RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT – CHAPTER 13

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Serenity was on her knees with her arms around him instantly, praying for him. After several moments, Noah recovered enough to raise his head from his hands, and wipe his face with the borrowed handkerchief. Finally he reached his arm around Serenity and hugged her. “Thank you, Serie . . . for praying. But please don’t stay down there on the floor on your knees. Sit back up on the sofa where it’s more comfortable.” When she didn’t move, he said. “Please, Serie,” so she gave up and did as he asked.

“So they had sacrificed the little girl?” Clint asked Noah quietly.

Noah nodded and finally managed to say, “Yes . . . and . . . that’s enough for me to tell you. You know enough to be able to imagine what kind of death it was and what other butchery was involved.” He let out one more heavy sigh. “I can’t begin to tell you how it feels to see that something like that has happened to a real child from your own community. . . . Or how it feels to know that you were the one responsible for protecting that child, and all the others like her, and that you had failed utterly.”

Clint reached out his hand to stop Noah. “That isn’t true, Noah. Deep in your heart, you know it isn’t true, and you’re going to have to make yourself recognize that fact.”

“Well . . . anyway . . . it was the most horrendous thing we’d ever had happen in our county since I had been appointed a deputy years before.” Noah rose from the footstool and moved over to the sofa again, sitting back far enough to lean against the back of it. He still had more to tell, but at least the worst was over. God had gotten him through it.

Clint got up then. “I think you need a cold drink. I’ll bring a glass of that lemonade I saw in the refrigerator. Take a breather until I get back, and then you need to tell us the rest.”

Clint brought over glasses of lemonade and sat back down. “So then what happened?” he asked.

After taking a long drink of the cooling liquid, Noah answered. “Well, needless to say, we stepped up the investigation. We were still pressing to find out who the other members of the coven were, and Danny had never seen any of them without their hoods over their heads. However, he was finally able to tell us how he and Melinda had gotten separated from the rest of the kids. They were all sent out on what was supposed to be a treasure hunt, and as he and Melinda were wondering around in the dark close to each other, they were approached by two figures in gray cloaks with hoods.

“Evidently they said something to the kids that was much like a line right out of the Sally Stone books, and since they were so used to reading all that stuff, it didn’t seem particularly abnormal to them. The two figures told them that they had been sent to help them find the treasure, so the kids went with them, and of course, they ended up at the meeting of the coven and the ritual ceremony.

“Danny saw what they did to Melinda, and while that was going on was when he finally managed to get his ropes loose enough to escape. And even then, he wouldn’t have made it home when he did if he hadn’t been able to run through the woods and fields. It would have taken him close to two hours to get there if he had used the roads.”

“Did the people of the county finally see the truth about the Sally Stone books and all the other horrible stuff like it?” Serenity asked.

“Some people did finally realize that it was dangerous and threw away the books and games so that their kids weren’t exposed to it anymore, but you know how people are, Serenity. A lot of people in the county just sent up a great hue and cry against me and my department because we hadn’t done enough to keep this kind of thing from happening in our county. And they were right in part . . . in a large part . . . but when I had tried, through the pastors, to help the community see what we were up against early on, I didn’t get a whole lot of cooperation either.

But … after days of intensive prayer for the Lord to show me what steps to take, I finally managed to trace the two sponsors for that club back to the coven, and then I knew I had a little clout to work with.

“I arrested those two on suspicion of their connection with Melinda’s murder, and we managed to bring enough evidence to get a judge to deny bail. I tried to get information out of them, of course, but they kept denying their involvement with any coven . . . until I presented them with the evidence I had, and then they finally stopped acting like they didn’t know anything about it. After about a week, one of them got really cocky and started making some remarks that sounded too much like a threat of more plans by the coven for additional kidnappings and sacrifices for me to ignore it.

“So the first thing I did was to make sure we had Danny covered. He was getting some pretty intensive counseling, and we arranged with his family to have a security officer on hand at all times until we had the whole case put down. The only other thing I could do where the children in general were concerned was to encourage parents and school personnel to be extraordinarily diligent and protective of all the children at all times . . . and I put on two extra deputies to help with that job.”

“Was your own church standing with you in the spiritual warfare of this whole thing?” Clint asked now.

“Well, after I got to know Mark pretty well and realized that he believed what I was fast coming to recognize was absolute truth from God’s Word, I moved to his church. And I can tell you this; those people went to war for me and for the whole county. They had intercession around the clock in that church until the whole thing was over, and I don’t think I would have lived through it if they hadn’t been praying continuously for me. Nor would I have had the wisdom to do the job even as well as I did it. But I was attacked with several things in my body during that time, and I know it was prayer that got me delivered and healed. And then there were other attempts made on my life too, but God kept me.”

For the first time in the whole conversation, Noah actually relaxed back against the sofa as he told the next part of the story. “Anyway, we gradually collected more evidence concerning the whereabouts of the other coven members on Halloween night, and I finally had enough to arrest two more of them. I had been torn all along, trying to decide whether to arrest the ones I could prove something on (which would warn the others that we were onto them) or to wait until I could get everyone in the coven at the same time. But I finally decided that if we arrested enough of them, at least it should shake the others up enough to stop their activity locally, and our children would be safe.

“Of course, that still left the coven free to practice their deadly sorcery somewhere else. So my constant prayer was that the Lord would show us a way to bring all of them in. And to be completely honest, I don’t think my faith was very strong that we would ever get those results, but Pastor Mark and the congregation were still doing spiritual battle around the clock, and praying especially for the conversion of the four witches we had in custody.

“Mark came once or twice a week to try to talk with them, and finally . . . one of them . . . one of the sponsors of the Sally Stone Club . . . repented of her involvement with Satan and surrendered her heart to the Lord. Mark and I prayed for her deliverance, and we transferred her to another jail for her own protection. But before she left, when she was alone with me and one of the deputies, she told us about a plan within the coven to kidnap another child before Christmas and sacrifice her as a way of appeasing Satan for the sloppy work they had done in October.”

Noah sat forward and drank the rest of his lemonade before he continued. “You can only imagine how frantic I was at that news. How do you protect every child in the county . . . especially when so many of the adults who are supposed to be leaders in the care and nurturing of children . . . in schools and churches . . . didn’t believe there was a real menace out there anyway? But I did everything I could think of, and rather than sound like I’m defending myself by listing all those things, I’ll just say that I’ve racked my brain since the event, and I honestly can’t think what more I could have done. And, without question, it was the consistent prayer that actually brought us success.

“In spite of everything, though, I got the call at 10:09 on the night of December 21. I remember it as if it had happened yesterday. It was the first missing child report since Halloween, and it practically caused my heart to stop beating. I sent my best deputy ahead of me to the parents’ home to start getting all the facts he could. I called in every deputy I’d ever used and told them to report to my office as fast as possible. And then I threw myself on the floor, face down, and pled with the Lord to show me every step to take so I wouldn’t make any mistakes or lose any time. I prayed until I heard the deputies assembling in the outer office, and when I went out to join them, I finally had a sense of victory in my heart.

“I met my other deputy at the child’s home, met the parents, and after hearing all the facts, I just began to give out instructions concerning where we were going, and what we would do when we got there. I knew the Lord was speaking through me, and when we ended up at a deserted house, not far from that abandoned school, we could tell there was a ceremony in progress. My heart almost stopped again until I had sneaked up to a window and seen through it enough to see that the little girl was still alive. After that I felt so empowered by the righteous anger of the Lord that I knew that night would be the end of the witchcraft from this group.”

“You captured all of them?” Serenity asked, her eyes burning with the same kind of righteous indignation that Noah’s were.

He nodded. “I won’t go into all the details, but I can say humbly that no member of my force had ever performed better than they did that night. It was as if we could almost read each other’s minds, and we worked in such synchronized precision . . . and I know that was because angels were making every move with each one of us … and because the prayer cover was keeping us hidden from the demons controlling those witches. We had all of them surrounded and in custody in a short time, and with enough evidence of the kind of crime they were in the process of perpetrating that they didn’t have a chance.”

“So that was really the end of it?” Clint asked now.

“The end of the activity, but not the end of the story, because the trials were pretty horrendous in themselves. They couldn’t all be tried together because of varying degrees of charges lodged against different ones, and all together, the trials were strung out through May of this year. It was especially hard on the families who had lost, or come close to losing, their children, but the whole county suffered through all of them. In order to get the convictions we needed, we had been forced to go after other evidence of the coven’s activities too, and the testimonies and other articles of evidence were pretty horrific at times.”

Noah had been leaning forward with his elbows on his knees again, gripping his hands in front of him, but now he leaned back again, laying his head on the back of the sofa and closing his eyes. “Four of them were convicted of first degree murder. Four others were convicted of second degree murder, and the other five were found guilty of concealing a homicide, as well as a number of other charges that should keep them locked up for several years.” He let out a heartfelt sigh. “Thanks to the Lord . . . and only to the Lord.”

Serenity reached out and took his hand in hers, squeezing it gently. “I’m so grateful you were able to tell us all of this, Noah.”

“Did most of the people in the county finally change their attitudes about the Sally Stone books and movies and other things like that?” Clint asked.

Noah had squeezed Serenity’s hand too, and now he raised his head and smiled at her before he looked at Clint and answered. “Most of them did . . . at last. They had been through hell and back before they had been willing to see the truth, but when they did, they began to act accordingly. Now most of the libraries and schools are clean of that trash, and I don’t think any theatre owner in the county would dare to bring in one of the movies again.”

“Praise God!” Serenity said.

