A Peek at Pieces of Granite

Arguing CoupleIn less than a month, Pieces of Granite will finally release! Woo hoo! I can’t wait! Until then, I thought you’d enjoy a teaser or two, so every week I’ll give you a little taste of a book that’s very dear to me.

Probably the best teaser I can give you is a glimpse inside the book itself. In 2012, Pieces of Granite was a semi-finalist in the ACFW Genesis Awards, the same year another work of mine was a finalist. As the scores from both entries were comparable, I’m guessing that Pieces was not too far away from making finalist.

With that, here’s the first scene …

     One more slam should drive away her fears. Debbie Verhoeven raised the hammer, her tongue poking from the corner of her mouth, and eyed the nail’s head. With Handel’s Water Music floating through the background, she swung the hammer down, transferred her strength to the nail, and implanted steel into oak. Her finger skimmed over the small metal head now blended smoothly with the wood’s surface. Perfect.
     Just like this little one. She patted her stomach and imagined the dime-sized heel floating unseen beneath her fingertips, a mere seventeen weeks alive. Absolutely perfect.
     She took off her safety goggles, blew a brown strand of hair from her eyes, and removed a lawn chair from the open-stud garage wall. Time to relax. She unfolded the chair and placed it where her Mommy-van usually sat, where antifreeze had dripped Rorschach-like blotches onto the concrete. She collapsed onto the chair and smiled. Driving nails was great therapy.
     But then, there was always clean up. A warm breeze blew through the garage’s open door and a car puttered down her normally quiet street as she examined the butcher block workbench spanning the back of the garage. Next to her woodworking project, a Minnesota spring bouquet of lilacs and dandelions cuddled together in a Pepsi can, adding a splash of color and refreshing fragrance to the un-Sheetrocked area. The bouquet would stay, but tools needed to be hung on the pegboard and wood scraps awaited recycling. As for the granite stones scattered on the bench, she must have an empty coffee can around somewhere.
     Tomorrow. Friday morning would be soon enough to clean her bench. She massaged her belly. Baby Verhoeven needed rest.
     The door to the house opened, and her husband peeked through the crack.      “About done?”
     “For the afternoon, anyway.” She stood, brushed dusty hands on her jeans, and wiped perspiration from her forehead. Even with the garage door open, the air movement did little to cool her pregnant body. “Kaitlynn still napping?”
     “At the moment.” A rare smile lit Jerry’s face as he stepped into the garage. He wound his way in front of their decade-old Ford Escort wagon, cradling a Hostess cupcake in each hand.
     Her stomach growled and she licked her lips. “Snack time already?”
     “Maybe an hour or so past.”
     “No, it’s not …” Her gaze flew to the saw blade clock mounted on the pegboard above her workbench. Five forty-seven. Jerry had been home two hours already? No way. Maybe one. And a half. Maybe. And Kaitlynn never napped this long.
     It was far past time for snacks. Supper should have been started over an hour ago.
     But if Jerry wasn’t complaining, why should she?
     He set the cupcakes on her bench and ran his palm across her wood project.      “What are you making?”
     She grinned and covered his hand. “Something for my garden.”
     “A secret something?” His other hand blanketed hers.
     “I have a secret.” He circled his arms around her waist. “I love you,” he whispered in his luscious tenor. His subtle Halston cologne drew her nearer until his lips briefly met hers, his goatee-mustache tickling her mouth. He drew back and smiled again, with creases accenting his green eyes. The years-old burn scar mapped over his cheek blushed a brighter shade of pink. Shoot, he was gorgeous, even with the fluorescent light reflected off his smooth head.
     “I like your secret.” She drew a finger down the front of his polo shirt. “What’s the occasion?”
     “Two minutes of quiet with my wife now, so you can sleep in tomorrow. Don’t worry about getting up with me. Get in a little rest before Kaitlynn wakes up.”
     Oh, that sounded heavenly. If only it were that simple. “What about Kaitlynn’s party? I’ve got a cake to bake tomorrow. A house to clean—”
     He pressed a finger to her lips. “Party’s two days away. Take it easy tomorrow. I’ll help when I get home. No worries.”
     Girl, stop arguing. She plopped back down in her chair. “Thanks, hon.” No sane pregnant stay-at-home mom would be dumb enough to turn down extra sleep and help.
