Heather Gray

Flawed...but loved anyway.

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Wordy Wednesday

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday!  Share an excerpt fewer than 500 words from your family friendly book in the comments below.  Be sure to include the title and one buy link.  Then go spread the word about this post so even more people will find it.

Happy reading (and writing)!!


An Informal ChristmasClick to Buy

Rylie ran for the elevator. A man in a faded denim jacket stood inside with the back curve of his left shoulder facing her. He didn’t acknowledge her high-speed sprint in his direction. Nor did he stop the two brushed steel panels from sliding closed between them.

She thought of pushing the button and forcing the doors to reopen. Honestly, though, did she want to get stuck in a metal box with a man who didn’t care about basic courtesy toward his fellow mankind? Not likely. Rylie huffed out an exasperated breath as she started up the stairs. Three flights up. It could be worse.

With a shove to the door, she exited the stairwell and stood on a narrow landing with skylights above and a view of the hospital’s lobby below. Ten steps to the left, and she broke through to the hallway-of-no-return. Nobody came up to this floor unless they worked in one of the three departments exiled here. The first door belonged to the chaplaincy. The second led to the main office for the hospital social workers. The third door, decorated with construction paper butterflies and cotton ball caterpillars, was home sweet home — Child Life.

“I can’t believe how rude people have become!” Rylie vented about the man in the elevator as she stepped past the colorful decorations and into her domain. Suzie, the part-time department head who kept their ship running tighter than junior size spandex on a burly linebacker, wasn’t at her desk. Their offices were anything but spacious, though, so she was likely still within hearing distance. After all, what was a good venting without someone to listen?

“I was running for the elevator, but the guy inside didn’t even wait for me. He let the doors slide closed. Because obviously it wasn’t big enough for two of us.” She left out the part about his back being to her. Absolving him of guilt wasn’t high on her priority list at the moment.

Suzie emerged from The Vault, a nether region of their office used for storage. She dusted her hands off and frowned at Rylie. “We have company.” She waved at the man following behind her. “This is Mr. York. He brought several boxes of stuffed animals for our kids.”

No way. Not… Lots of guys wore denim jackets, right? It couldn’t be the same…

“Sorry about the elevator. I got wedged into position by my dolly. I thought I heard someone calling, but by the time I turned myself around, the doors were closed and I was on my way up here.” His voice reminded her of a lemon tart, decadent smoothness with a sharp aftertaste. For some reason, she found herself tempted to savor the sound rather than pucker. Too bad her mind was already made up about him. He might have proven interesting.


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Have a boss you'd happily kill? Somebody beat her to it.
Death of an Idiot Boss: An amateur sleuth mystery with attitude.
Available on Amazon.

There are some days I’d love to bottle up and save: the day I graduated summa cum laude, the days I married and divorced my ex, and if everything worked out, today.

My orange juice was perfect: fresh squeezed with a twist of lime. A bouquet of yellow roses lay on the seat beside me. Despite asking him not to, my boyfriend Terrence had thought of everything down to the new red silk power suit I sported.

“Ante victoriam ne canan triumphum: don’t sing triumphs before the victory,” I’d said.

Terrence didn’t share my fondness for Latin. “Victory is yours,” he’d countered, and so he’d sent all this stuff plus a limo to ferry me to work.

“All set, Ms. MacBride?” the driver asked.

“Carry on, Jeeves.” His name tag said Jerome. That’s no name for a limo driver. Course, some folks might say Kadence was no name for a thirty-something African-American woman.

Stretch limos didn’t grace my neighborhood that often. More than a few curtains rustled as we passed. There’d be more than curtains rustling if I showed up to work in this thing.

“So, Jeeves, I need you to let me out about two blocks from my building. I’ll walk the rest of the way.”

Jeeves shook his head. “I’m to deliver you to the front door. Mr. Wright’s instructions were very specific.”

“Mr. Wright will never know. You do want me to give him a good report, don’t you?” I leaned back and sipped my juice. Luther Vandross crooned, “So Amazing,” over speakers that made it sound like he was in the limo with me. No matter what happened today, next Saturday morning I'd be on the first Caribbean-bound flight to meet Terrence. No phone. No television. The brush of tropical breezes. The sound of the ocean. The smell of—what was that smell? I knocked on the partition.

