Monday, July 10, 2017

Week #29: Picnics and Promises (Six Delicious Summer Romances)

 
MOOSED OPPORTUNITIES—JAN ELDER
Rev. Samantha Evans loves Moose Creek, Maine, the land of moose and men, particularly her fiancé Eric Palmer. Forest ranger, Eric, strives to plan their wedding, but Samantha’s busy schedule, his interfering ex-wife, missing college students, and a pregnant moose, all conspire against him. Will their lives continue to be a series of Moosed Opportunities?

ZARA’S FOLLY—CLARE REVELL
British equestrian, Zara Michaels, heads south to convince TJ Greggson to sell his property to her developer father. Any way she can. TJ co-owns the stables, catering to disabled children—his life’s purpose. His brother wants to sell. TJ doesn’t. Can TJ help untangle Zara from her past follies, or will their secrets destroy them both?

A POCKETFUL OF WISHES—MARY MANNERS
As childhood neighbors, Jenna Palmer and Carter Stevens discover first love. When a cross-country job transfer separates them, they promise to one day find each other. Years go by and they lose touch until an accident causes their paths to once again cross. Can their promise stand the test of time, or will time crush their promise…and their love?

SWEET DELIGHTS—CECELIA DOWDY
Patty-Lynn is stunned when she runs into her wealthy ex-boyfriend, Sam. She’s still haunted by their painful breakup seven years ago. Recently widowed, Sam now wants to fix their broken relationship. Seeing Patty-Lynn, happy in her bakery, gives him hope. Can her prize-winning pie recipe sweeten his new business venture and heal their broken hearts?

IMPERFECTLY PROVERBS 31—AUTUMN MACARTHUR

The last thing geeky Samantha Rose planned for was the homemaking blog only her sister was ever supposed to see going viral. After a disastrous picnic, Daniel Novak, the cynical reporter dispatched to interview her, insists he must reveal the truth. But that could ruin everything, including their budding love.

A COURTSHIP FOR CLOVER—MARION UECKERMANN

Clover Blume’s chance of getting to know the groomsman escorting her to her sister’s wedding is threatened when he’s delayed. Jonathan Spalding’s money hasn’t managed to buy him one thing: a woman to love. Is the auburn-haired beauty partnering with him at his best friend’s wedding finding a way into his heart? What will it cost Jonathan to realize it profits him nothing to gain the world, yet lose his soul? And the girl.
 
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1st Chapter: A POCKETFUL OF WISHES:
 
