Work in Process…Out of Agony

When Jen and Brian lost their daughter Trudy in a tragic accident, their marriage fell apart. Jen’s story is told in Finding Her Voice. That book left Brian in bitter denial. Frankly I didn’t like him ver36451078204185961_HMZmvGgi_by much. He left Jen when she was most vulnerable and returned to the careless and arrogant man he had been before Jen’s warmth and love changed him. The family man turned cold, uncaring attorney. My readers felt there was more to know about his journey. And as his story unfolded, they were right to want to hear it.

Out of Agony is Brian’s story of grief that would not be denied, and pain that took root in a way that put his life on a completely unexpected road. When Jessie came to work at his firm, she instantly disliked the man and yet was intrigued by inconsistencies that hinted at  something more to know about her co-worker. But she didn’t have time to explore those thoughts — she was deep in her own pain as she  supported her niece Sara, who was struggling with a virulent cancer and the aggressive treatments that took such a toll they would not be worth it — except they are her only hope to save her life.

Coming July 21 from Dessert Breeze Publishing, Out of Agony is the fourth book in the Starting Over Series and like the prior volume, is inspirational romance. Starting Over Book Five, will be released in January, 2015. While each book stands alone, some of our favorite characters cross over from book to book.

Reviews for Finding Her Voice

From Amazon Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars How Do You Heal a Broken Heart? July 22, 2013FindingHerVoiceCoverArt
Format:Kindle Edition
What does one do when everything begins to go wrong? Finding Her Voice is a heart wrenching story about a young couple with a sweet young daughter, who soon learn what it really means to have to deal with tragedy from the first page and on through the book. When they learn of the death of their daughter, not only are two hearts broken, neither are able to find a way to heal and go on. Not able to cope together the couple ends up in divorce, they also lose their home, and Jennifer, the mother, struggling miserably with her own grief, her faith, and her loss of peace, has to venture off on her own to find some answers.As a historical romance writer, I don’t normally read contemporary fiction, but I found this story to be a fast-paced page turner from the beginning to the end, sometimes difficult to read because of the sadness, but so well written I had to go on to find out what would happen next — An easy to read, true-to-life book of friendship, faith, and hope.

Only one disappointment for me was in not finding out what happened to a very important character in the story who could not bear the tragedy of a lost child.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary fiction with real life circumstances.

Shirley Kiger Connolly,
award winning author of both historical romance and nonfiction books of reflection

No Easy Answers

Posted by Natalie Chamberlain on 16th Jul 2013

I don’t usually read this genre of literature but I really enjoyed this book. As a pastor, I especially appreciated the fact that Lynette Endicott not only chose not to give easy, pat answers to difficult questions, she even confronted those easy answers, showing them to be more harmful than helpful.

The happily ever after ending was expected but the journey there wasn’t. The story is well written and engaging. The characters are true to life as are their situations. I found it to be a very hopeful book and well worth the time to read it.

Newest Release: Finding Her Voice

The Pain will never go away — but Love Helps Jen Cope

Jennifer had the perfect life. A loving husband, a beautiful daughter, a flexible job in the family business. When it was all taken from her, Jen struggled to move through her days with the help of friends and family — but they couldn’t understand, and somehow expected her to get over her grief. Even her twin brother, Joshua, was unable to help her heal.FindingHerVoiceCoverArt

Ollie, her daughter’s rescued dog, was the only one who seemed to share her grief and understand her pain in losing her daughter. When the divorce ended in the sale of their home, she and Ollie set out on a road trip of discovery. She needed time and the care of an old friend, and along the way met others who had lost a child or a marriage or both. None of them expected her to get over it, but they did help her go on living.

Her old friend listened, and with love guided her to an outlet for her feeling through music — and she found comfort through on-line contact with other bereaved parents, including Michael.

Life would never be the same, but maybe she could find the music, find her voice, find her own path to living after her loss. And if she was lucky, find love along the way.

Excerpt

Time to get this show on the road. She typed out a text and sent it in a blast to her whole family.

I’m packed and headed out. Thanks for understanding. I’ll update you from time to time.

Then she gave a little whistle and commanded Ollie to get up. He clambered into the seat where she belted him in.

“Well, boy, here we go. Off on an adventure.”

