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WELCOME TO MY

JOURN+AL JOTS BLOG ...

A journal where you can learn what I'm up to on my books, giveaways, fun things I'm doing or even my own personal devotional for the day. It's a broad mix of what's on my mind, allowing me to feel a little bit closer to some of the most important people in my life -- YOU! So please stop by from time to time, and if you have questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you via the "Contact Julie" tab or via my Facebook page.  Hugs, Julie

 

5:52AM

Sunday, December 2, 2018

HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS GIVEAWAY!

Hey, guys, wanted to tell you about this special opportunity to chat online with some of your favorite authors -- Hannah Alexander, Tamera Alexander, Colleen Coble, Rachel Hauck, Denise Hunter, Robin Lee Hatcher, Cara Putman, Deborah Raney, Katherine Reay, Becky Wade, Beth Vogt, & moi -- PLUS have a chance to win these 12 books and a $150 Amazon card! So, check out the details below, and hope to see you at each of the FB Lives!

Hugs!

Julie

 

WIN A BOOK—you have 12 chances!

(US addresses only)

1. Listen to author’s FB Live video on her FB page, live or recorded. (Schedule and links below)
2. Leave a comment below video as per author’s instruction.
3. One commenter will be randomly chosen to win her book on Dec 13!

WIN A $150 AMAZON CARD!

1. Watch all 12 videos, live or recorded, in order. (Schedule and links below)
2. Write down the one-word clue each author gives you. All 12 words will combine to make a sentence.
3. Go here to enter the winning sentence by Dec. 13: http://www.caraputman.com/giveaways/christmas-giveaway-3/  NOTE: Scroll all the way down to the bottom of Cara's page to get to the Rafflecopter box to enter your sentence. GOOD LUCK!

FACEBOOK LIVE VIDEO SCHEDULE

Saturday, Dec 1 Cara Putman — 2:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/cara.putman

Sunday, Dec 2 Deborah Raney — 4:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/deborah.raney

Monday, Dec 3 Robin Lee Hatcher — 2:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/robinleehatcher/

Tuesday, Dec 4 Colleen Coble — 2:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/colleencoblebooks/

Wednesday, Dec 5 Tamera Alexander — 8:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/tamera.alexander

Thursday, Dec 6 Becky Wade — 9:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/authorbeckywade/

Friday, Dec 7 Rachel Hauck — 2:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/rachelhauck/

Saturday, Dec 8 Denise Hunter — 1:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/authordenisehunter/

Sunday, Dec 9 Katherine Reay — 6:00 pm EST
https://www.facebook.com/katherinereaybooks/

Monday, Dec 10 Beth Vogt — 12:00 pm EST
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBethKVogt/

Tuesday, Dec 11 Hannah Alexander — 2:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/author.HannahAlexander/

Wednesday, Dec 12 Julie Lessman — 2:00 PM EST
https://www.facebook.com/JulieLessmanAuthor/

12:14AM

Tuesday, November 2019, 2018

 

AH ... THANKSGIVING!

One of my favorite times of the year, not only because of family, fun, and feasting on turkey and dressing, but because it reminds me to thank God for all of His blessings.

As many of you know, I am having so much fun writing Gabe's book, A Wing and a Prayer (which is oddly appropriate for Thanksgiving with the words "wing" and "prayer"), that I amost don't want to do anything else but write. But since Thanksgiving is when I put up my Christmas decorations, yesterday I decided to put the computer away for the day to devote myself to church and getting ready for Christmas. It was a chilly November day, so Keith was going to build me a cozy wood fire while I decorated the tree, watched Hallmark Christmas movies, and made a turkey dinner with all the fixin's for just him and me.

Sheer heaven!

