Romance Fiction posted January 28, 2024 Chapters:  ...46 47 -48- 49... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Will Keith be all right?

A chapter in the book Guided by Faith

Chapter 31 A

by barbara.wilkey

Depend on God in every part of your life, and He will guide, protect, and comfort you. Will God guide Emma's life? If He does, will she listen?
Seth and Emma met 32 days ago.


Seth reached for the note. "This needs to go to the lab." He exhaled. "I can't go into details but after reading this, tonight makes a little more sense." He stood. "I need to let you get back to sleep. I just came by to apologize and make sure you're safe." He grinned. "When I realized how late it was, I called and left a message. Your phone wasn't accepting calls."

"Will I see you tomorrow?"

"I'll be busy but will make time for you."

"Thank you." Emma followed Seth to the door. "Are you taking Ace?"

Watching Ace cuddle beside Molly, he said, "I hate to break that up, but I'd better. I might need him before you get up." Emma started to speak, but he interrupted, "I know. If you had a dog like Ace, you wouldn't need to borrow him."

She smiled. "Very true. You're catching on."

After a hug, Seth said, "I'll make time for us tomorrow."



Chapter 31

Knowing the July 4th activities would cause her to be out late, Emma had planned to come to work Tuesday in time for the lunch crowd.

When Emma arrived at the bakery, Keith greeted her with a hug. "Glad you're here. Did you have fun last night?"

"I did. The youth made a lot of money. I put it in the night deposit on the way home." She glanced around the dining room. "I hope this morning was as slow as we expected."

"It was. How did your meeting with Mr. Matthews go?"

"Great. All the paperwork is signed. I'm officially a teacher come August."

"I'm glad to hear it. Seth's been in for coffee three times. He looks like he didn't get much sleep last night."

"I doubt he did. Our date was cut short. Something happened, but I don't know what. He doesn't share police business with me."

"I'm sure he's protecting you."

Emma nodded as she tied her apron around her slender waist, and watched Seth walk across the street. She met him at the door with a smile. "Hello. How's your day?"

He slipped his arm around her and led her to his favorite table. "It just got better."

"I have a feeling you're really here for coffee and food."

"I could use both, but I also needed to see you. What time are you getting off?"

"I'll talk with Dad, but I'm betting I can leave around six o'clock. Earlier if you're free."

Seth glanced at his watch and thought. "Six it is. Plan on going to dinner. Since I stranded you last night, I want to make it up."

"You don't need to."

"I know."

Keith walked over. "Emma, get this man his coffee and some food."

She giggled. "He hasn't given me his order."

Hearing his name called from the kitchen, Keith turned and walked toward it. Almost to the counter, he collapsed.

Emma ran to him and knelt. "Daddy? Daddy?"

Seth, close behind, felt for a pulse and started CPR.

Before Emma could call 911, Carl walked in. "What happened?"

Continuing with CPR, Seth said, "I think Keith had a heart attack. Call it in, then help."

Emma and her mom stood off to the side, held each other, cried, and prayed.

Moments later the ambulance arrived. EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) examined Keith, did emergency stabilizing care, and then he was on his way to the hospital. Susan was allowed to ride with him.

Seth nodded toward Carl. "I'll take Emma and stay with her."

"I'll handle things at the station."

"Call if you have questions." Seth paused. "I'm sure Jake will help. Can you call him?"


Carl made the call as Seth escorted Emma to his police cruiser.

The trip to the hospital was silent except for the sound of Emma crying and praying.

At the hospital, Seth and Emma found Susan seated in the ER (Emergency Room) waiting room. "The doctors are with Keith. They haven't said anything." Tears flowed down Susan's cheeks.

Emma and her mom hugged as they both cried. Seth stood nearby.

When the tears lessened, Emma put her hand on Seth's arm. "I know you have a lot of work. You don't need to stay."

He drew her into a hug and kissed her forehead. "I'm not leaving you or your mom."

When Pastor Pat, Carl, and Ace walked up, Seth petted Ace. "I'm not sure he should be here."

Carl studied the large dog. "Chief, he knows something's wrong and there's no way he's going to stay away. He demanded I bring him. He's just as stubborn as his handler."

Watching Ace cuddle with Emma, Seth nodded. She needs him.

Pastor Pat walked up and embraced Susan. Before long everyone formed a circle, held hands and prayed.

After the prayer, Carl and Seth found a quiet area and discussed police business. When they finished, Carl left.

Jake joined the group, as the doctor came from examining Keith.

