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Local tour guide Noelle Richards loves everything Backwards Christmas has to offer in South Pole, Alaska. She gets wrapped up in the upside down trees, taking presents TO Santa Clause and all the festivities. Sled dog trainer Chris Furst, on the other hand, approaches the holiday with nothing but skepticism. When their history bubbles into the present, their difference of opinion comes to a head. When Chris gets himself into a dangerous situation in the snow, Noelle and the hope of Christ are his only hope for redemption.


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Ben Jacobsen never thought he would find himself leaving his role as a soldier and living his life without his beloved wife. But, his two young children need a present parent.

Jenna Campbell moves to Myrtle Beach to take a Children’s Minister position. Through helping Ben’s daughter adjust to the church’s daycare, Jenna is taken by Ben Jacobsen. The feeling is mutual except Ben worries he is betraying his deceased wife.

Can Ben find a way to love again? Will Jenna remain in Myrtle Beach and give love a chance?


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Bella is back at her childhood home. When her mother took a fall in the Nuisance Grounds and broke her leg, Bella came back to help her and run her shop, Izzie’s. Soon Bella discovers she’s also been handed Izzie’s role in the town’s Christmas theatre production, a musical version of a well-known mystery that threatens to become more bizarre each day. A serial arsonist is frightening the townspeople, a family feud threatens young romance, and intrigue and rumors are the order of the day. On top of everything, Bella’s high school sweetheart Jake, who dumped her for a cheerleader, is now Chief of Police.


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Lady Nola is a woman of good-standing, but one tragic mistake is s

et to change her life forever. Rather than be forced to wed a stranger to hide her transgressions, she flees from home.

With child, hungry and homeless, Nola wanders the streets of medieval London in search of a Christmas miracle.


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In the late 1800’s, Grant and Lily have established their farm amongst the bluffs of western Wisconsin. As they anticipate the birth of their first child, tragedy strikes. With shaken faith and grief driving a wedge between them, is it possible for three orphans to heal Grant and Lily’s heart and relationship?


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Come hear the sounds of Christmas… 
Vivacious frontier widow Connie Rose Simonson manages two cafés while dreaming of the perfect Christmas for her son Andrew, but not e

veryone welcomes her success. A corrupt banker wants her properties an

d will manipulate anyone in his way.
Dr. James Connor heals others while forsaking his own needs. The town’s o

nly doctor, an influenza outbreak, and the holiday season leave him exhausted and discouraged.

It looks like another lonely holiday for the Connor and the Simonsons until Andrew is injured and the doctor becomes entranced by the attractive widow. But James has been hurt before and hesitates to get involved, after all, a physician must always maintain a proper relationship with his patients.

It’s up to angelic newcomer Diana to bring them together creating new beginnings, new memories, and to hear Christmas bells ringing.

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The good ladies of Timber are ready to find a wife for their new single minister. Charles has ideas of his own when he meets Fiona, the lovely accident-prone and outspoken part-time librarian. Fiona, on the other hand is holding out for a knight on a white charger to carry her away from her humdrum small town life. Fiona and Charles are thrown together as they begin to solve an old mystery which has turned up in a library book. Will Fiona’s white knight ever show up to sweep her away? Will Charles ever run out of invitations for cream cakes and lemon slice? Fiona might just discover the sound of hoof-beats when she least expects it.

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Copyright 2015 © Sharon McGregor

“I can look to see who checked out the book last,” said Fiona,” but it was likely a long time ago. I mean, how many people would—” There she went again, putting her foot in her mouth. “I’ll check the records.” She clamped her mouth firmly shut before she could shoot herself in the foot again. She giggled a little. What was this fetish she was developing for feet?

She pulled out the pouch card for the book and looked up the member number in the card index. “Last time this book went out was nearly three years ago. It was checked out by Reverend Hamilton.”

“But my predecessor was Jonas Micklethwaite.”

“Yes, but he was only here for a couple of years. I think he got tired of small town life, or his wife did, and they moved to a larger place. Before him, it was Reverend Hamilton. He was here for…well, forever, just about. He christened me and my brother, too. Then his wife got sick and he had to look after her until…well, until she died. He was pretty much ready to retire then, he was quite old, and so he went over to Greenway to live with his daughter.”

“I wonder if these letters are important to him.”

“Well, let’s check,” said Fiona, sliding her nail under one flap.

“We can’t do that! They’re someone’s private letters!” Fiona gave a quick look at Reverend Redpath’s face and concluded the outrage in his words wasn’t echoed in the curiosity in his expression.

“And you call yourself a detective?” she said. Then she flushed as she realized this was her minister she was bantering with, not one of her friends.

“I don’t call myself a detective. You’d asked me why I didn’t become one. Anyhow, we can mail them to him in Greenway.”

“Look, this one isn’t even sealed,” said Fiona, picking up the other letter. “So they’re not really private.” She flipped it open and out popped a sheet of paper. She pushed it between them sideways on the counter so they could both read.

Ch9:15 Blessed be the woman who walketh by the banks of the river.

They exchanged puzzled looks.

“That’s strange,” Fiona spoke first.

“It’s definitely not biblical, I can’t recall that verse in the scriptures anywhere, but it was written by someone copying King James English.”

“It sounds like it comes from Psalms?” asked Fiona.

“It’s made to sound like a Psalm. But Psalm chapter nine verse fifteen is something quite different.”

“Maybe it’s a sort of code?” said Fiona, turning over the envelope. “It has a letter J on the front. Maybe it was a message for someone, James, or Jane, or Jack?”

“But why in code?”

“A rendezvous!” said Fiona. “It’s code for a lover’s tryst.”

“You read too many romance novels.”

“I do not! I read mysteries, and biographies, and even Shakespeare. Well, maybe the odd romance. Anyhow, it’s not a Bible verse, so why make it look like one? And, what is the real quotation? Maybe it’s a clue.”

“Psalm nine is written by King David and it’s a song of praise.”

“But the exact quotation?”

“I’ll have to look it up.”

“I thought ministers knew the Bible by heart.”

“Not all of it verbatim. Where do you have a Bible?”

Fiona took a quick run to the shelves and brought back a Bible with both the Old and New Testaments.

She handed it to Reverend Redpath who thumbed through it until he came to the right page. “‘The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made. In the net which they hid is their own foot taken.’ Not at all like the quote in the message.”

Fiona considered for a moment. “So, if 9:15 doesn’t refer to a Bible verse, it has another purpose. A time? Perhaps a 9:15 meeting?”