     “You’re welcome.” He handed her a cupcake.
     She nibbled the devilishly good chocolate treat, skirting the crème center. Always save the best part for last.
     Jerry downed his in two bites. He didn’t need to savor the taste. Calories hated him and never stuck around. Life wasn’t fair.
     Licking his fingers, he leaned against the bench. Familiar worry lines wrinkled his forehead. “Any word from Ricky?”
     The cake suddenly tasted like sawdust. “He’s flying to London tomorrow.” And Granite Creek, Minnesota, wasn’t exactly in the flight path of New York to London.
     “I’m sorry, hon.” Jerry opened a folding chair, faced it opposite hers, and took her hands. “You know it kills him not being here, although I’m sure Marcus is quite happy.”
     Probably. “Those two. I think they’re beyond hope.” Why her older brothers couldn’t get along … She shook her head. “I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to have two older brothers who love me, who love us, and maybe someday …”
     “It’ll happen. They’re good guys; they’ve just got a little growing up to do.” He leaned over, raised her bare feet to his lap, and massaged the ankle that revealed her one foray into rebellion during college. Her poor mother still rolled her eyes whenever she noticed the diminutive lily permanently inked to Debbie’s skin. An act Debbie never regretted.
     Besides, Jerry loved it. Said it was sexy, and his gentle caress affirmed those words.
     With a sly grin, he traced the lily with his thumb. “Where are your shoes?
     “My feet were hot.” She pointed beneath the bench where ankle socks lay tucked inside tennis shoes.
     “Didn’t you teach Kaitlynn to always wear shoes when working in the garage?” His grin expanded.
     With a huff, Debbie crossed her arms. “She’s napping.”
     Hardly. “Yep, that’s me.” Maybe in an alternate universe.
     He chuckled, then concern leveled his lips as he nodded at her stomach. “What do we tell the family this weekend?”
     Debbie caressed her baby. This little one would be loved, no matter what the diagnosis. “We’ll tell them I’m pregnant, but the rest? I don’t think we should, at least until we know for sure.”
     “And you’ve heard nothing from the doctor?”
     “Not yet. Every time the phone rings …” She glanced at the cordless phone lying silent on the workbench. Three weeks had passed since the amniocentesis. It was well past time for the doctor to call with the results. This nervous anticipation was hard on both of them.
     Especially Jerry. The corner of his lip quivered. A sure sign he was holding back his fears. “How do I keep myself from worrying?”
     “Ah, Jerry.”
     “Seriously, Debbie. I’m scared to death.”
     Not a surprise. “I know. I’m scared too.” But for different reasons.
     “I wish I were strong as you.”
     Sometimes, I wish I could be weak. “God’s not asking us to be strong.”
     “What if I can’t handle it?”
     “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
     A sarcastic laugh escaped his throat. “Right. Tell that to my dad. To my ex-wife.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and looked down.
     Debbie grabbed his hands. “Look at me.”
     He peered up, his cheeks flexing.
     “Whatever happens, we’re in this together. Do you understand that?”
     He nodded like a guilty child accepting a scolding.
     “Good, because I am not your dad. Nor am I Francine. You’re stuck with me through everything. Got that? You have my word that I will never walk out on you.”
     His arms wrapped her in a trembling hug, clearly unconvinced.
     God, please give him strength.
     The phone rang as if in answer to her supplication.
     She reached for it, but Jerry grabbed it first.
     “Hello.” Jerry massaged the left side of his chest. “Yes.”
     “Doctor Haugman’s office?” She mouthed.
     His head gave one slow nod, and his eyes focused on the ground.
     Please God, for Jerry’s sake, and for me and the baby, let the tests be negative.
     “Monday.” Color leaked from his face.
     No. Debbie laid her hand on Jerry’s arm.
     “I understand. We’ll be there.”
     With a heavy sigh, he lifted his chin, clearly trying to appear brave, but red streaked the whites of his eyes and tension hollowed his cheeks. His lip twitched as he slid his hands between his knees, and cracked his knuckles.
     “Dr. Haugman wants to see us Monday.” An appointment meant one thing: they had information that couldn’t be delivered over the phone.

Excerpt taken from Pieces of Granite by Brenda S. Anderson
© Brenda S. Anderson 2014.

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