Cute Commercial!

Friday, April 30, 2010

You guys all know that I love Collie dogs (just check out my profile pic) and when I saw this commercial for J.G. Wentworth I was so excited! The Collie looks almost exactly like my Collie, Coco....I always wondered what she did while I was away, now I know! I have to say the Collie is the only interesting part of the commercial...the rest is well, rather cheesy. What do you think?


Winner!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The winner of The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough chosen by random.org is...

Michelle!!!!

I've emailed Michelle and she has 48 hours to get back to me.

Thank you all for entering, continue to stop back and look for new giveaways!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Jill over @
Breaking the Spine hosts a weekly meme that features one book that you can't wait to be released! Be sure to visit Jill's site to see what she and other readers can't wait to get their hands on.

This week's WoW post is The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis. I've read the first 2 books in Summerside Press' Christian Romantic Suspense line and I loved them so I can't wait to read their summer releases which also includes Stars in the Night by Cara Putnam!

The Crimson Cipher
by Susan Page Davis
Copyright 2010
Summerside Press
ISBN: 9781609360122
320 pages
Fiction/Christian

From ChristianBook:
The year is 1915---and navy cryptographer Emma Shuster is determined to defend the U.S. against acts of German sabotage! Using the expertise she gained by helping her late father develop a cipher system, she teams up with Lt. John Patterson. But can they outwit the cunning adversary known only as Kobold---German for "goblin"?

Available July 2010 from Summerside Press!

Early Preview: Code Triage (Mercy Hospital, Book 3) by Candace Calvert

Monday, April 26, 2010

Candace Calvert is one of my absolute favorite authors and a super nice person to boot! I am sooo excited for the next book in her Mercy Hospital series, Code Triage! I have the feeling that this is going to be my favorite, especially since this is the best cover in the series! Below is a sneak peak of the cover and book blurb taken from Candace's blog! Enjoy!


Cover Blurb:

Dr. Leigh Stathos likes her ER shifts fast, furious and adrenaline-infused, “Treat ‘em and street ‘em” with no emotional complications. Life’s taught her a soul-rending lesson: nothing lasts forever, including marriage. The clock is ticking toward the end of hers. Then an unwelcome confrontation with “the other woman” begins a whole new set of lessons.

San Francisco police officer Nick Stathos never gives up, whether protecting his patrol neighborhood, holding fast to faith—or trying to save his marriage. Seven days is all he has to reach Leigh’s heart. But when a desperate act of violence slams Golden Gate Mercy Hospital into lockdown, it starts a chain of events that will change lives forever.


Pre-order from ChristianBook!

My Review: Deadly Disclosures (A Dinah Harris Mystery, Book 1) by Julie Cave

Deadly Disclosures (A Dinah Harris Mystery, Book 1)
by Julie Cave
Copyright 2010
Master Books
288 pages
ISBN: 978-0-89051-584-6
Fiction/Christian/Suspense

From the publisher:
How far will some go to silence an influential Christian voice?

FBI agent Dinah Harris now has a missing person's file to go along with a bad case of alcohol abuse and the depression she cannot seem to shake. Fighting to keep her focus, she struggles to find answers for why Thomas Whitfield, the prominent Secretary of the Smithsonian has vanished from his office with foul play almost guaranteed. Whitfield's body is eventually found, and Dinah is drawn into a frightening conspiracy, as more people begin to die, and Whitfield's faith is revealed as part of the motive behind his murder. Dinah finds troubling answers in an academic world filled with powerful financial endowments and a virulent opposition to the faith Whitfield only recently found. Can she reveal the truth before she finds herself the next silenced victim of a ruthless, unseen enemy?

My Review:
Deadly Disclosures is very impressive for a debut novel. While I'm not a huge mystery/suspense fan this book grabbed me and didn't let me go.

FBI agent Dinah Harris is tortured by the death of her husband and young son which has driven her into a deep depression and alcoholism. As she struggles with virtually every part of her life including her job and a very mysterious murder case, as a reader I really felt her pain and her desire for a release. It goes straight to your core. On top of such a terrifically real and flawed character the plot is excellent and very thought provoking with debates on creationism vs. evolution. Admittedly this is not a book I would normally pick up especially since there's not a hint of romance but I am certainly glad that I had the chance to read this book. I recommend it to readers, male and female, who enjoy a terrific mystery, with corporate and government cover ups, murder, and believable characters. I look forward to reading what happens next in the life of Agent Dinah Harris in The Shadowed Mind this Fall!

To learn more about Julie Cave and her books visit:
Her WEBSITE
Facebook
Twitter
Publisher site: New Leaf Publishing Group

*I was asked by the author to review this book and received my free copy from the publisher.*

My Review: Stay a Little Longer by Dorothy Garlock

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stay a Little Longer
by Dorothy Garlock
Copyright 2010
Grand Central Publishing
372 pages
ISBN: 978-0-446-54020-9
Historical Fiction

From the publisher:
Louise Watkins has her hands full. Her mother had been the town midwife, but after her daughter Alice died under her care, she refused to assist in a childbirth ever again. Since then Louise has assumed the work. She also takes care of Alice's six-year old, Charlotte, because the child's father was lost in World War I. But Louise's principal job is running the boardinghouse that is the family's main source of income. One day, Charlotte befriends a stranger ill with influenza, a man who has taken refuge in an old cabin in the woods nearby.

My review:
I don't read a whole lot of general market romance just because I don't need all of the strong language and sex. However I have found a few authors that I enjoy whose books are not rife with what I deem to be objectionable content, Dorothy Garlock is one of those authors. While her books do contain some language and maybe a love scene or two they are relatively tame compared to other books on the market. Stay a Little Longer is no exception. While I didn't find it to be focused on the romance as much as characters letting go of their pasts it still was a sweet story with somewhat of a beauty and the beast theme. There aren't a whole lot of sparks or passion, it's just a sweet, gentle romance that develops over time, not right away. If you like drama this book certainly has that too along with a few "bad guys." If you're looking for a spring read I would check this one out at the library or buy the trade paperback, I'm not sure I would shell out the $24.99 for the hardcover. Overall I liked the book and would read Ms. Garlock's future releases!

My review of The Moon Looked Down (2009) by Dorothy Garlock

To learn more about Dorothy Garlock visit:
Her WEBSITE

*I received my free review copy from Anna Balasi @ Hachette Book Group.*

My Review: The Anonymous Bride (Texas Boardinghouse Brides, Book 1) by Vickie McDonough

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Anonymous Bride (Texas Boardinghouse Brides, Book 1)
by Vickie McDonough
Copyright 2010
Barbour Books
352 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60260-696-8
Fiction/Christian/Romance

From the publisher:
Check yourself into the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series by Vickie McDonough, where you’ll meet Luke Davis, marshal of Lookout, Texas, who flippantly tells his cousin he’d get married if the right woman ever came along. When three mail-order brides are delivered to Luke a month later, he’s in an uncomfortable predicament. How will he ever choose his mate? Rachel Hamilton’s long-time love for Luke is reignited with his return to town. So when three mail-order brides appear, she panics. Will she find the courage to tell Luke that she loves him? Or take an anonymous part in the contest for his hand?

