New Year Scene from Aquamarine

© Can Stock Photo/ ginosphotos

As the old year comes to an end Tonya and Mike are on opposite sides of the country. Mike is performing in New York while Tonya has a gig at a hotel in Beverly Hills. During a break, however, she’ll discover that she has an unexpected ally. 

Marina Martindale

***

A New Year’s Scene from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine

 

The hotel ballroom was packed with New Year’s Eve revelers. Among them were Stanley Klein and Mandy West. No doubt George had insisted they attend, and during a break Mandy approached Tonya in the ladies’ room.

“Nice show.” Mandy kept her eyes glued to the mirror while she touched up her makeup. “And your dress is stunning. Red is certainly your color, and you and Shawn have a nice chemistry together.”

Tonya remained on guard as she grabbed her lipstick. “Shawn and I are old friends. We’ve been working together for some time.”

“So, I hear.” Mandy lowered her voice. “Although you and Mike are a great couple.”

Tonya also spoke in a hushed tone. “Not anymore. You know who put a stop to it.”

“For now, but it won’t be for long if I have anything to say about it. I told our mutual friend you’d never fit in with our inner circle, and I’m going to keep reminding him until he realizes it for himself and sets you free. So, hang in there. I’m on your side.” She dropped her compact back into her purse and spoke in her normal voice.

“Happy New Year.”

Mandy quickly walked away, but it took Tonya a moment to gather her thoughts and refocus on her gig.

“Well, you certainly look happier,” said Shawn when she returned.

“Turns out I have a friend I didn’t know I had.”

“You’ll have to fill me in later. It’s going on midnight, so let’s make this next set count.” They watched the clock as they played. It was less than a minute before midnight when they finished their final song for the year. Shawn took the mic and began leading the countdown. Balloons and confetti were released at the stroke of midnight and he gave Tonya a hug.

“Happy New Year. It’s all going to work out. I have it on the highest authority.” They began playing, “Auld Lang Syne,” and the audience sang along. Afterwards, they resumed their set as a few people began leaving. An hour later they said goodnight, and as the last of the partygoers left the room, the hotel staff began clearing the remaining tables. Shawn and Tonya were packing up their gear when one of the servers brought them a take-out bag.

“Happy New Year,” he said.

“Happy New Year to you as well,” said Tonya, “and thank you for thinking of us.”

“My pleasure. By the way, I’m a part-time musician myself, and you guys are fantastic.”

Shawn and Tonya had adjoining suites on one of the upper floors. After changing into his sweats, Shawn tapped on Tonya’s door and came in with their food.

“They gave us sandwiches and salads,” he said. “One is roast beef; the other is turkey.”

You can have the roast beef.” Tonya sat down at the table and kicked off her shoes. “What a night. Great gig, but not easy when you’re wearing high heels.”

“I don’t envy you, although I’m glad to be out of the monkey suit” Shawn took out his phone as he sat down. “Jacque says Happy New Year. She had a busy night and she made a boatload of tips.”

“Wasn’t tonight her last night?”

“It was. She’s taking a few days off. Then she starts an office job with regular hours.”

“I’ll bet she’s looking forward to it.”

“She is, and we have a message from another mutual friend. It’s a short video he shot in his hotel room. Take a look.”

“Hey you guys,” said a tired looking Mike. “It’s been a long day, but I got the live performance done. So, before I crash I want to wish you both a Happy New Year, and with any luck, Ms. Rose, we’ll be together next New Year’s Eve.”

“I sure hope so,” said Tonya once the video ended.

Aquamarine is available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com and with other online book sellers.

 

A Christmas Scene from Aquamarine

 

© Can Stock Photo / joshpappas

Tonya’s holiday turned bittersweet after George thwarted her plans to spend it Mike. However, her other friends have a special Christmas surprise in store for her that is guaranteed make her smile.

Marina Martindale

A Christmas scene from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine

Tonya spent the next few days jamming with Shawn and helping Jacque with her last-minute shopping. Christmas Eve was spent baking pies, and on Christmas morning the three drove to Arlington to have breakfast with Shawn’s family. Returning to the apartment, Tonya and Jacque prepared a lemon chicken dinner, but both Shawn and Jacque were acting strange over the meal.

