Merry almost Christmas and Happy Holidays!
As I was planning my post for this week, I thought I’d let you know that my Christmas novel, Christmas Star Sapphire was on sale for 99 cents while it was part of a big scavenger hunt that ended Monday. Here’s the blurb:
Christmas is a time of family and tradition, but Joe Westcott has determined to stay alone and single. Madeline Viscolli comes into his life and causes him to start reevaluating what he considers important. A Christmas Eve funeral brings everything to a crest and Joe and Madeline are forced to make a choice that will affect their entire future.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to give you precious readers a gift.
If you click here, you can download Christmas Star Sapphire for free. It is truly one of my favorite books I’ve written. I LOVE these characters and their interactions and the way they fell in love.
Here is an excerpt:
Madeline watched Barbara get into the front seat of her roommate Patsy Mitchell’s car. Patsy would drive Barbara to the police station to file her report then drive her back to the dorm. After waving at them from the door, Madeline went back inside Paula’s and back to the table. Instead of sitting beside Joe again, she slid into the booth across from him. His eyes held a distant, almost fierce look before he focused on her. When he met her gaze he gave her his most practiced bland smile.
“All set, Madeline?” He made a move as if to pick up his bag and helmet.
“Maddie, Joe. Do you want me to start calling you Joseph all the time?”
His expression didn’t change. “You can call me Joseph. That’s fine.”
Madeline shook her head. “Whatever.” She reached across the table toward her now cooled cup of coffee and could have sworn that Joe nearly flinched at the movement. “Want to tell me what that was all about?”
He raised an eyebrow and tried to act like he didn’t know what she was talking about, but his body betrayed him and his cheeks flushed with color. “What what was about?”
“Come on, Joe. I saw how angry you got when you realized what happened to Barb. Anyone could have seen it.”
She watched his jaw clench and a muscle tic. He scrubbed his hands through his beard and pushed away from the table. “It’s nothing, Madeline. I have a meeting on campus. I need to go.”
“Maddie. And I’ll drive you.” She stood with him, enjoying the way she had to look up at him. For over a year she’d spent hours and hours with him, always in a crowd or in the company of others. His passion for God, his compassion for his students, his strength in leadership—she found herself looking forward to seeing him more than the time spent with Cru. Beginning this school year, she’d tried to come up with ways for the two of them to spend some time alone, but he had rebuffed every offer and option. Since their first meeting, they had never spent time alone until this moment. It confused her, because until their conversation about Westcott Marine, he sort of gave off signals that he just might find her as interesting as she found him.
He shook his head. “Can’t leave my bike here.”
“Coincidentally, my Land Rover has a nice empty bike rack.” As she spoke, the walls of the little building shook with the sound of thunder and the skies opened up, sending down a sheet of rain that curtained them inside, isolating them from the rest of the world. “And, by the way, it’s raining,” she added with a grin.
Joe sighed and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he had the stoic, blank look on his face again. “In that case, I appreciate the ride. Thank you, Madeline.”
Elated, she resisted the impulse to jump up and click her heels together. Instead, she grabbed her bag, snatched some cash out of her wallet and tossed it onto the table, and prodded, “Let’s go!”
At the doorway, she hit the unlock button on her key fob, then dashed to the back of the car. Seconds later, Joe met her with his bike, and she helped him secure it into the bike rack. By the time they got inside the car, water dripped from their soaking wet clothes.
“This weather,” she exclaimed with a laugh, starting the engine and flipping the heater on full blast, “is insane. But, it’s still better than Boston.”
“Couldn’t ever ride a bike full time in Boston.” He swiped the water off of his face while Madeline dug through a basket in the back seat and pulled out a roll of paper towels. She held them up triumphantly. “Saved by the mama with the preparedness streak.”
Using several paper towels padded together, she wiped the water off of her face and hands and handed him the roll. Once she was as dry as she could get, she used the damp batch to try to get some of the moisture out of her hair. In seconds, she’d soaked the whole stack.
Something he said made her pause in her ministrations. “Couldn’t ever? Did you live in Boston?”
He shook his head. “Originally from Providence, remember? I went to college in Boston.”
Intrigued, she turned her body toward him. “Really? Where?”
His lips thinned and he shook his head exactly once. “Harvard if you must know.
