Review: Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

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Cover Rating:

Date Published: July 19, 2013
Pages: 304
Publisher: River North
Author: Anita Higman
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance
ISBN-10: 0802405800
ISBN-13: 978-0802405807
Book Source: I received this book for free from the Anita Higman for my honest review.

Blurb:

Lily Winter’s wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily’s lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger to her-a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she’d been hiding for decades-Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were just babies.

Without looking back, Lily-with her fear of flying-boards a jumbo jet and embarks on a quest to find her sister which leads half way around the world to Melbourne, Australia. Befriended by imprudent Ausie, he might prove to be the key to finding her sister. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to attempt a family reunion and to find the one dream she no longer imagined possible-the chance to fall in love again.

You can purchase it Here:
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Author Bio:

ward-winning author, Anita Higman, has twenty-five books published (several coauthored) for adults and children, and she has been honored as a Barnes & Noble Author of the Month for Houston. Anita has a BA degree, combining communication, psychology, and art. Her favorite things include exotic teas, movies, and all things Jane Austen. To contact Anita or enter her monthly contest for a free signed book please visit her website at www.anitahigman.com.

You can find Anita Here:
Website  *  Twitter  *  Facebook  *  Goodreads



My Review:

Lily Winter had been estranged from her mother for ten years, but with her daughter Julie away at college for the first time and with Lily suffering from a severe case of “empty nest” syndrome, she felt the need to try and reconnect with her mother. Little did she know that on that fateful day that she would lose one hope and discover another. When her mother told her she had a twin sister, Camille Daniels, who lived in Australia, Lily knew she had to find her. What she didn’t expect to find was love. The day Marcus Averill sat on the bench beside her with her cheeks stuffed full of marshmallows and despair in her heart, was the day Lily’s quiet, lonely life changed forever. Marcus was quirky and funny and everything Lily didn’t want. But underneath all of the antics, Lily soon discovered a gentle man with with a tortured soul. She found herself falling for Marcus and falling fast. Could they find a love that would weather every storm?

Marcus Averill left Texas to flee his father’s hatred. When Marcus’ younger sister Ellie was killed in a car accident, his entire life changed. He was bogged down with guilt for falling asleep at the wheel and causing the fatal accident and had given up hope of ever reconciling with his parents. That is, until he met Lily Winter. That fateful day he sat beside her on that bench their lives became interwoven. Marcus helped her find her sister and she helped him find his way, his way back to his family and in the process she stole his heart. They both had their own separate lives they needed to repair, relationships that needed to be nurtured. Could they weather their storms and still maintain their love for each other? Or would making their family priority tear them apart forever?

This book was a firestorm of emotions wrapped up in one neat little package. The moment I opened the cover a whirlwind of emotions was unleashed in me and continued long after the last page was turned. I was quite literally emotionally drained. I have often marveled at a writer’s creativity and writing ability. That’s why I am a reader, not a writer. The way Anita Higman wove this story left me in awe of both her creativity and her God-Given talent as a writer. This story was absolutely beautiful and I often found the tears flowing unheeded. Winter in Full Bloom was about Love, family reunions and Spiritual awakening. I rejoiced in the transformation of some of the characters and I absolutely fell in love with Marcus just as sure as Lily did. All of the characters endeared themselves to me and I thoroughly enjoy traveling with them on their journey. You, too, will love the journey and I say that with the utmost confidence. If you haven’t read Winter in Full Bloom you surely don’t know what you’re missing!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the Miss Anita Higman for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine alone and mine alone and I received no monetary compensation.

My Rating:





Excerpt



Chapter 1 I sat on a 747, trying to talk myself out of a panic attack. The jet still sat on the tarmac, but already I could imagine—in electrifying detail—the fiery crash and then the watery pull into the briny depths of the Pacific Ocean. Lord, have mercy. What had I been thinking? Fool that I was, I’d left the sanctuary of my own home, which was safe, and hygienically clean, I might add, to board this death trap. Too late now. I’d taken a leave of absence from work, stopped the mail, given all my indoor plants to my neighbor, and said a doz­en goodbyes to my daughter, Julie. The trip was set in stone—the igneous kind that the geologists liked to talk about at work. While I sat there sweating, my mind got out its magnifying glass to examine my inner motives. All in all, the journey had a grab bag full of miseries attached to it. For me, getting on the plane proved that the empty nest had driven me over the edge like the bib­lical herd of pigs. Since my Julie had left the house, was I trying to find a person to fill that void . . . that vacant place at the table . . . the perpetual silence of the house and the clocks, ticking away the rest of my tedious life? Probably. And yet finding my sister in Australia would be no less than wonderful, whether Julie was at home or not. I looked out the small plane window at the heavens with my anxious puppy dog eyes and could almost hear the Almighty chuck­ling. Yes, I know, God. I must keep You entertained. 13 But back to the fear at hand. I rechecked my seatbelt and pulled it so snugly I felt my pulse throbbing in my legs. My stomach busied itself doing the fandango. What had I eaten in the airport? A double bean burrito with a side of green chilies. Not a good travel choice. Did I already have motion sickness? The plane hadn’t even taken off yet. If I were to exit the plane right now, would they give me a refund? Probably not. I’d already used the restroom, crumpled the magazines, and troubled the flight attendant for a ginger ale. Lord, I need a friend. I need backup. “You have to ask yourself: what am I most afraid of?” It was the voice of a child. I turned toward the sound. “Excuse me?” Straight across the aisle sat a child no bigger than a thimble—a girl with moon-shaped eyes, a Pooh Bear T-shirt, and a wad of gum she was chomping as if it were a lump of tough meat. Surely this child isn’t backup, Lord. I think God enjoys showing off His sense of humor. “You’re scared to fly. Right? I was too, but I got over it.” The girl blew a bubble and let the purple gum pop all over her face. She gathered up the gum and put it back in her mouth for another round. “How can you tell that I’m afraid to fly?” “All that sweat. Dead giveaway. And you look like you’ve just swallowed a Boogie Board.” She exploded into giggles. I had no idea what a Boogie Board was. And in spite of the sil­liness the kid talked as if she were thirty, although she couldn’t be more than nine or ten. I had to know her secret—how she managed to rise above her fears. And something about her little turned-up nose and soft brown eyes reminded me of Julie when she was little. “And so how did you get over it . . . the fear of flying?” The girl looked at me, her big eyes gobbling me up. She lost all the playfulness when she said, “I watched my grandma die of cancer. Her body stopped working, but she was still in there. It was a bad way to die. When I get old I don’t want to go to heaven 14 that way. Maybe dying on a plane isn’t so bad. I mean, I know God doesn’t ask us, but we might as well give Him a list of our preferen . . . choices.” I wasn’t sure if her reasoning reassured me or alarmed me, but I leaned toward her and said, “I’m sorry about your grandmother.” “Yeah, me too. She always played dolls and Mario Kart with me. Every kid needs a grandma like mine.” “So true.” If only my Julie would have had a grandma like that. When the girl said no more I turned my attention back to the plane, which now taxied toward the runway. My body wanted to flee. Each time I took in air it didn’t seem to be enough, so I breathed in more. Did I smell fuel? My head went so buzzy I’d only heard half of the flight attendant’s speech. What was that about oxygen masks and exit doors and life vests? Oh, my. I fanned my face. I clutched at my heart, which was now beating itself to death. Would I pass out? Throw up? Go crazy? All the above? The cabin felt like a caldron. Maybe the air conditioner was malfunctioning. Maybe deep within the belly of the plane other more important electrical devices were failing. Things that kept the plane aloft—things that kept us from plummeting to the earth in a fiery heap. I mashed my damp bangs away from my face. “Just so ya know . . .” The little girl crossed her legs. “I also found out that you can’t die of a panic attack.” Her tone came off so pragmatic I looked at her again just to make sure the words were coming out of her petite mouth. “How do you know I was having a panic attack?” She cocked her little Freudian head at me. “Classic symptoms.” Who was this kid? And where were her parents? I unbuckled my seatbelt. “I don’t think I can do this.” I jumped up and bumped my head on the overhead storage. “We’re about to take off,” the girl said with maddening calmness. 15 I collapsed back onto the seat and rubbed my throbbing head. The contents of my stomach threatened mutiny. “I’m going to be sick.” “Here.” The girl handed me a little folded bag. “It’s a fresh one. Never been used.” I was in a tin can with wings, and there was no way out. The plane took off then. I gripped the armrest as the jet tilted upward at a steep angle. I was now officially airborne. My body felt a little weightless, but it might have been because I was sitting on the buck­le of my seatbelt, which made my posterior go numb. “Know what? You remind me of Eeyore.” It was that kid again. How could anyone make chitchat at a time like this? I said nothing to her, since I was busy concentrating on my ter­ror, the vibration of my seat, and the roar of the jet. After she glared at me for a full minute, I asked, “Why do you say I remind you of Eeyore?” “You’re wearing Eeyore clothes, and it’s almost spring where we’re going,” she sing-songed as if she couldn’t imagine anyone so ill-informed. I’d forgotten. If it’s nearing autumn in America it’s almost springtime in Australia. I’d barely thought of it. Perhaps the girl was right about my connection to Eeyore. Wait a minute. Did Eeyore even wear clothes? “Just so ya know . . . taking off and landing are the two most treacher . . .” “Do you mean treacherous?” “Yeah. That’s it. Those are the two most treach-er-ous parts of the flight.” The girl wiggled her eyebrows while continuing to thrash on the wad of gum. “If we were going to die it would have been back there. Of course, we could also crash on landing.” 16 “Good to know. Thanks.” I continued to grip the armrests since I was somehow convinced that my gesture helped the pilots keep the plane in the air. “Just so ya know, I’m Jenny.” The girl held out her hand. “What’s your name?” “Mrs. Winter.” I let go of one of the armrests to shake her hand. “You may call me Lily.” “So, why was it so important for you to get on this flight?” The dainty psychiatrist turned her big, round eyes at me again. “Talking about it might help.” “Oh it’s a very long tale of woe. I’d hate to bore you.” “Hey, what else have we got to do? It’s better than thinking about our plane catching fire and bashing into the sea.” Her finger made a little nosedive into her palm. Cute. “True.” But I feared the telling of my story would be my undoing. Where could I begin, anyway? Maybe with the visit I’d had with my mother. “Are you sure you want to hear this?” She nodded her head with wild abandon. “Well, okay. My dark story starts with a recent visit I made to my mother’s house. It’d been ten years since the last time I’d seen my mother.” Jenny pursed her lips. “Nobody does that. Everybody has to see their mom, right?” “Well, it certainly wasn’t my choice. But when I got to my mother’s house, the visit turned out to be as shocking as sticking my finger into a light socket.” I frowned. “Don’t ever do that, by the way.” “I know.” Jenny rolled her eyes. “I’m not a child.” “Right. Okay. Well, in my story I also meet a woman named Dragan.” She giggled. “Sounds like dragon.” “True. Dragan was my mother’s housekeeper, and believe me, her name fit her well.” 17 Jenny sat up poised, resting her cheek on her index finger. “I wanna know more.” She smacked her gum, waiting for me to go on. “All right.” Lord, be with me. I rested my head back on the seat, inviting the memory of that infamous day into my life. First a jumbled mess of sensations trickled in, making me shud­der. Then mist burned my eyes, thinking of Mother’s notorious se­cret and a lifetime of deception. The smarmy residue from being in her house stole over me like a dark slithering fog. Soon that day—the one that changed my life—began to unfold in my mind, so intensely that the remembering and the telling of my story became one and the same. . . . 18

