Monday, February 27, 2017

Week #9: Spring Raine (Paradise Pines #1) by DeliaLatham

An uncharacteristic, last-minute decision to do something "wild and crazy" before entering the stressful world of forensic science sends Raine Presley to Cambria, California. Against a cloud of disapproval from her slightly manipulative, over-protective parents, she signs a seasonal lease at the beautiful Paradise Pines Lodge...and winds up over her head in life and love. Declan Keller's just minding his own business—literally—when Raine drops into his world and turns it upside down. He's far too busy carving beautiful shapes out of chunks of wood to be babysitting a gal from Pasadena. Even so, his father’s promise to an old friend obligates him, despite a looming deadline that could make or break his career in the art world. He’s praying for anything but Raine when she comes along. Neither Declan nor Raine is prepared for the seemingly divine influence of Paradise Pines—and Miss Angelina Love. A mysterious lady who may or may not own the lodge, Miss Angie possesses an amazing talent for mending ruffled feathers, spouting proverbs, and somehow bending even the most determined of hearts to the power of love.

1st Chapter.......

For a moment she couldn’t breathe, and then the barest whisper passed her lips—half spontaneous praise, half simple awe. “Oh my…I’ve found Paradise!” From within her sporty little red convertible, Raine Presley peered through a misty early March drizzle at the most beautiful piece of land she’d ever seen. Paradise Pines Lodge. Her home for the next few months.

Aside from the forest of tall Cambria pines, which she had expected to see, the grounds boasted a huge number of beautiful old sycamore trees—tall, stately, and dripping with silvery Spanish moss. Moonlight glowed through the lacy fingers of hanging flora, creating a somewhat haunting air, and a tiny shiver made its way up her spine. But not enough to make her turn and leave. The beauty far outshone the slight spookiness of moss in moonlight.

Square in the center of the surrounding forest of variegated tree species, many of which Raine found unfamiliar, the lodge itself demanded far more than a passing glance. The website had described Paradise Pines Lodge as “spacious.” Raine chuckled as she pulled her car under the east carport, as she’d been directed. Spacious was a blatant understatement. The place was huge, and yet warmth and welcome radiated from within. Lights shone from every facing window—and they were many. Two chimneys, one on each end of the lodge, sent thin plumes of smoke spiraling into the sky.

Miss Angelina Love, with whom Raine had communicated via email, had provided a bit of history on the duplex, which had once been a popular fishing lodge. The former owner, known only as Preacher, renovated the interior shortly before his death, turning each floor into a single large apartment. The upper dwelling was available for rent on a seasonal basis. No one got to stay at Paradise Pines for a week or two…it was all season or not at all.

The online photographs did little justice to this place. Now that Raine sat, stunned and overwhelmed, staring at the old lodge, she understood why the waiting list was long, even though the site made it clear Paradise Pines would host only one guest per season—or perhaps a small family. Only the upper apartment was offered for rent, and the unit had only two bedrooms. She assumed the lower level was occupied by the owner, or possibly management. An applicant’s chances of being chosen were slim, even within a few years of applying.

“Thank You, Lord!” She breathed a prayer into the silence inside her vehicle. How she’d managed to find favor with whoever granted access to this place, given her last-minute application for spring tenancy, she had no idea…but now, with her stunned gaze taking in the glorious surroundings, she had to believe God had a hand in it.

She climbed out and headed for the large entryway, pulling her suitcase and trying to take in everything as she went. So much incredible beauty. Even the months she planned to stay seemed inadequate. How would she ever make herself leave?

Pausing at the end of the walkway, she studied the log building. Lights in a dozen windows lent the place an almost magical feel, as if she stood on the brink of a fairyland. But wasn’t there something else? Some aura that placed a pale but luminous glow around the entire lodge?

As she stood, suitcase handle in one hand and handbag hanging off the other shoulder, a large insect flitted close and hovered a few feet in front of her. Startled for a moment, she laughed when she realized it was a gorgeous monarch butterfly.

“Well, hello there.” She spoke softly, her eyes on the delicate creature. While she was by no means an expert in the ways of butterflies, it seemed odd to see one flying about in the wet weather. “Why aren’t you hiding away somewhere nice and dry?”

The monarch flew closer, brushed against her cheek, and then backed away to hover a foot or two in front of her yet again.

Raine laughed. “So you came out just to welcome me? Well, thank you kindly, little one. I appreciate that.” She shook her head. Good thing no one was around to witness her talking to an insect.

Her parents, in particular. They’d think she’d lost her mind.

The creature circled her body in a graceful, fluttering dance of delicate wings, and then flew off toward the woods.

In the next instant, the front door opened and Raine caught her first glimpse of Miss Angelina Love.

Snowy white hair formed a glowing nimbus around the woman’s head. With the lights behind her tall, willowy figure and the moonlight between Raine and the door, the result was a perfect halo. Miss Love’s maxi-length sheath—the same pure white as her hair—only added to the startling illusion.

Raine gasped when an amorphous shadow beyond the doorway moved in a soft wave, creating a massive pair of shadowy wings. She released a breath when the shadow disappeared.

“Raine! Is that you? Come in out of that drizzle!” Even Miss Love’s voice had a melodious trill that, given the impression already created by light and shadow, put Raine in mind of angelic song.

She shook her head at her own fanciful imagination. In her defense, however, she’d been driving several hours and spent most of the previous night packing after a long, grueling argument with her parents about this trip. No wonder she was seeing things and imagining even more.

“Yes, ma’am. I’m Raine Presley.” She arrived at the door and found herself mesmerized by a pair of eyes the bright, clear blue of a summer sky and a smile that surely epitomized the word welcome. Tiny lines around Miss Love’s eyes and mouth spoke to the fact that she smiled often. She wasn’t exactly beautiful, and yet…something about her was. Raine couldn’t stop staring and felt a blush warming her cheeks at her own impolite reaction.

The moment she stepped into the large, open entry area and released her grip on the handle of her suitcase, Miss Love folded her into a gentle hug.

“Welcome, child.” Her voice flowed over Raine’s exhausted body and mind like warm, soothing honey, refreshing her in some inexplicable way. “Welcome to Paradise Pines. Make yourself at home, because that’s where you are.”

For one awful moment, Raine was sure Miss Love’s kindness would open a floodgate, releasing a veritable deluge of tears.

This trip to Cambria had come at a high emotional cost for her. For the first time in the entirety of her existence, she’d stood up to her parents for something she wanted. What was so wrong with taking some time to just be…to simply enjoy life before launching herself into the career she’d worked hard and long to achieve?

