Psychologist in desperate need of a guardian angel this Christmas

AngelToTheRescueCoverArt72dpiAngel to the Rescue Blurb:

Child psychologist Rachel Kelly isn’t quite sure how to handle the situation with her newest client — a six-year-old boy who says he can talk to angels and one is coming to help Rachel. She already has her hands full of trouble this Christmas season, and things quickly take a turn for the worse when a stalker crashes Rachel’s Christmas party and takes her young clients hostage.

Police negotiator, Lt. Jake Dillon, walked away from his fiancée Rachel when she suddenly balked at having kids. His kids. Yet when the hostage crisis erupts, Rachel calls Jake first. Now he has a choice to make — stand back and wait for the cavalry to save Rachel or step in and try to save her himself. Time is running out, and Jake may be their only chance for rescue.

Unless Rachel’s little angel-spying client is telling the truth…

Angel to the Rescue Excerpt:  Jay meets Sassy

The second Jay shut the outer office door, Sassy let loose a loud squawk and snagged the boy’s attention. His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, and he craned his neck to see into Rachel’s office.

Olivia smiled, seeing that she’d guessed right. “We have a surprise for you today, Jay,” she said, as Rachel stepped out of her office. “A very special guest. I hope you like birds.”

“I do,” he said, almost quivering with excitement. “Where is it?”

“Her name’s Sassy, and she’s in here,” Rachel answered. “She’s my pet conure. I’m getting her toenails and wings clipped after work, so I brought her in today. Want to meet her?”

“Sure,” he said and quickly closed the distance to her office.

His eyes sparkled. This was the most emotion she’d seen in Jay since he first walked through her door. Striding past her, he made a beeline for the cage. Sassy blurted one quick squawk and scurried to the end of the perch closest to the boy.

“Love you. Love you,” the bird muttered.

His mouth dropped open. “She talks!”

Huddled together just inside the door, Rachel and Olivia both started laughing.

“Does she ever,” Rachel said, “and pretty soon you’ll wish she would shut up.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head, “not me.”

“Gimme a kiss,” the bird chirped, plain as day.

Jay’s eyes almost popped right out of his head. “Can I hold her?”

Rachel stepped swiftly to his side and put out a hand. “Wait just a second. We have to make sure she won’t nip you. Birds choose their friends, not the other way around. Birds like some people instantly, and some people they need a lot of time to get used to, and some people they just never get used to.”

“I can guess which one I am,” Olivia muttered.

“We’ll pop the top door rather than the side,” Rachel said, releasing the catch. The double doors covering the crest of the cage folded back, and Sassy leaped out of the opening to scramble for a perch on the top bars.

 “Don’t try to pick her up yet,” Rachel cautioned. “Inch a little closer and stay just out of reach. Let’s see what she does first.”

He followed directions, and the small green parrot scooted over close to him, muttering, “Love you,” as she went. All her feathers lay smooth against her body with nary a one plumped up. Clinging to the edge of the cage, Sassy telescoped her neck as far as she could in an attempt to reach Jay, which brought a spontaneous laugh from him. Undaunted, she continued straining to reach him and almost fell off the side of the cage.

“I think she may like you,” Rachel said quietly. “Lift your finger up near her, but be ready to move. If she leans toward you slowly with her beak open, she’s reaching for your finger to pull it in close enough for her to step up. If she lunges for you with her beak open, she’s going to bite.”

Taking a deep breath, Jay eased his right index finger up, higher and higher. His eyes danced with excitement.

The bird muttered one last “love you,” gently clamped onto Jay’s finger to pull it toward her, and stepped aboard. Little melodious notes suddenly filled the air as the bird made it clear she was delighted with her new ride. Moving his finger up near his shoulder, he allowed Sassy to disembark on firmer ground, much to Rachel’s delight.

McCarty_Petie_WebsiteImage“What do you know,” she said. “My bird likes you.”

“Can I hold her for a while?” he asked expectantly.

