Archive | July 2016

Sorry!

Sorry, there will be no blog posts for a while. My husband is seriously ill and in hospital.

Apologies to everyone expecting to see their book/promo here.

Great Summer Countdown – Day 12

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The Suspect’s Daughter by Donna Hatch

 

TheSuspectsDaughter_432 (1)Determined to help her father with his political career, Jocelyn sets aside dreams of love. When she meets the handsome and mysterious Grant Amesbury, her dreams reawaken. But his secrets put her family in peril.

Grant goes undercover to capture conspirators avowed to murder the prime minister, but his only suspect is the father of a courageous lady who is growing increasingly hard to ignore. He can’t allow Jocelyn to distract him from the case, nor will he taint her with his war-darkened soul. She seems to see past the barriers surrounding his heart, which makes her all the more dangerous to his vow of remaining forever alone. Jocelyn will do anything to clear her father’s name, even if that means working with Grant. Time is running out. The future of England hangs in the balance…and so does their love.

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AuthorDonna Hatch, author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” has won writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award. A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she is a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions and her six children. A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

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Q&A With the Author:

3.  What is the thing you struggle with the most while writing? And how do you defeat it?

Confidence is a major stumbling block. I always worry that my books aren’t good enough and that my latest manuscript–whatever it is–is the most ridiculous, worthless drivel that has ever had the misfortune of being put on a page. I usually overcome it by talking to a critique partner. Reading fan mail sure helps, too.

4.   What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

I like either classical music or new age–nothing with lyrics or a drum beat. There’s a Pandora station called Regency Classical that I like to listen to while I write those first few chapters. It help me create that believable Regency feel.

 

Snippet:

She glanced back at the doorway. He had arrived. With hair as dark as a starless night, a tall figure clad almost entirely in black strode toward them. Something shifted inside her and she took a step back from his presence of power. As he neared, his air of deadliness swept ahead of him like a giant clearing the path. Piercing gray eyes set in his fearsomely handsome face caught and held her gaze as he drew nearer.
She chided herself. Grant Amesbury had protected her. Why everything about him seemed so deadly tonight, she couldn’t explain, but she surely had nothing to fear from him. Firmly wearing the role of hostess, she moved to welcome him. He was dressed in beautifully tailored clothing, as fashionable as the clothes he’d worn the night he’d brought home Jonathan. His new haircut and style gave him Town polish.
“Welcome, Mr. Amesbury.” She sank into a curtsy.
He inclined his head. “You look lovely.” The words fell awkwardly from his lips as if he’d rehearsed them. She doubted he often paid compliments to anyone.
“How kind of you to say.”
He paused and focused on her. Something changed in his expression. He studied her in a way that sent heat from her face clear down to her toes. Oh heavens, if these were the kind of looks he was capable of giving, he clearly was dangerous to ladies, but not in the way she’d thought.
Her attention zeroed in on his lips, and hers tingled in response. Powerless under his stare, she wrenched her gaze from his and nervously touched her brooch as if to assure herself it remained in place, anything to restore her good sense, which had quite literally failed her for a moment.

 

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Great Summer Countdown – Day 11

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Guinevere by Cheryl Carpinello

At the dawn of Camelot, one young girl is about to take her place beside the greatest king in England’s history….

Guineverefinal copyShe is a mere child of twelve. But in these medieval days, this is the age when childish things must be put away and greater responsibilities accepted—all in preparation for a betrothal of marriage.

For young Lady Guinevere, on the advent of her thirteenth Birth Day, the whole idea is quite unbearable. After all, what could be better than spending her youth playing with her best friend Cedwyn, roaming the grounds around the castle looking for mythical creatures or hunting rabbits?

However, the wizard Merlyn—her teacher and friend—knows that destiny has a way of catching up with a person. His arrival sets in motion a series of events that will lead Guinevere to her destiny whether she is ready for it or not.

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Author Picture 500x500I am retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Quest Books set in these worlds.

I also conduct Medieval/Short Story Writing Workshops in Elementary/Middle School classes. Contact me if you are interested in holding a workshop for students: ccarpinello@mac.com.

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Q&A With the Author:

3.  What is the thing you struggle with the most while writing? And how do you defeat it?

My biggest struggle is figuring out how to get my characters to the next pivot point in my stories. That’s when I put down pen and paper and spend time going over different scenarios in my head. Sometimes that takes a few hours, but usually it’s a few days.

