Hog Wild Book Sale

THREE PIGS WITH SALE SIGN
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ALL of my KINDLE E-BOOKS are just $0.99.

For 10 days — today through July 31 at midnight, central daylight time.

All 18 of my E-books are on a hog wild sale for that time. And if you don’t have a Kindle reader, Amazon has a free Kindle app for any of your devices. Just download it when you order any of the books.

Check out the huge variety by visiting my author’s page at this link:


‘QUENTON’S HONOR’ – Now Available on Amazon

QUENTON FRONT COVER -- NICE AND SHARP FROM CD FOR KINDLE - croppedWhat happens when twenty-first century technology comes face to face with the most powerful force the human race has ever known? Find out in this story of intrigue, romance, courage, and faith:  QUENTON’S HONOR.

A man’s love for his country; a man’s love for a woman.

Securing a nation; capturing a heart.

It’s a story of patriotism.  It’s a love story.  It’s a story of one man’s journey to God.

American industrial magnate Quenton Sutherland’s efforts at humanitarian aid carry him on a fact-finding tour into the Middle-Eastern hotbed of war-torn Pakistan. While there, he uncovers a terrorist plot involving three cells already poised for attack back in the U.S. Before he can foil their plan, he is taken hostage to prevent his exposing their plot.

In the days that follow, Quenton comes face-to-face with his need for the God he abandoned decades before — while he, along with investigative journalist Honor Fairfield, and the Department of Homeland Security, begin an ever-twisting adventure and discover life-changing connections that none of them could have foreseen.

I wrote this book years ago, and it was first published in 2004. But this is the first time its been offered in paperback through Amazon. I still love the story. Even though I’m the author, the story still makes me cry in all the right places, makes my heart beat faster with each embrace of the lovers, and thrills my soul when the characters encounter a God whose love is focused on blessing them every step of the way on this journey.

The story has been called a cross between ‘You’ve God Mail’ and ‘Song of Solomon.’ I don’t know about that, but I do know amazing things — even spiritual things — can happen through the wonders of computer technology and in the world of cyberspace. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

Get your copy in paperback or digital here.
The E-book is on sale for $1.99 through June.

You can read a short sample at this link, but bear in mind that Amazon’s samples on the product page are sometimes a little screwed up. Hopefully, you’ll at least get enough of the text to make a decision on whether the story’s for you or not.



 

What Happened to ‘The End’?

BOOKS W. END

Over the past decade, the publishing world has experienced an interesting, but, in my opinion, sad phenomenon. Almost all fiction authors and/or publishing houses have started leaving out the words “The End” on the last page of novels. It’s now become passe, and I guess in some minds, even unsophisticated to write those two iconic little words below the last paragraph of a story.

It’s sad. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. My earliest happy memories involve reading stories and having them read to me, and I started writing my own in elementary school. In fact, I wrote my first full-length play in the 6th grade. I get totally immersed in the books I read. I can pass hours and even go without food — even chocolate and coffee — once I get entrenched in a story. I live the experiences with the characters — laughing with them, crying with them, loving with them, fighting with them — and rejoicing in the final resolution of the climax in their favor. ( I do not read stories where the main character ends up defeated.)

But when I come to the end of those stories, I’m generally so much involved that I need closure in order to let them go and move on. Those two little words — “The End” — have always given me that. Now, many have been the times when I hated to see them come. I didn’t want the story to end, and I would have pushed those words forward for another twenty pages or so at least. But eventually, all good stories have to reach their resolution, and when they do, I’ve always found a quiet acceptance and even a serene pleasure in reading those words. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve leaned back after reading “The End,” closed my eyes, and taken a slow deep breath and relished the fact that all was resolved and every loose end securely tucked away.

Those two little words close a story and let me know that it’s all right to let those characters go and move on to the next story — the next adventure — the next romance — the next journey. Yes, I know that any reader of average intelligence is able to figure out that if there is no more text between the covers, then the story has come to an end. But that doesn’t satisfy me at all. Somehow, those two words typed onto the page just make the reading experience complete, and finishing a story without them is not the same. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels that way. I don’t know. It’s not a subject I discuss with other writers — or readers. But it’s something that touches me powerfully enough that I continue to type “The End” at the completion of every novel I write.

And I will continue to do so from now on. The publisher that I have worked with for years is in agreement with me, and, of course, any books that I publish through Amazon don’t require my considering anyone else’s opinion. So I’m free in both situations to do as I please. And what pleases me is to be able to say to my readers  — in effect — “Well, now, we have come the distance together in this story; thank you for sharing it with me; I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have; we’ve solved the problems for the hero and heroine, and they are satisfied and secure;  I’ve taken great care to leave you in a good place; All is well = The End.”



 

Simon Stone Book # 1 – On Sale This Week

INNOCENT FRONT COVER = AMAZON

Novellas are back in style. After decades with almost no “short novels” on the bookshelves, we’ve come back to the place where we want stories that require shorter time spans, but that still offer the true-to-life actions and emotions that satisfy. Novellas are, once again, taking their place as the genre of choice for busy readers. On target, quick-read stories that still bring long-lasting satisfaction after we’ve turned the last page:

My contribution to this genre is a series based on one of my favorite characters: Detective Simon Stone. Book # 1 in that series — INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY — is a suspenseful romance that will keep you guessing right up until the last couple pages. And it’s on a whopping sale this whole week:

E-BOOK:  $0.99

PAPERBACK: $3.99

(Prices good through midnight 2/29/20, CST)

Deanna Forbes is a suspect in a murder investigation, but that fact doesn’t interfere with her desires. And, as a woman, she finds herself attracted to Detective Simon Stone, who conducts the two interviews with her before she is taken off the ‘official’ suspect list. She surprises Stone, and herself, when she invites him to have dinner with her so she can get to know him better.

Simon is a detective with a heart, and, so far, that heart has never been broken. So falling in love with a woman he still suspects of murder doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. But sometimes the heart has a mind of its own. He may be the sharpest detective on the force, but love is not a subject covered in the standard law enforcement manuals.

Read it fast; enjoy it long. And look for book # 2 — The Deadliest Venom — to be available in April.

Click here to get your copy.



 

Encouraging Love Story — On Sale for Valentine’s Month

JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONTDon’t forget about the big sale on JONAH’S SONG.

This 4th book in The Smoky Mountain Series is a beautiful, memorable love story. Although it’s book # 4 in the series, it also stands alone as a complete and inspiring story. In fact, all the novels in this series are equally capable of standing alone without the other stories.

Special prices through Valentine’s Day!

E-Book —- $1.99

Paperback — $7.99

To read some excerpts from the story, you can visit this post.

