Acres of Dreams

 

 

Could Katy ever love this vast, forbidding country?

 

Nineteen-year-old Katy is sent  to Canada by her family in the late 1890′s to find a suitable husband. Katy has other plans, however - she wants a career, not marriage.

During the round of social activities arranged by her sister, she is drawn against her will towards her distant cousin Robert, who loves Katy on sight. She has also attracted the attention of her brother-in-law’s boss, Martin, who doesn’t take rejection easily, evens the score by destroying Katy’s reputation.

Facing a return home in disgrace, Katy tries another way out. She accepts the offer of marriage from Robert, who is on his way west to set up a homestead on the prairies.

Katy is not prepared for the loneliness and hardships she is about to face. She has a difficult journey ahead, learning to become a woman and a wife and discovering how to love.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Sharon McGregor

“Katy Anne! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.” Maggie greeted her with the lilt that made Katy feel she was still in Ireland, not halfway around the world in Toronto. Maggie gave Katy a big hug, an action made difficult by the fact that she stood nearly a head taller than the five-foot-one Katy, and by Maggie’s slightly protruding abdomen. Katy hugged her back, then they stood apart so they could look at each other. “Oh, my. My little sister is all grown up.”

“I’m nineteen. Of course I’m all grown up.” Katy bristled. Her two suitcases stood, one on either side of her, where they had been dropped by the hansom cab driver, who had brought her from the train station. The driver clucked to the horses and they set off clattering down the street.

“And still with the temperament of a spitting cat, I see.”

“It’s so good to see you again. Everyone at home misses you.”

A small face appeared in the doorway, accompanied by a sticky, sweet-filled hand. “And this must be Tommy.”

“Thomas Jr., aged one and a half.” Maggie patted her abdomen and said, “Soon to be joined by his brother. Or sister.”

“Oh, Maggie, we were thrilled to get your letter. I can help with the baby when it comes.”

“Well, let’s get you settled first. Then we’ll make plans for your future. What do you think of Toronto so far?”

“I didn’t really see much through the rain. The train ride from Halifax seemed to take forever, but I was so glad to get off the boat. This country is huge.”

“You’ve only seen a small part, you know. There’s a whole continent to the west. Most of the land is wild country, but some people are homesteading, so it will grow.”

Katy picked up the larger case, leaving the small one for the pregnant Maggie, and they lugged them upstairs.

Maggie opened a door that led into a pretty room, whitewashed and clean, with a small bed covered by a green and blue quilt. “This will be your room.”

“All to myself? I don’t think I’ve ever had a room to myself before.”

“Well, with twelve in the family, we weren’t likely to, were we?” Maggie’s eyes glistened for a moment until she took a swipe at them with her apron. “Sorry. Just indulging in a bit of homesickness.”

“Do you still miss Ireland?”

“Only sometimes. Thomas is a good husband to me and I have a full life now, but every once in a while, when I think I might never see Mam and Da again, I sit down and have a wee cry. Then I’m fine.”

“Oh, Maggie. Now you’ll have me crying, too.”

“I didn’t mean to, love. And if you ever get too homesick, I’m sure we can send you back, marked ‘not accepted at this address.’ Now you wash up. There’s a pitcher and basin on the stand. The water will be still warm. After you’ve freshened up, come downstairs and we’ll have some tea. Thomas won’t be home for ages yet, so we’ve lots of time before supper.”

Katy flopped the largest of her suitcases on the bed and began to take out her skirts and blouses, one at a time, smoothing them the best she could. There were lots of hangers in the wardrobe. She’d leave the rest for later. For now, she’d wash up and catch up on Maggie’s world. She knew Thomas worked at a distillery, and she guessed he must have a good position there. This house would have made three of their farmhouse back home.

She wished she knew what plans her parents were making for her. With six girls in the family, there wasn’t much scope in Ireland for a girl to find either a husband or employment. Katy wasn’t sure she wanted a husband, anyhow. The minute a girl married, the best part of her life was over, and she’d spend the rest of her days waiting hand and foot on her husband, and popping out a baby every year. She’d much rather find a position or train for something.

One of her sisters, Jenny, was training in the post office, but there was no room for another worker there. Perhaps she could find a clerical position in Toronto. She didn’t want to be a nursery governess—that was just like being a wife, but without the privileges. If she had more money, she might train to be a nurse or a teacher.

She harbored a sinking feeling her parents were more concerned about finding her a suitable husband than a suitable position, but she’d set them straight. She was going to look on her trip to Toronto as an adventure, something to tell stories about when she went back to Ireland, which she intended to do, eventually. She wasn’t about to face permanent expulsion just because she had run out of eligible suitors at home. She wanted a job, not a husband.

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Year of Jubilee

Can love free Jubilee from her pain?

 

 

Orphaned and widowed, eighteen-year-old Jubilee Stallings clings to her southern Indiana farm as her only refuge. The wilds of Gibson County are just being tamed in the year of 1850, and Jubilee ekes a meager existence. But when Rafe Tanner, a cousin of her abusive dead husband, shows up with the deed to her property, Jubilee’s dream of her own home dissolves.

Rafe, stinging from his ex-fiancée’s rejection, offers a business marriage, throwing him and Jubilee together in an effort to make the farm successful. But scars from the past keep her in constant fear of her new husband. The pair masquerades as a love-struck couple at Rafe’s family farm, enduring the romantic notions of his family, and the jealousy of his ex-fiancée.

