Heart Song by Annie Douglass Lima


Two alien worlds.
One teen emissary.
No reality she can trust.
Thirteen-year-old Liz Smith has been ripped away from one foster family after another for years, so the idea of a permanent home is tantalizing. Who cares if that home is a colony sixty-five thousand light-years from Earth? The friends in her trusty e-reader will keep her company just fine on her interstellar relocation.
But when the adventure of a lifetime turns into the disaster of the cosmos, Liz can only retreat so far into the books that have always sheltered her from loneliness and loss. Trapped in half-truths and secrets that leave her questioning reality, can one orphaned bookworm find a way to stop two races from destroying each other … and somehow write a happy ending to her own story?
If you like books about space travel, aliens, or cross-cultural transitions, you’ll love this poignant science fiction adventure. Click here to get your copy of Heartsong now and start the journey today! (Shh! For July 1st and 2nd only, the ebook is available for free!)
Read on for a sample of the story …
Chapter One
My love of reading started the whole thing.
The best place to read on the Laika was in the lifeboats. I’d discovered that on the first leg of the trip, during the flight from Earth to the jump point off of Phoebe. I mean, what else was there to do when we couldn’t see much through the viewports? The view was exciting when there was one, but when you’re far away from anything, space all looks the same.
The hyperspace jump that shot us across the galaxy had been quick, of course, so no time to get bored there. And after we came out of it at the jump point off of Somav, the blue giant that would light my skies for the rest of my life, the flight toward the little moon Soma was pretty exciting, too. I couldn’t stop staring as we passed Somavia, the blue and white planet I knew none of us would ever see close up again. I wondered about the aliens whose home it was. What were they like? The pictures and video Forerunner had sent back, from the few passes it had taken in high orbit, left everyone with more questions than they answered.
Of course, we knew the planet had a breathable atmosphere. If it hadn’t been for the alien race who already lived there — and the tirtellium that we were going to mine on Soma, of course — New Horizons Industries might have decided to set up its colony on the planet Somavia instead of on its moon.
We passed Somavia three days ago, and we’d been orbiting Soma ever since. Which was also exciting, at first. I couldn’t wait to actually get down there and start life on my new home. A home I would get to help create, along with the adult scientists and miners and the rest of the Young Explorers. A home I would never be taken away from just when I was starting to settle in. My forever home. Normally I hated new beginnings, but this one was different. This would be the last new beginning of my life.
Even the colony’s name, chosen by the Samoan astronomer who discovered this solar system, was perfect. Avanoa, which apparently meant opportunity in the Samoan language, sounded to me like a kingdom from some fantasy novel.
Not that life in Avanoa was going to be a fantasy. I knew that starting a colony would be hard work, but that didn’t matter. A real home, with friends I would never have to say goodbye to, would be worth any amount of work.
Soma was interesting to look at, though not as pretty as the planet it orbited. The moon was mostly brown, with splotches of gray-green surrounding the dark blue dots that marked the location of its scattered lakes. With no actual oceans, the moon had just enough water to support a little plant and animal life. Nothing too dangerous, at least as far as we could tell from Forerunner’s pictures. Insects. Some fish and crustaceans that might or might not be edible. Small reptilian or maybe amphibian creatures that lived in and around the lakes. A handful of different mammals, all tiny, that made their homes in the hills. Nothing that seemed likely to bother two hundred human colonists setting up a new home on their world.
Of course, the aliens could be another story. We knew the Somavians had developed a limited form of space travel; we knew they had mines on Soma, too. But whatever they were mining for, it wasn’t tirtellium, and they only had a few tunnel mines in a few locations. We planned to set up our colony hundreds of kilometers away, where if all went according to plan, they wouldn’t even know we were around. Forerunner’s sensors had not detected any other artificial satellites in orbit around either Somavia or Soma, and as far as we could tell, the locals had no instruments capable of detecting Forerunner, no way to suspect we were coming. Its orbit was carefully programmed to keep it out of sight of any of their mines after dark, when it might be visible from the ground as a moving point of light.
The adults all said that hopefully we would never have to encounter any Somavians, but all of us kids hoped we would. I mean, why would anyone in their right mind not want to meet the first real live aliens actually confirmed to exist?
Jessie, who loved science fiction movies almost as much as I loved reading, had often kept Maria and Shaliqua and me awake late into the night back in our dorm room discussing all the possible alien-related adventures that awaited us if we ever made contact. Most of those possibilities were a lot more fun — though some were scarier — than the idea of living in isolation and never letting the locals know we were on their moon.
Anyway, judging by Forerunner’s footage, Somavian culture seemed peaceful, with no evidence of any wars going on down on their home world. If they did find out about the humans in their solar system, hopefully they wouldn’t mind us being there. We wouldn’t bother them, and with any luck, they wouldn’t bother us. And if they did get mad, well, the Laika had some weapons. Not enough to wage war with, but hopefully enough to convince them to leave us alone.
So much to wonder about. So much to look forward to. I could hardly wait to get down to the surface and start my new life. But here we all were, stuck in orbit for three whole days so far. Three painfully long and boring days. Earth days, that is. It had been nearly five Soman days, though we wouldn’t officially switch to using Soman time until we landed.
Atmospheric storms. Who would have thought that storms would be this big of an issue on a world with virtually no precipitation? Our science team had come up with a theory about minerals in the soil reflecting particles and wavelengths from the solar flares that Somav had been throwing out since our arrival. Whatever the case, the result was some pretty impressive windstorms in parts of the atmosphere. Since the spot picked out for Avanoa was directly underneath one of the worst storms, Captain Tyler insisted it wouldn’t be safe to try to land yet.
But no one had anticipated that the flares and storms would go on this long. At first, I was glad of the opportunity to orbit my new home and see what it looked like from space. But after a while the excitement faded, and everyone turned grouchy as we all grew more and more bored and impatient. The movies and games preloaded on our Horizon-brand tablets weren’t good enough to keep everyone happy, not while we had to put the adventure we’d all waited over a year to start on hold indefinitely. And I’d never been a big fan of video games or movies anyway.
So I did what I always do when real people get too annoying. I pulled out my old-school Novareader and turned to my true friends, the ones who never got annoying, who would always be there for me no matter what, who I never had to say goodbye to. And I escaped to the one place I had found on board where nobody would bother me or interrupt my adventures to ask what I was reading or exclaim over their new high score in who-cares-what-virtual-adventure on their RizeTab.
The Laika was designed to be taken apart when we arrived. Its decking and bulkheads would be used to help create Avanoa’s buildings until we could construct permanent residences from local rock, and that was one of the reasons the ship was so large. But big though it was, it had no extra empty space. Every compartment was full of freeze-dried food items, mining equipment, packages of seeds for genetically modified crops designed to grow well in the moon’s dry soil, and educational resources for us youth, because even on an interstellar adventure, there was no escaping school in some form.
So I had discovered in between Earth and Phoebe that the lifeboats were the best place to read. I wasn’t sure if I was really supposed to hang out in them, but they were unlocked, because after all, what would be the point in locking something that people would need to get into in a hurry in an emergency?