A position within the state forensics department was no small accomplishment, even as an apprentice. Raine was well aware that she was the envy of many of her classmates at the university. But the job would be taxing and life consuming. She’d be sacrificing her secret dream of having a home and family—even a real life outside her job. So she’d demanded this getaway to Cambria, in the face of her parents’ blatant disapproval.

That disapproval had weighed on her during the entire four-hour drive from Pasadena. Her father’s thunderous expression, along with her mother’s disappointed one as she drove away, left her feeling like a bad daughter and a horrible human being. They’d always been wonderful, supportive parents…didn’t she owe it to them to be a perfect daughter?

But she so desperately needed this time away, to be on her own for a time. No one telling her what to do or what decisions she should make.

Miss Love’s warm, open-armed welcome and a smile that said Raine wasn’t a terrible person comforted her to a ridiculous degree.

After all, the woman needed to welcome her tenants. Her pleasant demeanor was most likely good customer relations. That’s all Raine could possibly be to her—a young woman who had rented the upstairs apartment for a time. If she didn’t leave happy, the owner of this beautiful paradise in the Cambrian pines risked a bad review online. No, she shouldn’t take Miss Love’s sweet welcome too personally.

But she could enjoy it for the moment.


 After promising to join the older woman for a get-acquainted lunch at noon the next day, Raine accepted the key from Miss Love and headed upstairs for a look at her new “home.”

She fell in love, just as she’d known she would. Someone certainly knew how to paint “welcome” into the walls and furnishings. Raine felt immediately at home, as if she could stay forever.

But of course, she couldn’t. She had a job and two unhappy parents to get back to as soon as her springtime respite was past. Within an hour, she’d put away everything she’d brought and settled in to relax…alone…in “her own” place. What a grand feeling!

She rose early the next morning. Being overexcited wasn’t conducive to sleeping in late, which she’d planned to do. Instead, come 7 AM, she’d already donned fitness clothing and running shoes. After circling the lodge twice, trying to take everything in, she spotted a narrow foot trail in the wooded area at the rear of the property and set off at a jog.

Birds called early-morning greetings as sunshine peeked through the branches hanging over the path. Butterflies flitted and bees buzzed around bushes and plants, the likes of which Raine had never seen, all in lush spring bloom. Their blossoms created bright splashes of color in the dim woods. A gentle breeze lifted her ponytail, and Raine pulled in a lungful of sweetly scented air.

Could Heaven be any better than this?

As she moved through the shadowy woods, in and out of bright spots of sunshine, something she could only call joy stirred from a deep slumber somewhere within her soul. Laughter bubbled from her lips, and she made no attempt to rein it in. By the time she burst into a clearing at the end of the path, Raine thought she’d explode if she didn’t release some of the exuberance and just plain happiness that filled her soul.

She bounced into the clearing, whirling around in a joyous dance of praise, her feet moving in time to the song in her soul.

Throwing her head back, she laughed until her sides hurt, and then lifted her head to the glorious blue sky overhead. “Thank You, Lord!” she called into the stillness, absolutely certain God was right there, laughing with her. “Thank You!”

“What in the blue blazes are you doing on my property?”

A deep male voice, clearly not sharing Raine’s “moment,” crashed her happy time, sending shivers of shock and fright throughout her entire system—mind and body. She stopped whirling so quickly she stumbled, but managed to catch herself before falling flat on her face. Her heart, so full of abandon and joy the moment before, threatened to beat its way free of her chest.

Swinging toward the icy voice, Raine stared into steel-gray eyes beneath dark blond eyebrows pulled low in an angry frown. A matching beard and mustache, carefully maintained to look like a couple days of scruff, shadowed a face that might have been dangerously handsome—if its owner weren’t trying to kill her with a piercing, narrow gaze.

“I—I—” She swallowed hard and almost pushed out another attempt, but the stranger interrupted.

“Never mind. You’re on private property. And thanks to your noisy arrival, I’ve just destroyed my wood sculpture.” He held up a small piece of wood, clearly bearing signs of new marks from a carving tool…and a jagged break where it had broken off of something bigger and stronger.

“No!” Raine’s horrified gaze drifted behind the man to what was clearly a workstation in a state of orderly chaos. Logs of different types and sizes lay in separate piles. Sawdust and bits of wood and chips littered the ground around a large carved piece…a bear, its maw open in a shockingly lifelike display of aggression.

An unsightly gouge in the wood left a glaring flaw on one side of the animal’s head. The irate man staring her down held the missing chunk of pine—or oak, or teak, or whatever this fellow used to create his masterpieces—in his hand.

“I’m so sorry!” Heat rushed into Raine’s face, even as her stomach turned a double somersault.

No wonder he was angry.

“So am I—sorry you showed up.” He tossed the ear onto the ground. “Just go, would you?” He whirled and strode off toward the bear. After three long strides, he turned to walk backwards. “You’re still here?”

Anger battled with embarrassment, and Raine swung back the way she’d come. She deeply regretted having caused damage to the truly stunning carving, but she certainly hadn’t set out to do so. How could she have known people worked in the woods in Cambria?

She stopped just before setting off down the path she’d followed to the clearing, and swung around to face the grumpy stranger. “You’re a very rude man.”

He took a step toward her, his lips drawn into a tight line. “I’m rude? Lady, I’m not the one who barged onto someone else’s property without permission.” His chilly gaze narrowed to a glittering slit, and Raine’s eyes widened when his hands tightened into fists that looked hard enough to do some real damage.


He pointed one long finger. “Not another word. Just. Go!”

Raine fled into the trees. Fast.


Thanks so much for joining in the fun with this sneak peek of Spring Raine. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing!


Monday, February 20, 2017

Week #8: Building Benjamin: Naomi's Journey (Tribes of Israel) by Barbara M. Britton

Love Grows Where God Grafts the Tender Shoot.
Naomi desires to dance well enough to catch the eye of a wealthy landowner. Her father needs a substantial bride price due to the deaths of her brothers at the hands of the tribe of Benjamin. But when Benjamites raid the Ephraimite feast and capture young girls, Naomi is bound and carried from her home by Eliab, a troubled shepherd who needs a wife.
As Naomi awaits rescue, she finds Eliab has a strong faith in God and a just reason for abducting her. A reason that affects all the tribes of Israel. The future of the tribe of Benjamin hangs in the balance, but if Naomi follows her heart and stays with Eliab to rebuild his lineage, she must forfeit her family and become a traitor to her tribe.

