Love Afloat - Danika Sutherland is fulfilling a lifelong dream, a cruise to the Holy Land. Little does she Know that friends have conspired to send Calder Nevyn, a man whom Danika admires from afar, on the same cruise. And she certainly isn't prepared for Calder's own secret! Can they overcome the obstacles that threaten to overcome their growing love before it even sets sail?
Miracle on Beale Street - Miranda Gonzales and Tony Mullins have been tricked! Knowing that the two had clashed over a mysterions event years earlier, their spunky grandmothers plot to reunite them during a dream vacation in Memphis. Reluctantly surrendering to the wiles of their beloved mentors, Miranda and Tony must face the dark shadows of the past and conquer them once and for all.
Read an Excerpt
A Single's Honeymoon
FOR SALE: Exotic ten-day honeymoon. Unused. Cheap.
In the kitchen of her small house in east York, Pennsylvania, Shiloh Morris ping-ponged a glare between the brief ad in that evening’s York Dispatch and her nonflashing answering machine. Why hadn’t anybody called? Why wouldn’t anyone put her out of her misery?
She’d listed her honeymoon the day after Reginald Rodger jilted her. Although he’d paid for the trip up front, during his breakup phone call he’d "generously" offered her the proceeds of the sale to make up for the trouble and expense his defection would cause. And there had been expenses—for her parents. The hall, the florists, and the caterers had insisted on nonrefundable partial payments. She’d thought she could unload the painful reminder of their failed engagement easily. But here she was, three weeks later, and she’d yet to receive a single call about the dumb thing.
The phone didn’t ring, but the doorbell did.
Shiloh sighed. She flirted with the thought of sneaking out her back door, but that would only add to her nightly visitors’ worries. "Hi, Aunt Tibby, Mrs. Appelt."
A pair of white-haired ladies, one tall and heavy, the other short and spry, stepped inside and made a beeline for the kitchen, triumphantly bearing their offerings for the day. "How are you doing, honey?" asked Shiloh’s great-aunt, the shorter of the two.
You don’t really want to know, Shiloh thought, so she answered, "Fine. It’s been a lovely spring day, after all."
Her guests exchanged knowing looks. "No calls on the honeymoon, then."
Aggravated, Shiloh forced a smile. "No . . . not yet. But it hasn’t been that long. Someone will call soon."
She remembered when she and Reg had agreed on the trip six months earlier. They’d been so sure nothing would go wrong. Hah! How sure could Reg have been if he’d called the whole thing off a couple of months later?
Once the startling news spread, everyone had tried to comfort Shiloh. They were still at it.
"And it was such an interesting trip you children booked," lamented Aunt Tibby’s friend, removing her lime green hat, matching chiffon scarf, and spring coat. "To such an . . . unusual place. So earthy, so lush, so primitive."
Shiloh nodded absently. Why had Reg called the whole thing off anyway? She still didn’t know what had gone wrong. A tear prickled her eyelid, and she blinked.
"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Aunt Tibby. "Look what you did, Cora. You made her cry again."
"Did not. I just tried to comfort her," Cora fired back.
Shiloh waved. "It’s OK. I’m OK."
But she was not. She couldn’t forget the bubble of joy that had buoyed her up when Reg had asked her to marry him and she’d said yes. Knowing someone wanted you for the rest of your life was such a treasure, a blessing.
Then Reg had taken the blessing away—without an explanation.
"Here you go, sweetheart," Aunt Tibby said, interrupting Shiloh’s thoughts. A serving of meat loaf, scalloped potatoes, and green beans with ham, plus a box of tissues, appeared before her.
Cora dropped silverware by the plate. "Food always makes you feel better."
Shiloh looked at the two dears, knowing they meant well, but their efforts only made her more miserable. "Ah . . . doesn’t your reading group meet tonight?"
Cora gasped. "You can’t expect us to abandon you."
"I don’t want you to give up something that means so much to you, not on my account. Besides, I signed up for that Potters for Charity class."
Her visitors glanced at each other, hope in their eyes. "Terrific idea," said Aunt Tibby. "Artists are so fascinating."
