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?

EXCERPT:

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.

EXCERPT:

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

Excerpt From “Slightly Cracked” by Susan Whitfield

In Slightly Cracked, Sugar Babe Beanblossom and best pal, Daisy Marie Hazelhurst, have been buddies since they were born two weeks to the day apart. Living near each other, they share happy and sad memories, outrageous antics and giggles, marital and health glitches. The only thing that threatens their lifelong friendship is the Old Dickeywood subdivision goose controversy.

When Daisy takes a nasty spill on her bike, Sugar Babe races to her side. After two trips to the ER, Daisy is diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and tests reveal an even more sinister affliction. As Daisy weakens, Sugar Babe embraces the realization that friends must encourage and protect one another through difficult circumstances, and …

“Driving Miss Daisy” takes on a whole new meaning.

EXCERPT:

Mackie Sue kept quiet as she and Daisy stopped near a gaggle of geese, stooped on the bank as if the cold wind was too much for them. At least it was warmer than the previous day and she wasn’t chilled to the bone. She knew the geese seemed quite content on their own until they saw Daisy walking around the pond. Her goose, Alice, would honk with delight and swim to the bank to follow the ladies. Of course, all of Alice’s offspring followed as well. That’s how it became the goose parade—the laughing stock of Old Dickeywood—until the geese began fertilizing all the well-manicured lawns near the pond, causing laughter to subside and anger to commence.

This morning the ladies rounded the dam end of the pond and saw the familiar silhouette of an angry man waiting for them. Chip Dickeywood stood by his mailbox in unkempt grass, hose-fishing as they approached.

“Look, Sugar Babe. Chip’s scratching his crouch right in front of us.”

“Yeah, but I think you mean his crotch, not his crouch.”

Daisy didn’t respond to her, but instead called out to the man before they reached him. “Got a nasty itch in the crotch, Chip?”

“Yeah, Daisy, it’s called goose shit. Look at my yard. Shit everywhere! This is all y’all’s fault too. I’m calling the subdivision committee together to ban these critters. We’ll haul ‘em out or shoot ‘em.”

“Chip, be sensible,” Mackie Sue said as they came up beside him. “There’s a pond here. You built it yourself before you started selling off lots. Of course geese are going to fly in and out.” She got closer to his face. “You started this problem yourself and now you’re about as sympathetic as a turkey vulture waiting on its next meal. You don’t want to take any responsibility for the problem.” Daisy snickered.

“I’m talking about this damn goose parade at the moment. Look at the road behind you, for Christ’s sake!” He pointed behind them.

The ladies turned and looked at gross blobs of greenish poop here and there, but Daisy, not to be outdone, refused to acknowledge what all the fuss was about. “You’re a bully.”

“You’re the bully, Hazelhurst,” yelled Dickeywood. “If the geese would stay right around the pond, it wouldn’t be such a problem. You’ve trained them to follow you up and down the road, so naturally they crap and forage in everybody’s yards.

“I’m not a bully.” She turned to her friend. “Am I?” The ladies took a few steps forward.

“In no way, shape, or form, Daisy. He just didn’t have a snappy comeback.”

“I’d like to snap his comeback until it can’t snap anymore.” She stared back at the subdivision bully. “You’re being mean, Chip Dickeywood, and I’m not listening to any more of your spiel.” She stuck her nose in the air and moved on down the road.

“You all’ll have to listen to the committee’s spiel and maybe animal control too, if I have anything to say about it.” He turned, took a few steps, slipped and collided with his driveway pavement. The ladies spun around and hurried on as he pushed himself up and yelled something inaudible at them.

“Go stew your sore ass in boiling urine, Chip Dickeywood! And while you’re at it, shit yourself!”

“Daisy Marie Hazelhurst.” Mackie Sue tugged her friend forward at a faster clip.

“I’d seriously like to clean his cock,” Daisy said.

“You mean clock, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I certainly do. I’m not touching his nasty ass cock.”

Both women laughed as the goose parade continued on around the pond.