I sat curled up on a seat in Lifeboat 1, alternating between reading and looking out to see if anything interesting had come into sight down below. But from this angle, the one window — a wide viewport at the very front — was mostly full of stars, only a tiny sliver of Soma visible from one edge. I could have turned on the screen at the lifeboat’s navigational console and adjusted it to show me any view I liked, but that might trigger some sort of alert, and I didn’t want anyone showing up to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be in here.
So I joined Caz and her friends on their travels across the Granbo system, caught up in their space adventure on my Novareader screen, since my own space adventure had turned pretty dull. Lunch was another two hours away, so I might as well enjoy myself in the meantime.
And I did — until the ship vibrated more vigorously than usual and the fasten seatbelts sign flicked on.
I often felt as though several of me were debating inside my head. For a moment, Cautious Liz wondered if I should return to my seat. But what was the point? Practical Liz reminded me that I would be just as safe here in the lifeboat, and if the turbulence got bad, walking around with the Laika lurching under me would not be the smartest idea.
I already had my seatbelt on, since that was the best way to keep from floating around. Not that floating around wasn’t fun, but there was too little room in the lifeboat to do mid-air flips and spins without banging into things, and drifting around while I read made it hard to focus on the book. Of course my magnetic-soled shoes could have kept me anchored to the deck, but not when I wanted to sit cross-legged.
So I just tightened my seatbelt a little and turned back to The Gypsy Pearl. We had encountered turbulence lots of times in the last few days, thanks to the solar flares. It was no big deal.
But the vibrations grew stronger, and then the ship started lurching under me. I lowered my Novareader and looked around, but there was nothing to see here in the little lifeboat. The stars jumped and jerked outside the window, and if it hadn’t been for my seatbelt, I knew I would have been thrown about and probably injured already.
I waited for the crackle of the intercom and Captain Tyler’s voice to explain what was happening or issue instructions. But I heard nothing, and I wondered if the flares had damaged the lifeboat’s intercom system. They had interfered with the Laika’s electrical systems before, after all. Now I wished I’d returned to my seat while I could. If something dangerous was happening, I would rather face it with the others in the main cabin, where at least I would know what was going on.
Without warning, the lights flickered and then went out. Now that was a first. An instant later, an alarm screeched, making me jump. I gasped, really worried for the first time since we left Earth. The screeching continued as the stars swirled and zigzagged, sending faint but frightening shadows thrashing around me like alien spirits trying to take over the ship. For a second I wondered if that could actually be happening. Maybe the Somavians had powers we didn’t know about. Maybe they were trying to drive us out of their system … or worse.
Then the emergency lights embedded in the deck glowed to life, and I let out my breath in relief. The navigational computer two rows ahead of me powered on automatically, its screen lighting up green.
My relief was short-lived, though. The alarm kept blaring its intermittent warning. Screech! Silence. Screech! Silence. Screech! The turbulence was worse than ever, as though the Laika was a wild horse, bucking and leaping and trying to throw its rider off. And that rider gripped the edge of her seat all alone there in the lifeboat, wondering what in the universe was happening.
Suddenly the whirling stars vanished and Soma swung into view, filling the viewport ahead of me, a blur of brown-blue-gray-green-brown. I barely had time to notice before it was gone and the streaking stars reappeared. Then the moon appeared again.
My stomach was spinning as fast as the ship. Thank goodness I had inherited the Smith Stomach of Steel, or my breakfast would probably have ended up all around me. I could only imagine what a nasty experience that would be in zero gravity with the ship thrashing around like this.
A new noise caught my attention. A mechanical noise, a series of clicks and clinks and the sliding of metal against metal. I had only ever heard it before in simulations, but I recognized it right away, and my heart lurched in terror. “No!”
Words flashed across the computer screen, large enough to read from where I sat. LIFEBOAT LAUNCHING.
“No! I yelled again. I fumbled for the seatbelt clasp and flung myself across the tiny cabin, lunging for the manual override button beside the door. Not a smart move, I have to admit, considering how wildly everything was jerking around me. But I panicked. Can you blame me? None of our training, none of the simulations, had dealt with what to do if the lifeboat you were sitting in alone accidentally detached from the ship.
I knew what to do if a lifeboat didn’t detach when it was supposed to. I knew which lifeboat I was supposed to board in an emergency. Not this one, though they were all the same. I knew who my lifeboat buddies would be — a fairly even cross-section of the ship’s crew in terms of age and abilities, so we would have the best possible chance of survival in case not every lifeboat made it. I knew how to steer the lifeboat and bring it down for a controlled landing, even though I wasn’t the assigned helmsperson in my group. We had all learned all those skills, just in case.
But I didn’t know how to survive in deep space or on Soma’s surface on my own. The cupboards contained emergency rations and survival gear, of course, but not enough to live off of indefinitely. Of course the lifeboat would emit a signal that the ship’s sensors would pick up — I knew they were picking it up already, as of the moment my craft started to detach — but what if no one could come and get me right away? What if I landed on Soma, but the Laika couldn’t land for days or even weeks? They would have no way to rescue a stranded teenager who shouldn’t have been reading in a lifeboat in the first place.
And what if the aliens found me before my people did?
All that went swirling through my brain within a couple of seconds as I slammed my fist into the manual override button again and again. But nothing happened. That is, the hatch didn’t open to let me out into the ship’s corridor. But the incessant alarm finally went silent, and the frantic jerking and thrashing stopped, replaced by a slow, gentle twirl.
For a second, Optimistic Liz dared to hope that the trouble was over. But I knew that wasn’t it.
The lifeboat was no longer connected to the ship.
Too horrified even to yell again, I watched the Laika drift past the window, Somav’s light tinting her silver-white hull a metallic frostbite-blue against the blackness of space. She was still spinning and dancing like some huge bird as the solar flares played havoc with her electrical systems. And then I saw only stars, and then the mottled brown of the moon, then more stars. And then there went the Laika once more, further away this time.
Grabbing the back of a seat for leverage, I shoved off from the deck, thankful for the zero-gravity training. Floating was faster than clomping along in magnetic shoes, and I had to get to the controls now. I had to steer myself back to the ship.
But as I seized the arm of the helmsperson’s chair and maneuvered my body into it, I realized I had no idea how to reattach a lifeboat to its socket on the ship’s side. They had never taught us that. Were lifeboats even designed to reattach once they were separated?
Well, somebody must know the proper procedure for this kind of emergency. Captain Tyler or one of the other adults could talk me through the process. Right?
I fumbled for the seatbelt, twisting my ankles around the legs of the chair so I wouldn’t float off in the meantime. Jabbing the intercom button, I called, “Help! I’m in a lifeboat that just detached! What do I do?”
Realizing how panicked and little-girly I sounded, I took a deep breath and tried again. “I mean, this is Liz Smith on Lifeboat 1, calling anybody on the Laika who can hear me. Come in, please.”
There was no response, and I realized that the communication light wasn’t even on. The intercom was offline.
Great. Dang solar flares.
I took another deep breath. I had never felt so alone.
But the controls in front of me looked exactly like the ones in the simulator. I could do this. It would be just the same as I had practiced.
Except this was no game, where the only real struggle was to beat my classmates, to be the first to land my virtual lifeboat safely.
This was a real emergency.
This was my life at stake.
Buy Heartsong from Amazon in Kindle or paperback format here: 

About the Author:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published eighteen books in a wide variety of genres (science fiction, fantasy, YA action and adventure novels, a puppet script, anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.




