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a to-do list: help with dinner cleanup, get groceries, cancel the help-wanted
ad for the trekker.
Satisfaction flowed through her as she mentally checked off the task of finding
a guide. That was one big burden off her mind. And the phone calls she’d
made this afternoon totally relieved her of all skepticism about Micah Gallagher.
pastor had great things to say about the man. Words like integrity
and hardworking had been used to describe him. And the fact that he
attended church every week
further convinced her that he wasn’t a thief or mass murderer.
She had almost decided against calling the foster father, but her inner sense
of security demanded she be extradiligent about screening her new climber. The
foster father had reiterated everything the pastor had said and had added independent
and loyal to the list of adjectives describing him. Micah’s climber friends
were both away on trips of their own, but the receptionist confirmed that Micah
had been lead trekker for the past few years.
She would offer Micah the job thisafternoon if she saw him again. He obviously
needed a place to stay, so she’d just need to subtract the cost of lodging
from the figure she’d planned to pay. Having him right on site was a positive,
anyway. If guests decided on a spur-of-the-moment trip, he’d be available.
He might not even want the job when he heard what she paid. His salary was probably
higher at the Majestic than she could afford.
Part of her almost wished he would turn down the job—the part of her that
was drawn to him. It had been a long time since she’d been drawn to any
man, and her one and only experience with a relationship made her even more timid
about having Micah around all the time. In many ways, it had been a typical college
romance, but Hanna had only been able to open her heart to a point. Jess had
been patient, but even after a year’s time, she’d not been able to
endure his touch. Understandably, Jess grew weary of feeling rejected.
The relationship likely would have ended on its own, but when Gram needed help
with the lodge, she’d taken the opportunity to escape, putting college
on hold indefinitely. Jess had seemed almost relieved, but not nearly as relieved
as she had been. It had been too soon, she told herself. She just needed time.
Avoiding relationships had been easy these past few years at the lodge. There
weren’t many young, single men around, and those who did come stayed briefly.
Even her church lacked eligible bachelors and was filled with seniors and middle-aged
married couples. No, there hadn’t been much opportunity for dating, and
Hanna was glad.
But now that would change. At least, it would if Micah took the job. He’d
be living on the grounds, eating meals with them when he wasn’t on a climb.
What worried her the most was this attraction she felt.
She breathed a laugh. She’d just been without a male companion for too
long. Maybe she’d forgotten what it was like to be around a man. But she
knew it was more than that. Micah had a certain presence. A strength. And that
strength drew her and repelled her at the same time.
You’re thinking too hard, girl. She suddenly remembered her intentions
to work on the van and added it to the list. She had to get the thing running
before next week when she started shuttling guests to and from the airport. Almost
every registrant had requested the service when she offered it. And she’d
gotten the used van for a bargain, knowing she could fix the problem.
After dinner, Hanna gathered her tools and went to work.
Micah slowed to a walk and took his heart rate. He was within his zone. His body
had long ago acclimated to the higher altitude, and now he could easily run five
miles a day. Except for days when he climbed. That was a workout in itself.
He liked the Higher Grounds property. The still lake and lack of people gave
an ambience of solitude and peace. Birch, willow, and oak trees dotted the area,
and a fresh cushion of pine needles layered the ground. It was a refreshing change
from the bustling Majestic property. He wondered if this would be his last day
here or if it would be the first of many. He didn’t like having his future
up in the air and was anxious to know what Hanna had decided. He’d checked
the office before his run, but she was not there.
When he came to the drive, he turned and slowed his pace a bit, allowing his
heart rate to come down gradually. The gravel crunched under his running shoes,
joining the orchestra of warbling bird calls.
Rounding a bend, he saw a pair of denim-clad legs protruding from beneath a Chevy
van. Maybe he would know where Micah could find the manager. “Excuse me.” The
body inched from under the vehicle. “Could you tell me where I can find—” The
body had a head, and it was a woman’s. Hanna’s. “Oh. It’s
She smiled, and the streak of grease settled into the dimple on one side of her
mouth. “Hi.” She sat up, wiped her hands on a rag, and took the hand
up he offered. “I’m glad I caught you. I wanted to talk to you about
Her face was devoid of makeup, a fact he’d missed earlier. But her dark
complexion and wide eyes didn’t need it. “Yeah, that’s what
I wanted to talk to you about.”
