Tag Archives: romance

What Happens AFTER Happily Ever After by Sherrie Hansen

Have you ever wondered what happens after your favorite book comes to an end? We’ve all turned the last page of a novel, hoping and praying that there’s a epilogue, or as the musician in me likes to think of them, a postlude, so we can peek ahead and get a glimpse of what the future holds. I hate saying goodbye to characters I’ve come to love. Even better is that moment when you talk to your librarian or do a search online and find out there’s a sequel! If you’re like me, we’re talking overnight express time.

Night and Day (1)

For more than a decade, I’ve heard from readers who have wanted to know what happened to Jensen and Anders after Night and Day came to an end. They’ll be thrilled to know that now, the story goes on. I just finished a rough draft of Daybreak in Denmark, a sequel to Night and Day. It should be ready for release by mid-summer.

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (2)

In the almost, but not quite as good category, are cameo appearances by the characters of the previous book in the next. I love linking story lines together in my Wildflowers of Scotland books, although, much as we love getting reacquainted with old friends in a new book, it’s not the same as a true sequel. When old characters are resurrected in a new character’s book, they can’t be allowed to steal the show or take over the plot. After introducing Lyndsie, Rose’s teenaged niece, in Wild Rose, and bringing her back as a spunky young woman in Shy Violet, it was amazing to write her story in Sweet William. I knew Lyndsie so well by the time William came into her life – her background, her hopes and dreams, her foibles, her family – that the scenes in her point of view practically wrote themselves.

I also find that emotions evoked by familiar, beloved characters are deeper, richer, and have a greater capacity to draw us into the story. When readers learn that the same lovely breasts that captivated Pastor Ian, and made Rose something of a scarlet woman, have been invaded by cancer, we truly get it. We weep with Rose and grieve with Ian and pledge to support them both to the bitter end, just like Lyndsie did.

Wild Rose - Photo

Or maybe you didn’t want to know that Rose and Ian adopt her young, immature nephew’s child, who then decides, some years later, that he wants his baby, now toddler, back… maybe you prefer that Rose and Ian stay forever young, their hopes and dreams for a fairy tale future bright and shiny and untarnished for all time.

Sunset 2014 Grass

I had similar feelings once upon a long time ago when I first read the Little House on the Prairie books. If the series had ended with On the Banks of Plum Creek – if I had never opened By the Shores of Silver Lake, I could have continued to imagine Mary’s beautiful blue eyes seeing the world around her, for years to come. But had I not read on and dealt with the heartbreak of Mary’s blindness, I would have missed out on all the pleasure I gained in reading The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.

From camera December 2015 007

It’s no secret that rarely does anyone live happily ever after. When you turn the first page of a sequel, there are bound to be disappointments – romantic notions lost – along with the delight of seeing what old friends are up to. The important thing is, joy of joys, we get to turn the page and see what happens next! Does that mean the mystery is gone? If you’ve read Night and Day, there will be no wondering who Jensen is going to end up with when you begin reading Daybreak in Denmark. But her future, Anders’, Ed’s, her family’s – what happens next, beyond the pages of Night and Day – will still be a complete enigma.

Daybreak in Denmark (2)

So read on! In a sequel, the complexities of first falling in love are replaced by trying to adjust to a new life and overwhelming changes – some good and some unwanted.  There may be disillusionment and disappointment. Things may or may not turn out the way you hope they will. Because, as Jensen soon finds out, the happily ever after endings that romance novels are famous for are, in reality, nothing but a fairy tale, and even if you have the most wonderful husband in the world, things don’t always turn out the way you hope, dream, plan, wish they will.

Intrigue, drama, conflict and black moments – they’re all there waiting for you in a sequel. But so does joy come in the morning, after even the blackest of nights. Even sequels can have happy endings.

Sunset 1-2015

One reviewer called Night and Day “the thinking woman’s romance.” I can’t tell you what they’ll say about Daybreak in Denmark, but I can promise you it was thoughtfully written from a perspective of deep, abiding love for Minnesota, my home state, Denmark, my ancestral home, and the Jensen, Christiansen, and Westerlund families, my fictional first loves.

Photo94

A few days ago, at a funeral, a woman I didn’t know said in passing, “Keep those books coming! I love every one!” I nodded and smiled, because I fully intend to do just that – and something tells me she’s really going to love Daybreak in Denmark.

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Writing Romance for Baby Boomers

It’s been great to get to know Australian blogger,Lana Pecherczyk  from Author Zoo. Lana asked me to write about romance novels from an aged perspective for her series on “How to write a Romance from A to Z”. Google Author Zoo and check them out!

 

Baby Boomer LOVE

by Jonna Ellis Holston

If you are writing romance then chances are that a large percentage of your readership will be of the baby boomer age. Infrequently is a romance novel written specifically for this generation, so in rarity we find value. If written well the rewards are great.

This is the population who met the Beatles, the Woodstock women who eased the way toward sexual freedom. They lived through the sixty’s and now they’re in their sixties. If you are interested in writing about and for the boomers then, author, know thy sub-genre.

Writing an older woman protagonist has undeniable appeal. In her you discover a character of complexity and depth. She has confidence, wisdom… experience. Imagine the possibilities for characters, setting and plot.

-Feel the energy between a silver cougar and her prey. Is her motivation lust for his hard body or is she damaged and hiding her need? Is he drawn to her mystique, living MILF fantasies or does he plan to steal her money? What do they talk about? Where is the conflict? Who gets hurt and who is healed?

-A similarly aged couple finds a second chance love. Can two households merge? Do their adult children worry about the wills or cringe in disgust with each kiss. Which is worse? Which is real? Can their love survive their offspring?

-An older woman is polyamorous. Is she honest or deceitful? What will the neighbors say about multiple partners? Would she care? Will her lovers meet in conflict then end in a threesome?

What about writing physical limitations and the body image issues that millennials have yet to discover? Tread lightly here lest you break the spell. Use softer images, shimmering fabric catching candlelight or try something risky like a shared vape under moonlight and they end up naked in the lake.

