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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beyond the Book: Cinders Malone's Dress

Violet Emerson and Matt McCallum had the kind of wedding that nightmares are made of. It reminds me of my son’s wedding. When he got married, the caterer cancelled the week before the wedding, the linen rental cancelled three days before the wedding, the flowers went up 50% in price, and the maid of honor was hospitalized on Thursday before the wedding on Saturday. It all worked out for my son, but it sure was tense.

Let me share a little something from Matt and Violet’s wedding. This excerpt is from my story It All Started With Cinders Malone's Dress. This story was a part of a charity anthology, but rights have now reverted to me.

“I’m home.”
Violet Emerson and her sister Jessie raced down the stairs to meet their father.  From the kitchen Beth Emerson, the girls’ mother, called, “I’m coming!”
“Did you get it?” Violet demanded as she joined her father in the small foyer of the Emerson home.  She clapped her hands together and literally jumped up and down, her dark curls swirling around her face.
Fred scowled at her.  “Of course I did.  Do I usually walk in the door carrying huge garment bags?"
Violet giggled.  “Daddy, I’m getting married tomorrow.  Lighten up.”
Fred’s mouth turned down into a sour grimace.  “Don’t remind me.”
Beth who’d arrived in time to hear the exchange laughed with her daughters.  “Now, Fred, Matt’s going to be your son-in-law.  You’ve got to be nice.”
Fred’s lip poked out, but he didn’t say anything.  He didn’t have to.  Everyone knew he was having a hard time giving Violet up. 
“Let’s look at your dress,” Jessie cried. 
Everyone trooped to the living room to look at the wedding dress.  Violet’s hands almost shook in her eagerness to remove the garment bag.  The bag hit the floor with a small noise that was obscured by Violet’s quick gasp.  “This isn’t my dress!”
“Oh my goodness,” Beth exclaimed.
Everyone stared at the dress.  Violet had picked a tailored dress with a form fitting bodice and skirt that showed off her curves to perfection.  There were no sequins and lace to detract from her unusual violet-blue eyes.  Matt her fiancé loved her eyes.
Violet clutched her throat.  “It’s…it’s poufy!”
The dress had short sleeves and a fitted bodice studded with seed pearls on every available inch.  The neckline plunged into a sharp v shape that went almost to her waist.  A thin piece of net joined the two sides and kept them together.  The skirt consisted of layer upon layer of fluffy white tulle that spread out like a cloud from the pearl bodice. 
Fred’s eyes bulged as he stared at the plunging neckline.  “That’s a disgrace,” he snapped.

Sadly, Violet never gets her own dress back. It was so pretty too. How do you like it?

Here's the dress she got married in. Matt loved it even if Violet didn't.

Truly, this dress is designer, and the other one isn't. This one is by Badgley Mischka.

Violet and Matt got married at Christmas time, so Violet picked red for her bridesmaids.
I thought this matched her original dress so well.

She picked a Christmas theme wedding cake too. I think it also matches the simple, tailored look Violet wanted.

A New Dream is available for $1.99 at or at

Violet's second dress:

Violet's first dress:


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Of Course. The Trunk

Welcome to Six Sentence Sunday. Thank you so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me. I appreciate every one of them. For the past few weeks we've been following my heroine Kara from Her Kind of Man. Kara's sister stole her fiance, and even though she didn't want to, Kara went to the wedding to stop gossip. When she got home, she looked at the wedding dress that she should have worn only hours before. Filled with rage and hurt, she destroys the dress and decides to hide it in the attic.


Is it possible she’s finally found Her Kind of Man?

Ross Williams has been in love with Kara Cochrane since they were kids so when Kara's fiancé Brandon Miles cheats on her and calls off their wedding—Ross steps in to rescue the damsel in distress.

A heartbroken Kara just wants to get on with her life and hunky Ross provides her with a definite distraction—that is until she starts falling for him. Big time.

But a devastating family secret threatens to destroy everything that Kara holds dear—including her relationship with Ross.


