Monday, January 30, 2017

Week #5: The Scarlet Coat by Angela K. Couch


A Woman Compelled by Christian Charity
Surrounded by the musket fire of the American Revolution, Rachel Garnet prays for her family to be safe.  When the British invade the Mohawk Valley, and her father and brother don’t return from the battle, she goes in pursuit of them. She finds her brother alive but her father has been killed at the hand of the enemy. Amidst the death, how can she ignore a cry for help…? Rachel reluctantly takes in a badly wounded British officer. But how long can her sense of Christian duty repress her hatred for his scarlet coat?
A Man Lost to the Devastation of War
Passages of Scripture and fleeting images of society are all Andrew Wyndham recalls after he awakens to the log walls of his gentle prison. Even his name eludes him. Rachel Garnet insists he is a captain in the British army. He mourns the loss of his memory, but how can he hope to remember war when his “enemy” is capturing his heart?

A Scarlet Uniform Holds the Power to Unite or Divide
Andrew’s injuries are severe, his memory slow to return, and the secret of his existence too perilous to ignore. As Rachel nurses him back to health, his hidden scarlet coat threatens to expose the deeds of her merciful heart, and Andrew is forced to face a harrowing decision—Stay hidden and risk losing the woman he loves or turn himself in and risk losing his life.

Chapter 1.......