They called every ride an adventure. He had no idea how long a trip he was in for. Or that he would never come back to the place they’d called home. But then, she wasn’t certain how long it would be either.

Jen went around to the driver’s side, climbed in, and dropped her phone into the sound system so she could take or make phone calls if she wanted.

She started the van and, out of habit, started the tunes saved to her phone.

The song that came up was one she and Trudy sang together, a fun, silly song. She couldn’t bear it. She shut down the music. It was too hard. She couldn’t sing. Not anymore. She took one last look at the house that had been home to her now-destroyed family, then threw the van into reverse and turned so she could steer out of the driveway and onto the road. She didn’t look back. Her goal today was to drive as fast as the law allowed, and as far as her energy would support. She needed distance between her wrecked life and whatever was ahead.

Available July 11 from my publisher, and along with the paperback and epub versions of Books One and Two, on my Amazon Author Page.

Yellow Lab, Therapy Dog is Key Character

atlas cropped 2

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.

Pets part of starting over

When Paige loses her job, two new kittens offer love

Excerpt, Starting Over Book One, More Than a Job

The computer whirred through its boot-up and opened to her email. Today was Friday. Had it only been a week since she’d walked away from her work life? She scanned the notes that had come in from friends and former co-workers who had just learned about the layoff. Her hands trembled, and she fought back tears. She couldn’t read them all. Not yet. It was too hard.

KittenPaige closed the laptop and pushed away from the desk. She’d give herself a little more time. She grabbed a jacket and gloves and went out into the garden to tend her fall mums. Besides, she needed to bring in some wood. A storm was coming in, probably rain, but maybe snow. A fire would take the chill off the house.

She heard them before she saw them. Tiny squeaks filling the air as she wheeled the wheelbarrow to the woodpile. She got down on her hands and knees and peered around and behind the stacked wood until she spotted the source of the noise. Four little kittens nuzzled a black cat, nesting in a pile of leaves between the woodpile and the fence.

The mama cat looked up at Paige then looked away, apparently uninterested and not particularly frightened. Paige took her firewood back to the house. She parked the load inside the screened back porch, thinking about the coming storm and the vulnerable little family. Well, she didn’t have to leave them to the elements. She rummaged through the garden shed and came up with a tarp. At least she could give them some shelter if rain did come. She fastened the covering to the fence, anchored it in the woodpile, and let it drop to the ground behind the felines to give them shelter on three sides.

Then she propped the screen door to her back porch open about six inches and put water and a few food scraps on her back step. She took an old blanket cover for on line adand molded it into a nest up close to the house, out of the wind she was sure was on its way.

She met her neighbor at the curb when she went out to bring her empty trash container back behind the fence.

“Hey, Linda. How’s your life today?”

Linda was about the age Paige’s mother would have been if she’d lived. Not quite fifty, she worked at an accounting firm downtown. Her husband was older, semi-retired, and ran a tax business out of their home when he wasn’t polishing his Corvette or riding his Harley. Linda knew the neighborhood. She’d know about the cat, if it belonged to someone.

Linda’s ready smile was accompanied by a shrug. “Can’t complain. It’s busy here and at work — end of the quarter, you know. But busy pays the bills.”

Paige cringed. She’d need to be busy and paying bills before too long. “Got a question for you. Have you heard the little family just on the other side of your fence, against my woodpile?”

“Family of what? Not rodents, I hope. I can’t stand mice, and rats scare me to death.”

Paige laughed. “No, no. Sorry — didn’t mean to worry you. Just the opposite, in fact. The arch enemy of all rodents.”

“Cats?” Linda faced her now, obviously interested.

“A black mama and four little ones,” Paige confirmed.

“Is she all black?”

“As far as I could see. She doesn’t seem wild. I wondered if you might know who she belongs to.” Paige glanced at the sky. No blue — just the heavy gray of clouds, probably holding a lot of moisture. “I’m a little worried about her. I think we’re going to get a storm.”

Linda’s gaze followed hers, and she nodded. “I think you’re right. I can feel the moisture in the air. With the cloud cover we may get lucky — it might stay warm enough to rain rather than snow. But it could go either way. Why don’t you show me your little family?”

