Two is Better Than One

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Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I received a number of wonderful, encouraging posts last week in response to Stepping Off Cliffs, which I posted last Monday. By way of update, I was talking about taking the leap and writing something different from the old-fashioned sweet romances that I’ve been writing. In short, I was talking about writing something steamier and how it terrified me to do something different.

I am happy to report that thanks to your encouragement, I polished some chapters, wrote a synopsis and cover letter, and updated my CV. And now it’s out of my hands. We’ll see what the powers that be say. Am I still terrified? Absolutely. But I’m also thrilled to have taken a positive step for myself in overcoming the fear. So, thank you for helping me do that!

You may be wondering what the title of this post means. Two is Better Than One. As you know, Amazon chose What the Heart Wants as one of the titles in their 100 Novels for 3.99 or Less for the month of November. It’s only 1.99 all this month. To add to the joy and get you in the Christmas spirit, my publisher has lowered the price of A Home for Christmas to 1.99 through November 30. Can I get a Yay to that?

The opening to A Home for Christmas is my favorite that I’ve written so far. There’s an old Victorian near mine that always got completely decked out in icicle lights by its owners at Christmas. It could have been used for Hallmark Christmas cards, but instead, I used it for inspiration. I decided to write a book where the owner lives in that house. In the opening scene, he’s putting out the Christmas lights at Thanksgiving.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving All!

–Debbie

 

Excerpt from A Home for Christmas

The Second Angel Ridge Novel

 

Janice slid her sunglasses off and laid them in the empty passenger seat next to her. She always got sentimental around the holidays. She didn’t know why. Her formative years had been spent at exclusive boarding schools. Christmases always involved a trip, either with her parents, or more often, with school friends. Each year, her grandmother had invited her to spend Christmas break in Angel Ridge, but her mother wouldn’t hear of such a thing. She’d always been embarrassed by her humble roots and didn’t want her daughter revisiting them.

Janice hadn’t been in Angel Ridge, Tennessee since she’d gone behind her parents’ backs and borrowed a friend’s car when she was sixteen to come during her spring break. It hadn’t changed much. Tall, old houses lined one side of a street that ran high above the Tellassee River, with church steeples just visible a few blocks over. It was a sleepy little town that time seemed to have forgotten, but for some reason, it burned in Janice’s memory like a warm, inviting fire on a cold winter morning.

A movement in her peripheral vision made her refocus on the old Victorian. She noticed that a man had appeared from behind the house carrying a ladder. The sun glinted off a pile of tangled Christmas lights, bunched near the steps of the porch, drawing her attention. Janice smiled. She was glad to see that this man, whoever he was, continued her grandfather’s tradition of decking the house out in grand style for Christmas.

The man leaned the ladder against the house. As he turned toward the mound of lights, he noticed her and smiled. Her breath caught and hung inside her chest. It was an easy smile, full of good humor that enticed a person to come sit a spell on the porch and enjoy the unseasonably warm, late autumn sunshine.

Tall and lean with whipcord muscles, he wore faded and well-worn jeans with a T-shirt that looked like it had once been black, but now was more a soft charcoal dotted with paint stains. A tan leather tool belt slung low across his narrow hips. A lock of thick, dark hair fell across his tanned forehead as he bent to retrieve the lights.

Janice shifted and the leather seat creaked. A sheen of sweat misted her forehead, and she cracked the window.

What must the home’s owner be thinking? But he acted as if seeing a strange woman in a new silver BMW parked outside his house was an every Saturday morning occurrence. He turned, and without giving her a second glance, started up the ladder. Stopping about eight rungs up, he leaned to his right, toward one of the bay windows on the ground floor.

Shifting the lights to his other hand, he reached out to pull at something above the window. He teetered. One foot went up in the air as he tried to shift back to find his balance. But the ladder tipped sideways with the movement, and Janice watched in horrified disbelief as he began to fall.

Years of medical school, emergency room rotations, residency, and private practice had honed her instincts so that she didn’t even give it a conscious thought. She was out of her car and at his side almost before he hit the boxwoods and rolled to the ground.

“Ah, jeez . . .” he groaned.

Janice had already clicked into professional mode. “Don’t worry, I’m a doctor. Try not to move.” She ran her hands down his arms, checking for broken bones. “Where does it hurt?”

