Halfway across the parking lot, Robbie stopped and pulled at his bowtie. “I hate these things.”
tie or the gala?” Maggie straightened her brother’s cheap clip-on tie and had a
vivid flashback of decades past to the senior prom where she’d tried to smooth
down Robbie’s cowlick. Balding had long since cured that problem.
prom had also been held at this place, the Rancho Allegro Country Club. It
seemed like a lifetime ago, and yet, here she was with her brother—again—in
fancy clothes. It was as if she was on a spinning wheel revisiting the same
places with the same people over and over again.
he growled. “All these pompous posers looking down on the rest of us peons.” He
thought about pointing out that with his generous salary, he was probably
richer than most of the people attending the party—not to mention in the world—but
since she knew he hadn’t gone into medicine for the money, she pressed her lips
like your costume,” he said, his gaze flicking over her. “The blue wig should
make you look like a smurf or Marge Simpson, but somehow you pull it off.”
fluttered her wings. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Tessa made it.”
lips tightened and a closed expression like a hood passed over his face.
don’t you like her?”
never said I don’t like her.”
clam up whenever she’s around.”
shrugged. “It’s weird you’re friends, that’s all.”
nothing like each other. You’re you and she’s…she drives a Mercedes.”
Mercedes isn’t a sin-mobile.”
elbowed her. “Come on, I have to show my face.” As head of the pediatric
department, he was right. He looped his arm through hers and led her through the
parking lot. “Thanks for being my date tonight.”
passed the valets milling around the Teslas and Land Cruisers. Because Robbie
didn’t believe in valets, they had parked in the neighborhood adjacent to the club.
The lights from the party flickered in the distance and a honky-tonk jazz band
began to play.
problem. I love free food.”
smirked and shook his head. “I don’t get you.”
you do.” She slid him a glance. “If not you, then who?”
right. I do get you, but I just don’t understand how you can spend all day around
food and never get tired of it.”
you get tired of saving people?”
but it’s different.”
it’s not. You save people, I feed them. We’re in the same line of work.”
passed the valets—young, lean men in button down white shirts and tight black
pants—without looking at them. Their parents had taught them that trick—never make
eye contact with someone who might expect a tip. Of course, since they hadn’t actually
parked in the lot, they didn’t tip the handsome young men, but Maggie felt
their questioning glances on her back as she followed Robbie up the stairs.
The Lodge, as locals called it, had been constructed for hunting back when
Rancho Allegro had really been a ranch and coyotes and mountain lions were
nearly as plentiful as the bunnies that currently terrorized gardeners. Strange
how the gentlest of the creatures were the ones who actually survived urbanization.
the lobby, several people vied for Robbie’s attention all at once. Maggie, a
baker without food, and therefore a nobody, wandered off to peruse the refreshment
table, not necessarily because she was hungry, but because she liked looking at
beautiful food displays.
had to stop herself from whistling in admiration. The caterers, men and women dressed
in black, moved like perfectly choreographed dancers around the room bearing
trays that looked more like portable art than appetizers. Edible art,
the phrase came to Maggie’s mind and rested there. Could she try and copy any
of this in her bakery?
fingers itched for her phone, but she’d left it at home. She wished she could
take pictures of this. Who were the caterers? Maybe she should skirt around
outside to catch a glimpse of their van. Hopefully, it would have a logo on it.
nose wrinkled when she spotted asparagus spears wrapped in a flakey crust and a
piece of bacon. She would never understand the compulsion to ruin perfectly
good baked goods by partnering them with vegetables.
no donuts?” Tessa, dressed as Florence Nightengale, appeared at her side. “They
should have hired Maggie’s muffins.”
turned and gave her friend a hug. “Maybe next time.” Robbie was right, they
were an unlikely pair. Tall and curvy Maggie dominated over pixie-like Tessa.
Maggie was a red-headed buzzard while Tessa was as blond as Tinker-bell.
nodded. “Robbie said he’d recommend me.”
smiled and said, “that’s great,” but her gaze darted around the room. Was she looking
for Robbie? Or someone else? “The costume looks really good on you.”
flushed and straightened Maggie’s wings. “I love making beautiful things even more
looks great here, doesn’t it?” Maggie said, glancing around.
Tessa said with a touch of pride. “My dad wondered if they were going to cancel
because of yesterday’s earthquake, but the Lodge wasn’t damaged. Thankfully.”
damage at your store?”
I couldn’t take care of myself. How about the bakery?”
lot of rattling pots and pans, but not much else.”
bumped her with her hip. “We’re lucky.”
wished that were true. Maggie’s parents used to say she was their lucky penny,
and she’d always felt that way…until Peter got sick. Sometimes she felt like
she’d been trying to win her way back into Lady Luck’s good favor ever since.
band, playing on a soundstage across the patio, began Conga and a line
took Maggie’s hand. “Want to dance?”
but first let me check my purse.”
winced when she saw Maggie’s old beat-up leather satchel. It matched the
costume like paper bag accessorized a tuxedo, but Maggie refused to be
embarrassed. She loved her purse—she’d had it for nearly a decade. And yes, it
looked like the poor country cousin among all the Coaches and Kate Spades on
the shelf, but she didn’t care.
strolled into the country club and sought out Tessa. Because of her diminutive
size, she was often easy to miss. Most of the guests were wearing masks, but Tessa
had told him she’d be wearing a Florence Nightingale costume. He spotted her dancing
with a tall, blue-haired yet beautiful butterfly.
he was new to Rancho Allegro, he only knew a handful of the guests. His uncle, Tessa
father, was the president of the St. John’s hospital chain and had insisted he
attend. Even though Steven was probably now worth more than his Uncle Jack, it
was still hard to deny Jack anything. The family still kowtowed to the rich uncle…even
when there were, now, richer cousins.
he crossed the patio, something crinkled beneath his shoe. Given the noise—the music,
the chatter, the clattering cutlery—he almost missed it. What was it that
people said about the sound of falling coins—everybody heard it because people
heard what they wanted to hear? A hundred-dollar bill. Steven stooped and
picked it up. Someone must have dropped it.
glanced around at all the bejeweled people in their fancy costumes. Only one
man wasn’t in a costume—although he was wearing a bowtie. Did he think that was
most crowds, someone would be frantically searching for the lost bill, but
here, no one seemed to notice. Still, it had to have been an accident. He held
it up and slowly turned, hoping someone would take note. Someone did. His
take that.” Mitch, dressed as a pirate, moved to swipe it from his hand.
tightened his grip on the bill and shoved it into his pocket, away from his
Mitch complained. “This is a fund raiser. I’m just trying to raise funds.”
tried not to roll his eyes. “If I can’t find the owner, I’ll give this to someone
who needs it.”
hospital needs it, you loon.” He waved his saber at the party. “That’s why we’re
is a hundred-dollar bill. It cost, what? Three-hundred dollars to get in here?
