Thursday, July 30, 2009
This year, all you have to do is read one work of Japanese origin. It can be literature of course, but don’t feel confined to that. You may choose to read poetry, biographies, short stories or even manga. If you are willing to read one such piece, you’ve met the challenge. If you read more, all the better.
I have set the time frame between July 30, 2009 and January 30, 2010. Here is the website where you can link your reviews. http://www.japlit3challenge.blogspot.com/
By the way there are some prizes and to see a list visit Dolce Bellezza's site.
I read The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa and loved it. So I decided next time Dolce Bellezza hosted the Japanese Reading challenge I would join and hopefully find more great books. :)
I have no idea what I am going to read. I am taking suggestions if any one has any. If you would like to participate go to http://dolcebellezza.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Steeple Hill (July 1, 2009)
His matchmaking brother is sending another single gal Brad Sharp's way. Under the guise of community service! The Make a Home project—building houses for the needy—is Brad's life. He fully expects hairstylist Callie Easton to show up for "work" with a pink hammer and not even use it. Hardly a match for him!
With a heart of gold and a talent for transformation, Callie works hard. Still, Brad won't notice her. His grief over a tragic loss has hardened his heart. Well, Callie knows all about loss. And thanks to Brad, she knows even more about making a home—for them.
I loved this book and finished it quickly. Diann Hunt is one of my favorite authors. This is a sweet Christian romance novel without being overly saccharine and cliche. Diann Hunt is known for the humor in novels and this is no exception. Callie and Brad both have issues that need to be worked out and the way they do it makes this a fun and interesting book. This is an enjoyable romantic comedy that I highly recommend! :)
Diann's website: http://www.diannhunt.com/
Monday, July 27, 2009
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robin Parrish had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract with Bethany House Publishers. They contracted him for the rights to not only that first book, Relentless -- but two sequels including Fearless and Merciless. A trilogy that unfolded in the consecutive summers of 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Robin Parrish is a journalist who's written about pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at XZOOSIA.com, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture. He and his wife, Karen and son live in North Carolina.
ABOUT THE BOOK
"Every Person on This Planet Has Disappeared."
Commander Christopher Burke and his crew are humanity's greatest explorers. They've finished their mission on the red dirt of Mars and now they just want to get back to Earth. To see friends, family, and loved ones. To be home. But even with communication to ground control cut and a perilous landing, nothing could prepare the crew for what they discover when they step foot back on planet Earth.
It's not a dream. It's not a trick. Now Burke and his team have one mission:find out who or what is behind the disappearance of all mankind.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Offworld, go HERE
Watch the book trailer:
Wow is all I can say. I read this book in one night. I read as fast I could, the pages flew by. Speculative/Sci-Fi Christian fiction is not something I would normally read but I love fiction books about space/astronauts. I read Zero G by Alton Gansky last year and enjoyed it. I do not want to give any of the plot secrets away for Offworld as there are significant twists. Besides the non stop action we learn more about the five main character's personal lives as the book goes on. I highly recommend this book especially if you are looking for something a little different. :)
Sunday, July 26, 2009
* It has been a slow reading month July. I am not alone in wondering where the month has gone. We only have one week left. I do not want Summer to be over. I looked forward to it all year. I am not a fan of December-March.
* I managed to read two books this weekend.
- FlyGirl by Sherri L. Smith
- Offworld by Robin Parrish
* They were both good in different ways. My review will be up tomorrow on Offworld. Let's just say it would make a good movie. Flygirl was good not sure if I will do a real review though.
* I am off to clean the tub, finish the laundry, more trash, and dishes. The cats are in hairball/throw up mode so there are four messes to clean up. My sister is sick with some kind of upper resp. stuff so lots of dirty tissue around here. Germs make me want to run in the other direction. Two coworkers children had swine flu last week. They are fine. I don't think that is what my sister has though. She has jury duty starting tomorrow but they are going to take one look at her and send her home. My poor sissy. I am washing my hands a lot.
* Have a great and low germ week!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)
Kaye Dacus likes to say she writes “inspirational romance with a sense of humor.” She lives in Nashville and graduated from Seton Hill University’s Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. She is an active member and former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her Stand-In Groom novel took second place in the 2006 ACFW Genesis writing competition.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Her thirty-fourth New Year and still no kiss at the stroke of midnight. . .or any other day or time. Meredith Guidry stood in the doorway leading into Vue de Ciel—the cavernous, sky-view event venue at the top of the tallest building in downtown Bonneterre, Louisiana—and swallowed back her longing as she watched hundreds of couples kiss.
A short burst of static over the earpiece startled her out of her regrets.
“Mere, we’re going to set up the coffee stations and dessert tables.” The executive chef’s rich, mellow voice filled her ear.
She clicked the button on the side of the wireless headset. “Thanks, Major.” Turning her gaze back to the main room, she tapped the button again. “Let’s slowly start bringing the houselights back up. I want us at full illumination around twelve thirty.” She strolled into the ballroom, the floor now covered with shiny metallic confetti, the hundreds of guests milling about wishing each other a happy New Year. Out on the dance floor, a large group of men stood swaying, arms about shoulders, singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the tops of their lungs, accompanied by the jazz band.
“Let’s make sure tables are bussed.” Pressing her finger to the earpiece to speak over the network made her feel like those secret service agents in the movies who were always talking into their shirt cuffs. “I’m seeing several tables with empty plates and glasses.”
She kept to the perimeter of the room, doing her best to blend in with the starlit sky beyond the glass walls, barely repressing the feeling of being the loner, the schoolgirl no one else paid any attention to. . .the woman no man ever gave a second glance.
“You look like a kid staring through a candy-store window, wishing you could go inside.”
Meredith’s heart thumped at the sudden voice behind her. She turned. Major O’Hara grinned his lopsided grin, his chef’s coat nearly fluorescent with its pristine whiteness.
“How’re you holding up?” He squeezed her shoulder in a brotherly way, his indigo eyes gentle.
She sighed. “You know me—I operate on pure adrenaline at these things no matter how little sleep I’ve gotten the night before. So long as I stay busy and don’t slow down, the fatigue can’t catch up with me.”
“And stopping to grab a bite to eat would have meant slowing down?”
Coldness embraced her shoulder when Major lifted his hand away. “I set aside a few take-home boxes for you—and Anne. I told her I’d be sure to save a little of everything.”
Anne. Meredith’s cousin and best friend. Her inspiration and mentor. Owner of a stellarly successful wedding- and event-planning business, Happy Endings, Inc. And friends with Major O’Hara on a level Meredith could never attain.
“If you see George, tell him I’ve been experimenting with that plum pudding recipe he gave me. I’ll need his expert opinion before I can officially add it to my repertoire.”
“I’ll tell him—but you see him more often than I do.”
“Yeah, I guess so. I’m glad we convinced Anne to fall in love with him. Finally, having another man’s opinion when we’re all working an event together.” He winked.
Meredith quickly turned her eyes toward the milling crowd so he wouldn’t see how he affected her. It would only embarrass him—and mortify her.
He tweaked her chin. “Come on. Back to work for the bosses.”
