Saturday, January 28, 2023

Rising When We Fall by Liz Flaherty

Several years ago, in Florida, my sister-in-law Lynn and I were walking into Target when I tripped over a curb and went down like a tree. While I am far too fond of attention, I hate how much of it I attract when I fall down. Especially when I can't exactly get right up. Even more especially when my sister-in-law is both concerned and laughing so hard that I called her a few names before I finally did get up. 

The manager of the store came rushing out, asking if I needed an ambulance and saying I had no grounds for a lawsuit both in the same breath. Then I was laughing as hard as Lynn was. I wasn't thinking at all about a lawsuit; I was thinking about getting up and slinking away because I was humiliated. 

All this time later, Lynn can't walk into Target without laughing and every time she talks about it, I call her names again and we remember the store manager being concerned about an imaginary lawsuit.

In retrospect, I understand his concern--this is a litigious society we live in--but I'm still mildly resentful that he was making me into a bad guy simply because I was clumsy. 

When I was in the sixth grade, our teacher--the first male one I ever had--moved to sit down and missed his chair entirely, landing sitting on the floor behind the massive teacher's desk. The only part of him we could see was the top of his head with its thin graying hair. Frankly, I don't remember if anyone in the classroom showed concern before we roared with uncontained laughter or not. I think we laughed the rest of the afternoon; whenever we stopped, someone would remember and we'd start laughing again. 

It was only about five years ago that Carolyn Moon said, "Do you remember when Mr. Oren fell?" We both said we hoped he hadn't been hurt, but that didn't stop the laughter for bursting forth one more time. 

I've been at the bowling alley when a ball carried the person throwing it right down the lane with it. I may have been the bowler at some point. Sometimes memory is kind, and I don't remember doing it. 

When you're a mom and a nana and a long-time spouse, most of your fears don't involve yourself. You worry about the people you love being hurt, being sick, being mistreated, or mistreating others. You're scared when they're on the road, when they hate their jobs, when you wake up in the middle of the night with something feeling wrong. 

With that being said, I'll admit that I have reached the age of having a fear of falling that is all about me. Having done it several times--in increasingly public and embarrassing circumstances--I know I don't bounce, that even if I get right up and say I'm fine, just fine, I'm going hurt all over the next day. I know my bones are old and just looking for an opportunity to break. 

But I also know this. I know you can't let the fear of falling--or any other fear--stop the joy. Being cautious is fine, even advisable, but not if it gets in the way of laughing so hard your stomach hurts and your coffee spurts through your nose. I haven't broken any bones yet, other than my nose a few years ago--when I fell in the kitchen--so it may be easy for me to say. I admit I'm sorry about laughing so hard at Mr. Oren when he fell before knowing if he was okay.

But you know what? He was laughing as hard as we were. 

Confucius--and numerous other people--said, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." He didn't mention laughing at the same time, but I'm sure that was just an oversight.

Have a good week. Keep laughing. Be nice to somebody. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Ghost Mountain Ranch by Jan Scarbrough

Ghost Mountain Ranch Box Set

Will the revelation of more shocking secrets from the past destroy their hopes for the future?

The Ghost Mountain Ranch series is a good blend of mystery and romance.

DARBY: What is the truth behind the death of Darby’s mother? When the past once again intrudes on the present, will Darby do what she’s always done—what her mother did—and run away? Grief and secrets had torn Darby and Hank apart once. Given a second chance at love, will the revelation of more shocking secrets from the past destroy their hopes for the future?

SLADE: Someone knows the truth about the part Ghost Mountain Ranch played in Laurie’s life, and the terrible consequences of that past. But when the ghosts of the past threaten the lives of the living, will their growing attraction be enough to protect Slade and Laurie?

KELSEY: But something dark is happening at Ghost Mountain Ranch, where the past is reaching out in dangerous ways to haunt the living. Max is not only stirring up old feelings in Kelsey, but old secrets of the ranch’s inhabitants. Secrets someone might be willing to kill to keep. Can they finally lay the old ghosts to rest, or will the echoes of a decades-old murder destroy their second chance at love?

