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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

 

1:48AM

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

And I'll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That You are who You are
No matter where I am ...

Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns (GREAT video!)

If you have been reading this blog over the years, then you already know how seriously I take Psalm 34:11 —
"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." 

Because frankly, anybody can praise God when things are going good, but it is people of faith and obedience who praise Him in the midst of the storms raging in their lives.

I had just such an opportunity this week when both my daughter and I praised God in the midst of a truly heart-wrenching situation. One that threatened to steal my peace, my joy, and my sleep, as well as my daughter's. But we did what we always do —
we praised and thanked God in the face of our heartbreak and asked Him to make good from it like He promises in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose."

And you know what? Suddenly the weight lifted off of our shoulders onto His, proving His Word true once again.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

--Philippians 4:7

So this situation yesterday was a good reminder for me — and I hope for you too — that there is peace and power in praising God no matter what storm you are facing in your life. It's one of the ways God's given us to defeat our spiritual enemies — be they depression, fear, despair, whatever! By praising and thanking Him in the face of these trials, we can most effectively stomp on the devil's head, channeling all our hurt and frustration into crushing that snake's influence in our lives like God promised we would do in Genesis 3:15:

"He (man) will crush your head, and you (satan) will strike his heel."

Yes, the devil strikes our heels over and over in this life, but WE have the victory in Christ AND the joyous opportunity to grind that slimeball's head into the ground by praising God in the midst of awful situations. Painful situations inflicted by satan himself, not only to "kill, steal, and destroy, but to tempt us to turn on God like Adam and Eve did in the Garden. That jerk hopes our trials will cause us to curse God instead of him, but we have the last laugh by praising God instead — unleashing the Almighty's peace and power to handle anything that nips at our heels.

Many of you will remember several situations in prior Journal Jots blogs when I did just that and came out the joyous victor, whether it was the day I was laid off from my job as a single woman with no other means of support or something as simple as praising God when I stubbed my toe and wanted to scream curse words instead. I crushed the devil's head in both situations, and trust me -- it's a rush of peace and joy unlike any other!

Try it. You'll like it, I promise! ;)

Hugs and Happy Stomping!

Julie

 Check Out My Facebook Live w/Laura Frantz!

WE DID IT! Laura and I did FB Live together as a test, so check out the video below, then be sure to mark your calendar for my next Facebook Live on THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12 —
Q&A with Laura Frantz.
There will be a double giveaway -- one of my books and one of Laura's, so do come by, okay?

 

Blog Giveaway!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 - THURSDAY, 9/28/17:  Want another chance to win any TWO of my indie e-books INCLUDING my (shhh ... it's a secret, but I'll be doing a cover reveal in my next JJ!) brand-new novella, For Love of Liberty that will be releasing December 1st!!

Well, you got it — just leave a comment on the SUITE T Blog of Southern Writer's Magazine on September 25 -28, and you're in the draw! Your odds are always good because comments are generally low, so give it a shot.

I will say, however, that I'm actually a little embarrassed, though, because somehow I inadvertently submitted the same blog to two different magazines, albeit months and months apart. So if you entered my Splickety Magazine blog contest a few months ago, this is the same blog subject. BUT ... ALL THAT MEANS FOR YOU IS ONE MORE CHANCE TO WIN, right? Although I do encourage you to consider subscribing to Suite T blog because it's a fabulous resource for writers. Here's the link:

SUITE T BLOG (NOTE: My blog will not appear until Monday, September 25th!)

 

Quick Contest (Ends Sunday night)!

HELP! I need a favor. My cover for Love Everlasting is currently in the InD'Tales Magazine Creme de la Cover Contest, and I am in dire need of votes, so if you have time (and you like the cover!), can you hop on over to InD'Tale's contest page and cast a vote for Love Everlasting? You have to subscribe to vote, but it's a really easy process and most importantly, it's FREE for a great magazine that will pop up in your email once a month.

And if you do, let me know, and I will enter you in a quick contest to have a character named after you in my upcoming novella, For Love of Liberty, a signed e-copy, and another e-copy of any of my indie books. Here's the link and THANK YOU!!

 VOTE FOR JULIE'S COVER IN IND'TALE'S CONTEST!

 

Fun Video Interview Next Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 26, I am being interviewed on live video (gosh, I'm becoming a video freak, aren't I???) next Tuesday on Cara Grandle's Periscope show. I won't have the link till Tuesday morning, so just check back here for the link if you'd like to see it. Hope to see you there!

LINK TO COME!

 

Get in the Mood for Christmas ...

... with my Christmas re-releases that are only 99 cents, so if you haven't read them yet -- why not?

It can't be the price at only 99 cents each, so I hope you'll check them out. ESPECIALLY the incredible reviews, for which I am INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL to those of you who posted one.

EMOTIONAL GUARANTEE!!  I promise you that these are some of the most emotional novellas you will ever read, guaranteed to make you both laugh and cry. So where else can you get such an emotional ride (with a great spiritual message) for only 99 cents??? Here are the links and THANK YOU!!

The Gift of Grace     Grace Like Rain     A Whisper of Hope     The Best Gift of All

 

10:27PM

Friday, September 15, 2017

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

--Psalm 139:23-24

WARNING!

Do NOT pray the Scripture above unless you mean business because I guarantee when you do — God WILL answer!!

Trust me on this, please! Because He's nailed my butt to the wall more times than I can count, people. But the good news? Well, it's in line four, my friends — the promise of the "way everlasting."

The way to peace.

The way to hope.

The way to joy.

Because in His presence IS fullness of joy, and I gotta tell you right now, the more you pray the Scripture above, the closer He WILL bring you to His presence, and I can testify first-hand. Don't believe me? Well, here's God's take on it:

 You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
-- Psalm 16:11

 "Pleasures forever"?   Mmm ... any takers out there? ;)

Well, I know of at least two, but I will admit, they are fictional. You see, the hero and heroine from my latest book, His Steadfast Love, book 3 in my Isle of Hope series, both undergo a little "searching" of their own at the hand of God, who reveals sin hidden so deep in their hearts, even they didn't know it was there! And believe me — the happy ending for Cat O'Bryen and Chase Griffin IS the "way everlasting," taking them straight to God's "pleasures forever."

So why I am bringing this up? Well, in addition to the fact that my Bible reading this morning triggered it and that "His steadfast love" takes us there, it is ALSO to announce — TA-DA! — the release of His Steadfast Love in PAPERBACK!

Yes, it's true -- you can now put the paperback on your Christmas lists or give it as a gift, so here are the links:

HIS STEADFAST LOVE PAPERBACK -- CREATESPACE

HIS STEADFAST LOVE PAPERBACK -- AMAZON

AND ... anybody that would like a signed bookplate for your paperback copy of His Steadfast Love, just let me know, and I will ship it off to you, okay?

 

Blog Giveaways!

NOW THRU MONDAY, 9/18/17:  Come on over to the Overcoming With God Blog, where my dear friend, Bonnie Roof, wrote some wonderful reviews for each of my novellas! Leave a comment, and you're in the draw for one of THREE giveaways, so here's the link:

OVERCOMING WITH GOD BLOG

 

MONDAY, 9/25 - THURSDAY, 9/28/17:  Want another chance to win any two of my indie e-books??

Well, you got it — just leave a comment on the SUITE T Blog of Southern Writer's Magazine on September 25 -28, and you're in the draw! Your odds are always good because comments are generally low, so give it a shot.

I will say, however, that I'm actually a little embarrassed, though, because somehow I inadvertently submitted the same blog to two different magazines, albeit months and months apart. So if you entered my Splickety Magazine blog contest a few months ago, this is the same blog subject. BUT ... ALL THAT MEANS FOR YOU IS ONE MORE CHANCE TO WIN, right? Although I do encourage you to consider subscribing to Suite T blog because it's a fabulous resource for writers. Here's the link:

SUITE T BLOG (NOTE: My blog will not appear until September 25th!)

 

My Next Facebook Live!

Well, it's about time for me to make a fool of myself on another Facebook Live, so do mark your calendars for THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21ST AT 7:00 PM CDT!  It will be on my author page — and yes, I promise I will not accidentally do it on my personal page like I did two other times, which means many of you sat there on my author page WAITING for me to go live. YIKES ... I am such a dork sometimes, which you will clearly see in these FB Lives! ;)

So ... not only will you be able to win an e-book if I answer your question, BUT ... I am hoping and praying I will be able to give you the date for a future FB Live with my dear friend, LAURA FRANTZ!  PLUS, you never know — maybe I will be able to get the love of my life to say hello. We'll see ...

SUBSCRIBE TO JOURNAL JOTS AND NEVER MISS ANOTHER FACEBOOK LIVE! The best way to know WHEN these FB Lives are going to happen is to subscribe to this Journal Jots blog if you haven't already because you will receive an email with the entire blog in it EACH time I post. That way, you will never miss any updates, excerpts, contests, giveaways, new releases, etc. that I might have, so I highly encourage you to subscribe.  

TO SUBSCRIBE, ALL YOU DO IS PUT YOUR EMAIL IN THE "SUBSCRIBE" BOX AT THE TOP RIGHT-HAND OF THIS PAGE, AND BOOM! YOU ARE SUBSCRIBED AND IN THE LOOP FOR ANY UPDATES I HAVE.

