I have recently cleaned out a large filing cabinet and consolidated what filled the drawers to the brim. I had over thirty years’ worth of valuable stuff in those drawers ranging from necessary papers dealing with the house, to children’s shot records, folders of travel information to tax papers but the most important was my cross-stitch patterns. Believe it or not, I had a drawer that was over half full of nothing but patterns.
I still cross-stitch but not as I once did. I have a number of projects put back, but I don’t need all the patterns anymore. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Instead, I joined an online cross-stitching group and asked if I could post the patterns for free.
Over the last few days, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people who cross-stitch from all over the world. I’ve been giving some of my favorite patterns to homes that will love them as much as I have.
It has been a full-time job getting the packaging together, addresses collected but the giveaway has been successful and most of all I feel good about my precious patterns finding new homes.
Do you have anything you’ve had to part with that you took pains to find a new home?
There was nothing unusual about my pregnancy, except for maybe my craving for chocolate-cream filled snack rolls. During my earlier pregnancies, I had painted the house, refinished floors, and even wallpapered, but I wasn’t as active during this one. With no obvious medical reason for an ultrasound, I didn’t have one, especially since our insurance wouldn’t pay for what they viewed as an unnecessary test. Andy, my husband, and I were satisfied with being surprised to learn if our new baby was a boy or a girl.
We arrived early at the hospital excited about having our fourth child and what we planned would be our last. My obstetrician had decided to induce labor because Zach, our fifteen-month-old weighed eleven pounds, two ounces when he was born. This baby didn’t need to be as large. He or she would also be joining Drew, age five and Mary Beth, three. If this baby had decided to come three weeks earlier, we would have had four children ages four and under.
The nurses assigned to me asked how many children I had. I proudly told them. Each was surprised to learn I already had three toddlers. One nurse curled her upper lip in a sneer, “Don’t you already have enough?”
In the delivery room, the lights were extra bright, reflecting off the white tile walls as the doctor and Andy stood at the foot of the delivery table. They watched for the baby as I pushed.
Andy and I had met at Auburn University. He was tall and red-headed, contrasting sharply with my short stature and brunette hair. When we married, Andy wanted a big family, as did I. He worked in the carpet industry as a production manager, and after our first child was born, I became a full-time homemaker. This made me unusual among young women because the popular culture was to have a job and raise a family at the same time. Andy and I decided we wanted to have one parent home with the children.
We were a happy, busy family who enjoyed traveling, camping and football games. Everyone was looking forward to the new addition. I hoped for a girl; then we would have two boys and two girls.
I never had a sister and thought it would be nice for Mary Beth to have one. Neither had Andy. He had a brother, Tim, and I had two brothers, Bo and Ed. Another female would make the genders nice and equal in our family.
Andy was so excited. He grinned as if he were the one doing something wonderful as Nick moved to join the world. I smiled back at him, anticipating the joy of having another child.
Finally, the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!”
Nicholas Samual May was born at 5:20 p.m. on April 5, 1989. He weighed eight pounds and eight ounces, a healthy size for a baby.
The delivery took twelve hours from start to finish. After the birth, I asked my OB if Nick was okay. I noticed he was bluer than my other children had been when they were born. I was reassured Nick had ten fingers and ten toes and looked good to him. His assistant put Nick on oxygen, but explained it was nothing to be concerned about – just routine.
In recovery, I asked the nurse, “Can you check on my baby?”
“He’s fine. You can see him later,” she said.
“I really wish you would check. My other child, just a year older, had to be in the Special Care Unit for low blood sugar, and I’m worried about this one.”
“Okay, I’ll see how he is.” She returned sometime later.
“He’s fine and in the regular nursery.”
Zach’s troubles had started at birth with him being so large that forceps were used to help him down the birth canal. From their use, a large hematoma formed on Zach’s head that took months to clear up. He had little muscle mass to his legs or arms. Early on, he didn’t eat as he should. I spent a good deal of time at the pediatrician with him. As months went on, he improved. At Nick’s birth we believed he would grow out of the problems.
I was jealous when I learned Andy, the kids, my mother and in-laws had seen Nick. A nurse brought him out of the nursery so that his brothers and sister could touch him, and they had a big photo session. I hate that I was not there to participate.
I already had visions of our family of six filling the supper table. The hustle and bustle of birthday parties and Christmas mornings. Of sharing playdates with other moms.
I was very involved at our church and planned to continue that after the baby was born. We had a trip to Disney World on the calendar already. I hand sewed special outfits for the children and was looking forward to making one for this baby. Since I was home full-time, I kept the yard and saw to most things around the house. I’d even started writing a book. My life was full and some days running over.