My Review:
This was the first trade paperback that I've read by Vickie McDonough and I LOVED it! I can't wait for Second Chance Brides to be released later this Fall. The Anonymous Bride has fun, faith and a few outlaws which makes for one interesting story. The antics of eleven year old Jacqueline aka "Jack" are hilarious, she reminds me a little of Missie from the film version of Love Comes Softly. She's more at home in overalls, fishing with the boys than wearing dresses and helping her mom run the boardinghouse. Jack is my favorite character in this book. I hope we see her more of her in this series, perhaps as an adult? Rachel and Luke aren't bad either. ;-) I love stories when old flames meet again after many years apart and discover that the spark is still there no matter how much they both try to deny it. All in all I would say if you like Mary Connealy and Lori Copeland you will definitely love Vickie McDonough and her historical Texas Boardinghouse Brides series!

To learn more about Vickie McDonough and her books visit:
I am giving way a copy of The Anonymous Bride, go here to enter now through April 28, 2010!

*Thanks to Goodreads, the publisher, and author for my free copy.*

100 FOLLOWERS!!!!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

YAY!!!! I am soooooo excited! I just got my 100th follower!!!! I want to thank you all so much for thinking enough of my blog to follow it! I'm thrilled! I have to figure out some way to celebrate but I know it's going to be a giveaway of some sort! Stop back next week to see what it will be!

Poll Results!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First, let me start off by saying thank you to everyone who voted (22 people in all), I appreciate your opinions! Second, I have to say that there was only a 1 vote difference between first and second and only a 4 vote difference between the first and third choices! WOW! Below is the finally tally.

Would you be interested in giveaways/reviews of general market romance (ie. Harlequin. Forever Romance, Avon) and fiction?

9 votes- No. It's not really my thing.
8 votes- Yes! I love it and would like to learn more about books in that genre.
5 votes- It doesn't matter to me, I read everything!


So since the "NO" votes won, I will continue to feature the books that I read the most of, Christian fiction and young adult Fiction. However, it doesn't mean that I won't feature an occasional review of a general market book, I just won't be going out of my way to add more reviews or giveaways of these types of books. Thank you all so very much again and happy reading!!!!

Book Giveaway: The Anonymous Bride (Texas Boardinghouse Brides, Book 1) by Vickie McDonough

A few weeks back I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough @ Casey's Blog, Operation Encourage an Author, then a few days later I was notified by Goodreads that I had won another copy! Needless to say I don't need 2 copies of the same book so my mistake means a giveaway for you, my loyal followers!!!!!!!! If you would like the chance to win make sure you follow the instructions below!



From the publisher:
Check yourself into the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series by Vickie McDonough, where you’ll meet Luke Davis, marshal of Lookout, Texas, who flippantly tells his cousin he’d get married if the right woman ever came along. When three mail-order brides are delivered to Luke a month later, he’s in an uncomfortable predicament. How will he ever choose his mate? Rachel Hamilton’s long-time love for Luke is reignited with his return to town. So when three mail-order brides appear, she panics. Will she find the courage to tell Luke that she loves him? Or take an anonymous part in the contest for his hand?

Rules:
~Leave a comment telling me you want to be entered!
~ For 2 extra entries become a follower and tell me in your comment or let me know that you are an old follower!
~You MUST leave an email address in your comment so I can contact you for your mailing address if you win! (ex: steelergirl83(at)gmail(dot)com)
~U.S. residents only please!
~Contest open until April 28, 2010 at 11:59PM EST.
~One winner will be chosen, their name posted on this blog, and they will be notified by email on April 29, 2010 and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be selected.

Good Luck!!!!!

Waiting on Wednesday: Nightshade (Discarded Heroes, Book 1) by Ronie Kendig


Jill over @ Breaking the Spine hosts a weekly meme that features one book that you can't wait to be released! Be sure to visit Jill's site to see what she and other readers can't wait to get their hands on.

The book I've chosen for this week's WoW post is by an author who is new to me! I've never read any of her books but her upcoming Discarded Heroes series looks incredible! Here's a preview of book 1, Nightshade.


Nightshade (Discarded Heroes, Book 1)
by Ronie Kendig
Copyright 2010
Barbour Books
368 pages
ISBN: 9781602607774
Fiction/Christian/Romance


From the author's website:
Soldier and hero, now he faces the biggest battle... the homefront.

After a tour of duty in a war-torn country, embattled former Navy SEAL Max Jacobs finds himself discarded and alienated from those he loves as he struggles with war-related PTSD. His wife, Sydney, files a restraining order against him, and a petition for divorce. Max is devastated.

Then a mysterious a man appears. He says he’s organizing a group that recycles veterans like Max. It’s a deep-six group known as Nightshade. With the chance to find purpose in life once again, Max is unable to resist the call of duty and signs on.

The team handles everything with precision and lethal skill—until they’re called upon to rescue a missionary family, and avoid a reporter hunting their identities. When the team effects the rescue, their paths collide with the reporter—Max’s wife. As they sneak through the rebel-infested jungle something about the missionary couple speaks to Max—and re-awakens the love for his wife.

Will Max yield his pride and anger? Can they escape the jungle before it’s too late?

Available July 2010 from Barbour Books!

Movie I Wanna See!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This spring I've been really surprised with some of the films that are coming out! I actually want to go see a lot of them, they look so cute! This week The Backup Plan starring Jennifer Lopez and Alex O'Loughlin (*sigh*) comes out. It looks like a super fun, romantic comedy with a twist. I loved JLo in Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner so I'm excited to see how she does in this film.

Here's the trailer!


Waterbrook Multnomah Blog Tour: The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Bridegrooms
by Allison Pittman
Copyright 2010
Multnomah Publishers
344 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60142-137-1
Fiction/Historical

From the publisher:
It Only Takes an Instant for Love to Strike

Tragedy hits the Allenhouse family on a hot summer night in Ohio when a mother of four vanished. Eight-year-old Vada virtually grew up overnight and raised her three younger sisters while her father lost himself in his medical practice in the basement of their home.

Now, Vada is a grown woman, still making her home with her father and sisters. Her days are spent serving as an errand girl for Cleveland’s fledgling amateur orchestra; her evenings with Garrison Walker, her devoted, if passionless, beau.

Dizzying change occurs the day the Brooklyn Bridegrooms come to town to play the Cleveland Spiders and a line drive wallops the head of a spectator. The fan is whisked to the Allenhouse parlor, and questions swirl about the anonymous, unconscious man.

Suddenly, the subdued house is filled with visitors, from a flirtatious, would-be sports writer to the Bridegrooms’ handsome star hitter to the guilt-ridden ballplayer who should have caught the stray shot. The medical case brings Dr. Allenhouse a frustration and helplessness he hasn’t felt since his wife’s disappearance. Vada’s sisters are giddy at the bevy of possible suitors. And Vada’s life is awakened amid the super-charged atmosphere of romantic opportunity.