Here's the link to my author page, where I promise I will be on Thursday, 9/21 at 7PM CDT!! Hope to see you there!!

JULIE'S FACEBOOK LIVE ON AUTHOR PAGE

 

Novellas Update:

Sales are a-jumpin' on my newly released novellas, so if you haven't read them yet -- what's stopping you? It can't be the price because they are each only 99 cents, so I hope you check them out. ESPECIALLY the incredible reviews they are getting, for which I am INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL to those of you who took the time to post a review.

As I often tell you all, good reviews are lifeblood to all authors, but especially indie authors, so PLEASE consider posting a review if you enjoyed one of my indie books. The review can be as short as ONE or TWO lines, stating you liked it if you did, and you can even post the same generic review on each of the books instead of writing a new one for each!! Trust me on this — there is no better way to bless or thank an author you love than to post a good review. And for those of you who do not know how to do it, here's how:

HOW TO POST A REVIEW ON AMAZON:

1.) Go to www.amazon.com and type in the book title and author you’d like to review in the search box at the top of the page with the little magnifying glass in it.

2.) Click on the magnifying glass, and it will take you to the book. Click on whatever version you are reviewing, ebook or paperback.

3.) Click on the “customer reviews” link next to the stars.

4.) Click on the box that says “Write a Customer Review.”

5.) Answer several questions by simply clicking on tabs.

6.) Hover your mouse over the stars to click on the number you’d like to give the book.

7.) Type or paste a short review (can be as short as one line) about how you liked the book and a title in the header box if you want.

8.) Click on Submit.

And that's all there is to it! If it was a good review, you just made an author VERY happy, so THANK YOU from me and all the authors you love!

HUGS & HAPPY WEEKEND, ALL!

Julie

12:03PM

Friday, September 1, 2017

For by grace have ye been saved

through faith; and that not of yourselves:

it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Without question, the gift of grace is one of the greatest gifts God has given to man other than His Son. Grace = unmerited favor, something none of us deserve, but God's love makes a way.

Which is one of the reasons I love my latest novella, The Gift of Grace, because it truly is a story of unmerited favor, not only for a woman named Grace, but the man of God who falls for her. As promised, I've included the first and second chapters of The Gift of Grace as an excerpt below, so I hope you enjoy it.

 

Happy Release Day!

And guess what?? TODAY is RELEASE DAY for The Gift of Grace novella, along with my three other novellas, Grace Like Rain (can you tell I like "grace"??), A Whisper of Hope, and The Best Gift of All. So if you preordered them, they should be waiting for you on your Kindle right now, so THANK YOU and HAPPY READING!

If you haven't ordered the novellas yet, I hope you consider doing so since they are only 99 cents each, and I promise at least a few chuckles and tears for that price in each of the books. I mean, come on -- they don't call me a drama queen for nothing, you know! You'll find the buy links below along with a new giveaways, so read on!

 

Can You Help Me Out?

But before we go any further, I have a favor to ask. I know I harp more on reviews lately than I ever have before, but there are a number of reasons for that. For one, I have no publisher promoting my indie books, so good reviews are HUGE to indie authors. And number two, I used to run review contests, but that is no longer allowed by Amazon, so that means I have to rely on good reader friends like YOU to help me out.

So if you read the new novellas or have read any of the Isle of Hope series, from the prequel all the way to my latest release, His Steadfast Love, would you please consider posting a brief review on Amazon and/or Goodreads? It can be as short as one or two lines, just stating you liked the book. OR you can even write a 1-sentence generic review stating you liked the series and plop that same review on each of the IOH books. To be honest, it's the number of stars that people look for first and which have the most impact on whether they will buy the book or not. Now if you want to write a longer review, I truly appreciate that, too, but most people don't have that kind of time, so hopefully a 1- or 2-line review won't be an imposition for you. And if you DO post a review, PLEASE let me know so I can personally thank you, okay?

 

My Latest FB Live!

If you weren't able to make my 2nd "Q&A with a CDQ" last night, no worries, because I have the recorded video right here. And if you have any questions you'd like me to answer in my next Q&A, just leave them in a comment on the video. Then if I answer them during the next FB Live, YOU win your choice of my indie e-books. This video below explains how Keith and I met, so I hope you enjoy our first encounter! :) NOTE: YOU MAY HAVE TO UNMUTE IT BY CLICKING ON THE LITTLE SPEAKER IN THE LOWER RIGHT-HAND CORNER.

 

Fifty Shades of ... Pray??

Join me on SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 2ND on Novel Rocket blog when I get on my soapbox with “Fifty Shades of Pray” … Christian Romance in a secular world where the harvest is great, but the workers are few.  Leave a comment and you’re in the draw for your choice of my indie e-books, including any of the four novellas that just released! You'll find the link HERE (which won't be live till tomorrow, 8/2) so come on by!

 

30-Book Giveaway Ends Sun., 9/3!

Guess what? I have teamed up with more than 30 fantastic contemporary Christian and inspirational romance authors to give away a huge collection of 30 novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! 

You can win my novel HIS STEADFAST LOVE, plus books from authors like Becky Wade, Susan May Warren, and Melissa Tagg, so MARK YOUR CALENDARS, okay?

Enter the giveaway HERE by clicking here & good luck!

 

99-Cent Sale on A Light in the Window:

If you haven't read Marcy and Patrick's award-winning love story yet -- why not? It's the perfect read to kick off the holiday season with an Irish love story that's a cross between The Bells of St. Mary's and The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry, so I hope you check it out.

You can buy A Light in the Window in both e-book and paperback at AMAZON and e-book only at B & N.

I just LOVE the video my artist hubby did for it using my daughter on both the cover and in the video: 

A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW VIDEO

 

Grace Like Rain:

A Heart Of San Franciso Novella

Yes, it's true -- Blake "The Rake" McClare has found love in his own novella, so you won't want to miss this one because it's one of my faves. So much so, that I am including the first chapter down below, so do check it out. Here's the blurb:

He’s everybody’s lovable rogue.
She’s nobody’s fool
who hopes to steer clear.
Until a thunderstorm sinks them both
into a sea of love.

Blake “The Rake” McClare has a notorious reputation as a womanizer, which is why soft-spoken Patience Peabody carefully avoids the lovable rogue attorney at the law firm in which they both work.

Until a rare thunderstorm brings them together in a love soaked with the grace of God and a whole lot of lightning!

 ORDER GRACE LIKE RAIN HERE!

 

A Whisper of Hope:

An O'Connor Christmas Novella

Ahhhh ... Charity & Mitch ... two of my very faves, and now they have their very own Christmas novella that you will not want to miss.

I know that Mitch doesn't look a lot like his orginal cover picture on A Passion Redeemed, but it's incredibly difficult to find a historical-looking couple that actually resembles a prior cover, so I did the best I could, even though I realize the couple looks more modern than historical. But I do think the pose replicates the love Mitch has for Charity very nicely, especially after you read the story! ;)  Here's the blurb:

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
And 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 … will it be enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?

 ORDER A WHISPER OF HOPE HERE!

 

The Best Gift of All:

An O'Connor Christmas Novella

This is Lizzie and Brady's story because it was a subplot that was cut from A Love Surrendered, the final O'Connor book. Since it was already basically written, I used it instead of writing a Christmas novella for Faith & Collin and Katie & Luke. But rest assured that each year I plan to release another O'Connor Christmas novella until I have covered everyone in the family, including Marcy & Patrick! 

I have to say that this particular novella contains a very important life lesson I learned, so not only is it a good read, I hope, but it contains a powerful lesson as well. Here's the blurb:

 

  She longs to be the perfect mother.
He just longs for his wife.
Until they receive ... the best gift of all.

Everyone knows Lizzie and John Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?

 ORDER THE BEST GIFT OF ALL HERE!

 

The Gift of Grace:

A Frontier Christmas Novella

Although The Gift of Grace is basically a Christmas story, I didn't want the cover to be limited to only Christmas. And actually, since Grace almost burns down the hero's house on a number of occasions, I thought the flame-orange sky was somewhat fitting! ;) Here's the blurb:

She’s the Accident
to His Prayers …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny. She’s caught fire to the kitchen, dyed his long johns pink, and scorched nearly everything she cooks. But he’s desperate, and she’s a destitute ex-saloon girl.

Even though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s home, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died. But when Grace’s past threatens Cole’s family, she’s given one last chance to be home for Christmas . . . if she hasn’t burned it down yet.

 ORDER THE GIFT OF GRACE HERE!

THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH for your support and your friendship! Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

Hugs,

Julie

Excerpt for The Gift of Grace

For by grace have ye been saved

through faith;and that not of yourselves:it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

 

Chapter One

Last Chance, California, Fall, 1885

Shelter, food, and babies, Lord, that’s all I ask.

Grace O’Malley peered out the window as the railcar groaned to a stop in front of a tiny train station, her stomach rumbling louder than the iron wheels on the tracks. Hand to her queasy middle, she peeked up at an azure sky tufted with cotton and expelled a guilty sigh, almost forgetting her other important prayer.

Oh, and a decent job?

“Last Chance, California!” the conductor bellowed, and a flurry of activity erupted. Grace’s abdomen responded with a ridiculously noisy growl, turning the heads of several people despite all the commotion.

