Friday, December 14, 2018

12 Days of Clean Romance: Hayley Wescott

 
  A Snow Globe Christmas by Hayley Wescott 
 Kelsey Patrick is homesick for the snow and family Christmas tree from her childhood in Connecticut. The holidays are coming and South Florida weather is lovely, but it's not what she wants for Christmas. She's making the best of it, but she expects her Christmas to be un-snowy and lonely. When she receives a lovely and thoughtful last minute Secret Santa gift from Mrs. Claus, Kelsey's Christmas spirit is revived. When she tries to find the one who gave her the gift under the guise of Mrs. Claus, she makes an assumption that leads her down the wrong path. Brett Taylor is firmly seated in the friend zone and knows Kelsey is making a mistake, but he's in no position to try to change her mind. Just when both Brett and Kelsey are set to spend their holidays working and alone, a chain of events just might change all that. And maybe Mrs. Claus will see her sweet work behind the scenes bring two love birds together at last. 
   
 “Oh, you are still going to be able to make it to my supper party after the gift giving, aren’t you?” Kelsey asked. “I mean, it’s nothing special, just a big tray of lasagna and some appetizers and dessert, of course. And being cramped into my tiny apartment will be an adventure. But, it’s Christmas, and you guys are my Florida family. We’re all working over the festive period, so we need to let our hair down a little, don’t you think?” “Hey, I’m coming back with you after the gifts to help you get ready. Wouldn’t miss the Patrick festive Christmas lasagna,” Annie said giggling. “Tell me what you need me to bring and I’ll get it while I’m out now. It was the best night of the year, last year.” “Thank you, that means a lot, Kelsey said, touched at Annie’s compliment. “I think I’m good, though.” She paused. “No, hang on a minute. They didn’t have any heavy cream when I went to the store earlier. Could you see if Nielsen’s has any, if you’re going to be next door at Caspar’s.” “I can do that. Ooh, I do hope you’re gonna use that cream in your famous cherry trifle. I just love that stuff,” Annie said, not disguising the desire in her voice. Kelsey couldn’t help wondering if she was actually drooling. It made her smile to think her food was so appreciated. “I might, I might not. It’ll all depend on whether you get me the cream,” she teased. “Oh, I’ll get you that cream,” Annie vowed. The two women laughed and made their good byes, assuring each other that they’d meet up at work the next day. Hanging up, Kelsey wondered what it must be like, to be one of those people who left everything to the very last minute. To not have even thought about what you were going to buy someone, the night before that gift was to be given, that would never sit well with Kelsey. Normally her tree would have been up on the very first day of December, and her presents and cards wrapped and delivered across the country a week ago. She absolutely hated that her tree had only gone up today when it was just a week and a half from Christmas. But, because of all the shifts she’d taken at work she didn’t really have much of a choice if she wanted to sleep any. It was done now and her living room sparkled from all the fairy lights as they flashed their bright hues over the glittering tinsel and shiny metallic baubles. Feeling weary, Kelsey stretched and yawned loudly. Winston looked at her with wide eyes. “Bed time?” she asked him. He ran straight through to the bedroom and began to stake his claim at the end of the bed. He kneaded the mattress with his paws, then settled down, curling his body up into a tight ball, though he left his legs out in front of him, making him look a bit like a furry shrimp. Kelsey slipped off her shorts and tee shirt and slipped on an old night shirt. It had a very faded Mickey Mouse on it and was so misshapen from all the years of washings that it was barely holding itself together. But it was comfortable on the warm nights here in Florida, and so Kelsey would never part with it. The sheets were cool as she slipped between them, and it wasn’t long before she had fallen fast asleep. She dreamed of snow falling all around her with fat, heavy flakes landing on her hair and her eyelashes. Wrapped up in a thick coat, with woolen mittens and a hand-knitted scarf and hat she was toasty warm. She twirled around and around, as though she were a ballerina in a music box, turning her face up to the sky and opening her mouth so the snow could land on her tongue, all icy and fresh. It was like Heaven on Earth, and when the alarm sounded Kelsey didn’t want to wake up and face the bright sunshine, or the palm trees, or the sea because there would be no snow again today in Florida.
   
