Friday, October 29, 2010

Secrets of Harmony Grove

Secrets of Harmony Grove

by Mindy Starns Clark

From the bestselling author of Shadows of Lancaster County comes an exciting new romantic mystery set in Amish country.

Sienna Collins owns a Bed and Breakfast out in Lancaster County, built in a house she inherited from her grandfather. Run by an on-site manager, her B&B turns just enough profit on a regular basis to make it her only solid investment.

As the book opens, Sienna learns that she has been suspended from her job in the city and is under investigation by the US government. When she hears from Troy, an ex-boyfriend who is calling from her B&B, she realizes the investigation has something to do with him—and with her inn.

Desperate to figure out what's going on, she drives out to Lancaster County to confront Troy and to question her B&B's manager, Floyd.

This excerpt begins as Sienna nears the B&B.


Traffic ended up being exceptionally heavy, and by the time I turned from the main road onto the street that led to my final destination, it was after 7:00 p.m. Even in my current state of mind, the beauty of the scenery took my breath away, as it always had.

Passing one patchwork farm after another, barely visible now in the fading light, I couldn't help but think how different my life would have turned out if my grandfather hadn't broken away from the Amish faith back in the forties and gone down a different path. If my father had been raised Amish, would he have stayed in the fold? If so, if he had raised me to be Amish too, would I now be living on a farm of my own somewhere, wearing a kapp and picking vegetables with my five children and cooking meals on a propane-powered stove? Would the man who took me in his arms after a long day have a beard with no mustache and wear broadfall trousers I had sewed for him with my own hands?

Slowing as I reached the entrance to Harmony Grove Bed and Breakfast, I put on my blinker and turned into the driveway. Flanked on the right by thick woods and on the left by an open pasture, the long driveway made for a spectacular sight when there was light enough to see.

Despite the little bell that jangled over the door as I stepped inside, no one seemed to realize I was here.

"Troy? Floyd?" I called out both men's names several times, and when they didn't reply I checked the kitchen and the office, both of which were empty. Then I went to the far end of the hall and knocked on the door to the downstairs room Troy usually used when he was here. He didn't answer, but I pushed it open anyway to see that his suitcase was near the window and what looked like a wallet and keys were on the dresser. The bed was made but not neatly, as if he had simply gotten out of it and smoothed the covers. His window was open, and white lace curtains fluttered gently in the evening breeze.

I closed the door and returned to the main sitting area, coming back around to the door of Floyd's room. I knocked but he didn't answer, and so again I opened it up anyway and peeked inside. Floyd's bed was neatly made, with a navy duffel bag sitting on top. Floyd was nowhere in sight, though, and through the open door to his darkened bathroom I could see that no one was in there, either.

I decided they must be outside. Taking one more quick look in the kitchen just to be sure, I saw that at least one of them had recently been in there making themselves a sandwich. On the counter was an open jar of mayonnaise with a knife sticking out of it, and beside that a bag of bread and a plate with half of one sandwich made.

It was growing so dark out that I flipped on the exterior lights. Going down the back steps. I didn't see or hear anyone, but I called out their names again several times, each time progressively louder. When still no one answered, I stood there in the silence for a moment, trying to see if I could hear anything.

Unlike Troy, I had always appreciated the outdoors and enjoyed getting back to nature, but that didn't mean it didn't take some adjusting for me too. Ears used to city noise always had trouble getting a handle on such complete country silence.

With only the chirp of crickets as accompaniment, I called out the men's names yet again and decided they must be further out back or maybe over in the grove.

Thinking of my aborted call earlier with Troy, I was gripped by a disturbing sense of urgency. I dialed Troy's cell phone one last time, but he still didn't answer. Taking a deep breath, I decided to try Floyd's phone. If he didn't answer either, I would call the police. Hoping it wouldn't come to that, I punched in Floyd's number and waited for it to ring at the other end of the line.

Much to my surprise, however, not only could I hear it ringing through the phone, but I could also hear an actual phone ringing somewhere not too far away.

"Floyd?" He didn't answer, so I followed the sound, moving toward the solid fencing that surrounded the pool area. Could he be inside there? If so, why? It was too late in the year to go swimming, that was for sure. His phone went to voice mail, so I disconnected the call and then redialed it again.

"Floyd!" I yelled as I reached the gate and pulled it open. That's when I saw Troy's body. He was lying on his back beside the pool, dripping wet, with a huge, gaping wound that had been ripped through his trousers and clean into his thigh. There was blood in and around the wound and also around his mouth. His eyes were open, frozen in a horrifying death stare.

Troy was dead. Looking at him, there was no question that he was dead. Yet still, instinctively, I ran to him—or I tried to, anyway. My foot caught on something on the ground beside the gate, something soft but solid that caused me to trip. I fell forward, landing on my knees and on both hands. Screaming from the surprise more than from pain, I turned to see what had caused me to fall.

