Authors: Lisa J. Lickel
Tags: #Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Paranormal Romance by Lisa J. Lickel
Grace has a secret. Just like her aunt, and her grandmother before her, she could fix anyone with a touch, at a cost she never questioned—until her husband developed cancer and died. Believing no one would forgive her for not being able to save him, Grace runs from the life she knew, hoping even God wouldn’t find her in a little out-of-the-way town in Michigan. It takes a very sick man and his little boy to help her face her past, accept who she is and battle her way back to redemption. Just when she and Ted begin to hope for the future, he relapses. Grace faces the ultimate choice once again: Trust God to work through her precious gift, or let a terminally ill man die. What if the price is more than she can pay?
Healing Grace © 2013 by Lisa J. Lickel
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or events, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
14878 James, Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada, H9H 1P5
Cover Art © 2013 by Nika Dixon
Edited by Anne Duguid
Copyedited by Greta Gunselman
Layout and Book Production by Lea Schizas
eBook ISBN: 978-1-77127-305-3
First eBook Edition *April 2013
Production by MuseItUp Publishing
Previously published by Zumaya Publications, 2009
For Lane, Jane, Ryan, and Matt—
family is everything.
My thanks again to early readers, and my friends in the medical and family court and legal communities who contributed to the original story. I’m grateful to Lea Schizas for the opportunity to tell this story again in a way I can be proud of, with the help of ever-faithful Annie Duguid and Greta Gunselman. Thank you.
Lisa J. Lickel
Grace Runyon paused in the doorway of the little house. She listened to the real estate agent drive away with a little zip and a crunch of the gravel drive and felt a moment’s panic.
“Not buyer’s remorse at this stage of the game, my good woman.” She marched inside, carrying two overloaded paper bags of supplies from the convenience mart. “And stop talking to yourself.”
The real estate lady had checked the lights to make sure the local electric company in tiny East Bay, Michigan had “turned her on” —her words. Grace’s responding chuckle came out like a zebra snort, one that smelled lion and was trying to warn the herd.
“You’ll be all right,” the plump, business-like woman reassured her before she left. “It’s a ways out of town, but not too far, and the neighbors are good people.” She looked down at the drive and stirred some gravel with her brown patent pump. “In fact, this place used to belong to one of the brothers next door.”
She pressed a card into Grace’s limp hand. “Now, here’s my card. You just call any time.”
One of the brothers? Not information pertinent to the deed, she hoped.
Grace had merely glanced at the place before signing the papers yesterday. “The house hasn’t been opened up in a number of months. The last occupant was ill,” the agent said. “I can give you the name of a good cleaning crew.”
“A little dirt doesn’t scare me. I can handle it,” she’d blithely replied.
Today, in the sparse rays of early spring through fly-specked windows, she wondered if she’d been a little hasty. The dusty, braided rug did not look like an inviting place to set down the sacks she toted in from her green Subaru.
Deep, calming breaths read the story of the place: sickness and neglect hovered almost tangibly. Cobwebs, glittering dust motes. Dangerously lopsided drapes.
A lonely pile of toys, a car and some plastic figures she didn’t recognize, and a cobbler bench huddled beneath a weight bench in the corner near the open stairway.
Passing through an opening across the long, narrow room, she found herself in the kitchen—a sad, neglected kitchen—and definitely not the heart of this home. She set the bags on the table and dumped her purse on a chair. A slow turn made her wonder what she’d seen that made her crazy enough to buy this house.
“What kind of person paints her kitchen ice-green? And what’s up with the grinning daisies? Honestly.”
Remains of the day were left as is. Her Tennessee kitchen had been painted a cheerful yellow and kept as spotless as her exam room at the clinic.
Something rustled in the cupboards. Hopefully only mice. She sighed and picked up two forks and a bent serving spoon that had been left on the kitchen table. Little flotsam, napkin bits, and nut shells of some kind decorated the cracked and scorched ancient linoleum countertops.
She opened one of the packages of cheap, white paper towels she’d purchased and used one to gingerly swipe away attached spider webs. With a grimace she quickly thrust the wad into the trash and slammed the lid, its metallic echo a hollow laugh.
You wish it was that easy to erase your past, don’t you? Created a web of a mess. Ran. Who’s left to clean up after you?
Grace blinked and twisted the porcelain handle of the tap. Warm orange gunk gurgled out and spewed thickly around the stained sink bowl. At least it didn’t smell bad. She cheered when it soon cleared up.
“Call me easily pleased. And, seriously, stop talking to yourself.”
She pulled a pad of paper from her leather handbag and toured the little one and a half story cottage, making notes of the supplies she needed. Clean first, then patch. Definitely painting. And figuring out some furniture. Something to sleep on. “Do I even have a hammer? Talk about starting from scratch.”
Putting together a whole new life after everything she’d been through was risky. She wasn’t exactly hiding, but neither did she care to let anyone know where to find her. Yet. In good time. When the wounds weren’t so fresh and raw; when the wonder of her failure faded from their memories. Jonathan had been a good man. He hadn’t deserved his fate.
