Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

FOOTPRINTS ON HER HEART
10/11/2019 1:00:00 AM by: ANGELA BREIDENBACH

 

 

PLEASE WELCOME

ANGELA BREIDENBACH

TO

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY

EXCERPT FROM FOOTPRINTS ON HER HEART

 

Chapter One

 

 

"Are you kidding me?" Cadence Keegan pulled into parking access behind her gym, Healthy Options. She stopped behind the Missoula Fire Department engine that blocked a neighboring delivery entrance. Dumbfounded, Cadence stared at the emergency crew scrambling to save her building in the smoky air. Red lights from the ambulance, the fire engine, and the police cars flashed a macabre shadow dance in the narrow alley. She swallowed. No, it’s not possible. She closed her eyes, opened them. The nightmare of alternating lights as they revealed and hid the black maw belching out a blast of smoky dust. The last dregs of night fought against the onslaught of dawn’s first tentacles wriggling behind the mountains.

How would the gym survive yet another major setback? Cadence lowered her forehead to the steering wheel and sent up a prayer. She twisted the key killing the engine. Instead of silence, sirens. How much damage? The gym’s insurance had a huge deductible while the business account, not to mention her own, ran on fumes like a new runner with a side stitch. The television exposé decimated her membership roll. Cadence slowly shook her head. Only shock held back the tears. She set her shoulders as she stepped out of her candy apple red Outback.

A moment later, spinning lights revealed a red-faced, soot-covered, angry young girl glaring across the hood of the police car. She gulped for oxygen as her chest and shoulders heaved. Two officers flanked her, both winded from the chase as one man handcuffed and the other made sure she didn’t escape. Was that Dan?

One officer lifted the girl off the hood by her elbow and guided her to the backseat. "Let’s get her to the station away from all the smoke." He put his hand on the girl’s head as she folded into the back of the car.

Was there a flash of fear in her eyes cracking through the bravado? Cadence squinted as she stepped out of her candy-apple red Outback, but a sweep of dirty blond hair already covered the petite face. The little criminal didn’t want to be seen. Probably best with the way Cadence’s blood boiled at the moment.

Officer Dan Hicks left his partner with the delinquent and met her between the cars. "Hey, Coach Cadence."

"Hey, Dan." A stray cat caught their attention as it whipped out from between cars in a flash of dirty orange stripes and singed fur. He skid to a halt at their feet, bumping against Cadence’s shin, and then scurried away into the shadows.

"Poor kitty. Looks like that furball might need a little TLC," she blew out a long breath as she turned back toward the chaos. "Along with me and my gym." She gave him a resigned half-smile.

"I’ll call the pound. Maybe they can catch the cat and give it some help."

"I appreciate it. I hope there weren’t kittens hidden somewhere or something. There’s not much I’m going to be able to do for a while." What else could she say to one of her favorite clients? The smoking wall spanning her gym and the computer business next door said it all. Her life was in disastrous ruins. "I don’t know if the gym will be salvageable." Cadence coughed, keeping an eye out for any reporters—one in particular. The heavy smoke masked her pain. She would not cry.

"Well, if it’s any consolation, we’re booking the guilty party." He thumbed over his shoulder. "The paramedics cleared her right after we ran her down. She's a lucky kid. Her jacket caught fire so she ditched it. She’s shivering, but not hurt at all."

A scrawny girl dressed more like a boy in skinny jeans and a t-shirt. "She did all this alone?"

"According to Rembrandt, she meant to leave a masterpiece, not burn your business down. The fire department figures it started out as a misdemeanor graffiti. We found a pack of cigarettes." He plucked a pen from his pocket. "Our little miscreant claims she tossed a cigarette into her pile of spray paint on accident." He shrugged. "It’s always an accident or someone else’s fault."

"At four in the morning?" Cadence scanned the huge hole in the wall to the mound of scraped up soggy ashes. A black stream ran down the gutter carrying her hopes of a quick, painless exit. An exit from a dream that should have changed lives, not love lives.

"She could have been here for hours. The call came in at four."

"What’s a kid doing out at that time of the morning?" Cadence shook her head. Didn’t all teens want to sleep in until three in the afternoon? "How did you catch her?"

Dan pointed past the firemen rolling up a hose. "Left her footprints." He shrugged and with a hint of humor, said, "You’d be surprised at how often the trail isn’t that hard to follow. This time, it was a bit easier than most."

