The Conspiracy, Part I

Although she did not recognize the voice, Allison shifted the phone to her other hand and responded to the question. “Yes, this is Mrs. Holloway. Who’s calling, please?”

“Brice Tomlinson. We met at the Homeowner’s Association Meeting.”

“Oh, yes. I remember. You spoke against doubling our HOA fees.” The distinguished gentleman impressed her with his extensive vocabulary—not to mention his dapper appearance. It didn’t hurt that she completely agreed their neighborhood association took itself far too seriously.

“I was wondering if you could meet me at the Corner Coffee Shop at the golf course,” Brice said. “I’d like to discuss something with you. Something more conducive to a face-to-face meeting.”

“I suppose so,” Allison replied. “But I have to warn you I cannot agree to serve on another board or committee. My calendar is booked for the coming year.”

“No problem. This is a different kind of matter altogether.”

Allison opened the door to her walk-in closet. “In about an hour, then?”

“Oh, that’s fine. Thank you for accommodating me.”

Slipping out of her silk negligee, Allison decided she felt like wearing blue this morning. She moved past the reds, greens, and purples to the section where the blues hung. After a moment, she chose navy slacks and a short-sleeved pullover. She added a linen jacket before expertly draping a colorful scarf around her shoulders.

Downstairs, she popped into the kitchen. “Mmm, something smells good in here.”

“Cinnamon yeast rolls,” Allison’s housekeeper, Sylvia, said with a wide grin. “They’ll be done in four or five more minutes.”

“Tempting, but I have to run.” Allison fished keys from her handbag. “I’m going to a short meeting at the golf course. Then I’m having lunch with the animal shelter trustees.” She scrolled her phone’s screen. “Haircut at 3. Home for dinner.”

“Greek chicken sound good?” Sylvia turned off the oven timer.

Allison shook her head. “No. Since I don’t have to go out, I think I’ll have my favorite dish tonight.”

Pulling the pan of rolls from the oven, Sylvia sighed. “Beans and cornbread?”

“Sure enough. Just leave the beans simmering on the back burner. You don’t need to wait for me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Sylvia’s tone conveyed her disapproval of her employer’s menu. Allison couldn’t help smiling when Sylvia muttered—just loudly enough to be heard—“you can take the girl out of the country…”

As she drove to the Corner Coffee Shop, Allison considered what Brice Tomlinson was up to. She knew only what she’d heard about him and observed at HOA meetings—good-looking, fiftyish, distinguished professor of economics at the State University, sophisticated, polished speaker, self-assured. He probably had a cause he wanted her to support by serving on an advisory board, doing public appearances, or making a substantial financial donation. If he presented a persuasive case, she was prepared to contribute money. However, her time was too precious to continue sharing. When a heart attack claimed her husband’s life four years ago, Allison threw herself into charitable work to ease the pain. Now, she wanted to pare down her commitments. Her plans included showering her love on some grandchildren. First, her daughter needed to settle down and get married.

“Mrs. Holloway! How nice of you to meet with me. And on such short notice.” Tomlinson stood to greet her. “I know your time is valuable.”

Allison nodded. “My pleasure.” She’d heard this over-polite opener too many times to put any stock in her companion’s words.

Tomlinson pressed his lips together for a moment. “What can I get you to drink?”

“Mocha latte, skinny, thank you.” Perhaps this man was not as urbane as she thought. She sensed he was somewhat on edge.

“What is so important we can’t discuss it on the phone?” she asked as soon as he returned with two cups.

“Angela,” he said, locking his eyes on hers.

Feeling weak, frightened, and angry all at once, Allison repeated, “Angela? Is she all right? Has something happened?”

He raised his palms outward, “Your daughter’s fine. I–”

“How do you know her name?” Allison could hear the coldness in her voice. She went to great lengths to keep her daughter out of the spotlight. “What do you want from me?”

“Please, Mrs. Holloway, calm down.” Tomlinson reached for Allison’s hand, but she snatched it away. “I assume you know your daughter is dating my son, Brandon.”

“Dating? What do you mean, ‘dating’?” She tried to sort out her thoughts enough to remember if Angela had ever talked about Brandon. No recollection.

“It’s an American social custom,” he answered, with the merest trace of a smile. “A young man invites a young woman–”

“I know the definition of the word,” she snapped. “Angela hasn’t mentioned anyone special. Bring me up to date, Mr. Tomlinson.” She sipped at her latte to calm her anxiety.

“Please call me Brice.” He hunched forward, both hands on his coffee cup. “Brandon is a graduate student at State, like Angela. I don’t know how they met exactly, but they’ve been seeing each other for a couple of months.” He rolled his hands back and forth around his cup. “Up to now, I’ve tried not to meddle in my children’s lives. However, I’ve decided to change that approach, beginning now, with Brandon.” After taking a deep breath, he continued, “Mrs. Holloway, this may sound crazy, but I have a plan and I need your help to carry it out.”

“If I’m going to call you Brice, then you should address me as Allison.” She kept her eyes on him while she took a long drink. “I don’t know whether I’ll join your conspiracy or not until I hear more about it.” Putting her cup aside, she said, “I’m all ears.”

To be continued...

-by Carlene Havel

Puppy Love

Puppy Love

Patricia rubbed her eyes, sighed, and threw back the covers. Downstairs, she opened the front door to see a stranger on her porch, tapping his foot. Despite the man’s impeccable grooming, Patricia made no move to unlock the glass storm door.

“I hope you have a good reason for ringing my doorbell so early on the one day of the week I can sleep in,” she said. He was younger than the typical door-to-door salesman, and much better looking. Tall, muscular, gorgeous green eyes.

“Good morning,” the man replied with a slight, unidentifiable accent. He tapped his watch. “Actually, it’s not early. It is almost eight am.”

Patricia folded her arms. “Exactly. Too soon to be ringing my doorbell.” If she’d been in the mood for conversation, he would be an interesting choice. However, all she wanted was coffee and three more hours of sleep.

“I am extremely sorry to disturb your beauty rest, Mrs. Bolton. I’m Carlo Martinelli, your new neighbor across the street.” He gestured toward a red brick colonial.

