Sing a New Song Contemporary Christian Romance, Book Two of the Red River Romance series – a series of stand-alone books connected by setting, though characters may hop books, so you can see some of those you know and love from time to time.
Main Characters: Mary Esther, very successful Christian singer who goes home after one too many disappointments that her praise and worship is turned much toward business; Samuel Levi Baylor stayed home tending his cows and sharing God’s Good News every chance he gets
Premise: Sometimes to get where God wants you, you have to go back to the beginning.
Synopsis: The untimely death of her father shatters Mary Esther Robbins’ heart and separates her from her grade school best friend, Samuel Levi Baylor. During their twenty years apart, she fulfills her life’s dream of penning new songs and singing God’s praise with a Christian band, while he tends his growing cattle herd and shares the Good News at every opportunity. The Lord brings her home then throws them back together when Samuel agrees to help Mary Esther move and remodel her childhood home. The two decades lost vanish, and their time together convinces both the other is the true soul mate. But misunderstanding and fear keeps them from expressing their true love. Though jealousy rears its ugly head, can love and commitment hold the two together? And while they’re both dedicated to ministering the Gospel together, can they do it as husband and wife?
✞♥♫♪ Chapter One ✞♥♫♪
Mary Esther waved her key card then turned around and extended her hand. He took it and pulled her toward him, leaned in. The desire to close her eyes and surrender, let him kiss her, washed over like a sweet spring shower.
She should pull away, but instead, at the last heartbeat, turned her cheek instead.
He smelled of summer pomegranates carried on ocean breezes, crisp and clean, though he’d been on the go with her all day. His lips brushed her burning skin. He kissed her then moved on to her ear. “I don’t want to leave. Can I come in?”
She pressed her fingertips on his chest, pushing a bit, and smiled. “No, you may not. But you can write me. I love long letters.”
“How about I call instead? Where’s the band headed next?”
He nodded then seemed to study her shoes a moment. When he looked back up, a troubled expression wrinkled his forehead. Staring into her eyes, he reached up and tapped the tip of her nose.
“There’s something I need to tell you before you go.”
“Okay. What is it?”
“I’m, uh…” He grimaced, showing his perfect teeth clenched, then offered her a weak smile. “See? Uh, I’m married. Well…” He sighed. “Separated; I mean she’s gone, left me. No one’s –”
“Legally, yes—for now—and you’re beautiful.”
She pushed him back, hard. The urge to slap his face burned her hand as though she had, but a long time ago, she learned not to go around hitting guys.
“Married? What was the last week all about, you jerk? Get away from me, Richard. Go home. I cannot believe you…you …you’re nothing but a.…” The only words that came to mind weren’t worth speaking.
“Mary Esther, I…”
She shook her head to make them go away. “Mercy, man, you’re an associate pastor. And you’d be an adulterer, too?”
He recoiled, as though the reality of how he’d been acting the last week cut him just as the cock’s crows had cut Peter. A horror filled his eyes. He shook his head no and opened his mouth, but no words came out.
Backing a step, he turned then hurried down the hotel’s hall, throwing a lame, “Sorry, I.…” over his shoulder.
“Dear Lord, my God. How could I have thought he might be the one? The one I’ve been looking for, praying for?” Her heart pounded. The desire to run after him and slap some smarts into him faded.
He turned the corner; she pushed her door open, stepped inside, then hugged it, resting her forehead on its edge. It hit her. If that guy wasn’t the one, maybe there wasn’t a man out there for her. It seemed no one ever saw the real her.
Oh, they loved her voice, her songs, or the way she sang. Who knew? Maybe the way she looked, or walked, or blah blah blah.
She shut the door and flung herself across the bed. It wasn’t fair. Tears welled and overflowed, wetting the white duvet. She grabbed the towel she’d wrapped her wet hair in that morning and pulled it under her face.
Wouldn’t do to get mascara all over the cover. The tears kept coming with no end in sight and the enormity of what she’d been thinking. That such an idiot could have been husband material!
How could she? Didn’t she have any discernment at all?
Was she so caught up in romance and concerned she’d never find Mister Right that she lost sight of character? Hadn’t she prayed? She searched her memory, but it didn’t register that she ever asked God if Richard was the one.
She screamed into the towel, bawling like an idiot. Why, why, why couldn’t she see it? She flipped to her back and stared, suddenly silent, at the ceiling. The stillness rang in her ears. Her breath caught. She swallowed.
