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 IntroductionClick to Buy

As if the flashing lights in her rearview mirror weren’t enough, the trooper turned on the siren, too. Lily cringed and slid down in her seat like a teenager hiding from prying eyes. Of course, her teen years were long behind her, and any eyes intent on prying would need night vision goggles to see her. The sun hadn’t yet kissed the eastern horizon.

She slowed and sought a place to pull over, no small feat on this narrow stretch of Lee Highway. Spotting a patch of grass to her right, she steered her silver two-door sedan as far over as she could and cut the engine. Her fingers drummed a rhythmless beat on the steering wheel as she waited for the trooper. He was probably busy checking with dispatch to make sure she wasn’t a mass murderer. Because, clearly, rampaging homicidal maniacs drove nondescript cars on the way to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning.

In all her years traversing this road, Lily had never seen a state trooper on this particular stretch. Until today. Good thing she’d left early for work.

Thank you, God, for getting me up and out the door when You did.

The trooper climbed out of his cruiser and approached her parked vehicle. She hit the button and listened to the almost imperceptible hum as her window slid down. The grey of his uniform would have blended into the night were it not for the illumination of his headlights and his car-mounted spotlight. As it happened, they blinded her enough that she couldn’t catch much more than the color of his clothes and a hint of his shape.

“License and registration, please.” The voice was impatient. Tired, too. He was probably at the end of his shift, which meant she had little chance of winning the argument, but she wouldn’t let that stop her from trying.

“I wasn’t speeding.”

“License and registration, please.”

So much for the serve part of public service.

“Can you at least tell me why you pulled me over?”

“Give me your license and registration, ma’am.”

Heat swept through Lily. It’s not like she’d asked a difficult question. “How do I even know you’re a state trooper and not some crazed rapist who’s trying to get my address so he can break into my home?”

The trooper’s shadowed mouth hinted at a smile, and his eyes morphed from intense pinpoints to… Hm. Eyes couldn’t be huggable, could they?

Who was she kidding? She couldn’t even see his eyes. Her imagination had to be on overdrive.

“Well, ma’am, most people consider those flashing red and blue lights as proof enough that I’m one of the good guys, but if it would make you feel better, I’d be happy to go turn the siren back on, too. I doubt crazed rapists announce themselves with police sirens.” Now that he was speaking in actual sentences, Lily picked up a hint of honeyed Southern drawl dancing along the edge of his words. She never could resist Southern charm — real or imagined.


Go Back

Thank you for the samplers. :-) I have read some of the books and they are great. I look forward to reading all of the stories.

Excerpt taken from The Case of the Hidden Treasure, A “Justice” and Miss Quinn Mystery. Pre-order at Amazon.

Miss Quinn was warming to him. That was nice. He couldn’t wait to see her in the gown he’d picked out. Maybe she would like to join him for dinner in the afternoon. He could run everyone into the hold and create an atmosphere of romance on the main deck. It would have been easier if he requested his own quarters, but he would keep with her wishes—for now. Soon enough she would be begging for him to come to her room.

“Captain Shelby?”

He cringed. Would Cunning never leave him be?

His companion tensed. Perhaps she wasn’t comfortable being seen in her state.

“You hurry along and I’ll have everything prepared for you.” She hesitated. “Go along now. We can have our walk later.”

She tilted sideways as she strolled away. He stopped himself from running after her by facing his visitor.

“Captain Shelby, how close are we to this infernal place? I tire of the water. The salt is ruining my skin. And I can’t stay another minute in the hold. The odor,” he fanned a handkerchief before his nose, “is stifling. I don’t know how you stand it.”

“When we all smell the same…” He shrugged.

“But I don’t smell in such a vulgar manner.”

He leaned forward and sniffed. “Aye, you do.”

Cunning narrowed his eyes. “You will do well to remember who financed this little venture.”

He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “And you will do well to remember who brought the venture to your attention in the first place.”
Cunning blinked and scoffed.

“I know you’re used to people giving you deference because of your title or your place in society, but out here, I’m king. And right now, we’re on a treasure hunt and we’re doing it my way. So sit back and enjoy the scenery.” He walked away.

