Monthly Archives: May 2011

Some recipes I would love to try!!

Creamy Chicken Orzo with chicken, mushrooms and Red peppers This is going on the menu for next week! I have chicken, mushrooms and peppers in the freezer, so this could be a frugal meal too!

A Wedge salad– I have never made one before as they were always with iceberg, but this one looks great with romaine!!

Jalapeno Poppers- I wonder if you can make them without the bacon

Mango Quinoa salad with grilled chicken– This is even good for you!

Pineapple Rhubarb Strawberry Crumble- I have to go get some rhubarb, but this looks amazing!!

3 Comments

Filed under Bargain Dinners, Recipes

Rainy, rainy weather!

Today when the sun popped out, I was so happy to see it! It has been cold, wet and rainy and of course, I decided to try to have a garage sale on the wettest day of all!! I sold a few things, I have gone through alot of things and I have gotten rid of lots of stuff!!! I am so excited! I love getting rid of things, I am selective in my getting rid of stuff, but it is very nice. I should have taken a picture of me in a very ugly coat, but I was warm!!!

I am hoping with less stuff, means less cleaning, and more time for catching up on sewing, reading, and scrapbooking, which I am dreadfully behind on. Well, maybe not the reading, although I have barely had time for it lately.

We had a very small roof leak yesterday, with all the rain and sometimes these little things scare me. When, me, more afraid of ladders than heights, has to climb onto the roof….it is not a fun day. I look at the roof and wonder if I must get skilled at roofing repairs as well. A new roof should not leak, not one that is 3 years old, so I am pretty sure it is around the new vent we put in last year and needs some roofing cement. Yes, I picked up our handy home repair manual this morning, and learned some things. I also have to figure out why the electrical is not working in the garage. “sigh”.

I am sitting here with songs from “1776” drumming through my head, and finding that it is cheery, just to see the sunshine through the window. Now, I am off to find out why my husband popped a breaker!

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Happenings

Meal plan

Wednesday: Beef Stew, bread

Thursday: Beef Enchiladas, salad. I am using this recipe, but using a shredded beef and bean stew/chili I made the other night. I am going to be gone, so hopefully they like it.

Friday: Chicken pasta with cooking creme, tomato/cucumber salad

Saturday: Hot dogs, vegetables and dip, potato wedges

Sunday: Leftovers, popcorn, cookies

Monday: Skillet Chicken parmesan, pasta, salad

Tuesday:  Best drop biscuits, sausage gravy, green beans

Leave a comment

Filed under Bargain Dinners, Recipes

On the topic of vacation….

I never knew growing up that people went on vacations every year or that was normal! That is not to say we never did anything!

We did alot of traveling growing up and I was thinking of some of the things I enjoyed the most and which things I avoid now!

Camping is something my mom really enjoyed! I  am not a big fan, but my children really like it.  One way we worked this  out was  we found a nearby campground, we fixed a lot of food and we went to the campground early in the day. We spent the day hiking, doing camping things, playing, riding bikes, whatever, and then as evening started to come, I said goodbye and left my husband and older boys there to sleep and eat breakfast, and went home and slept on a real bed!!! It worked out perfectly, plus we found a campground that still had cell service, so they could call if they needed something.

There are a lot of out of the way places that many people miss out on, because they are not on the top of the tourist list. I remember when we lived in WA, visiting the underground Seattle, and I have since found out that many, many towns have undergrounds that many people do not even know are there. My own included! Many of the towns out west have alot of history, some of it is a little shady….but  I laughed to see that our old City hall used to be a brothel, until they turned it into the jail! = )

I think we discount the simple pleasures of having picnics,  reading on the edge of a lake, skipping rocks, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and spending time visiting with friends. Those things do not cost much money, and some of it can be done in your backyard! There are ways to make that cost more too, but keep things simple!

 

Here are some fun ideas too…..

Old Fashioned homemade ice cream party- We used to do this sometimes. We made homemade pizza and homemade ice cream.  Joy in my kitchen has some great recipes. She has homemade ice cream on there, popsicles, smoothies. Homemade ice cream sandwiches would be fun too!

 

 

Some fun summer recipes……

Taco in a bag

Ice cream in a bag

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Burrito Pizza

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Happenings, Recipes

Links to all the Staycation Posts around the country

New England

Connecticut – Parenting Miracles
Boston, Massachusetts – ‎ Maven of Savin’
Manchester, New Hampshire – Common Sense with Money
Western Maine – Bubblegum and Lollipops

Mid-Atlantic

Erie, Pennsylvania – Growing Kids Ministry
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Somewhat Crunchy
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Family Balance Sheet
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York – Coupons, Deals and More
New Jersey – Oh! Diane

Midwest

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Indoor Garden Musings
Mansfield, Ohio – Live the Adventure
Cincinnati, Ohio – Savings Lifestyle~Cincinnati
Mount Vernon, Ohio – Living Better One Day at a Time
Dayton, Ohio – Savings Lifestyle~Dayton
Grand Rapids, Michigan – Kitchen Stewardship
Metro Detroit, Michigan – “Cents”able Momma
Oakland County, Michigan – Bargain Shopper Mom
Warren, Michigan – Saving Dollars and Sense
Grand Forks, North Dakota – Frugal Front Porch
Indianapolis, Indiana – Bargain Briana
South Bend, Indiana – Excuse The Mess
Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri – Kansas City Mamas
St. Louis, Missouri – The Pickledpigsfeet
Branson, Missouri – Getting Freedom from Debt
Springfield, Missouri – I Think I Can
Rochester, Minnesota – Everyday Notions
York, Nebraska – Heavenly Homemakers
Omaha, Nebraska – Mom Endeavours
Madison, Wisconsin – Many Little Blessings
Oshkosh, Wisconsin – A Little Bit of This and That
Chicago, Illinois – Chicagoland Homeschool Network
Champaign, Illinois – Chambanamoms
Black Hills, South Dakota – Little House on the Prairie Living

South Central

Checotah, Oklahoma – Blessed With One Income
Tulsa, Oklahoma – Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
Gadsden, Alabama – Aint Mimi
Dallas, Texas – Funky Faith Girl
Dallas, Texas – Grocery Shop For FREE
East Dallas, Texas – Surviving The Stores
Fort Worth, Texas – Smockity Frocks
Austin, Texas – Stetted
Houston, Texas – Moms Travel Tales
McKinney, Texas – Wisdom Begun
East Texas – The Full Pantry
Murfreesboro, Tennessee – Life in a Barn
Nashville, Tennessee – The Country Chic Cottage
Mobile, Alabama – A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
Birmingham, Alabama – iGoBOGO
Brunswick & the Golden Isles, Georgia – Teri Lynne Underwood
Alpharetta, Georgia – Cuponeando
Atlanta, Georgia – See Jamie Blog
Augusta, Georgia – Hyperactive Lu
Athens, Georgia and Mississippi – Tractors and Tire Swings
Little Rock, Arkansas – It’s Real Life

South Atlantic

Ft. Bragg, North Carolina – Military Wives Saving
Charlotte, North Carolina – The Carolina Clipper
Charleston, South Carolina – The Tween & Me
Greensboro, North Carolina – Mrs. Happy Homemaker
Jacksonville, Florida – Saving The Family Money
Orlando, Florida – Orlando’s Best Deals
Virginia Beach, Virginia – The Singley Fam Blog
Richmond, Virginia – Daily Dwelling
Hampton Roads, Virginia – A Home Made by Kiki
Charlottesville, Virginia – How to Have it All
Blackwater Falls State Park/Davis, West Virginia – Holy Spirit Led Homeschooling
Treasure Coast, Florida – The Cardamom’s Pod
Saint Augustine, Florida – Jypsie Visions
Lake Norman, North Carolina – Stretching Pennies Saving Dollars
Washington, DC – The WiC Project
Baltimore, Maryland – The Happy Housewife