“Of course you can, but every fifteen minutes or so put her back on her cage for a few minutes. I’d hate to have her leave an accident on your shoulder. They’re gross.”

He laughed outright, his first full-hearted laugh since their sessions began.

She was ecstatic. “Why don’t you have a seat on the couch, and we’ll get started. Do you want a drink or anything?”

“No ma’am,” he said, a wide grin firmly implanted on his face.

As Olivia ducked out, Rachel closed the door and took a seat next to him, a little closer than normal in the off chance she needed to snatch Sassy at a moment’s notice.

“Does she say a lot of things?” he asked.

“About eight or nine phrases are all conures can manage. She has lots of noises though. Every time I reach for a tissue, when she’s on my shoulder, she makes tiny coughing sounds. Started doing that last month when I had a bad cold and coughed a lot.”

Jay shifted on the couch, and Sassy grabbed his shirt with her beak to hang on.

 “Remember, she’s not on her best behavior or her most talkative right now. She’s too excited about you holding her.”

Sassy the StarThe bird hadn’t stopped making little noises since Jay picked her up, little happy sounds that passed for imitations of them talking. “You’ve spent a lot of time with her, haven’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, we’ve gotten very close in the last few months. Sometimes Sassy makes me crazy, but I love her a lot. She’s my baby.”

He stared at Rachel for such a long time that she wondered if he would clam up again. Then out of nowhere, a deep slow smile slid across his face — a smile of pure contentment.

“Maybe you could ask your mom to get you a bird of your own.”

His body tensed, and his smile promptly faded.

Rachel waited patiently for him to respond.

As Jay was about to speak, Sassy chattered “love you” three times in a row and promptly skittered around onto the front pocket of his shirt, using her beak and claws to hold on.

Startled, he said, “What’s she doing?”

“She wants you to hug her.”

His eyes got as big as saucers.

“Put your right hand flat on your chest, fingers together and thumb straight up, and watch what happens.”

He did as instructed, and the little bird adeptly lowered one foot to his index finger while her beak clutched his shirt. With a stable foothold, she lowered the other foot to rest alongside. As soon as she was comfortable, she leaned back to look at Jay.

His grin returned, wider than before, and he tried to focus on the bird so close to his face. “Hi there,” he said softly.

“Use your other hand to pet her. Start at her head and go to her tail.” Rachel said softly. “It’s how I love on her when I hold her. She doesn’t let just anybody do this. You should feel honored.”

He followed her instructions, and the little bird made soft cooing noises as he stroked her. Captivated, he focused all his attention on the conure.

Rachel let out a sigh of relief. Thank you, Sassy.

A minute or so passed with Jay continually stroking the contented bird. Out of nowhere, he said, “My mom would have to ask my dad for permission to buy a bird, and she wouldn’t ask for something like that.”

A little surprised by his comment, Rachel said, “I know you said your father calls the shots at home, but why wouldn’t your mom ask for a bird for you?”

His grin disappeared. “She only asks for certain things. They have to be real special.”

Rachel knew not to mention Christmas presents since Jay had already said his family didn’t do much for the holiday. She chose her next words carefully. “But a bird for you would be very special. I still don’t see why she wouldn’t ask.” She waited so long for his answer, she wondered if it would ever come.

Finally, he turned to stare at Rachel. “She’s afraid of him.”

She felt a sick thud in the pit of her stomach. The boy watched her. Only his hand moved, stroking the contented bird. His eyes never blinked.

She chose her next words carefully. “It would help me to understand better if I know why your mother is afraid.”

He pondered her request, then turned away. He gazed out the window, still mechanically stroking the small green bird. Only Sassy’s periodic chirps broke the silence.

She took a deep breath and went back to her earlier question. “Why would your mother be afraid to ask him for a bird?”

Still no response. The hand stroking the bird picked up its pace.

She waited another few minutes, then prodded again. “Jay, why would your mother not ask for a bird?”

The stroking pace increased until Sassy’s head bobbed like a cork. No response.

