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Dangerous Deeds

Beth Prentice is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Westport Mysteries, The Unleashed Mysteries and the Aloha Lagoon Samantha Reynolds Mysteries. Killer Unleashed, her GHP debut novel, received a bronze medal in the 2016 Readers Favorite International Book Awards. Her main wish is to write books you can sit back, relax with, and escape from your everyday life…and ones that you walk away from with a smile! When she’s not writing you will usually find her at the beach with a coffee in hand, pursuing her favorite pastime—people watching!

Beth Prentice BookBaybz

Q. What sentences in writing have changed your life?

I’m not sure any writing has changed my life, but one line I wrote definitely affirmed it. It’s from Dangerous Deeds and is something I believe deeply. Discrimination is wrong.

Q. Which book left you empty inside once you finished writing it?

None. I always leave my books on a happy note. I want the reader to close the book and walk away with a smile.

Q. What is the best opening sentence you have written?

“You have dialed emergency triple zero. Your call is being connected.” Invitation to Murder. This line immediately pulls the reader into the action – someone has just phoned emergency – Oh, my goodness! What’s happened? Every reader who reads that first line needs to know the answers and more.

Q. Have you ever read the ending of a book after only reading the first few chapters? If no, why, if yes…why?

Lol, I always read the last page first!! It relieves the anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen and then I can relax and enjoy the story J

Q. What don’t you want to see in a well-written villain that happens frequently?

I hate it when the villain is just plain bad and doesn’t have any other qualities. Even bad guys believe what they are doing is for good reasons. They’re multi-dimensional and need to be portrayed that way J

Q. Who is the best villain you have written to date?

I think Joe Woods from Dangerous Deeds. He reappears in Deathly Desire, the third instalment in that series. He thinks he’s a great guy and full of love, but he’s seriously evil.

Q. Best closing scene, you have written?

I think it’s the last chapter in Deathly Desire, the third instalment in The Westport Mysteries. We learn what happens to Lizzie and her stalker. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’d made the decision for something bad to happen to a major character in that series. This scene wraps everything up and still gives me the feels when I read it.

Dangerous Deeds BookBaybZ

Who knew buying a house could be so dangerous…

Lizzie Fuller bought a lonely, run down old house that pulled on her heartstrings. Why? Probably because it reminded her of herself.

What she didn’t bargain for was the engagement ring and letters of forbidden love hidden under the attic floorboards. Nor the lazy cat, or the drop-dead gorgeous handyman. And she definitely didn’t want the stalker.

As the renovation begins and the house starts to slowly return to its former glory, the letters dog her dreams. Why was the writer forced to turn away from his love? Why was their love forbidden? And why was this all hidden under the floorboards?

Filled with a drive to reunite the ring with its rightful owner Lizzie sets on a journey of lost love, heartache, and public damnation.

But can she restore the house to its former glory, and find who it all once belonged to before her stalker catches up with her? Or will she lose everything…including her life?

Dangerous Deeds is the first book in this light-hearted romantic mystery series. If you like crazy families, fun engaging reads, and a sweet romance, all tied together with a ribbon of danger then you’ll love this first book in The Westport Mystery Series

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Sacrifice

To our fallen men and women. Lest We Forget.

BookBaybz Blog

By MC D’Alton

Sophie’s gaze ran up and down the long bronze list bolted onto the memorial.  Her eyes blurred as she blinked back the tears. The soldiers forever immortalized, never to grow old:

Corporal James Stewart.

Lance Corporal Cassidy Newman.

Lance Corporal Shamus Bailey Wilson.

The names on the plaque stared back at her with a cold, hard accusation.

“I should have brought you home,” she whispered to their shadows.

ANZAC Lest We Forget

Retired, Royal Australian Navy Pilot, Lieutenant Sophie Murray, swallowed back the pain. It hurt to stand, but she refused to sit. It hurt to be out here where all and sundry could stare at the melted skin which was her face, but she’d not let those boys down a second time.

It was an unusually balmy April morning out at Beachmere ANZAC memorial. The small sea side town where three of the diggers from the 4th Battalion, who were…

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Racing Dreams and Family Saga’s

Merindah Park

by

Renee Dahlia

 

A brand new rural romance series about an emerging racehorse stud and the family desperately trying to make their racing dreams come true.