The man chuckled. It was a low rumble that had a crazy effect on her. And that smile . . . it should be registered as a lethal weapon.

“If I said everywhere, would you keep doing that?”

Her hands froze on his hard, muscled thigh. Get a grip, she told herself. The man had fallen at least ten feet. He needed to be checked out. Thoroughly. She gave him what she hoped was a look that conveyed that this was a serious matter and continued down his leg. Firm muscles contracted and bunched beneath the soft, nearly threadbare denim.

Janice cleared her throat and tried to speak around the knot that had formed there. “That was quite a fall. Does anything feel broken? Strained? Any pain at all?”

The man tried to sit up, but she restrained him with a firm hand at his shoulder. “You really shouldn’t move.”

“Dr., um . . .”

“Thornton. Janice Thornton.”

“Dr. Thornton, I’m fine. Really,” he insisted, grabbing her hand as she began checking his other leg. “I’d have to fall further than that to hurt anything other than my pride.”

Janice frowned. She was almost completely distracted by the crinkles at the corners of his eyes that said a smile came easy to him, but she knew that often one could have injuries that didn’t present with pain after a fall like that. She turned her attention to his head. “You could have a concussion.”

She sank her fingers into his thick, dark hair at the place where a nearly indiscernible sprinkling of gray fanned out from his temples. His scalp felt warm, and her fingers tingled as she checked for knots. She faltered when she looked into his eyes. Fringed by incredibly long, inky eyelashes, they were a striking silvery blue that stood out against the framing of his dark hair and skin.

He propped himself up on one elbow so that his torso almost touched hers. When she felt his breath, warm and enticing against her cheek, she stopped breathing. He reached out to touch her face, but Janice sat back on her heels.

“There doesn’t seem to be any knots. No bruising or contusions.” She couldn’t stop herself from removing a sprig of rich, green boxwood leaves from his hair. “Um, what about your neck? Does it hurt?”

Before he could answer, she slid her fingers around to the back of his neck and grasped his chin with her free hand. He had a strong jaw. She’d always been a sucker for guys with strong jaws. “Gently,” she whispered, as she turned his head from one side to the other. “Any pain?”

She felt a sensual web forming around them, powerless to extricate herself from its seductive weave. Janice watched in fascination as the Adam’s apple bobbed in the tanned column of his throat.

He wrapped a big, callused hand around her wrist and said, “I wish, because despite the fact that I know your interest here is purely professional, I’m enjoying having your hands on me…too much.” He turned his head then, and with his fascinating mouth slightly opened, pressed a warm kiss against the pulse point at her wrist.

© Deborah Grace Staley

ONLY 1.99 – BUY NOW

 

Stepping Off Cliffs

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Okay, Friends.

I’m on the horns of a dilemma here.

Admittedly, a poor choice of words given the circumstances, but that’s just the way it’s going for me right now.

I’ve written five Angel Ridge Novels. There’s only going to be one more. There. I said it, and I’m putting it out there for the whole Internet to read. As a writer, I’m moving on. As a person, that scares me to death. AR has been good to me. Those books gave me my start in this business. I’d be lying if I said writing something else wasn’t scary. However, if I’ve learned anything about writing, it’s this:

IT’S LIKE STEPPING OFF A CLIFF

And you don’t know what’s going to happen after you fall. Could be good. Could be unbelievably amazing. Could be disastrous. And yet, you do it: take a blind, terrifying, leap of faith. It’s not for the faint of heart, and little secret about me—I’m not all that brave.

So, here I stand, one foot dangling off the edge. The other foot on safe, solid ground. And it’s like that safe foot is freaking nailed down. My gut is telling me what to do, but I can’t let go. Fear’s got me good.

I wrote something new this weekend. Something Non-Angel Ridge. Actually, I wrote something else a few months ago, but I put it away after taking it to my writers’ group and reading it to a shocked audience. An audience of people who know my Angel Ridge, MFA in Creative Writing ways. And they were Shocked (capital S). And it scared me, because what I had written was risky for me, and I was scared, and I don’t know why I’m tearing up while I write that, but I am. Okay, I know why. I’m still scared. And taking it to the group was a self-defeating action, because I actually knew what would happen, even though it shocked me when it did. So, I put-it-away.