Relieved he was not a salesman, Patricia unfolded her arms and leaned against the door jamb. “I saw the moving van over there last week.”

“Two weeks ago.”

A neighbor strolled past. “Hello, Carlo,” the man called out.

Martinelli turned and waved. “Good morning.” He turned back to face Patricia through the still-locked storm door. “I am usually on the golf course by this time Saturday morning.”

“Only today you aren’t.” She was recovering from her initial irritation, since Mr. Beautiful-Green-Eyes seemed to be on the up-and-up about being a neighbor.

“No. Today I’m not.” He smiled, causing Patricia’s heart to flutter unexpectedly. She was suddenly aware of her frumpy housecoat. “The reason I’m not golfing is that your dog kept me awake all night. Again.”

“Impossible,” she said.

“I assure you he did,” Carlo insisted. “I see you have a backyard fence. There must be a hole or a loose board somewhere, because your little Jack Russell terrier sat in front of my house and barked most of the night.”


Carlo frowned. “We could have had this conversation at three this morning. I thought it more neighborly to wait until a decent hour.”

“As far as I’m concerned, eight is not decent on Saturday.” Patricia paused, trying to remember the country club buzz about a professional athlete moving into the neighborhood. She took a good look at him, realizing she’d seen that face in news releases. “I have an idea. I’ll put on some clothes and meet you in the backyard. You can help me find the problem with my fence.”

Carlo cocked his head and lifted a hand, palm out. “Okay,” he agreed.

Patricia raced upstairs, quickly freshened up, and put on her best casual outfit. Before going into the backyard, she started her coffee maker. “I’m sorry I was so grumpy,” she said, exiting the house. “I have to be at work by four every weekday morning. On Saturday I like to catch up on my sleep.”

Carlo’s eyes sparkled in the morning sunlight. He grinned, “Yes, I know what you mean. I have not slept well for several nights.”

“How about some coffee?” she asked. “It helps me compensate for lost sleep.”

“Yes, that sounds fine. Black, please.”

Patricia brought two steaming mugs from the kitchen. She drank from one and held the other out to Carlo. He took a sip, closed his eyes, and said a pleasant-sounding word she did not recognize. After they walked the fence line, Carlo said, “I do not see a way for a dog to get away. Maybe your husband opened the gate.” He shook his head. “Perhaps he works the night shift?”  He drained his cup.  ”You make excellent coffee, Mrs. Bolton.”

“Thank you.” Patricia bit her lip. “I believe you have me confused with my next-door neighbor, Sarah Bolton. She and her husband Sam own the noisy Jack Russell terrier. I’m Patricia Stratton, and I don’t have a dog. Or a husband.”

“Patricia Stratton? The TV Morning Show lady? I have heard your name many times, and I’ve been dying to meet you.” Carlos slapped his forehead. “I mixed up the houses? I have no sense.” He smiled at her, fixing his eyes on hers. “I’m so sorry to wake you for no reason. How about I take you out to dinner tonight to apologize for my mistake?”

“No apology necessary,” she said. “I’d love to have dinner with you.”

-by Carlene Havel

Holden OUT NOW!

 The closet artist…the wanna-be superhero…


Holden eCOVER 2_ARR



Shy and self-conscious, Irelynn’s natural instinct has always been to withdraw with her sketchbook. The last time she picked up a paintbrush, however, was the day her father killed himself.

Now put in the position as stand-in for her boss, Irelynn must overcome her wallflower ways and run Hearth Dairy Farm while he’s away on vacation. A twist of fate leaves her short a manager, and ruggedly handsome Holden Hearth steps in to assist her. 

Second son in the Hearth family, Holden welcomes the chance to spend time in his hometown and confront his disappointing past, even if it includes a bit of hard labor. He’s grown from a geeky kid with glasses into a successful businessman. Despite what he went through – enduring the teasing and bullying – he’s ready to show Sweet Home what he’s become.


Working at the dairy brings Irelynn and Holden together, and the attraction is instant. But as Holden breaks down the personal barriers between them, uncovering the truth about Irelynn’s artistic ability, she resists him every step of the way….until she, too, decides to confront her past and come to terms with who she really is.


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Copyright 2014 © Jayna Morrow

She turned to make her way back to her vehicle, when something shiny caught her eye. She tried not to panic as she stared in confusion at the luxury sports car sitting in the driveway of the house next door, Garrett’s rental property and Sparrow’s former home, that should have been vacant.

Concern for her own safety prickled the hairs at the nape of her neck when a man emerged from the house. Tanned, toned, and strikingly handsome, he started doing stretches in his running clothes.

Frozen where she stood, she desperately pleaded with her body to get into her car quickly and quietly. She could do this. Surely the man had a reason for being there. After all, squatters didn’t wear designer workout clothes and drive sports cars. She needed to read through Gabriel’s notes again. She had to have missed something about Garrett’s property.

Once she got back to the dairy, she’d sort it all out. There had to be some employee who could take time out of his busy schedule to run over there and check the property in her place. She was in charge, so she could assign this to someone, too. She had convinced herself she was actually being quite smart about the whole thing, managing her time wisely. She’d think on it later.

Right now she needed to get out of here and call Gabriel. Immediately. She’d taken a few shaky steps when she heard gravel crunching. The mystery man was on the move. Their eyes met. He was jogging in her direction. She picked up the pace. If only she could make it to her car before he did…

And then, as quickly as her feet could carry her, she stopped worrying about schedules and checklists and workload delegation. She had a bigger problem at hand.

Making it to safety before this strange man reached her.

She fumbled wildly with her keys before yanking the driver’s side door open, but even as she lunged into the seat, praying to God to help her, she felt strong fingers brush across her shoulder before she slammed the door. The man cried out in pain and pulled his hand back.

After locking the doors, she watched as the man shook his injured hand. He brought the tip of his pointer finger to his mouth and glared at her through the glass.

“Sorry,” she mouthed, cranking the engine. She shifted into reverse and started to back out. Then to herself, she mumbled, “Go find another victim, buddy.”