Click to Tweet: Amidst every storm their love remained strong.

Q & A: I ask the question… you supply the answer. 🙂


Lily and Marcus both were estranged from their families but for completely different reasons. In order to reconcile with their families they knew they needed to focus on them solely. To do this, they put their relationship on the back burner to be explored further once their lives were in order. Have you ever had to sacrifice a relationship for greater means? Feel free to share your story. 🙂

Katie’s Forever Promise by Jerry Eicher – Blog Tour & Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


In book 3 of author Jerry Eicher’s Emma Raber’s Daughter series, Katie puts her life together after Ben Stoll’s betrayal of her love. When she is baptized into the church, she receives a surprising offer that will keep her close to her Amish community—much to her mother’s delight.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Series: Emma Raber’s Daughter (Book 3)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736952551
ISBN-13: 978-0736952552

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Katie Raber sat on the tall, swivel chair with a smile on her face. She was now mistress and queen of this one-room Amish schoolhouse for the term. Her hiring had been reaffirmed this morning by Enos Kuntz himself, the chairman of the school board. Enos had paid her a special visit, leaving with a friendly nod and a quick comment. “I think you’ll do just fine with your new job, Katie. Let us know if you have any problems.”

Katie swept the top of her teacher’s desk clean with a shaky hand, pausing to replace the small plastic pencil holder she’d knocked over. On the other side of the room, pushed up against the window, sat a table loaded with the year’s supply of schoolbooks. She was a little scared, but she told herself there was nothing to worry about. This world of learning called her, just as she was certain it would also beckon eager young students once school began next week. And then, in less than two months, she would be twenty-one, considered an adult in her Amish community. Her wages would be her own to spend how she chose instead of sharing them with her parents—Mamm and her new husband, Jesse Mast. How blessed Katie felt. It was still hard to comprehend all the changes that had occurred in the last few years.

Katie stood and looked out the window. Enos was driving away in his buggy, his bearded face still visible through the open door. Calm was flooding over Katie now. There could be only one reason he would take the time to drive all the way over here this morning, the week before school officially begins. And it wasn’t because he harbored any doubts about her teaching abilities. The vote to hire her had been unanimous and given with pleased smiles on the faces of all three school board members.

No, Enos had stopped by to emphasize his approval one last time. Likely he thought she needed it—this being her first year teaching. But it was more than that. Enos knew the details of her past, as did all the Amish community. And they wished her well as she continued to put her life back together after the awful situation with Ben Stoll. Even now Ben was sitting in jail, serving out the last few days of his sentence.

Katie had survived that disastrous time because Da Hah had been with her, just as He’d been with Mamm and her after Katie’s daett died. And just as Da Hah had been with the two while Emma Raber raised Katie alone. Katie’s mamm had an awful reputation for a long time. After a love gone wrong in her teen years, a marriage to a man she learned to love, and then being widowed at an early age, Emma had chosen to remain a single mamm, raising her daughter on the land her husband had left her. She’d gone against usual Amish practice by refusing offers of marriage until, by Da Hah’s grace, she’d accepted a marriage proposal by a local farmer named Jesse Mast. That marriage had created a new atmosphere of change and acceptance, and Katie’s reputation had improved along with her mamm’s. After Katie fell in love with Ben and he’d turned out to be involved in the drug trade, part of her acceptance in the community came from how much she was admired for the way she’d handled herself since Ben Stoll’s arrest and imprisonment.

She’d loved Ben with all of her heart. And he had broken and smashed her trust beyond repair. Now he was no longer part of her life. That had all happened over a year ago, when the news of Ben’s arrest had reached Katie while she was in Europe with her Mennonite friends Margaret Kargel, Sharon Watson, and Nancy Keim. Only Da Hah’s healing touch a few days later had kept her from spending years in bitterness and sorrow. The miracle had happened the morning they’d gone up in a cable car high in the Alps to Schilthorn, where she’d seen the mighty works of Da Hah’s hands displayed in the mountain range around her. The tears had flowed freely that morning, washing the deepest pain from her heart. Afterward, she’d returned home and continued mourning her loss for a time, but without the crushing hopelessness that had first gripped her heart. Then last fall she’d made application to join the instruction class to officially join the Amish church, and this spring the wunderbah day had arrived. She’d been baptized by Bishop Jonas Miller himself! She was now a member of the church.

If anyone had entertained doubts about her, they’d been answered in how Katie had lived her life the past year. She still stayed in touch with her Mennonite friends Margaret and Sharon, but she saw them infrequently. The invitation to Margaret’s wedding had arrived in the mail yesterday, and Katie would certainly attend. Beyond that, Sharon and Margaret understood that Katie had made the best choice for her—to stay within the Amish faith. And it was, Katie told herself. Her heart was settled on the matter. The Amish were her people, and this was her home. She’d seen the land of the church fathers in Switzerland, and now she’d chosen this faith for herself. This community in Delaware was the place where her heart could rest for whatever time Da Hah had for her on this earth.

Enos’s buggy was already a black speck just before disappearing around the curve in the road. In addition to his interest in her success in the classroom, there was the suspicion on Katie’s part that Enos had hopes she would be his next daughter-in-law. She could tell by the light that sprang up in his eyes when he spoke to her of his son Norman.

Norman Kuntz, though, wasn’t like his daett at all. He was shy and withdrawn for the most part. The boy was handsome enough and came from an excellent family, so he ought to bubble with confidence, but he didn’t. So far he’d lacked the courage to take Katie home from the Sunday-night hymn singing—although he did spend considerable time stealing glances at her in the meetings. He’d mustered up enough courage lately to send a few tentative smiles her way.

There was nothing in Norman that set Katie’s heart pounding so far. Not like Ben Stoll had done. That had been another matter entirely. But Katie knew she shouldn’t be comparing Norman with Ben. Her life had changed for the better now, and she wasn’t going back to the past. Ben had been a terrible misjudgment, and she didn’t plan to repeat the error.

This time whoever the man was who drove her home, Katie wanted Mamm’s full support. And hopefully Jesse’s too, although he’d mostly care about whether the young man was a gut church member and knew how to work hard. Norman met both of those standards quite well. It helped, of course, that he would be a gut provider for his family, but that paled in comparison to the really important matter to Katie. Her main concern was that Norman would never do what Ben had done—break her heart.

Katie sighed, pushing the dark thoughts aside. Things were coming together well for her. This offer of a teaching job had been another blessing from Da Hah. One of the many she’d been given since Ben’s betrayal.

Katie sighed again, allowing her mind to wander into the past. For years she’d dreamed of capturing Ben Stoll’s attention. Mamm had warned her that such handsome boys were above her, and she shouldn’t dream that way. And that was long before Ben even knew Katie existed. But Mamm had been drawing from her own experience of rejection, and the young man she’d loved had never even asked her home. So Katie had rejected Mamm’s counsel and hadn’t drawn back when Ben finally noticed her at a Mennonite Youth Gathering. She’d ridden in Ben’s buggy and held his hand. They’d even kissed—often and with great joy. How could she have been so wrong about him? Katie pondered the question and managed a faint smile. Even in this situation she could be thankful. The pain of that question no longer stung as much. She’d given the pain and hard questions over to Da Hah. He knew the answers, and He would forgive her where she’d been wrong.