"Mm-hmm," added Cora. "And it’s a good place for a nice twenty-six-year-old young lady to meet a new man."
"I have no interest in meeting a new man," Shiloh said quickly. "I want to learn to throw pots and raise money for the women’s and children’s shelter downtown."
The two exchanged yet another look. "Fine, dear, you do that," Aunt Tibby said. "We’ll go to our group." Suddenly they couldn’t put their pastel coats on fast enough.
"And tell us all about your potter—," Cora began.
"Hush," Aunt Tibby hissed, shoving her friend toward the front door. "What Cora means is for you to call us if you need anything. Anything at all. And we’ll have tomorrow’s chicken potpie for you at the usual time."
"Thanks, but I’m not an invalid. I can cook!"
Aunt Tibby shook her head mournfully. "You are an invalid. You’re recovering from unwanted heart surgery. You have to concentrate on mending that broken heart." She offered her soft, powdered cheek for a kiss, and Shiloh obliged.
"But you don’t have to cook," Shiloh protested.
"We’ll be here with supper. You be here with an appetite. For a change."
They breezed out, leaving Shiloh winded and dizzy. Not only did she have a supper she didn’t want—again—but she was late for her pottery lesson. And to make things worse, she was haunted again by the thoughts that had troubled her since that day. Thoughts that brought back the crushing disappointment and confusion of the breakup. Thoughts that led to questions with no answers, that roared to life with every person’s attempt to comfort her.
It was that sympathy Shiloh wanted to avoid, so she’d crammed more activities into her already packed schedule. Stuff like extra shifts at the hospital and the pottery class she was late for. A pottery class for women only.
A week later, when the phone rang after she’d tired of playing with her lovingly catered dinner, Shiloh leaped for it. "Yes?"
"Where are you?" her best friend, Carrie Kenner, asked. "I have lots of babies and only two arms. I thought you’d signed up to work the nursery with me tonight."
That’s when Shiloh knew she really was losing her mind. "I did, and I will. I just got home and . . . forgot. Sorry. Be right there."
Wednesday nights, their church offered various programs after the regular prayer service. Shiloh and Carrie had met in the nursery three years ago and had become the closest of friends since then. She’d even been in Carrie’s wedding last summer. Usually Shiloh loved the nursery, but since the debacle with Reg, she’d avoided the babies. They brought to mind the ones she might have had.
"Oh, honestly," she muttered to herself as she grabbed her umbrella. "Get a grip!"
With the strict order fresh in her mind, she drove to the church, hoping that since she was so late, she’d avoid the pitying looks, the cotton-ball treatment. She couldn’t handle much more of that.
Running into the room full of toys and kids, Shiloh said, "Sorry, sorry! I don’t know what’s wrong with my head these days. How could I forget? I’m the one who offered to take over the nursery when the Mannings were transferred to Oregon last September."
Grinning, flame-haired Carrie offered, "You know what’s wrong. Reg’s little announcement has made you nuts. Even more than usual."
Picking up the whimpering Kern baby, Shiloh collapsed into one of the cushioned rockers. "Yeah, well, I have to get over that. And soon. I just wish I knew what went wrong."
Carrie looked down at a Lego skyscraper on the floor. "I tried to warn you months ago that something wasn’t right. I suggested you seek the Father’s will for your marriage. You assured me that you had before you guys bought the ring last July, and that you believed Reg was the man God meant for you. But I had my doubts."
"I guess your doubts were right," Shiloh conceded. "I wish I would have listened. Just what kind of doubts did you have?"
Carrie said slowly, "Let me answer with some questions. How much time did you spend together? You know, to share feelings, thoughts, beliefs, dreams?"
"When we first met two years ago, a lot. Then, the Harrisburg Police Department promoted Reg to detective, and I was offered more shifts at the hospital. We got busy, so we didn’t spend as much time together. But we talked a lot on the phone!"
Carrie rolled her eyes. "Could that work insanity have been the main attraction? Could that busyness be what eventually pulled you two apart?"
