Thursday, August 30, 2012

                                                            BEAUTY TO DIE FOR

  By Kim Alexis
    and Mindy Starns Clark

This exciting new cozy mystery goes to a luxurious spa—and behind

the scenes of the beauty industry—as it weaves a fascinating tale

of betrayal, intrigue, and murder.

"With Alexis' knowledge of the modeling world and Clark's mastery at mysteries, this is a novel not to be missed.--RT Book Reviews Magazine

Former supermodel Juliette Taylor is on her way to Palm Grotto spa when she runs into Raven, an old colleague known for her fiery red hair and even fierier temper. Two hours later, Raven is found dead. Now Juliette must try to learn who killed her old modeling rival and why—before she becomes the prime suspect.

Or the next victim.


From Chapter One

Kill me now.

Juliette froze at the end of the jetway, staring at the vivid flash of red hair in the crowd up ahead. The woman was just one of many pouring out from a nearby gate, but all it took was a glimpse of those distinctive red waves for Juliette to know exactly who she was.

Not today, not when Juliette was already dealing with so much. Please, not her.

But it was her, it had to be. Juliette would know those flaming tresses anywhere. Only one person on earth could carry off that height and color and style with such absolute flair.
The great Raven herself.

Juliette ducked, hiding among the throng spilling out around her, then worked her way to one side and moved behind a wide pillar. Cheeks burning, she adjusted a strap on her carry-on as the crowd swept past.

What were the odds of ending up in the same gate area of the same airport on the same day as her former cohort? Yet it had happened, even way out here in the middle of the California desert—a near-encounter with a fellow supermodel, one who'd been in the business at the same time as Juliette, back in the '80s. Raven, of all people. Ugh.

The phone in Juliette's pocket gave off the signal for a text, so she pulled it out and checked the message. It was from Didi, her best friend and business partner, who had flown out two days before to prepare for the big event they would be hosting over the weekend at one of the spas that carried their "JT Lady" line of beauty products. The message said: Am in cell lot. Text when you get in.

Thumbs flying, Juliette replied: I'm here, but u'll never guess who else is.

Didi's response was quick: ?

Smiling to herself, Juliette typed, THE RED DRAGON

Didi's reply—!!!!!!!—was followed by a second text: RAVEN? No way!

Juliette nodded to herself as she typed. Yep, am hiding now. Can't come out till coast is clear.

Didi's final response: No prob, take ur time. Oh yeah, be sure to check out billboard at carousel 3.

Juliette slipped the phone into her pocket and shifted around the pillar to take another look. Scanning the crowd, she spotted the regal redhead moving through the exit at the end of the long hallway. Glad to have dodged that particular bullet, she gripped the handle of her carry-on and moved from behind the pillar then made her way to baggage claim and carousel three.

The moment she spotted the sign, her face eased into a smile. Mounted on the back wall, the huge billboard featured an inviting photo of Palm Grotto Spa's world-famous mineral pool, a handsome couple floating side by side in its turquoise waters. In the lower half of the sign, in blazing white text against even deeper blue water, were the words:

It's Your Turn . . .

A Juliette Taylor Event

Under that was her company's brand new slogan:

Isn't it time someone took care of you for a change?

The whole thing was just so striking. She sent Didi a text that she was ready and waiting at baggage claim then spent a minute a two taking in the gorgeous new sign from various angles. She was snapping a final photo with her phone's camera, about to head outside, when she was startled by a nearby scream.

Juliette spun around to see Raven standing not ten feet away, yelling and cursing at an elderly luggage porter who seemed to have dropped one of her bags.

Time for a quick getaway, before Raven spotted her. Juliette scanned the area for a hiding place, but even as she saw a restroom she could duck into, she hesitated. The poor old man didn't deserve to be spoken to like that. It wasn't right. Juliette let loose a sigh. She couldn't run and hide. In the past she'd seen Raven go on like this for a full five or ten minutes, but she'd also seen the woman's attitude change on a dime, even in the midst of her most vicious rant, if she felt like it. Hoping that would be the case here, Juliette took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and strode forward.

Time to slay the fire-breathing dragon—or at least keep her from burning someone else.

Marcus Stone stood in the doorway of the old warehouse, looking around at the near-empty space inside. For the past six months this had been command central for JATFAT—the Joint Atlanta Task Force Against Terrorism. Filled with personnel and equipment, it had served as a top-secret beehive of activity, everyone working together toward a singular goal: the seizure of a newly activated terrorist cell based in metro Atlanta. That goal had been achieved last month with the arrest of all the cell's members, and now, after several weeks of processing, investigating, and debriefing, things had finally begun to wind down.

At this point the place held only a few workstations and a handful of people, the core members of the team. Marcus spotted the man he was there to see, Special Agent in Charge Nate Anderson, near the back of the room, trying to close a window.

He headed that way. "Need some help?"

Nate turned. "Hey, Stone, how you doing?"