“C’mon you guys,” said Tonya. “I can tell you’re hiding something, so you all can stop acting innocent. What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” said Shawn.

“Uh-huh,” said an unconvinced Tonya as someone knocked at the door. Shawn hopped up and answered.

“I see you finally made it.”

“Yeah,” said a familiar voice with a southern accent. “Although we had a slight delay getting out of Birmingham.”

Mike had barely stepped inside when Tonya rushed up to him. As they wrapped their arms around each other she suddenly burst into tears.

“Hmm…this isn’t quite the reaction I was hoping for.”

“I’m fine,” said Tonya as she squeezed him again. “I just wasn’t expecting this.”

“Don’t worry, Mike. It’s happened before,” said Shawn. “The last time was right after she threw a bra into Becca’s soup.”

“Say what?”

“The little bitch had it coming,” said Tonya. “I’ll fill you in later.”

Shawn smiled at the memory. “It was an unforgettable moment. We also saved you a chicken leg and there’s plenty of other fixings, so go grab yourself a plate while Jacque and I pack our bags.”

“What’s going on?” asked Tonya.

“Jacque and I booked your room at the Westin Galleria after you cancelled it. She and I are going to enjoy a little quality time together before I leave. You and Mike will be safe from the public here.”

“I’ll only be here for thirty-six hours,” said Mike. “Then I have to leave for New York. I’m appearing on a New Year’s Eve special at Times Square.”

“I know you are,” said Tonya, “and Shawn and I have a gig in Beverly Hills.”

Shawn and Jacque excused themselves to pack their bags. Ten minutes later they were out the door.

“Are you okay?” asked Mike after they left

“I’m doing as well as can be expected. How ‘bout you?”

“The same.” He stopped and gave her a smug grin. “So what’s this about a bra throwing incident?”

***

Aquamarine is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com, and other online booksellers. 

A Thanksgiving Scene from Aquamarine

© Can Stock Photo/ gajdamak

It’s Tonya’s first Thanksgiving in Los Angeles. George will be spending the day watching football, while Tonya’s mother and stepfather have come to visit her. Tonya meets her parents at their motel, and they drive up to Santa Barbara to spend the day with Mike. As the turkey is cooking, the conversation takes an interesting turn.

An except from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine

It had been years since Heather or Alberto had seen the ocean, so they stopped to take pictures as they made their way up the Pacific Coast Highway. Tonya’s spirits rose once they reached Santa Barbara and parked in front of a small, unassuming home in a quiet, residential neighborhood. Mike came out as they exited their vehicle, greeting Tonya with a big hug.

“Okay, that’s enough,” said Heather with a nervous grin.

“Sorry, Mom.” Tonya quickly made the introductions, but her mother looked a little star struck. The scent of roasting turkey filled the air as Mike invited them inside and told them to make themselves at home in the living room.

“Can I help you with anything?” asked Heather as she presented him with the pies.

“I’m good.”

Mike’s an amazing cook.” Tonya’s face beamed with pride as she spoke. “He learned how while he was working at his dad’s grill.”

“Yeah, but they also knew to not serve anything I prepared to the public.” He excused himself for a moment, but before stepping away he asked if they liked dogs.

“We love dogs,” said Heather.

“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Tonya grabbed the wine and followed Mike into the kitchen where he greeted her once again, but this time with a kiss.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Ms. Rose.” He was about to kiss her a second time when Bruno barked loudly from the patio. Both burst out laughing.

“Well, okay, I guess.” Mike opened the door and both dogs bounded inside, greeting Tonya with wagging tails while Mike grabbed a few sodas from the refrigerator. Heather still looked a little star struck when they returned to the living room, and she immediately focused her gaze on Tonya.

“So, now that we’re all here, I want to talk to you about something. I’ve been having dreams about your sister again, and she’s been saying some interesting things.”

“Like what?” asked Tonya.

“She says you need to let it go about Jesse and move on.”

