“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.
No one really likes fear. It clenches your stomach, makes you break out in a sweat, moves your bowels. In its worst forms, it can make you say and do things you would never say and do if you were thinking rationally. But fear has its uses, too.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about inviting fear as a passenger on a road trip to success. It should never be allowed to take the wheel and drive, or navigate, it doesn’t even get to bring the snacks. But it can sit in the backseat.
Gilbert would take fear along, but silence and maybe handcuff it. But what if you could use it as a stepping stone? What if you could look at your fears as a rung on a ladder? What if you said, I want to climb higher, but first I need to reach this next step and fear is in my way, and I know I can’t take this step on my own, but I know someone who can help me?
Sometimes the person who can help can be accessed through a telephone call, or an enrollment in a class, or a Craig’s List advertisement. But sometimes, it’s just you and God.
And that’s all you need.
I hope you come to that place–that scary, terrifying place–because once you do, you’ll never be afraid again. Not really.
Terrifying things may happen. Your world may be turned upside down, shaken up, and burned to a crisp. But even in devastation, you’ll find peace. As Paul the Apostle said,
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.2 Corinthians 4:8
So, the very best way to use your fear for good, is to turn to God. He can use your fears in ways you can never imagine.
Here’s my own experience with true terror and how it blessed my life.
I was fourteen. My mother was dying of cancer. Her doctors had said there was nothing more to be done. In a last-ditch effort, my parents traveled to Mexico for laetrile treatments. I’d been left at home with my twenty-four- year-old brother, who decided sometime around my bedtime, to go to Canada for the weekend.
I spent that night alone. Or did I? I woke around 3 a.m., the stereo in the room down the hall blaring, the volume turned up as high as it could go. The house was dark. At first, I thought my brother had returned. But, no, he and his car were gone. The doors and windows were all locked. The stereo, an old fashioned turntable, was broken, and putting on a record required not just a push of button, but slipping the record into place, turning on the stereo, and placing the needle on the spinning record. I suppose It’s possible I did all of this while sleepwalking and then returned to my bed only to be woken later…
And so, for the first time in my life, I prayed to God. Fervently. Words can’t describe the peace that found me. I would need that peace in the upcoming months. It sat beside me through my mother’s funeral, my father’s wedding, and it’s been beside me all through many terrifying moments since.
And because of that one experience, any time I begin to doubt my faith, I remember that night, I wrap it around me. It feels like love. It’s there whenever I need it. God’s there whenever I need Him.
But as big and inexplicably terrifying and wonderful as that God-moment was, it gave me more than peace. It also gave me a scene in a story I love. Because I’m a writer, all these terrifying moments have a place and a use. God is good. His grace is endless.
Here’s a scene from Beyond the Hollow.
Petra Baron couldn’t sleep.
The Santa Ana winds whistled through the canyon, spat dust and tossed the branches of trees. The wind seemed to be laughing at her. Not a hahaha aren’t we clever laughter, nor a teehee jokes on you giggle, but a cruel, moaning laughter that whistled through the stable, toyed at the window jambs and rattled the doors.
Petra fluffed her pillow, adjusted it so that she could see through the French doors without lifting her head. Out of the suburbs, away from streetlights, cars and the blue glare of neighboring TVs, the moon and stars carried more light. The late autumn moon, as big and as round as the pumpkins in the field, shone through the window and cast the room in a silver glow. Sleeping at the Jenson’s farm didn’t frighten her, even though she could see the golden eyes of the mountain lion pacing at the fringe of the property, looking for a hole in the fence, access to the animals safely tucked in the barn.
Since her return from England, she’d been training at the rifle range. She could shoot pistols as well as rifles. Determined to never again feel at any one’s mercy, she’d also enrolled in a martial arts program at the gym. Not that she’d try to Ninja kick a mountain lion, but should a horse scream or a sheep bleat she’d shoulder the shot gun and scare away the big cat.
Little cats, however, required another line of defense.
Petra shifted and tried to pull the quilt around her shoulders, but Magpie wouldn’t budge. Large, heavy, a glob of fur and drool, Magpie was a bed-hog. Magpie’s counterpart, Hector, preferred to sleep under the slipper chair. As was the case with so many couples, Magpie was emotionally needy and Hector was emotionally distant. Petra had tried locking the cats out of the bedroom. After all, they had a five thousand square foot hacienda at their disposal. Six unoccupied bedrooms, a den, a living room, a billiard room, they had free range. Petra only asked for one room, in fact, she’d have settle for one bed, but Magpie, as noisy as her name implied, refused to be shut out. And it didn’t really make sense to allow Magpie to share her space and not Hector. Who, by the way, snored. A malady typical of Persians.
Persians or mountain lions, which cat species did she prefer? Given a choice, she’d choose to be at home in her own bed, Frosty, her standard poodle asleep, sans snoring, at the foot of her bed, but the house-sitting gig at the Jensen’s paid well. She needed all the money she could lay her hands on if she wanted to attend Hudson River Academy, a small liberal arts college where Dr. Finch, the world’s leading professor of Elizabethan literature. Her dad would pony up for a state university, but he wasn’t interested in paying for ‘liberal farts.’ Petra began to mentally recalculate her finances and because money bored her she fell asleep listening to the wind’s laughter and Hector’s snore.
# The wind whispers the prayers Of all who live there And carries them to heaven. And the rain beats a time, For those caught in rhyme, For any who’ve lost life’s reason.
Petra bolted up and Magpie flew off the bed with a meow, her cry barely audible above the music. Pushing hair off her forehead, Petra tried to wake from the deafening dream. She swung her legs over the side of the bed, felt the cold tile floor beneath her feet. The music still played. Electric guitars. A keyboard. Drums. Seventies sound.
She oriented herself. Who’s here? Could the Jenson’s have returned? No, they had just posted pictures of the Vatican online less than two hours ago. Their son, Garth? He attended UCSB. A three hour drive. It must be Garth, she thought. She looked out the window for a car in the drive. No car. He would have put it in the garage. He’d have the remote. The wind had quieted, the trees had stopped dancing. Steam from the horse’s warm breath rose from the stable. On the side of the hill, on the far side of the fence, gold eyes watched her window. The mountain lion, threatening, but incapable of manning sound systems.
She took a deep calming breath. It had to be Garth. She waited for the music to die. She’d learned the hard way years ago that you just couldn’t wait for the hero to ride in on his stallion.
If there are stories in your stream, Don’t let them stop you mid- dream, They’re just pebbles for the tossing. They’re just mountains for the climbing.
She caught sight of herself in the mirror. Wild hair, smeared mascara, long arms and legs poking out of her Domo-Kun pajamas. She considered slipping into her clothes, but she didn’t want to fumble in the dark to find them, making noise, alerting the intruder. If there was an intruder. No, it had to be Garth, returning home, unexpectedly for the weekend. Why would anyone else break into a house and turn on a stereo? Who would do that?
Petra shuffled to the door, and plucked the shotgun off the wall, just in case it wasn’t Garth. She slipped a cartridge in the barrel and cocked the gun, just in case it was a Seventies-sounds-loving-lunatic.
She felt awkward shouldering the gun and opening the door. Hector squalled when she stepped on him. So much for not alerting the intruder, she thought as she righted herself and returned the rifle to ready position. Pushing through the door, Petra crept through the dark house until she found the source of the noise.
Your head is singing with the whispering, So many voices, so many choices, Which roads to take.
