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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Available through Amazon!

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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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Baxter Road Miracle

 

Can faith move mountains? The Youngbloods are about to find out.

 

Can faith move mountains? The Youngbloods are about to find out.

Henry Youngblood is determined to plant a new church in Buffalo Creek, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Meanwhile, his pregnant wife worries about paying the bills. One daughter dreams of a college education she cannot afford, and the other wants nothing more than popularity. It will take a miracle for the Youngblood family’s dreams to come true.

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2015© Carlene Havel

Ellen Youngblood kicked off her shoes and nestled into a corner of the sofa. With her husband at a meeting and her daughters doing their lessons, she looked forward to a rare evening of leisure time. She opened a squeaky end table drawer to retrieve a well-worn fashion magazine. Oh, to have the First Lady’s cool, elegant looks! Ellen absently touched her light brown tresses, neatly pulled into a bun. No, a pillbox hat needs a bouffant hairdo to look right. Ellen sighed. A new hairstyle wouldn’t give me Jackie Kennedy’s height. Or sense of style. And I’ll never be that slender. A pastor’s wife ought not to be so absorbed in fashion trends, anyway. The unexpected sound of footsteps on the porch interrupted Ellen’s thoughts.

She threw open the front door. “You’re home early. What happened?”

“The deacons voted down the land deal.” Henry Youngblood came inside and sat hunched forward on the sofa. His handsome face was devoid of all expression.

Ellen closed the door, but continued to stand at the threshold. “I thought they were all in favor.” She crossed the room and sat next to her husband. Putting an arm around him, she asked, “How could this happen?”

Henry exhaled and rubbed his face with both hands. “I don’t know. Brad Roberts did most of the talking.” He loosened his tie and rested his elbows on his knees, chin in hand. “Obviously there was another meeting—one I wasn’t invited to—before we got together tonight.”

Ellen listened to the sounds of pencils scratching in the dining room, hoping her teenaged daughters missed their father’s abrupt announcement. She rubbed Henry’s back, struggling to understand the situation. “What do the deacons want to do? Shop around for another piece of land?”

“They don’t want to do anything,” he said. “Sit tight. Take a wait and see attitude. Die on the vine.” Henry shrugged Ellen’s arm away and removed his suit coat. “I’m so sure it’s God’s will for us to build our new building in Buffalo Creek.” He turned to face his wife. “Where have I gone wrong?”

“Oh, honey. This isn’t your fault.” She picked up his jacket. “Do you want me to fix you something to eat?”

“No. I’m too upset to think about food right now.”

“Let me hang up your coat,” Ellen said. Henry followed her to their bedroom, where she put his jacket on a hanger and smoothed out the wrinkles. Henry never stayed long at the churches he pastored. The usual end of his employment came when conservative church leaders opposed her husband’s big plans. By now, the pattern was familiar. Henry would take on some small, half-dead church and double or triple the attendance within a year. With an overflowing sanctuary, he would begin to push for expansion or replacement of church facilities. The cost of Henry’s recommendations would spark heated controversy, and soon the Youngbloods packed up and moved on.

“Did the deacons ask for your resignation?” Ellen asked.

“They didn’t have to. I gave them notice on the spot.”

She patted his shoulder. “Maybe you should pray about this.”

“I have prayed,” Henry said. “There won’t be anything left of this neighborhood when that interstate highway cuts through here. God is leading us out to the suburbs, to Buffalo Creek. Where there’s no vision, the people perish, Ellen.”

“Did you ask how long we can stay in the parsonage?” She swept her eyes around the room. She would miss her latest home. It was their nicest house since Henry started preaching nine years and four churches ago. A spacious place with three big bedrooms didn’t come along every day.

“We didn’t talk about anything but the land,” Henry replied. “I gave them three months to call a new pastor. If they find someone sooner, that’s fine with me.”

“Maybe this will all work out after everyone has a chance to cool off,” Ellen said.

Henry drew his wife into an embrace and kissed her. “No. I’ve had it with these people. Tomorrow morning, we’ll start packing and get ready to move. Somewhere.”

“What do we tell the girls?” Ellen asked, turning her face to nestle a cheek against Henry’s chest.

“There’s nothing to tell until we figure out what I’m supposed to do next.”

Ellen sighed. “We can’t wait too long. People will ask questions Sunday, and the kids have to be prepared.” The church would probably not offer to pay Henry any kind of bonus or severance, and he would be too stubborn to ask. Thankful she had a little money put aside, Ellen hugged her husband tightly. This is obviously not the right evening to break the news I’m pregnant. There’s still time before I start to show.

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Legitimate Lies

 

Will a hidden secret hinder her chance for happiness?

 

Jen assumes she can escape her past after she testifies against Robert, her human trafficking mogul husband, and enters into witness protection under a new identity. That is until a baby shows up on the stoop of the library where she works, and another man from her past, Tom, appears in her living room. Now she must relocate again under yet another name and memorize a new set of legitimate lies to explain who she is.

When Robert discovers her latest identity, he has other plans for her, such as enslaving her in a Tudor manor in Southern England. The scandalous family secrets she discovers may hold the key to her and the daughter of the manor’s freedom. But first she must tunnel through a myriad of lies, including the dark sin which has held her own heart captive. If the truth is revealed, will it hinder her one chance for happiness?

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Julie B. Cosgrove

 

Did I really want this baby? Yes.

Wait, no. Absolutely not.

I recognized her—and that wounded me deeper than I’d ever imagined.

The barricade of lies, which I’d droned into my head over the past few months, crumbled the moment little Josh Holder discovered her on the front steps of the Bonita Springs Public Library. She lay on the hard concrete, swaddled in a pink crocheted throw. Innocent eyes, tucked into chestnut skin, widened as they peered into mine. Thick, straight strands encircled her head in a coal-colored halo.