Over the next hour, Meredith poured herself into her work to try to keep exhaustion at bay. The last few guests meandered out just after one thirty. Meredith turned on all of the lights, their glare on the glass walls and ceiling nearly blinding her. She tasked her staff to stack chairs, pull linen from tables, and clear the room.
She directed the sorting of the rented decorations and materials into different dump sites around the room. Early Tuesday morning, she would meet all of the vendors here to have their stuff carted away so the building maintenance staff could get in for a final cleaning before resetting the room for lunch service.
“Miss Guidry, are these your shoes?” Halfway across the room, one of the black-and-white-clad workers held aloft a pair of strappy, spike-heeled sandals. Meredith’s medium-height, pointy-toed brown pumps rubbed her feet in a couple of places after six hours—but nothing like the pain those sandals would have caused.
“Lost-and-found,” she called over the music throbbing through the room’s built-in PA system. Not what she would choose to listen to, but it kept the staff—mostly college students—happy and working at a brisk clip. That made three pairs and two stray shoes, five purses, sixteen cellular phones, and one very gaudy ruby ring—and those were only the items Meredith had seen herself. Her assistant would be fielding phone calls for days.
Vacuum cleaners roared to life—a wonderful sound as it meant they were getting close to quitting time. A couple of guys loaded the last of the large round tables onto a cart and wheeled it down the hall to the freight elevator, followed by several more pushing tall stacks of dark blue upholstered chairs on hand trucks.
Vue de Ciel expanded in all directions around her. She hugged her arms around her middle. She’d survived another New Year’s Eve Masked Ball—and the eight hundred guests seemed to have enjoyed themselves immensely. Hopefully her parents would deem it a success.
The soprano of flatware, alto of china, tenor of voices, and bass rumble of the dish sterilizers created a jubilant symphony that thrilled Major O’Hara’s heart.
Simply from the questions the food-and-wine columnist from the Reserve had asked, the review in the morning newspaper wouldn’t be good. It would be glowing.
“Chef, stations are clean, ready for inspection.” Steven LeBlanc, sous chef, wiped his hands on the towel draped over his shoulder. Though Steven’s white, Nichols State University T-shirt was sweat-soaked—much like Major’s own University of Louisiana–Bonneterre tribute—the kid’s blond hair still stood stiff and tall in mini-spikes all over his head.
Major hadn’t yet been able to find anything that would keep his own hair from going curly and flopping down onto his forehead in the heat and humidity of a working kitchen. Yet asking Steven for hair-styling tips—Major grunted. He’d rather slice his hand open and stick it in a vat of lemon juice.
He followed Steven through the kitchen, inspecting each surface and utensil, releasing some of the staff to clock out, pointing out spots missed to others.
“Civilian in the kitchen,” rang out from one of the line cooks.
Meredith, stately and graceful, light hair set off to perfection by her brown velvet dress—like strawberries served with chocolate ganache—swept into the kitchen, drawing the attention of every man present. If she knew she had that effect on his crew, she would laugh her head off and call them all nuts.
“I’m ready to release my staff, unless you need any help in here.” Meredith came over and leaned against the stainless-steel counter beside him. She even smelled vaguely of strawberries and chocolate. . .or maybe that was just his imagination.
He cleared his throat. “I think we’ve got it covered.”
“Dishwashing station cleared, Chef!”
“See?” He grinned at her.
She graced him with a full smile, then covered her mouth as a yawn overwhelmed her. “I’ll let my guys go, then.” She pressed her hands to the base of her neck and rolled her head side to side. “I’ve got to run down to my office to get my stuff.”
“Why don’t I meet you at your office, since I have to come downstairs anyway?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be fine—”
“Mere. Stop. I will come to your office to walk you to your car. You’re lucky I’m not insisting on driving you home myself.”
Her nutmeg eyes flickered as if she were about to argue; then her smile returned. “Thank you, Major. I’d appreciate that.”
Good girl. “That wasn’t too hard, was it?” He limited himself to once again laying his hand on her shoulder instead of pulling her into a hug. “Go on. I’ll make sure all the rest get clocked out and then shut everything down for the night.”
Meredith nodded and departed. Major rounded up the last few stragglers and watched them run their cards through the computerized time clock. Returning their happy-New-Year wishes, he ducked into his office at the rear of the kitchen, grabbed his dry-cleaning bag along with his duffel, turned off his computer and light, and locked the door.
The brass nameplate winked in the bright kitchen light. Major O’hara, Executive Chef. He grimaced. What pride he’d taken eight years ago when Mr. Guidry had offered him the position—saving Major years of working his way up the chain of command in restaurants.
He heaved the two bags over his shoulder. Meredith’s parents had been better to him than he deserved, had given him the flexibility in his schedule to take care of family matters no other employer would have given. They had also given him their blessing—their encouragement—to strike out on his own, to open the restaurant he’d dreamed of since working for Meredith’s aunt in her catering company throughout high school and college. The restaurant he’d already have, if it weren’t for his mother.
Major shut down the houselights, guilt nipping at his heels. Ma couldn’t help the way she was. The mirrored elevator doors whispered shut, and he turned to stare out the glass wall overlooking downtown Bonneterre from twenty-three floors above.
His descent slowed, then stopped. The doors slid open with a chime announcing his arrival on the fifth floor. Before he could turn completely around, Meredith stepped into the elevator.
“How long were you standing in the hall waiting for one of these doors to open?”
Meredith busied herself with pushing the button for the basement parking garage. “Not long.”
“Not long,” he imitated the super-high pitch of her voice. “You’ve never been a good liar, Mere.”
“Fine.” She blew a loose wisp of hair out of her eyes. “I was out there a couple of minutes. I didn’t want you to have to wait for me. Happy?”
“Not in the least. But I appreciate your honesty.” Due to the tenseness around her mouth, he changed the subject. “Your mom invited me to drop by their New Year’s open house. You going?”
Meredith shook her head. “No.” The simple answer held a magnitude of surprise.
“She said she had something she wanted to talk to me about.”
The porcelain skin between Meredith’s brows pinched. “Hmm. No—I don’t usually go over for the open house, just for our family dinner later. Instead, I’m fixing to go home, sleep for a few hours, and then head over to the new house. I’m planning to get the paint stripped from all the woodwork in the living room and dining room tomorrow.”
“In one day?” Major grunted. Meredith’s new house was anything but: a one-hundred-year-old craftsman bungalow everyone had tried to talk her out of buying. “Wouldn’t you rather relax on your holiday?”
“But working on the house is relaxing to me. Plus, it gives me a good excuse to go off by myself all day and be assured no one’s going to disturb me.”
The elevator doors opened to the dim, chilly underground parking garage. Major took hold of Meredith’s arm and stopped her from exiting first. He stepped out, looked around, saw nothing out of the ordinary, then turned and nodded to her. “Looks safe.”
“Of course it’s safe. You lived in New York too long.” She walked out past him.
“Meredith, Bonneterre isn’t the little town we grew up in anymore. Even before Hurricane Katrina, it was booming.” He stopped her again, planted his hands on her shoulders, and turned her to face him. “Please don’t ever take your safety for granted. Not even here in the garage with security guards on duty. If anything happened to you. . .”
