4.8 6
by Deborah Raney

View All Available Formats & Editions

She's having a baby

It's a blessing that brings comfort to newly widowed Olivia Cline. Yet with no insurance, no job and precious little money, how will Olivia care for herself and her child?

The answer is a handsome and brooding artist seeking an assistant. Reed Vincent has recently regained his eyesight, thanks to a donor. And through his eyes…  See more details below


She's having a baby

It's a blessing that brings comfort to newly widowed Olivia Cline. Yet with no insurance, no job and precious little money, how will Olivia care for herself and her child?

The answer is a handsome and brooding artist seeking an assistant. Reed Vincent has recently regained his eyesight, thanks to a donor. And through his eyes, Olivia begins to see all the possibilities before her. Before them. Until, in a flash of insight, she knows why his signature is so hauntingly familiar….

The revelation could tear the couple apart…or open their eyes to a new journey from sorrow to joy.

Product Details

Steeple Hill Books
Publication date:
Steeple Hill Single Title
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
309 KB

Read an Excerpt

Olivia Cline drew a handful of paintbrushes from a mason jar on the closet shelf and wrapped them in careful folds of newspaper before laying them in a waiting shoe box.

A hank of dishwater-blond hair fell into her eyes and she swept it to the side, tucking it behind one ear before loading a second shoe box with crimped tubes of oil paint.

"Hey, you." Derek poked his head through the doorway of the spare room, a cardboard box hefted on one shoulder. He cocked his head. "What are you doing?"

"Just packing up my art stuff. Don't let the movers take it, though. I'll bring it in the car when I come down."

Sighing, Derek rolled his eyes. He lowered the box to the floor and came to put his hands on her shoulders. "Olivia."

Her husband's voice was stern, but she'd trained herself to discern the twinkle in his eyes that accompanied it. The light glinted there now in the green flecks of his hazel eyes. He wasn't angry with her. She relaxed a bit.

The lines on Derek's brow smoothed and a crooked smile bloomed on his face. "For the first time in our lives we have the luxury of leaving the packing to professionals." He slid his hands down her arms, took the shoe box from her and set it back on a shelf in the closet. "Let the movers take care of it. You never use that stuff anyway. Why don't you get rid of it? One less thing to haul."

She tried to ignore the lump of resentment inching up her throat. Derek had come a long way in the last year, but there were moments…She swallowed hard. "Not yet. And I'd feel better if I at least pack the boxes. Did you see what they did with Grandma's dishes?"

"These guys know what they're doing. You can trust them."

Trust. The word dangled in the air between them. Aware that she was biting her tongue, Olivia shook away the storm of thoughts clouding her mind and looked past Derek, over the railing to the living room below. She might be learning to trust her husband again, but she definitely didn't trust the crew of clumsy galoots down there lobbing boxes like so many circus jugglers. Oil paints were expensive. And her sable brushes could be too easily crushed—if they weren't already in danger of rotting from age and lack of use.

Behind her, Derek cleared his throat. "I just thought this might be a good chance to get rid of that stuff. The new house isn't that much bigger than this place. Besides, you haven't done any painting in…what? Three years? Four?"

Six, to be exact. And that hurt. Derek never had understood how much she'd given up when she put her brushes away to take a "real" job. As he often reminded her, she was lucky she'd been able to use her artistic talents in her work. She owed her success as an interior decorator to her gifts as an artist, and in her eyes, the two years of art school under her belt were far more valuable than her bachelor's degree in business administration. They'd certainly been more fun to earn.

Oh, she liked her job. It would be hard to say goodbye to her clients and colleagues next week. But she secretly hoped she might get back to her art once they were settled in Missouri. Not that a little burg like Hanover Falls was any artists' mecca, but at least maybe she'd have more time for her art.

Derek was on a different track, though. He wanted a baby. Babies. She wanted a family, too. But now? So soon after…after all they'd been through? She wasn't sure. Maybe they needed a couple of years to adjust to the new town, practice everything they'd learned in a year of marriage counseling. They were still young. Barely in their thirties. They had plenty of time. Some of their friends hadn't started their families until they were almost forty.