4.   What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

My favorites are Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men.

 

Snippet:

At the bottom of the stairs, Guinevere paused and peeked out the door.  Seeing no one, she stepped out into the bailey, thankful for the clouds that hid the moon.  Focused on the outer door across the courtyard, she missed seeing the figure that slid out of the shadows and followed her.
Guinevere glanced once more around the bailey as she reached the outer door.  The shadow following her hugged the building as the moon drifted out from the clouds.  She crept through the door and turned to the right.  Keeping in the shadows and close to the stable wall, she managed to work her way to about twenty yards from the edge of the forest.  Taking a furtive look around, she stole across the open grass and slipped into the trees.
As she disappeared from view, the figure following her moved through the outer door.  As Guinevere had done, this figure kept close to the stable wall, staying within the shadows and watching the tree line for any movement.  Seeing nothing, the shadowy figure moved out into the moonlight, revealing himself to any who happened to be watching, but there were none.  Those not in bed stayed in the hall enjoying themselves too much to venture out into the late night.  The moonlight bounced off his grey gown and illuminated his white hair, making it appear ghostly.  Merlyn quickened his pace, not wanting to fall too far behind.
Guinevere crept along the forest path.  The fragrance of wet pine filled her senses.  Suddenly, the faint sound of a voice off to her right reached her ears.  She turned and moved cautiously through the trees and brush.  The  calming quality of the voice dispelled her fears.  As she moved closer, the voice’s volume increased very little.  Whoever it belonged to continued to whisper to someone, although Guinevere heard only the one voice.
Through the leafy oak branches, Guinevere made out the shape of a tall, slender woman dressed in a white hooded robe.  Edging closer she saw that the woman stood in a small clearing.  Moonlight filtered down, descending almost like a halo around her.  With the woman’s hood up, Guinevere was unable to discern any other physical features.  The woman continued to talk to someone concealed by her body.  Intrigued, Guinevere moved closer, careful not to make any noise.  While the woman did not move, from time to time her arms reached out in front of her, for some reason unknown to Guinevere.

 

 

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Great Summer Countdown – Day 10

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A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe by Nanette O’Neal

Every great warrior begins by taking a stand.

Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_5939198Best friends share everything, right? Unless it’s a secret that could cost them their lives. Robyn and Kit are born with forbidden magic-sense, the power to see and hear beyond Earthly sight and sound. It’s a curse that haunts them, but the girls are strangely drawn to it—could there be more to this power than they’ve been told?

When they spill their secret, it opens a doorway back to Forever—a beautiful realm where magic-sense began. They learn the truth: they have been given a noble gift. It connects them to the Skyborn royalty of this new world. They’ve been summoned back by the forces for good to preserve the kingdom and revive the power where it once flourished—on Earth. It can thrive again, if Robyn and Kit are brave enough to follow.
However, the doorway awakens more than magical fairy-tales. A dark force is unleashed—one that has battled the Skyborn since time began, and it wants the girls dead, the Earth destroyed.

Beyond the doorway is where the adventure begins—trickery, kidnapping, a prison break, rescue teams, sword fights, magical gold-dust, holographic medallions, and singing orbs—but only for those who have the courage to believe.

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Head shot 2 adjustedMusician, author, and avid Star Trek fan, Nanette loves anything that challenges her mind and enlightens her spirit. She got the idea for her book series from her faith and love of family. Wouldn’t it be neat to travel back and forth through time to discover hidden powers and your true potential? Nanette thought so, and thus began the Doorway series. Believe is the first of seven books designed to entertain and inspire both young and seasoned readers. She is a frequent hiker at Glacier National Park, loves her dear husband and family, and when she isn’t writing, takes her dogs on long walks.

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Q&A with the Author:

3.  What is the thing you struggle with the most while writing? And how do you defeat it?

I struggle most with finding time to write. There’s always something that gets in the way if you let it, and when I do make time, my mind is often flooded with other things I should be doing. I’ve learned to budget my time better and to not beat myself up if I don’t reach a daily goal. I’ve also learned that if I give back to the writing community by doing critiques or reviews, it inspires me in my personal craft, making it easier to write.