Meredith blushed bright red and dropped her gaze.
“Look, I don’t mean to alarm you. But in this day and age, anything could happen.” He kept hold of her a moment longer, then let go and readjusted the straps of the bags on his shoulder.
Meredith released a shaky breath. “So, what are you going to do on your day off?”
“Watch football.” He winked at her over his shoulder as he approached her Volvo SUV. The tinted windows blocked him from seeing inside. Perhaps he had lived in New York too long. But Bonneterre had changed even in the eight years he’d been back. Crime rates had risen along with the population. And he would have done this for any other lady of his acquaintance, wouldn’t he?
He heard the lock click and opened the driver’s-side door for her—taking a quick peek inside just to make sure that the boogey man wasn’t hiding in the backseat.
“Oh, honestly!” Meredith playfully pushed him out of the way and, shaking her head, opened the back door and heaved her large, overstuffed briefcase onto the seat.
Major moved out of the way for her to get in. “Drive safely, okay?”
“I always do.”
“Call me when you get home. Nuh-uh. No arguments. If you don’t want to call, just text message me—all right?—once you’re in your apartment with the door locked.”
“Hey, who died and made you my keeper?” Meredith laughed.
He didn’t let his serious expression crack. “Just call me safety obsessed.”
“Okay, Major Safety Obsessed.” She leaned into his one-armed hug, then settled into the driver’s seat. “Thank you for your concern. I will text you as soon as I arrive safely home, am safely in my house, with my door safely locked.”
He closed the car door and waved before walking over to Kirby, his beaten-up old Jeep, a few spaces down. As he figured, Meredith waited to back out until he was in with the engine started. He followed her out of downtown and waved again as they parted ways on North Street.
A few fireworks flickered in the distance against the low-hanging clouds. He turned the radio on and tuned it to the Southern Gospel station. Always keyed-up after events, he sang the high-tenor part along with the Imperials. Though it had taken him a while to build the upper range of his voice—having always sung baritone and bass before—when he, George Laurence, Forbes Guidry, and Clay Huntoon started their own quartet, Major had been the only one who could even begin to reach some of the high notes. Sometimes it was still a strain, but he practiced by singing along with the radio as loudly as he could. . .to keep his voice conditioned.
When he pulled into the condo-complex parking lot, his cell phone chimed the new text message alert. He shook his head. Of course she texted instead of calling. He pulled the phone out of the holster clipped to his belt and flipped it open to read the message:
SAFELY home. : - )
happy new year
While Kirby’s engine choked itself off, Major typed out a return message:
The phone flashed a confirmation that the message was sent, and he holstered it. Grabbing his black duffel from the back, he left the orange dry-cleaning bag to drop off at the cleaners Tuesday.
To blow off some steam and try to relax enough to fall asleep, he turned on the computer and played a few rounds of Spider Solitaire. About an hour later, his whole body aching, eyes watering from yawning every other minute, he grabbed a shower before turning in. At thirty-eight years old, he shouldn’t feel this out of shape—of course, if he still made time to go to the gym every day and didn’t enjoy eating his own cooking as much as he did, he probably wouldn’t be this out of shape. He weighed as much now as he had playing middle linebacker in college. . .except twenty years ago, it had all been muscle.
But who trusted a skinny chef anyway?
Thunder grumbled, and rain pattered against the window. Major kicked at the comforter that had become entangled in his legs during the night and rolled over to check the time.
Eight thirty. What a perfect day to don ratty old sweats, sit in the recliner watching football on the plasma TV, and eat junk food.
If he had a plasma TV. Or any junk food in the condo.
Alas, though, he’d promised Mrs. Guidry he would drop by. Best check the schedule of games, see which he cared least about, and make the visit then. He pulled on the ratty old sweats and an equally ratty ULB T-shirt, though. As he passed down the short hallway, he tapped the temperature lever on the thermostat up a couple of degrees to knock a little of the chill out of the air.
His stomach growled in concert with the thunder outside. The tile in the kitchen sent shockwaves of cold up his legs. Shifting from foot to foot, he yanked open the dryer door, dug through the clothes in it, and found two somewhat matching socks. Sometimes having the laundry hookups here did come in handy, even though they took up more than a third of the space in the small galley kitchen.
The fridge beckoned. Not much there—maybe he should hit the grocery store on the way back from the Guidrys’ open house.
Half an hour later, with the Rose Bowl parade providing ambiance, he sank into his recliner and dug into the andouille sausage, shrimp, potato, mushroom, red pepper, onion, jack cheese, and bacon omelet spread with Creole mustard on top.
Maybe he should consider making a New Year’s resolution to cut back on calories this year. What was missing? Oh, yeah, the grits. He’d left the bowl sitting by the stove.
Halfway to the kitchen to retrieve the rest of his breakfast, the phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger as he passed by.
“Mr. O’Hara, this is Nick Sevellier at Beausoleil Pointe Center.”
Major stopped. So did his heart.
“I’m sorry to bother you on a holiday, sir, but your mother has had an episode. She’s asking for you.”
Professional event planner Meredith Guidry makes a New Year's resolution: that she'll get over an eight-year-long infatuation so she can fall in love and end her still-single status before New Year's Eve rolls around again. Executive chef Major O'Hara wishes he could admit his feelings for and share his life with Meredith, but he knows he could never saddle the woman he loves with a family situation like his.
I thought this was a very good second book in the Brides of Bonneterre Series. I wanted to bop Meredith and Major on the head several times. I was like hurry up and acknowlege your feelings already. They keep missing each other. Lots of well placed tension nothing bad. The characters and plot are interesting, unique, and sometimes funny. The setting is well done as is the writing. All the food talk made me hungry. lol My stepfather is cajun and a really good cook. I really liked the first book in the series also so of course I would recommend reading them in order but you could read this one separate. They are worth it. One of the best new series and author this year. I can't wait to read the next book in the series. :)
* This post is late. I am so sorry. I have been really busy with work and life stuff.
I did not sign up for this book but I bought it at Wal Mart. Camy Tang is a great author. I have the first few chapters but I have been so busy I have not had a lot of reading time or felt like it. :)It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Steeple Hill (July 14, 2009)
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Originally from
Hawaii, she worked as a biologist for 9 years, but now she writes full time. She is a staff worker for her San Jose church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in book doctoring.
On her blog, she gives away Christian novels, and she ponders
frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $5.50
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Steeple Hill (July 14, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The man who walked into Naomi's father's day spa was striking enough to start a female riot.
Dark eyes swept the room, which happened to be filled with the Sonoma spa's staff at that moment. She felt his gaze glance over her like a tingling breeze. Naomi recognized him instantly. Dr. Devon Knightley.
For a wild moment, she thought, He's come to see me. And her heart twirled in a riotous dance.
But only for a moment. Sure, they'd talked amiably— actually, more than amiably—at the last Zoe International fund-raising dinner, but after an entire evening sitting next to her, he hadn't asked for her phone number, hadn't asked for any contact information at all. Wasn't that a clear sign he wasn't interested?
She quashed the memory and stepped forward in her official capacity as the spa owner's daughter and acting manager. "Dr. Knightley. Welcome."
