Thomas Kinkade has been credited as America's most collected contemporary artist. It is estimated that one out of every twenty homes displays his art. He was a painter-communicator whose tranquil, light-infused paintings continue to bring joy to millions. His paintings are a quiet messenger in the home, affirming the basic values of family, faith in God, and the luminous beauty of nature. A devout Christian, Thomas credited the Lord for both the ability and the inspiration to create his paintings. His goal as an artist was to touch people of all faiths, to bring peace and joy into their lives through the images he created. The letters he received testify to the fact that he achieved this goal. As a devoted husband and doting father to their four little girls, Thomas Kinkade hid the letter "N" in his paintings to pay tribute to his wife, Nanette.
A Season of Angels
The drive to Cape Light from Vermont had been challenging. Adele Morgan rarely drove on the interstate these days. Her travels were confined to the back roads near her home and then, only in good weather and daylight. She had left for Massachusetts right after breakfast and crept along the right lane of the highways for hours, enduring the honking horns and sour expressions as other cars and trucks flew by her little green Subaru. She was not the driver she used to be, that was for sure. She had been wise to take a few breaks to rest and check the map. It was hard to remember the last time she had made this trip on her own. Too long ago, she knew that much. These days, as she neared the impressive age of ninety, memories seemed to fl oat just below the surface of her awareness, elusive and slippery, like golden fish darting about in a dark pool. You had to keep a sense of humor and plug along; that’s what the years had taught her. To take life one day at a time. One hour at a time, if necessary. To fret far less about the small stuff and have more patience with herself and everyone else.
These days she was happy just to open her eyes in the morning and put her two feet on the ground. To know God had blessed her with another day in this beautiful old world.
Adele knew this well. She knew it in her heart. It was a large part of the reason she had come all this way, sneaking into town without a word of warning to her family—her oldest son, Joe, and his grown children, with children of their own now.
She drove through the village of Cape Light without turning off to see any of them. She remembered the way to Angel Island without checking the map at all, though it was nice to spot a few signs along the way, confirming that she was on the right track.
After all this time, it was still the same. One road on to the island and one road off. How much simpler could it be? Luckily, the tide was low and the old land bridge was open for crossing. It was all just as she recalled, and the stark beauty of the place still took her breath away.
A brisk wind off the water battered her little car, the salt air reminding her how much she missed living near the sea. Vermont was a lovely place but there was no ocean, a definite drawback in her book. Moving from Cape Light to Vermont had been her husband George’s doing. They never would have left this place, but George had been transferred by his company and didn’t want to lose all his seniority and retirement benefits. Their two sons were grown and on their own, so off they went, planning to return once he retired.
But as the saying goes, “Man plans, God laughs.” That was another thing she had learned. A few years later, well before retirement age, George was downsized and out of a job. Adele had wanted to return to Cape Light then, but George decided they should take their nest egg and the severance package from his firm, and buy a little business. Something they could run part time as they got older.
George found a variety store for sale in Highland, the town where they lived, and that was that. She had loved him dearly, but he’d been a strong-willed man who always got his way. So up in Vermont they stayed, leaving behind their closest friends and family and never returning to live here again.
Charlotte returned to the inn a little later on Thursday afternoon than her co-star and the studio executives….When she got back to the inn, she quickly headed for her room to relax and freshen up before dinner. As she unlocked the door, she felt her phone buzz in the back pocket of her jeans. She opened the door, went inside and checked the number then quickly closed the door behind her and locked it.
She didn’t need Meredith poking her head in right now or even Liza, trying to be helpful.
She pressed her back against the locked door and hit the
answer button, then heard Colin’s deep voice on the other end.
“Hey. I thought I was going to get voice mail again. Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“Not at all. I finished a little late today. I just got back to the inn. Just in time for one of Claire’s delicious, mega-calorie meals,” she added.
“It all looks good on you, Charlotte,” he teased her. “How did it go today?”
Charlotte had told Colin about her difficulties working with Bradley. Now as she gave him today’s installment, she could feel the tension leave her. It wasn’t what she was saying. It was knowing that Colin was there listening that gave her a calm perspective she’d never quite had before.
“So it wasn’t too bad,” she finished. “But the day isn’t over yet. We’re shooting a scene in Cape Light at the harbor tonight.”
“Cool. Maybe I’ll stand in the crowd behind the barriers and gawk at you.”
Charlotte laughed and sat back against the headboard of her bed, hugging her legs to her chest. “Don’t do that. You’ll make me nervous. I’ll flub my lines.”
“Me? Make you nervous? I doubt that. But I won’t come and gawk if you don’t want me to. Though the entire rest of the town will be there,” he reminded her. “How else am I going to see you? Can’t you steal that bike again and take a ride? It won’t be dark for hours.” His tone was charming and very persuasive.
