WRONGFULLY ACCUSED…

STRIPPED OF THE GOOD LIFE HE’S BUILT FOR HIMSELF…

WILL HE STAY FAITHFUL TO GOD?

 

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

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Kevin Mark Smith

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Dose of a Deal – Won’t Last Long!

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Her refuge invaded, her serenity shattered, her heart captured…

 When researcher, Grace Talbot, and her team discover a possible solution for weight loss, they become targets of a group dedicated to controlling the multi-billion dollar a year diet-product industry. Her unsanctioned testing methods bring tragedy to the family ranch, and the attention of the local sheriff’s deputy. With her colleagues dead, missing, and on the run, she soon realizes she must trust the deputy with her life, but can she trust him with her heart?

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Roped

Thirteen-year-old Crissy Crosby chases a dream to live up to her parents’ rodeo legacy. But the rodeo championship is two months away and problems beyond her ability to solve stack and teeter like a game of Tumbling-Towers. Meanwhile rival Jodie Lea and her father, Ed Fairgate, contrive to swipe the silver buckles from Crissy’s grasp any way they can.

Prejudice, anger, and dark secrets simmer in a pot of family feuds destined to boil over in a tragic nightmare at the rodeo. Will Crissy develop courage and faith to overcome the consequences of her temper? Will her dreams of buckles and titles become reality? Or will the character-building adversities of her life quash her dreams forever?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 DiAne Mills

I wiped slick palms on my jeans and shuffled the reins from one hand to the other. I’d done this a hundred times before. But tonight. Tonight was different. Tonight ended my last season in the junior rodeo division, and if I couldn’t win here, I’d have no chance with the seniors next year.

“Buckle’s mine tonight, Crissy.” Jimmy Henry’s comment sounded more like a question than trash talk, but a cocky grin wrinkled his freckles and I wondered who he was trying to convince.

All I needed was a catch, a hold, and a flip and I’d show ‘em all. Four quick twists of my rope and that goat would be on the ground. And the buckle would be all mine.

Crissy Crosby, you’re on deck.”

The announcer’s voice caused a flutter to skip through my stomach. I patted Lollipop’s soft chestnut neck and whispered in her ear, “That’s us, girl. We’re up. Three more minutes.”

Papa wore a rodeo championship buckle. Mama had stacks of barrel racing buckles. The buckles Daddy wore for bull riding were gynormous—bunches of ‘em.

And me? I’d won nothing. Nada. Thirteen years old and no championship, not one single silver buckle.

I sighed and my shoulders sneaked up to my ears. Next year I’d be a teensy tadpole in a terrifying pond of competition. My heart pounded like a stampede of spooked steers. And I could feel the tension in the arena rising thick as a rib-eye—rarin’ to go.

The rodeo was a barn-blazing sellout tonight. Folks packed into the Terrell arena like the stinky fish my papa ate in the peel-back tin. All the cowboys and cowgirls stomped, whooped, and hollered, anxious for the competition to begin. The aroma of fried everything hovered in the night air.

Lollipop pawed the ground. Somewhere behind me a bull kicked the hollow iron pipes of his stall. The clanging sent a ripple of restlessness through the stock. Talk about luck of the draw. Sure hoped that wasn’t my bull.

Glitzy costumes of the other competitors scattered rainbows of light around the dusty arena. While my third-generation, blue-checkered shirt and grungy jeans left me feeling like leftovers. No glittery stuff for me. No sequins. No rhinestones. Just boring. Dull and boring me.

I tugged my old black hat down to my ears and hunched over the saddle horn so Lollipop could hear me. “Look at that Jodie Lea Fairgate in her Miss Me jeans and Reba blouse. Thinks she’s hot stuff. Well, it’s gonna take more‘n powder and paint to beat us.”

Lollipop shivered and tossed her mane.

Why the sequins and fringe on that gal’s shirt woulda made three outfits. All the clothes in my closet don’t cost halfa what she’s wearing tonight.

The buzzer squawked.

Prickles raced from my scalp to my toes, then took a lap up my legs, and around again.

“Crissy Crosby and her horse, Lollipop.” The man’s voice blared over the PA system and the spotlight swept down the alley and focused on me and my giant sorrel.

The crowd roared again. Louder this time.

“Time to get that buckle, Lollipop.” I waved to the fans, squared my hat, and shot my thumb toward heaven. Smooching to Lollipop and with a flick of the reins and a kick to the stirrups, I yelled, “Get the goat!” My chestnut mare and I exploded out of the alley and the swirling spotlights followed us into the arena.

Lollipop’s hoofs pounded the Texas turf and closed the distance to the little brown goat determined to outmaneuver us. She overtook the four-legged target, paced herself alongside, and waited for my command.

Another flick of the reins, and Lollipop slowed.

I swung the rope once over my head and let it fly. The loop hung for a second and then dropped—right on target. My body poured from the saddle like liquid steel and tempered the instant my feet hit the dirt. I grabbed the goat and seconds squeezed into freeze-framed time.

The contentious critter swerved to a slow-mo turn and tried to hook me with his wanna-be horns.

Jumping back, I twisted sideways, grabbed Billy Goat Gruff around the belly, and flipped him over. Seemed like it took a zillion twists of my rope before all four legs were tied tight.

I leaped to my feet, threw my arms in the air, and let a Miss-Hollywood grin take my face captive.

The clock flashed 4.537 seconds. A winning time.

The crowd stood and chanted, again and again, “Cris-sy, Cris-sy, Cris-sy!”

I snatched my old Stetson out of the dirt, slapped it against my leg, and squared the rim on my head. And waited. Waited for the buzzer to sound and qualify my time. Time dripped like tree sap.

