Cover image for All is bright
Title:
All is bright
Author:
Kinkade, Thomas, 1958-2012.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
x, 294 pages ; 24 cm.
Summary:
"In the little town of Cape Light, Reverend Ben Lewis reflects on Christmas past-while his beloved daughter, Rachel, looks to the future. A box of old photographs sparks long forgotten memories for Reverend Ben, images of himself when he was a young minister, a newcomer to Cape Light and his congregation. He remembers the very first Christmas at his new church, when nothing turned out as he expected. A prominent church member and benefactor, Oliver Warwick, stood accused of a serious crime, and the entire town and congregation were quickly torn apart. Ben knew that he must carry the banner of God's love and mercy into the fray, all the while struggling to win his church's confidence and respect and prove to all-including himself-that he was worthy of his calling as a minister. As her father looks back, Rachel Anderson looks to the future, trying to imagine a life without her beloved husband, Jack. But then, single-dad Ryan Cooper appears on her doorstep like an unexpected package. Her son's basketball coach is just the man Rachel needs to shake up her world and show her there's such a thing as focusing-and fretting-too much. Ryan's gentleness, charm, and understanding are a convincing combination, and Rachel soon finds herself imagining a new world filled with hope and love. But deep loss and old fears are not so easily dispelled, and Christmas brings Rachel a serious choice: cling to a past filled with comforting memories, or reach for a future of bright possibilities. "--
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780425264324
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

In the little town of Cape Light, Reverend Ben Lewis reflects on Christmas past--while his beloved daughter, Rachel,  looks to the future.
 
A box of old photographs sparks long forgotten memories for Reverend Ben, images of himself when he was a young minister, a newcomer to Cape Light and his congregation. He remembers the very first Christmas at his new church, when nothing turned out as he expected.  A prominent church member and benefactor, Oliver Warwick, stood accused of a serious crime, and the entire town and congregation were quickly torn apart. Ben knew that he must carry the banner of God's love and mercy into the fray, all the while struggling to win his church's confidence and respect and prove to all--including himself--that he was worthy of his calling as a minister.
 
As her father looks back, Rachel Anderson looks to the future, trying to imagine a life without her beloved husband, Jack. But then, single-dad Ryan Cooper appears on her doorstep like an unexpected package. Her son's basketball coach is just the man Rachel needs to shake up her world and show her there's such a thing as focusing--and fretting-- too much. Ryan's gentleness, charm, and understanding are a convincing combination, and Rachel soon finds herself imagining a new world filled with hope and love. But deep loss and old fears are not so easily dispelled, and Christmas brings Rachel a serious choice: cling to a past filled with comforting memories, or reach for a future of bright possibilities.


Author Notes

Before becoming a full-time writer, Katherine Spencer was a fiction editor. She has written over 20 books for both children and adults including the Cape Light series.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Excerpts

Excerpts

CONTENTS DEAR READER Sometimes it seems to me that one of the best parts of Christmas is reminiscing about the many holidays that have passed. As if each Christmas season is part of some larger work in progress, like pearls on a string. One precious bead added each year. Every decoration, taken from its hiding place, speaks to me, telling its particular story. Each ornament, music box, wooden bear, or snow globe summons vivid memories. When I was very young, my father worked for a company that imported Christmas ornaments from Europe. These handmade decorations were very fine, made of hand-blown glass, painstakingly painted and decorated--skiers and ice-skaters, ballerinas and angels. An entire set of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A blue candle with a miniature nativity scene inside, a fragile glass shadow box. As Christmas drew closer, my father would come home each night with mysterious packages, and we would sit in awe as the newest treasures were unveiled. I still remember those slim brown boxes tied with string coming through the door, and feeling so eager to see what was inside. When my parents sold the family home, they passed these family heirlooms on to me and my sister. No matter how carefully preserved, only a few have survived. When I hang them on our tree, I am instantly transported back in time to golden hours. But now these antique ornaments hang alongside newer treasures, definitely made of sturdier stuff, but with no less claim on a place in my heart's scrapbook. In this book Reverend Ben is also transported back into the past, to his very first Christmas in Cape Light. He recalls the many challenges and joys the season brought to him, while in the present, his daughter, Rachel, wonders if she can open her heart and trust the gifts that this Christmas brings. So it is with all of our Christmas traditions and memories. As the beloved carol "Silent Night" reminds us, "All is calm. All is bright." The beauty of Christmas past and Christmas present, shining together, with one steady light. And while I fully intend to relish my memories this Christmas, as I do every year, I will also be mindful and grateful for the present moment--the memories in the making. And so many blessings received at Christmas and all year through. I truly hope you will, too. With all best wishes, Katherine Spencer CHAPTER ONE Present day, December 3 Reverend Ben had forgotten all about the meeting. It was already late afternoon when he emerged from his office, coat and briefcase in hand. He had planned to leave the church early and look in on Dr. Elliot, who had been home with bronchitis over Thanksgiving weekend. "Are you leaving for the day, Reverend?" Mrs. Honeyfield abruptly looked up from her keyboard. "What about the meeting?" Before he could ask the obvious question, his secretary added, "About the church history?" "Oh right . . . was that today?" He noticed the rising sound of voices in the conference room. The group must have started without him. "Wednesday at four. I left a sticky note on your calendar." Mrs. Honeyfield politely looked back at her computer. "Guess I missed it." That was true. Though