Journal Jots – Blog

Welcome to my Journal Jots blog! This is a broad mix of what’s on my mind, allowing me to feel a little bit closer to some of the most important people in my life—YOU! From news on sales, freebies, giveaways, new releases, and excerpts from works in progress … to my thoughts on my walk with God, daily devotionals, or photos of my family, this is where you’ll find the most current glimpse into my books and my life. I invite you to subscribe in the “subscribe” box on the right side of this page to automatically receive an email whenever I post a blog. Till then, God bless and HAPPY READING!

Friday, January 7, 2022

 

Kick off 2022 with Powerful Prayer!

Recommendations for Authors Who Write Like Me

Mysti’s Podcast Contest!

Cool Trailer/Video for my latest, The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

Pix of Characters from The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

1st Chapter from The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

 

 

HAPPY 2022! Let’s Kick It Off With Prayer!

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I believe 2022 is going to be a year of untold blessing for the Body of Christ!

Of course, “BELIEVE” is the key word for followers of Christ, especially after such a dark couple of years for the world with the devastation of Covid and terrific turmoil in the United States.

 

As far as I’m concerned, it all begins with prayer! So beginning SUNDAY, JANUARY 9-29, 2022, Keith and I are embarking on an AMAZING prayer journey with my daughter’s AMAZING church, Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s their bi-annual 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting, and let me tell you — for me (and Keith) — it was life-changing the first year we did it. So much so, that friends and relatives now ask me to remind them when it begins in January. Thus this Journal Jot blog — to remind them and YOU of a life-changing opportunity you will not want to miss!

Now trust me, people, when my daughter said to me a few years back, “Hey, Mom, our church is kicking off its 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting this Sunday, and I think you would really like it,” I pretty much froze on the spot.

Why? Well, because I knew the fasting part would be hard and there were certain things I did NOT want to give up for 21 days. “Sure, babe, I’ll check the Sunday kick-off service out online,” I said, fully intending to watch for a few minutes so I could tell her I did, but then letting her know it wasn’t for me because what can I say — I was skeptical.

Sigh. 😳

The pastor reeled me in like a bass on a hula grub in the first five minutes.

Wait … I have to give up what??!!

Yep, “I have to give up sweets, wine, and Amazon for 21 days,” I told Keith in shock, not a bit happy about it.

“What?” Keith stared at me wide-eyed, as if I’d just told him I was giving up writing and reading romance to embark on a career picking up trash on a highway. “Why on earth are you doing that?” he said, jaw dangling considerably. “Because God told me to,” I responded in a mournful tone, never, EVER imagining just how much my life was about to change!

That was the year following my sabbatical to focus more on God, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing, when I told my editor I wouldn’t be pitching any books or series for a while. Since then, my love affair with God has grown by leaps and bounds, deepening more and more each year after I embark on 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting with Church of the Highlands. As a romance writer, I can now say that the greatest romance of all is the one I have found with my Father in Heaven and my Savior, bringing more joy, peace, strength, and hope than I have ever experienced in over 70 years.

Why am I telling you this? Well, again, because I feel like there may be one or two of you out there that God wants to join me in this endeavor. I meant to tell you about it sooner (duh … before the 21 Days begins Sunday), but I didn’t, so I apologize. But, it’s not too late because you can start anytime by checking out Pastor Hodge’s kick-off Sunday service to prayerfully decide if the 21 Days is something you want to do. Pastor Chris will explain how there are all kinds of ways to fast other than food, so don’t be intimidated.

For instance, food isn’t a big deal to me, but my nightly glass of wine with dinner and not checking Amazon for reviews and stats definitely are, so that’s what I fast along with sweets and lunch. See? Not too hard, and you know what? Keith and I actually look forward to it every single year like little kids at Christmas because it’s THAT good for our souls and our lives. I know it would be for you too, so pray about it, okay?

If you’re interested, it’s one hour of your day Monday – Saturday at 6:00 a.m. CST … OR … if that’s too early for you, you can participate in the hour-service anytime during the day from 9:00 a.m. on when they post the 6:00 a.m. daily service. Here’s what the hour-long service includes:

6:00 – 6:10 a.m.— Worship.

6:10 – 6:20 a.m. — Brief message from Pastor Chris or other guest speakers.

6:20 – 6:40 a.m. — Personal prayer time w/background worship music.

6:40 – 7:00 a.m. — Corporate prayer with Pastor Chris and congregation.

Trust me — it will be the fastest hour you ever spend, and it will kick off your day — and your year — unlike anything else will ever do. So, here’s the link, and hope you can join in:

21 DAYS OF PRAYER & FASTING

 

Recommendations for Authors Who Write Like Me

Periodically I’ll get emails from readers who ask me if I know of any other Christian authors who write Christian romance like I do — with a higher level of both romantic passion and spiritual passion. So I’ll usually toss out a few names.

But I was recently approached by a new website that allows you to not only find out the top authors on any given subject or genre, but also allows you to find out who your favorite authors recommend. It’s called BETA SHEPHERD and you can read all about it at Beta Shepherd Home Link.

My page is entitled, The best Christian romance with spiritual and romantic passion, so if you if you would like to check it out to find out the five Christian authors who I think write more like me, here’s the link:

Julie Lessman’s Page for  The Best Christian Romance with Spiritual and Romantic Passion

 

Mysti’s Book Nook Podcast CONTEST!

Mysti Jordan, co-host from Kankelfritz and Friends morning radio show on Family Life Radio interviewed me about how I write “authentic romance while not compromising my Christian values.”  Plus I divulge my best tips for aspiring authors and give away a free e-book!

 

CONTEST DETAILS:
Listen to the podcast, then email me the answer to the question listed below through the CONTACT JULIE tab of my website, and you’ll be  entered to win your choice of the following:

🎉 A signed paperback copy of any of my indie books
🎉 OR three of my e-books
🎉 OR your choice of brand-new paperback release from a list of top authors!

CONTEST RUNS THROUGH JANUARY 2022, and winner will be announced in February Journal Jot blog.

AND THE QUESTION IS:
What’s the number one tip I give to aspiring authors in Mysti’s podcast?

Here’s the link and GOOD LUCK!

 MYSTI’S PODCAST WITH JULIE

 

 

Trailer/Video for my New Murder Mystery!

CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO

 

Characters from The Secret of Emerald Cottage

Allow me to introduce you to the main characters in The Secret of Emerald Cottage! Let’s begin with the heroine, Molly Stewart, a sweet-natured former Navy nurse with an aversion to men who are players and a penchant for reading and writing cozy mystery.

         

And then we have our rogue hero, Breccan McGill, Aunt Lilly’s celebrity soccer-star great nephew, who is a gourmet chef with a delicious Irish brogue.

 

Next, we have precious Aunt Lilly, an 88-year-old backwoods dynamo with a love for the Lord, Brec’s gourmet desserts, and poker.

 

And finally, Detective Sloan Kennedy, the 2nd guy in the love triangle in this book who will be my hero in book two IF I decide to do another mystery.