 Wonderful story! The characters are engaging and I love the emphasis on family. Christmas away from home filled with memories takes the reader on a sweet Christmas adventure with friends and surprises to make for a nice evening read. The end is such a sweet surprise, I never saw it coming! Very good clean romance.     
       
  Author Hayley Wescott 
 Hayley Wescott loves a sweet love story with the emphasis on the sweet. As a Christian author, she's happy and fulfilled to write stories about real life that don't include cringe-worthy moments or details a reader doesn't really want. Some of Hayley's stories are about real life. Contemporary stories about flawed people and people that have issues. But each of these stories is resolved in a positive way and the guy always gets the girl. As part of the Hero Hearts group, Hayley loves writing about heroes who will save the day in big ways and small ones. With Annie Boone, who writes historical romance, and Kate Cambridge who writes both historical and contemporary romance, these three will deliver sweet stories that will capture your heart. Handsome men with big hearts and big jobs and the women who end up falling for them.  
        
   
Giveaway Details 
 $25 Amazon Gift Code or $25 in PayPal Cash Ends 1/6/19 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner may be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, BookBub, Instagram, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. 
This giveaway was organized by Kathy from 
and is sponsored by the author. 
VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  

Book Tour and Giveaway: Starving Hearts / Never Past Hope by Janine Mendenhall

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Starving Hearts
(Triangular Trade Trilogy #1)
By Janine Mendenhall
Christian Historical Romantic Suspense
Paperback & ebook, 300 Pages
May 16th 2016 by Heritage Beacon Fiction

Carol Award Finalist
Selah Award Finalist

Plagued by nightmares, Annette yearns to find her anonymous rescuer — the man who saved her life from a near deadly assault. Deep inside she is starving for companionship and a mutually respectful relationship. When Mr. Peter Adsley, an abolitionist pastor dealing with his own emotional baggage, agrees to a clandestine meeting, the event appears providential. But self-doubt, deception, and the schemes of a mutual enemy threaten to keep the pair apart. A phantom adversary will stop at nothing to win Annette’s dowry for himself, even if it means killing Peter.

Praise for the Book

"Not only is this a delightful regency romance but it is also suspense filled mystery of the very best kind." - Amazon Review

"The author did a great job, maybe too great a job, describing the slave scenes. Spine tingling and suspenseful. I was biting my nails throughout much of this book." - Amazon Review

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

My Review: 

Starving Hearts is a good beginning to the Triangular Trade Trilogy. I absolutely loved Annette and Peter. The story has some mystery and suspense. I mostly appreciated the historical details and found them to be quite interesting. Though the story did get a little slow in the middle, it quickly picked back up within a few chapters. 

I am giving Starving Hearts three and a half stars. I look forward to see where Triangular Trade Trilogy goes to next in book two.  

I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion. 


Never Past Hope
(Triangular Trade Trilogy #2)
By Janine Mendenhall
Christian Historical Romantic Suspense
Paperback & ebook, 308 Pages
September 10th 2018 by Heritage Beacon Fiction

Miss Mary Hope Adsley always considered herself to be the sensible one. But now, her sensibilities are unraveling around a man she thought she knew. After he attempted to marry her best friend—for money, no less—authorities charge Sir Steven Likebridge with masquerading as a gentleman and abduction. With his execution days away, Mary Hope desperately seeks to learn the truth about the man she loves.

Will the truth turn out to be worse than his lies?

Praise for the Book

"I thoroughly enjoyed this clean, historical fiction. . . enjoyed most that it is not the usual presentation of a regency novel." - Amazon Review

"A lovely story that shows how despicable each of us can be and yet God not only still loves us, but He was willing to die for us." - Amazon Review

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository


My Review: 

Never Past Hope is the second book from Janine Mendenhall’s Triangular Trade Trilogy. Since, I read this one before book one, I feel believe it can be read as a stand alone. I thought this was a pretty good read. I enjoyed Mary and Steven’s story. I had no problems wanting to keep turning the pages to see where they were headed to next. 

I give Never Past Hope four stars. I look forward to see where Triangular Trade Trilogy goes to next in the third and final installment.  

I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion. 


