Is a little respect too much to ask at a funeral? Apparently it is for Destiny May. Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting when he shows up late to her mother's "going away party." When it turns out he's not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day's dreary proceedings. Spending time with a handsome stranger who makes her laugh is more therapeutic than fighting with her overbearing family. Clay finds Destiny beautiful, charming...and intelligent. So why is she stubbornly determined to open a Christian dating service? Clay has little respect for such a frivolous profession, and doesn't think the small, conservative town of Castle Creek will welcome such a progressive business. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm's way. Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses, and Destiny may be the one thing Clay can't escape... if he even wants to.
|Publisher:||Pelican Book Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
About the Author
Delia Latham is a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially treasures her role as princess daughter to the King of Kings. She has a "thing" for Dr. Pepper and LOVES hearing from her readers. Delia writes inspirational romance from her East Texas country home. Contact her through her website (delialatham.net) or e-mail (email@example.com).
Read an Excerpt
By Delia Latham
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2010 Delia Latham
All rights reserved.
"If she plays that song one more time, I swear I'll scream!"
Destiny had nothing against "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," but Miss Willard had played it through at least half a dozen times. Destiny was fairly certain the old lady had been born on that organ bench and would most likely die there. For pity's sake, surely by now she knew a few other songs that would be appropriate for a funeral! She cast a weary glance toward the prim organist with her customary, tight white bun and the face of a thousand wrinkles. How old is she anyway? I'm pretty sure she was at least ninety when I was kid — and that was twenty years ago.
A grin danced at the corners of her lips, and she bit down hard on the offending body part even as she raised a hand to cover it. What on earth would people think if she burst out laughing at her mother's funeral? Her nerves felt like a rubber band at the crucial breaking point. With her emotions stretched to the limit, it would be so easy to lose control. Get it together, Destiny May.
Her gaze drifted from the rail-thin organist and bounced off the beautiful, flower-draped coffin. Thank God Mama had requested a closed casket. The private family viewing the night before had been hard. She couldn't imagine trying to get through this service with her sweet mother displayed up front like a mortician's trophy.
She heaved a silent sigh of relief when Pastor Paul Porter stepped up to the podium. The organ fell silent at long last, and the minister began the service by reading the obituary.
Across the aisle, Jenna wept softly, her beautifully coiffed head resting on Dr. Bob's broad shoulder. Of the two May girls, Destiny's sister had always been the delicate one, and dapper Dr. Bob Clevenger was the perfect foil for his wife's femininity. Destiny watched as he wrapped Jenna in a comforting hug on one side, while resting his other arm across the back of the pew behind their four-year-old twin girls. She realized why her brother-in-law had chosen just that position when one of the twins — Was that Cassie or Carrie? — snickered and whispered something in her sister's ear. Dr. Bob tugged none too gently on a long, blonde ponytail, instantly achieving silence in the family row.
Down that same pew, Jeremy sat dry-eyed, his expression one of stoic grief. His fingers wound through those of his dainty little wife, Mary Lynn, whose round belly proclaimed their pending parenthood. Dressed in Marine regalia, and bearing himself in rigid military posture, Destiny's brother looked every inch the modern-day hero, and she couldn't help a little twinge of sisterly pride.
Destiny's pew was empty except for her. There simply hadn't been room for another body across the aisle, and since she had no husband, boyfriend, or pony-tailed twins, the logical choice had been for her to be the one apart from the family. Neither Jeremy nor Jenna seemed to have noticed the separation, or that Destiny, after five years of caring for their invalid mother to the exclusion of everything else in her life, now sat alone while last words were spoken over the parent they had all adored.
"Mind if I sit here?"
At the whispered question, Destiny looked up — way up. Her gaze traveled past a broad chest and massive shoulders into a pair of smoky gray eyes under a thatch of not-quite-shaggy black hair. Without waiting for an answer, the latecomer slid into the pew next to her, and she hurried to scoot over.
"Sorry I'm late. I couldn't find the church."
She nodded and gave him a polite smile, racking her brain for the man's identity. One of Jeremy's old pals? No, she was sure she would have recognized any one of her little brother's friends — especially one the size of a small mountain. An old beau of Jenna's? That didn't sound right either.
"How late am I?"
She shook her head and held her thumb and forefinger just slightly apart. Despite the seemingly endless repetition of Miss Willard's favorite funeral hymn prior to the service, it had actually just begun.