But Derek had wanted children—at least four of them—for years. It was one of the things they fought about most, from the very beginning, when they were both still in school racking up astronomical student loans and living on macaroni and cheese in a shabby one-bedroom apartment. And not "shabby chic," either. Just plain shabby.

But now Derek had landed this great job, and everything they'd hoped for was falling into place. He would start work in Hanover Falls in a few days. So why did she literally tremble every time she thought about leaving Chicago and settling down to become the mother of Derek Cline's children?

Something clanged downstairs and Derek flinched. "I'd better go see what that was."

"Please do," she said. She followed him out of the room and looked over the railing. She didn't see any of the crew, but she spotted the painting still hanging on the wall in the foyer. With a little gasp, she brushed past Derek and raced down the stairs. This painting was one thing she was not willing to risk to this moving crew…make that wrecking crew, she thought as another crash split the air.

She hurried to the foyer and lifted the canvas from its perch on the narrow wall. The oak frame was nothing special and the canvas had buckled slightly. She promised herself she'd take the time to repair the painting before she hung it in the new house. Something about this piece had always anchored her, had always said "home" like nothing else she owned.

She inspected the landscape that had taken her a full month to complete. A wry smile tilted her mouth. One of Derek's pet peeves about her was that she was not easily impressed. But with this particular work of her own hands, she'd finally managed to impress herself.

All these years later, she still liked the way her brushes had captured hazy green afternoon shadows in the peaceful pastoral scene. Alongside her asymmetrical trees, three cows contemplated their reflections in a glassy pond. It was odd, when she thought about it, that this painting captivated her so. She was a city girl. Always had been. Usually, neon and stainless steel made her heart beat faster. But something in this bucolic scene spoke to her, touched a tender place inside her. A place she treasured without quite knowing why.

Though he'd never come right out and said so, she suspected Derek didn't even care for the piece. She still remembered his too-casual comment the day they'd first moved in to this apartment, when he'd noticed it leaning against the wall waiting to be hung in the foyer. "Are you sure that's where you want it?" he'd asked. "This will be the only part of the place some people see."

She hadn't challenged him then to come out and say what he meant, but his comment still stung a bit. And why was the painting still here now? Her gaze panned the bare walls of the large combination living room and dining room. Derek had orchestrated the packing of all their other paintings and artwork—all works of other artisans—first thing this morning. Why was this one still here? Did Derek think this move provided a convenient opportunity to leave her painting behind?

She stared at the artful splotches of sienna and white paint that resembled grazing cows. Her fingers caressed the rough strokes of paint. The piece had an impressionistic quality about it. To Olivia's embarrassment her friend Jayne had compared it to a Monet. But she'd been flattered, too.

"I don't care what he thinks," she whispered. But the defiance in her voice startled her. Obviously, she did care.

In the kitchen, Olivia found the roll of heavy brown paper the movers had been using to wrap items. She ripped off a long sheet and let it trail behind her as she moved to the foyer. She lifted the bulky frame and placed it on the folds of paper, swaddling it tenderly, as though it were a newborn. She taped the wrapping securely in place, then carried the unwieldy bundle out to her car. She propped it carefully on the floor of the backseat. When she packed the car to join Derek in Hanover Falls next week, she would use the last of the towels and bedding from the house as further padding for the fragile painting.

And she would hang it in a spot of honor in the house there. Maybe it would somehow make that house feel a little more like home for her.

A siren wailed on the streets beyond the cul-de-sac where the Clines' Chicago town house sat. Olivia filled a disposable coffee cup with water from the kitchen faucet and walked across the shiny oak floor to put it in the microwave. The heels of her pumps clattered on the wood, echoing throughout the small apartment. She would stop by Starbucks on her way to work for something more substantial. Instant coffee was almost worse than nothing, but it did help ward off the early-March chill of the empty rooms. She'd turned the furnace up five degrees, but still it felt as if the icy wind was blowing off Lake Michigan and straight through some invisible seam in the walls of this place.

She punched in another thirty seconds on the microwave and headed for the front door to retrieve the morning paper. Halfway down the hall, she remembered that Derek had cancelled their subscription as of yesterday. Deep scars in the carpet where their barrister bookcases had sat reminded her that her books, too, were already in Hanover Falls. She felt disoriented and lost in her own home. Everywhere she reached, she ended up grasping empty air. Nothing was where she expected it to be. She'd lived this way for almost a week now, and it was starting to make her crazy.

