Today I’m welcoming Sara Foust to my blog. Read a free excerpt of her latest release Callum’s Compass.
A persistent knock at the front door dragged Kat awake. She rubbed her eyes and slipped a sweatshirt over her pajama top. Hadn’t she just fallen asleep? The past week was a blur. Visiting her neighbor Clayton at the hospital every day was taking its toll on her physically and emotionally.
She stumbled to the door and peeked through the curtain-covered glass. Clayton’s daughter stood with her back to the window, arms crossed over her chest.
Kat pulled the door open. “Nicole.”
“Can I come in?”
“Of course. How’s Clayton?”
Nicole slumped onto the couch and buried her face in her hands. “Dad’s dead. I can’t believe it.” Tears leaked around the fingers hiding her eyes. Kat’s golden retriever, Scout, put his head in her lap and licked her elbow, but Nicole didn’t seem to notice. “What am I going to do?”
Kat sat and rubbed her friend’s back, fighting her own tears. “I’m so sorry. Everything’s going to be okay, though.” Did she really believe that herself? A fist held her heart, squeezing until she couldn’t breathe. Clayton was such a good friend. He never judged Kat or asked too many questions about the burdens she carried. She could be herself with him, and she would miss that.
“No it’s not.” Nicole sniffled and jumped up, bashing Scout’s chin with her knee.
Scout’s teeth clanked together. He let out a whine and ran through the kitchen door.
What could she say? Kat stood and placed a trembling hand on Nicole’s quaking shoulder.
“It’s all falling apart.” Nicole flung her arms wide and her hand smacked against Kat’s head.
Kat backed up five paces. Maybe she should hide in the kitchen too. “Nicole, please calm down.”
Nicole spun to face her with a crazed look in her eyes. A look Kat had never seen before. Kat’s throat constricted painfully. Her friend’s intense grief seemed to fill the space between them. Something prickled the back of Kat’s conscience. Nicole’s red and puffy eyes, her shaking hands, her unsteady walk—Clayton’s death had surely dealt her a terrible blow.
The loud bang of garbage cans crashing to the concrete erupted outside.
Kat whipped toward the open window. “What was that?”
Nicole’s eyes widened. “Nothing. It was nothing.” Nicole backed toward the front door.
“I’ve got to go.” She opened the door but paused and turned again. “Listen, I know you meant a lot to Dad. Thank you for looking out for him all this time and being a good neighbor.”
The sudden flip-flop in Nicole’s tone left Kat unbalanced. Clayton’s whiskered chin-dimple flashed across Kat’s thoughts. “Of course. Your dad meant a lot to me too. I can’t believe he’s really gone.”
“Me either.” Nicole’s eyes shone under pools of new tears. “The doctor said this second heart attack was just too much strain. He was surprised Dad held on as many days after as he did.”
Kat didn’t know how to respond. The image of Clayton’s lifeless body, tubes and wires sticking out all over, gagged her. How long could Kat be strong for Nicole? A hollow feeling gnawed at her abdomen. She needed to close the door and process the loss. Alone.
“Oh. I almost forgot. I found a package for you. It was hidden in the cupboard. I guess Dad knew I would look for coffee and find it. He always teased me about my coffee obsession.” Nicole chuckled and wiped tears from her cheeks.
A package? For her? “Your dad was a bit obsessed with coffee himself.” The choking feeling rose higher into her throat.
“Yes, he was. Anyway, here you go.” Nicole retrieved a brown shoebox from Kat’s front porch swing and handed it to her. “I was going to leave it here if you weren’t home.”
A garbage can whirred down Clayton’s driveway and knocked into the brick mailbox post. Nicole spun on her heels and raced to grab it.
What just happened? Nicole was acting so strange.
Closing the door, Kat leaned against it and sighed. She opened heavy eyelids and stared at the box in her hand. A tear plopped onto the lid, forming a darker circle as it spread.
Should she open the box now? What if Clayton left her a reminder of how much she would miss him? Grief threatened to pour over the hastily constructed dam within her breast.
Maybe she should pray. That didn’t come naturally to her anymore, though. Not since she was little. It seemed God had stopped listening to her pleas when He let her brother Callum die. She’d spent her life nearly suffocating under the guilt of his death and the fears that night instilled. No. Prayers wouldn’t help. God wouldn’t hear her.
Clayton was dead. And she would either have to deal with her feelings or bury them alongside the ones already walled off deep inside.
Bury them. Definitely bury them.
Who was she kidding? She couldn’t just leave the box unopened. She could never ignore surprises. She lifted the corner of the lid, but her phone rang and interrupted her investigation. She ran to grab it off the desk and looked at the screen—Heather from work.
“The grant finally came through. We have our new assignment,” Heather said.
“Oh, good.” Kat and her team of fellow biologists waited weeks for word to trickle down with approval to begin their new research project. “When do we start?”
“Bright and early Monday morning, one week from now. Actually, I should say late and dusky, shouldn’t I?”
Kat massaged her brother’s compass in her pocket. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
Fortunate to receive day-only projects for the last three years, Kat did not relish the idea of studying nocturnal lizards. Ever since the accident, nighttime had a way of eliciting a flight or fight reaction she had absolutely no control over. She always chose flight, of course. But, she loved her job, didn’t she? She couldn’t refuse and risk losing it. Risk disappointing her dad again.
“Anyway, I will email you details ASAP. I think you are assigned to Anderson and Morgan counties.”
The box called to her from the couch.
“Logan, Mike, and I are splitting up the other eastern counties,” Heather continued. “It’s a lot of ground to cover, but hopefully we’ll soon be able to paint a picture of Spring Salamander life in East Tennessee, and whether environmental toxins are harming the cute little guys.”
“Okay, thanks.” She would worry about Monday tomorrow. Right now she needed to know what the box contained before curiosity killed her.
Callum’s Compass–Available on Amazon now! “Romance, mystery, adventure, and suspense are brilliantly intertwined in this deeply moving story.”–Deep River Books Writer’s Contest Runner-Up 2017
Sara is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Tennessee Mountain Writers. You can find Sara online here:
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