“Wait!” He waved his uninjured hand and took several steps back to give her space. Was he trying to show that he meant her no harm? She pressed the brake and glanced again at the shiny sports car. She cracked the window a tiny bit. “I’m not going to hurt you. My name’s Holden. I’m one of Gabriel’s brothers.”

Perfect. She’d just physically injured her boss’s brother.

“Holden Hearth from Dallas?” She tried to get a clear picture. He nodded. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t recognize you, and I thought you were a squatter. That house is supposed to be empty.”

“The only squatting I do is in the gym with weights.” Then, remembered his injured finger, held it up for her to view. She rolled the window down a bit more and squinted. “The nail’s already turning black, but nothing is broken. I think my chances of survival are pretty good.”

“Again, I am so sorry.”

“And I’m sorry for frightening you. I should have identified myself before approaching. It’s just that I already knew who you were and…”

“You know who I am?” She rolled the window down the rest of the way and allowed him to approach. Her fear subsided, and now she had the chance to examine him closer.

He was as tall as Gabriel, with the same rugged handsomeness but none of the cowboy side. This Hearth brother had a corporate edge. While Gabriel’s muscles were farming muscles from hard work, Holden’s heavily muscled body was built at a gym. He had to be in his thirties. There were five Hearth boys altogether, and she knew they were all in their thirties. He looked much younger though, even with the slightest touch of gray at his temples.

“Irelynn Rafferty, right?” he asked. His brown eyes twinkled as he talked. If she had her sketch book handy… “Don’t let me keep you from your work. If I know my brother, he’s left you with a list a mile long.” She still hadn’t found her voice to answer. “Are you okay? I didn’t scare you that bad, did I?”

“Oh no.” She mentally scolded herself for acting so dumb. “I quite often find myself at a loss for words.”

“It’s okay.” He was trying to be understanding, and she appreciated that.

“Yes, Gabriel left me with his entire workload.” She let her head drop and cast her eyes downward. “I’m afraid he has very large shoes to fill. This is going to be a real learning experience for me.” When she looked back up, she stared right into a pair of the bluest eyes she’d ever seen, right next to a grin that caused her heart to palpitate.

She was in trouble now.

Her blonde hair was thrown up in a messy bun atop her head. A style that was practical for work, but she regretted it right now. And she never had been the type to wear anything more than powder, mascara, and lip gloss. At the moment, she only had one of the three on, a touch of mascara before she zipped out the door to start her day much earlier than usual.

She wasn’t the only one staring. He was looking at her as if he saw something amazing in her eyes. It’s the way she’d always hoped a man would look at her one day. Surely she was misreading his intrigue.

“You’ve got an eyelash…right…there…” He gently brushed away the fallen lash with his blackened fingernail. Yes, she misread him. But what a sweet gesture.

She had long way to go in her life before she’d be fit for any man. She didn’t see that happening anytime soon. “Thank you. Well, I better get going. The dairy can’t run without me.”

“I’ll let you get on with your work, but try to relax. Work should be enjoyable.”

“Really? I thought work was work.”

“If you’re passionate about what you do, then it isn’t really work. I heard that somewhere, and it’s really good advice.” He gave her a cheesy salute, then stood with his arms crossed as she backed up and turned the car around. If she followed her true passion, she’d starve. What did he know?

She pressed the brake once again and rolled down the passenger window.

“Speaking of work? What brings you to Sweet Home?”

He looked momentarily stunned, like he was formulating the best answer. “I’m on vacation.”

“A vacation to Sweet Home, Texas?” She couldn’t resist this moment of sarcasm. He set himself up for this. “You must have been drawn in by all the bright lights and big sights of the Sweet Home metropolitan area.”

His lips twitched slightly. “If by bright lights you mean stars than shine brighter than anywhere else and the big sights are those of the wide-open countryside, then yes. Exactly.”

She blinked several times before carefully choosing her words. “Um, well then, enjoy your vacation.”

She didn’t wait for his response. She released the brake, pressed the gas, and steered away from him. Once her Camry rounded the corner, he disappeared from view.

Two worlds, two teens, two destinies…

Two worlds, two teens, two destinies… 

For thirteen years, Annie Lange and David McClure believed their parents were killed in fiery car crashes. They learn the truth about the past when they find hidden messages in anonymous gifts left on their front porches. The notes lead them to a mentor who helps them discover and master their special powers, powers they will need if they have any chance of saving their world from the tyrant Goliath.

When the lion awakens, their world is forever changed…

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Copyright 2014 Buffy Andrews

Annie Lange’s heart beat like a bass on steroids. How does a person who’s been dead for thirteen years come back to life? That was the question on her seventeen-year-old mind as she watched a video of her mom on her laptop.

She’d found the jump drive containing the video inside an anonymous gift left on her front porch. A stuffed lion, identical to the one her mother had given her when Annie was a child. The animal was Annie’s most prized possession because it was the last present she had received from her mother before losing her in a fiery car crash.

At the time, Mary Beth had told Annie the lion would give her courage. All Annie had to do was squeeze its right front paw and say, “A posse ad esse.”

In time, Annie learned the phrase meant from possibility to reality. It didn’t make any sense to Annie, and it took years before she could actually say the words, but she never forgot what her mother had told her. Squeezing the lion’s paw was a habit that followed her into her teen years. And, as childish as it was, it still made Annie feel better.

So when Annie opened the gift and found the lion, she naturally squeezed its right paw. That’s when she discovered something hidden inside. A closer look revealed a row of stitches on its underside. Annie snipped the thread and opened the seam.

A silver ring tumbled to the floor as Annie pulled out the memory stick. She picked up the ring and noticed a Celtic lion’s head on its face and trinity knots on each side. Tiny Celtic circles surrounded the setting.

Annie turned the ring over. The band tapered and the back was smooth. She examined the inner rim and found printed in Celtic lettering were the words a posse ad esse.

Thoughts flooded Annie’s head. She went to her laptop and inserted the stick into a port. Seconds later, she clicked on the video named a posse ad esse.

* * *

David McClure upchucked the water he had just guzzled all over his keyboard. He pounded his chest and coughed, trying to clear his throat. The man in the video was his dead dad.