he wasn't sure how. His secretary's sticky notes were growing progressively brighter as he grew older. The little squares had started off a bland, pale yellow and now fairly screamed at him in neon pink and roadwork orange. "I'd better get in there." Ben set his coat on a chair. "Would you call Mrs. Warwick . . . I mean, Mrs. Elliot," he quickly corrected himself. "Please tell her I've been delayed. I can stop by after five. Or tomorrow. Whatever she prefers." It went without saying that Lillian Elliot would not hesitate to state her preference. He would always think of her as Lillian Warwick, though her surname had changed a few years back when she and her longtime friend, Ezra Elliot, were married. The well-earned triumph of a patient heart--Dr. Elliot's, that is . . . not Lillian's, to be sure. But it was now clear to all that Lillian's devotion equally matched that of her husband. With Ezra fighting off the flu, Ben thought he should visit. Lillian liked to give the impression that she didn't care one way or another about such attentions from her minister. He could almost see her shrugging a thin shoulder. But Ben knew--after nearly forty years as Lillian's pastor--that the great lady did care. And felt it was her due. "Of course, Reverend. I'll call her right away." "Thank you, Mrs. Honeyfield. Where would I be without you?" She answered with a small smile. "I can't say, Reverend. But probably not at your meetings." Ben laughed and headed to the conference room. Meetings--and more meetings--the chugging engine that kept his little church moving down the track. Often slow and ponderous, prone to sudden stops and unsettling puffs of steam. But sooner or later, all the passengers were carried where they needed to go, their progress slow but steady. This afternoon's meeting was about producing a church history, a book that would be sold to raise funds for the church's many service projects in the community: the community garden in the spring, free books and school supplies given out to schoolchildren in the fall, the gifts and toys for struggling families at Christmas, the food pantry, open all year long, and so many other worthy efforts made by his congregation. Even without that benefit, the book would be a wonderful way to preserve the church's long, colorful story and the contributions of so many generations, dating back to the seventeenth century. The history had been Sophie Potter's idea, and a good one, though it would take long hours of complicated work to see it through. But despite the challenges, the group was eager to try their hand at it. "What is now proved was once only imagined," the poet William Blake had written. It was one of the amazing things about this world, Ben often reflected. How God inspires us to create, bestowing an idea and a vision and the energy and means to follow through if we only have the faith to try what appears at first to be difficult . . . or even impossible. He entered the conference room, a few doors down from the office, and greeted the members of the committee. "Hello, everyone. Sorry I'm late." He glanced around the table and took the nearest empty seat, noticing his wife, Carolyn, seated directly across the table. He met her bright blue eyes with a smile. Sophie Potter, the committee chairperson, sat at the head of the table, an impressive array of papers and folders spread around her. "We've just been discussing what needs to be done and sorting out the jobs, Reverend. Vera and Claire have volunteered to write the text," she added, referring to longtime church members Vera Plante and Claire North. "Carolyn and I will work on the research, and Grace Hegman is going to put the whole thing together, figuring out where the pictures go and all that. She's made some beautiful scrapbooks and collections of vintage photographs about town history and the fishermen of her father's day. Have you ever seen them?" "I've never had the pleasure," Ben admitted, glancing at Grace, who tilted her head in her modest way. She was a quiet and sensitive soul, but very observant. Ben didn't doubt her scrapbooks were wonderful. And Sophie sounded so sure of her assignments. But so much was done on computers these days, especially making a book of this kind. Did Grace Hegman, an expert on all things antique and vintage, know enough about the necessary technological shortcuts? Before he could voice his concerns, Vera Plante spoke up. "Dan Forbes offered to edit the manuscript and put everything on the computer for us so we can have it printed at the lowest cost." "Wonderful. He can keep his eye on the historical facts, too," Ben added. Though he trusted the group to do an excellent job researching the church's story, he was happy to hear that the former reporter and editor-in-chief of the town newspaper was on board as well. Dan would doubtlessly lend a professional touch. After handing over the Cape Light Messenger to his daughter Lindsay, he had written and published several books about local history. Working at home, he had been doing most of the child care for his younger daughter, Jane, while his wife, Mayor Emily Warwick, ran the town. "I think Emily persuaded him to take part. She wanted to help, but has her plate full, as usual," Claire explained. Sophie made a note on a yellow pad. "He's also going to check the newspaper archives for articles about the church." "That will be a huge help for the researchers," Carolyn said. "Meanwhile, we have a job for you, Ben." "For me?" Ben fumbled to hide his surprise. He was happy to give his opinions and oversee, but didn't expect to be doing any hands-on work. Maybe they wanted him to write an introduction or a letter to the reader? "It's an important job." Sophie stood up and took a large brown box with a lid from a table near the door. Ben hadn't even noticed it until that moment. "Can I help you?" he asked quickly. Sophie was healthy and strong, but she was well over eighty. It was only polite to offer. "Thank you, but it doesn't weigh much. About half a bushel of McIntosh, maybe less." Sophie had run an orchard all her life and tended to judge the world in terms of apples. Reverend Ben couldn't help but smile. He sat down again and she set the box at the end of the table. It looked like the kind used to store files, though he could tell by the way she carried it that it was not filled with piles of paper, but something lighter. She removed the lid and Ben inhaled a musty scent, even at a distance. "We found quite a few boxes of photographs stored around the church. We're taking turns sorting them out, trying to identify who's in the pictures and when and where they were taken, and selecting any that could be included in