The doctor approached Susan and offered his hand. "Mrs. Winters, I'm Dr. Holden. I'm the cardiologist who's in charge of your husband's care." After she accepted his hand, he pointed to some chairs. "Let's sit and discuss his condition."

Dr. Holden acknowledged everyone present before he began, "Mr. Winters suffered a massive heart attack. This happened because the coronary arteries that branched from his aorta were blocked. That stopped all circulation and oxygen to the heart. This caused extensive damage."

"You can fix it, right?" asked Emma as tears crept down her cheeks.

"I'll try to answer that. Before I do, I have a question." The doctor took a deep breath, before he asked, "How long has Mr. Winters had high blood pressure and high cholesterol?"

"I don't know. I don't think Keith's seen a doctor in..." Susan thought before she continued, "I honestly don't know. I can't remember him ever visiting a doctor. He always seemed healthy."

Putting his hands together, Dr. Holden said, "I was afraid of that." He glanced toward the ER door. "We're doing what we can. He needs surgery, but right now he's not strong enough to survive it."

Pastor Pat held Susan's hand. "Doctor, what can we do?"

His eyes met Pat's. "Pray." He stood. "I need to get back to my patient."

They remained silent as they watched him walk back into Keith's ER room.

Emma held Seth's hand, swallowed, and whispered, "It's not good, is it?"

Seth gave her a brief hug. "It doesn't sound like it."

Pastor Pat said, "Dr. Holden said pray, so let's pray." He led them in prayer.

The waiting continued.

Eventually Jake and Seth found a quiet corner and talked. As Jake prepared to leave, Mayor Castle came in and hugged Susan and Emma before he pulled up a chair. Jake and Seth walked over and shook his hand.

Jake said, "Sorry, but I need to leave." He hugged and kissed Susan's cheek. "I'm only a phone call away. I'll be at the police station if you need me. Before I leave town, I'll return." He hugged Emma. "Pumpkin, call if you need anything." He glanced at Seth. "See that this guy gets some food. He's running on coffee and no sleep."

Emma reached for Seth's hand. "Sorry. You never did get lunch."

Seth patted her hand. "Don't worry about it." His eyes met the mayor's. "I know there's a lot going on right now, but..."

"Don't say another word," interrupted Mayor Castle. "You're where you should be. I'd be concerned if you weren't here." He glanced around. "This is where your heart is. I know if you're needed, they can call, and you'll answer."

"Jake's going to the station now to make sure everything's running smoothly."

"By the way, I got your memo about the teenage girls walking home after dark. I like the idea about providing transportation. We'll discuss it later." The mayor's eyes met Seth's. "Did I hear you haven't eaten in a while? How long is a while?"

Emma exhaled. "I'd like to know that myself."

When Seth didn't answer, Mayor Castle continued, "I'll be back with food for everyone."

Seth exhaled. "You don't need to."

His comment was ignored.

Before long Mayor Castle returned with sandwiches, fresh fruit, and water. Very little was eaten, but the drinks were consumed.

Often Emma got up, paced the floor with Ace by her side or stood outside her father's door. Seth remained close to hold a hand, give a hug, or dry a tear.

Pastor Pat remained by Susan's side.

Close to ten o'clock Dr. Holden returned. "Mr. Winters has regained consciousness." His eyes met Seth's. "You're Seth, right?" When Seth indicated he was, the doctor continued, "He's asking to speak with you."

Seth stood. "Why me?" He followed the doctor into the room.

When Seth stood by the bed, Keith motioned for the nurse to remove his oxygen mask before he reached for Seth's hand. "I have some things I need to say." The nurse pulled up a chair for Seth, and then Keith continued, "I've noticed the way you and my daughter look at each other." He paused. "You two have something special. You're taking my place in Emma's heart."

"I've mentioned before that Emma's heart's large enough for both."

A partial grin came to Keith's lips. "That's true. I know you're worried about the age difference. I was too with her mom, but don't. You have my blessing." His eyes closed for a moment, before he continued, "Promise me even if something happens and you two don't get married, that you'll always make sure my little girl's safe."

His eyes met Keith's. "I'll always look after Emma."

Nodding Keith said, "Thank you. Also, I want Jake to take my place walking her down the aisle."

Seth swallowed. "Keith, you're going to walk Emma down the aisle."

Keith shook his head, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

The nurse adjusted the mask and checked the tubing before she said, "Mr. Winters needs to rest."

Seth returned to the waiting room.

Emma studied Seth as she walked to him. "Are you all right?"

