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Thursday, September 17, 2020

One Secondary Character in PATRIOT'S COURAGE


This is Miss Barbara Chance. Her father had hoped for a boy, but since Barbara came along instead he taught her the skills a boy needed to know back in the late 1700s. When it comes to hitting a target dead center, she's always the winner. She's a big woman, so men who long for dainty, small women are not attracted to her. She signed up to be a laundress at the fort thinking that some homesick young man would fall in love with her, but that didn't happen. Instead, she is assigned to teach Nellie Red Bird how to be a lady--a tall order for someone who isn't much of a lady herself. 

I have a great time writing about my secondary characters! Heroes and heroines need friends. Don't we all?

You can buy PATRIOT'S COURAGE just about everywhere. Check out the links below.

Amazon: 




 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Official Release Day of PATRIOT'S COURAGE!

 


September 11, 2020, is the official release day of PATRIOT'S COURAGE, the third book in my Patriots Series. To mark the occasion, I will be celebrating with a Facebook LIVE event at my fan page https://www.facebook.com/penelopemarzecbooks. If you can, join me at 11 a.m. tomorrow. I'll be talking about the origin of the story as well as giving away a paper edition of PATRIOT'S HEART and another paper edition of PATRIOT'S PRIDE. I will also give away an ebook edition of PATRIOT'S COURAGE. 

This will be fun! πŸ˜ƒ


Sunday, September 06, 2020

WIN YA BOOKS at the Young Adult Bookish Event


Like young adult books? This week you've got a chance to win one of twenty-three must-read YA books. Check out all the authors at:

https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/bookpromos/categories/young-adult-bookish-event 

MyYA historical/paranormal book, OUTSIDE BLESSINGS, is being featured, too. I will be giving away a copy of it.  You can sign up at a Rafflecopter giveaway. The event runs from September 7 through September 11, 2020. Winners will be drawn on September 18, 2020.

Outside Blessings is set in Blessings, N.J., a seaside town with dark and dangerous secrets. Neema wants to prove her sister was murdered, that she didn't commit suicide, but the murderer is still out there, still dangerous, and Neema could be the next victim if she asks too many questions. She has a secret, one she dare not divulge, even to Emmett, the young lifeguard she falls in love with.

But Emmett has a secret of his own.

One reviewer said of the book, "...Emmett and Neema’s stories begin to weave together. They both understand that feeling of not belonging anywhere. They are outsiders, even among their own families. Emmett is trying to come to terms with who he is and what he wants, just as Neema is working to do the same...I gave this book 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes Historical Paranormal Romance..." 








 

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Excerpt: Meet Ryan and Lewis


PATRIOT'S COURAGE will be released on September 11, 20202, but you can pre-order it now. The book tells the tale of the twins, Ryan and Lewis, who were introduced in Patriot's Heart. They were only three years of age in that book and liable to get into trouble, though their mother kept a tight rein on them. The twins were first cousins to Agnes and Margaret. 

Here's a short excerpt from Patriot's Heart featuring young Ryan and Lewis. Enjoy!

“Where’s Jonas?” Ryan and Lewis had seen them coming and ran toward them. 

“He’s taking a nap with Edwin,” Margaret explained.

“Why is Edwin napping at this time of the day?” Aunt Sally demanded from the doorway of her house. 

“Hobart gave him strong spirits to ease the pain in his leg,” Agnes explained. 

“Your mother’s cousin is more trouble than he’s worth,” Aunt Sally pronounced.

“Edwin is nice,” Margaret stated. “Puddles likes him and so does Jonas.” 

“They are animals,” Aunt Sally sniffed. 

Agnes, Margaret, and the twins stepped into the kitchen. Margaret sliced the bread. Agnes lifted the kettle to pour the tea, but beside her mug on the table lay two pieces of a chain. The one Aunt Sally used to hang her pot over the coals. 

“The twins broke that,” Aunt Sally said as she ladled stew into the bowls. “I’ll be needing it fixed by this evening. The stew nearly burned.”

“How did they break it?” Agnes held up the chain and examined each link. 

“Ryan did it,” said Lewis.

“Lewis broke it,” said Ryan.

“There will be no trifle for either of you,” Aunt Sally scolded.

The twins lowered their heads and sobbed in perfect unison. 

Agnes did not believe they did it. They were so cute and sweet. Too tender to be so destructive. Besides, Aunt Sally seemed to watch over their every move. 

