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Authors: Gail Gaymer Martin

In His Eyes

BOOK: In His Eyes
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“Haven’t you ever made a mistake, Ellene?” her father asked.

The night Connor left stuck in her memory, but today, a bittersweet sensation washed over her. “I’ve made bad choices, Dad, but—”

“Sin is sin. Mistakes are mistakes. The Bible teaches us to forgive so that God will forgive us our mistakes. You’re the one who ended the engagement with Connor. You need to move on with your life. You’re both adults now.”

“I
have
moved on.”

Her father took her hand and held it, his strong fingers covering hers. “You’ve let this grudge against Connor go on too long. I know you’ve seen other fellows, but you’ve steered so far away from marriage or commitment, I’ll die without grandkids and you’ll die an old maid.”

“I’m only twenty-six.”

“Going on forty.” He gave her a wan smile, then walked over to his desk. “Here’s Connor’s phone number.” He extended a sheet of paper. “Call him.”

Books by Gail Gaymer Martin

Love Inspired

Upon a Midnight Clear
#117

Secrets of the Heart
#147

A Love for Safekeeping
#161

*
Loving Treasures
#177

*
Loving Hearts
#199

Easter Blessings
#202

“The Butterfly Garden”

The Harvest
#223

“All Good Gifts”

*
Loving Ways
#231

*
Loving Care
#239

Adam’s Promise
#259

*
Loving Promises
#291

*
Loving Feelings
#303

*
Loving Tenderness
#323


In His Eyes
#361

Steeple Hill Books

The Christmas Kite

That Christmas Feeling

“Christmas Moon”

GAIL GAYMER MARTIN

lives in Michigan with her husband, Bob, her dearest friend and greatest support. She loves the privilege of writing stories that touch people’s hearts and share God’s promises.

Gail is multipublished in nonfiction and over thirty works of fiction. Her novels have received numerous awards: a Booksellers Best in 2005, a Holt Medallion in 2001 and 2003, the Texas Winter Rose 2003, the American Christian Romance Writers 2002 Book of the Year Award and the
Romantic Times BOOKclub
Reviewers Choice as Best Love Inspired novel in 2002.

When not behind her computer, Gail enjoys a busy life—traveling, presenting workshops at conferences, as well as speaking at churches, business groups and civic events.

She enjoys hearing from her readers. Write to her at P.O. Box 760063, Lathrup Village, MI, 48076 or at [email protected] Visit her Web site at www.gailmartin.com.

IN HIS EYES
GAIL GAYMER MARTIN

The eye is the lamp of the body.
If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.


Matthew
6:22–23

This book is dedicated to my husband’s aunt Florence and to Bob’s wonderful Italian family. They are filled with warmth, love and compassion.
Over the years, I’ve learned so much about his family’s traditions and fun-loving spirit.

Thanks to my friend Marianne Funke who lived on Harsens Island and answered my questions. Thanks to Esther from the Riverfront Shop who provided me with more information.
As always, I thank my husband for his hard work and support. He is a hero in my eyes.

Chapter One

“Y
ou want me to do what?”

Ellene Bordini’s voice ricocheted around her office as she frowned at the telephone. She pursed her lips, waiting for her father’s peevish voice to sail back at her.

Instead, she heard silence.

“I’m sorry, Dad, but—”

“Come in here, Ellene. We need to talk.”

His quiet voice struck her harder than a slap. She’d tried his patience, and his response had been far more gentle than she’d deserved.

“All right,” she said, humbled by his manner. She hung up the phone and clasped her hands together to calm her reaction to his request.

She knew better than to attack her father. She knew because she loved him and because the Bible said to honor her parents.

A prickle ran up her arms as she thought about her brother. Her position in the construction company should have been his—had he been alive. Her dad was proud of the family business, and her goal was to prove she could handle it with a firm hand.

