The Christmas Journal

A Christmas novella featuring family, forgiveness, and love…

Ashley Moore’s life forever changed the day her mother died, and she was sent to live with relatives. Now, ten years later, Ashley returns home, hoping to connect with her estranged father. When she learns he’s decided to reopen the family’s Christmas lodge for the upcoming holiday season, Ashley volunteers to help. While cleaning, she discovers her mother’s journal detailing the last month of her life. Will the book hold the answer as to why her dad sent her away? Who is the mysterious Adam her mother keeps mentioning in the diary? Can the words of her mother reconcile father and daughter in time for Christmas?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Kimberly B Jackson

 

Dusting furniture wasn’t the type of gratification Ashley Moore craved in life. Since her return home, cleaning the old lodge had filled her days. Today felt different. She’d foregone the lodge, instead choosing her parent’s personal living quarters—a small cabin a short distance from the lodge. Now, she faced the one room she’d dreaded—her parent’s old bedroom.

As she opened the door, dust particles floated in the air. Clearly, the room sat untouched since her mother’s death. A layer of dust coated the furniture—thick enough to write your name. A scent reminiscent of an old musky basement hung in the air. Pulling the closet door back, she realized her mother’s clothes still hung as they had ten years ago.

“I can’t believe Dad hasn’t removed anything in here,” she said to herself as she ran her hands through her mother’s clothes. Touching the decade-old clothes somehow made her feel closer to her mother. A sneeze escaped her.

Glancing to the left, she spotted her mother’s jewelry box, something she’d always loved to go through as a little girl. Lifting the top open, she gently picked up several of her mother’s costume rings. How she’d loved to play with them. Her eyes fixated on a silver cross necklace with a twenty-four inch length chain that her mother wore practically every day of her life. Unhooking the clasp, Ashley put on the necklace and looked at herself in the dusty mirror that hung above the dresser. A younger version of her mother’s face stared back, so much alike, but different too. The same brunette hair and petite frame. The same small nose and brown eyes. But Ashley had her father’s mouth.

Drawing back the curtains released ten years of built-up dust that danced around the room as she struggled to open the somewhat uncooperative widows. The air outside was cold, but fresh, and necessary. It circulated throughout the room, sweeping away the gloom. As she exited the room, she closed the door.

Following a tense lunch of take-out pizza her father brought, she continued to choke on the questions she needed him to answer. She would surely gain courage to ask them sometime. With a sigh, she took a stepladder from the pantry, and returned to her mother’s room. Stepping on the ladder, and with several forceful jerks, she pulled the curtains until she’d unhooked the old, iron rod from the wall. Next, she collected the fallen material and placed it in a box. Soon after, she focused on the bed and with one pull, she yanked the bedspread and top sheet off, then removed the fitted sheet and pillowcases. As she cleared away the last pillowcase, something red caught her eye. Depositing the sheets and bedspread into the laundry basket, Ashley then returned to the bed, feeling the red, hard edge she’d noticed under the mattress. With both hands she grasped the item, and with one great tug, an old, dusty red book appeared in her hands. Sweeping her fingers across the hard front revealed an imprint of a Christmas tree. Slowly, she opened the notebook, revealing well-worn, dingy paper. Faded, blue ink covered each delicate page, revealing her mother’s elegant handwriting. Her eyes focused on the text, across the header of the first page. December 1, 2004. Exactly twenty-four days later, her mother died. Could she read her mother’s personal thoughts? Tears welled in her eyes as she pulled the journal close to her chest. Would she find the answers she’d always yearned to know? Could she invade her mother’s privacy? Or was this her mother’s way of communicating with her? December first, she read…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Kimberly first started to write to encourage her little boy to read. After including his favorite stuffed animal in four short children’s stories, she decided to tackle her life long dream of writing Christian fiction. After placing second in a writing contest, her career of being a published author became a reality. She has been blessed to be married for over two decades to her husband, Jim and they have one son, Cole. She resides in a small town, outside of Birmingham, Alabama and attends a local Baptist Church. Kimberly likes to write books that inspire and uplift people. You can contact her at kimberlybjackson.blogspot.com

 

Love Takes Flight

Volunteering in the Amazon to escape a broken heart, American R.N. Camille Ringold fears she has lost the chance to be married to a doctor and live well in suburbia. Serving two weeks with missionaries living out a sacred calling, she considers whether a more meaningful life might be hers.

When the Wings of Help plane is hijacked, she and missionary pilot Luke Strong escape into the jungle. Priorities change as experiences of faith mount. Where is the intersection of God’s will and her selfish desires?

Returning to Alabama, she discovers the controlling side of her rejected sweetheart. He covers his lies with rationalizations. Dangers of the Amazon fade compared to threats from the man she once wanted to marry.

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Lee Carver

 

A child’s scream pierced the Brazilian jungle night, wrenching Camille from the tendrils of a nightmare. The wail soared through the trees again, long and desperate. She rolled out of her hammock and stumbled on numb legs, gripped the supporting rope, and got her bearings. The humid night vibrated with fear and confusion in time with her pounding pulse.

Nearby, a mission team member hit the floor with a thud, emitting the forced unh! of having the breath knocked out of him. She could run to him or toward the shriek that woke them.

Shouted questions stabbed the moonlight and flashlights snapped on at odd angles. The child howled a Portuguese word Camille didn’t know, but she couldn’t miss the desperation.

Focus. Reacting with her nurse’s training and passion, she slipped on flip-flops, grabbed a flashlight, and dashed off the open platform in the direction of the pitiful cries. In this jungle, she and Dr. Flavio were the only ER.