John Henry Bassett

‘Money lost, nothing lost. Courage lost, everything lost.’

My dad’s favourite quote. Maybe not one I should be listening to, given my gambling-addict dad sank our once-famous horse stud into a deep, deep hole. Five years I’ve been digging it out. Slowly. Carefully. And now … I am risking it all. Risking Merindah Park on a stallion. Tsuyoi Red, runner up in the Japan Derby last year.

Now is not the time to get distracted by a gorgeous, pragmatic veterinarian.

Toshiko Sato

I’m at a crossroads in my life. Though my father encouraged me to follow my dreams and become an expert veterinarian, he left our family’s horse farm, Tomikusa, to my younger brother. My family expects me to honour my father’s wishes and marry a neighbour-a perfectly nice man who I don’t feel any spark with at all. But my own ability to bet-successfully-on horse races has given me options.

This decision would be easier if I didn’t feel the wicked chemistry hovering between me and the handsome, broad-shouldered Australian that my brother has decreed I will travel with to Australia to look after an injured horse. I’m usually so good at calculating the odds. But how do I choose between losing my place in my family, and losing myself?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Renée Dahlia is an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour. Renée has a science degree in physics. When not distracted by the characters fighting for attention in her brain, she works in the horse racing industry doing data analysis and writing magazine articles. When she isn’t reading or writing, Renée wrangles a partner, four children, and volunteers on the local cricket club committee as well as for Romance Writers Australia.

Q.  What sentences in writing have changed your life?

That’s an incredibly esoteric question! There is a sentence in a Lisa Kleypas book (A Wallflower’s Christmas) that I credit with giving me the idea to attempt to write a romance novel. I’d written non-fiction for over a decade, when I read this. I complained one day that I’d read all the books in the house, and there was nothing new at the bookshop, and Matthew challenged me to try writing one of my own.

Q. What is the best opening sentence you have written?

I have a soft spot for the opening sentence in The Heart of a Bluestocking (http://books2read.com/u/3yD16v).

It perfectly sums up the heroine, Claire.

‘No,’ Claire said emphatically. ‘I don’t owe you my time.’ She lifted her chin a fraction and glared at her father. He stared back with those astute eyes.

Q.     Best closing scene, you have written?

I enjoyed writing the epilogue to the Merindah Park series – it gives the reader one last taste of all the characters, as well as a nod to the success of one of the horses whose stories are threaded through the series.

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Loss, Love, Redemption and a Miracle on Four Hooves.

I’ve been to Scotland before, as has Mel. That doesn’t stop us from being struck afresh by the beauty of the lochs and mountains.

The drive from Inverness up to Lairg is every bit as challenging as Sadie found it when she first arrived, except that it’s summer and there is no sheep auction due for some time.

Epona Lairg Michelle Dalton Author

I’ve accompanied Mel, (my partner in writing all things steampunkerish and my fellow BookBaybZ) to interview Sadie Munro, heroine and horse whisperer extraordinaire, the main character of my new bestselling release Epona.

We pull up to a large stone mansion. Scaffolding hugs its west wing. The beautifully manicured garden sports summer blooms and emerald green grass. The front door opens and out steps a woman I know almost as well as I know myself.

“You made it!” She smiles bringing together her hands beneath her chin as her fiery curls hug her cherry cheeked face. They emphasise eyes as green as the manicured lawn.

“Please to meet you.” Mel walks up and holds out her hand.

“Any friend on Mich’s…” She wraps a warm hug around Mel.

“Good to see you again.” I squeeze her shoulder before stepping inside the wide open entrance of Saorsa.

 

 

 

“How are Nan and Oupa?” I ask as she waves us toward her study.

“Oh very well. They are in town, meeting with the council, then they are going to play bridge with friends.” Sadie smiles and the enitre room lights up. “Come sit down, Giles will be in shortly with some tea and some of Mrs Perkins home-made short bread.”

“That’s nice.” Mel smiles when a greying gentleman in a suit walks in, tray in hand, and places it down on the table before us.

