Priceless: She's Worth Fighting For

Priceless: She's Worth Fighting For

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683970446
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Publication date: 11/23/2016
Pages: 290
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

About the Author


Brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone headline the Grammy Award-winning band For KING & COUNTRY. After their family relocated to Nashville from Sydney, Australia, in 1991, their father worked as a music promoter, so the boys often accompanied him to shows. In their teenage years they sang background vocals for their sister, gospel artist Rebecca St. James. In 2011 they released For KING & COUNTRY: The EP , and in 2012, they released their first full-length album, Crave, and won New Artist of the Year at the 2013 GMA Dove Awards. Their sophomore album, Run Wild, Live Free, Love Strong, met and even exceeded expectations with notable sales, sold-out shows, GRAMMY Awards, multiple K-LOVE fan awards, and appearances on major television shows such as Fox & FriendsJimmy Kimmel LiveHuckabee, and others.

Read an Excerpt

Priceless

She's Worth Fighting for


By Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone

Worthy Publishing Group

Copyright © 2016 Joel Smallbone and Luke Smallbone
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61795-730-7


CHAPTER 1

"How GUILTY do you feel?"

"Guilty?"

"Yes. On a scale of one to ten, how guilty do you feel?"

James took his gaze from the stoplight long enough to glance at Michelle. Her hazel eyes were wide, her lips pressed tightly together. She was offering him no clue as to what he was supposed to do with that question.

"How guilty do you feel?" he said.

"I asked you first."

She shifted sideways in her seat. He could now feel those eyes trying to suck an answer out of his brain.

"I need more information," he said.

"One means you've already forgotten. Ten means you want to hang a U-turn and go back."

"I got that part. What is it I'm supposed to feel guilty about — or not?"

She shook her head and gave him a mock tsk-tsk. "Epic fail," she said.

Another glance as the light turned green. Her dimples were deepening.

"Emerson?" she said. "Our daughter? The kid we just left for an entire weekend?"

James drove the pickup across the intersection. "Is this one of those 'there's no way I can answer this right' things?"

"What are you even talking about?"

"You know. If I say I feel like a jerk because we didn't bring our four-year-old on our second honeymoon, you'll say I don't want to be alone with you. But if I say, 'Emerson who?' I'm a lousy father."

Michelle lightly smacked his arm. "That is so not true. I only want to know if you feel as bad as I do."

"How bad do you feel?"

"Not even a little bit bad."

James pulled a straight face. "What kind of mother are you?"

"The kind who doesn't want her only child to remain one."

"Did I know this weekend was a babymoon?"

She swatted at his arm again. "You know you want another baby."

"I know I like how we're going to get another baby."

"You lucked out, then. I looked it up, and they do have places in the Hill Country where you can buy more kids."

James reached across the console and tugged on a honey-colored curl that had escaped from his wife's messy bun. If he could have gotten hold of the tie that held the whole thing together he'd have given it a yank and brought it all tumbling over her shoulders. Just where he liked it.

Yeah. This was going to be an awesome weekend.

"I'm sort of serious, though," Michelle said. She pulled her feet up onto the seat and hugged her knees. "Should I call your mom and see if Emmy's okay?"

"You're kidding, right? Did you see the tea party Mom had going? Looked like they were expecting the first lady. Rotten kid didn't even kiss me good-bye."

"You poor thing. Let me make that up to you."

She slipped the strap of her seat belt over her head and put it behind her as she leaned toward him. James felt a grin melt across his face.

"Look out now," he said. "I'm not sure it's legal to make out on the on-ramp."

Fortunately, she ignored him and brushed her lips against his beard as he accelerated onto the Crosby Freeway. When she rested her warm hand on the top of his thigh, he wasn't sure which was going faster, his pulse or his Dodge Dakota.

"Thanks for getting your mom to come stay with her," Michelle said.

"Thanks for coming with me."

"Thanks for not worrying about the money we're spending."

"Who said I wasn't worrying?"

"James Stevens!"

"Kidding. Kidding."

She squeezed his leg.

"Continuing to kid."

He smothered her fingers with his and wondered, as always, how such a strong, feisty woman could have bones that felt like they would turn to chalk dust if he squeezed them too tightly.

"There's no other way I'd rather spend that bonus," he said.

"We do need a new toilet in the hall bathroom."

"We need this."

"Yes," she said. "We do."