Now, where to put it? Her eyes lit on an old, brown trunk. It looked big enough to hide the dress. Of course she’d have to get rid of it sooner or later, but she wouldn’t risk taking it to her car tonight. Her parents might come home any minute. The trunk would work fine.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sweet Saturday Sample: Her Kind of Man

Welcome to Sweet Saturday Sample. My sample today comes from Her Kind of Man. In this excerpt my hero and heroine are at their wedding reception. If you'd like to see Kara's dress scroll down to Tuesday's post.  Her Kind of Man is available at Amazon, Lachesis Publishing, or at Fictionwise at

Martha hurried over to Kara. “Darling, it’s time to cut the cake.”

The photographer stood poised beside the cake waiting to take a picture, so Ross and Kara followed Martha to the table. Hmm. The cake had turned out better than she expected. The white columns between the layers gave the cake a classical air which offset the vivid purple flowers scattered among the columns. Kara picked up the pearl-handled, silver knife Annie had provided, but before Ross could put his hand on top of hers to help her with the first cut, Justin charged across the floor and dived under the table. The table collapsed, smashing and scattering a huge stack of glass plates and dumping the cake down the front of Kara’s dress. Pandemonium reigned as Justin howled and squalled. Sue hauled him out from under the table and smacked his bottom. “I told you not to run indoors. Look what you’ve done.” The barrage of noise increased, so Bobby picked Justin up and carried him outside.

Nobody knew what to say. Justin had not only ruined the cake but also the bride’s dress. Kelly flew across the room with wet and dry towels to do makeshift repairs. Careless of her new navy suit, she scraped the cake from Kara’s dress and tried to get the stains out of the heavy fabric, but the colored frosting didn’t budge.

“I’m sorry, Kara. I can’t get it all out.”

Kara felt a wild desire to laugh building in her throat. To think that Kelly would be the one to help her! She took a deep breath. “Thank you for your help.”

“Do you want to change?” Ross picked up her hand and chaffed it gently between his own.

“No, it’s okay,” Kara answered, managing a wan smile. She actually didn’t mind about the dress. After all, she never planned to wear it again. Ross would expect her to treasure the dress because she wore it on the day they got married, so she’d have it professionally cleaned, sealed, and packed and store it under the bed or in a closet somewhere.

A vision of her first dress torn and ruined flashed in her mind. She buried the thought as soon as possible. If she lived to be a hundred, she never wanted to think about that dress or that night again because that night she found out who and what she really was.

A wave of dizziness passed over her. She forced herself to breath normally. If she didn’t stop taking such shallow, rapid breaths, she’d hyperventilate.

So, she received her guests with icing staining her wedding dress. It didn’t matter. The detachment that made the ceremony bearable hadn’t failed her. What a relief.

Oh No! I Need a Bathing Suit.

So, it’s almost time to break out our swimsuits and hit the beach for carefree days of sun, surf, and sand. What a shame that some of us-yeah, I’m talking about myself- put on a few pounds over the winter. I don’t think I can get them off in time for swimsuit season.  No problem. According to Glamour Magazine it’s easy to disguise those problem areas with a little ruching. It will slim you instantly. Just find a suit with ruching in the problem area. Okay, I went looking, and I like these three plus a forth without ruching.
Not bad is it? I've gained the weight in my tummy so maybe the ruching will disguise it.  This one isn't available anymore, but it's a great example of the concept.

This suit comes from Belks. It has ruching everywhere too. It's also black which might minimize any little ice cream cones or brownies that got stuck on your stomach. Buy it at for $65.80

This retro tankini has ruching as well as tummy control panels, and I think the colored panel against the black will fool the eye about the width of your hips. The top itself is $95 with another $48 for the bottom.  Buy it at

This is another excellent choice. It's back on the bottom which is good for those with big hips. It's lighter on top which will also minimize hips, and the skirted styles always make people look smaller.  Buy it at Belks at for $69.30.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Mancode Exposed: Book Review

Today, I'm reviewing The Mancode Exposed by Rachel Thompson.  Rachel's giving away a random chocolate treat at every blog, and one commenter will be randomly chosen from all the commenters to receive a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.  You can follow her tour at

“See, guys are born with this code that women know nothing about.” From The Mancode Exposed by Rachel Thompson.