“Praise God, indeed!” Noah answered, squeezing her hand again.

“Amen!” Clint added, leaning back in his chair and taking a deep breath of relief.

Serenity got up, saying, “I’m going to peak in at David again,” and left the room. After she did, Noah looked at Clint, his eyes intent upon the older man’s.

“Thank you for praying for me tonight, Clint. I’m not sure I could have gotten through all of it without your support . . . and Serenity’s.”

“I appreciate your courage in telling us all of it, Noah. Not to mention your courage in doing the job you did. But I can see why you needed a rest and a good deal of inner healing.”

Noah nodded his head. “Yeah . . . and I’m not sure that’s all it is. I’m not positive that I’ll be going back to that job.”

“Oh?”

“Not because of the people . . . and not because I’m afraid to go back to it . . . but . . . I don’t know. I just don’t have any sense of joy in doing that job anymore . . . the way I did have when I took it. And that’s one of the things I’m here to seek God about. I need to know what He wants me to do.”

“What He wants you to do about what?” Serenity asked, getting back in time to hear the last statement.

“About continuing to be the sheriff back home. I think it may be time to move on to something else, but I still have to have some answers from the Lord.”

“Noah, one thing still puzzles me,” she said. “What did you mean when you were standing at the window fingering your earring and asking the Lord to forgive you?”

Noah instinctively reached his hand up and gently touched the ring in his ear, fingering the cross and smiling before he answered her. “You remember David told you that I had put this ring in my ear to signify that I was becoming the Lord’s servant for the rest of my life. And I promised the Lord then that I would do whatever He wanted whenever He wanted it done, without hesitation and without asking questions. But when I began to realize that some of the same witchcraft was getting a foothold here, and that I knew how horrible it could be if it weren’t stopped dead in its tracks immediately, I made a decision that I was not going to be involved in all of it again. So I turned my back on it as much as I could. In short . . . I broke my promise to the Lord. Because deep in my heart, I realized that He’d brought me here for that very purpose . . . to stop it dead in its tracks.”

Noah rose and paced back toward the bookcase and then turned and leaned against it again, looking at Serenity. “When I realized that David and Moondancer were the victims of that same witchcraft . . . and that we had almost lost David as a result . . . I finally came to my senses and started really listening to the Lord, and I finally made the decision to obey Him.”

“And so you believe that what happened with David and Moondancer today was the result of that same kind of witchcraft?”

Noah nodded “Yes . . .” He paused to collect his thoughts. “Last week, some kids on the beach came down to my cottage to see Moondancer and ask for a ride.”

“David told me it was some of the kids from the Library Club, Lacey Dillard and her friends,” Serenity said.

“Yes, her brother did call her Lacey. But the oddest thing was that when she was there and making the big scene, I kept thinking I’d met her somewhere before . . . that I should know her . . . but I couldn’t remember any place at all where we had met. Then today . . . after what happened with Moondancer and David . . . I finally realized that what I thought was recognition of the child was actually recognition of the demonic spirit inhabiting her. I had seen that same evil being look at me out of the eyes of the witch who was finally delivered. And, of course, I saw a multitude of similar spirits showing themselves in the eyes of all of them. But evidently that spirit now inhabits Lacey and recognized me also, and that’s why the vicious attack.” He sighed again, but smiled at them. “But the Lord has protected us . . . praise Him for His merciful love!”

“So what do you feel the Lord is telling you to do about the problems here, Noah?” Clint asked.

“Well, I still need to pray for more direction, but as I’ve talked with the two of you, I’ve had a plan begin to form in the back of my mind. I’d like to run it past both of you and get your input, but I really think we’ve discussed enough of this witchcraft business tonight, don’t you?”

Serenity looked at her grandfather, and he lifted his eyebrows in a question. “Serenity . . . what’s your answer to that?”

She let out a deep sigh. “Well . . . I want to know your plan, Noah, and I want to help with it as much as I possibly can . . . but I think you’re right. I think we need to refocus our thoughts and emotions on the Lord and try to get some rest. Besides, it’s already 9:00 now, and we’re not going to be able to confirm a plan and start carrying it out tonight. So why not wait until we’re all fresh tomorrow?”

“Sounds right to me,” Clint said, leaning forward in his chair. “I say let’s pray together now and then collect our little boy and head for the lighthouse.”

After prayer, thanking God for his merciful protection and asking Him for wisdom and strength to do whatever He called on them to do, Clint went into the bedroom to get David, and Serenity stepped over to Noah, slipping her arm through his. “I have no words to tell you, Noah, how grateful I am that you risked your own life to save David’s”

Noah shook his head. “Only the Lord saved David, Serenity. If I had been willing to act on my knowledge and experience sooner, that whole event might not have happened. So it was my own disobedience that opened the door to putting David in that danger.”

“No, I don’t believe that, Noah. It’s reasonable that you had to have the time you’ve taken to be able to decide to throw yourself into a horrendous problem like that a second time. And I doubt that the enemy would have gone very long without finding some way to attack all of us, simply because of the stand we’ve taken against all of the Sally Stone materials and new age curriculums. Besides, you didn’t send David out into that ocean after Moondancer. And you didn’t cause the wind to start whipping that ocean into fierce waves that far out. Remember that! But you did go in yourself and save him. Remember that too!” she added, stretching up and kissing his cheek.

Noah grinned. “I’ll try, Serenity.”

Clint returned to the room leading a very sleepy David by the hand. The boy was rubbing his eyes and yawning, but he managed to thank Noah again for his rescue. Clint reached out and patted Noah’s shoulder once more. “Goodnight, Son.”

“Goodnight and thank you both . . . more than I can say. See you tomorrow.”


Only 8 more chapters to go. Look for Chapter Fourteen here tomorrow. And thank you for reading.


RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT – CHAPTER 9

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

 

CHAPTER NINE

The next morning when Lacey and Troy got to school for the Library Club, they were early enough that only one or two other students were there, and they were busy setting up some materials Miss Parker was going to use that morning. “Oh, I’m glad you two are here early,” she said to them. “Troy, I need you to count the number of take-home packets we have left on that shelf by the window, and Lacey I could use your help in my office, if you’re willing.”

“Sure, Miss Parker, “ she said and followed the librarian into her little office while Troy moved over to the bookshelf by the window to do his part.

“Now, Lacey, I’ve ordered a number of new books for the library, and I’d like for us to be able to use some of them this summer, but I haven’t had time to check to see exactly which ones have come in so far. Would you be willing to go through all the books in these two boxes and put a check mark beside the titles on my list if those books are here?”

“Sure,” she answered taking the list that Miss Parker handed her, along with a pen from the desk and going over to the two boxes sitting on the floor in the corner. As she worked quickly, she didn’t pay any attention to anything else, until she realized she was hearing Mr. Kelso’s voice. At that she glanced behind her briefly and saw that he was standing in the doorway talking quietly to Miss Parker.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t get to you earlier, but I was tied up with some other problems and got here later than usual. I wanted you to know before you start that you won’t be having David Hartford and Trent Matthews in the program anymore. Their mothers withdrew them yesterday.” Miss Parker made some kind of face that he had never seen her make before, and he didn’t know exactly what it meant, but when she answered him, it was in her usual tone of voice.

“Well . . . I’m not really too surprised. They just couldn’t seem to fit into the program at all. They almost seemed afraid to play the mind-expanding games, and I heard both of them say something about the books not being something God wanted them to read.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a shame, but some people just won’t allow themselves to progress in the development of their inner selves.”

“Well, I think there was a problem with one of them having some nightmares too, and some strange events that the two ladies attributed to the material they had been exposed to here. I told them about how much the program has helped some of the other students, and that it is positively received here because of that, but they just didn’t feel comfortable about the boys coming back. I’m sorry, Miss Parker. I know you try very hard.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kelso. I do try very hard, and I’m seeing some fine progress with most of the children, so I’m not going to take this little event as a setback. But thank you for telling me as soon as possible.”

“Oh, and I meant to tell you that Miss Lawrence did ask to speak with you personally yesterday before she saw me, but you were unavailable, of course. So I assured both ladies that I would fill you in thoroughly, and both of them said that if you should have any questions, you should feel free to call them.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary. As a matter of fact, Mr. Kelso . . . well . . . I hope you’ll understand what I mean by this . . .” she paused as if searching for words. “Well, let me just say that sometimes if you have a person who cannot get into the spirit of the project, he can often interfere with the development of the other people who really want to succeed at it. I think perhaps, in the long run, this is for the best.”

“Well, I’m glad you can look at it that way, then. I’ll go now and let you get to your work. I see most of your students are here now. Have a good day.”

“You too,” she said, as he slipped back out into the hallway and she went into the main room to welcome the children.

So, Lacey thought now, the two smart alecks who thought they were too good to read the books the rest of us read aren’t coming back. About that time, Troy walked in and told her Miss Parker was beginning the class. “Hey, Troy did you hear? Those two boys, Trent and David, have quit the Library Club.”

“How come?”

“Well, you know they said all kinds of silly stuff about God not wanting us to read the Sally Stone books, and they wouldn’t play the games with the rest of the kids. Miss Parker said they were scared. And that’s just what they are: scaredy-cats and smart alecks. I’m glad they’re gone.”

“Who told you?”

“I heard Mr. Kelso telling Miss Parker. She thinks it’s better that they’re gone too. We can all get more out of the classes without somebody like them around. One of them is just an old cry-baby anyway. He had some bad dreams, and now his mommy doesn’t want him to come back.” Her nasty, mocking didn’t seem to affect her brother. Troy just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I guess they’re just too young to appreciate it.”