The last rays of sun faded into twilight, and the wind whispered through the trees, as if warning Rachel to turn back. She encouraged her pa’s stallion forward, though her pulse threatened to strangle her. Somewhere, not far away, a wolf wailed into the night. The mournful song resonated within her, bespeaking tragedy. She searched the deepening shadows of the forest. What if all the British hadn’t retreated? What if there were still Indians and Tories out there, waiting behind those trees?
Something unseen rustled the leaves, and a twig snapped. Lord, what am I doing? How would she even find them out here in the dark? Maybe she should go home or to the Reids’ for another night.
Her course of action seemed so clear when General Herkimer, and what remained of his regiment and the local militia, limped their way alongside the Mohawk River from Oriskany. The general lay on a stretcher, his leg below the knee wrapped in a crimson cloth, his face pale and expressionless—like so many of the men with him. Eight hundred had marched north the day before yesterday and barely half returned.
Her pa and brother were not among them.
Stay with the Reids. That was all Pa had asked of her. Benjamin Reid’s bad leg compelled him to remain behind and watch over their farms. Though the safest place for her, Rachel could no longer wait there trying to carry on a casual conversation with any of the Reid girls or hide behind her mother’s Bible. She couldn’t abide the confines of their snug cabin a minute longer without knowing her own family’s fate. Since losing Mama to illness two years ago, Pa and Joseph were all she had. She couldn’t lose them, too. But she’d ridden for hours now. Where was she?
A little farther along the trail, the wind shifted slightly, carrying on it the odor of burnt powder and blood. Battle. Rachel’s hand came to her stomach in an attempt to calm the sickness churning within.
The horse whinnied, shifting as he tossed his head.
“Whoa. Easy, Hunter.” She slid to the ground and surveyed her surroundings. Both sides of the road were heavily treed and thick with underbrush. Even still, she could make out the dark forms of fallen men. She stumbled over her feet but kept moving. “Joseph! Pa!” You can’t be dead.
Dragging the horse, Rachel ran. Each step constricted her throat until she could hardly breathe. Bodies littered the road—Indian, Tory, and American alike. She maneuvered around them, searching faces in the faint glow of the remaining light. She should have brought a lantern.
The road sloped downward into a deep ravine. Her feet faltered. Hundreds of men—a patchwork of blue and homespun. All motionless. All dead. If only she could close her eyes or turn away, but every muscle held her in place.
The rasp of a voice jolted her from the trance. She yelped and spun toward the intruder.
“Rachel?” The murmur of her name accompanied the form of a man emerging from the trees. “What are you doing here?”
“Joseph.” Relief at seeing her brother alive stole the strength from her legs. They trembled as she moved to him and brushed her fingers across his cheek, stained with dirt and powder. His sandy brown hair was tousled and appeared just as black. Rachel wrapped him in her arms and clung tight. “Why didn’t you come back with the others? I was so worried...afraid something happened to you and...”
She glanced to his face and the strange expression that marked it. More accurately, a complete lack of expression. “Where is Pa? What happened, Joseph? Tell me.”
“Tell you? You can see it, can’t you? Everywhere you look.”
Of course she saw it. All of it. But… “Where is Pa?”
Joseph looked back, and Rachel followed his gaze into the blackness of the timbered ridge of the ravine. She pushed away and moved stiffly in that direction. Pa.
“No.” Joseph’s cold hand seized hers. “There is nothing left in there. He’s dead.”
“Let me go.” She wrenched away, breaking free before he was able to grab her arm and pull her back. Her vision hazed. “Let me go. I need him.”
“It’s too late, Rachel. He’s dead. I was with him. I watched the life bleed out of him...nothing I could do to stop it. Don’t go up there.” His voice pleaded and his eyes glistened. Joseph wiped a sleeve across his nose and motioned to Hunter. “Please let me take you home, and I’ll return for Pa’s body.”
Rachel stared into the trees, aching to pull away once again. She took in a jagged breath, managed a nod, and then surrendered to his firm hands. He assisted her into the saddle. Joseph retained the reins to lead the horse, but they didn’t make it more than a few steps before an unusual cry wafted in the breeze.
Shivers spiked up and down Rachel’s spine. “What was that?”
“It was no animal.”
The mewling of human suffering perforated the night. A yapping howl followed—a wolf answering the plea.
“You stay here.” Joseph forced the thin leather reins into her hands, shooting her a warning glance before he hurried off the path and into the thick foliage.
Ignoring his order, Rachel dropped to the ground, twisted the reins around a branch and ran after him. She wouldn’t be left alone again. Not in this place. Not in the gathering dark. As she caught up to him, she gripped his sleeve.
Their gazes met.
Joseph’s mouth opened; then, he nodded his head. Turning away, he allowed her to trail him.
Her fingers remained tangled in the fabric of his shirt.
They followed the moaning to a tiny meadow strewn with more bodies.