Her body is no longer perfect. You might describe the grace of her movement, the curve of a shoulder or the shape of his arms but consider what point when physical description must yield to expressions of feeling. The softness of her breast, the warmth of his skin, the magic of losing self-awareness in the moment, the urgency in knowing that this could be the last time either one experiences this feeling of love in their lifetime.

Age creeps on, choices lessen. Lovers sicken and die. When you write a character that a boomer identifies with she escapes more readily in your work. Once again she’s made beautiful, desirable and loved. They value this feeling for its rarity. They are greatly mindful of the moments ahead and appreciate each one all the more.

If you wish to write such a romance, understand that She is not your grandmother’s grandmother. She is Women’s Liberation in the Age of Aquarius. She’s the bra burner, the Great Mother and the flower child of love.

Do her justice. Write her truth. Write her well.

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Woody and Margot by Chuck Thurston

After our early dinner, the interstate rush hour traffic was mostly in the other direction as I pulled onto the interstate, but I-77 is never a picnic and I had to watch what I was doing. I merged into the lane I wanted and relaxed a bit.

Margot was offering some light chat about the dinner and the evening, and I was trying to catch enough syllables in my bad ear to offer coherent responses. Stay in the game, I thought. Then, out of the blue, she said, “This is the fourth time we’ve been out together. Are we in what you might call a relationship?”

“Not sure,” I said. I didn’t know where she was heading with this and figured that deflecting the question was the best stalling tactic. Mistake. She was silent and I sensed her eyes on me, but I had to concentrate on the fast traffic and couldn’t risk a peek at her. Nothing works like silence, though, and I felt that I had to expand on the topic a bit. “I guess I thought that maybe a relationship was defined by maybe some more intimacy or something…” I was botching this badly. Where was Almonrico when I needed him?

“You mean sex,” she said.

“Ah, yes…I guess so.”

“I suppose we could pull into a rest area and consummate it,” she said.

Well, that lowered the level, I thought. I tried to elevate it a bit. “Want to stop at my place for some coffee?”

She did, and we did. We had finished a bottle of wine at the restaurant – three glasses to one in her favor, since I would be driving. I had to catch up, and back at my place I popped the cork on another bottle of Napa’s finest and poured us each a glass.

“I think I am falling in love with you,” I said.

“Well, fall away,” she said. “I won’t stop you.”

“Thanks, but the big question is…will you join me?”

“Ha…nice try, but I’d never make a decision like that while I was half drunk.”

‘Decision’ came out sounding a little bit like ’decishum.’

“I see two strategies for that. I can work to get you all of the way drunk and ask that question again, or…”

“Or what?” she asked.

I got up and headed for the kitchen. “I’m going to put on some coffee,” I said.

Chuck Thurston is the author of two collections of Senior Scribbles available from Amazon or Indigo Sea Press.  “The Coroner takes a Ride” – the first book of a Woody Stanton mystery series will be published later this year. Wife Heidi is tackling the followup to her novel “The Duchess, The Knight and the Leprechaun.”  She won’t commit to a finish date.

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Never Doubt I Love

Sad blue eyes and a fine even smile, his build bragged of gym dues and vegetables. A friend of a friend, that’s usually how these things start, he said he was recently divorced, forty years void of love. I believed him. If any man seemed starved for affection it was he and if anyone’s self-esteem had been ruthlessly damaged, it was his.

hugBoth over sixty, an odd age for a summer love but astounding beauty like his was a gift. Was my judgment clouded by perfection, my sight blurred by superb? I wanted him and I wanted him to know that I wanted him, and the tastes of his kisses were pastries of sensory delight. I savored each one, found joy in his touch. I devoured this man from each graceful finger to his strong lovely legs, gave him the tenderness he had learned to live without. Freely, without shame I admit to loving this man with all my might.

I guarded him jealously because I knew he would not be mine for long. As soon as he understood what a commodity he was in a world full of women, he’d be gone. Someone younger and prettier would get him that is exactly how it happened.

I got to love that man for only six months before he found her and it was painful as hell when he left. For three full months I cried, spent sleepless nights writing bad poetry, I even considered Prozac till I began to recognize a small spark of joy between each tear. I could be pleased for him because I knew that if anyone deserved happiness it was he. If anyone deserved to be appreciated, if anyone ever deserved to be loved it was this man.

Maybe Rumi was right when he said, The wound is the place where Light enters you.” Or maybe Bob Marley when he said, “Truth is everybody is going to hurt you. You just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” But I clung to one thought, maybe she deserved him.

I am impressed with my heart. It’s still open, still willing to endure injury in order to love. I’m proud that this weird world hasn’t jaded me and no barriers protect from deep feeling. I’m only slightly crazy, I don’t drink… and I’d give all the Prozac in Walgreen’s to have a chance like that again, to help a deserving man grow in confidence and realize he is worthy of love. This was life affirming and there is no experience more existential than skin to skin, heart to heart, face to face contact and sharing vital breath with someone you love.

Then I did the math. Six months of bliss minus three months of melancholy, I’m ahead by three months. Net positive, bliss, hell, ya, I’d do it again. It beat the heck out of crocheting shawls by lamp light.

If you must lose in love, lose to a woman half your age with long gorgeous legs and a doctorate. A large house on acres of land is a plus, an heiress maybe with a sports car or two for good measure. Or to a kind, sincere, loving soul who rescues animals, volunteers with the elderly and keeps a vegetable garden.

I saw them in the analgesic section of Walgreens. I peered through the endcap gaping. She had a fake set of boobs like two fishbowls, her hem was crooked and her eyelashes came from a box. I wished them well (him more so than her). Perhaps he has found the woman of his dreams or an adolescent-like crush on a cheap shiny piece or maybe, just maybe she recues kittens between hair appointments. So goodbye to my handsome, make your life happy… and love… love willingly, love passionately, love with everything you’ve got.

But, damnation, if I had lived forty years of neglect and had a body like his, I’d keep looking. In truth, I’d probably be messing around like Tiger Woods on hell fire.

