Monthly Archives: December 2009

More pictures!


Last night….the boys were being silly and were all hanging upside down! They were waiting for church…
(One of these is not mine, but a little boy who I watch while he plays with the boys!!)

My beautiful sister Miriam

The lap quilt I made for my mom……


It turned out pretty nice!! I would have liked it a little bigger….but it was fun quilting it!

Miriam with lots of nieces, nephews and brothers……

L. with his badge….

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Some pictures of our Dec.


My two nephews……
Playing dress-up

My niece- The book worm!!!

T. with my niece…..his favorite place to be!

Our lovely vegetable platters…..
"Mr and Mrs Claus"……the mini versions….

Moon Sand – a  very messy toy

Huh…..this is boring!!!

A photo album Moriah made

The group

Gina with picture frames!!!

E. with his present- a Curious George book on Cd and a flashlight

Miriam and Travis

Monica with her new knitting needles, book etc

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My Winners are……

Amy for the Fiction pack

And Robin for the Ken Ham book!!!

Thank you all for entering and a great contest!!!

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Peace on earth?

I was listening to a story about some of the origins of traditions of Christmas as well as frequenting the message boards, forums etc that the discussion of course every single year gets brought about Christmas. The people who celebrate it and the people who do not.  <p> I  realized while thinking about it that people have been arguing about this season for as long as history has been recorded. I wonder sometimes  if in the arguing we forget "Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men." as the angels said when He was born.  Some people argue it is not the right time of year….. and I wonder is there ever a wrong time a year to  love others? <p> Forget Christmas, forget  the traditions, the trees, the lights or whatever it is that you have problems with. Just look at it as a chance to be able to minister to others, a chance to love people in a world where so many awful things happen. <p>
Plus my head can’t take any more arguing!

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Not alot of sleep here….

lately, so my brain feels like it is semi mush!!!

I sit down and feel like I don’t want to get back up!!! I started a fun book today. It is called Fools Rush in and is about a Italian family and a young woman trying to run a wedding place…..it looks like it will be good for some laughs and I sure could use some of those!<p>

I am trying to plan out my menu for the week and have not had time to really go grocery shopping! I finally went to the store tonight and got a couple things!! I got to go out with a friend tonight, which was really fun. They decided to go to this little tex/mex type place which was really nice as it was cheap for each of us. I got a whole dinner and it was less than $5. <p>

Wednesday: Homemade mac ‘n cheese/ Salad

Thursday: Bean and meat burritos

Friday: Biscuits and gravy, green beans, peach cobbler

Saturday: Spaghetti/ salad

Sunday: Pizza pockets (made the day before and reheated)

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Tuna noodle casserole, salad<p>

Let’s hope I can stick to it!  

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The Sheriff’s Surrender by Susan Davis

My Review:
When the sheriff is found dead in his station, another young man of the town is pressed into service and finds himself trying to solve not only the Sheriff’s murder’s, but others as well. Meanwhile, the town is in an uproar over the ladies of the town forming a shooting club to learn how to protect themselves. From the pastor’s wife the the dance hall girls, they are all lining up to learn how to shoot!!!

This was a cute story! I found it an enjoyable light, read and really enjoyed it without a lot of romance in it, just fun story! – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Sheriff’s Surrender

Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Award-winning author Susan Page Davis is a mother of six who lives in Maine with her husband, Jim. She worked as a newspaper correspondent for more than twenty-five years in addition to home-schooling her children. She writes historical romances and cozy mysteries and is a member of ACFW. Visit her Web site at

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602605629
ISBN-13: 978-1602605626

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Fergus, Idaho

May 1885

Gert Dooley aimed at the scrap of red calico and squeezed the trigger. The Spencer rifle she held cracked, and the red cloth fifty yards away shivered.

“I’d say your shooting piece is in fine order.” She lowered the rifle and passed it to the owner, Cyrus Fennel. She didn’t particularly like Fennel, but he always paid her brother, the only gunsmith in Fergus, with hard money.

He nodded. “Thank you, Miss Dooley.” He shoved his hand into his pocket.

Gert knew he was fishing out a coin. This was the part her brother hated most—taking payment for his work. She turned away. Hiram would be embarrassed enough without her watching. She picked up the shawl she had let fall to the grass a few minutes earlier.

“That’s mighty fine shooting, Gert,” said Hiram’s friend, rancher Ethan Chapman. He’d come by earlier to see if Hiram would help him string a fence the next day. When Cyrus Fennel had arrived to pick up his repaired rifle, Ethan had sat down on the chopping block to watch Gert demonstrate the gun.

“Thank you kindly.” Gert accepted praise for shooting as a matter of course. Now, if Ethan had remarked that she looked fine today or some such pretty thing, she’d have been flustered. But he would never say anything like that. And shooting was just work.

Fennel levered the rifle’s action open and peered at the firing pin. “Looks good as new. I should be able to pick off those rats that are getting in my grain bins.”

“That’s quite a cannon for shooting rats,” Gert said.

Ethan stood and rested one foot on the chopping block, leaning forward with one arm on his knee. “You ought to hire Gert to shoot them for you.”

Gert scowled. “Why’d I want to do that? He can shoot his own rats.”

Hiram, who had pocketed his pay as quickly as possible, moved the straw he chewed from one side of his mouth to the other. He never talked much. Men brought him their firearms to fix. Hiram listened to them tell him what the trouble was while eyeing the piece keenly. Then he’d look at Gert. She would tell them, “Come back next week.” Hiram would nod, and that was the extent of the conversation. Since his wife, Violet, had died eight years ago, the only person Hiram seemed to talk to much was Ethan.

Fennel turned toward her with a condescending smile. “Folks say you’re the best shot in Fergus, Miss Dooley.”

Gert shrugged. It wasn’t worth debating. She had sharp eyes, and she’d fired so many guns for Hiram to make sure they were in working order that she’d gotten good at it, that was all.

Ethan’s features, however, sprang to life. “Ain’t it the truth? Why, Gert can shoot the tail feathers off a jay at a hundred yards with a gun like that. Mighty fine rifle.” He nodded at Fennel’s Spencer, wincing as though he regretted not having a gun as fine.

“Well, now, I’m a fair shot myself,” Fennel said. “I could maybe hit that rag, too.”

“Let’s see you do it,” Ethan said.

Fennel jacked a cartridge into the Spencer, smiling as he did. The rag still hung limp from a notched stick and was silhouetted against the distant dirt bank across the field. He put his left foot forward and swung the butt of the stock up to his shoulder, paused motionless for a second, and pulled the trigger.