My Review:
Allison Pittman has done it again, The Bridegrooms is a sweet, fast paced novel of four sisters living at the turn of the century. While at times it seemed to move a little bit too fast, it was altogether enjoyable especially for a girl like me who loves sports and romance! It's not as heartwrenching as her previous "baseball" novel, Stealing Home, but this book had it's share of tender moments especially those between Vada's sister, Althea and Eli, their father's patient. The relationship between each of the Allenhouse sisters, very different but loyal to each other, reminded me of Little Women. Vada is the serious, mother hen, Hazel the suffragette, Althea the poetic mute and Lizette is the flirtatious heart breaker and together they make for an interesting story. The Bridegrooms isn't quiet a home run but is most definitely a base hit I recommend for Christian historical fiction and romance readers.

To learn more about Allison Pittman visit:
Her WEBSITE
Her BLOG

*I received my free review copy from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.*


My Review: In Harm's Way (Heroes of Quantico, Book 3) by Irene Hannon

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Harm's Way (Heroes of Quantico, Book 3)
by Irene Hannon
Copyright 2010
Revell Publishers
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3312-4
Romantic Suspense

From the publisher:
How can she expect anyone to believe her--when she can hardly believe it herself?

FBI special agent Nick Bradley has seen his share of kooks during his fifteen years with the Bureau. But Rachel Sutton is an enigma. She seems normal when she shows up at his office--until she produces a tattered Raggedy Ann doll and tells him about a strange feeling of terror it gives her when she touches it. Nick dismisses her, only to stumble across a link between the doll and an abducted child, setting in motion a chain of events that uncovers startling connections--and puts Rachel's life on the line.

Filled with palpable suspense and heartwarming romance, In Harm's Way is the final installment of the thrilling Heroes of Quantico series.

My Review:
This is my first time reading a romantic suspense novel by Irene Hannon and it won't be my last! I really enjoyed the story of Rachel Sutton and Nick Bradley and the mystery they had to work together to solve. I especially liked that I could relate to each of the main characters, Rachel is as blind as a bat without her glasses (like me) and Nick has a thing for restoring old homes (something I would love to do). While some of the elements were a little hard for me to believe such as those concerning the reactions that the characters had to the Raggedy Ann doll, I still liked the story. I was never bored with it and even though I predicted the ending there were times when I was on the edge of my seat. Irene Hannon is a great writer and I am really looking forward to reading the first two books in this series, Against All Odds and An Eye for an Eye!

“Available April 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

To learn more about Irene Hannon and her books visit:
Her WEBSITE

*I received my free review copy from Donna Hausler, publicist @ Revell Publishers.*


What Do You Look For in a Man?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hahaha okay now that I have your attention... I thought since it was Friday it would be fun to talk about something that we all love whether we read Christian fiction or love a fun chick flick and that is...the hero! So I want to know who are your favorite fictional heroes from novels, movies or tv? Why do they appeal to you?

I'll start by sharing some of my favorites, it's a rather eclectic mix but variety is the spice of life right?



1. Fitzwilliam Darcy- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen






Okay I think Mr. Darcy is one of the ultimate heroes...I mean really who doesn't like a wealthy, brooding, and well-dressed man? Did I mention he is able to admit he was wrong?!






2. The Doctor- Doctor Who






Quirky, smart and oh so funny! Really? Is there a girl out there who doesn't like a hero that will make you LOL?!









3. Rhett Butler- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell






Devilishly handsome and a true rogue who's not afraid to speak his mind!









4. John Brady- A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman







Gentle, yet stubborn, with a deep faith *sigh.*









Ok I know this may be controversial if you are a fan of this series because he's not really the hero but he's not really the bad guy either but I like him and this is my list so here he is...

5. Damon Salvatore- The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith


Dangerous and oh so sexy...and he knows it too. What can I say, he "got swagger". :-P


So I told you my list of favorite heroes was eclectic...I didn't lie did I? From Christian fiction hero, John Brady to blood drinker, Damon Salvatore is quite a stretch, but what can I say I'm a girl of many tastes! I could go on and on about more of my favorite heroes but these are the first that came to mind. I will probably post more in the future along with my favorite heroines!!:-)

I'd love to know who your favorite fictional heroes are! Feel free to post a comment here or post on your blog.


Winner!!

Thank you all so much for stopping by to enter to win Sworn to Protect! Please continue to visit and look for new giveaways!

I always use the list randomizer from random.org and the winner is the first name that comes up and this time that name was...DONNA!!!

There were 15 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

1.donna
2.julie
3.angie
4.bill
5.pixie
6.karen k
7.edna
8.rae
9.lindsay w
10.trinity
11.terri
12.ashley
13.casey
14.sara
15.shelia
Timestamp: 2010-04-16 04:03:33 UTC

Donna will be emailed and she will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

My New Poll!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As you know I love Christian fiction and YA fiction, however I also read some general market romances and fiction. I want to know if you think I should feature more books and giveaways from these sub-genres? Christian fiction and Young Adult fiction will still be the main feature of this blog so not much will change!

Please let your opinion be known by taking my poll on the right sidebar of my blog! Thank you so much!!!!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson


Jill over @ Breaking the Spine hosts a weekly meme that features one book that you can't wait to be released! Be sure to visit Jill's site to see what she and other readers can't wait to get their hands on.

As you may know I love YA fiction, Christian fiction and historical fiction so I am super excited to read The Healer's Apprentice the debut novel by Melanie Dickerson which is all three! Check out the pretty cover and the terrific book trailer! I don't know about you but I can't wait till Fall!


The Healer's Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson
Copyright 2010
Zondervan
272 pages
ISBN: 9780310721437
YA Fiction/Historical/Romance


Book Blurb:
When destiny sleeps, it can only be awakened by true love’s kiss.

In this historical romance loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, a woodcutter’s daughter becomes the town healer’s apprentice. Rose’s job is to care for the sick and injured in Hagenheim Castle. But Rose gets sick at the sight of blood and is more suited to making up stories than sewing up wounds.

Lord Hamlin, the future ruler of the region, is injured and Rose must overcome her squeamishness to save him. He is everything that is noble and good, but loving him is forbidden. He is already betrothed to a mysterious woman in hiding.

With two noble-born brothers vying for her affections, Rose learns that the people of Hagenheim are not always who they seem, and even her own heart can mislead her.

First Wild Card Tour and Review: A Stranger's Wish (Amish Farm Trilogy, Book 1) by Gayle Roper

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


A Stranger's Wish (The Amish Farm Trilogy)

Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to David P. Bartlett - Print & Internet Publicist - Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Gayle Roper is the award-winning author of more than forty books and has been a Christy finalist three times. Gayle enjoys speaking at women’s events across the nation and loves sharing the powerful truths of Scripture with humor and practicality. She lives with her husband in southeastern Pennsylvania where Gayle enjoys reading, gardening, and her family.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925864
ISBN-13: 978-0736925860

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


By the time Jon Clarke What’s-his-name drove me to the hospital, my terrible inner trembling had stopped. My hands were still cold, and the towel pressed to my cheek was still sopping up blood, but I was almost in control again. If I could only stop shaking, I’d be fine.

I’d been so sure I’d lost my face. My stomach still curdled at the memory. All I’d done was bend down to pet Hawk, the sable-and-tan German shepherd sleeping contentedly in the mid-August sun. How was I to know he had a nasty cut hiding under that sleek hot fur?

