Books by Craftie Ladies

Friday, February 27, 2015

Blast from the Past - Guess the Author

Last month we started a new feature here at the Craftie Ladies called Blast from the Past and we introduced you to our newest Craftie Lady, Lisa Jordan. You can read that post here.

This month, we're going to play a little game. The first reader to correctly guess this month's author will receive a copy of said author's April Love Inspired release.

Are you ready?

Here's your clue:

This current Love Inspired author grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.  Here she is at age six.  The hairs the same, sorta, except there's more gray now. This author loves animals. This is the first one she remembers.  His name is Tiny, and he's a chihuahua.  She used to dress him up in doll clothes and push him around in a doll buggy. True story.  When this author was about five, her mother said, "We're getting a puppy, and you get to name him."  This author, at the time, loved Pop-Eye the Sailor Man cartoons.  This author picked the name Sissy.  This author never wanted to be a sissy, but liked the sound of the name.  Mother said, "Hmm, I don't really like that name.  How about we name the puppy Tiny."  Too obedient by far, this author simply nodded.  No surprise, the dog wound up belonging more to the mother than the daughter :)  Not so true for the cats, rabbits, Guinea pigs, birds, and hamsters that came later.  Today, she's the proud owner of a seven-toed cat named Tyre. 

Do you know who this is? Leave your guess in the comments to be entered in the contest.

Good luck!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Furry Editors

I’m a huge animal lover, and I love having my own furkids as writing companions.

Dogs versus Cats

There is a definite distinction between dog editors and cat editors. My dog editors want to be around me while I’m writing. But I can tell when I’ve been writing for too long because the dogs are the ones that remind me that they want to be walked and want to play. Or even more importantly they want to eat.

Enough writing!! Time to play

Time for a walk! Step away from laptop
The cats, on the other hand, want to be part of the story. 

Wouldn't I be a great character in your story?

Or maybe it’s just that they want to lay near the warm laptop. 

Look at those TYPOS!

I like the direction here....
At the end of the day, they all provide inspiration and companionship. And I can't imagine my life without them. Do you have furry companions in your life? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Quilting A Story

Hi all, Rhonda Gibson here. It seems like forever since I've posted on Craftie Ladies.

I confess I've been busy writing but I've also been playing on Pinterest looking at quilts and building my fabric stash.

What does that have to do with writing? Well, Pinterest and quilting both have to do with writing. I use Pinterest a lot to do research, collect photos for possible use on covers and to procrastinate. Quilting is also a part of researching, there have been quilters in our history for ever! and it too is a great way to procrastinate.
So today I'm going to do a comparison of quilting and writing.
Step 1
Go through fabric stash and pick just the right fabrics. 
Go through story ideas and choose one.
Step 2
Decide on type of quilt to make.
Decide what genre to write in. Historical? Contemporary? or Mystery? (those are my choices) But it's usually a historical. After all, I do write for LIH.
Step 3
Lay the fabric out and began cutting to create the quilt.
Start working on the synopsis, placing scenes where they need to go to create a story.
Step 4
Go to the sewing machine and start piecing the fabric together.
Go to the computer and start writing the story.
Step 5 This step is different with each quilt/book
Break out the seam ripper and fix mistakes
Edit as I go/fix mistakes
Step 6
Layer top of quilt, what you've spent hours sewing, with the batting and back piece of fabric.
Write until you get to the end of the book.
Step 7
Sew on the binding. It gives the quilt that finished look
Send into editor. Polish what she/he says and give it that finished look.
Step 8
Sewing take a picture and show off your creation.
Wait for the book to arrive. Take it's picture and show off your creation.
There are several steps that I've left out but I wanted to give you the basic idea. I love writing and I love putting quilt tops together. I'm not a fan of the actual quilting process but I'm learning a new way of quilting, it's new to me, called quilt as you go. Which is how I write!!
Below is my latest book and my first big quilt. I hope you enjoy both.
My latest release.

My first King Size Quilt.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Ballad of Little Jo

In the 1860's, a young cowboy showed up in Ruby City at the height of the gold rush. The cowboy was slight of stature, and didn't wear a gun strapped around his hips. His fellow miners nicknamed the cowboy "Little Joe". Little Joe soon realized mining wasn't his trade. For the next ten years, Little Joe raised cows and chickens and sold milk and eggs to the miners.

Though Little Joe was well liked,  he never visited the saloons and no one ever saw him drink. Eventually Joe tired of raising chickens and cows, and began sheep herding instead. A solitary job, Joe spent almost three years alone tending his sheep.

