Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Heart Healed by Jennifer Johnson

Does Callie have a second chance at love?

Callie Dawson has spent the past five years caring for her terminally ill parents and working as a hospice nurse, and now her small-town roots have called her home to Tennessee. Used to healing others, she needs to make peace with God…and start over. But first she has to face the past. A terrible misunderstanding separated her from Kirk Jacobs, the rancher she once loved with all her heart. Is this her chance to make things right?

Kirk can't believe Callie's back—working at his family's B and B and rekindling powerful feelings. The rancher knows he should take things slowly, but his heart tells him something else…. And when a devastating diagnosis threatens their newfound bond, Kirk has to show Callie that he'll always be there for her. Because he can't lose her a second time.


Kirk Jacobs yanked off his ball cap, wiped the sweat from his forehead and peered down at his sister. "There was only one woman for me. Only one. And she died five years ago."

Pamela placed her hands on her hips. "She did not die, Kirk. She moved away and got married."

After planting the cap back on his head, he lifted both hands. "Married. Died. What's the difference?"

Trying to ignore his sister's glare, Kirk hefted himself onto the tractor seat. Surveying the farm in one quick glance, he sucked in a breath, acknowledging the work he had yet to do. It was more than a man could complete in a day, but Kirk liked it that way. A fellow couldn't think random thoughts when his hands stayed busy. And if his mind did happen to wander to places it ought not to go, he'd hum one of his favorite hymns or try to remember a bit of scripture.

He led a hard life, but a simple one. He shared a good-size house with his twenty-year-old brother, Ben. Until Ben headed off to the university in the fall, anyway. Two years at the community college wasn't enough for his little brother. Ben wanted to go to the University of Tennessee and get his four-year degree in engineering, of all things.

When he moved out, Kirk would be up to his eyebrows in work. In the years since his dad retired, the brothers had carried the heaviest load, caring for the cattle and the cornfields. They also tended the strawberry and pumpkin patches as well as the apple and peach orchard that provided their community with fresh produce in the summer and fall months.

The rest of the family stayed busy, as well. His mom and dad ran the family's bed-and-breakfast, grew a small garden and oversaw the family fun activity center that ran from May to late October. His sister and her two daughters took care of the gift shop and the small cafe that served lunch during the activity center's open months.

It was a lot of work, but they had a great family in an ideal situation. The Lord blessed them and showed them how to overcome obstacles. All in all, he couldn't imagine what more a man could want.

"There's a big difference between marriage and death, you big oaf." Pamela swatted at his pant leg. "You gotta quit talking about Callie like that. It creeps me out."

Frustration bubbled up in his gut. "I don't talk about her," he snapped. "When someone forces me, I simply acknowledge what she is in my mind. Dead to me."

His retort came out harsher than he intended, and he knew he should apologize, but Pamela had already crossed her arms in front of her chest and said evenly, "Mom has hired a woman to help out with the fun center and the cafe. Evidently a young, pretty woman. Said the gal's a lost soul, and Mom wants you—" Pamela reached up and poked his arm "—big brother, to show her around after supper tonight."
Kirk growled. "Why? Does she expect me to fall head over heels for the girl? I'm tired of her matchmaking. If I want a woman, I can find one on my own."

"Now, wait just a minute." She lifted her pointer finger. "First off, Mom never tries to match you with anybody." She lifted her middle finger. "And second, I'm just the messenger. If you don't want to show the girl around, you'll have to take it up with Mom."

"I'll do just that."

Pamela opened her mouth to add something else, but he started the tractor, causing it to roar to life and his sister to take a step back. Just to be sure she knew what an annoyance she was, he shooed her a little farther away then turned the tractor away from her. Her mouth continued to move, no doubt badgering him further, but he ignored her and made his way into the fields.

He assumed Mom hired the woman to take over Ben's responsibilities when it came time for him to head off to college. And he had to admit, the notion of hiring someone in the spring was a good one. With Ben leaving in late summer, the new help would know the ropes for next fall.

But why hire a woman? A woman wouldn't be able to help him in the same way as Ben. A woman would take up another bedroom at the B and B, as well. If Mom had hired a guy, he could have stayed at the farmhouse with Kirk.

Sure, the family owned the old cabin a little more than spitting distance from the B and B. A new hire could stay there, but the place hadn't been cleaned, let alone lived in for years. Neither the electricity or water was turned on. The gal would have to stay at the B and B, which left only two rooms to rent out.
The more Kirk thought about his mom's choice, the more riled he got. He loved his mother, but she often did things with her heart and not her head. He didn't know anything about the woman his mother had found, but he had a strong feeling she would be more of a nuisance than help. Snarling, he gripped the tractor's steering wheel tighter. He'd need to think about a lot of scripture while he worked today if he was going to be even remotely civil with that woman tonight.


Callie Dawson stood to her full height and stretched as far as her five-foot-three-inch body would allow. The pinch in the small of her back had grown to a raging ache. She'd been awarded the prize while carrying box after box of household items into the small cabin. Twisting her body, she kneaded the spot with her right thumb and knuckles. A long, hot soak in a bath would be necessary after she met with the family.

