Friday, April 15, 2011

Finally a Bride ; On Hummingbird Wings

Finally a Bride


Vickie McDonough

What a delightful story! Vickie McDonough treats her readers to a remarkable conclusion to the Boardinghouse Brides trilogy. Finally a Bride is a heartwarming story of two couples struggling to overcome their pasts as they build a future filled with faith and love.

--Amanda Cabot, author of Tomorrow's Garden

A feisty female reporter seeks to prove the new minister is harboring secrets.

Jacqueline Davis, a reporter for the Lookout Ledger, is bent on nabbing her story at any cost. When Noah Jeffers comes to Lookout as temporary pastor, Jack suspects there may be something hidden behind his shepherding ways. Soon though, Jack becomes attracted to the new pastor despite her initial hesitation. But as she uncovers the truth, will the story cost her too much? Will she reveal what she's found, or keep it hidden to protect newfound love?


Lookout, Texas


Jacqueline Davis had done a lot of daring things in her life, but this deed had to be the most foolhardy. She held up her skirt with one hand, holding her free arm out for balance, and slid her foot across the roof's wooden shakes. The mayor's chimney was only a dozen more steps away. She peered down at the ground far below then yanked her gaze upward when a wave of dizziness made her sway. She sucked in a steadying breath. If she fell the two stories to the packed dirt below, she'd become tomorrow's news instead of her story about the mayor's latest scheme.

She just had to find out what he had up his sleeve. Weeks had passed since she'd landed an exciting story for Lookout's newspaper. She had to get the scoop—whatever the cost. Maybe then she'd have enough clippings in her portfolio to land a job in Dallas as a reporter and finally leave Lookout.

The sweat trickling down her back had nothing to do with the bright April sun warming her shoulders. A moderate breeze whooshed past, lifting her skirts and almost throwing her off balance. Her petticoat flapped like a white flag, but she was far from surrendering. She swatted down her skirts and glanced around the streets, thankful no one was out and about yet. "Oh, why didn't I don my trousers before attempting this stunt?"

"Because you reacted without thinking again, that's why," she scolded herself just like her mother had done on too many occasions to count. Would she never learn? Sighing, she carefully bent down, reached between her legs, pulled the hem of her skirt through and tucked it in her waistband. Holding her arms out for balance, she righted herself again.

The hour was still early, but with the mayor's house resting right on the busy corner of Bluebonnet Lane and Apple Street, she couldn't exactly listen outside his parlor window to the meeting he was holding inside. If the two well-dressed strangers hadn't ridden right past the boardinghouse while she'd been sweeping the porch, she'd have never known of their arrival.

Her knock on the mayor's door for permission to listen in and to take notes had resulted in a scowl and the door being slammed in her face. Scuttlebutt was running rampant around town that Mayor Burke had some great plan to bring new businesses to Lookout. He was up to something, and she meant to be the first to find out what it was.

She slid her left foot forward. Listening through the chimney opening was her only alternative. She just hoped the men's voices would carry up that far. Sliding her right foot forward, she held her breath. Her task must be completed quickly before anyone saw her.

"Jacqueline Hamilton Davis, you come down from that roof right this minute—or I'm calling off our wedding." Jack jumped at Billy Morgan's roar. She twisted sideways, swung her arms in the air, wobbled, and regained her balance on the peak of the house. Heart galloping, she glared down at the blond man standing in the street beside the mayor's house and swiped her hand in the air.

"Go away!" she hollered in a loud whisper. If she'd told him once, she'd told him a dozen times, she had no intention of marrying him.

Her foot slid toward the chimney. She had to get there right now or Billy's ruckus would surely draw a crowd, and she'd have to climb down without her story. A high-pitched scream rent the air.

"Don't fall, Sissy!"