4.   What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

I’m a musician, so music is always running through my head! But the best music for me is something epic and uplifting. It motivates me and gets the creative juices going!

 

Snippet:

“Good night, Kit.” Her mom’s voice echoed in a weary monotone.
“But Mom, it’s still summer vaca—”
“You need to get some sleep before our big move. Good night.”
“But—”
“You heard your mother,” her dad said. “It’s bedtime. Good night.”
Kit muttered to herself. “Sure, now that things are getting good. Always sending me to bed. Like I’m still a little kid.”
She had found an awesome hiding place—molded in the living room couch behind the stack of boxes. It was perfectly out of sight from her parents sitting in the kitchen, but not out of earshot. Listening in on their private conversations had been a game she had mastered when she was ten. At first, it had been to find out where they’d go on vacation, or what kind of punishment her little brother, McCoy, would get for trying to teach the cat to swim, but ever since she turned twelve, things had gotten serious. Last month, the conversations were less about family things and more about scary things—things she thought might have to do with their need to move so suddenly.
She wasn’t looking forward to it. If she could only listen a little longer, she might be able to figure out what was going on. She huffed again, a little louder this time. There was no use arguing when her parents banded together. Her plan was a wash, and she’d have no chance to overhear anything. She rolled her eyes and clomped down the hallway.
Kit shut her bedroom door hard enough to make her anger known, but not enough to wake her younger sister, Shirley. At least in the new house, she’d have her own room. Maybe I can still hear. She opened the door, letting in a sliver of light from the kitchen. She turned to allow for ample hearing space, tucked her hair behind her left ear, then froze in place. She could hear a few things, but not enough to make out anything juicy.
Wait—what was that? The rustling of papers from inside her room distracted her. Shirley was still asleep. The window was closed. What could have made that noise? She squinted in the darkness and brushed her hair back again. A presence entered the room—chilling, menacing—one she couldn’t see, but could feel as if it pressed against her. A tingle ran through her bones. She shuddered at the eeriness—it was overwhelming.
The unknown figure let out a dark laugh that echoed through the room and made the hair on her arms stand up. A voice followed, deep and full of vengeance.
“They thought they could banish me forever—fools, all of them. Underestimating my power and intelligence was their first mistake. Well, they’ll be sorry. I have the power now to destroy them and their precious legend.”
Kit flipped on the light. The presence she felt vanished. The room was empty except for her and her zonked-out sister. Who was that she heard speaking? She staggered, then realized she had forgotten to breathe. She put her hand to her chest and gulped for air. Am I crazy?
A feeling came over Kit like someone else had entered the room. Forces of invisible energy hovered a few feet in front of her. A single presence, then a second, then a third, whispering at first—a conversation—pensive, serious, unlike the first lone voice. They surrounded her, as though she was meant to be a part of it, to hear every word.
“My son, the Golden-Heart cannot lie. It is time.” It was a male voice, solemn, urgent, yet gentle.
“We love you, son. You know what you must do.” A female voice this time. It cracked as if she had been crying.
“Yes, Mother, Father. It all fits together. The ancient book concurs.” The answering voice was from a younger man, yet as gentle as the other two.
Who are they?
“The Legend is to be fulfilled at all costs,” said the older male. “Take this vessel and the Book of Ancient Tomorrows. Guard them faithfully.”
“I understand. I will not fail.”
These voices were so different from the first. A father, a mother, a grown son—concern, urgency. Kit scanned the room. Empty, yet she called out anyway. “Who’s there? What’s going on?” No one replied. The feeling in the room left as quickly as it had come.
Kit’s hair lay in wet strands along the back of her neck. She tried to slow her breathing, but the gasps wouldn’t stop. Shirley stirred for a moment, then turned toward the wall. Kit switched off the lights and sat down at the foot of her bed.
Eavesdropping on her parents was only a game. Hearing conversations from invisible people either meant she was crazy…
…or she had magic-sense.
Either way, she was in big trouble.

 

 

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Great Summer Countdown – Day 9

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Rising Tide by Claudette Melanson

Could Maura’s life get any worse? …turns out it most certainly can.

RisingTideCoverMedalsIsolated and sheltered by her lonely mother, Maura’s never been able to make friends. She seems to drive her classmates away—except for the odd times they pay enough attention to torture her—but she doesn’t understand why. Maura considers herself to be a freak of nature, with her unusually pale skin and an aversion to the sun that renders her violently nauseous. Her belief is only worsened by the fact that almost everyone around her keeps their distance.

