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Family Heirlooms Series, Book 4: Glass Angels by Karen Wiesner (Inspirational Romance)

Family Heirlooms Series, Book 4: Glass Angels by Karen Wiesner (Inspirational Romance)
 
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Book Four Family Heirloom: Forgiveness

A young Christian woman struggles with seeking pardon from those she's hurt when she can't seem to get past her own inability to forgive those who have wronged her.

Three years ago, Samantha Samuels had suffered under the violent hands of Ryder Feldmann, a juvenile delinquent her pastor father had been counseling. Now she's completed her psychiatry training and plans to help other victims of violent crimes at the rape counseling clinic in her hometown of Peaceful, Wisconsin. Unexpectedly, she finds herself sharing an office building and Sunday services at her new church with the older brother, a divorce counselor, of her attacker...the very man she'd been in love with before her rape.

In the time since Kyle Feldmann's brother was jailed for his crime against Samantha, he's lived with the torment of all he's lost because of his sibling. Before the tragedy that stole Samantha from him and destroyed his dreams, Kyle had begged her to risk her father's disappointment and elope with him. Seeing Samantha again after so many years, being near her, only puts him right back where he was before the rape. Kyle wants to heal Samantha, love her, and fulfill the dreams he grieved the loss of--by marrying her. But how can they be together forever when she's still so broken?

All her life, Samantha had wanted her father's approval, but his selfish part in putting her in a dangerous situation has led her to a painful place of desperately needing to forgive him and her attacker...and being unable to in all the time since the traumatic event that ripped her life in two. As she gives her heart to Kyle once more, her already fractured relationship with the Lord is tested. In the crossfire of faith, she wonders if glass angels shatter beyond recognition when they take a leap of faith, or if they can heal and become stronger than ever before.

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Family Heirlooms Series, Book 4: Glass Angels by Karen Wiesner (Inspirational Romance)
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Sample Chapter

Family Heirlooms Series:

Nuggets of faith can be passed down as family heirlooms from parent to child, sibling to sibling, spouse to spouse.

Book Four Family Heirloom: Forgiving

"To err is human; to forgive, divine."
~Alexander Pope

"Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour--unceasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family."
~Henri Nouwen

Prologue

"I know you were just glad to see Ryder Feldmann convicted at the trial, sweetie, so you weren't concerned about how long he'd be in the institution."

Samantha Samuels stared at her sister-in-law, a lawyer, who'd insisted she wanted to drive her to the airport today when she left for her two-week vacation. She and Justine were fairly close. Nevertheless, she'd been a little surprised by the offer. Not once had she considered that Justine wanted to drive her so she'd have time to drop this bomb on her.

Stunned, Samantha opened her mouth. Her sister-in-law wasn't wrong--she'd heard nothing at the end of the trial but that--thank the Lord!--her attacker would be locked away. "I assumed he'd be in prison for a long, long time."

Justine nodded, her expression pained. She reached across to the passenger's seat and squeezed her hand. "I know, Sam. You didn't want to hear anything else about it whenever I tried to talk to you about this in the last several years. I can explain everything to you whenever you're ready, but the bottom line is that Ryder's term of confinement is almost up. He'll be released on September 30th, followed by a year of extended supervision..."

***

"Miss Samuels," the clerk called when Samantha entered the hotel with the rest of her tour group. Tired after the long day of exploring southwest Ireland's treasures, including a museum and a castle--along with fighting off the aggressive advances of a certain member of her tour group--she was eager to go to her room and shower. She'd been wondering if she'd have time to snatch a few hours' sleep before dinner.

She wended her way through the others to get to the front counter.

"You received a phone call while you were out, Miss Samuels." The man handed her a memo.

Samantha looked at the note without surprise to see her sister-in-law's name and phone number written on it. Justine had called the night she arrived in Ireland, but Samantha hadn't been able to force herself to take the phone call then. She hadn't been ready to face the fact that the man who'd raped her would be released from prison, after a mere three years paying for his unconscionable crime against her.

"I do hope everything is all right, miss."

Distracted, Samantha glanced at the clerk and nodded. Dodging the crowd, she rushed up to her room as fast as she could. Had Justine called to apologize again for seeing no other choice but to tell her the truth--even if it meant ruining a perfectly lovely trip? Samantha had thought of little else except the single sentence that had deadlocked her in the days since: "He'll be released on September 30th, followed by a year of extended supervision..."