When Joe's only friend took off with his money, Joe went to work on cattle ranches. After a number of years, Joe saved enough for his own small ranch. He eventually learned to shoot and was an excellent rider. He even performed briefly in a Wild West show.

While driving his cattle to winter pastures, Joe fell ill. A neighboring rancher took him in, but Joe eventually succumbed to pneumonia. While preparing his body to be buried, the townsfolk were shocked to discover that Joe was actually a girl!

The local sheriff started digging around. Joe was quite successful by then, and the sheriff wanted to find an heir.

The sheriff discovered two possible explanations, There was a Johanne from Buffalo, New York, who ran away from home after mistreatment from her stepfather. The family produced letters and pictures.

A second explanation was discovered when neighbors dug through Joe's belongings. They discovered letters from Joe's sister. Piecing together the puzzle, it appeared that Joe was a former debutante who became pregnant out of wedlock. Unable to care for her child, Joe left him with her younger sister and headed west.

Joe's son graduated from law school, and by all accounts, had a successful life never knowing his mother was actually his aunt.

Some of you may recognize the story from the movie and remake, "The Ballad of Little Joe", a film 'inspired' by Joe's story.

Look for my latest release, The Engagement Bargain, in stores and online!

Make-believe betrothal
Rock-solid and reliable, confirmed bachelor Caleb McCoy thought nothing could rattle him—until he discovers he needs to pose as Anna Bishop's intended groom. After saving her life, his honorable code bid Caleb watch over the innocent beauty. And a pretend engagement is the only way to protect her from further harm.

Raised by a single mother and suffragist, Anna doesn't think much of marriage—and she certainly doesn't plan to try it herself. But playing Caleb's blushing bride-to-be makes her rethink her independent ways, because their make-believe romance is becoming far too real…

Prairie Courtships: Romance on the range

Monday, February 23, 2015

Craftie Ladies - Love Inspired Suspense February 2015 Releases

Listed below are the upcoming releases from our talented Love Inspired Suspense writers here at Craftie Ladies of Romance.  To purchase any of these wonderful books, just click on the book covers.  And to learn more about the authors, click on their names.

To Save Her Child

In Search of Her Son 

When a young boy goes missing from wilderness day camp, Alaskan search and rescue worker Josiah Witherspoon is on the case. The brooding ex-marine promises to find the child and return him to his worried mother. But he doesn't know that Ella Jackson has a secret past. One that could put them all in danger. 

When tensions mount, Ella needs to tell Josiah the truth—but she can't set aside her fears enough to trust him. Ella and Josiah are ready to risk their lives to save her son, but will they risk their hearts, as well?  

Alaskan Search and Rescue: Risking their lives to save the day

Saturday, February 21, 2015

FEATURED BOOK AND INTERVIEW: Sheltered by the Warrior by Barbara Phinney

Her unexpected guardian 
Baron Stephen de Bretonne's sworn duty is to serve the king—and that means finding the Saxons plotting against the throne by any means necessary. Protecting a Saxon woman and her half-Norman child? Merely a means to that end. But the lovely Rowena proves to be more than just a pawn in his plan. And his admiration for her could ruin everything if he can't stifle his feelings. 
While Rowena must begrudgingly accept Norman protection for herself and her baby, she knows better than to trust any man. Yet in the face of danger, can she also open her heart to her unlikely protector?
 Interview:How exciting to have Rowena the heroine from Sheltered By The Warrior written by  Barbara Phinney a February  release from Love Inspired Romance .

1.  Rowena, tell me the most interesting thing about you.
I suppose that the most interesting thing about me is that I can figure out how people are feeling, although, I am not sure I like how I learned it. You get to be good at reading people when they turn on you at a moment’s notice.

2.  What do you do for fun?
Having been raised on a farm, I didn’t really have time for fun. But now I love to watch my son, so I suppose that’s my fun. He’s the joy of my life and watching him grow is truly the best thing I have ever experienced.

3.  What do you put off doing because you dread it?
I can’t say I put off anything, but what I dread the most is going to Lord Stephen’s manor. He took me in when my hut burned down, and the maids I share a chamber with are wonderful, but what am I teaching my son? That we need to be charity cases?

4.  What are you afraid of most in life?
I’m most afraid of being unable to raise my son. I am so scared that I will not be around for him, or that we can’t find enough food and money. I want to protect him, but what if I can’t? After all, someone who doesn’t want me here has razed my hut.

5.  What do you want out of life?
Just as I said a moment ago. I want to start my life again, raise my baby and give him more than I had.

6.  What is the most important thing to you?
My son. I called him Andrew and he’s so beautiful. I can’t even begin to express the love I feel for him.