“What scenery?” Cunning voice was squeaky.

He couldn’t stop his laughter.

by Kadee Carder

“Nice night for a tumble to your death,” I added, watching the bright lights illuminate the rocky cliff next to me. “What kind of rock is this?” I rubbed my glove along the wall. Pebbles tumbled, crumbling at my touch. “The terrain seems unstable.”
“If you’re so uncertain about it, go back. Quit whining,” Logan muttered, forging ahead one laborious step at a time. The ground seemed to taper off into nothing about ten feet ahead of him. One hand brushed the cliffside, leaving a wake of white crumbs spattering his boots.
“Hey, battle buddy, I will stick with you.” Did he notice my sarcasm? “Let’s be sensible.”
“Neither of the day shifts have caught this before. I want to see what we have so I can explain it to Charlie. They can bring more equipment. But I want to have more detail than, ‘Hey guys, I found this clump of bushes’.”
Logan’s hand slipped, disappearing into a hole. His whole body shifted toward the wall with the change in consistency.
“Whoa,” he whispered.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Check it out,” he said, his entire body vanishing around a curve. I poked my head into the space where he had just been standing, to see him in a cave-like opening veering back into the rock at a sharp angle to the right. Happy to be farther away from the daunting cliff edge, I traced his footsteps into the tunnel. Jagged white rock crumbled to the ground, which puffed up a powdery substance with each step we took.
“Watch where you walk,” I warned.

Covered (Clean New Adult Romance)

The sensation of lying on something soft infiltrated my subconscious, bringing me to awareness. Male voices spoke around me, and panic hit. Where was I?

“Easy, now, sweetheart. You’re safe here.”

Safe. The word brought so much comfort, yet so much confusion. That didn’t sound like Bear’s voice, but who else would promise me safety?

I fought to open my eyes and found two scruffy men in their twenties staring at me in a moving room. No, that wasn’t right. It was two of the same scruffy man. I blinked a few times, clearing my vision. Only one man stared at me, but the room still swayed.

“You’re not Bear.” My voice was almost too soft to count as a whisper.

“No, I’m Ratchet. Bear’s on his way.” He smoothed hair away from my eyes with a gentle touch. “Now, who are you?”

“Lacey Daniels.”

Ratchet looked at the men gathered behind him, but they all shrugged. Of course they would. None of them looked familiar. Then again, I didn’t remember anyone other than Bear, although I knew there had been other riders all those years ago.

Ratchet returned his gaze to me. “None of us know you. What do you want with Bear?”

“He told me I could come.” Tears filled my eyes, making the world even more wavery. “He said he would protect me.”

The men all tensed, and Ratchet placed a fingertip against my cheek in a feather-light touch. I winced at the sharp pain, not surprised to learn I had a bruise there. I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover my entire body was one big bruise.

“You need someone to protect you from whoever did this?”

I started to nod, but the intense pain in my skull made me change my mind. “Yes. I hurt so bad.”

“What happened to you?”

“He came home and beat me.” I closed my eyes, trying hard not to remember even as I spoke. “He wasn’t ever supposed to come home, but he did. Now I hurt.”

“All right, Lacey,” Ratchet said, his deep voice soothing. “We’ll keep you safe until Bear gets here. No one will hurt you here.”

Operation Mistletoe

FREE through 11/5 on Amazon:

Tori Spencer slammed down a stack of file folders and stood. Her chair shot back and smacked into the wall. If steam wasn’t coming out of her ears, it should be. Who, exactly, did Ryan Morrison think he was? She yanked at the bottom edge of her blazer and, teeth clenched, strode through the maze of low-walled cubicles to the offices that lined the windows. She gave a cursory rap on the open door and crossed her arms.

Ryan looked up from his computer and slid his glasses down his nose. “Victoria?”

“The Christmas light feature?”

“What about it?” Ryan took off his glasses and laid them on his desk before gesturing to a chair.

“I don’t do fluff pieces. You know that. That’s not what I was hired for. Can’t someone else do this? Jeri? An intern?” Tori crossed the room but didn’t sit. Once he agreed with her and apologized for his momentary lapse, she was leaving.