From past experience, I knew I wouldn’t see Nick for the first few hours. After getting settled in my room, I asked for him. The nurse said she would bring him to me around 7:00 p.m. but no one ever brought him. I was getting worried. When I asked again, a nurse told me that there might be a problem with his blood sugar, but I’d probably get to see him around midnight. Although I was concerned, Zach had experienced the same problem and was fine, so I took it in stride.
I was still anticipating Nick being brought to me when the phone rang shortly after midnight. It was a nurse from the Special Care Unit. “I’m just calling to let you know we’ve transferred your baby to the Unit. We need to watch him a little more closely. He’s fine right now. We want him to stay that way.”
I interpreted that to mean that they were being careful because they were aware of Zach’s problems at birth. I settled into sleep but with a nagging feeling something wasn’t right.
The next morning, I called the Unit. “May I see my baby?”
The nurse put me on hold. When she returned, she said, “Dr. Reed is here and would like to talk to you.”
“I’ll be there in just a few minutes. I need to walk anyway.” I wondered what was going on but wasn’t too worried. Dr. Reed was our family pediatrician, and I wasn’t surprised he wanted to speak to me.
Reaching the Unit, I washed my hands and put on a gown. Dr. Reed stood beside Nick’s isolette. His characteristic smile was missing.
As usual, he went straight to the point, “Susan, your baby has some type of problem. He’s receiving one hundred percent oxygen, but the oxygen isn’t getting to his feet or hands. There may be something wrong with his heart.”
Oxygen level? Heart problem? My head spun. What was he talking about? I had a political science degree and knew little medicine wise beyond applying a Band-Aid. I had no idea what all Dr. Reed was telling me meant. My mind searched back to my high school biology to remember how the body works.
He continued, “I’m sending your baby to a hospital in Atlanta. I’ve already made arrangements. He’ll go by ambulance.”
I stared at him in disbelief, saying nothing. I looked at Nick, the floor, the ceiling, anything to make this news not be true. If I didn’t focus on Dr. Reed, maybe this would all be a bad dream. He had to be talking to someone else because my child couldn’t be that sick.
“The ambulance should be here in the next hour or two.”
The one he was referring to was Angel II, a neonatal ambulance that’s highly specialized, staffed by a driver, a nurse, and a respiratory therapist. It transports newborns from area hospitals to trauma centers for higher level care. I had been passed while driving on the main highway by one of these vehicles a few times. I never imagined my child might need one. This is when fear started to well in my chest. This type of heartbreak didn’t happen to us. We heard about it occurring to others.
Nick would be transferred to Egleston Children’s Hospital across from Emory Hospital, deep in an area of Atlanta where we rarely went. I had been there one other time, a year earlier. Zach had gone to the clinic to see a doctor about a possible heart problem, but nothing was found. Only because of that visit did I have any idea where the hospital was located.
Dr. Reed started a drug to keep the hole in Nick’s heart between the two upper chambers called the ductus arteriosus open. Everyone is born with this hole, and it closes anywhere from hours after birth to around three weeks later. Nick’s problem appeared when the hole began to seal.
I had no family with me. I looked at what appeared to be my perfectly formed new baby, yet Dr. Reed was telling me something was terribly wrong. I calmly said, “Okay.” What I wanted to say was no, no, no this can’t be happening.
When I left Dr. Reed, I was sure he thought I didn’t understand. He thought correctly. My brain was skipping like stones on a lake. I had to call Andy.
In slow motion, as if in a shadowy mist, my body trembling all over, I walked back to my room. Panic consumed me, but still I couldn’t grasp enough to know exactly what I feared. I refused to let the possibility of Nick dying cross my mind. I forced that possibility out of my thoughts the second it entered. I started praying – hard.
If I stood in the hall with my back to the wall, still, so still, so quiet, barely breathing, I started to believe that, even though I was in plain sight, I could be invisible. I would disappear. If no one could see me, nothing bad could happen. The horrible truth could not find me. It was surreal, like seeing my life from a distance.
When I finally made it to my room, I picked up the phone with a shaking hand. “Andy, something’s wrong with Nick.”
On March 21, my youngest son, Nick will celebrate a major milestone. This is a milestone that few have achieved. In fact, to the best of my knowledge there are only four other people in the US or the world for that matter, who have done it. What is this milestone?
Nick will have lived 30 years after having a heart transplant. To make it even more amazing he had his transplant when he was one year old. Today, he is 31.
Born with only three of the four chambers to his heart, Nick had his first heart surgery when he was five days old, had another at three months old, another at one year old then his heart transplant. At nineteen, he developed an infection that caused an aortic aneurysm and had to have a new aorta.