<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:”Cambria Math”; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:1; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:0 0 0 0 0 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} a:link, span.MsoHyperlink {mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-unhide:no; color:blue; mso-themecolor:hyperlink; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed {mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; color:purple; mso-themecolor:followedhyperlink; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-fareast-language:ZH-TW;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; text-indent: 14.4px; line-height: 3.0px; font: 11.0px Garamond}


Quantum of Eagles’ Exploits by Julius B. Ogunbiyi

About the Book

QUANTUM OF EAGLES’ EXPLOITS is a book written through erudite research filtering facts from fallacies and motivational in approach. All species of Eagles are studied with their respective peculiarities. Life applications to everyday operations in leadership,business and self discipline are emphasised.


Book Excerpt

Eagles have not ceased to amaze humanity from generation to generation, leaving behind awesome stunt of royal peculiarity. There are over sixty species of eagles in various continents of the world and each have some degrees of excellence as traits demonstrated with gracious acumen.

All eagles’ are hunters and they do so with accuracies.

You are an eagle with great prowess and excellent attributes capable of reaching far into the future by riding on the warm air current without struggle.

The skills, grace and wisdom in this book will expose to you the unique selling points of an eagle as distinguishing factors.

Be prepared for visionary thinking and great revolution as you take your life to the next level.

Eagles are specially built to generate result without struggle or stress in their daily activities. You can be the best by emulating the great characteristics of the raptors. Below is an excerpt on the eagle’s respiratory system:

Eagles have external nares opening on both sides of the bills. The Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, African Crown Eagle, Harpy Eagle can never reach speeds that would interfere with their normal breathing. The Eagle’s lungs and air sac system is adequate for its size. Air moves in through the lungs and on into the air sacs before moving back through the Lungs and out again (Air passes through the Lungs twice with each breathing cycle-twice that of mammals.)

Hence eagles are tolerant of cold weather in their habitats. The feet are cold-resistant because they are mostly tendon, while the bill is made up of non-living materials (Keratin) with blood supply terminating at the flesh lining covered with feathers. Also the arrangement of down feather protects the skin.

Eagles don’t sweat! Rather they perch and tent by opening the wings apart for air to blow on them; also they adjust their feathers and allow air to form follicles saturating the skin with coolness.

Author’s Reflection

Find yourself from the crowd! Everybody cannot believe in you and you can’t believe in everybody. Always remember, to compete, be complete.

You are an Eagle, stop eating worms.

Live your life for a purpose because that is the mandate of living. Neither predicament nor prejudice is friendly to purposeful plan, Presumptuous attitude kills purpose faster than the previous two. Guide your purpose with prayer.

Eagles fly and scale great heights, conquer the sky, and rule the mountains; lose yourself from the stake of self-pity.

The next hero to be celebrated is you.

Eagles use what they have to survive. You’ve got talent, skills, wisdom and understanding, use them!

The physical transformation of an eagle from nestling to juvenile is very surprising, though gradual: it is such a marvelous metamorphosis that beats the awe and imagination of man.

Developing the mindset and DNA of an eagle based on fundamental living principles can be so amazing because it evolves as a unique trait founded on excellence.

As the eaglet grows, it evolves into the strong powerful, indomitable, fearless, conquering bird that negotiates nothing less in its living pattern.

The transformation cuts across the subconscious and the mental in unison with the structural body formation; it is primed by consistent flying, observation, and training means then that the way of the eagle is passed down the generations without struggle or missing link in knowledge, act or fundamentals.

This inherent peculiarity is lacking in some organizations, churches, parastatals, educational institutes, and families, this breeds virulent deviants and mavericks that would not colour between the lines. Eagles are stable, unchanging and consistent.


About the Author

Pastor Julius Bamidele Ogunbiyi is an erudite Bible teacher with passion for Apologetics, Bible study, Discipleship, Leadership, and Youth ministry-He is a Minister of the Cross. He is also a Motivational Speaker and Conference teacher with drive for Holiness. He is the publisher of HOLINESS TODAY; he heads SALVATION CAMPAIGN MINISTRIES which has blessed people worldwide. He won the prestigious FIELD CAMP PRIZE from Society of Exploration Geophysicists in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA in 2004. Julius and his wife, Bidemi, have two children and live in Lagos, Nigeria.


Buy the Book




Growing Confidently in Your Faith by Carol Round

About the Book

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:2

How can we become more like Christ? As women of God, we must recognize it’s a lifelong journey. Interruptions and demands on our time can interfere with our desire to know Jesus more intimately. To become more like our Savior and Lord requires us to be intentional—intentional with what and whom we allow into our lives. We have to set aside a time and place each day to meet with Him.

God’s desire is for His children to become more Christ-like. To do that, we must make a commitment to continual spiritual growth. The deeper our knowledge of Christ, the deeper our understanding of Him and the more like Him we become. The outcome? We grow more confident in our faith.

What does this require of us? We must spend time in scripture, examining our lives through the lens of faith. It is my hope this 52-week journey you are about to embark on will do just that.

Are you ready to begin?

This 52-week devotional, organized by month and theme, is designed to be used with a journal. Each Monday, you will find a devotional followed by questions for reflection. I suggest you read the devotional on Monday and scan the questions at the end. On the following days, work at your own pace, continuing to reflect on the questions and journaling your answers. You may need to reread that week’s devotional before answering the questions. You can complete the questions in one sitting or spread them out over the week. The choice is yours.


Book Excerpt


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”—John 1:1 (NIV).

If you’ve never made a New Year’s resolution, you’re in the minority. However, we all have one thing in common — time. In an article for Pulpit Helps, author Steven B. Cloud wrote, “As we look into a New Year, we look at a block of time. We see 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. And all is a gift from God.”

Our lives have become so busy, yet we add to the burden each New Year by making a list of resolutions that most of us will fail to accomplish—quit smoking, lose weight and get healthy or save more money. This is just a partial list but some of the more popular ones. That’s why we see so many advertisements promoting products and gyms to help us accomplish our goals. Stroll through the aisles of a bookstore and you’ll find so many self-help books, it’ll make you go cross-eyed with confusion.

One book, however, has the power to change your life. The Bible is filled with words of wisdom and encouragement. In Luke 11:28, Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

In January 2007, Pastor Mike Ashcraft challenged his congregation to ditch their New Year’s resolutions and each pick one word to focus on that year. Embracing this new idea to approaching personal change and spiritual growth, church members realized the simple plan is more effective than making an overwhelming list of resolutions each year. Why? Called God’s instruction book for life, the Bible addresses every aspect of our lives—spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially.