He hugged her. "I'm fine."

"What did Daddy say?"

"Not a lot."

"What are you not telling me?"

He shook his head. "After he rests, I'm sure you'll be able to see him."

When Jake returned, he tapped Emma's shoulder. "Pumpkin, got a hug for me?"

Emma went into Jake's arms. "Always."

Over her shoulder, Jake nodded at Seth and mouthed, "How's she holding up?"

Mouthing back, Seth said, "Acceptable."

Jake kissed Emma's forehead. "Can I steal Seth for a few minutes?"

"Of course." She glanced toward her mom. "I'll sit with Mom."

When Pastor Pat joined Seth and Jake, he asked, "Seth, how did it go with Keith?"

Seth moved making sure Emma wouldn't be able to read his lips. "He gave me his blessing to marry Emma. He said he knew I had taken his place in her heart." He ran his hand through his short hair. "I reminded him Emma's heart was large enough for us both. He also asked if something happened, and we didn't get married I'd promise to keep Emma safe."

Pastor Pat touched his arm. "I know that had to be hard." After a moment, he asked, "Did he say anything else?"

Nodding, Seth continued, "Yes." He exhaled. "He's ready to die." His eyes met Jake's. "He wants you to walk Emma down the aisle. I attempted to assure him that he would do that. He wasn't convinced."

Jake swallowed. "I'd be honored, but don't share this with Emma or Susan."

"I won't, but Emma's asking about our conversation. I'm not sure how long I can avoid the subject. I won't lie to her."

Pastor Pat nodded. "Lying is never the right answer." He glanced toward the ladies. "I'll sit with them. I'm sure you two have business to discuss."

After Jake and Seth found a quiet corner, Seth offered his hand. "Thanks, buddy for taking care of this so I can be here."

Jake reached his arm out and hugged Seth. "It's what friends are for. Besides I'm happy Emma has you. Keith was there for me when my wife died. In a way I'm repaying the favor." He paused. "He was also there for you when you needed someone."

Then he shared information about the ongoing investigation. It wasn't long before he answered his ringing phone. After answering it, he said, "It was Carl. I need to get back. We have the science teacher narrowed down to two suspects." He glanced toward Emma. "I need to share something with her."

Both Seth and Jake walked up to her. As Emma stood, Jake hugged her. "I know now's not the best time to tell you, but I don't want you to find out by accident. Peggy Barton was released today. If she messes up, she'll go back to jail. She has daily community service. She's painting residential house numbers on curbs."

"Thank you for telling me. I'm sure that will keep her busy."

Seth shook his head. "Hopefully she's learned her lesson."

Jake kissed Susan's cheek and then Emma's. "I need to get going. Please call if you need anything. I'll be in town for a while longer."

Seth walked toward the elevator with him. "If you need a place to sleep, mine is available. I have a spare bedroom."

"Thanks. Cedarville's only twenty minutes away."

"But it seems like hours when you're dead tired."

"That's true." Jake glanced at Ace. "Carl's been to the house and checked on Molly. Why don't I take Ace for a walk and feed him? I know you keep food in the cruiser."

"He'd appreciate it." Seth stayed with Jake and Ace until they got on the elevator.

Emma stood by the door to her dad's room. Her head turned when she heard Ronnie Calhoun's voice, "Emma, I know Chief Carter's busy with police stuff. I heard last night he left you without a way home. That's no way to treat a lady. I'd never treat you that way."

"Seth made sure I safely made it home. You've treated me a lot worse."

"Are you still holding something against me that happened back in high school? I was young and foolish. I've matured since then."

"Just Sunday you made an unwanted pass."

"All the signs were there, you wanted me to kiss you."

"Seth or no Seth, I don't want you anywhere near me. You need to leave."

Ronnie reached for her arm. "I'm not going anywhere."

Ace returned ahead of Jake and bared his teeth.

Removing his arm from Emma, Ronnie said, "Emma, call off the dog."

Pastor Pat and Jake arrived at the same time. Jake said, "Ace." He nodded at the large dog, before he faced Pat. "Please escort Emma and Ace to her mom. I need to have a friendly chat with Calhoun."

Jake watched them until he was sure they were out of hearing range before he said, "Emma told me that she knows you're up to something, she doesn't know exactly what, but she doesn't trust you. Stay away from her."

"Aren't you a little old to be dating Emma?"