Once home, Rafe realizes his newfound love for Jubilee, and sets out to court her. Meanwhile, Jubilee fights demons from her past as her husband reveals his interest. Can Jubilee let go of her distrust and pain to embrace God’s plan of true love and finally find a place to belong?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Peggy Trotter

 

Gibson County, Indiana, December 31st, 1849

Jubilee Stallings’ forehead collided with the wall. Stars flashed behind her closed lids. She lay completely still. Her face heated and her body ached, yet she dared not move.

“You’re worthless,” her husband’s slurred voice continued.

She heard his footsteps stagger across the floorboards.

“You’re nuttin’ but a dog, and…and…a piece…of dung.”

The floorboards thundered as his body hit the floor. Scraping sounds emitted from the other side of the room.

“I…oughta…”

He continued mumbling unintelligibly. Jubilee pressed her bruised brow against the icy wood of the wall and prayed. Fresh tears wet her face. Please fall asleep. Almost on command, Colvin gave a snore. Jubilee continued to lie immobile, although, now that the initial rush of adrenaline had worn off, the frigid air made her naked body want to shake. She clenched her teeth and fought against her body’s urge. Snores filled the air.

She pushed to a sitting position and eyed the straw mattress where Colvin had sprawled. Moving as cautiously as a newborn colt, she crawled to her dress by the door. She pulled it on as a set of shivers ripped through her body. With her sweater in hand, she crept to the fireplace. Only dying embers remained, but Jubilee couldn’t risk adding another log. Her teeth chattered as she tucked her feet beneath her skirt and pulled up the ragged cardigan to ward off the chill.

She grimaced as she rubbed the swelling on her neck where he’d choked her. The moonlight broke through the clouds, highlighting the marks scratched into the wall near the stone mantel. She’d carved the last one this morning—December 31, 1849. More than a full year had come and gone since she’d begun marking. Tomorrow would be her second birthday in this house. Once again, tears threatened. She’d be eighteen.

The day had dawned in a gray haze, but the day of her birth marked a new year, which always buoyed her with hope. The hours had passed pleasantly. She’d filled the wood box, baked fresh bread, and gone to bed looking forward to tomorrow. Until Colvin had exploded through the door, startling her from a deep sleep. She closed her eyes and her mind. It was always the same. More tears spilled from her swollen eyelids.

She tensed as Colvin sputtered a few times before going back to his ear-splitting snores. Noting where his pants had dropped, she decided to wait a little longer before she pilfered a couple coins. Any more and he’d notice and beat her senseless. Now, time to rest and recover her strength. She’d make sure she wasn’t near the cabin when he woke. Hopefully he’d follow his usual pattern and be off and gone for the next several weeks. Let it be months, she prayed. I don’t care if he ever shows up again. For now, she needed rest.

She woke a short time later, collected a few coins from Colvin’s pockets, and opened the door, thankful for the quiet leather hinges. Because of the cold, she wouldn’t head to the woods, her favorite hiding place. She’d settle for the barn, a huge hulking structure. Her breath formed a ghostly fog about her in the chill, crisp air. Fear licked at her, and she ran from the evil sleeping in the cabin.

Inside the barn, she moved quietly so as to not stir the cow, who loved to greet her in the early morn. She scrambled into the loft and buried herself in a cave of hay. The exertion left her body panting, but warm. With the protection of the sweet hay around her, she fell asleep.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Peggy Trotter is a small town Hoosier native who teaches 1st and 2nd grade at a small Christian School and writes Christian Romance in her spare time. God blessed her with a wonderful husband who cooks and helps clean while supporting her crazy dreams. She has two incredible grown kids, one fabulous son-in-law, and two rays of sunshine, commonly called grandchildren.

 

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Ugly Paradise

Beneath beauty, evil lurks…

Katie Anderson has no idea who she is, or why she was abandoned to her fate after an attack by an escaped Sumatran tiger — the pet of a local Californian scriptwriter. Who was she with when she was attacked? Why was there a severed goat’s head secreted in her rucksack? In the five years since the attack, Katie has grown accustomed to the indelible paw print etched on her cheek, which draws sympathetic glances and repulsed stares in equal measure. That is, until the cruelty of a casual comment from a wrinkle-free diner at The Alice Garden restaurant in Sanur Beach sparks her quest for answers, launching Katie on a painful path to discover the truth. Will Katie find the spiritual and emotional serenity she craves? Or will society’s obsession with physical perfection defeat her progress?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Lindsey Paley

“Run! Run! Faster!”

James’s words pierced her ears despite the cacophonous sound of her blood crashing through her veins. Her heart threatened to explode, not from the physical exertion, but from terror forcing its alarm into her every extremity.

“Run!”

The razor-sharp blades of the rice crop slashed at her bare shins like whips as she shot along the lush fringes of the steeply terraced paddy fields, their stagnant waters stinging her lacerations and seeping into her trainers as the verdant shoots flattened under her pounding feet. Dense jungle and presumed safety loomed ahead to her left, and the imposing hulk of Mount Batukaru rose on her right.

Her mahogany hair lashed across her face, obstructing her vision, the mingling of perspiration from her strenuous sprint and the intense humidity doubling its volume. The rucksack James had insisted she carry bounced heavily on her shoulders, serving only to slow her escape.

“Run!”

