The Hope of Her Heart - Liz Isaacson Page 0,2

sky. “Dear Lord, open their eyes to the reality of the situation I’m in.”

“You are going to get better,” Etta said, surprised by his out-loud prayer. “You’re stronger and faster every single day. Why do you do the exercises if you don’t believe you’re going to get better?”

“So my wife won’t leave me?” It sounded like a question, and Etta turned her full attention to him while she usually looked for rocks and potholes in the dirt road.

“Preacher,” she chastised. “Charlie loves you just how you are. Sickness, health, fall, no fall. It doesn’t matter to her.”

Preacher looked away, his jaw tight. He finally said, “I know.”

“Are you seeing anyone?” she asked.

“It’s required to see a counselor when you do the level of physical therapy I do,” he said.

“Good,” Etta said. “After Noah, I—” She swallowed. “It helped me to talk to someone.”

He looked at her. “I didn’t know you went to a therapist after Noah.”

“I did.”

“You don’t still feel guilty about that, do you?”

“Here and there, it jabs at me,” she said. “But it doesn’t hold me back the way it used to. In fact, I started seeing—” She cut off as she saw the man she’d started seeing. She and August hadn’t kissed yet, but they’d held hands. They’d flirted a lot through text messages. They’d been out a few times.


“He’s right there,” she said, her brain misfiring at her. What in the world was August Winters doing here? Taking a lamp and a frilly pink suitcase from the back of his truck? Her step slowed to the point where Preacher was moving faster than her, her eyes scanning for Hailey, August’s daughter.

If he was moving in here—and it sure seemed like he was—then he’d have his daughter with him. Etta had met her, of course. Hailey had come to Shiloh Ridge on a field trip with her third-grade class a couple of months ago. August had come along to help chaperone, and that was how Etta had met him.

The handsome cowboy had asked for her number before the bus had left, and they’d been talking and seeing one another since.

“That’s August Winters,” she said as he disappeared into the last cabin on the right side of the road. “Did you hire August Winters?”

“Yeah,” Preacher said slowly. He whistled for Biscuit to come back, as the dog had been trotting merrily along. As the black lab turned and started to return, Preacher looked at Etta. “Why? Should I not have?”

Etta suddenly wanted to come face-to-face with August. He knew she lived here at Shiloh Ridge. He knew her family—the Glovers—owned and operated it.

“No,” she said, a bit of fire lighting inside her. “He’s a great guy.”

“Why do you look like you’re going to rip his face off then?”

She got moving again, causing Preacher to hobble to keep up with her. August came out the front door, laughing about something. His fair daughter followed, and Etta quenched part of the flames burning through her.

August looked toward the road, and she knew the moment he’d seen her. His smile fell right off his face, and he dang near tripped over his own feet. She lifted one hand and both eyebrows, a silent demand to know what in the world was going on.

“Etta,” he said smoothly, continuing toward her in a normal gait now. “Good mornin’, Preacher.” He bent down and patted Biscuit, bringing a doggy smile to the canine’s face.

“Yeah, I don’t know about that,” Preacher said, his gaze volleying from August to Etta and back.

“What are you doing here?” Etta asked as Hailey arrived at his side.

“Miss Etta!” she said, throwing herself into Etta’s arms. She softened, because she loved children, and she’d helped this one once upon a time. “Daddy got a job here as a cowboy. A real, live cowboy. We’re gonna live in this cabin, and have all these fields to roam in, and there are horses right there.”

She looked like she’d harnessed the world in a single throw, and Etta couldn’t help absorbing some of her enthusiasm. “That’s amazing, Hailey. Has your daddy ever been a cowboy before?”

“Yeah, once,” Hailey said, reaching up to push her wayward hair back out of her eyes. “We each get our own room here too. It’s awesome.”

“Hailey,” August said, his voice definitely made of several emotions woven together. Etta wasn’t sure how to pull them apart and analyze them fast enough. “Grab your laundry basket of dolls and take it into your new room, okay?”

“Okay, Daddy.” She skipped over