our book." "I can help with that. I love looking at old photos," Ben said sincerely. "We were hoping you would say that. You've been at the church a long time, Reverend." "Yes, I have," he replied with a laugh. He'd been called by the congregation over thirty-five years ago. He'd been just thirty-one years old, relatively young to head his own church. But he arrived with great confidence and faith that he was ready for the job--and was soon disabused of those illusions. Ben smiled to himself, thinking back to that rocky first year in Cape Light when both his maturity and his faith had been tested. "Most of you have been here even longer," he pointed out. "No argument there," Sophie agreed. "But there are a lot of photos. Why don't you start with this box, and we'll put a few more in your office later this week?" A few more? There must have been about a thousand photos in the single carton on the table. He could see his wife suppress a laugh. "I'll take this home and we can look at it tonight, Ben." Carolyn slid the box toward her end of the table. "It will be fun. Better than watching television," she promised him. His wife had such a graceful way of smoothing over an awkward moment. It was a quality he had always loved in her. He nodded and forced a smile. "Anything for the cause. I wasn't sure about this project when you suggested it, Sophie. But I think this book is going to be wonderful; a chance to honor the past and everyone who helped build our church. And a very special gift to the members who enjoy it now." "That's our mission, Reverend," Vera replied. "So many people down through the generations have had a hand in making the church what it is now. There are so many fascinating stories. It won't be dull reading, to be sure." "We aim to be truthful, too," Claire added. "A real history, including the rough times. There were a few." "I agree. Let's not gloss over the facts. Though that's not nearly as easy as it sounds," he warned. "I've tried my hand a few times at writing nonfiction accounts, and capturing the truth of a matter can be very elusive." Like an optical illusion that can transform before your eyes, he had learned. "Another reason we're glad Dan is working with us," Claire noted. "He'll keep us on the straight and narrow." Ben agreed--and also hoped the former newspaper editor would help sort through all the photos. For one thing, Dan would be far better at picking the best pictures for the book. And for another, it appeared the group could use all the help they could get with that task. He glanced at the large box, which all but obscured the sight of his lovely wife. They would hardly make a dent in it tonight, he predicted, even if they looked through the photos for hours. It turned out Ben was accurate with that guess. It was nearly eleven that night, and he and Carolyn still sat together in the living room, their reading glasses perched on their noses, shielding bleary eyes. Piles of old photographs were mounded on the dining room table. They had devised a system for sorting them, though Ben kept forgetting the categories and had to ask Carolyn each time he wanted to put one down. "Let's see . . . a Christmas pageant. Oh, there's a date on back, 1967. The wise men are all wearing Beatles haircuts," he added, looking up at her. "It took me a while to get used to that style. But I think it seems very cute and harmless now," Carolyn murmured. "Oh, look at this." She bounced up in her seat and held out a large sepia-toned photo that looked more like a formal portrait than a casual snapshot. Ben guessed it had been taken with an old-fashioned box camera. "Looks like this baby was just baptized. There are the parents and godparents . . . and the minister." Carolyn pointed, but didn't touch the delicate old photo. Ben took in the beautiful clothing of the era: the long, draping dresses of the women, with their bobbed hair and soft eyes; the stiff, high-necked shirts and vested suits on the gentlemen. "Babies wore long gowns for a christening in the old days--girls and boys," he added, noticing the lace edges on the baby's flowing, snowy white gown. "It's a beautiful photo, a real masterpiece." "And definitely has possibilities for the book. If we can just figure out who's in it . . ." She turned the photo over, then held it under the lamp on the end table. Ben noticed some pale, scratchy writing. "June sixth, nineteen twenty-five. Baptism of Dennis . . . Hegman. Reverend John Bingham presiding." She looked over at Ben. "Dennis Hegman . . . Some relation to Grace?" Ben laughed. "Indeed he is. That's Digger," he said, identifying Grace's father by his well-known nickname. "Dennis is his given name." Carolyn looked shocked, then stared back at the photo. "That adorable infant . . . is Digger? Where did those plump, dimpled cheeks go?" "They might have been hidden under his beard all these years," Ben suggested. "You could check next time you see him." "I'll take your word for it." Carolyn examined the photo again. "I never heard anyone call him Dennis. In all these years, I've never heard anyone call him anything but Digger." "And you probably never will," Ben guessed. Perhaps at the old fisherman's funeral, whenever that might be, he thought. Maybe once, as a formality. "This one can definitely be set aside for the book." Ben took the photo very carefully and laid it down in a special spot on the table. "I vote for it, too. But that will be my last effort for tonight." Carolyn rose to her feet and stretched, then picked up her shoes. "I'm feeling beat. I'll try again tomorrow." "All right, dear. But before you go, take a look at this one. Anyone you know?" It was hard to keep the laughter from his voice as he held out the small photo. She glanced at it curiously, then her entire expression lit up. "Ben . . . where did you find that?" She took the photo from his hand and stared at it. "The day we moved in here. I don't remember posing." "Neither do I," he admitted. "Someone from the church who came to help us must have taken it." "Yes, must have been . . . Look at us. We were so young." She leaned over his shoulder, her hands resting on it with a gentle touch. Ben stared down at the sight of a fresh-faced young man with fair skin, blue eyes, and a thick head of curly, reddish-brown hair that made him sigh with envy. He was wearing glasses with wire rims, a style he had not deviated from all these years. But he didn't wear a beard; that came later, along with a paunchy middle. Carolyn was simply stunning--her soft blond hair lifting in the breeze, her beautiful smile and bright eyes as she held their baby daughter, Rachel, in her arms. "Look at you. You could have been a model," he told