She raised the armrest between them and unbuckled her lap belt so she could slide closer to him for just a moment. Her cheek rested against his shoulder, the weight of her head pressing into him. He kissed the top of the nest of curls and flipped on the windshield wipers to clear the drizzle that was quickly turning into full-out rain. Houston weather could change faster than he could change channels on the radio. Which he now did, switching from Garth Brooks to classic rock. Nothing like the Eagles to set the mood. "Take It Easy" matched the beat of the wipers and the rhythm that settled in between them.

"I hope it doesn't rain like this the whole time," he said.

"Does it matter?" she said.

Married for five years. Married young for five years. And it still didn't make any difference whether the sky rained or snowed or stirred up an F-12 tornado as long as they could hold each other. Life couldn't get any better than this.

"I think we should have some guidelines for this weekend," she said, wriggling closer.

"You mean like rules?" James gave a snort. "Not happening."

"No. I mean like guidelines. For getting the maximum pleasure out of our time."

"I love it when you talk like that."

"Not what I mean, Romeo."

"Oh. Bummer."

"I'm talking, like, no calling each other 'Mommy' and 'Daddy' like we do around Emmy."

"I'll give you that one."

"No more than one hour spent shopping for something to take back to her."

"Good luck with that, but okay."

Michelle sat up and pressed her palms together. The freeway lights freckled raindrop silhouettes on her hands and across the front of her pink T-shirt. James didn't have to see her face to know her expression was only a slightly older version of Emmy's when she was about to give them a long rendition of some discovery she'd just made — like how to make steam on a window with her breath or do bunny shadows on the wall. The two of them couldn't be any more different from his brown-eyed, dark-haired, hulking self.

He nudged Michelle with his elbow. "Two guidelines oughta be enough, right?"

"I'm just getting started."

She held up her index finger. In the gathering dark he could tell she'd given herself a manicure. She hadn't done that since before Emmy was born.

"No talking about bills," she said. "We should pretend we don't have a mortgage and two car payments."

"Okay, I see how this works." James grinned at her. "No getting up before nine."

"I was thinking ten."

"I like it."

"Number five ..." She uncurled her ring finger. The three tiny diamonds winked in the flash of oncoming headlights. "No —"

Wait. Oncoming headlights. On a divided highway.

James smashed the brake and yanked the steering wheel away from the vehicle that bore down on them. Michelle grabbed at his sleeve, her nails digging into the skin on his forearm before her fingers were wrenched away. If she screamed, he didn't hear her — not over the panicked squeal of the tires.

The back end of the Dakota fishtailed, and James tried to jerk the wheel back. But the truck was locked into a spin that kept them in the path of the metal monster hurling toward him.

A sickening crash jarred James into a twist. The air was shocked into silence as the highway tilted and his own lights pointed the way to the shoulder of the road. His side of the roof of the cab hit the pavement and then they slid lopsided and downward into the drainage ditch.

A second crash spewed glass like a shower of jagged spit. The pickup rocked itself still and another stunned silence fell. James felt the blood pounding in his head.

He was hanging upside down.

Upside down and suffocating in the airbag. He groped his way out from behind the airbag and fumbled for the seat belt buckle. Broken teeth of glass bit into his fingers and he drew them back, knocking his elbow into the driver's side window, which shattered and spilled its mosaic onto the road.

He was surrounded by slivers and shards. The buckle he wrestled with was jammed. And the hand he held up to his face was oozing blood.

But all he could think of was Michelle.

"Baby! Michelle — are you okay?"

No spunky voice answered him. Probably muffled by her own airbag.

Except there wasn't one — at least not a deployed balloon like the one he'd just fought back. Still upside down, blood trickled from his face as he tried to move around the crumpled cab.

"I'll get you out, baby!" he said. "I'll get you out. Just hang on."

But as his hand broke through to dead air where the windshield should have been, his reassuring litany to Michelle died on his lips. The thought that slammed into his mind was more image than words — of an unbelted Michelle flying into glass and hurling into the rain.

Terror surged through the muscles in his arms as he knocked at the seat belt buckle until it broke free and torqued himself so he could crawl through the driver's side window.

The frame of jagged glass points tore at his skin. Voices shouted down from the road. Ignoring both, James stumbled through the slanting rain to the front of the overturned truck, still calling out Michelle's name, still promising her he'd save her.

But he couldn't.

Far away, a siren screamed.

And so did he.

CHAPTER 2

It had to be the single most annoying sound he'd heard in the last ten minutes. But then, what didn't rub under his skin like fifty-grit sandpaper anymore? James followed the horn's blare to the door, already working from a mutter to a bellow just to make it stop.

