Rocky Mountain Destiny (sample)

 

Autographed Paperback 

335 pages

$13.25

Buy It Now

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain Destiny

Twenty years later, the real story begins

Chapter 1

Jesus, tell me it’s not true.”

Jesus looked back over his shoulder from where he was stuffing the back of a van with a backpack and sleeping bag and smiled at his dark-haired cousin. “What, Marcus?”

Naomi says you gave up your shares of Rhodes Construction to her and Jimmy. That income could have financed this venture—probably your whole ministry.”

Jesus clapped Marcus on the shoulder. “We don’t need it.”

Tossing his own bag in, he shook his head. “What do you mean we don’t need it. It costs money to ‘take this show on the road,’ as you put it.”

You still have your shares, mi amigo.”

All the income they generate are in a trust until I turn thirty.”

Jesus stuffed a pillow in a gap behind the seat. “So… four more years then.”

Marcus sighed. “Four more years. Well, three and a half.”

Jesus turned and leaned against the luggage in the open van. “No one will trust in God’s provision if we don’t.”

Marcus couldn’t keep his exasperation from showing. “What if those shares _were_ God’s provision?”

Jesus laughed. “Marcus, you’re going to have to trust me on this one. We won’t live like kings, but we will have enough.”

Marcus let out a sigh. “Steph said you’d say something like that.”

Jesus pushed off the back of the van. “Your sister should be coming with us.”

Marcus shook his head as the two walked toward the front of the decades-old vehicle. “She… well, you know Steph.” He didn’t want to elaborate on his sister’s latest drama.

Jesus grew serious. “Yeah, I know Steph.”

The Henley sisters, Mya and Megan, and their brother, Luke, came from Jesus’ apartment building carrying grocery bags, having driven up from Santa Fe to wish Jesus and his crew “happy traveling” as they left on their cross-country journey.

While the Henleys shared familial facial features–squarish chins and prominent cheek bones–each one’s hair was strikingly different. Mya’s was short and strawberry blond while Megan’s was shoulder-length and brown, and Luke’s was as black as midnight.

Jesus had connected with Luke and his sisters years ago when he and his father, Joe, had worked together renovating their home. After the tragic accident that left the three without parents, they’d formed an even tighter bond.

Marcus watched as Jesus gave them all hugs, and when Luke pulled out his wallet out and handed Jesus a stack of bills, Marcus smiled. God’s provision at work already.

Mya, the youngest of the trio, latched onto Jesus’ arm. “Now you have to promise to come by our place on your return trip.”

Jesus nodded. “ I will definitely plan on it.” He looked past her to Megan. “I have a feeling your sister is planning the menu already.”

Megan smiled awkwardly. “It’s what I do.”

Luke patted his stomach. “She does it too well, if you ask me.”

Jesus laughed. “She is definitely gifted.” He looked back to Megan. “Just remember, there are other gifts not found in the kitchen that my Father wants to give you.”

Megan looked confused. “What gifts?”

He held a hand toward her, and she hesitantly took it. She looked to him expectantly, but he only held her gaze a moment, then dropped her hand, shifting his own to Luke’s shoulder.

Marcus couldn’t help but notice her bewildered expression. Having grown up with Jesus, he was used to the unfinished sentences, cryptic remarks, and the sometimes weird way that Jesus carried on a conversation–almost as if he were speaking to somebody else altogether–answering different questions than he was asked. Megan had obviously not spent as much time with Jesus as her siblings, who seemed perfectly comfortable.

Jesus suddenly turned and smiled, looking past him. Marcus followed his gaze to see José and Juan Alvarez pulling up in their Chevy Volt. Juan looked as if he’d just come from a salon, his hair shorter and more gelled than he’d seen him last. His younger brother, however, looked as if a hair cut should have been on his “to do” list. His hair was falling into his eyes and curling at his collar. Oddly, his mustache was trimmed to perfection.

Marcus’s heart did a little jig when he noticed Annaliese in the backseat. She stepped out, all smiles, her honey blond hair layered with brighter blond highlights pulled back in a ponytail.

