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TITLE: Fatihfulness (Chptr 1)
By Nichole Hall

Target audience is Women ages 18-40.
Than Murdock punched the clutch and shifted into 5th as the tires hugged the curves of Maine’s roads taking him further into the highlands. He had to get there by ten or he’d be late for his meeting. The wind blew through his hair as he climbed the mountain. It felt as if God himself were pushing away any memories he had of this place.

As the tires melted the pavement, his hands became slick on the wheel and he almost lost control. He swore he’d never step foot in this town after what had happened. But now he was back and there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.

He cut the engine to his black 1960’s Speedster. He grabbed the rolled up site plans, slammed the car door and strode to the coffee shop. As he went up the shallow steps he felt the wood bow and heard it creak in protest. His hand trembled as he reached for the doorknob; he pulled back, wiping it along his pants. He tried again. Once inside, he went up to the counter and spoke in a gruff uneasy voice. “Can I get a large coffee, black, and the morning paper?”

He stole a glance around and saw no sign of Cameron. His heart slammed into his chest, and he fought to keep his cool. Butterflies churned in his stomach at the thought of having to stay in a place he so desperately wanted to avoid. Where was Cameron? He’d just have to wait. He browsed the shop, and noticed the layout had changed. The owner had done some remodeling because as much as the outside looked the same, the inside did not. He sat down in one of the chocolate colored oversized leather chairs, propped his feet up on the coffee table and drank his coffee while he read the paper.

Melanie Ashton slit open the box of her newest shipment of books and prepared to stock the shelves of her quaint shop. She had to get these books cataloged and stocked before lunch otherwise she’d have two shipments to do. Not to mention the loss in sales from not having the new books ready for the afternoon rush. People couldn’t buy what wasn’t on the shelves. She heard the door chime, looked up, and noticed a new customer come in. He was tall, most of his height in his legs. The angles of his face were sharp and distinct. His chestnut hair rested just above his shoulders and the stubble along his jaw line told her he was a little rough around the edges. She made it a point to know all her customers personally, as the relationships she formed is what kept her business alive. But today she didn’t have time to make connections with new customers.

Mel noticed he looked around the place, taking it all in. Had he been here before? The way he scrutinized the details of the shop made her wonder if he had. She felt frustration well up inside as she knew she had to get these books scanned and shelved, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to gain a new customer. She let out a sigh as she lost the battle to suppress her sanguine personality, and came up behind the counter next to her best friend Taylor.
“Who’s the newbie?”
“Don’t know.”

Mel took another glance at him, leaned closer to Taylor and whispered, “He looks familiar. Like I’ve met him before, but I can’t place him.”

Taylor shook her head. “I don’t think he’s from around here. I wouldn’t forget a face like his.”

They watched the stranger and noticed he seemed on edge. While he read the paper he had shifted in his seat, looked toward the door and checked his watch, no less than three times.

Mel turned her gaze to the door when she heard the chime a second time. Another man walked in, nodded in the stranger’s direction and went up to the counter to order. Mel observed his appearance and thought he wasn’t anything like the first man. His shirt and pants wore dried mud and his boots left clumps of dirt on the floor as he strode toward the stranger. Melanie and Taylor watched the two men talk and discuss what looked like some sort of plans. The second man stayed for about twenty minutes before shaking the hand of the first and leaving.

Mel grabbed the opportunity to make a connection with the stranger and took a fresh pot of coffee to his side of the room.
“More coffee?”

“Yes please.” He replied without looking up.

Mel refilled his mug and sat down across from him. A woman of faith, Melanie fully believed nothing was left to chance. She felt all things happened for a reason and she knew God created good in all situations to those that loved Him. Her business included.

Determined to find out more about this man she asked, “What brings you to Hawthorne?”

When his green eyes left the plans and settled on hers, her breath caught in her throat. The depths of his eyes revealed an anger and a sense of sadness she hadn’t seen since her own father had died.

He cleared his throat and said, “Murdock Insurance.
She gathered her courage and pressed on determined to form a bond.
“So you aren’t just passing through?”

Her big blue eyes stared back at him and he saw the encouragement they offered, but that wasn’t what he needed, nor wanted.
He tossed back his coffee, made an effort to pull himself away from his thoughts and said, “Unfortunately, no.”

Melanie wondered what this guy’s problem was. She’d never met a customer who was so determined to shut her out. So she decided to just go with the basics.
“What’s your name?”

“Nathaniel Murdock.”

“Where are you from Nathaniel?”

“It’s Than.”

“Okay…Where are you from Than?”

“North Carolina.”

Melanie held out her hand and said, “Well Than, I’m Melanie Ashton. It’s nice to meet you.”

He hesitated, but then he reached for her hand and told himself if she knew what had happened, she’d treat him like everyone else in this town. She couldn’t have lived here for any length of time or someone would have told her about him. He buried his insecurities, followed through and grasped her hand in a business like fashion.

When she took his hand in hers she felt a spark, but that wasn’t the kind of connection she was looking for. Especially with someone who couldn’t hold a conversation of more than a couple of words.

She drew her hand back, smiled, forced a friendly tone and said, “I’m the owner of this charming shop so feel free to come by anytime.”