The two men shook hands. "Fine. You?"

Nate gestured toward the window. "Not too good at the moment. Somebody thought we needed some fresh air in here today, and now it's stuck open." With a shrug, he added, "It's the crickets. Still can't tolerate that sound."

Marcus could hear the cacophony of chirps outside, typical in Georgia for this time of year. He stepped forward to lend a hand, and the two men wrestled with the stubborn windowpane until frame met sill with a thud.

"It's been eleven years." Nate's voice was guttural and low. "But the minute I hear the chirping, might as well have been yesterday. Three hundred and forty-three of 'em under the rubble, all going off at once, and not a thing we could do about it."

Marcus could feel a tightening in his chest as he, too, remembered. "You're talking about the PASS alarms after 9/11." Short for Personal Alert Safety Systems, the distress signals were designed to go off whenever the emergency workers wearing them became immobile for more than thirty seconds, to indicate they were in trouble. After the towers fell, more than three hundred firefighters had been trapped, immobile, below the rubble.

Less than a minute later, their alarms began to go off.

Nate nodded. "Those alarms sounded just like a bunch of crickets to me. It was bad enough at the beginning, when there were so many and we couldn't get to any of them. But it was even worse when things started quieting down. Batteries dying one by one."

Marcus remembered. It had taken more than a day for the last of those beeps to stop. He'd hated the silence even more than the noise.

Nate grabbed a rag to wipe his hands. "Anyway, what's up? Can I do something for you?"

Marcus took a deep breath and blew it out, not sure how to broach the topic he'd come here to discuss. "I need to talk with you for a minute. It's about that list of names we found among the papers recovered from the terrorist cell."

"Oh?" Nate moved toward his desk and gestured for Marcus to have a seat on the other side as he dug through the file drawer and located a copy of the paper in question, the name list. Among the evidence that had been collected in the wake of the capture of the terrorist cell last month had been a typed list of ten names, most of them recognizable to those on the task force. Three were public figures who spoke out against the counterfeiting of designer goods, such as knock-off purses, counterfeit DVDs, and fake perfumes and cosmetics. Four were members of Congress who were working to toughen federal anti-counterfeiting laws. The connection for the remaining three names was less clear, but with some investigation it was determined that the list was comprised of ten people whose actions could be financially detrimental to the cell's counterfeit-based money raising activities in one way or another.

Marcus skimmed the names upside down now, remembering the first time he'd seen that list, just a few weeks before, and shock he'd felt when he'd come to her name

"Number six," he said gruffly.

Nate ran his finger along the list and stopped there. "Oh yeah, the former supermodel?"

Marcus nodded, swallowing hard. "Yep, that's the one. I'm here because I need to talk to you about her, about Juliette Taylor."


Mindy Starns Clark is the #1 bestselling author of 20 books, fiction and nonfiction including the Christy award-winning The Amish Midwife, the ever-popular nonfiction guide The House that Cleans Itself, and more. Visit her website at

Kim Alexis was an original supermodel of the 80's, appearing on more than 500 magazine covers and in numerous beauty advertisements. Today she is a television host, author, speaker, and fitness enthusiast. Visit her website at

Beauty to Die For is available wherever books are sold, including,, and

Copyright ©2012 by Mindy Starns Clark and Kim Alexis Pro. Inc.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

