About the Book
Tempest. Stella. Cherise. Fate brought them together, but can their friendship survive the tangled web of danger and deception that threatens their very lives? When Cherise convinces Tempest to pretend to be her so that she can sneak out of the country to be with her dashing Italian boyfriend, she is inadvertently implicated in an international drug ring. An unexpected complication forces Tempest to prolong the charade and she finds herself attracted to the very man who might be out to cause her harm. Meanwhile, Stella’s high ideals are met with suspicion and disdain at her father’s Texas ranch, until she uncovers a dangerous secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy. At the same time, her own errant emotions take over as she falls in love with two brothers at the same time. Things heat up when Cherise is kidnapped and the three friends must turn to one another – and God – to get out of harm’s way. Three Strand Cord is a story of intrigue and romance told from three different points of view, all coming together to prove that when it comes to true friendship, ‘a three strand cord is not easily broken’.
Stately red brick, manicured lawns, and well kept flower beds – the perfect backdrop for Parkview Private Girls’ Academy. Nature itself crowned all with a cobalt sky and warmth from the golden sun. All was exactly as it should be for an institution that prided itself on turning out well bred young ladies of means.
“Quick! This way!” A dark haired girl of about twelve gestured to her companions, her voice barely above a whisper. All three girls ducked around the sculpted hedge and squatted, peeping through the foliage.
The blonde one giggled. “This is sooo exciting!”
“What if we get in trouble?” The third girl pushed her glasses up on her nose with her forefinger. Her chestnut hair bobbed as she shook her head. “I’m not sure this is such a good idea.”
“Sh!” The dark haired ringleader held a finger to her lips. “Here comes Casey Brinks.”
The three waited, holding a collective breath as their arch nemesis, another twelve-year-old girl, neared the appointed spot under a tree. Suddenly, an explosion of water soaked her as a water balloon hit her dead on. “Ah!” The girl stood frozen while she tried to catch her breath.
“Come on,” hissed the leader – and the one with the accurate aim. The threesome crept from the shadows as stealthily as twelve-year-old girls wearing uniforms were able, and made a break for it, letting their excited giggles burst from their lungs unfettered.
“I see you, Stella Crayton!” The enraged mini-diva called after them, hands on hips. “You and your little cronies! The headmistress is going to hear about this!”
The girls kept running. They’d been caught outright and all that was left now was to wait for the punishment. Stella reached the maintenance shed first, her black hair flying out behind her. She yanked the door open and all three slipped inside.
“What do you think they’ll do?” Tempest’s eyes looked even bigger and wider behind her spectacles.
Stella shrugged. “Call our parents.”
“Do you think they’ll send us home? I don’t want to live with Aunt Rose.” Tempest frowned, her eyebrows disappearing behind the rims of her glasses.
Cherise flipped her blonde tresses back off her shoulders. “Don’t worry. Daddy’s on the board of directors.”
“Oh. Are you sure they won’t send us home?” Tempest’s eyes were wide, her voice hopeful.
“Nothing is ever for sure,” Stella stated. “But our folks are paying way too much for them to get rid of us. Besides, I’m the one who threw the balloon, not you.”
“But what if your folks make you go home?” Tempest began twisting her hands together. Stella snorted. “The last thing my stepmother wants is to have me back home.”
“You wouldn’t want to go and leave us anyway, would you?” Cherise teased. “Your two best friends in the whole world?”
Stella shrugged. “Not that I don’t love you two, but…”
“You miss Texas,” Tempest supplied. “Like I miss California. And… and…” She clamped her mouth, blinking her eyelashes rapidly.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Cherise put a comforting arm around Tempest’s shoulders. “I know you miss your folks. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost mine like you did. Even if they are a pain sometimes.”
Tempest shook her head. “I don’t want to live with Aunt Rose,” she stated again.
“We won’t let that happen. Will we, Stella?” Cherise looked to the other girl for confirmation.
“We’ll try our best.”
“Why doesn’t your stepmother like you?” Tempest swiped at a tear that had strayed down her cheek.
Stella shrugged. “Guess she wants my dad all to herself.”
Tempest leaned her head back against the rough wall and sighed. “What do you miss most about Texas?” Stella furrowed her brow.
“Besides the ranch? Zane and Blue.”