“But I—“

“I’m just telling you what she said, and I feel the same, so maybe the dream came from my own subconscious. The point is, you’re an up-and-coming musician, and Jesse hosts a nationally syndicated talk radio show. I’m not saying you have to be a guest on his show, and frankly, I’d prefer you weren’t. I’m simply saying you could possibly run into him somewhere, and if it were to happen, you need to be gracious. Just give him a nod or a quick hello and go your merry way.”

“She’s right,” said Mike.

Heather turned to Mike. “I’ve had other dreams in which Annette tells me you have some sort of a plan to get Tonya away from George.”

A serious look came over his face. “As we all know, Tonya isn’t in a financial position to live on her own. However, I’ve offered her a room here, and she’s saving up her money so she can buy a dependable car. So once she has the means to travel to LA for her modeling gigs, we plan on making some changes.”

“What about your advance?” asked Heather.

“I won’t have the money until sometime next year.”

“I wanted to take her on tour with me,” said Mike, “I certainly could have used her on the viola, and it would have given her some nice exposure as well. However, George wants to remaster the album she did with Shawn, so they’ll be in the recording studio when I start the first leg of my tour.”

“Hold on. Time out.” Alberto looked at Tonya. “Have you signed any kind of agreement with him?”

“They’re still working on my contract, which my manager will sign for me as my representative.”

“Good to know, but I wasn’t talking about your record contract. I’m asking about the agreement for you to rent a room in George’s home. Did you sign any kind of lease?”

“No. It’s a verbal agreement only.”

Heather spoke up. “All I can tell you is whenever I have these kinds of dreams about your sister, she’s never wrong. She says Mickey will help you break free of George. I have no idea what it means, and it may be nothing more than a concerned mother’s worry.”

Tonya took a deep breath and swallowed hard. “So did Annette say anything else?”

“No. She just said you need let go of Jesse, and Mickey will help you with George.”

***

Aquamarine is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com and other online booksellers.

Holiday Table Conversations

Photo by Marina Martindale

It’s the time of year for gathering with friends and family, so I invited my good friend and fellow author, David Lee Summers, and his wife, over for dinner. No, David doesn’t write contemporary romance. He writes steampunk, science fiction, and horror, so naturally the conversation turned to fiction writing, and famous fictional characters. We got to talking about Star Wars.

I love Star Wars. I saw the first one on the big screen a few weeks after it premiered, and it was amazing. To me, it was sort of like a sci-fi version of Camelot, complete with knights, a princess, and an evil wizard. What made the story work was the characters. We talked about how well all the characters were thought out and developed. Then came the prequels. (Not bad. Not great, but not bad.) After that came Disney. Ugh! Suffice to say the rest of the conversation was about the importance of character arcs and consistency in storytelling.

So, what can I say? Some people get together and discuss sports, current events, or politics. Get storytellers together, and we’ll sit around and analyze famous, iconic characters, and talk about what makes them work. Our inspiration often comes from other storytellers.

Marina Martindale

A Christmas Scene from The Betrayal

Photo by Gayle Martin

Emily thought she had a good marriage until she caught her husband, Jesse, with another woman. Jesse however, has fought hard to win her back, and his efforts appear to have been successful. To celebrate their reconciliation, he’s taken Emily to San Diego for Christmas, but an unexpected phone call from Emily’s grandmother is about to set the stage for an even bigger tragedy. 

Marina Martindale

A Christmas Scene from The Betrayal

Emily heard a knock at her door as she was putting on her earrings. Jesse waited on the other side. Once again, he greeted her with a kiss.

“I see you brought your little black dress.”

“Indeed I did. As I recall, it was your favorite.”

“And it still is.”

As he stepped into the room her phone started ringing. She reached into her purse and frowned as she checked the caller ID.

“Who is it?” asked Jesse.

“My grandmother. Somehow it figures. I haven’t heard from her in weeks, and now, here she is. Her sense of timing is impeccable. She’s always had a knack for raining on people’s parades, and I’m really tempted to let it go to voice mail.”

