Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Captive Trail; Attracted to Fire

Captive Trail

By Susan Page Davis

Captive Trail is Susan Page Davis's new book from Moody Publishers. It's part of the Texas Trails series, for which authors Vickie McDonough and Darlene Franklin are also contributing books set in different decades in Texas.

Award-winning author Loree Lough says, "Susan Page Davis's Captive Trail is a wonderfully descriptive tale that will lure you in on page one and not let go until you've read The End. Escape and freedom, courage and faith, and the sometimes fearsome beauty of the wild Texas landscape combine for a fast-paced, spirit-filled read. Make space on your Keepers shelf for this one!"

An excerpt from Captive Trail:

Chapter One

Plains of North Central Texas, 1857

Faster. Taabe Waipu had to go faster, or she would never get down from the high plains, down to the hill country and beyond. South, ever south and east.

Clinging to the horse, she let him run. The land looked flat all around, though it was riddled with ravines and folds. She could no longer see any familiar landmarks. The moon and stars had guided her for two nights, and now the rising sun told her which way to go on her second day of flight. She'd snatched only brief periods of rest. At her urging the horse galloped on, down and up the dips and hollows of the land.

Taabe didn't know where the next water supply lay. The only thing she knew was that she must outrun the Numinu—Comanche, their enemies called them. No one traveled these plains without their permission. Those who tried didn't make it out again. She glanced over her shoulder in the gray dawn. As far as she could see, no one followed, but she couldn't stop. They were back there, somewhere. She urged the horse on toward the southeast.

South to the rolling grasslands where the white men had their ranches. Where Peca and the other men often went to raid. Where Taabe was born.

The compact paint stallion ran smoothly beneath her, but as the sun rose and cast her shadow long over the Llano Estacado, his breath became labored, his stride shorter. Where her legs hugged his sleek sides, her leggings dampened with his sweat. He was a good horse, this wiry paint that Peca had left outside her sister's tepee. Without him she wouldn't have gotten this far. But no horse could run forever.

Taabe slowed him to a trot but didn't dare rest. Not yet.

Another look behind.

No one.

Would she recognize the house she'd once lived in? She didn't think so, but she imagined a big earthen lodge, not a tepee. Or was it a cabin made of logs? That life was a shadow world in her mind now. Fences. The warriors talked about the fences built by the white men, around their gardens and their houses. She thought she recalled climbing a fence made of long poles and sitting on the top. When she saw fences, she would know she was close.

At last she came to a shallow stream, sliding between rocks and fallen trees. It burbled languidly where it split around a boulder. She let the horse wade in and bend down to drink.

Taabe stayed on his back while he drank in long, eager gulps, keeping watch over the way they'd come. She needed to find a sheltered place where the horse could graze and rest. Did she dare stop for a while? She studied the trail behind her then took her near-empty water skin from around her neck. Leaning over the paint's side, she dangled it by its thong in the water on the horse's upstream side. She wouldn't dismount to fill it properly, but she could stay in the saddle and scoop up a little. She straightened and checked the trail again. The horse took a step and continued to drink.

She stroked his withers, warm and smooth. With a wry smile, she remembered the bride price Peca had left. Six horses staked out before the tepee. A stallion and five mares—pretty mares. Healthy, strong mounts. But only six.

The stallion raised his head at last and waded across the stream without her urging. They settled into a steady trot. Tomorrow or the next day or the next, she would come to a land with many trees and rivers. And many houses of the whites.

Would she have stayed if Peca had left twenty horses? Fifty?

Not for a thousand horses would she have stayed in the village and married Peca—or any other warrior. Staying would make it impossible for her ever to go back to that other world—the world to the south.

Eagerness filled her, squeezing out her fear. She dug her heels into the stallion's ribs. Whatever awaited her, she rushed to meet it.

The paint lunged forward and down. His right front hoof sank, and he didn't stop falling. Taabe tried to brace herself, too late. The horse's body continued to fly up and around. She hurtled off to the side and tucked her head.

