Marji Laine: Faith~Driven Fiction

. . . Authentic and Intense


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National Novel Writing Month

It comes around as often as November, and for several years when I was just beginning, I took part every year in the great determination called NaNoWriMo.

Determination is actually a good description of the month-long event. Novelists from all genres will do everything they can to complete at least 50,000 words in a new novel. They celebrate at write-ins, have routine meetups and word-sprints. They even connect with writing buddies to provide challenges and encouragement.

And it just so happened that a new story was bugging me just in time to participate.

In all honesty, I’d intended to write the third book of the Heath’s Point Suspense. This is a story that I’d written as a serial almost a decade ago. It needs complete replanning and rewriting because it doesn’t work at all for a novel. I struggled with it throughout the entire month of October, trying to force the elements of the story to work. They resisted. The very last day of the month, I asked the Lord to please bless my working through the story. To help me have a clear idea of the plan.

I immediately had the words “Giselle’s story” enter my mind. Wait … no … Giselle’s story is the sequel to AIN’T MISBEHAVING. I’m nowhere near ready to write that. I barely know the two main characters in that book, as though we’d been introduced but hadn’t chatted at all.

Still, the impulse stayed with me. I was convinced I was supposed to spend this month working on CRY ME A RIVER, the second book in the Dallas Duets series. I only had one day to plan, so I started writing everything I knew about the story.  The hero – I didn’t even have his name – is a cop and he stops Giselle and gives her a ticket. That was about all I knew when I started a week ago.

The video became the birthing of a brand new story. I carried around the sticky-note pad for a couple of days, jotting down every scene idea that came into my mind. Yesterday, I compiled all of the ideas, added a little here and there and the story was complete.

As hard as it was to plan the Heath’s Point Suspense, the new Dallas Duet just poured out. In fact, I even have a novella idea that connects the two books together. I so love these characters and I can’t wait to tell you more about them!

 


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Encouragement and Inspiration for the Next Two Weeks!

Authors Harriet E. Michael and Shirley Crowder are so generous in sharing their wisdom over the next couple of weeks. CLICK HERE TO GET ALL OF THEIR DEVOTIONS THROUGH NOVEMBER 6!

Here’s their first installment.

 

Life’s Ripples
by: Harriet
Read: Psalm 74:13-17

The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.

Psalm 74:16-17 (NIV)

 

Autumn was once an enigma to me. As a little girl growing up beneath the hot tropical sun, I had no memory of autumn. Oh, I had experienced it when my parents were in America on furlough but I was too young to really remember what it was like. And furlough, when you are only five years old, is a year of so many new things, that it is hard to process and remember.

But nonetheless, even in tropical Nigeria, I learned to love the autumn season. Why did I love it as a child when I had not experienced it? Where did I get my love for this season of cooler weather, colorful scenery, scurrying squirrels, crunchy leaves, and frosty mornings? I think the credit goes to a missionary aunt who taught both Shirley and me in school–our Aunt Lil Wasson.

Because she had a teaching degree and several children of her own in need of an education, Aunt Lil bravely took on the job of elementary school teacher to all the missionary kids on the Ogbomoso compound. Ogbomoso, the Nigerian town where we lived, had both a hospital and seminary with about a half a dozen missionary families working in each. All together these missionaries had at least a dozen or more elementary-age children depending on who was on furlough in any given year. Aunt Lil taught all of us in her garage which had been made into a one-room schoolhouse. She taught every child in grades kindergarten through the fourth grade in one room. She was a brave woman, indeed.

Aunt Lil loved autumn. She grew up in Arkansas where trees are abundant, and autumns are glorious. Of course, Nigeria had only two seasons–rainy and dry. Half the year it rained some every day and the other half it did not rain at all. America’s autumn months fall right at the end of the rainy season in Nigeria.

Yet, Aunt Lil always decorated her schoolroom with pictures representative of autumn in America and had her American citizen students learn about their homeland. I can still remember sitting in her garage classroom looking at the decorations all around me–bright orange pumpkins, brown squirrels with nuts in their mouths, and trees with red, orange, and yellow leaves.

She had one large poster-size picture of Jack Frost painting a leaf with an artist palette of fall colors which always intrigued me. One hand was under the palette and the other held a paintbrush. Of course, we all knew Jack Frost was not real, but my imagination went wild just the same with thoughts of a magical place where the world turned bright with colors, where shiny, frosty crystals formed on the ground, and a little elf painted the leaves when children were not looking.

I think of Aunt Lil every fall. I thank God for her enthusiasm over the world He made, both tropical and temperate. And I realize how everything people do can have a lasting ripple effect on those around them.

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, creator of this vast and beautiful world, thank You for the exquisite beauty that surrounds us whether we experience colorful autumn foliage or lovely tropical blooms. Make us mindful that our lives affect others in so many ways. May we impact them for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thought for the Day: Others are watching you!

Get all of Harriet’s and Shirley’s devotions through November 6 in your email box by clicking THIS LINK and signing up on the form. No strings attached. This email list will be discarded when the devotional serial ends on November 6, 2019.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FREE DEVOTIONS!


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Breaking Point

I’m so excited to share this book with you. It’s literally been over a decade in the making. But after 5 full rewrites, 8 editors, and countless revisions, I’d like to share the opening scene from BREAKING POINT. (BREAKING POINT is only 99¢ right now on Kindle. Get your copy HERE.)

BREAKING POINT – Chapter One

“What do you mean he’s missing?” Lt. Jason Danvers set his fishing pole aside. Myra Stone wasn’t given to panic. He’d never even noticed the lady flustered. Until this phone call.

“I found a note this morning. I thought he’d taken an early walk, but then I saw that his car was gone and found the note taped to the kitchen faucet that he’d gone to the store for some of his hot chocolate.” The older woman’s voice broke, though she struggled to lower her volume. “And I called his phone, but it was plugged into the charger in the office.”

He pulled a pad out of his jacket pocket and the stub of a pencil. “When did you see him last?”

“I went to bed last night at about eleven. He was watching a baseball game that we’d recorded earlier.”

“And you don’t know when he left?” Who ventured out in the middle of the night for a silly can of cocoa? Jason jotted the quick details in case he needed to remember them later.

“No. I didn’t hear him leave, and didn’t … Oh, dear.” She was losing control.

