Diary of a Lesser Author

 From the diary of a lesser author

Let’s start with what that title means. A few years ago I was invited to attend an author event, one of those multi-author signings in which several authors attend to meet-and-greet readers. It was prefaced that the hostess did not expect to secure any listers, but “lesser” authors, like me.  For clarification, “listers” are those who have made a list, while I have not.

Does this mean my writing is any less than theirs? No, actually, it does not. In fact, I’ve read many “listers” whose writing I’ve questioned, but that’s a different entry. For purposes of today, the answer is no, my words do not count any less than others. And neither do yours.

What does it mean, though? I’m not utilizing my full potential, possibly. I’m not doing the extreme marketing, definitely. I’m not as popular, absolutely.

Again, my words, though, are no less than any others. In fact, I know I’ve written a combination of more words than some of the largest names out there. It’s possible my combination of them is askew, but again, thoughts for another entry.

Today’s concern: skimping

I’ve recently read a new author’s comments that she didn’t have the money for an editor or cover designer, and she wonders why her book is failing on the market. While it could be any number of reasons, here are my thoughts on these two most valuable areas of first impression: don’t-do-less-than on the cover and edits.

Like it or not, covers sell your book. As much as we say don’t judge a book by its cover, we do. As much as we say, we’re sick of abs, we aren’t. Use professional software to design covers with original fonts, not the standard fonts included in a software package. Personally, I don’t have time to make covers (or the vision), so I hire out. There are TONS of pre-made covers by amazing cover designers available at reasonable prices. Just hunt Facebook for “pre-made covers” and designers galore will appear. Picmonkey.com is another great solution for making quality e-book covers if you know the standard dimensions per sales channel. You don’t need a cover model. It’s nice to have, but not a must. Plenty of stock images can portray your vision just as well without the added cost (and sometimes added headache of a model’s ego). Bottom line is, you can’t do “less” on a cover.

Editing is priceless. You can’t self-edit. Even if you have a strong command of the English language, you can’t edit your own work. You know your story too well, so you will insert words, revert misused words, and dismiss incorrectly spelled words. If your best friend’s neighbor did “good” in English, she can’t edit either, because she had to have done “well” in English, not good. And if “ur” only using “u” when you text, speak, or anything else related to writing, that’s a big no-no as well. Practice your writing by using proper English.

In addition, strong editing is hard to find. Honest. I haven’t read a trade-pub book in the last year that hasn’t had a mistake or two or ten, and those authors have professionals reading their work. It’s human error, I get it. More eyes are better. I know people who have a content editor, a line editor and then some betas, because more eyes are better. I, myself, use an editor, two proofreaders, and five betas, and then my mother gets the book and still finds something missed. You can’t do “less” here, either. Readers are forgiving but not that forgiving. Just because you can read does not mean you can write. And just because you can write doesn’t always mean you do it well. Get some help to proofread the manuscript. Download Grammarly as a start for minor grammar errors.

“Less is more” might be this case, but you may have to do a little more to move from a non-existent author to a lesser author. Who knows, that bump in your support team – cover designer and editor – might even move you to a lister…but don’t count on that for the first book. More on that in another diary entry….

For now, love, books, and lots of words.


Introvert in an Extrovert Event

Are you in introvert? Like to keep to yourself? Quiet and reserved? If you are, some people would say you have no business attending an author event as an author. However, I think the very nature of being an author is comfort with ourselves. Our imagination is our friend. The computer is our playground. Silence we adore. We can be alone.

But attending an author event means putting aside those introverted ways. For some authors, that’s hard. Face-to-face rejection hurts more than a Goodreads review about tacos (when they aren’t even mentioned in your book).

What if no one comes to your table?

What if you can’t think of anything to say?

What if you fall into your books and they scatter to the floor and you bend over to pick them up, only to rip your jeans in front of the crowd?

What if, what if…

Stop asking yourself the questions and go for it.