He clasped her hand with one tanned so brown that it seemed to bring the heat of the July sun into the airy, air-conditioned entranceway. "Miss Naomi Grant." His voice had more than a shot of surprise, as did his looks as he took in her pale blue linen top and capris, the same uniform as the gaggle of spa staff members gathered behind her. "It's been a few months since I've seen you."
He still held her hand. She loved the feel of his palm— cool and warm at the same time, strong the way a surgeon's should be.
No, she had to stop this. Devon and his family were hard-core atheists, and nothing good would come out of giving in to her attraction. "What brings you here?"
"I need to speak to Jessica Ortiz."
An involuntary spasm seized her throat. Of course. Glamorous client Jessica Ortiz or plain massage therapist Naomi Grant—no comparison, really.
But something in his tone didn't quite have the velvety sheen of a lover. He sounded almost… dangerous. And danger didn't belong in the spa. Their first priority was to protect the privacy of the guests.
"Er… Ms. Ortiz?" Naomi glanced at Sarah, one of the receptionists, whose brow wrinkled as she studied her computer monitor behind the receptionists' desk. Naomi knew she was stalling—she didn't need to look because she'd checked Ms. Ortiz into the elite Tamarind Lounge almost two hours before.
Naomi's aunt Becca also stood at the receptionists' desk, stepping aside from her spa hostess duties to allow Naomi to handle Dr. Knightley, but Aunt Becca's eyes had a sharp look that conveyed her message clearly to Naomi: the clients' privacy and wishes come first.
Naomi cleared her throat. "Are you her physician?"
Dr. Knightley frowned down at her, but she kept her air of calm friendliness. He grimaced and looked away. "Er… no."
Naomi blinked. He could have lied, but he hadn't. "If you'll wait here, I can see if Ms. Ortiz is available to come out here to see you." If Jessica declined to come out, Naomi didn't want to think what Devon's reaction would be.
His eyes grew stormier. "Couldn't you just let me walk in back to see her?"
"I'm sorry, but we can't allow nonfamily members into the back rooms. And men are not allowed in the women's lounges." Especially the secluded Tamarind Lounge, reserved only for Tamarind members who paid the exorbitant membership fee.
"Naomi, surely you can make an exception for me?" He suddenly flashed a smile more blinding than her receptionist's new engagement ring.
His switching tactics—from threatening to charming— annoyed her more than his argumentative attitude. She crossed her arms. "I'm afraid not." She had to glance away to harden herself against the power of that smile.
"You don't understand. It's important that I see her, and it won't take long." He leaned closer, using his height to intimidate.
He had picked the wrong woman to irritate. Maybe her frustrated attraction made her exceptionally determined to thwart him. Her jaw clenched and she couldn't help narrowing her eyes. "Joy Luck Life Spa has many high-profile clients. If we let anyone into our elite lounges, we'd lose our sterling reputation for privacy and discretion."
"You don't understand how important this is—"
"Dr. Knightley, so nice to see you again." Aunt Becca stepped forward and inserted herself between the good doctor and Naomi's line of vision. She held out a thin hand, which Devon automatically took. "Why don't I set you up in the Chervil Lounge while Naomi looks for Ms. Ortiz?"
Aunt Becca whirled around faster than a tornado. Her eyes promised trouble if Naomi didn't comply. "Naomi."
Aunt Becca's taking charge of the conversation seemed to drive home the point that although Dad had left Naomi in charge of the spa while he recovered from his stroke, she still had a long way to go toward learning good customer relations. Part of her wanted to be belligerent toward Devon just to prove she was in the right, but the other part of her wilted at her failure as a good manager.
She walked into the back rooms and paused outside the door to the Tamarind Lounge, consciously relaxing her face. Deep breath in. Gently open the door.
Softly pitched conversation drifted into silence. Two pairs of eyes flickered over her from the crimson silk chaise lounges in the far corner of the luxuriant room, but neither of them belonged to Jessica Ortiz. Vanilla spice wafted around her as she headed toward the two women, trying to glide calmly, as the daughter of the spa owner should.
"Good morning, ladies. I apologize for the intrusion."
"Is it already time for my facial?" The elderly woman gathered her Egyptian cotton robe around her and prepared to stand.
"No, not yet, Ms. Cormorand. I've come to ask if either of you have seen Ms. Ortiz."
An inscrutable look passed between them. What had Jessica done to offend these clients in only the couple of hours she'd been at the spa? Jessica seemed to be causing the spa more and more trouble recently.
The other woman finally answered, "No, she left about a half hour ago for her massage. I thought she was with you."
Naomi cleared her throat to hide her start. Jessica's appointment was at eleven, in fifteen minutes, not now.
"Yes, doesn't she always ask for you when she comes?" Ms. Cormorand blinked faded blue eyes at her.
Naomi shoved aside a brief frisson of unease. Jessica should be easy to find. "Which massage therapist called for her?"
"Oh, I don't know." Ms. Cormorand waved a pudgy hand beringed with rubies and diamonds. "Someone in a blue uniform."
Only one of almost a hundred staff workers at the spa.
"Thank you, ladies. Ms. Cormorand, Haley will call you for your facial in fifteen minutes." Naomi inclined her head and left the room, trying to let the sounds of running water from the fountain in the corner calm her growing sense of unease.
Where could Jessica have gone? And an even juicier question: Why did Devon Knightley need to speak to her?
She peeked into the larger Rosemary lounge, which was for the use of spa clients who were not Tamarind members. Several women chatted in small groups, but no Jessica Ortiz. Naomi hadn't really expected Jessica to forgo the more comfortable elite lounge, but the only other option was checking each of the treatment rooms individually.
She headed into the back area where the therapy rooms were located, navigating the hallway scattered with teak and bamboo furniture, each sporting East Asian cushions and throws, artfully arranged by Aunt Becca. Had Jessica switched to a different massage therapist? And had someone forgotten to tell Naomi in the excitement of Sarah's new engagement?
As she moved down the hallway, she started noticing a strange, harsh scent suffusing the mingled smells of san-dalwood and vanilla. Not quite as harsh as chemicals, but not a familiar aromatherapy fragrance, a slightly discordant counterpoint to the spa's relaxing perfume.
She knew that smell, but couldn't place it. And it didn't conjure up pleasant associations. She started to hurry.
She first looked into the women's restroom, her steps echoing against the Italian tile. No sound of running water, but she peeked into the shower area. A few women were in the rooms with the claw-foot bathtubs, and a couple more in the whirlpool room, but no Jessica. No one using the toilets.
The mirrored makeup area had a handful of women, but again no Jessica. Naomi smiled at the clients to hide her disappointment and growing anxiety as she entered. She noticed some towels on the floor, a vase of orchids a little askew, and some lotions out of place on the marble counter running the length of the room, so she tidied up as if she had intended to do so, although the staff assigned to restroom duty typically kept things spic and span.
She peeked into the sauna. A rather loud ring of laughing women, but no Jessica.
Back out in the central fountain area, the harsh smell seemed stronger, but she couldn't pinpoint where it came from. Had a sewage pipe burst? No, it wasn't that sort of smell. It didn't smell rotten, just… had an edge to it.
