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Lilac Wedding in Dry Creek (Love Inspired Series)

Lilac Wedding in Dry Creek (Love Inspired Series)

4.6 11
by Janet Tronstad

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When she ran away from the juvenile home she was raised in, Cat Barker left more than an unstable childhood behind. She also left her first love, Jake Stone. The two had more in common than anyone understood, but neither knew how to trust. Now Cat needs help, and there's only one person she can turn to—Jake, her daughter's secret father. Though Cat can


When she ran away from the juvenile home she was raised in, Cat Barker left more than an unstable childhood behind. She also left her first love, Jake Stone. The two had more in common than anyone understood, but neither knew how to trust. Now Cat needs help, and there's only one person she can turn to—Jake, her daughter's secret father. Though Cat can see the tender man she once cared for, she still fears love and marriage. Until a daunting challenge renews her faith—and teaches them all a lesson about trust.

Product Details

Publication date:
Love Inspired Series
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Distant thunder rumbled as Jake Stone lifted his duffel bag onto his shoulder, closed his door and started walking down the hall toward the lobby of the Starling Hotel. It was a rainy day in March and he didn't look forward to the long drive north to Dry Creek, Montana—especially because once he got there his older brother would start pressing him even harder to move back to the ranch, settle down and get married.

Jake refused to marry some poor woman just to stop his brother from nagging him to death. The Stone boys had bad history when it came to family life, even if his brother chose to ignore it. As for moving back to Dry Creek, Jake had decided years ago that this nondescript hotel near the Las Vegas airport was home enough for him.

He entered the lobby and glanced over to where the owner of the place stood behind the counter.

"Well, don't you look fine?" Gray stubble showed on Max Holden's weathered face, but his eyes were lively as he looked up. "Going home to Dry Creek for your brother's wedding is doing you good already."

Jake stopped and ran a finger around the collar of his new white shirt so he could breathe easier.

"Got some stamps?" He finished walking over to the counter, dropped his duffel bag to the floor and reached into the back pocket of his jeans, pulling out an envelope and handing it to the other man.

Jake didn't like to talk about the wedding. His brother was wrong if he thought getting married would change who he was in the eyes of their small hometown. Not that Jake blamed anyone for how they felt about the Stone family. Everyone knew about the years of physical abuse out at their ranch. All of the family secrets had been laid bare when his father was murdered and his mother had gone to trial for doing the crime. People naturally had wondered if the sons were more like their father or their mother. Neither answer had been good back then.

Max took the long, white envelope from Jake and weighed it in his hand. "I figure two stamps should do it." Then he glanced down at the writing on the front. "I hope this Cathy Barker appreciates all the letters you send. Who is she, anyway?"

So much time had passed since Jake heard someone speak the woman's name that he hadn't expected the jolt that went through him. Max had never questioned the envelopes before.

Secrets had destroyed Jake's family as surely as his father's alcoholism. If his mother had confided in their neighbors, then they might have understood what was happening. And she might not have served a ten-year prison term before anyone realized she was innocent and had only confessed to protect her teenage sons from facing suspicion.

"We used to call her Cat," Jake began and forced himself to set forth the whole story. "I don't know how she feels or even if she gets the letters. I put my return address on every one, but she never writes back."

At that bit of information, Max's jaw dropped along with the envelope.

"You mean to tell me, all these years you've been stuffing those letters with cash—and don't think I don't know what's in there—then asking me to mail them like they were your last will and testament. And you don't even know whether or not they're getting through to her."

Rain continued to pound against the windows as Jake tried to think of an answer that didn't make him seem like a half wit. Nothing came to mind. It sounded foolish to admit that it eased his worries to send her money.

"You're sure about sending this?" Max asked as he looked down at the envelope now resting on his counter. "What if you have another dry spell? You might not always be winning at the poker tables like you have been. And, there's a lot of money in there."