Here are my tips:

  1. Paste on a smile: No one will come to a grumpy faced author. If your “resting bitch face” isn’t pretty, work on it, but paste that beauty on.
  2. People walking by: “Oh, I like your bag.” Sure fire way to get someone to at least smile back at you as they walk on by. “Can I help you?” That lost looking person might be looking for you.
  3. The line in front of your table for another author, blocking yours: Come around your table. Handful of bookmarks. Pass those out! “While you’re waiting in line, here’s a bookmark from me.” Subtly point to your table. It works.
  4. Don’t be on your phone: Or if you are caught, mention that you are posting about the event, and show the reader! They want to see your enthusiasm as well.
  5. Tell people about your books: This is difficult. We don’t want to brag (as an introvert), but it’s hard to contain the enthusiasm. You are proud of you, and you should be. But don’t give away the whole story line…or the reader won’t need the book. Quick, one or two sentences about your books is good. Small town, sweet and sexy. Rock star romance. MMA chaos. A story for the over forty. Boom. Sold.

I’ll openly admit, I’m not a step-right-up-and-grab-a-book person. I’m not going to call out to people, but a smile might be enough to draw someone over. I stand…the whole time. I don’t want to look up at people. I don’t want them looking down at me. I want to be level, and pleasant. I don’t eat meals, either. The moment you take that bite, someone is coming for you. Now you have sandwich in your teeth or you are choking in attempts to eat faster. I eat a bigger breakfast and nibble snacks, if provided.

Small talk is hard. It is. But remember you are at the event for a common interest: love of books.

“Who are you excited to see today?”

“How many authors are you planning to visit?”

“Do you live in the area?”

Sometimes I even interject with my table-mates and to help sell her books: “Oh I loved that book.” “So good!”

I avoid the weather because that’s all my mother talks about…but if that is a comfort question for you, go for it.

Simple questions. Most readers are only going to be near you for a few minutes at most. They have other authors to meet. You have other readers to address.

Worse case, it’s only a few hours and you can hide in your room after it’s over. I guarantee you’ll want a nap or a drink. Either way, being at an event can be very rewarding. People are there to see you. They want to hug you. They want a picture. If nothing else, this is home, because everyone there loves books. You aren’t really alone. You are among family.

Get to that event. Smile. Be friendly. Enjoy.

New Releases

bannerSWPVNew Release: Sight Words 

Amazon   B&N   Itunes  KOBO

The end of the Sensations Collection tells the tale of Tricia Carter, the last member of the Carter and Scott families. She’s been waiting for love, and as a small town teacher little prepares her for it coming in the form of an adult gang member in hiding named Leon Ramirez. Lessons in love are on the way.

Coming Soon: The Quest of Perkins Vale 

The third story in The Legendary Rock Stars series: it’s the day after, and this time it’s Perkins perspective as he was a key part of the night before. He’s been holding out for the love of his life, saving himself for her, only to discover she might not be who or what he remembers. Searching for her has been his quest, but what to do with her once he found her was another story.

Special Feature Anthology: Foreplay

22 Authors – 22 first chapters from my Book Besties all in one convenient place. FREE on all sales channels. The Legend of Arturo King is inside.

Amazon   B&N   KOBO



The Story of Lansing Lotte (Legendary Rock Star 2) Releases April 28

The legend continues….


Goodreads TBR

It’s the day after.

Lansing Lotte is caught in bed, quite literally, with his pants down.

I get it. I’ve heard the jokes. My name sounds like some medieval character who was a hero. Hell, my best friend’s named Arturo King. Ring any medieval bells? But this is my story and I’m no hero. I also get the jokes. Lancelot is a play on the words lance and lot, and a lance refers to a sword, which is a euphemism for dick. What does a man do with his dick?  He fucks. A lot. So if my name is Lansing Lotte, I must be “fucking lot.” Get it? Fucking a lot? Which I’m not saying I don’t, that’s not the point. Another reference to something sexual. Get my point?  Huh, I made a punny. But again this is my story, and I haven’t done anything funny. In fact, I’ve killed three women, and only one of them I loved. Yeah, that’s right? Not laughing now. It’s not funny. And I’m definitely no fucking hero.