Ellene ran her fingers through her hair, pulling out knots at the ends. She disliked her natural curl about as much as she disliked talking with Connor Faraday, but that seemed to be what her father expected.

Checking her calendar, she speculated when she’d have time to call Connor Faraday. Her father’s insistence let her know she wouldn’t change his mind, but she’d try. How could she talk business with the man who’d broken her heart? Grasping her fortitude, she rose and strode from her small office into the corridor, then crossed the hall to her father’s office.

She lifted her hand and paused, gathering her thoughts, then rapped her knuckles against the solid wood door. For a woman of twenty-nine, she still felt a child’s reaction to facing her father. When he invited her in, she drew a lengthy breath and turned the knob.

Syl Bordini sat behind his desk with his back to the door, a telephone receiver pressed against his ear. When Ellene stepped inside, he swivelled to face her, a grim look wrinkling his brow. “I’ll have Ellene call you today to set an appointment. Thanks again for thinking of us.”

Ellene stood close to the door, hoping his lecture for snarling at him would be quick and painless, but when
he lowered the receiver, he motioned toward a chair, his look more tender than she expected. She closed the door behind her and settled across from him.

“I’m sorry, Dad, for—”

He waved his hand to brush away her words. “Ellene, this is our livelihood. Sometimes we must deal with people we’d rather not, but if they’re honest and need our services, then we work with them. You wanted a position with the company, and I trusted that you could do the job.”

He looked at her above his reading glasses, and she squirmed. “I can, Dad. Have I ever disappointed you?”

“Not at all. I’m pleased with your work. Very pleased.”

A faraway look filled his eyes, and Ellene figured his thoughts had drifted to her brother who’d died in Bosnia.

His focus returned, and he shook his head. “Today I’m disappointed that you let the past influence your judgment. Business is business.”

“I know business is business,” she said. “But this is different, Dad. It’s Connor. We were engaged, and it ended badly. We have other employees who could do the job.”

“He asked for you.”

The words jarred her. Why? She searched for a logical reason, but none came.

Her father leaned closer, his voice softer. “He said he trusts your judgment.”

But she didn’t trust Connor’s. She sat speechless, her mind sorting out her father’s words.

“Listen, Ellene,” he said, rising. His voice sounded like the father from her childhood. He walked around the desk and drew up a chair beside her. “I understand your feelings, but time has passed. Ten years.”

“Not quite eight,” she said. To her it still seemed like yesterday.

“Haven’t you ever made a mistake?”

The night Connor left stuck in her memory like a tack, but today, a bittersweet sensation rolled across her thoughts. “I’ve made bad choices, Dad, but—”

“Sin is sin. Mistakes are mistakes. The Bible teaches us to forgive so that God will forgive us our mistakes. I don’t know what you expected of Connor. You ended the engagement. You need to move on with your life. You’re both adults now.”

“Connor’s married, Dad. I have moved on.”

Her father took her hand and held it, his strong fingers covering hers. The warmth spread up her arm giving her a sense of safety, the same as when she had been a little girl. “He trusts you.”

“If that’s what you want, I’ll handle it.”

He gave her hand a firm squeeze. “I knew you would, Ellene. I think you’ve let this grudge go on too long. I know you’ve seen other fellows, but you’ve steered so far away from marriage or commitment, I’ll die without grandkids and you’ll die an old maid. I’d like to be a grandfather someday.”

“I’m only twenty-nine.”

“Going on forty.” He gave her a wan smile, then rose and walked to his desk. “Here’s his phone number.” He extended a sheet of paper.

Ellene rose and took the memo, gazing at her father’s familiar neat blueprint-style lettering. “I’ll call him tomorrow.”

“You’ll call now. That was Connor on the phone when you walked in. I told him you’d call today.”

Her stomach bottomed out.

“He’s anxious to get the project underway.”

“Where is the job?”

“On Harsens Island. It was his mother’s place.”

“Harsens Island? That’s near Algonac.”