"Kudos to Jan Scarbrough for keeping the characters interesting and the plot twists intriguing from the first book to the last."

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Biography of Jan Scarbrough

The author of two popular Bluegrass romance series, Jan writes heartwarming contemporary stories about home and family, single moms, and children. Living in the horse country of Kentucky makes it easy for Jan to add small town, Southern charm to her books and the excitement of a Bluegrass horse race or a competitive horse show.

The Ghost Mountain Ranch series is a contemporary western series with a good blend of mystery and happily-ever-after romance. The Dawsons of Montana is another four-book contemporary western series.

Jan leaves her contemporary voice behind with two paranormal gothic romances, Timeless and Tangled Memories, a Romance Writers of America (RWA) Golden Heart finalist. Her historical romance, My Lord Raven, is a medieval story of honor and betrayal.

A member of Novelist, Inc., Jan self-publishes her books with her husband’s help.

Jan lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with one rescued dog, one rescued cat, and a husband she rescued twenty-three years ago.

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

...the sounds of the earth are like music...

I've written and rewritten this several times over the years. It was on the Window in February of 2018 during what must have been very bad week. I grieve for the bad weeks we've had since then and for the ones that are probably in front of us. But there is joy, too. There is joy. Thank you again to those who give it. Thanks for reading this again. Have a good week. Be safe. Be nice to somebody. - Liz

Oh the sounds of the earth are like music
The breeze is so busy, it don't miss a tree
An' a ol' weepin' willer is laughin' at me -
Richard Rodgers

I’m not a movie person, but the quote above is from Oklahoma. I used it because I love what he was able to do with a few words that give voice to how I feel. But, about movies--I have trouble sitting in one place for two hours and the truth is, I don't like very many new movies--although there are some exceptions to that. I don't like violence, I don't think sex is a spectator sport, and I still flinch at four-letter words, especially when there are a dozen of them in a sentence. I’m not crazy about animation and I hate stupid, so it really cuts down on things to watch.

I am a theatre person. If it’s on stage, I’m probably going to like it. Worse than that for anyone around me, if it’s a musical, I’m going to sing with it.
I can't quote many things from movies and plays I have seen, beyond the obvious. "My dear, I don't give a damn" and "I see dead people" come to mind. But I can remember scenes and how they made me feel. Especially that—how they made me feel.

I remember when Old Yeller died. When Sally Field stood on a conveyer belt and held up a sign saying UNION in Norma Rae. When Chamberlain and his Mainers charged Little Round Top for the third time with nothing more than bayonets and heart in Gettysburg. When Rick Nelson and Dean Martin sang in Rio Bravo. When black soldiers got boots in Glory. When Jimmy Stewart filibustered in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. (Is anyone with me on thinking that should be required viewing for all members of Congress and they can’t swear in until they get it?) The eight times I saw A Hard Day’s Night in the theater. Seeing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” being sung on Broadway. There are so many I can’t begin to think of them all.

In 1994, I made my daughter’s wedding dress. Also the matron of honor’s, three bridesmaids’, and two flower girls’ dresses. (I bought the Mother of the Bride one--I was tired.) From March until August, I didn’t venture too far from the sewing machine. Over and over, while I sewed, I watched Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, the ones with Megan Follows and the late Jonathan Crombie playing Anne and Gilbert.
I loved how they made me feel while I sewed. They got me over the crying-over-attaching-lace and the many times I said, “I can’t do this,” and all the days I was much too tired to thread the needle one more time.

Duane and I went to see The Dixie Swim Club at the Ole Olsen Memorial Theater. While I admit to some bias, I think Peru, Indiana’s local theater group is full of outstanding talent, and it’s never been showcased any better than it is in this play. I laughed so hard I nearly cried, and then there was a brilliant, aching point where I was crying. Several years later I talked to Laura Stroud, one of the stars of the play, and when I tried to talk to her about that one line she had delivered with so much perfection it sliced my heart right in two, I got sniffly again and, oh, it felt so good.
It’s always nice when readers say something that makes you goofy-smile and happy-dance all day. Or when they let you know you got them through something that would have been harder otherwise. It means that even though they may forget your name, the title of the book, or even its protagonists, they’ll still remember how you made them feel. It doesn’t get any better than that.

It’s been a rough week for virtually everyone. Finding this column and changing it made me think of lines from Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You”:

Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?

I remember doing that during that awful September, when the news became unbearable. Not I Love Lucy per se, but other reruns. Shows that didn’t hurt. Shows made us feel better, as if we could get through the day.

My niece, Sara Nider Biggs, is a teacher with two children. This week, she said on Facebook, “Every day, be sure to tell somebody Thank You.” Sara was starting with her children’s teachers, who keep them safe every day.
I join her in that, thanking everyone who does all they can to keep children safe. I also thank all those people who did and do write, direct, and act in movies and plays, and who sing songs and write books that I can’t quote lines from. Because no matter how hard or sad or impossible times are, you make us feel. You make us feel wonderful.

Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Sweater by Liz Flaherty

2013 or so - almost new!
Twenty-plus years ago, Duane was given a gift certificate from Rock Hollow by people at work. He was thrilled because they thought of him and because he loved Rock Hollow. I'm sure he played golf with some of the gift certificate, but he also bought the Sweater. While I am deathly sick of looking at and washing the Sweater, even I must admit it deserves a capital letter at its beginning.  

It's light gray, no collar, and has three buttons at the neck and the Rock Hollow insignia where a breast pocket would be if it had one. It's loose enough to wear over a shirt, but perfectly comfortable without one, too. 

A few years ago, I felt a little bit of hopeful glee when a small hole wore though the front of the Sweater. Maybe we could give it a Christian burial after all. I don't know of any scripture exactly right for threadbare Sweaters, but...

"What do you think?" said Duane. "Think you could patch it?"

So much for burial. "Sure," I said. "Maybe."

You could barely see the mended place and he was happy with it. The Sweater went on. And on. I washed it more often than I wash sheets. Sometimes its owner puts it on before it ever makes it to a hanger--it's so nice and warm straight from the dryer. 

No surprise that when Duane went to the hospital for back surgery last week, he wore the Sweater because it would be comfortable for going home. Before he put it back on, we squinted at the patched place (squinting comes with age, in case you weren't aware of it), and sure enough, the patch has worn through, as well as another hole close to it. If the Sweater were a shower curtain, the bathroom floor would be soaked.

I didn't even think about a funeral. How could I possibly think of getting rid of a Sweater that was just reaching its sweet spot in life? Its owner had stitches in his back because of a lifetime of wear and I hadn't even considered getting rid of him. All right, I talked about it, but not seriously.

"I can fix that," I said. 

The Sweater will live on. 

Nan Reinhardt
Nan Reinhardt dresses really well. I'm always kind of happy when she hands down something to me that she doesn't wear anymore because I know I'm going to like it. 

But then there's her Sweater. I asked her if it had a story and she said, "I put it on over my jammies and go to work in my office every morning." Nan and I travel together sometimes on writing retreats and I've seen her pajamas--I'll bet they cringe every time she puts that sweater on. It probably looked nice when it was newer, before it had holes in it, but I'm not placing any bets. 

Jim Reinhardt
Her husband, whom she calls Husband in print, also has a Sweater. He's had it for...oh, a long time. It's referred to in the family as his Mr. Rogers sweater. It was every day in his office until he retired in 2014. Now it's in his home office. Except for when he's wearing it. 

The last Sweater is mine. Tahne, my daughter-in-law, bought it for me from a store near Biltmore in North Carolina. It's deliciously soft and seems to fit me no matter what size I am. It was expensive, and I told Tahne I was going to save it to wear when I was dressing up. 

My Sweater--not me.
She said No. She wanted me to wear it to be warm and comfortable in while I was working or whenever I needed it. I didn't argue. It does, after all, have pockets and is the perfect length and I roll the sleeves up to wherever I want them to be on any certain day. And every time I wear it, it's like being hugged by someone I love. 

I love sweaters. I have a blue-green one with sparkles that gives me some shine on a day when I need it. When I was in the fourth grade, teacher and I had the same royal blue cardigan, I was so impressed and felt so grown up! I doubt Mrs. Kotterman was all that excited about it, but I certainly was. 

I bought a burnt orange one on clearance once and wore it with everything. Although I admit burnt orange isn't much of a neutral, it still works for me. It's a warm color. Forty-some years later, my raincoat is that color. So is a down jacket I just bought on clearance. It was the only color available in my size. I think that was a message.  

When my grandmother died, we found a brown cardigan she'd never worn, and I took it home with me and wore it until there was little left of it. That's what Grandma did--she looked after us. 

This is one of those interactive blog posts. Tell us about your Sweater. Your favorite or your least favorite or one that wakes a memory. 

Stay warm. Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Time Flies by Liz Flaherty

Welcome to my first Window Over the Sink of 2023. I've been sitting here, admittedly with other things on my mind, and the only thing that's really making itself heard is such a cliché. 

Time flies. 

See, I told you. 

I've been thinking about the blog lately, wondering if the Window has run its course. With a few timeouts for lack of a place for it, I've been writing it since my kids were in high school back in the 1980s. 

Kokomo Tribune

I've written about book-banning. I've written about writing books, having books published, and signing books. (Especially signing them with Joe DeRozier.) I've written about libraries because I worked in one and I know how important they are and because we are so shortsighted that the library in Peru is a city library, not a city-county one, and therefore those of us who live outside city limits have to pay for a library card. I can do that--or could; I don't--but I couldn't have years back. I could have gotten books from the Little Free Libraries that were such an inspired idea, but I couldn't have afforded to either buy them or pay for a library card. 

I wrote about when a young mother drowned her children. I wrote about grandchildren--I have seven, the Magnificent Seven, but you probably knew that. I wrote about when children were killed at Sandy Hook, when children were killed when someone found a gun and played with it. At some point, I didn't write about children dying anymore because I couldn't stand it. 
I've written about marriage because I have a long one and I really like it. I'm still crazy about the guy in the other recliner (except on the days we don't like each other at all.) I don't think marriage is for everyone, but I recommend it for anyone who wants it. No matter who they want to be married to, because who anyone loves isn't my business and doesn't require me writing about it. When one spouse doesn't listen and one doesn't dust and neither of them wants to decide where to go for dinner--that's what I'll write about. 

I've written about politics because I live in a place where people like me feel polarized. Notice how I said that? I said People Like Me. Because I don't feel polarized. I have the same friends I've always had. We don't tell each other how to vote any more than we tell each other what hair color to use or that butter's better than margarine. I don't watch Fox News and they don't watch MSNBC. And we don't talk about it between us. But thank God for free speech and freedom of the press, because I still write about it and they're still free to discuss it. 

I don't usually write about religion. I'm a Christian. I love the Lord. No one has ever suggested I shouldn't. A teacher in Greentown suggested I couldn't be both a Democrat and a Christian and I was startled but relieved because I knew he was wrong. 

In recent years, I've written a lot about aging, because...well, it's pretty personal. It's hard on your health, on your brain cells, on your memory, on your skin tone, on your reflexes...the list can go on and on. But it is so much fun getting older. Unlike some, I don't think it's a license to be rude, expect special treatment, or block the aisle in the grocery store; however, I'm perfectly willing to accept the senior discount so kindly offered by a lot of places and I do so with gratitude. 

Another thing about aging is that maybe sometimes some of us talk too much, like I probably just did. Obviously, if I have this much to say, I can't stop writing the Window just yet, and I hope you keep reading it.

I admit to being disappointed that 28 years after Susan Smith drowned her little boys, children are still dying at an alarming rate because of adults. It's been 31 years since I first wrote about book-banning and it's happening all the time, all over the place now--it's no longer isolated. Marriage is still being fought over because some people think others shouldn’t be able to have it. Politics and religion are still politics and religion--they shouldn't mix but they always do. 

Carla Murtha from Kokomo Tribune
You still have to pay for a library card if you live outside the city limits in Peru, Indiana, but free books are easy to find and you can sit in the library and read or use computers whether you have a card or not. You can take your kids to story-time even though Miss Carla retired, read the paper at the round table behind the desk, and find a quiet and safe place if that's what you need. About the library card...maybe someday. 

Aging is still aging and those of us in the middle of it are still relevant. Grandkids are still the most wonderful topic of conversation and mine are still magnificent.

Have a good week. Be safe. Be nice to somebody.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Hiding in Montana by Lucinda Race

Hiding in Montana, Book 2, Cowboys of River Junction

By Lucinda Race

Can love flourish while danger lurks in the shadow?

For Polly Carson, working the land on a Montana ranch is a dream come true. No one knows she’s on the run, carrying a secret that could endanger the big eclectic family she’s found on the ranch. Not even the man who rescued her broken body from the bottom of a ravine recognizes her. He doesn’t know that it was him who brought her to River Junction in hope of finding a safe haven and a chance to start over.

Something about Polly draws Clint Goodman, foreman of Grace Star Ranch, like a bee to wildflowers. If only he could remember why she seems so familiar. She trips his trigger for sure, but he’s been burned before. He loves his job and his cowboy life, but women want picket fences and a man who doesn’t work weekends. But maybe a woman like Polly is worth taking a second chance.

Polly’s a strong woman with a deep inner strength. Clint, the strong silent type, loves and respects her fierce independence. But just as their slow burn romance is heating up, Polly’s past returns to threaten her future. As lies and secrets are revealed, no one on the ranch will be safe.


Polly Carson stuck her leather work gloves in the back of her faded Levis. She sat back on her heels, surveying the row of tomato plants she had just mulched. Rubbing the ache in her lower back reminded her she wasn’t twenty anymore. Looking at her surroundings, she wouldn’t change life on Grace Star Ranch for anything in the world. Working the land in Montana had been a dream come true, and it put her in close proximity to Clint Goodman, the only man who made her heart skitter in her chest with just a smile. Not that he even recognized her. No one could. But she knew he had a good heart. What person would happen along, find a woman so badly broken that he’d stay with her, and even visit her in the hospital? She remembered little about those first days, but she remembered his voice, the deep dimples, and sable-brown eyes, and the way he talked about his home, Grace Star Ranch, had sounded like heaven on earth.

She touched her face, picturing her reflection in the mirror. The plastic surgeon had done an amazing job of putting her back together. The only scars that remained were on the inside. She shook off the darkness that threatened to obscure the July sunshine and stood up. This morning she woke in a cold sweat, her heart racing from the same nightmare she’d had for the last three years. She was running and her feet gave way, sliding down a rocky embankment. Helpless. Ending in a heap at the bottom of a ravine. But it hadn’t been a dream. It had been what brought her to this point, even though she remembered nothing after she had breakfast until they found her. Until Clint found her. Even now, her heart pounded in her chest as it tightened with the familiar panic. Taking several deep cleansing breaths, she reminded herself nothing would get done dwelling on the past. She knew better than anyone life could change in an instant.

The sound of someone calling her name interrupted her thoughts. Annie, the owner of the ranch and her boss, was headed in her direction.

“Morning,” she called out. “How’s things going out here?” She popped her hands on her hips and took in the massive garden. “It’s amazing what you’ve done in just a year.” She bent over and tore off a lettuce leaf, inspecting it, and then popping it in her mouth. “Nothing like from garden to mouth.”

Polly liked Annie. Her openness and willingness to listen and implement new ideas was just one reason working here was the best job she’d ever had. “The critters would devour the lettuce if we hadn’t installed that fencing.”

“I’m glad Clint and the boys could get it done before everything grew.”

Polly turned away so Annie couldn’t see her cheeks get pink at the mere mention of his name. “Chicken wire did the trick, that’s for sure.”

“Tell me, what’s the scoop with these tomato plants? They’re already a foot tall and deep green, nothing like what I saw down at The Trading Post a few days ago.”

“I grew these in the greenhouse. We’ve got a grape variety and ones that will ripen in our short growing season. Quinn’s already thinking about how many quarts he can process for the winter.”

Annie shuddered. “We just got over that season. I’m not ready to start thinkin’ about snow.” Her soft twang only came out occasionally, but Polly liked it.

With a soft laugh, she said, “It’s part of growing food. We need to think about the harvest and preserving it. Besides, we have a pleasant summer coming up since our spring has been warm. It’s a good indicator we’re in for a stretch of sunny days ahead.”

“Do you think you’ll have enough greenhouse space to grow even more for next year? With the resort having a soft opening in the fall, I’m hopeful we will book the cabins solid next summer.”

Annie had part of the ranch under construction with six family-style cabins and an expansion to the horse stable. Her plan was to add a dude ranch resort as an offshoot of the cattle business. Daphne, her friend from Boston, had moved out to run it.

“Not to worry, I’m using this year’s harvest as a gauge of what we’ll need to expand for next year. Feeding the ranch hands and preserving what we can is a part of the overall plan. You’ll need to decide how meals will run for the resort, are guests eating with the hands, or is there a separate dining hall? If Jed’s going to oversee everything, then he has ideas about the menu. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s an open-ended discussion until we know if Quinn is the head chef or if you are having two separate kitchens.”

Annie tapped her chin with her index finger and turned her head in the direction of the dining hall. “I’ve been putting off this conversation long enough. I’ll run down and talk to Quinn this morning. I was hoping he’d come to me and ask for the head chef job, but maybe he’s waiting for me to offer it.” With a shake of her head, she grinned. “He’s strong and silent like a few of our men around here.”

Polly instantly thought of Clint. He was the strong, silent type, steady as her heartbeat, well, until he occupied space with her, and then her heart thumped wildly. She really needed to stop crushing on that man.

“And you have a few raucous ones down there, too. Clint had Zak Dawson up helping with the fence and all he did was crack jokes.”

Her eyes grew wide. “Clint or Zak?”

Her cheeks grew warm. “Zak’s the funny man of that duo.” But Clint had the occasional one-liner that cracked her up, too. Not that she was about to tell Annie that.

“Zak’s a good man and even better with the horses. He probably tires of not having people to talk with, so he makes up for it.” Annie gave her a sharp look. “Clint’s got a good sense of humor. He just keeps it on the down low until he really gets to know someone.”

She dipped her head and looked at Annie. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Hey, can you do me a favor before you head out?” Annie glanced back at the main house. “Mary’s a little tired today. Would you cut some lettuce and if there are radishes, harvest some for dinner tonight and drop them at the house? I have to run into town and I’d feel better knowing someone had laid eyes on her while I’m gone.”

“Is she alright?”

“If you ask her, yes, still running this place like my Pops were still alive. But she picked up a cold, and it’s settled in her chest, and we both know Mary, stubborn as a mule about resting. She’ll be down here when she gets ready to fix dinner, getting what she can and well…” Her voice trailed off.

Polly saw the tears well up and then get blinked away from Annie’s eyes. “Consider it done. Maybe we can have tea together and I can pick her brain about her success with the garden all these years.”

“I tried to tell her I’d”—she gave a sheepish grin and shrugged her shoulders—“well, Linc would cook tonight, but she insists on fixing supper.”

“My grandma was just like Mary, never wanting help. At least Mary’s relinquished most of the gardening to me. She even allowed me to work in her flower gardens.”

Annie placed a warm hand on Polly’s arm. “I really appreciate your patience with Mary. She’s the only family I have left.”

“We all love her, so stop worrying. I can pop in whenever for a quick glass of water.” She patted the small walkie-talkie on her hip. “And you can reach me anytime.”

Polly would do just about anything for Annie and her family. After all, if it wasn’t for the woman standing in front of her, Polly wouldn’t be living her dream or live in close proximity to the man who had saved her life. One of these days, she needed to fess up and tell him who she was and thank him.

“I got lucky when Jeremy introduced us at The Trading Post.”

Polly swallowed the lump in her throat; she knew exactly what Annie meant. It was a fresh start for both of them—Annie taking over the family’s ranch and her working at the ranch. They were both building a new life from the ground up.

“Hey, how often is a gardener given the chance to start an entire operation literally from just a patch of land and an idea?”

Annie shrugged. “Like every spring?”

“Nope, this land needed to be cultivated and coaxed back into life. We’ve added compost and fertilizer, turned in nutrients, and let the magic of nature work over the winter.” Much like her transformation as she worked the land, it restored her faith that the future was bright. She had left the withered version of herself on that hiking trail.

“You did the work.” Annie gave her a bright smile.

In more ways than just the plot of land in front of them. “Thanks, Annie. All I needed was the opportunity.”

Her smile grew. “Oh, look, there’s Clint and Linc.”

The two cowboys headed in their direction. Clint was taller and thinner than his boss, who was also Annie’s husband, but they both had dark hair and the muscles of a hard-working cowboy. That’s where the similarities ended. Linc’s smile was quick and easy, whereas Clint’s was slow and guarded. He was slowly getting comfortable around her, but it had puzzled Polly why.

“Ladies,” Linc said and pecked his wife’s lips. “I thought I’d find you out here, Annie.”

“Actually, I was talking with Polly about plans for next year, and then I’m on my way down to see Quinn.”

Clint gave Polly a half grin. “Gotta feel sorry for the cook. Once Annie says she’s gonna talk to someone, that means they’d best be prepared to make some decisions.”

Although her tongue felt like she’d trip over it if she spoke, she laughed and then said, “I think I’d been in that same position last year.”

He pushed his Stetson back on his head and gave her a rare, wide smile. “And look how that turned out. We’re now eating better than ever, thanks to your skills.”

She could feel the flush rise in her cheeks and she eked out, “That’s nice of you to say.”

“Wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.” Clint’s deep drawl made her toes curl in her work boots.

Polly could feel Annie’s eyes watching them as they bantered. She chanced a quick look, and Annie’s eyes widened with laughter. But it left her questions unasked. Polly was sure that would be a topic of conversation when they talked later.

“Linc, why don’t we head down to the dining hall? I think Polly was going to ask Clint for some help with something.” Annie gave Polly a sly wink and slipped her arm through her husband’s.

“Clint, after you’re done up here, can you stop down at the horse barn and check on things there? I have some things to go over with Annie in the office.”

Polly noticed the glint in Linc’s eyes and if she were to hazard a guess, this was part of Annie and Linc’s not-so-subtle way of playing matchmaker.

“You got it, and then I’m gonna check on the new calves. Doc Howard will be making a quick trip out later too.”

“Good.” Linc took Annie’s hand and with a smile in Polly’s direction and a curt nod to Clint, he said, “Take all the time Polly needs to get whatever done.”

When they were out of earshot, Clint stuck his hands in his front pockets and rocked back in his boots. He was studying Polly carefully. “So, how can I help you?”

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Award-winning and best-selling author Lucinda Race is a lifelong fan of fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading mystery and romance novels and getting lost in the fun and hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a novelist.

As life twisted and turned, she found herself writing nonfiction but longed to turn to her true passion. After developing the storyline for the McKenna Family Romance series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys she weaves stories about with mystery and happily ever afters.

Lucinda lives with her two little dogs, a miniature long hair dachshund and a shitzu mix rescue, in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. When she's not at her day job, she’s immersed in her fictional worlds. And if she’s not writing mystery, suspense and romance novels, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on.

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