In the last 30 years, Nick has learned to snow ski and water ski, loves sports, has travel extensively, has finished college, has married and become a father. None of these would have been possible without his new heart. I will be forever grateful to Nick’s donor family. I wonder often it they realize what a gift they gave my family.
To commemorate this major milestone, I have written a book called Nick’s New Heart 30 Years and Counting… It will be released on March 21.
On March 5, I’ll be posting an excerpt from the book. Come back then and tell me what you think.
As I come to the end of the year, I try to get all the things that have lingered throughout the months finished. This year is no different.
Months ago, maybe even last year I started a smocked dress for a grandniece. Finally, and I do mean finally, I completed the dress-that-would-never-end. I was pleased. By the look on my niece’s face, she was too. Her mother said she even slept in the dress she liked it so much.
I’ve made other items, including over 100 masks back in March. I put together for each of the eight grandkids bags to hang on the back of the seats of a car to hold their “stuff’.
Just this past week I completed a swimsuit coverup for a granddaughter who’ll be having her first swim meet on Saturday. She’s the size of a finger so I hope she’ll be warm and dry while wearing it.
My niece asked me to help her with Christmas presents for her son’s teachers. I embroidered the grinch on kitchen towels. I shouldn’t take much credit for these because the machine did most of the work.
And I’m also going to finish three more Christmas stockings before the 25th. These I will take credit for. They’re all hand-done counted cross-stitch.
Suddenly I’m feeling more successful than I had when I started writing this. Next year I hope to finish a quilt and do at least two more stockings. The quilt has been waiting ten years for me to get my act together.
I don’t want to go before I mention that I have not 1, not 2, but 3 Christmas books out this month. If you’re looking for something to read, I’d love you to try one.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year!!!
Hello everyone. I wanted to share a little bit of my Christmas novella Under The Kissing Ball. It is out now for only $.99.
A Christmas kiss between friends is simple, until it isn’t… Clarissa Chalmers Simmons’ world is in turmoil. After fleeing an abusive marriage and her divorce, all she wants is to heal and create a calm, safe environment for her children. She’s returned to her ancestral home and the comfort of family, which includes a trusted childhood friend, Roger. She finds him handsome and sweet, but too set in his ways for her taste. With Roger’s encouragement and help, Clarissa takes on a new position in the family business and gains personal satisfaction she’s never known. What she doesn’t plan on is her and Roger’s ‘under the mistletoe ball’ kiss rocking her world. Roger Clarke, is the easy-going estate manager at Hartley Castle and a confirmed bachelor. He has always been there in Clarissa’s background but recently has become her rock-steady confidant. Despite his long-held secret feelings for the flighty, beautiful and willful Clarissa, he has never acted on them. He’s not a suitable match for her. After all he is an employee of his best friend and her brother, Lord Hartley. Even if given the chance, Roger has no desire to become the rebound guy. Despite that, if he doesn’t act on Clarissa’s passionate reaction to his kiss, he might lose his chance of having the only woman who’s ever stirred his heart. This book is a part of the Modern Masters of Their Castle Series.
“You have to kiss. You’re standing under the kissing ball!” Clarissa Simmons’s children Jonathan and Margaret called in unison as they looked away from the video game they had been playing to point at the mistletoe.
Their uncle’s fiancé, Allison Moore had just explained at dinner the reason she’d hung the ball-shaped mass of greenery in the doorway of the Hartley Castle library, in Hartshire, England.
Clarissa looked up at the orb and then to Roger Clarke, the estate manager who stood beside her. He’d been her friend, and her brother Ian’s best friend, for almost a lifetime. Roger’s handsome brown brows rose in question. Was he asking if he could or if she would?
It had been over a year since she’d last kissed a man. Her horrible marriage, ugly divorce and impossible ex-husband had soured her on anything related to kissing. Still Roger had been a friend who made no demands. She’d be participating in a tradition for the kids. What could be the big deal about a friendly kiss?
She gave Roger a direct look as if to say “you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Her eyes widened as he stepped forward. His fingertips lightly touched her waist. Her body heated. That response she hadn’t anticipated.
Her gaze locked with his as his mouth lowered. Her eyes fluttered closed. She had no idea what to expect because she’d never thought of kissing Roger. But the feather brush of his full, firm lips stole her breath and sent her heartbeat flying.
Seconds later his mouth settled over hers and took possession. His fingers gripped tighter at her waist, yet he maintained his distance. Roger’s lips planted themselves on hers as if they belonged there. Her ears roared. She moaned and leaned toward him.
Then his mouth was no longer there, along with the heat that had washed through her. Roger was gone. He had stepped back, creating space between them.
