A Journey of Reading

Keeping with the unintentional theme of experiences for this month’s blog, I thought I would share my memory of the first time I was able to read and how it has shaped me.

I was approaching the end of first grade and there was a strong chance I was going to fail. No matter how hard my mother and teacher tried to explain it, I couldn’t even read a simple two-word sentence. I wish I could express to you how difficult it was for me, but since I was six, I don’t really remember.

What I do remember is that just when we were about to give up, I got a phone call from my father, whom I hadn’t seen often since my parents divorced when I was two. He had just moved to VA, and I was back in CA where I had been born. That long distance call from one side of the United States to the other was what I needed. I distinctly remember sitting on the toilet while I read to him The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein without making a single mistake. It was one of the proudest moments of my childhood.

My mother was, of course, a bit bruised that my father got me to do something with one phone call that she couldn’t with months of hard work and coaching. I’m still not sure how my father calling me helped either since the conversation did not include him encouraging me. I had actually asked if I could read him a story, and he said he would love it. I recently mentioned the memory to my father, and he informed me that he hadn’t realized how big of an accomplishment it had been at the time. But with every book I pick up, I’m reminded of that moment. Maybe all that was holding me back was stubbornness, at least that’s what my mother thinks.

Three years later, my mother remarried and we moved to AL. I was in fourth grade, and my reading teacher was named Ms. Swann. Having read The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B White, I loved the name. Her class was my favorite too, and she encouraged me to read anything I wanted. I’m not sure how many can say this, but Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (apparently a 7th grade level book) got me kicked out of her class and sent to an Advanced Reading one. There, another teacher informed me that ‘the author of a story I can’t even remember made the curtains blue to express the character’s depression.’ I, for one, have never colored a scene to suit my character’s emotions. Maybe their personality, but that isn’t the same.

Despite my lack of interest in breaking down stories to find a hidden meaning where there isn’t one, I kept reading “advanced” books and eventually stumbled across The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. My mother had found them in a stack of used paperbacks the library was selling and bought them for a cheap price since the covers were coming off.

These books shaped my love for fantasy and made me want to write my own stories. I was captivated by the way her heroes weren’t completely good and how they were constantly mistaken for being the enemy. The female was not a damsel in need of saving from a strong man either. She was a powerful adversary who would not allow anyone to harm those she cared about.

 My current taste in books can be generously described as eclectic and I often re-read The Black Jewels Trilogy, which has expanded beyond the original three books. I read almost anything and have difficulty not buying a book when I walk into a bookstore. The smell of paper and coffee just might be my weakness.

It never fails to amaze me how a good book can make the reader feel as if they are with the characters. My ultimate goal as a writer is to touch upon this phenomenon. I don’t expect to become famous or make millions, but if my books can touch a person’s life and transport them, even for a moment, I will be happy.

Last year, my seven year old son discovered a passion for reading, and I’m proud to say I am raising a bookworm who would rather buy a book than something else. For his birthday, he received some spending money to buy anything he wanted, so I took him to Walmart. He quickly found a Pokemon towel and said he would get it since he had enough. Before we left, we went to the book isle where he found a book he had been wanting. After some adding, he realized he could only buy one, and I watched him debate over the choice between the towel and the book. It must have been difficult for him, but his response warmed my heart.

“I’m going to get the book since I have lots of towels, but I don’t have this book.”

Every time I catch my son with his nose in the latest book, I’m reminded of The Giving Tree and how it started my own path in reading. Isn’t it amazing how a story can shape you?

Writing feminist fiction

Signing books for Rosie, who came to hear me speak.

I launched the print version of my latest historical romance earlier this month. A local bookshop, Almo’s Books, hosted me, and laid on the supper. The photo above shows me, the book (Unkept Promises), and earlier books in the same series.

I really enjoyed meeting fans, and talking about my writing and the romance genre in general. One thing I said struck a chord with several of the people there. Romance, I told them, is inherently feminist. Here’s my logic.

Most of the people who write romance are women.

Most of the people who read romance are women.

Last, but by no means least, a romance story isn’t over until the woman in it gets what she wants.

The final point is probably the reason why the patriarchy has been putting romance down and trying to prevent women from reading it since before Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Romance acts as if men are not the most important people in the world. Romance thinks that what women want is an important plot point–no, more! THE important plot point.

Does that mean that romance is necessary to be a fulfilled woman? Of course not. I know many single women who lead interesting, productive and happy lives. But neither is romance a second best, a sell-out, a retreat from feminist values. If women can do anything, falling in love is one of those things.

I don’t write chick lit, or Mommy porn, or bodice rippers. I don’t buy into any of those demeaning labels. I write romance, and I’m proud of it. I write stories about two people who find one another, and in doing so, find a helpmate with whom to walk through life.

They face problems (which is what makes it a story), but they solve them together. They respect one another. They co-operate. Truly, what’s not to like?

I write capable women, and men who are strong enough to respect them. What could be more feminist than that?

Christmas Contest

Christmas Box set

Help me tell the world about my new release and enter to win a KINDLE FIRE!

There are a bunch of ways to win. You need to REPLY to THIS email with what you did. I’ll count all the entries and draw a winner at midnight EST November 30th!

