Wednesday, February 21, 2018

WIN SEA OF HOPE!


This EPIC eBook Award-Winning book could be yours! I'll be giving away seven paper editions. The second edition will be coming out in March with a new cover, but it will not be FREE!

Sign up now at   http://penelopemarzec.weebly.com/contact-me.html The winner will be announced in my newsletter on March 12, 2018. Enter now to WIN!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another Writing Challenge!


I’ve written a quite a few books—not as many as some authors—but the ones I’ve written are important to me. I wanted to write them. I had a story to tell and I wasn’t happy until the book was finished. All along, I have been self-motivated. I set goals for myself. I hold myself accountable for writing every day. I don’t watch television, I don’t play games, and there’s lots of dust in my house. Nevertheless, I am not a hermit. I go to writing workshops, I crochet with my prayer shawl group, and I have fun making oil paintings. Hubby and I enjoy the company of our friends. I like to try new recipes, but I enjoy going out to eat as well. My daughters aren't far away and we see each other often.

Like many others, I’ve found there is no end of things to do even though I have been retired from teaching for quite a while. I am busy. I have a schedule, but sometimes that schedule intrudes upon my writing time and I wind up not getting as much done on my work-in-progress as I would like.

However, the New Jersey Romance Writers hold an event every February they call JeRoWriMo—which stands for Jersey Romance Writers Month. During the month of love, everyone who signs up is encouraged to write 30,000 words. Cheerleaders offer accolades to the writers who report in every evening to note their day's word count.

A similar event occurs in November--National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, but the challenge there is 50,000 words and it's in November. Thanksgiving happens in November as well as other Christmas preparations. I've never attempted NaNoWriMo because I doubted I would ever succeed.

But what happens in February? There's winter, where gloomy weather often makes a perfect writing day for me. There's also Valentine's Day, a great holiday where I get treated to dinner at a restaurant. No cooking for me! No cleanup! Plus there are gifts of chocolate. It's great to write while eating chocolate.

Also in February there's our Presidents' Birthday holiday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent. In other words, there are few social events. It's a great time to put other things aside and pump out words. So far, this month I've put down 16,451 words on a book I initially began writing five years ago, but set aside to write something else.

I have too many ideas. 😜 But it's fun. I'll be doing some spring cleaning in March, but for now it's time to write.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Book Birthday and Excerpt for PATRIOT'S HEART


Four years ago PATRIOT'S HEART was released! My historical romance is set in New Jersey in 1778 during the American Revolution where 296 engagements with British troops occurred within New Jersey, more than in any other colony in the Revolutionary War. 

Celebrate with me by reading the the beginning of PATRIOT'S HEART!