He nodded. “When do we turn down a job, because it’s a few miles away?”

Connor’s face rose in her mind, his firm jaw, those crystal-blue eyes that melted her heart, his light brown hair that turned gold in the summer sun, the soft unruly waves she’d love to run her fingers through. Connor, the rat, who’d walked away with her heart and into the arms of another woman without looking back.

Her icy hand felt damp as she clasped the phone number. She looked into her father’s eyes and gave up the battle. “I’ll call Connor today, Dad.”

 

Connor sat at a table along the restaurant wall, his eyes glued to the doorway. His knee wiggled beneath
the tablecloth, and he tucked his hands in his lap to stop himself from playing with the silverware.

His nerves had never been so raw, at least not since years ago when his relationship with Ellene had ended. He’d asked himself over and over why he’d insisted that she work as the contractor with him. He knew Bordini Construction had a solid reputation. Any of their contractors would have done an excellent job, but when he’d called the company, he’d done what his heart dictated.

He’d heard the tension in Ellene’s tone when she’d called. Her voice had always raised the hairs on the back of his neck, the resonant tone filled with spirit and a light heart. Yesterday the lilt had seemed missing, replaced by a controlled voice that sounded so alien to him.

The waitress filled his coffee cup for the third time, and he pushed up his sleeve to check his watch again, wondering if she’d stood him up. Ellene had always had subtle ways to get even. She often joked about God’s eye-for-an-eye philosophy, but most often, her true spirit had been to turn the other cheek.

Connor pulled his hand from beneath the table and lifted the cup as he observed the steam. Through the curling haze, he saw the restaurant door swing open, along with a chilly wind, and he held his breath.

Ellene.

At first glance, she hadn’t changed except for the elegance of maturity. Her dark hair hung in
loose curls to her shoulders, as he remembered. How many times had he run his fingers through the thick tendrils?

He lifted his hand, and when she saw him, a tense look tightened her features. Her mouth set into a straight line, hiding the generous smile he recalled so easily.

She slipped off her peacoat, and he watched her cross the room, dressed in pants and jacket the color of blueberries. He didn’t like blueberries, but he liked the deep-blue color against warm beige skin. The color illuminated her eyes.

“Hello,” Connor said, rising. He longed to embrace her, but he sensed her apprehension and extended his hand.

She took it with a firm shake, then released his fingers and pulled out her own chair. “You look well,” she said, her eyes focused everywhere but on his.

“So do you.” He wanted to say so much more, but not today. She’d made it clear this was a business appointment. “Thanks for meeting with me.”

“You’re welcome. Dad sends his best wishes.”

“We had a nice talk today.” He admired Ellene’s father. Though a shrewd businessman, he had always been honest and forthright.

She nodded, her eyes focused on the menu.

“I didn’t know what to order you to drink,” he said, lost for words. He had so much to say—things he longed to tell her, but he feared her response. Connor recoiled at the helpless feeling that washed over him.

“I’d like hot tea,” she said, finally looking up. “I’m sorry I was late. I had to handle a call as I was leaving.”

“No problem.” Connor beckoned the waitress and ordered the tea, then perused the menu, hoping that time and silence might pull things into perspective. Nearly eight years had passed since he’d seen Ellene. Yet emotionally, he felt as if it had been the day before.

“It’s been a long time,” he said, unleashing the thoughts from his mind.

“Yes, it has.”

She said nothing more, and he took his cue from her. He selected his meal, though his stomach had tied in knots from the moment he’d sat at the table.

The strained silence rattled him; he felt his knee bouncing beneath the table again, and he braced his heel against the floor, forcing his leg to steady. “I don’t know if your dad told you, but I’ve inherited my mother’s summer home on Harsens Island.”

“I heard about your mom’s death, Connor. I’m sorry.”

“Thanks. She’d been ill for a while.”

“I was very fond of your mom.”

Warm memories filled him. “I know, and she was crazy about you.” The silence in the air was charged with memories.

