Abandoned once too often, Brooklyn Meyers never intended to return to Thunder Creek, Idaho. Her hometown holds too many memories of heartache and rejection. But when her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies and leaves his family home and acreage to her and their ten-year-old daughter Alycia, it's an opportunity to change their lives for the better—a chance Brooklyn can't pass up, for Alycia's sake if not her own.
Derek Johnson, Chad's best friend since boyhood, isn't keen on the return of Brooklyn Meyers to Thunder Creek. He still blames her for leading his friend astray. And now she has ruined his chance to buy the neighboring ten acres that would have allowed him to expand his organic farm. To add insult to injury, Chad's dying request was that Derek become the father to Alycia that Chad never was. How can he keep that promise without also spending time with the girl's mother?
Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Derek and Brooklyn must both confront challenges to their dreams and expectations. He must overcome long held misconceptions about Brooklyn, while she must learn to trust someone other than herself. And if they can do it, they just might discover that God has something better in mind than either of them ever imagined.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
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You'll Think Of Me
By Robin Lee Hatcher
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2017 Robin Lee Hatcher
All rights reserved.
Brooklyn Myers sat on the narrow stretch of lawn beside the brick apartment building, watching her ten-year-old daughter. On this balmy Saturday afternoon, Alycia lay on her stomach in the grass while reading a book they'd checked out at the library that morning. Reading, thanks to the public library, was one habit that Brooklyn not only approved of but could afford to encourage. When a mother and child survived on a waitress's salary, toys and other gadgets were a luxury. As was most everything else.
A headache threatened, and Brooklyn closed her eyes, rubbing her temples with her fingertips. Thank goodness she didn't have to work today. She'd put in a lot of overtime in recent weeks and was in need of rest. Rest that always seemed just out of reach.
"Brooklyn?" Esther Peterman called from the second-story landing. "May I join you?"
Brooklyn looked toward the stairwell. "Of course."
The rail-thin woman f lashed one of her brave smiles before slowly heading down the final f light of stairs, a folded lawn chair clasped in one hand. She was only in her late forties, but she moved as if she were eighty.
Brooklyn's heart clenched at the sight. As far as she was concerned, Esther was — and had always been — a godsend. She couldn't begin to imagine how she and Alycia would have managed over the past decade without this kindly neighbor. Or how they were going to manage without her in the future.
Her temples throbbed, the headache full blown now.
Esther arrived at her side and unfolded the lawn chair. "What a beautiful day."
"I couldn't agree more." Brooklyn tilted her face toward the sun, hoping its warmth would ease the pain in her head — and in her heart.
When Esther spoke again, she sounded wistful. "I suppose San Diego will be just as lovely."
"I'm sure it will be. And you'll be with your family."
"Yes." Her friend drew a long breath and let it out on a sigh. "But they might as well be strangers. I haven't seen my cousins in years."
Brooklyn reached over and took hold of Esther's hand, gently squeezing it with her own. "I wish ...," she began, then let the rest go unsaid.
"I know, Brooklyn. I know."
Esther Peterman was the first person Brooklyn had met when she moved into this low-income apartment building over ten years ago. She'd been eighteen, pregnant, and all alone in a strange city. Chad Hallston, her husband of only a few months, had left Brooklyn soon after learning they were to have a baby. Esther and her husband, Joshua, had become the closest thing to family Brooklyn had ever known. But prostate cancer had taken Joshua, age sixty, three years earlier, and now bone cancer was taking Esther.
It seemed so unfair.
"God has this," Esther said softly. "I'll be all right, and so will the two of you."
Brooklyn swallowed the lump in her throat.
"Have you found someone to watch Alycia when you're at work?"
She shrugged, unwilling for Esther to take on that worry.
But honesty wouldn't allow her to leave it alone, and finally she shook her head.
"I'll keep praying." Esther spoke with confidence, although her voice was weak. "God knows what you need. He will provide."
Real faith was another blessing from Esther. Before meeting her, all Brooklyn had known were rules, restrictions, and God's wrath. She'd lived in expectation of the Almighty slapping her down whenever she displeased Him — which she had been guaranteed to do on a daily basis. That was the God Brooklyn had learned from her father. But Esther had introduced her to a God who loved her, to a Savior who had willingly died for her, to a Spirit who renewed her mind and gave her strength.
"It's going to be all right." Now it was Esther's turn to squeeze Brooklyn's hand. "You'll see."
From behind them came a male voice. "Hey. Are one of you ladies named Myers?"
Brooklyn twisted in her lawn chair. "I am."
"Got a delivery for you." He held up a legal-sized overnight envelope. "Need you to sign for it."
Brooklyn frowned, unable to imagine any reason for express mail. She wasn't behind on her rent or her cell phone bill. Her few friends lived right here in Reno, and she never shopped online.
"Are you sure it's for me?" she asked as she stood.
The young man, dressed in a cotton shirt and shorts, looked at the large envelope again. "Brooklyn Myers. M-ye-rs. Apartment 12B."
Alycia appeared at her side. "What've you got, Mom?"
"I don't know," she answered her daughter. Then to the deliveryman she said, "That's me." She walked toward the breezeway where he stood, Alycia following along.