Clarissa shivered as cool air surrounded her. She took an unsteady step, struggling to keep her knees from buckling. Through a daze, she looked at Roger. His emerald eyes held a yellow flame of fire before he blinked, smothering it. Her gaze moved to his mouth. She licked her lower lip to ease the tingle lingering there. She quaked. What a kiss.
Jonathan and Margaret’s squeals of delight then giggles had her regaining her composure.
She glanced at the kissing ball as if it had some kind of magical powers. Who knew the straitlaced, always focused on business, and in her opinion rather dull, Roger Clarke could kiss like a top-dollar gigolo?
Her brother Ian Chalmers, Lord Hartley, hand in hand with Allison took that moment to enter the room.
“What’s all the commotion?” Allison looked to the children.
“Uncle Roger had to kiss Mum because they were under the kissing ball,” Jonathan offered with a grin.
Still stunned, Clarissa flickered a look at Roger who moved to the fireplace. He looked into it a moment before he turned and placed his hands behind his back as if warming them. He watched her as if what had passed between them had not impacted him one way or the other. Not even his eyes held any emotion. The audacity of the man. She wanted to kick him. Here she was barely standing with her nerves still shaking as if they were salt in a shaker.
Allison looked at the kids with a teasing grin. “I told you what would happen if you stood under it.”
Ian seized the moment to pull Allison into his arms. “You only hung it because you would manufacture any excuse to kiss me.” He gave Allison a quick kiss on the lips.
Allison giggled. “With you I don’t have to get the kids involved to get a kiss.”
Clarissa enjoyed seeing her brother so happy yet was envious she’d not found that same love and companionship in her life. It had always eluded her. With knees still trembling, she made her way over and joined her children on the sofa. At least with her sitting she didn’t have to worry about collapsing.
“Mum, when do we get to open our Christmas presents?” Margaret looked at her with longing, her five-year-old’s patience being stretched thin as seven-year-old Jonathan watched for her response.
Clarissa looked to the beautifully decorated tree in the far corner of the room. “I’ve already total you, honey. We’ll do that on Christmas Day.”
“How long to Christmas Day?” Margaret asked.
Daring a glance at Roger, she found him watching her. Her heart tripped. His look held hers for a second before it flickered away. What had that kiss been about? She still didn’t understand what had happened in those brief moments. Her world had tipped sideways. Didn’t she have enough turmoil in her life already after the move to Hartley Castle and the divorce?
Roger said, “What you need is a calendar so you can mark off the days. That’s what my Mum used to use. Have your Mum bring you to my office tomorrow and I’ll let you use a big one I have. You can even mark it off yourself. How will that work?”
“Can I Mum?” Margaret’s eyes widened with an eager look.
“Me too?” Jonathan asked leaning toward her.
Roger stepped away from the fire adjusting his sweater as if he had warmed himself enough. “Of course you may, but Margaret gets to do the marking.”
“That’s very nice of you, Roger.” Clarissa offered him what she hoped looked like a full-on appreciative smile while not chancing direct eye contact. She’d just managed to get her heart to settle down.
Fifteen minutes later, Roger excused himself, needing to check on some work before he departed for his cottage.
Clarissa watched his broad back as his long strides took him toward the door. Just a few years older than Ian, he had a few silver hairs intermingled within his dark waves. They gave him a distinguished look that added to his charm.
She shook her head dumbfounded by the realization she found him attractive. Roger had been in her life for as long as she could remember. His father had been the estate manager before Roger. When his father passed away, Roger had stepped into the role. He was Ian’s right-hand man. She’d followed them around as a little girl. Where Ian had acted irritated to have her there, Roger showed compassion to the girl with no other play companions during her holidays at the castle. Since moving to the castle permanently, their friendship had grown, and he’d become her valued confidant.
She couldn’t get over her reaction to Roger’s kiss? Why had it affected her? Was it because it had been so long since she’d been kissed? Maybe it had been an abnormal occurrence. Her eyes widened. Or had it been because she’d kissed Roger?
Mid-morning the next day, Roger checked his emails in his office in the castle without much interest. He groaned. The evening before he’d had to make an excuse to leave the library before he acted on his impulse to tug Clarissa under the kissing ball again. How many times had he thought about kissing her over the last few months? Too many to count.
At Jonathan’s and Margaret’s insistence he kiss Clarissa, he’d taken his chance. His fascination with her had become as much a part of him as his skin.
When she’d run away and married he hadn’t been surprised. She’d always been a free spirit, pushing against the structure of the rigid social world Ian had accepted. She tagged along behind him and Ian when they were boys. Younger than them, more than once he had to defend her against Ian who didn’t always want his sister around. Yet Roger liked the joy Clarissa found in life. His seemed so gray in comparison. He found her invigorating.