CHAPTER ONE

Leedsville, New Jersey
Monday, June 29, 1778
Then, above the sounds of struggle, the sweet lilt of Colleen’s voice singing Róisín Dubh floated on the air. Agnes woke with a start and drew in a ragged breath. A cold sweat covered her and tears moistened her cheeks.
She had been dreaming. Shaky, she pushed herself to sit in the big bed and rubbed her eyes. It was not surprising that her mind had conjured up images of battle. Only yesterday the sound of cannons, though a dozen miles distant, shook the ground as the British and Patriots clashed near Monmouth Courthouse. She and her sister, Margaret, had prayed for their father and uncle in the Continental army. Colleen spent the day singing merry songs of war. This morning’s melancholy tune could only mean one thing: the Patriots had lost the battle and the British had won.
Dawn tinged the horizon and though Colleen continued her somber performance, the unmistakable rumble of heavy wagons sounded on the road. 
Agnes’s heart constricted with panic. Had the war come to their door?
Fearing the worst, she dressed and hurried into the kitchen. Her young sister Margaret stood at the table with flour up to her elbows as she rolled out sweet buns while Colleen trilled her doleful air as she stirred porridge over the fire. Margaret’s thick blonde braids swung back and forth as she flattened the dough. She nodded at Agnes, but did not speak. They had learned long ago that when Colleen sang Roisin Dubh, it was best not to interrupt. 
Colleen’s recital did not prevent her from handling her chores. She lifted the kettle without missing a note and poured tea into a mug. The aroma of raspberry leaves and mint seemed to restore Agnes’s senses. 
“Thank you.” She mouthed the words. After Father joined the army and marched off to fight, Colleen treated Agnes as the head of the household, which unsettled her. Until that point, Colleen had been like a mother to her. 
Colleen set a steaming bowl of porridge on the table and Agnes ate slowly, with her body tensed, as she waited for the end of the song. She must know the news.
By the final cadence, Agnes’s bowl sat empty and the smell of Margaret’s sweet rolls baking in the oven wafted through the house. 
Agnes gasped in horror. Stolen livestock had become a regular occurrence with the Tories’ raids, but Jonas was a special pig. The unfortunate animal had been shot a few months past in a surprise attack by a group of Tories. Agnes had dug out the bullet and healed the young hog with Colleen’s help, for the Irish woman possessed a fine knowledge of the uses of herbs for healing. 
Agnes swallowed her sense of loss. More important issues lay at stake beyond a missing, though dear, pig. “Who has won the battle?” 
“The guns of the British are tramping past.” Colleen put a hand to her heart and shook her head. “Does the king not rule these colonies with an iron fist?” 
“The British left Philadelphia to retreat to New York,” Agnes pointed out. “Did they defeat the Continental army? Why are they not fighting?” 
“Yesterday was far too hot for a battle.” Margaret wiped her brow with her apron. “Today is not much better.”
Agnes rose from the table, and tucked the errant strands of her brown hair neatly into her cap. “Aye, I labored to breathe in the shade in the afternoon. Surely, someone will pass by the forge with an account of the fray.”
“I’ll bring you one of the sweet buns on my way to the inn,” Margaret promised. “No doubt someone will carry tidings of the army’s clash. Travelers are always thirsty and drink loosens their tongues.” 
“Ach, and it’s dangerous to be talking with strangers,” Colleen warned in her soft brogue. “What if you happen upon Tories? Why, any of them would stab their own mother in the heart.”
“We cannot trust some of our disaffected neighbors either.” Agnes sighed and stepped out of the house into the new day. The rolling wheels of the heavy wagons came faintly to her ears as they drew further away, but the pungent smell of smoke lingered in the morning air. The sun ascended above the horizon and turned the sky to rose. She hoped the rain would come soon and clear the skies of the insufferable heat.
Walking to the barn, she pondered Jonas’s capture. The pig had become a rather clever creature. She believed he understood English and would never have allowed a stranger to put a rope around his neck. Surely, whoever seized him must have killed him first. Her eyes grew misty at the thought.
When she drew nearer, she noticed one of the wide stable doors already open. Had the British stolen the cow and calf, too? Her heart quickened in fear. 
Stepping inside with caution, she saw no one in the shady interior. The cow mooed, the calf echoed his mother’s call, and Agnes quelled her panic. She picked up the bucket and stool, sat next to the cow, and set to the familiar task of milking.
With the steady rhythm of her hands, the bucket filled near to the brim. When a low moan echoed from the back of the barn, her breath hitched in her throat. She told herself the sound came from an owl, a mourning dove, or some other unfortunate creature calling for its mate. 
Done with the milking, she led the cow and the calf outside to the fenced pasture. She returned for the milk and heard the groan again. Louder and more distinct, it emanated from the last stall.
She grabbed the rake hanging on the wall. Danger lay in moving an injured animal and she needed to protect herself from sharp teeth and claws. With her heart pounding and perspiration dripping from her brow, she tiptoed to the back of the barn.
