Romance Fiction posted February 4, 2024 Chapters:  ...47 48 -49- 50... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Emma feels her dad abandoned her.

A chapter in the book Guided by Faith

Chapter 32

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 33 days ago.


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."


It was around mid-morning on Wednesday, when Pastor Pat asked to speak with Seth and Jake. "We're ready to leave the hospital, and I know Emma will argue, but I feel she should stay with her mom for a few days. They need each other."

Jake nodded. "I agree. Suggestions on how to make that happen?"

Shaking his head, Pat said, "All I can think of is we present it as it'll be best for Susan."

Seth glanced toward Emma. "She'll do it for her mom."

Pastor Pat rubbed his chin. "I know we're dead tired, so we need to divide up the work. Seth, you'll have the hardest job, Emma. She wears her emotions on her sleeve. She's going to struggle with this."

"I know." Seth nodded toward Emma. "She's questioning why God didn't answer our prayers."

Pat continued, "Just be there and comfort her. My stock answer is 'we're not promised to be free of tragedy. We're only promised God will be by our side and help us through it'. Keith is in a better place." Pat exhaled and patted Seth's shoulder. "Emma's faith will be tested. Remember Jake and I are here to help in any way."

"What do you want me to do?" asked Jake.

"You have a choice. Be there for Susan or be a go between with the hospital, funeral home, and the family."

"Susan. We have a good relationship." Jake faced Seth. "You're going to have your hands full with work and Emma. Let me know how I can help."

After releasing a deep breath, Seth said, "Thank you, but you have the sheriff's department that needs you."

"Remember we're running on no sleep and emotions are raw. Tempers may flare, we need to give each other grace." Pat studied the women. "They're headed this way. I'll spend most of my time at the house with Susan and Emma but will have meetings at the funeral home and anything that might come up with my congregation. I imagine the church ladies will be at the house as if it has a revolving door."

The drive to Emma's house was silent before she said, "I miss Daddy. I know Mom misses him even more. They were married for thirty-three years. When they married, Mom was younger than I am."

Seth reached over and touched her arm. "It's good you'll be there for her."

She studied Seth. "How long's it going to hurt?"

"I don't know. When Mom and Dad died, I was in high school. It hurt for months. I became almost functional after a while. To be honest it still hurts, but I've learned to live with it."

"Think I can learn to live with it?"

"I do, God will help."

"I'm angry with God. He ignored our prayers and let Daddy die."

"He understands. He'll wait for you."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"Being understanding."

Seth parked in front of Emma's garage door. "What are your plans?"

"I'm trying to decide if I should shower and change and then pack or pack and shower at Mom's."

"What do you feel like doing?"


"Okay." Seth listened. "I hear Molly. I bet she needs you. She knows you're hurting. She wants to cuddle."

"You're right, but Molly can't bring Daddy back."

Seth exited the pickup and opened her door. He put his arms around her. "I'm here whenever you need a hug, to talk, or a shoulder to cry on."

She nodded.

Inside her house, Emma picked up Molly and carried her into her bedroom.

Seth watched as Ace followed Emma.

After a few minutes of silence, Seth heard Emma crying and entered the room.

Emma sat on the edge of her bed holding a photograph of her and Keith as tears streamed down her cheeks.

He sat beside her and held her. She melted into his chest.

Eventually Emma cried herself to sleep. Seth laid her on the bed, covered her, and went into the living room. He called Jake, "Emma had a photo of her and Keith on her nightstand. When she saw it, she lost it. She cried herself to badly needed sleep. We'll be there when she wakes up."

Jake said, "I hope you held her while she cried."

"Duh, of course. After she fell asleep, I even covered her."

"Sorry buddy, I guess I could use some sleep myself."

"We all could. I think I'll hit the couch until she wakes up. Try to catch some sleep yourself."

A few hours later, Ace came in and nuzzled Seth. He woke up and was eye-to-eye with his large dog. "Is she waking up?"

Ace turned and walked toward Emma's room.

Seth stood at her doorway and watched. When she was fully awake, he asked, "Feel better?"

"Maybe, but I feel guilty for falling asleep."

He sat beside her. "Why?" He paused. "Emma, you need to take care of yourself. Keith's watching over you. He'll always be part of your life." He started to touch her chest but paused and touched his own. "He's in your heart. You'll feel his presence, especially when you need him."

Emma took Seth's hand and guided it to her heart. "Right here?"

His eyes met hers. "Yes, right there." He held her hand.

"When things went wrong, Daddy would hold me and dry my tears. He was always there and made things better."

Seth exhaled. "I'm here for you. I'll hold you and dry your tears. Only I can't make this better. I wish I could."