This book which is only 129 pages is funny. Scathingly funny.  Ms. Thompson has a great handle on the incomprehensible things guys do.  Things like spitting or passing gas, leaving hair on their faces and hogging the remote control.  She also tries to explain why it’s so hard for men to admit how much they like another guy. (Nothing but like here.  No romantic thing.)

And there’s plenty more she has to say! You should pay attention to the hashtags she uses in the book.  You can google them.

I like her explanation of how men and women in her family stay together.  Humor.  And she knows a lot about it.  Here’s the intro from the book.


Is it possible to truly expose men?

Let me rephrase that.

Did it all start with Eve tempting Adam? Sure, if you believe in that stuff. (Hey, apples

are good for you, man. Ask Benjamin Franklin.)

What this book is truly about: me, exposing my beliefs, experiences, and thoughts on

men and women. Stripping off the pretense of stereotypes, undressing myself for your

reading pleasure.

Okay, wait.

Mancode: Exposed has sex in it. If that offends you, move along. It’s sarcastic and

snarky. If your sensibilities run toward the conservative, you might not want to read any

farther."  (Pssst: I also throw in the occasional well-placed curse word or two.)

Men, women, sex, love, stereotypes. Important world topics like garages, lingerie, and

um, chocolate? It’s a melting pot (okay, now I’m just getting hungry).

But more than that, it’s about all the levels in which we communicate…viewed through

my looking glass of humor and deconstructed.

You can read the sections in this book in any order, though if you’re starving, I don’t

suggest starting with Chocolate Confessions.

Anatomy and Physiology alone creates many fun predicamentsboobs and cocks are often subjects of humor because come on, that’s just comedy gold. Someone says “Nuts!” and people laugh, right? Fair warning: this ain’t your mama’s biology class.

Coitus and Communication. We all do both. Some more, better, or worse than others.

Many people lose their humor when it comes to communicating about sex, but I find that

it’s the connection between the two that fascinates me and for some reason, tends to bring out the snark.

Chocolate Confessions. Let’s face it—chicks love chocolate. Men would be wise to

understand that. We try to (Nutella) warn you. We’ve shown you our (Godiva) weakness. Honestly. Keep up.

DNA and Stereotypes. Possibly the most controversial section. I explore questions like, Can we outrun our DNA? Will we women always be slaves to our talkative nature (après sex)? Will you men never be free of the chains of your emotional withholding? Can we transfer man’s paper towel changing abilities from garage to kitchen?

Read and see for yourself.

The book is a quick, entertaining read on a subject that women are very fond of: men.  And chocolate.  And shoes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beyond the Book: What's Wrong With This Picture?

Don’t you just love a wedding? It makes me so happy to see a young couple starting their life together. Yeah, I usually cry, but it’s only tears of joy. I thought that since June, the traditional month of weddings will soon be here, I’d share a little bit about my characters’ weddings.  Why don’t we begin with Kara Cochrane and Ross Williams from Her Kind of Man. Her Kind of Man is currently number 6 in romance and number 22 overall at Fictionwise.  I’m still swooning about that. If you'd like to have a copy you can get it at

If you’re read the book you know that Kara had two wedding dresses. She destroyed her first dress after sister stole her fiancé. Then, when she got engaged to Ross she bought a second dress. Here’s the first dress. As Kara said, it has all the lace, sequins, and pearls that a girl could want. You can buy it at

  This is Kara’s second dress. It’s a lot simpler than the first one. Kara’s mother liked it a lot better than the first dress. You can buy it at

Kara’s only bridesmaid wore purple. Do you like it? Kara doesn’t. She hates purple, but Sue wanted to wear the dress she wore in her cousin’s wedding. Actually, Kara doesn’t like her own dress either. So, what’s up with this wedding? Something sounds strange here. (You’d better believe it!)

And last but not least, here’s the cake. Kara did admit to liking the cake.