Touch Screen premieres 3.3.15


Touch Screen premieres 3.3.15.


The prodigal son. A second chance. The long kept secret.


I had returned. I hadn’t been here for seven years. That last summer, I was angry. Once I got away, I didn’t want to come back. The irony was the career I sought to escape this small town was the very reason I was here. My first movie was a featured film of the Traverse City Film Festival. As an independent film director, my premiere brought me back home. Home. A place I didn’t recognize.


Or maybe home didn’t recognize me?

I had it all in California: a girlfriend who was the daughter of a movie financier, a job that led to connections in the film industry, and a condo overlooking the ocean in Malibu. What I didn’t have was family. I had left them all behind. I was the prodigal son.

Now, the last person I expected to see was her. Britton McKay. She had been my summer love as a teenager. Not just once, but several summers. Until the last one. That was seven years ago. Now, she looked more beautiful than I remembered. Seeing her again, flooded me with memories long suppressed. She reminded me of everything I once had, and left behind.

Now, she had returned too.

Can lost romance be rekindled? Can unanswered questions be revealed?

Can I make this place my home again?


L.B. Dunbar reunites you with the Carter and Scott families as all are gathered for the annual film festival, a much anticipated wedding, and another summer weekend of Harbor Days.

Welcome back to Elk Rapids.

Your favorite families await with flashbacks, celebration, and heartbreak.


Valentine’s Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day –

here’s a special chapter written for Jess Carter and Emily Post of Sound Advice.

Nana’s Rules to Live By

40. Apologize; and mean it.

Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes words need to be said. When an argument ensues, be honest and thoughtful in your apology. Don’t just say the words “I am sorry,” mean them.


We’d had a fight.

It wasn’t really that simple, and it was all Tom Carter’s fault. It was Thursday night and somehow a tradition had evolved that the Carter and Scott siblings gathered together at the Town Tavern to share a drink and their lives. My life was now part of their life and these ritual gatherings. I was thrilled to be a future member of their family as I no longer had my parents, my Nana, or my sister, who lived in the South with her four rambunctious children.

What I did have was Jess Carter, and his daughter, Katie. But tonight, Tom Carter might have striped it all away. He was a practical jokester, and Jess’ older brother. They were best friends, but sometimes Tom could go too far. Tonight was one of those nights.

It started with a conversation about Valentine’s Day, which was in two days. Tom mockingly asked what romantic grand gesture Jess was going to do to show his love for me, to which Jess replied nothing.

“I tell her every day I love her,” he said, almost cold heartedly. He didn’t mean it that way. And he did tell me he loved me daily; often more than once within a day. I was a bit taken aback that he had nothing planned, though, but couldn’t dwell on it long as next began a discussion of our wedding plans. Jess had asked me to marry him in October and I couldn’t be happier.

Unfortunately, planning a wedding was daunting. Planning a wedding in a small town was almost impossible. I wasn’t trying to be a snob, but there were certain things I wanted, and didn’t want, for my wedding. I didn’t want the VFW Hall. I didn’t want the church basement banquet room. I didn’t want someone’s backyard under a tent. I did want the ceremony to be centered on family and friends in a place that was special and unique to this town. Since I hadn’t grown up here, I didn’t know where that location would be.

On top of that, I wanted traditional wedding attire. I planned to wear white. If Nana had been alive, she would have disapproved for obvious reasons. Jess and I were already living together. I had initially wanted to wear my grandmother’s dress. She had such a lasting love with my grandfather, and I wanted the luck I thought something old would bring to me. I was disappointed when it didn’t fit. I was curvier than her despite my slim build. Jess crumbled about a tux. He said it just wasn’t his thing, but he conceded to it. When Tom got involved, I learned more to the story and I didn’t like it.

Jess had been married before. His wife left him after scaring their sweet child into silence. It was a sad story for another time. Regardless, Jess had had a formal wedding with tux, dance lessons, and the church hall. For him, he didn’t want that all again. To me, a wedding was a fairy tale come true. Jess seemed to understand that, or so I thought, until Tom brought up some truths.