The stereo, an old fashioned tape player, six feet tall, flashing lights and thrumming bass, boomed in the billiards room. Petra stared at it and then shouted above the music, “Garth?” When no one answered, she called, “Who’s there?” Only the music replied. Magpie curled around her ankles. Her pajama topped slipped off her shoulder as she slowly circled the room, gun raised. Outside, beyond the fence, the mountain lion blinked at her.
Petra turned on the light just as the music ended. The tape sputtered at the end and clicked. She walked to the elaborate sound system, a relic of some distant time, and stared at it. Tiny flashing lights, a series of buttons and switches, it looked as complicated as an airplane cockpit. She didn’t even know how it worked. Maybe she’d walked in her sleep, but turning on the stereo?
The tape clicked out its questions, spinning round and round. Click. Click. Click. She found a switch, flipped it, and the system died. In the sudden quiet, she could her heart’s rapid beats and her accelerated breath.
“Not exactly a lullaby,” she said to Magpie, her voice nearly as loud as her thrumming blood.
“Garth?” she called out again. Maybe he was in the shower, or in the garage, or asleep.
She shouldered the gun, just in case. Every bathroom and bed empty. The garage dark, the cars vacant. She checked the windows and doors of each room. Securely locked. All of them. She flung open closet doors, used her shotgun to poke through the wardrobes. The alarm system in the front hall blinked its tiny red light. No one had broken in, at least, no one who didn’t know their way around the security system. Petra sat down on the sofa in the living room and laid the gun across her lap. Magpie jumped up beside her, while Hector watched from underneath the grand piano. She absently stroked the cat and felt a smidge less panicked, telling herself she was alone. What should she do? Her cell didn’t get reception in the canyon, so she padded to the phone in the office and picked up the line.
Nothing. She looked at the receiver. The wind could have knocked down the line. Maybe she’d walked in her sleep and turned on the stereo. Since her return from Elizabethan England five months ago, she’d realized that life doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes random, inexplicable, even crazy things happened. And crazy things don’t have to make sense. Maybe the craziness makes sense to someone else, because everyone has a skewed sense of reason, and as mortals, mere humans, we can’t know everything. Sometimes, really truly, only heaven knows. Or hell.
I won’t be writing today, per se, but I will tidy up the ten pages I’ll be reading tonight at my writers’ group. Here’s what I’ll read.
grabbed her purse off the shelf and slid her feet into her ugly but comfortable
Sketchers. “Let’s go, Lori!”
snatched up her backpack, checked her reflection in the hall mirror and tidied
up her pristine ponytail. Her posing reminded Zoe so much of her mother—Laurel’s
grandmother—that her heart twisted just a little.
since she didn’t have time for sentimentality, Zoe bustled her niece down the
stairs. Together, they propelled out of the house, passing the door that led to
Ethan and Hannah’s apartment.
wrinkled her nose at the bacony odor and the sound of the Beatles floating
through the window.
Laurel said in the same tone she’d use to say dog poop.
didn’t comment, but placed her hand on Laurel’s small bony shoulder and guided
her to the Bonny Baker Van standing in the driveway beside Ethan’s old
van still carried the scents of yesterday’s deliveries—yeasty loaves of breads,
cinnamony cookies, tart pies. Zoe placed her purse in the center console where
she always kept it, slid on her sunglasses, and snapped into her seat belt.
Once she was sure Hannah’s seatbelt was also secure, Zoe checked the rearview
mirror and spotted Ethan and Hannah climbing into the T-bird.
open car doors blocked the driveway. Zoe blew a breath out her nose and
tightened her grip on the wheel.
rolled down the window and waved to Hannah. “Hi Hannah! Hi Ethan!”
Zoe hated that Laurel called Ethan by his first name. She didn’t think adults
and children should be on first-name basis, but since Ethan insisted, there was
little she could do. She tried not to flinch every time Laurel addressed her as
returned Laurel’s wave and smile.
tamped down her impatience and rolled down her own window. “Good morning! Would
Hannah like to ride to school with us today?”
going to school?” A wrinkle appeared between Ethan’s brows.
day,” Zoe told him.
barked out a laugh and climbed into his car. “You don’t look old enough to be a
grandparent,” he said through the open window.
bristled. “I’m not, but I can talk about our ancestors.”
I guess I’ll see you there.”
was trying to be nice—and punctual. “There’s no need for us both to go.”
back straightened. “I work there, you know.”
I didn’t know. When did that happen?” Not that she had time for this
conversation. If he worked there, neither of them did.
the beginning of the school year.” With his thick dark hair and large brown
eyes, he was dangerously handsome. He was probably driving all of the
Canterbury girls—and a few of the teachers—mad and man-hungry. That could
happen at an all-girls’ school.
are you teaching?”
convertible roared to life and he gave her a dismissive smile. “I’ll see you
there,” he repeated.
mentally ticked off her daily agenda as she followed Ethan down the drive.
She’d been up since four a.m. making bread, cookies, and pies. Her assistant,
Claire, was now manning the bakery, but Zoe needed to be back in time for the
the stop sign leading to Main Street, Ethan surprised her by turning right
while she and Laurel took a left.
seemed symbolic of their relationship.
took note of his daughter’s mismatched socks. One was a crisp white and matched
the school’s navy and red tartan uniform. The other had a pink tinge to it—like
it gone through the wash with a red sweater. Which it probably had. Ethan
thought about saying something, knowing the stringent adherence some of the
girls liked to pay to the school’s uniform policy. When it came to the rules,
the students were often bigger sticklers than the faculty.
glanced at his daughter with her sweet rosebud lips, pinky-cheeks, and clear
blue eyes—a surprise gift from his wife. She clutched the family Bible in her
hands and stared straight ahead.
he said, “I’m sorry Gram or Gramps couldn’t be here today.”
okay,” she said in a tight voice without looking at him, letting him know that
it was definitely not okay. “I understand.”
blew out a breath. “It’s so far for them to come.”
nodded. “I know. And they have so many grandkids that live in Rose Arbor, they
probably have to go to ancestor day once a week.”
ripple of guilt traveled down Ethan’s spine. If he lived closer to his family,
Hannah would be surrounded by cousins, aunts, and uncles, and not to mention
his parents. He could have just as easily gotten a teaching job in Washington.
phone buzzed and he clicked the button.
Desmond’s voice floated into the car.
fussy gallery owner always sounded on the verge of a breakdown, but today the
panic sounded real.
morning, Desmond what can I do for you?”
Dezi!” Hannah called out.
Pumpkin. What are you doing in the car with your father?”
going to school, Dezi,” Laurel told him.
Are you still doing that?” His voice carried an equal helping of scorn and
giggled. “Of course.”
think he was talking to me, Button.” Ethan cleared his throat. “I like teaching.”
And he needed the money if he was ever going to get his own gallery, but he
couldn’t tell that to Desmond.
had a break-in,” Desmond told him.
braked too hard at the stop-light, sending Laurel forward in a lurch. Instinctively,
he shot out his hand to protect his daughter. “Was anything taken?”
stuff, cash from the till.”
glanced at Laurel, bit back a curse, and pulled into the intersection. “Do you
need me to come by?”
paintings are all insured, of course,” Desmond said, trying to sound calm.
thought you said small stuff…” No one would consider his paintings small. It took
at least two buff and burly men to carry most of his paintings. But then his
heart sank. “Harold?”
sorry,” Desmond said in a strangled voice.
be there in a second,” Ethan said, thinking up the next place to make a U-turn.