I wrote something else this weekend. The beginning of a new small town southern set series that is supposed to be like my sweet, old-fashioned Angel Ridge romances, except it’s going in the same direction as those three chapters I wrote months ago. And today, I’m feeling freaked out and unsettled about it. As I’m wont to do, I’m writing about it to try and make sense of it.

Last week, I was talking to my best friend. And she brought up the chapters I had written several months ago, of course she did, because that’s the way the universe works. Once you start spinning, it grabs you and won’t let you go. You see, I’d sent her those chapters right after I wrote them. Bless her, she reads everything I write. She thought I’d already submitted the thing because that had been the plan. Write three chapters and a synopsis, then submit. When I told her I hadn’t done anything with it, she (as we say in the South) Got All Over Me about it. It started out with something like, “What’s wrong with you? Get that out this week,” as I stuttered excuses, and then she progressed to, “Send that out while we’re talking.” Me? I’m still stammering the excuses out. And I didn’t. Send it out. I did, however, revise it this weekend before I wrote the first chapter of the new series. And you know what? I made hardly no changes.

What the crap?

Back to the horns of the dilemma. Here it is. What’s coming out is steamy romance. History lesson. When I first began writing a hundred years ago, I wrote steamy romances. Couldn’t sell them to save my life. I believe it was because I was learning and my writing was not that great. It had potential, but I didn’t have story structure down. Plus, the publisher I was writing for was very prescriptive about how the stories they publish are written, and I always, always strayed from the formula. Of course, when I told my husband what I was writing now, he gives me the old, “You know, you used to write steamy and it didn’t work out. Maybe you should pay attention to that.” Like it was a sign or something. And I so believe in signs. Okay, and I have good girl, Baptist, Preacher’s Daughter, guilt. Sigh…

But when I sit down to write, that’s what’s coming. (Sorry. Another poor word choice.) And all those years ago when I couldn’t sell what I was writing, I was trying to write something that, at the time, didn’t feel right to me. So I turned completely away from it and wrote something sweet and old-fashioned and just for fun, to have a break from all the rejection, and Angel Ridge was born. Yeah. I was writing small town, sweet romances before Debbie Macomber, but no one in New York would roll the dice on it. Long story short, I went small press. It wound up with Bell Bridge Books, and it’s done great. And who knew? Small town romance is all the rage! And I’m thankful, but I can’t write Angel Ridge for the rest of my life. I have to move on. Intellectually, I know books like Angel Ridge are what I ought to keep writing because that’s what my readers expect, but it’s not coming. (Sorry—word choice again.)

So, here I stand. One foot dangling off the cliff. On foot on safe ground. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

–Debbie

P.S. What the Heart Wants is still 1.99 on Amazon Kindle. Please go buy one so I can keep being a working writer. If you already have it, there’s a handy button there that says “Give as Gift.” Ever thankful for your support. Buy Now

Win free Downloads of What the Heart Wants for your Kindle!

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In honor of What the Heart Wants being part of Amazon’s November 100 Books for 3.99 or Less, I thought I’d give away some copies for all of you Kindle owners. Actually, you don’t have to own a Kindle to enjoy this giveaway. All you need is a Kindle app or your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

To whet your appetite, I’m posting an excerpt here. To win, all you need to do is post a comment ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE–NOT HERE. There’s a link to that page next to this post (it’s to the right on my computer. So, comment and win!

Good Luck!

