Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!


May the Lord bless you and may His gift be the one you treasure most of all.

Twas the night before Christmas
and deep in my heart
was a prayer for the lost 
to understand Jesus' part
in the lives that we live,
in the world yet to come.
May your Christmas be blessed
by His most precious Son.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Ahhh, welcome, Laura. What a neat twist on A Christmas Carol. Gotta love the classics. And the heartache in this one just makes me want to dive in. So happy to see it in the Extravaganza stories!


Eleven Christmas Eves ago, young Libby Taylor said goodbye to her newborn son. With only her music dreams to keep her going, she vowed to someday make a life he could be part of. With a recording contract on the horizon, now seems like the perfect time, but an accident on an icy road sends Libby on a strange detour.

Badly injured and alone, she finds herself guided on a spiritual journey of discovery by the imagined ghosts of idolized music legends whose own mistakes mirror her personal choices.

Forced to examine the consequences of her past, present, and even her future, will Libby learn from the mistakes of the past before it’s too late, or will she survive only to lose everything that truly matters—including a chance for love?

Here's a little peek:

“While you sleep, dreams will come, on stars so clear and true...” As she sang, her fingers tucked aside the striped blanket from around the sleeping infant’s face, revealing tiny flushed cheeks. The slow rocking motion of the nursery chair lulled the baby closer to her body. The room was silent and dim, except for the winking lights of a Christmas tree in one corner.

The door opened, a nurse on the other side. Beside her was a woman in a business suit carrying a sheaf of papers in a portfolio.

“Ms. Libby Taylor?” she asked, reading a name affixed to the portfolio. “Are you ready?” She offered a sympathetic smile.

The girl nodded. “I’m ready.” Her mouth pressed inwards as she loosened her hold on the bundle, the woman’s arms sliding between her and the child.

“Hello there,” crooned the woman, shifting the bundle gently against her shoulder. “Ready to see your new family?”

The baby stirred slightly and whimpered.

“There’s some papers you’ll need to sign, Ms. Taylor,” the woman continued, “and if you want to talk to them—”

“No…no, I don’t. Thanks.” Arms now empty, her hands rested on her lap. She watched as the woman, carrying the baby in her arms, turned towards the waiting nurse. The door closed behind them, two shapes disappearing from behind the square of glass at the top.

The girl closed her eyes. “It’s for the best,” she whispered. Once, then again, as if to convince herself it was true. Her chair began rocking again, her arms wrapped against her body.

Slee-py time, comes to you, on wings of white and blue.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

She Comes to See the Snow

Well, I must admit, I haven't quite had a chance to read them all, so here's one of the last few extravaganza storiesI haven't read -  just so you can get a peek  in case you want to get it before - or for Christmas!

She Came to See the Snow


Haley Blackwell travels to Colorado with plans to relive her favorite childhood memories—including a snowy Christmas. When she meets her grandparents’ neighbor, she finds herself yearning for more than a white Christmas, but trusting men has never been easy for Haley.

After a failed marriage, and the death of his ex-wife, Tate Rivers is determined to concentrate on raising his preschool daughter, Ashlyn, and to stay clear of another relationship. He doubts he can ever trust his heart to another woman—until he meets Haley.

Despite the weather forecast that does not include snow on Christmas Day, Ashlyn prays that God will give Haley the desires of her heart. Will Haley realize Tate isn’t a man who will abandon those he loves, and will they be able to push aside the past and step forward together in love—the way God desires?


Ashlyn tugged her hand from Tate’s grip, and before he could stop her, she lunged down the steps.

“Ashlyn.” Tate followed after her.

She ignored him and scampered along the walk as fast as her three-year-old legs could carry her.

“This is my little neighbor, Ashlyn,” Cora explained to her granddaughter as Ashlyn barreled toward them, arms flailing like a baby bird trying to take flight. She reeled to a stop and swung both arms around Haley’s leg.

What in the world? “Ashlyn.” Tate quickened his pace.

Haley startled a second then broke into laugher. “Well, hello there.” She tousled Ashlyn’s blonde curls.

At least Cora’s granddaughter wasn’t offended. Still, Tate had no idea why his shy little girl was clinging to a woman they’d never met. Reaching his daughter, he hunkered down beside her. “Sugarbean, let go of the nice lady.”

The blue eyes that met his showed no remorse. “I like Miss Cora’s friend.”

“I’m sure she’s very―”

“I like you, too.” Haley bent down to Ashlyn’s eye level, breaking the death grip on her leg. “My grandmother told me about a precious little girl who comes to visit with her and Granddad. Would that happen to be you?”

“Uh-huh.” Ashlyn’s giggle touched Tate’s heart. A sound he’d seldom heard...actually hadn’t heard in over a month, not since Ashlyn’s Nana and Pop left town to help with his sister Amy’s kids. Amy was on bed rest with her fourth child, and her husband was serving in Iraq. Tate’s sister needed their parents. But the absence of Ashlyn’s Nana and Pop made being a single father harder. Without them here…well, he thanked God for Cora and Ned.

“Ashlyn, let’s get you out of the cold.” Cora picked her up. “In fact, we all best get inside.”

Standing upright, Tate brushed dirt from his gloves. “Cora, thanks again. I need to get Ashlyn home.”

Cora shifted Ashlyn on her hip. “OK. I’ll put this little cherub in her car seat for you.”

“Bye, Miss Cora’s friend.” Ashlyn waved all the way to the truck.

Northern winds had been gusting all day, and with evening creeping in, the chill intensified. But as Haley smiled and waved to his daughter, Tate barely noticed the cold.

“She’s adorable.” Haley shifted her attention to him. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Haley Blackwell, Cora and Ned’s granddaughter.”

“Tate Rivers.” Tate removed his glove and extended his hand. “Sorry. My daughter isn’t usually so friendly.”

“Then I feel privileged.” Haley grasped his hand. A smile punched dimples in her rosy cheeks.

Beautiful and gracious. A rare combination.

He blinked. Great attributes but the last thing he needed was another female in his life. His last relationship cured him of that. Broken dreams. Tattered heart. He had no intention of making that mistake again.

Besides, he’d yet to figure the little girl in the car seat.

“I appreciate your understanding.” Tate smiled. “Welcome to Fairplay.”

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Christmas Homecoming

Oh no, I'm running out of time and I've lost track of what stories I have left...think, think, think. Thank goodness Pelican Books makes it easy to get around!

Here's a peek at A Christmas Homecoming. This one sounds like a heartbreaker!


Seven Christmases have passed since Sonia Pettit last heard from her daughter Jody. Since Jody’s departure, Sonia’s world has been turned upside down. Her husband has died of a broken heart, and her son, bitter over his sister’s destructive actions, has become rebellious.

Her greatest desire is to have her family together at Christmas, but after what Jody has put them all through, can Sonia truly forgive her daughter?

Jody Pettit O’Dair ran away to experience a life of adventure and excitement, but since her departure, her world has been turned upside down. She’s been abandoned by the man she met and married, lost her job, and is unable to care for her two children. With nowhere else to turn, this prodigal daughter begins the long journey home and prays she will be welcomed after walking away so long ago.

Will Jody find forgiveness in the arms of her family as easily as she received it from God?


“Good morning, Ben. I’m making your favorite homemade chicken soup for lunch later.”

“Morning, Mom.” Ben scratched his disheveled head in a valiant attempt to jerk himself to wakefulness. “Got any coffee?”

Sonia pushed down her anger and forced a smile at her lanky twenty-two-year-old son. The second-born of her womb. The son with the tender heart gone awry. “Just made a fresh pot. I’ll pour you some.”

“Thanks.” He yawned. “I’m not awake enough to pour it myself.”

She took a large blue mug from the cupboard and held it in her left hand while she poured coffee into it with her right. She handed the mug of steaming brew to Ben. In a few months, he’d be graduating from college and moving right into a job with a local accounting firm.

His father would have been proud of at least one of their two children.

She squelched the painful memories. Christmas was coming, and she needed to put on a smile for Ben, if not for herself.

“So how’s my favorite son this morning?”

Ben sat down at the kitchen table and stretched out his long legs. “Come on, Mom. You know I’m your only son. So why call me your favorite?”

She sat down in the chair next to him. “Because you are. You don’t have to be my only son to be my favorite one.”

He grinned. “But what if you had another son, would I still be your favorite?”

“Of course, you would. It has nothing to do with numbers. No matter how many children I had, each one would be my favorite—you and Jody hold an equal place in my heart.”

His eyes narrowed. “You can say that after what she did to our family?”