Setting the broken chain to the side of her bowl, she sat. Everyone said the blessing, and ate.


If you haven't read Patriot's Heart and Patriot's Pride, now is the time to download them! Both are available for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Where Are We Going?

To me, a presidential election year resembles a long drive on a very, very bumpy highway with confusing road signs. 

For the next three months, facts will be obscured and outlandish memes will proliferate on social media. Before you share anything, please look it up first on any of the fact-checking sites such as http://www.politifact.comhttp://www.factcheck.org, or http://www.snopes.com.

Thanks.

Then listen to some pleasant music and drive home as safely as you can.




Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Guest Post: MY HEART WEEPS by Pamela S. Thibodeau

My guest today is the award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux, Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” Sign up to receive Pam’s newsletter and get a FREE short story! 


 





Pamela's newest  release is MY HEART WEEPS. The story tells of Melena Rhyker who is devastated by her husband's death. Relief comes in the form of an artist's retreat at the Crossed Penn ranch in Utopia, TX. She rediscovers a forgotten dream as her artistic talent flourishes into that of a gallery-worthy artist. Will she have the courage to follow the path she was destined to travel?

Garrett Saunders has been on the run most of his life. Abused and abandoned as a child, he escapes the clutches of a past filled with pain and shame, and hides from his calling as a Native American healer. His years as a CIA agent aid in overcoming his childhood and honing his talent and skill as a fine art photographer. 

 

Follow their journey as two people who come from totally different backgrounds, but share gifts of gigantic proportions, find meaning and purpose in the Texas Hill Country.


 







And now for an excerpt!



Within moments after Anne left, Melena came in.

“Anne shouldn’t have bothered you.”

“Anne didn’t send me.”

“So why are you here?”

Had she not seen the devastation in his eyes and on his face earlier, Melena would have taken offense at his demeanor. “I wanted to see if you’re all right.”

“I’m not sure how I am right now.”

Concerned at the defeat in his tone, Melena placed her hand on his shoulder. “I know this isn’t the time or place to discuss what happened, but I hate to think of you up here all alone. I need to get back down to the show. Why don’t you come with me?”

“I’m sure my career is over.”

“I wouldn’t say that. There are more people down there who appreciate your work and are much more supportive of the artist they’ve come to know and love—despite never seeing you—than some strange man hell bent on starting a scene.”

“What about your children?”

“My children are among them.”

He turned to her then and her stomach clenched at the depth of shame, anger and sorrow in his expressive eyes. He removed her hand from his shoulder, closed the distance between them with a single step, and cradled her face in his hands. Melena leaned into him and lifted her face, anticipating his kiss. His lips trembled against hers, a soft brush of mouth on mouth as his hands trailed down her neck and shoulders then around her back to embrace her more fully.

Melena’s hands glided up his arms and around his neck, fingers dipped into the dark depths of thick hair caressing his collar, then eased back as he ended the kiss in slow degrees. He buried his face in her hair. A shudder shook his entire frame.

“Thank you.”

The ache in his voice fisted around her heart. Melena took a step back, held his hand in hers and together they went downstairs.


My Heart Weeps is on sale for a limited time @ 99cents and FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Purchase Link: https://bit.ly/MyHeartWeeps

Links:

Website address: http://www.pamelathibodeaux.com

Blog: http://pamswildroseblog.blogspot.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/psthibnewsletter

 

Face Book: http://facebook.com/pamelasthibodeaux

https://www.facebook.com/pamelasthibodeauxauthor

 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/psthib @psthib

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/pamelasthibodea/

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1jUVcdU

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/pamela-s-thibodeaux

Instagram: https://instagram.com/pamelasthibodeauxauthor

Pam is giving away 1 Ebook, 1 Autographed Print Book, 1 Audio Book, a $15 Amazon Gift Card, a 1-month Audible membership and a SURPRISE Giftpack to 6 lucky winners! Names will be collected throughout the tour which ends Sept. 30th. Winners will be notified, and prizes awarded by October 10th. (1 prize per person)

 

Blog Tour Dates/Stops: 


8/25 Jana Richards’ Romance Story Board Blog 

8/27 Beverly Bateman’s BLOG 

9/1 Valarie Goree’s Facebook Page 

9/5 D. V. Stone’s Campfire Blog  

9/9 Jacqueline Seewald’s BLOG 

9/11 Linda Rondeau’s Snark & Sensibility Blog 

9/14 Patricia Kioyno’s Four Foxes, One Hound Blog 

9/18 Diane Burton’s BLOG 

9/22 Alicia Dean’s BLOG 

9/25 Jeny Hickman’s BLOG 

9/30 Linda Nightingale’s Author…Musings Blog 

 

For more information : https://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com/


 

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

What About Music In a Novel?