Find the book in both formats on Amazon.



 

It’s February – and Time for a Great Love Story

VALENTINE SPECIAL:  February 1 — February 14 

E-Book: $1.99

Paperback: $7.99


JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONT

What do the Biblical story of Ruth and the 21st-century novel, Jonah’s Song, have in common? Well you’ll have to read both stories to find out. Of course most people know the basic story of Ruth, so that leaves just one story left to read.

I’ll give you a hint: Ruth’s story has an important lesson that Jonah McDaniels and Valentina Rosswell (the novel’s hero and heroine) need to study and take to heart if their own love story has a chance at a happy ending.

Actually, even the Lord has His hands full trying to work things out for these two lovers. That’s why He had to take advantage of Ruth and Boaz along the way. If we stretched our imagination just a little, we might even say that by making sure the story of Ruth was included in the Bible, the Lord sort of “planned ahead” for when He’d need it as a teaching tool.

If you’re a true romantic – and enjoy the tingle of a touch – and a tear now and then – and catching your breath at the passion of a kiss – and using God’s Word to work out life’s problems – this story is definitely for you.

Although Jonah’s Song is the 4th book in the Smoky Mountain Series, it — like all the books in that series — can stand alone as a complete story.  Although many of the characters progress from story to story, readers will not be confused or disappointed in any way by reading one book before the other.

This book makes a great Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetie.

I’ll include some brief excerpts below, and here’s the link to find JONAH’S SONG and place your order – for yourself – or for the one you love.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 1-4

Valentina’s aquamarine eyes popped wide open. She sat bolt upright, her heart beating erratically, as she looked around her at her bedroom, realization dawning on her. She let out a gusty sigh. “Oh! … I knew it was too good to be true!” She sighed once more. She’d been dreaming — again — about Professor Jonah McDaniels — again!

She fell back against her pillows once more, running her hands through her long, loosely curled hair. As she felt it flow between her fingers, she recalled the scene from her dream where Jonah had buried his hand in her hair. She closed her eyes, wanting to relive the whole dream and hold onto it as long as possible.

Jonah had been standing a couple feet away from her, his conductor’s baton in his hand, his eyes burning with his feelings. Finally, he laid down the baton closed the gap between them and took her, somewhat roughly, into his arms.

Valentina swallowed, trying to get back the breath his sudden embrace had stolen. Her heart beat wildly as his eyes moved to her lips. Without conscious thought, she glanced down to his mouth, his full, sculptured lips – one of the first two things she had noticed about him the day she’d met him – the other being his deep violet eyes . . .

The exhilarating scent of his cologne sent her senses whirling, and the warmth of his breath as he brought his face close to hers was so sweet she couldn’t resist closing her eyes. Her lips were parted slightly, her breath almost suspended, and as his mouth reached hers, his lips were bold and strong as they molded hers to his own. Everything in her melted as she gave herself up to this kiss she’d wanted for so long, but had never dared hope for.

He deepened the kiss, and she clung to him. When he finally pulled back for a moment, she uttered his name, once, breathlessly. “Jonah.”

“Hey, Vallie!” That shout came from Katey, one of the two girls Valentina shared the apartment with, and it was coupled with a pounding on Valentina’s bedroom door. So much for wallowing in her dream. “You’d better get a move on if you don’t want to be late for rehearsal. You know what Dr. McDaniels will say if you walk in late.”

“Oh, no!” Vallie had forgotten about the string ensemble’s rehearsal this morning. Just the thing she didn’t need: facing Dr. McDaniels right after that dream. . . .

She stood in front of her mirror in her pajamas. It was time for the lecture again. She looked at her reflection sternly, and pointed her finger at the mirror. “This is just your junior year, Valentina Rosswell. You still have three months left of this year and your whole senior year to go. And next year is going to be full of performances, a good many of them with Dr. Jonah McDaniels conducting. Do you want to end up making a total fool of yourself? … Now, you go out there and act like the musician that you are! You treat this Dr. McDaniels like any other stuffy, old college professor.”

Suddenly she was picturing him dressed in a baggy sweater, the lower part of his face covered with a beard, his hair gray and in total disarray. She shook her head and sighed loudly. Even like that he looked good enough to melt her bones.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 213-215

She let out a long sigh, looking toward the windows herself.  “It’s a gorgeous evening out, isn’t it?”

He glanced back to the windows now, noticing that night was making rapid advances, twice as many stars showing up now as when he had been standing there looking out.  “Yes, one of the loveliest we’ve had.”  He turned back to face Vallie.  The light in the room was dim, but he could see Vallie’s face quite well since they were standing so close.  Her eyes were luminous, and he couldn’t resist the magnetism in them.

He stepped closer and spoke in barely more than a whisper.  “But not even such an evening can compare with your loveliness, Valentina.”  As he spoke, he slowly lifted his hand and touched the tips of his fingers to her cheek, gently gliding them along her skin.  He felt her tremble slightly at his touch.  “You’re so very beautiful, you know.”

She shook her head, a barely perceptible move, as if to say that she hadn’t known.

“Oh … yes,” he replied, still in that quiet voice.  “Indeed you are … and not just beautiful to look at … but equally as beautiful to know.”  Not actually conscious of what he was doing, he moved his forefinger gently to her mouth and began to trace the outline of her sensuous lips, his own beautifully sculptured mouth opening slightly as if in anticipation of what he wanted to do next.

Valentina held her breath.  She could hardly believe what she was experiencing and wondered fleetingly if she were dreaming again, because she knew that Jonah McDaniels wanted to kiss her — was moving toward her even now to do so.  His face was only inches away from hers now, and she could feel the sweet warmth of his breath against her skin.  Oh, this was exactly the way she’d dreamed it again and again.  Oh, please, don’t let me wake up yet, she thought, as her eyelids drifted closed of their own volition.

Suddenly, she felt space between them and without opening her eyes, knew that he had drawn away and even taken a step back.  She did open her eyes then, looking at him with the confusion she felt showing plainly on her face.  But she hurried to camouflage it, embarrassed enough that he obviously knew she had expected to be kissed, and he, evidently, had changed his mind.  This was no dream, but it had ended just as unhappily as all of those dreams had.  She dipped her head slightly, focusing on the floor for a moment to try to collect her thoughts.  All she knew at this moment was that she wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible.

“Well,” she said, needing to clear her throat to go on.  “I guess I’d better be getting back.” She looked right at him for just a moment and somehow mustered up a small smile.  “I hope you get all your problems worked out.”

