Tag Archives: novel

Check Out My New Website and Win

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Dear All:

I’ve updated and redesigned my website. I think it’s pretty cool, but I’d love to know what you think! Please take a moment to have a look.

www.deborahgracestaley.com

I’m excited about the new look of my site and also excited about the new series of novels I’m launching in July 2014. Volume 1 in the Wilde Dunes Series, Simmer, marks a departure for me. If you’ve enjoyed my Angel Ridge Series, you’ll know that I’ve been writing southern, small town, sweet romances. The Wilde Dunes novels will be more contemporary sexy romances. There’ll still be a small town, southern setting and plenty of romance that is guaranteed to make your heart melt. They’ll also make your heart race! Writing these books have allowed me to flex my writing muscles. I think you’ll enjoy both series. If not, there will be something for everyone!

So, back to the website. You may be wondering how you can win. It’s really simple. Visit the new website, go to the CONTACT page, fill it out and tell me what you think of the new site. That’s it! The winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Winner will be announced June 1 on my Facebook page.

The Amazon Daily Deal is Unforgettable-An Angel Ridge Novel

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Today’s Amazon Daily Deal is Unforgettable, from the award-winning and bestselling Angel Ridge Series by yours truly. Today, and today only, you can download Unforgettable to your Kindle for only 1.99. While you’re there, pick up Only You for 4.99 and A Home for Christmas for 3.99. That’s three Angel Ridge novels for the price of one!

Hurry, because these deals won’t last! And please consider 1) purchasing the books as a gift for family or friends or both if you already have all these novels, and 2) please share this with everyone you know.

Thanks for all you support!

Deborah Grace Staley

www.deborahgracestaley.com

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On a snowy night in Angel Ridge, two strangers share an unforgettable kiss.

Years later, Frannie Thompson is back in Angel Ridge to start a new life and a non-profit. When she meets with Patrick Houston, the town’s mayor, to request a spot on the agenda of the next meeting of the Town Council, she comes face to face with the man she’d kissed on a snowy night years before. A very married man.

On that night, Frannie had been a woman reeling from the loss of her sister. Patrick had been drowning his sorrows to numb the pain of his wife’s cancer and more. Kissing Frannie when he wasn’t free had been unforgiveable. With is life on track, he’s trying to make amends and raise his children has a sober, single parent. With Frannie back in town for good, the intense feelings she stirs have him wondering if he could have a second shot at forever.

Getting a non-profit off the ground and overcoming town opposition requires Frannie’s full attention. She doesn’t need the distraction of a man who wants to earn her forgiveness and trust. Frannie knows she’s wrong for him, but despite her effort to remain focused on her business, her body remembers the promise of passion and Patrick.

Mountain Traditions, Superstitions, and Old Christmas

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Mountain Traditions, Superstitions, and Old Christmas

 

by Deborah Grace Staley

The Award-Winning Author of the

Angel Ridge Series

 

What the Heart Wants

Winner of the HOLT Medallion

Is the January 5 Amazon Deal of the Day

Download for only 1.99!

 

 

January 6 is Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, if you will. In Upper East Tennessee where I come from, my momma called it “Old Christmas.” There are a couple of theories regarding Old Christmas. I always heard that Old Christmas was the date that for centuries had been celebrated as Christmas by Europeans. History bears this out. It was in 1752 that Britain moved from the Julian calendar to the Georgian calendar. In doing so, eleven days were eliminated from the year. Thus making Christmas December 25 instead of January 6. I suppose celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas ensued, concluding with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, which in some Christian traditions is thought to be the day that the Magi arrived to view the Christ child.

 

Whatever you believe, here’s what I remember about Old Christmas. It was bad luck to do laundry, to wash or iron, on that day. My mother, who always said, “Now, I’m not superstitious, but…” just before she’d prove that maybe she was. And washing was not permitted on January 6. She cited a time when her family had done laundry on this day and later that year, her cousin drowned. Even if she was not superstitious, this fell into the category of “Don’t tempt fate.” Don’t do it, just in case.

 

When I got the idea for the character of Candi Heart in the Angel Ridge series, I wanted her to be from the mountains. I wanted all those mountain traditions I’d learned from my momma to be coded into her DNA. I was fascinated by the Granny Woman tradition. These were women who lived in the mountain communities of Appalachia who were respected in the community, but feared by outsiders. Some even called them witches. These women knew things. They knew how to heal with herbs. They knew how to plant crops by the signs of the moon. They knew other things, too, like the sex of an unborn child, when someone was going to take ill, and when others would die. They could tell you when it would be a good time to travel and when you should stay home.