***

Buy Link:

http://www.amazon.com/Slightly-Cracked-Susan-Whitfield/dp/1478335017/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350995358&sr=1-2&keywords=slightly+cracked

***

Susan Whitfield lives in North Carolina, where she sets her books. She is the author of the Logan Hunter Mystery series, Killer Recipes, a unique cookbook, and Slightly Cracked, her first women’s fiction (which also includes a little mystery). Susan’s an avid blogger and promotes authors at http://www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Carolina Conspiracy, Coastal Carolina Mystery Writers, and North Carolina Writers Network. Her website: http://www.susanwhitfieldonline.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Booktown.ning.com and http://www.trianglesinc.com.

Excerpt From “It All Started with a Dog” by Leigh Somerville

Despite the good intentions of matchmaking friends, family and neighbors, Rachel Springer, a tough Washington, D.C. lawyer, has spent a lifetime protecting her heart from the dangerous possibilities of love. When she finds a ragged stray dog on the streets of Georgetown and brings him home with her, she starts a sequence of startling events that lead her down a path she’s never explored. Along the way, she rents her downstairs apartment to a bachelor whose 5-year-old grandson has the same effect on her as the homeless dog. Rachel’s expanded life in Washington takes several unexpected turns as she juggles the dramas of divorces and molestation charges; a midnight drunk on her front porch; a health crisis that threatens to disrupt her law firm; and a weekend tragedy that turns her world upside down. All it takes to fully open the door to Rachel’s heart is the disappearance of the dog that started it all.

Excerpt:

When Rachel answered the door eight minutes later, her friend stood on the stoop grinning. She carried two forest-green folding chairs, wore a huge straw sun hat, hot pink and white polka dotted Capri pants, a royal blue tank top, and very large, very dark sunglasses. At her feet sat a picnic basket and cooler.

“You can carry those,” Susan nodded in the direction of her feet, turned and marched down the sidewalk.

As Rachel locked the door, she marveled at the blessing — or bane, depending on her mood at the time — of having two such bossy women in her life — Georgia at work and Susan at home. For someone who grew up with no mother, she certainly had made up for that lack of maternal nurturing in her later life.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Rachel asked as she trudged behind her friend the couple of blocks to the Dupont Circle metro station.

Susan nodded emphatically.

Finding a place to sit on the subway car with room for all their paraphernalia was a challenge. Susan convinced a couple of teen-aged boys to give up their seats at the rear of the car, and the two women spread out for the short ride.

The car was full of Saturday shoppers, who got off at Metro Central, and tourists who left at the Mall. By the time the train stopped near Capitol Hill, it was almost empty.

Susan and Rachel gave up their seats to an elderly couple, grateful to have so much room. They thanked them profusely.

“Now, isn’t that nice to see older folks out so early in the morning, heading out for an adventure,” Susan chirped when they got off the train.

“Susan, those people weren’t much older than we are.”

“There you go again, Rachel — being pessimistic. Thank god, you’ve got me, that’s all I can say.”

“Thank god,” Rachel echoed as she followed her friend up the escalator into the carnival atmosphere of the Market.

“Where is your booth?” Rachel asked as they stood looking at the rows of vegetable stands, tables piled high with handcrafted Mexican rugs and beaded jewelry, racks of Indian saris and embroidered peasant dresses. The wind blew the colorful fabrics like kites against the brilliant blue sky.

Susan’s hot pink fit in much better than Rachel’s uniform of black linen top and beige cotton pants. She was glad she had remembered the turquoise bracelet and necklace her brother had brought back from a recent trip out west.

Susan consulted a map for a few minutes and then took off toward the far end of a row of baked goods. An empty card table stood next to a woman frying funnel cakes.

Susan looked at Rachel and smiled. “Well, at least we won’t get hungry,” she said.

Efficiently, she began to set herself up to work. She yanked her chair out of its cover, snapping it into place and propping up a tiny umbrella to protect her against the rising sun. Out of an old canvas bag on which UVA could barely be read, she took several well-sharpened pencils and a brand-new spiral-bound notebook. Last, she pulled out a paperback version of Webster’s dictionary and plopped herself down to wait for business.