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Valentine’s Day by John E. Stack

Today is Valentine’s Day.  The day for expressing how much you love your husband, wife, children, mom, dad, significant other, grandchildren, best friend, classmates, etc.  I think the list could go on and on.  On Valentine’s day you can pretty much express your affection to anyone.  Yet, there are some that refuse to celebrate, saying that it is all hype and profit for many businesses.  I try to view it from both sides of the fence.

Here are some facts that I found.  Most came from Research Brain.

1)      Over $13 billion will be spent on candy, cards, jewelry, food for this one day.

2)      Stores will sell over 180 million cards

3)      198,000,000 roses will be bought

4)      On average, a person will spend $116 on Valentine gifts

5)      53% of women would end their relationship if they did not receive something on valentine’s day

6)      11,000 children are conceived on Valentine’s day

7)      Candy (of some type) makes up half of gifts given where one third will receive flowers. 

We are really unsure of where the holiday began, but researchers say it is of Roman origin.  Some say it came from the Roman festival Lupercalia which was celebrated om February 15th.  Others say it was in memory of Valentine, a Roman priest.  He was executed for performing marriages for Roman soldiers after Emperor Claudius II forbade his soldiers from marrying.  But, does it really matter?

I’ve pitched in and done my part and over the last four and a half decades I’ve spent plenty of money.  I remember the first time I bought my wife (then girlfriend) a heart shaped box of chocolates.  She seemed so excited.  In order to not hurt my feelings, she didn’t tell me that she really didn’t like candy, especially chocolate.  I didn’t find this out until a couple of years later when I was helping her clean out her closet.  We found that box of chocolate and she had punched holes in the bottom of each just to see what was inside.  I believe that she was packing to go off to her first year of college, but that was so long ago that I don’t remember for sure.

Since then, she has received a variety of gifts.  One year, long ago I cross-stitched a set of covered buttons. The diagrams looked like pieces of chocolate, and were very detailed.  Yes, there was a time covered buttons were popular.  I even wrapped them in a small Whitman’s sampler box.  I believe these were the only chocolates that she ever enjoyed.  I did put a lot of time and effort into them.

Over the years, we progressed through flowers, jewelry, clothing (not a good idea), and gift cards.  Over the past few years (we’ve been married for 41) we decided to settle on just buying cards for us and we now spend money on our six-year old and our grandchildren.

Personally, I try to show Suzanne that I still love her, not just on one day of the year, but everyday throughout the year.  I often send messages throughout the day just telling I’m thinking of her and that I love her.  I try to help out around the house and lighten her work-load by folding clothes and washing cups/bottles (for our little girl and foster baby).  I do floors and I vacuum carpets.  I even like going to the grocery store with her.  Do I always get it right? Not in the least, but I still try.

Why do all this?  I still like spending time with her and years ago I made a commitment to love her.  And I still do with all my heart.  Happy Valentine’s Day!!

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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January’s Paradigm Launch—J. Conrad Guest

Launch for January’s Paradigm is tentatively Monday, February 15.

What started in 1990 as therapy for a bruised and bloodied heart soon turned into a passion to see it published. It took eight years to achieve that desire, well worth the wait.

Like most of my novels, January’s Paradigm is a very non-traditional romance. Or as Current Entertainment Monthly, Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote: “J. Conrad Guest has taken the heartbreak of sexual betrayal and turned it into a romance-fantasy.” Current Entertainment Monthly also wrote, “Readers will not be able to put it down.”

Below appears another excerpt.


 

Seven

I arrived at The Oasis at eight-forty. Two of the three members of The Tri-Stars—Shauna was not one of them—were onstage doing a sound check. I’d hoped to arrange a chance meeting with the dark-eyed beauty before the first set. A quick reconnaissance of the establishment, already near-capacity, merely served to disappoint; she was nowhere to be found.

I paid the doorman the cover charge.

Porter’s bankcard had come in handy. From whence my knowledge of ATMs came, like my inherent ability to operate the computer, I ignored. The access code to the bank machine was something I attributed to a lucky guess. Porter and I shared the same date of birth forty-six years apart, so stated the driver’s license tucked away in the wallet in my back pocket. I simply punched in the number “10” and, adding forty-six to my own birth year, “56”, and walked away from the ATM a hundred dollars richer, taking comfort in the fact that Porter was going to finance this little vacation in 1992.

I pushed my way through the crowd toward the bar.

My fruitless attempts at locating Porter had increased my thirst. I needed to unwind with a good, stiff shot of bourbon chased by a beer.

Suddenly the populace surrounding me parted, and I came face-to-face with Shauna. She was shorter than I imagined she would be. What last night I’d taken to be stage makeup turned out to be natural; her complexion was dark and flawless. Her jaw was square; her high cheekbones were tinged with rouge. Beneath the finely-arched twin prosceniums of her eyebrows, her eyelids were shaded green; and they highlighted to perfection the fathomless brown eyes now studying me as intently as I was studying her.

The moment seemed long; it was long, I dimly noted, and threatening to go on even longer. If I didn’t find something to say, the moment would be lost.

Fortunately she came to my rescue.

“Don’t let me get in your way.” Her tone was husky, the measure playful.

My heart beat rapidly, but I managed to blurt, “Aren’t you the lead singer?”

Smooth, real smooth—like a kid meeting his idol for the first time.

“Shauna.” Her smile was as white as it was wide. And genuine, I was pleased to note.

“Joe January.” I offered my hand and was delighted when she took it. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“No thanks, I don’t drink.” And then, perhaps in response to the hurt look I was certain she couldn’t help but notice, she added, “How about a cola?”

I smiled and led the way through the crowd to the bar, where I ordered and paid for the soft drink. Shauna, accepting the glass I proffered, smiled her dazzling smile and I reflected, for the mere price of a cola. I’d gladly pay a thousand times that amount to bask in the warmth of that smile in a more secluded place.

“You going to be here awhile?”

The question at once both surprised and pleased me. “Actually I just got here.”

“Wait here. I’ve got to finish the sound check. It shouldn’t take but a minute or two, and I’ll be back to visit a while before our first set.”

As if to prove her probity, she left her glass on the bar in front of me.