“I called your references, and you come highly recommended.”
She sounded like there was a but coming, so he said nothing as her lashes swept
down over gray green eyes.
“But I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay you what you’re
worth.” She met his gaze firmly. “I can offer room and board, of
course, but the additional income won’t be what you’re used to.” She
quoted a figure, and Micah noted the way she crossed her arms defensively. She
was expecting him to turn down her offer or perhaps dicker with her over his
“Actually, I don’t need much. A roof over my head, food to eat, and
very little else. I accept your offer.”
Surprise was evident in the way her finely arched brows inched upward. “Oh.” Then
a grin tugged at her lips. “Well, let’s get you settled then.”
He followed her to the lodge, his eyes skimming her trim figure from the ponytail
to her Levis. Long legs for her petite stature.
He forced himself to look away. At the big oak, at the rustic lodge, at anything
but the alluring sight in front of him. Maybe taking this job wasn’t such
a good idea. The last thing he wanted was an attachment. When they reached the
office, he took a seat across from the desk and watched while she opened her
“Your first trip will be next week. I have a family who wants to hike up
He nodded. He could do that trip blindfolded. “Did you want to have a regular
weekly schedule or just go with reservations?”
She asked how they worked it at the Majestic, and he explained their regular
“That sounds fine. Why don’t you work up a tentative schedule with
both day trips and overnighters, the most popular treks, and I’ll take
a look at it. How did you schedule days off?”
“I have a standing appointment on Thursday nights, so I always had Thursdays
off. Sundays too.”
“Why don’t you work the schedule around those two days, then, if
that’s all right with you.” She handed him employee papers to fill
“Fine.” He began filling out the forms.
The phone rang, and she grabbed the cordless. “Higher Grounds, may I help
Micah jotted down his social security number.
“What’s wrong, Nat?”
He looked up, and Hanna placed her hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, “Just
leave them on my desk when you’re done.” Then she slipped out the
Hanna entered the empty kitchen, letting the louvered doors swing shut behind
her. By the sound of her sister’s voice, she could tell Natalie was fighting
tears. Nat had been rambling about tidying up after lunch, but hadn’t yet
gotten to the point.
“And it fell out of his pants, right there on the floor. I couldn’t
believe it when I saw it, Hanna. Why would he do it?” She sounded hysterical.
Hanna’s mind spun as she tried to decipher some kind of meaning from her
sister’s meandering words. “Now, wait, Nat. What fell out of his
pants? I’m not following.”
“A condom!” The word brought on a flood of tears and sniffles.
Hanna paused in the taut silence.
“I’m on the pill, Hanna!”
Hanna wilted and squeezed her eyes shut. “Oh, Nat.”
“We haven’t been very close lately. He’s been so busy at the
bank, and I’ve been busy with the kids and church, but . . . an affair?
How could he?”
She heard the torment in her sister’s voice, wished she could take it away.
What could she say? “Maybe it hasn’t gotten that far yet. The package
wasn’t empty, was it?”
“No.” She sniffled again, and Hanna heard the baby squealing unhappily
in the background, then a muffled, “Alex, get off him!”
Nat just didn’t deserve this. She would never dream of having an affair.
Hanna could hardly believe Keith would either.
“Do you really think he hasn’t done anything yet?” Nat asked. “Who
could it be? He’s never home, and I thought he was working. But what if
he wasn’t working at all? What if he was spending all that time with her?”
Hanna smiled stiffly when Mrs. Eddlestein entered the kitchen, then lowered her
voice, ensuring that the hard-of-hearing woman wouldn’t hear. “I
don’t know, sweetie. Could it be someone at the bank?” Hanna tried
to recall if she’d seen anyone at the bank when she’d gone to sign
papers. No particular woman stood out in her mind.
