Tag Archive | romance novel stories

Ebook Romance Stories: Chapter 1, “A Work in Progress”

AWIP Cover New 1-10-2014A Work in Progress
The Faith Series, Book 1

by:  Staci Stallings


Sometimes faith is simply learning to see

What is right before your eyes.




Chapter 1

For the life of her, Rebecca Avery couldn’t understand it.  She had been with them twenty-four hours a day for all of five months, and still she had no clue how they did it.  Sitting in the student union building, tucked ever-so-carefully behind her new psychology book, she watched them—the beautiful people—milling about, talking, laughing, and just generally enjoying each other’s company.

To be sure she had been with them her whole life, first in her family, then in school, but never could she quite figure out the mystique that seemed to drape them in an aura that said, “Look at me.  I’m here.  Come, let’s have fun together.”

No, for as long as she could remember, she had been on the outside of that picture.  Always watching them, always studying them, but never quite learning how to be like them.

She pushed the strings of the dirt-colored blonde hair off her eyes and pushed up her thin, dark-rimmed glasses.  Her hair was up in a clip, but like everything else in her life, it had ways of slipping out of even the best holds.  In frustration, she looked down at her book.  Psychology class didn’t start until tomorrow night, but at least this way it looked like there was a reason she was alone.

Studying alone was cool—or at least acceptable.  Sitting alone staring at everyone else was not.  Absently she reached over to her cup; however, she misjudged the distance, and the cup tipped dangerously and then dropped back to the table at the last possible second.  In frustration she picked it up to take a drink, but she had already taken a long drink of air before she realized it was empty.  She looked down into the brown swirling trails at the bottom of the cup and frowned.  Figures.

With a sigh she dug into her pocket and pulled out enough crumpled dollars to buy another French vanilla hot chocolate—one more thing in her life that was less than glamorous.  No matter how many times she had tried it, she still hated coffee.  Even the smell of it turned her stomach, so she stuck to her hot chocolate and hoped no one noticed.  Leaving her book where it lay, she slid off the stool and strode to the counter.

“French vanilla hot chocolate, please.”  Her fingers counted out the dollars even as they smoothed them out and laid them on the counter.

In seconds a new cup was sitting in front of her.  She paid and reached for it as wisps of steam spiraled into the air. Carefully she picked it up, put it to her lips, and blew the steam away.  It was always too hot to drink for the first ten minutes, but greedily she inhaled the sweet odor anyway.  There was something about hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day that did wonders for her mood.

She let the cup drop from her mouth as she turned back for her table.  However, she’d only turned halfway around when she met up with what felt like the hard side of a rock coming the other direction.

The first splash of the liquid landed on her hand, and the shock from it burning its way through her skin tore through her. “Ahh!”  Without a thought she threw the cup away from her—right at the rock, and in the next breath the rock replicated her yell.

“Ahh!”  Reaching under his outer buttoned-down shirt that was opened all the way down, he pulled his now hot chocolate-covered white T-shirt away from his skin as he yelped in pain.  “H-h-ot!”

“Oh! Oh, no. Oh, my gosh. I’m sorry,” Rebecca said although the stinging pain in her own hand wouldn’t let her focus on him for more than a second. “I’m so sorry.”  Battling to forget her own pain, she grabbed as many napkins as she could from the counter and started mopping at his shirt, struggling to undo the last few seconds.  “I’m so, so sorry.  Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.”

A look of annoyed exasperation crossed his face as he took the napkins from her and started wiping his own shirt.  “I think you said that already.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said in apology for apologizing too much, and when he looked at her, she knew she had better add something vaguely intelligent.  “I didn’t see you there.”

Her feet carried her backward although her gaze never moved from his face or his frame.  If she had seen him before she hit him, she would probably have dropped the hot chocolate on his feet in wide-eyed astonishment instead of hitting him in the chest with it.

Golden hair that dropped from the top of his head down just past his ears in the front and over his collar in the back, kind green eyes, even his frown was gorgeous.  Couched on top of a smoke blue shirt unbuttoned to reveal a white T-shirt that now sported a giant light-brown stain, he was the most incredible thing she’d ever seen.

Through its files, her brain scrambled, searching for something to say.  ‘Sorry’ came to mind, but that was the only real word she’d said so far.  Just as the fight to get her mind to think of something better reached the boil-over point, another guy walked up.  Spiked and blonde-tipped hair, a black muscle shirt, and a tan so deep he could very well have just stepped off a beach, he was the epitome of the beautiful people.

“What happened to you?” spike-haired guy asked, surveying his friend with a smirk.

“Chocolate smelling third degree burn,” smoke-shirted guy said, still wiping at the stain.

Muscle shirt guy shook his head. “You’ve really got to be more careful.”

Golden haired guy looked over at Rebecca in annoyance, which caused her heart to thump against her chest.  “Yeah, tell me about it.”

“I’m sorry,” she said as she held her own burned hand next to her chest protectively.

He wiped his shirt once more and then gave up.  “Don’t worry about it.”  Stepping over to the trashcan, he threw the napkins in and reached down to retrieve the cup from the floor.  “You want this?”

Rebecca’s head moved side-to-side with no help from her.

“I didn’t think so.”  He chunked it into the trashcan and looked down at his shirt in resignation.  Then he looked over at her, melting her with his gentle green eyes, which had softened considerably in the previous seconds.  “You okay?”

“F-fine.”  Her voice drifted out as she fell into his gaze.

“Good.”  He smiled, then looked at his friend.  “Well, I think I’ve had enough to drink for one day.  You ready?”


Her feet never moved as she watched them depart, and it wasn’t until he’d disappeared through the double glass paned doors across the room that the pain seared through her again.  Tears blinded out even the vacant door as she looked down at her hand.  Red, blistered, and throbbing with the heat, it threatened to take her knees right out from underneath her.

She wondered if the skin under his shirt hurt as badly as her hand did, but then the pain pushed even that thought out of her head.  “Man, Rebecca, if you could get anymore clumsy, I would really hate to see how.”


By the time Eric Barnett made it to the computer lab for work, he had resorted to buttoning up his top shirt.  Everybody noticed the stain, and everybody asked.  It was annoying, especially when it wasn’t even him that had caused the accident.  Okay, so most of the time it was him, but this time it wasn’t.  And he was getting more than a little aggravated by the implications of the questions.

He stomped through the door, wishing his whole miserable life would just go away and leave him alone.

“Eric, it’s nice to have you back,” Mr. Templeton said as Eric strode into the large room humming with the electronic world he had gotten so used to hearing in the last two and a half years.

It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t washing dishes either.  Best of all, it paid a few bills and managed to give him something to do besides studying, which was always a good thing.

He took the screen cleaner and a rag from the back of the office. “Looks like things are pretty slow today.”

Mr. Templeton’s dark hair bobbed up and down over the dusky gray shirt and tie.  “First of the semester, wait a week or two. It’ll pick up.”

“I think I’ll just enjoy today.”

“I think that’s wise.”

With two strides, Eric walked back into the computer room and sat down at the first computer.  Time to check the computers got scarcer and scarcer as the semester wore on, so it was nice to have some time to just get one-on-one with each of them and run them through their paces.

This semester he was even more thankful for the time he spent with the computers.  His new apartment wasn’t exactly home.  He hated living by himself, but with his younger brother’s recent marriage, not to mention the new living arrangement in his former apartment, he was on his own—like it or not.

Until Jeremy and Gwen had gotten together, everything had seemed perfectly wonderful with their little group.  In fact, he had felt like one of the central participants, but the pairing of his two best friends had effectively eliminated his feelings of fitting in.  They all had somebody.

Ryan had Desiree, and their newlywed status made them the odds-on solid couple of the group.  Ransom and Zoë, although on again-off again were now on again, and, by the looks of things, weren’t headed for off-again any time soon.  And then there was Jeremy and Gwen.

The thought of Gwen brought his heart up with a jerk.  Fighting to get his mind to think of something other than her long legs, slim body, and fabulous red hair, his hands worked faster over the keyboard. After another minute, he snapped that one off and moved over to the next one.  But getting her out of his mind for more than seconds at a time was completely useless.