Then it hit her, she wasn’t in love with the man. She barely knew him. The inference she’d never know love is what broke her heart. What caused all the tears.
But didn’t God promise the desires of her heart?
She loved the idea of love, of belonging to one man, sharing his life… children. If that was not to be, what had she saved herself for? Wait a minute. That wasn’t the Lord. She saved herself in obedience to God.
If she never found a man, if God never sent a Mister Right into her life, she would still remain chaste. For Him, no one else.
The least she could do after what He had done for her.
Besides His sweet salvation, He’d given her music, new songs, and a decent voice. As long as she could offer praise and worship, extol His Holy name, as long as He invited her into His throne room.…
Sleep finally found her, and then she was twelve again.
She stared at his casket, hated that they kept it closed, but understood the decision. Mama explained that he’d been mangled so badly. She wiped her cheeks. Praise God, at least he was in Heaven.
“Someday, Daddy, we’ll all be together again.” A hand slipped over hers. She looked down, studied the stubby fingers intertwining with her own, then followed the arm up to Samuel Baylor’s face.
Her best friend since first grade kept a solemn expression and squeezed her hand. With the whites of his eyes red streaked and his cheeks wet, he nodded south. “Com’ere, I want to show you something.”
She looked back to the casket then found her mother, safe in the center of a sea of black dresses and suits. He pulled, and she went along, joined him to see whatever he wanted her to. “I didn’t know you were here.”
“I loved your dad. I would have walked all the way from English if I had to, but…” He grinned. “PawPaw let me take his truck.”
“Really? All the way from English?”
“Yep, but he made me promise to stay on the back roads.”
“Samuel, what if you’d had a wreck?”
He waved her off. “I’ve been driving all over the farm forever. Roads are easier.”
“No, not since forever. You told me he let you drive the first time on your tenth birthday.”
“Well, two years is like forever.” He stopped and pointed at a weathered headstone. “Here, look at this.”
She studied the marker. “The Levi Bartholomew Baylor, right? Born November 12, 1817; Traveled home December 11, 1881. He was sixty-four when he passed. Beloved husband to Rosaleen, Faithful father to Charlie, Bart, Austin, Daniel, Rusk, and Rachel Rose.”
“Yes, ma’am. My great, great, great grandfather—or maybe four greats. I’m not sure. Anyway, did you know he was one of the first Texas Rangers?”
“Yes, Samuel Levi Baylor, you’ve told me all about him, more’n once.”
“Oh, right, I remember. Come over here.” He tugged on her hand, led her around a big oak then stopped in front of another old grave.
She stopped then studied on that one. “Peter Passamor, doctor. Do you know him or something?”
A blur came at her, then his lips pressed against hers. Right there in front of God and all her family, at her daddy’s funeral, he was kissing her. For a heartbeat, she kissed him back, then jerked away and swung hard.
Her open hand connected square on his cheek. Seemed to shock him almost as much as her. Hopefully, it hurt his face more than her palm. She never expected it to sting her hand so badly, but he deserved it.
Shouldn’t be stealing a kiss, wasn’t right.
She jerked upright in bed. The dream lingered, hadn’t ever taken such a turn before; before it always focused on the loss of her father, not her friend. She woke with no tears this time and minus the usual heartache of her daddy dying so young.
Instead, the night vision left her a crystal clear realization: exactly what she needed to do. She rolled out of bed and filled the too-little coffee pot with water from the mini-sink’s faucet.
A shower didn’t change her mind, nor did packing or a trip downstairs for breakfast. Her resolve flickered a bit as she stood in front of the door across the hall from her room. She smiled.
“Well, my bags are packed, and I am ready to go. Indeed, I am standing here outside their door, and I really do hate to wake them up to say goodbye.”
She rapped one knuckle three times. “I am not leaving on a jet plane, though, and I need my money.” Her mind made up, she tapped twice more on the door. Shortly, it cracked open. Her friend’s face appeared.
“Morning, Mare.” She glanced at the suitcases. “You packed already? Thought we weren’t pulling out ’til after lunch.”
“Yes, that’s correct, well, for y’all. Brad in there? I need to talk with him.”
“Sure, give us a second.” The door closed then after better than sixty of the requested ticks of the clock, the portal swung open. “Come on in.”