About the Author


I love losing myself somewhere in time with Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice or a number of other classics like Jane Eyre and Redeeming Love. I cry over most things Nicholas Sparks (because they usually end sadly) and Amazing Grace, both the movie and the hymn, because they lead to the Ultimate happily ever after.


Tour Schedule

December 10th:
Launch
Jen Around the World
Remembrancy
December 11th:
Rockin' Book Reviews
Hearts & Scribbles
Splashes of Joy
December 12th:
Simply Kelina
Handcrafted Reviews
Jorie Loves A Story
December 13th:
Reading Is My SuperPower
Deal Sharing Aunt
December 14th:
Teatime and Books
Min Reads and Reviews
Reading On The Edge
Locks, Hooks and Books
December 15th:
Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway


- 1 winner will receive an Emerald Crown (picture is an example, may not be the same crown), Evening Khaki Lace Wrap, and a print copy of Starving Hearts
- US only
- Ends December 19, 2018

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Days of Fantasy for Christmas: Morgan Wylie

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Morgan Wylie for
Days of Fantasy for Christmas


The Age of Alandria series is a coming of age story of a heroine as she is awakened to her magical powers and a destiny she never saw coming.

**The Age Of Alandria book series is a YA epic fantasy written by Morgan Wylie. There are currently four books in the series with a fifth and final installment due out in the next year. This is an epic, world building fantasy series in the vein of Lord of the Rings and the Shannara Chronicles on MTV. There are Humans, Faeries, Shifters, Elves and many other magical elements along with many dark creatures and evil antagonists.

Silent Orchids
(The Age of Alandria #1)

A dying realm.
The ancient evil of the Droch-Shúil has been unleashed.
The Orchids have been silenced… but for how long?

Daegan, elite of the Ferrishyn warrior tribe of Faeries, is charged with a mission to find the Sol-lumieth, a mysterious new power that could change the fate of all in the realm of Alandria. But he is conflicted by his purpose, and he cannot trust the motives of those he serves. He has too many questions and they must be answered.

Kaeleigh, a girl abandoned as a small child just outside Missoula, Montana, is now 18. She is trying to discover who she is and where she belongs. In her heart, she feels she has family out there… somewhere. Desperate to unravel the mysteries of her past, she embarks on a journey that will forever change her along with her two best friends, Finn and Chel—who have secrets of their own.

Veiled Shadows
(The Age of Alandria #2)

Shadows linger where light is obstructed, and truth is veiled.
Evil is an untreated disease in the once beautiful realm of Alandria.

Kaeleigh is faced with a revelation that she must reconcile. She will decide if discovering the truth is worth the unknown consequences to both herself and her friends.

Daegan, the Ferrishyn warrior, is conflicted by more than his loyalties, and is confronted with emotions he doesn’t know how to deal with. A choice must be made. A choice… that may cost him more than he ever wanted to give.

The Droch-Shúil—enforcers and servants of the ancient darkness—continue to cast their shadow over Alandria seeking those who can be turned to their side.

The magic of The Orchids is growing, but not everyone will survive what is to come.

Fractured Darkness
(The Age of Alandria #3)

The darkness in Elnye is growing.
There is screaming in Exhile.

The mysterious woman, known only as “She”, is in a rage. Her pawn, Maleina has made a dangerous move and severed her communications with the dark mistress. Now as dueling dark forces, master and willing initiate, they begin to jockey for power as the stage is set for the coming war.

Kaeleigh and her small band of loyal companions have escaped the dungeons of Elnye and found their way to the secret home of the Ehsmia. After breaking the vicious bond that enslaved Daegan to Maleina’s will, the walls between Kaeleigh and her Ferrishyn warrior begin to fall, as their feelings for each other begin to give way to passion.

The darkness is fractured, but its relentless quest for power goes unabated. A war is coming. However, the power of the Sol-lumieth has finally come together and found its light. A blinding light of freedom, that may be the salvation for all of Alandria.

Fading Light
(The Age of Alandria #4)

Kaeleigh, Daegan, Finn, and Ella have just escaped the Forest of Lumei, surviving with the help of the Dryad Priestess, Andreinna. Now, focused on getting to one of the few portals leading to the mortal realm, they continue their journey together through the desolate lands of Alandria. They witness the truth of the land’s fading magic before making it to the portal, and their help is needed in the small town of Kandri where the darkness has infiltrated in mysterious ways.