One more try. “Jay, I…”

“Because he’d hit her!” he shrieked.

Squawk!

Startled by his outburst, poor Sassy snatched his index finger as it came over the top of her head.

“Ow!” he yelped and jerked his finger away.

Rachel cringed, fearful the boy might lash out at the parrot, but he kept still. The bird remained perched on his finger. Sassy settled down and waited for her stroking to resume. The boy sat still as stone.

Second-guessing the use of her own pet in this experiment, Rachel debated whether to move over and take the bird or leave her be. She waited a few moments to allow Jay to calm down. Tears trickled down both cheeks and onto his shirt.

She was treading delicate ground.

Help me, God — please.

A second later, Sassy muttered, “Love you.”

Jay’s left hand slowly moved back to the top of her head, a bit tentative as he attempted to stroke her. The tears continued to fall. His head stayed down.

Choking back her own tears, Rachel said softly, “I’m so sorry, Jay.”

His hand continued the repetitive stroking, Sassy again comfortable with her handling.

Rachel took a deep breath and calculated her options. She couldn’t afford to let this opportunity pass. If the wall built around his heart went back up, it may never come down again. She tuned into the boy’s movements and waited for the right moment.

“Does he hit you, too?”

The boy went completely still. The hand-stroking ceased. A slight shudder shook the boy’s frame and from beneath his bowed head, came a choked response. “Yes.”

She had to work fast. “Just a spanking or worse?” She kept her voice soft.

“Worse.”

“Does he beat you and your mother?”

A short sob racked his frame. “Yes,” he whispered.

“Jay, I can help you. Let me contact the authorities and have them put a stop to this.”

He turned a wild-eyed stare at her. “No!”

Sassy squawked at his shriek, but didn’t bite this time.

“If you tell, I’ll never talk to you again!” he cried.

She felt like a giant hand squeezed her heart. “Jay, please,” she pleaded.

“No! You can’t!” He glowered at her. “It’ll be worse. I have to protect Will.”

She fought hard for composure. Not getting personally involved was the hardest part about being a psychologist. She had to fight the natural impulse in order to help the patient, and this boy desperately needed her.

She steeled herself. “Jay, listen to me. Your father is wrong. He’s wrong to beat your mother, and he’s horribly wrong to beat you. You and your mother did nothing to deserve that. Do you hear me? Nothing! Something is wrong with your father to make him do that, but it’s not you!”

A minute passed. His hand moved toward the cage and set Sassy down.

Squawk!

The conure voiced her displeasure.

“Jay? Did you hear–“

The boy lurched sideways and threw himself into her arms, his body battered by gut-wrenching sobs.

Download and read the book today, Desert Breeze Publishing or Petie’s author page on Amazon where you can get her other great books as well.

Sassy Bird Steals the Show

Sassy the StarI love animals, so I was very excited with Author Petie McCarty sent her bird Sassy to the interview on her latest book. 

So Sassy, tell us about the book that released this week — a great Christmas read.

Hi! My name is Sassy, and I’m a Nanday conure — think of me as a height-challenged parrot. I live with my people, Petie and Patrick McCarty, and also a misbegotten English Springer spaniel that my people call Lily, who never stops sniffing around my cages. I’m not afraid of Lily, but Petie keeps telling me I should be. When I’m out and I sit on top of my cage, Petie mutters something that sounds like, “Don’t forget, she’s a bird dog.” Lily doesn’t want me though, she wants the seeds that fall out of my cage. But, I digress from my purpose here.

My special person, Petie, is a writer, and we spend hours together in our special room at the back of the house. There Petie sits at her desk and writes with her hand or types on a keyboard while I have fun on the play table Patrick made for me, which sits next to her desk. Petie says she’s working on her books, and she explains things to me when she stops for while because she’s “stuck” — whatever that means.