“But you started reading the Sally Stone books when you were only a year older than them, and you appreciated them, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. I guess you’re right. Anyway, class is started; get out here,” he added, turning back into the main library room, and Lacey followed him, a gleeful look in her eyes. For some reason, she felt that her day had just taken a turn for the better.

By late Thursday afternoon, Serenity was a bundle of nerves. She hadn’t been out on a date since she’d gone back to Cincinnati for several days during Easter week. Then she had gone to dinner twice with a man she had dated frequently before moving to the lighthouse. He was a photographer, and they had worked together on several magazine articles and had become good friends. But Serenity didn’t feel anything beyond a strong friendship for him, and she certainly hadn’t had any butterflies or sweaty palms as she prepared for their evenings together.

Tonight would be different. She knew that as surely as she knew her name. She couldn’t have explained it, but she knew that what she felt when she was with Noah was altogether different from anything she had felt with the men she’d dated before. As a result, she was torn between excitement at having the chance to examine those feelings further, and concern that her feelings might be leading her to a place of heartache when Noah left the area.

“Aunt Serie, how come you’re just sitting there staring at your mirror?” David asked from behind her. She hadn’t heard him come into her room, and she couldn’t help chuckling a little now as she turned and looked at him, still in her dressing gown after her shower.

“I’m just thinking, Dave. Did you and Gramps decide what you’re going to do for supper?”

“Yeah, that’s what I came to tell you. We’re going into town to the fish restaurant, and then Gramps said we might even go to the movie. It’s one about a racehorse. Is that all right with you?”

“I think that sounds like fun. I bet you’ll both have a good time.”

“When’s Noah coming to get you?”

Serenity glanced at her watch. “Oh, my goodness! He’ll be here in about thirty minutes!” she said, shocked that she had sat so long thinking. “Come give me a kiss and then you scoot so I can get dressed quickly.”

“Okay,” he said, giggling. “You must think this is a special night if it’s taking you so long to get ready.”

“Well, it is . . . kind of. Noah and I have never gone out to dinner before.”

“Does that mean you like Noah a lot?”

Serenity tried to decide how to answer that question. “I think we all like Noah a lot, don’t we?”

“Yeah. He’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”

“I’m glad. Now you tell Gramps that I said for you two to have a great evening.”

“I will,” he said turning and running back to the hall to carry the message to Clint.

Twenty minutes later, Serenity was standing before her mirror in one of her favorite evening dresses. It was black and sleeveless with a squared neckline that showed off her lovely tan to perfection. The dress fell from an empire waistline in soft folds all the way to the middle of her calf, and she had completed the look with high-heeled, sandals with very thin straps. She had pulled her hair up into a cluster of curls on top of her head with a few wisps floating around her face, and her only jewelry was a pair of single pearl earrings and a single pearl on a short, delicate, gold chain around her neck. When she walked out into the living room, Clint was just on the point of coming to tell her he and David were leaving. But he stopped in his tracks and whistled.

“Now that’s what I call classy, Granddaughter. You’re sure going to attract attention tonight!” he said, grinning broadly at her. David ran up to her then, his eyes bright.

“Gosh, Aunt Serie, you never dress up like that here! You look beautiful! Noah will think so too.”

“Thank you, both of you,” Serenity said, blushing a little as they both still stared at her. “Well, you need to get going, don’t you?” she asked.

Clint chuckled and took David by the hand. “We can take a hint,” he said. “Come on, Dave. We’re not needed around here right now. See you when you get home, Honey,” he said to Serie, and whisked his great-grandson out the door.

Serenity sat down and tried to slow the rapid beating of her heart as she waited, but in no time, she heard Noah’s knock on the door. He was a little early, but at least she wouldn’t keep him waiting. So she walked over and opened the door, inviting him in and stepping back into the full light of the room. Noah stood there with his mouth slightly open, his eyes registering blatant approval of how she looked, but it was several seconds before he said anything.

“Serenity . . . you’re absolutely beautiful!” He wanted to say more, but he was having trouble getting his feelings translated into words. He had recognized the natural beauty of the woman before, but he just hadn’t expected the impact that he’d sustained when she’d opened the door tonight. Where she was usually fresh air and sunshine, tonight she was one hundred percent, tantalizing, provocative woman. And to make the package even more irresistible, there was an innocence about her that made it clear she didn’t even realize how alluring she was.

“Thank you, Noah,” she said almost shyly. “I’m ready if you’d like to leave now,” she added on a questioning note, not quite sure how to react to the look in his eyes. She would have described it as hunger if she had allowed herself to be honest, but instead, she tried to move both of them into the ordinary activities of getting away. She just wasn’t ready to deal with the other yet.

So when Noah finally cleared his throat a little and nodded that he was ready, Serie turned out all the lights except one by the sofa and walked through the door as Noah held it open for her and locked it behind them. It was the first time she had ridden in his car, and she enjoyed the fact that the interior smelled just slightly of his cologne. She inhaled the scent deeply, feeling little ripples of pleasure go through her as she did so. Then she let out a long, slow breath. Get hold of yourself, Serenity, she told herself. Don’t let this evening go to you head, for Pete’s sake.

“Comfortable?” Noah asked, looking at her and glancing to make sure her seatbelt was secure.

“Very.”

“Good. I know the Suburban isn’t exactly the ultimate in transportation for a rather formal evening out, but it was my best choice for this trip to the coast, since I was hauling the trailer with Moondancer. Oh . . . by the way . . . I have some news I think you’ll want to hear.”

“Oh?”

“I’m a new uncle!” he announced, beaming.

“June had her baby!”

Noah nodded, still grinning. “A little . . . or rather . . . a big baby girl. Keith said she weighed in at nine pounds and twelve ounces.”

“No wonder June didn’t feel like doing much for the

last couple of months,” she answered, laughing. “And they’re both fine?”

“Both perfect,” according to Keith, and he gave me just about every detail he could remember. “I’m going to call and talk to June tomorrow. She was already asleep when he called me, just about an hour after the birth, and I didn’t want him to disturb her.”

“Well, I’d like to send them something. You have their address, I suppose.”

“Sure. I’ll get it to you tomorrow.”

“Oh, you haven’t told me her name.”

“Evangeline Joy Campbell.”

“Wow, that’s a mouthful, but I like it.”

“Me too,” he said, glancing at her and smiling. “As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that we like a lot of the same things.”

“Well, people who have great taste would naturally like the same things, don’t you think,” she asked, grinning at him.

“Absolutely. And speaking of great taste, I hope you like this restaurant. It’s the newest thing in Barclay . . .The Sandcastle. It’s only been open about three weeks.”

“I read in the paper where they were having their grand opening, but I haven’t been there yet. It sounds like a fairly fancy place. I hope I’m dressed formally enough.”

“You’re dressed perfectly. I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said, smiling at her as he briefly took his eyes from the road to glance over her quickly once more. “Besides, I didn’t have a lot of choice myself. I brought only one suit with me, along with two dress shirts and two ties. I intended to loaf and rest during this period of time, so they’ll have to take me in this suit and tie or do without me altogether,” he said, laughing now.

“Well, considering how you look in that one suit, I don’t think they’re going to turn you away . . . especially if the decision is left up to a woman,” she answered, joining in his bantering mood.

Noah laughed out loud again, as he answered her. “Remind me to take you out to dinner often, Serenity. You’re very good for my ego. Would you like some quiet music?”

“Sure,” she answered, and he reached down and flipped open a small CD case. “Look through these and choose something you like.”

So Serenity chose an instrumental worship CD and put it in, adjusting the volume so that they could still talk when they wanted to. As they listened to the music, they did continue to talk sporadically, mostly about general topics and local happenings, and before they realized how much time had elapsed, they were driving into the restaurant parking lot.

The dinner was everything they could have wanted it to be, and the atmosphere in the restaurant was conducive to quiet conversation, which was what they wanted. Noah asked Serenity about her work and her years living in Cincinnati, but whenever she asked him something about his work, he gave very short answers and steered the conversation back to her as quickly as he could. She did, at least, manage to find out that he had been a police officer for several years in a large city in the Midwest before moving to the Southwest and becoming a deputy sheriff. In response to her persistence, he told her about being elected sheriff, but after that, Noah took the conversation in a totally different direction.

“Why is it you’ve never married, Serenity. You’ve surely had offers.”

She laughed lightly, but she blushed too. “Well . . . actually . . . I haven’t had any proposals yet.”

Noah’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open just a little. “Good grief, are all the men you’ve known blind or stupid?”

Serenity laughed out loud then. “Well they could all see well enough, but I don’t know for sure about the other.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I think it’s just that none of the relationships ever seemed to click . . . you know . . . that little extra something just wasn’t there. I’ve been great friends with several men in my life, but . . .” She shrugged her shoulders again and then added. “I don’t really have any explanation, I guess . . . and . . . now . . . with David in my life . . . I’m not sure that there are very many men who will want to even try and find out if something special could develop. But I certainly wouldn’t even consider not raising David. I love him as much as if he had been my own.”

“I can tell. And he feels the same way. But it’s a huge responsibility all by yourself. It was a very unselfish thing for you to do, Serenity. I’m sure the Lord is pleased with you. And . . . don’t sell yourself short . . . or most of the men in the world. There are still a few of us out there who appreciate children too.”

“Oh, I know that’s true. And I didn’t’ mean to sound as if I were accusing men of not being interested in children. It’s just that most men want to begin with just a wife for a few years and then have their own children, only when they’re ready.”

