticated new principal at the Christian school where Krissy teaches. Their attraction to each other is undeniable–but is it strong enough for Krissy to call it quits with her frumpy fireman husband?

Let It Snow

Everyone in the small Door County, Wisconsin town thought Shari Kretlow and Brenan Sheppard would marry someday–until Shari ran off with another guy. Decades later, Shari is a widow and finds herself stranded in a Wisconsin blizzard on Christmas Eve. The Sheppards open their doors and invite her to stay. But there’s a problem. Dr. Brenan Sheppard, now a missionary in Brazil, is home for the holidays and he’s about to propose marriage to a woman on his missions’ team. But when he sees Shari, long-lost feelings come to light. Can a past romance be resurrected? What’s more, can it survive?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 Andrea Boeshaar

 

The bell on the door jangled, and Talia turned to see a man with dark-blond hair enter. He wore blue jeans and a forest green polo shirt that accentuated his hazel eyes. His attractive face, square jaw and straight nose, reminded Talia of a Hollywood film actor. Several movie stars vacationed in Blossom Lake, although she wouldn’t recognize one if he or she passed her by on the street. She smiled. Maybe this guy was famous.

She stepped forward. “Hi. Welcome to Fountain of Life.”

“G’morning.” He sported a cheery expression. “I’m looking for the lady who makes those scrumptious apple pies.”

“That would be my mother.” She turned and presented her. “Marlene Fountain.”

“A pleasure to meet you. I’m Brian Coridan.” He approached and offered his right hand.

Mom shook it politely.

“I’ve enjoyed your pies.” A hint of a blush crept into his face. “I ate one for dinner last night and finished the other one at breakfast.”

“Well, they are rather small,” Mom said, always the diplomat. “I’m glad you liked them.”

Brian turned to Talia. Taking his proffered hand, she introduced herself.

“So…” His gaze wandered the store. “You’re the owner of this place, huh?”

Talia widened her eyes. “Is that so surprising?”

“No, I only meant…well…”

Talia realized he meant no harm. “I apologize for being defensive. We had a…” Dare she call it a theft? “We had an incident here yesterday afternoon, and I’m still reeling from it.”

“Sorry to hear it.”

Mom stood slightly behind Talia and gripped her shoulders. “If your diet consists of only apple pies, Mr. Coridan, you might be interested in purchasing some multivitamins.”

He chuckled at the obvious sales tactics. “I’m a medical physician and don’t take much stock in vitamins. Thanks anyway. But I will buy another apple pie.”

“Coming right up. I’ve got several on the cooling rack.”

Talia watched Mom walk to the kitchen located in the back of the store. Finally, she stared back at her customer. “So you’re a handsome doctor, huh?” There. She’d give him a bit of his own smart-alecky medicine.

He shrugged. “Guilty on at least one of those charges.” He grinned.

In spite of herself, Talia felt rather—charmed. “You must be new in town.”

“You got me again.”

A man who could admit she was right? Imagine that. “Where are you from—if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Not at all. I’m originally from Virginia, but I got accepted to med school in Milwaukee and ended up going into practice in the same vicinity.”

“Ah…so you’ve escaped from the big city.”

He chuckled. “I sure did.”

Probably married. “Well, I hope you and your wife and kids will take advantage of all the recreation that Blossom Lake has to offer.”

“Oh, I’m not married. Not anymore.”

So he’s divorced with a large alimony payment. She folded her arms.

Dr. Cordian’s gaze swept over her, and Talia blushed at his open appraisal. Yes, she’d been fishing, but not on the lake. However, he’d find what every other guy did—Talia was just another single plain Jane with a mousy-colored tangle of curls and ordinary brown eyes. She possessed a so-so figure. Nothing special here.

And yes, she was another health food freak. Judging from his statement about multivitamins, it was doubtful that he’d respect her views on natural remedies versus prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

“So who takes care of your husband and kids while you’re working?” Dr. Cordian snapped his fingers. “Let me guess. Your mom does, in between baking up all that apple goodness.”

