Tag Archives: romance

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

Blog Hopping About Bitter Root

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Hello! If you’re visiting, welcome to my blog. If you’re a regular subscriber/reader, so sorry I’ve been conspicuously absent. More about that later.

This is the NEXT BEST THING blog tour. It’s the chain letter of blog tours. I was tagged (invited) to participate by Sandra Brannan (http://www.sandrabrannan.com/blog
) who blogged last week about her NEXT BIG THING, i.e. book project. She was tagged by my buddies, the writing team who is Sparkle Abbey (www.sparkleabbey.com). I’ve invited several of my writing pals. So far, the only one game is Loralee Lillibridge (http://loraleelillibridge.blogspot.com). You will here from her one week from today, January 30. In her post, she’ll tag several more authors, and so it goes.

Now, for my NEXT BIG THING, this is why my blog has been so quiet for the past month and a half. I am deep into research for my next novel, an historical. If you’ve read my Angel Ridge Series, you’ll know that they are a series of small town, sweet romances set in the fictional town of Angel Ridge, Tennessee. I’m five books deep in a six book contract with that series. In short, I’ve been writing this series for the past thirteen or so years given the fact that they started as short stories, moved to novellas, morphed into novels, and went through several publishers before finding a very happy home at Bell Bridge Books (www.bellebooks.com), thanks to Deborah Smith! Long story short, I need a break and thought, hey, let’s write an historical featuring a circuit rider preacher!

What was I thinking????

Sounds good on paper. Execution of same is another thing entirely. It comes out in October 2013. You’ll be the judge of whether I pulled it off or not!

So here’s a bit about it.

1: What is the working title of your book(s)?

My working title is Bitter Root.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

My great-grandfather was a circuit rider for the Methodist Church in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. He was my father’s grandfather and died the year my father was born, in 1933. My dad also was a pastor. I’ve always been fascinated with my great-grandfather, Rev. James Wiley Grace, who traveled Southwest Virginia and Upper East Tennessee on his horse, Blackie, spreading the gospel. So, I thought this would be an opportunity to explore my Grace roots.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Historical Romance

 

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

 

This is a hard question for me. We don’t have good westerns anymore! I see the circuit rider in my story as man with secrets from his past that he wants to remain in his past. I just love characters who aren’t quite who they appear to be on the surface. He has light brown, golden hair and whiskey colored eyes. He’s badass, which doesn’t quite fit with the image of a preacher, but circuit riders had to be tough as they traveled in all kinds of conditions, often had to sleep outdoors, and were frequently attacked during their travels. Maybe Ryan Gosling. Who would you cast?

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After the Civil War ravages East Tennessee, an itinerate preacher travels the countryside doing what he can to unify this divided community and run from his past.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

This book will be published by Bell Bridge Books.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Ha! Still working on that 🙂

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

How about television series? I would say Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and the incomparable Love Comes Softly series by Janette Oke.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

 

My great-grandfather.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book is set in East Tennessee right after the end of the Civil War, 1866ish. Reconstruction was an unsettled time in the South, but East Tennessee fared better than much of the South. 3 out of 4 people in this area were Loyalists who supported the Union. So, when the Union occupied East Tennessee the last two years of the war, things were not so bad for these folks who didn’t do quite as well when the Confederacy controlled the area. Still, the burden of supporting occupying troops was difficult with supplies limited and most men off fighting for one side or the other. After the war, those who survived came home. The confederates didn’t have a warm welcome, but the tone of East Tennessee, for the most part, was to forgive and get on with the rebuilding of the community together. Still, some southern supporters never returned. In their place were investors from the North hoping to invest in a New South.

Featured characters include a raven-haired beauty who was the Captain of the Blount County Ladies Home Guard. A former Union Soldier stationed in Knoxville who is relocating to Maryville as an officer of the government and peacekeeper. He’s also taken with the aforementioned spunky and outspoken lady. There’s another character, a woman who’s relocated to the area from Kentucky. Having lost her entire family in the war, she’s come to Maryville after the war to live with her uncle, a country doctor, and she’s considering converting her mother’s former mansion into a school.

 

I hope this has peaked your interest. Visit my blog again to follow my progress on this project, and please visit my website, http://www.deborahgracestaley.com. You can follow me on Facebook. My Twitter handle is @debgstaley.