Captive Trail, copyright 2011 by Susan Page Davis, published by Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Visit Susan's website at: www.susanpagedavis.com

Captive Trail is available now in stores or online through:

Christian Book Distributors: http://www.christianbook.com/captive-trail-susan-davis/9780802405845/pd/405845?item_code=WW&netp_id=892812&event=ESRCN&view=details

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802405843/suspagdav-20

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/captive-trail?store=book

Books-A-Million: http://www.booksamillion.com/product/9780802405845?id=4988325581053

* * *

Attracted to Fire
DiAnn Mills

This masterfully crafted suspense novel immediately hooks the reader…a real page turner. – Booklist

Christy winner and prolific author Mills braids together romance and suspense in a compelling narrative about a young woman caught in the crosshairs of political ambition. Special Agent Meghan Connors's dreams of protecting the president become tainted by the vicious evil that overtakes those in power. Reeling from her own painful loss and head spinning from a new love that clouds her professional vision, Meghan must team up with Lindsay Hall, the daughter of the vice president of the United States, to uncover a conspiracy that's leaving a growing swath of death and destruction. But can she trust Agent Ash Zinders and the other agents? Is there someone on the inside who wants Lindsay dead? Taking place mainly in one locale—a West Texas ranch owned by the Halls—this stand-alone will delight and draw readers of Christian romantic suspense like moths to flame. Readers who prefer a slower paced, single-setting, focused character-building story to one that rushes headlong across international borders will be suitably "attracted." - Publisher's Weekly


Washington, DC

"If he doesn't muzzle his daughter, he's going to lose the presidential nomination."

Special Agent Meghan Connors cringed at the TV anchor's analysis of Vice President Hall's campaign, even though the statement rang with validity.

"Although early popularity polls indicated Hall to be a strong contender for the presidential race, his ratings are dropping daily." The blonde reporting the news gave the camera a tilt of her head. "We are currently waiting for a statement from his office regarding Lindsay Hall's appearance on The Barry Knight Show last evening, where she made the following statement, 'My father is a poor excuse for the office of President of the United States.'"

The screen flashed a clip of Lindsay Hall sporting cleavage and lots of leg.

"And she's our new assignment?" Special Agent Bob Lawson eased back in his chair and stuck his thumbs inside his pants pockets. "I've heard she swears like a convict. Smacked a couple of agents in the face."

Meghan kept her opinions in check. She focused on the TV mounted in the corner of the coffee shop, the one located not far from the White House. Thank goodness the shop was empty except for the barista moving to whatever was playing on his iPod.

The news anchor continued her report. "Take a look at Lindsay Hall's escapade three nights ago." The screen reverted to footage taken in a local nightclub. Lindsay toasted the camera with a bottle of beer. Clearly inebriated, she sat in a booth enjoying media attention. The news anchor shook her head with a smile, an obvious display of her political preference. "Many are asking, 'If Vice President Hall cannot control his daughter, how can he effectively run our country?'"

Ouch. That nailed the situation. Meghan wrapped her fingers around the loop of her coffee cup and walked out onto a patio filled with umbrella tables and chairs. A steady mist filled the afternoon heat with humidity. She needed to focus on her new assignment—and the challenges ahead. Protecting the VP's daughter was supposed to be a promotion. If she failed, this could mean a permanent stall in her career.

Sensing Bob standing beside her, she turned to give him her views about their situation. "We're made of better stuff than the agents dismissed from Lindsay's protection team."

"I keep telling myself that."

"They let her manipulate them. Plain and simple."

"But we're not babysitters. We're Special Agents for the Secret Service."

Meghan didn't know the agents who'd been reassigned as a result of Lindsay's latest antics, but Bob had called them friends. She took a sip of her strong coffee, ignoring the raindrops gaining momentum. "Escorting her to the TV station and not informing the vice president was poor judgment. Her statements severely damaged the VP's image. Maybe even his chances of securing the party's nomination."

"Everything she says and does chips at his ability to lead the country. The Barry Knight Show and that entire TV network are out to crucify him and the party."

"So we're back to our assignment." Meghan stepped under the coffee shop's canopy to avoid the rain. "I'm committed to protecting her, and I know you are too."

"I have to be." Bob set his cup on an empty table. "Taking a bullet for her would qualify as above and beyond . . . ." He pressed his lips. "But that's what we do. Right? Can't let personal opinions get in the way of duty."

"Absolutely, and I'm sure there are plans to curb her actions. In fact—" Her phone rang, and she reached inside her shoulder bag. A quick glimpse told her it was Supervisor Tom Warrington from the Secret Service office.