“Sucuri! Sucuri!” The word rang throughout the village more like the name of a beautiful bird than the vicious anaconda.

She ran to where villagers converged on the wide footpath in front of the stilted houses. Raised machetes flashed as muscular brown arms brought knives down hard. Shouting and groaning, men hacked at an enormous snake curled in the baked red dirt.

Camille pushed into the circle of defenders and found a young boy under attack. The snake writhed, dying but not giving up its prey. A final cut severed the snake’s head from its squirming body. Blood squirted on the clay clearing and the people. Snake blood and boy blood.

Camille recognized Pedro as a ten year old from the previous day’s medical clinic. He cried, but no longer with curdled terror. She knelt in the dust to examine his wounds and her guts twisted. She had to get him somewhere she could treat him.

Pedro’s young father picked him up as if he were a broken doll. Another man supported the snake’s severed head with teeth still embedded in the boy’s thigh. Camille trotted beside them to the thatched, open-sided platform where they slept and also conducted a fly-in clinic. The mission team cleared the last of their hammocks.

The men laid the victim on a roughhewn table. Conscious and trembling, lips curled in revulsion, Pedro pushed at the dismembered snake head.

His father pulled his hand away. “Não. Espera.” No. Wait.

Camille glanced around. Where was Dr. Flavio? She’d have to start without him. Faced with the responsibility, her mind wanted to freeze. Stop the bleeding. Compression. Disinfectant.

Camille spotted Jessica, the blonde fourteen year old who assisted in the dispensary. She would have the keys to supplies or know who did. “Jessica, get me some disinfectant—alcohol, Betadyne. Lots of it.”

In the jerked-awake village, the missionary team shuffled about looking for a way to help. Luke Strong, one of the pilots, jumped into action. He started the pungent gasoline generator and turned on a bare bulb dangling over the table.

A native woman bustled up the steps with cloth strips.

Camille grabbed the longest one and applied a tourniquet above the injury. Pedro winced, but didn’t cry out.

A suffocating group of men surrounded the table, jabbering and pointing to the embedded teeth. They parted for Dr. Flavio as he hurried through the crowd pulling on surgical gloves. A bloody bandage taped on his forehead identified him as the one who fell out of a hammock when the screams began. She didn’t ask.

Camille took a half step away from the patient and, lacking words, mimed a questioning expression to the doctor.

Late forties, bearded and squarely built, Dr. Flavio epitomized professional concern as he bent over the boy. The gentle bear took Pedro’s wrist, checked his pulse and pupils before examining the nasty wound.

Pedro’s pregnant mother, standing with other women on the ground nearby, wailed and moaned.

Jessica ran up the steps with a liter of Betadyne, and Dr. Flavio splashed the amber disinfectant generously on the boy’s leg. He spoke to the father. Camille understood none of the Portuguese, only their urgent waving and pointing.

The doctor muttered, motioning with his fingers how the bite bent into Pedro’s leg. Onlookers nodded and chattered. Big, bad teeth curved into soft, young-boy flesh.

Dr. Flavio scattered the spectators away with orders and gestures. Reluctantly, they jumped off the platform of the community room but stayed close. This was the only show in town.

Doctor and father grasped the anaconda’s jaws and pulled carefully. The vice of back-slanted teeth didn’t give up. Even in death, they locked into the child’s flesh. Dr. Flavio motioned to the jaw, and someone in the crowd below offered his bloody machete.

“I’m going for the doctor’s tools. The whole kit.” Jessica dashed into the darkness.

Camille rested her hand on the boy’s bare chest and spoke, hoping he would understand her meaning if not her English. “We’re here to help, Pedro. You’re so brave.”

She touched his thick, black hair and smiled her compassion. He had been a diarrhea patient. Maybe the snake seized him at the village outhouse. She couldn’t even ask him how this happened.

When Jessica, aided by Luke, returned with the instrument kits and armloads of supplies, Dr. Flavio isolated the dirty wound. He spoke to Camille, and Jessica translated. “Be ready with sterile gauze and more antiseptic.”

Camille rubbed on hand sanitizer, popped on gloves and ripped open gauze. She willed her fingers not to tremble. She pulled up all of her ER experience, but she had never seen or studied an injury like this. The boy needed her to be professional.

At the edge of darkness, the missionary team formed a circle. With arms overlapping, they bowed and prayed. Camille tried to believe that the God who allowed an enormous snake to capture a boy and drag him toward the river would now move miraculously to save the child’s life. Although a life-long Christian, her hopes and God’s actions didn’t always agree.

Dr. Flavio and Camille strained a tool between the locked jaws of the anaconda, and something snapped in the snake’s head. Pulling together, they extracted the curved teeth from Pedro’s raw muscle and skin.

Camille’s worst fear came to life—oozing of the femoral artery despite his tourniquet. He might bleed out in seconds.

Sterile technique was impossible. She gathered a handful of gauze and pressed hard on the wound. Dr. Flavio tightened the tourniquet. He looked directly at her. “Cirugia.”

She recognized the word “surgery” and nodded.

Eyes wide with terror, Pedro’s small, lean frame went rigid. He remained silent.

The kid was brave. He twisted his head toward his crying mother but said nothing.

No general anesthetic. No ether. No morphine. Camille loaded a syringe with Novocain, hating that it would sting Pedro like a wasp until the area went numb.

Dr. Flavio inserted the needle over and over and pointed to the vial. She filled another syringe.