Sonia shifted in her chair, her thumb outlining the handle on her coffee mug. “Yes.” Her breath caught on a snag of hesitation. “Yes, Ben.” She looked him in the eye. “I can still say that.”

He slammed his coffee mug on the table, splattering the hot liquid all over the green vinyl tablecloth. “She ups and leaves without telling anyone where she’s going. Just a stupid note that says, ‘I’ve gone. Don’t come looking for me. I need my space.’ Her space? Sounds more like her own selfish way to me.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Seven years! How many private investigators and how much money have you spent on finding her?” He stood. “You should have listened to Dad. Let her go. Don’t try to find her. He never forgave her, you know.”

“What makes you think Dad didn’t forgive her?”

“How could he? Look at the hole she left in his heart—a hole that devoured him and sent him to an early grave.” He looked beyond her, peering out the window. “A hole that would swallow me up if I let it.” He shook his head. “But I won’t. My anger against her is all I have to keep me from falling in.”

“Withholding forgiveness is never the answer, Ben.”

He towered over her, fire in his eyes. “Who are you to talk? You haven’t forgiven her either. You just pretend you have.”

She lowered her voice, tamping down the anger threatening to spew forth. “Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.”

Ben’s glare cut deep. “Spiritual platitudes. That’s all you’re handing me. I’ll never forgive her for what she’s done.”

The sword of truth pierced Sonia’s heart as she watched Ben storm out of the room. If she were honest with herself, he was right. She hadn’t truly forgiven Jody either. As much as she loved her daughter, Sonia wanted Jody to suffer as much as she herself had suffered. As much as Rick and Ben had suffered. She wanted Jody to pay for all the pain she’d caused. By walking out on her family, Jody had left a wake of anger, confusion, and shame that had rocked their world, leaving them bruised, shaken, and shattered. Worst of all, Rick had taken his daughter’s disappearance so hard that Sonia was sure it had caused his death. How could she ever forgive Jody for that?

She rose and turned her attention back to the soup pot. She lifted it from the back burner and replaced it on the front one, then turned the gas to low heat. Chicken soup made a good lunch on a cold day.But on this cold day, she no longer had an appetite.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

Welcome, JoAnn! And a very Merry Christmas season to you! Thank you for sharing this very sweet story!


Jacob Marston, Starlight, Iowa's hometown hero made a long-ago promise to the Lord: he won't kiss a woman until he knows she's "the one." Now at age twenty-eight, the rugged firefighter questions if it'll ever happen. Then, he meets his best friend's sister, and Jake believes he's found the woman of his dreams. But what will she think when she discovers his vow?

When Julia makes an unexpected confession on Christmas Day, Jake shares his secret with her, and it looks as though happily-ever-after will make a holiday appearance.

But somehow, everyone in the tiny town of Starlight learns Jake’s secret, and he's instantly transformed from town hero to laughingstock. Did Julia reveal his secret? Can Jake forget the humiliation and find his way under the mistletoe to share a forever kiss with Julia?


Where will you end up?

Applying pressure to the stuffed bear’s eye, Jake counted under his breath and waited for the glue to set. The guys in the firehouse would tease him if they knew, but he always said a prayer for the kid who’d get one of these fix-it projects. This teddy bear, like most of the dolls, animals, or toys from Starlight’s Christmas drive, had been “gently” loved—another way of saying the previous owner held no special affinity for it. Satisfied the plastic eye was secure, Jake relaxed his grip and placed the bear on the shelf next to the train set, model car, and sock monkey he’d repaired, painted, or patched. His shoulders ached from hunching over the desk the past couple of hours, but it was worth it.

The doorbell rang, loud in the quiet of the century-old family home. Darting a quick glance at his watch, Jake grimaced at the pain radiating through his lower back as he rose to his feet—a none-too-subtle reminder of his on-the-job fall a couple of weeks ago. Not enough to warrant short-term disability but sufficient to give him plenty of grief. His heating pad was his constant companion when he climbed into bed every night. Maybe he should get a dog. The affection, plus the added warmth, sure would be nice. A big, furry canine would be the perfect, loyal companion. Merry Christmas to me.

After hobbling through the foyer, Jake switched on the outside light and took a quick peek through the beveled glass oval on the front door. The oversized Christmas bulbs strung along the bottom of the porch roof formed a cornucopia of vibrant color, an iridescent halo, behind Dylan’s head. Jake couldn’t resist his grin as he opened the door. “To what do I owe this honor, Sergeant Sinclair?”

“Sorry I didn’t call, buddy, but I didn’t want to give you the opportunity to turn me down.” Dylan waved a hand to a far corner of the covered porch. “I brought my sister for reinforcement. Julia, come meet Captain Jake Marston, Starlight’s resident wounded hero.”

He squinted in the dim light, wondering why Dylan felt the need to introduce him that way. Dressed in a red flannel shirt, jeans and heavy socks, Jake shivered when a gust of bitter wind blew the door open wider. “Come on inside and get warm,” he said loud enough for Julia to hear.

After reattaching a drooping section of bulbs, she turned. “All better now.”

“She’s used to saying that,” Dylan said. “Julia’s a pediatric nurse over in Cedar Rapids.”

“I also know how to keep impertinent patients in line, and you remind me of some of them. Be good, brother.” Shoving her mitten-covered hands in the pockets of her down jacket, she walked across the porch in their direction.

This is Julia? For whatever reason, Jake’s mental picture of Dylan’s kid sister was stuck way in the past—a gawky teenager with a mouth full of metal. That preconceived image paid her no justice whatsoever. Taller than most women, she was slender without being skinny. A white cap covered her head but dark, wispy bangs escaped, tousled by the wind. Even in the dim light, her eyes were bright. Could be a reflection of the porch light, but no…there was definite sparkle.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Julia. Thanks for…taking care of my bulbs.” Jake ignored Dylan’s smirk of amusement at that inane comment. He could handle talking to kids, but women proved a daunting challenge. Great. He’d already wedged his size twelve foot in his mouth. If they taught a class at the church—or sponsored a support group—for clueless single men on how to hold a conversation with a woman, he’d be the first to sign up. His bumbling and often idiotic statements would make him the star pupil, or at least a living, breathing example of what not to say when it came to social graces.

“Happy to help,” Julia said with a shy smile, stepping into the front foyer.

Dylan brushed past him, giving him a light pat on his not-so-banged-up left shoulder. “How ya holdin’ up? A word of advice,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper, “don’t say anything about Julia’s fiancĂ©. Touchy subject with her.”

Jake closed the door. “Wouldn’t think of it.”

Headed straight for the staircase—with its handrails and balusters hand carved by Jake’s great-grandfather, the original Jacob Marston—Dylan grabbed the jacket hanging on the knob. “Come on. It’s time to get you out of the mausoleum. We’ve got some holiday do-gooding to do.”

Jake quirked a brow. “If that’s your misguided way of convincing me to go out in below-freezing temperatures, you should know better.” Getting to know Julia was an appealing option, but he was tired. What he needed was a good, long soak in the tub, but no way would he ever admit that to another man, especially Dylan. He gestured to the shelf displaying his recent handiwork. “I’ve already put in my time tonight.”

“You need to recirculate among the land of the living and end this self-imposed exile.” Dylan mock-shivered and darted a wary glance at the toys lined up on the shelf. “Those dolls give me the creeps. It’s like they’re following me with their eyes.”

“Reason number one to stop watching silly movies.” Silky dark hair tumbled halfway down her back as Julia removed her cap. Peeling off her mittens, she smoothed flyaway strands away from her cheeks.

Jake found it difficult not to stare. Dylan’s sister was stunning and hands-down the most beautiful woman ever to grace his front foyer. No wonder he couldn’t talk to women. Even his thoughts were harebrained. Rubbing his hand over his jaw, he regretted not shaving since yesterday morning.

“First thing you should know about me is that I don’t always share my wayward brother’s opinion,” Julia said. “I’m sorry you were hurt, Jake, but from what I hear, you saved a beloved family dog and risked a lot.”

Jake’s pulse raced at the compliment. “Thanks. Just doing my job. I’ll live.”

Her perusal encompassed the living room before moving back to the front foyer and staircase. “This house has so much character. I imagine it holds fascinating stories. How old is it?”

Eyes the color of warm sapphires met Jake’s, momentarily stealing his breath. Digging deep, he found his voice. “It’s over a hundred years old. My great-grandfather, Jacob, built it as a wedding gift for his bride.”

“How romantic.” Julia ran her hand over the smooth, rich oak of the handrail. “That makes it even more special. Did you grow up here?”