She did not find a wild, suffering animal. Stunned, she blinked her eyes several times to be sure she had not fallen into a dream or a nightmare. On the hay lay a British soldier, her enemy, with a musket at his side. Blood and mud stained his red wool coat and white breeches. 
Her pulse raced, and her initial reaction was to turn and run. She swallowed instead as she studied him. His eyes were closed and he had not shaven in days. He had fine features and a headful of coal black hair tied neatly at the nape of his neck with a strip of leather.
Though one of the king’s minions, she thought him a handsome young man. She used the rake to drag the musket away from him. Muscular and tall, he would have no trouble overpowering her if he woke from his stupor. 
She picked up the weapon, aimed the muzzle at him, and shouted. “Who are you?” 
He whispered through cracked lips as he clutched his blood-soaked britches. “Water.” 
“How did you get in here?” 
“W…water.” His fever-glazed eyes rolled back in a distressing manner. She judged him to be little older than her own eighteen years. 
“Did you fight in the battle yesterday?” 
“Water…wa…”
“Where is the rest of your company?” Uncertainty crept through her. In his current condition, he did not present a threat. She lowered the musket.
Though not a single breeze stirred in the morning air, he shivered violently in his thick red wool jacket.
She glanced toward the open door and listened. Hearing no one else approach, she turned to set the weapon against the wall in the adjoining empty stall. Behind her, the soldier’s groaning increased. She whirled to find him clawing at the ground, dragging himself toward her.
Fear knotted in her chest as he reached out to grab her foot. She stepped back. The width of his shoulders bore testament to his strength. If he caught her, he might not let go.
“My…horse.” His demand came out as a tortured whisper.
Agnes fought to keep herself from trembling. She would not allow this enemy to see her alarm. “You have no horse.” 
He made a strangled sound in his throat, closed his eyes, and went still. Panic curled up her spine. Though he remained a foe, she did not want him to pass away in her barn. 
Swallowing her dread, she knelt beside him and found the pulse in his neck. The slow but steady beat reassured her. She studied his chiseled features while smoothing the errant tendrils of his midnight hair from his face. His ragged beard tickled her fingertips.
He radiated vitality despite his infirm state. She found soft pleasure in simply gazing upon him, an odd reaction for her since she had little time for any such indulgence. 
Agnes forced herself to tear her attention from his handsome face. She noticed the elbow of his red wool jacket had torn and the cuff had fallen away. A few ragged threads marked the places where fine brass buttons had been. 
Until now, she believed herself immune to a man’s appearance, but when she pressed her hand against her breast, the pounding of her heart surprised her. It must be because he had caused such a fright for her at first.
’Tis a pity you fight on the side of the British.” She gave a mighty shove and rolled him over onto his back. A small, folded sheet of paper slipped out of his jacket. Frowning, she picked it up and opened it, but she did not understand the message. Was it written in a foreign language? She tucked the note into her pocket. 
Aware of her duty to call for the local militia to remove the soldier, she hesitated. He would be taken prisoner in a rough manner, be tortured for information, and receive little or no care for his injuries. If he lived, he would be traded for one of the Patriot prisoners held by the British.
If he lived…
She clamped her lips together. She wanted him to survive, but the militia had little regard for the wellbeing of their prisoners. If he was a general or some other high-ranking officer, he would be worth more in a trade and receive better treatment. 
Despite the thickness of his fine wool jacket, he had no rank. 
A dangerous thought bloomed and she ignored the cautionary voice in the back of her mind. She examined the grisly wound on his thigh just above his knee. A lead musket ball had cut a deep gasp through the flesh, but had not embedded itself within, which made it more likely that the soldier might recover. Still, he had lost a great deal of blood and filth lay in the lesion.
She thought of her pig, Jonas, again. Had her efforts to save the animal been fruitless? No doubt one of this soldier’s compatriots had stolen her beloved pet. Yet, she did not harbor ill will toward this unfortunate man. He fought on the orders of his superiors and punishment would be severe if he refused. Had he been tricked into joining the army by taking the king’s shilling? Her father had told her of the cruel manner in which men were seized into service.
“Agnes?” her sister called. “Where are you?”
“Back here.” She wiped her bloodied fingers on the jacket of her foe and stood, but she found it nearly impossible to tear her gaze away from the young soldier. She did not think she had ever seen a man with such a noble appearance. She had never traveled far from Leedsville, so her opinion hardly mattered. Still, the lurch of excitement the sight of him stirred in her breast was most remarkable.
Margaret ran toward her, but stopped and gasped when she saw the silent soldier in the hay. “Is he dead?”