She bounded forward, and to Marcus’s dismay, threw her arms around Jesus’ neck. “I can’t believe we’re really going to do this!”

Jesus gave her a hug then released her and opened the side door to let her climb in. “Yep, we really are. Have you heard from anyone in Blake’s van this morning?”

She sat, her eyes sparkling. “They’re at a gas station filling up right now and should be here in fifteen minutes or so.”

Jesus nodded and stepped around Marcus to help Juan and José pack their luggage in the back. Marcus moved to stand in the open door. He nervously smiled at Annaliese, wishing he had half the magnetism that his dad still had at the age of sixty-two.

She looked at him in surprise. “Marcus, when did you get here?”

He blinked. “You walked right past me not two minutes ago.”

Did I?” A blush came to her cheeks. “I’m sorry. I was focused elsewhere, I guess.”

Marcus gave her a tight smile. “Yeah, I suppose you were.”

She gestured to the three who were saying their final goodbyes to Jesus and heading for their car. “Who are they?”

Some old family friends.” He pointed to the grocery bags at her feet. “And contributors. They’ve loaded us down with enough granola bars for a year.”

She reached down and looked inside one of them. “You underestimate Blake. I’ve never seen a guy who can put away food like he does.”

Marcus slanted a smile. “Feeding all those muscles, I guess.” He gestured awkwardly at the spot beside her. “Can I… would you mind if I sat here?” He started to climb in, but the look on her face stopped him in mid-motion.

Oh, well, I was sort of saving this spot for Jesus.”

I’m pretty sure he’s driving… at least for now.”

Her face fell. “Oh, yeah, I suppose so. Sure, then, that would be great.”

Marcus slid in, feeling like last week’s tuna surprise. He caught a glimpse of his frustration in the rearview mirror and rubbed his forehead, trying to unknot his face. He didn’t realize that Annaliese was watching him.

Do you have a headache? I have some ibuprofen in my bag.”

No, I’m just…”

She leaned a shoulder toward him. “You’re what? Are you leaving behind your girlfriend or something?”

Marcus looked over at her grayish green eyes and shook his head. “No. I don’t have a girlfriend.”

Her eyebrows rose. “Really? Why not? You’re one of the nicest guys I know.”

He couldn’t help smiling. _But not as nice as Jesus, huh, Annaliese?_ “So…” –Marcus was dying to know more about the pretty girl next to him– “I know we’ve seen each other a lot lately, but we haven’t talked much. What do you do when you’re not taking a road trip with a religious revolutionary.”

I do nails.” She held up her bright coral fingertips that sported a tiny design on each one, and Marcus wondered how he could have missed noticing them.

Oh.”

He hadn’t meant to sound unenthused, but he obviously had. She gave him a peeved look. “Not everyone can be a rocket scientist.”

He tried franticly to retract whatever she’d heard in his voice. “No, they’re very… pretty. Little works of art.”

She didn’t seem convinced of his sincerity. “What do you do?”

He couldn’t resist teasing her. “I’m a rocket scientist.” He laughed at her surprised expression and shook his head. “Just kidding. Right now I’m a part-time waiter while I go to med school. I’m hoping to be a surgeon.”

This time she grinned. “A brain surgeon, right?”

He shrugged. “Maybe, although I was thinking cardiac.”

She punched him in the arm. “I think you’re a comedian.”

His eyebrows rose as his hand went to his arm, only pretending to mind. “Hey, that will be my cutting arm.”

She laughed and swept up the shoulder bag at her feet. “All of you Rhodes men are a hoot.” She fished around in her purse until she pulled out a pack of gum. “So what do you really do?”

Marcus stared at her for a moment. “I’m a manager at QuikTrip.”

She offered him a piece of gum, and he took it. “Does that pay pretty well?”

He was surprised that that was the story she chose to believe. “Not as well as a brain surgeon.”

I don’t suppose.” She smiled big enough for her dimples to show.

