Category Archives: Novel Spotlight

Natalie’s Deception with Bonnie Engstrom

IMG_0171 (1)Lies, guilt, stalking. Natalie is injured and left lying on the ground. Melanie is terrified of her step-father. Bryce is drowning in guilt. Billy is frustrated, mad at himself. Emily is despondent. Claire has something up her sleeve.

Two handsome men vie for Natalie’s attention, traveling from Newport Beach to Scottsdale, Arizona to woo her. But one caused her back injury, and one strands her on the top of a Ferris Wheel knowing how terrified she is of heights, even though she took sky-diving lessons with him.

Depressed Emily confides in Natalie, and Emily’s life takes a turn thanks to Nick’s meddlesome mother, Claire. Is love still possible? If it is, what would the Feng Shui designer chose as a wedding theme? Certainly, not pink. And, hot dogs at the reception?

Will Natalie ever find love? She wants it badly, but is thrilled two Candy Canes are expecting babies. She will be an aunt again. But, when will she be a wife and mother?

Excerpt:

Natalie stared at the ceiling in her bedroom. Her life seemed to revolve around a cat and her friends. No romance. She knew of all the Candy Cane sisters she was the least chic. Doreen was a model now, Noelle with her blonde hair and effervescent personality and stylish taste in clothes had always been dubbed stunning, Connie was a fashion designer and pretty and wore her own gorgeous designer clothes as well as now being married to a handsome banker, Candy was just Candy. She was truly beautiful and loved so much by a man who showed that love to convince her to marry him – twice. Cindy, of course, glowed with the Lord’s light. She was the consummate leader, the one who encouraged and prayed and the one they all truly believed would plant a church in Costa Rica, the one who loved Rob with all his health failings, the one who had given all of them the first Candy Cane baby. Now, because of Cindy, they were all aunts.

Her mind wandered to Melanie, the latest Candy Cane who was so graciously accepted after she had caused Doreen’s accident. Melanie was special and had become an integral member of the group. She prayed with them, she supported them, she shared her own pain. Natalie felt a unique bond with her. Yes, she was special.

What was she, Natalie? How special was she to anyone?

New Website photo 6-7-15 IMG_0903“A grandchild.” What Bonnie Engstrom prayed for many years. Finally, it happened, then there was the explosion – six grandchildren! Four live in Scottsdale a stone’s throw from her and Grandpa Dave, and two live in Costa Rica on the beach. Surf’s Up! Pura Vida. All make occasional cameo appearances in her stories.

When she finally realized her other dream of publishing Christian fiction she sandwiched it between taking grandchildren to soccer practice and gymnastics (after the years of changing diapers). Now, she juggles picking up four children after school to help her daughter who is the director of a Christian Pre-school and Kindergarten, and when the kids are settled with their IPads (best Christmas present ever), she slinks into her den and writes.

Life is frantic and crazy sometimes, but always entertaining and filled with joy.

Bonnie and her psychologist husband Dave have been married for over 53 years. A true milestone for a shrink. Yes, we all affectionately refer to him as the resident shrink who now teaches online classes for the University of Phoenix and classes at the hospital where he is on staff, and frequently babysits his grandkids. He is a great support to Bonnie in her writing, and as the now resident chef makes a succulent dinner.

Bonnie was raised in Pittsburgh, PA and Dave in Chicago, and they raised their children in Newport Beach for over thirty years. So, if you have roots in any, please share. If you wish to contact her, please email her at bengstrom@hotmail.com. Be sure to put the word BOOK in the subject line in case your post goes into her crazy junk mail file.

If you enjoyed Natalie’s Deception, please start from the beginning of the Candy Canes stories and read Noelle’s Christmas Wedding. I promise you will not be disappointed. All the Candy Cane girls are unique and have fun, share faith and friendship.

 

You can also reach Bonnie through her website www.bonnieengstrom.com and Face Book. Put her name in, but she is not a frequent FB contributor because she is not real good at it.

Amazon purchase link: http://amzn.to/2mbNDRn

 

 

With Good Intentions with Jo Huddleston

Jhuddlestono Huddleston is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories. Novels in her West Virginia Mountains series, her Caney Creek series, and her standalone novel, Tidewater Summer, are sweet Southern historical romances. Jo is a member of ACFW and the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN). Learn more at www.johuddleston.com where you can read first chapters of her novels and novellas and also sign up for her mailing list.

