Saturday, June 14, 2014

In God's Time by Carol Ann Erhardt

Chase Douglas, a Montana rancher who lost his leg while serving in Afghanistan, no longer believes in a caring God. When he receives a phone call that his sister has died leaving him guardian of his four-year-old twin nieces, he leaves his comfort zone and travels to Havens Creek, Tennessee. There he meets Becca Middleton, a beautiful, kind-hearted woman who has been caring for the girls.

His plan to take the twins home is stalled when he learns his sister was murdered and her daughters are witnesses. Becca agrees to help him with the care of the girls and Chase begins to open his heart to her. Then he learns Becca's husband is the soldier who died after giving Chase a letter to deliver to his wife and child. The letter, long-forgotten, is buried in a duffel bag along with the devastating nightmares of war.

Chase agonizes over fulfilling a promise made years ago which will inflict pain on a woman who has made peace with her past, a woman he is falling in love with. As mutual attraction flares, he struggles in his relationship with God, with fear for the twins' safety, and with a decision that might end any chance of happiness.


Chapter One
The acrid smoke clung to Becca Middleton’s clothing, the scent permeating her soul. She looked at her brother, at the deep lines of sorrow grooving his face, the soot marring his cheeks. “Are you sure they were inside?”
“Any chance they wouldn’t have been home tonight?”
“No,” she whispered.
“There’s still a chance they’ll be found alive. We can’t give up hope.”
Her gaze lingered on the ambulance transporting her best friend to the hospital. God, please don’t let them die. Not like this.
The roar of a motorcycle sounded above the rushing water and the voices calling back and forth as the firefighters continued to battle the blaze. Mark Ryland skidded the bike to a stop and hopped off. “Anything I can do?” As usual, he wore no helmet. He always rode like he was going to a fire. Ironic he had been tonight.
“The best thing we can do is stay out of the way until things are under control,” Jake said.
“What about Marla and the twins?”
Jake shook his head. “The twins haven’t been found yet. An ambulance took Marla to the hospital.”
“Bummer,” Mark said. “I’ll call Braden. I’m sure he’ll want to go to the hospital.”
Becca’s heart fell as the flames ate away at the one floor structure. Tears stung her eyes and her breathing hitched.
Jake pulled her into his arms and she rested her forehead against her brother’s chest.
“Hey, Jake!”
Becca turned to see who was calling.
One of the firemen pointed toward the wooded area behind the house. Two tiny figures stood motionless with their arms wrapped around each other.
“The twins!” she shouted. She ran through the damp grass and scooped them into her embrace. “I’m so glad to see you. Don’t cry. You’re safe now.”
 “Mommy!” Kayleigh struggled and broke free. She ran toward the fire, but Jake swooped her into his arms.
Kristen screamed. “Mommy! I want my mommy!” Becca picked her up.
“Shh. Your mommy is going to be all right.” Please, Lord, take care of Marla.
Jake said, “We need to have the girls checked out just in case.” He led her to the ambulance and left her while he headed back to the scene.
A female paramedic examined the twins and after a few minutes said, “They’re fine. No injuries. Just scared.”
Relief steadied Becca’s heart rate. Everyone was safe. Marla and the girls could move in with her temporarily. Thank you, Jesus. “That’s great. Would you watch them while I get my brother?”
“Sure.” She began to wipe their faces with a damp cloth.
Becca called Jake away from the huddle of police and firefighters. “They’re fine,” she said. “They shouldn’t stay here. I’ll take them home with me. Can you help me get them to the car?”
“Best news I’ve had tonight,” he said as he followed her to the ambulance. “Now we just need to hear Marla’s okay.”
“She will be. I just know it.”
Jake picked up Kristen.
“Let’s get you out of here,” Becca said.
Kayleigh’s arms circled Becca’s neck. “I want Mommy,” she whispered. “Where’s Mommy?”
“She went to the hospital so the doctors can fix her up. You’re coming home with me for a sleepover. Okay?”
“Can we see Mommy in the morning, Aunt Becca?” Kristen asked.
Jake leaned close and spoke in Becca’s ear. “We need to contact her family. Do you have a way to reach them?”
“I’ve got her brother’s number in my phone.”
“I’ll call him,” Jake said. “You’re going to have your hands full.”
They wove their way over the hoses and between the fire engines to where Becca left her car. Once the girls were settled, she fumbled through her purse until her hand closed around the phone.
A voice called out, “Jake!”
He turned. “Yeah?” He touched Becca’s shoulder. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
Becca found Chase Douglas’ name in her contacts. Her heart ached for the pain this call would inflict.


