Part Three: Absentminded Angel Out-takes, Chapter Two-Three

Out-takes Part ThreeWinter Landscape

Author’s Note: This series of blog posts includes out-takes from Absentminded Angel by Heather Rainier. I hope you enjoy them. If you haven’t read Absentminded Angel in its released form, these scenes may be confusing as they were cut from varying places in the story. I’m posting them for the enjoyment of readers who are familiar with Divine, Texas, or would like to become familiar. 😀 My recommendation would be to read Absentminded Angel prior to reading these.

This scene picks up right where the last one left off, with Presley Ann preparing to do laundry. What could go wrong?


While the washer and dryer spun and hummed through their cycles, she poked around in Marvin’s office, familiarizing herself with what needed to be done. First on the agenda was clearing the clutter off of his desk so she could have a flat surface to work on. Midway through the piles she discovered a radio and set it to a pop station, humming along with Adam Levine but eventually, she changed the station. The contemporary pop music brought back memories that weren’t necessarily happy ones. She didn’t like the person she’d been.

Self-absorbed and trying to snare one of the Carlisle brothers. Too stupid to realize they were both already head over heels in love with Lydia.

Flirting with Cody Welsh, even though it had been obvious he was in love with Maizy, because Presley Ann had thought there was no way the little kindergarten teacher could handle three men. So she’d decided to try her hand at tempting one of them away from her. No biggie.

Yanking Lucy Carter’s chain, and her corset strings, at the Dancing Pony’s Halloween party and very nearly revealing her voluptuous attributes to the entire crowd. That one had been motivated by pure jealousy both because she’d looked hot as hell in her Elvira costume but also because Presley Ann could see that Lucy was pretty much clueless about how riveted Patrick and Beck were by her presence.

She’d laughed at and looked down upon Grace Warner, Summer Webster, and many—no—all of her friends, simply because they were full-figured women who must have no self-control. Now, here she was, destined to be full-figured herself, just like her mother and grandmother. She’d held it at bay with dieting and starving herself but the writing was on the wall. Her presumption that having curves meant she was somehow “less than” was embarrassing to look back on.

Sometimes she hated the person she’d been.

Her life was now divided into halves, much like the B.C. and A.D. calendar. There was B.B., before baby, and A.B., or after baby. That was better for her than “before” and “after” cowboy because thinking that way just kept him on her mind and that wasn’t healthy for her right now. She’d begin missing him, after only having had a night with him. A one night stand was not a good basis for framing her life around. But this baby…Her baby was a good point of reference.

She settled on a station that was playing a seventies love ballads and was humming along to “What A Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers when she heard the rinse cycle end on a load of wash. Feeling a little ungraceful, she waddled into the kitchen at the back of the older house that Marvin had remodeled into an office, emptied the dryer, transferred the load from the washer and then set the washer to fill again. One load left. All blacks. She looked down at her outfit, contemplated the next step, glanced out the window at the dark yard beyond, and pulled the white nightgown she’d folded earlier from a basket.

She stripped out of her maternity clothing, every stitch, and dropped it into the washing machine and quickly slipped her nightgown over her head, smiling as the slinky fabric slid down her legs to her ankles. It tickled and even little peanut wriggled a little as she settled the lace bodice in place beneath her now enormous breasts. They’d always been on the large side, to the point she’d even been accused of having breast augmentation surgery, but now they were seriously prodigious, and also a little achy and tingly.

More thunder rumbled in the distance, creating a little static on the radio and making the floor vibrate slightly beneath her feet as the simple guitar chords of a Bread song began to play. She listened intently to it, trying to remember the name of the song she hadn’t heard in ages and smiled when she remembered it. “Everything I Own.”

Humming with the music playing in the other room, she went back to work, filling the washer with the last of the dirty laundry and then returned to the office. Her robe was upstairs, already clean and hanging on the back of her bathroom door but she didn’t worry about it. Marvin had told her that she had the run of the place at night and that he’d call if he needed to come to the office for something so she wouldn’t be scared if she heard anyone downstairs. She heard the growl of thunder from the storm moving into their area as she considered how to make sense of Marvin’s chaos.

Boxes of files and computer parts were piled around so she couldn’t get close to the filing cabinets to see if they were empty or full already. She cleared everything off his desk, except for the radio and the old touch tone phone and felt like she’d accomplished something. He hadn’t intended for her to even start that night so she felt good about making a little headway he could see in the morning. Then she’d negotiate her hourly rate with him, she thought with a smile. She would put every dime of the money she made at her part time job in savings.

Light flashed and thunder boomed outside, startling her and making the lights flicker overhead. Hoping to finish her laundry before the storm blew in and she possibly lost power, she turned off the radio and the office lights and went into the kitchen and folded the load she’d taken out of the dryer earlier while she waited for the washer to finish. She pulled out the romance novel Leah had loaned her that she’d brought downstairs with her and sighed as she sat down. It was one of Veronica’s books, a bestseller according to Leah. Presley Ann had never been one for reading but the cover looked good so she’d decided that she might give it a try if she didn’t have anything else to do. Books had never held her attention, which was why she’d never done more than average work in school.

She smiled when she saw the inscription on the title page. Leah had loaned her an autographed copy. That was really something, to think that they had several published authors in their community. If she read their books she might have even more to talk with them about. She turned to the first chapter and began to read.

Twenty pages later, with her heart pounding and her nether regions aching and hot, she jumped up when the dryer finished and pulled warm clothes out one-handed while she kept reading.

She flipped the book over to look at the cover. Bound By The River Bridge.

“Holy crap, we were never assigned reading like this in English class.” She bit her lip as she read, anticipation ratcheting higher as the heroes and heroine faced off in their first meeting, the sexual tension building with every word they snapped at each other.

Thunder crashed and the lights flickered and she screamed out loud. Then she cackled with laughter as she pulled the last load out of the dryer and began folding them.

“Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit of a reader after all.”

She carried the first load to her apartment door, and was propping it open with the doorstop when she heard a noise. Cocking her head, she set the basket down and went to the window over the sink. It was all inky black darkness outside and rain had begun to fall. She stilled and listened and frowned when she heard the noise again. It couldn’t be—


Shaking her head, she went to the heavy back door. “Who would have a little baby out this time of night?”

She flipped the deadbolt lever and pushed the release bar on the backdoor, which unlocked it automatically, and cracked it open. At first she couldn’t hear anything because of the wind and the rain and then it came again from beneath the window. She’d have to open the door all the way in order to be able to see around it.


It sounded so much like a baby instinct took over and she hurried out onto the concrete steps, ignoring the splattering rain that soaked her in seconds as she tried to block part of her body with the heavy door. “Hello?”

Wishing she’d grabbed the flashlight from her room upstairs first, she opened the door further and looked around it. Belatedly, she remembered the stories going around on the Internet about rapists using the recording of a baby crying to get unsuspecting women to open their doors. Lightning flashed, illuminating two mating cats crouched near the foundation that snarled even louder. The crash of thunder made her scream and jump, and her hand slipped from the damp metal door. The wind caught the door and she remembered Marvin’s words the day he’d replaced the back door as she watched it slam closed.

“If you go outside make sure to keep your keys with you. Even if you unlock it to get out, this door locks automatically when it closes.”

“No!” she cried as she yanked on the door handle ineffectually.

The cats snarled and growled and then tore past her on the porch and disappeared into the night.

“Hey! At least you got laid,” she groused and then gaped as she looked down. The nightgown was plastered to her from neckline to ankles and her favorite cushy house slippers were soaking up the water. Chilly water seeped between her toes. “Oh no!” Looking around, she surveyed the bare backyard, the houses in the neighborhood beyond, and heard the rumble of cars on Main Street out front. She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering in the cold.

“What the hell do I do now?” It was cold and she needed to get back inside immediately. She knew that much. But her mind went blank. Light pierced the air and she was already shrieking when the thunder shattered the night. She screamed again and was filled with fear when her abdomen tightened up in a contraction. It was mostly painless but it scared her into action.

She went to the window and tried to reach it but couldn’t. Using the more benign flickers of distant lightning, she looked about the yard for a ladder or crates. Anything she could use to get back inside. Marvin would understand about the broken window but no way was she running around the neighborhood in a transparent nightgown. Lightning flashed again nearby, startling another scream out of her.

If she kept screaming like a ninny the police would be there before she could get in and how humiliating would that be? Hysteria bubbled up inside her when she considered that it might be one of her brothers-in-law who were dispatched to check out the disturbance. That would be the worst, most embarrassing thing that could happen to her. As if fate was having a field day on her pathetic ass, she suddenly heard male voices drawing near.

“I think it came from back here!” a deep voice called as she whimpered and prepared to explain. Lightning flashed and thunder blasted again, making it hard to hear for a few seconds and when she looked up from her crouched, protective position, their faces caught the flicker from distant lightning and she recognized both men.

Shoot. Me. Now.


Jared’s worry multiplied as the second scream echoed across Main Street. They’d just been dropped off by James Elder at the fire station, where they’d left their truck, after having a late supper with him, Vincent, and Leah. The plan had been to make the short trip back to the Hourglass Inn, catch a good night’s rest, and head back to Abilene the following morning. They were just opening the truck doors when they’d heard the first scream and that plan was all but forgotten. The voice was clearly female and his immediate fear had been that, given the hour, it might be Presley Ann, and that she was in some sort of danger. A quick glance across the street showed the lights of her apartment upstairs were on.

Both of them were drenched by the time they made it across the street and the same fear must’ve been uppermost in Kendry’s mind because he headed for the back of Marvin’s building, calling out, “I think it came from back here!”

They barreled around the corner and lightning lit up a white clad figure under the window at the back of the building. She looked up and the lightning illuminated the fear written in her body language as she crouched there, her arms wrapped protectively around her tummy.  “Oh, honey,” Jared murmured as he tore off his jacket and draped it around her as he squatted to offer additional shelter from the rain beating down on her. “Presley Ann? It’s me and Kendry. Are you injured?”

Shaking her bedraggled head, Presley Ann said, “I got l-locked out.”

She shivered against him and he turned to Kendry. “Call the firehouse to bring a blanket.”

“No! No! They can’t see me like this,” she pleaded with chattering teeth as she grabbed hold of Kendry. “They-They’ll be able to see through my n-nightgown. Please don’t. Just help me get back in my apar-partment.”

“I’ll check the window,” Kendry said after also wrapping his jacket around her. She moaned softly as Jared helped her stand and didn’t even hesitate to wrap his arms around her when she burrowed close as a cold wind gusted around them.

“Locked,” Kendry said.

“Bring the truck.” He handed Kendry his keys. “We can wrap her up and then call Marvin or her sister.” Kendry bolted for the front.

“Th-thank you.” He could barely make out her words. She trembled as she put her hand up to shield her face from the rain that was now blowing sideways. Looking down, he groaned when he saw her slim bare feet, only one of them encased in a soggy slipper that was stained with mud. The other lay nearby, ruined, in the sparse grass and gravel.

A minute later, the light from headlights bounced into the parking lot on the side of the building. Kendry pulled clear to the back and left the truck running as he hurried to them with the wool blanket they kept handy for just such a need.

“Let’s get you out of the rain,” Jared murmured as he and Kendry quickly wrapped her up.  She turned with him and he caught her just in time as her feet slipped out from under her. “Whoa, darlin’.” He lifted her into his arms and carried her to the passenger side door and raised her into the truck and into Kendry’s arms as he reached for her from the driver’s side. They both climbed in on either side of her and Kendry turned the heater up and directed the vent at her. She passed their jackets back to them from under the blanket, carefully keeping it closed as she did. Her little feet were completely pale and felt like ice when he wrapped his hands around them and rubbed to warm them.

“I-I had s-slippers on earlier.”

Trying to get her to smile, Jared said, “I think the lightning scared you right out of them. I saw one on the ground and you must’ve lost the other one on the way to the truck. Sorry, but I think they were pretty much ruined.”

“You look like a bedraggled kitten,” Kendry said with a grin as he took the edge of the blanket and began blotting at her pale golden hair. Jared had to agree, thinking that the appellation suited her. “What’s Marvin’s number?”

“I hate bothering him this l-late.”

“Okay, what about Leah?”

“Oh, no! That’d be worse. I don’t want to worry her.”

“Then Marvin it is?” Jared asked as he brushed a drenched lock of her hair back over her shoulder.

“I—uh—yeah, I guess s-so.”

Kendry dialed the number she gave him.

She held her hands out to the warm air coming from the vent. Jared asked, “So how did you come to be outside in a thunderstorm?”

He noticed the way she tensed as she took a deep breath and let it out slowly and he and Kendry made eye contact over her head, and his EMT instincts came alive. Kendry held the phone to his ear while the call rang through and then a distant voice came on the line.

Glancing at his watch, Jared softly asked, “Presley Ann, you okay?” and then watching her face for any sign of pain.

She looked up at him and nodded. “I was downstairs in the kitchen, where the washer and dryer are located. While was I finishing my laundry, I heard a noise outside,” she said, and proceeded to explain what had happened. Guilt showed in her eyes when he groaned at the vulnerable position she’d put herself in.

“I know. It was stupid but I really thought it was a baby. I went out there and saw the cats and the thunder startled me and the wind slammed the door shut, locking me out.”

“Are you having labor contractions?”

With a shake of her head, she said, “I don’t think so. Being startled caused a really hard Braxton Hicks contraction, that’s all.”

“How many?” he asked.

“Including the first one, there have been three. None of them hurt…at least not really.”

He was relieved that her teeth were no longer chattering and turned his attention to Kendry as he finished his call with Marvin. He really wanted to get her upstairs and make sure she was okay.

“Marvin said he’ll be here in just a few minutes.”

“I feel bad for disturbing him,” she said as she pulled the blanket tighter around her.

“He said you’d say that,” Kendry said as he helped her cover up her knees, which were visible through the filmy white fabric of her gown.

Poor baby, she must be chilled to the bone.

The wind, rain, and thunder outside made a lot of racket. With a giggle, she looked down at her blanket covered tummy and said, “The excitement has the baby all stirred up.”

“Any pain?” Kendry asked as he put his hand out to her middle.

“No, just moving around a lot. Oh, heck.”


“Now I need to pee. He just shifted onto my bladder. The rain doesn’t help, either.” He and his brother chuckled and then she looked up at Jared with solemn eyes. “Sorry to be a bother. I know the last thing you probably planned on tonight was getting soaked and cold while coming to the aid of a damsel in distress. It’s really embarrassing being seen like this, especially by you.” She bit her lip after the last word was out of her mouth and a rosy blush filled her otherwise pale cheeks as she looked down at her stomach.

“Kitten, we don’t want you to be embarrassed. I’m just relieved we heard you. I hate to think of what could’ve happened if we hadn’t. And I for one am happy to see you under any circumstances.”

“Same goes for me…kitten. Hey, I kinda like that,” Kendry said with a nod as he stroked her hair from her cheek, warmth filling his eyes. A warmth that didn’t surprise Jared because he felt it, too, at least where this woman was concerned. Expecting or not, she’d captured their interest and their hearts practically from the first night she’d met them.

Presley Ann’s cheeks turned pink and she held the blanket higher under her chin as she looked from Kendry back to him. “Kitten? You mean like a nickname?”

“An endearment,” Jared said, hoping she didn’t take offense. “Would that bother you?”