"Bob there with you?"

"Yes sir."

"I need both of you in my office at 1400. Ash Zinders, the SAIC for this assignment, needs to brief you and the other agents assigned to the protectee."

Meghan slipped her phone back into her shoulder bag and relayed the information.

Bob whistled. "Good old A2Z isn't wasting any time."

The nickname for the Special Agent in Charge assigned to Lindsay Hall's protection detail wasn't a title any agent would say to his face. He was known for his obsession with detail and his domineering personality. Meghan hadn't met the agent, and she didn't look forward to his browbeating.

"It really bothers me that she now has six agents protecting her when any other VP family member has three." Bob pulled a dollar from his wallet and anchored it beneath his cup. "Did I say I regret accepting this assignment? Hasn't been two hours since the call."

"There's a reason, Bob. We were chosen because the VP needed agents who could get the job done. But I question the number of us, too, and what it means."

The potential to fulfill her dreams, the circumstances surrounding Lindsay Hall's unpredictable behavior, and the nightmare of working under Ash Zinders had Meghan wondering if the challenges ahead would be worth it.

Available at fine bookstores everywhere

I love Facebook and all the advantages of having wonderful friends like you. We have book launch parties, contests, and lots of fun keeping in touch. Please "like" my author page now - facebook.com/diannmills


Expect an Adventure




Attracted to Fire
DiAnn Mills
Tyndale House Publishers
© 2011 by DIANN MILLS

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without
permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Love Finds You on Christmas Morning

Bio: Award-winning novelist Trish Perry has written nine inspirational romances for Harvest House Publishers, Summerside Press, and Barbour Publishing, as well as two devotionals for Summerside Press. She has served as a columnist and as a newsletter editor over the years, as well as a 1980s stockbroker and a board member of the Capital Christian Writers organization in Washington, D.C. She holds a degree in Psychology.

Trish just released Love Finds You on Christmas Morning, written with Debby Mayne. Her nostalgic romance novel, Unforgettable (Summerside Press), released in March and Tea for Two, Book Two in her Millicent's Tea Shop series (Harvest House), released in April. She invites you to visit her at www.TrishPerry.com

About the book: Love finds a home on Christmas morning in two heartwarming holiday stories.

Deck the Halls (Debby Mayne): In 1925, the wealthy William Tronnier becomes smitten with the lovely but penniless Lillian Pickard. Not one to give up easily, William pursues Lillian even though she does everything in her power to resist falling in love with a man from a completely different social class. As Christmas descends on the picturesque town of Cary, North Carolina, William plans to make Lillian a proposal she can't refuse.

Tis the Season (Trish Perry): When personal chef Nikki Tronnier moves back home to Cary, North Carolina, she plans to fulfill a lifelong dream and buy back the family home built by her great-grandfather for his bride. But before she is able to make an offer, someone else buys the house. Just as she prepares for a fight, she learns that the very person who stole her dream is the man who has also stolen her heart. Unaware, handsome new owner, Drew Cornell, seeks Nikki's help in restoring the home to its historic beauty in time for Christmas.

Online purchase links:

Please let me know if you need any more info! Thanks,

LFY on Christmas Morning, Tea for Two, and more

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

Sandra Byrd

"...this stunning novel ...reexamines Boleyn's life from her beginnings to her rise and eventual fall in the Tudor court. Byrd's novel adds a depth to the character of Anne Boleyn that is often missing in other novels, and she brings the history to life in exquisite detail. Readers might indeed find themselves sympathizing with the young queen. Highly recommended for fans of Philippa Gregory. "

Library Journal,
Starred Review

To Die For, is the story of Meg Wyatt, pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighboring manors in Kent. When Anne's star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne's favor rises and falls, so does Meg's. And though she's pledged her loyalty to Anne no matter what the test, Meg just might lose her greatest love—and her own life—because of it.


Year of Our Lord 1536

There are many ways to arrive at the Tower of London though there are few ways out. Kings and Queens ride in before a coronation, retinue trailing like a train of ermine. Prisoners, however, arrive on foot, shoved through one cavernous gate or another by the wardens who live, as all do, at the mercy of a merciless king. Some unfortunate few are delivered to the Tower by water.

The Thames lapped against our boat as it stopped to allow for the entry to be raised.

