Monday, January 18, 2021

A Romantic Return

 It's always great to check back in with authors we enjoy and that is what we are doing with today's featured writer.  My guest today in My Writing Corner is author Amber Dalton. We're also making another stop at one of my favorite places -- Deerbourne Inn. 

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press, Books to Go Now, and Daulton Publishing, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats. 

Her newest book is Harmony's Embrace.

Divorced dad Birley Haynes is too busy raising his children and running his family’s music academy to start a relationship. Then Harmony Holdich, his high school sweetheart, returns home to Willow Springs, Vermont for Christmas and falls into his bed. She brings light and fun back into his life, but he can’t brush aside the threatening incidents around his workplace.

Harmony hadn’t expected a complication like Birley, especially so soon after the death of her unfaithful husband. With her life a mess, she plans to move across the country and start over. All she can offer him is a fling, but her heart yearns for more.

When the threats rise, how will Birley keep his children safe and convince Harmony to give love another chance?

Let's hear directly from both of these engaging characters and learn more about their romance.We'll start with Birley and what drives him to Harmony and what is holding him back.

What do you find special about Harmony?

Her strength. She’s been through a lot over the past few years, but she’s still the same stubborn, kind, fun-loving person I remember from back when we were kids. We’ve both grown up a lot since our teenage romance abruptly ended but being with her feels right.

What about her frightens (or disturbs) you?

I’m so worried she’ll wise up and move on from me. I come with baggage, and she’s worth more than I can ever give her. But I’ll do everything in my power to make her happy and keep her around. She’s the love of my life. Yeah, that sounds sappy as hell, but that’s the way things are.

 Now let's dig deeper into Harmony's tfeekubgs and see if we can learn what is giving her second thoughts.

What draws you to Birley?

 His stubbornness and the desperate yearning for freedom that he tries to hide from me. Even though I admire his one-track mind, he needs to relax and enjoy life. As a single dad and the manager of his family business. I understand he’s busy, but I’m determined to find my special place in his life. I can’t help but shake things up a bit.

 What do you fear when it comes to him?

 That he’ll succumb to stress. I don’t want him to push me away. I love him and his kids, but his job and his ex-wife are big problems.

Want more?  Let's get an excerpt:

            Dear God. His heart slammed harder. He’d died and gone to Heaven.

Harmony stretched her arms above her head and danced in the middle of the living room. Her hips pulsated with the beat of the music. Twisty locks of her hair bounced around her shoulders. She winked, then glided her hands across her breasts and stomach, daring his gaze to follow.

Birley licked his lips. The organ pressing against his zipper throbbed. Sweat slicked his nape. He dropped his scarf beside her purse, jacket, and beanie on the coffee table.

“Dance with me?”

Her husky entreaty ricocheted through him like a ping-pong ball. How could he deny her? He gripped her waist. She slid her arms around him. They swayed, their bodies a scant inch apart. She nuzzled his neck, her breath fanning his skin. His hair prickled. The air crackled around them. He shuddered and held her tighter.

“I’ve missed this.”

His chest heaved. He struggled to fill his lungs with air. “Dancing?”

“Dancing with you.” Harmony stroked his clean-shaven jaw. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out with you and Susannah, but I wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.”

Oh, God. He kissed her and swept his tongue past her parting lips. Delicious. The taste of chocolate and wine clung to her breath. He nibbled and licked the smooth slope of her neck.

“Birley, yes.” She ducked her head and claimed his mouth with hers. Then she feathered kisses across his face. “I need your hands, your mouth, your scent all over me. Take me, Birley. Hard, soft, I don’t care.”

If you want more (like I do), you'll have to get the book.  Here's how:

 Purchase Links

Amazon –

Barnes and Noble –

Apple/iBooks –

Kobo –

Google Play –

Universal link –

Add to Goodreads –

Check it out on BookBub –

And here is how you can get in touch with Amber. 
Thank you, Amber, for being my guest against and taking us back for another visit to our favorite inn.
Any comments or questions for Amber?