I was horrified when he lashed out, startled by the pain I had inadvertently caused him. He got me in the cheek with a fang, but despite the blood, the wound was mostly superficial. The thought of what would have happened if he’d closed his mouth made me break out in a fine sweat.

How dumb to touch a sleeping dog. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I knew better. Everyone knew better.

As we entered the emergency room, I rearranged my towel to find an area not stained with blood. I went to the desk and signed in with a woman whose jet black hair stuck out in spikes to rival a hedgehog. When she had my life’s history, she patted my paperwork with a proprietary air that made me wonder if she was willing to share the information with the people I’d come to see.

“Have a seat.” She gave me a warm smile. “They’ll be with you shortly.”

Hoping shortly really meant shortly, I took my seat.

“You don’t have to wait,” I told Jon Clarke as he took the bright orange plastic chair beside me in the otherwise empty emergency room. He smiled slightly and stretched his long legs out before him, the picture of long-suffering
and quiet accommodation. His posture said it didn’t matter how long things took. He was prepared to be gallant and wait it out.

“Really,” I said. “I’ll be all right. You can go.”

I was embarrassed to have inflicted myself upon this man I didn’t know, this man whose last name I couldn’t even remember. He’d pulled into the drive at the Zooks’ Amish farm just as I bent over Hawk. While Mary Zook plied me with towels and bemoaned my possible disfigurement when she wasn’t yelling at the innocent Hawk, John Clarke Whoever climbed out of his car, took me by the elbow, put me in his passenger seat, and drove me here.

What would I have done if he hadn’t come along at just the right moment? Gone to the hospital in a buggy? Certainly that wouldn’t have worked if I’d had a life-threatening injury. I guess if that were the case, someone would run to the phone down on the road and dial 911 or run to a neighbor with a car. Hmm. Peace and serenity of the Amish variety had a definite downside.

Jon Clarke smiled at me now, looking comfortable in his very uncomfortable chair. “Of course I’ll wait for you. I’d never run out on a lady in distress. Besides, you need a way home.”

“I could call a cab.”

“Bird-in-Hand is too far from Lancaster for that. It would cost a fortune.” He smiled at me again, politely patient.

“It’s only fifteen minutes max.”

“That’s a lot when the fare indicator goes ca-ching, ca-ching. It’s better if I just wait.”

I gritted my teeth. Just what I needed, a shining knight when I was in no condition to play the lady. I smiled ungraciously and winced.

“Hurt much?”

Of course it hurt. What did he think? “The strange thing is that my tongue can push into the wound from the inside of my mouth. Only a thin piece of skin on my inner cheek keeps the puncture from going all the way through.” I pushed against my cheek with my tongue. It was a creepy sensation to feel the hole, but I couldn’t resist the need to fiddle.

He looked suitably impressed and apparently decided to keep talking to distract me from my pain and injury. I must say he shouldered the burden with stoic determination and great charm.

“Have you lived in the Lancaster area long?” he asked, and I could have sworn he actually cared.

“Three years. I love it here.”

“Were you at the Zooks’ to visit Jake too?”

Too. So he had come to see Jake. I shook my head. “I live there.”

That stopped him. “Really? On the farm?” He raised an eyebrow at me, an improbably dark eyebrow considering the light brown of his hair. “Have you been living there long?”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. “About four hours.”

The eyebrow rose once again. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Great beginning, isn’t it? Todd spent the morning and early afternoon helping me move, and he’d just left. I was on my way into the house when I stopped to pet Hawk.” I sighed. “They’ll probably decide I’m too much trouble to have around.”

I pulled the towel from my cheek and studied the bloody patterns on the white terry cloth. They looked like abstract art. I was an artist myself, but I never painted compositions like these. I liked more realism—which meant my work would probably never hang in important galleries.

Uptight and unimaginative, according to certain professors and fellow students from my college days. “Flex,” they said. “Soar! Paint where your spirit leads.”

I flexed and soared with the best of them, but the finished work still looked like what it was.

I refolded the towel, burying the modern art, reapplied a clean area, and pressed.

“Who’s Todd?” Jon Clarke asked.

I shrugged. Good question. “Todd Reasoner. A friend.”

“Ah.”

Would that Todd were as easily explained as the conclusion Jon Clarke had apparently leaped to.

“Don’t do that,” Jon Clarke said.

I blinked. “Do what?”

“Don’t push against your cheek like that.”

I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.

“What if that thin piece of skin ruptures? Scarring. Infection. MRSA. Who knows?”

I frowned. Talk about Worst Case Scenario Man. I wanted to tell him I’d play with the inside of my cheek if I felt like it, but he was probably right about all the dire possibilities. I didn’t want to rupture that thin membrane so delicately protecting the inside of my mouth. And I certainly didn’t want to do anything to encourage the possibility of scarring. I looked in the mirror enough to know my face didn’t need that kind of help.

“Not many people get to stay on an Amish farm.” He paused. “Because of their closed society,” he added as if I wouldn’t understand his point. “You’re very fortunate to get the opportunity.”

“I know. I consider this chance a gift straight from God. One day my principal mentioned that he had Amish friends who were willing to take in a boarder. I got the Zooks’ name and contacted them immediately.”

I didn’t tell him that when I first went to the farm, I wore one of my conservative suits, a gift from my parents when they were still hoping to quell my tendency toward bright colors and what they considered the instability of the art community, not that they actually knew any artists but me.

“If you’re too artsy, Kristina,” they said almost daily, as if being “artsy” was the equivalent of having a single digit IQ, “people won’t take you seriously.”

What they meant was that their people, all high-powered corporate lawyers who earned high six figures or even seven annually, wouldn’t take me seriously. They were a group that had no time for business casual, let alone colorful artsy.

On that first visit to the Zooks, I hadn’t been certain what cultural landmines I’d have to navigate, so I determined to at least defuse the clothing issue, the one I knew about and could somewhat mitigate. I’d straightened my navy lapels and smoothed my cream silk blouse before I got out of the car, another cultural difference that I wasn’t willing to yield on, not if I wanted to get to work.

To my delight, I found Mary and John Zook gracious, respectful, and kind. Mary sat there in her pinned-together dress and dark stockings, her organdy kapp crisp in spite of the humidity. John wore a white shirt and black broadfall trousers. His beard was full with only a hint of gray, and his straw hat hung on a peg by the door. They might demand the simple life of themselves and their family, but it was immediately obvious they would not demand the same of me.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if I had more freedom to be myself here in the midst of this highly structured society than in my own parents’ home?

“Your principal?” Jon Clarke asked from his seat beside me. “You teach?”

I nodded. “Elementary art.”

“When I first pulled into the drive, I thought you must be Jake’s visiting nurse.”

“Not me. I’d be a terrible nurse.”

“But a good teacher.”

“Adequate, anyway. And I get the summers off to study and paint. How do you know the Zooks?”

“I’ve known them forever. My aunt and uncle live down the road from them. But I haven’t seen them in several years. In fact, I haven’t been in Lancaster for a long time.”

So I’d bled all over his first visit in years. Great. “Was it a job that kept you away?”