He shoved both of his hands in his pants pockets and glanced down at the floor momentarily.  Then he looked back at her with a rather grim smile that she could barely see in the gathering darkness of the room.  “I’m afraid that isn’t too likely, Valentina.  Not every problem has a solution, you know.  … Some of them just have to be endured with as much grace as possible.”

“I … I’m sorry, Jonah.  … I wish … I wish I could help somehow.”

He laughed out loud then, but it was a bitter laugh, and he choked it off quickly and looked into her eyes. When he spoke, it was so quietly she had to strain to hear the words clearly.  “Go home, Valentina.”


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 237-239

Cameron paused, looking at his brother, who walked back to his chair, but only leaned on the back of it.  “I think Vallie loves you, and personally, I think your love is exactly what she needs … and wants.”

“Then why don’t I feel that way about it too?”

“Because you’re letting your head rule instead of your heart.  You know, God uses our hearts to lead us into His will much more often that He does our heads, Jonah.”

Jonah stood there with his elbows resting on the back of the chair, looking at his hands clasped in front of him.  “It’s interesting you should say that.  A few nights ago, when I was really wrestling with all this, I picked up my Bible and just opened to wherever, and the first passage I read was from Proverbs three.  The fifth verse says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

“That’s it, Jonah.  You’ve been leaning heavily on your own reasoning about this thing and not on your heart at all from what I can see.  You’ve served God faithfully all of your life.  Surely you can trust that He has a strong enough hold on you by now to lead you where He wants you. And to keep you from taking wrong turns. If something – the same something – keeps showing up strongly and consistently in your heart, and it’s something that doesn’t go against God’s Word, then it’s most likely the Lord Who planted it in your heart in the first place.” . . .

. . .   Jonah took his seat in the chair again as Cameron continued: “What you have to offer may be the very things that Valentina needs most in a husband.  You need to at least give the Lord … and Valentina … the opportunity to put in their two cents worth, rather than just deciding everything in your own finite mind.”

Jonah grinned at his brother’s bluntness, but then he sighed and leaned his head back against the chair, closing his eyes.  After several minutes, he spoke softly.  “I composed a song to her, did I tell you?”

“No.  When was this?”

“A couple of weeks ago.  I was so close to drowning in all that I was feeling for her … and wanting from her…  that I just picked up the violin and began to play it out.  After I’d played it several times, I decided I needed to get it written down so I wouldn’t lose it.”  He laughed lightly.  “As if I could lose it. … It‘s as much a part of me as my breath.”

Cameron looked at his brother, whose eyes were still closed.  His heart swelled with pride in this older brother who was able to create such beauty with his gifts.  How like Jonah to release the love he felt in the creation of a beautiful piece of music that millions of people could one day share and enjoy.

“Have you played it for her?” he asked now.

Jonah opened his eyes and looked at Cameron.  “No, I haven’t.  … And I don’t think I ever intended to.”

“Then you’re an idiot.”

Jonah’s eyes widened.  His brother had never spoken to him that way before, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.  “You sound pretty convinced.”

“I am.  …


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp.275-279

On the night of October 20th, which was supposed to have been her wedding night,  Vallie couldn’t get to sleep, so she finally got up and went into her parents’ living room and sat down on the sofa, curling up into the corner, trying to think of some way to get her mind off Jonah and how she ached for him.  She huddled there, hurting, but trying not to cry anymore.  But all her efforts were in vain, because the tears slipped out anyway, and as the pain insisted on pulsing through her, the sobs started again.  She had tried to be as quiet as possible, but her father had heard her go downstairs, and then he heard her sobbing again, and decided it was time his little girl’s daddy did something to change things … somehow.

He slipped out of bed and put on his robe as quietly as possible so as not to wake his wife.  He knew she was hurting almost as much as Valentina herself — just because mothers who really loved their daughters did that — and he slipped downstairs.  He turned on one of the table lamps before he sat down beside Valentina and put his arm around her, calling her by his pet name for her.

“Hey, now, Valentine, it’s time you listened to your daddy and listened good,” he said, handing her a handful of tissues and giving her a little shake with the arm he had around her.

Vallie took the tissues and began to blow her nose and wipe her eyes, even though a river of tears still streamed down her face.  “I … I’m sorry I woke you, Daddy.  Did I wake Mom too?”

He shook his head.  “No, she’s still asleep.  And you don’t have anything to be sorry about, Valentine.  You’re hurting … hurting badly … and that’s what family’s for … to help ease the hurt.  Or if we can’t ease it … then we can at least be there to hurt with you until the Lord eases it.”

Vallie gave him a watery smile at those words and leaned her head on his shoulder for a minute.  “Oh, Daddy, I don’t think there is any way to ease this hurt.  It just goes so deep … and it seems so final.”

He pulled back a little so that she raised her head and looked at him.  “Now you listen to me, little girl, there’s nothing final about any of this,” he said sternly, pointing his finger at her.  “This whole thing isn’t over by any means, and I don’t want you giving up and believing it is.”

“What do you mean,” she asked, still wiping every other minute at her nose and eyes.

“I mean just what I say.  So your man went back to Chicago saying he wasn’t going to let you be tied to him when he’d just be a burden to you.  Does that mean everything’s over?”  He shook his head, and continued. “You’ve got to understand that a man just feels like he has to do that … he has to protect the woman he loves from suffering if at all possible, and that’s what Jonah thinks he’s doing.  Plus the fact that his stubborn male ego can’t stand to think that he might have to be really dependent on you for something he feels he has to do for himself. All of that’s just part of a man’s make-up, Valentine.

“But, little girl, that’s just the first phase of what Jonah’s going through. He’s going to come to a time when that ego isn’t going to be as strong … or as stubborn. It’s not going to be enough to pull him through the loneliness and the terrible need he’ll be feeling without you.  Now, if he’d never allowed himself to open up to the truth that he loves you and wants a future with you, he might have been able to go on for the rest of his life at least halfway satisfied with his life without you in it. But not anymore. Now that he’s admitted to himself that he loves you and needs you to make his life complete, there’s no going back.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Oh, I don’t just believe it, Valentine. I know it. I’m a man myself, you know,” he said, grinning at her now.

Vallie grinned back.

“Now … here’s the thing, Valentine.  When your man finally comes to the place that pride and ego aren’t enough to keep him going forward in this decision he’s made, the only thing left will be his feeling that he still has to protect you.  And that’s where you have a chance to turn this thing around.  When that time comes, he’ll be vulnerable enough that you’ll have a chance to convince him that instead of protecting you, he’s only hurting you, and that you’d rather be with him in his handicap than to be without him the rest of your life … that is,” he said, pausing to look right into her eyes … “if that is the way you feel about it.”