“There are plenty of women there, but most of them are married or overweight.
And you know how Keith feels about extra pounds. At least, on me.” She
sighed into the phone. “He’s lost weight lately himself, and he’s
been wearing cologne every day!” she said, as if she’d just put two
and two together. “Why didn’t I see this coming?”
“You had no way of knowing. Your mind doesn’t work that way. What
about at church? Is there anyone there you can think of?”
“Church? Keith hasn’t been to church in weeks.” A fresh wave
of tears started. “Oh, Hanna, he went out of town two weeks ago! What if
he was really with her?”
How could You let this happen to Nat, God. And to the boys. “Are you going
to ask him?”
“What if he’s in love with her? What if he wants to leave us?”
Hanna didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t married, had never even
come close. Who was she to give advice? “Have you thought of calling Mom
and Dad? Or Paula?”
“I can’t do that. Mom and Dad would never forgive Keith, and he’d
never be able to face them again if they knew. And Paula’s not exactly
the most sympathetic ear in the world. I need advice; that’s why I called
“I don’t know what to say, Nat.” Silence crackled between them.
She watched Mrs. Eddlestein taking a fresh batch of crescent rolls to the dining
room. “You’re going to have to ask him what’s going on. Maybe
there’s some other explanation.” She could hardly fathom that the
man who had risked a sizable loan for her would betray his own wife.
“Do I tell him what I found, or should I just ask if something’s
She rubbed her temple with her free hand. “If you started a discussion
about your relationship, do you think he’d open up?”
“He’s been so distant lately. Why didn’t I see this coming?
I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Let’s assume nothing has happened yet. Maybe the relationship has
just been heading in that direction, and he wanted to carry protection just to
be on the safe side.”
“I need to confront him about it. Tell him what I found and see what he
says. What if he’s in love with her?”
Sympathy swelled in Hanna, and she wished she were there to hold her sister and
let her cry on her shoulder. “Let’s just assume he isn’t until
you know differently. Do you want me to come over?”
She heard Alex begin to wail in the background. “I gotta go, Hanna. Alex
bumped his head. I’ll call you later.”
She said good-bye, then jabbed the off button. Oh, God. You have to help her.
The words jammed in her mind like cars in rush-hour traffic.
Later that night as Hanna sat behind the computer, she wondered how Nat was doing.
Was she confronting Keith even now? Help her, Lord. Give her the words and the
strength she needs to handle this.
She kept remembering Keith’s kindness to her in extending the loan. She
knew his loan committee must have looked at it unfavorably, and yet he’d
done it anyway. Life could be so complex. She dragged her hands over her face.
The screen saver kicked on, and she realized she’d hardly gotten a thing
done. She continued transferring the reservations from the book to their old
computer, Methuselah. Even though it was ancient by today’s standards,
it still worked and even allowed her to access the Internet through free software.
She’d recently invested in a program that allowed her to see at a glance
how booked they were for any given week or month. Soon, she’d put all the
guest information directly into the computer when she took reservations and use
the book for backup only.
Gram entered the office. “How are we doing for June?”
Hanna paused her tapping and clicked on the button that would show June. “Here
we are.” She pointed at the screen. “We’re half booked most
nights and sold out for the third weekend. Not bad, huh?” Well on the way
to the 38 percent increase they needed over last year.
“That’s wonderful!” She squeezed Hanna’s shoulders. “This
is going to work out just fine. All your ideas were just the thing. Thank God
for giving me such a brilliant granddaughter!”
“If I were brilliant, I would’ve done this two years ago.”
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Gram grabbed a paper from the desk and handed
it to her. “There was a young man in while you were grocery shopping. He
was interested in the watercraft position and I had him fill out a . . . oh,
drat, what’s the word?”
“That’s it. Anyway, I skimmed it, and it looked pretty good, so I
asked him to come back at seven tonight for an interview. I hope that’s
all right with you.”
