Hello Sweet Readers!
I hope everyone has been having a wonderful week. : )
I have a special request for my prayer warriors. My friend and ARC team member, Jan, has stomach cancer and is scheduled for a difficult surgery on March 31st. She’s a beautiful, giving and kind lady who has been with me for years, and I’d really appreciate prayers for her surgery and healing. She has a great mindset and is trusting the Lord, but could use the prayers of His saints to lift her up. Thank you!
Also, I have TWO new releases today!
First, I have the next ebook in the Heartland series – Heartland Mistletoe! This is Lincoln and Annie’s story, the couple who met…well, under less than ideal circumstances in the previous book. : ) I have an excerpt that includes their meeting below.
ALSO, I’m doing something I’ve never done before today, and that is releasing the next book in the Heartland series after Heartland Mistletoe, Heartland Faith, on audio only.
Now, Preston has been making appearances all through the series and it’s no secret that he’s been fighting his feelings for Carmen. I’m hoping they get their happily ever after, but you’ll have to listen to find out. Heartland Faith is out on audio ONLY, and best of all, it’s totally FREE!!
And, last, we have an excerpt for you to listen to from the second book in my newest series, Cowboy Coming Home, which releases on audio Friday. It will be completely FREE to listen to on YouTube.
Check out the excerpt, listen to YouTube and scroll on down for a bit more from me about the story I put in last week.
Preston Emerson stood in the vestibule of the small church in Prairie Rose, Iowa.
His favorite service of the whole year had been over for almost an hour. It had taken people a little longer than normal to disperse, since Lincoln and Annie had announced their engagement. They planned to marry in a few weeks and had invited everyone to their informal wedding. It would be a pot luck lunch and a time of fellowship afterward.
Annie hadn’t been able to stop smiling and Preston had been happy for her.
It had been a different story with Carmen.
She’d sat by herself at the service, since all of her kids had parts or jobs. Preston hated seeing her alone. Every time he did the temptation was always there to go and be with her. He couldn’t imagine what was wrong with her husband to be married to the most amazing woman in the world and allow her to be alone on Christmas Eve.
He had some pretty wonderful children, too, who had all done a beautiful job tonight and he’d missed it all.
Preston tried to shove down his anger at the man. To have such an incredible family and to not appreciate them. Actually, he didn’t just not appreciate them, he was downright unkind to them, if small town rumors were true.
Preston had spent enough time with the kids to know it wasn’t just small town rumors, but for now, he was leaving things in the Lord’s hands.
I wanted to sit with her, drive her home, Lord. Wrap presents and laugh together. Lord, she’s not mine. Take these longings away. Please.
God had never lifted the feelings from him, so he’d learned to push them aside as best he could and ignore them when he couldn’t.
There were just a few families left in the church, and Carmen and her children were one. They had been helping to clean up while Carmen chatted with Catherine.
Snow fell softly outside, drifting down lazily in the glow of the street light. It was hard to believe the next day was Christmas. A little depressing, too. Another Christmas…not alone, since he had places he was going and people he was helping, but without a family of his own.
Lord? Have you forgotten about me?
A simple prayer, but Preston knew the answer. How could God send him someone when his heart and soul were still stuck on Carmen? Would always be stuck on her?
The door opened and he turned his head.
Carmen’s children walked through, the four of them talking excitedly to themselves and greeting him when they saw him.
He smiled and returned their Christmas greetings and they kept walking.
Carmen didn’t say anything, but he foolishly looked at her as she came within a few inches of him in the small vestibule.
Her step stumbled.
His natural reaction was to reach out to steady her.
He fisted his hand instead.
Her eyes closed for a fraction of a second and she pulled both lips in, hesitating a breath before walking out the door.
Preston didn’t move. Didn’t follow her with his eyes. Didn’t turn to see her go.
Even though her family and she were the reason he stood where he was. Waiting. Waiting for them to leave. To see them as far as he could safely. Which was only to their car, but it was the best he could do, so it had to be enough.
Although it wasn’t. It would never be enough.
Maybe he should leave Prairie Rose.
If God didn’t give him a “no,” he had to leave. He couldn’t keep doing this, watching from a distance as another man neglected and took advantage of the woman he loved.
He shouldn’t love her. Actually, loving her was okay. It was coveting her that was wrong.
He needed to move. Go east. Or north or west or somewhere. Anywhere. Maybe he should get his pilot’s license and deliver supplies to missionaries in the jungle.
Come April, he’d have to look into that. Because Carmen would never be his.
Lincoln Connelly pulled into the McCartney farm.
Actually, it wasn’t the McCartney farm anymore, but he couldn’t remember the last name of the dude that had married the last McCartney sister.
His sister-in-law, technically. Since his brother Monroe was married to Meg’s sister Esther.
That’s how he happened to be pulling into the drive at one o’clock in the morning.
He was in their old farm truck, the oldest one they owned, and the alternator had quit working about five minutes after he’d left the shop with the wagon wheels that he’d promised to deliver in the back. He turned the headlights off as soon as he got off the main highway, hoping to conserve enough battery so he could make it home.
Thankfully there was a full moon, and he was able to see the road just fine.
