It is five days since Christmas Day and here in the Midwest the snow is getting a bit dingy. At my house, the small tree looks a little more forlorn for lack of presents at the base. The leftovers have been eaten and the company has departed. The music that hung in the air is silent. A few items remain out of place, but the house is quiet once again. The frenetic energy that bounced off the walls in the days before and surrounding Christmas, is slowly dissipating.
Although I am the first to admit that I enjoy seeing and hearing from people I haven’t visited with in a while, as the big day draws near, I find myself seeking a time-out. It is all a bit too much—the sounds, the colors, the over-the-top cheer, the rich foods, the ridiculous parking at the stores. There are so many expectations, so many things I should be doing. Because of those, the holidays are stressful for me and that is not what they are supposed to be about.
That is why the days from the 26th to the 30th are my favorite. The expectations of what I should do are gone. (Can you tell that I am a bit rebellious when it comes to the “shoulds” in my life? I imagine it puts me on your Naughty List now and then.) But during the days between Christmas and New Years, the time is suspended. Reflection on the year that has gone by and hope for the year to come slowly seep into my senses like a subtle, fragrant scented candle.
There is a settling inside me. I am full…
Of a quiet joy…(Matthew 1:23)
A quiet peace…(Romans 8:35, 37-39)
And there is HOPE.
This time of year reminds me of a blank page…one that is waiting, expectant, for a new story to be written upon it. I even become a bit giddy with the prospect.
Santa…I have a request. 2016 has been rough for so many. For those that are grieving or suffering, my wish is that 2017 brings a new hope, a new light, and a renewed resilience. A new beginning…
Can we make that their gift in the coming year? And can they get it early? January 1st perhaps?
Tomorrow is the release of my latest sweet western historical romance
Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff
To celebrate, I am holding a giveaway. Details are at the end of the post.
This is the last book (#4) in my Heroes of San Diego Series. Each of the books can be read on their own without needing to read the others, but if read together, the reader will get to know the inhabitants of Clear Springs and enjoy the sense of community the series has.
Here is the blurb from the back cover of the book to give you a little idea of the story —
A Christmas to Remember!
Clear Springs’ new schoolteacher, Gemma Starling, feels as if she’s been given a fresh start. So long as no one discovers her dark secret—she once shot a man in self-defense!
Sheriff Craig Parker has forsworn love, but delightful Miss Starling intrigues him. And when events at the school turn dangerous, Craig won’t let her face it alone. Gemma might just be the one woman he could ever love, but will the secret she’s hiding tear them apart or bring them together by Christmas?
Gemma Starling had traveled two thousand miles from her former life to flee a crime that she committed. As the new schoolteacher in Clear Springs, she tries to blend in, but the sheriff in town is not so easily deceived. Gemma’s attempts to avoid Craig Parker only intrigue him more. When her life is threatened, he realizes that his personal feelings for her have far surpassed his professional responsibilities for the case. He can’t lose her…yet does he even know who she truly is?
Since the title mentions a Christmas Kiss, I thought I’d share with you the excerpt of Craig and Gemma’s first kiss in the book.
– Excerpt –
Craig’s gaze narrowed. “That’s not what I mean. What happened that you traveled all the way from Boston to California…and I suspect…alone? That’s unusual for a woman. Even more so for a woman who obviously had money. What did your family have to say about it?”
He was figuring out too much. If she wasn’t careful he would eventually add things up and realize she wasn’t who she said she was, but she should tell him something to appease his curiosity. Perhaps then he would leave her past alone.
“Mother died when I was very young. A carriage accident. I don’t remember her. My father raised me on his own…with a few servants.”
“He died recently. It was his heart,” she answered the question that appeared immediately on his handsome face.
Craig frowned. “How long after his death did you leave?”
“A month later.”
“Didn’t give you much time to put his things in order.”
She could hear the question in his voice. “I couldn’t bear the quiet. I was so close to Father. He supported me in everything I wanted to do.”
Craig’s brow raised.
It didn’t take a scholar to recognize the look he gave her. “I was, perhaps, a bit spoiled. We discussed his law cases. He challenged me to think for myself and thought I’d make a good lawyer. I was in my second year of law school at the university when he died.”
They turned from the main road of town and headed down the lane to the boardinghouse.
“They let women in?”
“There were two other women in my class.”
“Why didn’t you stay and finish?”
“When my father died, I had to start afresh—somewhere totally different. I’d been writing for years to Elizabeth. She wrote to me and poured her heart out in her letters as her world was falling apart. She is the sister I always wanted. When my father died, all I could think of was seeing her.” She looked down at the ground. “That’s when I packed a bag, closed up the house and left Boston.”
“No relatives? No one tried to stop you?”
“No.” Thank goodness they were nearing the boardinghouse and the twilight shadows hid her face from his scrutiny. She’d told him the truth…just not all of it.
He stopped before Molly’s fence and whipped the lead strap around the top railing. Then he walked her up to the door. Molly’s parlor lantern spilled light outside and onto the small porch.
“Do you ever think about going back?”
“And leave Clear Springs?” she teased at first, and then grew serious. “I may move somewhere new. But no, I won’t ever go back.” She knew full well what waited for her in Boston—a jail cell.