Noah shrugged. “It depends on the man. And you, Serenity, are a very special woman. I’m sure any number of men would be glad to share their life with you and help you raise David.” As he spoke he looked deeply into her eyes. They were large, emerald green jewels, and he felt as though he could look into them for hours at a time. Serenity held his gaze, her face solemn for the moment, wondering what Noah’s words just now had really meant. But after several moments, she lowered her own eyes and began to make little folds in her napkin beside her plate. They had finished eating and were having a second cup of coffee, and she knew the evening needed to come to an end soon. For some reason that made her sad, but she had to force those feelings aside.

Noah still hadn’t spoken anything else, and when she glanced back at him, he was still looking right at her, the look in his eyes more like a smoldering fire now. He sat as still as a stone, the only movement the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed, and that was rather rapid, Serenity noticed. Of course, she realized that her breathing matched his, and her heartbeat was now double what it had been five minutes ago. She had to do something to break this connection between them because if she didn’t she might drown in those eyes . . . or worse yet . . . she might say something she would regret.

She managed to tear her eyes away from his and look toward the other side of the restaurant. She took a couple of deep, slow breaths and cleared her throat. Then she glanced at her watch. “Well, it’s getting late, I guess. Do you think we should go?”

Noah glanced down at his own watch. “Not so late, really. But if you’re finished, we could leave and go for a drive down to the beach. It’s a beautiful night.”

“Yes, it is. That sounds like a good way to end the evening. The moon should be right over the ocean about now.”

So they left the restaurant and drove down to the beach, glad that there weren’t very many other people there at this time. “Shall we take a walk,” Noah asked her. “Of course, you’d have to take your shoes off. I’m sure those heels won’t make it in this sand.”

“That’s no problem,” she said and slipped off her shoes. He opened her door and took her hand, leading the way almost to the water’s edge. They strolled along, hand in hand, their fingers entwined, not saying much of anything, just feeling the beauty of the night and the warmth of each other’s presence. After several minutes, Noah realized the breeze was getting chilly, so he took off his jacket and placed it around Serenity’s shoulders, leaving his arm draped over it as they continued walking.

Finally, after they’d strolled a considerable way from the half a dozen other beach combers, they came to a small rise in the ground with a large rock formation jutting out of it toward the sea. Noah placed Serenity against it and stood in front of her as a shelter from the breeze, which was a little stronger on this part of the beach. As she leaned against the rock, he leaned toward her, placing his hands on either side of her just above her shoulders. His eyes, as he looked into hers, were burning with that same fire she had seen in the restaurant, only now it wasn’t nearly as controlled. She felt an answering flame leap within her, and she couldn’t take her eyes away from his.

Slowly, Noah moved his right hand from the rock and gently traced the line of her cheek with his index finger. Serenity shivered as his hand came to the front of her face, and he began, even more gently, to trace the line of her lips, now slightly open as she tried to reclaim her breath. Suddenly, Noah removed his hand from her and straightened up, shoving both hands into his pants pockets, his eyes still on fire.

“Serenity, you know that I want to kiss you.” His voice was low, the timbre of it vibrating over her, touching every nerve. “. . . And I think you know how much I want to kiss you.” She didn’t say a word, but her eyes burned into his, and he knew that he was right. “But I’m not going to kiss you . . . because . . . because . . .” He saw her swallow hard and knew she was fighting the same battle that he was. He tried to pick up the train of thought and finish his explanation. “I’m not going to start something that I don’t know if I can finish . . . even though . . .” His voice had become husky. It was hard to get his breath. He tried to drag in a deep breath to continue, but everything else that he was feeling was consuming him.

Suddenly, he grasped Serenity’s shoulders, and with a groan, he pulled her to him and captured her lips. His reason told him that he was making a mistake, but everything else in him was singing with joy at the experience of connecting so completely with this woman. And Serenity’s response thrilled him even more . . . so much so that he deepened the kiss and wrapped his arms tightly around her as she wrapped her own around him with equal fervor.

Several long moments later, Serenity finally made a slight motion to pull away, and Noah begrudgingly released her lips, but not his embrace. Immediately, his mouth traced a line of kisses along her cheek, nestling momentarily at her ear, and then moving just below to the tender spot on her neck. Serenity had felt searing heat engulf her the moment Noah’s lips had touched hers, and even now, she felt the same trail of heat as he moved his mouth gently against her skin. She rested her head against his shoulder, and as he placed one hand against the back of her head, he whispered in her ear. “So much for my good intentions.”

At that, Serenity gave the tiniest giggle, and although she tried to smother it, she failed. But that response managed to defuse some the energy of the moment, and as she pulled back, Noah was able to slacken his hold and finally release her, except to place his hands gently on her shoulders. He looked into her eyes. “I’ve come to care very deeply for you, Serenity. But I don’t know for sure what that can mean for us. I’d like to think you feel the same, but I’m not going to ask you to confess that, because I have no choice but to continue doing some very serious soul searching right now. And . . . that being the case . . . I can’t afford to let myself focus on anything else or anyone else too deeply.”

“Well, I’m not sure what my future as an instantaneous mother holds either, Noah, so I’m not ready to make any declarations either.” His eyes searched hers, and there was an undeniable longing in them, but Serenity could tell that he had gotten control of himself again, and he would force himself not to give in to satisfying that longing until he was satisfied about everything else in his life. She smiled at him now. “I think we probably should start for home, though, don’t you?”

Noah nodded, letting out a deep sigh, and turned back toward the way they had come, taking her hand in his again. They made the drive back in silence for the most part, but it was a peaceful, pleasant silence. Each of them needed to sort through their thoughts and feelings, and neither wanted to risk hurting the other. They listened to the worship CD again, and somewhere along the middle of the program, Serenity fell asleep. When they arrived at the lighthouse, Noah patted her shoulder gently. “Serie,” he whispered, but had to do so three times before she woke. As she came awake, before she opened her eyes, she felt his warm, breath on her face, and inhaled the sweet scent of him, remembering the kiss for another moment. She smiled then and finally opened her eyes, looking right into his.

“Sorry, Noah. I guess I was pretty boring company on the trip home.”

“No need to apologize. You’re very beautiful when you’re asleep, and you didn’t even snore,” he said, grinning, as she sat up straighter and unfastened her seatbelt. Noah got out and came around to open her door. He took her hand and held it all the way to her own front door. Then he took her key and unlocked the door, holding it open for her to enter. Just as she stepped into the doorway of the silent house, she turned back to smile at him and thank him for dinner.

“It was my pleasure . . . and . . .” He paused and barely touched his index finger to her lips. “Thank you for sharing that beautiful kiss with me, Serie.”

Her throat felt clogged suddenly — with what emotion she wasn’t sure — but she couldn’t get any words out. Finally, she just smiled once more and whispered, “Goodnight, Noah,” and turned to step the rest of the way into the living room.

“Night, Serie . . . sweet dreams,” he whispered and turned toward his car.


Look for Chapter Ten here tomorrow.


RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT – CHAPTER 8

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

At 8:30 Tuesday morning, Serenity called the school office and asked if Miss Parker would be in that day. The secretary told her that Miss Parker didn’t come in on Tuesdays and asked if she could be of assistance.

“No, but if I can’t get in touch with Miss Parker, then I need to see Mr. Kelso sometime today. Would that be a problem?”

“Not at all, Miss Lawrence. May I ask what the meeting is for?”

“It has to do with some problems that have come up in the Library Club, and I’m not sure that I can send David back. I need to discuss the whole matter with Mr. Kelso.”

“Very well, he has time to see you late this morning, around 11:00, or after lunch at 1:30.”

“We’ll be in at 11:00 then. Mrs. Matthews, Trent’s mother, will be coming in with me.”

“Okay, I have you down for 11:00. See you then.”

“Thank you. See you at 11:00.”

When the two mothers sat down in Mr. Kelso’s office, they were still trying to decide where to start their explanation. They had prayed together on the way over, asking the Lord to give them the right words, and now they knew they just had to trust that He would.

“Miss Maxwell said there seemed to be some kind of problem with the Library Club that you needed to discuss with me, is that correct?” he asked, his features pleasant and his voice kind.

“Yes,” Serenity said. “And we want you to know that we haven’t come to you in order to go behind Miss Parker’s back. I did ask to meet with her, but she won’t be in today, and I intended to meet with you after I had seen her anyway, so . . . I hope it’s all right with you to do it this way instead.”

“Certainly. I want to know if we have a problem of any kind here.”

“Well, there are probably a number of parents . . . actually, there evidently are a number of parents who don’t think there is a problem, but for Elizabeth and myself, and our families, there definitely is. David and Trent always share with us what they’ve done each day, and it seems that both times they’ve come they have been subjected to long sessions of readings from books on witchcraft and demonic activity. Then they have been asked to pretend that they could become some kind of animal that could give them great power to do secret things. And in yesterday’s session, they were told to lie down on a mat, with the lights out in the room, and imagine that they had some kind of being coming from the inside of them that they could talk to and receive directions from.

“Now both of our families are strong Christian families, and all this witchcraft and sorcery teaching, as well as the imagination games, which are indicative of new age meditation techniques, go completely against what we believe and allow our children to practice. We’re wondering why those specific things are being taught under the auspices of a Library Reading Program.”