I watched her departure, fascinated by the gentle motion of her hips, snug inside the leather pants that perfectly accentuated her perfect figure. I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the way she’d so completely managed to disarm me in so brief a time.

I watched her on stage, her manner supremely confident, her voice clear and resonant in its purity. Her interpretation of the lyrics, even though it was just a sound check, was genuine. She sang from the heart.

I suspected that her contentment stemmed from being on stage and that getting paid was simply the icing on the cake.

What served to perplex me was my sudden intrinsic capacity to decipher this. Never before had I cared or taken the time to perceive anything beyond the superficial. Yet now I was mystified by the warm and comfortable feeling, the security that accompanied the very pleasant discovery that something beyond exterior could entice me.

Typically a woman of such depth would only intimidate me. Now, however, something inside of me thrilled at the expectation that she could somehow appease the malaise I’d recognized last night while in the embrace of another; and that instead of providing the comfort I so desperately sought, last night’s encounter had afforded the catalyst that had resulted in my encore appearance here tonight.

Shauna finished her sound check and, true to her word, was making her way back through the crowd to where I waited at the bar, nervously turning my shot glass around and around in my hand. My heart rate picked up as she approached.

“You sound terrific.” I’d never been any good at making small talk, but I spoke the truth.

“Thanks.” Her tone was sincere.

But then she probably accepted the same compliment dozens of times nightly in the same affable way. Talented as she was, it hadn’t gone to her head.

“I’m surprised to see you back tonight.” No accusation, just an observation. “You left after our second number last night. I was afraid my singing had been an affront to your musical palate.”

She was teasing me now, and that was something I wasn’t used to. I had no idea how to respond to her jest. When I failed to reply, she pushed her advantage further.

“I’m surprised at the company you keep. She didn’t look to be your type.”

Feeling totally outclassed and outmaneuvered, I stammered something about my friend having taken ill and requested that I take her home early. If Shauna saw through my smoke screen, she gave no indication.

“Well, you’re back tonight,” she said. “And my confidence in my singing has been restored.”

In the span of a heartbeat, she’d managed to break and then restore my self-assurance. She looked at her watch.

“You going to be here after the first set?” She sounded accusatory.

I smiled and nodded my acquiescence, ecstatic at the prospect of her return.

“Oooh,” she purred, setting down her empty glass. When had she time to finish it? So lost in the depths of a gaze that was at once innocuous yet mischievous, I hadn’t even noticed her drinking it. “He can smile,” she playfully provoked. “Now if I can just get you to loosen up and talk, you might be able to help me pass an otherwise long and boring night on stage. And as long as you’re buying, I’ll need another of these.” She indicated the empty glass. Her smile positively beamed, and I felt my heart leap into my throat. She winked and was gone.

The first set ran nearly an hour. Near the end I found myself squirming in anticipation. Several times I’d refused the advances that a man alone in a singles bar in 1992 seemed to invite. Finally they stopped, my propensity toward the barstool duly noted by the female patrons who’d hoped to lure me into tending to their lonely needs.

I watched as Shauna manipulated the crowd. Instinctively she sensed their mood and knew what they wanted to hear, providing respite, usually in the form of something she and the band wanted to play, at just the right moment. Her movements were sensual, yet not vulgar. And her voice was magnificent in its range and flexibility. She rocked, finding somewhere within the raw power to rattle the chandeliers. Her interpretation of the two blues tunes that provided a reprieve from the intensity of the rock-and-roll intonated the pain of the lyrics, while the sole ballad of the set was sung with the pure innocence of an altar boy during Sunday morning service. She had a natural affinity for people.

I didn’t think for a minute that she was bored with performing.

The breaks between sets, I suspected, were from her point of view a chance for the band to catch their breath and slake their thirst, but more for the sake of the dance floor patrons who discovered the ten or fifteen minutes between sets enabled them to recharge their batteries.

Feeling that I’d simply serve as a diversion until the next set got underway, I felt the ego that Shauna had managed to build up nearly an hour ago deflate.

Shauna was just now telling everyone to sit tight. The band would be back in a few minutes to rock down the rafters. Those on the dance floor shouted their approval.

I signaled the bartender for a refill for me and a fresh cola. I’d just finished paying for the refreshments when Shauna slid up onto the stool beside me. I was startled; the thought that she might seek company elsewhere had briefly crossed my mind.

“Thanks,” she said, slightly out of breath as she took the soft drink and downed nearly a third of it. “How’d you manage to keep this stool empty?”

“It wasn’t difficult.” I’d never found difficulty in maintaining my distance when I wanted to.

“Not with a scowl like that, I imagine it wasn’t.”

I felt the heat rise in my cheeks. Her eyes sparkled as she laughed and my embarrassment turned to ire. I didn’t like being the butt of someone’s jest.

Shauna placed her hand on my knee in reassurance. I was amazed at the lightness of her touch; and just that quickly, my anger was defused.

“We sound okay?”

I was grateful for the change in direction to another topic. Perhaps now I could maintain control of the conversation for a while. I nodded and queried, “You do any original material?”

“One or two.” Then, in response to my raised eyebrows, she added, “People come to hear what’s popular, and popular is what gets air play; and unfortunately, since we get no air play, we aren’t popular.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Hard to argue with statistics. We play anymore than we do, and the dance floor tends to thin out.”

I decided to take a risk. “Don’t tell me; the ballad was yours.”

It was her turn to look surprised.

Yes. How did you know?”

“It seemed your style.” I was beginning to regain my balance; but before I could pose my next question, Shauna once again changed tack.

“How come you weren’t out on the dance floor?”

And just that quickly, my advantage was lost.

“There’s no one here I care to dance with.”

She bestowed her laugh upon me for the second time, a wonderfully-melodic sound.

“You weren’t so choosy last night.”

My face burned with embarrassment.

She didn’t call my earlier bluff, I thought, helpless. Just my luck she now thinks I’m lying.

I wanted to say, “That was before I met you,” but my discomfiture held me in check. In the end I settled for a shrug that said, What can I say? She laughed again. I felt myself redden further; and then, just in time, she put an arm around my shoulders and apologized.