It was Floyd, lying on the ground, facedown, a gun clutched in his lifeless right hand. Near his other hand was his cell phone, face up on the cement, and still ringing from my call. After one more ring it stopped, no doubt having gone into voice mail again. As I sat trembling—from pain, from fear—rocking back and forth, I couldn't help thinking, absurdly, that it didn't matter if I left a message or not.

He wasn't going to be answering it now anyway.


Once she finds the manager unconscious and her ex-boyfriend dead, Sienna's life and livelihood begin to spin wildly out of control. She soon begins to doubt everyone around her, even the handsome detective assigned to the case.

As Sienna tries to clear her name, she is forced to depend on her faith, the wisdom of her Amish cousins, and the insight of the man she has recently begun dating. She'll need all the help she can get, because the secrets she uncovers in Harmony Grove end up threatening not just her bed-and-breakfast but also her credibility, her beliefs, and ultimately her life.

Author Info

Visit Mindy's websites at and, and her blogs at and Secrets of Harmony Grove is available wherever books are sold, including,, and

Copyright © 2010 by Mindy Starns Clark

ISBN 978-0-7369-2625-6

Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Legacy of Lies

Secrets Buried Deep!

Evidence from a decades-old murder is the last thing Nicole Keller-Mattson expected to find in her grandmother’s back yard, but the finger-pointing and accusations leveled at her family came as no surprise. Everyone in Ellington is eager to blame the Kellers—but after an attack leaves Nicole’s grandmother in a coma, only Nicole can clear the family name. With the assistance of police chief Rich Hendricks, she stands a chance of solving the mystery . . . if she’s willing to

accept Rich’s help. Nicole lost her policeman husband in the line of duty—getting close to another cop is too painful. But keeping her distance could be deadly.


I’ve always been fascinated by social dynamics in a small town. Having lived in rural communities all my life, I’m intimately familiar with the unique politics involved. Crafting a story about the shadow cast over a town by its founding family came readily to me. I was particularly interested to explore the affect past sins and secrets can have on a tight-knit community and how the illusion of power is always trumped by the immutable laws of God. We do reap what we sow, no matter how grand and invincible we imagine ourselves to be.

The scripture I used at the front of the book was Psalm 37: 10 – 11 from the NIV version of the Bible: A little while and the wicked will be no more; Though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. I comfort myself with these words quite often when I see the injustices in the world.



Jill Elizabeth Nelson writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith, earning her the tagline: Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth. She was delightfully astonished this year to receive the prestigious Carol Award in the Short Contemporary Suspense category for her 2009 release, Evidence of Murder. Jill speaks regularly at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. When teaching classes for writers, she thrills to bring the Ahah! moment to her students as they make a new skill their own. Jill and her husband live in rural Minnesota where they raised four children and are currently enjoying their first grandchild. Visit Jill on the web at for book giveaways, excerpts, and information.


Jill Elizabeth Nelson
~~Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth~~

Calculated Revenge (April 2010) and Legacy of Lies (September 2010) from Steeple Hill
Evidence of Murder - 2010 Carol Award Winner

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lady In Waiting; Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball

Lady In Waiting
by Susan Meissner

an endorsement

"Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner: The pacing, perfection. Transitions between centuries, seamless. Capturing the nuances of relationship, flawless. Put anything written by Susan Meissner on your "must read now!" list, right beside Barbara Kingsolver and Elizabeth Berg. I couldn't put this elegant novel of love and choice down. A completely satisfying read."
-Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Flickering Light and An Absence So Great

Love is a choice you make every day

Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband, Brad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him and the course of events that follow Brad's departure. Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring-and perhaps about herself.


Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2008. She is a pastor's wife and a mother of four young adults. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church. Visit Susan at her website:

Chapter 1

The mantel clock was exquisite, even though its hands rested in silence at twenty minutes past two. Carved-near as I could tell-from a single piece of mahogany, its glimmering patina looked warm to the touch. Rosebuds etched into the swirls of wood grain flanked the sides like two bronzed bridal bouquets. The clock's top was rounded and smooth like the draped head of a Madonna. I ran my palm across the polished surface, and it was like touching warm water.

Legend was this clock originally belonged to the young wife of a Southampton doctor and that it stopped keeping time in 1912, the very moment the Titanic sank and its owner became a widow. The grieving woman's only consolation was the clock's apparent prescience of her husband's horrible fate and its kinship with the pain that left her inert in sorrow.

She never remarried, and she never had the clock fixed. I bought it sight unseen for my great aunt's antique store, like so many of the items I'd found for the display cases. In the year and a half I'd been in charge of the inventory, the best pieces had come from the obscure estate sales that my British friend, Emma Downing, came upon while tooling around the southeast of England looking for oddities for her costume shop. She found the clock at an estate sale in Felixstowe, and the auctioneer, so she told me, had been unimpressed with the clock's sad history.

Emma said he'd read the accompanying note about the clock as if reading the rules for rugby.

My mother watched now as I positioned the clock on the lacquered black mantel that rose above a marble fireplace. She held a lead crystal vase of silk daffodils in her hands. "It should be ticking." She frowned. "People will wonder why it's not ticking." She set the vase down on the hearth and stepped back. Her heels made a clicking sound on the parquet floor beneath our feet. "You know, you probably would've sold it by now if it was working. Did Wilson even look at it? You told me he could fix anything."