her. "Oh, Ben, not quite. Not with all that baby drool on my dress," she added, laughing. "I don't see any baby drool." He saw his arm around Carolyn's shoulder as she cradled Rachel. Carolyn had been so very beautiful it made his heart skip a beat sometimes just to catch sight of her. Still did. It was a fair spring day, the middle of May, he recalled, though he didn't remember the exact date. But he did remember the white puffy clouds in a blue sky and the trees and bushes around the parsonage just starting to sprout tender buds and small green leaves. "How old were we here?" he asked her quietly. "You were thirty-one and I was twenty-nine. I thought I was so old to be having my first baby. These days, women are waiting into their forties. Look at Rachel. She looked like a little angel." Ben sighed, staring at the sight of their firstborn, only one month old at that time. "She did look like an angel. And cried like a banshee." "Yes, she was a fussy baby," Carolyn admitted. "She grew out of it, though." "She did," Ben added. Of course, to young parents it seemed like it would always be that way, no matter what people told them. "She doesn't cry at all now," Carolyn remarked softly. "Sometimes I wish she would, just to blow off some steam. She holds everything inside. As if she might crack if she lost control for a single moment." It was nearly two years now since Rachel had lost her husband, Jack. He had died from a heart attack; no warning, no sign. A seemingly healthy young man, only forty, who ate right, jogged, and even played one-on-one basketball with his son for hours on Saturday afternoons. What could Ben say that had not been said before, a thousand times or more? His daughter was still grieving. It was just that way. "She couldn't help it," Carolyn said, glancing back at the photo. "Crying when she was a baby, I mean. The heating pipes were so noisy, they woke her up all night long." "Noisy pipes were the least of it." Ben shook his head as he set the photo down. "Do you remember this place? It was practically falling down around us." Carolyn laughed. "I think a chunk of plaster did fall off the kitchen ceiling once while we were eating . . . But we fixed it up, little by little." "Yes, we did. But you were a good sport, dear. You never complained." She laughed at him. "Come now, Ben, ministers shouldn't lie." He laughed, too. "Well, not much. A lot of other women wouldn't have put up with it at all." "That's true. But I knew what we were together; that's what mattered to me." She squeezed his shoulder and kissed his cheek. "Lucky me," he replied. He meant it, too. Carolyn picked up an empty mug that had held some tea and a plate with cookie crumbs. "That's enough reminiscing for me. I'm going up." "I'll be along in a little while. I just want to look at a few more." Carolyn didn't answer. He heard her in the kitchen, and by the time she climbed the stairs, he was focused on the photographs again, lost in the stories that the pictures told him. Many were very old, from the 1920s and 1930s, with a few more recent photos sneaking in somehow. There had been no rhyme or reason to the storage. He sifted through several without recognizing anyone, then suddenly stopped. He saw his own image again, dressed in his long white robe, a green stole draped around his neck, along with his wooden cross, of course. He stood in front of the big wooden doors to the sanctuary. It looked as if the Sunday service had just ended. The doors were decorated with a garland made of twisted grapevines and autumn leaves. Beside the doorway, stacks of corn sheaves were tied with orange ribbon. A man stood next to him, posing for the picture. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with thick black hair and bright blue eyes. Certainly a handsome man--"movie-star looks," they used to say back then. In this case, it was true. His suit was worthy of a movie star or a millionaire. Which, in this case, was true as well. It was Oliver Warwick, of course, Lillian Warwick's first husband and, at that time, the wealthiest member of Ben's congregation, and probably the richest man in town. Ben turned the picture over. A date was scrawled on back. Sunday, November 26, 1978, Thanksgiving Weekend. Ben's thoughts drifted back, and he realized that the photo must have been taken just before Oliver's troubles began. And even before the rumors of those troubles, which gathered like dark clouds only days later, heralding the storm that broke over the Warwick mansion and forever changed the lives of the family who lived within. Did Oliver have any inkling at all on that sunny Sunday morning of what was to come? Ben examined Oliver's expression but could not find a hint of worry in his easy smile. Maybe a bit of weariness in his eyes? Ben couldn't tell now if he was just imagining that. For all his admirable traits, Oliver had been able to hide his true thoughts well. But when did I first hear about it? Ben wondered. Where was I? What was I doing? Ben set the photo aside and traced back the slim thread of memory to that long-ago autumn. He recalled a meeting of the church trustees--it must have been the day after the photograph was taken, because they used to meet on Monday nights. He could picture the members of the board seated around the table: Lester Plante, who was the moderator, Walter Tulley, Joe Morgan, and, of course, Ezra Elliot. All of them in their prime at the time. Oliver was late to that meeting and had not even called . . . November 27, 1978 "Where is Oliver?" Lester Plante demanded. Lester took his responsibilities as church moderator seriously, which Ben was all in favor of. But there was something about his overly serious, even pompous, manner as he presided over a meeting that got under Ben's skin. It was a small church with a small budget and even smaller issues to decide. Lester acted as if he were running the U.S. Congress--or, at the very least, General Motors. Ben knew he shouldn't judge. He silently asked God for forgiveness and for patience--and found himself repeating the prayer several times during the evening. "We need to settle this heating-oil business tonight," Lester went on. "I put it at the top of the agenda. But we can't evaluate the bids without the records. Which Warwick was supposed to bring." Lester emphasized the church treasurer's name in an annoyed tone, then glanced at his watch. "Do you think he still's coming?" Ben felt pinned by the dark eyes that peered out from under the moderator's heavy brows and thick glasses. Of course, he might be imagining it. Ben was still fairly new at the church, and Lester had not warmed to him. Not like some of the others--Oliver Warwick in particular, who