How he had ever thought he had a shot with her was beyond him.  As completely unbelievable as it was, however, he had thought exactly that.  Right up until he walked in on her and Jeremy kissing.  It was an image he knew that would be with him forever.  His heart sank just thinking about it.

He wanted to scream at both of them, to tell them he hated them, and there were times he really did hate them.  However, getting mad would do nothing other than destroy all he had left—their friendship.  Only problem was that being around them, being around all of them was slowing killing him.  Never would he tell any of them that, but it was the truth just the same.

With a snap he turned that computer off and scooted to the next one.  Just don’t think, he told himself.  Just keep moving, don’t think, and then it won’t hurt.  But the truth was he could never move fast enough to outrun the ache, and he was beginning to think it would be a part of him forever.


Even cold, clear water hadn’t helped the throbbing in Rebecca’s hand.  Two small blisters had formed in the center of it, and she was glad for the moment she at least didn’t have any major papers due anytime soon.  Writing tomorrow in class was not something she was looking forward to; typing would probably be the end of her.

As she sat on her bed with a book open on her lap that she wasn’t really reading, the lock on the door clicked.  She looked over to watch her newest roommate, Holly Jacobs, slide into the room.  Bundled in a hat, coat, gloves, and a scarf, no one could’ve guessed how stunning she was, but the second she started unwrapping herself, Rebecca was again reminded.

“Man, it is like ten below out there!”  One layer came off and landed on the bed.  “They should’ve mentioned that in the little brochures they sent about how wonderful Boston Central is.”  Another layer came off.  “Sure the fall pictures are gorgeous, but winter?  I feel like I just stepped into a freezer somebody’s turned all the way down.”

The final layer fell away, and Holly ran her hazy pink-polished fingernails down her corn silk locks.  She went to the mirror and brushed her hair several times for good measure although fixed to its finest Rebecca’s hair had never come close to how Holly’s looked when it came out of that hat.

“How was your day?” Holly asked, glancing at Rebecca in the mirror.  It was then she saw the red, blistered hand that Rebecca still had pressed to her chest.  Instantly Holly spun around and slammed the brush to the sink, hair forgotten. “What did you do?” At Rebecca’s bed, she sat carefully as though moving her roommate’s body might cause her further pain.  Gently she took the hand in hers to examine it.

“I had a little mishap at the Student Union.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“Did you put anything on it?”

“Water, but that hurt so bad, I decided against trying anything else.”

Holly’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the burn.  “Just a second.”

Rebecca’s gaze followed her roommate across the room and into her closet.  The burn really did hurt.  In fact, the second Holly left it had relocated back to her chest, but she had convinced herself there was nothing more to be done for it.  Holly emerged and strode to the bed carrying a small brown case.

“What’s that?”

“Emergency kit.  My mom’s a nurse.  She never lets me out of the house without it.”  Gently Holly took Rebecca’s hand and laid it on the bed.  “Tell me how you did this again.”

“Oh, it was stupid.  I had some hot…I mean coffee, and I kind of bumped into this guy.”  Just retelling it made her heart skip.  “It spilled on my hand.”

“Does it still burn?”

“It hurts.”

“No, burn.  Is it still hot?”

“Yeah.”  Rebecca had been trying not to think about that, but the second Holly mentioned it, her eyes stung as badly as the burn did.  She watched as Holly pulled out a small bottle of vanilla extract.  “Hey, we’re not making brownies here.”

Holly shook her head as she dabbed the extract on the burn.  “It kills the fire, so you’re not in so much pain while it heals.”

Remarkably she was right.  It took only seconds for the intense burning sensation to dissipate.  It was strange how a whole body could be tense from pain.  It wasn’t until the burning cooled that Rebecca realized her head was pounding.

Like a practiced nurse, Holly took out a small bottle of Vitamin E and smoothed some on the hand as Rebecca leaned back against the wall in exhausted relief.  In no time, Holly had the burn wrapped in gauze and back in Rebecca’s protective spot.



With a nod, Holly stood and started back for the closet.

“Hey, you got any aspirin in that bag?”



The bottle rattled as Holly handed it to her roommate.  “Here, I’ll get you some water.”

Seeing that even very small insignificant movements were going to be an effort, Rebecca finally managed to get the lid off with a hand and a half.  By the time she had it off, Holly was there with her water.

“Thanks.” Rebecca handed the bottle back.  She downed two pills and some water and then leaned back on the cool wall.  It felt so good.

“Have you eaten yet?” Holly asked as she put her winter outerwear away.

Slowly Rebecca shook her head, disturbing it as little as possible.

“Well, I’m not really hungry yet,” Holly said, “and we’ve still got an hour to be down there.  Why don’t you take a nap, and I’ll wake you so we can go together?”

A nap sounded very, very good at the moment.  Without protest, Rebecca slid down onto the pillows and drifted away on the smell of hot chocolate and the look of his gorgeous green eyes.

AWIP Cover New 1-10-2014


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Ebook Romance Stories: “Lucky” Chapter 1

Lucky New 2-2014Lucky

The Harmony Series

by:  Staci Stallings

Chapter 1

“You look so beautiful,” Danae Scott said, her voice barely a whisper as she gazed at Molly Emerson in the rounded mirror. Molly’s gold-toned blonde hair was pulled up, letting soft curls cascade down her long oval face. Danae’s own emerald green satin gown was no comparison for the soft white satin of Molly’s. Fitted with a drop shoulder shawl, it flowed to the floor in a wash of hand-sewn pearls.

Molly turned from her own reflection and looked at Danae with a mix of happy gentleness. “It won’t be long, and you’ll be the one standing here.”

Danae stepped back to examine the back of Molly’s dress more to avoid eye contact than to adjust anything on the dress. “He hasn’t asked me yet.”

“He will.” Molly turned full around to talk to her friend, dragging most of the dress with her. “It’s only a matter of time now. Think about it, by next year he’ll have his master’s, you’ll be teaching, you can move off together and have lots of little cousins for our kids to play with.”

It was a nice thought, but even after seven years, it still seemed so very far away. With little enthusiasm, Danae looked at Molly and smiled. “How about we get you and Rick married first? You haven’t even said, ‘I do’ yet.”

Molly smoothed the shiny material over her stomach. “It’s so hard to believe we’re already here. It seems like just yesterday you brought him to the Golden Light.”

“And it was love at first sight,” Danae said as she fluffed out the train to check for hidden wrinkles. It was a story she had by now memorized—half because she had heard it so many times and half because she had lived it.

“Have you seen him yet?” Molly asked, her attention swerving back to her own life.



Danae laughed. “It would be a little hard to see him. I’ve been in here with you since we got here.”

Molly half-turned to her friend, pleading in her green-blue eyes. “Would you mind going and making sure he got here all right?”

“I guess that’s why they call me a bride’s maid,” Danae said teasingly.

“Very funny.”

“Stay put. I’ll see what’s going on out there.” With that, Danae left Molly and stepped out onto the inside balcony. The festive sounds below engulfed her.

“Is she ready?” Mrs. Emerson, the older, more dignified, version of her daughter asked, meeting Danae on the top step of the gently winding staircase of the stately old mansion.

Careful not to move too drastically, Danae readjusted the sleeveless bodice that wrapped around her chest like a tight rubber band. “She’s dressed, but she’s a little worried Rick might make a break for it.”

Mrs. Emerson laughed. “He’d better not. Victor would probably shoot the poor kid.”

“Well, that would be kind compared with what Molly would do to him.” Danae crossed past Mrs. Emerson and started down the stairs. One hand held the banister; the other pulled her floor length skirt away from her shoes. “I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time, dear. Oh, and make sure Brandt got his cummerbund on right. I gave up.”

“I’ll be sure to check.” Careful not to trip on the soft shimmering material at her feet, Danae descended the last ten steps of the picturesque antebellum estate that Molly and Rick had mortgaged their parents’ lives to rent for their special evening.

It was strange how much a part of Mrs. Emerson’s family Danae felt. After all the years she had been dating their youngest son, Brandt, she might as well have already been one of the family’s daughters.