“But Daddy…” Hannah whined.
sorry, Button. This should only take a minute,” he lied.
tightened her lips and glanced out the window at the town flashing past. A
thick marine layer had settled during the night and had yet to burn away under
the southern California sun, leaving the town in a shadowy gray mist. Ethan
pulled the car along the curb beside the Oak Hollow Gallery.
one of his first fans, had started showcasing Ethan’s work even before his
graduation from Pasadena’s Art Institute. Ethan’s early career began at Warner
Brother Studios where he worked in set design. That’s where he’d met Allison. At
first, their friendship was about sharing paints and brushes—Ethan had a
tendency to lose pencils and Allie had always carried extra. He’d soon learned
to depend on her for not only his drawing instruments, but for everything.
She’d been his world.
shut down the painful memories and slammed out of the car. Hannah trotted after
the gallery, Desmond fluttered like a small trapped bird not knowing where to
land. A tiny man, he spoke with a slight French accent, despite the fact he was
originally from Oxnard. He wore a meticulously trimmed goatee and a matching
set of plucked, highly arched eyebrows.
buff and burly police man stood between a bust of a gleaming bald head and a
glass sculpture. He looked as out of place as a Michael Angelo painting in the Musee
Desmond talked with the officer, Ethan patrolled the gallery, looking for
missing objects. Hannah stared up at the policeman, entranced and awed by the
man’s size. She clearly found him more interesting than the Darling the Detective
shows she liked to watch.
are you?” The policeman pointed his pencil in Ethan’s direction.
stepped forward. “Ethan Lawrence.”
my dad,” Hannah piped in. “He’s an artist. A very famous one.”
rubbed the back of his neck.
Officer Mack.” The policeman took note of Hannah’s uniform and Ethan’s matching
tie and shook Ethan’s hand.
wondered if Mack was the officer’s first or last name, but didn’t have time to
question it. Mack, though, had questions enough for both of them.
like you two belong at that fancy school up the hill,” Officer Mack said.
go to school at Canterbury Academy,” Hannah said. “My mom used to teach
domestic arts there and now my dad teaches just plain old art.” She froze and
her hand flew to her mouth as if she could capture her words. “Sorry, Daddy!
Your art isn’t plain or old…although, you haven’t made anything new in a really
stopped himself from rolling his eyes. He loved his daughter, but sometimes he
found her eleven-year-old honesty brutal.
Mack glanced at his watch. “You’re not supposed to be at school now?”
you a truant officer?” Desmond asked with a sneer.
shot the gallery owner a quick glance, hoping to convince him to play nice with
the police. They would need their help if they wanted to recover Harold as well
as the other missing work.
of my statues was stolen. It’s—” His voice cracked.
wouldn’t go that far,” Ethan said, “but it was an original.”
Mack scribbled something on his notepad. “We’ll need to get an appraiser out
here as well as an insurance adjuster. Any idea how the perps might have gotten
Desmond led Officer Mack to the back office, Ethan motioned for Hannah to
follow him to the car. Rage and frustration thrummed through him. If he owned
the gallery, something he desperately wanted to do, beefing up the security
system would be high on his to-do list. This never would have happened if
Desmond had taken the needed precautions.
the marine layer hung in the air and the cold and damp air nothing to lighten his
when is Desmond going to sell you the gallery?” Hannah asked him, echoing his
don’t know, sweetie.” Ethan hoped Desmond hadn’t heard her and pulled open the
convertible’s door so she could climb in.
slamming inside, he ruminated over her question.
should let you buy it, since everything he sells in there is yours,” Hannah
said after he’d settled behind the wheel.
sad smile lifted his lips. “Not everything, sweetie.” He turned the key and the
convertible roared to life.
huffed and folded her arms across her chest. “Most everything. I mean,
who else is going to buy it? That Misty lady?”
She’s a good artist.” Ethan steered the car onto Oak Hollow’s main drag.
name sounds like fog.”
shot his daughter a quick glance.
much is Harold worth?” Hannah asked.
considered this and Ethan could practically see the thoughts churning in her
head. Had she guessed the real reason Ethan had taken the teaching position at
the school? He could, of course, go back to Warner Brothers, but the thought
made him ill. They’d have to leave Oak Hollow. He’d have to hire a new
nanny—one who could cover the long hours the studio would demand.
he could go back to Rose Arbor. Live in his parents’ basement. Find a job
teaching at a public school. Churn out hotel room art in the evenings and on
the weekends. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the wheel.
he didn’t want to leave Hannah with a babysitter for sixty hours a week, nor
did he relish the thought of living in his parents’ basement in dreary
Washington. “You want to stay here, right?” Ethan asked. “With Mrs. Hancock and
all your friends?”
Hannah murmured. “That’s why I’m going to say a prayer that you’ll get enough
money to the gallery!” Last week, she’d heard a sermon about answered prayers
and since then she’d started praying over nearly everything.
sweet, Button, and noble, but not very useful.”
do you mean? Pastor Lynn said we should pray over everything, including our
flocks and pastures. Your paintings are like flocks, but they smell better, and
a gallery is like a pasture without ticks.”
his worry and concern, a small chuckled escaped.
not funny. It’s true. Pastor Lynn would want you to pray.” She jutted out her
chin. “I bet God wants to find the bad guys who stole Harold. And if He wants
to punish them, we should let Him.”
let’s not bug God. I bet he has a lot of really important things to do.”
could be more important than bringing Harold home.” She gasped and her eyes
went wide. “I bet he’s scared!”
thought about pointing out that Harold was a one-foot-high sculpture incapable
of having feelings.
folded her hands in her lap and refused to look at him. After closing her eyes,
she began a simple and yet sincere prayer that Desmond would sell the gallery
to Ethan and that the police would find Harold and bring him safely home.
stood in front of the classroom. Dozens of little girls dressed in their tartan
uniforms stared back at her, expectantly. They looked sweet, but Zoe knew
better. At this age, she had attended Canterbury herself, so she knew sweetness
might only on be the surface like ganache on an eclair. Something ugly could
lurk behind the pig-tails and shiny lip-gloss. But still, because she loved
Laurel, she held out one of her prize possessions for the girls to see.
small wooden box holds something very precious to me,” Zoe told the girls. She
unlatched the leather strap to open the lid and extract the small gold coins.
“These were collected by my ancestors. When John Lewis first came to this
country from Wales in 1849, he was a poor man. He’d been a miner in Great
Britain, but somehow, he’d managed to put together enough funds to travel to
the United States and take the train as far west as it would take him, and in
those days, that was to Iowa City. From there, he hitched up with a wagon train
that would take him to California where he hoped to strike it rich in the Gold
those coins from the Gold Rush?” a little girl in the front row asked.
no.” Zoe closed her hands around the coins for just a second. “He didn’t find
gold, but I think he found something better.”
girl wrinkled her nose. “What was that?”
found my great-great grandmother! And together they started a farm in Twain.”
they found gold?” a red-head quipped.
They never found gold,” Zoe told them.
where did the coins come from?” another girl asked.
John was still a young man, he placed a gold coin in this box and he wrote a
note.” She pulled out a piece of paper. Of course, the ink on John’s original
note had long ago faded and the paper crumbled, but one of John’s descendants had
transcribed the note. She didn’t think she needed to tell the girls this. “John
wrote, to my children and my children’s children, I leave you this coin as a
remembrance of me. May it bless your lives.” Zoe picked out the oldest coin
and handed it to Laurel who held it in the palm of her hand and paraded it past
all the girls seated at their desks.
real cool thing is,” Zoe continued, “Ever since John, all of my ancestors have
purchased a gold coin and left it in this box for their children and their children’s
children.” She poured the other gold coins into her hand for the girls to see.