Jack lurched the final step to the chimney and hugged the bricks. She peered down at her five-year-old sister and swatted her hand, indicating for Abby to leave, but the stubborn girl just hiked her chin in the air. Abby was so dramatic. She'd even practiced her screams until she could blast the shrillest and loudest screeches of all her friends. Parents no longer came running when the young girls practiced their hollering. Jack shook her head. It would be a shame if one of them ever truly needed help one day and she screamed, because not a soul in Lookout would come to her aid.

She peeked down to see if Billy was still there, and sure enough, the rascal stood in the middle of the dirt road with his hat pushed back off his forehead and his hands on his hips.

Uh oh. Across the street, her ma carefully made her way down the front porch steps of the boardinghouse—the bulge of her pregnant belly obvious even from this distance. She shaded her eyes with her hand as she looked around, probably checking on Abby.

Jack ducked down behind the chimney. With her ma so close to her time of birthing another baby, she didn't want to cause her distress—and finding her twenty-year-old daughter on a rooftop would certainly set her pulse pounding.

Movement on Main Street drew Jack's attention. She peered over the bank's roof to the boardwalk on the far side of the street. Oh, horse feathers! Now her pa was heading out of the marshal's office and hurrying toward her mother. He probably thought she'd drop that baby right there in the street. Their last child, two-and-a-half-year-old Emma, had been born in a wagon on the way back from Denison, almost a month early.

She glanced down at Billy, who stood with his hands on his hips, shaking his head. Her ma was looking down Main Street now. With precious few moments before the jig was up, Jack stood on her tiptoes, concentrating on her task. She listened hard, trying to decipher the muted words drifting up the chimney. The strong scent of soot stung her nose, but all she could hear was the faint rumble of men's voices.

She glanced back at the far edge of the roof, trying to decide whether to return to the tree and shinny back down now or wait until her mother and step-father went back inside. Would Billy give her away?

Jack heaved a frustrated sigh. Even if he didn't, Abby would surely tattle. She peeked at her sister. Abby ran toward their mother, her finger pointing up at the mayor's roof. Oh fiddlesticks.

Why did they have to come outside before she concluded her sleuthing? And now, thanks to Billy's caterwauling, a crowd was gathering on Bluebonnet Lane.

She quickly studied the town from her vantage point. This was the perfect spot to view any events taking place in Lookout and garner the news, but it was also dangerous. How could she manage to take notes and still keep her balance? Perhaps she could talk Jenny into building a platform with a fence around it atop her newspaper office so they could view the city whenever community events were happening.

"Jacqueline! Oh, my heavens. What are you doing up there?" Her ma splayed her hand across her chest. Abby stood beside her, looking proud that she'd gotten her big sister in trouble.

Jack held tight to edge of the chimney and laid her forehead against the bricks. She was as caught as a robber in a bank vault on Monday morning.

Thanks for reading this excerpt from Finally A Bride.

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On Hummingbird Wings

By Lauraine Snelling

Published by FaithWords

(April 2011)

"Snelling can certainly charm." – Publishers Weekly

Doctors have no medical explanation why Gillian Ormsby's mother can't eat or get out of bed, but something has caused the once-spirited woman to give up her will to live. Despite their difficult relationship and an equally strained relationship with her sister, who lives in California near their mother, Gillian flies home and attempts to get their mother back on her feet. While home, Gillian restores her mother's neglected garden. There two hummingbirds take up residence and preside over the new relationship forming between Gillian and Adam, a neighbor and the local garden center owner. Although her goal is to return to her job in New York, Gillian begins to wonder if she can find a compromise between career, family and love

"But Mother is always dying." Why had she ever let the call come through? "I'm putting you on speaker." Gillian Ormsby clicked the SPEAKER button without waiting for her sister's reply. At least this way she could continue to flip the screens on the computer. Glancing at the clock, she mentally allowed Allison two more minutes before returning to the report in front of her.

"No, this time it is really serious. I can't make her get out of bed."

Gillian rolled her eyes. Leave it to Miss Perfect Allison to hit the dramatics. "Look, you live twenty miles away and I live across the country. Surely you can find time in your busy schedule to sweet-talk Mother into doing what you want." You always have.