"You're right, I am. I love her like a daughter. On the other hand, Seth's younger and hasn't got complete control over his temper. He's fed up with you. If you're smart, you'll stay away from her or you'll have to deal with both of us." Jake chuckled. "Matter-of-fact, Pastor Pat thinks of Emma as a daughter. Who knows what he's capable of?"

"If Seth's so concerned about her, where is he?" Ronnie glanced around the area. "Why isn't he with her?"

"I'm betting he's searching for coffee." Jake checked his watch. "He hasn't had any sleep in probably thirty-six hours. He knows Pastor Pat's with her. I can promise you he's not far. When he returns, he won't be happy to see you. If I were you, I'd leave."

Ronnie studied Emma. "Can I say goodbye?"

"Not your best idea." Jake escorted Ronnie to the elevator and watched him get on. When he turned around, he saw Seth with a large coffee heading in his direction.

Seth studied Jake's face. "What did I miss?"


He searched the floor. "I don't see any blood."

"I was on my best behavior. I think, or at least hope, he got the message." Jake studied Emma, before he said, "As soon as I say goodbye to Emma and Susan, I'll go the station and then head home. Call if anything changes. I have a feeling it's going to be a long night."

After goodbyes were said, Jake left.

A little after midnight Dr. Holden walked up to Susan and Emma. "Mr. Winters is awake and asking for both of you."

Emma searched Seth's face and he said, "I'm right here." She nodded, before she went into the room.

Inside the room, Susan took Keith's hand and said, "We've been worried about you."

The nurse removed his oxygen mask so he could speak, "Don't be. God's taking care of me." Keith swallowed. "I need both of you to listen carefully. Susan, we've had a wonderful life and marriage. I love you more than you can imagine. You're everything a man could ask for in a wife and more. You're still young; only fifty-four. I don't want you to spend the rest of your life alone. I want you to open your heart to love again."

Susan cried. "What are you saying?"

Keith reached for his daughter's hand. "Emma, come closer. Your mom and I had a perfect marriage. I didn't think life could be any better, but you came into our lives and made it even better. I love you. You brought a bright spot to our life."

"Daddy, why are you talking like this?"

"I needed you both to know how much I love you." Keith closed his eyes.

Within moments the alarms on the machines sounded.

The doctor ran in, and Susan and Emma were ushered out.

Pastor Pat hugged Susan. Seth hugged Emma.

A little later the doctor came out and shook his head. "I'm sorry."

Character List:

Police Chief Seth Carter - hero and Beaverton's Police Chief

Emma Winters - heroine and waitress at her parents' bakery and bookstore, but just graduated college with a teaching degree.

Winters - the bakery/bookstore Emma's parents own.

Carl Jones - Seth's good friend and right-hand man

Susan and Keith Winters - Emma's parents and owners of Winters' Family Bakery and Bookstore

Molly - Emma's almost four-pound Pomeranian

Ace - Seth's German shepherd, a trained K-9

Pastor Pat - Pastor of the Church and Emma's Godfather

Sheriff Jake Baker - Seth's mentor and Winters' family friend

Ray Hudson - Works at the bakery

Peggy Barton - Emma knew her in high school and is the assistant librarian, she's making a play for Seth

Linda Holton - the town librarian

Mayor Castle - mayor of Beaverton

George Elliot - city council member, from old money, and father of Marc Elliot

Marc Elliot - troubled teenager

Ronald Calhoun - dated Emma her senior year of high school

Dr. Mason - veterinarian who took care of Molly

Mickey Casey - Man stalking Emma and she killed him

Elizabeth Higgins - 'Lizzy' pregnant teenage girl

Calvin and Gretchen Higgins - Parents of Elizabeth Higgins

Charlie Michaels - Sports store manager, donated gift certificates

Book of the Month contest entry



Today's quote from my research: 'Time and time again someone will date a person because of their "looks".
You should look at all the qualities they possess as a person.
Someone�??�?�¢??s physical appearance plays an extremely small role in the dating world.
Look at their work ethic, the way they treat other people, their bubbly personality, their ambition, the way they communicate with you, their confidence, and most importantly... their heart.
This will be who raises your children someday.' Cody Brett

Thank you, Google Images, for the poster of a heart attack.

Chapter 31 is posted in i's entirety. My choices were two short chapters or one longer post. I chose one longer post because I didn't want any of you to worry about whether Keith survived his heart attack. It's little over 2800 words. There are 37 total chapters, so Seth and Emma's story is close to the end. Of course, when I continue to break most chapters into two part it's still plenty of weeks away.

I appreciate the time you took to read this post. I appreciate the help editing. Thank you.

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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