|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.49(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Judith Sherbenou
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Judith Sherbenou
All rights reserved.
Traveling down the tunnel, Eve felt as if she were in some kind of carnival ride. She reached out to touch non-existent walls, as she sped toward the light. At the end of the tunnel, she floated in a golden cloud without edges where she saw no things. Nothing tangible. There she rested, cradled in the arms of the bright, loving, golden-white light. She opened herself entirely, basking in a feeling of total trust.
"Gwenath. Gwenath, welcome back. Over here. Can you see me now?"
Eve looked around for the source of the voice, focusing at last on two indigo orbs, floating in a sea of blue-white light. "Where am I?" The question came forth without sound, as if from her mind alone. "Why do you call me 'Gwenath?' My name is Eve."
"You will remember this place as your home. Your true home, which is called Ath. Gwenath is your soul's name. I am your guide, Ohmath."
"What happened? Why am I here?"
Ohmath embraced Eve in blue-white light, giving her an instant feeling of well-being. "Peace, daughter. We are preparing you for remembrances."
She felt herself float back, cushioned by light, melting into a pillow of sheer joy. There was no sense of time or space, just pure being. Ath is my home. This is where I belong.
"Ah, I see you are more yourself now, Gwenath. Are you ready for your life's review?"
Even as Ohmath said the words, she saw herself as a ball of light, entering the body of a baby, just as it—she—inched forth from her mother's womb. As a baby, Eve felt herself bursting with profound joy when she saw her mother and father. She experienced, once again, the frustration of being unable to talk to them, to touch them. Her arms flailed about without control.
Watching her life review was like a grand movie on a giant screen, moving in double—no triple—time. Eve saw people from her childhood. She welcomed her sister, Jo Ellen, born three years after she. Her father, a preacher, standing straight and tall, came into view, expounding to the flock below him. She saw her mother, crying.
"Wait. Slow it down. What's happening here? Why is my mother crying?" Even as she asked the question, Eve experienced her mother's pain. When she did so, she felt herself drawn back into the time and place of her childhood.
Eve's mother, always the dutiful wife, never questioned her husband's judgment as head of the family and of their church. How often Eve heard him quote scripture to back up his orders. "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands ... for the husband is the head of the wife."
As a child, Eve had wondered why God trusted men to be family leaders. The women she had known were much kinder, more loving and caring than the men. Now, seeing from her soul's viewpoint, it occurred to her that the men might have been given the job for the simple reason that they needed to learn those qualities.
For as long as she could remember, Eve had been afraid of her father. Tall, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, he was quite imposing. Perhaps her fear had started when, at age three, she had witnessed him spanking her baby sister, Jo Ellen, scarcely six weeks old. Eve had run to find her mother at the neighbor's house, screaming, "Mommy, Mommy! Father's spanking the baby!" By the time they returned home, the episode was over and her father denied harming the child. After that, Eve distrusted him. She believed he had lied.
Once Eve questioned her mother. "Why is it okay for Father to hit us?"
She looked up toward the sky. "It is nothing compared to what our Savior suffered. If He withstood so much torture and pain, we can learn to endure these small discomforts."
"So, it's O.K. for Father to hit us so we can be like Jesus?"
"Suffering makes us stronger. The early Christians suffered much more than we do and they did so without complaint." Her mother thrust her chin forward with determination. But Eve remembered her mother's dark eyes staring out the window, seemingly lifeless.
The woman had been more resigned than determined a few days later, as she sat at the kitchen table, dabbing at her bleeding mouth. Hiding her own tears, Eve slid her arm around her mother's shoulder. She didn't have to ask what happened. "Are you all right, Mommy?"
Her mother lowered her head and her dark auburn hair swung forward, covering her eyes as they filled with tears. "I'll be just fine. Don't worry about me. The Lord loves me, so He chastens me." Eve wondered how her mother could find comfort in such a thought.
Eve had been told she got her blond hair from her grandmother. Her eyes were the same blue as her father's, though she thought they lacked the hard edge of his. Her sister had a lighter version of her mother's auburn hair, a halo of strawberry blond curls. Jo Ellen's eyes were brown, like their mother's.
Eve and her sister quickly learned to avoid their father. They took all their complaints and wishes to their mother, who could sometimes deter their father's anger. Eve, realizing now that her mother had devised ways to manipulate him, recalled the time when she was in the ninth grade and wanted her first pair of high-heeled shoes. She was certain her father wouldn't approve. Her mother suggested Eve bring it up at the dinner table that evening.
"Mother, I need a pair of high-heeled shoes for the school choir program," Eve had said, her blue eyes shining innocently.
Quick to respond, her mother said, "No. That's out of the question. You are much too young for such shoes!"
