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Results 1 - 20 of 43 Explore our list of Christian Romance - Contemporary NOOK Books at Barnes & Noble®. Shop now & receive FREE Shipping on orders $ But while Christian is injured and nearly killed, he eventually prevails to the end. So can A historical western cowboy romance novel about a mail order bride. When she meets Henry Dobbs, a strong Christian man, will she share her secret A heartwarming holiday romance with Christian themes sure to get you ready.

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most of their lives.,. Inspirational. Fiction. Christian. Romance. To Whisper Her. Name. Tamera Alexander. FIC ALEXANDER. A destitute widow, Olivia Aberdeen. Christian Romance Novels: Are They Our Harmless Little Secret? Susan Verstraete. She was an intimate friend, and I was in her confidence from the beginning. Download PDF books in Christian subject for free. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is a novel aversion of the Christian allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress from this.

But with the avalanche of fiction novels hitting the market every single day, how do you decide what to read and what to pass on? How can you find great books that take your breath away? The problem is, how do you find those kinds of great books—the kind you want to read again and again? So we want to take the guesswork out of the equation and introduce you to a Christian author you are going to fall in love with…. Tearing herself upward, Jenna jerked upright. Instantly the ground released her, and she came straight up, gasping, shaking, blinking.

Like seeing if her tongue would stick to a frozen flagpole in the dead of winter. A dare she had unfortunately accepted as a child. Neither, she determined now, was an experience she intended to repeat. The dangerous-fan story builds to an exciting finish, then the novel ends with romance. Not possibly! Alexa peered through a doorway, trying to catch a better glimpse of the man on the Today Show set.

He perched on a stool, opposite the pixie-faced co-host of the show. The object of her speculation wore a steel gray suit that emphasized his lean elegance. This was no good. He faced away from her. Silently, Alexa skulked across the set, hoping no one would notice her.

Unfortunately, a broad-shouldered, muscular man in black came toward her, but she struggled to ignore him. He was so short that she could easily see over him in her three-inch heels. She sidled sideways, wanting to get a better look.

It was Colin Radcliffe, international pop star! She loved his songs, and the sound of his voice. And to think, he was being interviewed on the same day she was. What if she pretended not to hear? Impulsively, she edged closer.

The man in black closed within four feet of her. Now the sheer physical force of his presence stopped her. In fact, she fought an overwhelming desire to retreat. He would let her get no closer to the star. Disappointment arose. She had just wanted to look.

Or was she?

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Wait over there. Obviously, she had breached a security code. What had she been thinking? Her impulsive nature had again taken her down the wrong path. With sorrow, she watched him disappear from the set. Her dreams of accidentally bumping into him and maybe getting his autograph disappeared in smoke. She was led to a couch, and a man took the place of the pixyish woman.

She had been interviewed on national television three times, and this would be the last. Her book tour was almost complete, about which she had mixed feelings. Her fifteen minutes of fame were almost over. What next, a small part of her wondered. Is this it? At twenty-nine, the peak of my career—my life?

It was a strange thing to wonder when she was about to go on national television, and maybe push her fame out to sixteen minutes. A red light glowed on the camera. She was on live television. Millions of eyes were watching her. Not hers. She drew a calming breath. Priscilla and I became best friends in kindergarten…. It was also one of the reasons why their friendship had survived each of their difficult high school years.

Alexa delved into the familiar, publicly known part of the story. She even remembered an anecdote her publicist had advised her to include. When the co-anchorman chuckled, a warm glow filled her. Blake has become legendary, and in no small part due to your humorous, sensitive portrayal of her as a struggling teen. I suspect your friendship played a pivotal role in her life. Something we all want to do. Thank you, Miss Kaplan. Alexa whirled. Now, how simpering had that sounded? She flushed.

He was much better looking in person than on the cover of a CD. His blond hair was perfectly cut, accenting the sharp, almost gaunt angles of his face.

And he was at least six foot two. Most are surprisingly short. Plenty of short men were running around. In fact, one stood just behind Colin, standing solidly beside a linebacker with blond hair. Both were unassuming. In fact, she would have overlooked them both, if not for guilt for her prejudicial comment. This particular short man might be five foot six. Maybe five foot seven if he stretched.

