Katherine Clarkson has the perfect life. Married to Brad, a loving and handsome husband, respected in their church and the community. Two grown daughters on the verge of starting families of their own. A thriving ministry. Good friends. A comfortable life.
She has it all—until the day a reporter appears with shocking allegations. Splashed across the local news are accusations of Brad’s financial impropriety at his foundation and worse, an affair with a former employee. Without warning, Katherine’s marriage is shattered and her family torn apart. The reassuring words she’s spoken to many brokenhearted women over the years offer little comfort now.
Her world spinning, Katherine wonders if she can find the truth in the chaos that consumes her. How can she survive the loss of what she thought was the perfect life?
“Robin Lee Hatcher is one of my favorite authors.” —Francine Rivers, New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love
- Contemporary women’s fiction with inspirational elements
- Full-length stand-alone novel
- Includes a reading group guide for book clubs
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|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.88(d)|
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The Perfect LifeA Novel
By ROBIN LEE HATCHER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Robin Lee Hatcher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBy tradition, Saturday mornings were savored in the Clarkson household. My husband, Brad, usually prepared breakfast, and then the two of us-still clad in our pajamas-read snippets from the newspaper to each other while we dined on French toast or omelets or a hash-brown casserole.
On this particular Saturday morning in April, I'd just taken a sip of freshly squeezed orange juice when I picked up the local section of the paper. I opened the fold, saw the headline, and choked.
"Katherine?" Brad rose and came to my aid.
"I'm all right." I waved at him to sit down again, then wiped tears from my eyes. "But look at this."
I laid the paper on the table and turned it toward him, pointing at the headline on the front page.
Brad Clarkson: Humanitarian of the Year
In Step Foundation leader says it truly is more blessed to give
Brad groaned. "Well, if that doesn't make me sound like a prig, I don't know what would."
"But you did say it." I tried to hide my amusement. Not very hard, I admit, but I did try. "You told me so."
"Some help you are."
Smiling now, I stood and rounded the table to stand behind Brad so we could read the article together.
There were two photos accompanying the article. The first was of Brad and four of the administrative assistants who worked in the foundation's downtown office. Brad was in the center, his arms around the shoulders of the women on either side of him. All of them were laughing at something. More than likely at something he'd said. The second photo was also of Brad, this time wearing a hard hat, smiling his irresistible smile, and standing in front of one of In Step's finished remodels. Beside him was a petite woman who looked to be in her early thirties. She held a small child in her arms. I could tell there were tears in her eyes as Brad handed her the keys to her new home.
Brad had been in the spotlight often in recent years. He claimed it made him uncomfortable, that he wished articles and news reports would focus on what the Lord was doing with the ministry, but I wasn't completely convinced. He was a natural with the media, and they loved him. He had an easy charm that drew people to him.
"I wish you'd been with me for that interview," he said.
He often said things like that, but he'd given up asking me a long time ago. He knew it was useless. It had been ten years since I'd been involved with the day-to-day running of the foundation; I wouldn't have anything of interest to say to a reporter. My main role for the last decade-by my own choice-had been as chauffeur for two active teenagers involved in an array of extracurricular activities, as chief cook and bottle washer for my hungry family and many of their friends, and later as mother of the bride at our daughters' weddings.
"You're so beautiful," Brad continued. "If you were in that photo, no one would notice the stupid headline."
Okay, that was one of the reasons I loved Brad so much. He was never short on compliments. He always knew the right words to make me feel good.
I was a woman blessed with a wonderful life. We worked hard and tried to follow Christ as He would have us. And God had blessed us. I couldn't want for anything more than what I had-a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, and a couple of grandbabies on the way.
Brad read aloud. "'Clarkson says he never imagined In Step would be anything more than a small charity he and his wife ran out of their home. Seventeen years later, the foundation has provided remodeled, affordable homes for nearly a hundred "recipient families"-as their clients are called-and In Step now occupies an entire floor of the Henderson Building in downtown Boise, employing a staff of twenty-five.'"