“Not yet, and I’ve a mind to keep him in this world.” If she could save a pig, she could heal a Redcoat with any luck. 
“You must call the militia.” 
“I will not.” Agnes frowned at her twelve-year old sister. “He is already severely wounded. He has family somewhere praying for his safety. What if someone found Father or Uncle Fitz in their barn? We would hope someone would treat their wounds and feed them.”
“He should be a prisoner.”
“He will die if his injury does not receive adequate attention.”
“Aye, but…” Margaret did not look convinced. “The British do the same to the Patriots. There are men rotting in prison ships in New York harbor.”
“I’ll be pleased if you would take care of the milk while I get Colleen. She can guide me in gathering the things I’ll need to clean out his wound and treat it.”
“He’s our enemy,” Margaret reminded. “And Colleen hates the British.”
“We are going to be Good Samaritans and I’m sure Colleen will understand that this young man was forced into service for the king as many of her own Irishmen have been.” At least, Agnes hoped Colleen would give him the benefit of the doubt. 
“If it was Father in some Tory’s barn, he’d be shot.” 
“We must do what the Lord asks us to do.” Agnes insisted. “Here’s the milk. Pour it through the cheesecloth and set half aside for Aunt Sally.”
Margaret set her mouth in a stubborn line. “What about the sweet buns? Mr. Newton at the inn will expect me to deliver them.” 
“Mr. Newton must wait today.” Agnes hurried toward the house as Margaret trudged along behind her. The day showed signs of being almost as hot as the preceding ones had been. By the time she reached her door, she struggled for breath. Colleen was not inside. She found her tending to the lavender in her herb garden.
“What herbs do I need for a gash in the flesh?” Agnes asked.
“And who has been cut?” Colleen questioned with a note of suspicion in her voice. 
“An unfortunate traveler.” Agnes thought it best to start with small amounts of information. She loved the Irish woman, but harboring a British soldier was dangerous and Colleen thoroughly embraced the Patriots’ cause. 
Colleen stood and pressed her lips into a thin line. She hurried to the house and directed Agnes in filling her basket with all she needed to tend to the wound.
“Is he feverish?” Colleen asked. “Insensible? In great pain?”
“He’s handsome,” Margaret announced as she divided the milk evenly.
Agnes froze as all the blood in her body swept downward.
“Is there more I should know about this young man?” Colleen put her hands on her hips and stared at Agnes. 
She cast her gaze to the floor. “He comes from far away.”
Colleen paused in lifting another basket from a peg on the wall. “The Lord commands us to help the alien in a foreign land. There were many who were kind to me when I first arrived in this land, even though I was Irish.”
“We are so very glad you came to us.” Agnes’s voice tightened, for she remembered Colleen’s arrival as if it were yesterday.
“I will gather boneset for his fever and brew it, but you hurry along and tend to his wound. You learned much in caring for Jonas.” Colleen sighed. “I am grieved that he has been taken.”
Agnes’s eyes misted. “I am, too.” 
“He was my best friend, next to Francis.” Margaret’s lips trembled.
Colleen left the house and headed toward the woods to find the blossoming boneset, which grew wild in many places. 
Agnes handed Margaret the kettle to carry. They walked to the barn once more. 
“I think it will be best if we take off his jacket and remove anything else that would mark him a British soldier,” Agnes whispered, though there was no one about to hear her.
“We must tell Colleen who he is.” Fear flashed in Margaret’s eyes.
“It is not necessary. We will burn the jacket.” Agnes had always sought to set a good example for her sister and in her heart she knew what she intended to do would be morally correct if not politically wise. “It’s a terrible thing when men kill their own brothers because an already rich king is greedy for more wealth.”
“Then the Redcoat should join our cause,” Margaret insisted.
“He was probably tricked into taking the King’s shilling.”
“Aye, that is cruel,” Margaret agreed. 
They hurried to the barn together, but before they reached it, they saw the miller driving his wagon along the lane toward them.
“Good day to you.” He pulled at the reins when he came abreast of them and doffed his hat. “Why is the blacksmith shop not open?” 
Agnes’s heart hammered against her ribs. She usually opened the forge early in the day. “Is there something you need?”
“Yes, four more hooks.” The miller pulled at the brake and jumped down from the wagon. He reached for a sack of flour from the back.
“Please bring the flour when you come for the hooks later,” Agnes suggested.
He shot her a quizzical look before he shoved the sack into place again. He stared at the folded linen, the kettle, and her basket. 
Agnes clutched at Margaret’s sleeve and prayed her sister would say nothing. “As you can see, a sick animal needs my attention right now, sir. I bid you good day.”
His usually genial face darkened for but a moment before he shrugged and climbed back into his wagon. “This afternoon then.”
Agnes nodded as he urged his horses to move onward. As soon as he was out of earshot, she spoke to Margaret.
“Bar the barn door. No one must be allowed in. You helped me with Jonas, so you know what to do.”
“A man is far different than a pig.”
“This should be easier, for the man is senseless. If you recall, Jonas squirmed a great deal.”