Mr. Kelso smiled at the two ladies. “I know the program you’re referring to, ladies, but I assure you that we are not engaging in some kind of sorcery or new age religion. Miss Parker explained to the board about how these games free the students to begin to use their minds more energetically and, as a result, enable them to get more out of their regular academic subjects throughout the year. The games also draw out the natural creativity in each child. And I can tell you first hand that last year some of our students who were quite shy and were underachievers, before being exposed to those games, became very extroverted and began to accomplish a number of tasks better after learning to play the games. And most of our students read more books during the year since Miss Parker has managed to introduce some of the more current and very popular books into our library.”

“But, Mr. Kelso, there are any number of games that will challenge and even quicken a child’s intelligence that don’t require them to practically go into some kind of trance and imagine they are speaking with another kind of being inside of themselves,” Serenity said.

“Are you sure the boys aren’t exaggerating just a little about what they’re being instructed to do? Sometimes children do that when the experience is totally new to them. And I think that would be likely with David especially, since you told me he had been through a traumatic year and had been home schooled as an only student during the last school year.”

“Mr. Kelso, each one of these boys is considered higher than average in intelligence, according to all of their test scores, and each one of them has had a great many experiences due to living in more than one place as well as traveling a good deal. I don’t think they’ve been so secluded or shielded that they would find it necessary to tell lies or exaggerate about their experiences here. Furthermore, each one of the boys told the exact same story to two different mothers at two different times. I think that alone makes their information more than plausible.”

Then Elizabeth spoke. “That’s right, and they didn’t exaggerate at all about what they’re having read to them for about an hour and a half each day, because I checked the content of those books myself. They’re horrid! And there are certainly hundreds of books on the market that are written specifically to interest children that don’t require them to study the science of witchcraft. Kids don’t have to read about a person turning into an animal, or possessing an animal’s body, or having body parts cut off and thrown into a boiling cauldron to effect some kind of spell in order to learn to love reading, surely!” Her voice had risen a little by the time she finished her statement, and Mr. Kelso lifted his hands in a motion that evidently was meant to calm her.

“Please don’t get so upset, Mrs. Matthews. I assure you we encourage our children to read all kinds of literature. This summer, Miss Parker is just centering her program on the Sally Stone books because they are so popular, and they lend themselves very well to rounding out the work with the mind-expanding games. Perhaps if you gave the program a little more time, you would begin to see the value in it for your boys.”

Serenity felt a knot form in her stomach. Something was terribly wrong that this man couldn’t see the harm in what was being taught in his school’s library. She felt a little sick at her stomach, and tried to tell herself that her feelings were not coming from fear. Finally, she spoke again. “Well, Mr. Kelso, as I said, our families are Christians— ”

“Oh, I’m Christian too,” he interrupted her to say.

“Well, that’s good to know, but the fact still remains that the things that are being taught in the Library Club so far are actually part of a religion. The games are the same things taught in Hinduism, and the sorcery books are basically teaching the satanic religion. So I have no peace about exposing David to that kind of influence, and I won’t be bringing him back.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Miss Lawrence,” he said, and sounded as if he really meant it. Then he looked at Elizabeth. “And do you feel the same way, Mrs. Matthews?”

“Definitely,” she said. “Mr. Matthews and I will be withdrawing Trent from the program too. I probably should tell you something else too. Trent has been having horrible nightmares since he started coming to these classes. He even had an experience when he was awake when he thought he was being visited by some other weird being. We even called our pastor and had him come over so that we could all pray until my son had peace again. He has never had any experiences like that in his life until he came to these classes, and now that he’s free from those horrible things again, I definitely will not expose him to any more of what caused them.”

Mr. Kelso shook his head sadly. “Well that’s very unfortunate, of course. I’m sorry you son had so much trouble. And I’m sorry the boys won’t be participating in the rest of the program. I’m sure Miss Parker will be sorry too, but I’ll explain it to her the way you’ve explained it to me. If she does have any questions, is it all right if she calls and talks to you?”

“Certainly,” Serenity answered, glancing at Elizabeth for confirmation, and her friend nodded her head as well. Then Serenity continued. “But there may be another problem, Mr, Kelso. I need to find out from you if the material taught throughout the year will also include this kind of thing, because if so, I can’t send David here to school at all.”

“I can assure you, Miss Lawrence, that this particular program is a specialized one and is used only as part of the library and reading advancement curriculum. Your nephew would not even be exposed to any of it in any of his other classes.”

“And would he be required to take part in it during their class visits to the library?”

“Not if you don’t want him to. He can always just go to the library and check out a book that he wants to read and sit at a table and read quietly while the other children take part in whatever Miss Parker offers that week. Would that be satisfactory?”

Serenity looked at Elizabeth and could see doubt in her eyes that matched what Serenity herself was feeling. “Well,” she finally said, “I need to talk this over with my grandfather, since he’s actually helping me raise David right now. I would certainly want his input before I make a final decision. Let’s just say that we’ll leave David enrolled for next year . . . at least for now . . . and perhaps I can talk with you again after I’ve had time to think it over and pray about it some more.”

“Very well,” he said, smiling again. “And you too, Mrs. Matthews?”

“I think that’s the best plan for us too, Mr. Kelso. At least until I have a chance to talk more with my husband. He may want to come in and talk with you himself.”

“Anytime,” he said and than glanced briefly at his watch.

Serenity took the hint and rose from her chair, as did Elizabeth. “Thank you very much for taking so much time to discuss this with us, Mr. Kelso,” Serenity said, extending her hand to shake his.

“It’s all part of my job,” he answered, turning to shake Elizabeth’s hand next. “Mrs. Matthews, tell your husband to feel welcome to come and talk to me if he needs to.”

The two women walked back into the main office. The secretary smiled at them from where she sat at her computer terminal. “Have a good afternoon, ladies,” she said.

“You too,” Elizabeth answered for both of them, and they started for their car.

Serenity and Clint invited Elizabeth and Lucas to dinner that evening so that the two families could discuss the pros and cons of leaving the boys enrolled in Hamsted Elementary School. Serenity had thought that if all four of them could share their thoughts and their hearts, they might be more likely to cover all of the aspects of the problem and reach a better decision.

She had wanted to invite Noah too, but she hadn’t asked Elizabeth about doing so, and they didn’t know him as well as she and Clint did. Besides, why should she put him in the position of having to hear all of their problems? He was here to get rest himself, and he’d be gone after August, so none of this would affect him at all.

Suddenly the gravity of that knowledge hit her with a jolt. He would be gone. And she most likely would never see him again . . . unless his sister and brother-in-law took the cottage another time, and he came for a visit. But that wasn’t likely with Keith and June having a new baby now. There was a deep sense of emptiness inside as Serenity contemplated her life without Noah in it. And wasn’t that silly, she told herself. She hadn’t really even known the man before four weeks ago. How could she feel an emptiness at the thought of his being gone from her life again?

Well, she didn’t know how; she just knew it was so. But she could shake off that feeling surely. Their relationship hadn’t moved into anything intimate, after all. Even after Noah had hinted several days ago that he wanted to take her some place romantic, nothing had developed. She got up now from where she’d been sitting on the porch looking at the ocean. She needed to get the meal started and get her mind out of this depressed train of thought.

Their meal progressed cheerfully. The boys always had fun together, and the four adults were beginning to feel as if they had been life-long friends. When they sent the boys out to play and finally began to discuss the school and its difficulties, they found that all four of them were on exactly the same wavelength. It looked as if they were all leaning toward the idea of sending the boys to the Christian school at Barclay or home schooling them both.

“If we pooled our knowledge and resources,” Elizabeth said now, “we could teach both of them at the same time and share all of the work load . . . maybe even alternate days, so that neither of us had to be tied to it every day.”

“That would make it a lot easier,” Serenity said. “Especially when I’m trying to meet a deadline from time to time,” she added chuckling. “I’m notorious for barely making it under the wire most of the time anyway.”

“Well, let’s all pray together right now,” Lucas said, “and then we can continue to pray the rest of this week and see what the Lord will show us.”

“Sounds good,” Clint said and reached out his hands to either side, indicating he was ready to join hands and hearts in that prayer. After that, they called the boys in, since it was getting dark, and Serenity insisted that they stay for her to put on a fresh pot of coffee and serve another piece of pie all around. Lucas said he just couldn’t resist another piece of the strawberry rhubarb pie, so they stayed. When they were walking to their car to start home, Noah came riding along the shore toward the lighthouse, so they waited to speak to him before they left.

After bidding the Matthews goodnight, Serenity turned to Noah, who had dismounted and was standing holding Moondancer’s reins. “There’s strawberry rhubarb pie left, Noah, and plenty of coffee. Would you like some?”

She could see interest flicker in his eyes, but he asked, “Are you sure you’re not too tired for more company?”

Serenity laughed. “Not at all. All we did tonight was talk and eat. Come on in. I’m sure Gramps will join you for coffee at least.” So they all trouped back into the kitchen, and Serenity told David that he needed to get his bath and prepare for bed.

“Oh, Aunt Serie, can’t I stay up and talk to Noah?”

“You can come and talk just a few minutes after you get your pajamas on and brush your teeth.”

“Okay,” he said, showing a definite lack of enthusiasm, but he obeyed just the same.

“Let’s sit in the living room this time,” Serenity said. “We’ve been sitting around this table for hours. We had so much to discuss that we just got right into it after dessert and never moved from our spots.’

“Problems of some kind?” Noah asked.

Serenity told him as simply as she could about her and Elizabeth’s visit to Mr, Kelso that morning and the results. Noah listened attentively enough, but at the same time, he seemed distant somehow . . . almost as if he were in his own world while he was listening to her tell about the events of the day. But when she had finished, he responded immediately.