And my heart dropped to my boots.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Texas writer, DiAne Gates, illustrates and writes fiction for children, YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the Church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order as evidenced by her blog Moving the Ancient Boundaries,http://dianegates.wordpress.com

Under contract with Prism Book Group for her YA novel Roped, DiAne reported and worked as a photographer for the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association. She had the opportunity to be in the rodeo arena, feel the sting of Texas turf in her face and across her camera lens, which gave birth to this western rodeo adventure and it’s sequel Twisted.

DiAne leads two edit groups for North Texas Christian Writers, LifeSavers for adults, and PageMasters for teens. She is a GriefShare facilitator, an international support ministry for those who’ve lost loved ones.

Wife, mother, and grandmother, her passion to share those hard life lessons God has taught her will hopefully leap from the page into your heart.

 www.prismbookgroup.com

Border Danger

Does his offer of friendship host a hidden motive?

Religion is an important part of Nita Johnson’s life. Whenever confronted with a difficult or unsure situation, she seeks God’s direction and guidance. When Nita finds herself attracted to the agent training her, she questions if he is the one for her…after all, not only is he known as “The Resident Torturer” by his trainees, but his relationship with God isn’t on friendly terms.

A traumatic event forced Agent Craig Sawyer to give up on God. Having experienced the deep sting of loss, he vows never to develop a close bond with anybody ever again. He battles his desire to pursue a relationship with Nita, but loses the fight. When her life is in danger, will he turn back to God?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 Alice Wootson

Monday morning, Craig stood facing the line of trainees. “I know you’ve all had some training in self-defense. If not before, at least when Officer Young taught you earlier. Let’s see if we can add a little something to what you already know.”

As Craig walked down the line, he pinned each with a stare before he moved to the next.

“Wonder what nightmare he cooked up for us over the weekend,” Tammy, at the end of the line, murmured to Nita. Nita opened her mouth to respond, but never got a word out.

“Johnson,” Craig barked. “Front and center. You got time to talk. Let’s see what you got.”

Nita stepped forward. She didn’t bother to hope that another Johnson had entered the program over the weekend. Neither did she point out that she wasn’t the one talking. Instead, she took a deep breath and then stepped forward to meet her fate. The worse that could happen was that he’d kill her and put her out of her misery. She wasn’t sure that would be so bad. She tilted her head slightly to the side and met his glare with one of her own.

Craig stood in place and held her stare for a second, then frowned. “Maybe I should use somebody else?”

How am I supposed to respond to that? Nita continued to look at Craig. Is that a trick question? Is this a test of some kind? Is he playing mind games with me? I wonder would happen if I say, ‘Yeah, pick some other victim.’ Probably the other person would kill me if he or she were still alive after he finished with them. Instead of answering, Nita stood and waited.

“I’ll take your lack of response to mean that you’re all right with this.” Craig frowned at her a few seconds longer then moved his gaze to cover the rest of the class standing behind Nita. “Okay. Most of the undocumented people you’ll encounter, if you complete your training and get the chance to get into the field, will be untrained, only poor folks trying to find a better life in the land of opportunity.” He paced slowly in front of the group, but his stare kept swinging back to Nita every few seconds. “It’s the others we have to watch out for, the smaller percentage trying to gain entry for other purposes. That’s where the danger is. It’s gotten worse lately. Those intruders have more experience than the others.”

As Craig moved, Nita listened to his words but concentrated on his movements. Her gaze never left him. Whenever she saw him tense, her body automatically did the same less than a second later, but she never moved from her spot.

Craig kept talking, and Nita kept her attention split between what he was saying and what he was doing. She had honed that skill as she worked with the Conroe police SWAT team.Come on, SWAT training, she pleaded. Don’t fail me now.

Each time Craig passed her, Nita shifted her weight to accommodate his new position, but her feet stayed in place.

As he walked, Craig continued his lecture. “The drug smugglers are a mixed group. Some are mules, people recruited to act as go-betweens, carrying the product from suppliers south of the border to the pushers here in the states. They have no long-term ties to the drug trade. If they succeed, they get paid a lot of money. If they don’t…” Craig shrugged. “If we capture them, and if they don’t die from a drug overdose because balloons full of poison burst in their stomachs, the amount we catch them with is small compared with what we think gets through, carried by those we fail to apprehend. Few, if any, of those have any self-defense training.” He stopped walking and his glare hardened.

I wouldn’t want to be one of the ones caught by Officer Sawyer while I was doing something illegal, Nita thought. That glare is almost enough to make the person on the receiving end of it drop dead from fright. She cleared her mind and listened as Craig continued.

“Most mules are inexperienced. Many are users trying to pay off a debt or trying to score a stash. We’ve apprehended college students on the way home from vacation who figured to make some easy cash and add a little excitement to their lives.”

Craig walked slowly to the far end of the room, paused, then turned and walked back toward the center.

Nita’s stare followed him as he got closer. Her body tensed. She hoped she was ready for what he had in mind whenever he decided to make his move.

Craig continued. “Even within the drug-runners, we have two groups. The second faction is made of those you might need this training for. They come to establish a foothold in a drug territory. These runners don’t carry much, but they’re deadly, because this trip is their chance to move up in the organization. Think salesmen. They’re trying to carve out a place for themselves, and will use any means necessary. They don’t care if the territory is in control of another gang. Many of these newcomers come from Central and South America. Mexico is the last leg of their trip before we encounter them.” Craig’s tightened his jaw. “Their street savvy and training can rival ours, only theirs has more of an edge to it. They don’t mind risking their lives, and they have to be good to survive to reach that point, to make it that high up in the organization. To them this is war. Often they’ve killed in Mexico—police and Mexican Border Patrol Officers have been some of their victims. Too many times, innocent civilians have been caught in the crossfire. Our neighboring city across the border from Laredo, Nuevo Laredo, is a battleground in the streets almost every night between the authorities and the illegal drug organization. Fortunately, the good guys usually win the battle but not always. Unfortunately for us, we can’t tell them apart from the…” He lunged at Nita.