Even her own father deserted her before she was born, leaving Maura alone with her emotionally distant mother, Caelyn. Even though Maura is desperate for answers about her unknown parent, Caelyn remains heartbroken and her daughter can’t bring herself to reopen her mother’s wounds. Or is there a more sinister reason Caelyn refuses to utter a word about her long-lost love?

When a cruel prank nearly claims Maura’s life, one of her classmates, Ron, rushes to her rescue. Darkly handsome & mysteriously accepting, Ron doesn’t seem to want to stay away, but Maura is reluctant to get too close, since her mother has announced she’s moving the two of them to Vancouver…nearly 3,000 miles away from their hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania.

If life wasn’t already challenging enough, Maura begins to experience bizarre, physical changes her mother seems hell bent on ignoring, compelling Maura to fear for her own life. Vicious nightmares, blood cravings, failing health and the heart-shattering loss of Ron—as well as the discovery of a tangled web of her own mother’s lies—become obstacles in Maura’s desperate quest for the unfathomable truth she was never prepared to uncover.

Awards

2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner for YA Mystery

2015 RONE Award Finalist for YA Paranormal

2015 New Apple Top Medalist for Young Adult Ebook

Chosen as one of 400 for the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for 2014!!!

Rising Tide will sink its fangs into you, keeping you awake into the wee hours of the night

Amazon ~ Google Play ~ iBooks ~ Smashwords ~ Website ~ Kobo ~ B & N Audible ~

 

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author day 9Claudette Melanson writes & edits in Guelph, Ontario, with her husband Ron and four bun babies: Tegan, Pepper, Butters & Beckett. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English and an MA in Literature. She’s wished to be a Vampire since age five. She hopes to one day work full time as an author, since there are many, many books living inside her head.

In her spare time she enjoys watching Japanese Anime and reading vampire stories….along with other great fiction. She is also very interested in good health and is an advocate of Ketogenic eating, using whole and natural foods. Her favorite foods are bulletproof coffee, cashew flour crust pizza and treats made with xylitol and almond, coconut or cashew flours.

Future dreams include writing many more books and spending more time with her son Jacob. Her biggest dream is to make Universal Halloween Horror Nights a yearly event with hubby and son. A Rabbit Rescue fanatic, she also hopes to help rescues all over the world save many innocent lives.

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Q&A With the Author:

3- What other hobbies do you enjoy when you are not writing?

I love rollercoasters, and try to visit nearby parks if I’m going to happen to be in a new city for a conference or something. Japanese anime is a favorite of mine, as well as video games—especially horror games like Silent Hill—but I don’t have much time for those loves of mine. I do love to bake, when I have some free time, but most of that goes to playing with my bunnies, who are my kids.

4- A lot of authors I have noticed have music as a way to help with their writing. Is this something that you have used as well? If not what are some things you have used?

I love having music on while writing. I have to admit, it helps me write much more than I would otherwise. I usually have a theme song or two for each chapter and put that on repeat while I’m writing, since it sets the tone for the scene. I do have a playlist for each book and like to share them on 8 Tracks.

 

Snippet:

Maura being pursued in a dark alley

There weren’t any doorways in which to hide down this stretch of alley, and I’d realized, once I’d started toward the restaurant, it was deceptively longer than it had seemed upon first inspection. Every time I turned around, the space behind me was empty, as it had been the last five times I’d jerked my head around, certain I’d catch a glimpse of whomever I knew had to be there. I was about halfway through the narrow, dark walkway now, my skin consumed by the cold-running chill of fear.

Maybe I should call Caelyn? “No, Maura,” I stubbornly told myself, “you’ll scare her to death. You’re probably imagining it.” I could envision the near hysterics at the other end of the line and ruled that option out completely. Besides, I was almost at the other end. If anything should happen at this point, I was sure someone would hear me scream. Wow…I really didn’t want cause to scream… I rubbed my hands over my arms in an effort to calm, comfort and warm myself.

I tried to put myself at ease by telling myself anyone who smelled as good as this guy could be no homeless drug addict. And if he meant me harm, wouldn’t he have made his move before I’d gotten this close to the crowded street? As I inched through the last quarter of the alley, I took in a deep breath, just to catch one last whiff of whatever scent this guy was wearing. I tried to store it in memory, so I could try to find some to give Ron—and myself—as a Christmas present.

