Hello everyone. In just a few short weeks my October release, Home For Thanksgiving, will hit the shelves. This is a novella length work and is part of the Once Upon A Thanksgiving anthology. It’s my very first novella and I must say I found it a challenge to write a shorter work and still fit in all I wanted to show in the development of the romance between my hero and heroine. But hopefully I succeeded.
This book features the last and most enigmatic of the Lassiter siblings, Griff. Finding a heroine who was a match for Griff was also a real challenge for me, but I think I nailed it with the resourceful and determinedly optimistic Ruby Anne Tuggle. As I dug into Ruby’s character and learned more about who she was, I grew to really love and admire her. In the end, I discovered she has one of the most unconventional and poignant backstories of any heroine I’ve ever worked with.
Below is an excerpt that I hope you will enjoy. Set-up: Griff is escorting Ruby on a seven hour road trip and they are just finishing up a quick roadside picnic lunch, when they discover Ruby’s cat is missing.
Note: I’m giving away an advance copy of this book to one person who leaves a comment today.
“Thank you.” She offered him a grateful smile, but the worry never left her expression.
Swallowing a few choice words, he stepped away from the blanket and let his eyes scan the tree line once again. He didn’t hold out much hope of finding the feline, though, not unless it wanted to be found. A moment later he got his first clue as to the animal’s whereabouts when he heard the excited barking of a dog. It sounded close. Maybe the threat of a dog on its trail would send the cat scampering back in this direction.
“Do you hear that?” Miss Tuggle was at his elbow, the folded blanket in her arms.
“Yes. Don’t worry. I’m sure your cat can outrun most dogs. Probably streak out of those woods any minute now.”
“She is fast.”
A moment later Griff frowned. The tenor of the barking had changed. The dog no longer seemed to be moving and it sounded more like baying, as if it had treed its quarry.
Great. Just great.
Griff headed off in the direction of the barking.
Ruby’s chin came up. He hadn’t really invited her to follow him, but there was no way she was going to stay behind – it was, after all, her cat. She did her best to keep up with him, but it wasn’t easy. His long legs ate up the ground with amazing speed.
Fortunately they didn’t have far to go. Just inside the tree line they encountered the dog who was making all that racket. The black and brown hound had its front legs braced up against a tree trunk, nose pointed heavenward and howling up a storm.
Oh dear, was poor Patience up there somewhere?
As soon as the dog spotted them it stopped barking and dropped back down on all fours. Griff put a hand up and Ruby obediently stopped.
He moved forward, slowly, speaking to the animal in a tone too soft for her to make out the words. After a moment the dog’s tail began to wag and Mr. Lassiter was able to stoop down and ruff the animal’s fur.
While her companion was busy winning over the dog, Ruby anxiously scanned the almost bare branches of the tree. She finally caught sight of a furry face peering down at her from what must be a good ten feet above her head. “Look, there she is.”
Mr. Lassiter glanced at her, then upwards. “It figures,” he said dryly. “Wouldn’t do for her to stop on a lower branch, would it?”
He stood and stared down at the dog, pointing away from the tree. “Get along now.”
Ruby grinned as the animal cocked its head to one side, as if trying to figure out if this was some sort of game.
“Get!” He said it more firmly and louder this time, stomping his foot for emphasis.
The dog spun and loped away a few paces before turning back to stare at him.
Mr. Lassiter let out an exasperated breath. “Mutt, I really don’t have the time or patience for this.”
As if the animal finally understood, it turned and ran back into the woods.
Mr. Lassiter turned to her. “I hope that animal of yours will come when called after all.”
She hoped so too. Moving forward until she was directly under the branch Patience clung to, Ruby set the picnic blanket down and made a downward motion with her hand. “Patience, come on down, sweetie. That big bad dog is gone now so it’s safe.”