“Are those your pets?” Cherise asked.
“No, silly. Zane and Blue are my best friends – well, besides you guys,” Stella explained.
“You have boys for friends?” Tempest’s eyes had become almost as round as her glasses.
“You’re so funny!” Cherise giggled. “I’d love to have boys for friends – especially with names like Zane and Blue. Are they cute?”
Stella frowned. “They’re just friends. You are so boy crazy, Cherise Hillyer.”
Cherise just shrugged. “So?”
“Anyway, there’s no chance of me going home now. My stepmother has seen to that. She couldn’t wait to get me out of the house just as soon as she married my dad.”
“Just like a fairytale.” Cherise sighed dreamily.
“Believe me, there’s nothing fun about it.” Stella sat up and crossed her arms over her chest.
“At least you have parents.” Tempest’s voice was quiet. She fixed her gaze on her lap, blinking rapidly.
“We’re your family now, Temp, right Stella?” Cherise gave Tempest’s shoulder a quick squeeze before she shifted, straightening. “Enough gloom! Let’s talk about Casey Brinks. We got her good! She is such a snob. I can’t believe I used to be friends with her.”
“Yeah, until you started hanging around with us,” Stella stated. “We weren’t cool enough for the Casey Brinks fan club.” She shifted her position so she could peek out a small knothole in the wall of the shed. “Coast is still clear.”
“You’re way more fun, anyway,” Cherise declared. “This is so exciting. And kind of scary, too.” “Just wait till Ole Miss Crankypants gets a hold of us,” Stella said, her eyes twinkling.
“Now, that will be scary.”
“So what do we do now? Just wait to get caught?” Cherise asked.
“Pretty much,” Stella said with a shrug.
“Hey, I have an idea.” Tempest dug in her pocket. She pulled out several bright strands of colored embroidery floss. “I read a book on making friendship bracelets and I just got some new colors. We could make some. If you want to, that is.”
Stella nodded. “Why not?”
“Okay,” Cherise agreed. “So what do we do?”
“It’s kind of like weaving,” Tempest explained, beginning to work with the threads. “I read that once you tie it on, you can never take it off. It means you’ll be friends forever.”
“Neat! I want some of this color,” Cherise exclaimed, reaching for a few hot pink strands.
“We should make them for each other.” Stella took the pink strands from Cherise.
“Or, how about if we each work on all three?” Tempest suggested. “That way, we’ll be connected forever.”
“Good idea,” Stella agreed. “Friends forever.” “Friends forever,” the other two echoed.
The cab wound its way along the tree-lined drive and slowed to a crawl on the circular driveway, finally coming to a halt in front of the mansion tucked well within the depths of Boston’s old moneyed district. The grand facade, with its pillars and over-sized windows, spoke of wealth. It was a nervous few minutes as Tempest surveyed the posh brick two story structure. It had been a few years since she’d been here to visit. Cherise’s parents weren’t much for entertaining strays from boarding school. At least, not strays without a pedigree.
“You plan on getting out?” The cab driver raised his brows questioningly as he made eye contact via the rearview mirror.
Tempest blinked back to reality. “Oh, yes.” She rummaged in her purse for the correct amount owing. Her own car was in the repair shop, so taking a cab was a necessity. “Um, here.” She shoved the bills into the cabby’s waiting palm. She couldn’t really afford such a generous tip, but it was just too embarrassing to have to wait while he made change. He was probably wondering what a person like her was doing in this neighborhood in the first place.
She stepped out of the cab, hauling her small suitcase behind her, and shut the car door with a decisive click. She waited until he had driven away before venturing up the wide steps to the menacing double doors, her small black case thumping up the steps behind her.
The bell barely had time to quit resonating when the door swung open.
“Tempest! You made it!” Cherise squealed, enveloping her long time friend in a warm embrace.
A rush of relief swept over Tempest’s body. What had she been so nervous about? This was Cherise, after all – the same blonde bombshell she’d grown up with at boarding school.
“Sure,” Tempest replied, disentangling herself. “The cabby knew exactly where to go.”