As she became a young woman he watched as men visited her at the castle. Just as mesmerizing as the other young men found her, Roger had too. He wanted the same attention she gave them while knowing it wasn’t to be. He was an employee of the family, not of the same position.
He heard footsteps in the hallway. Clarissa and her children were on their way to his office door. Jonathan and Margaret rushed to him without hesitation coming straight to his desk. Clarissa lingered at the door with an unsure look in her eyes.
Had he scared her last night? He believed he’d kept his feelings for her well covered. Their relationship had always been an easy one. He had no desire for that to change. His gaze met hers as he gave her a reassuring smile. The children stood on either side of his desk chair. They’d been coming to his office at one time or another since they had come to live at the castle months earlier. He lifted Margaret onto his knee as Jonathan moved in close enough that his shoulder pressed against Roger’s arm.
“Uncle Roger, we’re ready to look at the calendar. What’s a calendar?” Margaret looked at him as if he had all the answers to life.
Roger chuckled. Clarissa’s soft laugh washed through him like warm honey. When she’d first returned to the castle she been subdued and had lost some of that spirit he’d always enjoyed. Slowly it had started to return. Her friendship with Allison had helped. Yet shadows filled Clarissa’s eyes when she believed no one watched her.
“A calendar tells us the months and the days of a year.” He pushed some papers to the side so his large desk calendar could be clearly seen. “This is my big calendar.” He pointed to a square. “This is today.”
“Right there’s Christmas Eve.” Jonathan’s voice rose with excitement as he pointed at another box.
“That’s right. And Christmas Day is the next day.” Roger pointed to the next square.
A hint of a floral smell caught Roger’s attention. Raising his head, he saw that Clarissa now stood on the other side of the desk. He filled his nose with the enticing scent.
She wore a gentle smile, her eyes indulgent.
He returned his attention to the children. “I put out a special pen so you could mark the days with it.” He pulled off the top of the pen and handed it to Margaret. “You can draw an X across today.”
Margaret carefully made a squiggly mark.
Roger pointed to the square with December 19th in it then to Christmas Day. “Now see here, this is how long it is until you can open presents. Jonathan, why don’t you count the days for us?”
The boy stood taller in his importance. Roger grinned as he listened to Jonathan count off the days.
Clarissa had shifted around the desk as if she were making an effort to see better. He looked at her to find a proud smile on her face. His chest swelled with pleasure as he watched her. He had to admit she had great kids despite their loser dad. Clarissa had done a good job raising them. His focus returned to Margaret. Lifting her off his knee, he sat her on her feet beside him. “Tomorrow, come back and we’ll mark off another day. Before you know, it will be time to open presents.”
Clarissa waved a hand. “Come on kids, we’ve taken up enough of Uncle Roger’s time. I’m sure he has other things he needs to do.”
“It’s nice to have a break.” Roger stood. That was an understatement. Managing the estate and the additional duties Ian had given him with his new venture of the environmental studio had taken its toll. They had already talked about hiring more help after the new year but it couldn’t happen soon enough for Roger. He’d been drowning in paperwork lately. Add in overseeing the greenhouse construction and Ian’s absence, the stress had started getting to him. Yet he had no intention of letting on. “I’ll see you at dinner, okay?”
Clarissa placed a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder and gave him a nudge toward the door. Margaret followed. Clarissa turned to leave but looked at Roger once more. “Thanks. I appreciate that. This Christmas isn’t going to be anything like the others and it’s nice to see both of them smile. You’re wonderful with them.”
Roger moved closer to her. “It’s not a problem. They’re great kids. I enjoy having them around. I needed the break.”
She glanced at his desktop where stacks of folders and papers were strewn about. “You do look busier than normal.”
“A little. Uh…about that kiss last night.”
Clarissa’s eyes took on a caged animal wildness before she looked away. A hint of pink rested on her cheeks as her eyes darted around. “I’m the one who’s sorry. The kids shouldn’t have put you in that position.” She waved a hand as she headed toward the door. “It was no big deal really. I’ll let you get back to work.”
Roger swallowed hard. His heart dropped. No big deal, she says.
This was to be my year. The one that a number of things I’d been working toward for years would happen or I hoped for them to happen. For all that time I could imagine the crowd clapping, me receiving my award, even knew what I would say in my speech and then came the virus.
There would be no travel, no events, no spotlight.