Look inside the book at AMAZON and read more! http://a.co/hq7NMc0 


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Immigrant Saint

Many years ago, Daughter #1 chose Frances as her confirmation name--after Francesca Xavier Cabrini. She wrote a brief biography of the saint, as all confirmation candidates must do for the saint whose name they have decided upon. But it was a short biography with little more than the facts.

Recently, my daughter decided to delve deeper into the history of her chosen saint. She found the book pictured here on Amazon and purchased it. She was delighted with the book and loaned it to me.

The book is well-written and engaging. It is not a dull tome about Mother Cabrini. The book details the saint’s fortitude and belief in her mission. At a young age, she fell in love with Christ and longed to be a missionary sister. However, due to her ill health, she was not accepted into any religious communities.

Eventually, after toiling in an orphanage, she was allowed to set up her own community, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She had always longed to go to China as a missionary, but Pope Leo XIII sent her to America. She worked with indefatigable zeal to set up orphanages, schools, and hospitals in New York, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, and in South America as well.

She and her Daughers went down into the mines in Colorado to bring hope to the immigrants who had not seen the inside of a church since they left Italy. They nursed people through outbreaks of yellow fever and smallpox. They begged for money to set up more hospitals, schools, and orphanages.

In her sixty-seven years, Mother Cabrini accomplished more than many successful business men.

Whether you are a Catholic or not, I highly recommend this biography of a truly remarkable woman who did all she could with love to guide her.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Excerpt from HOPING FOR JOY

Photo by Jill Wellington

Below is an excerpt from HOPING FOR JOY, Book 13 in the Love Is series from Prism Book Group.

Chapter One

"I thought I’d be married and packing for my honeymoon by now." Hannah grunted as she hefted a box of textbooks into the closet. Summer vacation had finally arrived at Baywater Elementary School and she had finished her first year of teaching a class of six-year-olds. Contemplating the two empty months ahead gave her a headache. "Whenever I question Logan about setting the date, he says, ‘Not yet.’"

Rose sat with a sketchbook in her lap and her feet up on the desk while her favorite tunes blasted through her earbuds. Hannah assumed her cousin didn’t hear a word she said. Most likely, Rose was working on a new tattoo design, because she spent all her time involved in drawingunless she was actually tattooing.