Jake glanced over his shoulder. The lobby was empty. But, through the main windows, he could see the figure of a woman walking down the street toward the motel, trying to hold a black umbrella open in front of her against the wind. As near as he could tell, it looked as if she was rolling a big suitcase behind her. He had only a few minutes before she got here.

Jake turned back to Max. He'd have to talk fast. "If I keep my expenses like they are now, I have enough money in the bank to last me a hundred and fifteen years. I don't plan on living nearly that long, and Cat might need something today. She's a friend from the youth home—you know, the place where they sent me and my youngest brother when they shipped my mother off to prison and my older brother joined the rodeo circuit. No one there will ever give me Cat's address, but they always promise to forward the letters for me."

Jake had never strung so many words together in his life and he was starting to regret it.

Max cleared his throat and nodded. "I know how it is. There are guys from Vietnam I'd send my last dollar to if they needed it. You go through something like that with someone, you never forget them."

Jake nodded. Maybe it wasn't so bad to bare his soul after all.

Then the door clicked open behind him and the wind blew cold air inside, making the back of his neck shiver. He didn't turn to see who was there. The anxious frown on Max's face was enough to scare the woman away without him adding to it. Thinking of Cat always unnerved him.

"Mommy?" The voice of a young girl sounded uncertain behind him.

He'd been mistaken in thinking it was a suitcase beside the woman, Jake realized. He was usually more observant, but the rain on the windows had made it difficult to see. Still, he didn't turn around. He figured a woman with any sense would be shepherding her little one out of the Starling about now. One good look at the run-down hotel would be all it would take to give a mother with a young child second thoughts about staying there. The place had heart, but the color from the linoleum had faded away to nothing over the years. He should give Max some money to replace the linoleum with carpet. Jake had the money to give and Max had been good to him over the years.

"Can I help you?" Max finally asked as he looked past Jake. He must have expected the woman to be gone by now, too. "Our business is mostly by the month. There's a nice family motel around the corner and down a block, though. It's a little more expensive, but they've got a small pool. Ask for the spring special and they'll treat you right."

"I am looking for 3762 Morgan Street," the woman said. "I think it must be a house or an apartment. I didn't see any numbers outside your place and I wondered if you'd know how close I am."

Jake lost all feeling in his body before she got to the street name. He knew that voice as well as he knew his own.

"You got a package or something?" Max asked, suddenly cautious.

"I'm looking for a man. Jake Stone. He lives there."

Max gave a start and his bulging eyes went to Jake as if he was waiting for some signal as to what he should say to the woman.

Jake would have been happy to oblige, but something had happened in his brain and everything was going in slow motion. It sounded as though the woman's words were coming from a great distance. He needed to sit down, but he couldn't move. His boots kept him rooted to the place where he stood.

"My name's Cat—I mean, Cathy Barker. If you know where I could find the address, I'd appreciate it very much if you'd point me in the right direction. I had planned to take a taxi from the airport, but none of them had a child's safety seat so I just left our luggage in the claim section and we started to walk. They said it wasn't far when they told me how to find the street."

Max's face turned a little purple at her flow of words.

"You're…" He started to sputter and then stopped. Finally, he pointed. "That's him. This is the address right here."

Everything was silent for a moment.


The hesitation in the woman's voice brought Jake to his senses. He didn't want to stand with his back to her like a fake statue, not when Cat might just be passing through and only wanted to say hello. He bluffed at the poker tables in one casino or another almost every night. He should be able to school his face into some semblance of normalcy and turn around and greet his old friend.

"Mommy, is that him?" the girl asked.

Jake felt his breath catch in his throat. He forced his lips to stretch into a smile as he turned around.

There she was. Cat. She hadn't changed a bit, he thought, as she stared up at him, her green eyes growing large and her delicate face turning pale. Her chin still jutted out as if she expected a fight, but her golden-brown hair had been blown around enough to show she didn't even have the strength to battle the wind on her own. And that was before the rain had plastered every strand of hair to the side of her head. He'd always protected her and he felt like doing it now.

