Heather Gray

Flawed...but loved anyway.

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Wordy Wednesday

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday!  Share an excerpt fewer than 500 words from your family friendly book in the comments below.  Be sure to include the title and one buy link.  Then go spread the word about this post so even more people will find it.

Happy reading (and writing)!!

Here's an excerpt from An Informal Date. (Click here to find on Amazon.)

Owen rounded the corner and leaned against the wall. He took a sip and glanced back toward the coffee kiosk. The edge came into view, enough for him to catch movement, but not enough for him to get a good look at Kimi.

Just as well. He never knew what to say to her. The petite pixie with brown hair and eyes had tried to chat with him nearly every time he’d purchased coffee from her, but conversation wasn’t easy for him. The fact that she hadn’t given up on him yet was no small miracle. She would eventually. Common sense said so. His stomach clenched at the thought. Despite the way he always found himself at a loss for words when around her, he regularly bypassed three other kiosks to get to hers whenever he spent his day on-site at the hospital.

Owen shook his head and pushed off from the wall. With any luck, he’d make it back to his office without tripping or spilling coffee on his newly cleaned lab coat. Some doctors managed to wear the same coat for an entire week. Not him. His dry cleaner, a petite woman with an accent placing ancestry somewhere south of Russia and north of Australia, beamed with glee every time she caught sight of him at her counter. He couldn’t blame her. After all, he was single-handedly putting her grandchildren through college.

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Fred followed me like a blind puppy. He was bound to bruise his nose if I made a sudden stop. Fred is neither a puppy nor is he blind. Like me, he was scared. I didn’t believe in zombies or ghosts, and I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck—if I ever get a next paycheck—that Fred didn’t either. Still, I couldn’t get them out of my mind as we crept through the abandoned cemetery, looking for Captain Howard Scott’s grave. The urge to give it up and go home was overruled by the need to pay my bills and feed a dog who ate more than I did.

I’d been hired by Margot Scott to find the Captain’s grave and see if it had been robbed. Margot was the wife of the Captain’s great, great grandson, and the twin sister of my good friend and neighbor, Bonnie Jones. Margot’s son had seen a Confederate officer’s sword for sale on eBay with the family name inscribed on it. The listing was deleted when he sent an email asking the seller how he got the sword, but not before he managed to download pictures of it. When he showed them to Margot, she recognized it as the sword of her husband’s great, great-grandfather from an ancient tintype. She remembered stories of how he had been buried in full uniform, along with his sword, on the family homestead in Southern Missouri. The current owner of the farm refused to let the sheriff on his property without a warrant, so I was hired to do the job.

We had looked at a dozen headstones when Fred left my heels to check out a small grave with a weathered stone. Although the moon was nearly full, a cloud chose the moment to block its light. I used my flashlight to read the weather-worn epitaph: “God needed a special angel. One loving and kind. And so He chose our child. And left us all behind.” I couldn’t read anymore and bent down to hug Fred around the neck.

I knew dogs have excellent night vision, but there was no way he could have known the grave was that of a child—dogs can’t read. I wiped my eyes and whispered, even though the nearest house was over two hundred yards away, “You need glasses, Freddie. Sarah isn’t even close to Howard.”

Fred raised his head and pointed in the direction of the adjacent grave. I didn’t need my flashlight to read the name. The weather-worn stone was barely legible. I couldn’t read the epitaph, but the name, Howard Scott, had been carved deeply enough to last 150 years of Missouri ice and wind. I patted Fred on the head and got up to inspect the Captain’s last resting place.

The dirt around his grave was covered with the same wild grass and weeds as all the others and didn’t look like it had been disturbed. There was even a small cedar tree of five or six feet that had taken root in the center of his grave. The tree was at least three or four years old. I suppose Howard’s grave could have been dug up before the tree took root, but why would the grave robber wait so long to sell his loot? It was a question I wouldn’t have time to ponder.