Lit by dappled silver moonlight, the tropical forest of palm and banyan trees appeared darker and more impenetrable than by day. Before being swallowed by the waiting jungle, James twisted his face over his shoulder toward her. A jolt of horror caught in her chest as her eyes met his distorted glare, crammed with such naked hatred it caused her to miss her stride. Her foot slammed into the opaque, motionless waters of the rice field, submerging her ankle and interrupting her essential flight.

As she righted her balance—shrugging the ancient rucksack higher onto her shoulders—even in her panicked state she caught a glimpse of bleeding crimson fingers slice through the thick hessian material. She slowed again, losing vital seconds.

“Run!” His voice was muffled now, cocooned in the density of the steaming jungle, smothered by the night cries of its residents.

She shot into the canopy of the palm and Intaran trees, her body enveloped by the cloying gloom and chest-high bamboo, gulping moist air into her lungs.

No sign of James, but her senses screamed she was not alone. Her forearms prickled, their dark hairs erect, and her hairline tingled. She ditched the blood-soaked rucksack onto the jungle floor, strewn thick with nature’s detritus, and sprinted into its crowded depths like a fleeing gazelle. Her speed slackened as the thick, dangling roots of the banyan trees snaked across her path and bamboo leaves slapped at her face.

As her peripheral vision recorded a sleek flash of amber and black, treasured memories began to flash through her mind’s eye and she knew she was about to die without the necessary satisfaction of knowing why.

She tumbled backward with the force of the blow and an intense, blinding agony permeated each and every nerve ending before blackness engulfed her questions.

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Loves Comes Calling

Could she love a man who had once almost killed her?

Cover_LoveComesCallingarr

“In the timeless tradition of sweet romance, Deborah Piccurelli weaves a charming tale about a most unlikely pair. Their journey of unexpected love and redemption tugged my heartstrings. You’ll want a cup of tea and a cozy corner.” -Sally John” Author of Heart Echoes and Between Us Girls

The day new Christian, Derek Spencer, shows up on Charlie Parkes’s doorstep to make up for what he’d done, is the very day he falls in love with her. But Charlie’s sister mistakes him for a home improvement contractor, and he decides to play along until he finds a way to reveal who he really is.

Charlie is attracted to Derek, but knows the attention he pays her is only flattery. How could such a great-looking guy fall for someone with a face like hers? Nevertheless, the two form a relationship that brings a joy to Charlie that’s way beyond her wildest dreams.

But what will happen when Derek’s true identity is revealed?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Deborah M. Piccurelli

Derek Spencer grasped the steering wheel of his SUV with one hand, while searching for the address scribbled on the scrap of paper he held in the other.

Would she be willing to see him? The decision to come forward had been tough, but necessary to his peace of mind and his spiritual well-being. He wanted to make things right with Charlotte Parkes.

Spotting the house, he slowed down and pulled into the driveway. He sat in the car and stared at the small brick rancher, trying to perceive the character of the woman who lived inside. The neatly mowed lawn resembled a rich green carpet, and colorful flower beds lined the perimeter of the house. Cheerful drapes adorned the inside of the picture window in front, inviting him to exit the car and ring the doorbell. He accepted the invitation and bounded up the walk.

Barely three seconds passed when the door was torn open and an attractive young woman with a profusion of curly red hair reached out and pulled him in by the arm.

“Finally. You were supposed to be here an hour ago. What happened? Traffic jam on Route 356?”

“I…” He scratched his head. Did she know him?

“Forget it. You’re here, now. Though I’m not sure your lateness speaks well of you. If you want a job, you must be prompt.”

“But…” What on earth was she talking about?

“Shall we begin? My sister is waiting in the other room.” She strolled away, motioning for him to follow.

Having no other alternative, he complied. At least he had gotten through the door.

As they passed through the living room and dining room, Derek studied his surroundings. The place was neat, clean, and comfortable-looking. The living room set was made up of odd pieces of furniture put together in such a way it gave the illusion they were made especially to be a part of this grouping.

When he entered the kitchen, he recognized Charlotte Parkes from her picture in the newspaper. With her porcelain-smooth skin and shiny auburn hair, she looked like an angel. Engrossed in squirting colored icing through a tube onto a layer cake, she hadn’t yet noticed him.

“Charlie, the contractor’s here.” Her sister jerked a thumb in his direction.

Contractor?

Charlotte put down the decorating tool, turned full face, and smiled. “Hello, I’m Charlotte, but you can call me Charlie.” She extended one hand and touched the side of her face with the other.

Nothing prepared him for what he saw.

A flesh-colored road map scarred the left side of Charlie’s face. Her eye slanted down on the outer end, pulled into that position by the tightness of the flesh. The corner of her mouth tilted up into a perpetual half-smile. The photo in the newspaper had been taken before the accident.

How he despised himself at that very moment for his responsibility in what had happened to this once-beautiful woman.

He composed himself and obligingly took the offered hand.

“And this is my sister, Jessica,” she continued, “whom I see you’ve already met.”

“Glad to meet you both.” With difficulty, he tore his eyes away from Charlie to glance at the other woman. “I’m Derek Spencer.”

He stood looking from one to the other, at a loss for words. His throat squeezed closed. This was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do in his life. How to begin? Taking a deep breath, he dove in, “You don’t know who I am, but I’m here for a specific reason.”

Charlie furrowed her brow at him. “Of course you’re here for a specific reason. We did ask you to come.”

“Huh?” He didn’t get it, and tried again. “What I mean is…”

“Oh, let’s cut to the chase and stop this yammering,” interrupted Jessica. “Char, we have an appointment to keep, or have you forgotten?”

