Falling Like a Rock

Watch out for falling rock! A mountain town and its rugged mayor captivate a woman in search of a new life and love.

Unloved and unemployed. That’s Elaine Svoboda, after she’s sacked, then flees across country to her boyfriend who drops her flat. Teetering on the abyss of disaster, she calls an old friend who invites her to a tiny mountain town with fresh prospects. There she meets rugged, hunky Joe Richter-Leon, mayor of Falling Rock. Maybe he can help her find a job. Maybe they can become friends, even share romance. Sparks fly immediately, but major obstacles make a new life on the ashes of the old appear impossible. Joe’s consumed with challenges like the dismal local economy and an impetuous sister. Elaine butts heads with him at every turn in the rocky road. Is the problem her bungling attempts to help? Or does she remind him of a greedy, selfish ex-wife? Before they can build a new life on the ashes of the old, she must overcome a few obstacles like a broken ankle, an eating disturbance, his stubbornness, and her own fears. She’s smothering her hopes when a battle with a forest inferno illuminates their true feelings and desire. Funny and frank, poignant and perceptive, when two people are “Falling Like a Rock,” they learn surrender sometimes means victory.


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Copyright 2014 © Bonnie McCune

The movement now wasn’t rocking but more like a grind. A slowness. A shiver. She knew she had to leave the main road and find help. She swerved onto a pull-off that appeared as if by a miracle, turned off the motor, and sank into the seat. In all directions she saw flat monotone prairie. If spring was about to arrive, no sign of it blossomed here. An occasional bush of greenish sagebrush nodded, but most of the landscape consisted of earth-toned dirt and dirt-toned pebbles scoured by a constant wind, which threw a thin top layer of particles hither and yon.

What she knew about auto mechanics fit on a matchbook cover. She’d been shown where to fill up on gas and wiper fluid, and that was the extent of it. She flicked the ignition off and on several times, peered at the dashboard, even popped the hood. Nothing looked out of place or broken.

She returned to the driver’s seat to think and worry her tooth with her tongue. It wasn’t safe to sit out here alone, and dismal warnings from her parents to never trust a casual passerby in a situation like this darted in her mind. So she hauled out her cell phone. No service. She slumped in her seat.

The plains spread horizon to horizon around her, and an appreciation rose in her for the courage and hard work of the pioneers who had traveled one slow step at a time over an endless landscape to reach their new homes. At least nowadays an asphalt ribbon transversed the plateau. On the road an occasional semi whooshed past, rattling her vehicle as it traveled. One trucker slowed to a crawl and honked, but by the time she decided he was offering help, he’d disappeared.

She twisted her brain in knots to find some way to save herself. Surely if she were careful, stayed in her car and blinked her lights and beeped, someone should rescue her. Perhaps she should wait until a woman stopped, but another female would be as afraid to pull over as she to chance an encounter.

Clouds began to build in gray billows, flowed from west en route the east, and the sun plunged toward twilight. If anything terrified her more than an appeal to a stranger for assistance, it was spending the night out here in the open. In her rearview mirror, a battered Land Rover appeared, and almost on impulse, Elaine switched on her hazard lights and leaned on the horn.

The vehicle slowed but didn’t stop. Not until it was some yards down the road. Next a tall, lean figure climbed out, the engine still in operation. A man dressed in jeans, ski jacket, and a black Stetson. Elaine would have laughed if she hadn’t been worried about the security of the car door locks. She was in the West now. It made sense for a cowboy to show up.

He approached with careful deliberation, halting a few feet from her, and she rolled her window down several inches and studied him in case she had to describe him later to the authorities. Not particularly suave or polished, but certainly with the rugged strength typically associated with cowboy types. Dark, as if he spent time outside or had some Mediterranean or Latino ancestors. A prominent nose, off-centered, perhaps from being bashed once too often.

“Need help, ma’am?”


Sparks Fly!


Carlisle’s dream of attending culinary school goes up in flames when she accidentally burns down her landlord’s shed while cooking ribs for a contest. Winning the cook-off would have provided enough money for tuition. Now she needs to win to replace the damaged building. Carlisle resigns herself to putting her future on hold while dealing with the problems of the present.

The hot fire chief who puts out the fire makes it clear she’s used up precious resources with her carelessness. He’s furious that she’s wasted his time when he needs every second to track down an arsonist who is escalating dangerously.

The far more serious problem is that Carlisle’s small fire draws the attention of the arsonist who doesn’t like anyone stealing the limelight. He comes after her with a frightening single-minded focus. Can Carlisle save herself and their budding romance from the flames of a maniac?