“Myra, I’ll call Chief Tate, and we’ll start a search.” He needed to do better than that if he wanted to settle her tension. “He probably ran out of gas or maybe had a flat. With no phone, he couldn’t very well call for help.”

She stayed silent for a moment. “Yes. I’m sure you’re right about that. Please find him for me.”

Her plea ripped at a piece of his heart. He ended the call and reeled in his empty line. He’d pack stuff up later. Palming his phone, he jogged to his black Jeep and climbed in.

Pulling onto the gravel road that ran alongside this forgotten branch of Grayson Lake, he called Heath’s Point Chief of Police and filled him in on the details. “I’m north of town, but I can swing west a few miles and try some of the back roads from Dallas.” That late at night, Ellis would have had to go into the city or at least the suburbs to find his favorite chocolate powder.

“You take that side, and I’ll check in town for his car.” Chief Dell Tate’s normally gruff voice held a tone of worry. “Chances are he came in for donuts or something and just forgot to pick up the note he’d left before going fishing.”

Reasonable. But Jason would still feel better when they found the man. He turned onto the county road and tuned in his police radio. He tried to keep the darn thing off on his free days, but this situation warranted his monitoring the feed. Setting it to scan the local agencies, he tried to relax. Ellis Stone would be found. He’d be fine. This would be a non-issue.

But something in his gut argued against all of that.

God, please, calm Myra right now. Help us find Ellis, so she doesn’t have to worry.

The Lord knew where Ellis was. Given a little time, He’d allow Jason or Dell to find him. And Jason had the time—part of the charm of working for a small-town police department. The fish probably wouldn’t even know they’d been stood up.

He traversed one country road after another, each slick and shiny from the overnight rains, but found no little white sedan stopped alongside the asphalt.

“Cruiser 10, single-vehicle accident near Farm-to-Market 457.” His gut clenched with the call from the county dispatcher. But there was no reason to assume that Ellis had an accident.

Still, Jason wasn’t far from the area. He’d travel that direction if only to get a look at the vehicle and ease his mind that it wasn’t Ellis. Jason glanced at his dashboard clock. Almost ten. He’d have been tired of fishing by now anyway.

His cell buzzed from the pocket of his gray-green shirt and gave his normal greeting, “Danvers.”

“You hear that call?” His superior’s gruff voice barely echoed over the background sounds of his noisy patrol car.

“Yes, sir. I’m already headed in that direction.” Thankfully, he hadn’t picked up his cruiser. Nothing official. Maybe the deputy he always seemed to butt heads with wouldn’t be too hostile toward him since he wasn’t in the uniform or the painted car.

“I’ll meet you there.” Chief Tate snorted. “Those county boys don’t like you much.”

“I know how to play nice.” Too bad the sheriff’s office treated every accident and crime as some sort of competition with all the local agencies. “Besides, they don’t like you either.” Antagonizing them didn’t take much.

“That’s because they think I’ll toss my hat in the ring for sheriff someday.”

Sheriff Beauregard Kindrich had been in charge of the county for almost two decades, and he wasn’t about to relinquish his power to anyone. Especially not to Chief Dell Tate, fifteen years younger than Kindrich and exponentially better at his job. Tate had hinted more than once—even within the sheriff’s hearing—that he might like to run for the elected position.

The chief scoffed. “But they still don’t dare shove me around the way they do you.”

Who would shove a rattler with his bare hands? Jason kept the image to himself. After all, he was still the newcomer to the HPPD, only here for a few years. An outsider to many people, even in town but especially to the sheriff and his deputies. “I’ll stay out of sight until you arrive, then.”

He turned onto County Road 457, a narrow strip of asphalt still glistening in the morning sunlight. This wouldn’t have been a direct route to the store that Myra claimed her husband visited, but it might have been his choice to avoid the more direct route, which often flooded in a heavy sprinkle.

After following it for a few miles without spotting anything, he resisted the urge to turn off and head for Myra’s place, Sunrise Inn. Maybe Ellis had returned home by now.

Cresting another hill, he sighted a small gathering of county cruisers. Looked like he’d located their accident. He pulled off the road some distance from the other vehicles. No need to poke the brown bears, as the local police tended to call them.

Jason did a quick, three-point turn and found a wide area on the other side where he could park. He jogged back to the curve and stood at the crest of the hill overlooking a sorghum field which was soggy from last night’s showers. Sounded like the entire sheriff’s department was down there except for one sad lackey on the far side of the curve who’d been stuck with traffic duty.

From his position, Jason couldn’t see any accident. The curve jutted out a bit, blocking his view. But he could hear the men talking. Unfortunately, one voice rang out above the others.

Deputy Martin Cain. The man practically worshiped at the feet of the sheriff, probably in hopes of being his successor someday. Cain, one of the senior deputies, had probably taken charge of the scene.

Jason wouldn’t get a blade of grass from that guy.

Before the traffic lackey turned toward him, Jason eyed the incline off the side of the road. Steep, but with little flat areas spaced at good intervals. Jason dropped off the edge of the embankment and cut downhill to a grove of leafy cottonwoods on the edge of the sorghum field. If Deputy Cain searched, he might distinguish Jason’s pale mossy shirt or his light tan hat in the undergrowth, but Cain missed more than he caught.

Jason had a clear view of a white sedan resting on its roof in the gully at the edge of the field.

A sick feeling punched his gut. He’d held out hope for any other color. But even so, this was East Texas. Every third vehicle was white to reflect the blistering, summer sun.

None of the county people seemed to be moving very fast. He wanted to believe that they’d already transported the injured driver away, but he knew better. This was a new scene. The fact that they weren’t moving could only mean one thing. Someone was dead. No need to hurry. Even after almost a decade of law enforcement, he’d never gotten used to seeing the dead. Especially after what had happened to him in Chicago.

But even without that tragedy, he couldn’t fathom how law enforcement professionals were supposed to simply shrug off the ending of a life, callously discarding the dreams and potential of the victim? That went for any victim, but especially for a nice, old man who had made Jason a member of the family, welcoming him with a goodhearted laugh and a firm handshake.

Not that the driver was Ellis. Maybe Chief Tate had found him by now. Jason pulled out his phone and texted in order to keep things quiet. “Found the accident. Deputy Cain’s in charge. White car. Tell me you’ve found Ellis.” With nothing to do except wait for his boss’s response, he picked a wide leaf from a nearby branch and absently tore it into thin strips while he listened to the discussions from those at the scene.

