Operation Breathless

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Psychologist Susanna Daniels helps troubled teens find their footing and their faith, but in the face of erroneous accusations, she's lost hope, wondering if her work at Wellsprings of Grace even makes a difference any more.

Detroit police officer Gabe Peretti has returned home to Angel Falls, Texas, burned out by the big city, his faith stretched to the breaking point by the badlands he's witnessed and tried so hard to change. He craves fresh perspective, and wisdom enough to discern God's will.

A sparkling kiss and an embattled young lady careening down the wrong path bring Susanna and Gabe together, sweeping them into a set of circumstances that will require enough faith to shine bright, and enough love to leave them both forever changed, and positively breathless. 

*A Heart's Haven Story

 


Awards & Other Kudos


2013 - 1st - Oklahoma RWA International Digital Award


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Psychologist Susanna Daniels helps troubled teens find their footing and their faith, but in the face of erroneous accusations, she's lost hope, wondering if her work at Wellsprings of Grace even makes a difference any more.

Detroit police officer Gabe Peretti has returned home to Angel Falls, Texas, burned out by the big city, his faith stretched to the breaking point by the badlands he's witnessed and tried so hard to change. He craves fresh perspective, and wisdom enough to discern God's will.

A sparkling kiss and an embattled young lady careening down the wrong path bring Susanna and Gabe together, sweeping them into a set of circumstances that will require enough faith to shine bright, and enough love to leave them both forever changed, and positively breathless. 

*A Heart's Haven Story

 


Awards & Other Kudos


2013 - 1st - Oklahoma RWA International Digital Award

 


Excerpt


 

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The woman was in tears.

Curious, Gabe Peretti tugged on his dog’s leash, drawing his companion to a standstill. These weren’t slow building, trickle-and-roll tears. Her head bowed down, her shoulders trembled, and she kept swiping at her eyes with a mangled tissue.

What a sad picture.

The hop and charge of his German Shepherd, who suddenly wanted to spring ahead, distracted Gabe for a moment. Until now he and Axle had enjoyed a quiet, leisurely walk through Falls Park, a municipal facility located at the heart of downtown Angel Falls. A new year had just begun. In East Texas that meant cool weather, but chilly air didn’t keep folks inside. The sun was out, so the park teemed with kids and parents. Verdant trees, jungle gyms, and a few swing sets dotted the facility. Gabe continued to stare, maintaining a tug-of-war that kept Axle in place. Barely. The dog wanted to beeline straight for the woman.

Weird.

She sat alone, not far away. Tucked against the far end of a green metal bench, bathed in dappled sunlight, her profile was framed by dancing leaves and tree branches that rustled and swayed around her. Gorgeous—but heart achingly sad. Dark brown hair trailed down her back in a satiny river. She was fair skinned and slender.

Fair skinned. Slender. How clinical, how distant. Gabe groaned at himself. He really had been a cop for too long.

A yank on his arm ended his perusal and nearly dislocated Gabe’s shoulder, reminding him to tend to Axle. Grumpy about being interrupted while he admired the woman, Gabe cast his dog a scowl—as if that would accomplish anything of value. “Axle, settle down.”

The deep spoken, firm command worked. For two seconds. After that, Axle surged ahead all over again, straining and coughing, dancing against the confines of the leash, pulling relentlessly on Gabe’s arm, which grew increasingly sore. Axle kept bouncing his attention back and forth between Gabe and the lovely lady.

Weird again.

His policeman’s instinct kicked in once more—the good old protect and defend aspect of Gabe Peretti’s persona that family and friends swore was hard-wired into his DNA. The pedestrian trail led right past her bench. He could wander by, casually. Just to be sure she was OK. Just out of courtesy. Would she be offended? Would she think him intrusive, or—

Another starburst of pain shot through his arm when Axle charged ahead—again. This time, eighty pounds of hard-muscled determination refused to be denied.

“Axle—gimme a break. C’mon!”

Gabe blustered but the next thing he noticed? A prompting. Subtle pressure moved against his shoulders—whisper soft and invisible but strong as steel.

He was drawn to the woman. Physically compelled. The realization tempted a frown, but he beat back that reaction and clung instead to the ingrained, if tattered, remains of his faith. Despite a wounded heart, Gabe’s trust in God forced him to give up on the idea of trying to figure out the mysteries of the Spirit. Instead, he leaned on instinct.

Gabe let Axle lead the way—Axle and that warm, inviting push against his body.

 

****

 

Failure.

The single, condemning word spun through Susanna Daniels’s mind like an evil, goading nemesis. She began to pray with renewed earnest.

God, I’m such a failure. In this instance, failure isn’t something I can handle. I feel like I haven’t done a good enough job with the task You’ve called me to. Am I not doing enough? I try so hard to help the kids You direct to the center, but they fail—and when they fail, I feel like I’ve failed, too. Is there something I’m doing wrong? Help me—please. These kids need You, and I want to be Your instrument, but I feel like I’m not. I feel completely inadequate. Maybe that’s why I’m in this mess. Maybe You’re trying to show me the work I do isn’t what You’ve truly ordained, and—

Confusion and a babbling prayer ended abruptly when an enormous, friendly looking dog bounded up to the park bench where she sat. She jumped when the eager animal settled its dirty paws straight onto her legs…legs currently clad in white denim jeans.

Vaguely she registered the sound of a male voice. “Axle, stop it. Get down.”