He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Shut the door and sit down.”

She furrowed her brow. The tone of his voice bordered on ominous. Huffing out a breath, she did as instructed.

“Look. This isn’t a fluff piece. It’s one of the most read articles during this season. Add in the fact that we’re doing a feature spread on one of the guys, Gabriel Robertson.” Ryan pushed papers around on his desk until he unearthed a stack of orange sticky notes. He paged through them and finally pulled one off, offering it to her. “Here’s his contact info. He takes all the proceeds from his display and uses them to send Christmas to the troops deployed overseas. It’s a good special interest angle and is something a little different than the retreads we usually end up with this time of year.”

Gabe way. There was absolutely no way. Not like her college crush on him still lingered. But still. Tori shook her head, sending her ponytail swinging violently. “So get someone else to do it and give me something that’s worth my time. You know I’m a better journalist than this...”

“Can it, Tori. You and I both know why you’re working here instead of for a major paper doing exposes on politicians on Capitol Hill. So take your assignment, make some calls, set up appointments, and get me my feature.” Ryan’s fist slammed down on his desk, sharpened pencils rattling in the mug where he kept them.

Her chest constricted and she fought to keep her face straight. “Do I at least get a photographer?”

Ryan pursed his lips and stared at her. The old-fashioned school clock ticked loudly from its position on the wall. “You can check out a camera. I don’t have anyone free right now, but if you get me a good feature with decent snaps of your own, maybe I’ll send someone out for follow up pics.”

Heat washed over her. Now she was a reporter and a photographer? What was next? Doing her own editing? Nah. He’d never let a chance to wield his red pencil slip by. “Fine.”

“Good.” When she didn’t move, Ryan arched an eyebrow. “Was there something else?”

Tori stifled a groan. The set of Ryan’s mouth had her shaking her head as she stood instead of asking for a different assignment one more time. He was serious. Perfect. Just. Perfect.

“All right then. Close the door on your way out.”

Moostletoe by Jan Elder

(Part of the Frosting and Flurries Boxed Set of Five Christmas Novellas)

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As they headed toward the fence at the back of the large yard, the trapped moose turned her head and fastened Samantha with the longest, most distressed face she’d ever seen. Somehow, the words “there’s a moose stuck in the fence” had not prepared her for the sight of two hooves sticking to the top of tall pickets.

Poor moosie indeed!

The TV news reporter strode toward Eric and Travis, a determined set to his jaw.

Eric took charge. “Dale, you can film, but be quiet about it and keep well back. I know everybody loves Matilda, but she’s a wild animal and she’s scared. You too, Mr. Tremblay.”

“We’ll do our best to behave.” Dale smirked. “But the TV audience is going to eat this up and we’re here to serve.”

Eric grimaced. “She’s just a moose for crying out loud. People in Aroostook County see them every day.”

The TV crew moved into position. Eric glanced at Samantha. “Sammie you asked what you can do. Your job is to pray we can get this moose out of trouble, fast.”

“Will do.” Samantha nodded and clung to the fence line several yards away. Matilda puffed, her breath sending up a cloud of steam. Samantha’s heart went out to the creature, and she unleashed a silent prayer. If God cared for the lowly sparrow, He surely loved the magnificent moose.

Eric’s eyes zeroed in on the television camera as two men continued to edge closer. “Confound it, Dale, stay back. Don’t you have a zoom on that contraption?”

The cheeky, young reporter lifted his chin. “We’ll stay back as long as you give us an exclusive after the rescue.”

Eric planted his hands on his hips and huffed. “Exclusive? Dale, what do you think this is? Portland? You’re the only TV station there is in these parts. Just keep your distance. Hey, Tremblay? You have a small hatchet?”

A protest erupted from the cameraman. “Surely, you’re not going to hurt that wild animal.”

Eric shook his head. “No, of course we’re not going to hurt her. We have to break up the fence.”

Dale cocked his head. “Why can’t you just yard on it until her feet come out?”

Huh? Samantha searched her memory banks. Yard on it. Ah, yes. Pull hard.