Rachel gaped at the shiny black patches of blood evident on almost every corpse and covered her nose and mouth against the stench saturating the air.
As they drew near, the moans ceased.
Joseph called out, but there was no reply. “He must be here somewhere.” Frustration edged his voice.
“Maybe he’s too weak. We’ve got to find him if he’s still alive.”
Joseph moved out, stepping over the fallen, checking each for any sign of life.
Rachel stood back, frozen. Motionless. Numb. The man’s whimpers, though now silent, resounded in her mind. What if he were still alive? What if he woke again to this dark and death, only to become as the corpses surrounding him, with no one to lend him life…to help him?
Rachel forced her feet into action as she picked her way around a dead Indian. Though she tried to keep her eyes averted, they rebelliously wandered to the large hole in the middle of his chest. Her hand flew to her mouth as she lurched away. Stumbling backward, her feet tripped over a red uniformed body. She landed hard on the ground beside him. Bile rose in her throat and she twisted, retching into the nearest bush.
“What happened?” Joseph rushed to her.
She sat upright and wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve. Her whole body shook.
Joseph grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. “You shouldn’t have seen this. Let’s get you home. Whoever it was must already be gone.” He led her away, stepping over a fallen soldier’s body.
Rachel shrieked as the hem of her dress snagged on something.
“Do not leave…me.” An almost voiceless plea met her ears. “Please.”
She pivoted on her heel to where the soldier lay in his blood, his eyes wide, one hand extended. Rachel shivered.
Joseph also reacted, bringing his pistol to the enemy’s position.
The man coughed, and closed his eyes in pain. His brilliant scarlet coat and white breeches were smudged with grit and mud, his right hip a bloodied mass of flesh, probably ripped through by a musket ball.
“Rachel, go to the road.” The pistol trembled in Joseph’s grip.
“You’re going to kill him?” She glanced to the soldier.
His eyes remained closed. His mouth moved slightly as though speaking to someone. Perhaps he was praying.
Pushing past the nausea, Rachel swung back to her brother, reaching for him. “You can’t do this.”
Joseph jerked away. “This is exactly what both he and I have done since morning. How many of our neighbors do you think he’s personally sent from this life?”
Silence hung between them.
Joseph lowered his head and weariness returned to his voice. “I’m so tired of this, but there’s no other choice. Go back to the road and wait for me. I’ll be along in a minute.”
She couldn’t do it. Rachel moved, but not in the direction required by her brother. Instead, she knelt beside the wounded soldier and laid a cautious hand against his cool forehead.
His eyes fluttered open and peered up with evident fear. Confusion ridged his brow. Did he know he could expect no mercy and therefore could not understand her actions? His eyes rolled back, and his head slid from the large stone on which it had been resting. His body became limp with no sign of life other than the shallow, irregular breaths which moved his chest.
“Joseph, I know he’s our enemy, and I do hate him…” Rachel shook her head as she tried to swallow back the bitter taste still coating her tongue. “But we can’t kill him, and we can’t leave him to die out here like some dog we don’t like. Can we? I…I don’t know anymore.”
“What are you suggesting?”
Rachel watched the soldier, her frown deepening. “Without the uniform he would appear the same as any of us.” Her gaze rose to Joseph’s face and the tension etched in his usually kind features. “Mama taught us to love our enemies—do good to those who hate you. That’s what’s written in the Bible. I see the uniform, but…”
“All that Bible talk is right and good, but it’s only a book. What if this was the soldier that killed Pa…or Jarrett? There isn’t hardly a family in this valley who hasn’t lost someone today. They slaughtered us, Rachel.” His voice faltered. “If anyone found out we had protected or saved a British soldier—an officer, no less—we could be shot. This is war.”
Rachel stood, not able to look at the dying man as she stepped away. Jarrett Adler...dead? He’d only been twenty, less than a year older than her. An attractive young man with his wheat blond hair and teasing blue eyes. More than once she’d considered the possibility of a future with him, and now he was dead, too. Same as Pa.
“I’ll wait by the road,” Rachel whispered, too drained, heartbroken, and scared to argue further. She would never fully understand war and the insanity required for one man to kill another in such a way. She didn’t want to try to understand it. Rachel hurried, almost running to put as much distance as possible between herself and the nightmare. Still, the haunted eyes of that soldier, that man, wouldn’t leave her. Perhaps they never would.
Hunter waited on the road, nibbling on what grass lined the trails.
Grasping the reins, Rachel hugged the animal’s neck, pressed her cheek into the soft coat and braced for what seemed inevitable—the shot of a pistol. “Let him die, Lord. Take him before Joseph has to. Please, let him be dead already.” Her heart thundered. Not from fear, but with the realization that she couldn’t let Joseph kill that man. She had to stop him. Pushing away, Rachel darted back into the forest, her skirts hitched high. She stumbled over her feet as the stillness of the night shattered, the sharp crack echoing. No.
