You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
The Wild Rose Press (January 16, 2009)
In Robin's words:
I am the Special Education Coordinator for Denton County Juvenile Justice Alternative Program. I work with at risk teens from fifth grade through high school. My husband and I have been married for thirty-one years and we have two grown children. The first two years of marriage, Rick and I traveled overseas as missionaries. Afterwards we served as pastors of a church in Illinois. Presently we live near Dallas, Texas. He is in business and I work for the school system. (My husband still makes yearly mission trips to India.)
To date, my literary works include approximately two hundred articles in magazines such as: Guideposts, Live, Lookout, Mennonite, Christian Reader, Decision, Breakthrough and Christianity Today. Other short stories appear in the books: A Match Made in Heaven, Stories from the Heart, The Evolving Woman, and the New York Times bestseller, In The Arms of Angels by Joan Wester-Anderson. Ann Spangler also used one of my stories in her book, Help! I Can’t Stop Laughing. Another two-dozen stories have been published in the Chicken Soup books. One story, Mom’s Last Laugh, was re-enacted for a PAX-TV program: It’s a Miracle. I co-authored a thriller, The Chase, for Revell. My second book, The Replacement, was released in June 2006. The Candidate was released July, 2007. I continue to publish short stories in magazines. Wildcard, a mystery, will be a spring 2009 release. The Christmas Edition released Nov. 20. The Valentine Edition released in January 2009.
Visit the author's shoutlife and website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press (January 16, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Jodi Williams sighed for the hundredth time as she waved goodbye to the Chicago skyline, catching the last of the city in her car’s rearview mirror. Dreams of working at The Tribune were dead right along with drinking green tea latte’s at Starbucks anytime she wanted.
Hope behind her.
The unknown ahead.
She steered toward Wisconsin. An hour later, Jodi looked out the window at the open fields of frozen ground and cows standing along snowy fences. The comparison between her two lives—the previous and the present—were startling.
Jodi attempted to shift her body in the seat but was pretty well anchored into the one position with her belongings crammed into the compact car from the trunk to the front. The turn-by-turn directions she had printed out were hard to follow since not all the roads were actually marked in this neck of the country. She decided to refer to them as mystery turns. Finally, Jodi pulled over to the shoulder and unfolded the road map to try to figure it out one more time. According to her calculations, she was almost there.
She looked around again and there it was, the Welcome to Turtle Creek sign, less than five feet ahead. Snickering at herself, she put her car back in drive, turned on her signal and pulled back onto the road. Soon she passed Ma’s Diner on the left and zoomed past one block of storefronts realizing that was all there was of town. “It’s worse than I imagined.”
Watching for the turn that would take her directly to the newspaper, she nearly missed seeing the small-bedraggled dog that darted out right in front of her. Startled, Jodi swerved and hit her brakes as her heart palpitated hard in her chest. It was a foolhardy maneuver that nearly landed her in the ditch but she felt it was worth the risk since she didn’t feel or hear a thud against the tires. After she came to a complete stop, Jodi peered over her steering wheel. She frantically looked to her left and right. The dog wasn’t in sight. She had to find the little thing. It was unsafe for it to be running around loose like this. What kind of people let a little dog roam free anyway? Jodi caught her negative thought and softened. Maybe the dog was lost and the family was searching at this very moment.
Jodi checked both lanes of traffic. Then she pulled up hard on the door handle, swiveled in her seat and set both feet on the ice. Gingerly stepping out to search for the animal, she was thankful no vehicle appeared from either direction. She walked around the car feeling the snow and ice seep into her leather shoes.
She finally found what she was looking for; the dog sat shivering under a bush. Fearful-looking eyes studied her approach. With matted hair and sad eyes, it looked unloved and unwanted, pulling at her heart.
“Hey there little one,” Jodi bent down. “Don’t be afraid. Let me help you.” When she held out her hand, the dog took off like a rocket, past her and right for the road. From a blanket of snowy air, a car appeared. It careened down the road traveling much too fast for the conditions. Jodi frantically called to the dog, “Come to me, come to me!” But instead of obeying, it sat down. “Now is no time to be stubborn!”
Jodi couldn’t watch. She shut her eyes and turned away from the awful sound of squealing brakes, the thump of the dog and the whimper. When she opened her eyes, she saw the poor thing lying still on its side. Jodi ran to it as the angry driver rolled down his window and yelled, “Watch your dog!”