“That’s exactly the way I feel about it. I couldn’t have put my feelings into better words myself.”

“Well, then, I’d say you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

“Exactly what are you trying to say, Daddy?”

“Well … I don’t think it’s for me to tell you exactly what you ought to do, but I’ll tell you this.  Yesterday, in my quiet time with the Lord, I opened my Bible up to the book of Ruth and began to read.  I hadn’t read that book in a long time, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  And as I read through those chapters, I couldn’t help thinking about you from time to time … I guess because it’s kind of a love story, you know, and Boaz is considerably older than Ruth, and so on.  But … anyway … I noticed one thing in particular that stood out to me more than it ever had before.” . . .


All excerpts from Jonah’s Song. Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Pavloff Conner

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You’ll Never Look at Halloween the Same Way Again


DIGITAL VERSION ON SALE THROUGH THE END OF OCTOBER:  $1.99

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RACING FINAL AMAZON COVER - front

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

What’s it about?
When a small coastal town is invaded by witchcraft that threatens the lives of the school children and the future of the entire community, the citizens must learn to fight back with a Higher Power. Follow the story as God’s human vessels take their authority in the name of Jesus while the angelic hosts route the demonic forces on the spiritual plane in response to believers enforcing the Word of God. Read it, and you’ll never look at Halloween the same way again.
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Click the link at the top to find out more about the story and purchase your copy.
∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞



Free E-Book — today through September 9

SET FREE - AMAZON FRONT COVER

Do you prefer reading books digitally? Well, then this offer is for you. SET FREE TO LOVE, which is Book # 1 in The Smoky Mountain Series, is available for the next four days absolutely free in digital format.

The book normally sells for $3.99, but since Amazon and I are focusing on The Smoky Mountain Series promotions this month, we’re offering the first book free — for the next 4 days only.

Also, if you don’t own a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle app for any device that you use. You’ll find the download on the same page where you order the book.

If you enjoy inspirational fiction, I hope you’ll check out Private Detective Maddison Holt’s story in SET FREE TO LOVE. Click on the title to link to the product page for a description and to make your purchase.


 

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Inspirational Romance Goes To School

When there’s no textbook on love, romance can be a little tricky. But God, who’s the original Author of romance, has all the answers in His own book. And Professor Ephraim Kent is about to get an education with a higher degree than he’s ever earned before.
Purchase your own copy in paperback or digital:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980587361

 

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A Tiny Tribute to Max Steiner and Margaret Mitchell

Max Steiner’s iconic theme to Gone With The Wind has never lost its appeal. The poignancy and the passion of the music draw those same qualities to the surface in the listener. The music defines, at a level beyond words, the love, the courage, the conflict, and the tragedy of the Civil War and its toll on the lives of all who lived through it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that war lately — and about the book Gone With The Wind — about how incredible it is that one author, Margaret Mitchell, could bring to life that unique kaleidoscope of personalities, emotions, and events of that epic era in such a realistic manner. Some have scoffed at Mitchell’s book. I had a college professor who did so. But he had missed — as have all the other scoffers — the power of the creative gift in Margaret Mitchell. Very few authors have created characters so powerfully developed and presented as to impact generation after generation of readers and movie-goers. Her characters are raw and real with the passions of their time and their tragedy. And they force those who read and watch their passage through that story to feel what they feel.

Many have criticized the book in recent decades because they say it does not portray a realistic picture of the South during the pre-war period. But Mitchell was not trying to portray a picture of her homeland from an objective or “politically correct” point of view. She was trying to make readers see what generations of southerners believed and felt — how they saw their lives and what they longed for in their future — and how they lost it all and barely survived the further tragedy of the Reconstruction.

She was endeavoring to tell a story — and one that was based in reality as she and her southern kinsmen saw it. And in that effort, her gift as a writer shines. Readers and movie goers have identified with her characters for generation after generation, and it has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with a writer being able to bring raw, real human qualities and emotions to life in simple black ink on white paper.

There are a few other authors with this same gift, but they are rare indeed — especially in our current time, when so many who write are everlastingly conscious of “political correctness.” Margaret Mitchell was, most definitely, not politically correct. But she was committed and faithful to tell a powerful and successful story of how those people lived, loved, longed for better lives, and languished in their defeat. Every once in a while I like to just sit back and breathe in the beauty of that kind of talent when I find it.
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Why I Wrote ‘The Smoky Mountain Novel Series’

 


My love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and first grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And all of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis going down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was also tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.

That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.

In the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family and I eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.

I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place –  or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my live and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.

But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I’ve lived there with them and enjoyed being “home” for all those months. There’s one more book to come, so I’ll continue that enjoyment as I write Book 5: This Fire In My Heart.  I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.

My heart’s telling me that it’s time I worked things out in my schedule to make another trip to that place that’s the next best thing to Heaven. In fact, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.”  Ahhh, YES, INDEED, IT IS!


If you’d like to read the series, you’ll find the first 4 books in paperback and digital HERE.

 

 


 

‘Everything’s Jake’ Preview — 2 Chapters

EVERYTHING'S JAKE AMAZON COVER - FRONTEVERYTHING’S JAKE
Inspirational Romance

 

CHAPTER ONE

Mariah Jacoby paced the tiny office, taking the confined distance from wall to wall in four agitated strides as she waited for her boss to join her. She was fairly certain what the outcome of this meeting would be. She’d be looking for another job. She shook her head from side to side now in frustration. If only she could convince her boss that she could probably sell more from this boutique in the long run if she were honest with her customers!

Well, that wasn’t going to happen. Convincing Patricia there was something to be gained by telling a woman she looked fat in one of her dresses was about as likely as going over Niagara Falls in a barrel without getting hurt … seriously hurt! Hadn’t somebody tried that once? She thought she’d remembered reading something about it, but … right now her mind was too muddled with the mess she’d made of her third job in two years. Of course, it’s not like this latest one was something in her field. With a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in journalism, selling in a boutique was a little wide of the mark on both counts.

But her one year working at the Excel Learning Center had been enough to convince her that trying to teach students how to learn better was definitely not her forte. Her second job, the one with The Beacon, had been more in her line, but evidently news reporting was not what she really felt called to do either. Well, Mariah did feel a genuine interest in writing for a newspaper. It was actually her editor who had felt that she wasn’t right for the part. “You’ve got to quit editorializing, Mariah!” he said, through his gritted teeth. How many times had he said that? She couldn’t be sure, but it seemed to average about once a week, until finally, he had given her the bad news: She’d have to go. And he’d warned her one last time that if she thought she’d ever really want to get serious about a career in journalism, she’d better start working harder on her ability to remain objective when she covered the news.

