Challenges and setbacks are a part of life. We can either overcome them or give in and let them crush us. Sweet Victory is a collection of six historical stories about people meeting and overcoming those challenges and setbacks.
This excerpt is from The Sheriff of Sycamore Springs, one of the six stories in Sweet Victory.
“Emily Cooper?” Adam Bell croaked. “We can’t hire a female sheriff.”
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” Naomi Bell retorted. She scooted to the edge of her front-row seat and glared at her husband. “Sure we can. She’s been the deputy sheriff in Virginia City for six years and everyone in town knows she’s the one keeping the town in order.”
Why had he fallen in love with and married such and opinionated women?
Arms crossed in front of his chest and feet planted wide apart, he stood in the town hall facing the members of the Sycamore Springs Town Council.
Adam glared at his wife in return. “Royce Hanson—”
Naomi shot to her feet. “Royce Hanson is nothing but an egotistical lout who’s angling to become mayor, then a representative in the Nevada legislature. He can’t even shoot straight. How he got elected as sheriff, I’ll never know unless he ran a dishonest campaign. Emily Cooper’s fearless, tough, an expert horsewoman and a crack shot. She should have won the last two elections. And if that horse’s patoot hasn’t elevated himself to mayor yet, she won’t win the election two years from now. You know why? Because she’s—”
“I know what you’re going to say,” Adam snapped. “Because she’s a woman. And you’re damn right. Who ever heard of a female sheriff?”
Adam clenched his fists and held them close to his sides as the Town Council members muttered among themselves. Darn women who’d insisted on being on the council and influencing the men. Why had these men agreed to let people who couldn’t vote have a voice on the council in the first place? Maybe they were like his wife. Naomi had refused to take no for an answer.
Naomi stamped her foot. “Doggone it, Adam, Sycamore Springs needs a capable sheriff and we need one now. After the last string of bank robberies, Seth Parker, that poor excuse for a sheriff who the men of this town elected, couldn’t flee fast enough. The lily-livered men in this town who refused to be deputized didn’t help, either. They made it impossible for Seth to get a posse together. I repeat, he was a very poor excuse for a sheriff.”
Stories of Hope
Stories of Hope is a collection of six stories of tenacity, survival and hope set in the late 1800s and early 1900s in America. In Left Holding the Bag, a chance encounter changes Lucy Mae Logan’s life for what appears to be the worst. In Nobody’s Child, orphan Sally Parker’s hardscrabble life on the streets of New York City is about to change in a most unexpected way. In Phoebe, a bully gets a wake-up call in a surprising twist.In The Middle of Nowhere, an item in a newspaper and a broken leg change the lives of a spinster school teacher, a widowed rancher with a young daughter and a widowed doctor who thought her life was over. In The Fire, out of the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, seamstress Aurora Lanza must reclaim her life. In Surviving the Storm, a blinding snowstorm forces a man to face his past and his future when he responds to a cry for help.
This is an excerpt from Left Holding the Bag, one of the six stories in Stories of Hope.
Lucy Mae Logan approached the bank and gasped. Her body jerked.
“Oh, there you are, just as we planned.” The dark-haired man who had barreled into her exiting the bank touched the brim of his gray Stetson. Her heart pounded under his piercing blue-eyed gaze.
Lucy Mae’s chest tightened. She clutched the handle of her purse in her left hand. “What?”
The man looked back over his shoulder and then looked at her again. “Here, hold this.”
He shoved a brown leather satchel toward her. Her jaw dropped and she grasped the handle with her right hand. Her body jerked to the right with the weight of the satchel. He sprinted off the boardwalk, around the hitching post, grabbed the waiting Palomino’s reins and swung into the saddle.
Six shooter drawn, bank president Howard Wallace rushed out onto the boardwalk and fired a shot missing the man on the horse by just a smidge.
The man winked at Lucy Mae. “You hold on to that satchel and I’ll be back for it, just like we planned.”
Lucy Mae blinked and bit into her bottom lip. The boardwalk seemed to shift under her and Main Street swirled around her. “We what?”