The man had begged for his life.
And she’d left him to die.
Rachel backed away several steps before turning. When she reached the road, she laid her hand against Hunter’s jaw. “I…” I feel his death is my doing. Was she so weak? Hundreds of men lay dead, and she wasn’t sure if she could live with the death of her enemy?
Fatigue dragged Joseph’s footsteps as he approached. “Rachel?”
She slipped under Hunter’s neck, and then looked over his withers.
Joseph’s face appeared eerie in the rising moonlight.
“Don’t say anything,” she begged.
“Rachel, I need you to help me get him on the horse.”
Her mind could not comprehend the meaning. She moved around Hunter, her gaze drawn to the form lying at Joseph’s feet. The red coat was gone, but the bloodied hip, the gash on the head, and the man’s face…
“But… you said…and the shot?”
Joseph glanced away. “Wolves. I wanted to frighten them.” It was said dryly. Perhaps he could find no true excuse. Wolves would be too shy to come anywhere near here tonight.
“You mean…?”
“I guess. I really don’t know.” A hand passed over his eyes. “We can take him home and let him die in peace.”
A simple enough plan, but...
“What will we do if he recovers?” This man was a British officer—their enemy. She couldn’t forget that.
“I don’t reckon he will. There’s not much life in him. Besides, we aren’t here to save him, only give him a chance to die on his own.”
Exquisite agony pulsated through his whole body with each beat of his heart. The scent of horse filled his nostrils as he attempted a breath. His lungs refused to expand, as though the full weight of the animal resided on top of them and across his stomach. They ached from the pressure. The swaying of the ground only compounded the intense pressure threatening to burst his head apart. Why did the ground sway? Was he back on a ship? That did not explain the horse sitting on him, or why he hung upside down. Nothing made sense. He opened his eyes to the blackness…and fur? The sleek coat of a horse. Hence the smell. But the animal did not lie on him as assumed. Instead, it seemed he was slung face down over the back of a horse. No wonder his stomach pinched so. He had to get off.
At first his arms refused his beckoning. Numb from dangling above his head, they might as well have been severed from him entirely. Slowly, however, he wielded enough control to bring them to the saddle over which he was draped. Planting them against the firm leather, he pushed, writhing his body up with the same motion. As he slid from the saddle, a feminine scream pierced the air, a hammer to the spike already driven through his temples.
His feet touched the ground, but little good that did him. Like his arms, they refused to heed his will. He should have considered that before he disembarked. The frantic voice of a woman and the lingering aroma of horse sweat faded. Agony ripped through his right thigh, and he hit the ground.
“Let me help you get him back up on Hunter.” The woman’s words filtered through the haze residing in his mind as it resurfaced to consciousness.
“What, so he can throw himself off again?” The deeper voice rasped with anger.
Who were these people? What did they want with him?
“After bringing him this far, we can’t leave him. Only a couple more miles, and we’ll be home.”
Home…would not that be agreeable? At least, it conjured a pleasant sensation within him. No images, though. A dim light glowed high above as he forced his eyelids open, blinking against the grit. As much as his eyes begged to remain closed, he refused to allow them such luxury. Not with the face of an angel hovering so near, shadowed but still somewhat visible in the moonlight. Young. Large eyes. A halo of gold. Who was she?
Someone yanked on his arm, heaving him upward. Lord, not back on the horse. Anything but that. “No.” He tried to pull away, and his body again sagged to the earth.
“He’s awake.” Her voice.
The man’s was edged. “How is that possible when he shouldn’t even be alive?”
Did they speak of him, implying he should be dead? Perhaps that explained the pain—the struggle to remain cognizant to anything around him. Dead. How far off was he from slipping away completely? What held him here? He stared at the young woman as she knelt beside him.
“We’re trying to help you.”
He attempted to wet his lips, but his tongue was just as dry. Blood and gunpowder tainted his senses. “What happened?”
“You were—”
The man pulled her aside. “There’s no time for this. We either get him back on that horse, or leave him here.”
As they dragged his body from the ground, all thoughts and awareness fled, returning in waves of oblivion and torture. Finally, he awoke on a solid surface, a floor, the only movement the flickering of a candle set upon a table across a small room. Closer, a chair held the form of a woman, her head tipped back. Asleep. He let his eyes close, allowing exhaustion and pain to take him. No use fighting it any longer. God willing, he would awaken. But if not…he only wished he could remember what he had sacrificed his life for.
I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek into The Scarlet Coat. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Week #4: Grace and the Rancher by Mary Alford

