‘The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman’
About the book:
How far would YOU go to avenge a daughter’s cruel death? Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. Can his prayers and love reach Cara and show her the way to redemption? Will Cara realize God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far?
The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman is a novel of hope shining through the darkness with strong elements of suspense and romance and was a semifinalist in the Genesis contest.
Released from the Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, an ACFW approved publisher. You can request it at your favorite book store or library or go to Amazon.com.
Carole Brown’s debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, was a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest. Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, she enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled across the country. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?
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The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman
Dayne MacFarland waited beside the open grave, a worn black Bible held close to his chest. He trailed his fingers through the silky hair of the big collie standing silently beside him, drawing comfort from the big animal. He’d made the right decision in bringing his dog, his only real friend in the people he’d known all his life.
Solemn faces studied the new minister in their midst, but interest and curiosity escaped from eyes trained to hide emotions. Women smoothed their best Sunday clothes and chided their wiggliest children in quiet voices. Men nodded at him and crossed their arms, stiff and silent, judging him by who-knew-what standards. He could see the questions almost bleeding into the air: Is the preacher too young to minister to them? Would he follow their previous preacher’s guidelines he’d pounded into them Sunday after Sunday? Was he really, truly still a part of the Children of Righteous Cain after all his training?
Levi and Jodie Schrader, an attractive and influential couple in the settlement, stood close to the grave. Unlike most of the other couples, the two were arm in arm, and once, Levi patted her hand gently.
Promising. Dayne searched the man’s face, but no expression betrayed Levi’s emotions.
Not so with Kenny and Penelope Lewis. She cast hopeful glances at her husband, but the elder constantly shifting on his feet ignored his wife. His sultry looks gave him a twenty-year-old Elvis Presley visage. Dayne knew better.
Dayne continued his casual observance of the group. Most of the women avoided his eyes, but the braver ones sent fleeting, tentative smiles his way. The new minister in their midst.
A baby cried, and a loud shh, shh echoed around the grave and interrupted his contemplation. Why did they insist on the children being at the burial service unless it was immediate family? Couldn’t they at least assign two or three women to oversee the lot of small children? If he lived to be a hundred, he’d never understand.
His attention riveted on the lone figure lingering at the edge of the cemetery.
Cara. In spite of her extreme slenderness, her quiet demeanor and sexuality lit up her body and overrode the dowdiness of her cheap dress. She’d been cute as a precocious child, a promise of what was to come. And now, the promise unfolded into a rare flower.
Dayne moistened his lips. She was lovelier than he’d remembered. Tall, but she carried herself with no self-consciousness. Dayne’s heart leaped. He squashed the emotion. His job was to comfort and minister.
She was the last one to gather but, he supposed, the one to grieve the most. No rumors had come to him about her marriage, and he’d never asked.
Where were Cara’s children? They’d certainly not walked up with her. After all, Donald Hayman, their father, lay in the wood casket.
Caralynne’s face, quiet and sober, held no hint of devastation. She acknowledged those who patted her arms and tried to hug her. Several women pressed close, clung to her, tears pooling in their eyes as a smile flitted across her lips and vanished. Her gaze surfed past the crowd and met his.
His breath caught.
Those eyes—tearless and hollow-rimmed right now—were the same beautiful, blue-green, fathomless eyes he remembered.
Dayne stepped forward and extended a hand.
She walked to him and rested her small one on it. Her eyes riveted on him, studying, searching, contemplating then her gaze dropped to the dog beside him. For an instant, her brow furrowed.
“Cara.” His throat threatened to close as he breathed her name.
Her lips moved. Praying? Wanting to speak? No words escaped. At last she bowed her head and faced the grave.
A throat cleared, and resentment stirred inside him. He rubbed a thumb over the leather cover of his Bible, seeking warmth and peace from the book he’d always used to soothe his emotions, steady his body, and clear his mind. Where was the peace today?
