Though the June sun warmed Nadia Maguire's face, she shivered, then tilted her head upward to the lofty oaks. Why weren't the birds chattering? The deadly quiet surrounding the immaculate grounds of Oak Mountain Memorial Cemetery tied her stomach into thorny barbs.
If not for Jon's name, etched into the granite headstone, she'd deny her husband had been laid to rest six months prior. He'd played tennis, jogged every weekend, and belonged to every social club in town. Then he was gone.
A gentle breeze pulled a strand of hair into Nadia’s face. She tucked it behind her ear, unable to relish in the sunny days of her favorite season. At least she wouldn't have to face her active third graders for the next three months.
The granite structure marking Jon's grave stood as a lonely reminder of his final day on earth. The day last December when the phone rang and the Oak Mountain chief of police grimly told her Jon was dead. He hadn't survived a one-car accident shortly after midnight.
Before the uncomfortable memories could continue to bully her mind, she rose from the concrete bench and took the four steps toward the grave. She knelt and traced the imprinted words with her finger. Husband to Nadia. Loving father to David. Active in civic affairs.
Active all right. Jon belonged to every charitable organization in town and spent almost every night at meetings. He gave of himself to everyone. To everyone but her and David.
A blackbird squawked in the elm tree overhead sending a shiver to her spine. When the Sons of the South, one of Jon's clubs, provided the headstone, she hadn't thought about the epitaph. If they'd asked her, she would've offered a different message. Though their contribution alleviated a small part of the funeral cost, the rest depleted her savings.
Nadia lifted her gaze skyward to the puffy, white clouds floating above. If only she'd had a marriage like Mama and Daddy.
She flicked away the tear. Not from grief but of frustration. She should miss him. She didn't.
Six months hadn't been enough time. "I promise, Lord. I will forgive him. Help me in my bitterness," Nadia whispered.
Talking to God brought perspective. She rose, stepped backward a few steps, eyes on the imposing head stone, and lowered to the seat she'd occupied only moments ago.
"Oh, pardon me." A man said.
Instead of the cold stone, her body met the firm, warm flesh of another. Nadia shrieked and jumped up, twirling around to see whose lap she'd sat on.
A tall, muscular man with light blue eyes and graying salt and pepper hair bolted from his perch on the bench.
Nadia's shaking hand gripped the base of her throat. "I'm so sorry. Visiting my husband's grave. Thought I was alone."
"No, please forgive me." The handsome man ran a hand through his short hair. "My wife's grave is over there." He pointed to the left. "I was lost in my memories."
Though Nadia's cheeks burned hot, the man's kind expression said he understood. "The fault is mine."
The middle-aged guy, a light covering of whiskers on his face, shuffled from one foot to the other. Then he chuckled. "Actually, I can't complain. It's not every day a good-looking woman sits on my lap."
Whoa. Was this guy flirting with her? Well, she wanted nothing to do with it. Or maybe he was merely trying to make light of the situation.
He stuck out his hand. "I'm Jared Abrams." He nodded to the grave marker several plots down from Jon's. "My wife's been dead four years now. I try to visit her once every week or so."
"Nadia Maguire." She shook his hand. This time the summer sun delivered comfortable warmth to her skin. "I'm so sorry. How did you lose her?"
"She died of cervical cancer. When we discovered the disease, it was too late. My two daughters still struggle with their mother's absence. Especially my oldest, Sarah. She's never come to terms with Grace's death." He scratched the back of his neck. "What about you? How long has your husband been gone?"
"He died last year." Saying the words only reminded her once more of the horrific day.
"I hope he didn't suffer as Grace did." His light blue eyes shined with compassion. A trait Jon had never possessed.
"No." Nadia glanced to Jon's gravestone again. "An auto accident." She wouldn't mention the report the coroner provided indicating the evidence of alcohol in her husband's bloodstream. Enough to declare him intoxicated.
"Yeah." Jared didn't know the half of it. "My son, David, had a hard time like your daughter. He's in the army stationed in Germany now. I think the distance helps soothe the wounds." She turned toward her car. "I need to get going. I'm in the middle of doing some home repairs." In reality, attempting to figure out which project she had the means to tackle—after years of Jon's neglect. And his lies about where he'd been—and the misrepresentations of their monetary situation. She pasted a smile on her face.
"Hope to see you the next time we visit the graveyard." His laugh seemed to echo through the surrounding trees.
Part of her twisted heart unraveled as she memorized Jared's handsome face. A man who spoke of his daughter with such concern, a man who visited his wife every week. She straightened her shoulders and made her way to the parking lot to her ten-year-old Toyota. Another disappointment. Jon had promised to get her a better car, but he never did, and he controlled their finances.
She opened the passenger door then allowed her gaze to travel over the car to the man kneeling beside the grave marker. If she ever took a chance on someone again, he would be like she imagined Jared to be.
She plopped down into the driver's seat and gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white. Maybe Jared wasn't as nice as he seemed. Maybe he was an egotist like Jon.
June Foster is an award-winning author who began her writing career in an RV roaming around the USA with her husband, Joe. She brags about visiting a location before it becomes the setting in her contemporary romances. June's characters find themselves in precarious circumstances where only God can offer redemption and ultimately freedom. Find June at junefoster.com.
If there's one thing Nadia Maguire knows, Jon Maguire robbed her of a godly marriage and left her in financial ruin. The night he was killed in an accident, guilt threatened to suffocate her. She wasn't sorry he died.
When Nadia accidentally sits on a stranger's lap in the graveyard where Jon is buried, she's horrified to learn the good-looking guy with salt and pepper hair is her new boss.
Jared Abrams is a widower who longs to move on. He's intrigued by the beautiful woman who puts God first in her life. But as their friendship grows, an unexpected obstacle separates them—his daughter Sarah. No one can replace her mother. Especially not Nadia Maguire whose son harmed her in high school.
If Nadia can't find the funds to get her house ready to sell, she'll have to balance two jobs with no time left to nurture a relationship with the man she loves. Will she and Jared find a Harvest of Blessings, or a season of drought?
SPRINKLED WITH SABOTAGE
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THE SLEUTH'S SURPRISE SPECIAL ONCORE POST
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LEAF ME ALONE
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WHEN HEARTS ENTWINE
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RED LETTER DAY
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THE LOST COAST
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3/13/2020 1:00:00 AM by: ERIN UNGER
OUT OF THE EMBERS
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THE STORY BEHIND OFF THE GROUND
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AN UNEXPECTED FAMILY
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WHEN VALLEYS BLOOM AGAIN
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IN AN INSTANT
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THE PURPOSE REVEALED
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THREE FRENCH HENS
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11/15/2019 1:00:00 AM by: DEBRA COLEMAN JETER
11/8/2019 1:00:00 AM by: LINSEY BRACKETT
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FOOTPRINTS ON HER HEART
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THE MASTER'S PLAN
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SONG OF SUGAR SANDS
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AND THEN BLOOMS LOVE
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AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE
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You Asked for It
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RETURN TO WALHALLA
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MEET JENNIFER SLATTERY
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He Passes By
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