The moment was broken as a smallish Asian woman appeared at the open door. Her chin-length black hair seemed to accentuate her round face. “Am I in the back then? I hope I don’t end up sick.”

Marcus hated to give up his seat beside Annaliese, but he didn’t want to be the cause of anyone’s carsickness. “Here, Song, take my place.” He started to rise. “Or would you rather ride shotgun.” With her puzzled expression, he pointed to the passenger side front seat. “No one has claimed the front yet.”

She waved a hand in disagreement. “Oh, no, that’s okay. The middle will be fine.”

Marcus wished that Song wasn’t always so accommodating. Never one to put herself first, he might have known she wouldn’t want the front. He slid out the side and headed around the van to the front himself as Blake pulled his van in behind them.

Moments later, the Alvarez brothers took the backseat while Jesus climbed in the front. “We’re picking up Dev on the way out of town,” Jesus announced before starting the engine.

What’s our first stop?” Juan yelled from the back.

Jesus looked in the rearview mirror. “Carhenge.”

Where’s that?” Annaliese questioned, leaning forward. “What’s that?”

Jesus pulled away from the curb. “Kind of like it sounds. Some guy in Nebraska recreated Stonehenge using old cars.”

Nebraska!” José spat. “Well, that explains it.”

Marcus laughed along with the van-load of people who had put aside their own plans to follow his cousin around the country on what Jesus was calling his “Good News Tour.”

Juan and José, Blake and Taylor were the group’s two sets of brothers, and they all worked together at Blake’s Bass Pro Shop. You’d be hard-pressed to find more outdoorsy guys in the entire state of Colorado than these four. He imagined that Blake’s van held more camping gear than luggage. Marcus wasn’t sure how they’d all been able to leave the store at the same time, but he knew Blake and Taylor came from a large family, so he guessed they were filling in.

Song was a visiting university professor from Korea who had been drawn to Jesus when he’d been speaking on the University of Colorado campus. Healed of migraines by the master healer, and having her visa unexpectedly extended, she responded to Jesus’ call to take this cross country tour with him.

Pulling to a stop in an apartment parking lot, Jesus pulled out his phone to let Dev know they were waiting. Marcus spied him in a beat up cowboy hat, jogging their way, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Marcus pointed. “Never mind calling. He’s on his way at high speed, as usual.”

Jesus grinned. “I love that boy’s energy.”

Marcus flipped the visor down, blocking the morning sun. “He just makes me tired.”

Jesus lowered his window and waved him over to their van rather than Blake’s parked behind them. The enthusiastic, bronze-skinned young man from India was wearing a western snap shirt with the sleeves torn off. He opened the side door and smiled at the two women in front of him. He tipped his hat. “Ladies.” Then he stretched his hands toward the front and back of the van. “And Bros! Are you ready to roll?”

He climbed in as José corrected him. “Dude, we’ve been ‘rolling’ for fifteen minutes.”

Nothing happens without me, man.” Dev sat in the back beside him.

Juan leaned forward to look around his brother. “Is that right? So the rodeos you’ll be missing this fall just won’t happen ’cause you’re not there?”

Dev buckled his seatbelt. “Oh, I suppose some pathetic something or other will take place, but without my death-defying bull rides, they will be a mere shadow of former glory.”

The group laughed, and Marcus turned back to face the front, shaking his head as Jesus put the van in drive. What a group. He couldn’t help wondering just what Jesus had seen in each one of them. This will be a trip to remember, that’s for sure.

All the Rhodes kids had been told the miraculous story of Jesus’ conception and birth from a young age, but they had also been told to keep it a “family secret” to keep Jesus safe until “the right time.” It still felt weird to be attesting to his divinity out loud, and he found himself constantly questioning if this really was the right time. Jesus said it was, and he should know, but Marcus couldn’t lay down his fears so easily.

Even though Jesus had asked Marcus to go with him to spread the good news of the Kingdom, Uncle Joe had privately added another reason–to “watch his back.” It seemed to Marcus that that job should have fallen to Jesus’ younger brother, Jimmy, but he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder where Jesus was concerned. Marcus had never witnessed any favoritism in their family, although Jimmy swore it was true.