Jeeves slid it open. “Don’t panic.”

My decision to panic or not rested solely on his answer to my next question. “What’s burning?”

“The engine.”

He got within shouting distance of the curb before the limo died. Now seemed the perfect time to panic. Thornwood’s warehouse district, with its umpteen blocks of abandoned buildings wasn’t a limo part of town.

“I’ve called for another car,” he said.

“Did you order an armed guard too?”

“I’ve locked the doors.”

Which wouldn’t do squat against anybody who wanted to unlock them. Puffs of smoke whiffed from the vents. The puffs morphed into clouds and spewed into the cabin.

Jeeves popped the locks. “Let me get your door.”

I got my own door and sprinted onto the pock-marked sidewalk. Beat Jeeves, and he didn’t have to navigate a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice with a twist of lime. I could have done a better job on that last point. Said juice dripped off my suit. I flicked a lime slice from my skirt. I had spare outfits at work. I didn’t have spare time.

Free with Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime.

Sometimes your guardian angel rides a motorcycle. ~ Covered, a new adult romance

I desperately needed to rest, but stopping even a short time was dangerous. An approaching car didn’t give me a choice. I leaned against a utility pole at the corner, my entire body hurting, and stared at the collection of motorcycles parked outside a bar a little farther down the street. Men wearing black leather vests stood around talking to each other and the few women scattered throughout the group. None of them looked familiar, but I had to hope the patches on their vests did. I needed to find the Hawthorne Guardians. I couldn’t trust anyone else, not even my own mother. She’d become part of the problem.

Tears blurred my vision, but I blinked them away as I forced myself to walk toward the bikers. Crying was a luxury I couldn’t afford at the moment. One man turned his back toward me, and I spotted the familiar stylized HG with a sword in the middle I was searching for. Maybe he could tell me where to find Bear.

Before I reached him, he hopped on a motorcycle and rode away with two others. My heart sank, but I couldn’t give up. I had to find someone who could put me in contact with Bear. I continued on to the bar and hoped for the presence of more Hawthorne Guardians.

I staggered into the dimly lit bar and paused long enough to steady myself. Staying upright was a challenge when it felt as if a spear lanced my skull. Too many people packed the place, and not enough wore the familiar patch. In fact, I couldn’t spot a single Guardian in the crowd. My anxiety shot through the roof, but I shoved it aside. I could deal with it later, after I was safe. If I was ever safe again.

Micah shadowed right on my heels. Large cobwebs dangled between the emerald wood and the thick ropes binding it in its shallow grave. Bubbling coils of lightning began racing through my ribs and down into my fingers. Why was this boat sitting here, neglected? Why hadn’t the owner used it in so long? A ball of spinning, tangled emotions rose in my chest. I swallowed, hoping for it to fall, but here we were, this great love and I. It sounds weird, I know, but the boat offered opportunity. Docked there since the day I had been taken to Oak Point, the mysterious owner never came back or claimed it after it had gotten lost in a storm.
Beauty radiated from her hull, even though slime and moss covered the strong wood and coated the faded white lettering spelling out her name. Esmerelda. Gusting winds whistled, water splashed, lapping her sides, doves cooed in nearby trees, and the last glittery remnants of daylight danced across the water, arousing my shrouded fantasies. No longer memento or nightmare, no longer a picture in my wallet, Esmerelda existed as wood and steel, canvas and rope, water and fire. She offered lifted oppression, a song of hope.
“Oh, man!” Micah whispered. She looked at me with a wild expression, confused. “The pictures don’t quite do this justice…It’s kind of a hunk of junk.”
“No,” I said, still quiet. I had no words to sift through my sentiments.
“It’s a crime! You would have given this boat birthday parties. The owner just lets it sit and grow mold.”
“I know.”
“It’s unfair!”
“I know.”
“It’s not right!”
“I know!”
“We should take it!”
The words drifted up in the air, glowing letters scribbled among the stars. Almost fourteen years had passed since the ship had been moored here. Could she sail on open seas? The ball of emotion began chanting Micah’s words. The breeze crooned, the murky waves taunted, and the ship seemed to nod in agreement.

