This year I've had an angel sitting on my shoulder. I kid you not. She's tiny and dainty, rather more like a pixie or a fairy than those huge statues we see in churches, heavy with wings, hands in prayer. No, my angel has been using her hands—and most likely her wings—to swot evil away, and I've been very thankful to have her around.
I've had so many close calls this year, it's almost impossible to recount them all. One was on the very last day of a seven week road trip when a car right in front of me, but in the next lane, had to suddenly move over to my lane to avoid being hit by a speeding car. Had that speeding car hit him, he would have flipped into me but, lo!, the angel arranged everything just fine.
She somehow had managed to bring my daughter back in one piece after three years in Colombia, to live here in NYC. Of course, the fact that Cristal was soon shipped off for a week to recently-bombed Turkey didn't thrill me, but Angel got her back safely from there, too.
The biggy, however, was getting me in for a mammogram just in time. I mean, we go from a certain age, year after year, never really expecting anything to be wrong, even with the occasional call-back. I've had several of those so I wouldn't think twice about it, only this time I was called back a second time…for a biopsy. But there was Angel sorting everything out; she'd got me in while it was pre-cancerous. Makes a difference, you know. No chemo, just radiotherapy, which is a cinch in the scheme of things.
Yup, I'm very thankful for that little angel. Don't brush that bit of fluff off my shoulder; it may be her.
Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancé.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.
Carrie let the screen door close quietly behind her and sat on the steps, the cool glass still in her hands. Peering up at the canopy of heaven, she suddenly experienced a sense of being so small, infinitesimal; it was as if the world loomed over her, spreading out from the one axis of her being. Rather than celestial entities in the infinity of space above her, to Carrie, the stars were holes in the fabric, entries to the endless expanse beyond, gateways to other worlds of which she would never be a part.
The lights inside switched off and, for a moment, it appeared as if Ray had gone to bed.
“I’m sorry.” His voice came through the screen. The words were hoarse with drink and pain. “I... Can I join you?”
He came out and carefully lowered himself onto the step, the coffee in his hand slopping slightly over the side.
“Don’t burn yourself.”
He set the mug down and stretched his legs forward, hands coming to rest on his thighs. “Robbie died in Afghanistan,” he started. “He was my eldest. It was five years ago, you know, and the pain is as fresh now as it was then. You never expect...you never think your kids are gonna go before you and all. And then Jake went off to Iraq, well, see...” He hesitated. “I told them, I said you take, but you give back. That’s what we do, we give back to our country, we serve. Robbie, well, Robbie just wanted to breed his horses—those damn Arabs meant everything to him, but I told him he had the...” There was a gulp of tears fighting to come out, the assault on a man’s pride he tried to cover. “I told him he had the rest of his life to breed those horses. I said every man in this family has served his country, and he wasn’t going to shame me, he wasn’t going to be the exception.”
“You served in Viet Nam, didn’t you?” Carrie lowered her voice to the whisper of a secret.
“Yeah. Right at the very end. I was lucky, I guess. Got over there just about in time to get out.” Ray tapped his hat back, then must have thought better of it and took it off, laying it carefully on the step beside him. Strands of damp hair lay plastered down the side of his face, but he made no attempt to push them back.
“Do you know how... I mean...”
“He was on guard duty, him and another kid. Some truck driven by them suicide bombers came at them laden with bombs, trying to get into the compound where all his buddies were. ’Course the two of them could’ve run away, could’ve stepped out of the way, but that’s not what you do, is it? They blasted the truck to stop it, blew it up outside to save the lives of the men inside that compound. Now, his mama has his Distinguished Service Cross and the flag that draped his coffin, as if that would make amends.” Ray cleared his throat, a sob mixing with his speech and anger. “But you know,” he went on, covering his mouth as if it would stop the tears, “you know it was my damn fault. I mean, what the hell difference would it have made if Robbie hadn’t gone, hadn’t of served? And what the hell are we doing there anyway? I mean, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, what the hell are we fighting in those countries for? It’s meaningless, it’s just dang foolishness is what it is, kids dying for nothing...nothing at all.”
“Ray, you don’t believe that. Of course it made a difference, his serving. It made a big difference. You don’t believe that it was meaningless for one second.”
“Well. Tell you the truth, I don’t know what the hell I believe anymore. I criticized you for wanting to do the right thing, that business ’bout the designated driver an’ all, but, well, I guess it’s me. I just always tried, you know, I tried to do the right thing, but it never seemed to come out straight.”
“Of course it has,” Carrie assured him. “If Robbie hadn’t gone you would—”
“Oh, I know. I would’ve been angry with him for the rest of my life, been thinking what son of mine could do that, stay back. I’d’ve been shamed.” He sighed and glanced over as if noticing for the first time she was there. “I married Leigh Anne ’cause she was pregnant—that’s what you did, the right thing. You get a girl in the family way, you damn well married her. I’d been a kid when I went to Nam, and when I got back, I was quite a hell-raiser. Went all over the place, doing the rodeos, workin’ ranches. Then I got back here, and I was just taking over the ranch. Hardly had a dime to my name in those days, but you did the right thing. Well...” He ran a finger along the line of a crack in one of the steps. A hint of his earlier humor flashed on his face. “Is this when you New York folks say, ‘Thanks for sharing?’” he quipped.
The Wild Rose Press:
Barnes and Noble:
Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born, instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK. She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit. Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC. She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Family vacations are often out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to some 25 ranches throughout the west.
Loveland, Andrea’s first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards. Lawless Love, a short story, part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards and placed in the 2014 International Digital Awards Historical Short contest. Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and came out Oct. 8th, 2014. It won ‘Favorite Hero’ along with Honorable Mentions for Favorite Heroine, Short Story and Novel in the Maple Leaf Awards. It has also won The Golden Quill Award for Best Novella and placed third in the International digital Awards for Historical Short. Dances of the Heart, her first contemporary novel, came out in February, 2015.
Links to Social Media:
WEBSITE AND BLOG: http://andreadowning.com
Twitter: @andidowning https://twitter.com/AndiDowning
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Downing/e/B008MQ0NXS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
ABOUT ME: http://about.me/Andi1948
"DANCES OF THE HEART by Andrea Downing is an entertaining, contemporary romance. Carrie and Ray have both had disastrous relationships in the past, but it was interesting to watch their different ways of dealing with their new feelings. Learning the backstory of Ray and Jake's life added an emotional element to the novel, and gives the reader an understanding of the dynamics of their relationship. The main love story of the novel is Carrie and Ray's, but I enjoyed the snippets that we see of Paige and Jake's situation. DANCES OF THE HEART by Andrea Downing is a fabulous Texan romance with plenty of action to keep you entertained.”
--Linda Green, Fresh Fiction
"...Trusting relationships between these characters do not come easily, making their effort a compelling journey for the reader. Author Andrea Downing serves up a buffet of emotions: anger, sorrow, romance and the type of love that is real, raw and captivating. ... Carrie in her judgment is as real as it gets and Ray's honesty speaks volumes. When a few mysterious incidents that have everyone on the ranch walking on eggshells and the plot begins to twist, the reader will have a hard time putting it down!"
--Margaret Faria, InD'Tale Magazine