If one discounted his square, uncompromising jaw, he looked a cross between a popular germophobe on cable and a dark-haired elf she had just seen in an old movie, and he wore all black. Uncomfortably, she stared at him, wondering. She had never actually looked at his face. He returned her stare, his dark eyes cool and unfriendly.

It must be the same man. The powerful, warning vibe she had felt before smoldered now, tightly leashed. A little unnerved, she glanced sideways. The first man stood, shoulder to arm, beside the gigantic man with spiky blond hair. What a pair! Colin did not need to know her long—unnaturally so, according to her sister—list of criteria she used to narrow down dating material.

Number one was the men she dated had to be at least six foot one, so she could wear heels if she wanted to. This pop star, however, was perfect. At least six foot two. She flushed then, at her thoughts. With you? Alexa stared after him, transfixed by a mixture of wonder and disbelief. Had her favorite pop star truly just asked her to lunch? This time she did pinch herself.

It smarted. Alexa paced the luxurious lobby of the Michelangelo at She loved the warm ambience of the elegant hotel. The soft, warm orange and gold colors made her feel welcome, and so had all of the staff, even though she sensed the hotel was geared to a pricier clientele than she. She had found it on an internet special.

Alexa still was barely able to believe that Colin Radcliffe had asked her on a lunch date. Why had he? And for the whole summer too! With a shake of her head, she pursed her lips and her eyes narrowed as if focusing their laser-heat onto a target.

This was supposed to be my summer. Not hers. I am so done. But somehow, their friendship fit them both. My life stinks on ice. Gamely, he put his hand on her opposite shoulder and patted it. I can almost guarantee it. Sage Wentworth pulled out her compact to check her makeup once again. Lips, perfectly perfect red; eyeliner remarkably holding up even after the second leg of the cross-country flight, and blush that had begun to fade just slightly. Taking out the applicator, she brushed a touch more on, checked her reflection in the tiny mirror and clicked it shut just as the stewardess came to offer ice water.

However, Sage expertly dogged the offer. And not this off-brand either. When she was gone, Sage wiggled herself straight up in the first class seat. At least not everything was completely, horrifically awful about her life at the moment. Okay, so her parents were starting their summer trip around the world—without her. And, true, she was being shipped off to live for three months with people she barely remembered. And, granted, she had wanted to stay in Beverly Hills for the summer, shopping with Mackenzie and Patelyn.

Why had they insisted on making her completely miserable? What had she done to deserve this exile to the netherworld? Carefully, she ticked through the options. Her grades were good. Not stellar maybe, but adequate. Sure there was that binge two months ago, but no one could blame a girl for wanting to look good at the Prom. Though both were frequent options in the crowd she ran with. But where? Maybe she could study abroad for a semester.

Sweden or France. Studying in Paris. How amazing would that be? It was truly astonishing how quickly the stewardess could eat words that never came from her mouth but shot from her eyes. It was to be expected. The help, helpful though they were, often seemed one request away from losing it completely. Her mother always said it was the plight they suffered under—trying to keep good help. Sadly, it was true. As she sipped on her water, Sage let her mind trace back through her childhood nannies.

There were truly too many to count. Of course, most of them were less than adequate, but still…. Sage had never really been sure. But she had learned, her place was to tell the nannies what to do, and it was their place to do it.

When they got that dynamic out-of-sync—and they always did, it was time for a new nanny. Sage reached into the pocket with the reading material and thumbed through the fashion magazine that held little fascination for her.

Bawdy and classless. She flipped three more pages and gave up completely, pushing the magazine back into its holder. Putting her head back, she let her gaze go out to the soft, sunlit day beyond. They had told her that her father would be meeting her at the airport, and her mind traced back over the one photograph she had of him along with the dusky images she barely remembered.

In the picture he was young, mid-twenties, maybe, with dark curly hair. A nice nose. Nice eyes. She took another sip and let the sigh out in an inaudible breath. If nothing else in the whole world, she had learned how to carry herself in public, how to be graceful, charming, and cheerful—even if the whole world was falling apart around her.

Violin in the orchestra. So all she had to do was get through the next three months, and when she returned, her mother was planning the biggest coming out party for her 18 th birthday that the Hills had ever seen. No one would ever, ever forget it, and to Sage, that was what life was all about—being completely unforgettable.

