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!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

 

FB VIDEO INTERVIEW GIVEAWAY ENDS SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20!

CHRISTMAS BLESSING GIVEAWAY NOVEMBER 22 – DECEMBER 7

99-CENT SALE AND BOOK CLUB GIVEAWAY!

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AUTHOR PARTY/GIVEAWAY!

MY NEW GRANDDAUGHTER!

REVIEWS NEEDED ON MY 1ST ROMANTIC MYSTERY!

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!

 

FaceBook Video Interview/Giveaway Ends Saturday, Nov. 20!

💁‍♀️ SO … what do YOU think? Does romantic PASSION belong in Christian romance? Join the discussion and you could win! Win what?

Keep reading!

The Steady On online “Christian Growth Classroom,” whose tagline is, “Where Change Happens on the Inside,” invites you to listen in on this discussion of purity and passion with me and three bright and godly young women who run this fascinating “classroom.”

So, just leave a comment regarding your opinion on something we talked about in the video, and you’re automatically entered to win your choice of 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 ENDS THIS SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20 AT MIDNIGHT, so you have plenty of time to come on by, give a listen, and share your thoughts! Here’s the link and hope to see you there!

FACEBOOK INTERVIEW GIVEAWAY

 

 

Christmas Blessing Giveaway Nov. 22-Dec. 7!

 

Boy, do I have an unusual giveaway for you!  Please Join me and 11 other Christian authors for a very unique experience that I think you will love!

You see, we just want to be a blessing to you, so we are holding a giveaway with no strings attached. We’re each giving away a NOVEL with a GIFT. So that’s 12 novels & 12 gifts, which translates to 12 winners. AND a special recipe from each author.

HOW TO ENTER, you may ask? That’s the fun part!

1) Simply agree to pay forward a blessing to someone this Christmas season. Give your word you’ll do something kind for someone else, asking for nothing in return, and your name goes into the hat! That’s it! There’s no signing up for 12,489 newsletters, no following anyone on social media, no jumping through hoops. Just promise to bless someone, and

2) Be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter box below—leaving your correct email—so we can reach you when your name is drawn. (I mean, you’re going to win, right? You’re already a winner!)

3.) And that’s it! You can check out all the authors, their prizes, and their book at the link below, but remember, the contest will not go live until November 22 – December 7th, okay?

 

CLICK HERE FOR CHRISTMAS BLESSING GIVEAWAY!

 

 

99-Cent Sale & Bookclub Giveaway

for A Passion Most Pure

A PASSION MOST PURE … OR NOT SO PURE?

Have you read my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure? Well, whether you have or not, now’s your chance to discuss it at Mysti’s Book Nook, a very relaxed and intimate (uh … almost 300 members!) online bookclub that will be discussing A Passion Most Pure DECEMBER 1-14, so mark your calendar!

Why? Because not only is APMP on e-sale for 99 cents, but I will be giving away an Amazon gift card, a character named after you in my next book, a signed paperback copy (A Hope and a Prayer, releasing next spring), and lots of my e-books OR your choice of one of my signed indie paperback books OR your choice of a new release from a top CBA author.

Plus you can safely state your opinion on the subject of “passion” and “purity” in today’s world and what we can do to effect a change. So, here’s all you need to be involved. Hope to see you there!

READ A PASSION MOST PURE AND/OR BUY IT HERE

AND

JOIN MYSTI’S BOOK NOOK HERE

 

 

12-Days of Christmas Author Party & Giveaway!

Please Join me and other Christian authors for another glorious Christmas giveaway on the INSPIRATIONAL READS AND AUTHORS FACEBOOK GROUP for lots of fun, games, and giveaways! It all begins DECEMBER 1-12, when you can interact with various authors throughout each day, and a comment leaves you in the draw for various authors’ books and/or gifts.

My scheduled time is on DECEMBER 2 from 12 NOON to 3 PM, so come on by to chat and WIN!

 

Welcome Millie Jules!

OH MY GOODNESS … as if I weren’t blessed enough to already have five beautiful grand kids, my sweet daughter went and gave me a sixth, melting my heart all over again!

Allow me to introduce you to sweet Millie Jules, 7 lbs.13 oz. and 19-3/4″ of sheer perfection and joy! Because the hospital only allowed two people in the delivery room, you can imagine my excitement when my daughter asked me to join my son-in-law in the delivery room when Millie was born!!