He handed her the stylus, then held the device toward her. She scribbled her name on the small screen, hoping it wasn't required that it actually look like her signature.
"Here you go." He took back the stylus and replaced it with the envelope.
"Thank you." She watched him stride toward the parking lot.
"What is it, Mom?" Alycia asked again.
"I'm not sure. Just a lot of papers, it feels like."
"Oh." Disappointment laced the word before her daughter returned to the grass and her book.
Brooklyn's gaze lowered to the sender's address on the thick envelope. Hodges, Thurber, and Williams, Attorneys-at-Law, Miami, Florida. Why would some lawyer in Florida send her overnight mail? Her stomach clenched with sudden nervousness as she flipped the envelope over.
* * *
Thunder Creek, Idaho
Derek Johnson stopped at the northeast corner of his three-acre farm. Since buying the property six years earlier, he'd slowly cultivated more and more of it, changing the land from pasture to neat rows of vegetables. In addition, a small apple orchard — six trees planted by a previous owner — sat in the northwest corner of the property. Eventually, he planned to expand the orchard, adding more apple trees and other kinds of fruit as well. Maybe next year.
In the beginning he'd sold his produce on weekends from booths at farmers' markets or from the back of his pickup at popular spots along the highway. But for the last two growing seasons, after receiving his organic certification, he'd been able to sell direct to a couple of small-town grocery stores. It had definitely made his life easier and his income slightly more certain.
One of his favorite books on the subject of organic gardening for profit said it was possible, if done properly, to make a living of sixty thousand dollars or more per year on one and a half acres. Perhaps that was true, but as of yet he wasn't finding it that profitable. Besides, he wanted more than simply to make a living. He wanted to expand, to experiment, to offer the best produce available in this county and the ones surrounding it.
His gaze shifted to the neighboring land. All ten acres of the Hallston property lay in a tangle of weeds and bare ground. There was so much he'd be able to do with those additional acres once they were his. Another six months and he should have the down payment required by the bank.
"Lord willin' and the creek don't rise," he muttered to himself.
Impatience welled up inside him. What he wouldn't give to be able to buy that land now, to be able to expand his operation this growing season rather than next. He longed for the day he could quit working as a part-time sheriff 's deputy and call himself a full-time farmer. But both of those dreams were on hold for now.
He sighed, consciously letting go of his frustration. At least Chad Hallston wasn't in a hurry to sell. His best friend from childhood had promised to wait until Derek had the down payment. True, it was taking longer for that to happen than either of them had expected. But the last time they'd spoken — more than nine months ago — Chad had assured Derek he would continue to wait. "Take as long as you need. The house has sat empty all these years. Another one or two won't matter."
Derek avoided looking at the two-story Hallston house with its boarded-up windows and faded yellow paint. He didn't understand why Chad had stayed away all of these years, letting the house go to ruin after his parents' tragic deaths. But then there were a lot of things about Chad that Derek didn't understand. His old friend had become almost a stranger to him over the years — a change that had started when Chad became involved with Brooklyn Myers.
With a shake of his head, he turned away from the neighboring property and headed toward the pasture where his two horses and the calf he raised for beef grazed on shoots of spring grass. In his head he heard his dad's voice: "Why on earth do you want to give up being a deputy for farming? What did you go to college for if all you're going to do is dig in the dirt? You could be elected sheriff, given a few more years' experience. You would be a shoo-in."
He stopped, leaned down, and scooped freshly turned soil into one hand, bringing it to his nose and breathing in. He loved the smell of it. Healthy. Rich. Life giving. The way dirt was supposed to smell. It indicated the kind of earth that could produce foods rich in nutrients and flavor. Flavor that had been stripped from most of the produce available in grocery stores today. That was just one reason he'd decided to become an organic farmer.
As for leaving the sheriff 's department? His dad was right. There were plenty of reasons to stay. He liked helping people. He liked the men and women he worked with. He didn't mind the danger that could come with the job — although real danger was rare in these parts.
But there were a number of good reasons to leave, a number of things he disliked about police work. What he hated most were the domestic dispute calls. Even in a county full of farmers, vineyards, and churchgoing folks, the deputies had to answer too many of those calls to suit Derek. Seeing the underbelly of the place he loved wasn't how he wanted to spend his life. He'd rather work the land.
The sound of car wheels crunching on gravel drifted toward him, and he turned away from the pasture. Beyond one of the sheds, he glimpsed his grandmother's car rolling to a stop. With a grin, he waved. "Hey, Gran," he called as he walked over.
His grandmother, Ruth Johnson, was a slender, spry woman in her seventies. Somewhat of an institution in Thunder Creek after more than fifty years as the wife of the town's physician, Ruth had come to the small town in western Idaho as a new bride. She and Derek's grandfather, Walter Johnson, had raised two sons and one daughter in a rambling Victorian house one block north of Main Street. Pappy had delivered most everyone Derek knew who was under the age of fifty and had set more bones and cured more fevers than anybody could count. Widowed for several years, Gran still lived in the same big house but had turned the attached doctor's offices into a tea and gift shop — a popular gathering place for the entire community.
