Needing to finish her thesis in order to keep her job working with youth in a residential treatment center, Shana Arnold sequesters herself on Creighton Rice’s Nebraska ranch. She expects the secluded hideaway to provide a peaceful environment. What she doesn't expect is to become the victim of identity theft and a crazed home invader.
Creighton Rice has been content to live alone with his God--until he meets Shana. He's drawn to her, but must fight the attraction. Getting close makes him face a lifetime's accumulation of scars. Plus, Shana doesn’t share his faith. But when Shana's life is threatened, Creighton must protect her--even if it means letting her in.
Will Shana discover that even when a woman loses everything, she can regain courage and strength through faith in God, and can Creighton allow God to heal scars and open the door to a lifetime with Shana?
I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.—Psalm 121:1-2
A lilting soprano voice jolted him back to his childhood, and drew him like the legendary Lorelei. Chill bumps rose on his arms. The sensation rendered him as speechless as Shana’s kiss had the day before.
Creighton wound his way through the trees into the open, and stood transfixed when he spied the subject of his thoughts. An open hymnal was balanced on her upraised knees. Notes soared pure and light as Shana sang the lyrics to his mother’s favorite song.
God was surely present in this place. He closed his eyes and listened to Shana continue all the way through to the fourth verse. Shana lifted her chin. Her face glowed.
His heart picked up its pace, and his cheeks grew warm. Were there tears clogging his throat? Something he was slow to name filled his soul.
Then it came to him as Shana rose to her feet. Humbled. She’d humbled him.
God had given him a gift in this dark haired sprite who offered her friendship. And he had been too obtuse to appreciate its magnitude. Creighton’s feet remained in place as though they were stuck in a mucky feedlot.
“Hi.” She closed the gap between. “Is something wrong?”
“That song,” his voice rasped like a cornhusk. Creighton cleared his throat and tried again, “It’s my mom’s favorite. I grew up with her singing, especially when she pinned the sheets out on the clothesline to dry in the wind.”
Shana hugged the hymnal close. With a comical scrunched up face, she asked, “Did I slaughter it? I sight read the notes.”
“Not at all. It was beautiful. Your voice is lovely.”
“Thanks. I don’t sing much anymore.”
“Well, here’s your chance to use it. Come to church with me in the morning?”
The sky glowed pink and purple. While orange streaks danced along the horizon, he waited for her answer.
“Creighton, I left my business clothes in Lincoln. I only brought country clothes back with me.”
“No problem. We’re casual. But Rita has things up at the house.”
Reflections of the sun turned her cheek golden. “You’re right! She offered them to me. Guess I forgot.”
“So, do you want to check them out now?”
“Why not? Don’t think I have a hot date or anything.”
Creighton didn’t want to think of Shana dating. Instead, he nodded at the hymnal. “That belonged to my mom. She had one in almost every room of the house.”
“Did she sing in the choir or something?”
“Actually, she played the church organ.” He reached out his hand. “Here, let me carry that.”
Creighton tucked the old volume underneath his arm and wrapped his fingers around Shana’s hand.
She gave a secretive woman’s smile that tugged deep at his midsection.
They strolled through the brush strokes of sunset. A burst of reflected gold painted the clouds rosy pink in the east. The majestic sky squelched any more words.
At the ranch house, he laid the hymnal on the counter and ran his hand up to the light switch in one smooth movement.
“Rita tell you which room was hers?”
“Second on the other side of the bathroom.”
“Help yourself.” He entered the living area and turned on two lamps. “Since I didn’t feed you yesterday, I’ll rustle up something to eat.”
She turned down the hall.
How long would he be able to keep his dark side from Shana?
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I read this over a couple of days on holiday. Quite appropriate as the heroine leaves a busy city for a country retreat where there is hardly anything for miles. I immediately fell in love with Shana and Creighton and the situation they both find themselves in. Creighton is a rancher, so what is there not to love about him. And he has just enough of a shady past to match his rugged looks and enough of a flawed nature to make him human. And Shana too, petite, can handle herself to a degree, but isn't afraid to ask for help when she needs it.
Can't recommend this one high enough. Definitely one to curl up with as the nights draw in. Or sit on the beach with. Depending which side of the world you're on ;-)
I got a review copy in return for an honest review
Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself?
“My name is Creighton Rice and I don’t like talking about myself much.”
“Now, just a moment. You are talented and interesting, and I liked you even before we met.”
“Thanks, Shana Arnold. But my sister has a big mouth to tell you so much about me.”
Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there?
“I live on the ranch where I grew up. Not much of a ranch any more but I like to be by myself and so do the people who stay in my cabins.”
“And Creighton, you’ve made me feel more at home there than my place in Lincoln.”
“You can stay as long as you like.”