Paige let Linda in through the gate and gestured behind the woodpile. One lone kitten mewed for its mother as it rooted around the otherwise empty little nest.

“You must have scared the mother when you came for wood,” Linda, the all-knowing cat lover, said. “Either scared her, or she knows the storm’s coming and she’s looking for better shelter. Wait. She’s moving them.” She gestured for Paige to move back, took a few steps back herself, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “She’ll be back for this one in a minute if we don’t disturb her. Let’s see where she goes.”

They didn’t have to wait long. The black cat, a little thin but proud and beautiful, trotted back from around the corner in Paige’s yard. She took the last kitten into her mouth, holding it firmly by the scruff of its neck, and trotted out of sight. Paige and Linda peered around the corner to see where she went.

joy cover“Looks like you’ve inherited some cats,” Linda observed, waving toward the animal depositing the last of her little ones into the blanket beside Paige’s back step. Then the mama cat settled herself into the folds beside them.

“How about that? I put it out a few minutes ago, but I was worried about how to coax her to use it. I guess she found her way without any coaxing on my part.”

“I’m pretty sure mama cat belongs to Tom and Judy, across the street. We’ll have to let them know.”

Paige was thoughtful. “Do you think that maybe, when they’re weaned, they’d let me keep one? I like the little brownish colored one.”

“It’s a tortoise-shell, or a tortie. They can be a little temperamental. You want two, not just one. Two cats will entertain each other.”

“Makes sense.” How weird. Paige had put pets on her list and now here they were, on her doorstep. “Which house is Tom and Judy’s again? I’ll let them know their cat’s okay.”

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

A blog about writing romance or about animals or what?

A marketing professional’s question…pepper - Copy

It is a fair question. In answer, let me tell you a story.

After a fairly significant event that interrupted my career, I was working from home, deciding what to do with myself, and I decided to get back to my writing. I joined an on-line critique group, set aside writing time, researched articles where I could write short stories, joined the Romance Writers of America…all the things a serious romance writer should do.

During this time I learned the delight of being home with my teenage daughter. I had worked outside the home herwhole life, but now we had that precious time immediately after school when her day tumbled out as we drove home.

She’s the one who heard the kittens in the woodpile. A feral cat had a litter and they were as cute as they could be, especially when they began chasing each other around our back yard, tumbling and hissing and occasionally falling into the pool, but we were always there to fish them out. My daughter picked one of them up and asked, predictably, if she could keep it. I answered, predictably, no, her father didn’t like cats. Then she asked the question that changed our lives.

mostly ollie“Why do we let him decide?”

Why, indeed. Long story short, we adopted two kittens, and later another came into our lives to be rescued. We rescued a dog a few years later, and then a cockatiel showed up on our back porch.

I’d never owned a pet before, not one of my own. A few animals found their way through our lives as I was growing up, but none were mine and most had pretty sad stories, didn’t turn out well.

After I turned 50 my daughter’s spunk turned that all around and I am absolutely in love with all my animals. Now I can’t imagine life without them. Art imitates life, so my characters include animals. That is why Paige adopts two kittens found in her backyard in More Than a Job, Mark’s yellow lab, Atlas, becomes a therapy dog and reading tutor in The Return of Joy and a calico cat and a German shepherd are animal helpers in Animal Instinct, because all the heroes and heroines in our Time After Time Saga have animal helpers.

71916925269910592_1wlk4eov_bIn a few weeks you will meet another calico cat and a cockatiel in Survival Instinct. In Finding Her Voice, Starting Over Book Three, Ollie (the terrier mix above) accompanies Jen as she takes a journey across the country to figure out how to rebuild her life. This fall you will meet two more animal helpers, a horse and a barn cat, in Pioneer Instinct. So as the marketing professional calls it, in developing the “brand” of Author Lynette Endicott, animals will always play a part.  I enjoy bringing animals in with guest authors, too.

Check out all the books that are available at my Amazon author page.

There is a page for each of the books mentioned in the menu at the top of this page. Hope you will browse through to see what is coming soon.