Holding his unopened Bible, he quoted the words that had helped him become the man he was today. “‘I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.’”
Dayne paused. What could he say to open these people’s eyes, to accomplish his mission? Caralynne’s head bowed.
“Today, we praise God for life, for He is the giver of life and breath …”
A movement to the left of him caught his eye, and even as he continued speaking, he studied Donald Hayman’s brother, Emery. His face reflected somberness, yet the man’s eyes glinted. Not with sorrow. Snake eyes. Eyes capable of pinning the weaker person to a board until finished with an interrogation.
As if amused at Dayne’s study, the elder’s lips tilted a fraction then his gaze seemed to rest on Cara. His blank eyes glistened, his mouth opened, and a moist tongue slithered over his lips.
Revulsion washed through Dayne and stirred an emotion he didn’t want to feel.
God help me. Now.
“But through our short lifetime, male and female must learn to focus on God. He only is the true way to happiness, whether young or old. He only is the real reason for our existence upon this earth. When we accept God’s love in our hearts, we can look beyond this life to an eternal one.”
Another urgent clearing of the throat, and Dayne fought back the desire to bark at Elder Simmons. The primary figure itched to get his speech said. The stocky but solid figure led The Children of Righteous Cain with a firm hand and didn’t like to share the limelight. Even when the newly appointed minister could have rightfully expected it.
Dayne nodded at the man.
Elder Simmons lifted his arms. His palms faced outward and his short sleeves fell back. The tattoo—a symbol of an elder’s full-fledged membership—on the senior elder’s upper arm mocked Dayne as if the obscene object surmised his intentions and plans.
Beside the leader, Emery, dressed in an expensive suit which did nothing for him, still leered at Cara. The contrast between Cara’s shabby dress and this man’s outfit was shameful. The man might not be the slovenly person Donald Hayman had been, but nothing he wore would ever change his personality.
Dayne gritted his teeth.
Elder Simmons’s voice thundered out and seemed to hover over the group, a rumbling cloud of fierce power. “Brothers and Sisters, we’re gathered here today to pay our respects to the memory of our beloved brother who lived a good life, obeyed our traditions, and provided a shining example for our younger men.”
More propaganda, keeping these people in darkness.
“Take our prophet, Cain’s words for an example.” Elder Simmons paused and lowered his outstretched arms. Eyes glowing with the same fervor that radiated in his voice, he stepped to the edge of the grave. “I charge you to safeguard, not only your own salvation, but your family also. To ensure them of heaven, sacrifices must be made. Do not let human weakness rob you of this.”
The man teetered, the toes of his shoes beyond the rim of dirt. Would he slide into the grave and land on top of the plain casket?
Dayne’s lips twitched, but one glance at Cara’s solemn, troubled face kept him quiet.
The Elder paid no attention to his plight. “Without a doubt, our Brother Hayman bore the forgiving mark of Cain upon his body. He provided for and yearned for the souls of his wife and three beautiful daughters. He feared for their salvation as any good son of Cain does and did his part in assuring they not miss heaven.”
Caralynne shifted, but otherwise no one stirred.
Elder Simmons turned in an action belying his body structure and approached Caralynne. Dayne winced as the fat hands gripped her shoulders. Caralynne’s head rose, and she glared at the Elder. Would she refuse to do his unspoken order?
The rolling anger erupted from deep inside him and sent his feet in her direction. Sabre whined beside him. Elder Simmons shot him a warning glance.
Don’t interfere with God’s command.
Dayne ignored the elder’s unspoken order and stepped closer, his attention locked on the woman in front of him.
Elder Simmons’s knuckles whitened as his grip tightened. “Your blood is now demanded of you, Sister Hayman. Will you refuse?”
Dayne’s whole spirit revolted.
Would the man squeeze the life from her?
Her body swayed, trembled, and she fell to her knees.
The elder slid his hands upward over her neck, through her hair, and rested on the top of her head.
