Thursday, December 18, 2008
Gabe Devlin shows up in Sandy Shores to take his post as the new sheriff. Unbeknownst to him, a runaway boy has stowed himself in Gabe’s wagon. Jesse is disheveled, undernourished, and mute. Gabe spreads word of the imp in hopes of finding his parents, or at least an explanation for his runaway tendencies.
Hannah and Gabe get off on the wrong foot when Gabe brings Jesse to the general store. Hannah immediately assumes that Gabe is an unfit parent as she spies Jesse’s ragged clothes and holey shoes. Gabe is instantly frustrated by Hannah when she treats him like yesterday’s trash. But, he doesn’t let on that he’s the new sheriff, leaving Hannah to completely humiliate herself when she seeks out the new sheriff to raise a complaint about the man she met in her store and his neglected son.
The instant dislike that both Hannah and Gabe feel for each other begins to blur as they spend more time together, as they both decide to look after Jesse. Confused by her feelings, Hannah doesn’t know what to do about her pending engagement. She realizes she’s not in love with Ralston Van Huff but has an even harder time convincing herself that the growing feelings she has for Gabe is indeed love.
The pace of the book takes off as you learn Jesse’s story and why it is he’s on the run. It’s up to Gabe to protect the little boy he’s come to think of as a son, and Hannah Grace, the woman he’s falling in love with.
HANNAH GRACE was a pleasure to read. The spirited characters MacLaren created were fun and believable. Though historical romance books often have the same plot outlines, HANNAH GRACE had some interesting twists that made for a fresh read.
Friday, December 12, 2008
It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Whitaker House (January 30, 2009)
Sharlene Maclaren is an award-winning novelist , retired elementary school teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $ 9.99
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 30, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The minute hand on the nickel-cased Waterbury clock ticked away the seconds as Hannah Grace Kane primped in the mirror. She leaned back and squinted with displeasure when her unruly, rusty-colored curls refused to cooperate, poking out all over like a bunch of broken bedsprings. “Aargh!” she muttered, throwing down her comb and watching it bounce off the wood floor with a ping before landing on the braided wool rug.
“Supper’s almost ready!” wailed the youngest of the Kane sisters, Abbie Ann, from the foot of the stairs.
“Abbie Ann, you’ll damage my hearing,” Jacob Kane muttered.
Even from the upstairs bedroom, Hannah heard her father’s newspaper rattle and sensed that his tone bordered on brusqueness. She pictured him sitting in his plush blue velvet chair, as he always did at six o’clock, the Sandy Shores Tribune spread in his lap, his reading spectacles perched low on his longish nose. “Why is it that at seventeen, you’re still screaming like a banshee?”
“Seventeen, Papa? Have you forgotten that I turned eighteen in May?”
There was a lengthy pause. “Eighteen? Are you sure?”
Her high-pitched giggle drifted upward. “Of course I’m sure, silly. A lady never forgets her age.”
“Well, then, all the more reason to cease with your howling.”
“Besides, Hannah Grace isn’t even eating at home this evening.”
“Oh, how could I forget? That ol’ Stuffy Huffy’s coming to call. I suppose they’ll take a long stroll in the moonlight. Blechh.” Her voice danced with unrestrained sarcasm, and Hannah could only imagine the look of disapproval on her father’s bearded face. “I don’t know what she sees in him, do you, Papa? If you ask me, he’s boring and unfriendly.”
The newspaper crackled. “Abbie.” He heaved a breath, which echoed up through the register. “Doctor Van Huff seems like a nice enough gentleman. There is no call for judging him. And besides, your sister seems to like him.”
“I’m not judging. I’m merely expressing my view on things, which I happen to think is more fact than opinion. Personally, I suspect she just likes him ’cause he’s just about the only eligible bachelor around.”
Hannah bent down to retrieve her comb and sighed in the process. Everyone knew sounds carried faster than a windstorm in this two-story, foursquare structure. Was there no respect? Why, had she wanted, she could have walked to the twelve-inch heat vent in the floor and peered through its narrow slats to give her sister a snarling glower, but she
wouldn’t, for that was exactly what Abbie wanted her to do. All three Kane sisters had played the “spying game” through that heat register as children, but Abbie seemed bent on continuing it till kingdom come.
“Abbie Ann, you mind your manners. Hannah will hear you.”
Well, it’s about time someone thought of that, Hannah mused, thankful for her grandmother’s scolding tone. Helena Kane, Jacob’s mother, had tirelessly tended to the entire family since shortly after the girls’ own mother had succumbed to pneumonia and died just days short of Abbie’s second birthday. “Ralston Van Huff is a fine, upstanding citizen, and you had best show your respect.” Even after all these years in Michigan, her British accent still lingered like a fresh aroma.
“I do, I do,” Abbie insisted. “But he’s always talking about himself and that stupendous medical practice he runs. After a while, one grows downright weary of it.”
Jacob snapped his paper and exhaled noisily. “The man is doing his best to make a success of himself. I would think taking on the task of town physician would require a bit of ambition…speaking of which, shouldn’t you be out in the kitchen helping your grandmother and sister?”
“I’ll second that,” said Grandmother. “Take the napkins out of the bureau, Abbie.”
“Do you suppose he’s a true Christian, Papa?” Abbie asked, ignoring his inquiry.
“Well, I would hope so. Hannah Grace wouldn’t settle for anyone who didn’t claim to have a faith of his own. May I please read today’s news now, Abigail?”
Keeping one ear to the conversation downstairs, Hannah picked up her comb and resumed her hair-styling task.
“I, for one, think Dr. Van Huff is charming.” Maggie Rose spoke up for the first time that evening. From the kitchen wafted her habitually melodious voice—melodious in that she spoke in pleasant tones rather than melodious from a musical standpoint, that is. Sadly, Maggie thought she could carry a tune quite well, but after years of sitting beside her in church, Hannah knew otherwise. “He picked two roses from our garden last week and gave one to Hannah and one to me. I’d call that rather sweet.”
“Oh, poke me with a stick!” Abbie whined. “He should rather have picked flowers from his own garden—or bought some at Clara’s Flower Shop.”
“Abbie Ann Kane, stop being so persnickety,” Grandmother said. “My goodness, what side of the bed did—?”
A deafening scream sounded through the house when something metallic made clanging contact with the linoleum floor.
“My giddy aunt, what a gobblin’ mess we have here! Don’t burn yourself, Maggie!” Grandmother screeched. “Abbie, come in here this minute and lend a hand. Noodles are everywhere.”
“What’s happened?” Jacob asked.
“It looks like a pig’s breakfast just landed on our kitchen floor. Oh, forevermore and a day! Supper will be delayed, I’m afraid.”
Abbie’s uncontrollable giggles lent to the clamor of rushing feet, running water, Grandmother’s stern orders to stop laughing and fetch some rags, and Maggie’s pathetic verbal attempts to vindicate her clumsiness.
From her cushioned bench in front of the vanity, Hannah stifled a smile, glad to be upstairs and away from
the commotion. She leaned forward to study herself in the mirror. After this close scrutiny, her slightly upturned mouth curled into a pout. Grayish eyes, neither true blue nor clear green, stared back at her as she viewed her thin, longish neck and narrow shoulders, pointy chin, square jaw, and plumpish lips. To top matters off, she had a skinny frame with very little up front to prove her womanhood. As a matter of fact, she’d thought more than once that if she wanted to pass as a boy, she could pile all her hair under a cap, if ever there was one big enough, don a pair of men’s coveralls, work boots, and a jacket, and no one would be the wiser.
She thought about her sisters’ attractive looks—Maggie’s fair-haired beauty and Abbie’s dark eyes, olive complexion, and flowing, charcoal hair. Assuredly, they both outshone her pasty features by a country mile, Abbie’s assets originating from their mother’s Italian heritage, Maggie’s coming from their Grandmother Kane’s long line of elegant features. To be sure, Helena was an aging woman in her sixties, but anyone with an eye for beauty could see that with her high cheekbones, perfectly set blue eyes, well-chiseled nose and chin, and remarkably smooth skin, she must have been the picture of youthful elegance and charm.
