Saturday, November 21, 2015

Week 16: Dance with Me

Congratulations to Nellie, who won a copy of MARIA'S ANGEL in Week 15's 1st Chapter drawing!

I hope you've all enjoyed the last few weeks' Heart's Haven features! Don't miss the special reveal of our upcoming Heart's Haven Babies collection at the end of today's 1st Chapter.


Will a bit of secret moonlighting lead Kaci and Ryne to the ultimate dance?

1st Chapter:

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. ~Psalm 30:11

Kaci James blew a wisp of strawberry-blonde hair from her eyes and reached for her coffee mug, sipping as she puzzled over one of the letters she’d received for the “Love’s Lessons” column at the Angel Falls Trumpet. She frowned as the bitter brew nipped her throat then sighed and tossed the letter onto the table. What was she doing giving love-life advice to strangers when her own engagement had ended in such shambles less than a year ago? The very idea painted an irony of the worst sort.

A sharp rap at the front door startled her, and a bit of coffee splashed over the mug’s rim to dampen her cream-colored peasant blouse. She frowned and glanced at her watch as she swiped at the coffee stain. Ugh…she’d worked right through dinner again!

Another round of knocking. Quickly, Kaci gathered the letter and stuffed it into her tote bag. The note could only lead to trouble if others found out she moonlighted as the advice columnist. What would her neighbors here at Heart’s Haven—and the students she taught English to at Angel Falls High, for that matter—think of her if they knew what she did on the side? “Love’s Lessons” was one of the most popular advice columns in the greater East Texas area, and she’d like to keep it that way. That meant keeping her role anonymous. She nudged her reading glasses up the bridge of her nose and vaulted over Patches—her feisty calico cat—careful not to step on his tail as she rushed to the door.

“Coming.” Kaci scrambled toward the entrance, tripping over a pile of essays waiting to be graded. She grabbed the corner of the coffee table to regain her balance and frowned at the papers, ruing the long hours of critiquing that lay ahead. Oh, the day never seemed to be long enough to get everything done! “Just a minute.”

She peeked through the spy-hole and her heart lurched. Ryne Calvert waited on the porch, his close-cropped dark hair crowning captivating blue eyes. A pair of wide shoulders and a set of washboard abs tucked into faded Levis set Kaci’s heart skittering. Since she’d moved in to Heart’s Haven last August, he’d been coming over to check on her with greater and greater frequency. And Kaci had to admit, with his generous muscles and lopsided, mischievous grin he was easy on the eyes. Now, he held a casserole dish in one hand, neatly covered with foil. Kaci’s belly let loose the most unladylike growl, reminding her she’d skipped dinner, and she was thankful the door remained closed so Ryne wouldn’t hear.

“Kaci?” His voice, deep and smooth as a bass guitar, drifted through the door.

She brushed a hand over the cotton fabric of her blouse, frowning at the hideous brown coffee-splotch seeping across the front seam like the worst sort of modern art, and drew a quick breath before tugging the door wide. She plastered on a cheerful smile. “Hey, Ryne.”

“Hey, yourself.” He leaned against the doorjamb, his height nearly filling the doorway. A cool breeze ushered the crisp scent of winter as it scattered dried leaves across the small front yard. “I missed you at the cookout yesterday.”

“Oh, that, yeah…” Kaci nudged her glasses as they slipped down her nose again then gave up and took them off, tucking them into the pocket of her floral-print rayon skirt. “I guess I lost track of time. I have a mountain of work to catch up on.”

“Can you use a little help?” He eyed the stack of essays, now listing to the left like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Kaci did a little sidestep to block his view as his gaze hovered and then zeroed in on her tote. The “Love’s Lessons” letter peeked at them, the crumpled stationery an alluring shade of neon pink. Kaci figured the writer was young…possibly one of her students? She’d have to take extra care when answering it. Teens were so impressionable. Ryne’s voice drew her back. “I’m pretty good at English. I speak it…um…every day.”

Kaci laughed and ushered Ryne in. “What do you have there?” The aroma of tuna—her favorite—and vegetables wafted from the baking dish. “Smells yummy.”

Ryne waited patiently while Patches made a series of figure-eight’s around his ankles, and then he tossed Kaci a glance. “You skipped dinner again, didn’t you?”

“Uh-huh.” Kaci caught her lower lip between her teeth and nodded. “Guilty as charged.”

“Guilty…” Ryne shook his head. “No need for that. I’m off duty.” He brushed past her to set the casserole dish on the kitchen counter, and Kaci caught a whiff of his aftershave…crisp pine like the lush Angelina Forest that gathered beyond the Heart’s Haven complex. Though Ryne looked handsome in the regulation Angel Falls Police Department dress blues he wore to work each day, he was even more-so in a gray T-shirt and faded jeans that seemed to hug every inch of his well-defined muscles and brought out the color of his eyes. “And it’s tuna casserole—my specialty.”

“You cook?”

“How else am I going to survive?”

She lifted the corner of the foil and gave the casserole a quick peek as steam wafted to tickle her nose. “No girlfriend to bake for you?”