Regardless, he was relieved when the McCartney farm appeared ahead, and the gravel crunched under his tires as he pulled into the drive. Moving slowly in the dark, wanting to make sure he didn’t hit the dog Meg had mentioned, although he didn’t hear barking and didn’t see anything.
Meg had said the dog was inside at night, but in his experience, things didn’t always go the way a person expected them to. And a dead dog would not be a good way to encourage his new sister-in-law to like him.
Reaching in the bag of candy that always sat in his console, he pulled out a mint, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth.
He’d smoked heavily when he’d been a teen. Sometimes he wondered why he’d gotten into it, since none of his other brothers had ever had that problem.
He just always thought it looked cool. Stupid teenager.
He’d been a pack-a-day or heavier smoker for a long time before he finally quit.
It’d been six months since he smoked his last cigarette, and he still felt the need to have something in his hand, something in his mouth.
He’d gained thirty pounds, and he wasn’t sure whether the cigarettes might have killed him faster than whatever diseases a person got when they were overweight.
Turning and pulling into the house beside an SUV and a pickup and two cars, he switched the motor off. Not wanting the rumbling, soft as it was, to awaken anyone in the house.
It was one o’clock in the morning, and he wouldn’t have been bringing these wagon wheels over, but they were taking up space in the garage, and his dad had specifically asked for him to get them out.
A shadow came out from around the side of the house, and he squinted.
It was small, maybe a little bit too tall to be a child, but very slender.
It was facing the house, and he could easily see the golden blond hair that fell down to her waist.
He tilted his head as she pulled back an arm and threw something at a window.
It must be a teenager trying to break a few windows and have a little “fun” at night.
Well, he could hardly believe that she hadn’t heard him pull in, but if she had been around on the other side of the house, maybe she hadn’t. After all, his lights had been off, and the muffler on this truck was the one thing that worked consistently.
He crept along the side of his truck before walking softly behind the other vehicles until he was behind the figure.
Kids nowadays, you never knew. Even girls might be carrying, and he didn’t want her to turn around and shoot him when all he was trying to do was keep his sister-in-law’s windows from getting broken.
So, he crept forward, being as light on his feet as he could, and as soon as she let the next stone fly, he lunged, grabbing her with both hands and maybe overestimating a little on the amount of force he would need to bring her down, since they flew forward and landed in the bushes next to the house.
He hadn’t meant to go that far, but she was smaller than he thought, and in his defense, it was dark out. Even if there was a full moon.
She screamed and didn’t quit screaming, like she actually wanted people to come find them, even though she was the one who was trespassing and breaking windows and he was the one that was saving the house from nefarious intentions.
Finally, he clamped a hand over her mouth. It wasn’t that he didn’t want people to hear, it was just that he didn’t want people to hear and think he was killing her.
He was the hero in this scenario, and he didn’t want there to be any doubt about that when Meg’s husband came out with a gun.
“Be quiet. I’m sure Meg and her husband will have you at the police station in just a moment, but you don’t need to act like this is somehow me at fault.”
Her screaming stopped, and so did her wiggling, just for a moment, then she grabbed his hand and tried to pull it away from her mouth.
No way was he falling for that trick. Soon as he took it away, she’d start screaming blue murder again.
“Let’s get up.” He didn’t mean it as a suggestion, but with his one arm wrapped around her waist, pinning her arms to her spine, and his other hand over her mouth, he didn’t have anything but his elbows to use to balance himself to get up.
She was on her stomach with him on top of her, and they kind of rolled to their side while she pushed up, and he came behind her, but they didn’t quite balance and ended up falling over to the other side, out of the bushes and into the yard, and if he wasn’t mistaken, one of the two of them landed in a pile of dog poop.
It wasn’t hard to smell.
Up until this point, he’d been kinda easygoing about the whole thing. Kids will be kids, and going around and breaking someone’s window wasn’t exactly something that kids should be allowed to do, but it wasn’t like they were setting fire to things and shooting up the town.
He could think of a lot worse things a girl could be doing.
“I can’t believe your parents didn’t teach you any better,” he said, irritated despite himself, because of the dog poop.
That would have ruined anyone’s good mood.
She struggled, pulling at his hand again, and he said once more, “We’re getting up.”
He didn’t want Meg and her husband to come out and find him rolling around with her. He didn’t even want to be found on the ground. It just looked too incriminating.
She stopped struggling and pulling at his hand, and he relaxed a little, figuring she was going to try to get up again and this time telling himself not to push too hard. He seemed to have a problem with that tonight.
But he no sooner thought that than pain shot up his arm, radiated in his elbow, and landed in his shoulder, making it feel like his whole arm was on fire while his hand burned.
The little brat had bit him.
Okay, now he was angry, and he completely let go of her, jumping to his feet and grabbing her arm, yanking her up, wrapping an arm around her, and slapping his hand back down on her mouth, just in a matter of seconds.
She had enough time to call out, “I’m Ferris’s sister,” before his hands clamped down.
He also realized, at that exact second, it had been her shoulder in the dog poop, but now it was smeared all over the front of his shirt.