“Been dead since about midnight, if I had to guess.” The county coroner, Dr. Barnes, was a plumpish, middle-aged man with dark hair under his trademark Texas Rangers Baseball cap.

“Don’t want chur guessing Charlie. I could do that misself.” Deputy Cain didn’t tend to make friends even within his department.

“Medical Examiner’ll get closer.” The coroner pulled off the cap, scratched his bald spot, and put the cap back on. “Take a while to hear from him.”

Un-Ax-ceptable.” Cain’s volume rose. “This case’ll be wrapped up with a bow by Sunday’s paper.”

Two days? Cain was dreaming. This was probably a simple accident, but the county ME, Doc Umbridge, wouldn’t even see the data before sometime next week. Maybe the week after if he was busy.

“Like I said ….” The coroner looked meek and amiable, but he had enough gusto to stand up to Deputy Martin Cain. “’Bout midnight. Maybe one. Best guess you’ll get for Sunday’s paper.”

Jason edged to the right, staying in the tree line but hoping to get a view of the driver. He spotted the chief’s cruiser coming around the bend.

Good, he’d get some answers.

The county crime scene investigators measured, marked, and photographed every aspect of the scene. Cain stood to one side with his arms folded.

“What you got going on down here, Cain?” The chief made his way down the hill, and his booming voice seemed to fill the entire valley.

“Nothing you LEOs need to worry about.” Cain might have jurisdiction over the local Law Enforcement Officers, but he had no sense when it came to talking to the chief.

Jason strode from his camouflage and climbed through the slats of the fence. “I should think after all the help we gave the county a few months ago, during those drug raids, that Deputy Cain would at least extend respect, Chief.”

“Great, so the outsider is here, too.” Cain glared at Jason.

“The important people show respect, Jason. Others show immaturity.” The chief sniffed in Cain’s direction as he rounded the car.

Jason joined the county coroner who stood taking notes in a little booklet. “One occupant?”

The coroner didn’t even glance at Cain’s thundercloud face before nodding. “Late sixties, maybe earlier seventies.”

Not what Jason wanted to hear.

“And that ain’t none of their business, Charlie.” Cain stepped between the two, bending over the shorter coroner as if chastising an errant youth.

Dell scratched at his whitish beard. “Son, you need to learn how to work and play nice with others.”

The coroner snickered.

Dell continued, laying his palm on the deputy’s shoulder. “Normal for a cop like Jason to be concerned about something like this.”

“He ain’t got no jurisdiction here.” Cain used that mantra like a business card. “And neither do you.”

“Shoot, son. Just because a career officer is hanging around don’t mean he wants to take over. Stop getting your shorts in a wad about a fight that ain’t even there.” Dell’s comment raised a rumble of chuckles from the others working the scene and a couple of firemen sent to retrieve the body.

The chief bent over to peer through the shattered back glass. “So. This Ellis Stone’s car?”

Jason’s gut twisted. He waited, hoped, for someone to say, No, it belongs to some stranger.

This time the coroner glanced at Cain. The deputy shook his head, but the older man turned toward Dell. “You recognize the man’s car in this condition?”

“Good friend.” Dell’s tone lowered.

To both of them. The knot in Jason’s gut tightened. He squatted, avoiding the view of the man who had been his friend hunched against the passenger window.

“I’m sorry, Chief. Wallet belongs to Ellis Stone. Picture matches.” The coroner continued to speak about details to the chief and the deputy. Jason stopped listening.

Victim. Ellis was the victim. And Jason needed to see him in that way to stay detached enough to let his observations connect.

He glanced around the interior of the car. No wires on the accelerator. The car was in gear. The victim wasn’t belted into the seat. That was strange. Ellis was always automatic in buckling his seatbelt. His blue jeans were soaking wet in places.

Jason put a knee down in the wet grass.

“Keep your fingerprints to yourself, Danvers.” Cain stepped around the car from the other direction.

“Just making observations.”

The chief knelt beside him. “Awful way to go.”

Jason pointed to a puddle of water that soaked the headliner. “Where did all that water come from?”

“It rained last night, of course.” Cain hadn’t bothered to get a glimpse of it for himself. He would’ve seen how unlikely that was.

“Didn’t rain that hard last night. Less than a quarter-inch.” The chief stood and pointed it out to the coroner.

The man bent down next to Jason. “I’m not an investigator, but it looks strange to me.” He turned to Cain. “You should make a note. There’s more than an inch of water pooling near the dome light.” He stood and looked expectantly at Cain.

“This is a waste of time.” But the deputy pulled out his tablet and tapped a few keys.

“Maybe.” Jason took another look, particularly scanning the backseat. A smashed Whataburger cup was near the back window. A discarded receipt with a burger wrapper was near it. “Maybe not. You going to collect all of the items in the car?” Jason stood.

“This is an accident scene, Lieutenant.” Cain narrowed the gap between them, elbows back like a banty rooster and staring up from the height of Jason’s chin. “And this ain’t none of your business.”

Jason stood firm, looking over the man’s head at the chief.

The older man patted Cain on the shoulder. “There’s no call for that, son. Procedure says you collect everything from the scene, even of an accident. Insurance, you know.” He patted him again, persuading him to turn away from Jason. “And I tell you what, you make sure all of those little details get collected and we get access to them, and we’ll go tell the family about their loss.”

Cain huffed but released his attitude. “The sheriff will appreciate that, Chief.”

“Of course.” Dell eyed the junior bear. “Rather it come from me.”

“Sorry for your loss.” To Cain’s credit, he delivered his condolence with a semblance of regret instead of a victory dance. “If it’s any comfort, he went quickly.”

The coroner chimed in. “Broken neck, head wounds. Didn’t have time to even be afraid.”

“Probably saw the Lord before he even saw the ground.” Leave it to Dell to put things into perspective, but that wouldn’t make the loss any easier. He nodded at the two men. “Jason and I will break the news to his wife.”

Cain nodded then raised one eyebrow. “But you’ll need to contact the sheriff right after you’ve spoken to her and let him announce it to the media.”

So much for Cain’s credit. His intention to use Ellis’s death to secure voters for the sheriff left a putrid taste in Jason’s mouth.

Dell lifted his eyes heavenward but agreed and gestured for Jason to join him on a trek back toward the road.

“Not the way I’d hoped to find Ellis.” Jason dug his hiking boots into the soft dirt of the incline.