SUNLIGHT FILTERED THROUGH THE WILLOWY branches of elm trees that lined the road, warming Jenna as Carter loaded her suitcase into the trunk of the car. The street was quiet, almost as if it had gone down for a nap, with the exception of Old Man Corker’s Bassett Hound who yowled in protest of his confinement to the yard three houses down.
Jenna felt like yowling, too. Maybe she’d trod over to Old Man Corker’s yard, throw herself into the grass beside Buster, and sob until no more tears came.
Sadness gripped her heart. She could barely breathe.
Life as she knew it was going to end right here in the driveway of the modest ranch home she’d lived in since the day she was born. Literally, her mom had given birth to her right there in the living room, when Jenna decided to come into the world too quickly for her mom and dad to make it to the hospital. She’d heard the story so many times she knew it by heart, and her parents joked that she still had only one speed—fast.
Everything she’d ever known in her whole life was in this house, yet her parents were still bent on taking her from it. The moving truck that had left before the sun peeked over the horizon was proof. And the jam-packed car didn’t help matters, either. There was hardly room in the backseat for her to squeeze in when the time came.
Which would be soon…way too soon. She winced at the pinch of disappointment.
Maybe she could stay behind. She was thirteen now—almost fourteen—and old enough to take care of herself, right? She’d stay in the house, make her own meals and get herself to school when summer came to an end. Maybe she couldn’t drive herself yet, but she had her bike and the bus also stopped by every morning, in case of rain. She could make it work, couldn’t she?
Except for the fact that the house had already sold. She and her parents had to be out today, because the closing was over and the new people planned to move in that evening. By nightfall Jenna would no longer be in Tennessee. Worse, she wouldn’t live right next door to Carter anymore.
Did that mean they couldn’t still be best friends?
Her breath hitched once more. Jenna couldn’t imagine ever laughing again as she romped along the water’s edge to find the best swimming hole in Maple Ridge or raced through a field of tall grass with the wind at her back and a kiss of sunlight tickling her cheeks. Not without Carter at her side to share in her adventures. Not while he remained here in Maple Ridge while her family relocated clear across the country to Leavenworth, Washington—exactly two thousand, four hundred and eighty-one miles away. She’d studied the map Dad had given her, and had memorized every nuance of the route. So she knew. And it was awful.
Leavenworth.
It sounded like one of the bad words Mom and Dad forbade her to use. How ironic that this new town her parents were determined to drag her to shared the same name as a prison. Because Jenna might as well be going to prison. Her parents were ruining her life.
Especially her dad, with his new job. That’s all he’d talked about for weeks now. He didn’t even have time to talk about school anymore, or come to her softball games.
When she was still playing softball. Which she couldn’t do anymore, because they were moving to Leavenworth.
Just for spite she rolled the word around on her tongue and muttered.
Leavenworth…Leavenworth…
Tears welled in her eyes as she lifted her gaze to find Carter. Dark, shaggy hair spilled over his forehead, highlighting the dusky pallor of his cheeks. In another month his skin would glow bronze from hours spent in the sun while he helped his dad with their lawn care business. He’d worked beside his father since the summer he’d turned nine. He was fourteen now—nearly four months older than Jenna.
Carter swiped the tumble of hair away, revealing eyes the color of rain-slicked river rock—gray with specks of russet along the edges. She’d always loved his eyes. They were one-of-a-kind.
Carter closed the trunk and turned to face her.
“Don’t cry, Jen.” He grinned ruefully as he jammed his hands into the pockets of his favorite pair of faded jeans. She knew they were his favorite because he’d told her last week while they were eating sundaes together down at Miller’s Ice Cream Parlor following an afternoon of swimming at the community pool. Carter had said the pants probably wouldn’t fit much longer, since he’d launched into another growth spurt, but he’d make them last as long as he could. His folks would be tight on money until the mowing season cranked up to its full stride in a couple of weeks, maybe a month. “Everything’s going to be OK.”
“How can this ever be OK?” Jenna’s lower lip trembled and she caught it between her teeth. “I might as well be moving to Mars.”
“It’s not that bad. You’ll see.” He shrugged, trying his best to lighten the moment. But his tone told her he was just as miserable. “You can write to me and fill me in on all the fun places on your side of the country.”
That sounded forever apart.
“I don’t think there are any fun places in Leavenworth.” How could there be, with a name like that? Suddenly her belly roiled like it had last weekend, when Carter jumped from the pool’s high dive and then dared her to do the same. She’d climbed the ladder and inched out to the end of the board. Then a glimpse down into the water had stars dancing in her line of vision as she suddenly felt like she’d pass out. But Carter had gently coaxed her from the pool’s edge, his voice low and raspy, making her believe she could do it. So she did believe, and she squeezed her eyes shut tight and jumped. For a beat of time the breath lodged in her throat, then her squeal could probably be heard into the next county. The adrenaline rush was so cool that, following a congratulatory fist bump from Carter, she went back five more times.