Molly and Brandt and the rest of the Emerson family had moved next door to Danae’s family the summer before she went to kindergarten. Their trampolines and backyards had never been the same since. Hardly a day had gone by since that first one that one group of kids wasn’t at the other’s house. It was almost like they were one and the same family.

Elementary school plays, middle school band, high school parties, dances, basketball, football, and baseball. Every season, every day. They were always together. They even went to the same church—youth group and all.

One without the other seemed incomplete, and so when it came time to choose a college, there had been very little choice involved. Molly went to Tennessee University in their hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, and two years later, Brandt and Danae followed. The only one who had broken ranks was Nikki, Danae’s older sister. She made it the first two years, but then following their mother’s advice, she had hooked herself to a wealthy frat boy and followed him to Virginia. They were expecting twins at any moment.

It was now only a matter of time before Danae, true to the well-known expectations of just about everyone around them, hooked herself permanently to her own semi-wealthy frat boy—the one and only Brandtly V. Emerson II.

Making nearly no sound at all compared with the other human beings on the premises, she stepped through the growing crowd of wedding specialists. There were five for the cake and three for the flowers, four for the music and two for the photography. She slipped through the throng and at the door down the hallway knocked softly. “Knock. Knock.”

There was a mumble from the other side.

“It’s Danae,” she said to the mahogany wood door. A beat and then she turned the knob. The door swung inward an inch. “Everybody decent?”

“Hey, Brandt, the ball and chain’s here,” Rick called when he caught sight of her. He went back to fumbling with his tie at the mirror.

“Ha. Ha.” She scrunched her face. “I’m not here to see him anyway.” She stepped into the spacious room, which was decorated in rich mahogany furniture with burgundy and gold accents, and closed the door behind her.

“Let me guess,” Rick said, “Molly thinks I’m going to bail.”

“No, she doesn’t think that. If she did, she’d have picked you up at your place with her shotgun.”

With a frustrated growl, he swiped his fingers through the tie. “Stupid thing.”

“Here, let me help.” Danae stepped over to him, and he turned to face her. The solid shoulders lined up with hers as the dark eyes and angled features perused her face.

His eyes snagged on hers just before he lifted his chin. “How’s she doing?”

“A little nervous, but that’s to be expected. How are you?”

The tie finished, his gaze slid to hers and held. “Only one thing could make today any better.”

She shook her head. “Rick, we’ve been through this a million times.”

His gaze dropped to the floor. “I know, I just—“

The snap of the door behind them sent them both scrambling backward. Brandt, taller than the two of them by a full eight inches, stalked into the room. The second he saw Danae, annoyance tramped across his darkly tanned features. “What? Did Mom send in the second string?”

Danae took another step away from Rick and put her hands on her hips. “You know, you’ve really got to learn to curb your enthusiasm.”

He yanked on his tie. “When’s the keg getting here? Then I’ll be downright thrilled.”

“First things, first.” Danae looked back at Rick who was busy repositioning his jacket. “I was going to tell you the photographer is here, so I think they’ll be ready to start pictures any time now.”

“Ugh. The joy never ends,” Brandt said. “Why didn’t you guys just elope? It would’ve made this so much easier.”

“We like to torture people,” Rick retorted.

“Obviously,” Brandt spat. “Well, at least Danae and I are going to be smart. It’s Vegas all the way for us. Right, baby?”

“Yeah.” Danae’s insides curled over themselves, but she held what she was really thinking in a tight rein. She turned to Rick. “Where’s Philip anyway?”

“He went with Molly’s dad a while ago. I think they’re checking on the reception set up across the way.”

She frowned. “Then I’d better go get them rounded up, too.” With two fists of green material, she hiked her skirt up and started for the door. “I should’ve worn roller skates.”

“Tell Molly I can’t wait to see her,” Rick said, his voice softening.

“She’ll be the one at the end of the aisle,” Danae said with a soft smile. She reached for the doorknob.

“Danae,” Brandt said suddenly.


“Tell Mom I forgot my cufflinks.”

Danae exhaled. “Figures.”

“What?” he asked with no small amount of annoyance.

“I’ll tell her.”


Considering she hadn’t been chosen as maid of honor, Danae had wrongly assumed that the day would be a snap. All she would have to do was take a few pictures, walk down the aisle with Brandt, look happy, and walk back. However, what she hadn’t adequately figured on was being the one and only person everyone else counted on to make the day run smoothly.

As she strode across the gravel and puddle strewn parking lot to the reception building, she wondered how Krystal, the vaunted maid of honor, had actually made it to two hours before the nuptials without doing anything to help.

It was Danae who had wrapped birdseed in tiny bundles of tulle until her fingers were stiff and red. It was Danae who had painstakingly assembled the centerpieces for the reception—green and cream curling ribbon and all. It was Danae who had gone with Molly to get her pictures made—just before she went with the guys for their tuxedo fitting, and now it was Danae who had to make sure there would actually be photographic proof of this happy day.

“Mr. Emerson?” she called as she stepped from the sunshine into the room lit only by pinpoints of what would have to pass as starlight. Three weeks of intermittent thunderstorms hadn’t given anyone confidence that the reception could reliably be held outside, so they had opted to bring the outside in. To one side the band was setting up. Wires criss-crossed the floor in front of the stage in a gazillion directions. She stopped one of the caterers. “Do you know where Mr. Emerson, umm, the bride’s father is?”

“I think he’s back there,” the young man said, pointing to one of the storage closets just beyond the sea of cables.

“Thanks,” she barely mumbled. Praying she wouldn’t trip over something and lay herself out in front of the six guys in the band, she strode over to the mess of cables, surveyed her options, and then seeing no other way to get to the door, she tiptoed ever so carefully into the melee, wondering how long it would take to get to the other side.

“Can I help you?” one of the band members called just as she got to the center of the snaking cables.

Danae stopped instantly. “I’m sorry. I’m trying to get the bride’s father for pictures.”

Another one of the band members, who was at the moment on the stage piecing the sound system together, threw the connection cord he was carrying to the floor. “Stay right there. I’ll get him.”

Obediently Danae stood stock-still right in the middle of the ocean of black. In ten seconds, the band member returned with two tuxedoed figures in tow.

“It’d be better to go around,” the band member said as he guided the two around the far outer edge of the cables pressed up against the wall. His shag-cut golden hair ended right at his chin line, and the black T-shirt on black jeans outfit he wore looked like he’d just climbed off a motorcycle.

“Danae, what’re you doing over here?” Mr. Emerson asked, puffing his rounded frame out like he was upset about being interrupted.

“I’m sorry, but they’re about to start pictures,” she said, turning carefully. Realizing only then that she should’ve made her assault next to the wall, she began to pick her way back out of the cables, but out was much farther than she had realized it would be. She stepped and stepped again, holding her dress, fighting to keep her balance, and trying to avoid catching her shoe on anything that would send her crashing to the floor. But the farther she went, the farther clear floor seemed to be.

“Here,” the band member said when he and his charges reached the outer edge of the cables closest to the outside door. He put his foot into the mess of cords and reached for her hand. She put her hand in his, hoping he wouldn’t just yank her free. Under her hand his felt smooth, his fingers easily blending with hers. “Not a good idea in heels,” he said with a light smile.

She took two more steps, and together they stepped out of the mass of black. “Whoa.” She ran her hand down the soft green satin at her stomach and then over her carefully pinned and upswept dark hair. “I may have to turn in my bridesmaid card if they keep sending me on these kinds of missions.”

The band member’s gaze had never left her. Soft and gentle, he smiled. “I wouldn’t worry about that. You look beautiful.” It was then that she noticed his thick accent that had nothing to do with eastern Tennessee.

Heat rushed to her cheeks, and Danae’s gaze slid down her frame. With her shoulders bared and the top of the dress beginning only at the top of her chest, she suddenly felt very self-conscious. She mumbled a thank you, slid her hand over her hair again, and retrained her attention to Mr. Emerson and Philip. “We’d better go. The photographer’s waiting.”