Monday, January 11, 2021

From Brainstorming to Book

This week I've split my time between writing two new books and  editing two more.  Watch for more news on those as they get further along. But that hasn't kept me from looking for new authors I might want to read or stories from authors I've enjoyed.  This week I'm pleased to welcome to My Writing Corner author Darlene DeLuca. Her newest book is The Story Between Us. 

Welcome, Darlene, where did you get the idea for this book?

 Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Rebecca! I think the idea for this story was born from some brainstorming about interesting careers. Once I started mulling around the idea of a children's book author, I knew there had to be a child involved. Since I set out to write a romance, there had to be a single dad as the love interest…so, Kristen, Reed and Dylan were brought to life.

Any challenges to writing this story?

One of the challenges to adding a child to the mix was to still keep the romance as the central story line. I wanted an endearing kid, yet knew he had to be real and relatable. Anyone with kids needed to recognize moments of funny but inappropriate comments, the sweet moments of trust and affection, and the occasional bothersome whining or need for attention.

And, of course, there had to be an antagonist, so Dylan’s aunt materialized. Her abrasive attitude and questionable dependability keep the reader guessing about her motives and keep reminding Reed that he really is Dylan’s best option as guardian.

What is your goal when you set out to write a book?

What I want more than anything when I write is to make an emotional connection between the characters and the readers. If I can make my readers smile, sigh, or shed a tear, I’ve accomplished my goal!

How about a blurb?

Her agent warned her not to get attached to a fan. But children's book author Kristen Hanover is about to break the rules. Kristen meets a young boy who is a victim of a tragic accident and is drawn into the heartbreaking situation.

      Six years ago, Reed Armstrong never imagined he'd actually become guardian of his sister's boy. Now he is, and most days he's not sure he's up to the task. When he and Dylan meet Kristen, Reed downplays his nephew's crush on the author. But as their lives become unexpectedly intertwined, he finds himself captivated as well.

     Trouble is, she sells stories for a living. Does she truly care about Dylan…and Reed, or is she using them for her own career advancement?

Now that sounds like a wonderful story!  Here are the buy links for her book and information on how to read more about Darlene and all her books.  

 The Story Between Us - Kindle edition by Deluca, Darlene. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @

Thank you, Darlene for being my guest today and introducing us to  your new book!

Monday, January 4, 2021

New Beginnings, New Stories

 It's the beginning of a new year and what's better to a reader than finding new books and stories to enjoy as well as new authors to read. One series that I've been looking forward to reading is the new Wylder series from The Wild Rose Press, and it's my great joy to today to introduce one of the authors. This week, let's get 2021 off to a great start with author Glenda Thompson. Her newest book is Broken Toys that just released last month. 

Welcome, Glenda. Tell us, what is the inspiration behind Broken Toys?

 Okay, this may be a bit macabre but… a friend of my husband, Darlin' owns a crematorium. The friend gave us a hip replacement implant that no one claimed. Darlin’ was examining it and one end comes to this sharp point. I had just come home from having a tire replaced on my truck. When I saw the point, I told Darlin’ that could do a ton of damage to a tire. About the same time, two calls came across his radio from dispatch—one for a missing child, the other for a complaint about Travelers scamming the elderly with roofing and driveway repairs. It just kind of clicked in my brain and Broken Toys was born.

How about a synopsis?

Texas Ranger Noah Morgan has his life together—with a great job and the girl of his dreams. Too bad it's all based on a lie. A single phone call threatens to bring it all crashing down. After an irate citizen complains shoddy workmanship has left him with a booby-trapped driveway, and the local sheriff's

office is too busy to respond, Noah takes the call. The investigation of local scam artists uncovers a human trafficking ring, Noah fights to avoid being swept back into the sights of his murderous family—people he escaped at the age of seventeen.

