Thursday, February 9, 2017

Lost in the Plains: Double Deal

Lost in the Plains: Double Deal: Begin at the beginning! For the next few days, BOTH of the first books in BOTH the Valley Rise and Walnut Lodge series will be FREE . K...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Double Deal

Begin at the beginning! For the next few days, BOTH of the first books in BOTH the Valley Rise and Walnut Lodge series will be FREE . Katie Lost and Found is FREE FEB 9-11 from Hearts Unfold is FREE every day wherever you buy your ebooks. Find these two special love stories, along with all my other books, right here~


Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Eight

This scene from Heart of My Own Heart joins Stani and Emily for Christmas morning at Valley Rise Farm--

Emily was in the kitchen just after dawn, humming along with the carols on the radio as the bacon sizzled and when Stani crept up behind her at the range, she let out a little sigh.  “You didn’t really think you could startle me?  I could feel you coming all through the house.”

“Feel me?”  He lifted her hair and nuzzled her neck, his hand finding the little bulge at her waist.

“You’re radiating something this morning.  Christmas joy, maybe?  I could hear it echoing in your footsteps.”  She turned in his arms, a twinkle in her eyes.  “Besides, I heard you banging around in the hall closet.  What is it you have hidden in there, anyway?”

“Christmas surprise.  But not until after breakfast.”  His kiss was meant as a reminder of all the past breakfasts they’d shared, including the one on Christmas morning only a year ago. 

They didn’t rush through the meal, and John joined them while they were still at the table, pouring a cup of tea and helping himself to a chunk of cinnamon bread.  “What’s on the agenda this morning?” 

His eyes widened as Emily went down the list.  Open a few gifts, dress for church.  Have a quick lunch after church, then start dinner preparations, which would involve a list of things all its own. 

“No just sitting around the fireplace with our feet up?  Yesterday was hectic enough.  I could use a day off.”

Their voices rose in unison protest.  “John, it’s Christmas Day!  This is the real celebration.  Friends and family all gathered for a meal, music and gifts.  Tonight, when we’re all so full we can’t move, then we’ll sit by the fire.”  Emily was on her feet, pulling at Stani’s hand.  “But right now, I want to show you something, darling.  In fact, if I don’t, I’ll just explode.  Get your coat.  Hurry!”

Laughing and rolling his eyes at John, he let her lead him to the front door.  “Really, love, you want me to go outside now?  It’s snowing!”

“Only a little flurry.  And there’s nothing much on the ground.  It won’t take long!”  Her excitement was tangible, as she bundled into her coat.  And it was infectious.  He realized his own heart was racing as he did the same.

He took a moment to tie her muffler high around her ears.  “Are you sure you can’t just tell me what it is I’m supposed to see, without running out into the yard yourself?”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him through the door.  “No!  I want to see your face.”

He followed her across the yard toward the gate, struck by the stark winter scene that spread in every direction from the high ground on which the house was situated.  Beyond the surrounding valley, the distant ridges were nearly obscured by a blue haze.  The ground underfoot was covered with a light dusting of dry snow, and huge flakes drifted lazily through the air.  Near the gate, a lone pair of cardinals took flight, their bright wings a startling intrusion of color into the gray landscape.  The silence was profound, and he took a moment to appreciate the peace of this place.  And then Emily pulled him through the gate and came to an abrupt halt, steering him around until he stood facing the house again.  The satisfied smile on her face suggested they had reached their destination, but he couldn’t imagine what he was expected to see.

“Look, Stani!”  She nodded toward the fence, or was it meant to be toward the house?  Still, he couldn’t grasp this marvelous thing she was showing him so proudly.

Finally, his eyes fell on the sign.  The large oval that bore the name of Valley Rise Farm.  It had been newly painted, the letters a fresh, crisp green against the white background.  Beneath, scripted in red, were the names of the farm’s proprietors.  Now, instead of the former “J.E. Haynes,” it read “S. and E. Haynes-Moss.”  When he couldn’t find words, she hugged his arm and said softly, “James brought it out and hung it last night.  Do you like it?  I decided to use our names the way you did for the foundation.” 

He took another moment to recognize what this really meant to her.  It was her farm, her legacy from her parents.  Now she was adding his name to the most treasured thing in her life.  “I love it, darling girl.  You know, I even had a thought about it, when we were shopping for the caretaker’s home.  But then I decided it was too much yours to ever change it.  Haynes has always been here, and for some chap named Moss to move in was just too overreaching.”  He wrapped her in his arms, staring into the intense gray depths of her eyes. 