Besides, I already made a generous donation. I’m going to give this to someone
going to give it to…” Glancing around the room, he debated: a valet? One of the
servers? He could wait and donate it to one of the regular charities on his
list: the Red Cross, St. Judes Medical Research, or Orange Wood Foster Homes.
then it would weigh on him and Mitch would harass him. His gaze landed on the
coat check. One scruffy leather satchel stood out from the rest. He strode over
to the bored-looking girl behind the counter.
that purse,” he pointed at the satchel.
one?” Surprise for a moment overrode the girl’s bored expression. She obviously
didn’t think a man in a Zorro cape would be interested in a scuffed leather
satchel. “It belongs to my girlfriend.”
now you’re a liar,” Mitch whispered in his ear.
girl narrowed her lids and tightened her lips. “I can’t give out any of the
purses unless you have a ticket.”
hurried to placate her. “I just want you tuck this into it.” He pulled out the
bill and showed it to the girl. “Can you do that?”
a crazy person,” Mitch said.
like a fox,” Aunt Miriam said from behind him. Approaching eighty, she looked and
acted like someone nearly half her age. Tonight, she was dressed as a flapper. She
snaked her arm around his waist and looped the other through Mitch’s arm. “A
silver fox! How did two of my favorite boys ever grow to be so old and yet so handsome?”
flushed. “The same could be said of you, Mom.”
Aunt Miriam she shook her long cigarette holder in Mitch’s face. “I don’t want
anyone to know I’m old enough to belong to you.” She dropped her voice to a
whisper. “You could pretend I’m your date.”
could,” Mitch said, pulling away. “But I won’t.” He gave Steven the stink eye. “Let’s
can ignore me, but you better not ignore your wife,” Aunt Miriam said, nodding
at the approaching Lydia, who was wearing a Queen of Hearts costume.
audibly groaned, but also grinned.
were lots of things Steven didn’t admire about his cousin, but he did envy him
his long and happy marriage. Mitch had married ten years before him and
hopefully would be married for many years after. Lydia had been good for him.
butterfly he’d noticed earlier approached the coat check and handed the girl
her ticket. He watched as the girl handed the butterfly the beat-up purse that
now carried his one-hundred dollar bill.
gaze met the girl’s.
girlfriend, huh?” the girl asked.
this was a breach of some sort of hired-help etiquette.
Miriam perked up. “Your girlfriend?”
grinned. “Yeah, about that, Steven?”
rubbed his chin and decided to go along with it. “There you are,” he said. “I’ve
been looking for you.”
me?” The butterfly put her hand on her chest. Most of her face was covered by a
jewel-studded mask, but her lips were full, red and her skin creamy and white. Definitely
braced his shoulder, determined to carry through with his charade. “I want to introduce
you to my Aunt Miriam and cousin Mitch.”
butterfly blinked and took Mitch’s extended hand. “I’m Grace,” she said.
on, Grace,” Steven said, taking her hand and pulling her toward the dance floor
and away from his aunt and laughing cousin.
stumbled after him until they reached the dancing couples. “I don’t know who
you are or what you’re thinking,” she began.
silenced her by putting his finger on her lips. “Just go along with me, please.
There’s a hundred-dollar bill in your purse for your trouble.”
he kissed her.
warm lips spread a flurry of emotions through Maggie. Should she slap him? Push
him away? Scream at him…but…oh…was this what kissing was all about? How long
had it been since she’d been kissed like this? Maybe never.
loved Peter. She had loved kissing Peter. But near the end, the kisses had been
so mixed up in grief and pain, they’d just as soon make her cry as curl her
toes in pleasure…like this one did.
must this person think of her? What made him think he could just kiss her like
this? Maybe he kissed everyone like this. She couldn’t be someone special in
his life since he had only just met her…but he hadn’t really met her, had he?
It wasn’t as if they’d been properly introduced.
she’d given him her middle name.
this kiss, though…
really should end it. This was exactly the sort of privileged behavior her
brother and parents were always spouting off about. Rich people who thought they
could do whatever they wanted with little or no regard for who they stepped on…or
this kiss. It was like kissing Clark Gable, or Gary Grant, or…Zorro.
pulled away. She was grateful to see he wore a dazed expression.
touched her lips. “What was that?”
he said, “was worthy of an encore.” And he kissed her again.
time, Maggie, forgetting all about social injustice, leaned in and gave herself
into pleasure. It rocked her world. Shook her to the core. Made her legs shake.
took her a moment to realize that not only was her world rocking, but the lights
stringing above her were wildly swinging. The band had stopped playing. Pillars
bearing lanterns fell with a crash and glass shattered. The hospitality tent collapsed
and one of the curtains fell into an open fire pit.
still Zorro held her in his arms. In fact, he tightened the embrace, making it
more protective than sensual.
lights went out. Women screamed and men shouted. All around her, panicked people
pushed and pulled. Zorro grabbed her hand and pulled her through the chaos. She
staggered after him, barely seeing through the smoke and din.
damp and cold seeped through Maggie’s flimsy shoes as she crossed the lawn.
Zorro took her elbow and steered her through the parking lot, passing the
valets who had gathered into a tight bunch beneath the now catawampus awning.
Here, away from the party, the moonlight shone clearer.
blinked when she realized it wasn’t Zorro who had led her through the chaos,
but her brother.
What the heck?”
stopped and stared at her. “What’s your problem?”
don’t have a problem,” she said.
sound like you do.” He stepped closer. “Who was that guy you were kissing?”
floundered for an acceptable answer and finally came up with, “I don’t know.”