“Don’t.” Jesse’s voice sounded firm. “Otherwise she’ll keep calling back, every half hour, until you answer. Besides, it’s Christmas Eve, and you and I are on our way back to where we belong. It’s time to let it go and wish her a Merry Christmas.”

Emily shrugged as she accepted the call. “Hi Grandma. Merry Christmas.”

“I just got off the phone with your brother.” Her grandmother’s voice had its usual demanding undertone.  “So I know your father is in Minneapolis and you’re at home alone. So why don’t you come over here?”

“Where are you, Grandma?”

“I’m at your Aunt Heather’s house. I’m with her, and your cousin.”

“Which one?”

“Tonya. Gary and Annette have other plans tonight, but I’ll be seeing them tomorrow. Meantime, I’m very concerned about the fact that it’s Christmas Eve, and you’d rather be home by yourself instead of reaching out to your family.”

“Actually, Grandma, I already had an invite from Eddie and Gwen. You know, my other cousins. On Dad’s side of the family.”

“Oh.”

Emily heard the distinct sound of disapproval in her grandmother’s voice. “Besides, this year none of you invited me to any of your holiday celebrations.”

“So, I’m inviting you. Now.” As usual, her grandmother’s invitation sounded more like a command.

“Sorry, Grandma, but I won’t be able to make it. At the moment I’m in California, with Jesse.”

“With Jesse?” Barbara sounded stunned.

“Yes, Grandma, I’m with Jesse. He’s still my husband, and we’re trying to work things out.”

“Well, hallelujah. It’s about time you came to your senses. I’ve been telling you for months now that this was nothing more than a misunderstanding that’s been blown way out of proportion. It’s about time you stopped telling all your vicious lies about your cousin. You know, he fired her because of you, and she’s–“

Jesse was able to hear Barbara’s end of the conversation through Emily’s phone. “May I?” he asked, under his breath. Emily gladly handed him her phone.

“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Leary.” Jesse too tried to sound upbeat.

“Well, Jesse. Merry Christmas to you too.” There was a phony sweetness in Barbara’s voice.

“Thank you.” His voice took on a serious tone. “I’d like to take a moment to set the record straight, if I may, once and for all. There was never any misunderstanding about anything on Emily’s part, and everything she’s told you is the truth. I fully admit that last summer I had an inappropriate relationship with your other granddaughter, and Annette was a willing participant in that relationship. It was a huge mistake on my part, and Emily did indeed catch us in the act. It damn near cost me my marriage, and I’ve taken full responsibility for my wrongdoings. I don’t know what Annette may have told you, but my decision to fire her was mine and mine alone, and I’d think by now my reason should be pretty clear. At the time I let her go, Emily and I weren’t speaking to one another, so please, quit blaming her for something she didn’t do. And by the way, I also referred Annette to another job, with better pay I might add, but for whatever reason, she wasn’t hired.”

For the moment Barbara was speechless as Jesse went on.

“I want Annette out of my life, Mrs. Leary. Emily wants her out of her life as well, and I’m sure you can understand the reason why. I’m sorry it’s come to this, and I’ll always regret my part in creating a rift in your family, but I’m afraid it’s the way things will have to be from now on. Emily and I will be here in California for the holidays, and then she and Megan will be leaving for their cruise right after the first of the year. We’re hoping she’ll be ready to move back home once she returns, and then maybe we can have you over for dinner. In the meantime, we’d like to wish you, and your daughter, and Tonya, a very Merry Christmas, and we look forward to seeing you sometime in the New Year.”

He disconnected before Barbara could respond. “Hopefully that’ll shut the old battleax up for a while,” he said as he handed the phone back to Emily. “So are you okay?”

“I’m fine, and I hope you finally got through to her, because she sure wouldn’t listen to me.”

* * *

 

The Betrayal is available on Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, and other online booksellers.

A Thanksgiving Scene from The Journey

Photo by Marina Martindale

For your holiday reading pleasure I’m presenting a snippet from my contemporary romance novel, The Journey as Cassie and Jeremy’s Thanksgiving celebration takes an unexpected, and frightening, turn.  

