“A love everlasting,” she whispered,
the kind of love her soul had ached for with Eric.
And the kind of love that was only rooted in faith.
— Love Everlasting by Julie Lessman
Yes, it’s true, Love Everlasting, book 2 in the Isle of Hope series, is now available for PREORDER!!
And to celebrate, I’m giving you a sneak peek at Tess and Ben’s relationship in LE with an excerpt at the end of this blog, so be sure to check it out.
And not only that, but if you preorder Love Everlasting by September 1st, you will earn an extra five entry points in my contest below! So if you have already done so, make sure you check that option in the Rafflecopter box below for a shot at having a character named after you in — yes, you guessed it — LOVE EVERLASTING!!
As far as updates, I just finished final edits for my Christmas novella, “Last Chance Christmas,” which will be in the Cowboy Christmas Homecoming Christmas collection along with novellas by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, and Anna Schmidt, releasing in October.
I will give you a sneak peek at that in the weeks ahead, but for now you can check out the synopsis for each novella and if you like, PREORDER it HERE. But rest assured when an accident-prone saloon girl connects with a widowed pastor and his four daughters, not to mention a crochety aunt, trouble follows …
Right now I am doing final edits on Love Everlasting before it goes to the formatter, then I dive into book 1 of my Silver Lining Ranch series, Love’s Silver Lining, which is going to be SO fun, I promise!
Well, I better get cracking, so here’s some announcements following by a Ben and Tess excerpt from Love Everlasting — I hope you enjoy it!
Hugs and Happy Weekend!
99-CENT SALE ON A GLIMMER OF HOPE! I’m gearing up for the release of Love Everlasting with a sale on the prequel novella to Isle of Hope — A Glimmer of Hope — so if you haven’t read it yet, now’s a good time! It has a 5-star rating on Amazon and will give you a sneak peek into Isle of Hope, plus the first chapter, so I hope you check it out!
Preorder Love Everlasting!
Book 2 in the Isle of Hope series, Love Everlasting, available for PREORDER HERE!
Win your name in Love Everlasting (which will also be in paperback by Christmas) along with a signed copy!!
How? INSPIRED READS (which is a great Christian freebie/sale ebook site, so I recommend subscribing) is asking its readers to let them know what Christian Kindle books you would like to see more of AND give them the names of your favorite authors!
SO … ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO ENTER IS:
1.) Go to the Inspired Reads Facebook page at the link below and leave a comment telling them who your favorite authors are and what you are currently reading. Please note you are not required to mention me as a favorite author to enter the contest, but if my books are favorites of yours, I would greatly appreciate the mention. Then come back here and enter the Rafflecopter box below. Easy, right?
AND … EXTRA POINTS ARE AVAILABLE BY:
1.) Sharing the contest via Facebook or Twitter daily.
2.) Helping to promote the preorder of Love Everlasting by sharing the promotion graphic above on FB and/or Twitter.
3.) Preordering Love Everlasting yourself.
The contest ends at midnight on September 1st, and I will announce the winner in the following Journal Jot, so GOOD LUCK!
EXCERPT FROM LOVE EVERLASTING
Sweet Southern tea, what am I doing? Tess slammed two stiff palms to Ben’s chest, hoping he hadn’t heard the moan that almost slipped from her lips when he’d kissed her. “You’re crazy all right, Carmichael,” she hissed with a last-ditch flail of arms, desperate to keep him in line until she could drive her terms home. “And God help you if you think you can waltz in here—”
He cut her off with another kiss so urgent and deep, his groan tangled with hers as she melted against his chest. Her fingers dug into the hair at the back of his neck, trying to decide if she wanted to grab him or gouge him. With a desperate groan, his mouth slid along the curve of her jaw to nip at her ear before smothering her throat with hungry kisses. “God help me is right, Tess, because I want you more than I have ever wanted anything in my life.”
“Ben, wait, please—”
He silenced her weak protest with another ravenous kiss, like a man starving for the only sustenance his soul could abide. “I can’t, Tess—not any longer,” he rasped, voice hoarse with a need he obviously could no longer deny, “I want to marry you now.”
Oh, Ben … She went completely still in his arms, her fingers at the nape of his neck suddenly limp and flat. Me, too, but … She sagged back, facial muscles wilted with a sadness she’d only displayed one other time. The night he’d revealed a past that had almost cost him her love.