Because I’m not great at housekeeping but I love a clean house, I recently took a class on home organization class from guru, Marie Ricks. I loved it much more than I thought I would. These are my notes.
Only keep what we truly need and trust that the Lord will give us what we need when we need it. Be patient with the process. If you’re right-handed, begin at the right side of a room. Start at the top and work down.
Set up a plan
List every room. List closets, cupboards, drawers, and shelves (in each room). Pull everything out and sort items to share, discard, put elsewhere and keep.
Create A, B, C, and D closets. As are highly visible and accessible and are for usage, not storage. Ds are for storage, usually off-site.
And each closet has A, B, C and D areas. Don’t put anything on a shelf—use containers for the shelves. Create tabs out of duct tape and stick them on the containers so they’re easy to access.
You only need one of everything.
Get rid of everything weak and un-useful.
Aks yourself, do I need it?
Can I get by without this?
What if I need it again?
Who can I bless by sharing? (Be overly generous)
Be objective, ruthless, courageous, and don’t look back.
Put what we use most in the most convenient places
When we have less, we can better bond.
Keep enough, give away abundance
Store useful items.
I came across this scripture, and it took on a new meaning:
And now I would that ye should be humble and submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. … And now, may the peace of God rest upon you, and upon your houses and lands, and upon your flocks and herds, and all that you possess, your women and your children, according to your faith and good works, from this time forth and forever. Book of Mormon, Alma 7:23-26
I’m so lucky to be at Brigham Young University’s Education Week! Here are the notes from one of my favorite classes.
Happiness, Justin B Top
Science, Psychology, Saints & Scriptures
You can’t use happiness as a gauge for your righteousness
WHAT IS HAPPINESS?
Emotions fluctuate/sleep/hormones/ health
Happiness is your perspective, a way of thinking, a state of
mind ELEVATED PERSPECTIVES that leads to optimism, greater confidence,
To view the world, we all have our own unique world glasses:
experiences, social influences, biological factors, genetics, gut bacteria,
relationships. But we are not our glasses.
Consumerism is a huge factor in unhappiness.
Community and community celebrations increase happiness.
40% what you do
Can you influence your bio? Yes, with sleep, exercise,
WE AREN’T GOING TO BE HAPPY IF WE’RE JUST ALONG FOR THE
RIDE. WE NEED TO CREATE OUR OWN HAPPINESS
All we have to do is take steps. Be intentional about doing
things to make our lives better
TOP TEN FACTORS OF HAPPINESS
Some people look at commandments as
restrictions, but addictions and sins are the true restrictions. A BIG PART OF HAPPINESS IS UNDERSTANDING THE
CORRELATION BETWEEN SELF CONTROL AND FREEDOMS. Act for themselves and not to
be acted upon, 2 Nephi 2:26 Every
time we make a choice, it influences the future choices available to us.
Happiness is a choice. Abraham Lincoln, folks
are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Freedom and choice
relationship. When you choose to live a healthy life, you have more freedom to
do things. Use choice wisely. Finances, relationships,
TAKE CONTROL AND CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY between
stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose
our response. In our response lies our power to grow. Frankl
You do not find a happy life, you make it—Thomas
No one sees the world exactly the same
You don’t have to see the whole staircase,
just take the first step. Emotional hygiene: taking daily steps to
emotional steps. Take action. Chase after being good.
Life satisfaction: Ideals vs our
behavior. The goal of life’s satisfaction is to get our ideals to match our
behavior. The further they are a part, the greater our internal conflict. You
can raise your behavior or lower your ideals. You can leave the church, but
you can’t leave it alone, Joseph Smith. Unrealistic expectations. Comparisons
to others. Acknowledging progress. Are we pushing to be better? Do you recognize
God’s hand in your life? Do you give room for the atonement? Direction is more
important than speed. Where do we find feelings of self-worth? It has to come
from inside ourselves. It can’t be dependent on others. Does being more perfect
make us feel closer to God and happier? Be compassionate with yourself
Pursuing Meaning choose one’s own way.
Find something that gives us roots rather than being a tumble weed blown around
by life. Stop and find a sense of joy. Marriage is about making us more like
God. It’s a process. What brings joy? And what is the purpose of pain? Embrace
pain and its meaning. Don’t try and avoid pain. Stability.
Direction and purpose: Where do you
want to go and how will you get there? Everyone’s task is unique. We need to
create our own path. It’s so easy to get off track. Every step ask yourself, does
this line up with my purpose and goals?
Spirituality: A personal light that
makes everything clearer. How is religion different from spirituality? The goal
of religion is to lead us to spirituality. But you can be religious without
spirituality and you can be spiritual without being religious. Oddly, being
religious without spirituality is mentally dangerous and will cause unhappiness.
Live with passion: Flow. Finding
the right reason for doing the right things. What makes you feel alive? What
fills you emotionally? Find things that fill you, not drain you.
Gratitude: Gratitude can transform
common days into Thanksgiving. Express gratitude to others. Write letters to
people. We can refuse to remain in negative thought.
A sense of awe: Be content in
whatever state we’re in. Be overwhelmed by the earth and its beauties. Nature is the best medicine. Celebrate the
sacred in your life. Remember the life moments that changed you forever.
There’s beauty in everyone’s story.
Truth: Man should look for what
is, and not for what he thinks should be. Einstein. Finding truth is a
process, it’s getting to better know God. The nearer man approaches perfection
the clear are his views and the greater his enjoyments, till he has over come
the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin. Joseph Smith What
truth really matters?
Truth about me
Relationship with others
My relationship with God
Truth is about peeling away all that doesn’t
matter and facing who and what we really are. Identify the distortion of your
lenses. 12 Steps of addiction are about identifying truth within ourselves,
digging it all up and exposing all the lies.
Ready yourself for change
Seek God’s help
We create stories, we think we understand the
truth of things, but often we really don’t. Like the apostles sitting around the
table of the last supper, we need to ask, Lord is it I? What can I learn
from this? Posture says something about our happiness. Take a receiving posture
in life. Happiness is a butterfly—Hawthorne Let yourself be lived by
life Lao Tzu. The more you fight against God’s plan for you, the unhappier
you’ll be. Trust the journey. Go forward.