Or would have been if not for one thing. First thing in the morning, I remembered I needed to send out an e-blast to my newsletter subscribers, telling them about some last-minute freebies beginning this week, so I spent the morning doing that before church and after. By the time we ate lunch, I needed to put the turkey on, so I did, and all at once I noticed what a mess my house was, with a dirty kitchen and boxes of Christmas decorations piled here and there. Add to that bad news we received about someone we loved and a phone call from my daughter asking for prayers for her dog who had a fever and ten new puppies who were suddenly losing weight, and what should have been an absolutely wonderfully fun and relaxing day became strained and overwhelming, with more stress radiating from me than heat from the fire.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

--John 10:10

"Julie, why are you letting this ruin your day?" Keith gently asked, wrapping me in a tight hug, and all at once I realized just how many times the devil tries to steal the joy of God's blessings. He does it to me all the time, and I'll just bet he does it to you, too, especially during a busy week like Thanksgiving. But I wasn't about to let him do it yesterday -- the very first day of Thanksgiving week! So instead of listening to the father of lies, I decided right then and there to listen to God:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances;

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

-- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I cannot express just HOW MUCH joy I get stomping on the devil's head by praising God in the midst of bad circumstances and thanking Jesus for all He has done. Not only in dying for our salvation, but to give us life "to the full" with blessings galore. And just why would He do that? Because He CARES about us, people!

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

-- 1 Peter 5:7

So this week if and when satan tries to steal your joy and blessings, I challenge you (and myself) to grind him into the dust by praising and thanking the only One whose love never fails. Because if you do, I promise you -- it will be a Thanksgiving like no other.

Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving.

Julie

P.S. Guess what? I spent two hours working on this blog and right when I finished, I lost it all due to a computer glitch. Yep, you guessed it -- I praised God to the high heavens and thanked him like crazy. Then I fixed myself some chamomille and pepperment tea (calming teas) and wrote it all over again.

Take that, you lousy devil! πŸ‘ 😜


πŸ—“ THEN ... Be sure to mark your calendar for these freebies & giveaways!

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted some way to say "thank you" for all of your support and prayers, so if you haven't read the following two books of mine, you'll want to be sure to download them FREE during the dates listed below.

 

November 22-24, 2018*

 *Note: Due to a snafu on Kindle Amazon, The Best Gift of All freebie now begins on 11/22. I apologize for any inconvenience.

 
(Free Download of The Best Gift of All

 

December 9-13, 2018: 
Free Download of Isle of Hope

   


Win E-Reader & 21 Books!



CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FUN.
CONTEST ENDS WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21 AT MIDNIGHT!




Win $150 G.C. &12 Books!



VISIT EACH AUTHOR'S FACEBOOK PAGE
ON THE SPECIFIED DATE TO ENTER




Win A Dream Fulfilled

Katie & Luke from the O'Connor saga finally get their own Christmas story, so if you haven't read it yet, you'll have a chance to win one of five copies I'll be giving away on the ACFW Book Club (American Christian Fiction Writers) on DECEMBER 6.

To win a book and join the conversation, you will need to join the book club, but there's no obligation or future involvement necessary unless you want to. It's a great opportunity to be a part of your favorite book discussions AND be eligible for monthly free book drawings!

To join, simply send a blank e-mail to acfwbookclub-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit groups.yahoo.com/group/acfwbookcluband click "join this group." You will receive a confirmation e-mail after joining. Follow the instructions given in the e-mail to complete your subscription to this e-mail list and that's it!

Now you're ready to discuss books if you so choose, meet new friends, and mingle with your favorite authors. PLUS ... if you join in on the conversation with me on Dec. 6th, you could win my latest novel, A Dream Fulfilled, so hope to see you there!

 

 

Four of my Christmas Books
in One -- Just 99 Cents!

 

CLICK HERE FOR
A CHRISTMAS STOCKING BUNDLE

7:51AM

Monday, November 12, 2018

“My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet.”

– Edith Wharton

🐢 A Bunch of Puppies!

OH MY, do I relate to our header quote this week!

You see, I have had ELEVEN "heartbeats" at my feet this week, and it has been sooooo much fun!

How? Well, my grand-dog Bootsy (a wire-haired pointing griffon) had TEN puppies eight days ago, so you might say I've fallen in love ten times over this week alone! According to research, puppies and dogs are so therapeutic, that they utilize them to lift the spirits of the elderly, shut-ins, sick people, and prisoners. And although I'm only one of those (no comment on which one), I can certainly attest to that. So, I thought it would be fun to show you a few pics from my week in Birmingham that included LOTS of puppies, a birthday celebration for me, my SIL (same day!) and my daughter (1 week later), AND a really cool Sunday service my daughter's church, Church of the Highlands, does called "At the Movies."

