A first kiss for Jen and Michael

Excerpt from Finding Her Voice:FindingHerVoiceCoverArt

“Are you as giddy as I am, Jen? I feel like a young lad with his first crush.”

“Yes, I am giddy. As much as we’ve talked, and as much as I’ve enjoyed our daily conversations, this is much, much nicer.” She took his arm and pulled him a little closer to her side. He put his arm around her waist, and she copied the gesture. They paced their steps to match.

“It is nicer, but I must admit I feel close to you whether we talk or not, walk or not. Since the first day we connected online I was drawn to you, you know.”

“You, too?” She stopped walking and he turned to look at her. Her face was radiant in the fading light.

He traced her jaw with one finger, needing to continue to touch her.

“Me, too. You captured my heart before we’d shared ten words.”

Was that a blush? Hard to tell between the naturally dark skin tone and the limited light.

“Is that a little crazy?”

He shook his head and attempted to explain. “I don’t think so. I think there are kindred souls in this world. People who know and understand each other instinctively, effortlessly. I suspect we are two such people. I marvel at the connection, the way I feel so comfortable and so at ease with you, the way you seem to understand what I try to say even if I stumble over my words.”

They stood a few inches apart. She stepped forward, closed the distance between them and placed her lips to his ear.

“And when you whisper in my ear, like this,” she murmured softly, “I get goosebumps — the good kind.”

He reached out with one hand firmly on her waist so she couldn’t lean away, and with the other, stroked her cheek. She leaned into his hand and looked into his eyes again, then closed her eyelids and parted her lips ever so slightly.

It was an unmistakable invitation, and he obliged very gently, dropped his mouth to hers, and moved lightly across. She increased the pressure ever so slightly, kissed him back. He was the one who pulled away. She opened her eyes and looked into his again.

Placing a hand on each side of her face, he stroked his thumbs over her high cheekbones. “Oh, Jen, luv, touching you is sweet. So sweet.”

She smiled ever so slightly and leaned in for another kiss. “Sweet indeed, sweet Michael,” she whispered and then kissed him again.

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Paige and Joshua — the Sizzle of their First Kiss

“There you are.” Paige’s lilting voice gave Josh a rush of warmth and he grinned up at her from flat on his back on the ground, bumping his head on the corner of the tool shed as he sat up.dreamstimefree_3756336

“Ouch.” He rubbed the spot and with a rueful shrug, scooted out and brushed the back of his head to shake any leaves free. “You startled me. I was just finishing up.”

“What are you doing under there, anyway?” Paige leaned down to peer into the recess under the floor of the little building. “That doesn’t even look safe. I’d be afraid of bugs and snakes and other unnamed creepy crawlies.”

“Oh, they’re all gone now.” Josh reached under the building and felt around until he grasped his treasure. “Scared them away with the rake before I retrieved this.”

He pulled one of the rocks out and held it up for Paige to see.

Her gasp of joy pleased him. She reached for the crystal in his hand.

“I don’t believe it. However did you find this? It’s gorgeous.” She held it up, letting the sun reflect through it, flashing colors.

“Rose quartz, madam, if I don’t miss my guess. And there are more.” He reached back to the neat pile he’d gathered at the edge of the foundation and pulled out another stone. “This one is granite. It will be beautiful wet.”

She caught the idea immediately. “Maybe in the bird bath.” She dropped down in the grass to sit cross-legged beside him. Then she took the fist-sized rock, spit on it, and rubbed the spot. “Or if I ever build my waterfall.”

“If you build a little pond, you can fit all these in. Come take a look.” He continued scraping the rocks from the pile forward, bringing one after another into the light. This was his first good look at them, and he gave a low whistle. “This isn’t just a pile of rocks. It was someone’s collection once upon a time. I think this is jade.”

He gathered three non-descript ones with similar surfaces and dropped them into Paige’s lap. “Here are some geodes. If you crack them open, you’ll find jagged crystals inside. Here, this one is open.”

They moved their heads closer together as they handled the hollow crystal and sorted through others. Paige looked up, and Josh found her eyes, blue and sparkling with joy, only inches from his. He could get lost in those eyes. The light in them was clear and bright and eager. He didn’t want to look away, but she broke the gaze.

A blush crept up her neck, and she shifted a little farther from him. “You seem to know a lot about rocks.”