She controlled her gasp at his speed and sidestepped him at the last second. Instead of being off-balance as Nita expected him to be, Craig spun around and came back at her immediately.

She tried to block out the scattered gasps and murmurs from the other trainees. It was just her and Craig.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Greenhowe Wootson grew up in Rankin, a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and a Masters’ Degree in Education from Cheyney University. She earned a Reading Specialist Certification and Principal Certification as well.

Alice Wootson is an award-winning author of eleven novels and an award-winning poet who is a member of The Philadelphia Writers Conference, Romance Writers of America, The Authors Guild and the Mad Poets Society.

She spent several winters in Brownsville, Texas and was fascinated at how close it is to the Mexican border and how easy it is to travel back and forth. She decided to use the area as a setting for a novel. ‘Border Love’ her eleventh novel, is the result. ‘Border Danger’ followed.

Alice is very active. She walks for exercise every day and says it helps her collect her thoughts. She presents writing workshops, meets with book clubs and group of readers and is a member of several ministries at her church: Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia. She loves to travel and usually spends the winter in Florida where she is involved in a local church ministry.

When Alice Wootson is not writing her next novel or spending time with family, she’s caught up in reading.

A Firefly Life

Careful what you wish for…

It’s 1968 and Melanie is turning thirteen. It seems like everyone is growing up faster than she is, but that doesn’t stop her from being an incurable romantic. When a gorgeous new boy shows up in her boring, small town, she’ll do anything to be noticed by him.

When an unexpected sequence of events lands her the job of trusted babysitter for his unusual little sister, Melanie is thrilled to be admitted to his inner circle. But then she has to figure out what really matters—a chance to be around him or staying true to her family and her best friend.

Read this dramatic coming-of-age story and be immersed in a time of turmoil and change in the heart of one memorable young girl.

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 Linda Wolf Shew

 

The lion boy stood waist-deep in the pool. There was no other way to describe him.

Melanie’s magazine dropped to her lap and the watery racket of children’s voices around her faded to a soft hum. The boy held his back and neck with regal straightness, surveying his surroundings with fierce disdain. His eyes flickered at various points around the pool. He was an exotic, caged animal looking for a way out.

Where on Earth did he come from?

Those eyes. What an astonishing shade of deep ocean blue. His princely mouth appeared displeased and amused at the same time. Blond hair hung low over his eyes. She noticed his lean, muscular body, but those eyes seemed to leap from him like wild beasts. How had such a gorgeous guy appeared out of nowhere to stand stock-still in the middle of the Alma Corners Community Pool, while the little kids from town bobbed, splashed, and flailed all around him?

Not like the usual weasel boys and frog boys. Wait till I tell Jo.

As Melanie stole repeated glances at him, he froze as if posing for a photographer. Though he never looked right at her, he pulled her attention to him like a powerful magnet.

Maybe he was a lifeguard. He looked a little young. Melanie scanned the sides of the pool and located the usual lifeguards. She pretended to be reading her magazine for a minute in case any of them caught her staring at the amazing stranger. Nearby snored Mrs. Murphy, who always brought her kids to the pool and fell asleep in a lounge chair.

That boy was probably from the City. She grimaced at the gaily striped plastic chairs strewn around like this was a posh pool at a resort instead of the dingy old YMCA pool. She wished she wasn’t sitting so close to Mrs. Murphy.

What if he thinks she’s my mother?

Melanie shrank away from the sight of Mrs. Murphy’s cavernous mouth yawning open to catch a breath before the next robust snore.

Maybe the royal visitor was someone’s cousin from out of town. She nodded to herself. That had to be it. No one who looked like that would ever actually move to Alma Corners.

He looked up and she followed his gaze. Diane Harman and Jessie Udall were walking out of the women’s locker room, swinging their towels and whispering. She watched his cool appraisal of them with a familiar thudding sensation in her chest. Guys were always impressed with Jessie’s long model legs and brassy blonde hair. She lowered her eyes to her magazine, forcing herself to concentrate on the pictures of this month’s teen idol, as the mystery boy climbed out of the water to head toward Jessie.

“Figures.” She sighed, gritting her teeth, as she watched him grab one end of Jessie’s towel and give it a playful tug. She hated Jessie’s loud, fake laugh, and that snorty giggle Diane always trotted out when boys were around.

Melanie tried to plump up her thin, mousy-brown hair and scanned her legs in disapproval. There they lay, sprawled out and unglamorous against the cracked cement: skinny calves, knobby knees, and sturdy farm-girl ankles. She sniffed and clutched the magazine to her chest, trying not to think about the fact that nearly all the other girls in eighth grade were wearing real bras by now.

Her unkind inventory was interrupted by a screech of pain from the middle of the pool.

“Mellie!” her little sister, Susan, yelled from the pool’s edge. Her tiny fingers were white with the effort to hang on. “They’re beating up on Terry again!”

Melanie stood up so fast that her magazine went flying and landed with a slap on Mrs. Murphy’s thigh, waking her up in mid-snore. “Sorry!” Melanie called sheepishly as she hurried to the water’s edge.

She half considered diving in with her t-shirt on. The last thing she wanted was that boy to see was her little-girl body in the unbecoming old bathing suit she wore.

