Dorothy Clark.

Joy for Mourning






PRAISE FOR DOROTHY CLARK AND HER NOVELS

A dynamic story of two lonely people in a desperate search for loveriveting and fast-paceda fabulous story. Top Pick. 4? stars.

Romantic Times on Beauty for Ashes

In Hoseas Bride, Dorothy Clark skillfully lends a modern twist to the Biblical story of Hosea. A powerful faith message is deftly interwoven with a wrenching tale of a woman who doesnt believe she is worthy of love. Top Pick. 4? stars.

Romantic Times

Dorothy Clark has woven a beautiful, compelling story of Gods mercy and healing.

ChristianBookPreviews.com on Hoseas Bride

This debut novelis one that will keep you turning page after page until you all-too-soon reach the end. The forgiveness and love [the heroine] finds when she becomes a Christian is truly inspiring.

RomanceJunkies.com on Hoseas Bride

Joy for Mourning
Dorothy Clark


www.millsandboon.co.uk

This book is dedicated with deep appreciation to my talented writing friends and critique partners, Debby Dill and Nancy Toback, who have been with me from the beginning on this book.

Thanks for your unfailing graciousness and encouragement. You two are the best!

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Discussion Questions

Chapter One

New York, 1822

She couldnt stand it! Not for another minute! She had to go someplace where there were people, laughter, life. Laina Brighton swept her gaze around her beautiful, richly furnished drawing room, and the despair she now lived with on a daily basis gripped her anew. It was so elegant, so perfect, so empty. She missed Stanford. Oh, how she missed him! If only they could have had children, perhaps

Laina wrenched her mind from her heartrending thoughts, blinked away the tears that sprang so readily to her eyes these days and walked swiftly to the doorway. Her reflection flashed in the gilt-framed mirror as she hurried past. Her steps faltered. She turned and went back to stare into the mirror. The sorrow was still there, but so was a look of determination she hadnt seen on her face since Stanford had died so unexpectedly nine months ago. She whirled and yanked open the door.

Beaumont?

The impeccably garbed butler materialized as if from thin air.

Laina frowned.

And that was another thingthe servants hovered. They were so solicitous it was smothering her!

Yes, madam?

Im going to Philadelphia, Beaumont. She ignored the quickly stifled look of shocked disapproval in his eyesBeaumont was a stickler for convention. Tell Carlson to prepare the carriage immediately. I wish to leave within the hour.

Within the hour? But madam, thats imposs He stopped short as Laina stiffened her spine. He gave her a small bow. Yes, madamwithin the hour. Will there be anything else?

Yes. Send Tilly to my room to help Annette with the packing. With a swish of her long black skirts, Laina spun about and headed for the ornately carved stairway that spiraled upward to the third floor. She glanced back over her shoulder at her butler as she began to climb. And tell Hannah to prepare a food basketenough for two days. And She cleared the sudden thickness from her throat. And send Billy ahead to arrange for a change of horses. Im not stopping until I reach Randolph Court!

Philadelphia

Laina! What a wonderful surprise. Im so pleased you Elizabeth gasped and stopped her headlong rush into the drawing room.

Do I look that disreputable? Laina forced a smile and rose to her feet. The room spun. She put her hand on the arm of the chair to steady herself.

Laina, dear, whats wrong? Her sister-in-law rushed forward and clasped her arms around her. Youre so paleand trembling enough to shake apart. Are you ill?

No. Im simply incredibly weary. Laina bit down on her lip to stop the laughter that was pushing upward in her throat. She must be hysterical. There was certainly nothing amusing Bother! She blinked the sudden film of moisture from her eyes and stepped back from Elizabeths arms. It was too easy to give in to self-pity when others were sympathetic. I came from home without stopping.

Without stopping? Are you mad?

Laina jerked at the roar of words from the doorway. No, dearheartonly desperate. Her lower lip quivered as she watched her younger brother hurry across the room toward her. The tears shed been fighting welled into her eyes as his strong arms pulled her into a bone-crushing hug. Oh, how wonderful it felt to be held again! She rested her head against his hard chest. Dont scold, Justin. I simply could not stay in that dreary, lonely house any longer. I had to come.

Im not scolding you for coming, Laina. Only for doing so in such a foolhardy manner. Justin slid his hands to the top of her arms and held her a short distance away, frowning down at her. Why didnt you send word? I would have come for you. There was no need for you to make the journey alone, without care or rest. Look at you! Youre all but done in from fatigue.

