Born and raised in Michigan, Sherri was eager to exchange snow for the mild climate of Atlanta, where she taught high school and worked as a flight attendant. It was there she met her husband, Bobby, who worked for the Atlanta Flames Hockey team. The Flames moved to Calgary, Alberta, where she found herself in even more snow than in Michigan. While in Calgary, she taught at a Christian school and later became its principal. Joshua was born during the Calgary years. Hockey reigns supreme in Canada, especially when the Flames won the Stanley Cup. After many years, her heart longed for the South, so they moved back when a new hockey team in Atlanta offered Bobby a position. She wrote her first book, a biography published in 2003, entitled Our Queen Esther. Empty Nest Syndrome and a speaker at church ignited Sherri’s desire to go to law school so she could help victims of human trafficking. She received her law degree after attending law school in California and is an active member of the California bar. When not teaching, she does consulting work for an immigration law firm in Orlando. She also worked for the non-profit organization, Justice Calls, which helps prosecuting attorneys choose juries in high-profile child sex abuse and human trafficking cases. As a member of Shared Hope, Faith Alliance, and Florida Abolitionists, she doesn’t actually rescue girls, but gets to be part of the training process. Sherri has finished her first suspense novel, Come out of Hiding, and is writing the second book in the series, entitled A Well-Founded Fear of Death. She loves writing, likes editing, and adores the people she’s met through writers groups, such as Word Weavers International and American Christian Fictions Writers.I Love to Tell a Story
By Sherri Stewart
I love a good story. Having taught for well over thirty years, thousands of teenagers have heard my tales whether they wanted to or not. Indeed, many students have come back and told me the thing they remembered most about my class were the stories.
We all know a story must have a conflict. If everything goes the way it’s supposed to, well, you might as well close the book. Think of the perennial first assignment in a language arts class—write about what you did this summer. How utterly boring! We teachers should ask instead, “Tell about something that went wrong this summer.” Then you have an interesting paper. So all my favorite stories have conflict and the element of surprise. Just like Jesus’ stories—they had conflict, and better yet—they weren’t predictable.
One of my favorite stories comes from a friend who had lost her husband to cancer. When the funeral was over and friends and family had gone home, she found herself in a quiet house with too much time on her hands. She decided to to find out everything she could about the other side—where her husband was. High up on a shelf pushed to the back, she discovered an obscure book written during the early part of the twentieth century by an author about her life as a sister with a twin who had leukemia.
The story occurred when the girls were teenagers. The narrator was not a person of faith at the time, although her twin sister was. In those days, nothing could be done for a person who had the disease, and it was only a matter of time before the sick girl was on her deathbed. As the narrator sat at her sister’s side, she made one last request. “You know how we’ve always been close, so close we could finish each other’s sentences and read each other’s thoughts. When you pass to the other side, find a way to come back and tell me what it’s like.”
Years passed without a word from her deceased sister, so she forgot about her request until one night. It came in the form of a dream—one that she remembered perfectly when she woke up.
In the dream, her sister came to her and said, “Everything our parents told us about heaven is true, but there’s so much more. I can’t wait for you to join me.”
“If it’s so wonderful, why did it take you eight years to tell me this?”
The sister looked confused. “Eight years? I was just waiting for the song to end.”
II Peter 3:8 says, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”
Since she’s walking on water, why is she still wearing shoes? That was her first question when the fugue cleared. But she has more pressing questions, such as —who is she, where does she live, and how did she end up on Peachtree Street on a cold November night wearing nothing but a nightgown?
With Officer Kyle Rossi’s help, Jane, as she prefers to be called, begins the journey to discover her identity. But the more she learns about the real Aubrey Sutherland, the more she realizes she can’t trust anyone, especially those closest to her, but Jane also learns that a concussion might be the best thing that ever happened to her.
Contains mild Christian references. AMAZON
Regina Larson cannot believe she’s finally in Israel after years of saving for this trip. She can’t wait to walk in the footsteps of the biblical heroes she’s read about all her life. Now places like the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea won’t just be words on a page. And what better place to receive God’s calling than Israel? Reggie feels sure God will meet her here. But when she discovers that she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase at the airport, and the owner of the bag accuses her of stealing something of value from it, this trip of a lifetime—this pilgrimage—becomes a race for her life. AMAZON
Many women have made significant contributions to the medical field. One such person is Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. In the late 1840s, inspired by the dying words of a friend who urged her to become a doctor, Elizabeth started her education at Geneva Medical College. What she didn’t know was that the only reason she was admitted to Geneva was because the first-year class was polled and voted yes as a joke. But when she showed up, the joke was on them.