Well, one day several months ago, as I pushed my plastic ball around on my play table, Petie stopped typing and stared at me for a long time, longer than normal. So I said, “What’s wrong?” [But it came out “Hello, Baby” — which is one of the nine things she taught me to say that she really can understand, so I use them a lot.]

AngelToTheRescueCoverArt72dpiStill she stared at me, so I tried again. “What’s wrong?” [This time it came out “Love you” — another of my nine favorites]

She frowned at me and said, “I have to help the boy.”

I said, “What boy? We have a boy?” [This came out like my most-excited words, “Kiss, Baby!” because I could tell Petie was upset.]

When I said that, Petie grinned at me and then got real excited, too. She cried, “That’s it! Psychologists could use an animal to break through to a child, and I’ll use you!”

Me? Now I don’t know what a psychologist is, but I liked the sound of Petie using me for anything.

Well, Petie kissed me on top of my head — she does that a lot — and said, “Sassy, you’re going to be in my book!”

“In your book?” I cried. “But I like my cage and my play table!” [That was “Hello, Baby!” six times in row — I was worried.]

Petie didn’t hear me though. She turned back to her keyboard, and her fingers were flying. I watched for a while until I got bored — I get bored easy — and then I climbed the ladder up to my food pot on the play table to have a snack.

In case you’re interested, the book was released December 10, and it’s called Angel to the Rescue. Petie says it’s one of her Rescue Angel Romances where she hides an angel in her book. I think I’d like to meet one of Petie’s angels.

Anyway… check tomorrow and you’ll see what Petie calls a “blurb.” She says it will tell you a little about the story, and she put in an excerpt, but it’s really my scene in the book. In the scene, I meet Jay, one of the kids Dr. Rachel Kelly is counseling.

I really like the story, and Petie said she made me a star, which is okay with me as long as I don’t ever have to leave Petie.

So, readers, more tomorrow from Petie’s book, Angel to the Rescue — and if you can’t wait download it now from Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.

A Christmas Bonus – she has to work on Christmas!

DSC01807I am so excited to have Patty Froese with me today to talk about her Christmas release. Patty, how are holiday stories different from your usual writing?

I don’t think they are very different from what I normally write, because I’m a pretty romantic soul as it is. Christmas just gives the perfect setting for romance, humor and some tugging at the heartstrings.

I’m one of those people who has to be physically restrained from setting up the tree before Halloween. Mind you, I live in a place where snow comes early, so that’s my excuse. 😉

What was the inspiration for this story?

This is a workplace romance. Andrew, the CEO, is being blackmailed by his grandfather to go home for Christmas, even though Andrew has a huge account he has to work on. His solution is to simply bring his faithful assistant, Millie, along with him in return for a hefty Christmas bonus. Millie, however, is tired of this arrangement, and while she agrees to the trip, she has plans to quit by New Year.

The inspiration is from my own working days. I never did like my jobs. I was a writer at heart, and I worked in order to pay my rent and sAChristmasBonusCoverArt72dpi(1)pend the rest of my time hammering out novels. Millie has other plans to open her own photography business, and this job was only meant to be a temporary solution. In that way, Millie is a lot like me.

How much of your writing is drawn from real life and how much is from other sources?

That’s hard to tell, because I live in my head a lot. LOL! I’m one of those people who can’t hear an idle piece of information without mentally spinning a whole story around it.

What fun! Then you can’t always know in advance how the story will unwind. Is there an underlying message in your writing? What do you want readers to take away from the story?

I always want my readers to come away from my books feeling hopeful. I truly, deeply believe that there is a lid for every pot, and I suppose that is the message I want to give. Don’t give up hope for love. Life is full of beautiful, sparkling opportunities, if we can just look up and see them.

Book Blurb

When Millie’s boss asks her to work over Christmas, she’s hesitant to give him any more overtime. She has plans for her life that include quitting this job and starting her own photography business, and she promises herself to quit by New Years.

Andrew Holmes has no desire to go back to his tiny hometown for the holidays, but his manipulative grandfather gives him an ultimatum that he just can’t refuse. So in order to get the last project of the year finished in time, he asks his assistant, Millie, to make the trip with him.