“Sorry someone didn’t pick you up at your aunt’s,” Cherise apologized as she led her further into the spacious foyer. The ceiling in the entrance rose overhead the full two stories. A large gilded mirror hung over an equally elaborate side table a few feet inside the doors. Polished white marble floors led off in several directions, including toward the grand staircase that curved upward. “The chauffeur had to take Mother to the country club and I just got back from my masseuse.”
“The cab was no problem,” Tempest assured.
“You look nice.” Cherise scanned Tempest from top to toes. “New haircut?”
“Um, yeah.” Tempest touched her reddish brown hair with tentative fingers. It was stylishly short, with just a hint of subtle highlights, and still salon fresh from that morning. It would never look this good again. She just wasn’t that good when it came to doing hair.
“Well, I like it,” Cherise stated with a nod. “Now you just need to get rid of the glasses and update your wardrobe and you’ll be a knockout.”
Tempest looked down at her outfit. Nondescript slacks and a button up blouse. She was tall and rather willowy and knew she could probably wear clothes that had a little more pizzazz, but… “I just like to be comfortable, that’s all.”
“Comfortable? With that body?” Cherise scoffed. She shook her head and expelled a dramatic sigh. “One of these days.”
“You’ve been warning me.” Tempest smiled.
“And I mean it,” Cherise affirmed. “One of these days you’re getting a makeover, lady, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I can’t believe we’ve been friends all these years and you’re still dressing like a librarian.”
“In fact, just wait until you see what I’ve got planned for tonight!” Cherise exclaimed.
“Oh, oh. Now you’ve got me worried,” Tempest said, still smiling, but in truth feeling a bit uneasy. She wasn’t sure she was up for it.
“Don’t worry!” Cherise took Tempest’s arm and started walking toward the stairs. “It’s just some good old fashioned girl fun. It’ll be just like old times -” Cherise cut herself short as she stopped abruptly in her tracks. “Is that all you brought?” She gestured to the small rolling overnight bag that was following Tempest like a stray mutt. “You are staying, aren’t you?” Tempest stared at the shabby suitcase for a moment and blinked before looking back up at Cherise. “It’s just one night.”
“I thought you were staying in Boston for a few days.”
“I am,” Tempest replied. “But I have to stay with Aunt Rose for the rest of the weekend. I don’t visit her nearly as often as I should, and well, you know how it is. She is getting on and she’d be miffed if I came to town and didn’t stay with her.” There was a moment of silence as Cherise pouted. “But I’m here for tonight,” Tempest offered.
“It’s going to be so much fun!” Cherise reverted to her former animated excitement. “I’ve got all kinds of things planned, just like when we were girls at school. We’ll do facials and pedicures. Listen to loud music…”
“Your folks won’t mind?” Tempest asked. From what she remembered, they were rather preoccupied with themselves, anyway.
“Silly!” Cherise laughed. “This is an old fashioned sleepover, not some kind of orgy! What were you expecting?”
Tempest blinked and pushed her glasses up with her finger. Sometimes it was hard to gauge whether Cherise was serious or not. “I, um… nothing.”
Cherise giggled even more. “That’s what I love about you, Tempest. You’re so droll!”
Tempest smiled weakly, wondering what was funny. She never had been good at catching on to jokes and things. Oh well. At least Cherise hadn’t changed any either.
It was strange the way life worked. They had been so close while growing up – Cherise, Stella and herself – and had remained fast friends even into college. But now, over the last two or three years, they had begun to drift apart. Go their separate ways. Build their own lives apart from one another. Life was like that. People got busy. Stella had sought further education, Cherise was busy as a Boston socialite, and Tempest herself had finally launched into a career as a writer.
Well, “career” was stretching it just a bit. She was writing for a small newspaper about an hour’s drive from Boston. It was satisfactory. She was doing what she enjoyed – writing. But sometimes it was difficult. There was only so much that could be said about the local chapter of the dog society.
Tempest started up the steps behind Cherise, the suitcase bumping behind her. Cherise stopped and turned around, frowning. “Goodness! I was so excited about seeing you I forgot to call Crosbie. Just leave your case there and he’ll bring it up later.”
“It’s not that heavy.” Tempest retracted the pull handle, and picked it up by the regular one. “I can do it.”