had been on the search committee and had been a strong advocate for calling Ben as their minister. Oliver had remained an aide and an ally ever since. Lester had not been much in favor of offering Ben the position. And now the older man's tone and expression seemed to suggest that Ben was to blame in some way for Oliver's unexplained absence. Everyone had been reminded this morning about the meeting by phone. Ben had already told the group that Oliver had promised to attend. "I guess he's been delayed," Ben offered. "I'll try him at home. Perhaps he forgot, after all." "Probably," Lester mumbled. "Yes, try the house. He can be in here in a few minutes if you catch him," Dr. Elliot said. "Why don't we just table the heating-oil issue for now and go on?" Dr. Elliot spoke quickly, smoothing the situation over, as he often did, Ben had observed. He liked Ezra Elliot very much. His sharp mind and straightforward, if often brusque, manner masked a kind and generous heart. Ezra and Oliver had known each other since childhood, and they were friendly competitors, as far as Ben could tell. It was a complicated relationship, but the bonds were deep. Ben went into his office and dialed the Warwicks' home number. Most of the time, a servant answered--a butler or a maid. He pictured the residence now: Lilac Hall, a towering stone mansion set on a large estate just outside of town. Just as he expected, a man answered in a practiced tone. "Warwick residence. Who's calling, please?" "This is Reverend Lewis. Is Mr. Warwick in?" "He is not, sir." "Mr. Warwick was expected at a meeting at church tonight. Do you know if he's still in his office?" "I couldn't say, sir. Would you care to speak to Mrs. Warwick?" Ben briefly considered the question. "That's all right. Don't disturb her. I have Mr. Warwick's work number; I'll try him there. If he comes in, please tell him I called." "I will, sir. Good evening." Ben ended the call and quickly dialed Oliver's office. He glanced at his watch. It was already past eight. He didn't expect anyone to pick up at this hour. But after only a few rings, Ben heard Oliver's familiar voice. "Warwick," he answered in a low tone. "It's Reverend Ben. The trustees are meeting tonight. My secretary called to remind you this morning?" Oliver sighed. "Oh blast. Yes, of course. It's been one of those days. I shouldn't have gotten out of bed this morning." Oliver laughed, but it was a harsh, forced sound. Ben thought he sounded tired, and even distressed. The man owned two big canneries and a lumberyard, all in all employing several hundred workers. He doubtless had a lot of business affairs of his own to handle. Ben was often surprised he volunteered to help run the church at all. "Sorry to bother you, Oliver. Is everything okay?" Ben waited a moment for Oliver to answer. "Just a paperwork mix-up," Oliver said finally. "It will sort itself out. What can I help you with, Reverend?" "We're looking over bids for heating oil. Lester wanted to compare them to the last few years' records." "Right . . . I did pull those invoices. I have them somewhere." Ben heard Oliver put the phone down, and then the rustle of paper. "Can't seem to locate them . . . and I see a call on the other line. I have to take this, Reverend. I'll bring the files to church tomorrow morning, on my way to the office. Good night." Before Ben could reply, Oliver hung up. Ben stood in his darkened office, staring at the phone, listening to the dull sound of the disconnected line. Many people might have ended a call in that rushed way. But not Oliver. His smooth manner and sense of etiquette were impeccable. Ben could only assume that the problem in his office was more pressing and unsettling than he had let on. Oliver has probably faced many long nights in his office sorting out business situations, Ben told himself. He would sort this one out, too. Oliver was a smart man, a veteran who had attended an Ivy League college after the war. Ben had heard that his father, Harry Warwick, had built the family fortune from practically nothing. Oliver's older brother, Harry Warwick II, had also served, and had died on a battlefield in Italy, leaving Oliver the sole heir to his father's empire. Many in town envied Oliver Warwick, even resented him, for the life he had been born to. But Ben knew that no life is without trouble, rich or poor, old or young. Oliver and his wife, Lillian, were probably the wealthiest family in town, but they did a great deal of good with their money, including supporting the church. Lester Plante was someone who resented the Warwicks, Ben knew, and he would not be happy to hear that the records he wanted tonight were not available. Ben headed back to the meeting room, preparing himself for Lester's reaction. But Ben was sure Oliver would soon make it right. He obviously had more important matters on his plate right now. The next morning, Ben sat at his desk, debating whether or not to bother Oliver at work again. It was almost ten, and the records had not arrived as Oliver had promised. Ben also had some documents that the church treasurer needed to sign. Lester had passed them to Ben during the meeting with explicit instructions that they needed to be completed and mailed no later than tomorrow. Lester would have taken care of the situation with Oliver himself, but Ben had offered, expecting to see Oliver at the church in the morning. As the day wore on and there was still no sign of Oliver, Ben decided he should bring the documents over to the cannery during his lunch hour. He would have Oliver sign them and also pick up the files. It seemed a good solution, especially if Oliver was still in the midst of his business problem. It would also be worth the trip to keep peace on the board, Ben decided. He dialed Oliver's line, and a secretary picked up on the first ring. "Mr. Warwick's office." "This is Reverend Lewis. May I speak with Mr. Warwick?" "I'm sorry, Reverend. Mr. Warwick is out today." Ben found that surprising. Oliver's office problem must have been settled quickly. "Do you know where I could reach him? I have some paperwork from the church that he needs to sign." "You might try him at home," she suggested. "He came in for a little while this morning but said he wasn't feeling well." "I see. I'll try him there. Thank you." Ben stood for a moment with his hand on the phone receiver, about to dial Lilac Hall. Then he put the phone down, put on his coat and hat, took the large envelope of tax documents in hand, and headed out to his car. He needed to go out anyway, to get some lunch and pick up a few items at the drugstore that Carolyn needed for the baby. He remembered the list in his pocket as he drove