Photo by stevepb on Pixabay
I learned the words to many songs when I was young. My mother sang all the time--mostly the songs of her generation, but some even older than that. I took piano lessons for a short time, paid for with my babysitting money. My middle sister took guitar lessons, so I learned a bit about the guitar as well. I sang in the madrigal choir in college. For many years, I sang and played an accompaniment with the guitar in the folk choir at church. Then I married a man whose main hobby was music. Our daughters took piano lessons for years--until they went to college.

While I am not an accomplished pianist or guitarist, I have memorized the lyrics to a gazillion songs from the past, though I don't know much about current popular music. However, sometimes when I'm strolling through a store, I might hear a nice tune playing through the speakers as I load my cart with groceries. Then I'll go and search for it. If it really touches me, I'll buy the sheet music.

Surrounded by an abundance of musical scores, I have sometimes included the mention of a number of songs in the books I write. In The Cowboy's Miracle, I used several ancient western ballads. In my newest release, Patriot's Courage, I referenced "Amazing Grace," one of my favorite hymns. It was first published in 1779 by John Newton. (There's an interesting conversion story on John Newton that you can find at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace)

I am well aware that a writer must be careful about using lyrics or songs in their stories and not only because it is difficult to secure the copyrights on the songs. Using song titles often dates the story and since songs go out of fashion quickly, future readers may never have heard of the song you are referencing in your book. See Jason Sanford's blog post: http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2015/8/why-writers-should-rarely-name-songs-in-their-fiction

Writer's Digest has a very succinct post about using song lyrics: https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/legal-questions/can-i-use-song-lyrics-in-my-manuscript  Jane Friedman has a longer and more detailed guide: https://www.janefriedman.com/permissions-and-fair-use/

In Clear As Ice, I was tempted to use the titles from a playlist for EMTs and paramedics. Instead, I made vague references to the heavy beat of the songs and the way the protagonist reacts to the music. That's the safe way. 

Thursday, August 06, 2020

PATRIOT'S COURAGE Available for Pre-Order Now!


The long awaited sequel to Patriot's Heart and Patriot's Pride will be released soon, but you can pre-order it now and discover what the McGowans did with the promissory note for the one hundred acres received for service in the War for Independence. 

Here's the blurb:

In retaliation for his brother's death, Ryan McGowan vows to kill every Indian in Ohio territory. When his captain assigns him to teach English to a woman found sobbing over a dead warrior, he resents the task. But the woman melts away his vengeance. He begins to understand the way to peace is through forgiveness. Then he learns the woman carries the child of her Indian husband in her womb.

MΓ xkchulΓ«ns, a white woman adopted by the Lenape at the age of four, is confined at the fort and longs to return to her people. Though Ryan leads her to recall part of the faith her biological parents held dear, she struggles to understand it and the power of grace. 

Can she rely on that grace in desperate times? And will faith protect her unborn child as well?

Order PATRIOT'S COURAGE now and enjoy another exciting adventure in our country's early years. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Guest Post: THE TIME FOR HEALING by Ramona K. Cecil

My guest today is Ramona K. Cecil who lives in southern Indiana. A wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she writes historical romance novels for the Christian market. She and her husband have been married for forty-seven years and are now empty-nesters with two grown daughters and three young-adult grandchildren. Their home in Seymour, Indiana, is the “small town” made famous in rocker John Mellencamp’s song of the same name. Ramona has always loved history, especially the history of her Hoosier state. Like The Time for Healing, many of her stories are set in Indiana’s past. When not writing, her hobbies include reading, gardening, and visiting places of historical interest.

Her latest novel, The Time for Healing, releases August 7th with Pelican Book Group. This award-winning story is inspired by a real life event—The Pigeon Roost Massacre—that happened in 1812 about thirty miles south of her home.  



