RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT — CHAPER 12

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

CHAPTER TWELVE

Noah finally returned to a standing position, wiping his face with his hands and then immediately wrapping his arms around Serenity and gripping her to him as if she were a life preserver. The sobs had ceased, and Noah was trying to take slow, deep breaths to quiet himself enough to speak. Serenity still had tears trickling down her cheeks, but she clung to Noah as fervently as he did to her.

After another moment, Noah felt quieter, and he released his hold just enough to reach back to his back pocket for his handkerchief, forgetting that he had given it to David. Serenity had stepped back just a fraction and, realizing what he was trying to do, she looked around for some tissues. Clint stepped over to them and handed Noah a clean, folded handkerchief. “You gave yours away, remember?” he said, smiling at Noah. “Use my clean one.”

Noah reached out and took it, nodding his head as he unfolded it. “Thanks, Clint,” he said in a husky voice, and proceeded to blow his nose and finish drying his face. He took another deep breath and looked straight at Serenity. “I think it’s time I explained some things to the two of you.”

“Please, Noah,” she answered, her eyes pleading even more than her voice. In unison, they all turned back toward the table to resume their seats. “Why don’t we sit in the living room a while,” Clint suggested.

“That’s fine,” Noah said, and picking up his coffee cup from the table, turned to lead the way into that area of the cabin. The living room area consisted of a sofa and two chairs, each with a footstool in front of them. Noah sat down on the sofa, and Serenity joined him there, still feeling a need to try to comfort him — or protect him — she wasn’t sure which. Clint took the chair that let him face the other two and leaned back, trying to relax and hoping he could help Noah and Serenity do likewise.

“Just take your time, Son, and tell us everything you think you should. As I said, nothing needs to go any farther than this room if that’s the way you want it.”

Noah looked at Clint and tried to smile. “Thanks, Clint . . . I trust you and Serenity as much as I would anybody . . . and really none of this is a secret. My whole county back home knows the story inside and out, but it isn’t something I’ve wanted to talk about.” He took a deep breath. “Mainly because I would really like to just forget it, although I know that isn’t possible . . . and then partly because it’s so horrible a story to tell that I cringe, even now, at the thought of your having to hear it.”

He stopped and looked at Serenity. “I think you should slip in and take a peak at David. Make sure he’s sound asleep, because I don’t want him to overhear any of this. It might frighten him terribly.”

“Okay,” Serenity said and rose to go and do as he asked. She came back momentarily, smiling. “He’s out like a light . . . even snoring a little bit.”

“Good . . . that’s good,” Noah said, letting out a deep breath. “Well . . . I might as well start at the beginning . . . at least at what was the beginning of my involvement. But promise me that if you want me to stop at any time in the telling of this . . . if you just feel you don’t want to hear anymore . . . you’ll tell me so.” He looked at both of them, and they both nodded.

“I promise, Noah,” Serenity answered first.

“You have my word, Son,” Clint said then.

Noah nodded and leaned back on the sofa, trying to relax, knowing it was impossible. “Well . . . last summer, we began to get reports in our office from some of the local hunters and farmers around the county. They had come across evidence of some unusual activities out in the woods or sometimes one of the fields that had been left idle during that season in order to let the land rest. They didn’t seem to know what was going on, but a couple of times they reported seeing strange lights and hearing what sounded like some kind of chanting.

Most of them didn’t want to get too close, but one or two did ease in close enough to see that several people were standing in a circle, all saying something together. There were lighted candles in some of their hands, which worried one of the farmers, because we had been short on rain during that particular time, and things were pretty dry. One time, a hunter reported that the group was standing around a huge bonfire, and he would have thought it was just some kind of campout except that they all seemed to be wearing capes with hoods. Each time, I sent men out to check the areas, but the calls had come in after the fact, and my men just found a few traces of a campfire or footprints, but nothing that indicated a problem.

Then some time later, we got a call about lights that were seen moving around in an old abandoned schoolhouse. That particular elementary school had consolidated with two others in the county, and a new building had been built to accommodate the whole student body, so the building was left empty. It hadn’t been used for two years, and the county was trying to make a decision about what they wanted to do with it.”

Noah stopped to take a drink of his coffee. When he did, Serenity, who had been sitting toward the edge of her seat, looking directly at Noah, finally sat back and rested more comfortably against the back of the sofa.

Noah sat his cup down, still leaning forward in his seat, and the story began again.

“About that same time, we began to get calls from the local farmers about missing animals. About once a week, someone else would report an animal lost . . . or stolen . . . and most of the time it was one of the goats. It became almost an epidemic, and we were stumped until we began to come across those same animals slain and gutted . . . and often mutilated in bizarre ways . . . again out in the woods or some fallow field.”

Noah had been sitting with his elbows on his knees and his hands in front of him. Now he gripped his hands together so hard his knuckles turned white, but then he began to relax them again. “And then . . . we found the pentagrams. . . . The first one was actually painted onto the ground in broad brush strokes with black paint. We found mutilated animals in the same vicinity. The second one was painted onto the asphalt parking lot at that abandoned school. And again, there were parts of a mutilated animal on the scene.”

“So you’re saying that the animals evidently had been used for some kind of satanic ritual?”

“It appeared that way, and shortly after those two symbols were discovered, two of the farmers began having bizarre calamities occur on their farms. One of them had a major fire, and the fire department was never able to figure out how it could possibly have started in the place that it did, especially considering all the preventative measures that farmer used on a regular basis. And by that time, we had been blessed with plenty of rain, so that wasn’t the problem. And there were other things. One farmer reported that a pitchfork had come at him from his hayloft, as if it had been aimed and thrown at him deliberately, although he had left that pitchfork stuck in a bail of hay outside of the barn that afternoon. . . . And . . . well, there were other incidents, but I don’t need to go into all those details.”

He took deep breath, letting it out forcibly and finally tried to lean back again. “Well, I had been trying to tell myself that all of the sightings in the woods and fields had been innocent camping parties, amplified by the imaginations of the witnesses . . . or by their intake of alcohol … or both. And then when the animals started showing up, it was harder to explain, but I still tried to make myself believe it was coincidence. . . . You see . . . I knew that there were Satanist in this country . . . and that they did some kinds of bizarre things . . . usually around Halloween . . . but I had never learned any actual facts about what all that activity involved, and I just assumed that normal people wouldn’t be bothered by them as a general rule.

“And my church taught the basic gospel message well enough, but they never spent any time discussing the activities of the devil, or even any of the passages where Jesus had to deal with demonic powers. So I had just kind of let all that slide too.” He sighed again, and finally got up and began to pace around slowly. “But when we started finding the pentagrams and the animals together, I finally had to admit that I was up against something that I didn’t understand. Then when we added in the factor of the bizarre, so-called accidents on the surrounding properties, I finally faced the fact that I was just plain scared.