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Copyright 2014 © Daisy Jerico


“I’ll take the ribs instead. Whoa, that’s a big fire. Hey, I think your shed’s on fire.”

“No, I spread the coals out so the meat cooks more evenly. They should absorb the smoky flavor.”

Kelly took Carlisle by the shoulders and turned her around. The two girls stood motionless for a moment. Flames danced across the shed, threatening the overhanging oak tree. The walls of the wooden structure glowed orange against the evening.

“My ribs are burning.” Carlisle lunged forward as a wall of the shed collapsed. Kelly slung her arms around her friend’s waist and dug in her substantial heels, hauling her friend back to safety.

“There’ll be other ribs. We should call 911.”

“There’s a fire extinguisher in the pantry. I think we can take care of this.” Carlisle ran for the kitchen, her lungs screaming for air. The small red can sported rust around the handle. Did they expire? She’d never checked the label in the two years she’d rented. She promised to mend her slacker ways. Please God, let the charge still work.

“One of those itty-bitty ones?” Kelly yelled after her. As Carlisle flung open the flimsy door, she realized Kelly had her phone out. Carlisle raced to the back yard with the small fire extinguisher.

Where to begin? The intense heat burned her face. Carlisle fumbled with the pin on the top. How did the darned thing work?

A rush of air blasted her, throwing her body backwards a couple of steps. Everything sounded muffled as if she had cotton in her ears. She walked away from the mess, defeated. A round metal projectile whistled past her ear—the lid of paint can?

Kelly came back and pushed Carlisle ahead of her as they scuttled around the side of the cottage to let the wall shield them. Kelly held the phone to her mouth, but Carlisle’s ears were ringing too loud to hear what she said. Carlisle gazed, fascinated as the ancient paint in front of her peel up like ribbon on a present. She hadn’t liked yellow anyway. Where would she live if the house went up?

Instead of fading, the ringing became a siren. Kelly put an arm around her shoulders and dragged her to the sidewalk. The fire truck pulled up at the fire hydrant directly in front of her house. Carlisle never noticed the large yellow plug before.

Carlisle grimaced in misery as the men in their bright yellow suits piled out of the truck and began assembling equipment. There were going to be nasty repercussions from this night. Did God hate her so much? She closed her eyes. Please let tonight be a dream instead of a nightmare.

A huge man strode across the lawn, blocking out the light. The backlight made his face invisible, but he walked angry. She stood up and squared her shoulders. She deserved a tongue-lashing.

She shouldn’t have lit the fire near the shed. She knew that now. The entire night had been a terrible mistake. She hated getting yelled at.

He came up and spoke. His lips mesmerized her but his voice sounded under water. She wished she’d learned to lip read. Fire safety would have been handy to know too. She wished she’d done her hair. If Kelly had started a huge fire requiring trucks and a platoon of attractive men, she’d have lipstick on. Carlisle sighed and shook her head. She couldn’t hear him but she surmised he was asking her what happened.

He didn’t look angry, more concerned. Hard planes and strong angles made up his face.

She spoke and her own voice hardly registered in her ears.

“Fire in the backyard got out of hand. Things in the shed exploded whistling and sparking. There must be paint in there. I never looked. I don’t know for sure.” Ribs were history. She knew this guy didn’t care a rat’s rear end for her dreams of glory. He shouted at the men dragging the hose to the backyard.

A lone tear slid out of her eye and tracked from her cheek to her chin. He turned back and patted her shoulder and the small kindness almost brought a flood of tears.

How come she never met men who could be on a calendar—tall, strong and in charge?


Hush in the Storm Launches Aug 6th



Jen, a young widow floundering in the storm of mourning, whose only lifeline is her humdrum job, is tossed into a maze of deceit and intrigue by a coworker named Tom. . . at the request of her late husband, or so Tom says. He kidnaps her and fakes her death to keep her safe from the cartel who he thinks caused her husband’s “accident”.

Together, they are thrust into a tempest of danger and deceit where no one is whom they claim to be. The list of people Jen can believe in keeps diminishing. Who can she trust while dodging the Feds, human traffickers and the press who’ve discovered she’s alive? 

Will Jen’s re-budding faith help her rescue two illegal teens trafficked by the cartel without drowning them, Tom, and herself in the waves of betrayal, especially when she suspects her husband may not be dead after all?



Follow Julie’s blog – Where Did You Find God Today

Check out her other books including three Bible studies perfect for small groups.