“Well don’t mind me,” I sit back with a steaming cup of Oolong, “Mel knows what she wants to ask.

Mel fires up her trusty iPad and nibbles on her lip, apparently unsure where to start.

“It’s been quite a journey for you, Sadie, and I’m not just referring to the hills. How have you been getting on?”

“It’s been interesting. Good, not easy but we’re happy… I’m happy, thanks.”

“You met your neighbour, Blane, under less than ideal circumstances. Do you think that’s why things were a bit tense between you?”

Sadie sits back in her chair hugging her cup of tea as she considers Mel’s question. The green of her eyes sharpen as a soft blush caresses the freckles on her face.

“Yes and no. It’s hard to see past the trauma when you sitting plum in the middle of it. I think the fact that his presence reminded me there was still good in the dark world I was lost in. It scared me, still does some days.”

Epona Michelle Dalton Author

I nod and bite into my biscuit. “Gosh these are good.”

“Leave one for me.” Mel looks at me over the rim of her glasses. I answer with a cheeky grin.

“Have you always had a connection to horses?”

“Since I can remember. Theirs were the first voices I heard as a child. They’re mighty and majestic, I often shudder to think I nearly pushed them away from my life.”

“Starting over in a new place seems like such a great thing to do. But that’s not your experience, is it?”

“I guess it helped that I arrived with no expectations. I was a hollow shell when I knocked on Munro Manor’s front door. It’s strange, like the soul of a horse who knows her kind, I knew I’d come home. I mean Africa was home, but she expelled me, and Scotland opened up her arms as though she knew I’d return to her someday.”

“Was there a moment when you turned a corner and saw a future, after all the grief of the past?”

Sadie swallows hard, leans forward and places her cup on the tray then places her elbows on her knees and looks Mel dead in the eye.

“The night Epona found me. But as humans, I guess we’re always turning corners aren’t we?”

“Thanks for your time and the great shortbread.” Mel smiles as she sits back and tucks in to her tea and biscuit.

“It’s such a pleasure. Please come back anytime.” Sadie replies.

EPONA

Michelle Dalton Author Epona Romance Womens Fiction BookBaybZ

Can Sadie overcome the trauma of her past and find redemption in the wild Scottish Highlands?

After a horrendous attack on her family farm in South Africa takes the lives of her loved ones and leaves her wounded, her only escape is to leave the country of her birth for the highlands of Scotland and her last living relatives. But Sadie’s life may still be in danger.
Blane Buchan is an Englishmen living in the small highland town of Lairg, seeking a life away from the emptiness of London society and a past he’d rather forget.

When Sadie finds a mysterious blue roan mare, she must use the gift given to her from Epona; Protector of horses. But the mare just might be the one who saves her.

From the mountains of South Africa to the wintry Highland Moors this is a story of redemption, love and the powerful connection between humans and horses.

Epona Michelle Dalton Author BookBaybZ Bestseller

 

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Cherry Blossoms, Umbrellas, and Heroes in Tutus.

About the Book

Literary Crush Publishing brings you a new spring anthology with four brand new sweet romance stories each written around the theme: April Showers.

 

About Your Story Jayne Kingsley

Cherry On Top

Adeline Miller has just accepted her dream job coordinating the final event of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, but being back opens up old wounds she’d rather keep buried.

Mason Smith knows he’d be nothing without Clarise and Jeffery Miller. They fostered him when he was a teenager and gave him a chance. But he knows, better than anyone, that he is to blame for the rift between them and their only daughter, Adeline.

A young love that wasn’t to be, can Mason now prove he’s worth the risk? Is Adeline ready, finally, to admit why she ran away, and by doing so achieve everything she wants in life and love?

Jayne Kinglsey

Jayne Kingsley writes contemporary romance filled with fashionable and fun heroines and hunky heroes. She holds a Bachelor of Design – Fashion and Textiles and spent 12 years working in the Fashion industry before hanging up her stilettos (temporarily) for life as a mum.

Q. Have you ever read the ending of a book after only reading the first few chapters? If no, why, if yes…why? 

Yes, either to find out who the real hero is or to check there is a happy ending, I don’t like books that don’t have an obvious happy ending. Having just read Stella’s answer I might hide now though 🙂

Excerpt from Cherry on Top

                                “Adeline?” A soft voice sounded behind her.

