A Time to Heal
A Time to Heal
The biggest disaster of her life shields her heart from the one thing she desires the most. Love.
Lori Peterson moved to Silverton to be closer to her friends, but it’s not the dream life she pictured. With no husband or fiancé, she’s fast becoming the odd one out. When her new roommate tells her about an unwanted baby Lori knows something has to change if she wants to move forward in life. But it takes the new photographer in town to pique her interest to bad his affection dredges up her tragic teenage wounds. Trey Reeves never planned on marriage despite the push from his family. So how did this amateur photographer snag his heart? But her unwillingness to talk about her past has him at odds with his heart. He won’t build a relationship on a foundation of sand. To accept his love she must first heal her scars and to do that she must return home.
If your passion is happy-for-now, second chance romance and happily ever after, then you love CBA best-selling author Diana Lesire Brandmeyer's compelling story of letting go. A Time to Heal is the third book in the Time for Love Series of sweet Christian romances.
Buy your copy of A Time to Heal today.
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The fire alarm trilled at Brown Academy. “This is not a drill. Everyone follow the classroom procedure and evacuate.” Lori Peterson’s hands shook as she grabbed the emergency plan folder for her freshman art history class containing the class lists, along with her phone, and purse. Her stomach twisted into knots as memories she’d worked hard to forget surfaced. “Leave everything at your desk and line up at the door. Remember everyone, this room gathers at the tennis courts. Jackson, lead us out there. Grayson, bring up the rear. Do not run.” She choked out the words, knowing she would be the last to leave as it was her job. She wished she had super stretchy arms and could gather all of her students and run out of the school. Not a drill meant there was a fire somewhere on the premises. There was never a drill without first warning the teachers.
She did a quick visual sweep of the classroom. Everyone was out. She pulled the door closed behind her and caught up with her class, passing other students and telling herself she would be fine. That this was different than before. She had a responsibility to her class, and she wasn’t going to take it lightly.
Her heartbeat revved as she passed the math teacher whose face glistened with sweat. Was she going to pass out? Lori forced her steps to slow. “Penny, are you okay? Do you need me to stay with your class until they make it outside? My students know what to do.” Did they? She didn’t know if they would even stick around once they left the building. More like they would go on a hunt for a friend, but she couldn’t tell Penny that.
“I’m okay. I think I picked up some kind of virus. I’ve been fighting it all day. Go. We’re almost out any way.”
“Got it.” She didn’t need more than that to encourage her flight. The blaring alarm seared overhead, bringing a small headache up a notch. Grayson stepped through the door to the outside as she caught up. “Follow me everyone.” She picked up speed and hoped they followed. Firetrucks with sirens screaming and lights flashing pulled into the parking lot. Three police cars and an ambulance followed.
“Slow down, Miss Peterson. It’s probably just a dumb drill.” Grayson said.
“Doesn’t matter. The faster we get out of the building, the sooner the other classes can vacate.” And it wasn’t a drill. She knew that this was the real deal. She’d been teaching long enough to know if the alarm were accompanied by a statement from the office, it was serious.
Two of her students held hands. Public display of affection was against school policy, but she didn’t have the heart to separate young love today. Once Grayson—the last student to leave the classroom arrived—Lori counted heads. Then she counted again. Who was missing? Too hard to tell the way the kids all moved, paced, and wormed around to talk to each other. Please God, let it be a miscount. I can’t go back in there. “Okay, as I call your name, I want you to line up behind me.” She went down the roster and put a small check mark next to each name as they passed by her. “Brent?”
No one answered. “Brent Reeves?”
“He took off, Miss Peterson. He said he
wasn’t sticking around to watch the building burn. He had better things to do.“ Alexa hung her head. “I wasn’t supposed to say anything, but I knew you’d have to go back into the building to search for him.”
Brent. Her most challenging student. “And you’re positive that he did leave? That he left the school grounds Alexa?” She pulled the red card from her folder never expecting she’d have to use it to signal that there was a problem with her class. She held it in the air for the principal to see.