The excerpt below takes place at the wedding. Justin is Ross’s nephew who's six years old.

The photographer stood poised beside the cake waiting to take a picture, so Ross and Kara followed Martha to the table. Hmm. The cake had turned out better than she expected. The white columns between the layers gave the cake a classical air which offset the vivid purple flowers scattered among the columns. Kara picked up the pearl-handled, silver knife Annie had provided, but before Ross could put his hand on top of hers to help her with the first cut, Justin charged across the floor and dived under the table. The table collapsed, smashing and scattering a huge stack of glass plates and dumping the cake down the front of Kara’s dress. Pandemonium reigned as Justin howled and squalled. Sue hauled him out from under the table and smacked his bottom. “I told you not to run indoors. Look what you’ve done.” The barrage of noise increased, so Bobby picked Justin up and carried him outside.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Oh, I Know. The Attic.

Welcome to Six Sentence Sunday. As some of you know, several weeks ago I started sharing excerpts from a turning point in my book Her Kind of Man. In summary, this is what's happened. My heroine just returned from her sister's wedding. Since her sister stole her fiance, Kara isn't feeling extremely happy. In fact, she's so angry and upset that she destroys her wedding dress. Here's the next six sentences in the excerpt. If you've been following along, stay with me. We're getting there.

Oh, and I'm super proud of this book. It's currently  number 6 in romance and number 22 overall at Fictionwise.  You can get it at

Is it possible she’s finally found Her Kind of Man?

Ross Williams has been in love with Kara Cochrane since they were kids so when Kara's fiancé Brandon Miles cheats on her and calls off their wedding—Ross steps in to rescue the damsel in distress.
A heartbroken Kara just wants to get on with her life and hunky Ross provides her with a definite distraction—that is until she starts falling for him. Big time.

But a devastating family secret threatens to destroy everything that Kara holds dear—including her relationship with Ross.
Six Sentences:
She’d hide the dress in the attic. Last month her father had installed a disappearing staircase to give them easy access to the attic. She’d hide the dress there because staircase or no staircase, nobody ever went up there.
She dragged the heavy bundle into the hallway and pulled the staircase down, revealing a yawning, pitch black hole.  Thank goodness her father had installed a light up there. It was torture to climb the stairs while pulling the heavy dress behind her, but desperation gave her strength, and she got the dress into the attic.

Sweet Saturday Sample: Smelling Salts

Quick!  Bring me some smelling salts. Her Kind of Man is number 6 in romance and number 22 overall at Fictionwise!  Am I happy?  Oh, yeah.

In this excerpt Ross my hero has just met my heroine Kara in the grocery store. Ross has been in love with Kara for a long time, but she wouldn't give him the time of day. Now that Kara's sister stole her fiance, Ross decides to ask Kara for a date.

At that moment, Kelly and Brandon turned onto aisle three. Kara saw them about the same time they saw her. Everyone froze, but then Kelly grabbed Brandon’s arm and marched down the aisle toward Ross and Kara. Ross watched Kara’s hackles rise to cover the misery written on her face. He thought for sure he and Brandon would soon be breaking up a cat fight right in the middle of Chef’s Pantry.

Kelly looked scared and defiant all at the same time.  “Hello, Kara.”

Kara’s nose rose a bit as she nodded to Brandon and Kelly. She turned her back to them and said, “Yes, Ross, I’d enjoy having dinner with you. What time will you pick me up?”

Ross wasn’t a fool. He knew why she’d said yes, but he didn’t care. After years of waiting for a date with her, he refused to get picky about her motivation for going out with him.

 “I’ll pick you up at six. There’s a little French restaurant in Greenville called Bienvenue that my brother told me about. I think you’d like it.”

“Sounds great! I look forward to it.” Kara nodded once more to her sister and Brandon as she hurried away, trying to look as if she wasn’t hurrying.

Brandon confronted Ross as soon as Kara disappeared from sight. “You know she’s only going out with you to hurt me. She’s vulnerable right now. You’re taking advantage of her, and I don’t like it.”

