Excerpt from the Prologue
Valentina’s aquamarine eyes popped wide open. She sat bolt upright, her heart beating erratically, as she looked around her at her bedroom, realization dawning on her. She let out a gusty sigh. “Oh! … I knew it was too good to be true!” She sighed once more. She’d been dreaming … again … about Professor Jonah McDaniels … again!
She fell back against her pillows once more, running her hands through her long, loosely curled hair. As she felt it flow between her fingers, she recalled the scene from her dream where Jonah had buried his hand in her hair. She closed her eyes, wanting to relive the whole dream and hold onto it as long as possible.
Jonah had been standing a couple feet away from her, his conductor’s baton in his hand, his eyes burning with his feelings. Finally, he laid down the baton, closed the gap between them and took her, somewhat roughly, into his arms.
Valentina swallowed, trying to get back the breath his sudden embrace had stolen. Her heart beat wildly as his eyes moved to her lips. Without conscious thought, she glanced down to his mouth, his full, sculptured lips – one of the first two things she had noticed about him the day she’d met him – the other being his deep violet eyes, so unusual in a man, especially one with his Hispanic coloring.
The exhilarating scent of his cologne sent her senses whirling, and the warmth of his breath as he brought his face close to hers was so sweet she couldn’t resist closing her eyes. Her lips were parted slightly, her breath almost suspended, and as his mouth reached hers, his lips were bold and strong as they molded hers to his own. Everything in her melted as she gave herself up to this kiss she’d wanted for so long, but had never dared hope for.
He deepened the kiss, and she clung to him. When he finally pulled back for a moment, she uttered his name, once, breathlessly. “Jonah.”
“Hey, Vallie!” That shout came from Katey, one of the two girls she shared the apartment with, and it was coupled with a pounding on Valentina’s bedroom door. So much for wallowing in her dream. “You’d better get a move on if you don’t want to be late for rehearsal. You know what Dr. McDaniels will say if you walk in late.”
“Oh, no!” Vallie had forgotten about the string ensemble’s rehearsal this morning. Just the thing she didn’t need: facing Dr. McDaniels right after that dream. “Listen, Lord,” she prayed, although the whine in her voice made the words sound more like a complaint. “You know I can’t seem to get over these feelings for Dr. McDaniels. And you also know he’s way out of my league. It’s hopeless! But I keep having these dreams. Can’t You just take these feelings away?” Another pounding on her door brought her prayer to an end.
She groaned as she threw back the covers and slid her feet to the floor. Well, at least having the dusky skin that was part of her African-American heritage would help hide her blushes when she saw the professor. … Now, if she could just avoid getting so nervous that she tripped over something or dropped her violin.
She stood in front of her mirror in her pajamas. It was time for the lecture again. She looked at her reflection sternly, and pointed her finger at the mirror. “This is just your junior year, Valentina Rosswell. You still have three months left of this year and your whole senior year to go. And next year is going to be full of performances … a good many of them with Dr. Jonah McDaniels conducting. Do you want to end up making a total fool of yourself? … Now, you go out there and act like the musician that you are! You treat this Dr. McDaniels like any other stuffy, old college professor.”
Suddenly she was picturing him dressed in a baggy sweater, the lower part of his face covered with a beard, his hair gray and in total disarray. She shook her head and sighed loudly. Even like that he looked good enough to melt her bones.
Excerpt from Chapter Three
On the morning of the twenty-ninth, Vallie, Kana, Grandma Nora, and Kana’s mom, who had arrived from Atlanta, all trooped down to the church to begin decorating for the wedding. An hour later, Kana, her hands full, realized she’d forgotten a box in the trunk of her car and asked Vallie to run out to the car for it. Vallie snatched up her short coat and walked out of the sanctuary into the hall.
Just as she got about halfway to the church door, Jonah McDaniels pushed it open from the outside and walked in, advancing in long strides. Vallie froze. It was incredible! He was even more handsome than he had been seven years ago. The finely sculptured features could easily have been those of a professional model. As he closed the distance between them, she saw that his once black hair was now liberally streaked with gray, but that only made his looks more dramatic. His figure was still that of a superb athlete, and his eyes, still intense and beautifully violet as ever, now widened perceptibly and lit up in surprise. Then they almost immediately narrowed in concentration, as if he were trying to figure out where he had seen her before … or perhaps why he was seeing her here and now.