House of Mercy

By Erin Healy
House of Mercy is a supernatural suspense novel about an aspiring large-animal vet, Beth Borzoi, who has a healing gift. But when she is sued for a terrible mistake, the judgment devastates her family's ranch and leads to a loved one's death. It seems God ignores her prayers for mercy. Guided by a mysterious wolf, the heartbroken Beth embarks on a journey to find the only person who can help her save the ranch, not knowing that he too has recently lost everything. Set in the stunning and rugged terrain of Southern Colorado, House of Mercy follows Beth through the valley of the shadow of death and into the unfathomable miracles of God's grace.
"Supernatural and spiritual elements about in Healy's novels, and this one is no exception. Unusual storytelling helps to make the message stronger and more thought-provoking." RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
Phil was grinning at Beth, standing in the barn's alley next to the tallest, glossiest, most beautiful Thoroughbred horse she'd ever seen. She felt her lips form an O as admiration filled her next breath.
"Beth, meet Java Java Go Joe. Joe, meet Beth."
The horse's name was appropriate, considering the sheen of his coat, an oily dark-roasted coffee bean. The stud's track record at the races and in siring winners had lived up to the moniker too.
"Your reputation precedes you, sire," Beth said. The stallion before her, the Kandinskys' guest, was more than seventeen hands high and glistening, majestic. It took Beth a long time to notice that Joe was saddled and ready to ride.
"No," her mouth said, while her heart cried yes.
Phil gestured to the blocks at Joe's side. "A small gesture of our appreciation," he said.
Beth stroked the animal's neck, and his muscles flickered under the skin.
"I shouldn't. I can't."
"Sure you can," Phil said.
Beth shook her head. "It's wrong."
"What's wrong with giving a champion like him any excuse to relive the glory days? He resents that they only love him for his stud fees anymore. He told me so."
Beth laughed and found herself standing on the blocks.
"I guessed at your stirrup length," he said.
"Then we should see how good at guesswork you are," she said, and she was astride Joe's strong back before she could decide not to be. Beth felt him shift, evaluating her size and weight. She inserted her feet in the stirrups. Phil's estimate was perfect.
"Ten minutes," Phil urged. "No harm, no foul. In the three days he's been here he's blazed a trail all his own around the center pasture. Let him show you around."
Taking the horse out to the pasture at this midnight hour was a risky and maybe even stupid idea. And yet she had often dreamed of riding a horse like this.
"Here." Phil handed her a helmet.
"I don't need one of those for a little canter."
"Yeah yeah. I know how these things start."
She snatched up the helmet and strapped it under her chin.
"I hope you don't lose your job over this," she said.
"I won't. This is you: Her Majesty the animal whisperer. I'm not worried about a thing."
Her understanding of an animal's spirit was what would make her a great veterinarian some day, Beth's father often said. She could sense, in the light dance of Joe's feet as she leaned forward in the saddle, that the creature was happy to go for a ride this evening.
With a gentle heel, she nudged Joe toward the fresh air. He needed no other prompt. They passed through the wide doors and then navigated a few gates, and Joe told her with his confident stride that his heart would be a reliable compass on this sky-lit night.
In the Thoroughbreds, God had married strength and grace and created a magnificent breed that few people could appreciate firsthand. Beth closed her eyes. There was little for her to see, and her efforts to guide the horse might lead him into dangers worse than mere shadows cast by the moon.
In seconds his walk shifted to a trot and then to a canter, and then to a gallop as pleasant as a swiftly flowing creek. Joe was an eagle born to glide above water. The surface of the pastures fell away. She leaned into the horse's neck and tucked her head and couldn't remember any sensation as wild and reckless as this.
His neck stretched out and so did his stride. Together they picked up speed.
She wondered how much faster than this Joe had gone in his youth, on a refined racetrack, with the jockey he trusted most.
The horse soon reached a pace that Beth understood was beyond her ability to contain. A flicker of fear passed over her but then flew away from her mind like a rooftop in a high wind. She surrendered to Joe's confidence, and to the thrill of being out of control.
But Joe's mood shifted.
Beth noticed it first in a sudden deviation from his course, a quick and not-so-graceful dig into the earth that thrust his weight off center. The angle of his ears changed as he moved off the perimeter of the fence; they stood erect now and resisted the rushing air. And though Beth hadn't thought it possible on this unrefined terrain, the Thoroughbred accelerated, fueled by an energy that came off his back like fear.
The muscles on the inside of her thighs began to burn as she held her weight off the saddle. She took back the reins, but Joe did not respond to them. Her fingers, entwined in the leather, found the saddle horn. Her eyes, squinting and dry and unexpectedly disoriented, looked for the light of the stables. She thought they might be behind her.
Joe changed course again, zigging to the previous zag. Beth slipped an inch before she recovered her center.
"Whoa," she instructed. She didn't share his fear yet. He might respond to her steady calm. "Settle down, boy."
She attuned her own ears to the surroundings, trying to get a clue for what had upset Joe. Excitement no longer energized the horse. It was replaced by panic, frantic and panting. Beth couldn't imagine what, on this secure and sheltered land, would be so terrifying. The sounds of her soothing tongue clicks were trampled by the pummeling of hooves tearing up the ground, thumping like helicopter blades.
A ghost-gray form floated into the periphery of Beth's vision. She glanced twice, and then a third time. The hulking spirit hovered just above the ground, gliding with a swift and otherworldly intention toward Joe's flank.
That rooftop of fear crashed back down on Beth's mind, knocking the breath out of her. She felt Joe's terror as if it were her own. His foaming sweat flew off his neck and spattered her arms, and into the vacancy of her imagination rushed Wally's wolf.
It can't be a wolf, she told herself.
Whatever it was dashed behind Joe, there and gone like the memory of a dream.
She tried to twist in the saddle, wanting to see what it really was and where it was going, but the power of the horse's speed forced her to stay forward, low above the Thoroughbred's back. All she could do was hold on, with weakening thighs and floppy ankles and fingers soft as cooked spaghetti.
Joe's desperate footwork jerked Beth awry again. Clods of dirt were flying up from behind his hooves, smacking her in the back.
Then the ghost she had lost sight of snarled, and the noise pierced all the other sounds bouncing around her ears. This sound, this primal shriek, declared that this wild dog was no phantom. It was physical, and it was robust, and it had performed the astonishing feat of predicting how the horse would move to evade the hunt.
The wolf had overtaken them and now came from the front, head-on. It was lunging for Joe's neck, taking an impossible leap.
The wolf's weight struck her in the face. One second Joe was solid under Beth and the next she was plunging, gasping, choking on a mouthful of fur. The leather rein caught hold of her wrist and snapped taut, shocked by the weight of her falling body as she left Joe's back. She felt the joints in her arm and wrist popping as her insignificant mass yanked against Joe's, which was a bullet train moving in the opposite direction.
She stayed connected to him by that stubborn strap. And the wild animal stayed connected to her, its claws curled into her collarbone.
Beth and beast hit the ground and bounced. She heard rocks connecting with the helmet Phil had insisted she wear. Her body flipped over onto the dog as they rolled, her distended arm still tangled in the reins, and then the animal emerged on top, teeth snapping so close to her face.
Joe might have dragged her to her death if the sudden impact hadn't jerked his neck sideways and led his hooves into a terrible misstep.
His mountainous body toppled inches from hers, but by now she was deafened by firecrackers in her skull, and she didn't hear Joe's collapse. Instead she felt the vibrations of his fall, and his heaving body pulsed atop her forearm, the one roped and pinned under Joe's shoulder like a calf tossed by a cowboy.
Beth's mind piled up sandbags against the rising flood of pain. She couldn't move.
She expected the wolf to tear into her, to finish her off. And it was a wolf. The weight, the coat, the claws—it could be nothing else. It stood on her chest, its padded feet the size of her own hands, but the animal didn't rip into her jugular or try to dig out her heart, if that was normal wolf behavior. Beth had no point of reference. If she'd been asked before this moment, she would have said no wolf could unseat a rider from a fully extended horse.
His concentrated weight bore down on her ribs so that she couldn't take a full breath. Beth prayed. God have mercy.
The beasty breath, full of heat and moisture and the scent of blood, caressed her chin and floated over her lips and rose through her nose into the panic centers of her mind.
She heard a voice within her ringing head say I will show you mercy.
She decided the voice belonged to God.
She thought it would be a mercy to die.
© 2012 by Erin Healy. All rights reserved. No portion of this excerpt may be reproduced or transmitted by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. For more information about the book, including reader comments and information on where to buy it, please visit