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Marina Martindale

***

“Happy Thanksgiving, Jerry,” said David as he stepped inside. “I’ll bet you’re glad to finally be home.”

“You got that right. I think I’ve finally got my life back on track now.”

David presented Jeremy with a bottle of white wine. “I brought a little something to go with dinner, and I have some ginger ale for Cassie.”

They went into the kitchen where Cassie greeted David with a hug while Jeremy put the bottles in the refrigerator. She then excused herself, saying she needed to change, while the two men headed into the living room to watch football. As Cassie headed back toward the kitchen doorbell rang again. Ian and Gillian had arrived. Ian joined the men in the living room, while Gillian followed Cassie into the kitchen.

“That sweater looks gorgeous on you,” said Gillian as she put her bowl of fruit salad into the refrigerator.

“Thanks,” said Cassie. “It’s nice and cozy too.”

“Can I help you with anything?”

“Thanks, Gillian, but I think I’ve just about got it. Everything should be ready in another couple hours or so. I’ve got some snack trays in the fridge that I need to get out, but first, can I fix you anything to drink?”

“Just a soda, thanks.”

As Cassie reached into the cupboard for a glass, she suddenly stopped and placed both hands on her belly, crying out in pain.

“Oh my god!” Gillian rushed up to her, trying to hold onto her as she doubled over. “Cassie, what’s wrong?”

Cassie took a deep breath. “I don’t know. All of a sudden, I felt a really sharp pain.”

Jeremy burst in. Ian and David were on his heels.

“What happened?”

Gillian helped Cassie back up. Both women had horrified looks on their faces.

“I just had a contraction,” said Cassie, “but it’s way too soon.”

David stepped forward and scooped her into his arms. “We need to get her to the emergency room. Now.”

Jeremy stayed behind him as they rushed out the front door. Gillian quickly turned off the stove and oven before hurrying to join the others.

“We’ll take her in the minivan,” said Ian. “The hospital is only a few minutes away.”

Jeremy helped David load her in the van as Ian hopped into the driver’s seat and fired up the engine. A minute later they were on their way.

“Is everything okay back there?”

“So far, we’re good, Dad. She hasn’t had another one.”

Jeremy had his arms wrapped tightly around Cassie. Her head leaned into his chest. He stroked the side of her face and looked at David, who saw the fear in his eyes.

“Hang in there, Jerry. It’s probably false labor. They’ll give her something to stop the contractions. She’ll be fine.”

Cassie fought to keep her composure. “What about my baby?” 

David patted her arm. “I’m sure he’ll be okay. Just try to stay calm.”

They remained silent for the rest of the drive. Thankfully, the holiday traffic was lighter than normal, and they arrived at the hospital within minutes. Ian pulled up to the emergency entrance and waited as two younger men helped Cassie out of the minivan. This time Jeremy picked her up and carried her inside while David ran up to the admissions desk. A minute later a nurse arrived with a wheelchair and whisked Cassie away. A badly shaken Jeremy took a seat in the waiting room while a clerk brought him the usual paperwork. David sat down next to him.

“She’s in good hands. She’ll be all right.”

“But what about the baby, David?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t see any reason for us to think the worst right now.”

The Journey is available on Amazon, and other online booksellers.

 

A Thanksgiving Scene from The Reunion

© Can Stock Photo / gajdamak

Thanksgiving was always a big deal when I was growing up. It’s still one of my favorite holidays, so I included a Thanksgiving chapter in my contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. Cassie and Jeremy will hit it off over dinner, and afterwards they’ll step outside for a walk. While they’re out Cassie’s mother, Samantha, has a serious talk with Gillian. The two women have been close friends for years, and as they are talking they will make a surprising wager.

Marina Martindale

A Thanksgiving scene from The Reunion

Samantha smiled to herself. It was looking more and more like Jeremy would become a good friend to Cassie. After dessert, Cassie suggested that he take a walk with her to work off some of their dinner.

“Good idea,” he said. “Would you two ladies care to join us?”

“Not me, thanks,” said Gillian.