Chase Douglas urged Big John to turn. The horse snorted and nodded his head, as if agreeing the time had come to end the day.
“Taco! Time to go home.”
The black and white border collie’s ears pricked.
Chase lifted the reins while the dog made a wide pass behind the cattle. Best herder dog in Montana, he thought. One of Pop’s better suggestions. Without Taco, moving the herd would have required several men, something he hadn’t wanted today. He needed time alone to adjust his attitude. He was tired of snapping at Pop, and sick of being needled about getting hitched. Six years ago he might have asked Jeannie Boyd to marry him. Now, bachelorhood suited his lifestyle. Took a special breed of woman to be a rancher’s wife.
The dog made a running leap to the saddle and balanced perfectly.
Life was good. As good as could be for a one-legged man.
Ten minutes later Chase’s gaze landed on the glowing mountain ridges towering behind the pine and cottonwood trees shading the main part of the ranch. Two hired hands repairing the fence line waved as Chase passed.
When the house came into view, he slowed. They crossed one of the widest creeks, stopping long enough for Big John to dip his head for a drink. Chase tipped the canteen to his lips. Lukewarm water slid down his throat and his chin. He wiped the latter with his shirt sleeve before capping the container and urging the horse forward. Chase was glad to be home. “Hey, Austin,” he called as his best stable hand approached. “How’s it going?”
“Good, boss. How’d the herding go?” The skinny man with bright copper hair took hold of Big John’s bridle.
“Taco performed his usual magic.” Chase dismounted. “The herd’s moved into the new pasture. Take good care of Big John.” He patted the gelding’s neck. “He’s earned a good rubdown and grub.”
“You got it, boss.”
The closer Chase came to the kitchen entrance, the more his stomach growled and his spirits lifted. Mouthwatering scents of fresh-baked biscuits wafted through the window.
Irene, their cook and housekeeper, swiveled from the stove as the squeaky screen door announced his presence. Her gray hair was pulled tightly back from her face into a braided knot. “Don’t steal any of those biscuits,” she warned, shaking a long-handled spoon in the air.
Chase chuckled. “You know me better than that.”
“That’s the problem. I know you too well,” she said. “Now go get washed up for supper.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Chase snatched a biscuit and dodged through the doorway, hearing her laughter follow. He stuffed the flaky goodness into his mouth. Nobody baked biscuits like Irene. No sir.
He headed for the study to find Pop. Once a great horseman and rancher, his dad had settled into handling the finances and hiring staff now that Chase was home. That and nagging Chase to get married and give him grandkids—the main reason he’d been in a foul mood of late.
Pop sat behind a scarred mahogany desk, silver wire-rimmed glasses perched low on his nose.
 “Hey, Pop. How’d the interviews go?”
Pop, white haired, and with the trademark deep wrinkles of a man who’d spent years in the Montana weather, peered at him with brown eyes, a bit darker than Chase’s. “Not bad. Got a few potentials for you to look over.”
“Hiring is your department. You’re better at judging people than I am.”
“I don’t judge anybody.”
Chase bit back a growl. Judging people went against his dad’s Christian belief. No sense getting into a discussion about how far Chase had fallen from the fold. “Bad word choice. You’re better at screening people. How’s that?”
Pop’s head nodded. “Better.”
Chase’s cell phone rang. He stared at the unfamiliar number, but familiar area code. The same as his sister Marla’s.
A gruff voice asked, “May I speak with Chase Douglas?”
“You got him.” He eased into the leather chair adjacent to the desk.
“My name is Jake Taylor. I’m the police chief in Havens Creek.”
Chase stood so fast, he had to grab the desk to steady himself. “What’s wrong? What happened?” A phone call  from the police chief couldn’t be good news.
Pop’s face showed alarm.
“Your sister is in the hospital. She was rescued from her house after it caught fire. I’m not sure about her injuries, but the twins are all right. My sister, Becca, is keeping them at her house.”