The dog stayed put. After swiping a flattened hand against her wet cheeks, she smiled at her intruder, far more interested in him than anything else. She couldn’t care less about her now soiled pants. Her new friend remained perched on Susanna’s legs and sniffed at her. She began to pet him. Bonding with a dog right now felt wonderful, like the best kind of therapy, and boy, did she need the uplift. The animal sported silky fur and a smiling pant that grew when she scratched behind his ears.

“I’m so sorry.”

There was that smooth male voice again, closer this time.

Susanna’s gaze traveled the length of a black leather leash to spy the owner of the dog, who had stood silent while she acquainted herself with his pet.

“No problem.”

“Really—I insist on paying for the cleaning. He’s not usually such a fur-covered torpedo. I couldn’t keep him away from you.”

Susanna laughed in spite of her mood and circumstances. Heaven help her, she was so mixed up and convoluted right now. Drawing a shaky breath, she took in the man. The dog’s owner was tall and very nicely built. Handsome to boot, with the olive-skinned, black-haired, could-slay-you-with-a-smile manner of those with Mediterranean ancestry.

And that smile presently focused on her then the dog. “Humph. Check him out now.” Indeed, Axle had settled quite happily. For now he assumed a neat sitting position—right next to Susanna’s feet. “You have a gift. Must be a miracle worker.”

The words were meant to be kind, but they ran the sharp edge of a blade against her heart. A miracle worker? No—not so much.

She fought the tears, but the tears won. Droplets formed and spilled all over again, uncontrollable because they stemmed from the deepest, most vulnerable spot in her soul. As soon as she started crying, Axle stood and parked his paws right back on her lap. Through blurred vision, she absorbed the transparent affection in the animal’s soft brown eyes.

Oh, Axle, your owner must think I’m a mess. Sadly enough, he’d be right.

Axle cocked his head, issuing a round of low, rumbling hoots and plaintive whines while he patted her thigh and waited. She calmed and began to pet him; like a switch being clicked, he immediately settled.

“I’m so sorry that you’re sad.” Handsome Man spoke again.

She looked at him once more. His quiet comment brought Susanna to an inner standstill. She glanced away, not sure whether to feel embarrassed by being so exposed or grateful to be revealed. She opted for the latter. “I’m not usually a sobbing mess, but it’s been a rough day.”

For an instant, something indefinable clouded the stranger’s eyes. “I know all about rough days. Feel like elaborating?”

He stood before her, so comfortable and composed. From the inquiring tilt of his head to the softness of his chocolate-colored eyes, the man’s entire being was set to welcome.

She lifted a shoulder. “I’m depleted…and indulging in a bit of a pity party.”

He shot her a boyish and completely disarming grin. “Why do I find myself thinking your mood might run a little bit deeper than that?”

“Probably because you’re perceptive.” Susanna glanced at him through tear-spiked lashes.

“It’s been said.” He nodded at the empty spot next to her. “Do you mind if I join you? If you’d prefer, I can leave. I don’t want to bother you.”

Touched from the inside out, Susanna delivered a smile. “If you don’t mind emotionally overwrought women, then please, be my guest. You’ll get points for bravery.”

He laughed and sat next to her. “I don’t mind at all. Besides, I doubt I’ll be able to get Axle away from you until we both know you’re OK.” Once his full attention rested on her, his intensity drew her in and stalled all sense of rational thought. Her heartbeat skittered.

“I think he senses you’re upset.” A pause ensued. “Is there anything I can do for you—other than try to keep my dog from ruining the rest of your clothes?”

Susanna couldn’t quite find her way to vocalization. She much preferred just looking at him. The man wore blue jeans and an untucked, dark red polo shirt far better than any print ad for clothing she had ever seen. His eyes sparkled—not in teasing, nor in humor, but with a warmth she savored. A warmth she craved at the moment.

He bumped her shoulder with his. “Two ears. No waiting. You know, strangers can be awesome in situations like this. If you’d like reassurance, I could show you my badge. I’m a police officer, so you’re in safe hands. Promise.” He leaned away and started to reach for his back pocket. “Seriously. It’s right here.”

Susanna chuckled; her tears began to dry. “That’s OK. I believe you. But I have nothing to offer in return. That hardly seems fair.”

Her attempt at levity prompted his steady regard. Everything about him beckoned her forward…and that was unheard of for the generally shy and conservative Susanna Daniels.

“Don’t worry about that. If I see a lasting smile on your face before we part ways, that’ll be more than enough. Deal?”

Wow. Well said. “Deal.”

She continued to look into his eyes, unapologetic about scrutinizing. The heat of a blush worked upward against her shoulders and neck until she glanced away and took a restorative breath.

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Discussion Questions


Question 1:  Susanna and Gabe share the commonality of loving the work they do, but ending up drained and burned-out by the struggles they encounter each day. Discuss good work you do, whether professional or personal, and how it both positively and negatively tempers your outlook and perspectives. How do you handle the tough spots?
 
Answer 1:
 
Question 2:  Another theme explored in Operation Breathless is the idea of life-change both personally and professionally. When have you experienced such a situation? How did it help you grow?
 
Answer 2:
 
Question 3:  Discuss the ways in which you accept, or fight against, the workings of God in your life, especially when faith conversion or dramatic change is required.
 
Answer 3:

 


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  • quiltcat26@sbcglobal.net (Wednesday, 14 November 2012) Rating: 5 Psychologist, Susanna Daniels works with disturbed teens in a Christian facility in...

    PBG Marketing Dept

    2013-07-30 15:04:32

  • telsiacharis@yahoo.co.uk (Sunday, 04 November 2012) Rating: 5 A rollercoaster of emotions that leave you breathless. This second in the Hearts Haven...

    PBG Marketing Dept

    2013-07-30 15:04:56

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