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Authors: Deborah Raney

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Forever After

BOOK: Forever After
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Praise for
Almost Forever:

“Deborah Raney books always captivate me!
Almost Forever
is a beautifully written and enthralling read. It made my heart sing, dance, cry, and turn more than a few flips!”

—Cindy Woodsmall,
New York Times
bestselling author

“As a Deborah Raney fan, I expected a great read and I got it.
Almost Forever
began with a gripping scene and held me enthralled to the end. Don’t miss this one!”

—Karen Young, bestselling author of
Blood Bayou
Missing Max

Praise for Deborah Raney’s Clayburn Novels:

“Anyone who has loved and lost … and dared to love again … will celebrate Doug and Mickey’s journey.”

—Kim Vogel Sawyer, bestselling author of
My Heart Remembers

“Deborah Raney writes from the heart with a story that probes the depth of human sorrow, the grit of endurance and the ability of love to rescue us when we’ve forgotten how to dream.
Yesterday’s Embers
will leave you warmed long after the last page”

—Harry Kraus, MD, bestselling author of
Salty Like Blood

“Two broken souls from different worlds. … A heart-warming tale, with a pulse-pounding finish.”

—Creston Mapes, author of
Dark Star
Remember to Forget

“I was enthralled from start to finish … Raney’s books always touch the heart in deep ways that keep me thinking about the undercurrents long after I turn the last page. The Clayburn series is a keeper!”

—Colleen Coble, author of
The Lightkeeper’s Daughter

Praise for Deborah Raney’s
A Nest of Sparrows:

“Raney intertwines poignant moments with genuine humor and refuses to make her characters one-dimensional.”

Publishers Weekly

“Readers will lose their hearts to the characters in this jewel of a story. Polished and excellently plotted, Raney’s novel is engrossing from start to finish.”

Romantic Times

Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Forever After
© 2011 by Deborah Raney

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Howard Subsidiary Rights Department, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

In association with the Steve Laube Agency

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Raney, Deborah.
Forever after : a Hanover Falls novel / Deborah Raney.
    p. cm.
1. Firefighters—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3568.A562F67 2011
813’.54—dc22     2011001884

ISBN 978-1-4165-9993-7
ISBN 978-1-4391-2363-8 (ebook)

10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

HOWARD and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Manufactured in the United States of America

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event, contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at

Edited by Dave Lambert and Holly Halverson

Designed by Stephanie D. Walker

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.

Scripture quotations are taken from the
Holy Bible, New International Version®.
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

For Max Daniel


Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Reading Group Questions
About the Author


y deepest gratitude to the following for help with research, ideas, proofreading, and “author support.”

My critique partner and dear friend, Tamera Alexander, Kenny and Courtney Ast, Ryan and Tobi Layton, Terry Stucky, Max and Winifred Teeter, Courtney Walsh, the writers of ACFW, and especially the Kansas 8, who give wings to my ideas.

Steve Laube, best agent in the whole wide world.

Deep appreciation to my amazing editor Dave Lambert, and also to Holly Halverson at Howard Books/Simon & Schuster for great direction and encouragement.

My amazing husband, Ken, and our growing family—precious children, grandchildren, and the wonderful extended family God has given us: you all bring me so much joy!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?


He tried to move again, but the pain robbed him of breath.



Thursday, November 1

ucas Vermontez clutched the mask to his face and forced out a measured breath, scrabbling to remember everything he’d learned in training. His air-pack fed a steady line of filtered, compressed air, but the thick bank of smoke in front of him carried him to the brink of claustrophobia.

The concrete beneath his feet shuddered. Next to him, he felt his partner, Zach Morgan, drop down on all fours. Lucas followed suit. Catching a glimpse of Zach, he wondered if his own eyes held the same wild fear.

He sucked in air and exhaled again, fighting panic. This was no training exercise. This was the real thing. Statue-still in the smoky darkness, he strained to discern the voices he was sure he’d heard seconds earlier. But his helmet and hood created their own white noise, and no sound pierced them save the roar of the fire overhead.

A split second later an explosion rocked the building, throwing him
flat on his belly and knocking the breath from him. Debris rained down on them, and when he could breathe again, he scrambled for protection.

Zach motioned frantically behind them toward the entrance they’d come in. In the aftershocks of the explosion, the copper pipes overhead trembled and the thick wooden beams bowed beneath the weight of the building.

Lucas forced out a breath and counted, trying to slow his respiration. If the structure collapsed, they didn’t stand a chance. They were in the belly of the beast—the basement of the former hospital that now housed a homeless shelter—with three stories stacked on top of them.

“Go!” He motioned Zach out, his own voice ringing in his ears.

Zach scrambled ahead of him, hunkered low trying to stay in the two-foot clearing beneath the bank of smoke.

Lucas sent up a prayer that they’d gotten everybody out. His father, the station captain, had radioed moments ago that all but one of the shelter’s residents were accounted for. He’d ordered the crews to evacuate and had sent Lucas and Zach in to search for the missing man.

It always filled him with pride to hear Pop’s commanding voice. Manny Vermontez was the best fire captain Hanover Falls—or the state of Missouri, for that matter—had ever had. And that wasn’t just the opinion of a proud son. Pop had worked hard to get where he was, and the whole family rightfully had him on a pedestal, even if it sometimes caused conflict at home. Ma swore her prematurely graying hair came from having a husband, and now a son, who put their lives on the line almost daily.


He spun at the sound of Pop’s voice. Not on the two-way like he expected, but inside the building—down here.

“Pop?” He turned back, straining to see through the thick smoke. He saw no one. “Zach?”

His partner must have gone ahead to the entrance. Good. Zach would make it out okay. But what was Pop doing down here?

“Pop? Where are you?”

Nothing. The crew from Station 1 must have arrived. Either that or somebody was still trapped inside the building. Pop would never leave the control engine otherwise.

The smoke banked downward and he had no choice but to crawl on his belly, commando-style. He still had air, but everything in him told him to get out. Now.

But he couldn’t leave. His dad was down here!

The building groaned and shuddered again.


There it was again. He rolled over on his back and propped himself on his elbows, trying desperately to figure out which direction the shout had come from. He listened for a full ten seconds but heard only the deep roar of the fire above him.

He started belly-crawling again, but in the orange-black he was confused about which way he’d been headed. He needed to follow the sound of Pop’s voice. His dad would lead him out. But where had they come in? Everything around him looked the same. Panic clawed at his throat again.

Once more he heard the voice. Weaker this time, but he didn’t think he was imagining it. The old-timers told stories about hearing voices, seeing things—hallucinations—in the frantic moments where a man hung between life and death. But he wasn’t in full panic mode—not yet. And he
his father’s voice.

He crawled deeper into the blackness, forearm over forearm in the direction of the voice, grateful for the heavy sleeves of his bunker coat. But he heard nothing now. Nothing except the raging fire and the ominous creak of beams somewhere above his head.

He stopped again and listened. He smelled smoke and the unique odor of the air-pack, but there was something else, too. Something had changed.

A new sound filtered through his helmet. The clanging of engines?
A crew from Station 1 had been requested. That must be them arriving. But the sound was coming from behind him. He’d been heading deeper into the building.

BOOK: Forever After
10.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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