"See." I kissed the top of his head. "It's a good article. It will bring much deserved attention to the foundation."
Pride welled in my heart. Humanitarian of the Year. No one deserved the accolades more than Brad. In the seventeen years since he was first inspired to create In Step, he'd worked hard to bring his vision to fruition. And God had honored his desire to serve, blessing the foundation far beyond anything I'd ever dreamed possible.
I returned to my chair to finish the last of my breakfast. "What are your plans for the day?"
"I thought I might do some yard work." He grinned. "Or maybe we should spend the day in bed watching old movies until it's time to get ready for the banquet.
I laughed again. "Like that's going to happen."
Not that I wouldn't mind doing as he suggested, but I knew my husband. Unless he was sick-a rare occurrence-he wasn't one to be idle for long. Halfway into Casablanca or Raiders of the Lost Ark or whatever DVD we chose, he would get some idea that pulled him out of bed and into his den where he would scribble away on a yellow pad or enter text into his laptop as fast as he could type.
The telephone rang. I knew without looking at the caller ID that it would be one of our daughters. I answered on the second ring. "Hello?"
"Mom, have you and Dad seen the paper?" It was Emma, our youngest.
"I like that photo of him in front of one of the remodels. Randy Travis in a hard hat."
Brad rolled his eyes, as if he knew what Emma had said. He'd heard it before. Many times. Although he was a fan of country music, he hated people saying he looked like Travis-even though he did. Same square jaw, complete with tiny cleft in his chin, same deep-set eyes, same thin lips, same high forehead, same touch of gray at his temples. Knowing he hated the comparison, the girls and I teased him about it. Unmercifully.
"I'll tell him you said so."
"What time should Jason and I plan to be there tonight?"
"Six-thirty should be early enough. There's an open bar before the banquet. The dinner is at seven." I settled onto a kitchen stool. "How are you feeling?"
"Getting fatter every day. But at least I don't have morning sickness like Hayley."
"Don't I know it."
There were no words to describe how excited I was about becoming a grandmother. And to have two grandbabies arriving this summer? Perfection twice over.
The Call Waiting sound beeped in my ear. I checked the ID. It was Hayley.
"That's your sister calling now. Want to hold on?"
"No. Gotta run. I'll see you and Dad tonight. Love you."
"You too. Bye." I clicked over. "Hi, honey."
"Hi, Mom. I take it you've seen the paper."
"Yes. We've seen it."
"Did Dad notice how much he looks like Randy Travis in that picture?"
"That's what Emma said when she called." I stifled a laugh. "Do you want to tell your dad what you think about the photo? He's sitting right here."
Now Brad definitely knew what we were talking about. He shook his head and waved both hands in a back-off motion. "Give Hayley my love. I'm going to take a shower." He rose and left the kitchen. "Uh-oh. I'll have to apologize for all of us now." Not really. I knew he wasn't upset. We loved to tease in our family. Brad too. In fact, he was the worst of the lot. "Emma said you're still suffering from morning sickness."
"Ugh. It's awful. I thought you said I'd be over it by now."
"No, I said I was over it by four months. Some women are sick throughout their pregnancy. The full nine months."
Hayley groaned. "Just shoot me now."
"Keep those saltines on your nightstand." It was poor comfort but the best I could offer. "You're feeling well enough to come tonight, aren't you?"
"Are you kidding? Steve and I wouldn't miss this for the world. I bought a great new dress for the occasion. No one will guess I'm pregnant."
We chatted a few more minutes, making plans to go shopping the following week, then said our good-byes and I hung up the phone.
I remained on the kitchen stool, staring out the window at our backyard-brushed in shades of spring green and the first appearance of colorful flowers-and thought again how wonderful my life was.
Excerpted from The Perfect Life by ROBIN LEE HATCHER Copyright © 2007 by Robin Lee Hatcher. Excerpted by permission.
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