Love Inspired / August 21, 2012 / $5.75 print/$4.24 digital
Bumping into her ex-fiancé shatters Millie Wilson all over again. Now that she’s back in Montana to care for her dying father, her real burden is the secret she’s never divulged to Hunter McKaslin.
Millie can’t blame Hunter for his anger upon learning he’s a father. He’s never gotten over opening his heart, only to have it broken. Yet Millie senses a new goodness in Hunter. Finding their lost dreams now seems possible—if forgiveness and trust can find a place in this fresh start.
Millie Wilson left her boyfriend Hunter ten years earlier because he told her that he’d never marry her and that he’d rather “jump off a cliff” than have kids. He didn’t know then that she was pregnant with his son, and Millie never told him.
A decade later, Millie’s abusive father Whip is terminally ill, and she returns to Montana to be with him as he dies. The family dairy farm is in financial straits, however, and Millie, who has been out of work for nine months and living on unemployment benefits, isn’t prepared to handle the burden of debt.
Luckily, Hunter steps in to save her—with the help of the whole community, of course. The citizens of the small town of Prospect, Montana are “praying” people, and their lives revolve around the church, but they don’t engage in excessive Bible quoting or proselytizing. They really live what they believe, put their faith into action, and are always willing to help out a neighbor in need.
When Millie takes her son Simon into town for the first time, he’s dismayed at how small the Main Street is. He’s used to the bustling metropolis of Portland where they’d been living, but Millie explains to him that, when it comes to the number of citizens, “it’s the quality and not the quantity that counts.”
And Millie’s neighbors really are kind and generous. When Millie’s barn, which is full of improperly dried hay, catches on fire, the townspeople, who are led by the farm supervisor Milton, rush to the rescue.
“Step back, missy.” A voice spoke behind her. Milton drove his pitchfork into a patch of burning hay. “We’ve got a barn to save.”
“We?” Through wisps of smoke, pickups pulled to a stop across the road. Men leaped from them, shouting orders.
“Hunter called on his cell,” Milton explained, pitching the flames and hay outside onto the gravel. “I turned around and called a few neighbors. Don’t worry, we’ll get this licked.”
After the fire, the townspeople gather again to help her clean up, even though most of them have their own dairy farms to run, which apparently involves going to bed by eight in the evening and getting up by four in the morning.
The ranch hand, in his mid-thirties, dressed in a simple white T-shirt and worn jeans, gestured across the road. “Hunter rounded up a few of us to help out.”
“What?” She hopped down the steps, rounded the lilac bush blocking her view and saw pickups parked end on end, crowded around the front of the barn. Voices carried as truck doors shut and her neighbors called out to one another.
“Whip has worn out every bit of goodwill folks have for him,” Cal explained. “But it’s different now. You’re the one needing help. We’re here for you, Millie.”
After the clean-up, Whip’s health takes a turn for the worse, and he is hospitalized overnight in the nearby town of Bozeman. Hunter’s sister Colbie invites Millie and Simon to her house for breakfast the next morning, and she lets them stay during the day to rest.
“This is really nice of you.” So tired, her feelings felt right at the surface. “This beats a restaurant hands down.”
“It was Hunter’s idea.” Colbie smiled, pretty with her cap of dark hair and sweetheart’s face.
Finally, when Millie gets home from the hospital, she finds that Hunter has absconded with her to-do list and checked off all the items.
She sniffed and smelled carpet cleaner in the air. Sure enough, the carpet looked slightly damp. The screens were fixed, there were mousetraps set in the kitchen, the smoke detector blinked overhead, alive once again.
“You did this, didn’t you?” She accused him the moment he appeared in her line of sight.
“I found your list. Couldn’t help myself.” Hunter swung through the open doorway, Simon in his arms. “Are you mad?”
Hunter is the instigator of much of the goodwill showered on Millie because he still loves her. He was young and foolish when he told her that he’d never marry her, and he lived to regret his words. He never fell in love with anyone else, never had a family of his own. At a church picnic, Millie reflects on Hunter’s life choices—and her own.
Everywhere she looked were families. Hunter was the only single man with no family ties and no one to love. Did he like being alone? Were there times he regretted his solitary life?
The answer to Millie’s question is, of course, yes. Hunter begins to love Simon even before he knows the boy is his son. He’s willing to help Millie out even though he’s still hurting, even though he thinks she left him so many years ago for another man. Both Hunter and Millie have to learn from their past mistakes in order to forgive each other. Their personal faith, along with the goodwill of their community, helps them achieve that goal.
Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.