Friday, January 21, 2011

The Baby Promise

The Baby Promise

by Carolyne Aarsen

Romantic Times calls the Baby Promise - " An emotional story with a
heroine who is danger of making bad decisions out of love and a hero who
discovers God's plans are always best." 4 stars

On leave from the army, Nick Colter heads to a quiet Alberta ranch to
fulfill a promise. His buddy left behind a pregnant wife in need of
protection and friendship that only Nick can provide. Despite years in
combat, he isn't prepared for the battle to earn wary Beth Carruthrs's
trust. there is more than grief in her beautiful blue eyes, and caring
for her becomes more than an act of duty. He wants to bring a smile to
her face . . . and restore faith and love in her heart. Yet the secrets
she harbors may destroy the one chance at family he thought he'd never

Carolyne Aarsen

His buddy's description had not prepared him for this.

As the taxi that brought him from Calgary drove away, Nick Colter eased
a long ragged sigh, his breath creating ribbons of fog in the crisp
January air. He tossed his duffel bag over his shoulder and looked

The log house Jim had described lay nestled in a copse of pine trees,
smoke curling out of the stone chimney. Behind the house, rolling hills
blanketed with snow and frosted spruce trees edged toward granite
mountains, their rugged edges crisp against a blue midmorning sky.

Nick's eyes scanned the mountains, darting over their surface his
hand reaching for . . .

He caught himself and flexed his tightening fingers, reminding himself
to relax. These were the friendly mountains of Alberta not the enemy
riddled mountains of Afghanistan.

And he wasn't a soldier anymore.

He let the utter stillness ease away the memories of dust, heat, pain,
brokenness and war.

How long had it been since he felt the peace permeating this place? How
long had it been since he looked at space and did not scan it for enemy,
for trouble, but instead just looked?

He dragged his hands over his stubbled face and shifted his weight,
wincing as the movement resurrected pain from an injury that had given
him a one-way ticket back home.

Behind the pain came the thought that he shouldn't be here. He
needed to be back with his unit doing the job he'd trained for since
he was eighteen.

But he had a medical discharge he couldn't work around and a promise
to keep.

"Can I help you?"

A melodic voice broke the quiet of the morning. Nick spun around and
there she was, walking down a path toward him looking as much a part of
the picture as the house did.

Her curly blonde hair was pulled loosely away from her heart-shaped
face, cheeks pinked with cold. She wore a pale blue woolen jacket
straining over a rounded belly and black pants tucked into leather
boots. In spite of the cold she wore nothing on her head and her bare
hands clutched the handles of a large, black briefcase.

Beth. Jim's widow. Looking even more beautiful than the pictures Jim
had shown him.

And pregnant with the child his buddy Jim had talked so often about and
now would never see.

Nick walked toward her, pulling his hat off as he did. She stopped a few
feet away from him, her expression guarded and cautious, her violet eyes

"Hello, Beth. I don't know if you remember me. I'm Nick
Colter. I was stationed with Jim in Afghanistan."

As he spoke sorrow blanketed her features and she took a faltering step
away. Her small action sent a myriad of emotions running through him.

Grief, anger, sorrow but laying beneath all that, a deep well of guilt
at being the one standing here instead of her beloved husband, Jim. He
who had little to live for had survived, and Jim who had so much, had

This was wrong, he wanted to tell her. And I know it is. I shouldn't
be here.

Beth wrapped her arm around herself as if trying to hold in her sorrow,
her eyes flitting away from him. "I remember you." She spoke
quietly, grief softening her voice. "I saw you at the funeral."

Nick wanted to say something to ease her pain, but any words he might
have to say were too small for the moment. So he stood in front of her,
hat in hand, letting his silence say what his mouth couldn't.

Sometimes words couldn't say it all.

"What . . . what are you doing here?" she asked, still looking
away from him.

He was here because as Jim lay dying in his arms, he pleaded with Nick
to keep an eye on his wife, to watch over her

and make sure she was okay. While Jim's life seeped out of him into
the desert sand, his eyes held Nick's with an intensity branding
itself into Nick's very soul while he pleaded with Nick to take care
of his family.

But when Nick looked into Beth's eyes, he wondered if this was the
time to say all that.

"Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers asked me to come for a visit." He
decided to go with the safest reason for now. The visit was true. Bob
and Ellen had offered at the funeral when they had found out about
Nick's medical discharge from the army.

"That's very considerate of you," she said.

He slipped his hat back on his head, unable to keep his eyes off her,
remembering too well Jim's pictures of her.

In those pictures Beth's blonde, curly hair flowed free, and her
wide violet eyes looked as if they held some secret and her mouth barely
hinted at a smile.

Though her features now held the same ethereal quality, they also held
the stamp of sorrow.

"Jim talked about you a lot," he added, struggling with his own
grief. "He really loved you."

She took another step away from him, shaking her head and lifting her
one hand as if pushing him away. "I can't talk about Jim."

"Of course. I'm sorry. I'm sure this is a difficult time for

She turned her head aside, hiding her sorrow. "Enjoy your visit with
my in-laws," was all she said. She moved past him and walked to a
small car, got in and started it up.

Nick watched her sitting stock still in the car, her hands gripping the
steering wheel as she stared straight ahead, plumes of exhaust swirling
around the car.

He wasn't surprised at her reaction. She was still grieving. He was
still grieving. It had been only eight weeks since his friend breathed
his beloved wife's name with his last breath. Only fourty-one days
since he watched Jim's brown eyes slowly become lifeless and felt
his body grow heavy and slack in his arms.

Nick clenched his hands and tamped down the sorrow. He wouldn't be
any good to Beth or Jim's parents if he couldn't control his own

For a moment he cursed Jim again. Had Nick done what he always did -
went his own way, did his own thing, kept himself from making friends
like he usually did - he wouldn't have had to deal with this grief.

But when Jim burst into their tent with his big grin and boisterous
personality he also burst through the walls Nick had carefully built
around his life.

Now Jim was gone and Nick was alone again.

Nick slung his duffel back over his shoulder, then limped over the
packed trail toward the log house.

Toward Jim's parents and their sorrow.

The Baby Promise can be found wherever books are sold. Do not reproduce
without written permission.

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