Gert watched the cloth, not the shooter. The stick shattered just at the bottom of the rag. She frowned. She’d have to find another stick next time. At least when she tested a gun, she clipped the edge of the cloth so her stand could be used again.

Hiram took the straw out of his mouth and threw it on the ground. Without a word, he strode to where the tattered red cloth lay a couple of yards from the splintered stick and brought the scrap back. He stooped for a piece of firewood from the pile he’d made before Fennel showed up. The stick he chose had split raggedly, and Hiram slid the bit of cloth into a crack.

Ethan stood beside Gert as they watched Hiram walk across the field, all the way to the dirt bank, and set the piece of firewood on end.

“Hmm.” Fennel cleared his throat and loaded several cartridges into the magazine. When Hiram was back beside them, he raised the gun again, held for a second, and fired. The stick with the bit of red stood unwavering.

“Let Gert try,” Ethan said.

“No need,” she said, looking down at her worn shoe tips peeping out beneath the hem of her skirt.

“Oh, come on.” Ethan’s coaxing smile tempted her.

Fennel held the rifle out. “Be my guest.”

Gert looked to her brother. Hiram gave the slightest nod then looked up at the sky, tracking the late afternoon sun as it slipped behind a cloud. She could do it, of course. She’d been firing guns for Hiram for ten years—since she came to Fergus and found him grieving the loss of his wife and baby. Folks had brought him more work than he could handle. They felt sorry for him, she supposed, and wanted to give him a distraction. Gert had begun test firing the guns as fast as he could fix them. She found it satisfying, and she’d kept doing it ever since. Thousands upon thousands of rounds she’d fired, from every type of small firearm, unintentionally building herself a reputation of sorts.

She didn’t usually make a show of her shooting prowess, but Fennel rubbed her the wrong way. She knew he wasn’t Hiram’s favorite patron either. He ran the Wells Fargo office now, but back when he ran the assay office, he’d bought up a lot of failed mines and grassland cheap. He owned a great deal of land around Fergus, including the spread Hiram had hoped to buy when he first came to Idaho. Distracted by his wife’s illness, Hiram hadn’t moved quickly enough to file claim on the land and had missed out. Instead of the ranch he’d wanted, he lived on his small lot in town and got by on his sporadic pay as a gunsmith.

Gert let her shawl slip from her fingers to the grass once more and took the rifle. As she focused on the distant stick of firewood, she thought, That junk of wood is you, Mr. Rich Land Stealer. And that little piece of cloth is one of your rats.

She squeezed gently. The rifle recoiled against her shoulder, and the far stick of firewood jumped into the air then fell to earth, minus the red cloth.

“Well, I’ll be.” Fennel stared at her. “Are you always this accurate?”

“You ain’t seen nothing,” Ethan assured him.

Hiram actually cracked a smile, and Gert felt the blood rush to her cheeks even though Ethan hadn’t directly complimented her. She loved to see Hiram smile, something he seldom did.

“Mind sharing your secret, Miss Dooley?” Fennel asked.

Ethan chuckled. “I’ll tell you what it is. Every time she shoots, she pretends she’s aiming at something she really hates.”

“Aha.” Fennel smiled, too. “Might I ask what you were thinking of that time, ma’am?”

Gert’s mouth went dry. Never had she been so sorely tempted to tell a lie.

“Likely it was that coyote that kilt her rooster last month,” Hiram said.

Gert stared at him. He’d actually spoken. She knew when their eyes met that her brother had known exactly what she’d been thinking.

Ethan and Fennel both chuckled.

Of course, I wouldn’t really think of killing him, Gert thought, even though he stole the land right out from under my grieving brother. The Good Book says don’t kill and don’t hate. Determined to heap coals of fire on her adversary’s head, she handed the Spencer back to him. “You’re not too bad a shot yourself, Mr. Fennel.”

His posture relaxed, and he opened his mouth all smiley, like he might say something pleasant back, but suddenly he stiffened. His eyes focused beyond Gert, toward the dirt street. “Who is that?”

Gert swung around to look as Ethan answered. “That’s Millicent Peart.”

“Don’t think I’ve seen her since last fall.” Fennel shook his head. “She sure is showing her age.”

“I don’t think Milzie came into town much over the winter,” Gert said.

For a moment, they watched the stooped figure hobble along the dirt street toward the emporium. Engulfed in a shapeless old coat, Milzie Peart leaned on a stick with each step. Her mouth worked as though she were talking to someone, but no one accompanied her.

“How long since her man passed on?” Ethan asked.

“Long time,” Gert said. “Ten years, maybe. She still lives at their cabin out Mountain Road.”

Fennel grimaced as the next house hid the retreating figure from view. “Pitiful.”

Ethan shrugged. “She’s kinda crazy, but I reckon she likes living on their homestead.”

Gert wondered how Milzie got by. It must be lonesome to have no one, not even a nearly silent brother, to talk to out there in the foothills.

“Supper in half an hour.” She turned away from the men and headed for the back porch of the little house she shared with Hiram. She hoped Fennel would take the hint and leave. And she hoped Ethan would stay for supper, but of course she would never say so.

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Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur

My Review:
I have read some really good books this past week, but this one is going to go on my top books to recommend people read! I have never read anything by this author before, but it will not be the last. This is a fictional story that is not mushy, warm fuzzies, but more real life dealing with issues that face many of us.

Jason Faircloth is a prominent pastor in Atlanta, one of the best. His church is growing, he is doing well. He knows what he believes and strictly carries it out, never minding feelings that may get hurt in the meantime, even to his family. Every night he prays his runaway daughter, Hannah, will return home. And then, tragedy hits him. When Jason loses everything he held dear and near to him and even what he thought he rightfully should have is withheld from him, he goes on a search for something he thinks is tangible, but in reality, he is searching for his soul. He searches deep within himself for what is really important to God, what truths he can believe about God and the how behind the why’s. His search takes him all over the world and through dangerous places, getting him into trouble he had no intention of getting into. Will he find what he seeks? Or does he have to lose himself to find himself?

