Loyalty"Returns the female detective to the heart of the hard-boiled tradition." - Sara Paretsky
Debbie Macomber, author of the “irresistibly delicious and addictive” (Publishers Weekly) Cedar Cove series, is one of today’s leading voices in women’s fiction. Success, however, didn’t come easily. The dyslexic mother of four wrote her early books at the kitchen table on a rented typewriter, never imagining that she would once day become a regular on every major bestseller list with more than 100 million copies of her books in print. Her first novel, Heartsong, was the first romance to be reviewed by Publishers Weekly. She parlayed her love for knitting into such beloved hits as The Shop on Blossom Street ,/i>and A Good Yarn, where she could express the concerns, emotions and values of women with empathy and humor. Macomber and her husband are the parents of four children and grandparents of nine.
Angels at the Table
“This is really Earth?” Will, the apprentice angel, asked, lying on his stomach on a low- ?ying cloud with his three mentors. His eyes widened as he gazed down on the crazed activity below.
“This is Earth,” Mercy informed their young charge with a tinge of pride. For all its problems, Earth was a fascinating place to visit, with the tall buildings that butted up against the sky and people milling about with such purpose, most of them unaware of the spiritual world that surrounded them. More times than she could remember Mercy had lost patience with humans. Those who were considered the apex of God’s creations appeared to be slow- witted and spiritually dull. Yet she loved them and treasured her Earthly assignments.
“It’s New York,” Shirley added, resting her chin in her hands as she gazed longingly below. “Oh, I do so love this city.” “Manhattan, to be more precise,” Goodness clarified and ended with a little sigh, indicating that she, too, had missed visiting Earth.
The four hovered near Times Square, watching the clamoring crowds jockeying for space on New Year’s Eve.
Will’s eyes widened as he intently studied the scene taking place in the streets below. “Is it always like this— so busy and crowded, I mean?”
“No, no, this is a special night. The people are gathering together to usher in the New Year.” Time was a concept reserved for Earth. In heaven it was much different. Consequently, the time restriction placed on the three Prayer Ambassadors when given Earthly assignments had caused more than one problem.
“Did Gabriel want us— ”
“Gabriel,” Shirley gasped, and quickly cut him off. “He doesn’t exactly know that we’ve brought you here. It would probably be best if you didn’t mention this short visit to him, okay?”
“Yes, please, it would be best not to let anyone know we’ve shown you Earth.” It went without saying they’d be in all kinds of trouble if Gabriel learned what they’d been up to.
“Gabriel means well but he tends to get a little prickly about these things,” Goodness explained to their young charge. “Why is that?” Will stared at all three of them.
“Well, you see, we . . . the three of us . . . thought we should give you a bird’s- eye view of Earth and these people God loves so much— strictly for training purposes.” Mercy looked to her friends to expound upon their intentions, which were honorable if not a tad bit sneaky.
This Earthly visitation had been a spur- of- the- moment decision. Mercy had been the one to suggest it. Naturally, Goodness was quick to agree, and after some discussion Shirley had seen the light as well.
Will, an apprentice angel, had been placed under their charge, and given this honor, it was only right that he get a glimpse of the trials and tribulations that awaited him once he started working as a Prayer Ambassador. The job could be a bit tricky, and the more Will understood the idiosyncrasies of humans, the better he would do once given an assignment from Gabriel.
Mercy was certain that under their tutorship, Will would make a ?ne Prayer Ambassador one day. He was young and enthusiastic, eager to learn about Earth and the role he would play.
As Mercy, who had falsely been labeled a troublemaker, had pointed out, theirs was a duty that required serious dedication. She wasn’t alone in believing this.
He’s never far from my thoughts— not a day passes when he isn’t with me—but he hasn’t been in my dreams until now. It’s ironic, I suppose, that he should leave me, because before I close my eyes I fantasize about what it would feel like to have his arms wrapped around me. As I drift off to sleep I pretend that my head is resting on his shoulder. Unfortunately, I will never have the chance to be with my husband again, at least not in this lifetime.
Until last night, if I did happen to dream of Paul, those dreams were long forgotten by the time I woke. This dream, however, stayed with me, lingering in my mind, filling me with equal parts sadness and joy.
When I first learned that Paul had been killed, the grief had been all- consuming, and I didn’t think I would be able to go on. Yet life continues to move forward, and so have I, dragging from one day into the next until I found I could breathe normally.
