Read an Excerpt
The Preacher's Daughter
By Lyn Cote
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
Copyright © 2003
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Late-May sunshine gilded the weathered wood fence around the farmyard. Lucie Hansen leaned against the railing on the
wide front porch of the white-frame farmhouse. She wished she'd had time to linger over coffee this morning. But this
wasn't a pleasure visit to Pleasant Prairie, Iowa.
Three days ago, her cousin Sophie had called in tears over her husband's continued hospital stay. So Lucie had promised
she'd come as soon as she could pack. At that time, Lucie hadn't yet taken in just how deep Sophie's troubles were.
Now, three days later, she realized that her cousin's problems might keep Lucie at the farm longer than she'd
expected - or wanted. She felt both sorry for her cousin and guilty over feeling selfish. But she had
Lucie worried her lower lip. I'm almost broke. I've got to be looking for a summer job and a full-time job for the
fall. Lord, You're going to have to help me out here.
Sophie stood near Lucie, holding her baby daughter on her hip. The girl's dark curls and olive skin matched her pretty
A riff of heavy-metal music blasted from an open second-story window. Ordinarily, the sound wouldn't have bothered
Lucie, fresh from four years in a college dorm. But one glance told her that the raucous sound was upsetting Sophie.
And her cousin didn't need any more upsetting right now.
Sophie looked so forlorn, Lucie's mood lowered even further. Should I offer to go along with her to the
"Lucie!" one of Sophie's little boys called to her.
Sophie's young sons already hung on to and twisted themselves around the door handles of Lucie's battered car. The
longing in their expressions tugged at Lucie's heart. The little guys couldn't wait for Lucie's promised treat
of a trip to the town park, to be followed by Dairy Queen hamburgers, fries and cones.
Sophie forced a tiny smile. "Don't worry about me, Lucie."
The heavy-metal music overhead zoomed a decibel louder, drowning out Sophie. Exasperated, Lucie looked upward. What was
with Zoë, anyway?
Zoë was Sophie's teenaged sister-in-law who'd been living with Sophie and her husband since the death of her parents.
Yesterday, Lucie had noted the drastic change in the teen from a year ago. Zoë's lowcut, hip-hugging jeans and exposed
navel hadn't bothered Lucie. The desperate unhappiness in Zoë's eyes had.
Shaking her head, Sophie leaned close to Lucie's ear. "I don't know what I would have done if you couldn't have come
for the summer."
The summer? I came for the summer? Lucie swallowed this withh some difficulty. When did I volunteer to stay
the whole summer? She hadn't even guessed that Sophie had assumed she'd stay for the entire summer. I'm broke!
I have to find a job!
Another glance at Sophie's worry-ravaged face made Lucie postpone mentioning this. Sophie was family and family came
first. Lucie would have to figure out some way to both help Sophie and find a job. But how?
"Lu-cie!" both boys wailed to her in that little-boy please-hurry-up whine.
"I better get going." Lucie hustled down the steps and unlocked what she called "the Bomb," the car that had somehow
lasted her through four years of college. "Don't worry, Sophie!" Lucie shouted over her shoulder. "I'll come back in
time to drive -" she waved her hand upward to the source of the rock music "- Zoë to work!"
The boys scrambled into the backseat and quickly snapped themselves into their seat belts. Lucie settled herself behind
the wheel, turned the key in the ignition and roared down the lane. The roar reminded her, once more, that her father
had mentioned she should have her muffler checked. Oh, well!
"Is our daddy coming home today?" Danny asked over the rumble of her car.
The unexpected question left Lucie uneasy. Lord, does he want me to tell him everything will be just like it was
before? I can't lie!
"No, he isn't," Mikey said with audible disgust.
"Mommy said Daddy won't come home till he's all better from the accident."
"Oh." Danny subsided.
Lucie didn't wonder that the boys were having difficulty with this situation. Yesterday, visiting their formerly strong
and healthy young father in the hospital had shaken her. Out on a county road on his tractor, Nate had nearly died when
he'd been hit by a car. It was unbelievable how the irresponsible behavior of one drunk driver could so devastate a man
and his entire family.
Poor kids, poor Sophie! Lord, help me help her. And I mean that!
Still, as she drove past fields of black dirt, dotted with green shoots of emerging corn, her spirits lifted. She felt
the lingering weight of finals and college graduation drifting away -
A flash of fur. A high yelp.
Lucie slammed on the brakes.
"What happened?" the boys yelled.
She jumped out. "Stay in the car!" Ahead of her, a small bundle of brown-and-white fur lay crumpled on the asphalt
I didn't have time to stop! Dear God, help! She ran to the little animal and knelt down on the sun-warmed road.
The dog was conscious. Knowing a wounded animal might snap at her, she began murmuring reassurances. She held her hands
in front of his snout to let him smell her. The dog sniffed her hands and then whimpered as though asking for help.
Gently she stroked his head. He whimpered more and then licked her hand.
Excerpted from The Preacher's Daughter
by Lyn Cote
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd..
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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