Wife, mother, grandmother, and dog-mama, Carol loves writing stories of redemptive romance. When asked the difference between redemptive romance and standard romance, she replied, “A standard romance has two main characters––a hero and a heroine. A redemptive romance adds a third. God.”
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Her newest novel, A Time for Singing, is a story based upon the Secret Drawer Society she stumbled across as she was visiting Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA.
Chance Jackson is starting over. Hoping to redeem the mistakes of his earlier life, he wants to become the music and worship pastor of the largest church in Crescent Bluff.
Charlee tries to convince herself she should not be attracted to Chance. But then she discovers an old letter hidden in the secret drawer of an antique desk. The pain expressed by its author resonates deep within her.
Can the words of long ago soften Charlee's heart and help her to discover that there is a time for singing?
Now for a sweet taste of this new book. Enjoy!
So, who would it be tonight?
From her table in the back corner, Charlee Bennett surveyed the inn’s small dining room. The only empty chair sat across from her, a sure sign she’d soon have a dinner companion.
She smoothed the white linen napkin in her lap and sipped her water. Over the past few years, these monthly weekends at the Wayfarer Inn had become her favorites, times of pampering among the plodding.
A tall man who definitely wasn’t from Crescent Bluff stepped into the doorway and leaned on the old oak pulpit now serving as the hostess stand. Michael presented his best maître d’ smile and then consulted the reservations list. The new diner nodded. Michael gathered a menu and silverware and turned in her direction.
Perspiration prickled her face. Oh, no. Not this man. Anyone but him. Please…not a musician. She could spot them a mile away. After following Jake around for a year and then dating him for two more, she knew the look. PR. Painstakingly Relaxed.
Last month, she’d shared dinner with a trial judge from Amarillo, and the month before that, a retired humanitarian aid worker from Uganda. Not only had both men been fascinating, they’d also been safe. Both were old enough to be her grandfather. But as Michael led tonight’s guest toward her table, only one word resonated within her.
Taking a deep breath, she reached for her water glass and unsuccessfully attempted to swallow away the mass of nerves knotting her throat. She could do this.
Mr. PR turned his back and spoke to Michael. “When you said ‘Charlie,’ I just assumed… I didn’t realize Charlie was a woman.”
He probably thought she couldn’t hear him…that he was speaking more quietly than he was. All those years of playing loud music had made Jake half deaf, too.
“You sure no other tables will be available soon?” the stranger continued.
“There’s no guarantee, sir,” Michael answered. “Friday nights are always busy.”
Mr. PR shook his head. “I’ve got to be someplace in an hour. Can’t take the chance.”
Michael gestured toward the chair opposite her. “Ms. Bennett is always happy to share her table when we’re busy. I assure you that you’ll find her excellent dinner company. Please have a seat, sir. I’ll send Joe right over to take your order. Enjoy your meal.” Michael turned and walked away.
Before her, he stood tall and lanky with black hair, his face covered with a stylish amount of dark stubble. Empty piercings dotted his ears and maybe even his left eyebrow. But that one might have been a scar. She couldn’t tell. The candlelight softened his features, making it impossible to know for certain.
Frayed spots decorated his tight jeans, and a black leather jacket hid all but the central portion of a black t-shirt. His painstakingly meticulous hairstyle, which could only have been achieved by applying gallons of product while primping for half an hour in front of the mirror, failed to match his relaxed wardrobe. Even the ever-blowing Texas wind hadn’t ruffled his style. PR, for sure.
While she wouldn’t describe him as classically handsome, he was totally attractive. Obviously, she’d failed to learn any kind of lesson from Jake’s betrayal.
Despite her mind’s pleading for caution, she smiled and offered him her hand. She would do this. After all, he apparently didn’t want to be dining with her any more than she did with him. “Hello, I’m Charlee—with two e’s—Bennett.”
He grasped her hand and flashed a warm smile that grew until it almost covered his entire face. She couldn’t help but grin back.
“Nice to meet you, Charlee with two e’s. I’m Chance…with one e…Jackson. Thanks for offering to share your table with me.”
She returned his firm grip. “No problem.”
“Haven’t been here in a while, and I didn’t realize the place would be this busy.”
She should let go, but for some reason, her fingers refused to obey. “It’s always packed on Friday nights.”
“Great news for the owner.” Releasing her hand, he glanced back over his shoulder and rocked onto his toes and then back down.
“Please have a seat, Chance. With the kitchen as busy as it is tonight, you’d better get your food ordered if you’re going to make your appointment.”
A red flush crept up his neck and inched across his face. “I, uh, didn’t know you could, I mean, I didn’t intend…” He paused and took a deep breath. “Hey, I’m sorry. I’m sure I sounded petty and ungrateful, but I’m not. Thanks for your generosity.” A softer smile warmed his face.
He pulled off his jacket and hung it on the back of the antique oak chair. A tattoo covered his left forearm—colorful scroll-work embellishing Greek characters. Just one more confirmation of his occupation in case she had the slightest doubt—which she didn’t.
She pushed her words past the still-present lump in her throat. “Chance. I’ve never met anyone with that name.”
Ignoring her comment about his name, he slid into the chair across from her.
“So, Chance, what brings you to the Wayfarer tonight?”
“Business. Came to Crescent Bluff to help out a buddy of mine.”