He gathered the plans, left his mug and the paper on the table, stood up, and marched out the door without looking back.

Mel grabbed the coffee pot and peered out the window and hoped God had not brought this person into her life for a reason. After the conversation they’d just had, she’d decided this was a connection she could live without. Than had built a wall around his heart, and she didn’t want to be the one help him tear it down. She watched Than on the porch take out his cell phone and hoped whomever he called would have a better conversation than she’d just had with him.

She put the carafe back in its place and said to Taylor, “He’s a hard one to figure out.”

“Come on,” Taylor nudged her head in the direction of the new shipments, “We’ve got to put the rest of these books away.”
Taylor went about her business scanning books and stocking shelves.

Mel sent a silent prayer up to God begging him to find someone else to help this man. But Mel knew how God worked and in her heart she knew the things she was afraid to get involved in were the very things God asked her to do. She had a sinking feeling in her chest that she would be seeing Than Murdock again, whether she liked it or not. She continued to watch Than talk on the phone until he was no longer on the front porch before joining Taylor.

“I’ll need cash wired to the local bank for living expenses and I’ll let you know how much I’ll need for the office once I find a suitable location.” Than ordered.

Tyler replied, “The money will be there before lunch. Anything else?”

As the youngest, Than oversaw construction of the new locations, Tyler the middle child, oversaw the books of Murdock Insurance and Ryan, the oldest of the brothers, reported to their father the activity of the company and worked with the company Presidents.
“That’s all for now.” Than answered. He paused and said, “Hey Ty?”


“Did you know the house had been sold and converted into a business?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I’d planned to stay there but that’s out of the question now.” His conscience tried to tell him it was a blessing he couldn’t use the location for room and board, but he didn’t believe in blessings anymore. “Can you have Ryan find out everything he can about the sale of the house and who this new owner is?”

“All right.” Ty asked. “Do you have a name?”

“Melanie Ashton.”

“Does she know your history with the place?”

Than let out a sigh and answered, “I don’t think so. She didn’t seem to know who I was. Not that I was forthcoming with much information.” He shoved his hand through his hair and said, “Look, I’d like to know as much about the transaction as possible.”

“Why didn’t you just ask her?”

Than and Tyler were close brothers and it unnerved Than at how well Tyler knew him. Than pushed down the anger he felt crawling up his body. It was just like Tyler to push the issue; Than wanted information not advice. “Ryan will find out what I need to know.”

Ty pushed the limit and said, “Sooner or later you’re going to have to talk to her. You can’t avoid that place forever.”

Than clenched his jaw and forced a breath out through his nose. Aggravation toward his brother swarmed him as he felt the heat fill his face. He took another deep breath, willed himself to remain calm and said, “I’m not as convinced of that as you are.”

Ty hoped to get through to his brother. He felt compassion for Than and wanted him to turn back to God, but Tyler knew this was a sore subject for Than. Ty walked on treacherous ground when he said, “You have the tools you need.”

Than knew his brother spoke of the Bible and of prayer, but he didn’t want to hear it. He was just about to tell Ty so when he hit him with, “It kills me to see you this way. Your faith used to be so strong. You and I both know He’ll help you anyway He can. But you have to want the help. All you have to do is ask.”

Than thought about what his brother was telling him. He knew Ty was right. He’d once had a great faith, read his Bible, prayed faithfully and his relationship with God had been strong and solid as a rock. Just like any friendship. Once upon a time he could tell God anything. Now he couldn’t find a way to reconnect with Him since He’d taken so much from him.

Than dragged himself away from his thoughts when he heard Ty say, “Than, are you there?”

Than walked back to his car, cleared his throat and said, “Yeah, I’m here.” He climbed in his car and sat staring at the shop in front of him. He finally said, “Not gonna happen Ty.”
Than put the key in the ignition and said, “Listen Ty, I need to go, I’ve got errands to run. Will you get a hold of Ryan for me?”

With a frustrated sigh Tyler said, “Of course.”
Than thanked him, closed his phone, and threw it in the passenger seat of his car.

As Than sat in his car trying to remember what the house had looked like he fought back the lump that formed in his throat. He had not expected to feel this way after all these years. He let his mind drift back to the inside of the shop remembering all the changes he’d seen.

On the first level of the cozy coffee shop there were big plush leather chairs and end tables. The new owner loved to cuddle up next to a fireplace with a good book and a cup of coffee; the atmosphere of her shop told him that.
She had couches and tables throughout where people read at their leisure. The most popular books lined the bookshelves next to the couches and chairs. He had noticed a section with Bibles, Study Guides and Prayer Journals, and had reminded himself to stay away from that area. He remembered the last time he’d prayed, and it hadn’t done him any good.

Candles illuminated the nooks of her shop; one could spend hours never realizing more than 20 minutes had passed. At that last thought, he picked up his cell phone, glanced down at the time and turned the key. He had in fact been here longer than he meant to be. He decided to go see the bank manager, check in at the hotel, and get some lunch. He stole a glance at the sign hanging in the front lawn as he drove away. Heaven Bound he thought to himself, I can’t believe I actually walked through the door.
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