Rude! Talia clenched her jaw in preparation for giving him a slice of her mind and tossing his pie order at him. But then she caught sight of the teasing glimmer in his eyes. She smiled. If nothing else, Dr. Coridan was clever. “I’m not married. Never was. No kids.”

With pursed lips, he gave a nod and clasped his hands behind his back. Without further comment, he began perusing her inventory. “Were you born and raised in Blossom Lake?”

“No. I’m originally from a little town south of here whose name isn’t even on the map, it’s so tiny. My parents retired here in Blossom Lake and, after college, I decided to join them and go into business for myself.”

“I admire the entrepreneurial spirit.” He examined the free literature on the black wire spinner-rack near the doorway. “But I can’t say I’m fond of this New Age herbs and sprouts stuff.”

“Actually, I don’t consider the concept of natural wellness to be New Age at all.” She moved toward him. “In fact, much of what’s on the market today in the way of herbal remedies dates back to biblical times.”

“Lots of people died in those days because physicians didn’t have the resources we utilize today.”

“True, but so much of medicine is profit and gain and putting money into the pockets of executives at insurance and drug companies. It’s not, in my opinion, about the welfare of patients.”

Brian gave the rack another spin. “I might agree with you there.”
“Really?”

He glanced at her and grinned. “Surprised?”

“Yes.” But pleasantly so.

Mom reentered the shop carrying an apple pie wrapped in a brown paper sack. “Here ya be.” At the cash register, she rang it up.

Dr. Coridan extracted his wallet from his back pocket and paid.

“Thanks much.” He nodded toward Talia. “Nice meeting you ladies.”
“The pleasure was ours,” Mom said. “Stop in again.”

Watching Dr. Coridan’s retreating form, Talia found herself hoping he would do exactly that.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Boeshaar has been married for nearly forty years. She and her husband have three wonderful sons, one beautiful daughter-in-law, and five precious grandchildren. Andrea’s publishing career began in 1994. Since then, 30 of her books have gone to press. Additionally, Andrea cofounded ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and served on its Advisory Board. In 2007, Andrea earned her certification in Christian life coaching. She speaks at women’s retreats and leads writers’ workshops. For more information, log onto Andrea’s website at: www.andreaboeshaar.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @AndreaBoeshaar

“Friend” her on Facebook: Andrea Boeshaar Author.

 

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New Christmas Releases!

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Local tour guide Noelle Richards loves everything Backwards Christmas has to offer in South Pole, Alaska. She gets wrapped up in the upside down trees, taking presents TO Santa Clause and all the festivities. Sled dog trainer Chris Furst, on the other hand, approaches the holiday with nothing but skepticism. When their history bubbles into the present, their difference of opinion comes to a head. When Chris gets himself into a dangerous situation in the snow, Noelle and the hope of Christ are his only hope for redemption.

 

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Ben Jacobsen never thought he would find himself leaving his role as a soldier and living his life without his beloved wife. But, his two young children need a present parent.

Jenna Campbell moves to Myrtle Beach to take a Children’s Minister position. Through helping Ben’s daughter adjust to the church’s daycare, Jenna is taken by Ben Jacobsen. The feeling is mutual except Ben worries he is betraying his deceased wife.

Can Ben find a way to love again? Will Jenna remain in Myrtle Beach and give love a chance?

 

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Bella is back at her childhood home. When her mother took a fall in the Nuisance Grounds and broke her leg, Bella came back to help her and run her shop, Izzie’s. Soon Bella discovers she’s also been handed Izzie’s role in the town’s Christmas theatre production, a musical version of a well-known mystery that threatens to become more bizarre each day. A serial arsonist is frightening the townspeople, a family feud threatens young romance, and intrigue and rumors are the order of the day. On top of everything, Bella’s high school sweetheart Jake, who dumped her for a cheerleader, is now Chief of Police.

 

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Lady Nola is a woman of good-standing, but one tragic mistake is s

et to change her life forever. Rather than be forced to wed a stranger to hide her transgressions, she flees from home.