down Main Street. He would do his shopping on the way back to church, and maybe call Carolyn beforehand to make sure there was nothing to add. He wondered how his wife's day was going. The baby was still so fussy at night, though she was almost seven months old. Carolyn was worn out. He had gotten up early that morning to change and feed Rachel so Carolyn could get a few minutes' extra sleep. Not a huge help, but it was something. All the books told new mothers to sleep during the day, when the baby did. But of course his wife couldn't do that. She had to cook, clean, and keep working on the parsonage. Their new house was calling out for all sorts of repairs. Many members of the congregation were willing to help them, but Ben hadn't had much time since they arrived to do more than the basics. With the holidays coming, Ben knew he wouldn't have any time at all to make improvements until the new year. His first Christmas season in his new church--he was so looking forward to it. He had so many ideas for the Advent and Christmas services. The deacons and music director had mostly seemed pleased with his plans. He might be young to have his own church, but he had worked hard to earn this opportunity. He certainly felt more than capable and ready. Christmas, a high point of the church calendar, was going to be an important moment for him, a moment when he would feel truly bonded with his congregation, fully stepping into his role as their spiritual leader. Ben had lived in Cape Light since May, a little over six months, but he still enjoyed the drive through the village and out to Beach Road. Tall trees lined the route, their branches gracefully arching overhead. Most of the trees were bare now, with only a few brown leaves clinging persistently, defying the change in season. This part of New England often had snow by this time of year. But it hadn't snowed yet. It still seemed a limbo sort of season, with autumn clearly over but winter not quite overtaking the landscape. The entrance to Lilac Hall was easy to miss. The estate was surrounded by a brick wall covered with ivy and vines that blended in seamlessly with the wooded growth along the road. The wrought-iron gates were open today, luckily. Ben steered his car through and headed down the long gravel drive toward the mansion. The drive was lined with lilac bushes. Well, lilac trees, you'd have to call them; they had grown that tall and full over the decades since Oliver Warwick's mother had planted them. She had designed several gardens on the property, and had also been an avid collector of art and antique furnishings. Ben had only been inside the mansion once or twice. As he pulled into the circular drive and stared up at the massive stone structure, he had the same feeling in the pit of his stomach that he'd had on those earlier visits. The place was intimidating. To Ben, it looked more like a castle or a museum than a place a family would call home. There was nothing homey about it. It was simply grand. And that had been the founding principle of Oliver's father when he built it, Ben assumed, copying the great houses in Europe--and not only importing the stones from France, but the stonecutters as well. Grand it was. About that there could be no debate. Ben walked up to the massive front door, tucked the envelope a little tighter under his arm, and rang the bell. He heard the chimes within, but had to wait a few minutes before a maid in uniform answered the door. "Hello. I'm Reverend Lewis. I'm here to see Mr. Warwick," he explained. The maid quickly stepped aside and let him in. "Is he expecting you, sir?" "Well . . . no." Ben suddenly realized he probably should have called after all. "We had sort of an appointment this morning, at the church. But I understand he's home from work today. Not feeling well? I just spoke to his secretary." The maid stared at him, her expression neither confirming nor denying this report. "He's in his study. I'll tell him that you're here, Reverend." She turned and left him in the large foyer. A round pedestal table stood in the middle of the space. Ben guessed the wood was mahogany, though the surface was so shiny, it might as well have been made out of glass. A porcelain bowl on top was filled with fresh flowers. A large mirror with an ornate gold frame hung over an antique cupboard that stood against a wall, and a set of high-backed chairs with matching silk upholstery stood on either side. The chairs looked too delicate for use, Ben thought. He wouldn't dare sit on them. He heard footsteps and looked up at the long, curving stairway. Lillian Warwick walked down slowly. She fixed Ben with a curious stare but didn't call out to him or smile in greeting. Dressed in a dark blue woolen suit and pearls, she looked like she might be on her way out for some appointment or meeting. He waited, rocking back and forth a bit, feeling nervous, though he couldn't say why. Something about Mrs. Warwick never failed to intimidate him. She was older than he was, but that wasn't it. He dealt with plenty of church members, men and women, who were even older than Lillian without feeling off balance. It was something about her aristocratic and elitist air. She kept herself at a distance, judging all she observed. Lillian Warwick was an assertive woman, not easily pleased, and free with her opinions. In fact, he had learned to assume she was nearly always displeased or disapproving. He tried hard not to judge her temperament and to be as positive and patient as possible. Perhaps in time, she would come to trust him and treat him with respect, instead of with a veneer of proper manners. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Warwick," he called out as she reached the bottom of the steps. His voice echoed off the high ceilings and paneled walls. "Reverend Ben, I didn't know you were here. No one told me." She walked toward him, her chin tilted at an imperious angle. "I'm waiting to see your husband. I have some papers for him to sign, and he needs to give me a file. Church business," he added quickly. "He was going to drop by my office today. I wanted to save him the trip." She didn't answer at first, just eyed him curiously, as if, for some reason, she didn't believe him. "Oliver's not feeling well. I can take the papers and make sure he signs everything. I'll have our chauffeur, Howard, bring everything over to the church this afternoon." She held out her hand, ready to take the envelope. Ben was about to hand it to her, seeing as how she had left him little choice, when Oliver Warwick walked into the foyer, coming out of the same open doorway where the maid had disappeared. He didn't look sick, exactly, Ben thought, though