She couldn't fathom that Ryder had served only three years. Three years! In three years, I haven't even begun to heal from what he did to me. And he's done being punished, other than a year of "extended supervision"--whatever that means.

Samantha took a deep breath to quell the sensation of suffocation rising inside her. The tightness of her chest resembled an evil force growing in proportion to her dread. Now it was gathering all the air in her lungs and transforming it into an ominous, black cloud.

After drawing another breath and letting it out slowly, she murmured to herself, "I'll be home in two days. I can call Justine then and ask her all the details I wish I didn't have to know. Right now I'm four thousand miles away and it must be nine or ten at night in Wisconsin anyway."

Why had Justine called a second time? And why in the world did she feel she had to tell me this before I left for Ireland? As if I had any chance of enjoying the trip anyway. I'm too much of a homebody not to have started wishing my flight would return me to my home the day I arrived. Why, Justine, why? As a lawyer--though only part-time since the birth of her son a few years ago--Justine was too logical to drop a ticking bomb in someone's lap without good reason. She certainly had to realize her announcement would upset Samantha for longer than a few hours.

Shaking slightly, Samantha tossed the messenger bag she'd brought with her for the tour today on her bed and grabbed the phone. Unfortunately, she realized that she didn't have the slightest clue how to make an international call. When she phoned down to the desk to explain her trouble, the clerk calmed her with the words, "Allow me to place the call for you. I'll forward it to your room shortly."

Samantha thanked him, gave him the information, then sat on the edge of the bed, her hands clasped tightly together in her lap. An odd thought entered her head. What if Justine's phone call had nothing to do with the announcement she'd made in the car? What if someone was ill? Perhaps her son, daughter or husband--Samantha's older brother--Joshua.

Daddy? Samantha's cheeks filled with shame and regret.

Luckily, the phone rang within a few moments, disrupting the usual direction of her thoughts. "Justine?" she said as soon as she picked it up.

"It's me, Sam," Justine answered, her flinty voice filled with reassurance. "Don't panic. This isn't a medical emergency or anything like that. You had to know I couldn't leave things the way we did at the airport. I didn't want that conversation to go like that, sweetie."

"Why did you have to tell me now?"

Justine sighed. "Oh, Sam, I thought long and hard about whether to bother you about this before you left for your vacation. I talked to Joshua, Tamara, Kim and Peter, and they all advised me to tell you right away."

Tamara and Peter, Samantha's oldest siblings, and Peter's wife Kimberly were the three people Samantha trusted most in the world. Even still, she couldn't understand why any of them would encourage Justine to go ahead with this.

"Did I completely wreck your vacation?" Justine asked softly. "We all knew when you got back, you'd be going to work at the clinic, putting in long hours...and you wouldn't want to hear the truth then any more than you did at the trial and the years since. We couldn't see any other way to do this. And you insisted your friend Jordan was picking you up from the airport when you got back from Ireland. You weren't willing to negotiate."

I've been in hiding. I don't know how else to cope. After all this time, I still don't. Samantha shook her head. Eyes closed, she asked in a tone that begged her sister-in-law to enlighten her, "How can they possibly release him, Justine? He raped me. Ruined my life in ways that no can begin to understand..." Samantha inhaled shakily.

"I know, hon. And in the past, it would have been different. But Wisconsin adopted the Truth in Sentencing system a few years ago, and the statute eliminates parole for all crimes committed after December 31, 1999. As of September 30th, Ryder will have served seventy-five percent of his confinement and he's eligible for supervised release. At the trial, he was sentenced to a year of extended supervision upon release."

Samantha could hear the tears in her sister-in-law's voice as she put forth her best lawyer speech.

"While it seems unbelievable now, Sam, I believe the major impetus for the system was to provide a sense of certainty for the victims as well as for offenders."

Unbelievable doesn't cover it. What a joke! I was too happy to hear Ryder was going to prison to listen closely during his sentencing at the trial. But I don't believe I would have been comforted by the facts then any more than I am now. Samantha's eyes stung, but she wanted to know the truth she'd blindly sheltered herself from before. "What else?"