It’s ten years after Dr. Blackwell graduated from Geneva College, and now Daniela Burke longs to attend the same school with her boyfriend, Ryan. But Geneva hasn’t admitted another female since Dr. Blackwell. As Daniela sees it, the only way to realize her dream of becoming a doctor is to disguise herself as a male in order to attend the college. Will she be able to maintain her ruse for three years? How will her disguise affect her relationship with Ryan? AMAZON
Profiler Maya Radcliffe wants to wrap up her father’s estate and sell his rescue farm quickly so she can return to her thriving career in Washington, but her father thwarts her plans from the grave. According to the will, she and farm assistant, Ethan Foster, must work together to take care of Noah’s animals for six months. It might as well be six years having to stay in the small town of Harper’s Hollow with that scruffy man in the flannel shirt.
Maya can spot a liar by the twitch of a brow, but she fails to recognize her own lies—that life is only exciting in the big city and the man of her dreams wears a Brooks Brothers suit. But an unseen enemy invades the farm, his rage apparent in the clues he leaves. Is it someone from town or someone from her past? Ethan and Maya join forces to follow the clues and stop him before it’s too late and he destroys everything.
Contains mild Christian references AMAZON
Lily Rountree wishes she could skip December all together. In fact, for the last two decades, memories of the death of her twin, Poppy, have traumatized her so much that she forgets the simplest things, like closing the door to her house. And she falls asleep at the worst times in the most embarrassing places.
But if it weren’t for that unscheduled nap at Simon-Morrisey Department Store, she wouldn’t have met Justin Knight, or overheard his plan to rob the store, an art museum, and a bank. When Justin learns about Lily’s presence, their cat-and-mouse game begins, and the holidays take on a whole new meaning.
May contain mild Christian references. AMAZON
The only reason Lorelei Mills has agreed to attend the Murder Mystery Weekend at the Lodge at Confluence is because her therapist said it will help stop the nightmares. According to the doctor, memories of her childhood at the hotel after her mother died will remain blocked until she confronts her past.
Lorelei meets another reluctant sleuth, Max Keystone, at the orientation party, and they agree to partner up to solve the contrived murder. In the middle of the night, she overhears the sounds of a struggle in the next room, but when she notifies the staff, they disregard her concerns as the product of an overactive imagination of a would-be sleuth.
They may be right. Evidence disappears, witnesses vanish, and the dizzy spells continue. Only Max believes her, so begins their quest to solve a murder. Or two.
When the lines blur between contrived and real, between the past and present, will Lorelei become another victim? AMAZON
Ramona Hathaway dreams of becoming a fashion designer, which will give her a chance to escape her daily struggles with a drunk stepfather and cross the railroad tracks for the last time. But she’s also a realist—with one ragged dress to her name, no one gives her a second glance. Until she meets Ben Farris, the son of the wealthiest man in town. Their love deepens with every tryst on Hidden Ledge. But when Ben’s father finds out, he issues an ultimatum—promise never to see Ben again and he’ll help her realize her dream, but if she refuses, he’ll make sure she spends the next ten years in prison for what she did to her stepfather. Ramona makes her choice, but how will she forgive the men that forced her choice, and how will she forgive herself? AMAZON
Analise Bigelow is nine safety pins away from realizing her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. A single-minded focus has gotten her to her final year of nursing school in Lansing, Michigan, and June 1940 is two short quarters away. It hasn’t been easy. Doctors don’t take a five-foot-nothing student nurse seriously. And there are so many distractions—the resident who invades her space, the intern who invades her thoughts, and the patient who invades her heart. Immerse yourself in another era, but don’t forget to lock the door!