Oh no.

He wasn’t supposed to be here. She’d checked the guest list. Twice. His name wasn‘t there, which was the only reason she’d ticked yes to coming tonight.

Taking a deep breath, she turned on the spot; the air whooshing out as her eyes met whiskey brown depths. She stared, unable to pull her focus away before a slight bump from behind and distant apology flicked the switch back on her brain. Taking another sip of her glass she realized she’d finished it. Well done Addie, not quite the sophisticated image she’d been hoping to project. Mason signaled a waiter, taking her empty glass and replacing it with a full one, his fingers brushing hers with a whisper touch, yet she still felt the sizzle all the way to her heart…

 

About Your Story Stella Quinn

The Umbrella Diaries

Duncan needs a hero — he just isn’t expecting her to turn up on his front porch under a tattered red umbrella.

Marianne needs a new venue for her dance school to escape the unwanted attentions of a creepy groundsman, so the For Let advertisement in the newspaper seems like a lucky omen. Enquiries to 241 Hope Street, Cathedral Springs, between four and five pm, today only.

She plucks an umbrella from the stand in the hallway and sets off for make her enquiry. Her dance school business means everything to her; since the injury which destroyed her career, it’s the only dream for her future she has left. And today, she’s feeling lucky.

Duncan doesn’t leave his house. Not today, not yesterday, not since he left the hospital all those months ago with steel pins holding his leg together and the words of a dying teenager imprinted forever on his brain.

Turns out, he doesn’t mind living grumpy and alone in his big old house. At least, that’s what he’s been telling himself.

But then one day a young ballet teacher knocks on his door and pirouettes her way straight into his heart. Duncan’s going to have to find the courage to forgive himself if he wants a chance at living in the world again. And now he’s got a reason to try.

Stella Quinn

Believes romance, adventure and escape are the reasons we love to read. They’re also the reasons she loves to write. She’s just finished a trio of holiday romance novels:  Tropic Storm, Stowaway, which came second in the RWA Emerald Award for best unpublished manuscript in 2018, and Island Fling, which won the coveted Valerie Parv Award in 2018. She is thrilled her novella, The Umbrella Diaries, is being published in Literary Crush Publishing’s 2019 April Showers anthology, and she has a short story, Beneath The Waves, published in an RWA Australia anthology.

Q. What sentences in writing have changed your life? 

Some poetry lines have stuck with me over the years. “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gire and gymble in the wabe”, from Jabberwocky – I love this because it’s nonsense, but the heft and hew of it still manages to convey voice and imagery. Another is from a poem by Alfred Noyes: “The highwayman came riding, riding, riding; the highwayman came riding, upon a moonlit shore”, which I love for the sheer romance of it. Horse manes ruffling in a sea breeze, the thunder of their hooves … wonderful. There are heaps more, but those lines have been circling in my brain for decades.

Excerpt from Umbrella Diaries

Tuesday it was raining. Not that he was watching for her, because why would he be? He just happened to be at the window, that’s all. Purple leggings. Black boots with a heel that seemed a tad reckless given the icy conditions of the sidewalk. A coat of – what was that color? Grass green? Pea green? Frog green?

And today’s umbrella was tartan, like the tins of shortbread he remembered from the pantry when he was a boy. She’ll put the umbrella down to come through the gate, he thought. Then he’d see her face. But she put down the knapsack she brought with her each day to work instead. Dropped a hand over the latch and was through and out of sight before he could finish the thought. Not to worry. It couldn’t rain all week, and then she’d have no need of an umbrella. He could wait until the next day. He was good at waiting.

Connect with with these gorgeous Authors

Stella Quinn

I’d love it if readers could subscribe to my newsletter so I can let them know about all the upcoming releases I have scheduled for 2019.

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Jayne Kingsley

As Stella has said, I’d love if readers would like to subscribe to my newsletter to stay in touch, sign up even comes with a free short story!

WEBSITE

Thank You for taking the time to chat to us about your writing and your book.

Stella: Thank YOU Michelle and Melanie xxxxxx

JK: Thank you for having us lovely ladies! xxx

Guts, Glory, and a Forever Broken Heart.