She entered the locker area, although the Joy Luck Life Spa "lockers" were all carved teakwood cabinets, individually locked with keys. The smell jumped tenfold. Naomi scoured the room. Maybe it came from a client's locker? No. Maybe the dirty laundry hamper?
She flipped open the basketweave lid.
The scream pierced Devon's eardrums. Beside him, Becca Itoh started. The heavy wooden double doors she'd just opened, leading to the men's lounge, clunked closed again as she turned and headed back down the corridor they'd walked.
"Where—?" He kept up with her, but not easily—for a woman in her fifties, she could book it.
"The women's lounge area." She pointed ahead as she hustled closer. "Those mahogany double doors at the end."
Devon sprinted ahead and yanked open the doors. "Stay behind me."
Becca ignored him, thrusting ahead and shouting, "Naomi!" as they entered a large circular entry area with more corridors leading from it. "Naomi!"
A door to their right burst open and Naomi Grant spilled into the entry room. "Aunt Becca!" Her face was the same shade as the cream-colored walls. "There's blood in the women's locker room.”
“Blood?” Becca reached for her as Devon pushed past her into the room she’d just exited.
Despite the urgency, he couldn’t help but be awed by the fountain in the center of a vast chamber with a veined-tile floor. Scrollwork signs on the walls pointed to “sauna” and “whirlpool” and “locker room.” Luckily, no women appeared. He veered right.
He almost wasn’t sure he’d actually arrived in the right place, but the carpeted room lined with teakwood locking cabinets was in line with the luxurious entry hall of what he realized was the women’s bathroom.
The metallic smell of blood reached him. He followed his nose to the basket hamper in the corner, filled with bloody towels. It reminded him of the discarded gauzes from his orthopedic surgeries, bright red and a lot more than the average person saw.
This was not good.
He returned to the two women. Naomi’s hands were visibly shaking, although her voice remained low and calm. “And I couldn’t find Ms. Ortiz.”
Jessica’s name still caused the reflexive crunching of his jaw. But he’d never wanted any harm to come to her—she wasn’t a bad person, they had just clashed too much on personal matters. And now she was missing, and there was an immense amount of blood in the bathroom. Devon’s heart beat in a light staccato against his throat. She had to be okay.
“Where else have you looked?” He scanned the other corridors leading from the fountain entryway. He’d need guidance or he’d get lost in this labyrinth.
“I haven’t checked the therapy rooms yet.” Naomi nodded toward the larger central corridor, which ended at another set of double doors.
He headed toward them when Becca reached out to grab his arm in a bony but strong grip. “You can’t just barge into private sessions.”
“Why not?” He turned to face the two women. “There’s blood in your bathroom and Jessica Ortiz is missing.”
Naomi’s light brown eyes skewered him. “Do you really think it’s wise to cause a panic?”
“And I suppose you have another option?”
“Sessions don’t last more than an hour or ninety minutes. We’ll wait for those to finish—if Jessica’s just in one of those, there’s nothing to worry about. In the meantime, we’ll check all the empty session rooms,” Naomi said.
Becca turned to leave and said over her shoulder, “I’ll check on the schedule at the receptionists’ desk to find out which rooms have clients and when the sessions end. I’ll call you on your cell.”
Naomi turned down a corridor in the opposite direction, this one lined with bamboo tables draped with shimmery, lavender-colored fabric so light that it swayed as they moved past.
It reminded Devon of the papery silks he’d seen in Thailand, giving the spa a soothing and very Asian atmosphere. His heartbeat slowed. Jessica was probably fine and had accidentally taken someone else’s session in her artless, friendly way. She’d emerge from a facial or a manicure in a few minutes and wonder what all the fuss was about.
A group of three therapists turned a corner. They spied Naomi and immediately stopped chatting amongst themselves, although not fearfully—more out of respect that the boss was suddenly in front of them.
“Girls, have you seen Ms. Ortiz?” Naomi’s smile seemed perfectly natural and warm—inviting a rapport with her staff, yet not too cozy. If Devon hadn’t noticed her fingers plucking at the linen fabric of her pants, he wouldn’t have known how anxious she was.
Two of them shook their heads, but the tall blond woman to his left nodded and pointed directly across the corridor. “I saw her talking to Ms. Fischer about an hour ago before Ms. Fischer went in for her manicure.”
His heartbeat picked up. “An hour ago?”
The blonde eyed him with a hard look, but a quick glance at Naomi seemed to allay her suspicions. He had the impression that if her boss hadn’t been by his side, he’d have been thrown out, even if it took all three women to do it.
Naomi was shaking her head. “Ms. Cormorand saw her leave the Tamarind lounge only thirty minutes ago.”
His hopes popped and fizzled.
The blonde jerked her head at the nearby door. “Ms. Fischer is almost done in room thirty-five if you want to talk to her anyway.”
“That’s a good idea. Thanks, Betsy.”
Betsy nodded, and the silent trio headed down the corridor and around the corner.
Copyright © 2009 by Camy Tang
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
Are there some good Christian fiction books that made you laugh out loud and just feel really good about life? I can't wait to hear your recommendations.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eva Marie Everson taught Old Testament theology for six years at Life Training Center in Longwood, Florida and has written numerous articles for Crosswalk.com (including the acclaimed Falling Into The Bible series), and has had articles featured in numerous publications, including Christianity Today, Evangel, Christian Bride, Christian Retailing, The Godly BusinessWoman and Marriage Partnership magazines. Eva Marie has been interviewed by radio, television, newspaper, and Internet media outlets. In 2002Eva Marie was one of six Christian journalists sent to Israel for a special ten-day press tour.
Eva Marie’s work includes the award-winning titles Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel, Shadow of Dreams, Sex, Lies and the Media, and The Potluck Club series.
She is married, has four children and five grandchildren, and lives in Central Florida.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Every family--and every house--has its secrets. Jo-Lynn Hunter is at a crossroads in life when her great-aunt Stella insists that she return home to restore the old family manse in sleepy Cottonwood, Georgia. Jo-Lynn longs to get her teeth into a noteworthy and satisfying project. And it's the perfect excuse for some therapeutic time away from her self-absorbed husband and his snobby Atlanta friends.
Beneath the dust and the peeling wallpaper, things are not what they seem, and what Jo-Lynn doesn't know about her family holds just as many surprises. Was her great-grandfather the pillar of the community she thought he was? What is Aunt Stella hiding? And will her own marriage survive the renovation? Jo-Lynn isn't sure she wants to know the truth--but sometimes the truth has a way of making itself known.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Things Left Unspoken, go HERE
Things Left Unspoken is a wonderful contemporary southern women's lit. book. I read it in one day. I was drawn in the beginning and I did not want to put it down. There was a little suspense about what the skeleton in the family closet was and a little romance too. The characters and plot were well developed. The writing was beautiful and definitely southern. Recommended. :)
Sunday, July 19, 2009
* I had a busy week last week. I started my new job with the company. I am now working check in at the PT center. I do like it. It is very different.