With child, hungry and homeless, Nola wanders the streets of medieval London in search of a Christmas miracle.

 

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In the late 1800’s, Grant and Lily have established their farm amongst the bluffs of western Wisconsin. As they anticipate the birth of their first child, tragedy strikes. With shaken faith and grief driving a wedge between them, is it possible for three orphans to heal Grant and Lily’s heart and relationship?

 

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Come hear the sounds of Christmas… 
Vivacious frontier widow Connie Rose Simonson manages two cafés while dreaming of the perfect Christmas for her son Andrew, but not e

veryone welcomes her success. A corrupt banker wants her properties an

d will manipulate anyone in his way.
Dr. James Connor heals others while forsaking his own needs. The town’s o

nly doctor, an influenza outbreak, and the holiday season leave him exhausted and discouraged.

It looks like another lonely holiday for the Connor and the Simonsons until Andrew is injured and the doctor becomes entranced by the attractive widow. But James has been hurt before and hesitates to get involved, after all, a physician must always maintain a proper relationship with his patients.

It’s up to angelic newcomer Diana to bring them together creating new beginnings, new memories, and to hear Christmas bells ringing.

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FREE 11/13 & 11/14

The good ladies of Timber are ready to find a wife for their new single minister. Charles has ideas of his own when he meets Fiona, the lovely accident-prone and outspoken part-time librarian. Fiona, on the other hand is holding out for a knight on a white charger to carry her away from her humdrum small town life. Fiona and Charles are thrown together as they begin to solve an old mystery which has turned up in a library book. Will Fiona’s white knight ever show up to sweep her away? Will Charles ever run out of invitations for cream cakes and lemon slice? Fiona might just discover the sound of hoof-beats when she least expects it.

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Sharon McGregor

“I can look to see who checked out the book last,” said Fiona,” but it was likely a long time ago. I mean, how many people would—” There she went again, putting her foot in her mouth. “I’ll check the records.” She clamped her mouth firmly shut before she could shoot herself in the foot again. She giggled a little. What was this fetish she was developing for feet?

She pulled out the pouch card for the book and looked up the member number in the card index. “Last time this book went out was nearly three years ago. It was checked out by Reverend Hamilton.”

“But my predecessor was Jonas Micklethwaite.”

“Yes, but he was only here for a couple of years. I think he got tired of small town life, or his wife did, and they moved to a larger place. Before him, it was Reverend Hamilton. He was here for…well, forever, just about. He christened me and my brother, too. Then his wife got sick and he had to look after her until…well, until she died. He was pretty much ready to retire then, he was quite old, and so he went over to Greenway to live with his daughter.”

“I wonder if these letters are important to him.”

“Well, let’s check,” said Fiona, sliding her nail under one flap.

“We can’t do that! They’re someone’s private letters!” Fiona gave a quick look at Reverend Redpath’s face and concluded the outrage in his words wasn’t echoed in the curiosity in his expression.

“And you call yourself a detective?” she said. Then she flushed as she realized this was her minister she was bantering with, not one of her friends.

“I don’t call myself a detective. You’d asked me why I didn’t become one. Anyhow, we can mail them to him in Greenway.”

“Look, this one isn’t even sealed,” said Fiona, picking up the other letter. “So they’re not really private.” She flipped it open and out popped a sheet of paper. She pushed it between them sideways on the counter so they could both read.

Ch9:15 Blessed be the woman who walketh by the banks of the river.

They exchanged puzzled looks.

“That’s strange,” Fiona spoke first.

“It’s definitely not biblical, I can’t recall that verse in the scriptures anywhere, but it was written by someone copying King James English.”

“It sounds like it comes from Psalms?” asked Fiona.

“It’s made to sound like a Psalm. But Psalm chapter nine verse fifteen is something quite different.”

“Maybe it’s a sort of code?” said Fiona, turning over the envelope. “It has a letter J on the front. Maybe it was a message for someone, James, or Jane, or Jack?”

“But why in code?”

“A rendezvous!” said Fiona. “It’s code for a lover’s tryst.”