The queen would arrive in less than two hours, and the place still did not resemble the palace her mother clearly wished it was. Halfway to her room, she stopped when her mother called something about the entertainment center. Putting her head back, she fought the frustration clawing at her.

Everyone was—her father, her mother, even her little brother, Ryder who had taken an outright shower that morning without being asked, something he never did. It was what normal year-old boys did. But today, the queen was coming, and so nothing was normal.

The only question was, could she conceivably pray her way through an entire summer? However, he had those same grey-green eyes and the nice smile that was at once boyish and a question. What was the protocol in such a situation?

Should she shake his hand or Heaven help her, hug him? A moment more and he put his hand out even as his gaze continued to drink her in. Thankful it was turned for a handshake and not a hug, she took it and let her gaze drop beneath his. His hand dropped from hers, and she lifted her gaze and fought to put it on his and keep it there.

But it was just all so awkward. Nothing at all like her dad. Okay, her stepdad. Jason Wentworth the Fourth. The youngest of five, he had never known a time until just this past year of not having siblings who were in the bathroom when you had to go or who could keep their hands off of your stuff even when it was clearly marked My Stuff!

Down the aisle of the grocery store he went, ticking off items for the church outreach day. It was a twice-a-month thing for their youth group. Luke pulled several large cans of tomato sauce from the shelves and put them in the cart. That was, according to Pastor Steve, the point of everything in life and especially Christianity—helping others, reaching out to them, making them feel welcome and loved.

That was what the church was about, and if they failed in that mission, nothing else really mattered. He looked at the list Ms.

Patty had given him. Patty, or Ms. P, as most of the youth referred to her was a large, African-American woman with a personality to match her girth. She had never met a stranger because according to her, once you hug a person, they are no longer a stranger, and Ms.

P hugged everybody—whether they needed one or not. In fact, Luke had had his fair share of hugs from Ms. P because next to introducing herself with a hug, she also paid with them as well. As president of the youth group, he was often tasked with… well, tasks. P really came after you good then. Pulling five large bags of spaghetti off the shelf, he added them to the growing mound in his cart. Only bread remained on the list, and he pushed his way around the aisle cap to get it.

As soon as he finished here, he needed to get over to the church. The last thing he wanted was for Ms. P to show up and have to do it. She did enough. Grabbing loaves of bread, he thought again of Jaycee.

Normally she would be here, meeting up with him with another cart about now. But not today. Today, she was re-meeting her sister, and Luke had to admit he was glad he was here rather than there. From her seat in the aging family minivan, Sage did her best to check her adverse reaction to practically everything as they rolled through the little town and out into the country.

Not that the town would have been any better. She was quite sure the newest home there was at least a decade old and had not weathered its age very well. Sage smiled, but it was forced. Had it not been for his efforts, no one would have even spoken on the ride. The smile got swallowed in her fight to cushion the truth. I kind of remember going to the church.

With the wooden floors? Why had she agreed to this? The second she got the chance to text her mother, she was going to find another option and take it because this was a bad idea.

A very, very bad idea. It took more than one wrench of the doorknob to get it open after she fluffed and fretted about her own appearance.

When her mother turned and caught sight of her, she scowled. We want to make a good impression. With a deep sigh and a roll of her eyes, Jaycee straightened. This was going to be a long three months. The house was small, tiny in fact, and as Sage exited the vehicle, she took it all in, wondering how many rooms it could even have.

And that was being generous. That felt so off-kilter, him standing there waiting for her, looking at her like she was an angel fallen from Heaven. Fighting every horrible thought in her, Sage squared her shoulders, lifted her chin and put her head back. Somehow she managed to smile at him brightly. The nod was kind of sideways, but she did get her head to go down. Her heels clicked on the concrete sidewalk as they passed the modest flowerbed that was filled with growing things and a few flowers all the way to the front door.

He took a step back to let her enter first. Stepping up and into the home was a challenge mostly because it seemed so very dark and dim inside. The last thing she wanted to do was trip. Without warning, she was pulled into a hug that lasted mere seconds but felt much longer than that. Thank you. Lawrence or Emily or… Stepmom if you would like.

And these are our children. Lawrence went over to the two figures on the other side of the room. You probably remember her from last time, and this is Ryder. Nodding and trying to smile at both of them, Sage willed her polite training to overtake her judgment of everyone and everything. Then Jaycee looked over at her mom. Lawrence glanced over at Sage with an apology in her eyes and then leveled her gaze at her daughter.