“Me neither, though I’d never known the man to disappear. Knew something had happened.” He fingered his tuft of beard again above his light-blue uniform shirt. “I hate what this is gonna do to Myra.”

“Especially with no family around.” Though they had a daughter, maybe two, he’d never met them. Myra’s closest friend, Cat Alexander, was out of town. “Should we let Cat and Ray know?”

“No. they deserve to finish their honeymoon in ignorant bliss.” Dell shot him a look. “And until they get back, we’ll make sure Myra has plenty of help and support, starting with you taking her out to Howie-Mem to wait for her husband’s body.”

Howerton Memorial Hospital served as a temporary morgue until the county could build one of their own. “I’ll take care of her.” Jason ached for Myra. Losing a soulmate was hard enough without having to go through the loss all alone. He knew the feeling well.

A position he’d vowed to never relive.


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The View from Down Here

Perspective is a funny thing. Sometimes the Lord helps us put on the skids and forces us to look at life from a different point of view than we were expecting. Like last month when my big brother shared that he might have cancer. Devastating!

My brother and I have been best friends since college. His wife was even my college roommate. Our kids consider each other siblings more than cousins and we still look forward to opportunities to get together or just chat on the phone.

But with this call, I wasn’t the kid-sister. I was the first call to help him sort through his emotions before he had to tell his wife and his son. I sucked up every tear and kept my voice even and low, remaining objective so he could sort through his thoughts and emotions without having to deal with mine.

In the days that followed, I kept him in constant prayer, reminding God that my brother, His servant, wasn’t finished yet. Minor insecurities, annoyances, and irritations disappeared. Weighing against the reality of our temporary lives, very little seemed important. God’s big picture became the forefront of my mind. Such is the case when what I think is “life” comes skidding to a halt in the face of something that could profoundly alter it.

Then there are the times when the Lord eases us into a new perspective over the course of time and experience. I also had that “aha” this month.

I didn’t realize that the last time I chatted with you was a year and a half ago! I mean, I expected to back off blogging a little bit because I’d been doing so many for so long, but an eighteen-month silence is not just a back-off!

 

I’m thinking I had a little bit of goldfish-memory syndrome.

That’s a running joke in my family.
Goldfish in a bowl:
I have a castle…
Oh, my gosh, there’s a castle over there…
Wow, I can see a castle…
What’s that big building over there?
Wait, is that a castle?

And so on. Such was the case with me planning to do another blog post. I had every good intention, but time and memory shot them down.

Doing this blog now helps me realize just how much has changed in this eighteen months. At the time of my last post, my goal was to churn out two dozen books during 2018. And I did, but I wasn’t happy with the tradeoff – very little time apart from work, no writing time of my own, and errors in a couple of the books that could have been avoided if I hadn’t been so rushed.

My perspective has changed about my business. We’re now focusing on launching books – making the most of each of them and doing the best we can for them. We’re publishing fewer of them, but hoping that each will do exponentially better as it hits the market.

My perspective has also changed about the Lord. I look forward to spending time with Him in the mornings, sometimes spending hours in Scripture reading, study, and prayer. That’s beyond my expectations in a huge way! I also love working with the youth at our church and encouraging them to make their faith their own and not miss the opportunity to have a real relationship with the Creator of the universe.

So all-in-all, as I say in my bio, I’m pretty content with where the Lord has me and what He has me doing. Especially since my big-bro was declared cancer-free! Yep! After preparing myself for the worst so I could encourage him, he let that news fly, and I bawled like a baby! Right there in front of my nephew and my girls. And I’m not even ashamed! I’m happy to bawl about news like that any day!

What about you? Are you getting a fresh perspective abruptly or over the course of time? Or maybe not at all? Maybe the Lord has worked you through some perspective training already? Care to share? I’d love to hear about your journey with the Lord with this issue.


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AIN’T MISBEHAVING Chapter One

I’m so excited about the release of my newest book – a poignant clean romance that was a 4-tissue story for me!
Enjoy chapter 1 and be sure to order the full novel on Amazon (available both in print and e-book). Oh/, and don’t miss out on a free copy of COUNTER POINT today only! 1/16/18

Chapter 1

Her future wasn’t the only thing at stake.

Annalee Chambers slipped into the bare consultation room with her mother, father, and attorney. Reporters filled the hallway and shouted questions as the door closed.

She tugged at a stray blond curl the August breeze had pulled from her hair clip and sank into the wooden chair. If only invisibility were possible—a desire initiated when they’d arrived at the Frank Crowley Court Buildings, and cameras started flashing.

Leaning against the high back of the seat, she stared at a ceiling fan making a slow rotation. For a solid minute, she matched her breathing to the fan’s rhythm.

“The judge has to toss away this whole fabrication.” Her mother paced the same path as the shadows from the circling blades. “Can’t she identify the real victim in this case?”

Annalee bristled at the insinuation. “Mr. Madison was the victim. He and his family are the ones impacted by the accident.” Accident. She hadn’t even realized she’d hit anyone.

“It’s clear the district attorney is only trying to hurt my campaign.” Father lifted a slat from the blinds hanging over the only window in the room. The sunlight made him squint. “He’s been a fan of Mayor Ellis since the beginning. Now, since I’m a real threat, he’s doing everything he can to make me look bad.”

And Annalee had aided in the destruction of her father’s mayoral campaign when she traveled to club-row to pick up her tipsy friend.

“We don’t have too much time to plan this defense.” Mr. Walbright bent his balding head over his briefcase. He unearthed a stack of legal-sized documents and came up for air.

She caught her father’s disgusted glance. Poor Walbright. He probably hoped that his representing Annalee would pave the way for him to work at her father’s firm, but his lack of organization and planning for this case destroyed that dream in its infancy.

The man thumbed through the stack until his forehead relaxed, and he pulled a page from the chaos. “As I understand the events of the night, the officers didn’t actually see you driving the car. Is that correct, Miss Chambers?”

“Yes, but what does it matter?”

“That is the whole point. Can’t you see?” Mother took another lap around the room. “There are no witnesses. Not even Mr. Madison saw your face because you had something white covering it.”

“Giselle’s napkin.” She eyed her Versace bag, tempted to pull out her sketch pad and let this conversation fade from her mind.

“Whatever.” Her mother halted. “If no one can place you in front of the bar, there is no case.”

“But her car was at the scene.” Mr. Walbright pointed to another report he’d extracted from the mess. “Circumstantial, yet it does place her at the accident.”

