Flash Fiction Friday: “Through the Love of Books”

Photo by Aung-Soe-Min on Unsplash

 

Janet perused the book spines on the library shelves. She searched for a suspense novel she hadn’t yet read.

Someone entered the aisle from the opposite end. From the corner of her eye, Janet  examined the tall young man. His snug-fitting green t-shirt displayed his sculpted chest muscles as his biceps bulged beneath the short sleeves. His sandy-brown hair waved over the top of his head but was clipped close around his ears. Several waves rested on the top of his crew collar.

Janet turned her attention back to the books.

A few minutes later, she reached for a suspense novel on the shelf above her head. Another set of fingers touched her own, sending a jolt of electricity through her. She looked up into sapphire blue eyes. “Oh, excuse me.”

A dimpled smile spread across the young man’s lips. “Are you a Dean Koontz fan too?”

“I’ve read just about everything he’s written. His books are real nail-biters, but I love most suspense novels.” Heat crept into her cheeks at their close proximity.

He pulled down the book, they had both reached for, and handed it to her. “Have you read this one?”

She studied read the first paragraph on the back cover. “No.”

“Then you check it out first. I’ll wait until you finish it.” His eyes locked on hers. “After we’ve both read it, maybe we can get together and discuss it?”

Janet smiled. “That sounds like fun. I should be able to finish it within a week.”

He took a step back but kept his eyes on hers. “Maybe we could discuss other suspense novels we’ve read over coffee?”

“I suppose we could do that, but I’m not a coffee drinker. When were you thinking?”

He grinned, his dimples like too deep finger indentations in his cheeks. “How about as soon as we finish here?”

She nodded and moved toward the check-out desk.

The young man stepped up behind her in line. He held a suspense novel by Lisa Scottoline.

After checking out their books, they walked toward the exit together. “By the way, my name’s Matthew Stevens. You can call me Matt.”

“I’m Janet Brady.”

“Well, Janet Brady, it’s a pleasure to meet you. There’s a coffee shop around the corner. Shall we walk?”

She nodded.

They entered the coffee shop, and Matt turned toward her. “So, what is your drink of choice?”

“A chai latte topped with whipped cream.”

“Coming right up. Why don’t you grab us a table and I’ll get our drinks?”

Janet found a table for two by the window. She sat down, placed her hands in her lap, and, using thumb and forefinger of one hand, pinched her other arm just above the wrist. She flinched. No, she wasn’t dreaming.

Matt joined her, and they discussed their favorite suspense novels while enjoying their beverages. When their cups were empty, Matt looked at her for a few minutes. “Janet, I know we just met, but are you available to go out for dinner this evening? I’d like to talk with you about more substantial things.”

When her eyes grew wide, Matt hit his forehead with the heel of his palm. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to sound quite like that.” This made them both laugh. “It’s just … I think you’re beautiful, and I’d like to get to know more about you.”

Janet relaxed. “Yes, I’m available for dinner.”

They agreed on a time and place to meet.

After placing their orders, Matt said, “I work in construction. What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

Matt leaned forward. “Really? I’d like to read something you’ve written.”

The waiter set their food before them.

“Janet, what do you like to do for fun?”

“I like to take walks, go dancing, go to the movies or the theater.”

“Do walks include hikes in the woods?” Matt raised an eyebrow.

“Of course.”

Dinner ended and Janet shared her address and phone number with Matt and agreed to see him again soon.

The next day, Janet couldn’t focus on writing. She couldn’t stop thinking about Matt. She took a break, and her doorbell rang. The postman handed a box to her. She placed it on the table and opened it. A hardcover copy of The Watchers, the book she and Matt had agreed was their favorite Dean Koontz novel lay open with several pages from either side curled inward and tucked into the seam, forming a heart. A note in the box read: I had a wonderful time last night. I look forward to spending more time with you. You’ve already captured my heart. Matt

She clasped the note to her chest. Her heart skipped a beat at the thought of him. She smiled, hoping Matt would prove to be her lifelong love.

He Knows The Way by Idella Borntrager Otto

He Knows The Way by Idella Borntrager Otto is Ms. Otto’s debut novel.

Back Cover Blurb:

Ellen, a young northern Mennonite nurse is transplanted into the chaos of Mississippi’s church bombings and cross burning. When danger from the Ku Klux Klan lurks, the scripture text “He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me I will come forth as gold” nibbles at her mind like a broken record. She searches for a sense of direction.