 

Excerpt From The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

Here is Chapter One  of the book, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

It is He who reveals the profound and

hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with Him.

—Daniel 2:22

CHAPTER ONE

Savannah, Georgia, Late Spring

“I was a fool, Molly. Forgive me? Please?”

Forgive him? Body numb, Molly Stewart stood rooted at Miss Lilly’s front door, staring at the man who had broken both her heart and her trust, and wondered if she actually could.

Today was to have been their wedding day at a pretty little church in Charleston. Instead here Tyler stood on the wraparound front porch of Miss Lilly’s secluded cottage on Lake Loon, more handsome than a louse had a right to be. Those piercing gray eyes were as repentant—and deadly—as she’d ever seen. Hands plunged deep in the pockets of his favorite Rock Revival jeans, he offered an awkward shrug, his rolled-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt emphasizing broad shoulders and a well-defined torso. “These last six months without you have been awful, babe, convincing me I made the biggest and most brainless mistake of my life.”

Yeah, me too. Cocking her hip, Molly slapped her arms into an impatient fold, not about to let Tyler Madsen disarm her again. “Well, I certainly concur with brainless.” Her eyes narrowed to slits, as thin as her patience. “What do you want, Tyler?”

That hard-sculpted jaw tensed as he threaded a hand through wheat-colored hair shorn on the sides. His Adam’s apple ducked twice, a sure sign she’d rattled his confidence, which wasn’t easy to do. “I rather hoped it would be obvious,” he whispered, catching her off-guard when he reached to caress her face with tender fingers. “I want ‘us’ back.”

She jerked away, arms glued to her waist in self-defense as she took a step back, warning bells going off in her head over the warm shiver he’d produced. She’d been head over heels for a solid year, ready to spend the rest of her life with him, so naturally his touch still affected her. Her mouth compressed in resolve. But she was also ready to spend the rest of her life forgetting him, too, and had a six-month head start, thank God. “There is no ‘us,’ Tyler. I wonder if there ever was.”

“There was and you know it, Molly,” he said quietly, gently tugging one of her hands free to draw her close. “Because despite my asinine mistake, we still love each other.”

Loved!” she hissed, breaking free to thump him hard on a chest that felt like rock. “Past tense, buster, so you can just take your seductive song and dance and—”

Her gasp was silenced when his mouth took hers, melting her to the door with a kiss that reminded her of all she had lost.

A friend.

A husband.

A love for a lifetime.

“Forgive me, Molly—please?” He gently touched his forehead to hers. “Give me another chance, and I swear I will do everything in my power to make it up to you.”

“Ty …” She felt herself weakening, memories of their last year resurrecting the faintest glimmers of love and hope that she’d worked so hard to bury beneath a mountain of hurt. “I don’t think—”

Her resistance was swallowed up in another dangerous kiss so possessive, all her walls came tumbling down when he pulled away. Suddenly, his handsome face dissolved into a haze, disappearing into the same nightmare she’d lived for the last half year. A groan trailed from her lips as her head thrashed back and forth in her bed. “No, don’t leave again, please,” she murmured in her sleep, “just kiss me, please …

Her body finally relaxed when he did—gently, softly—vaguely aware it had to be a dream because the scent was all wrong—not the vanilla musk scent of Ty’s Stronger With You cologne she’d given him for Christmas. No, this was more of a peppery scent with a hint of lilac and lavender, confirming it wasn’t Ty she was kissing at all, but someone else.

Lost somewhere between semi-consciousness and a slumber induced by a bleary-headed cold and a 2:00 a.m. dose of Nyquil Severe Cold & Flu, she burrowed deeper into the downy softness of her bed, never wanting the kiss to end. Definitely had to be a dream because Ty was her past, and yet this tender brush of lips against hers felt so real! So right.

Breathing in the heady scent of pine trees that surrounded both Miss Lilly’s Emerald Cottage and the glimmering glacial lake outside her open window, she allowed her subconscious to fade back into sleep, desperate to return to Prince Charming.

“Wake up, Princess.” A husky voice with a hint of a brogue breathed into her ear, accompanied by a trace of that delicious peppery scent, and she literally groaned out loud, unwilling for the magic to end. Rolling on her side, she yanked the cover sheet over her head, longing to slip away once again …

“Uh, excuse me, Goldilocks, but I think you’re sleeping in my bed.”

Her eyes snapped open beneath the sheet while she gasped, frozen for a split second before she jerked her Glock 36 from under her pillow. Launching from her bed, her limbs shook like Jell-O as she stood there in her ratty tank top and penguin shorts, arms extended. “Who are y-you?” she rasped, heart pummeling her ribcage while she trembled, taking shaky aim at a man in a sculpted T-shirt and jeans who made Prince Charming look like a frog.

Light blue eyes flared in surprise as he raised massive palms in the air, a lazy smile easing across lips way too full and sensuous for a man. “Whoa, take it easy, lass. I’m Miss Lilly’s great nephew, Brec McGill, but you can call me Papa Bear if you like.”

“How did you get in?” she demanded, snatching her cell phone from the nightstand before backing toward the door, punching 9-1-1 in just to be ready. Hands quivering, she tucked the phone into her shorts, rattled that a Greek god had entered her room and she’d never even heard him come in.

With an impressive bulge of a bicep, he casually scratched the back of his head, his smile patient as he tossed a set of keys in the air. He slipped them into the pocket of jeans so snug, they bordered on indecent. “A key. From Aunt Lilly. A long time ago.”

“Wait a minute.” She swallowed hard as she wiped her lips, gaze narrowing when the memory of her dream came back. “Did you … kiss me?”

“Depends.” One edge of his mouth crooked as he tipped his head, flashing the deepest, most dangerous dimples she’d ever seen. “Did you like it?”

Stance stiff, she jerked the gun higher, satisfied when it wiped the smile right off his face.

Taking a quick step back, he thumped a taut chest with a blunt thumb while he stared her down. “Look, Goldilocks, this is my room, and you were sleeping in my bed, so suppose you tell me who you are, aye?”

Her chin jutted up. “I am Miss Lilly’s temporary caretaker and companion, Nurse Molly Stewart. The one who left umpteen voicemail messages and a telegram that you never bothered to answer, I might add.”

He actually winced, which gave some small comfort that there may be a shred of concern somewhere deep down in this great nephew who hadn’t visited his aunt in years.

He cuffed the back of his neck. “About that,” he said with a sheepish look, “I’ve had a bit of bother lately with the press, so I’ve been off the grid, so to speak.” He gave an awkward shrug. “New cell phone, new apartment, dodged voicemail, you know?”

Expelling a silent sigh, Molly slowly lowered her gun. Yes, she knew. Miss Lilly had already filled her in on her notorious great nephew, the infamous Irish soccer star embroiled in a nasty scandal. The same nephew Miss Lilly’d been praying for since he went astray after college—both from her and from the faith she’d tried so hard to instill.