This book contains mild Christian references. AMAZON
The last job Tori Monroe wants is to be a competitor on Celebrity Island Battle, but since her television program, Queen of the House, was cancelled, no other jobs are available for her type. Add to that, Richard, her fiancé of five years, breaks up with her via e-mail. With less than an ounce of confidence, she shows up for the first day of shooting on Last Chance Island, an apt name. It doesn’t help that her partner—ex-child star, Josh Muir, looks like he’d rather be in a library than on a tropical island. Will Josh and Tori be the first to be eliminated, proving that this is truly Tori’s last chance, or will the island be an opportunity for new beginnings? AMAZON
Everything is going wrong at the Buttercup Inn. Following the fire, the accident, and the theft, Winnie’s confidence as an innkeeper is at an all-time low. If it weren’t for Matthew Lister’s steadying presence and help, she’d sell the inn and move away from St. Augustine. What’s more, the chemistry between Matt and herself is more than she can handle, especially since he answered her all-important question the wrong way. He didn’t have a camel. AMAZON
Thrust into a world where everyone knew her business, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to adjust to a slow-paced country life while working off her punishment. Certainly, her sojourn in Pontiac was just desserts for abandoning Douglas at the altar, or was it a gateway of opportunity for deeper relationships and a new love? AMAZON
Nicole has her eye on Patrick Duryea, the passenger in 3B on her weekly New York to Paris flights. He doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to marry him someday. That is, if he can satisfy the requirements on her list of ten attributes of a perfect husband. The other man in her life, her friend Sal whom she met on a blind date, sets out to prove that lists don’t work when it comes to love, and he’s willing to help her win over the elusive passenger in order to prove his point. When push comes to shove onto a New York street, will the list prevail or fail? AMAZON
Slightly agoraphobic Julie Richards, an immigration attorney, just wants to be left alone in her fortress-like house. But someone is watching her—she can feel it, or is it just her imagination playing tricks on her? She has more than she can handle with a case she’s working on involving Crista Bauer, a Guatemalan teacher and newlywed, whose husband Marcus is trying to kill her. Crista and her baby Sofia must go into hiding. But he always finds her.
It doesn’t take Julie long to realize that Marcus is out to harm her as well, and her fortress becomes a place of danger. Add to that, a new client—Sun Lee, a teenager from South Korea, who has come to California for a summer vacation with a childhood friend. But her vacation-of-a-lifetime becomes a nightmare when she is stripped of her money, phone, and identification and forced into human trafficking.
Will Julie be able to overcome her fear, come out of her shell of a house, and help rescue Crista and Sun? AMAZON Scroll down to read chapter 1.
Quotes from the book:
She searched everywhere. The closet was first . . . her heartbeat kicked into overdrive. She inched forward and placed a trembling hand on the door. It rattled with her quaking.
When the sidewalk was free of walkers, he’d vanish into the night shadows. Very soon, he’d find a way to make her come out of that shell of a house.
Riotous laughter made Julie hold the receiver away from her ear. “You babysit? Do you know anything about kids?” “Of course, I did my homework. I looked them up on the Internet.”
Sitting on the edge of the bed upon layers of clothes, panic fought to engulf her, and she didn’t know how to hold it at bay.
“Everyone gets one chance in life to be a hero. Maybe that was my chance.”
Julie Richards is slightly agoraphobic, but she manages to hide it from her friends. She’s taking baby steps to overcome it, but the trip to Colombia tests her limits, and she can’t wait to return to her normal, safe life in Celebration, her boyfriend, and her law practice. But nothing is safe and normal in Celebration. Men threaten to blow up her house if she doesn’t give them the child they think she’s hiding. Her boyfriend tells her he’s marrying her best friend. And one of her clients is in a coma because the asylum case she thought was a slam dunk is not going well. She’s ready to give up and go back to hiding from everyone. Will Julie hold fast to her “Life’s not fair” mantra, or will she cling to God’s promise that all things work together for good? AMAZON
Come Out of Hiding – Chapter 1
Julie rushed across the parking lot late again, her shouldered briefcase pulling her jacket askew under its weight. She groaned at the stain on her blouse. What else could go wrong? Just past nine, and she was already a walking disaster. Sneaking into the office never worked. Her wild hair and wrinkled suit announced her sweaty, forty-five minute commute in Orlando traffic. Scanning the parking lot confirmed that Edward Freed, her boss, hadn’t arrived. But she still needed to get past the office manager, daughter Celia Freed, who didn’t stand for tardiness.
Mildew covered the walkway. It needed a good cleaning, but even Celia couldn’t squeeze money from clients who didn’t have any. As she entered, the squeaking door betrayed her.
“You’re late.” Celia stood in the entryway, her wristwatch tilted toward Julie.
“Accident on I-4. The traffic was at a standstill for fifteen minutes.” She tried to squeeze past, but Celia blocked the way. Julie mentally rolled her eyes. Really? I’m an attorney, not a middle-school student.
Celia peered over her black horned-rims. “I need to talk to you about a case I’m giving you. We need to set a time.” She honed in on Julie’s lapel, her nose almost touching it. “What’s that on your blouse?”
“Coffee. It splashed on my jacket in the car. I’ll clean it up.”
Celia sniffed. “Good. Decorum in the office—very important. We’ll meet before lunch.” Her sensible shoes squeaked against the floor and swept her away. Julie watched her departing figure—a female dictator came to mind.
She pulled a file from her briefcase and pretended to be engrossed as she slipped past the other attorneys’ offices.