Surgery on a wooden table with a dim bulb and not so much as old-fashioned ether for an anesthetic. What a story she could tell when she returned to Alabama, two weeks and one century away.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Lee Carver lived in the Brazilian Amazon for six years, the hardest and best years of her life. She and her husband served in retirement as volunteer missionaries with a Brazilian organization, Asas de Socorro (Wings of Help), formerly MAF-Brazil. Her husband flew this novel’s amphibious ten-seat Cessna Caravan over jungle area half the size of the United States. Their home in Manaus—the largest city in the world with no road to it—was a free guesthouse for missionaries, pilots, mechanics, and medical volunteers. She went on missions, speaks the language, and knows the people whose story she tells.

Lee lived in Brazil a total of twelve years, including two postings to São Paulo while her husband worked for Citibank. Other foreign postings were Greece, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Indonesia, and Spain. She studied nine languages and visited over forty-five countries. The Carvers now reside in Texas and are still active in Brazilian aviation missions.

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Heartwarming 99 Cent Holiday Ebooks

Heartwarming 99 cent holiday eBooks from Prism Book Group!

What’s worse than being stranded in a small town in northern Wisconsin? Being stranded during the worst winter in recent memory. Claudia Alexander’s problems are piling up faster than the snow on Lake Superior’s shore. Her noble mission to find the owner of an old pocket watch is complicated by incessant snowstorms, a mysterious vandal and the appearance of an old flame. The local dogcatcher, a blind street preacher and an arthritic bloodhound come to Claudia’s aid. A promising romance warms up even as the temperatures drop. But something evil is at work in Barley. As another blizzard approaches, so does a killer. Claudia must choose between her mission and saving the lives of the people she has come to love. Even if it means losing her own.

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Widow Beth Marsh is not only beautiful, but wealthy enough to buy a third-world country. When she enters the dating arena to find companionship, two men profess an interest in her…but is it Beth they want, or are they out to get her money?

Watching from the Heavenlies, the Superiors dispatch Heaven’s Little Love Angel to Houston during the Christmas holidays. Sarah’s mission is to help the lady determine which of her suitors is the genuine article. Is black-haired Bryan Wingate the real deal? Or is good-looking Charles Chadwick the more earnest suitor?

When Beth invites human-disguised Sarah to attend a wedding, the delighted angel looks forward to an opportunity to wear a beautiful formal gown, and maybe—at long last—red stilettos! But Sarah’s mission becomes deadly serious when she discovers Beth’s life is in danger. If Sarah fails in her mission, Tomas, the Warrior Angel, will intercede. Determined to keep her human charge safe from gold diggers and save Tomas the trouble, the little love angel steps up her efforts.

But Sarah wouldn’t be Sarah without a few bungles along the way…

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For the true magic of Christmas cannot be found in a wrapped gift under the tree…

Three touching stories of Christmas blessings to warm the heart, including:

Three Gifts

On Christmas morning, Jack receives three precious gifts of the heart, three gifts that open his eyes to the tender grace of true love.

The Christmas Answer

When Donna volunteers on a mission trip, she is forced to reexamine her life, her marriage, and most importantly, her faith. Donna soon discovers the one thing she had been missing all her life.

A Sharecropper Christmas

The Great Depression left the Shoemaker family hungry and homeless. Alice makes the best of the hard times without complaint, though she dreams of giving her little family a special Christmas.

Note: The Christmas stories contained in this anthology are each published separately as novellas. We are offering them as a bundle book for readers who would like a deal on all three, or to have them in print.

SUPER DEAL! Only 99 cents on Amazon!

What kind of Christmas will her children have?

The Great Depression left the Shoemaker family hungry and homeless. Their desperate prayers are finally answered when Henry Shoemaker finds work as a sharecropper. Alice makes the best of the hard times without complaint, though she dreams of giving her little family a special Christmas.

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Despite outward appearances, life was not a fairy tale for gospel singer Donna Dubois. Struggling with depression, loneliness, and uncertainty in her marriage, she reluctantly agrees to go on a holiday missionary trip to the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky.

During her stay, she is assigned to live with the widow Sara Cagle. Taking notice of Sara’s perseverance, Donna soon begins to relax and actually enjoy herself.

When misfortune strikes Sara, Donna is forced to reexamine her life, her marriage, and most importantly, her faith. Taking over for Sara, Donna soon discovers the one thing she had been missing all her life—The Christmas Answer.

The Christmas Answer is an inspirational story that will make you realize that God’s plan is always laid out, even when you seem distant from him.

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Mary Jones is recently widowed and lonely…very lonely. Although the people of the small town of River Oak, Tennessee, call her Grandmother Jones with much affection, Mary yearns for the family she was never blessed with.

When a stranger named Teresa appears on her doorstep with her four-year-old child, claiming to be the daughter of her deceased husband, Mary’s world is forever changed.

Even though Mary suspects Teresa is hiding a terrible secret, she takes her newfound stepdaughter underwing, determined to help her. Soon, the young woman garners the attention of Tom, the single and very handsome sheriff of the town, and Mary can’t help but play matchmaker.

When Teresa’s daughter is kidnapped by her dangerous ex-husband, Mary and Teresa are forced to rely on the young sheriff, each other, and more importantly, God. Will Teresa’s daughter be rescued? Will Mary receive a special Christmas gift this year—the one thing she has always wanted in her life?

A Christmas Gift for Mary Jones is an inspirational story of faith, family, and love.

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Tall, tanned, dark, and delicious? More like former fiancé!

The stud muffin headed in the direction of Claire Water’s newly opened chocolate shop is none other than the doctor she once dated–and he’s rattling the skeletons in her closet every step of the way.

