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Gifts Of Love

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Gifts Of Love
Crystal Stovall

Литагент HarperCollins EUR

A MOTHER AT HEART…Stranded with a handsome stranger and his infant daughter as a tornado roared above them, Jessie Claybrook didn' t know why God had brought her here. Until a mighty gust landed the infant in her arms…and suddenly she knew that God had heard her prayers.Jessie thought caring for David Akers' s baby while he recovered would satisfy her longings for a family. Instead, spending time with the caring father and his adorable daughter only intensified her heartache. For Jessie knew her secret would end this domestic fantasy. Unless God could give her the most precious gift of all: David' s love!

“There are times in your life when you know you have to do something,” Jessie began.

“You don’t understand why. You just know from the bottom of your soul it’s the right thing to do. That somehow doing this one thing will change your life forever. And if you miss this chance…” She shivered.

As far-fetched and vague as her explanation seemed, David sensed it was the most honest thing she’d revealed all night.

“I need to watch Isabel.” She spoke softly, but with a conviction anchored in solid rock.

After a long silence, David agreed. “Okay. It’s settled. She’s thriving under your care, and that’s what counts.”

When she exhaled, he inhaled her breath. In that exact moment he felt something shift within his soul. He couldn’t put his finger on it. David knew only that for the first time in too long he felt alive. He felt hope. And her smile scared him to death.

CRYSTAL STOVALL

dreamed of writing inspirational romances from the moment she discovered Grace Livingston Hill’s novels as a teenager. These books changed her life in a profound way, starting her on a quest to blend faith and romance in her personal life, as well as launching her writing career. She’s a graduate of Oral Roberts University and a recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award and the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Best Novel Award.

Crystal lives in Tulsa with her husband, Jim, who is president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network. Though she’s lived in Oklahoma for twenty years, she’s still an Easterner at heart. Her frequent visits to her upstate New York hometown—especially a certain boulder on the edge of Cayuga Lake—provide her with the inspiration and perspective that she finds essential to her writing.

Gifts of Love

Crystal Stovall

www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk)

Cast your bread upon the waters,

for after many days you will find it again.

—Ecclesiastes 11:1

To Barbara Ankrum, Barbara Joel, Karen Crane,

Jolie Kramer and Debbi Quattrone.

Your friendship is a gift I treasure.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Epilogue

Letter to Reader

Chapter One

“O h, Lord,” Jessie cried out. “What should I do?”

Forced to make a quick decision, she cried out for protection as she raced down the highway toward her home. But as the rain fell harder, the sky grew darker and visibility drastically decreased.

Verging on panic, Jessie turned on the car radio to a weather report for Springfield, Missouri. As she’d feared, a tornado warning had been issued. Several small twisters had already been spotted within a few miles of her location, and Doppler radar showed the conditions were right for the formation of cells slightly to her south and west. As she passed the highway intersection that the meteorologist had just given as a reference point, Jessie swallowed hard, certain she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

From deep within her soul, she heard God’s answer to her earlier plea and knew what she should do. She had to get out of the car. Immediately. Suddenly, everything Jessie had learned from the meteorologists came flooding back. She was just reaching for her cellular telephone to let her parents know where she was, when something to the west caught her eye. Looking out, she saw a funnel over the distant field.

Without another thought, Jessie parked the car on the side of the road and threw the strap of her purse over her head. In a flash of lightning, she spotted a highway overpass ahead. Unless her mind was playing tricks, she thought she’d seen the silhouette of a man. Thunder boomed, and she ran as fast as she could.

When her shoes sank into the soft highway shoulder, she left them behind. Reaching the overpass, she saw an outstretched hand and grabbed on to the life preserver God had sent her. She let the strong hand pull her to safety as she gasped for breath. She collapsed against the strong chest without hesitation. Never had she been so glad to see another person.

She caught her breath, realizing she was in the arms of a stranger. Yet, she was too afraid to inch free of his protective touch. Not until a tiny hand patted her head in sync with a soft coo did she realize the man held a child in his arms.

Lifting her head, Jessie met a pair of dark eyes that reflected the same terror she felt. She was certain she knew this man from somewhere.

Offering a nervous smile, Jessie grasped the child’s hand and was surprised by how cold her tiny fingers were. The man’s arms tightened around the shivering toddler as he tried to warm her.

“It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day when we left home this morning. I didn’t think to pack her sweater,” he explained, his voice brimming with frustration and self-blame.

Yanking off her thin sweater, she draped it over the child’s shoulders. Though the cotton was damp from the rain and didn’t entirely cover the child’s legs, she knew it had made a difference when she heard, “Mama, mama…”

For just a second, Jessie forgot she was in the middle of a severe storm as she listened to the precious chatter. Mama, mama—these were words she’d believed she might never hear from a child’s lips.

With a beholden shine in his eyes, the man said, “I’m David Akers, and this is my daughter, Isabel.”

“Of course,” Jessie said, relieved to know she hadn’t jumped into the arms of a total stranger. “I’m Jessie Claybrook. I think our parents are friends.”

“Don and Helene’s daughter.”

Jessie nodded. “Isn’t it a small world?”

“It sure is.” Then David turned to more urgent matters. “Were you listening to the radio? What was the last weather report you heard?”

“We’re right in the path of a major storm system. Just as I left the car I saw a funnel in the west. It must have skipped over us or turned direction—otherwise it would have hit by now.”

David sighed. “I wish we had a portable radio. From this cubbyhole, I can’t see enough.”

Wedged into a small pocket beneath the highway which crossed overhead, Jessie felt safe from the pounding rain. At least for the moment.

“I could ease down the embankment,” she suggested, understanding David would have if he weren’t holding Isabel.
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