The waitress returned with the tea and took their orders. Ellene dropped the bag into the metal pot, then dipped it a few times. Finally she rolled the string around the bag, gave a pull and set it on the saucer.

Connor wanted to grab the pot and drain it into the cup to complete the ritual so they could talk. His leg began jigging again, and he stretched it out, determined to relax.

Ellene poured the tea, took a careful sip, then looked at him. “So, what can Bordini Construction do for you?”

Connor pulled his knee up sharply and whacked the bottom of the table. Her tea splashed over the edge into the saucer. “Sorry,” he said, grabbing his napkin and dabbing the liquid.

“It’s fine. That’s what saucers are for.”

He pulled away the soggy napkin and placed the dry side onto his lap, feeling like a gangling teenager. When he looked at Ellene, she gave him a wide-eyed gaze.

“Back to business,” she said. “Dad said you wanted some work done. What kind of renovations are you talking about? What time frame are we discussing?”

“I’d like to enlarge both bedrooms, add a garage. Possibly make the porch a year-round room.”

“It’s screened now.”

He nodded, pleased that she remembered, because that might mean she recalled them together there, their kisses so emotional he had to rein in his longing, a yearning he controlled for her sake. He’d revered her upbringing and only wished he had continued that kind of restraint.

“We need another bathroom upstairs, too,” he said as an afterthought.

Ellene’s head jerked upward while an uneasy expression filled her face. “You said
we.
Now that I think of it, I’d feel more comfortable if your wife were with us, Connor. I’d like to hear her ideas in her own words.”

Her question startled him. “Apparently you haven’t heard.”

Ellene’s forehead wrinkled. “You’re divorced?”

Her tone reminded him she didn’t approve of divorce. “No. Melanie died. An aneurism. It all happened too fast. I wasn’t prepared.”

Ellene’s frown faded. “I’m sorry, Connor. I hadn’t heard.” She lifted a finger and wound it through a strand of hair. “Sadly, falling in love offers no guarantees.”

Her comment brought on difficult memories. “I know.” His loving relationship with Ellene filled his mind with a rush of nostalgia. He gazed at the tilt of her head and the look in her eyes, unable to explain the rising sensation that fluttered through him like summer moths.

The twirled strand of hair fell into a ringlet when she lowered her hand. “So then who is the ‘we’ you mentioned?”

He pulled his gaze from the twist of hair. “My daughter. Caitlin. She’s six.”

 

Ellene’s pulse skipped. “A daughter.” Disbelief and sadness vied within her. She looked at Connor
with fresh eyes. “A daughter,” she repeated, picturing her career-filled life.

He shrugged as if not knowing how to respond. “It’s been difficult raising her alone for the past couple of years.”

“I’m sure it has,” she said, trying to make sense of the sweep of emotion that overtook her. She could have married, too. She could’ve had a child and not just a career. The choice had been hers.

The waitress saved her from further conversation. Her salad arrived, and Connor’s burger. They quieted, each delving into their meals. But Ellene’s appetite had waned. Connor, a dad. The vision filled her mind. As she swallowed, lettuce caught in her throat. She coughed, to no avail, then gave up and washed it down with a drink of tea.

Connor lowered his sandwich and wiped his mouth. “After mom died, the cottage seemed a perfect place to bring Caitlin. My mother’s sister—remember my aunt Phyllis?—she lives next door, and we’ll be close to her. It’ll be good.”

Ellene couldn’t deal with all the details spilling from him. She pushed the greens around in her bowl, longing to get away and sort her emotions. She wanted to be distant and businesslike, but he’d dropped a surprise into the mix. A six-year-old daughter. A little girl without a mother.

Ellene remembered one of her friends losing her mother when they were both children. How did a
child deal with the loss? How had Connor explained his wife’s death? And without a strong faith, what hope had Connor offered his child?

BOOK: In His Eyes
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