She sighed now and finally dropped into one of the two chairs that sat in front of the desk, just settling into the seat when her boss opened the door and came in with a purposeful stride. Patricia wasn’t a time-waster; that was for sure. She marched around her desk and leaned over it toward Mariah. “I guess you know what this means?” Mariah opened her mouth to protest … or defend herself … or something … but nothing came out. She dipped her head and then nodded.

“I know,” she said on a resigned sigh. “I really do try to do what you want though, Patricia.”

Her boss shook her head as she sat down behind the desk. “Not hard enough, Mariah. I’ve told you repeatedly that we do not tell any of our customers that they don’t look terrific in whatever they choose.”

Mariah’s head came up, and she looked directly at her boss. “But that’s lying! I can’t believe that’s the best way to do business!”

“The point is that this is my business, Mariah. And the only one who needs to be satisfied with the way we do business here is me. Besides, I don’t really consider it lying. When our customers have chosen something that they like on themselves, it makes them feel good about themselves, and that does make them look good. Happy people always look better than those who are unhappy. And more importantly, happy customers keep coming back!”

“But Mrs. Jamison wasn’t unhappy when I told her that I thought she’d look better in something else.”

“No? Well, just what would you call that frown on her face, that furrowed brow, and her flustered attitude?”

“She was just trying to think about what I’d said while I was showing her the other possibilities.”

“All possibilities that she did not like herself! That’s just my point. She’s been a customer here for five years, and she had already disqualified the style of dress you kept trying to push off on her!” She leaned back with a sigh. “I’m sorry, Mariah, but I did warn you that you may not be cut out for this kind of work. I know you’ve tried, but you’re not going to be able to treat my customers differently. This is the fourth time I’ve had to deal with the situation and try to soothe the people you’ve upset. I’ll give you the rest of this week doing jobs that won’t require you to work with customers, and I’ll give you the two week’s severance pay that your contract specifies, but I’ll definitely have to replace you with someone who’s comfortable with my rules here.”

It didn’t take long for the end of the week to arrive, and Mariah found that she wasn’t all that emotional about having to say goodbye to Patricia and the two other women who worked at the boutique. She was very emotional, however, about not having a job. She had managed to save a little money while she’d worked on her masters because she’d decided to attend the university at home and stay at the house with her parents. They had been eager to have her there again, even for that period of time, and they just refused to let her pay for much of anything at all. She’d tried to make up for it by treating them to special dinners out and a weekend away a couple of times, but she had put most of her money from the job on campus into a savings account. Good thing! She’d already gone through half of it, and it looked like the second half would soon be in hot pursuit of the first.

She made her way back to the one-bedroom apartment in a very unfashionable, but comfortable part of town, dropped her purse and jacket on the table just inside the door, kicked off her shoes, and headed for the tiny kitchen to make tea. Her granny had always sworn by tea as the fix-it potion for any problem. Of course, Granny had always held faithful to all the little details that constituted a traditional English tea – the boiled water, the warmed teapot, the unrushed brewing time. Mariah filled the teapot and stuck it in the microwave. What Granny didn’t know wouldn’t cause her any unhappiness.

While she waited for the water to boil, she picked up the mail that lay on her kitchen counter. She hadn’t had time to go through it carefully for the last two days, and now she was surprised to see a card from a friend of hers in another state. Abigail Harland, who had gone through the first four years of college with Mariah, was now a happily married wife and the mother of two rambunctious little boys. She took to that lifestyle like a duck to water, Mariah thought, smiling now as she remembered the last time she’d visited Abby and Seth.

She scanned the lines eagerly, moving over to the microwave as it dinged to let her know the water was ready. A few minutes later, as she sipped the fragrant tea and began to relax, she came to the end of the note, which included another invitation to visit as soon as possible. “Come for a whole weekend if you can,” Abby had written. “Better yet, I wish you’d look for a job here so we could be close like we used to be.”

Mariah laid the note on the counter, deep in thought. Well, why not? Why not at least try? She certainly had nothing holding her here. Of course she was only an hour from her parents living here, but Abby’s home wasn’t more than three hours from them. She shrugged her shoulders. She was going to have to start somewhere, and she might as well try to find something close to her best friends. She’d made a couple of local friends since moving here to work, and of course, she was comfortable with most all of the people she’d met at church. But there wasn’t anyone she felt she could bare her soul to the way she could Abby and Seth. Maybe this was a good time to move on.

She got up and added more tea to her cup, then moved into the living room and snuggled into the corner of the sofa. She had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach … almost a fear. Only she refused to let herself be afraid. It was just that … well … she had never figured herself for a failure. She had always done well in school. And she’d taken a variety of electives just to expand her mind and her horizons. Hadn’t she even taken those two auto-shop courses?

She grinned now as she remembered how surprised a couple of the guys in the class had been when they’d discovered how much she already knew. That was thanks to her big brother Mitch, of course. From the time she’d been a preteen, she had helped him work on his cars. And he’d had several over the years that he virtually rebuilt. Of course, it was just a hobby with him. He’d opted for a career in marketing, but he’d really had a gift for working on cars! And he’d told her she was a natural too, but of course, no other girls she knew were interested in becoming auto mechanics, so she dismissed that idea as less than good if she were going to have to compete with them for the guys out there that were worth having.

She snorted now as she thought about the fact that even though she was never in overalls or smudged with grease and oil these days, the guys weren’t exactly beating a path to her door. She thought about what she had to offer a man. Well … there was her open, friendly nature … her quick mind … her Christian lifestyle …. She sighed. Those things didn’t sound like attention grabbers to her.

She took mental stock of her physical assets: She had a clear complexion. Her hair was a rich brown, and the pixie cut she currently wore framed her face perfectly and drew attention to her eyes. And they were probably her most positive feature, weren’t they? She had always considered them plain old brown until one of the men she’d dated in college had told her they were the warm color of a glass of sherry. Her relationship with that man had taken a definite upswing from that moment, although they’d never gotten serious, and he’d graduated the following year. Still, he remained one of her favorite dating memories just because he’d given her a whole new confidence about her looks.

She sat her empty cup on the table beside the sofa and stretched out, thinking. What kind of job should she look for? She laughed lightly. She’d lain on the sofa in her home as a child and daydreamed just this way, asking herself, what she wanted to be when she grew up? But this wasn’t like those times. This was no daydream; this was reality. She was grown-up. She was 25, and it was time she made a career for herself.

The following Friday evening, she arrived at Seth and Abby’s door with a large suitcase, having told them of her plans to look for a job close to them. They had insisted she stay with them while she searched, but she had been adamant about not staying more than a week. If she hadn’t found something by then, she would either move into a motel or start looking in a different town.