“I see. And what do you do?” She held her breath, waiting to see if his reply would confirm what her intuition screamed was true.
Staring down toward the table, he fingered the folded napkin before him. “I’m self-employed. Sales.”
A few years ago, she would have taken his words as truth. But no longer. His response screamed dishonesty. Or at least, a lack of transparency. For some reason, he was deliberately being elusive.
His gaze crept upward and found hers. “How about you? What do you do?”
Not shirking his scrutiny, she smiled her most innocent smile. “I’m self-employed. Sales,” she poked back.
He raised his eyebrows in mock surprise, and then his grin teased. "Oh, really? What a coincidence. Imagine that.”
“Yes. Imagine that. I own a little boutique on Main Street.‛"
Joe materialized beside their table, a pitcher of water in one hand and a pitcher of tea in the other. “Good evening, sir.” He poured water into Chance’s glass. “Would you care for some sweet tea? Or perhaps you’d like something else. A glass of wine? Something from the bar?”
“No, thanks. Nothing from the bar. Water and tea are fine.”
Well, he was definitely from someplace around here. He’d requested the beverage of choice for central Texas.
As Joe left, Chance looked back toward her. “So, let’s see. Where were we? Oh, yes, your store. Tell me, Charlee-with-two-e’s, why would someone who owns a business in Crescent Bluff, and lives here—I presume—be staying at the inn?”
Her gaze never wavering, she stared straight into his eyes. They were dove gray with amber flecks. “I think you may have jumped to an incorrect conclusion. I don’t believe I ever said I was staying here. Maybe I’m just having dinner.”
Holding her gaze, he placed his elbows on the table and leaned forward. “Well, maybe you are. Just having dinner.” As the corners of his mouth curved up, his eyes sparkled in the candlelight, and the needle on her attractiveness meter inched higher.
Refusing to surrender, she placed her elbows on the table and leaned in just close enough to enjoy the delicious earthiness of his cologne. “But I’m not.” Her response was barely above a whisper. “I stay here one weekend a month when I balance the books for my boutique. I figure if I have to do something I hate so much, I may as well do it in the nicest possible setting. My own reward system.”
Holding up his hands in surrender, he chuckled, and the amber flecks danced. "I have to admit, I like the way you think.”
Her heart began to veer down a familiar road, one she could not permit herself to travel again, and she stomped on the brake. Easing back into her chair, she placed her hands in her lap. “You’d better order if you want to make that appointment.”
“Guess so, hadn’t I? Excuse me a minute." He pushed the menu into the circle of candlelight in the center of the damask tablecloth. He studied the choices, the fingers of one hand tapping against the tabletop, drumming some rhythm to what could only be an imaginary melody. The fingernails of his right hand were longer than those of his left. A guitar player.
Breathing slowly and deeply, she looked away and glanced over his shoulder toward the dining room entrance. A man with blond hair and a warm, though not magnetic, smile waited as Michael approached an older couple who now had a seat available at their table under the front window.
The man wore dress pants with a shirt and tie, topped off with one of those old-fashioned tweed jackets with suede patches on the elbows. For some reason, that style always made her picture an English lord surveying his estate. But that was certainly where his resemblance to old-fashioned aristocracy stopped. This guy could have doubled for that model on the front of this month’s Dallas Style.
Michael motioned for him to follow. If only he’d arrived a few minutes earlier, she could have been sharing her table with him. He certainly had to be more interesting, and less dangerous, than Chance-Jackson-Mr.-PR-The-Musician. As Lord Handsome pulled out the chair, she checked for a band on his left ring finger. Nothing. Her gaze climbed back to his face in time to see him returning her look, and he winked.
She turned back toward Chance.
He stared at her with raised eyebrows—obviously waiting for the response to a question she hadn’t heard.
Her cheeks burned, and she didn’t need a mirror to tell her they were bright red.
He glanced over his shoulder toward Lord Handsome, and when he turned back, a smirk covered his face.
Busted again. She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”
He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “I asked what your favorite thing here is. Food-wise, I mean. Like I said, I haven’t been here in a few years.”
The sarcasm in his voice set her whole face on fire, but the best move was to pretend she hadn’t noticed it. “I’m having pork roast. It’s an excellent choice, if you like pork.”
“I do.” He motioned to Joe. “At Ms. Bennett’s recommendation, I’ll take the pork, please. Oh, and you can bring me a piece of carrot cake as an appetizer.”
“I’ll have that right out for you, sir.” Joe took the menu and headed toward the kitchen.
Chance flashed his immense grin. “You know what they say. Life’s unpredictable. Eat dessert first.”
His words hit her like a punch to the stomach. She couldn’t breathe. The harder she tried, the more impossible it became. Clamminess crept across her face. Her heart pounded.
“Charlee? Are you OK?”
She nodded. Hand shaking, she reached for her glass, only to knock it over.
Water streamed toward Chance’s lap. Attempting to stem the flow, she threw her napkin onto the puddle. But it only pushed the ice and water over the edge.
Chance jumped up. The entire dining room turned toward them.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “so sorry.”“It’s OK.” He smiled and shook his leg. “No permanent damage.” He winked.
You can find A TIME FOR SINGING at the links below:
Barnes & Noble: bit.ly/3LLG7IS