She bit her lower lip and he didn’t like the resignation that came into her eyes. “Guys, in case you didn’t notice, I’m like…super huge and pregnant. You really don’t want to waste your time on me.” She sucked in a shaky breath and shook her head. “I heard you were moving here and there’s lots of pretty single women in this town. Why would you—”

Jared laid a finger lightly on her lower lip, his heart aching at the desolation he saw in her blue eyes and the set of her mouth. “Why would we be interested in you?”

Presley Ann gave him a conciliatory smile and shook her head. “I know why. It’s because of Leah. She told me you asked her if she had a sister, because you took a liking to her when you met her but she was already taken. But really guys, you don’t know me at all. You don’t know how I’ve been over the years.” She stammered as she continued, talking faster and faster. “My life is way too complicated and I have no one but myself to blame. If you really knew me you wouldn’t think I’m much of a ‘kitten’ or anything else sweet, cuddly, and likable like that. You really don’t want to spend time with—”

She was getting more and more worked up and Jared did the one thing that would distract her from saying such negative things about herself. He kissed her right on the lips. Her soft squeal was muffled against his lips and her blue eyes flashed open wide as she gazed up into his eyes before her eyelids slowly slid closed. Her breath puffed in little pants from her as she cuddled close to him. A shudder rippled through her as Kendry gathered her hair from beneath the blanket and he laid a kiss at the juncture of her shoulder and throat.

At such close proximity to each other, Jared looked up and made eye contact with his brother. Kendry’s eyes held more than a trace of heat and he groaned softly as he sat back and said, “We’ve got company.”

Jared drew back from her, pleased with the dazed look on her beautiful but pale face. Her eyes fluttered open, revealing bewilderment as she looked up at him and then turned to look at Kendry, then back at him, then back at his brother.

Kendry chuckled and said, “Careful, kitten. You’re going to give yourself whiplash. That lace is pretty on you.”

“Huh? Oh!” Presley Ann said, gasping as she looked down. The blanket had fallen around her shoulders, revealing the lace on the neckline and bodice, and the lush swells of her breasts. His cock tingled as he caught a glimpse of perky pink nipple before she jerked the blanket back up around her neck. Before she could say anything else, Marvin Kramer’s truck pulled in next to theirs in the back lot. Feeling disappointment that they’d been interrupted but happy that they could get her back inside and warmed up, Jared opened his door as Marvin climbed from his truck.

Jared stopped Presley Ann when she would’ve hopped down and said, “Wait until we get the door opened, kitten, and then I’ll carry you inside so you don’t have to walk on the gravel. There could be glass or something that would injure your feet. You don’t need that right now.”

“Oh, but it’s just a short—”

“Hey folks! Sorry you got locked out Presley Ann! You okay?” Marvin called over the wind and the rain as he came around to the passenger side. He clucked sympathetically when he saw her soggy state.

“I’m fine, Uncle Marvin. Sorry I got you out of bed for nothing.”

“It’s no trouble at all, sweetheart. I’ll get that door opened for you in a jiffy.”

He hurried over to the steps and had the back door unlocked and held open for her a few seconds later. Jared lifted her, enjoying her solid, warm weight against him, despite her protests, and carried her up the steps and over the threshold. “Smells like fresh laundry in here,” he murmured as he set her on her feet.

Presley Ann smiled and then flushed crimson as she grabbed for the opened paperback book lying beside one of the laundry baskets. It was a pretty hot-looking romance, judging by the cover. She stuck it in the side of the basket. “Yeah, I’d just finished folding my last load when…all that happened.”

Marvin shook the water from his hat in the sink and said, “I’ll install a back-up key for you somewhere out back just in case something like this ever happens again. I’m so sorry about this. You must be freezin’.”

Presley Ann shook her head and said, “No, it was my fault.”

“A hot bath will get you warmed up, sweetie. I’ll let you know where I put the key when I see you tomorrow.” Glancing at the Jared and Kendry, he added, “Everything else okay? You need help getting your baskets back up those stairs?”

“No, Uncle Marvin, I can manage. Everything else is fine. They weren’t visiting or anything, just…rescuing me,” she said with a little smile before looking between the two of them.

“We don’t mind carrying the baskets upstairs for you, Presley Ann,” Kendry said. “Especially since you were having those minor contractions. We have EMT training so we know that’s not active labor but you shouldn’t push your luck after being frightened and chilled.”

Marvin nodded and looked at them and then toward the door. “All right then. Kendry and Jared seem like nice guys, and they’re gonna be neighbors over at the fire station. You should let them carry those baskets up.”

Biting her lips, Presley Ann finally nodded.

Marvin said, “I best be on my way, then, folks…if that’s okay with you, Presley Ann?”

She nodded and thanked him for bringing the key. He went on his way, after giving Jared and Kendry one last long look and tipping his hat.

Jared piled two baskets on top of each other and Kendry grabbed the third and her laundry products and Kendry said, “Lead on, kitten.”


Another mild contraction wrapped around her middle and Presley Ann looked at the loaded baskets and at the two handsome men, standing there holding them. The energy to carry them upstairs had deserted her. A shiver wracked her and the contraction pulled tighter. All she wanted was to get out of the night gown and into a very warm shower.

“Kitten, your lips have a bluish tinge to them,” Kendry said as he inched a little closer. “All we want to do is help get your laundry upstairs and then we’ll let you get warmed up. Whatever worries are in your head, just let them go. We’re only here to help.” He smiled and looked a little guilty. “I liked kissing your neck but I wouldn’t take advantage.”

She bit her lip as she glanced at Jared but he just gazed at her with those gray-blue eyes of his, a paler version than Kendry’s medium gray-blue eyes. His mouth curled up ever so slightly at one corner but he didn’t say a word, just glanced down at her laundry and then stared at her lips. His gaze created a little flicker of heat in her core, all the more noticeable because she was frozen.

Not only is he not sorry for kissing me, he looks like he’d do it again, given the chance.

She shook her head as she motioned toward the propped open door to her apartment and slowly climbed the steep stairs. She had to pee really bad and she breathed shallowly as another contraction tightened her middle. It was painless but disconcerting.

When they reached the landing at the top of the stairs, she darted a glance back at them, wondering what they thought of her tiny home and then, because she had little choice in the matter, she scampered with all haste to the bathroom and shut the door.

“Oh my gaaaaaaah…” she moaned in sweet relief as she huddled there, finally able to relieve the pressure.

“You okay, Presley Ann?” Kendry called through the door. The hint of amusement was clear in his voice.

“Um, yeah! I’m fine!” One of the pitfalls of living in a loft apartment. Very little in the way of sound barriers.

Still shivering, she stripped off the clammy wet gown and hung it up to dry and slipped into the comfy fleece robe she kept on the back of her bathroom door. After tying the sash, she looked down at the soft knot pushed up high by her abdomen and shook her head. Prepared for them to take one look and hightail it, she exited the bathroom carrying their blanket.

Jared said. “We put your laundry baskets on the table. Hope that’s okay.”

“Sure,” she murmured as she went to Jared and handed him the blanket as she glanced at him and his brother. “Thank you again for being there for me. I’d probably still be down there if it wasn’t for you.”

Jared folded his big callused hand around hers as he took the blanket from her. “Promise us you’ll never go outside alone at night like that again.”

She nodded. “I promise. It was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.” Speaking of… “Guys, I really meant what I was trying to say earlier, before…You really don’t want to waste your time on me.”

“I wouldn’t consider it a waste of time,” Jared said.

“I have too much on my plate as it is. I’m just…”

Kendry drew close. “Just what?”

“Just not a good bet. Let’s leave it at that.”

Kendry shook his head but didn’t argue with her. “Kitten, you’re still shaking and you need a hot shower. We’ll get out of your hair. But consider this once we’re gone—why not leave it up to us to determine if you’re a good bet?”

Because I’m the one who stands to lose that bet.

She looked at them and said, “You’re soaked and shivering, too.”

Jared said, “That’s okay. We have fresh clothes at the Hourglass Inn.”

“I wish you luck on your move here, and finding a place to live.”

Kendry turned back to her and grinned. “Thanks. And we did find a place, out near James and Vincent’s cabin. Plenty of room to run. You’ll like it.” He spoke as if he assumed she’d be visiting and then he winked at her.

Kendry was the more extroverted of the two, although Jared didn’t seem unnecessarily taciturn. He just didn’t smile or open up as easily as Kendry did.

Jared leaned forward and kissed her brow and his scent, wood and spice, invaded her senses. “We’ll lock up. If you have any more contractions, call your doctor, kitten. We’ll be in town until tomorrow. I left our numbers on the note pad on your table. Call us if you need us.”

“Or if you just wanna talk,” Kendry said quietly, smiling up at her with those sparkly eyes of his before he kissed the corner of her mouth, sending a tingle shooting through all of her extremities and into her core. “Drink lots of water. And don’t open your door unless you’re sure who’s on the other side.”

With a soft chuckle, she nodded and put a hand over her abdomen as the baby jostled around some more. “I’ll be very careful. Thank you.”

The door shut behind them and she heard the telltale click of it being checked from the outside and then felt the thud as the heavy outside door was closed tight as well. It was kind of nice to be looked out for like that.

Don’t go there, girl. They were being nice. Now they probably feel even sorrier for you.

She lit the wall heater in her bathroom and took a leisurely warm shower. The heat went a long way toward easing the ache in her back. After the excitement of the evening had worn off, fatigue gripped her and she dressed in a clean nightgown and retrieved the sexy romance novel from her laundry basket and climbed into bed, wondering if she’d be able to stay awake to read.

She didn’t even make it to the next chapter before a tight—and most definitely painful—contraction wrapped around her abdomen.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

Once it had passed she reached for her phone and checked the time. Laying there, breathing with as much calmness as she could summon, she stroked her abdomen—and her suddenly quiet little boy—and began talking to him.

“Is it time, little one? Too much stress this evening?” Whispering softly to him, she watched the clock on her phone and moaned when another contraction came five minutes after the first one. She let out a shaky sigh, trying to remember what Leah had told her about when to call and who to call. In her anxious state, she needed to reach out to someone.

The image of the note with the phone numbers scrawled in a decidedly masculine hand on her table came to her, but she needed her sister this time. Part of her heart mourned that it was not the confident warmth of a significant other that she reached for. After the third painful contraction she pulled up the last number she’d dialed on her phone and waited for the call to connect. It picked up on the second ring.

“Hello? Presley Ann? Are you okay?” Leah’s voice brought instant calm with it.

“Sis, I think I’m having contractions.”

“I’ll be right there. Sit tight.”


Watch for the third installment soon. 🙂

Absentminded Angel Copyright©2014 All rights reserved, Heather Rainier

Buy Absentminded Angel at Siren BookStrand



Part Two: Absentminded Angel Out-takes, from Chapter Two

Out-takes Part Two

Author’s Note: This series of blog posts includes out-takes from Absentminded Angel by Heather Rainier. I hope you enjoy them. If you haven’t read Absentminded Angel in its released form, these scenes may be confusing as they were cut from varying places in the story. I’m posting them for the enjoyment of readers who are familiar with Divine, Texas, or would like to become familiar. 😀 My recommendation would be to read Absentminded Angel prior to reading these.

This was the original first scene featuring Presley Ann’s heroes. Kendry and Jared McCulloch. They made fast friends with Presley Ann’s elderly Uncle Marvin Kramer. Presley Ann wasn’t the only one who had friends trying to match make for her.

The second scene features Presley Ann and Uncle Marvin. Readers get a feel for their relationship and how concerned he was for her and the welfare of the baby. I would’ve liked to have let readers get to know this colorful character but space and pacing just didn’t allow for it. His appearances later in the story served to show what a sweetheart he was to her and the baby.


Chapter Two

Kendry McCulloch stood with his brother, Jared, in the big bay of the central fire station on the outer edge of little downtown Divine. Since they were in town looking for a place to live, they’d decided to stop at the station and say hello to the chief and meet some of their future coworkers. A real estate agent was meeting them there shortly to take them on a tour of the properties that met their needs in the area.

Vehicles meandered along, heading up and down Main Street at a measured pace. Even this late in the year, there was still green grass, and leaves on the numerous trees that dotted the Texas Hill country landscape. Most notable, however, was the light breeze that whispered through the big, wide open doorways of the station. He was used to the dry, stiff winds of Abilene that persisted, regardless of whether the temperatures were sweltering or frigid.

Jared crossed his arms over his chest and craned his neck to peer up and down Main Street, and then looked at Kendry. “Good call, brother.”

The gut level feeling that this was the right move for them tightened in his chest and Kendry grinned and nodded. “This was a mutual decision, so right back at you.”

They weren’t scheduled to be on duty for two weeks, after they’d finished moving from Abilene. They’d shared a house there for the last several years so they had a whole household to move. Besides checking in with their new boss and delivering paperwork to him, they were also in Divine to hopefully find a new place to live, hopefully one with a big yard and room for a couple of big dogs to run.

They’d let James and Vincent Elder know they were in town and they’d invited them to supper that night and had mentioned that after their shifts were over, they’d be across the street from the fire station taking care of a delivery for Leah. Kendry smiled just thinking about that sweet lady…and her beautiful and perplexing sister.

Presley Ann Woodworth had sparked his interest from the moment he’d met her. Something in her eyes and her manner. Shyness and stress had seemed to rolled off of her and she’d been so thin, despite the fact that she was expecting. When he’d asked her, she’d told him that she was single and had left it at that. His intrigue had grown each time they’d encountered her on visits to Divine. Each time their paths had crossed, she’d grown more beautiful, more self-confident, and more appealing to him. And still, there was no man, no father to her baby, in the picture, at least not that they’d heard of.

When he’d asked Leah in private about it, Leah had only said, “You need to ask her about that.”

His attention centered on the building across the street and the white-haired man struggling to lift a heavy-looking box from his tailgate. The sign on the building proclaimed it Marvin’s Computer Repair. The bed of his truck was filled with such boxes. He and his brother shared a mutual chuckle when they both moved at the same time to walk across the street and offer the man a little help.

“Hi there. You look like you could use some help, sir,” Kendry called, as the usual spokesman for both of them. He and Jared often shared the same thoughts but Jared was more introverted and let Kendry do the talking.

The older man swiped his cowboy hat from his head and smiled at them and nodded breathlessly. “If you have a mind to help, I’m willing to accept. I was feelin’ strong this morning when I was loading all these up from my storage barn but I’m definitely flagging. Name’s Marvin Kramer. This is my place of business…or where I spend my daytime hours at any rate.”

Kendry held out his hand and shook Marvin’s. “I’m Kendry McCulloch. This is my brother, Jared.”

“Sir,” Jared said quietly and offered his hand as well.

Kendry hefted the box Marvin had left on the tailgate and said, “If you’ll just show us where you want these, we’ll get them unloaded for you.” Jared grabbed a box and they both followed Marvin in through the front door on the two story structure. “Computers, huh?”

Marvin chuckled as he hung his hat on the coat rack in the corner and nodded. “Nowadays it’s just a place to go during the day. I own some property down south and that brings in a little income and helps to keep the lights on. Always had a knack for electronics and such so I help out my friends who have difficulty with their laptops and all the snazzy mobile devices their grandkids talk them into buying. Pretty simple mostly and it keeps me in circulation.”

Kendry looked around and said, “Nice place.”

“I like it. Bought it a couple of years ago. My little upstairs renter helped me to make it homier.” He gestured at the potted plants and the window treatments. “The place needed a lady’s touch.” Marvin showed them back to the office and told them just to put the boxes wherever they could, which meant adding to the mild shambles the room was already in.