But where did she, Hannah Grace, fit into the picture? Certainly, she’d inherited her grandmother’s curly hair, but where Helena’s lay in perfect, gentle waves, gathered into a tidy silver bun at the back, Hannah’s crimped and frizzed atop her head like a thousand corkscrews. And nothing she did to tame it seemed to work. She’d even lain her head on an ironing board some years ago, like a sacrificial hen, and allowed her sisters to straighten it with a hot iron—until they came too close to the skin and singed her scalp. The silly recollection made her brow crinkle into four straight lines.
She pulled her shoulders back, dipped her chin, and tried to look dignified in her ivory silk afternoon gown with the button-down front and leg-o-mutton sleeves.
“Hannah Grace Van Huff,” she whispered, testing the name aloud and wondering how it would feel to say it for the rest of her days.
Tonight, they would dine at the Culver House in downtown Sandy Shores, and, afterward, perhaps walk down to the harbor to watch the boats come and go. Along the way, they would pass the closed shops on Water Street and probably do some window gazing. Ralston would speak about his practice and tell her about the patients he’d seen that day—the broken bones he’d set, the wounds he’d wrapped. He would tell her about his dreams of constructing a new building—one that would allow him to relocate his practice away from his residence. Not for the first time, he would mention his hopes for a partner with whom to launch this undertaking, someone who shared his passion for medicine, of course, and had the financial wherewithal to pitch in his fair share. There would be a placard above the door and maybe a more prominent sign in the front yard. They would hire a nurse, of course, and, down the road, a bookkeeper to keep the multiplying records straight.
He would ask Hannah about her day at Kane’s Whatnot, her father’s general store, and inquire as to how sales had gone. She would be vague in her answer, knowing that the details would bore him to tears. Nevertheless, he’d smile and nod, appearing deeply interested, but then quickly resume speaking about his medical practice.
Perhaps Abbie was right in calling Ralston stuffy and boring, if not a trifle selfish, but he had ambition on his side, and Hannah admired that. Even Papa recognized it. Besides, she’d reached the ripe age of twenty-one, and hadn’t Grandmother once said that when a woman reached her twenties, her chances of finding a genteel fellow slimmed considerably? It was best not to listen to Abbie’s foolish musings. What did she know about the subject? Dr. Ralston Van Huff would make a fine catch for any woman.
“Hannah wouldn’t settle for a man who didn’t claim to have a faith of his own.”
Her father’s words circled in her head, almost like a band of pesky mosquitoes out for blood. Well, of course, Ralston had an active faith. She’d met him at a church gathering, after all. True, he rarely speaks about the Lord, but these things come with time and practice, she told herself. One doesn’t grow strong in faith overnight.
As the racket continued downstairs, Hannah proceeded to pile her mass of red curls on top of her head, using every available pin to hold them in place.
“Thank heaven for hats,” she muttered to herself.
Gabriel Devlin tipped his dusty hat at the woman he passed on the narrow sidewalk, then scolded himself for stealing a glance backward after she passed. What was he doing? He was done with women! And he had Carolina Woods to thank for that. No, I can thank the Lord for bringing our impending marriage to a halt, he rephrased in his head.
A horse whinnied and kicked up a swirl of dirt as it galloped by, carrying its rider through the street, a barking dog on its heels. Since stores closed at precisely five o’clock in this
small but thriving community of Dutch settlers known as Holland, Michigan, the dog and horse were about the only sounds he heard as he made his way toward an open restaurant, stepping down from the rickety-planked sidewalk and crossing the heavily trodden, dirt-packed street in the middle of town. He removed his hat and slapped it across his leather-clad thigh, letting loose a cloud of dust he estimated was almost as big as the horse’s. Setting it back on his head of sandy-colored hair, he stepped up onto a slab of newly laid concrete and saw that one entire block of sidewalk looked freshly poured. Evidently the town council had started a beautification project, at least on this side of the street. He surmised the other side would follow, perhaps before the first blast of winter weather.
He passed several storefronts, glanced in a few windows, and then saw something out the corner of his eye that brought his steps to a halt as his gaze fell on the object of interest. Across the street and another block over, a young lad was crawling out from under a tarp that was stretched over the back of a wagon. He put his hands on his hips and twisted his body from side to side, stretching as if he had just awakened from a long nap. Then, he rubbed his neck and looked at the trees swaying overhead. The horse that was hitched to the front of the wagon turned and granted the boy a disinterested glance, then swished its mangy tail.
Wondering what the boy was up to, Gabe feigned interest in a window display, embarrassed to discover that it was laden with feminine wares and frilly garments. Still, he kept up the façade so as not to miss the boy’s next move. With deft hands, he was plundering through the items under the canvas, stuffing things into every pocket, front and back.Hannah Grace 17
Instinct told him to yell at the lad, for surely he was stealing from some unsuspecting citizen, but something held him back—the tattered clothing hanging off his skinny shoulders, the uncombed mop of black hair, the spattering of dirt and grime on his face and arms, and those shoddy-looking boots.
When the little vagabond had filled his pockets with who knew what, he took off on a run down an alley between two buildings, disappearing within seconds like a fox daunted by daylight. Gabe shook his head, vexed at himself for not caring more but feeling too exhausted after his long day’s ride to muster up much indignation. Maybe once he crammed his stomach with beef stew and bread and gave his horse and mule a period of rest at the livery, he’d go looking for him to see if he could figure out his story.
Pfff! Who was he kidding? After a quick bite and a bit of respite, he planned to finish his trip, following the path along the railroad tracks to Sandy Shores, his final destination. There’d be no time to look for a tattered boy who couldn’t have been a day over nine years old.
A few restaurant patrons cast him curious looks when he found a window seat in the smoke-filled room, but most kept to themselves, faces buried in newspapers or hovering over their suppers. They were likely accustomed to summer tourists, although, by all appearances, he probably resembled a bum more than anything else.
Certainly not Sandy Shores’ newly appointed sheriff.
“What can I do for y’, mister?”
He gazed into the colorless eyes of an elderly woman whose hard-lined face, slumped shoulders, and pursed mouth denoted some unnamed trial of the past. Gray hair fell around her stern countenance, straight and straw-like, reminding him of a scarecrow—the kind whose expression would chase off the meanest bull.
“I’ll have a bowl of beef stew and a slice of—”
“No beef stew?”
“You hard o’ hearin’?”
“No soup atall.” With hooked thumb, she pointed behind her. “Menu’s back there.”
His eyes scanned the chalkboard behind the counter where someone had scrawled several words with creative spellings: “Chikin liver and onyuns – 50¢; potatos and gravy on beef – 75¢; cheese sanwich – 25¢; pork sanwich on toasted Bred – 35¢; Ted’s specielty – 50¢”
“What’s Ted’s specialty?” He had to ask.
“Fish. You want it?”
“Is it cooked?”
She gave him a scornful look. “What kind o’ lame-brained question is that? ’Course it’s cooked.”
“I don’t know. Some people eat raw fish.”
“Not ’round these parts they don’t. Where you from?”
“Ohio. Columbus area.”
She sniffed. “Long ways from home, ain’t ya?”
He grinned. “It’s taken me a few days’ ride.”
Lifting one brow as if to size him up, but keeping her thoughts to herself, she asked, “You want the fish? It’s fresh out o’ the big lake, pan-fried.”
His stomach had been growling ever since he walked through the doors, and, in spite of the grit and grime beneath his feet, the dark and dingy walls, and the fetid odors of burnt onions and cigarette smoke, he had a feeling this Ted fellow could cook.
“I’ll try the fish.” He smiled at the killjoy, but, as expected, she just nodded and turned on her heel. “Can I have some coffee, too?”
Another slight nod indicated she’d heard him.
From the table next to him, a man sporting a business jacket, string bow tie, and white ruffled shirt, lowered his newspaper. A half-smoked cigar hung out the side of his mouth directly under his pencil thin moustache. He removed the cigar and laid it on an ashtray. “What brings you to these parts?”
Always wary of shysters, Gabe examined the fellow on the sly. Experience had taught him not to trust anyone until he’d earned that right. “Work,” he replied.
“Yeah?” The man massaged his chin, and Gabe knew he was getting equal treatment, a careful scrutiny. Suddenly, the stranger reached across the four-foot span that separated their tables and offered his hand. “Vanderslute’s the name. George.”