Like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KristyTateNovelist/ (1 point)

Follow me on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kristy-tate (1 point)

Buy or download in KU – The Christmas Collection: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Collection-Th…/…/B07ZJVQDQ4 (10 points)

Leave a review on any of my books: https://www.amazon.com/Kristy-Tate/e/B005YF4ODA (10 points extra 5 points if it’s on my Christmas Collection. https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Collection-Th…/…/B07ZJVQDQ4 You don’t have to read all three books to leave a review, just mention it’s on your favorite.) Post a link to the review.

Forward this email to your holiday romance loving friends. (1 point for every friend.)

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https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Collection-Th…/…/B07ZJVQDQ4

The Peanut Butter Airplane

In the fifth grade, Mrs. Whitaker would give us a title for the weekly story we had to write. Two of my favorites, that I still remember to this day, were The Runaway Chevrolet and The Peanut Butter Airplane. I guess even back then I needed a title to get going on a story.

We had to write at least two pages in our notebooks. No writing big. No repeating the same word for a whole sentence. I always wondered why my classmates complained all week about writing those two pages. By Monday night I had two pages and then some more, no problem at all. It is amazing how freeing writing is when you don’t know there are rules!

At least one time in the school year you had to stand in front of the class and read your story aloud. I was terrified. I didn’t want to go first and I didn’t want to leave it at the end and feel the pressure. I tried to time it so some people had read their stories but everyone wasn’t bored after hearing half a dozen of them with the very same title on a late Friday afternoon.

I so wish I still had that composition book from the fifth grade. Everyone read their stories of planes made of peanut butter. Obviously, even at ten my imagination didn’t work that way. Maybe one or two of them became fantasy writers. LOL My peanut butter airplane delivered peanut butter to starving children all around the world. See, even then I wanted a happily ever after.

Thank you, Mrs. Katherine Whitaker for opening up my mind with just a quirky, little title. Thank you for believing storytelling was just as important as math and science.

Do you remember a favorite story from childhood?


Jill James, writer

Sugar Sprinkled Memories coming soon in the
Authors of Main Street Christmas boxed set.

Thank a Teacher

Writing is something I’ve always done. I could write my way out of a paper bag or so I was told as kid. Essay questions on tests meant I’d get an A.

Once I started working, I wrote. Often they were business letters. I had to write reports and other notes. Things change. Today my handwriting looks like slop. I never write by hand anymore and rarely write a check. Everything is electronic. At least I know how to form the letters, but I’m messy.  I didn’t used to be.  And I’ve always hated a typewriter. I use about six fingers when I type, but I managed to teach my daughters to type properly. Today the one daughter types like the wind and the other types like I do. She makes me laugh when I watch her typing. How did she manage to digress that much?

Yet my career means I must type on a computer. The keyboard on a computer is better than that typewriter that had to have each key pressed all the way down. So it’s easier, and it’s become the norm for me to use the keyboard.

I wasn’t always typing the next book. I’ve done newspaper articles on gardening. I’ve done articles in various gardening magazines. My daughter has a subscription to a particular bird and garden magazine. She was all excited to show me this great magazine subscription her mother-in-law gave her as a gift. I said, yes, I know about them. I used to write for them. My daughter looked at me as though I’d lost my mind. What did she think I was doing at the computer all the time? She didn’t care about gardening or feeding the birds when she was younger. She wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. I haven’t written for a magazine in ages. I’m also not in the garden anymore.

I like writing fiction. I love developing characters and bringing them to life in a story. There’s satisfaction in the creative process. The progression from writing essays for school, working on the school newspaper, and being part of the literary club was only a beginning. It was the foundation. Having the opportunity to excel and be rewarded spurred me onward. Writing articles for the newspaper was discipline. It was every week and I had a deadline. Now I write something that I love. I write the stories that I want to read. The fact that I can share them with the world is exciting.

This is to every teacher who has encouraged a child when the child shows interest or a gift. To every teacher who has taught a child to read and praised each new vocabulary word, you’ve given the child something very special that will last a lifetime. I was the math major, who would have thought I would have wound up writing books? Maybe Miss Crow knew I’d wind up writing in spite of my major. I can still remember her telling me that a soliloquy I had written was phenomenal and begged me to switch majors. She said I was a born writer. I laughed and thought writing was fun, like a hobby. Mathematics was serious, and I was a serious student. Coughing up a poem or a story was child’s play. Well, it’s not anymore. Writing is serious, and I love doing it.

Today, I use the calculator on my phone to figure out my gas mileage when I fill my car’s tank. Sorry, Prof. Braun, you trained me to do that simple stuff in my head, but I don’t have to think as hard when I use the calculator. Actually, I don’t have to think about it beyond miles divided by gallons. It’s so easy.

I saw writing as tool that got me through school with flying colors and also made me a valuable employee. Reading was a solitary pleasure that I craved. I still enjoy a really good book. Now I get to write books, and that is something I never thought would happen. That was something real authors did. Well, I guess I’m a real author. I’ve been on the best-seller lists in several countries and in the top 25 on Amazon.com with my name up there with those big name authors like Rowling, King, Patterson, Grisham, and Steel.

Miss Crow, I never changed my major, but I did wind up writing for a living. Thanks for having such faith in me and in my writing. Maybe someday, I’ll figure out how to use all the proper punctuation and that past perfect tense. In spite of my grammatical shortcomings, you’d be proud of me.  Thank you for being a great teacher!

Do you have a teacher who has made an impact on your life?  Someone you can thank?