“Me neither,” said Samantha. “We don’t get to hang out together very often. You kids go and take your time.”

Jeremy and Cassie quickly grabbed their coats. They were discussing the apartment in Colorado Springs as they went out the door.

“They seem to have taken a liking to one another,” said Gillian once the front door closed behind them.

“Yes, they have. Gillian, can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

Samantha’s voice had a serious tone. “Exactly what is the nature of your relationship with him?”

Gillian grabbed the wine bottle and refilled their glasses. “Let’s go have a seat in the living room.” They picked up their wine glasses and Samantha followed Gillian to the sofa where they made themselves comfortable.

“Jeremy is a very special friend,” said Gillian. “We got off to a bit of a rough start, but then it worked out. I truly believed he’d be my stepson someday, but then Ian threw the brakes on that.”

“Gillian, if this is none of my business just say so, but is there anything more to it than just a friendship?”

Gillian hesitated for a moment. “You mean, have I ever slept with him?”

“Yes.”

“Good heavens no. I’ll admit that first night we were together in Las Vegas, I had a moment, and I mean a very brief moment, of temporary insanity while we were out on the dance floor. He’s a good dancer, I’d had a glass of wine, and I sure thought about it, but nothing happened between us that night, or any other night for that matter. Later on, when I thought about it again, I realized I’d wanted to turn him into another Ian, and I could never use Jeremy like that. He saved my life, Sam. Whoever he eventually ends up with will have to understand that he and I will always have a very special relationship. It’s not romantic, but we share a very special bond. One that will last for both of us for the rest of our lives. So please, don’t worry about your daughter. I’m not going to be jealous of her. In fact, I think they’re a good match.”

Samantha sighed in silent relief and gave her friend a knowing smile. “Gillian, do you have a hundred dollars?”

“Of course I do. Why?”

“Because a hundred dollars says that come next Thanksgiving, Jeremy really will be your stepson.”

“Oh, come on, Sam,” said Gillian with a laugh. “I can’t take your money like that. I’m not taking Ian back. No way, no how.”

“Of course not. You’ll just go out and have yourself tattooed in his honor.” Both women burst out laughing, and then Samantha turned serious once again. “Quit kidding yourself, Gillian. You’re going to take him back, and you know it.”

“Am not.”

“Fine. Then I’ll lose the hundred bucks. It’ll be the easiest money you ever made.”

Gillian gave her friend a smile. “All right then. One hundred dollars says I won’t be married to Ian Palmer a year from now.”

“You’re on.” The two women shook hands on their bet and Samantha grinned once more. “Just be prepared to pay up.”

The Reunion is available on Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, and other online booksellers.

 

Easter Scenes from The Letter

© Can Stock Photo / Valya

I often include major holidays in my contemporary romance novels. In The Letter, Stephanie spends a bittersweet Easter with her new boss and his husband while Danny finally realizes the time has come for him to make some changes.

Marina Martindale

Easter scenes from The Letter

The winter snow had melted away by Easter, and the trees were starting to bloom. Stephanie pulled up in front of a large, single-story house with a huge cottonwood tree in the front yard and grabbed her bottle of wine. Walking up to the front door, she heard a dog barking inside. A bald man with a dark brown goatee opened the door and greeted her with a smile.

“You must be Stephanie.”

“I am, and you must be Dwayne.”

“That would be me.” He gave her a nod and she followed him through the door. Once inside she handed him the wine while a yellow Labrador sniffed at her clothing.

“Bella! Behave.” Dwayne gave the dog a strong look as she wagged her tail. Stephanie stroked her head.

“It’s okay. I love dogs.” She was still petting the dog’s head when Paul entered the room and greeted her with a hug.

“Happy Easter, and thanks for coming to visit our humble abode.”

Stephanie looked around the beautifully furnished room. Antiques were proudly displayed on the shelves, with several paintings hanging on the walls. “I would hardly call this place humble,” she said. “In fact, it looks like a photo from a home decorating magazine.”

“Now you’re making me blush,” said Paul.

“You should have seen it when we first bought the place,” said Dwayne. “It was a real fixer upper.”