Can he keep his past a secret or will his carefully crafted life come to a violent en

Now would be a good time to point out that Broken Toys is fiction. The characters, the county, all of it, come from my imagination and are not based on anything or anyone in Atascosa County.

 What is your favorite part about Broken Toys?

The characters… they’ve been living inside my head for so long sometimes I forget they are not real people. They are the ones that have been tapping on the inside of my eyelids when I try to sleep nagging me to tell their stories. Several characters in Broken Toys will be getting their own books soon.

Is there a message you are trying to get across to readers in your book?

I have two messages in Broken Toys. The first is to bring awareness to human trafficking. It can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. We need to be more observant of our surroundings. Keep an eye on our children, our friends, and family. Keep everyone safe. We need to trust our guts. Yes, that kid throwing a fit maybe just having a temper tantrum, but he or she might be in the process of being snatched as well. Teenagers make easy targets for “Romeos” who sweep them off their feet making them believe they are “in love.” If it doesn’t feel right to you, say something. Especially in today’s environment of everyone wearing masks. It’s so easy for a child to disappear in a split moment.

The second message is to be true to yourself. Own your identity. Be who you are meant to be. Don’t be afraid you have to pretend to be someone else to be loved. If you love yourself, others will love you, too.

Tell us a little about your hometown, family, husband/children, etc.

Be careful what you ask for. I love to brag about my family. I’m a sixth-generation Texan with Scottish roots. My Grandma used to tell us the family came to Texas before there was a Texas.

I was born on Galveston Island and grew up near the coast. Summers were spent on the beach and shoes were worn only under protest.

Darlin’ (aka Constable Cregg Thompson) and I have been best friends for twenty years and married for eighteen. Between the two of us, we have three daughters, two sons, three sons-in-law, and two daughters-in-law. We also have eight grandchildren ranging from six to almost eighteen. I tell people all the time that our grandchildren are my reward for not strangling our children when they were teenagers.

Darlin’ and I currently live in Charlotte, Texas with three dogs and too many cats to count.

This is your first book, correct? What are you most excited about?\

Yes, Broken Toys is my first published novel. I have a drawer full of partially-finished manuscripts so I would have to say I’m most excited that I finished it. LOL. For the majority of my life, I have had two goals. To see my art hanging in a gallery and to have a book traditionally published. I have now achieved both.

Do you have any advice for young/new writers?

Trust in yourself and just write the story. Don’t get too wrapped up in finding the perfect word in the first draft. As a matter of fact, I call my first draft the “vomit draft” because I just puke the words out on the page. The first draft is telling yourself the story. Don’t expect it to be perfect. Heck, don’t even expect it to be good. That’s what the next drafts are for. Just get it down on paper or on the screen. You can’t fix what you don’t write.

Tell me a little bit about the second book you are working on.

I’m actually working on three more books right now. I keep bouncing between them depending on my mood.

The first is a complete departure from Broken Toys. Wings Over Wylder is a historical romance set in the Wyoming Territory in 1879. The Wright Brothers flew the first aircraft south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. Except they didn’t. The first coil-powered aircraft was flown in Luckenbach, Texas on September 20, 1865 by a schoolteacher Jacob Brodbeck.

The other two, Broken Dreams and Broken Minds, are stories following secondary characters from Broken Toys through their own challenges and dark secrets.

Thank you for being my guest today, Glenda, and for taking us to Wylder and introducing us to your characters.

Here are the links to get in touch with Glenda and see her books:

Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon

Monday, December 28, 2020

Celebrating A Fresh Start

Every year don’t we all as writers make promises to ourselves to write more in the New Year? This will be the year when we get another book written or start working on the novel we’ve always wanted to write. This year seems to be even more challenging with all that has occurring around us, things over which we have no or little control.

