Friday, April 08, 2011

The Lightkeepers' Ball; Daddy in the Making

The Lightkeepers' Ball

Colleen Coble

From Publishers Weekly:

In 1910, New York socialite Olivia Stewart resists an arranged, socially advantageous marriage, and the mysterious death of her sister Eleanor in Northern California is an unhappy but convenient excuse to go West to investigate. On the way, she is thrown off a Bay area ship and nearly drowned, so she has a number of reasons to hide her identity when she arrives in Mercy Falls, Calif. Her shipboard rescuer turns out to be her dead sister's fiance' Harrison Bennett, about whom she has suspicions. Harrison in turn has his reasons to distrust the Stewart family. In this atmosphere of deceit and suspicion, attraction between Olivia and Harrison grows. Coble spins a tangled web in this third book in the Mercy Falls series (after The Lightkeeper's Bride), with red herrings and oodles of duplicity.

Olivia leaned on the ship¡p's railing and watched the dark landscape slide past. They were nearly to Mercy Falls, and she wanted nothing more than to see the buildings of New York instead of the towering trees of this thickly forested coastline. The fog curling from the base of the trees and over the whitecaps made her shudder.

She sighed and toyed with the strings of her hat. She already missed home, though there would be much to see and do here. For the first time she would see the manor house her father had built in this town four years ago. It was a way of being closer to him.

"Are you frightened, Miss Olivia?" her maid Goldia asked, joining her at the rail.

She shook her head. "I've an idea though, Goldia. I'm going to be known here as Lady Devonworth."

"I thought you hated using your title."

"I do. But I'd rather not be known as Olivia Stewart. Harrison will be on his guard if he knows I'm in town. With a different name, I can observe him unhindered. I boarded this ship as Lady Devonworth, so please remember not to call me Miss Olivia."

Goldia's lips pursed. "I don't like it, miss. If someone really harmed Miss Eleanor, you could be in danger."

To Olivia, the plan seemed straightforward. Her maid's vapors were quite silly. "Not if I'm able to keep my identity a secret. I'll find out what happened and bring the culprit to justice."

"Well, I'm scared," the girl said.

Olivia turned away from the waters to face her. Was that a man in the shadows? Olivia squinted into the darkness.

"Who's there?" she called. No answer came, but a cat strolled into the wash of light, and she relaxed. "It's so damp here. Could you fetch my shawl?" she asked her maid.

Goldia nodded and hurried away. The fog quickly muffled the sound of her footsteps. Olivia stared at the lighthouse twinkling in the distance. Everything would change soon, and she would have to assume a role.

A sound came behind her, and she assumed it was Goldia until she smelled a man's cologne. She half turned at the furtive, sliding noise, but before she could see who was joining her, hard hands seized her from behind. The man's breath smelled of mint. She flailed at the assailant, but her fists struck only air. Her slippers slid along the polished deck, and the next moment, she found herself bent over the railing, facing the turbulent water. The hard rail dug into her stomach and stole her breath. She tried to scream, but panic closed her throat as her balance tipped toward the water and away from the boat. With a last push from her assailant, she was plunging into the waves with her arms pinwheeling.

Cold water closed over her head. She fought the pull of the sea on her soaked skirt. A current took her deeper. Panicked, she kicked toward where she thought the surface was, though there was no light to guide her. Her head broke through, and she drew in the sweetest breath she'd ever known before the waves grabbed her. Before she went under again, she saw a light winking to her right. With her lungs full of air, she groped at her laces. Before she managed to get her boots off, her chest began to burn with the need to breathe. With that weight removed, she was able to rocket back to the surface. Gasping, she dog-paddled in the waves. She gulped in air, gathered her strength, then struck out toward the blinking light.

Her arms and legs ached as she fought the current. A cramp struck her calf, and she cried out.

Her head went under the waves, and she gulped salty water. She was going to drown, just like her sister. She struggled for the surface.

A hand grabbed her arm and yanked her up, pulling her out of the depths. Hands flipped her onto her back, then a rough palm cupped her chin. The next thing she knew she was being towed toward shore.

Her bottom hit sand. She smelled kelp and realized seaweed was wrapped around her waist. Then arms dragged her forward until she lay across hard thighs. She gagged up seawater.