She dropped the file on her desk located in the converted mudroom, indicative of her standing in the firm. Sidestepping the coffee boxes that someone had left on the floor, she plopped down in the rolling chair. A plastic palm tree behind her made it impossible to back up. Shoved beside it were boxes of toilet paper, holiday decorations, and a plastic crate of miscellaneous office supplies. It wasn’t pretty, but it was her office. Out of sight, out of Celia’s mind.
Now she could work in peace unless someone needed a cleaning product, the stamp machine, or the microwave. She needed uninterrupted time to finish the asylum case she’d been working on for two weeks. It had single-handedly taken over her whole life. Other attorneys could have finished in a few hours. But it had to be perfect. Her client only had one chance to get his green card. The least she could do was to get it right.
Setting her pen on the finished brief, she gazed out the window—a challenge with the air-conditioning window unit blocking most of the view. Summer was passing her by. She straightened the papers in front of her. The shrill ring of the phone broke the silence of her tiny office.
“It’s Nora . . . Nora Crawford . . . your friend?”
The sarcastic tone was not lost on Julie. “How’ve you been?”
“Lots to tell you. Let’s go for lunch.”
Julie scrunched her face as if she’d tasted something unpleasant. “Oh, sorry, not a good day.”
“Julie Richards. This is the third time you’ve said no to lunch. Come on. You can be back in your office in an hour. Please?”
“I’ve got too much to do. But next week for sure. Bye, Nora . . .” She started to replace the receiver when she realized Nora was still talking.
“Yeah right, that’s what you always say.”
“What do you mean?” She knew what was coming, but she played dumb.
Nora’s voice was getting louder. “You never want to go out, and you use your work as an excuse. You’re still grieving, I’m guessing.”
“I’m not grieving. I’m fine.”
“Really?” Sarcasm again.
“I miss them, like anyone would.”
“Tsk. Tsk. You see? What’s it been—four years they’ve been gone? You’re not beyond an intervention.”
“I’m not that bad. It’s not like I’m an addict.”
“Just know I’m not giving up on you.”
“I’ll talk to you soon.” She resisted the urge to slam the receiver down. Why couldn’t people just leave her alone?
She rearranged the pens and placed a scratch pad in the center of the blotter. Her friends were right. They said the accident had made her a recluse. Maybe so, but she couldn’t stand being with her “friends.” All those pithy platitudes. They’re in a better place. Time will heal all wounds. If it was time to move on, it wasn’t because Nora said so. How could she possibly know how long it took to get over losing both parents?
As long as she kept life structured, she’d survive. One case at a time. Simple routines. She hummed a tune as she went for more coffee. The asylum case was finally under control. She’d call the client and let him know when she returned to her desk. Rounding the corner, she barreled into Celia.
“I’ve been looking for you. A walk-in is in the lobby.” She shoved a call sheet at Julie, causing her coffee to spill. “Careful. What is it with you and coffee? Her name is Crista Bauer. Make sure you get a retainer up front.” Celia turned on her sensible heel and glanced back. “And don’t blow it.”
Julie flounced back to her desk. Great. I don’t have time for this, Ms. Freed. She looked at the completed asylum case. Actually, the time was perfect to take on a new one. She ran her fingers through her hair, dabbed at the stain, and walked to the reception area to meet her new client.
A pretty, dark-haired, twenty-something woman thumbed through a magazine, her foot tapping at lightning speed.
Julie approached her and extended her hand. “I’m Julie Richards.” She glanced at the file she had hastily put together. “You are Crista Bauer?”
Shy eyes looked up from the magazine. Bolting to her feet, the young woman wiped her hand on her dress before reaching out to shake Julie’s. “Si . . . I mean, yes. Thank you for seeing me. I’m sorry, I am nervous because this is a new thing for me.” When she smiled, her face lit up.
Julie touched her forearm. “Nothing to be nervous about. Come, let’s go to my office.”
Crista glanced toward the entryway, as if she was having second thoughts. Then she looked at Julie, took a deep breath, and nodded. Once in the office, Julie cringed at the Christmas decorations box sitting on the only chair other than hers in the mudroom. Why hadn’t she thought to move it when she had the chance? Shoving the box against the wall, she pointed at the chair. “Sit here, please.” She cringed again at her carefully enunciated words. Why did she always speak loud and slow when addressing a client whose first language wasn’t English? Crista didn’t seem to notice the language profiling.
Opening the file, her pen ready to take notes, she turned to Crista. “Tell me, what can I help you with?”
Crista said, “It’s just a small thing. I have a question about my house. First, I must tell you some things about me. I am new in this country—from Guatemala. My husband Marcus, he is American. He brought me here after we married and I got my green card.”
