Saturday, August 14, 2010

Abigail: A Novel


Jill Eileen Smith

What price must she pay for true love?

Her days marked by turmoil and faded dreams, Abigail has resigned herself to a life with a man she does not love. When her husband Nabal's foolish pride angers David and his men, she boldly steps forward to save her family—and David, the would-be king, takes notice.

Circumstances offer Abigail a second chance at happiness with the handsome David, and she takes a leap of faith to join his wandering tribe. But her struggles are far from over. How can she share his love with the other women he insists on marrying?

Abigail follows the bestselling Michal and continues Jill Eileen Smith's rich story of David's wives.
"A rich tapestry of an era filled with love and longing that rings true across the centuries."
—Siri Mitchell, author of Love's Pursuit

A hawk screeched overhead, a foreboding sound. Moments later male voices accompanied the march of steady feet coming closer. She looked up to where the road bent in a wide curve. Her donkey reached the bend as the marching men drew near with their leader in front, fierce and determined.

David. It had to be.

The sight of the king's son-in-law was nothing like she'd imagined. In the stories she'd heard of him, he was the shepherd and the singer and the man who would kill to marry the woman he loved. The last thought should have warned her of the fierce warrior who strode down the hill, gaze angry and proud. He was more handsome than Nabal, but his expression was as dark as Nabal's had been the night he assaulted her the first year of their marriage.

Adonai, help me!

Her knees grew weak, and she wasn't sure they would hold her, but she reined in her donkey just the same and slipped from its back. David's pace never slowed until he stopped within an arm's length. She sucked in a startled breath. He was so close she could feel the strength of him, smell his sweat. Unable to stand without swaying, she fell to her knees and lowered her face to the dust.

"My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please, let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say." She stopped and waited for his response, her pounding heart sounding louder than her breath.

Silence spanned between them like a wide chasm. She felt his touch on her head. "Rise and speak." His voice was quiet and hoarse, as though he didn't trust himself to say more.

She pushed to her knees and leaned back on her heels, her gaze focused on his feet. "My lord, please pay no attention to this man, Nabal. His name means `fool,' and folly goes with him. But I, your servant, did not see the men my master sent." She pressed sweaty hands along the folds of her robe as the sound of marching came to an abrupt halt behind David. She ignored the muffled sounds of grumbling men.

"My lord," she said, lifting her voice above the din, "since Adonai has kept you from avenging

yourself and from shedding innocent blood, may your enemies and all who seek your life be as Nabal."

At his startled intake of breath, she looked up briefly to meet his gaze. Where had such a curse on her husband come from? But the words had been on her tongue before she could stop them. Her hands trembled at the thought. She twisted the sash at her waist, looking once again at his dusty, sandaled feet.

"And now, my lord, may this food your handmaid has brought," she said, hurrying her words lest he stop her before she could finish, "let it be given to the young men who follow you. Please forgive your servant's offense. Adonai will surely make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight Adonai's battles. May you never be found guilty of wrongdoing. Though your enemies pursue you and seek your life, the Lord your God will protect you, and the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as out of the pocket of a sling. When Adonai fulfills all the good that he has promised you and has appointed you ruler over Israel, my lord will not carry the grief of having avenged yourself or shed blood without cause."

She drew in a deep breath, willing herself to calm down, but she could not stop her body from trembling. Clasping her hands into a tight ball, she looked at him boldly but dropped her voice to a whisper. "When Adonai brings all these good things to pass for you, my lord, then remember your maidservant." She quickly dropped her gaze then and placed both hands on her knees, but not before she caught the hint of a smile on his lips. His anger had been assuaged, her words heard.

Thank you, Adonai. Relief flooded her, and a shiver passed over her.

"Praise be to Adonai, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me." David bent to touch her shoulder, and when she looked up at him again, he offered his hand. "May you be blessed for your good judgment, for keeping me from bloodshed this day, and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak."

She placed her hand in his and let him pull her to her feet. She swayed from the sheer relief of his smile, and he quickened his grip on her hand. Heat filled her face at his touch, however innocent, and when she looked into his eyes she read his frank appreciation that spoke more than he dared say. She quickly dropped her gaze as he released her hand.

"Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request." He stepped back from her and clasped his hands behind his back.

The action made her look up again. His smile had faded, but his eyes never left her face. She nodded in acknowledgment, and the impact of all that had just happened rushed in on her with a force that nearly knocked her to her knees again. David was accepting her gift but sending her home. Home to Nabal her husband. Nabal, the foolish son of Belial.

And come morning she would have to tell him everything.

Jill Eileen Smith

Copyright 2010

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