A recent widow is kidnapped and her death faked, supposedly for her own good. But if she’s really a widow, why does she keep hearing her husband’s voice? Julie B. Cosgrove weaves a tale of suspense and romance as her heroine crosses paths with human traffickers and discovers the real faces of the victims. A story that both informs and shocks, but keeps you reading to the very end. Mary Hamilton, author of the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp Series 

“Julie Cosgrove’s new novel “Hush in the Storm” is the compelling story of a woman’s journey through tragedy, betrayal and triumph.as the heroine addresses issues of grief, love and modern day slavery. A must read.”   Joy Brooks, Prayer For Freedom

Hush in the Storm by Julie B. Cosgrove is a tough but compelling read about a woman spirited away into the darkness and harsh reality of human trafficking. In addition to her terror and confusion over this split-second turn in her life is the unspeakable horror that perhaps someone very close to her is involved in her nightmare. This is a page-turner that will not only entertain but also inform and educate on a topic relevant to our time and culture.  Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com) is an award-winning writer of more than 40 books, including Deliver Me from Evil.

Abiding Flame

Darkness can be overcome…


Abiding Flame_ebookarr

Terminally ill Lynette Lamb is forced to reunite her wayward son and grandson. Her options are as limited as her strength and mobility. Through a fateful series of events, the rejoined pair will leave Earth to become part of a colony orbiting a new planet. Sam Austin and his wife mourn the loss of their only child and decide to make a fresh start at the space station. The same ship holds the one who will fulfill the dark planet’s prophecy, but a demonic force boards to stop the vessel. The demon’s obedient but unwilling servant is sent on a suicide mission to keep the ship from reaching its destination.


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Copyright 2014 © Pauline Creeden

“Freak,” a boy in green yelled, drawing Lynette Lamb’s attention from her second story window. Three boys caught up with her eleven-year-old grandson, Jeremy, and blocked his path. “Why you look so weird?”

“Do–” Jeremy clenched a pharmacy bag. “Why do I look so weird?”

The green one laughed. “That’s what I asked. See, he doesn’t even know.” Snickering, two of the boys punched each other in the shoulders.

Lynette could smell their bloodlust on the breeze. Like rough burlap, her tired lungs scratched against her rib cage, but she ignored the pain and watched the three boys who harassed her grandson. One wore red, one blue, and one green. Otherwise only a modicum of disparity existed among them. That was the problem with normalization. In an effort to make everyone look the same, society succeeded in taking away individuality. She could hardly tell the kids apart anymore. She coughed, and splatters of blood stained the washcloth she gripped in her weak fingers.

“Is your doctor blind or sumthin’? ’Cuz I can almost see through you, white boy.” Green smacked Jeremy in the chest to punctuate his words. “And what’s with those teeth? Was yo’ momma a horse?”

“No.” Jeremy attempted to cross the street.

The boy in red pushed him and knocked the pharmacy bag to the sidewalk. “You ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

The one in blue giggled like a hyena. “Yeah. Unless it’s to a doctor. It’s called normalizing. Ain’t you never heard of it?”

“Shut it.” The one in red smacked Blue in the back of the head. Blue cowered, nearly falling backwards as he stepped off the curb.

Jeremy focused on the bag at his feet and stood still. His tall, lanky frame and pale skin made him an anomaly to the normalized, olive-skinned children his age. Because of his recent growth spurt, he seemed to be more knees and elbows than his limbs accounted for. Next to the other children, he stood like an awkward, leafless cedar.

Lynette clenched her teeth, hoping none of the young brutes held a weapon. If only she had the strength and wind in her lungs to yell at them! Tears filled her eyes. It crushed her that she could no longer take care of her grandson like he needed.

Green poked Jeremy in the chest to emphasize each word. “Why. You. Look. So. Weird.”

“I look the way God made me.”

Lynette’s heart swelled. But the primary colors doubled over and slapped each other on the backs. Green barked laughter, but stopped, spit on the ground, and said, “You one of those religion freaks, ain’t you? I knew it.”

Blue giggled, hand over his mouth, and pointed at Jeremy. “My dad said you was extinct!”

Red gripped the front of Jeremy’s shirt and growled, “Well, I says we make you extinct.”

He rammed his fist into Jeremy’s stomach. The other two boys jumped into the fray, arms thumping in a wild rhythm.




In simple language, Pauline Creeden creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long. Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy.

Armored Hearts, her joint effort with author Melissa Turner Lee, has been a #1 Bestseller in Christian Fantasy and been awarded the Crowned Heart for Excellence by InDtale Magazine.