“Watch where you’re going!” Jodi shot back and ignored him as he drove off. Without thinking about the cold or the possibility of being bitten, Jodi yanked off her coat and carefully placed it around the injured animal. “It’s all right; I’m just trying to help you. It’s okay.”
Gingerly, she held the dog just as a pickup truck came rolling toward them. Oh, no, not again. The road was too icy for her to get out of its way in time. She gripped the dog to her chest, said a prayer and hoped for the best. The tires splashed icy muck on her skirt. To her surprise, the driver was able to slow and come to a complete stop within inches of her frame. On the side of the truck was written Veterinarian Clinic Turtle Creek, Wisconsin—Josh Thomas.
“Is everything okay?” The man inside rolled down his window.
“No, everything is just terrible. The dog was hit.” Jodi started to cry.
“I’ll help.” He checked his side mirrors before parking on the shoulder of the road and then got out of the truck. Jodi noticed the man was her extreme opposite. He stood at least six foot two, weighed about two-fifty, where she was only a couple of inches over five feet and half his weight. His hair was the kind a woman longed to run her fingers through—thick, black and straight.
Wind blew snow into Jodi’s face. She rubbed her eyes and then brushed her curly auburn hair from
her face, making sure the kind stranger wasn’t an illusion.
After grabbing a mid-sized crate from the back of his truck, he walked over to where Jodi stood shivering in the cold wind holding her bundle. “Let’s get the dog to my clinic. Do you want to put it in the crate, or should I?”
“I’ll do it.” Feeling protective now, Jodi put the dog inside, leaving it wrapped in her coat. Doing a double take, he asked, “I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Josh Thomas. Are you all right?”
He touched her shoulder. It felt reassuring and made her cry harder knowing someone was here to handle the situation. All she managed was a nod. He patted her again. “Follow me.” Josh opened the passenger side and placed the crate on the truck seat. “Hopefully your little pal will be just fine. I’ll do my best so he’ll be home with you in no time.”
She wrinkled her nose. “That’s not my dog. I only stopped to help,” she explained, walking toward the truck.
Josh turned toward Jodi and gave her an appreciative smile. “So you’re the one? It’s nice to finally meet you. I heard about you in church on Sunday.”
“Me? On Sunday?” Her eyes widened.
“Yea you. We learned about the Good Samaritan. Let me shake your hand.”
Josh was totally disarming and made Jodi smile for the first time that day. When she took his hand, it felt strong and capable. She looked into his eyes where a collection of amber colors seemed to swirl together. “I’m Jodi Williams. I was trying to get the dog out of the road when he was hit. The driver didn’t stop to help.”
“I was on my way back from a farm call and in my daydreaming missed my turn to the clinic. Guess it was a good thing.” Josh explained as he climbed into his truck. “Don’t worry I’ll take it from here. Thanks again, Miss Good Samaritan.”
“Wait. Let me come with you.” Jodi looked at her car and again at Josh.
“Sure, just follow me. Back your car around and pull in behind me. I’ll wait for you.”
“Okay.” Jodi nodded to him as she opened her car door. Just as she scooted onto the driver’s seat a blast of wind slammed the door on her. Freezing to the bone, she cranked up the heater full blast. Then she turned on her wipers to move the snow off her windshield. Jodi found a safe place to turn around, and in no time, she was following Josh’s truck. A few turns later, they arrived at the veterinary clinic. The large sign read Thomas Veterinary Clinic and Animal Rescue. It seemed like an appropriate name since she and the dog had both been on the receiving end of that rescue. Jodi followed Josh into the building.
A pretty blonde-headed woman wearing brightly colored scrubs printed with playful dogs and cats, sat at the desk. “What do you have in there?” She looked at the small crate.
“An injured dog, hit on County O.” Josh turned to Jodi. “This is my secretary, Della Wheat. Della, this is Ms. Williams.”
“Jodi,” she corrected, hardly noticing Della. Her eyes remained fixed on the dog.
“Just fill out a card for me.” Della placed it on the counter along with a pen.
“She was trying to rescue the stray when it was hit,” Josh explained. “We don’t need the information.”