This summer Harlequin was to honor me for writing 25 books. I was to walk across the dance floor and be recognized and be given a pin. They did recognize me online and with a beautiful bouquet of flowers but it wasn’t the same being dressed in my painting clothes in my basement office without be surrounded by my friends. Since the day I started writing for Harlequin, I never dream I’d be able to write so many books. I have to admit I am overly proud of the accomplishment. Maybe that’s the major part of the problem. Too much pride.
For over ten years I’ve entered my local romance writers contest called the Maggie. It’s one of the top five romance contests. This year two of my books made the finalist list. I was tickled. After I read the other books in my category, I feared my chances were slim. I was thrilled to learn of my win by a website announcement. Once again there were no crowds, no clapping or spotlight. There went my pride again.
The winner was…
Compared to many people my woes over the year is nothing. I’m tickle and grateful for what I do have. I learned a lesson in being humble, not once but twice. For that I’m a better person. Too much pride can be a dangerous thing.
I now humbly submit that I have two books coming out for the Christmas season.
My indy Christmas novella will be out on October 1. It is only .99
Mallory Andrews hurried across the parquet floor of the main hall of Ashley Court. She hadn’t expected a visit from the owner, Eleonore Townsend, yet she waited inside the parlor. Mallory clasped and unclasped her hands as her nerves rattled. They’d spoken on the phone, but hadn’t agreed to meet in person. Was Mrs. Townsend there to check on her work, or was there something more going on?
Entering the room, she found a tall, raw-boned woman with short white hair. Wearing a classic-cut navy suit, Mrs. Townsend looked every bit the head of a famous hotel group. An air of authority surrounded her.
Mallory cleared her throat. “Hello, Mrs. Townsend.”
The older woman turned, her lips tight. She appeared to be in her mid-seventies. Her gaze coolly observed Mallory from head to foot.
“I’m sorry you had to wait. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Mallory extended a hand, then, realizing its condition, pulled it back, wishing she’d taken the time to change out of her dust-covered work clothes. “I’ve been painting. Sorry.”
“Hello, Ms. Andrews.” Mrs. Townsend offered Mallory a slight smile. “I’m glad to meet you as well. I’ve enjoyed your updates on your work here. I wanted to see it for myself.”
Mallory released the breath she’d held and forced herself to breathe normally. “I’d love to show you what I’ve accomplished so far. I’m excited about a number of the rooms. Especially the Lady’s bedroom.”
That brought a true smile to the woman’s face. “Then, please, start there.”
Over the next hour and a half, Mallory showed Mrs. Townsend around the hotel, pointing out areas where her renovations were complete, while others still needed attention. Mallory was delighted to show off her pride and joy – the Lady’s Room. Her grandest accomplishment to date. A tingle of excitement ran through her at the idea that this room alone could win her the International Historical Design Award.
The older woman asked probing questions, offering remarks and suggestions. They shared a connection through their love of the Cornishcastle.
As they reentered the parlor, Mrs. Townsend said, “You’re doing an excellent job here. I’m pleased and impressed. You’re bringing the old girl back to her original beauty. Thank you for that.”
Mallory glowed under the praise. She liked that the older woman respected Mallory’s vision. “I’m glad you’re pleased. I look forward to finishing the project.”
Mallory’s chest clenched. Something was going on. Her gaze fixed on the other woman, waiting for her next words.
“The board’s not convinced the restorations are cost-effective. They’re sending an auditor to review your work and the financials.”
“My work’s about more than money. The art and history…” Panic filled Mallory’s chest. She needed to complete this job. Had to. From what she could tell, Mrs. Townsend understood the importance of what she did, the time it took to find quality replacements. “My job’s about detail and research. No one else in my field is as comprehensive.”
Mrs. Townsend suddenly looked tired. “And I agree, but my board doesn’t.”
“Then we must prove otherwise.” Mallory squared her shoulders and gave a curt nod. “When should I expect this auditor?”
“In the next few weeks. His name is Evan Townsend.” She paused, her lips thinning. “My grandson.”
Two weeks later…
Mallory checked the position of her foot. If she could inch out…
She stretched her arm and extended her leg while maintaining her precarious balance as she moved closer to the top of the chapel ceiling. Her former yoga coach would have preened with pride. Another small twist should do it. This job must be perfect. The tiniest detail needed attention, even if it killed her.
Scooting her foot from side to side until it remained half-on, half-off the scaffolding plank, she reached toward the rosette. A very unladylike word, one her mother would’ve chastised her for, escaped.
She twirled the paintbrush out to the tip of her fingers. Her lips pursed in concentration. The bristles of the brush touched the right spot. She grinned, and blew out a breath of satisfaction.
“There,” she exhaled.
Mallory shifted her weight almost to standing when her balance failed. The paintbrush flew, landing with a thump on the distant stone floor. She grabbed the closest rail, twisting, and landed on her bottom–hard.
