Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

December in the Fast Lane

Most of the time I take the month of December off but this one has been extra busy. I have a new book out. My 30th for Harlequin. Anytime a new book arrives it means excitement and extra work.
Then there is spending special time with the grandchildren. Here the little angel is mine. Doesn’t she look sweet?
I’ve also been working on my family’s Christmas stockings. I am currently on number 15 of 17. This is me showing them off during a Harlequin program. I’m super proud of them.
My husband and I took a long weekend trip to Jacksonville, FL with some friends. We had a blast. We even saw a Christmas parade on the river. All the boats were decorated. We loved it.
My youngest son, Nick and I attended his heart surgeon’s retirement party. Dr. Kanter did heart surgery on Nick 5 times. One of them a heart transplant. Thirty years of friendship.
My friend Jeanie and I visited the Biltmore House and Gardens. We got a late ticket so we could see it by candlelight. We then drove over to Louisville, Kentucky to see the Southern Living Home. We had a great time.
Nick and I started our basketball season by a trip to Atlanta to see Auburn play. It still amazes me that my 30 something son goes to the games with me. (It doesn’t hurt that I pay most of the time, but who cares? I ‘m getting to spent time with him.) Another good time had.

Now, I’m in Orlando, Florida at the Book Lovers Con. I staying in a beautiful resort hotel. This is just a taste of what it looks like. I will be going home with a sun tan for sure. Then there will be Christmas….

I want to be sure to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Until next year.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Out and About

by Susan Carlisle

The gates have been opened and I’ve been released on the world. After months of staying at home I’m loving being out among the people. The one thing I’ve had hammered home in the last few months is that people need people. My going has picked up to being in the fast lane in the last few months.

First, I was off to Nashville, Tennessee to give a program about my father’s family with the last name Myhr. My great grandfather was from Norway. The picture is of some of my family in front of the ancestral house. It was great to see everyone.

My next stop was a week cruising around Iceland. The trip was amazing. Waterfalls were everywhere.

Not going to conferences for a writer is very difficult. They are where we learn new things about the industry and see people who understand us. Finally I had a chance to attended NINC in person in Tampa, Florida in late September. The cherry on top was getting to go to a Maroon 5 concert. The group put on a great show. Tampa was a very nice place to spend a week in the fall. Getting a tan while gaining knowledge is the best of both worlds. I came home eager to write my next book. A refreshing concept after the last few months I have had.

Three days after getting back from Florida I attend my local writers conference. I was renewed. It was wonderful to see friends and make new ones. Nancy Harkness and I bonded. Even though she beat me out for a Maggie Award. Her book was better than mine and I told her that. If you haven’t read one of Nancy’s books you should.

A week later I was off to the Georgia State Fair in Perry, Georgia. My sister-in-law and I spent time seeing a skiing show, a seal show and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. If you don’t know Gary Puckett’s music, I encourage you to go out and find it. You’ll be glad you did.

My going isn’t over, thank goodness, but more about that later.

Have you been anywhere fun lately?

Oh, yeah. I have a new book out in January. I thought I’d share the cover.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Adventures in Iceland

by Susan Carlisle

My husband and I have just gotten back from a cruise around Iceland. I will admit we had hoops to jump through because of COVID but those came after we had already booked the trip. The beauty and friendliness of the country wasn’t dampened by all the “stuff” we had to do. Each stop became my favorite. Then the next day it was the next stop.

Masked and ready to go.

My husband indulged my love of afternoon tea while on the ship.
Looking across the water at a glacier
Our room was right next to the Captain’s and steps away from the bridge.
Historical house made of sod. There is few trees in Iceland.
A major waterfall and they were everywhere. We saw at least 50 in one day.
Snow on the mountains all year long.
Anything that has to do with WWII must be visited by my husband. Iceland was no exception. This is an old army barracks.
This is where I want to stay on my next visit. This are little house of a B&B. The view is unbelievable.
We had fermented shark and dried fish with a 80 prof wine. I don’t recommend any of it but it was an experience. We also had lamb done in mushrooms. We thought it was good.
Riding a tender out to the ship from an island.

We had a great trip. One I would go on again. If you wish to hear more about Iceland check out my Facebook Live Talking Books, Tea and Everything in Between on Sunday, August 15. I do a Facebook Live every Sunday at 2pm eastern. I’d love to have you join me.

Have you taken a trip recently? Even for the day?

Cover reveal, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Escaping

By Susan Carlisle

My husband and I needed to get away – somewhere, anywhere. In all our travels we had never been to Yosemite National Park in California. So we flew to Reno, Nevada, and drove to the park. The one thing we quickly learned was that you had to want to go to Yosemite. It isn’t easy to get to. The second thing we learn is that it is amazingly beautiful, and the third thing was it was worth the trouble to get there.

On our way to Bridgeport, CA
Along the road

This is the type of wagon the pioneers crossed the United States in. My husband and I spent a night in it. I know we were much more comfortable than our forefathers.

Yes, that is a queen size bed. We had a heater, which we needed, and a small refrigerator. The only thing missing was a bathroom. We had to walk to it. Still the stay was a lot of fun.

We are in Yosemite here. The tree were huge and gorgeous. Everything surrounding us made us feel small.

The spring runoff made the rivers rough and coooold!

We stayed in the Ahwahnee Lodge inside the park. It has been serving people for 70 years. I love these type of places. I can imagine woman with fancy dresses on and men in their suits waiting to be seated for a meal in the enormous dining room. They don’t build them like this anymore.

Yosemite Falls. To think it will have almost no water coming over it by September. But then comes the snows and the process starts all over again in the spring.

I highly recommend a visit to Yosemite. It’s a special place.

I have a new book out in July.

Taming the Hot-Shot Doc

Taming the Hot-Shot Doc by [Susan Carlisle]

He’s lost everything…
Dare he risk his heart?
When renowned Chicago surgeon Matt Chapman agreed to testify against a notorious crime family, he lost his family, his fiancée and his career. Now he hopes to start again in an idyllic Mississippi town. But his efforts to keep to himself are threatened by his new boss, Dr. Shay Lunsford, who seems just as alone as he is. Dare Matt get closer to Shay and risk his heart again?

Have you been to a beautiful place lately?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Art of Giving Something Away

by Susan Carlisle

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?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Nick’s New Heart 30 Years and Counting… Excerpt

By Susan Carlisle

Nick's New Heart: 30 Years and Counting by [Susan May]

To pre-order ebook: Amazon

Print available on March 21

Birth

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.”

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Celebrating a Milestone

By Susan Carlisle

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.

Do you know anyone who has had a transplant?

Nick's New Heart: 30 Years and Counting by [Susan May]

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

A Year of Sewing

By Susan Carlisle

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!!!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

A Small Early Christmas Gift–Under The Kissing Ball

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.”

            He chuckled.

            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.

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Pride Goeth Before a Fall

by Susan Carlisle

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

 This one is out on November 1