Fred started to growl, looking toward the farmhouse. I turned to look and froze. Several exterior floodlights had the yard lit up like a high school football field. The light beams didn’t reach us, but it wouldn’t be long before the light of a powerful flashlight coming toward us did. I turned off my flashlight and headed for the road, praying we could get to a small shack a few yards beyond the fence of the cemetery before the farmer could see us. The old shed should shield us from any gunshot long enough for us to reach Bonnie’s Jeep and escape. I was just yards from the fence when I felt the ground disappear beneath my feet. A second later, I landed flat on my back, knocking the air out of my lungs.

The hole I hadn’t seen wasn’t more than five or six feet deep—that I could estimate from Fred’s presence at the top of the pit. He stood at the rim barking for me to get my fat butt up before the farmer could catch us, or at least that’s what I thought he was trying to tell me. For all I knew, he could have been laughing his head off.

My flashlight had gone flying when I’d fallen. The light from the moon was no help in the darkness of the hole, so I felt around for my flashlight, and my hand bumped up against a soft object in the process. I didn’t need light from the moon or otherwise to tell me it was a body. I’m sure if the Olympics had a jumping out of a pit event, I would win gold. I was out of the hole and over the cemetery fence in record time. We didn’t stop for breath until we were within sight of Bonnie’s Jeep, with only the shed between us and the cemetery. A second later, we heard a gunshot. I still didn’t believe in zombies—despite my encounter with what must have been a corpse, so it had to be the farmer. He let loose five or six rounds in rapid succession. Less than a minute later we were in the Jeep, spraying gravel from all four wheels.

Illuminating Days of Discovery
"Days of... Series" Book 2 
Christmas in July Kindle special for $1.99, free with KU or print purchase


She leaned against the window frame and looked out into the darkness. Straining to see through the glare of the bright lights reflecting from within, she could just make out the sight of the snowflakes as they fell with a gentle hush. Lost in her thoughtful reverie she did not notice him walk up behind her.

“A penny for your thoughts,” he whispered in her ear as he slid his hands around her waist and rested his head against hers. He looked at her reflection in the window and smiled.

She closed her eyes, sighed, and let the feel of his touch wash over her. Opening her eyes she smiled at his reflection in the window. “First, a nickel for a kiss.”

He turned his head to kiss her on the temple. “And I won’t charge you; I’ll just tell you - I love you.”

The rhythm of the old eighties song reverberated in their thoughts.
Caroline shifted in his arms, leaning her back against the window frame, looking him full in the face. Smiling, she rested her hands on his forearms. “And I love you.” A faraway look clouded her eyes. “I was just thinking that I’ll miss having Mom and Dad here tonight. They would’ve enjoyed our announcement.”

A sad smile darkened Rick’s features. “I’ve thought the same thing. Kind of puts a little cloud over things a bit, doesn’t it? But, I choose to believe they’d be on board with this.”

They stood in reflective silence for a few moments, once again gazing out the window at the falling snow, his arm around her shoulder. Jazz music filtered through the home in the background, mixed with the laughter and chatter of friends.

It was New Year’s Eve and Rick, Caroline, and Jackson were hosting an intimate gathering for their singles small group and a handful of other friends. What their friends did not know was that Rick and Caroline planned to share some special news. What Jackson did not know was that his world was about to be knocked off-kilter.

The Reluctant Debutante - a sweet, regency romance
~ Are the possibilities worth the price? ~
Available from Amazon, free with Kindle Unlimited:


“Who is that ravishing creature entering the devil’s lair?” Bryghton Alcott, the fifth Duke of Wychwood, asked his friend, his gaze arrested by the slender figure climbing the stairs to a midsize townhouse as they rode past.

Turning in his saddle to gape at the young woman, Lord Lynster grinned, thrilled to know something his powerful friend did not. He turned back to face the duke. “You don’t know who that is?”

“Would I be asking you if I knew?” Bryghton said, with a wry twist to his lips.
His left eyebrow tilted at a somewhat haughty angle, the young baron finally answered with a touch of dramatic flair, “That, my good fellow, is the devil’s niece, Lady Victoria Bartley.”

“Really?” the duke asked, incredulity now echoed in his voice. “How did I not know that the devil had a niece? Surely this information could be used to my advantage.”