But this whole idea of moving cross-country didn’t feel cool. It just felt…awful. She didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay right here, with Carter.
“Of course there are fun places.” Carter’s eyes betrayed his words. Jenna had known him since they were both in diapers, and right now his forehead was knitted into a frown, his eyes stormy-dark. “You’ll find them. Then you’ll write and tell me all about them.”
“Like pen pals?” She placed a hand on his forearm. His skin warmed her chilled fingers. “Sort of like passing notes in class except we have to send them through the mail instead?”
They’d done a lot of note passing over the years without getting caught. They were both good at it. Really good.
“Yes, like that, only better because we’re already…” He glanced down at her hand resting easily on his arm and offered a sort of lopsided grin. “Best friends…and even maybe more.”
“More?” Jenna’s pulse did the same weird sort of leapfrog against her throat as it had when Carter asked her to dance the last slow song at their end-of-school dance. “Do you really think so?”
“Um…yeah, I do.”
“Me, too.” Jenna’s eyes brimmed with tears. “Will you write back?”
“You know I will, Jen.”
Carter drew his hands from his pockets and fidgeted for a moment, as if he wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. A mockingbird ran through its litany of calls as he took a step closer to her and skimmed his thumb ever-so-gently over her cheek.
Jenna closed her eyes and sighed. This was one of his gestures she loved. Her insides dipped and scrambled as if she’d just plunged over the first huge crest of the Screaming Banshee coaster that she and Carter had ridden together at last year’s Labor Day fair.
“I don’t want to go,” she murmured on a sob as she opened her eyes again to focus on him. “I really don’t.”
“I know.” His lips trembled. “I don’t want you to, either. I’m going to miss you so much, Jen.”
“This can’t be happening.” Jenna gulped back the lump in her throat as tears spilled over to trail down her cheeks. “Tell me it’s just a bad dream, Carter.”
“I can’t.” The words were anguished now. His voice cracked, as Jenna knew it tended to when he got upset. “I can’t because it’s more real than a heart attack.”
As if to prove the truth in that, Jenna’s parents shuffled from the house. Mom had a tote bag, stuffed full of magazines and knitting supplies, slung over one shoulder. Dad carried a pair of overnight bags. Unlike Jenna, they were both prepared for the journey ahead. It would take six days by car to travel from Maple Ridge to Leavenworth, considering the list of sightseeing detours Dad had tacked onto the trip.
Six days…a lifetime.
Her parents came down the short flight of steps and, instead of heading straight for the car, went to the side of the house. They disappeared around the corner to check on something. Their voices drifted on the breeze.
Jenna swiped at her tears. She had only a few minutes more with Carter. She could hardly bear the thought. Time sped up just as she wished it would come to a screeching halt. She was in a race car with no steering wheel, no emergency brake. The end of the track rushed up to greet her.
Why had her dad agreed to take the Chief of Police position in Leavenworth? Wasn’t the sergeant’s position in Maple Ridge good enough for him? She’d heard her parents whispering heatedly to each other behind the closed door of his office and knew there had to be some explanation, but as usual she stood firmly in the dark. Was it too late for Dad to change his mind and let them remain here, where everything was perfect, happy…familiar?
With Carter.
Jenna had begged and pleaded with her parents, but to no avail. The decision was final.
They were leaving.
Today. In a few minutes.
“Don’t forget me.” Jenna lifted her gaze to capture Carter’s and held tight as his face swam before her. “It’s going to be hard enough not seeing you every day. I couldn’t bear not talking to you, too.”
“I won’t ever forget you, Jenna. We’ll see each other again. I promise.” His eyes filled too, and his chest heaved as he struggled with his emotions. “I’ll wait for you.”
“Write to me.” She swiped tears from her cheeks. “Every day.”
“And twice on Sunday.” He cupped her elbows and leaned in close. Sunlight cocooned them as a gentle breeze ruffled Jenna’s hair. His T-shirt held the scent of summer mingled with citrus from the dryer sheets his mom used. “Every Sunday.”
Carter dipped his head, his gaze suddenly softening. His fingers trembled along the nape of her neck as his breath skimmed her cheek.
Jenna’s pulse galloped as the universe shifted. Carter was going to kiss her.
They’d never kissed, never even really held hands except for the slow dance a few weeks ago. Or when he helped her navigate slick rocks to cross a shallow section of the river.
And there was the time they rode the Screaming Banshee together. Then he’d laced his fingers with hers and held tight. In that moment Jenna felt as if she could conquer the world.
She wanted to kiss Carter…had wanted to for the longest time.