Kalin Lane had the impression that someone had just sucker punched him because suddenly there was a weird lack of air in the building. He stood barely six inches from the snaking cables as he watched her glide gracefully to the door with her two tuxedoed companions.

“Wow. Did you get a load of the knockers on that one?” Von, the wild-haired guitarist, said as he stepped up to Kalin’s side. “I’d sure like to take a drive on those curves.” He put his hands out as if he was driving a racecar and slid them side to side. He turned to the other band members. “Maybe this gig won’t be such a bust after all, boys. With bridesmaids like her we could be in for a long night.”

Catcalls from the others met his lurid tone.

“Let the games begin!” he said, leaning in to Kalin.

“Shut up, Von,” Kalin said with a shake of his head as he reached down to retrieve a cable. “If you’d get your mind out of the gutter once in awhile, you might figure out that the good ones aren’t impressed with junkies like you.”

“Oh, excuse me. I forgot I was talking to the preacher man,” Von said loud enough for the others to hear as he too went back to work. “Hey, everybody, the preacher man’s giving us another sermon on the wantonness of our ways.”

“You need a sermon, Von,” Claude, the drummer, called from the back of the stage.

“I don’t need no sermons. Just give me some good lines and that bridesmaid, and I’ll be in heaven.” Von mounted the stage. “Know what I’m saying?”

With the smallest shake of his head, Kalin pulled the cable in his hands over to the soundboard. Lord, they are really trying my patience today. Thanks for telling me to ride out here on my bike. There’s no telling when they’ll get home tonight.

For good measure, he said a little side prayer for the protection of every woman at the wedding. With the six members of Silver Moonlight, Kalin’s most recently adopted musical family, on the loose, the women would need all the prayers they could get.


The garden was awash in spring color. The rains followed by two bright days of sunshine brought the blossoms out of every one of their hiding places. Breathtaking barely described it, Danae thought as she walked down the aisle toward Rick, who stood in the gazebo with the preacher. It really was too bad that she and Brandt were so meant to be. Rick would certainly have gotten more than a half-second look from her had the situation been different. She smiled at him, and his return smile told her without words that everything she felt in her heart was in his as well. Just before she turned, she thought about smiling at Brandt, but when she looked his way, his gaze had already slipped past her to the aisle beyond.

At the end of her journey, she took her place where she turned and watched as Krystal, tall, blonde, and curvaceous traced down Danae’s steps to the gazebo. They had never been friends. They barely knew each other—not for wont of trying on Danae’s part, but Krystal didn’t have time for other women, she was too focused on the other half of the population. It was still a mystery to Danae what Molly saw in her former college roommate. However, she decided that now was not the time to try to sort all of that out.

When Krystal was finally in her place, the song ended and the guests stood. For several full minutes Danae had to use her imagination to make out what was happening because she couldn’t see anything through the crush of bodies. It took no imagination whatsoever to understand the look of pure joy on Rick’s face as he watched his bride coming to meet him.

Molly was right. Sooner than not, that would be Danae walking toward Brandt. That thought lodged in her throat making her cough softly. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind and slid her gaze to the picture that had come into focus when Molly stepped past the final guest. Her eyes sparkled with love and excitement as she gazed at Rick. At that moment everything that had gone before slipped into oblivion. From this moment forward Molly and Rick would be tied to each other forever, and for that reason alone, everything was right with the world.


“Oh, Danae, your dress is so gorgeous,” Elaine Benton, Mrs. Emerson’s best friend, cooed when she strode up, pink punch in hand. Her baby blue dress barely contained her stout figure. “Oh, Brandtly, dear.” She reached a perfectly manicured set of fingers out for Brandt who was standing five feet away surveying the crowd with Philip, Rick’s brother. Mrs. Benton took hold of Brandt and pulled him over to Danae’s side. “I want to get a picture of you two.”

Dutifully although he didn’t really look at Danae, Brandt slid his arm around her from her shoulder to her waist. They both smiled as if this was the best day of their lives. The camera flashed, and Brandt immediately released Danae.

“You know, it won’t be long, and it will be the two of you standing up there,” Mrs. Benton enthused.

“Something to look forward to,” Brandt said soft enough that only Danae heard it. She tried to smile at his joke, but it wasn’t really meant for her.

“So, Danae,” Mrs. Benton said, pulling her from his side at which point he gratefully faded back to Philip’s side, “tell me about teaching. When are you going to be finished?”

“Oh, well, all I lack is student teaching in the fall,” Danae said. Her gaze bounced around the reception area, searching desperately for an excuse out of this conversation.

“Now tell me again, what age are you planning to teach?”

Danae cleared her throat. “Elementary. K through fifth.”

“I can see you teaching fourth grade. You would be a good fourth grade teacher.”

“Well, I hope so,” she said although she had completely removed herself from the conversation in mind and spirit.

“And Brandtly, what’s he going to do again?”

Danae had to clear her throat again to get the words out. “Structural engineering. He’s going to build bridges.”

“Are you planning on moving when you get out?” Mrs. Benton asked with concern.

“Oh, well, we haven’t really made any solid plans yet. It’s all kind of up in the air—”

“Danae! Sweetheart, will you help us with these?” Mrs. Emerson asked, straining under three massive presents. “They have some more out in the van.”

“Sure,” she said, not really wanting to be the moving crew but thankful for the pretext to conclude the conversation.

“Oh, Elaine,” Mrs. Emerson said happily when she had transferred the boxes to Danae, “we’re so glad you could come!”

Wishing she had asked the seamstress to take another inch or so off the hem of the full-length skirt, Danae made her way through the guests to the over-flowing gift table. One thing was for sure, the Emersons had no lack of friends.

“Well, if it isn’t Danae Scott,” Marcia Turner, a friend from high school, said as she fell into step with Danae.

“Hey, Marcia, I’m headed to the gift table. Walk with me. Talk with me.”

Marcia sipped on her punch. “Looks like you and Brandt are still shacking up.”

“We’re not shacking up,” Danae said, wishing she had remembered how annoying Marcia could be.

“Too bad for you,” Marcia said, and Danae sighed to keep herself from leveling this friend in wolf’s clothing. “So, are you guys ever going to get married, or are you just going to keep stringing him along forever?”

“Funny, I thought it was the guy who was supposed to ask.”

“So, what’s he waiting for—a telegraph from Mars?”

Danae set the presents down and headed for the door Mrs. Emerson had come from with the gifts. “You’re going to have to ask him that question. If you’ll excuse me…” She purposely stepped through a knot of guests so that Marcia couldn’t follow her. The closer she got to the door, the better it looked. Just leave. Would anyone really miss her? Probably not unless they needed some grunt work done.

She crossed out into the late evening sunset and found the van Mrs. Emerson had spoken about. It was indeed filled to the brim with gifts. Mr. Emerson stood next to it handing them out to the few helpers standing around. It took nothing to notice that she was the only bridal attendant in on this work detail.

“Oh, good, Danae,” he said. He pulled one box out and handed it to her, and she barely managed to keep from dropping it. “I think this is some of the crystal so be careful with it.”

Just as she nodded and turned to head back, he exclaimed, “Oh! And take this one too.” With that, he stacked a second box at least the size but thankfully not the weight of the first on the top of the previous one.

Her ankles wobbled under the weight and the bulk.

“This should’ve been done yesterday,” Mr. Emerson said to one of the others helping, “but Gail didn’t want anything stolen…”

Danae picked her way across the gravel, past the guests who seemed not to even notice her presence. As she reached the door, she began to wonder how she would ever manage to get it open without dropping the boxes. However, just as that thought went through her head, the door burst open seemingly on its own.

“Whoa!” said the person who’d opened it. “Looks like you’ve got a handful there.”

Her heart skipped through her chest although she hadn’t caught so much as a glimpse at the owner of that voice. The accent was impossible to miss.

“Here.” Without asking, he pulled the top box from her and held the door with his foot. “They’ve really got you working overtime today.”

