Authors: Sheila Walsh
Tags: #ebook, #book
© 2010 by Sheila Walsh and Kathryn Cushman
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
The authors are represented by the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920,
Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, e-mail [email protected]
Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
. © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to real events, businesses, organizations, and locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for this title.
Walsh, Sheila, 1956–
Angel song : a novel / Sheila Walsh and Kathryn Cushman.
ISBN 978-1-59554-685-2 (pbk.)
I. Cushman, Kathryn. II. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
10 11 12 13 14 RRD 5 4 3 2 1
This book is dedicated with love to my friend
Eric Kuntz who helped me hear the angels’ song.
To Caroline Cushman—you are a bright ray of sunshine that warms our lives. This world is a happier place because you are here.
For he will command his angels
conceining you guard you in all your ways.
The sun’s first light crept across the wing. Ann leaned across the empty seat beside her, moving close enough to the airplane’s window to watch the skyline she loved grow smaller and smaller. Behind her lay the frenetic pace of millions of people, all trying to succeed on the hard streets below. Only the best, or luckiest, would make it; the rest would become casualties in the meat grinder that was New York City. Ann had proven she was strong enough to survive there. She could make it without anyone’s help, on her own terms.
But now her plane sped closer to the polar opposite of all that she was, to a city where antebellum homes lined the streets and natives valued history and family bloodlines over modern innovation. The place whose very existence was like a weight, an anchor that should long ago have lost its chains. Somehow Charleston never seemed to loosen its hold.
But her sister was there, the one person who made this trip bearable. Probably at this very minute Sarah was frantically cleaning the house, sweeping the front porch, and making some of her famous chocolate oatmeal cookies—and more than enough for just the two of them. She’d share them with the neighbors and anyone else who happened to drop by the house over the course of the weekend’s festivities. Sarah was so much like Nana had been.
Ann quickly grabbed a copy of
from her portfolio bag and began leafing through the pages.
. A picture of a beach house somewhere on the Florida coast. Bright colors, seashell prints on the wall. It was tastefully done, but then again, it was all so . . . predictable. She pulled out her sketch pad and began redesigning the room.
First, the couch needed stronger edges, almost squared. And white would be perfect. She feathered in texture with her pencil, then added a row of pillows, shading a couple of them completely to black. She penciled in a table lamp like the one she’d seen just last week—uneven squares of black bamboo stacked on each other with a square shade on top—then added a piece of modern art above the couch, pale gray with streaks of black and white.
It still needed something. Monochromatic decorating required absolute precision in design, a challenge Ann savored. She compared the two rooms. Hers still needed work, but she was pleased with what she’d done.
“You’ve got a good eye.” The man one row back was leaning across the aisle. He was casually dressed, short brown hair with just a touch of curl, probably in his late forties. Nice looking. And vaguely familiar.
Embarrassed to have been caught in her game, Ann shrugged. “Thanks.”
“Are you a designer?”
“Yes. I work for a home staging company.” She knew he probably had no idea what that meant, but she didn’t really care. “Redesigning rooms from magazines helps keep the creative juices flowing.”
“Do you work in Charleston?”
Ann shook her head. “The City.”
“Now that’s something I’m truly glad to hear.” He leaned a little closer and offered a dazzling smile, complete with dimple on his left cheek. “Do you have a card?”
Ann looked at him dubiously. “Are you thinking of putting a home on the market?”
He smiled. “You could say that.” He reached into the back pocket of his designer slacks, pulled out a leather wallet, and withdrew a business card. He dangled it by its corner, the print facing away from her. “Trade?”
What could it hurt? Ann’s card didn’t contain any of her personal information, just the office address and phone number. “Sure.” She reached into her small purse and pulled out a card, and just for good measure, she removed one of the trifold brochures she always carried around with her.
After they made the exchange, Ann looked at his card. It almost fell from her hands. “Patrick Stinson?” She looked at him in surprise.
He smiled broadly, seeming pleased that he held so great a secret. “Guilty.”
“What are you doing on this puddle jumper of a plane?”
“There’s an event I need to get to in Charleston tonight. This is a nonstop flight. The Newark airport is much more convenient.”
“I guess I expected you to be flying in private planes.”
“When it’s business and I’m taking a team with me, that’s what I do. When it’s just me, going to an event and back, well . . . trying to keep a small carbon footprint.” He winked.
“Sir, we need you to sit back in your seat. We’ll be landing soon.”
“Oh, right. Thank you.” He was all charm.