Now she was being given a wunderbah opportunity by the community. They were entrusting her with the care of their children for a whole school year. This honor had been held by Ruth Troyer for the past few years. After chasing Jesse Mast before he’d married Katie’s mamm, Ruth had finally found a man who asked to wed her—Albert Gingerich. He was an older farmer in the community whose wife had passed away last year.

Ruth had stepped down from consideration as a teacher this summer in preparation for her wedding, although she probably hadn’t imagined in her wildest dreams that Katie Raber would be offered her job. Ruth might have hung on for another year if she’d known that. After all, she’d been rebuffed by Jesse in favor of Katie’s mamm, Emma Raber, and the sting of the rejection and community talk surely still rankled in Ruth’s mind.

Katie smiled at the memory of Mamm and Jesse’s courtship. The two widows—Emma and Ruth—had faced each other down, and Mamm had won! The strange thing was that Mamm hadn’t put up much of a fight—at least not out in the open. But maybe that was the allure that drew Jesse in. Katie decided she needed to allow that Mamm had more wisdom than she let on at times. Ruth had had all of Jesse’s children on her side at first, and she put her best moves on Jesse by baking the pecan pies he loved. Mamm, on the other hand, had turned down Jesse’s advances the first few times he came calling, which seemed to make him all the more determined. And when she finally came around, Emma offered nothing but herself. In the end, all of Jesse’s children except Mabel, the eldest, had come over to Mamm’s side.

Mabel hadn’t been the easiest person to live with after the wedding, but since Katie’s return from Europe they were on decent terms. Mabel’s heart had been softened last year by seeing the great heartache Ben’s betrayal had caused Katie.

A rattle of buggy wheels in the schoolyard interrupted her thoughts. Katie walked to the window again. She gasped as Ruth Troyer climbed out of her buggy. What did she want? Had she forgotten some of her personal possessions? If so, she could have come in the evening after I’d gone home, Katie thought. But, there was no sense avoiding Ruth, so she might as well put on a brave front.

“Gut morning,” Ruth said with a forced smile when Katie opened the door.

“Gut morning,” Katie replied as she held the door and invited Ruth in.

“I thought I might catch you here this morning.”

“Yah,” Katie managed to get out, her smile gone now. “There’s much to do before school starts.”

Ruth pushed past her and bustled inside. “I thought I’d drive over in case you might want some advice, seeing this is your first term and all. And remember, I did teach here for three years so I know many of the students and the material. If you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer them.”

Katie swallowed hard. “Did the school board send you?”

Ruth laughed. “Nee, I’m here on my own. Don’t tell me you’re too high and mighty to accept help? Just because you’re a schoolteacher now doesn’t mean we don’t all remember where you came from, Katie Raber. After all, that man of yours is still sitting in jail.”

“I have no connection with Ben Stoll anymore,” Katie countered. “I haven’t seen him since before he was arrested.”

“Well, that doesn’t matter now.” Ruth breezed around the room, speaking over her shoulder. “I guess we all make our mistakes. But I, for one, would have seen that one coming. And I suspect your mamm did, but she was too busy stealing Jesse from me to warn you.”

Katie turned and watched Ruth. This was after all her schoolhouse now, and she’d better act like it was. Katie kept her voice even. “Mamm did have reservations about Ben—just to set the record straight. And she didn’t steal Jesse from you. Jesse made up his own mind.”

Ruth turned around. “Things do turn out for the best now, don’t they? Thank Da Hah Jesse didn’t decide on me. Then I never would have been available for Albert’s proposal. Did you know he farms more than 100 acres northwest of Dover? Some of the best black soil in the area. It’s worth a fortune. He’ll have a mighty gut heritage to hand down to his children.”

Katie forced a smile. “I’m glad for you, Ruth. And Mamm has fallen deeply in love with Jesse, so everything did turn out for the best.”

“It always does.” Ruth glared at Katie. “And I guess you know gut and well why you got this job. Enos is expecting quite a lot out of his investment, if you ask me.”

“I don’t expect you know what you’re speaking of,” Katie said. She tried to still her pounding heart. How this woman could get under her skin! Enos might hope she’d date his son, but he hadn’t made any requirement or suggestion for her to do so while hiring her.

Ruth laughed. “I don’t think you’re that blind, Katie. Enos is a man of high standards. And your past hasn’t gone away, believe me. He’s just overlooking it right now. But if you turn down the advances of his youngest son, I doubt if things will stay that way for long.”

Katie almost sputtered a denial, but she pressed her lips together instead. Nothing would persuade Ruth’s mind. Not once she’d made it up. And there likely was some truth to the woman’s statements.

Ruth smiled, apparently taking Katie’s silence as victory. “Let me show you the books then, and I’ll get out of here. I have a ton of things that need doing for the wedding preparations, but I told myself this morning that I owe you at least one visit since I was the former teacher. I’m aware you know nothing about teaching. I do hate to see you thrown into this situation and making a total mess out of it—to say nothing about all the decent learning from the past few years that could be lost. Let’s look at the books for this term.”

Katie walked toward the table by the window. Two of the books had fallen to the floor while she’d been going through them, but she hadn’t noticed until Ruth’s criticizing presence entered the room.

Ruth marched over and bent down to pick up the books. “This is no way to treat new books! I always told myself, if I don’t respect the school’s property, how can I expect ‘my’ children to? Because they do, after all, learn more by example than by any lecture. But how would you know such a thing? Your mamm probably never taught you much.”

Katie choked back her response. Ruth was trying to goad her into saying something she might regret. And Enos had just been here, and he’d said nothing about books lying on the floor. Everyone knew such things happened during unpacking. But Katie knew Ruth would only see more of Enos’s scheming and favor in his silence, so she might as well keep quiet about that too.

Ruth’s voice continued in lecture mode. “These are your first-grade reading books, Katie. Be sure to spend plenty of time with that age group. The children need to learn quickly because everything else is at a standstill until they learn how to read.”

Katie nodded, forcing herself to listen. Ruth was telling her some
gut things, and she did have much to learn. She even managed to keep a smile on her face as the former teacher droned on far longer than Katie had hoped. Over an hour later, Katie was more than ready to see Ruth leave. She summoned up her best manners as Ruth finally prepared to go. “Thank you for your time, Ruth. I do appreciate it.”

“It’s gut that you can listen,” Ruth remarked. “I guess your mamm taught you something after all. Now, will you come out and hold my horse for me? He gets a little skittish when I take off. Albert promised me a decent horse when I move into his house after the wedding. Now that’s a decent man, if you ask me.”

Katie held her tongue as she walked outside. She held the bridle of Ruth’s horse as the former teacher climbed inside the buggy.

“I hope you remember everything I told you,” Ruth said as she took off with a slap of the reins.

Grinding her teeth, Katie watched Ruth go. That woman was the limit and then some. But Ruth was also a creature Da Hah had made, and her elder besides. And the woman had given her some useful advice.



My Review:

Katie Raber was suffering from a broken heart. After years of being known as “Emma Raber’s odd daughter”, Katie had finally won the attention of the man she secretly admired. Things were going so well with Ben. Each week they went to the nearby Mennonite youth meetings together and a deep love for each other had come fast to their young hearts. But then Ben was arrested for selling drugs and sent to prison. Katie was angry at Ben’s betrayal and her heart was broken. Now Ben is out of prison and, after an attack on Ben’s life, Katie goes to the hospital to help him fight for his life. When the old feelings come flooding back can Katie fight them or will she give into what her heart wants? After Ben was arrested Katie worked hard to repair her reputation in the community. Is it worth risking to be with the man she loves? Will she follow her heart or let the warnings of the people around her keep her from her heart’s greatest desire?

Ben Stoll had been questioning the Amish faith for years so it was easy for him to get drawn into something so sinister as drug dealing. But when Ben started seeing Katie Raber he knew he wanted no more part of such dealings but, by then, it was too late. He was arrested and sent to jail to serve out his sentence. Now he was free and back home with his family. But would he ever be welcomed back into arms of the community. Most importantly, could he win back Katie’s heart? When he is shot and then asked to leave his beloved Amish community all seems lost but Ben holds out hope that the damage he has caused can be repaired. Being sent away by the Elders is devastating but Ben also knows it’s for the best until he can prove he is a changed man. With their faith in God and their love for each other strong, Ben and Katie fight for a life together while it seems the world is trying to keep them apart.

Katie’s Forever Promise is book three in the Emma Raber’s Daughter series. I found it can be read as a stand alone but I think I would have gotten the most out of it had I read it in sequence. I did love that Jerry Eicher brought in elements I’m not used to reading in Amish fiction. Drugs, abuse, jail and the court system. The characters were lovable with the exception of Katie’s step sister Mabel. I so wanted to shake her but, in the end, I learned to love her and even felt sympathy for her. I loved the way Ben and Katie continued to love each other and hold out hope through all the hardships and road blocks they faced. I would like to go back and read the previous books in this series to see the events leading up to book 3. If you like Amish fiction I think you will enjoy this book.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine alone and mine alone and I received no monetary compensation.

My Rating:



Click to Tweet: Their love had faced every challenge… Would God answer their prayers?”

Q & A: I ask the question… you supply the answer. 🙂


Katie and Ben faced several challenges on the road to love. What about you? Have you ever been in a relationship where you had hard challenges that were outside the norm to face? Leave a comment below and share your story.