His grandmother was out of the car by the time he drew close, and she greeted him with a kiss on one cheek, followed by a pat of her hand on the other. "How are you, dear?"
"Not working today?"
He shook his head, still smiling. "I'm always working, Gran. You know that."
"Yes, I do know that. I meant the job that pays."
"My little farm pays. Not much yet, but it pays. I didn't do too bad last year, remember? And now that I've got my organic certification, I expect to do even better." He glanced toward his fields. "I was just walking around, making some mental notes of things to do differently this season." He took hold of his grandmother's arm and steered her toward the back door of his house. "So, tell me what brought you out this way."
"Do I have to have a reason to visit my grandson?"
"Of course not," he answered — although he knew good and well she had one. He could see it in her eyes.
Inside, Gran settled onto the padded rocking chair beside the large living-room window.
"You want something cold to drink?" Derek offered.
"Oh, no need. I have a bottled water I've been sipping on." She patted her purse.
"Fair enough." He sat on the sofa and allowed her to guide their conversation wherever she wanted.
First they talked about his parents. His dad's job had transferred him from Nampa, Idaho, to Southern California over eight years before. Both his dad and mom loved living near the ocean, and ever since then they'd been after Derek to relocate too. He wasn't inclined to do so, no matter how much they raved about the great weather and ocean breezes. His roots went down too deep into the Idaho soil.
"I notice they haven't convinced you to move either," he said to Gran.
Her airy laughter filled the room "Your dad knows better than to try that with me. This is my home, and it's where I intend to stay until they bury me next to your grandfather."
"Which will be a long, long, long time from now."
"God willing." Her smile faded and she cleared her throat, clueing him in that they were finally getting around to the reason for her visit. "Have you talked to Hank McLean today?"
Derek cocked an eyebrow. "No. Why?" Hank was one of the full-time deputies with the sheriff's department and a close friend and mentor of Derek's.
"I saw Fran Tompkins at the market this morning."
Before Gran said another word, he knew what was coming next.
"She was sporting a black eye."
His gut tightened. "Sorry to hear that."
"I just wondered if Hank knew about ... about this latest event."
"Gran, there isn't anything he can do — that any of us can do — as long as Fran continues to lie about what her husband's doing. She always protects Mac. She always denies he's done anything to her."
"I know. But Hank's her cousin and a deputy. I thought maybe he —"
"I know." She sighed. "I know. If only she would confide in someone."
Derek wished the same, but before he could think of anything comforting or encouraging to say, the doorbell rang. He rose to answer it.
A FedEx driver stood on the front stoop, an envelope in hand. "You Mr. Johnson? Derek Johnson?"
"Here." He held out a small electronic device. "Need you to sign for it."CHAPTER 2
Chad was dead.
Brooklyn stared at the three-page letter from the attorney in Miami and tried to make sense of what it said in the first paragraph. The rest was still unread because the first sentences contained a revelation she could hardly wrap her head around. Chad was dead. At the age of thirty-two, Chad was dead. Something about his heart.
The sorrow that welled up inside surprised her. She'd stopped loving her husband long ago. For a while she'd even hated him. But by the time ten years of silence had rolled by, he'd become nothing to her but distant memories. And yet she ached at the news of his death. In her mind he remained the boy who'd made her feel noticed and valued and, for a while, loved. Yes, he'd broken her heart in the end. But she'd never wished him dead.
And now he was.
She didn't know how or when or why Chad had ended up in Florida. She didn't know what he'd done for a living or if he'd thought of divorcing the girl he'd eloped with, married, and then abandoned in Reno. Had he regretted never knowing his own daughter? Had he even known if the baby she'd carried was a boy or a girl? Had it mattered to him how Brooklyn had struggled to survive, first on her own, then with an infant? Had he given them any thought at all until now?
Seated nearby in Brooklyn's small apartment, Esther let out a long breath and looked up from the thick packet of papers that had accompanied the letter. Her eyes were wide. "Brooklyn, he left you a house. For Alycia."
"A house?" Confusion filled her head, like a jar filled with cotton. She stared at Esther, the letter in her hand momentarily forgotten in lieu of this new puzzle. "What do you mean, a house?"
"A house. In Idaho." Esther reviewed some wording, then held the papers toward Brooklyn. "It looks like it was his ... parents' house?"
"His parents' house." Even to herself, her voice sounded wooden, inflectionless. Unbidden, her thoughts flew across the miles. Idaho ... Thunder Creek ... A chill shivered up her spine.
Esther noted the reaction and frowned. "Do you know the house?"
Large. Beautiful. Sunny. Warm. How could she forget it?
"I know it."
Her friend and her surroundings momentarily forgotten, Brooklyn pictured Mrs. Hallston in the bright, airy kitchen, frilly curtains framing the window over the sink. She heard the woman's laughter, so full of joy. She remembered the way Mr. Hallston had taken his wife in his arms one Sunday afternoon and danced her around the kitchen as if it were a ballroom. She remembered the tenderness in his eyes.
Excerpted from You'll Think Of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher. Copyright © 2017 Robin Lee Hatcher. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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