Chapter One

Year of Our Lord 1518

Allington Castle, Kent, England

"Come with me," I whispered to Anne. She turned to look at her older sister, Mary, busy flirting with my tutors – forbidden, and therefore enticing, conquests. After assessing the safety of our escape Anne turned back to me and nodded, yes. She was up for an adventure as I knew she would be. Rose Ogilvy sat in the corner, carefully plying her needle in and out of a stretch of muslin. She was seventeen years old, same as Anne and me, but I knew she would shy away from this particular exploit, any particular exploit, in fact. To save her embarrassment I didn't ask her along.

We slipped out the door, gathered the layers of skirts in our hands and then raced down the long stone hallway. Recently painted portraits of my Wyatt ancestors were awkwardly affixed to the walls. When he bought the castle, my father, Henry Wyatt, had placed them there to make our family seem more ancient and noble than it was. We were not exactly pretenders, but not exactly of Norman blood, either. They stared down at me, ill at ease, smiths and butchers and small time landowners now forced into velvets and ruffs within a span of time no broader than the width of my hand. And yet we were gentry now. My father expected me to act like the lady he'd suffered to make me be.

We slid out the main entrance, one or two servants catching my eye and warning me back inside with a stern look. "No, Mistress Meg," one urged me. I disregarded them. They knew what might lie ahead for me – they'd borne the same fate, maybe worse. But I refused to be intimidated.

Anne and I linked arms and strolled toward the rows of unattended garden. Just beyond, on the neatly clipped field, our brothers play-jousted with long branches though all were training for real jousts as well. As we strolled by my brother Thomas stopped, dipped into a bow and flourished his hat in our direction. "What a polite young man," Anne said. "Mayhap you'll notice, my brother George isn't tipping his hat toward me."

I grinned. "My brother isn't tipping his hat toward me, either. He'd as soon ignore me as do me good. It's you he's trying to impress, as well you know." A light flush of pleasure spread up Anne's long neck and a little cat-like mewl escaped her lips. She fully realized the affect she'd begun to have on men. Whilst she didn't court their praise, false modesty was not her besetting sin, either.

"I see another bow and this one is particularly in your direction," she said. I looked up and saw Will Ogilvy.

A year older than I, Will's brown hair was long and tousled, his face slightly reddened from the joust. I couldn't help but notice that his arms and chest had thickened over the summer as he grew from a gangly boy into an assured young man. Even from this distance I could see his eyes had the same merry twinkle for me that they'd always had. I nodded primly in his direction – after all, I was a lady, and we were in mixed company. He winked at me.

A wink! The audacity. Who else saw it?

"Mayhap Lord Ogilvy's son should come out of the field. He seems to have dust in his eye," Anne teased. I turned toward her and grinned, thankful for her faithful friendship. She never trained her charm on Will. She knew I planned to have him for myself.

Rewardingly, he seemed completely uninterested in Anne, too.

We sat in the gardens, enveloped in the haze of the exotic scent of my mother's jasmine plants, gossiping about overheard conversations between Anne's ambassador father and high-born mother; they had sent Anne and her sister Mary to apprentice at the French court when the Princess Mary married some years back and they were to return, shortly, after this visit home with their father. We talked about my sister, Alice who had borne yet another child. I would soon go to stay with her for a few months, if my father allowed it. But as Alice was an obedient girl, marrying young and bearing quickly my father favored nearly every request she made. Alas, the same could not be said for me.

"We've got new horses." I finally got the conversation around to its planned target. "My father's horse master brought them `round last week."

"Ooh," Anne said. "Are they fast?"

"I don't know…" I answered. We'd prided ourselves, unseemly, I suppose, on riding as fast and as well as any boy in our group.

"Should we see?" she asked me, as I knew she would. For me to suggest the idea would be disobedient, but for me to accommodate a friend would be hospitality indeed.

We ran to the stables and after petting old favorites we walked to the stalls where the new horses were housed. Our vanity guided our choices. Anne picked out her favorite, a raven mare, barely three years old with deep black eyes, like her own. I showed her the one I loved best, a tamed stallion with a thick auburn mane like my own. He glanced nervously about his stall till I gentled him with quiet words and touches.

"Should you have them saddled?"

My father shouldn't be home from court till tomorrow morning. Then I called over a stable boy. "Saddle these two for us, please."