 

 

with-good-intentionsWith Good Intentions is A sweet romance spiced with deception, set in 1959.

Jean Stewart and her mama stand firm to protect their family business from a big-city developer’s takeover. Oscar Wainworth sends his son William to convince the ladies to sell their property. William has an instant attraction to Jean, believes he shouldn’t be the one to discuss the sale with the Stewarts, and gives them a fake name. If they know he’s a Wainworth, he’s likely to find himself out on the sidewalk.

One lie leads to another until William may have dug a hole too deep to escape. By stealth he learns that Jean can’t associate with anyone who is dishonest. To win Jean’s love, William must convince her that his lies flowed from good intentions.

Chapter 1

October 1959—Birmingham, Alabama

William Wainworth shifted in his chair, stretched his long legs beneath the massive conference table, and braced for the impending reprimand from the CEO. This regular Monday morning meeting of Wainworth Development sales staff had gone on longer than he’d expected.

He would loosen his necktie but doing so would violate the expectations Wainworth’s CEO held for his male employees: wear a coat and tie when representing Wainworth Development. His daddy being the CEO of Wainworth Development, William had that rule ingrained in him from an early age.

Among other stellar traits, his daddy dressed immaculately, and he expected his workforce to follow his example. His appearance had favorably impressed many clients who sat with him in his Birmingham office. Every weekday, he never ventured outside his home without the requisite coat and necktie. William had never seen him wear wrinkled pants or curled-up shirt collars.

Now, Oscar Wainworth stood tall, slender, and good-looking between the head of the table and an easel, his index finger tapping on a sketch positioned there. William moved his attention from his daddy to the sketch, a street-level drawing of storefronts along a sidewalk in Conroy, Alabama.

Wainworth Development sought to purchase that entire block of businesses, demolish the buildings, and replace them with an apartment complex having a bookstore on the first floor. Sitting across the street from a growing college, the location proved ideal for Wainworth’s purpose.

The building plans had received the city’s approval. Wainworth representatives had successfully gained signatures on real estate contracts to acquire all the properties except one. The smallest business on the block refused to sell, despite repeated overtures from Wainworth Development.

Oscar Wainworth faced the dozen or so men seated around the table in chairs upholstered in rich, brown leather. He put his palms on the gleaming tabletop and leaned forward. “Gentlemen, this one small store is the monkey wrench in this whole deal. We’ve bought up all the properties on the block, yet here’s this little hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop smack-dab in the middle that you’ve not convinced to sell. Why is that? Why this one store?”

Mumbled reasons and comments circulated around the massive table. William and Oscar had heard them all before. Oscar Wainworth stood straight, his six-foot-four height menacing, and met the eyes of each salesman. “Yes, the owners are females, and you’ve all probably tried to be gentlemanly in your contacts with them. That’s commendable and appropriate.

“But, men, you need to work with these ladies just as you would any other client. Wainworth Development is a business, and you must conduct yourselves accordingly—doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a man or a woman. However, it’s time to get tough with these women. Understood?”

The men bobbed their heads in sync as if they followed the directions of an orchestra conductor, and his daddy continued. “Do I have to go down there and show you how it’s done? Must I close this deal myself? I assure you I will not be happy if I do.”

His gaze settled on his son. “William, I want you to go down to Conroy and convince the owners to sell. This has become a special case, and if you’ve learned anything from me in your thirty-two years, you’ll be successful. You drive on down there and stay as long as it takes to get the job done.”

“Yes, sir, I will.”

“Get going. Now.” He waved a hand toward the closed door to spur William into motion. “Ask Gloria for the files on this property and be on your way. Check back with me when you get there.”

William pushed his chair away from the conference table and rose. “Yes, sir.” His daddy was a workaholic, especially since his wife, William’s mama, had died five years ago. Oscar Wainworth put in a sixty-hour work week, never leaving a job undone. He expected similar dedication in his staff.

Finally outside the conference room and waiting at Gloria’s desk for her to collect the files, William exhaled. He didn’t mind that his daddy booted him out of the meeting—anything beat sitting in a stuffy roomful of cigar smoke.

Gloria returned and handed him several file folders. “Here are the files you need. Good luck. I hope your trip goes better than those of the other men Mr. Wainworth has sent down there.”

“Thanks. Where did the other guys stay? You got the name of a hotel?”