Rose took out one of the earbuds. "He wants to straighten out his sister’s life."

"He says that, but maybe it’s not the truth. Maybe...he got cold feet." Hannah’s eyes grew misty, but she refused to let her emotions get the best of her.

"His sister nearly died." Rose put her feet on the floor, closed the sketchbook, rolled up the wires to her earbuds, and stuffed them in her pocket.

Hannah sniffed. "Yes, she looked terrible in the hospital, but she went right back to her habit when she got out."

Rose shrugged. "From what I’ve read, taking drugs changes the chemistry of the brain, which makes it almost impossible to stop."

"Still, Logan ought to give me some attentionif he loves me." She pouted as she ripped the backing paper off the bulletin board and jammed it into the trash.

"Youre wallowing in self-pity. Again." Rose took the staple remover from the desk and pulled out the staples still stuck in the corkboard.

"But does Logan love me or not?"

Rose blew a huge pink bubble with her gum and popped it, loudly. "I told Mr. Grimm we’d be at the park before four o’clock."

Hannah sighed. "Everything must be off the floor and in the closet before I leave."

"Should I put the puzzles away next?" Rose asked.

"Yes, thank you." Hannah filled another box with textbooks and hoisted them into the closet. "What if I give Logan some space? Break the engagement, hand him the ring, and later, when his sister improves—"

"If you love somebody you don’t abandon them." Rose started stacking the puzzles in a plastic bin. "Whoa! This is a fantastic image of the cow jumping over the moon. Once a farmer wanted a cow tattoo, but I gave the job to Farrell." She chuckled, grabbed her sketchbook again and began to draw the cow. "Awesome udder thing going on..."

Rose drifted off into her own world, which happened all the time and Hannah didn’t mind it except when Rose forgot to do the dishes or take out the trash. More like sisters than cousins, they shared the small bungalow on Beach Drive where Rose had grown up. When she went to study art in college, she gave her mother, Hannah’s Aunt Deborah, plenty of gray hairs. Then her mother got cancer. Rose quit college and stayed at her mother’s side through the long ordeal.

Hannah originally thought staying with her cousin would be a temporary situation, but since Logan kept putting off the wedding date, she might be there foreveror until she had enough money to rent an apartment of her own. Of course, moving back into her parents’ place was a possibility, but she longed to be more independent.

Had she made a mistake in accepting Logan’s proposal? When they were students, they enjoyed a sweet and comfortable relationship, but everything changed once they went out into the real world. She landed the teaching job in Baywater, New Jersey. He rented an apartment an hour and a half west, close to his job and the Pennsylvania border where his retired father lived in a little town outside Philly. Logan’s father took care of his granddaughter since Logan’s sister had been declared an unfit mother.

It was a sad situation, but as Logan’s intended spouse, Hannah didn’t think it was wrong to plan ahead for their new life together, starting with a wedding.

Logan sent Hannah a text message two days ago. He said Nina was missingagain. So instead of Hannah and Logan enjoying a date this weekend, Logan would be out searching for his sister. Hannah’s hope of a beautiful wedding faded away.

Rose held up her drawing. "What do you think? It’s terrific, isn’t it?"

"Should tattooed cows smile?"

"When they’re happy cows they do," Rose pointed out. "If you were a dairy farmer wouldn’t you want your cow to appear delighted eating grass and making milk?"

"Why would someone advertise their business on their arm?"

"It’s cheaper than buying an ad in the newspaper." Rose went back to putting the puzzles in the bin. "Aren’t you almost done? Mr. Grimm saved the best summer job for you. It should take your mind off things."

Hannah studied her list and checked off all the tasks she had completed in the room. "I worked in the amusement park when I was in high school. Don’t you think I’m a little old for it now?"

"Age means nothing when it comes to having fun. One seventy-five-year-old senior citizen works the train ride. He laughs more than the kids."