Usually at this time of the year, I have often looked back on what I accomplished in the past 

year before I start making goals for the new year. It’s a good way of acknowledging my good moments  while recognizing what still needs to be done.  These past few months have been more challenging, especially since we often don’t have control over what is happening around us. That only makes our writing endeavors more critical.

Rather than worrying about not being able to write, this is a good time to take stock of what we have accomplished during this challenging last year and look forward to what we still want to accomplish and how we might want to get moving on a started project or working on something new.  

No matter what happens in the coming months, I know that one way or another I will be starting new projects and finishing old ones before the year is out. I will not stop and that is half the battle.

So how do we get started with fresh material and fresh ideas to start out the new year?   Well, here are some easy ideas that can help with your writing.

 Experiment with a new genre

Take a class

Try a New Way of Researching

Write a short story

Try a Whole New Approach

 Let’s examine some of those tips for getting that fresh start for 2017:

Look for something new to do. One thing that has caught my interest as the year closed on 2020 was writing science fiction. Oh, I’ve had the idea in the past, but this year I am going to try it. Why not? Look around at the genre you are working in. Is it growing a little stale? Have you been considering another one? Why not try it now in the new year? Play with a short story if you can’t commit to something long. Or if you haven’t written a short story in a while, do that instead of a longer tale.

 Take a class.  I always recommend classes when people are stuck with their writing. A different perspective on your work and a different way to look at an old topic can get the creative juices flowing again. I am always on the look out for new classes to take or something new to learn. Keeping my mind active is a good way to keep young. I am not taking a class this month, but I am teaching one on plotting and I’ve already come up with some new ideas from the students who will be in my class. 

Try a new method of researching.  One story I began working on last year required historical research and I found myself so involved in it that this past weekend I started off the new year at the library with an in depth look at the research department. I already came away with some new leads (and some new research books) that will help me get that story finished.

Experiment with a  new approach. I usually write down my accomplishments from last year and set goals for the new year. This time around I am going to look at different methods of getting my writing output increased. You can do the same thing. If you've been considering some changes in your writing schedule or even a new project, use this time of year as the perfect way to make that start. 

Try a new schedule, a new way of editing--what didn’t you do last year? Are there things you wanted to do that you put off?  I’ve declared 2021 as the year of finishing things those projects that got started and are waiting for progress or finishing. 

And that’s  just what I hope I’ll be applauding at the end of the year. Happy New Year and Happy beginnings!!  I'll be around with new classes, new writing projects and new ideas for your writing as well as introducing new writers and their books here in My Writing Corner. Let's make 2021 the Year of Writing!


Monday, December 21, 2020

As The Plot Thickens...

 Recently I’ve started on several new writing opportunities as I finish up editing on several fiction and non-fiction books. Last week I looked at new opportunities, but now let’s talk about that finishing up process and take a look at some key elements involved in writing your books.

 Let’s face it. By the time you’ve reached the middle of writing your book, the overall plot process can start to seem overwhelming. We’ve got the good beginning, we might even have ideas for some complications with conflict for our heroes, heroines and companions. So now how else can you make the middle come alive? This is the point where so many authors get stuck. Suddenly there seem to be so many directions the story could go and the choices can seem endless. Maybe you’ve hit a block or you know some of the things you want to have happen, but you have no idea now where to place anything.  In my writing classes I always say that complications and conflict can keep building the plot, but that they’re not enough. In fact, use too much conflict or too many complications, will mean you’re going to get bogged down in the other direction – too much!

 The best way to combat that problem is to slow it down a little now and focus on how to keep plotting your book through small, deliberate steps. One of those ways to keep the plot moving is with a twist. Once you’ve established a flow with the beginning of your story, it’s time to start throwing in those elements that make the reader keep turning the pages.

 Are your scenes too action filled as a result of a slam bang beginning? Is it getting slow now that you’ve introduced your characters?  Look over those opening chapters and look for ways to make a change. Speed things up, if it’s moving too slow.  If the opening left the reader breathless, slow it down. No, you don’t want to start boring the reader to death, but too much action can be a problem too. Look back on those opening pages and make certain you’re going in the direction you want the story to go.