Jared glanced at him and they turned and went back out to the truck but Kendry’s curiosity was piqued. He had a knack with electronics, too. The breeze was nice outside and after the truck was unloaded, Marvin offered them an ice-cold beer from his refrigerator. They sat on the tailgate of his truck and watched the traffic go by as he told them all about life in Divine, occasionally waving back at people who honked or waved at him from their vehicles.

The wind kicked up, sending a blast of cooler air to ruffle his hair and he noticed the sky was darkening to the north. A distant rumble reached his ears.

Marvin said, “Storm’s coming. Weather’s been mild lately but that front is gonna change things. I need to get upstairs and make sure the windows in my little renter’s apartment are sealed properly. I’ve never spent any time up there in the winter so I don’t know if it’ll be warm enough for her and the baby she’s expectin’ soon.”

“Oh yeah?” Kendry asked, his attention piqued a little.

“Yeah,” Marvin said with a slight nod. “She’s actually my niece…sort of. Me and her daddy—and her mom—were best friends in school. Presley Ann Woodworth.”

Kendry and Jared both perked up and Kendry chuckled. “No Kidding!”

Marvin grinned. “You know her? She’s a sweetie. Used to be a bit of a Daddy’s girl but she’s grown up a lot recently. Got no choice.” Before Kendry could ask him what he meant, Marvin raised his hand in a wave and said, “Looks like I got more visitors.”

Kendry got up from the tailgate, prepared to take his leave with Jared as another vehicle pulled into the lot and then he laughed when he saw who it was. It was indeed a small town, he thought, as James Elder rolled to a stop in the space next to Marvin’s truck. He and Vincent jumped out, now dressed in their street clothing, with big smiles on their faces.

Vincent said, “Hey! I see you’re already getting to know all the local old timers.”

Marvin gave a belly laugh and said, “Not so old I can’t still put you across my knee like I did when you were little, boy.”

Vincent dodged a play punch and then shook Marvin’s hand and said, “Hey, we got the key to Presley Ann’s apartment from Leah. We’re delivering a surprise for her and some others are gonna be showing up with other stuff for her and the baby.”

“Sounds good, Vince. I was just telling the McCulloch boys that I need to get up there and make sure her windows are all sealed nice and tight. I don’t want that cold wind blowing through any cracks, chilling her and the little one once he gets here.”

So it’s a boy she’s carrying. He wondered, not for the first time, why the baby’s father wasn’t in the picture. She didn’t strike him as the type of woman any man could easily walk away from.

“If you bring me the stuff, I can do the work for you,” James said as he opened the tailgate on his truck and pulled a large box out to the edge of the truck bed. “This crib isn’t going to take long to get set up.”  Vincent helped him lift the bulky box, which must’ve been the crib, from the truck.

“Sure,” Marvin said. “I’ll be right back.”

While Marvin went inside, the Elder brothers turned to Kendry and Jared, and James lifted his chin. “It’s a small world, huh?”

“I’d say so,” Jared said. “Any chance Presley Ann might be interested in joining us for supper tonight?”

James chuckled and shook his head. “Leah mentioned it to her a few minutes ago and Presley Ann told her that she was supposed to stop in and talk to Marvin after work and she wasn’t sure how long it’d take. She also said her feet were really painful today.”

Vincent nodded as he took the mattress from his brother. “I used to think she was whiny but there are days where she looks like they really are hurting bad, and being pregnant seems to make it worse. Besides that, she seems like she’s just a little skittish—” James knocked him in the shoulder and Vincent turned to him. “What? It’s the truth. They need to know where she’s coming from.”

Kendry frowned. “What do you mean?”

James held up a hand. “She’s just in a difficult place right now. Being focused on bringing this baby into the world and taking good care of him is her major motivation right now. I—we think her self-esteem took a major hit when she discovered she was pregnant.”

“Is the father in the picture?” Jared asked softly as a pair of shoppers walked out of Batson’s Grocery Store next door.

James was about to answer when another vehicle pulled up in the parking lot. The SUV was driven by a familiar brunette who grinned and waved at the Elders before smiling at Kendry and his brother, curiosity obvious in her eyes.

James hurriedly said, “I’ve probably already said too much, guys. I’ll tell you we did mention to her earlier today that the two of you were moving to Divine and she seemed to like that news. Just…be careful with her.”

Jared frowned and leaned closer as the pretty brunette climbed from her truck. “We’d never do anything to hurt her feelings, James.”

James nodded and put his hand on Jared’s shoulder. “I know you wouldn’t. Y’all are like family. Just understand…there’s only so much Presley Ann can handle right now.”

Kendry nodded as the brunette walked up and said, “Kendry, Jared, I don’t know if you remember me or not but I’m Lydia Carlisle.”

“From out at the Rockin’ C, right? You’re Chance and Clayton’s wife?”

“Yes. I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’re moving to Divine. That is good news.”

They all chatted for a few minutes and then Lydia mentioned that she had food that needed to be refrigerated. Kendry wanted to stay and help but he didn’t think it’d be right for them to be going in and out of Presley Ann’s place, helping to carry everything upstairs. No matter how helpful their intentions were, he didn’t want to take a chance on upsetting her. He looked at Jared and his brother nodded, showing that he was thinking similar thoughts.

Jared nudged him and pointed across the street as a man dressed like a cowboy climbed out of a big Dodge dually in front of the fire station. There was a magnetic real estate sign stuck to his driver side door.

“Well folks, looks like our guy is here to show us properties in the area.”

Lydia grinned and said, “Good luck!”

James said, “Leah should be here soon. She’ll be sorry she missed you.”

“Give her a hug for us,” Kendry called as they made their way across the street and greeted the real estate agent. Presley Ann stayed on his mind as the agent took them on a tour of the surrounding area and properties that were available.

When he’d mentioned the attraction he felt for Presley Ann to Jared a couple of months before, his brother had admitted that she stayed on his mind as well. Surprising or not, neither of them minded that she was bringing a baby into the world on her own. They didn’t know much about babies but any child of hers would be a welcome addition. Kendry’s chief concern was whether the father of her baby might make an appearance in her life someday and whether or not he and Jared might have a chance at making her forget the man entirely.


“You’re willing to pay me to organize your office for you?” Presley Ann asked later the same day after work as she stood in Marvin’s cluttered office. She’d never been in his office because he kept the door closed but it looked like a tornado had hit it. There were copy paper boxes full of manila files piled everywhere, bits and pieces of computers, typewriters, and other unknown equipment on shelves, and boxes holding more stacked next to the boxes of files

Marvin jingled the change in the pockets of his jeans as he stood there with her, looking around at the messy room. The distant rumble of thunder filtered in through the walls of the building, which had originally been a house that Marvin had remodeled into an office with an apartment above it. Storms had been in the forecast for that evening. “Uh, yeah. I started clearing all my business files out of the storage barn today and now I can barely get to my desk. Looking at it through fresh eyes, I must seem like I’m auditioning for that television show Hoarders, huh?”

Presley Ann turned her gaze to him and when he grinned, she burst into laughter. The light fizzy feeling in her heart increased. “My dad put you up to this, didn’t he?”

Marvin ran a hand through his curly white hair and shook his head but his eyes twinkled. “Doesn’t it look like I need the help?”

“Come on, Uncle Marvin.”

“Let me put it this way. My office has been needing a skilled hand at organization for a long time. Now the need is dire. Your dad told me you’re looking for a way to make some extra money on your days off and I’d like to think it’d make your mom happy, knowing that I was somehow contributing to you making ends meet. This is perfect for you, provided you don’t go trying to move any of the heavy boxes. I can do that for you. I spend most of my days at the front counter so this space is always neglected. You live just above the office so you don’t even have to dress up or anything, just come down the back stairs.”

“No one has ever trusted me to organize such a—”

“Mess?” he asked with laughter in his voice as he nudged a box with the toe of his cowboy boot. “It all got packed up when I bought this building and moved from my location downtown and I’ve just never… Well, to be honest, it was a mess back then too, so the mess just moved from there to here and it’s only grown since then. It’s bad, huh?”

“No,” she replied hastily. “No, it’s just a huge project. I’m not renowned as an organized person.”

“You did a fine job of organizing and prettying my storefront and that space upstairs. And your dad and Leah tell me you do a good job of staying organized at work.”

“Yes, when I can stay focused, I do. It’s staying on task that can be the problem.” She squinted at the labels on the boxes and almost didn’t hear him as she lifted the lid on a box marked “1983.” He’d been working on computers and such in the area a long time.

“Ah, don’t be worried about that, Presley Ann. You’ll be the only one working and you won’t have any interruptions, besides from your little one of course.”

She walked around and looked closer at the huge mess and then turned back to him. “I’ll do it.”

“Great. I imagine it’ll take you several months, if you’re working part time, to get it done. I don’t need you to rush. I’d just like it finished before I retire.”

“Well that’s open-ended.”

“Yup. And you’re more than welcome to bring the baby down here with you. There’s even room in the corner for a cradle or playpen if you want. You stop to feed or take care of the baby any time you need to, and I won’t bother you. You can even shut the door if you need privacy to nurse—or whatever,” He blushed a little, probably at the thought of her breastfeeding a baby and she had to giggle at the notion herself. There was a time she’d have been flat out disgusted at the thought of letting a baby near what she’d thought of as perfect breasts. All she cared about now was that they were perfect for breastfeeding, at least that was what she hoped.

“I usually have two days off every week but they switch up my schedule so I don’t always have the same ones.”

“That’s okay. I’ll keep a timesheet on a clipboard for you. You just record your time. And hey, I know little babies can get sick and whatnot, and sometimes need lots of care so if you’re looking for a flexible boss, that’d be me. And like I said, there’s no rush at all.”

“Are you sure my dad didn’t put you up to this?”

Marvin shook his head and looked like he was fighting a grin. “Nope. I’ve heard you’re a good little worker and you always pay your rent on time so I trust you. You set your own pace. And remember, anything that’s hefty I can move for you.”

She looked around at the messy office and said, “I love a challenge.”

It wasn’t until after she’d gone back upstairs that she realized she hadn’t asked him what he was willing to pay her per hour. She wrote herself a note to remember to ask him. Setting her purse and keys on the kitchen counter, she enjoyed the sound of the thunder rumbling in the distance. She’d always loved storms, as long as she was inside where it was safe.

A smile crossed her lips as she looked around the cozy expanse of her apartment. Marvin was right, she had done a good job with it. It was nice to be trusted with the task of organizing his office, even if she did still have the feeling that her dad had put Marvin up to it.

After pulling her shoes from her aching feet and slipping on her comfy house slippers, she came around her closet, which was located in the center of the space and created a division between her living room and kitchen.

Something at the far end of the room caught her eye and surprised a gasp out of her. Next to her neatly made bed was a brand new baby crib. Crossing the room, her first impulse was to worry. This wasn’t the used crib she’d looked at online. She hadn’t mentioned the name of the resale shop in Morehead to James and Vincent. The scent of newness filled the space.

With trembling hands she stroked the beautiful oak grain of the crib. Blue sheets in a cheerful teddy bear print were already on the mattress, and the bumper pad matched. Inside the crib there were packages of waterproof pads, cloth diapers for spills, a fluffy blue teddy bear in the corner.

Taped to the rail of the crib was a blue envelope labeled with her name, in Leah’s cursive handwriting.

“What did they do?” she whispered as she opened the envelope. Her baby boy wiggled and squirmed in her belly as she took a seat in the large, padded rocker she’d found for a steal at a local resale shop. She stroked her abdomen and he quieted down as she read the note inside.

For the peanut,

I hope you like the crib, Sis. It’s solid oak and should last for several of my nephews and nieces. I know you budgeted for a crib and I want you to spend that money on yourself instead. I’ll even help you shop.

                                                                              -Love, Leah


Presley Ann laughed. She still hadn’t decided on a name for the baby so Leah and her men called him peanut. Presley Ann had given it a lot of thought over the months and the right name for her baby hadn’t come to her yet. It was an important decision. A small part of her heart told her it was difficult mainly because she didn’t know his father’s name. Given the choice, she’d at least consider naming him after his father.

After dialing Leah’s number, she put her phone to her ear. When the call connected and Leah’s voice came on the line, Presley Ann said, “I have the best sister ever.”

A giggle sounded over the line. “Why?”

“Because you put that snarling hose-beast in her place today at lunch.”

Snorting laughter sounded in her ear. “Yeah, and she deleted my comment like two seconds later.”

“But not before I saw it. You called her on her hatefulness. You should’ve heard her this afternoon before I went to lunch.”

“I heard about a small portion of it from Evelyn when she came back from lunch. Like I’ve said before, that was our dad’s hire, not mine. Soooo…how’s your evening progressing?”

Presley Ann grinned as she caressed the rails of the crib. “This crib must’ve cost you a mint, not including the new linens.”

“The crib was James and Vincent’s idea. They came today to get the extra key to your apartment from me so they could set it up. I already washed the sheets so they’re ready to use. The mattress is made up with three waterproof pads and three sheets.”

“Leah! That’s expensive.”

“Not really, and it will come in handy if he spits up during the night, or so I’m told. All you have to do is strip one set off and there’s another underneath.”

“It’s beautiful, sis. I love it,” she murmured as tears leaked from her eyes. “I wish I could hug you right now.”

“Oh, stop,” Leah replied, her voice sounding soft and shaky on the line. “I know you’ve told me no but I have to ask one more time. Are you sure you don’t want to stay with us until the baby comes? I worry about you there on your own.”

“Sis, I’m right in town, less than ten minutes away from you, and three minutes away from the hospital.”

“But three minutes away is still a long distance to drive all alone if you’re having contractions. It scares me.”

“I’m strong and I can do it. I’ll go to the hospital when they are five minutes apart so if I time it right I should make it with two minutes to spare,” she said, trying for a joking tone so Leah wouldn’t worry.

“But what if your water breaks, or what if you go straight into active labor. I’ve heard of that happening. What if—”

“Stop, sis. You’re looking at all the worst case scenarios. I’m a big girl and I can do this. You’ll see. It’ll be just fine and we’ll laugh later about all your worries. And besides that, you don’t need a big ol’ pregnant lady waddling around your house getting under foot.”

“Not hardly. You’re always at the store. You should be on maternity leave already. I was watching you rub your lower back all afternoon. I know it’s bothering you.”

Her cheeks grew hot and emotion clogged her throat. “You were watching out for me on the security monitors?”

“Of course.”

“My back is just stiff, that’s all. I’ve been having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions and being on my feet just makes it sore and tired, that’s all. I promise I’ll be fine. I should probably be drinking more water, too.” Her back was killing her but she couldn’t stand the thought of Leah worrying like that.

“I can’t convince you to come just until it’s time to go to the hospital? I’m willing to bet it’ll happen any day.”

“Or it could be another two or three weeks. You wouldn’t want me underfoot until Thanksgiving, now would you?”

“Actually, I think it’d be nice.”

“Well, don’t worry, I’ll be there for the holiday one way or the other. You can count on that much, and maybe I’ll have the peanut with me by then.”

“Any closer to deciding a name?”

“No. I may just wait and see what comes to me the first time I hold him.”

Leah chuckled. “That’d drive me insane. Okay, since you won’t come and stay with me just plan on hearing from me every night. Do you have your phone all charged up?”

Looking at the charger cable on the table by her rocker, Presley Ann said, “I’ll put it on the charger as soon as I hang up.”