Pairing up, they set out on three missions: Finn with Ella, seek allies amongst the Twined residents of Tylínyth. Kaeleigh and Daegan search for a map to lead them to the Book of Lenoria in order to reach The Orchids. Meanwhile, Chel and Hal seek allies among the Shifters of Mandü tré Lan with a few surprises of their own.

She—the mistress of darkness who resides in the mountains of Exhile—has tried time and again to free herself from captivity. The Orchids unknowingly provide her a source of energy to accelerate her plan for freedom, but how much more will be required? Her power is growing and She is amassing forces of her own.

The allies are gathering, but will they come together in time?

Will Maleina’s plans for ultimate power in Alandria be her own undoing?

The light of Alandria is fading.
But the fight is far from over, in fact, it is just the beginning.


Book Trailer


Dreamcast


About the Author


Morgan Wylie is an award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author with several genres published from YA fantasy to adult paranormal romance and other things in between. Morgan published her first novel, Silent Orchids, one year after moving across the country with her family on a journey of new discovery. After an amazing three years in Nashville, TN and the release of two more books, Morgan and her family found their way back to the Northwest where they now reside. Still working everyday with great optimism, Morgan continues to embrace all things: "Mama", wife, teacher, and mediator to the many voices and muses constantly chattering in her head... where it gets pretty loud!


Tour Schedule
(Links won't work until the posts go live.)

December 1st: Launch
December 2nd: Gillian Bronte Adams - The Songkeeper Chronicles
December 3rd: Morgan L. Busse - Mark of the Raven
December 4thEvangeline Denmark - Curio
December 5th: Kate Avery Ellison - A Gift of Poison
December 6th: J.M. Hackman - Spark
December 7th: Ronie Kendig - Embers
December 8th: C.E. Laureano - Oath of the Brotherhood
December 9th: Belle Malory - The Twelfth Keeper
December 10th: Melissa McShane - Voyager of the Crown
December 11th: J. Ellen Ross - The Remembered Queen
December 12th: Jennifer Silverwood - Silver Hollow
December 13th: Melissa Wright - Blood & Brute & Ginger Root
December 14th: Morgan Wylie - The Age of Alandria Series
December 15th: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway


Grand Prize #1: Winner will receive a FIRE HD 8 TABLET along with the following ebooks (open to those who are eligible for the Fire Tablet in their area can receive Kindle gifted copies of ebooks):
- CURIO, MARK OF BLOOD and ALCHEMY (The Curio Prequel), and THE ICE CHILD (a holiday novelette) by Evangeline Denmark
- A GIFT OF POISON by Kate Avery Ellison
- THE TWELFTH KEEPER by Belle Malory
- SERVANT O THE CROWN or VOYAGER OF THE CROWN (winner's choice) by Melissa McShane
- THE REMEMBERED QUEEN by J. Ellen Ross
- SILVER HOLLOW by Jennifer Silverwood
- THE FREY SAGA (Books 1-3) ebook box set by Melissa Wright

Grand Prize #2: Winner will receive the following print books (open to continental US residents):
- ORPHAN'S SONG by Gillian Bronte Adams
- MARK OF THE RAVEN by Morgan L. Busse
- SPARK by J.M. Hackman
- ABIASSA'S FIRE 3-book collection by Ronie Kendig
- The complete set of SONG OF SEARE TRILOGY by C.E. Laureano
- SILENT ORCHIDS by Morgan Wylie

Ends December 19, 2018

Thursday, December 13, 2018

12 Days of Clean Romance: Donna Hatch

Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch 
 A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless. A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together...or divide them forever. Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother's approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss...even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost. 
  