She sensed he wanted to kiss her as much. He shifted slightly and his lips settled ever-so-lightly along her cheek, grazing the spot where his thumb had wandered only moments ago. His touch was so gentle and tender, that no words were needed to communicate all he felt…mirroring all she wished for.
A moment or two passed as Jenna held her breath. She tilted her chin and his lips skimmed lower to find hers. As his mouth melded to hers, the softest gasp billowed up from deep inside her. Her heart paused and then quickly recalibrated, turning everything bright and new as the sun burst into a million points of light. As he held her close she inhaled the blend of summer sunshine and fresh-mown grass on Carter’s skin. She bottled the scents that would forever brand him into her memory.
Carter.
She would experience only a single first kiss in her lifetime, and now that kiss belonged to Carter. No length of time or distance could ever take it away.
Forever sealed. Forever ours…together.
Her parents’ voices, drawing closer now, carried on the breeze to shatter the tender moment. She turned and spied them heading back around the corner. Reluctantly, she pressed a hand to Carter’s chest. As he stepped back, putting distance between them, an arctic blast sliced through Jenna.
“Jenna, it’s time to go,” her mother called. “Say your final goodbyes.”
Jenna shivered as another chill swept in.
Final…this is final.
“No, it’s not.” Carter had developed a knack over the years for sensing what she was thinking. Being next-door neighbors since birth did have its advantages. “This isn’t final. I’ll find you, Jenna, no matter how far away your parents take you. I promise.”
“I’ll find you, too.” She nodded stiffly. “I will.”
“That should be easy, since I don’t plan on going anywhere. I’ll be right here.” Carter delved a hand into his pocket to retrieve something. He pressed the small, cool object into the palm of her hand. “Take this. Keep it close and I’ll always be with you. Always, Jenna.”
Jenna closed her fingers over his gift as a wave of sadness chased away all of the light. She couldn’t bear to look at what he’d given her. She turned away, sobs suddenly taking over as Carter held open the car door for her and she slipped into the backseat. A moment later the door closed and the engine roared to life.
As Dad steered the car away from the curb Jenna turned and knelt in the seat. Through the rear window, she kept her gaze glued to Carter. She’d never forget the vision of him standing alone at the edge of the sidewalk haloed by sunlight. He’d jammed his hands into his pockets and tried his best to smile, but looked as miserable and lost as she felt.
Jenna folded her arms and rested her chin on them as her chest heaved. She struggled to breathe through her tears while her mind screamed what she’d failed to form into words.
    Goodbye, Carter. I’ll love you forever.
~~~~~

Thanks for visiting.

Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a copy of Picnics and Promises. Winner will be announced Monday, July 17.

 

 

14 comments:

  1. Would love to win so I can share with mom and these authors are amazing people

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    1. I hope your mom enjoys the stories, Debbie. Your copy is on its way!

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  2. This looks like a great collection of stories! Thanks for sharing!
    sallyshupe1 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks so much for joining up, Sally. This is bonus week: 2 winners. Your copy is on its way!

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    2. Thank you so much!! Have a great week!

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  3. Oh, Mary! I can just feel their heartbreak! Please tell me that get back together as adults. . . no, wait! Don't tell me and spoil the story, but I hope they do!
    Thanks for the blurb (that almost has me blubbering!) and the opportunity to win. Good luck to everyone!
    Blessings~

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    1. Hi, Robbie. Thank you so much for joining us. A copy of Picnics and Promises is on it's way to you! Happy reading!

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  4. Looking forward to reading it, Mary! As soon as I get my next book launched, I'm planning a lovely week reading a story a day from the set!

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    1. It has been a pleasure writing with you, Autumn. I am looking forward to our Christmas collection!

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  5. can't wait to read these and I don't usually purchase books,lol

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    1. Thank you so much, Sitti! I hope you enjoy these sweet and spunky stories.

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  6. Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. Please send your email to sunriserun63@aol.com and I will get a winner's copy to you!

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  7. Hi, everyone...we are continuing this spotlight for another week, with another winner announced on Monday, July 24. Tell all your friends to stop by.

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Thank you for reading this week's 1st chapter! I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave your comment, along with an e-mail address. If you are this week's winner, you'll receive a request for your mailing address, so I can get your book right out to you.

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