 I’ve been working on a cozy mystery with my frequent co-author Sue Viders and she is very focused on the plotting structure. It’s easy to look back and see where the action scenes are and where we are slowing things down. That’s a great way to keep track, but at the same time you don’t’ want your story to become predictable.  Once we’ve plotted, we still go back and look for ways to break up the action or the slow flow in an unpredictable fashion. Our sweet old heroines are living their lives and sudden someone throws a rock through the window. That is guaranteed to shake things up.

 Look for those places where you need to throw a rock through the window of your plot. Look for ways that you can make your story less predictable. At the same time, look through your action sequences. Do you have too many in a row? You don’t want to simply string together a bunch of action scenes. You can afford to take a few breathers every now and then to let your characters react emotionally to what has happened.

 You might even look for places to put in that dreaded backstory you might want to include. What made your heroine afraid of heights? Why doesn’t he like to play his guitar anymore? Who are these people?

Look for ways to do some of the necessary work in your story by using some of the necessary elements that can help set your pace. There are lots of different elements in the writing process. Learn about them and then use them when and where you need them in your books.  Your readers will thank you.

 For instance, you don’t want to drag down your book with too much detail or backstory. There is a reason this part of books is often called the “sagging middle.” So what do you do to make the backstory interesting, make it part of the action and avoid that sagging middle? Are there ways you might show them in a good or bad light and still keep the plot moving? Scenes can be on the internal or external level and this provides a good chance to use some of those internal or emotional scenes. What you need to keep in mind is that through this all you still want to keep up the tension and the pace. Try using what is called a “hook.”

 Hooks are those tiny little surprises that the author constantly throws at the reader to keep them going.

They are especially useful in the middle of the book, but they can come in at any time. In my mystery, Blues at 11, I threw in a car chase, through the hills of Malibu?  Actually it came to me long before I ever wrote the book -- one day as I was driving my car through those winding turns, it occurred to me, what if someone was chasing me?  Years later, I put those thoughts to good use! 

As for writing your own books, look for ways and places you can come up with your own hooks. 

- At the beginning of the book --sometimes even in the first line to draw in the reader

- At end of a scene so the reader will keep reading  

- At the beginning of the scene to get the reader "hooked" into reading all of the following pages

- As the story begins moving. Often the “inciting incident” is considered a hook.

- At the end of the chapter -- this is where they are used most often in order to keep the reader from putting the book down.                

Hooks can come in lots of forms. Perhaps your heroine suddenly discovers a family secret such as the fact she was adopted. Maybe your hero learns the wife he thought was dead is still alive. Put those discoveries at the end of a scene or a chapter and your reader isn’t going anywhere. They are going to want to read on to the next scene or chapter. Some authors suggest using hooks at the beginning of a chapter to get the reader into it, and again at the ending of the chapter to keep the reader going. A hook can be as simple as a question or a provocative statement. You’ve seen it before in books you’ve read. Look them over and see why they work. Then, figure out how you can use them in your own stories.

 Most plot twists will be considered hooks because they keep the reader wanting more but not all hooks are going to be plot twists. Hooks are surprises that hook the reader into reading more. Twists, on the other hand, only come several times in a story and they will turn the entire story around. In some cases, authors may use only two or three twists -- one at the beginning of the story and another a third of the way in and one two thirds of the way in.

 Look for ways to use hooks and twists in your stories. The possibilities are there. You just need to dig them out and utilize them. As you put your story events in order, look for those places where you can use hooks and twists. Play a “what if” game and see if that can help you make your story keep moving. Finally, list them all or any other ideas you might have for things that could happen in your plot. You can always weed them out later if you decide they won’t work. No story comes out of the computer on the first try.  Keep working!