“I wasn’t really scared of the devil or his activity as much as I was of the fact that I had to find a way to protect the people in my jurisdiction, and I didn’t have a clue how to do it. And because I didn’t, my whole force was totally ill-equipped to handle the situation.”

“Your church couldn’t help you at all?” Clint asked.

Noah shook his head. He was leaning against a bookcase along the wall between the sofa and chair where Clint sat. “I talked with my pastor, and he said he didn’t really know enough about any of it to teach me anything, but that he supposed I should be able to handle all of these problems the same way I did other minor crimes.” Noah let out a bitter laugh. “Minor . . . he called them minor. Can you believe that? Oh, I know stealing and killing an animal isn’t the same as first degree murd —” He stopped suddenly and sucked in his breath, swallowing hard and closing his eyes. Finally, he shook his head as if to clear it and opened his eyes once more, breathing deeply.

“As I was saying, those aren’t at the top of the list of the most grievous crimes, but when you consider that the animals were stolen for the purpose of mutilating them to worship Satan, and that the acts were repeated on a regular basis . . . and then that damage was done to private property and attempted on some of the people themselves . . . I couldn’t see the situation as minor at all.” He sighed once more and finally sat down on the sofa again, leaning forward, one elbow on his knee.

“Anyway, I finally contacted the state to ask about other jurisdictions and their handling of these kinds of things, and they informed me that there was some instruction available through a state program to better acquaint law enforcement officers with ritualistic crimes and the best ways to deal with them. So I attended the classes first, and then I sent two of my sharpest deputies to do the same. We learned quite a bit, but I still wasn’t satisfied that I was in control of the situation.

“So my next move was to seek out a minister from the area who was known for his belief in casting out demons, Pastor Mark Houston, and I asked him for an interview. I felt I had to tell him all the details of the crimes, even though we were trying to keep some of them quiet so as not to alarm people unduly. As I poured out my story, he was instantly sympathetic and told me in no uncertain terms that the Word of God had the answers I needed.

“So I began to study my Bible as I never had before, and twice a week, I met with him so that he could explain anything I didn’t understand on my own. I got a real crash course in spiritual warfare; that’s for sure. I can tell you that I prayed like I hadn’t prayed in a long time . . . actually in ways I had never prayed until then. But the Lord really taught me. I began to truly understand what we were up against, and even more important, I understood that although I had to do everything I could from the natural, legal standpoint, I couldn’t depend on the legal governmental structure to effect the complete remedy in this case.” Noah stopped for a moment, looking away from both of them, obviously caught by another thought that had come into his mind.

Serenity was impatient, although she was trying not to be. “So, were you able to track down the people responsible?”

Noah looked at her again, took a deep breath, and finally answered her. “It got a lot worse before I got that far, Serenity.”

“Oh . . .”

“We conducted an investigation in as thorough a way as I knew how, of course, but we were getting virtually nowhere. I blame myself for that now. I should have been giving it the highest priority of anything my office was dealing with, but I didn’t. I knew it was important, but so were all of the other ordinary types of crimes, and we had a rash of other events that . . . at the time . . . I believed demanded my attention before those satanic things. I don’t think I’ll ever stop blaming myself for not moving on the whole problem harder and faster.”

“Noah, you’re human after all,” Serenity defended him. “Hindsight often makes things look as if you did the wrong thing at the wrong time, but if you look seriously at the past events, you’ll probably see that you did the best you could with what information and knowledge you had.”

Noah shook his head. “I don’t know. I just don’t know. But I did do one other thing that I thought at the time might help. When I asked Pastor Houston how all of this kind of activity managed to get such a stronghold in our area that these people could hold these meetings and steal and mutilate animals without anyone being able to catch them, he told me that they had been moving in so gradually and subtly over an extended period of time that most people weren’t aware of if at all.

“And when I asked how, he told me that one of the easiest ways was through the media. He mentioned specifically the Sally Stone books and movies.”

“Sally Stone!” Serenity sat up on the edge of her seat again.

“Yes. And the use of some of the mind-expanding games straight out of the new age movement . . . like ‘Inside Myself.’” Serenity’s eyes grew wider. “That’s why I told you in no uncertain terms that I believed you did the right thing taking David out of that Library Club. That librarian is using those demonic tools to ingest the demonic message into those children in order to prepare them to accept witchcraft and the demons that go with it. Oh, she may not be aware of what she’s doing. She may just be that ignorant. But it’s happening, nevertheless.”

“And the children in your county were being exposed to all of that too?”

“Yes, and the parents. Adults read those books too, and they flock to those movies by the droves. Mark Houston helped me see how Satan uses the books and movies, as well as the games that go along with them, as mediums to open a door to the evil spirits attached to them so that they can enter the community and even the people themselves. Those spirits blind people’s minds to what’s really going on around them. They make people apathetic about getting rid of evil of any kind, and even worse . . . they stir people up to commit evil that they wouldn’t have committed if they hadn’t been under the control of those demonic powers.

“That environment then gives the witches greater leeway to work, and prepares the children . . . the innocent, unsuspecting children . . . that we adults are supposed to protect . . .” Noah’s voice grew harsher with each statement. “It prepares those children to accept witchcraft and supernatural visitations as normal and makes them want to know more and more about all of it. We eventually discovered that even some of the children who weren’t exposed to the game and actually taught to seek out a spirit guide still recognized some kind of spirit being as having a place inside of them, trying to direct them . . . or sometimes force them to do certain things.”

“And did all of this involvement with these books and other media lead to more crimes then?” Clint asked.

Noah got up again, agitated now beyond being able to sit still or even hold himself still. He paced back over to the bookcase, running his hands over his head and around the back of his neck in angry strokes. “Yes,” he said in a course whisper. Then he turned back to face them. “Yes, it led to much more horrible crimes. After a while, some of the children formed a Sally Stone Club in several towns in the county and met on a regular basis to read the books and watch the videos and play the games. Then all the clubs in the county met periodically at the civic center at the county seat. I learned that they even began ordering other witchcraft materials via the Internet. And the whole county knew that they were planning some kind of big celebration for Halloween.

“So . . . and this is what I referred to earlier as the other thing I did for prevention’s sake . . . I called all the pastors together and asked them to talk to their congregations about the dangers of those books and accompanying materials, and to warn their people that their children needed to understand that this problem was real and something they needed to stay away from. Some of those pastors shook my hand and thanked me for filling them in. Two told me that they had been praying fervently for a breakthrough in all of the deception that those books had been responsible for.

