Heather Gray

Flawed...but loved anyway.

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Wordy Wednesday

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)!!

Here's an excerpt from Queen

Owen reined in his horse, and Isabel, intent on getting ahead of him, even for a few minutes, gave her horse a small heel kick to spur her past Despiadado. The poor girl showed her timidity by shying away from the big horse.

By the time she coaxed the mare around Despiadado, Isabel felt childish for making such a production of taking the lead. She, too, reined her horse in. Looking back at Owen, she tucked her chin down. "We shanʹt arrive at all if you dawdle the day away.ʺ

The sparkle in Owen'ʹs eyes should have been a clue, but Isabel was too fatigued to pay it any mind.

ʺAre you honestly going to sit there and ignore me?"

When he still said nothing, Isabel circled around with a harrumph and the tightening of her mare's reins. Then she glanced up, and her mouth fell open. Chakal Manor stood, a castle backlit by the setting sun. It wasnʹt the largest castle in all of England. Nor was it the most elegant. Nonetheless, with the sun-painted sky setting the backdrop afire and lighting up every surface, the castle looked to be dusted with rubies, golden apatite, and citrine.

"Breathtaking." As if her whispered words had been the permission needed, the sun sank over the horizon, and the brilliant colors faded to a faint yellow glow.

"Now, my fair lady, may I introduce you to Chakal Manor?"

"You never told me it was mystical."

From the corner of her eye she caught Owen's smile. "Not mystical, no. Safe. Which is its own kind of magic, wouldn't you say?"

Together they rode toward the castle. Years had passed since Jackal had shared the tale of Chakal Manor with her, one night during her stay at the Queenʹs court. She'd been too frightened to fall asleep that night, and he'ʹd entertained her with stories of his past. Some were about missions, but one was of his family estate. He'd described it to her in such great detail that as soon as she'd caught her first glimpse all these years later, she'd known.

Isabel gritted her teeth. She was no longer that helpless, frightened child, and Jackal could take much of the credit for that. He'd trained her to defend herself, and he'd taught her to believe in herself. He'd seen value in her at a time when it felt as if everyone

wished to throw her away.

"You said Jackal has gone on to London?"

Owen nodded.

ʺWill… will I be able to see him?"

She sensed rather than saw Owenʹs thoughtful gaze on her.

ʺI'll arrange it."

"I don't even know his real name."

She caught the flash of white teeth in the fading light. "Iʹll let him introduce himself. He spoke too highly of you for me not to allow him the honor."

Go Back

Excerpt from Chapter One of The Last Summer

They all exchanged looks around the table. I felt like they were having this private conversation and hoped the conclusion would be that they wanted me. Because there was something special about the people at this table. The way they kidded and joked and touched each other and moved like one breathing organism. The way they did seem like a family. Six people connected to each other. I wanted to be the seventh.
“I have a feeling, Sara Witherspoon,” Addison said, tilting her head to the side and studying me as though she could see all the way to my heart, “you belong too.”
I don’t know how she knew, but she did. Like I said, Addison is the leader. She’s the glue. Once she said those words, all tension melted away, and I was included. If Addison said I belonged, I did. She reminded me of Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. If Mrs. Wilkes was the cool-headed voice of reason that could settle the chaos around her, Addison was that same strong, trusted constant amid these six friends. Her word was law. And from that day forward, the six people around that table at Isabella’s became like six extensions of myself.
We were a circle. Within a month, Jason asked me to go out to dinner with him. Luke hadn’t shown any romantic interest in me, and there was Jason, with that thick, dark hair and playful personality and handful of tattoos on his olive skin—how could I say no? We started dating. A year after that, we
broke up. As much as I truly liked Jason and couldn’t help feeling attracted to him, I hadn’t fallen in love. I couldn’t picture us married and having babies. We were better as friends. I know Jason didn’t agree, but he and I both refused to let our break up damage the circle. Eventually, things between us returned to normal.
During my dating-Jason phase, Sam and Lily got married, which didn’t really change anything since they were already such a unit. I realized early on that Luke and Debra were never an item. I’d mistaken Debra’s warm and friendly demeanor and Luke’s tendency to be protective and kind as the traits
of a dating couple, but those endearing qualities of both of them extended to all of us. My crush on Luke diminished as Jason and I dated and then shifted to ‘just friends.’
Sort of.
And somewhere along the way, painfully, Luke and I became best friends.

Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager
(YA contemporary fiction)

“By the way, did you hear Lauren got into Senator Agretti’s old school?”

“Seriously? I wonder if she applied there because Brendon did,” I said.

Margaux snorted. “Duh, of course. Seriously, she might as well just pee on him to mark her territory.”

“Margaux, shut up,” Kylie said.

“Whatever. Anyway, the important thing is if Brendon knew she was applying there,” Margaux said. “Em, do you think he knew?”

I hoped Lauren was just trying to follow Brendon, but what if they had planned this whole thing while they were dating? What if he convinced her to apply there so they could go to college together, wear matching American flag sweaters with big scarves while drinking hot chocolate, and jump into leaf piles just like a preppy clothing catalog. At least now I didn’t have to worry about them reciting poetry to one another in South Bend, but still, what if they had made plans to go to school together?

“Don’t worry about it,” Kylie said. “She was probably trying to follow him—like she always does. She’s so pathetic.”

Kylie was trying to make me feel better, but Lauren was far from pathetic. After all, she was pretty much the “Most Likely to Succeed” poster girl. While she was out overachieving and saving the world without messing up her perfect, bouncy hair, I was trying to get through each day. I tried to push away the image of Lauren and Brendon holding hands and drinking hot chocolate under a stadium blanket.

From the second Penny White book, 'The Cult of Unicorns':

I studied the filly, who was now prancing across sodden ground. ‘What are you hoping I can do?’
‘Well, you’re a mother,’ Peter said somewhat lamely. ‘I thought that might help.’
‘I’ve never had children.’
‘No, but you raised James, didn’t you, after your parents died?’
‘And,’ I said drily, ‘there’s so little difference between a four year old boy and an eight month old unicorn.’
‘I also know that you’re good with people. And animals.’ He gave me the pleading smile which always evaporated my resistance.
‘All right, all right, I’m going.’ I strode over to the gate and let myself onto the green.
The filly was now on my left, once again prevented from escaping by a man waving his arms. She snorted at him, her tail flicking across her mud-splattered hindquarters. There were all sorts of things I wished I knew about unicorns. For example, at what age did they learn to speak, how did it feel to have a horn growing from your forehead, and whether they would use their hooves against a friendly vicar approaching them across a field. The unicorn might be young, but her head was at the height of my shoulder, and those silver hooves looked quite sharp. There was quite a bit of difference between a human toddler and a unicorn. James had never tried to eviscerate me.
So, people had already tried to speak to her. I stopped ten yards away. The filly turned to face me. Her white mane was wisping around her neck and dark eyes, and I was certain that the twist in her ears indicated fear. I slid my hands into my coat pockets, and my fingers bumped against a folded copy of last Sunday’s church newsheet. I suddenly recalled that the organist had chosen a hymn not in our books, and it had been printed on the sheet. That gave me an idea. James had been a poor sleeper the first few months after our parents had died. But there was one thing which had always sent him off to sleep.
I cleared my throat, and started to sing. My voice wasn’t a patch on Taryn’s mezzo-soprano, but I was counting on the filly not being an Eisteddfod judge. ‘“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small...”’
Morey landed beside me and added his voice to the chorus. This time he kept to the same tune as I had chosen, ‘Royal Oak.’ ‘“All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”’

