Excerpt From “A Ripple in the Water” by Donna Small

A Ripple in the WaterWhen widow and single mother, Katharine Penner, Spots a tall, gorgeous stranger on the other side of the local swimming pool, she is struck by her immediate and intense reaction to him. In an awkward and very uncomfortable turn of events, Kate learns that the stranger she was drawn to is non other than Riley Morgan, the new swim coach and college-aged son of one of her closest friends. Riley has long harbored feelings for Kate but kept them his most closely guarded secret, all to aware of the fact she was married and off limits. But now, one year after tragedy has left Kate alone, he has come home for the summer determined to win her affections.

As the summer progresses, these two find that their mutual attraction for each other blossoms into something much more serious than either of them ever thought possible. But can Kate’s second chance at love overcome the obstacles created by their thirteen year age difference and her friendship with Wendy, Riley’s incredibly overprotective mother?


Once his summer plans were in place, it seemed it couldn’t arrive quickly enough. His excitement was palpable, though he did his best to hide it from his roommates. They had embraced college life with two arms and were mostly occupied with cute co-eds. As a result, they were oblivious to Riley’s distraction. None of them – and his roommates were his closest friends – would understand his feelings for a woman from his hometown or his lack of desire to date any of the coeds that were constantly hanging around in their apartment as though it were a designer shoe store having a clearance sale.

Occasionally, though, one of his roommates would push the dating issue and even more occasionally, Riley would succumb to the pressure and take some girl to a movie or campus party. A part of him hoped that doing so would help him forget his feeling for Kate but it never did. The girls he dated were just that – girls. They were insecure and full of themselves at the same time. How was that even possible? How could these girls look down their noses at someone and then in the next moment, be upset because some guy called you five minutes later than he said he would? Riley shook his head. He was tired of the drama. Tired of double dating with another couple, only to have both girls leave to go to the bathroom at the same time. Tired of the stupid ones who called and hung up, not realizing that in this day and age, everyone had caller id. And he was tired of the giggling. It was maddening, and he was done.

Once he’d made that decision, it only seemed the natural progression to date women who were older. Of course, his roommates were all for this and would high-five him before each date, then poke each other in the stomach while giving each other knowing looks.

Riley, for whatever reason, found older women fascinating, making this method of dating somewhat easier than his earlier attempts. Older women were self-confident and didn’t give a shit if you called or didn’t call. They had lives of their own and while they were pleased if you called, they wouldn’t give you the third degree if you didn’t. They were comfortable with themselves and truly believed that if you didn’t call, it was your loss.

If you didn’t call, they would make other plans.

Older women had their own lives to lead and they certainly weren’t going to sit around waiting for some guy. Riley smiled, thinking of the ladies he’d dated. They were all wonderful, confident, intelligent women but, truth be told, they weren’t Kate. Despite dating these women, some of them he truly cared for, he was unable to rid himself of the ever present feelings he had for Kate.

It was Kate he wanted and there would be no substitute.


Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water. She discovered books at a very early age and would frequently ignore her teachers in order to discreetly read book during class. To this day, she is an avid reader and can be found most evenings curled up with a good book. She lives in Clemmons, NC with her two daughters and their beagle, Charlie, where she is at work on her next novel.

Click here to buy: A Ripple in the Water

Excerpt From “Just Between Friends” by Donna Small

Emma’s best friend Layne is getting married to Andy, the old friend Emma has always secretly loved. For the sake of dear friends, Emma keeps her love for Andy to herself. But what is she to do when Layne begins a torrid affair and expects Emma’s complicity as she cheats on Andy.


She was wracked with guilt every time she thought of Andy and felt those flutters inside her belly, which was pretty much all day, every day. She knew she couldn’t help how she felt but Layne was her best friend, the person who knew every single thing about her and loved her despite it. And though she tried to convince herself of the fact she couldn’t control how she felt, and certainly couldn’t make herself fall out of love with Andy, she just couldn’t shake the thought that she was betraying her best friend. After all, wasn’t that the cardinal rule of friendship? You don’t fall in love with your best friend’s boyfriend. Period. Emma’s feelings were inexcusable despite how completely and utterly right they made her feel.

Of course, Emma had tried to fall out of love with him – God knows she tried – but she spent so much time with Andy and Layne that she was never away from him long enough to even begin to forget about him. It was hopeless. She just went about her days aching for something she knew she would never have and carrying the load of guilt she knew would never lighten.

This was the first time in Emma’s life that she had kept something from Layne and it was eating her up inside. But while she knew she was hopelessly, desperately in love with Andy, she knew that Layne loved him and was going to marry him. As difficult as it was to suffer in silence, Emma did it, knowing that Layne was happy.

Today, however, was going to be the toughest challenge yet. Seeing the man she loved marry her best friend might prove to be too much for her (She hoped there was plenty of wine at the reception), but Emma vowed then and there that she was going to get through this day, no matter what. She was going to be there for her best friend, as they’d always done for each other.

Layne looked at Emma’s reflection in the mirror. “You’re sure I look all right?” Her voice sounded almost foreign to Emma as it lacked any of the confidence she normally carried around with her in abundance.

Emma stood up and placed her hands on her hips. “It kills me that you even have to ask. Andy is going to have trouble remaining standing at the end of the aisle when he sees you!”

Layne giggled. “He’d better be standing when I get up there. I want him to be completely coherent when he takes his vows.”

“He will be. I don’t think anything could make him miss you walking down the aisle.”

Layne released a small sigh and felt her eyes mist up. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Emma.”

“Well, you’ll never have to find out.” Emma replied.

Layne gave her friend a smile that is only shared between the best of friends, then turned and stepped away from the mirror in order to reach for the bouquet that had been resting on the table.

“Okay, then. Let’s go.” Layne said, as she took a deep breath.

Emma picked up the train of Layne’s gown and placed it gently over her forearm, careful not to wrinkle the delicate fabric. She then reached for her bouquet of flowers with her free hand and together, they left the room.

They walked silently to the front of the church, each lost in their own thoughts. Layne found herself thinking about the months and years that were to come, and wondered if every bride felt this way. Emma found herself wishing she were the one getting ready to walk down the aisle and spend the next fifty years or so with Andy.

They arrived at the back of the church and greeted Layne’s father, who was there waiting for them. She settled Layne on his arm and then moved behind her to adjust her train, lifting it up to catch the air beneath it and then lay it down gently on the white runner that had been laid out for her to walk on.

Emma stepped in front of her best friend, adjusted her veil one last time and nodded. “Are you ready?”

Layne nodded and forced a stiff smile onto her face.

The music began to play inside the church, signaling the need for Emma to face forward. The wedding planners opened the doors slowly, revealing pews filled with wedding guests all turning to face the bride. Emma didn’t notice a single one. Her eyes were focused on the man at the end of the aisle waiting for his bride to come to him. Taking a deep breath, she began to walk slowly down the aisle, just ahead of Layne.

She was, after all, the maid of honor.


Donna Small fell in love with the written word a very early age, frequently ignoring her teachers in order to discreetly read a book while hidden behind another student and below the wooden desks in her Catholic School. After graduating from college, she moved to North Carolina and began working in the non-profit world writing business plans, grants and anything that required putting pen to paper. She lives in Clemmons, North Carolina with her husband, two daughters, and their beagle, Charlie, where she is at work on her next novel.

Click here to buy: Just Between Friends