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Hyacinth, Washington is about traditional values. Its residents live their lives by discipline. Words like trust, honor, and kindness aren't just buzzwords. Each of the novellas (and 1 novel) in this set is the tale of a young woman and her struggle to figure out who she is while going through Hyacinth's unique courting system. On their way to meet and find that one guy, these heroines grow in ways they and their town never expect.
Courted by Discipline: Kathy just moved to Hyacinth and isn’t sure of their courting system. When she catches the eye of the town’s most eligible bachelor, Xander, her life turns upside down.
Courted by Fall: Cami’s dreams of marrying her prince died the day he left town without a word. On a downward spiral, she thinks all her dreams are going up in smoke—until Jerod comes into her life.
Courted by Trouble: After a disaster, Stephanie has no expectations about her future. Former friends pull her back into her old life in Hyacinth & she finds happiness for the first time in a long while. When newcomer, Chris, winks at her, her life takes an unexpected turn.
Courted by Understanding: Dora is dependable, realistic, and doesn’t dream about things she isn’t meant for. So when businessman, Gaelic, notices her, Dora has no idea how to handle it.
Courted by Experience: Celie returns to her childhood home of Hyacinth to take part in her courting year. Unfortunately, the eligible bachelors aren’t her type. Instead, she’s attracted to a widower her grandmother is against. She has to decide: give up her dreams of courting or find a way to get Marcus on her list.
Courted by a Knight: Deeka isn’t sure she wants to take part in courting. She has a life to live. When outsider, Curtis, comes to town, she begins to hope she can have both.
Courted by Time: Passed over in her courting year, DeLynn decides to go to college nearby. When the campus chaplain shows interest in her, she doesn’t know what to do. Give up Zachary or the Hyacinth way of life?
Courted by Discipline - Chapter 1
“Where are the dishes?”
Looking up, Kathy smiled at her mother who was cutting box tops open and peeking in before heading on to the next one, almost frantic in her motions. “Over here, Mom.”
Standing up and stretching her back, Carilyn Bretherton smiled in relief. “Oh, good. Your dad will be home from work in a couple hours and we need to have dinner on the table.”
Their house was a mess of huge proportions. Boxes were everywhere, in every room, but no matter what, certain traditions and expectations lingered. Gerald Bretherton was at work, making the money to keep them in all the wonderful things they were used to, and the two of them worked to make sure meals were on the table at the right times, the house was cleaned – well, normally cleaned, and that it was a place he could come home and relax in.
It was a lifestyle Kathy was raised in and considered natural even though her friends growing up thought her parents were way too old fashioned. Looking at their parents, Kathy could understand the conundrum. Her best friend Carina – well, former best friend – had been sexually active for three years, something her parents taught her should happen only after she was married, and she wholeheartedly agreed with their philosophy. After all, she didn’t really want to share her body with just anyone. Carina kept telling her to “just try it” and she would politely decline. The night Kathy went to a sleepover at her friend’s house only to find Carina’s current boyfriend and his best friend there expecting more than she was willing to give, she ran home crying.
As this wasn’t the first time one of her friends had tried to force her to do something she didn’t believe in, her parents took the event very seriously and talked to her about the possibility of moving somewhere safer. As shaken as she was, Kathy was both relieved at the thought of being in a place where her standards were valued and nervous about moving right before her senior year of high school. Of course, she didn’t expect it to happen as fast as it did.
Two days later, her father called a family meeting and informed her that they were moving to a town two thousand miles away called Hyacinth. “The people there have the same values we have,” he explained. “I think it would be better for you to be around people who respect that.”
And that was the end of discussion. When Gerald made the decision, her and her mother’s job was to follow it. And to be honest, there was a part of her that looked forward to talking to other girls who felt the same way. She loved her old home, but lately all she had felt was pressured to do something she did not want to do with just anyone.
Two weeks later, all of their goods were packed up and shipped, and the three of them headed off on their trek. “What’s Hyacinth like?” she had asked a lot on the trip. She had never heard of it before her dad made the decision.
“Your Uncle Chester lives there with his new wife. He says it’s the best, most peaceful place on the planet. These people share our morals and values, Kathy. You won’t have to worry about your friends trying to talk you into something you aren’t ready for.”
