Authors: Amy Lillard
Tags: #Christian General Fiction
Saving Gideon, Digital Edition
Based on Print Edition
Copyright © 2012 by Amy Lillard
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Published by B&H Publishing Group
Dewey Decimal Classification: F
Subject Heading: AMISH—FICTION \ LOVE STORIES \ SELF-ESTEEM—FICTION
The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.
To my mama, Pat Essary, an eight-year (and counting!) breast cancer survivor. God is good.
book is not written by the author alone. So much goes into the creative process. There are almost too many people to name, but I’m gonna try.
Thank you, first and foremost, to my agent, Mary Sue Seymour, for truly without your guidance (and twisting my arm behind my back) this story would have never come to be.
Thanks to my editors, the Julies, for their tireless work and seeing Gideon’s potential even through my love of passive voice.
Kudos to my family for listening to my endless story ideas without pleading a migraine, even though I know most times you wanted to. I love you guys!
And to my husband and son for eating pizza, hamburgers, and whatever was in the cabinet when “Mommy has a book due.” You are the best!
I must give a shout-out to my “writer friends”: AJ Nuest, Sarah Grimm, Arial Burnz, Karen Crane, and Laura Marie Altom, for the endless support and choruses of “You can do this!” Y’all mean the world to me.
And the biggest thank-you of all to God, for giving me this story, the focus to get it on paper, and the means to see it through. This book is proof positive that with God all things are possible.
he rain turned slowly into snow. The change happened so gradually that Avery Ann Hamilton hardly noticed until the slushy drops had built up on the blades of her windshield wipers.
As if being in this backwoods part of Oklahoma weren’t enough. First the rain . . . and now she had to deal with snow.
And slick roads.
And . . . heartbreak.
She should have stayed in Dallas, but no. Instead, she had wanted to surprise her fiancé by showing up in the Sooner State where he was scoping out land for on-location shoots. She would surprise him and tell him that he had won. She’d caved. He had begged her to elope to Vegas with him, but she had been holding out for the big wedding: long, white dress; horse-drawn carriage; and doves released at sunset.
But in the middle of a fund-raiser she was attending with her father, it hit her:
What was she waiting for?
A year was a long time. She loved Jack, and he loved her. There was no reason to wait. If he wanted to get married in Vegas, then that’s what they would do. Now. Tonight. No carriage, no doves.
Without stopping to change clothes, she hopped on the last flight between Dallas and Tulsa, rented the first car she could get, and drove to neighboring Clover Ridge. The town boasted only four hotels, so she had no problem spotting her own Mercedes—loaned to Jack for this trip—sitting off to one side.
She parked next to it, stepped up to the unlocked motel room door, pulled it open, and saw . . .
Enough to know that Jack had used her. Enough to know that he had never really loved her, and enough to know that he—like everyone else—had used her for her father’s money.
Poor, little rich girl.
Avery turned the heater up a notch and dashed back her tears. At least she had her car back. Not that it mattered. But Jack had taken so much from her; he wasn’t about to get that too. No sense feeling sorry for herself. What was done was done, and she was beginning to accept the hardest part of all: She would never find true love, someone who’d love
—not her father’s money.
She had thought Jack was that person. Dashing Jack with his Hollywood good looks and writer’s intelligence. He had swept into her life, made her laugh, told her she was beautiful—he’d done everything right.
Right down to conning her.
She could see it clearly now. She had been played by a master, an actor who wanted to make it big, who needed funding for his movie. A man who needed her father’s money but never really needed her.
She shouldn’t be crying, she told herself as the tears trickled down her face. She should be used to this kind of treatment by now.
A low-pitched whine came from the passenger seat. Avery glanced over. As if sensing her distress, Louie V., her sweet little Yorkie, cried out his own despair. Avery smiled through her tears and risked stroking sweet little baby’s back before returning both hands to the wheel. She loved Louie. Probably more than a sane person should love her dog, but she didn’t care.
was one male she could always depend on.
The snow was falling harder now, harder than the tears she fought. All she wanted was to get back to Dallas and forget that this weekend—and Jack—had ever happened.
“Turn right,” the disembodied voice of her GPS system dryly intoned. “Last exit before road ends, point four miles.”
“Now you tell me.” Avery peered through her tears and the snow, and into total darkness. No street lights, no billboard signs, just country and snow and black.
“I don’t see it. You see anything, Lou-Lou?”
Louie V. let out a yappy staccato of a bark.
“Turn right,” the computerized voice said again. “Road ends, point two miles.”
Road ends? How could the road just end? And where was her turn?
Orange and white barricades blocked what remained of the roadway. Avery spotted a poorly marked exit and veered right onto the alternate route.
“Going south, southeast. Two hundred and sixty-three miles to destination.”
She looked to be on some back country road, miles from anything save a few old farmhouses. That was the thing about a navigational system—a person had to trust it to get where they were going. And that’s all she could do at this point—trust it to get her there.
Swirling white flakes relentlessly spiraled toward the ground with a surprising single-mindedness, but maybe further south, the snow would ease up. She could hope.