“But several of the pastors said I was being an alarmist, and that they were not going to discourage their people from engaging in what they considered to be harmless entertainment. However . . . I then discovered that there was a coven of witches in operation, actually over in the next county, and there were certainly no barriers to keep them from holding ceremonies and slaughtering someone’s animals in our county too. So I called the pastors together once more to inform them of those facts. At that time, a couple more of them took the whole thing seriously, but most still didn’t.

“At the same time, I became very unpopular with a number of people in my county as a result of what I did and said, but I didn’t care. The only thing I couldn’t do was get out and speak publicly against all of this as something demonic that we needed to take spiritual authority over. I wasn’t allowed to do that as sheriff, and I didn’t think the Lord wanted me to jeopardize my job enough to lose it right in the middle of the investigation. There was a good chance a new sheriff, knowing how unpopular the subject had made me, wouldn’t have picked up the investigation and continued it. So I figured I was wiser to keep my mouth shut a little and still be able to carry out the search for the perpetrators and, hopefully, put an end to all the witchcraft activity in our county.”

Noah sat down on the footstool in front of Clint’s chair, leaning his elbows on his knees again, clasping his hand together in front of him. “Serenity . . . go check on David one more time before I tell you the rest. Make sure he’s asleep.”

Serenity looked up at him, but his head was bent down. “Okay, Noah,” she said quietly and rose to go to the bedroom. She was suddenly afraid . . . afraid for herself and Gramps because of what they’d have to hear . . . but even more afraid for Noah . . . because he would have to relive all of it in the telling. She wished she could take the hurt for him, but that wasn’t possible. “Please help him, Jesus,” she whispered just before she eased open the bedroom door. David was still fast asleep, peace on his little face, and tears sprang to her eyes at the thought of how the Lord had protected him all of his life.

Clint could see that Noah was so tense that his shoulders were strained tight. He placed his hand on one shoulder and began to pray. “Dear Lord, please give Noah Your peace right now. And give him the strength to tell us everything You want him to tell us, Father. And please . . . keep him from any more pain. Thank You, Lord.”

Clint was just finishing his prayer when Serenity returned and assured them that David was fine. Noah was still sitting on the footstool, so Serenity moved to the other end of the sofa where she could be closer to him. She reached over and laid her hand on his hands. “Just tell us as quickly as you can without trying to spare Gramps and me, Noah. You just need to get it all out.”

He turned his hands and grasped hers in both of his, nodding his agreement with her. He straightened up but didn’t let go of Serenity’s hand. “Well . . . my deputies and I had gradually been able to identify several of the people in that coven, but we didn’t have them all yet. And two of the people we didn’t connect with it were the two people who were the sponsors for the kids’ Sally Stone Clubs. They seemed like upright citizens, very civic-minded and interested in a number of children’s programs in the community. They even attended one of the churches in the county seat.

“We hadn’t caught on to their connection with the coven of witches, but we had started identifying a pattern in the ritual ceremonies and the farms the animals were being stolen from. We even managed to sneak in close enough to watch their rituals on two different occasions, and I felt like we were almost there . . . almost to the place where we could find a way to put a stop to all of it. Then Halloween week was upon us, and, of course, most of the people went all out to dress in horrendous costumes, put on scary parties, and all the rest. You know how the world does.” Serenity and Clint both nodded their understanding, and Noah let out another bitter laugh. “Did I say the world?” He shook his head. “ It seems to me that most of the church jumps in to celebrate that evil holiday with just as much enthusiasm as pagans do.”

“Unfortunately, you’re right,” Serenity said.

“Well, anyway, from my first year as sheriff, I had made it a practice to put all of my deputies on duty on the night of Halloween. We have a couple of towns overrun with taverns, and they usually had a full house, dressed for trick or treat and full of liquor. That usually led to some pretty wild activity along about midnight, so I liked to be prepared. I had thought that maybe I should stake at least one man out at the two sites that we knew were used most frequently for those rituals, but before the evening shift started, two of my men called in sick. Vomiting, diarrhea . . . really sick . . . and it had hit both of them all of a sudden. I know now that it was a pre-planned spiritual attack to keep me at a disadvantage, because that left me short-handed, and I dropped the idea of covering those secluded places. My reasoning was that I needed the most manpower in the more heavily populated places, since the most people’s safety was at stake there.”

Noah began to grip Serenity’s hand harder, and he swallowed convulsively before he went on. “About midnight I got a call that two children had been reported missing. One was a twelve year-old girl and the other a ten-year old boy. They weren’t related, and there was no reason to believe they would be together, so I took one family and sent a deputy to the other home to get all the information he could. Both families lived just outside the city limits of the same city, but in different directions.

“The parents of the boy told me that he was a member of the Sally Stone Club, and there had been a county-wide Halloween party that night, for all of the kids in the clubs. But it had been held in the civic center of their own town, and they had expected their son to call for a ride home by 10:30. They’d waited another half-hour, thinking he was just dawdling in getting away from his friends, but then they’d called the civic center. There was no answer, and figuring the office must be closed, but that the party was still going on, the father had driven by there, but all the lights were out. So that’s when they called 911.

“I checked with my deputy to see if the girl had turned up yet, and when he spoke with me, he told me that she too was supposed to have been at the Sally Stone Club Halloween Party.” Noah’s grip tightened even more on Serenity’s hand, and she put her other hand over his to try to comfort and encourage him as he went on. “I can still feel exactly what the knot felt like in my stomach when I realized that the party had to be the connection.

“And then . . . all of a sudden, the back door of these people’s home burst open, and a boy, who I later learned was the missing son, ran through the house to the living room where we were sitting. He looked absolutely wild with terror. His eyes were huge, his face was red, and he could hardly breathe from having run so far and so hard. His mother grabbed him up into her arms, and his dad knelt beside him trying to calm him. He was trying to talk, but between the gulps for breath and the convulsive sobs, he wasn’t able to say any words for several moments.

“Then I saw the marks on his wrists. They looked like rope burns, and then I knew . . . I just knew . . .” Noah’s voice had dropped to a whisper, and his eyes were filled with tears that began to trickle down his cheeks. After a few seconds, he cleared his throat so that he could speak more normally again. “I tried to get the boy to speak coherently, and finally, he began to mumble out some words between sobs. First it was just the girl’s name . . . Melinda . . . she went to the same school as he did, so he knew her . . . and then he said something like ‘they killed her.’ Of course, it was all jumbled up with his sobbing, and it still took me several minutes to find out if he meant the witches. When I got that much out of him, I needed him to tell me where they were, but he couldn’t right then.