Maybe she could go with you afterward. Lawrence looked down at Ryder who was still staring at Sage with a goofy look on his face.

Lovely it was not. Cramped, crumpled and befuddled came much closer. The bedspread was lime-green and white striped with small pink flowers on it. Her skin crawled just thinking about sleeping there. Lawrence stepped back to show Sage who wondered what she was going to do with the eight suitcases of stuff waiting in the van.

Lawrence said when they were gone. It was how her voice sounded, and she was having great difficulty trying to force it not to crack right down the center. Sage was still a little fuzzy on the details of how her banishment had come to be, but she smiled and nodded as if she knew every fact by heart. Horror and surprise coursed across Mrs.

She looks like a Barbie doll. Perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect makeup. And you should have seen Ryder. His tongue was practically hanging out. Finished with the lettuce, she turned and put her hands over the back pockets of her jeans.

The smile that crossed his heart was sad and futile. What did he have to offer in the boyfriend department anyway? Truth was, he admired her taste in not choosing him. Pushing those thoughts back and away, he finished up at the sink and went to take care of the trash on his own. Ten seconds after they left her to the room, Sage yanked out her cell and typed like her life depended on it, which it almost certainly did.

She had to get out of here. She could act with the best of them, but this place would require more than acting. I made it. I know we talked about me going to stay with Aunt Anna as well this summer. Can we talk about doing that sooner rather than later? She hit send and sat very gently on the edge of the bed. It squeaked with the movement. Pulling up the next number in her phone, she sent a text to Patelyn and then one to McKenzie. Desperation texts, meant to explain the horrible plight she now found herself in.

There was no mall here, no shopping centers that she had seen. There was one grocery store that they passed on the way through town, and it had cars with actual dents in them sitting there. Her fingers told the sad, sad tale of just how far she had fallen in the world, and the more she typed, the worse it got. First off, they would surely ruin her makeup.

She would put on the Wentworth charm until she could escape this disaster, and then she would leave and all things Lawrence would be forever behind her, a sad chapter in her life that she would never have to think of again.

With that thought, she glanced across the room at her luggage stacked there. It was pointless to unpack. As much as he hated washing dishes, Luke was having an immense amount of fun watching her walk in and out. He began to notice that each time she came back, she would say something to him. Each time he retorted the comment, but each one brushed across his heart like the gentle wing of an angel. By the time she brought the final items from the line, he was sad to see her reason for coming back here go.

He could hardly hold the laugh as he watched her go through the other door. In seconds she was back, hefting the tea dispenser. Just then he realized she was going to have the thing all over the floor if she tried to get it up onto that counter by herself. Manual labor. P said, bustling about as she stacked more pans on the other side of the counter.

Never would she have thought she would feel that way immersed in dirty pots and pans, but every time she went into that kitchen, her spirit said it was filled with warmth and safety. Maybe the first real safety she had felt since landing here three weeks before. Stepping back, she put her hands on her hips. His gaze fell to hers, and he shook his head. Sarcastic, you know how to use a dish towel?

From anyone else, she probably would have taken the moniker as an insult. She got one of the towels, trying not to notice all the holes in it.

Back at his side, she picked up one small pan from the top of the new stack he was creating in the draining sink. Running it back and forth to dry the pan, she let out a breath. Strange how a month ago she never would have pictured herself doing such a thing.

P even let me in the kitchen today. The people. With a shrug she pulled up another pan. Believe me, I have a new appreciation for the torture of solitary confinement. She retrieved another pan as he replenished her stack. At least I finally got that back. Defensively and trying to figure out what that laugh meant, he plunged his hands back in the soapy water.

The best. If Luke had had any air in his system, he would have yelled Fire to get out of this conversation. Now, no lying over dishes. Lifting his eyebrows, he let his gaze slide over her face. This was not a conversation he wanted to be in. Suddenly her word from before, surreal pounded through his mind. I like Jaycee. Sage shook her head, looking imminently more comfortable than she had 20 minutes before, which did nothing for his nerves.