This book will challenge you like it did me, to examine the important things in life. It shows some of the problems in our churches that even though they are doing well, can have many issues. It deals with forgiveness, healing even when you cannot make what you did right. This is a really good book, well written and I have half a dozen people already I wish I could buy a copy for!! This is a book that will get you thinking. – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Wisdom Hunter

Multnomah Books (September 20, 2003)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Randall Arthur is the bestselling author of Jordan’s Crossing and Brotherhood of Betrayal. He and his wife have served as missionaries to Europe for over thirty years. From 1976 till 1998, he lived in Norway and Germany as a church planter. Since 2000, he has taken numerous missions teams from the United States on trips all over Europe. Arthur is also the founder of the AOK (Acts of Kindness) Bikers’ Fellowship, a group of men who enjoy the sport of motorcycling. He and his family live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (September 20, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590522591
ISBN-13: 978-1590522592

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

PART 1: 1971-1972

Jason cleared his throat. His wife knew what was coming next, and the pain within her rose again. At every evening meal for the last five hundred and fifteen days he had prayed aloud for their daughter, always working his way slowly through the prayer, emphasizing each word as if to prove his sincerity.

“0 God,” he said tonight, “wherever Hannah might be right now, we ask that she’ll know your protection. Thank you for watching over her. And thank you even more that one day you’ll honor our faith and bring her home.”

He paused, as if to arrest the Almighty’s attention, then continued with a faltering voice. “Just-just make it soon. We miss her… ”

LYING ON THE living room couch, Hannah Freedman proudly realized once again that she was the reason Cody had emerged from his loneliness. He was absolutely consumed by her-and the thought was enthralling. Admiring her diamond-studded wedding band, she gratified herself with the reminder that Cody always treated her like a princess, as if by royal decree she had somehow granted him a new life.

At this very moment, alone in their suburban Miami home, she could feel his infatuation. It lingered in every room, echoing in the easy recall of Cody’s loving words and embraces.

Hannah turned heavily upon her side, the baby in her womb preventing her from rolling all the way over onto her stomach. She smiled. It was like a fairy tale. She and Cody had met only ten months ago-she a runaway, not yet eighteen; and he a well-bred, 25 year-old professional. Now they were together forever. How could it be real? How could they have it so good?

She reached over her head, retrieving from behind her a framed photograph of Cody that sat alone on the end table. The picture had been taken only weeks before she met him. It was the same handsome face, the same green-eyed, ash-blond man who was now her husband-but he had been so different then. There was a smile on the face, but it was hiding a sense of loss that had governed his life ever since the death of his parents in a plane crash two years earlier. From that seemingly unshakable disorientation, she had rescued him. Likewise, Cody had taken her from a miserable existence and placed her on a lofty pedestal of fulfillment beyond her wildest dreams.

Her spirit soared with gratefulness as she pressed the photograph to her chest. Lost in blissful thoughts, she relived for the thousandth time the nonstop passion of the last ten months. First, the explosive romance-the instant chemistry, like gunpowder contacting fire. Then came the unplanned but welcomed pregnancy, followed by the exchange of wedding vows seven and a half months ago. Every day had been glorious. If she could live all of it over, she would not change a single detail.

A wall clock across the room began to chime the hour, and Hannah closed her eyes and stilled her thoughts to listen: Four o’clock. It was four o’clock, Friday afternoon, December 15th. The “Christmas spirit” with its commercialism was in full swing-and she, Hannah Freedman, had everything in life a woman ever dreamed of: a large and beautiful home, a flaming love life, and emotional security. In only forty minutes her lover would be home from a day’s work at his veterinary clinic, ready for their usual early and intimate dinner together. And in only fourteen days, according to the doctor’s calculations, she and Cody would cuddle their first child.

She lifted the photograph and contentedly stared through tears at Cody’s picture. For the first time in her eighteen years, she knew what it was to live and to love.

She slowly reached over her head and carefully returned the photograph to its place. She contemplated getting up from the couch. But due to an early morning burst of energy she had already put in a full day of cleaning house and baking Christmas cookies, and the work had left her exhausted. Her small frame, now carrying an extra twenty-six pounds, simply refused to rise.

AT 4:40, CODY came in the back door. He slipped quickly through the kitchen, moving his six-foot-three, 170-pound athletic body with the fluidity of a cat, and began singing: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to live with a blue-eyed Georgia girl, hey!”

On the living room couch Hannah awoke from her light sleep, and broke into a smile as Cody continued singing heartily off-key: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to love my blue-eyed Georgia girl!”

When Cody poked his head around the corner, Hannah was applauding. “Coe,” she said, extending tired but inviting arms, “you can love this blue-eyed Georgia girl anytime you want to.”

Like a moth to a flame, Cody was drawn into her arms. Kneeling on the plush gray carpet beside her, he kissed her full, moist lips as if he had been starving for her for weeks. When he finally withdrew, he looked into her eyes and said with intensity, “Hannah, you’re so beautiful-even when you’re tired”

So often before he had told her she was beautiful-and had never stopped, even after her pregnancy began showing. Spreading her arms playfully like wings, Hannah nodded toward her body. “You like it, huh?”

Cody smiled his reply, then ran his fingers slowly through her long, thick auburn hair. “Hannah,” he moaned in earnest, “I’m missing you, bad.”

“How much?” she asked with delight.

“You really want to know?”

“Yeah.”

Cody grinned. “Well, I’ll tell you. I accidentally gave overdoses of antibiotics to four different dogs today and killed them all,” he joked, “simply because I couldn’t get my mind off you. All I’ve done today is dream about being with you.”

Feeling aroused, Hannah slowly pulled him into another fiery kiss.

It took every ounce of self-control Cody could muster to keep from going further. When Hannah finally released him, he fell reluctantly to the floor and stretched out on his back. “Just you wait,” he said with gusto, “till we’re able to be together again. I’m going to make it unforgettable.”

Hannah laughed seductively. “Are you sure you can hold out until then?”

With surprise, she watched Cody’s mood turn sober. He rose to kneel beside her again, and took her hands in his. “Hannah, if I had to, I’d be willing to wait the rest of my life for you.”

There was no doubt in Hannah’s mind that he meant every word. She felt his sincerity as certainly as if it were rain pouring down on her. Instinctively she pulled him into another tight embrace.

“Cody,” she confided in his ear, “this will be the best Christmas I’ve ever had. And the reason is you…”

AFTER DINNER Cody raved as Hannah placed the tray of Christmas cookies on the dining room table beside him. “Better looking than Mother’s used to be,” he said. Taking a bite, he nodded, “And every bit as good!”

An LP of instrumental Christmas music was playing softly in the background. Hannah sat down to hear Cody finish telling her about his day: setting a German shepherd’s broken leg, diagnosing an old tomcat that was refusing to eat, bobtailing a four-day old boxer, and giving an array of shots.

