Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeatedplagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?
As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.
Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander.
Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.
A 2018 Christy Award finalist!
|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Heidi Chiavaroli, Caleb Sjogren
Tyndale House PublishersCopyright © 2017 Heidi Chiavaroli
All rights reserved.
TWENTY-THREE MONTHS LATER
I stared at the potted lily in my hand, its pure white petals fresh against the backdrop of my sister's stained wood door.
Maybe flowers were overkill. I wasn't looking for a date, after all. I was looking for ...
What was I looking for? Why was I here?
The unexpected phone call with my mother the night before replayed in my head, along with the news she had shared.
"I talked to Lydia today. It looks like Roger's going to take a job in the UK."
The statement ripped through me. I hadn't seen Lydia or her family in over a year and a half, but this news broke on me with the sudden realization that I might never see them again.
So here I was, after nearly seven hundred days of silence. Trying to reconcile the fact that each day I could have picked up the phone, tried to mend the fragments of our relationship, but I hadn't.
I closed my eyes, concentrated on the familiar weight of the object attached to the chain at my neck. The ring, Red Sox Sweatshirt, my sister, and my crippled niece — they'd all jumbled together the last two years to create a fierce, writhing fairy-tale nightmare that wouldn't release me from its vicious hold.
I freed a quaking breath, clutched at the cool plastic of the flowerpot in my hand. Qui fortis salutem tribuet.
It was the Latin inscription on the ring belonging to the man who'd never bothered to find me after the day of the bombing.
I breathed around the preposterous feeling of abandonment, focused instead on the meaning of the words, tried to draw strength from them, from the ring itself. Victory belongs to the one who is strong.
I shook my head against the slogan that had rallied Boston to its feet just days after the crisis that rocked the city. I shouldn't think of it now. It only taunted me. Whether on T-shirts, hats, sports memorabilia, bumper stickers, billboards, or even the destination signs on buses, the two words tormented me, calling me to be something I wasn't.
Why I thought I could suddenly draw hope from these etched words just because I stood at my sister's threshold, I hadn't a clue.
I turned around instead of knocking again, convinced I needed something more to face what was behind this door. But the hinges creaked behind me. I turned, and there she stood.
She'd gotten more beautiful the last two years, young womanhood making her blossom and mature. And I'd missed it all.
"Grace ..." I could scarcely push her name past my lips, for the sudden emotion in my throat. She stood at eye level with me. I'd expected a wheelchair, a crutch, something. But a quick — what I hoped to be discreet — scan of her lower half revealed two legs clad in skinny jeans. She looked like a healthy, normal teenage girl, thanks to prosthetics.
I would not cry.
"Auntie Annie. Wow, you're here."
"I — um, maybe I should have called first, but —"
"No. No, this is great." She opened the door wider, threw her long, honey-colored ponytail over her shoulder. "I was just thinking about going for a run, but that can wait. Mom's out catching up on some errands, Dad's fiddling in the garage, Joel went to a friend's, so, like, it's just me." She closed the door behind us. "I hope that's ... okay."
She was about to go for a run. A run. I thought she'd never walk — never mind run — again. I knew in my head people who lost limbs could still do many things others could do, but in my mind Grace was as I'd last seen her. Crippled, in a wheelchair. Bruised both inside and out.
I inhaled the scent of pine furniture polish, the house as tidy as my sister's room when we were kids. On counters and hutches were dried flowers of every type — hydrangeas, carnations, larkspur, peonies.
"Let me take that." Grace held out her arms for the lily and I released it, noticing the slightest of limps when she walked to the kitchen counter to set the pot down.
I found my voice. "You look great."
She smiled at me, revealing white, straight teeth. No braces anymore. "Thanks, so do you."
I knew she was being nice. While I'd been severely battered by the bombing, I'd also been fit and trim. Not so much anymore. I hadn't pulled on a pair of running sneakers since the morning of the marathon. I likely never would again. I could live with these fifteen extra pounds for the rest of my life if I had to. Kind of even liked them — a buffer zone of sorts.
"Do you want some coffee?"
I raised my eyebrows, shook my head, and sighed. "I can't get over how grown-up you are. Sorry, yes. I'd love some coffee."
