The Paths We Take

Throughout life, we each take a path that we think will lead to future happiness and success. For me, it was to go to college and become a teacher. I never expected to get married and have children, but that was part of God’s plan for my life. Each of us has choices and our choices make a difference in our own life as well as in the lives of others.

This has really been brought home to me recently because I have been at my sister’s house this week helping her pack up to move to a different state. She is a year older than I am, and she is not in particularly good health. Because she has macular degeneration and is slowly losing her vision, she cannot really live alone for many more years. For that reason, when my niece and her family decided to move, they also chose to move her mom with them. That is a very kind gesture that shows the love she has for her mom. However, my sister has had little choice in the matter. A house was purchased next door to them for my sister to live in. The fact that she is leaving all that she has ever known is not a factor in this decision at all. There have been spontaneous outbursts of tears and more than a few arguments (all caused by stress, I’m sure) between my sister and her daughter since I have been here. My heart goes out to my sister and I long to comfort her, but the best I can say is that she knows she can’t take care of herself and that in the long run, this was an unselfish and caring thing for her daughter to do for her. Nevertheless, it is not a path that she would have chosen, but it is done now and she leaves the state she has lived in for almost all of her life and moves to a new one.

I would like to share this Scripture with my sister but she refuses to listen to anything I have to say about God. Her current reason (she has had many excuses over the years) is that a friend of hers was recently diagnosed with cancer and how can a good God give people who are good such an awful disease? She expanded on that philosophy ad nauseum the other night when we were resting from a long day of packing. She says she knows that I believe in God but she just can’t believe in a God who does such horrible things to people. I tried to tell her that God didn’t do it, sin and evil in the world did. But she tuned me out and said she doesn’t believe in sin and evil. Are you kidding me?!? How can anyone not believe in the evil that is rampant in the world, threatening to overtake us at any time? And if it were not for God’s love, mercy and grace, we would all be destroyed. I spoke for a few minutes before I was interrupted, but she just would not hear me. My heart is broken for her because of her move, her leaving all behind here but mostly because she doesn’t have the hope that lives in my heart. Yes, bad things happen to good people. But God is still on His throne and still in control. I sincerely believe that He has everyone’s best interests at heart and that God’s heart is hurting when people suffer, from cancer or from heartbreak, but especially from unbelief and turning away from Him.

God literally showed me the truth of this Scripture back in the 1980’s. My husband was a fairly new officer in the USAF (having left his enlisted position in the USN) and we had been stationed in a very small town in Arkansas for four years. Preparing to move overseas, we were all excited about going to Japan. Alas! The military carefully scrutinizes medical records of all family members before they send you overseas and they decided that my health was too bad to go to a military base without an appropriate military medical facility. So, our things were all packed in crates and awaiting our final orders to Japan, but those orders had been canceled. My husband talked to the scheduler about where he could go and they came up with Iceland. Again, I could not be approved to go there, but I could be on base as the caregiver of our children and they would take care of me medically if needed. Harry asked me where I wanted to be while we waited for base housing to be available and I told him South Carolina since I had lived there for eight years at various times during our military moves. He went to Iceland, the children and I found a small apartment in South Carolina near our church and settled in to wait for our stay in Iceland. It never happened! Once my husband arrived, he was told that the wait for base housing was at least two years, a remote tour was one, so he opted to stay there for one year alone while the children and I lived in South Carolina. I was beside myself with anxiety and grief, but I did what I do whenever I’m caught in a situation that I can’t control. I prayed. I knew that God had me there for a reason, so I asked him to reveal the reason to me and let me be calm and nurturing for the children. Not long after my prayer, the Christian school in which I had taught each time we were in SC called and asked if I would be willing to step in for the teacher for grades 6-7 since Harriet had been diagnosed with cancer and was dying. The students knew me and needed a familiar face at this time of grief for them. My youngest son was only two, so I prayed about it and asked the principal if I could come in for only half a day and if they could accommodate Steven in their daycare. Both worked out, and I was there in SC for a classroom filled with students whom I had known since they were in my third grade class. They were disoriented and confused about why God would take away their beloved teacher, so I spent a lot of time comforting them and reading Scriptures like those above. God had me there for a reason even if I did not understand it when I got there, and even if I had other plans that just didn’t come together.

God always has a plan and it’s always better than the one that I have. That’s what my experience with faith has taught me. I wish I could impart that knowledge to my sister. Instead, I’m packing boxes for the last day and going home this afternoon to prepare to teach Children’s Church tomorrow. God has a plan and I will continue to intercede for my sister as she goes on this totally unexpected and new path. I hope that some of you will join me in prayer for her.

Thank you for your prayers and have a blessed day, yielding your will to God’s and thus being on the path that He has prepared for you.


What does it mean to be redeemed? I am old enough to remember when my grandmother and mother saved S & H green stamps. They got them from the grocery story after each purchase and had little booklets that they kept them in. When they had enough little booklets for what they were saving for, they would go to the S & H redemption center and turn them in for an item on their wish list, like a new toaster. I used to enjoy sticking those little stamps in the books for my Nanny. They didn’t taste good but I felt like a was contributing to a new thing that would appear in the household soon. You gave the stamps and you got a prize, something worth much more than a booklet of stamps.

