Rekindled, страница 1
Rekindled by Tamera Alexander is an amazing story of love lost and found and of trust and faith rediscovered. I loved it!
—Colleen Coble, author of Alaska Twilight, a
Women of Faith novel
Heartbreaking and hopeful, Rekindled is a love story that will keep you turning pages late into the night, longing for Larson and Kathryn to find their way back to each other. Ms. Alexander grabs a reader’s heart and doesn’t let go until the very end. I look forward to the next book in the FOUNTAIN CREEK CHRONICLES.
—Robin Lee Hatcher, bestselling author of
The Victory Club and Diamond Place
Excellent characters and a unique storyline combine to create a novel that will burn in your memory for a long time to come.
—Randy Ingermanson, Christy
In the truest sense of the word, this novel rekindles an everlasting love between two remarkable characters. Tamera Alexander has created a rare love story between a husband and wife as their growing understanding of God and one another reveals just how deep love can be. Well done!
—Maureen Lang, author of Pieces of Silver
from Kregel Publications
Tamera Alexander pens a compelling novel of God’s grace and the hope of love rekindled. I was hooked from the first and sorry when the story was over.
—Tracie Peterson, award-winning author of
the bestselling HEIRS OF MONTANA series
and What She Left For Me
Tamera Alexander has given us a beautiful story of redemption and hope peopled with unforgettable characters and a setting so vivid I felt I’d traveled back in time. I can’t wait for the next book in the FOUNTAIN CREEK CHRONICLES series.
—Deborah Raney, author of Over the Waters
and A Vow to Cherish
FROM BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS
FOUNTAIN CREEK CHRONICLES
Fountain Creek Chronicles (3 in 1)
TIMBER RIDGE REFLECTIONS
From a Distance
Beyond This Moment
Within My Heart
FOUNTAIN CREEK CHRONICLES | BOOK ONE
Copyright © 2006
Cover design by Studio Gearbox
Cover photograph by Steve Gardner, PixelWorks Studios, Inc.
Unless otherwise identified, Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.
Scripture quotations identified NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America
* * *
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rekindled / Tamera Alexander.
p. cm. — (Fountain Creek chronicles ; 1)
ISBN 0-7642-0108-5 (pbk.)
1. Ranchers—Fiction. 2. Burns and scalds—Fiction. 3. Domestic fiction. I. Title
II. Series: Alexander, Tamera. Fountain Creek chronicles ; 1.
* * *
To my parents, Doug and June Gattis
Growing up beneath the shelter of your love
shaped me for eternity, and I’m forever grateful.
That love spilled over into me and gave me wings.
It still does. Thank you for continually pointing me
to the Cross and for being “Jesus with skin” in my life.
To my mother-in-law, Claudette Harris Alexander
You first started me on this writing journey by sharing with me
just how softly His love comes. I trust you can now see
where your gift has led me. We miss you every day.
Scout out the best hiking trails. We’ll be Home soon.
Do not consider his appearance or his height,
for I have rejected him.
The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 SAMUEL 16:7 NIV
Colorado Territory, 1868
In the shadow of Pikes Peak
LARSON JENNINGS HAD LIVED this moment a thousand times over, and it still sent a chill through him. Shifting in the saddle, he stared ahead at the winding trail of dirt and rock that had been the haunt and haven of his dreams, both waking and sleeping, for the past five months. Along with his anticipation at returning home, there mingled a foreboding that crowded out any sense of festivity.
He carefully tugged off the leather gloves and looked at his misshapen hands. Gently flexing his fingers, he winced at the unpleasant sensation shooting up his right arm. The skin was nearly healed but was stretched taut over the back of his hand, much like it was over half of his body. Scenes from that fateful night flashed again in his mind. Blinding white light, unbearable heat.
He closed his eyes. His breath quickened, his flesh tingled, remembering. He may have denied death its victory, but death had certainly claimed a bit of him in the struggle.
What would Kathryn’s reaction be at seeing him like this? And what had the past months been like for her, not knowing where he was? To think she might have already given him up for dead touched on a wound so deep inside him, Larson couldn’t bear to give the thought further lead. Kathryn would be there. . . . She would.