He listened to the two women chatting and laughing. He’d been attracted to Annaliese the first time he’d seen her, but she only had eyes for Jesus. I guess I do know a little of what Jimmy felt. He sighed and looked to the mountains they were about to leave behind.

***

Annaliese snapped a picture as they approached the painted gray cars that had been arranged on the Nebraska plains like the monolithic stones in England. “What an odd concept.”

Indeed,” put in Jesus, striding forward. “Never underestimate humanity’s capacity for the strange, the bizarre, and the just plain odd.” He turned around and grinned at those following. “I love you guys!”

Marcus laughed. “So is that why you picked this place? Because it’s odd?”

As the troop broke through the circle of cars into the center, he waved a hand at the other tourists perusing the upturned autos. “We’re here because they’re here.”

Annaliese did a sudden turn to check on the other van, her pony tail flipping with the movement. Those riding with Blake were now disembarking and stretching after the long drive. Annaliese’s eyes couldn’t help pausing a second or two on Blake’s impressive biceps.

Walking beside him was his brother Taylor, who had similar features–particularly their sun-bleached hair and hazel eyes–but he obviously didn’t spend as much time at the gym. The two never seemed to stop talking about camping, hunting, and fishing, and when they got together with the Alvarez brothers, Annaliese wanted to rip her ears off. Why, oh, why, Jesus, did you have to bring that crew along?

Annaliese was waiting for the other two women to emerge from Blake’s van, but the next to come forth were Ethan and Zayne, the teacher and the CPA. She didn’t particularly like either one of them. Ethan had a know-it-all attitude, and Zayne seemed full of himself.

They seemed to be in a deep discussion as they passed her without even a nod of recognition, and Annaliese noticed that they were nearly the same height. They were shorter than Marcus, who was about average. They’re not much taller than me–probably 5′ 7. Definitely no taller than 5′ 8. Ethan’s hair was a dark, dirty blond while Zayne’s was a rather rich shade of brown; Ethan’s was a typical nondescript men’s cut, while Zayne’s seemed more stylishly cut and gelled.

She watched them continue past the rim of upturned cars, barely giving them any notice, and she wondered if they would even pause a minute to take in this strange wonder.

A young black boy raced past her that she recognized as Noah, Karlene’s five-year-old son. Another odd choice, Jesus. Why bring along a mom who has to keep track of a kid?

Karlene stopped at her side, breathing hard. “Well, at least we’re out in the middle of nowhere. I can’t lose him, right?” She adjusted the polka dotted headband, circling her hair that had been styled into small twists that covered her head.

Annaliese smiled her way as Natalie strode up to Karlene’s side. Annaliese always had a similar reaction to Natalie’s height as she did to the girth of Blake’s biceps. At six foot, the woman would have been imposing in anything she chose to wear, but in her usual all black ensemble–long-sleeved despite the heat–plus dyed black hair, black fingernails and bright red lipstick, imposing didn’t begin to describe her. Annaliese thought her eyebrow piercing made her look angry all the time and her buzzed-on-one-side hairstyle gave her a threatening demeanor.

Do you want me to catch him?” Natalie said while pointing into the center of the cars where Noah could be seen looking back at them.

Karlene shook her head as she started forward. “No, he’s just a bit overwhelmed, I think.”

Natalie flashed a look at Annaliese behind Karlene’s back and mouthed “brat.”

Annaliese blinked and started to follow Karlene. She had thought the same thing on occasion, but would never say it. Or even mouth it.

As the trio reached the cars, Jesus walked to the center and began to speak in a loud voice. “Did you know that some think that the Stonehenge rocks held healing powers. Some of the bluestones had unusual acoustic properties.”

Those gathered at the site moved in closer to Jesus. Annaliese smiled. They probably think he’s a tour guide.

When they were struck, they produced a loud, clanging noise,” Jesus continued. “Once they were surrounded by sound, the spirits causing the affliction would flee, leaving the person healed.” He grinned. “At least in theory.”