"Are you all right?"a deep voice asked. The man sat her up.

She blinked water out of her eyes and realized she was still sitting on his lap. His hands gripped her forearms, and she realized how scandalous her position was. Water dripped from his dark hair down his face, and his breathing was as ragged as hers.

"Were you trying to kill yourself?" he demanded. "I saw you in the water."

"Someone pushed me," she said. "A man. You were on the ship?"

"I didn't see anyone push you." His tone indicated he doubted her words. "I heard you scream and I ran to the railing."

"You jumped in to save me?" He shrugged.

"I could hardly do anything else. It was clear you were not going to make it to shore by yourself."

Something about him was familiar, but it was too dark to make out much more than the tilt of his head and his dark hair and eyes. She struggled to stand. "Thank you," she said. "You can let me up now."

He dumped her onto the shore, then stood and offered her a hand. She allowed him to help her up.

"Is that the lighthouse?" she asked, pointing toward the beacon on the hill.

"Yes, I'll get help. Stay here." He jogged off into the darkness.

She wasn't about to sit and wait when someone had just tried to kill her, but he didn't answer when she called out after him. He was quick, and her voice was too raw and thin from the salt water to be heard over the waters. She walked on wobbly legs toward the lighthouse.

Copyright Colleen Coble/Thomas Nelson Please do not reproduce without permission.

Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW's Carol Award, RWA's RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best.

She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail.

Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.

Visit her website at

The Lightkeeper's Ball is available at bookstores everywhere and may also be purchased at Thomas Nelson, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at your local Christian book store.

* * *

Daddy in the Making

book 2 in "New Friends Street" series for Love Inspired Romance

by Lyn Cote

"I just finished reading your book, Daddy in the Making and I want to say I REALLY enjoyed it tremendously!!! Parts of it made me tear up and other parts had me riveted to my seat." an email from Shirley, a reader.

Brought together by a Matchmaking Dog--

Dr. Jake McClure's basset hound has fallen in love. With a single mom, her adorable twins and the orphaned kittens they rescued. Man's best friend suddenly won't budge from Jeannie Broussard's home, and Jake can understand why. Jeannie's place is full of love, laughter and everything Jake has been missing in his life lately. As Jake spends time with Jeannie and her girls, a bond forges between them, and soon Jake is wondering if he's the perfect fit in this fatherless family....

New Friends Street: Where love and dreams find a home.

Chapter One

Longing for food and then bed, Jake McClure fumed over being forced to delay both. As he jogged through the winter's early darkness toward the church, his basset hound Bummer padded along beside him over the hard-packed snow. Jake slammed the side door behind him, shutting out the below-zero wind-chill. He paused, his glasses fogged from the temperature change. In the pause, he permitted himself to let the burn of irritation build inside.

Earlier after catching up on voice mails, Jake had felt compelled to come here to find Mike, to see if he done harm to himself. Glasses clear, Jake shuffled down the steps, with Bummer trailing behind. The two of them entered the brightly lit church basement where laughter punctuated cheerful voices of those attending the fundraiser potluck. As he scanned faces for Mike's, several people, many from his vet practice, greeted him.

Then the door opened behind him, letting in another rush of arctic wind. Two little girls rushed down the steps. "We found two kittens!" they shouted. "Out in the snow!"

Jake turned. He saw two little girls so bundled up that little of them showed, except their pink noses and tendrils of blond hair. And in the mittened hands of each little girl, a small golden tabby kitten mewed and shivered. He hurried to them and knelt down on the hard, cold linoleum.

"Where did you find these little ones?"

"They were in the snow near where I parked," a tall woman behind the girls replied, her voice low and rich. "Are they okay? It's so cold out and the kittens are so tiny." She dropped to her knees beside him.

"I think their eyes have just opened recently," Jake said. At his elbow, Bummer did something unusual. He licked one kitten and then the other with his big tongue.

"Don't let him bite the kitties!" one of the little girls cried. Jake held up a hand.

"Bummer isn't going to hurt them. Let's see what he does."