Chapter 1.......

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 21:25.

Shiloh, in the land of the tribe of Ephraim

Naomi peeked from behind the tent flap. Girls emerged from scattered booths, illuminated by the flames of the bonfire. The beat of a timbrel echoed over the vineyards while tambourines tinked in thanksgiving to God for an abundant crop. Naomi’s stomach hollowed at the thought of joining in the revelry at the harvest celebration. She had never danced before at the feast in a manner to seduce a husband.

Her palms dampened. It was almost time. Time to twirl and catch the eye of a landowner. With two of her brothers slain by the Benjamites, her father needed a bride price.

Movement in the moon-shadowed vineyard caught Naomi’s attention. Had a goat gotten loose among the vines? She squinted into the darkened rows of naked stalks. No leaves shook. No trellis gave way. No bleating rang out. The smoke is deceiving me. She blinked and retreated from the open flap.

Cuzbi, the merchant’s daughter, came close as if to share a secret. Naomi’s reflection widened in the gold of Cuzbi’s headband. “Do not worry,” Cuzbi whispered. “Follow me and the men will line up to give our fathers gifts.”

Naomi prayed this was not a lie. Cuzbi had danced the previous harvest, and the one before, but Cuzbi’s father had not received a single shekel.

Naomi smoothed a crease in Cuzbi’s striped robe. “I will dance in thankfulness to God for a bountiful harvest and let my brother and father deal with any suitor. You will be the bride tonight. I hope your father is prepared for an onslaught.”

Cuzbi squared her shoulders, growing even taller. She patted her hip. Jeweled rings glimmered on every finger. “Come, Naomi. Stand as if a jar rests on each shoulder. The drape will show your curves.”

Naomi’s nerves fluttered like a wounded dove. She brushed a hand over her ringlets. A lone braid kept her curls from obscuring her face. Losing her brothers’ wages meant more time at the loom and less time adorning her hair. Her dyed sash would have to entice the spectators, for unlike Cuzbi’s adorned robe, Naomi’s was pale as a wheat kernel.

Before she could check her appearance in her polished bronze mirror, Cuzbi grabbed Naomi’s arm and jerked her out of the tent.

“The men will arrive soon from their feasting.” Cuzbi’s gaze darted about the clearing as she surveyed the ring of virgins who pranced around the fire. Young women in colorful linen swayed to the music. “Ah, there is an opening near the front of the procession.” Cuzbi sprinted into the circle.

Naomi raced after her friend and ducked nearer the fire, next to Cuzbi. Dancers bumped Naomi’s side, jostling to be seen by their mothers and ultimately the eligible men making their way from the banquet. Hurry, Father. How much roasted lamb and wine did the men of Ephraim need?

Waving to her mother, Naomi signaled her arrival into the mass of whirling bodies. A bead of sweat trickled from her temple and slithered down her cheek. She swiped it away and raised her hand in praise to God. She lifted the other and pretended to card wool in the wind.

Cuzbi leapt in the air and swung her arms as if they were waves rolling off the Jordan River.

Not ready to leave the hard ground, Naomi kicked up her heels one at a time, careful not to injure any followers. Her stomach balked at any elaborate jumps.

A scream rose above the music. Then another.

Had someone fallen? Been burned by the fire?

From the fields, half-naked men wrapped in loincloths rushed into the circle of dancers. Naomi froze, even though the tempo of the timbrel remained festive. These were not the bathed and robed men of Ephraim coming to celebrate. These were armed warriors. She breathed a prayer of praise that her surviving brother imbibed at the banquet.

A charging intruder whipped a sling her direction. Covering her head, she crouched under the whoop, whoop, whoop of his weapon.

“God protect me,” she prayed.

Music stopped. Wailing started. Naomi looked up. A raider scooped Cuzbi off her feet. He slung her over his shoulder as if she were a small child.

“Regah. Stop!” Naomi screamed.

The strong-armed man vanished into the surrounding vineyard with her friend.

Another assailant plucked a virgin from the scramble of dancers. Naomi reached to grab hold of the girl’s outstretched hand, but a bear of a man blocked her rescue. His weapon whirred in flight above his head. Naomi dove to the side and crashed to the ground, careful to avoid the flames.

Crawling like an asp over a flat-topped boulder, she headed for the fields. A raider grasped at her sleeve. His nails scraped her skin. Pain sizzled down her arm as if embers from the fire had embedded in her flesh.

“Kelev. Kelev katan.” The high-pitched insult grew closer. Naomi glanced backward. A scowl-faced boy ran toward her attacker.

Her young savior slashed a pointed stick at the assailant, snaring the leather sling. She had seconds to escape. Praise be to God!

She fled into the harvested rows of vines—in the opposite direction from where Cuzbi had been taken.

Racing along the rows of plants she’d played among as a child, Naomi’s heart lodged in her throat, strangling each breath.

Curses trailed after her. Curses about her speed. Curses in…Hebrew? Her own tongue?

Banking right, she panted as if these bandits had also stolen the night air. She sprinted toward the broken trellis, needing a shortcut through the barricade of vines. If she made it to the olive grove, hiding would be easy among the trunks and branches. Had her sole remaining brother been lazy? Or had he replaced the worn trellis before his revelry? She prayed he’d forgotten his duties this once.

Her hand hit the cracked wooden rod. Splintering, it gave way. “Selah,” she exclaimed under her breath, for this one time, her brother’s laziness was praiseworthy.

Ducking under the greenery of the grape plants, she darted toward the station of olive trees. Her sandals thapped against her heels. Certainly the raider would hear her flight, but slowing her pace would put her in peril. Oh, where were the men of Shiloh? Her father? Her brother? And why were these warriors invading a religious celebration?

She passed one olive tree. A second. A third. A fourth. With trembling hands, she beat at the shoots from a tree and buried herself amidst the leaves. She listened for her follower. No footfalls. Good. Her chest burned, greedy for air.

Leaves rustled.

She stilled, but couldn’t silence her breaths. In and out they rushed, sounding like a saw on cedar. Old-growth trees were not far away. She scrambled down another aisle for better cover. Grabbing an olive branch, she propelled herself behind a trunk. She hit something hard. The bark? Her forehead ached as though a rock had pelted her skull. Flickers of flame dotted her vision.

When she went to massage her temple, someone seized her arm.

