Friday, March 30, 2012

Recent Reviews

Author Recipe: Kim's Concoction

Written by Kim Bowman

My writing partner, Kay Springsteen, will not be surprised to hear that I cook like I write—by the seat of my pants! Yes, I am cookpantser! And I’m happy to say most of the meals I “invent” end up being family favorites. (We won’t talk about the crock pot cheesecake incident.)

My better half often clips recipes from the paper he wants me to try. Here a few months ago he brought home one called “Cheesy Baked Lentils, Rice and Turkey Casserole” and ask me if I could make it that night. “Sure,” I said enthusiastically.

Now…the title alone should have made me say no because, well, I don’t readily keep lentils or turkey on hand…ahem, cookpantser. So…I go searching the pantry and fridge. Here is the conversation I had with myself:

“No turkey, so I’ll use hamburger. No onions or spinach…I’ll use cabbage and French fried onions. Brown rice…brown rice…nope, guess I’ll use this box of instance wild rice. Hmmm…I don’t have any lentils or lentil soup either. Oh! I have some tortilla soup. I’ll use that. I don’t have Swiss or sharp cheddar cheese. I think it’ll be ok with shredded Colby-jack. Oooooo, I bet this would be good with some of the corn we froze from our garden.”

So of the listed ingredients, the only one I used was ¼ cup of water. Yeah, I live like I write—by the seat of my pants!

Kim’s Cheese Casserole

1 Can of Tortilla soup (or lentil soup, or Chicken mushroom soup…)
1 Box of long grain and wild rice (don’t cook)
8 oz hamburger
1 Cup (or two) French fried onions
1 or 2 Cups shredded cabbage
½ pkg (4 oz or 6 or 8) shredded cheese (I used Colby-jack, but use your favorite)
1 Cup corn
¼ to ½ Cup water

Brown the hamburger. Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a casserole dish, cover, and bake for 40 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Uncover and sprinkle the cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes. YUM-MY!

Price: $2.99

Buy it HERE.

Ladies’ maid, Juliet Baines has gotten herself into a pickle by agreeing to go to London and taking the place of her mistress and best friend, Annabella Price, stepsister to the Duke of Wyndham. After all, what does a servant know about being a lady? But Juliet soon finds that pretending to be a lady isn’t nearly as hard as guarding her heart against the folly of wanting a man who’s completely out of reach.

Graeme "Grey" Roland Dominick Markwythe, Sixth Duke of Wyndham, approaches his duties as a nobleman with great dedication and meticulous care. And he’s a man who is not easily fooled...except when he tries to convince himself he's not utterly and madly in love with the beautiful imposter who has turned his life upside down. Will society and his responsibilities to his noble status keep him from opening his heart to the woman he loves?


Grey glanced about. Lady Rossington and her ridiculously giddy debutante daughter had halted their walk along Newport Street and stared enraptured at the sight. He bit off a curse. The whole of London will be laughing about the scandalous scene by nightfall.

He stepped forward only to be stopped again when a young girl darted from the rear of the carriage. Presumably this was Annabella, though she’d grown some since their last encounter. Her yellow and cream traveling gown swirled about her legs with each step, and she tugged a short dark green jacket into place as she walked. Golden curls peeked from beneath a green bonnet decorated with flowers and cascaded over her shoulders.

With quick movements, she grasped the dog’s collar and gave it a yank, tugging against the massive brute. Grey’s stomach twisted into a tight knot. He’d soon have two injured people on his hands.

He opened his mouth to tell her to get back when the animal let out a high-pitched yelp and the girl stood, dragging the dog up with her.

“You naughty boy, that’s quite enough.” She spoke sharply, her tone brooking no argument.

The dog jerked its head around and snapped at her.

She simply thumped him on the nose and he let out a shocked yap. “You mind your manners.”

The dog growled and wheezed and showed his teeth; all the while the rest of his body wiggled and his tail wagged wildly.

Wonder if she could do that with Lucien.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's New?

It's release day at Astraea Pres and we have some great books for you today! Check them out!

Price: $0.99

Buy it HERE.


The Season has only just begun, but already Ambrose Benson Earl of Hawthorne is bored. That is, until his brother offers him a challenge. Something worthy of his particular talents.
The object: The girl hiding behind the potted plants: the one in the horrible dress.
The Goal: Turn her into the envy of the ton. A lady suitable for a duke.
But there is just something about the lady. In spite of all her social misgivings, something inexplicably draws him in, making him want to waltz with the wallflower.