“Nuh-uh. You can call me overprotective or just understanding of how forgetful pregnant mommy brain has made you lately. Plug it in right now.”

With a snicker and a roll of her eyes, Presley Ann did as her sister directed. “Yes, mother. It’s done now. Happy?”

“Only a little. Don’t forget to drink a glass of water and take your vitamins.”

“You sure do hover a lot, Auntie Leah.”

“Oh hush. I’m making up for lost time. Go look in the fridge.”

“What else have you been up to?”

“Not me, I swear. A little elf has been busy baking, cooking, and shopping for you. Go look.”

She slowly worked her way out of the comfy rocker and padded over to the kitchen on painful feet, heaving a sigh of relief that she’d cleaned out her fridge during a nesting binge the previous weekend. It wouldn’t do for anyone to see how messy it had been.

She pulled open the refrigerator and gasped when she saw containers of her favorite juice, lactose free milk, and yogurt among many other staples stocked up in neat rows on her fridge shelves. Yanking on the freezer door, she squealed when she saw all of the foil-wrapped casserole dishes neatly stacked. She went back to her phone and said, “Lydia came with you?”

“She dropped by earlier because she knew we were here setting up the crib. The container of BlueBell Pumpkin Pie ice cream was my idea. There’s whipped topping in the fridge, too.”

“Sis, I’m just gonna get fatter and fatter at this rate.”

“That’s not why I did it. Ice cream is a good source of calcium. I’ve actually been very relieved to see you eating regular normal meals the last several months. I figured that might be hard for you.”

The laughter was rough in her throat. “You know, honestly, once I came to grips with reality, it wasn’t much of a contest. Even if I wasn’t on my own, it’s what I would do. My head is in a different place now.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know. The whole man-catching thing, stupid as it was, is in the past. It’s me and him now.” She looked down at her large abdomen and grinned when a little elbow stuck out on one side, then he shifted onto her bladder. “Uh-oh, gotta go.”

“You okay?” Leah asked with concern obvious in her voice.

“Yeah. He just bounced on my bladder.”

Leah giggled. “Oh, okay. You sure you don’t want to come with us to supper? Kendry and Jared will be there…” Presley Ann could hear the unvoiced suggestion as her sister’s voice trailed off.

“I really can’t. I need to give my feet and ankles a rest and I have to get some laundry started.”

“Okay, but be careful on the stairs with your baskets. They’re steep and that door is heavy.”

“I know,” she murmured, remembering the day she’d smashed her finger. “Uncle Marvin replaced the back door with one of those heavy metal doors. He says it’s his duty to keep me safe.”

“Uncle Marvin is a sweetheart.”

“Speaking of Uncle Marvin, I got another job today. It’s part time with flexible hours, organizing his office.”

“I’ve seen his office. You’re a brave girl. Okay, go pee. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“I love you, Leah. And thank you, and the guys, for the crib and stuff. I’ll give Lydia a call in a bit to thank her, too.”

After hurrying to the bathroom, she separated the laundry into baskets. Because she’d been on a cleaning tear the last few weeks, the loads weren’t very big which meant less to carry up and down the stairs. She’d never been a compulsive cleaner and attributed it to the nesting instinct. Maybe if she could keep a handle on the laundry she could prove to herself that she could be a good mom. Yeah, that explained why the entire apartment was pristine and sanitary. She was in control of her little corner of the world…for now.

This scene will continue in the next Out-takes installment…

Make sure and come back tomorrow morning for a look at the original first kiss between Presley Ann and her men ♥

Absentminded Angel Copyright©2014 All rights reserved, Heather Rainier

Buy Absentminded Angel at Siren-BookStrand

Trees covered with hoarfrost and snow in mountains.

Part One: Absentminded Angel Out-takes, Prologue and Chapter One

Out-takes Part One Fashion portrait of nude elegant woman

Author’s Note: This series of blog posts includes out-takes from Absentminded Angel by Heather Rainier. I hope you enjoy them. If you haven’t read Absentminded Angel in its released form, these scenes may be confusing as they were cut from varying places in the story. I’m posting them for the enjoyment of readers who are familiar with Divine, Texas, or would like to become familiar. 😀  My recommendation would be to read Absentminded Angel prior to reading these.

What follows is the original opening of Absentminded Angel. I took readers back to the day Presley Ann gets the piece of news that changes her life forever.





“This can’t be happening,” Presley Ann Woodworth whispered, barely able to get the words out. She broke out in a cold sweat. “This can’t be happening. Are you sure?”

Dr. Emma Rivers patted her shoulder and gave her a compassionate smile. “Very sure. A lot of women don’t notice symptoms for at least a couple more weeks but the tests indicate you’re pregnant. At the next visit you’ll be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat.”

“My baby’s heart—” Her throat closed up as panic tightened its grip and cold chills of shock shimmered across her arms. Her cashmere turtleneck felt like it was choking her.

Doctor Emma laid a form on the examining table and then removed a couple of pamphlets from the drawer by the sink. “I’ll leave these with you to look over once you catch your breath. Stop into the lab next door to our office and they will draw blood for the lab work we need done.”

“Draw blood? Lab work?” She felt like an idiot parroting everything Emma said.

Emma reached for the rolling stool, sat down on it, and scooted over into Presley Ann’s field of vision where she sat in the straight back chair. “You do have options, Presley Ann. We can talk about them at the next visit. Maya specializes in prenatal and maternal care and can also answer your questions if you need to call in after you get home. For now, just take a few minutes and breathe if you need to. We’re in no rush for this room. Just get the blood work taken care of before you leave.”

“That’s probably best, since I’m likely to forget otherwise.”

Emma just smiled and nodded. Presley Ann wanted to cringe as she replayed her words in her mind. What kind of mother forgot to take care of necessary things like blood tests? No. What kind of dingbat, you mean.

Taking a deep breath, Presley Ann rose from the chair, trying to disguise her shock as she adjusted her Coach handbag on her shoulder. Her feet were like ice in her Louboutins and cold sweat trickled at her temples and between her shoulder blades as she followed Doctor Emma out of the exam room and into the hallway.

“Saltines and ginger ale may help with the nausea. Just remember several small meals throughout the day are better than three larger ones.”

Presley Ann didn’t bother asking if two teeny-tiny meals were any better. There went her weight maintenance strategy, a major daily concern up until five minutes ago.

She’d called in earlier that morning for an appointment with Doctor Emma, complaining of nausea and fatigue, thinking she might have the flu. Now here she was. Knocked up.

In a haze, she settled up at the reception counter and mutely nodded when the lady asked if she’d like to set up a time for her first pre-natal appointment. Presley Ann accepted the reminder card the woman filled out for her and then exited the office, stepping out into the atrium that was ringed by other doctor’s offices.

Frosted glass hid the occupants of the waiting room in the dermatology office across the way. Next to it was a pediatrician’s office. Through the tidy, multi-paned windows, children of various sizes could be seen playing with toys or sitting and looking at books in their parents laps in the waiting room.

One young woman sat with a tiny dark-haired infant nestled in a bundle against her chest while her toddler sat looking at a child’s book on her knee. The dark-haired child, obviously the infant’s sibling was chattering non-stop to his mother. And she was surely their mother. There was spit-up staining her shoulder and what looked like wet cracker tangled in the strands of her long curly blonde hair. She looked utterly exhausted, if one was going by the dark circles under her eyes. But then the mother smiled at something the toddler said, and Presley Ann caught a glimpse of something besides the fatigue in her eyes as she stroked the toddler’s cheek. An emotion Presley Ann couldn’t identify.

That mom looked like she didn’t get much sleep but she didn’t seem troubled by it. Presley Ann griped non-stop anytime she had to get up before nine in the morning. Her life had been only about herself up to that morning. I would make a horrible mother.

The mother looked up and their eyes met across the atrium for a split second before Presley Ann looked down at the forms and ordered her feet to put one in front of the other and get her out of there. She didn’t care where.

She wound up in the back entry and her attention was drawn to the fountain located in the midst of crape myrtles that were still dormant from the long winter. Someone had recently tidied up the landscaping and the fountain was already functioning again. Her feet took her to a bench and she plopped down hard on it and was instantly reminded of the nausea when her stomach lurched.

A baby?

She blinked and tears finally overflowed her eyes as she looked down at the forms. Lab work. She’d walked out of the building without stopping at the lab. Feeling wobbly, she put her fingertips to her forehead and they came away damp. It wasn’t hot but the sun shone down on her with intensity that was blinding. Her head began to ache. She needed to get inside in the shade, get the blood work done, and then get a bottle of water so she could take something for her headache.

What can I take for a headache? Is it even safe?


She hurried back inside but groaned when she got to Doctor Emma’s door and saw the sign on it indicating they were out for lunch.

With a shaky sigh, she turned and headed next door. The receptionist at the lab greeted her and took the forms Presley Ann handed her, nodded, and told her the phlebotomist was out to lunch but would return shortly, if she would have a seat and wait.

Presley Ann nodded and walked on wooden legs to the row of cushioned chairs facing the windows and the landscaping beyond. She blinked and her eyes stung as more tears came.

She didn’t know the first thing about being pregnant. Had never wanted to be pregnant. She didn’t even know if she could take an aspirin, for crying out loud. She looked in her handbag, realized she didn’t have any pain relievers in it, but spotted her birth control pill pack.

Zipping the bag, she laid it aside with a wry chuckle. Fat lot of good those had done her. Not that she could blame them. She forgot to take them as often as she remembered and had to double up.

Now look at the fix you’re in, dingbat. You thought you hated your life before.

She sat there for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes as reality settled heavily on her shoulders. Wracking her brain, she thought back to the last time she’d had sex and let out a long, shaky breath.

“Oh boy.”

The dark blue eyes of a raven-haired cowboy hovered in her memory. She’d met him at O’Reilley’s while waiting for tables to become available. Her dad was supposed to join her and he’d called and cancelled on her because he had to work late. Not a big surprise coming from her dad and she’d decided to stay and eat on her own anyway, since it beat cooking at home alone. Their eyes met across the lobby and the spark between them had been so powerful, so perfect. He’d greeted her and once he found out she was on her own he’d invited her to be his guest at his table for the evening. There was no way perfection like that could last, so she’d refused to give him her name and cut him off gently when he tried to introduce himself. He’d smiled and played along.

“Why did I do that? It was so stupid.” Not only because she was pregnant, either. He’d been different toward her. She had been used to men taking what they wanted, and she was mostly okay with that as long as she got what she needed first.

His hair had been cut short but would be curly if he let it grow longer. His black eyebrows had arched any time he laughed and his neatly trimmed beard had given him a rakish look that reminded her of a pirate. His chest had been broad, covered with a dusting of black hair that had peeked out over the top button of his shirt during that one evening they’d had, until he’d finally taken it off, along with everything else.

His lips were perfect, full and sensual as he’d smiled, and so warm as he’d kissed her all over. His hands had mesmerized her as he’d stroked her flesh, his fingers long and gentle, rough at the very tips.

The night hadn’t ended with dinner, or with their evening spent at the Dancing Pony, and he’d invited her back to his hotel. Perhaps knowing it would end had made the flame burn brighter and stronger, at least in her memory. He’d made love to her with skilled abandon. He’d brought her to orgasm so many times she’d lost count. And when he’d held her afterward, she hadn’t felt used or disappointed. She’d felt a connection with him.

It’d been on the tip of her tongue to tell him her name so that perhaps they might somehow meet again but by then he’d drifted off to sleep, still holding her close. She’d fallen asleep debating about telling him the next morning.

But when she woke, it was to find his note on the pillow next to her, telling her that he’d had a wonderful night and he hoped like crazy that someday his life would bring him back through Divine again. And that maybe then she’d tell him her name.

Crestfallen, she’d showered, dressed, and gone home. The memory of his winsome smile and sparkling eyes created a fresh rush of tears. She wasn’t always the best judge of character but she knew in her heart that he would want to know about his baby.

There had been nobody else for months before him, and nobody else since. Anytime she’d gone out, the men she’d encountered hadn’t measured up to his memory. Yes, he’d want to know. And she had no way to tell him.

An uncomfortable wave of shame wrenched her heart. She scoffed and whispered, “Two ships passing in the night. What an idiotic plan.”



Early April…

Kendry McCulloch’s conscious thoughts floated like a fishing line bobber on currents of sound and light as they neared the surface, able to process neither the sounds nor the sensation. His head…his brain…felt like it was wrapped in cotton, muffling sound and making it impossible to organize thoughts. Then his cognitive bobber popped to the surface.

Beep. Beep. 

He was chilled. His eyelids felt like they were stuck together and he felt powerless to open them.

“There he is,” an approving feminine voice said as it moved around the room. The deep reply was muffled so he couldn’t make out the words that were uttered. Distant sounds of an intercom echoed but made no sense either.

“I’ll let his doctor know.”

His hands felt stiff when he clenched them and they moved toward his torso seemingly of their own volition as he took a deep but shaky breath. A gentle hand stayed his as he clutched the soft material at his chest.

“Steady there, Mr. McCulloch. You’re in the hospital, remember?”


He remembered. Surgery. A heart. Finally.

He was finally able to break the seal on his eyelids and his eyes teared a little as he blinked and saw the double image of a female face and form bending over his bed, smiling at him. No angel wings on her back. No heavenly chorus or blinding lights. He had a new definition for the word awesome. “Your surgery went just fine, Mr. McCulloch. Your brother is here with you.”

“Hey,” the familiar voice of his brother came to him from the other side of the bed and he took another deep breath as he turned his head. His eyes finally focused in the dim room on Jared’s familiar face.

“Hey.” His voice sounded rusty and distorted.

Jared pulled up a chair and sat down. The beeping of monitors and the sounds of a voice on the intercom in the hallway broadcast again and Jared’s unshaven face came sharply into view as the curtains of anesthesia parted completely and reality slipped in.

“You’re gonna scare all the nurses with that wolfman look.”

Jared grinned widely. “Are you kidding? Several of them gave me their phone numbers already. One told me I’m worthy of a romance novel cover. You, on the other hand, look like hammered hell.”

He felt tired and out of it but the bone crushing weakness and unrelenting cold in his extremities caused by poor circulation from a dying heart was gone. “It worked?”

Jared’s face broke into a relieved smile and his eyes got shiny. He swallowed hard and nodded. “Yeah. It worked.” His hand was practically crushed in Jared’s grip as he looked away briefly and nodded. “It worked.” Relief was in every syllable.

Kendry’s eyelids grew heavy again but he smiled and said, “I wish I could thank them…”

“Who? The doc will be here in a few minutes.”

“No, whoever it belonged to before…” Sleep enveloped him again.

Chapter One



“Hope you weren’t expecting a baby shower, cuz. I mean, I can chip in for cheapo diapers if necessary but…” Willie said as she grabbed up an armful of blouses off of the fully loaded rolling rack and hung them en masse on the round display rack, leaving them all askew on their hangers. “Baby showers should be reserved for moms who get their wedding rings on the right side of the pregnancy test, you know? Straighten those blouses for me, will you?”

Her job had been ever so much fun since her cousin, Wilhelmina Perkins, better known as Willie had come to work at Stigall’s earlier in the summer.

Presley Ann imagined a flame thrower in her hands. Willie wore so much hair spray in her hair that it was liable to combust if someone so much as flicked a lighter at it. And she was mean. “I can buy my own diapers, thank you very much. And you made a mess of the blouses. Straighten them yourself. I didn’t need any help over here.” At least not from you, heifer.