"Great! Then I don't feel quite so bad."
Would he never shut up? She could almost feel curious eyes boring into the back of her neck. The man spoke in a whisper, but still ... he spoke. Deliberately, she edged away, embarrassed by the newcomer's inability to disappear into the setting, like everyone else. She would love to turn her back on the big guy, but she'd look rather ridiculous facing away from the podium and her mother's casket.
Pastor Paul eased into his message, the stale reading of the obituary finished. "Miss Margie was a faithful member of this congregation for many years." He looked across the somber audience. "I don't believe I ever saw her without a smile, even after she became too ill to get out of bed. I can say with assurance that this lady wouldn't want to see a bunch of long faces today. Miss Margie would much rather we rejoiced in her promotion to Glory!"
A strange little half-laugh, half-sob caught in Destiny's throat, and she dabbed at her eyes before a tear could fall. She had promised herself no crying in public, and besides, Pastor was right. Mama hadn't wanted a gloomy affair, specifically requesting that the service be conducted as a "farewell party" — a celebration, not a lamentation. Destiny swallowed the choking sob and pinned a calm smile on her face. For Mama.
But her annoying neighbor hissed into her ear. "Who does he think he's fooling?"
Destiny gasped, but it was lost in his rude chuckle. "That old biddy forgot how to smile years ago. She was suspicious of anyone who did know how." A crooked grin accompanied the unexpected wink he bestowed on her. "I can't imagine the old dame anywhere near Glory or Amazing Grace!"
Shocked beyond words, Destiny glared at the obnoxious stranger. How dare he come in here and state such falsehoods about her saintly mother? Who was the big oaf, anyway? Well, she couldn't very well make a scene in the middle of Mama's last farewell. Instead, she sent him a glance that should have turned him into a Popsicle. Then she fixed her outraged gaze on the preacher, tuning back in at mid-sentence.
"Miss Margie wasn't letting us off that easy." Pastor Paul's warm laughter rang out in the quiet room, and Destiny found her lips twitching upward again, despite her annoyance. She could only imagine the shocked expressions of the crowd behind her as the preacher refused to bow to tradition, speaking instead with the warmth and humor her mother had requested for this occasion. How she'd love to turn around and see their faces, but that would probably be pushing the bounds of decorum.
"She marched right up front, shook one finger at the congregation, and hollered, 'Shame on us! How dare we call ourselves Christians? We need to get on our knees right this minute and just hope God will forgive our sorry souls.'"
Now she heard a few chuckles behind her. Good. This was more Mama's cup of tea.
"Who's Miss Margie?"
Her exasperating pew pal again. He seemed incapable of silence. Destiny turned to face him, at the end of her patience. But the confusion on his face stopped her. She vaguely registered that he was rather handsome, in a basic, earthy kind of way.
"Someone should have made sure the preacher knew her name."
"Her name was Margie!" Destiny heard the irritated hiss in her own voice. She no longer cared, despite the curious stares and subtle frowns from her family across the aisle. "Would you please hush?"
"Sorry." He had the nerve to pat her hand before turning to face forward again. The slight upward tilt of his lips annoyed her, even before his sideways whisper. "I think you're wrong."
Livid, Destiny curled both hands into tight fists, wishing she could use them to turn that ridiculous smile upside down.
She was just beginning to relax again when he leaned her way. "Who's the lady in the picture?"
"What picture?" She forced the words through gritted teeth.
"The one on Aunt Betty's casket."
A flash of awful understanding zipped its way through her brain, and for a moment she could not find her voice. When at last she did, she leaned toward her puzzled neighbor and opened her mouth to speak, only to be horrified by a gurgle of uncontrollable laughter. She snapped her lips together, shoulders heaving. Please, God, just let everyone think I'm overcome with tears!
He waited a moment before tilting his head toward her, his eyes still firmly fixed on Pastor Paul, who was bringing the service to a close. In his horrified whisper, Destiny heard the same terrible comprehension she had already experienced.
"Say it ain't so."
She couldn't look at him. If she did, she would laugh out loud. There'd be no stopping her. Desperately, she peered around him and across the aisle, where Jenna and Dr. Bob both stared back with raised eyebrows. Their disapproving expressions should have sobered her, but for some reason, their furrowed brows had the opposite effect. She turned away and took several deep breaths, finally gaining control of herself before sneaking a peek at the man beside her.