“I called all my men and alerted them to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Then I began to describe the two places we were already familiar with as ritual sites, and the boy, Danny, finally recognized one of them, so I was pretty sure we had the location. I took off at top speed and radioed my men where to meet me, and we converged on the place in about fifteen minutes. It was a secluded wooded area, and there was dead silence all around. We couldn’t see or hear anyone, and I was afraid we had the wrong place.”

Noah’s grip on Serenity’s hand was causing her pain by now, but she didn’t dare let go. She could tell that he was barely holding himself together as he continued. “But as we began to sweep the area carefully, we could see that there had been some activity there earlier.” He swallowed hard. “And we finally came across the pentagram and a fire that was still smoldering . . . and then . . . a few feet away . . . we saw . . . Melinda.” The last words were choked out on a sob as Noah covered his face with his hands and finally lost the fragile control he had been trying so hard to maintain.


Look for Chapter Thirteen here tomorrow.


RACING TOWARD THE LIGHt — CHAPTER ONE

I’ve decided to offer my inspirational novel RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT for free reading on this website — unabridged — one chapter a day. I wrote the story several years ago, and it was first published in 2016. It’s available in paperback and digital on Amazon, but I wanted to share it with my followers this month for free. At the end of October, the chapters will be removed from this site.

The story is fiction, but it conveys the reality of witchcraft and its dangers, and also conveys the truth that Jesus Christ and His blood are more powerful than all witchcraft. Because the book focus on the spiritual warfare that takes place when demonic forces try to capture the hearts and lives of people, but God’s forces move in to defeat those demonic powers, I felt it was fitting to offer it in the weeks leading up to Halloween. After reading RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT, no one can ever look at Halloween quite the same as they did before reading the book.

I thought perhaps some of my readers might like a little background concerning the creating of the book so I’m offering that background here first. If you’re the kind of reader who isn’t interested in background and just want to get right into the story, you can skip down to where Chapter One begins. 🙂



Here’s How It All Began

Most of my friends know that I have a great love for lighthouses, and several years ago, two of my best friends, Roy and Donna Manasco, came across a small print of a painting by Steven Sundram, “Sureal Moments,” which focused on a lighthouse standing as sentry over a vast expanse of beach during a storm, and a beautiful solid white horse approaching the lighthouse. They bought the print for me and presented it to me as a gift on a Sunday morning at church. I was delighted with the scene immediately, and after arriving home with it, I sat and looked at it for some time before setting it aside to concentrate on my work. I was in the middle of writing two novels at the time, and they needed all my attention. So I had intended to work on one of them most of the rest of the day.

However, I placed Steve Sundram’s picture against the music rack of my keyboard, and sat down on the sofa across from it to eat some lunch. As I ate, I kept looking at the picture, and it literally drew me into it until my imagination began to build to the point that I felt I knew the place personally. Words began flowing through me, as if I were describing it in detail for someone else. I felt that I knew the people who lived there, who walked that beach and shared their lives on it. (Although they are not visible in the painting, they are there.) I even felt as if I knew the horse. I knew his name was Moondancer.

But I also recognized what was happening inside me: I was on the verge of birthing a brand new novel based on that picture. Now, at that time, I had already written six inspirational novels, three of which had been published and were currently on the market. However, every novel I had written previously had been born out of a specific story in my own mind — based on a particular character, problem, or theme. I had never written a novel that focused on a setting of any kind, and even my five-book series The Smoky Mountain Series, keeps the focus on the setting at a minimum.

So starting a book based solely on a physical setting was completely out of character for me. Furthermore, I scolded myself for even thinking about starting a new novel when the current books were still not finished. Immediately, I jumped up, walked over to the picture, turned it around backwards so that I could not see it anymore, and tried to finish my lunch.

But by the time I had finished eating, the descriptive passages flowing through my mind had grown into paragraphs. I fought off the temptation to sit down to the computer and pull up a blank page. I told myself that I absolutely had to finish the other work, one part of which was facing a specific deadline. But those words kept pressing through me. I managed to leave the room and do something else for several minutes, but before I knew it, I was back in the living room, turning the picture back around and looking at it again. I put it down and picked it up multiple times.

Eventually I began to get a handle on the main character — a man who had suffered serious emotional trauma and needed healing. A man who had made his way to this ocean, this beach, this place – in order to find peace and quiet, time and solitude, a touch of eternity — so that he could heal. At that point I didn’t know what he had suffered or what he was running from. Nor did I have any insight into what form and process his healing would take. I just knew that the story would be his story; he would be living there temporarily, and that the other people who lived there were going to have a significant part to play in his healing.

I fought the temptation and the draw of that painting until 3:00 in the afternoon, at which time, I sat down at my computer, pulled up a blank page, and began writing the novel Racing Toward the Light. Of course, it didn’t have the title at that point. But I wrote everything I saw and felt in that painting, and I didn’t stop writing until I had the lighthouse inhabited and the main character named Noah Bennet. I still didn’t know what his terrible past was or what would happen to him in the story, but I was determined to find out. And I can say, without any reservation, that I virtually lived in that painting for the entire three months it took to write the story.

Over the next two weeks, I realized two things: this story would take the bold step of dealing with the subject of the supernatural, which had been experiencing a resurgence in literature and movies at the time. Several conversations that I had with other people concerning the surge of interest in supernatural subjects, especially witchcraft and its effects, led me to realize that I had the rest of the story in that subject matter.

I’ve learned that when an author lets a story begin to tell itself on paper, he finds that it has within itself much more than he ever thought about when he wrote the first word. This story, conceived out of a picture of an unnamed place, built itself into a masterpiece that takes an intimate look into the world of the supernatural while, at the same time, allowing readers to follow the earthly characters as their lives relate to and are impacted by the supernatural realm. The story of spiritual warfare in both realms is sure to inspire and encourage faith in the readers.   

Racing Toward The Light also gradually eased its way into a powerful love story. That’s the second thing I realized: that in every book, whether the author planned it or not, there is a love story just waiting to be told. So I’ve told this one.

I want to express my appreciation once again to artist Steve Sundram for his generous arrangement for the use of his painting for the cover of the book. It you’d like to check out more of his great work, you can find him at sundramstudios.com.

Now, to get into the story …


RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

CHAPTER ONE

He was forcing his way through bushes and tree limbs that pulled at his sleeves and scratched his face. Moving as quickly as he could, he wasn’t even trying to be quiet. There wasn’t time to be quiet. Please, God, let us be in time! Please let us be in time! But it was so dark. Was it usually this dark? He’d camped in these woods, but he didn’t remember the feeling of being smothered in thick darkness like he was experiencing now.