“I think you and Elizabeth are very wise to take the boys out of that, Serenity. Most people don’t recognize how dangerous some of that stuff can be,” he said, letting his eyes stray from her face and focus somewhere off in the distance, as if he were seeing something else. It was a most unusual feeling that Serenity had as she watched him, and yet she felt sure that he was really paying attention to what she said to him.

Finally, she asked him. “Do you know a lot about this kind of thing, Noah?”

He lowered his eyes, staring down at the floor for a few moments, but eventually answered her in a very quiet voice. “I know enough.” Then he looked back to her face. “But it isn’t something I really want to discuss. Let’s just say that I know enough to tell you that you did the right thing taking David out of the program.”

“Well, now what we have to decide is whether to leave the boys enrolled there for the regular school year or not.”

“Where would they go otherwise?”

“Well, we’ve contemplated home schooling again . . . or possibly the Christian school in Barclay . . . but it’s so far . . . about a forty-five minute drive both ways.”

Noah nodded. “Yes, I’ve been over there a time or two since I’ve been here. Well, are you leaning toward one of those solutions more than the other?”

“Maybe,” Serenity answered, saying the word slowly. “But it’s early days yet.”

“Well, I’ll be praying that the Lord will give you clear answers,” he said, setting down his empty pie plate. “And now I’d better get going. The pie was absolutely delicious. Oh, and by the way, I never got back to you about our unfinished plans that we discussed on the phone the other day. What do you say to a nice, quiet, candlelit dinner one evening this week?”

“Uh . . . well . . .”

“She says ‘Yes,’” her grandfather answered for her, grinning. When she opened her mouth to say something, he wagged his finger at her. “I’ve told you, young lady, it’s time you gave yourself as much consideration and care as you do others.” He looked at Noah. “She’ll go. Just tell her what night to be ready.”

Noah laughed and looked at Serenity, his eyes twinkling. “Well, Miss Serenity Lawrence, it seems you’re going to dinner with me, so we might as well make it as soon as possible. What about Thursday?”

Serenity smiled at him. “I would like to go to dinner with you, Noah, and Thursday’s fine.”

“Good. We’ll go into Barclay, so I’ll make some reservations for 7:00, and I’ll pick you up about 6:00, how’s that?”

“Fine.”

Just then David came bouncing in and ran to sit on the footstool by Noah’s chair. “Aunt Serie said I don’t have to go to that dumb old Library Club anymore, Noah.”

Noah reached out his hand and pinched him lightly on the nose. “I think you have a very smart aunt, David. I hope you’re giving her lots of hugs and kisses to show how much you appreciate her.”

David nodded his head vigorously. “I do. I give her lots of hugs and kisses, don’t I, Aunt Serie?” he asked turning to her now.

“You certainly do, Sweetheart, and they’re what gives me the energy to keep going. Now Noah has to leave, so tell him goodnight and go hop in bed. I’ll be in before long.”

Clint got up and reached his hand out to David. “How about Gramps reading the bedtime story tonight, Cowboy?”

David jumped up. “Great!” he said, and then turned back to Noah. “Goodnight, Noah. I’ll probably see you tomorrow.”

“For sure,” Noah answered him and watched as he kissed and hugged his aunt and started for the bedroom with his great grandfather. Just before they turned down the hallway, David turned back to Noah.

“You should give Aunt Serie hugs and kisses too, Noah, to show her how much you liked her pie,” he said innocently and then was off to bed again. His great-grandfather chuckled and just continued down the hall with David without saying a word.

Noah looked at Serenity, a smile on his face, and when he saw the blush that covered hers, he said. “Please don’t be embarrassed. It’s a thought I’ve had a number of times myself . . . but . . . well . . . I’ve learned that it’s not always good policy to follow through on every impulsive thought.” He rose then and so did Serenity as she answered him.

“Yes, I’ve learned that lesson too,” she said and smiled as she led the way to the door. They stepped out on the porch into the moonlight, and Noah turned to her and reached up his hand, touching her cheek as gently as a feather with his fingers.

“I’ve got a lot to work through personally right now, Serenity. I’m not sure exactly what my future holds at this point . . . for a number of reasons . . . except that I’ll most likely be leaving here after August.”

“Noah, you don’t owe me any explanations,” she said hurriedly.

He dropped his hand to his side and thrust both hands into his jeans pockets. “I know,” he said, looking out toward the ocean. “I know I don’t owe you any, but I’d like to give you some. I just don’t know for sure how to do that right now.” He looked back at her, a smile on his face again. “Well, it’s late. Maybe we can finish this conversation Thursday . . . that is if you’re still willing to go out to dinner with me?”

“I’m willing,” she said grinning, a teasing light in her eyes. “I think I’ve taken bigger risks in my lifetime.”

Noah chuckled, as she had meant for him to do, and then he stepped off the porch and headed for his horse. She walked out that direction part of the way, and as he mounted Moondancer and turned him toward home, he said, “Goodnight Serie. Sweet dreams.”

“You too. Goodnight,” she said, and then walked back to the porch and sat down, watching him ride along the beach as far as she could before going inside.

When Noah got home, he took a shower and got ready for bed. Then as he stretched out on the bed, he picked up the Barclay paper that he’d bought that afternoon. Hamsted’s paper was just a weekly affair, and Noah liked to keep up more than that, so two or three times a week he bought a copy of The Barclay Chronicle. He hadn’t taken the time to read it yet, but since he was too keyed up after his visit with Serenity, he decided the paper would provide a way to shift his thoughts and, hopefully, shift gears in his emotions. The two front-page articles had something to do with national politics, and Noah just scanned them, having heard most of the information on the TV earlier. But when he turned to the first inside page, he came face to face with a scene right out of his own memory.

There was a picture of an obviously very worn wooden floor with a pentagram painted on it in black paint. Several candles were scattered around the floor, all well used, some of them completely burned down to the holder. But most captivating of anything in the picture were the large, dark stains on the floor in the center of the painted symbol. The article identified them as bloodstains, coming from the blood of the animal that had been slaughtered right at the scene sometime within a twenty-four hour period prior to the picture being taken.

Noah snapped his eyes shut, shaking his head as if he could shake the picture out of it. It was like having a flashback – or having the dream again. He’d had so many during the last several months, and only since coming here had he thought he might be rid of them. But as he sat there with his eyes closed, the headline flashed onto the screen of his mind. His eyes had simply skimmed over it on the way to the picture, but evidently it had registered. “IS SALLY STONE RESPONSIBLE FOR SLAUGHTER OF LOCAL ANIMALS?”

Noah opened his eyes and looked at the article again. As he read down the columns, he discovered that this kind of crime had been discovered twice since the newest Sally Stone movie had come to the Barclay area. A few inhabitants had suggested that these crimes indicated that there really was such a thing as witchcraft, and that people shouldn’t take it so lightly. But in the interview with the county sheriff, the reporter got a lengthy quote discounting that possibility.

“That’s nonsense,” the sheriff was quoted as saying. “These two crimes were obviously perpetrated by some kids or some weirdos who got ideas when they saw the movie and then went out and acted out exactly what they saw. As near as we can tell, the two situations we’ve discovered are identical to the two such events in the movie. Somebody is out to play a mean joke on the public,” he said. The article continued for some length, but Noah let the paper slip from his fingers as he closed his eyes again.

“No,” he whispered. “No,” he said again, a little louder. Then he bounded out of his bed, shouting, “No! No! No!” He put both hands up to his head, holding it as if it hurt, but it wasn’t physical pain that was tormenting him. He paced back and forth across the room a couple of times and then walked back to the bed and picked up the paper. This time he concentrated on the picture of the sheriff. “You idiot! It is real! . . . very real!” Noah gripped the paper as if he were gripping the shoulders of the sheriff whose likeness he was staring at. “Don’t be a fool and wait too long the way I did!” he shouted at the photo and then threw the paper down on the floor with a despairing groan.

He paced back over to the bedroom window and slammed his open hand against the window frame as he looked out. “Lord, don’t expect me to do anything about this. I’ve done my part, and I wasn’t any good at that! You should have gotten someone else . . . You should have made sure someone else became sheriff in that last election because You knew what was coming and that I’d bungle it.”

He looked out at the night sky and tried to take a deep breath to settle himself, but it didn’t work. The thoughts came to him hard and fast about all that he’d learned during the last year as a sheriff facing the kind of spiritual warfare his church hadn’t prepared him for. Yes, he’d learned — finally —  and the decent people of his county had won in the end — but at what cost? He shook his head. “No,” he spoke aloud again and then turned and moved across the room in a flash. He pulled on his blue jeans and then grabbed the paper, almost running outside to the barrel where he burned items from time to time.

With a thrust of his arm, he made sure the paper was securely stuffed as far down as it would go and put the lid on the barrel. “This time it’s somebody else’s problem. They’ve got the Bible. Let them learn to study it the way I did. Let them learn too, Lord. Maybe they’ll even do a better job than I did. And don’t ask me to try to help. They’d only consider it interference.” He turned to walk over toward the corral. “Besides, I’m not their savior . . . You are,” he added, opening the corral gate and reaching up to pet Moondancer, who sensed the chance for another ride in the moonlight. He saddled the stallion quickly and then mounted and took off. He let Moondancer have his head. He needed to run like the wind himself . . . to get away.

So they ran, Moondancer trying to race with the moon, but Noah just trying to race away from the darkness. But where was he going? What was he racing toward? Just running away without some destination at the end of the race was no good, and he knew that, but he kept running. He had to have some relief, the kind he’d found before on the back of this magnificent stallion that the Lord had provided for him. God had truly been good to give him a horse this special. He knew that, and he was grateful with his whole heart. But he couldn’t let himself think too much about the Lord right now. He knew where that could lead him, and he couldn’t bear the thought.