Winner of the HOLT Medallion

for Single Title/Mainstream Romance

“Hello?” A deep, masculine voice called from the front.
The voice did not belong to Mr. DeFoe. Candi backed out of the storeroom, and cautiously replied, “Who’s there?”
A tall man with wide shoulders wearing a uniform appeared in the back room almost as soon as Candi got the words out.
“I think that’s my line.”
A frown creased the man’s wide brow, and a badge on his jacket declared him a lawman. His hand rested on his gun as he eyed her suspiciously. That made him the second person in town today who’d looked at her that way. Aunt Ruby said to never trust a lawman because they were all crooked, always looking for something to harass you about. She felt her hackles rising.
“I’m perusing the shop, sir. Mr. DeFoe gave me the key.” She held it up for him to see. “I might be interested in renting it.”
He took off his dark brown cowboy-style hat and raked a hand through reddish-brown hair cut short, but not short enough to conceal its tendency to wave. A ruddy complexion and freckles that went along with his hair color sprinkled across his nose and cheeks making him look younger than the creases on his forehead indicated. A jagged scar on his chin marred what might have otherwise been wholesome features.
“My apologies, ma’am.” He approached and held out a hand, “I’m Sheriff Grady Wallace.”
Candi reluctantly gave him her hand, but retrieved it after only a brief shake.
“When I was making my rounds this morning, I noticed the front door standing open and came in to check it out. This building’s been empty for nearly a year now, so naturally, seeing that door open led me to believe that someone had broken in.”
“Naturally?”
“Well, sure. Someone might have been looking for shelter for the night, or teenagers could have been up to some mischief.”
“Well, I’m not a teenager, and I didn’t spend the night here, nor would I,” she said.
“Oh, I wasn’t implying that you would.” “What were you implying, then?” “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name.”
“I didn’t give it.”
He took a breath, twirled his hat on his hand, and smiled. “How about if we start over.”
She stared at him blankly. She had no idea what he meant.
“I’m Sheriff Grady Wallace,” he said and extended his hand again.
She looked at it, frowning. “We already shook.”
He smiled again, like he wanted to put her at ease, and twirled his hat again. “I apologize for bustin’ in on you. I imagine I must have given you a fright.”
“You did that.”
“You have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
Great. She’d have to give him her name. He’d asked her point blank. She sighed and said, “Candi.”
“Just Candi?”
“Heart.”
“Excuse me?”
“My name is Candi Heart, sir.” Candi Heart? Saying it out loud to a stranger, it sounded stupid and unnatural. What was wrong with her? She should have decided on Jones or Smith or Collins or anything, but Heart? At first, she’d thought it was catchy and memorable, but now she just thought it sounded like some kind of fancy lady. She was not that kind of lady.
He chuckled and rubbed his fingertips across the scar on his chin. “Your name is Candi Heart?”
“Yes, sir. I reckon you could say my mama had a sense of humor.” She waited and watched, hoping the explanation made the lie go down easier.
“Please, call me Grady.”
“Oh, I couldn’t.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because you’re the law, and a body ought to show the proper respect.”
“Well, Ms. Heart, we don’t much stand on ceremony around here. If you’re plannin’ to live in Angel Ridge, you’ll find that out soon enough.”
Candi didn’t know what to say to that, so she didn’t say anything at all. He was quite a bit taller than her, and the fact that he was the sheriff, and that he still had a hand on his gun, made her uncomfortable. She remembered again Aunt Ruby’s warning about lawmen. Best to not say too much.
“So, you’re a hair dresser?”
He sure was nosey, askin’ all his questions. “No, sir.”
“I’m sorry. I just assumed that you might be since you’re thinking to rent Madge’s old shop.”
Candi continued to watch the man carefully. He seemed completely at ease. Confident and in control. Wonder how he did that when she felt like she might bust right out of her skin? She wished he’d get on his way.
“Mr. DeFoe will be coming by soon, and I’d like to look around a bit more before he comes, if that’s all right with you . . . sir,” she added.
“Of course. I’m sorry to hold you up.” He put his hat back on, and smiled widely this time. “I’ll just be on my way. But first, I need you to do something for me.”
Candi frowned. What could she possibly do for him? Still, she’d be crazy to get cross-wise of the law her first day in town. “I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Call me Grady.”
“I couldn’t—”
He held up a hand, halting her words. “Now, I insist. You callin’ me ‘sir’ makes me feel old before my time.”
Dixie Ferguson had said near the same thing earlier, but that was different. She could call Dixie by her first name because she ran a diner where interacting with people on a personal level was appropriate. This, however, was the sheriff. She couldn’t imagine ever calling him by his given name.
“I’m just bein’ respectful, sir. It’s nothin’ to do with your age. It’s to do with who you are—the sheriff.”
“I appreciate that, but if it’s just the same to you, I’d like you or anyone else in town to call me Grady. I’ve lived here my whole life, and as I said, we don’t stand on ceremony in Angel Ridge.” He looped a thumb in his gun belt and rocked back on his heels. “Would you be willing to give it a try?”
She took a breath and tried to at least act like she had relaxed into his easy manner, but found it terribly difficult. She chewed her lower lip, considering, and then said, “I’d be willin’ to try, say in a week or so, but certainly not with my just havin’ met you. I’m sorry, sir.”
Her words made a frown crease his brow again. “You mind me asking you where you’re from?”
She’d had about enough of his questions. “Yes, sir. I do.”
“Why’s that?”
“Meanin’ no disrespect, but unless I’ve done something wrong and there’s some official-like reason that you’d be askin’, I don’t see as it’s any of your business.”
“I see.” He pulled the brim of his hat down lower on his forehead. “My apologies. I don’t mean to offend. Most folks around here would call asking a newcomer in town where they’re from just makin’ conversation.”
“Is that why you asked? Because you were just ‘makin’ conversation?’” She looked deep into his hazel-colored eyes to discern the truth of his words. He looked right back.
“I was just curious. Your accent isn’t like what you hear in our foothills. It has the sound of the mountains in it.”
So, he was an observer of people and their ways. Candi supposed he’d need to be in his line of work. She’d have to work on being more neighborly. If she was going to run a shop, folks would expect her to be friendly, but she didn’t see how that meant she had to tell everybody her business. Still, she’d do well to hold to Aunt Ruby’s old sayin’, You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
“You’re right, Sheriff. I am from the mountains.” She’d let him take that as he would. She wasn’t about to tell him she was from Laurel Mountain.
“Hello!” “Back here, Bud.” The sheriff called out to Mr. DeFoe, but didn’t break eye
contact with her. Let him look as long as he wants, Candi thought. He’s not gonna see anything but a stranger who’s just arrived in Angel Ridge.
“What are you doin’ here, Grady?”
At last he looked away to speak to Mr. DeFoe. Finally able to breathe again, Candi took a long, deep breath of the cool musty air filling the back room.
“Like I was tellin’ Ms. Heart here, I was doin’ my morning rounds and saw the front door to the building standin’ wide open. Since the place has been vacant for so long, I figured I ought to check it out.”
Mr. DeFoe slapped the sheriff on the shoulder and offered him his hand. “Well, I’m much obliged, Grady. Appreciate you keepin’ an eye on things around town.”
The sheriff took Mr. DeFoe’s hand. “That’s what you pay me for, Bud.”
“That it is.”
“I’ll leave you to your business, then.” The sheriff swung his gaze back to Candi and touched the brim of his hat. “A pleasure meetin’ you, Ms. Heart.”
Candi nodded, but didn’t say anything. Words sometimes were unnecessary.