he didn't look entirely well. He was not his usual, carefully groomed self. He was in his shirtsleeves, his necktie loosened and his hair mussed. His eyes were shadowed and red-rimmed. He looked very tired; even a bit older, Ben noticed. But when he met Ben's gaze, a familiar smile fell over Oliver's face, like a curtain. "Hello, Reverend. What brings you here today?" Oliver held out his hand and Ben shook it. "I was given charge of some papers you need to sign, tax documents. Lester said they need to be mailed by tomorrow. And I wanted to pick up the heating-oil records." Oliver laughed and tapped his forehead. "So sorry. I promised to drop them off this morning, didn't I? Slipped my mind entirely." "That's all right. Your secretary said you weren't feeling well and had to head home. I didn't mean to disturb you." "Yes . . . a very bad headache. I must be coming down with something," Oliver explained in a tired voice. "Come into my study, Reverend. I have the files, and I can sign all that stuff right now." Ben was pleased to hear that plan. He felt like he had chased Oliver down and was being a nuisance, but this was church business and had to be done. Oliver seemed to understand that. Lillian, however, was giving Ben a look that suggested just the opposite. "Well, I'll leave you two to take care of your business matters. Good day, Reverend," she said curtly. She gave her husband a look as she swept by. Oliver took Ben's arm and led him through the large parlor and then down a short, dark hallway. Ben had a quick impression of dark wood moldings, wainscoting, and walls covered with old photographs and small oil paintings. They came to a paneled wooden door. Oliver opened it and allowed Ben to walk through first. Ben suddenly smelled liquor. Had Oliver been drinking this early in the day? That would account for his bedraggled appearance. Ben kept his gaze down and entered the room without glancing back at his host. The large room had long windows on one side, offering a view of the wide-open property behind the mansion. Most of the other walls were covered with tall wooden bookcases that rose from the floor to the high ceiling, filled with hundreds of volumes. Two small sofas flanked a fireplace with a large stone hearth, and opposite that, some soft leather armchairs faced a wooden desk that was covered with papers and files. Though it was sunny outside, the room was shadowed, and even a bit damp and chilly. A dark green banker's lamp shone over the desk, and Oliver took a seat behind it. Ben noticed a table with a crystal decanter filled with whiskey or brandy and several crystal glasses. One had a few drops of amber liquid in the bottom, confirming Ben's impression. "Have a seat, Reverend. The fuel bills are here. I just saw them this morning . . ." Ben sat in an armchair that faced the desk. Oliver did not seem very organized, and he wondered how he managed so many businesses. But of course, Oliver had many employees to handle the details. He just made the big decisions. And this was his home office. Ben imagined that his office for the canneries and lumber mill was much more organized. "Here it is. Beecham Oil nineteen seventy-three to nineteen seventy-eight." Oliver read out the title on the file folder and handed it over to Ben. One task down, one to go, Ben thought. "Now, let me take a look at these documents . . ." Oliver opened the envelope and removed the sheaf of papers, his pen in hand. "Forgive me for making you wait, Reverend. But people tell me it's best to read everything you sign your name to, even if it is just routine church business." Oliver's tone was, as usual, half-serious and half-joking. "Good advice. Take your time; I'm in no hurry." The phone on Oliver's desk rang. He watched it for a moment without picking it up, then looked back at the documents. Ben wondered at that, then realized that, of course, the Warwicks had servants to answer the telephone if they didn't feel like being interrupted. A few moments later, a sharp knock sounded on the door. "Come in," Oliver replied. The Warwicks' butler, dressed in a black suit and white shirt, opened the door and stood in the doorway. "Mr. Hastings is on the phone, sir. I told him that you have a guest, but he said that it's urgent." Ben saw Oliver's complexion go pale, and his ever-present smile went slack, like a sail on a boat that had suddenly lost the wind. "Is he still on the line?" "Yes, sir. He said he would hold." "All right. Thank you, George." Oliver looked over at Ben. "I'm sorry, Reverend. I need to take this call. It's my attorney--important business." "Of course. Would you like some privacy? I can get those papers back from you later," Ben offered. Ben began to rise from his seat, but Oliver waved at him with one hand, picking up the phone with the other. "No reason to go. This will just be a minute." Ben still wasn't sure if he should leave, but Oliver had already pressed the receiver to his ear, his attention shifting to his caller. After a brief greeting, Oliver simply listened, his gaze staring at some distant point out the window, his expression tense. "Uh-huh . . . uh-huh. I see," he murmured, the furrow between his brows growing deeper. "I have a guest in my study right now. I'll have to call you back in a few minutes . . . Yes, I understand the gravity of the situation. I will call you right back," Oliver promised. Oliver let out a long, slow breath as he returned the receiver to its cradle. Ben couldn't help but lean forward in his seat, trying to catch Oliver's eye. "Is everything all right?" Ben asked. "It's nothing, really." Oliver shook his head. "A tempest in a teapot. But you know these attorneys, once they get their teeth into something." Ben nodded, sensing Oliver wanted to talk. "There's a sticky situation at the cannery right now. An audit of some kind . . . They've found some sloppy bookkeeping, that's all." Oliver leaned back in his chair and tossed his hands in the air. "I just sign what these managers put in front of me. I assume they know what they're doing. That's what they're paid for. I can't be expected to read every bloody word of every document. Now everyone is blaming me for these . . . these inconsistencies." He sounded annoyed and frustrated, even angry. Ben was about to ask a question but Oliver continued, "It will sort itself out. I'm not worried. But it's a big headache in the meantime." Ben took that as a sign that Oliver didn't want to go into detail. He felt as if he had overstayed his welcome anyway. "I'm sure it will. I'd better leave you to it," he added, rising from his seat. "I suppose so. Though I'd much rather chat with you, Reverend." Oliver offered a smile as he