 

Newest Addition

Greetings, All!

My name is Obelia Akanke. I’m one of the newest members of Authors of Main Street. I am a spoken word poet, and I also write short stories, novellas, and novels. My focus tends to be sweet, contemporary romance and women’s fiction…with humor because I’m easily amused.

My writing tends to focus on interpersonal relationships with a message. My background is in social services, so I like to write poems and stories to help others understand the “why” of a character’s actions. My topics range from light (ex. a date gone wrong) to heavy (ex. male sexual abuse). I tend to address hard topics because I’ve found many people want to say something or ask questions but may not feel comfortable enough to speak up for whatever reason.

I’ve released a short story and novels #1 and #2 in the Heart of Crystal series. The bonus book should be out within a month, and I expect the final book to be finished by spring. It’s a new adult sweet romance centered around a college student learning to trust herself again after an incident with her ex-boyfriend caused her physical injury.

As you’re probably aware, the Christmas boxed set is about to be released. My contribution is titled The Family Gift. I wrote it with my grandmother in mind, so it’s a way of honoring her and sharing some of her personality with others. Have a peek at the first chapter.

***When the family matriarch is hospitalized after a fall, the elder granddaughter, Parker, steps up to attempt to earn and save enough to take care of the family and prevent the house from being sold at auction.***

 

Chapter 1

Parker Johnson forgot how to dial 9-1-1. Her grandmother lay on her side on the bedroom floor, writhing in pain and screaming out prayers. Wendi flapped her hands as she moved side to side around their grandmother crying and on the verge of hyperventilating; she made the situation worse.

“Oh, help me! Don’t let me go out like this. Not in front of my grandbabies.” Ethel beat her fist against the floor and grabbed at strands of carpet each time she released her fist to beg for mercy. “Please just make this pain stop! Knock me out. I can’t take it!”

Parker pushed the button to get a dial tone so she could call for an ambulance. Her grandmother had insisted on having a landline so people could reach emergency personnel in case there was ever a power outage. Parker carefully dialed as she verbalized “9-1-1,” concentrating on the task at hand – getting an ambulance.

“We’re at 1057 Sycamore Lane. It’s the blue house at the end of the drive. My grandmother fell down and said it hurts too much to move. I think something’s broken. Please hurry.”

The operator asked questions about how the injury occurred.

“My grandmother said she went to sit on her bed to take her pills and slid off. I think she hit the metal rail on the way down because her elbow is bleeding. She’s on her right side and yelling that she broke her butt.” Parker gave directions to Wendi. “Put a pillow under Grandma’s head. Try to keep her comfortable. Stop freaking out. Grandma will believe it’s worse than it is if you don’t calm down.”

Wendi fanned her face, breathed out as if she were doing Lamaze exercises, and followed instructions. “Grandma, you’re gonna be alright. Parker’s on the phone with the paramedics, and they’re on the way.”

“How am I going to be okay when you’re over here about to give birth?” Ethel called out to Parker. “Child, tell them to hurry. My butt’s broke, and your sister done gone into labor! Why now? Why? I’m too old to be raising more children.”

Parker went to her grandmother’s side to rub her uninjured arm and try to help her relax. “Grandma, Wendi’s not pregnant.”

“Then why she over here hee hee hoo hoo breathing in my ear like she about to push out a 10-pound baby? Got my nerves all worked up. My blood pressure already through the roof. I’m laying on this floor and can’t move. Some strangers about to come in and see me in my nightgown.” She tried to fix her gown with her left hand. “Oh, my word. I can’t let them see me with my thighs showing. Help me get covered. Grab that throw blanket and put it over me.”

Parker reached behind her grandmother. The blanket was partially under Ethel, so Parker draped the rest across Ethel’s legs then instructed Wendi to unlock the door and wait for the paramedics.

“And straighten the front room.” Ethel called out after her. “We can’t have people coming here, thinking we live in a pigsty.”

Wendi turned and opened her arms as if to question why she was worried about cleaning the house at that moment, but Parker shook her head and gave a forward wave for Wendi to let the comment pass. Both women knew their grandmother would not tolerate a dirty house. They always picked up after themselves and helped clean. Visitors to the house meant an additional once-over to make sure everything was in order. Parker knew her grandmother’s routine. Whenever anyone left for longer than a couple of days, extra measures would be taken to ensure they returned to a clean house. She figured her grandmother knew she’d be gone for a long time and wanted to leave the house in good shape.

Within a few minutes, sirens could be heard, and voices and the sound of wheels and metal moving through the house alerted Parker that paramedics had finally arrived. They moved around Ethel and decided the best way to help her onto the stretcher.

“Grandma, I’m going to drive Wendi to the hospital. We’ll meet you there, okay? We love you.” Parker made sure her grandmother could see her until the doors to the ambulance were shut. She grabbed her keys.

They got to the emergency room and were told their grandmother was being seen. They would have to wait for someone to give them an update. Parker checked her cell phone for messages. She tried to emotionally distance herself by working on the monthly budget. Wendi paced in the waiting room.

“Do you mind pacing over there? I’m getting dizzy.”

Wendi wrung her hands. “I’m sorry I can’t be as calm about this as you, Parker. Grandma’s seriously hurt. What are we going to do? I’m not ready to live without her.”

“First of all, that woman prayed and screamed so loudly, death would be too scared to get her before she’s ready to go.”

