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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's that time again...

Don't forget to make the Diamond Mine a stop in your day!!


~ Chapter Thirteen ~

Arianna was too tired to explore the cabin. She was still much too weak to walk on her own, anyway, so she took a nap.

When she awoke, it was late afternoon, judging by the sun streaming in the western window. Shadows played along the edges of the steady sun stream and she smiled. “Maybe that’s why they call it Shadow Lake.”

“Maybe it is.”

The voice startled her and she jumped before realizing it was Justin. She turned to him. “Hi.”

“Hey. I was beginning to think you would sleep through the night, too.”

“I’m sorry.” She looked around the room, searching for the nurse. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Justin, but it would take some time getting used to him being around.  “Where is Mary Jo?”

“She was bored so I sent her down to the lake for a swim. Maybe you can handle one in a few days.”

Her hand went to her neck where the bandage was a tight reminder of her folly. Tears filled her eyes. “Not for a while.”

He nodded. “True. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to get that wet, especially in a lake.” He sent her a bright smile. “But when it’s healed you can swim all you want. You can swim, can’t you?”

She threw him a smile. “Like a fish.”

“Good, it’s a date then.”


The words fell between them creating an awkward silence. They were husband and wife, but pretty much strangers. The enormity of the situation Justin had taken on hit him. He was married to a woman he didn’t know. Protecting her from a criminal he didn’t understand, and planning a search and rescue mission for a child he had no idea where to look for. Dear Lord, give me strength and guidance. Your will be done.

Hesitant words broke into his thoughts. “Justin, do you think everything will be okay?”

He shrugged. “I hope so, Arianna. All we can do is ask God to guide and protect us. If it’s His will, it’ll happen.”

“I miss him so much.”

Cold slivers shot up his spine at her words. She missed the ‘Monster?’

His look must’ve conveyed his horror because she clarified, “I miss my son. Chance.”

Justin rushed over and fell to his knees beside the couch she laid on. “Oh honey, I know  you do. If it’s at all possible I will find him and bring him home.”

A strand of red hair had wormed its way into the corner of her mouth and he gently removed it. His eyes caught hers. The electricity between them was a tangible thing and he had to take a deep breath to dispel the desire to pull her into his arms and show her how much he cared. Instead, he bent over and laid his lips upon hers in a gentle caress. He thought he heard her sigh, but couldn’t be sure.

He stood up and went to the kitchen area. He needed to cool down and keep things on a platonic basis. At least for now. Just because she was his wife didn’t mean he could man-handle her and scare her half to death. The attraction was there, but he had to court it gently, with love and care. Not demand it like a grizzly hungry for his next meal. He chuckled at his thoughts and opened a cupboard door to see what he could make for supper.

“What’s so funny?”

He spun around in surprise, but it was just Mary Jo.

He laughed, self-conscious. “I thought I was alone, sorry.”

“Not a big deal, but since I was here, I want to know.” She laughed and began rummaging around in the cupboards herself.

“I was laughing at something I was thinking about. Leave it at that.”

She studied him for a moment then let it drop. “Okay. Here’s the deal about the kitchen.”

When he looked over at her, she continued, “It’s mine.”

He couldn’t decide if she was serious or not, but figured he’d play it safe. “Okay…”

“I cook all the meals. I’m a pretty good cook if I do say so myself, and I do.” She threw a huge smile at him.

“Nice. I can’t cook at all. I burn water.”

She laughed. “I figured as much. Anyway, while I’m cooking you can take care of whatever it is guys take care of, or spend time with Arianna. She’s looking much healthier this evening, by the way.”

He nodded. “I noticed. The clean air out here will do her some good.”

Mary Jo agreed. “Once I get acclimated to the area, you need to get busy looking for that baby. I understand the police are on it, but forgive me if I’m not bowled over with confidence in their ability to find him. I mean come on, kids go missing all the time and nine times out of ten they never find them. I think it’s because they don’t really look.”

Justin nodded. “Yeah, that’s a sad thought. I’m going to check on Arianna and then I think I’ll go stack that wood I chopped earlier.”

“Okay, I’ll holler when it’s soup.”

Justin left the kitchen and returned to the living room. As he rounded the corner and got his first glimpse of the couch where he’d left Arianna, his blood ran cold. She was gone.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's Tuesday again!!