Excerpt from Silver Princess,

I woke with a start the next morning, so disoriented and confused that I almost screamed when Scamp suddenly poked his head inside the tent. My heart was pounding away in my throat when our eyes met and locked. A vague recollection of the day before had just begun sorting itself out from the dream I had awakened from when, to my further dismay, he withdrew as suddenly as he had entered.
"Wait," I said, jumping to my feet to go after him. I stumbled through the slit in the side of the leaf and looked around for him. My feet found the air beneath them a bit less than required for proper standing and I realized that I was falling. Just before I had a chance to be frightened, strong arms wrapped themselves around my waist, slowing my descent. I sighed with relief and reached thankfully for the branch that I was carried to. I noticed that the arms lingered about my waist until I was well away from the edge of the branch. I wondered, just a bit, that it did not seem improper to me.
Scamp stepped back and lifted a bit so that he was hovering just above me, shaking his head. "Better watch that first step from now on," he advised dryly. Then he flew up, apparently heading for the leaf.
I watched him until he was out of sight and then relaxed against the tree limb, grateful for its firmness after my most recent attempt at flying. It is truly the strangest feeling to have one's hands shake. At first I did not know what to do. If I could have stopped their shaking with a mere thought, they would never have started. Fortunately, by the time I was composed enough to ponder on a solution, they had figured it out for themselves. I was just about to smile in satisfaction when something landed right in front of me. I jumped and my hands began trembling again.
"Sorry." Scamp lit on the branch and looked down at me. "I did not mean to startle you."
I swallowed my pride, along with my heart, and smiled as best as I could. "No, of course…um…thanks." The packet he had tossed to me contained the meat from last night. I was not nearly so sure of it now as I had been last night. I had gone on a camping trip or two while growing up, and it was my experience that meat becomes cold and stringy overnight. I was distracted, though, from deciding whether to keep it or not by Scamp's teasing.
He settled lightly on the branch and shook his head. "If you go through life like this, you are going to run out of thanks before you are one hundred." His green eyes were rather warmer than they had been last night.

An Improper Proposal
"She’s not from around here ... did you order her out of a catalog?"

New Release - The Reluctant Debutante - a sweet, regency romance

~ Are the possibilities worth the price? ~

Buy link:


“Who is that ravishing creature entering the devil’s lair?” Bryghton Alcott, the fifth Duke of Wychwood, asked his friend, his gaze arrested by the slender figure climbing the stairs to a midsize townhouse as they rode past.

Turning in his saddle to gape at the young woman, Lord Lynster grinned, thrilled to know something his powerful friend did not. He turned back to face the duke. “You don’t know who that is?”

“Would I be asking you if I knew?” Bryghton said, with a wry twist to his lips.
His left eyebrow tilted at a somewhat haughty angle, the young baron finally answered with a touch of dramatic flair, “That, my good fellow, is the devil’s niece, Lady Victoria Bartley.”

“Really?” the duke asked, incredulity now echoed in his voice. “How did I not know that the devil had a niece? Surely this information could be used to my advantage.”

“I have no idea how you could have researched your enemy so thoroughly and yet not know that he is living in his niece’s house. I never thought to mention it since it seemed to be a matter of common knowledge. Of course, the lady was a child when the devil inherited her father’s title, so I suppose you took no note of her existence.”

Alcott’s face held a far-away expression for a few moments before his gaze sharpened on his friend’s face. “You said the devil is living in her house. What do you mean?”

“The earl only inherited what was entailed. The previous earl doted on his only child and left everything that was unentailed to his daughter, including the London townhouse we just rode past. The new earl, the young lady’s uncle, is her guardian until she gains control of her own fortune. As such, he and his family live with Lady Victoria when they are in Town. She lives with them in her former home when they are in the country.” Alfred, Lord Lynster, “Fred” to his friends, looked at Bryghton with a touch of anxiety, unsure of how his friend would use this information to his advantage. “The young woman faced much tragedy at a tender age, losing both her parents in that terrible carriage accident that made the devil the earl.”

“Yes, and no doubt she could use a friend, being stuck in the same house with Bartley and his family as she is,” concurred the duke, his handsome face darkened by a sinister cast.

Available from Amazon: (Free on Kindle Unlimited)

~ Happy Reading!! ~

Excerpt from: "Building Benjamin: Naomi's Journey" Fiction from Judges 19-21 (Fleeing Moabites)

available on Amazon;

Jael’s cracked lips curved into a half-smile. "You will need me to help you wrestle it. Like how you fought the Moabite?"