“Hungry?” an elderly woman asked with a sympathetic smile, relieving Grace’s embarrassment over a mortifying trait that plagued her since her youth—an abnormally loud stomach whenever she was nervous.

“Not really,” Grace said, her smile wobbly at best. Yet, oh, how she wished she could say yes! But her days of untruths were behind her. She drew in an unsteady breath. Just like my days in a saloon.

The woman patted Grace’s hand, her rheumy blue eyes soft with understanding. “A new babe for you and your husband then?” she whispered, “causing a wee bit of morning sickness?”

Grace blinked, her cheeks suddenly toasty. Goodness, if only! But the only “morning sickness” Grace had ever known was from stale cigar smoke and late hours at The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City.

“Second call for Last Chance!”

Relief flooded as she welcomed the interruption, saving her a response while she quickly collected her valise. Offering a smile, she inched past the woman toward the exit when the cry of an infant snagged her attention. Tiny fists flailing, the child squalled in its mother’s arms while the poor woman herded two toddlers to the door. Compassion propelled Grace forward to assist.

“Landon, no!” the mother shrieked when one toddler escaped, plowing straight into Grace’s worn skirt.

Delighted, Grace dropped her bag and swooped up the runaway, her giggles merging with his as she snuggle-kissed his neck. “I think I may just gobble you up, little man,” she said with a squeeze, “but first we need to follow your mama off the train.”

“I am so sorry!” Cheeks blooming bright red, the young mother reached to take her son.

“Don’t be,” Grace said with a smile, cuddling the imp close. “I love children, so I’m happy to help.”

The pinch of the woman’s face eased, and with a tired nod of thanks, she turned to usher her family from the train.

Clutching the squirm-worm to her side, Grace retrieved her bag before hurrying after the boy’s mother, pretending for one blissful moment the little dickens belonged to her.

But that would never be.

“It’s called amenorrhea,” the doctor explained when pregnancy eluded her after eloping with Gabe at fifteen. She’d always known her “womanly time” was different, twice-yearly instead of monthly, but she’d always believed she’d have children despite the doctor’s awful prognosis. Barren. Nonetheless, three years of marriage had produced little but heartbreak, and when Gabe died in a mining accident, she was left with nothing.

No husband.

No income.

No babies.

A delicious giggle feathered her cheek, and her gloom instantly vanished. Hopping down onto the platform, she couldn’t resist a playful whirl or two, Landon’s giggles taking flight along with her blue calico skirt, which billowed in the dusty air. Flush with laughter, she delivered Landon to his mother, who’d already handed the baby to a silver-haired woman of striking resemblance.

“I can’t thank you enough for your help,” the young mother said, the gratitude in her eyes edged with fatigue as she took the toddler from Grace. “Can my parents and I offer you a lift?”

“I’m not sure,” Grace said, scanning with a hand to her eyes, stomach cramping at the possibility that Eileen might not even live here anymore. Her last letter was over a year and half ago when the young mother was expecting her fourth child and begged her to come. But the prospect of a saloon girl paying a visit to a pastor’s wife had been too painful to consider, especially since she’d lied to her childhood friend, claiming to be a “teacher.”

Only not in any school.

Gripping her valise, she squared her shoulders. But . . . she was a new creature in Christ according to Maggie Mullaney, a young nurse who tended her wounds after a barroom brawl. Sweet Maggie’s ministrations had not only helped heal Grace’s body, but also her soul, instilling a hope for a new beginning. One last chance to make things right.

In Last Chance, California.

Her lips tipped up at the corners of her mouth, the irony of the town’s name not lost on her. It had, in fact, been a motivating factor in even considering a visit to a friend she hadn’t seen in years.

Prophetic, she hoped. And God’s will, she prayed.

“I’m looking for the parsonage,” Grace said with a crimp in her brow when she saw no sign of a steeple on the dusty main street lined with a hodge-podge of buildings and pines. “I was hoping it would be in walking distance, but I don’t see anything that even remotely resembles a church.”

“That’s because the Last Chance Chapel is on the west hill, tucked away in the trees,” the silver-haired woman explained, joining her daughter as she jiggled the baby. “You must be here to see the McCabes. Are you a relative?”

The McCabes. A silent sigh seeped out. Eileen was still here!

“No,” she said too quickly, loud enough to mask another noisy churn of her stomach. “Just a friend of the family hoping to help out.” Anxious to avoid further probing, Grace started for the west edge of town, lifting a hand in farewell. “Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.”

“If you’re here to help, they’ll be mighty glad to see you,” the woman called as Grace picked up her pace. Offering a wave, Grace rounded a building that appeared to be a saloon, given the familiar tinkling of a piano and several bleary-eyed cowboys who stumbled out.

“Hey, pretty lady, where ya off to in such a hurry?” one of the men slurred, and Grace bolted down the wooden sidewalk without a glance back, hand plastered to her straw bonnet to keep it from blowing off. Ducking around the mercantile, she backed up to the side wall, hand splayed to her heaving chest. The foul scent of liquor and tobacco assailed her, and she willed the apple she’d eaten for lunch to stay in her stomach.

A wagon rumbled by, and she jerked from the building, spotting a steeple through the trees in the distance. Praying Eileen would welcome her despite the lack of notice, Grace finally arrived at a white clapboard church tucked among a peaceful copse of red maples. The sight literally stilled her soul. A shaft of sunlight illuminated the shingled roof like the finger of God leading her home. Behind it at the top of a hill, a log cabin peeked through the pines, a lazy curl of wood smoke rising from the chimney to fill the air with its welcome scent.

Gaze flicking back to the church, she decided a chat with the Almighty might be wise. “To hedge my bets,” she said, then ruefully glanced up. “Forgive me, Lord—gamblers and saloons are part of my past, not my future, so please don’t let Eileen turn me away.”

Grace carefully approached the cherry-red door as if she were trespassing, the whiff of wood shavings tickling her nose. Sidetracked by the wonderful smell that reminded her of her grandfather, she tiptoed around the corner to see a makeshift workbench beside a stack of lumber. Memories of Grandfather’s carpentry shop tugged, and breathing in the heady scent of cedar and lacquer, she knew this was a sign from God.

She was finally home!

Grateful she was alone, she tiptoed into the tiny vestibule before entering the dim church, blinking to adjust from blinding sunlight to stained-glass shadows. A loud gasp popped from her mouth when something moved in a far corner of the rafters, and her stomach immediately followed with a truly ferocious growl. The sound startled a poor man painting the ceiling, jerking him around so fast, his ladder teetered for several horrifying seconds. Right before his can of stain shimmied off the top, splatting onto the floor with an awful crash.

Along with her hopes.

Dark eyes circled in shock gave way to a tic in a hard-sculpted cheek as he slowly descended, the clamp of a steely jaw not a good sign.

Grace gulped. Finally home? Gnawing the edge of her lip, she groaned—along with her stomach.

Then again, maybe not . . .

Chapter Two

Battling a weary sigh, Colton McCabe gingerly stepped into a sea of mahogany stain, thankful he’d taken the time to put a tarpaulin down. His mouth zagged. This’d teach him to get testy with the Almighty in His own house. He’d been so lost in his mental “negotiations” with the “Boss,” he hadn’t heard the door open, too busy badgering God for divine assistance in caring for four small children and a woman with a broken leg.

He squinted at a small figure who appeared as stiff as a pew and bit back a smile, wondering how such a tiny body could make so much noise without saying a word. “Can I help you?” he asked, unwilling to take a step closer lest he track stain across the floor.

“I am so sorry,” a guilty voice whispered, its owner emerging into the light like a doe from the shadows. “I thought I was alone.”

“My fault, not yours,” he said, swabbing the soles of his boots with an old rag. He tossed it over a rung and approached a young woman who looked ready to bolt. Eyes wide, she, took a step back, hand clutched to the bodice of her faded calico dress as if he were Beelzebub himself. Swiping his palms on his work pants, he offered a warm smile. “I would have greeted you if I’d heard the door, but I tend to get lost in my work.” He extended a hand, his smile inching into a grin. “Name’s Cole McCabe, and I’m the pastor here at Last Chance Chapel.”

She shook it so quickly, it was barely a touch, the blush in her cheeks a nice complement to golden hair the color of winter wheat. “I’m Grace O’Malley. You’re Pastor McCabe, from Virginia City?” She paused as if expecting recognition before more pink dusted her cheeks, setting her face aglow like an angel. “It’s a true pleasure to meet you,” she said softly,  pale blue eyes the exact shade of her bonnet. “Especially after all the good things I’ve heard.”

His laughter—all too rare of late—boomed through the church. “You’ve obviously been chatting with the Irish contingent in our fine community, Miss O’Malley, known for more than a bit of the blarney, but I’m glad to welcome you to our fair town. How may I help you today?”

Her smile faltered as she peeked up beneath a fringe of honeyed lashes. “Actually, Pastor McCabe, I was hoping I could help you.”

His brows lifted in surprise. Help him? His smile twitched, thinking this was one speedy answer to prayer.

“You see,” she continued, those blue eyes searching his, “I’m a childhood friend of your wife’s, so when Eileen sent a letter last year asking for help after the baby was born, I wasn’t able to come until now.”

He blinked, all air whooshing from his lungs.

“I know this is a surprise since I didn’t notify her I was coming . . .”

A surprise? The horrendous ache he’d tried so hard to dispel seared through his chest with a vengeance. No, this is a blow to the head with a two-by-four, Miss O’Malley.