I flicked a wisp of fuzz off the clock's face. I hadn't asked the shop's resident-and-unofficial repairman to fix it. "It wouldn't be the same clock if it was fixed."

"It would be a clock that did what it was supposed to do." My mother leaned in and straightened one of the daffodil blooms.

"This isn't just any clock, Mom." I took a step back too.

My mother folded her arms across the front of her Ann Taylor suit. Pale blue, the color of baby blankets and robins' eggs. Her signature color. "Look, I get all that about the Titanic and the young widow, but you can't prove any of it, Jane," she said. "You could never sell it on that story."

A flicker of sadness wobbled inside me at the thought of parting with the clock. This happens when you work in retail. Sometimes you have a hard time selling what you bought to sell.

"I'm thinking maybe I'll keep it."

"You don't make a profit by hanging on to the inventory." My mother whispered this, but I heard her. She intended for me to hear her. This was her way of saying what she wanted to about her aunt's shop-which she'd inherit when Great Aunt Thea passed-without coming across as interfering.

My mother thinks she tries very hard not to interfere. But it is one of her talents. Interfering, when she thinks she's not. It drives my younger sister, Leslie, nuts.

"Do you want me to take it back to the store?" I asked.

"No! It's perfect for this place. I just wish it were ticking." She nearly pouted.

I reached for the box at my feet that I brought the clock in along with a set of Shakespeare's works, a pair of pewter candlesticks, and a Wedgwood vase. "You could always get a CD of sound effects and run a loop of a ticking clock," I joked.

She turned to me, childlike determination in her eyes. "I wonder how hard it would be to find a CD like that!"

"I was kidding, Mom! Look what you have to work with." I pointed to the simulated stereo system she'd placed into a polished entertainment center behind us. My mother never used real electronics in the houses she staged, although with the clientele she usually worked with-affluent real estate brokers and equally well-off buyers and sellers-she certainly could.

"So I'll bring in a portable player and hide it in the hearth pillows."

She shrugged and then turned to the adjoining dining room. A gleaming black dining table had been set with white bone china, pale yellow linen napkins, mounds of fake chicken salad, mauve rubber grapes, plastic croissants, and petit fours. An arrangement of pussy willows graced the center of the table.

"Do you think the pussy willows are too rustic?" she asked.

She wanted me to say yes, so I did.

"I think so too," she said. "I think we should swap these out for that vase of gerbera daisies you have on that escritoire in the shop's front window.

I don't know what I was thinking when I brought these." She reached for the unlucky pussy willows. "We can put these on the entry table with our business cards."

She turned to me. "You did bring yours this time, didn't you? It's silly for you to go to all this work and then not get any customers out of it."

My mother made her way to the entryway with the pussy willows in her hands and intention in her step. I followed her.

This was only the second house I'd helped her stage, and I didn't bring business cards the first time, because she hadn't invited me to until we were about to leave. She'd promptly told me then to never go anywhere without business cards. Not even to the ladies' room. She'd said it and then waited, like she expected me to take out my BlackBerry and make a note of it.

* * *

Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball

By Donita K. Paul


Christmas. Cora had been trying to catch it for four years. She scurried down the sidewalk, thankful that streetlights and brightly-lit storefronts counteracted the gloom of early nightfall. Somewhere, sometime, she'd get a hold of how to celebrate Christmas. Maybe even tonight.

With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.

And she did.


Just not much.

At least, she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn't that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas spirit department?

Cora planned out her Christmas gift-giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight's quest was a book for Uncle Eric-something about knights and castles, swordfights, shining armor, and all that.

One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December fifteenth, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last minute frenzy that descended upon other people . . . like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.

Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn't buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.

Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she'd discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh, dear. Judgmental again. At least now, she recognized when she slipped.

She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.

Since she'd discovered Christianity in college, she'd been confused about the trappings of Christmas, the gift-giving, the nativity, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn't wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.

The worst part was shopping.

Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She'd rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.

Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.

When she'd found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new and used bookstore showed up in a banner or sidebar. She'd asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.

"Sounds like a derelict area to me," said Meg, the receptionist. "Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn't it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn't tear it down, even though it's empty and an eyesore?"

An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. "I'm going to check it out."

Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. "Take a cab. You don't want to be out too late over there."

Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?

An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.

Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block, she'd find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.

"Finally! Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books," Cora read the sign and grasped the shiny knob. It didn't turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.

Cora wrenched the knob to the side. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.

"I don't like loud noises," the man said without looking up from his book.

"Neither do I," said Cora.

He nodded over at his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.

Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.

Should she peruse the stacks or ask?

She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.

"Not there," said the old man.

"I beg your pardon?" said Cora.

"How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don't need to know any of that, do you?"


"Wrong aisle, then." He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.

Cora took a step toward him. "I think I saw a movie like this once."

His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.

