I hope everyone got plenty to eat on Thanksgiving and didn’t get assaulted too badly on Black Friday. Me, I celebrated my Thanksgiving holiday with my family and friends that became family over the last 18 years. Everyone pitched in and we had quite a feast…not to mention some great beer and wine to go along with it. After dinner, I had the pleasure of attending the latest Thor movie (did you get a look at that hard body?) with a very handsome bearded man. Perfect end to a perfect day.
I didn’t shop on Black Friday. Something about spending 15 minutes finding a great deal and then another 3 hours to get through the check out line just didn’t appeal to me. So, I cozied in my pajamas and spend the day and evening writing.
After a day of writing yesterday, last night was Daddy’s Home 2 with the bearded fellow (not Santa Claus) and came home for pizza and beer and a movie on television.
Starting this week, I want to give you a free story just for following my blog. I am sharing with you my story from the Crossroads Romance Writers Anthology from two years ago. Faith’s Hope was part of The Hope Chest collection and starting today, Part One is free. I hope you enjoy this paranormal romance set in the steamy streets of New Orleans….
Two strangers fated to meet...And bring a Civil War love affair full circle.
Faith Marshall picked her way around a discarded Colt 45 can still encased in a soggy brown bag and stepped over a crack in the sidewalk. She smiled as she remembered skipping alongside her mother when she was a little girl. Her mother had teased, “Don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your mother’s back.” It seemed like a lifetime ago. A carefree child in a small rural community dressed in a pretty dress and shiny black Mary Janes. Her brown braids bounced, and her hazel eyes danced with happiness as she accompanied her beloved mother to the drug store with its old time sundry counter. But not anymore. Probably never again. The image that had looked back at her this morning in the cheap motel mirror had been gaunt and haunted with dark circles under her eyes with her brown hair up in a haphazard bun because she just hadn’t had the energy to do anything with it.
The neglected neighborhood was scattered with patches of dirt. A few clumps of weeds and sun-scorched grass were scattered precariously in front of the houses that actually had yards. It was a shame that houses that were built over a century or more ago and probably held so much history were being permitted to fall apart. Faith approached the dilapidated house where a hand made FOR RENT sign was hanging from the wrought iron fence haphazardly. The light blue paint peeled in strips, revealing aged wood below. A white shutter hung in disrepair from the window directly next to the narrow alley facing her, and she noticed the curtains move as she approached. Faith had called from the motel after seeing the advertisement posted in the all-night coin laundry the night before, so the owner was expecting her.
The gate screeched ominously as she pushed it open. “A little WD40 would fix that…” She chuckled as she realized she spoke the same words her grandfather had always used when fixing things around her childhood home. WD40 and duct tape would fix anything he used to say. A small patch of dirt lined either side of the sidewalk leading to the shotgun double and set of wind chimes hung lifelessly from the porch—gallery—as it was called down here in New Orleans. She approached the set of steps on the left side of the house and noticed that a couple of geraniums drooped lifelessly in the clay pots on either side of the top step. A little water would probably help.
The woman on the phone last evening told her to come to the pink door. Faith shook her head as she looked at the door that was only partially painted a hot pink color. Lifting her hand, she started to knock only to have the door open before her small fist could rap on the glass. Startled, she looked down at the tiny elderly woman standing inside the doorway.
A pair of wire-rimmed glasses were perched on the woman’s nose, and cornflower blue eyes peered over the top of them. Pink rouge accented her wrinkled cheeks and her thin lips bore the brightest red lipstick Faith had ever seen. But what really caught Faith’s eye was the hair. It was so red, it bordered on orange. Flamboyant. There was no other word to describe the woman who had to be close to ninety.
“Miss Marshall, I presume?” Standing back, she motioned with her jewelry adorned wrist and hand toward the interior of the house. “Come now, don’t just stand there gaping at me like a fool. Come into the parlor so we don’t let the air conditioning cool that ghastly heat out there on the gallery. I’m Francis Devereaux, but you can call me Frankie.”
Faith stepped inside the cool interior, and her nose filled with the scent of roses, musty age and lemon furniture polish. It was like walking from modern day right into the Victorian age. Despite the exterior of the house being rundown, inside was an entirely different story. A magnificently colored rug covered almost all of the floor except for where polished wood peeked out around the edges. A Greek revival settee was intricately carved from beautiful cherry wood and upholstered with gold brocade. An ornately carved mantle stood out against the brick of a fireplace against the far wall. The room opened on the other side into what appeared to be a bedroom, and an oil-painted landscape hung over the bed. A lush fern sat on a wicker stand in the corner by the front window.
The elderly woman sat on the settee and patted the space beside her. “Sit. Let’s chat a bit before I decide if I’ll show you the apartment or not.” When Faith didn’t immediately join her, she patted the spot a little bit more insistently with a twinkle in her eyes. “I promise I don’t bite.”
Faith crossed the room and sat down in a cloud of fragrance — one of those heady department store scents that overwhelmed shoppers entering the cosmetic section. A perfume Faith always associated with wealth and older women. Her own preference leaned more toward fresh and light. She clasped her hands on her lap, doing her best to hide the nails that were bitten almost to the quick.
The bright blue eyes were sharp and piercing, making Faith feel like the woman could see inside her head. Like she could see the secrets hidden there. “Mrs. Devereaux…”
“Frankie. Please. My mother was Mrs. Devereaux, God rest her soul.” She lifted the lid on a ceramic dish and pushed it toward Faith. “Have a mint. Buttercream. I get them down in the Quarter at a shop right by the French Market. Have you been there?”
Faith shook her head. It had only been three days since her arrival in New Orleans. The first day in the ratty motel she’d slept for over twenty hours. On the second day, Faith pulled herself together and searched the classifieds for job options and had found a waitress job at a coffee shop in the French Quarter. She had withdrawn enough from her savings account back home to pay the deposit and first month’s rent on the apartment and get whatever she needed to start her life over.
Frankie stood up and reached in the pocket of her dress to produce a key. “I highly recommend you go check out the French Market.” She motioned for Faith to follow her, looking over her shoulder once. “New Orleans is a good place for hiding out and starting over. I speak from experience.”
Stop back next week to read the next part of this story….