“I’d still like to fill out the card.” Jodi picked up the pen. Not knowing where she’d be staying yet, she only wrote her name and cell phone number. She put the pen back down and asked Josh, “Would it be all
right for me to go into the examination room with you?”
Josh shrugged. “Sure enough. Keep following me.”
They entered a brightly lit and predictably spotless small room. An aroma from the cleaning disinfectant was evident. They faced each other on opposite sides of the stainless steel examination table. Josh placed the crate on the table and slowly pulled out the dog on Jodi’s bloody coat.
“Hi, there, little guy. Will you let me see how you are doing?” Josh parted the folds of the coat and then lifted the dog out. It whimpered but didn’t try to snap.
Jodi removed her coat from the table. Josh kept looking up at her and down at the dog again. “You seem pretty shook up. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“That’s good to know. I thought you might need a doctor yourself, for a minute there.” Josh chuckled.
She took her first long look at him. Great smile that was burned into her memory from their first encounter on the road, but now she saw he was also quite handsome. What attracted her was his obvious tender spirit reflected in his soft eyes. She didn’t even know him but he suddenly made an imprint on her heart. The way he looked at her made Jodi wonder if he felt it, too.
The door to the examination room popped open. “Do you need my help, Doctor?” Della stood in the doorway.
“Sure, come on in.”
Della entered and began her work while lightly humming. She seemed like the kind of gal who was always humming even when she did things that should be done in silence, like calming animal nerves or cleaning up messes. At least that was how Jodi imagined her to be.
Jodi watched as Josh gently turned the dog on its side and stroked its head, talking low and soft, trying to bring comfort to it. Della quickly stepped in to hold the dog, making Jodi move back out of their way. The room was cramped with all them in it, so she moved to the corner to watch.
“The dog has some pretty bad abrasions, but I don’t see anything that would require sutures. It looks like he’s a little neutered male, so someone once cared for him.” Josh tilted back the dog’s head and parted his jaws to have a good look inside. “And he’s no older than two years.”
The animal held his left hind leg tight up against his body. When Josh gently tried to straighten it, the dog yelped in pain and then licked Josh’s hand. Josh responded immediately by stroking its head. “Ah, I guess the leg is probably broken. We won’t know how badly until I get an x-ray of it.” Josh felt along the side of the animal and examined each leg. “In fact, I want to get several x-rays on him to see what else we’re dealing with here.”
“I’ll get everything ready,” Della hummed. Jodi glanced discreetly at the wall clock. She was late for her first day at her new job. “I have to leave, but my cell number is at the front desk. Will you call me later? I’d like to know how he does.”
“Of course I will.” Josh smiled again. It was enough to make her want to stay right here with the dog and with Josh, but then Della opened the door for her and took the dog to the back.
Jodi walked from the room as she took a good look at her coat. It was stained with blood and her clothes had muck on them.
“There’s a dry cleaner about five miles from here.”
“No good. I’m starting my job at The Turtle Creek Newspaper today, and I can’t go in like this. I’m not sure what to do since I’m already pretty late.” Jodi fretted as she folded her coat over one arm.
Josh took a jacket from one of the wall hooks.
“I know it doesn’t look like much, but at least it’s clean. Here.” He held out the dark green jacket. Jodi managed with much self-restraint not to roll her eyes. The truth was she didn’t want to wear it, but under the circumstances, in near-zero-degree temperature, she didn’t have much choice. Besides it was clean and Josh was sweet to offer it. When she slipped into it, the coat nearly swallowed up her small frame. She pulled the right side over the left and laughed when it nearly went all the way around her back. The way Josh looked at her made her blush.
“It’ll keep you warm,” he said.
Della walked back into the room. She frowned. The humming came to a stop. “Why is she wearing that?”
Jodi noticed the young woman’s displeasure. It made her feel silly. “She’s right, I can’t take this.”
“Wear it. It’ll do in a blizzard.”
Jodi looked out the window at the snow coming heavier now. The wind seemed stronger. “The weather is getting worse. If I take this, what’ll you wear?”
“There’s another jacket in my truck.”
“Please be sure to call and let me know how that sweet little guy is doing, okay?”
“Will do,” Josh promised. “He sure is a little cherub.”
Jodi reluctantly put on the jacket, hesitating before heading out to her car.
Twenty-year-old Della Wheat held up her hand and sweetly waved goodbye to Jodi. Then she turned to Josh. “She seems nice.”