I’m in my new home now, the bed- and- breakfast I bought less than a month ago on the Kitsap Peninsula in a cozy town on the water called Cedar Cove. I decided to name it Rose Harbor Inn. “Rose” for Paul Rose, my husband of less than a year; the man I will always love and for whom I will grieve for whatever remains of my own life. “Harbor” for the place I have set my anchor as the storms of loss batter me.
How melodramatic that sounds, and yet there’s no other way to say it. Although I am alive, functioning normally, at times I feel half dead. How Paul would hate hearing me say that, but it’s true. I died with Paul last April on some mountainside in a country half a world away as he fought for our nation’s security.
Life as I knew it was over in the space of a single heartbeat. My future as I dreamed it would be was stolen from me.
All the advice given to those who grieve said I should wait a year before making any major decisions. My friends told me I would regret quitting my job, leaving my Seattle home, and moving to a strange town.
What they didn’t understand was that I found no comfort in familiarity, no joy in routine. Because I valued their opinion, I gave it six months. In that time nothing helped, nothing changed. More and more I felt the urge to get away, to start life anew, certain that then and only then would I find peace, and this horrendous ache inside me ease.
I started my search for a new life on the Internet, looking in a number of areas, all across the United States. The surprise was finding exactly what I wanted in my own backyard.
The town of Cedar Cove sits on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle. It’s a navy town, situated directly across from the Bremerton shipyard. The minute I found a property listing for this charming bed- and- breakfast that was up for sale, my heart started to beat at an accelerated rate. Me own a bed- and- breakfast? I hadn’t thought to take over a business, but instinctively I realized I would need something to fill my time. As a bonus, a confirmation I’d always enjoyed having guests.
With its wraparound porch and incredible view of the cove, the house was breathtaking. In another life I could imagine Paul and me sitting on the porch after dinner, sipping hot coffee and discussing our day, our dreams. Surely the photograph posted on the Internet had been taken by a professional who’d cleverly masked its flaws. Nothing, it seemed, could be this perfect.
–noun A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning.1 I am often reminded of the power of words. In my office I have a number of author autographs lining the wall of my stairwell. Mark Twain. Harper Lee. Charles Dickens. Ernest Hemingway. Harriet Beecher Stowe. These writers are my mentors. As a young woman I read and cherished their stories. They remind me of my responsibility as a writer of fiction and most recently in my venture into the world of nonfiction. Indeed there is tremendous power in words. Pearl S. Buck’s novel The Good Earth actually changed foreign policy between the United States and China. When President Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he is reported to have said, “So you’re the little woman who caused the great war.” The definition I’ve given takes one of the most potent elements of communication—the word—and makes it sound almost innocuous. Yes, words have tremendous power. So much meaning can be packed into a word. In the book Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life, Dr. Dennis Hensley tells the story of how one perfect word changed a life.
In my capacity as a professor of English at Taylor University Fort Wayne, I teach a survey course in world literature that students of all majors are assigned to take as part of their liberal-arts requirements. A few years ago, I met Sean, a junior and wrestling-squad member who was majoring in elementary education. Sean had a shaved bullet head, legs like fire hydrants, a back that could put Atlas to shame, and biceps that looked like the drawing on boxes of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. This guy was tough Sean enjoyed sports, and he excelled at weightlifting and track-and-field events such as discus and hammer throwing. However, he wasn’t overly keen on literature. I knew quickly I’d have my work cut out in making him an admirer of Keats, Shakespeare, Dante, and Melville. I modified Sean’s reading list for that semester to include high-seas adventures by Jack London, mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and military works by Rudyard Kipling. We met in my office once each week to discuss the books and short stories, and I constantly praised Sean’s ability to recognize symbolism, foreshadowing, flashbacks, and other elements of literary expressions that I had lectured about in class.
As the semester advanced, so did Sean’s grades. He had started as a C student, then rose to the B level. As I showed the class how the applications of literary analysis could help them better appreciate plays and movies, they all became more and more eager to get to class each day. Sean started sitting in the front row, taking copious notes, and I continued to compliment him on his diligence and studiousness.
I’ve got the backbone of a worm,” Lacey Lancaster muttered as she let herself into her apartment. She tossed her mail onto an end table and glared at Cleo. “I didn’t say a word to Mr. Sullivan, not a single word.”
Cleo, her Abyssinian cat, affectionately wove her golden-brown body between Lacey’s ankles. Her long tail coiled around Lacey’s calf like a feather boa, soft, sleek, and soothing.
“I had the perfect opportunity to ask for a raise and did I do it?” Lacey demanded, kicking her feet so that her shoes sailed in opposite directions. “Oh, no, I let it pass by. And do you know why?”