“We came to earth to learn how to control our bodies and our minds.” Mom Tate
I’m rereading Dennis Deaton’s The Book on Mind Management. I first heard Dr. Deaton speak at BYU’s Education Week. (I LOVE education week- I have a post about education week that you can read somewhere on this blog.) And I’m gearing up to be attending next week!
Anyway—love and highly recommend this book. If you need some motivation, read this book. If you don’t have the time, the money or the wherewithal to read his excellent book, here are a few quotes for your motivational Monday.
“We alter our destiny by altering our thoughts.” “The moment you start thinking differently, your world changes.” “The power of thought is the power of creation. Thoughts exert direct effect upon your body, your behavior and even the external world around you.” “You can alter circumstances and events at will by first creating a vision of what you want to have happen and then giving yourself permission to enact it.” “Moment by moment, thought by thought, you author your own script.” “The consummate truth of life is that we alter our destiny by altering our thoughts. The mind is our most crucial resource, our crowning asset, our ultimate battle arena. If we will master the power of our minds, we may do or be whatsoever we will.”
I’m not a follower of The Secret, by the way but I am a devoted follower of Him that said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” And so today, as I start a new week, I’m asking myself—what am I thinking?
Share a picture of your favorite hero (dogs and cats count) and I’ll send you free ecopy of my new release Verity and the Villain.
What’s the best part about writing? Creating new worlds? Plotting twists and turns? Summoning my inner ee cummings? Playing God with a cast of characters of my own creation? Getting to stay at home in my jammies while the rest of the world scurries around me with to-do-lists? Yes, yes, yes and sometimes. But for me, the very best part of writing is hanging with my heroes.
I know. Embarrassing to hear from a (young) grandma. But I find that for me a story really doesn’t find its legs (or chest or whatever) until I have sufficiently fallen for my hero. Hard. It’s not always easy.
Romance writers in my writing group complain that my heroes are too real. They bake bread, cut hair, and raise vegetables. They like children and play with dogs. They’re witty…they have to be witty.
Who are your favorite heroes? Gregory Peck as Atticus Fitch? Clark Gable as Rhett Butler? Cary Grant in North by Northwest? So many men…I have to fall in love with my heroes. Because that’s the very best part of being a writer.
I just noticed something. All of these heroes have my husband’s coloring, height and build. Go figure. Since all of these movies were made before I was born, then it stands to reason that I loved these men even before I met my husband. How sad for my family if I had fallen for a beach blond surfer dude. But I don’t think that would have happened. I think I knew from the very beginning, even as a young girl watching old movies, that I knew exactly what I was looking for.
I think of all the heroes I’ve loved in the books I’ve written. Some of my favorites aren’t even the heroes, per se. One of my very favorite characters is Uncle Mitch in Witch Ways. He’s basically my husband. In fact, some of my favorite Uncle Mitch lines came from my husband.
This is a picture of my husband passing out books at my first signing. The fact that he’s oh so supportive of my writings is just one of the things I love about him.
A glimpse of 1900 Ellis Island and New York City! The historical detail in this book is fascinating. Absolutely loved it. And I loved the book. My only complaint was the characters were rather flat. If Molly had an Ah-ha! moment, I must have missed it. Despite her change of location and all the happy just at the right moment occurrances, she was pretty much the same person when I started the book as when I finished. So, although it wasn’t much of an emotional upheaval, I’ll definitely more of Bowen’s books. I can spot a fellow history geek when I see one.
sat on a bench in the Maritime Park, unaware of the flotsam of people passing
her by. Barking sea lions jostled and jockeyed for position on the nearby pier,
much like the pedestrians around her. A young man sitting at the adjacent sidewalk
café unbuckled his belt, pulled down his pants, and squeezed a hypodermic
needle into his left buttock, but even this did little more than tickle her
elderly woman carrying a leather satchel with a large golden lock sat beside
Addison. Kicking off her shoes, the woman let out a sigh, propped an ankle on
her knee and massaged her toes.
can always tell when it’s about to rain,” she said. “Arthritis. I didn’t use to
believe in achy joints predicting the weather, just like I used to think that
people claimed to have motion sickness just so they could sit in the front
seat.” The woman slid Addison a glance from under her lashes, probably to see
if Addison was paying attention.
thought about moving to another bench, but that would take energy and
gumption—two things she currently lacked.
probably too young to have arthritis. How about motion sickness?”
pulled herself out of her funk long enough to glance at the elderly woman. She
wore a velvet patchwork skirt, a silk blouse, and a string of pearls around her
neck. The sharp sea breeze toyed with her silver curls and had turned her pale
cheeks pink. She exuded a friendly curiosity that made Addison want to crawl
under the bench and roll into a ball. But because it would be rude to say
nothing, she squeezed out a syllable. “No.”
took a deep breath and blew it out through her nose. “No, I don’t get motion
good.” The woman smiled as if Addison had just informed her the Giants had won
the World Series. “Then maybe you would like to go whale watching.” She fumbled
in her satchel and pulled out two glossy blue and red tickets. “I bought them
for myself and my grandson, but circumstances have changed and that’s no longer
possible.” She paused. “He’s a lawyer,” she added with more exasperation than
opened her mouth to protest, but couldn’t find the words. The mid-spring sun,
so often hidden behind clouds in Northern California, warmed her skin. Not even
the weather could offer an excuse. After a moment, she came up with, “Isn’t
there someone else you’d like to go with?”
Landon is my only family, other than my sister Erma. No one likes her. And all my
friends are dead,” she said this without a trace of sadness. “It’s nature’s way
of punishing me for hanging around so long—I had to watch all my friends die.”
lips twitched. An hour ago, she hadn’t thought she’d ever smile again, and here
she was, chatting with a stranger. “Sure. I’ll go whale watching with you. When
woman let out a long sigh. “You’re a lovely girl. I used to look like you
once—willowy with long red hair. Now, of course, I’m gray and more Monterey
pine than willow. I hope this won’t offend you, but I no longer wish to go.”
you look nothing like a Monterey pine. They’re all twisted and weather-beaten.”
silly to compare yourself to a tree. Why not a cat?”
allergic.” The woman winked at her. “Would you like to go whale watching or
you sure?” Addison took the proffered tickets and saw they were for tomorrow
morning. She had thought to leave before then, but she’d already paid for the
vacation rental for the weekend, so she might as well stay. “Would you like me
to buy them off you?”
