Re: Sis, I've seen him again!
Remember the handsome missionary I met during the modeling shoot? Well, his name's Eric Pellegrino--he's the new assistant director at the adoption agency here in Chestnut Grove! He's trying to find homes for the world's orphans, including two he's crazy about. International adoption isn't easy, especially with Tiny Blessings rocked by scandal--something we Harcourts unfortunately know all about. Eric wants a house full of kids, only I'm afraid my secret will keep us apart. Maybe with faith and a couple of matchmaking teens, the four of us can become a family!
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August 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Missionary Daddy by Linda Goodnight
One year ago, Africa
"I'm going. Either with you or alone, but I'm going."
A determined Samantha Harcourt ignored her driver's coming protest and slipped into the back seat of the tiny European car. After three days on the South African coast, she'd seen nothing but the posh resort hotels along the ruggedly beautiful beaches. The real Africa was out there somewhere and she aimed to see it. Today.
Alfred, the ebony-faced driver, had driven her and the other models around the private beach areas rented by Sports Stuff Magazine for their annual swimsuit edition, but no one else had requested to go beyond the tourist areas. Even now, with the modeling shoot about to wrap and go back to America, the other models lounged on the white sand beaches, uninterested in the rest of the country. "I may only be here once, Alfred. Please. I want to see the real Africa."
The man sat like a stone at the wheel. "I was instructed not to take you there," he said, his accent an interesting mix of African dialect and clipped British tones.
Sam sighed and peeled off a hundred-rand note, offering it without further comment.
Alfred shook his head but took the money and cranked the engine.
Satisfied, Samantha sat back to enjoy the scenery, digital camera at ready. She wasn't sure what to expect. Her life as a fashion model had taken her around the world and to many diverse places, but this was her first trip to Africa.
"Do you know a market where I can buy a ceremonial mask?" She collected masks of all kinds and would love one from this continent.
Alfred's dark eyes flashed in the mirror. "I will get you a mask. The markets aren't safe for tourists."
Sam figured that was the best she could hope for. "I'd appreciate that, Alfred. Thank you."
"We go back now. Yeah."
She'd been warned that the crime rate was high in some areas, but...
"I want to see where the everyday people of Africa live."
Alfred's wrinkled brow deepened to cornrows, but he drove on.
Within ten minutes, she understood his reluctance. Wealthy mansions gave way to shanties-- makeshift dwellings patched together with cardboard, tin, bricks and a hodgepodge of found materials.
Poverty, astonishing and terrible, spread out in a wide swath. Bony children played in the unending dirt with sticks and rocks. Adolescent girls carried water from muddy ponds while women hung meager laundry across strips of bowing rope or string. It was a scene of inexpressible squalor.
A deep sense of shame shifted over Sam, so profound that her stomach rolled. All she'd ever done was pose for a camera and look pretty. In her entire life, she'd done nothing that mattered. Yet she had so much, and these people had so little.
"We go back now? Yeah," Alfred said again. Sam turned horrified eyes to him. "No. Keep driving."
Something inside her was stirring, some innate longing. Turning back now was out of the question.
In the distance, a ways from the bulk of the desolate township, she spotted activity of a different kind. Someone was constructing a building.
Leaning forward, Sam squinted toward the structure. Habitat for Humanity, perhaps? Did they work in foreign lands?
She pointed. "Take me there." "The American missionary." Alfred nodded, this time approving her idea. "He is building a fine, new orphanage for the little ones."
An orphanage. Children without families. Sam gripped the edge of the window; the inner churning grew worse by the minute. Her family hadn't been that supportive, but she'd grown up with every material advantage. She could barely conceive of children with nothing to depend upon but the kindness of strangers.
She glanced down at her acrylic nails, safari shorts and designer top. A pair of gold bracelets--twentyfour carat speckled with costly gems--jangled at her wrist. Matching earrings dangled from her ears. Her tiny bag was Gucci, her sandals Prada. Her clothes and jewelry would probably pay for building that small orphanage. This morning the attire had been perfection, a reflection of the persona she cultivated. Now, the shallow trappings of a pampered life brought only shame.
Eric Pellegrino thought the African sun had finally gotten to him. Standing with a brick in one hand and a trowel in the other, he stared at the tall blond apparition stepping out of the tiny car. Dust swirled up around her, making the scene even more surreal. A mirage. That was what she had to be. Not the team leader who'd been felled by traveling sickness.
"Eric, Eric." Amani, the six-year-old orphan boy who had long since won his heart, came running around the side of the building. His little brother, Matunde, only three, ran behind him. Amani pointed to the car. "Company. More workers."
Both boys clapped their hands with glee and rushed the vehicle.