“You know I’m here, don’t you, Maura?”

My legs felt like cooked spaghetti, and it was all I could do to keep from collapsing in utter fear, right there on the sidewalk. Though the deep, male voice was smooth and beautiful…it still should not carry across the night in the syllables that made up my name.

My brain fumbled around inside itself for a reasonable explanation. One of the teachers must have been at the library? A far more rational part tossed out the thought that even if one of the teachers from my school was the mysterious, sweet-smelling man in the alley, he had been lurking around, not allowing me to catch a glimpse of him. And I just couldn’t propose any way that could be a good thing.

Then, my brain tossed out the oddity that this person, whoever he might turn out to be, had stalked me, frightened me, made me doubt my own perceptions, only to let me get so close to a place of safety? He’d cruelly let me believe I’d soon be in a well-lit restaurant, only to take it away when I thought I was home free. My ever-increasingly volatile temper flared white-hot, burning away most of the fear I’d felt. I irrationally whirled to face whoever he may be, infuriated by the twisted way he’d kept me rooted to the edge of the darkness at the very last moment.

He was there now. And when I saw him, my consciousness slipped, like the swirl of a kaleidoscope, and I saw the revelation that was his face no more.

 
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Great Summer Countdown – Day 8

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The Matchup by Laura L. Walker

 

IMG_2536The last thing Valerie wants is to work for Gage Logan. But Valerie’s husband walked out on her and her children. Now she needs a job. Gage, on the other hand, has just taken custody of his four-year-old son and is swamped trying to balance his career, be a daddy, and fix past mistakes. Together they discover that when it comes to their faith and each other, it’s all about second chances.

Amazon ~ B & N ~

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_3711Having been raised in Arizona, Laura L. Walker and her husband whom she met at Northern Arizona University think it’s a great place to raise their six children. Laura and her family enjoy camping on beautiful Mt. Graham, reading, and learning history together. At the end of the day, Laura loves to curl up with a good book or write one of her own. The Matchup is her second novel.

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1.      How do you spend your free time?

I like to sew, although I don’t do a whole lot of that these days. I also cook and clean and run kids around to various activities…oh, this is supposed to be about my free time. Oops. I read. I read A LOT to calm my jangled nerves at the end of the day. Or else I daydream and write what I daydream. But I usually don’t have time for both, so I have to decide which activity I’m most in the mood for.

 

Snippet:

Valerie smiled wanly. “You can go inside, if you’d like. We’re going to be here for a while.”
Leaning against a post and crossing his arms like he had all the time in the world, Gage replied, “No, I’m good.” The truth was, he was concerned about Valerie. A few seconds ago, she’d given the impression that she was indifferent to her child’s needs. Upon closer inspection, however, she appeared to be on the verge of tears.
“Please, Gage? I need a few minutes alone with my son.”
Yep. Her voice was definitely shaky. Pushing himself off against the post, he came closer and crouched down in front of her. “Is there anything I can do to help?” he asked softly.
She shook her head, keeping her gaze down. Something about the way she rubbed Justin’s back while simultaneously cradling his head in her arms touched a place in Gage’s heart that had long been dead.
“Valerie,” he said softly.
She lifted her eyes to him. Gage’s heart constricted at the sorrow he found there. Who would have imagined when they were young that they’d both be single parents? He’d always teased her so that he could see a flare of indignation light her gaze. That fire had apparently been extinguished a long time ago.
He’d have to see if he could ignite it.

 

 

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Great Summer Countdown – Day 7

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Proposals and Poison by Rachelle J. Christensen

 

PROPOSALS & POISON - Front Cover (for Amazon)Love can be a very dangerous thing. 

At least it seems that way to Adri Pyper, the premier wedding planner in Sun Valley, Idaho. When one of her clients dies mysteriously, Adri takes the advice of the local detective and swears she will stay out of the investigation . . . this time. Luke Stetson’s involvement in the case, along with the possibility of a kiss between the two, should be enough incentive to keep Adri out of trouble. But when a dog-themed wedding is almost ruined by a suspect, Adri and her assistant, Lorea, are thrust into private eye mode. When poison enters the picture, even a reluctant sleuth can’t steer clear of danger.