“You’re determined it’s a lover’s rendezvous, aren’t you?”

“Can you think of anything better?” Fiona retorted.

“I think you’re probably right about the time.” Then he grinned. It totally transformed his face from the ascetic one of an intellect to the curious one of a small boy about to start an adventure. Fiona had to smile in response. He went on. “But the jury’s still out on the purpose of the meeting.”


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Shattered Trust

Trust…given or earned?

As Officer Logan Taul’s nightstick plummets toward the teen’s arm, he sees the monster he has become reflected in the warped storefront window.

Thus begins his journey, back to the officer, man, and father he wants to be. Logan must face his own nature and insecurities and defy those who do not want him to succeed. His quest for redemption leads him to search for the family he deserted. Despite physical attacks on both himself and those he loves, and attempts to frame him, can he bring his family back together? Will he once more wear the badge in a position of trust?

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Copyright 2015 © J. Chris Richards

I forced my eyes away from the mirror. The man staring back at me chilled my heart as his eyes sought a victim. Blood and bruises I couldn’t wash off covered his face. I stripped my police uniform and put on civilian clothes. He still watched me. Despite my scrubbing, his face was no cleaner. Who was this monster? I thought of myself as the protector of society and a warrior—a police officer worthy of awards and recognition. But the man in the mirror was a cop interested only in power and self-benefit. When did this happen? How did it happen? I shook my head in disgust. I had changed from an idealistic cadet to a macho egotist, or worse—a street thug.

I left the squad locker room with him clinging to my back.

Standing beside my pickup, I wondered where to go and what to do. At the Flashing Lights Bar, officers would applaud our record number of arrests in one shift and the force used to make them. Some in the group won big bucks betting on us, but others lost. At home, I’d be alone with the monster. I shuddered at the thought of living with him. Swing shift from 1500 to 2300 left a lot of the night for him to haunt me.

“Hey, Logan, you ready? It’s been a great night. It’s only midnight. We got two whole hours to celebrate. You goin’ to Flashin’ Lights with me or meetin’ me there?” Brad asked. “Whoa, I feel like a real cop again. We got a lot of scumbags off the street tonight.”

I turned and waved cigarette smoke away. “You gotta quit smoking those things before you kill yourself and everyone else. They’re vile.”

“Don’t tell me what to do, kid. These Picayunes are the best-tastin’ cig ever made. You comin’ or not?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Don’t think of ridin’ with me or don’t you’re think coming?” Brad threw the butt to the sidewalk and ground it hard under his heel, three times. I could gauge his anger by the number of times. One said back off. Two, an explosion was imminent. Three translated to extreme danger.

“You soft on that kid?” Brad growled.

The deep voice was another danger sign. I considered denying his accusation. It was time to stand up to him, even with part of the truth.

“Just tired. You made me work a lot harder than Rich did while you were laid up with that broken leg.”

“You’ll be sorry if you don’t come.”

A threat or advice? Brad stepped over his car door and lowered his bulk into the bright red convertible sports car. As he drove away, he shouted, “Be there.”

I leaned against my new, royal-blue, four-wheel drive, top of the line pickup with V-8 engine, head on my arms, until I controlled my emotions enough to drive.

I decided to find Rich Ryker and ask his advice. No. Not advice. When I left the precinct without Brad Fischer and without going to the Flashing Lights, the choice was made. I wanted confirmation.

After a shift, Rich always had coffee at Second Home. He’d explained about the place. It was a campus of 960 acres with several buildings. People found their way to this haven through crisis, loneliness, or a need for restoration, seeking a quiet place to rebuild their lives in a safe haven. The facilities included dorms for temporary lodging, a childcare center, a chapel, a medical clinic, a craft shop, and a gym. The oldest building was the home of founders Joshua and Sean-Colleen Bryant.

Rich and his wife, Samantha, had been volunteers until her cancer death a few years ago, so he now spent his spare time continuing their work. I figured Second Home was his substitute family.

I parked in the dirt lot by the community kitchen. Rich was having coffee with Jack Wallace, his partner. Jack’s presence was a surprise. He had a wife and three children.

The pile of mugs next to the coffee pot had been made by crafters in the ceramic workshop. Each was unique. I chose one with a swirly purple design on a light green background. More important, it had a matte finish and wouldn’t reflect my face.

Filling the mug took me back to the first time Rich brought me here. He had put a twenty-dollar bill in a can covered with construction paper and bright foam stickers.

“Wow, sure you wanna pay for mine?” I’d said.

“The money’s used to buy tea, coffee, sugar, and supplies. Any leftover goes for the organization expenses. The can is emptied every morning. I’ve helped a few times. It’s not unusual to find several thousand dollars.”

“Are you serious? That’s crazy! It’d be robbed all the time.”

“It may seem kinda funny, but it’s never happened. Second Home only accepts cash donations. The Bryants want to focus on the needs of the people. They don’t take any grants. No one who isn’t part of Second Home can tell them what to do, but everyone can make suggestions. Both Sean-Colleen and Joshua are good at finding or creating programs to meet those needs.”

As I remembered, I pulled out a ten-dollar bill and put it in the can.

All the tables and chairs in the community kitchen were mismatched donations, creating a homey atmosphere. I relaxed a little, but not much because of my mission here. I walked to where Rich and Jack sat.

“Pull up a chair. Plenty of room,” Rich said.

“Didn’t expect you, Jack. Thought you’d be home with the family,” I said.

“They’re at Molly’s grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary. I couldn’t get leave ’cause I was off so long with my leg. The house is so quiet with the kids gone, I can’t relax. I just wander around the place.”

We made small talk and drank coffee. I struggled trying to figure out how to change the subject. After riding in a patrol car with Rich for the last six weeks, I could make an accurate guess as to his reaction to my story—at least the first part. I wasn’t as sure of the rest.

Rich and I became partners the day both of our regular partners had been injured. Brad was ogling a girl in a mini-skirt while climbing the courthouse stairs when he missed a step and turned his ankle. Flailing his arms, he’d grabbed hold of Jack—who was lighter and unprepared. The sudden weight pulled Jack against Brad, and they’d gone down the dignified marble steps like a giant double cartwheel. Rich and I slipped, slid and used our hands to get down the steps as we laughed. To make matters worse, a photojournalist took advantage of the situation. Her pictures made the front page of the newspaper. They made good conversation starters, but weren’t flattering.

Brad broke his left leg, along with minor cuts and bruises, in the fall. Jack broke a leg too—his right—but his worst injury was a posterior dislocation of the right shoulder which required surgery. When Rich and I stopped at the hospital, Jack said the shoulder was far more painful than his leg.