             Don't forget to check out our group blog:

                      I couldn't decide on just four pictures today so you get six!!


The story continues...
Chapter Twelve

As they entered Shadow Lake, Justin sighed in relief. They were safe. Relatively.

They pulled up outside the cabin and Mary Jo helped Arianna inside. Justin and his friend Jack spent the better part of an hour carrying stuff inside and making sure everything was in order.

“I want to thank you for helping me with this, Jack. I know you didn’t have to.”

“No problem Just. Everyone needs help some time or another. Next time it might be me.”

Justin nodded. “True.”

“Can I ask you a question, though?”

“Sure, ask away.”

“How are you going to go about getting her baby back? Do you think it’s even possible, or were you just telling her you would help to keep her calm?”

Justin thought for a moment before choosing his words. “I’m not sure I can find him, no. What I am sure of is I’m going to try with everything in me.”

“You’re a good man, Justin.”

Justin grinned. “I don’t know about all that, but I try.”

Jack hoisted the last package of water bottles onto his shoulder and turned toward the cabin. “Yes you do.”

After they put the supplies in the kitchen Justin and Jack met back out by the car. “It gets cold down here at night so I think I’ll split some wood. You can relax, take a swim, if you want.”

“Thanks man, but I have to get back.”

Justin was sad his friend wouldn’t at least be staying the night. “Oh, that’s too bad.”

Jack chuckled. “Yeah, but the wife’s about ready to pop. If she went into labor while I was gone I’d never hear the end of it.”

Justin shook his head in understanding. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

“I’ll be back in a couple days to check on you. I can imagine cell service here is all but nonexistent.”

Justin shook his head in agreement. “Yep.”

“Is there anything I can bring you when I come back?”

Justin reached his arm out, offering his hand to his friend. “Nope. Not that I can think of.”

Jack took it and shook it lightly. “Take care then.” He started back down the path, but stopped and turned back. “Are you sure you’re mom’s old truck will run?”

“I’m sure. She was down here just the other day. She makes sure everything is in working order.”

“Okay, will you go try it first before I leave?”

Justin laughed. He really liked Jack. So cautionary, but right nonetheless.

Justin dropped the block of wood he’d been about to split. “Yes, let’s go try it.”

They headed to the garage.

It was dark and smelled of damp earth and oil.

Justin gagged. “Whew. This place could use an airing out.”

“It sure could, but I kind of like it.”

Justin chuckled. “Dude, you’re weird.”

“I know. People tell me that all the time.”

Justin pulled the key to his mom’s old pick-up out of his pocket and settled into the driver’s seat. He pushed the key into the ignition, gave the gas a quick push and turned it over. It started on the first try. Grinning from ear to ear he said, “Now that’s what I call a truck.”

Jack nodded. “I have to agree, my friend. It’s a good truck.”

Justin looked at Jack. “Thank you for caring.”

“You’re more than welcome.”

They left the garage and headed back to the cabin.


He watched from a stand of trees about five hundred feet away as the two men talked.

This was going to be even easier than he’d imagined. All he had to do was wait until the men were out and snatch her back.

He grumbled, “Yeah sounds easier in theory than it really is, too.”


The two men entered the clearing and Justin picked up the axe again. “Okay Jack. Thanks for everything you’ve done to help us.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, man.”

“And that’s why you’re such a good friend.”

Jack grinned. “That’s what I want you to think.”

Justin clapped him on the back. “Sure you do. I’ll see you in a couple days.”

“Okay.” Jack went out to his truck, got in, and drove away.

A sense of dread filled Justin. He immediately began to pray. “Dear Lord, I don’t know what I’m praying for, but the Holy Spirit sure does. Please lead, guide and keep us in your will, In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The story continues...

                                   As always, enjoy some of God's beauty...


(I've shortened the chapter for easier reading.)

Now I am going to shamelessly plug our new group blog. :) You should head over to and check it out. We'll be giving away one of Tracy Higley's newest releases in just a few days.

~ Chapter Eleven ~

He watched in confusion as several identical cars pulled up to the front of the hospital. It dawned on him pretty quick what was up. They were going to pull a switcheroo. Anger pulsed through him. So her dad was going to double-cross him? He’d see about that. He flopped down behind the bush hiding him from view.