Jesus says that He has redeemed us. What does that mean? Like the book of stamps, Jesus has patiently put us together into something that has value and can be traded for something of greater value. What is the value? Eternal life with God! What was traded? Jesus’s own life at the cross. We did not do anything to earn salvation. We are saved by His grace and mercy alone.

There are about twelve different definitions for redeemed in the Merriam Webster online dictionary. The ones that have to do with our redemption are: freed from the consequences of sin, to release from blame or debt and to buy back. We have reaped the benefits of Jesus freeing us from eternal separation from God because He has released us from our debt to sin and has purchased us back for God with His own shed blood. Think about that for a moment. Jesus did it all for each of us because of His great love for us!

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This verse is a beautiful word picture of what Jesus has done for us. But notice that we have a part to play, too. We have to choose to return to Him, confessing that He has done exactly what He said and that He is our Lord and Savior. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to be in right standing before God unless we have Jesus as our intermediary. He paid the full price for each of us and in His sacrificial death, He swept away all of our sins. Believe, confess, repent and live for Him. The steps to salvation are not hard but they do require reflection, an honest appraisal of life as we have been living and a desire to turn onto a new path with the Lord.

My prayer for each of you today is a renewed fervor to serve the Lord who redeemed you and to make each day count for Him.

May you be blessed with the knowledge of His sacrifice and His cleansing that makes you white as snow. May each of you truly return to Him and be redeemed!

The Way of Love

Growing up, I used to hear an old saying in my house a lot. “Your actions are speaking so loud that I can’ t hear what you’re saying.” Well, the grammar was poor (should be loudly), but the sentiment of the sentence is spot on and even Biblical in a way. We can’t just go around saying the Good News; we have to live it in front of others.

Do you remember a game I played as a child called “Follow the Leader”? Whatever the leader did, we were supposed to do and you were out of the game if you failed to follow. The Christian life with Jesus is not a game, but we are all definitely called to follow our leader and do whatever He would do and nothing that He would not do. The movement a couple of decades ago called WWJD (What would Jesus do) is based on a Scripture verse that encourages believers to imitate Christ.

Just as our children imitate us as they are growing up and learning the ways of the world, we are told to be like children and to imitate Christ. What did Jesus do? He loved…always loved. He rebuked sin and stood firmly for righteousness, but He personified love even in His stern rebukes of the rampant sins of the day. He empathized with those who were hurting and who needed a touch from Him to be made whole. He loved! Can we do any less? When we see someone in need, are we content to say, “I’ll pray for you” or do we get into the trenches with that person and try to meet their needs, just as Jesus did? I’m talking to myself as much as to you. Oftentimes, more often than not, I am not as bothered by the plight of people as I should be, so I just give them an over my shoulder as I walk away blessing and prayer and continue on my way. How many lives could we touch for Jesus if we took the time to really look at others and their needs and to meet the ones that we are able to? To me, that is walking in love. You walk, you see someone in need, you help fulfill the need and then you walk on and find the next person in need. I think that it is in meeting the needs of those we encounter on a daily basis that we show them the heart of Jesus. Once we have met the physical needs, these people will be much more willing to hear our words about the sacrifice that Jesus made for them.

Our actions then need to match our words. If we say we love Jesus, then we need to imitate Him, follow His example and be lovers of His people, the lost sheep who are perishing without the hope that only He can give. Telling people that I’m a Christian has not brought a single person to the foot of the cross, but showing people what actually following Jesus means is evangelism in action.

Have a blessed day and may you be aware that as you follow Jesus, others are looking to see if you are really imitating Him and walking in love.

Representing Jesus

There’s a really important word in this verse, “whatever.” It doesn’t say some of the things you do or say or most of the things you do or say. It says “whatever.” The last few years that I taught high school, this was a popular word for the teens to say when you asked them to do something they didn’t like and they knew that they were going to end up having to do it anyway. Their tongue-in-cheek response was always, “Whatever.” What they were really meaning was “not if I can help it.” But the “whatever in this verse means everything that you can possibly think of doing or saying, remember that you are doing it as a representative of Jesus Christ. That means our attitude has to be right so that our actions will follow. As I go into town today to help out my sister, this verse is perfect for me. I usually get along with my sister, but we are like oil and water. I am a Christian and she is a self-proclaimed agnostic. I have three children, she has one and she only acknowledges one of mine. (Because he is very liberal just as she is.) I’m a Bible—believing conservative and she is not. You get the idea. But I’m going to help her and I’m determined to do my best to fulfill that job, doing it as a service to the Lord, as if I am His hands reaching out to Her. I pray that my words will be words of life and encouragement, just as His would.

May your day be blessed with opportunities to show Jesus to the world around you and may you shine forth His light as a good representative of our Lord!