“Yes and no. Yes, when I was a youth pastor at a church in Michigan. No, when I went to seminary and graduate school. I just finished my doctorate in counseling.”

“Really?” I was impressed.

“No. I confess. I’m lying. I just thought it sounded like a wonderful way to astonish and amaze a pretty girl.”

I blinked at him, and he smiled impudently back. “Really?” he said in a dead-on imitation of me.

Flustered, I looked away from his laughing eyes. “I was just trying to make decent conversation.”

His smile deepened. It was, I couldn’t help noticing, a most wonderful smile, crinkling his eyes almost shut and inviting me to smile along, which I was careful not to do because of my cheek.

“Kristina Matthews?” called the woman at the desk. Her nameplate said she was Harriet. She scanned the empty room as though there might be several Kristinas lurking about, and I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder to see who might have sneaked in while I wasn’t looking.

When I stood, Harriet smiled brightly. “There you are. Right through here, please.”

As I entered the treatment area, I passed a teenage boy staggering out on crutches and a lady in a bathing suit with her arm in a bright pink cast. The walking wounded. I wondered what my battle scars would be.

Ten minutes later I looked away as a nurse stabbed me efficiently with a needle.

“This tetanus shot may cause your arm to swell or stiffen,” she said, her voice filled with sorrow over my possible plight. I couldn’t decide whether she was sorry I might swell or sorry I mightn’t. “If it swells or stiffens, don’t worry. Take aspirin or Tylenol and call your personal physician if the pain persists.” She turned away with a great sigh and began cleaning up the treatment area.

I slid off the examination table and looked at my wobbly reflection in the glass doors of the supply cabinet. The flesh-colored butterfly bandage stuck in the middle of my left cheek distorted my face slightly, but I didn’t mind. There had been no need for stitches.

“Any scarring will be minimal,” the doctor said absentmindedly as he wrote something on the forms Harriet had passed to him. He was a good match for the nurse. I doubted he even noticed her melancholia. “Just keep the wound dry and check with your regular doctor next week to have it redressed.” He ripped off the top copy of the paperwork and handed it to me. “It tells you here. And you’re certain the dog had his shots?”

I nodded, took the paper, and hurried to the waiting room. At least Jon Clarke hadn’t had to wait long once I was seen.

But the waiting room was empty. My angel of mercy had flown the coop. I was standing there wondering what to do next when Harriet at the desk called to me.

“Don’t worry, honey. He’ll be right back. He said he had to run a quick errand.”

I nodded with disproportionate relief.

“Men,” she said sympathetically. “You never know what they’re going to do, do you? Sometimes they take off, and you never see them again.” The edge that had crept into her voice made me think she was speaking from experience. She gave herself a little shake. “But yours looked nice enough to me. I think you can trust him, don’t you?”

Her guess was as good as mine. We’d both known him for about the same length of time.

She got up from her desk. “Listen. I’ve got to go to the ladies’ room. I’m talking emergency here, believe me. Stay by the desk and watch things for me, will you?”

Yikes. “What if someone comes in?”

“Tell them I’ll be back in a minute. But don’t worry,” she called over her shoulder as she disappeared through a door. “Nothing big ever happens on Saturday afternoon.”

Taking no comfort from those words, I looked at the quiet waiting room.

No one, Lord, okay? Not till she gets back, okay?

The prayer was barely formed when the waiting room door slid open and an older man in khaki work clothes entered. His face, damp with perspiration, matched the color of the white envelopes sticking out of his shirt pocket, and he was rubbing his left arm. He stopped beside me at the desk.

“I think I’m having a heart attack,” he said as he might say he was going to sneeze.

I felt my own heart stop beating and my mouth go dry.

He staggered, and I reached out instinctively, taking his arm and lowering him into Harriet’s chair.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t apologize!” Now my heart was beating so loudly I could scarcely
hear myself talk. “Don’t worry. Someone will be here to help you in a moment.”

Suddenly he stopped kneading his arm and pressed his hand against his chest. His face contorted and I froze. He was going to die right here while Harriet was in the ladies’ room!

After a minute he relaxed, and I began to breathe again. I ran to the door of the treatment area. “Help, somebody! Help!”

The sad-faced nurse leaned out of a cubicle. “Is anyone bleeding?” She was so intent on what was going on behind that curtain that she didn’t even look at me.

“No, but—”

“Then we’ll be there as soon as we can.” And she disappeared.

I could see several pairs of feet below the curtain and hear several voices,
including that of my doctor, who was barking orders with impressive authority. Through a door down the hall I could see an ambulance with its back doors still open.

“But he needs you now,” I called desperately. “He really does! It’s his—”

“We’ll be there in a minute,” she yelled as a great cascade of blood flowed onto the floor.

Pushing down panic and not knowing what else to do, I went back to the man.

“They’ll be here in a minute,” I told him with all the confidence I could muster.

“Had one before,” he whispered to me. “Don’t worry. It’ll be all right. I’m not ready to die yet. I’ve got stuff to do.”

I tried to smile to encourage him, but between my punctured cheek and my fear, I think it was more of a grimace. The man seemed to appreciate my effort anyway.

Dear God, I screamed in silent prayer, where’s Harriet? Send her out here fast, Lord! Please!

The man rested his head against the wall. “What’s your name? Are you Harriet?”

“I’m Kristie Matthews. Should you be talking?”

“I drove myself here. You don’t think talking’s any worse than that, do you?”

“You drove yourself here? With a heart attack?”

He smiled faintly. “I had to get here somehow. And I didn’t think you were Harriet. You don’t look like a Harriet.”

I didn’t look like this Harriet. Plain old straight brown hair cut to bend at my chin instead of too-black spikes and the electrified look. Five seven and slim instead of short and a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts, if Harriet’s figure and the box in the trash receptacle were any indication. A hole in my cheek instead of an abundance of blusher.

Suddenly he raised his head and looked at me with an intensity that made me blink. “Will you do me a favor, Kristie Matthews?”

I leaned close to hear his weak voice. “Of course.”

“Keep this for me.” He fumbled in his shirt pocket, reaching behind the envelopes. “But tell no one—no one—that you have it.” He slipped a key into my cold hand and folded my fingers over it.

I heard a gasp from behind me. Harriet was finally back.

“Heart attack,” I said, but Harriet was three steps ahead of me.

Her voice boomed over the PA. “Dr. Michaels, Dr, Michaels, stat. Dr. Michaels, code!” Harriet disappeared back into the treatment area yelling, “Marie! Charles! Where are you? Get yourselves out here fast!”

An arthritic finger tapped my closed fist. “Remember, tell no one,” the old man managed to whisper. “Promise?”

“I promise.” What else could I say?

He stared at my face as if searching my soul. He must have been satisfied with what he saw because his hand relaxed on mine and his eyes closed. “Don’t forget. I’m counting on you.” He gave a deep sigh, and I froze. Was that his last breath? “I’m counting on you.”

The room came alive with people. Medical personnel converged on the sick man, and I stepped back with relief.

“Don’t you ever go to the bathroom again,” I hissed at Harriet, who probably never would if she valued her job.

When the doors to the treatment area slid shut and I could no longer see the man, I collapsed in one of the orange chairs, struggling with tears.