Tag, Loralee. You’re it!

 

–Deborah

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

Excerpt No. 3, Unforgettable, The Next Angel Ridge Novel

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Unforgettable

The Fifth Angel Ridge Novel

Available from http://www.bellebooks.com

October 2012

The files have been uploaded! Be looking for it on Amazon as a Download. It should show up any day!

Excerpt No. 3

As she stepped out of the courthouse into the bright morning sunshine, Frannie slid oversized dark glasses onto her nose. She walked briskly across Town Square to a park bench near the tall, bronze angel monument standing sentinel on a brick pedestal. She sat, dropping her purse and briefcase onto the damp grass.

Anger roiled up inside her, teasing the edges of a full-on anxiety attack. She took a deep breath, in through her nose, out through her mouth on a slow eight count—just like the therapist had taught her. She gave up after losing track of how many times she’d repeated the technique. Her anger still simmered, but the panic had subsided.

She’d been in and out of town now for months and hadn’t once run into the man from the bar that night. It had been a full-on blizzard and just after her sister had gone underground. They must have been the only two people crazy enough to venture out in the weather, because it had just been the two of them there. He’d been drunk, and she’d been three whiskeys on the way there. His kiss, like the liquor, was a distraction from the pain of losing her sister. But in the sobering, bright light of the next day, she’d run into him at the town diner. Not only had she learned that he was married, but also that his wife had just been diagnosed with cancer.

She closed her eyes. Big mistake. The memory was there, raw and vivid, as if it had just happened. That night Frannie had to swipe at the tears as she drove the icy roads. Visibility had been bad enough without her blubbering. Staying at Jenny’s house, instead of feeling comforted, she’d felt closed in by her things, claustrophobic. She’d missed Jenny so much, and Frannie just wanted her sister back. How could Frannie go through life knowing Jenny was out there somewhere all alone?

Ahead, a sign glowed in the darkness through the snow. Frannie slowed and pulled over. Jimmy’s Bar. Perfect. She could use a drink. In fact, getting smashed held great appeal at the moment. Anything to not feel for a while.

The windowless metal door swung inward. The interior was dark and sparsely populated, which suited her fine. She sat at the bar.

A thin man with a face that said it had seen more than he’d care to recount asked, “What’ll you have?”

“Jack and Coke.”

The man turned away to get her drink. Frannie put her purse on the bar, and the folder the lawyer had given her slid out. The words “Last Will and Testament of Violet Jennings Thompson” glared at her. What a lie she was living. When the man had heard she was in town, he’d hiked through the snow to Jenny’s house to bring it to her, instructing her on the probate process she wouldn’t be able to begin. Another thing she’d have to discuss with the sheriff when the weather cleared. How was she supposed to deal with all this when she was still grieving for her sister?

She shoved the file back into her bag and shrugged out of her coat. Before she could unwind the long, green scarf her sister had gotten Frannie for her birthday, the last birthday they’d ever spend together, the man returned with her drink then went back to watching the basketball game on the television that sat in the corner of the long, narrow room. No conversation. That suited her, too.

She tossed the dark straw on the wooden bar and disposed of half the beverage in one long swallow. A man sitting four chairs down from her watched. She didn’t much care; let him look. The initial burn of the whiskey spread a delicious warmth through her chest and lower. She downed the rest, and her fingertips started to tingle. She set the heavy tumbler down with a satisfying thud.

“Another.” Screw the niceties. Her sister had been taken from her. There was no room for nice in her world.

The man took the glass and made her another drink.

The other lone customer was still looking at her, so she looked back intending to say, “What?” but when she met his gaze, she stopped short. From the glassy look in his clear gray eyes, she’d say he’d had a few himself. He lifted his glass, took a drink, and hunkered down, forearms on the bar, his focus returned to the liquid in his glass.

At some point during the silent exchange, the bartender had brought her drink—minus the straw—and disappeared. He’d also left a bowl of pretzels. Her gaze swung back to the man with the empty eyes, but he’d obviously forgotten about her and returned to his own personal hell. She wondered what was going on at home that prevented him from getting drunk there. Maybe he was from out of town like her. She chuckled and took another drink. She couldn’t imagine why anyone would be traveling the back roads of East Tennessee in a blizzard.