For Claire has a secret—a six-year old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl of a secret—and Burke Harlow has questions. Lots of them, the kind that poke too deep and hit hard too hard, for those pesky old feelings between them aren’t finished yet. Not by a secret baby mile…

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Widow Celina Innes, a dress shop owner in the small 1886 mining town of Aspen, Colorado, struggles to run her shop and live down her late husband’s bad choices for the sake of her four-year old daughter, Keena. She made the mistake of following after one man’s dream of striking it rich and has sworn not to do it again. Co-owner of Toussaint’s General Store, Mikel, watches this proud woman run a successful business but wishes he could make her life a little easier. He has to be contented by slipping treats to the child in hopes of pleasing her mama. When illness strikes the child, Celina turns to Mikel for help and they work together all night to get past the crisis, deepening their friendship. But when the crisis is over, Mikel
disappears from Aspen and Celina learns he is seeking to increase his stores. How could she have been so wrong about the man? Can a woman sworn to put down roots and a man looking for more riches find happiness?

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SHE’S MET THE ONE

Molly Hanson knows that the Lord has sent her a good, loving man and that marriage is the next step.  But her fiancé won’t set a date until he’s landed a steady job, and that’s not easy in today’s economy.

HE’S MADE A PROMISE

Raised by his grandmother, Jack Stewart can’t imagine abandoning her.  He not only loves his grandmother, he feels responsible for her care now that her health is failing.  But if he doesn’t find a good-paying job soon, he may be forced to choose between life with Molly and life as a dutiful grandson.

THREE GIFTS
On Christmas morning, Jack receives three precious gifts of the heart, three gifts that open his eyes to the tender grace of true love.

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Sarah and Three Times a Charm

A bundle deal from author Gay N. Lewis, now available in print and eBook!

ThreeTimesaCharm_ebookbn

A collection of three “Sarah” novellas by Gay N. Lewis.

Sarah and the Internet Dating Service

For her next mission to earth, The Superiors assign Sarah a challenging assignment—spur a romantic relationship between Karen Newton and Jeremy Spencer…through the Internet!

Sarah and the Scary Ferris Wheel

Sarah is given a new mission—to link Robert Johnson and Brittany Lee—two people she encountered while trying to bring a couple together on that irksome computer Internet dating service. Oh sure, she’d done it. Not without trial and a lot of error, but with this fresh assignment, trouble would come…she was positive.

Sarah and a Dad for Mandy

With simple instructions to find a mate for Galena Maddox and a dad for six-year-old Mandy, Sarah should have no problem, right? Well, except that dyslexic Sarah—known for bungles and goof-ups—creates more mayhem than she ever imagined possible.

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Redemption in Big Fork Lake

 

Can he be forgiven?

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Only after Robert Turner hurts a woman does he realize how much of a hold alcohol has on his life.

For Robert, a chance meeting with an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor offers hope. A new devotion to the Lord and a relationship with Belle McBride gives him expectations for a better future.

His life appears to be on the right track, until he comes full circle with his past and faces the one mistake that haunts him daily. Can forgiveness free Robert? Or will heartache drive him to return to the life he once had?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Mary L Ball

 

The calm waves of deep-blue glistened in the sunlight. Robert scanned the green vegetation that lined a big section of the lake. Lizard’s Tail plants outlined a walkway leading to a walking path. Snapping a photo, he captured the bright orange of a nearby Butterfly Weed. He shaded his eyes and looked up, scaling the length of several longleaf pines dominating the gravel roads, which led to various boat docks.

As Robert approached the landing, he caught a glimpse of a something—someone—that made him hold his breath a second. The natural beauty of the large lake was nothing compared to the woman standing maybe a few dozen feet before him. Something about her intrigued him in a way no other had.

Robert strolled onto the wooden L-shaped walkway and paused. He couldn’t stop himself from staring. Even from a distance, he could tell her beauty was natural. Robert noticed appealing women plenty, but for some reason this one tugged at his heart and made him realize how long it’d been since he enjoyed a relationship or even a date.

With his feet planted to the wooden deck, Robert watched as she gazed at the water. Like the small wave rippling in the lake, emotions rose inside him and feelings he’d covered up for so long bubbled to the top. No doubt, he was lonely for female companionship. It would be nice to go out occasionally with someone. I’ve concentrated so much on maintaining my sobriety that I’ve missed some of the good things in life.

Standing there, Robert pondered his life, activities he’d given up—dating topped the list. Now, the desire to start living again crept past his defenses. He wanted to enjoy the company of a woman, not just any woman, but the lady who stood before him with the cute ponytail.

Trying to divert his attention somewhere else succeeded for a few seconds—soon, however, his eyes darted back. Robert looked her over, guessing she was about his height and age. The wind kicked up, and blew her golden hair. The long strands waved in the breeze. Rays from the sun highlighted her blonde tresses.

While he stood there, Robert thought back to a conversation with his mother when he was in college. He wondered at the time if there was someone for him. She responded by giving him a hug and assuring him God would choose a special lady for him one day.

While Robert’s memory dug up those words, he hung his head in shame because of the times he ignored his parent’s advice. Why didn’t I find different friends instead of trying to fit in with the wrong crowd?

Robert mentally snapped back to the present and lifted his head. Recovering from alcoholism had taught him not to wallow in self-pity, but to move forward and redeem what he could. Returning to the sight of the beautiful woman, he tried to be discreet as he continued to observe her.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Mary L. Ball lives in North Carolina and writes novels and Christian articles. Her passion is weaving together inspirational romantic suspense and mysteries, which show the imperfect lives of everyday characters as they face hardships while discovering the real meaning of grace. Her books encourage you to see the magic of love and a divine guidance that often lies dormant, waiting to be found by each of us. When she’s not writing she enjoys family and singing Gospel music with her husband.

