Tag Archives: Small Town Romance

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

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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

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

Unforgettable, An Angel Ridge Novel

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LET THE EXCERPT MANIA BEGIN!

Unforgettable

 The Fifth Angel Ridge Novel

 Available later this month from

http://www.bellebooks.com

 October 2012

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.

Frannie had been a woman reeling from the loss of her sister, Angel Ridge’s newspaper editor, Jenny Thompson (I’ll Be There). 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. But now, with his life on track, he’s trying to make amends and raise his children as a sober, single parent. But coming face to face with Frannie again, 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.

 Excerpt from Unforgettable

         “Ms. Thompson? The mayor will see you now. If you’ll follow me?”

Frannie stood, and the forgotten folder on her lap slid to the floor. Papers scattered across the carpet. Frannie bit back a curse, then tried to quickly gather and put the papers back in order.

The receptionist came over to lend a hand. “Thank you,” Frannie murmured, embarrassed. Not the impression of the slick, professional she’d intended to project today.

“Karen!” a deep voice bellowed. “What’s going on? Did she leave?”

“Coming,” Karen said.

The mayor’s grumbling followed him back into his office.

“I’m sorry,” Karen said.

“Is he always this cheerful?” Frannie joked.

The woman just smiled as she handed Frannie the last of the papers. Frannie shoved it all back into the folder and followed Karen to the mayor’s office. She didn’t need the man cheerful. She just needed a spot on the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the Town Council. On previous visits to Angel Ridge, she’d tried to meet with the mayor and bring him along on her plan, but he was never in. She hadn’t worried too much about it because she’d been assured by her architect and contractor, Cole Craig and Blake Ferguson, that the mayor would welcome her project to help revitalize downtown.

Karen knocked on an open door, then entered. “Mayor, this is Ms. Thompson.”

Frannie took a few steps into the office. The man had his back to them, typing something on a computer keyboard at the credenza behind his desk. She’d expected an older man with gray hair, but he had the dark hair of someone much younger.

“Yes, yes. Come in and have a seat,” he mumbled.

Karen smiled apologetically and retreated.

Frannie stepped into the room, but didn’t sit. She waited for the man to face her. When he didn’t, she said, “Should we reschedule?”

His sigh was audible. He swiveled his high-backed leather chair to face her.

Frannie took a step back. “You . . .” She found herself face-to-face with the man she’d shared an anonymous make-out session with in the middle of a blizzard that awful winter she’d lost her sister. In the years since that night, she’d done her best to forget. It had been just a kiss, after all, but her body had betrayed her, and the memory of it wouldn’t fade. What they’d shared that night had gone beyond a simple kiss. God, how she’d prayed she would never see him again.

© 2012 Deborah Grace Staley