In actual fact, he had recognized her immediately … or thought he had, but then wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. After all these years, the last place he would have imagined seeing Valentina Rosswell again was in the hallway of his brother’s church in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. After the immediate sense of surprise, his first reaction was that of having had the breath knocked out of him momentarily. She had been a lovely girl in college, but now she was quite beautiful, and her eyes were still capable of captivating anyone looking into them.
She seemed as stunned as he, and finally he shook is head a little and smiled at her, stepping even closer. “It is Valentina Rosswell, isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” Vallie replied, feeling as if she had virtually no breath with which to speak.
He extended his hand to her now, and she did likewise, without thinking about her action. When he took her hand in his, Valentina felt the shock of his touch all through her body. Heat suffused her, and she knew if she hadn’t been so dark skinned, her face would undoubtedly have been red. She still couldn’t speak.
“How delightful to see you again, but a little surprising that it should be here of all places. I gather you know my brother, Cameron?”
“Well, yes.” Vallie was relieved to find that she had enough breath to actually say words. “We’ve only recently become acquainted. He’s the pastor of my dearest friend, who moved down here this past year, and we’re planning her wedding here at the church.”
“Ahhh … Cameron said something about a wedding this week. The couple changed their date to accommodate our special celebration with Cameron, I think he said. That was certainly very kind of them.”
Vallie nodded her head. “They’re very thoughtful people. And … I think it’s wonderful that your family are all going to so much trouble to celebrate with your brother. I understand from Kana, my friend, that you’re spread out in several different cities.”
“True, but a little planning and a lot of determination can pull off most anything that one deems important enough, don’t you think?”
“You’re probably right,” Valentina said, smiling at him again, unaware of the radiance that glowed on her face.
“Well, well …” Jonah said pensively, letting his eyes drift unashamedly over Valentina. The look wasn’t brazen or embarrassing, but it was all encompassing and held such an element of interest that Vallie almost felt as if she were being inspected. “You’ve matured into quite a beautiful woman, as I’m sure you’ve been told often.” Vallie’s eyes widened in surprise at the unexpected compliment, but she didn’t say anything, and Jonah added, “I’ve always been amazed at your eyes when I see you, Valentina. They are without a doubt the most intriguing and beautiful eyes I think I’ve ever seen.”
“Th … thank you,” she managed to stammer.
Jonah heard himself say the words, but couldn’t believe that he had done so. Had he taken leave of his senses? He hadn’t seen this woman in years, and when he had seen her last, she had been a young student of his. Normally, he kept much tighter control of his tongue than this. He tried to redirect the conversation.
“Well … we never know what surprises await us just around a corner, do we?”
Valentina felt that she needed to at least tell him that she had been forewarned about his coming. Cameron would surely tell his brother about the conversation from two days ago, so she didn’t want to act like she was hiding the fact. But even though she had been warned, she hadn’t been at all prepared for this experience.
Finally, she was able to say something else. “Well, actually, I had a little more warning than you,” she said, still smiling at him. “I was intrigued by the name when I met your brother, and I asked if there were any chance he might be related to you in some way, but I was totally surprised when he told me the relationship. During that conversation, he mentioned that you and the rest of his family were coming to celebrate his birthday.”
“I see; so you weren’t really surprised.”
“Well … to be honest … I … I was anyway … I mean … I didn’t know I would feel … I mean …” Vallie almost panicked. She had almost told him exactly how she had felt when she saw him walk through that door. Be careful, girl, she told herself. Think before you speak. “Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t realize that I’d run right into you so unexpectedly, even though I knew you were supposed to be in the area.”
He smiled at her again, a knowing smile, as if he had surmised exactly what she had left unsaid.
Excerpt From Chapter Eleven
Jonah shook his head, sighing again in what was obviously exasperation. He looked straight at his brother. “Cam … I’m forty-two years old. … And I’ve lived most of those forty-two years in a structure of self-imposed, rigid discipline. I don’t have a gregarious bone in my body.” He chuckled slightly, but there was a grimness in the sound of it. “I’m a stuffy music instructor who’s been described by his students more than once … and rightfully so … as being uncompromising and dictatorial. And, I might add, I was also described by my former fiancée as being far too set in my ways and serious to be any fun.”
He turned and looked back out the window, not saying anything for a few moments. When he finally spoke again, his voice was husky. “I’m full of passion, but the only way I know to let it out is through my music.” He shook his head again. “I’m not what she needs.”
Cameron’s heart went out to his brother. He knew Jonah believed every word he was saying, but he also knew that he was wrong. Jonah was a reserved and controlled person, but he did have powerful beliefs and feelings, and they were what made him the special person that he was. He didn’t express himself as openly as a less disciplined person would, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t express everything inside of him when the time and the need were right.