“I saw him leave too. He took off toward the beach.” Kristin said.
“Thank you for speaking up, Alexa and Kristin. Every one of you, thanks for sticking around.” Brent aside, she had a good set of kids in her art history class. She’d have to contact his mother and let her know he’d taken off, make sure he’d arrived home safe. She’d given Brent a chance to adjust to the school, overlooking a few of his late
assignments along with his attitude, but this time he’d pushed too far. He had shattered any trust she’d had left to give him.
“Hey, how are you doing?” Evan touched her arm. He looked out of place with his name etched into the car dealership logo pinned to his dress shirt.
“Where did you come from?” And why was he even here? True they were friends, but this was her job. He shouldn’t be here adding one more person to keep track of in the middle of the chaos.
“Heard it on the scanner.”
“You know that’s a strange hobby, right?”
“A carryover from my dad. We always had the scanner on in the office and in our kitchen. Now I keep one in the office too. It’s usually quiet, unless it’s summer. Then there are more rescues than fires.”
“Where’s the fire located in the building? Did they say?”
“It’s a gas leak. No fire, or at least there won’t be unless someone lights a match.”
Please God, let Brent be at the beach. And if he was in the building, then... But he wouldn’t go back into the place he hated to be. Her shoulders relaxed.
“Hey, where’d you go?”
Evan’s question brought her back.
“Just concerned about a student. He took off when we got outside. Two of my students said he headed for the beach.”
“Want me to go look for him?”
“No. You wouldn’t know him. I’ve got his mom’s phone number, and I brought my cell with me.”
“Aren’t you supposed to leave everything when these alarms go off?”
“Yes, but they also say grab the emergency plan, and my phone was sitting on it, so it made sense.”
“What about the purse on your arm?”
“I have to get home somehow, and that’s where my keys are.” She stared at the back of the school. “Are you sure it’s a leak and not a fire? Because I think I see smoke.”
Through the trees, she caught a glimpse of her brother’s house. Almost there. He’d know how to help her, he always had. Some of the tension in her shoulders slid away.
She parked the truck. With its faded paint, a hole in the fender, and rusted tailgate, it didn’t fit in well with the surroundings. She beeped the horn, grabbed her duffel, and slid out of the truck. The door creaked as she closed it. She considered it a miracle that she’d made it.
The front door opened and Hershey, their chocolate lab, lumbered out the door followed by her brother. “Lucy? Is that you?”
“Yep, it’s me. How’d you know?”
“I didn’t until you stepped out of the truck. We had a security camera installed on one of the trees last spring to let us know when someone is coming down the drive. Now, get in here little sis! Come on inside. It’s been too long since we’ve seen you. Where’d you get that truck? How long are you here? Do Mom and Dad know you’re back? How long do you get to stay?”
“That’s a lot of questions, Joel. I don’t think you talked that much the entire time we were growing up. I’m home for good.” She fell into her brother’s warm hug, hanging onto him a little longer and tighter than normal.
When he dropped his hands to his side, she turned to her sister-in-law, Deni, for a hug. “I’m so happy to be home.”
“Give me that.” Joel took the duffel from her shoulders and peered out the door. “Where’s the rest of your luggage? It can’t have all fit in the front of that truck. Seems like you left with more than one bag. And it’s not even heavy. In fact, there wasn’t one of these. Didn’t you have a nice luggage set from Mom and Dad?”
“It didn’t take long to discover I didn’t need most of what I took with me. I sold most of my stuff. I mean, when you’re in villages without electricity, you don’t need a hairdryer, curling iron, and a bunch of styling products. Except for hair spray. I kept that.”
Joel gave her a confused look. “What?”
“It’s a great insect killer.” Deni said. “At least it works on the bugs around here.”
“That’s new. I didn’t know that.” Joel dropped the duffel in the corner of the room. “So where are you staying?”