“Not overreaching at all.  It’s yours now too.  It’s ours, Stani.  And that J.E. Haynes person is gone forever.”  Her kiss was deep and sweet and for a time he was lifted off the cold hillside, swept away by the miracle of this girl in his arms, who carried his child deep inside her, whose love had brought him to a place he could call home. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Seven

   We move next to Heart of My Own Heart to join Stani and Emily as they celebrate Christmas at the farm--their first Christmas as a married couple. 

For the first time, Stani Moss performed in the church where a year earlier he had begun his own journey to meet the Christ Child.  On the night of their return to the farm, Pastor Mike had asked if he would consider playing at the Christmas Eve service and he had immediately agreed.  Now, as he sat with Emily and John in a pew full of friends who had been strangers a year earlier, he knew he had completed that journey.  Watching the cherub choir, now under the care of Sara McConnell, seated around the crèche just as they had been with Emily that night, he felt the same tingle of anticipation.  Glancing at her candlelit face beside him, he saw much the same emotion shining in her eyes, and the corners of her mouth were turned up in that sweet, tranquil smile he so loved.  Beyond her, James and Penny sat hand in hand, their eyes meeting briefly as if to confirm the step they had taken together such a short time ago.
At the rear of the already crowded church, a whispered commotion could be heard.  Turning, Stani saw that Jack had arrived and was ushering in a group of late arrivals.  Leading the way down the aisle, he was followed by Bobby, walking slowly and leaning heavily on a cane.  Next to him, Ruthie carried little Emily, who gazed down on the faces along the way, her eyes bright with curiosity.  Three little boys followed, Robbie Joe bringing up the rear.  Stani watched their progress, as Jack brought them straight to the front of the church, where they filed into the pew directly opposite.  From his seat on the aisle, Robbie Joe looked across at Stani and smiled his brightest gap-toothed grin.  As he turned to leave, Jack laid a hand on Stani’s shoulder.  “Merry Christmas, son.”
The organ began to play, as the last of the congregation filed in, and when Pastor Mike took his place in the pulpit, a chill touched the back of Stani’s neck.  “This is the night of brilliant stars and heralding angels.  This is the night of humble shepherds and watchful wise men.  This is the night of our Savior’s birth.  Let us worship God together, on this night of miracles.”
Stani listened to the scriptures and carols, Emily’s hand tucked securely in his.  At the appointed time, he rose and took his violin to stand near the manger.  Aware of the wide-eyed cherubs, watching from the other side of the crèche, he smiled.  Then closing his eyes, he played.  What Child Is This?, a tune as familiar as his own breathing, tonight infused with a new spirit.  When the choir joined him, the music soared, swirling within the little church to draw in every listener.  In his mind’s eye, he saw Emily, her eyes glistening in the candlelight, her hand resting lightly over their unborn child.  His heart swelled in his chest, filled with more love and longing than he could ever have imagined a year ago, when he had stood at the back of this church and for the first time recognized the voice of God speaking so clearly.
     When he returned to his seat, he met the gaze of the little boy opposite, a gaze so full of awe that he felt another shiver of emotion.  For a long moment, he stared at Stani as if seeing him for the first time.  But when Stani smiled into the dark eyes, Robbie returned an adoring grin and darting across the aisle, threw himself into Stani’s arms.  Wordlessly, he gathered the child to him, momentarily overwhelmed by his own response.  This boy, so earnest and open, would never understand the power of his simple gesture.  But for Stani, who had yearned for the courage to show the same kind of gratitude to the man he most wanted to please, Robbie Joe’s arms, tightly hugging his neck, were the finest Christmas gift he could ever receive.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Six

Late on a very eventful Christmas Eve night, as Stani reflects on all he's experienced in a few short hours, he and Emily welcome in their first Christmas together in one final scene from Hearts Unfold.

 They sat by the fire for a long time in contented silence.  He could believe in miracles after this night.  His experience in church, witnessing the birth of a baby, and the discovery of just how intensely he loved her, wanted to protect and care for her, were all miraculous.  Every hour with her seemed to change him, lead him forward to a new sense of himself.  He tried to recall the pastor's words at the close of the service tonight.  Words like strengthen and support, honor and serve; words which gave direction, pointing to a better life.  Peace and love, and courage.  He had begun to believe he might be capable of much more than he'd ever attempted.  With inspiration in the form of this girl now nestled so warmly at his side, he might learn to be the kind of man she deserved.