What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know
“Don’t know if you’d call it a quirk, but I did something when I was a wild kid that I know God forgave, even though it still makes me sick to my stomach. I know what you’re going to say before you do, Shana.”
“Just sayin’ … That incident and all people involved turned out fine. You’re an unselfish, genuine man who shows compassion for others, which says a lot compared to the way I grew up as a spoiled daddy’s girl who didn’t start to grow up until I left home.”
“Take a breath, woman.” Creighton gives her a side hug and she hands him back a flirty grin of promise.
Name two things you would hate people to know about you.
Creighton scrubs a hand over his face. “I think my brother Thomas hates me for being born first.”
“You didn’t do a thing to bring that on. Thomas will come around. At least you haven’t been a pampered ninny who jumps at every new night sound.”
“I promise not to give away your notorious background.”
Shana jabs him in the ribs, but lightly.
Creighton’s face tenses up. “I’m an alcoholic. The new people I meet don’t need to hear what I was like as a young man.”
“And I don’t want any of my young clients to know I never lived under conditions similar to where they’ve come from. My home life was so opposite from adverse environments that they’d wonder how in the world I could possibly help any of them.”
Tell us about your special lady. What makes her special?
A deep chuckle rumbles from Creighton. “Oh, my sweet Shana reeled me in as soon as I laid eyes on her. Such a city girl out of her element when she first came to stay. But strength overrode her vulnerability.”
“I did balk at your protective gene.” Shana squares her shoulders and slants a smile. “But I love the idea you put my needs first.”
The first time you saw her, what did you think? Did you like her immediately, or did she have to grow on you?
They look at one another, gesturing for the other to speak first.
“You started this, big guy. Go for it.”
Creighton gives her a one-arm hug. “Okay, I’ll go first for the rest of this thing. I remember thinking my sister forgot to tell me Shana had freckles. And her blue-green eyes pulled me right in. She looked tiny to me, and lost. I wanted to save her from the world. But she proved to be feisty. Too big for her britches.”
“Feisty, my eye. And speaking of eyes, I felt I knew you already because of how your sis talked about you. Then we met and I thought your hazel eyes and everything about you fit the place you live. But I will admit I didn’t know which to explore first, you or your ranch.”
“And now you love us both.”
“I do, Creighton. And everything else about you.”
What is your favourite thing to eat and drink?
“I’m simple. Meat and potatoes. Coffee or water. Shana here, forgets to eat so I have to prod her about that.”
She slants him a frown that turns into a delightful smile.
If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why?
“Hammer or screwdriver.”
“Hairspray or bug spray. Right in the eyes.”
Pepsi or coke
“Is there a difference?”
Shana tucks her hair behind her ear, licks her lips. “Something clear, such as sparkling water.”
tea or coffee
“Coffee, hands down.”
“Hot chocolate. It reminds me of my first night in the cabin.”
elephant or tiger
“What kind of question is that? I’m a horse man. At least I was.”
“Your four-wheeler is like an elephant. But you walk through the land like a tiger.”
“You are such a sweet thing. What animal for you?”
“I’d have to do a search and compare characteristics. But I don’t have time because I’m preparing to meet a young girl who keeps running away from foster care.”
roast dinner or burger and chips (fries for our US readers)
“Hands down, three-quarter pound Angus burger and fries.”
“Mmm. Roast. You impressed me so with that crock-pot stew. A man who cooks is divine.”
classical music or pop
“Only one kind. Country.”
“Now Creighton. You love hymns like your mom played.”
“I could listen to you sing hymns all day long.”
“I try.” She leans her head against his arm and leaves it there. “I used to answer that question as classical. But I’ve learned nothing compares to the music of nature.”
sunrise or sunset
“Sunrise. What better way to meet the day?”
“Sunset. That’s closer to the time I end the day in my love’s arms.”
walk or run
“If a guy runs, how can he see what God’s prepared for the day?”
“I love to meander over the healing hills, but I’ve been known to run into the arms of my love.”
chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers)
“What guy doesn’t like chips? The spicier the better.”
She sits up and gives Creighton a mock glare. “Not if you’re expecting a long kiss. I’m a girl. Give me chocolate any time of the day or night.”
They end the interview with a sweet kiss.
LoRee Peery is a lifelong Nebraskan who thanks her mother for teaching her to read when she was four. LoRee has devoured books ever since. She and her husband have tackled some interesting projects over the course of their married life. For one, they built the home they live in with their own hands. They used to want more acres further away from city life, but one day LoRee realized they had their “greener on the other side of the fence” already. All it took was removing the hedge made of trees and bushes.
She feels grounded in her sense of place and considers it a blessing to have lived most of her life in the country. She is also blessed to have five children and eleven grandchildren. www.loreepeery.com
Her Frivolities Series and other publications are available at Pelican Book Group