"How old is she, anyway? She looks like a ten-year-old."

"Not much to go on, except she calls herself Razzy. She says she wanted to paint the M from Mount Sentinel on your wall in some sort of mural. Who knows? It might have been a masterpiece."

"One I’d prefer in her art class than on my alley wall." Cadence folded her arms and shot an irritated glance at the young criminal. "Next thing you know, every other graffiti artist has to put his moniker over top the other. Where’s her mother?"

"My partner is running a check on her to find her parents." Dan shook his head. "I’m sorry this happened to you, Coach. Let me give you the info you’ll need for your insurance company and court." As he jotted down a few more notes on the police report, he said, "We've called the other business owners in the building block. But it was the computer guy," Dan pointed at the back door, "who called it in. Looks like he has some damage, too. Maybe the two of you can help each other get through this challenge. I'll keep in touch." He laid a hand on her upper arm. "Coach, don’t give up. You’re going to get through this."

"Yeah, thanks." Cadence swallowed the caustic taste in her mouth from inhaling the smokey ash mixed with chemicals and water. Smoke and ashes tasted like a bitter, dismal future. At least Dan wasn’t like the majority of her clientele since the three-part series on the seedy side of the health business. Healthy Options received hundreds of recent reviews as the place to be for the singles scene as if it were a Hip Strip bar on the other side of the Higgins Avenue Bridge. Unfortunately, the opposite scathing reviews ripping her once strong business to shreds grew as well. Did no one find out the truth before posting such nastiness?

One poor excuse for a newscaster changed the community focus of her facility without ever stepping inside Healthy Options. The video had gone viral across social media with her gym as the background footage. Footage that had been taken celebrating her first year in business. The station had stored the recording in their files six months ago. Instead of asking for a comment on a small sensational story from another part of the country, the guy wanted to make a name for himself. He'd done a voiceover on the advanced cardio class footage. The class with the most fit women, even to the point of cutting the last scan of the room showing people of varying shapes and sizes. Why wouldn't he report facts instead of making up a story for his own glory? His own glory and the detriment of all those people that lost faith in the place meant to help them. Worse, everyone believed what they saw on TV news, no matter how hard she tried to debunk it. Until all the promotion of the lie became truth.

"What else should I know, Dan?"

"The 9-1-1 call came in about four. By then, the fire had a solid head start with a few cans of spray paint and dirty rags as an accelerant. It’s a good thing your building has so much brick, except that back wall and door. Looks like the spray paint exploded against the door causing the loss of that far corner near the streetlight." He drew the scene in the air as he talked detailing the situation. "Let these guys inspect the damage before you try going inside. You might be able to remain open on limited services after a short time. I really don’t know. But the chief says the fire seems restricted to this west corner and the office, from what they’ve assessed so far. But, nothing is certain until it's all cooled down. I hate to say it, but the smoke may still have caused too much destruction. Your locker rooms might be a complete loss. Wait on any big decisions until after the safety assessment."

"Yeah." Cadence hung her head and mumbled. "Maybe it all should have gone up in flames. This on top of that lousy news story..." The fire might be a means of escape at this point. She should let the dream die. Someone would buy the land. If that paid off the debt she owed her parents, well, at least they’d have their money back.

"I’m sorry, Coach," Dan said. "I hope you don’t lose more customers over it. And for what it's worth, that story is junk."

"One more rotten story for Chad Lester to get his name out there. After that stupid one a few months ago, his grab at fame has almost put me out of business already. My serious clientele say they’ve felt ogled and invaded by looky-loos. I'm down over thirty percent." Cadence grimaced. "Even with the newbies. They stick around long enough to meet a date or decide they’ve seen them all, they’re gone, too." She shook her head at the ground. "It's more like a revolving door."

Dan smiled. "Well, you won’t lose me. You helped me keep my job. I met my physical fitness requirements and then some. John, over there, might be persuaded to join."

Where could she find about fifty more clients like him? He couldn’t have chased that kid, sitting in the back of the police car, last year. Now he planned to be on her team in the upcoming Missoula Marathon. "I’m sure glad you were referred to my gym, Dan. You’re my poster guy."

"Don’t be planning any of those pin-up calendars now." He teased.

Cadence laughed, a tad high pitched to her own ears. "But Dan, how do you suppose I’ll make the money back to fix that wall?" The humor helped, a little. The banter balancing desperation enough to stop her from going screaming down the alley like the stray cat.