“Look Miz Williams. It was taped to her blanket.” Josh teetered on his eight-year old tiptoes to show me.

My business card—“Sheila Williams – Library Assistant.” What on earth? I tucked a fly-away strand of auburn hair behind my ear and flipped the card over. On the back a familiar handwriting scrawled, “She’s yours if you want her.”

Mine? If I want her? The card trembled between my fingers. A tumult of emotions swirled inside of me like a Dervish dancer. Anguish because she was my now-imprisoned husband, Robert’s, illegitimate child. Anticipation she could be what I’d secretly desired—a baby of my own. Anger over the fact she existed at all. My nerves mimicked the twirling leaves on the sidewalk in front of the library, whipped by the tropical storm brewing above us.

Thunder rumbled. Or did my heartbeat thump a warning inside my eardrums? No one from my past in Texas had been told I now lived in Florida. Except for Becky, who’d help me settle into my new life. But she wouldn’t tell. Her federal job depended on secrecy. So, who dropped off this child?

I scanned the city block. Then, I spied him. Tom. The one man I’d almost trusted. A smile eased across my lips. So, he’d kept his promise to Robert after all. He’d made sure the baby lived. Now, Robert’s hold on him was broken. The old Navy buddy debt paid.

Oh, how I envied Tom’s freedom from my husband’s evil vice-grip. My thumb rubbed the place where my wedding ring once sat on my finger. My faith told me I remained shackled to Robert—for better or for worse—even though the Feds had changed my identity and my marital status when I entered witness protection.

Tom tipped an imaginary Stetson in my direction. My mouth opened, but no words came out. There remained too much to say, and none of it mattered now. So, I returned the gesture with a slight nod, a heart to heart silent code I hoped he’d interpret as, I still love you.

Josh tugged on my sleeve. “Who’s that?”

“Just a man saying, ‘Hi’, I guess.”

Tom had been so much more. My husband’s friend, turned Federal asset, had become my protector. My comforter. And a fellow victim of Robert’s manipulative schemes. As our feelings for each other developed, he represented the forbidden fruit—a constant reminder of the wrong choice I’d made with Robert before God and man at the altar five years ago amidst roses, white lace and taffeta. But, a vow remained a vow.

I wrapped my arms around my chest and watched Tom walk away, his hands tucked deep into the side pockets of his well-fitted Dockers. My feet yearned to follow him. My brain knew better than to respond to their request. Instead, I pushed the soles of my shoes against the concrete with locked knees. Any feelings for Tom, and his for me, rested in God’s hands. I’ll wait, Tom. I’ll always wait. Does your finding me again mean you will too?

With a deep sigh, I tapped the business card against my palm. My thoughts returned to the cooing bundle on the stoop. So he’d brought the infant to me. Great. Now what do I do? I crouched down to peer at her.

A chill zipped up my spine. How had Tom gotten one of my cards? Wait—how had he found me? Isn’t WITSEC supposed to keep my whereabouts a secret? Wasn’t that the whole point?

Even if my and Tom’s ties to Robert were severed, the federal agents forbade any connections with my past. Tom knew that. Did that also hold true for this tiny child at my feet? My eyes stung from the question. Oh, why on earth did Tom give you to me, little one? And where is your mother?

A clap of thunder shuddered against the library building. Quarter-sized raindrops polka-dotted the paved stoop—first a few, then more. The warm, moisture-laden Gulf wind spritzed my face, hiding the tears that welled in my eyes.

“We can’t just leave her here, Miz Williams. She’ll get soaked.” Josh scrunched his third grade eyebrows together. It made him appear wiser than his years. Perhaps he was.

I blinked the emotions back into the dark crevices of my mind. “Okay, Josh. Let’s take her inside the library.”

He dashed up the steps to open the door for us.

“But,” I raised the baby girl to my shoulder and whispered into her little ear, “I just can’t let you into my life. Not yet.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie B. Cosgrove is a freelance writer, professional speaker and published author. She is a member of Advanced Writers & Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, North Texas Christian Writers, The Christians Writers Group Two, and Christian Writers Fellowship International.

She represents Women at Risk International, a Christian missionary group who sponsor safe houses for women and children snatched from human trafficking and slavery in thirteen countries and is actively involved in Prayer For Freedom, a nonprofit anti-trafficking ministry.

As a speaker, Julie has achieved the highest level of communication award, the Advance Communication Gold, in Toastmasters International. She has led quiet days, workshops and retreats as well as spoken to many women’s and church groups throughout Texas, Louisiana and Florida, and in Indianapolis.

Julie writes regularly for several Christian websites and publications. In the past three years alone, her articles have been featured in Devozineand Alive Now Magazines published by the Upper Room, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness, Faith-filled Family Magazine, Good News Daily, The Secret PlaceLight from the Word, and The Journey.

She has also published five nonfiction works: P.R.A.Y.I.N.G.: Bringing Power and Purpose to Your Prayers (2009), Song Notes: Devotionals from the Book of Psalms (2010), What Can She Tell Us? (2011), Between the Window and the Door (2012), and Squeeze More God-time Into Your Day (2013).

Julie has authored three contemporary faith-based novels. Focused, set in the Texas Hill Country, which follows a woman’s journey to find God in her empty nest, was released in 2012. She is working on the other two novels in that trilogy, Grounded and Rooted. The sequel to Hush in the Storm, Legitimate Lies, launches through Prism Book Group in early 2015.

Contact her at www.juliebcosgrove.com or through her blog, http://WhereDidYouFindGod Today.com

 

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The Christmas Journal

A Christmas novella featuring family, forgiveness, and love…

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

 

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EXCERPT

Copyright 2014 © Kimberly B Jackson

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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