Lily Draper comes to Rainbow Falls in search of her biological sister, the only blood relative she has left. Emotionally scarred by her preacher father, Lily avoids religion at all cost. Her new landlord, an aspiring minister, soon has her questioning her views. Can she learn to trust Nick's heart or will her sordid past destroy their love?Nick Logan hopes to take over for the retiring minister who has groomed Nick for the job. But Reverend Ted seems to feel the position requires Nick to marry an upstanding woman, namely Ted's niece. When Nick finds himself falling in love with Lily Draper, the woman least likely to become a minister's wife, his problems escalate. And when Reverend Ted gives him an ultimatum, Nick faces an impossible choice. Can he accept God's will and still find a place for Lily in his life?
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By Susan Anne Mason
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2014 Susan Anne Mason
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Parked across the street from the two-story red brick house, Lily loosened her death grip on the steering wheel of her beat-up Toyota. "At least this one's not a dump."
In a small town like Rainbow Falls, North Dakota, decent lodging appeared to be a scarce commodity, unless you liked rats for roommates. This house would make the third rental property she'd seen since yesterday, and so far from the outside, it seemed the most promising. Maybe the third time would be a charm.
It had to be. She was running out of options — and money.
With unsteady hands, she adjusted the rearview mirror, reapplied a layer of strawberry-flavored lip gloss and patted her dark hair into submission.
"That's as good as it's going to get." She scowled at the smudges shadowing her brown eyes. What she wouldn't give for one decent night's sleep.
Taking a deep breath for courage, she stepped out of the car and crossed the street to the flagstone walkway leading up to the house. A wide porch, complete with a wicker rocking chair, gave the building a homey feel. A pang of longing shuddered through her, but she shook it off. No time for regrets. She was here on a mission and needed to keep that at the forefront.
Shoulders squared, Lily climbed the stairs to the front door and jabbed the bell, taking in the pot of pink geraniums in the corner while she waited. A cool spring breeze rustled her hair and lifted the collar of her thin jacket. Seconds later, the door flew open in front of her.
"I can't believe you're on time for once —" The pixie-like woman in the doorway sported spiky red hair — definitely not her natural color — and large, silver hoop earrings. "Oh, you're not Jason." Wide hazel eyes held Lily in a curious gaze.
Doubts wreaked havoc with Lily's composure. Could she have the wrong address? "I'm looking for a Mr. Logan."
"Of course you are." The girl grinned, scanning Lily from the toes of her pointed shoes to the top of her windblown curls.
Lily tried to shake the feeling she'd missed the punch line to some unknown joke.
Still grinning, the girl — not a teenager, now that Lily looked closer — cocked her head to one side and folded her arms over her tiny torso. "Obviously you haven't met him, or you'd know what I mean."
A low-grade headache brewed at Lily's temples. It had been a long day, and all she wanted was to find a place to stay. Not play word games with a stranger. She straightened to her full height. That, along with her heels, gave her a decided advantage over the shorter, barefoot girl. "No, I haven't met Mr. Logan. But I have an appointment with him."
The girl's face brightened. "You here to look at the apartment?"
"That's right." Now they were getting somewhere.
"Great. I hope you take it. We'll be neighbors then. My name's Maxi. Maxi North. Short for Maxine." She held out her hand and smiled again, revealing two rows of even, white teeth.
Lily frowned slightly and accepted the young woman's outstretched hand. "I'm Lily." The wary city-girl in her declined to give her full name.
"Nice to meet you." The sound of a vehicle pulling into the driveway pulled Maxi's gaze over Lily's shoulder. "That's him now."
Lily turned. A battered red pickup jerked to a halt, and the driver's door swung open. Lily wiped damp palms on her jeans.
Please let things be better this time.
She checked her thoughts. That had sounded too much like a prayer. Prayer, she'd discovered long ago, got you nowhere.
"Hope to see you again, Lily," Maxi said. "Oh, and don't mind Nick. He's a bit on the serious side." With that, she waved to the man getting out of the truck before she disappeared inside.
Lily clutched her shoulder bag, mentally preparing for the dreaded tenant interview, while Mr. Logan strode up the driveway. Her internal radar zoomed in on the fact that this was not the overstuffed bear of a middle-aged man she'd pictured. Clad in a light blue shirt, snug fitting jeans, and western style boots, this man could pass for an urban cowboy. Broad shoulders complemented well-muscled arms, hinting at work that included physical labor. When he reached the stairs, he pulled off a baseball cap to reveal a thick crop of blond hair. Intense blue eyes stared into hers then crinkled at the corners. Just the sort of good-looking complication she did not need now that she'd sworn off men.
"Lily Draper?" His smile could stop traffic, even in a town the size of Rainbow Falls where none existed. When she nodded, he held out his hand. "Nick Logan. Hope I didn't keep you waiting." His deep voice slid over her like silk.