Some of her Christian Articles are found on Examiner.com at:http://www.examiner.com/christian-living-in-greensboro/mary-ball. Learn more about Mary at  http://MaryLouwrites.weebly.com.

 

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Golden Days

Alaska is a cold place to live until love blossoms.

Elizabeth Robinson travels by dog sled to help her family mind the store in Fairbanks, Alaska. She wants to pursue her drawing and painting, but women artists are rare in 1906, and flood, fire, and a death in the family force her to take charge at home at age seventeen. James Garrett comes north to help his uncle at a nearby gold claim. An awkward eighteen-year-old who is more at home with machines than people, he becomes a man as he falls in love with Elizabeth. When a discovery about her benefactor, the founder of the town, threatens their future, Elizabeth and James find that together they can overcome any obstacle.

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Excerpt:

 

Elizabeth didn’t see it until it was too late.

One moment she was planning a painting of the snowy scene, then the dogsled she was riding in careened around the corner. The play of shadows and light, the glittering frost on the trees, vanished when a team of dogs slammed into theirs.

Papa shouted as he fell off the back of their sled, “Hang on!”
She held tight to her sister Victoria. Their sled ran off the trail, rolled onto its side, and the icy snow surrounded her. Dogs yelped. Victoria cried out.

The stinging cold took Elizabeth’s breath away. They fell into the thick alders.

Elizabeth untangled herself from a fur robe and pulled Victoria out of the branches. Her fur hat was askew, but she looked more frightened than hurt.

“Are you all right, Sis?” Elizabeth brushed the snow from her sister’s dark curly hair.

Victoria looked up at her, blinking tears from her eyes. “I think so.”

A young man’s voice rose over the dogs yelping and barking. “Are you all right?”

“I don’t know yet,” she called over her shoulder. She turned back to Victoria. “Nothing hurts?”

Victoria shook her head. “No.”

Elizabeth took a shuddering breath. The barking grew louder, and she turned to see the dogs lunging at each other. The teams had to be separated before they injured each other. She ran as quickly as she could through the deep snow, raising her long wool skirts out of the way. A man in a fur parka stood in the midst of the flurry of fur and snarls, trying to untangle the teams by tugging at their lines.

“Why weren’t you on the right side of the trail?” she called to the man, irritation rough in her voice.

“I’m sorry, Miss.”

Elizabeth grabbed the harness on the furry husky next to her and pulled him to the side, ignoring his excited whine. She moved the stocky dogs easily, even with her petite frame—she guessed it was necessity that gave her such strength. Mama always said, “You do what you have to do.”

“It’s all right, Blackie,” she said to calm herself as much as the dog, and grabbed the next one. Three dogs to go. Good thing she liked dogs. Back home she’d been the only one who could handle their wolfhound, and here the dogs responded to her easily.
The young man grabbed the dog nearest him. “I apologize, miss!” he shouted over the cacophony of barking.

Elizabeth nodded toward him, but didn’t speak. She wouldn’t know if damage had been done until they could look at the dogs more carefully, and the temperature was too far below zero to stand around talking anyway. Blood rushed in her veins as she grabbed the next dog in line and pulled him backwards away from the fight that erupted between her lead dog and one from the other team. This was the first time she’d jumped in to do something without being told to, and she stood a little taller when she straightened. Elizabeth turned toward the lead dog.

“Libby! Vicky!” Papa’s voice called through the alder thicket.

“Over here!” Elizabeth moved the next dog back, stepped over, grabbed Comet by his back legs and hauled him away from the other dog. Comet wiggled in defiance, but stopped snarling.

“Now, calm down. You need to set an example here,” Elizabeth said to the lead dog. She pulled on Comet’s lead until the team was a safe distance away.

“I reckon I was going too fast and didn’t see your dogs in time. I’m glad you’re not hurt.” For the first time Elizabeth looked directly at him. His parka hood fell back as the young man shook his head. True concern shone on his face. Light brown hair and forget-me-not blue eyes showed above the wool scarf wrapped around his neck and chin.

Her heartbeat had slowed to a dull thump until she saw those beautiful eyes.

“Well, the teams are untangled now,” she said as a sign of forgiveness.

“Are you all right, little one?” he called to Victoria.
“I’m not little. I’m six!” she called back over the racket of dogs.

The young man chuckled and pressed his right hand to Elizabeth’s.
“James Garrett, headed for Fairbanks.”

“Elizabeth Robinson, and this is my little sister Victoria.” She matched his grip, firm for one who looked to be only a year or two older than her seventeen. “We’re headed to Fairbanks, too, with my parents. My father is the new manager at the NCC store. My mother and his assistant are ahead of us on the trail.” She pointed.
His brow furrowed. “It seems I headed in the wrong direction after my last stop.”

Elizabeth started to laugh.

Papa’s large frame burst through the willows, then he slowed. He swept Victoria up in his arms and plowed through the snow toward them.

“Anyone hurt?”

“No, Papa.” Elizabeth indicated her companion with a tilt of her head. “Mr. James Garrett.”

Mr. Garrett made a slight bow. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Robinson.”
Papa’s normally smiling face was bright red. “Do you realize what you just did?”

“Um, well, I accidentally ran my dogs into yours,” James said as he brushed snow off his fur parka.

“My girls could have been hurt, or even killed!” Papa bellowed.