I know. Laina lifted her watery gaze to her brothers handsome, scowling face. I know it was foolish of me, Justin, but it would have meant days of waiting if Oh! She began to sway as the full force of her exhaustion swept over her. I think Id better sit down.

You dont need to sit down, Laina. You need to sleep. Bring her along, Justin. Elizabeth spun about and started across the room.

Laina was too weary to protest as her brother scooped her into his arms and followed.

I dont believe we need send for Dr. Allen, Justin. Laina isnt fevered. Elizabeth glanced up at her worried husband. I think sleep is the only medicine she needs.

Laina sagged with relief as Elizabeth lifted her hand from her forehead, then gathered the last of her strength and pushed herself into a sitting position against the headboard. The bed felt too good after her long journey. She fought the desire to close her eyes, and smiled at Justin. Elizabeth is right, dearheart. Please dont make a fuss. All I need is sleep.

And food. Justin scowled down at her. Havent you been eating? Look at yourself, Lainayoure thin as a stick!

Her heart warmed at sight of the worried frown lines creasing her brothers forehead. Youre such a loving, caring man, Justin. She wrinkled her nose at him. Even if not a very complimentary one. She shifted her gaze to Elizabeth and forced a tired smile. How could you ever have thought him cold and aloof?

Elizabeth laughed. Because he acted that way. How was I to know it was all a sham? She stepped to her husbands side and rested her hand on his arm. Laina will be fine, Justin, but we need to get the travel dust off her so she can go to bed. And that means you need to go downstairs. Ill join you as soon as Trudy and I have made her comfortable for the night.

Justin shifted his gaze to his wife, and Lainas chest tightened. Stanford had admired her, but hed never looked at her the way Justin was looking at Elizabethespecially after shed failed to produce an heir for him. And now

Laina broke off the depressing thought and watched as her brother cupped his wifes face in his hands, kissed her soundly, then lifted his head and grinned. There! Now Ive finally satisfied a desire Ive had since the first night we spent together in this roomat least in part.

Justin! Elizabeths cheeks flamed. Your sister

Knows I love you. Look, Ive made her smile. Justin chuckled and kissed the tip of Elizabeths finely formed nose. I like it when you blush.

Laina sighed. She couldnt help it. Justin and Elizabeth were so much in love, so happy together. Justin glanced at her over his wifes soft golden curls. I wish there was something we could do to ease your sorrow, Lainy.

There is. We can let her know how much we love her. Elizabeth lifted her head and smiled. We can share our happiness with her and we can pray for her, because the restthe easing of her grief and the healing of her sorrowis in Gods hands.

The words were meant as comfort, but they only made her feel worse. Laina clamped her jaw together to hold back the bitter retort that sprang to her lips. She had never been on close terms with God the way Elizabeth was, and since Stanfords death she ignored Him completely. Why not? What had God ever done for her? She was barren in spite of years of prayers, and now she was widowed and without hope of ever having a child. She looked away lest they read her anger on her face.

You speak truth. Youre a very wise woman, Elizabeth.

Laina stiffened and snapped her gaze back to her brother. Surely he didnt believe in God again? What had happened to the disbelief and bitterness hed felt after his disastrous marriage to Margaret?

Thank you, sir. But I am also a busy one. Now go! Elizabeth pushed against Justins chest. He grinned and tightened his grip.

The door opened.

Oh! Excuse me, mum! I didntI meanyou rang and Ill come back.

Laina glanced at the awkward, blushing maid tripping all over herself as she hurriedly backed out the door, and her anger dissolved. She burst into laughter at the comical sight. It felt wonderful to laugh again.

Justin winked at her, then motioned to the maid. Come in, Trudy. I was only saying goodbye. I have been ordered from the room. He gave a mock scowl and leaned down to Elizabeths ear. Sometimes servants are most inconvenient! His whisper was loud enough for all to hear.

Trudy giggled.

Laina whisked back in time to when she and Justin were small. They were in the kitchen watching the cook baking and Justin leaned over and whispered, The smells making my tummy hurt. I wish we could have a biscuit. His wish was granted. Cook overheard his whisper and slid them each a biscuit. They looked at the cookies, looked at each other and a conspiracy was born. From that time on theyd used the whisper ploy to manipulate servants into giving them their way.

Laina chuckled at the memory. Justin grinned at her and she knew he was remembering, too. Suddenly she didnt feel so lost and alone. The tightness in her chest eased. She reached for her brothers hand. Bless you, Justin.

He gave her hand a squeeze, then bent and kissed her cheek just in front of her ear. Its going to be all right, Lainyhearts promise.