"It's the mail lady, Daddy!" Emmy announced. She was sitting on the front steps with the ubiquitous grimy teddy bear. "I'll go see what she wants."

He pushed at the bulging screen and let the door slap behind him. "You stay, Em."

He let his fingers touch the top of her head. Her hair felt sticky. Last night it smelled sour when he kissed her good-night. He needed to do something about that.

The Jeep horn continued to blast in impatient spurts at the curb. A series of expletives flipped through his head as he made his way down the driveway. Between that woman in the mail truck and the Houston heat on the concrete cooking the bottoms of his feet, it was all he could do not to spew all of them. Emmy was the only thing stopping him — from that and a list of other things.

The mail carrier leaned the heel of her hand on the horn twice even after James reached her. She peered at him through sunken eyes. Colorless hair was plastered to her round head, and perspiration dotted her almost nonexistent upper lip. It had to be a lousy job. He pulled his sweat-soaked T-shirt away from his chest with two fingers and extended her as much grace as he could.

"What?" he said.

"Got a registered letter for you," she said, every word a grunt.

"From who?"

"None of my business." She pushed a green card and a pen toward him. "Sign by the X."

James read the return address on the form. Bank of America. Fantastic. Signing it would show he'd gotten it. He wouldn't be able to abandon it on the stack of bills that teetered on the dining room table.

"If you don't sign I have to —"

"I'm signing, okay? I'm signing."

James scrawled his name in the blank and stuck the card in her direction. She took it with damp fingers and handed him a bulky bundle of envelopes secured in a rubber band. "This was all still in your box. You might not end up with a last-chance notice if you got your mail on a regular basis."

"I thought it was none of your business," James said.

He took the hunk of letters from her and jumped back just in time to keep from having his toes run over. Gravel sprayed over his bare feet.

Emmy was still too close for him to swear.

Eyes squinted against the remorseless sun, James watched her run, teddy under her arm, across the bare spots in the lawn he'd forgotten to water. All summer. She was barefoot, too, and her soft soles matched the dirt that left dusty puffs in her wake as she played. She was trying so hard to be happy. Would anybody driving by know she didn't have a mother? And not much of a father?

The mail carrier maybe. And his mom. She knew.

James snapped the rubber band off the mail and rifled through it.

Medical bills. Why there were bills when she'd been pronounced dead at the scene he hadn't been able to figure out.

Electric bill. Probably still more than he could afford even though he'd stopped using the air conditioner.

Final notice for the cable they'd disconnected.

Water bill. He'd better bathe Emmy before that got shut off too.

The option his friend Chad had given him was sounding better by the minute.

He looked over at Emmy. She was squatting next to the steps, examining something with just-turned-five-year-old focus. Sunlight tried to play on the top of her curls, Michelle's curls, but they were dark with neglect.

James turned back to the mail. Ads for things he'd never buy again. A postcard from the pediatrician notifying him it was time for Emerson's pre-kindergarten checkup. The kindergarten he still had to register her for.

And one lone sympathy card. From Caroline Meacham. His great-aunt who had probably just heard about the tragedy.

They all called it a tragedy. Or a tragic loss. Or a death difficult to fathom. None of the cards that had packed the mailbox those first few weeks had ever called it what it was: a knife that stabbed him in the heart over and over and would for the rest of his life.

If it weren't for Emmy, he would have cut that short six weeks ago.

Six, five, four weeks ago the cards were still coming. Back then the refrigerator was stuffed with hams and casseroles and fried chicken. The screen door squeaked with the constant coming and going of buddies who sat with him and let him say nothing. And with Michelle's friends who slipped in to do laundry and mop the floors and take Emmy away for playdates.

All that had stopped, except for Chad, who stuck so close it bordered on suffocating at times. Everything else had ground to a halt, including his construction job. The same boss who'd given him a bonus in the spring took a dim view of him not showing up for work past his two-week bereavement leave. Getting out of bed was more than he could handle. Swinging a hammer, wielding a drill, loading a nail gun — forget about it. Even after the foreman came by with the news, James couldn't regret it. Chances were good that he would have turned his tools on himself.

Or someone else. Because even though Michelle had stopped living, people acted like he should keep on. And he hated them for it.

Emmy squealed and stood to face him from across the yard, her chubby knees smudged with dirt. "Look what I found, Daddy!" She held up a yellow blossom that drooped at the end of a long stem. "It's a flower!"

"Sure is, Em," James said. "Where did you get it?"