“And Mrs. Gravitt brought in her Dalmatian again,” he said, then paused.

“And?” Hannah asked.

“And it should be the last time!” he smiled with satisfaction. “He’s fully recovered, and Mrs. Gravitt is as happy as any client I’ve ever had.”

“She should be,” Hannah reassured him. “That dog was nearly dead two months ago when she first brought him to you. It was a miracle anyone could save him. But what can I say? You’re the best!”

“Well, maybe not the best… But…”Cody tucked his thumbs beneath imaginary suspenders, in a mocking pose of greatness. They both erupted into laughter.

“Say,” he said after finishing another cookie, “I called Reed’s Travel Agency this morning. They promised they could reserve the cabin-“

Before he could complete the sentence, he saw Hannah suddenly gasp for breath, tense in her chair, then let out a low groan. Cody was immediately face to face with her, gripping her shoulders. “Are you all right?” he demanded.

She finally began breathing, then looked him in the eye and gave the most surprisingly beautiful smile he had ever seen. “I think so… I… uh… yeah, I’m okay,” she answered. “My water just broke.” She could feel the warm fluid puddling around her buttocks and running down her leg. For a moment she was embarrassed, but the feeling was quickly overcome by an acute surge of pain.

Still trying to figure out what to do, Cody saw Hannah tense again. He gripped her hand in silence, stunned by the piercing hurt locked on her face.

Several seconds later, Hannah relaxed and took a deep breath. “I’m not positive,” she said, “but if that was my first contraction, we may be mommy and daddy two weeks earlier than we thought.”

Elated, Cody held her in a big hug and said, “Can you believe it?” He started dancing around the table. “We’re going to be a family!” he shouted, as Hannah laughed.

THEIR CELEBRATION was soon tempered by the quickly recurring pains, and the rush to leave for the hospital. Within twenty-five minutes from the time Hannah’s water had broken, she was seated beside Cody in their Ford station wagon. He was timing her contractions, which now came at less than three-minute intervals. The quickly paced labor pains, coming so soon, made Cody nervous. He tried to relax, but it was all so new. And this was his wife, his baby.

This is happening too fast, he thought, calculating that the trip to the hospital would normally take twenty-five to thirty minutes. This time, he decided, it would have to be less than twenty. No stranger to speeding, he was confident he could meet the challenge.

He glanced at his wristwatch-5:51-just as they were leaving their residential area and approaching the nearest main road. One look ahead quickly confirmed a rising worry: It was rush hour. Traffic on the main road was packed, moving at only a fraction of the normal speed.

For the first time, Cody felt panic. To hide it, he forced a grin and said to Hannah, “I love adventure, but this is a little too much of the good stuff.”

She smiled briefly, before yielding to the start of yet another contraction.

Soon the eruptions of pain were less than two minutes apart. Hannah bravely fought back. Everything’s under control, she kept telling herself. Be strong, be strong. Impossible as it seemed, each contraction hurt worse than the last, worse than anything she had ever felt in her life.

“Just hang in there, babe,” Cody said. “I’ll get you there.”

The line of cars crept forward to an intersection which he realized was approximately their halfway point to the hospital. The flow of traffic halted again as he saw the same set of stoplights change to red for the second time. With mounting fear he looked at his watch: 6:16.

Suddenly, Hannah leaned forward, grabbed the dashboard with both hands, and screamed. Cody reached out and touched her shoulder. He was now almost beside himself with panic. “Are you going to make it?”

When her pain had passed its peak, she found her breath and shot back, “I don’t know… Just hurry!”

He knew then what he had to do. And on impulse, as if the adrenaline surging through him had switched on a machine, he did it.

Trying to take charge of this desperate situation, he lurched the station wagon out of their traffic lane. Sounding his horn and flashing his headlights, he charged through the intersection and down the avenue, straddling the middle line.

Hannah did little more than flinch. The thought of how crazy it all seemed flashed in and out of her mind.

“I’ll get you there,” she heard Cody say again.

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Joyce Meyer: A life of redemption and Destiny

My Review: I have been so behind on my reading again with busy life going on, but this book is for sure on my to be read shelf. This looks like an amazing story of God’s redemption when life hands you the really hard things! – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Joyce Meyer: A Life of Redemption and Destiny

Whitaker House (October 6, 2009)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

An educator, businessman, and 5th generation minister, Young’s previously published biographies include: The Rise of Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen, The Journey of T. D. Jakes, and Messengers of Healing — the story of Charles and Frances Hunter written with his wife, Brenda. The Youngs live in Oklahoma City. They have three children and ten grandchildren.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 185 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (October 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603741127
ISBN-13: 978-1603741125

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The Ashes

I shall not die, but live. (Psalm 118:17)

Our past experiences may have made us the way we are, but we don’t have to stay that way. —Joyce Meyer

By 1943, America had been at war for a year and a half. It would be two more years before her soldiers would return from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. On June 4, in the midst of this time of turmoil and sacrifice, Pauline Joyce Hutchison entered into the world. Although Pauline was her given name, it didn’t stick. Within the first few months, her family began calling her Joyce. Unknown to her parents were the two prophetic, if not ironic, aspects of that name. First, Joyce was a name from the Middle Ages originally only given only to men. Second, it was eventually made popular as a woman’s name because of its meaning: “one who rejoices.” Another ironic aspect to Joyce’s young life was that those war years were to be the most peaceful of Joyce’s entire childhood because the day after she was born, her father left to join the military, where he would serve for the next three years.

Joyce’s mother was raised on a Missouri farm many miles away from the urban streets of St. Louis. Joyce’s mother was only seventeen years old when she married—in many ways, still a child herself. With no job skills or trade, she was totally dependent on her husband for financial support. Joyce recalls that her mother frequently struggled with issues of self-esteem and never considered herself to be a person of value. Because of this, Joyce’s mother lived in fear of the fact that, in her mind, she would never be able to survive it if anything were to happen to her husband.

Joyce’s father had been raised deep in the hills of Kentucky. Because he was a blue collar worker with only a basic education, he supported the family by working hard manual labor jobs. By the time he returned home from the war, he was an extremely angry and bitter man, short tempered and seemingly unhappy with everything in his life. Besides his rage, he also returned home with a serious drinking problem. Whenever he drank, any self-control he had left, and his inner demons took over in ways usually directed at Joyce and her mother.