Thirteen freakin’ years, and just like The Great Oz, the man appears out of nowhere. David ran his fingers through his hair. Unbelievable! Freakin’ unbelievable!

He’d found the jump drive containing the video inside an anonymous gift left on his front porch. David was stunned when he opened it and found the sneakers he’d been saving money to buy. He couldn’t believe someone would buy him such an expensive gift. It wasn’t until he’d put the left shoe on that he’d felt something hard hidden in its tongue.

As soon as David removed the flash drive and spotted the ring with the Celtic lion’s head, he knew the sneakers were more than a present—a lot more.

David remembered the night his dad had given him a silver pocket watch with a Celtic lion’s head on the cover and the inscription a posse ad esse inside.

David’s mom was working the night shift at the hospital, and he and his dad had made the biggest ice cream sundae he’d ever seen. The memory made David smile. They’d bought ice cream, rainbow sprinkles, whipped topping, and chocolate syrup. His dad dumped the half gallon of ice cream into a big bowl. David added the tub of rainbow sprinkles, the bottle of chocolate syrup, and topped it off with the entire container of whipped topping.

Afterward, David’s dad told him he had something very special for him. He gave David the watch, explaining it wasn’t a toy but a big boy’s watch, handed down from one generation to the next. Now, it was David’s turn to own it. The watch had been inside David’s sock drawer ever since, stashed in the corner and covered with white tube socks.

Thoughts bombarded David’s brain. He went to his laptop and inserted the stick into a port. Seconds later, he clicked on the video named a posse ad esse.


Now & Forever

Nothing could destroy their love, except the truth…


Separated by circumstance and distance, former high school sweethearts Lindy and TJ find their lives and passions once again entwined. For the past twelve years, each lived and worked in separate worlds, but yet held each other close in their hearts, one never sure what the other was feeling. The sudden and cruel death of their dear friend, Jack, brings them back together in Clarkson Grove, where their love had blossomed so many years before. Each is breathless at the thought of reuniting, hoping against hope that they can begin again. Can the love of their youth truly grow into an adult, lasting relationship or are their feelings just bittersweet memories of “the one who got away?” After so much time apart, do they still hold the same, small town values? How will they handle disagreements and disappointments along with extended family strife? Is each free to resume the relationship they once had, or have commitments to others been made, commitments that may even include a child?


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Copyright 2014 © Terri Mann & Kate Lane

T.J.’s day had begun with the sound of his parents’ harsh voices. The familiar, relentless bickering made him angry, but it also saddened him to know that nothing ever changed in the house where he’d grown up as a lonely child.

He spent the morning in the den, catching up on business emails and phone calls. Again, he had received many messages from Cassandra and chose to ignore them. When his work was done, T.J. wandered into the kitchen for lunch. Unfortunately, his parents were there too, so he grabbed a sandwich and cup of coffee and went outside to the old picnic table in the backyard.
Whenever he stayed with them—as rarely as possible—he always felt like he’d fallen into a terrible time warp, and this visit was no different. As the day went on, tension stayed high and the sniping continued—his mother harping about his dad’s drinking and latest fling, and his dad complaining about her nagging voice. Why didn’t they have the decency to mourn Jack’s death, or acknowledge their own son’s obvious grief?

Shaking off his thoughts, T.J. went inside to dress. He had packed lightly, purchasing what he needed the next day at the new Kenfield Mall. The Armani suits that hung in his Singapore closet had no place here. The new sports coat and dress slacks would blend in with everyone else. The Rolex watch would stay on the dresser. He’d wear the Timex, which had been a high school graduation gift, and the ring Lindy had given him that same June.

T.J. was furious when he realized all of the clocks were set incorrectly—and by default, his watch was behind too. He was even more upset when he realized his parents were taking their good old time getting ready, and expected him to drive them to the funeral home because his dad’s car was again riding on empty. When they finally were settled in his car, T.J. pealed out of the driveway. He sped through Clarkson Grove, ignoring their frantic shouts to slow down. Half-way to the funeral home, he finally lost his temper. Unable to listen to them any longer, T.J. roared into the nearest parking lot and screeched to a stop. He told them to get out. When they refused, he grabbed the keys from the ignition, and ran.

T.J. would be hard-pressed to forgive his parents, as well as himself, for this disaster. No matter how fast he ran, he’d never be on time to help Becka when she stood in front of Jack’s casket for the first time, or to comfort the kids when they needed him most.

By the time he arrived, long lines snaked around the parking lot and onto the sidewalk. T.J. strode past everyone, ignoring the voices that called out. Inside, the crowd parted when they saw him, allowing him to quickly reach Becka’s side. He took her hand, kissed her cheek, and whispered his condolences. He remained by her side, leaving her only when she asked for more water or fresh tissue. Although Becka refused to take a break, when the end of visitation hours approached, she insisted it was time for T.J. to have some refreshments.

As he made his way through the crowd and headed to the lower level reception area, T.J.’s thoughts went to Lindy. He hadn’t seen her, although he’d searched the crowd trying to catch sight of her. Becka, even in her grief, had noticed. She told him Lindy was watching the kids in the other room and also making sure they took breaks downstairs.

There, T.J. found Becka’s parents, who were now with the kids. He kissed each of the children and said he’d take care of them, just like he’d always promised their dad. He even managed to stop their tears for a while. No matter how old his trick was—no matter how often he made quarters appear from behind their ears—his magic never failed to bring smiles.

After their grandparents escorted the kids upstairs, T.J. turned his attention to the many pictures and photo albums on display. In addition to pictures of Jack, Becka, and the kids, T.J. smiled sadly at the photos focusing on Jack’s high school achievements. The pictures of Jack, Becka, Lindy, and T.J. were the hardest to bear. He had to blink away tears when he looked at their young faces, always smiling or laughing into the camera. Even worse, after some point in time, Lindy was obviously missing from the photos, and that reality caused T.J. to fight back more tears and then walk away.