“I think you’re wrong to decide that all by yourself,” he said now.
“What do you mean?” Jonah asked, turning to look at him again.
“I mean I believe Vallie ought to have a chance to tell you how she feels about it all instead of you making all the decisions for both of you.”
“I don’t want to put her on the spot by forcing her to make those decisions … and the choices that might follow.”
Cameron chuckled. “Boy, I didn’t give Suzanne a choice! … Well, I guess I did give her a little time to decide what she thought she wanted, but when she started taking too long about it, and then hinted that she might be deciding something I couldn’t live with, I just bulldozed my way in and presented my case boldly.”
“But you knew you were what she needed.”
“Only because I knew she loved me, and that she needed the love I could give her.”
“But those are things I don’t know about Valentina.”
“Are you sure?” Cameron paused, looking at his brother, who walked back to his chair, but only leaned on the back of it. “I think Vallie loves you, and personally, I think your love is exactly what she needs … and wants.”
“Then why don’t I feel that way about it too?”
“Because you’re letting your head rule instead of your heart. You know, God uses our hearts to lead us into His will much more often that He does our heads, Jonah.”
Jonah stood there with his elbows resting on the back of the chair, looking at his hands clasped in front of him. “It’s interesting you should say that. A few nights ago, when I was really wrestling with all this, I picked up my Bible and just opened to wherever, and the first passage I read was from Proverbs three. The fifth verse says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
“That’s it, Jonah. You’ve been leaning heavily on your own reasoning about this thing and not on your heart at all from what I can see. You’ve served God faithfully all of your life. Surely you can trust that He has a strong enough hold on you by now to lead you where He wants you. And to keep you from taking wrong turns. If something – the same something – keeps showing up strongly and consistently in your heart, and it’s something that doesn’t go against God’s Word, then it’s most likely the Lord Who planted it in your heart in the first place.” …
Jonah sat down, and Cameron continued. “Those two characteristics you see as negative may, in fact, be the most positive things you have to offer, because they may be the very things that Valentina needs most in a husband. You need to at least give the Lord … and Valentina … the opportunity to put in their two cents worth, rather than just deciding everything in your own finite mind.”
Jonah grinned at his brother’s bluntness, but then he sighed and leaned his head back against the chair, closing his eyes. After several minutes, he spoke softly. “I composed a song to her, did I tell you?”
“No. When was this?”
“A couple of weeks ago. I was so close to drowning in all that I was feeling for her … and wanting from her… that I just picked up the violin and began to play it out. After I’d played it several times, I decided I needed to get it written down so I wouldn’t lose it.” He laughed lightly. “As if I could lose it. … It‘s as much a part of me as my breath.”
Cameron looked at his brother, whose eyes were still closed. His heart swelled with pride in this older brother who was able to create such beauty with his gifts. How like Jonah to release the love he felt in the creation of a beautiful piece of music that millions of people could one day share and enjoy.
“Have you played it for her?” he asked now.
Jonah opened his eyes and looked at Cameron. “No, I haven’t. … And I don’t think I ever intended to.”
“Then you’re an idiot.”
Jonah’s eyes widened. His brother had never spoken to him that way before, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it. “You sound pretty convinced.”
Excerpt From Chapter Thirteen
As she walked through the airport entrance, Valentina spotted Roger Parks, one of the flying instructors who had known Jonah for several years, and whom she had also come to know and like. She had started to wave to him, but realized that he was hurrying toward her, a serious look on his face, and her smile began to fade. Something was wrong. “Miss Rosswell,” Roger said now as he reached her side. “I was watching for you.”
“Watching for me? How did you know I’d be here? Did Jonah tell you he was flying in today?”
“No, not me personally, but, of course, the airport had a record of his expected arrival. But … I’m afraid I have some unhappy news about that.”
Valentina grabbed his arm, her eyes wide, as she struggled not to give in to fear. “Has something happened to Jonah?”
“I’m afraid it may have … at least to his plane. It apparently went down somewhere in the area between Nashville and Knoxville. At least that’s the area he was in when he broadcast the emergency report. We don’t know yet about Jonah himself. I’m so sorry.”
Valentina closed her eyes as a wave of dizziness swept over her.
“Here,” Roger spoke as he took her arm and began guiding her across the main entrance to one of the offices. “Let me take you into the office, and we’ll explain everything we know. As I started to tell you, we tried to notify you earlier, since you’re down on the papers Jonah has on file as the person to contact in case of an emergency. But since we couldn’t reach you, we contacted his brother, who was also listed. He’s the one who told us you should be here at almost any time, and he said to tell you that he and his wife are on their way here now.”