The "At the Movies" concept is where the pastor teaches a sermon based on clips from a particular movie, and honestly, it's one of the BEST ways to do church, in my opinion. The first time I saw one of the Highlands' "At the Movies" sermons, I silently sobbed on Keith's chest a good part of the movie because it hit me so very hard regarding my own father. That sermon was based on the movie Saving Mr. Banks, which is about Walt Disney trying to convince the woman who wrote Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers (who had a dysfunctional relationship with her own father just like I did) to allow Walt Disney to make a musical out of Mary Poppins. WOW ... talk about a POWERFUL means of conveying a spiritual message! And I'd give you the sermon link, but unfortunately The Highlands cannot post the video of the movie sermon on their website due to copyright restrictions. 😒

 

🎁  A Bunch of my Christmas Books!

Okay ... Not as cute as a bunch of puppies, maybe, but for those who love romantic, family-oriented Christmas stories, a bundle of books for only 99 cents may be just the ticket!

So, if you haven't read ANY of my Christmas stories -- whether my award-winning novel, A Light in the Window, or my three Christmas novellas, A Whisper of Hope, The Best Gift of All, or The Gift of Grace -- now's your chance!

Think of it -- FOUR BOOKS FOR ONLY 99 CENTS TOTAL! So, here's the link where you can read a short jacket blurb about each of the books:

A CHRISTMAS STOCKING BUNDLE

And to get you in the mood to read Marcy and Patrick's love story prequel for the first time or even again, here's the video my husband made for that book with my daughter as the model:

 

πŸ“• A Bunch of Books by a Bunch of Authors!

Have you seen this awesome giveaway from BookSweeps? You can win a signed paperback copy of my book A LIGHT IN THE WIND, plus books from authors like Suzanne Woods Fisher, Natalie Dean, Wanda Brunstetter and others.

PLUS ... you’ll also get a brand new eReader if you win, just for following me and other great Christian & Inspirational authors on BookBub. This giveaway ends soon, so make sure you hurry and enter!  Good luck! 

Join the fun here! πŸ‘‰ http://bit.ly/christianinspy-nov2018


🎁  A Bunch of Authors & Giveaways!

DECEMBER 1-12, you not only will have the opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit with 12 fun Facebook Live chats with 12 of your favorite authors ... BUT, you will also be eligible to win a book by each of the authors PLUS a $150 GIFT CARD! So, here's the schedule -- hope to see you there!

12/1, 2 PM EST -- Cara Putman
12/2, 4 PM EST -- Deb Raney
12/3, 2 PM EST -- Robin Lee Hatcher
12/4, Time TBA -- Colleen Coble
12/5, 8 PM EST -- Tamera Alexander
12/6, 9 PM EST -- Becky Wade
12/7, 2 PM EST -- Rachel Hauck
12/8, 1 PM EST -- Denise Hunter
12/9, 6 PM EST -- Katherine Reay
12/10, Time TBA -- Beth Vogt
12/11, 2 PM EST -- Hannah Alexander
12/12, 2 PM EST -- Julie Lessman

 

🎁  A Bunch of Giveaways!

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6, I invite you to join me for a chat on the ACFW Book Club loop, where I will be giving away FIVE COPIES OF A DREAM FULFILLED! The ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) book club has an email group that allows readers and authors to discuss books of ACFW members such as myself.

Book Club participants are invited to join an e-mail group set up to facilitate announcements and host discussions about the current reading selection. Members will be eligible for monthly free book drawings.

To join, send a blank e-mail to acfwbookclub-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit groups.yahoo.com/group/acfwbookclub and click "join this group." You will receive a confirmation e-mail after joining. Follow the instructions given in the e-mail to complete your subscription to this e-mail list.

Then all you have to do to be eligible to win one of five copies of A Dream Fulfilled is show up on the 6th is to participate in my chat when you receive the email from ACFW Book Club, responding with an email of your own. A comment automatically enters you to win, so GOOD LUCK and hope to see you there!

 

βœ…  A Bunch of Reviews!

Okay, everyone! I have a favor to ask. If you have read A Dream Fulfilled and liked it, would you consider posting a review on Amazon for me? All it takes is posting a BRIEF review (1 or 2 lines would do it, just saying you liked it if you did). And if you do, please let me know so I can personally thank you, okay?

