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Authors: Gail Gaymer Martin

Loving Care

BOOK: Loving Care
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The closer she came, the more Patrick saw something different on her face—something softer.

Christie’s lips curved to a shy smile and he relaxed.

“I came by to thank you for the flowers. They’re beautiful,” she said.

“I’m glad you like them,” he said. “I recalled how much you loved flowers. I used to surprise you with them. Remember?”

A strand of hair had drifted from behind her ear and caught on her cheek. Patrick longed to reach over and brush it from her face.

“I remember,” she said.

A look filled her eyes, sparking a heady sensation through his chest. He searched her face, wanting to tell her so much—how pretty she was and how sorry he felt about the past. He wanted her to know about his faith.

Books by Gail Gaymer Martin

Steeple Hill Single Title

The Christmas Kite

Love Inspired

Upon a Midnight Clear
#117

Secrets of the Heart
#147

A Love for Safekeeping
#161

Loving Treasures
#177

Loving Hearts
#199

“The Butterfly Garden”/
Easter Blessings
#202

“All Good Gifts”/
The Harvest
#223

Loving Ways
#231

Loving Care
#239

GAIL GAYMER MARTIN

loves life. She adores her husband, family, writing, singing, traveling and her Lord. With all those blessings, God gave her one more gift—her dream of writing novels. Gail is a multipublished author in nonfiction and fiction with seventeen novels, six novellas and many more to come. Her Steeple Hill Love Inspired romances,
Upon a Midnight Clear,
and
Loving Treasures
won Holt Medallions in 2001 and 2003 respectively, and
A Love for Safekeeping
won the ACRW 2002 Book of the Year Award in short contemporary.

Besides writing, Gail travels across the country guest speaking and presenting workshops for writers. She lives in Lathrup Village, with Bob—her husband and her best friend.

She loves to hear from her readers. Write to her at P.O. Box 760063, Lathrup Village, MI 48076 and visit her Web site, www.gailmartin.com.

L
OVING
C
ARE
G
AIL
G
AYMER
M
ARTIN

“For He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.”


Psalms
95:7

To my husband, Bob, who’s made all my dreams come true.
I could love you no deeper or surer.
Thank you for all the sacrifices you make for me.

Dear Reader,

When writing
Loving Care,
I gave much thought to the delicate relationship between husband and wife. I was touched by the depth of trust, honesty and faithfulness that is necessary to keep a marriage healthy and solid. Broken trust is like that “cracked plate” Patrick mentions in the story. It is never easily mended.

But we know that the Lord promises to hear our prayers. He alone can mend broken hearts and bind our deepest wounds, and in times when we see no hope, He offers us opportunities and dreams beyond our imagination. Not all marriages can heal like Christie and Patrick’s, but with faith and trust in God, all things are possible.

My prayer is that whatever “cracked plate” you hold in your hand, you’ll give it to the Lord. Let Him make it like new again.

Chapter One

P
atrick.

Christie Hanuman’s heart almost stopped. She turned her head to avoid eye contact and studied the display of plastic strip bandages.

Her hands trembled as she selected a couple of packages with cartoon figures and dropped them into the basket. Near the bottom of the display, another of the children’s favorite designs caught her attention, and she reached for it, wanting to finish her shopping and get out of the store before…

“Christie?”

Hearing his voice, Christie jerked, and the boxes tumbled from the shelves with a domino effect, falling in a heap at her feet as she spun around to face him.

Time had improved his good looks. Age had per
fected his tall, lean body, broadening his chest and filling out his shoulders. Even the new facial creases added character to his strong features.

She struggled to calm herself while panic set in her lungs. She maneuvered her facial muscles into a pleasant expression.

Voice don’t fail me now.

“What are you doing in town, Patrick?” She relaxed, hearing her tone sound steady and natural.

“I…my dad hasn’t been well.” He glanced toward the heap of boxes around her feet and dug his hands into his pockets. “He’s asked me to…”

Christie watched his Adam’s apple rise and fall as he swallowed.

“…take over the hardware business.”

The information rolled over her like an eighteen-wheeler. “You mean…you’re moving back to Loving?” Holding her breath, she waited for his response while tension rose up her back.

He gave her a slow nod. “We’re staying with Dad for now.” He slipped one hand from his pocket and ran it over his hair. “If he’s doing okay, I’ll look for a place.”

His plans sounded way too permanent for Christie.

“Otherwise…” He shrugged, and his eyes filled with tenderness.

Christie recalled the gentle look he once used with her, and the memory rattled her. She clutched
her shoulder bag, fearing her trembling hands might give her away.

“If he needs me,” he continued, “we’ll have to stay with Dad.”

We’ll.
Patrick and his wife. Christie had heard about his marriage, but hearing about it when he’d been away had been one thing. Seeing him now was another.

Christie hated the emotion that rushed through her. She stumbled backward and felt her heel sink into one of the plastic strip packages. “I hope your dad’s doing better soon,” she mumbled, wishing to sound sincere. In reality, she didn’t know how she felt as her emotions fluttered and thudded through her like captured birds.