“I’m sorry, Joe.” It was the first time she’d used my name, and I marveled at the mellifluous way she said it. “It’s just that you’re so easy.”

I waved my empty glass at the bartender. I hadn’t been aware that I’d even been sipping it since she’d joined me, let alone that I’d finished it. Shauna checked her watch.

“Listen, buy me another cola.” She laid her hand on my arm. “I’ve got to go backstage and freshen up. You know, do the things we women have to do to keep guys like you watching us.” I doubted she had to work very hard at it. “Be right back.”

I was struck by the energy level she was able to maintain.

Adrenaline, fueled by caffeine, I guessed as I held up her empty glass. It certainly isn’t alcohol.

During her absence I tried to think of some way I could arrange to meet with her in a more neutral setting without seeming like I was coming on too hard, something with which she was probably quite adept at dealing. My efforts frustrated me.

I can’t hold an intelligent conversation with her. How can I land a date?

Suddenly I feared her motives.

What makes you think she’s even interested in you? More than likely she picks someone out of the crowd nightly just to keep that caffeine high going.

I felt compelled to leave.

Here I was a man out of time twice removed, sitting calmly in a bar without a clue as to how I got here. I sat, a man in doubt of the actual authenticity of his own reality, trying to deal some broad who gets her kicks out of watching me squirm in discomfort. No one had ever been able to do that before, which only added to my feeling of inadequacy.

Without a doubt, I should be back at Porter’s trying to figure a solution to the equation, not how to get this self-styled rock queen between the sheets. I can get sex anytime without having to go through this.

And then I remembered last night, how lonely and unfulfilled I’d felt, despite the level of physical gratification I’d attained.

Well, I rationalized, settling myself back down onto the stool. Maybe there are answers to my questions that can be ascertained through an association with her.

Any chance to argue myself out of staying disappeared with Shauna’s reappearance; her smile immediately convinced me that I’d made the right choice.

“I’m delighted to see you haven’t abandoned me.”

“To be easily replaced, I’m sure.”

She took my sarcasm for humor and leaned over to whisper, “Save a dance for me?”

Then she was gone, leaving me with an uncomfortable sensation of comfort.

My thoughts swam. I was experiencing emotions and input to those emotions never before encountered. I was attracted to this Shauna, but not in the usual sexual sense. Not that I didn’t find her alluring. There was a time, in another century perhaps, when all that I would care to concern myself with would be the exploration of the dark, deep secrets concealed beneath the sexy attire that served to promote the image of a rock star. But that image spoke in terms of a rather warped reality.

Here I am, it said, on stage for the adulation of one and all. Welcome to my fantasy. A fantasy that guarantees stimulus to senses of sight and sound; listen to my voice, watch me move. Now, if you dare, try to emulate my undulations. You are all a part of my fantasy, for without you I am nothing. Yet I remain apart from your fantasy. Here I stand, symbol of your want, your hunger, your desire and your lust—one and all, male and female—but rest assured you can never have me.

But equally disturbing since my arrival in 1992 was my troubled sleep, dreams plagued by a demon and haunting images of another, alternate self. One that was weaker, more emotional than I.

Yet even in my conscious state, I was being tormented by uncertainty, accosted by unfamiliar feelings of denial, distrust and betrayal. And now I’d discovered that a new passion had been awakened—a passion heretofore unknown—a passion for emotional intimacy.

Yes, I had to admit that my attraction to Shauna went far beyond the superficial. It exceeded my rather curt allegation that perhaps it was she who held secret the knowledge that would empower me to see past the barriers that had so surreptitiously been placed before me.

To be sure, she fascinated me. Certainly the package she came in was enough to turn the head and raise the blood pressure of any red-blooded American male, but there was more. Something mysterious—and God knew I loved a good mystery, almost as much as I loved endeavoring to sate the needs of my sexual appetite.

Part of the enigma was the simple fact that I found her to be a puzzle; and that was something I’d never before equated with the fairer sex, preferring instead to imagine them as merely an end to a need.

I couldn’t deny that Shauna had awakened in me two needs: a need to be in her company—for in that company, I presumed to find comfort to ease a loneliness that until last night, in the lazy afterglow of sex, I hadn’t been aware even existed—as well as a need to discover more about the conflicting passions she seemed to have brought to the surface.

I felt unguarded, helplessly open to her scrutiny, and I found that threatening. Something inside me told me that in order to more fully understand these new sensibilities, as well as my attraction to Shauna, I would have to become more open and vulnerable. That insight served to further threaten me; yet my instinct seemed to promise an end result that could prove more gratifying in more ways than any other result I’d previously sought as an end.

But what of her needs? What if I were simply a diversion? Her interest in me, the way she looked at me and the interest I purported to be in that look, seemed to be genuine; yet she was a performer.

I tried to picture her nightly selecting a different paladin to keep her supplied with caffeine while amusing herself with small talk at their expense and couldn’t.

I took note of the dance floor, filled to capacity with dancers, most perspiring profusely as a result of their exertions while the empty stools down the length of the bar confirmed that I was among the scant few who weren’t out on the dance floor.

On stage Shauna was also perspiring heavily, the result of her aerobic efforts as she and her band mates rocked vehemently. I watched, entranced, as she worked the dancers, feeding off them and then, almost as if in grateful acknowledgment, gave it back to them. The energy she emitted was then caught by the dancers, where it was held for a moment as they basked in its warmth, before being sent back magnified a hundred-fold.

No doubt about it, I thought. She’s in her element.

Suddenly I knew. And just as suddenly, I knew that Shauna knew.

This was her fantasy, her escape from whatever trials and tribulations that defined her own personal reality. Her sincere congeniality simply mirrored that reality. She was completely at peace with herself, and her contentedness grew from within. Her self-assurance came not from performing, as I’d originally imagined, but instead from the serenity that comes with being totally quiescent with oneself.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I now knew that whatever doubts I’d had concerning Shauna’s integrity were now unwarranted. While she seemed to enjoy teasing me incessantly, I knew she would never knowingly hurt me. She was honest, a rare commodity even in 1947, as well as trustworthy. Perhaps it was seeing mirrored in another my own strong ethics that had attracted me to Shauna.