Charlotte glanced out the window, feeling tempted. They had spoken a few times since Sunday, and each time Colin had entreated her to meet him again. Charlotte wanted to very much. The note of longing in his voice made her wish she could spout wings and fly straight to his cottage. But work demands had kept her too busy to break away and now her old reservations surfaced, warning her to pull back.
“I want to see you, too. You know I do. I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” she admitted.
“Because you’re a movie star and I’m a just fisherman? I thought we got past that.”
“We did,” she said quickly. “Way past. It’s just that I’m not going to be here much longer. How will we ever get to see each other after that?”
If it was someone else, almost anyone else, Charlotte wouldn’t have cared about the future. She dated casually all the time, not worrying if the relationship had any lasting potential. But for some reason, with Colin it was different.
Was he really going to tell these good people that he wanted to stop being their minister? As he took a seat in his wingback armchair and the others settled on the couch and other comfortable spots around the room, Ben struggled to rekindle the surety and resolve he felt about his decision only hours ago. He took a deep breath and exhaled, silently reviewing his talking points in his head. “Thank you all for coming out on such a cold night,” he began. “I’m sure you must be wondering why I’ve called this meeting. I’ve only told you that it has to do with church business, and I’m sure you assumed I meant running the church in my absence. “It does have to do with that. During the past two weeks, I’ve been forced to slow down and cease all productive activity. Which, as you all know, is probably a first for me,” he added, drawing a laugh. “I’ve had time to think. To see the big picture,” he clarified. He paused again and took a steadying breath. “I believe that it’s time for me retire.” He didn’t mean for his voice to sound anything less than resolute, but he knew that there had been a slight tremor in his words. He looked around, gauging the reactions. Shock and surprise registered on practically all the faces. A few people looked as if they had guessed what he would say but were not happy to have their intuition confirmed. Lillian Warwick looked as if she had just bitten into a lemon. Then again, she often looked like that. She was the first to speak. “I expected as much. After your heart attack, I’m only surprised it didn’t come sooner.” Before Ben could react, Lillian’s daughter Emily leaned forward in her chair. “I suppose we all wondered if you were considering retirement now,” Emily said, her tone far more concilliatory than her mother’s. “I, for one, did hope that even if you considered it, you would decide not to retire, Reverend Ben. Or at least put off any final decision until you recovered.” As usual, Emily was putting forth her suggestion in a diplomatic way. She was after all, the town’s mayor and well-versed in political negotiations. But Ben knew his position was not negotiable. “I did consider waiting, Emily. But I feel very certain this is the right thing to do. I don’t believe that a few weeks will make any difference at all. I could have held back from announcing it, but I felt you all had a right to know, to go forward and make your plans. “Find a new minister, that’s what you mean,” Grace Hegmen piped up in her abrupt way. “We’ll never find a minister like you, Reverend Ben. How can we ever replace you?”
Reprinted from CHRISTMAS TREASURES by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., (c) 2011 by Direct Brands
The Wedding Promise
I think you should postpone the rehearsal until tomorrow,” Liza suggested gently. “You and Kyle will figure it out by then,” she assured Jennifer. “Do you want me to call anyone?” “No, that’s all right. Meg will help me,” Jennifer replied. “I’ll call you after I see Kyle. Thanks, Liza. Thanks for listening.” “No need to thank me. Just talk to Kyle,” she urged her, “the sooner, the better.” As Liza ended the call Claire walked out on the porch, carrying the box of printed programs for the ceremony. She looked over Liza’s handiwork with an approving smile. “The chairs are coming out well,” she said. “Very festive.” “They do look nice. Let’s hope the effort hasn’t been wasted.” “Doesn’t Jennifer like the way they look?” Claire set down the box, looking surprised. “She hasn’t seen them yet. Jen and Kyle just had a big fight.” Liza explained the disagreement to Claire and related what both the bride and groom had told her. “He thinks Jennifer is afraid to be independent of her family, and she thinks he’s being selfish and unfair. Right now, it seems as if they’re in some sort of emotional gridlock,” Liza added. “Jennifer sounds devastated. Claire gazed out the water a moment, then said, “I know it sounds bleak, Liza. But let’s try to be optimistic. I was just paging through the wedding program. Here, have a look at this.” Claire handed Liza one of the folded sheets. Liza opened it and saw the Bible verses the couple had chosen to be read aloud at the ceremony. Silently, she began to read. “Love is patient, love is kind...it...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” “Love bears all things and believes all things. Love never fails,” Claire said. “Oh, Claire ... let’s hope so,” Liza said, trying to share Claire’s faith. “They have until Sunday to make up, that’s almost two whole days from now.” Liza paused and looked back at the stack of chairs that still waited to be decorated. “Do you think I should bother finishing these bows?” “Of course we should finish,” Claire replied. “Our job is to get ready for the wedding. The rest is up to the bride and groom ... and heaven,” she added. She picked up a pair of scissors and a spool of tulle and got to work. Liza thought about it just moment. Then she did, too.