7.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
One thing? Oh, how I would love to be able to read and write! I would teach my son and he would be able to find work in some manor somewhere and I wouldn’t have to worry about him.

8.  Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet?
Well, I have a hen. She’s not a pet, but when you live on a farm as I did, pets can be either every animal or no animal. My friend, Clara, tells me we are all God’s creatures, big and small. So, I guess my little hen is a pet. Even after my hut burned, she came back to me and I am so grateful for her.

9. Can you tell us a little interesting tidbit about the time period you live in?
A few years ago, the Normans conquered our land. I thought they were so cruel because they enslaved us. But then I learned that not all are as brutal as the new king, especially Lord Stephen.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What We Are Writing

What We Are Writing
By Margaret Daley

Author: Teri Wilson
Title: Rescued Hearts 
Hero and Heroine: Ethan Hale and Piper Quinn
Line:  Love Inspired 
One paragraph from the page you are currently on: 
Ethan frowned. He didn’t like the idea of Piper living out here all alone. What if one of the wolves turned on her? No one would be around to help her. Then again, sometimes it didn’t matter, did it? Horrific things could happen, did happen, even when help was an arm’s length away.
Due date: April 15  
Word count goal today: 1200 words
Something cool learned recently from research: Last summer, I visited the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center in Divide, Colorado. I was such an amazing experience! I knew I had to write a book set on wolf sanctuary, so I "moved" the wolves to Alaska, where my LI series takes place. The wildlife center in Colorado has been very gracious with answering my many questions. The most recent research question I asked them was if wolves wagged their tales. The answer is no. 

Author: Lisa Jordan
Title: Lakeside Proposal (Working title)
Hero and Heroine: Alec Seaver & Sarah Sullivan
Line: Love Inspired
One paragraph from the page you are currently on: 
Alec shoved his hands in his front pockets and looked out the window. The rhythmic rocking of the knife against the board competed with the rain pelting the open kitchen window above the sink. Breezes drifted across the sill and ruffled her already tousled hair. His royal blue chef’s apron fell almost to her knees, but it didn’t quite cover her white T-shirt and short yellow skirt. She added a dash of sunshine to the kitchen.
Due date: Not contracted yet
Word count goal today: 1500 words
Something cool learned recently from research: I've cooked for as long as I could remember, so it was hard for me to think about how someone who couldn't cook would manage in the kitchen. Friend and fellow LI author Mindy Obenhaus suggested I watch Worst Cooks in America on The Food Network. By watching the show, I delighted in seeing how learning to cook fed the contestants' pride and self-esteem. I learned a few new tricks, too!

Author: Merrillee Whren
Title: Working title: The Hope’s Healing
Hero and Heroine: Hudson Paine Conrick IV and Melody Hammond
Line:  Love Inspired Romance
One paragraph from the page you are currently on:
Melody pressed the doorbell and held her breath as she prayed that all would go well during this lunch meeting. Despite her prayer, the old feelings of inadequacy deluged her mind as she stood there waiting for someone to answer. Would these women look down at her with pity? Would they talk about her behind her back after she left? Why did she still let her experiences from high school color her perceptions? She was a grown woman, a child of God, and He valued every person—rich or poor. It didn’t matter what these people thought.
 Due date:  March 1
Word count goal today: 2300
Something cool learned recently from research:  I learned how to conduct a road rally.

Author Pamela Tracy
Title:  Second Chance Hearts
Hero and Heroine:  Elise Hubrecht and Cooper Smith
Line:  Love Inspired Contemporary
One paragraph from the page you are currently on:  
Good, let him keep his distance.  She already could feel him wanting to get close.  She knew that he’d make her feel warm and safe.  Keep her from doing what she had to do.  He’d never understood that sometimes she just wanted him to listen. She didn’t need advice.  And, that he couldn’t always fix what was wrong. Elise needed to do the fixing.
Due date:  February 23.
Word count goal today: 2,500 
Something cool learned recently from research:  Backyard rodeos used to be very popular, a way for the community to come together, and for the riders to learn competition in a down-home manner.  Now, because of insurance, more than 90% of the backyard rodeos (at least in Iowa) have disappeared.

Author: Barbara Phinney
Title: Cinderella of Minnow Lake
Hero and Heroine: Ellie B and James
Line: Not sure, but probably independently published, I think.
One paragraph from the page you are currently on:
Ellie B Phillips wants the promotion to the job of rec director in the small town of Minnow Lake, and has the support of the outgoing director, but with the sudden arrival of James Simcoe, all that is at risk. James is part of a vacation she'd taken that now may have ruined her chances to get somewhere in her life.
Due date: n/a
Word count goal today: Novel done, in the editing stage.
Something cool learned recently from research: That some ponies are bred to climb mountains.