Three deputies flanked Noah Bennett on either side, each of them sweeping the wooded terrain with the same kind of high-powered flashlight that he was carrying himself. I should have tried harder! I should have made myself stay focused on this! His breathing was ragged and his chest so tight; he wondered if he might actually be having a heart attack.

“Over here,” one of the deputies called out, and Noah turned abruptly toward the clearing on the right, crushing a portion of a bush beneath his boot to get past it in a hurry. All the light beams converged on the spot the deputy was looking at on the ground. There was the pentagram. And close to it a recently dowsed fire.

“This must be the place,” Noah heard himself say,

and as he began to sweep the beam of his light around, one of the other deputies pointed out a silver flash with his own light. The steel of the ritualistic knife glittered tauntingly at all of the men, as one of them reached down to pick it up with a gloved hand.

And then … they saw her.

Noah felt the agonizing groan begin in the deepest part of his abdomen. He felt the full force of it as it raged all the way through him. He felt his knees hit the ground with a painful thud as the groan finally escaped in a tormented cry ….

Sheriff Noah Bennett woke up sobbing like a child … again. He was wringing wet with sweat, and his sobs shook his whole body. He finally sat upright and grabbed his head. He had to get his stomach to settle down quickly, or he’d throw up again too. By sheer willpower, he managed to swallow the bile and begin to take deep enough breaths that the sobbing finally subsided. When he was under control enough to be able to move, he shoved himself off the bed and onto his knees beside it. Burying his head in the damp sheets, he tried to pray … again. This had to end. … Sometime … this had to end!

A mile out from shore, the ocean was a vast, undulating, lead-gray blanket. But as the currents approached the beach that held them in check by the decree of God, the waves became gentle, but persistent swirls of iridescent silver. As they washed against the land, their substance danced high into the air as if a huge bottle of champagne had been poured out into a giant punch bowl.

The dramatic change in the water’s color resulted from the fact that a lighthouse stood atop a modest knoll whose base stretched across the beach almost to the very edge of the water at high tide. The arm of light rushed out to meet the darkness, which was made more intense because of heavy clouds that almost rested on the surface of the water a couple of miles out and covered most of the sky over the coast. The only opening in the cloud cover was just to the right of the lighthouse itself, but it wasn’t letting any moonlight through. So the only radiance came from the beam that swept its ruling arc across its vast domain every fifteen seconds. But the darkness was no match for that penetrating light. The beacon was so intense that it forced, not only the ocean, but even those heavy clouds to reflect that light into the atmosphere. It was in the brilliance of that light that the caps of the waves became like silver lace, and the hundreds of water droplets like sparkling diamonds.

The wind had picked up. But it was often stronger on this part of the beach than it was farther inland, and the combined sound of wind and waves usually served more as a lullaby to the inhabitants of the lighthouse than it did a disturbance. At least that used to be the case . . . until the last couple of weeks. The light itself had been automated several years ago, but the house was still a quaint, but quite livable place. That being the case, the old man who had operated the light during the last decade had opted to lease the house for his home, with the understanding that he would service and repair the equipment that carried on most of the operations now.

His six-year-old great-grandson David had come to live with him almost a year ago, along with his aunt Serenity, the old man’s elder granddaughter. David’s mother was Serenity’s younger sister, and she and her husband had died in an accident while traveling abroad, leaving their son in the guardianship of his aunt.

The boy was sitting now in the window seat of his bedroom, looking out at the beach, the light beam sweeping enough light through the window periodically to bring a glow to his room and turn his blond head into a bright halo. He had his chin propped in his hand, his elbow propped on the windowsill, and he was deep in conversation with the Lord.

“And if I did have a horse, You know I’d take really good care of him, so Gramps and Aunt Sere wouldn’t have to do anything at all. I’d feed him and brush him and clean out his stall . . . well . . . when he had a stall.” That point was where he always got stuck in his well-rehearsed plan. He had his eye on an old shed that stood in back of the lighthouse and even had a rather wobbly fence part of the way around it. But he hadn’t figured out a way to convince his grandfather and aunt that he was old enough to help fix both the fence and the shed so as to allow for the housing of a horse.

“Well, Lord, I bet Trent’s dad would help fix it all up,” he finally said now. Trent was the seven-year-old boy whose parents had moved to Hamsted the week after school had let out for the summer. The boys had become almost inseparable friends over the next two weeks, and now they shared their dreams and plans with each other. Naturally, Trent thought the idea of David’s having a horse of his very own was “super,” and he had assured David that he would help all he could to figure out a way to make it happen.

As David continued talking with the Lord, his aunt, in the adjacent room was having her own conversation with her Heavenly Father. Serenity, who had been a writer for the last fifteen of her thirty-two years, was not used to having a child to care for, but she loved her nephew David fervently, and her decision to move him and herself to the lighthouse with her grandfather had been based on three things.

One was the fact that she was especially concerned about Gramps, particularly since he lived completely alone and in a rather isolated area. Since the family’s tragic loss, he hadn’t made much effort to mix with the people in the small town two miles up the road from the coast . . . or with the visitors that rented cottages on the beach during the summer. But Serenity had hoped that her and David’s presence there would encourage her grandfather to rejuvenate his waning friendships and to become an active part of the small community again.

The second reason she had made the decision was that she felt David needed a place of quiet and peace in which to recover from his own grief, and his devotion to his great-grandfather could only be an added help. And thirdly, Serenity knew that if she were going to be able to concentrate on her own work, so as not to lose her income, she would also need a quiet place, as well as someone to help take responsibility for David from time to time. This decision seemed the perfect solution since Gramps was eager to spend much of his time with David, and all three of them were delighted with the arrangement. For now, at least.

Since the family’s tragedy had occurred right after the school year had begun, and then Serenity and David had moved to be with Gramps immediately, she and her grandfather had decided that home-schooling David for the first year would be better than causing him to have to get used to a brand new school and then perhaps be moved again in another year. But soon he would be seven years old, and she felt that before long, he would once again need to be in an environment where he was with other children his own age more than he was now. He went to church and Sunday School, and he got along well with all of the other children there, but he had been so withdrawn and quiet since his parents’ deaths that Serenity had been a little worried. However, just lately, he seemed to be getting back to being the active, joyful child he’d always been previously.

Her thoughts drifted now as she changed into her gown and prepared for sleep. She didn’t usually go to bed at 10:00, but she’d been up writing until 3:00 A.M. the last two mornings, and the need for sleep was finally catching up with her. She started thinking about David’s schooling again.