Because we lead busy lives, we tend to focus on the surface-level of issues, forgetting God has numbered our days. Trying to manage our lives and our time, we fail miserably because we haven’t taken the time to seek God’s wisdom. Ultimately, says Pastor Ashcraft, that’s what the “My One Word” project is all about.

Willpower and self-effort only get us so far. When we’re overwhelmed with a long list, it’s even more difficult to achieve lasting change. That’s why, according to Ashcraft, the One-Word project works. To choose a word for the New Year, Ashcraft suggests asking the following questions:

• What kind of person do I want to become this year?

• What drives my desire to be this kind of person?

• What characteristics define this type of person? Make a list. • Reduce your list to 10 words or less, research those words using a dictionary and Bible.

• Choose one word from your list as your word for the year.

• Choose a Bible verse that speaks to you about your chosen word and memorize it. This will provide a foundation of truth you can continually return to and will fuel your hope to change.

• What initial expectations do you have regarding the impact of your word? One word can change your life when it is grounded in faith.


Renew: As you begin a new year, take the first week of January to reflect on the questions above and choose your word for this year. I have done this for several years now and I am always surprised when God leads me to select the right one for me. Some of my past words have been focus, grow and trust. I’m always surprised when the year is almost over and I realize how appropriate the chosen word was for me.

Recommit: As you begin your journey, recommit your ways to the Lord, leaving behind those things in the past holding you back from being your best for Him. Ask Him to reveal to you what you need to let go of to move forward. As Christians, we should always be moving forward.

Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus” (CEB).

Rejoice: After selecting your word, write it at the top of each page in your prayer journal to remind yourself of your commitment to spiritual growth.



About the Author

CAROL ROUND, self-syndicated international columnist, Christian author and inspirational speaker, began her journey with the Lord in October 2001 when she admitted her need for His guidance. Since that time, she has sought a deeper relationship with Him through reading scripture, Bible study and the personal discipline of keeping a daily prayer journal. She lives in northeastern Oklahoma with her spoiled rotten dog, Harley. She is mother to two grown sons and Nana to seven grandchildren.

Buy the Book




Against All Odds by Becca Hart

About the Book

Two years after a violent break-in left Elizabeth Seymour widowed and with blood on her hands, she’s finally starting over in the little town of Avalon, Ohio, with her daughter, Haley. She has the house of her dreams, a good church, and friends she can rely on. Everything seems to be falling into place—until she receives a threatening note from Veronica Sadowsky, the sister of the man Elizabeth shot, the same woman who tried to ruin her life once before. This time, though, Veronica won’t stop until she gets revenge.

When Elizabeth’s home goes up in flames, she turns to family friend, Doctor Gilbert Callahan, a widowed father of three. He invites her and Haley to stay with his family. As Veronica draws Elizabeth into a game of increasing stakes, she and Gilbert only grow closer, learning to trust and rely on one another. But Elizabeth’s presence in Gilbert’s home endangers his family and creates tension with his oldest son. Preserving peace in the house is hard enough, but when Veronica comes after Haley, Elizabeth will risk everything—including her life—to get her child back.


Elizabeth grabbed the mail, calling a quick hello to Mr. Helmheckle next door.

A plain envelope rested on top of a store ad. Her brow furrowed. What was this? She tossed the bills and ads on the end table and tore the strange envelope open. Who would send her a single folded piece of notepad paper?

There were two typed sentences: ‘You thought you could hide? No, I’m watching you.’

Her feet rooted to the carpet.

God, no. She stumbled back onto the arm of the chair. She stared at the words till they blurred. Not here. Why here? It was supposed to be over. Avalon was a safe haven. Her eyes slid closed. Lord God, why’s this happening again? How had Adam Sadowsky’s sister, Veronica, found her again? Granted, Columbus was only an hour’s drive, but still. She hadn’t wanted to go too far away from Dad and Darlene, not to mention her sister, Jenna.

Her throat felt like it was clogged with peanut butter. She tried swallowing. It can’t be…

Print didn’t lie, though.


About the Author

A wife and mother of two, Becca Hart felt the calling to be a writer at the tender age of fifteen. She earned her Associate of Arts degree from Pikes Peak Community College in 2013. Though born and raised in a small town in northeast Ohio, Becca makes her home in southern Colorado in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. You can visit her website  , on Twitter @BeccaHart16, and on Facebook 

Buy the Book




Well by Alias in Town

About the Book

The memoir, Well, chronicles my journey toward healing in a unique way. When I came home from treatment, I started pouring over old journals and found entries where I sought forgiveness, healing and deliverance. I gathered them up into a scrapbook. I also added original artwork telling my story through the end of a paintbrush. I dug through my blog, and gathered essays into the scrapbook too. I realized this scrapbook had become something. It had become a vulnerable and raw memoir telling a story of hope.

Book Excerpt

Looking Up From The Bottom – The bonds of sleep slowly slid off my body, and I could finally stretch out my legs. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. My morning breath was awful. The strong smell of alcohol hit my nostrils, and the heat of anger flooded my body. I was alive! Damnit! I was still alive! WHY!!! My 12 page suicide note was still attached to the bedroom door with the big bandaid mocking my lack of tape. The empty Klonopin bottle was still on the nightstand. It had been full less than 12 hours ago. A ½ liter of 100 proof liquor sat on the floor. The other half I had used to wash the pills down. I should be dead.

DAMN! I kept saying in my head. I don’t usually swear, but I figured I already tried to kill myself, so to hell with it.

That was my state of mind. Actually, my mind didn’t have a state. It was mush brain. A cohesive thought could not have stuck in my brain with super glue and duct tape. I pickled my brain in a bath of 100 proof alcohol which I secretly drank daily for about two years. In my desperation for relief, I’d followed the advice of an internet stranger who recommended alcohol to take away the vertigo. Yes. One shot did. But soon one shot wasn’t enough. I needed two, then more and more. The escape was glorious. Soon, instead of just using it for vertigo, I was using all the time just to escape my illness, my reality, my depression, and the struggle I was having for identity, feelings of failure, and utter loneliness.

It wasn’t just the alcohol, either. I had figured out ways of getting my hands on prescription pain pills. They also took away the vertigo, but even better, they numbed everything. I had been hospitalized with an accidental overdose just a year prior to the suicide attempt. Oh, I was such a mess! That is exactly where really bad coping strategies can land you, given enough time and energy. Limited solutions, taken to their extreme, took me to a hopeless destination — The End. The end of myself.

Downing those pills to end my life had seemed like the perfectly logical thing to do. My clouded brain told me I had no reason to exist. Awakening from that fog was the last thing I wanted, and I was filled to the brim with anger that I was still alive. I was still here. I was still sick. I was still useless. I was still a burden. I was still without hope. I was still lost. I was still helpless. Still…

I remember a friend coming into the bedroom and hugging me, saying something like, “I heard you were having a hard time.” She was there to take my children away, and I wanted to discuss my DIY headboard! Say what? Oh, my mind was just not functioning with cohesive thoughts.