He shifted his gaze to hers.

She looked back. He was good looking, in a disheveled, dark-whiskered, shaggy-hair-that-needed-a-trim sort of way. It fell in waves around his face. He shoved a hand into the mass and pushed it back toward his crown, then stood, stumbled and found his balance before moving her way. She turned away and took another long draw on her drink, not sure she wanted company, but nevertheless intrigued by the dark stranger whose high-end, designer clothing said he didn’t fit in a dive like this. She chuckled again. She supposed she didn’t fit either, but the selection of bars in the heart of the Bible belt was not wide or varied.

He sat next to her without asking her permission. His empty glass had been abandoned at his previous spot at the bar. The bartender set another in front of him without asking, making Frannie reassess. The guy must be a regular.

He swallowed half his drink, set the tumbler down and said, “What brings you to a place like this in a snowstorm?”

Frannie took a drink as well. Her whole body was warm now. “I could ask you the same question.”

“If you were from around here, you’d know.” He had another sip of his drink and turned back to her. He took his time looking at her. “You don’t belong here.”

Emboldened by the whiskey, she looked her fill of him as well. The warmth radiating to the rest of her body from her midsection shifted lower. “Where do I belong?”

They were sitting close, too close, but she noted the fact too late.

“Is this a guessing game, then?”

“I don’t play games.”

“Everybody plays. Not everyone wins.” He swallowed the rest of his drink. “What’s your name?”

She considered for a moment, then said, “Frannie.”

“I’m Patrick.”

He held out his hand and she stared at it, then twenty-seven years of

breeding kicked in, and she offered hers. His fingers were warm and well-shaped. This wasn’t a man who worked with his hands. He was a professional of some sort. Maybe he was a lawyer, too. He had that air about him, like he’d stripped off a jacket and tie and left them in an expensive car before coming into the bar.

“You have nice hands,” he said, still holding hers. He brushed his thumb across the ring she wore. Her college ring. She didn’t miss his glance at her other hand to see if she wore a diamond or wedding band. “What brings you here, Frannie?” he asked, his thumb now moving back and forth across her knuckles.

Her hand felt good in his; human contact felt good after so much loss and emptiness, so she traced the lines of his palm with her fingertips. “I needed a drink.”

He chuckled. “I think you had two, not that I’m counting.”

She smiled. “And I’m still not drunk, so I think I need another.”

He lifted his chin, looking at the bartender, taking care of her request. She

brought the drink to her lips and downed it in one swallow. She resisted the urge to cough and ruin the effect.

“Impressive,” he noted with a raised eyebrow. “Better?”

She smiled, but her hair fell like a curtain, separating them. He pushed it

back, leaving her face and neck exposed and vulnerable. He leaned in, his bourbon-laced breath warm on her cheek, his dark stubble not unpleasantly rough against her cheek. He sighed and nudged her ear with his nose; his warm lips caressed the lobe.

She should move away, but the whiskey and the sadness pressing on her soul interfered with her ability to act like the proper young lady her mother had raised her to be.

“Tell me to stop,” he whispered, but pressed another kiss to the vulnerable spot behind her ear. He put his arm along the bar in front of her and slid the back of his fingers along her jaw until their gazes locked again.

Raw pain had flowed between them. They’d both wanted to feel something else—needed to feel anything else. So she’d leaned in and tasted his lips.

© 2012 Deborah Grace Staley

Celebrating Release of of Sweeter Than Tea

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Tonight, I’m celebrating. Sweeter Than Tea, an anthology of southern short stories, is published and available for purchase. This collection contains my short story, “Made With Love,” a romantic short story about a baker who sends cupcakes to the troops in honor of her father’s military service. When one of the soldiers shows up in her bakery to thank her in person, things heat up! This fabulous collection of thirteen southern short stories is the latest in the Sweet Tea anthologies published by Bell Bridge Books.

This is the 4th anthology in which I have seen one of my short stories published, and every time I see words I’ve written in print out in the world for people to read, well, it never gets old. It is such an honor and a blessing to get to what I love–tell stories.