“Yes, they stayed at the Conroy Hotel. I’ll telephone to reserve you a room. How long will you be staying?”

“Maybe for the remainder of the week.”

~

Same Day—Conroy, Alabama

William carried his luggage up to a second-floor hotel room, then returned downstairs to grab a late lunch in the hotel’s dining room. When he crossed the lobby, the antiquated wooden floors groaned beneath his every step. Inside the dining room, booths lined one wall and tables covered with white linen tablecloths dotted the floor space.

He asked the hostess for a booth, and she seated him at a high-back wooden booth near the entrance. After a light lunch of steaming vegetable soup and a ham sandwich, he found a pay phone in the lobby and stepped into the booth to call Birmingham.

“Good afternoon. Wainworth Development.”

“Gloria, ring my daddy’s office, please.”

Shortly, he heard his daddy’s voice. “That you, William? How does the lay of the land look down there?”

“Just letting you know I’m here. Haven’t seen the owners yet, but plan to go there now.”

“Fine, fine. How about you call me every morning about ten o’clock to bring me up-to-date with what you’re doing? We’ve got to get this deal finalized.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll do that.”

William stepped out of the telephone booth to walk outside the red brick hotel. He stood on the sidewalk, hands shoved into his pants pockets. Without haste, he scanned what he could see of the town—to his left, a bank stood on the corner, and to his right, a drugstore anchored that corner, its front facing away from him.

Not many folks moving around, and from the casual dress of those passing by him, then had to be college students. He glanced at his polished shoes and creased dress pants—shades of Oscar Wainworth. He’d stand out like a palm tree at the North Pole among these young people. Might as well put a sign on his back saying, Here I am from the big city. I want to buy your property.

He returned to his hotel room, tugging off his necktie as he opened his luggage. Later, again on the sidewalk, dressed in blue jeans with his long-sleeved dress shirt now open at the neck, his black leather bomber jacket, and loafers, William breathed in the fresh air. A satisfying change from the pollution that filled the air over Birmingham.

Turning to his right, he sauntered west until he reached the corner and stopped. He faced the street in front of the drugstore and read the signpost: College Street. Some committee must have worked many hours to come up with that original name—the street sliced through downtown Conroy, Alabama, between the college and the town. The next block to his left held the businesses Wainworth Development had bought. Except for the ice cream shop. Might as well head on down there.

He crossed the street when the traffic light changed. Again on the sidewalk, he passed the stores that would soon disappear once Wainworth had acquired all the properties.

Before he reached his destination, the clock tower atop a lofty red brick building across College Street tolled the hour. Three o’clock. A spattering of foot traffic moved across the manicured lawns of nearby campus buildings. Probably class-changing time.

A short distance farther, William stood outside the building whose purchase depended on him. The sign above the door read: Stewart’s Ice Cream Shop.

Inside, William verified that his daddy had been correct when he referred to the business as a hole-in-the-wall place. With about only 400 square feet, the twelve-foot wide, deep room measured about thirty-five feet from the entrance to a closed swinging door in the back. Along the right wall, chairs occupied the length of the room, stopping at a pay phone attached to the wall and a display case that faced the entrance.

The tile floor shone, and on his left stood three ice cream cases, each about eight feet long. Their fronts were white and spotless, and no fingerprints smudged the glass through which sat numerous opened tubs of ice cream. The sweet, pleasant scent of ice cream filled the room and drew William to follow the customers already in the shop.

He fell in line with a few college students awaiting their turn to be served. The kids weren’t impatient, but rather they calmly shuffled toward the cash register. He’d skipped dessert in anticipation of his visit to the ice cream shop, and the various flavors listed on the wall tempted him.

An attractive woman probably in her late forties with dark hair and a pleasant face worked efficiently behind the counter. Another female stood behind the tall display case near the rear of the room. He could only see the back of her head and didn’t have a clue to what she did. Soon William stood first in the line.

“May I help you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, ma’am. I’d like a cone—two scoops, please.”

“What flavor?”

“Vanilla and chocolate. Would you please put the vanilla on the cone first and then the chocolate?”

The woman dipped his ice cream onto a cone while William read the flavors painted on a wooden board hanging above a counter behind her. “You certainly offer a lot of flavors here.”

“And yet you choose our trusty standbys—vanilla and chocolate.”

“Yes, ma’am. Always been my favorites.”