Until Jack and Brad returned to duty today, Rich and I had been partners. Just as Brad and I shared an attitude, so did Rich and Jack. Well, Brad and I had—emphasis on had—shared one in the past. Today, I’d discovered my attitude had changed while he was gone.

I realized the room now was silent. I studied the ripples in my coffee cup and remembered tonight’s events.

“So, Logan, what’s up with you?” asked Rich.

“I…uh, well, wanted talk to you about what happened on today’s shift.”

Freed to Forgive

​​Shackled by her past, can she be freed to forgive? Abused in her Mexican village, Marisol’s anger is her ticket to freedom in America or so she thinks. But her temper lands her in worse and worse situations. Trafficked and pregnant, she gives up her baby so it can have a better life. Now, ten years later her past returns to haunt her, just when she has caught the eye of Jesse, the one man who wants to know her…and not just her body. Marisol has struggled hard to disguise her past, but will the unforgiving spirit she harbors prevent her from embracing her future?

 Though delicately worded with veiled descriptions, this faith-based novel does depict some disturbing, yet unfortunately all too common, sex trafficking scenes necessary for the plot.

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Copyright 2015 © Julie B. Cosgrove


Marisol Hernández did a double take. An icy tingle slithered down her arms. She recognized the woman’s face. One she never thought she’d see again. Jen Westlaw. Except now her name read Wilson?

She backstepped a few paces to peer into Jen’s pixelated bluish-green eyes displayed on the Abundant Life Church’s marquee as it flashed the latest posts from their social media site. The face beckoned her—once again. Yes, definitely the same woman.

They met in 2013. The year Marisol’s life changed. Hadn’t the news reported she’d disappeared without a trace and was presumed dead years ago? Yet there she gleamed in 3D color.

A man with a handsome smile stood next to Jen in the photo. Tom, it read. She’d never learned his name, but she recognized him all right. He’d helped Jen escape. He had appeared again at the shelter on that horrid day—held Marisol’s hand, whispered she could trust him. She had, and part of her still regretted the decision.

Vivid memories flooded her thoughts, pressing against the emotional dam which she’d carefully constructed over the past decade. The hurt, once pooled deep inside, rushed from its stagnant state through cracks in her psyche. Waves of her secret torment rolled and crashed within the walls of her heart, threatening to drag her under. She gasped for breath.

“Watch it. Other people use this sidewalk.” A sharp male voice jolted Marisol back to the present. She’d absent-mindedly edged into the passenger’s path.

She dashed her gaze to the concrete. An old habit. Never look a man in the eyes. That had been pounded into her brain. And her back. Her last jefé once beat her with a belt for doing it. Ten lashes. Obey, or suffer. A tough lesson learned for a spirited, angry teenager who’d fought so hard to survive. She twitched her shoulder blade, the old pain jabbing her once again. Some scars never heal.

In a low voice she apologized to the stranger. “Lo siento. Um, sorry.”

“Yeah. Well, this isn’t Mexico.” Disgust vibrated through his words. “Give them some help and they think they deserve the world.” His grumbling faded with his footsteps.

Her eyes lifted back to the photo of the woman who had changed her destiny. Marisol should be grateful. But she wasn’t. The lady also represented every ugly, vile, and hurtful thing which happened to Marisol that year. Too many remembrances. So much shame. A tear trickled down her cheek. Oh, why did she have to see that face again? When could she finally forget?

With arms tight around her torso, the twenty-three-year-old Hispanic woman gulped back the emotions ebbing in her chest. That was not her life now. She spoke excellent English, carried a permanent green card, and held a good job…for which she’d be late if she didn’t pull it together. So why couldn’t she break her stare? As if the eyes…

A hand softly pressed onto her shoulder. “Are you okay, miss?”

Marisol buckled in dread. Another old habit when any man touched her.

Shoes shuffled towards her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. You speak English?”

She bobbed her head.

He bent down to meet her face. A black shirt came into view as a whiff of woodsy men’s cologne filled her nose. A small, wooden cross dangled from beneath his open collar. Marisol dared to raise her eyes, just a touch. They were met by a warm smile. Two strong hands gently touched her arms. “Come into the church. We can talk. Perhaps I can help you.”

Alarms went off. No. Never go anywhere with a strange man—ever again. Marisol twisted from his grip, her gaze returning downward.

The man released his hands and held them out, palms up. “My name is Pastor Jake. You can trust me.”

One eye cocked enough to peer into his. Honesty oozed from them, as did reverence, etched by slight crow’s feet. He appeared to be in his late thirties. A gold band glimmered on his left ring finger.

A shudder raced under her skin. “No. I…I’ve got to go.” She didn’t deserve to be noticed by anyone who served God. She might taint him with her presence. She willed her shoes to move—away from the man, the marquee, and her memories. But they locked to the sidewalk.

His eyes narrowed. “Do I know you?”

Marisol inhaled a shaky breath. Yes, you do. She recalled him as well, though they only met twice before…many long and difficult years ago. But she’d never reveal it. To do so would dredge up too much sorrow.

“I’m late for work.” Bottom lip tucked into her teeth, Marisol backed away, forcing her legs to pivot. She shuffled quickly down the street away from the pastor and the photo. Both dredged up her painful past.

Reviving Jules

Can God’s hope renew her?

Jules Summers, a proverbial Jonah, runs from family, career, and neighborhood. Where’s she going? To find a place of healing for wounds so deep, she shuts the door against the very One who restores. But God never abandons and a kindergarten angel arrives, towing her father, Rhett Carsen. Rhett Carsen vows never to marry again. He redoubles his efforts to raise his motherless daughter alone, but runs into trouble when work sends him traveling. His daughter instantly bonds with newcomer Jules Summers, who in turn assists him in caring for his daughter. She seems like the answer to his prayers—an instant live-in nanny. Yet, why does she captivate his every thought? They work together as a team to care for Rhett’s child. But is “practicality” the only thing God has planned for these two? Or could there be a whole lot more?


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Copyright 2015 © Peggy Trotter

“And God bless Grammy and Gramps, Nona and Nono, Daddy, Julie, Lucy, Goldie and Mrs. Steeler, and all my friends at school. And please send a sister for me ’cause I really need one. Amen.” Andi stood up from her prayer position on the floor beside her bed and climbed under the comforter.