Not like you mean. Not like dating. That backed Luke up. How do I look at her? However, instead of getting sarcastic or mischievous, she grew pensive. The shotgun blast was beginning to sound merciful. He let his gaze fall to the dish water that was getting greasy instead of soapy. He pulled his sleeve up to his face and rubbed it there, sensing moisture there. No way was he going to ask what was causing it to be there. Sage continued to dry the pans, and remarkably there were now more on her side than on his.

His heart was really starting to hurt, and the shake of his head did nothing to stop the pain. The Long Way Home. You would think he could at least try to be reasonable… for once in his miserable life. Carefully cutting the thread away, Ami pulled the lacey material free. The curtains were turning out nicely— even Mrs.

With one more snip she freed it from the thread and held the finished product up next to the chair to inspect her work. Then she stepped back to examine her handiwork. It was times like this that she believed somehow she was going to make this work.

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She was going to make it by September, and she would show her father and prove to him he had been wrong about her and her grandfather and this farm the whole time.

She tried not to notice as he appeared at her door and leaned there. Horror hit her square.

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The floor was covered with white dust and crumbs from the wall. She closed her eyes to the stinging in the backs of her eyes, pushing back at it with her eyelids and her hand. She should have known. She should just give up now. Why was she even doing this? He was right. She would never be able to make this work.

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However, she shook her head, fighting to keep the tears from spilling over. The only thing left was surrender. Surrender to the utter hopelessness of it all. No, I thought I knew better. I thought I could make it work. What a joke. Still, the fury made her come back at him.

They might as well knock this place down, and put it out of its misery. He put his hands on his beltline and licked his lips as he stared down at her. Always has been. But he held her firmly. However, he never stopped as he pulled her down the hallway and into the library. And with that, he flipped the handle and flung the doors open. Never releasing her, he pulled her out onto the balcony.

In annoyance, Ami shook her head and pushed the beauty of the day and the way he looked enjoying it away from her. Just you and the wind. People need this. She wanted to be mad. She wanted to be frustrated.

She wanted to give up, and she knew if she let herself feel the peace of that balcony, she would find a way to talk herself out of it. His gaze slid down and rested on her. She felt it thought she never looked up. With a shake of her head, believing she could hang on to the anger no matter what, she closed her eyes. She pushed the pain in her chest down and squeezed her eyes closed to keep it there.

She was so incredibly beautiful. For once, just breathe and let it go. His heart broke for her, for the struggle and the deck that was stacked against her. That touch brought her back from keeping the pain down, and she looked up, right through the depths of his eyes. He had never felt anything like that moment.

A second and he had to admit the truth. What if you did what you had to to make this happen? A little time? He knew you could do it. With no hesitation, Jaxton enveloped her with his. His gaze sank to the planks at their feet as the question raked through him.

But then he knew, and he picked his gaze up to meet hers. Then she closed her eyes. So, what do we do about that sheet rock? The phone hit the cradle with a clang, and Phillip shook his more-salt-than-pepper head before looking across the expanse of mahogany desk into the questioning eyes of his son. Jaxton nodded.

Grandfather Snyder. More than one conversation about him had bounced across the phone lines from Los Angeles to Chicago during the past three months. Phillip leaned forward in his chair and squeezed the bridge of his nose with his finger. Phillip sighed and shook his head, looking like his ulcer might be getting the better of him. Jaxton nodded his understanding of the situation that had his whole family vexed although sympathy for anyone in the situation came nowhere near his consciousness.

He tapped his pen on his notebook a few times and then moved back to the real reason he was in the office on Memorial Day weekend. Did you get a chance to look at them yet? Over the rolling green of the Kansas Flint Hills, the sky hung in painted color combinations only God could get away with. Periodically the scene outside the balcony doors caught her gaze, and Ami Martin paused to take in its beauty for a moment.

Even now with life devoid of any real family, the safety of those hills enveloped her like a warm hug. She returned to her task, pulling books off the shelves and stacking them onto the little coffee table. How many times had she and her grandfather sat in this very room with the balcony doors opened, reading the works of the great ones?

Emerson, Twain, Frost. Although he was a simple farm boy, raised in this very house by the generation before him, she knew in her heart that he had been much more than that. And that was why she was here at this moment, lovingly removing dust from the old, yellowed pages. She brushed the tendrils of wavy almond-colored hair from her face as tears weaved into and over her heart. He had stayed. Not even her own mother had done so much. She pushed that thought away as she ran the cloth over the shelf.

