Heart of Texas
Laney Winters gets the biggest shock of her life when she learns she's pregnant...on the same day she finds her husband in bed with his secretary. With her blissful life exposed as fraud, and her husband wanting nothing to do with raising a child, Laney faces divorce and her greatest fear--moving back home to live with her two eccentric old-maid aunts.
Hiding the demise of her marriage and helping to manage the family diner should be uneventful, but a new man in town has the gossips speculating. Laney's two aunts create an exciting mystery around the stranger, and Laney is sucked into an entertaining game of "Save Jake Montgomery from Aunt Thelma."
When her aunts' latest victim turns out to be the town's new family doctor, Laney must entrust him with her secrets, and along the way, discover that when your life flips upside down it's God's way of giving you a different perspective...and a fresh start.
Ignorance is highly underrated.
It was the picture-perfect day, except for the rain, the bumper-to-bumper traffic, and what was about to take place in just a few hours that would shift the outcome of my life forever. Little did I realize as I prepared to read aloud to the small group of fans who had braved the rain to gather at the bookstore, that come this time tomorrow I’d be rethinking my career.
But here, for a little while, my life seemed perfect. Perfect husband—even if I had only been married for less than two years. Perfect house. And my newly-released romance, Fast-Moving Train, was getting good reviews. I had no idea my faith would be tested in a major way. And the test would leave me bloodied, bruised, and begging God for answers that would take a whole lot of prayer to understand.
If I could sum up what I’ve learned about life and love, it would be this: There are good men, there are bad men, and then there are men of the worst possible kind—the ones who steal your heart and leave you wondering—the kind who can’t love.
But every once in a blue moon, there are men who turn out nothing like you believed. Those are the men who amaze you the most—the Tim Summers of the world. Tim was my miracle—a man who had never been taught how to love, but was capable of giving so much of it.
I could almost swear as, I sat listening to my best guy talk to my best friend about me, that at last I heard the freight train I’d been expecting from the beginning.
When I least expected it, I looked up and caught Tim’s gaze as he smiled back at me across the crowds gathered at church that day—just as he had the first time we met. That crazy little lopsided grin of his sent my heart spinning out of control. I was happy. I wasn’t afraid anymore. For the first time in a long time, I had faith. And just like that, just like love—bam—it hit me. That fast-moving train.
I paused a moment for effect, then whispered quietly, “The End.”
As I closed the book lovingly, I glanced around at the dozen or more people staring back at me in silence. A second later, the room erupted into applause.
At the back of the gathering, I spotted my agent, Tippy Jennings-Johnson, as she mouthed, “Brilliant.”
The manager of the bookstore had been kind enough to set up a little table for me in the corner of the reading room, close to the coffee shop. While Tippy worked the room, I sat at my post and greeted the fans who stopped by. I still couldn’t believe these people had actually come out to meet me—me. Even now, after five years in the business, I found it hard to fathom there were people out there who would actually buy what I wrote.
Two hours later, as the last of my fans thanked me for signing her book, Tippy waited patiently for the room to empty.
“Good news, Lane.” Tippy loved to shorten everyone’s name to three or four letters. “I got the word earlier today, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on you before the reading. Your publisher called. They want two more Lois and Tim stories this year. They feel there’s enough material in the story for a three-book series.”
“Oh... my... goodness.”
Tippy and I jumped up and down with our arms wrapped around each other like a couple of schoolgirls. This was huge for both of us. Tippy and I had pretty much learned the business together.
My first thought was to share the news with my husband, Tom, the man in whom all of my romance novels had found their beginning. I couldn’t wait to hear his reaction to our good news.
“Tippy, would you mind terribly if I took a rain check on dinner tonight? I’m so excited I can’t wait to tell Tom the news.”
“Of course not,” she offered with a magnanimous wave of one well-manicured, bejeweled hand. “I’ll just go back to the office and bang out the details for your new deal. We’ll chat more about that in a few days. Call me tomorrow, and tell me all about Tom’s reaction, OK?”
Tippy made a grand exit, and I felt the first pang of guilt. Tippy didn’t know the whole truth. I hadn’t told anyone the other good news I’d learned that day. I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait to share my happiness with my husband, Tom.
Unfortunately, Tom had not reachable earlier. It wasn’t unusual for him to be difficult to get hold of. My husband was one of the foremost attorneys in Dallas and his client list was made up of elite members of Dallas society. Tom worked terrible hours, sometimes not coming home for days at a time. A few years before we were married Tom took a small apartment close to the office for just such occasions. He kept it after we were married for when he had to work late. Over the past weeks, I could count on one hand the number of times we’d actually shared a meal together. But even though we’d go stretches at a time without seeing each other, I could always reach him on the phone. Not today, though.
I tried his cell phone and his office several times with no success. There was no answer at either the house or the apartment. I decided to rush back home, where I’d pack an overnight bag, then head over to the apartment to prepare the perfect candlelight celebratory dinner before sharing my good news.
But throughout the long, congested, rush-hour drive home, an unfamiliar uneasiness in the pit of my stomach continued to grow. I remembered all those times recently when Tom worked late.
As I pulled into our driveway off Strait Lane, I noticed Tom’s prized black luxury sedan sitting there as well. Not in the garage or even in the driveway, but next to the curb, as if he’d arrived in a hurry. Oddly enough, it didn’t occur to me until much later that there was another car parked behind Tom’s. I slipped the key into the door, hoping to surprise him.
The house was unbelievably quiet, but strange and confusing signs of life littered the foyer and the hallway leading to the living room. A purse. A jacket. Red stiletto heels. I grew more suspicious with each step.