"No. I just got here myself."
His hand, warm and firm, dwarfed hers. The handshake of someone dependable.
"Good. I see you met Maxi. She lives on the main level." He crossed the porch to pull open the front door. "The house is divided into two apartments. The unit for rent is upstairs. Come on in."
As she entered the house, Lily tried to ignore his larger-than-life presence and concentrate on the building. The main entryway was wide and welcoming with gleaming hardwood floors. A framed mirror hung above a narrow table holding a vase of fresh flowers. She inhaled the appealing floral scent. So far she liked what she saw.
In more ways than one.
"Maxi's place is down the hall." Nick pointed toward the rear of the building. "The only thing you'll have to share are the laundry facilities in the basement."
Lily frowned as she followed him up a set of narrow stairs. He sounded as if she'd already agreed to take the place. Maybe the rent would be outrageous. Maybe the roof leaked. Maybe Mr. Logan would see right through her façade of respectability and send her packing. But instinct told her that wouldn't be the case — if only she could keep her nerves at bay.
When they reached the narrow landing, Nick unlocked the door and stepped aside to let her in. "It's nothing fancy, but it's clean and neat with lots of windows, so the lighting's good."
Lily held her breath as she entered the apartment. She wanted to like it so bad, she was almost afraid to look. His voice faded into the background while she took in the high ceilings, the sculpted crown moldings and the wide arched entrance into the living room. Good solid bones, Mama would've said.
Nick continued his commentary as she moved around the room. "You can walk into town from here. The grocery store, post office, and the church are all close by."
She gave a polite nod, though church was the last place she'd be going. Hadn't darkened the door of one since she'd left her father's tyrannical rule and didn't plan to start anytime soon.
She eyed the overstuffed green sofa and matching chair. "Does it come furnished?"
"Yes. Unless you've got your own things."
"No. The furniture will be fine."
He raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "From out of town I take it?"
"Yes." She turned to avoid his curiosity — something she didn't need. Especially when trying to keep a low profile.
Down a small hallway, she found two bedrooms. The larger one had an airy quality, painted light blue with white lacey curtains. She gave an inward sigh, imagining herself sleeping in this beautiful setting. Quite a step up from the back room at Hank's.
The spare room was just as inviting. Nick hadn't exaggerated about the windows either. The lighting would be perfect for painting, with lots of room for her easel.
"What do you think?" Nick's voice startled her from her daydreams.
She turned to find him — and his broad shoulders — filling the doorway.
"I like it." She folded her arms in front of her, pushing back the anxiety that clawed its way up her spine. If only he'd move away from the door ...
The sudden piercing shriek of a police siren split the silence. Lily jerked backward, smothering a scream. Her bag slipped off her shoulder, landing with a clatter on the hardwood floor.
Had Tobias found her already?
Nick strode into the room and bent to help her. "Are you all right?" A frown creased the space between his eyebrows.
"I ... I'm fine." Her hair shielded her face as she grabbed for the lip gloss and nail clippers that had spilled onto the floor. "The noise startled me."
He gave a low chuckle. "That's the chief testing his siren. Doesn't get to use it much around here, so about once a week, he turns it on to make sure it still works."
"Oh." The elastic band around her lungs loosened a notch.
They rose together, Lily clutching the bag to her body like a lifeline. She struggled to keep her expression calm, one ear attuned to any noise on the staircase. At last, when certain the police weren't about to break in, Lily forced her muscles to relax and stepped out into the hall.
"How much is the rent?" she asked once they'd returned to the living room.
He studied her as though trying to learn the secrets of her soul. She ignored his gaze and ran her fingers over the smooth wood of the fireplace mantel, allowing the calming effects of the green-hued room to soothe her jangled nerves.
When he named the price, disappointment slid through her. The amount was more than she'd hoped. But she couldn't pass up this apartment. Not after the other horrible ones she'd seen. If it meant working two jobs, then that's what she'd do.
It'd be worth it to find her sister.
"I'll take it," she said. "If it's all right with you."
His blue eyes held hers like a magnet, and a string of tension hummed through her veins. Why did she get the feeling Nick Logan could throw a big monkey wrench into her plans if she weren't careful?
At last, he nodded. "The place is yours."
The tension across her shoulders eased. "That's great. Thank you." She rifled through her bag and pulled out a wad of bills. "I can give you a deposit right now."
Nick shifted his weight away from the living room doorframe, hands up. "Whoa. That's a lot of cash to be carrying around." He scratched his head. "Why don't you give me, say, one hundred dollars for today, and we can settle the details later."
Her hand with the money froze in mid-air. "What details?"
"The lease, for one thing. I'm sure you'll want to read it over before you sign it."
"Is a lease really necessary?"
His gaze narrowed. "Why? Is it a problem?"