Unsure of what to answer, Shiloh shrugged and put her sleeping armful in one of the nursery cribs. Then she sat down next to Stephanie Mimms, a dainty two-year-old who was working on a puzzle.
Without waiting for Shiloh to answer, Carrie continued, "I think it’s time for you to rethink your career. You’ve been so consumed by your work that you were probably too exhausted to notice that your engagement was going nowhere. Maybe Reg’s breakup call was actually a wake-up call—from God."
"Listen. You have to get away," Carrie said earnestly. "To think. And pray. Go where you won’t have any distractions. Just you, your Bible, and God."
"You’re right," Shiloh said, as her friend’s words struck a chord in her heart. "I do need to spend extra time in the Word. To check out what God has to say about commitments . . . love . . . marriage."
"Sounds like a plan to me. But do yourself a favor. Take time off from the hospital. I know what you do saves lives, but you’re running on empty."
A wail from Stephanie—and the subsequent tossing of a puzzle piece across the room—momentarily ended their conversation. Gathering the tired child into her lap, Shiloh rocked her, crooning a lullaby.
When the child quieted, Shiloh told Carrie, "You do have a point. I feel I have to help whenever I can." She shrugged. "So, yeah, I take other nurses’ shifts when they can’t come in."
Just then Maggie Mimms opened the nursery door. "How’d she do?"
Stephanie leaped out of Shiloh’s arms and lunged for her mom. Shiloh smiled. "Great. She’s a sweetie, and tired. She’ll be asleep before you’re out of the parking lot."
As she grabbed her daughter’s diaper bag, Maggie gave Shiloh that pitying look Shiloh hated. "It’s too bad things didn’t work out. You’re going to be a wonderful mother some day. You just have to find the right guy."
With the ease of routine, Maggie settled Stephanie onto one hip, the bag on the opposite shoulder, then opened the door again. "You know," she said slowly, "my Artie has a second cousin who’d be just right for you."
Carrie flew out of her rocker and hurried the woman out. "Thanks, Maggie. We’ll keep that in mind. See ya."
Shiloh dropped her head into her hands. "It’s like my dog died, and everyone wants to give me a brand-new puppy!"
"You’re nuts, you know?" Carrie said, with a sparkle in her chocolate-colored eyes.
"I’m serious. This is ridiculous. How can I sort out my feelings when everyone tells me I’m heartbroken and then pushes me to find another man? I don’t want to think about another man, much less find one."
"Hey, you’re right. You have more important things to think about right now than another guy. Things you need to pray about."
Shiloh stood and began putting away the toys. "I hear you. I just don’t know when I’m going to find the time."
"You can’t put God on hold," Carrie insisted. "And you can’t expect to stay in York and have time to think. Not with your family—"
"Tell me about it! Did I tell you Aunt Tibby’s latest?"
Knowing Shiloh’s great-aunt, Carrie shook her head warily.
"I told you I was going to wear a disguise when I returned my wedding dress. And boy, am I glad Renaissance Bridals was willing to take it back since I hadn’t needed it altered. Anyway, I didn’t want anyone to see me hauling the dress back."
"Well, guess who was strolling down Market Street after leaving the York Historical Society just as I got to Renaissance?"
"Yeah," Shiloh muttered. "And she even saw through my disguise!"
Now Carrie laughed. Hard. "Hey, I warned you that the dark gray trench coat, the 1950s chiffon scarf, and the reclusive-film-star sunglasses—in 88 degree weather—weren’t going to work."
The door to the nursery opened, and Shiloh handed the sleeping Kern baby to his dad. "So?" she asked when they were gone, "what am I supposed to do? It’s easier to lose a fiancé than a family."
"That’s what I’ve been saying," Carrie said, growing serious. "You have to get out of town. Give yourself time with the Lord. Seek his guidance. If for no other reason than to make sure you don’t make the same mistake—whatever it was—in the future."
"But where would I go?"
"You figure that out. All I’m saying is that even tough ol’ Gary Cooper had the sense to leave town in High Noon when things got hot. Things are hot for you, and you can’t think around here."