But by the end of the week, she was no closer to having employment. She had checked with the area schools about possible openings for the next school year, which was right around the corner. She knew she wasn’t licensed to teach in the state, but she also knew there were ways to deal with that as long as she was working toward meeting the requirements within a certain time period. But there wasn’t anything in her field. Then she’d checked with a couple of local newspapers, but still nothing permanent. They had told her they’d consider some free-lance articles from her if she wanted to turn something in, and she had, in fact written one article and had it published. But she knew that she had managed that feat mainly because it was the kind of thing she didn’t have to be objective about.

Then she’d checked with a couple of department stores, but their waiting lists were long, and besides … she could tell by the manner of the women who’d talked to her that she would be right back in the same boat as she had been with Patricia. So she’d signed up with an employment agency, and had even gone to one interview that they’d set up, but to no avail. They’d been pleased with her credentials, but they were equally pleased with those of some of the other applicants, and two of those people had lived in the town all their lives. The company just considered them a better risk, all other things considered.

On the Friday evening a week after she’d arrived, Abby tried to convince her that she should stay at least another week. “You know we love having you here, Ry,” she said. “And you’ve been so much help with the boys. They really love you.”

Seth had reached over and patted Mariah’s hand. “We both want you to stay, Ry. Give it at least one more week.” He glanced over at his wife, a light in his eyes that made no secret of the fact that he was in love with her. “Besides,” he said, a teasing note in his voice, “my sweety would never forgive me if I didn’t do everything in my power to make sure you move here permanently.”

Mariah had laughed with them, but she felt sad too. Something was wrong with her. Why couldn’t she find a job? And a job that she liked? What did she really enjoy doing, anyway? She thought long and hard on that subject after she retired for the night. Lying there in bed, she tried to remember every time she’d ever felt happy at work, and she realized with a good deal of surprise that she had actually felt pretty good about all of her jobs. The problem was that her happiness had really been coming from her interaction with people, which she always enjoyed, and not from the work itself. In fact, the last time she remembered feeling really happy about the work she was doing was when she had been in the auto mechanics class, helping her project partner put an engine back together.

The following morning at breakfast, Abby’s four-year old climbed up on Mariah’s lap and put his arms around her neck. “You stay wif us,” he said. Then he reached up to pat her cheek. “ Me don’t want you to leave. You stay wif us, Ry.” She squeezed him tightly and kissed his cheek.

Abby sat down at the table with a cup of coffee. “See,” she said, grinning. “You can’t break his little heart by leaving yet.”

“Oh, all right. You’re all ganging up on me. I’ll take one more week, but … Abby … you know if I don’t find something by then, I need to try to get something in a larger city. There’s bound to be some kind of newspaper and teaching jobs both in a large enough city.”

“Well, just try one more week here then. I can’t bear to think you’ve come so close to living in the same town as us again and then not have it work out.”

Mariah chuckled and reached over and gripped her friends hand briefly. “Me too, Ab. I’ll really try this week, and I’ll spend more time praying about it too. Maybe I’ve been trying too hard on my own and not looking to the Lord for the guidance as I should have been.”

So after breakfast was cleaned up, Mariah went out to their back yard to sit on the patio in the shade and read her Bible and pray. She’d been a Christian most of her adult life, and she thought she had lived according to God’s will, but sometimes she had to admit that she didn’t spend nearly as much time listening to what the Lord might have to say to her as she did talking to Him. So for the next week, that was her primary goal, and her job search would have to be secondary.


CHAPTER TWO

The next Monday she was on her way to apply for a position she had heard about at church the previous day and began having trouble with her car. It kept dying at every stop sign, and then began jerking and trying to die in the middle of traffic. She remembered passing an auto repair center several times on that end of town, so she made her way there now, gritting her teeth and praying that she could make it there without getting stranded in the middle of the road somewhere.

As she pulled in, she realized that there were several cars ahead of her, but she hoped that since she had a sort of emergency situation, that might weigh heavily with the manager. If she’d had tools and parts, of course, she could have fixed it herself, but that was like wishing for the moon, since she didn’t even have a screwdriver with her this trip. And boy was that stupid, she told herself. At least she could have come better prepared to cope with car problems. But she had been pretty depressed by the time she’d set out for Abby’s, so that probably accounted for her lack of thought on the subject.

She got out and walked toward the open work bays. Even though the day was warm, she could feel the change in temperature as she entered the cool interior and adjusted her eyes to the darker atmosphere. She sniffed the air, recognizing the smells of a normal auto shop … smells she was comfortable with … and she smiled slightly. She could hear the sounds of someone working and finally managed to see a man half submerged beneath the hood of a luxury car leaning over the engine, totally absorbed. She needed to go into the office area. Turning half circle, she saw the office door and headed inside.

Even cooler air from the office air conditioner hit her as she stepped through the door. There was one man inside, leaning slightly on a high counter, writing something out by hand. He looked back at his computer screen, which was sitting on a desk behind the counter, then turned back and wrote some more. He looked a little taller than her, and slightly heavy set. It was obvious that he weighed in a little over normal. Probably most of it was muscle, but she doubted that all of it was. He had dark brown hair, liberally striped with gray. His face had a few lines that she could see around his mouth and eyes, but it was rather nice looking … at least what she could see of it with his head down a little. He looked back at his computer again, and spoke something in an exasperated voice, scratched his head, and turned back to the counter.

But before Mariah could get his attention, the front door to the office opened, and a man came in with a set of keys in his hand. “Here’s my keys, Neil. I’ll be back around closing time to pick it up.”

The man behind the counter slapped his palm against his forehead. “Oh, for crying out loud, Paul. I forgot all about you coming in today, or I’d have called you.”

“Somethin’ wrong?”

“Boy is that an understatement! Kurt’s off sick with the flu, and Bobby fell off a ladder at home yesterday and broke his arm … pretty bad break too.”

“Wow, that’s tough. Is he going to be all right?’

“Well, they seem to think so, but they’re saying at least six to eight weeks until he can come back to work.”

The customer let out a slow whistle. “So I guess that mean’s you’re too short-handed to service mine today, huh?”

Neil nodded from behind the counter and Paul continued. “No problem. It’s not really giving me any trouble. It was just past time, and I thought this week would work schedule-wise. I’ll give you a call next week and see if you’ve managed to get a temporary replacement.”

Neil shook his head in obvious exasperation. “I appreciate it, Paul. I can’t tell you how sorry I am … for Kurt and Bobby … for all my customers … for Bill out there who’s all by himself except for me … and not least of all for me personally.” He finished that statement with a sheepish grin that made him look like a self-conscious teenager instead of a man old enough to have gray hair. Mariah felt a pang of sympathy for him.