“Pretty much. I spent a lot of weekends and holidays in this house. My grandparents lived here until they moved to a smaller place when I was ten. That’s when we moved in.”

“So many people have gotten away from tradition and family, but it means everything.” Her tone sounded wistful. “I’m sure a house this old requires a lot of upkeep, but it’s also a labor of love, isn’t it?”

He couldn’t have said it better himself. “Exactly.”

“Ask Jake the name of his ancestor’s bride,” Dylan said from the living room. “For the record, did you note my buddy here is also named for his ancestor?”

Julia lifted her eyes to Jake’s. “I’ll humor him. What was your great-grandmother’s name?”

“Julia.” For once, Jake’s voice didn’t waver. 


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Breath of Christmas

Welcome back, Elizabeth!


When Esther Beauchamp agrees to drive a snowmobile during the Santa Snow Challenge, she expects a problem-free weekend of transporting snowboarders. What she gets is the task of transporting a single snowboarder and babysitting his service dog while he’s on the slope.

Robbie Kendrick is instantly attracted to the pretty staffer who volunteered to help him during the competition. While she’s clueless about asthma, he appreciates her efforts to understand how it affects him and his snowboarding. Best of all, she treats him like a man who isn’t disabled and gets along great with his medical alert dog.

But when Robbie’s ability to compete is called into question, is it in God’s plan for him to give up the career he loves, or will his competitive spirit cause him to lose his chance at a future with Esther?


“Hey, Esther!”

Her boss and neighbor, Leonard Morris, approached from the left. The clipboard in his hand had seen better days, and it looked as if he’d tried to cram every paper from his overcrowded desk onto the thing. However, his cheerful personality more than made up for his lack of organizational skills.

“Hey, Leonard,” Esther said as he joined her. “What’s up?”

“You get light duty for the competition.” He cocked his head to the side, one bushy gray eyebrow lifted in question. “By the way, do you like dogs?”

“Yeah, they’re great. Why?”

“Because you’re going to be spending a lot of time with one this weekend.” He shuffled through his papers and unearthed a photo. “This is Molly.”

Esther accepted the picture and studied the large black Lab seated beside a handsome blond man in his mid-twenties with hazel eyes and an athletic build. Try as she might, she couldn’t figure out what a dog had to do with shuttling competitors to the top of the course. She handed the photo back and studied her boss. “Cute dog, but why are you telling me about her?”

“The man in the picture is Robbie Kendrick.” Leonard tucked the photo into the pile on his clipboard. “He’s one of the snowboarders, and you’ll need to keep an eye on his dog while he’s doing his runs.”

What was so special about this guy that his dog warranted a babysitter? “What about the other competitors? I thought I was going to be busy running people up to the top of the slope.”

“That was the original plan, but it changed.” Leonard led her away from the growing crowd. “Look, Esther, Molly is Robbie’s service dog. When he’s not on the course, he’ll need her by his side. That’s where you come in. You’ll take them both up to the top, and then you’ll come back down here with Molly and meet Robbie when he finishes his run. I’ve been assured his coach will be at the top to help him out if necessary between the time you drop him off and the time he joins you at the bottom.”

“Wait, one of the snowboarders needs a service dog? Should he even be competing?”

“Molly is a medical alert dog, and Robbie and his coach are the ones who came up with this plan, so I assume they know what they’re talking about.” Leonard shuffled through the papers again, but came up empty handed. “I have a doctor’s note for him somewhere clearing him to compete, but I must have left it in my office. Oh, well, you don’t need to see that, anyway. The important thing is Robbie’s the only competitor you’re transporting.”

“OK, let me get this straight.” Esther rubbed her forehead. “I’m responsible for one snowboarder and his dog. While he’s doing his runs, I’ll be dog-sitting at the bottom of the course. Is that right?”

Leonard gave her a huge grin. “You’ve got it.”

“So, what happens if he doesn’t make it through to the finals Sunday? Does that mean I’m out of a job?” Although this gig was for one weekend only, the extra cash would help pay off the student loans that lingered from earning her computer science degree.

“No, I’ll find something else for you to do if that happens.” Leonard winked, a teasing twinkle in his eyes. “I doubt you need to worry, though. Robbie’s been competing for years, and he’s been in the finals of every competition he’s entered in the last two years.”

Suddenly, she wished she knew more about winter sports. Ever since she moved to Cedar Valley a month ago, she’d been listening to people talk about the Santa Snow Challenge and the competitors they expected to see. Esther had never heard of any of them, but it quickly became clear she was a minority in this small ski resort town.

The radio at Leonard’s hip crackled to life, and he responded to the call from one of the security personnel. As soon as he finished answering the man’s question, he focused on Esther. “You need to be at the registration desk in the lodge in about half an hour. Robbie and his coach are supposed to meet you there.”


I just love stories that include animals, and I would just love to meet Robbie's medical dog. She sounds sweet! It's just amazing what service dogs can be trained to do!

This is one super read as Robbie refuses to buckle under to his physical weakness. It's an amazing story of how far willpower can carry us...or not.

Another wonderful story in the Christmas Extravaganza bundle!

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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Christmas Stalking

Welcome, Lillian. Well, it looks like you've done it again. Even at Christmas you're going to keep us quivering in our boots!

Stay close! Let's take a look:


Overzealous fan or crazed stalker?

Country music superstar Destiny appears to have it all. Beauty, money, and fame. But it’s not all glitz and glamour. Being a celebrity comes with a price—loneliness, and now threats from an unknown stalker.

With Christmas approaching, and as the danger escalates in Nashville, Destiny has no choice but to disappear. She escapes to her grandparents’ cabin in the Adirondack Mountains near the tiny Village of Serenity & Peace.

It seems to be the perfect choice for a hideout. Longing for the serenity and peace she experienced there as a child, Destiny sheds her celebrity persona and resumes her long-forgotten identity as Holly Stone.

Unfortunately, fame follows her to the tiny village—along with her stalker.


...her car’s headlights flashed on the welcoming sign for the Village of Serenity and Peace, better known by the locals as plain old Serenity. Legend said a group of monks hid behind their cowls and founded the little town in the wilds of upstate New York.

What better place was there than where she’d spent so many wonderful summers with her grandparents? She could ditch the wig, hide, and celebrate Christmas. Of course, she would spend this Christmas just the way she had last year—alone.

Serenity still loved to celebrate Christmas in a big way. Strings of multi-colored lights wound their way through the garland that decorated old-time light poles like antique gas lanterns. Christmas bulbs framed every window in town, adding to the festive look.

A few people scurried down the streets, braving the cold, probably on their way home.

Home. She wished she had a real home with real family and friends. Not just business associates. Her choices had made her rich and famous, even if she was a bit lonely at times. Especially at the holidays.

Her gaze focused on the snow-covered streets. Why had she thought coming to upstate New York in December was a good idea?

She shivered.

The stalker wouldn’t be able to find her here. Though she’d spent summers in Serenity with her grandparents, she had never listed the place in her official bio. No reason for anyone to look for her in this tiny Adirondack town.

The sparkling lights dimmed as she drove to the outskirts. Slowly, she weaved her way through the darkness of the rural road.

Lights from a following car glared.

Her stomach lurched. Was it her stalker?

Stop being ridiculous and paranoid.

He couldn’t have followed her. She’d spent the past two days making sure of that. But the lights continued to shine in her rearview mirror even as she pressed her foot to the accelerator. She didn’t want to take the chance of leading a psychopath to her remote cabin.

A blue and red light show flashed on the snow bank.

Great. Just what she needed.

But a ticket was better than being followed by a stalker.

She squinted at the flashing police lights as she pulled the car beside piles of packed snow.

She hit the button and the window moved down. A gust of icy wind froze her flirtatious smile into a grimace.

“Ma’am, I need to see your license and registration.”

She stared up at the officer. No expression. No smile. All business. Here came a ticket.


“Excuse me?”

Yikes. That was Destiny talking, not Holly Stone. “Oh, nothing, Officer. Sorry. Hold on.” She pulled out the rental agreement and her license and handed them to the officer, glad she’d taken the time to get a license in her real name, with her natural hair color.

“Holly Stone?”

“That’s me.” Sort of.

He stared down at her for a moment—almost a glare. Then his blue eyes twinkled and a hint of a smile played across his lips. “My, my, my. It couldn’t really be the little Holly Stone I used to play tag with in the woods, but she did have red hair and a temper to match. Just like you.” The voice held a familiar taunt.

Holly looked closely at the man.

His vibrant blue eyes contrasted against his tanned skin and curly black locks.