 

Winner - Best in Fiction 

Indiana Faith and Writing Contest 2014


Ginny Red Fawn McLain, a Shawnee medicine woman, is thrust back into the world of her birth family twelve years after her abduction. While she eschews the Christianity preached by her birth uncle who found her, Ginny's heart refuses to shun his friend and fellow Christian minister, Jeremiah Dunbar. Jeremiah is immediately smitten with his friend's long-lost niece. But unless Ginny Red Fawn joins Christ's fold—something she adamantly resists—any future with the woman he loves is impossible.



Now for a real treat! An excerpt from the book. Sit back and enjoy. 

A soft, moist touch against his lips jerked Jeremiah awake. At the sight of the white Indian girl kneeling over him, myriad emotions darted around his chest like a bevy of barn swallows. Surely she had not… 

Red Fawn dipped her finger into a little wooden bowl then touched it to his lips, moistening them with an oily salve. “I am sorry to wake you, but the sun is rising in the sky, and your friend asked me to bring you medicines.” 

Jeremiah pushed up to a sitting position on his woolen-blanket cot. Heat suffused his neck and face at his initial mistaken impression of her actions. He poked out the tip of his tongue to taste the oil she’d spread over his cracked lips. The sweet, light taste told him it must be either plant or mineral based. 

“It is sweet birch oil,” she said, answering his silent question. “It will heal your lips and make the skin soft again.” Her smile transformed her features from comely to breathtakingly beautiful. 

“You speak English well.” He found it surprising that she hadn’t lost the language of her childhood during her years with the Shawnee. 

She set the bowl aside. “My father wanted me to keep the white man’s language and to teach it to him and my mother. He said it would be good for our family and our tribe when dealing with the whites, so we spoke it often in our home.” 

“Where is Zeb?” Jeremiah cleared his burning throat and glanced around the longhouse. He needed to direct his thoughts away from this girl who made his heart hammer like a woodpecker’s beak on a dead log.

            “He has gone to Chief Great Hawk’s lodge to tell him what is written in the book you brought,” she said, her voice turning harder. She walked to the fire, bent over a steaming iron pot, and stirred its contents with a shaved stick. 

She spoke as if the Bible was new to her, but Zeb said the Shawnee had taken her at the age of six. Jeremiah recalled his own sixth year vividly. That year, his family had traveled from Kentucky to Indiana, and his mother gave birth to his brother Joel in the Conestoga along the way. He and his seven-year-old sister, Dorcas, had kept three-year-old Lydia occupied by fishing for crawdads on a creek bank during Mother’s travails. It seemed inconceivable that this girl, who remembered her given name as Ginny McLain, had no memory of her parents or Zeb and his wife, Ruth, setting her on their laps and telling her stories from the Scriptures. 

“Surely, you remember the Bible. I remember the Bible stories my ma and pa told me and my sisters when I was six.”

She stopped stirring the sweet-smelling contents of the pot and became still. At her silence, hope leapt in Jeremiah that perhaps he’d jogged a long-buried memory in her.

Without answering him, she grasped the pot handle with a scrap of wool material to protect her hand, lifted the pot from the fire, and set it on a flat rock. She dipped an earthen bowl into the pot and then carried the vessel to him. She set the bowl on the ground in front of him. “When it is cool enough, drink it. It will heal your sore throat.”

As she walked out of the longhouse, an ache not associated with his illness throbbed in Jeremiah’s chest. Regret filled him. God had given him an opportunity to share Christ with Red Fawn, and he had squandered it.


πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•



The book is available now as a pre-order at Amazon.


You can also find it at Barnes & Noble.


The paperback is at Thrift Books and the Book Depository.



Thursday, July 23, 2020

I Haven't Taken Many Photos This Year



With the coronavirus lockdown from March onward, I did not take as many photos as usual. All the gigs for hubby's band were cancelled or postponed. All parties, meetings, and conferences were cancelled as well. Even family get-togethers have been few and socially distant.😞

I have taken far more screen shots than ever before of Zoom meetings and FaceTime chats. However, even as the restrictions eased in our state, I rarely brought my camera along when we went out. But one evening last week, I remembered to bring along the camera when we went to the park. I thought I might be lucky and capture a nice sunset. Instead, I found a whole gaggle of geese on the lake. The geese were not socially distant from each other. They stayed close to each other and were very wary of strangers--like me. 

But the incident reminded me that the world is still beautiful. The flowers are blooming. The apples are growing bigger in the orchard. The birds are singing sweetly in the trees. 