A red haze swirled in front of Ross’s face. “Which sister do you want, Brandon? Kara or Kelly? Better make up your mind quick.”

Her Kind of Man is available at

Friday, May 18, 2012

And The Winners Are

If you've come for Fashionista Friday scroll on down. I'd like to announce who won books at the Her Kind of Man release Party.  I'll need email addresses for Gladys MP, Cheralyn, and Barbara. You can leave them here or send them privately to 

My thanks to everyone who stopped by. Her Kind of Man is now #6 in Romance at Fictionwise, and overall it's #22.

Fashionista Friday

I’ve noticed a lot of blouses this year that for want of a better term are labeled peasant blouses. Actually, I like the white ones with colorful embroidery. The others, not so much so. The prettiest ones I could find to show you are from a website at  I like their peasant blouses because they are made of heavy cotton, and if I read it right, they’re hand embroidered. It’s hard to tell which is prettiest, but here's a sample for you to look at.  All of them are around $54.

If you like the look but don't want to fork over fifty bucks what do you think of this K Mart special? It's only $20.

And this one is only $17 at Old Navy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Release Party Her Kind of Man

Hello, and welcome to the 2012 Summer Reading Trail. The release party for Her Kind of Man is long over, but the excerpt is still there. When I did the party I included the entire first chapter of Her Kind of Man, so scroll down and enjoy the pictures and the excerpt.  When you finish reading, you can go back to the trail homepage to find more links. That's at

Hello!  Welcome to the Her Kind of Man release party.  My heroine Kara Cochrane is giving a barbecue which is super appropriate since my hero Ross Williams owns Little Knoll Dairy Farm.  How do you like the way Kara set the tables?

  Everyone has been very complimentary about the mismatched chairs.  Ross wanted to rent matching chairs, but Kara convinced him this would be better.  The flowers all come from Kara’s garden.  Did you notice that she’s using jars instead of vases?  She had to convince Ross about that too.  And don’t you just love the lights and the heart shaped wreath on the barn?  Ross and his brother Bobby hung those.

Kara’s menu is simple but tasty.  She got it from Martha Stewart so you know it’s good.  She’s serving barbecued ribs, Yukon Gold potato salad, greens with bacon, and cornbread baked in big iron skillets.  For dessert she wanted cupcakes.  They’re so pretty I have to show you a picture of them.

The people who don’t want cupcakes can have ice cream instead.  Ross recently started selling his own brand of ice cream so he’s always willing to let people taste it.  After they do, they usually buy some.  Little Knoll ice cream is appearing in all the major supermarkets now.

Of course Kara loves clothes so she put a lot of thought into her outfit.  She decided to wear this shirt with black jeans and black boots.  It looks perfect for a barbecue.  Those earrings aren’t bad either.

Ross reminded me that a party isn’t a party without some kind of gift.  So, if you’d like to win a copy of Her Kind of Man, just leave a comment along with your email.  I've giving three copies away. If your name comes out of Ross’s hat, you win a book.

Both Kara and Ross are tickled about the book. Not only did it make #10 on Fictionwise yesterday, it also has some great reviews from Rom Con.  Want to read them?

Review #1:four crowns

The storyline was nothing what I expected but it drew me in from the beginning. It was heart wrenching, lighthearted, touching and romantic at times as well as filled with so many misunderstandings that you couldn't help but cry and other times be laughing out loud.

Review #2 :five crowns

Wow! I absolutely loved “Her Kind of Man.” I devoured it in almost one night. Cantrell’s characters came to life right before my eyes and involved me in their world instantly because they were so easy to relate to. But the main reason I enjoyed this book so much is because of the emotion throughout.
And now, why don’t we take a look at chapter one of Her Kind of Man.  If you like what you read, Her Kind of Man is available at  If you try the code Her-Kind-of-Man-25-percent-discount you might get a discount. Nobody told me when the sale ends. The book is also on Amazon, Fictionwise, and most major retail outlets. Buy links are at the end of the excerpt.