A Unique Love Story … Amazon reviews for The Return of Joy

5.0 out of 5 stars a unique love story, December 3, 2012

By Billie Houston (San Antonio, TX USA)
This review is from: Starting Over Book Two: The Return of Joy (Kindle Edition)

The husband Joy Huffman adored is killed in an automobile accident. Only hours after she receives the news, their daughter is born. Joy is devastated. With the passing of time and the help of her mother-in-law, Evelyn, she begins to heal. Almost two years later she is ready to revisit the cabin she and her husband designed and built before his death. Joy, Evelyn, and Charity, Joy’s daughter, pack up, leave St. Louis, and head for New Mexico.

Her return is not what she expected it to be. The caretaker, Mark Stone, is a handsome computer expert who runs his business from the cabin. She is immediately attracted to him.

Joy begins to suspicion that her husband’s death may not have been an accident. She realizes that she, Evelyn, and her little daughter, may all be in immediate danger. Should she stay and try to solve the mystery while dealing with her growing attraction to Mark, or should she run, not walk, to the nearest escape route?

Starting Over Book Two: The Return of Joy I found many things to recommend this book. The poems at the beginning of chapters are lyrical and lovely. The plot kept me engaged all the way through the book. The characters are flawed, but sincere and loveable. Joy and Mark’s love story unfolds like the petals of a fragrant flower. If you like a different twist on a romantic story, you will love this book.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Second Chance, December 1, 2012
By Barbara Scott (Florissant, MO USA)
This review is from: Starting Over Book Two: The Return of Joy (Kindle Edition)

At first glance, Joy Huffman seems to have the perfect life: a loving husband, a baby on the way, a beautiful cabin designed and built for the life they’d soon share. Fate had other plans. On the night she gave birth to her daughter, her husband Steve is killed in a car accident. Joy plunges into a two year tailspin saved only by the need to take care of her child and the support of her grieving mother-in-law. It is only the recurring dreams she has when Steve returns trying to tell her something, trying to draw her to the cabin she’s never seen completed and avoided since his death. When even her baby talks of seeing Steve, Joy feels compelled to go to New Mexico. Accompanied by baby Charity and mother-in-law Evelyn, Joy confronts the possibility that Steve’s death was no accident.

In The Return of Joy, Lynette Endicott creates an evolving storyline peopled with memorable characters and settings so vivid they provide a backdrop as alive as the people. The cabin is like an HGTV Dream Home with a waterfall wall, secret hideaways, and surprises at every turn. It is set in a landscape of mountain and desert splendor near Santa Fe where morning walks with handsome caretaker Mark begin to work their way through Joy’s grief. Hovering over all is the mystery of Steve’s possible murder.

This second of Endicott’s Starting Over series, stands alone but aptly addresses her theme of second chances in life. The reader strongly empathizes with and roots for Joy as she works to earn her second chance. The blend of romance and suspense mixes easily with the deeper work of the plot giving it a substance that lingers in the reader’s memory.

Barbara Scott

4.0 out of 5 stars Return to Joy, November 30, 2012
This review is from: Starting Over Book Two: The Return of Joy (Kindle Edition)

The day of her daughter Charity’s birth, should have been one of the happiest in Joy’s life. And it might have been, except it was the same day she lost her husband Steve. And the same day she lost a big part of herself.

Were it not for her mother in law Joy might have lost herself to the pain completely. But Evelyn had been there to help anchor a young mother to sanity.

Now, two years later, Joy, along with Charity and Evelyn, is taking a step back into the world by taking a trip to the family cabin. The place Steve and Joy built specifically for themselves, but never got to share together.

Joy would rather not go, but the recurring nightmares she’s been having of Steve lead her to believe his death was caused by something more sinister than a simple side-swipe and the answer to the puzzle just might lie in the secret hideaways of the cabin.

At the cabin she meets Mark, who just might be the key to restoring her broken heart. If only Joy will free herself to take the chance. But if Joy doesn’t face Steve’s past, she might not have a future.

The Return of Joy is the second in Lynette Endicott’s Starting Over Series. It has moments or sorrow, suspense and, of course, a Return of Joy.

Road Trip – Why do people make them?

Mom and my brother and I looking out over Lone Peak

All of my growing up years we made every vacation into a road trip.

For one thing, Dad had quite a bit of vacation time, we kids were out of school, Mom didn’t work outside the home.

For another, the trip planner (usually Dad) had an insatiable curiosity about history, and wanted to see where it was made.