Not a Fan of Change

I am a person who thrives on routine, the same thing day in and day out. In situations where others might be bored or craving something new, I want the old and familiar. That is just me and it’s also why I’m having a hard time right now.

For the last ten months, my husband and I knew that our oldest grandson had made the decision to forego college and join the military. Recruited by the U.S. Navy, he has been a member of the delayed entry program for all of this time, waiting for his specific specialty to have an opening in a school for him after boot camp. Well, the day is almost here for his departure and this Nanna is just not ready for this change. Harry and I have driven over an hour one way every week in order to take Isaac to his meetings with his recruiter and to take him out to lunch so he gets out of the house for a few hours. His parents both work, so we took on that pleasurable responsibility. In fact, when I found myself in Maryland taking care of the grandchildren there, Harry and I prayed about it and opted to be separated from each other so he could continue to spend time with Isaac. Today is the day we say farewell because tomorrow he reports to leave for Great Lakes Boot Camp. My heart is heavy, not because I don’t want him to succeed or because I don’t believe he can, but because I will miss him so. I have all these photos of him as a small, trusting child and pictures in my mind of when he spent weekends with us when he was younger. There is something so vulnerable about him, a neediness to be accepted. So my heart is heavy because I just want him to find his place in this world and find a journey and peace that only God can give. So, change. I just don’t like it, but I know it’s part of life.

Also this week, tomorrow in fact, I am going to my sister’s house. She lives about an hour away and because of health problems, she has to move to be with her daughter in North Carolina. My sister and I don’t see eye to eye on many things, but she has been a constant in my life since I came to Virginia to live almost twenty-three years ago. In fact, she is one of the reasons that I looked for and found a new teaching job her in Virginia, because I wanted to establish roots near family. Anyway, I am going to town to help her sort and pack her books. We both share a love of reading and she has thousands of books (literally) to go through. Because of her limited vision, she can’t do a lot of the sorting and because of her physical limitations, she can’t pack. But I’m convinced that I can help, so I volunteered. What I did not consider is the emotional toll on me of helping my sister to pack to move away. Change. Again, I don’t like it, but it’s part of life.

This morning, after less than stellar sleep last night, I arose seeking the Lord as I generally do. Of course, He met me at the place where I needed Him and pointed me to scripture verses to comfort and lead me through this new part of my life. I’m sharing them with you so that you, too, can take comfort in a God who is merciful enough to provide just what we need just when we need it.

So, I’m off to have a blessed day, taking our grandson to lunch and praying for his success and God’s blessing on His new life. He is looking forward to this new chapter and as the Scripture says, I plan to trust God and be faithful to Him, knowing that Isaac is in the palm of His hands.

Have a blessed day, filled with peace and the knowledge that although all around us may change, God does not change and is always there.

Review of THE WRONG VICTIM by Allison Brennan

Starting with an explosion on board a charter cruise ship, this book maintains its high-octane energy until the very end. When the Mobile Response Team headed by Matt Costa is called to a small town off the coast of Washington to investigate the explosion, the action ramps up between the townspeople, the MRT and among the members of the MRT. I have read the other books in the series, but I did not see the conflict coming between Catherine and Kara Quinn. Kara is having a not-so-secret relationship with Matt and Catherine warns her away in a totally unfriendly, butt-into-your-life kind of way. The tension within the team is palpable and very realistically portrayed. There is a lot of information about the backstories of some of the team members which was absorbing and helped me to understand why they were on the team and their contributions there. All of the characters were fleshed out and I particularly enjoyed the characters of Ryder, the computer geek, and Michael, the former SEAL who performs heroics like it’s a natural part of his life. In the town, there were the families of the victims, including a widow who was a sympathetic character to me from the beginning. The plot was tightly woven together with clues throughout about who the perpetrator was and the motive behind the killings. There is a sub-plot about unsolved cold cases that one of the victims was investigating and was a possible reason for the bombing. I enjoyed the determination and the dedication of the MRT and loved feeling as though I were enjoying an episode of CSI or Criminal Minds as I enjoyed the details of the investigation. This can be read as a standalone, but I do think readers will enjoy this one more if they start from the beginning and get the background of Matt’s championing the unit and then heading it up. Fans of suspense thrillers will enjoy this book that has plenty of chilling moments and a touch of romance.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complementary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Rated a hard PG-13 because of content.
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets.
Social Links:
Author website:
Facebook: @AllisonBrennan
Twitter: @Allison_Brennan
Instagram: @abwrites



A killer walked among the peaceful community of Friday Harbor and retired FBI Agent Neil Devereaux couldn’t do one damn thing about it because he had no evidence.

Most cops had at least one case that haunted them long after the day they turned in their badge and retired. For Neil, that obsession was a cold case that his former law enforcement colleagues believed was closed. Not only closed, but not a double homicide at all—simply a tragic accident.

Neil knew they’d got it wrong; he just couldn’t prove it. He hadn’t been able to prove it thirteen years ago, and he couldn’t prove it now.

But he was close.

