Any Port in a Storm
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by Shannon Carol
Description: Liandra Kendric is a woman afraid to love again. Scarred in an accident and rejected by her fianc´┐Ż, she has gathered her pride around her like armor and returned to the peace and solitude of her beautiful hometown in the Canadian Rockies. The peace is shattered by widower Stave Rostad and his five-year-old daughter Clara. Like Liandra, Stave has sworn never to love again. But when diagnosed with a serious illness, he decides Clara needs a mother. Clara has learned to trust the tall, dark-haired woman with the scarred face. Liandra would make an excellent mother, but for that to happen, Stave will have to risk his heart by making her his wife...
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2000
eBookwise Release Date: July 2004
11 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [216 KB]
Reading time: 144-201 min.
"Shannon Carol's Any Port in a Storm, is a deeply touching romance with wonderfully depicted and memorable characters. Full of heart-wrenching scenes filled with poignant emotions, this is a story sure to stay in embedded in your mind for a long time.5 Stars!"--Sime~Gen
"Shannon Carol has written a moving portrayal of two people searching for healing--physical, emotional, and spiritual--in the wrong places. This is a short, gentle, calmly paced book that takes you into the hearts of its characters to examine their wounds and show how they can be healed. These are people you quickly come to care about and root for."--Scribes World Review
"Ms. Carol has penned a truly memorable set of characters and set them in a heart-tugging tale that will dig deep into your soul and find a home for a long time. Elegantly written with just the right touch of angst, Ms. Carol provides a look inside a family not only struggling with the death of a loved one but also the pain of a dread disease and the knowledge that one is leaving behind a much beloved child. The author also helps one to remember that miracles are still possible. Gently and lyrically written Any Port in a Storm is definitely a "feel-good" romance. Highly Recommended!"--Sarah Anderson, Romance Communications
The mountain brook ran clear and deep and cold. Like her soul, thought Liandra bitterly, hugging her arms around her chest for warmth.
Spring had just come to the Canadian Rockies, but the air was still crisp, stinging her lungs as she breathed. Morning sunlight seeped through the heavy boughs of the fir trees, dappling the small clearing with gold. Above her head, a squirrel chattered vigorously, scolding her for choosing to sit under his tree.
She breathed deeply, savoring the familiar clean smell of pine needles. The smell of the forest. A smell which took her back to her childhood and the time she'd spent daydreaming under this very tree. Dreaming about the day she would escape the small logging town of Golden and make a fresh life for herself in the city, where no one knew she was Raven Kendric's granddaughter. Tom's daughter. The one he hadn't wanted. The one he left behind for his mother to raise.
"Be careful what you wish for -- you just might get it." Liandra could hear her grandmother's words echo in her head. Raven Kendric came from a long line of Kutenai Indian healers, but was educated in the mainstream school system and married a Scottish immigrant. Her native heritage and conventional schooling made an interesting combination. She was always giving her granddaughter advice, some based in native mythology and some drawn from her public school education and marriage to Sandy Kendric. Liandra had scoffed at her grandmother's counsel as a child, but time had proved many of her sayings true.
Liandra sighed, pushing her dark hair behind her shoulders. She had no problem accepting her grandmother's advice now. She was done with wishing. Whatever happened in the future, she would not bring it on herself by wishing for it.
Her hand rose to her face, tracing the outline of the scar. It was there as a reminder to her should she ever think of dreaming again.
A ray of sunshine broke through the forest canopy, painting the water gold where it fell, and casting strange, small shadows around the clearing. She yawned and stretched, pushing herself to her feet. Her grandmother could probably use her help.
A slight movement caught the corner of her eye and Liandra froze. She had become accustomed to the small forest creatures who shared her solitude in the mornings. The animals, sensing no danger from the tall, gentle woman, had become braver each day and it was not unusual for deer, rabbits and even the occasional fox to scamper in the clearing or drink from the brook while she was there.
She moved her head slowly to the side to see which of her friends had arrived.
Two startling blue eyes gazed expressionlessly at her from the somber, round-cheeked, freckled face of a small girl. She held her breath, waiting for the inevitable fear to creep into the youngster's eyes when she saw Liandra's face. But the small girl continued to gaze at her impassively.
Judging by her size, she couldn't be more than five years old, Liandra thought, and far too young to be wandering in the woods so far from town on her own. She immediately scanned the clearing, looking for the adult who must be accompanying the child, but saw no one.
Without a word, the child moved into the pool of sunlight near the brook and sat facing her, one chubby arm clutching a small rag doll to her chest. Her other hand went up to her mouth, so that she could suck on her thumb. Her wide blue eyes continued to study Liandra.
Strangely, Liandra did not find the girl's presence invasive, although she valued her solitude and normally would have been irritated at a stranger's presence. But there was something different about this small child, who regarded her without the habitual fear or curiosity that her face usually elicited from strangers.
Again, she scanned the woods, expecting an anxious parent to charge into the clearing at any moment. But the forest was still and silent.