"A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual." He arched an eyebrow. "Shop Around the Corner, You've Got Mail, 84 Charing Cross Road."

"I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed."

He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. "Reading customers. Been in the business a long time."

"I'm looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing."

He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. "This is it." He stood as Cora came to the desk. "Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson's idea."

Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She'd been trained by a dysfunctional family, and it had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.

She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.

"I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs."

"It's the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents."

Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Which?" the old man barked.

"Which what?"

"Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn't matter because I'm sure about both."

Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.

Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up in time to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.

The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man's hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.

"I'm Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad."

"Let me guess. Your father is named Will?"

Bill grinned, obviously pleased she'd caught on quickly. "Willie Wizbotterdad. He's off in Europe collecting rare books."

"He's not!" said the elder shop owner.

"He is." Bill cast his granddad a worried look.

"That's just the reason he gave for not being here." William shook his head and leaned across the counter. "He doesn't like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn't like people and dancing and matrimony."

Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. "Take a look." He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. "Colored illustrations."

The door handle rattled, followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked back at the two shop owners. She caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.

Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.

She liked the book, and she wanted to leave, before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn't hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn't feel threatened, just intrigued. Getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. "I'll take the book."

The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door. As she turned, he took off his hat.

Cora did a double take. "Mr. Derrick!"

He cocked his head and scrunched his face. "Do I know you?" The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. "Excuse me. Have we met?"

"We work in the same office."

He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. "Third desk on the right." He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. "Cora Crowden."


He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She'd never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.

"I drew your name."

He looked puzzled.

"For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party."

"Oh. Of course." He nodded. "I drew Mrs. Hudson. She's going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring."

"That's Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets."

He frowned and began looking at the books.

"You won't be there, will you?" Cora asked.

"At the party? No, I never come."

"I know. I mean, I've worked at Sorenby's for five years, and you've never been there."

The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon's face. He glanced to the side. "I'm looking for the how-to section."

Cora grinned. "On your left. Second aisle."

He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.

Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.

Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, and rummaged below the counter, bringing out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. "You didn't want the book wrapped and delivered?"

"No, I'll just pay for it now."

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to look around some more?" asked Bill.

"Right," said William. "No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like."

Bill elbowed William.

Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.

William nodded toward the how-to books. "Get a book. We have a copy of How To Choose Gifts For Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall."

The statement earned him a "shh" from his grandson.

Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office. "Mr. Derrick, I'm getting ready to leave. If you're not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?"

He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. "That's fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden."

"Crowder," she corrected, but he didn't answer.

She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.

"Come back again," said Bill.

"Yes," said William. "We have all your heart's desires."

Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.

She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans.

She turned the key, pushed the gear shift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed the car out of her space.

She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That's what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.

Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times, about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But she never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.


Once inside her second floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.

The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she'd knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn't in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.

"Did you have fun, Skippy?"

The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy jumped from her cave and padded after Cora as her owner headed for the bedroom.

Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she'd wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.

These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.

She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed. The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.

She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, and she could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.

She took another sip. Cooler.

Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom.

Cora grimaced. "If she were speaking terms with her sister or my sisters that would help."

She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. "You don't care, do you? Well, I'm trying to. And I think I'm doing a pretty good job this Christmas thing."

She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. Christmas carols poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think, my uncle, rather than Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.

She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.

"You and I need to play. You're . . ." She paused as Skippy turned a meaningful glare at her. "Getting a bit rotund, dear kitty."

Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.

After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.

Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite "You Are Old, Father William." He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn't so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson or something.

"He wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," she said. "There's a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much."

Skippy gave her a squinty-eyed look.

Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. "The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient."

She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title.

How The Knights Found Their Ladies.

She might have been hasty. She didn't know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.

Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.

"What is it, kitty? A bookmark?" She slipped it out from between Skippy's paws, then turned the plain rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.

Admit one to the Wizards' Christmas Ball

Costumes required

Dinner and Dancing

and Your Destiny

Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages, and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.

This book wasn't for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric's preferred reading.

Skippy curled against her thigh and purred.

"You know what, cat? I'm going to keep it."

Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.

"I love you too," called Cora.

Pulling the ticket out, she read it again. Wizards' Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.

Visit my site:

Monday, October 18, 2010

London Confidential Series

London Confidential Series

Byrd's ability to provide a fun story that incorporates biblical truth will help teens relate to this new series. Readers will identify with the struggle to fit in while staying true to one's convictions.
Romantic Times, 4 star review

Book Three, Don't Kiss Him Goodbye, finds Savvy, now established in her quirky British village, working hard to get an article with her own byline published. When an attractive and mysterious boy asks her for help with his school work, Savvy is slowly pulled into his circle and soon finds out that the wrong set of friends—boys and girls—can influence her own behavior. Following her own advice to cut ties with a charming bad boy would mean abandoning her dearest wishes, and it just doesn't seem as wrong as it feels. Is it? Read on for surprise twists throughout the book!