Gabe stuck out his arm and they shook hands. “Gabriel Devlin. Good Dutch name you’ve got there.”
Vanderslute chuckled. “You’re definitely in Dutch territory. Pretty near half the town, I’d say. Maybe more.” He looked out over the small, dimly lit eatery. “Not Ted, though. He’s English, through and through. That there was Eva, his
aunt. She owns this place, has for thirty years.” He leaned forward. “She comes across as an old crank,” he murmured in hushed tones, “but on the inside, she’s nothing but mush. Known the two of them since I was this high.” He stretched a palm out level with the tabletop. “Used to stop by here on my way home from school. Depending on her mood, Aunt Eva—that’s what everyone calls her—would pass out free cookies. On good days, that is.”
Vanderslute took a sip of coffee, then took a giant drag off his cigar and placed it back on the tray. Gabe felt the tension roll off his shoulders. He glanced out the window and spotted the little ragamuffin again, his lean frame bent over a barrel as he rifled through the garbage within. “Who’s that little waif over there?” he asked.
“Huh? Where?” Vanderslute pitched forward to peer out the smudged glass.
“Oh, him. He’s been hanging around for a few days. He’ll move on. ’Spect he jumped the back of a train coming from Chicago area. Vagabonds do that from time to time.”
“Vagabonds? He’s just a little kid. Hasn’t anyone tried to help him?”
“He runs off every time. Like some wild pup. Some of the ladies leave bowls of food on their doorsteps, and he’ll run and get them whilst no one’s watching, providing some mongrel mutt doesn’t beat him to it.” He laughed, as if what he’d just said was unusually funny.
Just then, Eva brought a steaming cup of coffee to the table and George slid back in place. When Gabe looked out again, the boy had vanished—like some kind of apparition. He blinked twice and shook his head.
Silence overtook the two for the next several moments as George dug into the plate of roast beef and potatoes Eva had dropped off at his table when she’d deposited a mug of coffee under Gabe’s nose. Gabe’s mouth watered, his stomach grumbled. He sipped on his coffee and ruminated about the boy.
“What’s your trade, anyway?” George asked between chews.
Gabe took another slow swig before setting the tin mug on the table. “You ever hear of Judge Bowers?”
“Ed Bowers, the county judge? ’Course I have. I work the newspaper. I’m a line editor, not a reporter, but I read the headlines before anybody else does. I hear he just appointed a new interim sheriff up in Sandy Shores—someone from…” A light seemed to dawn in his eyes. “Ohio.” Gabe grinned. “You wouldn’t be…?”
“You should be a reporter,” Gabe said. “You’ve got the nose for it.”
“You learn, you know. Well, I’ll be. Too bad about Sheriff Tate, though. He was a good man, honest and fair. Heard his heart just gave out.” George shook his head. “The law business is hard on the body. Good thing you’re young. What are you—twenty-four? Twenty-five?”
George nodded, as if assessing the situation. “You can handle it. Most of what happens in these parts is petty crimes, but there’s the occasional showdown. Not often, though,” he added hastily. “You watch yourself, young man. You’ll do fine.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
Not a minute too soon, Eva returned, this time plopping a plate of pan-fried fish in front of Gabe. On the side were cooked carrots drizzled with some sort of glaze and a large helping of applesauce. The most wonderful aromas floated heavenward, and his stomach growled in response. “Eva, you are an angel.” He smiled at her and felt a certain pleasure to see one side of her mouth quirk up a fraction and the tiniest light spark in her eyes.
“Pfff,” she tittered. “Go on with you.” She swiveled her tiny frame and hobbled off toward the kitchen, still looking like a scarecrow, but with a little less severity.
As he always did before delving into a meal, Gabe bowed his head and offered up a prayer of thanks to God. Then, he draped a napkin over his lap, knowing George Vanderslute’s eyes had taken to drilling holes in his side.
“You’re a praying man, I see.”
Gabe took his first bite. “I am. I pray about everything, actually.”
“Huh. That’s somethin’.” Seeming stumped, George forked down the rest of his meal in silence, the smoke from his cigar making a straight path to the ceiling.
As much as he would have liked taking his sweet time, Gabe wolfed down his plate of food, thinking about the miles of road that still stretched out before him. If he didn’t arrive before nightfall, he’d have to camp alongside the tracks again, and the thought of one more night under the stars didn’t set well with him.
The image of the mysterious little imp who’d stolen from the back of a wagon, rummaged through a waste barrel, and disappeared down an alley materialized at the back of his mind. Would he be shivering in some dark corner tonight, half starved? Gabe swallowed down the last of his coffee, determined to chase him out of his thoughts.
Protect him, Lord, he prayed on a whim, suppressing the pang of guilt he felt for not taking the time to search for him.
Sandy Shores came into view at exactly a quarter till ten, three hours after he left Holland. It had been the slowest, steepest, and most precarious leg of the entire trip, requiring him to navigate gravelly slopes in the light of the moon. Not for the first time, he thanked the Lord for his sure-footed mule, Zeke the Streak, who could not run if his life depended on it but still had strength enough to pull a redwood from its roots; and for Slate, his dapple-gray gelding, calmly bringing up the rear but possessing the speed of a bullet if the situation called for it.
A cool breeze was coming off the lake, bringing welcome relief from an otherwise long, hot day on the trail. Gabe cast a glance out over the placid lake, amazed once more by its vastness. At first glimpse, one would never suppose its distance across to be a mere one hundred miles; it seemed more like an ocean. Gentle waves licked the shoreline, making a whooshing sound before ebbing back into the chilly depths. The Sandy Shores lighthouse, sitting like a proud mother at the end of the pier, flashed her beacon for incoming fishing boats and steamers.
Electric streetlights lit the way as Gabe turned east off the railroad path onto Water Street, which led to the center of town. On the corner to his right stood the three-story Sherman House, the hotel he would call home until he found permanent housing suitable for his budget, if not for his taste. According to Ed Bowers, who had made all his room arrangements, he had a view of the Grand River Harbor and the big lake from his third-floor window. Nice for the interim, he thought, but not a necessity for my simple lifestyle. He’d grown up in affluence and decided he was ready for humbler circumstances. His father’s money had been well-earned, and it had reaped him warranted respect in the community and surrounding areas. Even so, Gabe couldn’t live off his father’s wealth and still respect himself. Besides, he’d had enough of women pursuing him for his family money—Carolina Woods, for one—and it was high time he moved away from Ohio, where the Devlin name didn’t make such an impact every time folks heard it mentioned. Furthermore, a smaller town meant smaller crimes, he hoped—the kind that didn’t require gunfire to resolve them.
Boisterous piano music and uproarious laughter coming from a place called Charley’s Saloon assaulted his senses after two hours spent with nary a sound, save for Zeke’s occasional braying, some sleepy crickets’ chirps, and a gaggle of geese honking from the lake. Gabe wondered if he should expect a run-in or two with a few of Charley’s patrons.
His eyes soaked up the names of storefronts—Jellema Newsstand, Moretti’s Candy Company, Hansen’s Shoe Repair, DeBoer’s Hardware, Kane’s Whatnot—and he wondered about the proprietors who ran each place. Would they accept him as their new lawman, particularly since the late Sheriff Watson Tate had held the office for well over twenty years?
When he spotted Enoch Sprock’s Livery on the second block, he pulled Zeke’s reins taut. Slate snorted, his way of exhaling a sigh of relief for having reached their destination.
“I know what you mean, buddy,” Gabe muttered, feeling stiff and sore himself. He threw the reins over the brake handle and jumped down, landing on the hard earth.
“You needin’ some help there, mister?”
A white-bearded fellow with a slight limp emerged from the big double door.
“You must be Enoch.”
“In the flesh.” The man extended a hand. “And who might you be?”
“Ah, the new sheriff. We been expectin’ ya’. Hear your room’s waitin’ over at the Sherman.” They shook hands. “Nice place you’re stayin’ at.”
Gabe grinned. “News gets around, I take it.”
Enoch snorted and tossed back his head. “This ain’t what you call a big metropolis.” He took a step back and massaged his beard even while he studied Gabe from top to bottom. “Awful young, ain’t ya?”