This is ridiculous. Why am I crying? I don’t even know the man.

I gave myself a shake and stared at the small piece of metal in my hand. Why had he given his precious key to me, a total stranger? Why hadn’t he let the hospital personnel keep it for him? Or asked them to hold it for a family member?

What could it possibly open that no one—no one—must know of it?

And what in the world should I do with it?

It was a relief when Jon Clarke finally returned.

“I’m sorry,” he said with that winning smile. “I got held up in traffic. I hope you didn’t think I’d deserted you.”

“Of course not,” I said as I slipped the key into my pocket. I hastened to correct my lie. “At least, not after Harriet told me you’d be back.”

He cocked that dark, heavy brow at me again, saying as clearly as if I’d spoken aloud that he knew all too well what I’d thought.

I flushed and began talking to cover my embarrassment. “This old man came in and had a heart attack. He scared me to death! I was the only one in the room—Harriet had gone to the ladies’ room. I had to be with him until help came. He gave me—”

I stopped abruptly. “No one,” he’d said, he’d insisted. “Promise.” And I had.

Did I owe him my silence? I didn’t even know him.

But I didn’t know this sandy-haired, dark-browed man standing beside me, either. I only met him an hour or so ago. I couldn’t bleed all over him anymore.

“He gave me quite a scare,” I said, decision made. I gave a short laugh. “I’m not used to anything more serious than the common cold or one of my students throwing up.”

But what would I do if he died?


Read my review HERE.

Blog Tour and Review: A Stranger's Wish (Amish Farm Trilogy, Book 1) by Gayle Roper

A Stranger's Wish (Amish Farm Trilogy, Book 1)
by Gayle Roper
Copyright 1998, 2010
Harvest House Publishers
224 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2586-0
Fiction/Romance

From the publisher:
Beloved author Gayle Roper begins a contemporary Amish series readers are sure to love....

Englischer Kristie Matthews’ move to an Amish family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, starts on a bad note as the young schoolteacher is bitten by a dog. A trip to the local ER leads to an encounter with an old man who hands her a key and swears her to silence.

But when Kristie’s life is endangered, she suspects there’s a connection to the mysterious key. While solving the mystery (and staying alive), Kristie must decide whether her lawyer boyfriend, Todd Reasoner, is really right for her....or if Jon Clarke Griffin, the new local man she’s met, is all he seems to be.

Mystery, romance, and a beautiful Amish settling....just the thing readers are clamoring for.

My Review:
It's nice to read a book that was originally published (1998) before Amish fiction was "cool." That said I'm not sure if this book was one of the reason Amish fiction became so popular. I'm not saying that it isn't good, because it is, it's just not one of the best Amish fiction books that I've read. I did really like that the main character Kristie wasn't Amish but she boarded with an Amish family, whereas most of the Amish fiction that I've read lately centers around Amish characters or those who had left the Amish community only to return years later. I actually think one of my favorite characters in this book was the secondary character, Jake Zook. To me Jake was the most real, he had anger issues, he had to deal with tragedy and a disability that was a consequence of rash choices that he had made in his youth. I couldn't help but hope that things would work out for him. Although this wasn't his story I really hope to see more of him in this series.

The whole mystery of the key was a bit strange for me, however it did provide for some interesting and suspenseful scenes toward the end of the book where a dashing hero comes to the rescue *wink.* While there are lessons on faith, trust and forgiveness it wasn't preachy. I think if you are a fan of the Amish/Romance fiction genre that you will like this book. It's a relatively quick read with a bit of sweet romance. I look forward to reading what happens next in The Secret Identity coming in September of this year.

To learn more about Gayle Roper and her books visit:
Her WEBSITE
Amish ficition Website

*I received my free copy through First Wild Card from the publisher in exchange for a review.*

Mailbox Monday!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Photobucket


Every week Marcia @ The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. This is the chance for you to showcase all the great reads that you have received during the past week. Also it gives you an opportunity to check out what great books others received too! Be sure you stop by Marcia's page...you never know, you might get some ideas for your wishlist!

It's been a few months since I've posted Mailbox Monday but it's certainly not from a lack of books! Last week I only got a few books but they were all very good!

For Review:

I Has a Hotdog
by Professor Happycat
Copyright 2010
Grand Central Publishing
192 pages
ISBN: 978-0-446-56638-4
Humor

Finding Jeena
by Miralee Ferrell
Copyright 2010
Kregel Publications
304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8254-2645-2
Ficiton/Christian/General

Sing: A Novel of Colorado (The Homeward Trilogy, Book 2)
by Lisa T. Bergren
Copyright 2010
David C. Cook Publishers
373 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6707-3
Historical Fiction

Heading Home
by Renee Riva
Copyright 2010
David C. Cook Publishers
258 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6776-9
Contemporary Fiction

From Paperbackswap:

Alaric's Song
by Susan Lowenberg
Copyright 2008
OakTara Publishing
312 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60290-041-7
Fiction/Christian/Romance/Historical

Blog Tour and Review: I Has a Hotdog by Professor Happycat

Friday, April 9, 2010

I Has a Hotdog
by Professor Happycat aka Ben Huh
Copyright 2010
Grand Central Publishing
192 pages
ISBN: 978-0-446566384
Humor

From the publisher:
I HAS A BWAIN!!1!
An you thawt we dint! Now Professor Happycat tells you what's in it and, from I HAS A HOTDOG.com and beyond, lets over 200 LOLdogs loose on the world, all barking the truth about kibble, toys, and bad kitties. This collection of favorites and never-before-seen photos will have you barking for more!

For all you hoomins, a LOLdog is a kay-nine picture with a funny, misspelled caption.

My Review:
I am a huge fan of the I Has a Hotdog website so when this book came up for review I was thrilled! What better way to relax then look at pictures of cute dogs with funny captions? This is really cute and I recommend it for all dog lovers! It's good, clean humor, and every single puppy in the book is adorable. It is a super quick read, but if you are new to LOLdog speak it may take you a little longer to get through. Below are some of the cute "goggies" you will see if you decide to give this book a try.


To learn more about Ben Huh (Professor Happycat) visit:
His WEBSITE
Facebook
Twitter

*Thanks to Anna Balasi @ Hachette Book Group for my free review copy.*

Book Giveaway!

Holy cow! When I logged into Blogger today it said I have over 300 posts! How cool is that?! To celebrate I'm giving away a book!! How would you like to read a slightly used copy of Sworn to Protect (Call of Duty, Book 2) by DiAnn Mills? If so read the rules below and you could have a chance to win this great book!


From the publisher:
Border Patrol Agent Danika Morales has sworn to protect the southern borders of our nation, but that oath has cost her. Two years ago, her husband, Toby, was killed trying to help the very immigrants Danika was responsible for sending back to Mexico. His murder was never solved. But now, a recent string of attacks and arrests leads her to believe that someone in McAllen is profiting from sneaking undocumented immigrants into the country . . . and it may somehow be tied to Toby’s death.