There were chuckles among the several dozen people who had gathered around.

He took a wider stance. “But what if I told you that healing could be yours right here, right now?” He gestured around the circle. “Not because of this ring of cars, but because the Healer is here.”

Analiese looked around at the now silent crowd sporting raised eyebrows, and her eye landed on a woman who was probably in her fifties with a twisted spine that made one hip way too high.

Jesus saw her too. “Ma’am, would you like to walk without a hitch?”

She huffed in disbelief. “I’ve been to more doctors than I can count. This is as good as it’s going to get this side of paradise.”

Jesus walked toward her and stretched out his hands to her. “Take my hands.” She did so with her cane still in her grasp. Jesus gently removed it and handed it to the man next to her. Then he took her hand again. “Now dance with me, daughter of the King.”

As she stepped toward him, audible cracks could be heard. Jesus kept stepping back, grinning. She met his gaze, a look of amazement on her face, and followed. With every step, her body came more into alignment, until she was standing straight. Speechless, she could only stare into his eyes. “Now for that dance.” He released a hand and put his to her waist. Smiling, with tears running down her face, she put hers on his shoulder, and Jesus waltzed her around the circle of gray vehicles while the people cheered. After a hug, Jesus released her.

Who are you?” she asked, still looking stunned.

He caught a tear with the back of his index finger as it ran down her cheek. “I am that I am.” Then he walked her back to the awestruck group. “Who’s next?”

Annaliese’s heart swelled, and she looked over at Marcus, who had come up on her elbow. “Isn’t he amazing?”

Marcus nodded.

He says that eventually we’ll be able to do what he does, but I’m not so sure. I’ve never been a quick study.” She felt her heart pound at just the thought of asking someone if they’d like to be healed the way that Jesus did. She realized that Marcus was still looking at her. “Good thing you really didn’t go to med school, huh? You’d be out of a job.”

Marcus grimaced. “Yeah, I’m thinking that Jesus should have given me a heads up, although if I’d been paying attention when we were kids, I suppose I should have realized. We played this scenario all the time, and our stuffed animals always had a miraculous recovery from whatever illness or calamity had befallen them.”

Annaliese laughed. “See, it’s good to think smaller. It was no big deal to leave my job for this. And you can pick up another convenience store manager’s job pretty easily I’m sure.”

Marcus looked at her with a twinkle in his eye as if he were about to say something. Before he said a word, however, most of their group surged forward past them, and the two looked up to see Jesus waving them over.

They caught up to the crowd that was surrounding Jesus holding a toddler. The little girl with short, jet black hair was rubbing a hand over his short beard. “Hey guys, this is Leah, and her parents tell me that she’s completely deaf. On the count of three, I want you all to shout her name.”

Jesus counted, the crowd yelled, and the youngster never flinched, still content to caress Jesus’ cheek. He looked his followers over for a few seconds. “Taylor, come here and put your hands over her ears.”

Taylor stepped forward and did as Jesus asked. Then Jesus put his free hand on top of her head. “Leah’s ears, be opened.”

This time Jesus whispered. “Leah, can you hear me?”

She stilled her hand, startled, and looked to his eyes. Then she smiled.

Her mother burst into tears, and the girl looked around to find the sound. Weeping, the woman came forward to take her daughter, and Jesus stood with his arms around them both until her tears subsided.

Taking a step back, he addressed the people. “God’s kingdom has come to the earth. Right here, right now. You’re looking at it. I have come to bring you calm out of chaos, light out of darkness. No longer will you have to wonder which way to go. Follow me, and you will always be on the right route. The route that leads to eternal life.”

Someone called out, “What’s your name?”

Annaliese looked to see a shortish Asian man carrying Leah on his shoulders.

The miracle worker smiled. “It’s Jesus.” Then he pointed to the visitor’s center. “Let’s all go have a snack, and I’ll tell you more.”