Author: Sandra Orchard         
Title: One for the Monet (tentative)
Hero and Heroine: Serena Jones and ??? Tanner or Nate 
Line: a Revell mystery
One paragraph from the page you are currently on: Uh, oh. I rubbed my aching head. Mom must’ve heard the “M” word. She was hurdling baby blankets and teddy bears to get to me. “You want to get married?” she exclaimed, nearly tumbling into my lap.
Due date: Just submitted!
Word count goal today: I get the day off!!!
Something cool learned recently from research: How to work around the problem of not having enough evidence for a search warrant.

Author: Patty Smith Hall
Title: Gold Rush Bride
Hero and Heroine: Micah and Abigail
Line:  Love Inspired Historical
One paragraph from the page you are currently on:
“Show some respect to the sheriff!” Before Micah could stop him, Cecil grabbed the limp hat from the boy’s head and tossed it to the ground. A shiny braid of purest gold fell past her shoulders, tiny curls gathered at the ends, curving against her waist. Micah studied her face. A dainty chin perfectly molded to fit between an man’s thumb and forefinger lifted to a stubborn angle, her violet blue eyes glaring into his with such annoyance, he couldn’t help but smile.
“It’s a girl,” Cecil whispered beside him. 
Due date: Proposal stage 
Word count goal today: 1000 words
Something cool learned recently from research:  That one woman became so desperate for money to feed her children when her husband didn't come home, she dug out the floor of her house and found enough gold to sustain the family for a year. 

Author: Jolene Navarro
Title: Book 4 in Clear Water Texas, The Single Dad & the War Widow
Hero and Heroine: Anjelica Ortega & Garrett Kincade
Line:  Love Inspired
One paragraph from the page you are currently on:
The scream filled the room. No, it was just in his head. Garrett planted his bare feet on the cold floor and took several deep breaths. He anchored himself in the present, in Clear Water Texas. Afghanistan, belonged in his past. A gust of wind rattled the glass door of the balcony.
Due date: Proposal  
Word count goal today: 1500 words
Something cool learned recently from research: Speaking with my cousins about the Afghanistan experience and all the "normal" things that seem outlandish. Taking the time to sill alone and really hear their stories, stories they don't really talk about was very humbling.

Author: Janet Lee Barton
Title: Book 6 in Boardinghouse Betrothals, The Widower and The Nanny (Working title)
Hero and Heroine: Georgia Marshall and Clinton (Clint) Walker
Line:  Love Inspired Historical
One paragraph from the page you are currently on: 
“Yes, so am I.” Mr. Walker released a deep sigh before continuing in his charming English accent. “It appears my daughters are trying to run off all the help, and I’m afraid the cook might be next. The maid is watching them now, but she wants nothing to do with being a nanny. And I can’t say I blame her. They are a bit incorrigible at times.” 
Due date: Proposal due April 1st 
Word count goal today: 1000 words
Something cool learned recently from research: I was quite happy to find out how good Macy’s was to their employees in the time period I’m working in. And that they were famous for their Christmas Windows during that time, too.

Author: Deb Kastner
Title: The Cowboy's Yuletide Reunion (from the Yuletide Cowboys Christmas Anthology with Arlene James)
Hero and Heroine: Marcus Ender and Sarah Kendrick
Line:  Love Inspired
One paragraph from the page you are currently on:  “I’m Onyx, and I’m three,” she declared, holding up three fingers. She stepped out from behind her grandmother and reached for his hand, her expression as serious as her handshake. “That’s my baby sister, Jewel.”
Due date:  March 1st
Word count goal today: 3,000
Something cool learned recently from research:  Reindeer snort like pigs. And their legs click when they walk (Up on the housetop, Click, click, click...)

What I learned this week.

This past week was a mixed bag of national pride and "What, another winter storm?" 
I live in Canada, and on the 15th of February we celebrate Flag Day. And the second Monday is, for most provinces, Family Day. Well, except the province in which I live. It's called, "Family Shovel out the Driveway" Day.
Just kidding. I love my country. I chose to become a Canadian citizen at age 18 and I served in the Army. I love that I live near where the man who designed the Canadian flag lived. 
But the harsh realities of winter have really knocked me back onto my snowpant-covered posterior. It's hard to love winter with all its pretty white snow when the door you'd opened to let the dog out has pressed its design against a seven foot drift and the snow is over 5 feet all the way to the end of the drive. 