So we popped popcorn (to help the driver stay awake) and packed suitcases and got into the van — which had been made over to include enough beds for everyone but the driver to sleep (back before seatbelts were much in use) — and Dad would put on his music and away we would go.

We stopped a lot. You would think that was related to four kids and two adults having differing bathroom schedules, and that was probably one aspect. It was more likely, though, that Dad spotted a roadside historical marker, and we pulled over to see what it said. We would troop out onto the roadside and someone who could read would tell what the marker said. We’d look over whatever else was there — sometimes the foundation of an old building or the ruts from a long ago trail — before we got back on the road.

Dad claimed he only needed about four hours, maybe six, of sleep, so he would drive past when the rest of us were awake.

I remember one especially long hitch. There was a campsite that Mom had located in one of the brochures. We were somewhere in the hills of — I don’t remember, Ohio maybe, or Tennesee or Kentucky? It got dark before we got the the area. Dad followed the map and one little sign and wound up and around and deep into these hills.

Picnic on a vacation to Kentucky

It was a little creepy. Not another vehicle in site. We didn’t have GPS in those days so we weren’t sure exactly where we were. And we never did find the expected hookups and bathrooms that usually signified our camp sites. It was really dark and we were really alone in the middle of nowhere.

The next morning we found a river, waterfalls, cliffs — a gorgeous backroad scenic spot. We never did find the campsite (so we didn’t have to pay the fees!) but my Mom, always the optimist  pointed out the treasure of a spot we’d found and we enjoyed it for a couple of hours before we wound back down (which took much less time) and got back on the road.

Crater Lake with a little terrier overlooking the site

Mom was constantly challenged to keep kids occupied and safe while we trekked across the country. She came up with games, we read books, and sometimes she fixed our sandwiches or snacks from the little portable fridge and the supplied she’d brought along. People didn’t eat in restaurants much in those days, either.

The Heroine in Starting Over Book Three: Finding Her Voice decides to take a roadtrip – just her and her daughter’s little dog, a terrier mix named Ollie and named after my own dog.

CONTEST: Looking for funny road trip stories to include in my upcoming book, Finding Her Voice. The winner will have their story included AND will get a free copy of their choice of the other two books in the Starting Over Series.

Love stories – what we love about Romance

Like most authors I live in more than one world.

There is the writer world – and every day I spend time in that world, writing, editing, meeting readers like you and learning how to continue to improve my craft. Even when I’m not at my computer I am living in the characters’ heads and planning out what will happen next in their lives.

There is the personal world — my life, marriage, kids, pets, beliefs.

And there is the professional world, where  I  write reports, policies, and training manuals, and talk to people by phone or email about their work and how to improve what they are doing. And I go by a different name than my writing name, just to make it a little more confusing.

Not everyone in my professional world admits to reading love stories. When they learn I am author, they are curious. When i reveal that I write romance novels, the response is mixed.

It seems a bit silly to me, but some women are a bit snobbish, and won’t admit to reading romance.

What a shame! Because, in addition to being a love story, books like my first novel, More Than A Job, tell a story about specific people. Paige and Joshua are the main characters,  have both personal and professional worlds. Because it is part of my own experience, I found these two in the world of providing services to people with developmental  disabilities. There is even a taste of the conflicts that professionals in the field have with each other.

Evelyn and Joy, in The Return of Joy, have a shared career in their interior decorating partnership. Mark works in building security. Jonas used to teach at the university. All of them have other hobbies and interests, so that their personal and professional lives blend to make a whole.

Romance novels are much more than bedroom scenes. (In fact, I don’t do bedroom scenes until the couple is married.) They tell us about the people who are falling in love. So come enjoy the sizzle and tension of falling in love, set in a small town in Missouri or the mountains outside Albuquerque — and meet the interesting, sometimes flawed but multi-dimensional people whose path to starting over also leads to love.

You can find trailers for both books to the right of this post, and can click on pages highlighting each book in the list of pages at the top of this post.

You can download in most eBook formats from my publisher at http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-template/LynetteEndicott/Page.bok You will also find some reviews, blurbs and excerpts there.

Read reviews and previews and download directly from my Amazon author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Lynette-Endicott/e/B008E8P1AO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Romance after 50, or 60 or … ?