This scene takes place when everyone on Christmas Day takes a turn kissing their spouse or sweetheart underneath the mistletoe ball. Now the group turn to Will and Holly, who have only known each other a few days, and start goading them into sharing a mistletoe kiss...
“Come now, don’t be shy,” her sister called. “It’s tradition.”
The others called out encouragements.
Apology edged into Will’s uncertain expression. “Do you mind?”
Holly’s palms grew sweaty inside her gloves, and her smile probably came out wobbly. “Who are we to go against tradition?” Did she sound desperate in her desire to kiss him?
Will held out a hand. She placed hers in it and walked at his side to the kissing ball. They stood, hand in hand, facing each other. His neck cloth shifted as he swallowed. He leaned in. Her heart stumbled and her knees shook. She closed her eyes. Aching, she lifted her face. His cinnamon-spiced breath warmed her mouth.
He kissed her cheek.
Stunned, she opened her eyes. The watching guests groaned and some chuckled.
“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Joseph’s voice rang out. “Give her a proper kiss.”
Will froze. That intensity she occasionally saw in him returned. “Holly.” He swallowed again but instead of nervousness, a hunger that sent a flurry of shivers through her overtook his expression. “May I?”
She nodded. It didn’t matter if he saw how much she wanted this, wanted him. Let him know. Let the whole world know.
He touched her chin, lifted it, and leaned in. Again, she closed her eyes. This time his lips touched hers, pliant and unbelievably gentle. Heat exploded at the contact and shot through her all the way down to her tingling toes. Different from her mystery kiss, this one sang of affection and respect and a deep longing to be accepted. Sweeter, more chaste, more filled with caring, Will’s kiss brought her a level of joy she’d never known. All the world faded away leaving Will and the power of his affection, his touch, his kiss. Every moment of her life seemed to have been designed to bring her to this single, perfect moment of bliss and wholeness.
“Ahem.” Father cleared his throat conspicuously.
Will pulled away all too quickly. A tiny sound of distress caught in Holly’s throat. It was over too soon. But oh, what a glorious kiss!
"I can always count on Donna Hatch to weave a delightful tale with vivid characters and swoony kisses. Christmas Secrets does not disappoint." ~Reading is my Super Power "Filled with delightful holiday traditions, growing attraction between Holly and one of the guests, a mother set on a desirable match for her daughter, and a few heart-melting kisses, this novella is the perfect book to cuddle up with this holiday season." ~Remembrancy Book Reviews "It's been some time since an author made me believe their characters like this, but Donna Hatch writes it so beautifully I was quickly drawn into the idyllic past." Silver Wood Sketches Book Reviews  
 
GRAB A COPY ON 
SATURDAY DECEMBER 15 
FOR JUST 99 CENTS!

 
Author Donna Hatch 
 Donna Hatch is the award-winning author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series” and is published in sweet Regency romance and fantasy. Her professional memberships include Romance Writers of America (RWA)and American Night Writers Association (ANWA). A sought-after workshop presenter, she juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, not to mention her six children (seven, counting her husband), and still manages to make time to write. A native of Arizona who recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.    
     
      
  Giveaway Details 
 $25 Amazon Gift Code or $25 in PayPal Cash Ends 1/6/19 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner may be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, BookBub, Instagram, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
 This giveaway was organized by Kathy from 
and is sponsored by the author. 
VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  

99 Cents Sale: Yours by Christmas by Jennifer Youngblood

   
  Yours by Christmas by Jennifer Youngblood 
 A recovering alcoholic turned firefighter, a mysterious woman with a secret, and the Christmas miracle that just might save them both. Beckett Bradshaw knows what it’s like to be on top of the world and then to come crashing down to the lowest form of human existence, living on the streets. It has taken a huge amount of hard work and self control to get where he is today. He’s content with his job as a firefighter and so incredibly grateful for the miraculous recovery of his young daughter. When a mysterious old lady shows up at the fire station and makes a prophecy that Beckett will find love by Christmas, he doesn’t believe it. Beckett doesn’t dare pray for the desires of his heart for fear that he’s used up all of his miracles. Then, Beckett meets the beautiful and vivacious Ava Lawrence and starts to hope that maybe he really can find love. Beckett is hesitant to tell Ava about his checkered past for fear that she won’t want him. However, Ava has a few secrets of her own that could destroy everything Beckett has built. Will a Christmas miracle be enough to bind two lonely hearts together or will the scars of the past prevent Beckett and Ava from finding the lasting love they most desire?   
   