Is this how folks would view him? Young, inexperienced, still wet behind the ears? He supposed few knew he’d been responsible for bringing down Joseph Hamilton, aka “Smiley Joe”—a murderous bank robber who wielded his gun for goods throughout Indiana, Ohio, and parts of Kentucky. His last spree was on February 4, 1901, when Gabe received word in his office via telegraph that undercover sources determined Smiley Joe had plans to rob the Delaware County State Bank at noon that very day.
It hadn’t made national headlines, but every Ohioan had the best night’s sleep of his life after reading the next day’s headlines: Gabriel Devlin, Delaware County Sheriff, Takes Down Notorious Middle-West Bank Robber!
Having watched the entire robbery out of the corner of his eye while pretending to fill out a bank slip, Gabe, who had placed two plainclothes deputies at the door in case the villain tried to escape, confronted him while the deputies aimed their guns. “Smiley! It’s the end of the line for you, buddy,” he said coolly. “Drop the bags and turn around slowly, hands in the air.”
At first, it appeared Smiley would comply. His shoulders dropped and he started to turn. “Drop the bags!” Gabe yelled. “Hands to the sky!”
Other deputies, all placed strategically around the bank, surrounded him. The bank stilled to funeral parlor silence as customers scattered and backed against all four walls, terror pasted on every face.
But Smiley Joe wasn’t one to surrender, and, in a rattled state, he went for the eleventh-hour approach: he drew his gun. Wrong move. Shots were fired, and, when it was over, one wounded customer lay sprawled on the floor, groaning and bleeding from the shoulder, while Smiley Joe Hamilton lay dead, Gabe’s gun still hot from the bullet he shot through his head.
“That’s all right by me, you bein’ young,” Enoch was saying. “Time for some new blood ’round here. ’Sides, any friend o’ Judge Bowers is a friend o’ mine.” A slight accent from the British Isles colored his tone.
“I appreciate that.”
“Want I should take your rig inside and tend to your animals?”
“That’d be mighty nice of you.”
Gabe made a move to retrieve his money pouch, but Enoch stopped him. “You just get what you need out o’ your rig, and we’ll settle up in the mornin’.”
“You have no idea how good that sounds.” Gabe reminded himself to retrieve his carpetbag from the back of the wagon. All he needed was a change of clothes for tomorrow, his shaving gear, a bar of soap, and some tooth powder. Right now, nothing sounded better than a soft bed. Shoot, I might even sleep through breakfast, he mused. Ed Bowers didn’t expect him in his office until mid-afternoon.
Slate sidestepped the two as they went to the back to remove the tarp. When they did, they got the surprise of their lives.
“Wull, I’ll be jig-swiggered. What is that?”
Gabe stared open-mouthed at the bundle of a body curled into a tight ball.
“Looks to be a sleeping boy,” he murmured.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Later that night, Catherine’s stable and indulgent world is turned up-side down. Her father’s business partner has corrupted the company and fled, leaving Mr. Newbury to take the brunt of the punishment. In fear of Catherine’s safety, Mr. Newbury sends her, along with two of his loyal servants to America. Five years later, Catherine has taken on the sir name of Shay, and finds herself as a much sought after seamstress in Philadelphia. Saving all her money for her father’s defense, she lives in sadness from both the separation and the concern for his well being.
When Carter Danby accompanies his mother and sister to the local seamstress, he is introduced to Catherine and sense something about her. Catherine immediately recognizes Carter and does her best to stay out of his watchful eye. Carter is intrigued by the women who labors, yet has an air of sophistication and upbringing. He intends to find out more about Catherine Shay.
Though Catherine is quite sweet and considerate of all those she works with, Felicia is not taken in or appreciative of Catherine’s charms. She senses she is not who she claims to be and decides to find out what she can about Catherine’s past.
A LADY OF HIDDEN INTENT is another fine book by Tracie Peterson. Catherine, though demure and sweet, is also stoic and single minded in seeing her father exonerated and freed. Carter is quite charming and will stop at nothing to secure Catherine at his side.
I enjoyed A LADY OF HIDDEN INTENT, though I felt at times certain plots were left flat. So much more could of become of Felicia hateful ways or Carter Danby’s father’s balance of business and corruption. Other than that, it was an entertaining read as always.
At the passing of her mother, Joelle Mitchell is desperate to get away from the disturbing advances and evil threats her step-father continues to taunt her with. When she feels as if she can’t wait any longer, she leaves Tennessee behind and finds herself in Arkansas. When she is confronted with a WANTED sign bearing her name and likeness, she disguises herself as a boy. With her beautiful hair chopped off and wearing baggy clothes, she changes her name to Joe Jones and finds work as a stable hand.
When Joelle meets up with Owen Majors –a man down on his luck– she nurses him back to health and decides to head west with him on a wagon train bound for California. Being out on the open range makes it difficult for Joelle to hide her identity. Hiding her growing feelings for Owen proves to be difficult as well.
I enjoyed JOELLE’S SECRET, but couldn’t help but feel as if I’d read it before. Similarities to other historical’s I’ve read were prevalent, and at times I found myself checking the copyright page thinking I had read the book at an earlier time and this was just a rerelease. I realized that some of the story overlapped with the other books in the series, but there was something about this specific storyline that felt like déjà vu. Even with all that, JOELLE’S SECRET was a quality story and a quick read.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
LEAVE IT TO CHANCE is a delightful read. Though it follows a typical formula: a boy, a girl, and a horse, Sands does well in updating the formula with the modern day trails of a messy divorce, a rebellious teen, and a frazzled single mom.
Sierra Montgomery is doing her best to make ends meet after losing her job and having her child support checks bounce. Then, out of nowhere, she inherits a horse, an animal she is deathly afraid of. Knowing she has no intentions of keeping the horse, she runs an ad and hopes to make enough money to pay the next month’s rent. When her three kids find out she is selling the horse, they are devastated. When the deal falls through, and her ex-husband sloughs off just one more weekend with his kids, Sierra realizes her kids cannot face another disappointment, and against her better judgment, decides to keep the horse. Her take charge mother arranges to have Chance boarded with Ross Morgan, a landscaper that happens to be single and gorgeous. There is an immediate attraction between Ross and Sierra, but she has no room in her life for more complications . . . or so she says.
I enjoyed LEAVE IT TO CHANCE enough to ignore the predictability of it. Sands creates some wonderful characters in Sierra’s best friend, Elise and Ross’ father figure, Sid. Ross is your typical good guy hero that you can’t help but fall in love with. LEAVE IT TO CHANCE is a quick read that keeps you turning pages, waiting for the time that Sierra will finally admit her feelings for Ross.♥
It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!
and his/her book:
Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)
Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writers View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Miss Libby wanted you to have it. Id think youd be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libbys daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her moms church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter. Sierras mom tsked into the phone. Well, you know how Sally is.
Sierra hadnt the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.
She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, Id like to know. Her moms voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.
But I dont want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.
Honey, accidents like that dont happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldnt have owned a crazy horse.
Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.
You really need to think of the kids and how much fun theyd have. Its not like youd ever be able to afford to buy them one.
Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.
Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.
I dont understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.
You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libbys been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.
Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I havent seen Miss Libby since middle school.
Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. Id think you might be a little more grateful.
Deep breath, Sierra told herself. I am grateful. An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevors blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark . Im just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.
The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.
Her mom sighed. Its too bad Sally wont keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.
Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. Mommys got a horse! Mommys got a horse! Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.
Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.
Where is it? Bradens eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.
She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sallys husband probably did not need.
We have a horse? Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.
Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierras gut, her childrens excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.
Sierra ran her hand down Emorys soft cheek and whispered. Ill be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.
Can we ride it? Em looked at her with elated eyes.
Braden tossed his backpack on the table. Where are we going to keep it?
The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. I gotta go, Mom. Ive got to break some cowboy hearts.
The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? Do we have a horse, Mom? He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didnt truly believe they had a horsehe was old enough to realize the oddsbut little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.
That would be yes and a no.
What? Mom! he complained.
I was given a horse, but were not going to keep him. Bradens arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. Why not?