A few minutes later, he smiled in triumph. He’d seen which car she’d gotten into. He would follow it and take her back.


Arianna felt tired to her bones. Just moving around made her eyes droop, so this was definitely getting to her.

After a hasty ceremony with a judge Justin knew from church, they’d enlisted the help of one of the nurse’s aides to wear Arianna’s clothes and be a decoy for her. At first Arianna refused to go along with it because the girl might be in danger, but when Justin explained she would be out in public and only a moment away from a 911 call, she’d finally agreed. She just wanted this all to be over. She wanted to live a normal life. And she wanted Chance. The now-familiar ache flooded through her, but she pushed it aside. She had every confidence Justin would get him back for her.

She was amazed how quickly he’d gained her trust, especially with what she’d been through. But trust him she did; with her life, and Chances.

She settled against the seat and drifted into uneasy slumber.


Justin sat in the backseat with Arianna, praying the whole way. He needed her to be safe, and he needed his hastily construed plan to work.

He grinned when he remembered the look on Mary Jo Oslo’s face when he’d asked her to accompany them as Arianna’s private nurse. She’d been surprised at first, and then flattered.

Justin had looked at her and said, “We’ll pay you whatever the going rate is for a private nurse. I’m sure it’ll be much more than what you get here.”

“Hmmph. You got that right. Of course I’ll do it,” She’d smiled.

Justin held up his hands to stay her easy answer. “It might be dangerous, you know that right?”

“Yes son. I got that. But somebody has to look after her, and at this point, who else would it be?”

Justin nodded his head. “Exactly.”

She grinned from ear to ear. “So I’ll do it. And who knows, if you find the baby you might need a live-in nurse to help with him.”

Justin nodded even harder. He really liked Mary Jo. “Exactly, and that’s a great idea. What do you think Arianna?”

But there was no answer. She was fast asleep.

“Don’t worry, son. She’s been through a lot and it’s her body’s way of healing. I can’t imagine the horror…”

He stopped her. “I know, I can’t either, but let’s not speak about it in front of her. Let’s concentrate on getting the supplies we need and heading up to the lake.”

Mary Jo nodded. “Yep. Agree.”

Justin smiled and asked, “What all will we need?”

Mary Jo pulled a small green notepad from her purse and began making a list. She looked up and said, “Should I add things for the baby, or do you just want me to wait in case…?”

“No, add for the baby. I fully intend on finding him. I can’t wait on the cops, either. They seem ill-equipped to help.”

Mary Jo snorted. “They are. I think they mean well, but they’re not the brightest apples in the barrel.”

Justin leaned over; confident he could trust their newly hired private nurse. She leaned toward him. “Do you think she’ll be okay without the hospital?”

The nurse nodded, the certainty in her eyes comforting Justin. “Yes, she’ll be fine physically. She’s young and strong, even in her emaciated state. But listen son, emotionally, it might be a different story. She may never heal.”

Sorrow filled him at the thought. “I know.”

The rest of the trip was completed in silence until they pulled into the parking lot of a popular chain-store almost fifty miles from the city.

Justin opened the door and slid one foot out. He looked back at Mary Jo and Arianna. “Are you two coming?”

Mary Jo shook her head. “She’s too tired, son. She can barely stay awake.”

Justin examined his new bride. Worry coursed through him at her pallor and limber body. “Is she okay?”

“Yes I think so. Her vitals are good. It’s probably just a combination of everything that’s happened, and then everything now happening. Her body is refusing to play along. Like I said, she’s strong. She’ll pull out of it. But hey, grab a couple packs of Ensure, too. Maybe that’ll put some weight back on her.”

Justin pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and added Mary Jo’s request. “Okay, got it.” He started to walk away, but turned around. “And Mary Jo?”

She gave him a quizzical look. “Yes?”

“Thank you.”

The older woman beamed. “You’re welcome.”

Justin went into the store and picked up everything he could think of they might need for the next few days.

Thirty minutes later his buddy Jack from church pulled the sleek black Continental out of the parking lot and entered the interstate toward shadow Lake.

Justin reached over and loosely clasped Arianna’s hand in his. For better or worse, they were in this together.