* I have only read 6 books and it is July 19. For some reason I have not felt like reading. I may still have burn out from the 30 books I read last month. Also it has been a very busy month and I have been tired.
* This week I finished Try Fear by James Scott Bell, Hometown Courtship by Diann Hunt, and Through the Fire by Shawn Grady. They were all good. I reviewed Try Fear and Through the Fire. I am still working on a review for Hometown Courtship.
* I have been very busy this weekend. Saturday I ran errands all day and went out to eat that night with my Dad, grandma, and sister. Today I have been cleaning. Almost done with the laundry. I took out lots of trash and recycling. So the laundry needs to be folded and put up. The diswasher needs to be unloaded and reloaded. The floors need vacuming and the bathroom needs cleaning. Yikes!
* My new work hours are 7:30 to 5:00 so it is harder to do things after work. I need to get my car tag renewed so I may have to pay the extra money to do it online. My tires need rotating and my oil needs changing. I need to go the post office, order checks, and go to the library. I ran out of time Saturday not that they let you renew your car tag then.
* So I am off to read a book and finish cleaning. I do not want to miss Ace of Cakes coming on tonight. :)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shawn Grady signed with Bethany House Publishers in 2008. He was named “Most Promising New Writer” at the 39th Annual Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Through the Fire is his debut novel.
Shawn has served for over a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in northern Nevada. From fire engines and ambulances to tillered ladder trucks and helicopters, Shawn’s work environment has always been dynamic. The line of duty has carried him to a variety of locale, from high-rise fires in the city to the burning heavy timber of the eastern Sierras.
Shawn attended Point Loma Nazarene University as a Theology undergrad before shifting direction to acquire an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science Technology as well as Paramedic licensure through Truckee Meadows Community College.
Shawn currently lives in Reno, Nevada, just outside of Lake Tahoe. He enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife, three children and yellow Labrador.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Firefighting burns in Aidan O'Neill's blood. The son of a fireman, O'Neill has a sixth sense about fire and often takes dangerous risks. When one act of disobedience nearly gets a rookie killed, O'Neill is suspended. His weeks off are supposed to be a time to reflect but instead he escapes to Mexico, where another rash act of bravery actually kills him. But only for a few minutes.
Called back to Reno, he's now haunted by visions of hell and paralyzed in the face of fire. And at the worst time, because an arsonist is targeting Reno. With a growing love interest with one of the investigators complicating everything, Aidan must discover where his trust rests as the fires creep ever closer.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Through The Fire, go HERE
Overall this was a wonderful debut novel. The beginning was a little slow but once it got started the suspense took over. Who was starting the fires? That was one of the main questions. You can tell the book was written by a real firefighter. It is authentic and realistic. The characters came off the page and I was drawn into their lives. I look forward this author's next book. Recommended.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section.
He has launched, edited or contributed to numerous national publications and is an award-winning adventure-travel writer. A popular speaker, he is also active in both evangelism and the arts. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines.
His first novel, Yucatan Deep (Zondervan, 2002) was a finalist for the Christy award, and he is the author of six novels, including Wind River and In High Places. In addition Tom has also written two nonfiction books: 20 American Peaks & Crags (Contemporary Books, 1978) and Wild by Nature (Baker Books, 2001). He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.
ABOUT THE BOOK
High Seas Adventure Meets a High-Tech Quest for Pirate Gold West Indies, 18th century Young Ted Bascombe is rescued by notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, finding himself caught up in a world of crime, adventure, and a daily fight for freedom.... Key West, 21st century Marine archaeologist Greg Rhode embarks on a treasure-hunting expedition in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, but he's as beguiled by a beautiful diver with different-colored eyes as by the lure of pirate gold...The Hunt Is On! Interweaving these two stories, pro deep-sea diver Tom Morrisey spins a multilayered tale of two young men's quests to escape their past by losing themselves to adventure on the high seas. Romantic and thrilling, this unique novel explores the timeless truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
If you would like to read the first chapter of Pirate Hunter, go HERE
I just got the book and have not had time to read it yet. I can't wait because it looks interesting and unique. :)
Monday, July 13, 2009
Publisher: Center Street; 1 edition (July 16, 2009)
A former trial lawyer associated with one of L.A.'s top law firms and later working out of an independent office, James Scott Bell has written over 300 articles on trial law, as well as six books for trial lawyers. Now a prolific fiction writer, he applies his in-depth knowledge of the justice system to his legal thrillers. His Web site is www.jamesscottbell.com.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
* I am so so exhausted. Not completely sure why though.
* I was in an Indian(India) wedding yesterday. I will put a picture up of me in my Indian outfit. I really did not have any responsibilities but I did get to wear the outfit. It was very interesting watching the customs at the temple. I am not sure how an American temple looks compared to one in India.
* I loved wearing the outfit. I told her mother I will be Indian if I get to wear the beautiful outfits. Some of the ladies there were so beautiful. lol
* I have only read 3 books this month. Horrible.
* I just don't feel like reading. I am trying to read a good book right now called Try Fear by James Scott Bell. He is an author who writes for Christian and secular publishing houses and this one is for secular. Hopefully I will be able to finish it tonight.
* I have been fighting with my insurance company for months. I have grand mal seizures and a generic came out on my medicine so they upped the price on my name brand to $184. The generic does not work as well and my doctor and myself do not want to risk it. I could use wisdom and prayer on what to do regarding changing etc.
* I start my new job in the company tomorrow. I am a little nervous. I will be working the check in desk. I am used to moving around all day and this will mean being at a desk. I hope I don't gain a lot of weight.
* Off to finish the laundry. I bought new bedding today at Bed Bath and Beyond so I will put a picture up. :)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
We're at the halfway point in the year and we've read a bunch of great books (hopefully) so far. Today I'm going to ask you to do something very difficult...and pick your favorite! The book you choose should be fiction, should be published for the Christian marketplace, and must have been published in 2009. Please tell us why it's your favorite and who else might enjoy it. If you reviewed it, feel free to include a link to your review!
One of my favorites this year is The Moment Between by Nicole Baart.
From my original review:
Wow is all I can say. This is the best book I have read all year even with the difficult and not pleasant subject matter of mental illness as part of the plot. It is well written with beautiful, powerful, lyrical prose on every page. Instead of being told chronologically it is told using three time frames intertwined. Abby's childhood, present, and flashbacks. I was never lost. I read it in two days only because I started it late in the night and I had to go to work the next day otherwise it would have been one sitting. :) Catholicism is in the book some but is not overwhelming and works well. I highly recommend this book. You do not want to miss out on this book especially if you are a fan of contemporary and/or literary fiction. :)
The link to my review with summary and first chapter:
Friday, July 10, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2009)
Kaye Dacus has a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a minor in history, and a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. Her love of the Regency era started with Jane Austen. Her passion for literature and for history come together to shape her creative, well-researched, and engaging writing.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
July 18, 1814
William Ransome pulled the collar of his oilskin higher, trying to stop the rain from dribbling down the back of his neck. He checked the address once more and then tucked the slip of paper safely into his pocket.
He took the four steps up to the front door of the townhouse in two strides and knocked. The rain intensified, the afternoon sky growing prematurely dark. After a minute or two, William raised his hand to knock again, but the door swung open to reveal a warm light.