“Well, I’ll get on my way and let you take care of your other customer,” Paul said, looking toward Mariah and nodding briefly. For the first time, the man behind the desk … she assumed he was Neil … looked over to the side where she still stood close to the door. His eyes widened in surprise.

“Oh … sorry miss. I didn’t realize you were here.” He glanced back at Paul. “Thanks again, Paul. I’ll get to you as soon as possible; I promise.” His customer lifted his hand in a brief salute and headed out the door. Neil turned back to Mariah. “Can I help you?”

Mariah had been entertaining the wildest idea ever since she had heard the conversation between the two men. Rather than ask this man who was obviously the garage manager to help her, why not offer to help him? Her eyes twinkled as she stepped closer to the counter, and he looked at her more intently, a slight question in his eyes. Mariah had butterflies in her stomach, but she just knew in her heart that somehow this was right. She spoke with all the confidence and authority she could, so as to drown out her own doubts.

“Well, actually, I think it’s more a question of whether I can help you,” she said, smiling directly into his eyes. He got an even more harassed look in his eyes, brushed his hand through his already disheveled hair and answered her. “Look, ma’m, if you’re selling something, this isn’t the time to talk to me. I’m not going to try to make any decisions about buying anything at all this week!”

“Oh, but I’m —“

He held up his hand as he interrupted her. “Absolutely nothing at all!”

“But I’m not selling anything. Except … maybe … myself.”

His eyes grew even wider and his face flushed just a little as he looked her up and down, trying to consider what a basically decent woman was doing standing in his office offering to sell him sexual favors. He hadn’t figured out how to answer her without insulting her when it dawned on Mariah that what she had said could have been seriously misinterpreted. Then it was her turn to flush, but she did so with no half-way measures. She turned red and felt as hot as if she’d been standing in front of a 500 degree oven.

“Oh, I … I didn’t mean … I mean … I don’t mean what you think I mean!” She put her hands to her cheeks and felt the heat. She closed her eyes in misery at her foolish words.

“And … uh … just what is it that you think I think you mean?”

“Well … it’s obvious … at least from the look on your face … that you think I mean I’m hear to offer you … uh … well ….” It just kept getting worse with every word, so she stuttered to a stop.

By this time, Neil was starting to feel relieved to know that evidently he’d been mistaken about her words and breathed a sigh of relief. Now he was able to take a little pity on her and he chuckled. “Would you like to start again?”

“Please,” she said, finally beginning to return to normal color.

“But, miss, I have an unbelievably busy day, so could you make it kind of quick?”

“Well, that’s just it,” she said, coming all the way up to the counter now and standing just across from him … only the width of the counter separating them. “You see, I did come to have my car checked out, but when I heard you tell the other man that you were so short-handed, I knew that wasn’t a possibility. But … well, I’m a mechanic myself, and I can fix my own car if I have the tools and a way to order parts.” His jaw dropped open, but she hurried on. “But even more important for you … I can help you with your work here,” she finished, beaming her happiest smile at him.

Once again Neil’s eyes widened, but somehow he did manage to close his mouth. Was there no end of the surprises to come from this perky girl? At the same time he was considering this question, another part of his mind was taking in the fact that, although he wouldn’t have called her beautiful, she had a certain something that drew a man’s attention. She had the kind of face that made you feel good looking at her, especially her eyes. They were inviting somehow. Good grief, he needed to get his mind back on his work!

His eyes connected with hers again. “Your … uh … a mechanic, you say?” He didn’t have to say he didn’t believe her. It was too obvious.

“Yes,” she answered eagerly. “Well, not a professional one, you understand.” Neil didn’t think he was understanding much of anything that had happened since he’d looked up and spotted her, but he didn’t have a chance to say so before she added. “But I’ve taken a number of auto mechanics courses in college, and I used to help my brother all the time. I’ve done most of the things that your customers would need done.”

He ran his hand through his hair again. He couldn’t seem to get hold of a sensible response. She still stood there beaming at him. Finally he tried to say something. “Look … miss … I can’t hire just anyone off the street —“

“Oh, I understand,” she interrupted. “You may even feel you have to have someone with a degree. But couldn’t you take me on as an apprentice for right now, and at least you’d have two more hands to get your customer’s cars serviced and repaired.”

Her eyes sparkled at him, holding him entranced for a few seconds. Just enough time to make him waver in his reply again, and Mariah took advantage of his hesitation. “Tell you what. I have some time right now, so how about if I go to work on my own car, and you can watch me and see if I’m not telling you the truth about how good I am.”

By this time, she was leaning over the counter, close enough for him to see the tiniest sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose, almost completely hidden by her modest make-up. He looked into her warm, sherry-colored eyes and was momentarily lost. “Well … uh … I … I don’t know …”

Her eyes grew more intense, and she pulled back from the counter and stamped her foot. “Well, what have you got to lose?”

He didn’t like being put on a spot like this and made to feel stupid. His voice was a little harsh as he replied out of his frustration: “My business?”

Mariah opened her mouth to answer him, but then closed it again. She had to admit that some strange girl coming into an auto repair shop asking to use the man’s tools and dig through his parts to fix her own car and then expecting to be hired on the spot did seem pretty unorthodox. And she had to admit to herself that most of the mechanics she’d known who owned their own shop had struggled like crazy and invested every last thing they had in it to try to make a go of it. Asking one of them to let some stranger go to work there out of the clear blue would put any of them in a tough spot.

Finally, she nodded her head with a resigned look on her face. “Of course,” she said, her voice considerably subdued now. “I understand. It’s asking a lot of you to take a chance like that with a business you’ve no doubt invested every single resource in. I’m sorry,” she added with a sigh. “I guess since you don’t have time to take on any more work, I’ll look for someone else to fix my car too.” She turned toward the door, and Neil’s heart turned over. He scratched his head again. He was probably going to regret this, but he just couldn’t stand to see her so disappointed. She had seemed so excited at the prospect of working here for a while. He supposed he ought to at least give her a chance. She seemed so sure of herself. But … a woman mechanic was something he didn’t have any experience with at all.

“Wait!” he heard himself saying before he had sorted through all those thoughts. She turned back to look at him, and he continued. “Uh … I’ll tell you what. Pull your car into the last bay down there, and I’ll show you where everything is and get you started.”

“Really?” Her eyes were brilliant again, and the smile on her face was worth the butterflies in his stomach as he asked himself silently whether his insurance would cover this if something went wrong. He took a deep breath.