Wendi giggled.

“Secondly, who said it’s time to panic? You’re worried about news you haven’t even gotten yet. Grandma’s strong. You heard how she was still trying to run the house and make sure everything’s in order while stuck on the floor.”

“Yeah, you got that take charge attitude from her. Why didn’t I get that kind of confidence?”

“Because as the older sister, I had responsibilities you didn’t have – like babysitting you.”

“Hey, I wasn’t a bad kid.” She pretended to be insulted.

Parker smiled. “I never said you were. I just said I had different responsibilities. I was expected to do the right thing and to look out for you to make sure you did what you were supposed to do. I was the first one to wash dishes, learn to cook, get a job, graduate. I was the practice child. By the time you came along, all the kinks were worked out.”

Wendi giggled again. “Well, I guess that’s good to hear.” She looked at the clock on the wall. “I wonder when they’ll let us go back to see her. Not being able to talk to Grandma is making me more nervous.”

“I’m sure they’re doing what they can. Maybe you should try to take a nap until then. It’s already after 1 a.m., and you’ve got school in the morning.”

Wendi sat beside her sister and laid her head on Parker’s shoulder. “Don’t you have to work tomorrow, too?”

“No, I’m going to send an email then call in the morning to make sure they know I won’t be there. I’m sure they’ll understand.”

Parker stayed awake and read articles from her phone about falls in elderly patients. Their grandmother was 71, so every injury as a senior citizen was an increased risk of death, extended recovery time, and increased likelihood of additional injuries. She determined that she would do whatever was necessary to take care of the household now that she would need to make decisions. Parker, Wendi, and Ethel had already discussed what would happen in case Ethel passed away. Ethel made the sisters swear to her that they would support each other and not let things deteriorate through family arguments. As the elder sister, Parker would take over whatever was left of the estate and ensure Wendi had appropriate provisions. Ideally, the goal would be to keep the property maintained, but there would be fair distribution in case there was need to sell it.

Wendi rubbed her eyes and stared at the words on Parker’s paper. “What are you writing? A grocery list?”

Parker added cinnamon and brown sugar. “Yes. This list is for groceries. This is my ingredients list for cookies so I can make sure I don’t forget anything while I’m shopping.”

“Ooh, you’re making cookies again?” Wendi sat up and looked at her sister. “Wait. You must be worried. You bake when you get stressed.”

Parker put the top on the pen and forced a smile. “Sometimes, I bake for other reasons. Right now, Grandma is going to want food from home. If I bring her cookies, too, she should perk up and know everything will work out. So, tomorrow, she’ll get pork roast dinner and the first cookies she taught me to make.”

“Brinmons.” Wendi’s face lit up.

“Yes, but we only named them that because you couldn’t say brown sugar and cinnamon.”

“Ms. Johnson?” A doctor stood by the registration desk.

“Yes?” Parker and Wendi answered.

“Follow me please. We moved Mrs. Johnson to a room in ICU. She’s on heavy medication. She wants to see you both, but she’s also very sleepy. If you could keep your visit to one to two minutes, it would help her by allowing her to see you but also to get the rest she needs.”

The sisters tiptoed into the dimly lit room and kissed their grandmother’s cheeks.

“Hi, Grandma.” Wendi hugged Ethel across her shoulders to keep her from trying to turn for a hug. “You scared me.”

“I know baby,” Ethel whispered. “I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere until it’s my time. Where’s Parker?”

“Right here.” She put her hand on her grandmother’s shoulder.

“Hey, baby. You know they’re going to keep me here for a while, so take care of everything until I get back.”

“I will, Grandma.”

“Oh, and can you bring me some stew or something to eat? I don’t want to have to ask for salt or sugar. I’m already gonna be here for breakfast and lunch. I want a dinner cooked from home.”

“Already got my list for your pot roast.”

The doctor peeked into the room.

Parker hugged Ethel. “We’re going to let you get some rest now. I’ll be back tomorrow after I take Wendi to school and buy groceries.”

Dr. Burton spoke to the sisters outside of the room. “Mrs. Johnson has a fractured hip. Although she did hit her elbow in the fall, it’s not broken, which is good. I will be talking to the orthopedic specialist and team to review her other medical history from her primary care physician to determine the best way to treat her. From what I’m seeing now, it looks like she will need surgery, physical therapy, and plenty of time to recover.”

“When are we looking for surgery, and what kind of recovery time are we talking?”

“After speaking with her physician and checking insurance, we’re hoping to have a decision first thing this morning so we can operate today – tomorrow at the very latest. It’s a hairline fracture that we might recommend healing on its own in younger, more physically active patients. For patients with increased risk of falls, brittle bones, or slower healing times, we recommend pins in the hip. As far as recovery, I’d say prepare for a few months before she’s feeling comfortable enough to move around as she did before.”

Sneak-a-Peek

My latest book, LOVING LEXI, which will be out soon,  sat on a back burner for more than a couple of years. Originally it was part of a five book anthology author arrangement. Eventually we decided to publish on our own. I’ve spent many hours changing character’s names, the town, etc., and rewriting the book.

I hope you enjoy the first two chapters.