“Except she wasn’t in her car when the police joined her in the parking lot.” Her father swung around, his blue eyes bright under his tawny hair. “She was helping her friend get in the backseat.”

Friend. A Strange term to use for Giselle. The woman claimed she remembered nothing of her trip home—not blocking Annalee’s view or hysterical giggling or even slamming her foot on the gas pedal. And she hadn’t so much as called to wish Annalee luck in court.

“If only you hadn’t gone to that club.” Mother stared at the ceiling.

“I told Giselle to call me. She needed a safe trip home.” And the ride would have been safe if her friend had stayed on the passenger side of Annalee’s Mustang. The moment she crawled across the seat, Annalee should have pulled over.

“I assume she didn’t appreciate having to sober up at the jail.”

Better than being in the hospital if she’d attempted to drive herself home. Annalee focused on the heavy table in front of her. What unpronounceable combination of elements made up the super industrial-strength material? And where could she get some to help her through this next hour?

Sharp heel clicks resounded in the hallway. The low rumble of voices gave way to a few raised ones, maybe questions being shouted but not distinguishable. The door opened. Annalee shielded her eyes against camera flashes. Several of the reporters called out, but she ignored them.

Her tall, elegant sister shut the door and tugged sunglasses from her face. “The people are crazy out there.” As a well-known model, Ramona Chambers knew what crazy looked like.

“Another reason why the judge will throw this whole thing out.” Her mother stood as tall as her daughter, though her hair was short-cut and silvery instead of the perfect long waves that Ramona enjoyed.

Annalee examined her French manicure against the smooth gray of the sturdy table. How many fists had pounded on it yet not affected its steady balance? The temptation to do a little pounding crossed her mind, but instead, she refocused on Mother’s comment. “If the judge throws out the case, what will happen to Mr. Madison and his family?”

“You’d better worry about what happens to your father and his campaign if Judge Vaught doesn’t.” Mother withdrew a lipstick from her purse and applied the pinkish tone.

“But the man works two jobs.” She lifted her gaze to the quad. Each of them stared down at her like her nose had gone missing. “His family will be on the streets.”

“Where did you get all of that hogwash?” Her sister pulled the wispy scarf from around her head and tucked it into her bag.

She stood. “It’s not hogwash. The story has been on the news and all over the Internet.”

“Well, you’ve got me there. Must be true.” Ramona chuckled.

“None of that matters, Annalee.” Mr. Walbright packed his things back in his case. “The judge will decide.”

“But if there is a case …” Father stood.

“If Judge Vaught accepts the DA’s charges, which she won’t, I’ll make sure the delays extend well past the election. After November, DA Barrett may lose interest when his man is no longer in office.” Walbright chuckled and led Mother to a back door leading to the courtroom.

Father patted Annalee’s hand. “See, Sunshine? Things are going to be fine.”

Fine? Maybe for her family, but the Madisons would see nothing fine about Mr. Walbright’s scenario.

He ushered her in front of him through the door. She followed her attorney to a small table on one side of a wooden rail while the rest of her family sat behind the divider.

The slender judge climbed to her place as everyone stood. She took her seat in a cascade of black robes.

In this heat? No wonder the woman’s gray-brown bangs stuck to her forehead.

“Be seated.” She proceeded to read the formal case title and all of the details of the accusation. “Defendant, please stand.”

Annalee rose, every eye watching like an audience at an open-heart surgery. She lowered her chin but glanced at the judge. The robed woman there gave her a lingering perusal.

“Straighten up.” Her mother’s whisper brought reality to the situation.

Annalee relaxed her shoulders and lifted her face.

“You stand accused of the crime of Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Injuries, a Class A misdemeanor carrying up to one year in county jail, a fine not to exceed $5,000, and restitution to the victim in this case …” The judge flipped a page in her file and continued in a robotic tone. “… a Mr. Robert Madison.”

She hadn’t considered the possibility of jail time. The thought chilled her. Maybe Walbright’s ideas were best after all.

“How do you plea?”

Annalee stole a look at her attorney. Why didn’t he say anything?

“Just say not guilty,” he whispered.

What? She had to talk in front of this whole roomful of people? Wait … she was the one to declare her plea?

A low rumble resonated over the room. The judge tapped her pen against a wood block. “Quiet, please.” She arched her unibrow in Annalee’s direction. “Miss Chambers?” The jerk of her head made her wispy bouffant teeter.

“Guilty.” Annalee’s answer came out in a conversational tone, as though she commented on the weather.

The room erupted with urgent voices. Annalee clamped her jaw tight. Her announcement would have repercussions of storm-like proportions.

Mother exclaimed and leaned over the bar, hissing instructions. Ramona joined her, though slightly more composed. Mr. Walbright called for the judge to give him a few minutes alone with his client. Father stared at his hands on his knees.

Annalee hated betraying him, but the mayoral race wasn’t life or death.

The judge tapped on the block again and raised her voice to gain order. “Mr. Walbright, you just came from a conference with your client. Didn’t you discuss this?”

“No, your honor. I mean yes, but …” He ran his fingers through what little hair decorated his bare scalp. “She’s confused.”

“Are you confused, Miss Chambers?”

Annalee shook her head and lifted her chin higher. “No, I’m not.” She dug her nails into her palms but kept her voice steady and strong.

“She seems coherent to me, Mr. Walbright.” The judge narrowed her eyes. “Perhaps you’re the one who’s confused.”

He nodded, adjusting his rimless bifocals. “A minute, please?”

“You have five while I consider the matter.” The judge held up her hand as Walbright shoved Annalee back through the side door and shut it behind him. “What were you thinking, Annalee?” The man mouthed her mother’s words like a ventriloquist dummy.

The thought caught her off guard for a moment, but she clasped her hands in front of her and straightened her shoulders. “I told you I didn’t want the Madison family to bear the financial burden of the accident. Then you and Mother and Father decided their needs didn’t matter.” She turned toward the window.

“So, you took it all on yourself?”

She whirled on him. “Who else should?” If her father’s money was the only valuable thing about her, then at the very least, she could support those poor people.

“But I could have gotten you off. You would have walked away.” He lifted both fists and turned toward the doorway, probably plotting his escape?

“Mr. Madison can’t walk. At least not for a couple of months while he heals.” Surely, Mr. Walbright could tell the difference between winning and stepping on people.

He spun in her direction. “Don’t you realize you can go to jail for this?”