“I was told you needed help over here. So here I am, helping you do your job. You can’t lift your arms above your shoulders so I’m doing the bulk of the work. Least you can do is go behind me and fix them.”

I’d like to go behind you and plant my foot in your hateful ass. “Who told you I can’t lift my arms?”

Willie rolled her eyes and scoffed at Presley Ann. “Dummy, you can’t lift your arms over shoulder height because it might wrap the cord around the baby’s neck.” A customer in the nearby juniors department looked Willie’s way and rolled her eyes.

Presley Ann burst into laughter and her baby boy wiggled in interest at the sound as she caressed her burgeoning abdomen. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, Willie. You should lower your voice and stop repeating old wives’ tales as though they were medical fact or people will think you’re a hick.”

Willie curled her lip. “I’m not the one who’s knocked up and two steps away from trailer trash. Like I said, I hope you don’t think you’re getting a baby shower out of this out-of-wedlock pregnancy.”

Feeling her heart racing, Presley Ann knew when she was being baited. Willie was not worth the escalation in her blood pressure. “Your concern is heart-warming, cousin, but I’m perfectly capable of doing my job, including lifting my arms over my head. And I don’t need a baby shower. I’ll be ready with all the necessities when this baby is born later this month.” She was proud that she’d managed to get together most of the basics for her baby, plus build up an emergency fund in the last eight months. Things weren’t perfect but she was hopeful. Evelyn and Leah had offered to throw her a shower but she’d turned them down. She didn’t feel like sharing that information with Willie. Willie would just turn it around and tell her how ungrateful she was.

Willie scoffed. “That Prada diaper bag is gonna set you back a pretty penny. You sure about that, cousin?”

Willie’s comment didn’t even deserve a response. Presley Ann was getting good at overlooking or ignoring hateful remarks like that. Because there was a time when she might’ve thought she deserved baby showers and things like designer diaper bags, she also felt that in some small way she deserved the catty remark. She could probably cover four or five months’ rent with what it would cost to buy a Prada diaper bag and cringed again at the kind of money she’d spent blindly over the years.

“I’ll bet you’re going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe once you have that baby,” Willie said as she dug a fingernail into her ear and looked Presley Ann up and down.

Presley Ann lifted a handful of the blouses from the trolley and began arranging them on the rack and straightening the ones Willie had mussed. “Why do you say that?” She knew exactly why Willie said that and wished Willie would go back to wherever she’d come from and leave her alone.

“There’s no way that fancy designer wardrobe will ever fit you again, you’ve put on so much baby weight. You’d have to work out nonstop and there won’t be any time for that once that baby comes. Since you got pregnant you’ve ballooned. Those fancy designers don’t make clothes in plus sizes, you know.”

Presley Ann breathed slowly, trying to find her Zen happy place by imagining her baby boy’s face. Willie didn’t need to know that Presley Ann had already sold every stitch of designer clothing and all of her designer purses, shoes, and accessories to a designer resale boutique in San Antonio months ago. She was being careful moneywise since she’d need to shop for clothing once the baby arrived and she knew what size she’d be. In truth, she was surprised she wasn’t completely freaked out by the thought of moving up a few sizes but Doctor Emma said she was doing fine and her baby was healthy. She had more important issues to deal with than whether or not her thigh gap was really gone for good.

“I’ll worry about that when the time comes, Willie.”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say. Next thing you know, you’ve been carrying the baby weight for ten years. Mark my words, the best thing you could do is give it up for adoption. I even know a couple who might be willing to take it off your hands—”

Presley Ann froze and met Willie’s hateful brown gaze from across the rack. “My baby is not an “it”. I think it’s time for you to go back to whatever department you came from.”

An elderly customer meandered into the Misses department and Presley Ann drew in a deep breath and smiled as she recognized the lady.

Willie brushed past her, barely missing jabbing her abdomen with an elbow as she called out, “Oh hello, Mrs. Porter! How can I help you today? We have a sale on those blouses you liked so much last week—”

“Thank you, Wilhelmina. I wanted to visit with Presley Ann. Would you mind letting Evelyn know that I’m here to take her to lunch?” Charlene Porter said with dismissal clear in her eyes and tone.

Willie’s jaws flapped for a second and she frowned. Her dark bushy eyebrows drew together in the fuzzy caterpillar look that was so common among the Woodworth men, as well as Wilhelmina’s mother, Presley Ann’s aunt. Willie nodded and reluctantly left to do the venerable Mrs. Porter’s bidding. Her husband was the local Justice of the Peace and highly thought of in the community. Willie wouldn’t dare do other than what she bid her to do, not if she wanted future business from Mrs. Porter.

Presley Ann threaded her way carefully through the rows of racks, which were full with merchandise for the approaching Christmas season. “Hello, Mrs. Porter. How are you and Mr. Porter doing?”

“We’re doing beautifully, dear. How many times do I have to remind you to call me Charlene?”

Presley Ann laughed and said, “I’m sorry…Charlene.”

“How’s our little man these days?” Charlene asked as she gathered Presley Ann to her for a hug.

“He’s been very wiggly today. Dr. Rivers said he could come anytime.”

Mrs. Porter’s eyebrows shot up. “Should you be on your feet so much?”

Presley Ann rubbed her lower back when it gave a slight twinge and said, “I prefer staying busy and keeping my energy level up with activity, you know? I think if I was at home I’d just sit and stew.” And I need the income.

“Oh, that wouldn’t be good either. When do you take your lunch?”

“In a few minutes.”

A big smile spread on Mrs. Porter’s face. “Well then, that’s just perfect. Allow Evelyn and me to take you out to lunch. I’m in love with the new chicken salad plate at Rosalie’s Café.”

A blush spread heat across her cheeks as she replied, “Oh, Mrs. Porter—I mean Charlene, I couldn’t intrude.”

“It would be no intrusion at all, dear,” Evelyn said as she made her way through the racks. “We would love to take you to lunch. You can finish the rest of that trolley when we get back.”

“Well…if it’s no imposition, I’d love to.” No adult in her life, besides her dad, had ever invited her out to lunch before. “Let me just push it off to the side so it’s not in the way.”

“I’ll help, dear,” Evelyn said as she took hold of the back while Presley Ann guided the front of the trolley around to an open spot against a wall near the dressing rooms. “It should be fine here. One thing, Presley Ann. You might be careful how much information you share with Wilhelmina.”

Mrs. Porter harrumphed as she drew close and said, “That young woman is every bit as bad as her mother. Interfering harridan.”

Presley Ann groaned, recalling Wilhelmina’s domineering mother’s attempts at helping her husband hunt under the guise of finding her temp jobs. Even though Lydia Carlisle had forgiven her, it still shamed her that she’d gone along with that attempt to snare one of the Carlisle brothers. She certainly hadn’t been showing her best side or good character. The memory made her heart heavy. “You can’t choose your family, right?”

“Too true,” Evelyn said with a wry smile. “She’s a talker, that one. I’m glad Leah sees through her obsequious attitude.”

“What do you mean?” Presley Ann asked softly as the ladies came close.

Evelyn shushed her as Willie walked past, eyeing them suspiciously, and then said, “Go get your purse and we’ll tell all.”

Presley Ann grinned and nodded. As she waddled slowly down the main aisle to the back of the store she smiled to herself. Her friendship with Evelyn had blossomed in the last eight months to what it should’ve been all her life because that was how long she’d known Evelyn.

She’d never had any good friends, much less close ones. She’d always thought friendships were just too much work. Too much mindreading necessary. Too much cattiness and too many head games. That’s why she’d never been friends with Willie. She’d given up early on and learned to make her own self happy.

After grabbing her purse, she was walking back up the aisle when she encountered James and Vincent Elder, her still somewhat new brothers-in-law. They were both dressed for work in their police officer uniforms.

“Hey, sweetie!” James said with a big smile as he opened his arms and she went right to him. “You doing okay today? How are you feeling?”

Happiness fizzed in her chest as she hugged him back and then returned Vincent’s gentle hug as well. “I’m just fine. Hey, I was wondering if I could get some help from you gentlemen.”

“Whatever you need, just ask.” Vincent said easily.

“I found a good used crib at a baby resale store in Morehead. I looked at the picture of it online and I think it might work, once it’s cleaned up. More importantly, the price is right.”

James and Vincent shared a brief look and a smile and then said. “Let us know when you want to get it and we’ll take the truck and help you with it. Is it already put together?”

Presley Ann bit her lip and said, “That’s part of what I wanted to ask you about. The lady said it’s in several pieces, and it comes ‘as is’. She can’t vouch for whether all the hardware is with it or not.”

James nodded and said, “Just tell us when. I’m sure we can improvise if there’s hardware missing.”

“Thank you. Are you here to see Leah?”

“Yeah, we’re taking her on a picnic at the park,” Vincent replied with a grin.

What was it like to be with two such thoughtful men? She was happy for her sister. She’d waited a long time to find her happiness and it still saddened Presley Ann that their threesome might’ve been a foursome if fate hadn’t intervened when James and Vincent’s brother, Patterson, had been fatally injured in a motorcycle accident the previous spring.

Life was hard sometimes. She wondered yet again how it would be for her son growing up with his father missing from his life. Often she wondered what had become of that sweet cowboy and if they might ever meet again.

“Well, you go have fun. I’d like to try and get the crib in the next couple of days if I can. I’ll call you?”

“Sounds good,” James said with a nod and then grinned big. “Hey, you might be happy to know that Kendry and Jared McCulloch made it official.”

Her heart skipped a beat at the mention of their names. “Made what official?”

“They’re moving to Divine. All the visiting they’ve been doing has them convinced that this is where they belong.”

Kendry and his brother Jared had come to Divine during the summer to meet James and Vincent. Kendry’s life had been saved earlier that year when his number had come up on the heart transplant list and the heart he’d received had been their brother Patterson’s. In Presley Ann’s eyes, Patterson took the term “hero” to a whole new level because his decision to donate his organs if he died had led to numerous lives being saved or made better.

Heat blossomed in Presley Ann’s core as she thought of the handsome McCulloch brothers. Her heart palpitated every time she remembered the kind way they’d treated her when they were around her, like she was made of glass. Always making sure to speak to her when they were around her. They obviously felt sorry for her. It was dangerous to think about them but she couldn’t help it.

They made her feel twittery which made her feel embarrassed, which made her blush, which made her feel even more embarrassed. The part that surprised her though was that she’d never acted that way around any other man before, even the father of her baby. He’d brought the boldness out in her while Kendry and Jared made her want to hide. When they looked at her, she wondered if they could tell what she was thinking. She had no business thinking those thoughts, however. She had to stay focused on learning to be a good mom and not get sidetracked by romantic fantasies.

“I’m glad to hear they’re making the move. Abilene is losing two good firefighters, I’m sure. When are they moving?”

“Soon. They’re here today looking for a place to live. They’ve already hired on at the fire station in town. I think that was in the works last time they visited.”

Oh boy.

That information made her quiver a little. The central fire station in Divine was located directly across the street from Batson’s Grocers, Divine Auto Repair, and Marvin’s Computer Service…and her little apartment located above Marvin’s.

“That’s great news. I imagine you two must be hungry. The last time I saw Leah, she was in the stockroom, working with the receiving manager, trying to get the most recent delivery in the back door.”

Vincent’s eyes widened. “She’s moving boxes?”

Presley Ann chuckled and said, “No, she was giving orders.”

Both men laughed and reminded her to call them when she was ready to get the crib. The crib might possibly fit in her car in its disassembled state but she knew there was no way she could unload it and get it up the steep stairs to her apartment. It wasn’t worth the risk. And with her luck, she’d probably wind up shredding the cloth upholstery of her older Toyota Camry.

After her dad had insisted on fixing the air conditioner and the fuel pump in her Mercedes coupe, he’d assisted her in finding a buyer for it and then put out feelers for a good used four door car. She’d drawn the line at him contributing toward the cost of it. In the end, they’d found a reliable car that would get good gas mileage. She’d made an offer, which the seller had accepted. She’d had sufficient money from the sale of her Mercedes to cover the cost plus enough to buy new tires for it.

Her dad had wanted to give her one of several cars he owned but she’d refused him outright, saying he couldn’t keep swooping in saving her. It was enough that he would keep her on his insurance and that he was covering her medical expenses, and even those, she paid for herself whenever she could, without telling him.

After saying good-bye to the men, she went on her way to the front, rubbing her lower back which ached and felt stiff all the time now. She drew a deep breath, trying to feel grateful that her pregnancy had been uncomplicated, according to Emma, and her baby was right on schedule developmentally.

At Rosalie’s, the ladies clucked over her like mother hens as she eased into the seat, her enlarged tummy keeping her from getting very close to the table.

After they’d looked over the menu, Presley Ann said, “Okay, now tell me what you were being so hush-hush about. You said Leah sees through Willie’s obsequious attitude.”

Evelyn cleared her throat and frowned. “When she came to the office to let me know Charlene was here, I heard her tell Leah that every time she turns around you’re loafing around or talking, in other words not doing your job.”

Charlene sipped her sweet tea and then said, “I can’t say I’m surprised. I think that in her mind, because she is family, she’s jockeying for a position of authority.”

Evelyn scoffed. “I’ve seen that, too.”

Charlene replied, “That one is trouble. She’s the type that likes to keep the ugly gossip going. She is what my mother would’ve called a little pot-stirrer. She likes to stir trouble up just so she can watch the resulting fireworks. She was baiting Presley Ann when I walked into the store earlier.”

A blush heated Presley Ann’s cheeks. “You heard her?”

Charlene patted Presley Ann’s hand and said, “Her voice carries so I heard the last part of what she said. I couldn’t hear your reply but I saw the look on your face. You mustn’t let her destroy your happiness, sweetheart. Lord knows it’s hard enough to find in this world. She’s only happy when others are miserable. Now, I’m curious, Evelyn. What did Leah say when she told her that Miss Presley Ann here was sluffing off?”

Evelyn snorted with laughter. “Leah cut her off and told her that even nine months pregnant you could work circles around your cousin.”

Presley Ann almost dropped her fork and her jaw practically hit the table. “She did not.”

Evelyn grinned at her and said, “She did. Leah knows how hard you work. Wilhelmina has always been trouble, even as a child. And I doubt Doug would’ve pushed Leah to hire Wilhelmina if his sister Dorothy hadn’t called in a favor. He’d do anything for family.”

Presley Ann nodded, a bittersweet ache in her heart, thinking of her dad telling her that he thought her situation was partly his fault. Like he’d somehow been responsible for her poor decision making abilities. But he was a sweetheart and an old softy.

Their food arrived and as they ate and shared the latest news, Evelyn said, “I’ve heard that the McCulloch brothers are moving to Divine.”

Presley Ann nodded. “James and Vincent mentioned that just a few minutes ago. I knew they’d talked about it the last time they were here. That’s good news, I suppose.”

“Very good news, I think. I have a good feeling about those two,” Evelyn said and then filled in Charlene on their unusual relationship with the Elder brothers. “I rather like the thought of Patterson’s heart still being around, causing mischief.”

Presley Ann smiled, also happy that Leah had been able to move on with James and Vincent after the heartbreak she’d suffered over losing Patterson. Presley Ann couldn’t imagine what it was like, being bonded to two men, being loved by two men.

Well, yeah, actually you can, but it’s just a fantasy.

Evelyn pulled out her smartphone and said, “Time for a selfie, girls. Here, Presley Ann, you do the honors. My arms are too short.”