Mountain

Tucson, Arizona – Saving with Pam
Phoenix, Arizona – Sara Wellensiek
Albuquerque, New Mexico – The Chou Life
Kalispell, Montana – Our Family Adventures
Salt Lake City, Utah – Just the 2 of Us
Thermopolis, Wyoming – The McDonald Family
Denver, Colorado – Denver Bargains
Colorado Springs, Colorado – Colorado Springs Bargains

Pacific

San Diego, California – Life As Mom
Yosemite National Park, California -Handbook of Nature Study
Seattle, Washington – Queen Bee Coupons & Savings
Whidbey Island, Washington – Manning the Homefront
Olympia, Washington The Coupon Savant
Portland, Oregon – Frugal Living NW
Willamette Valley, Oregon – An Oregon Cottage

Frugal Vacation Tips

Vacation or Stay-cation: Eating without Busting the Budget – Eat at Home

Carrie Isaac
Colorado Bargains, LLC

http://www.SpringsBargains.com | http://www.DenverBargains.com
Helping Colorado families save money on the things they need, and enabling them to do things they couldn’t otherwise afford.

http://www.GroceryUniversity.com
The comprehensive {audio!} guide to slashing your grocery budget.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Staycation

We all know that gas prices have skyrocketed and while  many families  are forgoing vacations they might usually take, many of them don’t ever get one. But don’t worry!!! There are lots of things you can do to make a Staycation at home!!!

I am in in NW Montana, and these are things you could do in our area. It all depends on your budget, what things you could have in your budget to do! These are things you could do in a day trip or in an overnight trip.

 

These are all things you can do that are within 10 minutes- 45 minutes from the house:

Zone Fun center– This Family fun center is complete with laser tag, arcade games, pizza, bounce houses, bumper cars. This place is more focused on older kids, but there is areas for smaller children as well.

Cinemark Theaters will offer $1 movies this summer again, for a fun family activity!

Another fun thing to do in the area, is the Big Sky Waterpark in Columbia Falls

Big Sky Waterpark
7211 Highway 2 East
Columbia Falls, 7
(406) 892-5026
Located 4.14 miles from Timber Wolf Resort

 

Big Sky Waterpark offers enjoyment for the entire family. The park features a wading pool and a mini-slide for younger children, larger straight slides for kids too big for the wading pool, and giant slides with twists and turns for the older slider.
There is also a river ride with inner tubes offering even more fun and enjoyment. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the many picnic tables available. Picnics are a great way to cut back on expenses and yet still have an enjoyable day  out. 

Out of the water amenities include an 18 hole mini-golf course, gas operated bumper cars, catapulting water balloon game, beach volleyball and a kid’s arcade. The gift shop offers a wide variety of Montana souvenirs.

Both of these options are a little bit on the pricey end, but are cheaper than if you spent all the gas money to drive to one farther away. It is not one of the cheaper options, but they are so close, if you would like  to visit a water park or bumper cars…these are great options.

When I think about the best memories I have from growing up, I realize that vacation does not have mean alot of money spent, it has more to do with time spent with those you love! 

What about a visit to an old fashioned A&W Root beer floats in Columbia Falls, Mt?  A hike up Lone Pine State Park?

Lone Pine State Park info....Take a look at that view! This trail is easy enough that small children will enjoy it, without alot of carrying. There is little chance of as much danger as in some other hiking trails.

Camping at Big Arm State park-The mature ponderosa pine and juniper trees provide shade and campground solitude. The beach is popular on the hotter days with swimmers and sunbathers while the nature trails provide excellent bird watching opportunities.

Camping and yurt rentals are available through September, while park and boat ramp are open year round. Reservations for yurts can be made online or by phone.

Located on the Flathead Indian Reservation so you’ll need a Montana fishing license and a Confederated Salish Kootenai tribes fishing license.

Potable water, garbage bins, showers, restroom facilities, trailer hookups and fire rings are available. More information is available at http://fwp.mt.gov/parks/visit/bigArm/

How to get there: From Kalispell, take U.S. Highway 93 south around the west side of Flathead Lake. Look for the Big Arm State Park sign just north of Big Arm.

Wayfarer’s Campground– This campground is located in Bigfork. A mature mixed forest makes this site very pleasant for camping and picnicking. From spring to late fall the area abounds in wildflowers. Nature walks over the rocky shoreline to the cliffs are popular with photographers for the excellent view of Flathead Lake. The site offers group day-use, flush and vault toilets, RV dump station, bear resistant storage locker, public phone, grills/fire rings, firewood, picnic tables, trash cans, and drinking water. There is a playground in the woods for the young ones, and a beautiful, easy hiking trail. You can walk down to the beach along the Flathead Lake.

DIRECTIONS
Flathead Lake is located between Kalispell and Polson on Highway 93 and 95. Wayfarers State Park is located 0.5 mile south of Bigfork on Montana Highway 35.

Whitefish Mountain Resort at Big mountain

Zipline tours– These cost about $59, so sort of spendy, but something unusual to do in the area!

Alpine Slide- These cost about $8 for one ride-$24 for 4 rides, children under 4 foot ride for free with adult.

Walk in the treetops– You have to be at least 54″ tall and be able to wear a safety harness. This cost $51

Flathead county Library reading program: They have not put up the new info yet on this year’s reading program, but this is a fun summer activity. We enjoy it every year. They have  age related activities for each child  with reading incentives with prizes.  You usually sign up the week after school ends. The library has many new things, since they converted to the “Imagine If” library. There is always something going on there.

Here is a link to view some of their events….Events…http://www.flatheadcountylibrary.org/events/#explore

Arts in the park is an event that takes place in July 22-24th. There is music, entertainment, booths, and food venders all weekend. It is very reasonable to attend!  Daily Admittance $3, Weekend pass $5, Children 6 and under Free

Historical Kalispell Walking tourhttp://www.downtownkalispell.com/historical-walking-tour

– This is really enjoyable! We combined it with a night in the Kalispell Grand Hotel when we participated in it. It was a great way to make it come alive.

http://www.kalispellgrand.com/ It is a bit expensive, but they have some deals if you call and ask for them, especially if you are a bigger group. Finish it off at Norm’s News- an old fashioned soda fountain and candy shop for the full experience.

 

 


If you would like to do a bit of driving, there is this!

These things are within 2 hours away:

This is the Miracle of America Museum– it is welcoming to children/Under age 2 is free, over 2 is $2, and adults $5 each. Many of the exhibits are very kid friendly.
Photobucket

Kootenai Falls – This is a little drive, about an hour and half. Kootenai Falls is very beautiful and a nice easy walk that even the littlest children can do. You have to watch them close to the falls, but the swinging bridge is always a hit. You have to be careful if you are afraid of heights, but the view is so lovely, it is worth a little fear!

Ross Creek Cedar’s– is a fun walk and sight to see with beautiful trees, some over 200 years old. There is picnic grounds as well.

Annual Amish Auction- This is held on the West Kootenai Amish Community, and it is about an hour and half to 2 hour drive. They have homemade pie, BBQ chicken dinner, booths, quilt auction, log cabin auction and much more. This one is held June 14th, 2014. There is an old fashioned schoolhouse with a playground. The kids will have a blast exploring, buying  kettle corn and homemade ice cream while getting lost in the crowd!