Grace Bradford is living a lie. To the world she has the perfect life: A promising country music career and a husband who adores her. But her husband isn’t the man everyone believes him to be. When a car accident widows her and ends her career, Grace escapes to Delaney Mountain. But moving to the remote town doesn’t wipe away the ugly secret of her marriage.Kyle Delaney never intended to return to Delaney Mountain, but he promises his dying father that he’ll turn their land into a working cattle ranch. He uproots his life in Austin, sells his flourishing business as a music agent, and returns to the Colorado town of his childhood.Can a runaway singer and a makeshift rancher, thrust together by circumstance and held together by the common thread of loss and a love of music, find hope and a happily-ever-after under the stars of Delaney Mountain?

Chapter 1.......

Grace Bradford cast a worried glance out the storefront window as snow continued to fall. “It’s really coming down out there.” 

Martha McDougal, the store owner, stopped to watch the winter wonderland unfolding outside. “The storm seems to be moving in earlier than was expected. I don’t like it. Let’s give it another hour, and if we don’t have any customers, we’ll close up shop. I sure don’t want you to get stuck down here.” 

Grace smiled at her friend’s consideration. When she’d first arrived in town eight months ago, widowed, injured, flat broke, and desperate to find a job and rebuild her life, Martha had accepted her. Grace had been such a wounded soul back then. Still, Martha hadn’t asked a single question. She’d simply given Grace a job and invited her to the small church on the edge of town. Grace had found a home. 

“We had a delivery yesterday, thank goodness, so there's plenty of food on hand. Derek put some of the stuff away during his shift yesterday, but I don’t expect him to be in today. Since I doubt we’ll have a customer, you might as well stock a few items. But I’m serious, Grace. If no one comes in soon, go home. When you get ready to leave, just lock up and go. I think I’ll head out before the storm shuts down the pass outside of town, and I can’t get home to Ed.”

Grace walked Martha to the door. “That’s a good idea. You have a lot farther to go than I do, and Ed will be worried. Be careful. I’ll call you when I’m leaving.”

“All right, hon. I’ll talk to you soon.” Martha hugged Grace then forced the door open against the blustering wind and slipped into the increasing snowstorm. 

Once Grace was certain Martha’s car would start, she closed the door and went to the back of the store. She brought out boxes of dry goods while keeping a close eye on the weather. By the end of the hour, she’d managed to shelve most of the stock. She turned up the radio and listened to the local weather report. 

“Most of the roads leading into town have closed already or will be closing soon. If you don’t have to be out today, then we suggest you stay home. We’re expecting up to three feet of fresh snow with the storm clearing out sometime tomorrow. This one’s going to be a bugger, folks.”

It was time definitely to call it quits. She picked up the items she needed, left a check in the register, and then called Martha. “I’m heading out now. I have everything put away. If I’m able, I’ll come in tomorrow to make up my time.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait out the storm at the store?” Martha asked. “It’s really coming down here. I’ve barely made it home.”

Although the thought was tempting, Grace just wanted to get home. Her dog, Lizzy, would be anxious in this weather. “Thanks, but I’ll be OK, and it’s only a few miles. I’ll see you soon.” She carried out her groceries then turned off the lights and locked up. But the farther she drove up Delaney Mountain, the more doubts she had. Maybe she should have stayed in town. 

Grace blew out a frightened sigh, and her breath chilled the air as she clutched the steering wheel. Her palms grew sweaty as the SUV slipped and slid on the icy road. 

She slowed to a crawl as ice and snow began to accumulate on the windshield, destroying visibility. She strained to see, her gaze locked on the road ahead, as the storm continued to intensify. 

She remembered another terrifying time less than a year earlier. The day her promising career had ended with the death of her husband. To the world, she and Nick had been one of Nashville’s up-and-coming couples. Grace knew nothing was further from the truth. That night more than her career had perished. Everything she believed to be real about her marriage and her husband died along with Nick. 

Just let go. Let God take it...

Father, please, help me let go of the hurt… 

Even today—even right now when she knew she should be focusing on the road and the weather— letting go was a next-to-impossible task. 

At times, Grace still woke up in the middle of the night and could feel the car crashing into the tree, could feel the excruciating pain of the steering wheel slamming into her throat as it damaged her vocal cords. She couldn’t scream or cry out for help. 