“But I finally got the telegram,” he continued in a rush, a definite apology lacing his tone as he buried his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. Those broad shoulders lifted briefly. “So, here I am.” His thick, dark brows tented in concern as he pinned Molly with a pointed gaze that held a touch of vulnerability. “How is she?” he whispered.

“Better.” Rolling her neck, Molly felt the tension slowly seep from her body. “She’s out of the coma and resting comfortably—”

“Coma?” His voice cracked as his golden tan bleached to pale. “She was in a coma? The telegram just said she’d fallen and was in the hospital, for criminy’s sake.”

Molly arched a brow, her manner cool. “She did fall, Mr. McGill—into the lake, as a matter of fact. Which resulted in a coma when she almost drowned. But she came out of it before I sent the telegram—which was a last resort, mind you, after all the phone calls.”

A groan rattled from his throat as he tunneled thick fingers through short curly hair—almost black—appearing as if he actually cared or at least putting on a pretty good act. He glanced at his watch. “Where is she? I want to see her right now. And I want to know everything.”

“All in good time, Striker Boy,” Molly said as she waved the gun toward the door, adding her own twist to his team nickname of “Striker Man” since he was his team’s primary scoring threat. “It’s barely six a.m. and we’re not going anywhere till I’ve had a shower and a cup of coffee, so don’t be in such a hurry.”

She suddenly remembered the brazen pass he’d made by kissing her while she was sleeping, and both her ire—and her gun—rose to new heights. “Oh, wait—you weren’t in a hurry, were you? Since you just arrived a week after the fact.”

Those blue eyes thinned to slits of sapphire. “It’s ‘Striker Man,’ for your information, Goldilocks,” he said in a gravelly voice as tight as hers, “and I detest guns, so stop waving that  thing at me. I took the redeye as soon as I got the blinkin’ telegram, so don’t act like I don’t care about my aunt.”

Eyes wide, Molly feigned surprise as she placed a hand to her cheek. “Oh, forgive me, please, but I didn’t realize seeing your aunt once every ten years qualified as ‘caring.’”

Too late she saw the flicker of pain in his eyes, pools of regret and guilt that shamed her before he quickly looked away, shoulders slumping while he gouged the bridge of his nose. “It was twice,” he said quietly, the weariness of his manner reminding her he’d just flown twelve hours on a cramped plane in the middle of the night. “But I’m here now, Miss Stewart, and I would very much like to see my aunt.”

Oh, way to welcome the prodigal home, Molly, she thought with a pinch in her chest, heat warming the back of her neck over kicking a man when he was down. She was the Christian here, after all, and he was not, a point that caused Miss Lilly great pain whenever they’d discussed her wayward great nephew.

The same wayward nephew who’d just kissed me while I was asleep, for pity’s sake!

For pity’s sake, indeed. And Brec McGill’s, apparently. Because if Molly knew one thing for sure about Miss Lilly, it was that no matter how infrequently she saw her nephew, she longed to see him healthy and whole, both spiritually and emotionally.

“Deep down he’s a good boy,” she’d often say with that faraway look that told Molly he was her number-one priority before she went home to her Savior—that the nephew she loved would return to his, restoring the faith she’d worked so hard to instill. And that sure wouldn’t happen if Molly didn’t reflect the love of the merciful God she also espoused, forgiving this lost soul for abandoning the aunt who loved him all of these years.

Unleashing a heavy sigh of regret that mirrored that in his eyes, Molly placed her gun on the nightstand and gave a side nod toward the door. “Visiting hours are at ten, so you can either catch a few winks in the guest room before we leave, or you can wait for me in the kitchen. Where,” she said with a quirk of her brow, “I will happily whip up breakfast—something fast, hearty, and nutritious—plus coffee while I fill you in on the state of Miss Lilly and her affairs.”

A sense of peace settled over his features like a truce, making him appear all the more fatigued. Offering a tired smile, he nodded to the novel splayed open on her bed, her favorite Agatha Christie cozy mystery that she’d been reading before nodding off. He tilted his head to read the title. “Sparkling Cyanide?” he said with a scrunch of his nose.

“Research,” she said with a slight heft of her chin, “for a book I plan to write.”

He gave a slow nod with a twitch of a smile. “And hopefully nothing to do with breakfast, I trust?”

Head tipped, she crossed her arms with a shadow of a smile. “The jury’s still out, Soccer Boy.”

He gave a slow nod, mouth sliding into a smile that instantly slid into a yawn. “No wonder you were out cold, then. Cozy mysteries are better than a sleeping pill in my opinion—too sweet for my tastes. I like a lot more action, so I’m a Steven King fan myself.”

She angled a brow. “Makes perfect sense. And your favorite is Misery, is it?”

He paused on his way to the door to shoot a wry smile over his shoulder. “Hilarious, Goldie.” Hand on the knob, he turned, his weariness belied by a twitch of a smile that reminded her all over again just how handsome he was. And dangerous to a woman’s emotional health per the tabloids she’d read.

“Breakfast would be absolutely grand, lass,” he said in a husky tone that held more than a hint of tease. “And if you’re willing to forgive me for both my abominable lack of attention to Aunt Lilly and stealing a kiss?”—he had the audacity to give her a wink—“I’ll forgive you for stealing my room.”

“Forgiven,” she said with a pert lift of her chin, matching his shadow of a smile with one of her own. “The lack of attention to Miss Lilly, that is, Strike-Out Boy. But the sheer annoyance from the other?” She wrinkled her nose as she crossed her arms in a taut fold, dismissing him with a nod of her head to close the door. “Something tells me I’ll need that for self-defense.”

December 29, 2021

 

What Will 2022 Bring?

Happy New Year from my Family to Yours!

50-60% End-of-Year Sale on my 3 Latest Novels!

New Contest!

99-Cent Sale on A Passion Most Pure Ends 12/31/21!

Cool Trailer/Video for my latest, The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

Pix of Characters from The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

1st Chapter from The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

 

 

May all your troubles last

as long as your New Year’s resolutions!”

— Joey Adams

Goodness—where did this year go?? Only three more days of 2021, and then 2022 moves in. What will it bring?? Well, one thing I know for sure it will bring is a 50-60% Sale on my three latest releases, but more about that later.

 

What else do I think it will bring? I have figured out that I am both a realist and an optimist, which is a pretty good combination. For instance, despite the two difficult years we have all gone through with Covid and whatnot, I have a surge of optimism running through my veins.

Why? Because my faith in God is stronger than ever, fine-tuned by two years of building my trust in Him instead of what I see on the nightly news (which I seldom watch, by the way 😉). Definitely one of the benefits of both Covid and a world that seems to be moving farther and farther away from the One Who made it.

But despite the rain, I praise and thank Him because good things are coming!

Do I think we are on the threshold of the End Times?