But I recently came into contact with a man who hates our country. He's living in a drafty home that he struggles to keep heated, and thinks his country doesn't care. Now, he may be one of those who complain about everything, anyway, (we all know that type) but he also tests my personal faith. 
In everything I am to pray. So I prayed for him. And I prayed for my own struggles against disliking winter. I won't ever leave my country. My brother lives Down Under, and he loves his country. But we both know neither country is perfect. There isn't a perfect one, but I do know that I am to be joyful in all circumstances, even like today as I clean out the cement-like snow at the end of the driveway. 
Being joyful isn't being happy. It's experiencing the love of Christ. Rick Warren says it well:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

 Meeting that negative man and meeting winter head-on should not take away my joy, it should force me to seek it all the more. I will continue to pray for both of us and I will continue to pray for my country, and that the peace of Christ comes to all nations, mine and yours.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cover Reveal: Family of Her Dreams

Keli Gwyn here to share the cover of my first Love Inspired Historical, Family of Her Dreams, a June 2015 release.

The arrival of a cover is a high point for an author. That image will represent the story to our readers. As such, it's quite important.

I came across a pin on Pinterest recently that poked fun at the old adage: "judge a book by its cover."

Click photo to go to image source.
The books in the photo are wrapped in brown paper, given a brief description and tied with string.

There's an element of mystery, sure, but I wouldn't be drawn to book displayed that way. Would you?

A cover not only draws me in. It tells me what kind of story to expect.

When someone sees the cover of a Love Inspired Historical, they expect a romantic tale that takes place in days gone by. The darker Love Inspired Suspense covers hint at action-packed adventures with lives in jeopardy, daring escapes and couples besting the bad guys. The contemporary Love Inspired covers promise sweet romances of today.

A good cover is as inviting as a front door swung wide open, inviting readers to step into a story world where they'll spend several satisfying hours.

Love Inspired's covers are some of the best in the business. When I saw the cover their design team created for Family of Her Dreams, I squealed with delight. Did they do a great job, or what?

Copyright © 2015 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited 
Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited
® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
or its affiliated companies, used under license

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spotting That New Release

  • Hi Everyone,

I was so excited to see my newest release, A DAUGHTER'S RETURN, in my local Wal-mart along with the other LIH's that came out this month! I think that's as exciting as receiving the first copies of my book. I'll be looking at the other two Wal-marts I sometimes go to this week to see if they are on the selves there, too. And I'd love to know if you've seen it in your area.

This story was special to me because we've known about Rebecca since the beginning, and wondered what happened to her. Even after she was found, we didn't know everything and this is a new beginning for her.

I love writing the Bordinghouse Betrothal series for LIH! And I so enjoy doing research for them. I just turned in the next story in this series (no title just yet) but it will be a November release. I was thrilled to write Christmas into it and much of my research revolved around Macy's. I loved finding out that they were doing their Christmas windows long before my story which takes place in 1897. They had a Santa Clause in their store before then, too. And they were very good to their employees. One of them, Emily, lives at Heaton House and I think she may have to have her own story one of these days.  Do you think a window dresser would be an interesting occupation? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for occupations you'd like to see represented in this series!

Until next time,
Janet Lee Barton

Monday, February 16, 2015

Craftie Ladies - Love Inspired Historical February 2015 Releases

Listed below are the upcoming releases from our talented Love Inspired Historical writers here at Craftie Ladies of Romance.  To purchase any of these wonderful books, just click on the book covers.  And to learn more about the authors, click on their names.

Finding her way home
Having fled her privileged upbringing for a failed romance, Rebecca Heaton knows her pride has kept her from returning home. Now at her mother's boardinghouse in New York City, she's determined to forge a new life for herself--and her daughter. She just never expects to find a new love in the process… 

Ben Roth has always been compelled to help the downtrodden—including single moms like Rebecca. But if the past has taught him one thing it's that offering his trust can lead to disappointment. Could these two wounded souls make one another whole…and come together as a forever family?

Boardinghouse Betrothals: Hearts taking shelter—and forging new beginnings


Her unexpected guardian

Baron Stephen de Bretonne's sworn duty is to serve the king—and that means finding the Saxons plotting against the throne by any means necessary. Protecting a Saxon woman and her half-Norman child? Merely a means to that end. 

But the lovely Rowena proves to be more than just a pawn in his plan. And his admiration for her could ruin everything if he can't stifle his feelings.

