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ABBIE ANN by SHARLENE MacLAREN - FIRST CHAPTER

This is a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.

Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Whitaker House (April 6, 2010)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sharlene MacLaren has released eight successful novels since retiring from her longtime career as an elementary school teacher. Her first book, Through Every Storm, won an American Christian Fictions Writers’ award for best in general fiction in 2007. While both her historic and contemporary releases are unmistakably inspirational romance novels, her characters and plots deviate from formula, resulting in unexpected twists and turns – and fat books – to the delight of her fans. At 480 pages, Abbie Ann is her longest to date. Shar and her husband Cecil have two grown children and three grandchildren; they live in western Michigan.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (April 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740767
ISBN-13: 978-1603740760

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


What Others Are Saying about Sharlene MacLaren and Abbie Ann…

Multitalented author Sharlene MacLaren has once again given readers a story that artfully blends excitement, humor, and romance. It isn’t every writer who can pluck every human emotion and deliver the promised happy ending, but this one can! If you can afford only one book this month, make it Abbie Ann. You won’t be sorry you did!

—Loree Lough

Author of more than seventy award-winning inspirational romances,
including Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania
With the skill and flair her readers have come to know and love, Shar weaves yet another wonderfully captivating historical tale in Abbie Ann. This third book in her Daughters of Jacob Kane series will thrill and delight, as each character learns obedience to God and discovers triumph over tragedy.
—Jean E. Syswerda
Best-selling coauthor, Women of the Bible
Author, NIrV Read with Me Bible
General Editor, NIV Women of Faith Study Bible

A delightful voice in the CBA market, Sharlene MacLaren captures the true essence of God’s restoring power. Abbie Ann is a must-read.
—Debra Ullrick
Author, The Bride Wore Coveralls, Déjà vu Bride, and Dixie Hearts

A fast-paced, gripping historical romance with true-to-life characters and lively dialogue, filled with surprising twists and turns, Abbie Ann, MacLaren’s third and final installment in The Daughters of Jacob Kane series, will have you rapidly turning the pages. Absolutely captivating!
—Cindy Bauer
Author, Chasing Memories and Shades of Blue

With entertaining and emotive prose, Sharlene MacLaren’s historical romance novels hold their own amid this ever-popular genre. Her characters have spirit and passion in abundance, and Michigan in the early 1900s is brought to life with her vivid and authentic descriptions. Abbie Ann is another feather in Sharlene’s auspicious author’s cap!
—Rel Mollet
Professional book reviewer, relzreviews.blogspot.com

Abbie Ann offers it all—adventure, romance, and the rewards of seeking God’s will. As always, Sharlene MacLaren pens a story that will pull you in and not let go.
—Roseanna White
Senior Reviewer, The Christian Review of Books

Sharlene MacLaren has written a story rich in emotion that will tug at your heart with characters that will live on long after you reach the final page. If you love historical fiction with a sweet romance beautifully woven into a captivating story, then you will love Abbie Ann.
—Miralee Ferrell
Author, Love Finds You in Last Chance, California and The Other Daughter

Publisher’s Note:
This novel is a work of fiction. References to real events, organizations, or places are used in a fictional context. Any resemblances to actual persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Abbie Ann
Third in The Daughters of Jacob Kane Series

Sharlene MacLaren
www.sharlenemaclaren.com
ISBN: 978-1-60374-076-0
Printed in the United States of America
© 2010 by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House
1030 Hunt Valley Circle
New Kensington, PA 15068
www.whitakerhouse.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
MacLaren, Sharlene, 1948–

Abbie Ann / by Sharlene MacLaren.
p. cm. — (The daughters of Jacob Kane ; 3)

Summary: “Abbie Ann, Jacob Kane's youngest daughter, is a busy woman with little time for frivolous matters, including romance—until a handsome, divorced shipbuilder comes to town, his young son in tow, and God changes their hearts”—Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-1-60374-076-0 (trade pbk.)

1. Fathers and daughters—Fiction. 2. Shipwrights—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3613.A27356A63 2010
813'.6—dc22
2009053168

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical—including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system—without permission in writing from the publisher. Please direct your inquiries to permissionseditor@whitakerhouse.com.

