EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan).

One

Logan Brisco had the ­people of Serenity, Texas, eating out of his hand, and that was just where he wanted them.

He worked hard to cultivate the smile of a traveling evangelist, the confidence of a busy capitalist, the secrecy of a government spy, and the charisma of a pied piper. No one in town knew where he’d come from or why he was there, and he wasn’t talking. But he made sure they knew he was on a mission, and that it was something big.

From the moment he drove his Navigator in, wearing his thousand-dollar suit and Italian shoes, tongues began wagging. Rumor had it that Logan Brisco was a movie producer scouting talent for his latest picture. But the weekly patrons of the Clippety Doo Dah Salon were sure he was a billionaire-in-hiding, looking for a wife. And the men at Slade Hampton’s Barbershop buzzed about the money he was likely to invest in the community.

Two days after he arrived, the UPS man delivered two large boxes marked “Fragile” and addressed to “Brisco, c/o The Welcome Inn.” One of the boxes had the return address of a prominent bank in Dallas. The other was marked “Hollywood, California.” The gossip grew more frenzied.

For two weeks, he chatted with the ­people of the town, ate in its restaurants, shopped in its stores, bonded with its men, flirted with its women. As soon as speculation peaked, Logan would be ready to go in for the kill.

This one might be his biggest score yet.

The next step would be to hold one of his seminars, the kind where ­people came in with bundles of cash and left with empty pockets and heads full of dreams. That was what he was best at. Building dreams and taking money.

On his second Saturday in town — which consisted mostly of four streets of shops, offices, and restaurants — the sun shone brightly after a week of rain. It was the day Serenity’s citizens filled the streets, catching up on errands and chores. Perfect.

His first stop that morning was at Peabody’s Print Shop, where yesterday he had talked Julia Peabody into printing a thousand fliers for him on credit. “I’m not authorized to spend money on this project without the signatures of my major investors,” he’d told her in a conspiratorial voice. “Can you just bill me at the Welcome Inn?”

Julia, the pretty daughter of the print shop owner, glanced over her shoulder to see if her father was near. “Well, we’re not supposed to give credit, Mr. Brisco.”

He leaned on the counter. “Logan, please.”

“Logan,” she said, blushing. “I mean . . . couldn’t you just write a check or use a credit card and let your investors pay you back?”

“I’m in the process of opening a bank account here,” he said with the hint of a grin sparkling in his eyes. “Thing is, I opened it yesterday, but they told me not to write any checks on it until my money is transferred from my Dallas bank. Now, if I were to write you a check and ask you to hold it, that would be exactly the same thing as your giving me credit, wouldn’t it?”

“Well, yes, I guess it would,” she said.

He smiled and paused for a moment, as though he’d lost his train of thought. “You know, they sure do grow the women pretty in Serenity.”