A wizened man in standard black livery eyed William, bushy white brows rising in interest at William’s hat, bearing the gold braid and black cockade of his rank. “Good evening, Captain. How may I assist you?”
“Good evening. Is this the home of Captain Collin Yates?”
The butler smiled but then frowned. “Yes, sir, it is. However, I’m sorry to say Captain Yates is at sea, sir.”
“Is Mrs. Yates home?”
“Yes, sir. Please come in.”
“Thank you.” William stepped into the black-and-white tiled entry, water forming a puddle under him as it ran from his outer garments.
“May I tell Mrs. Yates who is calling?” The butler reached for William’s soaked hat and coat.
“Captain William Ransome.”
A glimmer of recognition sparkled in the butler’s hazy blue eyes. In the dim light of the hall, he appeared even older than William originally thought. “The Captain William Ransome who is the master’s oldest and closest friend?”
William nodded. “You must be Fawkes. Collin always said he would have you with him one day.”
“The earl put up quite a fight, sir, but the lad needed me more.” Fawkes shuffled toward the stairs and waved for William to join him. “Mrs. Yates is in the sitting room. I’m certain she will be pleased to see you.”
William turned his attention to his uniform—checking it for lint, straightening the jacket with a swift tug at the waist—and followed the butler up the stairs.
Fawkes knocked on the double doors leading to a room at the back of the house. A soft, muffled voice invited entry. The butler motioned toward the door. It took a moment for William to understand the man was not going to announce him, but rather allow him to surprise Susan. He turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open.
Susan Yates sat on a settee with her back to him. “What is it, Fawkes—?” She turned to look over her shoulder and let out a strangled cry. “William!”
He met her halfway around the sofa and accepted her hands in greeting. “Susan. You’re looking well.”
Her reddish-blonde curls bounced as she looked him over. “I did not expect you until tomorrow!” She pulled him farther into the room. “So—tell me everything. When did you arrive? Why has it been two months since your last proper letter?” Susan sounded more like the girl of fifteen he’d met a dozen years ago than the long-married wife of his best friend. “Can you stay for dinner?”
“We docked late yesterday. I spent the whole of today at the port Admiralty, else I would have been here earlier. And I am sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot stay long.” He sat in an overstuffed chair and started to relax for the first time in weeks. “Where is Collin? Last I heard, he returned home more than a month ago.”
Susan retrieved an extra cup and saucer from the sideboard and poured steaming black coffee into it. “The admiral asked for men to sail south to ferry troops home, and naturally my dear Collin volunteered—anything to be at sea. He is supposed to be back within the week.” She handed him the cup. “Now, on to your news.”
“No news, in all honesty. I’ve been doing the same thing Collin has—returning soldiers and sailors home. I only received orders to Portsmouth a week ago—thus the reason I sent the note express, rather than a full letter.”
“But you’re here now. For how long?”
“Five weeks. I’ve received a new assignment for Alexandra.”
“What will you do until your new duty begins?”
“My crew and I are on leave for three weeks.” And it could not have come at a better time. After two years away from home, his crew needed some time apart from each other.
“Are you going to travel north to see your family?”
“At the same time I sent the express to you announcing my return to Portsmouth, I sent word to my mother telling her of my sojourn here. When I arrived ashore earlier today, I received a letter that she and Charlotte will arrive next Tuesday.”
“How lovely. Of course, you will all stay with us. No—I will brook no opposition. We have three empty bedchambers. I could not abide the thought of your staying at an inn when you could be with us.”
“I thank you, and on behalf of my mother and sister.”
“Think nothing of it. But you were telling me of your assignment. Your crew is not to be decommissioned?” Susan asked.
“No. I believe Admiral Witherington understands my desire to keep my crew together. They have been with me for two years and need no training.”
“Understands?” Susan let out a soft laugh. “Was it not he who taught you the importance of an experienced crew?”
William sipped the coffee—not nearly as strong as his steward made it, but it served to rid him of the remaining chill from the rain. “Yes, I suppose Collin and I did learn that from him…along with everything else we know about commanding a ship.”
Susan sighed. “I wish you could stay so that I could get out of my engagement for the evening. Card parties have become all the fashion lately, but I have no skill for any of the games. If it weren’t for Julia, I would probably decline every invitation.”
“Julia—not Julia Witherington?” William set his cup down on the reading table beside him. He’d heard she had returned to Portsmouth following her mother’s death, but he’d hoped to avoid her.
“Yes. She returned to England about eight months ago and has become the darling of Portsmouth society, even if they do whisper about her being a ‘right old maid’ behind her back. Although recently, Julia’s presence always means Lady Pembroke—her aunt—is also in attendance.” The tone of Susan’s voice and wrinkling of her small nose left no doubt as to her feelings toward the aunt.
“Does Admiral Witherington attend many functions?”
“About half those his daughter does. Julia says she would attend fewer if she thought her aunt would allow. I have told her many times she should exert her position as a woman of independent means; after all, she is almost thir—of course it is not proper to reveal a woman’s age.” Susan blushed. “But Julia refuses to cross the old dragon.”
“So you have renewed your acquaintance with Miss Witherington, then?” The thought of Miss Julia Witherington captured William’s curiosity. He had not seen her since the Peace of Amiens twelve years ago…and the memory of his behavior toward her flooded him with guilt. His own flattered pride was to blame for leading her, and the rest of Portsmouth, to believe he would propose marriage. And for leading him to go so far as to speak to Sir Edward of the possibility.
“Julia and I have kept up a steady correspondence since she returned to Jamaica.” The slight narrowing of Susan’s blue eyes proved she remembered his actions of a dozen years ago all too well. “She was very hurt, William. She believes the attentions you paid her then were because you wished nothing more than to draw closer to her father.”
William rose, clasped his hands behind his back, and crossed to the floor-to-ceiling window beside the crackling fireplace. His reflection wavered against the darkness outside as the rain ran in rivulets down the paned glass. “I did not mean to mislead her. I thought she understood why I, a poor lieutenant with seeming no potential for future fortune, could not make her an offer.”
“Oh, William, she would have accepted your proposal despite your situation. And her father would have supported the marriage. You are his favorite—or so my dear Collin complains all the time.” Silence fell and Susan’s teasing smile faltered a bit. “She tells the most fascinating tales of life in Jamaica—she runs her father’s sugar plantation there. Collin cannot keep up with her in discussions of politics. She knows everything about the Royal Navy—but of course she would, as the daughter of an admiral.”
A high-pitched voice reciting ships’ ratings rang in William’s memory, and he couldn’t suppress a slight smile. Julia Witherington had known more about the navy at age ten than most lifelong sailors.
“My apologies, Susan.” He snapped out of his reverie and returned to his seat. “Did Collin ever tell you how competitive we were? Always trying to out-do the other in our studies or in our duty assignments.” He recalled a few incidents for his best friend’s wife, much safer mooring than thinking about the young beauty with the cascade of coppery hair he hadn’t been able to forget since the first time he met her, almost twenty years ago.
