Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Straight Ahead - Thanksgiving Excerpts Today!

Thanksgiving's straight ahead, just over a week away.  I still haven't bought the turkey because I've been hoping for a sale I don't think is coming....but I'm making lists and plans.  I like to read about holidays close to the actual observance so I thought I'd share some excerpts from two of my novels, one out now and the other coming December 3 which mention Thanksgiving.

First, from KINFOLK, already out:

contemporary romantic suspense
Publisher: Champagne Books
Publication Date: July 4, 2011
ISBN: 9781926996332
Format: eBook
Price $5.99

Now also in paperback $14.95

Word Count: 74, 143


When Katherine Vaughn flees California, she returns home to her native Arkansas, a place she barely remembers. As she settles in at the family farm with her aunt, she finds herself growing closer to her late cousin's husband, Ben Hatfield. Ben is a lot more than the country bumpkin she first takes him to be and when the men who threatened her follow her to Arkansas he will rely on his skills as a former Navy SEAL to protect her.
As their feelings toward one another grow, so does the danger and in the end, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen or if anyone will be safe.
Katherine’s life is in jeopardy as she wonders if there is any hope left in her heart.
Kinfolk is a novel about the power of love and the strength of family ties

Thanksgiving Excerpt:



Dawn was a faint light in the eastern sky and the wind was damn

cold but Ben climbed the hill behind the farmhouse with his .22 rifle. On the

ridge, he heard the squirrels in the treetops and a few nutshells fell almost at

his feet. He stamped the ground to stay warm and stifled a cough so he

wouldn’t spook the tree rats. As soon as there was enough light to see, he

fired and dropped a squirrel. In quick succession, he dropped three more and

carried them home. He skinned and gutted the squirrels. After a change of

clothing, he walked through the pastures to the back door.

Her back faced him and he watched as Katy slid a roaster into the

oven. As she washed her hands, he entered without sound and when she

turned around, she jumped. Even after a few months of apparent safety, she

startled easy, always anticipating some henchman from Hu Sing to appear

when she least expected it.

“Good morning, Katy. Look what I brought you.”

He held out the squirrels, now enclosed in a plastic bag.

“Have you been hunting already this morning?” she asked and he

nodded. “I’ll cook them with dinner. Should I put them to soak in salt


He hadn’t expected her to know that. “Yeah, I always do. I haven’t

been squirrel hunting in years.”

His leg bothered him just enough that he’d had little enthusiasm for

tromping through the cold woods carrying a gun. Without asking, he poured

coffee and sat down at the table.

“Let me know if I get in your way.”

“You won’t. Are you hungry?”

His stomach was empty but he wanted to starve for the big feast. “I

might eat a little something but I don’t want much.”

“Have a muffin.”

A blue Willow Ware plate on the table held muffins so he took one.

He broke pieces off as he drank coffee and watched her work. Katy moved

with an easy grace, a balance, and dexterity that he liked. She chopped

onions and celery, and then stirred them in melted butter before pouring them


into a pan of crumbs. Her long fingers tossed the white bread chunks and

hunks of cornbread with the vegetables before pouring broth over the

mixture. He liked the way her nose wrinkled as she sniffed the steaming

mass and he smelled the sage leaves she crumbled, the first thing he had been

able to smell all morning.

“Is that the dressing?”

She nodded.

“It looks good already.”

Her smile rewarded him and he sat without speaking as she cooked.

He smoked two Camels but the smoke irritated his throat. A dry cough

racked his chest and he swallowed the rest of his coffee to ease it. Mucous

clogged his nose and he groped in his pocket for a tissue. If she noticed, she

didn’t mention it and he was glad. He hated being sick and he did not want a

cold to ruin the days they had together.

By twelve thirty, dinner was ready and she asked him to carve the

bird. Inexperienced, he did the best he could and managed to de-bone most of

the meat. He didn’t think he liked roast turkey but to his surprise the meat

was tender and delicious. He ate two plates of turkey, dressing, gravy, peas,

and hot rolls. As promised, she fried the squirrels and he ate a piece in

memory of his childhood.

“Are you ready for pumpkin pie?” she asked, as he pushed his plate


He groaned, hands on his belly. “Later. I couldn’t eat any more now

or I’ll bust.”

Instead of dessert, he helped her clear the table. He put the remaining

squirrel into a container and cut the pie, placing a large piece in another dish.