*** Only $4.99! Available on iTunes, Kindle, and Nook! ****

Purchase on Kindle here:

Passing Notes (A sweet YA love story with a ghostly twist)

Flipping the paper over to write on the other side, I discovered it had already been written on. But not by me. By my ghostly companion.

Yes. I was sure now. It had to be some kind of ghost or spirit. That paper hadn’t left my hand since I tore it out of my notebook, and it had been blank on both sides at that point. I was pretty sure of that. I would have noticed several sentences written in cursive, in black ink, wouldn’t I?

It’s stupid, but I actually felt my eyes widen as I took in a long breath through my nose in alarm. I looked around warily, wondering where the ghost might be. Was he nearby, watching me?

Then I read the note.

A true love letter is shared only with your lover. Only she needs to hear what your heart has to say. Hold hands in public, but keep romance discreet. A woman needs to believe that you are hers alone, and that you will share with her what you won’t give to anyone else.

I understood it this time. The penmanship was easier to read, and his fancy vocabulary didn’t test me. He was basically telling me I’d screwed up by writing my apology in a public forum. That only made it worse because now all 382 of her “friends” knew I’d done something stupid toward her.

382 people had probably jammed her phone messages with “I told you so” and “Who is the jerk?” texts. I saw a handful of them last night on the computer. A couple old boyfriends, including Lance, probably made themselves known, too. “Dump the loser and remember what we had.” I really was an idiot. She should dump me.

I put my pen to the paper under that note, curious to see what would happen if I wrote:

What should I do now?

Letter by letter an answer appeared.

Try again.

I pulled out my phone, intending to sneak online for a second and email her. That would be more private.

But bold, black letters scrawled across the page so dark and thick that I could almost hear the scraping of the invisible marker: NO!

“Okay,” I whispered. “Calm down.” I pocketed the phone.

What then? I wrote.

On paper. A fresh, clean sheet of stationery. A piece of parchment that shows that she is worth something more substantial than scrap paper.

I didn’t have anything like that. All I had was college rule, 3-hole
notebook paper. Where was I going to get… I noticed Jill over at her desk, her backpack open and dangling from the back of her seat. Her sketchbook for Advanced Art class stuck out of it.

“Jill?” I whispered loud enough to get her attention. “Can I have a piece of your drawing paper?”

“No,” she whispered back over her shoulder. “It’s expensive.”

“I’ll give you a buck a page.”

“How much do you want?”

I traded my lunch money for five sheets.

I wanted to write something to Bethany right away, but I figured that was not what the ghost wanted me to do. I hardly had enough room to write neatly on this edge of desk I had to work with. To make space for an answer from the ghost, I wrote as small as I could at the bottom of my note:
What should I write?

What you feel! But practice first. Get it right.

Why are you helping me?

The ghost didn’t answer right away, but when he did his response was in neat printing, not the cursive he usually used.

A man in the army needs to be able to write to the woman he leaves at home. It may be all she has left of him if things go wrong.

I wanted to ask more, but I was out of space. I ripped out a new sheet of paper and wrote a couple more questions. He didn’t answer any of them. He was gone.

Christmas at Wild Fire Ranch - book 2 of the sweet Christmas at the Ranch Short Stories. 99c