"I should spend my vacation doing something important, like taking a classoror traveling." If she and Logan had gotten married, she would be lying on a beach in Aruba as they had originally planned.

"Your old car is going to breathe its last one of these days," Rose reminded her. "If you work for a couple months, you might have enough for a down payment on a newer one."

Hannah glanced at the classroom. One entire year of teaching had flown by. It had been a challenge, but one she enjoyed. She already missed the students, but she shouldn’t mope around all summer. Working at the amusement park would give her something better to do than lament her lack of a groom and a wedding.

Rose shoved the puzzles into the closet. "We’re done. Let’s hurry up before someone else gets the water balloon booth."

"That’s the best job?"

"It’s the best spot in the entire park." Rose laughed. "You’ll get drenched every night."

Hannah sighed. "I guess I better keep my hair in a ponytail."

"Cut it short like mine." Rose rumpled her blue spiked coiffure.

Hannah smiled but shook her head. Logan once admired her long, auburn hair and made her promise never to shorten it. While he adored her silky mane, he didn’t seem to miss her much.

Her dreamy plans floated off like high cirrus clouds, thin and wispy and far, far away. "Do you think I’ll wind up an old maid?"

"Our Grandaunt Rose, my namesake, never married." Rose shrugged. "Did she mope around?"

"No." Hannah managed a weak smile. "She was still riding the roller coaster when she was eighty."

"She dated plenty of men, but she never wanted to marry any of them." Rose chuckled. "She said they were too much of a bother."

Hannah sighed. Logan wasn’t a nuisance. He was absent. She closed the classroom door and signed out in the office. Rose hopped on her motorcycle, tossed a helmet to Hannah, and revved the engine. Hannah hung on as Rose drove her to the amusement park.

As the streets of Baywater whizzed by, Hannah closed her eyes. Logan ignored her. Did he love her? Did she love him? Had he forgotten his promise?

Should she dump him?

* * *


Hannah stood in the water balloon booth with Mr. Grimm as he explained what she was supposed to do.

"You gotta get the attention of the people who pass by." He held one of the prizes in his hand and shook it above his head. "Say things like ‘I bet you got good aim,’ or ‘You only need two to play,’ or ‘See what you can win. Don’t you wanna give your girlfriend something special to remember the day?’"

"That stuffed monkey is very small." Hannah thought it was uglyeven grotesque.

"If they win three games, they get the better prize, which is this incredible stuffed panda." Mr. Grimm pulled the toy down from the shelf. "Bet you never laid eyes on anything like it."

"You’re right," Hannah admitted. The panda was large. However, instead of being black and white, it was a rather garish purple and the white fur had metallic silver streaks in it.

"Don’t sit down when you’re working," Mr. Grimm warned. "Make sure you wear your uniform every night, too."

"This t-shirt?" Hannah held it up. Emblazoned on the purple cotton were the words, "Baywater Amusements, Fun Times for the Whole Family."

"I only give those out to the employees. Don’t hand it out to anyone. I don’t want somebody impersonating an employee."

"Has that happened?"

"Yes, before I bought
the shirts. Some kid opened up the frog pond game one night and ran off with all the money," Mr. Grimm growled. "It ain’t gonna happen again, though."

"But—but you know everyone in the county. Don’t you?"

"Yeah, but the kid picked the day I had to go to my sister-in-law’s wedding."

"Did the police catch him?"

"No. I figure somebody told him I wouldn’t be around." Mr. Grimm frowned at her. "Weren’t you getting married? There’s a diamond ring on your finger."

"Yes, I’m engaged, only...we haven’t set a date...yet." Hannah bit her lip.

"What’s taking so long? My wife and I dated each other for two weeks, I asked her to marry me, and two months later we tied the knot."

Hannah blinked. "You planned a big wedding in two months?"