Her stomach cramped. “Leav—”

A palm smothered her lips. The taste of salt and soil seeped into her mouth. Her back struck the prickly growths from the tree. Protests lodged in her throat. Darkness surrounded her, but she kicked at where her captor’s legs should be. Banishing the dainty kicks of the dance, she thrashed to do damage. Her attacker did not turn aside. He pinned her to the trunk and held fast.

Lewd taunts grew closer. Her pursuer from the vineyard was in the grove.

Oh, God, do not let me be defiled by one man, let alone two.

“Answer me quietly. Are you one of the virgins?” Her captor’s command came forth in Hebrew. He lifted his hand from her mouth, leaving barely enough space to answer.

“Let me go.” Her breath rushed out as if it too were fleeing these raiders. “I will slip away. I promise not to alert my people.”

“Shhh.” Her captor pressed his warm palm over her lips.

“Virgin. Step forth.”

Instantly, she was pulled to the ground. Her captor pinned her hips to the dirt with his weight. He lifted her robe. Cool air bathed her knees, sending a chill throughout her body.

She fisted his hair. “Spare me.” Even with all her strength, she could not remove him from her body. Her heart pounded louder than a ceremonial drum.

He caged her in the dirt and sent his lips crashing into hers.

She squirmed. Her stomach lurched. Her lungs ached. She needed a breath. She needed a savior.

His weight pressed against her belly. Though he did not take her hem above her thigh. And he did not take her virginity.

“Argh.” A roar split the night sky. “Eliab, what are you doing?” The bear-man stood over them, huffing from his pursuit.

Her captor finished his kiss. “Lie still.” His words rumbled against her ear. The side of her face prickled from his stubble.

“You mean what have I done?” Her captor’s body continued to cover hers. “I have taken a wife.”

He had not! This man, Eliab, had rested upon her, but he had not joined with her. Although if her father or brother caught him atop her, they would beat him until he claimed her as a wife, or offered a hefty sum. She was not about to call Eliab a liar with her pursuer from the fire crouched over them, staring wickedly. Why had Eliab lied? Was he a friend to the tribe of Ephraim? A friend to a tribe of Israel?

“Go on, Gera.” Eliab rose, bearing his weight on his forearms. “Find another. We must leave at once. Hurry. Or do you care to look upon another man?” Eliab’s question shot out like a well-aimed arrow.

Gera hesitated. He spat at Eliab’s feet and retreated toward the bonfire.

Her spine sank into the ground. Thanks be to God. She reached to right her robe.

Eliab gripped her wrist tighter than a gold band. Realization of his intent sent her heartbeat on another gallop. He had not been a brute, yet he held her prisoner, and he did not seem set on releasing her.

“I am in debt to you. And you will be in debt to my father if he finds you touching me.” She tugged against his rigid arm. Her cheeks warmed like stones near a fire pit. “Let go.”

“I cannot deny a fellow Benjamite a wife and then fail to claim her for myself.” With a jerk, he coiled her into his chest.

Naomi stiffened. The thud, thud, thud in her ears grew louder. “You are a murdering Benjamite?”

“One of the few that remain after the slaughter.” His words were sharp as a blade.

Naomi picked up her feet in hopes Eliab would be pulled off balance. He remained rooted to the soil.

“Have you come for revenge?” She grunted her question while struggling to free herself. She squinted into the vineyards. No legion of rescuers ascended the raised beds. Did the men of Shiloh believe this raid a hoax? “There cannot be enough Benjamites left alive to stand against one tribe of Israel, let alone all the tribes.”

“I risked a raid for my survival. Benjamin will not be cut off from God. Our women and children have been slain. Our men ambushed in battle. Are we to have no heirs?” The anger simmering in his reply caused a shiver to rattle her bones.

She thrashed like an unruly child. Eliab held firm. “You were kind to spare me from your Gera. Now double that kindness and let me be on my way.”

“Gera’s kinsmen brought destruction on our tribe. If a name is to suffer extinction, it should be his, not mine.” Eliab yanked her off her feet and heaved her over his shoulder. Her temples pulsed as blood rushed to her brain. Fainting would only make his escape easier. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the darkness.

He cinched his hands around her calves and ran. Fast. His shoulder bludgeoned her belly with every jump and jolt. Her stomach spewed up manna and grapes, burning her throat, and muffling her screams.

When his collarbone was about to impale her side, he righted her next to a mule hidden from sight among the brush. She slumped to the ground.

“If you steal me away from my father, God will punish your sin.” Vomit welled in her throat. She swallowed hard. “I did not finish the harvest dance.”

Eliab crouched in front of her. His eyes were dark as a clouded night sky and held no mercy. “If I do not take you, one of Israel’s tribes will cease to exist. God has more to be angry about than a missed seduction.”

Tears blurred her vision. She swung a fist at him, but he dodged her attack. She clawed at his tunic. At least she did not have to fear loosening a loincloth like those scantily clad attackers near the bonfire. “How dare you rip me from my home? Benjamites killed two of my brothers. Do not take the daughter of a grieving man.”

He pried her fingers from his garment and pulled her close. “And what will your father do if he believes you are no longer a virgin?”

“There was no union.” She beat his chest for emphasis. Her knuckles bruised, yet he barely moved.

He pressed his thumbs into her palms and stilled her assault. “No one will bless a union with a Benjamite. No one will give us their daughters. We are left to kidnap Hebrew women. Since I stole you, your father will be held blameless before the elders of the tribes.” He stood and yanked her to her feet.

“My father needs a bride price to buy land.” Her words rushed forth. She grabbed his arm. “You have lost family and so have I. Have we not both suffered? Leave me here and be on your way.”

“Others may not have been rewarded with a mate tonight. Shall I send you into their bed and disappoint my father?” No joy rang from his words. He did not seem giddy like a bridegroom in a marriage tent.

She stepped backward. Could she outrun him in the darkness? She had to. This was her home. Her land. Her tribe.

He caught her wrist and wrapped it with rope. Stray strands scratched her skin.

“Please.” She tensed her muscles and pulled against his weight to no avail. Tears wet her cheeks as he bound her other wrist. “My family—”

“Most of my family is buried in a mountain.” He unhitched the mule and snapped the reins.

Her body stilled as if encased in clay. Eliab wasn’t listening to her hardship.

Distant shouts echoed from the vineyard.

“Father.” Her voice squawked like a strangled pigeon.

Eliab stifled her shouts with a rag. “You can ride the mule or I will drag you behind it. Decide. Now.” He turned toward the road. “Hoist the nets.”

Was he going to trap her kin like wild beasts?