“Do I look suicidal? I’m not getting anywhere near those back hooves. We have a crazed five-hundred-pound moose who’s not thinking straight, here.”

The cameraman grumbled and when Eric turned his back, the cameraman made a hand gesture that meant … Samantha wasn’t sure what it meant, but it couldn’t have been nice.

Matilda shifted her back feet, tried to maneuver backward and pitched a bit to the side. The wooden fence scraped against her front fetlocks and she bellowed, a terrible noise that rang hollow in the damp, night air. Terrified, her eyes flicked back and forth, the whites showing. Helpless, Samantha prayed harder and shuffled her feet to keep the circulation moving, her chest squeezing.

The cameraman hefted his camera and aimed it at the reporter. The show was about to begin.

Click to buy:

Love, Peace & Joy

No one had to tell Chad he'd just made a bad move. No sooner than the movie star-like Tiffany security guard greeted him: "Good afternoon, Sir. Welcome to Tiffany's."

He felt like he'd just been elbowed by OKC Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and was barely able to speak: "Thank you."

Before the security guard could finish his sentence: "How can we--," Chad nodded at the guard, "Have a great day, Sir."

No word could describe how Chad felt: disappointed, disenchanted, and distraught, if one were to settle for more than one. How could finding the perfect ring for the perfect woman be so difficult?

He grabbed a sandwich and headed back to his office. Listening to his holiday theme song on his iPod, “All I want for Christmas is you,” teed him off. He pressed pause before Trey Songz could croon, “I just want you for my own...” needing to hear Holly's, “Hey Chad.”

Holly swiped her cell phone in response to Chad's ringtone, “I feel for you.” Before Chaka Khan could purr, “I think I love you,” Holly answered.

"Hey Chad! Boy did I need to hear from you. What a morning. How's your day, honey? Hope better than mine."

"It just got a whole lot better, sweetheart!"

Holly relaxed at her kitchen cubby workstation soothed by Chad's unexpected call.

"How's the party planning coming?" Hearing the sigh, he interrupted before she continued.

"Babe, this is supposed to be a fun thing. We're celebrating our first Christmas together. You don't have to do this by yourself. Let me help. Now what can I do? And don't tell me nothing."

"This is fun. For me. I want to do this. I'm just flustered today. Can't quite figure out how my 'to do' list seems to get longer. Each time I cross off an item, I find myself adding three more. But I'm getting there. Besides you are helping me. Did you forget we're shopping together tomorrow? And what about the tree? We still have to pick it up. I called the LishaKill's Tree Farm to make sure they had what I want. They do! A Noble Fir. They've tagged one with my name on it. My first real tree, Chad! And you're still down with the decorating, right? I can't trim my first tree without you, babe."

"Of course. Just let me know please if there's something else I can do, okay?"

"Sure. I will. I promise."

"Umhmmm. I hear right through you Holly Jean Spriggs!"

"Alright already." She giggled adding, "I'm just glad I can depend on you Chad Eugene Tyler."

"Oh Holly, I almost forgot. This will make your day for sure. My parents will be in town for a week instead of just the two to three days they originally planned. I told them we'd take them to Rockefeller Center in NYC Tuesday for dinner and sightseeing. I asked for the day off. Won't that be great?"
One week before her Christmas Eve gathering. Where would she find time for a trip to NY? She wanted to cry but held her tears; glad they weren't Skyping.

"Great honey! I can get my last minute shopping done."

Able to disguise her muffled response but powerless against the escaping tears, she whispered, "Talk to you later." She disconnected the call pretending she hadn't heard, "Should we try to catch a show?"
She was wiped out by the horrible revelation that a welcome reprieve resulted in the loss of two to three days from a jam packed no wiggle room calendar. Holly could only shake her head and moan, "Has everyone indeed been right? How can something that feels so good be so darn awful wrong?"

Her mother, one of the best hostesses in the world--her immediate world as well as within her huge circle of friends-- advised her from the onset that she might want to rethink her Christmas party guest list. And her menu. As well as the timing of her Christmas fiesta.