"If'n you say so, miss," he said, unable to disobey me but nervous nonetheless. I smiled kindly at him, hoping to gentle him as I'd done the stallion.

"I do," I said. And then Anne and I raced and rode.

Please visit Sandra online at www.sandrabyrd.comwhere you can link to purchase her books at a variety of fine booksellers.

All rights reserved. Do not reproduce.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

From This Day Forward

From This Day Forward

By Margaret Daley

"Stirring romance, characters who come alive, and genuine faith, all pulse from this book, carrying you from the first page of From This Day Forward to the very end. I enjoyed my journey through Margaret Daley's newest work and heartily recommend it. You won't be disappointed!" Miralee Ferrell. author of Love Finds You In Sundance, WY

Blurb for From This Day Forward:

Rachel Gordon is stranded in South Carolina, pregnant, a recent widow when her husband fell overboard on the voyage to America. Nathan Stuart, a physician who came home from serving in the American army during the War of 1812, disenchanted with his life and the Lord, rescues Rachel and saves her life. Feeling responsible for her, Nathan tries to discourage her from living at a rundown farm her husband bought to start a new future in America. He wants her to return to England.

Rachel refuses to go back to England where her father disowned her for marrying against his wishes. The farm is all she has, and she is determined to make it on her own. But Nathan has other ideas and becomes her farmhand to discourage her from staying in America. Instead he ends up protecting her and being challenged by her. Can two wounded people heal each other?

Chapter One

March 1816

"We are going to die," Rachel Gordon's young maid cried out.

Rachel looked up at the clouds rolling in. Dark, ominous ones. She shivered and pulled her shawl tighter about her as the breeze picked up. A storm brewed, and she still had several miles to go until she reached her new home in South Carolina. "God willing, we will make it, Maddy."

Fear deepened the lines on Maddy's plain face. "'Tis like the squall on the boat."

Lightning flashed, momentarily brightening the shadows of the forest. A clap of thunder rumbled the ground. Maddy screamed. The old gelding that pulled the cart—all Rachel's meager coins could afford—increased its speed, weaving from side to side. Out of control.

Determined to be there before nightfall and in one piece, Rachel gripped the reins and fought to slow the maddening pace of the horse. Finally it resumed its plodding step. The weather-beaten cart she had bought near the dock in Charleston hit a bump in the road, jostling her into Maddy. Her maid clutched the seat with one hand and held onto Rachel with the other.

Steadying herself, Rachel rested her wrists on her rounded stomach. She had more than herself and Maddy to worry about now. Her life had changed so much since she left her ancestral home in England. She had married, conceived a child, and was now a widow, all in the space of a year. And worse, she was going to a place she had never seen because she had nowhere else to go. Her husband had used most of their money to purchase this plantation she was traveling to. It was her future, whether she wanted it to be or not.

The warmth of a spring day quickly faded as the sky grew blacker. Rachel stared at the menacing clouds through the treetops and realized she would not make it to her new home before the storm broke. She scanned the area for a place to seek shelter.

Sinister shadows lurked just beyond the road. Again she shivered, her imagination conjuring images of wild animals staring at her from the depths of the forest. She'd heard stories about the bears. Huge. Fierce. Sharp teeth and claws. Shifting on the seat, she darted a glance from side to side, feeling as though she were some beast's next meal. She could not stop, even if it poured down rain.

Oh, how she missed England, with its gently rolling hills and refined beauty—not this raw wilderness. Like a fish floundering on land, she did not belong here. Nothing in her life had prepared her for this strange environment.

Drops of water spattered her. The wind picked up.

"That man on the boat told me about a big cat. They are out there." Maddy whimpered, draping her shawl over her head and hunching her shoulders. "Lord, have mercy on us."

Rachel forced herself to keep her gaze fixed on the road ahead. Once they were at the plantation Maddy would settle down. The squall two days out of Charleston had nearly sunk the ship they had traveled in. Surely this storm would not be as bad.

Taking deep breaths, Rachel calmed her racing thoughts and heartbeat. Pain spread through her lower back. She gripped the reins, the leather digging into her palms. The pain dulled to an ache. Another deep inhalation and the panic nibbling at her composure abated. Soon she would be at her new home and could sit in front of a warm fire, put her legs up, and rest. Hopefully the letter her husband had sent ahead would alert any staff to her arrival. Her glance strayed to the tall pine trees, swaying in the gust. Everything would be all right when she arrived at Dalton Plantation.