She laughed as she crossed in front of him. A whiff of his cologne sent her head spinning. “It’s one of the hazards of the job.” She had thought he would give her the box back once they were inside. Instead he followed her across the expanse to the gift table. Trying not to, she noticed the tattoo, peeking out from under the hem of his black T-shirt sleeve on his nicely rounded bicep. She couldn’t tell what the artwork was exactly, and before she got too carried away trying to figure it out, she yanked her attention back to the task at hand.

“Looks like they’ll be here opening presents for a month,” he said.

“Let’s hope not.” She set her box down, retrieved his and set it down as well. “Thanks.” Her hand slipped up to her hair and smoothed it back. “I was wondering how I was going to get that done.”

He smiled at her, and for the first time she noticed how soft his hazy gray eyes were couched underneath that golden mane. “Done.”

She laughed. “Well, thank you.”

“Danae! We need you over here for pictures!” Mrs. Emerson called from the cake table.

Danae looked at him and smiled helplessly. “Back to the grindstone.”

“Looks like it.”

With that, she turned and strode over to rejoin the wedding party.


Kalin tried not to watch her, but it wasn’t easy. She was mesmerizing. The dark hair, the soft brown eyes, the skin like crushed velvet—to his way of thinking, she could’ve just stepped off the cover of a magazine. He faded back into the wall and watched as she took her place next to the tall young man with the Ivy League features. Kalin’s heart plummeted to his shoes as he watched the young man wrap her in his arms and plant a kiss on her forehead. He hoped beyond all rationality that what he was seeing wasn’t the reality of the situation.

But when they stayed right at each other’s sides, arms entwined, toasting and drinking their champagne, he couldn’t deny it. They were together and not at all trying to hide it. He twisted the leather wristband at his left wrist. With a push, he forced himself to go back to the stage. It was stupid to even let his thoughts go anywhere near her. He didn’t need a woman in his life. He could barely keep up with himself.

“Did you get it?” Von asked when Kalin made it back to the stage.

“It…?” Then he stopped himself. The extra strap he had set out to get from their equipment trailer. “Oh, no, man. It wasn’t there.”

Von spat an expletive and spun back to recheck the amp. “I could’ve sworn I threw an extra one in there.”

“Here, you can use mine,” Kalin said. “I won’t need it the first set anyway.” Quickly he unhooked his guitar strap and handed it across the stage to Von. The fewer outbursts they managed to have, the better. This gig was a favor for his manager’s old friend. Upsetting the old friend didn’t sound like the best career move in the world, and he’d made enough bad career moves that it was a wonder he was even on a stage anywhere in the world—much less one in the great state of Tennessee.
Lucky New 2-2014

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The Story: Coming Undone

Coming Undone Final 1-15-2014#1 Religious Fiction, #1 Religion & Inspirational Amazon!

Coming Undone

by:  Staci Stallings

Ben Warren had life all figured out. At 35, he’s successful in his work and free as a bird everywhere else.  He has no desire to be tied down like some of his friends, and he sees no reason to change that.  Then the unthinkable happens and causes him to rethink everything about everything.

Kathryn Walker can’t figure out what she’s doing wrong in the dating department.  The rest of her life makes sense.  She’s compassionate, strong, honest, hard-working and still alone.  She wonders if she is doomed to spend forever single.  Little does she know that fate is taking a major turn in her life.  In fact, she doesn’t even see it happening until it has.  Can she ever get past the fact that Mr. Right didn’t show up in the way she thought he would?

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Behind the Story

Thoughts on Coming Undone

The Story: A Work in Progress

AWIP Cover New 1-10-2014A Work in Progress

The Faith Series, Book 1

by:  Staci Stallings

Rebecca Avery has never been one of “them”—the popular kids, the beautiful people.  With less than fashion-plate looks and an off-beat, quirky style to living life, she has been relegated to finding “alone” activities to fill her time throughout high school.  Unfortunately, college hasn’t changed that.  Then she meets Eric Barnett, a nice guy who seems a little quirky himself.  The only problem is, he’s in love with her roommate—one of the truly beautiful people.  When Rebecca finds herself falling for him, she must find a way to break out of her shell or risk losing him forever.  Who will win out in this mixed up jumble of feelings and loyalties?  Find out in “A Work in Progress.”

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Behind the Story:  A Novel 7 Years in the Making

The Story: If You Believed in Love

IYB FINAL COVER 1-1-2014If You Believed in Love

by:  Staci Stallings

Jonathon Danforth has checked out of life. Stinging from an unimaginable loss, he has withdrawn from life, wanting only to live out his existence with as little interference as possible. However, when his sister talks him into auditing an English Literature class at the local community college, he reluctantly accepts the invitation to abandon his lonely apartment. Intent upon making an appearance for his sister’s sake and then disappearing for his own, Jonathon sulks into class. But when he meets Elizabeth Forester, the professor, Jonathon learns there is more to life and to love than he ever could have imagined.

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Character Interviews #1 — Janet, A Brother’s Struggle

Character Interview #2 — Letty “A Person Who Has Influenced My Life”

Romance Stories: A First Chapter, “If You Believed in Love”

IYB FINAL COVER 1-1-2014If You Believed in Love

by:  Staci Stallings

Chapter 1

 “I do not believe I’m doing this.”  Jonathon Danforth strode past the knots of college students who were draped and drawn over every available step and statue.  Had it been cold, they all surely would’ve taken refuge elsewhere, but New York was experiencing one of those fascinating if completely frustrating warm snaps in the middle of January.

It couldn’t last.  They never did.  That’s why Jonathon wore his black wool coat even today when it was 60 degrees out.  He was ready for the moment the cold front, that one not even predicted yet, blew in.  Climbing the steps, he asked himself again, “Ugh.  What am I doing here?  This is completely insane.”

Still he reached for the large door and entered Bennett Hall.  Inside was considerably more crowded and considerably colder as well.  It was nice to see the good people of New York Central College didn’t waste money on little issues like heat and light.  His gaze slid to the ceiling where the lighting, such that it wasn’t, glowed dimly.  With a snort of derision and disgust, he made his way through the old lobby, dotted with students.

They were all young.  Nineteen, twenty.  No more than 22.  Some looked at him.  Most were content to ignore him.  In the middle of the lobby, he stopped and dug out his schedule.  English Literature. Room 103.

As he stuffed the schedule back in his pocket, he had to ask himself yet again why he was doing this.  It wasn’t like he needed an education.  He had one.  Two if you counted life experience which he definitely did.  And yet, here he was, standing at the doors of an old lecture hall that held little if any fascination for him.  Why? drifted through him again, but he beat that back.  Did it matter why?  Did it really?

He was here.  He had made this decision, and now he was going to go through with it whether he liked it or not.

It was a thing of beauty.  Lecture Hall 103.  Elizabeth Forester had been here, in the lecture hall, since eleven a.m.  It was not required that teachers, uh, professors get there two hours before the class was to start, but Elizabeth simply couldn’t help herself.  The old English wood, the desks placed just so.  They didn’t make them like this lecture hall anymore.  It was a throwback to a time long before when students came and sat up straight, ready and eager to learn.

Of course in the past three years since she’d become an actual professor, she had seen very few of such students.  Many today were not interested in doing more than minimal work and collecting a good grade (somehow that the two didn’t go readily hand-in-hand never really made a dent in their social calendars until right before finals).  She wanted to be angry about that, to make them understand what literature could do for a person, but she had no real way of conveying that except to her own heart, so she contented herself in presenting the material and letting what happened, happen.

But 103.  That was a different matter altogether.  First, it was storied—for her anyway.  It was where she had first come into the hallowed halls of higher education as a wide-eyed freshman more years ago than she wanted to admit.  And there was always the aura of Professor Avery, her first mentor, that hung about the place.

As she sat at the old desk which really served no real purpose anymore, save that they couldn’t get it out of the room, she thought about Professor Avery.  “Elizabeth, you are a fine student with a great passion for fine literature.  Have you ever considered teaching?”

And thus had the trajectory of her life forever changed.  It was odd, she thought, running her hand slowly across the smooth old wood, how one minute your life could be so one way and the very next, it would never be the same again.

Although the classroom could hardly be called full, Jonathon took a seat in the back and pulled the schedule out once more.  English Literature was bad enough.  He’d hate to stumble into a really bad class.