She wrinkled her nose. “These probably aren’t worth a whole lot of money, but
it’s definitely worth something, and when I think of my ancestors—many of them
poor and facing economic hardships, especially during the great depression and
the world wars—they didn’t spend the coins. Instead, they followed John’s
example and kept them safe. They held them sacred.”
sacred was too strong of a word, but it came to her lips and she went with it.
will you give the coins to?” a girl asked.
opened her mouth, but a for a moment, no words came. Finally, “My child, of
that mean you’ll have to have a boy?”
Zoe said. But it did mean she’d have to have a child, and that was looking as
unlikely as John himself personally handing her a coin from the grave. “I’m not
a boy and the coins came to me.”
they’ll be mine someday,” Laurel said.
Zoe said. “Here, do you want to show the girls the rest of the coins?”
skipped to the front to gather the other nine coins.
Lacombe, a retired history professor, bought her clothes from a local
consignment shop. Today, she wore a sailor suit–minus the hat–and she strode
around the classroom like she had a deck to swab. “Let’s all give Ms. Hart a
big Canterbury thank you.” She clapped her hands and all the girls joined in.
dipped her head and took her place at the back of the classroom with the other visiting
ancestors while Doctor Edwards, an elderly man wearing physicians’ scrubs and
carrying a stethoscope took center stage beside Mrs. Lacombe.
Dr. Edward’s talk on his family’s role in medical research, Zoe collected the
coins and placed them back into the box. Someday, they’d need a bigger box. Who
would make that decision and what would the world be like then?
She only lived a few hundreds of miles away from where John and Emily had settled in Twain all those years ago, but her life was radically different from John and Emily’s. She didn’t depend on a garden or livestock for food. But the one thing she’d be sure to do, like John and the others, she planned on purchasing a gold coin and adding it to this collection.
Tomorrow, I’ll post the feed back I got from the group. You might also enjoy these posts.
the reception, Letty kept an eye on her mom and wondered if anyone else could
read the tension running just below her mom’s courteous and lovely façade. From
the guests, Letty thought she caught pitying stares, curious fascination, and
whispered undertones. When a few people came right out and asked about her
father, Letty tried not to bristle. She wanted to mimic her mom’s breezy grace,
but she felt wooden or mechanical, as if she were a mannequin or a wind-up toy
programmed to act a certain way and repeat a memorized script.
she spotted Leo with a beautiful blonde clinging to his arm. Had Harper or Chet
invited him? She hadn’t noticed him at the wedding. Could he have accidentally
stumbled into the party? Unlikely.
watched him, wondering what she had ever seen in him. Sure, he was handsome in
a Ryan Gosling sort of way and could be charming. It embarrassed her that it
had taken her so long to see beneath his swanky façade.
who was the Barbie on his arm? With her too-perky boobs and centipede
eyelashes, she looked as manufactured as artificial turf.
rubbed her forehead, willing her brewing headache to go away, and turned away
before Leo could catch her spying on him.
Leo called out.
Letty feigned surprise and shot Harper a nasty glance.
who was mingling with the guests, responded with an apologetic smile and slight
navigated through the crowd and weaved between the tables and chairs so he
could wrap his arms around Letty. She inhaled his familiar scent and broke free
as soon as she could.
this is Jerry.” He put his hand on the blonde’s shoulder. “She’s Chet’s
cousin.” He lifted his eyebrow. “Small world, huh?”
captured Letty’s hand. “Wasn’t this just the most beautiful ceremony? And the
setting! Of course, an outdoor wedding is always risky! I’m a wedding planner,
you know.” She waved her hand. “But I wasn’t offended in the least when Harper went
with Donald. I was relieved, actually. Working with family can be so tricky.
And then I heard about your family’s financial hiccups. And well,” she wiped
her forehead with the back of her hand as if wiping a sweaty brow, “Whew! I
knew I had dodged a bullet.”
had the grace to look embarrassed. “How is your dad?”
planted her shoes into the lawn to keep herself from kicking both of them in
the shins. “He’s doing well,” she said in a falsely bright voice. “And how’s
shifted from foot to foot and ran a finger around his collar. “She’s doing
better,” he said. “She’s hoping to come home soon.”
shot him a questioning glance, but Leo refused to meet her gaze.
thought about mentioning the rehab center, Leo’s mom’s second home, but decided
not to stoop to his level. “It was nice to see you, again Leo, and to meet you,
brightened. “If you’re in need of an event planner, call me.” She slapped her
forehead. “But—won’t you be planning a broker’s open house soon?”
would need to talk to my mom about that,” Letty said. “Excuse me.” Knowing she couldn’t
take one more minute of feigning sweetness and light, she slipped away.
reception had been held on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Now that the sun was
fading into a pink puddle on the horizon and strings of outdoor lights were
flickering on, Letty hoped to find a place where she could slip out of her
awful shoes and enjoy the gathering dark.
wandered down the path until she spotted a bench overlooking the ocean. The sky
and sea had turned to the same steely gray, making it impossible to tell where
one ended and the other began.
her grandmother’s word for twilight—that brief between time after the sun had
set but the moon had yet to rise. Her grandmother had a song about it.
Something about two lovers “lovely
roamin’ in the gloaming.’”
okay?” Claris’s voice startled Letty.
jumped to her feet and turned to her best friend for a hug. “Did you see Leo?”
his latest flavor of the month.” Claris pulled away and swept a searching
glance over Letty.
did I ever see in him?” Letty sank back onto the bench and pulled Claris down
beside her. They were similar in size but different in almost every other way.
Letty had her dad’s dark hair and eyes while Claris was a classic beach Barbie.
In high school, they used to call themselves the Oreo team.
not so bad,” Claris said.
he is. All men are bad,” Letty pronounced.
elbowed her. “You don’t mean that.”
hate men almost as much as I hate these shoes.” Letty lifted her feet to show
Claris the pink satin strappy heels Harper had made her wear.
not as bad as my dress.” Claris plucked at her skirt.
one made you wear it.”
know, but what with UCS’s tuition hike, I couldn’t ask my parents for one more
penny, and this dress was free.”
left in Courtney’s closet is fair game. Her rules, not mine.”
we need to get back? I don’t want to miss the sendoff.”
think we still have a minute.”
Letty wiggled her toes and followed Claris’s glance over her shoulder at the
Montlake monstrosity. The hotel’s lights shimmered in the fading dusk. Music
from the reception floated over the rise. Out on the water, a few boats bobbed
along the horizon.
most people, this is the stuff of fairytales,” Claris said.
feel like my mom and I are being booted out of paradise and the only home I’ve
of your dad?”
nodded. “Mom’s talking of going to Arizona to live with Marmmy. Harper and Chet
are moving to New York. Leaving just me in my tiny Irvine apartment.”
love your place. It’s cozy.”
is just another word for small.” But Letty also loved her place. It was a
two-story, twenty-unit complex with gray and white siding and bright red doors.
“I love nursing, but the pay barely covers my rent. Now that Harper’s moving
out, I’ll have to pick up another shift if I want to buy food.” She clenched
her jaws to keep the tears at bay and struggled to regain control of her anger to
keep from dissolving into tears. But the sound of clattering roused her from
that about?” Claris stammered.