She looked more carefully at the small girl. She was warmly dressed in corduroy pants and a large Argyle sweater, which was rolled up at the cuffs. The wild disarray of her red curls did not seem to be because of neglect, but rather because it was their nature to be in disarray. Her upturned button nose and the defiant set of her chin suggested that the child's will was as independent and untamed as the curls on her head. Her face and clothes were clean and she didn't seem at all dismayed to be alone in the clearing.
If she was lost, she hadn't been lost for long. But what kind of parent would let their child roam unaccompanied in the forest?
Liandra tilted her head to the side, contemplating what she should do. In a deliberate and serious manner, the little girl followed suit, popping her thumb out of her mouth as she tilted her head to the side.
Liandra smiled, delighted by the child's solemn mimicry. A brief smiled fluttered across the child's face in return, so faint that she wasn't sure she'd really seen it.
Slowly and deliberately, Liandra tilted her head to the other side. The red halo of curls followed. Exaggerating each movement, Liandra raised her dark eyebrows and then stuck her tongue out of her mouth. She was rewarded by a quiet giggle.
Pleased at the girl's reaction, her face broke into a crooked grin, the scar pulling her mouth down slightly on the right side. The child smiled back.
Once more, Liandra scanned the clearing for the child's parents. Despite the affection she was beginning to feel for the red-headed urchin, she would prefer to avoid getting involved. She could imagine how parents might react to a tall, disfigured woman leading their daughter out of the woods. At the same time, she couldn't exactly leave her here alone.
She walked carefully toward the girl, then crouched down a few feet away. Even up close, the girl showed no fear of Liandra. Liandra smiled gently.
"Are you an angel?" The small voice startled Liandra.
"What did you say?" The suddenness of the question, along with the slight babyish slur with which it was asked, made her think she had misunderstood.
"I said, are you an angel?" The small girl repeated her question slowly and precisely.
"No of course not, pet," Liandra replied, unconsciously using the nickname her grandmother had given her when she was a small child. "Why would you think that?"
" 'Cause you've got that mark on your face and my daddy told me that people with marks like that are special -- they've been touched by angels."
Liandra smiled at the seriousness with which this information was delivered. "Well your daddy sounds like a pretty smart man."
The child sighed, her chest rising and lowering dramatically. "He's okay I guess. He knows lots 'bout angels. And s'curity systems. So are you?"
"So am I what?"
"Are you an angel?" The child looked at her in exasperation.
Liandra chuckled. "No pet, I'm not."
"Then why do you have that mark?"
Without thinking, Liandra's hand rose to her face, touching the thickened skin of her scar. "I was in an accident. I hurt my face and this is what happened when it got better."
The child looked at Liandra carefully for a moment, as if weighing the validity of her response, then shook her head decisively. "My mommy was in a accident and she's an angel. You've got to be an angel, too." The girl thrust her chin forward and crossed her arms on her chest, as if daring Liandra to argue with her.
The set of the girl's chin and her assertive posture were so defiant that Liandra laughed softly. Immediately, hurt flashed in the wide blue eyes. Without thinking, she reached forward and tried to smooth the soft red curls.
"Oh, pet, I'm not laughing at you. If you want to think I'm an angel, that's fine. It's been a long time since anyone thought something so nice about me." Her hand lingered on the girl's head for a moment before dropping to her side.
"Did you come into the woods with your daddy?" Liandra purposely avoided asking about the girl's mother, as she was unsure what the girl had meant about an accident and an angel. Was her mother also scarred and disfigured, or had she died in this accident?
"I live in the woods with Daddy and Mrs. Florentine."
Liandra looked perplexed. What did the child mean she lived in the forest? They were at least a mile out of town and the only buildings this far in the woods were a deserted ranger's cabin and the old Rostad house. The ranger's cabin was occasionally inhabited, but the Rostad house hadn't been lived in since she was a child. People in town still talked about the Rostad family and the scandal that had driven them away.
Liandra must have been about six years old the fall the Rostads boarded up the house and moved away. The huge empty house had been a magnet to her as a child. During her solo rambles through the forest, she had spent many hours there, inventing imaginary friends to ease her loneliness. Friends who would invite her in for cookies and milk, or to play a game. Things that classmates never invited her to do.
She vividly recalled herself at eight years old, peering through the darkened windows of the house, imagining that the covered pieces of furniture were dusty ghosts at a tea party.
The house had been deserted for almost twenty years. It probably wasn't even fit for human habitation any more. Surely this child could not be living there? But somehow she knew the girl wasn't the type to lie. And unless she was a wood sprite, she had to be living in one of the two places.
"Where do you live, pet?" Liandra asked.
"The house up there," the child answered, pointing to the forest path that rose up the mountainside. It was the path that led to the old stone Rostad house.
"Is it a big stone house with a porch?"
The small girl nodded.
"Well, your father and Mrs. -- uh -- Florence must be wondering where you are." "Florentine," said the small girl solemnly, her 'r' sounding suspiciously like a 'w'. "Her name is Mrs. Florentine"
"Well. Mrs. FLORENTINE," Liandra emphasized the name dramatically, earning a small giggle from the girl, "will be frantic with worry unless I get you home."
Without a word, the child rose from the ground and slipped her small hand into Liandra's, then started in the direction of the path.
Copyright © 2000 Shannon Carol