Book Promo: Battlefield of the Heart by E. A. West

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Opal Campbell for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author of sweet and inspirational romance E.A. West is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. She lives in Indiana with her family and a small zoo of pets.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What started out as a bit of research for a sociology paper quickly turns into much more than Cindy ever expected. But can she survive Danny’s PTSD long enough to form a relationship with him?

Cindy Waymire, a college senior in search for a topic for an upcoming sociology paper, finds more than a topic when she meets Army veteran and college freshman Danny Flynn outside the student union. An undeniable attraction to this troubled veteran leads her on a difficult and winding path that brings her to a crossroads — get into a relationship with a man who has serious mental health problems or turn her back on one of the best men she’s ever met.

Can Cindy set her fears aside and follow her heart, or will the ghosts haunting Danny’s mind end their relationship before it begins?

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1492387207
ISBN-13: 978-1492387206

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The late August heat wrapped around Cindy Waymire like a thick blanket as she walked toward Whitcomb University’s student union. As much as she loved New Castle, days like this made her wish she lived in Yellow Knife. The guy standing on the sidewalk just ahead, however, made her thankful she was in Indiana.

A dark-haired guy with an athletic build, not more than an inch or two taller than her height of five foot nine, stood scanning the area as though he was lost. Clean-shaven, with just a hint of a five o’clock shadow along his jaw, he wore a T-shirt and jeans, both fitting just tight enough to hint at lean muscles. Cindy considered taking a candid photo and sending it to her girlfriends, but her cell phone was in her purse and digging it out would be too obvious. Maybe she could find another way to share this cutie with them.

His actions reminded her of her own during her first semester there. She’d had to ask someone where to find buildings so many times. Without those sympathetic upperclassmen, she would have been perpetually lost.

If he was a new student, that made her the sympathetic upperclassman. She stopped near him and smiled. “Hi, can I help you find someplace?”

He didn’t seem to hear her. She moved closer, thinking he might not realize she was talking to him. “Excuse me.”

He twisted and grabbed her wrist with startling speed. She screamed as he spun her around, bringing her arm behind her and forcing her to the ground as he said something unintelligible, but undeniably commanding. As he put a knee on her back and pulled her other arm, she heard people running toward them and prayed they could help. The guy was strong and no amount of struggling did any good. He just tightened his grasp on her wrists and applied more pressure with his knee, making it difficult for her to draw in a breath.

“Danny, let her up!” a male voice said as the running steps stopped beside them.

“He’s a threat.”

He? Before Cindy could figure out what the guy was talking about, she felt some of his weight lift from her back.

“She’s a noncombatant, Sarge,” a third male voice said.

The grip on her wrists loosened. “What?”

“You’re in the States, man.”

“Crap!” He released her wrists, and his weight lifted from her completely.

She scrambled to her feet, grateful she could breathe easily again. Turning around, she found two guys flanking the one who had attacked her.

“Are you okay?” the one on the left asked, his brow furrowed.

She drew in a shaky breath and tried to calm her racing pulse. “Um, yeah, I think so. Thank you for rescuing me.”

The guy in the middle looked so remorseful that she couldn’t help a bit of sympathy as he spoke quietly in a pained tone.

“I am so sorry. I didn’t realize what I was doing. Are you sure I didn’t hurt you?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.” Her wrist was starting to ache where he’d held it, but the way he hung his head made her hesitant to admit it. From the look of him, he didn’t need any more guilt. She noticed the two guys on either side of him looked unusually concerned when they glanced at him. Were they worried she’d file charges against him, or was it something more? “Are you okay?”

He dropped his gaze.

The first rescuer nodded toward the student union.

The other guy touched her attacker’s arm, and they walked to the building.

Cindy watched them go, and then returned her attention to the remaining rescuer.

“Danny’ll be okay,” he said, moving closer.

“What happened?”

“He had a flashback. By the way, I’m Josh Teague.”

“Cindy Waymire.” She rubbed her wrist. “What did he flash back to?”

“Probably Iraq. He just got back from his third tour about a year ago.” He motioned to the wrist she still gently massaged. “Are you sure he didn’t hurt you?”

She stilled her fingers. “It just aches.”

“Let’s go inside where there’s better light. I’ll take a look at your wrist.”

“Are you pre-med?” she asked.

“Nope. I’m a former army medic.”

Cindy raised her eyebrows as he held the door open. “What is this, Military Day at the student union?”

“No, the student veterans’ group is meeting here in a little bit.”

“I didn’t even know there was such a thing.” In the bright light of the student union, she got her first good look at Josh. He had short blond hair, hazel eyes, and looked remarkably familiar. “Are we in a class together?”

He led her out of the way of a student heading outside and studied her. “I don’t think so. Why?”

“You look familiar.” After three years at the university, nearly everyone on campus looked vaguely familiar. “Maybe I’ve just seen you around.”

“It’s possible. Now, let me see your wrist.”

She held it out, and he gently examined it. Despite a little redness from Danny’s strong grasp, there wasn’t any excruciating pain as Josh probed and flexed the joint.

Finally, he released her. “I think you have a mild sprain. I can get something to wrap it with to help with the ache, or I can walk you to the medical center so you can get it looked at by a doctor. What would you prefer?”

“I think I’d prefer to know why you’re so worried about taking care of me.”

“I’m hoping I can convince you not to call the campus police on Danny. He meant it when he said he didn’t know what he was doing. When a flashback happens, the real world disappears and he sees what happened in the past. It’s like he’s there all over again.”

“And I happened to take the place of a bad guy?”

“Yeah, it kind of looks that way.” Josh studied her, a glimmer of pleading in his eyes. “So, are you going to take pity on him and not report him to the police?”

Should she call the campus police or not? The university would want a report of the incident, but Danny hadn’t attacked her with any malicious intent. She was fairly certain he hadn’t even realized she was female. And he’d apologized and seemed to feel true remorse. After a little more deliberation, she felt peace about her decision. “I won’t report him, but I do want to talk to him. I have an insatiable curiosity for what makes people tick.”

“You probably don’t want to know what caused him to suffer from flashbacks.” Doubt filled Josh’s face.

“Actually, I do.” She made a quick decision. “I have to write a paper for my sociology class, and I’d like to write it on what it’s like for soldiers coming home and trying to adjust to life after the military.”

“That sounds more like something you’d write for psychology.”

“No, my professor has pointed out how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan affect everyone more than we realize, and I think he’d be interested in finding out how veterans handle coming here while trying to recover from being deployed.”

“Recover… that’s an interesting word to use.”

She shrugged off a flutter of nerves. “Maybe, but it makes sense to someone who’s never been involved with the military and doesn’t know anyone in it. Going by what they show on the news and the psychiatrists who get interviewed occasionally, everyone who serves in Iraq or Afghanistan has to recover at least a little before life is normal.”

Josh searched her face. Finally, he gave a single nod. “I know where you can find a group of veterans who can help with your paper. But first, you need to take care of your wrist.”

“Would it be too much trouble for you to wrap it? I’d rather not deal with the medical center.”

“I’d be happy to do it.” He slid his backpack from his shoulders and dug inside it, coming up with a chemical ice pack. After squeezing it a couple of times, he handed it to her and slung the pack over his shoulder. “Put that on your wrist. It’ll help with the ache and any swelling. Come with me to the meeting room, and I’ll wrap your wrist. That should give the ice long enough to do its job.”

Cindy pressed the plastic pack to her wrist, and the chill spread, numbing the ache. Although curiosity rose, she wasn’t comfortable asking why he carried an ice pack.

“Are you busy this evening?” He gave her a questioning look.

“Not really. Why?”

He wasn’t going to ask her out, was he?

“You can hang out with the veterans’ group and maybe get what you need for your paper. So far this year we only have combat veterans, but there were a couple of guys last year who never left the States during their enlistments. They may come back at some point. Anyway, we’re usually out of here by nine, although sometimes we go somewhere else and hang out for a while after the meeting.”

“Will anyone mind me being there?”

“It’ll be fine. I’m sure they’ll be interested in helping you with your paper, too.”

Cindy followed him into a meeting room with half a dozen men in their mid-twenties to early thirties sprawled in chairs at round tables. She spotted Danny off to one side, talking to her other rescuer and an older man.

Josh led her to a black guy with glasses. “Hey, Corbin, you got a roll of self-adhering elastic bandage on you?”

Cindy glanced at Josh, her mind on high speed. She’d expected him to go to the tiny general store on the first floor to get something to wrap her wrist, not ask a friend for it. What kind of guys carried first aid supplies with them?

“Yeah,” he said, his gaze sliding to Cindy. “Who’s your friend?”

“Cindy Waymire.”

Corbin reached into the backpack lying on the floor and pulled out a rolled, light brown bandage. “Here you go.”

“Thanks, man. I’ll bring this back in a couple of minutes.” Josh led Cindy to an empty table and had her sit down. He dropped into the chair beside her, and then loosened the end of the bandage. “Give me your wrist.”

She held out her arm.

The fluid movements of his fingers indicated he’d had a lot of practice. When he finished, he tore the material and gently pressed to make sure the bandage was secure.

“How does that feel?”

She flexed her fingers. There was enough support to prevent most of the discomfort. “Much better.”

“Good. Keep the ice on your wrist for a few more minutes. I’ll be right back.” He carried the remaining bandage over to Corbin.

A tingle of awareness lifted the hair on the back of her neck, and she glanced around, certain someone was watching her.