Letty tried to ignore her aching feet. When she realized the shouting and cursing
seemed to be coming from the wedding reception, she took off running as best
she could in her high-heeled satin shoes. Claris jogged beside her down the
path and over the bluff.
beagle stood on the table, wolfing down the wedding cake while the guests tried
to fight their giggles and Donald and his team flapped their arms and screamed
man in dripping wet swimming trunks and not much else dashed through the party,
knocking over chairs and bumping off guests as he scrambled toward the dog.
“Sorry! Sorry! Excuse me!” He lunged for the table and pulled the beagle to the
ground. A floral garland caught around the dog’s paws and soon the man and
beagle were tangled in the string of flowers. With his naked chest and garland,
the man looked like he could pose as a statue of a Greek god.
is that?” Claris breathed.
bit back a curse. “I don’t know, but he and that mutt just ruined my sister’s
right,” Claris whispered. “We should be outraged, but holy crow, he’s
I bet he knows it.” Letty marched over to the man, planted herself in front of
him, and released the anger she’d been storing up for the past two months. “Get
that creature out of here!”
trying.” He juggled the dog, who made another leap for the table. “That must be
some amazing cake.”
My mom stayed up all night making it and now look at it! It’s dog chow.”
it’s gorgeous. At least that part is.” He waved at the untouched-by-dog-lips
side of the cake.
gathered in Letty’s eyes as she remembered all her mom’s hard work. But then
she heard laughter. Stunned, she turned to watch her mom melt into tears and
giggles and fall onto a nearby chair. Mom hiccoughed, spread her legs, grabbed
her belly, and laughed some more.
Was she drunk? Oh please, don’t let
her be drunk. Letty didn’t think she could handle
one more ounce of humiliation.
of the guests followed Mom’s example. Sniggers, guffaws, and laughter floated
around Letty. Jerry didn’t even try to control her giggling. Leo, at least,
looked embarrassed for her.
man with the dog grinned, but his smile only fueled Letty’s rising anger. She
stepped in so the tips of her satin shoes were perfectly aligned with his bare
toes, peered into his eyes, and pushed his chest.
stunned, he dropped the dog, stumbled back as if Letty had zapped him, and
stared at her. Their brief physical contact had sent an electrical current
sizzling between them. Did he feel it, too?
no you don’t!” Claris sprang for the cake-lusting dog and caught it by the
Your dress!” Letty called out.
sank to the grass, her legs splayed out in front of her, the dog with its
frosting-smeared fur wriggling in her lap. “It’s okay. It’s an off-the-rack.”
man unwrapped himself from the garland and grinned at Claris. “Here, give her
to me.” He glanced around. “I wonder what happened to her leash.”
college friend of Harper’s came running up, holding the leash in her extended
hand like a banner. “I found it!”
distinguished-looking older gentleman carrying a briefcase and wearing a bowtie
appeared. “She must have slipped out of it.” The man took the proffered leash
and clipped it onto the dog’s collar. “Hey, it’s a chocolate cake. Do you think
it will make her sick?”
if to answer the question, the dog hunched over and vomited all over Letty’s
feet. A warm dampness seeped through the thin satin shoes. Frozen in horror,
Letty could only stare at the mess.
look, here come Harper and Chet!” Mom pointed a wavering finger at the couple
emerging from the side of the hotel. “Nobody say anything to them about the
cake! Grab the sparklers!”
jumped to her feet to help Mom distribute the sparklers and matches while Letty
shook herself from her stupor, stepped out of the vomit, and slipped off her
shoes. She wrinkled her nose as she picked up the dripping shoes and carried
them to a trashcan. After dropping them in, she tried to collect her thoughts
and wrap her anger around her like a protective cloak. It had momentarily
slipped when she’d laid her hands on that man’s naked chest, but she could and
would muster it back.
man and dog trailed after her. “Again, I’m really sorry.”
well, so am I.” She glanced over her shoulder at the line forming for her
sister’s sendoff. “This was supposed to be the happiest day of my sister’s life
and your dog just made it disgusting.”
can I make it up to you, and your sister, of course?”
question.” She waved her arm at the destroyed table where half the cake had
been turned into a mountain of mush. The bulk of the flowers had been cast to
the ground, but shredded petals and leaves scattered the once-pristine white
tablecloth like dying corpses on a battlefield.
I pay for a new cake?”
yeah, good idea.” She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand.
“Because we’ll need a new wedding cake tomorrow.” Sarcasm in her voice dripped
like vomit from silky shoes.
don’t need to be bitchy.”
planted her fists on her hips, even though she longed to touch him again. As an
experiment. Just to see if that sizzle would return. “And you don’t need to be
He bit his lip. “Right. I don’t.” And he stalked away while the dog limped after him.
I’m taking a book-business breather for the month of August and focusing some much-needed attention on my house. This is counter to the whole rapid-release strategy and my basic nature as I would much rather write a story than clean my garage.
But clean my garage I did. My daughter, who made me this sign a few years ago when I said I wanted a clean garage, helped me. She must have had a change of heart, because she helped me get to corner and crannies that probably hadn’t seen daylight in 24+ years. Today, I’m tackling my bookshelves. A friend once told me she liked my bookshelves because you could tell they’re used. Which was just a kind way of saying they’re in a constant state of messy flux. (I should also say that my bookshelves aren’t a good reflection of my reading habits since I’m like that guy in the parables who builds bigger barns to keep his stuff. I have not only my house, but two vacation rentals where I keep the books I love.) I’ll post pictures.
Why am I taking a book-business breather when it’s in direct opposition to the marketing guru’s advice? This quote might explain it best.
“The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough.” Ezra Taft Benson
I’ve never liked numbers, but recently I’ve felt like the numbers and I were at war, and yes, I took Chris Fox’s course for Authors Who Hate Math. I still hate math. Maybe someday I’ll win the marketing war, but for a moment–or a month–I’m taking a breather. I want to enjoy writing again. I’m not sure attacking the cobwebs in the corners of my house will help, but it can’t hurt…unless you’re a spider.
I’m rewriting my first published novel, Stealing Mercy. Next month, it will be published as Verity and the Villain. I just got my new cover, and I’m pretty much in love with it.
herbs, like eucalyptus and wormwood, can be used to repel animals and insects.
From The Recipes of Verity Faye
York, New York
York City’s night noises seeped through the wall chinks and window: the jingle
of horse harnesses, the stomping of hooves, the mournful howl of a dog, but one
noise, a noise that didn’t belong, jarred Verity awake.
creak on the stairs that led to her apartment. The third from the top, five
steps past Mr. Bidwell’s door. Only those wishing to reach her home crossed
that step. She never entertained visitors in the tiny attic; she wasn’t
in bed, she held her breath while the unwelcome guest paused. The walls were
thin, the door as substantial as paper, the lock inconsequential. Her thoughts
raced and her body shook. A shock of cold hit when she slipped from the bedding.
The wooden floor felt like ice beneath her feet. The embers in the grate had
burnt to a smolder and her shivering had as much to do with cold as with fear.
padded through the doorway to the sitting room. Dying coals in the potbelly
stove cast an orange glow and shadows loomed large. Grabbing a fire poker from
the hearth, she waited for a knock on the door. She tried to think of an
innocent reason for a neighbor to call, an emergency or crisis in which she
could assist, but when no knock came, she crept behind the pie safe stocked
with the previous day’s unsold pies and pastries. Stars winked through the
window and Verity wondered if their pale light could penetrate her chiffon
shift. She felt naked, alone, and friendless.
could call out. Let the visitor know she was awake, alert, and fire poker
armed. Perhaps someone on the street below would hear, but would they come to
her aid? Her only neighbor, Mr. Bidwell, as old as Satan and twice as mean,
would never stir from his bed for her. As she so often did, Verity missed her
father and longed for family.
splintering wood shattered the air as the lock gave way.
the room, a mirror, tarnished and misty, gave a wavy reflection of the opening
door. Verity slid a fraction lower behind the pie safe. The odors of the pies
mingled with her own smell of fear.
the mirror, she saw first a boot and then a thigh. Then all of Mr. Steele came
into view, his face a study of lust and cruelty. He stood in the semi-darkness
where a shaft of moonlight glistened on the six-inch knife in his gloved hand. Verity
choked on a sour tasting sob.