When he said it, she realized that it didn’t surprise her. He certainly was smart enough to have attended Harvard. And he was a Westcott Marine Westcott, so why not Ivy League? But, even so, something about him never screamed Ivy League to her. “Well, Joe, I must say I find that fascinating.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You find it fascinating that I graduated from Harvard?”
“Of course not.” She looked him in the eye while she spoke. The way he looked away at her next words intrigued her. She noted his reaction only because she watched carefully. “I’m fascinated by the fact that you know I’m from Boston, yet you’ve never, in all of the months we’ve known each other, brought it up.”
She turned back around, her wet jeans sticking to the leather seat a bit. “So, where to, Harvard?”
“Student Ministries building on campus.”
As she eased out into the traffic, the rain lightened considerably. “Look there,” she said, pointing to the lightening sky, “it’s as if God was just trying to get us into the car together.”
“You think it’s funny?” His voice had burst out, angry and impatient, but he immediately sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I apologize. This morning was very stressful for me.”
They drove in silence for about half a minute before Madeline softly asked, “Can I ask you something?”
She could hear his grin. “You just did.”
At a stop light, she turned her head to look at him. “Who did Barbara remind you of?”
His lips tightened and he gave a slight shake of his head. “Haven’t your insightful little powers of observation revealed to you that I truly don’t want to discuss this?” He gestured at the light. “Green.”
Wanting to lighten the mood in the vehicle, she searched her brain for some point of reference. “I remember the T-shirt you wore the day we met. That restaurant is my favorite place to eat in the Keys. Well, one of my favorites.”
“The grouper place?”
“Mine, too. They have that grouper sandwich I’ve stood in line half an hour to eat.”
“I’ve had it.” Thinking about it made her feel a twinge of homesickness. It wasn’t as bad this year as it had been in the last four. Perhaps she had started to grow up and away from her family just a bit. Which was good and bad, she thought.
For the rest of the drive, they stayed on safe topics like restaurants and beaches. She found out that Joe had sailed from Providence to the Keys and had stayed there for a year before accepting the Cru position two years ago.
“I spent half the summer down there this year. It was nice to be back.”
“Why do you still live on your boat?”
He shrugged. “She’s a nice size. Big as any one bedroom I could get here. She keeps me busy. And she’s become home.”
“Will you be going back to Providence for Thanksgiving?”
He didn’t answer immediately, which made her sneak a quick glance at him while she drove. She caught his hardened expression, his jaw tight. Then he visibly relaxed. “No. I’ll probably just stay here.”
Madeline pursed her lips, a thousand questions screaming in her mind. She wanted to know more about him on a social level, yes. She really wanted to know what had clearly hurt him so badly in the past. When they reached the Student Ministries building, she set the parking brake and shifted the gears into neutral so that she could turn in her seat to face him. “I don’t think this weather is going to clear anytime soon. I’m happy to give you a ride back.”
As he unclipped his seatbelt, he smiled at her warmly. “I appreciate it, but it will probably be all clear by the time I’m done. I’ll catch the bus if it’s still raining.”
Madeline had honestly never encountered such blatant disregard, and since she really didn’t have a personality that backed down, it didn’t faze her. “Why?”
“Why won’t you allow me the opportunity to give you a ride, Harvard?”
His hand paused on the door handle. “Because,” he said, turning to look at her, his eyes serious, “I try very hard to never be alone with a female student. Ever. I would rather avoid any possibility that my motives or actions could be misinterpreted by anyone, regardless of the real situation.”
She couldn’t help feeling somewhat defensive. “I’m not some eighteen- year-old freshman, Joe. I’m a second-year grad student working on my Masters.”
“Nevertheless.” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill, which he set on the dashboard, then opened the door and hopped out into the rain. “For your gas. Don’t get out. No reason for you to get soaked again. Thanks for the ride. Really.”
While he unhooked his bike from the rack, she rested her elbow on the car door and tapped her chin with her finger. She contemplated his attitude and words. She concluded that she didn’t fully accept his answer. It really had nothing to do with his position on campus. Sure, that may play a role or serve as a factor in his attitude. Still, she knew there was something else.
He pounded on the back of the door to let her know he had freed his bike. Unless she chased him down in the rain, she had no choice but to release the brake and drive away.
Click here to download Christmas Star Sapphire as my gift to you!
Have a wonderful holiday season!