The man tapped the horse’s sides with his heels. The horse lept into motion and carried its rider west down Oak Meadows’ dusty main street.
“Miss Lucy!” Howard hissed, towering over her. His dark, flinty-hard eyes might as well have sent sparks shooting out at her. “I never would have expected you to be an accomplice!
“An accomplice?” she squeaked.
Love Speaks Softly to the Heart
Love gently finds eight people who least expect it.
This is a passage from Back From the Brink, one of the five stories in Love Speaks Softly to the Heart.
Her phone pinged as she stepped through the coffee shop’s door. She pulled it out of her handbag. A text message from her mom.
“Ooofff.” Colliding with something solid, she came to an abrupt halt and lowered the phone. The utility cart full of dirty dishes, cups and eating utensils rattled with her impact.
A tall, thin dark-haired man in a well-worn gray tee shirt, faded jeans and worn sneakers was bussing the table beside the cart. She narrowed her eyes. There was something familiar about him even though his side was turned to her and she could not see his face. Then he turned his face toward her and she gasped.
The color drained from his face. “Chelsea?”
Her heart stopped and then pounded. Tyler Stevens’ blue eyes had lost their sparkle and his handsome face had become gaunt. Her eyes took in his thin frame again; he had once been muscular and strong.
“I—I’ve got to get to work. Nice seeing you.” He turned his back on her and continued removing the dirty dishes, glasses, cups and cutlery from the table.
There was nothing more to say. Time to move on. For right now. Her “regular” booth was vacant and she slipped into it.
“The usual?” waitress Bunny Hanson asked as she approached.
Chelsea looked past Bunny and saw Tyler rolling the cart toward the swinging door between the dining room and the kitchen.
“Is that Tyler Stevens?”
Bunny nodded. “Why yes it sure is.”
“Why haven’t I seen him here before?”
“He just started this morning. Came in yesterday mid-morning to see Milton asking for a job. The homeless shelter near the power plant just past the industrial area sent him over.”
Tears welled up in Chelsea’s eyes. She was no longer hungry, but didn’t want to leave yet. Maybe she’d get an opportunity to talk to him, to find out what happened. She couldn’t very well occupy a booth without ordering. “Yeah, I’ll have the usual. Nobody does cheeseburgers and steak fries as good as Milton does. He’s the best short-order cook in town.”
Romance on the Run
Get your fiction fix in a flash. In today’s busy world we have less and less time to read. Do you miss reading but just don’t have the time? Romance on the Run is a collection of fifteen heartwarming short romances. Each one can be read in a flash.
This is a passage from The Lavender Rose, one of the stories in Romance on the Run.
In the early morning, a single lavender rose surrounded by white baby’s breath in a clear pale-blue glass vase sat on Wendy Parker’s porch. Dare she pick it up and take it inside?
With no lights on so they wouldn’t show outside in the dim morning light, Jamison Spencer stood in his entry hall looking out the diamond-shaped window in the front door. She was standing there just inside her open front door. Was she going to pick up the rose he’d left on her porch?
New to the neighborhood, all he knew about her was what Joe Graham next door had told him. Her name was Wendy, she was a writer and she was single. Oh, and she was beautiful. Joe didn’t have to tell him she was beautiful; he’d noticed that himself.
Her heart pounded. The rose sat on her breakfast table. It had to be a man who left it on her doorstep. But who? Could her broken heart take another man again?
Early the next morning, he peered out the living-room window. There were no lights on in her house. He crept across the street, bud vase in hand. This time, in addition to the single lavender rose and the baby’s breath in the vase, there was a card. Don’t be afraid. I mean you no harm.
He set his delivery down on the porch and made his way back across the street and quietly re-entered his house.