Vallie sat down in the chair he indicated, still in a daze. He spoke quietly to a young lady who left and returned almost immediately with a hot cup of coffee. “Try to drink a little of this if you can, Miss Rosswell, and I’ll tell you everything we know. If you want to talk to some of the higher ranking people here, they’re ready to talk to you, but they thought that since Jonah and I are friends, you might rather hear about all of it from me.”
“Yes,” Vallie said, sipping the coffee and feeling that at least some degree of life was flowing back into her. “Yes, please, Roger. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me.” At that moment, the office door opened and a tall, middle-aged man in a business suit stood to the side and allowed Cameron and Suzanne to enter ahead of him. Vallie jumped up and threw herself into Cameron’s arms. She didn’t cry. She wanted to. It would have given her some release, but she couldn’t. She just trembled throughout her whole body, and held onto Cameron as tightly as she could. Suzanne reached out and put her hand on her back, rubbing it lightly in an attempt to provide at least a little comfort. Her other arm was around her own husband’s waist, holding him, trying to provide the support she knew he needed, even as he tried to comfort Vallie.
He pulled back from Vallie enough to look at her. He gently brushed the hair from her face and looked right into her eyes. “We are going to trust the Lord, Vallie. He has always been faithful to take care of us, and we’re going to believe that He’s still doing that.” Vallie nodded and smiled weakly at him to let him know that she was in agreement. Then she reached out and took Suzanne’s hand, squeezing it, and finally pulling away from Cameron, she hugged Suzanne too.
“There’s room for all of you to sit down if you’d like,” Roger said now. “Miss Rosswell, this gentleman is Mr. Randall, the airport director,” he added introducing the man who had escorted the McDaniels into the office. The director reached out to take Vallie’s hand.
“I’m very sorry to meet you under these circumstances, Miss Rosswell, but I assure you that we are doing everything we can to find out every detail about the accident and Dr. McDaniels’ condition.”
Vallie looked at Cameron. “Do you know what’s happened?”
“Yes, Mr. Randall filled us in as he was bringing us to meet with you, dear.”
Just then the door opened and a clerk handed Mr. Randall a note. He read it quickly and then turned back to the group seated before him. “Well, some good news, at least. The rescue team has made it to the crash site, and they report that Dr. McDaniels is unconscious, but that he is definitely alive.”
At those words, Vallie dropped her head into her hands and wept openly. Cameron sucked in a sob and wiped at his eyes, and Suzanne, who also had tears streaming down her cheeks just leaned over and took Vallie into her arms.
“I’m sorry that’s all we know right now,” Mr. Randall continued, “but at least it’s something to hold onto.”
“Yes,” Cameron said, his voice husky. “It certainly is. And we intend to do just that.”
Mr. Randall told them he was having more hot coffee sent in, and although he had to return to his office to take care of another problem, he would contact them the very moment he had any more information. Roger said he would sit with them while they waited, so they began their vigil, binding together first in a fervent prayer of thanksgiving for Jonah’s life and then in a petition for God’s further intervention.
In a little less than an hour, Mr. Randall was back with a new report. “Well, the emergency team is on their way with Dr. McDaniels to the hospital at Knoxville. The most information I could get about his condition is sketchy. They are considering him critically injured, since there is apparently a head would involved, and they are pretty sure of some broken ribs as well … I’m sure you want to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Is there any way that we can assist you at all?”
Cameron stood up and shook Mr. Randall’s hand. “No, thank you. You’ve all been very kind, and I think we’ll be fine to drive ourselves to the hospital.”
“I wish we could have done more, Pastor McDaniels. But I’m a Christian myself, and I’ll be praying for your brother.”
“Thank you. We’ll take all the prayers we can get right now.” He then turned to shake Roger’s hand, and Valentina offered her hand to Mr. Randall, thanking him in her turn. She hugged Roger briefly. “Thank you so much for taking the time to make this as easy on us as possible I know Jonah will be grateful to you.”
He patted her hand. “I’ll be praying too, Miss Rosswell. You keep me up to date on his condition, you hear?”
Vallie nodded her head, still wiping an occasional tear from her cheek. “I will,” she said as she turned to follow Cameron and Suzanne out of the room.
Well, love is where you find it, and you’ll find the whole story at the Amazon Kindle Store — on sale through Christmas for $1.99.