Shauna.

Suddenly that name didn’t fit her, and I knew it was assumed. I was now more than ever driven to find out more about her.

I regained my composure and confidence. I could only hope she wouldn’t knock me flat on my ass ten seconds after she seated herself on the stool next to me. She had a way of keeping me off-balance, and I couldn’t deny that I enjoyed her playful ridicule. I couldn’t help but find myself amused by it, as well as challenged.

She evidently felt comfortable in my company, despite the ponderous disposition I’d displayed. Maybe she was just trying to get me to loosen up. The idea of her playful affection warmed me.

Well, I concluded, two can play at that game. I’ll just have to even the score.

On stage Shauna was introducing the next song, a ballad to be sung by her backup singer, a knockout blonde named Melody, in whom I wasn’t the least bit interested.

Shauna locked eyes with me as she put the microphone back into its cradle and, with a slight motion of her head, invited me to join her on the dance floor.

A moment later she slipped into my arms and nestled herself comfortably into my embrace, nothing vulgar, just comfortable. I led, marveling at the soft texture of her hand.

Is it really that small?

My heartbeat quickened as she moved her other hand up around my neck, her head now resting on my chest; my own head was aswirl with myriad sensations, all of them pleasant. I contented myself with the moment, knowing it would be over all too soon, finding solace in the hope that there would be many more such moments. If I never found a way back to my own time, I could think of worse places with less desirable people to spend the rest of my life.

I inhaled the sweet fragrance of her hair; somehow, miraculously, it had managed to escape the fate to which Chrissie’s had succumbed. I sighed and tightened my hand around hers.

In response she gazed up into my pale green eyes with her own brown ones, alive with mischief, and accused, “Boring you to pieces, am I?”

I only smiled my pleasure at her and pushed her head back down to its rightful place.

A moment later the song came to an end and with it the moment.

Her eyes alive with mirth, she promised to join me at the bar in just a few minutes, where she would proceed to “drink you under the table.”

“No mean feat,” I countered. “Considering the alcoholic content of cola.”

She left for the stage, while I, feeling ten feet tall, headed for the barstool I’d been keeping warm all night. The envious glances from the other male patrons in the establishment did nothing save to inflate an already-swelling ego.

While I waited for the set to end, I tried to think of a way to arrange a more intimate meeting with Shauna. I didn’t wish to come on too strong, too desperate; yet playing it too insouciant would risk looking like I was simply coming on.

As a result of this new dilemma, I became aware of the delicate nature of what I was contemplating. Never before had the consequences of rejection weighed so heavily. In the past, rejection simply meant moving on to the next most likely candidate; my needs had always been easy enough to accommodate. Never before had I been faced with the perils associated with the failure to attain that which I so desperately aspired.

Desperately?

I was beginning to sound like a man smitten. And the implication that I affiliated with that malady left me with a feeling of mounting inadequacy.

Needs: I needed to find out who I was and why, for the first time in my life, I was being harassed by moments of anxious apprehension. Furthermore, I needed to explore the uncertainty of the reality of my existence.

I should catch a flight to Michigan, if that’s what it took, and try to locate this Robert Porter character. I was convinced more than ever that he could better provide answers to the list of questions that seemed to lengthen of its own volition than Shauna could. But I seemed paralyzed by fear, a never-before faced debility because until now I’d never encountered it. And it was safe to say that the basis for that fear was the revelation of that which my endeavors might unearth.

Wants: I wanted to explore my uncharacteristic fascination with the mystery girl on stage. I’d initially thought that she might possess answers to questions and I still thought that, but to which questions?

I began to reassess the nature of those questions. I wanted her but for more than just her body.

Through her, I felt certain I could learn something of myself; yet what that lesson might be, I had no clue.

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Sea of Destiny – Part 39 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverKyle wakes the next morning to find Vera gone, but she left a note telling him thank you for the night, asking him to call her. He makes his way back to the ship, with a horrible hangover, only to find himself confronted by Carmelita.

“Michael Kyle Scott!”

“Don’t call me Michael. Don’t ever use that name again. Okay? Never.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I’ve done something really stupid and self-destructive. Can we just drop it? Please? I just totally screwed up the best relationship I’ve ever had and that’s all you’ve got?” He

shook his head, trying to figure out where he left his aspirin. “If Emily ever forgives me, maybe I can put it back together.”

“Why wouldn’t she forgive you?”

“Because I got drunk and screwed another woman. The first time in thirteen months and it wasn’t with her. It was Vera something….”

“The company rep?”

“Yeah.”

Carmelita slapped him. Once his ears stopped ringing and his eyes quit tearing, he shook his head to help his vision clear.

“I deserved that.”

“You deserve to be horse whipped! How could you?”

“I’m asking myself the same thing.”

“You say you’re falling in love with Emily, but go out and get drunk and fool around with another woman? The girl had cancer! You’re a total heel, Kyle. I don’t even want to see you right now.”

She started out the door, but he called her back.

“He’s my father!”

She turned, looking at him. “Who?”

“The priest. The damn priest was my father—is my father….”

“The healer? Father Michael?”

“Michael Kyle Scott, Senior.” He said each name slowly and distinctly.

There was a long, echoing silence as Carmelita digested that information.

“Does Emily know?” she asked quietly.

He shook his head. “I didn’t find out until afterward. He told me he wants my forgiveness. I don’t think I can do it, Lita. I don’t think I have any of that left in me. Obviously, I didn’t deal with the news terribly well.”

She didn’t say anything, but her expression agreed with him and then some. “What about you and Emily?”

“How am I going to tell her about this? I don’t mean about my father.”

“I know what you mean.”

“I have to tell her. I can’t just disappear out of her life. How do I tell her?”

“I don’t know. There’s no good way to say it.”

“Is she going to hate me forever?”

Carmelita didn’t say anything, looking away. Kyle’s eyes filled with tears. He’d cried more in the last four days than he had the last six months. Everything hurt, inside and out. He couldn’t breathe properly. Just thinking about how angry and hurt Emily would be when he told her about Vera made him want to puke.