LOVING LEXI

Chapter 1
“South Carolina?” Lexi Warner spun on one heel to face Ralph, her short-term boss. Her reflection darted back to the last time she’d been in South Carolina. “You expect me to travel to South Carolina in this heat?”
“Well, Sugah…”
Lexi bit down on her lower lip and fired a hazel-eyed glare Ralph’s way. “Lexi. My name is Lexi. Remember? Please. Don’t call me Sugah—okay?”
“I’m aware of your name.” Ralph blew out a long breath, then saluted. “Fine. Lexi it is.”
Why she’d agreed to work for Ralph at The Whisper Rag escaped her for some oddball reason. He’d always gotten under her skin, and at five in the morning, the loss of sleep didn’t help matters. At all.
Oh yeah. She remembered why she’d taken the job with Ralph.
Her checking account had sadly dwindled after her mom had called and pleaded for a loan to make her mortgage payment. Again. Repeatedly, as she had now, her mom traveled out of town without her checkbook and often failed to pay her mortgage.
Who did her mom call? Right. Me.
Lexi missed not having siblings more than ever, especially in times like these. Even if she’d had siblings, the outcome probably wouldn’t have made any difference since her mom had always relied on and trusted her. Lexi had many regrets, but taking care of her mom wasn’t one of them. She loved her mom and protected her, so she made sure there was always enough left in her own account to cover her mom’s mortgage. Just in case. And there was always a just in case…and always a loan.
A loan? Yeah right. More like a gift, as usual.
Today, her checking account balance was close to bordering on bone-dry. She had reason for concern. She’d left her checkbook back home, and adding nine-hundred to her credit card balance was out of the question if she were to purchase the bedroom set she’d had her eye on. Her stomach tightened as much as her bank account had when she’d eye-balled her balance. Still, she’d transferred funds from her savings and sent an online check to her mother’s mortgage company, whose account was now listed as a permanent bill pay from Lexi’s account.
Hoping to keep her mother at home more often and with a bit of luck, occupied, she’d presented her mom with a laptop computer. Despite patience and persistence, Lexi had zero positive results teaching her mother simple tasks on the computer. The tech personnel visited her mom more than she did. She simply didn’t get it. Lexi had eventually given up until she could convince her mom to enroll in a beginner’s computer class. Not that she thought she’d take the suggestion in a positive manner. But if it were her mom’s idea, that would be a bird of another species.
Since Lexi was in Miami on assignment from the Corner Post News, in Owen Pines, Georgia, she’d taken the assignment at The Whisper Rag, to make ends meet. Lord knows the ends needed a boost. Then again, if she had requested, her editor would have wired the money to get home, or insist she use her expense account, but she was in no mood to discuss why she had so little money. Frankly, some things weren’t meant to be shared.
Her finances were her business. Well…more like hers and her moms.
Expense account? Lexi was tight with her own money and just as frugal with the mag’s money. The expenses would be legit, but she wouldn’t take advantage, especially since her tightened budget was her responsibility, not her employers’.
Lexi breathed in the scent of the print shop. Printing and that scent were in her blood.
“Lexi. Hello there!” Ralph waved a hand in front of Lexi’s eyes to get her attention. “What’s the difference whether you’re in Florida or South Carolina? It’s hotter than a grill chock-full of red-hot charcoal here in Miami.”
Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina’s weather were one and the same to her. She rolled her eyes and cast a dubious glance at Ralph. “Haven’t you been to South Carolina in the heat of summer? The humidity is more than mind-boggling. If you want an extra shower, you have only to step outside.”
“No, I haven’t, but I know the heat can be extreme. The season has nothing to do with the sensational story you’re going to cover. The trip will be worth your time, not to mention your bank account. Hideaway Harbor won’t be as harsh as you think, especially with the bay breeze. I might suggest you book a flight into Savannah, pack and be on your way today. That is if you can get a flight out.” Ralph pulled a card from his wallet. “Once your flight is confirmed, call Art, at Best-Rent-a-Car. He owns the franchise and always gives my reporters a discount.”
There was no reason to keep debating the weather and pretending she wasn’t going to take the assignment. “Check.” Lexi tossed the card in her purse and flipped her shoulder length chestnut hair into a ponytail, then slid a rubber band from Ralph’s messy desk around the thick mass.