“But my departure from Virginia City was rather sudden, you see . . .”

Cole’s eyelids closed. Yes, he knew all about “sudden.”

“So I hoped—well, prayed, really—that Eileen could still use my help.”

Eileen. The woman he’d been privileged to marry. A woman of God with a heart so pure, she’d been a beacon of light that helped chase away the darkness in his own sorry soul. God knows he hadn’t deserved her, and yet she’d married him anyway, giving him nine wonderful years, four beautiful children, and in the end—her very life.

Gut twisting, he reopened his eyes, loathe to tell Miss O’Malley that her friend now resided on the other side of eternity, as if saying the words would revive his grief all over again. The very grief he’d worked so hard to hide for the sake of his family and congregation for well over a year. But tell her he would, even offering lodging for the night if need be.

“I w-won’t stay long,” she said in a rush, as if sensing his hesitation. “You s-see, I was a teacher in Virginia City, and Eileen wrote such w-wonderful things about your t-town, I decided to resettle here. So I hoped to accept her k-kind invitation till I could find a home of my own. And, of course, I promised to help in any way that I could.”

Promised. His eyelids weighted closed once again. Yes, he’d promised Eileen something too. Something his aunt’s broken leg had made nearly impossible since caring for her and his children took so much of his time. Precious time he’d once devoted to making furniture to earn the price of the promise he’d made to his wife.

“I want a piano for Christmas, Cole,” she’d whispered on that fateful day he’d lost her, her voice so frail, he’d barely been able to hear. “For our girls to play . . . like I did when I was small.” She’d clutched his hand then, as if expending all her energy in a plea he could never deny. “Promise me, Cole, please. Give them music for Christmas . . . just in case.”

Just in case.

“If you need to discuss this with Eileen, I totally understand . . .”

As if the mention of her name had conjured her, Eileen’s sweet face appeared in his brain like a vision, smiling that serene smile that always assured him God was at work and all would be well. In his mind’s eye, he saw her touch her fingers to her lips and blow him a kiss like always whenever he left to work in his shop. And in one violent thud of his heart, he knew. Knew deep down, as if Eileen herself had whispered into his very soul.

Grace O’Malley was not just an answer to his prayer.

She was an answer to Eileen’s too.

He drew in a breath redolent with wood stain and the lemon oil he used on the pews and carefully expelled it again, his lips curving in the barest of smiles tinged with melancholy and awe. He vaguely remembered Eileen mentioning a long-lost friend, but he’d soon forgotten since his wife never brought it up again.

Until now.

He reached to tug Miss O’Malley’s valise from her grip, the stillness of the sanctuary underscoring the peace that slowly seeped into his soul. He ushered her out of the church into the blazing sunlight, grateful for God’s hand in his life.

“I assure you, Miss O’Malley, your help is not only desperately needed, but deeply appreciated as well. Maybe not by my sweet Eileen,” he said quietly, his tone hushed like the moment as he quietly closed the door, “but by the family she left behind.”

3:55AM

Friday, June 25, 2017

“I mean,” he emphasized, tone sober, “I need you, Lizzie—

your laughter, your encouragement, your gentleness, your love—

and not just in my bed. I need you in my heart and my mind,

to feel your love like before, when it was just you and me.”

The Best Gift of All, An O'Connor Christmas Novella

 

Oh, WOW, did I have fun this week! How? Final proofing my four novellas that are releasing in ONE WEEK!! Click HERE for last week's post, where you can find BUY links for each of the novellas.

Why? Because I got to revisit the O'Connors, the McClares, and the McCabes, and let me tell, I did a lot of laughing out loud and went through a TON of Kleenex because I forgot just HOW emotional these books are. And hopefully, not just for me, but for my readers too!

I promised you a sneak peek at each novella, and so far, I've done one for Grace Like Rain, Blake "The Rake" McClare's love story, then last week was Charity and Mitch's Christmas story in A Whisper of Hope. And today, I am going to post the first chapter of Lizzie and Brady's Christmas novella, The Best Gift of All because it's the last one I proofed, and it made me cry and laugh sooooo much! That Charity is a pistol, let me tell you, so you don't want to miss how she deals with Henry when he spits in Gabe's Christmas stocking -- priceless!!

But before we get to the excerpt, I want to let you know about a few things I have going right now so you can put them on your calendar to not miss out on FREE BOOKS, plus a very cool giveaway of 30 BOOKS EACH TO 2 WINNERS and a KINDLE FIRE to a grand-prize winner, and a 99-cent sale on Marcy and Patrick's prequel love story, A Light in the Window, and the date for my next FACEBOOK LIVE! So check it all out below, then enjoy the excerpt.

HAPPY WEEKEND & HAPPY READING!

Julie

 

HUGE Giveaway, Mon., 8/28 - Mon., 9/4:

Guess what? I have teamed up with more than 30 fantastic contemporary Christian and inspirational romance authors to give away a huge collection of 30 novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! 

You can win my novel HIS STEADFAST LOVE, plus books from authors like Becky Wade, Susan May Warren, and Melissa Tagg, so MARK YOUR CALENDARS, okay?

Enter the giveaway HERE by clicking here & good luck!

 

 99-Cent Sale on A Light in the Window:

If you haven't read Marcy and Patrick's award-winning love story yet -- why not? It's the perfect read to kick off the holiday season with an Irish love story that's a cross between The Bells of St. Mary's and The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry, so I hope you check it out.

You can buy A Light in the Window in both e-book and paperback at AMAZON and e-book only at B & N.

I just LOVE the video my artist hubby did for it using my daughter on both the cover and in the video: 

A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW VIDEO

AND if you have already read it and liked it, can I ask a favor? Good reviews are CRITICAL to indie authors like me, so if you did read it, would you consider posting a 1- or 2-line review for it on Amazon and/or Goodreads? That would be SUCH a blessing for me, not only for A Light in the Window, but ALL of the Isle of Hope series you may have read including A Glimmer of Hope, which is the only IOH book that doesn't have 5 stars, so I would love to see it pick up a few more good reviews.

ALL authors need the support of their readers, but especially for their indie books since they don't have a publisher promoting them. And if you do post a review, can you let me know so I can personally thank you? THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!

 

My Next Facebook Live:

Gosh, it's been SO MUCH fun doing these Facebook Lives, so I'm going to do another Q & A WITH A CDQ on THURSDAY, AUGUST 31ST AT 7:00 PM CDT, so I hope you can join me. I will be selecting questions to answer, and anyone whose question I use will automatically win an e-book, so put it on your calendar and come on by!

JULIE'S FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE

 

 

Excerpt for The Best Gift of All:

Chapter One

Boston, Massachusetts, November 1934

 John Brady, where are you?? Elizabeth Brady peeked at the cheery rooster clock over the stove and sighed—almost nine—well past her children’s bedtime and another late night for her husband. Which meant, she thought as she stirred the milk till it boiled, that John Brady would probably be crabby.

Again.

“Will Daddy be home soon?” Six-year-old Teddy pushed up the sleeves of his red-striped pajamas. “I’m tired.” He yawned, focusing on his cherished Lincoln Logs sprawled on the oak kitchen table his father had built. Lizzie smiled at her son, his calm and steady focus on the task at hand so like his father. Brown eyes squinted in concentration, he crafted his latest creation with small yet deft fingers. A shock of brown hair tumbled over one eye as he paused with a faint purse of lips, patiently allowing his little sister to position a log, further evidence he was his father’s son—gentle, kind, steady, and strong.

And sometimes crabby.

At least lately. Tucking a chin-length curl behind her ear, Lizzie poured hot milk into three cups and sighed again, steam misting her face. In over ten years of marriage, John Brady had been her tower of strength—the perfect spouse, the perfect spiritual mentor, the perfect lover. Heat burned her cheeks as she poured a spoonful of cocoa into each cup, the warmth having little to do with the steam.

Or used to be.

She stirred the cocoa like she wished she could stir up her marriage. Lately something always seemed to stand in the way. Chores or sick children or monsters in the closet, stealing her time and attention as thoroughly as the babe in her womb stole her energy. Her lips quirked as she skimmed a gentle palm across her burgeoning belly. Not to mention Brady’s poor moods.

Lizzie sighed, grateful she’d put baby Sara to bed hours ago and wondering how she’d handle yet another baby come spring. Testing the cocoa to make sure it wasn’t too hot, she questioned if perhaps Charity was right, that passion tended to wane after ten years of marriage. She spooned Marshmallow Fluff into each cup, recalling her sister’s assurance that the trend could certainly be reversed.

“Mama!”

Lizzie jolted, more heat broiling her cheeks as she blinked at her brown-eyed daughter clad in a pink polka-dot nightgown, a mop of tawny brown curls framing her cherub face like a misplaced halo. “Sorry, sweetheart, did you say something?”

Crayons fisted in both hands, four-year-old Molly folded stubby arms and arched a miniature brow, the scowl on her tiny, heart-shaped face almost comical. “Teddy wants to know when Daddy will be home, and so do I. I don’t want to go to bed until I show him my picture.”

Offering a tender smile, Lizzie carried their cups to the table, eyeing the clock before setting them down. “I hope soon, Molly, but I never know lately since he and Uncle Collin are so busy at work.”