“You know you don’t like monkey suits,” Tom voiced across the wood table.

I saw Jess’ jaw clench and knew that Tom said something that struck a nerve with him. He had a habit of doing this when he was angry or concentrating. Right now, I sensed he was both. He didn’t respond to Tom.

“It’s not like you haven’t done this before,” Tom laughed as he lifted his beer. “I mean, you’ve had practice. The practice wedding. The practice wife. The practice marriage.” He continued to laugh at himself, but didn’t stop there. “You’ll be the perfect husband because you’ve already been one.”

I wasn’t terribly comfortable with these comments. Jess and I had discussed his ex-wife at length, and I felt confident that he hadn’t loved her like he thought he should. He had loved her as a teenager who loved his high school sweetheart. He had loved her as the mother of his child. But he hadn’t loved her in the sense of true love. They were thrown together by circumstances that didn’t work for them: marriage forced by pregnancy.

I didn’t like to call myself the second wife. In label, I was; in theory, I wasn’t. I didn’t worry about it, except every once in a while. This was one of those moments. I was tired. I felt I had exhausted all avenues for the wedding reception and was feeling a bit of the pressure of living in a smaller community. There had been gossip about our whirlwind relationship – we’d gotten engaged rather shortly after a relatively brief summer romance. Now, Tom was bringing up Debbie, Jess’ ex-wife.

“It’s his day, too. He doesn’t want to wear the tux,” Tom said. “He shouldn’t have to wear it.” His eyes narrowed at me in a rare moment of seriousness from the dark haired man across from me. I immediately looked at Jess. His defined jaw was tight.

“Jess?” I whispered.

“Shut up, Tom,” he growled.

“You don’t want to wear a tux?”

There was silence despite the loud bar and I could see Tom within my peripheral vision opening his mouth to speak. Jess interjected.

“Not really,” he grumbled.

“I thought you were okay with it,” I replied.

My grandmother had been a woman of tradition and, in many ways, so was I. I wanted this, but not if he was going to be unhappy.

“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked.

“I did,” he pondered, twisting the beer bottle on the table with one hand, “but you weren’t listening.”

I sat back, stunned.

“You don’t want to wear a tux?” I asked again, almost in disbelief.

“No,” he said softly.

“Then why are you doing it? Why did you say yes?”

“Because you’re making me,” he puffed out a low breath while he spoke the words.

“I’m. Making. You?” I quietly emphasized each word through slightly gritted teeth.

“Well, I don’t want to make you do something you don’t want to do?” I added.

“See, I told you she’d be agreeable. You just had to be more honest,” Tom responded. I didn’t even understand why Tom was still speaking. This seemed like a private conversation, and suddenly I felt like the Town Tavern was the wrong place to have it. My anger was slowly rising, though.

“Yes. Please be honest. What else am I making you do?”

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, leaning forward toward the table from his relaxed, stretched out position. A piece of sandy blond hair slipped from his signature ponytail and he pushed the stray behind his ear. His voice was low as he uttered my name in warning.

“No, really. What else?” I repeated.

“I don’t really want the whole big wedding fan-fare. Why can’t we just go to the Justice of the Peace? It’s not like we aren’t already together. I just want it to be legal. For me. For Katie. For you to belong to us. I don’t need the other stuff.”

My eyelids were blinking rapidly, both from shock and to wash away the silly tears forming in my eyes. I was tired, I told myself. I felt I already belonged to him, but I still desired a wedding. It wasn’t a matter of needing the other stuff, as he called it. It was a matter of wanting it.

“What about me?” I whispered.

“What about you?” He said, suddenly sounding a bit uncertain.

“I … I gave up a lot of things to be here, and I’d like to have a real wedding.”

Jess pushed back his chair and faced me.