The Nightmare Begins

Today, Joyce does not remember a time in her early life when her father1 did not molest her. She assumes it began within months of his return from the military. He worked the swing shift from the middle of the afternoon until late in the evening. As a usual routine, he arrived home around midnight and began to drink. Joyce and her mother lived in such fear that even the sound of a key turning in the lock was enough to wake them, causing them to lie perfectly still in their beds hoping and praying to be left alone but knowing that was unlikely. As Joyce’s father began to drink, he would use the most foul and obscene language imaginable. He understood how to intimidate his family by the way he walked, the countenance of his face, and the words that came out of his mouth.

On many nights, Joyce and her mother would watch and listen for him to come up the front steps. As soon as they heard his stumbling footsteps, they would sneak out the backdoor in their nightgowns regardless of whether there was ice and snow or heat and humidity. There they would huddle together waiting for him to pass out in a drunken stupor so they could slink back into their beds. Joyce’s father controlled every moment of their lives, even when he wasn’t at home. He decided when they went to bed and when they awoke. He determined what they ate and when they ate it. He determined when they went out and when they stayed home. He decided what they watched on television. Sometimes he would scream and yell when Joyce’s mother spent money on food or other household necessities. Other times he would shower them with gifts and give them money to go shopping. They never knew which man would be coming home after work or which man would wake up in the morning. It was truly a Jekyll-and-Hyde-type of existence.

Joyce witnessed her father administer savage beatings to her mother under the influence of his alcoholic demons. Each day found the two women through a minefield around this man who could go from passive to explosive in an instant. He was like a piece of dynamite in the home and nobody knew if the fuse was lit or not. On some nights, there was an explosion, and on other nights, there was not. The lack of violence, however, did not mean there was ever peace in the home. The tension was constant.

Although her father never hit her, Joyce suffered for years from his sexual abuse. Joyce has described her father’s early life in this way: “He was born in the hills—way back in the hills. In his family, incest was just part of the culture.”1 Joyce’s grandparents on her father’s side were first cousins. In that time, and in that culture, the occasional sexual relations between cousins, siblings, and other family members were endured as an unaddressed “dirty little secret.” There were very few accusations, fewer investigations, and virtually no public convictions for these “private family matters.”

Today, most experts agree that a person’s personality is primarily formed in the first five years of life. If that is true, it is a miracle that Joyce survived those early years without becoming a severely disturbed human being. Fear was her constant companion. Through it all, her father was always careful not to do anything that would leave visual, physical evidence that would be noticed by her mother, teachers, or doctors.

The sheltered and demented world the Joyce grew up in taught her that this was something that every father and daughter did. Her father often told her that what they were doing was natural and good and that she was lucky to have a father who loved her so much. On one occasion, however, Joyce went to stay the night with her cousins. While there, she and one of her male cousins began to fondle each other. Not knowing any better, Joyce told this to her father, causing him to explode in anger. He made it clear to Joyce that this was only an activity shared between father and daughter and that she was never to do these things with anyone else. Without really understanding, Joyce did what her father said.

To the outside world, Joyce appeared to be a tough and bold little girl. As she grew older, it appeared to the world that Joyce couldn’t care less what people thought about her. On the inside, however, she was absolutely controlled by fear. She went so far as to create a pretend personality so that people would not see her true self. She did this partially to mask the pain but also as a way to protect herself. She did not enjoy what was going on, but in her mind, it was the only choice.

As she grew older, Joyce started going to school but was careful about making friends. At one point, Joyce befriended a little girl. During one of her overnight visits, this friend was also molested by Joyce’s father. Soon, her friend stopped coming over to visit, but she never told her parents about what happened. Joyce now knew that she could never develop a close friendship with any of the other girls at school. She didn’t want that to happen ever again. When Joyce became interested in boys, her father would ruin things by becoming jealous that she had “another man” in her life. Typically, her father either ran the boys off or Joyce broke up with them out of fear that her father might physically harm them.

Turning Points

Three things happened when Joyce turned nine years old. First, she finally worked up the courage to tell her mother about what her father had been doing to her. Looking back, it would be easy to assume that her mother must have known what was going on in her own home. After all, what did she think was happening whenever her husband made his frequent visits into Joyce’s room? Their lives were a twenty-four-hour house of horrors in which there was never any peace or relief. Perhaps all Joyce’s mother was able to recognize in those moments was that at least she wasn’t being beaten again.

After Joyce finally revealed her dark secret, her mother examined her for any physical signs of the abuse. When her father came home, she confronted him. He denied everything and insisted that Joyce was lying. After a long and heated discussion, Joyce’s mother chose to believe her husband, perhaps not wanting to face such a painful reality. This was a defining moment in Joyce’s life. She now felt betrayed by both her father and her mother. As an adult, Joyce has tried to rationalize her mother’s decision. If she had chosen to believe Joyce, it would have put them on the streets with no ability to work in order to put a roof over their heads or food on their table.

The second thing that happened at this time was that Joyce’s mother became pregnant. Although Joyce was thrilled with the expectation of a new brother or sister, she actually prayed for a sister who might divert her father’s deviate attention. Such an admission reveals the depths of pain that Joyce felt as a nine-year-old child who only wanted the pain to stop.

In time, her mother gave birth to a boy, David. Because they were nearly ten years apart in age, Joyce and David didn’t know each other very well growing up. He was still a child when she left home. By the time David was born, Joyce’s mother was running a boardinghouse to make extra money for the family. There were two tenants at that time: a lady named Arlene; and a man called Cotton, so named because his hair was so blonde that it seemed almost white. Joyce’s father accused her mother of having an affair with Cotton and, for a long time, denied that David was his son, only adding to the family’s tension level.

The third thing happened while Joyce was visiting the home of one of her cousins. They went to church, something that Joyce’s family never did. Because they had several visitors at the time, her cousin’s family first decided to skip church, but Joyce insisted that they go. She had been there before and had a specific reason for going on this particular Sunday. She knew that at the end of the service there was always a call for people to come forward and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. That was precisely what Joyce planned to do. She would later describe the event as a “glorious cleansing.”

Wouldn’t you know it, the pastor didn’t give an altar call that night. I sat there in my pew as long as I could, then I grabbed my two cousins’ hands and dragged them with me—“Come on, we’re going to get saved!” Through her tears, Joyce stammered to the surprised pastor, “Can you save me?” As she prayed, she felt the cleansing power of the Lord in her life. 2

All of her life, Joyce had endured the stain of incest. Now, for the first time in her nine-year-old life, she finally felt cleansed. “I always felt dirty. I was always washing, bathing, trying to get clean. And in this one moment, Jesus washed me, and He never left me.”3

The next day, while playing a game of hide-and-seek with her cousins, she cheated. Immediately, a feeling washed over her suggesting that she had betrayed God. She feared that because of her act of “sin,” the cleansing she had experienced would go away. By the time she was back at home, any feelings of being cleansed that she had found in church were gone. She would later say that she thought she had lost Jesus.