Her debut novel, Sanctuary, won 1st Place Christian YA Title 2013 Dante Rosetti Award and is now available as an audiobook. #1 Bestseller on Amazon in Christian Sci/Fi and Fantasy (October 2013)

One of Pauline’s short stories has won the CCW Short Story contest. Other short stories have been published in Fear & Trembling Magazine, Obsidian River and Avenir Eclectia. An urban fantasy short will appear in The Book of Sylvari: An Anthology of Elves from Port Yonder Press, and a vampire short will appear in Monsters! from Diminished Media Group.


Dried Flowers

After dressing all in black, Paula Summers walked aimlessly through her mother’s house. She looked inside the refrigerator for what seemed like the hundredth time. Yes, there was plenty of food for the crowd that would gather after the funeral. Piles of sandwiches cut into perfect triangles, a whole ham ready to be sliced, celery pieces stuffed with pimiento cheese, baby carrots, deviled eggs–enough to feed a small army. She closed the fridge, swept her eyes across the foil-covered pans of brownies on the counter. Jugs of tea waited only for the addition of ice. Mom would be proud.

Paula had known there was a secret since her first semester of high school biology. Gregor Mendel’s experiments with black-eyed peas made for dull reading. As she slogged on through her text book explanations, Paula realized two blue-eyed human beings never produced a brown-eyed baby. She studied the snapshot of her father on the mantel, a fresh-faced young man dressed in a khaki uniform, blond hair peeking from his jaunty cap, the insignia of the 82nd Airborne prominently displayed on his jacket. His eyes were pale and clear, tinted to resemble a morning sky. A shade or two lighter than her mother’s.

Some time passed before Paula was able to process her new-found information. Was it possible her mother dallied with someone other than her husband, Captain Robert Summers? Did the couple adopt and withhold the information from their daughter? Was her birth the outcome of an undisclosed rape? Paula speculated endlessly, but was afraid to voice her questions. She was well aware that a substantial portion of their household income came from the US Government in the form of support for the child of Captain Summers. Paula had the details memorized, Robert S. Summers, killed in action, December 23, 1944, in France, during the Battle of the Bulge. She even knew her father’s service number, having written it on many forms over the years.

Paula was able to go to college because of her father’s sacrifice. She agonized over whether she should accept the scholarship. If Summers was not her real father, was it dishonest to claim he was? After studying her birth certificate–which clearly stated that she was the seven pound, seven-ounce legitimate daughter of housewife Betty Louise Holman Summers and Army Captain Robert Stinson Summers–she chose to pursue her education.

Although she did not think about the circumstances of her birth constantly, Paula continued to wonder. She hungered for information, but her mother turned any conversation about her father in another direction. Once or twice Paula pressed for more disclosure. “I’ve made a life for us the best I knew how,” her mother once said. “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

After finishing her nursing degree, Paula went to work in a large hospital. Three years later, she made up her mind to confront her mother without accepting anything short of the truth. However, when she arrived home in Texas for a visit, Betty had just received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Putting her own life on hold, Paula quit her job and moved home to take care of her mother. Betty’s two-year battle was over now, and questions lingered in Paula’s mind.

During her mother’s illness, cleaning house became a treasure hunt for Paula. She searched every drawer, looked inside each book, always vigilant for clues to the past. There was no trunk in the attic, no secret compartment behind the bookcase, no safe deposit box. Nothing.

Betty occasionally made telephone calls to a sister-in-law in North Carolina. Paula remembered meeting her aunt and uncle at Christmas before she started to school. Not knowing the reason for years of separation, she was relieved her mother and aunt were on speaking terms. She tucked the North Carolina telephone number into her wallet, thinking she might go in search of her relatives someday.

During the next few hours, Paula felt as if she was floating outside her body, watching herself. She accepted hugs from childhood friends, people from Betty’s church, and a few sympathetic strangers. The pastor’s words seemed to bounce off her skin, never penetrating her mind. Afterwards, people drifted in and out of the house, eating, talking, occasionally weeping. Betty’s neighbors helped Paula straighten up the kitchen. Both to repay their kindness and to avoid making storage decisions, she insisted they take all the leftover food with them.

That evening, Paula took stock of her situation. She’d mailed the last mortgage payment on the house several months ago. Since she’d been able to work part time during the first year at home, there was no compelling financial reason to look for a job right away. She could rent out her mother’s house, or sell it. She might even decide to live there, but trying to make plans overwhelmed her. She reached for her handbag and took out her aunt’s telephone number. After staring at the scrap of paper for a long time, Paula reached for the telephone.

More about Paula later…

-by Carlene Havel

FREE TODAY! Witcha’be by Anna Marie Kittrell

FREE May 30th-June 1st on Amazon!

A wannabe witch is about to make Molly’s life a nightmare…


New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.


