Sara Evans is a U.S. country singer and songwriter. She collaborated with Christian romance writer Rachel Hauck on the book "The Sweet By and By" in 2010.
"Softly & Tenderly" is the second installment of that novel, following the journey of character Jade Freedom Fitzgerald of Whisper Hollow, Tenn.
Read a chapter from her book, "Softly and Tenderly," below.
The Bensons' foyer was cold. Jade shivered as she followed June inside, carrying a few of the bags and boxes her mother-in-law had collected from three days of shopping in Atlanta with Honey.
"Constance?" June clicked on the table lamp. The soft yellow light caught the gloss and glimmer of the polished mahogany. The wood grain matched the banister of the sweeping, curved staircase that spilled from the second floor into the Italian marble foyer. "You here, Constance?"
Jade dropped the packages at the base of staircase, rubbing the bend of her arm. "What did you buy? Bricks?" She peered into the Neiman Marcus bag. "Christian Louboutins? Don't you have, like, four pairs already?" Jade sat on the bottom step and lifted the lid off the shoe box, inhaling at the sight of dark red patent leather heels. "Wow."
"And now I have five pair." June scouted the formal living room for signs of life. "I bought them for the club's Christmas ball. Reb? Constance?"
Barely emerging from winter's gray, and June was already planning for Christmas. Jade could learn something here...What, she wasn't sure, but the moment sure felt teachable.
"How much?" Jade dug around for the receipt.
"Didn't your mama teach you it's impolite to ask how much? Get your nose out of my bags." June gazed into the family room on the other side of the foyer. "Well, the place looks tidy."
"Six hundred dollars?" Jade dropped the shoe back into the box and let the receipt go, fluttering into the bag. "You can buy a lot of food for the poor with that kind of money."
"For Pete's sake, Jade, don't preach to me. Reb and I give plenty to the poor." June turned for the kitchen, her low heels beating a rhythm against the marble. "Why don't you call Max and have supper here? Run quick to pick up your mama too. Mercy, I pay Constance for a full day's work and I want a full day. Whether I'm here or not. Constance!"
"Max is working late." Jade sauntered into the kitchen. "Mama's still recovering from the last round of chemo. Why don't we try for another time?"
"Well, if you're sure, fine... another time." June stood in the middle of the arching, stainless steel kitchen looking disconcerted.
Jade leaned against the ivory and green island. The kitchen was like a structural hug cozy with June's Southern hospitality and dabbled with yellow and gray Smoky Mountain sunshine dripping through the skylight. "How about we get Reb to fire up his grill this weekend?"
"He'd love that...We can thaw the kobe steaks." June opened the fridge and then closed it without looking inside. "I am sorry Beryl's not feeling well. Tell that mama of yours I'll be over tomorrow for a game of hearts."
"She'd like that. June?" Jade peered into her pinched eyes. "Are you okay?"
"Of course I'm okay. I've just been shopping for three days. Now, how about some hot tea? The house is freezing." June walked over to the basement door. "Constance?" June shoved the door closed. "That girl . . . I'm docking her pay a whole day."