In a blur, he mounted his ride, still holding the rope as if she were a wayward goat.

How could she leave Shiloh? Leave her mother? Leave her father? Her legs trembled as if the ground shook. She did not take a step.

The mule trotted forward.

With no arms for balance, she fell on her side. Her jaw ached from the gag. Coughing, she tugged on the rope and struggled to rise. If he kicked the animal, she would be dragged through rock and dirt.

Eliab dismounted, swept her into his arms, and sat her sideways on the mule. He had caught her and now he caged her with reins at her back and reins at her chest. His body imprisoned her. He leaned into her arm and slapped the mule’s rump. “Hah.”

She grabbed the animal’s mane, weaving her fingers into the coarse hair for balance.

How could the tribe of Benjamin thieve wives from the tribe of Ephraim? Where was their honor? Where was their shame? And where was God? The feast this night was in His honor.

While Eliab was intent on the terrain, she worked a silver band from her finger and let it slip down her leg, down the mule’s withers, to the ground. She would leave a trail for the men of Shiloh.

For what was lost could be found.

Thanks for joining us! I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek into Building Benjamin: Naomi's Journey (Tribes of Israel). Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced on Monday, 2/27.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Week #7: Love, Lies, and Fireflies by Jan Elder


Didi O’Brien is engaged—at least she was an hour ago. Now she’s not so sure.  Her fiancé, the suave Kevin Cabot, has just revealed that he’s been unfaithful, and he’s not even a little bit sorry. Reeling from the betrayal, with her plans for a happily-ever-after life in doubt, she prays for direction. The answer comes as a complete surprise. God has someone better in mind.
Middle school teacher, Jake Montgomery, is struggling with some issues of his own. Sadly, a year previously his fiancée had been killed in a car crash. Battling anger and despair, in a mountain-top experience, Jake wrestles with the Almighty, and is ready to live again. In his youth, he’d felt an unmistakable call to the ministry but, like the prophet Jonah, since then, he’d been running hard in the wrong direction.  
Through a crisis of faith, and glimpses of mercy, Didi and Jake find each other. But can they find the strength to resolve the many obstacles that conspire to keep them apart?

1st Chapter:


“But, Kevin, I don’t understand. What do you mean you went out with another girl? What girl?” Didi O’Brien’s swiped at eyes brimming with tears.
Kevin Cabot sipped his single malt. “Her name’s Mindy, and she relocated here from the Midwest a few months ago. She’s a Pilates instructor at my gym.” He squirmed in his chair and shrugged. “Look, she’s just a kid of twenty-four, and she doesn’t know anyone here in the area.”
Stomach churning, Didi shoved her dinner away, barely noticing when the sauce from her beef bourguignon splashed onto the white tablecloth. She swallowed, words refusing to come.
Kevin continued in a monotone. “It’s not like I planned it. I was just being a nice guy and showing a stranger around town. You know, being neighborly. Believe it or not, she’s a real nut for baseball, and last night the Nationals were playing the Cardinals….”
“You took her to a baseball game? Last night?” Didi managed to squeak out the words despite the block of granite in her throat.
“Oh, come on. Stop getting so defensive here. You don’t even like baseball. When I saw her last Friday….”
“You went out with her last week, too? On a Friday?” Didi’s voice started out shaky but managed to rise over the conversational hum of the other diners.
“Shhh. Pipe down. Don’t go getting all ‘female’ on me.” Kevin picked up his fork and speared a green bean almondine. “So what if we’ve been to a baseball game, the museum, and had coffee a few times? Last Friday, the Smithsonian had this cool special exhibit on the life of Roberto Clemente. You probably don’t know this, but he’s a Hall of Famer who won the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1966. He led the league in batting average.”
“Have you slept with her?” She had to ask, though she didn’t really want to know the answer.
Kevin didn’t deny it. Instead, he growled, “So what if I did? I told you it’s not serious. Plus, you had some ridiculous church thing going on last Friday, so you weren’t available.”
Her breath caught as she lowered her voice. “That’s hardly the point, Kevin. Did you tell her you’re engaged?”
“Why would I?”
“I’ll take that as a no. Do you love her?”
“Of course I don’t love her, and I’m getting tired of this tête-à-tête. I knew you were going to overreact. Mindy’s a cute kid from Dubuque who needed someone to show her around, and now you’re getting all weird on me, when I was only being considerate.”
Glancing down at his Rolex, Kevin huffed out a sigh. “Maybe we should talk about this after you decide to behave like an adult.” He flagged down the waiter and signaled he was ready for the check. “I decide to be honest, as a courtesy to you, and you put me through a Spanish Inquisition.”
With a hot flush pricking her cheeks, Didi slipped out of the booth, storming toward the exit. She refused to hear any more of his flimsy excuses.
Dodging the other patrons leaving the restaurant, Didi sprinted across the asphalt to her car. She fell into the driver’s seat, jammed her key into the ignition, and zoomed out of the parking lot. She had to get away from that man! On autopilot, she drove through town, barely remembering to stop at the stop signs. Leaving Chez Monte Carlo far, far behind, she headed to the safety of home.
She came to a fork in the road. In no mood to dally, she chose the shortcut home, veering left onto Deer Hollow Road.
Bad decision.
She drove way too fast, but right now, she didn’t care. Sliding on shallow gravel down the first steep hill, she missed the deep ditch on the right side of the road by a narrow margin. Instead, she slammed into a mud-drenched pothole, skittered sideways, and careened toward an ancient oak.
Stamping hard on the brake, she yelped as the car jarred to a halt. Maybe she did care after all. “Please, Jesus, help me get home in one piece. And if Kevin’s still on the road, crash him into the biggest tree you can find!”

Thanks for joining us. I hope you have enjoyed this peek into Love, Lies and Fireflies. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a free copy!


Monday, February 6, 2017

Week #6: A Highland Ruby by Brenda B. Taylor


“It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:32

Chapter One.......