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Mrs. Timble’s gaze snapped from her paper-strewn desktop as giggles peppered the freshman algebra classroom. I always got the hiccups when I was scared.

“Way to go, Molly,” Kit Benson blurted from the back.

Bianca rolled her black-lined eyes, breaking the stare she’d fastened on me. She tossed her red hair over her shoulder, and then ran her hands over her black top, smoothing the lace.

Relief washed over me. Lenni said Bianca couldn’t read minds without making eye contact. I guess if she did read my mind, she’d know I’d never intended to intrude on the friendship she shared with Lenni. Then again, she’d also find out about my grasshopper phobia and I might end up with a lunch tray full of them. I shuddered.

The bell sounded. Mrs. Timble raised her pen, waiting out the long ring. “Chapter eight over the weekend. Zero credit for late work.” She lowered her gray eyes, along with her red pen, and continued her assault on a worksheet. I hoped it wasn’t mine.

I scribbled an eight on the back of my hand and hurried from the room. The click of Bianca’s boots against the floor gained steadily on the slap of my flip-flops. Heart pounding, I swung full speed into the main hallway and rammed into mountainous Jake Hughes, knocking his Band-Aid-covered notebook from his gigantic hands.

“Sorry, Jake.” I knelt and pinched the corner of the notebook, not wanting to touch it.

“They’re not used.” Jake slid the disgusting spiral from my fingers and lumbered down the hallway.

Something pricked my scalp. “Ouch!” I stood and whirled. Bianca held one of my hairs between her fingers. She shot a cold glance at me, chilling my blood. She was going to put a curse on me.


I walked to my locker, rubbing my head. Lenni fiddled with the combination.

“Hi, Molly. How was Timble’s class?”


“That bad?” She spun the numbers. “I can’t get our locker open.”
I cleared the lock and started over, hitting the combination first time.

“Cool.” She crammed her books into my organized locker and slammed the door. “Oops.” She winced, glancing at the stack in the crook of my arm.

“It’s okay.” I twirled the lock, shrugged at the jumbled books and tossed mine on top.

“What’s the eight on your hand for?” she asked as I shut the locker.
I’d forgotten my algebra book. “Chapter eight.” Grinding my teeth, I spun the dial.

We ran down the hall, hitting the double-glass doors in time to see our bus pull away from the curb.

It was a long walk home. I kicked a rock with my flip-flop as Lenni chattered on. I didn’t feel much like talking.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Bianca.” I concentrated on not hiccupping.

“Bianca? Did you see her outfit? She designs all her own stuff. Buys clothes at thrift shops, rips them up and attaches old jewelry and scarves. I could never pull off that black-lace look she wore today, but with her red hair and ivory skin, she rocked it.” Lenni batted her lashes, her admiration of Bianca annoyingly obvious.

I looked away.

“Oh, and you look hot today, too. That beige color really goes well with your dark hair.”

“Thanks.” My favorite t-shirt felt suddenly uncomfortable. I tugged at it.

“Um, my aunt Jodi works at the makeup counter in the mall. I could schedule a makeover for you—I mean for us—if you’d like. It’d be fun, don’t you think?” she stammered.

“Makeover?” I stopped walking. “Am I hideous or something?”

“Of course not. I just thought if you were threatened by Bianca’s looks, a makeover might make you feel better. They do it on TV all the time. Sometimes I don’t even recognize those mousy girls when the stylists finish with them.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Not that you are mousy.”

“I’m not threatened by Bianca’s looks. I’m threatened by Bianca.” I strode ahead.

She jogged to catch up. “What do you mean? Bianca likes you.” Lenni reminded me of an animated Barbie. Shiny, blonde hair, bright smile, turned up nose, light-blue eyes focused on a perfect, plastic world.
“Bianca does not like me. She only pretends to when you’re around.

She stares me down with those witchy eyes every day. And I’m pretty sure she plucked a hair out of my head.” I halted, looking Lenni square in her starry eyes. “I think she’s going to put a curse on me.”
“You can’t be serious.” She laughed.

I guess my fears were a little bit silly. Maybe even ridiculous. A grin found its way to my lips.

“She can’t put a curse on you.” She placed her French-manicured fingers on my shoulders and fixed her eyes to mine. “Bianca is just a witcha’be.”

A frown chased the grin from my face. I broke free and resumed my stride. “What is a witcha’be?”

“A witcha’be is sort of like a wannabe witch. The most she can do is levitate small objects and read minds. She read Mrs. Timble’s once. That lady’s got problems.”

“Witcha’be. Wannabe witch. Clever.”

“It’ll be years before she graduates to full-blown witch. Then she’ll be able to place curses and cast spells.”