Rhett clenched his jaw. For two weeks straight, the child had begged for a sister. When would she forget this silly notion? He brought the fuzzy pink blanket up and tucked it under her chin. “Listen, Peaches. You know God doesn’t give us everything we ask for, don’t you?”

She gave a sleepy sigh and blinked at him. “What do you mean, Daddy? Mrs. Steeler says Jesus give us good gifts. And we can’t quit praying. We have to keep asking until we get an answer.”

That Mrs. Steeler was certainly doing her job. He shrugged off his irrational irritation at this thought. “Yes, that’s true. But we must pray according to God’s will.”

Andi yawned. “What does that mean?”

“It means God knows what’s best for us. And sometimes, it’s not what we’re praying for.” He settled on the bed in the shadowed room and stroked her dark hair from her face. “You see, Andi, to have a little sister, Daddy would need to be married. And I’m not.”

Andi nodded, her lids drooping. “So I need to pray for a mommy first?”

Holy cow. Now what had he gotten himself into? Andi swung the blanket off and slipped once more to the floor on her knees, her little hands clasped in prayer.

“And, dear Jesus. We need a mommy first. Amen.” Andi clambered back in bed and covered up. “It’s okay, Daddy. God will take care of it.”

“Andi…” He paused as her eyes blinked closed and her body stilled. Instead of correcting her, he tiptoed from the room and shut the door. He stood outside, looking down the shadowed hallway, internally finishing the conversation.

It doesn’t happen like that. There will be no mommy. There will be no sister. You need to push it from your mind.

Man, he hated killing her dreamsHe jammed his hands in his pockets and headed for his room. If they were handing out the award for the world’s worst dad tonight, he was sure to be close to the front of the line.


Storm Season

Sometimes the shelter is more dangerous than the storm…

For best friends and high school seniors Molly, Lenni, and Bianca, the future is bright and right around the corner. With graduation just weeks away, the girls are ready to leave behind the emotional insanity of high school and step together into a saner, less dramatic chapter of life.

But when a courageous stranger named Raley Hale risks his life to save the girls from a deadly tornado, his fearlessness leaves them thunderstruck. As his injuries heal, the mysterious hero manages to claim each of the girls’ hearts while reclaiming his strength.

Can friendship survive the brutal winds of jealousy, heartache, and betrayal? Or will graduation from Redbend High really mean goodbye forever?

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Copyright 2015 Anna Marie Kittrell


“What a rush!” Bianca dropped her head back and pushed off in the swing. “The rain feels amazing.” She laughed as she swung, rain soaking her hair and clothing. Lightning tore through the sky. The crack of thunder that followed seemed to shake the earth.

Molly didn’t know which was scarier—the black clouds overhead, boiling like a witch’s brew, or the echo of Bianca’s laughter as she soared skyward toward the storm. Red hair flying, she winked one black-lined eye at Molly and swung even higher. Molly’s stomach churned along with the rumbling sky.

“I don’t think this is a good idea.” Lenni tucked her blonde hair behind her ear as the wind whipped more strands into her face. “I think I see a funnel.” She pointed to a monstrous cone-shaped cloud just above the train trestle.

“Seriously, Len? We’re in Oklahoma, remember?” Bianca dragged her feet in the red dirt, slowing the swing. “It’s nothing but a thunderstorm. We’re in for a little rain, at most. You might be sweet like sugar, but trust me, you won’t melt.” Bianca rolled her eyes. “Graduation is only eight weeks away. Relax and have some fun on our very last spring break together.”

Molly hiccupped loudly as the swirling cloud Lenni had pointed out dipped below the others. She always got the hiccups when she was scared. “Lenni’s right. We need to take cover.” She shot her gaze around the park, looking for shelter.

“Geez, not you too, Mol? You’ve lived here long enough to know there’s constantly a storm on the horizon this time of year. People are always dragging one another to the cellar, only to learn it was a false alarm. Besides, do you think those guys would still be working on the trestle if a tornado was overhead?”

A big raindrop splashed the end of Molly’s nose as she looked toward the old trestle. Five or six men in bright orange vests moved quickly along the tracks, climbing over the rails and scurrying under the bridge as the rain began to pour.

Lenni widened her eyes at Molly, her gaze desperate. “The armory building beside the water tower is a community shelter. Maybe we can get in.” She clamped her hands together over her wet hair, holding it in place.

Molly glanced toward the water tower that pierced the angry sky a football-field length away. Could they make it in time? Hailstones pinged off the large metal swing set like warning shots. They had to try.

“Bianca, let’s go!” Molly screamed, the shriek of the wind stealing the words from her mouth and the breath from her lungs.


Molly lunged for Bianca’s airborne legs. Bianca’s heavy boots landed in Molly’s chest, knocking her flat on her back in the wet grass.

Bianca jumped from the swing, landing at Molly’s side. “What the heck? Are you crazy?” Her saturated curls whipped in the wind, reminding Molly of Medusa’s snakes. “You’re lucky I’m wearing motorcycle boots instead of stilettos. You’d have been impaled,” Bianca yelled, yanking Molly up by the wrists.

“Look!” Lenni shouted, pointing toward the trestle. A man wearing a hardhat jogged in their direction, scooping his arms through the air, motioning for them to come.

Through the rain, Molly spotted a blur of orange under the bridge—the neon vests of the other workers.

The tornado siren blasted, tearing through the train-like roar of the storm as the girls took off toward the trestle. Bianca caught Molly’s arm as they ran, jerking her close, putting her mouth to Molly’s ear. “One catcall or whistle from any of those guys, and they’ll get a motorcycle boot upside the head!” she shouted.

Leave it to Bianca, looking to set a bunch of railroad workers straight as the world blew to pieces around her.

“In here!” the guy in the hardhat yelled as they neared the trestle. Bianca glared as he shoved her under the bridge beside the huddled railroad crew. Quickly, he turned and grasped Lenni’s shoulder, ramming her into Bianca.

“The ground’s soft here. Watch your step!” he shouted in Molly’s ear as he pushed against her back.

She nodded then yelped as a chunk of blowing debris banged hard against her skull. Stars burst behind her eyes as loose rocks shifted beneath her feet. Hardhat Guy wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders, steadying her as he hauled her under the trestle.

“Hold on!” He pressed her fingers to the rusted steel frame of the bridge, squeezing her knuckles beneath his strong hands.

Molly gripped the rail, the rough metal biting into her palm. Rain trickled down the side of her face and into her mouth, tasting like blood.

Suddenly, Hardhat Guy lost his footing as the embankment began to crumble. He lunged for the railing, wrapping his hand around a steel beam as his hardhat jarred from his head and tumbled down the embankment. Molly turned, peeking over her shoulder to see the hat careening into the shallow creek twenty feet below.