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DEDICATION

To my beautiful mother, Dorothy, and my precious mother-in-law, Chrystal. In so many ways, you two fabulous ladies, by SHINING example, have shown Christ to countless others. I love you both and thank you from the deepest regions of my heart.

CHAPTER ONE
February 1907
Sandy Shores, Michigan

Abbie Ann Kane marched through the blinding snow on her way to her family’s general store as howling winds curled their icy fingers around the buildings of downtown Sandy Shores, hissing and spitting and stinging her nose and cheeks. She pulled her woolen scarf tighter about her neck, but the bitter air still managed to find a hole through which to pass, making her shiver with each hurried step.

The Interurban railcar rumbled past, its whistle alerting pedestrians and horses to make way for its journey up Water Street, Sandy Shores’ main thoroughfare. Through its frosty windows, Abbie made out a scant number of passengers and even caught a glimpse of someone drawing letters on a foggy pane. Probably some bored youngster, she mused.

Turning her gaze downward, she headed into the strong, easterly gusts, passing the Star Bakery, Van Poort’s Grocery Store, Thom Gerritt’s Meat Market, Jellema Newsstand, Moretti’s Candy Company, Hansen’s Shoe Repair, DeBoer’s Hardware, and Grant and Son Tailor Shop. Two more doors and she would reach her destination—Kane’s Whatnot. Normally, her oldest sister, Hannah, would be working there, but Abbie had assumed primary responsibility for Kane’s Whatnot since the birth of Hannah’s daughter on January 15. RoseAnn Devlin was Hannah and Gabe’s third child, and Hannah had her hands full also caring for eighteen-month-old Alex and their eleven-year-old adopted son, Jesse. Taking responsibility for Kane’s Whatnot was the least Abbie could have done, never mind that she barely had time to turn around, what with her teaching Sunday school, serving as president of the local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, assisting Grandmother Kane with the household chores, and visiting the elderly Plooster sisters as often as possible. Poor things depended on her to keep them abreast of all the news in town.

The bell above the wooden door tinkled as Abbie pulled it open, a cold blast of air scooting past her ankles. Her father looked up from his place behind the brass National cash register. “Ah, you’re back from lunch, and not a second too soon. I have an appointment with a client at one o’clock. Can you take over from here?”

“Of course, Papa. Just let me hang up my wrap.” Besides owning Kane’s Whatnot, her father also partnered with Leo Perkins in the insurance business, and the Kane and Perkins office was conveniently situated directly across the street from the Whatnot. Both businesses thrived in this lively, little resort town on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, where the winters could be bitter, but the summers were delightfully warm and cheery.

The line for the cash register wound around the center aisle. There were Maxine Card and her young daughter, Lily, their arms full of candles, two loaves of bread, a wooden bowl, and an eggbeater; Landon and Florence Meir, each toting grocery items; and Fred and Dorothy Link, Fred hefting a sack of flour over his shoulder, Dorothy holding some canned goods and a few other items. Abbie moved past her father to hang her winter gear on a hook in the small closet behind the counter, which also served as a washroom. After a quick glance in the tiny mirror on the wall to rearrange the side combs in her flowing, black hair, she rubbed her icy fingers together and joined her father on the other side of the curtain. She felt slightly perturbed that the stove at the back of the store was not giving off nearly enough heat to quell today’s subzero temperatures.


“My stars in glory, it’s cold,” she said. “In fact, I do believe I saw some icicles shivering on my way here.”

Precocious Lily Card caught the joke and giggled. “You’re silly, Miss Kane. How could icicles shiver?”

“Oh, but they can! And not only that,” Abbie added, leaning over the counter to tap the little girl’s nose, “but I heard that when the farmers have been milking their cows, they’ve been getting ice cream!”

This remark earned another rousing giggle from the child, as well as a few good-humored chuckles from the adults within earshot.

“Abbie Ann, where do you come up with these things?” Jacob Kane asked his daughter, shaking his head with a smile.

“If you ask me, it’s the worst winter we ever had,” Landon Meir groused, obviously finding no humor in Abbie’s remarks. “Got more snow out there than Mr. Bayer has aspirin. Probably won’t melt till June, neither.”