“Sure, that’s great, Gram, thanks.” Her grandmother went to
the front desk to check in a guest, and Hanna studied the form. Devon Garret
was a third-year business student at Central Wyoming and was seeking employment
for the summer. That would work out fine since business slowed once fall arrived.
He’d been employed at various businesses during previous summers. Why in
the world was he interested in the Higher Grounds position? He was overqualified
to oversee the watercraft and run the shuttle. When he heard what they were paying,
he’d probably scoot right back to the accounting firm where he’d
worked last summer. But if he didn’t, it would be their gain.
She finished keying in all the guest information and, before she knew it, seven
o’clock rolled around. A golden-haired young man arrived, looking to be
about her own age and wearing a baby blue polo with white Docker shorts.
He extended a hand. “Hi, I’m Devon Garret, and I have an appointment
with Hanna Landin.”
She shook his hand, noting his smooth, cool palm. “I’m Hanna, nice
to meet you, Devon. Why don’t you come back to the office, and we’ll
She took a seat behind the desk and gestured toward an opposite chair. “My
grandmother gave me your application, and I’ve had a chance to review it.
Did she fill you in on the nature of the job?”
“I’d be responsible for maintaining the boats and arranging for their
rental. I think your ad said something about running an airport shuttle?”
“That’s right. Not all the guests require this service. Some of them
rent a car and, of course, some of them drive here from their homes. I’m
assuming you have a driver’s license, and there would be no problem with
His thin lips curved into a smile. “No problem at all. You’ll notice
I have experience working with the public.”
“Yes, I see that.” She set his form aside. “Look, I have to
be honest. This job doesn’t pay much.” She named the figure and noticed
he didn’t seem surprised. “You’ve held good positions every
“I’ve been very lucky in summers past. But this summer is my last
break before entering the business world and, quite frankly, I had a heavy course
load last semester and will have another heavy load in the fall. I’d really
like to take on something less . . . challenging my last free summer.”
“Good enough. Do you have your own accommodations, or will you need a room?”
I have my own.”
This was turning out better than she thought. Yesterday she was fretting because
she was short two employees, and now the positions were filled with men who were
overqualified for their jobs. “I haven’t had a chance to call your
references, so why don’t I just plan on calling you tomorrow and letting
He stood and extended a hand. “Sounds great.”
As she watched Devon walk out the door, Hanna felt a great sense of relief. Finally,
things seemed to be going their way.
Natalie laid Taylor in his crib and wound up the stuffed bear that would play
lullabies for several minutes. “Night-night, baby.” She put up the
crib rail and walked out, blowing a kiss before she shut the door. Going through
She’d been doing it all day. Reading books to the boys, doing laundry,
kissing boo-boos. Her body was doing all the right things, but her mind was numb.
Somehow she’d held the tears at bay. After her phone call with Hanna, she’d
pulled herself together and had gone from one activity to the next. Her mind
had churned all afternoon with questions. Who could she be? When had it started?
How far had it gone? How could she have been so blind?
She, volunteer director of Marriage Enrichment. What a laugh. She was arranging
for couples to spend weekends away learning how to develop a better marriage,
and hers was falling apart at the seams.
How could she have been so stupid? She picked up Alex’s clothes from the
floor and threw them in the laundry basket. She almost wished she’d kept
the boys up for a while. Normally she welcomed the quiet after a hectic day,
but tonight she dreaded it. She would have time to think, really think, about
what Keith was doing. Was he with her even now? She’d called his private
line at seven o’clock, and there had been no answer. Her throat clogged
with tears she refused to shed.
How dare he. She’d done nothing but be a good wife and mother. She’d
never even looked at another man. No one had been more faithful than she’d
She poured herself a glass of orange juice, knowing she needed something in her
empty stomach, and headed back to the family room. A framed eight-by-ten of her
and Keith on their wedding day caught her eye. She paused to stare disgustedly
at it. How naive she’d been! Standing there, face to face with Keith with
rosy cheeks and adoring eyes. And him. Look at him, staring at her with promise
in his eyes, making pledges he was now mocking.