“There is no way you’re that bully, Robby Trenton. He was a short, fat thing.”

“I was not fat. I was stout. I hadn’t hit my growth spurt yet.”

“Well, you certainly seemed to have hit it, now.”

“Six two. You really are that Holly Stone?”

“One and the same.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d spend a few days at my grandparents’ cabin.”

“Your family still owns it?”

“I never had the heart to sell it after they died.” Another gust of wind slammed into her face. Numbness was settling in. “It is so ridiculously cold. How do you live here all the time?”

“Well, it’s only cold in the winter. Still not a skier, huh?”

“The only skiing I do is on the water. Give me beaches and sunshine. You can keep the snow and ice. That’s why I only came up to visit in the summer.”

“Hey, how about going to the diner for a cup of hot chocolate to warm up? We can catch up on the last fifteen or twenty years. How long has it been since we’ve seen each other?”

“That’s sweet, but I’ve been driving all day and I’m exhausted.”

A look of disappointment flickered across Robby’s face. “Sure, I understand. I’m just going to follow you out to the cabin so I know you get there safely. These roads can be tricky if you’re not used to them.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Not a problem, Holly. I do it all the time for tourists.”

“Is that what I am? A tourist?”

He grinned. “And a very welcomed one. Drive careful. Good to see you again.”

“I guess you’re not going to give me that ticket.”

“The only ticket I’m giving you is for a rain check for that cup of hot chocolate.”

“Sounds like a plan.” An old friend who still remembered her would break the monotony of being stuck in a cabin while her security team and the FBI hunted for the stalker.

And hopefully found him.


Great story. I loved it! She had me totally off the scent right until the end. Suspense at its finest!

I love how she brings it home that even performers are just regular people. And I just loved this scene where the story starts.

Matter of fact, I loved everything about this story. Dig in, it's great!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Southern Fried Christmas

I just love the title of this one, Marian!


Love: purer than Colorado snow, deeper than a Louisiana bayou.

The Colorado Rockies have always been home to journalist Kelly Shepherd, but after the death of her father, and facing her first Christmas alone, she accepts an assignment that leads her deep into Louisiana’s Cajun country.

Since his wife’s death, Denny Labouve has focused his attention on his ten-year-old daughter and the family business, but Kelly sparks the dying embers of his heart even as a Christmas cold front moves through his beloved Cajun country.

Will Denny and Kelly be able to trust God to bridge the span between the Colorado Rockies and the Louisiana bayou?


Denny steered the SUV along the highway that cut through the swamp. He enjoyed watching Kelly’s reaction to the moss-draped cypress trees. “Have you ever visited Louisiana before?”

“No, I did visit an aunt in Georgia once. I was six at the time. All I remember is how hot and sticky it was and that we ate the best peach cobbler and homemade ice cream.”

Chelsea leaned forward and tapped Kelly on the shoulder. “Are you married?”

“Chelsea, honey, manners.” Denny shook his head. His ears warmed.

Kelly laughed and reached around to show Chelsea her left hand. “Not yet.”

She leaned back and raised her voice. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“Chelsea.” He would have a long talk with her when they got home.

“It’s OK. No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

For some reason he didn’t understand, he enjoyed hearing that bit of news.

“Chelsea, tell Kelly about the Labouve family’s plans for Christmas.” He watched through the rearview mirror.

“O…K… Well, it’s like this. We have everybody over at MamMaw Eula’s house. Like five hundred people.” She rolled her eyes. “And we eat a gazillion tons of gumbo and fried shrimp then MamerĂ© Milla tells her special Jesus story and hands out candy canes with dollar bills. Later the old people talk while the kids play hide-n-seek out in the yard and the boat house.”

Denny stole a look toward Kelly. Her eyes sparkled in the sunlight, making the brown glow like pieces of amber. When she smiled at Chelsea, the corners squinted just enough to allow tiny lines to form. She seemed amused by the theatrics of his drama-queen daughter.

“It’s not quite like that.” He laughed. “But she’s not too far off.”

“Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

For the first time in five years, a spark of anticipation for Christmas stirred in his heart. Maybe the pain of past Christmases would begin to heal.


Christmas in the Bayou. That's quite a change for a girl from Denver, but Kelly loves getting a taste of a Cajun Christmas, of both the flavors and the family traditions. With this being the first Christmas since her father passed away, it's obviously a very emotional season for her but she's determined to make the best of it.

Denny certainly wasn't looking for a relationship. His plate is pretty full with his daughter, his company, and his mother and grandmother. But love doesn't always come along when we're looking for it, and the way he feels about Kelly, right from the start, is surely a case of love at first sight.

Kelly and Denny are wonderful together, and Chelsea is just a sweetheart to add to the mix.

Wonderful story!

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Angel Song

Welcome Mary! I've gotta tell you, I fell in love with the sweet angel on your cover the minute I saw her! And what a wonderful story!

Waitressing has got to be one of the toughest jobs around. Tough on the feet and back as well as needing the patience of a saint with people when they aren't very nice. I know I tried my hand at it years ago - I lasted a whole three weeks! My thanks to every kind waitress out there. You really are appreciated.

Take a peek at this story, you might see a little of yourself in it!


Down on her luck, college-educated art teacher Quinn Sanders is a single mom who's returned to Landers Hollow to raise her five-year-old daughter, Linsey. While working at the local diner, Quinn is befriended by Jason Graves. She has no idea Jason's the youth director of Landers Hollow Community Church until he asks her to lend a hand with the children's Christmas pageant.

Jason is dealing with issues of his own--a painful divorce following a doctor's confirmation that he'll never be able to father a child. Jason longs for a family of his own, but, rejected and disheartened, fears it may never come to pass.

Jason and Quinn are both searching for a Christmas miracle. What they find is sweeter than an angel's song.


Her feet screamed, her lower back wailed, and she felt the kink in her neck creeping up to invade her brain. It was barely noon, and already she’d put in half-a-dozen non-stop hours. The diner’s door flew open, ushering in a frigid gust of wind along with a trio of women carting shopping bags.

Black Friday. Ugh and double ugh! Didn’t all these people have anything better to do than rush through crowded stores and throw their money at overworked cashiers?

But then Quinn felt the heaviness that filled the pockets of her grease-splattered apron…cash tips—enough to replace the sedan’s tires and pay off the rest of Linsey’s doctor bill, with perhaps a bit left for a special treat for Linsey. She thought of the Christmas list she’d helped her daughter write just last night. There were only a few things Linsey wanted, but even those were more than Quinn could afford on her meager salary and tips from the diner.

If only she hadn’t deviated from Mama Cantori’s teachings during college. If only she’d stayed closer to home and been a bit less foolish.

If only…

Coins jangled in Quinn’s pockets, drawing her back to the crowded diner. Maybe the day wasn’t such a waste after all. A bell in the order window chimed, signaling another round of meals ready for pick-up. She nodded to Gus, the rotund owner and head cook, and held up a finger to let him know she was on her way. He offered his signature wink, coupled with a gap-toothed smile, in reply.

She delivered the platters in her hands and filled half-a-dozen coffee mugs as she made her way back to the service counter, thanking God along the way for Gus’s generosity. The kindly man had offered her a job when she needed it most.

“Busy day, huh?” Gus spoke in a thick, southern accent distinctive of someone who’d spent his entire life in the Appalachian area. He’d run the diner for nearly a decade, and could have retired as head cook years ago, but he loved keeping his hands busy. So he still manned the grill several times a week. Now, he smiled as he took the order receipt Quinn offered and clipped it along the wall above the serving line.

“Crazy busy.” Quinn grabbed the tray of meals and a carafe of decaf coffee. “And some people seriously lack the Christmas spirit.”

“Oh, don’t let Joe Seifert get the best of you. His bark is worse than his bite.”

“If you say so.” Quinn nodded and flashed Gus a weary smile before doubling back to fill the cantankerous old gentleman’s mug.

She leaned into the booth, careful not to splatter coffee on the table as it splashed into the ceramic mug. “Can I get you anything else, sir?”

“No, but I think Jason’s trying to get your attention.”

“Jason?” Quinn turned toward the windows, where snow had indeed begun to fall in fat, sloppy flakes that blanketed the parking lot. A guy, tucked into the last booth in the corner, motioned with a single finger raised into the air. He offered a slight grin as if apologizing for interrupting her rhythm, and slipped from his jacket, setting it on the seat beside him. She tried not to notice the way his navy polo shirt hugged a terrain of muscles across the wide breadth of his shoulders. He sported disheveled dark hair, just long enough to make him look a bit dangerous, and eyes the color of blue topaz.