He studied the photo of Destiny's mother as if hoping to change the face he saw there. Finally, he turned to face Destiny, and she decided those gray eyes of his had to be the most expressive pair of peepers she had ever seen.
"That's not Aunt Betty up there, is it?" Two minutes ago, she would have taken great pleasure in his obvious humiliation. Now she realized, with utter amazement, that she felt sorry for him. She caught her bottom lip between her teeth and shook her head.
She drew a deep breath. "My mother. Margie May."
"Your mother?" He groaned as loudly as the occasion would permit. "I'm so sorry!"
"There will be no funeral procession." That was Pastor, making a final announcement. "Our dear sister requested no accompaniment of friends and family to the graveside. She asked that I invite you all, instead, to join her in Heaven. Her specific words were these: 'They'll find me on the other side of Jordan, close as I can get to the King.'"
It was over. At long last. The huge man at her side stood when she did and extended a hand, his expression so abject that Destiny couldn't hold back an impetuous giggle. She took his massive paw just as Jenna and Dr. Bob appeared at her side.
Jenna started in first. "Destiny May, what in the w —?"
"Gallagher?" Dr. Bob interrupted, his curious gaze on the big man still holding Destiny's hand.
Destiny's pew partner raked a hand through his thick, already disheveled hair and sighed. "Bob."
"What —?" Her brother-in-law shook his head. "Did you know Margie?"
"Long story, man. I'll bring you up to speed on the green."
"Bob?" Jenna's tight voice revealed her impatience with the whole situation.
Her husband pulled her into the circle of one arm. "Clay Gallagher, I'd like you to meet my wife, Jenna. Honey, I'm sure you've heard of Gallagher Investments."
Jenna's nod lacked any warmth or welcome. "Of course."
"Apparently you already know Destiny," Bob continued.
"I do now."
Destiny realized she was still holding Clay Gallagher's hand in a death grip. Mortified, she started to loosen her hold, but then her gaze fell on the crowd lining up behind her sister and Dr. Bob. All these people, waiting to greet her ... kiss her cheek ... pull her into suffocating hugs ... offer their well-meaning condolences.
No. Panic shortened her breath and darkened her vision, and she knew without a single doubt that she could not do the expected thing and face this crowd. Not today.
"Are you OK?" The man Dr. Bob called Gallagher squeezed her hand, and she bit back a frantic cry.
Taking a fresh grip on his fingers, she forced a small smile. "Jenna, I can't be here. I have to go." Her voice shook, and she felt the tremble echoed within every nerve in her body.
"What are you talking about?" Her sister's eyes widened in shock. "You have to be here!"
Destiny shook her head, fighting off a wave of smothering panic, and bent to plant a kiss on Jenna's smooth cheek. "You and Jemmy can handle this one. Please ..." She tried to convey her absolute need to escape as she met her sister's horrified gaze. "I'm sorry, Jen. I really can't do this. I just ... I can't!"
She whirled around and tugged Clay Gallagher along as she dashed down the side aisle and out the door that was, thankfully, mere feet away. It was suddenly imperative that she not have to deal with all the friends and family who would be lining up to express their condolences. Just this once, Jenna and Jeremy could be the responsible siblings. When she was emotionally stronger, she would do whatever it took to make amends.
Breathless, she paused in the parking lot and looked up at the big man following her like a huge, confused puppy. "You know my brother-in-law?"
He nodded, his expression glum. "Not well, but we play the occasional round of golf. Hey, look, I'm so sorry about intruding on your mother's funeral like that. I feel like the biggest knucklehead around."
She choked back another burst of inappropriate merriment and shook her head. "It's OK, I think I understand. Look, Clay Gallagher, I don't really know you, and I don't as a rule go running off with strangers. But I assure you Dr. Bob won't forget who I was with when I left the church, so I feel pretty safe this time." She glanced around the parking lot, and every nerve ending she possessed vibrated with the movement. "Where's your car?"
At his startled expression, she glared at him. "I need coffee, Gallagher! I need it now — and you owe me that much, don't you think, after crashing my mother's funeral like that? Now which of these wheels belongs to you?"CHAPTER 2
An hour later, she nursed a cup of steaming coffee and watched Clay polish off a gigantic slice of apple pie. He swiped a napkin across his lips, tossed it on top of his plate and pushed it to the edge of the table for the waitress to pick up.