Voices came from around him, but he paid no real attention to them.  They were from a different world, a world that, though he might try, he would never again inhabit.  He bent and reached into his black satchel for the notebook he’d purchased for three dollars at the bookstore.  It was only a single subject notebook, not even distinctive.  He shook his head at the cost and placed it on the desk.  So many things had changed since the last time he’d sat in a room like this, praying it would be over and swearing he would never come back.

With a small sigh, he opened the notebook, took out his pen, and in careful block letters wrote:  ENGLISH LITERATURE across the center of the top page.

“Great.  We’re so screwed,” a pasty kid with bad skin and a nose ring said as he sat down with his friend right in front of Jonathon. “We got the Wicked Witch of the East.”  The kid sat or rather slumped into his desk.

“Yeah, dude,” his friend, an equally savory subject of no more than twenty, said as he fell into the desk next to his friend.  “Rachel had her last semester, and she said she required papers and all that shit.”

Jonathon swallowed and beat down the impulse to pulverize the two.  So much had changed since he’d been in a classroom, so much, and he wondered once again why he had let Janet talk him into this.  He dropped his gaze to his paper and wrote down the time of the class 1:00-2:30 p.m.  Tuesday and Thursday.  He had no syllabus or he would’ve written the teacher’s name also.

“If she gives us papers, dude,” nose-ring boy said, “I am so out of here.  I don’t have time for shit like that.  It’s not like I don’t have a life.”

Yes, Jonathon thought, a sad, pathetic little existence that will no doubt only get dimmer and darker the longer you take a breath.

“Good afternoon, class.”  The teacher’s voice, though not exactly English held a mysterious accent that Jonathon snagged on immediately. 

He looked up and sat up straighter.  Good idea or not, he was here, and he was going to make the best of it.

“Class,” Elizabeth tried again.  Although it was precisely 1:00, students still milled about, sitting on the desks, conversing with their friends, standing at the back doors of the hall.  “Um, excuse me.  If you could all come on in and take your seats, we can begin.”

They didn’t really pay her much mind, so with frustrated determination she turned to the chalkboard.   With penmanship that would’ve snarled the mind of the great English masters, she began the lesson.  “This is English Literature.  I am Ms. Forester.  My office hours are from 9 to 11 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  You may come see me about any problems you are having.”  Information transferred, she strode to the desk as the students found desks and fell silent.

Pulling the syllabuses with her, she strode to the first of the rows and handed half of them one way and half the other.  “These are the syllabuses. I suggest you take them home and commit them to memory.  They are requirements, not suggestions.”

The groan she had come to expect began on one side and crossed the sea of seats to the other. 

“There are five books on the syllabus.  We will read all five in their entirety.”

More groans.

“Plus, you will have four papers,” she continued without pause, “and three tests.”

“Jeez. What are you trying to do, kill us?” a student down front asked.

“No,” she replied coolly.  “I’m trying to teach you.”  Her gaze snapped from that student up the rows to make sure everyone had the syllabus.  Turning, she readjusted her glasses.  “Now.  We will start with our section on English poetry.”  At the desk she lifted one of the little paperback books she had brought with her.  This particular one looked shabby compared with those the students who thought that far in advance had purchased.  But that was both to be expected and quite unavoidable. No book in her possession lasted longer than four read-throughs.  She had come to expect them to fall apart long before she got tired of them. “That would be this book.”

She held it up in case they could decipher colors better than words.  Opening it, she hardly took a breath before her gaze fell to the words, and she was transported once again to a place and a time that made more sense than any other place she had ever occupied.

“The rain set in early tonight,” the teacher, Ms. Forester, read from the little book that looked a hundred years old and sounded older.  “The sullen wind was soon awake,/It tore the elm-tops down for spite,/and did its worst to vex the lake:/I listened with heart fit to break.”

Something about the young woman and how she read drew Jonathon’s full attention to her though he had never been a big fan of poetry. 

Her gaze swept the class.  “When glided in Porphyria; straight/She shut the cold out and the storm,/and I kneeled and made the cheerless grate/Blaze up, and all the cottage warm.”  The words came from her softly, mysteriously as if she knew something no one else did.

Though he didn’t notice, he tilted his head and riveted his gaze onto her.  She seemed ethereal, as if only partially connected to this earth.

“To set its struggling passion free/From pride, and vainer ties dissever,/And give herself to me forever.”

It was much like being caught in a cobweb you can’t get out of; it clings—to your clothes, to your body, to everything.  Only these words clung not to his clothes nor his body, but to his spirit.  He tried to shake them loose, but they were captivating.

“That moment she was mine, mine, fair,/Perfectly pure and good:  I found/A thing to do, and all her hair/In one long yellow string I wound/Three times her little throat around,/And strangled her.”

With a gulp, Jonathon backed up.  His eyebrows narrowed on the thought.  What was this?  They were ten minutes into class, and she was already reading poetry about some idiot killing the woman he loved?  He slid back in his desk and fought not to sigh.  She was just like all the rest of the punk-nosed, acne-laden idiots that populated this institute of supposedly higher learning.  If he could’ve gotten up the courage or the energy, he would’ve stood up and left.  In fact, he glanced at the door, wishing he had fought harder against his sister’s insane suggestion.

Frustration crowded in on him as he shook his head, tapped his pen on his notebook, and forced his attention back to her and the reading of death.  This was just what he didn’t need.

“And thus we sit together now,/And all night long we have not stirred,/And yet God has not said a word!”

Jonathon looked around. Maybe there was a thought police guy close enough he could bust her for saying God in a public university.  At least then he could get out of this nightmare and go home to his couch where he should’ve been smart enough to stay in the first place.

“He killed her?” one kid asked down front in confusion.

Ms. Forester looked at him.  “He did.”

“Man, that’s jacked up,” the kid in front of Jonathon said.

“Dude,” the kid next to him said, “that’s just wrong.”

“Why?” Ms. Forester asked, and Jonathon’s eyebrows shot for the ceiling.

Was she kidding?  Reading things like that to impressionable kids who might think it sounded like fun?  It was all he could do to force himself to stay in the seat.  Dropping this class sounded like a very good idea.  In fact, he might just conveniently not even drop but just never show up again. It wasn’t like he was the one who had paid for the class anyway.

“Why’d he kill her?  I don’t get it,” a young lady down front said.  “Didn’t she like come to see him and everything?”

“He killed her to keep her,” Ms. Forester said as if that made all the sense in the world.  “He didn’t want her to find another, and so rather than risk that, he killed her before she could lose her purity and innocence.”

“Well, that’s one way to do it,” the kid in front of Jonathon said, and with everything in him he wanted to bop the kid on top of the head.

“Is it?”  The dark eyes hidden behind the stark, small glasses landed right in front of Jonathon, startling him far more than he could readily admit.  “Does it make sense?  Can you kill love in order to keep it?”

“No,” another young lady from the front said.  “If you kill it, you don’t get to keep it.  It… like… dies.”

“Yes,” Ms. Forester said, and Jonathon saw the con, “but it says, ‘And yet God has not said a word!’  So God’s obviously okay with it, right?”

“I don’t know. Wait a couple days,” one girl said.  “The smell alone will tell him that wasn’t a good idea.”

“Why not?” Ms. Forester leaned into the front rows.  “Why is it not a good idea?  She can’t not love him now.  Right?”

“Because, Miss, if she’s dead, he don’t get to keep her, and she don’t love him neither,” another guy tried. “He just gets to sit there with her for awhile, and then he gets to bury her, and love is just like… gone.”

That pushed Jonathon back from the conversation for good. As intrigued as he had been for most of the class, he didn’t hear one other thing.

Well, at least she had their attention, Elizabeth thought as she pointed out the reading assignment of fifteen poems for the next session over the noise of the departing students.  They were already back to social hour, and with a sigh, she relinquished her time with them.  It hadn’t gone badly, too badly anyway.  That was something.