While Rowena must begrudgingly accept Norman protection for herself and her baby, she knows better than to trust any man. Yet in the face of danger, can she also open her heart to her unlikely protector?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Craftie Ladies - Love Inspired Historical February 2015 Releases

The Engagement Bargain
by Sherri Shackelford
Make-believe betrothal 

Rock-solid and reliable, confirmed bachelor Caleb McCoy thought nothing could rattle him—until he discovers he needs to pose as Anna Bishop's intended groom. After saving her life, his honorable code bid Caleb watch over the innocent beauty. And a pretend engagement is the only way to protect her from further harm. 

Raised by a single mother and suffragist, Anna doesn't think much of marriage—and she certainly doesn't plan to try it herself. But playing Caleb's blushing bride-to-be makes her rethink her independent ways, because their make-believe romance is becoming far too real… 

Prairie Courtships: Romance on the range

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Lady Valentine Part 12 - The End

I'm Jolene Navarro and I'm going to share with you the final scene of a great battle and the love of Lady Elizabeth and  Baron Drake. Happy Valentine's day!  

     With Drake’s warm hand on her upper arm, Elizabeth scanned the room for her sister. What she found were faces full of terror, women screaming and running. Her heart lodged in her throat. Villains had invaded her home on a day of love and joy.  She didn’t have time to hide behind Drake. The ground would soon be turning red with the blood of innocents, innocents she was responsible for.
     While her own blood pounded in her ears, she left the security of Drake’s presences and ran to her Man-of-Arms. The look of devastation on his face scared her. She quickly gave him orders to move the knights to the west wall and send out men to close all entrees, she thought of every single lesson her parents had taught her. She couldn’t afford to miss anything.  The flow of invaders had to be stopped. She demanded a few guards to take the women and children to the Abby. 
     Metal clashed on metal.  Drake forced the enemy out of the hall with the might of his sword, his training in full evidence with every fast and swift move. Her stomach rolled in fear. He fought viciously, as if these were his very own people. The easy going charmer had vanished, Drake was now a brave warrior her people needed. The clanging of metal weapons and screams of pain crowded her head.
     Her sister, where was Patricia? Looking toward the courtyard she saw her, under the thorny vines of the hibernating rose bushes. Next to her was Thomas. Her brother had arrived!  A touch on her arm startled her and she swung around. Aunt Jane stood there, tears in her aunt's eyes. “I’m so sorry. I knew. I did, but I wanted to pretend everything would be….I hoped he…” Her aunt collapsed into her arms, sobbing. “I thought he would forgive me.”
     She moved her aunt to the dark alcove she had just been in with Drake. Thomas joined them with Patricia in tow.  “Aunt!” His voice stern. “Why did you stay silent? They could have been better prepared.”
     Confused, Elizabeth looked at her distraught aunt. The frail women reached a hand out to Thomas. “I didn’t want to believe he would do this. I knew he wanted revenge, but I didn’t know he hated us this much. Oh God, please forgive me.”
     He brother stepped back and lifted his sword. “Claude, the man pretending to be Viscount Nicolas, is Aunt Jane’s illegitimate son with Richard, Nicholas’ father.” He looked at Elizabeth.  “Your marriage was to heal and bring peace to the families.”
    Elizabeth's mind spun. “What---“ 
     Thomas cut her off. “I just found out myself.” Turning from them, he whistled. A young, curly haired noble, Burke, who was attending the festivities, ran to them.  His silk tunic already bloody and torn.
     “I was so worried. We were looking in every room for you.” His gaze stayed on Patricia the whole time. “We have a safe place for you and your family.” He nodded to Thomas. “I’ll make sure they get there.”
     Sword ready to swing, Thomas ran without a backward glance. 
     Patricia wrapped her hands around Burke’s arm. “Will you stay with us? This is so…so horrible I can’t even…” She stared crying on his sleeve as he put an arm around her shoulder.
     “Of course my lady.” He finally looked up and acknowledged Elizabeth and Aunt Jane, who was still crying so hard she couldn’t talk. “Stay close to me and I will get you to safety.” He reassured them, taking Aunt Jane to his other arm.
     Elizabeth didn’t have time to be safe. She needed to help, to find a way to protect her people. Heading to the court yard she didn’t argue or wait for permission.
     “My Lady you can’t go that way. I’ve been charged with your safety. You’ll only get in….”
She started running along the wall to the staircase. She had a plan. It might be the end of her good reputation, but her people’s safety was worth it. For a mere moment she thought of Drake and how he would react to her secret. Her brother had always told her she was the best he had ever seen. Of course, he also made her vow to never let anyone know about their training. As she took the stairs, she knew she would have to sacrifice the chance of being wife to such a noble man if it meant he and others would live.