The mess startled her, but oh well, not everyone had been raised by a mother and grandmother who were bona fide clean freaks.
The guitar man finger-combed his hair. “Hey, how’s our song bird this fine morning? Have a sit down. Got us that new tune you’ve been working on?”
She emptied one of two clothes-covered chairs at the small table, dumping its contents onto the floor. “I’m fine, and no. This won’t take long. How’d you know I was working on a song?”
“Aren’t you always?” He waved her off. “What can we do for you?”
“I’m going home. Sorry, but I need to. I’d like whatever money I’ve got coming.”
“Home? No way, Mary Esther. We’re booked in Atlanta, bus leaves at one.”
“I know, and I hear you, Brad, but I am going home.”
“Dallas or Denver?”
“Neither. Going all the way home. To Clarksville.”
Bev twisted her hair up and clipped it on top of her head. “Why, Mare, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, everything. I came to the realization this morning. I need a break. Being on the road… It isn’t… Let’s just say it isn’t what I expected.”
“No. I’ve got to go, and I’m leaving. Now. This morning. You know all the songs as well as me, Bev. Take the lead.” She faced Brad. “She can do it. Let’s talk dollars. Where do we stand?”
The band’s leader alternated between bullying and begging, but in the end handed over fifteen hundred cash with a promise of full accounting from his CPA for the last eighteen months. She’d been singing and writing songs for the band.
Hopefully, he’d be a man of his word.
“Is this all over Rich being married?”
“You knew?” She looked from Brad to his wife. He stared back, but Bev averted her eyes. How could they not tell her?
“He’s a friend; you two made a cute couple.”
She glared at him. “You’re worse than that idiot. Why in the world didn’t you tell me, or better still, tell him to leave me alone?” She faced Bev. “And you? You knew, too?”
“He’s getting a divorce.”
Mary Esther backed toward the door. “Whatever.” She put her hand on the knob then all the good times, all the folks who’d been moved by their music flooded her soul. “God bless you guys, and please do have the accountant contact me.”
“I will, God bless you, too.”
Five hundred and seven miles south and west, Samuel Levi Baylor woke seven mornings later having dreamed about the same horrible day as Mary Esther had the week before. He rubbed his cheek. Still stung after twenty years.
The handprint had long vanished, but not the aching in his heart. He hadn’t even got to tell her goodbye. Her mother left that same afternoon for Big D.
He showered, shaved, and geared up.
Bless the Lord, his last day at the Cross Arrow. He loved working cows, but stringing hot wire did not ring his bell. Too much like work. His dad always said work was work, but far as Samuel figured, not a reason in the world it couldn’t or shouldn’t be fun, too.
Lord knew he needed the money.
Well, some might argue buying that registered Angus bull he wanted couldn’t be classified as a need. Sure would improve his herd though.
He took care of all his chores and still beat everyone to the bottoms along Langford Creek. Though he understood the purpose of putting farmland behind the electric fence, sure couldn’t understand farming prime pastureland.
To his way of thinking, sod busting proved the bigger gamble over breeding prime stock. He’d seen it way more than once. Some new guy buying up a big block of Red River County, thinking he knew how to bring in a harvest.
A few actually succeeded turning a profit; the majority cashed in on their insurance. What always got him, they kept coming down here thinking they could do it like they did up north; much wiser to follow the locals’ leads.
He chuckled at the memory of that one guy who thought he could make no-till work on the prairie’s black dirt.
Finally, the foreman backed everyone up then flipped on the solar charger. For half a heartbeat, it seemed stuck then the needle jumped all the way to the green.
“Looks like we’re good to go, boys. That does it for this section.” He nodded toward the hill where the headquarters sat nestled between the two giant feed silos and the oversized hay barns.
Words of approval mixed with a bit of rabblerousing worked its way around. Hats were removed then settled back, brows mopped.
“Come get your money then, hombres.” The man looked at Samuel. “You Bible thumpers can come on, too.”
He ignored the jab. He’d been knowing the old cowboy for years, and truth be told, the man professed to be a Christian himself, but of the more sedate variety.
Once he collected his wages, with a promise of a call when the dozer man had the next block ready, he marched to his grandfather’s old truck. Guess it belonged to him now, since PawPaw passed, but Samuel couldn’t….
Never got in it without thinking of him.
Then like he’d gone brain dead, he turned left instead of going the long way. Oh well, turning around would be too much trouble, so he kept going. Mercy, he’d just dreamed about her.