“I was an avid collector as a kid. My mom makes jewelry and always had lots of rocks around for her work.” He picked up a purple crystal and held it out to her.

She opened her palm.

He dropped it into her hand and let his fingers trail across her wrist before he moved them away.”That one was always my favorite. It’s an amethyst. Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Amethyst is my birthstone.” Hcrystal3er voice was low, almost a whisper, and filled with a kind of awe that touched him to the core.

“You have a February birthday, then.” He frowned a minute, pulling words from a deep memory. “It is a crystal known for cleansing the aura, enhancing spiritual awareness, and…”

He struggled to remember the rest. Then he remembered and swallowed. “And attracting loving energy. It suits you.” Loving energy emanated from Paige.

“It is beautiful.”

He looked at her face, the perfection of her skin, slightly pink and so touchable, and he reached out one finger and ran it down her cheek. Electricity crackled up his arm.

“Yes, it is.” He stopped at her mouth, shifted so his thumb was there instead, and hooked his finger under her chin. Then he lifted her eyes to his. “Beautiful,” he repeated.cover for on line ad

Her breathing picked up, and his own grew rapid and shallow, matching his speeding heart. He struggled to remember that he’d only seen this woman once before. He barely knew her, but somehow that didn’t compute. The only thought he could process was how her lips would feel under his. He leaned forward for a little taste and found her lips parted ever so slightly and her breath tasting of cinnamon. She shifted a little closer.

She tasted of everything good and right in the world. Cinnamon and vanilla and honey. He moved his lips slowly, carefully, taking his time, giving her time to draw back or not, to do what she wanted and needed to do.

Her hand came up to his face and she angled in, deepening their kiss and stealing his reserve. Her fingers tested the feel of his hair, the stubble on his face, and then her tongue flicked the corner of his mouth.

Had he moaned out loud? He needed to press closer. He put his arm around her shoulder and shifted so their bodies touched as he pulled her against him.

They both broke off and pulled back, she with a giggle, and he with a muffled curse, as the pointed edges of the rock collection dug into his hip.”Dratted rocks.”

The pile he’d pulled out for her viewing pleasure made a decidedly unpleasant place to lounge for a first kiss. His gaze darted up to meet hers, and he burst into laughter as she covered her mouth and smothered her own chuckles. Her eyes danced, filled with joy in the craziness of the moment.

Get your copy of More Than A Job today from my publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing, or from Amazon.

When Joy met Mark

Joy Huffman doesn’t know how to get on with her life after Steve’s fatal accident. Then, several years after his death, he calls to her in a dream and urges her to go to the cabin they’d designed together, and that she has never seen. Can she embrace this home Steve built for them, and find a way to let love in once more?

Excerpt, The Return of Joy:

She stepped from the vehicle and took a deep, steadying breath to shake off the long day’s fatigue. Evelyn moved more slowly, chatting with Charity as she unbuckled the child from her safety seat.joy cover

“Now there’s the woman I like to see,” Evelyn commented.

Joy turned to smile at her. “I’m so excited to be here.”

Here, where I can be more like the woman you knew years ago. The woman Steve loved.

For a brief moment, she was no longer in mourning. She was full of joy.

A movement from beyond Evelyn caught her attention, and a man emerged from the woods, a yellow lab trotting at his side. As he moved closer, Joy stepped toward him with a smile and a greeting.

Then the greeting died on her lips, and she swallowed, hard. Something about his presence startled her. He was under six feet — only a few inches over her own five-seven. He had thick, dark, wavy hair that brushed his collar, and a red chamois shirt he’d rolled up to display his muscular arms. His face was mobile and expressive, showing determination, tension, and — something else. Joy wasn’t sure what. He moved with a graceful, confident stride. An athlete’s stride. Tight jeans hugged his hips. He stirred something within her, something she hadn’t felt for a long time.

“Hi.” She shook his extended hand, a large, strong hand that engulfed hers and made her feel dainty and petite. She gazed up into his eyes; they were of an indeterminate color — maybe blue, maybe green, maybe gray. To call the color indeterminate was unfair. They were beautiful eyes, with depths like a fine gemstone.

“You must be Joy Huffman. I’m your tenant, Mark Stone. This is my dog, Atlas.”

She had expected someone different. A pale computer nerd, maybe. After all, he ran a computer business from here. She had not expected this masculine man.