Her heart ached as he fumbled in his pocket for the diamond ring he’d so longed for her to wear, holding it out with shaky fingers. “Marry me, Tess—tomorrow, the next day, I don’t care—but soon because I need you like I’ve never needed anyone before.” Her resolve weakened when he cradled her face in his hands. “In my life,” he whispered, nuzzling her neck with a tenderness that immediately lured her eyelids closed. “In my house …” He mated his mouth with hers, exploring until he coaxed a soft mew from her throat. “And most definitely in my bed …” he said with an answering groan, voice husky as he devoured her body and soul.
Her breathing was as ragged as his when she finally pushed him away, soggy eyes revealing the depth of her love.
And her hesitation.
“Ben, I love you, I do,” she said quietly, the deep slash between his brows putting a stranglehold on her heart, “and I want to be your wife so badly, I can taste it—”
“Oh, me too,” he said, diving right back in to nibble her neck all over again.
“But …” She squirmed from his grasp with two rigid palms, arms locked to keep him at bay. “I have concerns.”
The air in his chest seemed to slowly seep out. “My temper?”
She shimmied off his lap to slip back in her own chair, the absence of his warmth chilling her as much as the vulnerable look on his face. “Yes, your temper, although it’s not my chief concern at the moment because losing it only twice in a number of years is not a deal breaker.”
His throat convulsed several times before he spoke. “Deal breaker?” he whispered, voice a near croak as he slipped the ring back into his pocket.
She studied him with caring eyes that longed to kiss away every worry line in his face. “Jealousy, Ben,” she said softly, bracing her arms to her waist again as if shutting him out. “I can’t abide jealousy because nothing will destroy a relationship faster than that.” Her gaze veered beyond him to absently trace the shore, a mist of moisture glazing her eyes. “I never fully realized it at the time, but jealousy was one of the root problems in my marriage to Adam. Our fights escalated the last few years because he wanted me to attend conferences with him, you see, but I never wanted to go. I used my job as an excuse, which infuriated him, of course, and it was certainly a factor in the rift between us.”
She swallowed hard as she met his gaze once again. “But it wasn’t the main reason.” She looked away, skimming her arms as if she were cold, not knowing if it was because of the chill of a sudden sea breeze or her guilt, but either way, a shudder rippled her body. “It wasn’t until Adam and Karen got involved that I realized just why I couldn’t tolerate those stupid conferences where women flirted and fawned over Adam like I wasn’t even there. I was jealous and couldn’t handle it, so I chose to turn a blind eye to it all, trusting Adam far more than I should have.” Expelling a shaky breath, she finally faced him again. “So when he ran away with Karen, the monster of jealousy finally took over my soul, blackening my heart until it snuffed out any love I may have had for my husband.”
Ben reached to give her hand a squeeze. “That won’t happen, Tess, I promise.”
She stared at him for several seconds, regret etched into every pore of her face. “You can’t promise that, Ben, because it’s my Achilles’ heel.” A muscle jogged in her throat. “But I can promise you I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen to us.”
He gave her a lazy smile while he slowly circled her palm with the pad of his thumb. “Put me under lock and key?”
She didn’t crack a smile. “No, Ben, not you. Your temper.”
He dropped her hand, eyes in a squint. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
Huffing out a sigh, she rose to pace the deck, her arms in a tight fold. “It means I have two conditions before I put that ring on my finger, Dr. Carmichael, and you can either comply or we can call it quits.”
“You’re joking.” He stared, mouth dangling.
“Nope.” Her chin jutted up as if to prove her point. “Dead serious, Dr. Doom, and no amount of kissy-face is going to change my mind.”
He ground his jaw as he leaned back in his chair, elbows on the armrest and fingers laced. “And what exactly are these ‘conditions,’ Tess?” he said, giving her a death glare over the clasp of his hands.
She held up a hand and one finger along with it. “One, I want you to deal with your bitterness towards Cam, because I refuse to marry a man where jealousy blackens his soul like it did mine.”
His lips took a hard twist. “It won’t, Tess, as long as he stays away from you.”
