Rachel's Redemption Online - Jennifer Maitlen

Acknowledgements

Yes, writing is indeed a solitary experience, but a good story cannot be told—at least by me—without a little (sometimes a lot) of help. I wish to thank Lori Wilde for her incredible insight, knowledge, and wisdom. She is a dedicated teacher, true professional, and writing talent.

I want to thank Anabet Soehner who in 1994 took me to visit her hometown—one of America’s Greatest Little City’s, and on which Redemption is loosely based. Although Redemption is completely fictitious, I hope I have captured some of the beauty, camaraderie, and uniqueness of small town life.

I want to thank Gary Klatt, who invited me to the sidelines of a high school football game, answering my questions about the sport at that level and providing me with insight to the important role a high school football coach plays in the lives of his players. Any mistakes related to the nuances of the sport and play calling are mine and mine alone.

And finally I want to thank all of my friends and family who supported me through this awesome ride. Most especially, Larie Brannick, a talented writer and dear friend. You are the best!

Chapter 1

Rachel Elizabeth Delany-Tolbert was late for the most important meeting of her life. Ten minutes more to get there, less if she could shave off some time with her speed, and then she’d need to park. Another two minutes. Then find the meeting room, take a seat, not make a disturbance with her entrance. Add another three minutes . . . and hope that her turn before the town council wasn’t first on the agenda.

If fate—and the clock—was conspiring against her and her name had already been called, then she could kiss her opportunity good-bye.

She’d have to wait until next month.

Waiting wasn’t an option. Nana’s will had been very specific. Rachel had listened skeptically to the reading, sitting in disbelief while the lawyer spelled out the details. Of course, after carefully packing away each of Nana’s Homecoming Queen crowns, it all made crazy, perfect sense.

Now with Nana’s estate sold and gone, Rachel knew what she had to do.

She couldn’t turn back time. She couldn’t bring back her Nana. And not for all the money in the world could she change the fact that she hadn’t been by her Nana’s side in the end.

But she could give her Nana a tribute befitting a queen.

She just needed the town council to agree to her plan.

Rachel pushed harder on the gas pedal.

Fields of wheat and barley lined the country road but were nothing more than yellow and orange blurs as she flew down the two-lane road.

Redemption came into view, and Rachel slowed her speed. Marginally.

She circled around to the side streets, avoiding Main.

Less traffic there, but that didn’t slow the clock. Twenty past. Her stomach dived. If they’d called her name and she wasn’t there . . .

Rachel slid into a parking spot at the rear of the county building and reached for her bag, sparing a quick peek at her makeup. Her face was fine. Plain, but fine. Her choice of clothing, however, had been a bad one. Shit. No, sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar.

Between working at the clinic and picking up rotations at the hospital she’d been focused on completing her pediatric fellowship, not doing laundry. And, thus, this morning she’d grabbed the only clean suit in her closet. A white, sleeveless, linen pants suit. It tied flatteringly in the center and if she stood, all the time, it was decent enough. However, the drive east to Redemption, topping out at almost three hours, wasn’t doing her any favors. Plus, she really shouldn’t have taken the extra shift last night. She wouldn’t have slept through her alarm clock and now be running so late.

Racing up the shrub-lined sidewalk, she fished in her bag for her water bottle. She reached for the door as she brought the bottle to her lips just in time for the only other human she’d seen in twenty miles to push against the door from the inside.

Rachel plowed into the thick glass, sending a wash of ice-cold water over her mouth and chin and down the front of her suit. Double sugar!

“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” asked an older, slightly hunched man.

The lady behind him rushed to Rachel’s side. “Oh dear,” she tisked, shaking her head, “You’re all wet.”

She sure was. The heat had started the wrinkles, driving in her car had perfected them, and, with her top wet, they now seemed to be a