It was funny how she could spot Terry right away in a crowd as if she had radar for him. She took one look at his frantic expression and ripped off the t-shirt, diving into the water over Susan’s outstretched little hand.

Her face and arms felt red and hot, even in the swirling cold water, and she surfaced to swim recklessly toward her wailing younger brother. Kids jostled against her legs as she strode with increasing fury toward Frankie Harman’s freckled, jeering face. Her dark blue eyes were fixed on him, trying to burn a hole through his wide front teeth.

“Uh-oh, look out! Hey, Shrimp Boat, Melon Head’s comin’ to rescue you!” Frankie teased and backed away toward his friends with a nervous grin toward the lifeguards.

There was something about a bigger kid tormenting a smaller kid that always enraged Melanie. It was if a gun went off inside her gut somewhere, and she had to keep moving or she would explode. Terry had always been very small for his age. Even the girls in his third grade class were starting to tower over him. She clenched her fists and stood in front of her brother to face his sniggering oppressors.

“I didn’t even touch him!” Frankie taunted. “He just starts cryin’ whenever he sees me ’cause he’s scared of me.”

Melanie turned to Terry who was hiccupping and looking off toward the lockers. “What happened?” she growled. Terry’s watery blue eyes met hers for a moment, then he shrugged and hung his head, his long lashes casting a shadow on his thin, elfish face.

“See?” Frankie crowed. “He’s just a little baby.”

When Melanie turned back from studying her brother, Tommy Boynton caught her in the face with a wicked slap splash and the whole group of boys collapsed in laughter as she spluttered and wiped her stinging eyes. They scattered, howling, as she lunged after them. And then came the deep boom of the voice that Melanie would hear in her dreams for nights to come. It was Andy, the creepy high school lifeguard who always made fun of the junior high kids.

“Melanie Bell,” the huge voice intoned, commanding instant attention. She felt her shoulders withering like old weeds as everyone turned to look at her. “Go wipe your brother’s nose. No boogers in the pool!”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Shew Wolf grew up in Ithaca, New York. She graduated from Cornell University and went on to play saxophone in an R&B band in Chicago, where she met her husband, Bobby, a fellow musician. After raising two children, they both returned to performing, and she also rekindled her lifelong passion for writing fiction. She now works as a curriculum consultant for elementary and middle school students in Chicago, sharing her love of writing and music with young people of all ages.

 

 www.prismbookgroup.com

To Soar on Eagle’s Wings

Spring’s in the air. While the sun shines in Timber Springs, snow falls on the Snowy Range, and trouble’s brewing in the meadows. The area’s new game warden, Steve Mitchell launches his first wildlife investigation of the season but the trouble follows him—straight to town.

Rachel Fitzgerald’s on Spring Break. Or at least she’s trying. Between paperwork, and harassing phone calls, she may as well have stayed in her classroom. So much for relaxation. A ‘chance’ meeting with her brother’s old roommate offers her weary soul a shred of hope, but she discovers love, like life, isn’t easy.

He talks with the wisdom of the Lord but rejects the future. She wants to soar with the eagles but walks alone. And trusting God proves to be more of a challenge than ever before…

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Renee Blare

Uneasiness stirred within her. Since this trail wasn’t used often except on weekends, she was usually alone. A game warden this far in the high country was a surprise. Game and Fish tended to keep to the more beaten paths. After all, not many people fished this early, and the hunting seasons weren’t until much later.

He removed his helmet, a lock of tousled brown hair landing on his wide forehead. With his elbow propped on the handlebars, a gloved hand brushed across his jaw. Familiar brown eyes studied her over the small windshield.

“Oh.” Her heart skipped a couple of beats, and she stumbled over her tongue. He turned around before she could form a coherent thought. Taking a deep breath, she tried again. “Steve?”

A smashed brown baseball cap materialized in his hand. After a brief squeeze of the bill, he pulled it low on his forehead. “Hey there, angel.”

The strong baritone snapped her attention to his face. Another lurch caught in the deep recesses of her heart. She struggled for composure, finally piecing together a sentence. “What are you doing here?”

His smile grew, and a soft chuckle caressed her ears. Tiny shivers coursed through her, and Rachel rubbed the arms of her coat, the sound scratching at the air.

“Checking things out. You doing okay?” His gaze scanned her gear before latching onto her face.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Getting ready to leave, actually.” A sudden gust blew through the valley, and Rachel breathed in relief when it buffeted her hot cheeks. The quicker, the better.She reached for the ignition switch. Pausing, she followed his hand as he slid his cap back and forth. “Can I help you with anything?”

Rachel admired the man through her lashes as the sun flashed off his dark complexion. With his Italian heritage, Steve appeared the ultimate beach boy. And the way his wide forehead and high cheekbones tapered down into a square jaw, he took her breath away. He always had.

The winter coat accented his broad shoulders and stocky chest. Rachel forced her eyes back up, realizing his gaze had never left her. The beginnings of another blush crept up her cheeks. She diverted her attention, only to catch the hair curling at his neck and squeezed her hand into a fist. She had to leave—fast—before she did something she’d regret.

“Well, I do have one question for you.” He squinted at the sky. “If you don’t mind my asking, how long have you been here?”

She followed his gaze. “About an hour, maybe not even that long. I’m getting ready to head back to town now.”

Rachel studied the changing conditions for the first time since spotting the moose. The blue sky now had a gray hue, and a cold wind whipped through the valley. Clouds hung low, below the peaks, the rocky crags shrouded in a veil of white.

“All I need is to get caught in an early spring dump up here. Dad will have my hide.” Rachel mumbled the last under her breath, kicking the snowmobile in disgust.

