Questions never asked don’t always remain unanswered.
A blood-stained journal holds the answers to secrets her mother took to the grave, but an enigmatic old man knows the answers–truths she never expected.
Another round of turmoil isn’t on her agenda, but when Ryleigh Collins discovers a blood-stained journal among her deceased mother’s belongings, her curiosity leads her to a puzzling Mark Twain look-alike who shatters her family history–and her sense of belonging.
Bearing a treasure chest of secrets and a deeply scarred heart, Ryleigh returns home to her ex-husband’s appeal to take him back. Overwhelmed, she seeks refuge in the quiet majesty of the Rocky Mountains. But as the snow deepens, so do her feelings for Logan Cavanaugh, the distinctly reserved resort owner.
Two lost souls collide in a paralyzing snowstorm, but when the skies clear, Logan surrenders to a deepening guilt he can’t fight. Ryleigh’s sense of abandonment is further compromised with his sudden departure, though she refuses to believe they’ve left their shared memories frozen in the mountains of Colorado.
She’s struggling with shocking truths while trying to move on; he’s caught in a crossfire of a battle he doesn’t know how to fight.
One woman. Three promises–one honored, one broken, one pledged.
Their paths never crossed, but their destiny is bound by blood.
Strangers separated by forty years and a bloody war, their only bond is a name engraved on The Wall. He walked in the shadow of fate. She stepped into the shadow of love.
A restless intimacy followed Ryan through the jungles of Vietnam, the fear, loneliness, and death camouflaged by the beauty of a country twelve thousand miles from home. He walked courageously toward his destiny and left his legacy—words written in a bloodstained journal—for the woman he loved and their infant daughter.
Encouraged by an enigmatic old man who sends her a journal identical to her father’s, Ryleigh composes her words when a second chance at love is cut short by ghosts from the past. No blood stains her journal, only the souvenirs of a broken heart.
What if the price of your wish is living without it?
Rachel Gowen wishes for nothing more than to escape the past decade—to safely lock away the memories that keep her from a future she can only dream about. But a Native American butterfly legend, Ambrose, a mysterious stranger who knows things he can’t possibly know, a cast of quirky characters long past their prime, and Nico, a tenacious and caring nursing assistant, plunge her down a path that will ignite the very memories she’s desperate to escape.
Rachel begins her new life as a nurse in a retirement facility. After all, how risky can it be working with the elderly? She quickly forms deep attachments to her patients, helping them in ways far beyond her duties. And when a casual stroll turns into a budding relationship with Ben, the handsome British doctor who’s too busy, too unromantic, and too distant—it may be exactly what she’s looking for.
But Rachel can’t conform to the rules. Nor can she deny the connection she shares with Nico. With her job in jeopardy, Rachel’s priorities and relationship with Ben are challenged. But one thing is certain—Ambrose knows the wishes she sent on the wings of the butterflies will be granted, but the price she’ll pay will upend her life.
Rachel is promised a thousand butterfly wishes—but all she wants is one.
Dreams die every day
Some drown in the endless churn of a washing machine,
some get lost under an avalanche of responsibilities
and still others suffocate in the wake of a broken promise.
Dreams die—disappearing with the sun in the western sky.
But a sprig of grass will sprout from a blanket of snow,
new life will be born when two become one,
and a phoenix will rise from the ashes left behind.
Dreams reborn—blooming with dawn’s radiant new light.
SCARRED CORNERS FRAMED the small journal she pulled from the old shoebox. She traced the cover with one finger, dark stains and pebbled leather disquieting, yet as oddly familiar as the stale odor of cigarettes her mother promised to quit smoking and never did. Now the tenuous reminder, void of the peppermints her mother nursed to disguise the smell, threatened to unravel the tethers holding her together.
God, how she wished she could rewrite the last year.
With her legs crossed beneath her, Ryleigh Collins clutched the journal to her chest, leaned against the wall of her mother’s apartment—as empty of her possessions as the world was of her—and let the shadows of the waning morning swallow her.
“I can’t do this.” She grabbed a loose thread in the denim stretched over her knees and yanked hard.
Two feet bundled in thick navy blue socks appeared in front of her. “Can’t do what?”
Ryleigh raised her eyes, moist with remembrance.
“Ah.” Natalie crossed her feet, lowered herself with the grace of a toned dancer, and placed a firm, yet gentle hand on Ryleigh’s arm. “The personal stuff’s the hardest.”
After a pause, Ryleigh tucked the knot of emotions neatly back where they belonged and turned. “I’m such a wimp.”
“You’ll get through this.” Natalie Jo Burstyn’s perfectly manicured brows knitted together in a scowl that masked her usual playful grin. “I intend to see you do.”
The lump in her throat strangled the words she’d rehearsed since Natalie had offered to drop everything to help. Of course she would. Her meddling best friend always seemed to know exactly what to do. Or say. She grasped Natalie’s hand and squeezed.
Sometimes words got in the way.