She checked her watch. “Yes, you’re right, Jess.” Turning to Derek she said, “I suppose you should take a look at what we’d like done.”

“Done? I don’t . . .” He stopped. Hmm. Maybe I should play this out. Derek nodded. It could provide a lead-in as to his real reason for being there.

Charlie rose from the table. “This way.” Her movements were graceful as he followed. The light glinted off her long, touchable hair.

As he passed Jessica, she shot him a purse-lipped, slit-eyed look, then fell in behind him. Did she suspect something or just dislike his staring at her sister?

They had gone back through the dining and living rooms to a small hallway where there were two doors. Charlie opened one, revealing a long set of stairs leading to the basement and began the descent. At the bottom of the steps, Derek stopped and perused the room.

“This is it.” Charlie spread her arms to encompass the entire basement. “I’d like it made into a studio.”

“I see.” He really didn’t. Remodeling wasn’t his area of expertise. He looked around, as if evaluating what would be needed for the job. “What kind of a studio will it be?”

“A dance studio.” Charlie shrugged, as if that should have been obvious. “Ballet, specifically. I’m going to teach.”

“I see,” he repeated. Only this time he told the truth. She had once been a ballet dancer on her way to the top, before her career was so cruelly brought to a halt. The local newspapers had depicted the whole tragic story.

“Tell me what you would like done while I write it down.” He dug into his pocket and produced the notepad he always carried, a requirement of working for a magazine.

Charlie pointed out the need for hardwood flooring, floor length mirrors lining the walls, along with exercise barres in front, and a separate entrance so that her students wouldn’t have to go tramping through her home and then take the steep stairs down.

“Okay.” He finished the list with an embellishment. “I’d like to come back with my partner, so he can see firsthand what we’d be doing before giving you an estimate. Would you be agreeable to that?”

Her gray eyes narrowed slightly, and she frowned. “I…guess so.”

“Good. I’ll call you to set up a convenient time.”

She peered at him warily. “Okay. Do you have a card?”

Uh-oh. “Um . . .” He feigned feeling around in his pockets. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any with me. As you can see, I’m not dressed for an average day of work.” He indicated the fine suit he wore. “I’ve come here straight from a personal appointment. I don’t even have my truck.”

“Oh, so that explains your lateness,” piped up Jessica.

He’d forgotten she was there. She’d hung back, standing on the stairs, leaning over the railing.

“Exactly.”

She didn’t look as though she believed him.

“I’ll be in touch very shortly. You can count on it.” He strode out as if he were in a relay race.

Derek jumped into the car, breathing heavily and stared at the steering wheel.

“Spencer, what have you gotten yourself into?” He started the engine and drove off.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

After years of reading books and watching movies with an element of romance, Deborah M. Piccurelli’s desire to write romance novels came naturally. She is active in her church and is an advocate for sanctity of life. Deborah is the author of two novels and several cause-related newspaper articles. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers. As one of the winners in a contest by The Christian Authors Show, details of Deborah’s writing journey can be found in the 2013-2014 edition of the book, 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading.Deborah lives in New Jersey with her husband and their two sons.

Beast of Stratton

 

He appears the beast, she sees the man.

 

Architect Aimee Hart, determined to locate her father, infiltrates Miles Stratton’s engineering firm as a secretary. Her presence wrenches the shaggy, wounded man from his penthouse, and the quest begins.

Betrayed by his best friend, Miles would rather hide than help, especially from the man’s daughter. But something’s not right. Someone’s trying to destroy Stratton Industrial. A decorated war veteran, he’s defended his own before and the Beast of Stratton can do it again.

Even with the enemy at his side.

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Renee Blare

 

He’d vanished.

She’d called his friends, the family. She’d even tried her stepmother who’d hung up on her. Well, okay, maybe that wasn’t the brightest idea.

A red rose rolled across her father’s tattered note, caught in the breeze from the open window. Sliding the pane down, she picked up the flower. The words on the page blurred as she buried her nose in the soft petals.

Instead of saying goodbye to his wife in his last letter, he’d simply left explicit instructions not to follow him. Aimee snorted. Like the woman would care. He’d sent it with the rose and an antique necklace. She held the thick chain aloft and peered at the golden key spinning in the light. The jewelry had probably cost a fortune.

And her stepmother was nowhere to be found. Scratch that. According to her, she wanted to be left alone. It didn’t make a difference to Aimee what the letter said and to whom, she’d follow. A small smile worked its way to her lips as she fastened the necklace around her neck.

The zipper stuck on the edge of the suitcase and she gave it a hard jerk. Dragging the bulging bag off the bed, it hit the floor with a thunk. She slid her arms into her jacket and looped her purse over the handle. She dropped the rose, and it landed beside her plane ticket next to her wallet. Before latching her fingers around her bag, she tucked the key under her shirt out of sight. “Stratton Industrial, here I come.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Renee Blare’s nose has been buried in a book for as long as she can remember. Raised in Louisiana and Wyoming, she started writing poetry in junior high school and that, as they say, was that. After having her son, a desire to attend pharmacy school sent her small family to the awesome town of Laramie. She’s been counting pills ever since. While writing’s her first love, well, after the Lord and her husband, she also likes to fish and hunt as well as pick away on her classical guitar.