Cherise considered this for a moment, as if the thought had never occurred to her. Then she shrugged. “At least let me take it for you.” She snatched the small bag and started up the stairs again. “I can hardly wait to tell you everything that’s been happening.” T
empest watched as Cherise skipped up the steps in front of her, her mini-skirt bouncing against her rounded backside with each step. Tempest’s lips curved upward slightly. Cherise might come across as shallow, but underneath the rich girl exterior was a truly loyal friend.
Tempest glanced around Cherise’s bedroom. It looked much as she remembered. Lots of evidence of the spoiled little rich girl. Pictures, frills, ribbons and lace… everything spoke of a pampered princess who had never quite grown up. “When are you expecting Stella?”
“About seven.” Cherise deposited the suitcase near the door and then flopped down on the bed. “Something about shipping some boxes back home to Texas.”
“Moving can be a lot of work,” Tempest offered.
“I guess. Anyway, she should be here in time for dinner.” Cherise rolled onto her stomach.
“Imagine! Stella with a Master’s degree! She’s probably the smartest person I know. Present company excluded, of course.”
“Of course.” Tempest pulled out a pink satin covered chair that had been tucked under Cherise’s dressing table which was littered with makeup and jewelry.
“What do you do with a degree in ‘Environmental Studies,’ anyway?” Cherise asked.
“I’m not sure exactly. Field work? Environmental testing?”
Cherise sat up and patted the bed. “Come sit here! You need to tell me everything that’s been going on since last time I saw you.”
Tempest let out a small laugh, but got up and moved to perch on the edge of the bed. “That was only yesterday at Stella’s graduation.”
“I know, but we didn’t get much time to talk. It seems like ages since we had any girl time together.” Cherise sighed dramatically. “I just don’t know how I ever got to be friends with you two. You’re both just so smart! What in the world did you ever see in a bimbo like me?”
“You’re not a bimbo,” Tempest defended. “You’re smart, too. About lots of things.”
Cherise laughed, that flippant tinkling sound that Tempest had come to know so well. “There you go, always trying to make people feel good about themselves. At least that’s one thing about Stella. She’s honest.”
“Well, I just meant -”
“Forget it.” Cherise waved a dismissive hand. “I don’t mind, you know. Being a bimbo.”
“You shouldn’t call yourself that,” Tempest chided, her voice soft.
“Why not? I don’t mean it in a bad way. Actually, playing the part has its advantages.” Cherise raised a brow and smiled. “Guys seem to go for it.”
“And you’ve never had trouble in that department,” Tempest commented wryly.
“My point exactly,” Cherise replied, flipping her blonde tresses. She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Just wait until I tell you about Roberto.”
“Roberto?” Another in a long string of boyfriends, no doubt.
“He is an absolute dream!” Cherise flopped back onto the bed and flung her arms above her head. “He’s Italian, and you know what they say about Italian lovers.”
“Um, right.” Tempest focused on the bedspread’s stitching, tracing it with her index finger.
“It’s all true.” Cherise sighed. There was a moment of awkward silence until she sat up abruptly. “So, anyone new in your life?”
“Nope,” Tempest replied.
“Still pining for what’s his name?”
“Ron,” Tempest supplied curtly. “His name is Ron, and no I am not pining. We only dated for a couple of months and it was a perfectly logical decision on both our parts. Our paths were going in different directions. It was for the best that we end it before things got too serious.”
“Oh please!” Cherise groaned and rolled her eyes. “Our paths? That sounds like a cop out if ever I heard one. Admit it. He was just running scared.”
Cherise cut her off. “Seriously. I thought he was supposed to be a Christian or something. How dare he string my best friend such a line?”
“I’m a Christian, too,” Tempest defended. “He’s going into the mission field. A long distance relationship is just too hard. It makes sense.”
“Phooey on that. If it’s right, it doesn’t matter where in the world you go.” Cherise pinned Tempest with her eyes. “If you want to know what I think, Ron is probably secretly gay or something. Why else would he dump you like that?”
“Cherise!” Tempest shot back. “That’s not true.”
Cherise raised a brow. “How do you know? Ever sleep with him?”
“Of course not. I don’t believe in sex before marriage and – and neither does he.” Tempest blinked rapidly and pushed her glasses up. It was mostly true.
“Oh right. Something I never did understand.” Cherise flopped down on her back again. “I’m glad you’re the one who got religion and not me. I couldn’t handle it.”