Hearing the voices of old friends, he walked toward an open patio door. As he stepped outside, T.J. saw a beautiful woman in the shadows, standing apart from the rest. He walked toward her and called out her name. She turned. She smiled through tears. To his disbelief, she was at his side in a heartbeat, reaching out and then hugging him.
He stood there silently and accepted her embrace, relishing it. When they stepped apart, they looked at each other and waited, uncertain about where, or how, to begin.

“It…it’s good to see you, T.J.”

“You too, Lindy.”

He led her to a small bench that was tucked away in a corner of the patio. He sat next to her, not touching, but only inches apart. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Coming home to bury Jack is beyond my comprehension.”

“I know. This can’t be real.”

“I…I loved Jack. He was the brother I never had. I’ve lost my best friend.”

Lindy took his hand. “All you can do is remember Jack as the wonderful person he was, and be there for Becka and the kids.”

“You’re right, of course. I’ll do my best. This can’t be easy for you either. Jack and your other losses. I was so sorry to hear about Rae Ann and Rick. I wish I could have been there, but it was impossible to get out of Hong Kong in time for the services. I want you to know I tried.”

“Thank you. Yes, things have been pretty rough lately. James took his parents’ deaths very hard. That’s why I moved back to Indiana, to Kenfield, after I adopted him. We both need the support of family and close friends.”

“Becka tells me you’re working at Kenfield Memorial. That you earned your nursing degree on the west coast. I’m betting you’re a wonderful nurse, Lindy.”

“Well, I love my job. It’s hard sometimes, working in pediatrics—in the NICU. But it’s meaningful.”

“James seems like a great kid. Reminds me of Rick.”

“You met James?”

“Sure. Your dad introduced us upstairs. Lindy? You’re shivering. Let me give you my jacket.”

“Thanks. Yes, James is a very special kid. He…” Lindy suddenly switched gears. “How long do you plan to stay in Clarkson Grove?”

“At least several months. While I’m here, I’ll be working on the farming co-op Jack started, and settling finances for Becka and the kids. I’m staying at my folks right now, but moving to the Old Stone Inn as soon as possible.” T.J. tried to catch her gaze, but she seemed preoccupied. “Hey Lindy, are you still with me?”

“Sure. Sorry, T.J. I just realized I haven’t seen James in the last hour or so. But, please, finish your thought.”

“I also plan to catch up with friends while I’m here. Take some time to revisit the past, I guess.”

“That sounds like a great idea. I don’t mean to abruptly end our conversation, but I’d like to check on James.”

“I understand. Try not to worry. He’ll be fine, now that he’s with you. Always knew you’d be good with kids.”

“I…I have to go, T.J. Like I said, I better check on James. On Becka’s kids too. This has been a difficult day for everyone and tomorrow will be even worse. I hope you’ll look for me at the cemetery. It would be helpful to have you at my side when we say our final good-bye to Jack.”

“I will. I want you at my side too.”

“I’m glad you’re here, T.J. It means a lot to Becka. Goodnight. See you tomorrow.”

“Night, Lindy. Be careful driving.”

T. J. watched her walk away and disappear into the crowd. He picked up his sports coat from the bench and slipped it back on. He sat there alone for a long time, until the room emptied and the lights dimmed, and the familiar perfume that clung to his coat finally faded away.


Meant To Be

“This kitchen should be declared a disaster zone,” Ella muttered. The remains of a package of sweet rolls sat uncovered on the table, next to an empty milk carton. She pulled a box of corn flakes from the back of the fridge, grateful no other occupant of the condo would eat unsweetened cereal.

Distrustful of the dishes, Ella poured a handful of corn flakes onto a paper towel. While standing and eating with her fingers, she marveled at how quickly the kitchen she’d cleaned yesterday now resembled a pig sty. She wasn’t sure exactly how a pig sty would look. Nevertheless, the description felt right.

Although her father’s divorce settlement gave the high-rise condo to her stepmother Tina, Ella’s dad insisted his daughter must be allowed to wait until graduation from college before moving. The arrangement seemed to make sense, since the condo was within walking distance of her school. When Tina’s two grown daughters moved in, Ella gritted her teeth. Surely she could cope for four more weeks.

Thankful there was a lock on her bedroom door, Ella retreated to her small room. She changed the sheets on her bed and stuffed the week’s laundry into a pillow case. After a quick escape to the elevator, she unlocked her condo’s mailbox and took the one letter addressed to her. She smiled while stuffing the remaining envelopes back into the box. Either Tina didn’t know there was a spare key, or she was unconcerned as long as her own mail was intact.

After starting two loads of wash, Ella sat on a plastic chair in the condo’s basement laundry room and opened her letter. How sweet, she thought as she read the note from her Aunt Helen. She wants me to go to my graduation ball, and sent me money for a new dress. Shopping would be a lot more fun than spending the day at the library. Only two weeks remain now. Then I’ll be done with school, and Tina.

Ella dropped her clean laundry with the condo’s doorman for temporary storage, and headed for the fashion district.

“Lovely,” the sales clerk exclaimed when Ella ventured from the fitting room in a green bias cut dress.

Ella checked her reflection in the three-way mirror. “Too slinky,” she said. The red dress showed far too much skin. She glanced up and shook her head at the sequin-spangled number the clerk held out to her. “I’ve lived in jeans and sweats for four years,” she explained. “At my graduation ball, I want to look like a princess.”

After trying several stores, Ella spied a resale boutique. Rushing inside, she checked the size and price tag on the dress in the window. Even before she slipped the silky fabric over her head, Ella knew the frothy pink gown was exactly what she wanted. As she adjusted the deep hem ruffle, she thought of the shoes she’d noticed earlier.

After purchasing her dream dress, Ella retraced her steps to fashion row, in pursuit of high heels. When she saw the pink beauties, she stood near and unzipped the garment bag that held her new ball gown. A perfect match! She used most of the remaining money from her aunt to purchase size seven triple A stilettos. Ella’s slender feet and slight body kept Tina’s daughters from plundering her clothes, though her scarves and hats disappeared if she neglected to keep them locked away.

On the way home, Ella dialed her Aunt Helen’s phone number. “Thank you so much for the check. I went shopping this morning and found a dress I absolutely love. You are the sweetest aunt ever!”