Scottish Highlands, 1513
Ferindonald, Easter Ross
Late July
He watched her through the grey mist, walking along the shore of Cromarty Firth. The hood of her arisaid covered her bonnie russet locks, but he imagined them bouncing with each step she took. She came every morn, sometimes with the wee curly-headed laddie in tow, but now, she walked alone. His heart beat a fast rhythm like a lad watching his first love. How foolish to be hiding behind a rock when he could speak to her, hold her hand, and look into her dark eyes.
Gavin gathered courage and stood to his full height when Flora walked past the rock where he hid. “Flora,” he said in a quiet voice. She continued to walk, not hearing him above the moaning wind.
Quickly, he took a place beside her, then grabbed her arm. She screamed as she turned to face him. Her eyes widened with fear, she tried to jerk her arm free, then beat his chest with the fist of the other hand, and kicked his shin with the toe of a pointed boot.
Gavin jumped from the boot’s path, but kept her arm secure. “Stop. ‘Tis I, Gavin.” She stopped kicking and the free hand went to her mouth while she studied his face. A small squeak emerged from between full red lips. He watched her lips for a moment, then bent to place a kiss on the inviting mouth. She became rigid with no response.
He released her arm then backed away. She continued to stare as though he were a stranger, and he very well may be to her now. After all, five years in the wilderness of the New World can change a man beyond recognition.
Flora’s hand raised for an instant then came across his face with a stinging blow. He rubbed at the burning cheek. “How dare you,” she screamed above the wind. “You left me. You left me.” She hit his chest with both fists now.
Gavin grabbed her wrists, bringing her close. “Stop. I only want to see you, be near you once more. May I walk with you? Just a short distance?”
Flora stared. Her brown eyes larger now with surprise or mayhap shock. She stopped struggling and rested her head on his chest. A seagull called overhead and waves lapped against the shore of the firth. Gavin pushed the hood of her arisaid back, stroking her hair while wrapping an arm around her slender waist. The russet locks felt soft to his fingers. They smelled with the sweet fragrance of heather and salt air, just as he remembered and dreamed. The mist had damped one small curl so that it clung to her neck. He touched the softness of her skin where the curl lay. They stood for a long time. Flora now seemed reluctant to move and Gavin did not wish to spoil the moment.
Finally, she stepped back and looked into his eyes. A line creased her fair brow. “Why did you come back? I made a life without you.”
“I wanted to see you and the lad. Andrew sent a message while I was still in Barcelona waiting for a ship to the New World.”
Flora searched Gavin’s face. “You look older, tanned, hardened.”
“Aye. I’ve been living in a wilderness, defending myself from the wild natives and animals. Searching for gold while starving for food. Takes a lot out of a mon.”
“I am betrothed to a fine mon. One who loves and wants me and my bairns. I wanna have you back, Gavin. You left me carrying your bairn. I wanna have you back.” She beat his chest once more. Tears spilled over to her cheeks.
He grabbed her wrist. “I understand, Flora. I understand. I’ll leave you alone, I will. But I do want to see my son.” He kissed each tear-filled eyelid, then her cheeks, and not being able to resist the temptation, her tempting lips.
Flora didn’t resist and, when the kiss grew more passionate, responded. Her arms went around his neck, her body melted into his so her warmth reached his very soul.
She pushed away. “Why did you go without a word?”
“I dinna ken. I canna explain why.” He lied, not exactly an untruth, but an exaggerated one.
“Well, I ken. You fancied yourself to be in love with your brother’s wife. Now what are you gonna do about that? They’re happily married with a bairn of their own and another on the way.” Flora’s eyes flashed then she turned away, watching a crab crawl away on the sand.
Gavin grabbed her hand so she faced him. “I was wrong. I dinna love Maidie, ‘twas you I carried in my heart. I ken that now.”
Flora snatched her hand away. “I must go. My bairns are waiting. Phillip is readying for work in the fields and Ishbel is attending Gavy. Aye, I named him for his da, but call him Gavy.”
“I’m keen to see him.” Gavin didn’t want to beg, but he would if necessary.
“I live in Leslie Manor no’ far from Fàrdach Castle. Laird Andrew provides well for your son. He pays me a good wage as nanny for his bairns.”
“What of Phillip?”
Flora smiled with the mention of her oldest child. “Phillip is growing like a weed and favors his da so much I hurt to look at him. He helps with the land and sheep on the estate and trains with Laird Andrew’s slaugh.”
“A fine lad, indeed.” Gavin hesitated. “And what of my brother, the Laird of Fàrdach Castle?” An image of his brother popped into mind. Would Andrew welcome him back to Fàrdach Castle after all these years? Gavin doubted he would receive a warm welcome.
“The Laird of Fàrdach Castle grieved for his lost brother and tanist, but he’s happily married and in good health.” Flora gazed into his eyes. “I must go. You’re welcome to visit Gavy, but only visit, naught more.”
Gavin returned her gaze. “Aye, I’ll visit, naught more.”
With a nod of her head, Flora replaced the hood of the arisaid, turned, and walked in the direction of the house, not far from where they stood. Gavin watched until she took a path from the shore to the manor, his heart heavy with rejection. He didn’t expect, but hoped for more. Maybe she would turn back and accept him into her life once again. He watched, but she didn’t look back. Now the task of facing his brother, Sir Andrew Dubh Munro, Laird of Fàrdach Castle.
Flora ducked behind a grass-covered dune to hide from Gavin’s view. She peeped over the grassy slope to gaze in the direction of the beach. He still stood, watching her. She turned quickly toward the house and didn’t look back. Her stomach churned and thoughts of him swirled in her head. He still raised a passion within the depths of her being she could not deny. Why did he come back? He should have stayed in the savage New World and never returned to Ferindonald. Life was complicated enough without the luring charm of Gavin Munro. He would certainly be around often to visit his son. What will Iain think?
The large manor house sat far enough away from the firth that high tides did not intrude upon the land, but close enough for a good walk along the shore when one’s heart ached and needed solitude. Flora often walked the shore of Cromarty Firth looking for dolphins, listening to the water lapping over rocks, and tasting the salt air on her tongue. She bathed in the firth on warm summer days, feeling the refreshing water on her skin.
She often took the bairns on an outing. They enjoyed wading and chasing the sea gulls. Sometimes they found pretty shells she took home, cleaned, and added to their collection. Other times she walked with Iain, while they made plans for a life together. Her life, if not the exciting one she knew with Gavin, had taken a quiet, peaceful turn with promise of a secure future. Now, he had returned and her insides felt like the firth during a storm with crashing, violent waves smashing against the rocks.