© Deborah Grace Staley

Order What the Heart Wants for Only 1.99

Vote

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Tomorrow is Election Day. My husband, many of my friends and, I’m sure, many of you, have already voted. But I will vote on Election Day. There’s just something about going to my community poling place to vote with my neighbors. We gather at a small elementary school, in its cafeteria, to cast our votes. I love seeing the retirees who run this poling place. They are patriots who take time out of their lives to come in before dawn and stay till well past sunset to make sure my neighbors and I can be part of the political process. These are retired businessmen, teachers, homemakers, and farmers. Pride glows on their faces as they greet us and demonstrate how to use the voting machines. Seeing them, happy to be there, fills me with pride. Pride that I live in a country where we have the privilege to elect those who serve in public office. Pride that although my great-grandmother wasn’t allowed to vote because she was a woman, I can. And I will. Always. I may not agree with what those running for office stand for, but at the end of the day, it’s not about that. It’s about appreciating the freedoms and rights that so many who came before me fought for. They fought not only for themselves, but for future generations. For me. My dad, my grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and others I don’t even know of. They fought for my freedom. I often wonder about the women in my family who sent their sons to war. Did they also fight or protest for the right to vote? If not, the other sisters who shared my gender stood for us all. I’m thankful for the sacrifices made. I’ll never forget them.

Tomorrow, I will go to that little elementary school that sits up on a hill, and I’ll go inside, privileged to be able to cast my vote. And after I do, I’ll walk outside, look at the mountains, and if I listen carefully, I just might hear freedom ring.

Debbie

Unforgettable, The Next Angel Ridge Novel, Excerpt No. 5

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Unforgettable

The Fifth Angel Ridge Novel

Available from http://www.bellebooks.com

and at Amazon.com in Trade Paperback and NOW for Kindle

October 2012

Excerpt No. 5

           Abby brought their food, refilled their drinks and left.