A gasp filled the air. She peered over the edge of the board.
An impeccably-dressed man in a suit and tie craned his neck to look at her. She met his gaze. His good looks dazzled her for a moment. She stared.
“Come down here before you kill yourself!” His tone matched that of a coach chastening his players for a poor performance. His football-player-wide shoulders made him look fully capable of catching her had she fallen. “You’ve no business mucking around up there.”
Mallory narrowed her eyes, stood, and swatted at the dust on her pants before starting down. Who was this guy with his curled lip and demanding attitude?
As she neared the floor, the man asked, “Are you Mallory Andrews?”
Jumping the last six feet, she landed nimbly and then moved to stand in front of him. “I am. How can I help you?”
“I believe you’re expecting me.” He quickly checked an expensive-looking silver watch on his wrist. “I’m Evan Townsend.”
He was finally here.
“I’m sorry.” She glanced at the ceiling. Had she missed something? “I was just touching up after the painters this morning and didn’t realize you had arrived.” She offered him her most polite, professional smile before giving her bottom a final slap, creating a cloud of plaster dust. Bending, she retrieved her favorite paintbrush.
The small hairs on her nape prickled. She felt Evan Townsend’s gaze resting where her hand had popped her jeans. Men had ogled her for years, especially when she’d strutted on the catwalk. These days she rarely gave their wandering gazes any thought. So why did Townsend’s eyeing her backside make her heart trip?
He checked his pricey timepiece again.
“Did we have an appointment I didn’t know about?” Her heart revved up another notch as his storm-gray gaze moved along her body in increments. A shiver shot down her spine. His appraisal made her blush like a schoolgirl.
The man stood well over six feet, would be her guess. But his superior manner made him seem loftier. She’d always been tall, growing well above her friends, who had called her “stork legs” in school. But next to Evan Townsend, she looked average height.
“I understood you were expecting me.”
Trying to regain her composure, she volunteered, “I met Mrs. Townsend a couple of weeks ago.” She paused. “She said you were coming, but hadn’t specified a date. I had no idea you would be here today. I needed to check the progress on the ceiling before the workers returned from their lunch break.”
“Can we talk?” His lips tightened with impatience. Irritation seemed to radiate off him. “Now?”
“Sure. Do you mind if we go by my workroom first? I should put this brush in thinner.”
Townsend probably had no idea of the location of her workroom, or he wouldn’t have agreed. Not only had she given him a fright, he seemed annoyed at her for not being right where he thought she should be. To make matters worse, he’d had to come looking for her. They weren’t getting off on the right foot.
As they walked through the arched chapel doors, he asked, “Do you climb around on the scaffolding often?”
Mallory grinned. “Only when I need to approve something. Which is pretty much all the time.”
“Then you should know better than to reach out like that. You almost fell. If you had, you would’ve been seriously injured. Or killed. What were you doing, anyway?”
“Touching up a missed spot.”
He turned his head sideways in question. “Why? No one could’ve seen it from this distance.”
“I don’t skimp. It doesn’t matter whether others can’t see it or not. I do what’s right. It’s not only my job but the foundation of my reputation that no detail, however small, is overlooked.”
“Then you should’ve had one of the workmen take care of it.”
She looked over her shoulder. “Why? I was already up there.”
He put his hand on her arm, stopping her. His eyes searched hers. “As I said, you could’ve fallen to your death.”
Something electric vibrated through her. Partly because of the physical contact, but more from knowing of his concern for her safety. She found it refreshing to have someone other than her business partners and family worried about her. Years had passed since a male had shown interest in something other than her looks. Yet, at the same time he irritated her. He’d implied recklessness on her part. Even though she’d reassured him she considered the tiniest detail of her job important and she spent a great deal of time up on scaffolding.
Mallory waved her hand, dismissing her annoyance. “It’s no big deal. I’m used to doing touch-up work. This way, Mr. Townsend.”
Warning: This is like being invited to your neighbors for dinner and having to see all their vacation pictures.
My husband said he needed to get away. (Thankfully it wasn’t from me.) He wanted to go somewhere. Being a red haired man with fair skin, he cares nothing about the beach. Since it’s super-hot, and the humility makes it feel like you’re always walking in the rain in our part of the US at this time of the year, he always wants to go north where it’s cooler. He suggested Yellowstone National Park. We’ve been a number of times, and even with the virus it’s crowded in the summer time. I didn’t won’t to be involved with too many people with the virus about. So I took his wants into consideration and my concerns and came up with North Dakota.
We had been to North Dakota before, sort of. We’d stepped across the state line just to say we’d been there. But I can now say I have experience it – big time.