Monday, August 06, 2012

Her Surprise Sister

Her Surprise Sister, Book One in the Texas Twins continuity series from Love Inspired Books, is out now. If you love twin stories, you won't want to miss this new series which has not one, but two sets of twins, family secrets, missing parents, and a mystery that spans two decades. For more information, check out


By Marta Perry

Chapter One

What could she possibly say to a father who had walked out of her life when she was an infant? Hi, Dad, it's me, Violet?

Violet Colby's fingers tightened on the steering wheel. What was she doing miles from home in Fort Worth, trying to follow an almost non-existent clue to her birth father?

A sleek sports car cut in front of her SUV, horn blaring. Shaken, Violet flipped on the turn signal and pulled into the right lane. City traffic had frazzled whatever nerves she had left.

A coffee shop sign ahead beckoned to her. That was what she needed…a short respite, a jolt of caffeine, and a chance to reassess her actions.

She found a parking space, fed the meter, and pushed open the coffee shop's glass door, fatigue dragging at her. The aroma drew her in irresistibly, and in a few moments she was sitting at a small round glass table, a steaming mug and a flaky croissant in front of her. She hadn't bothered to read through the long list of specialty coffees the shop offered. All she wanted was caffeine, the sooner the better.

A woman brushed past her, the summer print dress and high platform sandals she wore making Violet uncomfortably aware of her faded jeans and scuffed cowboy boots. It wasn't that she hadn't been in Fort Worth before, but she'd usually taken time to dress appropriately for a trip to the city, a five-hour drive from the Colby ranch. This time she'd bolted out of her mother's hospital room, exhausted from nights of waiting and praying for Mom to open her eyes.

She hadn't been able to take it any longer. That wasn't the Belle Colby everyone in the county knew, lying there motionless day after day. Belle Colby was energetic, vibrant, laughing, always in motion. She had to be, running a spread the size of the Colby Ranch and raising two kids on her own.

Not now. Not since her mare had stepped in a hole, sending Mom crashing to the ground. And Jack, as Violet's big brother always the take-charge one, was so eaten up with guilt for arguing with Mom before the accident that he was being no help at all.

Violet broke a corner off the croissant and nibbled at it. Her family was broken, it seemed, and she was the only one who could fix it. That's what she'd been thinking during those lonely hours before dawn at her mother's hospital bed. The only solution her tired brain could come up with was to find their father—the man Mom never talked about.

Now that she was here, in Fort Worth, where she'd been born, the task seemed futile. Worse, it seemed stupid. What would it accomplish if she did find him?

She didn't belong here, any more than the sophisticated-looking guy coming in the door would belong on the ranch. Expensively-cut suit and designer tie, glossy leather boots that had certainly never been worn to muck out a stall, a Stetson with not a smudge to mar its perfection—he was big city Texas, that was for sure.