     Drake switched the sword to his other hand and drew a fortifying breath. He couldn’t afford to weaken.  A great burden had been lifted from his heart when he saw Thomas join Elizabeth. Her brother would make sure she was safe.  The tip of an axe caught his arm as he spun and lunged. Another enemy down.  As his sword danced with another, Drake tried to locate the false Nicolas. If they could find him the battle would come to an end.  Another spin, another enemy.
     His lungs burned as he forced air in and out. Stay calm, anticipate, swing, hold, and lunge!
     From the left, a giant of a bear charged at him, on the right a man with the look of a viper struck. This was it. He would die on the field of honor without ever telling a woman the truth of his heart. Never to tell Elizabeth his love for her.
     He lifted his sword and met the bear, preparing for a hit. He was startled when the lean viper fell limp into their fight instead. An arrow protruding from his forehead. Just as quickly the bear fell. Another deadly arrow.
     Stunned, he looked for his guardian angel over his shoulder and found Elizabeth standing tall, as tall and timeless as the mountains surrounding her home, the familiar look of sternness on her face. He had never enjoyed the company of flirty, giggling girls, no matter how pretty.
     Now he knew why. His heart had been waiting for his serious and intelligent love. Her bravery caused his heart to slam against his chest. She pulled the string taut and he watched the arrow hit another mark. a man attacking her brother’s back.
With this area cleared of invaders, he ran past the court yard. Thomas joined him and they jumped into the battle, caging the uninvited guests into a corner of the keep. Arrows from the walk above now took down enemies one at a time.  Drake smiled. When they did claim victory it would be due to it one fiery lady of the keep.
He took the opportunity to scan for the leader of this crash. The imposter had to be around somewhere waiting to strike.
     An arrow missed its mark falling harmlessly to the ground.  His heart stopped as he looked up to make sure she was unharmed. 
     “NO!” The fake fiance held Elizabeth by the neck as he dragged her away. She was kicking and clawing. The fighting around him faded out as he became focused on one goal.  Get to Elizabeth and kill the man harming her.
     Running faster than his heart could beat, Drake dodged swords and clubs before he paused at the steps. What if he wasted time searching in the wrong place? Taking a deep breath he scanned the area. Then he heard it. Elizabeth trying to call his name. A man’s oath. Good, she must have found a soft spot. 
Sword drawn, Drake had to cut through a thick wall of twisted vines full of thorns in order to get his love.
      Finally stepping into the clearing he found Elizabeth pushing at her attacker.  
     The man wheezed in pain as he dodged more of the fair lady’s kicks. “This fortress will be mine, even if you don’t—“
     “Unhand her.” Drake gripped his weapon with both hands. His injured arm throbbed and a wound in his leg shot pain up his back. With heavy breaths, he focused on the enemy. “I killed you once, I’ll kill you again.”
      The man sneered and threw Elizabeth to the ground.
      Run, please run. She did. She stood and fled. He sent a prayer of thanks that she listened and one for her safety.
He slowly turned in a wide circle and waited for the other man to attack. his strength quickly waning. If he could make his enemy do all the work he might get to see Elizabeth in the sweet light of morning sun. He might get the chance to tell her of his love.
     The enemy lunged and swung, hitting Drake in the shoulder. With a block of his sword, Drake drove the other man back. In circles they went, stabbing, blocking.
     A hit to the leg brought Drake to his knees. This was it, he would not be seeing his true love again. Lifting his sword, he refused to make this easy for the imposter.  The false Nicholas laughed as he started to bring his own sword down when an arrow threw him backwards. He landed on his back, staring at a sky he would never see again.
     Spinning around, Drake tried to raise and greet his hero, but his legs gave out and his world went black.
     Elizabeth leaned against the wall. The cool breeze dancing through her hair. She turned her face into the sun, letting the warmth embrace her. Drake would be leaving soon. He had fully recovered from his injuries.  Injuries he had sustained while protecting her people.
     And protect them he did.
     All the women and children were safe. They had lost three of their warriors, but the enemy and lost many. She still had a hard time sleeping, seeing the death she herself had brought to men. Men that she knew were going to kill people she loved, but still killing did not come easy.
     Life wasn’t so clear cute in what was right and wrong anymore. Her Aunt’s secret had sifted what she thought to be true in her family.  Aunt Jane had been a mere girl when a handsome nobleman had made promises he knew he wouldn’t keep and then ravished her, never bothering to tell Aunt Jane he was married.  When she found herself with child, the family took the baby from her and hid him. That son had lived his whole life consumed by anger.
     Elizabeth sighed. They all agreed Aunt Jane’s tragedy would remain a family secret. With Nicolas, his father and now Claude dead too, it didn’t matter anymore and Aunt Jane had suffered enough.
     If it weren’t for man like her father, her brother, and Drake, she might decide to hate the whole gender. Patricia’s new love, Burke, seemed to be of the same good caliber.True men of God.
     Drake. Her mind drifted to him a great deal. Sitting by his bedside as his body fought off an infection had become her daily routine. Now he was up and no longer needed her. She felt a little lost. She loved working in the gardens and on tapestries, but the restless she ignored before had become stronger.
     “I see someone else dares brave the cold for a breath of air,” said a deep voice to her left.  “I’m surprised.  Not many maidens I know venture beyond their tapestries for such a pleasure.” His charming smile baited her to smile back, even if it wasn’t proper. This time she did. He had taught her that smiling was so much better than scowling at the world.
     She allowed her gaze to take in this seemly laid back charmer with chestnut brown hair, a bit too long. When she had first seen him she had thought he was in need of a trim. Now, all she thought of was running her fingers through the tousled mess. She had grown fond of his mischief. Maybe she needed some of that back in her life. “I’m sure I’m very much unlike the many maidens you know.”
     He chuckled. “True. Not that I know that many. My business of war has made me a bit unsuitable for the company of most maidens. I find I prefer the more serious kind of lady. I have never met any female and very few men that are as accurate with a bow and arrow as you proved to be in the heat of battle.”
     She turned red and looked away. What had she been thinking when she started to flirt with him? That he would be interested in such an unladylike maiden as herself? Not likely.