She kept her gaze on the cat, ignoring Mr. Lassiter’s snort at her description of the dog as ‘big, bad’. But Patience still didn’t budge. “I won’t let anything hurt you, I promise. Just come on down so we can get on the road again.”
What was she going to do if the cat refused to come down right away? She would never abandon her pet, but would Mr. Lassiter go off and leave them? She tried calling Patience again, letting some of her desperation creep into her tone.
Finally Mr. Lassiter stepped forward. “Enough.”
Ruby turned to him, trying to gain a little more time. “Please. She can’t stay up there forever. I can go back to the hamper and get a bit of ham. Maybe I can tempt her–”
“I doubt that’ll work. And we’ve already wasted too much time.”
“But I can’t just leave her here. She needs me.” And I need her.
“Nobody said anything about leaving her.” He tossed his hat on top of the picnic blanket, then, despite the chilly temperature, shrugged out of his jacket. “Here, hold this.”
She took the jacket and hugged it against her chest, its warmth strangely comforting. “What are you going to do?” A dozen scenarios played out in her head – everything from him throwing rocks at her poor pet, to him climbing up after it.
He momentarily paused in the act of rolling up his sleeves and raised a brow. “What do you think I’m going to do?”
She decided to believe the best of him and his intentions. “Go up after her?”
Instead of responding he finished rolling up his sleeves, took his jacket back from her and moved to the tree.
“But–” She missed the feel of his jacket in her arms. “You said you weren’t going to chase after her.”
“And I’m not.” He gave her a considering look as he tied the jacket’s sleeves in a chunky knot around his waist. “Are you trying to talk me out of this?”
“No. I just…” He really was going to climb up after Patience. The man was a real life hero. “Please be careful.”
He nodded. “Just be prepared for what comes next. I don’t aim to climb back down with that critter spitting and clawing in my arms.”
Now what did he mean by that? Ruby watched as he grabbed a lower limb and tested its weight. “I must be out of my mind,” he muttered. “I haven’t climbed a tree since I was a scrawny kid.”
She had trouble picturing him as a scrawny anything. Especially right now, what with the way his muscles bunched beneath his shirt as he grabbed hold of one of the lower branches.
Within seconds he was hauling himself up into the network of skeletal limbs. A heartbeat later he was standing on a lower branch and looking for footing on the next tier up. For a big man, he was surprisingly agile. She couldn’t help but admire the relative ease with which he maneuvered his way up the tree.
When he paused to control another bout of coughs, however, she had to bite her lip to keep from warning him once again to be careful.
Please God, don’t let him fall. I’d never forgive myself if he got hurt because of me and Patience.
But the cough quieted and he continued as if nothing had happened. When he finally reached a branch that put him at chest level with Patience, Mr. Lassiter leaned with his back against the trunk and carefully untied his jacket from about his waist.
She wished she could see what was going on better. “Is Patience okay?”
“She seems fine.” His tone held very little sympathy for the object of his rescue.
“Try talking softly to her,” Ruby urged. “She’s probably scared to death, poor thing.” If he’d only handle Patience the same soothing way he had the dog earlier–
Before she could finish that thought, he’d thrown his coat over the cat, scooped her up and had her bundled as cleanly as if he’d tossed her in a sack.
Not that Patience was taking it without a fight. The poor thing was screeching loud enough to be heard for miles and she was writhing so wildly that Ruby wondered how Mr. Lassiter was managing to keep his balance.
“Be careful.” She hadn’t been able to contain the warning this time. “How are you going to climb back down carrying Patience?”
What did he mean? Had he gone to all this trouble just to leave–
“Move a little to your left and get ready to catch.”
“Catch? Surely you’re not going to drop her.”
“That’s exactly what I’m going to do. Don’t worry, she won’t break. Just make sure you hold on to the critter and don’t let her run off again.”
“Ready or not.”
And with that, the bundle of squirming, screeching feline came falling from above. Ruby managed to catch it, but the impact knocked her down on her backside.