He knew that the two college boys didn’t drown “by accident;” they were murdered. He had a suspect and he’d even figured out why the boys had been targeted.

Knowing who and why meant nothing. He needed hard evidence. Hell, he’d settle for any evidence. All his theory got him was the FBI file on the deaths sent by an old friend, and the ear of a detective on the mainland who would be willing to investigate if Neil found more.

“I can’t open a closed death investigation without evidence, buddy.”

He would have said the same thing if he was in the same position.

Confronting the suspected killer would be dangerous, even for an experienced investigator like him. This wasn’t an Agatha Christie novel like his mother used to read, where he could bring the suspect and others into a room and run through the facts—only to have the killer jump up and confess.

Neil couldn’t stand to think that anyone might get away with such a brazen murder spree, sparked by revenge and deep bitterness. It’s why he couldn’t let it go, and why he felt for the first time that he was close…close to hard evidence that would compel a new investigation.

He was tired of being placated by the people he used to work with.

He’d spent so long following dead ends that he’d lost valuable time—and with time, the detailed memories of those who might still remember something about that fateful weekend. It was only the last year that Neil had turned his attention to other students at the university and realized the most likely suspect was living here, on San Juan Island, right under his nose.

All this was on his mind when he boarded the Water Lily, his favorite yacht in the West End Charter fleet. He went through his safety checklist, wondering why Cal McKinnon, the deckhand assigned to this sunset cruise, wasn’t already there.

If he wasn’t preoccupied with murder and irritated at Cal, Neil may have noticed the small hole in the bow of the ship, right above the water line, with fishing line coming out of it, taut in the water.


“I’m sorry. It’s last minute, I know,” Cal said to Kyle Richards in the clubhouse of West End Charter. “But I really need to talk to Jamie right away.”

“It’s that serious?” asked his longtime friend Kyle.

“I cannot lose her over this. I just can’t. I love her. We’re getting married.”

At least he hoped they were still getting married. Two months ago Jamie finally set a wedding date for the last Saturday in September—the fifth anniversary of their first date. And now this whole thing was a mess, and if Cal didn’t fix it now, he’d never be able to fix it.

You already blew it. You blew it five years ago. You should have told her the truth then!

“Alright then, go,” Kyle said. “I’ll take the cruise. I need the extra money, anyway. But you owe me—it’s Friday night. I had a date.”

Cal clapped Kyle on the back. “I definitely owe you, I’ll take your next crappy shift.”

“Better, give me your next corporate party boat.” Corporate parties on the largest yacht in their fleet had automatic eighteen percent tips added to the bill, which was split between a typical four-man crew in addition to salary. Plus, high-end parties often paid extra. Drunk rich people could become very generous with their pocket cash.

“You got it—it’s next Saturday night, the Fourth of July—so we good?”

Kyle gave him a high five, then left for the dock.

Cal clocked out and started for home. He passed a group of sign-carrying protesters and rolled his eyes.

West End Charter: Profit Over Protection

Protect Fish Not Profits!

Hey Hey Ho Ho Ted Colfax has to go!

Jeez, when would these people just stop? West End Charter had done nearly everything they wanted over the last two years—and then some—but it was never good enough.

Fortunately, the large crowds of protesters that started after the West End accident had dwindled over the last two years from hundreds to a half dozen. Maybe because they got bored, or maybe because West End fixed the problem with their older fleet, Cal didn’t know. But these few remaining were truly radical, and Cal hoped they didn’t cause any problems for the company over the lucrative Fourth of July holiday weekend.

He drove around them and headed home. He had more important things to deal with than this group of misfits.

Cal lived just outside of Friday Harbor with Jamie and their daughter. It was a small house, but all his, his savings covering the down payment after he left the Coast Guard six years ago. But it was Jamie who made the two-bedroom cottage a real home. She’d made curtains for the windows; put up cheery pictures that brightened even the grayest Washington day; and most recently, she’d framed some of Hazel’s colorful artwork for the kitchen nook he’d added on with Kyle’s help last summer.

He’d wanted to put Jamie on the deed when she moved in with him, but she wanted to go slower than that. He wanted to marry her, but she’d had a bad breakup with her longtime boyfriend before they met and was still struggling with the mind games her ex used to play on her. If that bastard ever set foot back on the island, Cal would beat him senseless.

But the ex was far out of the picture, living down in California, and Cal loved Jamie, so he respected her wishes not to pressure her into marriage. When she found out she was pregnant, he asked her to marry him again—she said yes but wanted to wait.

“There’s no rush. I love you, Cal, but I don’t want to get married just because I’m pregnant.”

He would move heaven and earth for Jamie and Hazel—why didn’t she know that?

That’s why when she finally settled on a date, confirmed it with invitations and an announcement in the San Juan Island newspaper, that he thought it would be smooth sailing.

And then she left.

As soon as he got home, he packed an overnight bag while trying to reach Jamie. She didn’t answer her cell phone. More than likely, there was no reception. Service was sketchy on the west side of the island.