“I don’t know. I called Dad. But they won’t be back until Christmas. They switched houses with someone in England. They left last week but I guess you knew that. I went by Grams’s house, but she and Kevin are gone too. Will you guys let me crash here until they get back? I’m hoping Grams lets me move into her old house.”
“All we have to offer you right now is the couch in the family room. Maybe we can move the boys in to together. We’ll figure something out.”
“That will be better than sleeping in the truck.” Lucy laughed hoping to break up any desperation in her voice.
“Gram’s and Kevin aren’t going to be back until late November. They went on an adventure driving across the country in an RV. And your parents convinced them to rent both of their houses while they were gone.” Deni said. “Grams said they’d get home before Christmas.”
“How does Grams have time for that? Has she quit making the little dresses for Africa since they’ve rented the house? Or is she back to sewing on the kitchen table after we did all that remodeling of the attic for her? She didn’t say anything in her emails.”
“She’s still making them, but she’s taking a break for a few months. Kevin fixed up a sewing room in their house so they could rent Grams old house full time. He’s so sweet. He told her he wanted her close, and he liked hearing her sewing machine rumble.” Deni’s phone rang. “I need to get this. Joel, get her something to drink and a snack. She’s too tiny. Hi, Alison, what’s up?”
“What would you like? Soda, tea?”
“Joel, I’m fine. I don’t need anything. I had an ice cream cone on the way over.”
“Not sure I want to argue with my wife about what you need, so how about—?”
“Joel, Alison said there is an emergency at school.” Deni shoved the phone in her pocket. “Lots of fire trucks and police cars and even an ambulance. Should we, I mean the boys and Lori…?
Lucy watched a silent conversation flash between the two of them. Lori was Deni’s best friend, though the two of them were more like sisters. “Do you need to go there? It’s okay, I can wait here or ride along.”
“Chad’s son goes to the same school as our boys, and she didn’t know if I knew. And Lori teaches there too. If you don’t mind, I need to make sure everyone is okay.” Deni twisted her hands together. “I wonder why the school didn’t text us?”
“We’ll probably get one in a few minutes. I’m not sure how they send out an emergency text if everyone has to evacuate the school.”
“Let’s go.” Lucy didn’t have anything to stop her from going other than finding a place to sleep. Plus she’d get to see her nephews sooner. With Grams’s house not an option maybe Joel and Deni would offer her the lake cottage. At least until she knew what she was going to do. But she’d have to find out later.
As Joel drove, Lucy grasped the door handle tight. After walking or riding in a jeep over bumpy and gouged dirt roads, the smoothness and speed of her country still unsettled her. The sun sparked off the lake and through the trees like a strobe light. She peeked at the speedometer, Joel wasn’t going over the speed limit. How long would it take for her body and mind to readjust to this kind of life?
“The boys are fine. If not, the school would have called by now. No doubt it was probably some kid acting out.” Joel reached over and patted his wife’s shoulder. “I’m sure they will have an embellished story to tell us.”
She watched the interaction between them, and her heart hurt. She’d never found anyone that could do that for her. Once there was Evan, but she’d shut him out of her life long ago. Had she been foolish? Had she turned away a gift God had offered her? Grams thought so at the time. The night Grams had returned from the high school reunion, she’d been full of life, excited about setting up her first trip to Africa and going there with Kevin, her old high school sweetheart. It still surprised Lucy that her plan to get them back together again worked. But once Grams discovered Lucy hadn’t changed her mind about Evan and ended the relationship between them, Grams’s joy faded right before Lucy’s eyes.
But it hadn’t felt right to stay with Evan, at least not then. Now she didn’t know. She’d loved him for sure once, but they’d wanted such different things. If he’d only agreed to wait for her. Then they might have had kids at this school, too, and in some kind of danger. Her heart squeezed, and she touched her stomach. Now it was too late. Too much had changed and—well circumstances beyond her control had spun her life in a direction that tested her faith.