She tore the picture from the wall and flung it across the room, spilling her
juice in the process. The photo hit the brick fireplace and shattered. Her heart
thudded heavily in her chest. She suddenly understood why cartoon characters
had smoke coming from their ears when they were angry. There was so much heat
and fury in her, it was a wonder her own ears weren’t steaming.
“Mommy?” Alex called from his room.
She took a deep breath. “It’s all right, honey. Mommy just dropped
something. Go to sleep.”
Nothing was all right. Her world was falling apart and, with it, the boys’ world,
too. What would become of them if Keith left? She’d have to return to work
The mantel clock struck nine and began its chiming. Lately Keith didn’t
come home until ten or even eleven. When he did, she could never hide her anger.
It either manifested itself though barbed replies or stony silence. Neither worked.
She could recite his excuses as well as he. Do you think I want to work this
late? Don’t you think I’d rather be home, sacked out in front of
the TV? Successful businesses don’t just happen on their own, you know.
I’m doing this for you.
Ha! What a joke. Rage tore through her like a violent wind, and she set down
her half-empty glass before she threw it too. After fishing a towel from the
drawer, she got down on the floor to mop up the mess.
What would she say when he came home? How would he react? Would he tell her the
truth? Would he tell her who it was? Did she know the woman? Oh, please, God,
don’t let it be someone I know.
She tossed the towel in the washer and went to clean up the shards of glass on
the hearth. She picked up the big pieces first, then moved on to the tiny fragments,
almost wishing she’d cut her hand. Anything to take her mind off the internal
pain she was feeling. She retrieved a broom and trashcan and swept the last of
the glass slivers into it. If only cleaning up her marriage could be accomplished
Headlights chased across the expansive living room wall, then she heard the familiar
squeak of the garage-door opener. Natalie settled herself on the couch. Help
me, God, please help me.
The door clicked open, and she waited in silence until Keith rounded the corner. “Hi,” he
muttered, then proceeded to empty his pockets of change and business cards onto
Her mind flew back a scarce twelve hours ago when it had fallen from his pocket.
It seemed like days ago, not hours. She wondered if he had one in his pocket
now. No, she thought bitterly. He’d probably already used it. She observed
him with new eyes. Suspicious eyes. His pants hung loosely on his hips, and even
his face seemed thinner. Had he lost weight for her?
Keith went to the kitchen, and she heard him grabbing a can of soda from the
fridge. When he returned, he collapsed in his Lazy Boy, kicking out the footrest,
and flicked on the TV with the remote. Didn’t he notice how quiet she was?
Did he think her silence was of the I’m-angry-you’re-late variety?
Couldn’t he feel the difference? Couldn’t he feel the cold vibrations
in the air?
Apparently not. He was already absorbed in a baseball game.
A commercial came on. “Is there anything to eat in there? I’m starving.”
“There’s meatloaf in the fridge.” If he thought she was going
to wait on him, he’d better think again. He was just in the kitchen himself,
why couldn’t he get his own? How could he even talk about food when he
was betraying her?
Her hand reached down, and she felt for the evidence in her pocket. A visual
aid, in case he claimed ignorance. How should she start? With an accusation?
What if by some miracle he had another logical reason for carrying around a condom?
No, not an accusation. If she were somehow mistaken, he would never forgive her.
“I hung up your clothes in the bedroom today.” Somehow her voice
sounded normal, though her heart felt as though it might explode.
He took a sip of Coke. “Is that what’s got you so upset?”
She gave him an ounce of credit for noticing something was wrong.
“Look, I’ll try to do better, okay?”
“Something fell out of your pants.” She didn’t look at him,
but saw him go still in her peripheral vision.”
She fished into her pocket and withdrew the packet, then held it up and met his
His lips parted, surprise flashed in his eyes. Fear. Just for a moment, then
defenses kicked in. “Hey, Nat, it’s not what you think.”