Not to be outdone, her father cut in, "Well, I'll be the judge of that. I have raised our daughters to be chaste and pure. If Eve needs a pair of high-heeled shoes, she certainly deserves them." Nowadays, she and her mother would have secretly shared a high-five for their success. At the time, a contrite smile and a "Yes, sir," sufficed.
Eve vowed she would never marry a man like her father.
Apparently, the life review did not have to be seen in chronological order, for Gwenath now saw Eve as an adult, slim and beautiful, her long, blond hair shining like a halo. The scene was her wedding day. She heard herself say that Damon was not at all like her father, even though his coloring was similar. Damon had black, curly hair and black eyes. He was sexy. He was fun—most of the time. No one would describe him as pious. Unlike her father, Damon didn't mind a drink or two. But he didn't over-indulge. And he didn't consider himself to be above women. He loved women. Maybe a little too much ...
Magically, Damon's handsome face appeared before her now, young and full of mischief. They had met their senior year of high school. He caught her attention at the homecoming dance, which he attended in the company of three beautiful, doting girls. As if these three were not enough, he claimed several dances with Eve. When she questioned him about his group date, he simply explained that he loved women and they understood that. Eve remembered the girls watching them from the sidelines, appearing none too happy.
After that Damon pursued her in earnest. She avoided him, saying that she preferred a man who didn't spread himself so thin. Even when she went to college the next fall at Sam Houston State, he called her often and begged her to let him visit. Only after she told him she had met someone else did he give up. "You'll regret letting me go!" There was a hint of warning in his voice.
During her college years she dated several men—decent guys. She could have married any one of them and probably been happy. Bored, maybe, but fairly happy. Instead, she took a teaching job in Houston when she graduated. Leaving romance behind, she concentrated on the young minds of her primary charges. Eve found the second graders so trusting and loving that she allowed them to fill the void in her life.
It was during the Thanksgiving break of her first fall as a teacher that she saw Damon again. She was shopping for Christmas gifts when she heard him call her name. He seemed even more handsome than she remembered. Smoldering black eyes held a hint of a private joke. His sensuous lips begged to be kissed. Judging by his build, it was clear that he was all man.
If only I had turned and run!
Strange how she could see so much better as Gwenath.
He approached her confidently, arms open wide. She slid in for a quick side hug. "Damon Richmond, how have you been?"
"I'm great!" he said, his hand caressing her hair. "What about you? It's been four years, hasn't it? Are you home for the holidays?"
"No, I graduated in the spring. I have a teaching job here in Houston now." She felt a sudden reluctance to divulge more details of her personal life.
Damon grabbed her left hand. "No ring! Saved yourself for me, huh?" She tried to pull her hand away, but he held on possessively.
"No, I'm not in any hurry to get involved. I've been putting all my energy into the classroom. There's a lot more to teaching than you might think." Oops! Now he knows I'm not seeing anyone.
"Look over there." He pointed behind her. "That's my salon—'Best Impressions.' Why don't you let me do your hair sometime?"
She saw a large beauty shop, teeming with activity. "You have your own shop? Good for you, Damon!"
"It's not just a 'shop'! Eve, it's my salon. I employ three other hair dressers. We have an exclusive clientele. You'd be amazed at the high-society women who come to me!"
"You must be very good at making them beautiful." And it doesn't hurt that you are very handsome, either. Eve felt annoyed at herself for noticing.
Damon's smile distracted her, as usual. "They love me! I'm the best! Come on. Let me show you what I can do."
Glancing at her watch, she said, "Not now. I'm meeting a friend for lunch in a few minutes." She looked deeply into his eyes for a moment too long. "I must go."
Damon's smile faded. "At least give me your phone number. I'd like to take you out for a drink or something."
Eve felt herself soften. "I'm—I'm listed in the phone book."
He called every night for the next two weeks and Eve found herself looking forward to their conversations. Every time she heard his voice she felt excited. Her heart beat faster—just like a giddy teenager.
At first they talked of the past, of people they both knew. Damon seemed to be very independent. He said he had no close family in the area.
"So, what are your plans for Christmas?" she asked during one of their long conversations.
"No plans. I like to keep my life free and loose."
Telling herself she felt sorry for him, she invited him to join her for Christmas Eve dinner with her family, followed by the candle-light service at her father's church.
"Uh, I'll see what I can do." He seemed hesitant.
"I thought you didn't have plans," Eve teased.
"Some friends and I were going out for drinks. Maybe I can put them off."
Eve remembered his bevy of girlfriends. "Some of your ladies, no doubt." She made her voice light.
He sighed. "Yeah. I'm surrounded with beautiful and not so beautiful women all day. They love me. That doesn't mean I love every one of them. But they are my livelihood. Women will always be in my life. You okay with that?"
"You can keep yourself surrounded with women. It's none of my affair."
After a pause, he changed the subject. "Look. We've been doing a lot of talking on the phone. What do you say, we get together? Go out for a drink."
"Right now. It's not too late for you, is it?"