“Or later,” his wife countered, ever the pessimist. For as long as Abbie could recall, the woman’s face had been pinched in a tight scowl.

Jacob finished ringing up Maxine Card’s order, put the items in her burlap sack, and then immediately set to ringing up the Meirs’ purchases. Maxine and Lily waved good-bye and exited as two more customers entered, ushering in with them a blast of cold air. Saturdays in winter were usually like this, with folks considering the weather and feeling the need to stock up on supplies. Why, one turn of the wind could make for an all-out blizzard!

“You go on now, Papa. I’ll take over,” Abbie said, edging her father out of his place behind the cash register.

“All right, then,” he said, tallying up the last of the Meirs’ purchases. Abbie began stack each item in a small crate. “You’ll find today’s receipts in the bottom drawer,” Jacob told her.

“Fine, Papa. Go, or you’ll be late.” The clock on the opposite wall registered two minutes till one.

Florence Meir stretched out a palm for her change of two dollars and some odd cents, which Abbie found interesting, since her husband had been the one doling it out. Jacob handed it over, and Florence dropped it into her little drawstring purse. “Come along, Landon; you’ve got wood to chop and stalls to muck and cows to milk and feed,” she murmured through pursed lips as she turned to go. “Best get your chores done ’fore this weather kicks up.”

Landon shuffled along behind her. “Crack that whip, Mother.”

“Hush up, you ol’ fool.” The two were still going at it when they stepped into the arctic air, the wind catching the door and closing it with a loud whack. Jacob raised his eyebrows and shook his head, then donned his winter gear and left in the Meirs’ wake.

“Ain’t them Meirs the happiest pair?” commented the middle-aged Fred Link as he laid a twenty-five-pound sack of flour on the counter.

Dorothy Link set her grocery items beside it and nodded. “I think they love each other in their own way, but Fred here thinks they drink vinegar for breakfast.”

“Oh, my goodness!” Abbie covered her mouth to hide her spurt of laughter. “You two behave yourselves.”

Behind them, Reba Ortlund chortled. “I’d guess the last time Florence Meir smiled was that Sunday Tillie Overmyer tripped on the top step on her way to the organ. There she was, all sprawled out like a gigantic tortoise on its back, her petticoats fanning her chubby—”

“Mrs. Ortlund!” Abbie cut in, her eyes traversing from Reba Ortlund to her young son at her side. The woman looked only a little sheepish. Fortunately, it seemed that Robert was paying no heed to the conversation, his attentions focused instead on his peppermint stick, which was creating a pink smear across his face that grew with every lick.

Abbie proceeded to tally up the Links’ items as quickly as she could with hands that were still thawing, biting her lip to hide her smile. Then, all of a sudden, a thundering crash outside the store shook the building’s foundation, shattering the front window and sending store merchandise in every direction. Abbie jolted violently and shrieked, Dorothy Link screamed, and little Robert Ortlund leaped into his mother’s arms, his eyes as round as pie shells. It took several seconds to figure out what had happened, but the tongue of a wagon and a bent wheel protruding through the broken window signified a buggy mishap, whether from the icy road conditions, poor visibility, or, perhaps, a spooked horse.

“What in tarnation?” Fred Link bellowed.

Hardly knowing what to do first, Abbie instinctively left her station and ran around the counter, but Fred snagged her by the arm. “Just a minute, there, Miss Abbie. There’s shattered glass everywhere. Best hold back till we find out the damages.”

“Oh, my London stars!” Abbie gasped, borrowing one of her grandmother’s favorite phrases of exclamation and then covering her open mouth. Icy blasts and bursts of snow blew in through the cavernous hole in the wall where a large display window had once been. Outside, a horse gave a mournful whinny, and a soothing, male voice said, “Easy, Ruby Sue.” Another male voice asked, “What happened here? Anybody hurt?”

At that, Abbie twisted out of Fred’s hold and rushed toward the front of the store, stepping over debris and nearly twisting her ankle as she picked her way through a pile of potatoes that had tumbled out of an overturned barrel. The frigid winds continued to howl, exposing everyone and everything to the outside elements.