 

There is also one held in Mission Valley, Mt as well. This one is July 10th. They are both alot of fun and good family activities. It is a fun way to also experience and view the Amish lifestyle in a respectful way.

Ranger led activities in Glacier Park– Here is a link to all kinds of things to do with your children in Glacier Park

Cherry Events in the area- Polson Cherry Festival Cherry orchards are plentiful in the area, and it can be a fun summer activity to pick cherries together, whether you want to eat them or can them.

Fort Steele- This is a bit of drive, but still a day drive. It is about 2.5 hours, but it is worth the drive. This historical town, you will feel like you stepped into history! You will buy candy in the old candy store, and see the politician  giving speeches like he would have in the time period. There is camp grounds nearby to spend some times camping if you want to spend more time. The town of Cranbrook is within 30 minutes of the fort and has many hotels, restaurants and shopping to explore.

Tobacco Valley Historical Village– This cute little village is set up on the outskirts of Eureka and has several different buildings.

 

From local businesses:

Something as easy as a visit to Home depot  or Lowe’s can be a fun afternoon activity to do this summer. On Saturday’s  both of these place offer kids clinic’s where children build small building projects that parents can participate with their kids. These are things that should be available as long as you have  those stores in your town.

Lowes
Home Depot
Or you can always just play on the lawn tractors!!!
Photobucket

 

Flathead Valley Community College Kid’s College:

Classes run during the summer session with half-day offerings for a variety of interests, abilities, and grade levels.  A sample of previous offerings include:

  • African Safari
  • Galapagos Island Adventure
  • Exploring with Lewis & Clark
  • Junior Chef’s Training Program
  • Science Explorations
  • Art Around the World
  • Super Spy Camp
  • Seven Wonders of the World

The teaching staff provides extraordinary learning opportunities that stimulate creative minds, build healthy bodies and challenge adventurous souls.

Jumping Jacks Funhouse-

Starting the week of June 5th the new hours will be as follows:
Thursdays and Fridays – 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Sundays – 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Saturdays reserved for private parties.
Monday through Wednesdays will still be available for private parties, field trips, private events,
and our new Just Jump parties.

$7.00 per child
• remember, after five full price jumps get one free with punch card!
• under 2 years old free with paid sibling
• parents are always free!
• we no longer accept checks but we do take cash, debit, Visa MasterCard, and Discover.
There are also a couple other gyms in the area, if the weather is not cooperating with playing out of doors.
There is also the TimeOUT Indoor Playground in Kalispell.

Come enjoy “Country Western Dining in the Barn” with live entertainment for the whole family in our “Wild Horse Saloon and Eatery” ~ We also offer sunset dinners that includes trail rides. ~ reservations required.

  • Located in beautiful Northwest Montana only 30 minutes from Glacier International Airport and less than an hour from Glacier National Park in the Wild Rocky Mountains is a nest of western culture and fun that has no match. Lonesome Dove Guest Ranch is the place you have always been looking for.
  • Sporting a range of experienced wranglers and well-trained trail horses, the ranch is just bursting with possibility. You can even get married on the trail, in our Indian Village. Breath-taking scenery and home cooking only add to the fun you can find. You won’t be able to get enough. Truly one of its kind, Lonesome Dove offers anything your heart may desire.
  • If you are looking for a fantastic and memorable time for yourself or your entire family, Lonesome Dove Guest Ranch is a sure bet. You can get Bed and Breakfast for you AND your horse (that’s right, you can bring your own horse). Children are taught the “safe methods” of horsemanship and riding. Helmets are provided for safety for adults and children.
  • If its riding, scenery, hospitality, fun, or pure enjoyment that you are a looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
PLEASE NOTE RULES:  Personal safety instructions will be provided prior to each ride.  Lonesome Dove Guides must accompany all rides.  Riding double is not permitted. Children must be 7 years old to ride.  A trail ride release form must be signed by each rider prior to riding.  Children under the age of 18 must have release form signed by parent to ride.Rate Link- http://www.lonesomedoveguestranch.com/rates.html

 

 

 

27 Comments

Filed under Daily Happenings

False Witness by Randy Singer

My Review:
Clark Shealy is a man who gets what he wants. He is good at his job as a bail bondsman, and can be ruthless in the business. When his wife is kidnapped and held for the capture of another man, he discovers how ruthless he thinks he can be. A court case, four years later, for law student Jamie Brock, has her perplexed. She wonders who is involved, and is mistrustful! When her dog is kidnapped, and she finds out her clients are part of the witness protection program, the case just gets more and more dangerous. Running from the feds and the Chinese Mafia, her and her fellow students wonder if they have all the pieces to the puzzle.
This thriller is strung together well and will keep you reading long into the night when you should be sleeping! You will be wondering with Jamie, if she will survive to graduate and if the bad guys are going to win or lose. This book is more thriller and there is the smallest hint of romance, but it is pretty much just more exciting stuff. It is one that could be good for teens, especially the hints on the persecution in India of the church. -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:

False Witness

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned 10 legal thrillers, including his award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine’s select list of “Legal Elite” litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his “Jekyll and Hyde thing”—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife’s life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor’s church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they’re on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

An adrenaline-laced thrill ride, this retelling of one of Randy Singer’s most critically acclaimed novels takes readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and the legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414335695
ISBN-13: 978-1414335698

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

MONDAY, AUGUST 9

THE LONGEST THREE DAYS of Clark Shealy’s life began with an expired registration sticker.

That was Clark’s first clue, the reason he followed the jet-black Cadillac Escalade ESV yesterday. The reason he phoned his wife, his partner in both marriage and crime . . . well, not really crime but certainly the dark edge of legality. They were the Bonnie and Clyde of bounty hunters, of repo artists, of anything requiring sham credentials and bold-faced lies. Jessica’s quick search of DMV records, which led to a phone call to the title holder, a Los Angeles credit union, confirmed what Clark had already guessed. The owner wasn’t making payments. The credit union wanted to repo the vehicle but couldn’t find it. They were willing to pay.

“How much?” Clark asked Jessica.

“It’s not worth it,” she replied. “That’s not why you’re there.”
“Sure, honey. But just for grins, how much are we passing up?”
Jessica murmured something.

“You’re breaking up,” Clark said.

“They’d pay a third of Blue Book.”

“Which is?”

“About forty-eight four,” Jessica said softly.

“Love you, babe,” Clark replied, doing the math. Sixteen thousand dollars!
“Clark—”
He ended the call. She called back. He hit Ignore.

Sixteen thousand dollars! Sure, it wasn’t the main reason he had come to Vegas. But a little bonus couldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the vehicle came equipped with the latest in theft protection devices, an electronically coded key supplied to the owner. The engine transmitted an electronic message that had to match the code programmed into the key, or the car wouldn’t turn over.

Clark learned this the hard way during the dead hours of the desert night, at about two thirty. He had broken into the Cadillac, disabled the standard alarm system, removed the cover of the steering column, and hot-wired the vehicle. But without the right key, the car wouldn’t start. Clark knew immediately that he had triggered a remote alarm. Using his hacksaw, he quickly sawed deep into the steering column, disabling the vehicle, and then sprinted down the drive and across the road

.

He heard a stream of cursing from the front steps of a nearby condo followed by the blast of a gun. To Clark’s trained ears, it sounded like a .350 Magnum, though he didn’t stay around long enough to confirm the make, model, and ATF serial number.