“It’s not a condom?” Sarcasm wormed into her tone. “Gosh,
I must’ve misread the package.” She looked closely at it, pretending
to read it. “Ultra thin latex condom. Nope, guess not.” Fury seasoned
her words, and she reined it in. Get the confession first, then she’d turn
loose on him. Maybe if she remained calm, he’d be more likely to confess.
“That’s not what I meant. I meant it’s not mine.”
“Those weren’t your pants?”
“Of course, they were my pants. The condom’s not mine.”
“Then whose is it?”
Did he falter for a moment, or was it her imagination? “It’s Dale’s.”
“What are you doing with it?”
“We played racquetball last week, remember? It fell out of his wallet when
we were getting dressed, then by the time I found it on the floor, he’d
already left to go on his date. I tried to catch up with him in the parking lot,
but he’d already driven away.”
She wanted to believe it. It was an unlikely story, but, oh, how she wanted to
believe it. “Why don’t we give Dale a call and straighten this out?
“He’s in Dallas this week, and I don’t have his number.”
How convenient. And no doubt Keith will get hold of Dale before I have a chance
to question him. Why won’t he just tell me the truth and get it over with?
Keith snapped in the footrest and came to her, sinking into the sofa beside her.
She refrained from looking at him. Doubt swelled in her mind, and she refused
to give in to the hope that hovered just above the surface of her heart. She
forced herself to be objective. It was unlikely he was telling the truth. Yet
she couldn’t condemn him outright. What if she was wrong?
“Look at me, Doll.” His voice rumbled deeply with the pet name she
loved. The one he hadn’t called her for years.
She turned and met his gaze, seeing him through a veil of tears.
“I’m not seeing someone else. I swear.” His blue eyes penetrated
her. “I’ve just been working long hours. You know things have been
rough at the bank. If you can just hang in there a while longer . . .”
He looked so sincere, sounded so genuine. She looked away. She couldn’t
forget the moment she’d seen the condom between her feet. If it had been
Dale’s, why would Keith have kept it? Why not just toss it? Besides, Dale
was not one to sleep around. And he’d only just begun dating the woman
a few weeks ago.
She drilled him with her gaze. “I called your private line tonight, and
you weren’t there.”
He looked guilty. “I had to go to the store. We were out of coffee filters.”
What time did you go?”
His mouth tightened in a straight line. “I don’t know, Nat, you sound
like a shrew.” He jumped off the couch and snatched up his Coke, storming
toward the kitchen.
So much for the loving patience he’d demonstrated moments ago. Now he was
angry and defensive. And he hadn’t given her an answer about the time of
Moments later he stormed up the stairs without a word, and Natalie knew she would
get no answers tonight.
Excerpted from Mending Places by Denise Hunter Copyright © 2004 by Denise Hunter. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted May 29, 2012
Posted January 29, 2009
Mending Places interested me from the beginning. I read the back cover and wanted to see how the author worked through the conflict. It was a bit slow to start (for me,) but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. The conflict with her sister's marriage was realistic and gut-wrenching, and I wish it had turned out with a happier ending, but hey, that's not reality. In regards to Hanna, I liked the way the author brought everything to a climax toward the ending. I felt Micah's pain as well as Hanna's. It is a wonderful story of forgiveness. Though it may seem unrealistic to some, I've known people in weirder situations. I liked the redemption piece and felt like the author handled the resolution beautifully. I also like the passion and edgy feel to the story. Kudos!
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Posted April 7, 2004
Where do we draw the line? Are some things too big for us--or for God--to forgive? Denise Hunter tackles this question in a way that shows God's ability to transform broken lives. A highly recommended read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 31, 2004
It took a brave author to write a story like this! But she pulled it off with flying colors. The climax is stunning and emotional, and exemplifies the meaning of grace. An incredible story of healing and forgiveness, love and redemption.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2004
What a book! It has been a while since I could hardly put a book down until it was done. This is one of those books. I cannot wait to read the next one. This is the first one of a new series. Denise Hunter is excellent. I also loved the fact that a Beth Moore Bible study was used as part of the story, I am currently going through a Beth Moore Study, and that was an interesting element. Give this one a shot!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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