Dan’s eyes widened as he snapped his fingers. "Well, if it comes to that I’ll get the department to do a fundraiser or a huge bake sale for you. Those kinds of things are good human interest stories."

"Oh, no you don’t. We cleaned up your act and got you eating vegetables and fruit. No cakewalk sugar-fest for you, mister." Cadence poked his arm. "Besides, your wife would kill you. Then you really couldn’t be on some old calendar and she’d be on a wanted poster."

"But, on the other hand, we'd get the news station—"

A throat cleared halting her mid-laugh at Dan’s faux innocence. With a small smile still on her lips, she turned to see who’d joined them. Lazy smoke gently curled around them like fog on a cold, fall morning — except it was April and almost sun up. At five-foot-seven, she estimated the bearded man to be at least six-foot-two. She’d measured, weighed, and calculated enough clients in the last several years. She ought to know the measure of a man by now. He looked like a linebacker. A light breeze blew more smoke toward them and sent shivers through Cadence along with a spasm of coughing.

Officer Dan took over, back in professional mode. "Your name, sir?"

"Jackson Campbell. I have the offices next door — Campbell Designs." He pointed at the back door blocked by equipment. The fire engine lights still spun a brilliant display between the buildings, but someone had the good sense to silence the sirens finally.

"Yes, Mr. Campbell. Sorry to have to meet under these conditions."

"Thanks." He took in the whole mess. "I called in as soon as I saw it."

Her heart swelled with gratitude. "Thank you. I think you saved the building. I might at least be able to put it on the market, after repairs." Cadence looked at the man a little closer. He had an attractive face, from what she could tell in the darkened alley. His beard and mustache trimmed close. Was it red? With the area power off and the shadows made it hard to get a clear view of him.

He lifted a hand and let it drop to his jeans. "Not fast enough, obviously. I've been on a deadline and fell asleep at my desk. The smoke alarm went off and 'bout jolted me through the roof!"

Dan began to take notes on a small pad.

He turned to Cadence. "Not the best way to meet my neighbors, is it?" His baritone voice tickled Cadence’s ears as he reached into his wallet. "Here’s my card." He handed one to each of them. "My cell is on it if you need anything."

"I'm sorry, mine was in there." She flipped a palm up toward her part of the building. With such different hours, she'd never had a chance to meet him. He’d rarely been outside as far as she knew. "Cadence Keegan." She held out a hand. As his fingers slipped across her palm, a zip of pleasure surprised her. Did he feel her pulse speed up? She glanced up at him and away quickly, a slight flush heating her cheeks as she pulled her hand back. Thank goodness for the pre-dawn cover and red lights. The excitement of the situation perked up her adrenaline, that’s all. Besides, she’d never be attracted to anyone who didn’t relish being outdoors.

"I'll give him your contact information on the report. You'll need to be in touch." Dan nodded at Cadence, and said again, "Good luck, Coach. You’ll pull through this challenge. Mr. Campbell, I'd like to ask you a few more questions." He walked away at the other officer’s signal.

"I'll be right there." Jackson turned to Cadence. "Can I ask you something?"

Here it comes. Another date invitation right here in the alley with her gym burned down. Wouldn’t that be the cream in the coffee she still hadn’t had this morning? Timing is everything. The last thirty or so men managed to tell her how different she was from anyone they’d ever known. Emphasis on ever. As if she were the only physically fit woman in the world. If only she’d been asked out by one eligible and genuine bachelor. Not One-Night-Neals with the same pickup line or Married-Martyrs who thought workout gear was synonymous with women looking for a good time.

She waved a hand through the air drawing his attention to the surrounding scene. Did he dare? "Why not?" Cadence wasn’t so sure there could be another good man like her mom found in Joel. Mom wanted the beauty of what she had for all three of her children. Mom believed in love and second chances. No. Men like that existed in the older generations, not after the long list of lemons Cadence could count after that story broke. Hooking up seemed normal to people. But those who didn’t want that scene, like her, seemed like an old-fashioned oddity in a traveling circus. What Mom believed, and what existed now, they were two different worlds.

Jackson tucked a hand in his jean pocket. "I was thinking about joining your gym. You’re a walking advertisement for it." His expression, serious and concerned. "Do you offer personal training?"

Great, another guy and his ego. Cadence knew what he meant. He meant a Barbie-doll figure, laughing at all his jokes, and standing in the aisle between the cardio and free weights to flirt while other clients squeezed through in irritation. Don’t roll your eyes at him. "Feel free to come by later and I’ll let you know if we can open again." At least he had a redeeming quality. He’d called the fire department.