Lord, did I misread your leading to serve you in Mississippi? I don’t need to be gold. Silver or pewter would be just fine. In the midst of racial violence, Ellen re-examines her peace-loving faith while trying to unscramble her feelings which vacillate between a handsome Yankee and her southern pastor’s engaging son.

My Review:

He Knows The Way grabbed my attention from the start with a scene of heart-pounding danger — Ellen arriving to do a job as men with guns block her path. She is alone. She is in Mississippi during racial tensions in the 1960s.

More danger crops up as the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross on the lawn of somewhere Ellen has been ministering to someone preventing Ellen from continuing in this ministry with a woman she has become very fond of.

Ellen, a young northern Mennonite nurse, struggles with the attitudes of people in the south who look down on those who are different and don’t want to treat them as human beings. In one situation, Ellen shows great courage and breaks a southern segregation rule, then fears she will lose her job for doing so.

She is encouraged to go to a school in Virginia to get her B.S.N. and apply for a nursing director position. She goes off to school where she meets a young man, and the two begin spending quite a bit of time together.

Then Ellen goes home for a school break and meets her southern pastor’s son and spends time with him.

She returns to school in Virginia, confused with tangled feelings. She prays the Lord would direct her and show her which young man is the one she might one day marry.

Between the southern tensions and the struggle to make a decision on a young man, this story kept me turning page after page. I was rooting for one particular young man, but eventually liked both men so much that I was confused. I had to keep turning pages to see how the story would clear up both Ellen’s and my confusion about which young man was right for her.

There was one place in the story where I was jolted out of the story for a chapter or two because Ellen was suddenly missing from a chapter or two. I was suddenly reading about a young man and another girl. Things soon became clear, when Ellen returned to the story and eventually met this young man.

All in all, I thought this story was very well written, it captured and held my attention, and I had to keep reading to see whom Ellen would spend her life with. Not only was it a decision as to who she would marry, but where the Lord wanted her to minister — foreign missions or missions in her own country.

I certainly hope Idella Borntrager Otto will be producing more books because I definitely look forward to reading more from her.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love at First Sight

                                            

As Finn waited for the elevator on the tenth floor, he checked his watch—2:30 p.m. He ran a hand through his blonde curls, sighed, and tapped his toe. He had to be across town in just thirty minutes. The elevator door opened and a stack of books stepped out—a stack of books with very shapely legs and a milk chocolate brown eye peeking around the books. The corners of his mouth twitched.

“Here, let me help you.” He reached to take the top eight books from the stack, revealing a young woman’s face with olive skin, glistening red, bow-shaped lips, and not one, but two of those milk chocolate brown eyes. Her crowning glory, the waves of chestnut brown hair cascading to her shoulders.

She smiled and let out a little puff of air. “Thank you. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to my office before all these books fell.”

“Your office?”

“Yeah. C’mon, follow me.” She stepped past him and he followed her down the hall, through another office doorway, down another hall, and through a door into an office with wall-to-wall bookshelves, a paper-scattered desk with padded black leather chair behind it. There were two overstuffed chairs in front of the desk. A nameplate on the desk read “Bernadine McMillan”.

The woman set her stack of books on the desk and turned toward him. “You can set those next to these.”

As he placed the books on the desk, he noted the title of the top book, To Kill a Mockingbird, one of his all-time favorites.

“Thanks for your help.” Her words pulled his attention back to her.

“Have you read all of these?” He should be going. He was going to be late, but something inside him didn’t want to leave this beautiful woman.

She smiled and nodded. “It’s necessary for my sanity. After reading the manuscripts of wannabe authors, I need to read some well-written books to remember what good writing is.”

“The manuscripts are that bad, huh?”

“Oh, I do find a rare pearl among them from time to time. That’s the best part … finding the ones worth publishing and getting out into the world.” Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of finding worthy manuscripts.

“So, you are a publisher?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Actually, I’m the head of the acquisitions department for Bradley Publishing. My name’s Bernadine McMillan, and you are?” She reached a hand toward him.

He took her hand, lowered his head, and placed a kiss on the back of it. He really wanted to kiss her glistening lips. He straightened and met her gaze. “I’m Finn. Finn Johnson, lawyer. Listen, I’m late for an appointment, but could I see you again … take you to dinner?”