◁▷

Six hours later, Clark came back.

He bluffed his way past the security guard at the entrance of the gated community and drove his borrowed tow truck into the elegant brick parking lot rimmed by manicured hedges. He parked sideways, immediately behind the Cadillac. These condos, some of Vegas’s finest, probably went for more than a million bucks each.

The Caddy fit right in, screaming elegance and privilege—custom twenty-inch rims, beautiful leather interior, enough leg room for the Lakers’ starting five, digital readouts on the dash, and an onboard computer that allowed its owner to customize all power functions in the vehicle. The surround-sound system, of course, could rattle the windows on a car three blocks away. Cadillac had pimped this ride out fresh from the factory, making it the vehicle of choice for men like Mortavius Johnson, men who lived on the west side of Vegas and supplied “escorts” for the city’s biggest gamblers.

Clark speed-dialed 1 before he stepped out of the tow truck.
“This is stupid, Clark.”

“Good morning to you, too. Are you ready?”

“No.”
“All right. Let’s do it.” He slid the still-connected phone into a pocket of his coveralls. They were noticeably short, pulling at the crotch. He had bought the outfit on the spot from a mechanic at North Vegas Auto, the same garage where he borrowed the tow truck from the owner, a friend who had helped Clark in some prior repo schemes. A hundred and fifty bucks for the coveralls, complete with oil and grease stains. Clark had ripped off the name tag and rolled up the sleeves. It felt like junior high all over again, growing so fast the clothes couldn’t keep up with the boy.

He popped open the hood of the wrecker, smeared his fingers on some blackened oil grime, and rubbed a little grease on his forearms, with a dab to his face. He closed the hood and walked confidently to the front door of the condo, checking the paper in his hand as if looking for an address. He rang the bell.

Silence. . . . He rang it again.

Eventually, he heard heavy footsteps inside and then the clicking of a lock before the door slowly opened. Mortavius Johnson, looking like he had barely survived a rough night, filled the doorway. Clark was tall and slender—six-three, about one-ninety. But Mortavius was tall and bulky—a brooding presence who dwarfed Clark. He wore jeans and no shirt, exposing rock-solid pecs but also a good-size gut. He didn’t have a gun.
Clark glanced down at his paper while Mortavius surveyed him with bloodshot eyes.

“Are you Mortavius Johnson?”

“Yeah.”
“You call for a tow?”

Mortavius’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. The big man glanced at the pocket of Clark’s coveralls—no insignia—then around him at the tow truck. Clark had quickly spray-painted over the logo and wondered if Mortavius could tell.

Clark held his breath and considered his options. If the big man caught on, Clark would have to surprise Mortavius, Pearl Harbor–style, with a knee to the groin or a fist to the solar plexus. Even those blows would probably just stun the big man momentarily. Clark would sprint like a bandit to the tow truck, hoping Mortavius’s gun was more than arm’s length away. Clark might be able to outrun Mortavius, but not the man’s bullet.

“I left a message last night with the Cadillac dealer,” Mortavius said.
The Cadillac dealer. Clark was hoping for something a little more specific. “And the Cadillac dealer called me,” Clark said, loudly enough to be heard on the cell phone in his pocket. “You think they’ve got their own tow trucks at that place? It’s not like Caddies break down very often. If everybody could afford a Caddie, I’d go out of business.”
Clark smiled. Mortavius did not.

“What company you with?” he asked.

“Highway Auto Service,” Clark responded, louder still. He pulled out the cell phone, surreptitiously hit the End button with a thumb, then held it out to Mortavius. “You want to call my office? Speed dial 1.”
Mortavius frowned. He still looked groggy. “I’ll get the keys,” he said.
He disappeared from the doorway, and Clark let out a breath. He speed-dialed Jessica again and put the phone back in his pocket. He glanced over his shoulder, then did a double take.

Give me a break!

Another tow truck was pulling past the security guard and heading toward Mortavius’s condo. Things were getting a little dicey.

“I left some papers in the truck you’ll need to sign,” Clark called into the condo. But as soon as the words left Clark’s mouth, Mortavius reappeared in the doorway, keys in hand.

Unfortunately, he glanced past Clark, and his eyes locked on the other tow truck. A glint of understanding sparked, followed by a flash of anger. “Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

“I told you . . . the Cadillac place.”

“The Cadillac place,” Mortavius repeated sarcastically. “What Cadillac place?”

“Don’t remember. The name’s on the papers in my truck.”
Mortavius took a menacing step forward, and Clark felt the fear crawl up his neck. His fake sheriff’s ID was in the tow truck along with his gun. He was running out of options.

“Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

Clark stiffened, ready to dodge the big man’s blows. In that instant, Clark thought about the dental work the last incident like this had required. Jessica would shoot him—it wasn’t in the budget.
A hand shot out, and Clark ducked. He lunged forward and brought his knee up with all his might. But the other man was quick, and the knee hit rock-solid thigh, not groin. Clark felt himself being jerked by his collar into the foyer, the way a dog might be yanked inside by an angry owner. Before he could land a blow, Clark was up against the wall, Mortavius in his face, a knife poised against Clark’s stomach.

Where did that come from?

Mortavius kicked the door shut. “Talk fast, con man,” he hissed. “Intruders break into my home, I slice ’em up in self-defense.”
“I’m a deputy sheriff for Orange County, California,” Clark gasped. He tried to sound official, hoping that even Mortavius might think twice before killing a law enforcement officer. “In off hours, I repo vehicles.” He felt the point of the knife pressing against his gut, just below his navel, the perfect spot to start a vivisection.
“But you can keep yours,” Clark continued, talking fast. “I’m only authorized to repo if there’s no breach of the peace. Looks like this situation might not qualify.”

Mortavius inched closer. He shifted his grip from Clark’s collar to his neck, pinning Clark against the wall. “You try to gank my ride at night, then show up the next morning to tow it?”

“Something like that,” Clark admitted. The words came out whispered for lack of air.

“That takes guts,” Mortavius responded. A look that might have passed for admiration flashed across the dark eyes. “But no brains.”
“I’ve got a deal,” Clark whispered, frantic now for breath. His world was starting to cave in, stars and pyrotechnics clouding his vision.
The doorbell rang.

“Let’s hear it,” Mortavius said quietly, relaxing his stranglehold just enough so Clark could breathe.

“They’re paying me six Gs for the car,” Clark explained rapidly. He was thinking just clearly enough to fudge the numbers. “They know where you are now because I called them yesterday. Even if you kill me—” saying the words made Clark shudder a little, especially since Mortavius didn’t flinch—“they’re going to find the car. You let me tow it today and get it fixed. I’ll wire four thousand bucks into your bank account before I leave the Cadillac place. I make two thousand, and you’ve got four thousand for a down payment on your next set of wheels.”
The doorbell rang again, and Mortavius furrowed his brow. “Five Gs,” he said, scowling.

“Forty-five hundred,” Clark countered, “I’ve got a wife and—”
Ughh . . . Clark felt the wind flee his lungs as Mortavius slammed him against the wall. Pain shot from the back of his skull where it bounced off the drywall, probably leaving a dent.

“Five,” Mortavius snarled.

Clark nodded quickly.

The big man released Clark, answered the door, and chased away the other tow truck driver, explaining that there had been a mistake. As Mortavius and Clark finished negotiating deal points, Clark had another brilliant idea.