With a disgruntled brother, a sister-in-law struggling with infertility and a little boy who shows up claiming that one of the Holmes men is his father, Christmas is about to get complicated…

 Buy link

Patty’s websites: http://patriciajohnsromance.com and http://pattyfroese.com

From Ireland to the New World — Pioneer Instinct

PioneerInstinctCoverArtEliza O’Malley and brother Allen travel from Ireland to join their father and brothers on an 1890s Wyoming homestead. Allen is almost destroyed during the voyage, but Eliza’s benefactors rescue them both from their father’s foolish carelessness and mounting debt.

When she has worked off her passage and built her own wealth, Eliza completes the journey, knowing that she has been called to fulfill her destiny as a Heartmark woman. She is immediately swept off her feet by the neighboring rancher Frank McGee. His sister Jude, her friend and business partner, harbors a secret that will nearly destroy the love between Eliza and Frank.

Clues from an ancient diary, the fierce intervention of animal helpers, and ancient artifacts play a part in the life of all Heartmark women, including Eliza. Will they be enough to overcome the horrible rumors spread by Jude and restore Frank’s love for her?

Excerpt

Could this man be the answer to her prayers? “Oh, sir, I am looking for someone to help me find my brother.” She turned to the door of the men’s quarters the man had just come out of, then turned back to him. “I haven’t seen him since we left port and I’m worried sick.”

The man blanched and alarm flashed across his face, then he gave her a gentle smile and she wondered if she’d imagined that first reaction.

He cast a quick look to the door of the men’s quarters, then cleared his throat and gave her his complete attention. “Well, tell me more about this brother of yours and we will see what we can do.”

Relief and hope eased the knot in Eliza’s stomach for the first time since her father had taken charge of Allen. “Oh, yes, thank you. His name is Allen O’Malley and he’s ten years old. He has dark hair and green eyes and is about this tall.” She put her hand at about her shoulder level. “He is thin and when I saw him last he was crying his heart out at having to leave home.”

A thin man, pale and looking worse for wear, pushed open the doors from the men’s quarters, heading to the rail of the ship. Eliza peered into the darkness below before the door slammed shut again. If only she could see him…

Her companion’s eyes followed hers.

“Tell you what, Lassie. You stand right here at the opening and call out his name. Tell him I’ll bring him to you. Maybe that will help me find him.”

Hope bloomed in her breast and she nodded eagerly. Mindful of his steps on the thin rope ladder, the stranger backed down into the darkness.

Mustering as much confidence as she could, she called out to her little brother. “Allen, I’m here. Come up on deck please. This nice man will bring you to me. Allen O’Malley, I’m waiting to see you, but I’m getting impatient. Do you want me to come down there after you?”

“Eliza?”

The call was so timid she almost missed it completely. Eliza fisted her hands to her chest to keep her heart from pounding its way outside her body. “Yes, Allen, it’s me. Let this nice man bring you up on deck with me and I’ll make sure you don’t have to go down there again.”

*****

Pale circles of light from the few lanterns which were hooked to the rafters were all James McWhorter had to guide him around the mass of humanity suffering from sea sickness below decks. He found the boy huddled in a corner. There was no lantern in this area, and it was too dark to be sure what he saw, but the smell was even worse in this corner. He put a handkerchief to his nose and tried to take shallow breaths. Feces, urine and – could it be blood? – crowded his nostrils and gagged him.

When James knelt beside the balled up little boy, his pant leg became wet with who knew what. “Son, are you all right?”

There was a sniff, followed by a long silence. “They– they hurt me. I’m scared.” The whispered, broken words tore at James’ heart.

Download now from Desert Breeze Publishing, where you can check out Books 1 and 2, Animal Instinct set in Missouri in the 1970s and Survival Instinct set in 2020 in San Francisco.timeaftertimeseries

Pioneer Instinct Released Today

PioneerInstinctCoverArtDesert Breeze Publishing has released the third book in the Time After Time series, Pioneer Instinct.