“I have no idea how you could have researched your enemy so thoroughly and yet not know that he is living in his niece’s house. I never thought to mention it since it seemed to be a matter of common knowledge. Of course, the lady was a child when the devil inherited her father’s title, so I suppose you took no note of her existence.”

Alcott’s face held a far-away expression for a few moments before his gaze sharpened on his friend’s face. “You said the devil is living in her house. What do you mean?”

“The earl only inherited what was entailed. The previous earl doted on his only child and left everything that was unentailed to his daughter, including the London townhouse we just rode past. The new earl, the young lady’s uncle, is her guardian until she gains control of her own fortune. As such, he and his family live with Lady Victoria when they are in Town. She lives with them in her former home when they are in the country.” Alfred, Lord Lynster, “Fred” to his friends, looked at Bryghton with a touch of anxiety, unsure of how his friend would use this information to his advantage. “The young woman faced much tragedy at a tender age, losing both her parents in that terrible carriage accident that made the devil the earl.”

“Yes, and no doubt she could use a friend, being stuck in the same house with Bartley and his family as she is,” concurred the duke, his handsome face darkened by a sinister cast.

Read it now here:

~ Happy reading ~

Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge Book 1)
Book Trailer:
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“Everywhere I look there’s some kind of trap or clue to a puzzle I never meant to try to solve.”

“I guess I can understand that,” Lara said, a grimace on her face.

“Are you sure?”

“No, but I like you enough to give myself time to figure it out.”

Elliott’s cheeks grew rosy and he wanted to apologize, to erase the hurt in her cocoa eyes, but he couldn’t begin to frame it in a way that would cover it justly.

He couldn’t let it end on that note. He had to turn it in the right direction. The words came to him in a rush and, like a wave crashing on the shore and then receding, they escaped his grasp again. The only person I trust right now is Christ, but you’re the closest anyone else could come.

Those words remained out of his grasp because vexation descended upon him as he wondered at the truth of the words. Am I really trusting Christ? Grandpa used to tell me, “Perfect love drives out fear,” but that certainly doesn’t look anything like how I act.

More than Lara’s ire, this realization hurt him. He was truly failing everyone.

Before him stood the doors to the library. Elliott noticed Lara’s arms were crossed and tense. Grasping the door, he pulled it open and said, “Lovely ladies before bumbling, and apologetic, boyfriends.” The taste of iron drifted faintly onto his tongue as he bit down on his cheek in horror at what he had just said.

Lara rolled her eyes, but her posture relaxed as she strolled in. Elliott couldn’t be sure, but he thought she wore the ghost of a smile as well.

Inside the library, things looked much like their last visit, largely empty with lights dimmer than most buildings of similar purpose in more developed cities. Behind the circulation desk, Elliott caught a flicker of motion, as Rosalyn saw them and stiffened as if they were specters rather than patrons.

Shooting Lara a quick glance, Elliott shrugged. Lara shrugged back and mouthed, “Go ahead.”

By the time the pair made it to the desk’s edge, Rosalyn had regained some of her composure. The librarian’s discomfort was seemingly displaced by confusion…and annoyance?

Before either teen could speak, she addressed them both in an even, but clearly strained tone. “Why are you both here?”

“We ran into some…complications following the tips you gave us,” Elliott replied, trying not to sound abashed over circumstances that were not his fault.

“And you think I can do something about it?”

“No,” Elliott rejoined, “but you can give us some answers. Like, what is going on, and what my grandfather was trying to clue us into.”

Rosalyn’s arms were perpendicular to one another and she rested her head in the palm of the vertical. A faint moaning sound escaped her lips. “You both think you can find answers here? Wonderful. We’re all as good as dead.”