Charlie stared at the girl like a hound that had cornered its prey. Lucy had to pull him aside to talk privately. “Just leave her a minute. She’s not going anywhere.” “You’re so gullible, Lucy. That one will run as soon as we turn our backs.” “That’s just the problem, Charlie. I think she’s a runaway, out on the road. She’s got all the signs. No money and doesn’t seem to have a place to stay.” Lucy glanced back at the girl and sighed. “I know it’s a pain in the neck, but we can’t just let her go.” “Who said anything about letting her go? We’ll call Tucker. Let him handle it.” Tucker Tulley was Charlie’s closest friend. A sergeant the Cape Light police department, Tucker was Charlie’s go-to-guy for any legal questions. “She tried to walk out on a check. That’s grounds enough to lock her up for the night,” he insisted. “Lock her up? Are you crazy? Tucker will never arrest her over a seven-dollar check.” Lucy knew their soft-hearted police officer friend too well. “Okay, maybe he won’t charge her. But he’ll let her sleep in the station. They let vagrants sleep in the lockup if they have no place else to go.” When Lucy didn’t answer right away, he added, “Come on, Lucy. What else can we do? Let’s not stand around arguing about this kid all night. It’s snowing out there. I want to get home.” Lucy was tired too. And frustrated and annoyed by having this problem dumped in her lap at this hour. She didn’t want to feel responsible for this teenage girl-–a surly, rude and not entirely truthful one at that. But she did feel responsible, and leaving the girl in the town lockup for the night was no solution. The sheer idea of it was outrageous. “She’s barely sixteen. She can’t sleep in any smelly old lock up. Look at her,” Lucy urged her husband. “She’s sick. She needs help.” Charlie practically gritted his teeth, but he did turn to look at the girl. Under the makeup, punked-out hair, and trashy clothes, Lucy saw a glimmer of vulnerability. Or maybe she just looked even sicker now. Still sitting in the chair, she shivered and pulled her jacket tighter around her slim body. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking of taking her to the hospital, Lucy. That drive is over an hour and will take two in the snow. And I know you don’t want to do that on your own at this hour.” Lucy knew very well how long it took to get to the Southport Hospital. She made the trip back and forth nearly every day. She had already considered that solution and rejected it. Charlie was right. It was too long, too late, and too cold outside. “No, not the hopsital. You’re right. It’s too late to take her there.” She paused and met his glance but didn’t say anything more. “Give it to me straight, Lucy. But I hope you’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking,” he warned.
Of course, it was raining. Nothing about this trip was going to be easy. Liza Martin already knew that. Why should the weather cooperate?
The drive from Boston to the north shore was hard enough at the end of a workday, the traffic easily making it two hours or more. But the timing couldn’t be helped. A client emergency had erupted at four, just as Liza was heading out of the office, trying to beat the commuter crush and the dismal forecast.
So here she was, on a Tuesday night at the height of the rush hour, driving all the way up to Angel Island in steady rain. She had turned the wipers to high speed and slowed her car to a careful crawl. At least it isn’t snow, she reminded herself, which was not out of the question even in late March in New England.
She hoped the skies were clearer beyond the city. On a night like this, heavy rain and high surf could wash out the land bridge that connected the tiny island to the town of Cape Light, making it impossible to cross the harbor.
When Liza was a little girl, staying with her Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Clive for the summer, visitors often came to the island for the day and were then stranded when a storm blew in. Aunt Elizabeth never paid much attention to weather forecasts and never failed to be delighted by these unexpected, overnight guests. Those stormy summer nights, with so many interesting people milling around the old house, were among Liza’s fondest memories. Her aunt and uncle must have enjoyed it, too; Liza often thought those nights were what had inspired them to turn their rambling old house into an inn.
Liza slowed for a light, letting the sound of the storm outside bring back those rainy nights on the island when her uncle would play the piano and everyone would sing. They would even move back the furniture in the front parlor and dance when the mood was right, often by candlelight when the power went out. Or with Aunt Elizabeth shining a flashlight on the keyboard, swaying the beam to and fro in time to the rhythm. There would be card games and ghost stories and shadow shows on the big wall in the front parlor, her uncle’s specialty.
Liza recalled how she would always feel disappointed the next morning to see the sunshine and the clear blue sky. But other charms of the island would quickly distract her, like an early morning beach walk, where she would sift through the odd treasures the wild surf had tossed on the shoreline the night before. She and her brother, Peter, would race each other to the best shells, arguing over the vilest remains of some defunct sea creature. Her aunt would follow, laughing at them and playing judge and arbitrator with endless patience.
How did Aunt Elizabeth manage to put up with us, Liza wondered. And do it so cheerfully? It couldn’t have been easy, though her aunt and uncle always acted as if their season with Liza and Peter was the highlight of their year. They had no children of their own, so perhaps it really was, Liza reflected.
Excerpted from THE INN AT ANGEL ISLAND, by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer
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