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Picket Fence Promises [Secure]
by Kathryn Springer

Category: Spiritual/Religion
Description: Twenty years and several pounds ago.... I was Bernice Strum, hairstylist to the stars. Until I fell for--and got pregnant by--Alex Scott, a handsome actor with a career on the rise. But I gave my baby up for adoption and moved across the country to settle in Prichett, Wisconsin. I made friends, started a faith journey, and then one day I got a call from my now-adult daughter that turned my world upside down... and brought Alex back into my life. Now he's here (living in my dream house!) and he wants to pick up where we left off--but how can I trust his picket-fence promises when he's not a believer in anything but himself?
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Steeple Hill,
eBookwise Release Date: February 2008


Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [401 KB]

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Chapter One

There is an old saying that a person's past will eventually catch up to them. Mine was a bit slow because it didn't find me until I was forty-five years old. When it did, it didn't tiptoe up and give me a discreet tap on the shoulder, either. A gentle, Remember me? Of course not. My past rolled down Prichett's Main Street in broad daylight. In a black stretch limo.

It was a good thing that my two best friends, Elise Penny and Annie Carpenter, were with me or I probably would have hijacked the next pickup truck lumbering down the street and ended up somewhere in Canada.

Annie, who'd been catching snowflakes on her tongue, grabbed my hand and held on. Annie may be twenty years younger than me but what she lacks in age she makes up for in wisdom. She's the kind of person who always seems to have one ear tilted toward the sky, as if she's expecting at any moment God is going to whisper something in it. And I'm convinced that He does on a regular basis.

I tried to work up enough saliva so that I could talk, but my mouth had gone as dry as the fields in the middle of July. If you live in Prichett long enough you begin to think in farm metaphors. It started happening to me about three years after I'd moved here, and I look at it as a permanent condition—like crow's feet…or cellulite.

"It can't be him." There it was. My voice. Well, a reasonable facsimile anyway. It must have come out at a slightly higher pitch than normal because a flock of blackbirds in the tree over our heads began to rustle around and protest. "Someone must have rented the limo for an anniversary or something."

There was no other reason that a limo could be stopping…right in front of the Cut and Curl. Which happened to be the beauty salon that I owned.

"If there was an anniversary, it would have made the marquee," Elise said. She grabbed my other hand and leaned forward, staring intently at the sleek black vehicle that was now purring alongside the curb.

This was wishful thinking on Elise's part. Her name had been on the marquee for three months now. The marquee was a sacred relic and it hung off the old theater on Main Street like an arm with a compound fracture, announcing all the news that Mayor Candy Lane decided was noteworthy.

Elise had been a contestant in the Proverbs 31 Pageant and had recently won the state title. So far, she'd set a record for having had her name on the marquee the longest. Because she didn't like the attention, I knew she was secretly hoping that someone else would have something happen to them that was noteworthy enough for the sign to be changed.

"Not possible," I muttered, staring at the ground. I was beginning to have memory flashes. You know, those little things buried so deep inside that only a reality explosion will bring them to the surface.

And right now I was remembering that Phoebe Caine, a former acquaintance in my life D.A.—During Alex—would spill Everest-size amounts of delicate information when bribed with Godiva chocolates. And this was the woman I'd spoken to on the telephone a month before, making her promise that she wouldn't tell anyone that I'd called.

But this had nothing to do with the limousine. Did it?

"You better go talk to him. He's looking this way," Elise murmured.

"Who's looking this way?" Denial. It's a pitiful thing. You'd think after this many years, I would have figured that out. But no. It had become my first weapon of defense.

"Alex Scott." Annie said the name so matter-of-factly that she could have been talking about Mr. Bender at the hardware store instead of one of the biggest names at the box office.

There was no way he could recognize me at this distance. I'm a hairstylist. I see my reflection in the mirror all day and it's nowhere close to the one that looked back at me when I was in my early twenties. More wrinkles. Not to mention the rest of me. There was more of that, too.

I had the weird, surreal feeling that I was watching one of his movies. The driver, who looked like he was moonlighting from his other job as an NFL linebacker, got out and started unloading luggage from the trunk. Luggage. People were starting to pause in midstep and stare. Limousines in Prichett just weren't that common. Now if someone had parked a combine in front of my shop, no one would have blinked an eye.

I swallowed to dislodge my heart, which had wiggled its way into my throat and was beating ten times faster than usual.

God, can You explain this? I mean, what is this!

Talking to God is something new in my life and it is getting easier and easier for me, thanks to Annie's influence. I'm trying to settle into listening, too, but somehow that isn't as easy. I frequently remind myself that God gave me two ears and one mouth and there must have been a good reason for that divine design. But just because I was spending time with God and starting to make peace with my past didn't mean that I wanted to work things out—face-to-face—with it. I hadn't let myself think about Alex for…oh, all right, at least twenty-four hours, which is ridiculous because the last time I'd seen him was ten years ago. I was hit with the sudden urge to escape into a quart of Ben and Jerry's, and never come out. Hiding. I'd turned it into an art form. Esther Crandall, a friend of mine at the Golden Oaks Nursing Home who practically oozes wisdom from every pore, told me that one of God's favorite words is surprise and I am now a card-carrying believer that it's true.

Copyright © 2008 by Kathryn Springer.

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