 

I remember my mother telling me that people would come to see her mother to “ask for advice.” My grandmother would share a cup of coffee with the visitor, chat a spell, and then after the coffee had been drunk, she’d turn her visitor’s cup upside down in the saucer. She’d spin it a few times, then gaze at the pattern made by the coffee grounds in the saucer. Based on this, she’d give her visitor advice on any number of important and minor matters. I always thought that an interesting story.  I also found it interesting she’d taught my mother all sorts of home remedies, such as stealing a dishrag, rubbing it on a wart, and then burying it. This worked for getting rid of the wart. Earaches were cured with warm sweet oil in the ear and a bit of cotton to hold it in. These and other similar things were part of my DNA, and my mother’s, and her mother’s…

 

So, when I created Candi Heart (not her real name—her real name was Lark Hensley), I began researching Granny Women. Much to my frustration, there is next to no information written about them. This is because people in the mountain cultures just accepted who these women were. People from the outside who wanted to write about it? Well, most of them found these women suspect. And anyone who knows anything knows you can’t trust outsiders. So, no one talked about Granny Women. What bits I could find would be a couple of pages in texts about Appalachian culture or folklore. I’d get so excited when I found something, I’d stand in the library and read those precious few pages right there in the stacks. Minutes later, I’d slam the book closed, frustrated because I already knew what was contained in those pages. I found nothing, let me repeat, nothing I hadn’t already learned from my mother.

 

Understanding that truth was a light bulb moment for me that led me to pick up the phone and call my mother. After questioning her about the story of her mother reading coffee grounds for people, I asked, “Did she really read the coffee grounds or was that just a prop? Did she already know the answers without the reading?” At length, my momma admitted this was indeed a prop. At which point I asked about my great-grandmother. She had always been described to me as “not right in the head.” She’d died after having been bedfast for some time. You see, I’d read and heard that these Granny Women had been described as “not right in the head.” In fact, it was written into the lyrics of a Dolly Parton song called, “These Old Bones.” And I should add here, the women in my family suffer from bouts of depression. So, I asked my momma if her grandmother had been one of these mountain women who’d just known things. At which point she admitted that she had. Full disclosure, I’d had strong flashes of intuition all my life, but discounted them. At the end of this and other discussions with my mom, I realized I come from a long line of women who just knew things. Momma had known I also had this ability, but never talked to me much about it because she knew I wasn’t ready to accept it.

 

I’d be lying if I said this thing that’s a part of who I am doesn’t scare me. I don’t completely understand how it works. I know if someone is on my mind and I’m dreaming about them, something’s up and I need to reach out to them. I know when I have a particularly vivid dream about something, I need to pay attention. Like the time my son had a strange looking wound on the back of his hand. I dreamed he lost his hand the night before we went to the doctor. And guess what? The doctor told me he could have lost his hand if we had waited to have him seen. He’d been bitten by a poisonous spider. Now, I can’t tell people things on cue. I’m not a fortuneteller. But I’ve also learned that you can’t tell people something they’re not ready to hear. Dealing with what you know can be a delicate balance of the knowing and the knowing when to share what you know.

 

Candi Heart in What the Heart Wants is one of these women like the women in my family. She had vivid dreams about past events that are unfolding in her present…or are they part of her past? She just wants to fit into Angel Ridge and open up a shop for women with all the colorful, soft, frilly things she didn’t have growing up in the gray-green mountains. But when she is almost the victim of a hit and run incident and her shop is vandalized, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want her moving to Angel Ridge, much less becoming a business owner. Of course, Sheriff Grady Wallace will have to step in to investigate and protect the sexy and mysterious new woman in town.

 

What the Heart Wants, winner of the HOLT Medallion for Excellence in Single Title/Mainstream Romance, is the Amazon Daily Deal today, January 5. Download your copy for only 1.99. Comment on this blog and include your email address and throughout the day, I will choose ten names randomly to receive the Kindle Version of the book. Just comment here or at this article on Fresh Fiction today.

What_the_Heart_Wants

Today’s Amazon Daily Deal!

Download for your Kindle–only 1.99

 

Happy Old Christmas Eve!

Deborah Grace Staley

www.deborahgracestaley.com

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

 

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

BUY NOW

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

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Amazon Link

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