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About the author:
Bonnie Edwards is a multi-published author who lives with her husband and pets on the rainy coast of British Columbia. She believes life should be lived with joy. That joy shows up in her earthy, irreverent love stories. Bonnie uses long hikes to bounce ideas off her husband and her standard poodle, who almost always agrees with her. She has written novels, novellas and short stories for Carina Press, Harlequin, Kensington Books, and Robinson (UK) although now she publishes her work herself. Sometimes her stories have a paranormal twist, likes curses and ghosts, other times not. But they’re always entertaining and guarantee a happy ending.
What inspired you to write your book?
We put together this box set to give readers a “first glance” at the first book in our individual box sets. The set is inspired by a love of romance and writing books that will keep readers coming back for more.
Here is a short sample from the book:
From Behind the Altar by P.C. Zick (one of 13 books in this box set):
Leah threw down the dishrag and glared at the woman who would soon be her mother-in-law.
“I don’t understand why you shut down the kitchen during the lunch serving,” Leah said, as she faced Geraldine Davis.
“I told you last week the Board decided to shut down this charity program you’re running out of the church kitchen,” Geraldine said. “This kitchen was paid for out of the collection plates by the good people who attend church every Sunday and work hard the other days of the week. They don’t want to see the homeless come in here and destroy it.”
As soon as Geraldine finished her pronouncement, all 200 pounds of her turned away from the large metal table in the center of the kitchen. Leah Bryant watched her walk out the side door that led to the church offices. Geraldine wore a red polyester suit and matching two-inch heels. Her bleached blond hair, ratted as high as it could go, gave her five-foot-three frame more authority. Leah often wondered if Geraldine slept with a box over her head to protect the lacquered helmet between her weekly appointments.
Jacob, Leah’s finance, walked into the kitchen from the hall.
“Where’s Mother?” he asked.
Leah pointed to the back door. “She shut down the kitchen while I was serving lunch.”
“Leah, you were told this was going to happen,” he said.
“And you said you were going to do everything possible to see it didn’t happen.” She threw an orange at him, just missing his pressed shirt from the dry cleaners. Oxford, white, and pristine described his shirt as much as it did Jacob. “She didn’t need to do it at lunchtime.”
Jacob scratched his blonde hair, cut short over his ears and neck and combed into place with lots of gel. His creased gray pants matched his tie. They were an oddly matched couple, even when Leah put on a dress for Sunday services. Leah was his direct opposite in khaki shorts that came to just above her knee and hung loosely on her thin hips. She wore a white sleeveless T-shirt tucked into her baggy shorts. Her long dark brown hair, wavy and thick, was contained in a braid hanging down her back. The red bandana tied around her head gave her a bit of color in an otherwise bland landscape of clothing. Leah, at twenty-two, was a breathtaking beauty despite her lack of attention to her appearance.
“I can only do so much, and you know that,” Jacob said. “The Board runs this church, not the minister. For now, the kitchen is closed. Any food orders you make from here on out will not be paid out of church funds.”
“So if I get funding, can I use the facilities?” she asked.
“Probably not,” Jacob said. “The ladies of the church want to use the kitchen and hall for weekly luncheons and bazaars and need the space during the week to set up. We’ve already gone over this, Leah. Why are you fighting it?”
“Because those river folks need the food I serve every day. I know the real reason they’ve shut me down, and so do you,” Leah said as she walked out of the kitchen and into the hall to clean up the few plates she’d managed to serve before Geraldine shut it down.
As Leah headed for the tables, the side door to the hall opened. She looked up to see a man, maybe in his late twenties, enter the hall. His brown hair hung down his neck, and he looked as if he’d been sleeping outside for a few nights. He wore dirty khaki shorts, flip-flops, and a tank top with the faded words, “Happy Hour Crabs.” Despite the state of his clothing and hair, his blue eyes mesmerized Leah, as they drilled into hers. Her entire being felt the heat of his stare as she moved toward him.
She stood in front of him still holding a dirty plate. He was eight inches taller than she was so she tilted her head up and continued to gaze into his eyes.
“Your eyes are the most astounding shade of green,” he said. “Like the deep green of a magnolia leaf. You’re beautiful.”
Leah didn’t know how to respond, especially since her knees starting shaking as soon as he opened his mouth and spoke in the slow drawl only used by someone who’d grown up in rural north Florida. He sounded like Reggie and Susie, her only friends in Victory.
“I’ve never seen you before, but I can tell you’re from around here,” she said.
“I grew up here, but I don’t remember you,” he said. “I would have remembered.”