“I’d like that. Any evening after five.”

“How about tomorrow, say, six-thirty?” He backed toward the door, unwilling to break eye contact with Bernadine.

She nodded, grabbed something off the desk. “Here’s my card, so you can contact me.”

She smiled, and his heart skipped a beat. He turned and practically ran out the door of her office before he lost his head, grabbed her, and kissed her.

The next evening he knocked on her apartment door five minutes early. When she opened the door, his mouth went dry and his palms began to sweat, as he took in every curve in her clinging red dress and the hint of cleavage revealed by a v-shaped neckline. Again, her lips glistened red. Her hair was pinned up in a French twist, with a few wavy tendrils framing her face. The style revealed her slender neck, and Finn found himself longing to kiss the tender spot at the base of each side of her neck.

“I thought you might be late.” She grinned at him.

He chuckled at her teasing and offered her his arm.

They talked all through dinner of their careers and their childhoods. Finn didn’t want the evening to end. As they stood outside her apartment door, he held one of her hands, and with his free hand ran the backs of his fingers down the side of her face.

“I’ve never felt such a connection to any woman before.”

“I know what you mean.” Her voice, nearly a whisper.

“You feel it too?”

She nodded.

He lowered his face and placed his lips on hers. As he deepened the kiss, he pulled her into his arms, and she moved her hands up around his neck.

When they broke the kiss, Finn ran his hands from her elbows up to her shoulders. “Bernadine, this is going to sound crazy.”

She didn’t respond but continued to gaze into his eyes.

“Bernadine, will you marry me?”

“I’d love to.”

Finn’s heart leaped in his chest, then they were kissing again.

©Kelly F. Barr 2019

Flash Fiction Friday: Battles of the Heart (Part 2)

“What is your name, lass?” The soldier’s eyes searched her face.

“Alita Washington.”

The soldier stopped and stared at her. “Not the daughter of Sir Washington? Sister of Gabriel and Jaxson Washington?”

“The very one! You knew them?”

“Aye. Gabriel was my best friend.”

“Yet you still serve his murderer?” Her green eyes sparked and flashed.

“Murderer? Miss, your father and brother, Gabriel were killed in a battle just like this one.”

“And Jaxson returned home maimed. But it was Sir Wallace who pierced my father through and left Gabriel to die on the battlefield.” She raised her voice.

“Anyone engaged in a battle can lose their life or sustain a permanent injury. Surely you can’t hold Sir Wallace accountable for actions in battle.”

“I can, I do, and I will. Now I think it best if we stopped talking and you simply lead on.”

“I’ve just one more question.” His steady gaze met hers. “How many have you killed or left on the battlefield for dead in your quest to find and kill Sir Wallace?”

She stood, her mouth hanging open, but uttered no sound.

He watched as her face crumbled, tears began to pour from her eyes and sobs racked her body. She began to sway and he caught her in his arms before she landed in a heap on the ground.

He held her and stroked her hair. “Ah, you poor lass, revenge can destroy the avenger. I know you’ve been hurt. You’ve lost loved ones and you’ve been grieving, but killing Sir Wallace won’t bring your loved ones back.”

Her sobbing subsided but he didn’t release her. He simply put a finger under her chin and tilted her face up to his. He wiped her tears with the thumb of his other hand. “Where is Jaxson and your Mum? Do they know where you are?”

She shook her head violently. “My mother died giving birth to me. Jaxson is all I have left, but he’s broken. He limps around and does what he can with his remaining hand, but he hasn’t found a way to earn any money. I don’t know what’s to become of us.”

As she looked into his eyes, he lowered his head toward hers and once again claimed her lips in a kiss. This time the kiss was long and passionate. She felt her knees go weak and put her arms around his neck and clung to him, returning his kiss.

When the kiss ended, they both stood trying to catch their breath. Then he looked into her eyes. “Marry me, Alita. I will take care of you and Jaxson.”

She gasped and stepped back. “But I’ve only just met you, and you say you were Gabriel’s best friend. How is it then that you left him on the battlefield to die? You were there, weren’t you?”