Chapter 1

“You may as well forget about finding a dress that’ll look good on both Kelly and me. She’s long and lean, and I’m short and round. We don’t wear the same style of clothes.”

Eyes dancing, Kara Cochrane laughed at her sister’s glum expression. “That’s why we’re at the library. I want to look at some back issues of Bride’s World and see if I can find something that’ll look nice on both of my sisters.”

“Do you think the stork put Kelly in the wrong bassinet at the hospital?”

“Probably,” Kara agreed with a giggle. “She is the middle sister after all, and she doesn’t look like either one of us. Why is she long and lean, and we’re short and round?”

Both girls chuckled as they entered the library, an elegant red brick structure built almost a hundred years ago. Regal white columns graced the entrance and spoke of a more gracious, slower age.

They went inside and selected the latest issues of Bride’s World from the magazine racks. Kara gestured toward a scarred, worn, oak table nearby. “Let’s sit over there.”

Katie’s stack of magazines hit the table with a thump. “Where is Kelly anyway?” “She said she had to work late.”

“Too bad for her. Let’s pick a dress for short, round people while she isn’t here.” Katie tapped a picture in the magazine for emphasis. “I like this one.”

The girls snickered when the elderly librarian behind the desk cleared her throat in warning.

“Being short and round didn’t make any difference to Brandon,” Kara whispered. “He proposed to me anyway.”

“And gave hope to the rest of us short, round girls.”

Hello, Kara.”

Kara turned at the softly spoken greeting. “Oh, hello, Ross. How are you?”

“I’m fine. I saw your engagement picture in the paper. Best wishes.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it.”

Ross nodded and moved toward the circulation desk.

“If Brandon ever gets tired of you, you can always marry Ross,” Katie whispered as she pulled another magazine from the stack on the table.

“He’s a dairy farmer for crying out loud.” Kara rolled her eyes. “Can you imagine me milking the cows?”

Katie clapped her hands over her mouth to stifle a giggle. “I’d love to see you pulling on a cow’s teats. Seriously, though, Ross may be a cow farmer, but you’ve got to admit he’s cute.”

“Shh, keep your voice down. He’ll hear you. To tell you the truth, I’ve never given any thought to his looks.”

“Neither have I until now,” Katie agreed. “He’s awfully tall and good looking. It’s hard to believe that in high school he always faded into the background.” She shrugged. “Maybe it’s because he wasn’t an athlete.”

Kara’s gaze drifted to Ross who had just handed his library card to the librarian. He had to be six three at least. Katie was right. Why had she never noticed how handsome he was? He had dark brown hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders, and a strong face with regular, even features. Even though he wasn’t an athlete in high school, he certainly had the physique for it.

“My, oh, my,” Katie breathed. “Look at the muscles across his back.”

“Probably from farm work. I think his father worked him pretty hard when he was a kid,” Kara whispered. “Don’t you remember? Ross didn’t go to the prom our senior year because his father needed him at home.”

“I bet he didn’t go because you were going with someone else. Ross always reminded me of a devoted, old spaniel. He adored the ground you walked on, and I think he still does.”

Kara chuckled when she remembered Ross’s lovesick behavior. “That’s a pretty good description. Every time I spoke to him I expected him to duck his head and blush. One word from me and he was too tongue-tied to put two syllables together.”

Katie closed her magazine. “Remember when you let him change a tire for you in the senior parking lot?”

“I remember. Brandon and I sat on the tailgate of Ross’s truck talking while Ross changed the tire.” The smile faded from Kara’s face. “That wasn’t very nice was it?” She bowed her head. “I can’t believe I did such a lousy thing.”

“I’m sure he’s forgotten all about it,” Katie comforted. “In high school girls can be such—”

“Don’t say it.” Kara slid another magazine across the table and sat back in her chair. “Here. Take a magazine, and let’s look for the perfect dress.”

