Burn survivor Savvy McCord doesn't blame her best friend for running away. She can't even look at her scars without wincing. When Beck's disappearing act spans years, she relinquishes dreams of love and marriage. Unable to face Savvy's expectations of happily-ever-after, Beck Harmon deserts her, far away from the rumors that he's just like his father. When the wanderer returns, dreams of forever blossom in Savvy's heart, but she worries he'll leave again. Can Beck convince Savvy that her true beauty comes from her inner strength and faith? Will his idea to help burn victims regain their self-confidence restore Savvy's trust in him? Will love be what the wanderer needs to find peace for his hurting soul?
The prodigal son was back.
Beck Harmon dropped the book bag off his shoulder and slipped into the back row, ignoring the heads slanting in his direction, the whispers behind cupped hands, and the pointed fingers.
Didn’t they know gossip wasn’t polite?
Some things never changed. Like rumors and how they raged through the small town faster and with more ferocity than a wildfire.
“Excuse me.” He scooted past a middle-aged couple he didn’t recognize.
The woman, with striking blonde hair piled high on top of her head in a stringent bun, gasped and jerked her partner’s arm before digging a cellphone from the depths of an oversized bag. Her fingers blazed across the keys. Probably tapping out a status update to all her friends.
By now, the entire population of Harrison, North Carolina, knew Burk’s twin was back.
He groaned. A wedding was supposed to be about the bride and groom, not the wayward son finally returning home. Scowling, he settled into a thinly cushioned seat, relief flowing into his aching limbs. After two weeks of hiking, dealing with bleeding blisters, and hitching rides when he could get them, he wasn’t turning around just for the sake of a few gossips. Not after he’d made it home and hugged his sister. He might have sorely misjudged the timing, but leaving now would break Rori’s heart.
It wouldn’t be too healthy for his, either.
He could hardly wait to wrap his arms around his mama and meet the man who’d won over sweet, painfully shy Rori. He wanted to slap his twin on the back, and then slither into a giant, soapy bathtub to erase the grime and dust he’d accumulated over the last thirteen years.
If only a bath could erase his mistakes, his failures, as easily.
A late spring breeze drifted over him, ruffling the flimsy material of his cotton shirt and wafting through the holes in his last pair of jeans. Scratching his scruffy beard, he slumped low in the seat, finally forcing his shoulders to relax and allowing his eyelids to droop, the long years of wandering sinking in to a weariness that went bone deep. He could probably sleep straight through until Monday without moving a muscle. But he wouldn’t.
He sat up straight, determination to stay awake lifting his shoulders and resolve stiffening his spine. He hadn’t traveled all this way just to reconnect with his family. No, he planned to track down Savvy McCord. He owed her an apology. One that was over a decade late.
Why did it always take something catastrophic to make a person long for what could have been? To make a person take stock of their blessings and realize what they’d given up or taken for granted? He rattled his head back and forth.
Savvy was probably long gone, living in a house with a white picket fence, three kids, and a perfect husband who doted on her. That’s what she deserved, anyway.
Him? He’d never deserved her love. Not then, and definitely not now. But, at least, he’d feel better after he apologized. Then, maybe he could move on with his life. Tuck the pent-up dreams and the “what if’s” behind him, where they should have stayed all along.
He scraped a hand across his bearded face. Besides, what he deserved and what he wanted were two different things, and right now, neither mattered. And with no immediate job opportunity on the horizon, he’d have plenty of time to sleep. Sighing, he blinked back the weariness and rolled his gaze along the handful of people lined up in front with the pastor.
His brother, Burk.
Man, how he’d missed his twin. He’d even missed his brother’s controlling nature, but that wasn’t something he’d admit to Burk.
The groom. The famous Graham Decker, a racecar driver, was all decked out in a black tux and pinning Rori with a love-struck gaze. If it weren’t for all the pictures plastered over the news, Beck would never have guessed that the guy was a celebrity athlete. With his sister’s extreme social phobia, how did she ever end up with him?
He’d have to ask Burk. His gaze shifted to the next person in line.
The bride. His baby sister, dressed in a silky white gown, her long chestnut shaded hair pulled back in some type of fancy knot under that veil.
When he’d left, hadn’t she been just a kid? The last thing lodged in his brain was her giddy excitement over finally getting her driver’s license. Burk had gotten on to him for teasing her unmercifully about being an old lady before she could actually drive, but she hadn’t seemed to care. She’d just smiled sweetly and swatted at his arm with the strength of a gnat. Now here she was, all grown up and glowing with a peaceful radiance.
Beck raked a hand across his whiskered cheeks, blotting out the moisture rimming his eyes with a nonchalant sweep of his arm. He’d stayed away too long. He refocused, sliding his gaze to the next person in line.
Sunlight dazzled from the late afternoon sky, glinting like diamonds from a halo-like crown of the blonde-haired beauty standing next to his sister. Savvy?
He straightened in the chair, sucking in a long breath, holding it until his lungs practically burst with the effort.
It couldn’t be her, could it?