In a shocking turn of events, all writers for the Wexburg Academy Times will cast their votes for next year's editor—and it looks like Savvy's vote will be the tie breaker! In Book Four, Flirting With Disaster, Savvy must choose between a nasty-girl-turned-nice, with a sudden interest in letting Savvy get what she wants, and the prickly Hazelle, who promises nothing at all. Savvy then finds herself wrapped up in a new, seemingly innocent but potentially dangerous activity. It's all at risk in this book: her position on the paper, the boy she likes, the ministry she wants to go well. At a critical moment, Savvy must figure out how to rely on God rather than luck and to overcome temptation before it is too late.

London Confidential is a new series for tweens and teens where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide as an all-American teen girl learns to love life and live out her faith.

Please visit Sandra online at The books can be purchased at through her website or at other fine online or local bookstores near you. If they're not stocked, just ask!

London Confidential Books 1 and 2 were featured in Focus on the Family's Thriving Family Magazine ... click here:

Friday, October 15, 2010

The God Hater; More Than Words

The God Hater

By Bill Myers

"When one of the most creative minds I know gets the best idea he's ever had and turns it into a novel, it's fasten-your-seat-belt time. This one will be talked about for a long time." Jerry B. Jenkins, author of Left Behind:

About the book

A cranky, atheist philosophy professor loves to shred incoming freshmen of their

faith. He is chosen by a group of scientists to create a philosophy for a computer

generated world exactly like ours.

Much to his frustration every model introduced from Darwinism, to Existentialism, to Eastern beliefs fails. The only way to preserve the computer world is to introduce laws from outside their system through a Law Giver. Of course this goes against everything he believes and he hates it. But even that doesn't completely work because the citizens of that world become legalists and completely miss the spirit behind the Law.

The only way to save them is to create a computer character like himself to personally explain it. He does. So now there are two of him -- the one in our world and the one in the computer world...(sound familiar?).

Unfortunately, a rival has introduced a virus into the computer world. Things

grow worse until the professor in our computer world sees the only way to save his world is to personally absorb the virus and the penalty for breaking the Law. Of course it's clear to all, including our real world professor, that this act of selfless love has become a complete reenactment of the Gospel. It is the only possible choice to save the computer world and, as he finally understands, our own.


In this section, Nicholas has downloaded his personality into his computer double who is healing members of the community by transferring their suffering into himself. This infuriates those watching from the lab because of the extra computer power necessary to keep him alive. The `life units' spoken of are a type of food. And Nyrah is Alpha's estranged daughter who has broken his heart by joining the Law Breakers as a prostitute.


Travis and Nicholas stared at the screen in astonishment. Once again Travis had pushed the program, fast-forwarding it. This time it was to find the next encounter between Alpha and Nicholas's double. Up on the monitor a large crowd had gathered. As planned, the digital Nicholas was reducing all of his philosophical knowledge into small digestible pieces so the people could better understand. But it wasn't the teaching that made both Travis's and Nicholas's jaws drop.

Travis could barely get out the words. "What . . . has he done?"

Nicholas pushed up his glasses and stepped closer to the screen. "With that boy you gave him the ability to transfer power."

"Yeah, but not this. It was supposed to be a onetime thing. Not this . . ."

The air was crisp but not cold. With no breeze, the winter sun slowly soaked into Alpha's body. It had been his idea to come. He could not forget the tugging he felt inside when the stranger spoke. Nor could he ignore the reports of the man's deep and somewhat troubling teachings. Finally, there were the healings. All reasons enough to leave the Temple to see and hear for himself.

Of course, Orib would not let him go without an entourage of Council Members. And, of course, they had to sit on an outcropping of rock to the left and above the proceedings so citizens and Breakers alike would know of their presence.

They had barely settled themselves before he saw Nyrah. He was certain she'd also seen him. Yet, sitting less than seventy lengths apart, both father and daughter pretended to ignore the other's presence. A task that, at least for Alpha, was nearly impossible.

"Look at them," Orib said scornfully. "They cling to every word, in spite of his gross deformities."

His son was right. The stranger was grotesque. Besides a monstrous face, which he supposedly acquired by healing a small boy, he had a gnarled left hand, a hunched back, and his right leg had shriveled into a stump. And, as late as this morning, it was reported he'd lost his sight to a man who had been blind.

Still the crowd grew.

Although some came for the novelty, Learis and other Members insisted it was his clever spinning of words and perverting of the Law. Perhaps. But as the stranger spoke, Alpha felt something much more.

"If you are poor in understanding Programmer's thoughts"— the man took a wheezing gasp—"then you are open to receive them."

His ragged breathing made it painful to listen. And his twisted mouth made him difficult to understand. Nevertheless, there was something about his words that was captivating.

"But if you think . . . you are rich in knowing our ways, then you are poor."

There it was again, the not-so-subtle claim that the stranger and Programmer were somehow related. Alpha closed his eyes against the blasphemy.

"If you are humble"—he gasped another breath—"you will inherit life as we designed it."

"If we're humble," someone shouted from the back, "we'll be destroyed."

Others agreed.