“It was indeed,” said Paul. “Every night we’d come home from work and change into our grubbies. We ripped up carpets and replaced drywall. Then we repainted every room and refinished all the cabinets. The place looked like a war zone for months.”

“But we eventually got it done.”

“Then came the fun part.” Paul’s face was glowing. “Dwayne went antique hunting with me, but picking out the flooring, the paint colors, and, of course, the artwork, was my department.”

“You know, some of these paintings do look a little familiar,” said Stephanie. “I recognize the styles of some of our artists.”

“Very good.” Paul gave her a nod of approval and showed her around the rest of the house while Dwayne took the dog outside. Afterwards they rendezvoused in the kitchen where the scent of roasting lamb made their mouths water. Dwayne offered her a soft drink and they sat down at the small table in the breakfast nook.

“We’ll be eating in the dining room,” said Paul. “It is Easter after all, and we don’t use it very often. So, enough about us. How was your Easter morning?”

“Okay, I guess.” Stephanie still missed Danny, but she thought it best not to bring him up. “I had a nice, quiet morning, and then I called my mother to wish her a Happy Easter.”

“Dwayne and I have an Easter tradition. Every year we spend Easter morning helping with the Easter egg hunt at a shelter for homeless families.”

“We believe helping others in need is what the spirit of the holiday is all about,” said Dwayne. “And we both love kids, so it’s very gratifying to see all the happy smiles on their faces.”

“Although we’ll occasionally have to referee whenever two kids spot the same egg at the same time,” said Paul. “So far, we’ve not had any knock down drag out fights, but it’s because we keep a few extra eggs off to the side. That way whichever kid loses the argument still has something for his Easter basket.”

“But it’s also exhausting,” said Dwayne. “We have to get an early start. Then, after the hunt is over, we stay and help serve breakfast, so we’re usually beat by the time we get home. We’ll chill for a couple of hours, and then it’s time to put the lamb in the oven.”

“Sounds to me like the two of you have a wonderful holiday tradition,” said Stephanie. “Easter was nice, but kind of low key while I was growing up. I remember hunting for Easter eggs in the backyard when I was little, then, after my father passed away, Mom and I started going to church on Easter morning, but we somehow got out of the habit once I started high school.” She talked about going to college in Boulder, and her decision to stay in Colorado after she graduated. Paul finally asked her the question she hoped would not be asked.

***

Danny spent Easter morning hiking and taking photos at Red Rocks State Park and had worked his way to the amphitheater as the sunrise service was nearing its end. He stopped to listen to the words of hope and new beginnings and he thought of Stephanie. A part of him would always love her, but he realized it was time to move on. Even if he never married, there was no reason for him to spend his life alone. What he needed was a woman who could be a good friend. 

 

The Letter is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com

A Halloween Hayride

From the Contemporary Romance Novel The Reunion

© Can Stock Photo / Givaga

One of the chapters in The Reunion, was inspired by a real-life event.  My significant other and I had volunteered to work at a Halloween haunted house. He dressed up as a samurai warrior ghost while I put green makeup on my hand and arm and hid underneath a stairwell, reaching out through the stairs to give folks a friendly little wave as they passed by. It was a fun night and an unforgettable Halloween.

In the excerpt below, Gillian, has volunteered to work at a haunted hayride. While she’s there, she meets a mysterious stranger who she feels she can confide in.

Martina Martindale

a Halloween excerpt from The Reunion

Gillian was warming herself at the heater when she heard footsteps coming up behind her. Someone in a Grim Reaper costume had joined her, and whoever it was seemed to be staring at her. Finally, he spoke up. His voice sounded raspy as he spoke.

“I’m sorry. I was told I’d be working with a blonde lady.”

“Well, I was a blonde until a few weeks ago. Now I’m a redhead.” She extended her hand. “The name’s Gillian, by the way.”

“John. Pleased to meet you.”