Without invitation, he picked up a towel and dried as she washed. When the

kitchen was clean, he slipped into his coat and picked up the two containers.

“Get your coat. We’re going to Bentonville.”

“We are?”

“Yes. I want to take this squirrel to Pop and give him a piece of pie.

He won’t give a flip about having turkey but he would miss the squirrel.”

In the large day room at the residential care facility, he searched for

his grandfather. Pop listed to one side in his wheelchair, mouth open and

eyes glazed. He did not look cognizant of his surroundings. Ben stopped in

mid-stride and stared, a cold fist of fear squeezing his gut. The old man

looked as frail and faded as the few leaves that still clung to the otherwise

bare oak trees in front. He’s sinking, Ben thought, the old-fashioned

expression popping into his mind. Savage grief bit at his soul and his anguish

must have been evident because Katy squeezed his hand.

“He looks like hell,” Ben said, in a voice he didn’t recognize. She

did not answer but he saw one tear creep down her cheek.

“Pop?” He crouched on his heels next to the wheelchair.

At the sound of his voice, the old man stirred. Recognition filled his


vacant features and his eyes, dull a moment before, lit with joyous fire.

“Ben, this place is no good. They served us up a dry slice of turkey

with not a bite of squirrel to be found.”

The sensible statement eased his anxiety and he grinned, optimism


“I didn’t figure they’d serve any so I brought you some. I shot it

myself this morning and Katy fried it.”

“Give it to me.” Pop grasped a piece between his fingers and

gnawed. “That’s good, real good.”

He slicked the meat off the bones and ate the pie, then belched with


“Now I need a smoke.”

On the wide front porch, Ben lit two cigarettes and handed one to his

grandfather. He inhaled the rich, tobacco smoke and choked when it filled his

lungs. He coughed so hard that he thought he might puke. When the moment

passed, he lit a fresh Camel.

“That cough doesn’t sound very good.” Pop’s tone was the same

he’d used when Ben was five. First time he had a cold, Pop smeared his chest

with Vicks VapoRub, and he’d stunk for three days. “You’d better take care

of yourself.”

“I’m all right.” He hawked into the dry grass.

“You don’t want to get down sick.”

“I’ll live. Let’s go find Katy. It’s cold out here.”

On the way back to the farm, he was quiet. Pop weighed heavy on

his mind and although he knew he had been lucky to have him so long, he

could not bear the thought of parting. Occupied with his thoughts, he didn’t

realize she asked a question until he saw the concern in her eyes.

“Ben? Don’t you feel well?”

“I’m all right.” He tried to grin but he could tell it failed. “I’ve been

coughing but mostly I’m worried about the old man. He seems so frail


“He enjoyed the squirrel, though.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle. “Yeah, he did, didn’t he?”

“Yes. Ben?”


“Do you think we could rent a movie?”

Her idea was perfect; he wanted to watch a movie with one arm

around her and relax, and think about someone else’s troubles.

“Sure. What kind of movie does a girl from Hollywood like?”

Although he was teasing, he wondered. After all, Katy had written

the screenplay for an adaptation of one of her books and she had lived on the

edges of the movie world.

She crinkled her nose in a way he found cute. “I don’t know; I’m

from Arkansas and I’d like to watch something light, something funny that


will take our minds away from everything else.”

That was just what he needed. He did not want to think about his

grandfather’s mortality or the threat that Hu Sing’s men might trace

Katherine. Funny movies, though, were sometimes hard to find. He

remembered a movie Kenny had recommended months earlier and grinned.

She would either love it or hate it but he was going to rent Shrek, the movie

about the big green ogre and his donkey sidekick.

With Katy snuggled beneath his right arm, he decided he had made

the right choice. The movie was funny, engaging and yet moving as the love

story between the Princess and the Ogre unfolded. After the big holiday

meal, neither Ben nor Katherine really wanted any supper but they sipped tea

as they watched without a single lamp on. Relaxed, cough eased by the tea,

he found himself aroused, very aware of the woman beside him. Some sweet

scent wafted into his nose from her hair and the curve of her body against his

felt right.

Shrek and Fiona’s happy ending lulled them and after the last song,

he turned off the television.

“Well, did you like it?”

“It was perfect.”

He stretched. “It’s late. I probably should be heading home.”

“Don’t go, Ben.”

That was what he wanted to hear. “It’s late and we’re both tired. Are

you sure?”

“Yes. Come to bed with me.”