You can buy The Return of Joy at Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing.

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.

Facial disfigurement as a long lasting scar

EyeOfTheBeholder_w11220_680[1]Eye of the Beholder by Patty Froese

How beautiful are you? If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, where would you land?

I don’t think anyone is terribly comfortable with that exercise. We’ve been trained by the media to criticize ourselves. A droop, a sag, a blemish… Those are inexcusable. Actresses are publicly mocked for having gained a little weight or having some “cottage cheese cellulite” on their thighs, exposed by the prying lenses of unwelcome cameras.

Women have babies and are judged by their “bounce back” time, ridiculous as that may be.

A woman’s value is not based on something as fickle as Hollywood ideals, but the constant battery of messages coming from the media would have us believe something else. Companies want us to believe that tubes and vials will make us beautiful, that certain styles will help us maintain our youth, that dyes will make us feel lovely. From diets to exercise machines, clothing lines to skin creams, the woman in this modern age is bombarded by messages that she just isn’t enough, and she needs some help. Big time.

So when we look at ourselves in the mirror, what do we see? I always joke that it isn’t fair to judge me only on my looks, because when you add in my personality, I get at least a three point lift on that number.  And while I’m only joking around when I talk like that, there is truth under the laughter.

Beauty is more than skin deep. But how much more?

Would you still feel beautiful if you had to wear unflattering clothing? Would you feel beautiful if all your hair fell out? Would you feel beautiful if scars covered your face and distorted your smile?

And if you stopped feeling beautiful, would you feel loved?

Where does our beauty come from?

In Eye of the Beholder, my heroine loses her looks in a freak accident. She goes from stunningly beautiful, capturing the admiration of everyone around her, to scarred and pitied. Doors no longer fly open for her, and the face in the mirror seems to belong to a stranger. When she goes up to the autumn woods to try to make peace with what she cannot change, she’s faced with more than the reality of her new looks–she’s faced with a man from her past who lost more than she ever knew.

When a woman loses her looks, what is there left to love?

Buy today from Pelican Book Group or Amazon. And if you haven’t signed up for Patty’s blog you are in for a treat at http://pattyfroese.com/

Facial scar changes how others respond

EyeOfTheBeholder_w11220_680[1]Eye of the Beholder by Patty Froese

Tricia Hunter loses her beauty in a highway accident. When the doctors can’t do anything more, she heads to a cabin in the woods to make her peace with the scars. What is left to love when a woman loses her looks?

Jesse Reynolds is a forest ranger and when he sees Tricia, he recognizes her right away as the beauty from high school who broke his heart. She doesn’t recognize him, though. She never did take much notice. But the accident that marred her good looks is the very one that took the life of his fiancee, so Jesse isn’t exactly sympathetic.

Thrown together in the autumn woods, can Jesse and Tricia find the healing they’re longing for?

God doesn’t cause pain, but He does redeem it–sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Excerpt:

Tricia Hunter dropped her bags on the scratched wood floor of her uncle’s cabin and took a deep, cleansing breath. She could already feel the potential of this place. The musty scent of old smoke from the stone hearth mingled with the tangy aroma of falling leaves. This was just what she needed, a hideaway in the middle of the autumn woods with a crackling fire, a stack of cozy quilts, and a wide window that let in a pool of golden afternoon sunlight.

Perfect.

There wasn’t a mirror to be seen in the place, and Tricia smiled wryly. That was probably what she needed most, time without having to look herself in the face.

Tricia raised her hand to touch the scars running along her jaw line, her fingers moving over the puckered skin with absent-minded familiarity. As much as she hated these scars, she was becoming more accustomed to them. She hadn’t made peace, exactly, but the shock was gone now, and in its place was a sort of confusion. Who was she now that she looked… like this?

She opened the door to a bedroom, and her gaze moved over the double bed that nearly filled the space, leaving room for only one tiny bedside table. Seeing no other door that might lead to a bathroom, she closed her eyes and cringed. So that actually was an outhouse she’d seen. She’d hoped that there was some other explanation for the little shack, but unfortunately, it made perfect sense. A kitchen sink was going to have to do for bathing, and the air inside was already feeling quite chilly in the autumn morning. This stay was going to be more rustic than she’d imagined.