"Twenty five people Holly? We'll be stumbling all over each other. Your guests should be able to breathe and enjoy themselves; not worry about stepping on someone's new shoes or God forbid, bare feet."
Holly heard her mother: in one ear and out the other. Holly envisioned guests who would enjoy the coziness of sitting close enough to communicate with each other and reach out to touch a hand in acknowledgment of a point made. Besides, she planned to make the most of her space. She had three separate gathering areas: her open kitchen design; her living/eating area; and her upstairs entertainment area. Twenty-five people? Little did her mother know, her condo could handle thirty or thirty five, if need be.

As for her menu, she counted on it to re-charge and re-kindle the childhood memories of her guests and more importantly for the guests to share those special memories with each other. So Holly acknowledged that a cross-generational, multi-cultural menu would challenge her culinary skills and bank account in just about equal proportions. But so be it.

As for her menu choices, no budging there either. How could she invite her guests to her home style Christmas Eve celebration if she didn't have the foods common to the people she was inviting? Her co-worker and her husband were from Mexico. How could she not serve tamales?
Chad's stepfather was Italian. She planned to serve an antipasto. Chad suggested she serve a traditional version as well as a fish based option. How could she not make a pasta dish and some of those wonderful iced ricotta cookies?

Chad's best friend, Bobby and Mara, his wife, were from England. Bread pudding and pigs in a blanket were a must.

And needless to say, she had to serve a full complement of soul food for her family and childhood friends: black eyed pea salad, fried chicken, potato salad, pound cake with caramel icing, buttermilk corn bread, and sweet tea to wash it all down.

Holly cleared her workstation. She had just enough time to shower and dress. She planned to make favors for her guests and if she hurried she could beat the rush hour traffic to pick up her supplies. Images of goody filled mason jars replenished her spirit much like the latte had filled her tummy.

The Dragon's Ring

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The King stood in one corner of the ballroom and kept a close eye on his daughter and her dancing partners. He was hoping one of the young men would win his daughter’s heart.

Sir James was also watching the Princess. With each new partner she took, he imagined her falling in love, and he felt pangs of jealousy. James yearned to dance with the Princess, but felt it would be inappropriate to ask.

King Alfred noticed James standing alone by the doorway, and approached him. “Why are you not dancing, James? There must be one beautiful maiden here who has caught your eye.”

James bowed to his king. “I am an awkward and clumsy dancer, Your Majesty. I do not want to make a fool of myself.”

The King laughed. “Then dance with my daughter. No one would dare call you a fool while in her arms. They would be afraid of offending me.”

“But, Your Majesty,” James protested, but it was too late. As the last dance ended, the King beckoned for Isadora to join them. “Dance with this man,” the King told his daughter.

Isadora was startled by her father’s command. She had wanted to dance with James all evening, but knew he would never ask her because he was not of royal blood. To dance with her would only give him grief. People would point and gossip, and say the knight had overstepped his boundary, but no one would say anything if it was the King’s wish that they dance together.

The music began, and with the King’s permission, James took Princess Isadora’s hand in his and they began to dance. “Dear Princess, I’ll try not to step on your toes, if you promise not to tread on mine,” the knight teased as he twirled her around the room.

Isadora laughed. “My slippers will avoid your heavy leather boots at all costs, and my feet will be most grateful if you keep your word.”

A troubadour, wearing a bright orange, brown, and black costume bearing vertical stripes, with a tam to match, strolled among the dancers, singing a ballad as the orchestra played. It was one Isadora had never heard before, but the words could have been written by her for James.

“My love, my heart I give to thee,
For everlasting keeping.
From this day on thou holds the key,
That saves my soul from weeping.
Pray, pray, remember this,
We sealed our love with a kiss.
And all the heavens and earth shall see
Forever and ever, my love for thee.”

Isadora noticed that the words of the song also seemed to touch James. When he glanced down at her, his eyes flickered, causing her heart to flutter. She knew she loved him. Did he feel the same way toward her? But I am the King’s daughter! He’s but a knight. Even if he did love me, he’d never say.

James held Isadora so tightly in his arms she could scarcely breathe. As they floated around the enormous ballroom, her gown made a rustling sound with every turn they made.