The microwave turntable groaned to a stop and the timer dinged. She turned over her wrist and glanced at her watch. Seven forty-five. Derek was probably stepping into his plush office at Parker & Associates this very minute. She pictured him "administrating"— or whatever it was Engineering Administrators did—in suit and tie.

A smile cut through her melancholy. Her husband would be in hog heaven about now. He'd always been in his element bossing people around. And he was good at it. He knew how to manage people in such a way they didn' t realize they were being managed. It was his gift. He'd employed it with her in their decade of marriage more than she cared to admit. But that was all in the past now. The counseling had been good for them.

She took the steaming cup from the microwave and measured in a heaping spoonful of instant coffee. As she stirred, the aroma wafted upward to her nostrils, doing a fair impersonation of real coffee.

She sighed. As difficult as it had been, she and Derek had both grown through the painful, tearful sessions with Tom and JoAnne Bennett, an older couple from their church who served as lay counselors. The Bennetts had weathered some storms of their own and their advice was offered with the authority only experience could bring. Olivia could finally say with conviction, "I'm glad we stuck it out. It was worth every agonizing minute."

She still wasn't sure about the babies part. Oh, sure, she wanted kids. Eventually. When she dared picture herself as a dotty old woman, she definitely envisioned herself a grandmother. But Olivia had been an only child, a much-longed-for baby born when her mother was forty-two and her father almost fifty. She hadn't been around children much, and frankly they scared the daylights out of her.

She and Derek had married when they were both barely twenty, and the ten years since had been eaten up with earning their degrees and launching careers. Now that Derek had his second master's degree and a job commensurate with it, they finally had some financial relief and time to enjoy each other.

They almost hadn't made it to this point. She took a sip of coffee and grimaced. A wave of nausea swept over her as she thought of the betrayal and anguish of the last two years. Derek's affair. She still almost couldn't make those words be true in her mind. It made her physically ill to consider the thought, the words choking her. She'd never dreamed something like that could happen to her. To them.

No one had been more in love than she and Derek Cline on their perfect wedding day. Sometimes she looked at their wedding album, studying their fresh young faces for a hint of what was to come.

She never found it. In the photos, their faces were luminous, their eyes only for each other. She felt she was looking at pictures of strangers. She still loved Derek, maybe more than ever. But she couldn't remember that innocent, giddy love they'd surely felt on that day. That once-upon-a-time fairy-tale day.

If there was a hint of the angst to come, it might have been found in the tight smiles worn by Derek's parents in their wedding portraits. Her own parents had died within a few months of each other while she was in her last year of college, and she had thought she would know the love of parents and family again in Bill and Carolyn Cline.

Unfortunately, Olivia Masden wasn't what the Clines had in mind for their only son. Derek's mother had been cold and distant from the first time they met. Olivia learned much later that Carolyn was still angry with her son for breaking up with his high school sweetheart and then daring to get married before he had a college degree.

Derek's father had actually accused Olivia—thankfully not to her face—of being a gold digger. The Clines had worn plastic smiles and behaved with civility the day of the wedding, but once the ink was dry on the marriage license, they'd made no bones about the fact they were less than happy with Derek's choice.

Olivia and her mother-in-law maintained a polite distance over the next few years. In the beginning, Olivia had made a valiant effort to bridge the distance. But she'd finally given up and learned to be grateful for the occasional tidbits of friendship Carolyn tossed her way.

Then five years ago, Carolyn had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Against Derek's protests, Olivia had reached out to her, even spending days at a time with her in the Clines' stately Oak Park home while Derek was on the road. By the time her mother-in-law died, barely a year after she was diagnosed, Olivia almost felt as if she'd lost a friend.

Bill Cline remarried less than a year later and retired to Florida to play golf every day. His new wife was even less interested in having a relationship with Olivia—or Derek, for that matter. Olivia sent birthday cards to both Bill and Doris, and Father's Day cards that she signed Derek's name to, but they hadn't spoken since the Christmas before last.

Read More

Meet the Author

DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Since then, her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, and the Carol Award. Deb and her husband recently traded small-town life for a home in Wichita, KS. For more about Deb:

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Insight 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago