Earlier this month I had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas with fellow Christian authors (Minnesota Chapter of ACFW, MN-NICE) at our annual Christmas party. Like any good party, it had several guests, lots of delicious food, and plenty of gifts. We also played games that had all of us in tears.
One of those games was Mad Lib with a twist. What’s Mad Lib you ask? Well, it’s a game where you’re given a list of words to fill out that will be substituted for blanks in a story. Laurie Lucking, our creative MN-NICE secretary, took the first chapters of books by members and created the game from there. We had so much fun, I thought you’d enjoy playing as well.
Everyone who participates will be entered into a drawing to win an ebook copy of Risking Love, a Where the Heart Is Romance book #1. (See below for contest rules)
Fill in the blanks below ~
- Verb ____________________
- Noun – Plural ____________________
- Item of Furniture ____________________
- Verb – ing ____________________
- Verb – Present Tense ____________________
- Verb – ing ____________________
- Verb ____________________
- Event ____________________
- Verb – ing ____________________
- Container ____________________
- Type of Candy ____________________
- Body Part ____________________
- Verb – ing ____________________
- Sound ____________________
- Adverb ____________________
Now using your words from above, fill in the blanks in the story ~
Risking Love by Brenda S. Anderson
What possessed people to [__verb__] out of [__noun-plural__]? Corliss Morgan slapped the Minneapolis newspaper down on her cube mate’s [__item of furniture__] and pointed to the headlines. [__verb-ing__] ACCIDENT [__verb-present tense__]s NEWLYWEDS. “Insanity. If I ever think of [__verb-ing__] a daredevil, remind me to [__verb__] far, far away.”
Just as she’d like to run far, far away from that [__event__] tonight. She was still [__verb-ing__], praying even, for something to come up that would prevent her from going.
“Lissa,” Rita Dunlap emptied the remnants of a [__container__] of [__type of candy__] into her [__body part__] and continued [__verb-ing__], the candy’s [__sound__] vying for attention. “A little insanity is [__adverb__] what you need.”
And here’s a excerpt from the actual beginning of Risking Love ~
WHAT POSSESSED PEOPLE TO jump out of airplanes? Corliss Morgan slapped the Minneapolis newspaper down on her cube mate’s desk and pointed to the headlines. Skydiving Accident Kills Newlyweds. “Insanity. If I ever think of dating a daredevil, remind me to run far, far away.”
Just as she’d like to run far, far away from that fundraiser tonight. She was still hoping, praying even, for something to come up that would prevent her from going.
“Lissa,” Rita Dunlap emptied the remnants of a bag of Pop Rocks into her mouth and continued typing, the candy’s crackle vying for attention. “A little insanity is exactly what you need.”
“No way.” Lissa plopped down on her office chair and moved her mouse, chasing away the Fourth of July screen saver, as her eight coworkers’ voices buzzed in the background of the bank office. They were all trying to accomplish the impossible: extract late mortgage payments from unemployed people. Talk about insanity. “Give me someone safe, someone who does things the right way, someone like Haven. Now there’s—”
“Did I hear my name?”
Eyes growing wide, Lissa slowly swiveled her chair and looked up into her boss’s indigo eyes. She swallowed hard, stealing a glance at her chuckling cube mate. Payback would be coming. “Um, we were talking about those skydiving newlyweds and how you’d never do something crazy like that.”
“Hmm.” He took the newspaper off Rita’s desk and rubbed his Romanesque chin. “Maybe once I would have.” He gave the paper back to Rita then handed Lissa a stack of files. “My priorities have changed.”
Lissa threw Rita a triumphant smile before thumbing through the files. “Foreclosures?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Gee thanks.” She couldn’t contain her sarcasm. How many of these foreclosures would be credited to her dad? Good thing he wasn’t alive today to see what his generosity had wrought.
“Sorry about that.” Haven leaned a broad shoulder against the edge of her gray cubicle and brushed a hand through surfer blond hair. Her heart did a two-step. Handsome wasn’t complimentary enough. “But you’re the best, Lissa. If anyone can keep those people from losing their homes, it’s you.” He smiled, lighting a spark in eyes as blue as a Minnesota evening sky.
Heat flooded her cheeks. Now, why did he have to go and smile? If only he weren’t her boss. “I’ll do my best.”
“I have no doubt.” He glanced at his watch and slapped the cube wall. “Looks like it’s closing time. But before you go, can I see you in my office?”