Get your hands off her. Dayne bit back his objection. His tentative thought to scoop her up and gallop from the scene withered away. It wasn’t time. Not yet. And he’d promised the professor to hold off any drastic action as long as he could.
“Sister Hayman, I charge you, a daughter of Cain, to continue to obey our traditions, and until the Lord reveals to me your next husband, be obedient and submissive to your elders as our law demands. Go and grieve for the past, but prepare for the future, so when the time comes, you will be ready.”
Head downcast, Cara lifted her left hand. Elder Simmons took it, and from his jacket pocket, retrieved a knife. His thumb caressed the edge. Holding the knife aloft for a second, alert and focused, he inspected faces in the crowd as if judging their loyalty.
Children hushed. No one stirred. No one spoke. A bird warbled an eerily cheerful song overhead.
With a downward, expert slash, Elder Simmons sliced a small, thin line on Cara’s wrist and stared at it as the blood seeped from the cut. He slid a forefinger across the cut, lifted it to his mouth, and sucked. He jerked and she was propelled closer to the hole. He held her arm over it, squeezing, squeezing until her blood dripped onto the closed casket. One. Two. Three drops of red blood. The man’s eyes closed as if in ecstasy.
“The blood of the testament, which God instructs you to sprinkle upon your gateway to heaven.”
“Amen,” the people murmured.
Dayne swallowed his revulsion. He drilled as bland an expression as he could muster onto his stiff facial muscles, and stepping forward, held out a hand to help Cara stand. She put her hand in his but refused to acknowledge him when he didn’t let go. A moment later, she tugged her hand, and he released it.
Crossing to the head of the grave, he raised his own hands and refocused the congregation’s attention to himself.
“Our God in heaven, we ask you to continue to comfort our dear friends here today.” Dayne allowed his voice to overflow with love and caring. “Give peace to Cara Hayman, and comfort her. Encourage and strengthen her for the days ahead. Amen.”
“Amen,” the people chorused. A reverent pause followed then sifted away, and slowly, they filed passed their head elder.
A few of the younger women paused beside Elder Simmons’ commanding figure at the edge of the grave, their adoring eyes pleading for an acknowledgement from him. Fathers and mothers pushed their daughters toward the leader, and he patted heads and hugged small figures.
Giggles. Girlish, too-old-for-their-years glances. Provocative prances and struts.
Actions that pasted a fond smile on Elder Simmons lips.
Older girls—perhaps fifteen, even sixteen—sent demure smiles at the leader, coaxing nods of approval from him.
Dayne lifted his Bible to bellow out a warning, to rebuke the undercurrent of evil eroding a twisted path through the parents and their daughters.
But the crowd shuffled and reshuffled until only four people remained.
Elder Simmons folded his arms, head lowered, dark face a chilling mask when it rested on him. For a second, Dayne wondered if the senior elder would insist on outstaying him. But the staring contest—if it’d been one—lightened and with a slight nod, Elder Simmons followed the others. Emery Hayman spoke to Cara in a low murmur as if urging her to some action. Head shaking, she stepped away from him, refusing to speak. He lingered, seemed to be arguing and gripped her arm. When she jerked from his grasp, he shrugged and left.
Cara hadn’t shed tears at Dayne’s words earlier, and she shed none now. He wondered if he should address her or let her alone.
Still as grotesque gargoyles, men with shovels, waited on the hillside to finish the job.
“God will be with you, Cara.”
She raised her eyes. Eyes dark with confusion, moist with sorrow, and tinged with a touch of anger. Eyes that begged for understanding. “Will he?”
“Yes, he will.” Dayne had no doubts. Hadn’t God been with him at college and seminary classes? Hadn’t God soothed his aching heart when his parents died? When he’d been forced to leave?
A breeze fanned his face, and short wisps of hair stroked her cheeks. He wanted to tuck the fluttering strands behind her perfect ears.