Ryleigh released a long breath and straightened her legs. The journal tumbled to her lap.
She swiped a hand across the journal’s cover and then wiped them on her jeans. “An old journal,” Ryleigh said, brushing away the dusty handprint.
“Don’t just sit there fondling it, open it.”
The binding creaked. Timeworn pages fanned in a graceful arch as if her touch had resurrected them. Faded ink swirled across the unlined parchment, and the musty balm of old paper and ink tapped at a recollection, distant and unformed, yet ripe for picking—but couldn’t pluck it from her memory. Smudged and watermarked, the words danced across the aged pages.
She turned each one with care.
Nat leaned in. “Well?”
Ryleigh frowned. “Looks like a collection of poetry.”
“I didn’t know your mom wrote poetry.”
“This isn’t her handwriting,” Ryleigh responded without thought, “and my mother never wrote anything more literary than a grocery list.”
Natalie peered over her shoulder. “Then whose?”
“Don’t know. Just an ‘R’ at the end of the entries.” The pages crackled as Ryleigh turned each one. “And the year. ’66. ’67 on some.” A shiver feathered its way from her neck to the tips of her fingers.
“Want to read it?” The familiar weight of Nat’s head settled on her shoulder. “Like old times?”
She’d never considered not sharing something with Nat and quickly harnessed the prickling urge to slam the book shut to prying eyes.
Careful not to damage the pages, she smoothed them flat, the tickle of selfishness nibbling at her consistent, rational side. As she scanned the pages, she muttered lines at random, the only autograph the watermarked scars of blurred ink. “The air is thick, gray ashen snow, the ghost returns, its presence unfought.” She flipped the page. “Fireflies flicker against azure skies, frolicking hither in reverent riverdance.” The weight against her shoulder anchored a covey of troublesome thoughts, but Ryleigh continued to pluck lines from the pages. “Sodden showers of infected rain, across crystal skies littered with fire.” She dragged a finger across an eyebrow.
“They dance to their reticent song.”
Natalie frowned. “Who?”
“Fireflies.” She tapped the page with her index finger. “One of the poems is about fireflies. I wonder if they’re really like that.”
Ryleigh tucked a strand of hair behind an ear and closed the book with a finger marking her place. “I’ve never seen one.”
“C’mon,” Nat said, crossing her arms. “Kids catch fireflies in jars all the time.”
“Not this small-town, sheltered Arizonan.”
“Come to think of it, I’ve never seen one since moving here.”
“They’re on my bucket list.”
Natalie opened and then shut her mouth. “You added to your bucket list without telling me?”
The concentrated effort Nat used to curb her bewilderment caused Ryleigh to forget her grief for a fleeting moment. “I’ll see one someday,” she said and reopened the book to the last page.
“Read to me, Riles.” Nat folded her long legs beneath her, anticipation deepening her eyes to warm chocolate. “Like when we were kids.”
Ryleigh glanced sideways at her. “I had to explain them to you.”
“So?” Nat said, the short word long on sarcasm. “It’s nostalgic.”
“Okay.” Ryleigh took a deep breath. “This is the last entry. It’s called ‘Lost.’”
“‘I placed my love inside your heart and softly called your name—
I placed a hole inside of mine as God’s heavenly angels came.
I placed a kiss of golden tears upon your tiny chest—
I placed a rainbow at your door the day you came to rest.
I placed a single pure white rose upon your tiny feet—
I placed my hand against your cheek and said good-bye, my sweet.
I placed a gentle autumn breeze within your tiny space—
I placed with you, a piece of me and let you go in God’s embrace.’”
The words stuck in her throat with painful intensity. Ryleigh dragged her finger over the ‘R’—the last letter in the journal. “Forty-three years ago.”
Natalie picked at a stray thread in the shredded knee of her True Religion jeans. “I’m not very good at analyzing poems, but—”
“Whoever wrote this lost a baby.” Careful fingers traced the cover, the stained leather unsettling, yet somehow comforting beneath her touch. Ryleigh’s neck prickled. A tear trembled on the edge of her eye. “I feel like I’m eavesdropping,” she said and closed the book. Sheer will eased the roiling in her stomach.
“Sounds like something you’d write.”
Ryleigh shook her head. “Cozy articles for The Sentinel on county fairs, care packages to our soldiers, and Mrs. Grayson’s baby quilts don’t count. I haven’t written fiction or poetry in years.”
Ryleigh raised the journal. “This is raw passion,” she said, sniffing back the telltale signs of her emotion. “Emotion stripped naked.”
“Your work is like that. Peeking inside the places of your heart no one ever sees.”
“Maybe I don’t want anyone to see.”
Nat paused, and then wrapped her arm over Ryleigh’s shoulder. “Things will get better. I promise.”
Nat’s words soothed her, a spoken ointment soothing a fresh wound.
Susan writes contemporary women’s fiction & romance with the belief that Love is Ageless and has the power to change lives–one step, one touch, one kiss at a time.