Maybe if he’d been a better husband to her, a better provider, or perhaps if he had been able to give her what she truly wanted, he’d feel differently about coming back. But their inability to have a child had carved a canyon between them years ago, and the truth of their marriage was as undeniable to him as the scars marring his body. And the fault of it rested mostly with him—he knew that now.
He rode on past the grove of aspen that skirted
Kathryn meant more to him than anything now. She was more than his wife, his lover. She completed him, in areas he’d never known he was lacking. He regretted that it had taken an intimate brush with death for him to see the truth. Now if he could only help her see past the outside, to the man he’d become.
His pulse picked up a notch when he rounded the bend and the familiar scene came into view. Nestled in stands of newly leafed aspen and willow trees, crouched in the shadow of the rugged mountains that would always be his home, the scenery around their cabin still took his breath away.
Larson’s stomach clenched tight as he watched for movement from the homestead. As he rode closer, a breeze swept down from the mountain, whistling through the branches overhead. The door to the cabin creaked open. His eyes shot up. A rush of adrenaline caused every nerve to tingle.
“Kathryn?” he rasped, his voice resembling a music box whose innards had been scraped and charred.
He eased off his horse and glanced back at the barn. Eerily quiet.
It took him a minute to gain his balance and get the feeling back in his limbs. His right leg ached, and he was tempted to reach for his staff tied to his saddle, but he resisted, not wanting Kathryn’s first image of him to be that of a cripple. Vulnerability flooded his heart, erasing all pleas but one.
God, let her still want me.
He gently pushed open the cabin door and stepped inside. “Kathryn?”
He scanned the room. Deserted. The door to their bedroom was closed, and he crossed the room and jerked the latch free. The room was empty but for the bed they’d shared. Scenes flashed in his mind of being here with Kathryn that last night. Disbelief and concern churned his gut.
He searched the barn, calling her name, but his voice was lost in the wind stirring among the trees. Chest heaving, he ignored the pain and swung back up on his mount.
Later that afternoon, exhausted from the hard ride back to Willow Springs, Larson urged his horse down a less crowded side street, wishing now that he’d chosen to search for Kathryn here first. But he’d held out such hope that she’d been able to keep the ranch. He gave his horse the lead and searched the places he thought Kathryn might be. Nearing the edge of town, he reined in his thoughts as his gaze went to a small gathering beside the church.
Two men worked together to lower a coffin suspended by ropes into a hole in the ground. Three other people looked on in silence—a woman dressed all in black and two men beside her. Watching the sparse gathering as he passed, Larson suddenly felt sorry for the departed soul and wondered what kind of life the person had led that would draw so few well-wishers. Then the woman turned her head to speak to one of the men beside her. It couldn’t be . . .
A stab of pain in his chest sucked Larson’s breath away.
He dismounted and started to go to her, but something held him back.
Kathryn walked to the pile of loose dirt and scooped up a handful. She stepped forward and, hesitating for a moment, finally let it sift through her fingers. Larson was close enough to hear the hollow sound of dirt and pebbles striking the coffin below. He was certain he saw her shudder. Her movements were slow and deliberate.
She looked different to him somehow, but still, he drank her in. He felt the scattered pieces of his life coming back together.
His thoughts raced to imagine who could be inside that coffin. He swiftly settled on one. Bradley Duncan. He remembered the afternoon he’d found the young man at the cabin visiting Kathryn. Despite past months of pleading with God to quell his jealous nature and for the chance to make things right with his wife, a bitter spark rekindled deep inside him.
Larson bowed his head. Would he ever possess the strength to put aside his old nature? At that moment, Kathryn turned toward him, and he knew the answer was no.
He didn’t want to believe it. He knew his wife’s body as well as his own, from vivid memory as well as from his dreams, and the gentle bulge beneath her skirts left little question in his mind. Larson’s legs felt like they might buckle beneath him.
Matthew Taylor, his foreman and supposed friend, stood close beside Kathryn. Taylor slipped an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. Liquid fire shot through Larson’s veins. He’d trusted Matthew Taylor with the two most important things in the world to him—his ranch and his wife. It would seem that Taylor had failed him on both counts. And in the process, had given Kathryn what Larson never could.