So he raced through the night . . . and the Hosts of Heaven watched . . . and the hosts of hell watched . . . and His Eternal Father, Jehovah, watched . . . but as Jehovah watched, He smiled. He knew what was really in the heart of this son of His, this warrior of the kingdom who had proven himself so faithful in the past. And He knew that Noah would do the same again this time. So even while Noah ran, Jehovah smiled. It wouldn’t be long now, and Noah Bennett would turn and begin to race straight toward the Light again — and then the battle could begin.


Find Chapter Nine her tomorrow.


Encouraging Love Story — On Sale for Valentine’s Month

JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONTDon’t forget about the big sale on JONAH’S SONG.

This 4th book in The Smoky Mountain Series is a beautiful, memorable love story. Although it’s book # 4 in the series, it also stands alone as a complete and inspiring story. In fact, all the novels in this series are equally capable of standing alone without the other stories.

Special prices through Valentine’s Day!

E-Book —- $1.99

Paperback — $7.99

To read some excerpts from the story, you can visit this post.

Find the book in both formats on Amazon.



 

Inspirational Romance Goes To School

When there’s no textbook on love, romance can be a little tricky. But God, who’s the original Author of romance, has all the answers in His own book. And Professor Ephraim Kent is about to get an education with a higher degree than he’s ever earned before.
Purchase your own copy in paperback or digital:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980587361