Gathering up her things, she slid the extra syllabuses into her over-the-shoulder satchel and erased the board.  Her heart did a little slide at the sight of her name on that board.  How overwhelmingly in awe of Professor Avery she had been that first day.  As her hand made large, sweeping arcs, erasing her name from memory, she couldn’t help but hope she had made a difference in someone’s life today like he had made in hers all those years ago.

It was what every teacher wished for, she guessed.  At least the ones who cared.  The truth was, looking at the class today, this class, her class, she knew that English Literature, would be long forgotten by most if not all the second they stepped out of those doors.  It was a least of the worst electives for most.  Not that she blamed them, but she did wish… 

The back door snapped open, jerking her from her reverie.  The next class in here wasn’t for an hour and a half.  She had checked.  However, the man who stepped in was not any faculty member that she had ever met.  She stumbled over both the darkness of his features and his scowl. “Um, can I help you?”

Without answering, he stepped through the back desks, and when he stood, he held up a black scarf.  “Sorry,” he said.  “I left this.  It was a gift from my sister.  She would kill me if I lost it.”

“Ah.”  Elizabeth raised her chin in understanding, but in the next instant questioned everything about him.  He was older, much older than most of her students, and although she searched her memory, she couldn’t remember a single interaction they’d had the entire class.  She pulled her satchel over her shoulder and started up the steps.  “Are you…”  She had to clear her throat to get it all out.  “Hm.  Are you…. Um, were you in the English Literature class just now?”

“What? Oh. Yeah.  Very entertaining.”  He slung the scarf around his neck.  “Especially that whole killing your girlfriend thing.  Very nice.”

Softly and somewhat puzzled, she laughed.  When she got to the top step, he followed her to the door and out. 

“Well, the good news is, that was just to get their attention.”  She glanced back past him into the now-empty lecture hall.  “Next class will not be nearly so gory, I assure you.”

His smile was soft, barely there.  “Then I shall look forward to the next class.”  And with that, he clicked his heels, turned, and disappeared into the crush of students.

Looking after him, Elizabeth frowned.  That was odd.  It was like meeting Mr. Darcy’s almost-witty cousin.  Then she shook her head and rolled her eyes.  “Oh, Elizabeth, really.  I swear sometimes I think you think those characters are real.” With a scowl and another shake of her head, she turned and headed the other direction, hoping the library wouldn’t be crowded today.

For two long days and two longer nights, Jonathon had debated about going to class again—or not.  As he crossed the cold, hard concrete, knowing he was late, he shook his head at the stupidity of coming back.  She seemed nice enough—she, of course being Ms. Forester—especially after class, but it was hardly likely that she even knew he was on the planet.  She didn’t even know he was in a class she’d taught for an hour and half.  That either said a lot about him or a lot about her, and he wasn’t entirely sure which annoyed him more.

Carefully, quietly, he pulled the large wooden door to the lecture hall open and peered in.  Just as he was afraid, class had already started.  Well, at least his grade wasn’t in jeopardy as it had been his first go-round with the education system.  Slipping quietly in, he crossed past two other students to his seat in the back.

“I would I could adopt your will,” she read at the front. “See with your eyes, and set my heart/Beating by yours, and drink my fill/At your soul’s springs—your part my part/In life, for good and ill.”

Jonathon flipped his book open and found the page.  Two in the Campagna.  He’d liked that selection.  Mostly because it was short and also because no one died.

“Sounds like Browning had it bad,” a guy down front said.

“Yes, you’re right,” Ms. Forester said.  Then she stopped.  “I’m sorry. What’s your name?”

“Oh, uh.  Adam.”

“Adam…?” she asked, searching for the last name.


“Mr. Reynolds,” she said as if she’d just stepped off a carriage in Old England, “would you like to expand on your comment about Mr. Browning’s love life?”

“Oh, well,” Adam said as if he’d never heard a question quite like that one.  “He’s just all ‘O my dove’ and ‘I yearn upward, touch you close.’ I mean it sounds like he’s got some serious needs he’s trying to get this chick to take care of.”

The answer was crude, and even if Adam was trying not to be, Jonathon rolled his eyes in embarrassment for her.  To have to expound on that one would have landed him in the hospital with an aneurism. 

“You’re right, Mr. Reynolds.  Mr. Browning did have some serious needs as you put it.  He was in love, deep, deep desperate love, with his soulmate.  Her name happened to be Elizabeth Barrett Browning.”

“Whoa. Whoa. Hold up,” another young man down front said.  “Didn’t she write that other one?  That ‘How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways’ at the end?”

Ms. Forester smiled that little smile that said she knew secrets they could only guess at.  “Very good, Mr….?”

“Oh, Taylor.  Roman Taylor.”

“Very impressive, Mr. Taylor.  You read the assignment and can quote it.”

“I’d heard that one before,” Roman said.  “It’s on like Hallmark cards and sh… stuff.”

She laughed and then fell serious.  “The Brownings are one of the greatest love stories in all of English Literature.  The best part is, they were for real.”

“Did he kill her too?” one of the guys on the other side asked.

Without hesitation, Ms. Forester turned her attention to him.  “Mr….?”


“Mr. Cruz.” Ms. Forester took a moment to regather herself. “No, Robert did not kill Elizabeth, but they were both very in touch with the fact that love here on earth does come to an end.  They often wrote of such things as losing the other and the indelible pain that would bring.”

“So were they like in a war or something?” one of the girls asked, and when she saw her teacher begin the question, she answered it.  “It’s Letty.  Letty Rahman.”

Ms. Forester tipped her head to the side, illuminating the wisps of light brown hair that escaped from the weave of the two braids twisted at the back of her head.  “No, Ms. Rahman.  They were not at war.  There were wars going on, to be sure, but the English society during which the Brownings and the others we will be studying wrote was characterized by extreme manners in genteel society.  For example, people in the upper classes addressed one another as Mr. and Mrs.—even if they were married.”

“If they were married?”

“Yes.  It was all very formal and proper.  There were rules about society and about family, and you did not break these rules or terrible things would happen.  You might end up penniless and destitute.  You might end up married to some scoundrel who took you as a bride for your family’s money.  Or you might have to marry someone not for love but for family honor or to keep the family from dishonor.  For young women, life revolved around whom they would marry and who would marry them.”

“That’s whack.  Who needs a guy to be all up in your business?”

Ms. Forester turned and questioned the petitioner with one raise of the eyebrow.

“Susanna Suertes,” the girl replied.

“Ms. Suertes.”  Like she was gliding on glass, Ms. Forester strode to the space just in front of the girl four rows back almost exactly between Jonathon and the teacher.  He swallowed the trance down, fighting to break free, but it did not leave.

“In this time period, women were considered no better than cattle or horses.  They were basically property.  Fathers paid suitable and sometimes unsuitable gentleman to marry their daughters.  That was called a dowry.  If she did not have a dowry, a young lady’s chances of being suitably married were drastically reduced and therefore her chances for a life of anything more than life as a servant were greatly reduced as well.  But you have to understand, it wasn’t like a young woman could simply buy the nearest castle and move in.  Women could not own property.  They could not own their own homes.  They did not own horses or even the knickknacks or silver in the household.  The man owned everything.  If the male of the family passed on, the estate passed to the next suitable man whether he was part of the family or not.”

“Girl, that’s whack.  Why couldn’t women own anything?  Women are just as good as men.”

“Now.  Maybe.”  Ms. Forester spoke the words like small bombs, dropped with precision.  “But back then, an unmarried woman with no father was at the mercy of other relatives and the gentleman the estate went to.  Minus that, she had very few options.  So the noble class of women could go from living in idyllic settings one day to destitute the next just like that.”  She snapped her fingers.  “But this made love all the more important.  For a man who loved his wife and daughters would go to great lengths to ensure they would be provided for upon his death.  Death and love were ever at the forefront of the thoughts of these people because they were so intricately entwined.  Listen…”

And then she read from Rabbi Ben Ezra, another of the poems they had read.  Fifteen poems was enough for anyone.  Jonathon had finished this one sometime around three a.m. Wednesday morning when he couldn’t sleep for the question of if he was even going to come today.  Now, today, for the most part, he was glad he had come.  It wasn’t all symbolism and sonnets as he’d been afraid it would be.  When she talked about love, it was even kind of nice.  If you believed in such a thing, which he didn’t.