Grace shoved aside those dark thoughts and scrubbed a hand over weary eyes. She leaned forward. She could barely see the hood, much less the road. The conditions were worsening by the minute, and she had no idea how much farther the vehicle would go. She eased down on the gas pedal, and the tires spun, spewing icy debris against the underside of the SUV. 

The vehicle jerked forward as the tires caught. 

Grace whispered a thankful prayer. The road continued its upward climb as it snaked around the side of the mountain. Her heartbeat pounded a frantic rhythm as she reached another ninety degree bend. To her right was a sheer drop off. She wouldn’t survive the fall if the SUV went over. 

Grace gently nudged the steering wheel, at odds with her terror. She had almost reached another treacherous turn when the vehicle slid closer to the edge. She panicked and jerked the wheel in the opposite direction. The vehicle skated backward some twenty feet. The tires lost their tenuous grip and slithered closer to the drop-off. 

She floored the gas and the vehicle jerked forward, swerved sideways, and headed straight for the overhang. Grace screamed and tried to turn the wheel but it was useless. 

The Jeep didn’t react to anything. She had lost control. She closed her eyes. She didn’t want to die. Not when she’d just started to live again. ‚Please, Lord, no.‛ Grace barely got the words out before the Jeep hurled itself head first over the side of the mountain. 




Kyle Delaney was a quarter of a mile away from the turnoff to the ranch when he spotted the tracks. Someone else had been up here on the mountain recently. In these conditions? Who would risk slipping off Delaney Mountain? He had no choice. He was coming home. Home. The words stuck in his throat. 

It had been more than a year since he’d returned, and as far as he remembered, there were only two or three houses further up the mountain, and most locals wouldn’t be caught out in this weather. They knew better.

Kyle squinted to focus on the road. He was dead tired after the horrendous drive from Denver. The flight from Austin had been plagued with delays. He just wanted to get to the ranch, grab a shower, and sleep for days. 

He peered through the windshield and sucked in a breath. Was that smoke? Dark tendrils stood out against the snow falling about twenty feet ahead. Even though it was still technically morning, the storm had made the surroundings a dark, dreary gray. Perhaps he was wrong. Kyle braked hard, grabbed his flashlight, and hopped from the SUV. Driving snow and sleet slapped at his face as he trudged through the drifts to the edge of the mountain. A battered-looking vehicle had lodged itself against a tree. The accident must have just happened. In these temperatures, it wouldn’t take long for hypothermia to set in. Kyle slipped and slid his way down the side of the mountain. A woman listing sideways against the seatbelt, was just regaining consciousness. How long had she been here?  He pried open the door.

“Are you OK?”  Her gaze darted to him. She was terrified. 

“Nick. He’s still in there. You have to save him.”

“Who’s Nick?” Kyle’s senses clanged with alarm. He could see the entire interior of the Jeep. No one else was in the vehicle. Perhaps they’d been thrown from it upon impact?

She closed her eyes for a second and then focused on him. She shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. I thought…” She didn’t finish, but tears gathered in her eyes. 

She was obviously suffering from shock. 

The crumpled hood continued to pour out a thin ribbon of smoke. He needed to get her to safety before the Jeep caught on fire. “Come on let’s get you out of here.”

She fumbled with the seatbelt and then planted her booted feet in the snow. 

What if something was broken? As urgent as it was to get her safely away from the wreck, he needed to make sure she wasn’t injured.

He stopped her. “Hang on a second. I want to make sure you’re not hurt. It looks as if you hit the tree pretty hard.”  She flinched. 

Kyle did a quick preliminary check of her limbs, but everything appeared to be fine. He held out his hand to help her out. 

She pulled away. “I can’t leave. I have groceries in the back. Perishables. Lizzy’s food…”

He wondered who Lizzy was until he spotted the dog food. Or perhaps Lizzy was someone else, and this woman was delivering her groceries.