"You don't need to be sarcastic. Just because I'm not a high-powered executive with an office in New York City. It isn't like what I have to do isn't important, with two active teenagers and a busy husband."

"I didn't say that. But, Allie, there is no way I can leave right now. There are rumors of a possible buyout, and everyone is walking around whispering like someone died. Have you talked with her doctor? Surely if she is that bad, she should go to a nursing home to help get her back on her feet."

"That's part of the problem; she doesn't want to get back on her feet. She wants to die. She says life here has no meaning for her any longer and heaven will be a far better place."

"Mother said that?" "And yes, I have talked with the doctor, but you know I don't understand a lot about medical things."

"Google it."

"Gillian, please. She needs you."

"Mother has made it quite clear through the years that she much prefers your company to mine." So suck it up, baby sister, and live with it. She drummed her nails on the desk pad.

"Look, I have to go. I'll call you back tonight." She checked her calendar. "No, make that tomorrow night, I have a commitment for tonight."

"What if she dies before then?"

Gillian closed her eyes and heaved a sigh. "Look, she's not going to die. She's threatened this for years. Every hangnail is mortal peril, you know that."

"You haven't seen her, in what—five years?"

Leave it to Allison to go for the stiletto. Although Gillian sent expensive gifts at the proper occasions, she'd not graced California with her presence in a long time. Surely, it hadn't been five years, had it? She counted back, using Christmas as the starting point. She'd spent the last one in Saint Croix, actually two of the last five; she'd needed warm weather by then. And while California was usually sunny in December, she'd wanted somewhere really warm and tropical to go along with it. One year she'd gone skiing, the first and last time in Vermont and the first and last time with Pierre. Since that debacle she'd sworn off both skiing and men.

That was three of the five. Where else had she gone? Oh, yes, one year she'd been home in bed—with the flu and her own rotten company.

"Gillian, are you listening to me?" The strident tone jerked her back to the moment.

"Of course I am." What had she missed?

"Well, then?"

"Well, what?"

"When are you coming?" Gillian glanced heavenward as if hoping for deliverance.

"Sorry, I have a call that I have to take. I'll get back to you." She hung up before her sister could respond. Clicking on her intercom, she instructed her assistant to hold any calls from Allison and collapsed against the back of her leather executive chair. Why now? She really didn't dare leave, not if she wanted to be sure of an office to come back to. Glancing around the room, she focused on a painting she'd found at a local art fair and hung opposite her desk to help relieve moments of stress. The painting depicted purple wisteria cascading over a white trellis that had one corner of its arch in need of repair. Much like she did right now. The four-paned cottage windows of the cozy house at the end of a brick walk beckoned her in. She drew in a deep breath, held it to the count of ten, and blew it all out on a gentle stream. Her shoulders relaxed immediately, as did the tension pulling from the back of her head, through her scalp, and to her eyebrows.

Someday she would own a cottage like that, maybe as a summer place; it didn't matter on which coast. What mattered was the garden and the sense of peace that seeped from the picture into her soul. Digging in the dirt did that for her. Gardening was the one thing she had in common with her mother.

Surely Mother wasn't really dying.

Gillian flexed her fingers. Allie had been born exaggerating. No occasion was sufficient in and of itself; she always had to make it bigger and brighter, deeper and wider. Gillian stared at the computer screen where she'd been working on the proposal for a three o'clock meeting. The figures blurred, causing her to blink and blink again.

Her mother could not be dying. She was far too young and had always been robustly healthy. She claimed her gardening did that for her.

So what had happened to cause this, this manifestation of . . . of . . . of what? Granted even fingernail splits were traumatic to her mother, but she'd never taken to her bed before.

You don't have time to think on this now, she ordered herself. Get that proposal done. She knew the figures added up, but could she cut anywhere to reduce the bottom line?

The intercom clicked in. "Gillian, you have one hour."'

This excerpt is printed by permission of FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group.

All rights reserved.

Blessings, Lauraine Snelling


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