Though we must stay safe, we should enjoy the moment. And take more pictures. 


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Guest Post: SEASON OF HOPE, by Carol James

My guest today is Carol James, an author of inspirational fiction, in particular redemptive romance. She lives in a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Jim, and a perky Jack Russell "Terrorist," Zoe. Having always loved intriguing stories with happy endings, she was moved to begin writing to encourage others as she'd been encouraged by the works of other authors of inspirational fiction. Carol enjoys spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren, traveling with friends, and serving in the production department at her church. She’s a Frappuccino and soccer aficionado.


Find out more about Carol at https://www.carol-james.com

 



Carol's latest release is SEASON OF HOPE. 


Here's the blurb: 


Hope Stocktons life is dead, frozen in a winter of guilt, deceit, and fear. When handsome young pastor, Josh Lewis, comes to serve in her church, she wonders if she can trust him with her past. Will he be able to help her answer the questions that have been buried in her heart for years? Or will his own secrets drive them apart and prevent him from helping Hope find her spring of forgiveness?

Set in small town Texas in the years during and following the Vietnam war, Season of Hope is a story of forgiveness and restoration.



And now for a real treat! Settle into a comfy chair, grab a a cup of tea and read the first chapter. 

 


1974 

            As adrenaline surged through her body, Hope pushed her head back against the car seat and waited for the shaking to subside. 

            Breathe. Just breathe. 

            Her knuckles actually were white from gripping the steering wheel so hard in the battle to keep the car on the road. She glanced up into the rearview mirror. How Mattie had slept through the exploding tire was incomprehensible. The car had swerved from one side of the road to the other as it fishtailed and made a one hundred eighty degree turn. And yet, he slept. 

            But he was OK—they both were OK—and that was all that mattered. 

            The music of Elton Johns latest hit filled the car. She pried her fingers from the wheel and, hand trembling, reached over and turned the radio off. 

            “Mattie, wake up, honey.” 

            Mattie sat up, rubbed his eyes, and looked out the window. “Were not at the church.” Sleepy confusion clouded his face. 

            “No. Not yet. Were on the back road to Crescent Bluff, baby. We had a flat tire, so I need you to take a couple of your cars and go sit under that tree over there while I change it, OK?” 

            “Can I help you?” 

            “No. Its too dangerous.” 

            “But, Mommy…” 

            “No arguing, Mattie. Please, just obey me.”

            Pushing open the door, he grabbed some cars and then tramped up the small rise and plopped down under a live oak. He wasnt happy, but he was doing as shed asked. Hed always been obedient. 

            She pulled the owners manual from the glove compartment. The gravel along the shoulder crunched underfoot as she walked back to the trunk of the car. Years ago, when she'd first gotten her drivers license, Dad had made her change a tire—just so shed know how. That was the one and only time shed ever done it, but she was pretty sure she remembered all the steps. How hard could it be, anyway? It was just a matter of unscrewing and re-screwing a few nuts and swapping out a tire. 

            She opened the trunk and lifted up the carpeting and the cover under it to expose the spare tire. Now she needed to find the jack and that wrench thing. There they were. She pulled them out of the trunk and placed them on the ground. 

            The lug nuts that held the spare in place came off easily with the lug wrench, but getting the tire out and not rubbing it against her sundress would be a trick. She took an old towel that was in the trunk, draped it over the tire, lifted it out, and then dropped it on the ground. So far, so good. She glanced up at Mattie. He was still sitting under the tree. 

            “Excuse me.” 

            She jumped and peeked around the trunk lid. A tall man wearing gray pants, a white dress shirt, and black wing-tip shoes stood by the front of her car. A black Mercedes was parked on the shoulder of the road several yards away. It was older, but still one of the expensive models. Shed been so engrossed in getting the tire out that she hadnt even heard the car pull up. 

            “Do you need some help?” 

            Here she was, on a deserted Texas road in the middle of nowhere with her five-year-old son. No houses within several miles, no service stations with pay phones where she could call for help. And now this stranger shows up. If shed been alone, the answer would have been an easy “yes.” But Mattie was with her, and she couldnt let anything happen to him. 

            Mr. Preppy had dark brown hair, a bit long on top, and the most striking blue eyes shed ever seen. The combination was surprisingly attractive. He was handsome enough, all right, but he was also completely unfamiliar. 

