By Claire Sanders
$3.99 eBook/$13.99 print
A SHAMEFUL SECRET
Jenna Ryan has a secret she plans to take to the grave, but the arrival of Matt Watson on her doorstep threatens to reveal that secret. There’s no way Jenna will fulfill Matt’s request, because doing so would threaten the fragile world she’s built.
A DUTY TO FULFILL
Matt Watson grew up idolizing his uncle. But as he endeavors to fulfill his uncle’s last request, Matt reveals a secret he wishes he’d never uncovered. How can a man Matt idolized have committed such an appalling act?
THE CAPTIVE BIRD
Jenna Ryan has created a safe haven in the north Georgia town of Walnut Hill. The victim of a devastating crime, she’s established a new life where she’s loved and admired. But her house of cards will crash around her unless she does the one thing she thinks is impossible – forgive the man who hurt her.
Copyright 2013 © Claire Sanders
Matt Watson drove through the autumn-hued foothills of northern Georgia with one question pressing on his mind like an ever-tightening vice. Of all the people his Uncle Frank had known, why did he want to see Jenna Ryan?
She’d been the kid sister of Frank’s first wife and by his own admission, Frank hadn’t seen her for fifteen years. She was all but a stranger. So what business could Frank possibly have with her?
Not that Matt was in any position to question Frank’s dying wish. The image of Frank’s gaunt body under the white sheets of the hospital bed bit at Matt’s heart. Matt had seen death before, but he’d never seen someone he loved inching his way toward the inevitable. Cancer crept through his uncle’s body like crabs on a dead fish, but despite Matt’s years of medical training, all he could do was help Frank’s doctor manage the pain.
“Welcome to Walnut Hill,” the sign at the city limits proclaimed. “The home of southern charm.”
Matt had heard of the town, one of the many places in north Georgia that lured visitors from Atlanta with promises of cozy inns and home-style meals, but he’d never treated himself to the luxury of time to visit the area.
Golden leaves flew from beneath his wheels as he drove along the orderly streets and indulged his interest in southern architecture. On one corner sat a white Charleston single house, its gallery painted a contrasting bright blue. Another block yielded an antebellum structure with a flying staircase leading to what was once the bachelor’s quarters. The citizens of Walnut Hill obviously treasured their history. Even the newer houses featured period doors and windows. The whole town was a throwback to the time when southern ladies ruled their neighborhoods with white gloves and lemonade.
Jenna’s house turned out to be the type of raised, two-story, Victorian cottage common to small southern towns. A wide porch wrapped around three sides of her white, clapboard house, and multi-paned windows fronted the lower story. Two stone chimneys bracketed opposite ends of the roof and a white picket fence bordered the spacious, well-manicured lawn. Everything about her place spoke of security and warmth, of lazy Sunday dinners with family, and warm summer evenings with friends.
Matt parked on the street, got out of his car, and stretched. Maybe he should’ve called first. He paused at the gate, rehearsing what he’d say when she answered the door.
“Hi, it’s been fifteen years since we last met and I’m sure you don’t remember me, but my dying uncle wants to see you.”
“Hello, I’m the nephew of your sister’s ex-husband and I was in the neighborhood, so I…”
“Good afternoon. I’m here to ask if you have a relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
As if he was qualified to ask such a question.
At that moment, a woman stood up from behind a bed of tall flowers. Although her back was to Matt, the honey-colored hair tumbling down her back matched his memory. Even though Jenna was no longer the annoying twelve-year-old who’d peppered him with nonstop questions and followed him like a stalker, Matt hadn’t thought to envision how she’d look now.
The woman turned and caught a glimpse of him, then walked slowly toward the gate. “Hello,” she called as she pulled off her gloves and gathered her hair into a ponytail. “I bet you’re looking for the Morrison’s house.”
Time had frozen Jenna’s face in Matt’s memory, but the beautiful woman approaching him bore little resemblance to the girl he recalled. A smattering of freckles danced across her nose. Large, hazel-green eyes took him in as a genial smile produced one dimple in her left cheek, giving her face a distinctive, off-center appeal.
“My address is 30 Maple Hill Lane,” she continued. “The Morrisons live at 30 Maple Street. People are always showing up at my house by mistake.”
She was tall and slender with gentle curves in all the right places. When Matt didn’t respond, her smile faltered under arched eyebrows. “Are you looking for the Morrisons?”
So pesky, skinny Jenna Ryan had grown into a knockout. Who would have imagined?
“No,” Matt answered, finally finding his voice. “I’m looking for you. At least, I think I am. You’re Jenna Ryan, aren’t you?”
Her gaze turned inquisitive. “And you are…?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After many years of dry, academic publications, Claire Sanders yearned to stretch her creative muscles. Since she’d long enjoyed the guilty pleasure of reading romance novels, Claire decided to try her hand at writing one.
After two disastrous attempts which ended up in the recycling bin, Claire’s third novel, “Fresh Start”, was published in 2008 by The Wild Rose Press. She has since published two novellas for Barbour Books —“A Quaker Christmas” and “The Quakers of New Garden”. She has won and finaled in numerous writing contests. To learn more about her check out the web site www.clairesandersbooks.com.