“So, how does a person become a witcha’be? Is there criteria?”

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Love’s Strong Shelter

When an abused woman has had enough, she must fight to save her family and make hard choices…


Evelyn’s alcoholic husband beats her, humiliates her, and treats her like dirt. She put up with his mental and physical abuse for years for the sake of the kids, but after she knocks him unconscious with a whiskey bottle to protect her teenage son, she takes the kids and flees to a women’s shelter. Will she finally free herself from her abuser, or does God have something else in mind?

Nathan struggles with his own demons, too. But when he offers to represent Evelyn in her divorce for free, a strange feeling overcomes him. He knows he can’t see her romantically. It’s unethical for lawyers to date clients, and she’s still a married woman. Yet, something is stirring in his heart. Is it love or something more, something he’s willing to die for?

Divorce is easy… But sometimes God’s plan doesn’t give us an easy way out.

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Copyright 2014 © Kevin Mark Smith


Evelyn heard a car pull into the driveway. She dropped a glass into the sink. Water and soapsuds splashed on her apron as panic infected her hands with clumsiness. She looked over the counter into the dinette area and shook her head, flinched, then closed her eyes as she imagined what would happen next. She felt a tremor in her right cheek, the one that he’d hit the last time they got into an argument. Please, don’t be drunk.

Evelyn took a deep breath and turned to the right to pull open the dishwasher door. She slid out the top tray. It was full of clean glasses and coffee mugs. She slumped as she looked at the full tray, and then glanced at the sink full of just as many dirty glasses and mugs. So much for hiding the evidence. Gotta get those out at least before he sees them. She pulled out one glass or mug after another at a fevered pace, rattling and clanking them together. As she placed two coffee mugs in the cabinet above the dishwasher, the front door creaked, and the screen door slammed behind it.

Too late.

She tensed her muscles and looked toward the entrance of the dining area, which led to the front entryway, as she anticipated something unpleasant headed in her direction. She paused a moment then resumed her duties, glancing back toward the entrance over and over again, growing more nervous by the second.

The tray had several more glasses to go before she could empty the sink.

The sliding glass back door was open, screen shut. Laughter and playful chatter from her two youngest girls drifted in from the backyard. Thankfully, her two oldest, an 11-year-old, Alice, and 15-year-old Max, Jr., were in their rooms studying.

“Wha’s goin’ on here!” Max Sr. yelled through slurred words. He stumbled into the dining area, almost falling as he passed under the arch of the entrance, forcing him to reach up to steady himself with the wall, which happened to have a family photo hanging on it. His clumsy, thick, grasping fingers knocked the picture to the ground. The glass covering the photo shattered, cutting his face’s image in the process. “Darn it!” he said even louder as if it were the picture’s fault.

Evelyn kept putting away dishes, even more quickly now, as if her busyness would postpone the inevitable for at least a few more minutes. Maybe he wouldn’t notice the bowls on the table or the dishes in the sink. She said nothing, just kept removing dish after dish from the washer, placing each in its place in the cabinets.

He regained at least some of his equilibrium then walked gingerly around the counter toward her. She closed her eyes as she kept working, praying silently as she did. Before he closed the distance between them, a wicked thought grabbed her spirit. If God exists, he wouldn’t let men like Max beat their wives. He grabbed her left arm just above the elbow and spun her toward him, which caused a glass she had just removed from the sink to fly across the cabinet and fall onto the floor, shattering into dozens of pieces. “I asked you a question, woman. Wa’sss going on around here when I’m gone?”

She stopped—eyes still closed—then opened them as she looked up into his eyes. A tear slid down her right cheek. Again, she said nothing, but her pout and the quivering of her lips said all that any normal, compassionate man needed to hear. Sadly, this wasn’t such a man, this was Max. Instead of realizing how much he’d hurt the woman he supposedly loved, he cocked his right hand back and released it with all his might, palm opened, slapping her in the face so hard her head snapped violently to her right, the momentum knocking her into the edge of the counter and to the ground. She felt the muscles underneath her eye begin to swell almost instantly. The still bruised rib from a week before ached as the slap awakened its memory.

Evelyn said nothing, her last available defiance, and he didn’t stop. He hit her over and over, pulling her up and toward his face each time, demanding that she say something, as if a word might stop him from exhibiting dominance over his woman. She refused, a silent rebellion waged against her home’s malevolent dictator. She stood, fell, got pulled up again, with the process repeated over and again. She took her punishment if unjustly, a cross she alone could bear. Through her tears, crying, and pain, she noticed something she didn’t before. Silence. The laughter in the back yard had stopped.