"No!" The stranger's shout sent him into a fit of coughing. The crowd grew silent, waiting. At last he continued. "You've lived upside down for so long, you don't know the difference."

Alpha leaned forward, listening intently.

"If you want to be a leader, you must serve. If you want wealth—" He coughed, then continued, "Give away false riches so your heart has room for real treasures."

Alpha caught himself quietly nodding. Amid the heresy there were great truths.

"If you're hungry for good, we will feed you."

"How?" a young mother cried from the center of the crowd.

The stranger turned to her voice. "By offering you real food."

"You offer nothing but words," a Breaker yelled.

"He's right!" another shouted. "If you really had something to offer, you'd give life units—not your fancy ideas."

Others in the crowd murmured in agreement.

"Good." Orib turned to his companions. "Someone has finally challenged him."

They nodded, but Alpha watched, not entirely convinced.

The stranger turned to Nyrah and those closest to him. It was impossible to hear what he said, but it was obvious his inner circle of followers were confused. Finally one of the Breakers stepped forward and stretched out his robe. The stranger motioned for another to pour the contents of a small basket into the robe. As he did, a dozen life units tumbled out.

The crowd buzzed in surprise. They reacted more loudly when the Breaker turned and began distributing the units to them.

Meanwhile, another Breaker stretched out his robe. The same follower tilted the same basket and another pile of units poured out.

Orib rose to his feet as the second Breaker turned to the people and began distributing the life units. The crowd grew louder as a third Breaker received his supply of units. And a fourth, his. And a fifth. All from the same basket and all being distributed to the people.

"This is not possible." Orib turned to his fellow Members.

"He's a trickster! An illusionist!"

But it was a different illusion that caught Alpha's attention. With every basket the stranger ordered to be poured out, he seemed to be getting a little weaker.

"He's transferring energy again?" Travis shouted. "Into life units now! When's this going to stop?"

Nicholas stared up at the screen. "I . . . don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know? That's you up there!"

"Not anymore."

"Yes, it is. Down to the tiniest synapse!"

Nicholas shook his head. "He's different. Something's happening."

"To you?"

"To him. He's changing."

"He won't be winning any beauty pageants, if that's what you mean."

Nicholas looked back to the screen as the people hungrily received the life units—some in greed, others in gratitude, a few even with tears.

"We've got to stop this," Travis said, "or he'll die. He's got nothing left to give."

"There's no way to transfer additional energy into him?"

"Computational powers are maxed out. And there's no place left I can steal them from. I'll have to go inside the program itself. Redistribute from there."

"That's possible?"

"Sure. It won't be pretty, but it's possible. And once he's restored, we gotta have another talk. Make it clear to him. No more miracle-man stuff—no way, nohow."

Nicholas nodded and turned back to the screen, hoping they weren't too late. Hoping it was still possible to reach him.

All rights reserved. The God Hater can be found wherever books are sold.

More Than Words

by Judith Miller

April 1885

Homestead Village

Amana Colonies, Iowa

More Than Words is the second book in Miller's Daughters of Amana series. Steeped in period details that only a seasoned historical novelist can provide, this heartwarming story will meet the expectations of her fans as well as please critics new to the "bonnet" subgenre.Extensive research backs every page of this meticulous, well-crafted work." ForeWord Magazine

About the book:

Gretchen Kohler can't help but dream of life beyond the Amana villages. She enjoys creative writing and believes she has a talent, but artistic pursuits are frowned upon in the community. Gretchen confines her stories and poems to her journals, permitting only close friends to read them. But when a young reporter comes to the general store where she works, she believes she's found a kindred spirit. Is he truly a man she can trust or will Gretchen lose her job, her reputation, and the love of her childhood beau all because of one unfortunate decision?

Chapter 1

"Come down from that tree, Oma!" I'd done my best to sound firm. Taking a sideways step, I shaded my eyes to gain a better view among the bloom-laden branches of the apple trees.

My grandmother peered down at me with a devilish grin, her leather-clad feet wedged into a crook of the tree. "Nein, Gretchen! I'm going to get an apple." She pointed a gnarled finger toward a spindly branch bearing a few spring blossoms.

"Don't go any further, Oma. There aren't any apples, and that branch won't hold you."

Ignoring me, she grabbed another limb and hiked her right leg toward a scrawny branch that would surely crack under her weight. The old woman's addled brain might be willing to make the climb, but her aged and fragile body was going to end up on the ground.

After steadying the ladder that Oma had placed against the tree trunk, I lifted my skirt and stepped onto the bottom rung. "Just wait until Stefan gets home!" I issued the muttered warning from between clenched teeth and cautiously began my climb. No matter how often I scolded my brother, Stefan never put anything away. He'd used the ladder to retrieve a ball from the roof yesterday afternoon, and instead of putting it back into the shed, he'd left it sitting outdoors. Out where it created an alluring diversion for Oma, who had somehow managed to drag it across the yard and balance it against the apple tree.