There were good and bad parts to that. The good was in knowing she could just be herself. The bad was in knowing that might mean that nobody would even look twice if her father made her lean against the wall and spanked her with his belt. That was not fun. She brought it up once when she was really young to her friends and they had been morbidly fascinated. When she found out that other parents didn’t spank as often or as hard as her father did, she finally asked him why.
“Kathy, it’s my job as your father to make sure you grow up into the kind of woman I know you can be. So, when you go off course, spanking is the best way to get you back on it.” The truth of that statement had stuck with her for the last decade because the one thing to make her remember not to do something stupid was a lashing. Unfortunately, the remembering usually came after she had actually done something imprudent. One day she would be married and her husband would be allowed to spank her, and she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about that. Her mother didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she loved Kathy’s father with all her heart.
“Kathy, have you seen the pots and pans?” Carilyn asked, having completely unpacked the plates while Kathy ruminated.
“Umm, no. Let me look.” Bringing her mind back to what was important currently; Kathy began to dig in boxes until she finally found them… in a box in the upstairs bathroom.
In no time at all, the kitchen was filled with simmering pots and wonderful scents that made her mouth water. As she tasted the sauce she had just made for the spaghetti, her mother asked, “Are you ready for school tomorrow?”
Groaning, Kathy shook her head. “New girl in May during the last three weeks of school? I’m gonna stand out.”
“You always do,” Carilyn teased, hugging her lightly. “But from what Gerry says, you’ll feel more comfortable here, honey. No guys trying to get into your pants or friends trying to talk you into something you don’t want to do.”
“Can’t I just skip the rest of the year and start school new in the fall?” Kathy asked, hearing the pleading in her voice. Spending three weeks in the Hyacinth school system, which consisted of students from a twenty-mile radius, seemed silly to her. Plus, if she could put it off, she was sure by autumn she would be ready. Surely she would meet some friends over the summer.
“Sorry, honey. Your dad said you were to start school tomorrow. That it was important.”
Sighing because that meant arguing was pointless, Kathy cleared boxes off their kitchen table and slowly set it, pulling the kitchen chairs from where they were stacked – in the garage. She supposed they were lucky that her father had found a job at the local hospital so easily. Most of the people in the district were farmers and with only a small hospital, there weren’t a lot of jobs open. Her uncle had found them this house. A three-story ranch-style home, it was actually kind of cute. If you found peeling wallpaper and the scratch of mice in the night cute.
Kathy did. They had always lived in small towns, and this was the fourth they had lived in since she was born. Every move included the obligatory three to four weeks of removing wallpaper, painting, and setting out traps for pests. She imagined it would be nice someday to move into a home and not have to do any of that. Maybe when she got married.
When her father arrived, they set the food on the table and he walked into the kitchen from the garage with his normal cheery, “Hello, beauty one and beauty two.”
They sat down in their usual chairs, seats they had sat in for as long as Kathy could remember. Her father sat at the head of the table, her mother on his right, and Kathy on his left. As he placed his hands on the table, palms up, Kathy put her right hand in his and reached across the table for her mother’s. The prayer was short and simple and the normality of it made everything seem okay in this moment.
“Dear Lord. Thank you for getting us here safely, for giving me such a wonderful job, and for giving us the opportunity to live in Hyacinth. Guide Kathy as she starts school, watch over Carilyn as she takes care of our home, and please bless this food that we now partake, so that it gives us the nourishment we need. Amen.”
He squeezed her hand before he released it and hands reached as the food was passed around. “So, find everything?” he teased, winking at his wife.
She rolled her eyes. “Kathy, tell him where the pots and pans were.”
“The upstairs bathroom.”
Laughing, he nodded. “Makes me wonder where my office books will be.”
They chatted, talking about their day. For Kathy and Carilyn, it had consisted of searching for the most important of their belongings. Gerald had a far more interesting time. “I met the town council,” he explained as he helped himself to seconds. “Seven wonderful men. They’ll come over and introduce themselves later tonight. Oh, and Kathy…” She looked up and waited while he chewed and swallowed, an apologetic expression on his face. “Turns out there’s a school uniform. Tomorrow morning they’ll give you the instructions for it at the school office and the two of you,” he said, turning toward his wife, “will need to make her some before the end of the day. They won’t allow her in class without one.” He let out a slight wince. “Sorry, honey. I know it’s last minute.”