Oh, you bet I do, based on Jesus’ words from Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21, which list just some of the following signs:

—Rise of false prophets and false teachings

—The love of many growing cold

—Traditional morals becoming less accepted

—Wars and national conflicts

—Earthquakes and other natural disasters

—People abandoning their Christian faith

Plagues and famines

—Terrible sights and great signs from heaven

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? UNLESS you read Jesus’ words from Matthew 24:14, which says that before the end can come, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.”

Now as mentioned, I am an optimist who so I happens to think THAT Scripture from Matthew 24:14 indicates REVIVAL must come before the End Time.

Why? Because God IS Love, and I truly believe a loving God Who according to John 3:16, “so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life,” wants to make good and sure billions come to Him before the end.

So my money is on the God of Love, strongly believing that 2022 will be a year of REVIVAL, where corruption will be exposed worldwide to bring us a future of supernatural faith, blessing, and joy! 

BRING IT ON, GOD!

 

🎉  🥳  🎉 

 

Happy New Year from my Family to Yours!

I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as mine. Being a grandma (JuJu) is more fun than I ever dreamed possible, and what a joy it was for Keith and I to spend time with all of my grands!

 

First we visited my son, DIL, and four grands in Omaha, where we made gingerbread houses in Christmas pajamas, played games of spoons, Sardine’s Ghost (a reverse version of hide and seek), danced like crazy during The Greatest Showman, made cookies, had a scavenger hunt, attended a Christmas concert, and just plain hung out.

Next, it was Christmas in St. Louis with Keith’s family followed by Christmas with my daughter and SIL and two grands, including my sweet new grandbaby, Millie Jules!

All in all, a MOST blessed holiday for us, AND, I hope, for you and yours too!

 

 

🎉  🥳  🎉 

 

End-of-Year Sale of 50-60% Off my Three Most Recent Novels!

Yep, that’s right — to kick 2022 off with lots of 🧨 BANG 🧨 for your buck, check out the trailer videos and pricing below for my new murder mystery, my WW2 novel, and my latest Western as follows:

 

A Wing & a Prayer Video:  https://bit.ly/2Vg0qGr

A Wing & a Prayer e-book for $1.49 (was $6.99): https://amzn.to/2RR0Cud

 

Secret of Emerald Cottage Video: https://bit.ly/3BmFuzO

Secret of Emerald Cottage e-book  $2.99 (was $6.99): https://amzn.to/3iNeOjW

 

Love’s Silver Bullet Video: https://bit.ly/2XA7VYC

Love’s Silver Bullet e-book for $1.49 (was $5.99): https://amzn.to/2TGE3JQ

 

🎉  🥳  🎉 

 

Mysti’s Book Nook Podcast CONTEST!

Mysti Jordan, co-host from Kankelfritz and Friends morning radio show on Family Life Radio interviewed me about how I write “authentic romance while not compromising my Christian values.”  Plus I divulge my best tips for aspiring authors and give away a free e-book!

 

CONTEST DETAILS:
Listen to the podcast, then email me the answer to the question listed below through the CONTACT JULIE tab of my website, and you’ll be  entered to win your choice of the following:

🎉 A signed paperback copy of any of my indie books
🎉 OR three of my e-books
🎉 OR your choice of brand-new paperback release from a list of top authors!

CONTEST RUNS THROUGH JANUARY 2022, and winner will be announced in February Journal Jot blog.

AND THE QUESTION IS:
What’s the number one tip I give to aspiring authors in Mysti’s podcast?

Here’s the link and GOOD LUCK!

 

 

 

🎉  🥳  🎉 

 

A Passion Most Pure 99-Cent Sale Ends 12/31/21!

BUY  A PASSION MOST PURE HERE
FOR 99 CENTS TILL 12/31/21

 

 

🎉  🥳  🎉 

 

Trailer/Video for my New Murder Mystery!

CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO

 

 

🎉  🥳  🎉 

 

Characters from The Secret of Emerald Cottage

Allow me to introduce you to the main characters in The Secret of Emerald Cottage! Let’s begin with the heroine, Molly Stewart, a sweet-natured former Navy nurse with an aversion to men who are players and a penchant for reading and writing cozy mystery.

         

And then we have our rogue hero, Breccan McGill, Aunt Lilly’s celebrity soccer-star great nephew, who is a gourmet chef with a delicious Irish brogue.

 

Next, we have precious Aunt Lilly, an 88-year-old backwoods dynamo with a love for the Lord, Brec’s gourmet desserts, and poker.

 

And finally, Detective Sloan Kennedy, the 2nd guy in the love triangle in this book who will be my hero in book two IF I decide to do another mystery.

 

 

🎉  🥳  🎉 

 

Excerpt From The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

Here is Chapter One  of the book, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

It is He who reveals the profound and

hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with Him.

—Daniel 2:22

CHAPTER ONE

Savannah, Georgia, Late Spring

“I was a fool, Molly. Forgive me? Please?”

Forgive him? Body numb, Molly Stewart stood rooted at Miss Lilly’s front door, staring at the man who had broken both her heart and her trust, and wondered if she actually could.

Today was to have been their wedding day at a pretty little church in Charleston. Instead here Tyler stood on the wraparound front porch of Miss Lilly’s secluded cottage on Lake Loon, more handsome than a louse had a right to be. Those piercing gray eyes were as repentant—and deadly—as she’d ever seen. Hands plunged deep in the pockets of his favorite Rock Revival jeans, he offered an awkward shrug, his rolled-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt emphasizing broad shoulders and a well-defined torso. “These last six months without you have been awful, babe, convincing me I made the biggest and most brainless mistake of my life.”

Yeah, me too. Cocking her hip, Molly slapped her arms into an impatient fold, not about to let Tyler Madsen disarm her again. “Well, I certainly concur with brainless.” Her eyes narrowed to slits, as thin as her patience. “What do you want, Tyler?”

That hard-sculpted jaw tensed as he threaded a hand through wheat-colored hair shorn on the sides. His Adam’s apple ducked twice, a sure sign she’d rattled his confidence, which wasn’t easy to do. “I rather hoped it would be obvious,” he whispered, catching her off-guard when he reached to caress her face with tender fingers. “I want ‘us’ back.”

She jerked away, arms glued to her waist in self-defense as she took a step back, warning bells going off in her head over the warm shiver he’d produced. She’d been head over heels for a solid year, ready to spend the rest of her life with him, so naturally his touch still affected her. Her mouth compressed in resolve. But she was also ready to spend the rest of her life forgetting him, too, and had a six-month head start, thank God. “There is no ‘us,’ Tyler. I wonder if there ever was.”

“There was and you know it, Molly,” he said quietly, gently tugging one of her hands free to draw her close. “Because despite my asinine mistake, we still love each other.”

Loved!” she hissed, breaking free to thump him hard on a chest that felt like rock. “Past tense, buster, so you can just take your seductive song and dance and—”

Her gasp was silenced when his mouth took hers, melting her to the door with a kiss that reminded her of all she had lost.

A friend.

A husband.

A love for a lifetime.

“Forgive me, Molly—please?” He gently touched his forehead to hers. “Give me another chance, and I swear I will do everything in my power to make it up to you.”