“Oh, I don’t know how I missed him.” Quinn padded in his direction, her tennis shoes squeaking across the polished tile. As she approached his booth, she grimaced. “I’m so sorry—”

“Don’t be.” He brushed her off with a wave of his hand. “I see you’re packed to the proverbial gills in here. Just coffee, please. Make it strong and black.”

“Decaf OK?”

“For this round, if that’s all you’ve got. But I’d be beyond appreciative if the next round is fully loaded.”

“Sure.” She splashed a hit of coffee into his cup. For some reason her hands trembled as his eyes studied her, and her pulse raced like she was the one downing gallons of caffeine. She chastised herself as she bumped the creamer, splattering the table. She sopped up the mess as she distracted him with small talk. “Been shopping?”

“No.” He lifted the cup to his lips, drew a long gulp, then tilted his head and offered her a sidelong glance. “I wouldn’t be caught dead out there with all those bargain-hungry vultures.”

“Sorry for assuming.” Quinn’s mouth curled into a slight smile at his offhanded remark. Until now, she’d felt as though she was the only one who avoided the annual sale-hungry mobs. “You just look…”

“What?” He leaned back in the booth, his gaze slipping over her as he waited for her to finish.

“I mean, you seem a bit tired and…frazzled.”

“That so?” He scratched a spatter of stubble across the length of his jaw. His fingers, Quinn noticed, were long and strong. “So, now the coffee comes with a therapy session?”

“No.” Quinn backpedaled, stumbling over a chair. The coffee carafe bobbled in her hand, and she was glad she had a tight grip on the handle or the guy—Jason—may have been gifted with a scalding coffee shower. The song on the radio segued into a festive Christmas tune as she stuttered, “I’ll, um…refill your cup. Would you like anything else?”

“Nothing I can find in here.” He drew another gulp of coffee, his gaze drifting to the snow that began to engulf the parking lot and the two-lane road beyond. “So, no, thank you.”


Quinn is a real sweetheart with the patience of a saint, but carrying a heavy burden, both on her shoulders and in her heart. But her daughter, Linsay, is the shining star in her life, her little angel. And then there's Mama Cantori, quite a character, too - and a true blessing in their lives. We all could use a Mama Cantori to share her wisdom.

Then there's Jason, a wounded soul with a huge heart...and he's a man on a mission - to get Quinn to help with the Christmas Pageant sets.

What a wonderful story this is as you watch their lives intertwine with God's guiding hand. Beautiful!

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Leap of Faith - Tanya Stowe

Welcome back, Tanya! I was so tickled when I heard you had one of the Heart's Haven stories coming out! I love this series! What a great place to live! And the characters just come alive in these stories. They're wonderful!

So here's the next couple from Heart's Haven. Hope you love 'em as much as I do!


Zack Manning is a computer software genius and he’s just been offered a six-figure position in Manhattan. But for some reason, Zack can’t bring himself to accept the offer. Perhaps it has something to do with his free-spirited neighbor, Zoe Wyndham. Zack thinks Zoe’s pretty, but she’s far too kooky for him. Still, he takes a second look when she arrives at his front door with a message about his job.

Zoe’s been attracted to Zack for a while, but he’s not her type. He's business-minded, serious, successful--certainly not the type to go into the mission field, and that's her plan. She would just be a kink in his well-ordered life. So when Zack finally looks her way, Zoe doesn’t expect much, but he's constantly on her mind.

Then there's his recent change of heart where she's concerned. Zoe’s convinced the resident angels at Heart’s Haven have something to do with it, and while she doesn't understand, she may just have to take a leap of faith.


Bright, blue skies. A warm, January sun. Temperature hovering at about sixty-two. Perfect weather. Just right for the Heart’s Haven get-together and the exact reason Zoe Wyndham had decided to stay in Angel Falls after she completed her last stained glass repair job. The small town on the edge of the Angelina Forest offered great year-round weather, lots of trees, green plants, and wonderful people.

Of course, the angels had something to do with it, too.

Zoe smiled as she filled her plate with fresh fruit and salad. The Lord’s heavenly guardians surrounded this country. Zoe could sense them and feel their presence. She didn’t know what made this particular area so special, why so many remained in this location. But she was certain years ago, when the first pioneers came, they saw the angels, too. That’s why they named the nearby forest Angelina.

Not many people understood Zoe’s affinity and affection for angels. In fact, there weren’t many people she even discussed it with. But Mr. Hart, her landlord, understood. In fact, Zoe believed he could see the angels. He wouldn’t admit it out loud but he knew things…even more things than Zoe. Sometimes he’d cock his head a certain way, as if listening to someone not there. Other times he’d look at an empty spot and smile and nod, agreeing with some unseen presence. Like right now.

He nodded to the air beside him then fixed his piercing gaze on Zoe. He made her feel as if he knew everything about her and could see right through to her soul. Flustered, she looked away.


This story is great! I just love Zoe - and Zack! Watching God at work in the lives of these two, with the helpful nudging of Mr. Hart and his angel friends, is a true glory to behold - and lots of fun, too.

Zoe is wonderful. Her heart is so in tune with trying to follow the Lord's leading the best she can, that she often doesn't think before speaking or acting...leaving observers a bit confused in her wake. But Zoe knows that where He leads, she has to follow. And I can't forget her stained glass work - as Zack describes it, like "walking into a kaleidoscope." Ooh, I can just picture that!

Zack's confusion about his future is where we see God truly at work. And Zoe's leading him back to God's love is beautiful.

What a great story!

About the author:

Tanya has been married to her high school sweetheart for thirty-seven years which is a romance story in itself. They live in California on the edge of the Mojave Desert where they help their four children raise their seventeen grandchildren. She says they're building a dynasty of Christian soldiers and improving the world, one baby at a time!

Visit Tanya at and

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Forever

Welcome back, Robin! Oh, I just love Christmas stories, and this one is so very sweet!


Jason hasn't seen Cami in three years. Now she's back, with the son he'd wanted to claim as his own. Can he believe her newly found faith or will she desert him, and God, again?


Jason Becker planted himself in front of his parents’ front window, arms crossed and feet spread wide. A drumming began behind his eyes, and he hoped his posture conveyed his irritation.

The source of it was coming up the front walk.

Camilla Marie Jones looked just like she had three years ago, the last time he’d seen her, with hips swaying under her long skirts as she walked. She’d always preferred skirts, even in the snow, and today was no exception. Through the flurried white haze, he could see her old purple car. Not the car itself, just the burst of color he’d always associated with her.

Cami looked up as she neared the porch, caught sight of him and slowed her pace. He didn’t think the cold was the only thing putting color on her cheeks.

Their gazes locked for a few seconds, until Jason looked away. Long, dark brown hair still fell halfway down her back. Her waist was still trim, though she had a child. For all he knew she could have more than one by now. She’d probably left him and gone straight back to Robbie’s father.

She held a round, covered dish in her gloved hands. Probably something his mother had told her to bring. Probably something special.

Jason closed his eyes for a brief moment and when he opened them, Cami was gone.

Cold air blasted his neck as his sister Joni answered the door, the chill settling like a blanket in the room. Or maybe it was the company causing the chill.

“Come in!” Joni said, behind him. “And let me take that. Umm, can’t wait to see what you made. Toss your coat on the old recliner. Mom likes it better when she can’t see the ragged old thing. Where’s Robbie?”

Jason refused to look. To listen. Instead, he studied the pattern of snowflakes falling in the front yard, keeping his back to Joni and Cami. That ragged old chair had been his father’s, and Jason knew his mother would never part with it.

Cami cleared her throat. “He went to his aunt and uncle’s for the weekend. I met Colt halfway, in Pennsylvania, and he took Robbie on to the inn. They won’t get to see Robbie for Christmas this year, and I figured he ought to spend some time with them now.” The heavy door closed, and Joni cleared her throat.

“Say hi to my big dumb brother while I put your dish in the kitchen. That’s his backside hovering over there by the window. Cup of coffee? Just cream, right?”


I just love second chance romances, and team that up with a Christmas story, what a winner. This is a beautiful story of two people struggling to move forward according to God's will. Cami has to swallow her pride and just hope that Jason can forgive her.

I loved it! The emotion just oozes through the pages on this one!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finding Home

Welcome back, Marianne! What a lovely scene, makes me want to be there! (I'm actually hoping to visit London sometime in the not too distant future.) And such a warm story! I thoroughly enjoyed it!