The Night Grows Darker

Things at home did not change. Now that her mother was pregnant, Joyce’s father only stepped up his perverse behavior. Whenever he demanded that Joyce meet him in the basement or the garage, she felt she had to go or else risk making him angry at her mother. When she went, the abuse became more and more deviant. He began to expose himself to her around the house, forced her to view pornography, and increased his physical contact with her.

By the time Joyce reached her teens, her father would announce to her mother that he was going to take her out for a driving lesson. Instead of driving, however, he would take her to a nearby cemetery where he would rape her in the backseat. This happened on several occasions. One night, they were actually caught in the act by a policeman. Joyce’s father lied and told the policeman that Joyce was his cousin and that she had “talked him into it”—as if that should have made a difference. Today, some consider the 1950s to be a time of innocence. In many ways, they were also a time of ignorance. Today, any older man having sexual relations with an underage girl, especially a family member, would be immediately arrested and forever branded as a sexual predator. Instead, incredibly, the policeman agreed to ignore the situation if he, too, could be intimate with Joyce. Her father agreed. An arrangement was made for Joyce to meet the policeman in a café. In a rare turn of fortune for Joyce, the policeman was called away by his police radio and she avoided having to go through with the vile plan.

Her father’s perversions were not limited to his daughter. Joyce’s aunt, her father’s own younger sister, was forced to join them in the cemetery during her stay with the family, proving that there were no limits to the demented state of her father’s mind and the actions it spawned. He was a man so controlled by his own selfish lusts that it did not matter to him whom he hurt.

Teen Years

Joyce began working at a job when she was thirteen. She didn’t want to depend on her father for anything. She also needed to establish something she could control in her chaotic life. If she could make even a little bit of money, it would be something she could control. Obviously, her father was not a man attuned to the needs of others, especially a daughter’s needs for pretty things, makeup, and getting her hair done. He had no desire for her to do anything that would make her less dependent on him or more attractive to others.

Because Joyce was a minor, she lied about her age. She was tall and mature looking for her age and easily passed for someone a few years older. She landed a job at the local dime store, and she also waited tables at small diners and cafes, which paid better because of tips. Besides getting her first taste of independence away from the controlling influence of her father, this also instilled in Joyce the importance of being able to manage her money wisely.

During this time, Joyce began to steal anything she could. She stole from her employers when no one was looking. She stole from family and friends when the opportunity presented itself. She once stole a pair of glasses from the mother of one of her friends even though she couldn’t use them without being discovered. She not only stole things, but she also lied constantly about anything and everything. As a young teen, it was her form of rebellion and made her feel smarter than other people.

When Joyce was fourteen, her mother walked in as her father was sexually abusing her. Joyce immediately thought, Thank God! Now she will put an end to it! Unfortunately, her mother stopped, momentarily stunned by the scene before her, then, as if she had seen nothing, picked up her purse and walked out. A few hours later, she returned but said absolutely nothing. It was as if the incident had never happened. In fact, her mother didn’t talk about it until many years later, long after Joyce had left home. When she did talk about it, she simply said that she had not known what to do, so she had done nothing. Without the courage to stand on her own two feet, Joyce’s mother felt that she had no choice but to live in denial. To acknowledge openly what she had witnessed would leave her with no option other than to leave her husband, and in her mind, divorce was not something she could consider. Thus, she sacrificed her daughter’s welfare and chose to remain silent.

When her mother became ill and went to the hospital, Joyce wrote her father a note begging him to stop molesting her. Because he worked nights, she put it on the kitchen table, where he would be sure to find it, and went to bed. When he got home and found the note, he became enraged, woke her out of a sound sleep, screamed at her, and shook his fist in her face. He warned her never to write anything like that ever again or she would regret it for the rest of her life.

High School Years

Joyce attended O’Fallon Technical High School in St. Louis, an institution that did not see its role as preparing students for college but rather for a life in trade professions. Students at O’Fallon were not considered “college material”—especially the women. For them, it was assumed that they would either get married right after graduation or work in menial, low-paying positions. Joyce was featured in the school yearbook, The Flame and Steel, with the June graduating class of the clerical department. It stated that she was trained in bookkeeping and listed her extracurricular activities as girls’ softball, student government, and Honorama—an honor society for students who excelled in scholarship, service, and attendance.

Many of her peers regarded Joyce as a leader. She was often sought out for advice. Others saw her, as one classmate recalled, as the “sharp-tongued” leader of a small but very close “in crowd” of girls who seemed more concerned with their hair and makeup than anything else. This provided Joyce with great cover and was a distraction from her home life. Later, one of her classmates would remark, “Getting out in front and leading the parade, that’s where she always wanted to be.”4

Despite the heinous environment in which she was imprisoned for so many years, Joyce was somehow demonstrating, even as a teen, some of the traits that would serve her so well in the years to come. She was determined not to allow her father’s abuse—or her mother’s betrayal—to determine who she would become in life. Joyce’s childhood would have destroyed many people, leaving them without the self-esteem or confidence to achieve anything in life. Although there would be many more hardships and poor choices ahead, Joyce was starting to emerge from decades of darkness and beginning to overcome the horrors she had endured. She was determined to not become the “trash” that her father had always claimed her to be. As she graduated from high school, Joyce began to take the first small steps toward breaking out of her situation and taking control of her life.

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My 31st birthday

was last week…..I am getting old!!
My sister made me a lemon pie!!! You have to never mind the mess behind us!
This was taken a couple of weeks ago by another friend!!!
<p>
There…two pictures of me in a row…..for me who hates pictures, that is pretty good! I am really thankful to have some wonderful friends who all wished me alot of happy birthdays and wonderful family to spend the day with and show me how much they care!  I have loved this last year being able to review more books which gives me more chances to have to read!!! It is a "job" now!!!  What a great thing!!