“’Grow old along with me!/The best is yet to be,/The last of life, for which the first was made./Our times are in his hand/Who saith, ‘A whole I planned;/Youth shows but half.  Trust God; see all,/nor be afraid!’” 

She slipped the book closed.  “Listen to those words.  In them Robert Browning is calling us all to be more than we are, calling us to love with a love that will slip through the provincial bonds of time and complete the whole.  ‘The last of life for which the first was made.’  He’s saying both parts are important.  This part you are living now will teach you what is right and what is important so that the last of your lives can come full circle into something that means something to the world and to God.”

Without bothering to open the book again, she continued, though Jonathon noticed she’d skipped a few lines. “Not for such hopes and fears/Annulling life’s brief years,/Do I remonstrate—folly wide the mark!/Rather I prize the doubt/Low kinds exist without,/Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.”  The mystery was back in her voice again.  “Hear that?  Do you hear it?  ‘I prize the doubt.’  He’s saying, ‘Don’t live your life thinking you have to have it all figured out.  Prize when you don’t know.  Prize when you’re on the verge of something big and you don’t know if you can do it.  You can for ‘Not for such hopes and fears/Annulling life’s brief years…’ Don’t waste time now being afraid and sitting on the sidelines.  Don’t let hopes and fears take away these years.  They are quick, and before you know it, they’ll be gone.

“‘Low kinds exist without.’  If you are chained to this earth by your doubt and your fears, you are a low kind.  You are a ‘finished and finite clod.’  That means if you let your doubts and your fears take over your life, then this is it.  This is all there is. If you stayed chained to the fear and doubt of this earth, then you are a finite clod, and when you die, they will put you in the ground, and you will rot, and that will be it.  You will be untroubled into eternity by the spark of love… or even of life.

“Browning understood something that few of us ever do.  It is in the risking to really love, to really put yourself out there that life is truly and most wondrously lived.”  Her gaze caught the large clock on the wall.  “I know it’s almost time to go, but please, just a couple more.”

No one, least of all Jonathon moved.

“All I could ever be.”  Her voice reverberated around the room. “All men ignored in me./This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped./Aye, not that the Potter’s wheel,/That metaphor! And feel/Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay–/Thou, to whom fools propound,/When the wine makes its round,/’Since life fleets, all is change; the Past is gone, seize today!’”  She seemed transported to a wholly different space and time, and with her most of the class.  “Listen to that.  The Potter made you, and even though the world may ignore you, the Potter knows what He’s doing, but we have to seize what’s right in front of us and not let this moment slip into the Past.”

He wished she wouldn’t keep looking at that clock.  It reminded him he would have to leave very soon.

“One more,” she said as if begging for permission.  A soft groan crossed the classroom.  “I know. I know, but this one is really good.  ‘So, take and use Thy work;/ Amend what flaws may lurk,/What strain o’ the stuff, what warpings past the aim!/My times be in Thy hand!/Perfect the cup as planned!/Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!”

The final words rang in the great hall and whispered there for another moment into eternity.  Had this been a performance, Jonathon would’ve been the first to applaud sarcastically, but this was no performance.  He could see it in her eyes and could hear it in the breathlessness of her voice, she believed every single word of it.

“He’s saying,” she said softly, and not even a pen moved, “that we may not be perfect.  We may have our lives all out of sorts, and our cups may not look like what we think they should, but the strain of the stuff that happens to us, those intentions that went past the aim—those times are in God’s hands, and He can fix them if we’ll let him.  Then in our old age we will approve of those lessons we learned in our youth, and our death will bring us full circle.”

A second and then another the words hung there, and then she smiled softly almost apologetically.  “Read the rest of the poems in the book for Tuesday’s class please.  You are free to go.”

They might have been free to go, but it took several long seconds for anyone to move.  And then they were moving, but it was subdued, hushed in a way it hadn’t been before.  Jonathon moved slowly, blinking and trying to understand the trance he’d fallen into.  He didn’t bother to put his Poetry of Robert Browning book back in his satchel.  As the other students crossed out into the noisy world beyond, he watched her up front.  She moved like she was not even on solid ground.  Dressed in that soft tan cotton dress that swirled around her ankles encased in black boots, she looked more like a spirit escaped from history than a real, live person. Stepping to the board, she erased the markings there and then strode to the desk to gather her things.

He’d never stayed behind before to talk to a teacher, that he could remember anyway.  And he knew doing so branded him as a hopeless kiss-up, but his mind and body simply wouldn’t shift back into normal mode.  She climbed the steps and smiled when she saw him coming down the row.

“So, see,” she said as if she was proud of herself.  “No one died today.”

He smiled, amused in spite of himself.  “That’s a definite improvement.”

At his row she stopped and waited for him to join her before they stepped out into the hallway.

“So, did you enjoy these poems?”

Man, he wished he could just say yes.  Instead, he wrinkled his nose. “I’m not really a poetry kind of guy.”

“Oh.”  She lifted her chin, revealing a long slender neck.  Then she pursed her lips and nodded.  “I guess not.”  When her gaze came to his, it almost knocked him backward.  Soft with a hint of both sadness and determination, she looked at him.  “Well, I hope to see you Tuesday.  Watch My Last Duchess, it’s kind of an echo of Porphyria’s Lover.”

“Oh, okay.”  He nodded.  “Thanks for the warning.”

“You’re welcome.”  She jerked her gaze away from him and then smiled. “I’ll see you Tuesday.”

He lifted the book in a half-hearted wave.  “Tuesday.”

And with that she turned and strode off across the lobby and down the hallway beyond. 

When she was gone, Jonathon’s senses kicked back in, and he dropped his gaze to the book in his hand.  It held something, something that was innate about her.  Vowing to figure out just what that something was, he did not turn the other way as he had the previous Tuesday.  Instead he headed for the library.  His apartment was so horrible for studying. 

First there was the refrigerator.  When he was bored, it was too much of a temptation, and reading these poems was about as boring as it got.  Unless she was in the front of that lecture hall reading them.  Focusing on the fact that she saw something there he clearly didn’t, he directed his steps to the library.  He would read as long as he could, and then he would go home.  Thursday wasn’t turning out to be so bad after all.



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Ebook Romance Stories

by:  Staci Stallings

Romance stories have been around since long before Romeo and Juliet, even before Penelope and Odysseus.  Why?  Because romance is in the heart of a woman and every man who loves a woman.

We love romantic stories about heroic men and the women they love.  We enjoy reading about love stories that have happily ever after at the end.  It’s not a weakness, it’s a strength.

For if at the end of time three things will last, and these are faith, hope, and love, do you not also remember that the “greatest of these is love”?

Love is what we’re all seeking, what we all desire.  We want to love and to be loved, and in the pages of romance novels, we get to experience that in some small breath.

But what of Christian romance novels, which Ebook Romance Stories focuses on?  What sets them apart from the others?

What sets Christian romance stories apart from the other romance novels is their ability to not just show the love of a man for a woman, but in their further ability to portray God’s love for us all.

God’s love is there for us no matter what–single or married, tough times and good.  When death strikes or trouble comes, when we’re on top of the mountain or down in the valley, God’s love is right there with us.  It is unconditional and it never fails. And when we mesh the love of a man for a woman with the love God gives each of them, we come away with an unbreakable bond that truly does spell happily ever after, not just in this life but in the next.

So journey with us through these romance stories.  Some are available as free online books.  Some are available as Amazon Kindle books and/or BN Nook Books.  Still others are in-print.  Some are best selling, others are looking for that right person to review them so they can become bestselling. You can also find the first chapter of several books to read as well as excerpts and links to Amazon and BN to get the ebooks!

We hope you enjoy the site–Ebook Romance Stories as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together.  Feel free to share your “find” of this site with others.  Most of all, we hope you learn to fall in love all over again with “Christian romance at its Best!” that is found on every page of this site!

Happy Reading!

The Ebook Romance Stories Staff