tapped the church documents into a small pile, then slipped them back into the envelope. He handed it to Ben, then rose and walked Ben to the study door. "I'll see myself out," Ben said. "Good day, Reverend. My apologies again for making you drive all the way out here." "No problem. I can see you have more serious issues on your mind." "Yes . . . I do." Ben didn't think much of the comment at the time. It seemed the sort of innocuous reply anyone might give. But later, that quiet answer came back to him. Ben didn't take the church tax documents out of the envelope again until the next morning. He was about to give them to his secretary to copy, but noticed that Oliver had not signed in all the necessary spaces. He had been interrupted by the call from his attorney, Ben recalled. "Oh blast," he said out loud. "What's the matter, Reverend?" Mrs. Guilley, his secretary, stared at him. He rarely exclaimed about anything. "Nothing that earth-shattering. Mr. Warwick was supposed to sign in three places. He only signed in two. And these forms have to go out in today's mail," Ben explained. He stared at the blank line as if he could somehow will it to fill itself in. Little chance of that happening. "Would you like me to call him?" Mrs. Guilley offered. "All right," Ben replied. "Try his office, please." He went into his own office while Mrs. Guilley made the call. "Mr. Warwick's secretary said that he was in a meeting. She'll give him the message that you called," Mrs. Guilley reported a few minutes later. "Thank you," Ben replied. He picked up the document, folded it, and put it in the breast pocket of his jacket. "I think I'll just run over there." Lester Plante was stopping by the church in the late afternoon, and Ben wanted to report that the documents were already in the mail. "All right, Reverend. If he calls back, I'll say you're on your way." "Please do. I'm reluctant to bother anyone during their business day. But church business is important, too." "Very true." Mrs. Guilley nodded in agreement as Ben shrugged on his coat and headed out the door. Warwick Cannery was a short drive just north of the village, about halfway to Newburyport. Ben turned off the main road and then down Crooked Hill Lane. The cannery had been built near the water with its own docks, where all types of fishing ships and trawlers unloaded their precious cargo. The old brick building was three stories tall with loading bays on the first level and small, dark windows on the second and third. A few tall stacks emitted puffs of steam into the clear blue sky. Ben had been at the cannery once before. Now, he pulled his car around to the lot closest to the executive offices. He recognized Oliver's dark green Jaguar in a reserved space next to the glass doors. But he was surprised to see an Essex County sheriff's car parked there as well; the red light on top spun slowly, and a uniformed officer stood nearby, talking with two men in dark suits. Ben parked his car in the first spot he could find and walked toward them. Had there been an accident in the factory? Maybe the ambulance hadn't come yet. Just as he said a silent prayer asking for help for anyone injured, the sheriff's deputy suddenly turned to him. "Sorry, sir. No access to the building right now." "Has there been an accident? Is anyone hurt?" "The area is closed. For a police action," the officer said in a stronger tone. "I'm a minister. Maybe I can help . . . I'm a friend of Mr. Warwick's," he added, wondering if that would help. One of the other men turned and met his gaze. "Then you'd better say a few prayers for your friend. He's going to need all the help he can get." Ben was alarmed by the reply. And confused. But before he could reply, the glass doors of the building swung open. Another officer and another man in a dark suit were walking out with Oliver, leading him, one on each side. Oliver held his hands out in front, his wrists bound together, a pained expression on his face. Ben could hardly believe his eyes. Oliver Warwick was in handcuffs. He was being arrested and led down to the sheriff's car. Ben took a few quick steps toward him. "What's happening? What's going on, Oliver?" Oliver shook his head. "A huge misunderstanding. A travesty. My attorneys will work this out. I'll be home in an hour," he insisted. He had reached the police car and stood with the officers. "No more conversation. Get into the car, Mr. Warwick," one said brusquely. "Tell Lillian. Please, Reverend . . ." Oliver called. One of the officers covered his head with a big hand and coaxed him into the backseat. "Of course. I'll go right now," Ben called back just before the police car doors slammed shut. He stared into the car, trying to tell if Oliver had heard him, then just watched it pull away. A siren sounded and the light on top spun faster. The men in dark suits had all jumped into a second car and followed close behind. A crowd had gathered in the doorway--employees at the factory, Ben assumed. A few had come out to watch the spectacle. The grimy windows were also filled with faces, their expressions shocked. Ben stood shocked as well. He could barely collect his thoughts. Oliver Warwick had just been arrested and escorted from his factory in handcuffs. Did this have something to do with the bookkeeping mix-up he'd been complaining about yesterday? Ben couldn't be sure. All he knew now was that he had been charged with bringing Lillian this dreadful news. Ben stumbled back to his own car, headed toward Beach Road again, and soon arrived at Lilac Hall. His mouth went dry as he stood at the front door and rang the chimes. The butler answered. "I'd like to see Mrs. Warwick. It's a very urgent matter." If the servant was alarmed or even curious, he didn't show it. "Mrs. Warwick is out for the day," he said evenly. Ben wasn't sure what to say. Should he try to get a message to her? That seemed too intrusive, even considering the circumstances. "If she calls, or returns home early, please tell her to call me right away." "I will, sir." The butler nodded gravely. "Good day." Ben nodded back, thinking it was not a good day. Not a good day at all for anyone in this house, though they didn't seem to know it yet. He walked back to his car with a heavy heart, his black shoes crunching on the gravel. As he searched his overcoat pocket for his car keys, he glanced up at the windows just above the stone portico. A curtain stirred, and he caught a glimpse of a woman's profile. It could have been anyone--a maid, or one of the Warwick's daughters, Jessica or Emily. But Ben felt sure it had been Lillian. Excerpted from All Is Bright by Katherine Spencer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.