After a brief detour to Texas, she back home, nestled against the Black Hills with her husband, crazy old dog and ornery cat. Add her son and parents dropping in for a home-cooked meal, and life’s never dull around her house. She serves the community of northeastern Wyoming as a pharmacist and pens her stories about struggling Christians as they travel along the journeys of their lives—meanwhile keeping things interesting with some action and intrigue, of course. She loves to interact with readers and invites you check her website, blog, and social media.

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FREE – Not Bound By Time!

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Time cannot imprison love nor hold it in place…

At Balmoral, a two-hundred-year-old estate in old Northampton, love calls and only the heart can answer.
When five-year-old Albert Farraday first sets foot on the grounds of Balmoral, he senses its magic. After he returns from the Korean War and is employed as the caretaker, Camille, the mysterious new wife of the owner of the estate, leads Albert to believe there is indeed a force drawing the love-worn to Balmoral.

After Camille’s widowed niece visits the mansion, then disappears, he is certain his own sister Lydia traveled to meet her love and didn’t go mad as his mother had suggested.

Over the years Balmoral welcomes brokenhearted travelers who find their way to the portal and into the arms of love, and Albert comes to the understanding he is not only the custodian of Balmoral but the keeper of its secrets.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Victoria Pitts-Caine

 

The year was 1942, and Randolph Mitchell, along with several of his fellow soldiers, marched down a road pockmarked by shelling in London. He shuddered as a light mist fell around him. Late summer had gone.

A captain at twenty-two, Randolph’s first glimpses of war lay around him. Bile rose in his throat at the devastation. Is this what years of military boarding school has brought me to? He bent to retrieve a bit of paper. Printed roses danced on the edge, and with nowhere to discard it, he pocketed the small scrap of the life people there once lived.

When the men arrived in town earlier, Randolph spotted the young woman gazing into a merchant’s window. She carried herself with an air of importance. Ribbons and lace accented her oddly-layered clothes of multicolored fabrics. Such elaborate attire was ill-suited because people were starving and only making do. Randolph dismissed her unusual manner of dress. Who could she be? So out of place, yet so beautiful.

His troop moved up the street, and as he surveyed the area, he forced himself to forget the woman, but when he approached the shop, she turned, and their eyes met. Randolph Mitchell lost his heart in that split second, but it would take his head a while to figure it out. His eyes pursued her as she picked her way through the rubble of the bombed-out buildings.

“Hello,” he ventured.

As a delicate pink color rose from her neck, she turned her eyes toward the window. Randolph sauntered to stand beside her and glanced at their reflection. He stood a good foot taller than she. His wrinkled uniform caused a pang of self-consciousness, but his desire to speak to her quelled his embarrassment. “I’m Randolph Mitchell, US Army.” He smiled, studying her porcelain complexion and bright hazel eyes, hoping for a welcome response.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be talking to you,” the woman said.

“It’s safe. We’ve been sent here to protect you. Or err… your country.” Randolph took his cap off and grinned at her. “I, ah, we might make sure you get home. Do you live close by?”

The young woman’s face blanched as she shook her head. “I used to live here.” She sighed. Then she backed away, turned around, and started running.

Randolph clenched his fists. He had to find out.

“Wait! I didn’t mean any harm!” He called after her. “Your name? At least tell me your name!”

“Camille Windham,” came from her lips, and her name planted itself in Randolph’s heart.

She scampered down the walkway away from Randolph, leaving only her name.

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Ella’s Rain

 

My dearest Ella, I wish we would have had more time together, but we both know that we don’t always get what we want…

Ella is consumed by grief when her Grandma Dorothy dies. Left with Grandma’s ashes in an alabaster urn, Ella dreams of rubbing it like a magic lamp and Grandma suddenly appearing. But it’s only a dream. To protect herself from experiencing this kind of heartache ever again, Ella pulls away from Trey, the love of her life. Better to leave him than to lose him, she thinks. Slowly Ella learns to live again as she reads the letters Grandma left behind one for every day of the coming year.

My dearest Ella, I can’t believe that I’m writing the last note you will ever receive from me. By the time you read this, a whole year will have passed since my death. I hope my notes have helped you find your way…

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 ©  Buffy Andrews

Ella stared at the alabaster urn the funeral director had given her. It was hard to believe that Grandma had become nothing more than a pile of white ashes. She longed to feel her grandma’s thick arms around her and to smell her sweet perfume that hung in the air like an August fog. How does a cream puff of a lady become nothing more than a bag of dust, she wondered.

Cancer. That evil C word. The word she had lived with for almost a year. The evil thing that had devoured Grandma like a vulture devours a dead carcass, gorging itself until its crop bulges and leaves nothing but splintered bones behind.

It was so unfair, Ella thought. Grandma Dorothy was all she had. Now her beloved Dorothy was gone, off to an emerald city from which she would never return. And Ella was left with nothing but the sage alabaster urn Grandma had picked out before she died. Picked out like everything else.

The hymns that would be sung. The biblical passages that would be read. Even the flowers that would sit beside the urn on the pedestal table. She’d picked everything out as if she’d been planning a picnic, and Ella hated her for it.

Sometimes, Ella couldn’t stand Grandma’s optimism, and she’d escape to her room. She’d tell Grandma she had to study, but she never did. She’d lie on her bed, stare at the ceiling, and think, and remember, and pretend—pretend that Grandma was in the kitchen singing her favorite Doris Day song and making macaroni and cheese.

Ella could hear Grandma’s voice in her head. Whatever will be will be.

She started to cry. Screw whatever will be will be, she thought. What about what I want? Then she started to panic, afraid that Grandma’s voice would fade like her mother’s, and father’s, and sister’s. No matter how hard she tried, Ella no longer heard their voices.