"Well, in the ES system, there will be a pre-release investigation and report. The purpose is to determine where Ryder will be released and under what conditions. I want to assure you, sweetie, that the conditions will most certainly include no contact whatsoever with you. I expect that his conditions will also require mandatory, regular check-ins with his assigned agent, that a job or school will be a requisite, as well as undergoing some counseling and anger management."

Counseling? Samantha scoffed at that condition. Three years ago, Ryder had been let out early from the juvenile delinquency institution because he'd agreed to the program Justine's law firm and her father, a pastor, had designed with local law enforcement. The program had catered to juvenile delinquents with most of the offenders voluntarily agreeing to participate in the counseling as part of the required treatment programs that went with release. Several had come to know the Lord through the counseling, too, thereby reforming and hopefully keeping them out of legal trouble. Ryder's prior juvenile offenses had been first offenses, "attempted assaults of a lesser degree with strong family support", according to what Justine had told Samantha after the rape. At that time Justine herself had been stunned to discover that Pastor Samuels was not only counseling Ryder, deliberately not having learned anything about his offenses but also pushing his young daughter to befriend him.

Samantha's father had long pastored the church she'd grown up in. His zeal to see a hurting world come to the Lord could be considered nothing less than an obsession that blinded him to reality.

And it was Daddy's visionless fervor to see a young criminal come to Christ that led to my rape. Daddy thought it was wrong to know why Ryder was in the detention facility in the first place--he didn't want to be influenced by the nature of Ryder's crimes as he counseled him. Then Daddy got it in his head that, because Ryder had been misunderstood and feared all his life, I could help him come to know the Lord. I was about the same age and a female. Ryder had a basic distrust of males. Now I know why. They always tried to keep him away from the girls because he couldn't be trusted alone with them. But did that bother Daddy? No. He refused to hear the truth...just like I guess I did at the trial sentencing.

"They won't release him in the area, will they?" Samantha asked.

Justine paused. "That'll be decided during the investigation, but I seriously doubt it. Are you all right, hon?"

After three years, Samantha told herself she should be. So why did she feel like, because of Justine's announcement, she was back where she'd been at the trial? "I'm fine. I'll be home in a couple days. We can talk more then."

"Okay. See you when you get back, sweetie. If you need to talk before then... I can't tell you how sorry I am, Samantha."

"I know."

Justine was crying. She could hear her soft gasps. "Love you. We all love you. We wish... We want to do something to help."

Samantha offered reassurance in as brief a manner as she was capable of at the moment, then hung up. For a long time, she sat staring into nothingness, not moving. Why did the horror of three years ago, all of it, seem so close?

She reached for her digital camera and scrolled through the photographs she'd taken over the past ten days. In shock, she realized she'd visited all the places she looked at, yet she remembered almost nothing about them. She might have been viewing someone else's vacation pictures, not her own.

Yet the events of three years ago are as fresh and tangible as if they just happened. In the utter silence of her room, the memories came in gasping snatches. Samantha found herself curling up on the bedspread, shivering violently.

The day it'd happened, her brother Peter had been watching her like a hawk before, during and after a funeral at the church. He'd realized Ryder was a danger to her. Their father refused to acknowledge that fact.

"You can slip out downstairs," her father encouraged. "Ryder is waiting for you. Pete believes you're helping clean up the kitchen after the luncheon."

"Daddy, no..."

"It's perfectly all right. Follow the Lord, sweet pea. We're so close now. Ryder expressed an interest in accepting Christ."

Samantha hadn't believed that, even a little. The only interest Ryder had ever shown was in her. She'd gone out of her way to extricate herself from the uncomfortable situation. Peter and Kimberly had helped her, especially when her brother asked her to come and live with him so she could get out of the house she'd grown up in for twenty-one years, out from under her father's daily insistence that she "follow the Lord in this". This--whatever fervor had caught him at any given time. She'd never refused any of his impassioned requests.

Almost from the start, I knew the Lord was telling me to flee from Ryder Feldmann. But I believed Daddy always had my best interests at heart. I made so many stupid decisions because the thought of disappointing him motivated me to obey even when I knew doing so was wrong. I refused to see the truth about him until I could do nothing else. By then, it was too late. Ryder raped me. And...and I knew I could never be with Kyle, Ryder's older brother, the man I'd fallen in love with, the man who fell in love with me--in secret.