“What’s that?” Steve’s brow lifted high.

Her face on fire, she nodded at the clouds. “Oh, nothing. The weather isn’t cooperating, that’s all.”

“Well, you may want to head back while you can.” He shrugged. “I don’t have to tell you how fast things change this time of year, especially at this elevation. Not to mention the avalanche danger right now.”

Rachel stiffened. Yes, she knew it could be unpredictable up here. She knew all about avalanches as well. She narrowed her gaze at Steve. Great, another person ordering me around. What is it with everyone? Why can’t people leave me alone?

“By chance, have you seen his mama around?” Steve interrupted her thoughts, gesturing to the calf digging in the deep snow.

Rachel stared at the moose. His bleats drifted along the gusty wind while he pawed at the ice. Her heart broke at the pathetic little creature.

“No, I did wonder about her though. I know they’re temperamental when they have a calf around, and I didn’t want to be between them. One time, I saw this car. You should’ve seen it, Steve. It was ripped apart.” She stopped abruptly, glancing at him. Her left eye twitched, and she rubbed her lid. Calm down, Rachel.

Steve nodded, his expression neutral. He didn’t say a word but continued to study the animal at the lake’s edge.

Rachel sucked in a breath and focused on the clouds. When her trembling eased, she forced a smile to her face. “Well, I need to head back. Nice to see you again. Make sure you stop by before you go home to Cody.”

Rachel flipped the switch, and the machine started with a rumble. After securing her goggles over her eyes, she lifted her hand in salute. Making a wide circle, she avoided the boulders peeking through the snow.

A sharp stab pierced her chest when she thought of him leaving. Rachel knew she would miss him. She always did and had for a long time.

“Who are you trying to fool, Rachel?”

 

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Gold Nuggets

In the shadow of Denali, she has a home, and he finds adventure.

Charlotte Cooper wants to stay near her parents’ home in Alaska. But her dreams of being a writer call her away to college or work, and she has to choose her own path in life.

Henry Reeves is a wealthy New Yorker seeking a summer adventure when he travels to Kantishna near the proposed Mt. McKinley National Park. He discovers two passions, one for Charlotte, and the other for keeping Alaska wildlife from being wiped out like the buffalo.

Charlotte and Henry find an attraction they can’t deny, but can they build a new life together between the wilderness and high society?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 Lynn Lovegreen

Henry swatted at the mosquitoes again. Charlotte was glad she had a net over her hat. She heard the louder buzz of a bee as she looked for the next bend in the river.

“Oww!”

Stinky wiped the white stubble around his mouth like he was trying not to laugh. “Bees doan like it when you swat ’em.”

Henry inspected his right wrist. “I think I’m allergic to bees.”

“You think you’re allergic?” She hoped he wasn’t.

“Last time I had a bee sting, it got all swollen.”

If that was all, that wouldn’t be too bad. “Well, we’ll see if it happens again.”

“And I had a little trouble breathing. Not very much.”

She took another breath.

“The last time, I was hunting, too. My father and I were deer hunting in the Adirondacks. We spend a lot of time hunting and fishing. I practically grew up outdoors.”

That was probably true by New York standards, but he still seemed like a cheechako to her. A greenhorn.

He scratched at his wrist.

“Don’t scratch it. That’ll make it worse,” she said. It was already pink.

They passed by a creek tumbling down the hills to the east and turned another bend in the river. When she looked at Henry’s wrist again, there was a pink lump. Henry scratched it again as he looked up at an eagle circling overhead.

“Is that an eagle?”

“Yes, a golden eagle. Stop scratching at it. Here, put this over it.” She untied the bandanna from around her neck and tied it over the sting. As she touched his skin, she felt an electric thrill that she hadn’t expected.

“Thank you, Sharon.”

“Charlotte. My name is Charlotte.”

His face was red again when she looked up. “I’m sorry, Charlotte. I keep putting my foot in my mouth. Thank you again, Charlotte.”

He couldn’t even get her name right. Maybe he was just bad at names. Some people were. But she hadn’t felt anything like the sensation when she’d touched his hand. Was it because he was so attractive? Or just part of his vibrant energy?

“You’re welcome.” She was starting to get concerned about his bee sting. It was swelling quite a bit. At least his breathing seemed all right. He was irritating, but she didn’t want him to get sick.

One more turn to the right, and then they were home. They navigated the last stretch and brought the boat in to the loading dock. Charlotte glanced at the bandanna on Henry’s wrist as Daddy and Stinky unloaded the supplies.

“I think we’d better show your bee sting to Mama. She can put something on it for you.” She grabbed his left hand and pulled him toward the house, ignoring the vibration that went through her at touching him.

“Thank you, that’s very kind.”

 

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The Rancher Takes a Cook

When their South Carolina home burns to the ground, Anna Stewart’s only choice is to move with her younger brother to the wilds of a Texas ranch.

Their prospects are beginning to look better, until the rancher’s son, Jacob O’Brien, shows up with his alarmingly blue eyes to put a kink in Anna’s well-controlled plans.

When danger escalates in the form of a band of cattle thieves with deadly intent, can Anna learn to release control to God’s capable hands…and those of the blue-eyed cowboy who’s stolen her heart?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Misty M. Beller

The acrid air was thick and hazy as nineteen-year-old Anna Stewart struggled to sit up in bed. Confused and disoriented, she looked around. What woke her? Her mind refused to focus.

“Anna…” The voice was distant, as if coming from another world. Why is it so hot in my room? Edward must have put too much wood on the fire before bed. She tried to focus on something—anything—but her mind was thick mud and her chest ached.