They’d died when Ella was six. Killed in an accident on the way home from the zoo.Crash Kills Family of Three, the newspaper headline had said.

Ella could still remember that day, as if it was yesterday or the day before instead of eleven years ago. Ella had a stomach virus and was too sick to go. She’d spent the night throwing up and eventually fell asleep in her mother’s arms next to the white porcelain tub. Grandma had watched her while the rest of Ella’s family met her mom’s friend for their annual zoo outing.

Ella was so upset she couldn’t go that she cried the whole way through Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—her favorite movie. Even watching Augustus Gloop fall into the chocolate river and being sucked out by the extraction pipe, and gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde blowing up like a balloon, didn’t make her laugh.

Grandma promised to take her to the zoo when she felt better, but Ella still cried. She wanted to see the monkeys with Sissy. And the bears, giraffes, and tigers.

After her parents and sister died, Ella wanted nothing to do with the zoo. Grandma brought it up a few times. She thought it would be good for Ella to go, but Ella refused. She wasn’t going anywhere near the zoo and, after a time, Grandma stopped asking.

Grandma’s best friend, Maddie, put her arms around Ella. Everyone else had left after the funeral service—her best friend, Emily, even Trey. Secretly, Ella had wanted him to stay, but she kept pushing him away. She’d been doing that for months.

It was better that way, she thought. Everyone she loved she’d lost. Losing Trey would be too much. She had to protect herself from ever feeling this way again. And if turning away from Trey was what she needed to do to protect herself, well, then that’s what she had to do.

“Ready?” Maddie asked.

No, Ella wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready to move into Maddie’s house. She adored Maddie. Loved her. She was like the aunt Ella never had, but Maddie wasn’t Grandma.

However, Ella had no choice. Grandma had planned everything. Just like the hymns, and the readings, and the flowers. Maddie, a retired school teacher, would become Ella’s guardian and see her through her last year of high school and college. That was the plan—Grandma’s plan. As much as Ella hated it, she knew it was the only way.

“I hope that even in the rain,” Grandma always told her, “you find the sun.”

Screw the sun, Ella thought as she grabbed her coat and followed Maddie to the front door. There was no sun in sight. Only a razor-blade rain that sliced her aching heart and chilled her to the bone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A journalist by day and an author by night, Buffy Andrews loves telling stories. Some of her fiction ideas pop into her head at the most inopportune times, such as during a sermon or in the shower or when she’s supposed to be listening in a meeting. She’s written all over church bulletins, jumped out of the shower more than once to write down an idea and turned meeting handouts into story boards.

When she’s not writing, she’s leading an award-winning team of journalists at the York Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., where she’s Assistant Managing Editor of Features and Niche Publications and the newspaper’s social media coordinator.

In addition to her writing blog, Buffy’s Write Zone, she maintains a social media blog,Buffy’s World.  She is also a newspaper and magazine columnist and writes middle-grade, young adult and women’s fiction.

 

She lives in southcentral Pennsylvania with her husband, Tom; two sons, Zach and Micah; and wheaten cairn terrier Kakita.

 

 

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Not Bound By Time…

Time cannot imprison love nor hold it in place.

At Balmoral, a two-hundred-year-old estate in old Northampton, love calls and only the heart can answer.
When five-year-old Albert Farraday first sets foot on the grounds of Balmoral, he senses its magic. After he returns from the Korean War and is employed as the caretaker, Camille, the mysterious new wife of the owner of the estate, leads Albert to believe there is indeed a force drawing the love-worn to Balmoral.

After Camille’s widowed niece visits the mansion, then disappears, he is certain his own sister Lydia traveled to meet her love and didn’t go mad as his mother had suggested.

Over the years Balmoral welcomes brokenhearted travelers who find their way to the portal and into the arms of love, and Albert comes to the understanding he is not only the custodian of Balmoral but the keeper of its secrets.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Victoria Pitts-Caine

 

The year was 1942, and Randolph Mitchell, along with several of his fellow soldiers, marched down a road pockmarked by shelling in London. He shuddered as a light mist fell around him. Late summer had gone.

A captain at twenty-two, Randolph’s first glimpses of war lay around him. Bile rose in his throat at the devastation. Is this what years of military boarding school has brought me to? He bent to retrieve a bit of paper. Printed roses danced on the edge, and with nowhere to discard it, he pocketed the small scrap of the life people there once lived.

When the men arrived in town earlier, Randolph spotted the young woman gazing into a merchant’s window. She carried herself with an air of importance. Ribbons and lace accented her oddly-layered clothes of multicolored fabrics. Such elaborate attire was ill-suited because people were starving and only making do. Randolph dismissed her unusual manner of dress. Who could she be? So out of place, yet so beautiful.

His troop moved up the street, and as he surveyed the area, he forced himself to forget the woman, but when he approached the shop, she turned, and their eyes met. Randolph Mitchell lost his heart in that split second, but it would take his head a while to figure it out. His eyes pursued her as she picked her way through the rubble of the bombed-out buildings.

“Hello,” he ventured.

As a delicate pink color rose from her neck, she turned her eyes toward the window. Randolph sauntered to stand beside her and glanced at their reflection. He stood a good foot taller than she. His wrinkled uniform caused a pang of self-consciousness, but his desire to speak to her quelled his embarrassment. “I’m Randolph Mitchell, US Army.” He smiled, studying her porcelain complexion and bright hazel eyes, hoping for a welcome response.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be talking to you,” the woman said.