  Excerpt:   

 It was the kind of cold that would freeze a person’s toes and fingers off. In another time and place, Beckett wouldn’t have spent more than thirty minutes outside. Tonight, however, he was grateful for the cold. It sank through the holes of his worn shoes, moving up his legs and torso like morphine, numbing his aching heart. The cold snuffed out the fire raging in his head—the voice that screamed of his failures and how any path to redemption was forever barred. He trudged through the snow, oblivious to the trash littering the sidewalk or the bars covering the windows of the aging buildings. The sights and stench of the streets would’ve horrified him before, when he was donning two-thousand-dollar suits and driving a Lexus to his high-rise office in the center of downtown Salt Lake City. Now, it was as commonplace as breathing. The frigid wind picked up. He pulled his thin coat tighter around him as he tucked his chin into his neck and plodded forward. Normally, Beckett’s senses were dulled to the point where he hardly remembered the life he lived before. Alcohol was the great cure-all. If he drank enough of it, he could hardly remember his own name. Today, however, was different. Today was Jasmine’s birthday. She was turning seven today. Beckett didn’t want to think about Jasmine with her happy, rosy cheeks and cocoa-colored ringlets. The trusting look in her deep brown eyes. The lilt in her voice when she called him daddy. Jasmine wanted a pink Barbie cake with sparkles. Tears pressed against his eyes as he swallowed. Unbidden scenes from the accident flashed before his eyes, the guilt knotting his gut. It had been a normal day. Pressures at the office were increasing. Beckett was always behind. Nothing he did was enough to satisfy his bulldog boss. Before darting out of his office to pick up Jasmine from her dance class, he’d taken a few swigs out of the flask he kept hidden beneath a stack of files in his bottom desk drawer. One minute he was driving, the road a blur, Jasmine chattering about a new dance she’d learned. The next minute, everything changed. Beckett felt the blunt force of the crash the same instant he heard the sickening sound of crunching metal. Then came the worst—Jasmine’s terrified screams that gave way to intermittent whimpers. He’d called 911, screaming into the phone. It seemed to take forever before the wail of the sirens pierced the night air. A few hours later, in a sterile hospital waiting room, a grim-faced doctor would deliver the blow. Jasmine’s ankle had been crushed. It would require multiple surgeries, and there was a chance she’d never walk again. Melinda’s face had crumpled, tears streaming down her cheeks. As Beckett went to hug her, she pushed him away, condemnation burning in her eyes. “This is all your fault!” she spat. “Please, Melinda.” His voice had cracked with desperation. “I—I’m sorry. I never meant—” He reached for her again. She got up in his face. “I can smell the alcohol on your breath.” For an instant, Beckett saw something in her eyes—a sliver of the love they’d once shared. Before he could blink, however, her eyes went flatter than dull pennies as she turned her back to him and walked away. It was then that he’d known, he was dead to her. He loosened his silk tie and threw it into the garbage on his way out of the hospital. That was six months ago. He wet his dry lips, the thirst for a drink rising in him like a greedy vulture demanding to be satisfied. He paused and leaned against the side of a building, removing the bottle from inside his coat. Beckett took a long swig, appreciating how the liquid burned down his throat. Another couple of drinks helped ease the pain. The snow was falling harder, large blobs coating everything in white. Cars moved along the streets like cautious snails, trying to avoid contact. The world felt still, like he was in one of those snow globes Jasmine loved. Beckett’s breath pushed out a warm mist against the air as he continued to his destination. Fifteen minutes later, he went in through the backdoor of a shelter. A middle-aged, portly man with a tapered salt and pepper beard was sitting behind a metal desk, chewing on a pencil as he stared at the screen of his laptop. When he saw Beckett, he waved in recognition as he stood, pulling his pants over his belly. “Hey, Blanket Man. I wondered what time you’d show up here.” He went to a nearby counter and picked up a stack of blankets, depositing them in Beckett’s arms. “It’s a cold one tonight. The temperature’s falling into the single digits.” “Yes.” “I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people who can use these blankets. Some ladies from a local church dropped them off today. It’s mighty kind of you to deliver them. After you get