Someone gave you a horse? Emory ignored her brothers attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. Can we keep him? Please!
Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughters face as Emory went on. I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Camerons mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.
Were not a family anymore, Braden cut in. We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.
A shard of pain drove into Sierras gut. She hadnt had time to brace for that one. Bradens anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.
Thats not fair! Outrage darkened Emorys features. Its not Moms fault!
Sarcasm colored Bradens voice. Oh, so its all Dads fault?
Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughters face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didnt know how to defend them against each other.
Sierra spoke in a firm tone. Braden, thats enough!
He scowled at her again. Whatever.
Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.
Guys, were not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and thats what is important.
Bradens attitude kept pouring it on. Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.
So what, Braden-Maden! Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.
No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms. Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole blame the dad thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?
Mom? There was a quaver in Trevors soft voice.
Yes, honey? Sierra gave him a gentle smile.
Can we keep the horse?
Emorys blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.
Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldnt. None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldnt be safe to keep him.
Emorys face lit up. Camerons mom could teach us.
Honey, its not that simple. We cant afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.
I could mow yards. Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. We could help out.
Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.
Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didnt say anything.
Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. I could wash cars.
Those are great ideas, but they wont bring in quite enough, especially since its getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.
You just dont want to keep the horse, Mom, Braden said. I get it. End of story.
Honey, Id love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend
Emory spoke in a helpful tone. We know. Grandma told us about the accident.
They knew? Wasnt the story hers to share? When did Grandma tell you?
Bradens voice took on a breezy air. I dont know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. Were not going to do something dumb like your friend did.
Defensiveness rose inside. She didnt do anything dumb. It was the horse that
So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.
Sierra gave him a look. Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.
Braden rolled his eyes at her.
Worry drew lines across her daughters forehead. Are you going to sell him?
Yes, Em. So were not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do. At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. Okay, I guess Ill have to eat Grandmas apple pie all by myself.
Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. Were going. Emory trotted past him up the stairs.
Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. I dont have any homework.
She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. Nope, you sure dont, bud.
He leaned back. Do I get a horse?
Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. What, Trev?
He tried to talk around his giggles. Do I getMom! Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.
Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids eyes.
She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.
Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the ooga horn on the dash. What?
I dont want the kids to know youre here.
Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!
Nooooo! Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.
Ummm you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?
Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. Done?
Elise tilted her head. Can I get out of the car?
Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. Yes, you may.
Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. Then Im done for now. Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.
Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. Elise, Im in a predicament.
Hon, Ive been trying to tell you that for years.
Sierra shook her head. I dont think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.
Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. I dont think I like the implications of that.
Sierra held her hands out. You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.
Elise chuckled. Its a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now whats the big emergency? She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.
Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.
A herd of them or just one?
One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.
I believe Im missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?
Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Youre not going to believe this, but I inherited it.
Her friends eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. Like someone died and gave you their horse?
Sierra nodded, raising her brows. And the kids want to keep him.
Furrows emerged across Elises forehead. Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?
Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.
Elises perfectly painted lips smirked. Moving along, then. Why dont you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it. She clapped her hands together. Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think hed won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.
Sierra let the idea machine wind down. I dont think so.
No farm animals.
Elises mouth perked into humorous pout. Sierra, youre such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.
A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.
Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. Dont tell me you didnt want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. Youve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems hes having at school and with his dad.
Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and her eyes dodged away from her friend, you know.
Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your childrens eyes.
Sierra nodded, but couldnt find the nerve to say yes.
Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and youre willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because because of what?
Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elises and said quietly, Fear? Terror? Hysteria?
A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elises face, smoothing away the annoyance. Molly.
Sierra nodded. I wont put my children in that kind of danger.
Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierras hands, holding them tight. Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Dont let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. Theres a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.
Thats easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.
Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. We could do it tandem!
If you see me jump off the Empire State Building youll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime youll catch this body leaving good sense behind! Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.
It was bound to happen, hon.
Was she serious? You think Im turning into her? Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?
Elise laughed. You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.
All except you. Youre nothing like Vivian.
Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, Im exactly like her.
Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elises house when they were growing upand for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. Okay, Im the anti-Vivian. She gave Sierra a soft smile. All funnin aside, I really think you should keep the horse.
Im not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldnt. Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elises shoulder.
Michael still hasnt paid?
Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. He paid, but the check bounced again. So now hes two months behind in child support.
Have you heard if Pollans is rehiring?
Theyre not. Jarretts, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollans. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.
Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. And the unemployment fiasco?
Sierra shut her eyes. Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him. She gave Elise a tired smile. Thats the version minus all the legalese.
So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and youre out of a job.
Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished. She gave a wry grin.
I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.
Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. Your clientele would outshine me any day.
You sell yourself far too short. Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?
Sierra laughed. And where is this dream man going to come from?
Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. Oh, hell turn up. Youre too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. Hes a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. Ill see if hes free Friday night. You arent doing anything, are you?
Hold on! Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. First, Im not looking. Second, given my history, Im not the best judge of character. Ive already struck out once in the man department. She pointed to her face with both index fingers. Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me Im turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.
A twist of Elises lips signaled a thought. You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend. She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. Well keep looking. Im sure Sir Knight will turn up.
Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. And what about finding your knight?
Elise gave her a bright smile. Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; itll be your first noble sacrifice.
The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. The others dont count.
Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.
After dinner, Sierra crept into Bradens room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.
I just wanted to say good night.
Good night. His hands started to readjust the music back into position.
I looked at your homework.
You got into my backpack? Isnt that like against the law or something? Youre always telling us not to get into your stuff.
She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?
He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.
She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.
I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.
His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. I didnt want to do it.
She sat next to him, her voice soft. Is it too hard?
He shrugged. It gives me a headache when I work on it.
Braden, if you need help, Id be happy to work with you after school.
He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.
I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.
His body came alert, though he didnt look at her.
She said youre flunking most of your subjects, and she hasnt seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.
He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.
Whats going on? I know school isnt easy, but youve never given up before.
Middle schools harder.
She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. She thinks we should have your vision tested.
Shes noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.
He shrugged again. Can I have my game back?
You lied to me, son. Again.
You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?
His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. No.
She touched his leg. Whats bothering you, honey?
I dunno. Can I have my game back?
She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasnt it. You can have it tomorrow.
But would tomorrow be any different?
Saturday, November 01, 2008
It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!
and his book:
B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)
James David Jordan is a business litigation attorney with the prominent Texas law firm of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. From 1998 through 2005, he served as the firm's Chairman and CEO. The Dallas Business Journal has named him one of the most influential leaders in the Dallas/Fort Worth legal community and one of the top fifteen business defense attorneys in Dallas/Fort Worth. His peers have voted him one of the Best Lawyers in America in commercial litigation.
A minister's son who grew up in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois, Jim has a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois, and a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. He lives with his wife and two teenage children in the Dallas suburbs.
Jim grew up playing sports and loves athletics of all kinds. But he especially loves baseball, the sport that is a little bit closer to God than all the others.
His first novel was Something that Lasts . Forsaken is his second novel.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the paint begins to fade. Will the wallpaper show? I thought so for a long time. But I have hope now that it wont. Simon Mason helped me find that hope. Thats why its important for me to tell our story. There must be others who need hope, too. There must be others who are afraid that their ugly wallpaper might bleed through.
What does sleeping on the ground have to do with a world-famous preacher like Simon Mason? The story begins twelve years agoeleven years before I met Simon. My dad and I packed our camping gear and went fishing. It was mid-May, and the trip was a present for my seventeenth birthday. Not exactly every high school girls dream, but my dad wasnt like most dads. He taught me to camp and fish and, particularly, to shoot. He had trained me in self-defense since I was nine, the year Mom fell apart and left for good. With my long legs, long arms, and Dads athletic genes, I could handle myself even back then. I suppose I wasnt like most other girls.
After what happened on that fishing trip, I know I wasnt.
Fishing with my dad didnt mean renting a cane pole and buying bait pellets out of a dispenser at some catfish tank near an RV park. It generally meant tramping miles across a field to a glassy pond on some war buddys ranch, or winding through dense woods, pitching a tent, and fly fishing an icy stream far from the nearest telephone. The trips were rough, but they were the bright times of my lifeand his, too. They let him forget the things that haunted him and remember how to be happy.