            Crescent Bluff was a fairly small town, and shed lived here long enough to know just about everyone. He wasnt from around here. She definitely would have remembered those Texas-winter-sky eyes. As he smiled, goose bumps covered her arms. That should have been an impossibility in ninety-degree Texas spring weather. 

            “Are you OK? I was a ways behind you, but I saw what happened. You did a great job keeping the car on the road and out of the ditch. You could have really been hurt.” 

            He was right. They were late, and shed been going way too fast on this little country road when the tire blew. The outcome could have been tragically different. As the emotions shed been trying to keep under control suddenly burst loose, tears filled her eyes. Maybe hed think they were from the acrid smell of burnt rubber still lingering in the air. Quickly looking away, she took a deep breath. “Im fine.” 

            “I imagine the whole thing was pretty scary. Why dont you let me change that tire for you?” 

            If only shed agreed to go to the church early with Dee, they wouldnt be in this situation in the first place. 

            “I appreciate your offer, but Im perfectly capable of changing a tire,” she answered with a confidence she didnt entirely feel. “This wont be the first time Ive had to. Im sure I can handle it just fine.” More than anything, she wanted him gone. 

            “Mommy, whos that?” Mattie tugged on the hem of her dress. 

            “Mattie, go back to the tree and stay there.” 

            The strangers eyes widened. “I didnt realize you had a passenger with you.” He bent down and smiled at Mattie. “Hello there, young man. Howre you?” 

            Matties brow creased. He looked first at Hope and then back at the man. “My mommy wont let me talk to strangers.” 

            Hopes face burned with embarrassment. She certainly didnt want to offend this man whod stopped to help. But then again, she didnt know him, and people couldnt be too careful nowadays. Especially after last week when that woman and her daughter from Waco were assaulted by a man whod offered them a ride when their truck ran out of gas. Hed been driving a black car, and the police still hadnt caught him.

            “Your mothers a very wise woman. Thats a good rule to have.” The man stepped toward them and then knelt down on one knee, smiled, and held out his hand. “Let me introduce myself so were not strangers. Im Josh.” 

            Mattie grinned, took the strangers hand, and pumped it up and down. “Hi, Mr. Doss. My names Mattie.” 

            “Nice to meet you, Mattie. Now we know each other.” The ex-stranger winked, stood, and turned toward Hope. “Now, how about that tire?” 

            She grabbed Matties hand and pulled him back beside her. “Thanks for the offer, but were fine. Besides, it looks as if youre headed to some appointment, and I certainly wouldnt want to hold you up.” 

            When he glanced at his watch, the gold emblem on the face shone in the afternoon sun. If he was a criminal, he was a successful one. 

That was an unsettling thought. 

            “Ive got time.” 

            “Well, Josh, I dont. I hope you wont think me rude, but Im in a hurry, so if youll excuse me, I need to get this done.” 

            Giving her a thumbs-up with his right hand, he smiled again. “Gotcha. Well, I guess Ill head on. Nice to meet you, Mattie, and you, too, Matties Mom.” 

            “Bye, Mr. Doss.” 

            Josh waved and then walked back toward his car, his shape distorted by the heat waves rising from the asphalt. The car, the clothes, the watch. Not many men his age around these parts could afford stuff like that. 

            Maybe Mattie sitting by the tree wasnt such a good idea. She wouldnt be able to see him while she was changing the tire. “Mattie, you can come here with me as long as you sit in the grass and stay off the shoulder of the road.”

            “Thanks, Mommy.” 

            As the Mercedes inched past them, Joshs voice sounded through the open window, “Dont forget to place the jack in the slot.” 

            “Oh, the slot. Yeah, sure, the slot. Absolutely.” She stood stone still. She wouldnt position the jack with him watching. 

            “Its closer in.” 

            Suddenly her mind and her heart began arguing. She didnt need to prove anything. She could change this tire if she really had to, but she didnt. Josh seemed very willing. Yet, she didnt know him. He did have a black car—of course, so did millions of other men—and she couldnt take a chance with Matties safety. He was all she had left. 

            But then if something happened and she got hurt or she couldnt change the tire, being stranded out here might prove more dangerous than taking a chance with Josh. 

            “But Im sure you knew that.” 

            “Knew what?” 

            “About the slot.” 