He left another message.

“Jamie, we need to talk. I’m sorry, believe me I’m sorry. I love you. I love Hazel. I just want to talk and work this out. I’m coming to see you tonight, okay? Please call me.”

He was so frustrated. Not at Jamie—well, maybe a little because she’d taken off this morning for her dad’s place without even telling him. Just left him a note on the bathroom mirror.


I need time to think. Give me a couple days, okay? I love you, but right now I just need a little perspective.


Cal didn’t like the “but” part. What was there to think about? He loved her. They had a life together. Jamie and their little girl Hazel meant everything to him. They were getting married in three months!

He’d given her all day to think and now they needed to talk. Jamie had a bad habit of remaining silent when she was upset, thanks to that prick she’d dated before Cal. Cal much preferred her to get angry, to yell at him, to say exactly how she felt, then they could move on.

He jumped in his old pickup truck and headed west, praying he could salvage his family, the only thing he truly cared about. Failure was not an option.


That night Kyle clocked in and told the staff supervisor, Gloria, that Cal was sick, and he was taking the sunset cruise for him.

“Are you lying to me?” Gloria asked, looking over the top of her glasses at him.

“No, well, I mean, he’s not sick sick.” Dammit, Kyle had always been a piss-poor liar. “But he and Jamie had a fight, I guess, and he wants to fix it.”

“Alright, I’ll talk to Cal tomorrow. Don’t you go lying for him.”

“Don’t get him in trouble, Gloria.”

She sighed, took off her large glasses and cleaned them on her cotton shirt. “I like Cal as much as everyone, I’m not going to jam him up, but he should have come to me. I’ll bet he gave you his slot on the Fourth, didn’t he?”

Kyle grinned. Gloria had worked for West End longer than Kyle had been alive. They couldn’t operate without her.

“Eight people total. A party of four and two parties of two.” Gloria handed him the clipboard with the information of those who had registered for tonight’s sunset cruise. “Four bottles of champagne, a case of water, and cheese and fruit trays are onboard. You have one minute.”

“Thanks Gloria!” He ran down the dock to the Water Lily. He texted his boyfriend as he ran.

Hey, taking Cal’s shift, docking at 10—want to meet up then?

He sent the message and almost ran into a group who were already standing at the docks. Two men, two women, drinks in hand from the West End Club bar, in to-go cups.

“Can we board?” the tallest of the four asked.

“Give me one minute. What group are you with?”

“Nava Software.”

Kyle looked at his watch. Technically boarding started in five minutes; they’d be pushing off in twenty.

“I need to get approval from the captain.” He smiled and jumped over the gate. He found Neil Devereaux on the bridge, reading weather reports.

“You’re late,” Neil said without looking up.

“Sorry, Skipper. Cal called in sick.”

Neil looked at him. “Oh, Kyle, I didn’t know it was you. I was expecting Cal.”

“He called out. Everything okay?” Neil didn’t look like his usual chipper self.

“I had a rough day.”

Rough day? Neil was a retired federal agent and got to pick any shift he wanted. Everyone liked him. If he didn’t want to work, he didn’t. He had a pension and didn’t even have to work but said once that he’d be bored if he didn’t have something to do. He spent most of his free time fishing or hanging out at the Fish & Brew. Kyle thought he was pretty cool for a Boomer.

“Your kids okay?” he asked.

Neil looked surprised at the question. “Yes, of course. Why?”

“You said you had a rough day—I just remember you talking about how one of your kids was deployed or something.”

He nodded with a half smile. “Good memory. Jill is doing great. She’s on base in Japan, a mechanic. She loves it. And Eric is good, just works too much at the hospital. Thanks for asking.”

“Four guests are waiting to board—is it okay?”

“There’s always someone early, isn’t there?”

“Better early than late,” Kyle said, parroting something that Neil often said to the crew.

Neil laughed, and Kyle was glad he was able to take the skipper’s mind off whatever was bothering him.

“Go ahead, let them on—rear deck only. Check the lines, supplies, and emergency gear, okay? No food or drink until we pass the marker.”

“Got it.”

Kyle slid down the ladder as his phone vibrated. It was Adam.

F&B only place open that late—meet at the club and we’ll walk over, k?

He responded with a thumbs-up emoji and a heart, then smiled at the group of four. “Come aboard!”


Madelyn Jeffries sat on the toilet—not because she had to pee, but because she didn’t want to go on this cruise, not even for only three hours. She didn’t want to smile and play nice with Tina Marshall just because Pierce wanted to discuss business with Tina’s husband Vince.

She hated Tina. That woman would do anything to make her miserable. All because Pierce had fallen in love with her, Madelyn Cordell, a smart girl from the wrong side of the tracks in Tacoma.

Pierce didn’t understand. He tried, God bless him, but he didn’t. He was from another generation. He understood sex and chivalry and generosity and respect. He was the sweetest man she’d ever met. But he didn’t understand female interactions.

“I know you and Tina had somewhat of a rivalry when we met. But sweetheart, I fell in love with you. There’s no reason for you to be insecure.”