“Yep, that she is.” He walked to the windows and watched as she got into her car and drove off. He was quiet a minute and then turned to Della.
“While I get those x-rays taken, I need you to start on the invoices. They’re on your desk. I’d like them in the mail by the end of the work day.” Josh started toward the back.
“Sure thing, as soon as I organize the waiting room. You know how I am about messiness,” Della answered as she began her daily routine with military preciseness. She fanned out the magazines into attractive sections, then swept the floor and finished off her housekeeping with a bit of dusting.
Once the fish were fed, she straightened her desk. It was then she noticed something on the counter of her well-ordered room. Calmly, Della picked up the white card and read Jodi Williams’ contact information. Cute, she was the kind who marked a line through each of her sevens and wrote her name in fancy, curly script. Della smiled and hummed happily as she walked over to the shredder and buzzed the piece of paper right through it. Jodi Williams disappeared.
“All gone.” Della wiped her hands together.
Now that this new woman was out of Josh’s life, Della was ready to get to work. She went around her desk and sat down. From the top drawer, she took out the container of paper clips, the small bag of rubber bands, the handful of pens and removed a folder. Underneath all of that was a picture of Josh and her at last year’s Christmas party at the church. She caressed his face with her finger. Then she picked up a black marker with a thin point and used it to carefully write across the bottom, You’re the only woman for me. All my love, Josh. It made Della smile. Then she shut the folder and returned it to the desk, placing the office supplies back on top. Within the hour, a CLOSED sign was placed in the door of the clinic. Della assisted Josh in surgery.
She watched every move he made. Della had a hard time keeping her mind on what they were doing. She kept looking over at Josh, hoping he’d see her and give her one of those great big smiles of his. He didn’t smile, didn’t even give her a look. All his concern went to the animal he was working on. He was devoted. He would smile at her later. That was her affirmation.
“Isn’t he a sweet little thing?” Della commented on the dog, needing attention from Josh.
“He sure was lucky to come out of it with just one fracture and a few abrasions. I think the good Lord was smiling down on you today,” he told the sedated mutt. “Della, while I pin the leg, steady it for me by holding the bones together just so.” Josh demonstrated.
Della followed his instructions.
“Once surgery is over, I’ll attach the rigid bar on the cast. Within a day or two, he should be using that leg just fine,” Josh murmured.
“You inspire me.” Della’s hand brushed his as she took over positioning the leg. It made her heart race.
“Just doing my job.” Perspiration gathered along Josh’s brow. In a few minutes, he had accomplished stabilizing the leg. “Good. You did well. You both did.” He looked at Della and gave her a smile.
There it was! Her affirmation! It came true, washing over her heart; she nearly fainted from happiness, but remained vertical and stared down at the dog’s leg that Josh was closing.
“That should do it.” Josh laid his instruments to the side and looked at the dog one more time. “I’ll give Jodi a call. She’ll want to know how the dog is doing.”
“I’ll do that for you,” Della insisted.
“No, I’ll do it myself as soon as the dog is fully awake and eats something.” Josh carried the animal to a prepared kennel and laid him on a heating pad. Della’s heart palpitated with fear and self-doubt. Deep breaths, she told herself. It was time to listen to her affirmation tapes. Della returned to the waiting room, unlocked the door and put the Open sign back in the window. At her desk, she slid her earphones on and popped the next CD in her player. She pressed play. She moved her lips along with the words on the tape, “I am focused on finding love. I have found love. That is all that matters. I am having fun.”
Her headphones were suddenly lifted off her head as her hair caught in the earpiece. “Ouch!” She turned around. It was her love. “Josh, what are you doing?”
“Are you listening to those silly tapes again? There are messages that need to be answered. Don’t you see the blinking light?”
“Sorry.” Della’s face blushed.
“Also get Jodi’s number for me, please.”
“Uhm….” Della watched her love leave the room.
If there was ever a time she needed to listen to her tapes, it was now. However, she would do as Josh asked and put them away. She’d write out her affirmation instead. With a pen in hand, she began; I believe in myself. I believe in the power of love. I believe Josh loves me. I believe Josh and I are destined to be together. I believe Josh will ask me to marry him. I believe in myself. I believe in the power of love. I believe Josh loves me. I believe Josh and I are destined to be together. I will make it happen. I believe in the power of me.