“You don’t have to rattle off my attributes, Mr. Preston. I’m not someone who has to be praised to be happy.” Ellie could sense he was smiling at her. Mocking her.
“Suit yourself.” He settled into the seat. “I just didn’t want you to feel threatened because I’m your boss, that’s all.”
He was gloating, pure and simple. “Why would that make me feel threatened?”
“I think you feel threatened because you don’t like change.”
She gasped. “Look, Cole, you know nothing about me, so please don’t try to analyze me!”
She pulled onto the side of the road at the job site and jumped out of the car. Instead of taking the usual care when walking at a construction site, she plunged the heels of her shoes into the muddy ground. When she lifted her left leg, her shoe stayed put. She teetered and swayed like a bobble-headed Hawaiian doll. Desperate to maintain her dignity, she jerked on her foot and fell into the waiting arms of Cole Preston.
and her husband, Jim, started on a three-mile trek through Amish country in 1997, and at that moment, she had no idea she was taking her first steps toward a new career. Inspired by their walk, she wrote an article, which was published a year later. Other articles soon followed. After studying fiction writing, she celebrated her first novella sale in 2001, with CBA bestselling novellas and novels reaching the bookshelves soon afterward.
Wanting to be used by God in the ministry of writing, Diann left her job as a court reporter in the fall of 2003 and now devotes her time to writing. Well, writing and spoiling her four granddaughters.
She has been happily married forever and loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog and, well, chocolate.
Be sure to check out her Web site at www.diannhunt.com. Sign her guestbook, and drop her an e-mail. And, hey, if you have any chocolate…
Hearts Under Construction
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
—2 Corinthians 5:17
To my editor, Krista Stroever, for her encouragement and valuable expertise, and to my critique partner, Colleen Coble, for her prayers, writing advice and, most of all, for her friendship.
In memory of my husband’s grandparents, James and Zana Hunt. I will never forget you. Your Christian example lingers in my heart still, and because of you, my life is changed.
Letter to Reader
Some people liked it, even thrived on it. Eleanore Williams knew she wasn’t one of them.
With a quick glance in her car mirror, Ellie smoothed her blond hair into place and touched up her makeup. She wiped away a smudge of mascara and felt pleased with the way her new emerald-green pantsuit matched her eyes.
When she stepped from her car into the morning light, the warmth of the sun’s rays announced spring would soon slip into summer. It didn’t seem possible. Where did the time go?
She tugged on the shoulder strap of her laptop, adjusting the weight of it as she walked toward the office. Oh, some changes were okay. Like getting a job promotion. She looked forward to that one. Change of clothes, change of soap detergent, change of seasons, she could handle those. It was the life upheavals she didn’t like. The unexpected things. Okay, and diets. She hated diets. Yet, thanks to her father’s side of the family, her five-foot-two frame swelled with every piece of chocolate almost from the instant it melted in her mouth. She thought of the apple and salad in her lunch bag. Her mood darkened. A large black ant crawled in her path and Ellie resisted the urge to crunch it into oblivion.
As a talented music minister, her father was always in high demand. With those calls had come many moves and upheavals. She supposed that was why she craved stability now. A slight breeze scented the air with lilac from a nearby bush. Now that was one thing on which she could always depend. The fragrance triumphed over her stomach, chasing away her gloomy mood. She smiled at the lilac bush, feeling thankful for the little things in life.
In spite of it being a Monday morning, she pushed through the doors of Wiley’s Dream Homes with enthusiasm. The office already buzzed with activity. Jackson Wiley, owner of Wiley’s Dream Homes, stood at the end of the room talking with a man whose back was to her. Ellie scooted into her seat and clicked on the computer. While waiting for it to start up, she picked through the stack of paperwork she had left on Friday.
A quick review told her before she could cope with the documents and a brand-new workweek, she would need a big cup of coffee. Snatching her favorite mug, which read “Hand over your chocolate and no one gets hurt,” in large brown letters, she looked once more toward Jax before rising to make her way to the kitchen. This time both men were facing her. She decided the stranger beside Jax must be a new client. Then again, maybe not.
Feeling a bit curious, Ellie sat back down and eyed them further. As they stood together she could see the stark contrast between the two. Jax stretched to just about five foot eight in his thickest-heeled shoes. His brown hair was almost as long as Ellie’s, stopping just under the earlobes. Small stylish glasses framed blue eyes, making him look every inch the professor. He looked uncomfortable in his suit and tie, like a snake wanting to shed its skin. Sweaters or relaxed shirts and work pants appealed to him.
Ellie guessed the man beside Jax at six feet. His long legs stretched nicely into casual jeans and a brown T-shirt spread tightly across his broad shoulders. A light gel held his dark, wavy hair perfectly in place. Stylish sideburns ended where his firm jaw began.
They laughed and Jax slapped the other man good-naturedly on the back. Interesting. Jax didn’t usually chum around with clients or employee candidates like that. Her eyes narrowed. She concentrated hard, trying to figure out the identity of this stranger.
The men looked up in time to catch her indulging in the shameless scrutiny. Ellie felt her face burn. She swallowed a silent gulp and turned away, deciding now was a good time to visit the kitchen.
She glanced at her watch. In fifteen minutes, she would meet with Jax. She figured she had time to grab a quick cup of plain coffee with sugar—since there were no mochas available—and prepare for the good news. After all, she felt sure today he would offer her the partnership. This was one change for which she was ready. Jax had spent considerable time contemplating the matter of replacing his former partner who had retired in the early part of the year. On Friday, he had told the sales staff he would announce