Elizabeth had never seen Papa so angry.

 

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A Bride for the Sheriff

First loves are not always true loves…

After four years of waiting for fiancé Cal Davidson to return, Claire Secord moves to frontier Omaha to start a new life. After all, many men did disappear during The War Between the States. Running the family mercantile keeps her busy days but at night she dreams of Cal and the life they’d planned.

Handsome sheriff Tom Maxwell befriends Claire and they begin a warm yet casual romance. When Claire is kidnapped and carried off, she must employ all her faith, skills and intellect to survive until Tom can find her.

Reuniting they discover their true feelings and become engaged. Back in Omaha, Claire discovers Cal waiting and expecting her to return east as his bride.

Now she must decide between honor and commitment with her first love or a future of passion and excitement with her true love.

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Jewell Tweedt

 

“Omaha! Ommaaaaha!” the conductor bellowed as he strode through the railcar. Claire opened her eyes, squinting in the early afternoon light. People rose, stretched and gathered their belongings.

I’m here; I’m finally here! After a quick prayer of thanks for her safe deliverance, she reached for her trunk and hatboxes.

The weight of her pistol, hidden deeply in a skirt pocket, banged against her thigh. I might be young like Mrs. Buckley said, but I am a crackerjack shot thanks to Daddy’s instruction. No one would get the best of his little girl. Claire had secretly kept up with her shooting and found great pleasure in her very unladylike skill.

She clambered down the steps to the boardwalk outside the depot and swiveled her head. Surely Gin would meet the arrival of her train. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. The other passengers had departed, and the porter was nowhere in sight.

Perhaps Ginny was busy at the store. That must be it. No bother, I shall ask directions. It can’t be far.

She set her chin, squared her shoulders, and drew her belongings near. Just then, a young man sporting a silver badge stepped up to her. “Miss Secord?”

“Yes?” Claire jumped hearing her name.

“Miss Secord, I am Sheriff Thomas Maxwell, and I’d like to welcome you to Omaha.” He smiled, revealing perfect teeth and deep dimples.

“Well, thank you, but I was expecting my aunt, Virginia Weikert.”

“Yes, I know, that’s why I’m here.” He looked everywhere but Claire’s face. He twisted his Stetson in his large, calloused hands and gazed over her shoulder. Taking a deep breath, he tried again. This time he gazed into her eyes and spoke in a gentle voice that Claire imagined he used to soothe his horses.

“Miss Secord, I’m sorry to tell you this, but we buried your aunt about six hours ago.”

Claire gasped, her vision blurred, and her knees buckled. She was barely aware of strong arms wrapping around her waist.

Tom eased the woman to a bench, supported her with one arm, and fanned her face. “Miss Secord, are you all right?”

Darn, what do I do now? Darn! Wake up, lady! Wake up! He stopped fanning and gazed at her. Long lashes fluttered against creamy skin. Silky auburn tendrils framed her face. He reached out to stroke her cheek and yanked his hand back just in time.

Slowly, Claire opened her eyes, and he was struck by her anguish. He released his grip on her waist, and she slumped a bit. Grasping for his broad shoulder, she pulled herself up against the hard bench.

“Oh. Excuse me.” She jerked her hand back as if it were on fire and huddled on the bench.

“Think nothing of it. Miss Secord, two days ago your aunt was struck down by a team of runaway horses. She died instantly. If it’s any consolation, it was a right nice service. Pastor Stevens did a fine job and many townsfolk turned out to pay their respects. The cemetery is just a mile or so from here. And she has a lovely resting place.”

A sob escaped from the woman. She cast her eyes down and struggled to speak. “I’m sure it is, Sheriff Maxwell. I’m indebted to you and the town.” Claire suddenly stared up at him, eyes brimming with tears. “Please, please take me to her gravesite.” She stood then staggered as if she might fall over again any second. Tom wasn’t quite certain how to react to the distraught woman. He cleared his throat. “Perhaps you should rest a bit more. There’ll be time for that tomorrow.” He glanced at the sun’s position. “No doubt you’ve had a long day. It’s nearly dusk and time for me to be getting you home and settled.”

“I’ll be all right now.” She wiped away a tear with the back of her gloved hand. “But I don’t have a home.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Jewell Tweedt was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, the setting for A Bride for the Sheriff and the other Nebraska Brides books. She lives in western Iowa and divides her time between teaching middle school students and writing. In her spare time she reads, gardens and walks while plotting out new stories.  Readers can learn more about Jewell and her books at www.tweedtjewell.blogspot.com

Lineage by Anna Marie Kittrell

Bianca can’t walk away from her family—she’ll have to run.

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father, and the wicked schemes of another—with no way to escape.

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 Anna Marie Kittrell

 

“Who is he?” I asked. It was strange meeting Dad’s weary gaze over a vase of wild lilacs. We never kept flowers in the house.

“Let’s put these with the others for now.” He stood slowly, like a man twice his age, and placed the vase alongside the various plants and funeral bouquets lining the countertop. “Do you want a glass of ice tea?” he asked, opening the fridge.

“No, thanks, Dad. Sit back down. We need to talk.” I was anxious to find out what caused him to act so weird at the cemetery. In my whole life, I’d never seen my father disrespect anyone until today, when he refused to shake hands with Chase Archer.

“How about a piece of chicken? The church sent over enough to feed an army.”

He was avoiding the conversation.

“Can we just get on with it?” I asked, frustrated. “Who is this Chase guy, and why didn’t you want him at Mom’s funeral?”

Dad shut the refrigerator, plodded to the kitchen table, and repositioned himself in the chair across from me. “It’s difficult to know where to start.” He raked a hand through his hair.