“Ty …” She felt herself weakening, memories of their last year resurrecting the faintest glimmers of love and hope that she’d worked so hard to bury beneath a mountain of hurt. “I don’t think—”

Her resistance was swallowed up in another dangerous kiss so possessive, all her walls came tumbling down when he pulled away. Suddenly, his handsome face dissolved into a haze, disappearing into the same nightmare she’d lived for the last half year. A groan trailed from her lips as her head thrashed back and forth in her bed. “No, don’t leave again, please,” she murmured in her sleep, “just kiss me, please …

Her body finally relaxed when he did—gently, softly—vaguely aware it had to be a dream because the scent was all wrong—not the vanilla musk scent of Ty’s Stronger With You cologne she’d given him for Christmas. No, this was more of a peppery scent with a hint of lilac and lavender, confirming it wasn’t Ty she was kissing at all, but someone else.

Lost somewhere between semi-consciousness and a slumber induced by a bleary-headed cold and a 2:00 a.m. dose of Nyquil Severe Cold & Flu, she burrowed deeper into the downy softness of her bed, never wanting the kiss to end. Definitely had to be a dream because Ty was her past, and yet this tender brush of lips against hers felt so real! So right.

Breathing in the heady scent of pine trees that surrounded both Miss Lilly’s Emerald Cottage and the glimmering glacial lake outside her open window, she allowed her subconscious to fade back into sleep, desperate to return to Prince Charming.

“Wake up, Princess.” A husky voice with a hint of a brogue breathed into her ear, accompanied by a trace of that delicious peppery scent, and she literally groaned out loud, unwilling for the magic to end. Rolling on her side, she yanked the cover sheet over her head, longing to slip away once again …

“Uh, excuse me, Goldilocks, but I think you’re sleeping in my bed.”

Her eyes snapped open beneath the sheet while she gasped, frozen for a split second before she jerked her Glock 36 from under her pillow. Launching from her bed, her limbs shook like Jell-O as she stood there in her ratty tank top and penguin shorts, arms extended. “Who are y-you?” she rasped, heart pummeling her ribcage while she trembled, taking shaky aim at a man in a sculpted T-shirt and jeans who made Prince Charming look like a frog.

Light blue eyes flared in surprise as he raised massive palms in the air, a lazy smile easing across lips way too full and sensuous for a man. “Whoa, take it easy, lass. I’m Miss Lilly’s great nephew, Brec McGill, but you can call me Papa Bear if you like.”

“How did you get in?” she demanded, snatching her cell phone from the nightstand before backing toward the door, punching 9-1-1 in just to be ready. Hands quivering, she tucked the phone into her shorts, rattled that a Greek god had entered her room and she’d never even heard him come in.

With an impressive bulge of a bicep, he casually scratched the back of his head, his smile patient as he tossed a set of keys in the air. He slipped them into the pocket of jeans so snug, they bordered on indecent. “A key. From Aunt Lilly. A long time ago.”

“Wait a minute.” She swallowed hard as she wiped her lips, gaze narrowing when the memory of her dream came back. “Did you … kiss me?”

“Depends.” One edge of his mouth crooked as he tipped his head, flashing the deepest, most dangerous dimples she’d ever seen. “Did you like it?”

Stance stiff, she jerked the gun higher, satisfied when it wiped the smile right off his face.

Taking a quick step back, he thumped a taut chest with a blunt thumb while he stared her down. “Look, Goldilocks, this is my room, and you were sleeping in my bed, so suppose you tell me who you are, aye?”

Her chin jutted up. “I am Miss Lilly’s temporary caretaker and companion, Nurse Molly Stewart. The one who left umpteen voicemail messages and a telegram that you never bothered to answer, I might add.”

He actually winced, which gave some small comfort that there may be a shred of concern somewhere deep down in this great nephew who hadn’t visited his aunt in years.

He cuffed the back of his neck. “About that,” he said with a sheepish look, “I’ve had a bit of bother lately with the press, so I’ve been off the grid, so to speak.” He gave an awkward shrug. “New cell phone, new apartment, dodged voicemail, you know?”

Expelling a silent sigh, Molly slowly lowered her gun. Yes, she knew. Miss Lilly had already filled her in on her notorious great nephew, the infamous Irish soccer star embroiled in a nasty scandal. The same nephew Miss Lilly’d been praying for since he went astray after college—both from her and from the faith she’d tried so hard to instill.

“But I finally got the telegram,” he continued in a rush, a definite apology lacing his tone as he buried his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. Those broad shoulders lifted briefly. “So, here I am.” His thick, dark brows tented in concern as he pinned Molly with a pointed gaze that held a touch of vulnerability. “How is she?” he whispered.

“Better.” Rolling her neck, Molly felt the tension slowly seep from her body. “She’s out of the coma and resting comfortably—”

“Coma?” His voice cracked as his golden tan bleached to pale. “She was in a coma? The telegram just said she’d fallen and was in the hospital, for criminy’s sake.”

Molly arched a brow, her manner cool. “She did fall, Mr. McGill—into the lake, as a matter of fact. Which resulted in a coma when she almost drowned. But she came out of it before I sent the telegram—which was a last resort, mind you, after all the phone calls.”

A groan rattled from his throat as he tunneled thick fingers through short curly hair—almost black—appearing as if he actually cared or at least putting on a pretty good act. He glanced at his watch. “Where is she? I want to see her right now. And I want to know everything.”

“All in good time, Striker Boy,” Molly said as she waved the gun toward the door, adding her own twist to his team nickname of “Striker Man” since he was his team’s primary scoring threat. “It’s barely six a.m. and we’re not going anywhere till I’ve had a shower and a cup of coffee, so don’t be in such a hurry.”

She suddenly remembered the brazen pass he’d made by kissing her while she was sleeping, and both her ire—and her gun—rose to new heights. “Oh, wait—you weren’t in a hurry, were you? Since you just arrived a week after the fact.”

Those blue eyes thinned to slits of sapphire. “It’s ‘Striker Man,’ for your information, Goldilocks,” he said in a gravelly voice as tight as hers, “and I detest guns, so stop waving that  thing at me. I took the redeye as soon as I got the blinkin’ telegram, so don’t act like I don’t care about my aunt.”

Eyes wide, Molly feigned surprise as she placed a hand to her cheek. “Oh, forgive me, please, but I didn’t realize seeing your aunt once every ten years qualified as ‘caring.’”

Too late she saw the flicker of pain in his eyes, pools of regret and guilt that shamed her before he quickly looked away, shoulders slumping while he gouged the bridge of his nose. “It was twice,” he said quietly, the weariness of his manner reminding her he’d just flown twelve hours on a cramped plane in the middle of the night. “But I’m here now, Miss Stewart, and I would very much like to see my aunt.”

Oh, way to welcome the prodigal home, Molly, she thought with a pinch in her chest, heat warming the back of her neck over kicking a man when he was down. She was the Christian here, after all, and he was not, a point that caused Miss Lilly great pain whenever they’d discussed her wayward great nephew.