I quickly opened the door only to see my forty-year-old perfect husband embracing his secretary.
His secretary? How cliché.
“What are you doing here, Miss Manning?” No doubt this was the most ridiculous question ever asked, since it was painfully obvious what she was doing here.
The next few minutes passed in a blur.
Miss Manning promptly rushed into my recently-remodeled, Italian marble guest bathroom, leaving Tom alone to face his angry wife.
“Laney, I wasn’t expecting you home so soon. Didn’t you have dinner plans with Tippy?”
“You weren’t expecting me home so soon? That’s all you can say? How long has this been going on, and why is she hiding in my bathroom?” This part I yelled so Miss Manning could hear me clearly.
“Laney, I’m sorry you had to find out like this, but you’re not really surprised, are you? We’ve been drifting apart for a long time.”
Drifting apart? We were still newlyweds in my book.
I thought we were the perfect couple. All our friends said so. Perfect marriage. Perfect house. Perfect life. So what if our romantic life had been experiencing some dry spells over the course of the past few weeks. There was more to life—right? Besides, how dry could it be? I was standing here, pregnant!
“What are you saying?” I asked in shock as I followed Tom to the foyer of said perfect house. I heard the sound of Miss Manning moving around in my bathroom, and with super-human strength, I managed to resist the urge to drag her bodily out of my perfect house.
“Laney, I’m sorry. I know how hard this must be for you. Believe me, I didn’t mean for it to happen. But Suzanne and I love each other. I’ve never felt so alive before. She makes me want to do crazy things--”
“Like bringing your girlfriend into our house?” I blurted out, dumbfounded. “You couldn’t just keep her at your apartment?”
Tom at least had the good grace to look embarrassed. “Laney, we’ve had a good run, but things have not been good between us for a while now. You know that.”
I do? Funny, wasn’t I the one who just a few hours ago couldn’t wait to share my good news with my husband?
“How would I know this? Is there some time limit on marriage in your book? One year, you’re fine. Pushing two—oops, time’s up. How would I know this, Tom?”
Wait. Did he just say he loved Miss Manning?
“You love her? How can you love her, she’s only worked for you for a month? Besides you love me, remember? Isn’t that what you told me on my birthday? You can’t love two women at the same time.”
At this point, Miss Manning rushed past us on her way out the door, and Tom went after her like a puppy dog.
I followed them out the door just in time to see Miss Manning speed away in her bright red compact car, presumably to go wreck someone else’s life.
Tom spotted me and hurried to start the car, but I managed to catch up before he could get away.
I stepped in front of his vehicle with my arms crossed.
Reluctantly Tom cracked the window. He didn’t get out. “Laney, what are you doing?” He did a quick sweep of the area, no doubt to be sure none of our neighbors were watching.
“You are not just walking out on me without hearing what I have to say.”
“Laney, I wanted us to do this like two civilized human beings, but I see there’s no reasoning with you. I want a divorce. I’m engaged to Suzanne now. It’s time to move on.”
“You’re engaged? Tom, you’re still married to me.”
“Not for long. I’ve had the divorce papers drawn up for several weeks now. I was waiting for the right moment, and I guess this is it. How soon can you be out of the house? Suzanne has some decorating ideas she’d like to get started on.”
Dear Lord, please give me strength...
“Suzanne has decorating ideas for my house?”
“The house is mine to do with what I want.”
Suddenly, I remembered Aunt Selma’s warning the day I’d married Tom.
“Laney, any man who wants you to sign a prenuptial agreement isn’t a Christian, and he’s clearly planning on divorce. You mark my words. You’ll live to regret marrying that man.”
“Well, I don’t want a divorce and I’m not moving anywhere. I’m pregnant.” I announced it to Tom and the rest of the neighborhood, and then watched as he slumped back against the car seat in shock.
“If this is a ploy to keep me with you, Laney, I have to tell you it won’t work. I won’t stay. I’m not the fatherly type.”
“What do you mean you’re not the fatherly type? You’d make a wonderful father.” OK, given the present circumstances, this probably didn’t come anywhere near the truth, but still, I had to try. This was the man I loved. The father of my child. I couldn’t just let him go, could I?
“Laney, I don’t want children. I thought I made that perfectly clear to you. I’ve never wanted them. We discussed this in the beginning, remember?”
I racked my brain, trying to remember that discussion, but I came up blank. “We never talked about children, Tom. Not at all.”
“That’s it, then. Didn’t you get the message? Laney, I can’t be anyone’s father. You’ll have to do whatever you think is best. I won’t be part of it.”
Well, there you have it. Couldn’t be any clearer than that.
“Now, how soon can you be out of the house?”
Question 1: What was the name of Laney's first book?
Answer 1: Fast Moving Train
Question 2: Who is Laney's agent?
Answer 2: Tippy Jennings-Johnson
Question 3: What's the name of the diner Laney's aunt run?
Answer 3: The Pine Street Diner.
Question 4: What are the names of Laney's twin aunts?
Answer 4: Selma and Thelma.
Question 5: What's the name of the town where Laney grew up in?
Answer 5: Down, TX.
Question 6: How did Laney first meet Jake Montgomery?
Answer 6: While breaking into his house.
Question 7: What is the big secret Thelma has kept all these years?
Answer 7: That she had a baby when she was young and gave him up for adoption.
Question 8: What type of work did Ramie Deautreve do?
Answer 8: He was a former crime boss.
Question 9: Where is Ramie from?
Answer 9 Lousisana.
Question 10: What type of books does Laney end up writing?
Answer 10: Christian Romances.