This particular outing was to a ranch in the Texas Panhandle, owned by a former Defense Department bigwig. The ranch bordered one of the few sizeable lakes in a corner of Texas that is brown and rocky and dry. We loaded Dads new Chevy pickup with cheese puffs and soft drinkshealthy eating wouldnt begin until the first fish hit the skilletand left Dallas just before noon with the bass boat in tow. The drive was long, but we had leather interior, plenty of tunes, and time to talk. Dad and I could always talk.
The heat rose early that year, and the temperature hung in the nineties. Two hours after we left Dallas, the brand-new air conditioner in the brand-new truck rattled and clicked and dropped dead. We drove the rest of the way with the windows down while the high Texas sun tried to burn a hole through the roof.
Around five-thirty we stopped to use the bathroom at a rundown gas station somewhere southeast of Amarillo. The station was nothing but a twisted gray shack dropped in the middle of a hundred square miles of blistering hard pan. It hadnt rained for a month in that part of Texas, and the place was so baked that even the brittle weeds rolled over on their bellies, as if preparing a last-ditch effort to drag themselves to shade.
The restroom door was on the outside of the station, isolated from the rest of the building. There was no hope of cooling off until I finished my business and got around to the little store in the front, where a rusty air conditioner chugged in the window. When I walked into the bathroom, I had to cover my nose and mouth with my hand. A mound of rotting trash leaned like a grimy snow drift against a metal garbage can in the corner. Thick, black flies zipped and bounced from floor to wall and ceiling to floor, occasionally smacking my arms and legs as if I were a bumper in a buzzing pinball machine. It was the filthiest place Id ever been.
Looking back, it was an apt spot to begin the filthiest night of my life.
I had just leaned over the rust-ringed sink to inspect my teeth in the sole remaining corner of a shattered mirror when someone pounded on the door.
Just a minute! I turned on the faucet. A soupy liquid dribbled out, followed by the steamy smell of rotten eggs. I turned off the faucet, pulled my sport bottle from the holster on my hip, and squirted water on my face and in my mouth. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my T-shirt.
My blue-jean cutoffs were short and tight, and I pried free a tube of lotion that was wedged into my front pocket. I raised one foot at a time to the edge of the toilet seat and did my best to brush the dust from my legs. Then I spread the lotion over them. The ride may have turned me into a dust ball, but I was determined at least to be a soft dust ball with a coconut scent. Before leaving I took one last look in my little corner of mirror. The hair was auburn, the dust was beige. I gave the hair a shake, sending tiny flecks floating through a slash of light that cut the room diagonally from a hole in the roof. Someone pounded on the door again. I turned away from the mirror.
Okay, okay, Im coming!
When I pulled open the door and stepped into the light, I shaded my eyes and blinked to clear away the spots. All that I could think about was the little air conditioner in the front window and how great it would feel when I got inside. Thats probably why I was completely unprepared when a mans hand reached from beside the door and clamped hard onto my wrist.
FORSAKEN introduces us to Taylor Pasbury, a former Secret Service agent that has been hired by Simon Mason, a dynamic televangelist when he receives threats from Muslim extremists. Taylor has had her own share of publicity, some good and some bad. She’s had a difficult past and a somewhat checkered reputation. When she is contacted by Simon Mason, she gets the sense that she’s not the right fit for the job, but is willing to at least meet with him. From there, the pace of the story never once lets down. When Simon Mason’s world is turned upside down by the kidnapping of his 20-year old daughter, renouncing his faith is all that is needed to insure her release. But how can he? How can he forsake the God he serves with his whole heart?
Taylor sees the demand as an easy one and can’t understand the struggle Mason is facing. But soon, she learns there is more to Simon then the media hype around him. She finds him human, a man with faults, a man with past sins. She even wishes for possibly something more than friendship between them, even though she knows that will never happen. The way Simon lives his life out in front of her, challenges her to reevaluate her own life.
James David Jordan has created two totally captivating characters in Taylor and Simon. I loved Taylor’s tough-as-nails attitude, and the way Jordan wrote her with such sensitivity. And Simon’s even-keel personality makes for an intriguing duo. The highs and lows of the story drew such emotion from me as a reader, at times I had to put it down just so I could take a breath. But I needed to read on. I needed to know how things would end. The secondary characters Jordan created enhance the story without taking the focus away from Taylor and Simon. The symmetry of the story is what keeps you reading on.
I could say so much more about FORSAKEN but I fear I would give too much of the story away. I will be picking up SOMETHING THAT LASTS, Jordan’s first book immediately. And I will be waiting anxiously for the release of DOUBLE CROSS, the sequel to FORSAKEN next fall.♥
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
It is October 11th, and FIRST is doing a special tour to 'Say Goodbye to Hollywood Nobody'.
and her book:
NavPress Publishing Group (September 15, 2008)
Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. Apples of Gold was her first novel for teens
These days, she's working on Quaker Summer, volunteering at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, raising children and trying to be supportive of a husband in seminary. (Trying . . . some days she's downright awful. It's a good thing he's such a fabulous cook!) She can tell you one thing, it's never dull around there.
Other Novels by Lisa:
Hollywood Nobody, Finding Hollywood Nobody, Romancing Hollywood Nobody, Straight Up, Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End
Visit her at her website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (September 15, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I awaken to a tap on my shoulder and open my eye. My right eye. See, these days it could be one of four people: Charley, Dad, Grampie, or Grammie.
Oh well, might as well go for broke. I open the other eye.
Did you sleep well?
I shake my head and reach for my cat glasses. Nope. I kept dreaming about Charley in Scotland. We sent her off with her new beau, the amazing Anthony Harris, two days ago. I imagined a road full of sheep chasing her down.
That would be silly. They would have to know she hates lamb chops. Grammie sits on my bed. Yes, my bed. In their fabulous house. In my own wonderful room, complete with reproductions of the Barcelona chair and a platform bed of gleaming sanded mahogany. I burrow further into my white down comforter. I sweat like a pig at night, but I dont care. A real bed, a bona fide comforter, and four pillows. Feather pillows deep enough to sink the Titanic in.
She pats my shoulder, her bangled wrists emitting the music of wooden jewelry. Up and at em, Scotty. Your dad wants to be on the road by seven thirty.
I need a shower.
Hop to it then.
Several minutes later, I revel in the glories of a real shower. Not the crazy little stall we have in the TrailMama, which Dad gassed up last night for our trip to Maine. Our trip to find Babette, my mother. Is she dead or alive? Thats what were going to find out.
The warm water slides over me from the top of my head on down, and Ive found the coolest shampoo. It smells like limeade. I kid you not. Its the greatest stuff ever.
Over breakfast, Grampie sits down with us and goes over the map to make certain Dad knows the best route. My father sits patiently, nodding as words like turnpike, bypass, and scenic route roll like a convoy out of Grampies mouth.
Poor Grampie. Dad is just the best at navigation and knows everything about getting from point A to point B, but I think Grampie wants to be a part of it. He hinted at us all going in the Beaver Marquis, their Luxury-with-a-capital-L RV, but Dad pretended not to get it.
Later, Dad said to me, Its got to be just us, Scotty. I love my mother and father, but some things just arent complete-family affairs.
I know. I think youre right. And if its bad . . .
He nods. Id just as soon they not be there while we fall apart.
So then, I hop up into our RV, affectionately known as the TrailMama, Dads black pickup already hitched behind. (Charleys kitchen trailer is sitting on a lot in storage at a nearby RV dealership, and good riddance. Im hoping Charley never needs to use that thing again.) Want me to drive?
Yep. I still dont have my license.
Man. But its been such a great month or so at the beach. So, okay, I dont tan much really, but I do have a nice peachy glow.
Ill take it.
And Grampie grilled a lot, and Grammie helped me sew a couple of vintage-looking skirts, and Ive learned the basics of my harp.
I jump into the passengers seat, buckle in, and look over at my dad. You really ready for this? My heart speeds up. This is the final leg of a very long journey, and whats at the end of the path will determine the rest of our lives.
He looks into my eyes. Are you?
I dont know, I whisper. But we dont really have a choice, do we?
I can go alone.