Eliza O’Malley and brother Allen travel from Ireland to join their father and brothers on an 1890s Wyoming homestead. Allen is almost destroyed during the voyage, but Eliza’s benefactors rescue them both from their father’s foolish carelessness and mounting debt.

When she has worked off her passage and built her own wealth, Eliza completes the journey, knowing that she has been called to fulfill her destiny as a Heartmark woman. She is immediately swept off her feet by the neighboring rancher Frank McGee. His sister Jude, her friend and business partner, harbors a secret that will nearly destroy the love between Eliza and Frank.

Clues from an ancient diary, the fierce intervention of animal helpers, and ancient artifacts play a part in the life of all Heartmark women, including Eliza. Will they be enough to overcome the horrible rumors spread by Jude and restore Frank’s love for her? And what about Mildreth’s story? How will she arrive in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1890?

Excerpt:

“Hold it right there. Don’t come any closer.”

Mildreth froze at the sound of the woman’s no nonsense command.

“Okay, okay.” With great care Mildreth knelt, placed her sheathed sword on the ground at her feet, then, keeping her movements slow and non-threating she stood and turned and raised both hands in a gesture of meekness while she assessed the distance between her and this farm woman. She was about the same height and build as Mildreth herself, likely around the same age as well. She wore a long skirt, as modest in style as Mildreth’s although clearly not from the same era. A brimmed hat cast her eyes in shadow, yet her vision was clearly not impaired as she held the long gun steadily on Mildreth’s position. The confident stance, steady stare, and familiar way she handled her weapon warned Mildreth she was likely a really good shot. Mildreth would have to tread carefully.

 She forced her lips to curve into a timid smile and added a bit of a catch in her voice. “I’m sorry if I scared you.” Mildreth hunched her shoulders, strove to look vulnerable. “I’m lost and when I saw the smoke from your stove I–I hoped someone could help me figure out where I am. I’ve walked for ages and yours is the first cabin I’ve come across.”

The woman’s weapon did not waver. She pushed the rim of her hat up with an index finger and stared openly at the blood stains on Mildreth’s garments. “What happened to you?” Her eyes tracked to the sword at Mildreth’s feet then narrowed. “Whose blood is on your dress?”

She was more than a little surprised her slight injuries from Winter Parker and Mike Hunter’s animal helpers had remained through this last trip through Time. Mildreth pulled back the collar of her shirt and winced when the material of her blouse pulled at the rough, red scratches that marred her skin, left there by a cockatiel turned attack bird. She chanced a glance at the woman, hoping for sympathy.

Narrowed eyes and an impatient shake of her head was her only response.

Hmm, tough audience.

Mildreth mustered up a few crocodile tears, and let them slip down her cheeks. “I’m not sure where I was going or how I ended up out in the middle of nowhere.” She sniffed and pressed a trembling hand to her chest. “I don’t remember. I’ve been wandering around in the hot sun and I can’t think straight. If I could have a drink, maybe sit in the shade a bit, I am sure it would come back to me.”

Mildreth took a step closer, then another. The farmer woman didn’t soften and Mildreth wondered if she would have to change her tactics here. Clearly this woman’s heart was as hard as Mildreth’s own.

She studied her through tear-filmed eyes. She might have to make a grab for the rifle.

Then the farmer stepped back, making sure to keep the same distance between them.

To Mildreth’s relief, she nodded to a spot just past the barn. “There’s a well over there. Bucket’s on the rope, dipper on the side of the well wall. Help yourself.” She lowered the gun a little.

Mildreth smiled her thanks and made to reach for her sword.

“No you don’t.” The gun returned to its position pointed at Mildreth’s chest and the woman shook her head. “I’ll mind that for you while you’re here.”

Despite the suffocating heat of the late afternoon, goose bumps broke out over her skin. Sucking in a steadying breath, Mildreth nodded her acceptance, turned her back to the woman and her gun, and made her way to the well.