 And if you’re looking for more help with your writing, please check books on writing on Amazon…

Seven Ways to Plot

Rebecca Grace

Blues at 11

Monday, December 14, 2020

New Looks and New Opportunities

 Don’t we love it when we get something new? Whether it’s a new outfit or a new purse or a new outlook on life, having something new and different is always a great experience. For me I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the many places I’ve visited in my life and how exciting it was to see something for the first time. Whether it was the state of California or my new car coming out of the showroom all polished to drive home, I’ve celebrated a lot of new opportunities and experiences over the years. Several years ago my sister and I drove across country with our parents and we celebrated every time we drove into a new state and saw the sign that said “Now Entering.” Yes, that’s how much I enjoy seeing new things!

Imagine my surprise and delight every time I see a new book cover for my next book. This month I get to not only celebrate that, but I also get to celebrate new covers that are being done for some of my old books and that has me even more delighted.

 Let’s start with that new book first.  My next published book will be a book from Savvy Authors on one of my favorite subjects – something all authors have to do at one point in their lives – pitch their books.  

Whether you are trying to sell to a publisher or if you are publishing your own and selling directly to readers, you need to pitch your book.   Here’s a look at that cover that should be available soon.

What I loved about working on this book has been  ideas for helping authors to sell their own books--to agents, editors and eventually to readers. 

For several years I have taught classes with Savvy Authors on various topics about writing, but one of the most rewarding has been the pitch classes I've taught. Selling  yourself  as an author can be one of the most difficult challenges we face, so it's great to be able to help new\ writers get started with that process. We all want to write, but we also want to sell and the whole process starts with the pitch. Again, this book will be available soon. 

We’ll have more on that subject in a future blog, but for now I am focused on the “new” – the new covers for my other books. 

My first publisher Wings ePress is updating their covers and the minute I started seeing the new look, I absolutely loved the looks.  My first novel, a romance, Love on Deck was absolutely one of my favorite books to write and in many ways, a vision of the future.

“Women don’t belong on the baseball field. ” 

That’s the way handsome, playboy manager Sam Lucero thinks, but just try telling that to Amber Morales—she wants to be a baseball radio announcer. But she wants no part of a macho ex-jock who is trying to tell her what she can and can’t do. But while they may be striking out on the field, their hearts are hitting a grand slam in the bedroom

This book was a great enjoyment to write because when I set out to be a writer my first desire was to be a sportswriter. Unfortuantely, back in those days, the idea of a woman on a baseball field holding a microphone and trying  to get an interview was a real battle. My first trip to a the press box for a football game was met with frowns and men shaking their heads.  My baseball and basketball experience were very similar. Getting on the field at major league spring training was enjoyable but part because not only was I there to conduct the interviews, but I also had a female behind the TV camera. But those experiences helped me to write fiction in later years. I learned there might be obstacles, but to fight on. I wasn't looking for romance, but I found a great subject for a book!

My second book came out of another real life experience--my time spent in Las Vegas, and here's that great new cover.

Abandoned, unwanted, unloved. Maggie Hemple feels like the proverbial loser at love until a jackpot win and a new computer turn her life around. Now she has men pursuing her on the internet and she’s discovering she may become a winner at love after all. 

Or is she looking for love in all the wrong places? 

Jack Conroy, her handsome neighbor, thought he was happy being Maggie’s friend. But now Maggie is changing before his eyes and he realizes unless he drops his brotherly fa├žade, he might lose her forever. But how can he compete with a dream she has carried for 14 years?

My joy in writing this book was again using a backdrop I had become familiar with and the suddenly new world of computer dating. 

Opportunities for writers are all around us if we look and we can always find something new and exciting to write about. As we head into the darkest days of winter, this might be a good time to sit down and try your hand at finally starting that next great American novel! 

Here are the buy links for these books and please email me at if you have any writing questions or if  you would like to know more about my Savvy Authors Classes.