“Maybe I should have gone to a resort instead,” she muttered, but she didn’t really mean it. She’d come here for a reason. She had a lot of things to think through, and spas and shopping didn’t leave her enough silence and solitude to hear herself think, let alone listen for God’s voice.

Outside, a truck’s engine revved, and she glanced out the window to see a black pickup pull into the drive. It rumbled for a moment before the engine shut off and the driver’s side door opened. A tall, broad-shouldered man hopped out. Whoever he was, the outdoors suited him. The sunlight that filtered through the red and golden leaves touched his auburn hair and caressed the rugged lines of his face. He dropped a hat on his head and swung the truck door shut with a bang. When their gazes met, he touched the brim of his hat in a polite salute. Tricia pulled away from the curtain, her cheeks warming when she realized she’d been staring.

His footsteps echoed on the stairs leading to the door and she opened it before he had the chance to knock, flashing him a smile.

“Good—” he started, but then his face blanched and he quickly cleared his throat. He looked down, then brought his gaze back up with a recovered smile.

Nice save. “Hi.” She tried to ignore that familiar sinking feeling when her scars evoked this reaction.

“Good morning, ma’am.” He said, this time without a hitch. “I’m the park ranger. I wanted to come by and make sure everything was OK.”

“I think so.” She gave him a reassuring smile for his efforts.

“Good.” Whatever his first reaction, his discomfort seemed to seep away. His dark eyes moved over her face. When she raised her eyebrows, daring him to ask her about those ugly scars, he met her gaze easily.

“I’m Tricia Hunter.”

“Tricia Hunter…” There was something in the way he repeated her name. “I’m Jesse Reynolds. Nice seeing you.” He held out his hand. His rough, calloused fingers folded gently around hers, and he paused, expectant.

Tricia cleared her throat and released his hand.

“It’s been a dry summer, but we’ve gotten two or three heavy rainfalls, so using the fireplace shouldn’t be an issue.” He nodded in the direction of the hearth. “You’ll need it tonight. It’s been dipping well below freezing.”

She nodded and his gaze moved over her face again, lingering on the scars that crept down her jaw line.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” he said after a moment. “What happened?”

Tricia was used to the question. With scars like hers, people’s curiosity held no bounds. She was past being offended, though. She gave him a shrug. “A highway accident.”

Jesse made a thoughtful sound in the back of his throat. “It must have been bad.”

“It was.” Tricia raised an eyebrow. “You should have seen me before. This is after all the plastic surgery the doctors can do.”

Jesse’s gaze traveled over her face from the sweep of her brow to the tip of her chin. He nodded slowly, almost appraisingly. “It could be worse,” he said finally.

Tricia shot him an exasperated look and turned away. It could be worse. Yes, when you thought about it, everything could be worse.

“Sorry about that.” His tone was sheepish. “I don’t mean to be callous.”

“Well, looking like this has been an…adjustment.” She turned back towards him, waiting for a reaction.

“Hmmm.” There was no pity in his eyes, just curiosity.

She was used to pity. She knew how to deflect pity. This reaction was something she hadn’t encountered before, and nervous chatter welled up inside of her. “People used to tell me I was quite attractive before the accident, you know. I mean, you wouldn’t know it to see me now. I’m still not used to this. In my head, I still look like I did before. Like those war vets who still feel their toes when they lose their legs.”

“Except you can still walk. And feel your toes.”

His dry tone made her cringe. “That came out wrong…” She wasn’t really shallow enough to think that her situation was on par with men who’d lost their limbs when fighting for their country, but the change in her appearance had still been a traumatic event, more so than the pain, stitches, and surgeries to correct the scarring and the hours upon hours of recovery combined. If he’d just react like everyone else, she’d know exactly what to say to him, but this ranger was throwing her off.

“Don’t worry about it.” He gave her good natured wink. “I like the way you look.”

“You’d be the only one.” Tricia pulled a hand through her hair. “Hey, I’m sorry. I’m a nervous talker. Can we rewind and make this a little less awkward?”

“Rewind?”

“You ask what happened and I’ll say, ‘an accident.’ And that’s where I’ll stop. No more messy elaboration.” She laughed self-consciously.

“OK, if that’s how you wanted this introduction to go. And I’ll tell you that you’ll need to put your garbage directly into the covered box outside and make sure it’s completely shut and locked at all times to keep your site protected from bears.” The flicker in his eyes turned familiar but not exactly warm. He seemed undecided on his opinion about her.

