What else can she do if she wants to raise her young niece, and give her a more stable home than she and her sister grew up in? Rachel is at risk of losing custody of her last blood relative, and she needs to prove she can provide for her niece and raise her in a nurturing environment.
Professor Brandon Barlow is invested in his college students’ lives, wanting to ensure their success. When it is clear that Rachel is struggling, he takes a personal interest in trying to help her. But can he keep his heart from getting involved in the process?
Brandon reaches out to Rachel as he tries to break through the walls she has built up over the years. With love and patience, Brandon hopes to help Rachel realize that, even when she experiences storms in her life, she isn’t always alone.
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult to Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Scott Krippayne’s song, “Sometimes He Calms the Storm” has resonated with me for years. Many times, when I felt overwhelmed by something going on in my life, this song would remind me that God is there and He’s holding me close as I weather the storm. I was so touched by this song, that I wanted to find a way to relay how I felt when I heard it to people reading my book. That’s when the idea behind “Calming the Storm” was born.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I started this book several years before I finally finished it. When it comes to coming up with my characters, I usually choose a name and start writing. My characters tend to develop a personality as I write.
Brandon Barlow looked over the top of the book he was reading. There was a sea of heads bent over desks as they mulled over the small, blue booklets in front of them. The sounds of pens and pencils creating words on paper filled the room as they echoed off the pale yellow walls. All twenty-four of his students were working diligently on their midterm exams for the remaining thirty minutes that were left before the end of class. It seemed like only yesterday that he had been in their place, studying and working hard toward graduation. It didn’t seem possible that he could be turning twenty-eight next year. Where did the time go?
His eyes settled on one of the women sitting in the back. Unlike the other students in his class who were just out of high school, Rachel Peters was only a couple of years younger than he was. He remembered looking at her birth date on his student list, surprised she was so much older than the others.
Brandon found himself admiring the long, black strands of hair that had fallen out of the tight ponytail at the back of her head and were now teasing her face. He hadn’t talked to her much, but it was enough to know that she had recently begun taking college courses in her quest to receive a degree in health science. His class was one of the requirements. He also knew she was determined. She worked harder than most of his students normally did, and she wasn’t afraid to stand up for something if the class discussions turned to a debate.
He smiled slightly as he remembered her getting into a heated argument with a classmate just last week. Her dark eyes had flashed, and she had stood her ground as she debated her point. Brandon often wondered what life’s adventures had brought her into college later than the typical student. If he were honest with himself, he’d have to admit that he thought about her a lot lately. If she wasn’t his student, he might have made an attempt to get to know her better outside of the college setting.
Rachel used a slender finger to hook some of her hair behind her ear and stifled a yawn before returning her attention to the blue booklet.
Brandon couldn’t help but notice the dark circles under the woman’s eyes. For the first exam of the semester he was concerned about her test results. She had never missed a class until the last two. He hoped it wouldn’t affect her grade, which up to this point had been a solid A. Clearly something had recently changed in her life.
Brandon glanced at his watch and then turned his attention back to his book. He nodded at students as they finished ahead of time and handed their tests to him on the way out of the classroom.
At exactly eleven he stood and cleared his throat. “That’s the time. Please bring your papers to the front, and I’ll make sure to have these graded and back to you on Friday.”
Some of his students looked confident on their way out and others more nervous. All were relieved that the test was over and they could move forward with the day.
When Rachel left her test, she didn’t even meet his eyes. Normally one of his friendlier students, the lack of her usual “have a good day” immediately put Brandon on the alert. When he had the room to himself, Brandon picked up Rachel’s test and flipped through it quickly. With a frown, he put it back on the desk. She hadn’t even finished the last third of the test.
* * *
Rachel sighed and slung her backpack over her shoulder. She knew she had blown that test and that it was going to mess up her GPA. Rachel also knew that she had studied about as much as she possibly could have given the circumstances.
Her thoughts turned to her three-year-old niece who was waiting for her at the campus daycare center. Kendra was beautiful – and a mini image of her mother. Rachel thought about her older sister, Macy. It wasn’t fair that Kendra was going to grow up without her mom. “Or that I don’t have a sister anymore,” she whispered to herself.
It was just a couple of weeks ago that Rachel had gotten the call. She had been studying in their small apartment, one of her favorite CDs playing loudly in the background. The shrill ring of the phone interrupted the song, and Rachel had to hit the power button on the player quickly so she could answer it. The apartment was suddenly silent. For some reason, the sound of the fridge humming stuck in her mind as she listened to a police officer inform her that Macy and her sister’s boyfriend, Ryan, had been killed in a car accident. The roads were exceptionally slippery and their car hydroplaned right off the pavement and into a tree. Their daughter in the back seat had survived uninjured. As Rachel listened to the officer, she had collapsed to the kitchen floor, the cold of the linoleum seeping through the fabric of her jeans like the pain that was engulfing her heart.
This loss that was just another chain in a long string of defeats.
Macy had referred to them as life’s storms. Their parents had both chosen drugs and the lifestyle that went with them over their daughters. As a result, the girls entered the system when Rachel was only five and Macy ten.
If it hadn’t been for Macy taking custody of Rachel as soon as she was able to, Rachel would have continued to grow up in the foster care system, floating adrift in a storm that felt like it would never end. Her sister had given her a home and a family, and for the first time in her life things had seemed normal.
Rachel should have known better. There might be dry spells, but in life there was always rain on the horizon. Now here she was again, battling a relentless storm and afraid that her little lifeboat was going to sink right out from under her. Those virtual waves had battered her all of her life, eating away at her hope until scars had been formed by the erosion. She had tried her best and yet here she was again – alone and drifting. Rachel felt tears threatening to fall, and with all her might she blinked them away. She hadn’t cried since she had been told Macy was dead, and she wasn’t going to start now.
“You’re not alone,” she reminded herself. She had Kendra. Kendra needed her.
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