Annaliese loved to hear Jesus talk. He could paint pictures with words that made her heart sing, and she had been mesmerized the first time she heard him. Then he started healing people, and even though she had doubts about her own abilities in that area, joining this road trip had been a no-brainer.

She watched him walk toward the visitor’s center, her heart melting at the sight of him listening so intently to those pushing to get near. She started after the crowd, smiling.

 

Marcus watched Annaliese catch up with Karlene, who had a firm grip on her son’s hand, the two beaming with Jesus’ healings.

He wondered why it was so difficult for her to believe that he was in med school and so easy to buy that he was a convenience store manager. Do I have a… look? He knew he should straighten her out but part of him was amused at her assumptions.

As he followed those heading to the visitor’s center, he noticed three people heading toward the parking lot and stood for a moment perplexed. How could they witness two miracles and just walk away? He supposed they thought it had been fake–a set-up–and Jesus just wanted to sell them healing crystals or something.

He let out a sigh as they disappeared from the ring of cars. He knew why people were skeptical—this world had a way of turning dreams into dirt. He kicked a rock. But this is real.

He was tempted to go after them—to tell them that they were walking away from the most important man they’d ever know, but he didn’t. Jesus said that people will believe when they see the miracles, or they won’t. Belief couldn’t be negotiated.

Turning, he headed toward the visitor’s center. He entered to a spiel he’d heard many times already around Colorado Springs and sadly noted that there were no available seats close to Annaliese. In fact, there were no available seats at all. He edged over to the side of the space to find a place to stand.

Jesus stood with an ice cream cone in one hand. “When I say the Kingdom of God is here, some of you don’t have a frame of reference. If you’re honest, you’re probably thinking, ‘So what? What does that really mean?’ ” He licked his ice cream. “It’s like this: there was a guy who was poking around and found buried treasure worth a fortune. The old trunk he had unearthed was full of gold and silver and precious jewels. Quickly, he buried it again and went to find the owner to make an offer on his land, even selling everything he had to buy it. That’s the Kingdom. It’s worth all you’ve got to be a part of it.”

Marcus looked around at the faces in the room. Some seemed to be enraptured while some looked confused. Jesus made another Kingdom comparison, and Marcus couldn’t help it when his gaze settled on Annaliese, who was one of those who seemed hypnotized by his words.

Her attraction to Jesus was obvious, but what wasn’t so plain was Jesus’ feelings for her. It seemed to Marcus that he didn’t particularly give Annaliese more attention than anyone else. Maybe I should just ask him–save myself some heartache. He knew if Jesus was interested, he didn’t stand a chance. Hands suddenly went up around the room, and Marcus tuned back in to what Jesus was saying.

Those of you with your hands raised want direction. You want to know what’s real. You want to live life to the fullest and after this life, spend eternity with my Father in heaven.” He handed his ice cream cone to Juan, sitting at a table nearby and grew serious. “I can help you with that because I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the Father except through me.” He grinned. “Who’s with me?”

Hands went up again, and Jesus started for the door. “Follow me.” This was the point that Jesus usually charged those with him to baptize new followers, but they were nowhere near a body of water. Following the crowd outside, he wondered what Jesus was up to.

As they gathered around Jesus, he lifted his hands to heaven and thanked God for the cleansing rain. Marcus looked to the cloudless sky and felt a drop on his nose. Within seconds, it was raining.

As some scurried back toward shelter, Jesus called out, “No, don’t retreat! Father sent the rain to wash you clean. Let the rain baptize you into a new life. The old has gone; the new has come!”

Noah started to spin around, laughing. Annaliese and Karlene locked arms and began skipping in a circle, and soon, nearly everyone was joining in. Marcus looked behind him to see Dev, Juan, and José doing some sort of line dance. He didn’t know the steps, but he did his best to follow their lead.

***

Annaliese finally got what she’d been hoping for. After driving for several hours more, Jesus turned over the wheel to Marcus, and Song decided that the best place for her, and her predisposition for being car sick, might indeed be the front. With all this shifting, the seat beside her was empty, and Jesus settled into it. He yawned, and she offered him her pillow. He took it with thanks, and while he gave instructions to Marcus about which highway to take, he hugged it to his chest. She didn’t know why that made her feel warm all over.