Eve released the breath she had not known she was holding. "Sure." Why not? "Where shall we meet?"
"I'd like to come over and pick you up. You don't mind, do you?"
"Well ... I guess it would be okay. I wouldn't want to be out too late, though. I have to get up early in order to get to work by seven thirty." After she gave him directions to her apartment she found herself pacing nervously. I hope I did the right thing. Maybe I shouldn't get involved with him. He doesn't seem like a man who could be content with a school teacher.
He appeared at her door in less than an hour, dramatically dressed in black—boots, pants, silk shirt, and, to top it off, a knee-length black wool cape, lined in red. He bowed, "Madam, your carriage awaits."
Eve laughed. "Damon! Where did you get that outfit—from a movie set?"
"Close to it. I wore it to the Renaissance Festival in the fall. The ladies loved it."
"I'll bet they did. You always have an eye for what the ladies like, don't you?"
"And you're no exception, are you, love?" He pulled her into his arms, his breath softly brushing her eye-lashes. His fingers explored her long, blond hair.
Eve didn't pull away. The man had a point. She raised her lips, inviting a kiss.
Her body responded to his kiss with pent-up desire and she pulled herself deeper into his embrace.
Just then his cell phone chimed. He seemed reluctant to release her. She recalled his multiple girl friends in high school and reminded herself that he'd always have distractions.
Damon turned his back and concluded the call very quickly. "Just a business call."
He looked around the room. "Not bad!"
"What's not bad?"
Eve suddenly felt self-conscious. Of course, it was her first apartment other than college digs. She had bought a nice, blond wood kitchen set. The dull brown corduroy couch and chair, though, were handed down from her parents when they bought new furniture. A small TV set was an early purchase out of her first, modest pay check. Her twin bed, dresser and night stand had been moved from the bedroom she occupied as a teenager. Seeing it all through Damon's eyes, she concluded that he would not be impressed.
Taking his arm, she turned toward the door. "Shall we go?"
They walked to a sleek, black Corvette which, she observed, matched his outfit perfectly. Eve thought of the college men she had dated who so often looked casually thrown together. What a novelty to be with a man who is discriminating in his appearance.
The 'Vet lived up to its reputation for speed. In no time they arrived at the Enchanted, a neighborhood bistro in the chic Galleria area, west of downtown Houston. They sat at a table across the room from the piano player whose "music-from-the-movies" was quiet enough for conversation. On top of the piano was a small plastic Christmas tree lit with all clear lights. In the corner near their table a small fire crackled in a dark brick fireplace.
After an initial scrutiny of Damon, the other patrons kept their eyes to themselves. Eve wasn't sure if they had been looking at his outfit or if they actually recognized him for some reason. Is he some kind of celebrity?
Damon ordered a whisky sour and Eve, a pina colada. While they waited for their drinks, he took her hand and softly stroked her fingers.
"Tell me about your family, Damon. You never mention them. Are they here in Houston?"
He pulled back. "No. They're all gone. When my sisters married they moved away. They didn't have much use for me after they had husbands and kids."
"Don't you miss them?"
He looked away. "Naw. Not any more. They have their lives, I have mine."
"What about your parents? Are they still here?"
"Ma's dead. My dad retired and moved to his weekend house on Lake Livingston. He leaves me alone. I leave him alone."
Eve had the feeling she had tread on forbidden ground. For some reason Damon didn't want to discuss his family. Did he have an unhappy childhood?
Just then the drinks arrived and they spent the next few minutes sipping in silence.
Damon reached for her hand again and smiled. In fact, he looked quite pleased with himself. "Ah. I've waited so long for this!" He kissed her hand. "It's meant to be, dear Eve."
"What is?" She knew what he meant, however, and pulled free of his grasp.
"Us. Fate would have it thus," he said dramatically.
"Damon, there is no 'us'. We're just two people enjoying a little holiday cheer."
"Don't worry, my dear. I won't rush you. I can see you need time." He leaned back.
Like, forever. "What about keeping it loose?" she teased.
"You've got to remember that my days are tightly scheduled. I like to keep my social life free."
"I understand that. But can't you see that our becoming a couple would complicate your social life?"
Damon frowned but said nothing.
He didn't pressure her any further that evening and she eventually relaxed her guard and enjoyed the music while they talked of other things.
Later, when he walked her to the door he didn't assume anything. "Do you have a good-night kiss for me, Eve?"
She could see his smile gleaming white in the dim light from the street lamp. "If you have to ask, the answer is always going to be 'no'." She put her key in the lock.
He caught her and gently turned her face toward him. "Then I won't ask."
She melted into his deep kiss. Electricity sizzled throughout her body, sparking deep, long-forgotten yearnings in every muscle, every nerve. He was the sexiest man she had ever kissed.
Excerpted from Love's Recall by Judith Sherbenou. Copyright © 2013 Judith Sherbenou. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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.