“It’s safe. We’ve been sent here to protect you. Or err… your country.” Randolph took his cap off and grinned at her. “I, ah, we might make sure you get home. Do you live close by?”

The young woman’s face blanched as she shook her head. “I used to live here.” She sighed. Then she backed away, turned around, and started running.

Randolph clenched his fists. He had to find out.

“Wait! I didn’t mean any harm!” He called after her. “Your name? At least tell me your name!”

“Camille Windham,” came from her lips, and her name planted itself in Randolph’s heart.

She scampered down the walkway away from Randolph, leaving only her name.

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Accept This Dandelion

Renee Lockhart has her eye on a lofty goal…to fill the open position of morning radio show host at the station where she works. When her co-workers sign her up for a local TV version of The Bachelor, Renee goes along with it in order to raise her profile.

Upon seeing her bumbling audition, Ben McConnell, one of the most eligible bachelors in town, insists that Renee be placed on the show. But Ben gets much more than he expected in Renee… he gets a girl who can’t seem to do anything right…and a girl he can’t seem to resist.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Brooke Williams

 

“My favorite flower,” Renee Lockhart said, blinking into the bright light of the camera, “is the dandelion.”

The producer scoffed. She couldn’t see him around the bulky black machine recording her every movement and the blinding hot lights shining into her eyes, but he was there. He shot rapid fire questions in her direction.

“You know dandelions aren’t really flowers, right?” His legs shifted.

Renee swallowed. She was uncomfortable seeing only his pants and shoes. It was as if his voice came from some unknown source outside her world under the bright lights. Were they getting brighter and hotter by the minute? “I…I know,” she stuttered as the sweat gathered at the back of her neck. What had she gotten into? She never should have allowed herself to be put into this position in the first place. “But they certainly look more like a flower than a weed,” she continued, picking up speed and gaining confidence. Who was he to mock her answers? “And I enjoy the way they turn to white puff and spread themselves in the wind.”

“White puff?” He snorted as someone else off camera coughed. “I think we’re done here.”

Renee’s face grew warmer. She was already flushed from the heat of the lights and the pressure of the situation, but now she had to be beet red. The producer’s legs turned and walked away from the set as another pair entered her line of sight. As the assistant’s face brightened outside of the shadows, Renee realized what was happening. She was being dismissed. In her fury and embarrassment, she began to pull at the wires connecting her to the microphone. It had taken the staff quite a bit of time to figure out where to place the small bud so her dress would hide it, but it would still pick up her voice. Now, Renee didn’t care how much effort had gone into its placement. She wanted it off. She needed freedom.

Renee shook the wire until it disconnected from the battery pack situated behind her. She pulled the microphone up and out in front of her and threw it onto the chair she had been occupying, only wishing it were heavier so she could make more noise.

What a waste of time. She should have known better than to ever agree to such nonsense. A dating show? It wasn’t like her. Her co-workers knew that. And yet they signed her up for it anyway, just because they wanted her to find someone. And she, even after her doubts and misgivings, had gone ahead with the process. What harm could it do? But now, she had her answer. Renee was mortified. A man with no torso dismissed her…a coward with only legs who had never even shown his face.

* * *

The producer ran his hand over his semi-bald scalp as he made his way across the cold, open studio and into the control booth. The equipment inside warmed it at least ten degrees. He threw his clipboard down onto an empty chair making a nice bang. The board operator jumped and spun on his heel. The other man in the room looked as relaxed as he could be. He slowly swiveled his chair in the producer’s direction, but did not take his hands from behind his head or sit up from his laid-back position.

The producer frowned and directed his gaze at the TV screen behind the other man. Renee’s pink face sat frozen on the monitor, her mouth open in mid-speech. He threw his hands into the air. “I don’t know what to say.”

“I want her.” The seated man half-smiled.

“Excuse me?”

“Her.” The man released one hand and threw his thumb over his shoulder toward the monitor. “She’s the one.”

The producer’s jaw dropped slightly. This was Ben McConnell’s type? He preferred bumbling, fresh-faced girls with little life experience over all of the others they brought in and paraded before him?

“Are you…are you serious?” The producer was certain Ben was joking.

“As a heart attack.” Ben swiveled the chair back around to view the frozen TV screen more closely. “Oh, and change the name of the show. We’re going to call it Accept this Dandelion.”

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Prisoner of the Pearls

Though Debra is saddened by the death of her beloved aunt, she treasures the historic home in Galveston, Texas the dear woman left to her. Also, bequeathed, are a string of flawless pearls and a note warning her to never wear them. Unable to resist, Debra fastens them around her neck. She never dreams of the history behind the pearls, or the power they will have over her life. Will she solve their mystery, or wear them to her death?

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015 © Karen Cogan

Delighted by the mystery surrounding the pearls, Debra ran them through her fingers. They were too fine to stay hidden—they should be enjoyed, admired, and cherished. In fact, they’d go perfectly with her sweaters and black dresses. Despite her aunt’s warning, she could no more leave them in a metal container than tear down Lacy’s house.

She took the velvet box and left the room. Then, after canceling the rental on the safety deposit box, she left the bank.

In the car, she unlatched the clasp and secured the pearls around her throat. She giggled when she looked into the mirror above the dashboard. Though the delicate strand complimented her blue eyes and ash-blonde hair, she felt like a little girl playing dress-up. She’d never owned anything half as valuable as the pearls.