Most people don’t realize how critical good reviews are to authors, but so many potential readers base their book-buying decisions on the number of good reviews posted, so that’s the best way to bless an author you like. Especially on indie books like A Dream Fulfilled, where I don't have a big publisher promoting it. Just little ol' me! Think of it this way -- the more good reviews, the more sales, and the more sales, the more books I can write, okay? 😍 THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH! ❀️

HUGS and HAPPY WINNING!

Julie

5:56AM

Thursday, October 18, 2018

🀫 Gentle Reminder! 

Sales, free download, new releases, and 5 chances to win  

A Dream Fulfilled from my most recent Facebook Live!

 

Hey, guys, just a quick reminder about some fun things going on right now so you don't miss out! I'm giving LOTS of e-books away, so check it out below!

 

πŸ“• Christmas Freebie for 5 Days Only!

Starting OCTOBER 19-23A Whisper of Hopeβ€”Charity and Mitch's Christmas novellaβ€”will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD! Here's the jacket blurb and link, so I hope you check it out:

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
Love is desperate to surprise them both.

With a husband dead set against adoption, Charity O’Connor Dennehy has barely a whisper of hope for more children, but if hope doesn’t disappoint, is it enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?

A WHISPER OF HOPE

 

πŸ“Ή 5 Giveaway Copies of A Dream Fulfilled during Facebook Live!

I'm giving away 5 copies of my latest release, A Dream Fulfilled (Katie & Luke's Christmas short novel), chosen from those who comment on my most recent Facebook Live below. Giveaways will be announced next week, so there's plenty of time to enter. Or winners can choose their choice of any of my other indie e-books.

This Facebook Live is part 3 of my video series, NOVEL INSPIRATIONS, a series of life lessons I put into my books and the topic is: Conversation with an Atheist. So come on over, leave a comment, and you're in the draw! Good luck!


 

 πŸŽ  A Bundle of Hope for Christmas!

πŸŽ„ CAN YOU SAY "CHRISTMAS GIFTS"?? Three 5-star, award-winning book bundle at 85% off because nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a bundle of "HOPE"!

Yes, it's true! Did you know you can give e-books as gifts and schedule their delivery for any date up to a year away? Yep, all you do is click on the "Buy for others" box beneath the actual buy box on the right-hand side of the page, then simply schedule delivery of your "gift"!

ISLE OF HOPE BEACH BUNDLE

 

 πŸ“ Attention Writers!

For all you aspiring writers, here is a brand-new writer's how-to book you are NOT going to want to miss! I am part of this very unique writer's book called WRITING FROM THE TRENCHES: Tips & Techniques From Ten Award-Winning Authors, where you literally get to pick the brains of award-winning authors about everything from writing to publishing to marketing! That way, you get ten viewpoints on what has worked best for each of us in becoming a published author. The book is available in e-book or paperback, so I hope you check it out.

WRITING FROM THE TRENCHES:

Tips & Techniques from Ten Award-Winning Authors

Hugs and Happy Weekend!

Julie


5:10AM

Thursday, October 11, 2018

"Blessings have a way

of sneaking in the back door."

— A Dream Fulfilled

Ah, isn't that the truth? At least it has been for me, when negative situations in my life have turned around for good, giving total credence to one of my favorite Scriptures:

And we know that in all things

God works for the good of those

who love Him and are called

according to His purpose.

—Romans 8:28

Well, that's certainly the case with Katie and Luke in my upcoming O'Connor Christmas novella, A Dream Fulfilled. Because when Katie's dream collides with Luke's, upsetting their happy home, God takes a negative situation and turns it around for good with a dream fullfilled. Not only for Katie and Luke, but for everyone in the story. And, I hope ... for you too!

I will admit that this is not your "normal" Christmas story because it begins way before Christmas and it has a lot of tears in it, but I promise  they will be tears of joy by the last chapter, hopefully to help breathe the true spirit of Christmas into your holidays.