Naomi could still feel the man’s fingers mauling her skin. She shook her head as if to remove the memory. "Did you face hardship in the fields?"

Jael nodded. "From some."

"Well, we are not in the vineyards anymore"‛ Naomi raised her arms toward the sky. "We are lost in the lands of Benjamin."

She sighed at the unbelievable truth of her words and thumbed a smudge from Jael’s cheek. She borrowed Jael’s head covering and went in search of something to drink. A pool had to be nearby. With brush and several paths into the hills, this would be the perfect place for water to collect. At least, she hoped that to be the truth.

Climbing over a landslide of rock, Naomi grasped a jut in the hillside and pulled herself up toward a plateau. Gazing at the rolling hills, her stomach hollowed like she was weightless and the wind could whisk her off her feet and down into the depths. She knelt and crawled closer to the edge, scanning the area she and Jael had crossed. No Eliab. No Isa. No one.

Kneeling in the dirt, she squinted at the sun. "I can’t do this alone." Was God listening? She raised her sweat-soaked sleeves. "Show me the way home."

She studied the cliffs for a sign. Anything to point her in the direction she should travel. Heat waves rose from the soil like formations of soldiers streaming into battle. Her eyes burned from the sunlight’s glare. All of Israel was the color of sun-bleached bones. She closed her eyes. The sting of her split lips overwhelmed her senses. Could she even mouth another prayer?

Someone seized her arm. She jerked.

A flash of fright shivered through her body. She screamed, and her hands formed claws, ready for another struggle.

"Naomi." Eliab towered over her.

She stood and collapsed into him. Her knees threatened to give way. "Oh, Eliab, where have you been?"

She didn’t want to need Eliab, but in truth, she did need him.

"There are secret routes in the hills. We knew we could catch up to you, so we didn’t chance the flatlands. We did not want to be followed." He wrapped an arm around her waist and drew her flush to his body. "So, you are glad to see me"

She stiffened. She knew she should protest his embrace, but his hold kept her upright.

"Do you have a waterskin?" she mumbled into his tunic.


"Then I am glad to see you."

A Chaotic Courtship
By Bethany Swafford
Buy Link:

“I thought you’d never get here!” Sarah said, ignoring my question completely as she spun to face me. I frowned at her as I put my outside garments away. She seemed highly agitated, a state which I had seldom seen her in. “Diana, I must speak with you!”
“About what?” I asked calmly.
Sarah took up pacing, and for a moment I believed she wasn’t going to continue with whatever she wanted to say. “You must listen to me for once in your life!” she finally said, as
though I had been disagreeable.
Sinking onto our bed, I tried to hide a smile. “Then come out and tell me what has you in such a state.”
“I think Mr. Richfield is the highwayman!”
My smile faded instantly as I stared at her. How had she come up with this ridiculous idea? “You what?” I asked in astonishment.
“There, I’ve said it!” Sarah collapsed into the chair at the dressing table. “I’ve considered the matter carefully, Diana, and as your sister, I could not let you become attached to such a black-hearted criminal!”
I couldn’t help but laugh in response to that absurd notion. “Blackhearted criminal? You cannot be serious, Sarah. I have never heard anything so outlandish. Have you been reading my novels?”
“Diana, I am being completely serious! Stop laughing!”
“How can I take you seriously when everything you say is utter nonsense? Why would you possibly think Mr. Richfield, a true gentleman if I’ve ever met one, is a common criminal?”
Sarah leaned forward, her eyes wide. “Don’t you remember what Aunt Forester said at dinner yesterday?” she asked, lowering her voice for some reason. She acted like she was about to disclose some deep secret to me, and I found myself leaning closer. “About the highwayman being around the Bath area?”
Thinking back, I did in fact remember the conversation and our aunt’s comment. “Yes, of course I remember. What about it?”
“Mr. Richfield was there!”
I failed to follow her line of reasoning. “I’m sure a great many people were in Bath at the same time, Sarah. Aunt and Uncle Forester, for example, were there for two months, I believe.”
Shaking her head, Sarah groaned. “Don’t be obtuse, Diana! You have to see the connection here. Mr. Richfield was in Bath when a highwayman terrorized innocent people. And now, he’s here, where a highwayman has mysteriously appeared to threaten our peaceful home!”