Suitors don’t carry knives.
Steele pushed the door open wider, inviting in a breeze that circulated through
the room. She knew why she’d been attracted to him. He looked and moved like
royalty. His dark hair curled away from his forehead and his lean muscles
rippled beneath his breeches. She thought of his laughter, the lilt of his
voice when he asked if he could call, the gleam in his eye when she’d accepted
his gift. Verity fingered the silver charm, a four-leaf clover, he’d given her.
She’d tied it with a ribbon and wore it around her neck. Why hadn’t she taken
it off when she’d denied his suit? When had she become suspicious of his
flattery? Why was she not surprised to find him in her room past midnight
wielding a knife?
course, he’d been angry and insulted that a mere shop girl would reject his
favors. Impoverished girls without families and connections should fawn over a handsome,
wealthy, and prominent man such as Steele, but Verity wasn’t typical, and she
wasn’t as impoverished as she pretended to be. And so, when Mr. Steele had
invited her on a voyage to South America without proposing marriage, she’d
turned him down.
whispered Mr. Steele had also invited her friend Belle on such a voyage. Then
Belle had disappeared.
held her breath. Steele passed the pie safe and paused as if thinking.
Mustering strength from the muscles that spent long hours kneading dough and
beating eggs, gathering courage grown from burying first her mother and then
her father, Verity shoved the pie safe and it gave way with a creak and
shudder. The safe caught Mr. Steele on the shoulder and he stumbled under the
assault of the swinging doors and sailing pies. Apple, cherries, peaches, the
sweet cinnamony odors of Faye’s wares pelted Mr. Steele. He danced in the
pastry goop and landed hard on one knee. In a different circumstance, she’d
have laughed at his abandoned dignity and awkward bobbling, but now she stepped
into the fallen pastries with her mouth in a stern line, her anger as hot as
blow from the poker sent him to the floor. A second blow brought his arms over
his head. With the third, he winced, fell face first into the smashed pastries.
she stopped beating him, her arms were shaking and her breath ragged. Blood
oozed from behind his ear. His body sprawled in the spilled pies; his face
pressed against the floorboards. She nudged him with the poker, but he didn’t
stir. For a long moment, she stood above him, waiting for a sign of life.
heart raced as she considered her options. The police? Would they believe her
plea of self-defense? She tried to imagine herself in a court of law, pitted against
a courtroom of men.
his side with his limbs at awkward angles and his eyes half shut, Steele lay
motionless in a mess of stewed fruit and crust. A smashed, oozing cherry clung
to his eyebrow. And then she noticed papers protruding from his jacket pocket.
It looked like passage fare, and she considered it with a hammering heart.
beside him, she drew the papers loose, her fingers shaking so badly the papers
caused a noisy breeze. A silver key slipped from the packet to the floor and
landed with a ping. The skeleton key had a curlicue top with embossed leaves
swirling around the words Lucky Island. The papers were first-class
passage to Seattle. It seemed Mr. Steele had been undeterred from the voyage
he’d proposed. The boat left at first light.
had an aunt in Seattle.
Tilly, her father had called his sister. Verity hadn’t met her aunt, but Silly
Tilly always remembered Verity’s birthday.
not go? Verity turned her head away from the tiny sitting room and looked out
the window to the river. Hastily drawn plans formed in her mind. Perhaps Lucky
Island was in the Puget Sound. It sounded more fortuitous than Faye’s Bakery
off Elm. Would her aunt take her in? Verity had written Tilly of her father’s
death, but hadn’t, as yet, heard a reply. Perhaps an invitation was already in
went to the wardrobe and tossed through her dresses, nothing seemed practical.
What did one wear for flight? She caught sight of her father’s trunk and nursed
an idea as she drew out her father’s clothes.
well-worn and loose, she slipped on and tucked the hems into her boots. She
rolled the sleeves of the cotton work shirt and shrugged into a boiled wool
coat. She tugged at the belt holding up her father’s pants and took a deep
breath in an effort to restore the calm she’d lost the moment she heard the
boot on the stairs. The jacket made her warm and the faint smell of leather and
shoeshine she always associated with her father gave her courage. It felt odd
and freeing to move without the encumbrance of skirts and petticoats. She kept
one eye on Mr. Steele as she packed the knapsack: her father’s watch, her
mother’s bible, a bag of gold coins, a loaf of barley bread.
sat down at the table where she’d taken her solitary meals and struggled to
control her shaking hands. Her handwriting looked spidery, the ink blotchy. A
splash of ink stained her father’s denim work shirt, but Verity didn’t care.
To whom it may concern, I, Verity
Faye, have taken my life on the night of December 15, 1888, she wrote, but she mentally
added, to Seattle. She left the note
on her unmade bed.
snuck a glance at the blood still seeping from the man’s temple and fought the
bile rising in her throat. She squatted and pulled out a locked trunk from
under her bed. Her shivering increased, making it difficult for her fingers to
work the key. Quickly, she rifled through her mother’s things which smelled of
must, neglect and a lingering hint of lavender. Forgive me, Mama, she thought,
when she found the velvet bag containing the Bren jewels.
trusting the sapphires in the knapsack, she tucked the bag next to her heart
beneath the ink-stained shirt. Then, she went to the safe where she kept the
shop’s proceeds. Perhaps someone, most likely her landlord, would wonder, but
who would question the scant means she left behind? The coins seemed to weigh a
hundred pounds and they jingled like a tambourine in her father’s pockets.
her father’s death four months prior, there’d been times when Verity
contemplated selling the jewels, but the bakery had become increasingly
successful. Verity took a deep breath, inhaling the warm pastry smells that
permeated her life. She would miss the shop, and it would only be a few hours
until her customers would miss her. Eventually, her landlord would bang on the
door, demanding rent, fair compensation. Would he find Mr. Steele?
hats hung on the hook by the door, a simple straw affair and a summer bonnet she
wore walking. Verity tucked the bonnet beneath her arm, shouldered the knapsack
and then bade a silent goodbye to the only home she’d ever known.
she felt it. A shift in the air. She stopped, listened, but heard only her racing
noise seemed amplified as Verity wrenched open what remained of the door and plunged
down the squeaky steps. Outside, she sucked in the cold night air and let it
fill her lungs. She stole through an alley, relying on memory and moonlight to
guide her through the towering rows of dark shops. When she reached the avenue,
light from the street lamps twinkled on the dew-covered sidewalk. Her flat
leather boots made no sound on the cobblestone street. An alley cat kept watch
on a window sill and a rat scurried beneath a trash bin. Verity lowered her
father’s felt cap and hunched her chin into his scarf when she passed a pair of
streetwalkers. The women, bruised and blue with cold called out to her, but she
fled down the avenue to where the Brooklyn Bridge crossed the East River.
stopped on the bridge, the same bridge from which Mrs. Steele had thrown
herself in a fit of melancholy a little more than a year ago. Verity felt the
wind pull at her clothes and tease tendrils of hair from the cap. She sent
Claris Steele a silent prayer of gratitude for the inspiration. After a glance
over her shoulder to ensure her solitude, Verity tossed the feathered bonnet
into the swirling dark water and watched it disappear.
filled Trent Michael’s eyes, nose, and throat and the sun beat upon his neck, but
he didn’t mind. Leaning against the railing, he watched the beauty in the ring.