I am a baby boomer.

When I began The Return of Joy I was a newlywed, and wrote in part to capture the romance in my life. I was sure no one else could be so in love, so struck by romance so I found a way to weave some of my experiences into Joy’s story.

By the time I finished the book I was 60 years old. And I decided there needed to be another romance in the book. Because my husband and I have now been married almost 38 years and there is still a lot of sizzle in our romance, I decided to put a love interest into the book for Evelyn, Joy’s older friend (her mother-in-law from her first marriage).

And there was already an older man in the story, a neighbor, so why not?

Because love is not just for the young. Romance doesn’t end as you get older. If you care enough to continue to find ways to keep the fires burning, they do continue to burn.

Here is an excerpt from the romance between Evelyn and Jonas:

They rounded a bend that would take them the last few yards to the cabin, and a less than peaceful sight met them. Atlas gave a low bark and trotted ahead, then looked back over his shoulder at them. He didn’t seem to want to get too close to a fracas between Evelyn, with Charity clinging to her legs, and a gray-haired gentleman on the front porch.

Evelyn waved a spatula in the air. Even before she heard her friend’s words, Joy knew she was angry. Charity twirled her hair and sucked her thumb — sure signs of insecurity.

“I don’t know who you think you are,” she said as they came closer. “No one takes over my kitchen unannounced. Now, you knock like any other guest would do, and I’ll decide whether we want to see you again.”

Evelyn scooped Charity up in her arms, stormed into the house, and slammed the door behind her. The lock clicked. Joy turned to Mark with raised eyebrows, wondering about his reaction to the whole unlikely scene.

He looked as if he were about to burst as he tried to keep from laughing out loud. He had a twinkle in his eyes and an odd tilt to his head. He called out, “Good morning, Jonas.”

The older man turned slowly, an answering spark of humor flaring in his eyes. Jonas was tall and slim. He had on walking shorts and a hat, and he carried a carved walking stick. His full beard was almost white, with reddish streaks among the gray that indicated he used to be a redhead, and his bushy brows still held some color. He reached out a hand to fondle Atlas’ head as he spoke.

“Sure wish you’d warned me about…” He nodded toward the closed door. “Those now occupying the cabin. Guess I got myself off to a pretty rough start with that one.”

“What on earth happened?” Joy asked in amazement. “I’ve never seen Evelyn anything but calm and collected. You sure got under her skin.”

“I did, indeed, much to my regret.” He tapped his walking stick on the ground and looked off toward the mountains instead of at Joy. A long pause fell before he continued, as if he were puzzling through the scene himself. “I, um, tend to make myself at home here. I went directly to the kitchen to make coffee, because, as you know, you don’t usually have my preferred beverage prepared.” He nodded wryly at Mark. “So my habit is to start coffee first when I come to visit.”

He cleared his throat, and Joy frowned. He seems nervous.

“Apparently I startled the lady of the house when I made a sudden appearance in what she’s apparently come to consider her kitchen.” He nodded again toward the closed door, then paused a moment, as if trying to look serious. The light in his blue eyes gave him away. “I sincerely hope the subsequent lecture on manners did not result in her burning your breakfast. The pancakes looked quite good.”

He turned to Joy, held out his hand, and glanced to Mark. “Speaking of manners — an introduction might smooth things here, my friend,” he said graciously. Joy remembered the humor in Mark’s expression when he’d called this stately gentleman an old coot, and smiled. This was no mountain recluse, but a man of obvious refinement and culture.

“Joy, this is Jonas Reynolds. Jonas, Joy Huffman.”

Joy extended her hand, appreciating Jonas’ firm, warm grasp and the light in his eyes.

“Well, my friend, I deduce the lady inside the house wasn’t expecting me.” Jonas shook his head. “Not a good start to our acquaintance, eh?”

“I’ve never seen her so rattled,” Mark admitted. He looked thoughtful. “She’s one of the most in-control women I’ve ever known. This is exceptionally odd.”

“Maybe I can help out with your little… um, dilemma,” Joy offered. “Why don’t you two visit for a few minutes?” She patted Mark’s arm, offered Jonas a smile, and then gestured toward the pasture. “Go for a short walk, catch up on the news, and don’t come back for half an hour. By then, we’ll have breakfast on the table.” She hesitated slightly. “I hope.”