Not My Idea (A Gentleman of Misfortune, Book 1) by Bethany Swafford
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Excerpt: Satisfied there was nothing untoward in my appearance, I made my way down to the drawing room, where my family always gathered before a meal. I passed a maid carrying a covered tray, Mama’s meal. I pursed my lips, not liking the thought of my mother eating alone night after night.
I could hear my family, Philippa above all the others, long before I reached the doorway. When I pushed the door open, she was in the middle of demonstrating some bit of silliness she had done earlier in the day. Stooped over in a ridiculous position, she glanced over and her face brightened with a broad smile.
“Luke!” she exclaimed as she straightened herself. “You look so grown up!”
“You are generous, Philly,” I said with a wry smile. I faced the rest of the group. Father was sitting by the fireplace with my older brother, George, standing at his shoulder. “Father, George. I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”
I'd arrived downstairs several minutes early, so I was surprised when Father said, “I’m not the one to whom you should apologize, Lucas.”
Turning, I took a moment to study the seated woman. Her appearance was nothing like the kind of lady I’d believed my brother would choose as his wife, though she was pretty by any person’s standards. Her hair was blonde and curled around her face. Her figure was admirable, but it was the expression on her face that sent chills down my spine: one of judgment and disdain.
“You must be my new sister. I am delighted to meet you, ma’am. Welcome to the family.”
She shifted her blue-eyed gaze to my brother, refusing to acknowledge my greeting. “Rosamund, may I present to you my younger brother, Lucas,” George introduced formally. “Lucas, this is my wife, Rosamund.”
“So, the rapscallion brother finally decided to do his duty,” Rosamund said, returning her gaze to me. “Mister Lucas Bywood, I wish I could say it is a pleasure, but your reputation precedes you.”
Surprised by this greeting, I tried not to allow her words to annoy me. She could only have heard me described as a scapegrace from my family, but surely it was only said in a jocular manner! I may have chosen my own course in life, but I was by no means the disgrace to the Bywood family as she was implying.
“My dear sister Rosamund —I may call you Rosamund, may I not?” I stepped forward, caught her hand, and brought it up to my lips. The shocked expression on her face almost made me burst out laughing, but I controlled my features. “I have no doubt you will ensure my brother lives with absolute propriety.”
“What do you mean by that?” George demanded, bristling as he stepped closer.
Rosamund pulled her hand free of my grip. “Nothing at all, George,” I said, taking a step back. I glanced around the room and commented, “How quiet it is without Mama, Jane, Celia, and Jo here.
”My three older sisters had married before I had left for my Grand Tour, so I should have been accustomed to the reduced number of our family for dinner. Perhaps it was the lack of Mama that made me feel the change. The room just felt darker than I remembered it ever being.
“Isn’t that the nature of families, Master Lucas?” Rosamund asked primly. Her referring to me as “Master Lucas” made my lips twitch. Only servants called me that, and I doubted she would appreciate the comparison. And why was she referring to me as if I were a child? “Children grow up and make their own homes. You will, quite soon I am told, make a new start with your own bride.”
“Soon, you say? I’m afraid you have been misinformed, Rosamund. I have no intentions of settling down anytime in the near future.” I was amused by the notion until I saw my father’s face. And George’s face. And Philippa’s face? When it seemed no one else was amused, I stopped laughing. “Have I missed something?”
“You are engaged to Phoebe Ramsey, are you not? George told me you were.”

Lovely Paradox: Lost - J.J. Nite

After who knows how long, we broke apart with foreheads together and our breathing ragged. It was only then I noticed it had started to rain. The sound of it drumming on the roof of the car barely covered the sound of our hearts beating.
ʺYou know I still want to know why. I need to know.ʺ I said to Damien.
He tenderly tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear. ʺYou scare me, ʺ Damien said.
ʺWhat? I scare you? Is that the best you can do? ʺ I asked.
The tender kiss he placed on my lips had my heart aching and racing at the same time. ʺI’ve never met anyone like you, Ali. You’re so innocent and pure. I’m the complete opposite of you, and the thought of you getting hurt because of things I’ve done… Last Friday night, when I brought you here to meet my friends, I just wanted to show you a little bit of my world. And then the fight started, and all I could think about was you getting hurt. I would never forgive myself if anything ever happened to you. Especially if it happened because of something I was into, ʺ Damien explained.
ʺBut nothing happened to me. I was more worried you were going to get hurt, and you did. I was fine, ʺ I said.
ʺYou were fine this time. But what about next time? What if I didn’t have friends to get you out of there? Those were the questions I was thinking about all weekend. I just want you to be safe, and I don’t know if you will be with me," Damien said.