With a sun so hot it bleached the blue from the sky, the heat lay on west Texas like an unwanted blanket. It was August, close to the end of a summer that would go down in the books. The hottest day, the longest dry spell, the highest temperature in downtown Odessa. On and on, a litany of heat that someone, sometime would pull out and say, “and on this day in 2018 …”

“Damn weathermen,” Casey spat and kicked the caliche with a boot. “Sum-bitch said it would maybe storm.” He kicked backward with the heel of his right boot, and again, and once more. There was nary a mark left on that hardened ground by that hard heel of his boot. This time of year the ground was like concrete.

“Even worse this year. All the storms go north or south. Some kind of current, ninja or ninny I think they call it,” he mumbled to himself.

He looked to the east, to the caprock shimmering and wavering in the heat on the distant horizon. To the north and south, all he saw was heat rising. To the west, nothing but a great roaring dust devil. “Damn weathermen.”

“Hey there, Mr. Bugs,” he said to the jackrabbit he could see hunkered down by the tumbleweed to his left. “Don’t think you need to worry ‘bout rattlers. No self-respecting snake would be out in this heat.”

Casey walked on, steel blue eyes shaded by his straw cowboy hat. His boots crunched and cracked on the hard-baked caliche. Eyes wrinkled from years spent squinting into a west Texas sky, he continued on his way, just an old man out for a stroll.

“Ain’t it wonderful, Mr. Bugs. In west Texas, you can be the tallest and the smallest, and both at the same time. Grandpa Leander used to tell me that and then that jolly old man laughed with that wonderful laugh he had. Lost him sixty years ago back in June. I miss that old man.”

A smile creased Casey’s face; a pleasant smile, full of life and laughter. “Hell, I am that old man,” and his grin broadened.

He removed his hat and revealed a pale forehead, with silver wisps of hair plastered to the temples from rapidly evaporating sweat. He yanked his kerchief from his hip pocket, wiped his brow, wiped the brim of his hat, bent down and wiped a spot on his left boot. He stood, wiped his forehead again leaving a smudge of dust from his boot, plopped his hat back on his head, wadded up the kerchief, and returned it to his hip pocket.

He squinted his eyes against the glare of that August sun and held a right hand up to block what the brim of his hat didn’t. Up ahead was what he sought. He passed the gnarled and bent mesquite tree, and the ground fell away for a spell. Casey walked down the slope, and to the old boundary of a cracked and dried-up pond. He stood silent, remembering friends, family, and fun times around this watering hole.

Ahead was the same mesquite log that had been there for, “nigh onto ta seventy years, I guess,” Casey said to Mr. Bugs. He stepped over it and sat.

Then he got an itch and a twitch and stood, walked back to the mesquite while unbuttoning his fly to do the mandatory business all the boys had to do. Watering the mesquite, they had called it. Today, it took a while. “Hell, I can remember when I could knock the bark off that damn tree.” He settled for a wee stream and a dribble. A shake, only one, and buttoned up. The mandatory business done, he walked back to the log and sat back down.

Shadows stretched, and the sun began its journey downward. A hawk took to the pale skies and screamed from on high. Mr. Bugs skittered away into other tumbleweeds. Casey sat, remembering a pond and blue water reflecting white puffy clouds. A dust devil interrupted his reverie. It dashed across the pond, whirled around Casey and lifted his hat from his head. Casey made a grab, grumbled, rose and chased his sombrero. Catching it near the mesquite, he plopped it back on his head and strode down the slope and into the middle of the dried up pond.

He turned to leave when a metallic glint caught his eye. The dust devil had cleared the middle of the pond of loose sand, and something bright and shiny winked at him. Casey walked over and scuffed the ground with his boots, and kicked up something gold and blue. He picked it up, knocked the dirt off and looked in wonder at a Medal of Honor.

“How,” he said, as he wandered back to the log. He sat, tilted his hat back, scratched his forehead, and pondered the enigma he held in his hand.

Clouds and shadows passed and the sun dropped towards the horizon. He heard boots crunching dry ground behind him. He noticed the shadows were far longer than he expected.