The same wayward nephew who’d just kissed me while I was asleep, for pity’s sake!

For pity’s sake, indeed. And Brec McGill’s, apparently. Because if Molly knew one thing for sure about Miss Lilly, it was that no matter how infrequently she saw her nephew, she longed to see him healthy and whole, both spiritually and emotionally.

“Deep down he’s a good boy,” she’d often say with that faraway look that told Molly he was her number-one priority before she went home to her Savior—that the nephew she loved would return to his, restoring the faith she’d worked so hard to instill. And that sure wouldn’t happen if Molly didn’t reflect the love of the merciful God she also espoused, forgiving this lost soul for abandoning the aunt who loved him all of these years.

Unleashing a heavy sigh of regret that mirrored that in his eyes, Molly placed her gun on the nightstand and gave a side nod toward the door. “Visiting hours are at ten, so you can either catch a few winks in the guest room before we leave, or you can wait for me in the kitchen. Where,” she said with a quirk of her brow, “I will happily whip up breakfast—something fast, hearty, and nutritious—plus coffee while I fill you in on the state of Miss Lilly and her affairs.”

A sense of peace settled over his features like a truce, making him appear all the more fatigued. Offering a tired smile, he nodded to the novel splayed open on her bed, her favorite Agatha Christie cozy mystery that she’d been reading before nodding off. He tilted his head to read the title. “Sparkling Cyanide?” he said with a scrunch of his nose.

“Research,” she said with a slight heft of her chin, “for a book I plan to write.”

He gave a slow nod with a twitch of a smile. “And hopefully nothing to do with breakfast, I trust?”

Head tipped, she crossed her arms with a shadow of a smile. “The jury’s still out, Soccer Boy.”

He gave a slow nod, mouth sliding into a smile that instantly slid into a yawn. “No wonder you were out cold, then. Cozy mysteries are better than a sleeping pill in my opinion—too sweet for my tastes. I like a lot more action, so I’m a Steven King fan myself.”

She angled a brow. “Makes perfect sense. And your favorite is Misery, is it?”

He paused on his way to the door to shoot a wry smile over his shoulder. “Hilarious, Goldie.” Hand on the knob, he turned, his weariness belied by a twitch of a smile that reminded her all over again just how handsome he was. And dangerous to a woman’s emotional health per the tabloids she’d read.

“Breakfast would be absolutely grand, lass,” he said in a husky tone that held more than a hint of tease. “And if you’re willing to forgive me for both my abominable lack of attention to Aunt Lilly and stealing a kiss?”—he had the audacity to give her a wink—“I’ll forgive you for stealing my room.”

“Forgiven,” she said with a pert lift of her chin, matching his shadow of a smile with one of her own. “The lack of attention to Miss Lilly, that is, Strike-Out Boy. But the sheer annoyance from the other?” She wrinkled her nose as she crossed her arms in a taut fold, dismissing him with a nod of her head to close the door. “Something tells me I’ll need that for self-defense.”

 

December 18, 2021

 

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS!

MYSTI’S BOOK CLUB WINNERS!

A PASSION MOST PURE 99¢ E-SALE/MODEL HEAD SHOT OF COLLIN!

CHRISTMAS BLESSING WINNERS!

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AUTHOR PARTY WINNERS!

COOL TRAILER/VIDEO FOR MY NEW MURDER MYSTERY!

PIX OF CHARACTERS FROM THE SECRET OF EMERALD COTTAGE!

1ST CHAPTER FROM THE SECRET OF EMERALD COTTAGE!

 

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you.

Mary, Did You Know?

.

Yes, Mary knew it — “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” Luke 1:46 — and I rejoice in my soul that ALL of us know it too!

Though I have never met most of you, I want you to know how much I love and appreciate each and every one. Some of you have written me in the past, many of you have prayed for me, but ALL of you have blessed me more than I can say.

So I wanted to take this opportunity to thank God for the gift of you in my life, and I ask Him to bless you and yours abundantly, exceedingly more than you hope, think, or pray … in this year and the next.

Hugs and more hugs, and from my family to yours …

.

 

Merry Christmas from my new granddaughter, Millie Jules!

Merry Christmas from my daughter, son-in-law, and two precious grands!

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Merry Christmas from my son, daughter-in-law, and four precious grands!
.
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🎄 MYSTI’S BOOK CLUB WINNERS!
.
SUPER CONGRATS to all the winners as follows:
GRAND PRIZE WINNER of … a $25 Amazon Gift Card, character named for them or a loved one in my spring 2022 book and signed paperback copy, PLUS choice of 3 of my indie e-books OR 1 of my paperbacks (based on my private stash) OR choice of 1 paperback from list of top CBA authors … IS:
GRACE JOHNSON
POST WINNERS of … choice of 3 of my indie e-books OR
1 of my paperbacks (based on my private stash) OR
choice of one paperback from a list of top CBA authors … ARE:
POST WINNER #1 ON DECEMBER 1: Teri Geist DiVincenzo
POST WINNER #2 ON DECEMBER 3: Angela Ingram Johnson
POST WINNER #3 ON DECEMBER 5: Brenda Morton-Gordon
POST WINNER #4 ON DECEMBER 7: Traci Gemelke
POST WINNER #5 ON DECEMBER 9: Grace Tarp
POST WINNER #6 ON DECEMBER 11: Stephanie Cassandra McCall
POST WINNER #7 ON DECEMBER 13: Lynne Feuerstein
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🎄🎄🎄
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🎄 A Passion Most Pure 99¢ e-Sale/Head Shot of Collin!

From Bad Boy to Christian Hero …  Collin McGuire Still Rules …

Out of 26 books I’ve written and umpteen heroes, Collin McGuire  — the hero from my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure — is by far my most popular with my readers.

So, I thought it’d be fun to see pictures of Collin then and now.

Revell originally had another pic of Collin chosen for the cover and I almost started crying when I saw it. He had a namby-pamby look that made him look weak, so I asked if they had other pix of Collin they could use.

“There’s only one other pose, Julie,” my Revell artist explained, “and we decided against it because he looks too angry.”

“Can you send it to me?” I asked. She did, and the rest is history! I explained that the picture actually fit very well because Collin IS angry that he can’t have the only woman he wants.

So here’s both the model head shot I originally was given (which I hung up in my cube at work and was quite popular with my female coworkers) and that same model today. You’ll note that the sullen look is still alive and doing well!

Model Shots for Young Collin and Collin Today

And actually, I thought I was able to come pretty close with the models for Faith and Collin’s O’Connor Christmas novella, which takes place 20 years after they married.

BUY A GIFT LIKE NO OTHER HERE

BUY A PASSION MOST PURE FOR 99 CENTS HERE

 

🎄🎄🎄

 

🎄 Christmas Blessing Giveaway Winners!

CHECK OUT THE WINNERS HERE!

 

 

🎄 12-Days of Christmas Giveaway Winners!