“Thanks.” Patrick tucked his hands into his jeans pocket again and jingled his coins a moment, then pulled them out. He seemed as edgy as she felt. His gaze dropped again toward the floor and the pile at her feet.

“Dad has his good days,” he said. He bent down and retrieved the crushed plastic strip package, pushing it back into shape. “But handling the business full-time is too strenuous for him now.” He shoved the box onto the shelf, then crouched again.

Having no clue what to say next, Christie knelt beside him. As they reached for the same package, his hand brushed hers, and she held her breath. Why did he have to come back to Loving? Why now, when she’d gotten her life organized, and she’d
managed to get her day-care center off the ground and thriving?

He rose first and jammed the boxes onto the shelves. Christie straightened and waited. When he’d finished, she added hers and rearranged them into two neat rows. Now that Patrick had returned to jumble up her life, she wondered if things could ever be as orderly again.

He stood beside her without speaking until she’d finished.

“How have you been, Christie?” Patrick asked.

The seeds of revenge shot through her heart. His question had unlocked a door that sent her pride marching forward with a flag of victory. “I’ve opened a day-care center.” She managed to hold a direct gaze.

His face paled, it seemed, with a tinge of remembrance. His full lips pressed together until the color faded to white, but he appeared to rally and drew himself upward. “Good for you.”

She scrutinized his statement. His voice sounded too loud and overly sincere. She guessed he hated her for reaching her goal without his direction. Hated her success. “A child-care center was always my dream.”

“I remember,” he said.

This time the noticeable regret in his voice surprised her.

“The business is doing well,” she said. “Very well.”

“I never thought it wouldn’t. When you have a goal, it never fails.”

It never fails.
The words stabbed her. The one thing most important to her had failed. Their marriage. “Not everything, Patrick.” Her verbal knife twisted, and she watched his face wrench through a series of emotions.

“Well, most things,” he said, with a faint shrug.

Seeing his reaction, Christie wished she could retract her words. Patrick’s chocolate-brown eyes grew dark, and his handsome face appeared as strained as she felt. “I’m sorry. No sense dragging out the past,” she said.

“I don’t blame you,” he said, taking a step back, his attention drawn to the display of bandage strips.

“Thanks for helping me put back the boxes,” she said.

“No problem.”

His gaze caught hers, and she felt her pulse quicken before he looked away.

“I only wish…” His voice faded as if dealing with an unspoken regret, but he recovered and smiled. “Anyway, congratulations on the business. I’d love to see it sometime.”

“Thanks.” She avoided responding to his request. Why did he want to see the center? She could only imagine he would find fault with it. Nitpick. Patrick had always needed to be in charge, but she noticed he still couldn’t make a neat row with the boxes.

He opened his mouth, then closed it as if he’d wanted to say something.

Though Christie recognized disappointment in his face, she had no desire to appease him. She hadn’t been able to please him years earlier. Why try now? She stepped backward, stretching the distance between them. “I imagine I’ll see you around.”

“I’m sure,” he said, lifting his hand in a feeble farewell.

She turned and headed for the checkout. No way would she continue shopping and run into him again in another aisle. Seeing him today had reopened the wound she’d soothed and healed years ago. She looked at the packages of plastic strips in her basket and wondered which one she should use to cover the deep scar that ached within her.

 

Patrick watched Christie leave. She was as lovely as he remembered—bright and pretty as a spring flower. Yet, as always, he’d been pricked by the bee that lived inside those graceful petals. He remembered the sting all too well.

Remorse washed over him as he watched her vanish through the doorway, and his mind clouded as to why he’d come to the pharmacy to begin with. Then he remembered. To pick up his father’s heart medication. He headed toward the pharmacist, and when he caught his attention, the man came to the counter.

“I’m picking up my dad’s prescription. Joe Hanuman.”

The man adjusted his glasses and took a long look before he responded. “Patrick?”

Patrick smiled. “It’s been a long time, Mr. Levin.”

“Why, it sure has.” Levin stepped away and returned in a moment with two pill bottles. “Your dad mentioned you’d be coming home to give him a hand.”

Patrick could only nod. He’d pried himself away from his own career and uprooted his life, but his father had been a good parent—a single parent—and he could never fault him for a few flaws.

“I heard about your loss, Patrick.” He reached beneath the counter and pulled out a white bag detailed with a prescription logo on the front.

“Thanks. It’s been rough at times.”

“God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle,” the pharmacist said, handing Patrick the package.

The man’s voice filled with sorrow, and Patrick recalled Mr. Levin’s wife had been ill for years—something serious, but he couldn’t recall what.

“How’s your boy doing?” Levin asked.

“Growing like a weed. He’s three now.” Since he’d run into Christie, Patrick had lost all direction, and Levin’s question served as a reminder. He raised a finger. “Hang on a minute.” He hurried to a display of inexpensive toys and selected two miniature
cars packaged together, then returned to the counter. “Think this is too grown-up for him?” His lack of confidence as a parent grated on him.

“Naw. Boys like anything that has a motor.” He gave Patrick a grin. “That’ll be…” He punched the register and hit the total. “Nine-thirteen.”

