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Lorana Hoopes

The Soldier's Steadfast Bride

The Soldier's Steadfast Bride

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It was just a pretend pact between children. Wasn't it?

Heidi isn’t used to the fame that’s followed her after appearing on the reality dating show, and her dating life has suddenly picked up. But when one of the men who shows up is a blast from her past, will she accept his offer or send him packing?

Cory Kingman hasn’t thought of Heidi in years, but when he sees her on the television, his mind wanders back to the pact they made as kids. He never thought he’d actually use it, but when the military calls him away and his daughter’s welfare is at risk, he knows he must at least try.

Fans of Colleen Coble, Melissa McClone, and Susan May Warren will love this new inspirational romance from USA Today best-selling author Lorana Hoopes. Grab your copy today!

First Chapter

“So, here is what I was thinking. We could open this huge taproom and have all kinds of beers. Imported ones are my favorite, but there’s nothing wrong with domestic too.”

Heidi stared at the man across from her, unsure how to form the words racing through her mind. “Um, I’m sorry, but I thought this was a date?” She gestured to the restaurant around them. The linen clad tables, the soft lighting. She’d thought this guy at least had potential. He wasn’t her normal type, but unlike a few of the others, at least he had a full head of hair and relatively straight teeth.

His smile though was a different story. It was wide and eager, like a kid blowing out candles on his birthday cake, but somehow it reminded Heidi more of the joker than a happy kid. “I know, but what better way to pass the time before our food comes than to discuss our future.”

“Our future? What future?” Heidi blinked as she tried to grapple with what was happening here. “We just met. This is our first date. First.” And probably last, she thought, but there was no need to say that aloud.

His hand snaked across the table and grasped hers. “The first of many, I hope. We have so much in common. You love wine. I love beer. Together, we could have a spirited future.” He grinned even wider. “Did you like that play on words? Ooh, maybe we could call our taproom that.” 

A feeling of revulsion shot through Heidi as she glanced down at his hand on hers, but before she could react, he pulled his hand back and leaned over to the satchel he had evidently brought in before she arrived. That little treasure he had kept hidden under the table until the order was placed and it was too late for Heidi to run screaming for the hills. Then, he’d nonchalantly brought out pamphlets from some of his favorite taprooms. At first, she’d thought he was trying to convince her to have their second date at one, but now she was no longer sure what was happening. Only that she had gotten on an elevator to Crazy town that appeared to have no stop button and no top floor.

“I drew up a business proposal that I think your parents will find highly lucrative,” he continued as he rummaged in the satchel.

Heidi’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “My parents? What are you talking about?”

His face reappeared along with a large stack of papers in his hand which he slid across the table. “Of course your parents will have to be involved unless they’ve left you the money. I’m sorry, I just figured that a preschool teacher wouldn’t have the disposable capital to invest in a taproom.”

“Of course I don’t have that kind of capital, but neither do my parents. Did you think they would just jump on a chance to finance the taproom of some man they haven’t even met?” Anger was building in Heidi’s stomach, quickly morphing into a tumultuous ball of fire.

Ian, if that was even his name, sat back and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. It was sharp, too sharp now that she was taking the time to really observe him. It reminded her of a skewer, and she had to press her lips together to keep from laughing out loud.

Ian folded his arms across his chest. “Well, I won’t be a stranger once you introduce us.”

“Is this why you reached out to me?” Heidi had suffered her fair share of crazy dates ever since she’d returned from the reality TV show Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy, but this guy was quickly taking the cake for the craziest of them all.

His features softened and his face took on the condescending expression of someone trying to explain something to a child. “Of course not,” he began, reaching for her hand once again. She pulled it out of his reach and clasped it tightly with her other hand, planting both of them firmly in her lap and as far from him as she could get them. The action didn’t seem to deter him. “I wanted to meet you because you are so beautiful and kind and because we have so much in common.”

“What do we have in common?” Heidi asked. “We don’t even like the same drinks. I like wine and you prefer beer. I teach preschool and you…” She faltered when she realized she didn’t even know what he did. “What do you even do?”

“I’m a computer analyst for a leading software company. I’ve been saving every penny, and maybe we won’t even need your parents’ money, but their capital could get this started much sooner. Otherwise, it will be at least another year before I can even begin looking for a place.”

“My parents aren’t going to finance anything.” Heidi had tried her best to keep calm, but this was all too much. Why did this man, whom she’d just met a few days ago, think she would want to open a business with him?