"Nobody can." Emma scanned her room. "I guess I'd better pack. I'm sure Mom's worried."

Seth stood. "I'll wait in the living room. If you need anything..."

"I'll let you know," interrupted Emma.

He nodded as he left the room.

When Seth stopped for traffic at the edge of their lane, Emma touched his hand. "With all that's going on, what's going to happen to us?"

His eyes met hers. "Right now, we need to concentrate on healing." He inhaled. "I met Keith five maybe six years ago. He was a close friend. I miss him too. To answer your question, I believe this will make us a stronger couple."

After Seth parked along the curb, he opened Emma's door, and she said, "I don't want to do this. Look at all the cars. I'm struggling keeping myself together. I don't think I can be nice to anybody."

"Understood." Seth scanned the area. "What do you want to do?"

Before Emma had a chance to answer, Pastor Pat opened the front door. "I'm glad you're here. Your mom was starting to worry."

Emma nodded. "Sorry. I fell asleep." She whispered to Seth, "We've been discovered."

Seth helped her from the pickup. Molly and Ace followed. Once he grasped her suitcase, he held Emma's hand, and they walked up the sidewalk.

Before going inside, Emma knelt and picked up Molly. "She can be a little much in large crowds."

Nodding, Seth said, "I'm sure." He tapped his thigh for Ace to stay close.

Standing in the foyer, Seth lifted the suitcase. "What should I do with this?"

Scanning the area, Emma said, "It needs to go to my room, but..." She opened a closet door. "Put it in here. If I go to my room, I may not return." She peeked in the kitchen and exhaled. "I can't do it."

"Then don't." He glanced around. "Where would you feel comfortable?"

Searching the area and seeing people everywhere, Emma pointed. "In Daddy's den."

When Seth opened the door, Pastor Pat, Jake, and Susan were sitting inside. Susan sat on a love seat and reached for Emma's hand. "Too many people?"

Emma knelt and hugged her. "Yes, I'm sorry, but..."

"Don't be sorry. I couldn't either." Susan patted the seat beside her. "Please sit."

Pastor Pat said, "We can sit in silence if you prefer, or we can share our favorite Keith memory." His eyes met each of theirs, before he started, "Keith was on the church committee that interviewed me. A few days later, he represented the church council and offered me my job. He immediately invited me to Sunday dinners. I don't think I've missed one. Keith always saw good in people. We became instant friends." He paused. "That was twenty-five years ago."

Jake leaned over and folded his hands. "I met Keith of all places, in the fishing section of the sporting goods store. We became immediate friends. He was there for me when my wife died. I don't know what I would've done without him. I met him almost twenty years ago." He glanced at Seth. "He helped you when you were beating yourself up over Jillian." His eyes met Emma's. "Sorry."

Seth nodded. "It's all right. Emma knows." He took Emma's hand. "I met Keith around six years ago through Jake. Keith didn't seem to care if as my sister says, 'I'm stingy with words.' He understood." He glanced at Jake. "You're right. I was beating myself up for allowing Jillian to manipulate me. Keith's guidance helped me through it."

Emma rubbed Seth's hand. "I don't have a memory that doesn't involve Daddy." She swallowed. "Daddy was my first love. He always accepted me for who I am. I want to marry a man who'll unconditionally love me like he did." She leaned her head on her mom's arm. "Both my parents helped shape me into who I am today. They not only modeled Christianity but had the perfect marriage. I want that."

Susan dried her tears. "Emma, you were an easy child to parent." She smiled. "You did keep things interesting because you were active and questioned everything, but never mischievous."

She got up and took a picture of her and Keith from the wall and held it to her chest. "As you know Keith is twelve years older than me. I was eighteen when we met. Because of the age difference, my parents were against us dating. We spent years dating at my parents' house. They were our chaperones. His patience was amazing. Most men wouldn't have stayed around. When I turned twenty-one, we were married. Keith was thirty-three. I've never regretted it one second."

She faced Emma. "We did have disagreements, but God was the center of our marriage, and He helped us work through it."

When Pastor Pat answered a knock on the den door, Ms. Sadie said, "Dinner's ready."

Pat nodded. "I'll bless the food."

They walked into the kitchen area where a buffet style meal was laid out. After Pastor Pat blessed the food, Emma retreated to the den.

It wasn't long before Seth brought his plate in and sat. "Emma, you need to eat."

"I don't think I can. My stomach's doing flip flops."

He offered her an apple slice. "Try a bite." She shook her head, so he stopped.

Before long Ms. Sadie brought in a plate and hugged Emma. "I noticed you didn't fill a plate. I filled one for you." When Emma sighed, she continued, "I'm not leaving until you take a bite."

Emma forked a piece of potato and put it in her mouth.