     He motioned for them to continue walking along the parapet, just like the first day, as if they were a promised couple walking along together.  “Sir, you seem to have forgotten again, it is not proper for us to be alone.”
     “If my memory is correct you have spent many hours alone in my bedchamber with me.”
     She gasped, horrified he would say something like that to her. “Just because I shot an arrow like a man is no reason to insult me.”  She would not look at him. She couldn’t and the thought that she might cry was actually more horrifying.
     His callused hand gently touched her arm. “Truly, Elizabeth, my indent was not to insult or embarrass you. My sense of humor does get me in trouble, see why I’m not suitable for fair company.” He touched one finger to her face and with slight pressure turned her toward him. “You are amazing. You know we claimed victory because of your skill and bravery. I’m alive and so are many others, including your brother because of the talent he encouraged you to practice. You should never hid or be ashamed of your ability."
     She almost believed him.
     He smoothed out the wrinkles her frown caused. “I have your father and brother’s permission to be here, alone with you.” He went down on one knee.
      Her hand went to her mouth that was now hanging open. He lifted a yellow ribbon towards her. As she went to touch it a strong wind took the silk strip. They both grabbed for it, but it danced higher.
     Drake laughed and ran after it. He returned with a smile and the ribbon, the blue sky behind him. From a silk bag he pulled out a flower, a perfect red rose. Again, he dropped to his knee. “I know St. Valentine’s Day is over, but ours was a little interrupted.” He looked up and just stared at her for a bit. “You are the most beautiful ---“
     “Oh, Drake. Please don’t lie to me. I know there are many good qualities about me, but I’m not even the pretty sister, let alone the most beautiful maiden. You don’t need to flatter me with sugary tributes. I …like you a lot and I hope you would …return the feelings.” Her heart pounded so hard she could feel it in her ears. She held her breath. Waiting
     He raised on perfect eyebrow and the corner of his fine-looking lips pulled up, causing the dimple to cut a line in his cheek.
     She sighed.
     “Are you done?” His deep voice had traces of humor laced in the simple question.
     She nodded.
     He handed her the rose and then tied the yellow ribbon around her wrist. “I ask your permission to spend the rest of my days convincing you that you are my nirvana, the beauty that settles my heart and gives my peace. You are brave and beautiful. You insult my honor or sight by implying I’m either a liar or weak in the eyes, I assure you I’m neither.”
     She held her breath. Maybe she had found a home for her heart.
     He took her hand. “I pledge my love, my honor and my life to you.” He licked his lips and swallowed. “Will you be mine?”
     “Yes!” Oh, she was going to cry. “I’ve waited so long for you and you…you seemed too good to be true.”
He stood and pulled her close than spun around with her, laughing. She wrapped her arms around his neck and joined his laughter with her own, the joy couldn’t be contained. She laughed and cried. It would be just one day of many that she would find joy in his arms. 
“Not sure about the too good to be true part. I’m sure I’ll find all sort of ways to drive you to madness.” And his first attempt worked when he pressed his lips to hers.
     They lived happily ever after and many years later they would tell their great grandchildren the story of their first Valentine's day together. How love conquered evil.

The End.