"I.. " Cat started to say something, but stopped.

"Mommy?" The small voice grew more incessant and worried. Jake glanced down and saw that the girl had a plastic, gold tiara clamped onto her damp blond hair. She wasn't much taller than the stool behind Max's counter and her pink cheeks made her look like a cherub in some old European painting. She had gold glitter sticking on her shoes, too, in spite of the rain. Jake was going to say something to soothe her, but then she reached for her mother's hand.

He looked up in time to see Cat's eyes start to close. If he hadn't stepped over to catch her, she would have drifted all the way to the floor. As it was, she didn't weigh more than a feather when he lifted her in his arms. He wanted to ask when the last time was that she'd eaten a decent meal. He hadn't seen her for five years and she certainly hadn't gained an ounce in all that time. He wondered what she had spent all of the money he mailed her on. It certainly hadn't been food, not when she'd just fainted the way she had.

Jake caught the subtle scent of lilacs as he looked down. He'd presented Cat with a whole case of lilac soap for her eighteenth birthday.

"Mommy?" the girl said again, but this time the word had an edge to it, as though she was frightened.

Cat's little girl stared up at him, expecting something.

"It'll be all right," he assured her. "Your mother just needs to eat something."

He remembered Cat had fainted a time or two when she first came to the youth home. The nurse said it was because she hadn't eaten then, too.

The child nodded. Her curls were starting to bounce, but her blue eyes still watched him closely. It seemed she didn't quite trust him, even if she wasn't withdrawing from him. She reached up to steady her tiara, not saying anything.

He stepped past the girl and carried Cat over to the sofa. He laid her down on the vinyl sofa, arranging her head so it rested on one sofa arm while her feet curved up on the other one. The upholstery creaked softly as it adjusted to her being there.

Cat had run away from the youth home the day after he gave her the lilac soap, taking every one of the bars with her. She must be almost twenty-three now. She was only a few months younger than him.

He reached for her face, hoping to bring her back.


Her skin was wet and cold from being outside, but he felt his fingers tingle where they touched her. He took his Stetson off and set it on the back of the sofa. Then he leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. It wasn't proper, but he couldn't help himself. This was Cat.

"Are you a prince?" Suddenly the girl was beside him. She sounded suspicious and she moved even closer, as though she wanted to be sure she could see everything he did.

Jake leaned back and looked over at her in surprise. "A what?"

He'd been called many things in his life, but never that.

Meet the Author

Janet Tronstad grew up on her family’s farm in central Montana and now lives in Pasadena, California where she is always at work on her next book. She has written over thirty books, many of them set in the fictitious town of Dry Creek, Montana where the men spend the winters gathered around the potbellied stove in the hardware store and the women make jelly in the fall.

