Sunday Sampler: This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday’s Sampler features an excerpt from This Heart of Mine, by Brenda Novak, a tight story of human weakness and longing, with cross threads of passion and hope.

As one reviewer said: This is a powerful story of love, forgiveness, second chances, and redemption. After reading the first chapter, my heart was already breaking for Phoenix, a woman who has endured so much in her life and must now start all over again with little or nothing in a very hostile environment.

The Story

As the daughter of a hoarder, Phoenix Fuller had a tough childhood. So when the handsome, popular Riley Stinson became her boyfriend in high school, she finally felt as though she had something to be proud of. Phoenix was desperate not to lose him—especially once she found out she was pregnant. Yes, she might have acted a bit obsessive when he broke up with her. But she did not run down the girl he started dating next.

Unfortunately, there was no way to prove her innocence. Now, after serving her time in prison, Phoenix has been released. All she wants to do is return to Whiskey Creek and get to know her son. But Jacob’s father isn’t exactly welcoming.

Riley doesn’t trust Phoenix, doesn’t want her in Jacob’s life. He is, however, ready to find someone to love. And he wants a good mother for his son. He has no idea that he’s about to find both!

The Sampler

Brenda Novak
Brenda Novak

As soon as they were gone, Riley grabbed Phoenix’s elbow, hanging on even when she tried to avoid the contact, and guided her to his truck. “Let’s get you to a doctor.”

The second Riley mentioned doctor, she wrenched away from him. “No, I―I don’t need a doctor.”

“He’ll check out that cut, tell us if it needs stitches.”

“A doctor will cost money. And I…I have other plans for…for my income in the next while.”

What income? He doubted she had any, but he couldn’t say that. “Phoenix…”

“Stop,” she said. “I’ve had worse than this. This is nothing.”

Watching her closely, he could see that she was dizzy. “Do it for Jacob’s peace of mind, then.”

“Please, don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“I haven’t got the money for a doctor. I’m sure you know that.”

“I’ll look after the bill,” he said, but he should’ve known that wouldn’t convince her.

She edged farther away from him. Then she started down the street at a faster clip than he felt she should. “I’m okay,” she called back. “Go take care of Jacob.”

“Damn it, Phoenix.” He hurried after her. “Why do you have to be so stubborn? It won’t cost that much.”

She hadn’t bothered to turn when he spoke, so he’d been talking to her back. “It’s a waste of money,” she told him over one shoulder. “I’m fine, like I said.”

“It’s five miles to your place. You’ll never make it.”

She made no comment.

“Soon you won’t even be able to see where you’re going, what with all that blood.”

Again, she didn’t respond. She’d managed to put a little distance between them and obviously thought she was getting away. But he wasn’t about to let her go. He had no idea whether she’d make it. So he jogged after her and swept her into his arms, which wasn’t hard since she didn’t weigh much.

“Ah!” she cried. He’d startled her. She hadn’t expected that move. He guessed her head hurt, too, and being jarred hadn’t helped.

“We’re doing this my way,” he said, and carried her to his truck.

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