When she arrived home, she found an envelope propped against the door. She opened it to find a sympathy card from the neighbor next door, Mrs. Morgan, a relative of Lacy’s lawyer. Aunt Lacy had lived in this house for many years and knew several of her neighbors well.

Though Mrs. Morgan was elderly now, Debra suspected she would devote much of the time she sat at her window or on the porch to keeping an eye on Debra and the house. She was a lovely woman whom Debra had known since childhood when she spent summers with her aunt.

After she entered the house, Debra draped her jacket over a chair, for the morning had grown warm. She made a glass of tea and carried it to the back garden where little had changed since her childhood. Ferns still bordered the house and lily pads floated in the fountain.

She sat upon the fountain seat and admired the azaleas coming into bloom. Lilies and bleeding hearts lay in several round beds set amidst the rich green grass. The tall Oleander awaited its turn to bloom in the fall.

When a shadow fell across the pond, she glanced up. A man studied her, his heavy head cocked to the side. After a moment, he said, “You must not remember me, Debra. I’m Dave, Lacy’s ex-husband.”

She stared hard at him as she struggled with feelings of misgivings. He’d proved to be a bit of a leech with Lacy and less than honest with Debra. Since the last time she’d seen him, he’d grown stockier and his hair had turned entirely gray.

“What do you want?” she asked, placing a protective hand on her pearls.

“To talk to you about the map.” He paused as his gaze fell upon the strand around her neck.

As she stared into his dark, greedy eyes, her apprehension grew. “They’re worthless,” she said, hoping he’d leave.

He shook his head. “Lacy set great store by them. She kept them locked away. She showed them to me once when we went to the box for stock certificates.” He reached out to touch the pearls.

Debra flinched away, thinking of making a run for the house.

Withdrawing his hand, he smiled. “They remind me of your aunt. I’ll always love her.”

Struck by the melancholy in his face, Debra suddenly pitied the man. “She loved you, too, at first.”

“May I sit? I was shocked to learn of Lacy’s passing. I get light-headed when I think of it.”

Nodding, she stared into the pond and watched the koi that were Lacy’s pets—so friendly she could hand feed them. Three were orange and two were yellow. Debra wondered if they responded to their names.

While she was musing, Dave moved closer. “I’ve always had a soft spot for you, Debra. Now that you’re trying to start a business, I want to help. I’ll give you two hundred dollars for those pearls. It’s probably more than they’re worth. Still, I’d treasure them always.”

Debra shook her head. “I’m sorry, but they were Lacy’s. I can’t part with them.”

“Five hundred.”

“They’re not for sale.”

“They should be mine. Lacy would have wanted that. The pearls want it. It’s like they’re calling to me.”

Before she could stop him, he reached out and touched them. Debra jerked away. How dare he touch her!

She pulled on his fingers as they curled around the necklace. She couldn’t loosen his grip. And then an incredible thing happened. A great, gasping portal shaped like a funnel appeared before them. They were sucked inside, whirling in a tight, white circle, bound together by his clasp upon her beads. Debra’s stomach lurched as vertigo overtook her.

When would it stop? Was she dreaming? She closed her eyes, longing to awaken. Yet they swirled on in the mist until their rotation gradually stopped. Debra opened her eyes. What she saw made her close them again.

They were no longer in her front yard. They stood on bare ground, with only scrub growth around them and no habitation as far as she could see. It was Galveston Island, but not the one she knew.

What happened?

Still dizzy, she swayed and shook her head trying to clear it.

Dave didn’t resist when she pulled the pearls from his grip. Instead, he sputtered, “Where are we? I don’t recognize this place.”

“I haven’t a clue,” she answered. “The last thing I remember is you’d grabbed the pearls.”

“I don’t remember grabbing them.” He closed his eyes so tightly his ample cheeks covered them. Finally opening them, he said, “I guess you know the legend of those things.” He nodded at the pearls. “I never believed it could be true.”

“I thought the same thing.” Her heart thundered in her chest as she fought panic.

“What do we do?”

“Let’s walk and look around.”

He gestured in a circle. “Walk where? Nothing’s here.”

“We’re here for some reason. You must have talked to Lacy about these pearls. What do you know about them?”

He held up his hands in protest. “Nothing really. Just an old tale.”

Needing to take action, she set off toward the Strand, not caring whether he followed or not. Still, it didn’t surprise her when he did, huffing along beside her.

They’d walked over salt grass and around dunes, finally coming to a worn path. Debra frowned. If they were still on the island, they should have reached the port by now.

She stared in surprise when she spotted the harbor. It lay before them, populated with old-fashioned wooden ships, complete with masts and rigging. She shaded her eyes and peered up at the colorful flags fluttering near the crow’s nests. They reminded her of the old car show she’d seen once in the Astrodome—Model Ts and As, as well as cars dating from the 1940s.

Unlike those cars, these ships looked new, yet nearly two hundred years had passed since ships like these had filled the harbor.

She heard Dave gasp. “This is the past.”

“Nonsense,” she answered, knowing she had no better explanation.

Further down the beach, she spotted a few buildings, suggesting a small town—a town with no cars, no streets, or electric wires. Wherever or whenever they’d come varied greatly from the Galveston they had left.

Sand blew from the dunes. The gritty grains stuck to Debra’s moist skin. She licked her lips and tasted salt. The familiar sensations told her nothing had changed, but her eyes told her differently.

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