I shake my head. No, Dad. Whatever we do, whatever happens from here on out, we do it together.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!
and her book:
Zondervan (September 1, 2008)
Camy Tang is a FIRST Family Member! She also is a moderator for FIRST Wild Card Tours. She is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service.
Sushi for One? (Sushi Series, Book One) was her first novel. Her second, Only Uni (Sushi Series, Book Two) was published in March of this year. The next book in the series, Single Sashimi (Sushi Series, Book Three) came out in September 2008!
Visit her at her website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (September 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Venus Chau opened the door to her aunt's house and almost fainted.
"What died?" She exhaled sharply, trying to get the foul air out of her body before it caused cancer or something.
Her cousin Jennifer Lim entered the foyer with the look of an oni goblin about to eat someone. "She's stinking up my kitchen."
"Who?" Venus hesitated on the threshold, breathing clean night air before she had to close the door.
"My mother, who else?"
The ire in Jenn's voice made Venus busy herself with kicking off her heels amongst the other shoes in the tile foyer. Hoo-boy, she'd never seen quiet Jenn this irate before. Then again, since Aunty Yuki had given her daughter the rule of the kitchen when she'd started cooking in high school, Jenn rarely had to make way for another cook.
"What is she cooking? Beef intestines?"
Jenn flung her arms out. "Who knows? Something Trish is supposed to eat."
"But we don't have to eat it, right? Right?"
"I'll never become pregnant if I have to eat stuff like that." Jenn whirled and stomped toward the kitchen.
Venus turned right into the living room where her very pregnant cousin Trish lounged on the sofa next to her boyfriend, Spenser. "Hey, guys." Her gaze paused on their twined hands. It continued to amaze her that Spenser would date a woman pregnant with another man's child. Maybe Venus shouldn't be so cynical about the men she met. Here was at least one good guy.
Trish's arms shot into the air like a Raiders' cheerleader, nearly clocking Spenser in the eye. "I'm officially on maternity leave!"
Venus paused to clap. "So how did you celebrate?"
"I babysat Matthew all day today." She smiled dreamily at Spenser at the mention of his son.
Venus frowned and landed her hands on her hips. "In your condition?"
Trish waved a hand. "He's not that bad. He stopped swallowing things weeks ago."
"I'm finally not wasting money on all those emergency room visits," Spenser said.
"Besides, I got a book about how to help toddlers expect a new baby." Trish bounced lightly on the sofa cushion in her excitement.
"And?" It seemed kind of weird to Venus, since Trish and Spenser weren't engaged or anything. Yet.
Trish chewed her lip. "I don't know if he totally understands, but at least it's a start."
A sense of strangeness washed over Venus as she watched the two of them, the looks they exchanged that weren't mushy or intimate, just . . . knowing. Like mind reading. It made her feel alienated from her cousin for the first time in her life, and she didn't really like it.
She immediately damped down the feeling. How could she begrudge Trish such a wonderful relationship? Venus was so selfish. She disgusted herself.
She looked around the living room. "Where is -- "
"Venus!" The childish voice rang down the short hallway. She stepped back into the foyer to see Spenser's son, Matthew, trotting down the carpet with hands reached out to her. He grabbed her at the knees, wrinkling her silk pants, but she didn't mind. His shining face looking up at her -- way up, since she was the tallest of the cousins -- made her feel like she was the only reason he lived and breathed. "Psycho Bunny?" he pleaded.
She pretended to think about it. His hands shook her pants legs to make her decide faster.
He darted into the living room and plopped in front of the television, grabbing at the game controllers. The kid had it down pat -- in less than a minute, the music for the Psycho Bunny video game rolled into the room.
Venus sank to the floor next to him.
"Jenn is totally freaking out." Trish's eyes had popped to the size of siu mai dumplings.
"What brought all this on?" Venus picked up the other controller.
"Well, Aunty Yuki had a doctor's appointment today -- "
"Is she doing okay?" She chose the Bunny Foo-Foo character for the game just starting.
"Clean bill of health. Cancer's gone, as far as they can tell."
"So that's why she's taken over Jenn's domain?"
Trish rubbed her back and winced. "She took one look at me and decided I needed something to help the baby along."
Jenn huffed into the living room. "She's going to make me ruin the roast chicken!"
Venus ignored her screeching tone. "Sit down. You're not going to make her hurry by hovering." She and Matthew both jumped over the snake pit and landed in the hollow tree.
Jenn flung herself into an overstuffed chair and dumped her feet on the battered oak coffee table.
Venus turned to glance at the foyer. No Nikes. "Where's Lex?"
"Late. Where else?" Jenn snapped.
"I thought Aiden was helping her be better about that."
"He's not a miracle worker." Spenser massaged Trish's back.
"I have to leave early." Venus stretched her silk-clad feet out, wriggling her toes. Her new stilettos looked great but man, they hurt her arches.
"Then you might not eat at all." Jenn crossed her arms over her chest.
Venus speared her with a glance like a stainless steel skewer. "Chill, okay Cujo?"
Jenn pouted and scrunched further down in the chair.
Venus ignored her and turned back to the game. Her inattention had let Matthew pick up the treasure chest. "I have to work on a project."
"No, for me." Only the Spiderweb, the achievement of her lifetime, a new tool that would propel her to the heights of video game development stardom. Which was why she'd kept it separate from her job-related things -- she didn't even use her company computer when she worked on it, only her personal laptop.
A new smell wafted into the room, this one rivaling the other in its stomach-roiling ability. Venus waved her hand in front of her face.
"Pffaugh! What is she cooking?"
Trish's face had turned the color of green tea. "You're lucky you don't have to eat it. Whatever it is, it ain't gonna stay down for long."
"Just say you still have morning sickness."
"In my ninth month?"
The door slammed open. "Hey, guys -- blech."
Venus twisted around to see her cousin Lex doubled over, clenching her washboard stomach (Venus wished she could have one of those) and looking like she'd hurled up all the shoes littering the foyer floor.
Lex's boyfriend Aiden grabbed her waist to prevent her from nosediving into the tile. "Lex, it's not that bad."
"The gym locker room smells better." Lex used her toes to pull off her cross-trainers without bothering to untie them. "The men's locker room."
"It's not me," Jenn declared. "It's Mom, ruining all my best pots."
"What is she doing? Killing small animals on the stovetop?"
"Something for the baby." Trish tried to smile, but it looked more like a wince.
"As long as we don't have to eat it." Lex dropped her slouchy purse on the floor and walked into the living room.
Aunty Yuki appeared behind her in the doorway, bearing a steaming bowl. "Here, Trish. Drink this." The brilliant smile on her wide face eclipsed her tiny stature.
Venus smelled something pungent, like when she walked into a Chinese medicine shop with her dad. A bolus of air erupted from her mouth, and she coughed. "What is that?" She dropped the game controller.
"Pig's brain soup."
Trish's smile hardened to plastic. Lex grabbed her mouth. Spenser -- who was Chinese and therefore had been raised with the weird concoctions -- sighed. Aiden looked at them all like they were funny-farm rejects.
Venus closed her eyes, tightened her mouth, and concentrated on not gagging. Good thing her stomach was empty.
Aunty Yuki's mouth pursed. "What's wrong? My mother-in-law made me eat pig's brain soup when I was a couple weeks from delivering Jennifer."
"That's what you ruined my pots with?" Jennifer steamed hotter than the bowl of soup.
Her mom caught the yakuza-about-to-hack-your-finger-off expression on Jenn's face. Aunty Yuki paused, then backtracked to the kitchen. With the soup bowl, thankfully.
"Papa?" Matthew's voice sounded faint.
"Don't feel good." He clutched his poochy tummy.
"Oh, no." Spenser grabbed his son and headed out of the living room.
Then the world exploded.
Just as they passed into the foyer, Matthew threw up onto the tiles.
Lex, with her weak stomach when it came to bodily fluids, took one look and turned pasty.
A burning smell and a few cries sounded from the kitchen.
Trish sat up straighter than a Buddha and clenched her rounded abdomen. "Oh!"
Spenser held his crying son as he urped up the rest of his afternoon snack. Lex clapped a hand to her mouth to prevent herself from following Matthew's example. Jenn started for the kitchen, but then Matthew's mess blocking the foyer stopped her. Trish groaned and curled in on herself, clutching her tummy.