"Now that was good pie!" He picked up his own mug and settled back to enjoy the strong black brew.
They each spent a few moments on their cell phones enroute to the diner. Destiny told her brother not to worry, she was with a friend and would be fine. She planned to join the family back at Mama's house, but she might be a couple of hours getting there. She hung up on his mystified questions, which she'd only have to answer again when she got home.
Clay's side of the call he made to his mother was more interesting.
Destiny had peered out the passenger window while he talked, hoping to appear caught up in watching Spring's paintbrush color the foliage and flowers along the way. She did enjoy the spectacle — trees whose bare branches had bent beneath the weight of ice and snow a month ago now danced in a gentle breeze, glorious green leaves reaching for the sunshine. California poppies burst into view in dazzling clusters, their orange petals nudging a smile, even on a day when her heart ached from saying good-bye. Without a doubt, the view had its merits, but Destiny's ears were tuned to the one-sided conversation going on inside the car.
Judging by her escort's guarded comments, Mama Gallagher had been less than pleased to hear he had attended the funeral down the road from Aunt Betty's.
"Let me get this straight." Destiny squinted over her mug, piecing together overheard snippets of conversation from the car with bits of the surprisingly comfortable chat they'd enjoyed over pie and coffee. "Aunt Betty's not even your aunt?"
"Well, yeah, she is — once removed. She's my mother's aunt."
"And she was ... how old?"
"Well, we all thought she was ninety-one until she died, but her birth certificate puts her at almost ninety-seven." He rolled his eyes. "No wonder the old fossil was so hard to get along with."
Destiny chuckled. "That's not very nice. Come on, she couldn't have been that bad."
"Oh, yes, she could." His eyebrows shot upward while his face took on a pained expression. "Aunt Betty terrorized my family for decades. I know she was lonely, but ..." He shook his head and exhaled in an expressive little burst of air. "Betty Marsden could've stricken fear in the hearts of die-hard Mafia men, if she had a mind to. She never married. Mom says there was a rumor that she was 'betrothed' once upon a time, but no matter how hard I try, I can't picture the old gal ever being a sappy, love-struck young maiden."
Excerpted from Destiny's Dream by Delia Latham. Copyright © 2010 Delia Latham. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Destiny's Dream Delia Latham knows how to make me laugh. Destiny's Dream was a real delight to read. What should have been a somber moment turns into several hilarious escapades. Destiny is with the family saying their last goodbyes to their mother. Clay is running late and obviously lost. He pops into a seat next to Destiny at the funeral chapel. He tries to apologize for being late. Making several remarks about the deceased before he finally figures out he's in the wrong place. This is the strange beginning to a very delightful and unique relationship; I laughed through this entire story as I cheered Clay and Destiny on. Thank you, Delia, for delighting my soul. Looking forward to the others in the series. I give this story five laugh out loud stars.
A lovely launch to the Soloman's Gate series. Loved it!!!
DESTINY'S DREAM by Delia Latham has it all. There's romance, mystery and action - all very skillfully woven together into a well told and satisfying story. Add to that a solid presentation of the gospel using real and believable characters, and you have a recipe for a great Christian romance novel. These elements on their own are enough to make this book worth reading, but Latham has taken her story telling to another whole level. There were so many unique things about this book that I'm not sure where to begin. First of all, the set up where the two main characters meet is pretty unusual. Destiny May and Clay Gallagher meet at her mother's funeral. Yeah, that's right - a funeral! Hardly the makings for a 'happy beginning', yet Latham manages to make this scene quite humorous without becoming irreverent. Also, Destiny's profession is atypical, to say the least. She runs a dating service for Christians and sees it as a ministry that God has called her to. Rather than coming across as shallow, Latham manages to present both the heroine and her aspirations in such a way that it seems totally plausible - even inspiring. In fact, one of the things that impressed me most was the matter of fact way Destiny's deep spirituality was dealt with in the book. There were plenty of references to the gospel message, redemption, prayer, and even some topics that other authors might shy away from such as angelic visitations, the use of anointing oil, and prophetic messages from God. Yet, Latham weaves all of these elements into the story in such a skillful and unobtrusive way that never once does the reader feel like they are being preached at or 'taught'. This is good story telling at its finest. There are lots of solid Biblical principles, well rounded and sympathetic characters, and enough plot twists and turns to keep you on your toes - all put together so that in the end all you are left with is the satisfaction of a story well told.