Shiloh snorted. "Figures you’d drag up one of your old movies sooner or later. But guess what? You’re wrong. Coop came back to face the music. That’s what I’m trying to do."
"You want music? Try Professor Harold Hill, the Music Man himself. He got in trouble, and his first thought was flight. Go for it. Why not get out of town? Maybe like Leslie Caron in Father Goose, you’ll find the perfect man in the most unlikely home-away-from-home."
"Thanks a lot. You want me marooned on a desert island during an upcoming World War III? World War II happened to Leslie, if you’ll remember. Here I thought you were my friend."
"Go home," Carrie said, laughing. "Trust God; he’s always faithful. He’ll show you what’s best and at the right time."
From within the confusion and jumbled feelings, Shiloh felt a spurt of thanksgiving for her friend. "Thanks for listening."
"And telling it like it is," Carrie added. "Now go to bed."
Later, at home, Shiloh thought about their conversation as she brushed her teeth. Was Carrie right? Had Shiloh—and Reg—been too busy with and exhausted by their careers to see what was happening to their relationship?
There’s only one way to know, she concluded. God will show me. In his time. As she snuggled under crisp linens, a tear rolled down her cheek and dropped onto the pillow.
"Shiloh Morris to room 12. Stat!"
It had been a crazy day in York Hospital’s Emergency Room. What else was new? Shiloh ran to answer her page.
As she dashed into the room, two orderlies wheeled in a teenage girl on a stretcher. As Shiloh scrubbed, she listened to the doctor’s evaluation of the X ray. A broken femur.
"Hi, Shiloh," said Marcy, another nurse, as she took Shiloh’s place at the sink.
"Haven’t seen you for a while."
"I went to my sister’s wedding in New Hampshire. Just got back."
Wincing inwardly even though it was now almost two months since Reg had jilted her, Shiloh went to the patient’s right side, next to Dr. Andrea Howard. Marcy took the left.
"How was your sister’s wedding?" Andrea asked Marcy as she measured a length of fiberglass for the cast.
Shiloh bit her bottom lip.
Then Marcy glanced at her. "How are you doing, Shiloh, now that you and Reg have broken up?"
"I’m fine," Shiloh answered through gritted teeth, then tuned out the rest of their conversation about weddings and marriage. She’d go crazy if she didn’t. And to make things worse, she still hadn’t received a single call on that stupid honeymoon. The tickets were like an albatross hanging around her neck—especially since her wedding would have been this coming Saturday, and she and Reg would have flown to Venezuela Sunday morning. What was she going to do?
"What about your honeymoon?" asked Marcy, breaking into Shiloh’s thoughts. "It sounded perfect and romantic and peaceful. Boy, I’d be mad if I had to give it up because a guy dumped me."
"That’s it!" Shiloh exclaimed, drawing every eye in the room with her unexpected outburst. "I’m taking my honeymoon. But it’s going to be a single’s honeymoon. No men. Just me, the monkeys, and the macaws."
She and Reg had chosen this place, a former explorer’s-base-campcum-hotel near the base of Angel Fall in the Venezuelan rain forest, for its privacy, exotic beauty, and lack of people. The place, according to the black-and-white mimeographed brochure she’d received in response to her inquiry, boasted of only ten small casitas, or thatched- roofed stucco cabins, and was located some distance from the nearest village—through jungle.
The brochure also proclaimed the accommodations to be a haven of rest, proudly announcing its lack of glitz and frantic activity found at many honeymoon and vacation destinations. She and Reg hadn’t wanted a resort. They’d decided to start their marriage in the simplicity offered by the plain casitas and the slower pace of the tropical rain forest.
Shiloh was sure the hotel would provide exactly the retreat she needed to ponder what had gone wrong in her personal life and her relationship with Reg, to seek God, and to discern how he wanted her to pursue her calling to the nursing profession.
She smiled. "What better place than a jungle for solitude, nature’s bounty, and the absence of men?"
As Shiloh settled into her coach-class airline seat Sunday morning, she questioned her sanity. Again.