“Have you got any friends who aren’t making their payments?” he asked. “I could cut them in on the same type of deal. Say . . . fifty-fifty on the repo reward—they could use their cuts as down payments to trade up.”

“Get out of here before I hurt you,” Mortavius said.

◁▷

Clark glanced at his watch as he left the parking lot. He had less than two hours to return the tow truck and make it to the plastic surgeon’s office. He speed-dialed Jessica.

“Highway Auto Service,” she responded.

“It didn’t work,” Clark said. “I got busted.”
“You okay?”

He loved hearing the concern in her voice. He hesitated a second, then, “Not a scratch on me.”

“I told you it was a dumb idea,” Jessica said, though she sounded more relieved than upset. “You never listen. Clark Shealy knows it all.”
And he wasn’t listening now. Instead, he was doing the math again in his head. Sixteen thousand, minus Mortavius’s cut and the repair bill, would leave about ten. He thought about the logistics of making the wire transfers into accounts that Jessica wouldn’t know about.
Pulling a con on pimps like Mortavius was one thing. Getting one by Jessica was quite another.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Secrets of the heart by Jillian Kent

Secrets of the heart
by Jillian Kent

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Madeline Whittington is just coming out of mourning, in the year 1817. She has lost her father, her siblings and does not trust anyone that is of the medical field to be of much use. Surgeons, I would have to say, the least.
When she meets the new Earl of Ravensmoore and discovers the part he played in her father’s death, she is very upset and struggles with learning to like him as a person, and maybe as a man. But as she gets to know him more, and discovers that there may be more to him than just a surgeon, she struggles with her feelings.

Wrapped in this is unique history of mental illness in the the early 1800’s in England as well as how the mental health facilities functioned.

I found it interesting how they were learning from doing surgery and had sawdust under the man that were operating on to soak up the blood! Sawdust gets everywhere and in everything and I was wondering if that may have played a role in infections!!!
The author did an excellent job of weaving an intriguing story with mystery, romance and history all combined into one! I would love to read more by this author! – 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:

Secrets of the Heart

Realms (May 3, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jillian has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers for several years. She has also been a member of Romance Writers of America for 20 years and a member of The Beau Monde, Kiss of Death, and Faith, Hope, and Love specialty chapters of RWA. With a master’s degree in social work, Jillian is employed as a counselor for nursing students, which reflects within the pages of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, which won the 2009 Inspiration for Writers contest, previously finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, the Noble Theme, and Faith, Hope, and Love’s Touched by Love contests.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Madeline Whittington, daughter of the deceased Earl of Richfield, emerges from English society’s prescribed period of mourning in the winter of 1817. Madeline believes that she no longer belongs in a world of gossip and gowns after experiencing multiple losses. When she rescues a runaway from Ashcroft Insane Asylum, her life will be forever changed as she discovers the dark secrets within the asylum walls.
Because of his elder brother’s unexpected death, Devlin Greyson becomes Earl of Ravensmoore and struggles between two worlds: one of affluence and privilege and one of poverty and disease. Torn between his desire to become a doctor and the numerous responsibilities of his title, he wrestles with God’s calling for his future. Will he be able to honor this God-given gift and win the woman he falls in love with in a society that does not value gentlemen who work? And will Lady Madeline be able to honor her father’s memory when she is attracted to the man she holds responsible for her father’s death?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161638185X
ISBN-13: 978-1616381851

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue

Yorkshire, England, 1817
Who’s there?” Lady Madeline Whittington reined her horse in and listened. She looked into the dense, wooded edge of the forest of Richfield, her family home. “Did you hear something, Shakespeare?” She petted her gelding’s neck. The horse’s ears pricked forward. She studied the fading sun. Darkness would close in soon. It would be unwise to tarry over long. The forest edges, thick with bare brambles now, would become heavy with foliage in the next few months. If she was fortunate, the blackberries would return. Last year’s winter had been harsh, and she’d had to go without that succulent treat. A shadow flitted from within, causing a branch to tremble. “Come out.” Madeline hardened her voice. “Come out at once.”

Papa had taught her to be firm and bold when encountering the unknown, but also cautious. She reached for the revolver in her pocket wishing she hadn’t sent Donavan, their groomsman, on ahead. But she’d desperately wanted to ride alone for a few short minutes.

Two huge brown eyes in a tear-streaked and muddy face peered between parted branches held back by long slim fingers. Blood trickled from scratches on the girl’s arms and hands.
“Who are you? Why did you not answer me?”

The eyes grew wider.
Madeline’s heart softened along with her voice.

“It’s safe. I won’t hurt you.” She tore a hunk of bread from a leather pouch strapped across her shoulder. “Are you hungry?” She offered a large portion. Crumbs fell.

The girl took a step toward her and bit her lower lip. Bruises colored the young woman’s wrists and ankles, her only covering a torn chemise and ill-fitting shoes with no laces.

“What’s your name? Can you understand me?”

Brown Eyes held out a hand.
“You are hungry. Of course you are. Come closer. I’m going to toss the bread to you. Is that all right?”

The pitiful creature nodded and held out both hands.

She understands me. Madeline aimed and carefully threw the bread.

The silent stranger caught it and stuffed the bounty into her mouth so fast that Madeline feared the girl might choke.

“Will you come with me?” Madeline held out her hand. “You may ride with me.”
Brown Eyes stepped back.
“Don’t go. It’s dangerous. You cannot stay here. I won’t hurt you.”

The girl looked into the woods at the lowering sun and then at Madeline’s outstretched hand. Brown Eyes stepped backward. One step. Two steps.

“Wait.” Madeline unbuttoned her cape. “Take this. It’s far too cold with only a chemise to cover you. You’ll freeze to death.” She threw the long, fur-lined wrap to Brown Eyes.

The girl gathered the offering and backed into the forest, keeping her eyes locked on Madeline’s until she turned and ran.

“No! Wait. Please wait.” Madeline searched for a way through the thicket. Not finding any, she pushed her mount farther north until she found an entry. How could she help this girl without scaring her out of her wits? She found the girl’s path. Darkness chased them.

“Where are you?” Madeline shouted. “It’s too dangerous.”

Shakespeare’s ears pricked forward, and she caught the sound of scurrying ahead and then spotted Brown Eyes. Low-hanging branches attacked Madeline, clawing her with their long-reaching arms as she herded the girl toward a nearby hunting cabin. Minutes

later they broke through the trees and entered a clearing where the outline of a small cabin was silhouetted against the fast-approaching night sky.
Pulling her mount to a stop, Madeline kicked her booted foot out of the stirrup and narrowly avoided catching her skirt on the pommel as she slid to the ground.
“I won’t hurt you,” Madeline called. The girl hesitated and then ran again. Gathering up her skirt, Madeline chased after the girl, grabbing for the cape that trailed behind. She easily caught the girl, who fell to the ground in a heap and rolled into a ball with the cape wrapped around her.

Madeline knelt beside her and spoke gently. “Please don’t run. I’m not going to take the cape from you. It’s yours. A gift.”

Brown Eyes panted with fear.
“It’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help.” Madeline patted the girl’s shoulder.

She flinched.
“I’m sorry you are afraid. I want you to stay here. See the cabin? You can stay here.”
The girl peeked out from behind the cape, her ragged breathing easing from the chase through the woods. She looked at the cabin and then at Madeline.

“I know you’ve suffered something horrid. Come. You’ll be safe here. Trust me.” Madeline stood and offered a hand up.

Brown Eyes took her hand and followed her into the cabin.

One
Each one sees what he carries in his heart.