Flora saw the eye of her small son pressed against a crack in the large iron-studded oak door. When he saw his mother, Gavy opened the door wide and ran out to meet her, grabbing her long wool skirt then hanging on. She bent down to rub the small head full of russet curls.
“Mam, Mam, you left without me,” he whined.
“You slept and I dinna wish to wake you.” Flora removed his hands from the cloth and picked him up. He was heavier than she wanted to carry, and immediately put his feet back on the ground, taking his hand instead.
Gavy looked around Flora’s skirt, “I see Phillip.”
Flora turned. Her oldest son ran toward them with something awry from the looks of him. He barely nodded in her direction then ran into the house. She followed, dragging Gavy along by the hand. Phillip’s footsteps clicked on the plank flooring and then ascended the spiral staircase to his room on the second story. She released Gavy’s small hand once inside and gave it to Ishbel, the housemaid, who dropped the bundle of heather she carried. Flora followed Phillip to his room. The heavy door stood ajar, so she entered without knocking.
Her son, in the process of belting his father’s claymore over his young shoulders barely acknowledged her when she approached him. “What are you doing, Phillip? You have nae business with your da’s sword.”
Phillip jerked away and continued securing the large leather scabbard over his shoulder. When he insisted, she had let the young lad keep the claymore in his bedchamber, but he had solemnly promised not to use it except to practice with the slaugh.
Flora grabbed for the claymore again. “What are you doing?
“MacIntosh reivers burned a haystack. While we were trying to douse the fire, they stole ten head of cattle. I’m going with the chief to find them and get the cattle back.”
“Och, I give nae permission for you to go with the slaugh.” Flora held to the billowy sleeve of his léine.
“I dinna need your permission. I am of age, thirteen years.” Phillip’s dark head shook. His cheeks, already ruddy from exertion, reddened even more while bright brown eyes flashed.
Flora could only stare at her son. Thirteen summers and he thought himself a man. The heaviness of his father’s sword weighed down upon his shoulder. He practiced with the Munro cateran, but only with small dirks and bows, not with large claymores or the deadly falchion.
“I forbid you to go. You’re too young to take on such a task. The chief wanna allow it.” She grasped at Phillip’s sleeve when he brushed past her, but to no avail. Her son rushed through the open door. She followed calling to him, “Phillip you’re too young. The chief will forbid you to go.”
Flora watched Phillip’s back as he descended the spiral staircase, rushed through the great hall, and out of the door. Gavy whimpered when his brother strode by without acknowledging him. Phillip fancied his wee brother, and delighted in teasing the lad, rumpling his hair, and telling him stories of ghosts and fairies. Flora rushed to the yard as Phillip entered the stables. She could say or do naught to stop him, so she stood, waiting until he galloped by on a garron. They owned no war horse, and would never own one if she had her way.
She would not give her son up to fighting. Maidie, her friend and wife of the Munro chief, Laird Andrew, insisted her son, Sven, study the law. He would train as a barrister and live in a burgh. Sven would never see battle and fighting. Flora wanted the same for Phillip. Her sons were as good as Maidie’s. They should have the same opportunities.
Flora dashed back into the house and found Ishbel. “I’m going to the castle. Look after the bairn.” Crying, Gavy reached for her. Flora pressed a kiss on the plump pink cheek, then turned to leave. Mayhap if she could get to Fàrdach before Andrew left with his cateran, she could stop Phillip.
Gavin turned away and started toward the castle. His heart felt heavy like a rock in Cromarty Firth. Flora spurned him. She was promised to another, betrothed to another man. He came back to Ferindonald to see her, but she no longer loved him. Although she would not have him, he must see his son at all cost.
Fàrdach castle loomed before him. A large band of Munro warriors, some mounted and others on foot, were assembled on the grassy meadow outside of  the castle wall. Calls and war whoops rose from the horde. Those ahorse rode away to the west in a cloud of dust. The warriors afoot followed closely behind. Reivers must be about, with Andrew leading his slaugh to fight.
Hopefully, he would not have to face his brother this day. He could gauge the mood of the castle servants and occupants then decided if he should stay or go before meeting Andrew. Gavin fell in with some of the tenants making their way to the castle with their quarterly rents. One woman who had a chicken under her arm gave him a suspicious eye. The woman looked familiar. She may have been a neighbor of Flora’s in the village of Drumainn. The chicken squawked when Gavin walked by. The woman turned her gaze toward him and searched his face.
“Sir Gavin, is that you?” she asked in amazement.
“Madam.” He touched his forehead in a salute, then walked on quickly.
The woman walked faster as if to follow him, so he quickened his gait. He could hear her calling to others. “Sir Gavin’s home. Sir Gavin’s home.”
Calls traveled down the line of tenants entering and leaving the castle. Soon a small crowd gathered, following Gavin through the castle gates and under the portcullis. The guard in the gate house called then waved. He recognized the man and returned the greeting. Those within the outer bailey stopped their work or activity to welcome him home. Some gathered around. Small children tugged on his great plaide until it sagged beneath the thick leather belt. He tugged back, trying to keep some semblance of order about his person. The crowd followed him through the bailey, over the drawbridge covering a deep moat, then into the quieter inner yard. Guards called from the catwalk on the curtain wall. He saluted and returned the greeting. The great iron-studded oak doors of the keep opened. The chief of Clan Munro stepped out.
Gavin pushed his way through the crowd, jerked his plaide from the hands of a small, dirty-faced boy, and approached his brother. Andrew looked the same, but older with deeper lines on his brow and around his grey eyes. His raven hair hung in the usual warrior braids to the broad shoulders. He had trouble keeping the wry strands out of his eyes if not braided. The chief’s lips pursed into a firm line, then turned up on the edges with a broad smile. Without a word, he moved forward to embrace Gavin who returned the embrace with relief.
Andrew pushed away and studied Gavin’s face. “Welcome home, Brother. I thought you lost to Ferindonald forever.”
“Andrew. Good to be home. To see you. I figured you led your warriors and wanna be here.”
“The business of chief sometimes keeps me at my desk and ledgers instead of chasing thieves with my men. I’d rather be out with them any day.”
Gavin returned his brother’s broad smile. “You seem to be unchanged except for deeper wrinkles, and do I spot a few grey hairs among the ebony?”
“Aye. More than a few grey, I’m afraid.” Andrew gave Gavin a pat on the shoulder. “I sent Alan with the slaugh. Only a small band of reivers pestered us. Alan was elected tanist when you left Fàrdach. Come inside to greet my family. The ruckus you caused has them all aroused and curious.” Andrew motioned for Gavin to go ahead.