“How could I do this to her? This is what he did to her! I’m a horrible person, Carmelita. I’m the worst kind of man there is.”

“You’re getting yourself all worked up, Kyle.”

“Maybe I should just hurl myself off the side of the ship.”

“Now you’re talkin’ crazy. What you did was lousy, but if I’d been through what you’ve been, why I might do something similar. Yes, it’s rotten and it stinks, but there are worse things you could do.”

“Like what? Kill her dog? Rape her cat?”

Carmelita faced him, arms crossed, full lips pressed tightly together. “Lying about it.”

She slammed the door behind her, stalking down the hall to the elevator. Kyle threw himself face first on the bed wishing that a hole would open and suck him to the bottom of the ocean. Lying there, castigating himself, he heard the phone ring. He didn’t want to answer it, but if it was Emily, he needed to talk to her.

“Hello?”

“Kyle? Oh, thank God.” It was Thad West.

“Hello, Doctor. How’s our favorite patient today?” He tried to sound lighthearted.

“She’s great. I’ve got a few tests to run to be sure, but I’m convinced she’s on the mend!”

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 38 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverAfter healing Emily, Father Mike gives Kyle some news he wasn’t expecting to hear. It isn’t good news and sends Kyle into a tailspin. By some quirk of Fate, Kyle has finally found his long, lost father—the man who left when he was a kid. The story he tells greatly upsets Kyle.

He left the room, resisting the urge to slam the door. On the way down in the elevator, the pain hit. It felt like his heart was exploding, but he knew it was the anger and grief he’d been holding in for the last twenty-six years. He couldn’t break down and cry in public. He wouldn’t embarrass himself like that. He wanted a quiet place to get drunk and forget the man who had given him life.

He couldn’t bring himself to call the man his father. Maybe one day, but not today. Stumbling out of the elevator, he nearly ran over the young woman from the tour company. She caught him, helping him stand.

“Mr. Scott, are you all right? Is Emily okay?”

“Emily’s fine. The priest did what he promised. She’s healed.”

“That’s wonderful! But you don’t look well. What’s wrong?”

“Is there somewhere we can go for a drink? I need a drink.”

“Sure. Come this way. There’s a lounge. We can have a couple drinks and I’ll take you back to the ship.”

“Thanks. I can’t remember your name, but you’re a real peach.”

She smirked. “Thanks. My name is Vera. Let’s get that drink, Mr. Scott.”

“The name’s Kyle. So, Vera, how long have you worked for the company?”

They laughed and chatted through the dinner hour, sharing quite a few drinks. By 10:00, Kyle was very drunk and Vera was nearly as bad off. Kyle was amazed at how witty she found him. He didn’t think it was just because they were drunk, he was really being very charming. Vera loved to dance, so they took advantage of the dance floor in the lounge and he used his skill to seduce her. By the time the bar closed, she had invited him back to her place.

However, since it was obvious that neither of them could drive, they took a room at the hotel. Completely forgetting his children, his late wife and Emily, he took Vera to bed.

* * *

Kyle woke the next morning with the mother of all hangovers. Vera was gone, having left a note for him beside the bed.

“Had a fab time last night! You’re a great dancer and even better in bed. Call me next time you’re in Cozumel! Vera.” Followed by her phone number.

“Oh, God. What have I done?”

He showered, then realized he had no fresh clothing to put on. It was pretty wrinkled and he’d spilled something on his jacket that looked like it had left a stain. He walked back to the ship hoping that the morning air would clear his head, but it was already hot and humid. It only served to make him nauseous. He returned to his cabin while Carmelita and the children were at breakfast. Taking another shower, he dressed in clean clothing and ordered breakfast to be served in his room. He was just finishing when the family arrived.

“Cindy, you take them up to arts and crafts,” Carmelita said after one look at Kyle.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I wanna see Daddy,” Mindy protested.

“You can see him later,” Randy responded. “Come on, munchkin. I’ll race you to the elevator.”

Their voices faded down the hall. Carmelita slammed the cabin door, hands on hips. Every line of her body radiated fury.

“Where the hell were you?” she bellowed.

“Don’t, Lita. No third degree. Give me a second for my head to stop spinning and I’ll tell you.”

“Don’t give me any lip, boy. Your kids were frantic when you didn’t come in. I thought little Mindy was gonna have a conniption this morning when you didn’t show up at breakfast.”

“I’m an irresponsible, insensitive prick. Okay?” He yelled. “Are you happy now?” He stopped yelling because it hurt his head. “Emily’s fine, thank you.”

“I know that already, Thad called last night. She woke up and was asking for you.”

“There were complications afterward.”

“With Emily? Is she okay?”

“She’s fine. The complications were with me.”

“You got drunk.”

“Yeah. Very drunk. I danced awhile and I’m pretty damn sure I got laid. Considering how my back feels, I overdid that too.”

© Dellani Oakes

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This Party is So Much Fun, I Wish it Never Had to End by Sherrie Hansen

We’ve been saying a lot of goodbyes lately. Last weekend, we drove 350 miles to help Mark’s aunt and uncle celebrate 50 years of marriage and to see relatives who came from Mississippi, California and North Dakota for the festivities. It was fun being with them, but then, after just a day and a half, we had to say goodbye.

Blog - Imix water

Yesterday, we celebrated my parents 60th wedding anniversary on the farm where I grew up. For the first time in years, all of their kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were together. They came from Boston, southern Brazil, Florida, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. Cousins from Ohio, Washington, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Denmark also came for the fun. What a grand time we had – and then, we had to say goodbye, until who knows when. Maybe never, since we’re so scattered. And because, sadly, nothing lasts forever.

Blog - KY - Mom and Dad

Today, we’re leaving for London, Devon and Cornwall, and then, Romania. It’s hard to say adieu to my bed and breakfast and tea house, and the people at church (my husband is a pastor) for three long weeks. I’m already having separation anxiety. Saying goodbye, even for a short time, is difficult for me. That’s probably the reason I keep revisiting castles, kilts and stone cottages in my Wildflowers of Scotland novels. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to Rose and Ian (Wild Rose), Isabelle and Michael (Blue Belle), or Violet and Nathan (Shy Violet).