“You read too many romance novels.”

“I do not! I read mysteries, and biographies, and even Shakespeare. Well, maybe the odd romance. Anyhow, it’s not a Bible verse, so why make it look like one? And, what is the real quotation? Maybe it’s a clue.”

“Psalm nine is written by King David and it’s a song of praise.”

“But the exact quotation?”

“I’ll have to look it up.”

“I thought ministers knew the Bible by heart.”

“Not all of it verbatim. Where do you have a Bible?”

Fiona took a quick run to the shelves and brought back a Bible with both the Old and New Testaments.

She handed it to Reverend Redpath who thumbed through it until he came to the right page. “‘The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made. In the net which they hid is their own foot taken.’ Not at all like the quote in the message.”

Fiona considered for a moment. “So, if 9:15 doesn’t refer to a Bible verse, it has another purpose. A time? Perhaps a 9:15 meeting?”

“You’re determined it’s a lover’s rendezvous, aren’t you?”

“Can you think of anything better?” Fiona retorted.

“I think you’re probably right about the time.” Then he grinned. It totally transformed his face from the ascetic one of an intellect to the curious one of a small boy about to start an adventure. Fiona had to smile in response. He went on. “But the jury’s still out on the purpose of the meeting.”

 

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Shattered Trust

Trust…given or earned?

As Officer Logan Taul’s nightstick plummets toward the teen’s arm, he sees the monster he has become reflected in the warped storefront window.

Thus begins his journey, back to the officer, man, and father he wants to be. Logan must face his own nature and insecurities and defy those who do not want him to succeed. His quest for redemption leads him to search for the family he deserted. Despite physical attacks on both himself and those he loves, and attempts to frame him, can he bring his family back together? Will he once more wear the badge in a position of trust?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © J. Chris Richards

I forced my eyes away from the mirror. The man staring back at me chilled my heart as his eyes sought a victim. Blood and bruises I couldn’t wash off covered his face. I stripped my police uniform and put on civilian clothes. He still watched me. Despite my scrubbing, his face was no cleaner. Who was this monster? I thought of myself as the protector of society and a warrior—a police officer worthy of awards and recognition. But the man in the mirror was a cop interested only in power and self-benefit. When did this happen? How did it happen? I shook my head in disgust. I had changed from an idealistic cadet to a macho egotist, or worse—a street thug.

I left the squad locker room with him clinging to my back.

Standing beside my pickup, I wondered where to go and what to do. At the Flashing Lights Bar, officers would applaud our record number of arrests in one shift and the force used to make them. Some in the group won big bucks betting on us, but others lost. At home, I’d be alone with the monster. I shuddered at the thought of living with him. Swing shift from 1500 to 2300 left a lot of the night for him to haunt me.

“Hey, Logan, you ready? It’s been a great night. It’s only midnight. We got two whole hours to celebrate. You goin’ to Flashin’ Lights with me or meetin’ me there?” Brad asked. “Whoa, I feel like a real cop again. We got a lot of scumbags off the street tonight.”

I turned and waved cigarette smoke away. “You gotta quit smoking those things before you kill yourself and everyone else. They’re vile.”

“Don’t tell me what to do, kid. These Picayunes are the best-tastin’ cig ever made. You comin’ or not?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Don’t think of ridin’ with me or don’t you’re think coming?” Brad threw the butt to the sidewalk and ground it hard under his heel, three times. I could gauge his anger by the number of times. One said back off. Two, an explosion was imminent. Three translated to extreme danger.

“You soft on that kid?” Brad growled.

The deep voice was another danger sign. I considered denying his accusation. It was time to stand up to him, even with part of the truth.

“Just tired. You made me work a lot harder than Rich did while you were laid up with that broken leg.”

“You’ll be sorry if you don’t come.”

A threat or advice? Brad stepped over his car door and lowered his bulk into the bright red convertible sports car. As he drove away, he shouted, “Be there.”

I leaned against my new, royal-blue, four-wheel drive, top of the line pickup with V-8 engine, head on my arms, until I controlled my emotions enough to drive.