This time the whisper was for her alone. It was the solemn oath theyd made to each other when one of them had been sad or unhappy after their mothers death. Lainas breath caught on a sob. Justin gave her a fierce hug, then turned abruptly and strode from the room.

Do you feel better?

Much better, Elizabeth. Thank you for loaning me Trudy. The hot bath took away much of the soreness from being tossed around in the carriage. Laina adjusted the black tie at the neck of her white nightgown and sank onto the edge of the bed. She was too shaky and weak from fatigue to stand.

Are you hungry? Elizabeth swept her gaze over her. I had cook make you a tray. Theres chicken stew, an apple dumpling, some cheese and warm milk.

Laina made an effort. She ate a few bites of the stew, popped a bit of cheese in her mouth, then sighed and pulled her damp braid forward over her shoulder. The food is wonderful, Elizabeth, but Im simply too weary to eat. Ill have the dumpling in the morning. She slid under the covers and sank back against the feather pillow.

Of course. Sleep is what you need now. Elizabeth put a few bite-size pieces of cheese on the plate with the dumpling, covered it with the napkin and placed it on the nightstand beside a glass of water. She motioned Trudy to take the tray away. Is there anything more I can do to make you comfortable? She pulled the red-and-cream-patterned coverlet over Lainas exposed shoulders. Perhaps another blanket?

No. Nothing. Laina glanced up at the red tester above her and smiled. Thank you for putting me in this room, Elizabeth. It will be so lovely to wake up to color. Everything in my house is shrouded in black. Her eyelids drifted closed. She forced them open again. I lovecolorespeciallyred. She frowned. Her voice sounded thick and far away. Her eyelids drifted closed again.

Yes, I know. Elizabeth leaned down and hugged her. Good night, Laina. Its so lovely having you here. Sleep well.

Umm. She couldnt form a word. Couldnt open her eyes. The light against her eyelids dimmed, flickered. She heard the rustle of Elizabeths skirts, the soft pat of her shoes against the carpet. The door opened and closed. Silence descended.

Laina gave a long sigh. At home the silence grated against her nerves. This silence was differentthere was life behind it. And tomorrow she would see the children. A smile curved her lips. She cuddled the thought to her and yielded to her exhaustion.

Justin stopped pacing and pivoted to face his wife as she entered the salon. I think youre wrong, Elizabeth. I think we should send for Dr. Allen. Laina looks ill. He frowned. Shes thin as a fence rail and weak as a kitten. And those dark circles under her eyes He shook his head. One would think shed been punched. He scowled. We need Dr. Allen.

Justin, I know its hard for you to see your sister looking so frail, but I promise you, a good nights sleep will do away with those dark circles and cooks good food will take care of Lainas thinness and help her regain her strength. Elizabeth crossed to the settee and seated herself. As for the rest, as I said earlier, that is in Gods hands. All we can do is love her and pray for her. She smiled and patted the cushion beside her. Why dont you come sit down and relax in front of the fire?

Sit? Justin shook his head. I cant simply sit hereIm too agitated. He bent and threw another log on the already blazing fire, then grabbed the poker and jabbed it into place. I wish there was something I could do for Laina. He gave the log another jab and shot her a look. Besides pray.

I know, dear. But at the moment all she needs is rest. Elizabeth rose and walked over to put her arms around Justins waist. He pulled her close. She went on tiptoe and kissed his chin. Why dont you walk to the Merchants Coffee House, dear? You can stride off some of that frustration on the way, and talking business and politics with your friends will get your mind off Laina.

He gave her a mock scowl. Are you trying to get rid of me, madam?

Elizabeth laughed. Only until you calm down a bit.

Justins mouth twisted into a rueful smile. Im sorry if Im being a bear about this, Elizabeth. I think Ill take your advice. A brisk walk is exactly what I need. He dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose, then planted one on her mouth and left the room. When she could no longer hear his footsteps, she sighed and bowed her head.

Father God, please guide Justin and me with Your wisdom to know what is best to do for Laina. Please give us understanding of her hurt and grief, and compassion and wisdom to help her through it. And dear Lord, I pray You will lead Laina in the path of Your choosing for her that she might know peace and fulfillment. Please touch her heart with Your healing hand and make her truly happy. I ask it in Your holy name. Amen.

Elizabeth released another long sigh and blinked away the tears pooled in her eyes. She had a sudden urgent need to see her childrento look on their dear, sleeping faces. She hurried from the room, down the hall to the staircase and began to climb. How blessed she was to have a loving husband and three healthy, happy children! Her heart overflowed with thanksgiving. Dear Lord, may You bless Laina as richly as You have blessed me!