“Bears? Should I worry?” She glanced towards the window.

“Not too much, but it’s always good to be careful.”

She nodded. “That makes sense.”

Jesse’s gaze met hers for a moment. Once more she felt as if he was waiting for something, but she had no idea what it was. Did rangers get gratuities or pattysmall-25something? It suddenly seemed possible.

“Well, I’ll be around if you have any questions or need anything.” He gave her a nod.

“Thanks.”

He turned abruptly back towards the door. “Take care. Winter comes early some years. Like I said, I’ll be around.”

Tricia nodded, attempting to appear more confident than she felt

“Oh.” Jesse placed his hand on the door knob. “Your uncle keeps an ax behind the door.”

“I have wood.” She nodded towards the pile next to the hearth. It must have been left over from whoever used the cabin the month before, along with the half bag of plastic cups sitting on the kitchen counter.

Jesse laughed out loud and shook his head. “You’ll need more than you’ve got there. The wood pile is behind the cabin, but you’ll need to chop it into smaller pieces.”

“How much do I need, exactly?” She eyed the ax uncertainly. Wood didn’t burn that quickly, did it? The idea of chopping wood sounded tedious. She turned towards Jesse with a smile, letting her eyes linger on his a little longer than necessary. The movement was one of habit, a learned behavior that used to get her what she wanted. “You wouldn’t want to give a girl a hand, would you…” She allowed her smile to sparkle in her eyes. “Jesse, was it?”

“That’s right. Jesse.” His tone was dry, and then an amused smile tugged at the corners of his lips. He rubbed one hand over his chin, the sound of his stubble against his palm rasping softly. “If I were you, I’d start chopping, Ms. Hunter.” He gave her a grin and dropped his hat back onto his head. “ You’ve got time before dark.”

She sent him a tight smile and he met her gaze, his expression unreadable.

“Take care, now.” He pulled open the door and disappeared into the chilly morning.

As his footsteps clomped down the front steps, she let out a frustrated sigh. Once upon a time, a man would have stumbled over himself in his eagerness to chop wood for her.

She shut the door and leaned against it. Obviously, those days were over. A brilliant smile bought her nothing. A flirtatious laugh held the promise of something no one wanted any longer. Instead, she was left with the reminder that she had two legs and a back strong enough to chop wood. Try as she might to be a bigger person, it was annoying. She was no longer the woman she used to be, and, frankly, she didn’t have to like it.

Buy today at Pelican or Amazon and visit Patty on her Amazon Author page.

Is there room to write?

MARY GALUSHA loves to tell adventurous romantic stories. She is descended from immigrant homesteaders, and draws from stories told and retold Mary Garound the kitchen table to make history and romance come alive.

Mary, you spent some time living in Montana, where Sapphire Skies is set?

Yes, I was born in Little Big Horn county. I have always been fascinated with my home state and the adventurous stories of the brave settlers there. I’ve always dreamed of their stories and in the last few years I have begun writing them into novel form.

 I have spent some time in that country, too. It is always interesting to read about people living through the settling of the American West. Is Sapphire Skies an inspirational story in terms of faith?

Strong faith has always lived in my family and carries through into my stories. It is natural to write from that foundation of faith when I think about the rough world my characters live in. They are strong men and equally adventurous women who build loving relationships while facing the unknown to realize their dreams in the settling the Wild West.

 Mary, you write from home. Tell us about your writing space.

I write in our study, my husband has half and I have the other. It’s a small room. My half is getting more like a cave every day. I’ll have to do something about that. Someday.

 Ssapphireskiescoverart72dpi__27473.1357185032.1280.1280o tell us, why do you write? What drives you?.

I love words and the rhythm of the written word. Plus, I think I have something to say that might make people think.

 What other authors do you enjoy reading?

Writers I enjoy reading are Alexander McCall Smith, Mary Kay Andrews, and for mysteries, John Sanford and James Lee Burke.

 Mary Galusha graduated from Stephens College and the University of Arizona. She taught elementary school, counseled in high school and raised her family on an avocado ranch in southern California. Now she is writing, which has always been a dream. When not working on historical novels, Mary can be found attending book groups or playing hilarious games of bridge where the rules are observed, sometimes. She and her husband enjoy their family, friends, and movies. Download her debut novel, Sapphire Skies from Desert Breeze Publishing. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and other book sites.