Danny looked even more contrite than the last time she’d seen him — something she wouldn’t have believed possible if she weren’t seeing it. He must have noticed Josh wrapping her wrist. He said something to the guys he was talking to, and then he walked over to her.

“Mind if I sit down?” Danny asked quietly.

“Go ahead.” She gave him a friendly smile and waved her hand at the chair Josh had vacated.

He lowered himself into the chair, his gaze on her bandaged wrist. “I thought you said you were okay.”

“I am.” She spoke gently. “It’s just a minor sprain, and it doesn’t hurt at all now.”

He glanced toward Josh and Corbin, who were talking a few tables away. “Did he tell you what happened?”

“He said you had a flashback and probably didn’t even realize I was there.”

“Would you believe I didn’t realize you were American until Alex told me you were a noncombatant?”

“Who did you think I was?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Danny shook his head and looked away. “The point is, I’m sorry. Most of the time I’m fine, but sometimes stress will get to me or something will trigger a memory and I relive some stuff.”

“Can anything be done to keep you from reliving it like that?”

“Therapy, time, maybe medication. I’ll know for sure if they ever figure out what works for me.” The vulnerability in his gray eyes made Cindy want to give him a hug. “I hope you don’t think I’m crazy. I’m not. I’ve just seen a lot of stuff, and I’m still trying to deal with it.”

“Josh said you did three tours in Iraq.”

“Actually, only the last two were in Iraq. I was in Afghanistan for the first.”

“I can’t imagine doing even one tour in either place.”

“It’s what I trained for.” He glanced around the room. “It’s what we all trained for. It was our job to go over there and fight for our country.”

She studied him for a moment, sensing his pride as a veteran, and her curiosity prompted her to ask another question. “Would you go back?”

He met her gaze and, for the first time, she saw strength and determination in it. “If they asked me, I’d go back right now. The job’s not finished yet.”

Josh stepped up in front of the group. “I’m glad you all came tonight. Before we take care of business, I’d like to introduce a visitor. Cindy, come up here for a minute.”

Why hadn’t he warned her he planned to bring her in front of the entire group? She’d thought he’d introduce her to a few veterans after the meeting. Fighting back a flutter of nerves, she set the ice pack on the table and joined him, noting the curious expressions. She prayed they didn’t think she was intruding.

“This is Cindy Waymire. She’s writing a paper on veterans going to college while adjusting to life after the military, and she would like to spend a little time with us as part of her research. All in favor of helping her?” Josh paused, and four hands lifted. After some hesitation and an exchanged glance, the other two guys raised their hands as well. Josh turned to her with a smile. “You have your guinea pigs. You can sit down now.”

She returned to her seat beside Danny, relieved they were going to help her. She’d been a little afraid they might feel insulted by being the subject of a paper.

“Now, I’ve been contacted by several local organizations and professors who want someone to come speak,” Josh said, picking up a piece of paper. “Anybody up for telling groups about the military?”

Cindy looked around the room as Josh paired volunteers with speaking engagements. With their apparent willingness to talk about life in the military, it wasn’t surprising they’d voted unanimously to help with her paper.

The older man nodded slightly as he watched the proceedings with an approving smile.

Danny leaned close. “That’s Dr. Logan. He’s our faculty advisor and a Vietnam veteran who went to college straight out of the army.”

She nodded as Josh moved the meeting on to their upcoming fundraiser: a dinner to help raise money to send care packages to those still serving overseas. Cindy remembered seeing the donation jars and boxes for the military for the three years she’d been a student here. Had these guys been recipients of any of the cards she and her girlfriends had donated?

Once the meeting adjourned, several of the veterans introduced themselves to Cindy, including Alex Dugan, her other rescuer. Alex invited her to join him and a few others for coffee.

Although her heart pounded at the thought of going anywhere with this many strange men, she set her nervousness aside and accepted the invitation. It would give her a chance to gather information for her paper. Besides, going out for coffee meant they’d be in a public place. She would be safe enough there.

These guys had all been through things she’d never be able to understand, and though they seemed willing to talk to her about their experiences, she worried it might bring up unpleasant memories for them as it had with Danny. She prayed the evening would be a positive experience for everyone.

As the group headed out of the student union, Cindy walked between Corbin and Danny. The falling dusk washed out the brilliant colors of the campus’s landscaping. A handful of stars already shone in the darkening sky, visible between trees and buildings. A few pedestrians strolled along the sidewalks, presumably taking advantage of the slightly cooler temperature brought by the arrival of evening.

Corbin lifted his eyebrows and waved his hand toward her bandaged wrist. “So, what did you do that required Josh to wrap you up?”

“Sprained my wrist on my way to the student union.” She didn’t feel right talking about Danny’s flashback, especially with him on her other side.

Corbin chuckled. “That takes talent. How did you do it?”

Danny sighed as he turned to Corbin. “I took her down.”

“One of those moments, huh?”

Danny’s jaw tightened and shadows darkened his eyes. “Fallujah, man. I saw flippin’ Fallujah.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah.” Danny glanced at Cindy and dropped his gaze. “I’m not sure you want to use me for your paper. I’m a bit of a freak.”

Corbin slipped behind her to put a hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Hey, we all have our problems.”

“Maybe, but I have more than the rest of you. I just hope I don’t harm anyone else.”

What had Danny been through? Cindy wanted to give him a hug and maybe remove some of the sadness from his eyes, but she’d just met him — a meeting that had made the evening awkward enough already.

“What about Lacey?” Corbin glanced at the group crowding the sidewalk. “Hey, does anyone know where Lacey is tonight?”

“I think she had a date,” Alex said from behind them as the group parted to let a bicyclist through. “She mentioned something about someone named Matt.”

“She skipped out on us for a date?” one of the others asked.

“Hey, at least she’s going out with someone.”

Corbin sobered, the teasing tone vanishing as quickly as it had come. “I hope it goes well for her. She deserves to enjoy herself.”

What could cause him to look and sound so serious about a girl having a date? Cindy looked from Corbin to Danny and back, her curiosity flaring to life. “Who’s Lacey?”

“Our lone female veteran,” Corbin said, his expression lightening. “You should talk to her for your paper. Get the female perspective.”

“That would be cool.” New possibilities for the paper spread out before her.

“You know, I don’t think anyone ever said what your paper is for,” Danny said.

“Oh, I’m writing it for my sociology class. My professor spends a lot of time pointing out how the War on Terror has affected the way we live and the current state of the world. Lately, he’s started talking about the Department of Veterans Affairs and the issues it needs to deal with in order to provide services to the large numbers of veterans created by the war.”

“Who’s your professor?”

“Dr. Brixton.” A warm breeze blew a strand of hair in Cindy’s eyes, and she swatted it away as they turned onto the street leading toward the diner at the edge of campus.

“You’re writing this paper for Brixton?” Alex asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Josh was in the same company as his nephew.”

“I should have remembered that.” She suddenly knew why Josh looked familiar.

“What do you mean?” Corbin asked.

“Dr. Brixton showed us a photo of his nephew and a couple of his friends. Josh was one of the friends.”

“Does he know you’re writing the paper for Brixton?” Alex asked.

Should she have told Josh who her professor was for before he offered to introduce her to the veterans group? “Not unless he knows Brixton teaches sociology. Why?”

“I figure if he knew you were writing it for his buddy’s uncle, he might have decided to stay out of it so no one can accuse Brixton of playing favorites if you get a good grade.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “If I get a good grade? Talk about a blow to my ego.”

The guys laughed as they dodged around a trio of students talking on the sidewalk.

She liked these guys and hoped she could develop friendships. With any luck, she could also meet Lacey. The way Alex and Corbin had talked about her made Cindy curious. Most people would consider it morbid curiosity, but she couldn’t help being interested in the human angle of war and all that went with it. If she could bring that down to a personal level, so much the better.

Review: The Jewel Bundle Trilogy 2 – Emerald Fire & Topaz Heat by Hallee Bridgeman

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Cover Rating:

Date Published: March 29, 2013
Pages: 484
Publisher: Olivia Kimbrell Press
Author: Hallee Bridgeman
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporay Romance
ASIN: B00C456DB4
Book Source: I received this book for free from Bookfun.org for my honest review.

Blurb:

Emerald Fire and Topaz Heat, the complete contemporary Christian romance novels and Books 2 and 3 of the critically acclaimed Jewel Trilogy are bundled together for the first time ever exclusively on Amazon. This is the complete story of Maxine Bartlett and Sarah Thomas, the two younger of the three half-sisters readers around the world have come to know and adore. These are stories of redemption and transformation that ultimately lead to the kind of love that will span all eternity.

In Emerald Fire, beautiful and vivacious Maxine finally finds a love that will release her from the prison of her terrifying past. But, will her new husband’s mistrust of God stand in the way of their happily ever after?

In Topaz Heat, readers are reintroduced to a grown up Derrick DeNunzio. Derek was a poor tough street kid made into a billionaire’s protégé and groomed for wealth and success. From the moment Derrick first met Sarah he knew he had found his reason to live. Sarah saw only an unshaven tough kid covered with tattoos and shut down every advance. A decade later, will Sarah finally set aside her prejudices and open her heart to true love?