“Can’t they hire more people?” Teddy asked, a pucker in his freckles. He took a drink of cocoa, oblivious when chocolate dribbled onto his pajamas. “Dad promised to help me make a new toy sailboat for the lake.” Solemn eyes stared back, a miniature of his father’s. “And I miss him.”

“Me too,” Molly said with a pout of pink lips. “He’s gonna make Teddy and me a bee-ootiful treehouse.”

Lizzie drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. How she wished the timing and Brady’s mood were better to broach their children’s expectations with her husband.

 Not to mention news of his estranged brother’s visit.

She thought of Michael, the man she’d almost married and the brother who’d betrayed her husband, and shivered at the prospect of telling Brady she’d invited him for a visit. Although Brady had forgiven Michael long ago, the two brothers seldom saw each other, a situation that bothered Lizzie a lot. So when Michael had called out of the blue, the invitation to visit had just popped out of her mouth, shocking Lizzie as much as it would Brady, no doubt. That is, when I finally get the nerve to tell him. Pushing the uncomfortable thoughts aside, Lizzie turned her attention to her son. “It’s a difficult time right now, Teddy, with the depression and all. Daddy and Uncle Collin have to work extra hard because they don’t have the money to hire anyone else.”

“What’s a duh-preshun?” Molly asked, scribbling with great drama.

“It’s when a lot of people are out of work, making our country very sad and grumpy.”

“You mean like Daddy,” Molly said in a matter-of-fact tone, slashing a bright streak of blue across the sun in her Crayola sky.

Lizzie’s heart clutched. Goodness, the children are aware of the change in their father? Gnawing her lip, she hurried to retrieve her own cocoa and sat down at the table. With a deep inhale, she gave Molly a gentle smile, hoping to convince herself as well as her daughter. “Daddy’s just tired from the long hours he works, Molly, but he’ll get better soon, I promise.”

The front door opened, and the baby in her tummy fluttered at the sound of Brady’s voice, causing her to jump. “Lizzie?”

“In the kitchen,” she called, rising to pull a covered plate from the oven.

“Daddy!” Molly shot out of her chair and straight into Brady’s legs. “I drew you a picture. It’s you, Mama, and us on a sunny day, and we’re going on a picnic.”

“We are?” He hiked her up in his arms with a kiss to her cheek. His eyes met Lizzie’s across the room, brown pools of calm that never failed to quicken her pulse. “That sounds like fun.” He glanced at his son, who was putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece for his father’s approval. “That’s impressive, Ted. You’re an architect in the making if ever there was.”

Teddy’s face lit in a broad grin as he hurried over to lean into his father’s embrace.

“Are you hungry?” Lizzie asked. “I kept a plate warm, just in case.”

Brady gave Molly another smooch and put her down. His chest expanded and contracted with a heavy sigh as he kissed Lizzie on the cheek before dropping into the chair and closing his eyes. Blunt fingers massaged the back of his neck where wisps of cinnamon-colored hair indicated a haircut long overdue. “No, Lizzie, thanks. Faith sent a passel of fried chicken that Collin and I devoured.” He pulled Molly onto his lap. “But I’d love a piece of apple pie.”

She stiffened at the sink, suddenly remembering the pie she promised to make. She turned, brows in a slope. “Oh, Brady, I’m so sorry. I meant to bake the pie, honestly, but Faith asked me to watch Abby today, and the girls kept me so busy, and then Teddy had homework …”

He looked up, fatigue evident in the sag of his shoulders and the droop of his eyes. “It’s okay, Lizzie,” he said with a look that somehow made her think it wasn’t at all. “I don’t really need it.” He patted a washboard stomach as firm and tight as the day they married. “We’ve been so busy, Collin and I haven’t had time for the gym, so I don’t need desserts to make me go soft.”

Her eyes trailed from his broad shoulders down muscled arms evident beneath the thin cotton of his rolled-sleeved shirt, and a smile tipped the corners of her mouth. “There’s nothing soft about you, John Brady, except your head if you think I won’t make that apple pie.”

“I can live without apple pie, Lizzie,” he whispered, his gaze meeting hers in a manner that made the kitchen suddenly too warm.

“Okay, munchkins!” Lizzie clapped her hands to quickly herd the children to the door. “It’s past your bedtime.”

Brady snatched Lizzie’s hand. “Teddy, you think you can help Molly brush her teeth and tell her a story? I need to talk to Mommy for a few minutes.”

Teddy grew at least an inch on the spot. “Sure, Dad.” He grabbed Molly’s hand. “Come on, Mol, I learned a great one at school.”

“But I want Mama to put me to bed,” Molly whined, squirming free from Teddy’s grasp.

Lizzie glanced up, her expression contrite. “It won’t take but a few minutes, John.”

“I’ll let you wear my baseball cap if you let me put you to bed,” Teddy bargained, eyeing his sister with a quiet confidence that so reminded Lizzie of his father.

Molly’s gaze shifted from Lizzie to her brother, lip protruding noticeably. “Okay,” she muttered, but not without a pleading look over her shoulder. “But Mama has to tuck me in.”

 “I promise,” Lizzie said, blowing a kiss. “Thanks, Teddy—you’re going to be a wonderful dad someday. Daddy and I will be in shortly for kisses and prayers, okay?”

Teddy led Molly from the room, and Brady lost no time in tugging Lizzie onto his lap, where she leaned against his chest as he told her about his day. His voice was as serene and mesmerizing as when Lizzie was a lovesick little girl of thirteen, and Brady was the new business partner of her brother-in-law Collin. Closing her eyes, she smelled the peppermint candy he kept at the shop for children, and the scent ushered back the feelings of awe and hero worship she’d always had for John Brady.

She startled when he buried his head in her neck, his warm sigh tickling her skin. The scent of soap and ink and peppermint filled her senses. “I need you, Lizzie,” he said quietly.

She pulled away, heart racing at the gravity of his tone. “Why, John? What’s wrong?”

He shook his head, a faint smile shadowing his lips as he studied her. “Nothing,” he assured, the dark bristle on his jaw giving him an almost reckless air. So unusual for her rock-steady husband, an unshakable man of God if ever there was. His broad chest rose and fell as he fondled a lock of her hair. “Do you have any idea how long it’s been since we’ve been alone?”

She squinted, trying to understand his question. “But, we’re alone every night, John.”

He traced her chin with the pad of his thumb, his eyes locked on hers with an intensity that made her mouth go dry. “No, Lizzie, I mean really alone, when I can talk to you without interruption and when we’re not too exhausted to connect like we used to. Where I can hold you and share what’s in my heart, pray with you, and make love to you without anything else stealing your attention away.”

Blood heated her cheeks and she swallowed hard. “What do you mean?” she whispered.

His quiet smile heated the rest of her body in a manner she hadn’t felt in a long, long while. Feathering her jaw, his fingers trailed her throat. “Twenty-nine years old, ten years of marriage, three children and one on the way, and you’re still the most innocent woman I’ve ever met.” He leaned in to nuzzle her ear. “I mean,” he emphasized, tone sober, “I need you, Lizzie—your laughter, your encouragement, your gentleness, your love—and not just in my bed. I need you in my heart and my mind, to feel your love like before, when it was just you and me.”

Her eyes drifted closed. Oh, Brady … we’re parents now. It could never be the same as before—didn’t he understand that? She was a mother, with responsibilities to her children …

As if sensing her hesitation, he cupped her face, eyes searching hers with a vulnerability she’d never seen in John Brady before. “Come to bed with me, Lizzie,” he whispered. “I need to be close to you, hold you, talk to you, pray about where I’ve been in my mind lately.”

She stroked his cheek, heart expanding. “Oh, John, there’s nothing I’d rather do.”

With a low groan, he drew her close, his mouth capturing hers with a passion that took her breath away. “So help me, Elizabeth, I grow more desperately in love with you every day.”

“M-Mama?”

Brady’s hold stiffened as Lizzie looked up. Molly stood at the door in her nightgown, feet bare and tears swimming in her eyes. Her little chest heaved as she clutched a ragdoll to her chest. “T-teddy t-told me about Hansel and Gretel, and I’m s-scared a witch is under my bed.”

As always, Lizzie’s heart wrenched at the sight of her children’s tears, and without a second thought, she leapt from Brady’s lap and hurried to sweep Molly up in her arms. Planting a kiss on her nose, she squeezed her tightly. “How ’bout I leave your little lamp on tonight and then we’ll check under your bed together, and the closet too, before I tuck you back in?”

Another pitiful heave shivered Molly’s body as she laid her head on Lizzie’s shoulder. “Can you s-sleep w-with me for a w-while too … please?”

“Molly, no—” Brady began, but Lizzie cut him off with a plea in her tone.

“John, she’s so frightened, she’s trembling. Please—you go get ready for bed and I’ll lay with her for a while, okay? And then I’ll be right in, I promise.”

His gaze locked with hers, and she recognized a glint of the sullen mood plaguing him of late. Lumbering to his feet, he released a weary sigh, fatigue and wariness apparent in a body usually so strong and sure. “All right,” he said quietly, moving toward the door. He kissed Molly’s head, then Lizzie’s cheek with a look that held a hint of warning. “Don’t be long.”

“I won’t.” Her repentant smile begged him to understand while she kneaded his arm with gentle fingers. “I love you,” she whispered.