Shy Violet

But there are much harder goodbyes to anticipate, and I dread them. A few months ago, we attended the funeral of a family friend whose son was just one year older than I am. We were close in junior high and high school, but have lost touch since he lives far from our home town. After our brief reunion,  when we were saying goodbye, he very candidly said that this was probably the last time we would see each other – with his parents both gone, he has no reason to return to the area. The finality of the moment made me sad, yet it was nothing in comparison to the goodbyes he’d said to his father early that week.

Blog - WI2 - cemetary

We’ve had entirely too many funerals lately. This week, another dear family friend passed away. While I believe, as a Christian, that he will be reunited with his family and loved ones again one day in heaven, it’s still a hard adjustment to go from being together in the moment, to waiting years – perhaps even decades – to be together again.

blog - graves

When we were dancing and having fun at Uncle Frank and Aunt Pat’s anniversary party up north, our six-year-old granddaughter said, “This party is so much fun that I wish it could go on forever.” I felt that way yesterday at my parent’s party, too.

Blog - Imix

The thing is, everything in this life is transitory. One party ends, and we say goodbye, and then we’re invited to another, and another, and new things spring up from the old. A tree that we’ve grown to love falls or is cut down, and then, a few months later, there’s a wildflower, or a new tree growing out from what’s left of the stump. We hope for the harvest in the long cold winter, and then come spring, we plant our fields again.

Blog - stump

Knowing that something beautiful will rise from the ashes doesn’t make saying those final goodbyes easier, but it does keep us looking up, moving on, and always looking forward to the next party.

Blog - Lupine

So for now – so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. I’m winging my way to Europe, but I’ll be back before you know it. And, I promise, we’ll party until the sun goes down… or maybe I should say, until the sun rises on a new day.

Blog - Sunset

 

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie has also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Shy Violet” is Sherrie’s eighth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Books Titles: Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet. Night and Day, Love Notes, and the Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.  

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Sea of Destiny – Part 37 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverThe healing complete, Father Michael has to recover his strength. Although it seriously tests his faith, Kyle has to admit that Emily looks better. He can only hope and pray that she truly is healed.

“I’m not the one you should thank. Your Heavenly Father is responsible for this, not me. I’m just the conduit.”

Kyle dropped to his knees, praying quietly, giving thanks to God for Emily’s healing. He knew she was well, he could feel it. Underneath his joy, something lurked. There was the matter of payment that the priest had mentioned.

“You told me at the mission there was something I must do for you.” Kyle rose, his eyes wary.

“Yes. Gentlemen, I beg your indulge once more. I need to speak to Kyle alone.”

“Certainly, Father.” Pablo bowed respectfully, leaving immediately.

Sighing heavily, Dr. West followed him. Once the door was closed, Fr. Michael focused on the door for a moment before turning back to examine Kyle’s face.

“Before I begin, you have to promise not to lose your temper or raise your voice.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because what I have to say is going to make you very angry.”

“If you’ve done something to hurt Emily….”

“No. No, son, nothing like that. If I had the strength to move right now, I’d take you outside, but I don’t. You have to promise.”

“Is it something I can talk to you about tomorrow?”

“No. This is the last you’ll see me.”

“For Emily’s sake, I promise.”

Nodding, the priest accepted the statement. Taking a sip of his wine, he tried to get his troubled thoughts aligned before he began.

“I have a story to tell you. It began, oh, about thirty-four years ago when I was a young man. I met a beautiful woman. She had hair like spun gold and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I fell into those eyes, drowning in her beauty. Then I did something very bad. I took that woman to my bed before we were married and she got pregnant. Both of us were Catholic. Determined to do the right thing, I married her. She gave me a son and we named him after me. I loved that child more than I had ever loved his mother. I was fond of her, but my son was the light of my life.

“A few years later, we had another son. By this time, the marriage was in trouble. We were so young when we married, barely eighteen, that we were completely different people by then. My wife and I had a horrible argument. We were furious with one another. I stayed out most of the night drinking with my friends. When I got home, she threw me out. I took a few possessions with me and left. I never went back, never explained, never apologized to my wife or my eldest son. He was seven at the time.”

Kyle’s lip trembled, tears fell from his eyes. His breath came in shuddering gasps as he heard the story. He said nothing, keeping a lid on his tumultuous emotions as he’d promised. He waited for the priest to finish, denying what he knew in his heart was the truth.

“I had our marriage annulled. There were grounds since we were coerced into marriage by her pregnancy. A short time later, I entered the seminary and became a priest. When this mission opportunity came available, I asked for it. I wanted to put as much distance between myself and my old life as I could.” He stopped, laughing weakly. “And then you walked in my study and my old life came back to haunt me with a vengeance.”

“Why didn’t you ever call? You never explained to Chris and me. Not that he’d have understood, he was three. You left me to pick up the pieces of our lives after you ran away. She didn’t even have a job!” He wanted to yell and throw things, but he’d promised not to get angry. “I always wondered what I would say to you if I ever saw you again. I had all these pretty speeches planned about how sorry I was that I drove you away. I blamed myself….”

“It was never about you or your brother. Your mother was a beautiful, selfish and demanding woman. Nothing I did was ever enough. Then I got the call to become a priest, something I had put off, thinking it wasn’t for me. It became too powerful to put aside anymore. God was calling me to do this work for Him. When I quit fighting, everything worked out.”

“Except for us.”

“I don’t deny that, son.”

“I’m not your son. You gave up that right when you annulled your marriage to my mother, declaring me a bastard.”

“I’m asking your forgiveness, Kyle. I need to hear you say it.”

“You can keep on needing it, Father Michael, because I’m never saying it. I thank you for what you did for Emily. That was the miracle she wanted. For that, I’m grateful. But I can’t find it in my heart to forgive you. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go before I really lose my temper and break my promise.”

© Dellani Oakes

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