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you ever made a mistake?” Madeline settled into her saddle, avoiding her friend’s probing gaze. Anxiety rippled through her as she stroked the neck of her large bay gelding while they waited for the hunting horn to sound.
“Not to my recollection.” Lady Gilling gathered her reins. “I’m quite good at avoiding them.”
“I shouldn’t have come.” Madeline’s gloved hands trembled. “I hate hunting.” She’d tried to avoid the ride today. She wanted to visit her brown-eyed fugitive, and she’d been unable to take food to the girl this morning because of the hunt. Mother had insisted she rejoin society this morning, and she’d enlisted her best friend Hally, Lady Gilling, to be certain that she rode today.

“You used to love the hunt.” Hally circled her dappled gray mare around Madeline’s horse, inspecting Madeline as though she were about to enter the ballroom instead of the final hunt of the season.

Madeline shook her head. “You’re wrong. I love riding, not hunting.”

“Perhaps. However, at one and twenty, you are far too young to give up on this world. And even though I’m only two years your elder, I’ve had my sorrows too, and I have found ways to battle the pain. You must do the same.”
“I’m sorry, Hally.” The heat of shame spiraled into her cheeks despite the sting of the cold, early spring air. She thought of her brother and sister who had died during the past two years and of Papa who had joined them last year. What could be worse—losing

siblings and a parent or a beloved husband, as Hally had only two years ago?
Madeline’s horse pranced in rhythm to her rising anxiety. “Easy, Shakespeare. Easy, boy.” She tried to focus on the gathering outside Lord Selby’s manor house where horses and riders crowded together in a flurry of anticipation. She took a deep breath to rein

in her frustration and hoped her mount would settle down along with her. “Hally, you pick the most difficult of times to discuss such personal issues.”
Hally edged her mount next to Madeline’s horse. “I do this because you have been in hiding ever since your father died. If you refuse to mix in polite society, they will refuse you.”

“Have I become a ghost?” Mist floated over the fetlocks on her horse, a dreamlike ground covering that made it seem like they waited in the clouds. “Do you not see me?” She wanted to slip away from this show of rejoining society. She wanted to check on the girl. She wanted to leave. “Does society not see me here today?”

“For the first time in a year at the hunt.” Hally reached over and pushed back the netted veil that covered Madeline’s face, tucking the material into her hat. “There, that’s much better. Now everyone can see you.”
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” She reached up to pull the veil back into place, but Hally stopped her.

“Your mother worries, Maddie. Since your father died, you have refused to mingle, you have refused to travel, and until today you have refused to ride with the hunt. Your father would have scolded you for such behavior.”
Madeline’s chin trembled. “That was cruel. I enjoyed the hunt because Papa loved it when I rode with him. He’s gone now. I don’t have to hunt to ride.”
Hally lowered her voice. “I’m sorry. I know you miss him, but society’s prescribed period of mourning is quite enough. I’ve always believed six months far too long, and here you are six months after that. You need not suffer further isolation.” She leaned closer and whispered. “For heaven’s sake, Maddie, your mother is out of mourning.”

“I’m afraid she thinks of allowing Lord Vale to court her.” There, she’d said it aloud. “May God forgive her. She dishonors Papa’s memory.”
“So that is what worries you. Your mother is interested in a man.”

“He’s not just a man, Hally. He’s Lord Vale, and there’s much speculation about his actions and investments. Yet here I am, pretending all is well.” Madeline lifted her chin and watched her breath dissipate like puffs of smoke on the wind.

“Pretending is a fine art.” Hally smiled. “Everyone must pretend to some extent, dear, or life would be far too complicated.”

“I wonder where life will lead now. Mother isn’t thinking clearly and allows Vale too much time with her at Richfield. I no longer know where I belong, but certainly not in this world of gossip and gowns.”

“We will discuss your fears later, my dear. But for now, your mention of gowns is a subject that warrants further consideration. I think it is time we turn our thoughts toward lighter matters, and talk of fashion will do nicely.”
“Fashion?” Madeline scrunched up her nose. “Please tell me you jest.”

“Fashion is always important.” Hally tilted her head in thoughtful study. “Your black wool riding habit does nothing to draw attention. Green would set your hazel eyes ablaze or, at the very least, a lush russet to show off the highlights in your hair.”

“Why does this matter so much to you?” For the first time that day, Madeline studied her friend in turn. A dark lavender velvet riding habit enhanced her figure. The fabric against the gray of her horse together with the soft early morning light provided Hally with an air of regal confidence, confidence Madeline envied. She was already looking forward to the end of this event.
“Because you are my friend, and melancholia does not become you.”

“Nonsense. I used that emotion up long ago.”

“So you say.” Hally scanned the area. “The chill has bestowed you with blushing cheeks, a most charming quality that will endear you to the male population. There are some very eligible and very handsome gentlemen here today. I shall be most pleased to make an introduction.”

Tentacles of panic snaked through her. “I don’t believe that is required today.” Nor any other day. The thought of an introduction to a gentleman terrified her. She’d witnessed Mother’s agony when she’d lost her children and then her beloved husband. Why allow the heart such vulnerability to begin with? “Really, Hally. Do you never grow weary of your matchmaking schemes? Do you not find such things awkward?”

“My James was a rare man. I’ll never stop missing him . . . and the children we might have enjoyed. I want you to experience that kind of love, Maddie.”
Sorrow shadowed Hally’s blue-green eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so selfish.” The last thing she had wanted to do was cause more heartache.
Hally waved a dismissive hand. “It’s all about love, dearest. Don’t forget that.”
“But love is—”
“Necessary. Not awkward. You must accept that. You missed your London season four years ago. I know many at this event. As a respectable widow I can be a great help.”
Madeline didn’t argue. “I appreciate your concern.” She hoped to get through the hunt and the social gathering unscathed by men and their unwanted advances. The gathering after the hunt could prove to be difficult. Many men would drink, and some would drink too much, making themselves perfectly obnoxious. “Perhaps we can just ride today and think on these matters another time.”
“Forgive me, dear. I’m overzealous when it comes to you. I will not speak of opportunities again this day. But I pray you’ll think about what you are doing, think about your future, think about your life. If you continue to hide yourself away, you will not be accepted by polite society. And since your mother is ready to begin living again, should you not as well?”
The budding tree branches swayed gently in the early morning breeze and, bending toward her, seemed to hesitate on the wind, awaiting her reply. “I am in no mood to meet anyone.”

“We’ll speak of your moods later.” Hally smiled. “Let’s enjoy the present.”
Bright streaks of sunlight burst through the cloudy, late March sky. Madeline contemplated her friend’s advice. “You’re right. It’s a beautiful morning. Time to imagine the future. As for now, I’m just not certain how to proceed.”
Hally reached across her mare and patted Madeline’s hand. “I’ll be happy to show you the way.”
Lord Selby’s raucous laughter roared through the crowd as he muscled his way through with his horse. Another rider crashed into her while trying to get out of Selby’s way, causing Madeline’s mount to lurch sideways into Hally, nearly unseating each of them.

Madeline’s breath caught, but she quickly tightened her reins and gained control.
“Easy, Shakespeare. It’s all right, boy.” She stroked the gelding’s neck to calm him and looked to see if the other rider had recovered his balance.
A pair of green eyes, wide with concern, locked on her. The beginning of a smile dimpled the man’s cheeks. A strong chin, straight nose, and clean-shaven face provided him with the good looks of a gentleman in a Van Dyck portrait. She felt the heat of a sudden blush and, not trusting her voice, held her tongue.
Apology etched his handsome face. “I beg your forgiveness.” He arched a single black brow. “Are either of you hurt?”