Helen replied in her smoky voice. “Since George and I are your godparents, we have to take care of you while your father is away. I hope you have a wonderful time at your graduation dance.”

“I know I will, wearing the dress you made possible.” Ella said. “Thank you again, Aunt Helen.” When she arrived at her high-rise, Ella slipped the doorman a tip and retrieved her laundry.

“All three of them left about three o’clock,” he said with a wink.

Ella was relieved to drag her packages into the elevator with no concern about running into Tina. After unloading her parcels in her bedroom, she made a peanut butter sandwich and retreated behind the locked door. Her well-established Saturday evening ritual unfolded as usual. She watched a movie–with headphones—studied, and slept. On Sunday morning, she’d dash off to church before her disagreeable stepmother and stepsisters were out of bed.

The following Saturday, Ella stayed in her bedroom until time to dress for the ball. It was several blocks to the posh hotel ballroom on the other side of the college campus–too far to walk in new heels. She felt only slightly awkward walking down the city street in her formal dress and flip flops. After crossing the campus, she ducked into the familiar science building. Two students working in the far corner of a laboratory hardly looked up when Ella walked in. She nodded to them, changed into her stunning stilettos, and tossed her flip flops under a chair. She chuckled at her absurd wish for a full-length mirror. In the science building? Really? She wobbled only a little, walking the half of a block from the science building to the hotel.

Uncertainty squeezed the breath from Ella as she entered the ballroom. I won’t see anyone I know. Nobody will ask me to dance. Why did I come? I know why—I absolutely had to wear my princess outfit! Maybe there will be a photographer on hand to capture my moment of fashion splendor.

Near a table piled high with hors d’oeuvres, a young woman smiled. “Hello, I’m Megan.”

“Hi, Megan. I’m Ella. Kind of strange to meet each other at the end of our senior year, isn’t it?”

“I’m a sophomore,” Megan replied. “My date is the graduating senior. I’m studying drama. What’s your major?”

Ella briefly considered avoiding the question. Instead, she mumbled, “Chemical engineering.”

“Oh. Will you excuse me?” With a whirl of chiffon, Megan melted into the crowd, leaving a trace of sweet-smelling perfume trailing behind her.

After loading her plate with shrimp canapés, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, cubes of cheese, and grapes, Ella wandered to the terrace. She sat alone nibbling her food, enjoying the light breeze, and watching daylight fade.

A man’s voice unexpectedly broke into her reverie. “Beautiful evening isn’t it?”

“Yes,” she answered without turning around. “I’ll miss living here.”

“You’re Ella Watson,” he said.

She looked behind her and saw a familiar face. “Mr. Prince! You taught me calculus.”

“Technically, Dr. Schwartz was your professor. I am a lowly graduate teaching assistant. But, yes, you were in my class last semester.” He smiled, showing a deep dimple in one cheek. “And now you’re ready to graduate.”

“Yes,” Ella replied. “Finally.”

“Then what?”

She turned to face him, noticing how his thick, dark hair complemented his brown eyes and olive skin. He probably knew students made jokes about his name, calling him the Prince of High Math instead of Mr. Prince. “Florida, I guess.”

“You’re guessing?” He placed his empty glass on a nearby wrought iron table.

“I’m hoping to be offered a job soon. I’ve applied lots of places. Meanwhile, I have to move and my dad’s beach house is vacant. So, yes, things are still unsettled.”

“I’m leaving the city at the end of school, also,” Prince volunteered. “Going south to work on my PhD.”

“That’s nice,” Ella said. What an inane comment. Why can I never think of anything witty to say to a handsome fellow?

“Would you like to dance?”

Something about his nearness unsettled Ella, yet in a pleasant way. “It’s so crowded in there.”

“Why do we have to go inside? Can’t you hear the music?” Without waiting for a reply, he extended his arms.

Ella stepped into his embrace. As they began to waltz, she nestled against his chest, wishing the band would never stop playing. Something about the night air and the way Jeremiah Prince held her unleashed Ella’s need for a confidant. She told him about her bizarre living arrangement, the emotional detachment of her father, and the antics of her stepmother and stepsisters. She learned Jeremiah’s fiancée broke off their engagement a year ago.

A sudden thunderstorm sent the couple scurrying for cover inside the hotel ballroom. “The forecast was sunny and mild,” Ella said, laughing at the raindrops.

“Do you have a car here, or did you take a taxi?” he asked her.

“Neither,” she replied. “I walked.”

“In those shoes?” He had a charming way of cocking one eyebrow when he asked a question.

Ella smiled and shrugged. “It’s a long story.”

“I’ll hail us a cab, if you’ll allow me to see you home,” he said.

Later, Ella stood in the lobby of the high-rise, watching the yellow taxi disappear into the darkness. She hoped he would call her.

On Sunday morning, she emerged from the elevator into the lobby of the high-rise, still glowing from the previous evening’s encounter. Suddenly, she became aware of someone falling into step beside her. “I believe these are yours?” Jeremiah Prince held up the flip flops she’d left in the science building the night before.

“Why, yes. Yes, they are.”

He smiled. “The science building almost touches the back of the hotel. So that’s where I searched.”

Ella took her slippers, turning them over and over. “Searched? I don’t understand.”

“I was certain you left a shoe or two left behind.” He caressed her fingertips. “That’s how it had to be.”

“Why?” She stared into his beautiful eyes.

“Remember, class rolls don’t use nicknames, Ella. I’ve known all along you’re really Cinderella.”


-by Carlene Havel,


Spring in Your Step Blog Hop

Welcome to the Spring in Your Step blog hop!

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We are giving away winner’s choice of two of our ebooks gifted through Kindle, Nook, or reader’s choice of favorite ebook retailer.

To enter, just leave a comment!

Enjoy reading about what a couple of our authors have to say about spring and their favorite things to do.