Patrick handed him a ten.

Levin counted out the change. “Tell your dad I send my best wishes.”

“I’ll do that, and thanks.” Patrick slid the change into his pocket, grasped his purchases and headed for the door, his mind whirring.

Outside, the bright June sun shimmered off the cars parked in front. As always in Michigan, the humidity in summer weighted the air. Patrick pulled out his keys, unlocked his car door and slid inside. He dropped the package on the passenger seat and sat a moment, rubbing his face with both hands.

Images of Christie clogged his mind. He needed to talk with her. He didn’t know if she’d heard he’d gotten married. She hadn’t said anything today, but harder still was telling her about Sean.

He reached down and turned the key in the ignition, admitting to himself it was only right he tell Christie about Sherry and Sean before someone else did. Christie had been an important part of his life once, and he owed her the truth—at least as much as he had the courage to reveal.

 

Patrick pulled into the driveway, glad to be home. He hadn’t left Sean with his father before, and at
times, the boy could be a handful, getting into everything, but Patrick’s father insisted he could meet the challenge.

In the living room, he set the medicine bottles beside his father’s recliner and listened to the silence. His heart skipped a beat. Where were they? He shouldn’t have left Sean alone with his father. Another unthinking decision he’d made. He searched, and finding the first-floor rooms empty, he climbed the stairs and hurried down the hallway, fear in his chest.

When Patrick saw them, his pulse slowed and calmed. Grandpa and Sean were curled together on the bed, asleep. He could hear his father’s steady breathing and see the rise and fall of Sean’s small chest. As Patrick stood in the doorway, love filled his heart. Love for his tiny son and love for a father who’d done his best. The paradox struck him. He’d been raised by his father, and now he was raising his son…alone. An awesome task, he realized each day as he tried to earn a living and meet his son’s needs.

Sometimes he asked God why. Why had He taken his wife away so young? Why had Patrick been forced to be a single parent like his father? Hadn’t he had enough, growing up alone, wanting a mother so badly?

Patrick leaned against the bedroom doorjamb, reeling with memories Christie had stirred—mem
ories he’d tried so hard to keep locked away. With a final look at his father and his son, Patrick pushed his back from the doorframe and stepped into the hallway.

“You back already?” his father whispered.

Patrick chuckled. “I’ve been gone over an hour.”

His dad rubbed his eyes and slipped out from under Sean’s arm. “Had to do something to get this boy to take a nap.”

Patrick observed the pleasure on his father’s face, and, if nothing more, he felt happy he could make his father’s difficult days a little brighter…and a lot more lively.

Joe gave a wide stretch, hoisted his pants and slid his feet into well-worn slippers, then followed Patrick from the bedroom.

“I hate to leave him up here without one of us,” Patrick said. “He could fall down the stairs.”

“No, he can’t.” Joe opened the hall closet and pulled out a safety gate. “I planned ahead. Everything’s put away up here, and he’ll let us know when he wakes. If you move him now, he’ll wake up crabby, and then you’ll really have your hands full.”

While his father fumbled with the gate, Patrick pondered whether he was making a wise choice. Still, his dad was right. Sean would let them know he wanted company as soon as he woke.

“Need help with that?” Patrick asked.

“Let me do one thing I can handle, son. I don’t have many of those opportunities anymore.”

Patrick nodded and breathed more easily as he took the steps down to the first floor. He found it hard not to take over every task, but he needed to leave his dad some dignity and some sense of independence.

Downstairs, Patrick headed for the kitchen to grab something for lunch before he left for the hardware store. When he heard his father’s footsteps, Patrick called over his shoulder. “Want a sandwich, Dad?”

His father shuffled through the doorway and gazed at the clock. “By jingo, I did sleep a while. It’s past lunch time.” He went to the bread bag and pulled out a couple of slices. “Slap some meat on this for me if you don’t mind.”

Patrick did as he’d asked and slipped the sandwich onto a paper plate. While his father bit into the bread without remembering to pray, Patrick lowered his head and said a silent blessing. Though he’d been raised without religion, for some reason in recent years, his father had begun to attend church. Patrick, too, had come to know God’s saving grace as an adult—years after he’d divorced Christie. He didn’t know if his mother had been a believer or not.

“Why so quiet?” Joe asked, a blob of mayo clinging to his lip.

Patrick pointed, and his dad pulled a napkin from the holder and wiped his mouth. “Nothing particular. Just thinking.”

His dad raised an eyebrow and gave him a steady look. “Did you get my medicine?”

Patrick nodded. “It’s by your recliner.” The words struck him. Times like this he missed Sherry—a woman in his life, a mother with common sense for his son. “I suppose I should put it away before Sean gets into it. I wasn’t thinking.”

“You better start thinking, boy. That little one is precious.”

Drawing a deep breath, Patrick nodded, angry at himself for being so careless. “You’re right, Dad. I’m distracted.”

His father wiped his mouth again and drew back his head, eyeing Patrick from beneath knitted eyebrows. “What’s bothering you, Patrick? You’ve been my son for a long time. I know when you’ve got something on your mind.”

BOOK: Loving Care
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