 You can find Mary on the web at www.marygalusha.com

Romance under the Sapphire Skies of Montana

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Historical and Inspirational Fiction

Austrian immigrant Lili Kohl wants to get a homestead In Montana for her family to live on when they come to the United States. But someone in the town of Cedar Creek is using their influence to keep the property from her.

Homesteader Gabriel McCall has put a hold on the property adjoining his, hoping his younger brother will homestead it later, fulfilling a promise Gabriel made to their dying father. Meanwhile he tries to be helpful to Lili, because he sees her as a greenhorn. After he rescues her from abductors and they stay warm in a cave, their attraction to each other grows.

Then her parents arrive unexpectedly and her father disapproves of Gabriel, who has finally given up on farming with his brother. Now Lili fears losing her family’s approval by loving Gabriel.

EXCERPT

“Do you need a place to stay?

She sure did, and hoped it would not be too expensive. “Yes, sir, I do.”

“The hotel has reasonable prices.”

Lili took a deep breath, hoping her English would be correct. “Where may I find it?”

“Right up the street, the building with the wagon in front. I can have your trunk sent there.”

Lili thanked him, and picked up her valise.

“Now, remember, there’s a train going east next week, in case you want to go back.”

She thanked him and walked toward the hotel, conscious of the men milling about outside, some of them looking her way. She prayed her uncertainty didn’t show.

Approaching the double oak doors of the hotel, Lili noticed a man in a white shirt leaning against a post near the entrance. His broad chest tapered down to a leather belt, and jeans covered his long legs. Rolled up sleeves accentuated his muscular brown arms folded across his chest. She tried to see his eyes, but a wide brimmed hat shaded his face. As she came closer to him, he removed his hat and held the door open for her. This unexpected polite gesture caught her by surprise.

Lili glanced up into smiling brown eyes, and her heart stopped. Why? His skin looked darker than most of the men outside. His kindness unsettled her.

Her voice failed. She gave him a brief smile and went into the hotel.

In the lobby, comfortable looking chairs surrounding a low table holding a bouquet of flowers in a glass-canning jar. Overhead, a fan turned in slow circles. Tantalizing smells wafted from the dining room located near the manager’s desk.

How much would it cost to stay here? New York City was a long way off, but if her plans for a homestead in Montana didn’t work out, she might be on the next train going back. She needed to watch her spending.

After renting the cheapest room and being told there was no work in Cedar Creek at the moment but at the local saloon, Lili knew she had to at least try.

After saying a prayer for guidance, she left the hotel and crossed the dusty street. The same man who had held the door for her earlier stood talking to some other men near the saloon. He turned and tipped his hat to her. Dark hair edged his collar. For a moment his gaze held hers. Her heart slammed against her ribs and not knowing what to do, she turned away and tried to steady herself before going into the Silver Spigot Saloon.

Visit Mary at her website, and download her book today from Amazon or her publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing. Come back tomorrow to learn a little more about Mary.

Scat Cat, Winter’s Animal Helper

Winter swiped a heavy hand against the sandpaper abrasion wetting her cheek.86485493

A cat meowed

Her brows drew into a frown. Meow?

More sandpaper, then a nudge on her cheek from a wet, somewhat smelly head.

The sound of the ocean registered, and as she struggled to pry her eyes open, memories of the early morning events filtered through her brain.

She squinted up to the sky. The sun was at about ten a.m. Obviously, she hadn’t made the start of her shift, first day.

She could still smell rain in the air but the storm had passed and now the skies were blue. Only in San Francisco.

Another meow.

She turned her throbbing head and met the unblinking golden eyes of a calico cat. “Scat Cat?” she asked in confusion, realizing the second drug hadn’t targeted her vocal cords.

The undernourished, soaking wet cat purred, long and loud.

“You can’t be Scat Cat,” she murmured, reaching up and scratching the feline under its chin.

It couldn’t be the same cat. It was impossible the alley cat which had followed her to and from school since kindergarten, followed her back and forth from her part time job each and every day, then even to the bus stop the very day she had left town, was the same cat.

