Her sculptured cheekbones and her coal black hair, which she wore in layered curls to just below her shoulders, she had inherited from her Cherokee ancestors on her father’s side. Her emerald eyes and the light dusting of freckles across her cheeks (she could cover them completely with properly applied makeup, but usually preferred to let them peak through) had been passed to her from her mother’s Irish bloodline.
And the truth was that when one considered all of these parts together – from head to toe – Suzanne Peterson was simply, strikingly beautiful.
Of much more importance was the fact that she was so beautiful in spirit that she had no vanity about her looks and hardly gave them a thought. So her beauty wasn’t at all sophisticated. There was an innocence about her – in her eyes – in her smile – in her manner – that made her charming, and most everyone who knew her found her a delight to be around.
At the same time, she felt most things passionately, and when her sense of injustice had been aroused, her eyes would flash fire, and her lovely voice would take on a ring of authority that seemed incongruous with that innocence. So potent was this combination that when Suzanne Peterson took her stand on any issue, most people listened – whether they wanted to or not.
That fact gave her an advantage as a newspaper reporter. She was an accurate and truthful reporter, but every time she had an opportunity to do an article or a story that didn’t require her to be unbiased, she invested every bit of her talent and passion into persuading people to embrace what was right and good, and to abandon what was not.
But tonight, she wasn’t thinking about newspaper articles, or even about injustice of any kind. Rather, she was happily weighing the merit of packing her rose pink silk robe against that of taking the navy blue flannel as she prepared her luggage for tomorrow’s trip to Tennessee. She hummed quietly as she worked, stopping every once in a while to admire and smooth her hand over the ruby velvet bridesmaid’s dress hanging on her closet door.
“Oh, Lord,” she stopped to pray now, “how good You are to bring Maddison and Beth together as You have. I can’t imagine any two people better suited to each other. I know it took a lot of miracles to make everything work out for them, but You’ve certainly shown Yourself strong on their behalf. … It just swells my heart to see Maddison so happy after all he’s been through as a result of Matt’s death.”
Her eyes filled with tears, but she blinked them away. Her grief had to give place to her stronger joy for the man who would have been her own brother-in-law if things had gone as planned. She sighed deeply and sat down on the end of her bed in thought. Six months ago it would have been her own wedding she was packing for. …
(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Two)
Pastor Cameron McDaniels had never felt his heart stop beating before. … Was that what was happening … or was he just forgetting to breathe in and out normally? … He couldn’t have answered either one of those questions, because his usually quick and concise reasoning abilities had just deserted him.
All he knew for sure was that he was looking at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in all of his thirty-eight years on earth. … And her laughter … He had heard it as he came down the hall. Now, standing in the same room with her, it seemed to radiate from her whole being … rich and warm. It reached out and embraced him and drew him in … like a magnet. …
Somewhere in the back of his mind was the vague thought that this must have been what Adam felt when he first saw Eve. A foolish comparison perhaps, but he was used to thinking in Biblical terms after all. He knew others were in the room, but he couldn’t seem to focus on anyone but her.
All of this experience had taken only a few seconds, but he had lost track of time. Finally, he shook his head to clear it, deliberately took a deep breath, just to prove that he still could, and reminded himself that men didn’t really fall in love at first sight – particularly men who were ministers of the Gospel.
He squared his shoulders, taking another deep breath, glad that the others were still gathered around his secretary’s desk, intent on what they had been talking about that had them all laughing. They hadn’t seen him enter the office, so he had a moment to collect his thoughts.
So this was the young woman who had been engaged to Maddison’s brother and was now becoming a partner with Beth. Suzanne Peterson. … The name suited her, he thought.
The laughter of the others stirred him out of his reverie again, and squaring his shoulders once more, he moved forward. “Hello everyone. I’m sorry I’m late. The meeting with the other pastors ran longer than usual.”
Beth hurried toward him, her arms outstretched. “It’s about time you got here; we’re starving!” she said as they hugged each other. By that time, Maddison had crossed the room, beaming from ear to ear. “Don’t pay any attention to her, Cameron,” he said. “She’s always ready to eat. And can she put away the hotdogs!” he added, sliding his arm around Beth and squeezing her shoulder. She responded by punching him gently in the stomach.
“Now, Honey,” he said shaking his finger at her, “if you don’t behave, I’m going to have to arrange some more counseling sessions with our Pastor here before the ceremony.”
“All right, enough of that, you two.” The words came from across the room, and Cameron looked beyond Maddison to see Suzanne approaching them.
“You must be Pastor McDaniels,” she said, extending her hand to him.
“That’s right,” he answered as he took her hand. The luxurious sound of her laughter already had him mesmerized; now the feel of her hand in his disrupted his concentration even more. He had to get his thoughts together; he was the pastor after all; he needed to act like one! “And you’re Suzanne, of course. It’s so finally to – I mean – It’s so good to finally meet you.” He almost never stumbled over his words. Why now, of all times?
Suzanne spoke again: “I’ve heard so many good things about you from these two, that I feel I already know you.”
Let go of her hand, Cameron, he told himself. “Good … I mean … I … uh … I feel the same way.” He shakily drew in a long overdue breath. No woman had ever made him almost speechless before!
(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Three)
With Suzanne in Honduras to interview the pastors, Cameron felt lost and uptight. This being in love was a whole new experience, and he was only beginning to get used to its ups and downs. But by Monday, with only four more days to go before her return, he was able to focus on his regular schedule a little more earnestly. He even congratulated himself because he felt like he was finally getting back into his stride. But it all came to a crashing halt on Tuesday night with a phone call from Juan Cordoba that began the worst nightmare Cameron would ever experience in his life.