Her words fueled his desire. “Katy.”


Her dark eyes met his and he was lost. Time stopped as he put his

mouth over hers in a slow, deliberate kiss that ignited his body. This time,

though, he wanted to use a slow hand, to savor each caress, to feel each

stroke to the fullest so he took her hand and led her upstairs.

The lips beneath his were warm, her breath rapid and her hands

active. With an almost lethargic movement, he caressed her until she writhed

beneath him on the aged bed, head back, and hair streaming around in a dark

cloud. Her nails raked his back and her open legs wrapped about his torso.

“Ben.” His name was a moan on her lips, a plea. He put his mouth on

the pulse that beat in her throat and kissed her there. Her nipples blossomed

and he took one into his mouth, suckling it with a pleasure that made his legs

weak. The sounds she made fired him but he held back, running his tongue

1.      down the curve of her belly to her moist warmth. Her legs bucked and

tightened as he plunged his tongue deep into her, the taste of her in his


And from my upcoming Christmas release, SING WE NOW OF CHRISTMAS


Sing We Now of Christmas

Coming December 3 Rebel Ink Press

122 pages



When Jessica Martin met Johnny Devereaux that December, holiday magic filled the air but their love was no enchantment….he was, without doubt the love of her life and by summer, they were happy newlyweds with all their life and holidays ahead.

But when he failed to return home from a fishing trip on the Fourth of July, Jessica’s world is rocked to the foundation and when the authorities tell her that her husband is missing, presumed dead, she refuses to believe it.

As the months and seasons pass, no one else holds out hope but Jessica believes.

She knows he’ll be home for Christmas no matter what.  Her family calls her crazy, Johnny’s family tries to help her find closure but Jessica’s heart refuses to surrender hope.

When Christmas comes, the truth will come out to shock them all.


            “Thanks for coming to get me.”

            “You’re welcome, it’s no problem.”

            His voice sounded even softer as he added, “Thanks, too, for understanding.  I know I’ve been an asshole sometimes since July and I’m sorry.”

            “Don’t worry about it,” she replied, moved by his apology.  “Just don’t tell me I’m crazy anymore.”

            He did grin, a full-fledged high wattage smile at that.  “Okay.  Besides, I have moments when I almost hope that you’re right.”


            Tad laughed and then winced.  “Just remember I said almost.   I want to, Jessica, but I just can’t.  I’d like nothing better than to see my brother walk through the door at mom’s today just in time for turkey.”

            Jessica’s eyes misted.  “Me, too.”

            By the time they pulled into the yard at Phyllis’ old but well-kept bungalow six other vehicles were parked out front.   She jumped out of the car and went around offering a helping hand.  With stiff, slow motions, Tad walked toward the porch but before he reached it, Phyllis flew out of the house.   She halted when she saw the bruises and the rigid way he walked.

            “Hey, Mom, I’m a lot better than I look.  You can hug me – just go easy.”

            Inside, Jessica watched as he settled into an old armchair and listened as he named off his minor injuries for the assembled family members.  Bruises, contusions, a few cuts, a cracked rib, a sprained arm, and sore muscles which were painful but not serious.  She made polite chitchat and then excused herself to help Phyllis in the kitchen.   Two of the aunts were already there bustling around, and in the corner, seated at the kitchen table, Grandmammy supervised.  

            “There you are, honey,” the ancient woman said.  “Come give me a hug.”

            “I’m glad to see you,” Jessica said, near tears with pleasure.

            Grandmammy nodded.  “I hear you went up and got Tad out of the hospital this morning.”

            She nodded. “I did.”

            “I heard too that you was running around Grove with him yesterday, sitting up at the Honey Creek State Park with Pepsi colas and looking out at the lake.”

             Jessica cocked her head.  “That’s true but it wasn’t the way that sounds.”

            “That’s what I told Henrietta,” Grandmammy said with a nod.  “I figured there was more to it than just that.  Before you come with Tad, there’s some was saying maybe you two should get together.  That way they get to keep you in the family. Now I know better than that and I told them so.”

            Outrage hit her like a bolt of lightning. “That’s just wrong.  Johnny will be home soon.”

            “He will, I figure, ‘bout Christmas,” Grandmammy said. “Don’t get riled up, honey.  I just thought I’d tell you before someone else did.”

            On impulse, she cradled the old woman’s work worn hand in her own.  “I appreciate that.”