Ross Williams threw his library books into the back seat of his car and slammed the door with more force than necessary. He wished he hadn’t even bothered to speak to Kara.
Flicking on his turn signal, he merged into the stream of late afternoon traffic with Kara Cochrane on his mind. He had first noticed Kara when they were in the second grade. That day she had worn little red overalls and a white blouse with red cherries on it. Someone, maybe her mother, had pulled her honey-blond hair back into a bouncy little ponytail and tied it with a big, red ribbon.

His own hair was dark brown and short; so was his brother’s. He only wanted to touch her hair because it was so different from his, but he didn’t intend to pull it or anything. Still, Kara had screamed bloody murder when she felt his hand on her ponytail.

Not only did the teacher make him stay inside for recess as punishment, but his brother Bobby told on him when they got home. His father had taken a belt to him and made him understand he’d better not get into trouble at school again.

From that time on she was almost always in his class, and when they got to high school she had at least one class with him every year. But Kara never noticed him. He was nothing more than wallpaper to her.

Kara and her sisters Kelly and Katie were cheerleaders. They ran with the preppy kids who wouldn’t give a country boy like him the time of day. Most people thought Kara’s sister Kelly was prettier. She was tall and slender with legs a mile long, but Kara was short, and while she wasn’t fat, she did have some definite curves.

It didn’t matter. Those curves almost took his breath away. No wonder she moved down the halls with such confidence and grace.  Even though he knew the answers in class, he wouldn’t raise his hand in hopes their teachers would pick Kara to answer and he could hear her almost musical voice. Kara was more than a pretty package, though. He also admired her quick, alert mind. It came as no surprise to him when she was the valedictorian of their class.

He had fantasized about taking her to the prom, but he never gathered the courage to mention it to her. Even if he had had the money for the tux rental, he wouldn’t have asked her. It would have cut him too much to hear that sweet, lilting voice turn him down.

Ross sighed. A rather moot point now, in any event. Kara was engaged to her high school sweetheart Brandon Miles. If he had any sense he’d find a girl and get married himself. Bobby had married three years ago and had a nice little family.

        Maybe it was time for him to start looking around. He’d never really had a chance with Kara anyway, and whether he liked it or not, she’d made her choice.
Kara rushed into her mother’s kitchen with Katie right behind her. “Look, Mama,” she cried as she shoved a magazine at her mother. She kicked off her shoes to enjoy the coolness of the tile floor after the heat of the day.

        “Did you find a dress?” Martha Cochrane demanded. She studied the picture as she stirred the fresh creamed corn simmering in a big pot on the stove.

“This is the best one I found. Kelly and Katie will both have to make do with it.”

“I like it,” her mother approved. She slid the corn off the burner and stuck a pan of brown and serve rolls into the oven. “I’m sure the bridal shop will be able to order the dresses for us. Here, John. Look at this and tell us what you think.”

John Cochrane snorted. “You know whatever you girls want is fine by me.”

“Just what I expected,” Kara teased as she filched a slice of cucumber from a plate on the counter. “You just want your daughters to hurry up and get married so there’ll be more men in the family.”

John laughed as his eyes twinkled. “Why deny it? I’m a little outnumbered here, Kara, and I’d like to even the odds a little.”

The timer on the oven dinged. Dinner’s ready,” her mother announced. “Kara, bring the corn to the dining room, please.”

Warmth flooded Kara. Oh, she enjoyed this time with her family – when they were all together sharing the ups and downs of their day– laughing and joking with each other.

“Mama, where’s Kelly?” Kara frowned at the empty chair across from her. “Isn’t she home yet?”

“I don’t know. She said she had to work late, but I expected her by now.”

“She’ll be here soon, I imagine,” John remarked.

Kelly burst through the door twenty minutes later.

“Sorry I’m late. I had something I had to finish at work.”

Martha indicated Kelly’s chair with a nod of her head. “Well, sit down and have some dinner. I had no idea working at a doctor’s office would get you so much overtime. We haven’t seen very much of you the last couple of weeks.”

Kelly shook her head. “Thanks, Mama. I’m okay. I grabbed something at work.”

Kara passed the picture of the bridesmaid’s dress to Kelly. “I found the dress. How do you like it?”