“I’m just not sure what’s best, Lord,” she prayed now. “It’s so hard making all the decisions for someone else’s life, knowing that if I make a mistake, David could be the one to suffer.” She smiled now as she thought of her nephew in the room next to hers. Maybe he needed to be in a bigger town where he could interact with more different kinds of people than he could in this little place on the coast. The town of Hamsted was hardly more than a village actually, but she liked the people. And most of the town seemed to really care about keeping their school up to date and academically sound.

She let out a sigh. “Well, Lord, there’s still a few more weeks yet before we have to make a final decision. I know You’ll show me what You want me to do.”

She stretched out on her bed now. Sometimes she found herself wishing she had found someone to love and begin a family with, the way her sister had. She loved children and would like several of her own, even if it meant not having nearly as much time to write. She had dated from time to time, and she had a number of men friends and writing associates, but nothing had ever really “clicked” somehow. And, now, she realized she had added another dimension to the way men would see her, because she was now, to all intents and purposes, a mother as well as a successful career woman . . . not the most attractive combination to most single men in their thirties or forties.

Oh, well . . . she’d have to leave all that in the Lord’s hands. And she was usually pretty good at doing just that. But sometimes . . . like tonight she lay in her bed watching the beam of light sweep across the terrain … she felt unutterably lonely for the arms and the quiet, comforting, love words of a strong Christian man.

She sighed gently, rolling over to her other side, where she couldn’t see out the window, and closed her eyes. Then she returned to the prayer she had left unfinished when her thoughts had started to drift. “You know what I need better than I do, Lord. You know that I need more than just someone for myself now. I need someone who will be able to love David and help me raise him up in Your Word. I still have serious doubts about being able to do that by myself. But please, Lord, help me not to jump into some relationship out of fear that I can’t do it alone. That would be worse than anything.”

She yawned and pulled the cover a little higher until it nestled beneath her chin. “Thank You for making us able to come here, Lord. It’s helped all three of us a lot.” She yawned again, and somewhere in the midst of thanking the Lord for working everything out, she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

David was still happily chatting with the Lord about the desire of his heart, convinced that the Lord would provide a horse soon, As he continued to plan, he looked out at the beach. The broad expanse of sand stretched away from the lighthouse, eventually spreading out in front of the summer cottages that dotted that area for about two miles along the coast. David couldn’t see the first cottage from his room, but up in the top of the lighthouse, he could see almost all of them. They were spread out far enough to allow each family to feel as if they had their own private part of the beach, but were within easy walking distance of each other.

As his blue-gray eyes scanned the wave-swept coast, seeing only dim outlines except when the rhythmic arc of light swept around, David suddenly came to attention. Was he seeing things? Had he fallen asleep and started dreaming, he wondered. He sat up straighter and squinted his eyes to try to see better, but he had to wait for the light to pass over the beach again to be sure.

“Yes!” he said out loud, jumping to his knees on the window seat and pushing out the lightweight, temporary screen so that he could lean out of the window. “A horse . . . a real horse!” Right before his eyes a large, solid white stallion came galloping straight toward the lighthouse. A short distance away, the horse stopped and seemed to turn and prance around for a while, almost as if he were frolicking in the surf. Then he ran toward the lighthouse again, stopping again after several yards to do the same thing.

David was enthralled. He’d never seen such a beautiful animal. He’d often imagined what his own horse would look like, but he’d never imagined anything like this. He laughed softly as he watched, enjoying the horse’s antics almost as much as the stallion himself seemed to do. Suddenly, the horse stopped and arched his neck, whinnying softly. He looked right at David and started to trot over closer to the house.

By this time, David was leaning way out of the window, reaching his arm out to encourage the horse to come closer. He was aware that he needed to be quiet if he didn’t want to wake his aunt, but he just couldn’t resist calling softly to the horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said, trying to keep his voice down, but finding it very hard to do since he didn’t want to miss a chance to pet this horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said again, motioning the horse toward him from where it had stopped a few feet away from the house. Slowly, the stallion sidled up to the window, snorting and blowing softly, and David was finally able to touch his nose and pet him.

“You’re the best horse I’ve ever seen in my whole life!” he said now, and was rewarded with the horse’s moving close enough to nuzzle David’s shoulder as he hung way past the window ledge. Finally, David couldn’t resist any longer. He climbed swiftly out of the window, thankful that it was only a couple of feet from the ground, and stood beside the stallion. He hadn’t realized quite how big the horse was until he was standing in his bare feet beside the animal. But he wasn’t afraid. This horse must be an answer to his prayers.

Of course, his very next thought was that he probably belonged to somebody living in one of the cottages, but . . . well . . . he could pretend for a little while, couldn’t he? “Would you let me ride you?” he asked the horse now, and his only answer was the same soft blowing sound the animal had made before. So David figured it was worth a try and began looking around for a way to get up on the white stallion’s back. Finally he spotted the small boat that was turned upside down on a sand dune off to the side of the lighthouse, and he slowly moved toward it, never letting his hand slide from the horse’s neck.

“Come this way, Boy,” he said, and the horse moved with him as if he had been obeying the boy his whole life. As soon as David had himself and the horse in position, he climbed up on to the highest part of the boat and reached up to grab the horse around the neck. He threw his strong young body into one giant jump and managed to land on the stallion’s back, holding onto his mane in a vice grip so as not to slide off. He had no idea it would feel this way to be so high off of the ground. But as he felt the horse shift its stance slightly, moving beneath him, he felt as if they were one, and he knew he was right where he’d always wanted to be.

“Okay, Boy,” he said, leaning over the horse’s neck to talk as close to his ear as possible. “Take me for a ride.” He pulled very gently on the mane to try to turn the animal’s head in the direction of the beach, and then he nudged his heels . . . also very gently . . . against the stallion’s sides to encourage him to get started. “Giddy up,” he said, not knowing what else to say to a horse to get him moving, and to his great delight, the stallion began to trot across the lighthouse yard and move along the beach, back the way he had come. Once he was several feet away from the house, he began to run along the surf’s edge, and David, holding on for dear life, was laughing with delight. By this time, he was far enough away from the house to feel pretty sure he wouldn’t wake his aunt or Gramps.

They raced along the beach, boy and horse, free as the wind and the waves, flying past the first cottage and then the second, but still within the protective arc of light that swept over their path in its appointed intervals. But the wind was picking up even more, and thunder started to roll through the clouds that had continued to thicken during the past hour. After another minute, lightening began to flash in jagged arrows out over the ocean as the brewing storm began to move inland.