The man's head turned, as if he felt her stare, and she caught the full impact of a pair of icy green eyes before she could look away. She looked down at her coffee. Quickly she raised the mug, hoping to hide her embarrassment at being caught staring.

It didn't seem to be working. She heard approaching footsteps and kept her gaze down. A pair of glossy brown boots moved into her range of vision.

"What are you doing here?"

Violet looked up, surprised. "What?"

"I said what are you doing here?" He pulled out the chair opposite her, uninvited, and sat down. "I told you I'd be at your apartment…" He slid back the sleeve of his suit to consult the gold watch on his tanned wrist. "In five minutes. So why are you in the coffee shop instead of at your condo? Are you trying to avoid me?"

Okay, he was crazy. That was the only answer Violet could come up with. She groped for her bag, keeping her eyes on his face. It looked sane enough, with a deep tan that made those green eyes bright in contrast, a square, stubborn-looking jaw, and a firm mouth. His expensively-cut hair was sandy blond.

He didn't look crazy, but what did that mean? Or maybe this was his idea of a pick-up line.

Her fingers closed on her bag, and she started to rise. His hand shut across the table and closed around her wrist. Not hard, but firmly enough that she couldn't pull away without an undignified struggle.

"The least you can do is talk to me about it." He looked as if keeping his temper was an effort. "Whatever you think, I still want to marry you."

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Tidewater Inn

by Colleen Coble

Endorsements: Romantic Times: "Coble is a great writer, she knows what readers want and she does not disappoint."

Welcome to Hope Beach. A place of intoxicating beauty . . . where trouble hits with the force of a hurricane.

Inheriting a beautiful old hotel on the Outer Banks could be a dream come true for Libby. The inn cries out for her restorer's talent and love of history. She's delighted to learn of the family she never knew she had. And the handsome Coast Guard lieutenant she's met there on the island could definitely be the man of her dreams. But Libby soon realizes that the only way she can afford the upkeep on the inn is to sell it to developers who are stalking the island. The father who willed her the inn has died before she could meet him, and her newfound brother and sister are convinced she's there to steal their birthright. Worst of all, her best friend and business partner has been kidnapped before her eyes, and Libby's under suspicion for the crime. Libby's dream come true is becoming a nightmare. Her only option is to find her friend and prove her innocence, or lose everything on the shores of Hope Island.

Libby Holladay fought her way through the brambles to the overgrown garden. She paused to wave a swarm of gnats away from her face. The house was definitely in the Federal style, as she'd been told. Palladian windows flanked a centered door, or rather the opening for a door. The structure was in serious disrepair. Moss grew on the roof, and fingers of vine pried through the brick mortar. The aroma of honeysuckle vied with that of mildew.

Her cell phone rang, and she groped in her canvas bag for it. Glancing at the display, she saw her partner's name. "Hey, Nicole," she said. "You should see this place. A gorgeous Federal-style mansion. I think it was built in 1830. And the setting by the river is beautiful. Or it will be once the vegetation is tamed." Perching on the window seat, she made another note about the fireplace. "Nicole? Are you there?"

There was a long pause, then Nicole finally spoke. "I'm here."

"You sound funny. What's wrong?" Nicole was usually talkative, and Libby couldn't remember the last time she'd heard strain in her friend's voice. "Are you still in the Outer Banks? Listen, I heard there might be a hurricane heading that way." She dug into her purse for her jalapeño jellybeans and popped one on her mouth.

"The residents are sure the storm will miss Hope Island. Listen, the investor is really interested in this little town. And we have the chance to make a boatload of money on it. It's all in your hands."

"My hands? You're the one with the money smarts."

Nicole was the mover and shaker in Holladay Renovations. She convinced owners to dramatically increase the value of their historic properties by entrusting them to Libby's expertise. Libby had little to do with the money side of the business, and that was how she liked it.

"I think I'd better go back to the beginning," Nicole said. "Rooney sent me here to see about renovating some buildings in the small downtown area. He's working on getting a ferry to the island. It will bring in a lot more tourism for the hotel he's planning, but the buildings need to be restored to draw new business."

"I know that much. But what do you mean it's in my hands'?" Libby glanced at her notes, then around the room again. This was taking up her time, and she wanted to get back to work. "We're doing the lifesaving station for sure, right?"

"Yes, I've already seen it. We were right to buy that sweet building outright. After you get your hands on it, we'll make a bundle and have instant credibility here. I've started making notes of the materials and crew we'll need. But I'm not calling about the renovations. I'm talking a lot of money, Libby. Millions."

That got Libby's attention. "Millions?"

"I stopped by the local attorney's office to see about having him handle the paperwork for our purchase of the lifesaving station. Horace Whittaker. He's got both our names on the paperwork now."


"The secretary gasped when she heard your name."

"She knew me?"

"The attorney has been looking for a Libby Holladay. Daughter of Ray Mitchell."