done passing these out, there are plenty more.” Beckett nodded. This was how the conversation always went, with Scotty making small talk and Beckett throwing in a few short answers and nods. Scotty didn’t seem to mind that Beckett didn’t want to talk. He was always pleasant, and he looked Beckett in the eye when he spoke to him. Most people didn’t. The homeless moved through the city like faceless ghosts, scavenging what they could to survive. “Oh, by the way, I reserved you a spot at the shelter tonight. It’s too cold to be outside.” “Thank you.” Beckett’s hands ached from the cold. He’d had a pair of gloves once, but they were long gone. “Tell everyone you see that they need to get indoors.” Scotty’s mouth turned down in a frown as he pulled at his beard. “This is the kind of weather that kills people.” If only Beckett could be so lucky. Death was preferable to his miserable existence. Several times, he’d looked up at the tops of the buildings, thinking how easy it would be to just jump and end it all. He didn’t know what was keeping him here. Maybe it was cowardice. Even now, he craved life and the bottle. Maybe it was Jasmine. His heart clutched as he pushed the thoughts away. He no longer had a wife or daughter. He was a nobody. With the blankets in hand, Beckett went out the door. After the warmth of the shelter, the night felt colder. He suppressed a shiver, forcing himself to embrace the cold as his feet worked through the snow. His first stop was a group of four men at a nearby park. They were sitting on the ground, huddled close together, their backs resting against a waist-high concrete wall. “It’s Blanket Man,” an older man named Beaker exclaimed in a hoarse voice. No one went by their real names on the streets. They used names that fit the person’s personality or features. Beaker had a large, pitted nose. He held up a gnarly hand. “Join the party,” he said glibly. “It’s a little cold, but what can ya do?” He laughed at his own joke. Slim Jim, sitting next to him, barked out a raspy smoker laugh, his thin shoulders shaking. “Yep, we’re having us a party.” He raised a hopeful eye to Beckett. “Got anything to drink?” “Or a cigarette?” a young man with greasy hair and glassy eyes asked. A pang shot through Beckett. The kid was a newcomer. He couldn’t be more than eighteen or nineteen years old. His face was gaunt, his eyes ringed in hollow circles. It seemed such a shame for him to be here, strung out on drugs. Even as the thought ran through his mind, Beckett laughed inwardly. He, of all people, had no room to judge. No one on the streets would ever imagine that he used to be an executive at one of the most prestigious financial advisory firms in Salt Lake. Out here, he was a scruffy drunk who delivered blankets to those who didn’t have the presence of mind to seek shelter when the temperatures plummeted. He didn’t really know why he felt compelled to go out night after night, delivering blankets. Maybe it was a form of atonement for his past sins. All he knew was that he couldn’t seem to rest until the blankets were handed out. “Nope, sorry. I’m all out of both,” Beckett lied, “but I do come bearing gifts.” No way was he sharing his booze. He’d spent a full day cleaning trash out of a yard to earn the money to buy this bottle. He handed them each a blanket. “It’s supposed to be down in the single digits tonight,” he said, repeating Scotty’s words. “It might be wise to get to a shelter.” The cold seeped into his bones, making him feel sluggish. Beaker waved a hand. “Nah, too crowded. We’ll be all right.” The young man started singing a song about them being all right. “Suit yourselves.” Beckett moved on to the next stop, passing out more blankets. He suspected that a few of the people were so far gone in their minds that they didn’t even realize they were cold. One man was holding an animated conversation with an imaginary person, laughing one second and shouting curses the next. Maybe Beckett would end up that way—not having a clue who he even was. When the blankets were gone he returned to the shelter, intent on making one more round before hunkering down for the night. “Hey,” Scotty said, “you’re back.” Beckett gave a curt nod of acknowledgment and went to the counter, picking up an armful of blankets. Scotty touched his beard. “Uh, Beckett, before you head back out, there’s someone here to see you.” Beckett frowned, hearing his own name. Not once, in all the times he’d come to this shelter to pick up blankets, had Scotty called him by his real name. Up until now, Beckett hadn’t even realized that Scotty knew his name. Suspicion stirred inside him. “Who is it?” he demanded. It had better not be his former boss! Jack Bisson had come lurking around once, about a month after Beckett had