BY: HEIDI SPROUSE
You met Casey and Emmett Henry in A Man of Few Words—now see where it all began…
On a cold winter night, Casey Mitchell leaves her stalled car in the middle of a blizzard and heads for the only light she can see—a distant farmhouse. There she meets Emmett Henry, who has been blind for nearly a year after an injury in a bar fight. Casey is the new doctor at the clinic in town, so when Emmett’s brother Wyatt calls in a panic because his wife has gone into labor, Casey and Emmett brave the elements on foot to Wyatt’s house to deliver a baby, starting a journey that will take the two of them on the road to a future neither could have ever imagined…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Hindsight’s 20/20 by Heidi Sprouse, we are reunited with Emmett Henry and Casey Mitchell Henry back where it all began. Casey Mitchell is new in town, replacing a doctor who has just retired at the local clinic. On a cold winter night, her car stalls in the middle of a blizzard, and Casey makes her way to a farmhouse in the distance—Emmett’s. He has been blind for about a year, due to a brain injury he received when rescuing a girl in a bar. Being a Henry, he is stubborn and obstinate and won’t let anyone help him. But shortly after Casey arrives at his house that night, he gets a call from his brother whose wife is in labor, and Casey and Emmett head through the woods to Wyatt’s house so Casey can deliver the baby. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start since Emmett feels that his disability makes him unlovable and Casey could do much better. But she is as stubborn as he is, and she is determined to help the man she has grown to love whether he likes it or not—even if it means losing his love.
Written in Sprouse’s refreshing voice, filled with lots of sex, drama, and tension, it will break your heart and warm it at the same time. Have a box of tissues handy and enjoy a very good read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Hindsight’s 20/20 by Heidi Sprouse is the story of a proud young man brought down by a blow to head that leaves him blind. A horse farmer and active outdoors man, Emmett Henry doesn’t know how to go on living without the ability to see, which means that he can no longer do what he has done all his life and is now dependent on others to do for him what he cannot do for himself. He has been blind for approximately a year the night that Casey Mitchell gets stranded in a blizzard and shows up at his house just before his brother, Wyatt, calls to tell him that his sister-in-law is in labor. Since Casey is a doctor and has just arrived in town to fill a position at the local clinic, she and Emmett brave the elements and walk to Wyatt’s house to help deliver the baby. There’s an instant attraction between Casey and Emmett, but he is reluctant to get involved with her because he thinks she feels sorry for him. And he doesn’t think a blind man has anything to offer a woman. But Casey is determined to prove him wrong, no matter what it takes.
Heartbreaking, heartwarming, and full of spicy love scenes, this one is a keeper. The characters are both realistic and endearing, like old friends, and you just can’t help rooting for Emmett and Casey. Hindsight’s 20/20 will make you cry, make you laugh, and warm you all the way through.
Choking smoke, blaring noise, and too much of a crowd made Emmett Henry’s head start to pound. His body ached from taking a beating at work. All he wanted was to finish his second beer, pay the tab, and go home. A few more swallows—that’s all it would take.
An ungodly shriek filled his ears and had him glancing across the packed room, unable to process what his eyes were trying to tell him. A brute of a man was using a young girl’s hair for a rope, reeling her in without mercy—and then the unthinkable, bouncing her head off a table.
Emmett saw red, erupting from his seat, knocking over the chair and table. Beer, pretzels, and napkins spilled all over the floor. He closed the gap in seconds, his fist connecting with a poor excuse for a human being before offering aid to the stunned girl. Emmett turned his back on the slob for an instant, and his head exploded with pain, about to be lifted clear off his shoulders.
He awoke with a jerk in the farmhouse where he was born—home to four previous generations of Henrys—sitting by the fire. The heat seeped into his bones, making him go loose. His eyes drooped closed as his heart gradually slowed, leaving him to stare at strange pictures painted on the inside of his eyelids.
The old house moaned, shivering with the cold, blanketed in snow. Bottled up tight, Emmett was snug and cozy in the family room, trying to fool himself that it was enough. The problem was no change of scenery in his life since…hell, since the cold set in nearly two months ago. The feeling of being trapped, claustrophobic in a six-bedroom house, was making him at odds with himself.
Outside, January’s wind howled, the temperatures plummeting as the snow drifts mounted with no sign of stopping. Typical New York weather, upstate style. In rural Charlton, a best kept secret outside of racing’s Saratoga, residents hunkered down and bucked up with the prospect of spring’s return. Although the New Year was young, everyone else was feeling a sense of rebirth, second chances, and hopes reborn, Emmett couldn’t move forward. He was still in that bar.