Venus shot to her feet. She wasn't acting Game Lead at her company for nothing.
"You." She pointed to Jenn. "Get to the kitchen and send your mom in here for Trish." Jenn leaped over Matthew's puddle and darted away. "And bring paper towels for the mess!"
"You," she flung at Spenser. "Take Matthew to the bathroom."
He gestured to the brand new hallway carpet.
Oh no, Aunty Yuki would have a fit. But it couldn't be helped. "If he makes a mess on the carpet, we'll just clean it up later."
He didn't hesitate. He hustled down the hallway with Matthew in his arms.
Venus kicked the miniscule living room garbage basket closer to Lex. "Hang your head over that." Not that it would hold more than spittle, but it was better than letting Lex upchuck all over the plush cream carpet. Why did Lex, tomboy and jock, have to go weak every time something gross happened?
"You." Venus stabbed a manicured finger at Aiden. "Get your car, we're taking Trish to the hospital."
He didn't jump at her command. "After one contraction?"
Trish moaned, and Venus had a vision of the baby flying out of her in the next minute. She pointed to the door again. "Just go!"
Aiden shrugged and slipped out the front door, muttering to himself.
"You." She stood in front of Trish, who'd started Lamaze breathing through her pursed lips. "Uh . . ."
Trish peered up at her.
"Um . . . stop having contractions."
Trish rolled her eyes, but didn't speak through her pursed lips.
Venus ignored her and went to kneel over Matthew's rather watery puddle, which had spread with amoeba fingers reaching down the lines of grout. Lex's purse lay nearby, so she rooted in it for a tissue or something to start blotting up the mess.
Footsteps approaching. Before she could raise her head or shout a warning, Aunty Yuki hurried into the foyer. "What's wron -- !"
It was like a Three Stooges episode. Aunty Yuki barreled into Venus's bent figure. She had leaned over Matthew's mess to protect anyone from stepping in it, but it also made her an obstacle in the middle of the foyer.
"Ooomph!" The older woman's feet -- shod in cotton house slippers, luckily, and not shoes -- jammed into Venus's ribs. She couldn't see much except a pair of slippers leaving the floor at the same time, and then a body landing on the living room carpet on the other side of her. Ouch.
"Are you okay?" Venus twisted to kneel in front of her, but she seemed slow to rise.
"Venus, here're the paper towels -- "
Jenn's voice in the foyer made Venus whirl on the balls of her feet and fling her hands up. "Watch out!"
Jenn stopped just in time. Her toes were only inches away from Matthew's mess, her body leaning forward. Her arms whirled, still clutching the towels, like a cheerleader and her pom-poms.
"Jenn." Spenser's voice coming down the hallway toward the foyer. "Where are the -- "
"Stop!" Venus and Jenn shouted at the same time.
Spenser froze, his foot hovering above a finger of the puddle that had stretched toward the hallway. "Ah. Okay. Thanks." He lowered his foot on the clean tile to the side.
Aiden opened the front door. "The car's out front -- " The sight of them all left him speechless.
Trish had started to hyperventilate, her breath seething through her teeth. "Will somebody do something?!"
Aunty Yuki moaned from her crumpled position on the floor.
Smoke started pouring from the kitchen, along with the awful smell of burned . . . something that wasn't normal food.
Venus snatched the paper towels from Jenn. "Kitchen!" Jenn fled before she'd finished speaking. "What do you need?" Venus barked at Spenser.
"Guest bedroom closet, top shelf."
He headed back down the hall. Venus turned to Aiden and swept a hand toward Aunty Yuki on the living room floor. "Take care of her, will you?"
"What about me?" Trish moaned through a clenched jaw.
"Stop having contractions!" Venus swiped up the mess on the tile before something worse happened, like someone stepped in it and slid. That would just be the crowning cherry to her evening. Even when she wasn't at work, she was still working.
"Are you okay, Aunty?" She stood with the sodden paper towels.
Aiden had helped her to a seat next to Lex, who was ashen-faced and still leaning over the tiny trash can. Aside from a reddish spot on Aunty Yuki's elbow, she seemed fine.
Jenn entered the living room, her hair wild and a distinctive burned smell sizzling from her clothes. "My imported French saucepan is completely blackened!" But she had enough sense not to glare at her parent as she probably wanted to. Aunty Yuki suddenly found
the wall hangings fascinating.
Venus started to turn toward the kitchen to throw away the paper towels she still held. "Well, we have to take Trish to the hospital -- "
"Actually . . ." Trish's breathing had slowed. "I think it's just a false alarm."
Venus turned to look at her. "False alarm? Pregnant women have those?"
"It happened a couple days ago too."
"What?" Venus almost slammed her fist into her hip, but remembered the dirty paper towels just in time. Good thing too, because she had on a Chanel suit.
Trish gave a long, slow sigh. "Yup, they're gone. That was fast." She smiled cheerfully.
Venus wanted to scream. This was out of her realm. At work, she was used to grabbing a crisis at the throat and wrestling it to submission. This was somewhere Trish was heading without her, and the thought both frightened and unnerved her. She shrugged it off. "Well . . . Aunty -- "
"I'm fine, Venus." Aunty Yuki inspected her elbow. "Jennifer, get those Japanese Salonpas patches -- "
"Mom, they stink." Jenn's stress over her beautiful kitchen made her more belligerent than Venus had ever seen her before. Not that the camphor patches could smell any worse than the burned Chinese-old-wives'-pregnancy-food permeating the house.
At the sound of the word Salonpas, Lex pinched her lips together but didn't say anything.
Aunty Yuki gave Jenn a limpid look. "The Salonpas gets rid of the pain."
"I'll get it." Aiden headed down the hallway to get the adhesive patches.
"In the hall closet." Jenn's words slurred a bit through her tight jaw.
Distraction time. Venus tried to smile. "Aunty, if you're okay, then let's eat."
Jenn's eyes flared neon red. "Can't."
"Somebody turned off the oven." Jenn frowned at her mother, who tactfully looked away. "Dinner won't be for another hour." She stalked back to the kitchen.
Even with the nasty smell, Venus's stomach protested its empty state. "It's already eight o'clock."
"Suck it up!" Jenn yelled from the kitchen.
It was going to be a long night.
Venus needed a Reese's peanut butter cup.
No, a Reese's was bad. Sugar, fat, preservatives, all kinds of chemicals she couldn't even pronounce.
Oooh, but it would taste so good . . .
No, she equated Reese's cups with her fat days. She was no longer fat. She didn't need a Reese's.
But she sure wanted one after such a hectic evening with her cousins.
She trudged up the steps to her condo. Home. Too small to invite people over, and that was the way she liked it. Her haven, where she could relax and let go, no one to see her when she was vulnerable --
Her front door was ajar.
Her limbs froze mid-step, but her heart rat-tat-tatted in her chest like a machine gun. Someone. Had. Broken. Into. Her. Home.
Her hand started to shake. She clenched it to her hip, crushing the silk of her pants. What to do? He might still be there. Pepper spray. In her purse. She searched in her bag and finally found the tiny bottle. Her hand trembled so much, she'd be more likely to spritz herself than the intruder.
Were those sounds coming from inside? She reached out a hand, but couldn't quite bring herself to push the door open further.
Stupid, call the police! She fumbled with the pepper spray so she could extract her cell phone. Dummy, don't pop yourself in the eye with that stuff! She switched the spray to her other hand while her thumb dialed 9 - 1 - 1. Her handbag's leather straps dug into her elbow.
Thump! That came from her living room! Footsteps. Get away from the door! She stumbled backwards, but remembering the stairs right behind her, she tried to stop herself from tumbling down. Her ankle tilted on her stilettos, and she fell sideways to lean against the wall. The footsteps approached her open door.
"9 - 1 - 1, what's your emergency?"
She raised her hand with the bottle of pepper spray. "Someone's -- "
The door swung open.
"Edgar!" The cell phone dropped with a clatter, but she kept a firm grip on the pepper spray, suddenly tempted to use it.
One of her junior programmers stood in her open doorway.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Camy Tang
Requests for information should be addressed to:
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530