“I wonder,” she said again. “We’ve been taught how omnipotent God is. How powerful and mighty. Why would he care about me when he uses a man like Simmons to reign over us?”
Shock rippled through him. But why shouldn’t Cara doubt? Hadn’t he, at seminary? She’d not left the group, seen the broader vision, learned the truth as he had.
“You don’t need to doubt his love for you. Men may fail us, but God will never fail.” Dayne hated the platonic tone in his voice.
A faint smile eased the tight line of her lips. “Do you believe, Dayne? Do you know?”
He skirted a pile of dirt and moved up beside her, took her elbow, and guided her away from the gravesite. “Yes. I know because the Bible says so. I know because I’ve experienced God’s love.” Better. At least he’d spoken the truth.
Her attitude wasn’t hopeful but definitely held a touch of curiosity.
They strolled toward her home, not talking, away from the men who ambled toward the grave.
“Are you all right?”
“You mean this?” She indicated her wrist, and a rueful smile touched her lips. “I hardly noticed. I’m fine.”
At least physically, she meant. “Are your girls at home?”
Her body tensed. “Yes.”
“How old are they?”
“Leila is ten and Lacy four.”
“You didn’t bring them.”
“No. They are too young to endure one of our funerals, even if it is their father. Even if I’ll have to pay the price.”
Was she talking about Elder Simmons? He tightened his grip on her arm. “You are right. I’m so sorry about Lori.”
She cocked her head while he voiced his sympathy. A shadow-like darkness spread over her face. He glanced at the sky. Not a cloud marred the perfect blue.
“You didn’t know her.”
“No. I wish I’d been here for you.” He breathed the words quietly and thought perhaps she hadn’t heard them.
“I do too, Dayne. I’ll say good-bye here. Thank you for the lovely service.”
She didn’t give him a chance to speak but walked straight down the road, not running, but not loitering either. The simple dress she wore clung to her body. The hem swayed around her long legs, her movements smooth and coordinated. She gave no indication of the conflict he’d seen in her. She didn’t look back.
* * *
Dayne hurried toward the Hayman house. Was she as wonderful as she’d seemed this afternoon or had his star-studded eyes deceived him? Were these emotions seething inside him a new grownup response to seeing a beautiful woman or the buried puppy love of an adolescent boy seeing his first love?
He didn’t have to answer his questions. He already knew. He’d never stopped loving Cara. He might have buried his love; suffered silently the agonizing disappointment when he learned she would not be his; might have squashed any hopes and dreams of their future together, but he’d never been able to crush the love.
They’d taught him at seminary to be available for the grieving, holding their hands, listening to their teary-eyed confessions and memories, and offering words of comfort. He’d offer all that, but his real agenda was to see if she still harbored any thoughts of him.
Cara’s car was parked close to the door. Lights shone from the kitchen and front windows, but the upstairs remained dark. Perhaps she had sent the girls on to bed.
His excitement at seeing Cara—the second time since his return from college and seminary—sent the blood pounding through his veins. He patted Sabre. “Gotta keep my cool. That’s why I brought you. If I get out of line, you give me a nudge with that nose of yours, you hear me?” The collie gazed at him, adoration in his eyes, his mouth wide open in a doggy grin.
“Okay, so I’m excited to see Cara again. Do you have to laugh about it?”
The image of Cara working here, her slender hands covered in garden gloves, smudges of dirt on her nose, didn’t help his heart rate any.
The horizon showed streaks of red, violet, and purple against the backdrop of an indigo sky, an indication evening was not loitering around for him to make any earth-shattering decisions.
A tyke of a girl thrust open the door before he could knock.
Her big eyes, the same color as Cara’s, fastened on the dog.
He smiled down at the child. “Do you like my dog?”
“His name is Sabre. You can pet him if you want.”
She drew back, only a little, but enough to tell him of her fear. “Will he bite?”
Dayne bent over. “Sabre, shake.”