William paid for his treat and took a seat in the last chair against the wall. From there he had an unlimited view of the business except for the area behind the display case to his right. His attention fell to the contents of the case. Behind the glass sat numerous delicious-looking desserts—artfully decorated cakes and pies waiting to be personalized with someone’s name, a tray of individually-wrapped ice cream sandwiches, and two log rolls made of chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.

Everyone had been served, and either left with their ice cream or taken seats along the wall to eat their treats. The woman who had served him sauntered toward where William sat. She stopped at the empty counter space across from him, reached underneath it, and brought out a large piece of flat cardboard decorated with balloons of red, blue, green, and yellow and the name of the ice cream shop.

While the woman worked with the cardboard, she spoke to the girl behind the display case near him. “Did any Wainworth people contact you before I came to work?”

William angled his body toward the entrance, pretending lack of interest in what the woman had said. He watched the traffic outside the front window but kept his attention on the conversation before him.

The girl behind the display case joined the woman assembling the cardboard into a cake box. “No, ma’am. No one has come by or called, which is unusual for a Monday. For weeks now they’ve been persistent, showing up here almost every day.” The girl had on a white basic bib apron, as the older woman did, over her skirt and blouse and wore blue Keds on her feet.

“Maybe you’ve finally convinced them you mean it when you say we don’t want to sell.”

“Mama, I hope so, but I doubt that.” The two could be sisters, as attractive as they were, rather than mother and daughter. Probably the owners. The girl reached beneath the counter and pulled out another sheet of cardboard to give the older woman. “I’ve talked with some of the other business owners, and it appears we’re the only holdouts on the block.

“If that’s the case, rather than give up, Wainworth Development will increase their pressure on us to sell. I cringe every time someone dressed in a suit and necktie come through the door. All the Wainworth people think they can make us sell—they’re so arrogant and expect us to roll over and play dead when they wave money in front of us.”

Good thing William had changed clothes before visiting their shop.

“Their money would be nice, Jean. We could pay off the mortgage here and have some left over. I could get used to not working outside the home again.”

“Mama, please don’t go soft on this. We’re not going to sell! Daddy started this business, and we’ll do everything we can to keep it going.”

Jean’s mama put the assembled boxes underneath the counter and started toward the cash register to help new customers. The girl returned to whatever kept her busy behind the dessert case.

William left his chair and stepped nearer the display case, continuing to enjoy his ice cream cone. Bending at the waist and peering inside at the cakes, William didn’t notice the girl behind the case had approached him. A female voice drew his attention. “May I help you with something from the dessert case?”

He straightened and turned toward the voice. When their eyes met, hers were the color of the deepest part of the Gulf of Mexico waters and turned him into a bumbling adolescent. “Ah, well, no, thank you. Just, uh, looking. Did you make all these pretty cakes?”

She smiled, apparently enjoying his discomfort. “Yes, I did. See something you like in there?”

Not in the dessert case, he didn’t. But he wouldn’t mind getting to know the dark-haired woman standing next to him. “No, thanks. Guess I’ll just finish this cone I’ve started.”

“I recognize our regulars, the college kids, but I don’t believe you’ve been in here before. You new in town?”

“Yeah, you could say that. I’m, er, I’m doing some work on the college campus.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

“Uh, helping one of the professors with some research.”

“Then welcome to our town. I’m Jean Stewart.”

“Thanks. I’m Will….” Beyond her shoulder, he saw the wooden board where they listed their ice cream flavors. “…Will Woods.”

Book’s Purchase Link:

http://amzn.to/2lTR7LF

 

Links to Huddleston Online:

Website and blog (Read novel first chapters here): http://www.johuddleston.com

Sign up for Jo’s mailing list: http://bit.ly/1ZFaZwG

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2cfSroU

Facebook author page: http://bit.ly/2aqFEeT

Facebook personal page: http://on.fb.me/1Ubic69

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1QAPtFv

Inspirational blog: http://bit.ly/2gttKVr

BookBub Profile: http://bit.ly/2liB0G3

 

#NewRelease A Love Song for Kayla by Kimberly Rose Johnson

In an earlier post I mentioned that I would be going indie. Well, I did it! Feb. 2nd I released A Love Song for Kayla. This book was originally published in 2015 by my then publisher, but since I have my rights back, I changed the title and put on a new cover. The story is the same.

love-song-ebook

Here is the back cover blurb.

When two strangers cross paths their lives are forever altered.