Head cocked, she sucked air through teeth clenched in a tight smile. “Yeah, well, that’s just it, Ben—Cam is my friend and as a widower who’s wife died from cancer, he’s helped me through my grief a lot, which means his friendship is here to stay—”
Ben shot to his feet. “Over my dead body,” he growled, “not if you become my wife.”
She scrunched her nose. “Which is a pretty big ‘if’ right about now, Doc, so you might want to hear me out.” She shrugged. “If not, I’ll be happy to give your eulogy.”
Leaning forward, he stared her down, hands perched low on his hips. “It would be downright irresponsible for you to even consider a friendship with another man, Tess, especially one I can’t stand, and there isn’t a marriage counselor alive who wouldn’t agree with me.”
“Maybe,” she said with a slow nod of her head, remembering that Adam had called her irresponsible once as well, and she supposed she had been. But this was different. Ben’s ring wasn’t on her finger yet, and unless he was willing to rid his heart of the bitterness he still harbored toward Cam, it didn’t look likely. The barest semblance of a smile flickered at the edge of her mouth as she arched a brow, hoping a tease would soften the blow. “But then it’s not the marriage counselors you want to take to bed, now is it, Dr. Doom?”
He turned away, slashing fingers through his hair. “This is nothing short of blackmail, and if you really loved me, you wouldn’t do this.”
“On the contrary, Ben, it’s because I love you that I am doing this.” His eyelids weighted closed as she tenderly touched his arm, her voice soft with the deep affection of a woman in love. “Why on earth would I stand by and allow the man I adore to be eaten up by bitterness when it’s a cancer we can cure?”
His ribcage deflated in one noisy bluster of air. “What else?” he bit out, tone as sharp as the hackles she’d apparently raised.
Silence reigned for several seconds before she whispered her second request. “I’d like for you and Cam to be friends.”
He spun around so fast, it made her dizzy, his eyes dry sockets of shock. “Are you crazy?”
She moved in close to wrap her arms around his neck, tone husky to convey her intent. “Yes. Undeniably, unequivocally, and certifiably crazy in love with an unbelievably stubborn man with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life.”
She stood on tiptoe to sway her lips against his, and he swallowed her up in a raspy groan. “God help me, I love you so much, it aches,” he whispered, taking her mouth with a ferocity that mirrored the love that they bore.
She pulled away to cup his face with her hand, a sheen of tears in her eyes she hoped told him that she felt the same. “That’s what I’m counting on, Dr. Doom,” she whispered, nuzzling his lips with a tenderness meant to drain all the anger from his soul. “But I promise you, Ben Carmichael, that once I say ‘I do,’ I’ll do everything in my power to make the ache go away.”
“You better,” he said with a mock snarl, tugging her lip with his teeth, “if befriending Phillips doesn’t kill me first.” Emitting a growl, he wandered her throat before gently biting her earlobe, obviously to let her know he wasn’t thrilled with her demands. “But you can’t blame me if he spits in my eye.”
“He won’t,” she said with an assurance she felt deep in her soul. “Cam’s a reasonable man, Ben, so all you have to do is dig down for some of that hidden charm you’ve buried beneath the surface like gold. And I know it’s there, Dr. Doom, or you wouldn’t have stolen my heart like you did”
He grunted, tugging her back on his lap after sitting back down. “Yeah? Well you might have to do some pretty heavy convincing, Miss Perky, before I’m ready to share any charm.” He burrowed his lips into the crook of her neck, making her squeal when he wandered back to explore her mouth with his own.
“Well …” She chuckled, twisting to do a little ear-tugging of her own. “Look at it this way. You won’t just be doing it for your future wife, you’ll be doing it for Karen,” she said softly, reminding him of the struggle he’d overcome to forgive his ex-wife. “And yourself, Ben, since making amends to her brother will finally put all your demons to rest.”
He pulled back to pierce her with his trademark Ben Carmichael glare, as if the significance of her statement had just hit him square in the chest. Inhaling deeply, he expelled it again in one long, arduous sigh of surrender. “I just hate to admit when you’re right.”
She feathered his ear with the softest of kisses before her mouth trailed to caress the bristle of his jaw. “I don’t know why, Dr. Doom,” she whispered, her chuckle lost in the sweet depths of her kiss. “I love you more when you do.”