“I’ll be right in.” After she regained her composure. The click of associates’ fingers on keyboards quieted and the professional phone voices changed to excited personal tones. People couldn’t wait to get away from the complaining and hideous words they heard all day. Not that she blamed her coworkers. Trying to collect overdue loan payments always brought out the ugliness in people.
She slid open her desk drawer and secured the files in the To Do slot. Why would Haven want to see her? She wheeled her chair to the left, peeked around her gray fabric wall as he walked past the end cube. His charcoal Hugo Boss suit perfectly accented his six-foot frame. Handsome indeed.
“Hey, sweets, I saw that.”
Lissa gulped and focused at her computer screen. “Saw what?”
“Nothing but a little flirtation with the boss.”
Lissa spun in her chair and glared at Rita. “I was not flirting.”
“Right, and I’m a natural blonde.” Rita twirled one of her curly locks as Pop Rocks crackled in her mouth.
“Okay, so the man’s cute.” More like gorgeous.
“How about hunkalicous?”
Oh yeah. That worked.
“Yeah, so?” Dad was successful too. Until . . . Chin quivering, Lissa snatched a small handful of the raisin, walnut, almond concoction from a bowl on the credenza that separated her workspace from Rita’s. She cleared her throat and stilled her chin. “I’ve got an appointment.”
“Uh-huh.” Rita shut off her computer. “With a man so straight-laced, word has it his lips are still virgin.”
“Please.” Not that she hadn’t imagined kissing those lips. “The boss is off-limits.”
“Wouldn’t stop me.” Rita drummed a pencil on her desk. “Hmmm, I just might—”
Lissa laughed. “You’d be bored to tears.”
“Ahh, but you’re so right.” With a sigh, Rita gazed at the ceiling and fanned a hand over her chest. “I crave heart-galloping adventure. Something you should try, by the way. Let’s face it, the boss is too safe.”
And safe is exactly what I need. Lissa clicked off her computer and picked up the college graduation gift from her father. A framed list with her sixth grade goals inked on crinkled, yellowing paper: graduate from high school, go to college, and find a job. Three tasks already completed. Next item was to become a boss. Buying a home, getting married, and having children would come in time. God’s path for her life written in a tidy package. Step-by-step rules for assured happiness. She set the frame down. The plan had worked well so far.
“Sweets, you definitely need to get a life.”
Lissa grabbed her purse from beneath her desk. “I intend to live, all right.” If there was one thing her father’s death had taught her, it was how to live the right way, and to treat her body as the temple God created it to be.
Rita rolled her eyes. “Mr. Boring is awaiting.”
“Yeah, I better go. See you Monday.” Lissa dumped the last drops of her water bottle into a bud vase that held a single pink carnation and then strode past the now deserted cubicles. It was amazing how quickly the place cleared out at closing time.
She stopped at Haven’s door. ‘Hennepin Bank and Trust’ was etched into the door’s glass, and a mahogany nameplate, engraved with Haven’s name and title of Collections Supervisor, hung below the bank’s name. The door framed him at his desk, his brows knitted in concentration.
She raised her hand to knock and held it still, nerves jitterbugging in her stomach. What was this about? A pink slip? Probably not. The collections department was the one area in the bank that wasn’t lacking for work. Most likely more remnants of her dad’s ghost that required exorcizing, more problems created from his granting unwise loans. Regardless, being summoned to the boss’s office was never good news.
Gnawing her lower lip, she knocked.
He smiled and waved her in.
The dance in her stomach slowed but didn’t stop. He wouldn’t smile like that to give bad news.
A lingering hint of minty cologne greeted her when she stepped into the room. Focusing on the waterfall photograph on the wall behind Haven, she sat in a chair opposite his desk, crossed one leg over the other, and clutched her purse in her lap, hoping to still her trembling fingers.
“Hi Lissa.” He closed his laptop and leaned back in his chair, his face unsmiling.
Not a face bearing good news. She gripped her purse even tighter.
He pointed to a newspaper on the side of his desk. The headline read, June Foreclosures in Hennepin County at All Time High. “Hennepin Bank and Trust made the paper again.”
“Thanks to my dad,” she mumbled.
Haven straightened, and a storm brewed in his eyes. “I know I don’t always stress this, but with the bank’s struggles, your dad’s become an easy scapegoat. I’m guilty as the rest when it comes to laying blame, but he was a good man. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
She glanced down at her fisted hands.