She opened one of the perfectly distressed white cabinet doors and pulled down two mugs. I sat on a barstool and drew a greeting card from my purse. I slid the card along the counter.
"Happy belated. Sorry it's late."
It was an improvement from last year, anyway, when I sent nothing.
Her green eyes brightened. "Hey, thanks." She ripped open the card, moving aside the fifty-dollar bill as she read the greeting. Nothing fancy or personal. I didn't want her to think I was trying to flatter my way back into her life.
"Thanks, Auntie." She placed the card on the counter and came around the island to envelop me in a brief, awkward hug. I was relieved when she went back to the kitchen.
"How many sugars?" Grace opened one of the Pfaltzgraff containers and spooned a teaspoonful of sugar into one mug.
"Two please." I put a hand on my stomach. "Though I'm trying to work down to one and a half. It stays on so much easier these days."
Grace smiled and in it I saw she didn't harbor anything against me. I loved her all the more.
"So seventeen, huh? Driving yet?"
"Got my license a few months ago. We've been looking for a car. Mom's freaking."
I laughed. "I'll bet." I scurried for more meaningless small talk. "How's school? Any boyfriends?"
She shook her head. "No on the boyfriends. Good on school. Except for pre-calc. Struggling with that."
"I could help you sometime if you want. With calculus, I mean." I could have knocked my head against my sister's quartz countertop. Who did I think I was, waltzing into my niece's life after nearly destroying it, offering to help her with math?
But nothing seemed to faze Grace. She kept smiling at me, like she was actually glad I came, glad I sat in her kitchen. "I'd like that."
The coffee dribbled into the mug, releasing a French-roast scent into the kitchen.
"So how about you?" Grace switched out the mugs in the Keurig, grabbed cream from the fridge. "Like, what have you been up to? Any boyfriends?" She gave me a sly smile as she placed a cream-colored mug in front of me. I recognized it as one I gave Lydia on her thirtieth birthday. It said Sisters on it in large cursive writing. Around the word in a circular pattern was a collection of words about sisters. I didn't want to turn the cup and study it with Grace beside me, but I did glimpse one sentence. As friends we have pulled together.
I was surprised Lydia hadn't tossed the cup sometime over the last two years.
I shook my head. "Sorry. No — no boyfriends." Not serious ones, that is. "I relocated, actually. For work. Still with the bank. I'm renting an apartment above a garage in Lexington now. Not too far from here — on Belfry Terrace."
"Yeah, I like it. Peaceful, you know?"
"Try going to high school. There's nothing peaceful about it."
"Thought you said school was good?" I let the heat of the mug seep through to my skin, then sipped the coffee. It slid down my throat, warm and comforting. This felt ... normal. I hadn't expected such an easy transition.
Grace waved a hand through the air. "Oh, it's fine. Just the usual, I guess. Immature boys; gossiping, shallow girls. I don't fit in, you know?"
If someone had told me the day before that Grace would confide in me that she didn't fit in anywhere, I would have instantly blamed it on the terror attack, on her leg. But sitting here with her now, I knew that's not what she meant.
"The bombing made you grow up faster than them." I stated the sentence with confidence. It wasn't a question; I saw the evidence before my eyes, in the way Grace handled herself, in the way she received me with such poise and mercy after all these months of silence.
She shrugged, blinked fast. "I guess so."
I reached for her hand, the awkwardness from our previous physical contact now gone. I may have come for myself, but in this moment I could only think of comforting the young woman before me. "I'm so sorry I haven't called, Grace. I got your letter. It was just — I have no excuses. I'm so sorry."
"I'm not, like, holding any hard feelings — but maybe sometime we could talk about what happened. I mean, you were there through my surgeries, skin grafts, therapy sessions. Then not long after I moved to rehab, you just stopped coming."
Like I said, I had no excuses. Still, I opened my mouth to explain myself, but not before Grace squeezed my hand.
"Not today, Auntie, okay? Today let's just be happy together."
Tension eased from my body. Tears pricked my eyelids at the simple act of grace. "Thank you." I wiped my trembling lips with a napkin. I couldn't hold it together much longer in front of her. "Is it okay if I use your bathroom real quick?"