            “Oh, of course.” As he began to roll up his window, she blurted out, “Wait. I think maybe Ive changed my mind.” 

            “Your prerogative.” He grinned as he pulled forward and back off onto the shoulder of the road. He stepped out of the car and removed his dress shirt. His form-fitting white t-shirt accentuated muscles the roomy Oxford cloth shirt had hidden. 

            She glanced at his license plate and committed it to memory. Taking Matties hand, she bent down and looked him straight in the eyes. “Mr. Josh is going to change the tire for us. You stay right beside me, sweetie.” She forced herself to smile and kept her voice even so he wouldnt see she was nervous. 

            As Josh squatted down to position the jack, Mattie jerked free from Hopes grip and jumped over beside him. Taking in every movement, Mattie asked, “Whatcha doing? Can I watch?” 

            “Mattie, leave Mr. Josh alone.” Her voice sounded strained even to her own ears. She moved to bring Mattie back. 

            Josh flashed a smile up at her. “Hes fine.” He turned to Mattie. “In fact, I could use some help. How about if you hold the lug nuts for me? We dont want to lose them.” 

            He must be used to being around children. Maybe he had some of his own. She glanced at his left hand to see if he was married. Shed be less nervous if he was. No ring, but that didnt really mean anything. Some married men never wore a wedding band. 

            Josh seemed nice enough, but a cautious voice sounded in her mind. Letting her guard down could get them in trouble. Shed never forgive herself if she lost Mattie. Her breathing matched her racing heart. He was too close to “Mr. Doss.” 

            “Mattie, did you hear me? We need to go back over to the shoulder right now, young man!” 

            “But, Mom, Mr. Doss needs me to help him.” 

            “Mattie…" She reached down to take his hand. 

            “Its OK. Thanks, buddy. You better mind your mom. Ill be done in a minute.” 

            Frowning, Mattie put down the lug nuts and trudged over to the side of the road with her. He pulled his hand free, plopped down a few feet away, and sulked. 

            Besides being muscular, Josh was very tall, well over six feet. She was five ten, and he towered over her. She couldnt protect Mattie if she needed to. If theyd been in Dees truck, she could have used the pistol in the glove compartment. But they werent. 

            If Josh were going to harm them, he probably wouldnt go to the trouble to change the tire. She searched the roadside for something she could use as a weapon should she need one. 

            Josh already had the spare tire on. Obviously, hed done this before. He reached for the lug wrench and tightened the bolts. Turning back toward her, Josh smiled. ‚Almost done. Youll need to get some air in that spare. You can drive it for a short distance, but its pretty low.‛ He set the lug wrench down, picked up the jack and the blown tire, and threw them into the trunk. 

            Hope grabbed the lug wrench and hid it behind her back. 

            When Josh returned, he scanned the ground. “Lets see. Whered I put…” 

            “Um, thank you very much for your help. Im sorry you got so dirty. Here, you can use this to wipe off.” She tossed him the towel to avoid stepping any closer. 

            As he caught it, his gaze went toward her right hand. 

            She pulled the wrench farther behind her. 

            His forehead wrinkled, and he opened his mouth as if to speak but then stopped. Instead, he smiled, cleared his throat, and took a few steps back. 

            Her heart rate slowed as the space between them widened. 

            “Thanks for the towel. Thisll be fine until I can get to a service station to wash up.” He moved away from her toward the back of her car and slammed the trunk lid shut. 

            “Can I pay you something for your trouble?” 

            “I wouldnt dream of it. Just wanted to help. If my sister and her son had gotten stranded like this, I hope someone wouldve stopped. You know, this day and time, stopping to help people can be dangerous. You have to be careful. You just never know what might happen. Take care.” He tossed back the towel. 

            Josh smiled, and turned toward Mattie. “Bye, buddy. Thanks for your help.” He raised his hand to his forehead in a relaxed salute. 

            Mattie stood and saluted back. “Bye, Mr. Doss.” 

            Josh walked back to his car, climbed in, and headed on down the highway toward Crescent Bluff. 

            Relief flooded over her as she vacillated between laughing and crying. She tossed the wrench and towel onto the back floorboard, and then she and Mattie climbed into the car to head toward the church. 

            If she hadnt promised Lynn and Dee shed come to the dinner, she wouldve turned around and gone back home. She hadnt wanted to go to church tonight in the first place, and now she would be late to meet the new pastor. 


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