The trestle shook as the wind roared even louder. Molly prayed as she held on to the vibrating metal, convinced Satan himself must be driving his long black train over the bridge.

Mingled with the ferocious sound of the wind and clatter of hail, she thought she heard whimpering. She opened her eyes and glanced over. Next to her, Lenni held tight to the same beam Molly clutched. In the near-dark, Molly could see her eyes were squeezed shut, her mouth moving silently in prayer. Shaken up, but not crying.

Molly looked to the other side. With only half his body wedged under the shelter, their rescuer struggled to keep his grip on the steel framing. The wind ripped at his dark hair and yanked at his orange vest. His tensed muscles looked like the exposed roots of a sturdy oak tree. At his feet, a small dog whined, its eyes wide with terror. Miraculously, the animal hadn’t been blown away by the wind.

Molly scrunched her body against Lenni’s. Her stomach cartwheeled as her feet slipped, sending more stones rolling down the steep ridge. No use. There wasn’t enough space on the disintegrating ledge for all of them.

The dog pawed at the guy’s jeans, begging to be held, reminding Molly of her ownChihuahua, Boo. Her heart hurt for the scared baby. She pulled her hand from the beam and bent down to scoop up the little dog.

The rescuer beat her to it, using one hand to lift the dog by the nape of the neck and bring it to his chest. His hand trembled wildly on the rail as the wind tried to wrestle him from beneath the bridge. He needed to hold on with both hands.

“Give him here!” Molly yelled, grabbing for the dog.

The gusting wind distorted the guy’s face, turning his brown eyes to slits. Grimacing like a bodybuilder deadlifting three-hundred pounds, he pushed the dog into Molly’s hand.

And then the rescuer was gone. Sucked from beneath the trestle like a stale, floorboard French fry through a hose-vac.

Molly shrieked. This couldn’t be happening. She tucked the little dog under her chin and bore hard against the metal framework. The wind yanked at her hair and clothing with stout, invisible fingers. Eyes blurred with tears and dirt, she turned her head toward Lenni but was unable to see her friend. The shaking trestle made it impossible to focus.

The guy who’d rescued them was dead, and Molly was next—they all were. Graduation was weeks away, but she’d never walk across the stage. She and her friends were dying right here in Redbend Park, under this bridge. “‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joycomes in the morning.’” She whispered the verse from Psalms, praying it would be quick—and painless.

Suddenly, the wind and rain eased. The weakening hail sounded like pebbles thrown by little boys. The dog licked her chin. She squeezed him to her chest, the smell of wet dog clinging to her nose as the tornado siren blared.

“That’s the all clear!” Bianca’s voice echoed from somewhere beneath the trestle.

Three short blasts. Bianca was right, it was the all clear signal.


A Lady for the Lawman

On special assignment from the White House to the Nebraska prairie…

Crack undercover Pinkerton agent Jason Reynolds gets the toughest assignment of his career. Sent by President U.S. Grant to Omaha to capture a loco ex-soldier accused of stealing Jefferson Davis’ treasury gold, Jason falls for feisty shopkeeper Arianna Quincy. Trouble is, she’s not interested. When the lunatic grabs Arianna, Jason’s skills are put to the test. Can Jason get his man and his woman?


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Copyright 2015 © Jewell Tweedt


Arianna Quincy hurried into the mercantile, a scribbled list clutched in her hand. She had two goals—purchase the needed items, and talk her way into a job and a new life. Taking a moment to gather her courage, she wandered over to the colorful bolts of cloth and picked up a pretty calico.

“Awright everybody, just stay calm, and keep your hands up where I can see ’em. You, shopkeeper, open that till, and be quick about it!”

She spotted a man brandishing a Colt, and her eyes riveted on his face. A filthy hat was pulled low on his head, and a bandana covered his mouth. She stepped back.

“Lady,” he said. “I mean it. Hands up and don’t move.”

She raised her trembling arms, still holding the cloth. Panic coursed through her veins, and a lump lodged in her throat. What in heaven’s name…?

He swung his attention back to her cousin Billy behind the counter and motioned with his gun. “Hurry it up, I ain’t got all day. Just stuff the money in this here bag.”

Billy’s mouth turned down but did as he was told. He placed the bills and coins in the canvas sack. “Uh, mister, you should know this store belongs to the former sheriff and his wife, and they aren’t gonna take kindly to this.”

“Shut up, kid. Hand over some of that there coffee and tobacco.”

At the soft step behind her, Arianna swung her gaze to the left. A tall stranger grasping a shovel glared at her. His eyes demanded she stay silent. He mouthed, “I’m the new deputy. Drop the bolt.” His finger went to his lips.

Her face blazed. She was no fool. She wouldn’t cry out like a child.

Again he mouthed, “Drop it. Now.”

Her chin dipped a fraction as she let go of the bolt. It hit the floor with a thud. The crook turned and the stranger leaped forward and swung the shovel, catching the man across his ribs. His bones broke with a sickening crunch. Arianna shrank back at the horrid sound.

The crook collapsed onto the floor. “My ribs. You busted my ribs. You idiot!”

The stranger and Billy hoisted him up and tied him with a length of rope. Billy laid him down on a rough bench, stepped back, and glared at him.

“I need a doctor. Get me a doctor,” the man moaned.

Billy’s face darkened. “You’ll see the doctor, but first I’m going for the law. Mister, would you keep a watch on him while I run for the sheriff?”

The stranger stuck out his hand. “No need. I’ll take him to jail. My name’s Jason Reynolds, and I’m the new deputy in town.”

Billy pumped Jason’s hand. “Well, I’ll be. Pleasure to meet you, Deputy Reynolds. I’m Billy Prescott. Say, I sure do appreciate you lending a hand with that shovel. You’ve got a real mean swing there.” Turning to Arianna he said, “Cousin, did you hear? This is the new deputy.”

“You can call me Jason.” The young deputy offered his hand to Arianna. “Hello.”

She jerked back and swung around. How could he involve her in this escapade? Eyes blurring, she shook her head. “Don’t you dare, don’t you dare be all nice. We could have been killed. Why did you let it go so far?”

“What is it? Are you all right?” Billy rushed over and grasped her by the elbow. “He just saved our lives. What’s gotten in to you?” He lowered her to a nearby chair and fanned her with his big hand.

She whispered, “Billy, I think I’m going to be sick.” Her neck and face heated. A sweat broke out on her forehead and perspiration trickled down her underarms.