Even during the trial against Ryder, her father had abided by his precious "communications with clergy" privileges and confidentiality in order to protect Ryder. While Samantha's siblings claimed that her father had repented and seen the error of his ways, she would never forget that he'd claimed his testimony at the trial was a conflict of interest, since the victim was his daughter, and asserted that he'd had no prior knowledge that Ryder was a danger to her. That'd been true enough, but even the judge had questioned Pastor Samuels' refusal to come into his counseling with prior knowledge of the patient's crime--and, having declined to proceed with counseling with those facts, still encouraged his daughter into contact that forced her to be alone with a criminal.

Even during the trial, Daddy refused to speak against a lost soul he'd wanted so badly to save. Yet Ryder's own brother confessed openly to his brother's horrible crimes. Kyle defended me. I believe it was his testimony--along with my own--that did the most damage, ensuring that Ryder went to prison. Kyle was a broken man before the court...while the father I'd entrusted everything I was, everything I did, sold me out in every conceivable way.

And now Ryder would be released from prison and punishment, free with the very rights Samantha had denied herself prior to her rape in deference to her father's wishes. Three years ago, her life had shattered beyond recognition, and she was only beginning to realize that she'd done nothing since to clean up the mess.

***

"You really don't want to accept Christ," Samantha said, almost under her breath. "You just told my father that to get him to agree to let me go."

Ryder had pulled up to the baseball field at Lake Peaceful Park and turned off the car. Most of the park was under a heavy layer of snow from a recent storm. It was starting to get dark. Inside her heavy coat, she shivered.

Did Daddy tell Peter where I am by now? But even Daddy doesn't really know where I am. He was so concerned with sneaking me out before Peter noticed, I'm sure he didn't bother to ask Ryder where he was taking me.

Ryder laughed from the driver's side, leaning back in the seat. "I don't know what the hell your old man is talkin' about half the time. I tune him out."

Suddenly panicked, Samantha lunged at the car door but quickly realized it was locked. She grappled for the button to release it. Ryder chuckled again, and then his hand landed purposefully on her shoulder, bringing her back to him. She turned to him and scratched his face with her fingernails.

Grabbing her hands, he yanked her forward, even closer. She saw his evil, handsome face, dark eyes filled with menace. She saw the demon she'd feared since her father forced her to be alone with him constantly these past several weeks. Afraid of disappointing her father, she hadn't told him the way Ryder looked at her, the lewd ways he tried to touch her as soon as they were alone. I should have. Why didn't I?

Because he wouldn't have believed it. He can't see anything but a lost soul that needs saving. Because he would have been disappointed...in me.

Ryder slammed his mouth over hers. His tongue stabbed past her lips. Instinctively, she bit down and he howled, temporarily freeing her hands. She grabbed at his long, black hair, claiming handfuls and trying to tear it out.

With a hard shove, he thrust her away from him. The back of her head hit the passenger window with a painful crack. Through the stars dancing before her eyes, she thought desperately, I have to fight. I have to...or...

***

With a start, Samantha woke on the hotel bed, still lying on top of the bedspread. The overhead lights were still on, and she blinked against their brightness. She lifted her hands to cover her face, encountering sticky tears on her cheeks.

Even three years after her attack, the burning treachery she felt inside her heart hadn't lessened. The truth about her father had all but suffocated her in that seemingly endless walk to get help after her rape. The veil of a devoted daughter who'd believed she was cherished had fallen away--ripped from her, stolen in violence.

Why didn't I elope with Kyle when I had the chance? she screamed silently for the countless time. If only she'd gone with Kyle the night he begged her to run away with him--irrevocably committing a deed her father couldn't talk her out of later--none of what had happened would have taken place. Her father wouldn't have forced her to be around Ryder anymore. Kyle would have been with her, protecting and loving her. She'd be living the fairy tale life she'd imagined for the two of them.

Instead, the mental and spiritual wounds afflicted had scarcely begun to form scars all these years. She'd instead ignored and run away from the conflicts that raged inside her. She'd never attempted to gain closure. She'd refused her father's first tentative attempts to talk to her, and he'd simply stopped trying in the time since. She told herself all she felt was relief. But Justine's news had torn the unhealed wounds apart. Ryder Feldmann would be free and, extended supervision aside, he might come after her again. She feared her carefully re-structured and ordered life was about to turn upside down once more and she had no one to protect her this time either.

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