         “Thanks, hon,” Patrick said to his daughter’s retreating back. Returning his attention to Frannie, he said, “That’s a lot of change, in a short amount of time, for such a small town.” He tucked into the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Having skipped lunch, he was starved.

“It’s an opportunity to create positive change for the community.”

Patrick wiped his mouth with his napkin. “You’re a master at spinning anything in your favor.”

“I choose to see obstacles as opportunities.”

Patrick lifted his chin, observing her as he chewed. She was chasing salad around her plate with a fork, but hadn’t yet taken a bite. The devil inside made him ask, “Does that apply to all areas of your life or just business?”

She set her fork aside, took a deep breath and sipped her water before responding. “I can’t see how that’s relevant to our discussion, Mayor.”

“Patrick. We’re very informal in Angel Ridge. Along those lines, can I give you some advice?”

“Of course,” she said, but caution laced her words.

“I appreciate that you’re educated and have thoroughly thought out your plan, but when you present this at the Town Hall Meeting, you might want to use plainer language. Otherwise, people might read you as too slick.”

“Excuse me?”

“When you talk about this, you sound kind of like a lawyer or a salesman. By that I mean, you have an answer for everything, and you put a positive spin on anything that could be construed as negative.”

“I don’t understand the problem.”

“I’m just saying that people here have a basic mistrust of those kinds of people.”

“Lawyers and sales people,” she said.

“Right.”

She raised an eyebrow. “People also have a basic mistrust of politicians.”     Patrick smiled. “True enough.” He was enjoying their verbal exchange a little too much, which made him want to push a little harder, just to probe around to see if there was a chink in her armor. “How’s your salad?”

She looked at the plate in front of her like she’d just noticed it was there. “Oh, I haven’t tried it yet.”

“Go ahead. I won’t ask any more questions for now, if that’ll make you feel more comfortable.”

“I’m not uncomfortable,” Frannie insisted.

Patrick leaned in, looking to his left and right before quietly confiding, “I

wish I could say the same. I can’t remember being this uncomfortable in quite some time.”

Frannie pressed her back against the seat. “Please don’t do that.”

“What?”

She looked around this time. “Do anything that would make it appear that

we’re having an intimate conversation.”

Now she was uncomfortable, and again, it was his fault, but he couldn’t seem to stop baiting her. “People are going to think what they will.”

Placing her napkin on the table, she scooted out of the booth. “Then this was a mistake,” she said before turning to walk out of the diner.

“Damn it,” he mumbled as he scrambled to catch up to her in front of the

building. “Frannie—”

She spun to face him. “Don’t follow me,” she said, then immediately turned again and increased her pace.

Ignoring her request, he got close enough to grasp her arm, halting her

progress. “What was that?” he asked.

“I don’t want even the hint of impropriety in our relationship.”

“Then don’t make a scene by storming out of the only eating establishment in town while we’re having a business dinner.”

She moved her arm out of his loose grasp and started walking again. “You

made it impossible for me to stay.”

“You certainly lay a lot of blame at my feet.”

She stopped and looked back at him, her face flushed and a hand on her hip. Fire flashed from her dark blue eyes. Lord, she was stunning.

“You created this situation. If you hadn’t kissed me that night,” she moved

her hand back and forth between them, “having a business relationship now wouldn’t be a problem.”

“And yet you’ve returned to the scene of the crime, so to speak.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He took her arm and guided her to the side of the building to get them off the sidewalk and away from curious stares. “I’m not proud of my behavior, and I’m not excusing it. All I can do is apologize for it, which I’ve done. But let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? You were at a bar that night, in the middle of a blizzard, and a willing participant in that kiss when you don’t seem like the type. It begs the question, why?”

She folded her arms defensively. “I don’t owe you any explanations. Furthermore, I won’t appease your conscience by giving you my forgiveness and wiping the slate clean for something that was unforgivable.”

Night was falling softly around them. The constable would soon be lighting the old-fashioned, oil burning streetlamps that lined Main Street’s brick sidewalks. People were tucked in their houses, living normal lives. How he envied them.

“It was just a kiss,” he said softly. Or was it? For her to have such a strong reaction after so many years had passed, it must have rocked her world. That made him want to kiss her again now, even more.

“You were married.”

“I guess you didn’t notice my wedding band.”