“Oh, no,” Carilyn sighed. “Really? Okay. Kathy, after you receive everything, ask about a fabric store. Tonight we’ll need to find the sewing machine.”
He cleared his throat as they began eating again. “I know you don’t understand why it’s so important that you start school right away, but I do believe it’s important for you to get to know your friends before school’s out. If we wait until summer, you may not have as many opportunities to get to know someone. And I want for you to make some new friends and be happy here.”
It made sense, Kathy supposed. One year they moved at the beginning of summer and she didn’t really meet anyone until school started in the fall. It had been a very lonely summer and by the time school started she had hated it. Obviously her father didn’t want them to make the same mistake again.
Once dinner was complete, Kathy and her mother cleared the table and did the dishes quickly, joining Gerald in the box-filled living room a few minutes later. He helped to go through some of the boxes, but by the time a knock came at their door, they still hadn’t found the sewing machine. Gerald went to answer the door as Kathy darted into the next room to find their needed appliance. Strong male voices floated through the air and because she could not resist, she stuck her head out of the room to check out the newcomers.
Tall, with the kind of strength she had always felt from her father, she watched each of them shake hands with her mother and take the seats they were offered. “Kathy, come meet our guests,” her father called and she slowly walked into the living room. All seven of the unknown men were over forty, maybe even over fifty, with graying hair and rounded middles that were beginning to show. Except for one. His hair was almost white and he was skinnier than anyone she had ever met, his deep blue eyes so intense she was afraid to look into them, so she stared at the floor. With an extremely thin body combined with his sunken cheeks, he looked as though he had been extremely ill recently. “Gentlemen, let me introduce you to my daughter, Kathryn Daisy Bretherton,” he said proudly. “Kathy, this is the town council. David Corbelt, Tanner Stephens, Blaine Kevers, Stephen Robinson, Blair Betts, Gary Sellers, and Alexander Covington.” Each man gave her a calm smile and nodded as they were introduced, but Alexander, the man with white hair watched her closely, as though he was looking for something.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she whispered, a little embarrassed to meet seven strong men at once. In their former town, there had been a couple dominant men, but never eight in one room. It was quite daunting.
“Charming,” David said, nodding at her. “How old are you, Kathy?”
“Eighteen.” She wondered if he had a daughter who was around her age. That was usually why parents asked that kind of question.
“Are you graduating this year?” Tanner asked in some surprise. “Moving right before graduation. Must be rough.”
“No,” her mother explained. “Kathy’s a junior. She started school a year later than her peers.” For a moment, Kathy was afraid her parents would explain why, but thankfully they stayed mum on the subject. She supposed she shouldn’t be embarrassed by the fact that she started school late because of an illness that had put her in the hospital for six months, but it wasn’t something she liked to talk about.
“And when did you turn eighteen?” Alexander asked in a deep voice.
“May first.” Her voice was microscopic, to the point of disappearing. Something about this man shook her a bit. She would bet money that he was the head of the council.
“Well, that’s perfect timing,” Gary said with a huge smile. “Gerald, come to the council meeting next week. We have a very special event that takes place around a girl’s eighteenth birthday you should be made aware of. Usually the planning begins earlier than this, but I’m sure we can make an exception.”
“Well, if you gentlemen don’t mind,” Carilyn said, rising to her feet. “Kathy and I need to go search for a few items. We’ve just found out we have to make her school uniforms tomorrow. Still need to find our sewing machine.” The men in the room stood as the two left the room.
Kathy was glad to get out of there and went upstairs to get as far away from them as possible. Carilyn joined her a few minutes later. “What do you think?” she asked, digging into a large box.
“Umm, they were rather imposing.”
Snorting, her mother nodded. “Yeah, I kind of wondered if that many dominant men could be in one room and not have the universe implode either.” Spluttering a laugh, Kathy grinned and tore into another box.