“Are you unhappy here? Is this place not good enough? Am I not enough?” His voice was rising, and he suddenly stood. My heart was racing with the look of pain his eyes held. I’d seen those eyes shade all kinds of blue: deep denim in anger to bright blue in arousal. This was different.

“I’m not saying that,” I stammered.

“Maybe you need to be honest, Emily. Maybe this isn’t what you really want.”

“What are you saying?” My voice shook as I somehow knew what he was going to say next.

“Maybe you don’t really want to marry me.”

The silence at the table seemed to spread throughout the bar like a slow fog and it eerily hung in the air for a second or two. In that time, Jess moved away from the table and walked out the door.

I blinked back a tear, but a different one escaped.

“Tom?” Karyn Scott said softly to her husband, reaching over to touch his arm. The look of shock on Tom’s face did nothing to soothe the discomforting moment.

“I … I didn’t mean for that to happen. I just wanted him to grow some balls and tell you he didn’t want to wear the stupid suit like a teenager going to prom.”

“Thomas Carter,” Karyn spoke louder, “that is enough.” Her eyes reached mine, filled with sympathy, but it was too late. The realization that I might not be engaged any longer overcame me, and so did the tears. I stood, awkwardly bumping the table. Glasses teetered and a beer bottle fell over with a soft clatter. The sound was behind me as I rushed for the door and burst into the cold frigid air of February.

Valentine’s Day was two days away. The number one romantic day of the year. The meet me at the top of the Empire State Building day. The let me count the ways I love you day. Suddenly I hated Valentines’ Day. It was going to be the least romantic day as it marked the end of my engagement.

When I got home, Madison Scott, Jess’ niece was still there, but Jess was not. Maddie was babysitting Katie while we went out and I had thought Jess might have taken her home. He hadn’t been home. I offered to drive her in the bravest voice I could muster, but Madison said she’d call her mom. When Karyn arrived shortly afterwards, her face was full of sympathy, but I didn’t want to talk. I climbed the stairs slowly to the room I shared with Jess. We hadn’t slept separately since I’d moved here. Not once. If he had a meeting in Detroit, he drove home in order to arrive late at night, so we could be in the same bed. Together.

I numbly climbed between the sheets and reached for Jess’ pillow. Hugging it tightly to my chest, I cried deep sobs. I did love Jess. I did want to marry him. I did think he was good enough. I wouldn’t have given it all up if I hadn’t thought that. I tried to reason with myself. It was Jess’ insecurity, not mine.

When I finally fell asleep, it seemed only minutes before I woke up to get Katie ready for school. Although I didn’t work outside our home, I woke with Jess each day to prepare Katie for the day ahead. I didn’t know how to respond to Katie when she asked where her dad was. I didn’t have an answer, and my heart felt heavy. The day passed with no word from him. By evening on Friday, I had assumed the worst. If he wasn’t dead, I was going to kill him. He wasn’t dead, though, as he had picked Katie up from school and taken her to his mother’s home. Mary Carter would make a wonderful mother-in-law, and I heard the sympathy in her voice as she explained to me that Katie was with her.

Darkness fell early in winter, and the nights seemed excessively long. Time appeared to slow as I waited and wondered what to do next. By nine o’clock, I was tucked in bed trying to concentrate on a book when I heard Jess come up the stairs. He had an uncanny way of sneaking into this home without making much noise. He suddenly stood in our bedroom doorway completely covered in snow gear looking like a model for outdoor wear. He’d let the scruff on his face grow in a bit in the colder months and it enhanced his hard facial features more. I had to gulp down the relief I felt to see him.

“I was wondering if you’d take a ride with me.”

My first thought was his truck. The snow was deep outside, but the roads were clear. Lake effects caused the snow to fall heavy, and often, this time of year. What Jess meant was a snowmobile ride. I nodded and he walked back downstairs. It took me a few minutes to bundle up. I tried to have not an inch of skin exposed. In the night air, the wind bit even more as we sped through the dark woods.