Not until the judge mentioned it, but by then, Annalee had already made her decision. She crossed her arms. “It’s your job to see I don’t. Your magical defense?” She eased the sarcasm out of her voice. No need to further rile the man.

“The only thing I had was their lack of evidence. With your guilty plea, my defense is null and void.”

She hadn’t thought through the details but didn’t regret her action. “This was the right thing to do, Mr. Walbright.”

“Maybe yes, maybe no.” He took her arm and led her back toward the courtroom door. “But you put your future in the hands of a perfect stranger.” He paused as he pushed the door open. “And she was appointed by Mayor Ellis.”

Oops.

 

Summoned to Camelot.

CJ Whelan approached the expansive doors of the Preston Park Country Club. Hand-carved wood, wrought-iron handles, and lead-crystal insets proclaimed their value in a dignified tone. He jerked one of them opened and passed through the portal from normal life to luxury.

“May I help you?” The host’s tuxedo seemed too formal for such an early hour and way too hot for the Texas heat wave going on outside.

“I’m here to see Scott Whelan.” His dad had insisted he attend the Intercede Foundation’s board meeting. Everything in CJ wanted to rebel or at least, find a plausible excuse. But when he’d blown off last month’s meeting, they’d cut some of the funding for the program he directed.

This time, he’d spent almost an hour talking to God about the situation before he arrived. Dad didn’t understand the importance of the program.

Or maybe he only cared about getting his way.

The man behind the concierge counter dipped his gaze toward CJ’s sneakers and back up across his blue jeans and shirt. “I beg your pardon. Mr. Whelan is in the formal dining room.” He emphasized formal.

What was his problem? CJ wore a button-down shirt over his tee. In this August blast, that took effort and dedication. “And?” He lifted his chin and nailed the host with steady eyes.

The man didn’t meet the challenge. Instead, he dug through a drawer on his left. “The Preston Park Country Club has certain standards for our formal areas.” He pulled a folded, navy tie from the drawer. “This should satisfy the membership.”

Next time his dad forced him to come here, he’d not bother covering his Casting Crowns tee shirt. He ground his molars together and snatched the silk dog collar. Knotting it around his neck, he left it loose. The maître d’ attempted to tighten it, but CJ swatted his hands away. “I can see myself in.”

“No, no, no.” The man leaped to bar his way. “I must see your identification, sir. Mr. Whelan has given me a list of his guests, and I must check off your name.”

Of course. We mustn’t color outside of the lines, must we? He whipped out his license and dropped it on the host station. “There. We good now?”

“Mr. Whelan?” The host’s eyes widened. “I’m so sorry, sir. I had no idea.”

“So, I’m not on dear Daddy’s list?” CJ collected the card and stuffed his wallet into his back pocket.

“No need to be on his guest list. As Mr. Whelan’s son, that is, your father’s son, I mean of course you are, but your entrance is automatic, or at least it should be. I’m terribly sorry for all
of—”

CJ raised his palms. “Look, if you’ll tell me where to find my dad …”

“This way.” The man’s face had reddened from his ears forward.

He probably expected CJ to raise a fuss or make an official complaint. Fishing a dollar out of his front pocket, CJ stuffed it in his hand. Not the amount of tip the man normally received, but it would have to do. “It’s all right. Really.”

The worker slunk away and left CJ scanning the six faces around the table. His dad had his head buried in a deep discussion with two men on his left. Leon sat beside him with Davis one seat down. On his right, Mr. Simons had his arms crossed and lips pressed together. Next to him, the only woman in the group, Delfia Moncrief, matched his body language, only adding furrowed eyebrows. A large balding man, Arthur Bench completed the circle. The grimace he wore, along with his hand on his swollen belly, looked more like gas than disagreement.

“Ah. Carlton.” Dad’s toothy smile didn’t reach his eyes. “You decided to come.”

“After you cut funding during your last meeting, I didn’t have much of a choice.”

“And I didn’t agree with that motion, either.” The woman pointed a slender finger toward Dad.

With every seat occupied, CJ pulled a chair over from a neighboring table. Dear old dad hadn’t truly expected him. Fancy that.

“So, what is it you don’t agree with Mrs. Moncrief?”

“Selling that beautiful old house where the center is. I’d rather see it become some sort of monument than another parking lot.”

Sell the center? A thousand tiny scorpions stung the back of his neck and began traveling down his spine. “The center is kinda still using the building right now.”

Dad straightened. “We can’t expect you to come in mid-discussion and understand what all is going on.” He tapped the table in front of Leon.

Alton Leon cleared his throat. “I move this discussion be postponed until we can discuss details more fully.”

“I second.” Charles Davis puffed out his chest with the announcement.

“Well, I don’t. I want to discuss this now.” Mrs. Moncrief patted the surface of the shiny wooden table.

You go, Mrs. M. CJ studied his father. The man’s lips curled up a bit, and he acknowledged Mrs. Moncrief through half-closed eyes. He held the influence, and he knew it.

“Let’s keep moving.” Arthur Bench popped a couple of Tums from a small bottle and leaned on his elbows.

How had this group ever made any decisions? “Where are you planning to move the center if you end up selling the Haskell house?” He didn’t care what Davis and Leon declared. Dad was the puppet master, again attempting to direct CJ’s life for him.

“That’s a discussion for another time.” Dad pointed to Mr. Bench. “Didn’t you have a—”

“But I’m here. And moving the center will make drastic transitions for me and my team, not to mention the families we serve. If you move to a building too far away, those who walk to their homes, almost thirty percent of our children, won’t be able to use our services at all.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Dean Simons slapped his palms on the table. “Moving isn’t necessary. We can add on where it is right now.”

Add on? This was a discussion CJ could embrace. “Absolutely. The side lot goes virtually unused, except for the bus drive-through. We could move the lane further over and have enough room to make two more buildings, both as big as the first.”

Mrs. Moncrief smiled at him. “You are so like your mother, CJ. So singular in your purpose for those children.”

Dad stiffened at the mention of Mom.

“I love the idea.” Simons tapped the table.

“You’re getting ahead of yourself, Carlton.” Dad’s gaze, no longer under the comfortable half-lids, pierced him with warning. The others chimed in and a rumble of discussion overwhelmed the table.

CJ gave his dad a side-long look. “I’m not the one selling a building that’s still in use.”

Dad’s composure slipped. “No one said we were selling.” A red blotch grew above his proper business shirt.