Here are the buy links for my books:

Love on Deck

Desert Blossom

Visit me at:


Please keep on with your own writing.  If you have any writing questions at any time please email me 

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Magical Holiday Treat

These are the short, cold days when all we want to do is curl up in our favorite chair or on the sofa with a good romance to read. It's even better if it's a story geared to this special time of the year. This week in My Writing Corner, I am presenting a great possibility that can take you away to New England for what sounds like a wonderful story and two engaging characters. 

My author guest today is  Ryan Jo Summers, and her latest book sounds perfect for winter holiday reading. It's a romance titled Magic in the Snow

The ink is barely dry from her divorce when Dawson Patrick and her three-year-old Autistic son,

Adam, arrive in Cedar Falls, Maine. She’s here to help her aging father and doesn’t plan to stay long. Soon she and Adam will be on their way somewhere … to a new life. When she finds her dad sitting in a cold house with little food, that’s falling around him, she realizes she might have a bigger problem on her hands. To make matters worse, she has no idea where to start on her long list of home improvement. She needs books on lots of DIY projects, and the man to help her is the local Christmas scrooge.

Samuel Johnson owns Chapter Twenty-five Bookstore. He doesn’t enjoy the holiday season and he doesn’t ‘do’ gifts. He just happens to live in a town that wholeheartedly embraces it, so he’s learned to adapt and lay low to escape the memories of many an unhappy Christmas past. He can’t believe the blonde beauty who marches into his store like a candy-coated snowstorm, along with her pint-sized elfin toddler, and orders up a stack of DIY home repair books for her estranged dad’s house. Before Samuel knows it, he’s letting Dawson and Adam drag him to the town’s tree lighting ceremony, convincing him to foster kittens and to give gifts.

Has Dawson just returned home to forget her past, only to slide into another relationship? Has the town scrooge finally seen the Christmas lights?

Want more? Let's get an excerpt!

      Immediately the smell of old and new books enveloped her, as did the warm air. She glanced around for the holiday decorations. The only thing she saw was a spindly tree standing in the corner, with four gold balls hanging from its sparse branches. She blinked twice. Was it a joke? That tree made Charlie Brown’s tree look the National Christmas tree in D.C. Confused, she looked around for the staff.

       “Can I help you?”

The baritone voice directed her attention to the old wooden counter stacked high with books. Behind the counter stood a man, one that many women probably wanted to find under their own Christmas tree. He towered over her by several inches, and his broad shoulders gave the impression of firm muscles beneath the checkered flannel. His smile was cautious but friendly. Gold, wire-framed glasses framed brown eyes crinkled at the corners. Dark brown hair curled near his ears and eyes. The early morning scruff on his chin only added to the rugged appeal. Yum.

“Um, yes, I wondered if you had some books.”

He looked around. “Yes, I have a few. Can you be more specific?”

Heat filled her face. Oh, for Pete’s sake! He hadn’t even grinned at her slip. “Home repair,” she blurted. “I have a home that needs repair.”

“All right.” He stepped around the counter and she took one long moment to appreciate his long legs and how well those worn jeans clung to them. Muscular. He led her to a row of books and gestured to a shelf. “Home repair.” His gaze flickered to Adam where he clung to her leg. “Is your little buddy going to help fix up the house too?”

She grinned at his reference to little buddy. “He might. This is Adam. I’m Dawson.”

He knelt and extended his hand to Adam. “Hi, Adam. I’m Samuel.”

Adam tightened his grip on Dawson. “Don’t take it personal, but he’s shy with new people. It normally takes him a while to warm up.”

Samuel stood up. “No worries. So—Dawson—here are the home repair books I have on hand.”

She was a little disappointed he didn’t offer to take her hand. She’d bet his grip was strong and warm. But he made an effort to connect with Adam and that was pure gold in her eyes. She brushed her hair aside and scanned the titles. “Building a patio, installing a fishpond, and putting in a shed.” She looked up at Samuel. Her heart skipped a little. He was good looking. She cleared her throat. “I hate to sound picky, but these aren’t quite what I had in mind.”