Ralph studied Lexi, then crossed his arms.
“Shouldn’t you tell me who to contact once I get there? Who and what is the story about? What makes it so sensational?”
“Of course, I’m getting to the details.” Ralph reached across the desk and picked up a long yellow envelope, then handed it to her. “You’ll want to read over this information before you get there. You may be there longer than expected, which should be a week, two at the most, so pack accordingly.”
“Why so long?” In her mind, Lexi was already throwing clothes in her bag. Most everything she’d brought to Miami was still in her suitcase, with the exception of hang-up clothes. Used to traveling on a shoestring, within an hour, she could shower, dress, pack, and be on her way to the airport and out of town, depending on when she could grab a flight.
“Do you remember the story in connection with Tate Hunter’s wife about a year and a half ago here in Miami? She met with a boating accident during an outing with Tate.”
Lexi closed her eyes and brought up headlines in her mind. “Yes. I do recall the story. Sad he lost his wife. I didn’t know him, but was relieved when suspicions of murder died down.”
“We were danged lucky to have someone give us a call who thinks he spotted Tate in Hideaway Harbor, South Carolina.” Ralph looked at her over black-rimmed glasses that sat at the end of his nose. “If indeed he is there, he won’t be pleased to see you. Especially, when he finds out why you’re there. So, prepare yourself accordingly.”
“Thanks for the heads-up,” she said, while twisting her chestnut ponytail tighter into the band. “Would you care to tell me why aren’t you covering the story yourself?”
“I may be wrong, but considering the circumstances, I think he’ll be more approachable if a female reporter is on the job. Besides, I don’t have the time to cover stories any longer.”
Lexi, frowned. “Why now? What’s the interest in Tate after so long? Shouldn’t you leave the poor man alone? He has lost his wife. Are you heartless or just snooping for that, ‘give the mag a push’, story?”
Ralph blew out a noisy breath as he eased a hip on top of the desk’s edge.
“Mr. Hunter left town and hasn’t been heard from since a few months after the drowning. His wife’s sister has still been on the guilty kick toward Tate even though no further evidence at the inquest was necessary to bring charges against him. Never-the-less, his sister-in-law’s on a rampage again. Tate worshipped his wife. Anyone who knew them would bear witness to their affection for one another.”
“Everyone except his sister-in-law.” Lexi rolled her eyes. “So why not look for him here first?”
“I’ve had someone on it already. While it’s unlikely Tate’s still in this area, rumor has it that he’s been seen in Hideaway Harbor. Maybe he’s settled down there, maybe not, but if he is, I want to be the first to break the story. I want to know what Tate’s been up to, or if he’s seeing anyone. You know, get the low-down on him. He was the best announcer WCJD ever hired. There must be some exciting news on him by now. Drop by the Hideaway Harbor times and speak with the owner, Garrett Webb. He may be able to give you a lead on Tate’s whereabouts.”
“Ralph. I don’t like being a part of creating distressing news and dragging someone through the mud, especially someone I don’t know.”
“Come on, Lexi. You’re a reporter. Get over it. Just bring me the story. We aren’t dragging Tate through the mud, as you put it, simply bringing him to the forefront. By the way, a company credit card is in the envelope. Use it for expenses.”
You can bet I will.
Though she wouldn’t abuse it, Lexi would have no problem applying Ralph’s card for her expense account.
None at all.
Ralph waved a hand toward the side of the room. “If you’d like to make some calls, you can use the corner office.”
As luck would have it, Lexi was fortunate enough to grab a flight at two in the morning. The flight should take about two hours and forty minutes. The drive from Savannah up the coast to Hideaway Harbor was about an hour and half, so allowing time to pick up a rental car, and what other incidental popped up, she should arrive between five-forty-five and six, give or take, in the morning.
Good. She wanted to get this trip and the story over with, and the sooner the better. She had a house to furnish, a mother to care for and deliver herself from her overbearing temporary boss. She and Ralph occasionally worked together and understood each other though, so she wasn’t burning any bridges. That was her expectation anyway.
Though leery about tearing into someone’s private life for no good reason, Lexi was ready to meet the extraordinary Tate Hunter, interview him and get back to her life.