Bruises of the Heart by J.J. Nite

Noah jumped up and grabbed me by the arm, and I flinched away from him. I saw the hurt in his eyes, but I couldn't help myself. He gently pulled me a little closer and slid the sleeve of my shirt up. I tried to stop him, but I couldn't.
His face became hard and anger swirled in his eyes. He looked up and stared me full in the face. I knew that the discussion I had been dreading since the first slap was about to occur.
"It's not what you think," I rushed out.
"Oh, really. So it's not a bruise that is obviously in the outline of fingers on your arm? Tori, you can't expect me to believe that you got this by, what? Walking into a door or something? Talk to me. Let me help you," Noah pleaded.
"I don't need any help." I wrenched my arm from his grasp. "Will loves me. He told me that he would never leave me."
"Yeah, it's really evident how he shows his love. Tori, how could you stay with him? What happens if he gets so upset that he doesn't stop with just squeezing your arm and leaving a bruise? Have you thought about any of that?" "It's fine. Everything is fine," I said stubbornly.
"Right. So that's why you're up here in the loft letting things go round and round in your head. Don't forget that I know you, Tori, better than a lot of people, so don't try to tell me that you're not questioning all of this yourself. I've already told you that I want what's best for you, and now I know that he is not that person. I realize that I made the biggest mistake of my life breaking up with you, and if I could go back and change it all I would, but I can't. Please, break things off with him before you get really hurt," he pleaded.
"I can't. You don't understand."
"Then help me understand, Tori," he said, forcing me to look at him. "I know that I love you and I will do anything for you. Please talk to me."
I looked into Noah's eyes and decided to take a huge leap of faith. "I don't know what he'd do if I broke things off with him," I whispered.
"I'm not sure that I understand. What do you mean?"
"He told me once that he'd never let me leave him because he loved me too much," I said, still whispering, afraid that someone would hear me even though Noah and I were completely alone.
Noah pulled me into a fierce hug, and it was only then I realized I had been shaking and tears were streaming down my face. I felt safe, like in the dreams I had been having, and slowly I stopped shaking and the sobs started to subside.
"I hate to ask, but I need to know how bad it is. Is this the only time he did anything like this? Is this the only…bruise you've ever had?" he ground out between his clenched teeth.
I hesitated to tell him everything. Not because I was afraid of his reaction, but because I was embarrassed I had allowed myself to become so meek and accepting of Will's behavior, and I felt guilty for having hidden all of this from everyone. "You have to tell me, or I'm going to think all kinds of terrible things." "It's not the first one," I whispered into his chest.
He tightened his hold on me. He drew a deep breath, exhaling slowly, and pressed his face into my hair. I could feel his muscles relax, but he never let go of me.


He looked down, sorrow flooding his face. He cleared his throat before continuing. “I know. I shouldn’t have lied. When I found out about Chrissy, I felt broken. I felt like I had come to know Christ too late. That my life would never be the same and that it couldn’t be repaired. I didn’t know how I would tell you and I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a father.” He paused, gathering his thoughts. “Mia, when I held Chrissy for the first time, I couldn’t help but see the good in all my mess. I finally believed the scripture that ‘all things work together for good to those who love God’.”
Mia watched him as he spoke. Watching his eyes light up, she couldn’t help but believe him. Deep down she had known she couldn’t blame him for his past. Everyone had a past. To remain angry would go against every teaching of Christ she believed in. Let go. She looked down, feeling the tears well up in her eyes.
“But there’s something you don’t know. Something I’ve been trying to tell you for years now. The reason I constantly searched for you.”
She froze, holding her breath. What more could he possibly have to reveal?