A Christmas voyage to London…

Six months ago, Alexa Gordon’s engagement transformed from happiness to betrayal. Christmas is on the way. The last thing she wants to do is spend the holiday in mourning for being so foolish with her emotions. A spontaneous, soul-reviving trip to London is just what she needs.

Becomes a mission of the heart…

Peter Colby, a treasured friend from Alexa’s study abroad term in England years ago, welcomes her back to the UK with open arms. He knows she’s still reeling, but he’s determined to show her a proper, fulfilling love that will keep her at his side forever.

And God’s plan unfolds.

But they live half the world apart, and Alexa is shattered by past pain. Can Peter help her find the courage she longs for? Can he convince Alexa that finding home isn’t just about logistics, it’s about the power of the heart?


The dance was as familiar as a Southern California sunrise. Stove to sink. Sink to refrigerator. Refrigerator to pantry. Alexa Gordon gathered supplies and stirred pots, flowing into her pastry baking exercise with effortless precision.

But a decided lack of heart.

She tightened her grip on the hot pad she held, going taut. Six months have passed, she chided herself. Something’s got to give.

A glossy, hardcover book, featuring pastry recipes, rested open atop the spacious granite counter where she worked. Looking at it caused tears to build, stinging against the corners of her eyes, threatening to spill over. The book came straight from the hallowed halls of the world-famous food hall at Harrods—a favorite haunt when she had visited London in less heart-complicated times.

Following a few rapid, vision-clearing blinks, Alexa squared her shoulders. Near the book, a large glass bowl stood at the ready, filled with flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. On a nearby cutting board, she sliced cold butter into small pieces and dumped it into the bowl. Taking out her mood on the mix, she worked the combination until it was coarse and fell through her oil slickened fingertips in small crumbles.

Would this wretched cloud of sadness ever dissipate?

Her attention returned to the book once more. There was an inscription inside the front cover which she knew by memory—right down to the dips and curves of the handwriting:

Lexie ~ Don’t ever let sweetness dissolve from your life. Love, Peter (Vannie, too, of course, but me most)

Her gaze came to rest on a professionally mounted, sparkling night shot of London’s famed Tower Bridge. A necklace of lights framed the bridge, and the illumination of the surrounding architecture transformed the night sky and water into a perfect, mirrored reflection upon the placid waters of the river Thames. The photograph captured just one of a million views her heart held of that magical city—and Peter. Vanessa, too, of course, but Peter most.

The photo rested within the metal curlicues of a small display easel. The easel was a find from Covent Garden, a treasure she had snapped up after spying it on the shelves of a small, bustling stall she discovered one spring afternoon while strolling Jubilee Market with Peter.

Blowing out a breath, she forced herself from the memory of curving, cobbled streets, rose-colored sunsets, and the massive dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. She had been so happy then, so eager and idealistic.

Amazing what nearly three years of life and love had done to shatter that point of view.

Her throat constricted. In answer to that reaction, she diverted her attention. Whisking together some cream, an egg, and a dash of vanilla, Alexa continued her exercise in scone making, already anticipating the aromas and flavors to come.

The batter firmed up nicely. Her heart? Not so much.

She set aside the bowl and wiped her hands on the front of her apron. When had her life taken this sad and soul-draining turn?

She knew the answer and looked it square in the face.

Derrick. Derrick Maddox—code name Derrick the Destroyer.


What a wonderful trip this is as we travel with Alexa to London...and into Peter's waiting arms. This story is so warm with the love of her friends it's hard to imagine why Alexa would want to be anywhere else. And Peter is amazing, not to mention his whirlwind sister, Lexie. You can feel the love wrap around you as you read this story.


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Monday, December 10, 2012

Ransomed Hope

Welcome, Deborah! Haven't seen you here in quite some time! But thank you so much for stopping by with your Christmas story! What a heartbreaker this one is. I'll be the first to admit I needed a few tissues through this one! And I love a good story that can do that to me!


Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”

Seventeen years ago, Ashley Turner lost her father as well as Manuel Vega, the man she loved. Since then, she’s been trying to make the best of a bad situation. Now a widow, burdened with the alcoholic brother who bankrupted the family ranch, and days from foreclosure, she’s beyond hoping for her situation to improve. Ashley knows God allows adversity for a reason, but she can’t begin to comprehend the purpose in her troubles.

“…But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

When Manuel makes good on his promise to return after having been harshly turned out so many years ago, Ashley dares to hope that all is not lost. His intention is not to rescue her, however, but to pursue revenge for past wrongs. He soon discovers that his hardened heart is no match for her renewed hope.


Ashley opened her eyes as the gravel-crunching sound of an approaching truck silenced the cooing doves. She fixed her gaze on the deserted limestone house in the distance—her favorite place. The house her great, great grandfather had built a hundred and thirty some odd years ago, still stood nestled among sprawling live oaks that were even older than the house. Two stone chimneys buttressed either end, while a rusted tin roof covered the rest. It was a testament to the pioneers in her lineage who made their way west with the whole wide world in front of them.

She had always hoped her father would give the old place to her. Instead, he’d given the limestone house, along with the original hundred acres of the Ransom Oaks Ranch, to Manuel. It was just as well. Someday they’d fix up the place together and make it their home.

The truck chewing up the road slowed to a stop, and Manuel stepped out and came to stand beside her, his warmth drawing her into the comfort of his arms like a magnet.

“You OK?”

She nodded and burrowed into his embrace, grief diminishing slightly. “Better than yesterday. Mr. Cole said something that helped a little.”

“What did he say?” The vibration of his quiet voice deep in his chest was a comfort.

“He said that nothing would ever be the same again.” She turned her head so she was looking at the house in the distance. “Like after Mama died. Life can never go back to the way it was before. But he said we would work through the grief and find a new normal.”

She closed her eyes and let the idea settle into her heart, wondering what life might look like this time next year. She peered again at the old house. Maybe they would be married by then, and that would be their home. Daddy had wanted them to wait until she was twenty. But with him gone, what would be the point?

Manuel’s chest swelled with a deep breath of the crisp air. “I have to go.”


“Ashley.” The weight of his tone made her look up at him. “I’m leaving.”

She took a step back, cold rushing between them and chilling her in a way that nearly stole her breath. “What?”

“Brandon is sending me away.”

“Brandon can’t send you away.”

“He can. He did. And I’m leaving.”

Her mind reeled as with a blow. He couldn’t leave. Where would he go? What about all their plans? What would she do without him? “When?” The word came out on a whisper as her voice failed.

“Now. My truck is packed, and I’m headed out.”

“Manuel, no. You can’t. We need you. I need you. Come back to the house with me and we’ll sort this out. We’ll talk to Mr. Cole. There has to be something—”

His hopeless, anxious expression silenced her. He shook his head and looked away, teeth bearing down on his bottom lip as he swallowed hard.

She reached out and pulled him close again. “You could stay there.” She turned to the house in the distance. “That place is yours.”

He cleared his throat. “That place over there?” A gentle smile emerged. “With the rusted out roof? And the skunks under the porch? You want me to live there?”

“We can fix it.”

He shook his head. “Ash, I don’t have a job. And Brandon isn’t going to give me an allowance to live on. And he’s not gonna let me work or live here anymore, either.”

“You can get a job in town, and I’ll help you with the house…” She let her voice trail off. Making that house livable would take far more money than any job in town would offer. But the thought of him leaving frightened her in a way she’d never experienced. What if he never returned? Something in her chest squeezed tight at the thought. “Manuel, please don’t go.”

“It’s not up to me.” He raised a hand and brushed a lock of hair away from her face. “I’m going into town tonight. I have a little saved up. I’ll stay there for a while, regroup. Make a little money. Then I’ll be back.”


He shook his head. “I don’t know. Soon.” He kissed her softly. “But I’ll be back. OK? I’ll be back.”


Just how long do you cling to well meant promises - even from the ones you love? This story of love and pride plucks strongly at the heartstrings! I loved it even as it tore at my heart.

Well done!

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Present

Tis the welcome new friends! Welcome, Toni, I'm so glad you could join us with your wonderful story! The scene reminds me of a certain neighborhood at Christmas time. Beautiful!


What does a girl do with a Christmas present that’s too good to be true?

This year’s Christmas is worse than ever. Candice Cane-Bryant (don’t call her Candy Cane) is stressed by her job, exhausted in her role as surrogate parent to her three younger siblings, and angry with her carefree adult sister, Jane. And all of that has her feeling guilty for not appreciating God’s gift of keeping her family together.