“Sorry, Lissa, I didn’t mean to jump at you, but if you ask me, Theodore Morgan is the main reason this bank is still afloat today.”
Lissa’s eyes burned, and she blinked back sudden tears. She couldn’t recall a time when someone had stood up for her dad.
“And he saved my rear more than once.” He toyed with a plastic Snoopy paperweight. “Like you, your father had a heart for helping people.”
And if her dad had taken care of that heart, he might still be here for her.
Lissa cleared her throat, reining in her emotions. Breaking down at work was bad enough, but in front of Haven? Sheesh! She squared her shoulders and donned her professional face. “You needed to see me?”
“Uh, yes.” He glanced at his watch then set the paperweight next to a framed portrait of Haven’s aging beagle, Schroeder. “I’ve got a commitment tonight that I’d love to avoid but can’t.” He shook his head and frowned.
“Me too.” If raising money to build awareness for heart disease wasn’t so vital, she’d gladly skip the evening event.
Haven slid his top desk drawer open and pulled out a sheet of paper. “The bank received this letter today from a customer.”
Lissa slumped in her chair and eyed her crimson pencil skirt. It wasn’t her fault people got in over their heads with their mortgages, but they sure always found a way to blame her. If it weren’t for her occasional successes, the vile language and hate that spewed from people would probably drive her to drink. She didn’t need one more vice to deal with.
“You want me to read it to you?” He held out the paper.
Through her lashes, she peered at the dour line of his mouth. “Please.” Seeing and reading the words often implanted them in her mind. Maybe in only hearing them, the memory would fade sooner.
Haven took a sip of his bottled water. “It’s addressed to the owners of Hennepin Bank regarding you.”
“Get it over with.” Keeping her head down, she closed her eyes.
“It says, ‘Recently, our family went through a difficult time with hourly cutbacks followed by a job loss, then the threat of losing our home. Creditors hounded us, and many used bullying language as if that would somehow help us find a non-existent flow of money. But the collection call we should have feared most was the one that helped steer us out of our situation: the call from Hennepin Bank.’”
Helped them? She stared at Haven.
He winked. “‘Your employee, Corliss Morgan, listened to us and sympathized with our plight. She took time to guide us through our finances, helped prioritize our bill paying, and offered ideas on how to save money. It took a few months to get back on track, but without Ms. Morgan’s calm advice, we are certain we would have lost our home.’”
Relief washed over her. That was what made her job worthwhile.
“‘So, thank you, Corliss Morgan and Hennepin Bank, for being the human side of banking. You have earned our business for a lifetime and we will gladly recommend you to others. Sincerely, Ted and Marla Cockran’.”
They’d been a joy to work with. If all people listened like they had . . .
Haven handed her the letter. “We’ve placed a copy in our files, but you should have the original.”
“Thank you.” Now these were words she’d love to imprint on her memory.
“We don’t get a lot of positive feedback in this department, but when we do, more often than not your name is attached to it. That leads me to another small piece of business.” He folded his hands on top of his desk. “I’ve been offered a new position at a downtown Minneapolis mortgage company.”
No. He couldn’t leave. Seeing his smile every day always eased the stress of the job and fed her futile hope for something more. “You’ve decided to take it?”
He shrugged. “I’d be a fool not to.”
Of course. “I guess congratulations are in order.” Even if she wasn’t happy about it. “When do you start?”
“Three weeks. Two weeks here to then I’m taking a week off.”
“Good for you. We’ll miss you around here.” Especially me.
“I’ll miss it too, but it’s time to move on. Before I leave Hennepin Bank, though, there’s one more very important duty to perform, and that’s to help find my successor.” Haven slid a manila folder from the side of the desk and opened it.
Not Tyler Abernathy, please! Being unemployed would be better than working under that ogre. His bullying tactics gave all collection agents a bad name. No way would she work for him.
Haven rapped a pen on the open file. A copy of the letter he just read lay on top. “I’m recommending that you apply for my position.”
“What?” Her heart sprinted. Others were far more qualified than she. “But I—”
“You, more than anyone in our department, have protected the bank and homeowners from foreclosure. You understand that we don’t want to take people’s homes away—that we want to find a way to save them. You understand that there’s a living, feeling human being at the other end of letters and phone calls. I can’t think of a better person to lead this department.”
She peered upward and whispered thanks. If she got the promotion, she’d be personally responsible for eradicating her father’s mistakes. Life couldn’t get better.