Kelly barely looked at it. “Very nice. Sorry, Kara. I’m really tired. I need a hot shower and to get ready for bed.”

“What’s up with her?” Kara muttered as Kelly left the dining room without once meeting her eyes.

“She’s probably tired,” Katie guessed. “With all the overtime she’s been doing, it’s late before she gets in. She can see the picture tomorrow. We can’t order the dresses until then anyway.”

Ross grimaced when he saw Bobby’s van in the driveway. His mother must have invited Bobby and his wife Sue for dinner. He didn’t dislike either Bobby or Sue, but their five- year-old son Justin reminded him of the Tasmanian Devil. If you valued your health and peace of mind, you’d never turn your back on the child.

The noise assaulted Ross’s ears the minute he opened the front door. Justin was on a tear about something. He lay on the living room floor roaring and shrieking as if tigers were eating him alive. Bobby was trying to quiet him while Sue helped his mother Annie in the kitchen.

“What’s his trouble?” Ross shouted.

“He wants to play with Mama’s shoe collection.”

Ross grimaced and tossed his library books on the living room sofa. One of them bounced off the sofa and landed on the floor, but Ross ignored it. “Maybe we can distract him.”

He threw himself on the floor beside Bobby and made a buzzing sound. “Look, Justin. The bumblebee is coming for you!” He tickled Justin’s stomach, and while Justin was laughing, Bobby ran to the car for the child’s favorite toy tractor.

Ross breathed a sigh of relief when Justin started to play with the tractor. As far back as he could remember, his mother had collected glass shoes. She knew every shoe’s history including where or whom the shoe came from. Even though she wouldn’t say anything if Justin broke one, it would hurt her feelings.

“Come on, boys, let’s eat!” Sue called.

Ross and Bobby dragged Justin who refused to walk into the kitchen. After several failed attempts, Bobby got him strapped into his high chair.

“How’s business?” Bobby asked Ross as he attacked his pot roast with gusto. “Mama, this is great pot roast.”

“Business is good. I’m thinking of hiring a new man.”

“That’s great,” Bobby enthused. “I’m glad for you, Ross. All your hard work is paying off.”

Ross’s eyes twinkled. “Sure you don’t want to buy back into the farm? Buying you out after Dad died cut into my profits.”

Humor faded from Bobby’s face. “No, I don’t. Working so hard on this blamed farm is the reason Dad’s in his grave years before his time. Give me a nice nine-to-five job any day.”

He picked up his glass and swirled the ice around for a moment. “Ross, if buying me out put you in a bind, I’ll be glad to loan…”

Ross leaned over and punched his shoulder. “Hey, no way. I’m doing fine. I’m going to hire a new man, remember? I’m fine, Bobby. Really, I am. I was just teasing you a little.”

“If you change your mind, let me know. Say, did I tell you I saw Bart Adams at the grocery store the other day?”

Ross grimaced. “No, you didn’t. Did he give you a lecture about how I was going to ruin Dad’s farm with my old-fashioned notions?”

“Yeah, he did, but I told him you liked doing things your way. I said you liked that Little Knoll was known for compassion and kindness to its animals.”

Ross chuckled. “I’m sure that made a big impression on him. I don’t like the conditions on some of the big farms like Bart’s. If I can’t make a profit dealing humanely with my animals, then I’ll join you in the computer lab.”

The shrilling of the phone interrupted them. Ross pushed his chair back and got up to answer it. “Hello?” He listened for a moment. “No, don’t call the vet yet. I’ll be right down.” He hung up and slapped his roast beef into a roll. “Neil says one of the cows is calving and needs help. I’ll see you guys later.”

“That’s farming for you,” Bobby said as Ross dashed out the door. “I don’t see how he can stand it.”

Ross heard his brother’s parting remark through the open window as he stepped off the porch. He and Bobby had both grown up on the same farm, but Bobby hadn’t taken to it the way he had. I guess growing up on a farm doesn’t necessarily make you a farmer, Ross thought to himself. It was in his blood, though. He loved Little Knoll.
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Picture credits:
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