I didn't mention this before, but you get a discount if you pre-order A Dream Fulfilled, so I hope you consider doing so HERE before it releases on October 20th. This is my longest novella so far, and it's even longer than my short novel, For Love of Liberty, so whether you pre-order it at the discount price of $1.99 or purchase it after it releases for $2.99, I hope you will think it is well worth the price.

Oh, and pssst ... another sneak peek at the end of this blog!


  πŸ‘ We Have Winners! 

A BIG THANK YOU to all of you who entered my contest to help promote the release of a writer's book I am a part of called, WRITING FROM THE TRENCHES: Tips & Techniques from Ten Award-Winning Authors.

Your help in spreading the word about this outstanding writer's tool is MOST appreciated! I wish I could say thank you by awarding every entrant a prize. But, alas, I'd be in the red if I did, so here are our two winners with an EXTRA winner (3rd Place) at the last minute because of all the effort she put into this contest. SUPER CONGRATS to our winners and drumroll, please ...


GRAND PRIZE WINNER:  ALISON BOSS

($50 Amazon gift, character in next book, signed copy)

2ND PLACE WINNER:  DEBORAH DUMM

(Character in next book, signed copy, 2 indie e-books OR 1 paperback)

3RD PLACE WINNER:  CHANEL MONROE

(Choice of 1 of my indie e-books)

 

πŸ“• A Christmas Freebie is Coming!

Be sure to mark your calendars for OCTOBER 19-23, when A Whisper of Hope—Charity and Mitch's Christmas novella—will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD! Here's the jacket blurb and link, so I hope you check it out:

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
Love is desperate to surprise them both.

With a husband dead set against adoption, Charity O’Connor Dennehy has barely a whisper of hope for more children, but if hope doesn’t disappoint, is it enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?

A WHISPER OF HOPE

 

πŸ“Ή My Next Facebook Live!

Uh-oh ... it's time for another Facebook Live!

Mark your calendars for NEXT THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18 AT NOON CDT for my next Facebook Live, Part 3 of my video series, NOVEL INSPIRATIONS, a series of life lessons I put into my books. More info to come!

JULIE'S FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE

 

 

 πŸ“ Attention Writers!

For all you aspiring writers, here is a brand-new writer's how-to book you are NOT going to want to miss! I am part of this very unique writer's book called WRITING FROM THE TRENCHES: Tips & Techniques From Ten Award-Winning Authors, where you literally get to pick the brains of award-winning authors about everything from writing to publishing to marketing! That way, you get ten viewpoints on what has worked best for each of us in becoming a published author. The book is available in e-book or paperback, so I hope you check it out.

WRITING FROM THE TRENCHES:

Tips & Techniques from Ten Award-Winning Authors

 

A Sneak Peek!

As promised, here's a sneak peek from Katie & Luke's A Dream Fulfilled. To se the scene up, Katie and her two girls arrive home late from the park, and Luke is worried because he didn't know where they were.

A DREAM FULFILLED

“Honestly, Luke, Marlene reminds me so much of Emma, I almost slipped and called her that more than once.” Katie snatched a cold grape Nehi out of the icebox since Luke had already exhausted their milk supply, almost downing three tall glasses while he ate his dinner.

She may have failed to go to the market for more, but thank God she’d remembered to make the pot roast this morning! The poor man had already devoured two platefuls and was working on his third, barely coming up for air while Katie filled him in on her day. As grumpy as he’d been when she came home, she shuddered to think what she would have done without the pot roast since the cupboard was bare. She swallowed hard as she poured him a Nehi.

Especially since I didn’t get to the grocery store either.

“Well, you can’t go wrong with a friend like Emma, that’s for darn sure,” Luke said with a final gulp of milk. Clunking his empty glass down, he proceeded to sop up the last of his gravy with a piece of bread, cleaning his plate so thoroughly, she could have put it back in the cupboard.

“I know.” Thumping the Nehi down before him, she snatched up his empty milk glass in a seamless switch, excitement mounting in her voice. “And she actually asked if I’d be interested in being her prayer partner, if you can believe that.” She slipped the dirty milk glass in the dishwater and returned to her chair with a broad smile, fairly bubbling at the thought. “Faith prays with her next-door neighbor on a regular basis, I know, and Emma and Charity do, too, so I guess I’ve always longed for that as well. You know, a close friend I can confide in and pray with other than my sisters.”