His eyes grew watery. “Aye, I was there. I tried to get to Gabriel when I saw the large soldier he was fighting gaining the upper hand, but I couldn’t reach him in time. When I did get to him, it was too late. I held him in my arms as he took his last breath. I didn’t leave him on the battlefield to die. I left him on the battlefield already dead.” Tears spilled from his eyes and he hung his head.

Alita stepped forward, put her hands on either side of his face and pulled his face to hers. She kissed him tenderly. Then she offered him a small smile. “You have asked me to marry you and I do not even know your name.”

“My name is Bertram Weinhold.”

“Well, Bertram Weinhold, I will marry you.”

Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

This meme is brought to you today via The Broke and the Bookish and this week’s topic: Top Ten Best Books Of 2016 (you choose — best books overall of what you read regardless of pub date, of a particular genre, 2016 debuts, 2016 releases, etc)

I have chosen to do the Top Ten Books of 2016 That I Have Read — no particular genre and not all 2016 releases.

I loved this book and eagerly await the next book in the series, due to release in July 2017.

2. 

This is a great romance story that includes some great characters and a bit of humor.

3. 

This is an altogether sweet romance story with a wonderfully chivalrous gentleman.

4. 

Another wonderful romance story between two unlikely characters, but not a perfect romance. This one is realistic with some bumps along the way.

5. 

My first steampunk read and I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

6. 

This is the first book I’ve read by Charles Martin. Mr. Martin creates rich characters and spins a wonderful story. I look forward to reading more of his works.

7. Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1) by [Smith, Rachel R.]

Although I do not like the style in which this book is written — serialized, where the story line flows continuously through the books in the series, heavily connecting the books, I did enjoy the characters and the story line and do look forward to reading the rest of the series. However, if Ms. Smith continues to write in this style, I probably will not read her future works beyond this series.

8. 

A good writer never stops learning and seeking to improve their craft, and I enjoy studying books on the craft of writing by James Scott Bell.

9. & 10. Love Finds a Home, Love Comes Softly Series #8, a Novel  -     By: Janette Oke

These are my four favorite books in the Love Comes Softly series by Janette Oke, but I thoroughly enjoyed the entire series.

What books are on your list of Top Ten Reads of 2016?

Flash Fiction Friday: First Kiss

“Come on! What’s taking you so long?”

“What’s your rush?”

“I’m supposed to meet Carrie at Cinnabon at 2:00.”

I roll my eyes. Going shopping with my big brother and his girlfriend was not my choice, but my parents said I’m too young to go to the mall with my friends at this time of year. Yeah, it’s nearly Christmas and the mall will be packed.

I grab my coat, scarf and purse and follow Tommy out the door.

After circling the parking lot three times, we finally snag a spot. We arrive at Cinnabon at 2:10.

“Where’ve you been?” Carrie taps her toe.

“I had to bring Lucy.” Tommy tilts his head back and right.

Carrie peeks around. “Oh, hello, Lucy.”

“Hi.” I add a little wave and a smile, hoping to smooth her ruffled feathers.

Carrie grabs Tommy’s hand and tugs him a few feet away from me. She speaks to him quietly. Whatever she’s saying, I can tell she’s pleading with him about something.

He nods. She smiles. He puts his arm around her and gives a little squeeze, as he turns to face me.

“Lucy, didn’t you say some of your friends were coming to the mall this afternoon?”

“Yes. I’m hoping we’ll bump into them somewhere.”

“Well, why don’t you give one of them a call and we can be sure you meet up.”

“O-kay.” I pull my cell phone from my back pocket and dial Serena’s number. She answers after the second ring.

“Serena, this is Lucy. Are you in the mall? You are? Great! I’m in front of Cinnabon. Okay, see you soon.”

I hang up the phone as my brother watches and then, “Well?”

“Serena and Megan are just around the corner. They should be here any . . .”

“Lucy!” Two girls turn the corner and scream. They rush over and give me hugs as my brother rolls his eyes.

“So, what’s with your brother and the girl?” Serena whispers in my ear.

“Look, Lucy. Why don’t we set a time and place to meet and you can go with your friends and I can shop with Carrie?”

I raised an eyebrow at him. He must be joking. Dad would kill him if he found out, and I’m not sure I’d fare much better.

“I know what you’re thinking, and I promise if Mom and Dad find out, I’ll tell them it was my idea.”

“What’s the catch?”

“Catch? No catch. So how about we meet right back here at 4?”