A creak and a bang of the door announced his big brother, his only brother, Wyatt. Coming in without knocking, stomping the snow off his boots, shaking it off his coat, hair, and hat, making a ruckus, as usual—a daily occurrence. Emmett couldn’t help but smile in affection for him even when aggravated by the intrusion. After all, what were brothers for but to annoy the heck out of each other? Gotta love them.
“Man, it’s quite a Nor’easter brewing out there. I came to check on you, make sure you have everything you need. I see you haven’t moved from that fireplace. Don’t mind if I do.” Wyatt made a beeline for the substantial hearth of his old homestead, a place that had been the heart of the home growing up and still drew him on his routine visits. Small wonder that Emmett favored the comfy recliner placed front and center.
He gave his kid brother’s arm a squeeze and stood in front of the flames that cast shadows on the wall and made them dance. The wood crackled and popped, sparks shooting up the chimney. “I wouldn’t get so close if I were you. That cherry is burning like a firecracker.” Emmett warned, turning toward his brother, who had brought a whiff of fresh air and bite of the cold with him, clinging to his clothes. “How much snow have we got?”
Putting his back to the flames, Wyatt wiggled his toes to get the circulation moving. He’d tromped through the woods about a quarter mile from his place as the roads were too nasty for driving. “Oh, there’s a good foot out there and no signs of stopping. I called you, but you didn’t answer, so Samantha made me come. She’d be with me if the baby wasn’t going to drop any day. Like a mule, she is. I promised her I’d check on you personally, the only way the woman wasn’t strapping on snow shoes and bringing a blanket in case she had to give birth under a pine tree. Why didn’t you answer the phone? You know it makes me nervous when you don’t answer, Emmett.”
A wall came up between them in the crossed arms and stubborn set to his younger brother’s jaw. “I’d answer if I needed anything. You know that, Wyatt.”
The two were stamped of the same mold, carved deep by their father, Jackson Henry, a man who left his mark. Both were broad of shoulder and muscular, topping off at over six feet, sturdy like the oaks that grew on the surrounding land. Both had inherited Jackson’s full head of sandy hair that called to mind a rich oak stain, streaked by sunlight in the warmer months, gone darker in the winter.
Their eyes were a point of difference—Wyatt had what many considered slate, blue skies tinged with gray on a cloudy day. Now, Emmett—his were the brown of sweet honey, as golden as autumn leaves or light shimmering on the surface of the water. They used to be filled with warmth and happiness as bright as his personality, but now only managed an empty stare.
For all his life, minus going solo until age two, Wyatt had seen the light in those eyes, caught it, found it infectious, been a moth drawn to that golden glow. He couldn’t bear it to see it snuffed. He closed the gap between the two of them, knelt down and gripped the younger man’s thigh, applying pressure.
“Emmett, come to our place. Stay with us until…please. It’s eating me up inside having you here all by yourself, especially this time of year. I worry about you and…I’m afraid, Em.” His throat thickened and he bowed his head.
A hand hovered in the air and rested on his damp, tousled hair. “Wyatt, what good would it do, having me rattling around there, and you about to have a new baby and all? You don’t need me underfoot.”
The bitterness was welling up. It took an effort to turn off the tap and shut it down, but supreme willpower was one thing Emmett Henry had. Otherwise, he wouldn’t still be here at the ripe age of thirty-two. “And you make it sound like it’s only temporary. This isn’t changing, and there’s no sense in you thinking otherwise, no cause for worry or fear. I’m blind, and I’ve come to accept that. You need to do the same. I can manage. Look around. Anything amiss?”
Wyatt lifted his head and scraped a hand across his cheek, dashing away a stray tear. He hadn’t come to terms with what happened to his brother, would be damned if that was ever going to happen. A quick survey showed the house was neat, too neat, as if no one lived there.
“No, it’s fine, but that’s what I’m afraid of. You’re not living, Emmett. Ever since the accident, you’re in this chair, holed up in this house. Enough is enough. You need to get up and moving, get out. If I need to drag you back to our house to make sure you don’t wither away here, I’ll do it. I’m bigger and stronger—”
“Accident! Will you quit calling it a blasted accident? That bastard in the bar hit me with a chair. I don’t call that an accident. That’s blunt force trauma!”
In a blur of movement, the recliner was empty, and the sightless man had crossed the room, hit the closed door to a closet, and pounded it with his fist. The wood was solid and unforgiving, like the sense of pity and self-loathing that had been with him ever since the day the lights went out. Emmett turned, chest heaving, and raised his fists, wearing a fierce scowl.