Madeline sucked in a deep breath to calm her nerves and brushed her skirt free of imaginary grime. “I am unscathed, sir,” she assured him, pulling her gaze away. “Lady Gilling?”

“No injuries here.” She pushed her purple plumed hat back into place.

Madeline turned back to him. The sudden urge to chuckle surprised her, but instead of laughing, she molded herself into a woman of politeness and poise. “It appears that we have survived the excitement.”

“I’m afraid Lord Selby is already in his cups this fine morning.” The charming stranger maneuvered his mount closer and lowered his voice. “Hippocrates here found Selby’s bellowing objectionable.” His smile radiated genuine warmth. “I must concur with his animal instinct.”

The blare of the hunting horn filled the air. The fine gentleman tipped his hat and disappeared into the crush of riders. A twinge of disappointment tugged at Madeline’s heart.

“Are you certain you are unharmed?” Hally asked as they trotted their horses out of the gate. “You look a bit pale.”

“I can’t help but think I’ve seen that man somewhere before.

Does he look familiar to you?” Madeline searched for him as they rode out.

“No. I don’t believe so. Could it be that you just met a gentleman of importance with no introduction from me at all?”

“Strange. I can’t recall where, but I’m almost certain.”

“The hounds are on the move,” Hally said. “We must discuss your newly made acquaintance later. We’re off!”

The baying hounds drowned out the possibility of further discussion. A glimmer of anticipation lightened Madeline’s heart. The challenge of the ride distracted her from other concerns and strengthened her spirit. Perhaps I have been a bit melancholy of late.

Her worries lessened with each stride of her horse and with each obstacle cleared, but flashes of the past whirred by her as swiftly as the hunting field. The horses in front of her threw clumps of dirt into the air as they pounded across the countryside in pursuit of a fox she hoped would evade them.
A pheasant burst from its nest. Startled, Shakespeare faltered as he launched toward the next stone wall. Madeline leaned far forward and gave him extra rein in an attempt to help him clear the barrier, but she knew immediately he was off stride.
The crack of rear hooves against the top of the wall thundered through her heart. Shakespeare stumbled and went down on his knees, tossing her over his head. Madeline landed with a jarring thud on her left side. She struggled to get up, but racking pain paralyzed any attempt at movement.

“Maddie!” Hally dismounted, ran to Madeline, and knelt at her side.

She rolled onto her back and groaned. A fine mess. “Shakespeare? Is he hurt?”
“Are you all right?” Hally clutched Madeline’s hand in her own. “Maddie?”
She lay still, trying to assess the damage. “I believe I may have broken my arm.” Tears stung her eyes. “Where’s Shakespeare?” She prayed he bore no serious injuries.
A shadow fell over Madeline. “I’ve already looked at him. He’s shaken, temporarily lame, but on his feet. He will be taken to Selby’s stables to begin the healing process. Unlike your horse, young lady, I suggest you not move.”
The gentleman had returned. And here she lay, flat on her back, her riding skirt disheveled, an indelicate position, indeed. She did not need a man now, especially this very interesting man.

She squeezed Hally’s hand. “I’m not presentable,” she whispered.

“This is hardly the time to be concerned about one’s appearance,” Hally whispered back, smoothing Madeline’s skirt down toward her ankles, a gesture that reminded Madeline of her maid making the bed. She’d have laughed if she weren’t completely mortified and on the verge of fainting. Her arm felt like glass under pressure, about to shatter.

“You took quite a tumble.” He dropped to his knees. “May I be of assistance?”
Madeline tried to sit up again, determined not to appear weak.She prided herself on her independence and strength, but her body rebelled and collapsed as if she were a marionette whose strings had suddenly been severed. “Who are you, sir?”
“I’m Devlin Grayson of Ravensmoore. Where does it hurt?”

“My arm.” Madeline gingerly cradled her left arm and tried to blink back the tears. “You’re Lord Ravensmoore?”

He nodded.
She felt suddenly vulnerable, looking into this stranger’s intense gaze. “I couldn’t prevent it.”

“Lie still, please.”
“Everything happened so fast. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the hunt field,” Madeline said, embarrassed. “Poor Shakespeare. I hope he’s not hurt. I’m such a fool.”

“You are no fool. This could happen to anyone. And your horse appears to be recovering from the shock. A fine horse. And you have given him a fine name.”
She gazed up into his caring green eyes. “Thank you.”

“May I ask your name before I examine you? That is, if I have your permission?”
She found it difficult to concentrate. “Lady Madeline Whittington.” Her head throbbed. “Examine me? Are you a doctor? No, that wouldn’t be right, would it? Not if you’re Ravensmoore.”

“I will be soon.”
Fleeting thoughts of Papa suffering in the hospital filled her mind with fear and anger. The doctors had not helped him. He had died under their care. The slightest of remembrances bubbled to the surface of her thoughts. She turned her face away from him and looked at Hally.

“Lady Madeline,” Hally pleaded, glancing across at Ravensmoore. “He is offering you his medical skills.”

Madeline turned back and looked him in the eye, trying to catch the elusive memory. Where had she seen him before? “Something is not right.” The memories, one after another, tumbled into her consciousness and revealed themselves as they broke through her defenses and exploded into the present. “I remember you.”
“Remember me?” He paused and studied her, searching her face for details, some recollection of the past.

“You were at the Guardian Gate when we took my father to the hospital.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “You killed him.”

Ravensmoore paled. “What do you mean?”

“Lady Madeline! What an unkind thing to say.” Hally looked at Ravensmoore. “She must have hit her head. Maddie, have you lost all reason?”

“My father, Lord Richfield, bled to death because of your ineptness.” A ripple of pain burst up her arm.

“Lady Madeline—of Richfield?” he asked, turning a shade paler. “Your father? I . . . I do remember. I’m very sorry.”

Hally gently touched Madeline’s cheek and wiped away a tear. “He is only trying to help you.”
“I don’t want his help.”
“I assure you, madam, I am not a murderer. I am most sympathetic to your loss. I promise to be gentle.”

“A fine promise,” she scoffed. “But I have no confidence in your abilities, sir. It is regrettable, but it is the truth.”

He pressed on. “The bone might be broken.”

“I do not need your attention,” Madeline snapped. “It’s most unnecessary.”
A pulse throbbed at his temple. “You don’t understand.” He recovered his composure. “If you refuse to let me examine you, then I must insist on escorting you to Lord Selby’s home where you can rest.”

Madeline groaned in frustration. “I refuse to return to that man’s home. He’s drunk.” The two of them outnumbered her. “I want to go home.” She allowed them to assist her to a sitting position.

“She accepts your kind offer, sir,” Hally put in.

“Lean against me, Lady Madeline, until we see if you can stand,” Ravensmoore said.
“I appear to have little choice.”

Ravensmoore put his arm around her waist and gently guided her to her feet. The strength of his body proved to be an unexpected comfort.

“That’s it. Keep your left arm pressed against your side,” he instructed.
The last thing she wanted to do was lean against this man who dredged up bitter memories of Papa’s death. “I’m fine, really,” she lied, in hope of escaping him. Her body betrayed her in a sudden burst of pain that forced her to stiffen. She repressed a moan and

fought to keep her balance. Emotions from the past and present collided in a haze of confusion.
Madeline pushed away from him. “Lady Gilling will assist me.” She held her hand out and stumbled. Ravensmoore caught her.