“What did you have in mind?”

She exhaled. “Plumbing, basic electricity and wiring, repairing drywall, carpentry and cabinets. That sort of repair.”

His mouth formed an O of surprise as she named her list. “That is some serious repair. And you’re going to do all that?” He arched one brown eyebrow, his tone almost a dare.

Dawson lifted her chin a little higher and squared her shoulders. “Yes, I intend to. Now, that’s why I need the books. Do you have them or not?”

He scrubbed his scruffy chin, like her dad did. “Not on hand, but I can probably order them. Come back to the counter and I’ll see what I can find.”

He led them back to the counter. “Come on around.” He patted the wooden top and stepped to a computer on a lower desk attached to the counter. He moved the mouse and the screen flickered to life.

She watched as he scrolled around and then pointed to the display.

“Okay, here are some repair titles. Look and see if they would work for you.”

She settled into the chair he offered and lifted Adam onto her lap. “Yes, these are more like it.” She pointed out specific titles that offered descriptions suited to her needs. As her finger trailed the monitor and he took down titles and information he needed, their hands brushed. Startled, Dawson looked into his brown eyes and her breath paused. He looked just as affected. He turned away first and cleared his throat. Well, he just made his point loud and clear. She waved to the screen.

“Can you get these?”

“I can order them.” He fluttered the list he’d created. “They should be here in about two days.”

Two days. She was at a stand still for two days? She chewed her lip as she considered the options. She hated to go to a repair store and have no idea where to start. The books would tell her what she needed and how to figure how many of each item. In the long run, they would save her time and money. She just had to wait two days.

“Okay, go ahead and please order them. I really need them as soon as they come in.”

“Yeah, it sounds like you have some important ventures planned. Electricity? Carpentry?” He flashed her a smile. It did wonderful things for his looks. “Is this a side job of yours?”

“No. It’s… complicated.”

He nodded. “I get it. If you leave me your number, I can call you once the shipment arrives.” He passed the paper with the list to her. “That way you won’t waste any time.”

She wrote her cell phone number down. “I appreciate that.” She handed the list back. “Tell me, what is the deal with your sad little Christmas tree?” She inclined her head toward the pitiful sapling.

He looked taken aback. “What do you mean?”

“It is the most pathetic holiday tree I’ve ever seen.”

“It does the job. It adds the Christmas cheer required by the town’s good citizens.”

Dawson thought about the lovely lights and festive decorations and stately, full trees she and Adam had seen. She looked back at Samuel’s dejected evergreen. It was almost comical. She took a couple steps closer, aware he was following. “Don’t you want somewhere to put presents?”

She watched his lips thin and wondered what was wrong with an innocent question.

“I don’t plan on giving anyone presents and I don’t expect anyone to give me gifts.”

Her breath hitched. “Samuel, that is quite possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. Don’t you even want an ugly sweater?”

“No.” He held his palm out to her. “Let me stop you right there, all right? I know this town lives and breathes all things Christmas and embraces the holiday with an open-armed spirit that sometimes doesn’t know when to quit. I put up that tree and a handful of decorations to avoid a citizen mutiny, but I do not share the sentiments of the rest of the good people of this town. I guess you need to know that since you’re now a part of Cedar Falls.”

She worked his speech around her mind, looking for the logic and reason. Finally, she gave up. “Well, Samuel, everyone is entitled to their views. Please do let me know when the books are in.” She took Adam’s hand and guided him toward the front door. She paused as she held the door open for Adam and looked back over her shoulder at Samuel as he stood behind his counter. The barest twitch of a grin threatened to betray her. 

“Merry Christmas,” she called just before she shut the door.

If you want to  read more, you'll have to get the book!  I know I'm ready to sit back and enjoy the story of Samuel and Dawson

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