Ever since she was sixteen Kayla Russell has dreamed of her perfect man. She even went so far as to make a list of desired qualities. The list has proven to be a bust since no man is that perfect, at least until she meets Derek. But will his secrets come between them and destroy what could have been something wonderful?

When music superstar Derek Parker comes to small town Oregon to escape the paparazzi he goes incognito as a deliveryman. He wants to leave his old life behind, but it proves to be harder than he realized when his past finds him. Now the woman he has come to care for feels deceived and no longer wants anything to do with him.

Formerly published under the title A Valentine for Kayla.

This story was born out of my own dislike of Valentine’s Day. I literally began writing it on Valentine’s in 2014. Here is a short excerpt. I think you will see my own angst reflected in Kayla.

I hate Valentine’s Day.” Kayla Russell secured a flower arrangement in the delivery box, then moved on to the next one in a long line of vases and baskets filled with colorful flowers and greenery. Everywhere she looked there were hearts or cupids to remind her of the dreaded day.

Her best friend and business partner, Jill, shot her the look—the one that said Spare me. “I’m sure if you had a boyfriend, you’d feel differently.”

“Unlikely. Think about it—no matter how you look at it, unless your man is Prince Charming, there’s no way he can live up to the hype. The day is one big disappointment.”

“I’m glad everyone doesn’t feel that way or you and I would be out of business. Have you looked at the orders? I’m going to be working all night just to get everything finished in time for Charlie to deliver tomorrow.”
Kayla bit her bottom lip. Flowers and More depended on successful holidays to keep their doors open. Sure, they stocked gifts and music, but the big money came from days like Valentine’s. She glanced at the clock. “I wish the UPS guy would get here. He’s late, and I needed the cards for the flowers yesterday.”

“Use one of the generic cards with our logo. No one will care if there’s not a heart on the card.”

“I care. I may not like the day, but I want our customers to feel treasured and loved.” Kayla fluffed and straightened a bow around a clear vase—perfect.

“For someone who despises the most romantic day of the year, you’re quite the romantic.” A tiny smile crossed Jill’s face before her brow puckered. “This arrangement is cramping my hand.”

“Want me to take over?”

Jill’s gaze shot to her. “No way. The last time you arranged something, I had to tear it apart and start over.”

“I’m not that bad anymore. I’ve been watching you. I’m sure I’ve improved.” She crumpled a sheet of tissue paper and flung it at Jill.

“Mmm-hmm. You keep telling yourself that, but leave the floral design to me. You stick to making bows and running the store.”

The bell on the entrance jingled. “I hope that’s UPS.” Kayla rushed through the swinging door into the main part of their shop and stopped mid-step. That was not their normal UPS guy. This one hummed a familiar worship song and walked with a bounce in his step.

He stopped humming when his eyes rested on hers. “Afternoon.” He handed her a small box. “Busy day.”

She tore her gaze from his twinkling azure eyes. “Yes, here, too.” She raised the box. “Thanks—I’ve been waiting for these.”

“Welcome. Have a good one.”

“Come again soon.” The last word died on her lips as she realized how ridiculous she sounded. He’d be back only if she had something shipped UPS. It wasn’t as if he were a customer.

He winked and strode his toned body out the door, then hopped into the large brown truck and rumbled down the road.

“Come again soon?” she muttered. He probably thought she was a nutcase, and today that wouldn’t be far from the truth. But, oh, he was something, and so polite, too. Kayla mentally ticked through her must-have list of qualities for a husband. Tall, handsome, kind eyes, sings, loves the Lord—

“Earth to Dreamer. Come in, Dreamer.” Jill waved a hand in front of her face.

Kayla blinked rapidly and stepped back. “What did I miss?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing. I haven’t seen that look on your face since.. .forever. What gives?”

“The new UPS driver caught my eye, and I made a fool of myself.”

I am always looking for people to add to my private influencer group on Facebook. If you’re interested in helping me spread the word about my books, please send me an email via my contacts page.