The dog obediently held out a paw.
“Look, he wants to shake your hand.”
Lacy solemnly took the collie’s paw. She looked up at Dayne. “I like your dog.”
“I’m Pastor MacFarland. Is your mother here?”
Solemnly the child lifted a finger to her mouth and opened the door wider. He stepped inside, heard the murmurs and followed the sounds.
Caralynne sat on a plain sofa, an older girl beside her, a child’s book in her hands, a long-eared rabbit staring at him from the cover. She looked up as he entered the room and frowned when she spotted the dog.
His enthusiasm waned. Was he intruding? Perhaps time had changed her and she didn’t care for a dog in the house. Her brow smoothed, easing away his sudden concern, her slowly-widening smile, a balm to ease his questions.
He took the hand she offered. “How are you, Cara? I wanted to stop by and see if you needed anything.”
“Thanks.” Cara stroked her daughter’s hair. “I’m fine. These are my girls, Leila, and my baby, Lacy.”
“Sabre and I are very pleased to meet you. Can you give the girls a wave?” The dog waved a paw back and forth.
The girls giggled. Leila tilted her head the way Cara did, and the unconscious move made him smile. The girl must have gotten her dark hair and brown eyes from her father, but her actions were Cara’s.
“I’m Lacy.” The youngest peeked at him from behind Cara.
“So you are.” Dayne pulled out two apples from his jacket pocket. “I don’t suppose you like—”
Quick as a frog’s tongue, the little girl captured one of the shining fruits, the sauciness in her blue eyes begging for more treats.
But when he glanced at Cara again to share the moment, he caught the confusion in her eyes. What was bothering her?
The next moment her face cleared. Even as she blinked, she answered Leila’s questioning look. “Take the apple, Leila.”
She gave her daughter a hug but spoke to Dayne. “Would you like some of my fresh raspberry tea?”
At his nod, she said, “Leila, honey, can you bring Reverend MacFarland a glass of tea?”
Leila hurried from the room as Lacy dropped to her knees and held out her apple to the dog.
“Lacy, no. The dog doesn’t want your apple. Please sit down, Dayne.”
“Am I intruding, Cara? Did I come too soon?”
“No, it’s okay.”
Sabre trotted to Lacy and sat, his velvet brown eyes fastened on her as she crooned to him. Leila returned, carrying a tall glass in both hands.
Dayne accepted the tea, sipped, and widened his eyes. “Delicious. Did you make this?”
The older girl smiled. “Mom made it.” Her quiet correction didn’t hide the pleasure he’d given her at his praise.
“You’re as smart as your mother.”
Caralynne shooed the girls. “Leila, would you take Lacy to the front porch and keep her occupied? Please play quietly, and don’t leave the porch, sweetie.”
“Sabre, go with the girls.”
Leila guided her sister outside, Sabre following obediently behind them.
“Did you know your husband was sick?”
“Y-e-s. Sort of.” She lowered her head. “He’d seen the doctor about a year ago for the first time, and I think he went several times afterward. But Donald …”
“What did he do?” Dayne lowered his voice, coaxing her confidence.
She bit her lip. “Donald wasn’t a man to listen to anyone. He didn’t share much with me. What I learned was mostly through observation.”
“I see.” He’d hoped her marriage—as much as it irked him—had been one of the good ones.
Her fingers interlocked and tightened. “I saw the tablets on the dresser where he kept them, but I never saw him take any. Whether his condition was serious or not, I had no idea.”
She was more beautiful than he remembered. Some of the bounce and sparkle he’d loved years ago was missing, but now and then he caught a glimpse of the free spirit from years past.
It wasn’t easy to admit he’d been devastated to learn—eons ago, it seemed now—of her and Donald Hayman’s marriage. How could he think his love and hers would command different rules? A mystery, yes, but still foolish. They weren’t special cases to be looked upon with favor.