Not here. Not now. She pulled the black-bound Emerson anthology from the shelf and ran a loving, sad hand over it. She could almost hear his low baritone lilting over the words.

The sunset beyond the doors blurred as she slowly dropped the volume to the table with the others. But with the money dwindling and her father calling every other day to ask if she was ready to give up and simply sell the place, her determination to make this work was waning quickly. She pulled the Poe volume off the next shelf and laughed softly.

Yes, this was the only place that had ever been home for her. The others could keep their high-stress lives and their gazillion neighbors. This was where true happiness resided, and whether they agreed or not, this was where she intended to make a home for herself— right here in Rayland, Kansas. Elizabeth sat silently for a moment. Coming back into the room, Phillip reached for the remote and flipped on the television though it made no sound.

Why had he felt that coming in on Memorial Day was a good idea again? He should have taken that vacation he was always saying he was going to. Anything to get out of this surreal discussion. You know how he feels about women.

Fowler called me again last night— you know, Mr. A week or two— tops. Jaxton put a heavy hand against the wall, set his jaw, and examined the painting hanging there without even seeing it. A long pause settled in the room between them. Jaxton never heard the rest of the itinerary. His mind was alternating between red hot flashes of anger and trying to figure out the quickest way to get this job done so he could get back to his real life— back to something other than fields full of nothing but dust and old, worthless dreams.

Over her sandwich Ami surveyed her to-do list, marking each entry with a one through ten and trying to decide what needed attention most. By the time she got to the end of the list, she was already exhausted.

There was so much to do. So much to get ready before she could even think about putting her plan into action. She pulled out her calendar and checkbook and laid them on the table next to the to-do list. September 1, circled in purple, stared back at her. Just the sight took her breath away. She had less than three months to get the place in order, and a rapidly dwindling amount of funds to accomplish that.

It was clear sitting here staring at the numbers that she would have to start watching the budget more closely. Sighing as she brushed back the strands of hair that had escaped from the loose braids cascading down her shoulders, she slid the to-do list into the calendar and closed the checkbook.

She carried her lunch dishes to the sink and ran water on them. But this time was worse. Reaching up, he ran his hand over the hard-gelled sticks of brown hair lying perfectly on his head. Then he snorted. He swiped at the right turn signal of the new red sports car angrily. How dare they send him to do what they should be doing. The tires kicked up dust billows behind him. If anything happens to my accounts, heads are going to roll. How many times had she watched her grandfather do this?

How many times? Apparently not enough. Finally letting it go, she raked both hands onto her head and squinted into the problem. The cables are connected. What else could be wrong? Carefully she leaned over the hood of the pickup and examined the maze of wires and metal. She traced the battery cable away from the starter. There was a trick to this, and Grandfather knew it. All she had to do was figure out what that trick was, and she was home free. But the trip from here to home free was looking more and more impassable by the second.

Jaxton had always prided himself for being able to find any address in Chicago— no matter how bad the directions were, but after driving up and down identical farm roads for 45 minutes, he knew he was lost. The farmhouse just beyond the trees looked like it was about a hundred years old as did every other building on the place, and as he killed the engine and looked around, he wondered if anyone even lived here anymore.

In fact, the thought crossed his mind that the whole place would probably be better off if a wrecking ball just took it out of its misery. Putting his fists on his hip where his slacks met his belt, he arched his neck and waited, looked around and waited some more. He knocked once more. When no one appeared, he backed up and peeked through the window.

He could vaguely make out a sofa and a chair sitting by the far wall, but as for people, he saw no one. This whole rotten day was just another notch to add to his whole rotten life. It must be the stress. The graying boards were clearly visible under the peeling red paint of the old garage, and Jaxton could see the decrepit green pickup sitting forlornly in the middle of it.

How backward can these people be? He looked around the small expanse, but there was no sign of anyone— only the small radio sitting on the workbench crackling something about a broken heart. Before Jaxton could react to the sound, a wrench flew out from underneath the pickup and hit the cinderblock wall next to his foot with a clang. Instantly he jumped out of the way although another couple of inches and the thing would have nailed him before he saw it coming.