Cleo apparently didn’t. Lacey took off her bright green vinyl raincoat, opened the closet door, and shoved it inside. “Because I’m a coward, that’s why.”
Walking into the kitchen, she opened the refrigerator and stuck her head inside, rooting out some sorry looking leftovers, two boxes of take-out Chinese, and the tulip bulbs she’d meant to plant in her balcony flower box last October.
“I’m starved.” She opened the vegetable bin and took out a limp stalk of celery. “You know my problem, don’t you?”
Cleo meowed and wove her way between Lacey’s ankles once more.
“Oh, sorry. You’re probably hungry too.” Lacey reached inside the cupboard and pulled out a can of gourmet cat food. To her surprise, Cleo didn’t show the least bit of interest. Instead, she raised her tail and stuck her rear end in the air.
“What’s going on with you? Trust me, Cleo, this isn’t the time to go all weird on me. I need to talk.” Taking her celery stick with her, she moved into the living room and fell onto the love seat.
“I work and slave and put in all kinds of overtime without pay, I might add—and for what? Mr. Sullivan doesn’t appreciate me. Yet it’s my decorating ideas he uses. The worst part is, he doesn’t even bother to give me the credit.” She chomped off the end of the celery and chewed with a vengeance. The stalk teetered from the attack and then slowly curved downward.
Lacey studied the celery. “This might as well be my backbone,” she muttered. Unable to sit still any longer, she paced her compact living room. “I haven’t had a raise in the whole year I’ve worked for him, and in that time I’ve taken on much more responsibility and completed projects Mr. Sullivan couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Good grief, if it weren’t for me, Mr. Sullivan wouldn’t know what was going on in his own business.” By this time she was breathless and irate. “I do more work than he does, and he’s the owner, for heaven’s sake!”
Clearly Cleo agreed, because she let out a low, wailing moan. Lacey had never owned a cat before, but after a devastating divorce she’d needed someone. Or some thing. The thing had turned out to be Cleo.
She’d first spotted Cleo in a pet-shop window, looking forlorn. Cleo’s brother and sister had been sold two weeks earlier, and Cleo was all alone. Abandoned, the half-grown kitten gazed, dejected and miserable, onto the world that passed her by.
One PRESENTS, PEOPLE, AND ONE MORE LIST An Unfinished Guest List THERE'S A STORY that goes something like this: A woman arrived at the gates of heaven to be met by St. Peter. "You may first want to join the others at the throne," he said to her, "and then greet those you loved on earth. But when you are ready, I'll take you on a tour of heaven." When the time came for her tour, she could hardly take it all in. It reminded her a little of her earthly home, but she could see that earth had only been a pale shadow of what she was seeing now. They explored every nook and cranny of heaven—waterfalls, fields of flowers, exquisite buildings, and streets of gold. As the tour drew to an end, she noticed one massive door they had not yet explored. A gold padlock secured it. "What's in that room?" she asked. "You don't want to see that room," St. Peter said, steering her away from it. "It's only a storeroom." "But I do. May I see inside? I want to see every bit of heaven." St. Peter didn't answer. Instead he took a large key out of his pocket, put it in the lock, and turned it. The tumblers clicked and the padlock opened. He took the lock off and opened the door. The woman had to blink several times to take it all in. Inside the cavernous room were stacks and stacks of gifts, wrapped in all the colors of the rainbow and tied with all the colors of heaven. She clapped her hands with delight. "Is this where you store presents for everyone in heaven?" "No. These gifts are not for heaven, they were meant for earth." "What do you mean 'were'?" She walked through the stacks and came to a pile marked with her name. "Look, these gifts are for me." She fingered the paper and ribbons. "May I open them?" "No. You don't need them now." St. Peter put a hand on her shoulder, guiding her toward the door. "But if I don't need them now, does that mean I needed them on earth?" She couldn't take her eyes off the pile. To think she would never get to enjoy all those beautifully wrapped gifts. He nodded his head. "Yes, you needed them on earth." She looked around the room, realizing that there must have been millions of gifts. Maybe more, since she couldn't see an end to the room. "Why weren't my gifts sent to me on earth?" As she looked closer, she could read names on all the gifts. "Not just my gifts; why haven't any of these gifts been sent?" St. Peter sighed. "You don't understand. Every one of them was sent." Moving his arm in an arc that encompassed the whole room, he said, "All of these and more. These are the ones that were returned unopened." He moved her toward the door. "Many people on earth don't recognize God's gifts and fail to open them." I love gifts—both giving and receiving. When I first heard this story, I wondered if there was any truth to the parable. Had God sent gifts to me that I hadn't opened?
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