Charlene stood from the barstool and then turned into a wall of flannel. She had to grasp her coffee with both her hands to keep it from spilling. She lifted her chin expecting it to be the chest of one of the locals, but soon realized she’d never seen this guy. Eyes, that even in the darkened bar, sparkled an unusual shade of grey, drew her gaze deep into their depths. He was beautiful.
“I had no idea it got this cold in Arizona,” a deep, husky voice cheerfully announced, as he straightened his cowboy hat. It took her a moment to realize he was talking to her.
“Yeah, most people don’t. Excuse me,” she said, flashing him a quick smile before maneuvering herself around his massive frame.
“Do you know where I might find Timberlake Road?” he called after her. Charlene stopped and turned. There was only one homestead on Timberlake Road and she was hoping to earn enough money to put a down payment on it. Darn it, he must have already bought it.
“Yeah…” she replied drawn out and a little disappointed. She’d planned on living out her life alone and unencumbered out there.
“I’m the new owner and my GPS can’t seem to find it.”
“You’ll find out that your GPS is pretty much useless up here, but if you head north on the highway you’ll run right into the exit,” she explained, her curiosity rising about this flannel-layered cowboy. He was exactly her type—if she was looking, and she wasn’t. Not at all. She had enough problems without adding a man to it.
“Thanks. How’s the food in this place?”
“About as bad as your GPS service.

Landry in Like (Landry's True Colors Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Clean teen fiction for ages 10 and up.

I wanted to call my friends and tell them about being on the talk show, but Mom said we had to be at the TV station super early — even before school started. She said I could text them, but I had to turn off my phone and go to bed.

“I’m waking you up at four a.m.,” she said. “You have to be there at five-thirty.”

“Can I just call Peyton and Ashanti? Please?”

“Fine, but you have five minutes and then that phone is mine and you’re in bed.”

I dialed Peyton, but her mom said she was in the shower. I told her mom about the show tomorrow and said my mom wouldn’t let me stay up any later to call Peyton back.

“How exciting! I will make sure Peyton knows, and I will be watching you tomorrow. Good luck, honey,” Mrs. Urich said.

I called Ashanti next and told her.

“Get out. Get. Out. No way. This is so exciting!”

“I’m so nervous. My stomach is already doing cartwheels. I can’t do one, but my stomach can. Seems unfair. What if I throw up before I go on? I did that right before I went on at the statewide Ingénue modeling competition in Detroit, and my mom had to give me a cough drop to cover up the smell.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine, but… just in case, take a cough drop with you,” Ashanti said. “Good luck. You’ll be great and I’ll go set the DVR now.”

I hung up and sent a text to Vladi, India, Devon, Thalia, Tori, and Ericka, so no one would be mad and feel left out. Then I shut off my phone. Mom poked her head in the door to make sure I was in bed.

“Night, hon. Try to get some rest,” she said.

Easier said than done. I stared at my ceiling while thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong tomorrow. Seeing as the show was on in the morning, I never got to watch it, so I had no idea what the set was like — did it have super high chairs and I’d struggle to get into them? And what if it had those higher stools that were kind of tippy and my rear overshot the seat and I fell off? Or what if the prep questions got lost and the interviewer asked me random things like my feelings on nuclear war or asked me about some foreign political leader who I had never heard of before, and I appeared stupid? Why did I say I’d do this? I tried to get comfortable and it felt like I had just dozed off when I felt my mom shaking my shoulder.

“Rise and shine, TV star,” she said.

From my BRAND NEW sweet holiday novella, Three French Inns

Caroline made sure her patient hadn’t worsened his injuries. She concentrated on his physical condition rather than his… attributes. Six years ago, when she’d loaded him into that ancient wheelbarrow and taken him to the abandoned shelter, she’d been focused on helping an injured man. She’d been a recent widow, but that hadn’t prevented her from noticing his fine form, his handsome face, his mesmerizing gaze…
The ensuing years had been good to him. If anything, he was even stronger and larger than he was before. He’d matured. His shoulders were broader. His arms were muscled, as were his legs. It hadn’t been easy to put his frame back to rights on the narrow bed, but years of cooking, washing, and doing general maintenance work had strengthened her. Still, she was breathing hard by the time she pulled the blanket back over him.
Pierre spoke, preventing her thoughts from wandering where they shouldn’t. “You’re still stronger than you look. Again, you have rescued me.”
She laughed. “I couldn’t leave you lying on your head.”
“I always seem to be… indisposed when I see you.”
She tilted her head. “Are you accusing me of bringing you bad luck?”
“No! I meant only that you must be a guardian angel, sent to me whenever I’m hurt.”
“Ah. If that is my lot in life, I’m glad to have a charge as nice as you.”