The deputy strode over and gently pushed her head down. He rested his hand upon the nape of her neck. She flinched and pressed her knees together. Strangers did not put their hands on respectable women.

He seemed not to notice her distress at his touch. “Breathe, lady. Take deep breaths, come on. Billy, get her some water and a handful of those saltines.” He took the tin cup of water and gently placed it to her lips. “Come on now, miss. Take a few sips.”

Arianna did as she was told, and after several minutes the nausea receded. Billy was back at the counter, keeping a close eye on the bound intruder.

The deputy continued to sit next to her, a crooked smile illuminating his face. “Now let’s try this again. I’m Jason, and you’re Arianna. Is that correct?”

She flashed him a tentative smile. After all, he had shown kindness. Sitting up straight and proper, she placed her hand into his much larger one. “Yes, I’m Arianna Quincy, and I apologize for my behavior, but you really didn’t have any right to put me in the middle of this dreadful situation.”

Reynolds’s brows crunched, and he yanked his hand away. “Look lady, I had no choice. I had to be sure you weren’t going to scream. Most gals would, and I couldn’t take the chance.”

He stood abruptly, and Arianna craned her neck to look into his eyes. He was tall and broad-shouldered. She hadn’t noticed his height before. His gray eyes were fringed with black lashes. But it was his smile that made her mouth go dry and heart pound.

Even white teeth flashed in a lean, tanned face. Tiny crinkles at the outer edges of those cool eyes softened them. Her heart beat erratically. Calm yourself, girl. It’s just the excitement of the robbery.

He had just saved her life and Billy’s. What a morning this turned out to be. All she wanted was a job, a nice safe position in a family-owned business like Weikert-Secord Mercantile. Now a man lay injured and trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey and this…deputy looked down at her with a smirk on his handsome face.

She struggled to stand, dismayed that her knees wobbled. “Deputy Reynolds, why is it that no one here knows who you are?”

Billy strode over to the lawman. “You must be brand new in town. I didn’t know Sheriff Simonson was hiring a deputy. We sure could use one.” He gazed over at the crook, now unconscious. “Um, I guess that’s pretty obvious. This is a mighty rowdy town.”

Arianna couldn’t help but stare as the deputy spoke. “Well now, folks, it so happens this is my first day in Omaha. I haven’t even checked in with the sheriff yet. I was to start tomorrow, but this fella changed my plans. I only came in here for a few supplies. I’ve rented a small house down the way.” A slow, easy grin spread across his face as he adjusted the brim of his cowboy hat. “Looks like an exciting place to be.”

Reaching down, he hauled the man up and over one shoulder as if he weighed no more than a sack of potatoes. “Now, if you’ll direct me to the closest doctor, I’ll see about getting his ribs bandaged up. My foodstuffs will have to wait.”

He turned and headed to the door. Pivoting on his boot heel he called to Arianna. “Come on, girl, are you gonna show me, or do I have to guess where the doc is?”

Arianna sputtered then stomped her foot and narrowed her eyes, her gumption returning full strength. Oh, he was irritating, and no kind of a gentleman whatsoever.

“First of all, it’s Miss Quincy to you, and I will direct you to Dr. Connor’s office. Second, I am not a girl. I am a woman and you’d best remember that. As a citizen of this community, and as someone who helps pay your salary, I think it prudent you act in a proper manner.”

Straightening herself to her full five and a half feet, she swept past the deputy and out onto the dirt street.

She looked back over her shoulder. “This way please.” After a few steps Arianna pointed to the doctor’s office with as much dignity as she could muster. I’ll show him how a lady behaves. He’s probably from some backwater place and doesn’t know how real ladies act. “Anything else you require?”

“Thank you, Miss Quincy, I can take it from here.” Jason shot her a glance, and the corners of his mouth tilted up. You’ve been most accommodating.” He shifted the man’s weight and knocked on the doctor’s door.

Arianna stomped back to the mercantile and crossed the threshold, clenching her fists at the deputy’s impudence.


Danica Bennett isn’t sure what she hates more…her job or the fact that she’s good at it. As one of the many Hollywood paparazzi, she lives her life incognito and sneaks around trying to get the best shot of the latest star. When she is mistaken for an extra on a new, up and coming TV show, her own star rises and she becomes the one in the photographs. Add that to the fact that she’s falling for her co-star, Eliot Lane, and Danica is in a whole heap of trouble.


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Copyright 2015 © Brooke Williams


Danica Bennett threw her elbow into the man beside her. When he turned to complain, she simply smiled and his words disappeared in the thin air surrounding them. Danica was lucky. Her small stature and boyish figure worked to her advantage. When she needed to pass for a man, she could. She simply dressed in clothing a couple of sizes bigger than normal, threw her hair up in a ball cap, and placed sunglasses on her face. But today, she didn’t need to blend in, and being small and female helped.

She was on a reconnaissance mission. Danica needed to figure out the ins and outs of the studio. It was scheduled to tape the new show touted as the next big thing. To Danica, anything noteworthy became important in her world.

Her height allowed her to stand in front of others without being an obstacle. And batting her big blue eyes enabled her to get her way when it came to the males in the crowd.

She glanced to the other side of the parking lot. The media lined the street, waiting for the stars to arrive at the studio to begin taping. She recognized several familiar faces as she scanned rows of cameras. Some of them were on popular news magazine shows. Others were more nondescript individuals that took photographs like hers.

Hollywood was a small world. Chasing stars led her to the same people over and over again. It was like a club. And though not everyone could go into the clubhouse, that didn’t stop them from banging on the door outside.

Danica held her breath as the media and paparazzi started shouting. A long vehicle pulled into the lot and the people around her buzzed.

Danica wanted to see what everyone else clamored for, but today, her mission was more important. She needed something different than a celebrity sighting. She wanted to understand how everything surrounding the studio worked. It could lead her to a better photo opportunity at another time…assuming the show really did end up being a hit.

While others watched the arrival of the show’s big star, Eliot Lane, Danica ducked under the barrier and pressed herself against a nearby wall. The security guards didn’t notice. She edged away from the crowd and glanced backward. Eliot Lane, or Lane, as everyone referred to him, exited his vehicle and gave his signature humble wave and half smile.

Danica squinted. She never quite understood why everyone went mad over stars. Sure, they were good looking, rich, and always in the limelight. But they were just people, right? They slept, ate, showered, and did everything else a normal person did. So what was the big deal?