GRAND-PRIZE WINNER: Cherie Rivera Japp

INDIVIDUAL POST WINNERS (2 PER POST):

POST #1:
Kathy Allbritton Bennett
Mary McCauley

POST #2:
Kayleigh Veeren
Bea Followill

POST #3:
Shelly Dixon
Jackie Riley

POST #4:
Lisa Turley
Kay Enderlin

POST #5:
Evelyn Foreman
Darlene Johnson

POST #6:
Bonnie Yepsen Weinman
Leland Lee

 

🎄 Trailer/Video for my New Murder Mystery!

CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO

 

🎄Characters from The Secret of Emerald Cottage

Allow me to introduce you to the main characters in The Secret of Emerald Cottage! Let’s begin with the heroine, Molly Stewart, a sweet-natured former Navy nurse with an aversion to men who are players and a penchant for reading and writing cozy mystery.

         

And then we have our rogue hero, Breccan McGill, Aunt Lilly’s celebrity soccer-star great nephew, who is a gourmet chef with a delicious Irish brogue.

 

Next, we have precious Aunt Lilly, an 88-year-old backwoods dynamo with a love for the Lord, Brec’s gourmet desserts, and poker.

 

And finally, Detective Sloan Kennedy, the 2nd guy in the love triangle in this book who will be my hero in book two IF I decide to do another mystery.

 

 

 

🎄 Excerpt From The Secret of Emerald Cottage!

Here is Chapter One  of the book, so I hope you enjoy it!

It is He who reveals the profound and

hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with Him.

—Daniel 2:22

CHAPTER ONE

Savannah, Georgia, Late Spring

“I was a fool, Molly. Forgive me? Please?”

Forgive him? Body numb, Molly Stewart stood rooted at Miss Lilly’s front door, staring at the man who had broken both her heart and her trust, and wondered if she actually could.

Today was to have been their wedding day at a pretty little church in Charleston. Instead here Tyler stood on the wraparound front porch of Miss Lilly’s secluded cottage on Lake Loon, more handsome than a louse had a right to be. Those piercing gray eyes were as repentant—and deadly—as she’d ever seen. Hands plunged deep in the pockets of his favorite Rock Revival jeans, he offered an awkward shrug, his rolled-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt emphasizing broad shoulders and a well-defined torso. “These last six months without you have been awful, babe, convincing me I made the biggest and most brainless mistake of my life.”

Yeah, me too. Cocking her hip, Molly slapped her arms into an impatient fold, not about to let Tyler Madsen disarm her again. “Well, I certainly concur with brainless.” Her eyes narrowed to slits, as thin as her patience. “What do you want, Tyler?”

That hard-sculpted jaw tensed as he threaded a hand through wheat-colored hair shorn on the sides. His Adam’s apple ducked twice, a sure sign she’d rattled his confidence, which wasn’t easy to do. “I rather hoped it would be obvious,” he whispered, catching her off-guard when he reached to caress her face with tender fingers. “I want ‘us’ back.”

She jerked away, arms glued to her waist in self-defense as she took a step back, warning bells going off in her head over the warm shiver he’d produced. She’d been head over heels for a solid year, ready to spend the rest of her life with him, so naturally his touch still affected her. Her mouth compressed in resolve. But she was also ready to spend the rest of her life forgetting him, too, and had a six-month head start, thank God. “There is no ‘us,’ Tyler. I wonder if there ever was.”

“There was and you know it, Molly,” he said quietly, gently tugging one of her hands free to draw her close. “Because despite my asinine mistake, we still love each other.”

Loved!” she hissed, breaking free to thump him hard on a chest that felt like rock. “Past tense, buster, so you can just take your seductive song and dance and—”

Her gasp was silenced when his mouth took hers, melting her to the door with a kiss that reminded her of all she had lost.

A friend.

A husband.

A love for a lifetime.

“Forgive me, Molly—please?” He gently touched his forehead to hers. “Give me another chance, and I swear I will do everything in my power to make it up to you.”

“Ty …” She felt herself weakening, memories of their last year resurrecting the faintest glimmers of love and hope that she’d worked so hard to bury beneath a mountain of hurt. “I don’t think—”

Her resistance was swallowed up in another dangerous kiss so possessive, all her walls came tumbling down when he pulled away. Suddenly, his handsome face dissolved into a haze, disappearing into the same nightmare she’d lived for the last half year. A groan trailed from her lips as her head thrashed back and forth in her bed. “No, don’t leave again, please,” she murmured in her sleep, “just kiss me, please …

Her body finally relaxed when he did—gently, softly—vaguely aware it had to be a dream because the scent was all wrong—not the vanilla musk scent of Ty’s Stronger With You cologne she’d given him for Christmas. No, this was more of a peppery scent with a hint of lilac and lavender, confirming it wasn’t Ty she was kissing at all, but someone else.

Lost somewhere between semi-consciousness and a slumber induced by a bleary-headed cold and a 2:00 a.m. dose of Nyquil Severe Cold & Flu, she burrowed deeper into the downy softness of her bed, never wanting the kiss to end. Definitely had to be a dream because Ty was her past, and yet this tender brush of lips against hers felt so real! So right.

Breathing in the heady scent of pine trees that surrounded both Miss Lilly’s Emerald Cottage and the glimmering glacial lake outside her open window, she allowed her subconscious to fade back into sleep, desperate to return to Prince Charming.

“Wake up, Princess.” A husky voice with a hint of a brogue breathed into her ear, accompanied by a trace of that delicious peppery scent, and she literally groaned out loud, unwilling for the magic to end. Rolling on her side, she yanked the cover sheet over her head, longing to slip away once again …

“Uh, excuse me, Goldilocks, but I think you’re sleeping in my bed.”

Her eyes snapped open beneath the sheet while she gasped, frozen for a split second before she jerked her Glock 36 from under her pillow. Launching from her bed, her limbs shook like Jell-O as she stood there in her ratty tank top and penguin shorts, arms extended. “Who are y-you?” she rasped, heart pummeling her ribcage while she trembled, taking shaky aim at a man in a sculpted T-shirt and jeans who made Prince Charming look like a frog.

Light blue eyes flared in surprise as he raised massive palms in the air, a lazy smile easing across lips way too full and sensuous for a man. “Whoa, take it easy, lass. I’m Miss Lilly’s great nephew, Brec McGill, but you can call me Papa Bear if you like.”

“How did you get in?” she demanded, snatching her cell phone from the nightstand before backing toward the door, punching 9-1-1 in just to be ready. Hands quivering, she tucked the phone into her shorts, rattled that a Greek god had entered her room and she’d never even heard him come in.

With an impressive bulge of a bicep, he casually scratched the back of his head, his smile patient as he tossed a set of keys in the air. He slipped them into the pocket of jeans so snug, they bordered on indecent. “A key. From Aunt Lilly. A long time ago.”

“Wait a minute.” She swallowed hard as she wiped her lips, gaze narrowing when the memory of her dream came back. “Did you … kiss me?”