 

~~~


 

Lost Without A Trace: Daily Post Prompt

 

SLATE AMAZON PAPERBACK FINAL COVER - frontToday’s Daily Post Prompt –Trace — gives me the perfect opportunity to plug one of my newest inspirational novels: SLATE.  The story of Slate and Vanessa plays out over a second story concerning Vanessa’s brother Ken. A private investigator, Ken traces a young girl from her home in Missouri to the Gulf coast of Florida, but then Ken himself suddenly disappears without a trace. That event causes Vanessa to head to Florida to look for him, and from the day she arrives and meets Slate, her life is changed forever. So is Slate’s.

Inspirational Fiction: Digital or Paperback at Amazon.

HERE’S 2 EXCERPTS:

From Chapter 1:

He hopped out of the metallic-blue corvette convertible, tossing his cigarette down and extinguishing it with his boot, then set off down the sidewalk toward Katy’s Koffee Korner. He walked with a definite swagger, and it was hard to tell if it was because of or in spite of the almost skin-tight blue jeans that covered his long legs. His light blue sleeveless, knit shirt exposed brown, sinewy arms and hugged a tight stomach before being swallowed up by the leather belted waistline that sported a gold buckle shaped like a pirate ship.

His hair was such a dark brown it looked black in certain light, and although he didn’t wear it long, any activity on his part, or the slightest of breezes, kept throwing one thick lock across his forehead. In spite of the fact that he brushed his hand through it periodically, that one lock just seemed to have a mind of its own.

As he passed a bench on the sidewalk where two older men sat chatting over Styrofoam cups of coffee, one of the men called to him, chuckling.

“Hear you spent the night in the clink again last Friday, Slate.”

The man he’d addressed stopped long enough to grin at him and then wink. “Trying to save on my electric bills, Chet.” Both of the old boys laughed, enjoying the little joke, as they did almost any little bit of conversation throughout the day as they sat on their favorite bench, trying to ease the tedium of their otherwise empty lives.

“Coffee’s especially good this morning,” Chet replied now, holding up his half-empty cup and motioning toward the café behind where he and his friend sat.

“I’m just on my way in to try it,” Slate answered and, giving them a thumbs-up sign, turned in to the doorway and opened the door to the Koffee Korner. …

This morning, though, Hally was on duty, and she always kept an eye out for Slate. She liked to wait on him … and flirt with him. Actually, she liked to flirt with him … and she tolerated having to work as a waitress in order to get the chance to do some serious flirting. Of course she didn’t save all of her attention for Slate. She shared it with several of the other men in town, but Slate was one of her favorites. He had taken her out two different times several months ago, and both times had proved to be the kind of night she liked … the kind that didn’t end until the following morning. …

While he ate, stopping every now and then to say something to one of the other patrons who passed his booth on the way to the restroom or back, Slate glanced over at the woman across from him. She had raised her head now and was sipping her coffee, her eyes closed. Her hair was a warm light brown shade, with just a tinge of highlights from the sun here and there. It barely skimmed her shoulders in soft waves. Her features weren’t classically beautiful, but she was really pleasant to look at. Her complexion was unblemished, and her eyes and eyebrows seemed to be etched in at exactly the right angles to highlight her whole face. Her mouth was rather wide, and her lips looked as if an artist had sculptured them. Yes, all in all, the sight was something he took pleasure in this morning.

He’d evidently taken just a little too much pleasure, because he’d been staring. Suddenly, she looked up and right at him, a question in her large, brown eyes. Almost exactly the color of a copper penny, Slate thought to himself as his attention focused on those eyes. He was caught off guard by the vulnerable look on her face, and instinctively he smiled his most genuine smile at her and then went back to concentrating on his food. A minute later, he heard her conversation with the waitress who had come back to bring her a fresh carafe of coffee.

“Can you give me exact directions from here to the Sandstone Motel?” she asked.

“Sure, Hon. It isn’t hard. I’ll write it down for you and be right back.”

“Thank you,” she answered, smiling and lighting up her face for just a moment, but when the waitress left, she went back to rubbing her temples and then her eyes. She finally leaned her head back against the high divider of her booth and closed her eyes, but Slate, glancing sideways at her, noticed a couple of tears trickling down her cheeks. After a minute more, she took a deep breath and opened her eyes, wiping the tears from her face with her hands, and by that time the waitress was back with her directions.

“Thank you so much,” she said and handed the waitress some bills. “This is for you.”

“Thanks, and you come and see us again, Okay?”

“If I have time,” she said smiling slightly at the retreating waitress, and then she slid out of her seat and stood up. Before she could take a step, she swayed and reached for the back of the booth to regain her balance. She was sitting in the last booth across from him, and no one else had noticed the unusual action. She sat back down on the edge of the booth, holding her head. Slate had learned better than to interfere in someone else’s business, but something about her just seemed so vulnerable that he couldn’t keep from getting up and walking over to her booth.

“Are you all right, Miss?” he asked, resting one hand on the table and leaning towards her. She looked up at him then, her eyes registering her pain.

“Yes,” she answered in almost a whisper. Then she cleared her throat and tried to speak louder. “It’s just this stupid migraine headache. They often make me woozy. Eating should help, but I guess the food just hasn’t had time to get into my system yet. I’ll just sit here another minute. Thanks,” she added, smiling wanly.

Slate sat down in the other side of the booth. “How about another cup of coffee?”

She turned back into the normal sitting position in the booth and nodded her head as he picked up the carafe and poured some into her cup. She began drinking it immediately, and Slate stepped over to his own booth and retrieved his cup, bringing it back with him. He poured fresh coffee for himself and topped hers off again. She smiled at him, her eyes seeming to show a little relief now.

“My sister often has migraine headaches,” he said. “They make her sick for days.”

She nodded her head. “They do some people. Usually, I’m not ill, but I have to be careful when they make me dizzy.” She took a deep breath. “I’m feeling better now. Thank you for your concern, Mr… .?”

“Slate’s fine,” he answered. “I heard you ask the waitress about the Sandstone. Is this your first visit in this area?”

“Yes, and it really isn’t a visit exactly.”

“Oh …?”

“Well … I guess there’s no reason to be secretive about it, so I might as well tell you. Anybody I meet around here just might be able to tell me something that will give me a lead.”

His eyebrows rose. “Are you a private detective?”

She chuckled a little. “No … I’m not, but my brother is. And he was on a case that led him to this area. His last call to his wife a week ago was from the Sandstone, and then he just disappeared.”

“Disappeared?”

She nodded. “None of us has heard from him again, not even the family whose daughter he was trailing. She was a runaway, and only seventeen. They had hired him to find her and bring her home, and he had caught up with her in Lakeland. Then she took a bus to Tampa, then hitched a ride out to this little town and on to the Sandstone Motel. He followed her that far, but we don’t have any idea what happened after that.”

“Have you contacted the police?”

“Oh yes. He’d been calling his wife every day, so after the third day without a call from him, we contacted our own sheriff’s department at home. He’s been in touch with the one here, but they don’t seem to have any leads.” She shrugged. “Not that I have any either, but I just couldn’t sit at home and do nothing when Kendall could be in some kind of serious danger or …” She stopped and swallowed hard. “Or worse,” she finished.

He leaned back in his seat. “Well, the sheriff’s department here is usually pretty thorough. I’ll say that for them at least.”

“I need to go talk to them personally, but I’ve been driving all night, and I want to get a room and shower and rest first. Hopefully I can get rid of the last of this headache.” She looked at him more intently then, taking in his manner of dress and his almost lazy way of leaning back in the booth.

“Please don’t let me keep you,” she said then in a tone he’d have attributed to some socialite addressing a lower-class citizen. “Thanks for your concern, but I can take care of myself from here,” she added, lifting her chin a little higher than normal, her voice edged with a bit of frost. Slate felt that he’d been dismissed. Well, so much for trying to help. How many times did he need to learn to mind his own business before he’d pay attention?

He rose from his seat and gave a sketchy salute. “Yes, M’am,” he said, a little frosty himself. He walked to the front and paid his bill. …

On his way down the highway twenty minutes later, headed back to the dock, he was in a foul mood. Most of the supplies he needed were back-ordered, and he was going to be in a bind. He was trying to force himself to stop worrying about it when he spotted what looked like Vanessa’s car up ahead sitting on the side of the road. He slowed as he passed, and recognizing her, he pulled over just in front of her. Part of his mind was telling him to stay out of her business and save himself another snubbing. But the other part was responding to the code he’d lived by all his life about helping anybody that was down. He got out now and walked back to her driver’s side, leaning down to see in the window. “Problems?”

“Yes … I don’t have any idea what’s wrong. A few minutes ago it just sputtered and then died. I barely got it off the road.”

“Are you out of gas?”

She looked daggers at him. “I’m not an idiot! I know a car has to have gas to run. There’s plenty of gas!”

Whew, he thought. I wish I didn’t have enough conscience to bother me if I just left her here. “Well … pull your hood release, and I’ll take a look.”

“Do you know anything about cars?”

He chuckled as he walked toward the front of the car. “No … I just get my kicks stopping by stranded motorists and asking to play under the hood of their cars.”

Vanessa got out and walked closer to him. “You don’t have to be sarcastic. A lot of men don’t know how to repair cars. I was just asking.”

“Well, I don’t know everything about ‘em; that’s for sure. But since I have to keep my boat engines in good running order, I can usually do a thing or two about car engines as well.”

“You have boats?”

He glanced up momentarily. “A few.” Vanessa recognized by his tone of voice that the conversation was at an end for the time being, so she remained quiet.

He checked a couple possible causes of the problem, but came up short of a solution. He was pretty sure he knew what was wrong, but didn’t have the equipment to fix it. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the equipment necessary to fix it out here. We’ll have to get you towed in.” He stepped back and looked at her license plate again. “I’m guessing your name is Vanessa. Am I right?” he asked, grinning.

She seemed a little affronted that he’d asked, but she did answer him. “Yes … Vanessa Hayes.”

“Well, Vanessa Hayes, I can give you a lift to the Sandstone.”

He saw the briefest flash of fear in her eyes before she answered. “Oh … oh well … I don’t want to trouble you Mr. uh …”

“Slate’s good enough.”

“But don’t you have a last name?”

He looked straight at her, his blue eyes piercing hers, but he stood silent for another moment before he spoke again. “I’ll call for a tow truck.”

“I have a cell phone,” she said and started to turn back to the car.

“Never mind, I’ve got it,” he answered, already punching in some numbers. “I’ve given these guys a lot of business, so I think I can talk them into getting to you today.”

“I really don’t want to put you to this trouble, Mr. uh …”

He was talking to the man on the other end of the phone now, but he gave her an exasperated look. When he had finished the call, he snapped his phone shut and clipped it back onto his belt. “They said they’ll try to get here in a couple of hours.”

“Oh … well … I’ll just wait then.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” He slammed down the hood. “There’s no point in you’re waiting out here two hours. By then it will be the hottest part of the day. Let’s get your luggage, and I’ll take you to your motel.”

Vanessa stepped back. “No … no, thank you, Mr. uh …”

“Slate!”

“Mr. Slate, thank you for your offer of a ride, but I’m going to stay here with my car.”

“That isn’t necessary. I told them I’d be by their place to check on it this evening, so you can be sure they’ll take good care of it.”

“Do you have that much influence?” she asked, her eyes widening with her obvious surprise. “I would have thought that someone like you wouldn’t …” She stopped in mid-sentence, realizing that what she had started to say would sound pretty rude.

He raised one eyebrow. “You mean you thought that someone like me wouldn’t have any good influence anywhere, right?”

“Well, it was a logical mistake,” she excused herself, in reality hating herself for such a stupid and unkind blunder. Who was she to judge this man by his outward appearance and manner? She could tell she’d made him angry.

“Just get in my car. I’ll get your bags.”

She pulled herself up to her full five and a half feet and stepped in front of her car door. Then she held out her hand to him as if to shake hands. He just looked at her for moment and then extended his hand too, not sure what a handshake right now meant. Vanessa spoke again. “Thank you for stopping, Mr. Slate, but you can be on your way now. I prefer not to ride with you.”

He could feel that she had tried to withdraw her hand after the briefest of contacts, but he had deliberately held on for several more seconds. He realized it discomfited her, but he felt she deserved it for the way she was acting. As soon as he released her hand, she wiped it down the side of her slacks as if to clean something off.

Slate stepped back a step and folded his arms across his chest, staring at her and squinting a little against the sun. “The uppity Miss Priss. Too good to ride with the likes of me. Well … suit yourself, Miss Priss. Sit out here and bake in this sun if you want to, but don’t be surprised if that tow truck doesn’t show up for four or five hours.”

“But you said they told you two!”

He laughed. “They did, and I knew that meant that they’d at least get to it before nightfall. That’s a lot around here, Miss Priss, and you’d best be thankful for that much.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“What?”

“Miss Priss!”

He chuckled. “You’re the prissiest little fox I’ve seen around here in a lifetime, Honey. The name suites you to a ‘T.’” He turned and started back to his car then. Let the prudish snob sit out here by herself, he thought as he reached to open his car door. But then he looked up at her. She was rubbing her temples again, and he remembered that she was suffering with a migraine. He remembered again how his sister wasn’t fit to live with when she had one because they affected her so badly.

He let out a heavy sigh and started back toward Vanessa. “Look,” he said as he got within a couple feet, “I’ll call the sheriff’s office. They know me. I give them a lot of business too. You can talk to the officer on duty, and I’ll tell them that I’m taking you to the Sandstone. That way, you know I’ll not abduct you into some isolated field and rape and kill you. How’s that?”

“Thank you,” she said in what was almost a whisper now. Then she turned and opened her door. “I’ll get the keys and open the trunk.”

From Chapter 4:

About twelve miles down the highway from the Sandstone Motel, a poorly paved road turned West and wound several miles out into the countryside. A half dozen old houses dotted the area, each one at least two or three miles away from its neighbor in any direction. But a little over five miles out on the paved road, there was a gravel turnoff, almost hidden by overgrown bushes, that led another four miles out to a house that sat on an inlet with its own worn out boat dock.

Inside that house, in an empty back bedroom, two people sat on the floor, their backs propped against the wall, their hands and feet tied securely enough to make sure they couldn’t leave their accommodations at will. The man was tall and muscular, with golden brown hair that matched that of his younger sister so much that people often thought they were twins. He wore thin, gold-rimmed glasses, and ordinarily made a handsome picture to most observers. Right now, though, his face was marred by an ugly scratch and a couple of bruises, and his clothes were wrinkled and stained.

His companion was a young girl with stringy, blond hair … which at one time had probably been thick and shiny enough to attract a second and third look from most men. Right now, she was sitting beside him, sick with fear and wishing she’d never seen most of the men she’d ever known in her seventeen years. The one exception to that wish was her companion in this make-shift prison.

The only reason he was here at all was because he had tried to come to her rescue when she had tried to get away from what had turned out to be a group of drug dealers, and had been losing the battle for her freedom. He hadn’t succeeded in his attempt to help her. And now they were both facing whatever unknown horrors were being planned for them by the thugs that had tied them up while they carried out their own ugly business.

Kendall Hayes leaned his head back against the wall, his eyes closed, and prayed for the umpteenth time that day … as he had done for the last six days sitting in this room. The one drug dealer of the bunch who interacted with him and Sarah, his cell-mate, was Gary – Sarah’s boyfriend until his true identity and occupation had come to light. Gary came in twice a day with food and water, and led them away, one at a time, to the bathroom, standing guard just outside the door. That was the only precaution necessary, since the bathroom didn’t have even one window, and there was certainly no chance of escape from that cubbyhole. If they made enough fuss, he came and escorted one of them to the bathroom at other times, but it was a chore to convince him he needed to heed their urgency.

After the first four days of incarceration, Sarah had talked Gary into allowing her and Kendall a change of clothes from the suitcases they’d had with them. But other than those concessions, the plight of the inhabitants of this back bedroom seemed to be of no interest to anybody else on the premises.

“You prayin’ again?” Sarah asked her companion now as she saw he had his eyes closed and his lips moving.

He opened his eyes and smiled at her slightly. “Yeah … gotta stay at it.”

“You really believe your God’s gonna get us outta here?”

He sighed. “You ask me that every day, Sarah. And the answer is still the same. Yes … I really believe that.”

Tears welled up in the girl’s eyes, as they had several times during the last several days. “I sure wish I could believe.”

She had said that at least a dozen times in the days they’d shared this room, and Kendall had always given her the same answer. “You can, Sarah. Just ask Jesus to make Himself real to you, and you’ll be able to believe.” She hadn’t been able to bring herself to do that yet, but Kendall could tell she was closer than she had been the first couple of days. He closed his eyes again now.

“Please, Lord Jesus,” he whispered just loud enough for the girl to hear him too, “please make Yourself real to Sarah. She can’t ask You for herself, Lord, so I’m asking for her. Just help her a little more, Lord to recognize that You’re here and that You love her and want to help her. And please, Lord … send your angels to open up this prison and lead both of us out of here. I’m trusting you, Lord. I’m trusting you with all the faith I have.”

He’d prayed those same words, or some very similar, so many times his rational mind told him that it was no use to pray them again. But he had belonged to Jesus Christ for most of his life, and he’d always found Jesus faithful in times of trouble. Kendall was determined even now that he would not give up his faith in God’s love and delivering power.