by Leslie J. Sherrod
* Losing Hope (Available Now)
* Without Faith (Available Now)
* Sacrifices of Joy (Coming Spring 2014) About Losing Hope:
Social worker Sienna St. James is a woman with a complicated past and an alarming Tuesday morning. In one single day, every advance Sienna has made in getting over her long lost globe-trotting husband unravels in unexplainable fashion. From a mysterious package that hails from another continent to a new teen client who claims to have a missing sister, Sienna finds herself in the middle of a city-wide scandal, all while sorting out the painful details of her personal life. At center are two suspicious foster parents, a mega-church ministry leader, and Sienna’s own fragile emotions over a man who changed the direction of her life. It’s a test of her professional and moral will as Sienna seeks closure from a love she never understood and answers about whether a little girl named Hope ever existed. And if she did, where is she now? In this first installment of the suspenseful Sienna St. James Series, finding hope in the midst of questions and chaos becomes essential when life takes an unexpected turn. About Without Faith:
She’s moved forward, but has she really moved ahead? Social worker Sienna St. James is no stranger to setbacks. As far as she is concerned, her estranged husband set her back and off course over a decade ago. Now, she has reclaimed her sense of hope and purpose, set up a new therapy practice, bought a new home, and has finally moved on. Maybe.
Excerpt from WITHOUT FAITH
“Make a U-turn. Now turn left at the light.”
His face was hidden from me, but his voice served as a menacing GPS, weaving me in and out of the suburbs and finally into the narrow side streets of East Baltimore. Any lessons I’d had about self-defense, whether to scream, whether to fight back or keep still, had gone out of the window the minute I’d felt that cold metal on my neck.
“Make this turn here. Okay, right.” His voice sounded youthful, but the gun told me he was not playing games.
After almost an hour had gone by, I found courage to speak.
“I’m going to run out of gas.”
“Shut up and turn left at the stop sign.”
We drove for ten minutes more as I wondered if these were my last moments. I looked at the people, buildings, homes, and cars around me anew, trying to savor small details that I probably would not have even noticed any other time. I counted trees that grew out of small patches of dirt in the concrete; noticed the handwritten store signs on some corner stores; listened to the loud laugh of a woman with a short, scruffy ponytail sitting on a stoop with a group of giggling toddlers; imagined Roman never knowing what ever happened to either his mother or his father; Leon never knowing that my heart wanted to love him; Laz wondering what ever happened to his beautiful silver BMW.
“Right here. Stop. The third house down,” the man’s voice interrupted. “Get out. Go straight to the door.”
We’d stopped in front of a narrow row house near East Biddle Street, I think. My mind had gone numb and my memory evaded me. All I could see were crumbling brick steps, a dingy front door, and a single potted plant on the cement porch. He used a key to open the door and used the gun to beckon me inside. My eyes adjusted to the dark interior of a living room in shambles.
“David? Is that you?” A large woman in a wheelchair sat in the darkness, an oxygen tube running from her nose, her hair done in two sloppy, graying cornrows, her eyes staring off into space. She appeared to be blind. “You picked up my medicine?”
“Yes, Grandma. I’ll get your water in just a minute.” He walked behind me, pushing me forward, the tip of the gun now at the center of my spine. His breaths were as labored as mine.
Both of us were scared.
He seemed to be pushing me toward the kitchen, toward a closed door that sat right beyond a large pantry.
“David,” the woman’s shrill voice called out again, “someone with you?”
“It’s okay, Grandma. I’m getting your water.”
He reached from behind me and opened the door, and I saw that his hands looked massive, powerful. “Go down there,” he whispered, nudging me down unfinished wooden steps. I took the first one and the door clicked closed behind me. I heard him lock it.
“I’m sorry I had to do it like this.” A voice from the crawl space behind the stairs whipped my head around. There in the shadows of the stairwell sat….
( Continues… ) Excerpt from LOSING HOPE
“So Dayonna has been here a few days now. Tell me how things are going for each of you.” I made certain to share eye contact with all three to ensure nobody felt excluded from my invitation to talk. In doing so, I did not miss the brief moments of silence that suddenly took over the room. The Monroes looked at each other again, though I could not read what emotion passed between them.
“Everything has been quite perfect, to be honest with you.” The gap in Mrs. Monroe’s upper teeth showed through her smile.
But her bottom lip was quivering.
“Yes, indeed.” Mr. Monroe’s voice sounded louder than necessary. “No problems here.”
I looked over at Dayonna, who stared back at me with a blank look on her face. “Your thoughts on how things are going so far?” I inquired.
She said nothing, only continued to stare at me with that blank, unreadable look.
Teenagers were some of the most difficult people to navigate, even without a mental health diagnosis.
“Well . . . ?” I shuffled through some papers in my lap, trying to figure out what words would break the apparent agreed-upon code of silence suddenly permeating the living room. Despite all my training, at times I still felt like a novice. “So . . . ,” I said, beginning again, “everything is going well?”
“All is well.” Mr. Monroe gave a plastic grin.
Mrs. Monroe nodded her head in agreement, a crazed smile on her face.
“Perhaps I can talk to each of you individually.” I glanced over at Dayonna, whose lips were pursed, as if she was about to finally speak.
“Ms. St. James, we appreciate you stopping by today, but as my husband said, we need to start getting ready for Bible study. Perhaps we can finish this visit another time?” Mrs. Monroe’s smile did not waver.
There was nothing else for me to say or do. I gathered my things and casually headed for the door. “Okay. I’ll come back on Thursday, same time, okay?”
“That’s perfect.” Mrs. Monroe clasped her hands together. “We’ll have more time to talk then.”
As I stepped out onto the porch, Dayonna was suddenly next to me, walking down the steps with me. She walked so close to me that my attaché was pinned between us.
“Wh-where are you going, little Miss Diamond?” Mr. Monroe called after us.
“Just walking Ms. St. James to her car,” she shouted back. I stayed quiet, feeling like I needed to let things go wherever they were heading without my interruption. I could see Mrs. Monroe struggling to get out of her house slippers and put on her shoes. She wanted to come outside with us.
But I was already at my car.
“Is everything really okay, Dayonna?” I gave her my warmest smile. She was quiet as I opened the driver’s side door and threw my attaché over to the passenger seat. She shrugged her shoulders and turned as if to leave but then was suddenly next to my ear.
“You gotta get me out of here.” Dayonna’s voice was a sharp whisper.
“Why? What’s wrong?” I was pleased to finally be getting somewhere.
Dayonna frowned and looked me straight in my eyes. “They’re going to kill me.”
( Continues… )
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