I can hardly believe I actually got to cut the cord and my son-in-law pulled Millie halfway out and laid her on my daughter’s chest! But what absolutely reduced me to tears was when I was holding my new granddaughter and asked what her middle name would be. “Jules,” my daughter said with a misty smile, “so she will always remember the amazing woman she was named after.” Trust me, after that I was crying more than sweet Millie!

 

Reviews Needed for my 1st Romantic Mystery!

Anybody who reads books knows how important reviews are, both to readers and to authors. And for indie authors like me, reviews are all the more important because that’s the primary way most readers choose their books.

So, if you have read The Secret of Emerald Cottage, can I ask a favor? If you posted a review on Amazon, please let me know via my CONTACT JULIE tab of this website because I would like to personally thank you with a FREE E-BOOK for taking the time to do so.

ALSO … if you HAVE read The Secret of Emerald Cottage and posted a review on Goodreads only, can I ask you to post that same review on Amazon as well? Then let me know so I can thank you with a free e-book.

And finally, if you read and liked The Secret of Emerald Cottage but have not posted a review yet, can I ask you to do so on Amazon? It can be as brief as one or two lines stating you liked the book or not, then just let me know so I can thank you with a free e-book. OR Amazon even allows you to rate a book with stars alone, without a review! Yes, it’s really that easy!

Thank you for your support!

 

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.”

 

 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

What You’ll Find in This Blog Today:

(Note: Updated info in black. Grayed info continued from prior blog)

 

WHOO-HOO …  A NEW GRAND BABY!

ONLY 2 MORE DAYS FOR SPOOK-TACULAR “FALL CLEAN READS SUSPENSE GIVEAWAY”!

A PASSION MOST PURE 99-CENT e-SALE STARTS NOV. 1ST!

NOV. 10 EXCERPT READING & GIVEAWAY ON TONI SHILOH’S FB PAGE!

DENISE HUNTER GIVEAWAY NOV. 5-7!

REVIEWS NEEDED ON MY 1ST ROMANTIC MYSTERY!

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!

 

Welcome Millie Jules!

OH MY GOODNESS … as if I weren’t blessed enough to already have five beautiful grand kids, my sweet daughter went and gave me a sixth, melting my heart all over again!

Allow me to introduce you to sweet Millie Jules, 7 lbs.13 oz. and 19-3/4″ of sheer perfection and joy! Because the hospital only allowed two people in the delivery room, you can imagine my excitement when my daughter asked me to join my son-in-law in the delivery room when Millie was born!!

I can hardly believe I actually got to cut the cord and my son-in-law pulled Millie halfway out and laid her on my daughter’s chest! But what absolutely reduced me to tears was when I was holding my new granddaughter and asked what her middle name would be. “Jules,” my daughter said with a misty smile, “so she will always remember the amazing woman she was named after.” Trust me, after that I was crying more than sweet Millie!

 

Only 2 More Days for Spook-tacular “Fall Clean Reads Suspense Giveaway”!

🍁 🎃 🍁 UH-OH … LESS THAN 2  DAYS LEFT IN THIS SPOOK-TACULAR “FALL CLEAN READS MYSTERY/SUSPENSE GIVEAWAY”!
Need a $200 Amazon gift card and a chance to win one of 21 romantic suspense books by the following scary-good authors?
Dani Pettrey, Susan Sleeman Books, Lynn H. Blackburn, DiAnn Mills, Lisa Harris, Hallee Bridgeman, Sian Ann Bessey-author, Julie Lessman, Author Hope Callaghan, Cara Putman, Lynn Shannon, Melissa Storm, Author, Christy Barritt, Author Paige Edwards, A. L. Sowards, Janice Cantore Books, Kathy Oram Peterson, Stephanie Black, and Gregg Luke.
So don’t waste another minute! Just enter at the following link and good luck!  
ENTER HERE:

 

Note: Sorry, U.S. residents only. But international residents are welcome to contact me through my website HERE, tell me what non-U.S. country you are from, and I will enter you in my own contest for your choice of a free e-book.

 

A Passion Most Pure 99-Cent e-Sale Starts November 1st!

As many of you know, my career as an author began with A PASSION MOST PURE, probably my most popular book and book 1 in the The Daughters of Boston series, which is the first series of the entire O’Connor family saga.