Addison’s suspicion hackles rose. She didn’t like making deals with strangers.
can tell me a story. I collect stories, you know.”
So do I!” Addison perked up, but then remembered her sadness. “Or at least I
a writer, always a writer.”
am a writer, just not a very good one.”
woman quirked an eyebrow.
a successful one,” Addison amended, thinking of her collection of rejection
letters from agents and editors. “And I own a bookstore, so I collect stories
there, too. Or I did.”
economy,” a sick anger burned in her belly, “and the ugly tide of self-publishing.
I leased out my bookstore last week. Soon it’ll be a massage parlor.”
glad someone can laugh about it.” Addison tucked a loose curl behind her ear.
you have to admit, a bookstore and a massage parlor are both in the same
both used to manipulate moods.” The woman gazed at her with watery blue eyes.
that it?” the woman asked, her gaze growing more intense.
what it?” Addison squirmed beneath the woman’s scrutiny.
your failing bookstore the reason you look like someone drowned your cat and
poisoned your dog?”
thought about confessing her mistake to this woman, but she wasn’t ready to
admit it, not even to herself.
woman patted Addison’s cheek with a hand of bones and papery thin skin. “It’s
okay to be sad. Here, I have something that will cheer you.” She pushed her
satchel toward Addison.
a story. I’ve been carrying it around, wondering what to do with it. I didn’t
feel I could leave until I found the right person to take care of it for me,
but you are that person. I want you to have it.”
opened up the satchel and peeked inside at the hundreds of typewritten pages.
“You don’t think your grandson will want it?”
he only reads nonfiction.” She wrinkled her nose as if she could smell fried
liver and onions.
smiled. “Thank you. This is…so kind.”
woman slipped her feet back into her shoes. “No, thank you. It’s nice to
see a story you love reach a happy ending. Now, how about you? You owe me a
don’t want to hear my stories.”
can you be so sure?”
why would you? No one else does…”
woman contemplated her. “Perhaps you’re right. How’s this? In payment for those
tickets, you need to make sure that this weekend has a happy ending.”
thought about the disappointing beginning of her weekend and bit her lower lip.
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure I can promise that.”
woman leaned forward to peer into Addison’s face. “Will you try?”
Sure. I’ll try.”
woman pulled herself to her feet. “Goodbye, my dear. Promise me you’ll take
good care of my story and write a happy ending for this weekend.”
promise,” Addison said, although she had no idea how to do that, or what the
woman was asking of her. As the woman tottered away, Addison glanced around and
spotted a bookstore. Because she’d learned long ago that her only hope for a
happy ending lay between the pages of a novel, she headed for the familiar
warmth of a shop full of books.
buying a blueberry muffin and a cup of tea at the counter, Addison found a
plump upholstered chair near the window, pulled out the manuscript, and began
Gracey and the Gambler
By Geneva Leigh
Wanted: A nice, plump, healthy,
good-natured looking domestic and affectionate lady to correspond with. Object:
matrimony. She must be a believer in God and immortality. She must not be a
gadabout or given to scandal, but willing to endeavor to create a happy home.
The Arizona Sentinel, 1875
was playing her song! White-hot anger, as mind-altering as any potion or
aphrodisiac, flashed through Gracey. Clarisse, a virginal vision clothed in
white lace, opened her mouth to sing, and Gracey grabbed the closest weapon she
could find, an occupied wig stand, and headed for the stage.
high C turned to a squeak and her blond curls bobbed when she saw Gracey flying
up the stairs wielding the wooden head.
my song, you little strumpet!” Gracey took center stage and swung at Clarisse.
wig hit Clarisse in the face, but she brushed it away as if it were a large,
hairy spider. Clarisse straightened her dress and picked up her tune, leaving
Poke, the pianist, a few stunned beats behind.
the wig stand braced in front of her like a battering ram, Gracey charged.
Clarisse jumped away, and Gracey landed in the curtains. Clarisse climbed onto
the piano bench, jostling Poke, who lifted his hands from the keyboard and
flashed Gracey a startled although amused look. Clarisse, balancing beside the
pianist, nudged him with her tiny shoe. “Please continue, sir. This audition is
yes it is!” Gracey dropped the wig stand, which bounced around her feet as she
lunged for Clarisse.
Miss Clarisse, you know I can’t let you climb on the piano.” Poke, struggling
not to laugh, reached for but missed Clarisse.
inched across the lid of the upright piano as Gracey scrambled onto the bench
and, using Poke’s shoulder as a toehold, tried to join the music-thieving
Clarisse on the top. Poke grabbed Gracey and hauled her to center stage. She
kicked Poke’s legs and tried to pry his grip from her waist.
you see she’s a complete nutter, Ivan?” Clarisse said from her perch on top of
the piano. “We simply cannot have her in the troupe.”
wriggled for a better look at Poke’s good-natured face. “I wrote that song.
It’s mine. She stole it!”
didn’t steal it. Besides, how can one steal a song?” Clarisse asked. “I simply
heard it, learned it—”
the paper-thin walls while I wrote it. Do you want to know what I heard through
the walls?” Gracey smacked her lips, making kissing noises. “If you get a spot
in the troupe, we will all know why!”
gasped in outrage, and Ivan, the director, laughed from his place in the dark
got my position in the troupe because of my gifts and talent!” Clarisse said.
Clarisse already had a role. Little wonder. “And your willingness to share your…gifts
and talents.” Gracey wiggled, but Poke wouldn’t let her go.
you like to sing, Miss Ryan?” Ivan’s disembodied voice spoke from the theater
seats. Because of the dark house and the flickering gas lights lining the
stage, Gracey couldn’t see Ivan and wished she could. She longed to read his
didn’t seem in the least perturbed about holding her. Of course, he was built
like an ox. He was not solely the troupe’s accompanist but also the “man at
large” responsible for assembling and disassembling the heavy settings.
her down,” Ivan said. “Let’s hear her.”
put her balled fists on her hips. “I think we have heard quite enough from
chuckled and set Gracey down. Gracey flashed Clarisse a warning glance. Gracey
worried that Clarisse might stomp the piano keys or kick at Poke, who was
settling onto his bench, acting as if having a blond tart atop his piano was de
wrote this song?” Ivan said. “Then let’s hear it.”