"Right here!"

Her voice lifted with the exclamation point she put at the end of every sentence. She jabbed a brown finger at the triangular flower bed next to the steps, the bed Michelle had planted impossibly small plants in the week before the accident. He thought they'd all died with her. He sure hadn't done anything to make it turn out otherwise. If he couldn't save her, why would he try to salvage them?

"Okay, Daddy?"

James stared at her. Her dimples dented her face as she pressed her lips together, clearly waiting for an answer.

"What, baby?"

"Can I put it in water so it won't die?"

He nodded. When the screen door closed behind her, he grabbed at his chest, but the stab was insistent. Insistent and cruel.

Only the purr of a well-tuned engine behind him kept him from collapsing to his knees in the yard. One look at the black Lincoln easing up to the curb and his brain went on high alert. He shot a sharp glance at the front of the house, but Emerson was still inside.

Dragging his forearm across his forehead before the sweat could drip into his eyes, James headed for the idling Lincoln. Two thoughts tangled in his head: Chad never said they'd come to the house ... and This couldn't be any more cliché, right down to the tinted windows.

The passenger-side window was already lowering when James got there. A face too fresh to be in a Texas summer peered out at him with steel-gray eyes.

"You Paulie?" James asked the driver.

"We don't use first names."

"Mr. Va —"

"Last names either."

James nodded as if he understood. The cliché continued. Next thing he knew the guy would —

"Lift up your shirt. I need to check for a wire."

There it was.

James revealed his bare chest and waited for the command to drop his shorts, but the man seemed satisfied and unlocked the passenger door. Glancing again at the vacant front yard, James slipped into the leather seat.

"You mind if I crack the window?" he said. "I need to listen for my daughter."

"This won't take long."

James took that as a no. He tried not to let his nervousness show, so he discreetly rubbed his palms on his shorts. Cold air whispered from a vent, but he could still feel a trickle of sweat down the middle of his back. He was sure to leave a mark on the leather.

"What were you told?"

James called up his last conversation with Chad. Don't mention drugs or deals or money. Just say, "I was told you have a job for me."

"You know what's involved?"

"Simple delivery."

A faint gleam of approval passed through the otherwise expressionless eyes. James let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"Anything else?"

He groped his way back to his conversation with Chad. Say as little as possible ... Let him do the talking ... No —

Just as the guy's hands fisted on the steering wheel, James blurted, "No questions asked."

"Wrong."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Priceless by Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone. Copyright © 2016 Joel Smallbone and Luke Smallbone. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
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.

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Priceless: She's Worth Fighting For 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story of the impact of trafficking of girls in our world and the true worth of those girls as more than just an effort to make money.
Yahlove More than 1 year ago
AMAZING!! This book really inspired me! I am Priceless, and no one can tell me otherwise! Definitely get this book! It was worth every penny!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of for King and Country and what their message is. For men to respect women, bring back chivalry, and to stop sex trafficking. This is an amazing book that's about a guy who's life is messed up but doesn't give up on helping people like his kid and two girls who are bought for sex trafficking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am now on chapter 5 I have to say great read well written I have cried reading it God is amazing and Joel and Luke rock this is also going into a movie that I will be going to see when its out this book could not have come in at a time I needed to read. Great book to get for your fall read.
HelenM0 More than 1 year ago
Priceless, by Joel and Luke Smallbone, is a novelization of the motion picture. James Stevens and his wife are on a weekend get away when they are involved in a traffic accident and his wife is killed. James is left alone to care for their daughter, Emmy, and is not handling life well at all. In just a short time he is being faced with bills he can not pay. In an effort to make the money he needs, he turns to dealing drugs and gets caught by the police. After being released from prison, his friend, who connected him with the drug dealer, buys him an old vehicle, gets him an apartment and a job. Emmy is living with his mother and he does not get to see her often. But to get his daughter back he has to have a proper home, income of $3000 a month and six times that in the bank for emergencies. So his friend hooks him up with a semi driving job, that turns out to be linked to sex trafficking. But James finds out what is really happening to Antonia and her sister Maria, he stays and does what needs to be done to save them. This is a very good and very powerful story. The story is very realistic and shows what James would do to get Emmy back. The story is a sad story that also shows the compassion in James. Not everyone will enjoy this story, as human trafficking is a tragic topic. But the story is well written and I wanted to just keep reading it to see what James would do. The story is full of action and is suspenseful with a touch of romance. I received a copy of this book from Worthy Publishing and First Look Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review.