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Could she love a man who had once almost killed her?
The day new Christian, Derek Spencer, shows up on Charlie Parkes’s doorstep to make up for what he’d done, is the very day he falls in love with her. But Charlie’s sister mistakes him for a home improvement contractor, and he decides to play along until he finds a way to reveal who he really is.
Charlie is attracted to Derek, but knows the attention he pays her is only flattery. How could such a great-looking guy fall for someone with a face like hers? Nevertheless, the two form a relationship that brings a joy to Charlie that’s way beyond her wildest dreams.
But what will happen when Derek’s true identity is revealed?
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Copyright 2015 © Deborah M. Piccurelli
Derek Spencer grasped the steering wheel of his SUV with one hand, while searching for the address scribbled on the scrap of paper he held in the other.
Would she be willing to see him? The decision to come forward had been tough, but necessary to his peace of mind and his spiritual well-being. He wanted to make things right with Charlotte Parkes.
Spotting the house, he slowed down and pulled into the driveway. He sat in the car and stared at the small brick rancher, trying to perceive the character of the woman who lived inside. The neatly mowed lawn resembled a rich green carpet, and colorful flower beds lined the perimeter of the house. Cheerful drapes adorned the inside of the picture window in front, inviting him to exit the car and ring the doorbell. He accepted the invitation and bounded up the walk.
Barely three seconds passed when the door was torn open and an attractive young woman with a profusion of curly red hair reached out and pulled him in by the arm.
“Finally. You were supposed to be here an hour ago. What happened? Traffic jam on Route 356?”
“I…” He scratched his head. Did she know him?
“Forget it. You’re here, now. Though I’m not sure your lateness speaks well of you. If you want a job, you must be prompt.”
“But…” What on earth was she talking about?
“Shall we begin? My sister is waiting in the other room.” She strolled away, motioning for him to follow.
Having no other alternative, he complied. At least he had gotten through the door.
As they passed through the living room and dining room, Derek studied his surroundings. The place was neat, clean, and comfortable-looking. The living room set was made up of odd pieces of furniture put together in such a way it gave the illusion they were made especially to be a part of this grouping.
When he entered the kitchen, he recognized Charlotte Parkes from her picture in the newspaper. With her porcelain-smooth skin and shiny auburn hair, she looked like an angel. Engrossed in squirting colored icing through a tube onto a layer cake, she hadn’t yet noticed him.
“Charlie, the contractor’s here.” Her sister jerked a thumb in his direction.
Charlotte put down the decorating tool, turned full face, and smiled. “Hello, I’m Charlotte, but you can call me Charlie.” She extended one hand and touched the side of her face with the other.
Nothing prepared him for what he saw.
A flesh-colored road map scarred the left side of Charlie’s face. Her eye slanted down on the outer end, pulled into that position by the tightness of the flesh. The corner of her mouth tilted up into a perpetual half-smile. The photo in the newspaper had been taken before the accident.
How he despised himself at that very moment for his responsibility in what had happened to this once-beautiful woman.
He composed himself and obligingly took the offered hand.
“And this is my sister, Jessica,” she continued, “whom I see you’ve already met.”
“Glad to meet you both.” With difficulty, he tore his eyes away from Charlie to glance at the other woman. “I’m Derek Spencer.”
He stood looking from one to the other, at a loss for words. His throat squeezed closed. This was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do in his life. How to begin? Taking a deep breath, he dove in, “You don’t know who I am, but I’m here for a specific reason.”
Charlie furrowed her brow at him. “Of course you’re here for a specific reason. We did ask you to come.”
“Huh?” He didn’t get it, and tried again. “What I mean is…”
“Oh, let’s cut to the chase and stop this yammering,” interrupted Jessica. “Char, we have an appointment to keep, or have you forgotten?”
She checked her watch. “Yes, you’re right, Jess.” Turning to Derek she said, “I suppose you should take a look at what we’d like done.”
“Done? I don’t . . .” He stopped. Hmm. Maybe I should play this out. Derek nodded. It could provide a lead-in as to his real reason for being there.
Charlie rose from the table. “This way.” Her movements were graceful as he followed. The light glinted off her long, touchable hair.
As he passed Jessica, she shot him a purse-lipped, slit-eyed look, then fell in behind him. Did she suspect something or just dislike his staring at her sister?
They had gone back through the dining and living rooms to a small hallway where there were two doors. Charlie opened one, revealing a long set of stairs leading to the basement and began the descent. At the bottom of the steps, Derek stopped and perused the room.
“This is it.” Charlie spread her arms to encompass the entire basement. “I’d like it made into a studio.”
“I see.” He really didn’t. Remodeling wasn’t his area of expertise. He looked around, as if evaluating what would be needed for the job. “What kind of a studio will it be?”
“A dance studio.” Charlie shrugged, as if that should have been obvious. “Ballet, specifically. I’m going to teach.”
“I see,” he repeated. Only this time he told the truth. She had once been a ballet dancer on her way to the top, before her career was so cruelly brought to a halt. The local newspapers had depicted the whole tragic story.
“Tell me what you would like done while I write it down.” He dug into his pocket and produced the notepad he always carried, a requirement of working for a magazine.
Charlie pointed out the need for hardwood flooring, floor length mirrors lining the walls, along with exercise barres in front, and a separate entrance so that her students wouldn’t have to go tramping through her home and then take the steep stairs down.
“Okay.” He finished the list with an embellishment. “I’d like to come back with my partner, so he can see firsthand what we’d be doing before giving you an estimate. Would you be agreeable to that?”
Her gray eyes narrowed slightly, and she frowned. “I…guess so.”
“Good. I’ll call you to set up a convenient time.”
She peered at him warily. “Okay. Do you have a card?”
Uh-oh. “Um . . .” He feigned feeling around in his pockets. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any with me. As you can see, I’m not dressed for an average day of work.” He indicated the fine suit he wore. “I’ve come here straight from a personal appointment. I don’t even have my truck.”
“Oh, so that explains your lateness,” piped up Jessica.
He’d forgotten she was there. She’d hung back, standing on the stairs, leaning over the railing.
She didn’t look as though she believed him.
“I’ll be in touch very shortly. You can count on it.” He strode out as if he were in a relay race.
Derek jumped into the car, breathing heavily and stared at the steering wheel.
“Spencer, what have you gotten yourself into?” He started the engine and drove off.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After years of reading books and watching movies with an element of romance, Deborah M. Piccurelli’s desire to write romance novels came naturally. She is active in her church and is an advocate for sanctity of life. Deborah is the author of two novels and several cause-related newspaper articles. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers. As one of the winners in a contest by The Christian Authors Show, details of Deborah’s writing journey can be found in the 2013-2014 edition of the book, 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading.Deborah lives in New Jersey with her husband and their two sons.