Gavin stepped inside to the great hall of Fàrdach. Nothing much had changed. The same boar and stag heads looked down from around the claymores, broadswords, axes, lances, and targes. Maybe a few more weapons had been added. Andrew seemed ready for a mighty fight. Reivers must be plaguing Ferindonald with their stealing and looting. Servants spread bundles of dried heather across the flagstone floor, filling the hall with a sweet aroma. They stopped and nodded toward Gavin with broad smiles. Shafts of light streamed through the small keyhole windows, causing dust motes to dance on the air. A large grey, shaggy hound lumbered up to Andrew who reached down to scratch the dog behind the ear.
“’Tis no’ the same hound with all the pups the bairns played with?” Gavin asked, eyeing the huge dog that stood up to his brother’s waist. “Seems like I remember a brown and white dog.”
“Nae, the hound and all her pups went out to tenants who needed good rabbit dogs. This large, lumbering thing is a gift from Maidie for my birthday of thirty years.”
“How does Maidie fair? And Sven?” Gavin brought himself to ask.
“She fairs well, and gains in beauty within and without each day.” Andrew smiled, showing white teeth through his salt and pepper beard.
Gavin’s heart skipped a beat with the mention of Maidie’s beauty. Her memory still held a special place in his heart, although he gave her up to Andrew five years before. He felt self-conscious, covered with road dirt and unshaven. He bathed in a cold burn three days ago and scrapped his beard with a dirk, but now stubble covered his face. The men turned toward the stone spiral staircase to watch two women descend. One held the hand of a small dark-haired lassie. The other, wearing a gown of blue silk clinging to her comely form now large with child and a thick braid of golden hair hanging down her back, held the hand of a blonde curly-headed lassie. Andrew’s smile grew brighter. He walked toward the group, taking the younger blonde bairn in his arms.
“Come family and greet our brother who returned to us this verra day.” Andrew said, bringing the group to Gavin. “This bonnie lassie is my daughter, Andrina.”
Gavin stroked the small fair hand. The bairn smiled. Her blue eyes sparkled, and he saw Maidie’s bright eyes smiling at him, then she buried her pretty head on Andrew’s shoulder. Her father patted the small head with a gentle, loving touch. He reached for Maidie’s arm, drawing her forward. Gavin swallowed a large lump forming in his throat. She was more beautiful than he remembered. Married life and having bairns agreed with her. He bowed.
Her blue eyes glowed. “Hello, Gavin. Welcome home.” Then her eyes roamed over his dirty, disheveled clothing. “Seems you’ve journeyed long and hard.” She placed her hand upon his arm. A chill ran down his spine. “We’re so verra glad you returned home and hope your stay with us will be a long one. I’ll have your old chamber made ready with a bath.”
Gavin could only smile and nod his head at the lovely lady. His heart beat much too wildly to say more, so he turned to look at the other lassie and her maid. “Hello, Nellie. You look well. How is Briana?” He tried to take Briana’s hand, but she jerked back. Gavin looked at Andrew. His brother shrugged his shoulders.
“Briana is leery of strangers these days. Of a sudden she’s become shy, and clings to Nellie. I can hardly touch her, myself.” Andrew made a sign with his hands to the lassie. She shook her head then hid her face in Nellie’s dress. “Briana is learning to speak with her hands. She learns quickly, but wanna speak around strangers. We are all learning to talk to her with our hands. Sven is teaching the family and anyone who wants to learn. He studied a book I brought from Edinburgh.”
Gavin turned to Maidie. “You must be proud of Sven.” She smiled and nodded. He spoke to Andrew. “You have a lovely family, M’Laird.”
Andrew placed his free arm around Maidie’s shoulders. “Aye. These dear ones are the light of my life.” He gave Andrina to her mother then planted a lingering kiss on Maidie’s lips. Gavin wondered if his brother did that for his sake. Probably. Like a hound marking his territory. “Come, let’s go to the tiltyard before Maidie gets you into the bath. Several of the luchd-taighe that dinna go with the slaugh are practicing. They’ll want to bid you welcome.” Andrew took Gavin’s arm, turning him toward the door.
He turned back. “Thank you, M’Lady for being so kind. I shall look forward to a comfortable bed and hot bath. Both have been few and far between these past five years.” Her lips, now rosy from his brother’s kiss, parted in a smile.
The two men made their way out of the keep and walked through a heavy door in the curtain wall of the inner bailey that led to a broad meadow beyond. The large wolfhound followed at Andrew’s heels. Several warriors dressed only in a great plaide held secure by a broad leather belt practiced with claymores, broadswords, and bows. One rode a horse toward a target and threw a spear at the center. The spear met its mark with a thud. Two men wrestled within the center of a small group who cheered for one or the other. Gavin smiled, remembering the many days he practiced with the warriors. This sparring field felt more like home than any other place in the castle or the whole of Ferindonald, except maybe the small box bed in Flora’s black house in Drumainn Village. Ah, remembering the reason he left seemed harder with each passing day.
Andrew’s voice broke through Gavin’s revelry. “Have you seen your son?”
His brother’s unexpected words took him aback. “Aye. That I have, Brother—from a distance is all.”
“You ken Flora is betrothed. He is Iain MacKay, and a finer fellow you’ll be hard pressed to find.”
Gavin turned to stare at Andrew. Did he think Flora would never love again? “So ‘tis Iain who won her heart. I remember the first son of the MacKay being wild and rambunctious, always looking for a way out of duty.”
“Iain’s gained in maturity these past five years, and being the first-born will inherit his father’s title and land. Flora could do nae better.”
“Did you arrange the marriage, thinking I may never return to lay claim to my son?” Gavin felt a tinge of ire rising around the idea of his brother arranging the marriage of his love to another.
“We dinna ken whether you lived or died at the hand of savages. When nae word came from you year after year, I began looking for a suitable mate for Flora and a da for your son.” The light in Andrew’s grey eyes faded. A deeper line formed between his heavy brows. “What would you have me do, Gavin? Keep Flora unwed and your son with nae da to see to his raising? Phillip needs a father also.”
Of course the chief was right in his decision. He had obligations to the members of his clan—to take care of their welfare and keep them safe. Andrew made the only choice left to him in Gavin’s absence. He found Flora a suitable mate and a father for Phillip and Gavy. Flora’s and Iain’s love for each other did not matter, they could make a good life together.
Gavin started to walk away, but Andrew put a hand on his arm. “Brother, I expect you to abide by the betrothal contract and leave Flora be. Make nae trouble for Iain.”
“What about my son? Will I be allowed to see him?”
“Aye, with restraint. You gave up rights to the boy when you left his mither.” The eyes of the two men met. Andrew didn’t blink. Gavin knew his chances with Flora were nil.

Thank you for joining us! I hope you have enjoyed this peek into A Highland Ruby. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. This week we will be giving away TWO e-copies!