Isadora’s cheeks glowed with a rosy hue as James pulled her even closer. She was usually not a timid person, but tonight she felt shy and weak in his strong arms. She glanced up at her partner. Their eyes locked and their two hearts beat as one.

They made a handsome couple, Isadora in her flowing blue gown and James in his best attire, a deep-blue waistcoat with matching breeches. As the candles on the chandeliers flickered, the diamonds in Isadora’s tiara shimmered, casting shadows of light on the walls.

The music played on and on, and yet it was as if time stood still and they were the only two people in the room. Neither spoke, afraid to break the spell between them, and neither wanted the dance to ever end; but of course, it did.

Buying Love
Nina Warrenton checked her watch for the umpteenth time. He was late. On the one hand, she was thankful; on the other, she was annoyed. Who makes an appointment and shows up late? Granted living in the D.C. Metro area guaranteed multiple opportunities to be late, but she made an effort to arrive on time to any appointment. Too bad the unknown Mr. Williams didn’t hold the same virtue.
She sighed. Had she acted prematurely? Putting an ad for a husband was a little archaic, but she believed it would get the job done. However, none of the previous candidates had panned out. One man had been released from prison a couple of months ago. Another had answered her ad with the hope of moving out of his mother’s place. Still, another had answered her ad because the voices in his head had prompted him to. She shook her head.
Maybe the fact that Mr. Williams was missing was God showing her he wasn’t the one. Maybe he was prematurely balding or had the personality of wilted lettuce. Of course, she had prayed that God would send her the right man, but there was no guarantee He would acquiesce to her request.
She tapped her pen on the table and looked around the room. The coffee shop was filled with D.C. metropolitans ready to embrace the autumn air. It was a gorgeous day with a light breeze and the preferred seventies temperature. Was it possible that Mr. Williams was already here and hiding behind a coffee mug or laptop, to secretly get a first impression without her noticing? She peeked around the shop, but she was the only one alone.

Next Door to a Star (Clean teen fiction)
by Krysten Lindsay Hager


Charlotte called later and asked if I wanted to go with her to the party tomorrow. I went to put on my fake tan and imagined myself walking into the party looking all tan and gorgeous, and everyone would be wondering who I was and why they hadn’t asked me to hang out with them before. Connor and Lucas would want my phone number, Nick would be begging me to go out with him, Simone would realize I was cool, and Morgan would want to be my friend.

Then reality set in. First, the fake tan squirted out of the bottle all gooey. I rubbed the cold cream all over my arms and legs and put a little on my face. Simone had said you had to wash your hands well or it would stain your palms. I wasn’t sure how to put the tanning stuff on the back of my hands without getting it on my palms and drying, so I decided not to put any on my hands at all. I sat on some paper towels so I wouldn’t get any brown stuff on my bed, but it seemed to dry fast.

I woke up the next morning and I was definitely darker. My face was kind of orange, but my arms and legs had streaks on them. It was like somebody had burned me with a curling iron. Plus, my hands looked like I had white gloves on compared to the rest of me. I couldn’t go to the party all streaky.

People would make fun of me. I thought about putting the tanning stuff on all the lighter places on my body, but then it might look like I had a disease.

I ended up wearing a long sleeved shirt and jeans to the party. Charlotte had on a t-shirt and shorts when she came to pick me up.
“Aren’t you hot wearing all that?” she asked.

“I want to be covered for the mosquitoes,” I said. “Malaria is nothing to mess around with.”

I wasn’t the only one wearing jeans at the party, but I felt like I was dressed for a winter carnival when I saw Morgan and Pilar. Pilar had a deep pink halter top on with tiny jean shorts, and she had put some shimmery stuff all over her arms and legs. Morgan was wearing a blue crocheted tank top, and she would have passed for at least seventeen. She had her curly blonde hair down for a change, and all the guys were sitting around her.

“She’s so fake-looking,” Charlotte said as we watched Morgan and Lucas dance.

Morgan seemed so confident as she moved her hips. I wouldn’t be able to dance so free even if I was alone in my own bedroom. I was glad I had worn jeans because I would have seemed like a skinny
kid next to Morgan’s muscular legs.