His face fell. “Oh, well, are you sure? You haven’t looked at the business proposal yet. It’s very sound, and I’m sure if you show it to them, they will be inclined to agree.”

“Are you listening to me? They won’t agree because they don’t know you and because they don’t like beer. We own a vineyard, that’s it.” She threw her hands up in frustration. “You know what? I don’t normally leave a date after the food has been ordered because I think it’s rude, but I’m afraid I’ll have to make an exception in your case.”

Before he could say another word, Heidi grabbed her purse, stood, and exited the restaurant. That was it. She was giving up men and dating. At least until the next season of the show came out and people forgot all about her. She had never wanted to be the center of attention - she still wasn’t even sure why she’d agreed to that show - but ever since she’d returned home, she’d had one dating proposal after another. Inclined to believe that at least a few of them had to have redeeming qualities, she had accepted only to realize that most of them cared more about the fleeting fame and what she could do for them than about her.

With a frustrated sigh, she slid into her car and pointed it away from the restaurant. She wasn’t ready to go home yet though, so she was unsurprised when she found herself on the well-traveled path to her best friend, Linley’s house.

Linley was almost the exact opposite of Heidi which was probably why they worked so well as friends. Where Heidi had red hair, Linley’s was dark brown. Where Heidi preferred a few close friends and a quiet evening, Linley enjoyed dancing and crowds of people. However, they were both teachers, and they had bonded over their love of children.

“Whoa, what happened?” Linley asked when she opened the front door ten minutes later.

Heidi stumbled into the familiar living room and fell into the soft sofa before dropping her head into her hands.  “I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t.”

Linley chuckled as she sat down in the antique rocking chair closest to the couch. “What are you talking about?”

“Dating.” Heidi lifted her head and tucked her hair behind her ears. Her eyes fell to the cup of tea sitting on the table between them. From the tiny wisps of steam dancing above it, she could tell it was still warm, and she was tempted to ask for one for herself. “It’s awful. Ever since I appeared on that reality TV show, men have been coming out of the woodwork.”

Linley lifted a perfectly manicured brow. “Most women would kill for that problem, you know.”

“I know,” Heidi groaned, “and that’s what makes it worse, but they are just… just…” she paused, searching for the right words, “not what I’m looking for. This date I just left? He showed up with a business proposal for a taproom which was tacky enough, but when I reminded him that my parents owned a vineyard and only dealt with wine, he wouldn’t even take no for an answer. He just continued the proposal as if that didn’t matter.”

Linley picked up the cup and blew on it softly. “Okay, well there’s bound to be a few duds in the mix, but surely there have been a few men you’d like to see again?” Linley had a habit of always looking at the bright side of things which Heidi normally loved. Heck, it was a trait they normally shared, but right now, she didn’t want to see the bright side. What she wanted was to commiserate with her friend and wallow in self-pity.

“Um, well let me see. There was Doug who plays for the minor league hockey team and only had half of his original teeth left.” A grimace flashed across Linley’s face, but Heidi didn’t stop. “Then there was Ned, the beekeeper, who carried a pager in case there was a bee emergency.” She ticked the men off on her fingers. “And, of course, who could forget Brick? The sweet southern gentleman who wanted to dress me up as a Belle, call me some sort of a flower, and move me back to Alabama?”

Linley nodded and mashed her lips together to keep from smiling. “Perhaps reality TV was not quite the fame you were looking for.”

Heidi threw her hands up in the air. “I wasn’t looking for fame at all. I was looking for love.”

Linley reached across the table and placed a hand on Heidi’s. “I know. We all want love, but sometimes it’s about waiting on God’s timing.”

“I know. That’s what Tyler said too, but I’m not getting any younger.” Her stomach emitted an inopportune growl at that moment causing both girls to giggle.

“Guess you’re not getting any fuller either,” Linley said with a smile. “Did you skip out before eating?”

Heidi rolled her eyes at her friend. “Did you not just hear my story? The man wanted to open a taproom with me.”

“Right, well, I think there’s some spaghetti left. Why don’t you help yourself and eat your cares away? Everything looks better after a plate of spaghetti, right?”

Heidi sighed, but a smile flitted across her lips. The spaghetti would take care of the ache in her stomach, but chatting with Linley was definitely a better cure for everything else that ailed her. Except for her lonely heart. Even Linley couldn’t cure that.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.