When he first heard Juan’s voice speak his name, he assumed he had called to give an update on Suzanne’s visit, but when the only thing following the word “Cameron” was silence, he knew something was wrong. His heart started pounding, and he cried out silently … not Suzanne … not Suzanne!
“What is it, Juan?” he asked in a strangled voice.
“I don’t know how to tell you this in a way that will make it easy to hear, so I’ll just give you the bold facts. Suzanne went out with two of our medical team in the mobile clinic van. They were going pretty far into the more primitive areas, and she wanted to get some pictures and talk to the people that were receiving help. But the van never arrived at its destination.”
“You mean it’s just disappeared!”
“Nobody’s heard from any of the team since they left here very early this morning. They should have had time to visit both of the villages they were scheduled to work at and be headed back by now.”
There was silence on both ends of the line. Finally Juan Cordoba spoke again.
“You know what probably happened.”
Cameron let out a groan. He felt as if something were choking the breath out of him. Juan was again quiet on the other end of the line. He knew without words what kind of pain his friend was in, and he hurt for him, as well as for the family members of the other people on his medical team.
Finally Cameron was able to get enough breath to let out an agonizing sigh. “You think the van was hijacked for the drugs.”
“That seems most likely. I’ve called the authorities, but you know how hard it is to get things done very efficiently in these cases. They are on the job, but I think we’re going to have to keep our trust in the Lord for this one.”
Tears ran down Cameron’s cheeks and dripped from his jaw, but he wasn’t paying attention. He had picked up a pen, and started making notes. “Tell me everything you know at this point … and I mean every detail, Jaun. Don’t try to spare me any of it. I have to know.”
There wasn’t much more to add for the time being. Juan told him their own people were trying to track the van, and might be able to come up with some kind of lead before the authorities. He promised to call back as soon as he knew anything.
“Well, I’m going to call our congregation to a special prayer meeting right now, but I’ll be on the first plane out of here tomorrow morning,” Cameron said. “If I haven’t heard anything from you before I board the plane, I’ll give you one more call, so if you’re going to be away from the house or office, will you be sure somebody’s there who can give me the latest information?”
“Sure, Cameron. But I’ll be back in touch tonight yet; I promise.
“I’d appreciate that, if you don’t mind … even if you don’t have any more news.” Juan could here the tears choking his friend’s voice, and his heart broke for him.
“You can count on it, my brother.”
Cameron cleared his throat of the thickness caused by the tears. “Thank you, Juan. I’ll be waiting to hear from you, and you can be sure we’ll be praying with all the faith we’ve got for all of them.”
“We’ve notified all of our sister churches, and the congregations are going to prayer even as we speak. The Lord won’t fail us, Brother.”
“I believe that, Juan. Good bye, my friend.”
Cameron’s first call was to Maddison Holt and his wife Beth, knowing they would call others on the prayer chain for him. But even more to the point, Maddison had become Cameron’s closest friend and was so much like his own brother that he knew he could count on the solid comfort and support.
“Hi, Cameron,” Maddison said, “what are you up to this evening?”
Cameron cleared his throat again, and took just long enough to get his words out that Maddison knew there was a serious problem. “Cameron … ?”
“I … I just got a call from Juan Cordoba, Maddison. There’s a problem, and we need to get the church together for prayer.”
“Suzanne went out in the medical van this morning with their team that visits the outlying villages, but the van never arrived at either village. They’re all missing.”
“Oh, man! Do they have any idea what’s happened to it?”
Cameron cleared his throat again. He just couldn’t seem to get beyond this choking feeling. “The most likely explanation is that some local gang has hijacked the van in order to get the drugs it carries.”
“That’s pretty common down there?”
“Yes, unfortunately. It’s so common that I’m positive that’s what’s happened.”
“Do you have any idea what their attitude is likely to be toward the people on the van? I mean … are they likely to let them go?”
Cameron’s sigh was so weary that it almost broke Maddison’s heart just to hear it, knowing how much this man loved Suzanne. “It just depends. If they’re focused enough on the drugs only, they may just throw the people off and leave them stranded. But only God knows what these guys are like … if that’s what’s happened. There’s always the possibility that they’ve kidnapped them to hold them for ransom, of course, but I don’t think that’s as likely.”
“So you want us to call some of the others?”
“Yes, if you will. Call Uncle Matt and have him call a bunch, and then get Hilary, and have her call another group. Let’s ask them to come down to the church if they can, so we can all pray together. But any who can’t come down can at least be praying at home. I need to stop and call Suzanne’s parents next, so I’m going to let you guys handle the congregation.”
“Consider it done, Buddy, and we’ll be down to the church just as soon as we can get there. As a matter of fact, I think Beth and I will go on down there, and we can keep making calls from there.”
“That’s great. I’ll see you there pretty soon … and … Maddison …” he made a choking sound that barely held back a sob.
“I know, Buddy … I know. … We’ll be with you soon.”
(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Eighteen)
The three excerpts above are just to tempt you. They’re from CAMERON’S RIB, the second book in The Smoky Mountain Series, which is finally available for e-readers. You can find a copy at Amazon’s Kindle Store right now. If you’ve read Book # 1 and liked it, you’re sure to like this one as well. Only $3.99