For one, brief moment his head said he should run— just get out of there before the farmer had a chance to turn that wrench on him, but then he thought better of the crazy thought. All he needed was some information. Heart, body, and soul Ami froze the instant she heard the voice. Her mind spun through who it might be and what they might want. After all she lived more than a mile from the highway. Quickly she looked out from under the metal pickup body, and all she could see was a pair of black slacks ending in a set of shiny black shoes.

Gray tank top, denim shorts, and a face that was at once young and heart-stopping, she was the epitome backwoods country, and for one second too long, Jaxton forgot he was supposed to be asking for directions. At the fender she regarded him as she leaned there. He had slightly wavy dark brown hair clipped and cut just so, a multi-hued blue striped tie over a crisp light blue button down.

Still, Ami fought not to notice or to let the intimidation of his presence rattle her. She brushed one strand of hair back off her face. When she looked at him and tilted her head with a half-confused smile, he tried to clarify that statement even as he retrieved his hand. Ami smiled then, knowing the best defense was a good, strong, full-on offense. How can you tell? He looked down at his shoes but never saw them, and when he looked up again, the only thing his mind could concentrate on was the curve of her face under the wisps of hair trailing down the two braids.

Gorgeous did not do her justice. The pickup would have to wait. Right now, her main priority was figuring out exactly what this guy was doing in her garage, and then getting him out of there as fast as possible.

Having tools within reach if he tried anything was a very good idea. For some reason the tone in her voice and the look in her eye made his nerves jump to attention, and the mere thought that this farm girl was getting to him unnerved him further. He smoothed his tie down as if to emphasize his station in life compared to hers. Her brown braids twisted side-to-side with her head as she worked cleaning and replacing the tools.

For his part, Jaxton was left trying desperately to keep his mind away from the long, tanned legs curving below the denim shorts that were making thinking straight increasingly difficult.

However, he felt every syllable of the challenge. Next to her grandfather, Mr. She knew more about Mr. That tone was beginning to grate his nerves as he ripped his gaze from her and glued it to the old pickup. And these people think city people are unfriendly , he thought as the anger rose to his clenched fists. His chest might explode at any second with the rage clawing through him. Who was this person, this girl , to question him anyway?

What had he done that was so wrong? He was just following orders— trying to be the good son. He kicked the wrench and sent it flying back into the cinderblock wall with a clang before stomping out of the garage.

She had no right to make him feel like a jerk. There was nothing to do here anyway. Situated a million miles from nowhere, Rayland was the most boring, backward place on the whole earth, and the second he got the estate in order, he was gone. It took next to nothing for Ami to hear the car roar out of the driveway, and she wondered with easy loathing which one he was. She could still hear them mimicking the townspeople and joking about how backward their grandfather was.

Snyder had never been anything but kind to her and her family. When her grandfather had died, it was Mr. Snyder who tended the trees and kept them alive. It was Mr. Snyder who had encouraged her to take what her grandfather had given her and chase her dream. Snyder who showed up every day for the first month she was here just to check on her.

She was sure his visits would have continued, but then the heart attack had almost taken him out two months before. But her assurances had made little difference to him. He said more than once that she was the only real family he had left and that the others were just waiting for him to die so they could split up the inheritance. Even thinking about it now made her head pound and her heart ache.

It was the same way her grandfather had felt, and regardless of how accurate it was, it still made her furious. The two most incredible men in her life, and everyone else thought they were trash. The anger in her reached a boiling point, and she yanked the hedge trimmer from the wall.

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After all they could always grow back. Who does she think she is to talk to me like that? No one. Not one person had ever treated him like that in his entire life. With a single flick of his little finger, he could squash any person he wanted to. He was Jaxton Anderson, and no one treated Jaxton Anderson like that and got away with it— least of all some greasy, conceited, little farm girl a single rung up from trailer trash.

With each step he took, they told him to just get back in the car and go home. Pulling his pride back up to him, he stepped onto the front porch, lifted his hand, and knocked. One moment became two, and then he looked around and listened for any sign of life.

When he heard none, he reached up and knocked again just as a sickening feeling hit him. What if his grandfather had already died?

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What if he was lying inside somewhere waiting for someone to find him? What if…? Is that you, Son? You want something to drink— water? I might even have a Coke left if you want one.