He smiled. "I will. I want to get in shape so I can climb a mountain. A dream really. Kind of seems dumb right now considering all this." He took a deep breath. "I mean I design the game to do things like that virtually." He looked away from her as if embarrassed. "Never mind. Sorry. Not the time."

Maybe she’d jumped to conclusions. He wasn’t focused on her figure. Jackson stared at the mountain peak as if waiting for the sunrise. As if he’d rather be up there watching it break into freedom. "No, it's okay. What else are we going to do while they're... doing whatever they have to do."

Cadence walked with him to lean against the hood of her car, drawing her sweat jacket around her. "Seriously, tell me what you're thinking." She kept watch on the emergency crews as he talked, taking in the calm confidence he exuded and letting the rich sound of his voice soothe her.

"I see you walk past my studio and go into the gym every day. That dedication is inspiring." He crossed his feet and settled a hip against the side of the SUV next to hers. "I've always dreamed of conquering the famous mountains in real life. I never thought it was possible, until you."

Where was the sun? The inky black night gave way to a gradient of early morning orangey-pink fading into navy. This had to be the slowest sunrise in the history of mankind. She wanted a good look at his face. Did he really want to climb mountains or was it the most honest pickup line she’d heard yet? She glanced sideways and found herself drawn into his vivid blue eyes as the sun crested Mount Jumbo’s peak. If it was a line, he had a good hook.

ABOUT FOOTPRINTS ON HER HEART (A NOVELLA IN THE OUT OF THEIR ELEMENT COLLECTION


For fans of A Healing Heart, Footprints On Her Heart features an all grown up Cadence Keegan in her own love story. She's a fitness coach thrown into an impromptu relationship with Jackson Campbell, a computer whiz and game designer, when a troubled girl causes a fire damaging both businesses. After the teen delinquent is ordered into restitution work, Cadence and Jackson are brought face-to-face with a choice between individual dreams and a future together. Can love overcome all their obstacles or will her heart be trampled?
 

ABOUT ANGELA BREIDENBACH

Angela’s books:

Bio:  Angela Breidenbach is a radio personality, bestselling author, and is nearly finished with her genealogical studies degree. She's the president of the Christian Authors Network supporting the careers of Christian authors. Angela was recently awarded Outstanding Broadcasting from the Daughters of the American Revolution for producing and hosting a documentary called, Daughters of the American Revolution: A Patriotic Education at state, Pacific NW Regional, and national levels. 5x5 Productions manages Angela's screenwriting to Hollywood while Tamela Hancock Murray represents Angela's books. Hobbies? Writer has trained her Muse, a fe-lion, to shake hands, roll over, and jump through a hoop. Surprisingly, Angie can also. All social media AngBreidenbach, http://AngelaBreidenbach.com

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest: @AngBreidenbach

Apple Podcasts/iTunes: Lit Up With Angela Breidenbach https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/lit-up/id1232892304?mt=2

Angela's A-Muse-ing Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/n0s2t2

https://angelabreidenbach.com/

 

 

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12/7/2018 1:00:00 AM  by: Mary Vee

RETURN TO WALHALLA
11/30/2018 1:00:00 AM  by: LAURA HODGES POOLE

HOMELESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
11/16/2018 1:00:00 AM  by: PeggySue Wells and Marsha Wright

HAIR CALAMITIES AND HOT CASH
11/9/2018 10:55:00 AM  by: GAIL PALLOTTA

MEET ME IN GALVESTON
10/26/2018 1:00:00 AM  by: ANDREA BOESHAAR

HARVEST OF BLESSINGS
10/19/2018 1:05:00 AM  by: JUNE FOSTER

MEET JENNIFER SLATTERY
10/5/2018 1:05:00 AM  by: Jennifer Slattery

He Passes By
6/15/2018 8:50:00 PM  by: Linda Wood Rondeau

Bryan's Homecoming
6/8/2018 1:11:00 AM  by: Linda Wood Rondeau

EMERGENCE
6/1/2018 1:31:00 AM  by: Linda Wood Rondeau

Antiquainted Man
5/11/2018 1:06:00 AM  by: LINDA WOOD RONDEAU

SOMETHING NEW
5/4/2018 11:23:00 AM  by: LINDA WOOD RONDEAU