Price: $2.99

Buy it HERE.


hillip Crawford, the eighth Earl of Rawlings and notorious rake of the ton, has come to the end of his rope. Out of money, out of favor, and out of luck, he wanders the streets of London in the rain, hoping to be hit by inspiration...or a runaway carriage. Something has to give. It is his father's final cruel trick to hold his inheritance just out of reach, requiring him to marry by his next birthday in order to claim his full rights as earl. His step-mother refuses to offer him any more support. With no money, no prospects and no other place to turn, he has only two options:

Marriage or debtor's prison.

The better choice seems clear enough, but with his name and reputation being attacked daily in the society papers, there's not a proper lady in all of London desperate enough to accept him. It isn't going to be easy, even if the reports of his exploits and rakish lifestyle are greatly exaggerated.

On the other hand, debtor's prison does start to look much more appealing when the only friends he has left decide to help him in his search for the perfect bride. Matters become much more complicated when the only woman who shows an interest in him just happens to be the young sister-in-law of the Duke of Tempest; the same man who, just months ago, had been tempted to kill him.

One thing is for certain, as the Season draws to an end, Lord Rawlings will have to decide once and for all, if his wicked ways are enough to bring him contentment in life, or if a leopard really can change his spots. Or in Phillip's case—can a devil truly be redeemed?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Author Recipe: Chocolate Cherry Cake

Written by: Delaney Diamond

Chocolate Cherry Cake
1 box of chocolate cake mix (any brand you like)
1 21-oz. can of cherry pie filling
1 container of chocolate icing
Prepare the cake according to the instructions, but omit the oil and use the pie filling instead. Mix it to blend well. Pour the mixture into two pans, and bake per instructions on the box. Remove the cakes and once they've cooled, add icing and stack to make a two-layer cake.

Why I like this dish
I love to cook, but my strength is not in baking. Whenever I find a simple baking recipe, I'm ecstatic. I’ve been making this cake for a long time. I found the recipe in a recipe book I bought back in high school which had a slew of simple recipes in it. I no longer have the book, but thankfully, I remembered how to make this cake. It’s been a hit every time I have.
Years ago, I took it to work and jokingly told my co-workers that this cake will get me a proposal one day. One of my male co-workers, after having a slice, ended up proposing to me that afternoon. Lol.
I like the recipe for two reasons: 1) It’s easy. 2) It’s delicious! It comes out moist and tasty every single time. Give it a try. Who knows, you might get a proposal out of it!


Julia Newman doesn’t have time for love. Been there, done that, and she’s got the scars to prove it. Instead, she’s focused on her career. For the past few years, she has been living the life she wants. She drives a silver Mercedes, just purchased a four bedroom house in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, and she’s on her way to becoming the youngest female partner in the history of the venture capitalist firm where she works. Life couldn’t be better. Or so she thought.
Frederico “Freddie” Mendoza is the owner of Mendoza Construction. He hasn’t given up on love, but he is fed up with women who are fascinated by the fantasy of being with a blue collar man and then relegate him to a certain part of their lives. His newest customer, Julia Newman, is the kind of woman he’s decided he’ll avoid from now on. He needs to work on expanding his business. Besides, she’s not his type. Or so he thought.
His long, lean fingers held a single red rose, which he extended to her.
Buenas noches,” he said softly, smiling a sexy smile that must have broken down the inhibitions of legions of women since the day he hit puberty. The lapse into Spanish was a pleasant surprise, creating more tingling from the top of her head to the toes of high-heeled sandaled feet.
Buenas noches,” Julia repeated, lifting the flower from his hand. She felt like she had nineteen years ago when she went on her first date at sixteen: shy, nervous, anxious, and ready for anything.
When Julia locked the front door, Freddie extended the crook of his arm. Any reason to touch her, because she looked so touchable tonight. When she hooked her arm through his and allowed her soft fingers to reach up and brush his biceps, his chest muscles contracted. He didn’t know what possessed him to invite her out dancing when he should have been distancing himself from her, but he was glad he did.
She looked stunning tonight. Without the air of aloofness and the cool confidence she usually exhibited, she appeared softer, more feminine, and more approachable. The neckline of her pretty, feminine top dipped low enough to tease him with a hint of cleavage. The A-line skirt swirled around her knees and permitted him a good view of slender, toned calves in sandals.
Her dark hair was styled so it fell across her brow at a teasing angle—inviting him to reach up and brush the strands back from her face so they wouldn’t block her vision. The auburn highlights he’d noticed the first night were more noticeable now and made him want to delve his fingers into the shiny depths of her hair.
As he helped her into the newly cleaned truck, Freddie couldn’t resist leaning down while she was turned away and getting a whiff of her feminine scent. He got a double whammy. The perfume stirred his senses, and the smell of her hair made his gut contract with the desire to drag her close and bury his face in the fresh, vanilla-scented tresses.
She smiled at him as he closed the passenger side door. The wine-colored lipstick made her full lips look even fuller and inviting. More than anything he wanted to keep her smiling. He wanted to keep her safe and protect her against any further emotional harm. No woman of his—whoa.
Where had that come from?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's New?