Suddenly, folks seemed to come to life as frenzied voices started speaking all at once, and several customers emerged from the far corners of the store to investigate what had happened. Through the yawning hole in the wall, a tall, strapping man materialized, with a young boy clinging tightly to his thigh. “Everyone all right in here?” he asked, bending over at the waist to see inside. His striking, blue eyes came to rest on Abbie, and, despite her tangled thoughts, she couldn’t help noticing the way they pulled at her. She’d seen him before, but now was not the time for trying to remember when or where. From beneath the rim of his worn hat, a thick tuft of chestnut-colored hair fell across his forehead.

“I—I think so,” she managed, pinching the bridge of her nose in consternation. “What—what just happened?”

“Another rig slid out of control and nearly hit me head-on. I had to swerve to avoid a full-out collision. My horse panicked and went up on the sidewalk, veered off, and sent my rig through your window.” He gave a heavy sigh. “Looks like we’ve done some serious damage.” As if on cue, the horse whinnied in loud protest, its hooves pounding on the walkway. Someone on the other side of the wall spoke in steadying tones to the animal, probably to try to keep it from going completely berserk.

“Oh, my goodness! Are you all right? Was—was anyone hurt?” Abbie wasn’t sure where to put her eyes—on him or on the little fellow still clinging to the man’s leg.

“We’re fine. Can’t say for sure about that man who almost hit me, though. What about you folks?” At last, he looked away from Abbie to peruse the group of wide-eyed bystanders.

Fred Link stepped forward. “Thank the Lord no one was standing at the front of the store when that window came crashing in—or walking through the door, for that matter. An instant sooner, and the Meirs or Jacob Kane might well have met their ends.” Abbie shivered at the very notion of such a tragedy, the bitter air accentuating her chills. Some kind soul retrieved her coat and threw it around her shoulders. She muttered her thanks while trying to collect herself.

Just then, Jacob Kane rushed through the door, his eyes wild with worry. “Abigail Ann! Oh, thank God you’re standing.”

“Of course, I am, Papa.” Like a mere child, she wilted into his open arms, thankful he’d arrived to see to things. She didn’t mind the day-to-day responsibilities at the store, but the business end of things—along with major crises—belonged to Hannah Grace and her father. In fact, if all went as planned, Kane’s Whatnot would one day fall to Hannah, who truly had a heart for entrepreneurship. Abbie would stick around for as long as necessary to help run the store, but she had no interest in owning or maintaining it.

“Is everyone all right?” Jacob asked, setting Abbie back from him to assess the matter.

“That seems to be the standard question, Jacob,” Fred Link answered. He frowned and scratched behind his ear. “I do believe we’re none the worse, but I wouldn’t say the same for that window or the front display table, Jacob.”

“Ah, well. People are far more important than property,” Jacob said, his eyes making a quick scan of the place before focusing on the tall man who had yet to introduce himself. The fellow wiped a gloved hand across his clean-shaven, square-set face, then ducked all the way through the opening. The young boy followed him but stayed in the shadows, probably still frightened nearly to death. Praise God his little body hadn’t been thrown from the wagon. The man removed his glove and extended a hand to Jacob. “Noah Carson, sir. You must be Jacob Kane, the owner of this store. I believe you know my uncle, Delbert Huizenga.”

“Del Huizenga, of course. We’re old friends.” Jacob pumped the man’s hand. “So, you’re Noah Carson. I hear you used to come here about every summer as a lad. Your uncle told me you’d moved to town a few months back, said you’d joined him in his window and door business.” Jacob made a half-turn and gestured toward Abbie. “This is my daughter, Abbie Ann. She’s been running the store pretty much on her own for the past few weeks.”

Noah tipped his hat at Abbie, giving her a better glimpse of his sea-blue eyes with their ocean depth. If he planned to smile, one never materialized. “How-do, ma’am,” he said in a stiff manner, his gaze flitting over her face. Despite his formality, she offered a pleasant smile and mentally berated herself for noting his wholly masculine deportment. Her best friend, Katrina Sterling, would say he was like candy to the eyes—never mind that Katrina had a husband and twin girl toddlers, to boot. Whenever she saw a nice-looking man, she’d say, “I may have spent my money all in one place, but that don’t mean I can’t still look at the merchandise.” Of course, everyone knew that Katrina Sterling loved to say brash things. Good thing her husband, Micah, never took her too seriously.