You can purchase it Here:
Deeper Shopping  *  Barnes & Noble  *  Amazon  *  BAM





Author Bio:

Hallee Bridgeman lives with her husband and their three children in small town Kentucky. When she’s not writing Christian romance novels (hallee.bridgemanfamily.com), she blogs about all things cooking and homemaking at Hallee the Homemaker (halleethehomemaker.com).

Hallee started writing when her oldest child and only daughter was a baby, but a busy professional career and being the wife of a deployed soldier had her shelve her books for another time. Two more children, a cross country move, and God’s perfect timing brought the books off of the shelf to be dusted off and presented to you now. Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit. She prays her books are a blessing to you and would love to hear back from you. You can reach Hallee by using the contact information on her websites.

You can find Hallee Here:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter



My Review:

Maxine “Maxi” Bartlett has lived her life trying to forget the past. Growing up with a heroine addict for a mother who pimped herself out for drugs was rough but even more devestating was the sexual abuse at the hands of the men her mother associated with. Her memories were cold, dark and mentally exhausting but her art was beautiful, tranquil and peaceful. She used her painting to forget, to drown out the memories. Just as she used sports as a way to spend time with her best friend, Barry Anderson. Maxine has known Barry for several years having met him through her brother-in-law Tony. The only problem is Barry has been married for eighteen years to his college sweetheart Jaqueline. When tragedy strikes, Maxine only wants to show her support and be a comfort to Barry but what starts out as comforting a friend soon opens Maxine’s eyes to her true feelings for Barry. But will Barry’s sudden lack of trust in God come between them?

Barry Anderson has known for quite some time that his marriage isn’t what it should be. Although he has prayed for years that his wife will have a change of heart things continue to go sour. When Jaqueline dies suddenly, Barry turns away from God and runs straight to his best friend, Maxine Bartlett. Maxine has been his saving Grace for years. When his wife turned away from him it was Maxine he spent time with but it was only after his wife’s death that he began to realize his feelings for Maxine. Barry is afraid, afraid that his prayers might bring harm Maxine like they brought harm to his wife so he pushes Maxine away. But will more tragedy bring him back to Maxine and the God he so loves or will it drive them apart forever?

I loved Maxine’s character. She was perky and upbeat but underneath she was hurting and afraid. She was living with sexual abuse and I loved that she had an outlet in her painting. Like her older sister Robin from book one, she is very loyal and protective of those she loves. She struggled with her Faith, having never felt a true kinship with God, but, in the end, she came to love him fully and I think that is an issue we have all faced in our past. Likewise with Barry. He struggled with his trust in God. I loved that Barry was so loyal to his wife even after numerous transgressions on her part. He prayed regularly that God would help her love him again. I thought that showed a beautiful side to Barry’s character. He had a hard time coming to terms with his love for Maxine but, when he did, he jumped in with both feet. It was so amazing the way he took care of her even at her worst.

I thought Emerald Fire was a beautiful compliment to book one in the series and I have to admit I was excited to visit the characters once again. I wasn’t disappointed because Miss Hallee delivered book two with a true God-given talent for the written word. The characters were so true-to-life and faced real challenges and disappointments that everyone can relate to in some way. A personal relationship with God is at the forefront of their lives and they blend it beautifully with their personal lives as well. They turn to God in EVERY situation but, at the same time, the spiritual aspect is not overly done. I loved the relationship between Maxine and Barry even though I sometimes wanted to shake him a bit. I also think he handled Maxine and her memories of her past with a tenderness and caring that I found amazing. Emerald Fire is fictional romance at it’s BEST!



My Review:

Sarah Thomas had despised Derrick DeNunzio since the first day she met him in her brother-in-law’s kitchen standing shirtless over an uneaten tuna sandwich. The street kid with the chocolate brown eyes and the sharp tongue made her blood boil. When he moved away it was alright with Sarah. She didn’t even realize she missed him… Until he came back. After six years in New York she had managed to suppress the feelings Derrick stirred to life in her. Her adoptive parents had high standards and Sarah did everything in her power to uphold her squeaky clean image for their sake. Derrick went against everything she tried maintain and, for that reason alone, she did all she could to push him away. But when her car won’t start it’s Derrick that comes to her aid. When her father passes away its Derrick face she is most happy to see at the funeral. When her memories from the past begin to resurface its Derrick who is there to comfort her. When had he become such an important part of her life and just when had Sarah come to love him so much?

Derrick DeNunzio had left his past behind at the age of eighteen. Living on the streets and stealing to survive wasn’t a life he wanted or even wanted to remember. He owed his very life to Tony Viscolli. Tony brought him in off the streets, sent him to college, gave him a job welcomed him into his home. That first night was the night he met Sarah Thomas. Little pixie Sarah with the red, curly hair and pale skin moved into Derrick’s heart the very first time they met. He loved her then and, after six years separation, he loves her still. Derrick has prayed daily that Sarah will return his feelings and, just when he is making progress, his past comes back to haunt him. Will they have a future together or will a confrontation with a ghost from his past bring it to an end?

With their Faith in God and their love for each other, they meet their challenges head-on surrounded by the love of God and family.

I have to say, I loved Sarah’s character. Even though she was small in stature she faced the challenges that came her way like David faced Goliath. She was strong when needed and resented that everyone insisted on treating her like a child even though she was almost thirty. She had a brave spirit and was level headed in a crisis. She made me smile when she stood up for herself and finally put her mother in her place. But the thing I loved most about Sarah was the way she loved. God, family, friends and, in the end, Derrick. No one was untouched by her deep abiding love.

Derrick was a true hero. He survived life on the streets, cleaned up his act and made something of himself. I fell in love with Derrick’s character a little more with the turn of each page. The tough street kid had a heart of gold and continued to rescue Sarah all the way to the end. His undying love was a beautiful thing and, I have to admit, I had been rooting for him since he was introduced in book one of the series.

In my opinion, the books in this series just got better and better as they went along. The final book, Topaz Heat, was by far my favorite. I loved the main characters in this book the most I think. The way they came together to face their challenges, turned to God to handle their every need and the way they separated themselves from each other only to be brought back together in the end. It was a journey I thoroughly enjoyed. Anyone that knows me knows my heart is in historical fiction but I have to admit that this is the best series I have ever read… PERIOD. Although each book can be read as a stand alone, I encourage you to start with book one and follow through to the end. I guarantee you won’t have a problem following through!

My Rating:



Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the The Book Club Network for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine and mine alone and I received no monetary compensation.

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Book Tour – When Truth Whispers by Dora Hiers

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Pelican Ventures Book Group-White Rose Publishing (March 14, 2013)
***Special thanks to Dora Hiers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After a successful auditing career, Dora left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom to her two sons. When her youngest son didn’t want her hanging out at school with him anymore, Dora started writing Heart Racing, God-Gracing romance. Dora belongs to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Carolina Christian Writers. Dora and her husband, her real life hero, make their home in North Carolina.

When Dora isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, family gatherings, and mountain cabin getaways. She despises traffic, bad coffee, technological meltdowns, and a sad ending to a book. Her books always end with a happily-ever-after!

Readers can connect with Dora:
Website – www.dorahiers.com
Email – Dora(at)DoraHiers(dot)com
Blogs – http://seriouslywrite.blogspot.com/ & http://dorahiers.blogspot.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/dorahiers
Twitter – https://twitter.com/DoraHiers
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/dorahiers/boards/

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

After a humiliating breakup, best-selling romance author Teal Benning flees to Promise Lake to complete her current novel, minus paparazzi and flashing cameras. Suffering from writer’s block and a broken heart, Teal accepts the offer of help from neighbor, Hunter Miciver.

Hunter longs to be more than the friend who picks up the shattered pieces of Teal’s heart, but when Teal finds out his secret, will she see him for the man he is—a man of faith and devotion, a man who would cherish her for the rest of her days—or will she lump him into the same category as all the other men in her life, including her father?

Will Teal recognize when truth whispers her name?

Product Details:
List Price: $3.99
File Size: 276 KB
Print Length: 126 pages
Publisher: Pelican Ventures Book Group-White Rose Publishing (March 14, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00BUD26QC
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Lending: Enabled

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“You can stop screaming now, Kibbles. We’re home.”

Teal Benning downshifted and coasted into the gravel driveway, the wail of country music drowning the cicadas’ chatter coming through the sports car’s open windows. But the tunes did nothing to tame her cat’s occasional ear-piercing screech.

Home? Not technically, but close enough. She’d grown up in this tiny house tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Promise Lake.

For the last five years, home was in Atlanta, where she was Teal Benning, best-selling romance author and pro-basketball superstar Ian Hartsuk’s fiancée.

In Promise Lake, she was just Teal Benning.

Teal sighed and closed the windows. Jerking the keys from the ignition, the silence settled over her, and in the darkness, a glint sparkled from her finger, the remnant of her two-year-long relationship. Teal stared at the single diamond and clamped her lips together.

Correction. Ian Hartsuk’s ex-fiancée.

She tugged off the ring and smashed it deep into her laptop bag.

Why hadn’t she flung it at Ian’s head? She would have relished his expression as he watched several thousand dollars sink to the bottom of the hot tub. Wouldn’t that have been priceless? Nah. What was a few thousand to him? She’d figure out what to do with it later.

Teal stepped out on stiff legs, giving the short black dress a yank south and tugging her sweater tighter. She heaved the laptop bag over a shoulder and reached in for Kibbles’s carrier. Dried leaves crunched under high-heeled sandals as she wobbled around to the back of the car in the loose gravel.