It's new release day at Astraea Press. Look at the great book we have to offer! Don't you love the cover? I do. The premise sounds fantastic, too!

Price: $2.99


Ladies’ maid, Juliet Baines has gotten herself into a pickle by agreeing to go to London and taking the place of her mistress and best friend, Annabella Price, stepsister to the Duke of Wyndham. After all, what does a servant know about being a lady? But Juliet soon finds that pretending to be a lady isn’t nearly as hard as guarding her heart against the folly of wanting a man who’s completely out of reach.

Graeme "Grey" Roland Dominick Markwythe, Sixth Duke of Wyndham, approaches his duties as a nobleman with great dedication and meticulous care. And he’s a man who is not easily fooled...except when he tries to convince himself he's not utterly and madly in love with the beautiful imposter who has turned his life upside down. Will society and his responsibilities to his noble status keep him from opening his heart to the woman he loves?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Obsessions: I LOVE Chocolate!

Written by: Elaine Cantrell

Chocolate. MMM. I could bury my face in it and slurp it up. I’ve always liked chocolate, but in recent years I’m obsessed by it. Especially chocolate truffles. And brownies. At least ten pounds of the weight I’ve gained must have come from chocolate. (Oh, okay! Maybe it was twenty.) So last week I decided to go on a diet. Until I lose ten pounds I vowed not to eat any sugary, gooey chocolate. Do you know what my husband did? He bought chocolate mint Girl Scout cookies! I lasted for maybe five minutes before eating one. I didn’t gain anything though, so maybe it didn’t hurt me too much.

Chocolate’s always been a favorite. The first recorded use of chocolate dates back to 2000 BC in the Amazon region. The Indians there knew about cocoa from which chocolate is made. By the sixth century the Mayas knew about it. They called the cocoa tree cacahuaquchtl… "tree," and the word cocoa comes from the Maya word xocoatl which means bitter water. To the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. Stones from their palaces and temples revealed many carved pictures of cocoa pods. In the Yucatan they cultivated the first known cocoa plantations and referred to cocoa as “food of the gods.”

The Aztecs took cocoa to a whole new level. They believed that one of their gods Quetzalcoatl descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called xocoatl. They thought that drinking it was good for you. They even used it as an aphrodisiac. The Aztecs didn’t have sugar, so different spices were used to add flavor, including hot chili peppers and corn meal.

The last Aztec emperor Montezuma dyed the drink red and drank it out of golden goblets that were thrown away after one use. (So wasteful. I’d have taken those goblets in a snap.) They also used cocoa beans as money.

When the Spanish conquistadores came to the New World they encountered cocoa for the first time, but nobody paid too much attention to it even though they gradually discovered how much the Indians prized it. It was the explorer Cortes who figured things out. He mixed cocoa with sugar and other spices, and a new craze was born.

Europeans loved it as much as the Indians did. The first European chocolate factory opened in 1819 in Switzerland, and in 1828 the Swiss invented the cocoa press which led to reduced prices and helped to improve the quality of the beverage by squeezing out part of the cocoa butter. This gave the chocolate smoother consistency and made it taste better.

The British were the ones who started making solid chocolate in 1830.

A major step in the evolution of chocolate came in 1875 when Daniel Peter of Switzerland introduced milk chocolate, thus making Switzerland the chocolate capital of the world. And in 1913 Jules Sechaud of Switzerland introduced the process for filling chocolates. Personally, I still think Swiss chocolate is the best you can buy.

Americans loved chocolate too. In 1765 the first American chocolate factory was founded. Did you know that in World War II cocoa beans were shipped to the soldiers as part of their gear? Today, the government gives them chocolate bars instead. It just goes to show how wonderful chocolate is.