When I stumbled out of the bedroom, I walked into a living room surrounded by family and friends. I actually felt like I walked into a warm wall of love. Overcome by shame, I wanted to turn around and hide. The shame! I was so ashamed, but they were inviting and understanding. It was an intervention. There was so much love in the room. Looking back, I didn’t understand everything being said to me. My mind was not clear enough, but I understood the love I felt in the room. Love is a language even a drug and alcohol soaked brain could understand.

Aimee Mullins said, “All you need is one person to show you the epiphany of your own power.”

I had a room of people who gave me that epiphany. They gave me a glimpse of a future. They became my future. They became my reason. I would go to the hospital for them. I would fight for my life for them. I would love them back by learning to love myself. Love is a language, and I would learn to speak it fluently.


About the Author

Alias In Town is an anagram of the author’s name. In every town there are alias people living with chronic illness, chronic pain, addiction and depression. Alias In Town is one of those people. Learning to live well while ill is a necessary and difficult endeavor. She learned multiple coping and life strategies to be Well.

“I am more than my body. I am body, mind and spirit. My body is simply the weakest unit of the triad. Though chronic illness affects the entire triad, I have made considerable effort to strengthen my mind and spirit to find the balance of ‘Well’. – book excerpt

One of the most anxiety releasing activities she utilizes is art. She explores art through several mediums and included them in the book “Well.” She does not claim to be a proficient artist but utilizing art is cathartic to her. She has an art website

She has been married for 35 years with 6 children and 7 grandchildren and lives in central Ohio.


Buy the Book




The Nameless Soldier by Annie Douglass Lima


The Nameless Soldier is book 4 in the Annals of Alasia young adult fantasy series. Haven’t read all (or any) of the others? That’s okay! The books can be read in any order, and each one can stand on its own.


What do you do when you’re the only survivor?

Nineteen-year-old Tarvic bears the name of a mighty hero from Alasia’s past. However, the young soldier feels anything but heroic when he regains consciousness to find himself the lone survivor of a brutal attack by invaders from the neighboring kingdom. 

Forced to leave his identity behind, Tarvic is thrust into civilian life in the role of protector to three war orphans. When the four of them encounter a mysterious stranger, he must choose between keeping the young girls safe and taking on a mission that could help free his kingdom. Can Tarvic live up to his noble name and find a way to balance his duty and his dreams?

Where to Get a Copy:

Click here to buy the ebook or paperback from Amazon. (The ebook is $2.99 just $0.99 through June 6th!)

Not sure if you’ll like the story or not? Take a look at the first chapter and see!



The Nameless Soldier
Chapter One



Tarvic woke to the sound of a distant yell, abruptly silenced. He pushed his blankets aside and sat up, puzzled, but heard only the light patter of rain on the canvas. “What was that?”
Drevel, his roommate in the barracks and tentmate out on campaigns like this, stirred and rolled over. “What?”
“I heard something. Someone shouting.”
“It’s probably just another drill.” But Drevel sat up too, shoving his own blankets away, as Tarvic crawled over and untied the tent flap.
A blast of wintry air and raindrops greeted him as he leaned out, peering across the tent-studded hillside. Clouds hid the moon and stars, and on every side the thick dark of the forest leaned in from the edges of the large clearing. But the telltale flickering light of distant torches sent shadows leaping over tents and across the open spaces between them. Why would someone be using torches out here? Any soldier in camp had easy access to lanterns among the supplies.
Something was wrong. Very wrong. Tarvic pulled back into the tent and yanked on his breeches and jacket.
They both heard the next yell, closer this time, and then the unmistakable clash of swords. Both men snatched up their own swords, jamming their feet into their boots and fumbling for shields. From all around them, shouts of alarm erupted as men in their company woke up.
And then the enemy was upon them. Horses exploded through the camp, trampling tents and the soldiers just crawling out of them. Riders leaned low off their mounts’ backs, swinging swords and waving torches.
Halfway out of his tent, Tarvic threw himself flat on his face to avoid a slash that would probably have decapitated him. He scrambled to his feet, only to be knocked off them again by a blow that he barely caught on his shield.
Light, shadows, horses, blades, rain. Chaos raged through the clearing to the sound of crashing metal, pounding hooves, shouts of challenge and desperation. Tarvic regained his feet and fought as best he could from the ground while enemy riders thundered around him. Dodging and ducking, he aimed for the men’s legs and tried to keep out from under their horses’ hooves. With no idea who he was fighting or why, his only goal to stay alive for the next heartbeat, he dodged and darted through the tumult looking for spots where horses and enemy swords weren’t. All around him, men fought and ran and crumpled to lie as limply as the trampled tents.
Slipping and stumbling in the mud, Tarvic felt a surge of satisfaction as his sword met flesh and an enemy yelled in pain. And then the man wheeled his horse and charged back toward him, and Tarvic turned to flee.
He tripped on something soft that groaned. Pain shot through Tarvic’s wrist as he caught his fall, and only a quick roll saved him from being trampled as the man’s horse cantered over him.
Its rider wheeled again, and Tarvic rose to his knees, barely raising his shield in time to protect his face. The force of the blow threw him backward, jarring his already sore wrist.
Another horse leaped over him, and Tarvic cried out in pain as a hoof struck him on the shoulder. He stumbled to his feet, ducking low to present as small a target as possible, and ran through the melee.
He saw fewer people on foot now, more obstacles in the mud. Was it cowardly to flee from a battle you couldn’t win? Nothing in Tarvic’s eight months in the military had prepared him for this. Not counting occasional minor border skirmishes, the kingdom of Alasia hadn’t seen an actual war in six generations. Besides routine patrols, city peacekeeping, and the frequent drills and training, the military’s primary duties involved escorting merchant wagons through robber-frequented stretches of rural highway and keeping an eye on the sections of coastline where seafaring raiders were known to attack. Tarvic had never fought in a battle that involved more than a handful of opponents at a time, and none of those opponents had been anywhere near this organized — or this deadly.
If we escape, we can regroup somewhere safer and — A hard blow to the back knocked him to the ground again as another horse pounded over him. Giving up all pretense of courage, Tarvic scrambled to his feet once more and fled for the edge of the clearing and the relative safety of the trees beyond. I can’t do anything here. They’re going to slaughter us all!
He was practically there when another rider appeared in front of him, leaning low with sword outstretched. Tarvic almost impaled himself on the blade, raising his shield just in time. He fought back frantically as the man slashed, swinging his weapon again and again. I need my horse! Military training had included nothing about how to fight a mounted enemy from the ground. But Lightning was tethered in the row of makeshift stalls on the far side of the camp, probably prancing restlessly under his blanket and wondering why his rider didn’t come to spur him into battle.
Tarvic didn’t even see the blow that almost killed him. His ears barely registered the thudding of more galloping hooves from behind, nearly drowned out by the rain and the sounds of battle. But the world exploded in light and pain as something struck the back of his head harder than anything had ever hit him before.
He lurched forward, feeling his sword drop from limp fingers. Managing two steps before his legs buckled, he was just conscious enough to recognize the urgent need to crawl. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Or they’ll kill you out here. That was the only thought left in his mind as he pulled himself toward the concealing shadows behind the line of tree trunks. And then even that faded, giving way to darkness.
Want to know what happens to Tarvic? Click here to purchase the book and find out!
About the Author:


Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published seventeen books (four YA action and adventure novels, five fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.