Hugging her again, Ms. Sadie said, "Sweetheart, you've got to eat."

Seth nodded toward Ms. Sadie. After she left, he said, "She's right."

"I know but can't."

"Can you at least drink some water?"

Emma nodded and took a sip. She set the bottle down. "I never noticed you being stingy with words."

He grinned. "I'm comfortable around you. You're easy to talk to."

She covered her mouth. "Today's Wednesday!"

"Pastor Pat canceled everything." Seth finished eating and set his plate aside before he studied Emma. "We're alone. It'll help if you put your feelings into words. Your dad helped me with it. Willing to try?"

"I'm scared and angry with Dad and God. Dad was my anchor. I feel empty and alone, abandoned."

Seth took her hand and held it. "You're not alone or abandoned. Your mom, Pastor Pat, Jake and I will always be here for you." He released a deep breath. "God's willing to help you through this, but there's no quick fix."

When Emma leaned her head against his chest, he kissed her forehead. Silence filled the room as Emma melted into Seth.

Jake opened the door and saw Seth holding Emma. "Sorry, I guess I should've knocked."

Emma raised her head. "Not necessary. Have a seat." She leaned her head against Seth's arm.

"I just wanted to ask if there was anything I could help with." Jake glanced at the door. "If not, I'm headed toward Cedarville."

Seth glanced at his watch. "I should probably head home myself."

Emma stood. "I'm sorry. I know you're tired. I shouldn't have kept you so long."

He stood and drew her into a hug. "I'm here for you."

"I'm fine, really, I am. Please go and get some sleep."

"Show me where your room is, and I'll carry your suitcase upstairs."

After retrieving the suitcase from the closet, Emma showed Seth to her childhood bedroom.

Scanning the room, Seth grinned. "It's exactly as I imagined." After setting down the suitcase, he asked, "You have a phone charger handy?"

Emma grabbed one from her bag and held it out. "Why?"

He plugged it in and set it on the nightstand. "If you need anything tonight, I'm only a phone call away."

"Thank you."

"I'm serious about you calling."

She nodded. "I will."

"One more thing, I'll go into work first thing in the morning and come by around noon. I'll spend the rest of the day with you. But if you need or want anything, call and I'll drop everything to be here."

"Don't stop for lunch. I'm sure there'll be enough to feed an army. Plan on eating here."

Seth nodded. "Okay. Speaking of food, I'm going to ask and expect a yes that you ate something for breakfast and drank a glass of water."

"I'll do my best."

Holding out his hand, he said, "Walk me to my pickup. Ace will watch Fur Ball outside."

Accepting Seth's hand, they walked outside, with Ace and Molly.

Molly took off toward the backyard with Ace close.

Emma walked to the west side of the house and watched the sun lower in the sky.

Seth stood beside her. "It's a pretty sunset."

"It is." She leaned her head against his upper arm. "I forgot how pretty they can be. There are different shades of yellow, orange, coral, and violet."

"I wonder if God put it here tonight to remind you, He's available."

"Maybe, but He should've been there for Daddy."

"I believe He was, but we don't understand everything. What would your dad tell you?"

"He'd say everything works out the way it's supposed to according to God's plan."

Ace brought Molly to them.

"That's right." Seth leaned over and pecked the top of her head. "I'll see you around noon. If you need anything, call." He turned toward his truck.

He and Ace got halfway to the truck, when Emma called, "Seth?" and ran to him and threw her arms around his neck.

He acknowledged Pastor Pat and Jake standing on the sidewalk, but said, "Emma?"

Through her tears she said, "I don't want you to leave."

"Then I won't."

Her eyes met his. "But you're the police chief. I'm single, and the whole town would know and gossip."

"I don't care. If you need me, I'm here."

She studied his eyes before she said, "You'd do that for me?"

"I'd do anything for you." Seth drew her into a tighter hug as she melted into his chest.

After a few moments, Emma backed away, and Seth used his thumb to dry her tears.

"Thank you, but you need to leave." She swallowed. "I'll be all right."


She nodded. "Really, I will. If I need anything, I'll call."


She nodded and turned toward the house.

Jake and Pat met Seth at his truck, Jake asked, "How's Emma?"

"About like we expected. She's angry that Keith abandoned her."

Pastor Pat glanced toward the house. "I'd say you're doing everything possible to assure her that she's not alone."

Seth shook his head. "But is it enough?"

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



Thank you, Google Images, for the poster to help explain grief.

Chapter 32 is posted in i's entirety. Again, it came down to two short posts or one longer one. It's little under 2800 words. There are 37 total chapters, so Seth and Emma's story is close to the end. So far it appears the final chapter will be posted March 31, unless I combine some more chapters.

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

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