No, thanks. He swallowed hard and attempted another smile, which got no farther than its predecessors. So this was what his life had degenerated to. With supreme patience he waited for his grandfather to resume his seat in the cracked brown recliner chair before he plunged ahead purposely keeping his mind off the dingy surroundings.

He could feel the dust from the couch creeping up onto his suit, and it was doing very bad things to his patience and his nerves. Silence filled the room then as Jaxton fought to keep his body still.

Snyder sighed and shook his head. Seems like just yesterday when you and Blake came down for the summer. Jaxton looked around the room, searching for some comfortable place to put his gaze. Jaxton nodded, unsure of what else to do or say.

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He chanced a hesitant glance at his host sitting in the shadows as the fading sunlight played through the folds of the curtains. Snyder suddenly vaulted himself out of the chair. Unconsciously, his hand smoothed the front of his tie. You just flew all the way here from Chicago. Ami wondered what was going on at the Snyder Farm as she started washing the dishes. What right did he have to show up like this anyway?

It was obvious he was only here to assess how long it would be before the farm changed hands. A shiver crawled up her spine at the very thought. Surely Mr. Snyder would see right through him and send him packing. With his handkerchief, Jaxton wiped the layer of dust off the dresser top and carefully set his fax machine in front of the mirror he could see no reflection from. As soon as the requisite family time with his grandfather was over, he was going to get back up here and get some real work done.

Cord in hand, he sat on his heel to plug it in but stopped cold. Slowly he turned and surveyed the room, looking for a plug just as a sick feeling hit the pit of his stomach. How was he going to get any work done with no phone jack? His feet tromped their way down the stairs, and with each step the anger in his chest grew until he felt like he might explode when he stepped into the kitchen.

Jaxton took one whiff, and in spite of his anger, his mouth began to water. Snyder said, filling his own plate and sitting down across from Jaxton who already had a forkful headed for his mouth. It was truly incredible how backward his grandfather was. They ate in silence for the first few minutes. It was so good in fact, that for a moment he forgot about all the complications in his life and just enjoyed eating. Even in his apartment, sirens were always going off somewhere below him, and the sounds of the traffic were always right outside his kitchen window.

Jaxton nodded for no reason other than to keep the old man talking. And then Chris Delvin and Steve Porter. Chris and Steve had worked out there since they were little fellas, but by the time the place sold, they both had young families to think of and no real desire to move away from here.

I hated to see them have to leave Rayland— especially with the little ones already established in the school. Besides with only people, we need every person we can hang on to.

He reached over and put a second helping on his plate— having never realized just how hungry he actually was. The next two bites were in his mouth before the plate was even on the table again. She lives just east of here.

You probably passed her place on your way in. He dropped his fork and pushed the plate away trying not to look at the food or spit the foul tasting stuff out of his mouth. With Herculean effort he swallowed that bite and took a long drink of water. Jaxton tried to recall the meeting his grandfather was describing, but nothing other than the disgusting plate of food staring back at him from the table was getting through to his brain.

Jaxton thought as the rage from the preceding 18 hours crowded back in on him. But he pushed that thought down and smiled what he hoped was politely. Why was that so hard? He had business to do, and he was going to get it done. Putting his hand on the hard sticks of gelled hair, he worked to get the next question out diplomatically. Where might I find one? His grandfather let out a little snort.

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If, in fact, he could actually get to the outlet, he thought getting up to look at the phone more closely. It looked about a hundred years old, and the ingrained dirt on it made it appear brown although Jaxton was sure it had been white at some point.

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He wished he could take out his handkerchief to pick up the receiver without his grandfather noticing, but the old man was still standing at the table scraping the food off the plates and watching him intently. Slowly he inspected the phone from as many angles as possible, and then he sighed and looked at his watch. He was too tired to deal with this tonight. Once around the corner, he fled up the stairs. Clicking the suitcase latches open in frustration, Jaxton yanked his Yale sweats out and slammed it closed again.

Instantly he choked on the fresh dust cloud. Now I know why we never visited. These people should really get a life— and a maid. He stalked into the bathroom and reached for the light, but nothing to this point had prepared him for the sight of that bathroom. Immediately all-out nausea closed in on him. Moldy rust formed a path down the back of the sink, which rose on a pedestal from the decaying tile floor.

As he looked at it, all he wanted to do was run— far and fast.

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