I am very proud to say that A Passion Most Pure won American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Book of the Year, so if you haven’t read it yet, the time is coming when you’ll definitely want to do so.

Why? Well, because my publisher, Revell, has graciously agreed to drastically reduce the e-book price to 99 cents for the entire months of November and December. Which is perfect timing to coincide with an online bookclub I’m part of at Mysti’s Book Nook the first two weeks of December, where A Passion Most Pure is the selected book with LOTS of giveaways!

I promise you, with all the comments and emails I’ve gotten over the years regarding this controversial book (because the passion was a wee bit more than the Christian market was used to back then), there will never be a better novel to discuss than this one because for me, APMP was my love letter to God. So mark your calendars to watch for this sale AND to be part of the book-club discussion Dec. 1-14, 2021.

 

Excerpt Reading & Giveaway on Toni Shiloh’s FB Page on Nov. 10th!

Want to win your choice of ANY of my indie e-books? It’s easy and it’s fun!

All you have to do is leave a comment on TONI’S FB AUTHOR PAGE for her Wednesday Excerpt Reading, where I will be reading the 1st chapter of A Passion Most Pure on NOVEMBER 10th, and you’re in the draw.

Winners will be announced in my next Journal Jots blog, so make sure you are subscribed to my blog by signing up in the “Subscribe to Blog via Email” box on the right-hand corner of this page to be notified when my next blog posts.

 

Denise Hunter Giveaway Nov. 5-7!

My buddy, Denise Hunter, has donated a signed copy of her new release, Riverbend Gap to be given away on my FB AUTHOR PAGE!

Here’s your chance to escape into a hopeful new series with this meant-to-be romance, set in a small mountain town! And it’s Denise Hunter, so ’nuff said!

So, how do you enter? Make a note on your calendar to leave a comment on my FB Author Page anytime from NOVEMBER 5-7, and you will be in the draw, so hope to see you there!

Note: Sorry, U.S. residents only. But international residents are welcome to contact me through my website HERE, tell me what non-U.S. country you are from, and I will enter you in my own contest for your choice of a free e-book.

 

Reviews Needed for my 1st Romantic Mystery!

Anybody who reads books knows how important reviews are, both to readers and to authors. And for indie authors like me, reviews are all the more important because that’s the primary way most readers choose their books.

So, if you have read The Secret of Emerald Cottage, can I ask a favor? If you posted a review on Amazon, please let me know via my CONTACT JULIE tab of this website because I would like to personally thank you with a FREE E-BOOK for taking the time to do so.

ALSO … if you HAVE read The Secret of Emerald Cottage and posted a review on Goodreads only, can I ask you to post that same review on Amazon as well? Then let me know so I can thank you with a free e-book.

And finally, if you read and liked The Secret of Emerald Cottage but have not posted a review yet, can I ask you to do so on Amazon? It can be as brief as one or two lines stating you liked the book or not, then just let me know so I can thank you with a free e-book. OR Amazon even allows you to rate a book with stars alone, without a review! Yes, it’s really that easy!

Thank you for your support!

 

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.”

 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

What You’ll Find in This Blog Today:

(Note: Updated info in black. Grayed info continued from prior blog)

 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE!

WINNERS FROM MY BLOG-TOUR CONTEST!

WINNERS FROM MY FACEBOOK 22-BOOK GIVEAWAY!

MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR NEW GIVEAWAY ON TUESDAY, 10/5!

MARK CALENDAR FOR 99-CENT A PASSION MOST PURE SALE & BOOK CLUB!

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!

 

Happy Anniversary to the Love of my Life!

 

Yesterday was my 43rd wedding anniversary, and this morning my hubby and I drank our morning coffee on our deck and reflected on our 43 years of a God-centered marriage and how God has blessed and safeguarded us every step of the way!

Keith reminded me of the day we signed a no-contingency contract on our last home (with money from the sale of a lake house we built, then sold so we could stay home with our teenagers). Oh my goodness, we hadn’t even sold our primary house yet and had no offers! That ended up being the same day we heard the company we both worked for was going to lay off 400 people. 😳

Whether we used wisdom or not, God protected us and has never stopped protecting us, proving He truly does “super-abundantly more than all that we dare, ask, or think and beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams,” according to Ephesians 3:20 AMP. Not only with that house, but in our marriage, with our kids, their spouses, and our grandchildren. We are ALL truly blessed and HE is the reason! ♥️ So, thank you, God, for all the blessings You have bestowed and Happy Anniversary to Jesus, my Lord and Savior, the One who made it all happen! And, yes, my hubby does read my Journal Jot blogs, so this is for you, Keith! 😘

 

Winners From My Blog-Tour Contest!