Then the screen door slid open. Their four and seven-year-old girls walked in, both speechless at first with tears building up in their eyes as they witnessed their father beating their mother.

The older kids weren’t far behind. Both soon stood at the entrance of the hallway that led to the bedrooms. The oldest had a cell phone to his ear. “Yes,” he said. “Please hurry. I gotta help.” With that he handed the phone to his sister and ran toward the combatants.

For the first time Evelyn said something. “No!” she screamed. “Stay away.”

The boy didn’t.



Kevin Mark Smith is an evangelical criminal defense and family law attorney in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated cum laude from Regent University School of Law in 1999 where he served as Issue Planning Editor for the Regent Law Review and clerked with the American Center for Law and Justice. Kevin is a former Assistant District Attorney for Sedgwick County, Kansas, and an Allied attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom. He serves on the Kansas Board of Indigent Defense Services. You can read his writings on the Constitution and home school education in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, http://thehomeschoolmagazine.com.


Border Love

Two devoted border patrol agents…two wounded hearts…


Agent Brooke Hudson’s faith is shaken when she’s obligated to arrest a child as an illegal immigrant on the Texas-Mexican border. Though tempted to resign, she decides to try reassignment instead.

After a violent, passionate outburst against the perpetrator of a mass murder, troubled Agent Darien McKee is forced to transfer. Will he be able to handle his new position?

Brooke and Darien are assigned partners. When a deadly terrorist attack rocks their world, they lean on each other for support and promptly fall in love. But will an evil force tear them apart?


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Copyright 2014 © Alice Wootson


As Brooke stood at the corner with Darien waiting to cross the street, a voice caught her attention.

“Hello, Officer Hudson.” The young man lifted his chin and glared against the sun. “I thought you was off on Tuesdays.” He didn’t smile, which was unusual.

“Paco? Is that you? I haven’t seen you for a while. My schedule changed since we talked last.” She smiled. “I almost didn’t recognize you. You were so proud of that moustache and now you’ve shaved it off.”

“I like this way better. It looks cleaner.”

“It makes you look younger. Are you still going to night school?”

“Nah.” He shook his head and looked away. “Not for a couple of months.”

“Paco, I thought we agreed you would get your high school equivalency.”

“I might go back.” He shrugged. “Or maybe not. It don’t matter no way. They only let the poor get so far in this country.” He looked at her, then away. “Besides, I don’t have time.”

“You still work for Joaquim in his store. Right?”

“No. Not no more. I got more important things I gotta do now.”

Concern filled her mind. Paco couldn’t be involved in the drug trade. Not when he had so much promise. Not when it was so dangerous. He couldn’t. “What things?”

“Just…just some things.” He looked at her for a few seconds and tilted his head to the side. “Just some things,” he repeated.

Brooke frowned. “You told me that Joaquim was like a big brother to you.”

“Yeah, well, I already got lots of brothers.” He glanced around, then settled his gaze on Darien. He stared. “You new around here?”

“This is my partner, Officer McKee,” Brooke said. She turned to Darien. “I met Paco when I was first assigned to town duty.” She turned back to the young man. “So you changed jobs already.”

“Yeah. You know how it is.” He nodded slightly and glanced at the patrol office across the street. “You checking in? So you still on first shift like before, huh?”

“Yes. Going off duty in a few minutes.” She glanced at her watch. “We’re a bit early, but we have things we can do until it’s time to clock out. I’ll probably see you around, Paco.” She touched his arm. “You stay out of trouble, okay? And think hard about going back to school. You know you’re limited without an education.” Brooke turned to go.

“Wait a minute,” Paco said. Brooke turned back. “If I need somebody to help me with my schoolwork, you know, my math and English and stuff, think you can find somebody to help me?”

“I’m pretty sure I can.” She smiled. “Tell you what. If I can’t find someone, I’ll tutor you myself. Deal?” She held out her hand.

Paco hesitated, then he took it. “Okay. Sure. Deal.”

Brooke turned away, but again his voice stopped her. “I see you in a big hurry, but I got another question.”

“Okay. What is it?”

“Uh, how can I get in touch with you if I need to? You know, about the tutoring and stuff if I change my mind about school?”

“Just leave a message at the desk inside headquarters telling me how I can reach you.”

He hesitated before answering. “Okay. I’ll do that. So, you going off-duty, huh? You leaving kind of early today, huh?”

“You got it.” She stared at him. “I already said that. You gotta stay focused, my young friend.” She patted his arm. “You’re too young for memory lapses.” She smiled. “I’m gonna be looking for that message from you, so make it soon. Don’t disappoint—”

A tremendous blast shook the area, slamming Brooke to the ground. Before she could assess her injuries, a second explosion scattered debris into the air, then a plume of flames shot up.