PROVIDENCE: Hannah's Journey (Biblical Fiction, fiction from II Kings 5)

All evening, Hannah wrestled with her bed sheet. Did Gil return home each night, or did he slumber in the fields? Would he spy her bracelet before a thief? Thoughts and schemes raced through her mind. When morning came, she hurried to her tasks, hoping chores would keep her sane. She hoisted a water jar onto her shoulders, rushed out of the courtyard, marched to the well, and ignored the chatter of the women in line behind her. She wanted to proclaim, “I am not unclean. My father has made atonement.” But would they even believe her?

As she returned home, a donkey loaded with bundled wheat shafts slowed the pace on the city street. She was caught in a crowd. Nestling the side of her face against the coolness of the clay jar, she hoped the drape of her head covering cloaked her from being recognized.

“Alabaster, beads, bangles,” a merchant shouted.

Leave it to a salesman to find opportunity behind the rump of a slow donkey. His father had taught him well.

The chants of the merchant grew louder, came closer.

“Men, trinkets for the fair and lovely.”

Hannah believed the heckler was upon her. Did he mistake her for a man? She had no free hand to test his wares.

“Young woman.” The address was too close to ignore.

Her elbow rose to ward off his seller’s assault. Her heart rapped against her chest anticipating a run home.

“Ah, but your arm is bare. Can I not interest you in—”

She whipped her head his direction. And stared. At her bracelet. The rubies sparkled in the sunlight they captured. At Gil. And his radiant smile.

Providence on Amazon:


“Welcome to The Maple Pit.” Her eyes widened as she took in his appearance.
Was it his six-foot-three frame, leather apparel, or scruffy face that did her in? Since his boots had hit American soil, he’d been growing out the hair on his face. Judging by the relaxing ambiance and dress of their customers, he’d bank on his appearance being the reason for the look of astonishment on the hostess’ face.
“Thank you, ma’am.” His voice sounded a little rusty as thirst pushed against his throat.
“Would you like to sit at the bar?”
Luke glanced around. Families were enjoying their meals in booths and tables. Was there really a point in taking up a table for just himself? He glanced at the bar. A tightness in his gut brought forth beads of sweat.
“Um sure.”
“Great, this way.”
She headed toward his right, a menu in hand. After placing it on the countertop, she smiled at him. “Your server will be right with you.”
He nodded, then straddled the stool and picked up the menu. Oh, man. The food reminded him of his grandmother’s cooking. In his opinion, Rosa Robinson was the best cook in west Texas. A small smile tugged at his lips as he thought about the petite woman who ran the Robinson men better than any four-star general ever could. Once the Army had released him on R&R—rest and relaxation—he’d hopped on his roadster and headed straight for Virginia. The need to make amends pressed down upon him. Now, he regretted not taking the time to see his grandmother before he left. She would have calmed him.
A mature African-American woman came out of the kitchen. A frown on her face etched deep lines across her forehead. She paused in front of him. “Excuse me, sir. Have you been helped?”
“No, ma’am.”
Her frown intensified. “I’m so sorry. I’ll go find your server.”
“No worries. I’m in no hurry.” He offered her a smile, despite the objection coming from his stomach.
“Thank you for your patience.” She rounded a corner and disappeared.
Was there a break room back there or a server hiding out?
His gaze landed on the menu again, skimming the offerings. They served Arnold Palmers, a sweet tea and lemonade concoction. His mouth salivated imagining the taste of the drink he hadn’t tasted in months. It would be the perfect way to quench his thirst.
A shadow fell across the bar distracting him from the list of entrees. He looked up into the most gorgeous brown eyes he’d ever seen.
“Delaney Jones,” he whispered.
Her eyes widened, wariness coloring her gaze. “Do I know you?”