With Taylor’s hand beneath her arm, Kathryn turned away from the grave. He whispered something to her. She smiled back, and Larson’s heart turned to stone. They walked past him as though he weren’t there. He suddenly felt invisible, and for the first time in his life, he wasn’t bothered by the complete lack of recognition. Defeat and fury warred inside him as he watched Kathryn and Taylor walk back toward town.
When the preacher had returned to the church and the cemetery workers finished their task and left, Larson walked to the edge of the grave. He took in the makeshift headstone, then felt the air squeeze from his lungs. Reading the name carved into the splintered piece of old wood sent him to his knees. His world shifted full tilt.
Just below the dates 1828–1868 was the name—
LARSON ROBERT JENNINGS
Five months earlier
December 24, 1867
LARSON JENNINGS PEERED inside the frosted window of the snow-drifted cabin. Sleet and snow pelted his face, but he was oblivious to winter’s biting chill. A slow-burning heat started in his belly and his hot breath fogged the icy pane as he watched the two of them together.
His wife’s smile, her laughter, wholly focused on another man, ignited a painful memory and acted like a knife to his heart. It was all he could do not to break down the door when he entered the cabin.
Kathryn stood immediately, stark surprise shadowing her brown eyes. “Larson, I’m so glad you’re home.” But her look conveyed something altogether different. She set down her cup and moved away from her seat next to Bradley Duncan at the kitchen table. “Bradley’s home from university and dropped by . . . unexpectedly.” Lowering her gaze, she added more softly, “To talk. . . .”
Bradley Duncan came to his feet, nearly knocking over his cup. Larson turned and glared down at the smooth-faced, educated boy, not really a man yet, even at twenty-three. Not in Larson’s estimation anyway. Larson stood at least a half-foot taller and held a sixty-pound, lean-muscled advantage. He despised weakness, and Duncan exuded it. Having learned from a young age to use his stature to intimidate, Larson was tempted now to simply break this kid in two.
He turned to examine Kathryn’s face for a hint of deceit. Her guarded expression didn’t lessen his anger. Trusting had never been easy for him, and when it came to his wife and other men, he found it especially hard. He’d seen the way men openly admired her and could well imagine the thoughts lingering beneath the surface.
“Mr. J-Jennings.” Duncan’s eyes darted to Kathryn and then back again. “I just stopped by to share these books with Kathryn. I purchased them in Boston.”
Larson didn’t like the sound of his wife’s name on this boy’s lips.
“I thought she might enjoy reading them. She
Almost imperceptibly, Kathryn’s expression changed. Duncan fell silent. Larson felt a silent warning pass from his wife to the boy now shifting from foot to foot before him.
The rage inside him exploded. A solid blow to Duncan’s jaw sent the boy reeling backward.
Kathryn gasped, her face drained of color. “Larson—”
His look silenced her. He hauled Duncan up by his starched collar and silk vest and dragged him to his fancy mount tied outside. Once Duncan was astride, Larson smacked the Thoroughbred on the rump and it took off.
Kathryn waited at the door, her shawl clutched about her shoulders, her eyes dark with disapproval. “Larson, you had no right to act in such a manner. Bradley Duncan is a boy, and an honorable one at that.”
Larson slammed the door behind him. “I saw the way he looked at you.”
She gave a disbelieving laugh. “Bradley thinks of me as an older sister.”
Larson moved to within inches of her and stared down hard. She stiffened, but to her credit she didn’t draw back. She never had. “I don’t have siblings, Kathryn, but take it from me, that’s not the way a man looks at his sister.”
Kathryn sighed, and a knowing look softened her expression. “Larson, I have never looked at another man since I met you. Ever,” she whispered, slowly lifting a hand to his cheek. Her eyes shimmered. “The life I chose is still the life I want. What other men think is of no concern to me. I want you, only you. When will you take that to heart?”
He wanted to brush away her hand, but the feelings she stirred inside him were more powerful than his need to be in control. He pulled her against him and kissed her, wanting to believe her when she said she didn’t ever want for another man, another life.