The blackness settled around Teal’s throat like a noose. Her eyes burned, but she refused to give in to self-pity. What had she expected? Ian was no different from any other man she knew. Including her father. Cheating and lying, that was the name of their game.

Teal lifted her chin and pushed back her shoulders. All she needed was three months of disconnecting from the world and the constant paparazzi who hounded her in Atlanta. Without anyone traipsing around after her vying for the most obnoxious camera shot, and with Internet service more off than on, she’d forget all about Ian and the looming wedding date. The wedding that wouldn’t happen.

She had three months to pound out the words to the book that had already eluded her for eight weeks. Ninety days to create a heart-racing romance.

With a broken heart.

Teal clenched her jaw.

One look at the eye-popping price tag on the long white dress hanging in her closet in Atlanta would fix that.

Teal set the cat carrier and laptop bag on the ground and pressed her fingers against the tense muscles along the back of her neck, rolled her shoulders, and stretched. She reached into the trunk for her suitcase.

“Took you forever and a day to get home, Teal.”

Her head jerked up and banged against the trunk lid, breaking the expensive clip holding her hair in an elaborate twist. Hair fell over her eyes, and she lost her hold on the over-stuffed suitcase. It landed with a thud on the cat carrier, the contents spilling out onto the damp ground.

Kibbles screeched and clawed through the opening, then scampered away to cower in the bushes next to the house.

The voice in the darkness sounded deeper, richer, bolder, than she remembered. But comfortable.

And definitely amused.

“Make yourself useful, Hunter, and give a girl a hand.” She didn’t bother turning around, just knelt down and reached for the undies first. She scooped up the bras next and stuffed them in the suitcase pocket.

Yeah, she’d been angry and hurt. But was that an excuse to fling every stitch of clothing she owned into a suitcase for just a three-month stay? It wasn’t as if her mother didn’t own a washer and dryer. Sheesh!

“I’ll get this, Teal. You get that ferocious tiger of a cat.” Heavy footsteps ground into the gravel, and Hunter Miciver squatted next to her.

“Ha! That ferocious tiger weighs about seven pounds. All meow, no bite. Kibbles isn’t used to being outside. She’ll be lurking somewhere near the front door.” She snatched a stray bra off the ground and dangled it behind her back.

Hunter stuffed the rest of the clothes into the case and glanced at her, waiting, holding the lid open.

She rolled her eyes and crammed the bra into the case.

He closed the suitcase and unfolded to his full height, all six feet of him.

She stood, the top of her head reaching Hunter’s neck. Unlike Ian, where she’d barely reached his chest and always felt like such a minuscule person in the midst of his giant friends.

But then, they hadn’t turned out to be her friends, had they? Only Ian’s. Including her best friend, Kate.

Some best friend.

Not Hunter. He was a true friend, a lifelong ally. Had he known, Hunter would have warned her about Ian. Hunter couldn’t lie if his life depended on it.

Teal smiled. “Thanks, Hunter. It’s good to see you.”

A cool breeze caressed her face, along with Hunter’s scent. Different than what she remembered. Distinctly masculine with a hint of…she sniffed. Peppermint?

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you’re home. Crazy loud feline, and all.” Hunter closed the trunk lid and turned to face her. Even in the darkness, she made out the sympathy in his expression. Lacking his trademark smile and the crease lines around his eyes, both arms opened wide and reached out for her. “I’m sorry, Teal.”

She lifted her chin.

She. Would. Not. Cry.

Not over a jerk like Ian. And not even for two wasted years.

But, Kate? The first friend she’d made in Atlanta?

Teal couldn’t stop the single sob that crawled from the back of her throat. She took a step forward, and Hunter’s arms tightened around her.

She closed her eyes. A hug never felt so warm, so comforting, so…like coming home.

From Hunter Miciver?

Was that because she had known Hunter since elementary school? Hunter and his sister, Kelli, who lived across the street and were the only other kids in their neighborhood, played together after school every day. They spent the summers hanging out at the lake, and winter weekends skiing, tubing, or snowboarding.

Or was it because he acted like her big brother, too? He never complained about tagging along with her and Kelli on their first few dates. Crushing six teenagers into a car made for four didn’t even bug the guy.

Somewhere along their journey, Hunter had evolved into a friend with open arms, always willing to share a hug when her relationships soured and disintegrated.

Which they always did.

But a dear friend was all Hunter would ever be. Not quite marriage material. Or dating for that matter.

Not that she was looking. Because she was definitely not in the market.

She disengaged herself from his arms with a gentle step back. She didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.

A rush of cool air whispered by. She shivered and tugged her sweater tighter, rubbing her hands against the thin material covering her upper arms. “How did you know?”

He leaned against the car and crossed his arms. One brow lifted. “Your breakup is plastered all over the Internet, Teal.” He made the quotation symbol with his fingers. “Best-selling romance author suffers heartbreak—”

Sheesh! Was it an unspoken rule that the girlfriend was always the last to know her boyfriend was cheating on her?

“OK, Hunter. I get the message.” Teal sucked in a deep, shaky breath, the crisp mountain air soothing her battered spirit a little. “When did you get in?”

“Just drove into the driveway myself. Followed you in. Didn’t you see me behind you?”

No, she hadn’t. She had been…distracted.

By the image of Ian’s teeth nibbling a trail along some brunette’s neck, his hands blazing a different path. And the click before a camera flashed, the exact moment when she realized who the brunette hair belonged to.

Defeat and weariness weighed heavy against Teal’s shoulders. She sighed, sliding a gaze over Hunter, from the baseball cap hanging low over his head, past the black leather jacket and the snug-fitting jeans down to the tennis shoes. “You look great, Hunter. I like the whiskers.”

And the longish, curly hair. Not like his teen, geeky years when he always wore it short. And he had bulked out. He wasn’t so scrawny anymore. Not that she would share that little tidbit with him.

One side of his lips curved at her appraisal, and he hoisted himself away from the car. “Come on. Let’s get your stuff and your screaming cat, inside. Maybe I can talk you into throwing on a pot of coffee. That was a long drive.” Hunter grabbed the handle of her suitcase and heaved the laptop bag over a shoulder.

“Coffee?” She scooped up the cat carrier. “It’s after midnight. It’ll have to be decaf, because I don’t plan on staying awake all night.”

He gave his head a little jerk, the smile crinkles around his eyes more obvious. “Decaf? What’s up with that, Teal? You’re not even in your thirties, and you’re drinking decaf?”

She shrugged and slid the key into the front door. He didn’t need to know that she hadn’t slept a full night since…it didn’t matter. “So, what’s it feel like, Hunter? The big three-oh?”

“Just another blessed day in the big scheme of things, Teally.”

Hunter, ever the eternal optimist.

She understood a little of that now. Thanks to the military chaplain she’d interviewed for her last book. But lately, questions ping-ponged in her brain, growing more agitated the moment her head hit the pillow at night.

She pushed the door open and flipped on the light switch to the great room. Fur rubbed against her ankles as Kibbles darted inside.

“Wow! Your mom made a few changes,” he whispered.

The previous furnishings of worn recliners and a flea market sofa had been replaced with a couple new leather couches. Dark. Rich. Expensive. Definitely not her mom’s usual decorating touch.

Teal stared, gulped. “Yeah. I guess so. That’s what I get for not making it home in a while.”

“Too long, Teal.”

The sadness in his voice made her look at him. Some unreadable emotion lingered around his eyes, compressed his lips.

“Maybe, but how would you know? How many times have you been home in the last year?”

His face cracked into a giant grin. “Probably about as many times as you. But Kelli keeps me up-to-date with any changes on the home front.”

Kelli, Hunter’s twenty-eight-year-old sister was Teal’s childhood best friend, although mostly online now, since about four hours of driving time separated them. “The rat. I should have known.”

With quiet steps he disappeared up the stairs, carrying her suitcase to the bedroom her mother still preserved for her. She set the carrier on the hardwood floor and wandered into the utility room, removing her sweater and hooking it on the rack. Teal retrieved Kibbles’s food and water dish and filled them up, then dumped fresh litter into the box her mother kept for her visits.

Teal slipped back into the kitchen, breathing a quiet sigh that her mother hadn’t redecorated in here.

She flipped the coffeemaker switch as sneakers slapped the wood floor behind her.

“At least your old bed is still in the bedroom.” That voice, so deep and intense, did funny things to her insides. Weird.

Or was she just comparing Hunter’s deep tone to Ian’s voice, which seemed rather whiny in comparison? She frowned. She so didn’t want to go there, to be the kind of person who constantly trashed the ex-fiancée.

Water gurgled through the coffeemaker, the precious aroma quickly filling the small kitchen. She grabbed a couple mugs from the cabinet and automatically added sweetener to hers. Hunter liked his coffee black.

“So what’s going on with you, Hunter? How long will you be home?”

“Until the first week of January.”

She glanced over a shoulder, the coffee decanter hovering just above the mugs.

Hunter had taken off his leather jacket and lounged against the counter, arms crossed, his muscled upper torso filling out that black long-sleeved shirt, oh-so-nicely.

What was wrong with her? She blinked and turned her attention back to the decanter, now dribbling coffee on the countertop. “You can take off work that long?”

“Nah, not really. I’ll get some work done from here, including online meetings. But everybody needs a little downtime, Teal.”

Maybe she should have been a graphic arts designer. Granted, she had the flexibility to work from wherever she chose, but deadlines waited for no writer. Didn’t she know it? She had three months. Until February 17th.