Chapter 2
At five-thirty in the morning, Tate rubbed a hand down his scruffy beard, and then brought the plastic-covered, cardboard coffee cup to his lips. He’d been up since four-forty-five, gotten in his run, showered, and prepared for the day.
He threw away the wrapper from his blueberry muffin and drained the coffee cup. As he pulled away from one of Sally Cakes’s parking slots on Main Street, he watched Travis Turner kiss his girlfriend, Emma. Willie hugged her, then turned and jogged down the sidewalk toward the Bay, and down toward the Myra, a shrimp boat owned by his father, Leo.
Kind of early for a date, Willie.
Tate had an uncomfortable feeling about Willie. If his dad didn’t discipline him properly, he’d have his hands full…full of big time young man trouble. Tate had a soft spot in his heart for Willie and guided him in the right direction every chance he got.
Tate knew all about trouble. Since the age of six, he’d been tossed from one foster home to the other. Like any other child, each time a new family would visit the home to adopt; his hopes resonated high along with the other children’s anticipation, at St. Patrick’s Home for Children.
By the time he’d celebrated his ninth birthday, reality had set in. His dad was never coming back. Of course he’d resigned himself to that truth long ago, but in anticipation of his young state of mind, he’d still thought about and hoped his dad would show up one day. The second worst part was being shoved from one family to another. For one reason or another, about the time he got used to a family and their ways, he’d be jerked from that home and placed into another.
After a while, he’d soon become the kid no one would foster for a long period because of his unruly attitude. He’d hated being yanked around. Convinced he was doomed to live out his days at the home until high school graduation, he’d made sure he wasn’t chosen for another foster family. He knew all the tricks to avoid selection…and he was too old to be adopted. He’d learned the behaviors on how to deter a family from choosing him…and they’d worked. He totally knew how to deal with the bad stuff, people in charge, dished out. Tate fled the home on his eighteenth birthday and hadn’t looked back.
Tate dropped his hat in his lap, ran a hand through his sandy blond hair, and shook off childhood memories. Those days, and hopes of having his dad back in his life, were long gone. He’d made himself a promise. If he was ever blessed with a child, he or she would know love and the security of a home. No matter what.
Maggie nuzzled his shoulder and looked expectantly at him. He massaged her neck, then offered a snack. “Here you go, girl.”
Someone had abandoned the half-starved Maggie on the side of the road. Tate hadn’t hesitated to take her into his home. He’d seen the beauty that lay beneath the pitiful Chocolate Lab’s skin and bones. And he’d been right. A beautiful dog, Maggie had turned out to be a loving companion.
After he’d had Maggie, as he’d named her, checked over and cared for at Danielle’s  Veterinary Clinic, two weeks had passed since he and the Vet had attempted to locate the owner without success. Maggie was now his. She’d taken to him right away and was a sweet comfort to him at night. They’d both needed someone, and now neither of them were alone.
***
As Tate pulled up in front of Danielle’s Veterinary Clinic, Maggie began to whine when she saw where she and her master were. “Don’t worry, little girl, I’m not going to leave you forever. Everything’s going to be all right. You like Dr. Danielle. Remember?”
Maggie dropped her head, lay down across the passenger seat, stretched her paws over Tate’s leg, and whined again. He scratched behind her ear, gave her a pat, and then encouraged her to climb out of the SUV. “Let’s go get you a bath and your nails done, girl.”
Maggie hesitated, then whined again as she slid inside the front door. Dr. Danielle grasped the leash Tate offered, and gave Maggie a treat while leading her to and around the exam room door.
Dr. Danielle turned to face Tate with a smile. “You’ve done an excellent job. Maggie’s full of energy and looking much healthier than when you first brought her in. She’ll be ready when you finish your work day. Remember we close at six, so don’t be late. Otherwise I’ll have to keep her overnight.” Dr. Danielle grinned at Tate. “And…that’ll cost you.”
“Of course.” Tate scrunched his nose and smiled back at her. “I’ll be here. I know you’ll give her the once over, but please check out that spot on her ear. I think it’s healing nicely, still you’re the doc.”
“I will. You’re such a worry wart when it comes to Maggie. Though I think it’s quite thoughtful, she’ll be fine once you leave.” Dr. Danielle grinned at Tate while running a hand up and down Maggie’s back. “Trust me. Maggie’s in good hands. Now get out of here or I’ll have you running to Sally Cakes.”
Tate snapped his fingers and turned on one heel while looking back over a shoulder. “I completely forgot. Be back in a sec.”
He was back in a flash with a box and a chuckle. “I wasn’t sure what you liked so I bought a mixed dozen of muffins and scones. Whatever you don’t like, offer them to your customers. The orange scones and blueberry muffins are scrumptious. They’re my favorites.”
“Thanks so much, Tate. You may have saved my life. I’m famished.” She pulled a blueberry scone from the box and savored the first bite. “Umm…just what I needed.” She turned back to Maggie, then tilted her head toward Tate. “Don’t forget six is closing time. On your way out, grab yourself a cup of coffee.”
“Now that I will do. I won’t forget. See you at six.”
***
Tate relaxed for a few minutes while he took in the morning, then checked his watch. It was a little after six. He downed the remainder of his coffee Dr. Danielle had so graciously offered, dropped the cup in a holder, cranked the SUV, then headed downhill to the bay.
The sun had begun to rise over the bay, its rays peeking through a mist that added shimmers across the water’s ripples like thousands of diamonds. He listened to the hypnotizing, soft laps against the shoreline and welcomed the breeze that floated up from the bay. Tate’s opinion was that morning remained the best part of the day, for him anyway. He drew in the scent of salty sea air and knew today would be a good one.
Tate maneuvered around town for a few minutes toward the marina, and since he had a few extra minutes, stopped for gas and checked his oil. He grabbed a bag of chips, a candy bar, and a couple of sodas for lunch on the boat, then paid his bill. As he whistled a happy tune while he headed out of the station’s shop, a car pulled up to the pump behind his vehicle.
He jerked his head toward his SUV when a loud thump stopped him in his tracks. The car hadn’t rested until his SUV brought it to a standstill.
The bump wasn’t hard enough to hurt the driver, but these days you never knew what claims drivers could, or would create.
Just what I needed so early in the morning. He stepped toward the car and peeked inside the car. “Are you okay, lady?”
A swirl of chestnut curled around a lovely face that peered out from the window. She raised her eyes, which were glazed over, and nodded. “I’m fine.”