“Pop? You ok? It’s on to dark and we got worried.”

“Sorry, Bobbie. Got sidetracked. Recognize this?” He tossed the medal to his son. Bobbie fumbled it a bit but caught it, and examined it.

“Not engraved. Know whose it is?”

“Yeah. Used my phone to run the serial number through the database. It’s Chucks.”

“Chuck? Uncle Chuck?”

“Yeah.”

“How did his medal get in the pond?”

“That is what distracted me. When did this pond last have water in it?”

“I dunno. Five, mebbe six years. Old man Hawkins rerouted his irrigation and this pond wasn’t needed for runoff anymore.”

“Thought so. ‘Bout the time Chuck visited me that last time.” Casey looked around. “It’s late, Dottie’s going to be pissed at me.” He lurched as he leaned forward and winced. “Damn it. Gimme a hand, will ya, Bob.”

The younger man took his father’s hand and steadied him as the old man rose from the log. “Knee,” Bob asked.

“Yeah. Sat too long with my butt too low.” He walked a step or two, shook his right knee out a bit, then started up the slope from the log with a diminishing limp.

“There ain’t nothing you could do to get my wife mad at you.”

“Well, it’s rude …”

Bob interrupted. “I know. It’s rude to not be on time if someone took the time to make you a meal. You and Mom drilled that into me and my siblings.” The two of them walked into an evening not much cooler than the afternoon had been. The sun-soaked caliche radiated all that heat back into the evening.

Dinner was ready when they arrived. The conversation around dinner retold tales of horney toad hunting by Bobbie Jr. The trip to town with Momma was told by Susan.

“If you folks don’t mind, I’ll be on the patio.” As he walked from the table, Casey heard Bob explain things to Dottie. He sat in his comfortable lawn chair, rammed a hand down his Levi’s and pulled that medal out of the depths of the pocket. His fingers traced the surface.

“We were planning to churn up some ice cream,” he heard Dottie call from the door. “Too hot to be baking anything.”

“That sounds good. Bring it on out.”

Everyone scurried about getting the wooden bucket, dropping the bags of ice on the patio concrete, finding the salt, and then at last Dottie bringing out the canister and setting it down in the wooden bucket. He let Bob supervise the churning. A layer of ice. Liberal rock salt. More ice. More salt. Then the affixing of the crank and handle, plastic bags, newspaper, and a blanket on top, followed by a young butt to hold it all in place.

Bob turned the churn towards himself and began cranking, tickling his daughter a time or two to make her giggle. Then there was silence. Susan, the butt on the churn, started to speak but Bob hushed her, “Shush. Not right now baby. Pop, can you tell us about the medal?”

Casey sat silent, fingering the object in question. His grandson walked to him and climbed up on a knee, and just looked at the gold pentagon in his grandfather’s hand. “Sure,” Casey said and seemed to set straighter with a bit of resolve.

“I can’t say for sure how it got in the pond but the time fits. Remember the last time Chuck came to visit me?”

Heads nodded around the circle, Bob cranked the ice cream, and a coyote yipped from the fields.

“He and I made several trips down to the pond and mostly just did what we did as kids. Sit and spit, and skip rocks across the pond. And talked. We talked a lot about our military life, and Ted’s. Ted had been the first to die. Didn’t even know what hit him. Lost a lot of good men that day in that valley.” He looked at his grandson, and said, “his grave is one you set flags on.”

“Theodore P. Brookes, 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Troop, 1st of the Third Calvary,” Bobbie Jr recited.

“That’s right,” Casey said. “You want me to turn that a while?”

“Nope,” Bob replied, “your job is to tell us about Uncle Chuck.”

“Guess we never have talked much about it.”

“Pop, it’s the only thing you never have talked about. Think maybe it’s time?”

Silence lay on the patio for a bit. The rusty churn creaked, the canister rushed and swished through icy water, and another coyote yip-yip-yipped, followed by the squeal of a rabbit. Life, Casey thought. You live, and then you die. He continued his story.

“I remember the last time Chuck was here. He wandered off to the pond by himself. We hadn’t lost Martha yet, and she told me she had seen him wandering down that way. When I got there, he was on his knees, sobbing. I squatted down, put an arm around him. All I could hear him saying was, ‘I couldn’t save him, Casey. Half of him just wasn’t there.’”