"No, we celebrated in her parents’ backyard. I came with a keg of beer. We put it in the garage in case it rained, but it didn’t. The guests brought casseroles. My wife laughs and says she had a potluck wedding, but everyone had a good time." He sat on the stool in the corner of the booth, crossed his arms, and smiled. "We skipped out after a few hours and went on our honeymoon. I got us a little cabin up at Stokes. Saw bears, went fishing, and rowed around the lake. We had a great time. Ain’t been on as nice a vacation since. Where you gonna go on your honeymoon?"

"Aruba." She sighed. She would be spending her free time this summer on Baywater’s own small crescent of sand.

"There’s your problem. How much is Aruba gonna cost? Why can’t you do something simple like I did? You’d save yourself a ton of money and you could get married right away."

"I suppose. But how did you decide after only two weeks that your wife was the right one?"

He winked. "She was a great cook. She was cute, and she was as sweet as pie. How could I go wrong?"

"That simple?"

"Yep."


Mr. Grimm showed her where to stash the cash and explained a number of other details about the job. When he finished he told her to grab something to eat, and put on the shirt before he opened the gates.

She hurried across the street to the tattoo parlor where Rose worked. Rose was showing a customer some of her designs, but she looked up when Hannah came in the door.

"Is purple a good color for me?" Hannah asked as she held up the t-shirt.

"Absolutely. It shows off the highlights in your hair," Rose said. "You’ll probably receive several more proposals tonight. Remember not to take them seriously."

"I won’t." Hannah’s hopes were already dashed. Was it wrong to end what had once seemed right? Was she unreasonable to expect Logan to give her some attention despite the difficulties he had with his sister?

Aunt Deborah firmly believed in prayer. The foundation of hope is faith, she often said.

Hannah wondered if her lack of hope meant her conviction needed an extra boost. She prayed as she walked back to the amusement park. After eating a hotdog, she hurried to the water balloon booth. People started streaming through the gates for a night of family fun. At least, she wouldn’t be alone and brooding about Logan tonight.

She did her best to attract attention to her booth and by eight o’clock she was so busy she didn’t have time to think. At one point, every water gun was occupied and people were waiting in line to play. 

She gave away twenty-six of the ugly stuffed monkeys but only three of the purple pandas to the winners.

Mr. Grimm gave her a thumbs-up when he checked on her. "Keep up the good work."

Her feet ached by the end of the night and her stomach rumbled. She regretted not buying fries with her hotdog.

At closing time, she picked up her inventory list along with the cash bag. Part of her proceeds had been collected earlier, but during the last hour she had more business than the rest of the night combined. As she pulled down the gate to close up the booth, a dark shadow startled her. When she turned around, someone grabbed her t-shirt and held a knife in front of her face.

Hannah choked back a cry as panic swept through her. She didn’t move a muscle.

"Nina," Hannah whispered. Logan’s sister was dirty, disheveled, and emaciated, but she had the same impossibly curly brown hair as her brother along with pale blue eyes. Her wild, wide-eyed gaze chilled Hannah to the core.

"Give me the bag!" Nina didn’t let go of her weapon, which gleamed in the beams of the security lights. "Otherwise, I’ll slide this right across your throat." The blade shook in her hand. Her black pupils were small pinpoints.

Hannah stared at the point of the knife. The handle appeared worn, but she didn’t want to find out how sharp the tip of it was. She handed the bag of money to her attacker.

Nina released her grip on Hannah’s shirt, but she did not release her knife, which was still pointed toward Hannah who was cornered between the end of the booth and the fence. Nina hugged the canvas bag close to her chest. In doing so, she pulled her ragged shirt down over her

shoulder, revealing a black tattoo above her breast. It was a large image of a bat wearing a crown with the name Paul inscribed inside. She coughed and wheezed. "I’ll be free."

Hannah didn’t dare move, but she asked cautiously, "Who is Paul?"

Nina spat on the ground. "I hate him." She suddenly threw the knife away, turned, and fled.

Hannah clutched the edge of the counter. She didn’t think her legs would hold her up.

She took a deep breath and screamed for help. 

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