 “Thanks, Katie, that really hit the spot.” Pushing his plate away, Luke eased back with long legs stretched under the table and hands braced to the back of his neck, fatigue slumping his muscled body enough for her to notice. “I’m happy for you, Sass. Marlene sounds really nice, and to be honest, I’m glad to see you, Kit, and Ellie meeting new people. I honestly don’t know how you do it, Katie, confined to a small apartment all day with two busy kids, even with support from your mother and sisters.”

The planes of his handsome face softened with sympathy, his smattering of freckles lost in a year-round tan clearly underscoring his aversion to being cooped up anywhere for long. “Especially with a law degree under your belt and a second baby curtailing any part-time work at the BCAS.”

Katie paused as she collected his dirty plate, the reminder of the career she’d given up to have Luke’s baby imposing a melancholy air. She plucked his dish and utensils up with a lift of her chin. No, not a career given up, she reminded herself as she carried them to the sink with a square of shoulders. A career postponed till later for the sake of a far nobler one. Turning, she shot a smile over her shoulder while she washed his dishes. “Trust me, McGee, the degree gets plenty of use when arguing a case with your eldest daughter.”

His chuckle filled the cozy kitchen as he kneaded the bridge of his nose. “Dear Lord, I hope Addie is as sweet as her mother or that friendship is not long for this world.”

“Oh, she is,” Katie said with a faint smile, “which is why Marlene and Addie are perfect for us both. Her gaze faded into a faraway stare as she recalled how lonely she’d always been growing up—too young for her older sisters, too guarded to make many friends—which is why today had meant so very much to her. She expelled a wispy sigh as she reached to wipe off the table. “It was almost like a spiritual connection, Luke, you know? As if these friendships were truly meant to be.”

Luke grabbed her wrist on her final swipe, his blue eyes darkening as he drew her onto his lap with a decadent smile. “Speaking of spiritual connections,” he whispered, tossing her dishrag on the table while he suckled the lobe of her ear, “how about one with your very absent husband to remind him just why he comes home every night?”

Katie gulped as her eyelids drifted closed, her body humming from the tender touch of Luke McGee, the only man who could ever capture her body and soul. “I’m … guessing you’re not talking about devotions?” she whispered, a delicious ache thrumming deep in her belly.

His husky chuckle blew hot in her ear, doing absolutely nothing for her restraint. “No, but just as holy, Mrs. McGee, when we follow God’s leading to become one flesh …”

A moan lodged in her throat when Luke took her mouth with his own, exploring with an intensity that all but melted her bones.

“Hold that thought, Katie Rose,” he said with a wayward grin, slowly kneading her thighs as he scooted her off his lap. “Till after my shower.”

Katie was still in a fog when she heard the bathroom door close, cutting off the sound of her husband’s whistling. Hip butted against the sink, she rinsed out the dishrag with a silly grin on her face, always amazed at how easily Luke McGee could disarm her with a kiss. 

“Oh!” She jolted at the sink, eyes expanding when she remembered the toy-littered living room and bed full of laundry. Slapping the light switch off, she dashed into the living room to clean up the girls’ mess, hurling toys into the toybox left and right. Chest heaving, she darted down the hall to her bedroom, determined to get the laundry folded and put away before Luke was out of the shower.

Shaking the wrinkles out of one of her blouses, Katie allowed her mind to stray to Marlene and Addie, grateful she and the girls would be meeting them at the park tomorrow for a tour of the neighborhood. Katie smiled, somehow suspecting this was a friendship ordained by God.

As the baby of the family with much older sisters she’d hadn’t really connected with till she’d become an adult, Katie had been somewhat of a loner most of her life. Ridiculed in early grade school, she’d come into her own in the later years, exercising a control and popularity that drew more admirers than friends. Which had been exactly what she wanted—to be a leader who could remain at arm’s length in the midst of an admiring crowd.

But connecting with Marlene today made Katie realize that this was a friendship—a closeness—she wanted to pursue. And not just wanted, but needed, as if God were directing her path to a blessing she could almost feel. Even if she had no idea yet as to what that blessing might be.