A silky midnight mane, a shivering amber coat, intelligent eyes, and long, lean
legs. Perfection. He shifted and squinted into the sun and let his gaze rest on
the distant mountains. It’d be a long hard ride leading the untamed stallion
through Southern California’s brown hills, the central valley and Oregon’s
mountain passes, but by the time they’d reach Seattle, Sysonby
would be eating out of his hand and nickering his name.
be begging your pardon, sir,” Mugs said behind him.
didn’t take his eyes off the horse. Syonsby threw his head back and thrashed
the air with lightning speed hooves while a stable hand scrambled from the
ring. He’d enjoying breaking this one. “Yes, Mugs, what is it?” he asked over
his shoulder. If they left at tomorrow’s first light, they could reach the
mountains within a week.
turned and saw his driver holding a telegram and wearing a happy, no, exultant, expression upon his typically
hang-dog face. Trent placed his hat on his head and fingered the brim,
pushed back his curly hair and tried to steady his twitching lips. “It’s from
had guessed that. If he refused the telegram, he could say with a certain
degree of honesty that he’d never seen it. He’d be on the trail by morning and
his grandmother’s message would be roasting in a campfire by nightfall. Trent
studied Mugs. The man who typically had the demeanor and appearance of a troll
practically shimmied with anticipation. Trent trusted him implicitly, but he
knew Mugs could never match wits with Hester Michaels. Mugs, like most people
or animals, hadn’t a prayer of success if pitched against his grandmother. He’d
never be able to keep a secret from her himself.
inhaled the mixed odors of hay, dung and sweat and took off his hat to shoo
away the flies. If he tried to deny knowledge of the telegram, Hester would
wring the truth from Mugs within minutes and then Trent would be mucking out
stables, waiting for the day when she deeded him the ranch. On her deathbed.
odd years of shed shoveling.
frowned at Mugs and held out his hand for the telegram.
MISSING STOP RETURN IMMEDIATELY STOP”
drove Verity to the galley. She’d been able to keep to her room for several
weeks, only emerging for solitary meals and midnight strolls on the deck, but
by the time the ship had landed in Los Angeles, her stomach cried for food,
real food. The weeks of tinned beans she’d endured were about to end. During
her last few jaunts from her berth, she’d heard the rumors of tangy oranges, bite-size
grapes, and juicy plums. Just thinking of fresh produce made her head swim and
stomach ache. She stopped in the doorway and watched the men seated at the
of a sense of self-preservation, she’d kept to herself, but loneliness and
boredom had driven her to excessive eavesdropping and she’d learned more than
just the passenger’s names and faces. Curly, Captain Kane, de la Mar and a man
she didn’t recognize sat at a card table. The newcomer must have boarded in Los
Angeles. Cards, poker chips, and beverages sat on the tables. No food. Her
stomach groaned a complaint.
a bald stocky man, must have heard her belly growl. He caught her expression
and grunted in her direction. “No vittles yet, lad.”
felt tears rising and blinked hard, cursing her weakness. The room smelled of
ale and fish and the ship rose and fell with the tide, making her empty belly
cramp. Occasionally, the ship bumped against the dock with a smack and a
shudder and while the ropes as thick as her thigh that held the ship to the
dock, groaned at the restraint.
can always go on shore, there’s sure to be hawkers in the port,” wizened
Captain Kane told her. She glanced out the window. A breeze blew in and she both
smelled and heard the temptations of dry land. She sat down hard in a chair at
a table close enough to watch the men and practice patience.
Kane grumbled into his hand of cards, although Verity saw he held a pair of
kings. Curly leaned back and rubbed his hand over his gleaming bald head. The captain
sighed as if he’d soon regret his wager and pulled a jangle of coins from his
pocket. A wild glint lit his eyes when Curly laid an unusual token on the
stakes,” de la Mar murmured, sitting forward, his lean frame angling toward the
how’d the likes of you get hold of something like that?” asked the newcomer
with the sort of jaw that looked like it’d been chiseled in stone. Verity
hadn’t remembered seeing him before, and she would have. He had a cleft chin
and his defined muscles bore a resemblance to the Greek statues she’d seen on
display in the traveling artifact show. He turned toward her and his gaze lingered
on her lips. A slow smile curved his mouth and he took a long drink of ale before
returning to his pair of fives.
I got my charms,” Curly laughed and looked smug.
wouldn’t be trading that away so lightly,” de la Mar said, studying his cards
as if trying to conjure a flush.
leaned forward and caught sight of the token. Her breath caught in her throat.
that’s worth playing for, hey lad?” Curly threw her a bawdy grin. Verity
blinked at him. She wanted to touch the token, to feel its heft and size, to
study it and see if it could be as similar to the key in her pocket as it
Kane threw the man with a cleft chin a hostile glance. “You acquainted with
that particular coin, Wallace?”
the man with the cleft chin, said, “I’m not.”
Verity was. Her fingers sought the key in her pocket. They matched. She was
sure of it. The key she’d taken from Mr. Steele matched the token on the table.
there token can buy you one of the finest wenches in the country,” Curly
don’t just let any Joe into their club,” de la Mar said. “How you get that,
Curly? Don’t tell me it was on account of your beauty.”
your smell,” Wallace said, smirking.
the smell of money,” Captain Kane, said, laying down his cards, the kings
staring up at him. He beamed as his companions threw down their hands with oaths
exactly do you get with that token?” Verity asked the men in her practiced
Kane smiled. “I just won me a trip to Lucky Island.”
fidgeted. “And Lucky Island is–”
of the finest brothels in the country,” the captain finished for her.
that token gains you entrance for a night?” This was the longest conversation
she’d had since leaving New York and it made her nervous. Any moment she
expected her voice to crack, and yet she had to ask.
whole night?” de la Mar scoffed and Curly, who’d been taking a swig of ale,
flushed Verity’s cheeks, and she looked out the window again. She caught sight
of a broad shoulder man pushing up the gangplank. He had blond hair tied back
in a short queue. He walked with athletic grace, but something about the way he
moved said he didn’t want to get on the boat. It was almost as if he was
fighting an invisible string that tried to keep him on land.
you imagine having a key to Lucky Island?” de la Mar asked.
demand a rematch,” Curly said, watching his prize token slip away.
turned her back on the man climbing the gangplank and asked, “This Lucky
Island, is it here in California?”
the finest wenches are in Seattle,” Captain Kane said, smiling and pushing away
from the table. He flipped the coin into the air and caught it mid-air.