“Depends.” One edge of his mouth crooked as he tipped his head, flashing the deepest, most dangerous dimples she’d ever seen. “Did you like it?”

Stance stiff, she jerked the gun higher, satisfied when it wiped the smile right off his face.

Taking a quick step back, he thumped a taut chest with a blunt thumb while he stared her down. “Look, Goldilocks, this is my room, and you were sleeping in my bed, so suppose you tell me who you are, aye?”

Her chin jutted up. “I am Miss Lilly’s temporary caretaker and companion, Nurse Molly Stewart. The one who left umpteen voicemail messages and a telegram that you never bothered to answer, I might add.”

He actually winced, which gave some small comfort that there may be a shred of concern somewhere deep down in this great nephew who hadn’t visited his aunt in years.

He cuffed the back of his neck. “About that,” he said with a sheepish look, “I’ve had a bit of bother lately with the press, so I’ve been off the grid, so to speak.” He gave an awkward shrug. “New cell phone, new apartment, dodged voicemail, you know?”

Expelling a silent sigh, Molly slowly lowered her gun. Yes, she knew. Miss Lilly had already filled her in on her notorious great nephew, the infamous Irish soccer star embroiled in a nasty scandal. The same nephew Miss Lilly’d been praying for since he went astray after college—both from her and from the faith she’d tried so hard to instill.

“But I finally got the telegram,” he continued in a rush, a definite apology lacing his tone as he buried his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. Those broad shoulders lifted briefly. “So, here I am.” His thick, dark brows tented in concern as he pinned Molly with a pointed gaze that held a touch of vulnerability. “How is she?” he whispered.

“Better.” Rolling her neck, Molly felt the tension slowly seep from her body. “She’s out of the coma and resting comfortably—”

“Coma?” His voice cracked as his golden tan bleached to pale. “She was in a coma? The telegram just said she’d fallen and was in the hospital, for criminy’s sake.”

Molly arched a brow, her manner cool. “She did fall, Mr. McGill—into the lake, as a matter of fact. Which resulted in a coma when she almost drowned. But she came out of it before I sent the telegram—which was a last resort, mind you, after all the phone calls.”

A groan rattled from his throat as he tunneled thick fingers through short curly hair—almost black—appearing as if he actually cared or at least putting on a pretty good act. He glanced at his watch. “Where is she? I want to see her right now. And I want to know everything.”

“All in good time, Striker Boy,” Molly said as she waved the gun toward the door, adding her own twist to his team nickname of “Striker Man” since he was his team’s primary scoring threat. “It’s barely six a.m. and we’re not going anywhere till I’ve had a shower and a cup of coffee, so don’t be in such a hurry.”

She suddenly remembered the brazen pass he’d made by kissing her while she was sleeping, and both her ire—and her gun—rose to new heights. “Oh, wait—you weren’t in a hurry, were you? Since you just arrived a week after the fact.”

Those blue eyes thinned to slits of sapphire. “It’s ‘Striker Man,’ for your information, Goldilocks,” he said in a gravelly voice as tight as hers, “and I detest guns, so stop waving that  thing at me. I took the redeye as soon as I got the blinkin’ telegram, so don’t act like I don’t care about my aunt.”

Eyes wide, Molly feigned surprise as she placed a hand to her cheek. “Oh, forgive me, please, but I didn’t realize seeing your aunt once every ten years qualified as ‘caring.’”

Too late she saw the flicker of pain in his eyes, pools of regret and guilt that shamed her before he quickly looked away, shoulders slumping while he gouged the bridge of his nose. “It was twice,” he said quietly, the weariness of his manner reminding her he’d just flown twelve hours on a cramped plane in the middle of the night. “But I’m here now, Miss Stewart, and I would very much like to see my aunt.”

Oh, way to welcome the prodigal home, Molly, she thought with a pinch in her chest, heat warming the back of her neck over kicking a man when he was down. She was the Christian here, after all, and he was not, a point that caused Miss Lilly great pain whenever they’d discussed her wayward great nephew.

The same wayward nephew who’d just kissed me while I was asleep, for pity’s sake!

For pity’s sake, indeed. And Brec McGill’s, apparently. Because if Molly knew one thing for sure about Miss Lilly, it was that no matter how infrequently she saw her nephew, she longed to see him healthy and whole, both spiritually and emotionally.

“Deep down he’s a good boy,” she’d often say with that faraway look that told Molly he was her number-one priority before she went home to her Savior—that the nephew she loved would return to his, restoring the faith she’d worked so hard to instill. And that sure wouldn’t happen if Molly didn’t reflect the love of the merciful God she also espoused, forgiving this lost soul for abandoning the aunt who loved him all of these years.

Unleashing a heavy sigh of regret that mirrored that in his eyes, Molly placed her gun on the nightstand and gave a side nod toward the door. “Visiting hours are at ten, so you can either catch a few winks in the guest room before we leave, or you can wait for me in the kitchen. Where,” she said with a quirk of her brow, “I will happily whip up breakfast—something fast, hearty, and nutritious—plus coffee while I fill you in on the state of Miss Lilly and her affairs.”

A sense of peace settled over his features like a truce, making him appear all the more fatigued. Offering a tired smile, he nodded to the novel splayed open on her bed, her favorite Agatha Christie cozy mystery that she’d been reading before nodding off. He tilted his head to read the title. “Sparkling Cyanide?” he said with a scrunch of his nose.

“Research,” she said with a slight heft of her chin, “for a book I plan to write.”

He gave a slow nod with a twitch of a smile. “And hopefully nothing to do with breakfast, I trust?”

Head tipped, she crossed her arms with a shadow of a smile. “The jury’s still out, Soccer Boy.”

He gave a slow nod, mouth sliding into a smile that instantly slid into a yawn. “No wonder you were out cold, then. Cozy mysteries are better than a sleeping pill in my opinion—too sweet for my tastes. I like a lot more action, so I’m a Steven King fan myself.”

She angled a brow. “Makes perfect sense. And your favorite is Misery, is it?”

He paused on his way to the door to shoot a wry smile over his shoulder. “Hilarious, Goldie.” Hand on the knob, he turned, his weariness belied by a twitch of a smile that reminded her all over again just how handsome he was. And dangerous to a woman’s emotional health per the tabloids she’d read.

“Breakfast would be absolutely grand, lass,” he said in a husky tone that held more than a hint of tease. “And if you’re willing to forgive me for both my abominable lack of attention to Aunt Lilly and stealing a kiss?”—he had the audacity to give her a wink—“I’ll forgive you for stealing my room.”

“Forgiven,” she said with a pert lift of her chin, matching his shadow of a smile with one of her own. “The lack of attention to Miss Lilly, that is, Strike-Out Boy. But the sheer annoyance from the other?” She wrinkled her nose as she crossed her arms in a taut fold, dismissing him with a nod of her head to close the door. “Something tells me I’ll need that for self-defense.”

 

 

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