Need air. The craving consumed her. Bolting from her bed, she ran toward the doorway.Thud. Clang. Her hands hit rough wood and warm metal. Scrambling to her right, she tripped and fumbled for something familiar. Panic rose in her chest. The darkness slowed her down like a sea of murky water, then Anna’s shin struck solid metal and she lost her balance. The floor rose up to meet her, and she landed hard, a moan escaping between gasps.

“Anna.”

Edward’s voice broke through the smoke like the sun parting the clouds. Or maybe it wasn’t her brother, but God calling her home to heaven. The fog in her mind suffocated every thought. And then strong arms lifted her like a limp sack. Thick, smoky air whispered across her skin as she was jostled down the stairs.

* * *

Air. Anna gulped in a blessed breath then forced open her stinging eyes. Her chest was on fire and a coughing fit seized her. Sucking in another breath, she looked around in the dim light. She lay on a rough blanket in the grass, with people scurrying around. Confusion muddled her mind as she struggled to sit up.

“Edward?” She croaked past the shooting pain in her lungs.

“Here, sis. I’m here.”

Relief flooded her and she twisted around. Concern etched her fifteen-year-old brother’s youthful face as he knelt beside her.

“What happened?” Anna rasped.

“It burned, Anna. All of it.” Edward’s voice cracked. “All of Columbia’s been burned to the ground by them heathen Yanks.” His words tumbled faster as his brown eyes grew wide.

“Our candle shop?” Her heart thudded faster as she waited for his answer.

“Gone. Everything we own. And Emmett’s Dry Goods, too.”

“Thank God Mrs. Emmett is away visiting her sister,” Anna mumbled. Her mind ached as she forced it to focus on the words her brother uttered.

“Thank God? Thank God? How can you thank God when people are homeless or dead all around us? We are homeless.” The vehemence in Edward’s voice wrenched Anna’s heart as she stared at the ache in his wide brown eyes.

She pulled him into an embrace and his body went limp. Her little brother… How she wanted to make his hurt go away. But, what now? Surely not all of their things were burned. With Papa away in the war, would God leave them totally stranded?

Taking a deep breath, Anna sat back and tried to turn on her soft southern drawl that always seemed to soothe. “C’mon, honey. Let’s go home and see what’s left.”

As she rose, a breeze tickled Anna’s ankles. She glanced down at her cotton nightgown, coated in soot and grime and a bit worse for the wear. To maintain a scrap of modesty, she crossed her arms in front of her.

Anna glanced around to get her bearings. People milled around the small grassy area. Most of those present were huddled in little groups—some crying and some appearing to be in shock. Remnants of smoke still clung to the air, shrouding the atmosphere in a dismal cloak.

“This way.” Her brother led the way down the muddy street. As they walked, they passed black skeletons of buildings—charred remains sticking out in jagged angles with smoke still rising from their midst. The buildings looked eerily familiar, like dear friends who were disfigured almost beyond recognition.

Edward paused in front of a structure that was almost unrecognizable in its horrid condition. The candle shop and their home. Nothing was left. No bright red sign over the door announcing Stewart’s Candle Shop. No second story windows with the pretty blue curtains where their home had been. Just two stairs leading up to the porch and black smoldering ashes. Her heart sank and tightness pulled in her chest. What now?

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Patriot’s Pride

 

With knowledge, he believed he could find answers. She had only faith. Derrick, a surgeon, is haunted by his brother’s death. When his prayers went unanswered, he turned his faith to science. He believes studying with an esteemed surgeon in England will return meaning to his life. Margaret’s fiancé died at the hands of a doctor who bled him to death. On board the Prosperity, she meets the arrogant Doctor Fortune who considers her no less than a milkmaid. She considers him a butcher. Though she must journey to England to hear the reading of the will of her grandfather, the Earl of Broadcraft, she finds herself constantly confronting Derrick on his methods of healing. Yet, there is something about his soulful eyes that attracts her. When a British ship presses the Prosperity’s sailors into service, Margaret and Derrick must work together if they are to reach England. But can they ever learn to trust each other enough to allow love into their hearts?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Penelope Marzec

 

Margaret McGowan watched the distance between the ship and the pier widen into a watery chasm. Swamped by an overwhelming sense of loneliness, she clenched her teeth and scolded herself for being such a ninny. She had the opportunity to go to England. She would visit Broadcraft Hall, the ancestral home where her mother was born and her grandfather had died. In all her eighteen years, she had seldom traveled far from Leedsville, New Jersey, until now.

A grand adventure awaited her.

Despite reasoning with herself on the importance of this enterprise, a renegade tear rolled down her cheek as she leaned on the rail. She loved her family, but they barely scraped by after losing the house and the livestock during the war. The doling out of a hundred acres for every soldier in the Continental army had been an empty promise. Worst of all, though Uncle Fitz had returned from his service, her father never did. He died on a prison ship.

She offered a heartfelt prayer for her dear ones. In truth, this journey was for them too.

Calmer, she opened her eyes and took in a ragged breath. The harbor blended into the line of hills in the distance, and she turned away from the rail. She pulled the shawl tighter about her body and set her jaw. This trip was essential. In his last will and testament, her grandfather, the Earl of Broadcraft, stipulated that either Margaret or her sister must be present for the reading of the will. The solicitor explained much concerning the entail in a long letter. Since her mother had married a commoner, neither Margaret nor her sister would inherit the estate or, as women, the title.

Therefore, the entail and title belonged to Lord Isaac Whittington, the earl’s first cousin, once removed. Yet everyone assumed Margaret and her sister would receive something of value. Otherwise, why should one of them be present when the will was read?

