Monday, March 11, 2024

First in Christian Clear Creek Series, Ryan's Ruin, by T. E. Killian is Delightful, Heartwarming and A Little Bit of Murder Mystery...


After a mostly sleepless night, Ryan was still planning to go through with it, but he had come up with a plan. He knew his sisters and Margie left the house between nine and nine-thirty on Sunday mornings. Since he wasn’t going to Sunday School, he didn’t have to leave until after ten-thirty. So that would give him plenty of time to get ready after the others left the house. But the question that had really kept him awake for most of the night was why. Why, after all these years, had he agreed to go to church and with Candy at that? And why did he agree so quickly and so easily, too? He didn’t really have answers to any of those questions, even now in the light of day. So, as he sat at the kitchen table drinking one last cup of coffee, he decided not to think about any of that anymore. The others had all breezed through the kitchen numerous times, getting coffee or breakfast. Now, it was about time for them all to leave. 
This was the moment he’d been waiting for. Or was he really dreading it? At any rate, they all trooped through the kitchen and past him and through the garage door. Hazel was in the lead as usual, with Ernestine right behind her and Margie bringing up the rear a little way behind her aunts. Ryan had to laugh at the comical procession they made as they filed past him. His little niece was really maturing. She was at least three inches taller than her aunts now, too. Finally, they were all gone. Now what? Did he really want to go through with this or not? And if so, why? Why did he say he would go to church now when so many had tried to get him to go over the years? Why did he decide to go when a newcomer, an outsider, even a competitor, asked him to? He sat there for a few more minutes and finished his coffee. Then he remembered that he’d decided not to think about any of that anymore. He was going, and that was that. 
But despite that resolve, as he was climbing the stairs to go to his bedroom, the answer to all the questions flying around in his head hit him like a two by four between the eyes. Candy! In spite of his concerns about her coffee shop maybe hurting his business, he liked the woman. No, it was more than that, much more. The fact was, he was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. And that was what was bothering him the most. Wasn’t that reason enough not to go? He kept arguing with himself all through getting dressed and driving out to the church. When he parked in the church parking lot, he noticed that Candy’s son, Connor, was standing on the concrete slab outside the front door, watching him. The kid disappeared inside the building and a moment later, Candy came out and stood there, looking his way. When he didn’t get out right away, she started walking briskly toward him. He jumped out of the truck and they met on the sidewalk leading from the parking lot to the front door. She was beaming at him so much that he almost turned around and hightailed it toward home. But a closer look at her stopped him in his tracks. She was wearing a dark blue dress, and it made her look fantastic, too. Whoa, stop that. “Oh Ryan, I’m so glad you came.” When she smiled at him like that, he knew why he’d come to church for the first time in thirty-five years. 
He didn’t know what to say back at her, so he didn’t. He just walked beside her through the double glass doors and on into the foyer. Of course, Ryan should have known that pushy preacher would be there just waiting to get his hooks into him. He had never really cared much for that preacher. It seemed like the guy was always coming by at his sisters’ urging to try to talk him into going to church. Well, right now, the man looked like he’d just won the lottery. He was beaming from ear to ear and as he walked toward Ryan, his belly jiggled with each step. And of course, his equally obnoxious wife was right behind him, making all kinds of excited sounds, which sounded more like a pigeon to him. That was enough to turn Ryan around and head back home, but he suddenly felt Candy’s light touch on his arm. That stopped him cold. That touch calmed him down and put him in just the right frame of mind to face that preacher and his wife. He was surprised again when neither the preacher nor his wife said a word about it being about time or any such nonsense as that. Instead, Martin Howell shook Ryan’s hand. “Welcome to First Baptist Church Ryan. It’s good to see you here.” His wife came up to him then and tried to pull him into a hug like he was her long-lost relation or something. Well, he let her get half way but that was all. He sure didn’t hug her back, that’s for sure. 
When he chanced to glance at Candy, she had her other hand over her mouth, like she was trying not to laugh right out loud. Well, as he thought about it, though, it was just a tad funny after all. But he wasn’t about to laugh, not here at least. After running the beltline, so to speak, of the pastor and his wife, as well as several of the deacons, Candy was finally able to get him into the big room where they had church. Of course, Ryan had been in the building quite a few times over the years for weddings and funerals. But today, the whole place had an entirely different feel to it. He couldn’t figure out what that difference was, though. Well, he knew it was too good to last. As soon as Candy led him to a row of chairs where her kids and Margie were sitting, his sisters saw him. They were sitting across the aisle with some friends of theirs. But they both let out whoops, jumped up, and rushed over to where he and Candy were. Hazel was in the lead, as usual. She stopped in front of them and grinned up at Ryan. Then she giggled. “I told you so.” With that, she hugged him, then turned to Candy and hugged her, too. He heard her whisper something to Candy that sounded like, “Thank you, Candy.” As was normal for her, Ernestine stood a few feet away, stiff as a board, frowning at him. And when she spoke, he knew he could have predicted exactly what she said if he’d just thought about it. “About time.” With that, they all settled down in their seats. He wound up on the aisle with Candy on his right and the three teenagers on her other side. He looked that way and saw Margie grinning at him. 
He smiled back at her and turned his attention back to Candy, who was talking to him. “The kids usually have a service of their own next door, but the Youth Minister is sick today.” He was thankful that Candy explained everything else to him, as it happened all through the service. Otherwise, he might have been sitting when he should be standing, or vice versa.