Three Strand Cord by Tracy Krauss

About the Book

Tempest. Stella. Cherise. Fate brought them together, but can their friendship survive the tangled web of danger and deception that threatens their very lives? When Cherise convinces Tempest to pretend to be her so that she can sneak out of the country to be with her dashing Italian boyfriend, she is inadvertently implicated in an international drug ring. An unexpected complication forces Tempest to prolong the charade and she finds herself attracted to the very man who might be out to cause her harm. Meanwhile, Stella’s high ideals are met with suspicion and disdain at her father’s Texas ranch, until she uncovers a dangerous secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy. At the same time, her own errant emotions take over as she falls in love with two brothers at the same time. Things heat up when Cherise is kidnapped and the three friends must turn to one another – and God – to get out of harm’s way. Three Strand Cord is a story of intrigue and romance told from three different points of view, all coming together to prove that when it comes to true friendship, ‘a three strand cord is not easily broken’.

Book Excerpt


Stately red brick, manicured lawns, and well kept flower beds – the perfect backdrop for Parkview Private Girls’ Academy. Nature itself crowned all with a cobalt sky and warmth from the golden sun. All was exactly as it should be for an institution that prided itself on turning out well bred young ladies of means.

“Quick! This way!” A dark haired girl of about twelve gestured to her companions, her voice barely above a whisper. All three girls ducked around the sculpted hedge and squatted, peeping through the foliage.

The blonde one giggled. “This is sooo exciting!”

“What if we get in trouble?” The third girl pushed her glasses up on her nose with her forefinger. Her chestnut hair bobbed as she shook her head. “I’m not sure this is such a good idea.”

“Sh!” The dark haired ringleader held a finger to her lips. “Here comes Casey Brinks.”

The three waited, holding a collective breath as their arch nemesis, another twelve-year-old girl, neared the appointed spot under a tree. Suddenly, an explosion of water soaked her as a water balloon hit her dead on. “Ah!” The girl stood frozen while she tried to catch her breath.

“Come on,” hissed the leader – and the one with the accurate aim. The threesome crept from the shadows as stealthily as twelve-year-old girls wearing uniforms were able, and made a break for it, letting their excited giggles burst from their lungs unfettered.

“I see you, Stella Crayton!” The enraged mini-diva called after them, hands on hips. “You and your little cronies! The headmistress is going to hear about this!”

The girls kept running. They’d been caught outright and all that was left now was to wait for the punishment. Stella reached the maintenance shed first, her black hair flying out behind her. She yanked the door open and all three slipped inside.

“What do you think they’ll do?” Tempest’s eyes looked even bigger and wider behind her spectacles.

Stella shrugged. “Call our parents.”

“Do you think they’ll send us home? I don’t want to live with Aunt Rose.” Tempest frowned, her eyebrows disappearing behind the rims of her glasses.

Cherise flipped her blonde tresses back off her shoulders. “Don’t worry. Daddy’s on the board of directors.”

“Oh. Are you sure they won’t send us home?” Tempest’s eyes were wide, her voice hopeful.

“Nothing is ever for sure,” Stella stated. “But our folks are paying way too much for them to get rid of us. Besides, I’m the one who threw the balloon, not you.”

“But what if your folks make you go home?” Tempest began twisting her hands together. Stella snorted. “The last thing my stepmother wants is to have me back home.”

“You wouldn’t want to go and leave us anyway, would you?” Cherise teased. “Your two best friends in the whole world?”

Stella shrugged. “Not that I don’t love you two, but…”

“You miss Texas,” Tempest supplied. “Like I miss California. And… and…” She clamped her mouth, blinking her eyelashes rapidly.

“Hey, it’s okay.” Cherise put a comforting arm around Tempest’s shoulders. “I know you miss your folks. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost mine like you did. Even if they are a pain sometimes.”

Tempest shook her head. “I don’t want to live with Aunt Rose,” she stated again.

“We won’t let that happen. Will we, Stella?” Cherise looked to the other girl for confirmation.

“We’ll try our best.”

“Why doesn’t your stepmother like you?” Tempest swiped at a tear that had strayed down her cheek.

Stella shrugged. “Guess she wants my dad all to herself.”

Tempest leaned her head back against the rough wall and sighed. “What do you miss most about Texas?” Stella furrowed her brow.

“Besides the ranch? Zane and Blue.”

“Are those your pets?” Cherise asked.

“No, silly. Zane and Blue are my best friends – well, besides you guys,” Stella explained.

“You have boys for friends?” Tempest’s eyes had become almost as round as her glasses.

“You’re so funny!” Cherise giggled. “I’d love to have boys for friends – especially with names like Zane and Blue. Are they cute?”

Stella frowned. “They’re just friends. You are so boy crazy, Cherise Hillyer.”

Cherise just shrugged. “So?”

“Anyway, there’s no chance of me going home now. My stepmother has seen to that. She couldn’t wait to get me out of the house just as soon as she married my dad.”

“Just like a fairytale.” Cherise sighed dreamily.

“Believe me, there’s nothing fun about it.” Stella sat up and crossed her arms over her chest.

“At least you have parents.” Tempest’s voice was quiet. She fixed her gaze on her lap, blinking rapidly.

“We’re your family now, Temp, right Stella?” Cherise gave Tempest’s shoulder a quick squeeze before she shifted, straightening. “Enough gloom! Let’s talk about Casey Brinks. We got her good! She is such a snob. I can’t believe I used to be friends with her.”

“Yeah, until you started hanging around with us,” Stella stated. “We weren’t cool enough for the Casey Brinks fan club.” She shifted her position so she could peek out a small knothole in the wall of the shed. “Coast is still clear.”

“You’re way more fun, anyway,” Cherise declared. “This is so exciting. And kind of scary, too.” “Just wait till Ole Miss Crankypants gets a hold of us,” Stella said, her eyes twinkling.

“Now, that will be scary.”

“So what do we do now? Just wait to get caught?” Cherise asked.

“Pretty much,” Stella said with a shrug.

“Hey, I have an idea.” Tempest dug in her pocket. She pulled out several bright strands of colored embroidery floss. “I read a book on making friendship bracelets and I just got some new colors. We could make some. If you want to, that is.”

Stella nodded. “Why not?”

“Okay,” Cherise agreed. “So what do we do?”

“It’s kind of like weaving,” Tempest explained, beginning to work with the threads. “I read that once you tie it on, you can never take it off. It means you’ll be friends forever.”

“Neat! I want some of this color,” Cherise exclaimed, reaching for a few hot pink strands.

“We should make them for each other.” Stella took the pink strands from Cherise.

“Or, how about if we each work on all three?” Tempest suggested. “That way, we’ll be connected forever.”

“Good idea,” Stella agreed. “Friends forever.” “Friends forever,” the other two echoed.