My REVIEW

Rules:
~Leave a comment telling me you want to be entered!
~You MUST leave an email address in your comment so I can contact you for your mailing address if you win!
~U.S. residents only please!
~Contest open until April 15, 2010 at 11:59PM EST.
~One winner will be chosen, their name posted on this blog, and they will be notified by email on April 16, 2010 and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be selected.

Good luck! :-)


Mustang of the Month!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

1990 Mustang LX 5.0L V8 Convertible


It's been a while since I've done a Mustang of the Month post! Can you believe it? Well with all this warm weather that we've been having I've decided that it was time I posted a convertible Mustang!!! I can honestly say there's nothing more fun than riding in a convertible with the top down! Trust me I know...I own a Mustang convertible and here she is!!!!! ;-)


Check out the interior!! Red ain't it? :-P
Do you have a convertible or know someone that does? I think they are a blast but it's time for a change! I'm selling the old girl, she's an automatic and I want to upgrade to a 5-speed! Not sure what yet but I'm thinking something like this...


1992 Mustang LX V8 Special Edition!!!

First Wild Card Tour: Sworn to Protect (Call of Duty, Book 2) by DiAnn Mills

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Sworn to Protect (Book #2 in Call of Duty series)

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Mavis Sanders, Corporate Publicist, Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Award-winning author DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. DiAnn's first book was published in 1998, and she currently has more than 40 books in print, with combined sales of over one million copies. In 2009, Tyndale House introduced Breach of Trust, Book #1 in her Call of Duty series about women with dangerous occupations. Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA best-seller list. Eight of her books have been nominated for the American Christian Fiction Writers' book-of-the-year contest, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader's Choice award for 2005 and 2007. Lightning and Lace was a 2008 Christy Award finalist.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive; Romance Writers of America's Faith, Hope, and Love chapter; and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins's Christian Writers Guild. DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414320515
ISBN-13: 978-1414320519

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


We are truly a nation of immigrants.
But we are also a nation of laws.

Brent Ashabranner

McAllen, Texas

The Rio Grande was not just murky. It was toxic. Danika Morales respected the river’s temperament—lazy and rushing, crystal and muddy, breathtaking and devastating. To many illegal immigrants, its flowing water signified hope and an opportunity for a better tomorrow, while others viewed the river crossing as a means of smuggling drugs or spreading terrorism. But for Danika, the depths meant death, and it didn’t discriminate among its victims. That was why she chose a Border Patrol badge and carried a gun.

Shortly after the 8 a.m. muster, Danika snatched up the keys to the Tahoe assigned to her for the next ten hours and checked out an M4. A hum of voices, most with Hispanic accents and clipped with occasional laughter, swirled around the station. A labyrinth of sights and sounds had succeeded in disorienting her. A daze.

She took a sip of the steaming coffee in hopes no one saw how the day’s date affected her. Her hands shook. The twelfth of July. The second anniversary of Toby’s murder. She thought she could handle it better than this, but the raw ache still seared her heart.

“Tough day for me too,” Jacob whispered beside her. “We can get through this together.” The familiar tone of voice, as in many times before, nearly paralyzed her. Jacob sounded so much like his brother.

She stood shoulder to shoulder with her brother-in-law and glanced at his muscular frame and the silver streaks in his closely cropped hair, everything about him oddly different from Toby. Gone were the gentleness, the patience, and the outstretched arms of love.

“Thanks. But I’m all right.”

He frowned, a typical expression. “Well, I’m not, and you shouldn’t be either.”

She was in no mood to rile him today. “I miss Toby every minute of the day, but we have to move on. He would have wanted it that way.”

“Not till his murderer is found.” Jacob’s jaw tightened. “I’m disappointed in you.”

Danika took another sip of the hot coffee, burning her tongue. Caustic words threatened to surface and add one more brick to the wall dividing them. “I want the killer found too. I’m committed to it. I think about him every day and mourn for our daughter, who will never know her daddy. But I choose not to spend my time harboring hate and vengeance.”

“You must not have really loved my brother.”

The words cut deep, as Jacob must have known they would. No woman could have loved Toby like she did. “I refuse to be browbeaten by you anymore. Your hate is going to explode in your own backyard one day.” She stopped herself before she lit a match to his temper. Actually, she’d rather have been dropped in the bush for the next ten hours with a shotgun and a can of OFF! than argue with him. But the time had come to distance herself from Jacob.

“Hey, Danika,” an agent called, “do these belong to you?”

She turned to see wiry Felipe Chavez carrying a vase with a huge bouquet of roses. They remembered. She swallowed a chunk of life. “Oh, guys, you didn’t have to do this.”

Felipe made his way toward her. The other agents hushed; then one of them started to clap. She smiled through the tears as he handed her the clear glass vase. The sweet fragrance no longer reminded her of death, but of life and her resolve to live each day in a way that commemorated Toby’s devotion to her and their little daughter. Perhaps this was what the two-year marker meant.

She took the roses and studied the small crowd of agents. Good men, all of them—even Jacob.

“We cared about what happened to Toby too,” Felipe said with a grim smile.

Danika brushed her finger around one of the delicate petals and formed her words. Memories had stalked her like a demon since last night. “Don’t know what to say except thank you. Toby was a soldier for his own cause, and he spent his life doing what he believed in. Just like all of us.”

One agent shook his head, frowned, and left the room. Far too many explanations for his disapproval raced through her mind. But Danika needed to put the ugliness behind her.

She set the flowers on the long table in front of her. “Today is the second anniversary of Toby’s death. All of you have looked after me and my daughter, especially during holidays and special occasions. His death is why I’m more dedicated than ever to help protect the border.” She paused, sensing her emotions rushing into chaos. “I appreciate your remembering him and the sacrifice he made, especially since his beliefs were controversial.” Enough said.

She took a deep, cleansing breath. “I brought doughnuts.”

And they were buttermilk, Toby’s favorite.

She glanced at Jacob, hoping to end the tension between them. How Barbara could stay married to him was beyond her comprehension. He treated her and their four kids like yesterday’s trash.

Danika wound through the crowd of agents, greeting those who offered condolences and others who offered a good-morning.

The field operations supervisor, Agent Oden Herrera, stood in front of the flags—the U.S., Homeland Security, and the Border Patrol. Pushing the emotions of regret and grief about Toby aside, Danika captured the supervisor’s attention. “During the muster you said intel had picked up a cocaine drop last night?”

Herrera walked to a wall map and pointed. “Like I said earlier: arrested seven men and two women right along here, your area. A kid had a small bag of cocaine on him. Most likely a deterrent. The drug smuggler either hid it before being apprehended, or he’s still waiting for someone to pick him up. Dogs have been out there most of the night, but Barnett and Fire-Eater are headed that way in a few minutes.”

Danika finished her coffee and made her way into the stifling heat and stopped by Jon Barnett’s truck. As Fire-Eater’s handler, he had everyone’s admiration, and the Belgian sheepdog had a reputation for being the best of the K-9s. Barnett snapped on the dog’s leash and waved.

“I hear we’re working the same area today.” Danika refrained from patting Fire-Eater. Some days he wasn’t people friendly. After seeing the dog in action a few times when he’d found drug runners, she sometimes felt sorry for those he brought down.