"That's my dad's name."

"I thought it might be. I'd heard you mention the name Ray, but I wasn't sure of the last name."

Libby rubbed her head. "Why is he looking for me? My father has been dead a long time—since I was five."

"He died a month ago, Libby. And he left you some valuable land. In fact, it's the land Rooney thought he had agreed to purchase. So we're in the driver's seat on this deal." Nicole's voice rose.

Libby gasped, then she swallowed hard. "It's a hoax. I bet the attorney asked for a fee, right?"

"No, it's real. According to the secretary, your father was living in the Outer Banks all this time. And Horace has a box of letters Ray wrote to you that were all marked Return to Sender. It appears your mother refused them."

Libby's midsection plunged. Throughout her childhood she'd asked her mother about her father. There were never any answers. Surely her mother wouldn't have lied. Libby stared out the window at two hummingbirds buzzing the overgrown flowers.

"Do you have any idea how much money this land is worth?" Nicole's voice quivered. "It's right along the ocean. There's a charming little inn."

It sounded darling. "What's the area like?"

"Beautiful but remote." Nicole paused. "Um, listen, there's something else. I met a woman who looked like you a couple days ago."

Libby eased off the window ledge. "Who is she?"

"Your half sister, Vanessa. You also have a brother, Brent. He's twenty-two."

"My father married again?" Libby couldn't take it all in. This morning she had no family but a younger stepbrother, whom she rarely saw. Why had her mother kept all this from her? "What about my father's wife?"

"She doesn't seem to be around. But there's an aunt too."

Family. For as long as she could remember, Libby had longed for a large extended family. Her free-spirited mother was always wanting to see some new and exciting place. They never had lived at the same address for more than two years at a time.

"You need to get here right away," Nicole said. "There are a million details to take care of. This is the big deal we've been praying for, Libby. You will never want for anything again, and you'll have plenty of money to help your stepbrother. He can get out of that trailer with his family."

The thought of buying her stepbrother's love held some appeal. They weren't' close, but not' because she hadn't tried. "I can't get away until tomorrow, Nicole. I have to finish up here first. We have other clients."

How much of her reluctance was rooted in the thought of facing a future that was about to change radically? She never had been good with change. In her experience, change was something that generally made things worse, not better.

Her partner's sigh was heavy in Libby's ear. "Okay. Hey, want to see Vanessa? She'll be here in a few minutes. There's a beach cam. I sent you a link."

The computer was on the floor, and she opened it. She clicked to enlarge the video link in her email and turned up the speakers so she could hear the roar of the surf.

Nicole smiled and waved. "Your sister should be here any minute." The sound quality was surprisingly good. The sound of the ocean in the background was a pleasant lull.

A small boat pulled up to the shore. Two men jumped out and pulled the boat aground. Nicole turned toward them. The men walked toward her.

There was no one else in sight, and Libby tensed when Nicole took a step back. "Get out of there. Go to your car!"

Nicole watched the men walk toward her. "It's just a couple of tourists, Libby. You worry too much."

Libby leaned closer to the laptop. "There's something wrong." She gasped at the intention in their faces. "Please, Nicole, run!"

But it was the men who broke into a run as they drew closer to the boardwalk. As they neared the cam, Libby could see them more clearly. One was in his forties with a cap pulled low over his eyes. He sported a beard. The other was in his late twenties. He had blond hair and hadn't shaved in a couple of days.

Nicole took another step back as the older man in the lead smiled at her. The man said, "Hang up." He grabbed her arm.

"Let go of her!" Libby shouted into the phone.

The man knocked the phone from Nicole's hand, and the connection was broken. The other man reached the two, and he plunged a needle into Nicole's arm. Both men began dragging Nicole toward the boat. She was struggling and shouting for help, then went limp. Her hat fell to the ground.

Barely aware that she was screaming, Libby dialed 9-1-1. "Oh God, oh God, help her!"

Copyright Colleen Coble

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the Titanic

Abingdon Press – historical epic

Available in bookstores, Amazon, Crossings, Rhapsody, et al

By Yvonne Lehman

This is Yvonne's 50th novel. She is a best-selling, award-winning author who founded, and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for

25 years. She now directs the Blue Ridge "Autumn in the Mountains" Novelist Retreat held annually at Ridgecrest NC ( She is a mentor with the Christian Writers Guild. A Knight to Remember will be released in April and Let it Snow before Christmas.

"The sinking of the Titanic initiated hundreds of human dramas. Master storyteller Yvonne Lehman now presents us with one of those threads, amidst the myriad sagas, that exemplifies the overall impact this mega-event had on the survivors and their subsequent generations. The actions are vibrant, the motions are intense, and the outcomes are compelling" – Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, author

Is love more powerful than the pain of loss?