Scat Cat, because Winter had shouted the words to the cat, along with a hissing noise and a stomping foot, each and every day, worried the fool cat would get hit by a car by following her around everywhere.

Except her home. Oddly, when Winter was home, the stray cat never lingered.

She shook the cob webs from her head and sat up. She had been wedged between two large boulders, completely hidden from the spread of beach where she and her captors had gathered earlier this morning.

Her rain gear was gone, as was the bloody clothing underneath the gear.

She had her own clothes on, right down to her combat boots and she shuddered to think who of the twelve men had striped her and replaced her clothing.

Clearly they had breached the high tech security of her third floor historical Victorian to get her things. Her hand-held hologram cell phone lay at her feet, along with a sealed bag holding a manila envelope, with the word “Evidence” in bold letters stamped onto it at an angle.

It didn’t take much of a guess to know inside the envelope would be the photo of the man she was supposed to bleed for information, then kill.

She shuddered and scooped up her cell and the bag.

The cat continued to stare at her, almost like she was studying her. Unnerved, Winter waved the cat away. “Scat, cat!”

Just as with the cat back home — and no, she was not ready to consider this was the same cat — this cat simply sat and stared.

“You will have a helper from the animal kingdom.”

Winter lunged to her feet and the world went dark at the edges of her vision. She pivoted, her combat boots crunching wet sand and pebbles as she scanned the empty beach for who had spoken.

The cat meowed.

She jerked her gaze to the cat, sitting serenely at her feet, large golden eyes fixed up at her.

Winter pointed to the cat. “You didn’t just speak to me.”


 

Yellow Lab, Therapy Dog is Key Character

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Excerpt from The Return of Joy

When Charity dropped to the floor next to Atlas and showed him one of the books, Mark laughed out loud.

“What’s so funny?”

“She’s reading to the dog,” he pointed out.

“She’s been doing that for a couple of weeks, Mark.” So proud of both the girl and the dog she could hardly stand it, Joy grinned. “Josie has a therapy dog who listens to kids read at a local library. She helped us make sure Atlas could do the same.” Joy pulled a paper out of the pile of presents on the table. “Atlas passed his test. All we need is your permission to send everything in, and he can be an official therapy dog, too.”

Looking confused, Mark scratched his head. “A therapy dog? He’s just… you know, a family dog.”joy cover

Joy smiled and stepped closer to Mark. She patted his chest.

“I know he is your dog. That’s why we won’t pursue this if you don’t want to.” She turned and slid an arm around his waist. “But look at them. They’re so happy reading together.”

Mark looked, shaking his head. “He’s just lying there. He isn’t even looking at the pictures.”

“That’s what Charity said the first time. Then Josie explained he likes to listen to her tell the story. Charity can’t actually read yet, of course, but she’s learning to share, to decipher from the pictures, and turn the pages. You should see Josie’s dog, Zoey, at the library, surrounded by children from toddlers through about second grade. They all crowd around and pet her, and take turns reading to her.”

“So if you send in Atlas’ paperwork and he becomes a therapy dog, what does that mean, exactly?”

“It means I can volunteer with him at a local school or library, where kids will do just what Charity’s doing now. Read out loud to the dog.”

“And they don’t realize he doesn’t understand?”

cover for on line ad“Nope.” Joy chuckled. “You should have seen Atlas at his reading test. One little boy read a book about Little Pig Piglet, who couldn’t sleep. At the end of the story when he read that Little Pig Piglet finally fell asleep, Atlas flopped over on his side on top of the book as if he was falling asleep, too. So of course he must understand. He doesn’t really, of course, but the children are so excited about being the ones to read out loud, and the dogs are so non-judgmental, that they get better and better at reading when they read to a dog. And the dogs never correct them, I might add.”

Mark seemed skeptical.

“I guess you have to see it to understand.” She looked up into his eyes. “Josie had one boy who came in with his grandpa and told us he couldn’t read but would it be okay if he petted the dog? Josie said sure, of course, and he knelt down beside Zoey and began to talk to her, saying ‘Good dog. You’re a good dog.’ When we looked up at Grandpa he had tears in his eyes. I asked him if he was okay and he nodded and told us it was the first time his grandson had spoken in months – that he has autism and has difficulty talking to people. But not to the dog!”

Download  The Return of Joy today. You may also want to read Book One in the Starting Over Series, More Than a Job.