Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winds of Freedom by Rebecca Carey Lyles

Winter storms blast across the Whispering Pines Guest Ranch, and a cold wind blows through Kate Neilson’s soul. Despite her pain, Kate’s well-being takes a backseat to the needs of loved ones: her best friend, who’s been ensnared by evil; her failing great-aunt, whose dementia care keeps Kate guessing; and Laura and Mike Duncan, whose ranch and livelihood are threatened by a land-grabbing neighbor.

Book Excerpt

Kate Neilson Duncan knocked a second time on her great-aunt’s front door. She waited a moment and then turned to her husband, Mike, who stood beside her on the wide veranda. “When I called last night, Aunt Mary said she’d be home all day.”
“Give her some time. She never moves fast.” Mike aimed his chin at a little boy riding by on a tricycle. “Cute kid.”
Like Kate, the boy wore shorts and a t-shirt on the warm October day. He steered the trike with one hand and pulled a clattering wagon with the other, carefully negotiating the bumpy sidewalk that bordered the old house. But then he lost his grip on the wagon and stopped beneath the wide branches of an autumn-laced maple tree to retrieve the handle. As he bent down, a wind gust swirled a kaleidoscope of leaves over his head and onto the porch.
The breeze lifted Kate’s hair, set a rocking chair in motion and scattered the leaves across the neighbor’s lawn. She brushed a wayward strand from her cheek and was about to knock again, when the lock clicked and the deadbolt began to retract, metal rasping against metal. Finally, the door opened. Kate could see the chain that stretched the narrow gap between the door and the doorframe, but she couldn’t see her aunt.
Mike pointed toward the bottom of the door, where a wiggling, sniffing black nose poked through at ankle height. Aunt Mary’s dog had always been more of a sniffer than a barker.
 “If you’re selling Florida grapefruit,” a woman’s voice quavered, “I’ll tell you what I say every year. My husband’s stomach cannot tolerate citrus, so please don’t come back. God bless you like he blessed Queen Esther. Goodbye.”
Before her aunt could shut them out, Kate shoved her sandal into the crack. “Aunt Mary. It’s me, Kate.”
A frizz of white hair appeared in the narrow opening and Kate could see Mary squinting at her. “Katy? My sweet Katy Joy?” Mary unhooked the chain lock, opened the door, and held out her arms.
Kate hugged her bony frame, all the while thanking God her aunt recognized her. After the last phone call, in which she’d asked three times who she was, Kate was prepared for the worst.
The older woman leaned back. “You cut off your beautiful brown hair.”
“It was this length at the wedding, shoulder length.” Something cold and wet touched the back of Kate’s knee. She jumped. “Prissy! You startled me.”
Mary shook her finger at the dog. “You leave Katy alone.”
The curly haired Cockapoo dropped her tail between her legs and sidled over to Mike, who knelt on one Levi-clad knee to pet the dog.
Kate kissed Mary’s soft cheek. “I’m so glad to see you again, Aunt Mary. You’re looking great. Not even using your walker.” Her aunt had developed multiple sclerosis in her fifties, but she hadn’t relied on a walker until recent years.
The older woman’s sea-green eyes twinkled. She grasped Kate by the shoulders. “Just don’t let go.”
Kate rotated them both toward Mike, who patted Prissy’s head and stood.
“Aunt Mary,” Kate said, “do you remember my husband, Mike?”
Mary squinted at the tall blond man for a long moment. And then she smirked. “How could I forget such a handsome brute?”
Kate grinned.  It wasn’t often she got to see her husband blush.
Mike took Mary’s hand from Kate’s shoulder and kissed her fingers. “And I haven’t forgotten you, either, pretty lady.”
Mary beamed.
“Okay, you two. Enough flattery.” Kate led Mary to her chair in the living room and helped her sit. She could tell her aunt didn’t recognize Mike. Thank God she let him into her home, despite her confusion.
Kate sat on the couch beside Mike. “Time for us to get down to business.”
Mary peered at them over the top of her glasses. “Business?”
“The business of getting you moved from Pittsburgh to the Whispering Pines Ranch in Wyoming. Remember how much you like it there?”
Mary picked up a newspaper and began to noisily fold it.
Prissy climbed into Mike’s lap. Mike whispered, “Smells weird in here. I don’t think it’s the dog.”
Kate nodded. She couldn’t put her finger on the odor. Maybe it had something to do with her aunt’s aging body, or maybe she’d forgotten to bathe. Though she’d had MS for a long time, the forgetfulness was new. “How many boxes have you filled, Aunt Mary?”
“We need to pack your things for the move. But before we go, we’ll have a garage sale for stuff you don’t need. Have you been sorting?”
Kate glanced at Mike.
The dimple in his cheek twitched.
This was going to be more difficult than she’d expected. “Don’t you worry about a thing, Aunt Mary. We’ll take care of the details. And Amy will join our work crew in a couple hours.”
“Who’s that?”
“She’s…” How could her aunt forget the animated redhead? “Amy is my best friend. She visits you every week, and she flew to Wyoming with you when Mike and I got married. She was my maid of honor, remember?”
Mary compressed her lips and began to pick at a fingernail.
“Well, anyway, when Amy gets here, we’ll order a pizza and have a moving party.” Kate couldn’t wait to see her friend again. They’d met in prison and supported each other through a host of challenges.
Lately, she’d sensed desperation in Amy’s voice when they talked on the phone. Although she was usually upbeat, she hadn’t found a job to replace the one she lost almost six months ago. Kate was afraid her impulsive friend would leap at whatever employment came along, good or bad. She knew from experience that unhealthy employment opportunities were often more abundant than good options for ex-felons.
“Moving?” Eyebrows pinched, eyes darting, Mary scrutinized her living room as if seeing it anew. “From my friends? My neighborhood, my home?” Her voice rose with each question. “From my prayer room? From Prissy?”
Kate’s heart lurched. She knew the sting of being ripped from all that was familiar. Though they’d talked often on the phone about selling her aunt’s home, the conversations must have gotten lost in her head. “We’ll take the desk and phone from your prayer room, and we’ll take Prissy with us, too. She’ll like living in the country.”
Mike grunted.
Kate knew what he was thinking. If the coyotes don’t eat her.
She rubbed the dog’s furry head before standing. “We’ll take this one step at a time. How about I make us some tea?” Her aunt loved green tea.
Mary’s face brightened. “That sounds wonderful. Let’s all have a nice cup of tea.”
In the kitchen, Kate filled the teapot with water and placed it on the stove. Sensing warmth from a nearby pan, she picked up the lid to find dry carrots and crinkled peas beginning to brown. So that’s what they smelled. She shut off the gas and moved the pan to another burner to cool. “Aunt Mary, have you done any baking lately?”
“Uhm, well, I…I’m not sure.”
“Don’t get up. I’ll check the fridge.” The first thing Kate saw when she opened the door was a big pan of brownies with a corner piece missing. The second was a platter of hot dogs stacked layer upon layer pyramid style. She stared at the pile. Had to be at least three dozen wieners in the mound.
Her aunt hobbled into the kitchen, pushing her walker.
Kate laughed. “You don’t take orders very well.”
Mary peered into the open refrigerator. “I forget why I came in here.”
“I asked if you’d baked anything recently, and you did. The brownies smell wonderful.” Kate slid the pan from the fridge. “But all these hot dogs surprise me. I didn’t know you liked them so much.”
Mary’s eyebrows lowered. “I don’t like them, not one bit. Your Uncle Dean is the wiener lover. Buys them by the bushel and eats at least a dozen a day.”
“But he’s not—”
“Oh, that obstinate man.” Mary pursed her lips. “He’s been sneaking off to Jimmy’s Long Dog Stand in front of the library again. Pays that bandit’s outlandish prices, when we have plenty here.” She wrinkled her nose. “Throw them out before they turn green.”
“Uncle Dean died years ago. Surely these aren’t his...”
Mary glared at her. “Don’t talk about your uncle that way, Katy Joy, and don’t argue with me. I am not in the mood.” She reversed her walker and started for the living room.
Kate frowned. What was that about? It wasn’t like her aunt to be snippy. Or to talk as if Uncle Dean was alive.
Mary paused at the doorway between the two rooms. “Well, hello, young man.” Her voice was cheery again. “Did Katy let you in?”
Oh-oh. Aunt Mary had already forgotten Mike.
“Uh, yes, she did.” Kate could hear surprise in his voice. “We’re good friends.”
Kate snickered. I certainly hope so.
“That’s nice.” Mary rolled her walker into the living room. “I read the book of Esther this morning.”
“Esther in the Bible?”
“The very one. It’s quite an interesting story about a young Jewish woman who became queen of Persia way back when. Do you know how that happened? The king wanted a new…”
Kate set the brownies on the counter and took out the hot dogs, glad she’d been given permission to toss them in the garbage. Only God knew how old they were. She dumped the pile into the garbage can under the sink and closed the refrigerator door.
She’d been concerned about uprooting her aunt from her vintage Pittsburgh neighborhood and taking her to their mountainside guest ranch. Now it was obvious she needed someone to keep an eye on her. Kate broke off a piece of brownie. Thank God for Mike and her sweet mother-in-law, Laura, who would help her watch over Aunt Mary. Caring for a confused person with MS could be a challenge.
She bit into the brownie and choked. Ugh. Salt. Lots of salt. She turned on the faucet and spit the bite into the garbage disposal.
The teapot began to whistle, the tone starting low and then rising.