Clarisse’s tone turned silky soft, reminding Gracey of Clarisse’s many “private
auditions,” when Ivan had undoubtedly seen and heard more than a song…or two.
heard you, Clarisse. I know what you can do,” Ivan said, confirming Gracey’s
suspicions that Clarisse had only gone through the formality of the audition
for the prime purpose of discouraging Gracey from joining the traveling troupe
and escaping dreary Seattle.
played the opening bars while Gracey stared into the lights. Blood pounded in
her head and zinged through her veins. Every nerve tingled, and goosebumps rose
on her arms. The Rose Arbor Traveling Troupe was her ticket back to New York
City, and she wasn’t about to let a trollop like Clarisse steal it from her.
came in right on cue, her voice steelier than her spine and almost as strong as
the show you put on tonight,” a voice sounded from the center of her dressing
room and sent the sensation of crawling worms down Gracey’s back. She took a
deep breath and threw a robe over her chemise. Boris Kidrick, a heavy drinker,
tobacco chewer, and black licorice sucker, carried his own unique odor—a stink Gracey
easily recognized and did her best to avoid. She wondered when he had come in because she hadn’t heard the door over
the clatter of the dancers and the tinkling piano rising through the
floorboards. Gracey poked her head over the screen to see Boris leering at her.
try to entertain.” She kept her voice light. Her earlier outburst had left her
tired and drained. She didn’t want another sparring match.
glance fell on the fire tools beside the mantel. She considered caning Boris
and finishing him off. She’d be doing the world a favor, and then the world
would be in her debt. She really would like to be in a position to call in
favors, instead of the awkward, semi-clothed position in which she currently
I could use a little entertainment.” He licked his lips. “How much for a
door flew open, and Matilda breezed in, but she stopped short when she spotted
Boris standing bull-like amid the overflowing costume trunks and crates of
props. Matilda took a step toward the screen, as if to protect Gracey, and
glared at Boris.
Kidrick, you must know men aren’t allowed in the dressing room!” Matilda crossed
her arms and drew herself up to her impressive full height, towering over the
chuckled. “I now own this room and that fancy stage you’re so fond of parading
replaced Matilda’s haughty expression, and Boris rubbed his hands together.
“Didn’t know that, did ya?” He chuckled at Matilda’s sagging shoulders. “Good
things are coming my way,” he said, an unpleasant glint in his eye. “We will be
having that show I mentioned. If not tonight—then soon. Maybe on this stage or
maybe someplace quieter. You may not know it yet, but when I bought this
theater, I bought you too.”
winked at Gracey, who ducked behind the screen and tightened the belt on her
robe. She waited for the sound of the door closing before she peeked out.
gone.” Matilda crossed the room, dropping clothing on her way to the dressing
table. She sat before the mirror and rubbed her face with cream, leaving her
stage makeup in runny smears. In the harsh light, she looked all of her forty
years plus some.
didn’t know Mr. Taylor had sold the theater,” Gracey said, settling down on the
bench beside the older woman.
shrugged and frowned. “I heard Kidrick came into some money.”
chance he’ll lose it—and the theater?” Gracey’s glance met Matilda’s in the
inevitable. But until then, we have to live with him.” Matilda scrubbed at her
worn and tired face. Once she had been beautiful. Under the stage lights, she
still moved like royalty. But here, in the quiet dressing room, after a long night
of trying to carry a loveliness she could no longer claim, Matilda appeared
faded beside Gracey’s pink skin and blue eyes. Gracey, feeling apologetic for
her youth, twisted her hair into a long, thick braid.
patted Gracey’s hand. “Don’t worry, pet, you’ll be on your way to New York long
before we get a new lock for the dressing room door.”
do men like Boris consider actress synonymous with harlot?”
twitched a boney shoulder.
David liked to sing and dance. No one thought he was immoral.” Gracey’s voice
faltered. “Until Bathsheba came out on the roof… Maybe he’s not the best
example—but he did sing and dance.”
laughed. “There are plenty of noble and worthy performers.”
that to my father, my mother, my grandmother and my cousins.” Gracey swallowed.
“Tell that to men like Boris.”
father and mother—although they might not have meant to—have hurt you far worse
than the likes of Boris Kidrick.”
had learned a lot from Matilda since she had joined the Rose Arbor troupe, but
that particular lesson she had learned months earlier when her parents had
shipped her to her grandmother’s ranch seven long, bumpy, jaw-jarring and
teeth-rattling miles from Godforsaken Seattle. Had they really expected her to
stay on a ranch surrounded by acres of pastures of horses, cattle and cow pies?
Did they really think she would learn to behave like her hick grandmother and
shovel out stables?
if reading her mind, Matilda said, “I don’t know why you’re so anxious to
return to their company.”
leaned against her friend. “I don’t want to go to New York to see my parents!”
lips curved into a smile. “You want to be on the New York stage.”
you imagine that you will sing and dance right beneath your family’s nose and
they will never notice?”
am an actress—and a wizard with makeup and design. They will never recognize
me.” She straightened her spine and pride tinged her voice. “I’ve been right
under my grandmother’s nose for weeks, and she hasn’t found me!”
for want of trying.” Matilda lifted an eyebrow. “Your family has already
summoned a posse to look for you.”