Er, could you excuse me? I want some more chocolate mint Girl Scout cookies.

Buy it HERE.


Rachel Amos doesn’t understand her father at all. How could he bring Clint Hayes who burned Saved By Grace Christian Church into their home for six months? Sure, the guy didn’t mean to do it, and her dad’s a minister, but if he wanted to save Hayes’ soul, why didn’t he go to the prison to do it? And no matter what her friend Christina says, she doesn’t watch Clint every moment they’re in the same room.


The Sterling Weekly

October 10

Upstate Edition

Judge Shocks Community

By Thomas Bell

Controversial Judge Marion Lowe shocked every person in his packed court last Wednesday when he passed sentence in the Clint Hayes case. Hayes, twenty seven, who works for Bud Parsons at Bud’s Private Club, was found guilty of burning Saved By Grace Community Church last April.

Originally, Hayes was arrested for arson. His fingerprints were found on a beer bottle in the church parking lot the night the church burned, but a sheriff’s investigation revealed the fire was caused by a cigarette that Hayes threw into an azalea bed. Authorities believe the cigarette caused the dry mulch around the bushes to catch fire, and the flames spread to the church. The building was a total loss.

After consultation with Reverend Neal Amos, the pastor of Saved By Grace, Judge Lowe sentenced Hayes to six months in the care of Reverend Amos, who in effect will be his jailor.

“The verdict was a surprise,” admitted Rachel Amos, twenty four, the minister’s daughter. “My father discussed the situation with my mother and me, but to be honest, we never dreamed the judge would go along with it.”

Several members of Saved By Grace have expressed their support for Reverend Amos’s decision, but they admit there are some who want nothing to do with Hayes.

Local civil rights groups have announced their intention to get the verdict overthrown, but so far Hayes says he wants the sentence to stand.

Until the new church is constructed, Saved By Grace is meeting at Sterling High School. Sunday School is at ten o’clock followed by worship at eleven. Anyone wishing to make a donation to Saved By Grace’s building fund may do so at People’s National Bank.

My links:

Astraea Press releases:

A New Dream

The Table in the Window

The Sentence (Available March 22, 2012)

Matrimonial Mayhem (part of an anthology)

Coming soon from Astraea:

Never Trust a Pretty Wolf

Friday, March 23, 2012

Author Recipe: The Origins of MacTunaPea

Written by Jeff Salter

I should probably explain that I’m not handy in the kitchen and I’m loathe to prepare dishes with multiple, complicated steps. My basic rule for meals is two steps: (1) open container and (2) nuke in microwave. I’m willing to stir contents or rotate the package – whatever – but no further ministrations.

So, with that explanation, you may well imagine a meal involving THREE containers and a total of FOUR steps ... is already stretching the limits of my skill-set.

I can’t claim to have invented the combination of macaroni and tuna fish ... in fact, it may be printed right on the box somewhere. But I know for a fact that I originated the addition of green peas to the mix. It was some time in the mid-1980s as best I can recall. [Note: I’ve since seen instructions for some sort of casserole which uses my primary ingredients – plus something else – and I’m certain they stole that idea from me.]


* 1 (12 oz.) box of Kraft macaroni shells with the cheese ‘sauce’ in a pouch [do NOT try to use the powered cheese substance — it’s nasty]

* 1 (12 oz.) can of white albacore tuna [I prefer StarKist, but any major brand will do as long as it’s packed in water and NOT in slimy oil] Note: you don’t really need 12 full ounces, but it needs to be quite a bit more than the standard 6 oz cans.

* 1 small (8.5 oz.) can of green peas [the peas are mainly for color ... and to keep my wife from eating it — ha]


* Boil water in medium-size pot

* Add macaroni

* Boil for 10-12 mins. (or whatever the box says)

* Drain off water

* Squeeze ALL the cheese from the pouch ... and mix well

* Dump in tuna ... and mix well

Important note:

If your spouse is willing to eat MacTuna but despises Peas ... this is the time to scoop out a bowlful and set that aside.

* At the very last minute, add the peas ... but do not mix-in too vigorously (because it breaks the peas open and they get mushy).

* Serve in a large bowl and enjoy.

Note: MacTunaPea also tastes very good the next day (assuming you properly refrigerate the leftovers). Just add a teeny bit of water to the leftovers before you nuke it.

* Nuke for about 45 seconds

* Stir and nuke again until it reaches desired temperature

CAUTION: bowl will be hot!