They finally found the sewing machine in a box marked ‘dog food’ that was sitting in the laundry room. When Gerald called family prayer and sent her up to bed at nine, she was momentarily startled. “Nine?” In the past, it had always been ten on a school night, midnight on Friday and Saturday.
“I spoke to several townsfolk today. They all said their daughters who were in high school went to bed at nine. Every night,” he added as she turned to head upstairs.
Going into her bedroom, she shut the door and plopped on her bed, glad her mother had insisted this morning that making the beds was the first thing they needed to do. Nine p.m. Every night? Hopefully this new rule would bend quickly. Some rules her father was very clear on: home by curfew, no going out with people they did not know, and always acting like the lady they raised. But there were others that he didn’t seem to mind about, like wearing a dress every Sunday. Thankfully that had become “wear a dress when we go visit your grandmother” which had been a rare event. It wasn’t that Kathy disliked dresses, it was more that she hated Sunday dresses, frilly things that made her feel like a little girl at Easter. She preferred cute things from the mall. Though, many of those her father had made her return for being too sexy.
Wondering just what school would be like, she changed into her pajamas, cleaned her face, brushed her teeth, and quickly climbed into bed. Tomorrow was sure to be interesting.
* * * * *
A morning person she was not, but when her alarm buzzed at just before six, she managed to drag herself out of bed and into the bathroom. That was a major plus about this new house. She had a bathroom that was connected to her bedroom. Her friends back home would have been jealous thinking that meant they didn’t need to clean it as often. In this household, that was not the case. Kathy had daily chores that she mostly took seriously and one of them was to always keep her own bedroom and bathroom clean.
By seven, she was dressed in nearly new jeans and a lace blouse over a dark blue camisole, turning this way and that in front of her mirror to make sure she looked okay. Plain brown eyes and shoulder-length curly hair that was a non-descript color. It wasn’t brown, it wasn’t red. It was some combination of the two and depending on how much sun she’d had lately, her response was one or the other. Red always sounded more exciting than brown though. Today, it just looked blah. There hadn’t been enough sun to bring out her red highlights. “Plain old boring brown,” she sighed, pulling her hair behind her ears and heading back into her bedroom to pull on her knee-length boots. She loved them. Just a month before she found them at a garage sale, not even used. They weren’t scuffed at all.
Her boots clopped on the stairwell as she made her way down for breakfast. “Good morning,” Carilyn said brightly, handing her a plate as she walked in the door of the kitchen.
“Pancakes?” Kathy usually settled for cereal or a to-go bar.
“Put up with your mother’s quirks,” Gerald said from the kitchen table. “She knows this is the second to last time she gets to send you off to school.”
Shaking her head at the silliness, she sat down and poured a mound of syrup over the fluffy goodness in front of her. The first day of a school year – or of going to a new school – had become a bit of a tradition in their family. Her mother had a thing about making pancakes for her first day of school. While they ate, she mostly just listened as her parents talked about people and events that were foreign to her while she thought about her day. True, she wouldn’t be attending class, but she would at least get a look at the school. “How big is it?” she asked, accidentally interrupting her father in mid-speech. This occurred to her as silence settled on the room. Instantly she turned red and shook her head. “Sorry. I was thinking and not paying attention.”
Her father nodded slowly. “Need a reminder?”
“No.” Oh, please no. Not a spanking right before school. Those were the worst kind, trying to act like everything was normal when her behind was going up in flames.
“All right. I’ll give you a freebie this morning.” Turning back to her mother, he picked up from where he left off as Kathy forced herself to eat. Getting out of a spanking for interrupting was a miracle. Gerald despised rudeness in any form. And she agreed with him. If she had been paying attention, she wouldn’t have done it. “Kathy?” Blinking, she looked up realizing he was speaking to her.
“Yes?” What did she miss? Had he said her name more than once?
His lips quirked. “Your mind is all over the place this morning. I was just asking what question did you want answered.”
“Oh, I just wondered how big the school was.”
“Chet says the school is pretty small. But you’re used to that. The students are bussed in from twenty miles away, so it doesn’t start until nine and ends at four.” He continued, but Kathy’s mind clicked onto the four p.m. School was out at four and she had to be in bed by nine? She’d never get anything done. “—so there aren’t the kinds of events you’re used to. There’s a football team and a basketball team. And your uncle says the girls’ senior year is very important. Besides the state assigned English, math, and science, you’ll have classes to help you with your life once you graduate.”