She shifted under his direct stare. Stay cool, Lily. Don't blow this. "I'm not sure how long I'll be staying. A couple of months, maybe more."
"I see." Nick pursed his lips. "How about an open-ended lease then? Or a month-by-month contract?"
She took a moment to consider. "Either of those options would be fine." She handed him the deposit, which he took without counting the bills.
"When would you like to move in?"
Lily bit her lip, not wanting to appear desperate, yet not willing to waste her dwindling cash supply on another night at the Rainbow Falls Motel — a luxury she'd allowed herself after two uncomfortable nights in her car. She ran her hand over the plush back of the sofa. "I was hoping today. If that's not a problem."
His mouth fell open before he clamped it shut and scrubbed a hand over his jaw. "I suppose that'll be fine." He paused as though trying to digest the swiftness of the transaction. "Do you need help with your bags?"
"No, thanks. I can handle it."
"All right then." He fumbled in his pant pocket until he pulled out a small key ring and a slightly battered business card. "Here's the key to the front door downstairs and one to your apartment. And my contact info. If you need anything, don't be shy."
His fingers brushed hers as she took the items from him. She jerked her hand back from the heat of his touch and stuffed the keys, along with the card, into her bag.
"Thank you." She tried to manage a smile, but couldn't quite force her lips to comply.
"Welcome to Rainbow Falls, Lily." His baritone whisper resonated inside her.
He studied her for another moment, then tugged on his cap and left.
Lily stared at the door after he'd shut it behind him, allowing her emotions to settle. A few seconds later, his footsteps echoed down the stairs.
One thing for sure, Nick Logan was like no other man she'd ever met. Half an hour in his company and he hadn't even hit on her.
* * *
Lily had just finished hauling the last of her bags from the car when a loud knock shattered the silence of the apartment. Her suitcase slipped from her hand, landing on the bedroom floor with a thud that matched her heart rate. When a louder knock followed, she slipped down the hall to the entrance, wishing for a peephole in her door.
"Who is it?"
"It's Maxi. From downstairs."
The air whooshed out of Lily's lungs in one great gust. Not the police. Thank goodness.
"Just a minute."
Before she opened the door, she schooled her face into what she hoped was a normal expression.
"Hi," Maxi said before Lily could speak. "I noticed you bringing your things in. Does this mean we're neighbors?" Her face wore an expectant smile, her eyes friendly.
"Terrific." Maxi whipped a container out from behind her back. "I brought some homemade cookies as a welcome."
Lily blinked, trying to reconcile the spiky-haired girl in the flowered halter-top to a person who baked cookies. "Thank you." She took the tin, as Maxi breezed past her. "I'd offer you coffee, if I had any." Lily kept close to the door, hoping her new neighbor would take the hint and leave. All she wanted right now was a hot shower, some Chinese take-out, and a good night's sleep. She'd barely closed her eyes for more than a couple of hours the past few nights.
Maxi, however, had already moved into the tiny kitchen. "Not to worry. Logan usually has some teabags kicking around here."
Dumfounded, Lily could only follow her. Sure enough, Maxi pulled teabags from a bright yellow canister on the counter and plugged in the kettle. Lily hesitated, not sure how to react. She knew small-towners were friendly, but this seemed over the top.
Maxi stopped in the middle of pulling cups out of the cupboard and grinned. "Logan used to live here until a few months ago. Whenever I had a problem, I'd cry on his shoulder, and he'd make me tea."
No wonder she acted as if she owned the place. Lily deposited the cookie tin on the counter, then leaned against it, a sudden suspicion dawning. "Are you two dating?"
Maxi set the cups on the counter with a burst of laughter. "Logan's a great guy, not to mention easy on the eyes, but he's too much of a 'goody-goody' for me. I prefer the bad boys."
An unsettling image of Curtis flashed through Lily's mind, but she pushed it away. She refused to allow thoughts of her ex-boyfriend to interfere with her new life. The kettle snapped off and Maxi poured the water over the teabags.
"You're more than welcome to go after Nick. But you'll have to arm wrestle Sarah Jane for him."
Lily's brain swam trying to keep up with Maxi's ramblings. "All right, I'll bite. Who's Sarah Jane?"
Maxi handed her a cup and opened the cookie tin. The kitchen wasn't big enough to include an eating area, so they stood at the counter.
"She's the town librarian and Reverend Baker's niece, not to mention secretary of the church women's group."
A librarian and a churchgoer. Not someone Lily would likely socialize with. Although, she had paid a visit to the library two days ago to look up past issues of the local newspaper. She tried to recall the face of the woman she'd met that day.
"Plain as a post, poor thing," Maxi continued as she dunked her teabag. "Wish she'd come into our salon for a makeover. Maybe then she'd have a better chance with Nick."