That gave her a moment’s hesitation before she responded. “I didn’t.”          Patrick sighed. Blame it on the alcohol. “Have you never done anything that you regretted, Frannie?” he asked. “Something for which you didn’t deserve forgiveness, but wished for it anyway? Not to ease the guilt you feel, because trust me, the guilt is a demon that won’t leave me alone. The forgiveness is so you know that the person giving it has gotten past what you did.”

Frannie focused on the intensity in his eyes, giving what he’d said some thought. She almost wished she could say she had done something that needed forgiving. The sad truth was that because she’d been gravely ill and survived, she’d taken care to stay safe and do what was expected of her. Any time she’d ventured to do anything out of character or something that involved taking risks, she’d regretted it, including the one time she’d kissed a stranger in a bar. That was something she regretted—that and the fact she’d wasted the years since her illness playing it safe. In both instances, the only person she had to blame was herself. She didn’t want to be afraid to live her life, but fear had been her constant companion for many, many years.

When she didn’t respond, he said, “It must be nice to have lived a life with no regrets.”

She crossed her arms. “I didn’t say that I don’t have regrets. I regret having been in that bar and kissing you.”

“And we’ve come full circle with the blame lying at my feet.”

“Okay. If it makes you happy, I’ll accept my part of the responsibility. I was in a bar getting drunk, and that impaired my judgment to the point that I kissed a total stranger, who was drunker than I was.” She laughed. “People get drunk and hook up in bars all the time. Leave it to me to find a married man the one time I do it.”

“You were drinking that night because you’d lost your sister.”

“Yes. I wanted something to ease the pain and help me stop thinking about losing her,” she admitted. “And you were drinking because your wife was terminally ill. I suppose the excuses make it all okay if we can understand the ‘why’

of it.”

“You’re wrong on two counts. First, nothing makes what I did okay. And second, I was drinking that night because I’m an alcoholic. Even if my wife hadn’t been ill, I would have been drunk anyway.”

© 2012 Deborah Grace Staley

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Aside

I start the day with such great hopes of getting tons accomplished. And then it doesn’t happen. Is it just me? I have to be the worst “starter” of all time! I just can’t understand why it is so hard for me to get going.

Here are my excuses. (You knew I had some, didn’t you?)

I’m not a morning person. I don’t get up early. If I see the sunrise, it’s probably because I have to get to the airport at an ungodly hour, I’m sick, or I have a super early appointment. Thanks to working for home, I set my own hours, which means, I don’t go to be early and I don’t rise early. Afternoon is when I hit the computer.

Next.

I have a few simple things to do that are never as simple as they should be. Today, I needed to edit one internet banner and create another. The program I use to do this, which worked fine the last time I used it, no longer works. At all. I looked around on the web trying to see if there’s an update I’m missing. There’s not. And the thing it says I’m missing, yeah, I downloaded it, but it just made a folder on my computer, which isn’t apparently talking to the program that’s missing it.

So, then I start looking at websites where you can make free internet banners. Yep. None of them did what I wanted. So, then I thought, screw it. I’ll buy a program and download it. Took too long to get the trial version downloaded. (I live in the middle of nowhere and the internet options stink and what I have is so slow.)

Next, I decided to search the App Store to see if there’s a free banner maker. Score! There’s a free one. I just got it downloaded and it’s time for hubby and son to be home for supper.

And so now, I’m hurriedly writing this blog post I should have had up hours ago. Where did the day go? And I haven’t done any writing. Argh!

Do you feel my pain? I had such hopes to get so much accomplished today. Maybe I can get some actual writing done after supper. My goal this week is to begin work on two, hello, that’s right, I said TWO new books. I have never written two books at once. Never. But I’m going to give it a try. I know National Write a Novel in Month is coming up in November, but that’s for beginners. I’m a seasoned professional. I’m going to write two books! Ha!

If I could just get those pesky interent banners out of the way…

–Debbie

My Crazy Day

Unforgettable, The Next Angel Ridge Novel, Excerpt No. 4

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Unforgettable 

The Fifth Angel Ridge Novel

Available from http://www.bellebooks.com

October 2012

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NOW AVAILABLE IN TRADE PAPERBACK ON AMAZON

Excerpt No. 4

            Frannie ripped her glasses off her face, breaking them and shattering the memory. She tossed the pieces at the angel monument.