“Donald had definite ideas. If he wanted me to know something, he told me. Otherwise, he explained nothing. He spoke and expected to be obeyed. He invited no questions from me.”
What kind of relationship was that? “Didn’t you have family times? Personal time with each other?”
“What? Are you kidding?” She bit her lip as her cheeks warmed pink. “I stayed as far away from him as I could. Which wasn’t far enough.”
“Then you weren’t happy?”
“Happy? How happy can a woman be who … is married to a man she doesn’t love? A man she desp—”
Despises? “Why didn’t you leave?”
“Leave? He never would have let me go.” She shook her head, her brow wrinkled. For an instant, an emotion stirred deep within her eyes and startled him. It faded and the lively eyes he remembered returned.
“I don’t know why I said that.” Her face flushed. “He wouldn’t be happy if I tried to leave, but I don’t know what he’d have done.”
Concern for this woman ate at him, but he held it in check and forced his voice into a casual tone. “What are your plans now?” Plans to include him would be nice. Right now he wanted to catch her up in his arms and never let her go.
As if he could. He had a promise to keep.
A girlish squeal echoed from the porch, and Caralynne tilted her head, listening. She gave a slight nod when satisfied all was well, and one shoulder lifted in a nonchalant move. Her eyes sparkled strange blue-green fire. “I have three months before …”
He knew and hated the rule. His determination to change things, to make the elders see the error of their ways continued to bore into his soul.
“Perhaps …” he read the question in her eye and hesitated. Give no false hope. “I’m hoping I can influence them enough they’ll want a change—”
Her laughter brought him to a halt.
“Are you naïve enough to think any of them would change when they have everything going their way?”
“They see it differently—”
“No. They’re sick.”
“Many of our couples have good marriages.”
“Are you defending them?”
The cold, harsh tone was unlike anything he’d ever heard from her. Stretching out a hand, he took one of hers. “Cara, I came home hoping to make a difference. To prove to our people a better way. Can you trust God he’ll help them make the right decisions?”
“I always loved the way you said my name. Your inflection still has an endearing Italian ring.”
“I’m not Italian.”
“I know, but I used to imagine you were an Italian prince who would someday rescue me from my prison.”
Was that accusation in her voice—or longing? Did she blame him for not saving her from an unwanted marriage? “We were kids. I wish I’d been older and wiser. I could have done something.”
“Rebel?” Her eyes gentled and reminded him of calm pools hidden in a forest. “No, Dayne. I quit dreaming a long time ago and grew up in a hurry. Reality is my life now.”
Definitely not the same girl from years ago. An enormous sense of loss overwhelmed him. “Can I do anything for you? Anything at all?”
“I don’t think so. The girls and I will remain here as long as … we can live in peace and until—some things are resolved.”
A simple enough statement, and yet a deeper strain of meaning ran through. Or was it a purpose? Her face was serene, her manner quiet. Unwilling to push for her confidence, he decided to head home.
Her light footsteps followed him outside, and at the porch steps he faced her again. The girls’ abandoned toys lay scattered across the floor. The smallest one ran to her, but Leila hovered close to him as if she instinctively trusted him. Hugging her youngest, Cara looked at him, the brightness of her eyes disturbing him. Tears?
“I’ll check on you in a few days.”
She looked angelic, the light from inside shining at her back. An angel guarding the children in her care. “Thank you, Dayne, but you don’t have to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”
“I know. But I want to. After all, it’s my job as pastor of the flock. Come, Sabre.”
“Goodnight.” Her whispered farewell floated to him as he strode down the path,
Sabre trotting beside him. He wished he possessed the power to turn back the clock.
From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman is a featured book. As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to http://bit.ly/Christian_Books and enter the Rafflecopter (toward the bottom of the page). And be sure and pick up The Redemption of Caralynne Haymen at http://www.amazon.com/Redemption-Caralynne-Christian-Suspense-Fiction-ebook/dp/B00FY2ZH66