She shook her head and started up the steps.

“I’m sure Evelyn was just startled.” Joy continued up the steps, waving the men away. “She’ll be fine once I’ve explained who you are. Now go away and let me settle things here.”

She waited at the door until the men turned away. Then she knocked and called out, “Evelyn, I’m alone and I want in — I sent them away.”

After a long pause, the door opened just a crack and Evelyn peered out at the receding backs of the two men, Atlas on their heels, then widened the door in silence and turned back to the kitchen as Joy slipped inside.

“Lock the door,” Evelyn said over her shoulder when she didn’t hear the bolt go home. “I don’t trust that skunk. He’ll probably come back.”

Joy pressed her lips together to hold back her laughter. What had gotten into Evelyn? Shaking her head, she followed the other woman into the kitchen. She refrained from commenting on the smell of burned pancakes and poured a cup of tea while Evelyn beat the batter for another batch. She beat it rather hard and fast, Joy noted. She glanced at Charity, who watched them both from her booster seat with wide eyes, her thumb in her mouth, twisting at her hair. Joy pulled up a chair close to her daughter, gave her a hug, and chatted with her while she poured a little cereal onto the table.

Charity relaxed and picked up the cereal one piece at a time to pop into her mouth. Evelyn’s back was to them, her shoulders still stiff with anger. She poured the fresh batter onto the griddle. Without a word, Joy rose and poured an additional cup of tea and set it in front of the other woman. She noted that Evelyn’s hands shook, and her color was high. Joy guessed embarrassment, not anger, plagued the older woman.

Evelyn set the spatula on the counter after she turned the perfectly browned pancakes, then sipped her tea. She sighed and faced Joy, who was surprised by the tears in Evelyn’s eyes.

“Fool,” Evelyn muttered, pushing her silver and blond curls back with one hand and taking another long sip of tea. “I’m a fool. I can’t believe I reacted to him so strongly. Must be hormones. They make a woman crazy, you know.” She attempted a smile, set down her tea, and rubbed her eyes with the heels of both hands. “I hate this.”

Joy kept quiet, pouring juice for each of them, then setting another place at the table.

Evelyn’s sharp eyes took in her action. She shook her head. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me, after I embarrassed myself so completely, that I have to face that man again?”

Joy nodded. “Sooner or later, yes. He’s Mark’s friend, Jonas. He’ll continue to come around no matter what you want. Don’t you want to get to know him?”

Evelyn sighed again, moved the finished pancakes onto a serving plate, and poured more batter for the next batch. She fanned her burning cheeks with one hand.

“He scared the life out of me,” she confided. “I suppose I’m on edge — Mark told me we shouldn’t come up here because it might not be safe — and he scared me, not only because he was a stranger in the kitchen, although that startled me enough…” Her voice trailed off. Joy waited for her to continue. “And not just because of the noise.”

She nodded toward the counter, where the aroma of freshly ground coffee wafted toward them from the grinder. “He stood there with his back to me, grinding the coffee. I rushed in to see what the noise was. I knew you weren’t here — I’d seen you from upstairs just a minute before.”

Joy wasn’t surprised Evelyn had been watching them. The other woman sipped her tea and turned with a sigh to finish making coffee for their guest.

“I can’t explain it.” Evelyn’s voice grew puzzled, her mouth curved into a frown, and her brows pulled together in thought. “I can’t explain it, but I knew him. As if I’d dreamed of this before. His back to me, tall and straight, the roar of the grinder. I knew he had a beard before he even turned around. In that flash of first contact, I knew him, and–” Evelyn broke off, covered her face with her hand, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “And I-I wondered if he might break my heart. He scared me.”

Speechless, Joy stared at Evelyn. She’d never heard her friend talk about men. Her first husband, Steve’s dad, had been gone long before Joy met her and she hadn’t seemed interested in any others. She’d never even commented on what actors she found attractive.

Evelyn continued quietly, “To see a fantasy alive and well in the kitchen shook me. So I lost all reason and chased him away.” When she turned back to Joy, her eyes had turned mournful. “How do I explain when he comes back in here with Mark?”

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Amazon Author Page for all three of my books: http://amazon.com/author/lynetteendicott