HUGS and more HUGS to everyone who entered my blog-tour contest last week. I wish you could all win, but then I’d be broke. 😳

Anyway, the winner of the GRAND PRIZE of a $50 Amazon gift card, a signed paperback of The Secret of Emerald Cottage (or choice of my books), PLUS a character named for you or a loved one (great birthday/Christmas gift!) in my next book, A Hope and a Prayer, releasing early spring and a signed paperback, picked by Rafflecopter draw is:  CRYSTAL STEWART!  SUPER CONGRATS to Crystal, and I will be in touch.

 

Winners from my FaceBook 22-Book Giveaway!

Mega thanks to all of you who entered my FB giveaway a few days ago and SUPER CONGRATS to the winners I’ve listed below, who have won an e-copy of my latest novel, The Secret of Emerald Cottage. To claim your e-copy, please contact me through my website on the CONTACT JULIE tab. NOTE: If you have already read The Secret of Emerald Cottage, just let me know, and I’ll be happy to send you another of my indie e-books instead.

1. Connie Porter Saunders
2. Lori Smanski
3. Marilyn Rushing
4. Linda Marie Finn
5. Teri DiVincenzo
6. Rita Wray
7. Paty Hinojosa
8. Becky D
9. Lelia (Lucy) Reynolds
10. Thomas Gibson
11. Linda Kish
12. Alpacalover628
13. Heather F
14. bn100
15. Debra J Pruss
16. Donna Irvin
17. Caryl Kane
18. Saraina Whitney
19. Kendra Muonio
20. Patricia Brooks
21. Linda K. Rodante
22. Kristin

 

Mark Your Calendar for New Giveaway on Tuesday, October 5!

 

Next Tuesday, October 5th, I am taking over on the A MOST STORIED ROMANCE FB PAGE from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. when I host TAKEOVER TUESDAY in celebration of the release of my first murder mystery, The Secret of Emerald Cottage.

I will be giving away one e-book every two hours (that’s six chances to win your choice of any one of my indie e-books including The Secret of Emerald Cottage), and all it takes to win is a single comment on this very cool FB group page that features some of your favorite authors. Winners will be picked on the following day (Wed., Oct. 6th), which gives you plenty of time to post a comment on every one of my six posts.

NOTE: You must join the group in order to leave a comment, but with free giveaways, a great newsletter, and lots of fun interaction with some of your favorite authors — why wouldn’t you want to anyway?? So, why not get a head start and join now so you’re ready to go on Tuesday? Here’s the link, and hope to see you there!

TAKEOVER TUESDAY WITH JULIE LESSMAN!

 

Mark Your Calendar for 99-Cent Sale on

A Passion Most Pure & Book Club!

As many of you know, my career as an author began with A PASSION MOST PURE, probably my most popular book and book 1 in the The Daughters of Boston series, which is the first series of the entire O’Connor family saga. I am very proud to say that A Passion Most Pure won American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Book of the Year, so if you haven’t read it yet, the time is coming when you’ll definitely want to do so.

Why? Well, because my publisher, Revell, has graciously agreed to drastically reduce the e-book price to 99 cents for the entire months of November and December. Which is perfect timing to coincide with an online bookclub I’m part of at Mysti’s Book Nook the first two weeks of December, where A Passion Most Pure is the selected book.

I promise you, with all the comments and emails I’ve gotten over the years regarding this controversial book (because the passion was a wee bit more than the Christian market was used to back then), there will never be a better novel to discuss than this one because for me, APMP was my love letter to God. So mark your calendars to watch for this sale AND to be part of the book-club discussion Dec. 1-14, 2021.

 

Trailer/Video for my New Murder Mystery!

God bless my sweet husband because he’s done it again! Made an incredible video trailer for The Secret of Emerald Cottage that I hope you will love as much as I do! If this doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what will!  JUST CLICK ON THE PICTURE BELOW TO SEE IT!

 

 

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!

I know I’ve posted Chapter One before, but it’s been so long ago and some of you probably didn’t see it AND it’s been edited as well, so hopefully you’ll want to read it again.

That said, HAPPY READING and HUGS till next time!

Julie

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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