Although the woman’s steps were silent, the hair on the back of Mildreth’s neck raised and she knew the woman had followed her, that piercing gaze pinned on her. Mildreth deftly unwound the rope that held the bucket in place and dropped it down the well, controlling its passage. It was several seconds before it reached water. This was a deep well that would have taken considerable effort to dig by hand. She cranked the full bucket up to the edge of the well and set it there, then used the ladle for a deep, long drink, and then another. After she replaced the ladle she scooped up some water and splashed her face, then scrubbed at the grime there.

Her throat clogged with unexpected emotion from doing the familiar task.

Nay, she was not in her own land or Time, had long left ancient Scotland behind, but the routine was the same and a surge of homesickness almost sent Mildreth to her knees.

“If you want a bath the tub is there behind the well. There’s no one around and I’ve got a cow to milk, so you’ll have your privacy.”

Mildreth turned at the sound of the woman’s voice. “I appreciate it.”

She nodded once then turned to walk away. She did not have Mildreth’s sword and she wondered what she had done with her precious companion.

Mildreth was in need of shelter, food, and information, so refrained from asking about it.

She’d best get busy and gain this woman’s trust. She blurted, “My name is Millie.”

The woman paused, and turned back to Mildreth, her expression unreadable. Mildreth shaded her eyes with one hand, blocking the sun’s glare from behind the woman’s shoulder.

Some of the tension left the woman’s stance and the gun resting in the crook of her arm angled at the ground rather than pointing at her. Mildreth pushed her small advantage. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything to wear except this soiled dress. I would offer to buy a set of clothes, but it seems I’m without coin as well.”

Silence met her words and Mildreth’s heart thumped twice against her breast. Had she gone too far and scared her benefactor?

Unexpected empathy filled the woman’s eyes and softened her features. Then, in an almost timid voice, very different from the one that had threatened Mildreth when she approached, she said, “My name is Julia but I’m called Jude. I think we are close to the same size, although you’re taller. Maybe I can add some fabric to a skirt to make it fit.”

Mildreth did her best to hide her shock at the transformation of her host’s attitude.

Not heartless then. Okay, better. Mildreth would do fine here, for now. “Thank you, Jude. That is kind of you.” Mildreth poured the first bucket into the tub, then lowered it for another.

Jude nibbled on her bottom lip and cast an apologetic look at Mildreth. “It will take some time, though.” Her cheeks turned pink. “If you don’t mind trousers, I can bring you some of my father’s to get you by until we can sew something.” Her cheeks reddened further. “Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, I wear trousers to do the chores. It’s a lot easier than trying to run a farm in skirts.”

She snapped her lips shut, clearly embarrassed to have admitted to wearing men’s garments.

The complex woman was beginning to endear herself to Millie. Millie — why on earth had she fallen back on that old pet name? Only Colin had called her Millie. Now, however, she would need to think of herself by that name. Millie, not Mildreth. It was somehow a little kinder, a little more friendly and engaging a name.

Jude smiled at her. “Soap is in that can next to the tub. Better hurry, Millie. As hard as it may be to believe right this moment, the temperature will drop as the sun sets. I’ll be back shortly. I will find you a towel and something to wear, then I need to get the milking done.”

As if on cue, the cow gave a low moo.

Millie smiled and nodded to the cow. “Go ahead and milk first. She sounds uncomfortable.” Jude winced as if in empathy for the cow.

“I will, then.”

She would have to put the gun down to milk the cow. Okay, Millie thought, making friends with Jude, gaining her trust, should not be hard at all. She was pretty good at making friends with people she could use. She’d had lots of experience doing so through the centuries, after all.

Millie paused her tub-filling, and watched after Jude as she untethered the cow. She wondered if, contrary to the past eras, perhaps this friendship might not be a complete lie this time around.

Download today from Amazon or Dessert Breeze Publishing.