“There’s a fine for littering around here.”

Frannie glanced up to find Patrick Houston staring down at her. She sighed. If she’d thought he’d follow her, she would have avoided Town Square. Really must remember she lived in a small town now.

He glanced at the empty space on the park bench and said, “May I?”             Wanting to look anywhere but at him, she stared up at the statue of the warrior angel. “It’s not advisable.”

“I’ll take my chances,” he said and sat.

“You were warned.”

“I must say, it’s not everyday a beautiful woman storms out of my office. I admit it was rude of me to be late to our appointment. I should have apologized.”

“But you didn’t, and still aren’t.” And he had so much to apologize for, yet he continued to act like he didn’t know her. Like he didn’t remember. Maybe he didn’t. God, she was so naïve when it came to men. He probably had picked up so many women in bars that he couldn’t keep them all straight. Still, confusion had not been a problem the morning after in the diner. He’d looked guilty as sin and like he had the devil of a hangover.

“Help me out here.”

“Let’s drop the games, shall we? If you think I’m going to be humiliated in the retelling of what happened, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you.”

He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees, palms up. “I’m at a complete loss. Have we met before?”

She turned away and laughed. What an ass.

“Ms. Thompson . . . Frannie, I apologize. It’s not my intent to upset or humiliate you in any way. I respected and admired your sister a great deal. I do

understand how difficult it is to lose someone close to you.”

Frannie wondered how long it would take before people stopped bringing up “her loss” in that sympathetic manner that made her want to scream. No one knew how she felt. No one.

She leaned in as she spoke. “You’ll have to excuse me if I’m having a bit of trouble here reconciling your two personas, the upstanding mayor and the drunk. The drunk disgraced himself that night in the bar and took me unwittingly along for the ride.” She spoke softly, “Clearly, I was just one of many.”

He frowned. “Bar?” He tilted his head, his gaze sweeping her face, her hair, his pale eyes bore into hers. “I’m sorry to say that I used to drink heavily. There are periods, gaps of time, I don’t remember.” He looked away, but not before she saw the familiar pain flooding his expressive eyes.

He didn’t speak for several moments. Didn’t look at her. “I’m wracking my brain here. I used to go to a place outside of town to drink. Did I run into you there? I must have,” he said to himself without waiting for her to respond.

Frannie crossed her arms and drummed her fingers against her forearm. She should leave. Just get up and walk away, but for reasons she refused to analyze at the moment, she didn’t.

“Oh, God,” he murmured. “Did I . . . I didn’t—” He raked a hand through his hair, and the memory of her hands doing the same rocked her. It was lightly

streaked with gray now. Maybe it had been there before, but she hadn’t noticed it in the dimly lit bar.

He sighed, looked around, then leaned toward her. The scent of his cologne brought back more memories. It had clung to her skin that night, after.

“Jesus, did I—did we . . .”

She felt her face flush and placed a hand against her neck.

He glanced back at her, then away again. “Oh . . . the night of the blizzard.

You were the woman at Jimmy’s.”

“Yes,” she confirmed. So he remembered after all. Well, at least he’d

admitted it. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

“But you did, the next day at the diner, and then there was my sister’s

funeral. So, technically, you’ve seen me twice.”

“Right,” he agreed. “But Jenny’s been gone six years now. You see, I

remember because that’s about the same time I found out my wife was seriously ill. I’m afraid I didn’t handle getting the prognosis well.”

“The relative point is that you were married, something you didn’t bother to share with me, and I couldn’t have known since I’m not from Angel Ridge.” No way was she letting him off the hook for what he’d done. The fact that

he was drunk because his wife was sick did not excuse his behavior. “Look, this is not the place to be discussing this. Anyone could walk by and overhear or see us. What if someone tells your wife?” she whispered. “What if she sees us?”

She gathered her purse and briefcase and would have stood, but his hand on her arm stopped her.

“Frannie, my wife—” He cleared his throat. “She’s gone.”

Frannie couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Then, she said, automatically, “I’m sorry.”

He turned to face her. “So am I.” Then he surprised her by squeezing her

hand. That look. That tortured look, mingled with a longing for all he’d lost and regret for mistakes that couldn’t be undone, inexplicably made her heart constrict.

Another moment of silent communication passed between them before he stood and walked away.

© 2012 Deborah Grace Staley