His mouth dried, his lips feeling like the barren ground under a relentless sun. He gripped the phone tighter. “What hospital?”
“What’s wrong?” Pop asked, standing and leaning toward Chase.
Chase ignored him. He knew who Becca was. The twins would be in good hands until…fear hit him. What if his sister didn’t make it? He grabbed a pen and wrote down the name and number Jake gave him. “We’ll be there as soon as we can make arrangements.” He ended the call. “There was a fire at Marla’s house. She’s in the hospital, but the twins are okay.”
“Dear God,” Pop said. His body wilted into the chair.
Chase squeezed his father’s bony shoulder. “Wait here while I talk to Todd and ask him to take over for a few days.”
Pop rose and swayed unsteadily.
“Sit down. Please. I’ll be right back.”
“I’m good,” his father responded.
Tough old bird never let on when he was feeling bad. Chase hurried to the ranch manager’s cabin and knocked.
Todd came to the door. He was long and lean, wearing snakeskin boots and ragged jeans held up by a leather belt with a flashy buckle won in his rodeo days. The man was all cowboy and the best manager they’d ever had.
“Need you to take over for a little while. There’s been some trouble in Tennessee.”
Todd was well aware of Marla’s situation and how she’d moved away to hide from her abusive ex-husband.
“No problem. You take care of your family. I’ll handle things here until you get back.”
Chase thanked him and returned to the house.
Pop was still sitting at the desk.
“Todd was okay with taking over,” Chase said. “I’ll make arrangements for a flight while you ask Irene to hold supper for us.”
Like a walking dead man, Pop rose and shambled toward the kitchen.
Is this how you take care of your sheep, God? Chase could do with a little less of His so-called blessings. He didn’t believe a loving God would let innocent people be hurt—be killed.
He scrolled through his contacts and made a call.
“Dusty here.”
“It’s Chase. I need a favor.”
His friend laughed. “First time you ever asked anybody for a favor that I know of.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Chase said.
“You sound like a man who’s gone two minutes on a mean bull. What’cha need?”
“I need you to fly Pop and me to Tennessee. Marla’s in the hospital.”
Chase heard a thump through the line as if something had fallen. Dusty and Marla had once been a couple until she met Derek. Things might have worked out differently if she’d stuck with the better man.
“What happened?”
“Her house caught fire and she was inside. Pop and I need to get there right away.”
“I’ll cancel a couple things and file a flight plan. Should be able leave later tonight. How are the twins?”
 “Fine. They’re staying with a babysitter.”
“If there’s anything else I can do—”
“Just get us there safely.”
After dinner, Irene said, “Give my best to Marla and the girls.”
Chase hugged her. “I will and I’ll call you when we get news.”
She nodded and averted her eyes.
 “Want me to walk you home?” Chase asked. Irene lived in a guest house beside them and had for the past ten years she’d been working for them.
She sniffed and pulled a tissue from her pocket. “No.” She blew her nose. “Maybe she’ll come home now.”
 “Maybe. Course that means you’ll have to cook for more people and have those little gals begging for cookies all day long.”
A tiny smile dimpled her cheeks. “I’d enjoy every minute.”
After she left, Chase sat on the porch. Years ago this would have been a time to pray. Back when he believed in answered prayers. Back when he believed in a loving God. Back when he was a whole man. Stars speckled the sky. A quarter moon nestled among them. One by one, the cabin windows darkened.
His phone rang. Expecting Dusty, he answered without looking at the screen.
“All set?”
“Mr. Douglas?”
“Yes. This is Chase Douglas.” He stood and put one hand on the pillar at the top of the steps.
“This is Dr. Spencer at General Hospital in Havens Creek.”
An angry bronco kicked his stomach.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you the news on the phone.”
A short pause followed in which Chase could form no coherent thoughts.