Bummer licked the kittens thoroughly. Then with delicate care, he lifted each kitten with his teeth by the scruff of its neck and placed it into Jake's hand, one then the other. The basset hound woofed.

"Do you want me to keep the little ones warm, Bummer?" Jake asked.

Bummer woofed again and licked the top of the kittens' heads. Jake pulled off his gray wool scarf and made it into a tight circle. Then he placed the kittens in the center of the makeshift nest. He cuddled them close, knowing they needed warmth fast.

"Oooh," the little girls sounded their approval. They both petted Bummer, crooning, "Good dog. You're a good dog."

"You're the vet, aren't you?" the young woman kneeling beside him asked.

"Yes." He realized he'd neglected his manners. Sliding the scarf nest to one arm, he offered her his hand. "I'm Jake McClure."

"Jeannie Broussard and these are my girls, Mimi and Cindy."

Jake became aware that Annie, a frequent volunteer at the local animal shelter, had appeared beside him. Middle-aged, Annie wore her usual denim, hiking boots "outdoorsy" attire. He recognized the concern on her face. Would they have to squeeze in two more stray kittens? Another question came to mind.

"Mimi and Cindy, did you see a mama cat outside?" Jake asked.

"No," Jeannie replied for them. "I looked around too. I can't see why kittens so small would be outside in this weather." A man in the crowd that had gathered around them cleared his throat.

"I'm afraid I saw a cat at the side of the street near here. It was a golden tabby too." Jake didn't have to ask. The tone of the man's voice and his use of the past tense said loud and clear that the cat mother no longer needed his help. Annie and he exchanged weary glances. Beside him, Jeannie made a sound of sorrow and regret.

"Poor little orphans." As if understanding the words, Bummer bayed mournfully and licked each kitten again. Jake rose, still cradling them in his scarf.

"I'll take these little ones to the animal shelter before I go home tonight," he said.

The two little girls bounced up and down. "Mom, Mom, can't we keep them? Mom, please."

Jake hesitated, certain that the girls were putting Jeannie on the spot. But Jeannie nodded, a smile lifting her face. "I've been promising you kittens, haven't I? It looks like God has chosen just the ones He wants us to have."

"Thank heaven," Annie breathed.

Again as if understanding, Bummer woofed and grinned.

From around her neck, Jeannie untwined her fuzzy red scarf, followed Jake's example, and soon the two babies were transferred to it. The gathering around them broke up. Jake leaned forward. He wanted to make sure she knew how to take care of the babies.

"From my observation of their teeth, these kittens should be old enough to eat soft warmed food. I suggest a food specially formulated for kittens so it doesn't upset their delicate systems."

"I was thinking warm milk?" Jeannie lifted one eyebrow.

"No, most kittens are lactose intolerant. You can buy special kitten milk, but canned food and water is sufficient. They'll need to be fed every four hours." Jeannie looked worried. "Is that a problem?"

"No," one of the girls piped up. "Our babysitter likes cats. She'll help us when you're at work, Mom."

The woman's pretty face lightened. "Yes. Yes." She beamed at him. "Thank you."

He pulled out his card and handed it to her, slipping into the usual doctor-pet owner relationship. "I'm happy that these two have found a good home. Please bring them by sometime this week and I'll thank you with a free checkup and shots for them."

"Oh, no," she protested.

He held up a hand. "I insist. I volunteer my services at the local shelter. You just bypassed that step. I'm glad these two found a good home."

She took his hand and squeezed it. "Thank you."

This impulsive gesture embarrassed him. His usual shyness around women rushed back like gangbusters on steroids. He nodded and stepped back.

"No, thank you, Jeannie," Annie said. "We're almost out of room at the shelter. You're a godsend for these two." Still smiling shyly, Jeannie began shepherding the girls toward the coat rack along the wall. Unable to look away however, he followed her with his eyes. Something about her caught and held his attention.

"Well, we dodged another bullet," Annie said in an undertone. "What are we going to do when we reach capacity?"

copyright 2011 Lyn Cote *All rights reserved

To purchase, drop by my website and click on covers

To purchase as an ebook, click here AEF85C0FA7B/10/141/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=8E9FAEEC-88BD-4AD1-8820-C7936A420FA5

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