Burk had never mentioned Savvy.
Granted, he’d only called Burk occasionally, just to let him know that he was still alive and to pass word along to his mom so she wouldn’t worry so much. Not that his less-than-sporadic calls would stop her from worrying. But, talking to his twin was his way of holding on to that tenuous strand linking him to his family without the guilt. Burk wouldn’t break down like his mother or sister would. No. His brother was always a solid rock on the phone, just like he’d always been for their family after their dad’s death. But Burk hadn’t bothered to let on that Savvy had matured into this stunning creature, or even that she still lived in the area.
Not that he’d ventured to ask about her. What had he expected? That when he up and left, she wouldn’t stick around, either? Get real, man.
“Graham, you may now kiss your bride.”
The kindness in the pastor’s voice snagged his attention back to the couple, now enjoying a lingering wedding kiss, but he quickly glanced back to the profile he believed belonged to Savvy. Was it really her?
She’d always been beautiful, but the woman who stood silhouetted as she faced the wedding couple…she was a stunner. Even though her arms were covered, he could still see well-defined muscles. A silky looking jade gown dropped midway to her slender ankles, the material hugging her waist, and wrapping her soft, feminine curves real nice.
He didn’t like the direction his thoughts were going. Forcing his gaze up, he tamped down a sigh and silently scolded his wishy-washy heart.
Curly wisps of golden hair had come untucked from the clasp gathering it in the back. Her chin jutted out, and her eyelashes were flickering, as if she was desperately trying to hold it together.
He angled his body to see around the person in front of him. Since there were only five rows of chairs for the guests, he caught a glimpse of the tear that trickled down an ivory cheek. The woman swiped it away with her fingertips, leaving a tiny smudge of dark makeup across her cheek.
Oh yeah. That confirmed it.
He leaned back, shock pinning him to the chair.
Savvy had always worn makeup rather heavy around her eyes, creating a smoky effect that he’d always considered alluring. She’d never realized how beautiful she was. No, make that didn’t accept. She’d always shrugged off his compliments with a fierce toss of that silky mane of hers. Did she still not believe it?
The happy couple practically danced down the center aisle, love glowing from their faces as they made their way to the back of the gathering.
His sister shared a secret smile with him, flicking her head towards the reception area. He nodded and released the breath he’d been holding, filling his lungs with the sweet scents of roses and cake mingling with the more enticing aroma of coffee and roasted pork.
He’d meet up with Rori in a minute.
After he had a chance to track down Savvy, who never once glanced in his direction as she filed down the aisle, hanging on to Burk’s arm and smiling up at his twin with a familiarity that unsettled him, leaving him feeling more than a bit ragged inside.
He hadn’t expected a hero’s welcome, but he surely would never have guessed that Savvy had fallen in love with his brother, either.
Question 1: When Beck returned home, he realized some things never changed, like small town gossip. Have you ever been affected by gossip? What prompted it? How did you respond?
Question 2: Beck never expected to be greeted with such a warm welcome by the church. Is your church friendly to visitors and welcoming to members who've left the fold? If not, what can you do to change that? Can you think of someone in your church that could benefit from an encouraging smile or hug?
Question 3: Beck sees anew what a beautiful woman Savvy had become. Not that she hadn't always been, but now she glowed radiance from within. Had she always been that way or had he been too small-minded to see past the scars? Have you reconnected with someone you haven't seen in a long time, and now notice them somewhat differently? Explain.
Question 4: Beck's church looked the same on the outside, but the feeling on the inside was quite different from what he remembered. Inside, Beck feels different than the one who walked out on his family. He knows something has changed, but he can't quite put his finger on it. What/Who do you think is responsible?
Question 5: Beck left Harrison to escape the image of his dad's lifeless body suspended from a noose and the scolding voice that constantly tormented him, but that didn't work. Have you ever left home thinking you could leave your problems behind? Did that work for you?
Question 6: Why did God plant love in Savvy's heart for Beck, and not Corbin? Wasn't Corbin more suited for her? He'd never leave Harrison, and he wouldn't break her heart. Have you ever wondered why you love a certain person and not another?
Question 7: Beck counted himself a fool for chasing after peace when all along what he'd searched for had been right in front of his face. Can you relate? Explain.
Question 8: After Lilly's accident, people called Beck a hero for pulling her from a burning car. He knows the truth, that he's a heel, not a hero. Why does he feel that way? Savvy sees herself as flawed because of her scars. Is there something that stops you from seeing yourself as less than God intended?
Question 9: Beck's a little confused when the job offer from Raleigh comes in. He'd prayed for a job, but this one would take him away from Savvy when he thought God had called him to Harrison. Have you ever received a response/s to prayer but weren't sure which was God's will? How did you decide?
Question 10: "The Harmon siblings still suffer from their father's suicide twenty years ago. Do you know someone who has experienced a family member's suicide? What feelings and emotions have they struggled to overcome? How were you able to help?"
God loves you. Cry out to Him. He's the only one who can soothe your pain and fill your heart with perfect peace.