Romance in a Flash
Three heartwarming romances to read in a flash. In Spring Forward, it’s the first day of Daylight Saving and Loretta forgot to set her clocks ahead when she went to bed. The next morning, she arrives at the coffee shop an hour late. That oversight brings her more than occupied tables. In Sugar Man, a mishap brings Molly Cole and Colin Reid together. In Two Left Feet, Spencer Walsh attends a father-daughter dance and despite the fact that he can’t dance, he finds a chance at love again.
This is a passage from Two Left Feet.
“Ouch. My foot. Didn’t you ever learn how to slow dance?”
Shannon Walsh glared at her father.
“I’m sorry,” Spencer said. “I guess you have the clumsiest father at the father-daughter dance.”
Shannon patted her father’s arm and nodded. “It’s okay. Not everyone can dance. Let’s get some refreshments. My English teacher, Miss Nichols, is there.”
They sauntered to the refreshment table.
“Hello, Shannon. How’s my star writer?”
Spencer gazed at the pretty strawberry blonde. His heart fluttered.
“Dad, this is Miss Nichols, the best teacher at Elm Avenue Middle School.”
Miss Nichols blushed. “Maybe one of the best, but not the best.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Shannon’s father, Spence Walsh.”
“Please call me Char. Refreshments, Mr. Walsh?”
He needed an exterminator to quell the butterflies swarming in his stomach. “Call me Spence. Punch, please. Shannon?”
“So, Shannon’s your star writer,” he stammered.
Char nodded. “Her writing is very clear and descriptive.”
“I get that from Dad. He’s a reporter for the Daily Examiner.”
Char’s green eyes sparkled. “Oh, you’re that Spencer Walsh. I enjoyed your article on researching genealogy. After reading it, I had my students search Ellis Island’s website for immigrant relatives and write an essay about what they’d found.”
“That’s how I know Great Grandma Alice Walsh made up the story that she only had five dollars when she came to America,” Shannon said. “The notation about her on the ship’s manifest said she had two hundred dollars. And she was in second class, not in steerage like she told the family.”
Spencer laughed. “At least she never told us she walked barefoot twenty miles to school through the snow.”
Shannon guffawed. “She couldn’t. She lived in the desert in Victorville, California.”
“Well, the music’s starting again,” Char said.
“I love my father,” Shannon said, “but I’m not dancing with him anymore. He steps on my feet. He needs dancing lessons.”
Heat crept into Spence’s face and his throat tightened.
“Shannon, be nice to your father,” Char chided. “He made the time to come with you this evening. Not all students are lucky enough to have parents who pay attention to them.”
Warmth seeped into his heart. Spencer liked this lady already. And it didn’t hurt that she was beautiful and single. Would it be proper to blurt out that he wasn’t married? That he’d like to see her again? Probably not.
“Miss Nichols?” Shannon said. “In case you’re wondering, Dad’s not married. Mama passed away when I was little.”
Thank you, Shannon. Spence wondered if his daughter was a mind reader. But he said, “She’s probably not interested,” just so he sounded proper. Char didn’t have to know his heart was racing.
Aunt Zelda and the Real Santa
A homeless alcoholic finds hope in the spirit and magic of Christmas.
This is an excerpt from Aunt Zelda and the Real Santa
Zelda Zane pursed her lips and heaved a sigh. This was most disheartening. In all her sixty-five years, she’d never seen a more perfect Santa and there he was dirty, disheveled and passed out in the planter on the pedestrian mall outside Bull’s Eye Discount Store. There was nothing sadder than a person who was lost and caught in the web of a downward spiral. For this man, that was about to change.
“Get up,” she ordered.
The big, white-haired man’s eyelids fluttered open. His eyeballs rolled back in their sockets and his eyelids shut again.
“Oh no you don’t.” Zelda planted her hands on her hips; her purple handbag dangled on its purple straps in the crook of her left elbow. “I know you have a hangover and that you were probably drinking all night. I bet you’ve been drinking most of your life away. Get up anyway. This is the last hangover you’ll ever have. I have a job for you.”
“Aunt Zelda, he stinks.” Fifteen-year-old Chrissy Zane pinched her nostrils shut with the thumb and forefinger of her left hand.