I didn’t have a choice but to hold onto Jess. Wrapping my legs behind his thighs and my arms over his chest, I held myself against him to ward off the icy chill. But I also did it because I missed him. I needed to touch him. He seemed reserved, so I tried to relax and not hold him too tight. My thick gloved fingers struggled to grip his jacket, and it would have been easier to keep my arms spread around him.

The beam of light only highlighted so much of the darkness that seemed to spread around us. I didn’t have any sense of where we were going or how far we had gone. Suddenly, I recognized the barn ahead of us. The Scott family owned a cherry farm, and the barn was an old structure on a distant piece of their property. It was solid despite its years. Jess slowed the powerful machine to a halt beside the small side door and I shakily removed myself from the snowmobile. He didn’t touch me, but waved his hand forward, directing me to lead the way inside the barn.

I expected the open space to be damp and dirty. It was definitely dark and cold when Jess’ flashlight scanned the barren space. Instantly, the light found a circle of candles. More candles than I’d ever seen before. There had to have been a least a hundred. I wanted to make a joke about a satanic ritual, until I turned to face Jess. His expression was still hard when he brushed past me. He took his time to light each wick and slowly the space came alive. The glow was warm. The shadows soft. The space felt intimate.

“What’s going on here?” I asked. It was the first words we’d spoke other than his request for the ride.

“I think I found the place for our wedding,” he said, looking down at another candle as he lit it.

“Our what?” I questioned softly. At the tone of my voice, Jess spun to face me.

“Our wedding,” he said slowly.

“Are we still getting married?” I asked.

“Aren’t we?” he responded. He cocked an eyebrow and his jaw was moving almost double time. I longed to touch his face and stop the pace at which he was working the inside of his cheek. I longed to hold him and tell him that I loved him. I longed to show him how much.

“We had a fight,” he said. There was a deep pause before he spoke again. “We didn’t break our engagement.”

“Maybe we should,” I said looking down. I’d had time to reflect in the last twenty four hours. I didn’t want to make him do something he didn’t want to do, even something as silly to him as wearing a tuxedo. But I also didn’t want to give up my little fantasy just because he had done it before.

Jess was immediately in front of me. His hand cupped my chin and he forced me to look up at him.

“No,” he said defiantly.

“No, what?” my eyebrows pinched in question.

“We are still getting married.”

“I…” I began to speak when his lips come toward mine. It was a brush, a silencing, and I felt the immediate desire for it to be more. He did this to me sometimes. It turned me on and pissed me off at the same time. He’d lean close than refuse. He had amazing willpower.

“This is it,” he said. I was so confused. I thought he just said we were still getting married and now he was saying this was over.

I continued to stare at him as he slid his hands down to mine. He removed my thick gloves, dropping them on the ground, and clasping my fingers in his.  He tugged me slowly into the glow of candles.

“This is it.” He said again as we stood inside the ring of soft flames. He reached for my face and his lips were on mine in the way I craved. Powerful and strong, like him, he took control of my mouth. His lips caressed mine in a way that spoke volumes. I was his. He was mine.

“Let’s not ever let last night happen again,” he said as he pulled back for a breath.


“Not sleeping with one another.” I nodded and he continued. “I can’t sleep without you. It was one of the first things I discovered and loved about you. I felt comfortable with you. You felt safe to me.”

My heart thudded as my body relaxed. He still loved me.

“This is it,” he said one more time. “This is where we can have the wedding. I’ve listened to you. You want some place special. Some place family. This is family. This is the Scott’s. It’s big enough. Unique enough.” Jess stepped back and waved his arm at the overlarge door.

“We can open that up in the heat of August and the sun will be shining. It will be glorious.”

Soft tears trailed down my face and I giggled at his excitement.

“Who are you and what have you done with my Jess Carter?”

“Your Jess Carter wants his Emily Post to marry him.”

Jess slowly lowered himself to one knee, still holding my hands with his.

“Say you’ll still be my wife?”

By now, larger tears glided down my cheeks, but a smile could not be helped on my lips. I nodded.

“Say it. You know I need the words.”

“Yes,” I whispered.