A low-hanging branch snagged my finely knit black cap, and Oma chuckled as she watched my attempts to disentangle the head covering. After finally grabbing the cap and giving it a one-handed shove onto my head, I glanced upward but quickly averted my eyes. "Oma! Put your leg down. I can see your undergarments."

She leaned forward and peeked down, as if she intended to check the truth of my statement. Her body listed sideways, and one foot slipped from the branch. A snowstorm of flowering blossoms showered down on me.

"Hold on, Oma! I'm coming up to help you."

"Don't bring the blackbird," she shrieked. "It will eat the apples."

My frustration mounted as Oma continued the childlike behavior. For all of my life, my mother's mother had lived with us, and we shared a special bond. But when these bouts of dementia took hold, there was no dealing with her. "There are no blackbirds and there are no apples, Oma." I took another step up the ladder and reached for a thick branch. The rough bark dug into my palm as I tightened my hold. If I inched a little closer, I could grab hold of her leg.

"Go away! You're bringing the blackbird with you."

She climbed higher into the tree, and I gasped in fear. Now I couldn't even reach her foot. "There are no birds in the tree, Oma. I've frightened them all away. Come back down to me."

She peered over her shoulder. A flash of terror shone in her dark eyes. Her once-gentle lips twisted in a menacing jagged line. The look would have held a stranger at bay, but I wasn't a stranger, and I wouldn't be deterred.

"There's a blackbird on your head," she cried. "Get it away! Shoo it off before it eats my apples."

Utter defeat shot through me. Would I ever learn to deal with Oma's episodes? If I didn't get her out of the tree within the next few minutes, my father might discover the dilemma. That thought alone propelled me back into action. I yanked the hat from my head. "The blackbird flew away. See, Oma? Look at me!"

Lips curved in a toothy grin, she leaned forward, peered around my shoulder, and cooed, "Pretty boy, come and get me."

"Oma! Please come . . ." I lifted my foot to mount the next rung but was stopped short when two strong hands encircled my waist. I grabbed hold of the ladder and glanced over my shoulder. "Conrad." I exhaled my friend's name along with a silent hallelujah.

"Come down, Gretchen. I'll get her." His hands remained clasped around my waist while I descended to the ground. With one sympathetic gaze, I was enveloped in comfort. He touched a finger to my trembling lips, and warmth spiraled up my spine. "You should have come for me when you first discovered her."

"I know, but I thought she'd listen to me."

He tilted his head toward the ladder. "Did she drag this from the shed by herself?"

"Stefan," I said.

He nodded his understanding. "He's a boy. In a few years he will begin to remember what you tell him."

I thought it would take more than a few years before Stefan remembered anything other than how to have fun, but I didn't say so. "I don't know who creates more problems, Oma or Stefan. Neither one of them will listen to me."

With a chuckle he mounted the ladder and waved to my grandmother. "I've come to rescue you, Sister Helga. Let me help you out of the tree."

I stood below and prayed this wouldn't take long. For a brief moment Oma eyed Conrad with curious suspicion—a strange occurrence, for she usually fancied him her beau when in a delusional state of mind. I immediately feared the worst.

Finally she pointed to a far branch. "First an apple I must pick."

Conrad wagged his finger and shook his head. "Nein. It is too early in the year for apples, Sister Helga, but I promise I will pick you a large red apple come September."

"Ja?" She gave him a toothy grin that creased her aged skin into a thousand wrinkles. "Then I will come down to you, pretty boy."

Please visit Judy at her website at where you can sign-up for her newsletter and discover more information about her writing life.

More Than Words is available at bookstores everywhere and may also be purchased at;; and; and at your local Christian bookstore.

Copyright © 2010 by Judith Miller

ISBN 978-0-7642-0643-6

Bethany House Publishers
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


Friday, October 08, 2010

The Perfect Blend

A little about Trish:

Award-winning novelist Trish Perry has written The Perfect Blend (2010), Sunset Beach (2009), Beach Dreams (2008), Too Good to Be True (2007), and The Guy I’m Not Dating (2006), all for Harvest House Publishers. Her monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” appeared in Christian Fiction Online Magazine during its inaugural year. She was editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years. Before her novels, Perry published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media. She will release several new books in 2011.

Perry holds a B.A. in Psychology, was a 1980s stockbroker, and held positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in several Washington law firms. She serves on the Board of Directors of CCW and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She invites you to visit her at

A little about The Perfect Blend:

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.

Thanks! I’d love links if any of you post about the book.



True Love. Real Laughs. Pure Fiction.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Love Remains

Love Remains—Book 1 of The Matchmakers Series

by Kaye Dacus

Can the historian learn to leave the past in the past?

Zarah Mitchell, who's worked at the Middle Tennessee Historic Preservation Commission for more than a decade, is about to face a piece of history that could ruin the life she's built in Nashville: Bobby Patterson—her first love and the reason her father kicked her out fourteen years ago.

Nashville native Bobby Patterson has just returned home after many years away to take a position with the Tennessee Criminal Investigations Unit. His new job: lead a task force investigating potential real estate fraud connected with the Commission.