Presley Ann giggled and took the picture with the ladies and then handed it to Evelyn. After a few seconds of fiddling with the phone, Evelyn let out an uncharacteristic growl.

“What’s the matter?” Presley Ann asked as she leaned closer. “Having trouble uploading it?”

“No,” Evelyn said, “I posted it on Facebook. It’s your cousin that has me perturbed.”

Now curious, Presley Ann took out her own phone and checked her newsfeed.

“It’s not worth looking at, dear. That cousin of yours is the queen of passive-aggressive posting.”

Presley Ann chuckled and said, “Now I have to see what she said.” Her heart pounded as Willie’s post popped up and she read it out loud. “She just posted this a couple of minutes ago. It says, “Pet Peeve #28: The way some people take advantage of me. They get help and are they grateful? No. They act like they are entitled to everything when all they actually are is spoiled and relying on their daddy’s wealth. I’m not knocked up trailer trash. And some other people need to mind their own—” Presley Ann paused and coughed and then amending the message for Evelyn and Charlene’s sake. “Eff-ing business and keep their hurtful opinions to themselves before they wind up on their asses when I get sick and tired of being told what to do.”

Charlene growled a little, too, and said, “Evelyn, isn’t she still on the clock?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Evelyn said as she put her coffee cup to her lips as she tapped at her phone screen. “I just passed her helpful hint on to Leah.”

Comments began to pop up to Willie’s post. Dorothy Perkins, Willie’s mother, commented about how some people needed to be taken down a notch. Several other people commented who obviously had no idea who Willie was actually talking about. Presley Ann felt lucky she didn’t have anything in her mouth or she would’ve choked when Leah’s comment popped up.

“Pet Peeve #29: People who have a problem with me but are too chickenshit to say it to my face. You’re still on the clock. Get off your phone and come to my office if you have something you need to say to me. Otherwise get back to work.”

Evelyn chuckled when the comment evidently popped up on her screen and she said, “I wonder how long it will take Willie to delete Leah’s comment? Oh…not long at all.”

Charlene snorted and shook her head. “That young woman is a chip off her mother’s old block. All one has to do is look in her eyes and see what a miserable person she is.”

Presley Ann shrugged. “She was partially right. My dad is taking care of most of my medical expenses.”

Evelyn put a warm hand on her forearm. “When George and I were first married, we lived with my parents while we saved up for a down payment on a house. Then I got pregnant and what had been a temporary situation turned into eight long years when he was drafted. My parents were happy to have us there, sharing the burden, and my father said he worried less about me, because I was with them, when George was overseas. What you think of as being a burden may actually be doing your father some good. You just take care of you and that little baby and don’t worry about the opinions of dried up old biddies and their boorish daughters.”

She gasped when Evelyn slid a small envelope across the table with her wizened little hand. “This is from Charlene, Woody, George, and me. Now, no fussing, Presley Ann. You refused when we tried to put together a baby shower for you last month, so we just pooled our resources and got this for you.”

Biting her lip, Presley Ann lifted the flap on the envelope and saw a gift card from a large discount warehouse store located out on the Interstate. “You shouldn’t have.”

Charlene giggled and said, “Oh yes we should have. We all know what it’s like to be on a tight budget with a baby on the way. It’s not as much as we’d like it to be but it should buy you some diapers or other things you might need.”

Blinking back tears, Presley Ann reached out and covered their hands where they rested on the table with her own and whispered, “Thank you.”

She’d argued with her dad over providing the baby diapers on several occasions, telling him that she could provide for her baby. He’d insisted, saying her mother would be so upset with him if he didn’t help her in some way, as if he wasn’t already doing enough. Since she’d refused the car he offered, she had to allow him to pay for her diapers. In the end, she’d won the argument when she’d told him to invest the money in Whit’s college fund so he could have his pick of universities when he was ready. Her father, ever a practical man, had finally thrown in the towel. Her son would have an education and she would keep his little bum covered. Everyone was happy.

“Now, what are your plans for day care, sweetheart?” Charlene asked, blinking back a few tears herself.

“I looked at several daycare centers in the area but I didn’t have any luck finding something I could reasonably afford. I was nearing the panic stage when Leah told me that she’d heard Margie’s daughter has a small baby, too, and needed a job that would allow her to stay home to help Margie out. She and her mother live near Dad so I’ll be taking the baby out to her place every day that I work in the store.”

Margie was a former Stigall’s employee who had struggled in recent years after her husband, a disgruntled ex-employee of Stigall’s had been arrested and sent to prison for coming into the store with a loaded weapon and shooting the place up. Margie and her kids had always been sweet, and with her husband behind bars and likely to stay there for many years, Presley Ann felt like the choice was a good one.

“Well, that’s perfect!” Charlene said as she clapped her hands.

Perfect? Not hardly. “I still wish I didn’t have to leave him with anyone at all.”

Presley Ann couldn’t shake the feeling that at least in part she deserved Willie’s criticism, however harsh and uncalled for in a public forum it might be. She was knocked up and she was receiving help from her father. She just didn’t know what else to do, besides work every chance she got.


Be watching for the next out take post tomorrow morning at 7 AM Central

Absentminded Angel Copyright©2014 All rights reserved, Heather Rainier

Buy Absentminded Angel at Siren-BookStrand!



Coming Soon: Out-Takes from Absentminded Angel

In other words, stuff that I just couldn’t leave on the editing room floor.

What do you do when you open an erotic romance with an imminently expectant heroine? Slow build-up, for starters. In my case, I originally started Presley Ann Woodworth’s tale, Absentminded Angel, in the days leading up to the delivery of her infant son, Whit. me-hr-dcr-absentmindedangel-full

I’m a pantser, so in those opening chapters I wove in a lot of character development and worked toward the point where her romance with Kendry and Jared McCulloch would take off and the heat would follow thereafter.

During the pre-submission clean-up, after the book was finished, I realized that readers had a prologue and several chapters of build-up to read prior to the baby ever arriving. The problem there is that she would still have a postpartum recovery to get through. Pacing became a concern and I very carefully wielded the scalpel to streamline the story.

I could’ve risked that readers wouldn’t mind reading those chapters to get to the romance and heat but I opted to cut them in order to get to the action in the story. My rationale was that after release, if I felt like readers were open to reading the out-takes I could always post them on my blog for free.

I asked my street team, the Divine Divas, a wonderful supportive group of ladies on Facebook, what they thought about going back to read them, after they’d read the book. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so here I am.

Because they’re pre-submission out-takes, readers should be aware that while they’ve been beta-read, they have not been line-edited. There may be grammar or punctuation typos that they’ll have to overlook.

There are also bits of content that may seem at odds with the released version. A good example of this is Presley Ann’s Uncle Marvin. In the original story, he figured much more prominently, at least in the beginning. Readers of the out-takes will get a clear look at her relationship with him. There is also the original first scene between Presley Ann, Kendry, and Jared. It’s is a funny, sweet, and hot scene and was probably the hardest one to cut, but was necessary.

Readers may also spot short sections that look familiar because I lifted them from the cut portions and woven them into the manuscript elsewhere. An example would be the description of Whit’s father, True, and character development involving Kendry and Jared. These aren’t pervasive, but they are there.

As with the books, I own the copyright on these out-takes.

The out-takes file is sitting at 54 pages right now (about 25,000 words) It’s obviously too long to comprise one blog post so I’m breaking it into five chapter-length sections and will be scheduling posts at regular intervals. I won’t make you wait long in between.

If you enjoy them, please consider sharing the link to the blog/website with your fellow erotic romance lovers, and tell them about the Divine Creek Ranch Collection.

Expect the first installment later tonight. Sign up for my blog posts via e-mail and it’ll show up in your inbox the moment it posts.

Thank you for visiting. I look forward to sharing more with you from in Divine, Texas.

Visit my Author page at Siren-BookStrand

Absentminded Angel will be available exclusively at Siren-BookStrand until around the middle of January, after which it will be uploaded to Amazon, B&N, and other legitimate retail outlets.

Visit my Author Central page at Amazon

My Author page at Barnes & Noble

It’s A Very Woobie Christmas in Divine, Texas

Christmas Tree Next To Fireplace

Doing her best to not be obvious,

Grace Warner caught her sister Charity’s eye and then looked across the room at Jessica Bright, who was sitting backed into a corner by herself. The lonely optometrist gazed down into her glass of punch and she smiled wanly at Ethan when he spoke with her before going up the stairs to change baby Grant’s diaper. Normally the kids would be in bed by that hour but there was no point with the house full of people and Santa coming the following morning. Maybe the kids would let them sleep in a little if they went to bed late.

Yeah. Right. It’d be nice if it worked that way.

“What’s up with Jessica?”

Charity asked as she came over and leaned against the kitchen island and slid close enough so they couldn’t be overheard. “She looks ready to bolt.”

“I’m wondering the same thing. She’s closer to the front door every time I look her way.”

Charity snorted and replied, “Are Tank and Troy coming? They’ll coax her into staying, I bet.”

Jessica looked up just then and seemed to rightly guess she was the topic of discussion. She glanced across the room and then set her punch glass on a nearby table.

“Oh no you don’t, girlie,” Grace said as she and Charity both skirted the crowd and caught up with the shy brunette as she approached Val Teller and Ransome Cross, who were taking turns holding her daughter, little baby Bella.

Val blew kisses against Bella’s chubby little neck before easing her into Jessica’s arms as he said,

“You’re not leaving already, are you Jessica? The party just started.”

Jessica gave all of them a halfhearted smile and said, “It’s been a long day and I need to get her into a bath and then into bed.”

Grace smiled at the guys, made their excuses, and then she and Charity pulled Jessica down the hall that led back to Adam and Ethan’s old bedrooms where they could speak privately.

“Okay, ‘fess up,” Charity said as she took Bella into her arms and began swaying with her.

Jessica drew a deep breath and gave a heavy exhale. “I just don’t have the Christmas spirit.”

Grace patted her shoulder and commiserated. “When was the last time you had a good sleep?” The dark circles under Jessica’s eyes told Grace what she already knew.

“I can’t remember. Building up a clientele, caring for Bella on my own, insomnia…and the holiday blues just seem to make it worse.” Grace knew that Jessica didn’t have any family still alive. She was on her own. Lydia had already told her that she and Chance and Clayton were having Jessica and the baby over for Christmas morning. The last thing she needed was to be alone if she was feeling this way. “I wish you’d stay a little longer, Jess,” Grace said. “The guests haven’t even finished arriving yet.”

“That’s right,” Charity agreed. “Tank and Troy should be here soon.”

“Yeah, I gotta go.” Jessica said as she suddenly slipped past them with the baby in her arms.

“But—” Grace held up a hand to stop her but she was down the hall in a flash. They caught up with her just as the front door swung open and let in a frigid gust of air.

“Ho-Ho-Ho!” Tank called as he and Troy piled in and shut the door behind them.

Greetings were called back from the big crowd as Tank and Troy shucked their heavy coats. They turned to hang them on the coat rack, and their faces lit up when they saw Jessica and the baby.

“Hey, there!” Tank said as he reached up to tickly Bella’s chin and Grace noticed the fresh bandage wrapped around his hand.

“Tank, what happened?” she asked, and Jessica groaned softly.

Grace could practically feel the stress radiating off of Jessica.

“Just a little accident,” Tank replied with a shrug before flicking a concerned gaze at Jessica, who looked ready to pass out. “You okay, honey?”

Charity slipped an arm through Jessica’s and gave Grace a big-eyed look. “Oh, she’s fine. We were just headed down the hall to change Bella’s diaper.”

“In her coat?”

Grace giggled and said, “We’ll be right back.”

They ushered Jessica into Ethan’s bedroom and urged her to sit down. Charity sat beside her as Grace took the baby from her and snuggled the precious little girl against her chest. Charity said, “Tell us what happened.”

“I stabbed him!”

Jessica said and then her face crumpled and she hid it in her hands.

“What?” Charity said, giving a half-laugh. That was the last thing either of them had expected her to say.

“I stabbed him with my stylus.”

Charity snorted and said, “This I gotta hear. Start from the beginning.”

“They stopped by the office, both of them, to see if I was coming tonight.”

Amusement lacing her voice, Charity said, “That hardly seems cause for stabbing Tank.”

“The receptionist knew we are—were friends, knew we knew each other, and she let them into my office. I got up—oh my gosh, it was awful.”

“Keep talking then. Get it off your chest.”

“I was working on my tablet, and I had a stylus, the kind with a pointy end in my hand. I was startled when I heard their voices. They’re so big and they make me so nervous. Anyway, I jumped up, and I was wearing high heels—new ones.

When I got up from my desk, one of my heels slid right out from under me.

They jumped at me to catch me as I flung my arms wide, trying to get my balance, and well…”

“You stabbed him?” Grace said, and Jessica’s face fell and she moaned into her hands again.


Grace jiggled Jessica’s wrist until she looked up at them and said, “Jess, those two hunks looked happy to see you—and a little concerned about you. Don’t you think you could stay just for a little while?”


“You can hang out with us. We were about to come and get you when you started scooting for the door. You can visit with us. Who knows, you might have a good time. And I think it’s a safe bet those guys don’t want you to feel bad about what happened.”

“Grace, I didn’t just jab him, I impaled his poor hand.

I thought I was gonna pass out. He told me it was okay and that he would go to the clinic. I just can’t believe I did that.”

“It was an accident, sweetie. Now, tell me again,” Grace began, determined to get Jessica back on the right track, “Why were they at the optometrist’s office?”

Jessica looked down at her hands and paused. “To make sure I was coming over here tonight.”

Charity made a pushy affirmative sound. “Mmmhmm. They wanted you to be here and I know you were looking forward to this earlier today. How are you doing with the crowd and noise?”

Given Jessica’s dark past, Grace knew that certain situations caused anxiety and she couldn’t blame her. She’d been held captive and kept as a slave for several months before being saved by Charity’s husbands, Val and Ransome.

Jessica swallowed and said, “When everyone is talking all at once, it gets a little hard to keep my nerves under control, but Bella is a good distraction.”

“Okay, then that’s it. You’re hanging out with us,” Grace said.

Jessica rose from the edge of the bed and slipped her coat back off. “Okay, if you don’t mind. I feel pathetic, like I need a babysitter or something.”

“Not at all. We introverts have to unite. Remember? “We came. We’re uncomfortable. And we want to go home!” Her mission was accomplished when Jessica chuckled and nodded

Charity scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Introvert my ass.”

“Hey, it’s true. Not all introverts are shy,”

Grace said as she pulled open the bedroom door.

When they went out into the expansive living room, the group was embroiled in a game of Pictionary. Lucy Owen was drawing out her clue on a whiteboard while everyone on her team called out answers.

Teresa Martinez joined them and asked to hold the baby and the four of them sat in the barstools at the kitchen island. Teresa cooed at Bella as she held her and Grace nudged Jessica and pointed across the room. “They’re so cute.”

Looking in the direction she gestured, Jessica smiled and nodded. Gwen Alvarez sat with her husbands, Julian Alvarez and Chris Potter. More precisely, she sat in Chris’s lap while flirting with him and Julian, who sat next to him. Gwen’s baby bulge was just beginning to show and might’ve been overlooked altogether is Chris hadn’t been gently rubbing it while they all talked with each other.

“What a sweet woobie,” Teresa said as she looked in the same direction.