A Love Song for Kayla is listed with Kindle Unlimited, so if you subscribe to that service you can read this book for free. 🙂

Here is the Amazon link. http://amzn.to/2kl4Urd

 

The Rich Man and the Orphan by Darlene Franklin

colorado-columbineTHE RICH MAN AND THE ORPHAN

Garnet Harvey graduates from an orphanage and lands a job as a nanny for three motherless girls. Chester Paul, a wealthy businessman, lost his wife in childbirth. After a long period of mourning, he hires a nanny to take care of his children while he works in the city. He remains involved in the girls’ daily lives, and comes to care for their new caregiver. When Garnet’s guardian discovers the situation, she insists on a trial separation. If their feelings remain strong, how can Garnet be introduced to Chester’s social circle? How will secrets from Garnet’s past affect their growing love for each other? Is it strong enough to grow as beautiful as the Colorado Columbine?

Best-selling hybrid author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. This year she expects to reach fifty unique titles in print and she’s also contributed to more than twenty nonfiction titles. Her column, “The View Through my Door,” appears monthly in Bookfun Magazine. Her most recent titles are Colorado Columbine and Love’s Turning Point.

garnet-from-colorado-columbineEXCERPT

Jefferson County, Colorado 1911

The back of Garnet Harvey’s neck prickled as if someone were watching her as she walked down the long circular drive to the three-story mansion. Chester Paul’s house was fancy indeed. She hoped she would make a good impression on whomever was watching.

Stray hairs from the bun on top of her head tickled her face and neck. The magazine had promised the easy-to-care style would keep her hair in place. Garnet hoped it would make her look serious enough to be a nanny to three young girls.

The door came into view. “Lord, help me a do a good job for You and for Sister Carmela.”

A broad-chested lady with white hair and matching apron greeted her. “Oh, good. You must be Miss Harvey. I’m Mrs. Griffin, the cook. Come on in. Mr. Paul is eager to meet you.”

Mr. Paul. Garnet’s heart dropped. Her opportunity to move out of the girls’ home and find meaningful employment lay in his lap. Would he remember any of the times they had met before? “I hope to meet the girls as well.”

The cook chuckled, as if she’d discerned Garnet’s nervousness. “Mr. Paul is a kind man, although he’s a lion where those girls are concerned.” She looked Garnet up and down. “You’ll do fine. Sister Carmela wouldn’t send anyone but the very best.”

Links:

Purchase Colorado Columbine.

Website and blog

Facebook

Amazon author page

Twitter: @darlenefranklin

 

#NewRelease A Second Chance by Alexis A Goring

book-coverNewly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life.

Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness is of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death.

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.

Chapter 1

Knee-deep in debt from wedding expenses, Traci Hightower sighed as she filed through the credit card statements. She should be married now, back from her honeymoon in Bali, and settled into her new home with her husband.

Happy.

Not single and broke.

She slapped an envelope against the desk. Five months of struggling to survive and pay off the debt. Her meager, entry-level journalist salary didn’t stretch far enough. She’d been paying her dues for seven years. She rubbed her temples. The numbers on the credit card statement blurred in front of her eyes.

The doorbell rang. A little thrill rushed through her. She stood from her cross-legged position on the floor and hopped over the mess of papers and laundry that decorated her living room. “Who is it?”

“The woman who gave you birth.”

For the first time today, Traci smiled. She opened the door and reached for a hug from the one person who never left her hanging. “Hi, Mom.”

Her mom returned her daughter’s embrace, then dragged her suitcase inside. She glanced around. “Oh, my.”

Traci locked her door, then turned and shrugged. “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been looking forward to this. Can’t you stay for more than two days though?”

Mom stopped picking up the bills from the floor and faced her daughter. “No, honey. I’m sorry, but I need to return to home by Wednesday morning. Dad and I have an important meeting later that day.”

Traci’s heart dipped. Mom paused and placed the bills and the stack of paper she’d picked off the floor on Traci’s kitchen counter. “Oh, sweetie.” She cocooned her daughter in another embrace.

Traci snuggled close. She inhaled the familiar scent of her mother’s favorite perfume. It smelt like coconut and lime.

“You always were a cuddler.” Mom stroked her hair. “Still up to your eyeballs in debt?”

Traci nodded.

“Why don’t you let me and your father help?”

Traci took a step back and made eye contact with her mom. “We’ve been through this. I got myself into this mess. I’ll get myself out.”

Mom smiled. “Your father and I were talking. We hate to see you struggling.”

“You don’t exactly live in a palace either. I know you want to retire soon, and I won’t have you dipping into that money.”

Mom reached into her purse. “Living in the nation’s capital area is expensive.” She rummaged through her handbag’s contents. “Have you considered moving home?”

