California's Central Coast and Romance. What could be better?
Walk the streets and countryside of Monterey, California, with three couples who are surprised by love in the midst of their busy lives. Chad helps Felisa when she goes into labor in his lettuce field. Juli meets Alan while volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ross takes an overdue vacation at Alissa's bed-and-breakfast. Can busy people slow down enough to realize the love God has brought into their lives?
Chad helps Felisa when she goes into labor in his lettuce field. Juli meets Alan while volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ross takes an overdue vacation at Alissa's bed-and-breakfast. Can these busy Californians slow down enough to realize the love God has brought into their lives?
In each of the three novels, set in the central coast of California, Gail writes of God's love with such ease and weaves His love throughout each story. I'm adding this book to my gift list for friends and family. Carolyn Devaney, Reader
AND BABY MAKES FIVE
by Gail Gaymer Martin
by Gail Gaymer Martin
Felisa Carrillo's pain surged down her lower back into her belly. She doubled over in agony while the hot California sun beat across her back. She took deep breaths, controlling the spasms that weakened her knees, and she struggled against falling to the lettuce field as the wave of pain raked through her.
" Estás bien?"
Her coworker's voice wrapped around her, but she couldn't answer. No, she wasn't okay, although Maria's tone already alerted Felisa that she knew the answer to her question.
Maria boosted herself from her haunches, dropped the head of lettuce into the basket, and darted to her side. " El bebé está naciendo?"
When the pain subsided, Felisa lifted her head. "Yes, the baby is coming," she said in Spanish. She looked down the green, even rows to find a place to escape, but instead, her breath left her when she saw a man striding her way. The boss. The owner. She recognized him from other visits to his fields.
"Déjeme ayudarte," Maria said, offering to help her. She slid her arm around Felisa's shoulder, trying to support her.
"El jefe. El dueño." Panic filled her as Felisa motioned toward the owner, alerting Maria of his presence as she tried to pull away. "Maria, you must get back to work," she whispered in Spanish.
"No." Maria's voice snapped with determination.
Felisa slipped from her arms and knelt beside the lettuce, gesturing for her to leave.
Maria finally moved away and crouched farther down the row while Felisa struggled to focus on a plant to avoid drawing the owner's attention. The earthy scent of sun-heated soil and foliage swept over her, causing her stomach to churn. She couldn't get sick now.
As she reached for a lettuce head, another contraction stabbed her. Panic filled her as the man moved closer. She couldn't afford to lose her job, and she sent up a prayer that God help her bear the pain until he passed. She puffed to control the twisting anguish that seared inside her as the man's shadow fell across her and stopped.
"Are you ill?" His raspy voice hovered above her. " Está usted enferma?" he repeated.
She didn't look up but only shook her head.
He didn't move.
Tears ballooned in her eyes and escaped to her cheeks. She knew the droplets would leave a telltale trail on her dusty skin. She tried to brush them away, but she felt the sticky grime against her fist.
The man lowered his hand and tilted her face upward into the glaring sun. She flinched with his touch and closed her eyes to the brightness, but when she opened them, she saw only concern in his eyes. His gaze left her face and lowered to her bulging belly she'd tried to camouflaged by an oversized shirt. "Pregnant," he muttered, then lifted his gaze to her. " Está usted embarazada?"
She tugged at her top to cover her belly and ignored his question, but she felt her face go pale.
"You're in labor." His voice sounded disbelieving, and he bent over her as frustration rattled in his throat. He straightened and scanned the field. "Husband?," he muttered before he turned to her again. Dónde está su esposo?"
Felisa's throat knotted. "Dead." And good riddance, she added, then immediately became ashamed of her thought, but she knew God understood.
"You speak English." Relief filled his face.
"You're husband is dead?"
Felisa gave a fleeting nod. "Killed."
She watched his head swivel as he studied the field as if looking for a body. Finally he turned back to her as if satisfied. "When? What happened?"
She winced, remembering the day she saw Miguel's mangled body. Though she knew s English, under stress, she struggled to remember the words. "Ocho— eight months ago. Accidente—an accident," she corrected. Miguel had been drunk as always, but that day he was dead drunk. Coming out of a barroom, he staggered into the street and was hit by a car. The police called it an accident. She called it freedom.
The man shook his head and drew out a handkerchief to wipe the perspiration from his face. "Do you have family in Salinas?"
"No," she said, feeling another contraction grip her. She coiled into a ball.
She heard the irritation in his voice.
"You're not having a baby in this field," he said, his voice deepening with emotion. "I'll take you to the hospital."
"No, please," she said, fearing a hospital bill. She barely had enough for food.
"The Natividad Medical Center. It's a hospital. You're not staying here," he said, sounding determined and hitting numbers on his cell phone. "Can you walk?"
He turned his attention to the phone call while she let the last of the pain fade. Could she walk? Determination charged through her. She would. She had to.
The man disconnected, then reached toward her.
"I can walk," she said, pushing her hand against the pungent earth to hoist herself. As she rose, her legs buckled, and he grasped her arm, lifting her to her feet and supporting her along the lettuce rows.
"My truck is this way." He motioned toward the distance.
Felisa felt her knees buckle, and she stumbled forward. The man scooped her into his arms and carried her, his urgency obvious. His strength gave her a sense of security, and she drew in the smell of the heat radiating from his skin, a clean aroma so different from the workers in the field. His fresh scent mingled with the tangy fragrance of his aftershave.
"Do you think you can make it?," he asked. "By the time I get an ambulance here, we can probably be there ourselves. " He boosted her more securely against his body.