For now all she wanted was to be home, in her bed, with the covers pulled over her head and the servants on red alert to steer clear. Maybe then she could start the healing and the accepting that she was going to go through life as an old maid. Oh sure, they called it “bachelorette” these days, but it was just a euphemism for “couldn’t find a man.”
How ironic. Every need fulfilled except for the one she really wanted—to be married and have babies. She wanted to go to school plays and well-baby appointments, to baseball games and driving lessons. And she wanted a husband who shared her dream, a man who would work side by side with her to build a family and a home.
But she would never have that. Her father’s money would always get in the way.
It didn’t matter. It was a hopelessly old-fashioned fantasy. June Cleaver meets
Little House on the Prairie
. But it was her fantasy. Her dream. And she would tuck it away, tell it to no one, and go about her life of being a “bachelorette.”
Avery turned up the wipers, leaned forward, and squinted through the window. The pavement had long ago given away to gravel. If she pulled off the road, who knew what she would pull onto? Or how long she could stay there without causing an accident herself.
“Next turn, sixteen-point-two miles.”
She jumped at the sound of the GPS voice, and pulled the wheel to the left. The car slid, hydroplaning in the mud and slush, then tottered to the edge of an incline. She didn’t have time to breathe before the car teetered, then rolled, flipping over and over and over again.
A strangled cry escaped her lips as she slammed against the driver’s door. Her seat belt stayed in place, while she lurched in the other direction, the arm rest and gear-shift lever jamming her side. She discovered a million other sharp angles in her car that she had never noticed before.
After an eternity, the car stopped. Surely bruises had begun to form. She was shaken and tired and heartbroken.
And her head hurt. Really, really bad.
She took a deep breath, but the pain had seeped into her very being. Louie whined and cautiously scrambled into her lap. The accident had thrown him, bag and all, to the floorboard, but he looked like he’d managed to come through his wild tumble without injury. He licked Avery’s fingers, and she gave him a half-hearted scratch behind his ears.
Could have been worse. Much worse
. She winced as she tried to retrieve his bag, the motion draining the last of her strength. She needed to get out and assess the damage, but right now she couldn’t keep her eyes open. She wanted to rest. Just for a minute or two.
She laid her head against the steering wheel, aware for only a brief moment that the action set her horn to blaring through the cold, snowy night.
he Oklahoma sun spilled golden rays across the pasture. It was a beautiful day, the kind only found in the wild month of May. The sky was impossibly blue, the birds chirped from the tops of trees covered in new foliage. Across the pasture, the newborn lambs called out to their mothers in soft bleating sighs. Everything was perfect.
He surveyed the land and felt a satisfaction he had never felt before. Not a prideful feeling. No, that wasn’t proper. But a sense of peace and well-being that he hadn’t felt in some time. He stroked his beard and smiled. All was right with the world. He had it all: a beautiful family, a profitable farm, and a God who saw fit to bless them all. It seemed to take him half the day to count his blessings. Even for that he was grateful.
As quickly as those thoughts flitted in and out of his head, the sky turned to an angry gray. Storm rolling in—and Green Country storms were nothing to scoff at. He needed to get the animals to safety before the worst of it hit.
He looked around, that presence of peace escaping him. Where were Jamie and Miriam? He needed them. He needed them to go down to the lower pasture and make sure the lambs were sheltered. Make sure they weren’t too close to the raging stream.
He looked up and saw them, his wife and son, struggling with the trunk of a dead tree. What were they doing? Didn’t they know the tree was dead? The animals needed their help.
Then it hit him.
He’d been here before.
This was his chance. A second chance. He needed to stop them. Before it was too late. This time it wasn’t about saving the sheep, but saving them . . . his family.
He ran across the pasture toward them, his words ripped from his throat by the swirling wind.
Go back! Leave it alone! You’re too close to the edge!
But he couldn’t run fast enough. He couldn’t scream over a whisper. His throat tightened, and he watched in horror, anguish washing over him as he saw them fall toward the rushing waters.
Gideon Fisher bolted upright. His body trembled. Sweat poured off him.
He’d had the dream again. How many times in the last eleven months had he had that dream? More than he could count. More than he wanted to count.
Even with his eyes open, he saw them still. Every night he dreamed he could save them. Every night he failed.
He pushed himself out of bed, wincing as his bare feet hit the chilly floor. The fire must have gone out.
A cold front had moved in, bringing with it a howling wind and swirling snow. It was unusual, but not unheard of, to have such a storm early in April. Even in Oklahoma. It would spell bad news for the farmers. The delicate shoots of hay and alfalfa would be burned by the cold. The tender peach trees just now budding and flowering in promise of fruit would be ruined. A snow this late in the year would mean no pecans, few apples, and even fewer strawberries.
Not that he had anything planted.
He shuffled into the kitchen and stoked the fire. The bright orange embers spat in feeble protest before they sparked back to life. Gideon threw another log on top of the pile of glowing ash, then cocked his head.
A far-off wail captured his attention. The constant drone reminded him of the tornado siren tests the city ran every Wednesday to make sure the equipment worked properly. But they never ran the tests in the dead of night. And it wasn’t Wednesday.
It sounded like . . . well, it sounded like a car horn.