“I can’t do that. I don’t ever want to live anywhere else. My life and career are here.”

“How’s that going for you?”

Traci picked at her fingernails. “It could be better.” Better boss, better pay, better office space. The works.

Mom nodded as she retrieved one sealed envelope from her purse. She looked toward Traci’s kitchen. “Can we make some tea? I’d like to talk with you.”

“Sure. Come with me.” Traci reached for the box of peppermint tea bags and got a bottle of honey from her refrigerator. As she put the kettle on to boil, her mom settled into a wobbly kitchen chair. She smoothed the creased edges of the envelope.

Traci poured the hot water over the tea bags in each mug and the scent of peppermint filled the air. “Everything okay?”

“Just thinking, honey.”

“About what?”

“Have a seat.”

“Sure, just let me allow the tea to steep.” After she placed a plate over each mug and set it aside, settled into the chair across from her mom. “What’s up?”

“I never did like Greg.”

Traci traced a ring stain on the table. “Do we have to talk about my ex-fiancé?”

“Yes, because your grandfather always trusted my judgment.”

“So, Grandpa didn’t like Greg either?”

“I inherited my instincts of discernment from him. Speaking of discernment, here.” She pushed the envelope within Traci’s reach.

She frowned as she picked it up and tried to flatten its wrinkles. “What’s this?”

“Open it. Read it, and I’ll bring our tea to the table.”

Traci turned over the letter-sized, manila-hued paper that was addressed to her. She drew out the paper.

 

Dear Traci,

If you’re reading this, it means I’ve passed away, and your mother kept her promise to give this to you at the right time. As you know, I like to cut to the chase first and explain later. So here it is, plain and simple: I left an inheritance for you. It’s enough for you to make a solid and secure living, for it will cover more than what you need for the rest of your life.

Traci dropped the letter, her hands shaking. This could be the answer to her financial struggles and give her what she always dreamed of. Her own bookstore. The thought stole her breath for a moment. She envisioned the words on the sign out front. Hallee’s House. Just like she promised her cousin Hallee before she passed away from cancer. Tears welled in Traci’s eyes.

Forcing herself to take a deep breath and will the emotional waterworks away, she picked the paper off the floor and continued reading.

But you cannot receive the money until after you are married, and before you are, your mother must approve of the man you want to wed. Why? Because your mother inherited my sense of judgment and discernment between right and wrong when it comes to people. She can spot someone who’s going to break your heart from a mile away. I trust that you will listen to your mother now that I’m gone and can no longer advise you. So there you have it, dear. You have an inheritance. Sounds like a movie, right? Only it’s not. It’s better, because it’s now part of the story of your life.

After you’re married, you and your husband need to visit my lawyer, Chadwick Morrison. Provide him with the original copy of your marriage certificate, and he will give you your inheritance.

Your grandmother and I loved you. We wanted nothing more than for you to find the type of love that we had during our lifetime. Now, I trust that you will allow yourself to be guided by God, your mother’s love, and your father’s protection.

With love, your grandfather,

Henry Allen Fort

P.S. Take this seriously. Don’t marry the wrong man just to get the money. Let love happen. There’s no deadline. My will said you had to be married first. It didn’t say when.

“Let love happen.” Traci snorted as she folded the letter and placed it into the envelope. “The last time I let love happen, I was left at the altar with nothing more than a pile of bills.”

Mom placed her mug on the table. “It’s time for you to move on and trust God.”

“I trusted God to bring me a husband. He brought me Greg. Remember? The man who left me on my wedding day and ran off with my best friend?”

“Honey, I know it hurts, but that was months ago. You shouldn’t allow Greg’s actions and wayward heart to tarnish your future. Be glad he showed you his true colors before tying the knot. Honestly, look at this as a blessing. God protected you from a lifetime of heartache.”

Traci focused on her I Love Maryland mug.

Mom touched her hand. “Your grandfather just wanted to see you happy in a committed romantic relationship like he and your grandma had. Like your father and I have.”

Traci sipped her tea.

“Keep the letter.” Mrs. Hightower pushed her chair back. “Do you want me to stay here or at a hotel?”

“Here, Mom, of course. You can stay in my room. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“Alright then. I’m going to put my luggage in your room. After that, we’ll clean your apartment.”

Traci picked up the mugs while her mind ran a marathon. Forgive her ex-fiancé and move on? Trust God?

Impossible.

alexis-a-goringAlexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.