No doubt she’d apply, but it was unprofessional to appear overeager. She curled jittery fingers on the edge of his desk. “May I think about it?”
“Absolutely.” He closed the file. “I wouldn’t expect otherwise.”
“Thanks, Haven. Your encouragement means a lot to me.” More than she dared let him know. She got up and headed for the door. To think she might be weeks away from achieving the next goal on her list. Owning a house wouldn’t be far behind. Too bad she had a commitment tonight. Rita would have loved to celebrate this news with her.
“One second, Lissa.” Haven’s calm, professional baritone disappeared and was replaced with a wobbly tenor.
She turned on her heel as he stuffed the folder back in his desk drawer.
“One more little incentive to throw in, for you to ponder over the weekend.” Resting back in his chair, he rubbed his hands over his thighs.
“Is something wrong?” Never had she seen him anything but confident.
He chuckled and looked toward her, but his gaze didn’t meet hers. “I was wondering if, when I left . . .” He rubbed his hand over his chin. “Would you mind if I asked you out?”
Would she mind? Lissa tried to hold in her smile but failed. “I look forward to it.” Good thing he couldn’t see her heart dancing a samba.
“Whew.” He puffed out a breath and grinned. “I listen to people tell me no all day and it doesn’t bother me, but if I’d heard it from you . . .”
He pushed away from his desk and shut off all his equipment. “I’ll walk you out.”
“I’d like that.”
Side by side, they walked from the building across the parking lot, sharing small talk. Someday soon, maybe they’d hold hands. Maybe she’d get a chance to kiss those virgin lips.
Girl, you are getting way ahead of yourself. She pointed her remote at her Volvo. A clothing store stood out beyond her car. Shoot, she needed panty hose for the night. She nodded toward the store. “I remembered some shopping I have to do.” Considering the mush Haven made of her mind, it was a good thing she remembered them now and not once she arrived home.
“Okay, I’ll see you on Monday.”
Maybe by then her heart would be dancing to its normal beat. With her purse slung over her shoulder, she watched Haven’s car head down the road then she floated across the parking lot, imagining Haven’s hand protecting hers.
Tires screeched. Lissa’s body hurled through the air, strong arms tucked around her. With a scream, she landed.
Softly. On top of a woodsy-scented, leather-clad man. A dark-haired, gorgeous one at that.
His arms sprang away, and she pushed herself off the ground, making certain her skirt stayed at her knees. Murmuring shoppers gathered around the two of them
A trail of blood coursed from his temple down his cheek shadowed with whiskers. She retrieved her purse that had flown a car’s length away, and dug out a tissue. “Are you all right?” She squatted and dabbed at the cut. “It looks superficial, but you should have it checked out.”
He brought a hand to his temple, winced, and looked at his bloody fingers. “I’ve had worse.” He turned in the direction of the sedan that had nearly plowed her down. The car was long gone. “Crazy driver.”
And one daydreaming lady. That didn’t make for a safe combination. She stood and wiped off her skirt. She was lucky her handsome rescuer happened to be passing by or she wouldn’t just be cleaning road dust off her outfit.
The crowd dispersed as he helped himself up. “Are you okay?”
“Thanks to you.”
He shrugged. “I happened to be in the right place.”
Right, but how many other passersby would have watched the car ram into her? “In my book, you’re a hero.” She opened her purse and pulled out a couple of twenties.
He frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. “That wouldn’t make me much of a hero now, would it?”
“I feel I owe you.”
“Just watch where you’re going next time.” He winked a toffee-brown eye and grinned. “That’ll be payment enough.”
Be still my two-stepping heart. “I promise.” Or was it her two-timing heart? She fanned a hand by her face as her savior sauntered across the parking lot to a bright yellow motorcycle, the streamlined kind that was made for speed.
He donned a helmet and zoomed from the parking lot.
She hadn’t even gotten his name.
Not that it mattered. He may have saved her, but the man oozed danger. He’d be perfect for Rita.
Besides, now she had Haven’s attention—he was made for her.
So why did the thought of gazing into the stranger’s deep-set eyes bring a grin to her face and make her heart dance a traitorous tango?
Purchase Risking Love ~
Giveaway Details ~
I’m giving away (1) ebook copy of Risking Love. Contest ends January 2, 2018 at midnight MST. To enter, in the comments below, enter your answers from the Mad Lib from above.