Danica shook her head. She would see enough of Eliot Lane later. If the show did as well as everyone predicted, she would make sure of it. But right now, she needed to concentrate. In order to get something no one else had, she should search for things only someone behind the scenes knew. It was part of why she was good at what she did.

Danica sidled up to a door at the side of the building. It wasn’t the main entrance, but perhaps some of the crewmembers used it. Of course, it could just be a storage area for equipment too. She tried the knob. Locked. Of course. She wasn’t that lucky.

When she turned to see what else was down the way, a firm grip landed on her upper arm. Suddenly, Danica was glad she was not incognito. She could easily pass herself off as a crazed fan when dressed in her normal street clothes.

She put on her biggest smile and prepared a sheepish look as she opened her mouth to explain.

“You’re obviously not in the right place.” The large man holding her arm stared at the locked door behind her.

Without another word, he led her away from the crowd, deeper into the lot. The building beside them quickly moved behind them as he took long strides to a second structure.

Danica wasn’t sure whether to protest or thank her lucky stars. She was either caught red-handed and would be turned in, or led to the pot of gold. Either way, it was probably in her best interest to stay quiet. She’d work her wiles on whomever turned up at the new location.

The man finally let go of her arm as they reached the back corner of the second building. The door before them was also unmarked, but when he raised his knuckle and knocked briskly, it opened with a squeak.

“I found a stray.” He turned and gave Danica a push into the room.

Before Danica processed what was happening, she was inside the studio building. Her wide eyes darted about as she tried to figure out how to handle the situation. She thought fast on her feet frequently in her occupation.

“Name?” asked a man with a clipboard and headset.

“What?” Danica stalled. She heard him. She just didn’t know if she should be honest or make something up.

“Which agency are you with?” The man looked her over from head to toe. “Did Vivian send you over?”

Danica mentally shrugged. Sure, why not. “Vivian, yes.”

“You’re the other extra, great.” He made a few notes on his clipboard. “Follow me. We need to get you into costume and over to hair and makeup.”

Did he say extra?

For Our Good

Charlie Jarvis is haunted by loss that fuels her desire to rid the world of drug traffickers. When her next assignment takes her back to her hometown, she has to confront her painful past. She has no interest in a relationship since God seems to kill everyone she loves.

Colton Thomas appreciates material things and the status of being a corporate pilot. When someone approaches him to deliver a package for a large sum of money that could wipe out his debts, temptation knocks loud on his door even as his partner, Marshall, slams it shut. Meeting Charlie challenges his non-committal stance with women. As he considers who he has become and the kind of man he would want to be for Charlie, he confronts his own shallow lifestyle and the fear that he would never be able to help her heal her wounds.

As Charlie pursues the man causing high school boys to die of overdoses, she struggles with the secrets she keeps from Colton. With people around them shining the light of God and encouraging their courtship, both Charlie and Colton have to face hard truths about life, death, love, and faith. And maybe find a fresh start for them both.


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Copyright 2015 Paula Mowery

Charlie sidled up to the covered lump in the middle of the dank alley. She stooped, reaching for the corner of the sheet. A hand clutched her wrist. She wheeled about and stared into the eyes of Captain Roland.
“Don’t do it, Charlie.”

She swallowed at the knot in her throat and straightened.

“You don’t want to remember her that way.”

“I just wish…I should have…” Charlie massaged the back of her neck.

“There was nothing you could have done. This isn’t your fault.”


“No.” The Captain held her shoulders, looking directly into her eyes. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

“I was supposed to have her back.” Hot tears formed, threatening to spill.

Charlie shook her head and returned from the reverie which consumed many of her waking hours.

Attending the funeral of her partner this morning stirred the images and her guilt anew. She had not only failed her partner but was forced to face Brenda’s parents with that truth lodged in her mind. They voiced no blame, but their eyes told a different story.

Charlie paced through her small apartment like a caged animal.

Two more days remained of her leave time from the police department, but she couldn’t stare at these four walls any longer. Ten days off amounted to too short for her grief but too long alone with the memories.

Her cell phone chimed. She snatched it from her purse. The screen indicated Captain Roland, so she quickly hit accept.

“Charlie? Captain here. I wondered if you might come in tomorrow. I have something I need to discuss with you.” His tone was serious.

“Sure. I’ll be in first thing in the morning.”

“Great. I’ll see you then.”

Charlie ended the call and plunked onto the sofa. No indication of what this was all about. She’d followed everything the captain had asked of her, including seeing that good-for-nothing counselor. Though her stomach still roiled at what those drug dealers had done to Brenda, Charlie never let on that her mind overflowed with vengeance. Had the woman seen right through her? Would she still have a career after her meeting tomorrow? She was good at her job, right? Being a police officer had always been her dream and passion. Had she wrecked that by being too emotional? By befriending when she should have just remained aloof? Relationships always ended in tragedy with her.

She punched the throw pillow and then succumbed to weariness, sprawling on the couch. Upon waking, the clock teased a mere forty-minute nap. She heaved a sigh and loped to her bed for another fitful night. Her eyes glimpsed each hour, so she finally rose, showered, and munched a granola bar. Now it was time to stop guessing and meet her superior officer.

Captain Roland was sure to notice the dark circles under her eyes despite her efforts to cover them, but lack of sleep was hard to disguise. Charlie plunged through the front doors of the police station. Several “heys” and “sorry for your losses” echoed around her as she made her way to the captain’s office. She only responded with a courtesy nod to each.

She slowed, inhaled a deep breath, and knocked. Time to face the music.

A muffled “come in” penetrated the door. She opened it, stepped inside, and gently pushed it closed.

Captain Roland stood and nodded toward her. “Charlie, it’s good to see you. Please have a seat.” He waved a hand to the chair in front of his desk and eased back into his own, folding his hands on top of the desk. “How are you?”

Charlie shrugged. “I’m good.”

Captain narrowed his eyes. “Really?”

“As much as I can be. I’m going nuts being at home. But, other than that, I’ll make it.”

“Look, the reason I called you in here is an assignment came up that I think is ideal for you. But I just don’t want to push you into something too soon.”

Charlie scooted to the edge of the chair. “I’m listening.”

The captain snatched a paper from a tray. “I’ve been asked to supply my best undercover drug officer to another state. I’ve been toying with this for a couple of days. I want to make sure you’re ready because, of course, you are my number one choice.” His gaze intensified, studying her.

She sat up a little straighter. “I’m honored, sir. Really. And, I can do this. What state are we talking?”

Captain Roland propped his forearms and leaned forward.