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author day 7Rachelle is the award-winning author of ten books, including The Soldier’s Bride (A Kindle Scout Selection), Diamond Rings Are Deadly Things, Veils and Vengeance, and Christmas Kisses: An Echo Ridge Anthology. Her novella, “Silver Cascade Secrets,” was included in the Rone Award–winning Timeless Romance Anthology, Fall Collection.
Rachelle loves laughing with her husband while raising five children and dozens of chickens on a little farm in rural Idaho. She graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in psychology and a minor in music.

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Q&A With the Author:

3.  What is the thing you struggle with the most while writing? And how do you defeat it?

My own self-doubt. I have to push past my fears and insecurities and put the words on the paper. I reassure myself that there will be plenty of time to edit later, so just get the story written. Like the saying goes, You can’t edit a blank page!

4.   What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

A lot of times I don’t listen to anything, but when I do listen it’s music that matches the mood of what I’m writing. I really enjoy listening to Christian music stations because I can stream from my computer and plug my headphones in and not hear any of the fighting/laughing/screaming that is usually a constant in a houseful of 5 kids.

 

Snippet:

The afternoon sun had the asphalt steaming when I closed the door of my wedding shop on my way to run errands. Summer was notoriously busy for weddings, and July promised no respite from the work ahead. I couldn’t complain about my workload, though, because it made me happy to finally be in a place where my life was falling into a somewhat predictable routine. It also kept me from obsessing over my relationship status with Luke Stetson.
At the moment, Luke was in court, working a messy divorce case that was ballooning into so much drama he’d had to cancel on me three times in the past two weeks. The case involved the sister of Lily Rowan, one of my new clients. Lily was the happy part of the story, because she just got engaged to Tim Esplin—the vet I would take my cat to this afternoon. Lily wanted a November wedding, and since it was already July ninth, I was pushing to get the most important decisions made so we could progress with the rest of her plans.
My phone beeped, and I looked at the reminder on my calendar. In one hour I would be meeting with Lily to talk about the theme she and Tim wanted for their celebrations.
Sliding my finger across the screen, I dismissed the reminder, only to once again see the text from Luke. He’d canceled our lunch date by text this morning and still hadn’t called. I wondered when the case would be over, and if he’d have more free time or get bogged down in another case.
Well, my work almost kept me from obsessing about Luke for, like, two minutes, I thought, frowning. As I slid into my car, I considered the question that had entered my mind right after Luke canceled our lunch date. Would Luke Stetson, divorce attorney, ever be able to love again? And should I, Adri Pyper, wedding planner, be spending time (a.k.a. pursuing a relationship) with him?
The elusive answer shimmered like the heat from the pavement, just out of reach. I shook off thoughts of Luke and cranked the air conditioner up on my way to the consignment store located just a mile from my shop. Everybody’s Closet had a summer fling sale going on with new merchandise, and Necia kept me in the loop since I was always on the lookout for vintage and unique decor to use in my weddings and parties. It was the height of yard-sale season, and Necia usually got in all the leftovers from people’s garage sales. I loved going to yard sales and finding great bargains, but too many weekend weddings had me missing the early morning sales. Everybody’s Closet was the next best thing.
The parking lot only had one other vehicle, a single-cab white pickup that didn’t belong to Necia. She usually walked to work in the summer months. I pulled in next to the pickup, right in front of the store, and put my car in park. When I looked up, my eyes locked with those of a man standing in front of the doors, holding a rifle.
The silver metal of the stock gleamed in the hot afternoon sun, and I blinked, waiting for my brain to catch up to the strange sight before me. The man was short and stocky with dark brown hair, and as I studied him, he smiled and moved his rifle, pointing it toward the sky. I sucked in a breath when the man stepped forward. My windows were down, and the sound of robins trilling cheerfully carried across the parking lot. He said something in a different language. It wasn’t Spanish—I spoke a little, and his words had a Slavic sound to them. Regardless of the language, I was pretty sure he was swearing.
I fumbled for the window and door lock controls. My throat went dry as the man looked at me again and fired a shot into the air. I covered my ears and screamed, reaching for the gearshift to back out of the parking lot. My hand slipped and my car went into neutral. When I moved to put it in gear, the car died . . .

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