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Rocky Mountain Oasis by Lynette Bonner

My Review:
I have never really read an eBook before like this, but I have to say this book was worth any inconvenience of having to read it on the computer. This is an excellent historical fiction!!!
(Of course, if you buy the book, it comes in regular form, I just got it in e form to review it!)
A story of self-sacrifice and love, along with murder, romance and mail order brides all set with mystery and intrigue!
When Sky learns his cousin Jason has sent for a mail order bride, he feels duty bound to stop the marriage. His cousin is not a very nice man and Sky feels that he must intervene. Brooke Baker, the intended bride, is feels that no matter how horrible the marriage, it would have to be better than living with her abusive uncle as well as other past experiences. Marrying a complete stranger without baggage is hard enough, but Sky sacrifices his ideals to help a total stranger. While Sky and Brooke set out on this difficult marriage filled with misunderstandings and danger from a threatening stranger, you will feel the pain in Brooke’s heart as she meets her in-laws, for Sky as you see how he wants to do what is right and cry for the pain they have suffered as well as laugh at some of the things.

This book is very well written, I really enjoyed every word of it!
This book touches on some very key issues that relate in marriage that I am sure were huge issues with mail order brides. There is a wonderful story intermixed as well as the story of Jenny Chang and her husband. The love she had for the man although he was such an awful person, yet her forgiveness was amazing to read about. For me, I married someone I barely knew, so I tend to relate to mail order brides a bit….although I did know my husband 2 months before we married, I really related to Brooke’s feelings and emotions. Lynette does an excellent job making you feel the fear and the trauma from past abuse in her life and how it greatly effected each aspect of her future life as well as how hard it is to break through that. Plus the suspense part, just really keeps you on the edge of your seat!!! This is a great historical, mail order bride read……I highly recommend it!
– Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Rocky Mountain Oasis

OakTara (July 17, 2009)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for E-mailing me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

LYNNETTE BONNER, the daughter of missionaries, was born and raised in Malawi, Africa, graduated high school from Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya, and attended Northwest University in Washington, where she met her husband, Marty. A few years after their marriage, they moved to Pierce, Idaho. While studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin The Shepherd’s Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $18.95
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: OakTara (July 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602902143
ISBN-13: 978-1602902145

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Pierce City, Idaho Territory, August 1885

Evening shadows stretched long as Sky placed the last of the supplies onto his pack mule. The leather of the packs creaked as he settled them into place, cinching them down and making sure everything was in proper order. He stood in front of Fraser’s Mercantile for a moment scratching the mule behind its long gray ears, surveying Main Street.

A lone pine tree stood in the middle of the dusty street at the south end of town, its shadow falling due east. Summer crickets chirped lustily from the bushes nearby, and he could hear the occasional tink of bottle on shot glass emanating from Roo’s Saloon across the street.

From an upper story window in the Joss house, a Chinese woman emptied a pail of water onto the street, splattering mud on Gaffney’s Pioneer Hotel next door and leaving a small muddy patch in the alley between the buildings.

“Sky! You comin’ in here? Food’s gonna be cold ‘fore you ever set down to table!” A rough gravely voice interrupted his perusal of the town. He glanced up at the friendly, round face of Jed Swanson who leaned over the rail in front of his boarding house. “Food ain’t gonna be fit for hogs if’n you don’t get in here,” Jed complained, rubbing a plump hand down the front of his greasy, apron-clad belly.

A smile lit Sky’s face. Jed’s food always fell somewhere between cardboard and leather, but Jed invariably claimed that was because it had been left sitting too long.

“Your food? Fit for Hogs?” Sky asked sarcastically, unable to pass up the opportunity to tease his old friend.

“Hmmph!” Jed shook his wooden spoon at Sky and continued, “Mind your manners or you won’t be gettin’ any o’ my fine fixin’s.” He turned away, slamming the door as he went inside.

Giving the mule a friendly slap on the neck, and leaving him tied to the rail, Sky made his way up the steps to Jed’s Boarding House, the building next door to Fraser’s Mercantile. The rough wooden door opened on squeaking hinges as Sky entered, hanging his black Stetson on a peg in the wall. He ran his hands through blond curly hair as he scanned the room.

The light in the gloomy confines of the rugged log building emanated from a small oil lamp set in the middle of the dining table and a brightly burning fire in the fire place on the back wall. The stone and mortar hearth, stacked high with logs on one side, held the wrought-iron hook by which the coffee pot could be swung into the heat of the fire. Off to the left, on the back wall, he could see the dark shadow of the doorway that led to the rooms Jed rented out. As Sky turned to the right he could see several men already seated around the coarse plank table, shoveling food into their mouths as though it might disappear before their eyes, their forks clanking loudly against tin plates. Sky’s dark brown eyes glinted as he noticed his cousin, Jason, sitting in the dim light at the end of the table, his back to the wall. Jason looked as surly as ever.

Sauntering casually to an empty chair Sky sat down, his back to the room, and began to serve his plate listening to the conversation around him.

Fraser was speaking. “This boy is a lunatic, I tell you and he wants to court my Alice. She’s only fifteen and I sent her down to Lewiston to get an education not to court boys. So I just told him straight out, when I was down to Lewiston last, that he had better stay away from her. Now, with her being over seventy-five miles from here, that in itself wouldn’t give me a whole lot of comfort, since I wouldn’t trust that boy as far as I could throw him. But I also told Judge Rand that the boy was not to come around anymore and if anyone will make sure he don’t, it’ll be the judge.”

Sky’s mind wandered to the face of Sharyah, his blonde little sister back home. He wondered if the boys were coming to call on her already. She was just about the same age as Alice Fraser. Sky smiled to himself. Knowing Sharyah and her beautiful sunny smile, the boys were lined up for a mile outside of the little white farmhouse back in Shilo. Sharyah had me wound around her little finger for years. What would be different with the boys her own age? I’ll have to write Dad to keep a special eye on her for me.

Coming out of his reverie he tuned into the conversation around him, realizing that Fraser had moved on to a new subject.

“So I went to Chang and confronted him about this bogus gold.” He paused to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand, chewing for a moment. He glanced around the table, knife and fork held vertically by his plate in suspended animation. “Do you know he had the gall to admit to the whole thing? No remorse whatsoever!” He shrugged, speaking around the food in his mouth. “I just don’t know what else I can do.” He looked back down at his plate and continued to saw through the black slab that passed as a piece of meat.

Sky listened thoughtfully as he ate. He knew Lee Chang. His character was questionable at best and downright despicable at worst.

“Hmmph,” growled Jed, “that there Chinese is one man this here town could do ‘thout. He shorly is a cussed buzzard, that’n.”