            Jessica joined the other women cooking and by the time they brought the feast to the dining room table, the number present had expanded so that once they asked a blessing and served the food, kinfolk spread out with plates into the kitchen, the living room and she thought even out onto the sun porch in back.    

            By then Tad had rooted into the comfortable armchair so she fixed a plate for him and carried it into the living, self-conscious now because of what Grandmammy told her.  Jessica went back to fill her own plate and ate hers in the kitchen, elbow to elbow with the elder women, the ones who made Phyllis feel young.  The cozy feeling of the kitchen, the home cooked food and the camaraderie combined to fill her with a warm sense of comfort and she enjoyed the day in spite of the fact that Johnny wasn’t there with them.

            The easy sounds of the women talking lulled her almost to sleep.   She’d just closed her eyes when a commotion out in the living room brought her back fully aware, a babble of voices that sounded both excited and upset.  Before she could ask what the matter might be, one of the teenage cousins rushed into the room, eyes wild and pointed at her.

            “Tad said to go get you, to come quick,” she said.

            “What happened?” Jessica said, rising from the table and easing her way through the crowded room.

            “I don’t know but something upset him.  I think he’s crying.”

            At first she couldn’t get through the knot of people who surrounded him, some curious, some caring but Jessica pushed and worked until she stood beside the armchair where Tad sat.  Although his eyes glistened bright with unshed tears, he wasn’t weeping but did look distressed.  She knelt down so she could speak in a soft voice to him.

            “What’s the matter?”

            He turned to her and grabbed her hand.  “I think I felt it, what you told me about.”

            For a second, sated and drowsy, she had no clue what he meant.  “What?”

            “It felt like a tug on a fishing line,” he said in a hoarse voice. “But I felt it and then I could sense him.  It felt like him, Jessica, but I can’t say why.”

            Awe and a rising excitement made her alert.  “That’s it, that’s how it feels.  I sometimes get it stronger but when I do, I know.”

            Despite the murmur of voices around them, Tad spoke to her alone.  “Just for that short moment, I could feel him, Jessica.”

            “I know, I know,” Jessica soothed.  Although he’d been through a lot in the last day or two, she suspected he also had taken some of his pain meds and that they lowered his emotional threshold.  “Tad, did you take some of the pain pills?”

            He nodded.  “I did, two just before I ate.  You’re not telling me I’m just stoned, are you?”

            She laughed.  “No, I’m not.  I believe you.”

            Phyllis appeared, her hair mussed on one side, face working with worry.  “Tad, honey, what’s wrong?  Jessica, what is it?”

            She turned to her mother-in-law.  “He’s fine, nothing’s wrong.  He’s just worn-out and he’s hurting so he took some pain meds.  Now they’re making him a little bit woozy.   Can he go upstairs and lie down for a few minutes?”

            Phyllis nodded.  “Well, sure, or he can just come in my bedroom, right through here.  Can you help him, Jessica?”

            Once inside Phyllis’ quiet bedroom, an oasis away from the noise and fuss of the gathered family, Tad settled down as he stretched out, cringing as one part of his body or another hurt with movement. 

            “Thanks,” he said and Jessica nodded.

            “It’s no problem.  So you felt Johnny?”

            “Yeah, I did.  I don’t understand it.  Hell, I don’t know if I even believe it’s possible, but it did happen.”

            “I know it did,” Jessica said and then she laughed just a little. “You gave them all something to talk about, that’s for sure.”

            “I don’t care.  What does it mean, feeling him like that?”

            She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know for sure.  Maybe you could tune into him because you got hurt or because the pain medication lowered some barrier.  Or maybe it means he’s coming home soon.”

            Tad stared at her, his eyes bright.  “It doesn’t mean he’s a ghost or anything, does it?”

            “Of course not.” She hesitated just a second too long because his question raised a tiny scrap of doubt in her mind.   What if she’d been wrong all these months, believing he was alive and it was his spirit?  Jessica paused and thought about it but her heart rejected the possibility. “He’s not a ghost.  You look exhausted.  Now that you made it in here, you might as well rest awhile.”

            He nodded, eyes slipping half-shut as he did.  “Are you going to stay in here?”

            “If I do, they’ll never stop talking about the scandal,” Jessica said. “So I’ll be out there if you want to talk again after most of them go home.”

            Tad yawned. “Okay.”

A Page In The Life

Rebel Writer: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

On Twitter @leeannwriter

On Facebook Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

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