“Damn,” Casey stopped and looked at his daughter-in-law. “Dottie, you want the kids to hear this?”

“Casey, these kids watch the news with Bobbie and me. They ask questions, we answer. We don’t hide the world from them. I think they will be alright.”

Looking at the brown eyes of his grandson, he hugged Bobbie Jr close and gently stroked the head of his granddaughter.

“I think before I got there, he had skipped this across the pond,” Casey whispered, holding up the medal. “We did not do anymore rock skippin’ till he left, and he didn’t throw it any other time.”

“But why …” Dottie started to say.

“He never wanted it. Not because he didn’t think he earned it. Hell, anybody in that valley on that day earned and deserved that medal.”

“You were there,” Bob said.

“Yup, and I wrote citations for many medals for several men in my platoon. Chuck did not want it because of who he left in that valley, not who he brought out.”

“Dottie,” Bob said, helping Susan down and removing the newspaper and blankets from the ice cream churn. “I think the cream is set. We ready to uncork this?”

Bright eager young eyes focused on the contents of the wooden bucket and churn. Bowls were passed out, and everyone received heaping helpings of cold deliciousness. Silence reigned for a few minutes as the sweetness of a summer treat was savored, enjoyed, and shared. Seconds for Bob, Bobbie, and Susan. Dottie got the paddle. Casey sat back and enjoyed his family more than the ice cream. At last, it was all hands chipping in to clean up. Bowls and churn took to the kitchen, dishwasher loaded and started.

At last, everyone returned to the patio, Casey again with his grandson on his lap. Susan sat next to her father on one side, and Dottie next to her husband on the other. Casey and Bobbie Jr sat in the comfortable chair to the left of everyone.

“You want to continue, Pop? You don’t have to, ya know,” Bob said.

“I know.” Casey pulled his kerchief out, blew his nose, and dabbed his eyes. “Sorry about that, Grandson.”

“S’ok, Grandpa.”

“Nope, folks I think I need to. For me, yes, and also for Chuck. He didn’t want that blasted medal,” and Casey fell silent again, finding it difficult to swallow.

“Pop, why didn’t you get that medal,” Dorothy asked. Bob squeezed her hand, not in a deprecating manner, but in a manner that said thank you for asking the question I wanted to ask.

“I told them no. I lost too many men in that valley. Went in with 45. Came back with 12.” Silence, again.

“God, I lost so many.” The kerchief again. “I didn’t think, and I still don’t, that a platoon leader that lost over half of his men deserved it. I heard battalion was putting me in for it and I flatly told them, ‘Hell, no!’ Chuck would have done the same, but he was hospitalized and out of it for nearly a month. By the time he knew what was going on, he had the award. As I told him, you can’t un-award that medal, not with honor.”

“But why didn’t he want it?” Bob said. “From what I read in his citation, more than anyone, he deserved it. He saved that pilot and many of the men in his platoon just by his leadership. One sidebar I read said his platoon went to Battalion with the nomination.”

“He didn’t want it for the one person he could not save.” Casey paused, torn about what he was about to tell them. “A lot of things have changed since those days. It was decades before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I knew in high school that Chuck and Ted had something going on.”

Dottie gulped, started to usher the kids out when she caught Bob’s eye. He was telling her no. She thought about it, sat back, and agreed with her husband. She saw Casey looking at her. “Go on Casey. Please.”

Big eyes and big ears caught the exchange going on between the adults, turned it over in their young minds as they looked at each other, and Susan said what Bob Jr was wondering. “Unca Chuck was gay.”

There, it’s out. They know Chuck, maybe knew all along, Casey thought.

“Yes, Susan, Uncle Chuck was gay.” To Bob and Dottie, he said, “Ted was the co-pilot in that chopper. The RPG that took out the chopper, cut him in half. Chuck had to leave him behind.”

Now Dottie gasped. Eyes welled with tears as she said, “Oh no.”

Casey paused for a moment as the sun dipped below the horizon and lit the western sky in ochre and gold.

“The one man he wanted to save, over all those that he did save, was the one man he could not save.”