She wasn’t insecure. She and Pierce had something special, something that no one else could understand. Even she didn’t completely understand how she fell so head over heels for a man older than her deadbeat father. Oh, there was probably some psychologist out there who had any number of theories, but all Madelyn knew was that she and Pierce were right.

But Tina made her see red.

Tina, on top of this pregnancy—a pregnancy Madelyn had wanted to keep quiet, between her and Pierce, until she was showing. But somehow Pierce’s kids had found out last week, and they went ballistic.

They were the reason she and Pierce decided to get away for a long weekend. Last night had been wonderful and romantic and exactly what she needed. Then at brunch this morning they ran into Tina and Vince who were on a “vacation” after their honeymoon.

Madelyn didn’t doubt that Tina had found out she was here and planned this. There was no doubt in her mind that Tina had come to put a wedge between her and Pierce. After five years, why couldn’t she just leave her alone?

Just seeing Tina brought back the fearful, insecure girl Madelyn used to be, and she didn’t want that. She loved her life, she loved her husband, and above all she loved the baby inside her.

She flushed the toilet and stepped out of the stall.

Tina stood there by the sink, lips freshly coated with bloodred.

Madelyn stepped around her and washed her hands.

“Vince took me to Paris for our honeymoon for two glorious weeks,” said Tina.

Madelyn didn’t respond.

“I heard that you went to Montana.” Tina giggled a fake, frivolous laugh.

It was true. They’d spent a month in the Centennial Valley for their honeymoon, in a beautiful lodge owned by Pierce. They went horseback riding, hiking, had picnics, and she even learned how to fish—Pierce wanted to teach her, and she found that she enjoyed it. Fishing was relaxing and wholesome, something she’d never considered before. It had been the best month of her life.

But she wasn’t sharing that with Madelyn. Her time with Pierce was private. It was sacred.

She dried her hands and said, “Excuse me.”

“You think you’ve changed, but you haven’t. You’re still the little bug-eyed girl who followed me around for years. I taught you how to walk, I taught you how to attract men, I taught you how to dress and talk and act like you were somebody. If it wasn’t for me, you would never have met Pierce Jeffries. And you took him from me.”

“The boat leaves in five minutes.” Madelyn desperately wanted to get away from Tina.

“Vince and Pierce are going into business together. We’ll be spending a lot of time together, you and me. You would do well to drop the holier-than-thou act and accept the fact that I am back in your life and I’m not going anywhere.”

Madelyn stared at Tina. Once she’d been in awe of the girl, a year older than she was, who always seemed to get what she wanted. Tina was bold, she was beautiful, she was driven.

But she would never be satisfied. Did she even love Vince Marshall? Or had she married him because of the money and status he could give her?

Madelyn hated that when she first met Pierce she had thought he was her ticket out of poverty and menial jobs. She hated that she had followed Tina’s advice on how to seduce an older man.

Madelyn had fallen in love with Pierce, not because he was rich or powerful or for what he could give her. She loved him because he was kind and compassionate. She loved him because he saw her as she was and loved her anyway. But when he proposed to her, she’d fallen apart. She’d told him that she loved him, but she could never marry him because everything she was had been built on a lie—how she got her job at the country club, now they first met, how she had targeted him because he was wealthy and single. She would never forgive herself; how could he? His marriage proposal had been romantic and beautiful—he’d taken her to the bench where they first had a conversation, along the water of Puget Sound. But she ran away, ashamed.

He’d found her, she’d told him everything, the entire truth about who she was—a poor girl from a poor neighborhood who pretended to be worldly and sophisticated to attract men.

He said he loved her even more.

“I knew, Madelyn, from the beginning. But more, I see you, inside and out, and that’s the woman I love.”

Madelyn stared at her onetime friend. “Tina, you would do well to mind your p’s and q’s, because if I tell Pierce to back off, he’ll back off.”

She sounded a lot more confident than she felt. When it came to business, Pierce would listen to her, but he deferred to his oldest son, who worked closely with him. And Madelyn had never given him an ultimatum. She’d never told him what to do about business. She’d never have considered it, except for Tina.

Tina scowled.

Madelyn passed by her, then snipped, “By the way, nice boob job.”

She left, the confrontation draining her. She didn’t want to do this cruise. She didn’t want to go head-to-head with Tina for the next three hours.

She didn’t want to use the baby as an excuse…but desperate times and all that.

Pierce was waiting for her on the dock, talking to Vince Marshall.

“Would you excuse us for one moment, Vince?” she said politely.

“Of course, I’ll catch up with Tina and meet you on the boat.”

She smiled and nodded as he walked back to the harbormaster’s building.

“What is it, love?” Concerned, worried, about her.

“I thought morning sickness was only in the morning. I’m sorry—I fear if I get on that boat, I’ll be ill again. I don’t want to embarrass you.”