The Dark Man
By Marc Schooley
The World Has Turned Over
The Dark Man is a near-future thriller about a master of disguise working to eradicate Christianity in America. Charles Graves is haunted by his dead brother, his lost mother, and a phantom arising cryptically from a child's puzzle. Charles goes undercover to infiltrate one of the last Christian cells in the South, only to find that someone else is working to infiltrate him. In a world turned over by an oppressive government and a godless society, Charles strives to bring down the last Christian leaders. But sometimes he who persecutes the church is destined to serve her.
The dark man was back.
Charles peeked through the woodworking adorning the balcony's railing. A forgetful, mechanically over-produced tune from the ASL meandered through the house, droning its way to the balcony. The singer alluded to something about the brotherhood of man. Charles did not understand the phrase.
Something crashed downstairs and the music stopped. They were arguing again.
Through the woodworking he watched the remains of his family's Approved Song List unit skid across the great white marble floor. It came to rest under the chandelier. Its ruins looked like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle.
The dark man was assembled at Charles's feet. Charles stole a quick glance. The dark man snickered at him like a ventriloquist's dummy.
Before he'd died, his grandfather had fashioned this wood-block puzzle for Charles. The puzzle consisted of a sunken oaken frame with raised sides two inches high. The frame enclosed an area of one square foot. His grandfather had sanded the oak meticulously, finishing the frame inside and out with a shiny lacquer.
The puzzle pieces were easily assembled blocks carved on all six sides. The sides represented facial features, hair, ears, foreheads, cheeks, and chins. Some pieces featured accessories such as glasses. Many emotions were represented, as well, enhanced by the intricate carving of facial lines, muscular nuances, and distinguishing marks. Some eyes cried, some mouths laughed. The dark man's mouth usually sneered. The wood-block puzzle was a homemade, wooden version of Mr. Potato Head, with greater realism.
The dark man stared through hollow eyes—despite the fact that none of the eye pieces had been cut to appear hollow. Charles supposed the combination of pieces that formed the dark man was special. His face was blemished from Charles having ripped him out of the frame or slammed him on the floor once too often. His hair was manicured, black, and parted in the middle. His lips were thin, yet full and red. The pieces tracing the dark man's outline were worn, creating an effect that appeared to suspend him within a fog of unknown origin.
"Get out!" Charles said to it.
With the nail of his left-hand ring finger Charles traced a jagged scar stretching across the left side of his face from cheekbone to lip. He overturned the dark man, spilling him onto the floor of the balcony. One of the dark man's plucked-out eyes stared up at Charles.
Charles righted the frame and began to refill it with different pieces. The tension escalated below.
"I don't care about that stupid ASL machine." His mother's voice rose from below. "And you used to not care!"
"Things are different now. Can't you see?" Charles's father said.
From the balcony, Charles peered down at his parents through an archway leading into an adjacent hall. They stood along the far side of a formal dining table embellished by an arrangement of white roses in an ornamental vase. His mother faced him, wearing an ankle-high red dress. She was partially obscured by his father, who leaned against the table with his back to Charles. Charles noticed the heart-shaped bald spot on the back of his father's head.
His mother grasped a remote control with red buttons in her right hand. "Different?" she said. "Here's something different." She pushed a red button.
The house erupted in sound. Charles thought this music was different from the ASL. It was raw and uncouth: Can you expect a man that's rotten to the core. To ever raise himself, to be anything more.
His father's refined speech was easy to distinguish from the voice in the song. "Turn it off, Teresa." He seemed to be inching his way toward her.
Charles's mother pressed another red button. The music paused. "What happened to you, Cotton?" She hit Play again: 'Cause when I try it on my own You know I'm bound to lose. Another pause.
"Nothing, baby. We have to fit in. Adapt. That's all."
"I don't want to fit in." Charles's mother mashed the red buttons again: There's only one path a sinful man is ever gonna choose.
"You have to quit. Give me that remote." Charles's father shuffled one foot nearer to Teresa.
"Don't come any closer," she said. Tears streamed. Her mascara bled. She ran her free hand through her hair, causing her bangs to tangle. She wiped the tears from her face, smearing her makeup. Her head fell to her chest. A stilted moan oozed from her mouth. It sounded like a whining cello.
Charles's father put both palms forward. "Okay, okay. Calm down." He was almost within reach.
The remote clicked twice. Between clicks the scraggly voice sang: but when the Spirit touched my heart.
Charles's left hand arranged pieces in the oak frame, operating on its own recognizance. It removed two of the pieces from the frame. His hand searched for others to take their place. His eyes were fixed on the situation below. He saw his father nearing his mother. In the corner of his vision he noticed the outline of a face appear in the puzzle. It had his mother's hair.
Charles's mother backed two steps from his father. The archway leading into the dining room had not quite concealed her from his sightline. Her moaning escalated to bawling. She tried to say, "I don't want to calm down."
All Charles could make out was "I doe whaa cahhh dowww." She clicked twice: And I called Jesus's name.
"I've had enough," his Father said. The heart-shaped bald spot blushed. "Teresa, I'm begging you. Please. I can still help you. Quick, they are coming."
No response, only clicks: He saved the soul of a man in the sinners' hall of fame.
Jeff Gerke is publisher at Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. Find The Dark Man and all the rest of the MLP novels at www.marcherlordpress.com. All Marcher Lord Press novels can also be purchased through Amazon and are available in print, of course, and in several e-book formats such as Kindle, Nook, and the Sony e-book reader.
The Dark Man ©2009 by Marc Schooley. Do not reproduce without permission.