by Cecelia Dowdy
Relax along Maryland 's Chesapeake Bay with three stories about strong African-American women who face upheaval in their lives.
John French is an agnostic. When he's hired to tutor a blind child, he falls for the kid's beautiful aunt, Monica Crawford. As he educates Monica's nephew, problems arise. Monica, a Christian, shares deep feelings for John. However, she can't be unequally yoked with a non-believer. Will John accept the Lord?
When her dad dies, Emily struggles to save her dairy farm, until the day accountant Franklin Reese arrives. As he uncovers the disturbing truth about her farm's finances, he falls in love with Emily. However, Frank is an unsaved alcoholic. Will Frank's addiction and lack of faith keep them apart?
When Karen's fiancé disappears with embezzled church money, she re-locates to her hometown. She's stunned that handsome plumber/future pastor Keith Baxter is living next door. Keith is smitten with Karen, but wonders if she's still in love with her dishonest ex-fiancé. Haunted by his troubled past, Keith is unsure about pursuing Karen. Can they trust one another with their secrets?
Only God can heal the hurting hearts and repair the broken lives of these women.
The loud banging at Monica Crawford's front door awakened her. Forcing herself out of bed, she glanced at the clock and saw it was two in the morning.
She ran to the door. Looking through the peephole, Monica saw her little sister Gina smiling at her.
Her heart pounded as she opened the door, gripping the knob. "What are you doing here?" Playing an internal game of tug-of-war, she wondered if she should hug her sister or slam the door in her face. Humid heat rushed into the air-conditioned living room. She stared at Gina, still awaiting her response.
"It's nice to see you too, sister." Gina pursed her full, red-painted lips and motioned at the child standing beside her. "Go on in, Scotty."
Gina had brought her seven-year-old son with her. Dark shades hid his sightless eyes. "Aunt Monica!" he called.
Monica released a small cry as she dropped to her knees and embraced him. "I'm here, Scotty." Tears slid down her cheeks as she hugged the child. Since Gina had cut herself off from immediate family for the last two years, Monica had wondered when she would see Scotty again. "You remember me?" Her heart continued to pound as she stared at her nephew. His light, coffee-colored skin glowed.
"Yeah, I remember you. When mom said I was going to live here, I wanted to come so we could go to the beach in Ocean City."
Shocked, Monica stared at Gina who was rummaging through her purse. Gina pulled out a cigarette and lighter. Seconds later she was puffing away, gazing into the living room. "You got an ashtray?"
Monica silently prayed, hoping she wouldn't lose her temper. "Gina, you know I don't allow smoking in this house."
Gina shrugged. After a bit of coaxing, she dropped the cigarette on the top step and ground it beneath the heel of her shoe. "I need to talk to you about something."
Scotty entered the house and wandered through the room, ignoring the adults as he touched objects with his fingers. After Monica fed Scotty a snack and let him fall asleep in the guest bedroom, she confronted Gina.
"Where have you been for the last two years?"
Gina strutted around the living room in her tight jeans, her high heels making small imprints in the plush carpet. "I've been around. I was mad because Mom and Dad tried to get custody of Scotty, tried to take me to court and say I was an unfit mother."
Groaning, Monica plopped onto the couch, holding her head in her hands. "That's why you haven't been speaking to me or Mom and Dad for two years?" When Gina sat beside her, Monica took her sister's chin into her hand and looked into her eyes. "You know you were wrong. Mom and Dad tried to find you. They were worried about Scotty."
Jerking away, Gina placed a few inches between herself and Monica. "They might have cared about Scotty, but they didn't care about me." Gina swore under her breath and rummaged in her purse. Removing a mint, she popped it into her mouth.
"They were worried about you and Scotty," Monica explained. "You were living with that terrible man. He didn't work, and he was high on drugs. We didn't want anything to happen to the two of you."
Gina's lips curled into a bitter smirk. "Humph. Me and Scotty are just fine." She glanced up the stairs. "You saw him. Does he look neglected to you?"
She continued to stare at Gina, still not believing she was here to visit in the middle of the night. "What do you want? What did Scotty mean when he said he was coming here to live?"
Gina frowned as she toyed with the strap of her purse. "I want you to keep Scotty for me. Will you?"
Monica jerked back. "What? Why can't you take care of your own son? Did that crackhead you were living with finally go off the deep end?"
Gina shook her head. "No, we're not even together anymore. It's just that. . ." She paused, staring at the crystal vase of red roses adorning the coffee table. "I'm getting married."
Monica's heart skipped a beat. "Married?"
Gina nodded, her long minibraids moving with the motion of her head. "Yeah, his name is Randy, and he's outside now, waiting for me in the car."
Monica raised her eyebrows, suddenly suspicious. "Why didn't you bring him inside? Are you ashamed of him?"
Gina shook her head. "No. But we're in a hurry tonight, and I didn't want to waste time with formalities."
"You still haven't told me why you can't keep Scotty. Does your fiancé have a problem with having a blind child in his house?"
Gina scowled as she clutched her purse, her dark eyes darting around the room. "No, that's not it at all."
"Uh-huh, whatever you say." She could always sense when Gina was lying. Her body language said it all.
"Really, it's not Scotty's blindness that bothers Randy. It's just that-he's a trapeze artist in the National African-American Circus and they're traveling around constantly." Her dark eyes lit up as she talked about her fiancé. "This year they'll be going international. Can you imagine me traveling around the globe with Randy? We'll be going to Paris, London, Rome-all those fancy European places!" She grabbed Monica's arm. "We'd love to take Scotty, but we can't afford to hire a tutor for him to travel with us."
"You're going to marry some man and travel with a circus?!" Monica shook her head, wondering when her sister would grow up. At twenty-seven, she acted as if she were still a teenager. Since Monica was ten years older, she'd always been the responsible sibling, making sure Gina behaved herself.
Gina grabbed Monica's shoulder. "But I'm in love with him!" Her eyes slid over Monica as if assessing her. "You've never been in love? I think it's odd that you're thirty-seven and you never got married."
Monica closed her eyes for a brief second as thoughts of her single life filled her mind. Since her breakup with her serious boyfriend two years ago, she'd accepted that God wanted her to remain single, and she spent her free time at church in various ministries. She filled her time praising God and serving Him, and she had no regrets for the life she led. But whenever one of the church sisters announced an engagement, she couldn't stop the pang of envy that sliced through her.
Forcing the thoughts from her mind, she focused on Gina again. "This discussion is not about me. It's about you. You can't abandon Scotty. He loves you."
Gina turned away, as if ashamed of her actions. "I know he does, and I love him, too. But I really want things to work out with Randy, and it won't work with Scotty on the road with us. He needs special education since he's blind."
Her heart immediately went out to Scotty. She touched Gina's shoulder. "Scotty knows you're getting married?"
Gina nodded. "I didn't tell him how long I would be gone, but I told him I'd call and visit. Please do this for me." Her sister touched her arm, and her dark eyes pleaded with her. She opened her purse and gave Monica some papers. "I've already had the power of attorney papers signed and notarized so that you can take care of him." She pressed the papers into Monica's hand.
"How long will you be gone?" asked Monica.
"The power of attorney lasts for six months. Hopefully by then me and Randy will be more settled. I'm hoping after the world tour he'll leave the circus and find a regular job."
Monica frowned, still clutching the legal documents.
"Please do this for me, Monica," she pleaded again.
She reluctantly nodded. If she didn't take care of Scotty, she didn't know who would.
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