But even with Maddy next to her on the seat, the feeling she was the only person in the world overwhelmed her.

The wind picked up, whipping strands of her long brown hair that had escaped its coiffure about her face and threatening to whisk away her bonnet. Lightning zigzagged across the sky, followed by thunder. Maddy jumped in her seat. The gelding's ears flattened.

A chill embedded itself deep in Rachel. She arched her back to ease the pang still plaguing her. Suddenly lightning struck a tree nearby, its flash a beacon in the growing darkness. A crack as the pine split into two pieces echoed through the forest. Immediately afterward, a boom of thunder cleaved the air. Maddy shrieked. The horse increased its pace while a few more splotches of water splashed Rachel. Then all at once rain fell in gray sheets.

The gelding lurched forward even faster. Rachel grasped the reins, trying to maintain control. She pulled on the leather straps to slow the horse. Nothing. He kept galloping down the road, oblivious to his surroundings, as though the hounds of hell were nipping at his hooves.

If you want to read more about From This Day Forward, check out Margaret Daley's website at http://www.margaretdaley.com/all-books/ . Do not reproduce without permission.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Wedding Kiss

Against the backdrop of 1901 Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the surrounding countryside, one simple kiss draws two people into a discovery that will forever change their lives.

Marriage seems the only option for Keara McBride and Elam Jensen after Keara's father gambles away her home and ends up in jail, and Elam's children need a mother's care. When the Jensens seal their vows at the altar with a kiss, however, their marriage of convenience seems much less convenient. The first kiss they share before a church filled with witnesses ignites a beacon of attraction that leaves them both feeling guilty. Elam's wife, Gloria--who was also Keara's best friend--has been dead less than a year. How can they betray her like this? And yet...oh, that kiss. When a stranger who bears a striking resemblance to Gloria shows up injured on the front porch on Elam and Keara's wedding night, the whole family is thrown into confusion, suspense and danger. But does this stranger also hold a key to the Jensens' future happiness?

Published by Summerside Press
> http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN978-1-60936-308-6

Friday, September 02, 2011


By Eric Wiggin

"Here's a book you can sink your teeth into. Skinny Dipping at Megunticook Lake is Bible-based fiction about sex. Not only can you use it as a guide, but you can find some friends in the characters who share some of the doubts and discomfort that most other Christians do about their private lives. Read and enjoy." Hannah Alexander, author of The Wedding Kiss

"A fun and romantic romp, Skinny Dipping at Megunticook Lake will delight readers who enjoy their fiction playful—and quietly pointed." Sibella Giorello

"I love this book! I love how the scripture was used in this story and how well it was explained how it was adjusted by some of the monks. I am a new nursing, mother, and this story touched my heart. I especially love the way God is at work in all the characters' lives. This has been an inspirational story for me. I will be taking a closer look at my Bible." Abby Gagnon

SUMMARY: What Jenny finds when she dives into life at Megunticook, Maine thrills her more than the Sexual Revolution, Woodstock, Jesus People, or stopping the Vietnam War.


Eric Wiggin

(Excerpted from Chapter One)

December 21, 1966

Jenny O'Brien didn't suspect when she made love with Rusty that winter morning that she was turning a corner to death—and life—and beginning a journey to knowledge of life's most treasured secret. Warm inside, still, from playing intimate sheet music with her beloved husband, Jenny smiled and tugged her parka across her pregnant belly against the winter chill of coastal Maine.

From where Jenny stood on the plank walkway outside the old barn's back door she could just make out where the dark green of the distant tall pines melded into the lighter green of old-growth hemlocks. She strained her ear for the snarl of Rusty's chainsaw. Only silence rewarded her heart's fond longing.

Jenny and Rusty had left New York's Establishment to sink their savings into this Maine hardscrabble farm only to discover that the economic realities of the 1960's required more than this century-and-a-half old farmstead could provide. "Que sera, sera, I guess." Only the cow and calves heard Jenny's plaint about the financial Catch-22 that had brought Rusty to buy a gas-engine chainsaw and attack their beloved primeval forest.