“I second the motion.” Mr. Simons slapped the table again.

“That wasn’t a motion.” His dad pulled at his collar.

“All in favor.” Mrs. Moncrief’s wide smile overwhelmed her tiny mouse-like face, but she raised her hand and called out “Aye” along with Simons and Bench. “Opposed?”

“Now just a minute.” Dad’s graying hair, normally smoothed to perfection, had a few fraying edges. His eyebrows mimicked the look as he attempted to regain the control he’d lost. “This isn’t a real—”

“None opposed. The ayes have it.” Mrs. Moncrief let out a tiny giggle, girlish despite her sixty-some-odd years. Bench and Simons joined in her laughter. Davis and Leon looked confused.

Dad took an audible breath. “Very well. We won’t be selling the center … this year.” He drew a hand across his hair from front to back and lowered his tone. “But we have received a serious complaint from one of the surrounding businesses.”

Surrounding businesses? “There’s only one, and the owner and I are good friends.”

“I’m not speaking of the adjacent body shop. I’m referring to The Glan-Sec offices on the east side of the property. They insist the loud noises of the children while they play interrupt their business dealings.”

“What business dealings? One’s a dentist and the other’s a day-trader.” And neither of them could claim quiet offices if CJ’s visits were any indication.

“Nevertheless, the children may not play within fifty feet of their building from here on in.”

“That’s ridiculous. They can’t stop children from playing in their own yard during the middle of the day.”

“But it’s not their yard.” Dad’s volume rose and conversation at nearby tables silenced for a moment. His Adam’s apple dipped. “The center’s in a business district and had to earn the acceptance of the surrounding owners before we could move in.”

“And the owners of the Glan-Sec building approved. They can’t go back on their agreement now.” CJ leaned forward. “Besides, Glan-Sec are only lessees. They don’t have any say.”

“But they can complain to the city planning and zoning committee.” Leon agreed with Dad. Small wonder there.

“Yes, and the committee can remove the center’s license, making the entire foundation look bad.” Davis’s comment only confirmed CJ’s opinion that he was indeed a shadow of Leon and not a separate man at all.

“Still, you can’t force the children to stay indoors all day. That’s not healthy.” Mrs. Moncrief’s argument brought mumbles of agreement from the other two men.

“You seem to have a standoff, Dad.” CJ gripped the edge of the table. “Maybe you should postpone this discussion, too, until someone actually makes a formal complaint against the center.” Which would never come.

Dad squinted.

“Seems fair, Whelan.” Mr. Bench rocked forward. “I suggest we call this meeting complete.”

“Second.” Simons raised his hand as the rest of the attendees mumbled. “I think we’re on the right course, Scott.” Mr. Simons shoved against the table to stand. Bench engaged him in conversation as they walked out together.

“Well, if we’re done here, I have an appointment.” Leon didn’t look at Dad. “Good-bye, all.” Davis followed him out without a word.

What sort of invisible adhesive did those men use to be so synchronized?

“You’ve got a good man in charge over there.” Mrs. Moncrief smiled in CJ’s direction and patted his dad’s shoulder. “The afterschool center is in good hands.”

Dad’s eyes hadn’t strayed from CJ’s face.

CJ ignored the stare-down, drumming his thumbs on the polished wood. “Don’t you all eat at these meetings?”

“We ate before the meeting began. And you were late.”

“Better check with your secretary, Dad. I was here five minutes early according to her e-mail.”

He broke his choking glare and scooted his chair back. “I’ll do that. Next month, be here at eight.” He waved a finger at CJ’s neck. “And wear your own tie.”

Dad exited the dining room without a backward glance.

CJ resisted the smile wanting to spread.

This win was only round one.

 


January Releases from American Christian Fiction Writers

And I’m so excited that my book is among them! Check out the third one down! Squee!

 

January 2018 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Her Handyman Hero by Lorraine Beatty — Reid Blackthorn arrives in Dover on a personal mission—to make sure his terminally ill brother gets a chance to meet his daughter. Deceiving little Lily’s guardian isn’t his intention. Yet once Tori Montgomery mistakes Reid for her new handyman, he knows it’s the only way to be close to his niece. Tori is honoring her friend’s last wish by keeping Lily away from her father’s family. And once she learns who Reid truly is, she realizes there’s too much at stake—including custody of Lily—for her to fall for the former DEA agent. But in keeping a promise, is she losing out on her chance for a happily-ever-after? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Beneath the Summer Sun by Kelly Irvin — It’s been four years since Jennie’s husband died in a farming accident. Long enough that the elders in her Amish community think it’s time to marry again for the sake of her seven children. What they don’t know is that grief isn’t holding her back from a new relationship. Fear is. A terrible secret in her past keeps her from moving forward. Meanwhile, Leo Graber nurtures a decades-long love for Jennie, but guilt plagues him—guilt for letting Jennie marry someone else and guilt for his father’s death on a hunting trip many years ago. How could anyone love him again—and how could he ever take a chance to love in return? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Ain’t Misbehaving by Marji Laine — True, Annalee’s crime amounted to very little, but not in terms of community service hours. Her probation officer encouraged her with a promise of an easy job in an air-conditioned downtown environment. She didn’t expect her role to be little better than a janitor at an after-school daycare in the worst area of town. Carlton Whelen hides behind the nickname of CJ so people won’t treat him like the wealthy son of the Whelen Foundation director. Working at the foundation’s after-school program delights him and annoys his business-oriented father. When a gorgeous prima donna is assigned to his team, he not only cringes at her mistakes but also has to avoid the attraction that builds from the first time he sees her. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Finding Grace by Melanie D. Snitker — Single dad Tyler Martin can’t be more grateful to the woman who finds his missing daughter. Even though he feels a spark between them, falling in love is a risk he shouldn’t take. Too bad chance encounters and his stubborn heart keep trying to convince him otherwise. After escaping a nightmarish relationship, Beth Davenport is content with her safe and blessedly normal life. Yet something about Tyler and his adorable daughter makes her wish for more. With the walls around her heart finally starting to crumble, she’s afraid of a future she can’t predict. Can they let go of their fear and trust God to lead them to the love they desperately need? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Marrying Mandy by Melanie D. Snitker — Mandy Hudson swore she’d never marry. Abandoned by her parents and raised by her grandparents, she has a hard time trusting that real love will last. When her grandmother dies, Mandy’s shocked to discover a stipulation in the will. Considering marriage to her best friend may be the only way to keep her family’s beloved bed-and-breakfast. The loss of his job threatens Preston Yarrow’s shaky financial stability. Besides, he can’t watch his best friend give up the only real home she’s ever known. Frustrated by Mandy’s stubborn refusal to let him help, he’s certain they are stronger together than they are apart. A marriage of convenience might be crazy… or an answer to both their prayers. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Historical:

