Focus On Love

By: Candee Fick

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Once again, this dream did not become reality without the support of a team.

I’d first like to thank my husband, Clint, and my family as a whole for allowing me to pursue my dream of writing. Thanks for putting up with a dusty house and simple meals while I spent hours daydreaming, writing, rewriting, and wrestling through edits in addition to marketing, social media, and other business-y things.

To my longtime critique partner, Laura Hilton, thanks for pushing me to be a better writer and showing me how through your stories. Thanks also to the members of my launch team and other readers—your “can’t wait to read your next book” has been the perfect incentive to plant myself in front of my computer and talk to imaginary people day after day.

To Marisa Deshaies, thank you for leading the Bling! team so well and allowing me the opportunity to share this story with the world. Thanks also to Connie Troyer for your amazing insight during the editing process as you and Marisa helped make this story sparkle and shine. Thanks to the rest of the Bling! team for the finishing touches.

And to the crowning jewel, the giver of gifts and imparter of dreams. I thank God every day for the gift of stories and His unending faithfulness to supply all that I need.





DEDICATION


To Sandie Bricker, my first fiction editor, for opening the door.

I know you are dancing in heaven with the

One who gave you hope and a future.





The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love,

he will rejoice over you with singing.

~Zephaniah 3:17







PROLOGUE


Elizabeth Foster ripped the Christmas wrapping paper from the box on her lap. It wasn’t heavy enough to be the camera she’d asked for, but when she lifted the lid, she grinned regardless.

“These are great.” She ran her hand over the FOSTER’S FOTOS design on the front pocket of the royal-blue shirts inside. Not the first color she would have chosen as a redhead, but she’d wear anything if it meant stepping into the family business as the third generation of photographers—to finally build on the foundation Grandpa O’Neill began when her mother was a child. To be who Liz was meant to be. “And you even used my logo design.”

“Your design? No, Jerry came up with that.” Dad rocked back on his heels from his position near the fireplace. “Isn’t it great? Thanks to your recommendation, he’s been quite a talented addition to the company.”

Liz’s eyes darted to Jerry on the other end of the couch—and his smug expression. Merely an hour ago, she’d awkwardly endured his monotone proposition, er, proposal: “Let’s merge our talents. I can do even more professionally if you’re behind me.” He’d claimed it was an offer she couldn’t refuse. Except she had refused … and now this. Fueled by her ideas—the creative brainstorming she’d shared via e-mail and Skype calls this semester—her long-distance boyfriend had ambitiously climbed the ladder from intern to more.

Dad chuckled. “Told you she’d be speechless. Bet this will change her mind about a wedding, son.”

Liz’s face heated. “Son? No, he’s a thief. I showed him this very logo idea a month ago.” While she’d been off at college, he had apparently been stealing her family’s affection too. How could she have been so blind?

“Now, now, dear. You’re just confused. The stress of your classes must be getting to you.” Jerry had the gall to reach over and pat her arm as if she were a toddler in need of comforting. He glanced at her dad. “I showed her an early sketch back in October.”

Liz pulled away from Jerry’s hand and took a deep breath, and then another, to calm herself. It would be unforgivable to cause a scene before the elaborate holiday dinner her mother had fixed. She’d already caught a glimpse of her grandmother’s wedding china on the dining room table … four place settings’ worth.

Another deep breath in through her nose and slowly released…

At least she’d finally seen Jerry’s true colors. But was it too late to fight for her place? If she needed to stay, completing her degree would have to wait.

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