Read an Excerpt
Forgiven (Sisters of the Heart, Book 3)
Jerking awake, Winnie opened her eyes. What was that? It was most unusual to hear anything in the middle of the night. Their farm was miles away from the city. By and large, the only noise to echo around their home was the impatient bleating of Nellie the goat or one of the horses.
Her eyes slowly focusing, she turned to look at the clock on her bedside table. Two A.M. Maybe she had imagined it.
Winnie lay back down. Well, perhaps the good Lord had summoned her awake for no reason at all. Slowly, she closed her eyes and tried to relax and remember her prayers.
But then it came again.
From the cozy comfort of her bed, Winnie turned toward the window, the cotton sheets tangling around her legs as she shifted. Beyond the window, a fierce wind blew, creating an unfamiliar howl in the darkness.
Ah, a storm was coming in. Well, the horses wouldn't care for that much.
Just as she closed her eyes, another snap rang out. A sharp pop followed seconds later. Sharp and loud, like the clap of a rifle. Winnie bolted upright.
Something was terribly wrong.
Outside, a low roar floated upward from the ground, mixing with the high, panicked scream of a horse.
Winnie ran to the window and pulled back the thick plain curtain. Shooting flames and clouds of smoke greeted her.
Oh, sweet heaven! The barn was on fire!
She clasped a fist to her mouth as she watched Jonathan frantically run to the barn. Flames ate the opposite side.
She grabbed her thick robe, then flew down the stairs. She opened the front door just in time to see her brother throwa blanket over the top of Blacky's head and lead him out. "Jonathan!" she called out.
He didn't so much as look her way...the rage of the fire had swallowed her words.
Smoke choked the sweet spring air. A chalky black haze blurred everything around her . . . mixing with the cool gray fog of the early March night. Winnie stood motionless, stunned, feeling like she'd stepped into a dream.
Another crack screamed through the near dawn, drawing her attention to the pens next to the barn, where the goat and chickens slept. She'd just lifted the lever to free the squawking hens when the sky was suddenly alight with flames. The force of the explosion threw her to the ground. Sparks and ash fell through the air as she pulled herself to her feet to run toward cover.
Winnie couldn't seem to move. The soles of her bare feet burned, were blistered and hot. Smoke ran thick. Her chest tightened. She coughed, the sound of it echoing in her ears as her vision blurred. Blazing pieces of hot, burning wood nicked her back and shoulders, bringing her down...just as if the devil himself was behind her. The pain was fierce. Crippling.
She was barely aware of Jonathan yanking her by her shoulders and pulling her to safety.
Jonathan watched his friend Eli Miller arrive at the farm just as an ambulance skidded to a stop in front of their farmhouse. After Jonathan motioned him forward, Eli hurried over. "Jonathan, I'm glad to see you whole and unharmed. I came as soon as I could. The flames of your barn lit up the night sky."
Jonathan knew there were a great many things he should say to ease his friend's worries. But his heart seemed to have no room left in it for others. He was too stunned about the barn. And too worried about Winnie.
But if Eli was bothered by his quiet, he didn't act like it. Looking around, he frowned. "Where're Winnie and Katie and the girls?"
"Katie took the girls to her parents' inn for the night, so they're safe, thank Jesus. But Winnie . . ." Jonathan pointed to the inside of the ambulance. "She is in there."
"In the ambulance?" Eli's normally assured manner faltered. "Is she hurt bad?"
"Jah. She's in . . . She's in poor shape."
"That's terrible news."
"It is." Jonathan wasn't surprised by his friend's reaction. For as long as he could remember, he and his family had known the Millers. Eli's brother Samuel and his sisters had played with Winnie when they were small, and Jonathan had helped their family with spring planting more than a time or two. Winnie was like another sister to Eli, just as Jonathan felt like an older brother to Eli's youngest brother, Caleb.
Eli attempted to control his voice. "What's wrong?" Staring at the last of the flames, he murmured, "Is she badly burned?"
"I think I got her out before she was too injured, but I'm not certain." Jonathan tried to school his features, but it was difficult. "Some boards must have hit her . . . she fell . . . her feet are in a bad way, too. One might be broken. I . . . I had to carry her away from the area." Pain-filled eyes teared up before he wiped them impatiently with a hastily bandaged fist. "She's a fair sight."
Around them, the barn was still smoking and animals were howling their displeasure. Eli grasped his arm. "What can I do?"
"Well, now, I . . ." The question seemed to push away a portion of Jonathan's shock. After looking at the charred remains surrounding them, he reached out to touch the shiny red side of the ambulance. "Would you go with her to the hospital? Would you mind leaving your brother Caleb alone?"...Jonathan stepped toward the barn, toward the crowd of firemen talking to a man dressed in a coat and tie..."I canna leave. I have to speak with these men. And Katie and the girls will likely return soon. I'll need to be here for them."
"Of course you need to be here for your daughters. And your wife."Forgiven (Sisters of the Heart, Book 3). Copyright © by Shelley Shepard Gray. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.