“Don’t beat around the bush, Dad. Just say it.”

He took a deep breath and blew it out. “That man you were talking to…at the funeral…”

“Yes. Chase Archer.” I nodded slowly.

“He—” Dad dropped his head to his hands. “Oh, God, please, help me say this,” he cried hoarsely.

My chest tightened. Whatever this was about, it was a big deal.

He raised his head and returned his gaze to mine. “Bee, that man is your biological father.”

My brain scrambled, as if someone lifted my head from my shoulders and shook it like a box of puzzle pieces. I pressed my fingers between my eyebrows. “Whatever. Good one, Dad.”

Dad was pretty clever, I’d give him that. I could see how he’d think I’d fall for it—with me and Chase having the same hair color.

“I wish I was joking, but I’m not.” Dad’s voice was a rough whisper.

The truth hurts. I swallowed the sob working its way up my throat and blinked back the sting of tears. The truth hurt, all right. Like an overinflated basketball bulging through my eye sockets.

“Honeybee, I’m so sorry you have to learn this now, the same day we buried your mother. Of all days, why did he have to show up today? He knew how distraught we’d be. Just as selfish as he always was.” Dad frowned and cut his eyes to the wall.

“Selfish?” I snorted. “Don’t you think you and Mom were selfish, not telling me who my own father is?” Hysterics rattled my ribcage like angry prisoners. I couldn’t hold them in much longer.

He reached for my hand.

I jerked it to my lap. “No. Just talk. Please.”

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna has written stories for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations, leftovers she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime, written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years. She is thrilled to learn some people now believe her tales to be worth more than ten cents.

Anna resides in small town Oklahoma with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband Tim, and their teenaged daughter Brandilyn. Anna works as secretary of her hometown middle school—the greatest place on earth this side of Disney World.

 

Autumn Dreams

 

 

Maggie arrives at her new teaching job, planning to board with a family she’s prepared to like. What she isn’t ready for is her landlady’s brother, Marshall, who seems to hate her on sight. She is captivated by Ellen’s six-year-old daughter Emma who is having identity problems facing the arrival of a new baby in the family. When Ellen goes into labor in the middle of a storm, Maggie must face her fears for Ellen’s sake. Along the way, she helps a family grow closer, but what about her hopes for the future? Can she get past the wall Marshall has set up? Does she really have a future here amongst the people she has grown to care for?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Sharon McGregor

 

Maggie Lawrence pushed a curling tendril of dark brown hair from her face. She looked around the empty train platform, considering her next move. The train was strangely on time, a possibility her greeter might not have considered. She picked up a suitcase in each hand and sat down on a bench facing the tracks. The day was warm and sunny with a slight breeze to keep things comfortable, a typical late August morning in a 1949 prairie town.

She had nearly dozed off in the sunshine when she heard a deep voice beside her.

“Miss Lawrence?”

She jumped up quickly, knocking one suitcase on its side as she did. “Yes.” It was then she looked up into a set of piercing blue eyes surrounded by a well-tanned face that was set, maybe not in disapproval, but certainly not in welcome.

Maggie had just barely arrived and already she was on the wrong foot. I wonder what I’ve done now? It was a question she often asked her older sister, Dora, who was usually quick to set her straight on her transgressions.

“Sorry I’m late. I had a stop to make at the hardware store first.” At least she knew where she ranked in priority. “Is this all?”

She nodded and he picked up the biggest case. She followed quickly with the smaller one.

“Mr. Thornhill…” she began.

“Matthews, actually,” he said. “I’m just standing in.”

She waited for an explanation that never came. Oh, well. She gave a shrug. At least once she got there she wouldn’t have to cope with him. She hoped the Thornhills were more communicative.

In the parking area stood a green wagon hitched to a pair of huge black horses. A dark blue sedan sat a few yards farther. I certainly hope he belongs to the car.

He stared at her with an expression of slight contempt. Was her fear of horses that obvious? Maggie felt great relief as he led her to the car and pushed her cases into the back seat. Then, seemingly as an afterthought, he opened the passenger door for her.

After one or two comments about the weather, which he answered monosyllabically, she gave up and spent the rest of the ten-mile ride looking at the passing countryside. They turned left on the highway and slowed on the gravel road. She managed a covert sideways glance at her driver, who was concentrating on keeping the car straight on fresh gravel.

Good-looking, definitely. Even features, a strong, straight nose, sun wrinkles around those striking blue eyes, and a mouth that could have been described as generous, even though its firm set was not. She wondered what had caused those unforgiving lines in such a young man. He couldn’t have been long out of his twenties, perhaps not much older than her own twenty-five years. Perhaps he’d been in the war. That would account for the care lines.

The road was narrow and sided by grassy ditches that now held water. There must have been a heavy rain recently. The ditches were broken up on both sides by lanes leading into farmyards, each fronted by a mailbox on a post. She felt a sudden tingle and glanced to the side just in time to see her driver’s glance slide away.

So, Mr. Matthews might disapprove, but he was interested enough in his passenger to give her the once-over when he thought she wasn’t looking.

They turned a corner and he slowed at the next mailbox. The lane was blocked by a barbed-wire fence with a gate, and he jumped out to open it. He moved smoothly, a man whose muscles did his bidding effortlessly. At the end of the lane, they rounded a corner and came to a stop in front of a two-story, white farmhouse. To the right was a grey, unpainted barn. Dotted around the yard were a garage, a couple of granaries, a clothesline filled with white sheets, and a large woodpile. A red tractor, hitched to a set of harrows, stood beside the garage.