thrown in the towel. He urged Beckett to check himself into a rehab center, saying he’d even pay for the treatment. “Think of your wife and daughter,” Jack had said. “With Jasmine’s ankle in such bad shape, she needs you now more than ever.” Beckett laughed in his face, telling the pompous man in no uncertain terms exactly what he thought of him. Had Jack shown him an ounce of compassion when Beckett was working, instead of riding his case 24/7, Beckett might not have turned to alcohol. Then, he never would’ve been drinking the night he picked Jasmine up from her dance class, and he wouldn’t have had the car accident that shattered her ankle. Beckett balled his fist, squeezing the blankets. He’d refrained from punching Jack Bisson in the face the last time he showed up. This time, Bisson wouldn’t be so lucky. “Where’s Bisson?” he growled. Scotty frowned. “I’m not sure who that is.” He scooted back his chair and stood, his eyes resting on the blankets in Beckett’s arms. “Maybe you should put those down and follow me.” Reluctantly, Beckett complied. When they entered the large common room, Beckett scanned the crowd of people, packed like sardines into every available inch of floor space. When he saw them across the room, his breath froze in his throat. He couldn’t do it! His eyes narrowed as he spun around to Scotty. “What is this?” Scotty held up a hand. “Your wife and daughter have gone to great lengths to find you. The least you can do is hear them out.” He lowered his voice. “I know your history, Beckett. That you’re a good man. You had a career, a wonderful family. That man is still in there. You just have to find him.” Beckett let out a harsh laugh. “If I were a good man, my daughter wouldn’t be in a wheelchair.” Tears rose in his eyes as he cleared his throat and swallowed. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d dreamed of seeing Jasmine over the past few months. A hot anger coursed through his veins. Melinda had no right to bring Jasmine here. Maybe she wanted Jasmine to see firsthand how far her dad had fallen. Everything in him wanted to turn around and flee as far from here as he could get. “Daddy!” Jasmine’s face lit up as she waved. Too late to run. Beckett sighed in resignation as he forced his feet to move forward. When he reached them, he stood there awkwardly, at a loss for words. Melinda’s pinched face said it all—that he was an embarrassment. Melinda had always been concerned about social status and the image they portrayed to the world. He could only imagine what she must think of his ragged clothes, scraggly beard, grimy fingernails, his unwashed stench. He was a walking skeleton, a shadow of his former self. Jasmine was beaming. She seemed oblivious to the change in him. “I’ve missed you so much.” She held out her hands for him to hug her. Beckett’s feet stayed rooted to the floor. He wanted to hug her, but life on the streets had hardened him to the point where personal contact seemed foreign. Finally, he patted her hand instead. She was soft, untouched by the ugliness of the streets. “Good to see you, pretty girl.” His eyes settled on the cast, visible beneath her sweat pants. He hated himself in that moment, wished he could disappear into nothing. How dare Melinda bring Jasmine here! He wanted Jasmine to remember him as he was before. Not now, consumed by his vice. He glared at Melinda. “What’re you doing here?” Melinda looked thinner than he remembered, her face drawn and pale. It seemed like it had been another life when he’d loved her. Melinda lifted her chin, a protective hand going over Jasmine’s shoulder. “I came here because of Jazzie,” she said stiffly. “It was her birthday wish.” Jasmine gave him a searching look. “Come home with us, Daddy.” Her voice cracked. “Please.” “For her sake,” Melinda added. “You need help.” Her jaw tightened. “It’s bad enough that Jasmine’s going through all the pain and suffering of her ankle. Must she lose her father too?” The words came out in short, angry bursts. She gave him a hard, resentful look. “You’re being selfish.” Tears bubbled in Jasmine’s eyes, her lower lip trembling. “Please, Daddy, come home. We miss you.” Selfish! Loser! Drunk! Beckett’s head felt like it was splitting in two. Oh, how he wished he could relive that dreadful night of the accident, that he could go back and nip the drinking in the bud before it turned into a hideous monster. He thought of the bottle beneath his coat, the need for a drink overwhelming. He hated this—loathed his weakness. Tears pooled in his eyes. Beckett Bradshaw was an illusion. There was nothing left of that man except pain and regret. “I’m sorry,” he uttered as he fled. The last thing he heard before he darted out the door into the cold was Jazzie’s anguished cry. “Daddy!”