“I’d like to see you try and take me, Wyatt. Before this, I was a nice guy, but I’ve learned nice guys finish last. I tried to keep a sweet, little, innocent girl out of trouble and look what it got me. So if you really want to try and bring me home, have my sunny personality gracing your place, you’ll have to come and get me. I promise it won’t be pretty.”
He raised his chin, thrust it outward, lowered his stance. Their father had taught them well when it came to holding their own in a fight. If only the guy in the bar hadn’t cheated.
Wyatt cleared his throat and took slow, measured steps toward his brother, announcing his approach. When he was within reach, he put both hands on Em’s shoulders. Human contact was more important now than ever before, proving there was that vital link between them. “I’m not making you go anywhere. What do you say to a drink before I get back?”
Anxiety crept up in his voice. “I really can’t leave Sammie long. She was having cramps earlier—if this is it, I don’t even think I can get out to the hospital with this monster of a storm. I wanted to hang around to keep an eye on her, but she ousted me with a broom, said I was being impossible what with worry gnawing at me for her and for you.”
Emmett exhaled hard and pulled Wyatt into a bone crusher of a hug. “I’m sorry I’m such an ornery cuss. I just get so…angry…and I feel sorry for myself—not a good mix. Come on. We’ll have that drink, and you’d better get going. Can’t have my new niece or nephew born without getting an eyeful of your ugly mug first thing.”
He pushed away from the wall and headed toward the kitchen, his hands raised slightly, but there was really no need. The blueprint of this house was imprinted on his brain. Hitting the kitchen, he mentally counted his steps, found the right cabinet, and took down a few shot glasses. A few steps more and Emmett was rummaging in the liquor cabinet, skimming his fingers over the bottles and pulling out Southern Comfort.
“Oh yeah, I’d say this baby is just what you need before you head out in the cold, Daddy.” A little bit of finagling and keeping his finger hanging over the brim helped him measure out the right amount. He handed a glass to his brother, held his own up until they clinked, and slugged it back fast. “Mmm, should have a fire in your gut now, tide you over until you’re in the warm and willing arms of your wife.”
The other glass thumped on the counter, and the bottle clinked, sliding back into place in the cabinet. Hands, rough with work around the farm, were on his shoulders once more. “All right, I’m going, but so help me, if you’re in trouble and don’t call me—”
Emmett had a tenacious hold of his brother’s elbow and walked him to the door. “If I need anything, I’ll call. If that baby comes, you call me, and I promise that I’ll answer unless I’m incapacitated. I’m sure I can be good for something for a wee one. I can hold the little tyke, manage a bottle, sit by the crib, give you guys a breather. Changing the diaper might get messy, but I’ll give it a go.” He felt for the hook by the door to hand over his brother’s coat, fumbled on the floor, and found the boots, still wet.
“Here’s my hat, what’s my hurry? Have you got a girl coming over or something?” The door was open, and Wyatt got a little push on his back, between the shoulder blades. “All right, I’ll quit procrastinating. Good night, little brother. Stay safe—be well.” He made to go, turned back and gave Emmett a hug that stole his breath away. “And Em, you’re still a nice guy.”
Laughing, trying not to sound sour, Emmett gave his brother an insistent nudge. “Get going, will you? Sammie will kill me if I keep you. I’ll be fine. Thanks for coming, Wyatt.” One more hug and footsteps stomped off into the distance.
Emmett stepped outside, heedless of the chill or his lack of winter wear. No coat, no gloves, no hat—nothing between him and the elements. He tipped his head to the sky and let the flakes dust his hair and his face, savoring the wash of cold air over his body, the sensation of snow spitting at his skin, wind tugging at his hair, whipping it around his head. Filling his lungs, winter’s bite made him feel alive, made him want to wander on his own, keep going and never stop.
If he opened his eyes, there were shadows. If he closed them, there were more. It made no difference and kept him from navigating through the night that was always his companion. Confined to the small patch outside his door, the murky glow of the outdoor light showed him the way back in when he was good and ready.
His teeth started to chatter, his body quivering like an autumn leaf hanging on a tree branch in the wind. Not yet, you got that? I’ll go when I damn well please. In his mind’s eye, he was a kid again, the whole world looked like a giant snow globe, and Emmett was about to go sledding, flying down the hill past the barn, all the way to the pasture…
Crap! The car would have to die in East Bumble in the middle of one monster of a blizzard! Her father had always told her to be prepared, stock the trunk with blankets, a parka, food for a week, a first aid kit, water, tools, a hardware store, flares. What did she have? Her purse, driving gloves, and a coat with a hood. Big whoop. Oh, and don’t forget a cell phone with a dead battery. Dad was probably laughing his butt off in heaven saying, “I told you so,” with great glee and satisfaction. ‘You’ve got book smarts but no common sense, Case.’