“I’ll come back for them. My vehicle’s just up the top of the mountain. Let’s get you warm first.” 

She hesitated but finally took his hand and got out. 

The path he’d skidded down was drifting over with snow. Going up would be a whole lot harder. He sucked in an icy breath and held her hand tighter.

“Hang onto my hand, and whatever you do, don’t let go. Getting back up will be a nightmare.” 

And it was an almost impossible task. For every handful of steps they took forward, they ended up sliding backward for half of them. 

The bitter cold air burned his chest with every breath, and he could barely see his hand in front of him. He squinted through the onslaught of winter mix until he spotted the SUV where he’d left it.

Once they reached the top of the mountain, Kyle drew in a couple lungfuls of air, willing his pumping heart to steady its beats. His legs were actually shaking from the strain of keeping them both upright on the nearly vertical, slippery path.

“Over there,” he said and pointed to his vehicle. He braced against the wind and blocked it from her with his own body as they made their way to the SUV. With her safely inside, he got behind the wheel and cranked the heater as high as it would go. 

She shivered uncontrollably. 

He reached behind the seat and grabbed one of the blankets he’d picked up in Denver with other emergency supplies when he’d prepared for the trip back. 

“Thanks.” She tugged it closer to her body and gave him a smile. 

He lost his equilibrium. Despite her pale face and nearly blue lips, she was a very pretty woman. He cleared his throat. What had gotten into him? He’d been through a rollercoaster ride of a year. His emotions were all messed up. He didn’t usually feel attraction for just looks, although that certainly helped. Still, she was the first woman he’d noticed in a long time, and it threw him.

“You stay in here where it’s warm. I’ll be right back. I’ll just go grab your groceries.” 

She nodded, and her shivering subsided as heat blasted from the vents.

Kyle got out and mushed his way down to her SUV. His reaction to her annoyed him. He was coming home to make the ranch profitable again. He had his work cut out because he had no idea what condition the ranch was in. He didn’t need an emotional entanglement cluttering his thoughts and taking time away from his goal. 

He half slid down to the wreck. Groceries were scattered all over. He checked the back and the front. After digging a couple of cans from beneath the driver’s seat, he finally had everything gathered into the shopping bags. 

Trekking back up the hill was a lot easier than the first time, despite the load of groceries. He slipped a bit here and there, but his boots managed to grip in a few places.

He opened the back door of his SUV, startling her. It only took a few seconds to tuck the bags away. 

Her glance took in everything, and she shivered.

“Thank you,” she said and gazed at him once more. 

She had the most telling, and haunting, green eyes he’d ever seen. He recognized the look all too well. He’d been there. He probably wore the same emotional scars in his own eyes for those who could discern such a thing.

Kyle looked away. “It’s no problem. My place is just a little ways up from here. We can wait out the storm from there. It may take a while for a tow truck to get your Jeep unstuck. It’s not a good day to be caught out in the elements. Did you get lost?” He slowly eased down on the gas, and the SUV begrudgingly moved forward.

“No… I live up here. My place is up at the top of the mountain.” She stared straight ahead. 

She was a local? He thought he knew everyone in town. Still, he’d been away from Delaney Mountain for a while. Obviously, some things had changed during that time.

“I see,” he managed when he realized she was waiting for him to say something. “Well, it looks like we’re neighbors then. My name is Kyle Delaney, by the way. I own the place up here on the right.” He held out his hand, and she took it. 

“Grace Bradford.” 

He didn’t recognize the name. Did she have family here or had she just moved here alone? No wedding ring. Of course, that didn’t mean one wasn’t married. 

“So you’re new to Delaney Mountain?” He mentally groaned at his own awkward question. 

She smiled just as he glanced at her, and his heart did another little flip. Her smile lit up her face. 

“I guess you could say that. I’ve lived here about eight months now.”

She must have moved in shortly after he’d left for Austin. 
He stole another sideways look. 

She wore a simple knit cap pulled over her ears. Her shoulder length golden brown hair was a startling contradiction to the white coat she wore. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold. Her green eyes sparkled with amusement. She’d obviously thought his question as awkward as he did. 