“Tennessee. That’s the other question. I wasn’t sure about you returning to your hometown. I suppose you haven’t lived there in several years, but there is a past there I know you might have to deal with. So, it’s okay to say no.”

Her stomach tightened. “Can I hear about the assignment first?”
“Certainly. You would be undercover in Knoxville. The Captain there and I go way back, as you know. You would work at the department under the guise of a desk job but truly try to uncover information about a drug ring there that is wreaking havoc within a local high school and pretty much the whole town.”

Though returning to her hometown might take an extra measure of gumption, the assignment whetted her appetite for taking down drug traffickers. “I’m in.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, sir. I can handle it.” She forced her tone to be firm and even.

“There’s a private plane scheduled to come in on Friday that the captain wants to arrange for you to catch. He’s arranging for a furnished apartment there. If you could pack up any additional clothes, linens, and such, we will ship that to you. I will see what kind of agreement we need to get from your current landlord to hold your apartment here.”

“Okay. That works for me.” Holding her home here in Florida was like a guarantee she would return and erased some of the reluctance building in the pit of her stomach.

Captain Roland stood and slid around to the front of his desk. Charlie jumped to her feet.

“You go on home and start packing. I’ll call you with further details as I get them.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.”

“I just worry we’re throwing you back out there before you’re ready.” Captain Roland massaged the back of his neck.

She shook her head. “No, I’m ready.” Ready for the job, perhaps, not the location. But she would handle that when the time came. Nabbing drug dealers was her obsession, even more now than ever.



Paula Mowery is an author, acquiring editor, and speaker. Her first two published works were The Blessing Seer and Be The Blessing from Pelican Book Group. Both are women’s fiction, and their themes have been the topics of speaking engagements. Be The Blessing won the Selah Award in 2014 in the novella category. In November of 2013, her first romance released in the anthology, Brave New Century, from Prism Book Group. This book went to number five on Amazon’s bestseller category, historical Christian romance. Legacy and Love was her first solo romance and its story, The Prayer Shawl, was a finalist in the Carolyn Readers Choice Awards in 2015.

Reviewers of her writing characterize it as “thundering with emotion.” Her articles have appeared in Woman’s World, The Christian Online Magazine, and the multi-author devotional blog, Full Flavored Living. She wrote a section for Join the Insanity by Rhonda Rhea. She has devotionals included in several collaborative books.

Having been an avid reader of Christian fiction, she now puts that love to use by writing book reviews. She is a member of ACFW and is on the author interview team. She was a member of the 2014 and 2015 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference faculty.

Paula is a pastor’s wife and mom to a college student. She homeschooled her daughter through all twelve years, and they both lived to tell about it. Before educating her daughter at home, she was an English teacher in public school.

You can follow Paula at Learn more about Paula at her blog at





Job uncovers an embezzlement scheme at work and reports the crime to his boss, who is murdered before Job can tell anyone else about what he found. Instead of being rewarded for his honesty and integrity, he stands accused of murdering his boss and best friend. He loses his career, wealth, wife, and family and faces prison for the murder. Will the truth set Job free? Will God restore all that Job lost? Restored is a contemporary twist on the timeless tale of faithfulness in the face of unbearable trials and tribulations.


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Copyright 2015 © Kevin Mark Smith


Bailey had waited at the yuppie sandwich and soup bar near College Park, an older, wealthier part of Wichita, for fifteen minutes already. The smells of fresh bread and gourmet coffee permeated her senses. Her mouth watered in anticipation of the turkey artichoke on rye with tomato bisque soup on the side. She glanced at her watch again as the waiter approached. “You ready to order?”

“Just water for now. I’m still waiting for someone.”
He nodded and walked away. She reached into her purse to look at her phone. There was a text message she hadn’t seen before. It said, Meet me at the house.

She quickly deleted the message and looked around the café, looking for people she might know but also avoiding direct eye contact. They had picked this place for a reason. It was far from the office and her house, but in between both so not terribly inconvenient.

The waiter returned with her water. “I’m sorry,” Bailey said. “I had the wrong place. I’ll give you back the table.”

She left the café. As she drove to the house she’d only visited during parties and never alone, butterflies took flight in her tummy. She’d never done something like this before. Maybe she wouldn’t follow through. Before, she’d only gone to lunch or coffee, and their conversations were limited to the weather and other innocuous, innocent things, just friendship stuff. He even played marital counselor to an extent, telling her, “What God brings together, let no man separate,” which confused her feelings somewhat, especially now.

This was the first time she’d been invited to his house—the first time he’d ever invited her there alone. Why now? This was wrong, really wrong. She was tempted to pray about it, like Job did about everything. The last thought made her a little angry toward Job and herself. What if her friends found out what she was doing? What if her mom found out? At least her dad wouldn’t judge her. She didn’t even know where he was—he was probably cheating on whomever he was with at the moment, like he did with her mom.

Bailey drove through several intersections with stop signs and lights, each time tempted to turn and go the other way, but instead, she entered the freeway that would take her to his house. She almost passed the exit but didn’t. All the vacillating and guilty feelings dissipated, at least enough to not make her chicken out.

She pulled into the very long, gravel driveway leading up to the palatial home. He’d parked his black Jaguar in front of the door. The butterflies returned. This would happen, she now realized. I want this to happen.

Bailey turned off the engine and removed the keys, then looked into the rearview mirror to check her lipstick and makeup, smiling as she realized she was past the point of no return. I deserve this. She remembered all the times when her body language in front of Job should have told him exactly what she wanted and needed, yet he was so dense he never got it. This man did.

She stepped out of the minivan and walked to the front door, gazing at the house from side to side, up and down. It was styled like a red brick southern mansion with huge white columns holding up the second-floor roof. There was even fancy patio furniture scattered about the front patio. Bailey imagined sitting with her man in those chairs, side-by-side, as they sipped mint juleps and watched the children play on their ponies in the front lawn. She couldn’t count the number of times she’d fantasized about being the woman of this house, the one who threw the parties for all her husband’s rich friends.
I married the wrong man.

Bailey shook such silly daydreams out of her head as she reached the door. Past was past, now it was time to recapture those dreams and make them real. She reached up to ring the bell but then noticed something peculiar. The door was slightly ajar. Against her better judgment, she pushed the door open and said, “Hello? Anyone here…”

She looked down before finishing the sentence. A man’s body lay in a pool of blood—Jack’s body. Instead of rushing to his aid, she turned and ran to the minivan, jumped in it, and almost hit the Jaguar as she sped around it and out of the driveway.