I love to be warm and I need lots of light, so spring symbolizes the onset to the coveted sunny-season, and the countdown to outdoor adventure. I grew up in Wyoming where spring and summer mean hiking, camping, fishing, four-wheeling, and riding horses in the rugged mountains.  I’ve always looked forward to these activities, and for the same reasons, Niki in Big Horn Storm lives for her summer vacation with her grandfather at his sheep camp in the stunning Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming—until this year. To find out why the serenity of her mountain refuge is shattered, area ranches are being commandeered, and she must risk it all to save her childhood infatuation, Deuce, pick up a copy of Big Horn Storm.  Have a happy spring and enjoy the season!

Kim McMahill



When the spring flowers start to peek out, I long for the lake. For me, spring means lounging at the lake with my fishing pole. It doesn’t matter that the water may still be a little cold for the fish to bite. What’s important is enjoying the sunshine with a good book and my husband. There’s something intimate about being at a lake, just you, hubby and nature.

Mary L Ball

Follow the blog hop here:

Legacy & Love OUT NOW!


The Prayer Shawl

Sean Holland is a magazine reporter always looking for the next story. Hope Weaver is a pediatric nurse who shares Christ through making prayer shawls. The shawls are just the touchy-feely story Sean needs, even though he’ll have to endure Hope’s strong Christian beliefs to get it. An unexpected connection brings them together as a couple. But, can they find love if they don’t share their faith?


Alex Lyndon’s life has been a series of fits and starts with no finishes. She finds herself jobless and divorced. Now her only family, Granny Olivia, is critically ill.

Chase Carson had to step into running the family business when his father died. The time is past due for him to visit Miss Olivia.

Alex and Chase must go on a treasure hunt. Will each find purpose and love for their lives in the process?

$3.99 Ebook




Copyright 2014 © Paula Mowery

Sean relaxed on his couch, surfing the Internet. A trip and some travel writing were in his future. He needed to branch out. The articles he was writing now just didn’t thrill him. Something was missing. With the approach of spring just around the corner, he could slip away for a few weeks. March was the time for spring breaks.

His cell phone buzzed. He glanced at the screen.

“Hey, Dad. What’s up?”

“Son, could you come over to the house?” His tone was serious.

Sean sat up straight. “Now?”


“I’m on my way.”

Sean’s heart raced, and he swiped clammy hands down his jeans. He wasn’t sure what this was about, but his father’s grave tone drove Sean to get to his parent’s house immediately.

He gripped the steering wheel, thinking back ten years ago. His mother had just moved into the head of the department of English at the university when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her mastectomy, the treatments had taken such a toll on her that she had to retire. Of course, she had said God had worked everything out, because she then had the time to write and publish her Bible studies. Sean didn’t think God had anything to do with it.

He pulled into his parent’s driveway behind his brother’s familiar minivan. He took a deep breath and bounded through the front door. He found his parents and brother in the family room. He crossed and planted a peck on his mom’s forehead, then plopped down next to Richard on the couch.

“Boys, we wanted to tell you in person that Mom has breast cancer again.” His father’s tone was matter-of-fact. Despite that, Sean’s gut wrenched.

Richard slid forward, propping his forearms on his knees. “What does that mean? Same as the last?”

“Not exactly,” his mother said. “The doctor says this isn’t a recurrence. It’s a different type of cancer. We proceed one step at a time. I plan on having the mastectomy, then it depends on the lymph node tests as to treatments.”

“When?” Sean blurted out the question before he thought. He cleared his throat. “I mean, do you have the surgery set”

“Next week, on Tuesday.” His mother’s voice shook slightly. She swallowed.

“The doctor is a little more concerned this time. He wishes this had been caught sooner.” The worry lines in his father’s forehead were evident.

“But, we need to flood the situation with prayer. God is in control.” Mother folded her hands in her lap.

Sean didn’t share her confidence in prayer, but in this situation he wished he did. Before he left his parent’s house, he located their church’s phone directory and entered a number into his cell contact list.

As soon as he started his drive toward his apartment, he scrolled to the number and pressed call.

“Hello?” the sweet, soothing voice answered.

“Hello, yes, is this Hope? Hope Weaver, the nurse who makes the shawls?”

“Yes, this is Hope, and I do crochet prayer shawls. Who…”

“I’m sorry, this is Sean Holland. We met a couple of months ago at the hospital. I’m Richard’s brother.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you.”

“I hope you don’t mind my call. I need to ask you a favor.”


“Could you make one of your prayer shawls for my mother? She has breast cancer again.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. But, of course, I would be honored to do that for Mrs. Holland. She is such a godly woman.”

“Um, yeah.” She was right, however he didn’t put much stock in all the religious stuff. But he had seen and heard people give testimony to these shawls Hope made. If there was any validity to their claims, he wanted to make sure his mother had one. “Would I need to pick it up or something?”

“Can I call you at this number? I usually deliver the shawls myself…”

“Whatever it is you do.”

“I’ll call you, and we can deliver it together. Okay?”

“Sure. Yeah. Thanks.” Sean scratched his head. Was he completely crazy? If the shawl did nothing else, it would encourage his mother.






Happy Birthday, Jayna Morrow!

Happy birthday to one very special Prism author, Jayna Morrow!

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Jayna, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!


Wish Jayne a happy birthday by checking out her her latest release in the Sweet Home series!

Gabriel COVER_Front_300_med

Return to Sweet Home, Texas!

High school administrator, Sparrow Walker, has just moved to Sweet Home into a rental house closer to the school. The Hearth family eagerly welcomes her to town. But the eldest son – workaholic and heart shy Gabriel Hearth – isn’t too pleased about having his son’s pushy principal living next door.

Sparrow’s concerned determination could prove to be Gabriel’s saving grace. If only she can convince him to go along with her plan. Proud and private Gabriel isn’t exactly willing, so she decides to turn the tables – using her behavior management tactics on him! With her program in place, this time for the parent instead of the student, it’s up to Gabriel to make the next move and risk falling in love again. If he can’t, he just might lose the one woman strong enough to love a man like him.


With Open Eyes – Chapter 1

Mia Gilmore at age twenty-four could, with a look, make an entire board of directors squirm in their seats. With a steely glint in her silver eyes she could bend people to her will. None of her business associates or rivals ever considered her age as a deterrent when faced with the Gilmore force, for that is exactly what she was, a force so strong that those in it’s path either got out of her way or succumbed to her wishes. Until today. Today she was facing a force stronger than her. Her silver eyes clashed with an identical pair, yet more ruthless. More calculating.

