Ours to LoveA Wicked Lovers novel featuring billionaire brothers
Best-selling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s #1 inspirational novelist. She has written more than 30 of her Life-Changing Fiction titles and has more than 10 million books in print. Dubbed the Queen of Christian Fiction by Time magazine, Karen receives hundreds of letters each week and considers her readers friends. Her fiction has made her one of the country’s favorite storytellers, and several of her novels—including Gideon's Gift, Like Dandelion Dust, and A Thousand Tomorrows, are under production for upcoming major motion picture releases. Her emotionally gripping titles include the popular Baxter Family dramas—the Redemption, Firstborn and Sunrise series—Divine, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, Oceans Apart and A Thousand Tomorrows.
She should have said something.
Even now, seven years later, with Thanksgiving dishes put away and another lonely December rushing up at her, Molly Allen knew the truth. Her year, her life, her Christmas . . . all of it might be different if only she’d said something.
The possibilities plagued her that Black Friday. They walked with her through the front door of her Portland, Oregon, private foundation office, hovered beside her over lunch at P.F. Changs, and distracted her every time she stopped in to see the cats and dogs at her animal rescue shelter.
This was Video Day. Molly’s day after Thanksgiving.
Everyone else in the greater Portland area spent the day hunting bargains and stopping in at her shelter to see if the gift they wanted might be in a cage instead of a Walmart. But now, as the day wound down, while shoppers unpacked their bags and counted their savings, Molly would snuggle beneath a blanket by herself and watch the video.
The way she did every year on this day.
She tucked a strand of long blond hair behind her ear and stooped down to the oversize cage on the bottom row. The room echoed with a dozen different barks and whimpers and cries for attention. A chorus of unrest and slight concern from the animals rescued this month to her shelter, one arm of the Allen Foundation’s efforts.
“Okay, Buster.” She unlatched the cage and welcomed a curly-haired gray terra-poo into her arms. “It’s your lucky day. Yes, it is.” She snapped a leash to Buster’s collar. The dog was a two-year-old, stuck at the shelter for three weeks. Longer than usual, considering this was Christmastime, and the cute dogs usually went first. She scratched the dog just above his ear. “Let’s get you to your family.”
For good measure, she made a general announcement to the others. “It’s still seven days till December, gang. Your turn will come!”
Buster wagged his tail furiously as Molly led him to the lobby. She liked Buster’s new family. Of course, she liked most families. Anyone willing to rescue a pet was a friend of hers, no question. But this family with their twin seven-year-old boys seemed special. Their eyes lit up as Molly rounded the corner with Buster.
“Daddy, that’s him! Our Buster dog!” One of the boys ran up and dropped to his knees, hugging Buster around his neck.
The other boy was quieter and hung back by their parents. His grin brightened the room all the same. The family had already signed the necessary paperwork, so this was the last step. Both parents shook her hand as they left. “What you’re doing here, it’s making a difference.” The dad’s eyes were warm. “I have a feeling you could be doing many more things with your time.” He nodded at her. “Merry Christmas.”
“Thank you.” Molly hesitated. “Happy holidays.”
The family turned their attention to Buster and the excitement of getting him out the door in the pouring rain and into their van parked just outside. As the family drove off, Molly checked the time. Six minutes till closing. She walked to the door and flipped the
sign. The cages were clean, and the animals all exercised by ten volunteer high school kids who had worked until an hour ago. She would check the water bowls and head home.
He called the video project “The Bridge.”
The rich smell of cooked turkey warmed the house, and for a moment Bailey Flanigan stopped at the base of the kitchen stairs and closed her eyes. Just long enough to take it all in — Thanksgiving at the house where she grew up, her boyfriend Brandon Paul in the next room with her brothers, and the sound of the NFL Lions and Cowboys playing football on TV. Everyone she loved gathered around her. Once in a while God presented a slice of time where Bailey’s whole world felt perfect. Or almost perfect. Bailey felt the smile on her lips, the peace and joy in her heart.
This cool, cloudless Thanksgiving afternoon was one of those times.
She leaned against the wall and tried to imagine a year from now. Would Brandon still be in her life? Would she still be part of the Broadway cast of Hairspray in New York City? Or would God lead her through still more changes?
“Bailey?” Her mom’s voice brought her back to the moment.
“Sorry.” She opened her eyes and stifled a laugh. “Just memorizing this, the way it feels right now.” She glanced at the stove.
The potatoes were off the flame, sitting in a pot of hot water near the sink. “I’ll work on these.”
Her mom was putting the finishing touches on a deep dish apple pie — the Flanigan family Thanksgiving favorite. She leaned close and peered toward the TV room. “Looks like it’s going well.”
Bailey smiled and followed her mother’s gaze. Brandon was sitting next to Ricky, the two of them laughing about something.
“I didn’t tell you what happened this morning,” Bailey whispered, making sure only her mom could hear her, “what Brandon said.” “About having Thanksgiving with us?”
“Yes. Actually, first he said you and Dad have made him feel so welcome.” She bit her lip, as the memory from earlier returned. “But he also said he was a little nervous. You know, about whether he would connect with Dad and the boys.”
Her mom’s surprise showed in her eyes. “Why would he worry about that?”
“Because . . .” Bailey allowed a quick look into the family room, “he knew they’d watch a lot of football today. And I guess because football’s not really Brandon’s thing.”
“Hmmm.” Understanding slowly softened her mother’s expression. “And of course, last year Cody was here.”
“Cody, who loves football as much as Dad and the boys.” Bailey pictured Cody in the family room, playing pool with her dad and she felt her heart sink a little. Was that only a year ago? Wherever Cody was this Thanksgiving, he hadn’t contacted her or even wished her family a happy holiday. She dismissed the thought. “Anyway, yeah. Brandon was a little worried. Like he might not fit in.” She gave her mom a crooked smile. “He hasn’t been here in a while.”
For a long moment her mom didn’t say anything. Then she turned her back on the scene in the family room and studied Bailey. “Have you heard from him? From Cody?”
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