I decided to find Rich Ryker and ask his advice. No. Not advice. When I left the precinct without Brad Fischer and without going to the Flashing Lights, the choice was made. I wanted confirmation.

After a shift, Rich always had coffee at Second Home. He’d explained about the place. It was a campus of 960 acres with several buildings. People found their way to this haven through crisis, loneliness, or a need for restoration, seeking a quiet place to rebuild their lives in a safe haven. The facilities included dorms for temporary lodging, a childcare center, a chapel, a medical clinic, a craft shop, and a gym. The oldest building was the home of founders Joshua and Sean-Colleen Bryant.

Rich and his wife, Samantha, had been volunteers until her cancer death a few years ago, so he now spent his spare time continuing their work. I figured Second Home was his substitute family.

I parked in the dirt lot by the community kitchen. Rich was having coffee with Jack Wallace, his partner. Jack’s presence was a surprise. He had a wife and three children.

The pile of mugs next to the coffee pot had been made by crafters in the ceramic workshop. Each was unique. I chose one with a swirly purple design on a light green background. More important, it had a matte finish and wouldn’t reflect my face.

Filling the mug took me back to the first time Rich brought me here. He had put a twenty-dollar bill in a can covered with construction paper and bright foam stickers.

“Wow, sure you wanna pay for mine?” I’d said.

“The money’s used to buy tea, coffee, sugar, and supplies. Any leftover goes for the organization expenses. The can is emptied every morning. I’ve helped a few times. It’s not unusual to find several thousand dollars.”

“Are you serious? That’s crazy! It’d be robbed all the time.”

“It may seem kinda funny, but it’s never happened. Second Home only accepts cash donations. The Bryants want to focus on the needs of the people. They don’t take any grants. No one who isn’t part of Second Home can tell them what to do, but everyone can make suggestions. Both Sean-Colleen and Joshua are good at finding or creating programs to meet those needs.”

As I remembered, I pulled out a ten-dollar bill and put it in the can.

All the tables and chairs in the community kitchen were mismatched donations, creating a homey atmosphere. I relaxed a little, but not much because of my mission here. I walked to where Rich and Jack sat.

“Pull up a chair. Plenty of room,” Rich said.

“Didn’t expect you, Jack. Thought you’d be home with the family,” I said.

“They’re at Molly’s grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary. I couldn’t get leave ’cause I was off so long with my leg. The house is so quiet with the kids gone, I can’t relax. I just wander around the place.”

We made small talk and drank coffee. I struggled trying to figure out how to change the subject. After riding in a patrol car with Rich for the last six weeks, I could make an accurate guess as to his reaction to my story—at least the first part. I wasn’t as sure of the rest.

Rich and I became partners the day both of our regular partners had been injured. Brad was ogling a girl in a mini-skirt while climbing the courthouse stairs when he missed a step and turned his ankle. Flailing his arms, he’d grabbed hold of Jack—who was lighter and unprepared. The sudden weight pulled Jack against Brad, and they’d gone down the dignified marble steps like a giant double cartwheel. Rich and I slipped, slid and used our hands to get down the steps as we laughed. To make matters worse, a photojournalist took advantage of the situation. Her pictures made the front page of the newspaper. They made good conversation starters, but weren’t flattering.

Brad broke his left leg, along with minor cuts and bruises, in the fall. Jack broke a leg too—his right—but his worst injury was a posterior dislocation of the right shoulder which required surgery. When Rich and I stopped at the hospital, Jack said the shoulder was far more painful than his leg.

Until Jack and Brad returned to duty today, Rich and I had been partners. Just as Brad and I shared an attitude, so did Rich and Jack. Well, Brad and I had—emphasis on had—shared one in the past. Today, I’d discovered my attitude had changed while he was gone.

I realized the room now was silent. I studied the ripples in my coffee cup and remembered tonight’s events.

“So, Logan, what’s up with you?” asked Rich.

“I…uh, well, wanted talk to you about what happened on today’s shift.”

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