“That’s beside the point,” Zelda retorted. Her shoulder-length white bob swung as she shook her head from side to side. “He’s not going to stink for long.”
“Aunt Zelda, you’re weird.”
Zelda rolled her eyes and looked at the sky for a moment. Then she glared at her niece. She gulped and pursed her lips, hiding the smile she wanted to flash at the dark-haired girl in the pink tee shirt with the black lettering across the front that said Auntie’s Favorite Niece. “Your father, who happens to be my younger brother, says I’m eccentric. But you know I’m always right.”
Chrissy giggled and nodded. “You know that’s why I love being with you. You’re eccentric, you have a sixth sense and you’re the best aunt any girl ever had. Nobody’s more interesting than you. And you are always right. But we’re supposed to be shopping, remember? It’s twenty-percent-off Tuesday at Bull’s Eye. And then we were going to have lunch.”
“We’re still going to have lunch. But right now, we gotta get this guy moving. He’s got a role to fulfill.”
Chrissy crossed her arms in front of her. “What role?”
Zelda glared at her niece again. “Have you ever seen a more perfect Santa Claus?”
Chrissy’s eyes widened. “Yeah. Lots of them. And they’re sober and don’t stink.”
Zelda waived Chrissy’s doubt off with a swipe of her hand.
The man opened his eyes again and struggled into a sitting position. He swung his tattered-blue jean-clad legs over the edge of the cement planter. His feet were shoeless and filthy. His wild unkempt hair tangled around dead leaves. It was a wonder birds or mice weren’t nesting in it. He needed a shave; white stubble covered the lower half of his face. A nice, well-kept beard and moustache would have time to grow in before Christmas.
The year is 1908. A klutz finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and inadvertently becomes a hero.
Excerpt from The Accidental Hero
Buzzzzzz The light above the first incoming line lit up.
Gwen Porter plugged the cord into the incoming call. “Operator. Elm Valley Central, Elm Valley, California. Gwen speaking.”
She winced at the heavy breathing on the other end of the line, then yelled into the mouthpiece attached to her headset. “Who is this? Quit breathing like that and speak up or I’m going to disconnect your call.”
“Sorry ma’am,” the man croaked. “I-I’m a tad bit nervous. Can you put me through to the Porter Hotel?”
“I could, but I can help you. Are you looking for a room?”
“Aren’t you the switchboard for – what’s the name of the town again?”
“Yes, this is the switchboard for the town of Elm Valley.”
“In Central California?” he puffed.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Then how come you can help me with the hotel?”
“Because the switchboard is in the back room at the hotel and I own the hotel. I would know if there are any vacancies.”
“Oh. Does the hotel have any rooms available?”
“Yes, we do. You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No, ma’am. That’s why I’m calling to find out if you have a room available.”
“Oh. Where are you right now?”
“Just over the state line in Truckee, Nevada. How long will it take me to get to your hotel if I hire a jitney?”
“Half an hour, maybe. Not more than forty-five minutes.”
There was silence.
“Hello. Are you still there, Mister,” Gwen asked.
“Yeah. That’ll probably cost more than I wanted to pay,” the man replied. “But…but I just came into some money, so I guess I could. Pay for it, I mean. I’ll be there.”
“What is your name?”
Gwen clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, rolled her eyes up and regarded the ceiling for a moment before bringing her focus back down to the switchboard. “So I can leave it with the front desk so whoever’s there when you come in will be expecting you.”
“Oh.” After a pause, he said “Ahhh. T-Thomas C-Carlson. Just call me Tom.”
“We’ll be expecting you. Is there anything more you want to say?”
“You know where we’re located?”
“No,” he said. “But I assume you’re in Elm Valley. Is Elm Valley a big town?”
“No. We’re just one main street and a couple of side streets. The hotel’s short distance to the east, not far off the main street.”
“I’ll find your hotel, Miss Gwen.”
“Okay. I’m going to disconnect the call now.”
Gwen pulled the plug and shook her head. There was something odd about this conversation.
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