“Your sister passed away a few minutes ago.”

About The Author

Carol Ann Erhardt began her writing career in 2006 writing for the secular market. She found she didn’t like conforming to the guidelines for including things in her novels she felt uncomfortable writing. After publishing two romantic suspense novels, she switched gears and wrote her first inspirational romantic suspense.
She retired from her full-time day job at the beginning of 2010. Her vision was that she’d get up every day and head down to her office where she’d spend at least 8 hours writing. That was the dream.
The reality:  She became a full-time caregiver for her husband as he became very ill during the early months of 2010. The following years were spent in focusing on making a new “life” for the two soulmates. Their love for each other was grounded in faith and trusting in God. Sadly, Jesus called him home in 2013. Now Carol is working on finding a new “normal” and embracing writing once again.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Purchase In God's Time at:

Carol Ann Erhardt is giving away a copy of In God's TIme. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email 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...

cjajsmommy said...
Wonderful excerpt! You said you didn't like conforming to some guidelines required of you to publish in the secular market. I used to be a proofreader and one of the reasons I left the job was because of some of the material I was required to proof. So glad you found a new market! I'm sorry about the passing of your husband. I nearly lost mine in 1995 and he has been on disability (but "invisibly" disabled) since then. Sometimes I feel guilty that I still have my husband when I watch my friends lose theirs. But I know God has a plan and a purpose. Sorry for the ramble! I'd love to read "In God's Time."
Deb R.
cjajsmommy (at) gmail (dot) com

Carol Ann said...

Hi Deb, I'm sorry you and your husband went through such a rough time. It's wonderful that he is still with you, and you should never feel guilty. God calls each of us according to His will. Enjoy each moment, love, laugh, and be happy. Sending cyber hugs,
Carol Ann

Carol Ann said...

Thanks to Karen, Sharon, Caroline, and Sandra for hosting me here today! I enjoy hanging out with all of you and your lovely readers!
Carol Ann

Mary / Touch of Heaven said...

I usually read historical novels but this contemporary really sounds interesting. I would love to win a copy. I think the subject matter touches everyone in some way, including me.

Sharon A Lavy said...

I really enjoyed this story. I think the winner will be pleased.

PriviesAndPrims said...

Lots of emotions in this story. Can't wait to read it!

priviesandprims [at]yahoo[dot] com

Jackie McNutt said...

carol, I loved the excerpt from your book in God's Time. I am looking forward to reading it.
I also offer my sympathy to you in the loss of your husband.
caregiving is both a privilege and a Blessing but also a very hard thing to do.
I also cared for my husband of 46 years as his caregiver during his illness until his death in 2012.
Congratulations on your book.

Carol Ann said...

Mary, thanks for stopping by and for reading the excerpt! I appreciate you saying it interests you, especially since you usually read historicals.
Carol Ann

Carol Ann said...

Thanks for stopping by and reading the excerpt Doreen. Good luck in the drawing!
Carol Ann

Carol Ann said...

Hi Jackie,
I'm so sorry you lost your husband the year before I lost mine. It is a hard adjustment, but as you said the caregiving was both a privilege and a blessing.
Carol Ann

Anonymous said...

I've not read anything by Carol Ann yet but this sounds like a good time to start. Please enter me for a chance to win her book. Thanks! Maxie
< mac262(at)me(dot)com >

Carol Ann said...

Thanks for stopping by Maxie!
Carol Ann

Patricia Bradley said...

Great excerpt! Would love to win the book. Also add my condolences about losing your husband. I lost my husband in 1997 and time does help. Blessings! pat at ptbradley dot com

Carol Ann said...

Thank you, Pat. I'm sorry to know you, too, suffered the loss of your husband. I so appreciate you stopping by to read the excerpt and to leave a message.
Carol Ann

Anonymous said...

sounds like a great book to read...rita dot Navarre at yahoo dot com

Carol Ann said...

Hi Rita, Thanks for stopping by and entering the drawing!
Carol Ann

Anonymous said...

would love this! Thanks for the opportunity!

Amy said...

This sounds highly emotional and suspenseful at the same time. Thank you for the giveaway.

sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

Carol Ann said...

You all have been so kind to stop by. Wishing you good luck in the drawing.
Carol ANn

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading your books. Thanks for letting us get to know you a litle better through the interview.
Joyce Guard

Carol Ann said...

Thanks, Joyce! I appreciate you stopping by and especially for reading the interview.
Carol Ann

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