Margaret hoped for a portrait of her mother, whom she had never known, and perhaps even a portrait of the earl himself. In the past six years, they had corresponded by letters. She would value a likeness of her grandfather as a true treasure.

Her gaze swept the deck, and a shiver of apprehension moved through her. Though the ship was far larger than the McGowan’s barn, the vast ocean surrounding it made it appear quite small. What if it sank?

She shoved the frightening idea to the back of her mind and watched the other passengers strolling on the deck. In the front of the ship, she spied the two women who were to share a tiny cabin with her and her companion. Cecelia Cavendish, who was blind, and her cousin, Louisa Boulton, were young, probably near to Margaret’s own age of eighteen. Cecelia intended to go to Paris to meet Franz Mesmer, who claimed his treatment cured blindness. Margaret never heard of Franz Mesmer. Furthermore, she doubted his method. Only the Lord performed the miracle of giving sight to the blind.

Louisa’s behavior disturbed her. Shying away from everyone, Louisa muttered to herself. She sat tucked between a mast and a barrel, staring at her fancy shoes. It seemed apparent the two women with their silk gowns came from wealthy families. Cecelia wore dark glasses but possessed fine features. She sang in a sweet voice, entertaining the sailors as they went about their chores.

Margaret glanced down at her plain brown frock which she wore to church on Sundays. The midwife had given it to her three years ago in exchange for her baked goods. Cecilia and Louisa came aboard with two large trunks each, while Margaret’s necessities fit into a single small one. Still, the cousins must travel farther, for the ship would be going on to France after it stopped in London. Cecelia claimed she and her cousin spoke fluent French.

Margaret did not know French. She’d acquired several German words from Hobart, her family’s hired man, and some Latin from her brother-in-law, but few Frenchmen stopped for any length of time in the small town of Leedsville.

She rubbed the top of each shoe on her stockings to remove the dust. Despite her common clothing, she was the granddaughter of an earl. With her head held high, she decided upon a promenade around the deck. However, walking became difficult when the ship reached open water. Monstrous waves soon stymied her plans.

She stumbled twice, holding onto railings as the ship went up and down. Out of nowhere, something hit her in the face. Unprepared for the force of the blow, she lost her balance and fell backwards. Two strong arms caught her, which prevented her from crashing on the wooden deck in an ungracious heap.

“Are you hurt?” The deep male voice came from behind her as he set her on her feet.

She stared at the rather elaborate hat on the deck in front of her and touched the welt swelling on her forehead. “No. Startled, though. I didn’t realize I needed to watch out for flying hats. Thank you for catching me.”

“My pleasure.” He steadied her as she straightened her skirts. “If I may introduce myself, I am Derrick Fortune, of Philadelphia.”

He carried an unmistakable note of pride in his tone. Did he think she had heard of him? Well, she had not.

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Sarah and a Midnight Cruise to Catalina

Dyslexic and bumbling love angel, Sarah, comes to earth to unite Carolyn with a mate. Her orders from the Superiors specify she must make this happen while Carolyn cruises to Catalina Island. Sarah fears she’ll fall into the ocean and drown under the pull of her soggy wings. Facing a cruise might just be worse than facing a scary ferris wheel, but on this visit to earth, there’s more to fear than ocean waves… Talen is an evil spirit is assigned to thwart Sarah’s efforts by any means possible. The two destined lovers must not unite. Will Talen complete his task? Can Tomas, the Warrior Angel, successfully protect Sarah? Or will she goof up the battle between the holy and unholy spirits? Poopty doopty… Mayhem is bound to happen.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 Gay N Lewis

Oh no, not the ocean. Please, please, please—not the deep sea.

How could she possibly stay upright on a cruise ship when the mere sight of white caps made her head spin? This voyage might make her too dizzy, and my stars! She’d toddle around on deck and fall flat on her face. Or maybe hit her bottom, or worse yet, maybe somersault overboard.

Angels weren’t supposed to become woozy, and she didn’t know any who had even once upchucked while on assignment. Would she be the pioneer for such an unsightly, non-angelic, ghastly behavior? She’d certainly been the first to do other bizarre things.

Sarah crossed her fingers and looked skyward. Oops, God’s chosen helpers shouldn’t use any good luck signs—especially that one. She untwisted her digits and made a prayer steeple with her hands.

“Help. Couldn’t You send another spirit being for this mission? One who acted more like Noah? He stayed on the arc while the whole Earth flooded. How about someone comparable to Jonah? Waves tossing about didn’t bother him—he slept during a raging storm.” Sarah drew her brows together. “That is until the sailors on the ship threw him overboard.” Sarah grimaced. “Then that huge fish swallowed him.”

From her position on top of a tall, Houston skyscraper, Sarah gulped as she gazed upward. “Lieutenant, sir, are you certain I must do this?”

The clouds parted, and the Lieutenant nodded. No words—just a gesture of the head to indicate a yes, and then her Superior vanished.

So here again, while on Earth, she must carry out another impossible task. Sarah, the little love angel from The Heavenlies, known by everybody up there as a major goof-up. Her bumbles kept other angels rolling on the golden paths in laughter.

Okay, time to get with it. She needed to find a mate for Carolyn, a lonely young woman, and she had to do it on an aquatic craft, no less. Excited about staying on the planet? Sure. Happy, thrilled witless about staying on Earth—as in Terra Firma. Solid ground. Dry land. But no such good fortune—the Commander gave the assignment to find a husband for Carolyn on a cruise ship—out on the great, big body of water.

The Commander thought she would get over the need to throw up when she flew over H2O. Harrumph! Easy for him to say—he held no such problems.