“You might be surprised.” Tempest shrugged.
Cherise shook her head. “No way. I mean, I’m happy if you are, but don’t expect me to change. And as for Ron, I say good riddance. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.”
Cherise giggled. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll fall for some hotty and change your mind about the celibacy thing.”
“I doubt it.” Since becoming a Christian eighteen months ago, Tempest had given up on casual relationships. Not that she’d been licentious or anything before her conversion, but now she had a legitimate excuse for avoiding men. She’d only had sex that one time in college and well, she’d rather forget all about that. It was possibly the most embarrassing moment of her life.
“It could happen.”
Tempest frowned and looked over at Cherise. “What?”
“It could happen,” Cherise repeated. “You falling for some hot guy and give up on becoming a nun.”
“I’m not becoming a nun. I’m not Catholic.”
“Whatever. You know what I mean.”
Of course she did. Cherise had a one track mind. Tempest straightened her spine. “When the right person comes along – the person God wants for me – I will be more than happy to engage in… well, you know. Once I’m married, of course.”
“But how will you know if you’re even compatible?” Cherise asked. “You know… in that way?” “Is that all you care about?” Tempest stood up and crossed back to the chair. Lord, give me patience with Cherise. She doesn’t know any better. She took a deep breath before turning around. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Tell me more about Roberto instead.”
The hurt look in Cherise’s eyes melted almost instantly. “Roberto,” she repeated the name softly, like a mantra. “He is so perfect. Charming, good looking, great build and well, I already mentioned that other part.” She sighed. “I would literally follow him to the ends of the earth.”
“That good, huh?”
“In every way. Of course, my parents don’t see it that way. They are always so out of touch. I think they expect me to marry someone from their pre-approved lineup.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, you know. Old family friends. Someone with connections. The right bloodlines and all that. But I’m not having any part of it.”
“Good. It’s your life.”
“You’re not going to lecture me?”
“Why would I do that?” Tempest asked.
Cherise shrugged. “I don’t know. The religion thing? I know you don’t approve of my choices.”
“Have I ever lectured you?” Tempest blinked, tamping down the hurt that had risen in her breast. It was a topic that struck a nerve. Sometimes she felt like a bad Christian for not being more enthusiastic about witnessing to her friends. True, she’d shared her faith, but the last thing she wanted was to alienate them, so she avoided leading conversations, opting for the ‘friendship evangelism’ model instead.
“Well, no,” Cherise admitted. She looked down at the bedspread and traced some stitching. She looked up again abruptly, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “But sometimes I feel it. Like you’re such a good person and I’m, well… not. One of these days you’re going to just jump ship and leave me to my own devices.”
“Cherise!” Tempest bolted from the chair and bent to envelop her friend around the shoulders. “I’ll never abandon you. You or Stella! You know that. Friends forever, right?” Cherise sat up and they hugged properly. “Friends forever.” When they pulled apart, Cherise examined Tempest closely. “But do think I’m crazy? Falling so hard for Roberto, I mean?” “Well… How would I know? I’ve never met him.” Tempest smiled.
“Exactly!” Cherise gave Tempest another big squeeze. “I’m so glad the two of you agreed to come over for one last girl’s night before we go our separate ways. I’m going to miss you so much.”
“You make it sound like we might not see each other again. I mean, I’m not that far from Boston.”
“Oh, I know. But who knows where Stella might end up? I know she’s planning to go back to Texas for awhile, but after that, who knows?”
“True.” Tempest wished she could add a ‘who knows’ to her own future. Right now it seemed pretty stable. And pretty dull. But there were bills to pay… ”
Anyway, let’s go see what Cook is making for dinner tonight,” Cherise suggested, rolling off the bed.
Tempest followed. It was hard to mull over life’s bigger issues with Cherise around.
About the Author
Tracy Krauss is a multi-published novelist, playwright, and artist with several award winning and best selling novels, stage plays, devotionals and children’s books in print. Her work strikes a chord with those looking for thought provoking faith based fiction laced with romance, suspense and humor – no sugar added. She holds a B.Ed from the U of S and has lived in many remote and interesting places in Canada’s far north. She and her husband currently reside in beautiful BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. website: http://tracykrauss.com – fiction on the edge without crossing the line –
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