Lily suddenly remembered the unattractive hairstyle and drab attire. The woman's silver cross necklace had even made Lily wonder if she were a nun.
Maxi studied her as she sipped her brew. "Unless I'm out to lunch, I'd say you're not from around here. I'm sure I would've remembered you."
Lily's hand tightened on her cup. The girl switched topics faster than the wind changed directions. This topic, however, had taken an unwelcome turn. "No, I'm not."
"So what brings you to our humble town?"
Lily swallowed a mouthful, trying not to choke. "Needed a change of scenery." She kept her gaze averted and took another sip of hot liquid, almost scalding her tongue in the process. The weight of Maxi's curiosity made the kitchen seem smaller.
Maxi tapped a finger to her lips. "Let me guess. Man trouble? A relationship gone bad?"
Lily's shoulder muscles relaxed a fraction. "Something like that."
"Say no more." Maxi held up a hand. "Been there a few times myself." She picked up a cloth to wipe the counter. "What're you doing for work?"
At last, a safe topic. Maybe one Maxi could help her with. "I'll have to start looking for a job tomorrow. Any suggestions?"
Maxi gave her a pensive look. "I don't know what you have in mind, but there's an opening at the hair salon where I work. Nothing fancy," she hastened to add. "Reception and some tidying up. Pays better than minimum wage though."
Excerpted from Betrayed Hearts by Susan Anne Mason. Copyright © 2014 Susan Anne Mason. Excerpted by permission of Pelican Ventures, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was an enjoyable read. Stories set in small towns where everyone knows everyone else often provide a getaway from big city life, not that I live in a big city but it’s certainly much larger than Rainbow Falls. It’s a bit more reminiscent of my years growing up in a small town. This story has some interesting twists. A major emphasis is placed on forgiveness although the story starts with a young woman whose adoptive father was a very unforgiving pastor. Of all people, a pastor should teach and live an exemplary life of forgiveness. At times those who should know better do not do better. She ultimately decides her only choice is to leave the town where she grew up and move to Rainbow Falls. Even as she is developing new friendships, the past still haunts her. Most of the people in the small town show her a totally different side of friendship, one that she has seldom seen in her life. She is starting to feel at home until someone digs into her past. It’s mind-boggling what jealousy will do to a person. Susan Anne Mason has developed some rather amazing characters who portray the Christian life in action. Can Lily overcome her past? Will the young minister-in-training choose the church or her? Will Lily find her way? I recommend you read the book to find out what happens to Lily and her new friends. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Lily Draper finds some life-changing documents in her father’s money box that crumble the foundation of her world. She relocates to Rainbow Falls to escape his overbearing religious abuse, her idea of God warped and her trust shattered. Will she be able to find the truth without her past catching up to her? Nick Logan is studying to be a pastor and plans to step into the role once Ted, the current pastor, retires. He’s studied hard & believes with all his heart this is what God called him to be. He also takes teens under his wings by meeting once a week to talk to them and hang out. His dream is to one day to open a women’s shelter. His life, it seems, is all mapped out until Lily comes to town! This story has so much going for it and so many layers to peel away! It caught me from the very beginning with Lily escaping her dad’s house to the very gratifying end! You can see her go from not wanting anything to do with God to a gradual change in heart & finally the surrender. Nick plays a big role in showing her what true faith is by how he lives. There’s also side characters such as Maxie & Peg, who befriend her and show her that she can be loved in spite of her past mistakes. It gripped me emotionally too, I felt like I was right there laughing or crying with them. It’s hard to put in words how much I enjoyed this book. It’s rich with details & kept me invested throughout the story! I love the faith threads, the way the characters stuck by one another & how much I wanted to be a resident of Rainbow Falls. There are a myriad of obstacles to overcome for both Nick & Lily and I loved how the author portrayed solutions to them. All in all, a phenomenal story of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness that any reader of Christian fiction will enjoy! **I received a complimentary copy of this book through Pelican Book Group for my honest review, which I have given here. A big thank you goes out to them!**
Betrayed Hearts is the third book in the Rainbow Falls series, and to be honest I have not read the first two, but if they are anything like this book, they will be on my list. I also see that this is by one of my new favorite authors, just having finished her new book. I was captured by this story from the first page on; I can’t imagine what this poor girl, Lily Draper, has been through. What she finds in that moneybox changes her life forever, flashbacks begin to happen, and she remembers the horror of that night, and what life used to be like. This is where she heads to Rainbow Falls and in search of an unknown sister, and meets Nick Logan. He is everything she wants, and yet all that she dreads, he is a man of God, and she is running from God. You are going to love this town and the rich characters who live here, and how they seem to take Lily to their hearts, well all but Sarah Jane, I felt myself wanting to live here too. You won’t want to miss this one; it is a quick and compelling read. I received this book through Pelican Book Group, and was not required to give a positive review.