Her heart ached for him, for what they’d lost, even though he’d been dying for a long time. Losing him was more of a release.
Still, they blamed her. And rightfully so. So she gave them what they wanted.
Time for a normal life, remember?
A good night’s sleep will do wonders
By the time the sun faded, Grace had exhausted herself. Scrubbing the kitchen and a cubby of a room behind it she’d claim for her own took buckets of hot water and a pair of neon-yellow rubber gloves, but at least she’d have a clean spot to lay her mattress and sleeping bag. Too tired to eat, she’d stretched herself out and groaned. Thirty-five-year-olds should not be this out of shape.
The room seemed to whirl in a nauseating kaleidoscopic frenzy. No! She wasn’t ready to think about it. Not yet. When she focused again, she stood in bright daylight, looking down into the newly-dug hole. Without looking up she knew they were there, standing around her and staring, accusing.
“Your fault! You let this happen! You let him die when you should have saved him!”
“I wanted to!” God knows she wanted to save Jonathan. “He was the one—he told me not to try again.” At first, she’d tried to help. Of course she did. He was all she had left. Everyone needed him. Everyone loved him. But it had hurt so much. She hadn’t complained, but after that second time when they had to revive her in the ER, shocked out of her ability to feel anything, he made her go home. Alone. She’d been more afraid of that than the pain.
She lifted her head. Jonathan’s father had his back to her. As she watched, they all, one by one, turned their backs until only Lena, her best friend, was left. “Please, Lena, not you too!”
Running away over the clipped grass of the cemetery seemed the smartest thing she could do. Run, run! Why couldn’t she get anywhere? Her high heels stuck in the lawn and she couldn’t pull free.
Grace reached automatically for the warmth that was no longer there anchoring the other side of the bed. She forced her eyes open against the sleep-tears that nearly welded them shut. The blackness of the room calmed her frantic breathing. She lay still a moment, stars from smacking her head against the wooden floor buzzing like angry lightning bugs. She pushed the tangled sleeping bag from her legs and got to her knees, willing her legs to hold her, her ankles to be strong. She stood. So much for sleep tonight, the first in her new home. If she had to be alone now, at least it was amongst strangers who didn’t know what she’d done.
* * * *
By the third day and the fifth trip into town, Grace decided to treat herself to a side trip. She had passed the sweet chalet-style building that housed the local library often enough. Time to stop in.
“So, you’ve taken over the Marshall house? It’s an afterthought—you know—a whad’ya call it, mother-in-law’s cottage? Built on the edge of a big apple orchard,” Marie Richards, the town librarian, told her when she went to apply for a card. “The Marshalls, now, they did real well. Put this town on the map, you know. Keep us alive these days through the co-op.”
Grace nodded and smiled as if she knew what the woman was chatting about. The librarian went on to tell her that the property edged East Bay, and was not actually in the village limits. The apple trees had been torn out and not replanted.
Uh-huh, well, there was something Grace could do on rainy days—dig up local history. Something new to learn, instead of the almost intuitive understanding that came with being raised in Woodside, where their story was almost like an extra rib or a twenty-fifth vertebrae. “Thanks, Marie, bye now.” Next errand.
The local resale shop proved to be a blessing filling in for her missing wardrobe and no one there said a thing when she went back three days in a row, modeling the former day’s purchase. Casual clothes…something she’d found grimly amusing for her new life of leisure. Her beautiful suits and silk church dresses would be so out of place here; running away as she had might have been a blessing in disguise, if she wanted to try to fit in. She certainly had no need of her uniforms. She’d missed the nice leather set she and Jonathan had purchased for the family room, though. Could she stomach buying something used? Maybe slipcovers for a sofa and some chairs would be all right. She could use some dishes instead of paper plates. Service for one.
* * * *
On Saturday she was so intent on brushing cobwebs down from the high ceilings that she didn’t notice company coming until pounding on the front door rattled the glass. She let out a screech and nearly tumbled off the kitchen chair on which she perched. A peek through wavy glass revealed her visitors, for there turned out to be more than one: a delegation of two.
“One and a half,” she amended as she pulled off the threadbare T-shirt covering her hair. She cautiously opened the oak front door to a man and a small boy. “Good afternoon.”
The man was very tall, black-haired, and terribly gaunt. He leaned on one crutch and stared through narrowed eyes, frowning, as though he had not expected to see her. A little boy held a pillowcase with something lumpy inside and the other hand of the man. She thought she recognized them from the day at the bank when she went to sign the closing papers for the house. She had been surprised to find no one besides the real estate agent and the bank’s vice president at the meeting. The former owners had not been able to stay and meet her, but everything was in order, she was told.
The man cleared his throat and spoke at last, breathlessly. “I—we—wanted to see that you were all right,” he said, glancing down at the child and then back at her face.