“I have no idea who Ferris is, but he can’t be very proud of you right now, kid,” he said, wanting to shake the little brat for being so nasty.
She bit him.
He couldn’t believe it.
It had been, goodness, at least eighth grade since he had bitten anyone.
Maybe that’s how old she was. She was pretty small.
Her head didn’t even come to his shoulder, and he outweighed her by probably fifty pounds. Or more. Of course, there was the thirty pounds he’d gained since he quit smoking, maybe it was more like eighty.
Whatever. At least he’d kicked that nasty habit.
She struggled as he pulled her around the side of the banister and in front of the front steps. Of course she kept struggling. She didn’t want to get caught.
The porch light came on, and he smirked to himself. Normally, he tried not to gloat about things, but he was going to take great pleasure in telling Meg and her husband that this little twerp had not only been trying to break their windows, and probably had, but had bit him as well.
At first, he’d just wanted her to get a slap on the wrist, something to let her know that she needed to stop thinking it was fun to destroy another person’s property, but now, he hoped they pressed charges. His hand really hurt.
A dark figure had appeared in the doorway, followed by a smaller one that he recognized as Meg.
They pushed the door open, and a man stepped out followed by his sister-in-law.
“Ferris?” Meg said. “Do you know these people?”
It took another three seconds for what Meg had said to penetrate his brain. Then he knew. Ferris was her husband.
It’s Jessie again. : )
I was kind of tempted to put in another story from last year, but I had so many people who asked me what happened to the calf from last week.
That happened a year and a half ago and I never wrote the ending because, well, because first of all, it was up and down. We put Mama Killer Cow in the side pasture with her calf. Julia named the calf Cola and worked hard to save her – feeding her every four hours, taking her temperature and just doing everything she could to keep her alive.
Of course, I went out and was cow bait every time she had to work with Cola. Julia changed the name of Mama Killer Cow to Mama Bear, and she half-acted like she loved Mama Bear as much as she loved Cola.
Actually, as tough as Mama Bear was, I loved her too. I have a lot of respect for a cow that will protect her calf. And Mama Bear was an excellent mother.
Anyway, Mama Bear got extremely sick and we had to have the vet there to take care of her, but she pulled through. It was several weeks before Julia actually had Cola eating from Mama Bear. I still remember the dancing and squealing when that happened. : )
Cola was never very strong, and because of her poor start, she had some growth issues and other health problems. Still, Julia had fought so hard for her, and so we kept fighting and working, keeping Cola and Mama Bear in our side pasture all winter.
In the spring, we didn’t wean Cola with the rest of the fall calves, but allowed her to stay with Mama Bear – who was still very protective of her little one, and had given her the very best care a mama cow could, almost like she knew her baby was special and needed that extra love.
Still, the first ninety degree day of spring, Cola couldn’t stand the heat and collapsed and died.
I think I mentioned that we had some hard losses and it felt like a pall of death hung over the farm all spring and into summer. Cola was one of those hard losses. That’s just part of farming.
Mama Bear had a healthy little bull calf last summer. Julia named him Astrid, and he was fine, but Mama Bear had such bad foot problems she could barely walk. She ended up in our side pasture again, we had to carry food and water to her because she couldn’t walk at all and when we weaned Astrid, we loaded Mama Bear on the trailer and sent her down the road.
Actually, other people loaded Mama Bear. I’m a big baby, and I didn’t help, Mama Bear had never become one of those cows who loved to be petted and coddled, but she trusted me and I couldn’t betray her like that.
Alright, I suppose this is one of those days where my newsletter should have come with a warning.
Just as a little update on me, I’m still not on the farm, and I’ve gotten to watch my granddaughter a good bit.
Since we live in Virginia I haven’t gotten to see her much so this has been a real blessing and a lot of fun for me. I’ve been so impressed with what her other grandmother was teaching her, but I’ve felt like I need to pull my weight as a grandmother and teach her some things myself, so I’ve been working on some stuff with her.
And, I guess I’m a little prideful, because her mother came home and I kind of wanted to show off what I was doing, you know, so I get some grandma cred, and all that. So, my daughter-in-law was holding my granddaughter who was pointing to all the animals on her jammies and telling what the names were and what they said.
“Sheep says baaa! Pig says oink.”
And, yeah, the other grandmother taught her all that, BUT when she got to cow, “Cow says moo!” I said, “And what does the cow give?”
My brilliant granddaughter smiled and yelled, “Milk!!”
I could tell my daughter-in-law was impressed with my grandparenting skills.
So, she pointed to the duck. “Duck says quack!” Then she points to the chicken. “Chicken says bok bok!”
Okay, so here’s another chance for me to show off. I mean, after all, we have 40,000 laying hens and my granddaughter and I had worked on this. So I say, “What does a chicken give?”
My granddaughter grins at me, a grin that says she and I are in this together and she’s going to make us both look super smart, then she looks at her mother and yells, “Milk!!”
Right. So, I’m basically a fail at this grandmothering thing. My daughter-in-law has not fired me yet, but I do believe I’m on grandparent probation. The next book release might be slightly delayed as I work on figuring this grandma thing out.
Thanks so much for spending time with me this week!
Hugs and love!