Eight years ago, Vienne Kenney moved away from Clayburn and all its gossip to pursue a law degree in California. But now she has failed the bar exam again. Is she destined to be stuck forever, a failure -- just...
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Eight years ago, Vienne Kenney moved away from Clayburn and all its gossip to pursue a law degree in California. But now she has failed the bar exam again. Is she destined to be stuck forever, a failure -- just like her father -- in this two-horse Kansas town?^Nine months ago, Jackson Linder left Clayburn with no explanation to anybody. Now he, too, is back. He isn't sure he's ready to face the rumors and well-meaning questions of the town's busybodies. Yet he's determined, once more, to make his art gallery a success -- in spite of the secret that haunts him every day....
Chapter One November She closed her eyes, inhaling familiar scents. Moldy books. Fresh shavings from the pencil sharpener. A bouquet of wilting chrysanthemums. Thetick, tick, tickof the ancient grandfather clock in the library's main hall threatened to carry her straight back to her childhood. The computer fan clicked on and its whirr rescued her, jolting her into the present -- not that the Clayburn Public Library had changed one iota in the eight years since she'd moved away from this two-horse Kansas town. But the Internet was her lifeline, tethering her to California. To her future. Adrenaline surged through her veins as she clicked the mouse and scrolled down the web page, scanning the list for the only name that mattered. Her name had to be on that list. Ithadto be. One cautious letter at a time, she retyped her name into the search field - Vienne Kenney - and clicked again. Nothing. There must be some mistake. Staring at the computer screen, her vision blurred and she fought to catch her breath. She took a sip of lukewarm coffee from the travel mug she'd snuck in, then pushed it to the back of the book-cluttered desk. She'd agonized over this moment for three months, and now it was here. And if this official State of California-sanctioned website was up-to-date, she had good reason to agonize. The site supposedly verified the name of every person who passed the July bar exam. So why wasn't her name showing up? She glanced at the connection icon on the screen. Maybe there was something wrong with the library's Internet service. Maybe the system was pulling up an old page from when she'd checked earlier today. That had to be it. She typed in the URL again and entered her information hunt-and-peck style. The page refreshed - with the same results. She slid the ponytail holder from her hair and combed her fingers through the tangled mass of curls. She couldn't have failed. Not a second time. A sick feeling settled in the hollow of her stomach. She'd lived through this humiliation once before. She massaged her temples in slow circles. This was a bad dream. It had to be. She'd done everything right this time. Studied her heart out. Spent money she didn't have on a course that practically guaranteed her success at passing the bar. She'd been so confident... How would she ever live it down if she'd flunked the bar exam again? Tens of thousands of dollars wasted on a law degree -- money she'd spent grudgingly because of its source. She lifted her head and stared at her cell phone lying on the desk beside the computer's mouse. Her mother would be calling any minute, expecting to celebrate good news. And Jenny, too. Her roommate had another semester to go, but Jenny was brilliant. She would pass easily. On her first try. Salt in the wound. Vienne put her head in her hands. She'd probably be fired from her job the minute word got out. And if she knew Richard Spencer, he was probably online at this very moment back in California, checking the results to make sure her name was there. When he discovered it conspicuously absent, he'd no doubt call to offer consolation and a shoulder to cry on. But he would fire her just the same. A sour taste filled the back of her throat, and her stomach turned a somersault. She took another sip of lukewarm coffee. At least she wouldn't have to walk in to work and face everyone Monday. But she couldn't stick around here either. Mom probably had half of Coyote County praying for her. Since the day testing started in July, her name had no doubt been at the top of the prayer chain list at Community Christian, complete with all the gory details:Please pray God will bless my daughter, Vienne, with success as she takes the bar exam. This is especially important since she flunked - by a margin of quite a few points - the first time she took the exam. Vienne gave a silent, humorless laugh. Ironic she would find her name on that dubious pra
Deborah Raney's first novel, "A Vow to Cherish", was awarded a ýSilver Angel from Excellence in Media and inspired the acclaimed World Wide ýPictures film of the same title. Since then her books have won the RITA Award, ýthe HOLT Medallion, and the National Readers' Choice Award; Raney was also a ýfinalist for the Christy Award. She and her husband, artist Ken Raney, make ýtheir home in their native Kansas.