“Father, you are overreacting. I do not need an entire security detail for a short, routine trip.”

“This is non-negotiable Mia. Either you take the security with you or you don’t go at all.”

A tall, broad shouldered man in his late fifties faced his daughter. Despite the graying at his temples and the newly acquired cane that he leaned heavily on he was still a formidable man. Mia knew she had no chance of winning this one but she had a plan. “Fine. Let’s compromise. I will take one body guard. That way I won’t draw so much attention to myself as an entire entourage would. He can travel as my guest. Would that satisfy you daddy?”

Andrew smiled to himself. She had always called him daddy when she was trying to get her way. And it always worked. Her cute dimples when she smiled at him made his heart melt every time, since her very first smile. She was everything to him. His treasure. And he would do everything in his power to make sure that woman never got to her the way she had gotten to Diane. His beautiful wife had been the love of his life and she was gone now because he had let his guard down. Never again would that happen. He made a vow to Diane that he would protect their daughter at all costs. He meant to keep that vow. He already had a weapon in place to do just that. Brian Montalvo. Ex Navy Seal who owned the best private security company that money could buy. Andrew would settle for nothing less than the best for his daughter.

“Very well. One body guard of my choosing,” he said as he pressed the intercom button on her phone. “Marie can you please ask Mr. Tribeck to join us in my daughter’s office.”

“Yes Mr. Gilmore.”

Mia glared at her father. “You already hired a body guard?”

“Sure did darlin. Just one.” He winked at her and she knew that she didn’t win anything that he hadn’t already planned.

“You never cease to amaze me daddy.”

She shook her head and smiled as she walked to stand behind her desk. “You could have at least warned me. Given me time to research this Mr. Tribeck. I like to know who I’m dealing with and how to handle them.”

“I’ll be the one doing all the handling so no need to worry over that,”
said a deep baritone voice.

Mia looked up to see the biggest man she’d ever seen walk into her office and shut the door behind him. He was easily 6’3 with a broad muscled chest and biceps that looked rock solid. It wasn’t just his muscular frame that made him look large. He had a powerful presence that made her office suddenly feel small. She instinctively knew he was not a man one could cross successfully. But Mia Gilmore did not cower to anyone.

“You have not been hired to handle me Mr. Tribeck. Your job is to protect me. Let’s get that straight before we travel anywhere together.”

He walked to her father and shook his hand. “Andrew. It’s good to see you back on your feet. How is that cane working for you?”

Mia’s jaw dropped open. The pig headed man had ignored her.

Andrew almost laughed out loud at the look on his daughter’s face. He had never seen her speechless before. Brian was her match, he would not allow her to command him and that was exactly why Andrew had chosen him.

“It’s great. Thanks for bringing it back from Honduras for me.”

“Don’t mention it. I’ll pick up a couple more next time I’m there.”

They were both ignoring her. Mia was fuming. She sat in the chair behind her desk regally. “Perhaps you two can continue your little chat elsewhere. I have work to do. Mr. Tribeck, I’m sorry your time was wasted but your services will not be needed after all.”

The dark eyed stare he fixed on her made her breath catch in her throat. She felt impaled by his eyes.

His controlled voice belied the fierceness in his expression. “I’ve already taken the job Mia and when I take a job I see it through to the end.” He laid a manila folder on her desk. “Inside you’ll find our travel arrangements. Don’t share them with anyone. Not another living soul outside of this office needs to know what is in that folder. Do you understand?”

The man was infuriating. “You are speaking simple English and I am not an imbecile. Now please take this and leave my office.” She pushed the folder towards him.

Without giving her or the folder another glance he turned to Andrew and said. “Don’t worry about anything. I’ll take good care of your girl.” He turned to walk away. When he reached her door he looked over his shoulder at her. “I’ll see you in the morning Mia.” Then he was gone.

“You can’t be serious,” she said to her father.

He met her angry glare with a determined one of his own. “This goes beyond serious, as I said earlier this is non-negotiable. You travel with Brian or you don’t travel at all. I will send Lance in your place if I have to even if it means losing the deal.”

Mia saw the determination in her father’s eyes and knew he wouldn’t give an inch on this, which meant she would have to put up with the overgrown beast for a week. She ran her fingers through her long, ebony hair.

With a sigh she said, “Very well. We’ll do it your way this time.” She opened the folder and began scanning the contents.

“And every time thereafter. I am not taking chances with your safety. You better accept that now and learn to like Brian. He’s a great guy once you get past that rough exterior.”

Mia stared at the door long after her father left. He had never been this immovable with her before. She could usually work out a compromise. The first flicker of alarm ran through her. Did he know something she didn’t or was he just overreacting because of the way mother had died? It had been over a year since her mother was kidnapped and killed, despite the large ransom her father had paid, which had disappeared as well. Her murderers had not been found yet, but they would be, of that she had no doubt.

Mia slammed her alarm clock twice but it wouldn’t shut off. The third time she picked it up and threw it, pulling the plug out of the wall, still it kept up its incessant ringing. Finally, through the sleep haze she realized it was her doorbell ringing. Opening one eye she looked at the time on her clock, now across the room. Five a.m. Who could that possibly be? She stumbled out of bed and to her front door, looking through the peep hole before opening. It was him! She should have known he would show up, even after her voicemail informing him they would be leaving later on her private jet.

“Did you not get my message, or do you just have a hard time following directions?” She asked when she opened the door to let him in.

“Your message was received and understood. If you plan on taking this trip at all you have exactly ten minutes to be packed and ready to leave, otherwise I will pack for you and carry you out of here in whatever state of dress or undress you happen to be in,” he said, his eyes raking over her body. She suddenly wished she had taken the time to put on a robe over her black satin chemise.

Glaring at him she turned and stomped to her bedroom. She had no doubt the infuriating, stubborn, thick headed, sinfully gorgeous man would do exactly as he said. This was going to be a long week.