Grace nodded as Charity gave her a surreptitious nudge and then said, “Total woobie. He’s so sweet to her, and then there Julian is, all hot, sexy cowboy man candy goodness. She’s got the best of both worlds and two men who adore her. But Chris? That man is pure sugar.”

“What’s a woobie?” Jessica asked as she looked back at them.

Grace clandestinely pointed at Chris. “That’s a woobie. And that, and that, and that, and that,” she said as she pointed around the room at all the Divine woobies. Adam Grant. Eli Wolf. Richard Warner. Kemp Whittier. Seth Carter. Spencer Ketchum. Lastly, she indicated Tank and Troy, who were busy watching Beck O’Malley give the next Pictionary clue.

“What? Big guys?” Jessica asked, and Grace noticed that her eyes were on the two big, sexy, ginger hunks. Tank happened to glance back at them, caught them looking at him, and Grace giggled when high color rose in his tanned cheeks and his ears turned a little red.

Charity gigglesnorted and said, “Ah, yes, there it is, that sweet ginger blush.”

Jessica looked down at her hands and her own cheeks grew a little rosy as she said, “He hates that his skin does that. He told me it doesn’t matter how tan he gets, his face still turns red at the drop of a hat.”

“A ginger woobie,” Teresa said as she bounced Bella on her knee. “He helped me last week when I was stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. I explained that Angel and Joaquin were on the way and he and Troy insisted they could take care of changing the flat for them.”

Grace grinned and said, “Lydia told me that she encountered a rattlesnake on her back porch, and within seconds of calling out, they were there with a garden hoe.”

Jessica looked from one to the other of them as they laid it on super thick for a minute or two and then finally held up her hand.

“Okay. Okay. So they’re big, and good in a tight spot.”

Charity snorted and started laughing so hard Grace thought she might fall off of her stool. Guests even looked over from the other room.

Jessica gasped and put her hand to her cheek as if what she’d said had just dawned on her. “Oh! You know what I mean!” But then she started giggling, too. Grace noticed that the laughter seemed to ease her stress a little.

They chortled for another minute and then Grace tipped her chin in Chris’s direction. “Chris, and all the other woobies are gentle giants, you’re right about that, Jess. But they’re also really lavish with affection on their women, and they don’t mind if everyone knows the sun and moon sets over their woman’s head.” She let loose a long, soft sigh, as she thought of the gentle lovemaking Adam had lavished on her that morning. “They give great hugs, lots of kisses…”

Teresa echoed her soft sigh.

“And they’re really protective, especially when their woman is hurting. And as gentle as they are with their women, they can be very harsh with those who hurt them.”

Grace glanced over at Teresa as she gazed at her husbands, Angel and Joaquin, but thought she was elsewhere, and Grace said, “Hey, have y’all heard from Luka and Matthias?”

“No. I told you that you could invite them to this party if you wanted to.” Unspoken but obvious in Teresa’s eyes was the fact that she was still hurt by the part her younger brothers-in-law had played in the extensive damage done to her home while Teresa and their family had been away on a trip to see the men’s parents in the valley.

“I tried. Luka didn’t answer when I called him. And Matthias gave me some vague story about having plans already.”

“I told Angel and Joaquin that I’d forgiven them.

It’s not like I could stay mad at them forever.”

Charity hmphed. “I still want to kick both of their asses on your behalf.”

Grace chuckled. “Down girl.” She turned to Teresa and murmured, “They’ll find their way back eventually. And they’re really lucky to have such a forgiving sister-in-law.” Grace secretly still wanted to kick their asses, too.

Teresa smiled at her friends and said, “So now you know what woobies, are, huh, Jessica?”

“I guess.”

Grace nudged her and said, “I think the best thing about our woobies is that they have great big soft hearts and taking care of us brings them a lot of joy.”

Jessica nibbled on her lip and her gaze settled on the two handsome redheads across the room. Both men were talking quietly and then they both happened to glance her way.

“You know what I like about them?” Jessica asked.

Grace didn’t have to ask to know she was referring to Tank and Troy. “What?”

“They’re big but they’re not loud.

You’d think looking at them that they’re loud and boisterous, but they aren’t…at least not around me.”

Grace smiled and nodded. “I noticed that.”

Jessica nodded. “They understand.”

The three of them nodded, knowing what she meant without needing to have it explained. After what she’d suffered at the hands of her captor, Jessica needed peace and stability. Grace looked across the room at the two men who were gazing at Jessica as if they wanted to cuddle her close and Tank blushed again when Grace winked at him.

Jessica suddenly stood from her bar stool. “Right.” She turned to Teresa. “Would you mind holding her for a few more minutes? I thought I’d…go visit.”

Teresa made a shooing motion and her eyes sparkled with mischief. “You go on. We’ll take turns with the baby. You go…visit.”

Jessica made her way over to Tank and Troy. When he realized she was headed right for them, Troy’s cheeks grew a little ruddy, too. Tank spoke softly to her and shrugged when she lifted his large hand to look at the bandage. She looked up at him and said something and he chuckled and put his arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head.

Grace, Charity, And Teresa fist bumped

as they watch the evening unfold. Grace knew Jessica had a long row to hoe in her recovery and any man, or men, she fell in love with would need to be patient with her. Observing the way the men drew her into the conversation yet allowed her a little breathing room gave Grace hope. And that’s what Christmas was all about. Hope.

©Heather Rainier 2014 All Rights Reserved


I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into Grace’s Christmas Eve Party at the Divine Creek Ranch. It was my pleasure to give you a little taste of the stories you’ll be seeing next year in Divine. My family and I wish you all a blessed, safe, and peaceful Christmas, and a very happy and prosperous 2015.

~Heather Rainier

MC 2014     

If you enjoy erotic romance with a Texas twist, check out the book lineup at the right. If you enjoy Christmas-themed erotic romance, click on this link for a look at my latest book, Absentminded Angel which released recently, just in time for Christmas.


All I Want For Christmas Is a Woobie Under My Tree by Heather Rainier

Coffee, Tea, and Matchmaking

Two irrepressible matchmakers meet for a weekend of Christmas shopping. The result? Divinely Lusty Magic!


“Could we stop at Lusty Appetites before we leave?” Grace Warner asked as she secured the shopping bags on the back seat of her Escalade. “I have a craving, and it’s just down the street.”

Kate Benedict chuckled. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with Tracy’s crème puffs, now would it?”

With a giggle, Grace checked her watch. “It’s the perfect time for a snack, and there are several Divine men who would think kindly of me if I brought them crème puffs as a surprise.”

Kate took the elbow Grace offered and they began the short jaunt down the block. “You should take whatever crème puffs Tracy has already made, so you’ll have enough. Just make sure you leave a few for my grandson Henry Kendall. He gets cranky when there are no crème puffs.”

Ginny Kendall greeted Kate and Grace with hugs when they stepped inside Lusty Appetites. “Come on over here and get comfortable. Do you ladies want menus, or are you in for a snack?”

“Just a snack, sweetheart,” Kate said. “Before we head off to Divine. I’ll have a cup of hot tea. Grace would like coffee.”

“And a crème puff each?” Ginny asked.

“You know me well,” Kate said, and then placed Grace’s sizable crème puff to-go order with Ginny.

Ginny nodded. “That’s not a problem. Tracy came in early and has been baking up a storm.” She delivered the beverages and returned a minute later with two saucers bearing scrumptious-looking crème puffs. Grace couldn’t stifle a moan as she sampled the delectable treat.

Grace noticed the gleam in Kate’s eyes and once she’d taken a sip of her tea, she leaned forward. “So? Tell me about your friend, Presley Ann? How is she? It must be nearly time for that baby to arrive.”

Grace set her coffee cup down and said, “Presley Ann is a dynamo, getting ready for the baby. I’d worry about her working so many hours but everywhere she goes, someone is keeping an eye on her, whether she likes it or not.”

Kate lifted a brow. “And those two delightful firefighters you were telling me about? Any chance of them moving to your area? They seem just the type to take good care of a new mother and her baby.”

Grace nodded but rolled her eyes. “I know, right? I pointed that out to Presley Ann. It’s obvious Kendry and Jared care for her, judging by the way they seek her out when they visit. Leah, James, and Vincent are awesome but they aren’t the only ones pulling Kendry and Jared back to Divine. And she can hardly take her eyes off of them when they’re around. But Presley Ann doesn’t see it. She asked why two handsome single guys would saddle themselves with a scatter-brained burden like her. It’s as if she doesn’t think she deserves happiness. Given her rotten luck lately she deserves a little good fortune.”

Kate nodded. “Presley Ann seems intent on punishing herself for her mistakes. Perhaps if someone were to aid Kendry and Jared in finding a nice home for themselves in Divine, she might be persuaded otherwise.”

Grace let an evil chuckle escape. “You know…I happen to have a realtor friend who likes crème puffs. So, tell me what’s going on in Lusty. Any new developments?”

“Your Presley Ann seems to have a lot in common with Veronica’s brothers, Jesse and Barry. I know hard working men when I see them, but those two seem intent on tearing themselves down to their very foundations, judging by the steady diet of crow they’ve been living on for the last year.”

“Are you talking about the younger twins? The ones who were so hard on Veronica when she was growing up? She dreaded seeing them last Christmas at her binding ceremony. They’ve changed?”

Kate patted Grace’s hand. “Like night to day, sweetie. I think that evening was a major wake-up call for them—it was the first time they realized that they’d been bullies. And the cosmos must approve of the changes because it looks like they’ve found love.”

Grace gigglesnorted. “I don’t suppose you had anything to do with that, did you? Who is it?”

“I plead ‘no comment’ on my responsibility. She’s a friend of yours.”

Grace abandoned her pastry. “Who?”

Kate savored her pastry and then took a leisurely sip of tea, amusement twinkling in her eyes. “A lovely woman by the name of Charlotta Carmichael.”

“Get out of town! Really?”

“Mmm-hmm, she’s a clinical psychologist now. I understand she’s good friends with your Camilla Parks who owns the Twisted Bull.”

Grace paused, unsure about saying more. If Kate didn’t know about Charlotta’s former career as a dancer, it wasn’t for her to tell tales.

Kate smiled warmly and forged on. “And yes, I know how she paid for that degree. Without the support of her parents she attended college and graduated debt-free. I admire her for that.”

“Do Jesse and Barry know?”

Kate mulled the question over and shook her head. “That is yet to be revealed. I’ve been encouraging the boys to visit Veronica in Divine. Perhaps they will, during the holidays. It would be nice if they could rebuild their relationship.” Kate took another sip of tea, and ate the last of her crème puff. “Do you suppose when we get to Divine we could visit that little shop located downtown? Violet’s Emporium? And possibly Stigall’s?”

“We could. And if Presley Ann is there I could introduce you.”

“I’d love that. I have a good feeling about her and those handsome firefighters.”

Grace nodded. “I’m pleasantly surprised to say I’m feeling the same way about those grandsons of yours.”

Kate giggled good-naturedly. “Those rascals just needed a proper nudge. Perhaps Presley Ann needs the same. You never know.”

Grace was just collecting her boxes of crème puffs when Adam and Henry Kendall walked in and greeted them. After they’d kissed Grandma Kate on the cheek, Henry said, “I was in the mood for a crème puff.”

“You’re always in the mood for a crème puff,” Adam said. “I, on the other hand, came to kiss my wife.”

After Kate parted ways with her grandsons and rejoined her, Grace looked down at the boxes and said, “When you placed the order, did you have them save any back for Henry?”

Kate snorted and ushered Grace down the sidewalk at a spry clip. “I did. They had plenty of the sugar-free ones left over.”

“Grandma Kate!”


The preceding  was written by Morgan Ashbury and I, and originally appeared as a feature on Siren BookStrand’s Facebook Page the week of 12-11-14, marking the impending release of (my) Absentminded Angel and (her) Love Under Two Outcasts. We hope that you enjoyed it.

For further info about titles in the Lusty, Texas series, please follow this link.

For info about titles in my series, the Divine Creek Ranch Collection, please follow this link.

NaNoWriMo: Now What?

A nanowrimo2012-tuawYou took that leap of faith. November 1st or thereabouts you set fingers to keys and unleashed the visions in your head on the page. You learned a few things along the way:

~It’s harder than you thought.

~You know less about good grammar, spelling, and punctuation than you imagined.

~You realized that plot and structure apply to you as well, even if you don’t want them to.

~Even if you want to break the rules you still have to understand the rules to break them properly.

~It’s necessary to show up every day and put fingers to keys in order to achieve your goals.

Those are all good starting points and NOT reasons to give up.

A novelists_0What do you do now? Save your magnum opus in a computer file and shake your head because who would want to read that? Put it away because you can’t look at it again after working on it for 30 days straight? Or open it to page one today and realize that what you have in your hands is a FIRST DRAFT. It’s not supposed to be perfect.

Oh wait. Did you think it was perfect? *gigglesnort* I refer you to Tymber Dalton’s advice: Go take your meds. Do yourself a favor and go read her own blog post “You Are Not A Special Snowflake”

You may be getting pressure from well meaning friends asking when they can read this creative work of genius they’ve seen you posting progress for on Facebook all month. You may be getting lots of advice about what to do with your masterpiece. All I can say about that is to check the quality of the fruit of the person giving you advice. If they are where you really want to be then by all means skip the rest of this post and do that.

If not, then let me bend your ear (or monopolize your eyes) for a few more moments…

“What do I do with this thing, Heather?”

Many of you are seriously considering self-publishing your NaNo novel. You want to make a successful career out of the writer gig. Awesome. But for the love of all that is inspiring, beautiful, and magical about storytelling…


You were not “finished” with your book at midnight on November 30th.

Yes, you typed those wonderful words—“The End”—but you were by no means done. This is where the real work begins.

It’s not time to start looking at graphic designers, stock photo sites, or cover artists. That’s one of the last things you need to do.

Revisions. Right now, it’s time to comb through that manuscript and find all those areas of inconsistency in your story. Weed out the content that doesn’t move your story forward. Fine tune your character development.

Are your characters relatable, likable? They don’t have to be perfect but they DO have to be characters your readers will want to root for. Can your readers suspend disbelief to enter your world? Is there a compelling story to keep them in that world?

Correct your typos, grammar, tenses, and punctuation. Yes, a copy editor will also perform this service but don’t think it’s not part of your job, too.

Your readers may be able to suspend disbelief for your world building but if their experience is repeatedly interrupted because you don’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re, or because you’re head-hopping faster than they can keep up, or your heroine’s eyes just changed from blue to green then all that awesome world building isn’t going to carry you.

  • If an editor asked you to tell them about your book in two sentences or less, could you do it?
  • Do you know the rules for the genre you wrote your story in? Do you even know what genre your story is? If it’s supposed to be an erotic romance but you spent more time on the comedy than the love scenes, you might want to dial back on the giggles so your readers can feel the heat.

Perhaps you’re from a creative background and you already have some skills, but if you’re a first timer maybe you’ve drawn another conclusion:


A ready-get-set-go-nanowrimo-L-ahAKHWDuring a lull in writing last summer, I read a number of self-published romances, both erotic and not-so-erotic. I’d been getting recommendations from Amazon based on other books I’d been reading, and I’d also had some reader recommendations. What the heck, right?

I learned quickly to always choose samples instead of investing the full price. The reason? While the $2.99 price tag may be tempting, MANY of those books were a waste, not only of my money, but of my time, because of issues that were fixable if they had just taken the time to either fix them or get the advice of a professional.