When Jane brings home another new guy, one more weight is added to Candice’s oversized burden. She’s lonely and wants a man to love. Not just any man—she’s in love with Dean Harlowe, Jane’s boyfriend, and no matter what she does, her feelings for him won’t go away. But this year, Jane has a present for her sister, and when Candice unwraps this one, Christmas will never be the same.


Candice shoved the car into park, turned off the engine, and rested her face against her hands. When she finally raised her head, she took a long look at the house. Outlined in sparkling white lights, it glowed against the twilight sky—such a cold blue, like the color itself should snap with the chill.

Anyone else would call the homemade wreath on the cranberry door and the planters stuffed with Cedar and red-berried Mountain Ash branches picturesque. Anyone else was not her. Anyone else didn’t recognize it as a prettily disguised jail.

With that cheerful thought, Candice crunched and cracked her way across the frozen driveway to the back door.

She walked into chaos. Jackets and footwear, enough to shod an army, lay everywhere. She added her purse to the smallest mountain, but hung up her red jacket. On a hanger. Imagine. Perhaps she should do a how-to-put-away-clothes tutorial for her cleaning-challenged siblings.

“I’m home,” she called in almost a whisper, but the volume didn’t matter. The whole place seemed primed for her return. The blare was instant and demanding.

“Did you get my H4 pencil? If I don’t get one, my drafting teacher is going to fail my butt.”Matthew. She practically didn’t bother to correct his language anymore—or rather, she tried to focus on the mountains, not the molehills. “Butt” was pretty tame. She tossed him a package and nodded when he—miracle of miracles—said thanks.

“What’s for dinner? I’ve got to be at work in fifteen minutes.”


“You could’ve made yourself something to eat.”

“There is nothing to eat!”

“There are eggs, cheese.”

Michael made a face that clearly said she was trying to starve him. “I’ll eat at work. Can I get a ride?”



She groaned. “Where’s Jane?”

“I don’t know.”

“OK. Give me five minutes and—”

“I’m going to be late!”

“Two then, two—I have to pee.”

“I’ll be in the car.” The door slammed behind Michael, and she ran to the bathroom, relieved in more ways than one to find it empty. She had him dropped off at the gym in record time and was home again. Take two.

“Candy!” The word was an explosion rather than a nickname, but it made her smile. A tiny stream of energy dripped through her as her little sister Kaylie flying-tackle hugged her.

“Hiya, babycakes,” she said. “How was your day?”

“Great!” The word came out sounding like grrrr-eight and a little bit more energy flowed through Candice. Her twin brothers, Michael and Matthew, were so busy it was draining. But Kaylie? At ten years old, she was pure sparkly fun—at least for now. Puberty would hit inevitably though.

“Want to help me make dinner?”

“Yes!” Yeh-ess. Kaylie pretended to think. “Can we have pierogies and brussels sprouts?”

“Brussels sprouts, again?” Candice teased.

“Yes, again. I love those baby cabbage things!”

Amazingly, the kitchen wasn’t a complete toxic waste site. Candice gave the counter a wipe and then pulled butter and bacon from the fridge.

“OK, squirt, go get the veggies and a bag of pierogies.”

Once their dinner was simmering, Candice ducked upstairs and slid into velour sleep pants and a matching hoodie. Her siblings called it her “cat suit” and other far less flattering things, but Candice didn’t care. Finally, she pulled her hair into a loose ponytail.

Kaylie had set the table and even poured milk for everyone.

Candice smiled. “Dinner’s ready. Come and get it!” She turned to grab the sour cream and ran straight into someone’s hard chest. Someone male. Someone entirely unfamiliar. He smelled freakishly good, like spices and sunshine—and then she looked up. Into the face of what was possibly the best looking man she’d ever seen. Tousled dark hair, a day or two of rough stubble, and amused hazel eyes in a face with one of those deep-tanned and healthy-looking skin types.

Just great—exactly what she needed right now. Another one of Jane’s imbecilic treats-of-the-week.

She pushed past the man without a word, ignoring the little voice inside that muttered she was being rude. Of course she was being impolite; she was furious. Sometimes Jane really wasn’t the role model Candice wanted for Kaylie.

“Jane!” she hollered. No answer.

“She’s home. I don’t know why she isn’t responding,” the man said—oh so helpfully—and followed her into the minuscule kitchen. Even better. Now the big lummox would be in her way while she tried to pull food off the burners.

“I’m Dean. Dean Harlowe,” he said. “Can I help you with anything?”

“No, Dean Harlowe, you can’t.” She drained the pot filled with brussels sprouts then banged it onto the burner and clanked its lid back in place.

He took a step back and his friendly, amused expression turned to something closer to concern. “Is everything OK?”

“No, I mean, yes. Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.” Arrrrggghhh! Just because Jane was an idiot, Candice shouldn’t stoop to rudeness. It wasn’t the guy’s fault that Jane drove her nuts. “I…here, if you really don’t mind helping, you can take these out.”

She passed him a ceramic bowl of steaming pierogies smothered in chunks of bacon and fried onions. Then she thought of her velour pants and the size of her derriere. Suddenly the comfort food seemed like a neon sign: This is the sister who’s given up on herself. This is the sister who’s not like the other.

Of course the latter wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. So there. Candice plucked a pierogi from the bowl and bit into it.

“It smells wonderful.” Dean said. “I’m starved.”

An embarrassing bit of butter dribbled down Candice’s chin. She moved to grab a napkin to keep herself from snapping, “She invited you for dinner, too, did she?”

Finally, the family sat at the table and linked hands. Candice glanced around at her siblings—her family, plus Dean—and took a deep breath. In the end it came down to this: the work and stress involved with being a social worker, the evenings of running around and dinner prep, dishes, homework, and bath and story time for Kaylie, were worth it every time they gathered at the table and ate together as a family.

“Do you want to pray, Matt?”

There was a second of hesitation, then, “Sure. Lord, thank you for this food and for all the good things in our lives. Please help it to snow again soon.”

It wasn’t the deepest, most thoughtful prayer in the world, but Candice figured God probably appreciated Matt’s sincerity.

A few minutes of quiet passed as plates were filled and everybody took their first hungry mouthfuls. Eventually conversation started again, including the one Candice had been dreading, Jane’s simpering introduction of Dean. Apparently he was a nurse at the hospital where Jane worked. Well, good for him. The upper-body strength was probably helpful in the profession.

“Dean’s great, but we’re not dating,” Jane crooned more than once. Candice refrained from saying that she wasn’t an idiot and neither were their younger siblings. Jane could call her relationships whatever she wanted. It didn’t change anything.


I can just imagine the insanity in this house, being torn in every which direction. And just when you start to give up hope, the love that ties them all together shines through.

What a wonderful story of the importance of the love of family - and the perfect season to let this message shine!

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Friday, December 7, 2012

As You Are at Christmas

Hi Davalynn! Welcome back! Ooh, and with another Christmas story to join the lineup...sweet!


Angela Murphy’s plans for a cozy Colorado Christmas shatter when she finds her fellow-teacher boyfriend entangled with another woman. But she goes home anyway—to her grandmother Mollie’s Berthoud Boarding House where she’s forced into tasks with Mollie’s handsome new boarder, Matt Dawson.

While temporarily rooming at the boarding house until his new furnace arrives, Matt sees through Mollie’s manipulations to pair him with her granddaughter, but he can’t complain about spending time with the beautiful gray-eyed school teacher and the mangy stray they pick up on their way home from cutting a Christmas tree. In the company of both a beauty and a beast, Matt understands more clearly the words of a long-forgotten youth leader.

Will those words draw him back to a long-forgotten God? And will Angela find that home lies not in the Victorian house of her childhood, but in the arms of the man she’s grown to love?


“Angie, dear.” Mollie padded into the kitchen and stopped at the stove to check on supper. She lifted the cast-iron lid from her stew pot, peeked inside at the simmering Swiss steak and then looked at Angela. “You about finished with those rascals?”

“I’m on the last one now.”

Mollie walked over and swept the onion skins and end pieces into her apron and peered into Angela’s face. “He’s not worth those tears.”

Angela glanced at the diminutive woman and forced a shaky smile. “You’re right. He’s really not. But it still hurts.” How did Mollie always know if a tear was real?

“Well, there’s plenty of fish in the sea—or deer on the mountain—as my Jim used to say.” She emptied her apron into the wastebasket by the back door. “There are also several nice-looking young men at the church, I’ve noticed. You might meet someone there on Sunday.”

Angela’s heart squeezed at the thought of her adoptive grandmother’s constant husband-hunt. She loved the woman dearly, the woman who had rescued her from Social Services, and raised her as her own grandchild. Mollie and Jim were the only family Angela had ever known.