A loud clap of thunder bolted Sarah from her disgruntled reverie. “Okay. Sorry. I’ll adjust my attitude.” Sarah set out her blue blanket and made a comfortable spot on the roof.

After receiving orders in The Heavenlies, she’d bolted back to Houston. Her new assignment, Carolyn Baker, lived here. Sarah sighed. At least this place was somewhat familiar. This city had been home base for several missions, and she’d grown fond of the inhabitants. From her spot on top of the building, she surveyed the city. Although she’d traveled around it many times, she never became totally at ease. This Texas city spread far and wide, and finding her way remained a constant problem.

Could Texas be any hotter, especially this time of year? The end of summer might be around the corner, and even though the human calendar read mid-September, heat lingered. Maybe Carolyn wanted to escape the extreme temperatures and thought sea breezes might be cooler.

“Guess I’ll find out if that’s true.” Sarah sighed and placed a hand in her robe to retrieve her briefings. She pulled the deep pouch inside-out, and then searched the pocket on the other side. “Not again! I must have lost the dossier. I did that on my first time around. Don’t tell me I’ve repeated that same mistake. Just what I need—already a problem and I haven’t even started the assignment.”

Sarah glanced upward again. “Mother Goodness, would you send someone down with the file on Carolyn Baker?”

No one appeared.

Sigh. Sarah sat down on her blanket to wait. She touched the freckle on her left wrist to adjust her body temperature. Too bad the humans possessed no powers to do that. Coolness settled over her, and she gazed skyward. Nothing and no one appeared.

Should she make another request? Sometimes answers from above came quickly, and at other times, they didn’t. Why wouldn’t The Heavenlies reply to all her urgent prayers? That question stayed a mystery. Reasons for not hearing back? Known only to the Almighty, but poopty doopty, the responses were sometimes difficult to wait for.

Her stomach growled. When had she eaten? Chef Andrew had prepared a delicious breakfast for her before she’d left—upscale coffee, cranberry muffins, omelet, and a waffle. Had breakfast been long ago? Such things were difficult to tell. Time didn’t register in The Heavenlies, but now on Earth, it seemed hours ago.

While she waited for the info on Carolyn, why not catch lunch? Uh-oh! Donning a human disguise remained a challenge. But she might as well kill time with a productive activity, and eating hit the list as one of her favorite events. Who to be this time?

She’d done relatively well when she appeared before as an elderly lady. Why not try that again? No one could see her atop this tower, so she felt a certain amount of freedom to assume a masquerade. With a flutter of her hand, Sarah colored her hair white and added several shimmering shades of blue to the sheen. She brandished it into a bun of sorts and perched the thingy on top of her head. Then she supplemented seventy pounds to her petite frame and slipped eyeglasses on. Now. What to wear?

She chose a green paisley dress, panty hose, and low-heeled, black orthopedic shoes. Okay—that should do it. After dropping from the roof, she surfaced inside the building. In the dimly lit area, the space appeared quite small.

Oops! She’d meant to appear on the street. Oh well. She was inside now. What location had she bopped into?

Judging from a dress hanging on a rack, she decided she must’ve relocated to some kind of interior closet. She wondered what might be behind the wooden door. She cautiously opened the access and ventured out.

“Hey! How did you get in there?” A man yelled at Sarah as he suddenly sat up in a bed.

A woman pulled a sheet up under her chin. “Who is that, Norman?”

“I have no idea.” The man threw a protective arm over the female lying beside him. “Lady, who are you, and what are you doing in our hotel room?”

Merciful heavens! What had she done? Think fast, Sarah. Make your voice sound crackly and old.

“Well, hello, young fella.” Sarah pushed the glasses higher on her nose. “The hotel sent me in to help a couple make a love connection. Do you need any advice? I’m a psychologist.”

“No, my wife and I are very happy—just trying to sleep late. Would you get out of our room, please?”

“Oh sure. Don’t bother showing me to the door. I’ll see myself out. Guess they gave me the wrong room. I counsel people who have problems, but ya’ll look blissfully married. Tootle-loo.” Sarah waved, opened the closet door and disappeared from view. She backed against the wall with her heart pounding, gulping air as if she’d run a marathon.

“What in the world? She went back into the closet.” Sarah heard the lady’s alarmed voice.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get that old bag out of here and you’d better believe I’m going to complain to the front desk.”

In her invisible, miniature form, Sarah watched the closet door burst open.

“What?” Norman squinted around the mostly empty closet. “Where did she go?”

Sarah held her breath.

“The closet is empty.” Wearing orange and white striped pajamas, the lady peered over her husband’s shoulder. “Did we dream her?”

“Both of us?” Norman sounded incredulous.

“What other explanation is there? She wasn’t in the closet when we checked in last night, and she isn’t there now.” The lady glanced at the outer door. “The door is locked and bolted.”

Norman scratched his head. “On second thought, I think I’ll keep quiet about this incident. Forget the complaint. I can’t think of a way to explain a disappearing granny who claims to make love connections.”

“Do you think those mushrooms we ate last night caused us to see things? They were sautéed in brandy, and we both thought they tasted odd.”

Norman rubbed his forehead. “No, I don’t think so. It was just a new dish, and the server assured us they were fresh. We might say we ate poisoned mushrooms, but that sounds nutty. No one would believe we had them in a reputable restaurant. Let’s keep this incident to ourselves.” He closed the door.

“Norman, I’m scared. Do you think we should go to the hospital and have our stomachs pumped?”

“Don’t worry, honey. We’re okay. I don’t know what just happened, but when we are as ancient as that woman who came out of the closet, we’ll tell our grandchildren the story. It oughta make a good fairy tale.”

 

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