“Nonsense,” he said. He took her hand, kissed it. “You will never embarrass me.” He put their joined hands on her stomach. The warmth and affection in his eyes made her fall in love with him again. She felt like she loved Pierce a little more every day. “I can meet with Vince tomorrow. I’ll go back to the house with you.”

“This business meeting is important to you, isn’t it?”

“It might be.”

“Then go. Enjoy it. I can get home myself. Isn’t that what Ubers are for?”

“A sunset is not as pretty without the woman I love holding my hand.”

She wanted him home with her, but this was best. They had separate lives, at least in business; she didn’t want to pressure him in any way, just because she detested Tina. “I will wait up for you.”

He leaned over and kissed her. Gently. As if she would break. “Take good care of the woman I love, Bump,” he said to her stomach.

She melted, kissed him again, then turned and walked back down the dock, fighting an overwhelming urge to go back and ask Pierce to come home with her.

But she wouldn’t do it. It was silly and childish. Instead, she would go home, read a good book, and prepare a light meal for when Pierce came home. Then she would make love to her husband and put her past—and that hideous leech Tina Marshall—firmly out of her mind.


Jamie already regretted leaving Friday Harbor.

She listened to Cal’s message twice, then deleted it and cleaned up after dinner. Hazel was watching her half hour of PAW Patrol before bath, books, and bed.

Her dad’s remote house near Rogue Harbor was on the opposite side of the island from where they lived. Peaceful, quiet, what she thought she needed, especially since her dad wasn’t here. He was an airline pilot and had a condo in Seattle that he lived in more often than not, coming up here only when he had more than two days off in a row.

She left because she was hurt. She had every right to be hurt, dammit! But now that she was here, she wondered if she’d made a mistake.

Cal hadn’t technically cheated on her. But he also hadn’t told her that his ex-girlfriend was living on the island, not until the woman befriended her. She wouldn’t have thought twice about it except for the fact that Cal had hidden it from her.

She had a bad habit of running away from any hint of approaching drama. She hated conflict and would avoid it at all costs. Her mother was drama personified. How many times had young Jamie run to her dad’s house to get away from her mother’s bullshit? Finally when she was fifteen she permanently moved in with her dad, changed schools, and her mother didn’t say squat.

“You should have stayed and talked it out,” she mumbled to herself as she dried the dishes. The only bad thing about her dad’s place was that there was no dishwasher.

But Cal was coming to see her tonight. He didn’t run away from conflict. She wanted to fix this but didn’t know how because she was hurt. But he had to work, so she figured she had a few hours to think everything through. To know the right thing to do.

“Just tell him. Tell him how you feel.”

Her phone buzzed and at first she thought it was an Amber Alert, because it was an odd sound.

Instead, it was an emergency alert from the San Juan Island Sheriff’s Office.


Her stomach flipped and she grabbed the counter when a wave of dizziness washed over her.

She turned on the small television in the kitchen and switched to the local news. She watched in horror as the news anchor reported that a West End Charter yacht had exploded after leaving for a sunset cruise. He confirmed that it was the Water Lily and did not know at this time if there were survivors. Search and rescue crews were already out on the water, and authorities advised all vessels to dock immediately.

Cal had been scheduled to work the Water Lily tonight.

Hazel laughed at something silly on PAW Patrol. Jamie caught her breath, then suddenly tears fell. How could—? No. Not Cal. She loved him and even if they had problems, he loved Hazel more than anything in the world. He was the best father she could have hoped for. Hazel wasn’t planned, but she was loved so much, and Cal had made it clear that he was sticking, from the very beginning. How could she forget that? How could she have forgotten that Cal had never made her feel inadequate, he’d never hurt her, he always told her she could do anything she wanted? He was always there for her…when she was bedridden with Hazel for two months. When she broke her wrist and Hazel was still nursing, he held the baby to her breast every four hours. Changed every diaper. He sang to Hazel, read her books, giggled with her in makeshift blanket forts when thunder scared her.

And now he was gone.

There could be survivors. You have to go.

She couldn’t bring Hazel to the dock. The search, the sirens, the fear that filled the town. It would terrify the three-year-old.

But she couldn’t stay here. Cal needed her—injured or not, he needed her and she loved him. It was as simple as that. Rena would watch Hazel so Jamie could find Cal, make sure he was okay.

“Hazel, we’re going home.”

“I wanna sleep at Grandpa’s!”

“I forgot to feed Tabby.” Tabby was a stray cat who had adopted their carport on cold or rainy nights. He wouldn’t come into the house, and only on rare occasions would let Jamie pet him, but she’d started feeding him. Hazel had of course named him after a cat on her favorite show.

“Oh, Mommy! We gotta go rescue Tabby!”

And just like that, Hazel was ready.

Please, God, please please please please make Cal okay.


Ashley Dunlap didn’t like lying to her sister, but Whitney couldn’t keep a secret to save her life, and if Whitney said one word to their dad about Ashley’s involvement with Island Protectors, she’d be grounded until she graduated—and maybe even longer.

“We’re going to be late,” Whitney said.