My first published short story was called “The Trip” and it appeared in an anthology in which all of the stories were set in the North (United States). This was a small press collection that reached very few people, but that story will always be special because it was my first. It is my homage to those bigger than life Harlequin tycoon heros.

My next short story was “My Christmas Angel.” I entered it in a Christmas short story contest. By being selected as one of the winners, the story was published in a collection called ‘Tis the Season. There were two special things about this story. “My Christmas Angel” was the first Angel Ridge story I ever wrote. As you may know, the fifth book in that series will come out September 2012. The story appeared in what I affectionately call “the jingle bell book.” The books were handcrafted by the publisher, Neighborhood Press, with fabric covers bound with ribbon. And yes, they had jingle bells, so when you turned the pages you could hear the tinkle of bells. It added to the seasonal atmosphere 🙂 This short story was reissued by Bell Bridge Books and included in the back of A Home for Christmas.

My third short story to appear in an anthology was “Aphrodite’s Garden,” which appeared in Romancing the Holidays, Vol. 2. These were collections of short stories all centered around different holidays. Just after the publication of this volume of short stories, the publisher of these stories went out of business.

Back when I was struggling to learn to write novels and find a publisher, I used to take breaks to write short stories just to take a break. Now that my novels have found a home, I don’t have as much time for short story writing, but I love this fiction form. The stories I mentioned above are all available for you to read on Amazon Kindle and a steal at only .99 each. I was so pleased Bell Bridge invited me to write a southern story for Sweeter Than Tea. I had a great time writing Hannah and Sam’s story. So, grab your copy, grab a glass of sweet iced tea, put your feet up and enjoy!

Here’s an excerpt from “Made with Love.”

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 Hannah grabbed a cup of coffee and a cupcake and sat at a corner table with her laptop wand overflowing in box. Instead of sorting through it all, she wound up doing some mindless Internet surfing. The bell on the front door signaled the arrival of a customer. She didn’t even look up, just tapped away on the mouse pad and sipped her coffee while deleting junk emails.

         “Welcome to Goode’s,” Gracie said. “What can I get you?”

         “A double-chocolate buttercream cupcake and a bottle of water, please.”

         She looked up to check out the owner of the rumbling, deep voice and she found a man wearing fatigues with an American flag and several bars on the sleeve that indicated his rank. The insignia said he was in the Air Force. He was average height, but nothing else about him was average. Like most soldiers, he was in great shape and powerfully built. Tanned, clean-shaven, close cut dark hair. She propped her chin on her hand and irrationally wondered what color his eyes were.

         “For here or to go?”

         The man inhaled deeply. “The smell is so amazing, I think I’ll sit awhile and enjoy.”

         Gracie smiled. “Have a seat, and I’ll bring it right out to you.”

         “How much do I owe you?”

         “It’s on the house. Memorial Day is this weekend, and cupcakes are free to members of the military.”

         He nodded, twisting his cap in his hands. “Thank you.” He reached into his pocket and dropped a few bills in the tip jar, then sat at a table not far from Hannah. He caught her eye and smiled a greeting. Hannah smiled as well, then looked back at her computer screen, but soon, she was sneaking another peak at him. He had a compelling face that kept her looking past what should have been polite glances. There was something about his eyes, which were the color of rich, velvety chocolate. He couldn’t be much older than her, but his dark eyes held a sadness that said he’d seen more than a man so young should.

         He looked up then and their gazes locked. Caught again. Hannah swallowed hard, but didn’t look away. Instead she smiled. Good thing she wasn’t standing, because his smile literally made her knees weak.

         Gracie set his cupcake and the bottle of water in front of him. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

         The man looked up at her. “Actually, I was wondering if the owner of the shop might be in.”

         Gracie looked over at her shoulder at Hannah, unsure if she’d wanted to speak with anyone since this was her first break of the day. Hannah stood and walked over to join her cousin. “I’m the owner,” she said, holding out her hand. “I’m Hannah Goode.”

         The soldier stood and took her hand, smiling. “Lieutenant Sam Evans. It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am. If you don’t mind me saying, I wasn’t expecting someone so young and pretty.”

http://www.amazon.com/Sweeter-Than-Tea-ebook/dp/B008A0UJN0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1339544835&sr=1-1&keywords=sweeter+than+tea

Deborah