This was going to be Maggie’s home for the next year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon McGregor is a Canadian author who has recently transplanted to the west coast. She has written humour, romance and mystery for magazines such as Sasee, Long and Short Romance, Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine and Horizon as well as stories for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not fighting with her cat Zoey for control of the computer keyboard, she is working at her ice cream shop or her bath and body shop.

www.prismbookgroup.com

The Forgotten Princess of Elmetia

A tale of grace, forgiveness, and love as a forgotten princess seeks to reclaim her true identity. 

It is 616AD, and one fatal night the ancient Kingdom of Elmetia falls. Saxons kill the Elmetian King, and capture Princess Teagen.

Teagen poses as a slave girl and works for the Saxons in the Kingdom of Deira, until she discovers her brother is alive. She finds a way to escape, and her path crosses with Ryce the Warrior.

Struggling with his past and angry against the tyrant Saxon king, Ryce helps the princess in pursuit of her brother. But just as the connection between them intensifies, obstacles get in their way. The Saxon king now wants vengeance, and will stop at nothing to get it.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Rachel James

 

616 AD

The Kingdom of Elmetia

Teagen scrambled under the table as the first fire-drenched arrow shot through the sky. Within seconds, thatched rooftops blazed and smoke bellowed throughout the palace. Frantic screams replaced the joyful music playing moments before.

“Princess,” Teagen’s nurse hissed from behind a wooden bench. “Are ye injured?”

“Nay.” She cast a wary glance as the battle unfolded before her. “What’s happening? Is it Saxons?”

Her nurse stretched her arm over and stroked her hair. “Aye, princess. Seems to be. Now stay put here while I find yer brother.”

Teagen flinched. “Don’t leave me Dera, please—Niall will be with Papa, they’ll be safe.”

Dera’s face paled. “I hope not, lassie, for yer brother’s sake, I pray he’s not.”

What could she mean? Was Papa in trouble?

She jumped out from her hiding place. “Then I’ll come with ye—”

Dera pushed her down firmly. “Nay, ‘tis not safe. Whatever ye do, do not let them capture ye, understand?”

She nodded, dumbfounded as Dera disappeared.

Grabbing the bottom of her long silk dress, she covered her face in an attempt to subdue the nausea that welled within. She wouldn’t look. She couldn’t. Where was Papa? She needed him right now, to hold her, and keep her safe.

 “Teagen.”

A wave of relief washed over her. “Papa!” Teagen ran toward him, tears threatening her eyes.

“Shhh, lassie.” Her father scooped her up and headed for the kitchen just off the Great Hall. He opened a small stone cupboard and placed her inside.

“Stay in here, do ye understand? Do not come out until yer brother gets ye.”

“Please don’t leave me, Papa. Everyone keeps leaving me.” She tasted the salty tears that streamed her face.

Her father stroked her cheek. “Oh, lassie, I love ye so much. Ye know this, don’t ye?”

She nodded.

“Now be a brave girl and stay put.”

She gave her father a lingering hug and breathed in his comforting musky scent, her eyes averting his blood stained tunic. As he shut the cupboard door, the sound of the latch closing sent shivers through her body. The darkness did not mask the coldness of the damp stone walls, or the stale air which stifled her breathing. A sob lodged in her throat. I need to be brave for Papa.

Muffled sounds from outside grew louder—the clash of iron on iron, the collapse of buildings, and cries for help.

“King Ceretic is dead!”

Teagen stopped breathing. It could not be true.

“And what of the rest of the family?”

“Not yet found.”

“We do not leave until they are dead. Burn everything, and gather the survivors—we’ll take them to the slave market.”

She squeezed her eyes together, shutting out the fuzzy sensation that threatened to overtake her. Please, God. Nay. There surely must be some mistake.

Teagen could wait no longer. Despite her father’s strict instructions, she pushed open the door and fell on the kitchen floor. She gasped in a huge breath of air and scrambled to the doorway. Soldiers littered the outside, and in the centre, stood the Saxon King—Edwin the Tyrant. Her stomach lurched as she saw the remains of her father’s body.

Oh, Heavenly Father.

She collapsed to the ground. If her father was dead, it meant her brother Niall would likely be too. She studied the hem of her fine tunic and caressed the intricate beading Dera had sewn on the day before.

She stiffened. If they discovered her true identity as the king’s daughter, she too would be slain. She had to get out of these clothes. Her eyes rested on the dead bodies piled up outside the kitchen entrance and her heart broke as she spotted one of her friends lying on the ground. She kept low, reached out and pulled her friend further inside the kitchen.

“I’m sorry, Hilda,” she whispered to the girl, “but I’m going to need yer clothes. Ye won’t have use for them anymore.” She closed the girl’s eyelids, said a quick prayer, and removed the simple tunic and redressed her young friend in her own grand attire.

She ran out of the kitchen and toward the oak tree at the top of the hill, knowing she would be seen. She perched under a sloping branch and gazed out—her entire world ablaze. Soldiers rummaged through the dead bodies looking for valuables to keep for themselves. Teagen covered her ears as cries penetrated the night. Curling herself into a ball, she cradled her arms around her knees and rocked herself back and forth watching her kingdom fall. They were coming for her, it was simply a matter of time. To survive this night, her identity would have to be forgotten.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Rachel is a mum of three, a pastor’s wife and a Christian writer. She lives in rural England, is passionate about writing, drinking tea and absolutely loves a good romance story! She writes to entertain, inspire and encourage others in their own Christian walk, hoping to reveal God’s character through written form.

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