“You know the answer to that.” He winked, and the scar above his left eye danced, making her wonder once again just how he’d acquired it. She knew he had a second scar across the length of his left forearm and figured he’d suffered them at the same time—but how? Thus far, she hadn’t gathered the nerve to ask. “Not yet, but I hope to…soon. Except I think I’ll bake for her, instead. I don’t mind cooking.”

“You don’t?” Kaci was tongue-tied by his admission. He hoped to have a girlfriend soon? Did he have someone in mind? Her heart sank just a bit. She was in no way ready to plunge into the dating world again, yet the thought of Ryne sharing a meal—and possibly more—with another woman gave her belly an odd little tug. She reminded herself Ryne was her friend…nothing more. How could he respect a woman who was so unlovable, who’d failed at romance so miserably that her fiancĂ© left her stranded at the altar?

She took her time uncovering the creamy concoction, still bubbling from the heat of the oven, as Ryne propped a hip against the counter. One look—at Ryne, and then the casserole—and Kaci’s mouth watered. Again her belly grumbled, this time well within Ryne’s earshot. He burst into laughter.

“Sounds like you need a hit of that casserole—and quick.”

Kaci clasped a hand tight over her belly as heat seeped across her cheeks. “Only if you’ll join me.”

He nodded and reached into the cabinet above the sink where he knew she stored the dinner plates. “You don’t have to ask me twice.”


REVEAL! Heart's Haven Babies, the upcoming Heart's Haven collection, includes stories from Delia Latham, Marianne Evans, Tanya Stowe...and, of course, me - Mary Manners.


Sometimes letting go is the best way to hang on.

Crime-beat reporter Cade Magnusen never imagined a tragic accident would leave four-year-old niece Gracie in his care. Bitter over the loss of loved ones and nursing his wounded heart, Cade can no longer stomach chasing the true crime stories that elevated him to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. He grabs the chance to relocate to the quiet community of Heart’s Haven to raise precocious Gracie and reassemble his life.
Emmy Lassiter loves ice cream and children. She spends her days managing Babycakes, an ice cream and sweet shop whose vibrant atmosphere delights all who enter. The only mystery in Emmy’s life—beside the uncertainty over her ability to have children of her own—is what brought new Heart’s Haven neighbor Cade Magnusen and curly-haired, blue-eyed cherub Gracie to Angel Falls.

When Cade drops by Babycakes in search of a feature story for the Angel Falls Trumpet, he and Emmy feel a quick and powerful connection. The two soon begin to realize they must trust God if they are ever to move from the past into a sweet and fulfilling future.


Noah Talbert just lost his twin sister—his closest living relative—to a horrific automobile accident. Her death brings him straight to Angel Falls following years of rootless wandering when he claims guardianship of his five-year-old nephew Dylan.

 Elementary school counselor Charlotte Latherson is focused on Dylan’s case for reasons both personal and professional. His mother was Charlotte’s best friend, and her death has transformed the once joyful and engaging little boy into a reticent, downtrodden kindergartner.

 Charlotte is well aware of Noah’s history. Other than a close relationship with his sister, Noah’s life has been solitary; he keeps to himself and builds strong walls of protection around a heart she quickly discovers is authentic and true. But can he provide what’s best for Dylan?

At times they butt heads over the youngster’s life, but as they struggle God opens a loving pathway in their hearts. While Noah fights for a child he feels is nobody’s but his, Charlotte wonders if the feelings they share can’t create the bridge to a miracle.


Everyone thinks they can push Jaci Meadows around -- her family, her boss, even her full-grown Malamute. Baby reaches Jaci’s shoulders, weighs more than the petite event planner and has decided Jaci’s designer shoes are her favorite toys.

Justin Blakely understands dogs better than most people. It’s clear to him Jaci Meadows can’t handle her own life, let alone a two-hundred-pound Malamute ready to take on the world. 

Can one oversized Malamute and one very discerning dog whisperer help guide Jaci back to her true path? Can she learn to say no or is she just too addicted to the need to be needed?


Dawni Manors is looking for hope and a future when she leaves San Antonio behind and rents a cottage at Heart’s Haven. She's charmed by rumors about the place being a favorite hangout for angels. Her chaotic childhood as an orphan left her yearning for peace and tranquility. Maybe she'll find those things at the quaint rental complex.

Instead, she finds Pro Cowboy Gavin Sampson, an abandoned infant, and a whole lot of emotional chaos. If the Heart's Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of DANCE WITH ME!


  1. Congratulations to Nellie on winning a copy of Maria's Angel in our week 15 giveaway. Who will be our Week 16 winner???

  2. I just love the Heart's Haven series! Dance With Me is very powerful and full of emotion and love. You all will be very blessed by this story.

    I'm looking so forward to our Heart's Haven baby set!!! Oh how I love the excerpts and those covers are simply beautiful!!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Sharon. We are beyond excited to share our Heart's Haven Babies stories with you!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Wonderful stories and excerpts! You ladies are so talented. God bless.


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