“Gentlemen, I believe it’s time to set sail.”
stood on the deck of the ship, his stomach matching the ocean’s churning. A
light spray fell over him, but he didn’t flinch. He tried to focus on the emerging
moon and the star’s glinty light and not the dark, rolling tide pitching both the
ship and the contents of his stomach. Gazing out over the hills where the
mountains met the purpling sky, he could imagine Mugs, Sysonby and the other
horses cresting the mountains before making camp. Transporting a team of horses
single-handedly wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worthwhile. Mugs would first
break and then train Sysonby, and no matter how often Trent rode or fed him,
Sysonby would always belong to Mugs. Despite the paperwork.
documentation. It said so much and did so little. He felt the weight of the
ranch settle across his shoulders. He told himself it’d soon be his, but he was
beginning to suspect that even if his gram deeded him the ranch, as she’d
promised, as long as she had spurs on her boots, it would always be hers. And
his. They both loved it, but sometimes, no, most
of the time, they wanted to run it differently.
moon, a slip of silver, peeked through a haze of clouds. A star emerged. The
ship rose on a swell and fell. Trent tightened his fingers around the rail,
cursing his gram and his weak stomach. Maybe if he just didn’t eat he could
make it to Seattle with the majority of his insides intact. Sailing turned him
mean wind blew the clouds shrouding the moon and a beam of light landed on a
lone figure near the bow. She fought the wind for her hat, and her hair, a
tangle of dark honey, swirled around her head. The hat, once pinched between
her fingers, caught another gust, set sail and skittered across the deck.
woman managed to capture her hair into a twist, and she looked over the deck in
his direction. Her eyes widened when she saw him, and she backed up against the
bent and retrieved the hat nestled against his boot. He held it out to her, and
she stood, like a wild colt being offered an apple, unsure of whether to bolt
or indulge. His eyes swept over her and he noticed for the first time her
breeches. At the ranch, his gram and sister often wore pants, but he knew it
wasn’t typical female attire. The hat, Trent realized, completed the woman’s
disguise. She probably didn’t realize her breeches did little to hide her
curves. He couldn’t tell in the moonlight, but he guessed she’d bound her
breasts. Without taking her eyes off his face, she twisted her hair into a knot
at the top of her head. She’d travel in disguise, but wouldn’t sacrifice her
hair for her rouse. Devious, yet vain.
held the hat out to her, chuckling, his seasickness forgotten. Would she hold
character? Pretend that most young men had hair that fell to their waist when
walked toward him and he noted she moved with grace and poise despite the
rollicking waves. He gripped the rail with one hand and held the hat with the other.
thank ye, sir,” she said in a deep modulated tone that she’d probably spent
weeks perfecting. How long had she been at the masquerade and why? Was he the
only one who knew? “You’re welcome, lad.”
He emphasized the last word.
moved for the hat, but he held it tight. “Hold on. What’s your name?”
need to be nervous, I’m just making conversation. Where you from?”
grinned deepened despite the rolling and tossing waves. Seattle was still a
small town with an even smaller population of women. Although the city was
rapidly growing, he felt confident he would have recognized her. “So, this is a
homebound trip for you.”
stuck out her tell-tale clean-shaven chin. “Yes, sir.”
suppose I’ll be seeing you, then, in town, perhaps at the Lone Stag.”
face was as blank as a seasoned poker player. He could tell she wanted to ask
why anyone would meet at a lonely deer. “It’s a tavern,” he whispered moving
closer, inhaling her warm scent. “When lying, it’s always best to stay as near
the truth as possible.”
ship rocked with a strong wave, the girl grabbed her hat and said in a soft
soprano voice, “I wouldn’t know.”
spray hit him in the face and when he finished blinking, she had gone. He
looked across the deck; all was still and dark. He wiped his forehead with his
sleeve and moved away from the rail. The slick deck made any movement precarious.
Walking took nearly all his concentration, but then he saw a flash of movement
in the moonlight. He hurried after her, as best he could.
tripped down the stairs leading to her berth, her heart thrashing and her
breath ragged. She’d been on the ship for weeks and no one had guessed or
suspected her disguise. Or so she supposed. She blamed the hair. She should
have cut it. He never would have guessed if she’d cut her hair. Momentarily
bracing herself against the wall as a wave tilted the ship, she considered her
options. She’d have to stay in her room and have food delivered by the
revolting little man, whom, she was quite sure, pilfered off her tray. Her
stomach clenched when she thought of all the lovely produce that had been
loaded onto the ship in Los Angeles. Oranges, grapes, and cucumbers. She
glanced over her shoulder, looking for the man from the deck, but saw no one,
just a long corridor lit by flickering lamps. Perhaps he would keep her secret.
She couldn’t trust him or anyone. Steele had taught her well.
ship tossed on a wave and the lights wavered. In the hall, all of the berths
were closed and only a few had candlelight peeking beneath the doors. When a
man spoke in her ear, she jumped.
Steele,” a voice drawled. “Why I do believe you’ve lost a hundred pounds since
we last met.”
heart stopped. Had she fooled no one? Had she’d only hoodwinked herself? She
whirled to see the man named Wallace from the card-table standing in a doorway.
He had his shirt undone revealing his ripped chest muscles.
don’t believe we’ve met,” she said in her best baritone.
Steele, I’m offended. We’ve shared countless business ventures.” He held the
door to his room open, exposing a berth with gray tumbled sheets. “Presently, I
think we have something to…discuss, payment for my discretion?”
Is there something in your life slowing you down? Is there someone whose conversation fills your mind with dark thoughts? Is there an addiction that trips you up? Is there a compulsion eating up your time and energy? Who, or what, is sucking your mojo?
Nothing? Really? Be honest.
Try this exercise. Set aside ten minutes where you know you won’t be interrupted. Lay flat on your back and take six deep breaths—releasing each one slowly. For the six breaths, think about nothing but your breathing. Then let your mind wander. For ten minutes you are absolutely free of your frustrations.
Now, imagine your life without that frustration. Maybe your frustration is so huge, so overwhelming, you think you can’t let it go. But you can. And what if you did? Imagine your life without that devil on your back. Imagine a day—from the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to bed—without that frustration. What would your day look like? How different would it be? How would it change you? Your behavior? Your happiness? Your thoughts?
Often the problem is not really a problem unless we make it one. We assign the power. We allow another person to constantly hurt us. We pick up the cookie, cigarette, bottle, or phone. “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves,” William Shakespeare wrote. And that’s the worst sort of fault—the one we can root out, but don’t. The fault that eats at our self-image and kills all our hopes.
Another exercise: take any object, even one as small as an iPod, and hold it in front of your eyes. It’s all you can see. But if you move it away, you can see all sorts of things. Consider all those other things that fill your life and be grateful for the good. If you can, shake off the bad. If you can’t set it down and walk away from it, try moving it out of the forefront of your thoughts and sight.
So much easier said than done. But is it really? Sometimes we think it takes eons to change, but history tells us otherwise. The Apostle Paul went from an antagonizer (I know that’s not a word, but I can’t think of a better one) to a disciple in a few short days.
So, what can you shake off? What can you cut out of your life? How can you restart?
What if you stopped obsessing about your weight? Can you throw out your bathroom scale? Treat yourself to nourishing food? Take a walk outside? Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are a beautiful child of God?
Are there gossips or Negative-Nellys in your life? Can you find someone else to chat with? Or when you are forced into their conversation, can you steer it in a better direction? Maybe you have to say—“I’m feeling a little down, can we talk about something happy?”
Is your car a clunker? Can you replace it with a bike?
If you need some money, is there something you can sell?
If you’re lonely and bored, is there someone you can serve?
Find one thing in your life that you can absolutely live without and get rid of it. Set it down and walk away. When my friend’s husband left, she took all of his things that he left behind to the beach and built a bonfire. In the Book of Mormon when the Anti-Lehi-Nephites resolved to be a peace-loving people they buried their weapons. Is there something you can burn? Do you have weapons to bury?
I do. I’m doing it today, because it’s hard to dance with the devil on my back.