All our family and friends asked what we were going to do for a week in a state with nothing but miles and miles of plains. It turns out we found plenty to do. We had great fun finding the unusual and out of the way sites. I have to say that North Dakota is the friendliest place I’ve ever been. The people couldn’t have been better to us. We had an A+ visit.
Below are just a few of our finds. If you would like to see more check out my facebook page.
This is the State Capital built in the Art Deco style in Bismark. It was well worth the visit.
This is fort Abraham Lincoln and the Missouri River. General Custer was station here. He took his calvery down to Little Big Horn and didn’t return.
Miles and miles of wheat growning. This area is call the “Bread basket of the World.” The sunflower fields were my favorite.
We visited The Teddy Roosevelt National Park. It’s the best kept secret of the national park system. We thought it was amazing, and unbelievably beautiful. President Rossevelt started our national park system. He thought everyone should have a chance to see the majesty of the US.
What is the US west without a buffalo?
The zany wasn’t to be under estimated. This is the wood chipper from the movie Fargo in Fargo, ND
Road art. My husband is in the picture for scale. This is a family of pheasants. A large family in more ways than one. There are 8 of these type of sculptures along this road.
Who knew that Rigby, ND was the Geographical center of North America? I do now.
We also managed to get in a little culture while we were in Medora, ND. It included singing, dancing, and cowboys on horseback all in an outdoor theater with social distancing.
All in all, I would recommend a visit to the US’s least populared state. It had a lot to offer.
Have you ever been somewhere you thought wouldn’t have much to offer and found there was plenty to do?
Hey everyone! I’d like to introduce you to our newest medical author Shelley Rivers. I’ve asked her to share a little bit about herself so we can get to know her better. Please give her a warm welcome.
I discovered medical romance when:
I’ve been reading Mills and Boon novels since I was eleven years old. I was sick and bored so my mum handed over the Mills and Boon she had just finished. This was before they were too sexually explicit. And so my obsession with romance began.
I wrote my first story when:
I’m a reader first. Being a writer didn’t enter my head for years. But sometime during my twenties, I attempted to write something loosely resembling a love story. It involved an Italian millionaire, a gorgeous blonde model and hundreds of clichés. It was brilliantly awful, had no plot line, far too short and still holds a fond place in my heart.
Where do you live?
In a house in Dorset, England.
My best trait is:
I asked my family this question and they insist I’m caring and funny.
My worst trait is: I’m sorry but I really don’t suffer any bad traits. 😊 I just have unique personality quirks that may occasionally annoy people.
Five things on your bucket list:
This was hard because I don’t really do the bucket list concept where you make a note of things you want to do at some point in the future. I think it’s important to do the dreams in your heart and not put them off for years. If this year has taught us one thing, I hope it’s that.
Anyway, here are my five things.
1) Travel to Ireland and wander around castles and medieval ruins while dreaming up wonderful historical stories that I will one day write.
2) Adopt more greyhounds. Though this may upset the princess hound I already spoil. My aim is to slip into old age with more animals around me than people.
3) Name an Irish race horse. My dad loved horse racing so it would be lovely to do this in his memory.
4) Tango badly on a deserted beach on a cloudy day.
5) Laugh with a loved one beneath the Northern Lights.
Alex Morsi: Heartbreaker…or heart-healer? The lush Dorset countryside is just what veterinary nurse Kiki Brown needs to regroup after her broken engagement. What she doesn’t need is grumpy-but-gorgeous new boss local vet Alex Morsi and the temptation of his sweet kisses! Yet the shadows in Alex’s eyes are all too compelling for soft-hearted Kiki. She’s been let down badly before, but can Alex prove that he’s the man who will always be by her side? Release date July 2020
Two years ago my family and I started updating my mother’s place on the lake. She has owned it for 50 years. The 4th generation is now enjoying it but the cabin needed some attention. Over the years, my mother has made some additions and improvements but more were required. Mother agreed, and I made a list of large and small repairs and changes. This year is the second wave, and most of them take place outside.
During the virus my neice, her husband and their small children have been living at the cabin. They wanted projects to do to keep them busy and I welcomed the help. They have done a great deal of the work and it looks wonderful.
We have done some major landscaping to the front yard. It’s still a work in progress but with the rock, pinestraw and new grass it is amazing the difference that has been made already.
There has been an addition of a firepit. Everyone thinks it might be the best thing that has been done.
A new handrail and paint has improved the deck.
The pier even got a face lift.
The largest change has been the updated screen porchs.
The best part of all of this is that the next time re-dos need to be done my kids will be doing them all. We are looking forward to the 4th of July and enjoying our hard work.