“I know,” he said dully as he let her pass, but somehow the look on his face said that maybe he didn’t at all.

 

4:21AM

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

Check out my latest Facebook Live

BELOW, recorded Friday, 8/18/17!

 

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts

unto your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven

give good things to them that ask him?

— Matthew 7:11

I believe this, I do. And I've seen it first-hand, the good gifts God has given me.

—A marriage with a man I adore.

—A family I'm crazy about.

—A career that blesses me to no end.

—A circle of friends (including you!) who bring joy to my life.

But I will admit there are times for all of us when we ask God for something that doesn't come to pass.

Like my cataract surgery that did not go well. Oh I prayed about it plenty, trust me, as did my prayer partners and family, but for whatever reason, the 20/20 eyesight I had hoped for didn't happen. Instead, I could barely read the first line of the eye chart.

So I prayed for healing, as did so many family and friends on my behalf, but that didn't happen either. It took six months for me to even find a contact that would correct my eyesight.

But I finally did. And now my vision is almost better than 20/20.

Just this morning on the treadmill while bellowing to worship music (it can hardly be called "singing" according to my daughter and husband!), it suddenly came to me. God doesn't always give us the things we ask for, but He always fixes it in the end. Kind of a roundabout answer to prayer, if you will, but an answer to prayer nonetheless. And one that makes me sooooooo incredibly grateful that I now can see so well after being deprived for so long. A true heart of gratitude that might not have been as deep as the gratitude I now have had He healed me outright. And one thing I've definitely learned, gratitude helps me to experience far more joy in my life than any 20/20 vision.

Coincidentally enough, this is a lesson that Charity O'Connor Dennehy learns all too well in my upcoming O'Connor Christmas novella, A Whisper of Hope, due out in e-book September 1st, along with Lizzie & Brady's Christmas novella, The Best Gift of All, a Blake "The Rake" McClare novella, Grace Like Rain, and finally, my Frontier Christmas novella, The Gift of Grace.

So, I thought it might be fun to give you a sneak peek of each of these novellas in the next two weeks before they release. I already gave you the first chapter to Blake's love story, Grace Like Rain at the end of this blog HERE, so today I'm going to give you one of my favorite (and most romantic) scenes from A Whisper of Hope that I hope will catapult you right back into the O'Connor family like it did for me.

This is a scene where Mitch suspects Charity has been pining over babies at the St. Mary's Home for Unwed Mothers, something he asked her not to do. After ten years of trying for more children, he suspects God figured their wild twin Henry was more than enough to handle. And at sixteen years older than Charity, Mitch figured he was well beyond age for raising anymore infants. So he tries to cut Charity off at the pass whenever she brings up babies, including coercing it out of her when she has been sneaking visits to St. Mary's. This scene was actually part of a subplot in the last O'Connor nove, A Love Surrendered, but it was cut because the book was too long. Imagine that! ;) You'll find the excerpt at the bottom of this blog, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

Here's my latest Facebook Live

(RECORDED FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, 2017, AT NOON CDT)

Gosh, I had SO much fun with my very first Facebook Live last week, that I did it again, so check it out below to see the winner of my Facebook Live video contest from last week for a $25 Amazon gift card and a character named after them in my next book! Leave a comment with a question for my next FB Live Q&A, and if I answer it live, YOU will win a book! Here's the link to today's Facebook Live Video, and it's a lot shorter than my last one, I promise!

 

Last-Minute Blog Giveaway!

Leave a comment for me on Splickety's Lightning Blog, and you'll be entered to win your choice of any of my indie e-books, including my latest release, His Steadfast Love PLUS a signed copy of the Splickety Magazine issue that has my alternate ending to Gone With the Wind!

Have a great weekend, and hope to see you both at the Splickety blog and for my FB Live at noon on Friday!

HUGS AND MORE HUGS!!

Julie

 

 

Grace Like Rain:

A Heart Of San Franciso Novella

Yes, it's true -- Blake "The Rake" McClare has found love in his own novella, so you won't want to miss this one because it's one of my faves. So much so, that I am including the first chapter down below, so do check it out. Here's the blurb:

He’s everybody’s lovable rogue.
She’s nobody’s fool
who hopes to steer clear.
Until a thunderstorm sinks them both
into a sea of love.

Blake “The Rake” McClare has a notorious reputation as a womanizer, which is why soft-spoken Patience Peabody carefully avoids the lovable rogue attorney at the law firm in which they both work.

Until a rare thunderstorm brings them together in a love soaked with the grace of God and a whole lot of lightning!

 PREORDER GRACE LIKE RAIN HERE!

 

A Whisper of Hope:

An O'Connor Christmas Novella

Ahhhh ... Charity & Mitch ... two of my very faves, and now they have their very own Christmas novella that you will not want to miss.

I know that Mitch doesn't look a lot like his orginal cover picture on A Passion Redeemed, but it's incredibly difficult to find a historical-looking couple that actually resembles a prior cover, so I did the best I could, even though I realize the couple looks more modern than historical. But I do think the pose replicates the love Mitch has for Charity very nicely, especially after you read the story! ;)  Here's the blurb:

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
And 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 … will it be enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?

 PREORDER A WHISPER OF HOPE HERE!

 

The Best Gift of All:

An O'Connor Christmas Novella

This is Lizzie and Brady's story because it was a subplot that was cut from A Love Surrendered, the final O'Connor book. Since it was already basically written, I used it instead of writing a Christmas novella for Faith & Collin and Katie & Luke. But rest assured that each year I plan to release another O'Connor Christmas novella until I have covered everyone in the family, including Marcy & Patrick! 

I have to say that this particular novella contains a very important life lesson I learned, so not only is it a good read, I hope, but it contains a powerful lesson as well. Here's the blurb:

 

  She longs to be the perfect mother.
He just longs for his wife.
Until they receive ... the best gift of all.

Everyone knows Lizzie and John Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?

 PREORDER THE BEST GIFT OF ALL HERE!

 

The Gift of Grace:

A Frontier Christmas Novella

Although The Gift of Grace is basically a Christmas story, I didn't want the cover to be limited to only Christmas. And actually, since Grace almost burns down the hero's house on a number of occasions, I thought the flame-orange sky was somewhat fitting! ;) Here's the blurb:

She’s the Accident
to His Prayers …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny. She’s caught fire to the kitchen, dyed his long johns pink, and scorched nearly everything she cooks. But he’s desperate, and she’s a destitute ex-saloon girl.

Even though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s home, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died. But when Grace’s past threatens Cole’s family, she’s given one last chance to be home for Christmas . . . if she hasn’t burned it down yet.

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An Excerpt From A Whisper of Hope

An O'Connor Christmas Novella

“Mama, why do you have this?”

Mitch Dennehy glanced up from the newspaper in his lap, blood freezing in his brain when his ten-year-old daughter waggled a pacifier she’d just found in her mother’s purse. His gaze flicked from Hope’s innocent face to his wife’s guilty one, and he knew in one fractured heartbeat he had trouble on his hands.

“Oh,” Charity said, tone breathless as she snatched the offensive object from Hope’s hands. His fears were confirmed when she avoided his gaze with a telling blush. “Emma must have dropped Daniel’s binky in my purse by accident,” she explained, stowing it away so fast, Mitch might have imagined it if he didn’t know better.

But, God help him—he did.

One did not live with Charity O’Connor Dennehy for over a decade without learning to stay one step ahead out of sheer self-preservation. Mitch snapped the paper back up, the smile on his lips as stiff as his jaw. No, he learned early on that when one was possessed by such a woman, survival of the fittest became a way of life. It was essential to know every inflection in her voice, every nuance in her beautiful face, every action concocted by that diabolical mind. A mind that drove him crazy—both with frustration and desire. His father-in-law Patrick O’Connor had once told him that Charity needed a firm hand coupled with a firm heart, and from the moment Mitch made her his wife, he purposed to do just that. Because no other woman had ever bewitched him like his wife, and he knew a tight rein was critical in maintaining peace and control in a marriage with a woman like her.

A tender-hearted temptress whose brain never shut down.

Bong. Bong. Bong. His heart thudded as loudly as the boom of the clock, echoing in their parlour like the thrill of adventure echoed in his mind over uncovering the secret she was obviously trying to hide. Yes, she was a handful and challenging and infused his life with more drama than any woman he’d ever known, but life with Charity was never boring, never dry, and an adventure to be relished. She was the most passionate woman he’d ever met, loving her family, her friends—him—with an intensity that took his breath away. She took his breath away—a blonde-haired beauty with a generous heart and a body to match, and Mitch never, ever took that for granted. His mouth twisted.

Or let his guard down.

“Hope, Henry, it’s time for bed,” Charity said, her tone decidedly edgier than usual. Glancing over his paper, Mitch kept his grin under wraps while he studied his wife, whose sky-blue eyes avoided his as if her secret were hidden inside.

His daughter Hope looked up, gentle blue eyes the exact shade of her mother’s. “Okay, Mama.” With a sweet, little yawn, she carefully arranged her doll’s blanket over their golden retriever, Runt, then hopped to her feet.

Unfortunately, not his son. “But I just started,” Henry pleaded, blue eyes as fierce as his twin sister’s were docile. “Can’t I have a little more time—please?

Charity laid her knitting needles aside. “Sorry, young man. You’re on borrowed time as it is after the stunt you pulled today. You best pack everything up or I’ll do it for you, and then you may never see them again.”