Busses were lining up in front of the school entrance as Joel pulled into the car line. One firetruck remained.
Deni’s phone rang. “Yes, this is their mom. Great, thanks for letting us know. We’re here now to pick them up.” She disconnected and let out a deep breath. “It was a small gas leak. They dismissed the kids early so it can be fixed.”
“Great. Now we just have to find Tyson and Nolan in this swarm.” Joel parked the car.
“I’m sure they’ll find Lori and ask her to bring them home. That’s what we told them to do at the beginning of school, remember?”
“Hope they remember. And there’s Lori, but I don’t see the boys.” He pointed through the passenger window. “Why don’t you two go talk to her, I’ll wait here for the boys. They may be watching for the car. Call me if they find you.”
Lucy watched out the window in the direction her brother pointed. She stilled. Was that Evan? He had his arm around Lori’s shoulder. Funny, Joel hadn’t mentioned in any of his emails that they were together. True, it had been a long time, but still... She swallowed her sudden heartache. Why had she pushed him away? He was too safe and predictable. He had none of the desires she did to change the world. What a fantasy. She didn’t regret most of the last few years but if she’d have come home sooner then...
“You coming, Lucy?” Deni held the door open for her.
“No. I’ll wait here. Maybe the boys will see the car before you see them. Besides, no one knows me here. I don’t need to set off any stranger alarms.” And she needed to put out the fire that sparked when she’d seen Evan Lewis. Composure, yes, that’s what she needed to find.
Since he’d returned home, it seemed like there was something he was supposed to do, but he couldn’t remember what it was or who it was for. He’d checked his calendar and he hadn’t missed any appointments. He couldn’t remember, so it must not have been important.
Another fire truck raced by the house. He checked his watch. Don’t even think about it, Reeves. There’s not enough time. His client and her five kittens would be arriving soon for their photo shoot. He closed the lid to the washer and pushed the button. Wash and repeat. That’s what his life had become.
He could hear his parents saying, “It doesn’t have to be like this.” He pushed them away. He wanted to make it as a professional photographer. So far, he was holding his own. It was important to him. His brothers and sisters felt the same about their chosen professions. It must frustrate his parents that none of their children wanted to take what they generously offered.
His cell phone rang, and he pulled it from his back pocket and checked the screen. Kelly? Something must be wrong. His brother shouldn’t be calling on his honeymoon. Or was it today they were coming back? “Kel, what up?”
“Hey, bro. Remember how you were holding on to my car keys for me? We can’t find where you left them, and we can’t find the spare set.”
“I bet I left them in the pocket of my tux pants. Let me call the tuxedo rental and ask them to look.”
“I can do that. And if they are there, I can call a car ride service or Dad and pick them up. I just needed to know what you might have done with them.”
“They have to be at the tux shop. I would have noticed them if I’d brought them home with me. I’m sorry, Kelly.” That must have been the thing that kept niggling his brain all morning. “How’s married life?”
“Something you should try, Trey. It’s like being with your best friend all the time.”
“Thought I was your best friend, and you never wanted me around twenty-four seven.”
“Got that wrong, big bro. Your camera is your best friend. You take it everywhere. I bet you even sleep with it.”
“Maybe. But at least it doesn’t talk or involve me in things like dance lessons that I’d rather not do.” But it did do other things he didn’t love, like taking photos of kittens. The doorbell rang. “Got to go. My appointment is here. Glad you’re back. I’ll call the tux shop when I’m finished here.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll call them. Really don’t want to wait for hours for you to remember to do it.”
“Well played, Kelly. Well played.” It was a family fact that he was always getting distracted and forgot to do things he said he would. It was a problem, and he knew it. He would rather call it extreme focus. But why did he still think he was forgetting something? Tonight was the thing with Chad and Alison. That made him think of cupcakes. He’d pick one up for Brent while he was there. Maybe that would lighten the kid’s mood.
Meanwhile there was a basket of kittens waiting.