Julie smiled. “Congratulations. How long have you lived here?”
Crista said, “Not very long. Six months. It has been . . . good.” Her eyes darted from Julie to the door. Was she having second thoughts?
Julie tried to redirect Crista’s attention to their conversation. “What is the problem?”
Crista frowned as if trying to find the right words. “Marcus and I only knew each other for a few weeks before we got married. It was, how you say, love in a first sight. Marcus found a house—a really pretty one close to his cousin’s—and he wanted to buy it for me, for us. But he needed a down payment. I had some insurance money that I got when my father died. I gave it all to Marcus.” She took a deep ragged breath.
“So is there a problem with the house?”
“No, I love my house, but I found the mortgage paper in a drawer, and I noticed my name was not on it. If my name is not on it, does that mean I don’t own the house? Can’t a person with a green card own property here? Do I have any rights if my name is not on it?” Her words came faster and louder with each question.
Julie stopped writing notes and looked at her. “As a wife, you would inherit the house if your husband died. Even if you divorce, you would be entitled to half.” She paused. “There’s something else, isn’t there? Tell me about your husband. How did you meet?”
“We met on a cruise. He was so handsome—the bluest eyes I ever saw. We spent every day together. He gave me a little glass turtle in Cozumel and wind chimes in Honduras. It was so romantic. When the cruise was over, I wasn’t sure if I would ever see him again. I went back to my teaching job, and guess what? He came all the way to Guatemala to see me. Two weeks later we were married.” She sighed and looked at her hands.
“Sounds like a dream come true, so what’s wrong?”
Crista hugged her arms across her chest, although the room was warm. “Well, there’s the insurance money. And the drinking.” Her eyes focused on her lap. “Really, he’s a good man, he is. But sometimes he drinks too much, and when he does ….” She glanced at the door. “I really should not have come. I must go.”
“Please, something is bothering you enough to seek help. What you say in here stays in here. Don’t be afraid.”
Crista’s eyes met hers, a tear made its way down her cheek. “The signs were there, but I did not see them.”
Julie rested her chin on the palm of her hand. “What signs?”
“My friends Coralys and Maritza warned me. We had taken the cruise together when the school year ended. In fact, they were with me when I first met Marcus. We had been walking around the ship to work off our desserts, and I tripped in a puddle. He had been close by and tried to catch me, but I pulled him down with me.” She chuckled, “We ‘fell’ in love. Anyway, my friends warned me that shipboard romances never lasted. My own mother . . .” She shuddered and stopped talking.
“What did your mother say?”
“When Marcus came to Guatemala to see me, we spent every free minute together. Most of the time, he took me to bars in Zona Viva—the nightclub district. I thought it was odd, but he never seemed to be drunk. After a week, I invited him to dinner. My mother wanted to meet him.” Crista grimaced as if the memory was painful. “It was a disaster. I tried to keep the conversation going, but my mom was clearly uncomfortable, and Marcus wouldn’t stop looking at his watch. He left while my mother was bringing the dessert plates to the table. Later, when we were doing dishes, I asked my mother what she thought. Her answer made no sense to me at the time. Now it does.”
Julie handed her a tissue. “What did she say?”
“It was strange. She talked about how my values changed when I was a teenager, and how I made decisions based on a whim. I argued that I had grown up. Then her hands went to my shoulders and she said, ‘Niña, use your head; it’s a good one,’ and walked away. That was the last time we talked about Marcus. We were married a week later. My mother—she was polite, but quiet.”
Julie asked, “So things haven’t gone so well since you’ve been here?”
“My mother was right. I didn’t use my head, and now it is too late.” Bolting out of her seat, she ran out of the room. Before Julie could react, the door to the parking lot slammed shut.
“Wait.” Julie rushed after her; the searing heat slapped her in the face when she yanked the door open. Her breath caught in her chest and she gasped for air. Not now. She forced herself to take some cleansing breaths. She stepped out to an empty parking lot. “Well, that’s just great.”
She forced one foot to walk in front of the other to the corner to see if Crista was still in sight, but the side street was empty. Her mind was on her elusive client when she stepped through the back door and almost knocked Celia over in the process. “Oh, sorry.”
“You’re letting all the air out. Keep the door closed.” Her horn-rims took in the whole room. “Where’s that new client? You didn’t run her off, did you?”
“Not on purpose. She was in the middle of talking about her problem, when she got up and hurried out, saying she shouldn’t have come.” Julie inched toward her office.
“Well, did you get a check?”
“Not yet. I’ll take care of it.” She turned her back on Celia, hoping she’d take the hint.
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