Lydia Beaumont and her new friend Caroline Chadwick plan Lydia's wedding aboard the "grandest ship ever built." Yet their lives take a tragic turn when the "unsinkable" Titanic goes down. This epic tale of faith and perseverance follows their lives and the lives of their descendants as they struggle with all that was lost on that fateful night and what the future holds for those brave enough to face it.

C lothed in her shame, Lydia Beaumont stood on the deck of

the Titanic, waiting for John. Each evening since they departed

two days ago from Southampton, she and John strolled here

after dining. Other first-class passengers found their own special

spots, like congregants in a church sanctuary.

Oh, the church analogy brought thoughts of condemnation

she'd rather not entertain. The grandeur of the greatest ship

ever built had pushed aside her personal feelings, any doubts

or guilt that had so beset her in previous weeks. She'd tried

to forget her fears by planning the trip, convincing her father

to allow her to go, and helping her maid pack the trunks.

She thought back to the day before sailing while she was

staying at the South Western Hotel. She'd made the acquaintance

of several passengers, her favorite being Caroline

Chadwick, in her mid-twenties. She and her husband, Sir

William, had arrived from London and were awaiting the

ship's maiden voyage to America.

Staring out the hotel suite window at the magnificent

structure, four city blocks long and ten stories high, had accelerated

her heartbeat. However, walking up the gangplank to

1board the ship and seeing the grand staircase took her breath

away. Even Craven Dowd, the president of her father's company

and accustomed to the best, commented on the luxury as

they were led to their suite rooms.

John Ancell glanced her way, his deep blue eyes shining

with excitement beneath raised eyebrows and lips turning

into a mischievous grin. Had Craven not been entering the

room between hers and John's, her beloved would likely say

aloud what he only mouthed, "This is no toy ship."

Lydia saw Caroline and Sir William entering their stateroom.

Caroline halted at her doorway and called, "Are you

going on deck to wave goodbye?"

"Ah, we must do that," Craven answered for them as if the

matter were settled.

"Yes," Lydia echoed, "I'll be along shortly."

"Just peek in when you're ready," Caroline said. "The door

will be open."

Stepping from the private promenade deck to explore the

sitting room, and then the bedrooms, Lydia was amazed. Her

father, Cyril Beaumont, had endowed their home with the

finest furnishings, but her personal knowledge and university

studies in art and design made her realize she'd stepped into a

world of unmatched luxury.

She entered John's and Craven's rooms. The furnishings

represented various countries. "Reminds me of the Ritz

in Paris," she said of Craven's bedroom. He gestured to the

furnishings around the room. "Chippendale. Adams. French


She returned to her bedroom, where Marcella was hanging

gowns in the wardrobe. Craven walked through the adjoining

door that she must remember to keep locked. "The White

Star Line has actually outdone their advertising." He glanced

around. "Not only were they correct in saying it's one hundred

feet longer than the Mauretania and bigger than the Olympic,

but the other ships are like . . . toys."

His pause was so brief one who didn't know him well

wouldn't suspect it was deliberate. But she knew, then reprimanded

herself for being overly sensitive. Craven's adding,

"toys," could mean the word slipped out before he thought

about what he was saying. However, Craven always thought

before speaking.

But there was a certain amount of truth to it. Further exploration

could wait. After peeking in for John, then Caroline, the

two women walked ahead of Craven, John, and Sir William.

"I've been to Windsor." Caroline grinned, indicating she

wasn't bragging. "But, from what little I've seen already, I feel

like the Queen of England without the responsibility."

Even the men chuckled. Lydia knew John couldn't make

comparisons, because he hadn't traveled extensively. But

Craven and William talked of the ship's design and of its opulence

with no expense spared. She felt rather like a princess as

she ascended the grand staircase beneath the glass dome that

allowed the noonday sun to anoint them with a golden glow.

She glanced back at the staircase as they moved along the

deck and to the railing.

Passengers waved and people on the dock did the same.

They must be feeling sheer envy.

She jumped when a sound like a pistol shot rang out.


And another.

Happy goodbyes changed to gasps and questioning.

"Nothing to fear," a man called out. "The lines tying the

New York are giving way." That sounded rather fearsome to


Another said the suction from the Titanic's gigantic propellers

were pulling the other ship away from its berth.

The ship headed for the side of the Titanic. However, deckhands

stopped the New York's drift and the Titanic steamed out

of the harbor.

A man said playfully, "You don't christen a ship like the

Titanic with a bottle of champagne, but with another ship."

Several passengers laughed.

A woman warned, "It's an omen."

Lydia didn't live by omens. But the word made her think of

signs. Robins were a sign of spring. Snow was a sign of winter.

There were . . . personal signs. She swallowed hard and shook

away the thought.

That woman was wrong about the New York's breaking

away being a sign. It hadn't rammed into the Titanic.

Maybe she was wrong about her . . . signs.

For two and a half days, she'd allowed herself the privilege

of denial and had enjoyed John, her new friends, and the

grandeur all around her. She'd explored the ship's grand shops,

the restaurants, the women's library, and the Parisian sidewalk


Now as she stood looking out to sea, visualizing their destination

of New York, she had to face reality.