“I never really cared for ol’ what’s-his-name anyway,” Mollie said. She opened a lower cupboard door and pulled out another pot. “A little too wrapped up in himself, if you ask me.”

Like a bad movie stuck on replay, Angela’s memory flashed the image of what Aaron had really been wrapped up in. She dropped the knife in the sink and washed her hands under hot water. “You don’t know how right you are, Mollie. Better to find out now than later, I guess.”

Mollie patted Angela’s back as she passed by on her way to the pantry. “Speaking of better”—the woman said from inside a closet off the kitchen—”there will be one more for supper this evening.”

Here we go already.

Mollie rummaged around, sliding cans out and in as if looking for some vital, hidden ingredient. “Remember that nice man down the road I told you about who helped me with my sink drain?”

Angela knew exactly what Mollie was doing. She was hiding. This was her standard way of broaching a touchy subject—casually, conversationally, from the security of the pantry shelves.

“He’s a boarder now and has the room at the end of the hall upstairs.”

No wonder Mollie was hiding.

“He bought the old Oxford place, if you remember. Fixing it up, he says.” Mollie stepped out of the tight little room with a slight flush, as if she’d bent over and all the blood rushed to her mischievous face. “His furnace is out and he needed a place to stay until he can replace it. Naturally, I offered him an upstairs room.”


“Besides, no one should be alone for Christmas, don’t you agree?”

How could she not agree with this lovable, hopelessly romantic woman? As Victorian as the house she occupied, Mollie had always considered a well-planned romance a thing of beauty, and frequently said so.

“He’s an architect, dear. And a wonderful handyman. He’s helped me with quite a few repairs.” She rifled through a large cutlery drawer for a manual can opener.

“Let me do that.” Angela took the tool from capable but aging hands and set the metal tooth against the rim of the green bean can. “I know what I’m getting you for Christmas.”

Mollie looked up with the delighted grin of a child. “What, dear?”

“An electric can opener. This is ridiculous.”


Ah, grandmothers, aren't they just the sweetest...until they start meddling...well, even then. What a sweet story this is as Mollie plays matchmaker at every chance she gets...until she doesn't need to anymore...

You'll love Angela and her shyness, and Matt who is finally learning what the love of a family can really be like...and let's not forget Roady! Nope, I'm not gonna tell you. Pick up a copy. It's a great story!

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dr. Noah and the Sugar Plum Fairy

Welcome, Carla! What a cute book!!! I love the cover and the story is sweet to match!

And if you're anything like me, you took one look at it and expect to be entertained, perhaps tickled...and I was, tickled that is.

Here, take a peek:


College senior and not-so-ex-ballerina Jane Trumbull is home for Christmas break. She welcomes the joyful chaos of a happy family holiday – then the rollercoaster of emotions begins.

Veterinarian Dr. Noah Barron hopes his return to Texas and his new clinic will help him forget about his dark days in California. But he can’t outrun unresolved issues and doesn’t know how lonely he really is – until he meets slightly clumsy Un-Plain Jane.

Can Jane and Noah learn to share who they really are and what they really want? And can they allow God to send joy after sorrow, hope for hidden dreams, and healing for past wounds?


Jane Trumbull hit the northbound frontage road just outside of Austin, Texas and prayed she’d spot a neon sign for the after-hours animal emergency clinic. Strip malls and office buildings had sprung up everywhere in the bustling suburb while she’d been away at college. She no longer knew exactly where everything was.

“Hang in there, Monsieur Snowball. Do not, I repeat, do not go toward the light.”

She rolled through a stop sign. The sickly feline let out a deep but weak mewl as if to disapprove.

She reached out to steady his carrier. “Sh... Don’t worry about it. It’s two AM and there’s no one around.” She poked her finger through a square in the metal cage door. The cat’s pink nose and breath were hot against her skin. “You’re burning up. We’re almost there.”

Her gaze darted from road to cat to signage until the beacon of hope that flashed “animal” and “emergency” came into view. She sped across the nearly vacant parking lot towards the only lit business in the cluster of shops and offices.

She burst through the glass double doors and headed for the receptionist.

“Jane? Is that you?”

“Mrs. Salmons?” Jane placed the carrier on the counter and slung her silver metallic hobo bag beside it. “Oh, Mrs. Salmons, is Dr. Salmons here too? Because that would be a blessing straight from Heaven if Monsieur Snowball could see his own doctor.”

“Oh no, honey, he’s not here. I’m just helping out the new guy. His tech had a family emergency.”

Jane’s heart fluttered and sank.

“Don’t worry. Dr. Barron is very good.”

“OK, well, Snowball has been kinda listless today and wouldn’t eat much. His face is a little swollen, and I think he has a fever. I couldn’t get any water in him and that worried me.”

Mrs. Salmons pushed a clipboard toward Jane and plucked the carrier off the counter. “Sign this consent form and have a seat. I’ll pull up Snowball’s records, and Dr. Barron will take a look.”

Jane could barely focus on the page as she checked the box for do whatever necessary and scribbled her signature. “Wait. Can’t I come with him?”

The middle-aged woman nodded toward the coffee pot. “Grab a cup and give us a minute. We’ll come and get you in a bit.” She pulled the carrier to her nose and dissolved into cooing baby-slash-animal talk. “Isn’t that right, Monsieur Snowball? We’re gonna have a little triage time together.” Her voice trailed off as she disappeared through the private clinic door.

Jane ignored the coffee pot and dropped into a plastic seat in the corner. The place was empty except for her. She shed her wool, US Navy pea coat and killed about twenty minutes arranging and rearranging her red Christmas scarf in her mass of long, pale blonde hair.

Nearing an hour, no amount of mind-numbing magazine rifling could take her thoughts far from her cat. She stared a while at the blank space where a television used to be, then resorted to stacking the scattered brochures strewn about the two scratched up tables on either end of a row of connected chairs. There were seven copies of Does Your Cat Have Allergies? and only two of Does Your Dog Have Worms? Somehow, she felt that didn’t bode well for the dogs of Austin. There was a reason people took those brochures.

She checked her phone repeatedly, but didn’t really expect to hear from anyone in the middle of the night. Finally, she pulled her New Testament from the pocket in her bag and started thumbing through Galatians and other books written by Paul. Something about that brave apostle and his struggles always made her feel stronger, more determined, and better able to face difficult situations. So amidst the glow of a loosely hung strand of Christmas twinkle lights, she leaned her head against the cool glass front window and prayed. Lord, please take care of Snowball. I don’t know what I’ll do if he dies.


She jumped straight up. “Yes?”

Mrs. Salmons’s serene smile was classically non-committal. There was no way to read good news or bad. “C’mon back.”

“How is he?”

There was that poker-face smile again. “Dr. Barron will fill you in. There’s no one else here, so he said you could come back to the treatment room.”

Jane entered the area lined with built-in cages and filled with sterile looking stainless steel tables and counters covered with supplies. She rushed to Snowball’s cage and grabbed the door with both hands in hopes that some part of her fingers would be able to stroke his short, winter white fur.

“How ya doin’, buddy? I was so worried.”

The cat squinted and offered a half-hearted stretch before he closed his eyes and yawned. He lay nestled among a blue bath towel and a piece of flannel bed sheet with cartoon characters all over it. Somewhere stuck in his body was a tube, but she couldn’t see where. She only knew about it because of the I.V. bag hanging to the side and away from the front of his little cat prison.

“That’s a beautiful cat.”

The masculine voice was attached to a tall lean man who came through the door behind her. He gave his hands one final pat with a wad of paper towels and tossed them away.

Was this Dr. Barron? She’d been expecting someone short and fluffy like Dr. Salmons. Instead, she saw shaggy-haired surfer guy with brown leather hiking boots and a red hibiscus-covered Hawaiian shirt peeking out from his open lab coat.

Kinda yummy in an off-beat, messy way.

“Thank you.” She flashed him her best up-all-night-and-worried smile. “You don’t see too many cats that are so completely white. Well, I guess you do because you’re a vet and all, but normal people might not. Not that you’re not normal.” She stammered to a stop and took a breath. “Anyway. How is he?”


I love it! Mr. Snowball! Can't you just picture the ball of white fur? I think we've all known a cat like that, or at least seen one.

On to the main characters, she was expecting someone "short and fluffy". LOL Dr. Barron, Noah, is far from that! And Jane's clumsy, flightiness is just what he might have expected if he knew she had been the Sugar Plum Fairy.

And if that's not enough, then we have dear old Grandpa. What a hoot!

You'll just have to read it for yourself. I guarantee you're gonna love it!

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