Focus On Love

By: Candee Fick

PROLOGUE


Elizabeth Foster ripped the Christmas wrapping paper from the box on her lap. It wasn’t heavy enough to be the camera she’d asked for, but when she lifted the lid, she grinned regardless.

“These are great.” She ran her hand over the FOSTER’S FOTOS design on the front pocket of the royal-blue shirts inside. Not the first color she would have chosen as a redhead, but she’d wear anything if it meant stepping into the family business as the third generation of photographers—to finally build on the foundation Grandpa O’Neill began when her mother was a child. To be who Liz was meant to be. “And you even used my logo design.”

“Your design? No, Jerry came up with that.” Dad rocked back on his heels from his position near the fireplace. “Isn’t it great? Thanks to your recommendation, he’s been quite a talented addition to the company.”

Liz’s eyes darted to Jerry on the other end of the couch—and his smug expression. Merely an hour ago, she’d awkwardly endured his monotone proposition, er, proposal: “Let’s merge our talents. I can do even more professionally if you’re behind me.” He’d claimed it was an offer she couldn’t refuse. Except she had refused … and now this. Fueled by her ideas—the creative brainstorming she’d shared via e-mail and Skype calls this semester—her long-distance boyfriend had ambitiously climbed the ladder from intern to more.

Dad chuckled. “Told you she’d be speechless. Bet this will change her mind about a wedding, son.”

Liz’s face heated. “Son? No, he’s a thief. I showed him this very logo idea a month ago.” While she’d been off at college, he had apparently been stealing her family’s affection too. How could she have been so blind?

“Now, now, dear. You’re just confused. The stress of your classes must be getting to you.” Jerry had the gall to reach over and pat her arm as if she were a toddler in need of comforting. He glanced at her dad. “I showed her an early sketch back in October.”

Liz pulled away from Jerry’s hand and took a deep breath, and then another, to calm herself. It would be unforgivable to cause a scene before the elaborate holiday dinner her mother had fixed. She’d already caught a glimpse of her grandmother’s wedding china on the dining room table … four place settings’ worth.

Another deep breath in through her nose and slowly released…

At least she’d finally seen Jerry’s true colors. But was it too late to fight for her place? If she needed to stay, completing her degree would have to wait.

She squared her shoulders and faced her dad. “Logo designer aside, do these shirts mean I can finally start working with you? Because I’d love to see us expand into new areas and revamp our website.”

Dad waved a hand dismissively. “Jerry’s full of ideas for doing all that. What we really need is office support.”

More of Jerry’s words came flooding back to her. “You don’t need a business degree to answer the phones and stuff envelopes.” Liz’s stomach clenched along with her fists.

Better to know the truth than to cling to hope. “Are you ever going to give me a chance to step behind the camera?”

“That’s ridiculous. You can’t handle this kind of job on your own. It’s a shame your grandparents encouraged those foolish dreams.” Dad shook his head. “Besides, a woman’s place is in the home, or at least supporting her husband in practical matters.”

With “those” dreams shattering into a thousand pieces around her, Liz tossed the box of shirts onto the coffee table and stood. “What I can’t handle is this right now.” She headed toward the doorway to the kitchen. Hopefully Mom wouldn’t be too upset if she—

“Just where do you think you’re going? We are not finished discussing this.”

Tears flooded her eyes as she turned back to face her frowning father. “Why can’t you understand? I just want to use the talents God gave me—to see the beauty in the world and share my joy with others. To do more than take pictures of snotty-nosed kids.”

“Those school pictures pay the bills, and it’s about time you grew up and started contributing around here.”