Her long fur coat covered her silk dress. Her kid-gloved

hands held onto the steel railing. The bitter-cold air burned

her face, and her warm breath created gray wisps, reminiscent

of Craven's cigar smoke, when he wasn't making entertaining

smoke circles.

Only a moment ago she'd said to John, "Finish your dessert.

I don't want any tonight. I need a breath of fresh air."

That uneasiness in her stomach had nothing to do with


John and Craven slid back their chairs and stood when

she pushed away from the table. She felt Craven's gaze but

met John's eyes that questioned. Usually after dining, Craven

joined other men in the smoking lounge. She and John would

walk onto the deck, They would stand shoulder to shoulder.

With his arm around her waist, he'd speak of the aesthetic

beauty of the ocean and sky. She'd dream of her future life

with him.

She shivered now, looking out to where the sun had sunk

into the horizon, analogous of her having sunk into the depth

of yielding to temptation. A mistake seemed much worse

when one was . . . caught. Only four weeks had passed. But

she knew.

She would be an outcast if others knew. The night they'd

expressed their love physically, she'd never felt so fulfilled. But

with passion sated, guilt entered. She felt violated. Not by

John, but by her own weakness. A decent woman should say

no, keep the relationship pure until marriage.

Oh, she knew they both were at fault. But had she, more

deliberately than she wanted to admit, lured him into the

physical relationship because she was afraid of losing him? He

wanted her father's blessing before marrying her. She doubted

he would ever have it.

It was a wondrous thing to be loved, but a fearsome thing

to be tainted.

For now, only she and John knew about their tainted love.

She had thought she and John could face anything


But anyone?


Her father?

Her father said she was all he had after they were both devastated

by her mother's death from a deadly lung disease and a

stillbirth. However, Lydia had had the best of tutors and nannies.

She had been accompanied to the appropriate outings by

Lady Grace Frazier, a middle-aged widow. Her father and Lady

Grace became close companions, although he vowed he had

neither time nor inclination to marry. His heart attack last

year so frightened and weakened him, he'd made it clear that

although Lydia would inherit the business, he was grooming

Craven to run it.

She'd surprised him by expressing a desire to learn more

about the business and win the respect of the company's

American executives. She suggested that John accompany

them on the trip, since he could explain his designs better

than Craven. Beaumont Company wanted his designs, and

John wanted to be sure that he wanted to divulged those

secrets to the company. The matter would be discussed and

any agreements drawn up in a legal contract.

"You may have a business head on you after all," her father

said at her suggestion about John. He'd meant that as praise,

so she smiled and thanked him.

Although he and others often complimented her on having

inherited her mother's beauty, Lydia thought her looks

paled in comparison with her mother's loveliness and grace.

She'd inherited her father's ambition and strong-mindedness

rather than her mother's submissive attitudes, but he never

acknowledged this. He did, however, occasionally admonish

her to behave in a more ladylike fashion.

Her father and Craven cultivated identical goals. One was

ensuring that Beaumont Railroad Company continued to be

number one in the world. Two was that Lydia become Mrs.

Craven Dowd. And in that order.

At one time she'd felt that marriage to Craven was her destiny.

Her friends proclaimed it her good fortune. To be honest,

however, rather than sitting in the plush coach of a noisy,

smelly, smoke-puffing Beaumont train, she preferred flipping

a switch, watching a little Ancell toy train huff and puff, its

wheels turn, and its engine chug-chug along, as she laughed

delightedly with John.

Hearing footsteps, Lydia took a deep breath. The cold air

in her throat made her feel as though she'd swallowed too

large a bite of the French ice cream served at dinner.

Before feeling his touch on her exposed wrist, she knew

this wasn't John, but Craven. Like many women, she liked

the aroma of his after-dinner cigars, offset by a slight fragrance

of cologne. But she preferred John's light, fresh, faintly musky



Turning her head, she glanced at him. "Where's John?"

Craven's deep breath didn't seem to affect his throat.

Likely, it was heated, as his face had been when she told him

she couldn't see him anymore. "He's sitting at the table." His

eyebrows lifted. "Writing."

"That's what poets do." She glanced beyond his shoulder,

hoping John would appear.

"Lydia, there's something I want to make clear."

Facing the ocean that reflected the star-spangled night, she

was reminded of the spark in Craven's eyes earlier, when he'd

kissed the back of her hand and said she looked lovely. John

had smiled, as if he agreed.

She'd requested they not sit with other passengers this

night, but at a smaller, more intimate table. She'd planned to

tell John after Craven left. But then she'd experienced that

queasiness. She felt it now.

"I want you to know," Craven said. "I understand why you

wanted to take this trip."

He couldn't.

He mustn't. John would be ruined and in the process they

both would face a worse fate than if she'd stayed in London.