Henry’s gaze narrowed. “Why can’t you be like Stu Landon’s mom? She’s never mean.”

Mitch lowered his newspaper, his son’s face matching his to a scowl. “Henry, do as your mother says and no backtalk.” The edges of his mouth twitched. “And she is not mean … except to me.” He winked at his wife. “But then, I can handle it.”

Henry groused as he picked up his toys while Hope bent to give Mitch a kiss. “Good night, Daddy.” She pressed the lips of her doll to his mouth. “We love you.”

“Love you, too, princess.”

“G’night, Pop.” Henry’s tone was belligerent as he offered a half-hearted hug. In a sneak attack, Mitch reeled him in with a tickle of his hands, and Henry squirmed in laughter, his grumpy mood obviously waylaid. With lightening speed, Mitch followed with a quick, noisy kiss. “G’night, Henry,” he said in an equally belligerent voice, an exaggerated echo of his son’s.

Henry grinned and made his way up the stairs as Charity stashed knitting needles and yarn in her sewing box. She bent to give Mitch a quick kiss while her lips zagged into a droll smile. “Mean, huh? Well, you won’t have to worry about ‘handling’ it tonight, because I’m exhausted. I plan to tuck Hope and Henry in bed and head there myself.” With a ruffle of fingers through his curls that now sported far more silver than blonde, she turned to go, patting her thigh for Runt to follow.

Mitch grabbed her hand, concern etched in his face. “You okay? You seem distracted.” His brows dipped low. “You don’t have one of your headaches, do you?”

She shook her head with a telltale swipe of her tongue that gave her dead away. Clearly nervous, there was a time when she would have lied through her teeth, but thanks to her faith in God, her days of lying had ended at the altar—both when she’d given her heart to God and her wedding pledge to him. He watched as she chewed on her lip while he slowly grazed his thumb against the soft flesh of her palm, fully aware his touch tempted her as much as hers did him. Easing her hand free, she tried to distance herself, a blatant confirmation something was amiss when a needy woman such as Charity turned her husband away. “No, just tired,” she said, avoiding his eyes, “but you stay and read, please. I’ll probably nod right off.”

Putting the paper aside, he started to rise. “Nope, I’m coming up.” His palm slid down the side of her arm, fingers lingering and eyes, tender. “I can read upstairs.”

She faltered back, hand to her chest, and he quickly steadied her. “Charity, are you okay? You look flushed. Do you need me to carry you up?”

“No!” A blush gorged her cheeks. “I mean, no, of course not, Mitch. I’m fine, really, other than tired.” She warded him off with a hand to his chest, obviously hoping to get him to stay. “Besides, Hope wants to snuggle, so why don’t you just read a while, undisturbed. You don’t get to do that very often.”

He stroked a gentle hand along the curve of her jaw, a hint of worry in his tone that she might really be ill. “All right, take care of Hope, and I’ll be up soon, okay?” He leaned to tempt her with a languid kiss that heated his blood.

“Could be a while,” she whispered, swallowing hard, “so please take your time.”

He smiled and dropped back on the sofa with a soft whoosh, looking forward to coaxing the truth out of her in bed. “Don’t you dare fall asleep on me,” he warned, giving her a look that conveyed his intentions loud and clear.

She gave him a shaky smile and bolted from the room with Runt on her heels, obviously frantic to get upstairs and fall fast asleep. A faint smile shadowed his lips as he sank into the couch. But tonight is not the night, little girl. Between working late, bouts of the flu, and sheer exhaustion, they hadn’t made love in weeks, and Mitch was not a man to be deterred. The edge of his lip crooked. Nor was Charity a woman who could go without his affections for long.

He actually finished the entire paper, but it was a sad attempt at best. The print only blurred in his mind, thoughts of Charity invading without mercy. Gaze glued to a newspaper he didn’t really see, Mitch released a heavy sigh. No, something was definitely up, and he had a sinking suspicion it had to do with more babies.

It always did.

Somehow his wife had always envisioned a houseful of children, but it wasn’t to be, evidently, at least not with children of their own, a fact Charity had finally accepted—or so he thought. Until both Charity’s parents and Sean and Emma had to go and stir the pot by adopting last year. Suddenly Mitch was battling the threat of adoption at every turn, stomach clenching whenever he’d spotted that glint of longing in Charity’s eye. A dilemma that usually occurred after she’d visited the home for unwed mothers with Emma, where she and Sean had adopted Daniel last Christmas.

Tossing his paper aside, he lumbered to his feet, determined to squelch Charity’s plan for more babies once and for all. For pity’s sake, he was sixteen years older than his wife, which meant he might not even be around to provide for another baby, much less his eleven-year-old twins. Jaw grinding, he kneaded the left side of his chest, where he’d recently experienced pain whenever he worked out at the gym. Hope and Henry were only eleven—barely two years older than he’d been when his own father died—and although Charity was a wonderful mother, children needed a father. His mouth sloped off-center as he turned out the lights. Especially a son like Henry.

Locking the front door, Mitch thought of all the years Charity and he had been trying for more children to no avail, and now he was glad. The thought of another baby scared the living daylights out of him. He’d just be that much older, that much closer to dying and leaving them without a father like his father had done to him. For the love of family, if something were to happen to him now, Henry and Hope would already be well on their way, but a new baby? A familiar pain suddenly flared in his chest as a chill iced his spine. No! Glancing at his watch, he made a beeline for the stairs, scaling them as briskly as a man half his age. And confound it, he could keep up with the younger pups if it weren’t for this infernal cramp in his chest.

By now Charity should have both kids tucked into their beds, stories read, and prayers said before cuddling with Hope, one of the most precious times of her day. Avoiding the squeak of the middle step, Mitch quietly ascended, hoping he’d timed it just right. A smile skimmed his lips when he spied her hovering outside Hope’s door, easing it shut in her robe before she gingerly tiptoed toward their room at the end of the hall.

“Ah, perfect timing,” he said, grinning when she jerked around, hand to her chest as if she’d just sprinted a mile.

“Oh, sweet heavens, Mitch, you scared me half to death …”

Chuckling, he pulled her into his arms, butting her to the wall with a heated look in his eyes. “Sorry, little girl, but I can always revive you with mouth to mouth if need be—just give me the word.” He bent to nestle his lips to her neck with a low, aching moan. “Blue blazes, Charity, do you have any idea how long it’s been since I really held you in my arms?” She caught her breath when his mouth took hers with a vengeance, and sweeping her up, he strode down the hall into their bedroom, kicking the door closed behind him.

“Mitch, what are you doing?” Her voice was a raspy squeal beneath his wandering lips.

“Putting you to bed,” he whispered, tone husky while he untied the sash to her robe. Side-stepping Runt, he carefully laid her down and buried his lips in the crook of her neck, the scent of lilac water warming his blood. “I swear, Mrs. Dennehy, I love you more with every breath I take …”

“Wait!” Breathless, she halted him with two hands to his chest. “Did you remember to secure the latch? What if Hope or Henry were to come in?”

A growl rumbled from his throat as he jumped up and strode to the door. He locked it and turned, searing her with intent as he jerked off his tie, almost ripping it in two. His eyes all but devoured her as he moved toward the bed, fingers fumbling with the buttons of his shirt—

“Mitch—I didn’t lock the back door! Did you lock the back door?”

He froze, white oxford shirt half off, revealing corded arms still sore from the gym. His facial muscles all but cramped with pain. “For the love of mercy, Charity, I’ll lock it later.”

She sat up, sheet tugged high. “No, Mitch, please! I would worry, I just know it, and wouldn’t be able to relax. Please check the doors and hurry back.” She rubbed her jaw with a sheepish smile. “And do you mind shaving? Your beard feels like sandpaper.”

He groaned and unlocked the door.

She sat up higher. “Oh, and Hope wants you to kiss her good-night.”

He turned, lips as tight as his hand on the knob. “I did—downstairs.”

“I know, but she wants another.” She shrugged, her smile repentant before she stifled a yawn. “And I’m so tired, I think I may have forgotten Runt’s water—can you double-check?”

With an unhappy grunt, he heaved the door wide, brandishing a finger. “Don’t you dare fall asleep, do you hear?” He stormed out, feet bare and shirt flapping.

He checked doors and water bowl in record time, then ducked in to give both Henry and Hope a final kiss before reentering his bedroom. He paused, hand on the lock of the door. “Charity? Are you asleep?”

She stifled a groan. Oh, that I were! “Mmmm-no,” she muttered in a groggy voice, desperate to succumb to the safety of sleep rather than the affections of her husband. She uttered a silent prayer that her mind would doze, body sluggish and consciousness slipping away, hopefully to secure Emma’s secret for yet another day. He disappeared into their bathroom and left the door ajar, a sliver of light slicing across their bed like a blade of guilt. Exhaling, she willed herself to sleep, her mind fading to the sounds of running water.

The water stopped and Charity stiffened. She lay completely still, certain he’d hear the pounding of her pulse. Forcing her body to relax, she curled on her side, breathing even to mimic the rhythm of sleep. The bed shifted as Mitch crawled in and wrapped thick arms around the whole of her waist. He lifted her hair and kissed the back of her neck. “Charity,” he whispered, “are you awake?”

“Mmm …” She scrunched up, feigning sleep while Bay Rum tormented her senses.