Rachel watched all this in awe. Almost afraid to ask, she timidly broached the question. “Susan, how are people supposed to know what you’re doing – that you’re here to write poems?”

“Oh my goodness, I almost forgot,” Susan said and dug around in her bag again to retrieve a small sign that she propped up against the cooler. “Original Poems Written for You for $5” was printed in bold black letters.

She sat back down with a sigh of satisfaction.

“Now, honey, you don’t need to feel like you have to sit here with me all the time. Go on off and see what’s happening and come back and tell me all about it. I’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure? I thought you said you needed me.”

“I did need you. I needed you to get me going. I’m fine now.”

“Well, I would like to get a cup of coffee. Can I bring you one?”

“No, I think I’m coffee’ed out right now,” Susan said as she tapped the end of her No. 2 yellow pencil on the pad in her lap.

As Rachel walked away, she noticed the funnel cake vendor, a very large black woman with dreadlocks and African robes, staring at Susan like she was an alien from outer space.

* * *

When Rachel finally made her way back to Susan, following the sweet smell of funnel cakes to relocate her tiny table, she was surprised to see a little girl sitting in the chair next to her friend, waiting patiently for a poem. Her mother stood nearby smiling.

When the woman noticed Rachel, she walked over and spoke.

“Isn’t this great? That lady is making a poem for Christy. I had the hardest time convincing her to come with me this morning — terrible time. That child threw a fit getting out of bed, threw a fit eating her cereal, threw a fit all the way here on the train — and now look at her. It’s like that lady has put a magic spell on my child. She just heard that word “poem,” and her eyes lit up, and she said she had to have one.”

“Sounds like magic to me,” Rachel agreed as she watched while Susan tore a page out of her notebook and handed it to the little girl, who looked like she had just been crowned Queen for the Day.

The child danced over to her mother and asked that she read her the poem.

They walked off before Rachel heard the words, but the message was clear enough — art heals.

“Wow, that was powerful,” Rachel said.

Sharpening another pencil to replace the one she had already worn to a nub, Susan smiled up at her.

“I told you so,” she said. “You’ve got to learn to listen to me, Rachel. I’ve written 10 poems since you’ve been gone. People love it, and I’m having a blast.”

“I’m amazed. I’ll admit I had my doubts you could pull this off. How do you do it?”

“It’s not about how. It’s about doing.

“Right.”

“Remember that when John Turner arrives Monday,” Susan said as another customer sat down beside her to buy a poem.

***

Leigh Somerville has had a long career as a full time writer doing business as Studio McMillan in Winston-Salem. Currently, she is the Director of Marketing & PR for Twin City Stage. Formerly, she was Editor of Winston-Salem Living and wrote as the Scene & Heard columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal for 10 years.  She has contributed to regional and national magazines.  Her work includes ghost-writing memoirs and legacy letters, facilitating writing workshops and retreats, coaching and public speaking.

Somerville entered the world of novels with It All Started with a Dog followed by All Good Things.

Click here to buy: It all Started with a Dog

Excerpt from “All Good Things” by Leigh Somerville

All Good Things by Leigh Somerville picks up where her first novel It All Started with a Dog left off, answering the question, “Will Rachel Springer marry John Turner?” Just when Rachel thought the biggest challenge was choosing a wedding dress, her ditsy friend Susan shares a painful secret that shakes her already shaky confidence in love. A bequest from Rachel’s grandmother — and a near-death experience with John’s grandson, Ben — help her make the decision that changes the lives of every character in the book.

_

Excerpt:

Many loving women, including her grandmother, had helped her father raise his two children in the years afterward. And in her adult life, women friends had continued to fill the role of mother for her. But sometimes, when she observed a special look pass between a young mother and her child, Rachel felt a longing.

She closed the front door quietly so as not to disturb the sleeping child and walked toward the barn. Ralph saw her coming and ran down the hill toward her. The farm always seemed to take at least five years off Ralph’s life, and he leaped and bounded toward her like a puppy. At one point, he stopped to grab a stick in his mouth and rushed toward her to play fetch. Rachel pulled the stick out of his jaws and tossed it toward George, waiting at the barn.