A low snort came from the other side of the table and Sky looked down to the shadows at the end. The sound had come from his cousin Jason, a large man with unwashed blond curls covering his round head. A large belly, the result of his love of beer, protruded over his huge silver belt buckle, bumping the table. He belched loudly, then spoke. “This town would be better off if we got rid of all the Chinks. I tell you, I’ve never met a respectable Celestial. Not one. Always sneakin’ and spyin’. Lazy cusses, too.” He swiped his greasy mouth on his shoulder, the stain there proof that he did so often. Max, the miner sitting next to him, made no sound but nodded his head emphatically as he shoved a huge forkful of potatoes into his mouth.

“This town wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the Chinese, Jason.” Sky’s voice was nonchalant. He picked up his glass and took a drink of water, his dark eyes looking over the rim fixed on his burly cousin.

Jason snorted again, blowing through his nose. “You always were too partial to them Celestials, Sky. If you had any sense you’d realize the type of scum they really are.”

Sky changed the subject. “How have you been, Jason? Haven’t seen you for awhile.” His tone was friendly but Jason glared at him.

“You been pinin’ away for information on your beloved cousin?” he asked, his expression caustic.

Sky, accustomed to his cousin’s recent foul moods, shrugged his shoulders and turned back to his food, praying silently that one day his relationship with Jason would be restored.

Jed looked back and forth between Sky and Jason. He had known both men for a number of years and still couldn’t see how they could possibly be related. Jason was slovenly and rude, always ill-tempered and crass, but Jed had never known Sky to be any of those things. Sky had moved into the area five years ago and had been coming to Jed’s place faithfully ever since. Jed’s mind wandered back to the first time he met Sky.

While out hunting, he had shot and wounded a large cow elk. The cow had run off and Jed had followed the trail for several miles before he lost it. He was wandering about in the brush trying to recover the trail when he looked up and saw Sky standing before him. Never in all his born days had he been so surprised. Jed prided himself on being a woodsman with ears as keen as a fox, but he hadn’t heard Sky’s approach.

Clean shaven, Sky wore buckskin pants, soft leather moccasins and a beaded rawhide vest over a white, open-collared shirt. In one hand he held a long-barreled rifle. The hilt of a large knife protruded from a leather sheath at his hips, its polished deer-horn handle glimmering in the sunlight.

Sky grinned and tipped his black Stetson back on his head, revealing clean-cut curly blond hair. His dark, twinkling eyes scanned Jed for a moment before he spoke. “Lost it huh?” Switching the rifle to his left hand, he held out his right in Jed’s direction. “Name’s Skyler Jordan.”

Jed took his hand. “Jed Swanson.” Gesturing to the brush, he said, “She bled for quite a ways, but now,” he shook his head glancing around, “cain’t seem to pick up the trail.”

Sky nodded settling his hat back on his head. “Heard your shot. I was coming to lend a hand with the packing. Mind if I have a look around?”

Jed shook his head, his hand sweeping the area around them. “She’s all yours.” He figured Sky wouldn’t find anything, but he had been wrong. Within an hour they had gutted and skinned the cow and were headed back to town. Each of them packed a quarter of the animal with the other half strapped to Jed’s mule.

Jed shook his head at the memory. He had never met as skilled a woodsman as Skyler Jordan.

Bringing his mind back to the present, Jed fixed his eyes on Jason. “Ain’t you gonna tell ol’ Sky here about yer plans?” he asked sweetly, knowing full well that Jason didn’t want Sky to know what he was talking about.

The venomous look that Jason sent Jed piqued Sky’s interest. A smile twitched the corner of Jed’s mouth as Sky looked at his cantankerous cousin, one blond eyebrow raised in question.

Jason ignored him and went back to shoveling food into his mouth.

Sky turned his questioning eyes on Jed, continuing to eat calmly.

Jed spoke around a mouthful of meat. “Your cousin is soon gonna be married. Or so he’s been boastin’ all over town.”

Sky’s fork stopped half way to his mouth and he turned his brown eyes back to his cousin. What woman in her right mind would marry Jason?

Jason growled, throwing his fork onto his plate with a clatter. “Jed, some day I’ll teach you to keep yer yap shut.” He turned belligerent eyes on Sky. “That’s right. I got me a mail-order sweetheart comin’ in on tomorrow’s stage to Greer’s Ferry. I’m going to have me a purtty little wife to cook for me…and keep me warm at night.” He jabbed his elbow into Max’s ribs, a dissolute leer on his face.

Sky set his fork down quietly, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Pushing away from the table, he stood and walked over to the blackened coffee pot that sat near the fire, pouring himself a cup, movements deliberate and casual. His heart went out to the poor girl. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been so surprised.

“You got a picture of this woman?” His voice was nonchalant. He hooked a thumb through his belt loop, and watched Jason through the steam drifting up from his mug as he took a sip of coffee.

Jason gave his habitual snort. “Like I’d show it to the likes o’ you. Purtty little thing though. And young, too. Means she probably ain’t never been had before.” The lewd grin was back for a moment before he stuffed a large piece of meat into his cheek.

Sky’s expression did not change but he said, “Well, let me be the first to offer you my congratulations.” He lifted his coffee mug in a toast. “To the happy groom.” No one in the room responded; he had not expected them to. Turning back he looked into the fire, its reflection dancing in his dark eyes. The silence in the room was palpable, only the crackling of the fire and the clatter of silverware disturbed the stillness.

Quietly Sky prayed. Lord what should I do? I wouldn’t give a dog I liked to Jason. You know I care for him, Lord, but…. His prayer trailed off as he tried to think of a solution. Nothing came to mind. Remembering that he still had to travel home tonight, he set his cup down.

Turning to Jed he placed a hand on his stomach and grinned, “Best hog swill I’ve had in a long time, Jed.”

Jed glared at him, waving his fork in dismissal.

Turning to Fraser he said, “Been a pleasure, Fraser. See you again soon.”

Fraser turned to him with a friendly smile as he wiped the corners of his mouth with long slender fingers. “Sky, always good doing business with you.” Sky nodded his head and Fraser’s eyes held Sky’s for a moment, questioning what he was going to do about the situation before he turned back to his food.

Sky spoke to the rest of the men at the table. “Goodnight, gentlemen.” He pulled his hat from the peg by the door and pushed it back on his head as he exited onto the now-darkened street.

His boots making no sound in the soft dust of the road bed, he walked over to the rail in front of Fraser’s Mercantile and untied his mule, leading it further down the street toward the livery. Retrieving his stallion, he mounted up and cantered the horse out of town, leading the mule behind

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