Those warning signals, which would have meant a great deal to any adult considering going out at that time, were lost on the six-year-old boy, who was finally realizing the power of a dream come true. And besides, he’d lived on the ocean long enough to see a number of storms there, especially recently, and he didn’t have any fear of them. Why should he? As far as he was concerned, they were all just part of the water, the sky, and the earth that he’d come to appreciate with a new passion since he’d come here to live. So he felt free to abandon himself to the ride as only a child can do.

About a mile down the beach, in the fourth cottage, Noah Bennett was wakened from his sleep for the second time. As he turned over, he heard the heavy roll of thunder and noticed that the lightening looked pretty intense. Exhausted by the earlier sobbing prayer, he had finally managed to get back to sleep an hour ago. There was just no rest tonight. But since he was wide awake again, he decided to get up and step outside to see what was going on with the weather. It wouldn’t hurt to check on Moondancer either. This was the stallion’s first night in the makeshift corral on the beach, and he wasn’t sure how the animal would take to it in rough weather.

He slipped a pair of blue jeans over the underwear he usually slept in, and since he knew the wind over the ocean was usually chilly, he grabbed up his lightweight jacket and put it on over his tee shirt. When he stepped out the door, he sniffed the air, aware that there was something about the atmosphere that made him feel unpleasant. It was nothing he could put his finger on, but . . . he just stood on his porch, looking out over the water at the fast approaching storm, trying to figure out what it was he felt.

Storms didn’t frighten him. He’d worked right through some of the worst of them in his years in law-enforcement. When he’d been a cop in a midwestern city, he’d had his share of experience with weather catastrophes. Then when he’d made the switch to a deputy sheriff position in the Southwest, and had eventually been elected sheriff himself, it was torrential rainstorms and the dangerous flash floods that he’d had to concentrate on in order to protect his people. He shook his head now, in thought.

No, it wasn’t the fact that there was a heavy storm approaching that made him feel this way. But it was something in the air. Almost as if the whole atmosphere were boiling with a menacing attitude, and as if the storm were just the outward manifestation of whatever it was that was at the root of the situation. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. He’d come here to get some rest and recuperation. He’d better stop letting his gut feelings have so much effect on him if he expected to be successful at getting that much needed rest.

But he knew the Lord had given His followers spiritual authority over the elements of nature, and it was his habit to take that authority over storms, so he did so now. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I take authority over all of you elements of weather right now. I command you to submit to your Creator, and I bind you from becoming destructive in any form anywhere along this beach, or in the town connected to it.” Then he spoke to the Lord personally. “Father, I thank you for that authority, and for Your protection in the name of Jesus. Amen.” He stepped off the porch then and started for the corral and shed where he had installed Moondancer.

But what he saw when he rounded the cottage stopped him in his tracks and struck him dumb. The corral gate was open and Moondancer was gone. He shook his head. That horse! There wasn’t even a moon out tonight, he thought, looking up at the sky and around the beach. Of course, there was the lighthouse, and that arc of light was brilliant. It just might have been enough of a calling card for a horse that seemed to have been born to frolic at night when the moon was bright. He’d never seen a horse so fond of racing around and just plain having a good time in the middle of the night.

That’s how he’d come by his name, of course. Noah had bought the stallion when he was just a year old, and from the first time he’d taken him home, he’d recognized that he had a horse with a unique personality. But it had suited Noah most of the time, because some nights when he’d come home, burdened down by some of the crime he’d had to deal with, Moondancer was literally champing at the bit to get out in the moonlight and run. They’d raced across many a field and country road at night, and even in the wee hours of the morning, letting the crisp night air and the star-studded sky wash Noah clean from the crud that seemed to cling to some parts of his job.

But tonight was different. Moondancer wasn’t at home. He was in a strange place. Noah decided he’d better walk along the beach and see if he could find him before the storm really broke. He didn’t have to guess which way to head. That horse always ran toward the light. Noah chuckled softly to himself at that thought. Well . . . that was a good plan for a man as well as for a horse. Wasn’t that what the Word of God said? Jesus came to bring light . . . and He was the light of men. So no matter what was going on in a person’s life, his best plan was to always turn toward the light and head for it as straight as he could go.

Noah had been walking along with his head down, thinking, but now suddenly he jerked it up. He thought he’d heard a horse whinny. Sure enough, here came that beautiful white stallion, flying like the wind, the ocean spray splashing around his ankles.

But then Noah looked closer. “What on earth!” he said out loud. There was someone on Moondancer’s back. That horse never let anyone ride him unless Noah got on his back with the new rider and let Moondancer get used to him gradually. And then he refused most people even after all of that. How in the world did some kid . . . he could see now that the rider was a child . . . how in the world did that boy get Moondancer to take him up and allow him to stay there?

As they came within a few feet of Noah, the horse slowed to a trot and gradually sidled up to his owner. Noah could see now that the boy was the great-grandson of the lighthouse manager. He’d met the family last season when he’d been here visiting his sister and brother-in-law for a week. He’d really liked Clint, the grandfather, and they had swapped some good fishing stories. Then he’d spoken momentarily to David and his aunt on the beach two days ago. He looked up at the boy whose face was wreathed in an enormous grin. As he did so, he reached out and placed an authoritative hand on Moondancer’s neck. The horse knew to stand still and wait for instructions.

“Well, well,” Noah spoke to the boy in a friendly voice, “what have we here? Are you playing cowboy in the middle of the night?”

“Is this your horse, Mister Bennett?” David asked, excitement still filling his voice as a result of the ride.

“Yep. He’s mine. His name’s Moondancer. And my first name’s Noah, by the way. Why don’t you call me that?”

“Okay. Do you remember my name?”

“It’s David, right?”

David nodded his head. “Right.”

“Well, David, I’m just wondering . . . do your aunt and grandpa know you’re out riding at this time of night?”

David looked a little sheepish, dropping his eyes and letting his tongue slip out between his lips and slide back and forth slowly . . . a habit he had when he was nervous or unsure of himself. Noah almost grinned, but he knew he’d blow his whole image as a disciplinarian if he did, so he fought the urge. “It looks like you’re in your PJ’s to me. Aren’t you cold?”

David looked up then and just shrugged his shoulders. Noah figured the boy was probably just now discovering how chilly it really was out in this damp wind and that he wasn’t going to admit it for any reason. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come on in and have something warm to drink, and then I’ll see about getting you back home, okay?”

David nodded, and Noah began to lead Moondancer toward the cottage, David still on his back. “Why do you call him Moondancer?” the boy asked as they sauntered along.

“Well, from the time he was barely more than a colt, he’s loved to go out at night and race in the moonlight. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to ride him myself, I’ll look out and see him trotting and prancing around almost like he’s putting on a show. So the name just seemed to fit him. What do you think?”

David nodded again. “That’s what he was doing over by my house. And then he just came right up to my window and let me pet him.”

