Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Perfect Blend, Book One in The Tea Shop Series; Seeking His Love

The Perfect Blend, Book One in The Tea Shop Series

By Trish Perry

Harvest House Publishers

Steph Vandergrift left everything to elope with Middleburg attorney Rick Manfred, who then stood her up at the altar. Too embarrassed to return home, Steph hopes to earn enough to get by until she can decide what to do next. Tea Shop owner Milly Jewel hires her and appreciates the extra help at the tea shop.

Also appreciative of Steph is Kendall James, one of the kindest, most eligible bachelors in the area. But by the time Steph feels able to consider dating again, her run-away fiancé returns and tries to win her back. Steph is wary, but she and Rick always blended so well.

Christie Burnham, the frank-talking equestrian from whom Steph rents a room, and her frillier sister Liz become fast friends and confidantes to Steph. Between the two sisters, there isn't much any man is going to pull over on Middleburg's newest bachelorette and tea shop employee.

Chapter Three

Steph walked into the buttery-smelling kitchen more quietly than she first realized. As engrossed as an artist at a canvas, Milly didn't turn from her work to acknowledge her.
While Milly wielded her spatula to move pastries from a large cookie sheet to several three-tiered serving trays, she muttered to herself. It sounded as if she were giving herself instructions about what to do next. She didn't look frazzled, exactly, but she was obviously more pressed for time than she had let on with Steph.

"I thought so," Steph said, and Milly jumped so abruptly she flipped a pastry across the room.
"Oh, my stars!" She clapped her hand over her chest and laughed at herself. "You're very light on your feet, young lady!"

"Sorry, Milly. I meant to come help you, not make you throw food all over the kitchen." Steph set her dishes on a table and retrieved the biscuit from the corner where it landed.

Milly waved away the comment, already composed again. "Don't worry. It's part of the creative process. You can toss that in the sink with your dishes. The side with the disposal."

"Sure. Actually, I had something else in mind."

"Mmm? Something else?" Milly had already refocused on the little biscuits, heaping little scoops of strawberries onto each one.

Shortcake! They were mini individual strawberry shortcakes for the ladies out front. Wow, what a way to start your morning. Certainly better than getting left at the altar.

"Let me help you today, Milly."

It took Milly a moment to react, to look away from the shortcakes. But when she did, Steph saw genuine interest in her eyes.

"Help me?"

"Yes, to thank you for rescuing me from a full-blown meltdown out there in front of Rick's office. It looks as though you could use some help, and I've waited tables before."

"Well, aren't you lovely, Steph?"

Steph shrugged. "It's the least I can do. And it's not as if I have anywhere else to be. I don't want to go back to Maryland, not under these circumstances. And I don't want to go back to the inn and sit there alone. I'll probably spend the whole day and night crying if I do that."

"You're staying at the inn? Which one? The Fox and Hounds?"

"Yeah." She sighed. "Rick reserved it for a few nights. It was as close to a honeymoon as we were going to have for now."

She stopped short of her next comment: That empty hotel room was still as close to a honeymoon as she could expect. She studied her hands. They were cold, and the modest engagement ring Rick gave her felt loose enough to lose.

"I'd love to have your help today, Steph." Milly's voice was so gentle Steph thought she said something even more kind than she had.

They smiled at each other and both said the same thing at the same time. "Thanks."

Several hours later Steph glanced at her watch. The time had passed quickly, and before this moment she hadn't thought of Rick once. Milly and her tea shop were obviously God's answer to her brief prayer this morning. The distraction was a blessing.

But her feet were sore, thanks to her impractical heels. Waiting tables had been the furthest thing from her mind when she dressed this morning. As the last of the lunchtime customers walked out the door, she sank onto one of the chairs to rest for a moment.

The shop door opened, and in walked Mr. Distraction himself, the handsome blond from this morning. He was reading something in his hand as he entered, so he didn't immediately notice Steph. Like a flash she pictured what he would see when he looked up. She hadn't really repaired her appearance since this morning. Rather, she had rushed about, delivering trays of tea and food and doing dishes without a thought to her appearance. She hadn't even combed her hair. And because it was layered, she knew it could look pretty wild when she neglected it for too long.

She wiped under her eyes for the fiftieth time today, hoping to erase any mascara she might have cried off. Then she remembered doing that earlier and spreading raspberry preserves under one eye. Did she just do something similar? For hygienic reasons alone, she must have washed her hands and cheeks more times than an obsessive compulsive germaphobe since she saw this guy last.

His opinion about her appearance didn't matter, of course. Except…well, to be honest, it did. She got like this around stunning men, and she knew she'd act stupid if she didn't have a bit more confidence than she felt at the moment. He was striking enough when he looked down. She stood abruptly. She needed to make a quick dash to the bathroom to freshen up before he looked up at her with those dark eyes of his—

And that's just what he did. A smile of recognition lit his expression. "Weren't you here when I dropped by this morning?"

She panicked and blurted out her most recent thought. "I need to go to the bathroom."

His smile wavered for the briefest of moments.

Had she actually told him she—

His genuine smile came right back, all the way to his eyes. "And you've been waiting here for permission all this time?" He tsked and looked toward the kitchen, as if Milly were standing right there. "That Milly can be awfully proprietary about her facilities." He headed toward the kitchen and spoke over his shoulder just before he walked through the swinging door. "You hang in there. I'll put in a good word for you."

She heaved a huge sigh. "I need to go to the bathroom?" She tried to find a silver lining, other than the fact that the guy obviously had a good sense of humor. She had to settle for this: Things could only look up from here.

Copyright 2010.

The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry can be found at,,, and fine book stores everywhere.