My friends squeal and jump up and down.

“Okay, I guess.”

Carrie smiles and begins dragging Tommy down the mall. I’m still looking after them when Megan grabs my arm. “Let’s go. Todd, Randy and Jason are somewhere here in the mall. They want us to meet them for sodas in the food court.”

“No way!” My doubts have just been replaced by visions of a gorgeous guy, but my conscience poked me. Mom and Dad wouldn’t like this either.

We spent an hour with the guys in the food court. When we got up to leave, Todd pulled me aside.

“Lucy, I really think you’re cute. I’d like to spend more time with you. Would you go out with me?”

My heart was pounding so hard I thought it would leap out of my chest and my palms were sweaty. This was a dream come true.

“Um, a yeah, I’d like that, b-ut,” I stuttered.

“Is something wrong?”

Oh, those blue eyes! I could drown in them.

I lowered my head to look at the floor and heaved a big sigh. “This is gonna sound so lame.”

Todd placed a finger under my chin and gently lifted my head. “What is?”

“There’s nothing I’d like better than to go out with you, but my parents say I’m too young to date.” It all came out in a rush and I could feel the heat burning in my cheeks.

After a moment Todd smiled revealing his killer dimples. “There are ways around that.”

I wanted to follow him anywhere, but. “Oh, I don’t know.”

He leaned toward me and placed a soft, gentle kiss upon my lips. “Think about it.”

My knees were weak and I couldn’t utter a sound. I simply stared into those blue pools and nodded.

As soon as Todd walked away, Megan and Serena bounded over. “We saw that! He just kissed you! Oh! That’s too awesome!”

Yeah, too awesome and destined to be the first and last kiss I would ever receive from Todd.

Flash Fiction Friday: Another Heart Broken

The door groaned and the floorboards creaked under Toby’s weight. Angela clung so close to him, he could feel her breath on his neck. “Isn’t this trespassing?” She whispered into his ear.

“This old house has been abandoned for years.” His voice echoed in the large foyer. “Realtors haven’t been able to sell it.” He gazed into her large chocolate brown eyes.

“Because the real estate market hasn’t been real good since the last recession.”

“Because it’s haunted.” He searched her face for a reaction.

She frowned. “Oh, come on. You don’t really believe in haunted houses, do you?”

“Don’t you?”

At that moment, footsteps sounded on the upstairs floor.

“Maybe we should go.” Angela turned toward the door.

Toby slid his arm around her waist and drew her close. “I thought you don’t believe in haunted houses.” The corners of his mouth hitched upward just a bit.

The door slammed shut. Angela’s body jerked in Toby’s arms. The sound of scratching came from a windowpane in the next room. Toby could feel Angela’s heart thumping against his chest.

“I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for these noises.”

“Are you trying to convince me or yourself?” Toby nuzzled her ear and placed a kiss on her jawbone. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ll protect you.”

He made a trail of soft, warm kisses down her neck.

Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, then Toby’s mouth claimed hers and for a moment she was lost in the desire that welled up within her.

When the kiss ended, Angela’s knees were weak. Toby took her hand and started toward the other room. Angela looked at the folded blankets under his arm and realization struck her. She stood still.

“What’s wrong?” Toby reached to brush the backs of his fingers down her cheek.

“I don’t want to do this.”

“That’s not what your lips and body told me just a moment ago.” He leaned to kiss her again, but she placed her hands firmly on his chest, keeping him at arm’s length.

“We’ve talked about this before. You agreed to wait until we’re married.”

“I know, but I can’t wait any longer. I’ll be leaving for college at the end of the summer and you have one more year of high school.”

“Yeah, and what will happen when you’re at college away from me?”

He flashed his irresistible grin. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

“Or college babes start flirting and the heart forgets.”

A hint of anger shone in his eyes. “Oh come on Angie. This isn’t the dark ages.”

The sting of tears threatened at the back of her eyes. “I gotta go.”

She turned.

“If you walk out that door, we’re through.”

She spun around, her chestnut waves becoming airborne before settling on her shoulders. Her eyes flashed. “Then this was your goal all along. I really thought you were different than the other guys. I’m sorry you aren’t what you said you were. Have a nice life.”

She ran out the door and down the block, slowing only as the tears blurred her vision so much she could barely see.

Were there no virtuous men left in the world?