“Dad will understand,” Ashley said, looking through the long lens of her camera at the West End Charter boat leaving port. She snapped a couple pictures, though they were too far away to see anything.

She was just one of several monitors who were keeping close tabs on West End boats in the hopes that they would catch them breaking the law. West End may have been able to convince most people in town that they had cleaned up their act, and some even believed their claims that the leakage two years ago was an accident, but as the founder of IP Donna Bell said time and time again, companies always put profit over people. And just because they hadn’t caught them breaking the law didn’t mean that they weren’t breaking the law. It was IP who documented the faulty fuel tanks two years ago that leaked their nasty fuel all over the coast. Who knows how many fish died because of their crimes? How long it would take the ecosystem to recover?

“Ash, Dad said not a minute past eight, and it’s already seven thirty. It’s going to take us thirty minutes just to dock and secure the boat.”

“It’s a beautiful evening,” Ashley said, turning her camera away from the Water Lily and toward the shore. Another boat was preparing to leave, but the largest yacht in the fleet—The Tempest—was already out with a group of fifty whale watching west of the island in the Haro Strait. Bobby and his brother were out that way, monitoring The Tempest.

Ashley was frustrated. They just didn’t have people who cared enough to take the time to monitor West End. There were only about eight or nine of them who were willing to spend all their free time standing up to West End, tracking their boats, making sure they were obeying the rules.

Everyone else just took West End’s word for it.

Whitney sighed. “I could tell Dad the sail snagged.”

“You can’t lie to save your life, sis,” Ashley said. “We’ll just tell him the truth. It’s a beautiful night and we got distracted by the beauty of the islands.”

Whitney laughed, then smiled. “It is pretty, isn’t it? Think those pictures are going to turn out? It’s getting a little choppy.”

“Some of them might,” she said.

Ashley turned her camera back to the Water Lily. The charter was still going only five knots as they left the harbor. She snapped a few pictures, saw that Neil Devereaux was piloting today. She liked Neil—he spent a lot of time at the Fish & Brew talking to her dad and anyone else who came in. He’d only lived here for a couple years, but he seemed like a native of the small community. She’d talked to him about the pollution problem from West End, and he kept saying that West End fixed the problem with the old tanks and he’d seen nothing to suggest that they had other problems or cut corners on the repairs. He told her he would look around, and if anything was wrong, he’d bring it to the Colfax family’s attention.

But could she believe him? Did he really care or was he just trying to get her to go away and leave West End alone?

Neil looked over at their sailboat, and both she and Whitney waved. He blew the horn and waved back.

A breeze rattled the sail, and Whitney grabbed the beam. “Shit!” she said.

Ashley put her camera back in its case and caught the rope dangling from the mast. “You good, Whit?”

“Yeah, it just slipped. Beautiful scenery is distracting. I got it.”

Whitney bent down to secure the line, and Ashley turned back toward the Water Lily as it passed the one-mile marker and picked up speed.

The bow shook so hard she thought they might have hit something, then a fireball erupted, shot into the air along with wood and—oh, God, people!—bright orange, then black smoke billowed from the Water Lily. The stern kept moving forward, the boat in two pieces—the front destroyed, the back collapsing.

Whitney screamed and Ashley stared. She saw a body in the water among the debris. The flames went out almost immediately, but the smoke filled the area.

“We have to help them,” Ashley said. “Whitney—”

Then a second explosion sent a shock wave toward their sailboat and it was all they could do to keep from going under themselves. Sirens on the shore sounded the alarm, and Ashley and Whitney headed back to the harbor as the sheriff’s rescue boats went toward the disaster.

Taking a final look back, Ashley pulled out her camera and took more pictures. If West End was to blame for this, Ashley would make sure they paid. Neil was a friend, a good man, like a grandfather to her. He…he couldn’t have survived. Could he?

She stared at the smoking boat, split in two.

No. She didn’t see how anyone survived that.

Tears streamed down her face and as soon as she and Whitney were docked, she hugged her sister tight.

I’ll get them, Neil. I promise you, I’ll prove that West End cut corners and killed you and everyone else.

Excerpted from The Wrong Victim by Allison Brennan, Copyright © 2022 by Allison Brennan. Published by MIRA Books.

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Many thanks to HTP Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book!
A wonderful opportunity to meet the author is available for those of you in the Scottsdale AZ area!

Eternity and God’s Provision

I love that this Scripture verse says that God, our Creator, has put eternity into our hearts. Of course, our human hearts will one day stop and out body that it supports and keeps alive will die here on earth. But the heart that we have that is attached to God is also attached to eternity, the Heavenly home that He has prepared for us and where we will always be with the Lord. It is a great mystery what God has done, most likely because our finite minds cannot fathom the works of an infinite God.

I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving that God always provides just what we need when we need it. Just as He provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness, He provides for us. And when they reached the Promised Land and could eat from the abundance there, the manna no longer appeared daily for the Israelites to pick up and eat. God knows what He is doing even when we don’t always understand it!

Have a blessed and wonderful day, always remembering that you are a child of the King!