She was pretty. He hadn’t thought about another woman in such a way since Renee. He’d done everything wrong in that relationship. He’d spent too much time chasing his career, arranging weekend get-togethers, and drinking, both with his coworkers and without them, until finally Renee walked out on him and their future. 

After he’d gotten sober, he’d decided he wouldn’t put another woman through the curse of the Delaney men again. Love just wasn’t in the cards for him. Kyle let go of those painful memories with difficulty. Dwelling on past mistakes didn’t do any good. With God’s help, Kyle was learning to keep his focus on the present and move toward the future. 

I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek of Grace and the Rancher. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Week #3: Angels Unaware by Rachel J. Good


Sometimes God sends angels into our lives…

Chocolate chip cookies are the perfect way to make friends. At least, Mark Daniels thinks they are. He hopes to forget his painful past and start over in new neighborhood. Everyone is warm and welcoming—everyone that is, but the dragon lady next door. She rebuffs all overtures of friendship and declines Mark’s invitations to church. But then he meets a stranger who brings him an unexpected message. Could this stranger be an angel?Jasmine Avery doesn’t trust men, especially not handsome ones who come bearing gifts. She’s been badly hurt and has walled herself off from love. Reluctantly, she agrees to attend church with Mark on Easter Sunday, not realizing how it will change her life and her future. But soon after she discovers the secret to a happy life, her whole world turns upside-down. Will these unexpected changes prove Mark can’t be trusted? Or can she and Mark overcome their past heartbreaks to forge a new life together? 


1st Chapter:

Mark Daniels enjoyed a challenge. And his next-door neighbor certainly was that.

He slid the spatula under the last crisp cookie and lifted it off the baking sheet. The heavenly scent of melting chocolate filled the room. No one could resist his homemade chocolate chip cookies. They’d helped him make friends with everyone in the neighborhood—so far. And reaching out to others was a good way to keep sorrow at bay.

Once the cookies cooled, he headed next door. He whistled as he mounted the steep brick steps to his next-door neighbor’s porch. Whistling made him feel braver. But the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach made him want to set the cookies on the stoop and run. The few times he’d seen her face, it had been screwed up into a scowl.
He said a quick prayer for courage and knocked. The curtain beside the front door twitched, then fluttered back into place. She was home.
He waited. And waited. Perhaps she didn’t open her door to strangers. He knocked once more and then headed for the wicker porch furniture. He’d set the cookies on the table.
The door opened a crack. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Mark turned. The woman’s narrowed eyes and belligerent stance made him quake. He took a step back. “” He held out the plate of cookies.
“What’s that?”
Mark took a deep breath and regained his composure. He smiled and started his usual spiel. “Hi, I’m Mark Daniels, and I just moved into the neighborhood—”
“I know.” She didn’t sound too pleased. “That’s not what I asked. What’s that in your hands?”
“Oh, these? I baked chocolate chip cookies and thought I’d share some with you.”
“Do you know what chocolate does to your system?” she demanded. “I never touch chocolate.”
“I see. I’m sorry. Perhaps you’d prefer oatmeal raisin or some other kind?
“Absolutely not. I never eat sugar. It rots your teeth.”
That explained why she was so thin. So much for cookies then. He wracked his brain for another offering. “A meal perhaps? I make great spaghetti and meatballs.”
She drew back. “A meat eater? It figures.”
Oh, great. He’d just offered a meat dish to a vegetarian. Could he have gotten off to a worse start? He shifted from one foot to another. “I always try to give each neighbor a gift—a thank you for welcoming me to the neighborhood.” Though she’d been far from welcoming so far. “Perhaps you’d like me to cut your lawn for you—?”
“I have a service.”
“Is there anything I could do?”
“Yes. Leave me alone.” She slammed the door in his face.
Mark cringed at the acid in her tone. So much for his diplomacy mission.

I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek into .Angels Unaware. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.