Chapter 1

The cab wound its way along the tree-lined drive and slowed to a crawl on the circular driveway, finally coming to a halt in front of the mansion tucked well within the depths of Boston’s old moneyed district. The grand facade, with its pillars and over-sized windows, spoke of wealth. It was a nervous few minutes as Tempest surveyed the posh brick two story structure. It had been a few years since she’d been here to visit. Cherise’s parents weren’t much for entertaining strays from boarding school. At least, not strays without a pedigree.

“You plan on getting out?” The cab driver raised his brows questioningly as he made eye contact via the rearview mirror.

Tempest blinked back to reality. “Oh, yes.” She rummaged in her purse for the correct amount owing. Her own car was in the repair shop, so taking a cab was a necessity. “Um, here.” She shoved the bills into the cabby’s waiting palm. She couldn’t really afford such a generous tip, but it was just too embarrassing to have to wait while he made change. He was probably wondering what a person like her was doing in this neighborhood in the first place.

She stepped out of the cab, hauling her small suitcase behind her, and shut the car door with a decisive click. She waited until he had driven away before venturing up the wide steps to the menacing double doors, her small black case thumping up the steps behind her.

The bell barely had time to quit resonating when the door swung open.

“Tempest! You made it!” Cherise squealed, enveloping her long time friend in a warm embrace.

A rush of relief swept over Tempest’s body. What had she been so nervous about? This was Cherise, after all – the same blonde bombshell she’d grown up with at boarding school.

“Sure,” Tempest replied, disentangling herself. “The cabby knew exactly where to go.”

“Sorry someone didn’t pick you up at your aunt’s,” Cherise apologized as she led her further into the spacious foyer. The ceiling in the entrance rose overhead the full two stories. A large gilded mirror hung over an equally elaborate side table a few feet inside the doors. Polished white marble floors led off in several directions, including toward the grand staircase that curved upward. “The chauffeur had to take Mother to the country club and I just got back from my masseuse.”

“The cab was no problem,” Tempest assured.

“You look nice.” Cherise scanned Tempest from top to toes. “New haircut?”

“Um, yeah.” Tempest touched her reddish brown hair with tentative fingers. It was stylishly short, with just a hint of subtle highlights, and still salon fresh from that morning. It would never look this good again. She just wasn’t that good when it came to doing hair.

“Well, I like it,” Cherise stated with a nod. “Now you just need to get rid of the glasses and update your wardrobe and you’ll be a knockout.”

Tempest looked down at her outfit. Nondescript slacks and a button up blouse. She was tall and rather willowy and knew she could probably wear clothes that had a little more pizzazz, but… “I just like to be comfortable, that’s all.”

“Comfortable? With that body?” Cherise scoffed. She shook her head and expelled a dramatic sigh. “One of these days.”

“You’ve been warning me.” Tempest smiled.

“And I mean it,” Cherise affirmed. “One of these days you’re getting a makeover, lady, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I can’t believe we’ve been friends all these years and you’re still dressing like a librarian.”

“My bad.”

“In fact, just wait until you see what I’ve got planned for tonight!” Cherise exclaimed.

“Oh, oh. Now you’ve got me worried,” Tempest said, still smiling, but in truth feeling a bit uneasy. She wasn’t sure she was up for it.

“Don’t worry!” Cherise took Tempest’s arm and started walking toward the stairs. “It’s just some good old fashioned girl fun. It’ll be just like old times -” Cherise cut herself short as she stopped abruptly in her tracks. “Is that all you brought?” She gestured to the small rolling overnight bag that was following Tempest like a stray mutt. “You are staying, aren’t you?” Tempest stared at the shabby suitcase for a moment and blinked before looking back up at Cherise. “It’s just one night.”

“I thought you were staying in Boston for a few days.”

“I am,” Tempest replied. “But I have to stay with Aunt Rose for the rest of the weekend. I don’t visit her nearly as often as I should, and well, you know how it is. She is getting on and she’d be miffed if I came to town and didn’t stay with her.” There was a moment of silence as Cherise pouted. “But I’m here for tonight,” Tempest offered.

“It’s going to be so much fun!” Cherise reverted to her former animated excitement. “I’ve got all kinds of things planned, just like when we were girls at school. We’ll do facials and pedicures. Listen to loud music…”

“Your folks won’t mind?” Tempest asked. From what she remembered, they were rather preoccupied with themselves, anyway.

“Silly!” Cherise laughed. “This is an old fashioned sleepover, not some kind of orgy! What were you expecting?”

Tempest blinked and pushed her glasses up with her finger. Sometimes it was hard to gauge whether Cherise was serious or not. “I, um… nothing.”

Cherise giggled even more. “That’s what I love about you, Tempest. You’re so droll!”

Tempest smiled weakly, wondering what was funny. She never had been good at catching on to jokes and things. Oh well. At least Cherise hadn’t changed any either.

It was strange the way life worked. They had been so close while growing up – Cherise, Stella and herself – and had remained fast friends even into college. But now, over the last two or three years, they had begun to drift apart. Go their separate ways. Build their own lives apart from one another. Life was like that. People got busy. Stella had sought further education, Cherise was busy as a Boston socialite, and Tempest herself had finally launched into a career as a writer.

Well, “career” was stretching it just a bit. She was writing for a small newspaper about an hour’s drive from Boston. It was satisfactory. She was doing what she enjoyed – writing. But sometimes it was difficult. There was only so much that could be said about the local chapter of the dog society.

Tempest started up the steps behind Cherise, the suitcase bumping behind her. Cherise stopped and turned around, frowning. “Goodness! I was so excited about seeing you I forgot to call Crosbie. Just leave your case there and he’ll bring it up later.”

“It’s not that heavy.” Tempest retracted the pull handle, and picked it up by the regular one. “I can do it.”

Cherise considered this for a moment, as if the thought had never occurred to her. Then she shrugged. “At least let me take it for you.” She snatched the small bag and started up the stairs again. “I can hardly wait to tell you everything that’s been happening.” T

empest watched as Cherise skipped up the steps in front of her, her mini-skirt bouncing against her rounded backside with each step. Tempest’s lips curved upward slightly. Cherise might come across as shallow, but underneath the rich girl exterior was a truly loyal friend.


Tempest glanced around Cherise’s bedroom. It looked much as she remembered. Lots of evidence of the spoiled little rich girl. Pictures, frills, ribbons and lace… everything spoke of a pampered princess who had never quite grown up. “When are you expecting Stella?”

“About seven.” Cherise deposited the suitcase near the door and then flopped down on the bed. “Something about shipping some boxes back home to Texas.”

“Moving can be a lot of work,” Tempest offered.

“I guess. Anyway, she should be here in time for dinner.” Cherise rolled onto her stomach.

“Imagine! Stella with a Master’s degree! She’s probably the smartest person I know. Present company excluded, of course.”

“Of course.” Tempest pulled out a pink satin covered chair that had been tucked under Cherise’s dressing table which was littered with makeup and jewelry.

“What do you do with a degree in ‘Environmental Studies,’ anyway?” Cherise asked.

“I’m not sure exactly. Field work? Environmental testing?”

Cherise sat up and patted the bed. “Come sit here! You need to tell me everything that’s been going on since last time I saw you.”