Ann couldn’t believe how stupid she’d been. She had been sitting across from a major New York real estate developer and hadn’t even known it. It didn’t really matter. Marston Home Staging did work in some high-end residences, but the Stinson company was in another league altogether. He would probably have a good laugh with his associates over this whole episode.
But why should he? Ann’s work was good. Good enough to be featured in last year’s “100 Designers to Watch For” put out by New York City’s
When the plane came to a stop at the gate, Ann threw her bag over her shoulder and descended the metal steps onto the tarmac. The humid morning air felt about ten degrees warmer than in the City. She made her way up another set of steps and began walking through the concourse. She debated about whether she should wait for Patrick Stinson, say something else to him, but then she saw Sarah standing just outside the security checkpoint, waiting for her.
Her blonde hair bounced with curls; her preppy outfit looked freshly pressed. “Annie, Annie. Over here.”
Ann hurried to her sister’s waiting embrace. “Well, if it isn’t the graduate herself.”
“That’s me.” Sarah squeezed tight. “Thank you so much for coming. Welcome home.”
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”
They hugged for a moment before making their way toward baggage claim. Just then, Patrick Stinson breezed past them, casting a grin over his left shoulder. “Enjoy your stay in Charleston, Ann Fletcher. I’ll be in touch.” He disappeared through the exit with his leather carry-on dangling from his right hand.
was that?” Sarah made no pretense of keeping the suggestive tone from her voice.
“Someone who definitely will
be in touch.”
“Somehow I have the feeling you’re wrong about that,” Sarah said with a grin. “Let’s get your luggage and get you home.”
Red and blue lights spun off broken glass and twisted metal, shooting cold barbs through the warm South Carolina night. Ann Fletcher sat on the curb, hugging her knees to her chest.
How could this have happened?
She closed her eyes, trying to regain some sense of equilibrium, but that only intensified the stench of hot rubber and engine fluid. She gave up and opened her eyes.
The multicolored strobes highlighted the scene around her. She glanced at a policeman in black barking orders into a walkietalkie. Nearby, a fireman in yellow turnouts sprayed water over a steaming engine, and a duo in blue jumpsuits hovered over a gurney. She was staying out of the way, as she’d promised the EMS team. If sitting here would keep their attention fully on Sarah, then that’s what she would do.
“Here, I’m thinking you could use this.” A woman in a black pantsuit held out a bottle of water, which Ann reached for gratefully.
“Thanks.” She took a long drink, and then another, surprised by how thirsty she was.
“Is there anything else I can do to help you?” The woman’s hair shone like copper in the flashing lights, and her face looked vaguely familiar, like someone Ann knew a long time ago. “Anything at all?”
Ann simply shook her head and looked toward the medics. “There’s nothing.”
“That’s your sister.” The woman stated this as a fact, not a question, but she waited as if for confirmation.
“Yes.” Ann watched a third jumpsuit emerge from somewhere behind the smoke. He walked over to the others, exchanged brief conversation, then hurried to the front of the ambulance.
The woman pointed toward it. “If you climb up into the back now, before anyone realizes what you’re doing, they won’t kick you out. On the ride to the hospital, she’ll hear your voice and know she’s not alone.” She spoke with authority, as if she understood the situation completely.
Ann looked through the open double doors at all the sterilelooking equipment inside. How could Sarah not be terrified amid all that? “You’re right.” She pushed to her feet and stumbled toward the vehicle.
“Hey, you can’t ride back there.” The male voice sounded barely old enough to be past puberty—and completely lacking in authoritative confidence.
Ann started to ignore him altogether, putting one foot on the step-up, but then thought better of it. Keeping her foot firmly planted, she paused and turned. He and another jumpsuit were fastening straps around Sarah on the gurney, the sight of which fueled Ann’s determination. “That’s my sister. I’ll stay out of the way, I’ll keep my mouth shut, but I’m not going to leave her.”
The female medic barely flicked a look in Ann’s direction as she pulled the last strap into place. “Get in the far corner and sit against the wall.”
Her young partner looked up. “Shouldn’t we at least make her ride in the front?”
“Don’t have time for that. We’ve got to move. Now. One, two, three.”
Ann ducked quickly into the ambulance, the smell of antiseptic growing stronger as she moved into the back corner. The jumpsuits acted in sync, bringing Sarah toward her. Soon everyone was crowded inside, the back doors shut, and their little world was moving in a blaze of speed and blaring sirens.