All through Sunday School, Candy had been nervous and had kept looking at her watch. She was just so afraid that Ryan wouldn’t come. She realized it had to be hard for him suddenly to come to church after so many years. She kept praying he would indeed come, though. Then, when Sunday School was over, she had sent Connor outside to watch for Ryan. She still wasn’t sure he’d come. But then Connor had come in with a smirk on his face. “He just drove up.” She hadn’t known what to do. Should she wait for him here? Or should she go out to meet him? She tried to look through the glass doors but couldn’t see him from that angle. So, she slipped out to stand just outside the doors. When he sat in his pickup for a minute, she realized he might be getting cold feet, so she headed toward him on the sidewalk. That was when he climbed out of the truck and started toward her. When they grew close, she almost laughed from relief when she saw that smile. He was giving her that crooked smile again. What must he be thinking right now? Whatever it was, she knew somehow, she needed to make him feel comfortable quickly and try to keep him that way. She met him at the beginning of the sidewalk and smiled at him. “Oh Ryan, I’m so glad you came.” 
Earlier in Sunday School, she had explained to Tiffany and Sabrina that she wouldn’t be in the choir that morning and why. They had been so excited that they’d stopped right where they were in a hallway and prayed with her for Ryan. That had touched her so much to have such friends who were so strong in their faith. Now, the service was almost over, and she had been trying to help Ryan to know what was going on at all times and especially what was coming next. She didn’t want him feeling awkward in any way. That was when she looked up into the choir loft and saw that woman who owned the appliance store giving them a dirty look. Oh my. What had she done now? 
As they were standing to leave, she leaned toward Ryan and spoke softly near his ear. “Ryan, is there something between you and Naomi Tidwell?” He turned to her. “No, not really. Why do you ask?” She suppressed a giggle and nodded toward the choir with her head. “She’s giving both of us a rather dirty look right now.” When he looked that way, he groaned. “Oh no! Not now!”

This novel, Ryan's Ruin, is the first in the Clear Creek Series by T. E. Killian. I found myself smiling almost all through the book. You see, I had already read the next two books, so I knew what the ending was going to be! LOL And, I had already met the man who is named in the story's title--Ryan. I bought all of these at one time and had just started reading the first I came to on my Kindle. However, I would highly recommend you start with the first book and move through the three books in order.

Ryan and his two sisters own a small mid-town cafe which had become somewhat worrisome; he was concerned whether he could meet the costs for keeping the family inherited business in the future. So, while he was pondering what to do, he had a new neighbor move in next to his family home where he and his sisters still lived. His niece who also lived with them saw that there were teens about her age, and she excitedly starting talking to and about them...

It was then that he learned that the teens' mother, Candy, who was also a widow of ten years, was going to open a cafe exactly opposite him on the main street! He was devastated, sure that another cafe would be the ruin of their own business! Worse, she seemed like little miss sunshine, just like his talkative sister, and everybody was welcoming her to her new home and town.

On the other hand, readers will quickly discover that the people in Clear Creek, or most of them, that is, were very kind, welcoming, and, worse, involved in the local Baptist Church! Groaning, he just knew that his two sisters would be hounding him even more to go to church since Candy and her son and daughter were anxious to meet new friends there.

Worse, two of his poker buddies had immediately asked Candy out and, after a while, Ryan even became a little jealous, maybe of their loyalty to him? Or, was it really because Ryan also had noticed Candy's blue eyes, her blond hair, her...everything...

To make matters worse, the arrival of two recently released jailbirds were beginning to hone in on the family who had moved in next door. Hunter, the town's chief of police and also boss for Ryan, who was the town's mayor, had explained that the two brothers had always heard that the older woman who had died and was the owner of the house into which Candy and her family had moved, had a lot of money that she had kept hidden, and safe, within that house!

It wasn't long before the brothers started harassing Candy and even breaking into her home. Hunter knew that somebody had to help guard Candy and her children, but knew he didn't have the staff or time to do it. Given the proximity of their homes, Hunter finally convinced his best friend Ryan to guard the house each night! Ryan set up a camp bed downstairs in a small storage room, but that didn't stop their meeting from time to time as they came or left the house... And, slowly, a relationship developed... along with their mutual backstories that were very similar... But whenever something about the church or praying came up, Candy quickly realized that Ryan's quickly tensed up and pulled away... A great start to a wonderful series.


No comments:

Post a Comment