Tempest let out a small laugh, but got up and moved to perch on the edge of the bed. “That was only yesterday at Stella’s graduation.”

“I know, but we didn’t get much time to talk. It seems like ages since we had any girl time together.” Cherise sighed dramatically. “I just don’t know how I ever got to be friends with you two. You’re both just so smart! What in the world did you ever see in a bimbo like me?”

“You’re not a bimbo,” Tempest defended. “You’re smart, too. About lots of things.”

Cherise laughed, that flippant tinkling sound that Tempest had come to know so well. “There you go, always trying to make people feel good about themselves. At least that’s one thing about Stella. She’s honest.”

“Well, I just meant -”

“Forget it.” Cherise waved a dismissive hand. “I don’t mind, you know. Being a bimbo.”

“You shouldn’t call yourself that,” Tempest chided, her voice soft.

“Why not? I don’t mean it in a bad way. Actually, playing the part has its advantages.” Cherise raised a brow and smiled. “Guys seem to go for it.”

“And you’ve never had trouble in that department,” Tempest commented wryly.

“My point exactly,” Cherise replied, flipping her blonde tresses. She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Just wait until I tell you about Roberto.”

“Roberto?” Another in a long string of boyfriends, no doubt.

“He is an absolute dream!” Cherise flopped back onto the bed and flung her arms above her head. “He’s Italian, and you know what they say about Italian lovers.”

“Um, right.” Tempest focused on the bedspread’s stitching, tracing it with her index finger.

“It’s all true.” Cherise sighed. There was a moment of awkward silence until she sat up abruptly. “So, anyone new in your life?”

“Nope,” Tempest replied.

“Still pining for what’s his name?”

“Ron,” Tempest supplied curtly. “His name is Ron, and no I am not pining. We only dated for a couple of months and it was a perfectly logical decision on both our parts. Our paths were going in different directions. It was for the best that we end it before things got too serious.”

“Oh please!” Cherise groaned and rolled her eyes. “Our paths? That sounds like a cop out if ever I heard one. Admit it. He was just running scared.”

“Well -”

Cherise cut her off. “Seriously. I thought he was supposed to be a Christian or something. How dare he string my best friend such a line?”

“I’m a Christian, too,” Tempest defended. “He’s going into the mission field. A long distance relationship is just too hard. It makes sense.”

“Phooey on that. If it’s right, it doesn’t matter where in the world you go.” Cherise pinned Tempest with her eyes. “If you want to know what I think, Ron is probably secretly gay or something. Why else would he dump you like that?”

“Cherise!” Tempest shot back. “That’s not true.”

Cherise raised a brow. “How do you know? Ever sleep with him?”

“Of course not. I don’t believe in sex before marriage and – and neither does he.” Tempest blinked rapidly and pushed her glasses up. It was mostly true.

“Oh right. Something I never did understand.” Cherise flopped down on her back again. “I’m glad you’re the one who got religion and not me. I couldn’t handle it.”

“You might be surprised.” Tempest shrugged.

Cherise shook her head. “No way. I mean, I’m happy if you are, but don’t expect me to change. And as for Ron, I say good riddance. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.”

Cherise giggled. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll fall for some hotty and change your mind about the celibacy thing.”

“I doubt it.” Since becoming a Christian eighteen months ago, Tempest had given up on casual relationships. Not that she’d been licentious or anything before her conversion, but now she had a legitimate excuse for avoiding men. She’d only had sex that one time in college and well, she’d rather forget all about that. It was possibly the most embarrassing moment of her life.

“It could happen.”

Tempest frowned and looked over at Cherise. “What?”

“It could happen,” Cherise repeated. “You falling for some hot guy and give up on becoming a nun.”

“I’m not becoming a nun. I’m not Catholic.”

“Whatever. You know what I mean.”

Of course she did. Cherise had a one track mind. Tempest straightened her spine. “When the right person comes along – the person God wants for me – I will be more than happy to engage in… well, you know. Once I’m married, of course.”

“But how will you know if you’re even compatible?” Cherise asked. “You know… in that way?” “Is that all you care about?” Tempest stood up and crossed back to the chair. Lord, give me patience with Cherise. She doesn’t know any better. She took a deep breath before turning around. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Tell me more about Roberto instead.”

The hurt look in Cherise’s eyes melted almost instantly. “Roberto,” she repeated the name softly, like a mantra. “He is so perfect. Charming, good looking, great build and well, I already mentioned that other part.” She sighed. “I would literally follow him to the ends of the earth.”

“That good, huh?”

“In every way. Of course, my parents don’t see it that way. They are always so out of touch. I think they expect me to marry someone from their pre-approved lineup.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, you know. Old family friends. Someone with connections. The right bloodlines and all that. But I’m not having any part of it.”

“Good. It’s your life.”

“You’re not going to lecture me?”

“Why would I do that?” Tempest asked.

Cherise shrugged. “I don’t know. The religion thing? I know you don’t approve of my choices.”

“Have I ever lectured you?” Tempest blinked, tamping down the hurt that had risen in her breast. It was a topic that struck a nerve. Sometimes she felt like a bad Christian for not being more enthusiastic about witnessing to her friends. True, she’d shared her faith, but the last thing she wanted was to alienate them, so she avoided leading conversations, opting for the ‘friendship evangelism’ model instead.

“Well, no,” Cherise admitted. She looked down at the bedspread and traced some stitching. She looked up again abruptly, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “But sometimes I feel it. Like you’re such a good person and I’m, well… not. One of these days you’re going to just jump ship and leave me to my own devices.”

“Cherise!” Tempest bolted from the chair and bent to envelop her friend around the shoulders. “I’ll never abandon you. You or Stella! You know that. Friends forever, right?” Cherise sat up and they hugged properly. “Friends forever.” When they pulled apart, Cherise examined Tempest closely. “But do think I’m crazy? Falling so hard for Roberto, I mean?” “Well… How would I know? I’ve never met him.” Tempest smiled.

“Exactly!” Cherise gave Tempest another big squeeze. “I’m so glad the two of you agreed to come over for one last girl’s night before we go our separate ways. I’m going to miss you so much.”

“You make it sound like we might not see each other again. I mean, I’m not that far from Boston.”

“Oh, I know. But who knows where Stella might end up? I know she’s planning to go back to Texas for awhile, but after that, who knows?”

“True.” Tempest wished she could add a ‘who knows’ to her own future. Right now it seemed pretty stable. And pretty dull. But there were bills to pay… ”

Anyway, let’s go see what Cook is making for dinner tonight,” Cherise suggested, rolling off the bed.

Tempest followed. It was hard to mull over life’s bigger issues with Cherise around.


About the Author

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published novelist, playwright, and artist with several award winning and best selling novels, stage plays, devotionals and children’s books in print. Her work strikes a chord with those looking for thought provoking faith based fiction laced with romance, suspense and humor – no sugar added. She holds a B.Ed from the U of S and has lived in many remote and interesting places in Canada’s far north. She and her husband currently reside in beautiful BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. website: http://tracykrauss.com – fiction on the edge without crossing the line –

Buy the Book