“This dog is a natural born farm dog. You need to move him out of that dirty old city to a place where he can run free like he was meant to,” George said.

“Do you hear that, Ralph? He wants to take you away from the pigeons and all your friends on the Circle. The whole Capitol would collapse if Ralph left town. He’s one of the chief ambassadors there, aren’t you, boy?”

Ralph ran between the two, back and forth. Finally, George threw the stick toward the woods. Ralph ran into the underbrush but couldn’t find it.

“Come on, Ralph, we’ve got something to show your mistress.” Ralph came when he was called and trotted off down the path through the woods in front of them.

“The farm looks wonderful, George. You’ve done miracles with the place.”

George stared off into the woods and didn’t say anything, but Rachel knew he was grateful for her compliment. “I’m happy here, Rachel,” he finally said. “I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again. Didn’t think I’d ever work again. Feel safe.”

They walked on for a while in companionable silence, listening to the woods sounds. Ralph chased several squirrels, occasionally looking back to make sure Rachel had seen his bravery.

“My cousins are lucky to have found you. I’m afraid they were getting overwhelmed by the place and had started to let it get pretty run down.”

“I love this farm, and they’re good to share it with me. There’s only one problem.”

Rachel waited. She knew from her professional experience not to push. Finally, she stopped and turned to him. “What is it, George? Something I can do to help?”

“I get lonely, Rachel,” he said. She could see his shoulders sag with the loneliness. “Your cousins have each other. They’re still so much in love, and sometimes I feel like a fifth wheel. They don’t mean to make me feel that way. In fact, they go out of their way to include me in everything they do, but . . .”

“I know, George,” Rachel said, walking on toward the river. Even though she didn’t. Rachel had that unusual ability to be totally fulfilled alone. She’d never really known what lonely felt like. All her life, friends had felt sorry for her being single, but she’d never wanted to change that status. Never felt the need. She was the exception, she knew. George was the rule.

Suddenly, he veered off the path toward the river and inched his way down the bank to the water. Ralph leaped over the edge toward him. George held up his hand to help Rachel down the incline.

It was only after she reached the sandy beach that she saw what he had wanted to show her. A tower of rocks stood like a monument in the middle of the water. At its highest, it was taller than George and about as wide as a refrigerator.

“It just appeared one day,” George said. “I have no idea who did it or why, but he, or she, must have been tall.”

“And strong,” Rachel said. “Some of these rocks are heavy.” She reached out to touch the artwork. The sun created a mosaic of colors that glistened with the water. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered. “What a beautiful surprise. Thank you for sharing it with me. Thank you.”

Ralph lay in the water looking up at the rocks and the people admiring them. And then, without warning, he leaped to attention and rushed around and around it, splashing water in a mad dance of utter glee.

“This dog is crazy,” George laughed.

“No, just happy,” Rachel said.

“Me, too,” George said and joined Ralph in his water celebration. He grabbed Rachel’s hand, and the three splashed around the river rocks until Rachel became dizzy and begged to stop.

“We wore her out, Ralph,” George said, joining Rachel where she sat on the riverbank. Ralph came to sit next to the two where they rested, admiring the mysterious tower.

“Have you shown this to my cousins?” Rachel asked. “Maybe they’d have some idea who did it.”

“I haven’t shared it with anyone except you. Didn’t want to. In fact, I don’t think I want to know who did it. Might spoil the magic. You do believe in magic, don’t you, Rachel?”

***

Leigh Somerville has had a long career as a full time writer doing business as Studio McMillan in Winston-Salem. Currently, she is the Director of Marketing & PR for Twin City Stage. Formerly, she was Editor of Winston-Salem Living and wrote as the Scene & Heard columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal for 10 years.  She has contributed to regional and national magazines.  Her work includes ghost-writing memoirs and legacy letters, facilitating writing workshops and retreats, coaching and public speaking.

Somerville entered the world of novels with It All Started with a Dog followed by All Good Things.

Click here to buy: All Good Things