“You really couldn’t have avoided that mishap out there,” Jacob was saying. “I witnessed the entire thing from my office door across the street. Was just about to step inside when I saw Shamus Rogan barreling up the road, his horses at a full canter.” He shook his head. “If you ask me, he was driving that wagon of his far too fast for these weather conditions. Matter of fact, it almost looked like he was heading straight at you with the intention of ramming into you. Thank God things didn’t turn out any worse.”

“Wouldn’t doubt ol’ Shamus just pulled out of some saloon,” Reba Ortlund offered, sticking out her pointy chin with the declaration. “A body can spot his bloodshot eyes a mile away.” Little Robert had resumed work on his peppermint stick, fully engrossed in the gooey substance and seeming to have fully recovered from the shock that Abbie had only now started wrapping her mind around. “Seems like he’s always comin’ or goin’ from one o’ them dens of iniquity.”

Despite the woman’s lack of tact, she did speak the truth. Shamus Rogan was a menace to Sandy Shores and a terror to his family. According to Hannah, over the past year, Arlena Rogan had come into the Whatnot bearing suspicious bruises on her arms and face but always attributing them to her own clumsiness. Hannah had believed her, but Abbie hadn’t bought it. Just a few weeks ago, when Arlena had come in bearing bad scratch marks on her neck, Abbie had pressed her for specifics, and she’d relented, her eyes moist in the corners. “My Shamus gets a bit carried away with his temper. ’Fraid he drinks too much, and I complain that he’s lazy and doesn’t give me any grocery money, even though he makes a decent paycheck at the leather factory…and, well, one thing leads to another, and he puts me in my place.” She’d fidgeted with her grocery list, looking down at her shoes. “I must learn to keep my mouth shut, I guess.”

The door had opened just then, ushering in several new customers, so Abbie had leaned forward and whispered, “You must take care of yourself and your children and get out of there as quickly as possible. He could kill you in one of his drunken fits.”

"Oh, I couldn’t divorce him.”

“No, I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying you should go to a safe place.”

“But I have no place to go. Besides, he’d chase me and the girls down. He wants to be the one pulling all the strings.” At that, the woman had gathered up her purchases and headed for the door.

“Mrs. Rogan,” Abbie had called after her. “Anytime you need to talk, I’m here.”

And that had been invitation enough. Since her initial disclosure, Arlena had come back a number of times to talk to Abbie about her desperate situation. Unfortunately, Abbie had no real solution, other than to tell her she would pray for her.

Indeed, Sandy Shores had far too many drinking establishments, which was the very reason she’d joined ranks with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union a year ago to fight against the town’s unbridled use of alcohol. Of course, educating folks about the destructive powers of alcohol wasn’t all the W.C.T.U. stood for. They also fought for women’s rights and suffrage, fair labor laws, federal aid for education, bans on prostitution, improved public health and sanitation, and international peace, all things for which Abbie had a growing passion. Some called her radical—Peter Sinclair, her beau of eight months, for one. Peter thought a woman’s proper place was in the home, and many were the debates they’d had over the matter. Although Abbie’s father didn’t go that far, he did worry about her, especially since she and several other members of the W.C.T.U. had started singing hymns and holding prayer vigils outside many local saloons. Last month, a dozen or so of them actually had walked straight inside Ervin Baxter’s establishment, known simply as Erv’s Place, to hold a peaceful gathering. Of course, Erv Baxter’s rude behavior in response to their hymn singing, Bible reading, and praying couldn’t have been defined as peaceful. No, he’d screamed to the heavens at them after all but a few of his regulars had walked out.

“You’re ruining my business!” he’d shouted. “And you’re not welcome here. Matter of fact, women in general are not allowed through these doors.”

“But there was a woman singing on stage,” Abbie had countered, “not to mention those sitting on your patrons’ laps.”