But they won’t think to look in their own backyard!”
clouded Matilda’s expression. “If they are as influential and prominent as you
lifted her chin. “No one can stop a shooting star.”
smiled and wiped off her face cream. “Laws, child, have you no fear of
put down the manuscript. It was silly…but compelling. The opening advertisement
made her ill. So many women through so many generations saw marriage as the
end-all. Her mother had taught her, “A man is not a financial plan.” And yet,
Addison had still fallen for it. It was like she was programmed to see a man as
an answer to her problems. When would she finally grasp that a man wasn’t the
answer, but, in her case, the problem?
braced her shoulders. She had to solve her own problems now. But a tricky
little voice in the back of her head whispered that even after Paul’s death she
still wasn’t standing on her own financial feet. The life insurance policy
would always eclipse anything she could ever hope to earn at the bookshop. It
had been tempting to continue on at the store, watching it lose money every
month, but common sense and Mr. Patel had prevailed. She had tried to make a go
of a business, and she’d failed. Just like she’d failed her marriage. Even if
she hadn’t known it.
glanced around the Books and Bun Bookshop. What made this place successful? Who says it is? the voice in her head
asked. All the people? But how many are
actually buying anything?
sank back in the club chair and took note of her fellow bookstore patrons. The elderly
man with his glasses perched on the end of his nose had a pile of historical novels
on the ottoman in front of him. In the children’s section, a mother with a
toddler on her lap flipped through a picture book. Two chairs over, a
nail-biting woman sat lost in a romance. Dozens of people were parked at the
tables, hiding behind laptops. She couldn’t see the checkout counter from where
she sat and, of course, she had no way of knowing the store’s financials, but
if no one was actually buying anything, the store had to be suffering.
was just like the self-publishing tidal wave. If everyone was going to give
away books, how would any book business survive?
What are you doing here?”
late to hide. She smiled up into his blue eyes. How could she have been so
mistaken? Had she completely misread him? Had all those lunches and long
conversations been nothing more than a pleasant way to spend the time?
out the competition?” he asked.
swallowed. “A bookstore in Shell Falls could hardly compete with a shop in
Frisco.” Especially if the Shell Falls shop closed its doors.
true.” He nodded. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find you in here. But
why didn’t you tell me you were coming to San Francisco?”
knowing what to say, she gave him a weak shrug. She’d wanted to surprise him.
But he’d been the one to surprise her when she’d spotted him kissing that
blonde on the pier. The girl looked like a teenager with an incredibly poor
sense of color coordination—bumble-bee stockings, a red and white striped
mini-skirt, a purple hoodie.
a long way from home.” She heard the questions in his tone, but she didn’t feel
the need to provide any answers.
Grant handsome, James usually caused her to melt whenever he came into her
shop, but now when she looked at him, she couldn’t help seeing the Barbie hanging
on his arm. Even if the blonde wasn’t there physically, in Addison’s head, she
bookstore owners need a vacation,” she told him.
long are you in town?”
had thought about leaving as soon as she’d seen him and Barbie-Bimbo in action,
but now she decided she wasn’t going to let him run her off like a dog with a
tail between her legs. “I’m here for the weekend.”
to mask his surprise, he glanced at his watch. “That’s great. I have a
I bet you do,
how about tomorrow? Are you available?”
I have plans.” It gave her a little surge of power to say that, and like candy
sprinkles on top of a cupcake, the disappointed look on his face only added to
sorry, James,” Addison said, picking up the manuscript.
I can see you’re busy,” he said. “Maybe we can meet up next time I’m in Shell
she murmured. She started reading and refused to watch him walk away.
Christian Roberts sat at the gaming table, coins on his left side and a flask on his right. A pair of kings, accompanied by a six, a four and a whatchamacallit, swam in and out of his vision. He tried holding the cards a little further away and willed his eyes to focus on the whatchamacallit. Was it a queen—or that other card that he couldn’t remember the name of—or was it another king? He hoped it was another king. He held his cards away from his chest but after half a second he slapped them face down on the table. He didn’t trust his friends not to look—not even his partner.
he was pretty sure these men weren’t even friends. Not really. They tolerated
him because he had a steady stream of gold…and whiskey…and he liked a good
game. A game with kings. He didn’t mind the whatchamacallits, not when they
came in pairs. One by its lonesome couldn’t do much. He picked up his hand and
tried to steady his gaze while a mammoth man pounded on the piano.
threw the musician a frustrated glance. Maybe he could focus on the game if
that brute would stop filling the room with that awful sound. He looked at the
men sharing his table, trying to read them. No one else seemed to mind the
racket coming from the corner.
in?” Percy, on his left, asked.
was definitely inside because the piano was inside. Never really ever seen a
piano outside—unless it was on its way from one place to another. And yep,
there were bottles lining shelves behind the bar. A wooden floor. A stamped
brass ceiling. Four walls. Definitely inside. He nodded.
Reynolds, on his right, prompted.
The game. He was supposed to ante up. What did that mean? Funny expression,
sounded like “auntie up.” Christian tried to imagine how his Aunt Mable would
respond if someone tried to ante up her. He snorted. His attention flicked over
the men surrounding him, all looking so grim and serious. He doubted any of
them even had an aunt.
so funny?” Kidrick demanded.
and Reynolds were good chaps, if poor poker players, but he despised Kidrick. A
pity Percy and Reynolds didn’t have Kidrick’s business sense and card savvy.
Why should a louse like Kidrick own half the town and win at cards? Christian
imagined Aunt Mable anteing up Kidrick with a wooden spoon. He chuckled low and
French,” Kidrick muttered.
say now—” Bad form cussing his nationality. Well, his mother’s nationality. His
eyes welled as he thought of his mother. He blinked away his tears because,
while he wasn’t sure whether the brutes at his table had aunts, he was very
sure they never cried. At least not over a pair of kings. Or a trio of kings.
He still couldn’t tell, but he did push in his entire pile of coins.
sure, Roberts?” Percy lifted an eyebrow.
shrugged. “What have I got to lose? Kidrick here has already won the theater.”
He laid his cards down. From the reaction, he guessed it was a trio of kings.
Percy stood so suddenly his chair fell over. Kidrick brought his fist down on
the table, making all the coins jump.
smiled as he scooped the pot into his bag, then stood and swagger-staggered
toward the door.
Roberts,” Reynolds called after him. “You can’t leave.”
back here.” Kidrick pushed after Christian and grabbed him by the elbow.
looked at Kidrick’s hand and then at his face. Kidrick cocked back his arm for
a punch that would land in Christian’s gut if he didn’t block it. Christian
grabbed Kidrick around the neck and held him in midair, considering what to do
with him, before tossing him out into the street. Kidrick landed in the arms of
a well-built man who also didn’t desire his company. Within seconds Kidrick and
the well-built man were throwing punches.
inside the bar, Christian watched the fistfight and felt a smidgeon of remorse.