Rusty had gone that morning to the woodlot alone after he'd happily helped Jenny enjoy her late-pregnancy amorous mood. It worried her now that she couldn't hear the rev-and-snarl, rev-and-snarl of his new saw. Bachelor neighbor John Rowe always arrived to help Rusty with the logging right after breakfast. This morning, though, his mother had phoned to say John had a young cow in labor with a difficult delivery, and he would be late.

* * * * *

"We're not hippies, John," she'd said. Jenny knew she'd spoken defensively. She and Rusty had met in Washington at the November 1965 March for Peace in Vietnam. Both successful tort lawyers from New York, their month-long romance culminated in a Christmas Day marriage. They now chose a counter-culture lifestyle to escape Big Brother, but they sought something more solid than what the free-loving, LSD-tripping flower children of the Age of Aquarius had to offer.

* * * * *

Jenny did not remember pulling the massive, 400-year-old hemlock from Rusty's chest with the pick-up's power winch. Maine State Trooper David Bolduc was amazed to discover she'd accomplished this despite what must have been breath-taking labor pains. As for Rusty's chain saw, he hadn't even used it. John Rowe had felled the big tree yesterday, and this morning it had rolled onto Rusty as he cut a supporting limb with his axe.

John arrived to find Jenny sitting in the snow with Rusty's head and shoulders cradled on her knees as she desperately tried to restore the crushed man's breathing. John hoisted Rusty onto the GMC's bed, then helped Jenny scramble up with him. He drove to Jenny's house, where he called an ambulance, then piled blankets around the couple as they struggled with life—and with death.

John phoned his mother. Sarah Rowe, with her antique Packard, beat the ambulance to the O'Brien home. Yet Jenny steadfastly refused to leave Rusty until he was taken from her by the ambulance attendants. Moments later, Jenny gave birth in her own bed into Sarah's practiced hands.

Sarah now stepped onto the O'Brien porch and huddled into her sweater. She faced her son. "Yes, John?"

"Rusty . . . he died in the ambulance. They never got him to the hospital." John wiped his eyes with his sleeve and choked back a sob.

Sarah cast a glance through the window in the door. She waited as Vi, who'd been feeding Jenny's stove with firewood, returned to the bedroom. "Jenny's doing as well as can be expected. She's got beautiful baby—a boy." Sarah forced a smile.

"Shall I tell her, Mother?" John's words were fraught with pathos. He knew well enough that Death has no protocol or even an agenda, from a human perspective. John also believed firmly that all things have a certain agenda in the eyes of the Almighty. Right now it seemed only decent that Rusty's best friend be the one to inform the widow.

"Jenny's got to be told—she's in grief anyway." Sarah lifted her chin. "I'd want to know."

John trusted his mother's judgment. Sarah had twice been told that a man she loved had walked the Valley of the Shadow never again to lie in her bosom. Who would know better than she?

"I . . . I'll see if she's decent. I'll tell her you're here." Sarah hurried back inside.

It was Vi Stern. Like his mother, she stepped onto the porch and closed the door behind her. Vi was one of a pair of semi-hippies living in unwed cohabitation across the road from John Rowe's Fox Hill Farm. Better known as "Mickey's girlfriend," Vi had a broad Brooklyn accent and wore too much makeup for rural Maine tastes. And too few clothes in warm weather. That was the consensus of locals who'd seen her barefoot, topless, in nothing but cut-off jeans, helping Mickey plant trees.

Yet Vi, in another life a kindergarten teacher, was a helper with a heart for the hurting. She could always be called upon to help with the sick, dying and birthing. "You'd best leave," Vi said. Her tone was flat, and John could not read it.

"She knows, John." This time Vi seemed to project some emotion—enough, at least, that John mustered the courage to pry for details. "Mother tell her?"

"No. When your mom came back in, Jenny just said, `Rusty's dead, isn't he?'"

John took a breath. "I . . . I could maybe . . ."

"Uh-uh." Vi shook her head. "She said, `Tell John Rowe I don't wish to see him again, ever.'"

Jenny could not forgive John for involving Rusty in the logging enterprise that had taken his life—not ever. Like Jenny's daddy, Art McGill, Rowe was a man too busy making money to care about human needs.

She was sure of this.

Copyright 2011: Eric Wiggin (Do not reproduce without permission)

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