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Lilac Wedding in Dry Creek 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am someone who doesnot tear up easily but this story touched me in a special way. I loved the friendship and love that was between the 2 leads. I love the introduction of faith being a major part of the story. I will certainly read this again and order other books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun read-inspirational
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fallen tree's branches form a protective barrier around a patch of soft grass. A cat can get through the branches, but nature cant. This is the Elders den, where old, retired cats spend the rest of there lives peacfuly.
avidreader70SE More than 1 year ago
I have read most of the Dry Creek Series and this was a great read just like they all are!
cr1 More than 1 year ago
A book about a love that lasts, without scenes that a 12 or 13 year old couldn't read
Griperang72 More than 1 year ago
I loved this addition to the Dry Creek series. I love reading these books as they are not only a quick read by a great read. I enjoy the faith element in this book. I will definetaly keep reading these books.
TammyK1 More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable story with a hope-filled message that delights. High on emotion and high-quality.
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
Lilac Wedding in Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad When Cathy Barker and her daughter, Lara, show up in Las Vegas, Nevada it causes the handsome gambler Jake Stone to go speechless. Cat is hoping that Jake is ready for some responsibility, like accepting his daughter and raising her in case she can't. She assumes that Jake knows about Lara as he has been sending her money over the years. He had asked her to marry him five years ago without knowing she carried his child, but there was never the mention of love...only doing his duty to protect her. Jake can't believe his Cat is here in person or that he is a father. After growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father, Jake has known he could never trust himself to marry. He had money though and he would give his little girl anything she needed. Just not himself. After they travel to Dry Creek for Wade and Amy's wedding, Cat sees that without any faith Jake is as unhealthy as she is. Can a trip to the town of Dry Creek bring healing to all their hearts? Definitely a Kleenex book. The tears started rolling down within the first few chapters, in a good way of course. Janet has done it again and brought the people of this small town to life with their caring and love as another prodigal son finds his way home. She also brings their emotions to life, whether it's fear of the past or future, love, joy and even feeling the struggle of man wanting to do things on his own...without God. This is book 20 in the Dry Creek contemporary series and book 2 of the Return to Dry Creek Series, also a part of the Dry Creek family but about the three Stone brothers who have returned to Dry Creek after their mother was released from prison. Of course the third brother has not yet returned but I have a hunch we'll meet him in book 3: Wildflower Bride in Dry Creek but that is only this reviewers guess, I could be wrong.
weatherlover1 More than 1 year ago
The love Inspired line is some of the first inspirational romance books I started to read almost 10 years ago. These books are great because they are a little shorter then a regular novel but the content is filling. The Dry Creek series was first started back around 2000. It’s a long running series so if you love series this is a great one yet you can read any of these books individually and not be lost. This book is kind of a series in a series as its book two in what I am guessing is going to be a three book series based on three brothers. Jake is coming home to Dry Creek for his brothers wedding. As he is about to leave Cat shows up with her daughter and Jakes life changes forever. Cat has come to find Jake to tell him he is a father so in case something happens to her then her daughter will be taken care of. What I liked: The characters where enjoyable. I liked both Jake and Cat as well as Jakes mom and Cat’s daughter is an adorable little girl. The story line was interesting and I felt that we got to know the main characters pretty well. What I did not like: Even though the story line was interesting I felt it was a little lacking. The one thing that bothered me the most was that the spiritual side of the story was very weak. Jake was a gambler and had lots of money and also did not trust in God. In the end even though he did come to trust in God again it was not very believable and it happened so fast I was like “that’s it?” Over all it was a fun book to read and I enjoyed it. I just felt the climax of the book happened kind of fast and left me wishing for more of a bang. I look forward to reading more of the dry creek books and recommend them to my readers.
MitziAB More than 1 year ago
MY REVIEW i am always amazed at how authors can write such deep subjects and make the characters so real in such few words. Janet did an awesome job in bringing Jake and Cat to life with their insecurities and trusting issues while still keeping the story line flowing. The small town life with its gossips and troubles as well as its close friendships was portrayed much like the town i grew up two miles from, and though this is a short story, i love the way a series (in this case Dry Creek) in the Love Inspired Line fit together and how you learn to know the characters in town even better than in full length novel series, where often characters from another novel only make appearances. This is a collection i would like to re-read one after the other in the order they come in. Thank you, Janet for sending me the book to review. Only sorry it took me a little while to get it done. Blessings.
Melissa2 More than 1 year ago
Jake is going home..back to Dry Creek to attend his Brother's wedding. He didnt realize that he would find Cat Barker after all of these years... Jake and Cat had a past relationship and they hadnt seen each other in several years. Cat has a young daughter who Jake has never met...and after talking to Cat, he realizes how strong his feelings are for her Both Jake and Cat are scared to trust their feelings and Cat also has some issues that will challenge her faith. Jake is nervous about meeting his Mom again after all the years that they had not communicated. He runs into several people in Dry Creek that he grew up with, and he dosent realize the extent that everyone still cares for him ( even after all the time that he was away ). I love the small town feel of all of the "Dry Creek series books" and I can almost smell the lilacs that are wonderfully descirbed in this book! i recommend this entire series!