“And you will pull your friend to the ground with you.”

How could she have considered this man attractive? The thought made no sense now that she had put the pieces together. Yet, he seemed kind, not at all how she remembered him, wearing that horrible blood-spattered apron. Her father’s blood. She squeezed her eyes shut trying to ward off the image. “I don’t want your help,” she said through clenched teeth. “I can ride by myself.”

“You’re not strong enough. I’ll take you home.” Ravensmoore skillfully lifted her in his arms, careful to keep her injured arm protected. “You’ll ride with me.”
Madeline sat in front of Ravensmoore for the ride home. She tried not to lean against his chest for support but found the effort impossible. She’d never been so close to a man, his breath kissing her cheek. She straightened and had to smother a moan of agony when pain radiated through her arm.
When the high stone walls of Richfield came into view Madeline sighed in relief, grateful to be close to home. The great manor house spread before them, the additional wings on either side providing a sense of comfort and safety. A maze of hedges to the left of them and the soon-to-be-blooming gardens magnified the opulence of Richfield. To the right of the edifice stood stables and paddocks for the horses and housing for those who tended them.
Madeline swallowed hard. She’d just returned home with the man who’d killed her father, the man she held responsible for her father’s death. Betrayal weighed heavy on her heart, for this is where Papa had loved and raised his family.
Madeline longed to be in her bed as they drew near the entrance. She vowed to escape from this horrid day and to her room as fast as she could manage.
“Are you ready?” Ravensmoore asked.

Startled from her pain-filled thoughts she said, “Yes.” But that was a lie. Madeline’s head throbbed simultaneously with the beating of her pulse. She fought for control and blinked back tears when the three of them reached the steps leading into the arched entrance. She nearly crumpled when Ravensmoore dismounted, and she clung desperately to the pommel of the saddle. He reached for her. “It’s all right. I’ll help you.”
“There is no need to coddle me, sir. I assure you, once again, that I am perfectly able.”
“Excellent! Then this should not be too difficult for you.”

Madeline fell into his arms, light-headed and shaky. She wobbled when her feet touched the ground. He held her, keeping her safe.

“Allow me to carry you, Lady Madeline.”

Pain sliced through her arm from the jolting ride. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs, sir. I can walk.” She took two steps and swayed precariously.
“I think not.” Ignoring her protests, Ravensmoore scooped her into his arms again. His warmth and scent—spice, leather, and sweat—mingled together in a balm for her pain.

Her mother, Grace, the Countess of Richfield, ran down the steps to meet them. “Madeline, you’re hurt!” Her mother placed a hand on Madeline’s cheek. “What happened?”
Madeline bit her lip, trying not to reveal the depth of her pain. “It’s nothing, Mother. I took a spill off Shakespeare.” She would not be the cause of further anguish. Mother’s grief over the past two years had been more than many tolerated during a lifetime.

“She’ll be fine, Countess,” Hally said. “We’ve brought a doctor with us.”
“A doctor? Thank God. Follow me, sir.”

Now, beyond caring, she laid her head on his shoulder. Once again his breath whispered past her cheek as he took the stairs and delivered her safely into the embrace of her home.

“Phineas, bring some willow bark tea,” Grace instructed the butler. “Bring her into the sitting room, sir.” The countess continued her directions while fussing over Madeline. “The settee will do nicely. That’s it, gently.”
Ravensmoore’s hand lingered a moment on hers as Madeline sank gratefully into the plush green velvet cushions. Surely the man would leave her in peace now.
Her mother pushed back the gold damask draperies, and muted light filled the room. A fire burned in the hearth, and Madeline shivered, perhaps from the lack of the body warmth she had shared with her rescuer on the ride home.
The butler returned with a pot of tea. He poured the hot liquid into a rose-patterned cup and cautiously handed it to her. “There you are, Lady Madeline.”
“Thank you, Phineas.” Steam rose from the cup. Madeline watched her mother. “Please don’t worry so. It’s not serious.”

Ravensmoore knelt beside her. “I recommend you take a swallow of that tea as soon as you can.”
“Sir, your services are no longer needed. And I will drink my tea when I am good and ready, thank you very much.” Madeline spoke more curtly than she’d intended, but she longed to be alone.

“Drink the tea, young lady,” Mother ordered. “The willow bark will help you relax and ease your pain. And you will permit the doctor to examine you. Do not argue with me on this matter.”

“But Mother, you don’t understand. He—”

She touched her daughter’s hand and their eyes met. “I understand enough.” She turned to Ravensmoore. “What can we do, sir?”

“Allow her to rest a few moments. Then remove her riding jacket so I may examine her arm. Is there a place where I might wash up?

I must have left my gloves on the field, and I don’t want to cause further distress by smudging a lady’s clothing.”

“Of course. Phineas will show you the way.”

As soon as he’d left the room, Madeline looked at her mother. “Let me explain. You must know that he”—she pointed in the direction he’d just gone with cup in hand—“was the physician-in training who allowed Papa to bleed to death in York.”

“I didn’t recognize him.” A veil of sadness shrouded her mother’s eyes. “I didn’t think to see any of them again.” Even the worry lines that creased her mother’s brow could not diminish the sculpted features of a woman who resembled a Greek goddess, though she seemed utterly unaware of her beauty. The name Grace suited her.

“He’s not a doctor . . . yet.”

Grace plucked a pair of shears from a nearby sewing basket. “You have made that perfectly clear. Now, allow Lady Gilling and me to cut away your jacket. You might have broken your arm, and there’s no point in causing you any more pain.”
“You still want him to examine me?”

“Of course. I must think of your welfare. The past is the past.”

“But—”
“He may be able to help you. It will take a servant a long time to ride into town, locate a physician, and return with him. Let this doctor help you.”
Madeline looked from one to the other, then handed Hally the teacup. “Do be careful.”
“Of course we’ll be careful, dear.” Grace cut away the jacket in moments.

“Oh, Maddie. I’m so sorry this happened.” Hally handed her the teacup again. “It’s entirely my fault.”

“That is not true.” Madeline finished the tea. “Don’t be silly.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I am quite dizzy.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Menu Plan for the week

This week did not go as planned. Well, sort of. We ate a ton of potatoes, I did not cook much. There were alot of boiled potatoes in the fridge. I got the flu. My husband made some stuff, they ate all the eggs. It worked! = ) Also, one of my boys took a big package of meat out of the freezer and left it set by the freezer. I found it much too late, and so since it was a big package for several meals, I guess we made up for it, by not eating much meat this week.

Wednesday: Track and Field Day- so, I will be tired. I don’t think I will have time to throw anything in the crock-pot even. Granola Bars, Ham and cheese sandwiches, Salad, potato chips and water are on the menu for lunch. Dinner-Pasta, sauce, garlic bread

Thursday: Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken, rice

Friday: Mexican Rice Skillet, salad

Saturday: Vegetable soup, banana bread

Sunday: Leftovers, Quick breads, popcorn

Monday: Taco Twice baked potatoes, salad

Tuesday: Mini meatloaf, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bargain Dinners, Daily Happenings, Recipes

Mother’s Day

Photobucket

Our lovely Spread….all the kids and dads made a big breakfast. Joe was in charge and bought us all bouquets of roses for all the moms who came. Joe’s Grandma came too, and that so much fun. It made me miss my grandma!

Photobucket
Joe, Cody and James….discussing the in depth process of making Eggs benedict and French toast for over 20 people….
I am really blessed to have such a wonderful family!

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Happenings