She’d been crushing on Jesus ever since she first met him, but so far she hadn’t gotten any sign that he was interested in her in any romantic sort of way. She hoped that this trip would give her the chance to show him who she was, and maybe, just maybe he’d be tempted to fall in love with her.

I think I’m already in love with him.

As he leaned his head back and closed his eyes, she thought back to the first time she’d seen him. She’d been at the Crystal Reservoir listening to Jon–the one people called “the baptizer.”

Jon’s message had been different than any rabbi she’d ever heard. He spoke with fire and passion about getting ready for a new season, and he always ended his talk with inviting those listening to join him in the water to wash away their sins and begin a brand new life. When people tried to label him the mashiach, he was adamant that he was not. He said the mashiach was coming, however.

And all of a sudden, there he was. At least Jon said it was him, heading toward the lake with his brownish black hair ruffling in the breeze. Then he walked right into the water in his jeans and gray t-shirt. The two men had conferred for a moment, and it almost looked like Jon was reluctant to baptize him, even though he had baptized every other man, woman, and child who had come to him. But then he did, after all, and when he brought Jesus up out of the water, the clouds parted and the sun shone right down on them.

And it thundered.

Why did he hesitate?” she murmured, then jumped when Jesus said “Who?” without opening his eyes.

Annaliese was embarrassed to reveal that she’d been thinking about him. “Oh, nothing. Never mind. I didn’t really mean to say that out loud.”

Jesus chuckled and opened one eye. “Of course you didn’t. You do that quite a bit when you’re thinking, though.” He closed it again.

Her eyebrows lifted as a rosy blush came to her cheeks. “I do?” She was gratified that he had noticed something about her, but aghast that it had to be that.

He smiled, his eyes still closed, and Analiese’s heart picked up, gazing at his expression. Thoughts of kissing him came to mind.

It was a matter of humility,” Jesus announced.

What was?”

Jesus opened his eyes and straightened in his seat, massaging the back of his neck. “The reason Jon was hesitant to baptize me. He thought that as the mashiach, I should be baptizing him.”

Oh.” Annaliese nodded, then realized that she had not explained who or what she had been talking about. That understanding stole her breath even more than the miracles she had witnessed, and a deeper red spread over her face. She swallowed and licked her lips, suddenly wishing she were in the other van. She looked down at her lap, mortification setting in with the knowledge that he probably knew everything else she had been thinking as well.

Jesus leaned toward her. “It’s okay.” She couldn’t bring herself to meet his gaze. “Just don’t let it go too far.” He patted her leg and sat back. “Humanity is filled with intense and sometimes confusing emotions. You were created that way.”

She gave him a sideways glance and a tiny smile. “Was that before or after we were made ‘odd’?”

Jesus just laughed, tucked the pillow behind his head, and crossed his arms, letting his eyes slip shut once again.

Annaliese let out a sigh, closed her eyes, and struck a similar pose, trying not to think about the man beside her.

Chapter 2

So, Marcus, I think you missed the turn to head north.” Jesus was looking out the side window at the large body of water on the left.”

It’s not my fault,” Marcus assured. “Blake passed me and isn’t answering his phone. I figured you’d want us to stay together. Now that I see what he’s brought us to, I have a feeling I know why.”

Uh huh, so do I,” Jesus agreed. “Well, I guess we’re camping here tonight.”

Woohoo, Blake! I was hoping we’d get some fishing in somewhere on this trip,” Juan yelled from the back of the van.

Dev, sitting beside him, didn’t share Juan’s enthusiasm. “So that’s how we’re spending the rest of the day? Fishing? I hate fishing.”

Relax, cowboy,” Juan shot back, “leave the fishing to us.”

Dev crossed his brown arms, his dark eyes flashing with irritation. “And what are the non-fisherman supposed to do?”