He had started it, but dem if he’d back up Kidrick. His gaze went to the stars
shining through the window. He had to get away from the tavern’s smoke and
stench. He paused at the open door. But first—
raised a hand, which stopped the calls of his poker-mates. He heard their
collective sigh as he turned to face the room, followed by their groans as
Christian sat at the piano, bumping hips with the brute at the keyboard.
me,” Christian mumbled.
pianist reluctantly relinquished his seat as Christian poised his fingers over
the keyboard and began Dickson’s “Land of Long Ago.”
a moment the laughter hushed and it seemed as if only music filled the night as
the piano cast a spell over the crowded, smoke-filled room.
stopped playing as abruptly as he had begun and pushed away from the instrument
and out the door, stepping over the inert Kidrick on his way to anywhere else.
literally danced when she heard the news. Her feet skipped, her toes pointed,
and her knees wanted to drop to the ground in worshipful thanksgiving.
won’t regret this!” she promised Ivan, stopping mid-dance to hug him.
craggy-faced man smiled while the blond beauty behind him mouthed, “Oh, yes, he will.”
wasn’t about to let Clarisse piddle in her pot of pure happiness. She had an
all-expense paid ticket out of Seattle. Her family would never think to follow
the Rose Arbor troupe across the country. Think of all the cities she would
see! On her way here, she had traveled by rail accompanied by the stiff,
self-righteous cousin who never let her leave the confines of the sleeper car.
But the troupe would go from city to city and perform on the very best stages!
so fast!” Ivan warned. “You have to prove you can do this.” He handed her a
sheaf of music. “Come up with a dance.”
studied the music, noting the eighth notes and basic time signature. Because
she was familiar with the popular ballad and its message, she knew
choreographing a dance would be fairly simple. Behind Ivan, Clarisse smirked,
making Gracey wonder what sort of dance Clarisse had used for her audition.
want to see it tomorrow morning,” Ivan warned.
be ready.” Gracey wasn’t worried, but she would need to practice, preferably
with Poke, and absolutely far from Clarisse’s spying eyes. Gracey couldn’t let
that woman sabotage this opportunity. She would need to come up with the dance
on her own and then practice with Poke’s accompaniment once…or maybe twice.
leave in a couple of days,” Ivan told her. “You can bring one trunk.”
wouldn’t care if I could only bring dancing shoes!”
would be interesting,” Ivan said.
not that kind of show,” Clarisse said, coming behind Ivan and laying a hand on
his shoulder. “I told you—she’s not star material.”
taking a chance on you,” Ivan told Gracey, ignoring Clarisse. “It’s going to be
a lot of hard work and a lot of travel. You will, no doubt, find the troupe
demanding and challenging. That’s why I want to see if you can come up with an
original dance overnight.”
love challenges!” Gracey flashed Ivan a smile. She pushed through the backstage
door and found herself in an alley. She needed to practice far from
Clarisse…some spacious, private place where Clarisse would never look. Her gaze
landed on the outhouses and the clearing beyond them. She wrinkled her nose as
she drew closer to the small but smelly clearing, far from windows and prying
exited the outhouse and caught a sudden chill. A skin-pricking sensation said
he wasn’t alone. Animals. Possibly a red fox, raccoon, skunk, opossum. He
tightened his grip on his bag of gold, wondering if Kidrick had followed.
he called out. Night birds answered. Something skittered in a nearby thicket,
and a twig snapped. He watched moonlight flicker through the boughs of a pine
tree then heard footfalls.
was dancing in the moonlight? A fairy? Her dark hair had come loose and swirled
around her spinning shoulders. Such a creature belonged deep in the woods, or
in a valley of wildflowers, or on a gilded throne—she did not belong in a dusty
clearing behind the privy with alley cats for an audience. Her dance-warmed
skin glowed beneath the stars, and her body moved to no music that he could
hear. Unable to stop himself, he stepped closer, as if drawn by a magnet.
“Mon dieu. Qu’est-ce que tu es?”
she stopped and stared at him. “You’re French.”
shook his head. “No, I am drunk.”
studied him as if assessing his potential danger.
tried to look harmless, which wasn’t difficult, because he was basically
when he was angry.
he had left Kidrick for dead in the street. Christian twisted his lips and
decided Kidrick didn’t count.
you always speak French when drunk?”
shrugged. He was better with questions when he was sober. “I asked my question
it was a silly question—anyone can see what I am.”
stepped closer and peered at her. With all that dark hair and her dark red
lips, she looked like his mother. “Are you French?”
He paused. “Don’t let me stop you.” He waved a hand at her. “Carry on.”
scowled. “I’m not going to dance if you’re going to watch.”
not?” He motioned toward the theater. “I assume you came from the playhouse,
where you presumably dance for hundreds on the stage, so why would you not
dance for one, here?”
arms dangled. “I no longer feel like dancing. You killed my mood.” She jabbed a
finger in his face. “But I’m not going to let you spoil my happiness!”
would be devastated if you did.” He tilted his head to one side, smiling. “Do
you always dance when you are happy?”
course not. Although I haven’t been this happy for a long time, so it’s hard to
are you so happy?” An unpleasant thought occurred to him. “Are you in love?”
shook her head.
I’m glad. Love can make you do regrettable things.”
you been in love?”
didn’t want to talk about love. He wanted to watch this girl dance. “Will you
dance for me?”
you dance with me?”
I don’t think so.”
laughed, and the noise delighted him. He didn’t want her to stop, but after a
few moments, she did.
should that matter?” she asked.
shrugged. “Demmed if I know, but it usually seems to. Will you dance with me?”
he asked again.
shook her head.
I walk you home?”
she said, smiling up at him. She took his hand and led him the ten yards to the
theater’s back door.
dropped his hand and pointed to the sky. “On the third floor.”
are you so happy?”
took a deep breath and told him of her plans to join the Rose Arbor Traveling
not happy; that’s sad.”
would you say that?”
“Because this might be the only chance I’ll ever have to do this,” he said, taking her in his arms and kissing her.