Julia Witherington lifted her head and rubbed the back of her neck. The columns of numbers in the ledgers weren’t adding properly, which made no sense.
An unmistakable sound clattered below; Julia crossed to the windows. A figure in a dark cloak and high-domed hat edged in gold stepped out of the carriage at the gate and into the rain-drenched front garden. Her mood brightened; she smoothed her gray muslin gown and stretched away the stiffness of inactivity.
She did not hear any movement across the hall. Slipping into her father’s dressing room, she found the valet asleep on the stool beside the wardrobe. She rapped on the mahogany paneled door of the tall cabinet.
The young man rubbed his eyes and then leapt to his feet. “Miss Witherington?”
She adopted a soft but authoritative tone. “The admiral’s home, Jim.”
He rushed to see to his duty, just as Julia had seen sailors do at the least word from her father. Admiral Sir Edward Witherington’s position demanded obedience, but his character earned his men’s respect. The valet grabbed his master’s housecoat and dry shoes. He tripped twice in his haste before tossing the hem of the dressing gown over his shoulder.
She smothered a smile and followed him down the marble staircase at a more sedate pace. The young man had yet to learn her father’s gentle nature.
Admiral Sir Edward Witherington submitted himself to his valet’s ministrations, a scowl etching his still-handsome face, broken only by the wink he gave Julia. She returned the gesture with a smile, though with some effort to stifle the yawn that wanted to escape.
He reached toward her. “You look tired. Did you rest at all today?”
She placed her hand in his. “The plantation’s books arrived from Jamaica in this morning’s post. I’ve spent most of the day trying to keep my head above the flotsam of numbers.”
Sir Edward’s chuckle rumbled in his chest as he kissed her forehead. He turned to the butler, who hovered nearby. “Creighton, inform cook we will be one more for dinner tonight.”
“Aye, sir,” the former sailor answered, a furrow between his dark brows.
That her father had invited one of his friends from the port Admiralty came as no surprise. Julia started toward the study, ready for the best time of the day—when she had her father to herself.
“Is that in addition to the extra place Lady Pembroke asked to have set?” Creighton asked.
Julia stopped and turned. “My aunt asked…?” She bit off the rest of the question. The butler did not need to be drawn into the discord between Julia and her aunt.
The admiral looked equally consternated. “I quite imagine she has somebody else entirely in mind, as I have not communicated my invitation with my sister-in-law. So I suppose we will have two guests for dinner this evening. Come, Julia.”
Once in her father’s study, Julia settled into her favorite winged armchair. A cheery fire danced on the hearth, fighting off the rainy day’s chill. Flickering light trickled across the volumes lining the walls, books primarily about history and naval warfare. She alone knew where he hid the novels.
He dropped a packet of correspondence on his desk, drawing her attention. She wondered if she should share her concern over the seeming inaccuracy of the plantation’s ledgers with her father. But a relaxed haziness started to settle over her mind, and the stiffness of hours spent hunched over the plantation’s books began to ease. Perhaps the new steward’s accounting methods were different from her own. No need to raise an alarm until she looked at them again with a clearer mind.
She loved this time alone with her father in the evenings, hearing of his duties, of the officers, politicians, and government officials he dealt with on a daily basis while deciding which ships to decommission and which to keep in service.
The sound of a door and footsteps in the hallway roused her. “Papa, how long will Lady Pembroke stay?”
Sir Edward crossed to the fireplace and stoked it with the poker. “You wish your aunt to leave? I do not like the thought of you without a female companion. You spend so much time on your own as it is.”
“I do not mean to sound ungrateful. I appreciate the fact that Aunt Augusta has offered her services to me, that she wants to…help me secure my status in Portsmouth society.” Julia stared at her twined fingers in her lap.
“It seems to have worked. Every day when I come home, there are more calling cards and invitations on the receiving table than I can count.” Going around behind his desk, he opened one of the cabinets and withdrew a small, ironbound chest. With an ornate brass key, he unlocked it, placed his coin purse inside, secured it again, and put it away.
“Yes. I have met so many people since she came to stay three months ago. And I am grateful to her for that. But she is so…” Julia struggled for words that would not cast aspersions.
The admiral’s forehead creased deeply when he raised his brows. “She is what?”
“She is…so different from Mama.”
“As she was your mother’s sister by marriage only, that is to be expected.”
Julia nodded. To say anything more would be to sound plaintive, and she did not want to spoil whatever time her father could spare for her with complaints about his sister-in-law, who had been kind enough to come stay.
Sir Edward sat at his desk, slipped on a pair of spectacles, and fingered through the stack of correspondence from the day’s post. He grunted and tossed the letters back on the desk.
“What is it, Papa?”
He rubbed his chin. “It has been nearly a year…yet every night, I look through the post hoping to see something addressed in your mother’s hand.”
Sorrow wrapped its cold fingers around Julia’s throat. “I started writing a letter to her today, forgetting she is not just back home in Jamaica.”
“Are you sorry I asked you to return to England?”
“No…” And yes. She did not want her father to think her ungrateful for all he had done for her. “I miss home, but I am happy to have had this time with you—to see you and be able to talk with you daily.” Memories slipped in with the warmth of the Jamaica sun. “On Tuesdays and Fridays, when Jeremiah would leave Tierra Dulce and go into town for the post, as soon as I saw the wagon return, I would run down the road to meet him—praying for a letter from you.”
His worried expression eased. “You looked forward to my missives filled with nothing more than life aboard ship and the accomplishments of those under my command?”
“Yes. I loved feeling as if I were there with you, walking Indomitable’s decks once again.”
His sea-green eyes faded into nostalgia. “Ah, the good old Indy.” His gaze refocused and snapped to Julia. “That reminds me. An old friend made berth in Spithead yesterday. Captain William Ransome.”
Julia bit back sharp words. William Ransome—the man she’d sworn she’d never forgive. The man whose name she’d grown to despise from its frequent mention in her father’s letters. He had always reported on William Ransome’s triumphs and promotions, even after William disappointed all Julia’s hopes twelve years ago. He wrote of William as if William had been born to him, seeming to forget his own son, lost at sea.
Her stomach clenched at the idea of seeing William Ransome again. “He’s here, in Portsmouth?”
“Aye. But not for long. He came back at my request to receive new orders.”
“And where are you sending him, now that we’re at peace with France?” Please, Lord, let it be some distant port.
Sir Edward smiled. “His ship is to be in drydock several weeks. Once repairs are finished, he will make sail for Jamaica.”
Julia’s heart surged and then dropped. “Jamaica?” Home. She was ready to go back, to sink her bare toes into the hot sand on the beach, to see all her friends.
“Ransome will escort a supply convoy to Kingston. Then he will take on his new assignment: to hunt for pirates and privateers—and if the American war continues much longer, possibly for blockade-
runners trying to escape through the Gulf of Mexico. He’ll weigh anchor in five weeks, barring foul weather.”
Five weeks was no time at all. Julia relaxed a bit—but she started at the thump of a knock on the front door below.
“Ah, that must be him now.” Sir Edward glanced at his pocket watch. “Though he is half an hour early.”
“Aye. Did not I tell you? Captain Ransome is joining us for dinner.”
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