Brooke tried to look around, but thick dust hanging in the air almost blinded her. She squinted her eyes shut against flying shrapnel. More fragments, some lightweight, but others large enough to make her wince, pelted her back.

Her own deep cough echoed that of other people spread on the ground.

It seemed to take forever for the rumbling to fade.



Alice Greenhowe Wootson grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended Cheyney University and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education. She married and remained in the Philadelphia area after graduating. She later earned a Masters Degree in Education, and Reading Specialist Certification.

Alice is the award-winning author of ten romance novels. She is also an award-winning poet and a member of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and The Mad Poets Society.

Alice has taught writing workshops for several chapters of RWA  and other groups.

Alice is active in several ministries in her church, Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church of Philadelphia.

Alice spends any spare time she can find reading, writing, traveling and enjoying her three grandchildren. She lives in Philadelphia with Isaiah, her husband.


The Editor’s Help Desk – Anymore Versus Any More



Anymore or any more? One word or two?

This is one that’s subjective. There are several lines of thinking, so I will share my preference as an editor. Let’s boil this down and make it simple.

Anymore, as one word, means “any longer.”

For example: I cannot take this anymore. I won’t kiss you anymore.

Any more, as two words, means exactly that. Do you have any more ice cream? Do I have to eat any more spinach?

Any more confusion?

Let’s make those manuscripts shine!


Dizzy Blonde

Being bad is worse than she thought…


All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

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Copyright 2014 Anna Marie Kittrell


The doorknob of the next room rattled as I passed. Misty swept from the doorway and knocked into me, glaring.

“The ogre took my phone. Thanks a lot, Miss Goody Two-Shoes.” She huffed around me. “I don’t know what possessed me to let you tag along anyway.” The echo of her footfalls slammed through the hallway even after she’d turned the corner.

“You asked me to come,” I muttered, walking again. By the time I reached the waiting room, she was gone.

I stepped through the automatic door, the cold, night air piercing my lungs. Snowflakes, too waterlogged to float, splattered on the pavement like wounded birds. I spied Dad’s sports coupe and watched the milky snow plop onto the shiny red paint. On second thought, the stuff falling from the sky looked more like what birds do.

Mom’s parking space was two over from Dad’s, next to an iron lamppost. I pulled my hood up, jogged to the champagne-colored car, and tugged the passenger door handle. Locked. Pressing my forehead against the cold window, I watched the tinted glass fog with my breath. I stooped and cleared the side mirror with my coat sleeve, checking my reflection. With a shiver, I drew in a frigid lungful of air then released it slowly through pursed lips, scissoring my fingers around an invisible cigarette. Impressed with how I looked, I shook back my hood and took another invisible drag.

“Seriously?” Misty’s cackle rang out through the hushed parking lot, causing me to throw down my imaginary cigarette and bury my head in my hood.

“What are you doing, you dork?” she asked, her voice closer. I turned toward her as she stepped into the light, her hair wet with snow, a wisp of real smoke curling, rising above her. “You’ll like this brand better—it has more flavor.” The red glow on the end of the cigarette grew brighter as she sucked on the filter.

“Won’t you get in trouble if your dad smells smoke on you?”

“What’s he going to do, send me to rehab? He already took my phone, thanks to you.”

“Cigarette rehab, is that a real thing?” I asked.

Misty glared and took another drag. “You know, I used to be a lot like you. A pampered little princess, my parents’ pride and joy. A good girl. Then one day, I woke up and realized I was only being good because I was afraid of being bad. I was a fake. Pretending to be perfect so I wouldn’t disappoint my parents. So I changed. Now I call the shots.”

“Glad you can call something,” I muttered.

“Was that a crack about my phone? Don’t worry, I’ll have it back by this time tomorrow. Wait and see.” She flicked ashes to the wet pavement. “I bet you’ve never done one bad thing in your entire pathetic life. Seriously, how do you stand yourself?”

“Maybe I like how I am,” I said, knowing she could see right through me.

“Yeah. Sure you do. That’s why you’re standing out here in the dark pretending to smoke. Here,” she said, offering her cigarette to me.

The burning tobacco caused my pulse to quicken. Something tingled inside, a maddening mixture of thrill and dread—like riding a rollercoaster up the track. I formed a V with my fingers and extended my hand, on the edge of the most exhilarating moment of my life.

Misty handed the cigarette off to me and I brought it to my lips with shaking fingers, knowing my next breath would leave me forever changed.