Dread washed over her at the upcoming meeting with Kirk's family. His mother, Tammie, had been more than kind. She was the one who had encouraged Callie to come back. But what would Kirk's dad think? Mike's teasing that she was his second daughter, evening out his children to two boys and two girls, drifted to her mind. She hadn't said goodbye to her "adopted" dad. What about Pamela and Ben, her pretended siblings? What would they think? And Kirk? Her throat tightened and shivers raced down her spine. What will I say to him?

Callie released a long breath as she walked into the bathroom and splashed cool water on her face. She wiped off with a towel then peered at her reflection in the mirror. Gripping the sides of the sink, she mumbled, "It's easier to feel nothing. Just don't feel, Callie."

She flopped onto the closed commode, resting her elbows on her knees and cupping her face in her hands. She raked her fingers through her hair then clasped them together. "Who am I kidding? I'm feeling something. I've been 'feeling' the full five years I've been away. It's why I had to get away in the first place." The love she felt for Kirk and his family wrapped around her heart. "It's why I allowed Tammie to talk me into coming back."

She bit the knuckle on her right index finger then stood, staring at her reflection again. "But the feeling doesn't matter. Actions do."

The memory of the day her father walked out on her and her mother resurfaced. Callie and Mom had just returned from a chemo treatment. Her mom's hair had fallen out, all of it, even her eyebrows. Her self-image was shot. Silently a pool of tears filled her eyes. Knowing how sick she was going to be from that day's treatment had weighed on her mother's expression and pulled at Callie's heart.

"You're going to beat this, Mom," Callie said for the millionth time since the initial breast cancer diagnosis, which had been followed by a brief remission, the discovery of new growth, the complete mastectomy, and now chemotherapy and radiation. The clasp to her diamond heart necklace had fallen down her mom's neck, and Callie moved it around to the back. "You'll see. It will be fine."

Her mother hadn't responded, only stared out the windshield. A single tear escaped, and she didn't bother to wipe it away.

Before they got out of the car, Callie's father stepped out of the house, suitcases in both hands. Surprise had wrapped his features when he looked up and saw them sitting in the driveway. They had obviously returned earlier than he'd expected them to. Callie hopped out of the car. "Where you going, Dad?"
He ignored her, heading straight for the truck, which was parked in front of the house. He dropped one suitcase into the bed of the truck, then the other.

"Dad, answer me." Callie grabbed his arm as he made his way to the driver's-side door. She peered back at her mother, who still sat in the passenger's side of the car. Her father brushed her hand away and got into the truck. The window had been rolled down, so she gripped the frame. "Dad?"

Her father stared straight ahead, his expression hard and unfeeling. "I can't do it, Callie."

"Can't do what, Dad?" Fear and anger had swelled within her, spiraling in a way that made her want to throw up and pass out at the same time. The truth of what he planned to do filled her, shredding all respect or affection she'd ever known for the man she'd once called Daddy.

He must have sensed her disdain, because he'd turned to her and for the briefest of moments his face softened and she thought he would get out of the truck and stay with her and her mother. But his expression changed, and he slid the key into the ignition, started the truck and drove away.
A year later, when Callie was only nineteen, her mother lost the battle with cancer. Numb and depressed, Callie meandered through a year working in a clerical position. She and Kirk Jacobs dated. She believed he was on the verge of proposing. She had hoped getting married would alleviate the pain she felt. Then Kirk said he needed a break, and she heard from her dad. Everything changed.

She twirled the diamond heart pendant that hung from her neck, the one her mother had worn for as many years as she could recall. And Kirk never came for me.

About The Author

Jennifer Johnson and the world’s most supportive husband have been married for over two decades. They’ve been blessed to raise three amazing daughters and recently added a terrific son-in-law to the crew. Jennifer teaches 6th grade writing at her local middle school. She has seventeen published novels and one novella. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys shopping and watching movies with her family, going to dinner with her best friend, and brainstorming slumber parties with her writing buddies. She loves to hear from readers.

Purchase A Heart Healed at
Jennifer Johnson is giving away a copy of A Heart HealedTo be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your e-mail address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.


cjajsmommy said...

I too know what it is like to come out on the other side of caring for a parent (actually, my mother-in-law) in the last months. I'm interested in seeing how the author depicts the "after" months. Please enter me to win. djragno (at) hotmail (dot) com

Patty said...

I don't normally pick up these 'Heartsong Presents' books on my own, but that teaser has me wanting to read the rest of the book!


Teela said...

I would love to read Jennifer's book,A Heart Healed. Thank you , Teelayoung (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This book sounds amazing! I will definitely be adding it to my 'to read' book list!

Erin S
emstclair {at} gmail {dot} com

Cindi A said...

Thanks for the giveaway. This looks like a book that I'd enjoy.


Patricia Bradley said...

Love this book. If I don't win it, I'll have to buy it! pat at ptbradley dot com

Anonymous said...

Hey there Jennifer, Good to meet you. I didn't think they taught Writing anymore. I thought they should have never stopped. It is unreal to see the scribbles so many have when signing their names. When I write, I want the person who sees it to know what it says. I would love to win your book. Thanks to you and karen for a chance to win it.
MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

Linda Kish said...

I would love to read this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Jo said...

I would love to read this book.


Rose Milligan said...

I would love to win this book. Thanks for having the giveaway.


Merry said...

A Heart Healed sounds like I will need the tissue box! I love second chance at love stories. Please include me!
worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

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