"Of course. I'll see if I can scrounge us up some comfort food."
I laughed around my tight emotions and started down the hall. Once in the bathroom, I opened the window and allowed the cool air to calm my nerves, as frayed as an overused toothbrush. I wiped the corners of my eyes with a tissue.
Let's just be happy together.
How simple and sweet. I could do this. I could be happy again, couldn't I?
If only Lydia would be content with the same.
I opened the bathroom door and a whoosh of air from the still-open window swept across the threshold and into the living room, across the hall. The pages of a book on top of an end table fluttered and a small card flapped to the ground, swirling like a feather near my feet.
I turned to close the window before picking up the business card. When I did, my stomach clenched.
It wasn't the name on the card. Or even the business, a construction company of some sort. It was the emblem on the card that made my skin grow hot, then cold with goose bumps. My lungs constricted around my thrashing heart.
I didn't need to fish the ring from beneath my sweater to know the same crest adorned the signet ring I'd been given almost two years earlier. The anchor, the horn symbol, even the Latin I'd memorized at the top.
I glanced at the name. Bradford Kilroy.
"Be right there," I called.
I lifted the cover of the Bible the card had fallen from and moved it toward the feather-light pages of the book of Psalms. Just before the sharp edges touched the binding, I drew it back. If I released the card to the clutches of the solid book, I might never see it again. It belonged to me. I knew it. And yet how could that be? Lydia knew I had looked for the man who'd helped me that day. Surely she would have said something in the weeks after the bombing.
I stared at the emblem, an exact replica of the engraving on the ring. Somehow this card was connected to Red Sox Sweatshirt; I was sure of it. Somehow my sister had played a part in keeping it from me.
I tucked the card in the back pocket of my jeans and stood in Lydia's dust-free living room, reluctant to go back into the kitchen so shaken up. I tugged on the chain at my neck, freeing the ring from beneath my sweater. I clutched it in my fist and wound the chain around my pinkie finger.
I'd read somewhere that ancient Egyptians would adorn themselves in jewelry — particularly gold — believing it imbued them with special powers. Like the Egyptians, I'd often looked for spiritual influence in the ring — a magical amulet of sorts left by my mysterious savior. And while a part of me felt silly for putting so much stock in an inanimate object, another part panicked at the thought of not having anything solid I could turn to. At least the ring offered me a tangible connection to the supernatural — something to believe in.
I opened my eyes and slipped the ring back beneath my sweater. I started toward the kitchen, vowing not to let the card's discovery tarnish my time with Grace. She stood at the counter, shaking popcorn out of a bag and into two bowls.
I sat at the bar, suddenly desperate for conversation. "So the UK, huh?"
Her face registered nothing, the bag of popcorn frozen in her hands.
I fumbled for words. "I talked to your grandmother. ... She mentioned your dad taking a job. ..."
Grace shook her head and placed the popcorn on the counter. "I — I hadn't heard. I thought —"
I reached for her hand again, a heaviness in my chest traveling downward. "I'm so sorry. You know your gram. She gets ahead of herself sometimes. She probably —"
The kitchen door opened. On the threshold stood Lydia, a brown Stop & Shop bag in her hand, her expression one of stone.
Her gaze took in my presence, saw my hand connected with Grace's. The bag dipped in her arms. She recovered quickly and placed it on the counter.
"Well, isn't this cozy." She shut the door, tossed her keys in the small basket on the counter.
I snatched my hand from Grace's and stood. "Hi, Lydia."
"Nice of you to drop by." She didn't sound like she thought it was nice. She sounded as if she'd rather have a visit from an angry skunk.
"I — um, I should have called."
Grace stood beside me. "No, Auntie. It's good you came. Right, Mom?"
If smoke could have poured from my sister's ears, the fire alarms would have been going off at the neighbor's house.
"No, Grace. Your aunt is right. It would have been better if she'd called."
Excerpted from Freedom's Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli, Caleb Sjogren. Copyright © 2017 Heidi Chiavaroli. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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A powerful journey into past and present. This masterful love story of God and country both haunts and heals long after the last page.