“How did you get on his back?”

“I climbed up on an old boat that was turned upside down and then I jumped the best I could, and there I was!”

“And Moondancer didn’t seem to mind?”

“Huhnuh! He stood real still.”

Noah just shook his head. It was certainly a first. But by that time, he had the boy and horse back to his cottage, so he reached up and took David off of Moondancer’s back and stood him on the porch. It was beginning to rain steadily, so he said, “You step on inside where it’s dry, and I’ll be right in . . . as soon as I make sure old Moondancer here can’t do any more running around on his own.”

When the horse had been secured to Noah’s satisfaction, he returned to the cottage and put some milk in the microwave for some cocoa. He got a towel and dried David off the best he could and then dried himself. He slipped off his wet jacket and went into the bedroom for a shirt to put around David to help get him warm quicker. “You know, Dave, I think I should call your aunt and let her know you’re safe, because it’s raining so hard now that we may have to sit here a while before I can take you home. We don’t want her to worry if she checks on you and finds you gone, do we?”

David shook his head, but he was holding it down, knowing there was bound to be some trouble when his aunt found out what he’d been doing. But after a brief moment, he looked up at Noah, his eyes shining and declared, “It was worth it!” He didn’t have to say anything else, because Noah knew exactly what he meant.

In fact, Noah was a little envious right at that moment. It had been a long time since he’d done something just because it fulfilled a dream or a great desire of his heart, not stopping to count the cost, but just throwing himself into living the moment and savoring it. He reached out and tousled David’s blond hair. “I’ll ask her to go easy on you,” he said, and then added, “but . . . I want you to promise me that you won’t take off in the middle of the night for any reason at all without telling your aunt first . . . not for any reason.” David looked at him out of very solemn eyes, and Noah continued. “If you’ll promise me that, I’ll think about letting you ride Moondancer sometimes in the daytime, when it’s safer. What do you say?”

David’s eyes grew bigger and brighter, and then his little face took on a serious demeanor. “I promise,” he said, nodding his head for emphasis. “I promise.”

“Good,” Noah said, and reached into the microwave to get the cocoa. He set the mug in front of David and turned to the phone.


Watch for Chapter Two tomorrow.


A Little Bit More of My Shameless Marketing

PROFESSOR'S EDUCATION FOR AMAZON FRONT ONLY - 2Just wanted to let readers know that the inspirational novel The Professor’s Education is now selling on Amazon in paperback and digital. Many of you read the novel free right here on this site a few months ago. And many of you expressed your enjoyment of it as well. Thank you again.

Now, here’s my pitch. If you did read it for free here and enjoyed it, how about purchasing a copy for a friend or loved one who enjoys inspirational romance?

Paperback: $7.99
Digital: $2.99

And, by the way, did you know that a lot of men enjoy inspirational romance novels? It isn’t just us gals. I’ve had a number of gentlemen tell me how much they appreciate reading a good Christian love story.  Sooooo, girls, why not buy one for your boyfriend or hubby?

And thanks in advance.

 

 


 

Read It If You Dare . . .

Read it if you dare: You’ll never look at Halloween the same way again.

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT: Supernatural Warfare in Inspirational Fiction

LAST 4 DAYS ON SALE

When a small coastal town is invaded by witchcraft that threatens the lives of the school children and the future of the entire community, the citizens must learn to fight back with a Higher Power.

Exhausted after a battle with supernatural forces, Sheriff Noah Bennett, with his white stallion Moondancer, travels to a small coastal community seeking rest and healing for his battered soul. While there, he befriends David, a 6-year-old boy who loves horses, and his aunt, beautiful Serenity Lawrence.

But the same forces of evil that invaded his own hometown have now invaded this small haven, and Noah must decide if he’s ready to be used as an instrument in God’s hands again to apply the principles of His Kingdom in defeating these powers once more. It will mean setting aside his recuperation – and his budding romance – until the job is done.

Can he teach the believers of Hamsted how to use the name of Jesus and His blood to destroy the witchcraft and the Satanic roots behind it? And is he willing? Walk through this journey with Noah, as he struggles to find a way to overcome his own fear and weakness in order to commit himself to fighting a new battle with forces from beyond this world.

Experience the power of God as angels and demons engage on the spiritual plane while believers discover the truth about their position of authority and their victory in the name of Jesus Christ and His blood.

RACING AMAZON COVER = 2 LINES - FRONT

Paperback and Digital — ON SALE at Amazon throughout October.
Paperback regularly sells for $10.49,  but you can buy it this month for $9.00
Digital is slashed from $3.99 to $2.99 until midnight October 31.

‘SLATE’ now in Paperback on Amazon

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Okay, all you folks out there who — like me — want to read a “real” book instead of a digital device, I have good news. The wait is over. Amazon now has my newest inspirational novel, SLATE, in paperback. I do a lot of reading online for hours every day. But when I want to relax and forget the whole rest of the world, I like to curl up in a comfortable place and hold an honest-to-goodness “book” in my hands while I read. Most all of my books come out in paperback and digital both, but until this past year, the paperbacks were not available on Amazon. Now all of them will be available there very soon.

If you didn’t see my promo for SLATE (the e-book) several months ago, you probably want to know what the book’s about. So I’ll give you a short trailer here to whet your appetite.  Then you can find the book in paperback at this link.  And don’t forget: if you do read it and like it, please leave me a review on the Amazon page. And if you don’t like it — just don’t say anything, okay?  Thank you.

 

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A Little Love Can Go a Long Way: Excerpts from ‘Jonah’s Song’

JONAH COVER - DARKER BLUE - SMALLER USE FOR KINDLEExcerpt 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.”

“I am.”

~

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.

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On Sale for $.99 — Novel # 1, Smoky Mountain Series

SET FREE COVER - GREEN BKRD # 1 - tiny for blogSet Free To Love, the first novel in my  Smoky Mountain Series is currently on sale at Amazon’s Kindle store for just $.99.   The regular price of $3.99 has been suspended for the next 7 days.

Book two in the series, Cameron’s Rib, is now available on Amazon, and book number three, Repaired By Love, will be available next week. Book number four, Jonah’s Song, should go digital in October, and book five, This Fire In My Heart, is still a bit of a mystery because it isn’t completely finished yet.

Amazon will run the sale on Set Free To Love until midnight September 16th, U.S. Pacific Time. I hope several of you take advantage of the special price to check out the series and get to know all the wonderful people who populate the other books as well.

Just follow the link to read more about the story and learn a little about how the series was birthed.

I also want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you readers who have read books 1 and 2.  I’m so thrilled that you were blessed by them.

 

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