Tag Archives: southern fiction

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

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

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

Good Luck!

Winner of the HOLT Medallion

for Single Title/Mainstream Romance

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

© Deborah Grace Staley

Order What the Heart Wants for Only 1.99

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

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

Excerpt #2 from Unforgettable, An Angel Ridge Novel

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Unforgettable

The Fifth Angel Ridge Novel

Available from http://www.bellebooks.com

October 2012

Excerpt No. 2

 

         The mayor stood and walked around his desk. When he was close enough to touch, he extended his hand and said, “Patrick Houston. I’m the mayor of Angel Ridge.”

Patrick. The mayor’s name was Patrick. Frannie didn’t take his hand. Didn’t speak. Just looked into those haunted, gray eyes she remembered so well. She also remembered having the devil of a hangover the next day after. Learning the truth about him had only made it worse.

Finally, she found her voice. “You’re the mayor.”

He rested his hands on his hips and tried to look anywhere but at her, indicating he just might feel remorse. “Yes. Won’t you sit?” he said, waving a hand toward the chairs situated in front of his desk.

She did, heavily, and tried to keep her mouth closed as he leaned against the front edge of his desk, facing her. Only inches separated them, and her treacherous body reacted to an attraction she wished she didn’t feel.

He cleared his throat. “What can I do for you, Ms. Thompson?”

“Did you consider skipping our meeting because you wanted to avoid seeing me? Is that why you were late?” she ground out, anger displacing the shock.

“I’m afraid I didn’t look at my schedule at all, so I wasn’t aware that I had an appointment.”

Was he actually going to pretend he didn’t know her? “What can I do for you, Ms. Thompson?” he repeated. Frannie looked at the file resting on top of her briefcase in her lap. Unbelievable.

“Ms. Thompson?”

He was in for a shock if he thought she would play along to make this more comfortable for him. “I had no idea you were the mayor. Your first name isn’t on any of the information I’ve seen. Just your initials.”

He absently rubbed his chin, which made her notice he hadn’t bothered to shave. “Yes, well, the only thing anyone around here cares about is that my last name is ‘Houston.’” He actually smiled then and added, “A Houston has been the mayor of Angel Ridge for more than a hundred years.”

“How nice for you.” Anyone else might have found that smile charming, but not her. She stood. “However, it’s your first name that would have mattered to me, since that was all you cared to share. It would have also been nice if you’d included that you’re married.”

He pushed away from his desk, standing straighter. A frown pulled at his brow. Dear Lord, in the light of day he was too handsome for words. Dark wavy hair, brushed back from his face and spilled over the collar of his casual polo-style shirt. There must be any number of women who wouldn’t care that he was married. She, however, was not one of them.

“I don’t understand.”

“No? Neither did I.”

She took a long step forward that brought her to stand squarely in front of him. The palm of her hand itched with the desire to slap him. A lot of years had passed since that night, and the rush of emotion she felt surprised her. But no woman liked to be played the fool. Frannie was no exception.

She tossed the folder containing her plans onto his desk. “I’d like to submit that at the next meeting of the Town Council. If you have questions, you can call my architect.”

Turning, she strode from the office.

 

© 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

 

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