Three years earlier, it seemed to him now, he had in fact died, only to be born into this new life.  If almost losing his life had earned him this amazing woman's love, then he could accept the idea that there was a plan, a divine vision for them.  There was so much more to learn, more to discover on this journey; but he knew tonight he had at last opened his heart and, as she had promised, God had been there, had spoken to him, and he had recognized his voice.

“Emily, it's almost Christmas.  Should we put the baby in the manger now?"

Together, they went to the mantel and she took the tiny figure from its hiding place.  Ever so gently, she placed it on the little straw bed.  Softly, lovingly, she spoke words familiar, but never before understood.  “And he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Five

This one of my favorite scenes from Hearts Unfold, as Christmas Eve continues. . .

     With each reading of the beloved scriptures, with the singing of each carol, she found deeper peace.  Her littlest charge, Jenny, curled on her lap and at times one or the other of the children snuggled against her as they watched the glimmer of the candles and listened to the choir.  When she knelt before them, leading them in the first stanza of “Away in a Manger,” their sweet, clear voices were the only sound in the church.  Tears filled her eyes.  They not only sang like cherubs, but their faces glowed with the wonder of their accomplishment.  As the choir joined in the next stanza, she felt a shiver of joy.  This was her home, her church, her people.  This was where she was meant to build her life.
     When they returned to their places near the altar, her tiniest cherub tapped her on the shoulder and pointed into the congregation, calling out a name she couldn't quite understand.  Emily put her finger to her lips in a silent shush, and the little girl sweetly imitated her gesture.  With a soundless laugh, she gathered the child onto her lap, hugging her close, but something made her look back in the direction Jenny had pointed.  At the rear of the church, where several latecomers stood along the wall, she spotted Jack, rain glistening on his uniform jacket.  She was surprised.  He’d planned to attend the eleven o'clock service, she was sure.  She wondered briefly if there had been some kind of emergency.
     The congregation sat in rapt attention, all eyes focused on Pastor Mike as he read the final passage of the nativity story.  The first chords of “Silent Night” sounded and Emily got to her feet, checking that the children were holding hands as instructed.  When she looked back for Jack, the place where he'd been standing was empty.  Still wondering about his disappearance, she started to sing, getting through the first measure before her voice caught in her throat.
     She could see him clearly, framed by the heads and shoulders of rows of familiar faces.  His eyes, fixed on a place somewhere above her head, were glistening with unshed tears.  Jenny pulled gently on her hand, and she lifted the little girl to her hip.  When she raised her eyes, he was looking straight at her, smiling tenderly.  Jenny reached up and touched her face, and she realized tears were coursing down her cheeks.  Lowering her head, she kissed the tiny fingertips, smiling into the little face beside her.  The hymn ended and in the hush which followed, everyone stood with heads bowed, waiting.
     Pastor Mike's voice rang in the silence with the words of the Charge.  “Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good. . . .” Through the roaring in her ears, over the pounding of her heart, she could barely make out the familiar words. . . “support the weak; help the suffering; honor all men; love and serve the Lord.”  In her arms, Jenny cuddled closer, resting her head on Emily’s shoulder with a contented little sigh as the service came to a close.  “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord be kind and gracious unto you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.  Amen.”
     The first notes of the postlude thundered around her.  She stood still, her heart thumping against her ribs.  Parents came forward, complimenting her and the children, collecting their offspring.  She passed Jenny to her father's arms, accepted hugs from the other children.  One of the mothers put a wrapped gift in her hands, but she was only vaguely aware of the activity surrounding her.  Pastor Mike was coming toward her, a smile on his face, his hand extended.
     And then he was beside her, his arm gently encircling her waist.  Somehow, she found her voice.  “Pastor Mike, this is my very good friend, Stani Moss.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

"Katie" is Nominated for Best Romance!

Katie Lost and Found, a story of lost love found and second chances in life, is currently nominated in the Romance category here--
Your vote would be much appreciated! You can even cast your vote more than once--as often as you like! It takes about 30 seconds, no signing in, or revealing your identity, or anything!