“Yeah … really.” He said.

She stepped back to the counter and held her hand out toward him across the top. “You won’t be sorry. I promise you,” she said, as he took her hand in his. It was warm and strong, but just soft enough that it sent a little tingle along his arm. He had to remind himself to let go, but finally he turned to walk around the counter and lead her back into the work bays.

“By the way, I’m Mariah … Mariah Jacoby.”

Mariah pulled her car into the last bay, got out and raised the hood. Then she looked around to size up what she had to work with. She spotted a blue coverall hanging on a hook along the side wall and went over to get it. “Do you mind?” she asked Neil. “ I was dressed to go to an interview,” she added, looking down at her light colored skirt and short-sleeved knit top.

“Sure. Go ahead,” he answered, and she slipped into the uniform, rolling large cuffs on the sleeves and legs. She thought about her hair, but one look at the only greasy cap hanging there convinced her she was better off taking her chances without it. That done, she began looking around at the array of tools and collecting what she thought she’d need. She had a pretty good idea what was at the root of the problem, knowing there were only a couple of possibilities likely to cause just that set of symptoms, and she also knew the job could take quite a while.

She told Neil what had been happening with the car as she began to check some things out, and then she began to tell him exactly what she was looking for, figuring that should give him a good idea of whether she knew her stuff or not. Neil nodded and grunted his agreement, silently coming to the conclusion that maybe she really did know something about engines. She worked without talking for the majority of the time, and Neil excused himself after a while, saying he had to get back to his accounting for a few minutes.

As he passed the young man who was still leaning under the hood of the other car, he stopped momentarily. “How’s it going with this one, Bill?”

The blond-haired younger man raised up and wiped his hands on a cloth. “I think I’ve got this one licked. I’m about ready to give it a test drive.”

“Great,” Neil answered about the time Bill glanced over and saw Mariah. He raised a questioning brow at his boss.

Neil cleared his throat and motioned with his head for Bill to follow him into the office. Bill did so with a big grin on his face. He’d never seen his boss flustered any time in the last three years, but something was up with this woman. He couldn’t resist teasing Neil a little. “You hire a new mechanic?” he asked, grinning from ear to ear.

“Maybe,” Neil answered and looked Bill in the eye. The grin dried up immediately, and Bill’s mouth just sort of hung open. “Huh?”

“Well, it’s like this,” began Neil, and then proceeded to tell him how all of the last half hour had transpired.

Bill just shook his head and chuckled. “Well …” he said, looking back out through the window in the door, watching Mariah for a moment. “Well, she sure acts like she knows what she’s doing, doesn’t she?”

Neil sighed. “We’ll see,” he answered and then looked back at his computer. “I’ve got to get this finished and then go out there and watch her at work some more before I know for sure. Go ahead and take yours out for the test, and get back as soon as you can.”

“Sure thing,” Bill said and hurried back into the work area. When he brought the Continental back, he parked it outside, satisfied that it was fully repaired, and then he drove a gray and white truck into the bay he’d left empty. As he got out, he heard Mariah talking to Neil about how the repair to her own car was coming. Bill couldn’t resist walking over to where the other two were working, Neil mostly handing Mariah tools and making a suggestion here and there.

“So, how’s it goin’?” Bill asked.

“Great,” Mariah answered before Neil could decide what to say. “I should have this baby running right in another half hour or so.”

“So what was it, anyway?” Bill asked her, walking around to the other side of the car to be closer to her.

She told him and then began to talk about how the repair was going in a little more detail, Bill agreeing with her on all points that she made. Neil was beginning to feel like a fifth wheel, and he just slipped away and walked over to the truck. He remembered what the owner had told him about the problem with this particular truck, so there was no need to go back into the office to get the work order. He just started to gather his tools and get to work. He knew he should direct Bill to get to another vehicle in the third bay, but, surprisingly, the quiet conversation between Bill and Mariah in the bay beside him was soothing to him as he worked, and for the first time in the last 24 hours, he was actually beginning to relax.

By the time Neil had the truck running smoothly, Mariah was ready to take her car for a test spin. As she pulled it out of the bay, Bill walked over to Neil, who was just putting down the truck hood. “Boy, I think that little lady really does know her business, Boss? You gonna let her stay on and help us?”

Neil was wiping his hands on a rag. “Maybe,” he said, looking a little preoccupied.

Bill nodded. “Hard decision, huh?”

Neil grinned a little. “Toughest one I’ve made since deciding to go into business.” Bill nodded his understanding and Neil spoke again. “Take this one out for a test, will ya?”

“Sure thing,” he said, hopping into the cab and backing the truck out of the building.

Mariah was back in a few minutes, beaming. “It’s right as rain,” she announced. “Do you want to test it out yourself just to be sure I really did fix it?” she asked, looking at him so earnestly that his heart turned over again. For some reason this little gal really wanted to work at this garage. He made his final decision in a second.

“Nope,” he said, grinning back. “You’re hired.”


For the rest of the story, get your copy on Amazon. Paperback or Digital.

 

 


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Share Your World 8/20/18

If you’d like to take part in the “Share Your World” weekly get-together, just hop over to Cee’s Photography and get the details.
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GLOBE - PIECE OF THE WORLD w. text.

Question # 1:  Which tastes better: black or green olives?

I love both, so I can’t choose between them. However, since I do try to watch how much extra sodium I take in, I tend to eat more black olives than green.

Question # 2: What’s your favorite room in your house? 

Well, again, I can’t really choose. Depends on what I’m doing. I love my kitchen because I love the blue and white color scheme and the light, friendly atmosphere. But I enjoy my living room for a lot more hours of any given day. I have my computers, most of my books, and my watercolor materials in that room, so whether I’m writing, reading, researching, or painting, I’m enjoying the living room. The only things not in that room that I need periodically are my musical keyboard and my bed, and they both reside in the bedroom just off the living room. The only room I don’t actually enjoy is my second bedroom, which has been converted to a laundry room/storage room, and it’s a reminder of how very unorganized I am.

Question # 3: What fictional family would you be a member of?

Oh, definitely the family of characters I created in my Smoky Mountain Series novels. Of course that ‘family’ is made up of about 4 different families who are tightly intertwined. They are the kind of people I want to be and the kind of people I want for family and friends. Plus — they all live where I want to live: right smack-dab in the middle of the Smoky Mountains.

Questions # 4: What did you appreciate or what made you smile this week?

Ahhh!  There’s no need to even think about this one: I paid off the mortgage on my house this week!!!!!!!!!   Yes!!!!!!!!  And I am smiling reeeeeeeaaaaallllly big.  Thank you, God!