Book Title: The Overnighter's Secrets

Coming this April to Astraea Press...


When Beth left suddenly, it broke two hearts ... but she’d had no choice. Shane, a rugged, ex-Airborne biker, handled it badly ... but so had she. Three years later and 2000 miles away, she desperately needs her ex-lover’s protection from a violent menace with ‘bad history’ who’ll do anything to reclaim a mysterious suitcase Beth possesses.

Long before Shane acquired that overnighter, a ‘silent movie’ actress kept secrets there ... and now several lives are in jeopardy. An ambitious female state senate candidate hires a ruthless investigator to eliminate potential campaign ‘problems’ like her dark family secret — a bizarre 1889 murder.

Is Beth’s terrifying ordeal simply because she unwittingly possesses the overnighter’s secrets? Or is it due to the meth-fueled dumpster-diver’s ‘unfinished business’?

Shane will likely return to California after he resolves this Tennessee ‘situation’ ... so Beth struggles to resist her reawakened feelings. But before she can sort out their renewed relationship ... Beth is kidnapped! To rescue her Shane enters an obvious trap in a dilapidated hotel. Only with Beth’s help can both survive the violent struggle against her kidnappers.


The smell of freshly baked pizza entering is enough to make one’s mouth water...especially when the thoughtful individual added an order of succulent bread sticks, so warm that the steam was still rising.

Beth awkwardly hugged Shane as he clutched the boxes.

He put down the meal, then turned and embraced her properly. “I thought about you all day.”

It warmed her, but she couldn’t let down her guard. “I saw you less than two hours ago.”

“I forgot to tell you then.”

She eyed him narrowly. Something was different. “I thought you were focused on locating Ricks.”

“Trail went cold...and I was hungry.” He bit the end off a breadstick. “I feel like I’m real close most of the time, but he’s somehow able to stay one step ahead of me.”

Beth produced disposable plates. When she opened the box lid, she nearly swooned. Anybody who wanted to seduce her need only bring fresh, hot pizza. “What about that local contact. Was he any more help?”

“Couldn’t find him just now. Old barfly named Cratchit—busybody with a pretty good memory. All my solid leads came from him. Everything else is just instinct and looking at all the spots where skunks hide-out.” Shane scooped up two pizza pieces and looked around. “Table or couch?”

“Couch. I mean, table.” She caught a string of hot cheese on her chin. “Doesn’t matter. You get comfortable and I’ll join you.”

With the breadstick clamped in his mouth like a fat cigar, Shane carried his plate in one hand and the plastic cup of iced tea in his other. He placed both on the coffee table and sat on the sofa.

Beth watched briefly from the kitchen before she joined him.

“I’m going to try to find Cratchit again tomorrow and see if he’s learned anything new.” Shane sipped tea and took a big bite of the meal. It took a while to chew down sufficiently to speak.

She continued to watch him as she ate her own portion.

He noticed. “What, Bethany?”


“You’re staring. What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing.” She lied. “Well, yeah...noticing you’re different somehow.”

When Shane smiled, a morsel of crust fell onto his lap. He located it just below his buckle and plopped it back into his mouth. “”

“Not sure.” Beth squinted. “The word that comes to mind is ‘calmer’...but that’s not exactly right.”

Shane chuckled. “Calmer?”

“Okay. Then maybe more mature...or something.”

“Well, I am a bit older than I was...”

“No, I don’t mean older.” Beth picked up another slice. “Never mind.” She bit off a sizeable chunk.

Shane watched her chew. In a moment, he reached way over, plucked a strand of errant cheese from the corner of her mouth and placed it on his own tongue.

Beth’s eyes widened. This was a new Shane. The old Shane might have just pointed and grunted.

“Maybe I have matured a bit, Bethany. If that means it knocked me flat and sobered me up...when I lost you.” His eyes glistened.

Beth dabbed a pizza-stained paper napkin at her eyes. “I wasn’t lost, Shane. I had to move.”

“I know, Bethany, I know.” He moved his plate to the low table. “If I had a brother or sister who needed my help, I guess I would have gone away too. But I couldn’t see it back then. It hurt too....” He choked up.

Beth hurried to the bathroom sink to wash her face. She stared at the woman in the mirror and barely recognized the image. That person had aged six years in the past three...and another full year in the recent ten days. The woman in that looking glass had left her lover, lost her confidence, buried her brother, and now stayed constantly frightened. Who was she and what had she done with Bethany Muse?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What's New?