As they shook hands John told her he was one of the locals. He also seemed to be curious about her. The sound of clopping hooves, nervous laughter and chatter told them the first wagon was approaching. Gillian pulled up her hood. At John’s cue she ran up to the wagon while he chased after her. Their brief performance brought startled screams from the passengers. The wagon rolled on and they returned to the heater.

“So why would a blonde lady want to become a redhead?” he asked.

“It’s a long story. Let’s just say I’m celebrating a new lease on life. The old me was the blonde, the new me is a redhead.”

As they talked, she caught a whiff of something familiar. The cologne Ian always wore. The scent was a distraction, and she had to reminded herself that it was a popular brand and other men wore it too. John soon became quiet. A short time later another hay wagon came by and they repeated their scary performance in the dark maze. After the wagon left, Jeremy stopped by to check on her.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“So far, so good. Wait a minute, Jer. It looks like you’ve got a little smudge. Let me fix it for you.”

He leaned down as she removed one of her gloves and gave him a quick touch up. “There, that’s better.”

“Thanks.” Jeremy wrapped the reins around the saddle horn and reached down with both hands to pull her hood up. “You need to keep this on so you can stay warm. I don’t want you catching cold.”

“Got it. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll come back a little later to check on you again.”

Jeremy rode away, and as Gillian turned back she noticed John watching her intently. It was starting to make her feel uncomfortable.

“I take it he’s your significant other,” he finally said.

“Actually, he’s my best friend. Probably the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“Really? How so?”

Despite her growing discomfort with his questions, something deep inside told her John was trustworthy. She followed her instincts.

“It’s a long, complicated story. I’ll just sum it up by saying I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now if it wasn’t for him. That man literally saved my life not too long ago. I don’t remember it, but I’m told I fell into some water and nearly drowned. He’s the one who rescued me.”

“I see.”

“You know, it’s kind of ironic. Here I am talking to you, dressed up as The Grim Reaper, when I’ve met the real thing.”

“Was it scary?”

“To tell you the truth, it really wasn’t, and it’s the only part of the entire incident that I can remember clearly. I was heading toward a light and I wasn’t coming back.”

“Why not?”

Gillian took a deep breath and sighed. “I’d just lost the love of my life. I had no reason to remain here and I wanted to cross over. Then I thought I heard my friend, Jeremy, calling me. The next thing I knew I was back at my backyard pool, only I wasn’t in the water. Somehow, I was suspended over it. Jeremy was in the pool and he was holding a body in his arms, which I knew had to be mine. Then I saw the look on his face. I knew, right then and there, that if I didn’t come back it would destroy his life, so I had no choice. I had to come back, even though I didn’t want to. I watched him lay my body out on the deck, and I heard him ask me once again to stay with him. Then I felt something like a tug. The next thing I knew, he was rushing me to the hospital. It’s the reason why I’m still here.”

She started smelling the cologne again and she looked at him more closely. The costume he wore didn’t reveal much about him. He was wearing a full mask, with a robe and hood, and he appeared to be bundled up underneath it. A strange thought crossed her mind, but it couldn’t be. Larry said his father was spending the day in Fort Collins with friends. John remained silent for several minutes. Finally, he found his voice.

“Well…Gillian, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Gillian, your life is a precious gift. It’s something you must never, ever take for granted. You may think you came back for your friend, but it’s not the only reason why you’re still here. You’re here because your life is far from over, and you’re meant to be here. I’m sure your family and friends, and your true love, are elated that you’re still with them. And who knows, maybe your true love will return to you someday.”

“Thank you, John. I appreciate your insight, but as far as my true love goes, I’m sorry to say some things just aren’t meant to be. Nice thought, though.”

“Never say never.”

The hay wagons returned several more times, but for the remainder of the evening, John said very little. Gillian was relieved when she finally heard Jeremy’s approaching horse.

“That was the last one,” he said. “Are you ready to go, my dear?” Jeremy extended his hand and helped Gillian get back up behind him. She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist.

“Good night, John. It was nice meeting you.”

John waved goodbye as the horse cantered away.

***

The Reunion is available on Amazon,  Barnesandnoble.com, Apple Books, Scribd, and  Kobo,  as well as other online booksellers.