Son of Promise by Caryl McAdoo — Can a wife find the grace to forgive when her husband’s withheld the truth? Travis Buckmeyer has a secret son, and the morning’s come to tell his sweet wife. He hates breaking Emma Lee’s heart. She promised him one ten years ago, but hasn’t been blessed to carry a baby to term. Every miscarriage made the telling harder, but now his clock’s run out. He’s going for his son, praying he won’t lose her.
Cody knows who his mother claims his father is, but he’s only interested in getting sprung from reform school then boosting enough from the do-gooder to bust out on his own.
Can Travis find redemption, Emma Lee forgiveness, or Cody the love he’s been longing for? (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

Hearts Entwined by Mary Connealy, Melissa Jagears, Regina Jennings, and Karen Witemeyer — Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Love Knot,” Claire Nevin gets the surprise of her life awaiting her sister’s arrival by train. Mary Connealy’s “The Tangled Ties That Bind” offers the story of two former best friends who are reunited while escaping a stampede. Regina Jennings offers “Bound and Determined,” where a most unusual trip across barren Oklahoma plains is filled with adventure, romance, and . . . camels? And Melissa Jagears’ “Tied and True” entertains with a tale of two hearts from different social classes who become entwined at a cotton thread factory. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])



A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Mary Davis, Kathleen E. Kovach, Paula Moldenhauer, Suzanne Norquist, Donita Kathleen Paul, Donna Schlachter, and Pegg Thomas — For seven bachelors, this bouquet of brides means a happily ever after. Meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Can love help them grow to their full potential? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)



A Mother For His Family by Susanne Dietze
Lady Helena Stanhope’s reputation is in tatters…and she’s lost any hope for a “respectable” ton marriage. An arranged union is the only solution. But once Helena weds formidable Scottish widower John Gordon, Lord Ardoch, and encounters his four mischievous children, she’s determined to help her new, ever-surprising family. Even if she’s sure love is too much to ask for.
All John needs is someone to mother his admittedly unruly brood. He never imagined that beautiful Lady Helena would be a woman of irresistible spirit, caring and warmth. Or that facing down their pasts would give them so much in common. Now, as danger threatens, John will do whatever it takes to convince Helena their future together—and his love—are for always. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



His Forgotten Fiancee by Evelyn M. Hill — Liza Fitzpatrick is stunned when her fiancé finally arrives in Oregon City — with amnesia. Matthew Dean refuses to honor a marriage proposal he doesn’t recall making, but Liza needs his help now to bring in the harvest, and maybe she can help him remember… Matthew is attracted to the spirited Liza, and as she tries to help him regain his old memories, the new ones they’re creating together start to make him feel whole. Even as he falls for her again, though, someone’s determined to keep them apart. Will his memory return in time to save their future? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White — Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a critical task at the outset of World War I–to secure a crucial cypher key from a famous violinist currently in Wales. Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only distraction he finds from his worry is in meeting the intriguing and talented Willa Forsythe. But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that key, or her own family could pay the same price his surely has. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Mystery:

Surgeon’s Choice by Richard L. Mabry, MD — Dr. Ben Merrick thought his biggest problem was getting his fiancé’s divorced parents into the same room for the wedding–and then, people started dying. (Mystery, Independently Published through White Glove)

Romantic Suspense:

Innocent Lies by Robin Patchen — Desperate to be safe from the man who held her captive and ruined her life, Kelsey must ensure her child is protected before she can take her enemy on. But a string of bad luck gets her arrested and lands her face-to-face with the only man she’s ever loved—the only man who can destroy all her plans. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Cold Truth by Susan Sleeman — When research chemist Kiera Underwood receives the cryptic phone call about her twin brother, she tries to contact him to no avail. Her twin sense tingles, warning her that something is wrong. Kiera’s not prepared when an attempt is made on her life and Blackwell Tactical operative Cooper Ashcroft delivers her second shock of the day. Someone killed the supervisor at the research lab where her brother works and stole a deadly biotoxin. The main suspect? Her brother, and Blackwell Tactical has been hired to bring him in. If that wasn’t shocking enough, she’s suspected of colluding with him. Setting out to prove herself and her brother is innocent, she is almost abducted before Ashcroft rescues her. He’s faced with the reality that she’s telling the truth and someone has likely abducted her brother—perhaps killed him—and now Kiera’s very life is in danger, too. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


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I was planning to …

… share all of the new releases for September, but not only did time get late, I have too many other things to share to squeeze that data in! Maybe later?

My Newest Release!

Yes, it’s true! I’m so excited to finally complete Dani’s saga with GRIME & PUNISHMENT. This one has more suspense than mystery, but finally ties up all the loose ends of Dani’s past and reveals all of her secrets! Here’s the short version:

Dani Foster has spent the better part of the last year in witness protection, seeking security against a dangerous man in her past. Even behind bars, he had wielded power enough to have her killed—if he could’ve found her. But now he’s escaped, and everything has changed. No longer can she live in a semblance of normalcy. Her survival depends on her acting talent, the masks she wears, and the hated lies she must continue to tell. Neither does she have any expectation of freedom from her masquerade. And no longer can she have any contact with anyone she’s left behind: not in Sacramento, and not in Dallas.

Jay Hunter is sure that, despite the secrets Dani hid, she is the woman with whom he wants to spend his life. Yet on the verge of him actually proposing, her past creeps in. Strangers shouting in a nearby parking lot spook Dani into an all-out flight. Jay’s determined to protect her, until she climbs into the car of another stranger, then tells Jay goodbye. With a permanent sound to the word.

Is it any wonder that the dangerous man, intent on killing Dani himself, would use her affection for Jay to his benefit? A shooter targets Dallas police, sending Dani into panic and giving the dangerous man exactly what he wants. Enough contact with her past to determine her present proximity.

But Jay has been alerted to her contact as well. Can he locate her, forgetting the pain of her rejection, in time to save her life?

The e-book will be coming out soon, but the print book is officially available at Amazon