We have some great new releases for you today at Astraea Press. Check them out!

Price: $2.99

Buy it HERE.


How could he do it! How could her father bring the guy who burned the church into their home for six months? Yeah, it was an accident and her dad’s a minister, but if he wanted to save this man’s soul why didn’t he go to the prison to do it? Spoiled and slightly judgmental, Rachel has almost as much to learn as their unwilling guest.

Price: $2.99

Buy it HERE .


Cornish farmer, Noah Penwarren is sworn off city girls, especially deceitful ones. Posy Carmichael is a city girl through and through. When romantic sparks start to fly will Posy’s secret end their Easter romance before it’s even begun?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Author Recipe: Pistachio Cake

Written by: Meg Mims

My mother-in-law was a fabulous cook and baker. She could make baked chicken in the oven
taste like real fried chicken, melt-in-your-mouth style, and delicious pies -- her go-to favorite
as strawberry-rhubarb. I *loathe* rhubarb, but my husband loved her lemon ice-box pie that was
so rich, it was sinful. However, my favorite recipe of hers that I adapted (saves calories and fat)
is Pistachio Cake. It's so pretty as a bundt cake -- a yellowish-green in color, and no frosting
is needed -- just a dusting of powder sugar. A glaze of 1 spoonful of water in 1/4 cup powdered
sugar is also good if you *must* have that extra oomph, but try it first without it.

Meg Mims' Pistachio Cake

4 eggs
1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small individual size applesauce
1 cup light sour cream
1 Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden cake mix
1 small package pistachio instant pudding mix

Spray bundt pan with Baker's Joy. Mix all ingredients together and pour into pan. Bake in a
350 degree pre-heated oven for 50-55 minutes, test for doneness. Sprinkle with powder
sugar after inverting onto plate, or make a powder sugar glaze.


A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.

August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.

As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

Ebook: ISBN# 978-1-936852-48-2 Print: ISBN # 1466223200

BUY LINK: Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords



I packed a small trunk. My traveling suit, two shirtwaists, a nightgown, plus several hats and my parent’s framed photograph barely fit inside. I stuffed a spare nightdress and underclothes inside a worn valise. Then I added a toothbrush and powder, hairbrush and other essentials plus my leather riding boots. I’d rolled my wad of cash, roughly a hundred and fifty dollars, into one toe. Crumpled tissue beneath the bed caught my eye. I leaned over to retrieve it along with the leather sketchbook Father had given me.

Fighting an urge to leave it behind, I pushed it into my pocketbook along with a handful of pencils and a small pocketknife. One slim novel barely fit beside it. I hurried into Father’s bedroom and rummaged through his wardrobe. I finally found his gold watch in his suit pocket and pulled out a small scrap of paper. I shoved them both in my skirt and then retrieved his Army revolver from behind his stash of boots.

I’d promised not to handle it, but knew I needed something for protection. Charles wouldn’t be able to face a killer or a wild Indian savage.

Back in my room, I shoved the weapon beneath my boots along with a box of ammunition and fastened the bag. Then I stored it with the trunk under my bed and hurried downstairs to breakfast. Aunt Sylvia had a ranting fit over my hair. I’d pinned it up, but stray wisps escaped and it did look awful. She jammed a heavy veiled bonnet on my head and dragged me out to the buggy. Sir Vaughn looked bored as we drove to the cemetery.

Few people attended the graveside service. Charles and Adele stood beside their father, aloof in the shimmering heat. Dry leaves scuttled past my dusty shoes. Reverend Hanson offered prayers and scripture verses, but even the beloved 23rd Psalm failed to offer any comfort. Except one, my Father’s favorite. The words calmed my rebellious, angry spirit.

“‘The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust....’”

I watched the casket lowered by creaking ropes into the ground. What an ignoble end for a courageous man. Father had faced death on the battlefield, never expecting it would creep upon him in the safety of his beloved home. Betrayed by a friend he’d trusted, a friend who saved him at Shiloh. A friend who succumbed to pure greed. Aunt Sylvia and Sir Vaughn both gripped my arms tight, as if they expected me to hurl myself into the yawning hole. Instead I pictured Father sitting in the library, pipe clenched between his teeth, newspaper in hand.

I’d give anything to have him back again. Safe and alive.

I opened my hand and let a handful of dirt rain upon his coffin. “I will find your killer, Father. I promise.”