Going by her old house shouldn’t trigger another nightmare. Either way, he had the salve that could soothe his soul.
Mary Esther fished in the bottom of her heavy purse looking for the house key. She balanced the bag on her knee, hopping once to keep her balance. The old door opened with the first bit of weight against it. She stepped inside.
Instead of her mother standing over the stove and her dad sitting in his chair, only cobwebs greeted her. It smelled musty. An old wooden chair with a blue vinyl padded seat and a strip across the back brought a smile.
She remembered when her father brought that dining set home from the Goodwill store in Paris. She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight then. Why did that one get left? She liked those chairs.
But then her grandmother had all her own furniture. Mary Esther didn’t even get to have her own bed go to Dallas with her. Took her weeks to get used to that hard one she slept on at Mimi Lady’s.
She poked and prodded the old farmhouse she’d grown up in. It seemed sound enough, but a hole in the floor of her parents’ old room took her back. A rabbit scurried past in its escape.
“Oh, Lord, am I crazy for even thinking what I’m thinking?”
Before any answer came from above or her heart, the deep-throated rumble of an old truck drew her around, then tires crushing gravel quickened her pulse. She ran to the kitchen and split the old blinds’ slats.
A faded blue truck filled the drive just beyond the carport. She knew that old truck. No. It couldn’t be. Twenty years ago—had it been that long?—No…please, God, don’t let it be so.
The front door banged against the living room wall. Daddy never did replace that stopper. “Hello? Whoever you are, you’re trespassing here.” The male voice sounded somewhat familiar, but surely PawPaw wasn’t still alive. Could he be?
She started trying to do the math in her head, but that was useless. She marched around to the breezeway between the kitchen and living room. The interloper headed down the hall toward the back.
“Pray tell, how does one trespass her own property?”
The guy turned toward her and stared. “Mary Esther? Is that you? Really you?” A big old grin almost cracked his face right in two.
The twelve-year-old boy who drove that same truck to her daddy’s funeral stood over six feet tall, a full grown man decked out in jeans, blue long-sleeved work shirt, and scuffed boots, but she’d know him anywhere.
He gawked. “It is, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s me. How in the world have you been, Samuel? How’d you know I was in town?”
“Well, I’ll be. Blessed. I’ve been blessed, but I didn’t have any idea. None. What are you doing here? Slumming?”
She refused to take the bait. “I’ll have you to know I’m moving back. Just now I was trying decide if the old girl is worth fixing up.”
“Really? What? You’re not singing anymore?”
“Of course, I am. No way will I ever stop singing, you goof, but I can sing in Clarksville same as in Dallas. I quit the band though. I’m sick of the road. If you could call it that.”
He nodded and looked around. “So what do you think?”
That he didn’t offer to give her a hello hug was just wrong, but she didn’t say anything about it. “I don’t know, but what about you? Are you married? How’s your grandfather? Y’all still living in English?”
He laughed a melodious bass that begged for a harmony. The boy’s promise had bloomed.
“Same old girl, except you got famous.”
“Oh, not so much.”
“PawPaw—thanks for asking—went home three years ago, and no, I haven’t found a lady who would have me, and yes, I’m still in English. I’ve doubled its size though, got me a right nice block of black land.”
“What are you doing? Farming?”
“Heavens no. Still trying to make a cowboy.”
She nodded. The old timers and cow punchers all told the same story. Not a one of them ever made it, but they were all still trying.
“Okay, now that we’ve caught up, what do you think about my house? Is she worth moving? I was thinking of setting her back in the woods a bit, in front of that deep pool daddy dug. You remember it? Should I bulldoze her or find me a carpenter and fix her up?”
“Of course I remember that pool, and you have found your carpenter. Me. If you want, I’ll have a look see.”
She studied him as he inspected her childhood home, in and around, up in the attic then even under. “Some damage, but not too bad. Nice-sized beehive in the northeast corner of the attic, but we can smoke them out, no problem.”
“Think she’d hold together getting moved…? Is she worth the effort?”
“The house is sound. Shouldn’t give you any trouble. You serious about needing help?”
“I sure am, definitely. Want the job?” She grinned and was a twelve-year-old again. “But don’t smoke out those bees. Let’s find someone to move ‘em, I’ve always wanted a hive.”
“Know just the man, librarian’s husband.”