Jesus looked over his shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll put you to work.”

Marcus turned and followed the red van down a winding road. After a few minutes, José called out. “Where are we anyway? Still in Nebraska?”

Marcus looked in the rearview mirror. “Yes, but just barely. This is the Missouri River, and it’s the border between Nebraska and South Dakota.”

Dev read the approaching sign. “Lewis and Clark Lake State Recreation Area.”

Ah,” Jesus put in, “Meriwether and William. Brave souls. They would have never made it without the angels I sent them, though.” He looked to Annaliese. “Grizzlies are mean.”

She smirked. “Weren’t they created that way?”

He shook his head. “No. Back in the garden, they were just big, cuddly teddy bears.” A grin spread over his face. “Lots of fun!”

Dev didn’t share Jesus’ cavalier attitude about Blake’s detour, and it didn’t help that the farther they got from Colorado, the more anxious he had become about the whole trip in general. He had been second-guessing his decision to leave the rodeo circuit for the last two hours.

He hadn’t spent all that much time with Blake Griffin, but when he had, the man was hard to take—he seemed to want to turn everything into a competition. A competition in which he usually won. What a show off.

Dev didn’t mind showing off in the arena, but Blake never seemed to give it a rest. I’m surprised he didn’t try to bench press one of the cars at our last stop. He smirked, imagining him trying to wrestle one out of the ground.

Blake’s van came to a halt near a small visitor’s center/convenience store, and Marcus pulled in beside him. Everyone piled out, and the Alvarez brothers caught up to Blake already heading into the building. Dev went in only because he needed to use the restroom.

Coming out, he immediately caught sight of Blake buying a bag of chips and a soda. Dev couldn’t resist giving the tall, broad man some grief for the detour he instigated. “You know,” he began, coming to his side, “most people would think twice before commandeering the agenda of a prophet.”

Blake gave him a quick sideways glance before turning back to the man behind the counter and handing him his credit card. “Yeah, well, I’ve always been one to grab the bull by the horns.” He smiled. “Seems like something you’d understand.”

The point of bull riding is to avoid the horns.”

Blake took his receipt and swept his snacks off of the counter. “That must be the reason I hate rodeos. Too wimpy.”

He headed for the door, and Dev followed him. “Oh, I suppose fishing is a man’s sport. And the danger–such a rush to pull a flopping fish out of the water.”

Blake held the door open with a smirk. “Now you’re beginning to understand.”

Dev snorted and went outside, shaking his head. “So is it sheer pigheadedness that allows you to change our course for the day just because you wanted to?”

Blake let the door close and lowered his voice. “Look, Dev, we were going to camp somewhere tonight. I just thought it might as well be where we could catch something to eat. Everyone else seems to be going with the flow; I suggest you do the same.”

Blake left Dev standing, staring after him. Jesus came up on his shoulder. “Come on, Dev, I’ve got a plan for those not handy with a fishing pole.”

Dev looked to Jesus, trying to tamp down his irritation with the arrogant Blake Griffin. “I don’t mind telling you that man annoys me.”

Jesus put an arm around his shoulder and pulled him in the opposite direction. “He’s that last bull you rode, Dev. Not always careful where he stomps his feet. But,” he said, pointing him to where the majority of their group was waiting, “I’m pretty good at teaching bulls to do ballet.”

Dev smiled at the image and felt his irritation dissipate. “And what do you plan on teaching the rest of us?”

Jesus sent him a teasing lift of his eyebrows. “Come find out.”

What People Are Saying:

“Ever wonder what it would be like if Jesus were born in our time?…I really enjoyed this modern retelling, along with the stories of his friends and disciples, modern people with modern problems. Refreshing and inspiring.”

“The characters in the Rocky Mountain series have become like family and you can’t wait for the next book. This whole series is very thought provoking, with this one being the best one yet. Definitely one you can’t put down until the end.”

“This book will draw you in.  It keeps you guessing and wondering what will happen next.  It was very thought provoking.”

Autographed paperback

335 pages

$13.25

Buy It Now