Laina whimpered and turned onto her side, her fingers flexing against the feather pillow, drawing it closer. It bunched beneath her hand. Her fingers flexed again.

There were children floating at her out of the darkness. Children of all ages and sizes, from babies to adolescents. Angry, crying, frightened children. She caught each child as they neared, pulling them out of the darkness and tucking them into her heart where they would be loved and protected. Her heart grew larger and larger. She was afraid it would burst, but still she gathered the children in. Her arms grew weary as she worked until at last they fell useless to her sides. No. No! She couldnt stop. She had to help the children!

A man came and stood beside her. She could feel his strength. He began pulling the children out of the darkness, and her distress eased. She tried to see who the man was, but whenever she looked, he was turned away reaching for another child. Her heart became engorged with them. How could it hold more? What would she do with them all?

Justin appeared, smiling and placing his hand on her swollen, enlarged heart. Its going to be all right, Lainyhearts promise. His hand turned into a purse that burst open, raining money down over the children in her heart. They began to laugh. The sound filled her with joy. She began to laugh with them.

The man took hold of her hand and suddenly they were alone. His touch made her forget how to breathe. She looked up. She couldnt see his face! Who was he?

Justin laughed.

He knew! She spun toward her brother, but he was floating away. Dont go, Justin! Tell me! Who is he?

Hearts promise, Lainy, hearts promise

Justin, wait!

Laina bolted upright, startled awake by her own cry. Her heart was pounding. She clasped her hand to her chest and darted her gaze about the room searching for her brother. The dim, flickering light of the fire highlighted the objects in the room. There was no one there. She was alone. It was only a dream.

Laina shook her head and sank back onto the pillow. She could understand dreaming about Justin and children, because shed been thinking of them when she drifted off to sleep. But who was the stranger? And what about the money? It made no sense. No sense at all. She yawned and closed her eyes. It was probably because she was so tired.

Chapter Two

It was hunger that woke her.

Laina opened her eyes, and the first thing she saw was the red tester overhead. She stared at it in confusion for a moment, then smiled as her sleep-befuddled mind cleared. Shed made it! She was at Randolph Court. Oh, glory, glory, glory!

Laina sat up and swept her gaze around the large bedroom, drinking in the sights. Someone had been in and built up the fire. It was blazing merrily, its flickering light warming the red-and-cream-patterned silk on the walls, the red, blue and green paisley fabric on the chair that sat at the side of the hearth. Oh, how wonderful to see bright colors again!

Her stomach rumbled. Laina slid from the bed, lifted the napkin-covered plate from the nightstand and carried it to the chair. The fire warmed her bare feet and the swirling colors in the paisley fabric cheered her soul as she curled into the chairs padded comfort. For the first time since Stanfords passing she felt truly hungry. She lifted the napkin, placed it on her lap and picked up the fork. The first bite of baked apple tasted delicious. She took another, then another with a bite of cheese.

Wonderful! If she hadnt had good manners drilled into her as a child, she would have smacked her lips. Laina smiled, finished the apple, then popped the last bite of cheese into her mouth.

Youre awake.

Laina gasped and almost dropped the plate as she jerked around toward the door.

Im sorry, I didnt mean to startle you. I was being quiet in case you were still asleep. Elizabeth smiled and closed the door. How are you feeling?

Much better. Laina held up the empty plate. My compliments to your cook.

Elizabeths laughter washed over her like healing balm. I hope you havent spoiled your appetite. Its almost time for dinner.

Dinner? Laina stared up at Elizabeth. No wonder I feel better. I havent slept the night through since She swallowed and looked down at her hands. It was still hard to speak the words aloud.

Elizabeth bent and gave her a quick hug. You were truly exhausted, Laina. Im so pleased you rested well and are feeling stronger. She smiled and took the empty plate. Do you feel up to coming down to the dining room, or would you prefer a tray here in your room?

No, no tray. Laina shook her head and rose to her feet. Ive had enough of being alone. She squared her shoulders, trying not to look as pitiful as she felt. Is there time enough to see the children before dinner? Ive so been looking forward to making my new nephews acquaintance.

Elizabeth laughed and nodded. How could I refuse such a request? We shall make time. Cook can set dinner back an hour. Now, Ill ring for Trudy while you have a wash, then she will help you dress and do your hair. Elizabeth smiled at her over her shoulder as she headed for the bellpull. Shes already set out your things in the dressing room.





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