Casey Mitchell looked in the rearview mirror and saw her father’s gaze, down to the same exasperation that would taint his moss-green eyes, giving them the spark of an imp. She blew her dark bangs out of the way in frustration. I know, Dad—I know—no common sense and no sense of direction either. I have got to break down and buy a GPS. The little village of Charlton couldn’t be that hard to find. She’d done it before. In the daylight. Without a snowstorm.
She got out of the car, stomping crossly. Act your age, Case. You’re twenty-eight, not two. You are a sum a cum laude, nationally board-certified doctor, capable of managing this minor crisis. There was one bright spot, literally, a light from a house not too far off, a quarter of a mile maybe. Nothing for it but to start walking. She trudged through the drifts, cursing her wet feet from her stylish, impractical boots, shivering, longing for a warmer coat.
Casey had misjudged the distance. Had to be closer to a half mile with another quarter mile down the long lane to the sprawling farmhouse. A Currier and Ives kind of place. One to be appreciated in better circumstances.
The door was ajar, casting a warm glow on the front porch and snow, pinning a man in its light. His arms were flung open wide, his head tipped back, sandy hair wild in the wind. Something was wrong with this picture, the way he stood motionless in nothing but jeans and a flannel shirt, snow coating his hair, lashes, and shoulders, with the face of Gabriel come crashing down to earth, beautiful yet so haunted.
At the crunch of boots in the snow, he turned her way, revealing a tower of a man with broad shoulders, impressive height, and golden eyes beyond compare. “What’s the matter, Wyatt? Lose your way home?” Teasing, his lips curved up playfully as his eyes searched the darkness, proving to be blank.
Thrown off guard, Casey hesitated until his forehead creased in confusion, prodding her to speak. “Ah, no, I’m not Wyatt. My name is Casey Mitchell, and my car broke down about a half mile…mile…God knows how far, away.”
She blew out an aggravated puff and continued. “Plus the battery in my cell phone is dead. Obviously, I never learned the Boy Scout Motto about being prepared. Must have missed out on that day in Girl Scouts too. Could I come in for a few minutes, thaw out, call for a tow?” She balanced on her left foot, then her right. Her toes were cold, and she couldn’t help being a tad anxious.
The grin on his face was contagious, spreading to her lips and making them reluctantly travel in an upward direction. “Don’t feel bad about the phone,” he said. “The service is really lousy around here. As for the tow, Fast Eddie won’t come out in this. I’m Emmett Henry. My brother might be able to give you a hand. He lives just down the road. Come on in and get warm.”
He turned toward the door and gestured for her to precede him. Casey slipped past, inhaling the wintery, spicy scent of him, and felt a ripple of pleasure in the pit of her stomach. Emmett followed, hit an icy patch on the step, and would’ve pitched head first into the entryway if she didn’t reach out to catch him.
“I’m all right, thanks.” He jerked away, crimson streaks staining his cheeks, an angry glitter in his empty eyes as he closed the door with a little more force than necessary. A few steps into the living room, and his head was down, his hands on his hips.
“Sorry. My manners are rusty, and it stings my pride, stumbling, falling down.” His chin lifted, beautiful eyes of liquid gold searching, and his hand came up, a peace offering.
“But we all fall down sometimes, Emmett. The hard part is getting back up, and you managed quite well.” Casey accepted the offer, firmly pressing her palm in his, and the heat streaked up her arm, all the way to her heart, giving it a kick start. Easy, Case, or you’re going to start hyperventilating.
Emmett held on for the space of a heartbeat and another before breaking away, clearing his throat. “You must be freezing. Your hands are like ice. Make yourself comfortable by the fire, and I’ll put on some tea or coffee?”
A little breathless, she answered weakly, “Tea,” and watched him head off to the kitchen, his steps sure, no need to feel his way in the place that belonged to him. Casey pressed her hands to her cheeks, glad he couldn’t see how they burned or the way his touch set her to sizzling. God, but the man was a fine specimen, rugged, hair tousled, fire sparking in those golden eyes. His stance, the jut of his chin, his squared shoulders—all said Go ahead world, throw anything at me. I can take it.
Stepping up to the mantle, absorbing the welcome heat of the hearth, her eyes were drawn to pictures of her host—riding horseback, playing baseball, messing around with a man so similar it had to be his brother, standing as best man on his wedding day. The glow in Emmett’s eyes snatched her breath away. Whatever had taken his sight had come later in life. Casey was grateful for one reason—she could stare at him forever, and he’d never even know.
© 2018 by Heidi Sprouse