When Bobby realizes Zarah is part of his investigation, he is tempted to use his grandmother's not-so-subtle setup as a way to learn if Zarah is involved in the fraud.

Zarah, at her grandmother's suggestion, tries to put the pain from the past aside to see if any love remains between her and Bobby. But when she learns he's been investigating her, will she be able to forgive him a second time?

Excerpt from Chapter One

The sharks were circling.

Bobby Patterson had been at the party a total of three minutes. But half that time was all it took for the smell of fresh blood to circulate amongst the single women.

He shook hands, smiled, greeted, laughed, introduced himself, and promptly forgot the names of the couple of dozen women who continued to circle around. . .as if there weren't a couple of dozen other guys out on the back deck supervising the few men in charge of the grills.

"Diesel Patterson!" The masculine voice boomed through the room, and Bobby started to relax.

"Mack Truck Macdonald." He accepted Patrick Macdonald's hand for a vigorous handshake, which turned into a back-slapping hybrid embrace. A bro-hug, they called it back in California. Here in Nashville, Tennessee, he wasn't so sure. Having been gone for sixteen years, he had a lot to re-learn about his hometown.

"I can't believe you actually came back, man. When you left the day after graduation, I thought you had shook the dust of this place off your feet for good." Patrick led him through the large gathering room out to the expansive deck attached to the back of the house.

"I thought it was for good, too. But, you know, once your parents and grandparents get to a certain age, it's nice to be nearby." The edge of annoyance caused by the excessive female attention began to dissipate when Bobby was once again surrounded by men.

"Hey, y'all," Patrick raised his voice to get the attention of the majority of the guys standing around drinking sodas from red plastic cups and cans. "This is Bobby Patterson, my high school football buddy I was telling you about. He's just moved back to Nashville and will be looking for a church home, so let's make him welcome."

After Bobby met a few of the guys, Patrick cuffed his shoulder. "I'll leave you to it, then. I've got to go back in and help in the kitchen."

"Thanks, Mack." Peripheral sightings informed him the women had grown tired of the segregation and were infiltrating the formerly all-male encampment outside.

One of the men standing near Bobby nudged the guy beside him. "Hey, pressure's off us. New meat." He jerked his head toward Bobby but grinned at him. "The gals in this group are great. . .once they get used to a guy. But don't worry. We'll try to protect you as best we can."

Bobby returned the guy's smile—he'd identified himself as Steve—and stifled his frustration. One of the reasons he'd left California was that the undercover work he did for the California Bureau of Investigation made it impossible to become an active member in a church, to be a part of a community, to meet someone.

Yeah, that last one was laughable. Ever since leaving New Mexico fourteen years ago, the possibility of meeting someone he'd want to spend the rest of his life with had been pretty much nil.

Wanting to keep from being the focus of conversation, his gaze came to rest on the orange baseball cap of the slender twentysomething across from him. "How're the Vols looking for this year?"

It turned out to be the perfect diversion. The entire group surrounding him jumped into the conversation about college football—and warded off all but a few of the hardiest women—until the grillers announced the meat was finished and carried the pungent platters, piled high with hot dogs and hamburger patties, through the crowd and back into the house.

Bobby's new acquaintances ushered him inside. He turned to Steve—only to find the shorter guy had been replaced by one of the generic-looking females he'd met on his way in. She smiled up at him expectantly.


Her expectation fell into disappointment. "Past the kitchen and to the left."

"Thanks." His hands had been touched by so many people tonight that he wasn't about to use them to touch food that was destined for his mouth until he had washed them.

He rounded the corner and headed down the hall between the kitchen and dining room.

Someone zipped out of the kitchen, mitt-covered arms laden with an aluminum pan so full it sagged in the middle.

Both of them stopped short—and Bobby jumped back as a wave of baked beans sloshed over the side of the pan.

"I am so sorry!"

Bobby, who'd reached out to steady the woman, froze at the familiar voice. He dragged his eyes up from the mess on the floor to the face that had haunted him for fourteen years.


* * *

The horror at almost spilling an entire pan of baked beans on someone dissipated into frigid shock upon discovering the near-victim of her clumsiness was the one person she'd never expected to see again. Zarah Mitchell tried to regain balance, both with the pan of beans and with her own emotional equilibrium.

"I'm so sorry," she repeated, not knowing what else to say. She'd always run the risk that she might one day see him again—she'd known that when she moved to Nashville fourteen years ago. But why here? Why now?


Whoa! What's the idea?" Patrick's voice came from behind and above her. "Oh, good. I was hoping to introduce the two of you."

Zarah couldn't tear her eyes away from the vision in front of her—terrified he was real and terrified he was a figment of her imagination—until he reached out to take the pan from her.

"No introductions necessary, Mack. Zarah and I met each other a very long time ago." Giving her a tight smile, Bobby turned and carried the pan to the dining room. Zarah's chest tightened.

Bobby Patterson. Her first love. The man she compared all others to. The reason her father kicked her out of the house the day she turned eighteen.