Tate stalled momentarily while he drew in a lungful of air as he stared into wide hazel eyes. “Uh…I’m glad you aren’t hurt. What are you doing pulling so close to my car?” Tate threw the bag full of snacks in the car, then slammed the door. “Didn’t you see my vehicle?”
The lady backed up the car, then jumped out with a hand placed over her heart. “I’m so sorry.” She bent over to get a look at the damages, then straightened up and placed hands on her hips. She leaned against her car door and raised her eyes to meet his. “Yes, I saw you. My sandal snagged on the gas pedal.”
He drew in a ragged breath and gazed at her. “Lady. Who taught you to drive?”
“You needn’t be so nasty. It was, after all, an accident. I’ve already explained the gas pedal caught my shoe.”
Tate shoved his hat tight against his ears, while he looked down at thin strips of leather wrapped around her feet. “You might consider losing the shoes, at least while you drive.”
Lexi glanced down at her sandals. “I think not. The problem is they’re my favorites.” She delivered him a wilted nod, all the while digging through her purse, when she came up with her phone. “I’ll call the police so they can write up a report.”
“Hold on. Don’t be so hasty. Let’s check the damage first. If your car isn’t damaged, I’m willing to overlook whatever damages you did to my SUV and let it go.”
“Really?” Lexi bit down on her lower lip. “Let it go?” A frown crossed her face, once what he’d said seemed to sink in. “Why would you do that?”
Tate checked his watch. “I really don’t have the time to deal with an accident. A charter of six are most likely waiting for me right now. I have fifteen minutes to get there and take them out.”
Lexi gasped. “Take them out? Out where? Oh Lord, are you a killer?”
Tate laughed at the confusion that crossed her face. “Take them out fishing. On my boat, Hap’s Catch.”
“Oh. So you live here then.” She breathed a sigh of relief and offered a handshake. “Lexi Warner.” She dug around her purse again. “Here’s my card.”
Lexi met Tate’s eyes. He could barely drag his eyes away from her wide hazel eyes. His fingers fumbled with his wallet as he withdrew a card, then bent down to examine damages to both vehicles.
“You can see for yourself there’s no more than a small scratch on my bumper. Yours is barely there. I think it can be buffed out, or repaired easily enough. If you have time, I’ll call Ed at the auto shop to see if he can get to it this morning. I’ll also have him pick up the car for you…if that’s agreeable.”
When Lexi smiled at him, the dimple on the side of her upper lip was hard to miss. Tate had a thing for chestnut and dimples. This gorgeous chestnut haired woman, with dimples.
“That’s a generous offer. I’d appreciate it. This is a rental car and I’d rather not turn it back in damaged. I can imagine how much my insurance would sky-rocket and that’s one thing I don’t need right now.”
Tate shrugged. When he did, the muscles on his chest left an impression on a thin T-shirt that read, Hap’s Catch. He’d caught her staring.
“And…I’d rather not deal with my insurance company. It’s such a minor incident. I’m more than happy to be of assistance,” he said.
Lexi averted her eyes from his chest. “You’re kind to offer and I’m relieved not to have to deal with the rental company and their insurance company either.”
Tate had a hard time keeping his eyes off Lexi. Something about her drew him to her and brought old memories to the surface. He checked the name again on her card, then slid it inside his wallet “Like I said, I’m happy to do what I can. May I call you Lexi?”
“Sure. No problem. You’d probably like to be on your way. If you can direct me to a motel, I’ll get settled.”
Tate thumbed his hat up an inch or so. “Unfortunately the motel is small, besides it’s probably filled. Fishermen, flood the town this time of year. The Willows is a bed and breakfast, about three blocks from here. I highly recommend it, and I’ve no doubt you’ll be happy staying there. Mrs. Romy Stone owns the place and will treat you right. Romy is dedicated to the business she fought to buy. A neighboring land-grabber had the chance to purchase the property, tear down the Victorian home and build a motel. But, Romy wasn’t having any of that.” Tate grinned. “Do you mind if I call ahead and reserve a room, if she has one available?”
“Thank you. I’d like that. I must say, dealing with someone who just damaged your vehicle, you’re being terribly considerate about the whole ordeal.”
Tate no longer listened to Lexi, but raised a hand and covered the phone with the other. “Not a problem. Hang on.”
Tate spoke kindly over the phone, thanked the person on the other end, then slipped his phone in a pocket. “You’re all set. Romy at The Willows has a room and is waiting for you.”
“Thanks. Give me directions and I’ll be on my way. My cell phone number is on my card. By the way, should I call you when I’m settled?”
“Absolutely. Call my cell. The number is listed on my card. If I don’t answer right away, I’ll return your call. I may be busy on the boat, and it’s hard to hear over the chatter and waves sometimes.” Tate turned to leave. “Ed will call you this morning. Keep your phone handy. I hope you don’t mind that I give Ed your number?”
“Not at all. How else is he to contact me? Thanks for your help and understanding.”
Tate tipped his hat, slid onto the seat of his SUV, then drove into the misty morning, toward the marina with a captivating woman and a dimple running through his mind.
***
Tate’s thoughts rested on Lexi as he pulled into a parking space at the docks, the softness of her voice, the natural smile, and that dimple.
Lexi was a gorgeous young woman…Too gorgeous. He wondered what she was doing in Hideaway Harbor. With his luck, she was only passing through.
No stranger to a woman’s charm, he found himself in hopes that her passing through wasn’t the case. He didn’t care for the feeling he got when he looked at her, but admitted she definitely had the attributes to draw him back into a woman’s clutches.
His dead wife’s beautiful face materialized in his mind. He brandished Lexi’s smile and the scent of her from his head.
Am I ready to plunge into something my heart has for so long resisted and couldn’t accept?
Foolish thought. He wasn’t so sure about this woman. This charming woman who’d sent his head and heart into a tailspin.
I should’ve known I’d meet a woman like Lexi at some point in my life. It was bound to happen.
She was the first woman who had come close to shattering the grip he’d maintained on his emotions. Only…he wasn’t ready for her and the changes that were sure to come his way, should he lose all resistance, and wander down that path again. He doubted if he would ever be fully prepared.
We’ll see, old man. We’ll see.
Tate gritted his teeth. He thought himself as a tough guy, but losing in love hurt. And then there were the scars he carried around as proof. Lexi Warner was a one-chance meeting for which he wasn’t equipped to deal. He’d also had no plans of putting his heart out there again. Now, depending on Lexi’s plans to remain in Hideaway Harbor, his plans could well receive a sharp turn-around.
There was something about her he couldn’t quite shake. But…she probably wouldn’t be here long enough to get to know her anyway.
Lexi Warner just might be the one to upend his plans if she stuck around long enough.
Lord help me.