The Duke Conspiracy - a sweet, regency romance
~ A spying debutante, a duke, and a conspiracy. Can love be found despite their feud? ~
Available wherever ebooks are sold, including Amazon:


Alex gazed at his old friend in admiration. If anyone had ever told him he would be standing in Burlington House surrounded by Elgin’s Marbles debating with Miss Rosamund Smythe about who might be conspiring to entrap him into marriage, he would never have believed such a claim. But here they were. And she looked mighty fetching as she gazed up at him expectantly. He had to make an effort to remember what she had said. Oh yes, something about ideas to investigate. He wondered absently what she could possibly know about investigations and clues and all that. But she was right. They needed to have a direction. The only trouble was he was drawing a blank about any possible ideas.

All he could do was shrug helplessly. “I am so sorry, Rose, but I have absolutely no idea where to start. To the best of my knowledge I have never had any dealings with Broderick. I developed an instant dislike of the man upon first making his acquaintance, but I cannot even tell you why, as we have barely conversed.”

The duke was clearly flabbergasted over this development and was even slightly ashamed to not have a ready solution. Rose must have realized this. She hastened to reassure him. “Never mind about that. We both agreed earlier that the best place for us to start is with Lady Anne. That will have to be my job, as you will just be walking straight into their plot if you try to do anything about it. Now, I really must be going, so we must hurry and establish another appointment to meet up to discuss any of our findings. In the meantime, you should speak to your solicitors or man of affairs or whatever you might have along those lines and see if they are aware of any issues Broderick might have with you. Those gentlemen might know more on the subject than you.”

“How did you get so smart about such things?”

Alex was intrigued by the blush that spread over her face at this unanswerable question. The only thing she could offer was “My father is a diplomat,” with as much dignity as possible.

Alex allowed the moment to pass and was rewarded by the look of relief on her face. He hurried to make an appointment as they saw her maid approaching. “Would it be remarked upon if you come here again tomorrow or the next day?”

“Probably not,” Rose answered. “My mother never rises before noon and is really only concerned with how I spend my evenings. But you had best give me at least one day to try to make the acquaintance of Lady Anne, so let us say the day after tomorrow. That gives me a day and a half to gather as much information as possible. I shall start with my friend Lady Elizabeth. She is a font of knowledge about the ton, as well as being friendly with Lady Anne.” While she was speaking she fumbled with her drawing supplies, finally tucking them under her arm. “Wish me luck,” she concluded as she once more faced the duke.

The duke watched a myriad of emotions chase themselves across his companion’s face. He was unable to identify most of them, but he thought she looked rather wistful as she offered him a brief curtsy before she hurried away without another word.

Alex stood in the same spot for several moments, watching her retreating figure, wondering if she would look back before exiting the building. He was unprepared for the profound disappointment that swept over him as she strode away with purpose, never once glancing back in his direction. Slowly bringing his focus back to the statue she had been sketching, the duke allowed the entire interlude to play itself out in his mind. Giving his head a shake to rid himself of the melancholy that had befallen him, he followed in her footsteps and strode from the hall.

~ Happy Reading ~

I walked on to the pool deck, expecting to see everyone in the water, but was surprised to see them all clustered together on the bleachers, chattering as they stared at and scrolled on at their phones. The door to the locker room swung shut with a whoosh, and a few of them looked up, spotting me on deck. They nudged each other, announcing my presence, and the group grew hushed. Some of the girls turned their backs.

“What’s up?” I asked, my stomach now in knots as I realized whatever captured their attention had something to do with me.

Before anyone could answer, Justin exited the boy’s locker room. He summed up the situation in a second, and asked, “What’s going on?”

They just looked at each other and then down at their phones as though hypnotized.

Justin walked over to Mel and grabbed her phone out of her hand. He stared looked at the screen, scrolled down, and looked at me.

“What is it?” I asked, trembling.

He handed Mel’s phone to me. “Where's Jordan?” he asked as I took it from him.

I forced myself to look at the screen, afraid of what I’d see. It was a picture of my mom, wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, standing in what looked like a courtroom. My father stood beside her. How had this gotten on Jordan’s blog?