Barnett grinned and wiped the sweat already beading on his face. “He’s a good dog, Morales. Just needs a little help with his people skills.” He laughed, his freckles deepening in the intense sun. “And he’s great with the wife and kids. Like another member of the family.” He pulled out his keys. “Do you want to talk? We have a few minutes.”

All she really wanted was for the day to be over. Talking increased the chances of liquid emotion—which was more lethal than the river flowing between the U.S. and Mexico. “No thanks. I’m fine.”

“Do you need to talk?”

“It’s been two years.” Therapeutic or not, she would not open up, even to a sweet guy like Barnett. She’d spent hours building a reputation as a tough agent, and she wasn’t about to take a nosedive now.

“Right, and the sooner you admit that today has crept up on you worse than a case of food poisoning, the better you’ll feel.”

She had to agree. “Have you turned psychologist?”

“Fire-Eater and five kids taught me all I know.”

“I had a dog when I was a kid,” she said, looking for any subject except Toby. “Gentle, sensed my moods, smart. My best friend. Sure missed him when he was gone.” Danika blinked back a tear, despising her reaction. She stared at Fire-Eater rather than look into Barnett’s face.

“I bet he slept at the foot of your bed.”

Fire-Eater climbed into the backseat of the double-cab truck.

“Sometimes in it. We even shared meals. I didn’t like meat, and he’d eat it for me.”

“Who’s your best friend now?”

She swallowed the ever-increasing lump in her throat. “Toby’s gone, and I have a tough time in church.”

“Confession is a beginning. Any family?”

“Toby’s family has been good to me.” Never mind Jacob. “My folks never approved of my marriage.” She sucked in a breath. It hissed like the poisonous snakes she feared. “Well-meaning friends do this to me.”

“Do you feel any better?”

Sneak. “Yeah, thanks, doc. You—”

Fire-Eater barked. No doubt anxious to get moving. The animal and Jacob had similar personalities, but today she’d rather be with the dog.

HHH

Danika turned off Old Military Road and bounced along a narrow dirt and gravel path, bordered by tall, thick grass and brush and laden with prickly pears on the Rio Grande side and more thick brush on the other. Jon had radioed ahead and reported signs from last night, but nothing new. Every agent was on alert. Trouble brewed along the entire two-thousand-mile border between Mexico and the United States. Drug cartels were slaughtering innocent people in the streets, and those on the U.S. side feared it was only a matter of time before the fighting spilled over the line. Not on her watch.

She drove slowly past the few houses perched on the right side of the road, most of which had been stash houses at one time or another, havens for illegal aliens and drug smugglers. She stopped the truck beside a well-worn trail to look for recent signs in the dirt. After a generous spray of mosquito repellent on her uniform and hands, she stepped into the stifling ninety-degree heat and bent to study the hours-old footprints indicating where the illegals had gained access into Texas before being apprehended. Most of them only wanted an opportunity to better themselves, but others had a darker agenda. At least she hoped the footprints had been accounted for.

A breeze from the north fanned her face and offered a brief reprieve from the unrelenting sun. The tall grass with its thick growth waved as though mocking her commitment to the Border Patrol.

Fifteen minutes later, Barnett radioed a call for assistance.

“Spotted a man wearing a backpack near the 112 sensor. He headed into the carrizo.”

Danika ran back to the truck and raced her vehicle toward Barnett’s location. She wanted to tell him to wait for backup and not search through the thick grass alone, but she knew Barnett and Fire-Eater were a team and stayed on the traffic. The smuggler probably hid on a rattler’s nest.

She was the first to respond to Barnett’s request. Pulling in behind his truck, she unclipped her HK from her belt while radioing her arrival. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed his number.

“Barnett, I’m here,” she said. “Tell me you’re not in the middle of the carrizo.”

He chuckled. “Fire-Eater’s after him. I’m skirting it. Neither one of us is coming out until we have our man.”

She pocketed her cell phone and followed the agent’s footprints on the dusty road until they disappeared into the thicket. Hot as it was, the Kevlar vest felt good, even if it was worthless against a stab wound or a shotgun blast.

Fire-Eater barked, snapping Danika’s attention toward the riverbank. The dog growled from somewhere in the depths of the overgrowth.

Gunfire cracked in the still morning air. Alert to the danger, she pulled her weapon.

“This is the United States Border Patrol! Come out with your hands up!” Barnett’s voice roared.

Another shot fired. Fire-Eater yelped.

Blood pumping, Danika yanked out her radio. “Shots fired. Shots fired. Agent or K-9 may be down.”

Two more shots pierced the air.

When Barnett didn’t respond, she clicked the radio in place on her belt. “Barnett,” she yelled, “tell me you’re all right.”

Nothing.

A dark-haired man emerged from the right side of the road several yards away, wearing a backpack that no doubt contained drugs. His attention scattered in different directions.

“Alto, o disparo,” she said.

The man turned and fired at her before racing across the road. The bullet angled to her left. Danika returned the fire and sank a bullet into his thigh. He fell, and she raced toward him.

“Drop the gun, or I’ll be forced to shoot again.”

He kept his fingers wrapped around it. She wrestled with the rage that always seemed to lie below the surface of her control. If she killed him, she could claim self-defense. But her job title meant self-control.

“I said drop the gun.” She fired above him and kept running in his direction.

He lifted his hand and aimed. Instinctively she pumped a bullet into his hand. His wound caused a burst of blood to splatter the ground and the quiet air to echo with obscenities. Still he refused to release the hold on his gun.

“Do you want your whole hand blown off?” She stood over him and clamped her booted foot over his injured hand.

He screamed, and she pointed her firearm at his face. Danika trembled. She wasn’t a murderer, but anger did struggle to rule her emotions.

“You’ll pay for this,” the man said. “I know who you are, and there’s a contract out for you.”

“You aren’t the first or the last to threaten me.” She picked up the man’s gun, an older model Beretta. With his leg and hand bleeding, he wasn’t going anywhere. She slipped the handcuffs from her belt and clamped them on his wrists. Rolling him over, she brushed his bleeding leg against the hard ground, and he moaned. Where was backup? Please, let Barnett be okay. Five kids. A respected agent.

“The drug cartels will destroy the Border Patrol.”

“Big talk for a man in handcuffs.”

“You wait and see who wins.” He spit on her boot. “You’ll never find out who killed your husband.”

She smothered the gasp that nearly stole her breath. How did the man know her? know about Toby’s death? He clearly had inside information—information that couldn’t have been obtained easily. Unless Toby’s murder was related to something bigger than she had imagined.

Focus. Now was not the time to weigh the shooter’s words. Later she’d look into it.

Her gaze searched the area. An outstretched arm poked through the overgrowth where the downed man had attempted to cross the road. She hurried, gun raised, eyes taking in every inch of the brush. As she grew closer, she saw the rest of Barnett’s body sprawled on the trodden grass. Blood soaked the ground, creating a small puddle of red against the vibrant green. Danika bent to his side.

Barnett moaned. “He shot Fire-Eater,” he whispered. “Get him.”

“I have him cuffed. Hold on. Help’s coming.” She pulled out the radio. “Need EMS. Agent down.”

She hadn’t been there for Toby, but she could be there for Barnett.



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