* * *

October Love Inspired

By Carrie Turansky

When a student falsely accuses Rachel Clark of having an inappropriate relationship, she moves to Fairhaven, takes a new job, and tries hide her past; but those accusations eventually come to light, and she must face the repercussions of keeping them secret. With the help of handsome frame shop owner, Cam McKenna, she learns the value of honesty in relationships and the blessings of grace and forgiveness.

Chapter One

Rachel Clark stepped into the dark auditorium of the old Fairhaven School, and a shiver of

anticipation raced up her back. Cool air ushered a dusty smell toward her, teasing her nose. With only the dim glow of the Exit signs to show her the path, she walked down the sloping aisle toward the stage.

The house lights came up. She blinked at the sudden brightness and took in the scene. Rows of padded folding seats in three sections filled the cavernous hall. Two carpeted aisles led to a large stage with a plush burgundy curtain.

Warmth and wonder tingled through her. "This is perfect." She turned and searched for Hannah Bodine.

The silver-haired curator of the local historical museum poked her head out from the sound booth at the back. Dressed in a flowing tropical-print blouse and coral Capri pants, she stepped into the aisle. "Do you like it?"

"Yes, it's exactly what we're looking for." Rachel hurried forward and mounted the steps. Waltzing to the middle of the stage, she scanned the auditorium. "Do you know how many seats there are?"

"Let's see." Hannah strolled forward, counting the rows of burgundy chairs. "Looks like almost four hundred."

Rachel smiled and nodded. "That's a hundred more than we have now." With a larger house they could increase their ticket sales and income, something she and her small staff desperately needed if they were going to hold on to their jobs.

"I think this would be a good home for your group," Hannah added. "Why don't I take you to meet Cameron McKenna, and you can make arrangements to speak to everyone at the co-op meeting tonight."

"That would be great." Rachel ran her hand along the velvet curtain as she crossed the stage, memories of past performances making her smile. She descended the wooden steps and met her friend down in front.

"Thanks, Hannah. This is really an answer to prayer. I was beginning to think we were going to be a homeless theater company." Rachel crossed her arms and rubbed away a chill at that thought.

"It works out well for all of us. The school district is raising our rent." Hannah sighed and shook her head as she led the way up the aisle. "You'd think they'd be happy to receive any income from this old building. It sat empty for two years before we got together to rent it. We've made a lot of improvements, but if we want to hold on to it, we have to rent the remaining space."
Rachel nodded. It sounded like the Fairhaven Artists' Co-op needed her as much as she needed them. She blew out a deep breath and tried to relax her tense shoulders. This would work. It had to.

Finding the position as director of Northcoast Christian Youth Theater had been a miracle. She didn't want to think about disbanding and looking for another job. Returning to teaching wasn't an option, not after everything that had happened. She pushed those painful memories away and followed Hannah into the main hallway.

"That's Cam's frame shop." Hannah motioned toward the open door across the hall. "He handles all the finances for the co-op. He can give you the particulars about renting with us. He might be a bit resistant to the idea. He's a little . . ." She bit her lip. "Well, I suppose I should let you make up your own mind."

Rachel smiled and nodded, certain she'd have no trouble winning him over. Persuasion was her middle name. Her exasperated mother used to say she could sell a dozen umbrellas to a desert nomad with no trouble at all.

She entered the shop where framed prints, photos, and original artwork lined the walls. Rows of mat and frame samples hung in a neat display on the back wall.

A tall man with broad shoulders and blond curly hair leaned over a workbench at the rear of the

shop. He held a pair of needle-nose pliers in his hand. The muscles on his forearm rippled as he twisted a sturdy wire to create a hanger across the back of a large frame lying facedown on the workbench. He looked up, and his piercing blue gaze connected with hers.

A shiver of awareness traveled through her. She straightened and returned his steady gaze. He looked about thirty-five, with a strong chin and Roman nose. No doubt he'd be handsome if he didn't wear such a scowl.

"Good morning, Cam." Hannah crossed to the workbench and Rachel followed.

"Morning." He nodded to Hannah. "This is Rachel Clark. She's interested in renting space with us." His scowl softened, and he lifted his golden brows. "What kind of artwork do you do?"

"I'm the director of a theater group. We're interested in renting the auditorium, two classrooms, and an office."

"That's a lot of space." He laid aside the pliers. "Is this a new group, or are you already


"We're about four years old." Uneasiness prickled through her. She'd only been working as the director since the beginning of March, a little over two months. But she had six years of teaching high school drama and three summers with NCYT as the assistant director. So she wasn't stretching the truth too far when she included herself in that four year history.

He looked her over more carefully. "Where are you meeting now?"

"We use Grace Community Church in North Bellingham, but they're opening a preschool soon."

He wiped his hand on a cloth. "So what kind of shows do you do?"

"They're all musicals. Our last two were Annie and Oklahoma. This summer we're doing Anne of Green Gables."

He continued to appraise her with his sharp gaze. "What do you call yourselves?"

She hesitated a split second, sending off a silent prayer. "Northcoast Christian Youth Theater."
His eyes widened, and a stormy expression broke over his face. "Youth? As in children?"

"Yes. Our students are ten to eighteen. We hold after school drama classes September to May, and morning drama camps in the summer, along with afternoon and evening rehearsals for our musicals."

He gave a swift shake of his head. "That would never work here."

A shot of panic skittered along her nerves. "But you have the space. And from what Hannah said, you need to rent it."

He sent Hannah a disapproving glance, then turned back to Rachel. "We're serious artists. Our

shops are filled with expensive pieces. We can't have kids running all over the building."

Heat flashed into Rachel's face. "I can assure you my students are well- supervised."

"Sorry. I can't take that risk."

Thanks for reading this excerpt from Seeking His Love. Please visit my website for more information or to purchase this or any of my books. It's also available at,, and fine bookstores everywhere. Please do not reproduce without permission.

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