“Like what?” In her last high school there had been a class to introduce students to college. That would be kind of fun. At some point she hoped to marry and take care of the home like her mother did, but she also wanted to do something more. Going to college sounded like the perfect way to figure out what that something might be.
“Home Ec is one, not sure of the others. Since you’ll be eighteen, I believe you’re also given the choice of early release, but he said that depended on a few other things.”
Early release? Score! If given the option, she would take it.
Without much further to tell her, Gerald finished eating and soon left for work, leaving them to clean up and attack more boxes before taking Kathy to school to sign up. They almost had the living room box-free when her mother said, “Come on. We can finish this later. It’s time to go.”
School was about fifteen minutes away, in the exact opposite direction of her father’s work. The schoolhouse was actually quite large. A four-story, tan-brick building, she counted fourteen windows along one side and ten across another. “Do you want me to come in?” her mother asked. Shaking her head as she would prefer not to be escorted by her own mother, Kathy opened the passenger door of her mom’s SUV and headed toward the school. The grounds consisted of low-cut grass surrounding the school on all sides. It was actually kind of bleak.
She opened the front door and walked in, looking around for any kind of sign that would tell her where to go. Her mother had thankfully timed their arrival perfectly for right after the first class started so no other students were in the halls. Looking to her right, she spotted a sign at the very end of the hallway and headed toward it. She passed several doors that had small window cut-outs right above the handles and could tell they were classrooms. Since she wasn’t close, there was no way to catch a sight of the full uniform, but it looked like jackets were included. Ugh.
When she reached the administration office, she pushed the door open into a small room with a counter running across two sides that were slightly above waist high on her. As nobody was around, she walked up and tapped a bell sitting on the counter. A few seconds later, a door opened off to the side and a woman about her mother’s age walked into the room. She offered a closed-lip smile and cocked her head. “Yes?”
“Hi. My name’s Kathy Bretherton. I just moved here.”
“Ah,” she said, her puzzled expression clearing as she walked closer and bent over, digging under the counter for something. “We received your school records, Kathy, but with only three weeks left,” she said standing back up, “there isn’t much to do. All the classes are either test-taking or doing presentations. To be honest, we think your attending classes would be an issue. As such,” she added, placing a large packet of paperwork in front of Kathy, “we’ve decided that you’ll only come to campus two days this week and three next. During those times, you’ll be tested to see where you fit for next year.” She paused and an actual warm smile crossed her face. “My son Clive just returned home from college last year. He has a very promising future.”
The last two sentences were confusing, but Kathy offered her a smile in return. “So, do you want me to bring this stuff back filled out?”
“Yes. You can return on Wednesday; we should have the exams ready by then. At the bottom of the stack is the order form for uniforms but you can use it for next year. After all,” she said with a delicate laugh, “the choice of uniforms depends on what happens this summer.”
Now Kathy was sure she was missing something. What did the summer have to do with uniforms? Did eighteen-year-olds wear different ones from seventeen-year-olds? “Umm, so what should I wear on Wednesday? Mom and I can make some, I’m sure.”
The lady shook her head, though very kindly. “They are very intricate and the material isn’t available locally. All of your testing will be in here, so just come wearing something similar to what you have on after the first bell. You won’t be allowed in the hallways and you can leave school by two. Oh, do you need the bus to pick you up?”
“No, Mom’s gonna pick me up and drop me off.”
“All right. Welcome to Hyacinth, Kathy. You’re going to love it here.”
Smiling, Kathy nodded and left, sure the conversation had meaning if she knew where to look for it. Maybe that was how people talked around here, in riddles. It would make the time go by quicker, she supposed, if you spent all your time trying to figure things out. Jogging over to her mother’s car, she hopped into the passenger seat. “Don’t have to make uniforms,” she said with a grin. “In fact, I won’t even be taking classes. Just testing a couple days a week.”
Shaking her head in amusement, Carilyn pulled out of her parking space. “Looks like you get your desire for no school for the rest of the year. However did you pull that off?”
“I’ve been good,” Kathy teased, “very, very good.”