“Tampa. I’m from Tampa. I’ve only been here a few years.”
“And I’ve been away living in Miami for ten years,” he said. “Don’t get home much.”
“Miami isn’t all that far away,” she said. “You’ve never come back to see your family in ten years?”
“You don’t know my family, and Miami is worlds away from Victory. Can I help you?” He nodded to the plate she held as a shield between their two bodies.
“No, I’m cleaning up. I’m afraid if you came for lunch, I won’t be able to serve you any hot food,” she said. “But I might be able to find something in the fridge if you need to eat.”
“That would be great,” he said. “I haven’t eaten since last night.”
She nodded and walked to the kitchen, wondering how she could handle one more mouth to feed when she didn’t have any way to feed the ones already living on the riverbanks. She pulled out some leftover potato salad and cole slaw that she’d made that morning. She’d only been able to serve three men before Geraldine made her appearance, so there was plenty left. She’d passed out most of the fried chicken to the folks who weren’t able to get the full lunch when they showed up a few minutes after the closure. She pulled a plate out of the cupboard and heaped high with the leftovers, including a few pieces of chicken. Jacob had left the kitchen, probably in his office working on Sunday’s sermon. She felt a twinge of guilt when she thought of him diligently working on his homilies while she served the man in the hall—a man who made her feel unlike anything she’d ever felt before.
“I’m a lunatic for letting some guy off the streets get to me,” she whispered to herself as she picked up his food.
She walked back into the hall carrying the plate. He was reading the announcements on the bulletin board when she returned. When he turned toward her, he was grinning.
“Do you know the minister here?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said and wondered why she didn’t tell him how well she knew the minister.
“Is he good?” he asked.
“The parishioners like him.”
“That’s good. I knew the minister before him. What happened to him?”
“Big Jim? He died a few months ago, and his son, Jacob, took over.”
“Sorry to hear about Big Jim. That was convenient to have his son ready to take over. Is Geraldine still around?”
“Mrs. Davis is still very involved; maybe too involved.” Immediately Leah regretted speaking disrespectfully about Geraldine, the woman who’d taken her in off the streets and given her a place in her home and in the church. Geraldine was the reason she was engaged to Jacob.
Dean kept reading the announcements on the board. “Yes, Geraldine would keep herself involved, I’m sure. Never liked the bitch myself.”
Leah giggled despite her discomfort in talking so poorly about her. Right now, she completely agreed with the stranger in front of her.
“Here’s some food,” she said. “It’s not much, but hopefully it will help you get through the day. They shut my kitchen down, so that’s why no one else is here.”
“Your kitchen?” he asked as he sat down in front of the plate filled with cold food.
“Yes, Soup’s On,” she said. “I feed the area homeless and those without the means to cook or buy their own food. At least, I did. The Board voted to stop funding it. I can’t even use the facilities because the ladies of the church need the hall for their socials.”
“That makes sense,” Dean said. “That’s much more important than helping those less fortunate.”
“It doesn’t make much sense,” Leah said as she sat across from him at the long rectangular table. “It’s been a wonderful thing for the community, but they don’t want their place of worship sullied by those ‘dirty homeless people.’ That’s what one of the Christian Society ladies said to me the other day.”
“You’re very passionate about your work, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Yes, I am. I was homeless myself until Mrs. Davis took me into her home. That’s why I can’t figure out why she didn’t do anything to stop the Board from making the decision.”
Her hands rested in front of her on the table, and he reached over and placed his hands on top of hers. She felt a tingle move up her arms. She found herself once again mesmerized by his eyes. The tingle extended to other parts of her body.
“You look familiar to me,” she said. “I feel as if I’ve met you before.”
“Maybe we have,” he said as he squeezed her hands. “When I look at you, it feels like I’m falling into a deep well.”
She pulled her hands away quickly and put them in her lap. She looked down at the surface of the table.
“Do you have a place to sleep tonight?” she asked and immediately regretted the question, but it was a routine one she asked of all who came into Soup’s On for a meal. “What I mean is, there’s a camp down at the river where folks stay. I’m sure they’d welcome you there.”
“Thanks, but I’m not sure if I’m staying yet. Depends on a few things.”
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“Before we get to that, I want to ask you something,” he said. “Since you served me lunch, will you have dinner with me tonight?”
Before she could answer, the door to the kitchen swung open. Jacob and Geraldine walked into the hall.
“Hello, Jacob,” the stranger said. “Mom, how are you?”
“You’re not welcome here,” Jacob said.
“That’s right, Dean,” Geraldine said. “You need to turn around and get out of here before I call the police.”