In the living room, Mary stopped her story. “Oh-oh. Fire truck coming this way. Better check the police scanner in my prayer room.”

About Rebecca
Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, the setting for her Kate Neilson novels, Winds of Wyoming and Winds of Freedom. She and her husband, Steve, currently live in Boise. In addition to writing fiction and nonfiction, she serves as an editor and a mentor to aspiring authors and as a transition coach for women transitioning from prison to “the outside.” Becky’s articles and stories have appeared in magazines and compilations. Her nonfiction books, It’s a God Thing! Inspiring Stories of Life-Changing Friendships and On a Wing and a Prayer-Stories from Freedom Fellowship, a Prison Ministry, are now available in ebook as well as print formats.

To buy her book:
Amazon Kindle

Rebecca Carey Lyles is giving away a copy of Winds of Freedom. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice -- once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post.)

Off to read another great book!

Sandra M. Hart


Jackie McNutt said...

I loved the excerpt from Winds Of freedom!
Thank you for review. Dementia is very difficult and a horrible situation for families . I thank God for His Grace when we face this .
Thank you

Cindi A said...

I'd love a chance to win a copy of this book.

Patricia Bradley said...

Great excerpt. Would love to win the book! pat at ptbradley dot com

Deb R. said...

That excerpt hits close to home, reminds me too much of a relative. Please enter my name for a copy of the book. djragno [at] hotmail [dot] com

Anonymous said...

Hello Rebecca. Good to see you. I love that this setting is Wyoming. I really loved my years in Jackson Hole. It was so beautiful there. Loved reading the excerpt. Sounds really good. Thanks for giving us a chance to win your book. And, thanks to BDBL for having you as a guest. Maxie Anderson

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