After all, honeymoons were supposed to be for couples seeking privacy and serenity, but she was still single. And this flight to Caracas certainly wasn’t peaceful. Not only was it chock-full of infants, but also, to her dismay, a band of teens was in the process of trooping in. They laughed, they bickered, and the earphones uniformly attached to their heads blared music loud enough for everyone on the plane to share—even if they didn’t want to.
She held her breath, hoping none of them had been assigned the empty seat beside her.
With a whoosh, she released her breath as a man about her age, maybe in his late twenties, popped open the overhead luggage bin that contained her own suitcase and a large case of medicines she was taking to missionaries. He crammed in a jacket, an oversized camera bag, and a big plastic case that looked like a first-aid kit. Placing a briefcase under his seat, he then sat next to her.
Shiloh watched him fiddle with his seat belt, noting his large, well-kept hands. They looked strong and capable—as did he.
With broad shoulders and a six-feet-plus height, her traveling companion exuded a strength and competence that surprised her. Few people she’d met came across with such . . . presence.
"Hi," he said, green eyes crinkling with his smile.
Shiloh blushed. Good grief! He’d caught her staring. "Uh . . . hi."
"I’m Mark Walker." He stuck a hand out.
Curious to see what kind of shake that sturdy hand would give, Shiloh clasped Mark’s fingers . . . and felt a warm current run up her arm. He even shook hands with confidence.
"I’m Shiloh Morris," she squeaked out, her voice ridiculously breathless.
"Is Caracas your destination? Or are you continuing to Bolivia?" Mark asked.
She nodded, then shook her head. What was wrong with her? Had Reg’s jilting stolen her ability to talk with an attractive man? "Yes. I’m going to Caracas," she finally got out.
"Business or pleasure?"
"Hmm," she said, not sure whether her single’s honeymoon qualified as a purely pleasurable vacation. She did have business with her heavenly Father. "Both."
"Well, make sure you take time to visit the interior. The Llano, Venezuela’s prairie, is stunning. The Andes’s peaks are spectacular—and so is Angel Fall."
Not knowing how much she should share with a stranger, Shiloh murmured a noncommittal "So I’ve heard."
As she picked up the novel she’d brought along for the flight, she could feel Mark’s gaze on her for a minute. Then he dove for the briefcase under his seat and surfaced with a folder stuffed with varicolored papers. "Hope we have a good flight," he said. "Tons to catch up on."
The plane glided off with unexpected smoothness, and before long, the captain turned off the mandatory seat-belt lights. Then, almost as if invited, the noisy teens swarmed to Mark’s side.
Shiloh groaned. With feeling.
She’d never had a problem with children, teens, or anyone of any age. But right now she craved relaxation—a chance to release all the tension that had built inside her since the breakup.
Today didn’t promise any hope of serenity.
"Hey, man!" a boy with bleached white hair and jet black brows said to Mark. "Has anybody, like . . . done any work on the building yet?"
"Who cares?" asked a petite brunette. "What matters is that we get to go shopping."
The statuesque Nordic blonde beside her frowned. "Do you think a case of mosquito repellent will be enough?"
A handsome African-American male with intricate braids shot back, "For the whole Marine Corps."
That was just the beginning.
During the long hours that followed, a torrent of kids flooded past Mark’s seat. Shiloh heard chatter ranging from the subject of life at school to the joy of doing what’s truly right for those who need the help—this from a plump partridge of a girl—to a red-corkscrew-tressed string bean’s comments about Venezuela. "This is waaay cool, man," he said, fiery coils bouncing. "It’s a whole different world. And I’m gonna be there."
Shiloh heartily agreed with that statement. From what she’d read, the Venezuelan rain forest was a different world. One where the strident confusion of modern society hadn’t yet reached. At least that’s what she hoped.
As the conflicting rock recordings and the wails of infants escalated around her, Shiloh tried to shut out the commotion. The jungle would be even more appealing after this flight. She really needed this vacation. She had some serious praying to do, and she wanted no distractions.
Especially none like the intriguing, attractive teen-shepherd, Mark Walker.
Table of Contents
|"A Single's Honeymoon"||1|
|"Miracle On Beale Street"||209|