He stood and took my mouth with his again. His tongue danced with mine and for several minutes we kissed like it was the air we needed to breath. When Jess pulled away, I felt a bit drugged.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“For what?”

“I’ll wear the tux.”

“Jess,” I said, feeling like the air was let out of the balloon and I attempted to step back.

“I mean it. I’ll wear it. I want to wear it,” he emphasized.

“No you don’t,” I sighed.

“Emily, I don’t want to disappoint you. That’s one of my greatest fears. I don’t want you to think you’ve made a mistake.”

“Jess,” I spoke again, tenderly caressing his name. “You aren’t a disappointment. What I said…”

“Had some truth. You gave up a lot to be here. For me. For Katie. And I think I can wear some silly suit for a few hours if it will make you happy.”

I again attempted to pull out of his grasp, but he tugged me forward. I collided with his chest. It was awkward in our heavy winter coats and snow pants, but somehow his arms made it around me. He held me tight against him.

“Listen to me,” his breath whispered over my lips. “I love you. I want to marry you. I want to wear the tux.”


He sighed before he answered. “Because this will be my first wedding, too.”

The expression on my face must have let him know I didn’t understand.

“I might have had what people call a wedding before, but it wasn’t really a wedding. To me, a wedding means bonding. You belong to me. I belong to you. That was not what the first one did. It was not a practice. It was a mistake. We’ve discussed this. This will be my first wedding, too, and I want it to be perfect for both of us.”

My voice gave way to my hopefulness as I asked him what he envisioned.

“I don’t care, as long as at the end, you are my wife.” He kissed me hard. “But in saying I don’t care, I really mean, it’s up to you. I mean, you can make the decisions. I mean…”

“Jess, shut up and kiss me.”

“That might have been the first impolite thing you’ve ever said to me. Does your grandmother know those words crossed your lips? She’d be very disappointed in your manners, Emily,” he teased.

“She’d be disappointed to know other things I’ve done with these lips, too,” I replied tartly. With that, Jess’ mouth was on me again while his hands covered my face. I wanted this man. Now. But the idea of striping off our clothes in the cold barn did not seem romantic to me. Our kissing slowed and Jess began to sway. He unzipped his coat then unzipped mine. Forcing us chest to chest, he wrapped his coat around me as he slipped one hand around my back. The other pulled our clasped hands between us. We were dancing in the candlelit barn.

The heat between us would only last so long in the surrounding cool air. Jess was breathing into my neck. He kissed it tenderly and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Emily.” He reached for my right hand. Jess had developed a habit of taking my hand and twirling the rings on my finger. One from him. One from Katie. I thought he was simply playing with them when I felt something cold slip down my skin. I was watching him as he kissed my knuckle, then kissed the rings. Another new ritual of his. When he pulled back, he held my hand in a way that I could see another band on my finger.

I stared at the white gold he’d slipped onto me. It blended with the square diamond and the separate diamond band he’d already given me. I shouldn’t have had this one yet.

“I just wanted to see what it would all look like when it is worn together,” he said, staring at my hand between us. “I can’t always see the big picture, but this I can. I gave you Now, but I’m ready for Forever.” Now. The word had a special meaning for us. Forever was going to mean so much more.

“I love you,” I whispered.

“I love you,” he said as he nuzzled my nose. The cold was catching up to me, but his skin was warm.

“This was very romantic,” I said shifting my head from left to right to signal the shimmering candles around us. We had stopped dancing. Jess was still enveloping me in his warm coat.

“I wanted the night to be special. It’s almost Valentine’s Day.”

“You said you didn’t need Valentine’s Day to show that you loved me,” I giggled.

“I don’t, but it still seemed like a good occasion to take extra care in letting you know I do love you. And I want you to be my wife. Forever.” He didn’t have to say more. I knew by the way he looked at me I would be everything to him. Everything he never had and always needed. He would do the same for me. Be all that I ever wanted.

c) 2015. Copyright material of L.B. Dunbar. All material is protected under copyright laws.