  • Typos, bad grammar, errors in tense and point of view, head-hopping, improper or missing punctuation. Poor sentence mechanics and structure. Lack of basic description or too much description. Narrative that goes on for pages and pages. Repetition. Choppy, chit-chatty, boring dialogue. All those are bad enough.
  • What’s worse? Unlikable characters. Storylines that were more contorted and convoluted than they needed to be. Inconsistencies within the stories. Lack of showing versus telling. Missed opportunities. Poor timing, especially in love scenes.

1653491_915838241768500_3212485775564198219_nI’ve painted a pretty dismal picture, I know, but that was my experience as a reader. I don’t want to start any wars here but I’ll happily pay ten dollars for a well-written, well-edited story that will satisfy me, whether it was published in New York, or by an indie publisher, or self-published.

So, as the proud owner of a newly completed manuscript, what do you take home from my experience?

  • You need a professional editor for both content (storyline and character development) and copy editing. Hire a professional who edits in the genre you’ve written in and pay them. (If you ask them and they have no clue what to charge you, they are not a professional.) And don’t expect them to do the work for you. You’re the writer. They’re your edits to work through. The benefit is that way you will learn, by doing, what not to do.
  • You need a professionally done cover. You’ve been on Amazon. You know what I’m talking about and I don’t need to say anything else, because…damn.
  • Don’t set a release date and then kill yourself reaching it, only to discover that you have major screw-ups in a manuscript that is now accessible to millions. Your name is your brand and the last thing you want is for readers to feel cheated.
  • Take your time and put only the best into your readers’ hands every time. No, that is not an unreasonable goal. I’m not talking about perfection. I’m talking about being a professional.

“Heather, I can’t afford to pay an editor, or have that kind of time! I have a day job and bills.”

That’s okay. This is a marathon, not a sprint. The more you write the more you hone your skills, provided you’re educating yourself in the process.

A Chris Pine writingKeep writing. You could be another blockbuster author who writes for the sheer love of it and winds up with a big Rubbermaid tub of manuscripts or a cloud drive full of completed stories. If your goal is to become an awesome writer, one day your opportunity will present itself and you could wind up a millionaire with readers worldwide who adore you. It could happen. It has happened.

Keep honing your craft. Read everything you can on the craft of writing. Subscribe to writer’s and editor’s blogs. Most of what I’ve learned about craft I learned online by asking questions and doing Google searches. The answers are out there. Read bestselling books in the genre you want to write. Dissect them, outline them, (just don’t plagiarize them!) and discover what works about them…and what doesn’t..facebook_1410934681774

Befriend authors online. Observe what works and what makes you come back to them. And learn what the turn-offs are and promise yourself to never air your dirty laundry, political or religious views, or rants over reviews online. Never. Just don’t.

Don’t go for promo gimmicks. Building a following that lasts is a time-consuming process. If you’re doing this to get rich quick, it’s highly likely you will be disappointed in the long-term results. And value the people in your life who will tell you what you need to hear, even if you have to pay them to do it.

The other benefit of taking your time is that it allows you to develop subsequent stories that can dovetail into previous ones. The fact that I’m able to do that in my series is borne completely from the fact that releasing a submitted book takes two months and in that time, story elements from future books can be woven in to previous ones (with care).

I apologize for popping your bubble if you wanted to get rich quick with your NaNo novel. The writing is the fun part. December 1st, the work will have only just begun.

  • Make the investment in professional editing, formatting, and cover design.
  • Do the work.
  • Have it edited again.

.facebook_1414207362932Then worry about unleashing that masterpiece on the millions who will love it. That way, when your work stands out, it won’t be because it’s a train wreck, it’ll be because you are the cream rising to the surface in an industry that is increasingly difficult to be seen in.

This post was primarily geared toward those NaNoWriMo survivors who are considering self-publishing. It’s important that you get references for all professionals that you hire. And if someone approaches you wanting to publish your book “for you” if you’ll just pay them a fee, don’t walk, run the other way. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. Yes, if you want to self-publish you’ll have to pay your team of professionals for services at the time they’re rendered, but in publishing, the royalties should flow to the author not away from them, assuming you want to make money. 🙂

10297569_1551280418346272_5825404518159253846_nNote before anyone throws a fireball at my head: My thoughts about self-published books are based on my experience as a paying reader. And yes, there have been a few that have been worth the money I paid. My intent is not to denigrate self-published works, but merely to emphasize that self-published authors have to serve as their own gatekeepers.

My professional experience is as an author writing for an independent publisher. I don’t have to worry about paying an editor, a formatter, a cover artist, or a printer for paperbacks, and I don’t have to deal with distributors. They handle all that for me. That means I can do what I’m best at.

Rather than ask for comments about self-published train wrecks you may have read and regretted, or self-pubbed works that you thought were more than up to snuff, I want to open comments up to NaNoWriMo pre-published authors, and those who would encourage them.

Tell us in fifty words or less about your book.

Hook us. Make us salivate for your story. What were some of the challenges you experienced along the way? You’re welcome to comment whether you met the 50,000 word count goal or not. It’s about the journey.

Comments are moderated for first time commenters and posts shaming any author by name will be deleted.




Being Thankful

I’ve seen lots of friends posting their days of thankfulness or gratitude on Facebook lately and many of them get me smiling. Facebook sometimes seems flooded with negativity and those bright spots do make it a better place.

One reader is a teacher who shares the occasional random thought from one of her anonymous teenaged male students. What harnesses the mind of a teenaged boy is oftentimes hilarious. But she’s also grateful for her kids, and not just the ones she corrals at home. It’s hard to be a teacher in our culture and the fact that she actively searches for something to smile about makes me thankful.

Another reader comes from a totally different culture from me. We live in the same state but the part of the state she’s from might as well be another country. She’s liberal, I’m conservative. She’s a little woo-woo but she’s okay with the fact that I’m not, but since I kinda get where she’s coming from, doesn’t that make me a little woo-woo, too? I don’t know but I’m okay with her articles about auras and Mother Earth.

A friend of mine is perpetually angry on Facebook. A lot of what she’s angry about is justifiable, and sometimes I get the feeling that she’s right in a lot of what she’s angry about. Yeah, I could unfollow her, but there’s always a silver lining to being her friend because she also genuinely cares for others, so I’m thankful for her.

Then there’s that reader who recently lost a loved one, and if there was any way I could do it, I’d fly to her just to give her a hug. She’s dealing with that pain and the resulting depression the best way she can, and keeps positive, and for that I respect her even more. She faces her pain regularly and doesn’t dump on people in the process. No, instead, she edifies others, lifting them up and making them the focus. That is a gift.

I’ve also been watching several author friends participating in NaNoWriMo this month. For the uninitiated, that stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is for writers to pen 50,000 words in the thirty days of November each year.  Time is wearing thin in November and some have kept pushing while others have thrown up their hands. To me, it almost seems unfair to do this in a holiday month when there are so many distractions, but it’s also a time when aspiring authors learn if they have what it takes to write that many words in a month. It gives them a taste for striving with a deadline, but it’s only a drop in the bucket for what’s required to have staying power in this industry. Despite the struggles, I love what I do for a living, and respect the fact that they at least try. And no, is not as easy as it looks, is it?

In this month alone, I’ve watched authors behaving badly, and reviewers getting stalked, seen books being pirated and plagiarized by people who think that’s okay. So when I see authors acting classy, behaving well, having fun and making it look easy, I’m thankful. So very thankful.

We had plans set in place for Thanksgiving, but like all well made plans, they can change in a moment’s notice. This change in plans led to me being thankful. Thankful for my kids.

We parents raise them up, hoping they turn out responsible, self-disciplined, and others-oriented. We hope they don’t wind up being burdens on society.

I have two, and what I see most often are the squabbles, the chore-ignoring, and inconsiderate behavior they show toward each other, and sometimes toward their parents. They’re 12 and 15 and before I know it they’ll be out from under our roof.

My worries were given a moment’s peace yesterday when this change in Thanksgiving plans happened. I don’t want to give too much detail but it involves a pre-school great nephew who became unresponsive yesterday and was showing classic symptoms for stroke. We still haven’t heard what the issue is so I appreciate everyone’s prayers and healing thoughts.

This nephew has a younger sibling and his parents are expecting their third child early next year so the mom is pulled between being at the hospital, being needed by the younger child, heavily pregnant, and dealing with her own stress as well as her husband’s. Not a place where I’d want to send extra kids.

Since she already had her with her, my sister-in-law asked if she could take our daughter with them out of town to help out. Juliet, as she is known online, is extraordinarily gifted in dealing with young children and her help was an asset to them. Our initial reaction was to not want to send more children into an already chaotic situation but they insisted she would be an asset.

Although I obviously am not thankful that my four year old great nephew is in the hospital with a potentially serious condition, I am thankful for the revelation that my daughter’s hands were needed, and also that she dropped her own plans for a relaxing holiday to help out where needed.

But there is another added blessing. It’s the burden of “Number Two” children, and those beyond, that they never really have a chance to enjoy having their parents all to themselves, especially on a holiday. As I write this, Brattley, as he is known online, is on his way home with his dad, and it looks like we are spending the holiday with just the three of us. He’s always made a point of speaking his gratitude for moments where it’s just him and us so I know it will be meaningful to him. And MAYBE it’ll give him a chance to miss his sister and appreciate her just a little. Asking too much? Let a mother have her delusions dreams, damn it. 😀

That’s my Thanksgiving blog post, in all it’s randomness and gratitude. I’m thankful for every one of you and hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving.



A Man’s Hands


Hand with wrench. Auto mechanic in car repair

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend that developed into a blog post centered around one of my favorite things about my husband.

(I hear you snickering. Your mind= the gutter! 😀 )

I like work-roughened hands. Callused,  hard-working hands. Whether they hold a hammer,  a wrench, a blow torch, a steering wheel, pull electrical wire, lay cable, climb ladders, towers, or electrical poles.

Hard working hands say so much about a man, most especially that they’re not afraid of a hard, hot days’ work in the sun, or a long day spent in the cold.

Hands say a lot about a man.

Newborn baby on the fathers hands

Jack was awestruck as he held out his hands to gently receive his daughter, with just a little help from Emma, as the baby was born. Tears streamed from his eyes as he gazed on her cherubic little face for the first time. Rose Marie’s tiny chin quivered as she struggled to form her first howling cry.

Because I was in Doctor Emma’s point of view for this scene, from Their Divine Doctor,  I couldn’t elaborate on what was going through Jack’s head,  but I can tell you exactly what he was thinking as he took his daughter in his hands for the very first time…

“I hope I don’t hurt her with these rough ol’ hands.”

Ethan reached out a tender hand and stroked Rose Marie’s downy little head as tears sparkled in his bright, blue eyes and got caught in his lashes. His lower lip trembled almost imperceptibly as he whispered, “Well, you’re just as beautiful as your mama, aren’t you, honey?”

I can tell you that Ethan marveled at how tiny she was compared to his big hand. He was also overwhelmed that this little being was a tiny part of his Gracie.

Adam Davis was a very tall man and could easily have held Rose Marie in one of his large hands. This gentle giant placed a hand on the baby’s back and in a shaky voice said, “Look at those little rosebud lips. She’s the image of her mama.”

And Adam… He was mostly terrified of dropping her the first time he held her. He even made himself a little light-headed imagining that.  It was a long while before he could really relax any time he held his daughter. (Of course,  readers know that nowadays it’s him that is wrapped around her chubby little fingers. 😀 )

Architect Drawing On Blueprint

I’m not saying that the hands of a man who works  in front of a keyboard, holds a pen, dry erase marker, or a book are less sexy. They get just as busy with other pursuits that rough those hands up when not earning a living, or at least I hope they do.

This topic leads me to a side note.

If you know a boy, a teenager, or  a young man, please teach them the importance of a good, friendly, but firm hand shake.

Make sure they know to be gentle with the elderly, tender but solid with the ladies, and firm but not a pissing contest with men.

Few things turn me off more than a man who has a limp handshake. It makes a long-lasting negative first impression so teach those boys not to do that, okay? 😀

Two Hands In BedI’d blogged on the subject of a man’s hands a few years ago and in the process of re-treading the article for the enjoyment of the Divine Divas,  I realized I had more to say on the subject.

The article (from January 2012) wasn’t a long one, but this was a part I wanted to share…

Years ago, I held my [then] fiancé’s hands as we struggled with the death of someone very dear to us. That day I was struck by the gentle strength of his grasp. I think that’s what fascinates me most about a decent, hard-working man’s hands. Power, tempered by gentleness. The same hands that can control a large, recalcitrant animal can cradle the tiniest infant in safety. They are just as valuable for expressing love or passion in a story as any other body part or spoken words. They stroke, grasp, heal, protect and tremble, saying so much without words.

Holding Hands

Those same manly hands are working overtime these days, doing the electrical wiring and audio/video wiring on our new home,  as well as many other tasks. He’s a Jack-of-all-trades. This is just one more thing to love about him.

What do you think? Is it just me with a weird “hand fetish”? Do you feel the same way? Do my descriptions in books of a hero’s rough but gentle hands do something for you, too?


You Want Me To Say What?


An old lady expresses shock/ surprise. Isolated on white.“There are some words a lady does not use.” That’s what my mom always told me. Another line I used to hear a lot of was, “You are too intelligent to use such language.” My mother, God rest her soul, would be appalled by the language I use today, but I think she would have gotten over it quickly.

In the fall of 2009 I wrote Divine Grace. It took 236,000 words for me to tell Grace’s story. After several rounds of edits we’d managed to knock that number down to around 200,000.

Of that grand word count total, I used “pussy” 211 times, “cock” 311 times. (It was a ménage, so the cock to pussy ratio is actually is a little lopsided if you ask me.) And I used “cunt” 30 times. Why the big difference, you ask?

In the originally submitted manuscript, cunt appeared exactly zero times. That was a conscious decision on my part. I grew up in a home where that word was used frequently as an insult. It made me shudder and I studiously avoided people who used it.picture of amazed woman with hand over mouth

My heroine originally had a big problem with the word and so her men never used it. In every other way the story earned the hottest rating that Siren Publishing gives to a book. With the encouragement of my editors and  publisher I stripped every trace of purple prose from that manuscript and went for the gold, so to speak. If I was going to write a story for women readers accustomed to seeing it in print, why would I shrink from using the word “cunt”?

I pondered the word “cunt” for a while afterward and obviously grew very comfortable using it in my writing. Why had I held out? The reason was obvious. Training by my mother to never use it and conditioning by the male relative in my life to believe it was fit only to be used as an insult.

If you’ve ever watched “Braveheart” you will undoubtedly remember the scene in which William Wallace’s Irish friend Stephen reports to him, in a nutshell, that the Irish will be helping them in the battle they are facing. Referring to Ireland, he proudly says, “It’s MY island!”

Close-up of female stockings isolated on whiteWell, I’ve taken that word back. Cunt is no longer a bad word in my world. It actually makes me quite a lot of money. In fact, “It’s MY word.” Many authors read their manuscripts aloud to catch errors and problems. I have found that to be a helpful tool. The word “cunt” flows from my fingertips with ease but thanks to my departed mother’s training, “cunt” never gets spoken above a whisper. I blame my mother for that. Some training just goes too deep.

This blog post first appeared on August 16, 2011. At the request of my street team, the Divine Divas, I’ll be sharing other looks back at my early blogging attempts. I hope you enjoyed it…and yes, I still have to whisper that word, just not quite as softly. 😀

Y’all have a great day!