“Maybe someday you will finish law school.”
That would make her too easy to track down. Women lawyers were few and far between. No…that dream had ended abruptly and was best left in the past. “Someday never comes.” She pasted on a smile to take the sting out of her own words. “Good evening, Craig. Thank you for…everything.”
When she turned to go inside, Craig stepped forward. “Wait.”
“You answered a few questions I had.” He searched her face as though still trying to figure out more. His face was inches from her own. She breathed in the scent of leather and horse that always hovered around him. The brown stubble on his jaw caught her attention. So rough…and yet the ends gleamed gold.
“It’s getting late. Molly will have supper waiting.” She didn’t want him to know more…see more…because if he did, he might see that she was coming to care for him even though she oughtn’t. He was too smart.
With his hand to her waist, he pulled her close.
She stiffened. “Craig? What are you doing?”
He gazed at her, his blue eyes intense. “Be still.”
She knew that look. It thrilled her…and yet she couldn’t let him kiss her. “Craig… No. Remember,” she said desperately fighting the tug inside her that drew her closer to him. “I promised Mr. Tanner? You…should…unhand me.” Her words were a bare whisper and she couldn’t help but stare at his lips. They looked soft…and inviting.
“I plan to.” He lowered his mouth to hers, touching her lips lightly, tentatively with his. His warm breath tickled her face.
Just the lightest butterfly touch and she calmed, suspended somewhere between Boston and Clear Springs, wrong and right, despair and hope.
Inch by inch his fingers walked around to encircle her waist and then, holding her gently secure, he slanted his mouth over hers and deepened the kiss.
Her lips tingled under his, the sensation spreading and rippling through her entire body and into her toes. Her heartbeat quickened. This shouldn’t be happening. She knew this shouldn’t be happening. She even clenched her hands into fists on his chest to push him away, but then found herself stopping just short of doing that and instead, grasping his leather vest, unwilling to let go. Oh, my…
He took his time ending the kiss.
His gaze pinned her in place even though she knew she should take her leave. For an earth-shattering moment as they looked at each other, time seemed to stop.
Then he released her. “Good night, Gemma.”
He strode down Molly’s path, mounted his horse and rode away.
Happy Monday! I am gearing up for the release of Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff in November. This book will wrap up my Heroes of San Diego Series. It will be hard to leave my friends, but new stories are waiting to be written. I thought I’d go back to the beginning and post a bit about the story-lines and how they are connected because at the end of my post I have a question for you…
The Angel and the Outlawwas my debut story, the “book of my heart,” that just begged to be written. When young, I loved the peninsula on Pt. Loma in San Diego where the old 1854 lighthouse stands. At that time, visitors could climb up the narrow circular stairs and walk around the catwalk. Not so anymore. In that story, a young woman from town dares to tutor the light keeper’s daughter who happens to be mute from a traumatic event in her past. Stuart is hiding out from the law and every bit a taciturn hero, but Rachel sees through his gruff exterior in the way he treats his daughter. When the law starts to close in on him, things get heated! (This book is NOT SWEET.)
The Gunslinger and the Heiress takes place fifteen years later and is the story of Caleb and Hannah ~ the two children from my first book. I had many readers write in and ask if Hannah ever got over her muteness. I loved writing this story which has a dash of adventure and piracy in the mix. Who knew there were pirates off the coast of California? I learned that fact while researching and just had to include it in my story. The story takes place as the Hotel Del Coronado is being finished. Caleb is a scrapper and a reluctant bodyguard for Hannah. He’s always loved her…but she is as far removed from him as the moon now that they’ve grown up.
Familiar Stranger in Clear Springs starts out in La Playa ~ a town on the harbor that is closest to the lighthouse (and where Rachel of Book #1 taught school.) Elizabeth is Rachel’s good friend and heading into spinsterhood. She runs the family mercantile and has all but given up on love since a soldier from the nearby Fort Rosecrans left her without a word. Four years later, he suddenly shows up again and twists her heart into a tangle. Of course, she does the same to him! This story follows them into the back country where Tom has been sent to make sure the gold shipment from the mines gets through to the bank safely. Only trouble is, Elizabeth is smack dab in the middle of the fray!
Christmas Kiss from the Sheriffwill be released on November 22nd! Gemma is Elizabeth’s good friend from La Playa who is the new school teacher in Clear Springs. Unbeknownst to the people of the mining town, Gemma is running from her past and has never taught a class in her life. When she skirts around a few questions and gets herself into a muddle at school, Sheriff Craig Parker becomes suspicious—so many things don’t add up about the beautiful new teacher. But she’s smart and independent and he is drawn to her!
As I write my stories, it always amazes me how the characters become “real” to me. I think of all these heroes and heroines as friends and wish I could meet them face to face. Weird, isn’t it? I guess it’s a writer’s mind…
My publisher, Harlequin, is having a big ebook sale (ending tomorrow the 25th of Oct.)
This is only the second time I have ever heard of Harlequin doing this, so it is a
My entire back-list is on sale for $1.99! I’ll leave you with a few links…
For a chance to win one of my back-list books just let me know which one sounds like the story you would most like to read!
Feel free to go to my website’s Books Page and read the summaries and excerpts.