“Oh!” Midway in a fake snore, the bedsprings squeaked when he flipped her on her back.

He hovered with a dangerous smile. “You want something awfully bad to pretend you’re sleep when I know you want me as much as I want you.”

She gulped, quickly covering with a yawn. “Actually, I’m just so tired, Mitch, I can hardly keep my eyes open.” She stroked his clean-shaven jaw “I’m sorry you went to the trouble of shaving, darling, but you do understand, don’t you?”

“Absolutely,” he whispered, taking his time at the hollow of her throat, kissing the soft dip in her neck where her blood throbbed beneath his mouth. Raspy air shuddered from her lips when he finally lifted his head, his lidded gaze heating her even more. “I understand that the pulse at the base of your neck is racing faster than mine, Charity, and that in almost twelve years of marriage, you have never turned me away unless you had an ulterior motive. He bent to slowly sway his mouth against hers, coercing with a gentle tug of her lip in a manner calculated to drive her insane. “So I suggest you just spit it out, little girl,” he said, his breath blowing warm in her ear, “because I will coax it out of you one way or another.”

“No, I really am tired, Mitch, I prom—”

He silenced her with his mouth when he kissed her so deeply, she could hardly contain the moan that ached in her throat. “Where’d you go today?” he whispered, nuzzling her neck till she thought she would faint.

“M-mother’s,” she said in a rush. “She’s been after Emma to bring Daniel to play.”

“Where else?” His lips meandered the length of her jaw.

“S-shopping with Emma,” she rasped, nearly melting when he suckled her ear.

“That’s it? Nowhere else?”

She jerked him close with a groan, kissing him hard in an effort to derail his thoughts.

He took over with a kiss that devoured her before he glanced up with a heated gaze that all but pinned her to the pillow. “Charity?”

She battled a telltale gulp, unwilling to lie. “Uh … lunch, we had lunch at a darling new café Sean told Emma about …” Latching his neck, she jerked him back down to give him a bit of his own.

Mitch groaned and finished it off with a kiss that tingled all the way to her toes. “Before or after St. Mary’s?” he rasped, voice huskier than usual when she strayed to nibble his throat.

Her lips adhered to his skin as if pasted with glue. No! How could he possibly know? Lids shuttering closed, she emitted a sound dangerously close to a squeak. “W-what?”

As soft as a baby’s kiss, he grazed each of her eyes with his mouth, gently stroking her temples with the pads of his thumbs. “You’ve been holding babies,” he said softly, the tenderness of his touch belying the sobriety of his tone, “at St. Mary’s, most likely, and I want to know why.”

A soft gasp popped from her mouth, which now gaped wider than her eyes. “Oh my goodness, why w-would you s-say that?” she stuttered, fear of divulging Emma’s secret racing her pulse.

Leaning in, he feathered her throat with soft, little kisses, nose buried in the curve of her neck. “Because I know your scent, Charity—and tonight it hints at baby powder.”

A silent groan lodged in her throat. She fought off a gulp that would only confirm he was right. “For heaven’s sake, Mitch,” she whispered in a near croak, “I hold Daniel every chance I get, so of course I smell like baby powder.”

He sniffed and lifted his head. “And soy. The last time I noticed that formula scent was last year after you and Emma visited St. Mary’s.”

She swallowed hard, no stopping the gulp now. Not when Emma fed Daniel whole milk.

He gently smoothed the hair from her face. “So, out with it, little girl,” he said, gaze probing hers, “why are you and Emma visiting St. Mary’s again?”

“Because we like to hold the babies,” she hissed, yanking him back with a greedy arm to his neck.

He pulled away, fingers tunneling into her hair to caress and contain her. “Not the right answer. Why, Charity?” he repeated, his jaw suddenly as tight as his hold.

Her eyelids sank like her spirits. “I can’t say, Mitch, I promised.”

“You better say,” he threatened, his mouth coercing with a nip of her ear before he turned his attention to the crook of her neck, “or neither of us will get any sleep tonight.”

She stared, chest heaving and eyes glazed, well aware he had her just where he wanted … and now, regrettably, just where she wanted to be. Oh, Emma, I tried … “Because,” she said with a shuddering sigh, “Sean and Emma are adopting again, and they don’t want anyone to know until it’s for sure. So please, Mitch, you can’t say a word—not a hint to Father at work or any of the brothers-in-law.”

He nuzzled her mouth, tender and slow, before cupping her head with his hands. “I won’t say anything, little girl,” he whispered. “I think it’s wonderful.”

“You do?” Her voice nearly cracked.

“Of course.” He pressed a soft kiss to her nose. “Adoption is always a good thing, giving kids a home and family who otherwise have none.”

“Really?” Her voice carried way too much hope and she knew it.

He kneaded the nape of her neck with magical fingers, reading her mind like the front page of the Herald. “For Sean and Emma, Charity,” he emphasized gently, “so get it out of your head.”

The muscles constricted in her throat. “But, Mitch—”

“I’m too old to adopt, little girl, and we already have two wonderful children.”

“But I’m talking foster care, Mitch, not adoption,” she reasoned, desperate to cloak her deep-seated desire in noble intent. “The most worthy of causes—rescuing abandoned orphans by giving them the love and benefit of a normal home until they’re placed in one of their own.”

He tucked a finger to her chin. “Same thing, at least to you O’Connor women, and you won’t convince me otherwise, so case closed.” With a kiss to her nose, he studied her with affection, finger-combing the hair splayed across her pillow. “Besides,” he said, mouth in a slant, “our home is anything but ‘normal.’”

She shot up, shoving his hand away. “You mean you won’t even consider it? Pray about it?” Her eyes narrowed. “And what do you mean ‘anything but normal’?”

He huffed out a sigh, dropping back on his pillow as he scoured his face with a hand. “Face it, little girl—your mind never shuts down. You’re always thinking, planning, plotting ways to improve what you think needs to improve. Whether it’s matchmaking for your brothers, pushing me to let you work at the store, or something as simple as tricking Henry into eating his vegetables—you never rest.” He propped a muscled arm to the back of his neck, bicep bulging while he assessed her through blue eyes brimming with tease. “The truth is living with you is like a sprint through a field of wildflowers, Charity, embedded with mines—I never know when one of your well-meaning ploys is going to blow up in my face.”

“So, what’s wrong with vegetables?” she countered, unable to hide the thread of hurt in her tone. “They’re essential for a strong body.”

“Yes, they are,” he said quietly, tugging her into the crook of his hold. He cradled her body close as his palms gently skimmed the length of her arm. “As are direct communication and honesty in a marriage, which is what I thought we agreed to.”

She expelled a frustrated breath that ruffled the hairs on his chest. “We also agreed to compromise, Mitch Dennehy, but you’ll probably ban me from St. Mary’s forever just for spite because you wouldn’t know compromise if it bit you in the backside.” She couldn’t help the pout in her voice.

His chuckle blew warm against her hair. “Sure I would, sweetheart—I’ve been bitten in the backside many a time by one of your harebrained schemes, and we both know it.” He kissed the top of her head. “But to prove I’m not adverse to compromise, I have no problem with you holding babies at St. Mary’s whenever you want …” He rolled to his side and drew her close, his tone tender but firm. “As long as they stay there,” he stressed with a sober gaze. Before she could reply, he brushed his lips to hers, as soft as a whisper and as gentle as the trace of a plea in his tone. “I love you, Charity, with every fiber of my being, but I need you to promise you’ll give up any notion of babies unless God chooses to give us more of our own.”

She had no control over the moisture that sprang to her eyes. “But we’ve tried forever, Mitch, and there’s still no babies to love …” Her voice wobbled into a heave that brought a soft smile to his lips.

He held her close, the warmth of his hand massaging her back. “I know, sweetheart, but God obviously thought Henry was all we could handle.” With a lingering kiss to her brow, he tucked a finger to her chin, a hint of a twinkle in his gaze. “Besides, look at all the fun we had trying.” His humor faded as he studied her, no mistaking the depth of love in his eyes. “I need your word, Charity,” he said quietly, tenderly stroking the length of her jaw, “that from now on you will take your fill of holding and loving babies at St. Mary’s, and never mention adopting one again.”

In the skim of his finger, Gabe’s image entered her mind, and all air hitched in her chest. She blinked, her obsession for a baby suddenly peeling away to reveal what God might have intended all along—the rescue of a lost older child who had no parents of her own. Someone abused and forsaken like her adopted sister Gabe, in dire need of a family to love. Her eyes drifted closed.

And be loved.

“Charity—do I have your promise?” He underscored each word with the gentlest of kisses to both her eyelids and cheeks. “No … more … talk… of … babies, unless it’s about making our own?”

Her eyelids lifted, spilling tears that caught in the sad curve of her smile. “All right, Mitch,” she whispered, her melancholy over babies melting away in the face of adopting an older child in need. “I promise—no more talk of babies.”

“That’s my girl.” His sigh of relief was warm against her skin while he fondled her mouth with his own, drawing her close to cocoon her in his arms.

No more talk of babies, no … Her eyes drifted closed as she reveled in the touch of her husband. Warmth purled through her like heated honey when he took his time to slowly nuzzle her neck. But babies who have grown up? She moaned when his mouth strayed to the hollow of her throat, coaxing a sweet smile of surrender.

Oh, you bet ...