“They don’t count. We got women comin’ in here for entertainment purposes.” Abbie’s spine had gone straight at the implication. Entertainment purposes? “Simply put, we don’t need your kind coming in here creating a disturbance.”

“We are not a disorderly organization, sir. We are merely interested in reform, of which this country is in deep need. Why, do you know that American men spend more money on beer than they do on meat for their families? That is a disgrace, Mr. Baxter, and you are part of the problem for peddling that poison.”

The man’s chest had swelled to twice its size as he’d tried to breathe through his obvious anger. “How dare you,” he’d growled, putting a pause between each word. “It’s not my problem if folks got a thirst for booze. It ain’t like I’m forcin’ it down their throats. I’m just tryin’ to make a living, like everybody else in this town, and I’d appreciate a little respect.”

The W.C.T.U. purposed not to argue or defy, a policy Abbie sometimes had difficulty following, yet it had been clear she’d get nowhere by continuing a dialogue with Erv Baxter. Best leave before his hostile attitude burgeons out of control, she’d thought. “We’ll be going now, sir, but you can be assured we will continue our campaign. Make no mistake, the prohibition of alcoholic beverages will one day prevail in this country.”

He’d cleared his throat and spat on the already sticky wood floor, having no apparent compunction amid the small group of dignified women. “You ladies stay away from my saloon, or I’ll—I’ll make you plenty sorry.”

Ignoring his halfhearted threat, Abbie had turned on her heel, her silent band of nervous crusaders following after her like ducklings after their mama.

“Well, Gabe will get to the bottom of this,” her father was saying, quickly calling Abbie back to the present. “Someone’s fetched him, so he should be arriving on the scene most any minute, if he’s not already out there.” Jacob put a hand on one of Noah’s broad shoulders. “Looks like we’ll be needing your window-building skills around here, young man.”

“You’ve got it, sir. In fact, I’ll take full responsibility for cleaning up this place and making all the necessary repairs.”

“We’ll see about that. Seems to me Shamus Rogan ought to own up to some of the blame. In the meantime, we’ll board up the hole and replace the window when the weather calms down.” Jacob took a moment to look at the young boy beside Noah. “What’s your name, young fellow?”

Noah nudged the little guy forward. “This here is my boy. Say hello, Toby.”

The child raised his gaze long enough to peek at Jacob, and that’s when it dawned on Abbie that she’d seen him before—in her Sunday school class of six-year-olds. An older woman, Julia Huizenga, had started dropping him off at the door about three weeks ago. As far as Noah’s familiarity, she now recalled having spotted him perched on a pew at the back of the church following Sunday school.

Abbie bent at the waist, her clasped hands on her knees. “Well, hello there, Toby. Do you remember me?”

Toby considered her thoughtfully and scrunched his cherub nose, which was covered with a spray of freckles. Then, his blue eyes brightened. “You’re my Sunday school teacher. You’re the one what taught us about that old fellow who built the big boat before it rained. His name was Noah, just like my dad.”

“That’s exactly right,” Abbie said, her eyes roaming from the boy to his father and quickly back again. “Aren’t you clever for remembering that?”

“He’s a smart boy,” his father said, his voice bolstered by pride, and he pulled Toby to his side.

A gust of wind bellowed through the building. “My sweet sister, it’s cold in here!” Reba Ortlund exclaimed. “Can someone ring up my items so Robert and I can be on our way?”

Abbie gave a quick turn. “Oh, mercy, yes. I almost forgot I was in the middle of totaling up the Links’ items. Let’s finish so you folks can go home and get warm.”

“I think we’d best close up the store for the remainder of the afternoon,” Jacob said. The customers who had been in the store prior to the accident had wandered out to the street, where a curious crowd had gathered, despite the unrelenting wind.

“What say I run over to the shop and pick up some wood to fix that gaping hole, sir?” Noah Carson said to her father. “Afterward, Toby and I’ll help clean up this mess.”

Jacob nodded and pulled at his gray beard, allowing his eyes to appraise his surroundings. It took a lot to dampen Jacob Kane’s spirits, and this minor setback to his business would not come close to succeeding.

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