She finished pouring the coffee and handed him the mug. “Where is home now?”

He cleared his throat, adjusted the ball cap lower over his face and mumbled, “Mostly D.C.”

Teal waited for him to elaborate.

“Teal, you’re home. I wasn’t expecting you until next week sometime.” Teal’s mother breezed into the kitchen. She planted a kiss on Teal’s cheek and gave her a one-armed hug, being careful not to spill Teal’s coffee. She did the same with Hunter. “Good to see you, too, Hunter.”

“I’m sorry to wake you, Ramona.”

Teal didn’t flinch at Hunter’s use of her mother’s first name.

Ramona had reverted to her maiden name after her divorce and despised the title “Mrs.” Everybody called her Ramona. Including Teal, most of the time.

“That’s OK, Hunter. I heard talking, and I just wanted to make sure that it was Teal.” Ramona covered a yawn.

That was odd. Who else would be talking in the kitchen in the middle of the night?

Teal narrowed her eyes and stared at her mother.

A new, colorful robe was knotted around her waist. And Ramona’s long hair? Where was it? She wore it now cut short, and angled at the bottom.

Teal’s jaw dropped.

Hunter reached over and propped Teal’s chin up with his thumb, a gentle expression on his face. Pity? Why not? He knew about her breakup and that she never handled changes well.

What a long day. All she wanted was to slink upstairs, curl up in the bed, and bury her head under a pillow. Would she wake up to find this day had been a nightmare?

“Nice hair cut, Ramona.” Teal managed to choke out the words.

And it was. Truly. But why would Ramona cut her hair?

“Thanks, honey. It was time to let my long hair go.”

The furniture. A drastic haircut and a brand new, flashy red robe.

What was next? The kitchen? Teal’s bedroom?

“Want some coffee, Ramona? I just made a pot. Decaf.” Teal sank onto the bar stool in front of the island.

“No. I’m headed back to bed. Is everything OK, honey?”

Teal stiffened. She hadn’t had a chance to break the ugly news. But that conversation would not take place tonight. Teal forced her lips into a smile. “Sure. Why?”

Her mother studied Teal’s short, black party dress. “Well, for one reason, when we spoke on the phone last, you said you were coming home next week.”

Hunter’s brows arched.

Next week. Yes, well, that was before the hot tub incident with Ian and Kate tonight. She sucked in a deep breath and tugged her dress down. She felt naked, exposed, vulnerable.

Hunter stepped so close she caught that whiff of peppermint again. He looped an arm around her shoulder.

She glanced up, surprised at the tenderness shining from his warm eyes.

“Isn’t it wonderful that Teal could work out her schedule to come home early for the holidays? It’s been far too long since we’ve had a chance to hang out. Maybe we can find time to hit the slopes sometime next month.”

Her hero, stepping in to save the day.

Or rather, to shore up the emotional dam that threatened to break. She managed to send a smile of gratitude and caught his wink.

His stomach growled.

All three of them laughed.

Hunter dropped his arm to pat his belly. “Quiet down there.”

“Hunter, I think you’d better feed that hungry bear hiding inside you. I’m sure I have something in this kitchen that you and Teal can scrounge up.” Ramona looked from one to the other, something akin to suspicion mingling with her smile. “All right, then, I’m off to bed. See you in the morning, Teal. Good night, Hunter.”

Well, that conversation was postponed. Thanks to Hunter. Missing the warmth of Hunter’s arm, Teal shivered and rubbed her arms. Why hadn’t she changed into jeans for the trip here? “Sleep well, Mom. See you in a few hours.”

“Good night, Ramona,” Hunter added.

Her mother padded from the room.

Hunter leaned back against the counter, sipping coffee. He’d changed. Grown and filled out. But he was still the same childhood buddy. She smiled.

“What?”

“Did I tell you it’s good to see you?”

“I missed you, too, Teal.”

“I didn’t say that.” She sputtered, swatting him on the upper arm. Her hand met firm, lean muscle. Stunned, she blinked. A couple times.

“It was implied.” Satisfaction gleamed from his roasted-coffee-colored eyes and curved one side of his lips.

“Would you like something to eat, Hunter? Ramona always has eggs and cereal in the house.”

Hunter pulled a cell phone from his jeans pocket and studied it. His eyes widened, and then his lips thinned. He scrubbed his beard. “I’m sorry, Teal, but I’ve got to run. Um…a client needs something. Will you be OK?”

A client? In the middle of the night?

“If one more person asks if I’ll be OK—”

“Hey. Don’t shoot me. Just checking. You just went through a rough experience, and I haven’t seen you in awhile.” He mashed the phone back in his pocket and drained his coffee, then pushed away from the counter. He rinsed out the cup, eyeing her over his shoulder. “You up for a run in the morning?”

Teal glanced at the kitchen clock. Two a.m. Now that she was away from the public eye, she might be able to catch a few hours of good sleep. “Hunter, I don’t know what world you live in, but it’s morning now.”

That familiar coaxing smile appeared, the one he always used to cajole her into cooperating with his plans. He slid an appreciative glance over her bare legs. “You may be just a tad out of shape, Teal, but you’re not too far gone from our track days. What? Are you afraid I’ll show you up?”

“Out of shape! Show me up?” She snorted and stood up. “Right. Like that’s going to happen.”

“OK, then. How about seven-thirty?”

She didn’t usually work until Saturday afternoons, anyway. And it was just a run, not an all-day event.

“Only if you promise to throw in breakfast, too.” She groaned. How had she let him talk her into this?

One dark brow arched, and he flashed a wicked grin. How did he do it? This cheeriness. At two in the morning.

She wanted to growl.

“It’s a deal, Teally. With at least a gallon of coffee, too. I’ll meet you here.”

“Awful smug, aren’t you? We’ll see if you’re singing the same tune after you’re eating my dust.” She mumbled as she flipped the coffeemaker off and followed Hunter to the front door, her gaze drawn to his bulky shoulders and wide, strong back. Hunter must be on some workout regimen.

“G’night, Hunter. Sweet dreams.”

He glanced over a shoulder, his eyes suddenly dark and unreadable. “Night, Teally. See you in a few hours.”

She closed the door behind him. She was glad Hunter was home. Maybe they could spend some time together, revisit their teen hangouts like the ski slope and the lake.

February 17th. Burn that date in your brain, Teal.

She had three months to finish this book.

She couldn’t afford to let Hunter be a distraction.

****

Hunter cocked his head, listening for the click of Teal’s deadbolt, and popped a peppermint in his mouth.

Sweet dreams?

Hunter didn’t have time for dreams. He needed to get to his computer. Fast.

And hit the bathroom even faster.

He couldn’t afford to let Teal be a distraction.

For now, anyway. Not when Shale needed him.

He probably shouldn’t have spared the precious minutes to come over to see Teal. But she had surprised him by turning onto their small road ahead of his car.

And here he was. Like a moth drawn irresistibly to the light of her smile.

After all, shouldn’t there be some perk to being in Promise Lake and not halfway across the world?

The real reason he’d returned to this side of the world growled again, disrupting the peaceful night. Pain shot through his gut. He pressed a hand against his stomach.

A distinct click rattled from the other side of the door.

He hustled to the end of the driveway, and then jogged across the street to his parents’ house.

What happened to the operation? He didn’t expect to hear from Shale until sometime tomorrow, er…today. Later today.

“What’s going on, Shale?” he huffed, under his breath.

Hunter stopped to grab his bags from the car then raced inside and up the stairs towards his old bedroom. He set the bags down and hit the bathroom.

When the overseas doctor suggested medical tests, he had said no. What would happen if the doctor found something that required surgery? How would he cope by himself? Here in the states his family could help if surgery was necessary.

Relieved for the moment, he sank into the desk chair, which squeaked, as loud and obnoxious as ever. He booted up the computer and tugged his favorite sports cap off, running a hand through his hair. “Come on. Come on.”

Finally. He tapped at the keys, and while he waited for the program to load, he pulled out his cell phone and texted Shale.

Hunter glanced at the bed next to the desk. He closed his eyes and rubbed them, and then circled his neck to work out some kinks.

Two-thirty.

Samson, his parents’ ten-year-old golden retriever, ambled into the room and gave him the “What are you doing interrupting my sleep?” dogface.

“Hey, old buddy. How’s it going?” Hunter scratched the dog’s head until Samson plopped down on the rug and huffed.

“I’m with you, buddy.”

With a couple hours of work ahead of him, he would be lucky to catch some sleep before he left to run with Teal.

What would it be like to have a normal job? One where he could be snuggling under that toasty comforter by now. Where operatives or assets situated all over the world weren’t texting him at odd hours of the night. Er, morning.

Or to be married? With a wife to warm his bed, to cozy up to him with a hug at the end of a long day. And a family to come home to, with plenty of kids to help him see that the world wasn’t all bad. To bring the smiles and the laughter back into his day.

God, will Teal ever see me as the right man for her? Not just some jerk who will treat her bad, but the one who will show her what true romance is? With Your help, I would do my best to take care of her, love her, and cherish her for all of my days.

He would give up the job for her. In a second.

But one thing he wouldn’t do.

He refused to be someone she turned to for hugs and comfort when her boyfriends dumped her. Or the other way around.

And what’s the first thing he did tonight when he saw her?

Offered a hug.

Mush ball.

Hunter checked the screen. Time to get clicking.