Deep in thought, Katie didn’t register the sound of footsteps behind her while she folded several of Kit’s dresses, her thoughts far too absorbed in the prospect of friendship with Marlene and Addie to pay it much mind. But when two muscular arms encircled her waist from behind, she let out a tiny squeak, stomach tumbling while Luke’s lips feathered the nape of her neck.

 Giggling, she spun around, pulse stuttering at the sight of his sculpted body wrapped in a towel cinched low on his hips. Closing her eyes, she leaned against his hard chest, the clean scent of soap and Luke warming her blood while his mouth warmed her body.

“So help me, Sass, I’ve missed you more than I can say,” he whispered, nipping at the soft flesh of her ear while practiced hands skimmed up to tackle the buttons of her blouse. “So how ‘bout I just ‘do’ instead?”

“Mama?”

Luke’s fingers froze on her second button as a hoarse groan escaped his lips. Expelling a quiet sigh, he glanced over his shoulder while Katie peeked around him to see her daughter at the door.

“Yes, sweetheart?” Katie worked hard to stifle the squirm of a smile.

“Daddy forgot to say my prayers with me.” There was a pout in her tone as she rubbed sleepy eyes with a tiny fist

“Well, we can’t have that, now can we?” Katie pressed a kiss to Luke’s bare chest before pushing him toward the door with laughing eyes. “But I’ll just bet if you ask him real nice, he may just read you another book to let you know just how sorry he is, won’t you, Luke?”

“Absolutely,” Luke said, tightening the towel at his waist as he strode toward the door to scoop his tiny daughter up in his arms. But not before searing Katie with a thin gaze tempered by a hint of humor. “And when you and I are done, peanut, then Mama can show me just how sorry she is that she kept you and Ellie out past your bedtime.”

He disappeared down the hall, and Katie grinned, thinking she couldn’t be crazier about Luke McGee if she tried. She immediately tackled a pile of Ellie’s clean diapers, grateful to have bought some time to finish folding. Humming to herself, her thoughts once again drifted to Marlene, and she smiled at just how much they had in common. From their love of strong, thick, day-old coffee, Boston Baked Beans candies, Grape Nehi, and double-fudge brownies, to fear of worms, heights, and snorting when they laughed too hard—a trait they discovered after almost seven hours at the park—Katie felt she’d met her “other self.” Even to the point of physical attributes such as petite frames, strawberry birthmarks, and a skin condition that resulted in ridicule as children—Katie had never met another woman with whom she connected so completely.

So far, the only key difference Katie had been able to discern was that Marlene’s faith seemed to be light years ahead of Katie’s, more in league with the bone-deep faith of her sister Faith or her sister-in-law Emma. Which made her smile all the more.

It had always been difficult for Katie to accept spiritual insight from her older sisters, probably because she was too proud to admit a less-than-perfect faith to women she respected and admired.

But not with Marlene for some reason. And Katie wanted her faith to be strong! So when Marlene had humbly clarified a spiritual point for her with a personal experience of her own, Katie knew beyond a shadow of a doubt this friendship was ordained by God.

Expelling a contented sigh, Katie rolled a pair of Luke’s socks, which immediately dropped to the floor with an abrupt catch of her breath when strong arms captured her from behind. “I believe it’s your turn for apologies, Sass,” her husband whispered in her ear, deft fingers straying to toy with the buttons of her blouse once again.

A sweet moan of contentment escaped Katie’s lips before her eyes flipped open, the mountain of clean laundry way too tall to ignore. “Wait—the laundry!” she rasped, squirming free from his hold. She turned to give him a quick kiss, throat suddenly dry at the fact that he still only wore a towel. “Why don’t you go get ready for bed, Luke, and I’ll get these folded and put away .”

“Oh, I’m ready,” he said with a wicked grin, skillful hands making short work of her blouse. His shuttered gaze never left hers as he slipped it off her shoulders while slowly prodding her onto their bed.

Katie gulped, the dangerous gleam in his eyes pooling a dizzy whirl of heat at the base of her stomach. “B-But, Luke, the laundry, we can’t just—”

“Wanna bet?” He eased down to join her amidst diapers and clothes, absently sweeping them aside while he nuzzled her throat. “Because the laundry can wait, Sass,” he whispered, tugging her body flush with his own. “But I can’t.”