Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gentry's Gallery of Angels, by Stephy Smith

Two days after Christmas and we're still in the spirit at my house! Tree may be naked underneath, but not around, not yet at least. The lights are still twinkling as are the beautiful ornaments. If you're still in the Christmas mood, check out this sweet, beautiful read.

  Book Specifics -

Genre - Historical Christmas Romance
Length - 20k (novella)
Heat Level - Sweet
Sexual Orientation - M/F

Blurb - 

Amanda Gentry, engaged to Nicolas Tandy Harper are to marry on Christmas Eve. When her Grandmother Izella Sanders fades into a coma and everything spirals out of control. Amanda takes on the responsibility to ensure all the holiday celebrations are met… even her wedding which she and Nick are willing to put on hold. 

Excerpt - 

Chapter One
Nick glanced at the wagon. Maggie, Robert and Amanda Gentry sat on the buckboard. His heart picked up a beat. He left the table of sales items and walked to the door of the mercantile. The wagon rolled to a stop in front and he stepped out to greet the family.
“Good morning. How’s everything out at your place?” he waited for Robert to assist the women to the ground.
“Can’t complain. I’m heading to the hardware store, I’ll return for supplies after lunch.” Robert extended his hand and Nick shook it.
“I’m off to pick up some sewing.” Maggie nodded at him.
Amanda stood at his side. “And you, my beautiful bride to be, what are your plans for the day?” Turning his attention to her, he gazed at her full luscious lips. Chitter-chatter up and down the streets stopped him from kissing her. He linked elbows with her and led her into the store. In the shadows of the back corner of the building, he lightly kissed her.
“I am getting a few odds and ends for the holidays, and our wedding.” Her hands held onto his forearms as she took a step back. The tingle she left behind when she released her hold lingered on his skin.
“Would you care to have lunch with me at the hotel? They have a daily special of roast beef and gravy today.” He lifted his arm and caressed her soft face. Bright twinkles illuminated the blueness of her eyes, pulling him into their depths. His breath caught at the beauty surrounding her angelic face. 
“I would love to. I have a few errands to run first then I’ll meet you back here.” With a swish of her skirt, she pivoted on her heels and headed to the door. He let his gaze wash over her body and rest on the sway of her hips. The heat of desire flowed through his body.
Following her to the door, he watched as her slender frame entered into the newspaper office. In a week, he would be able to quench his need to take her in his arms. He shifted to the work in the store, but his thoughts remained on his true love.
Automatically, he placed items from his new shipment on the shelf. Amanda took over his mind every time he caught even the slightest glimpse of her. His knees grew weak when she was near and his heart thundered prolifically within the walls of his chest. Her touch lingered on his skin for days after the initial contact. He shivered as another round of excitement poured over his defenseless body.
She was his and that was all that mattered. He worked for a few hours, and then glanced out the window. Amanda strolled down the wooden walk across the street. Deputy Cody Lansing stepped out in front of her. Taking a side step to avoid a collision, he once again stepped into her path. Heat scorched through Nick’s veins.
He tossed down the merchandise and exited through the door. Amanda straightened her shoulders and took a step back. With hurried steps, Nick crossed the street.
“There you are my dear. Are you ready for some lunch?” Brazenly he reached for her hand and she took his.
“Yes I am, Nick. I’m starving, shall we go?” she wound her way around the deputy and joined Nick.
“Then by all means, I will lock up the store and we shall be on our way.” He glared at Cody a few seconds and then led his sweetheart across the dirt street.
Entering the hotel restaurant, they picked a table by the window. Mrs. Donner took their order and disappeared. “I’m glad you stopped Cody in his quest to corner me. I despise that man and the way he treats women. Why do you suppose he acts the way he does? There is no need for him to push his advances when he has more than one woman begging his attention?”
“I don’t know Amanda. Seems he has always wanted what everyone else has and little confidence to take the ones who would welcome his overtures.”
Her hand jutted across the table and came to rest on his arm. “Oh, let’s not talk of his deceitfulness. I have found the prettiest table setting for our wedding. I was at Hannah Lou’s having tea and she asked me if I wanted to use it. Well, of course I said yes, and she said she would have it packed up within an hour.”
Nick chuckled at her excitement. The innocence in her soft voice took on an unexpected rush coming from her mouth. Those precious lips he gazed at seemed to call him to ravish them with all his being. He shifted in his chair.
“Are you sure Mrs. Sanders is up to this?” Nick leaned back so Mrs. Donner could set the plate of food in front of him.
“You know Grandmother wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides, Mother has her hands full with the other girls. They do nothing but scream and fight amongst themselves anyway.”
“Where are your sisters? They weren’t in the wagon when your father pulled up at the store.” He took a bite of roast.
“Nancy, Mary and Celeste are at Grandmother’s. Bessie, Susan and the twins all went to their friends’ houses for the afternoon.”
His heart lurched as he watched the fork slide into her mouth. He forced himself to look out the window. Cody Lansing was escorting two young ladies down the walkway. Nick’s blood heated. That man is indiscriminate using women the way he does, preying upon all the girls in town. Well, he won’t be stalking Amanda any longer. He basked in the knowledge Cody could no longer lay claim to his Amanda.
“At the newspaper office they told me our announcement will run tomorrow. Isn’t it exciting Nick? The whole world will know we are getting married Christmas Eve at Grandmother’s.”
Nick chuckled. “The whole world you say? News will have to travel pretty fast to reach everyone.” He winked at her.
“You know what I mean. Our world, not the whole earth.” She giggled.
Amanda’s spirits were light. She strolled down the boardwalk on her way to meet Nick when Cody Lansing stepped out in front of her.
“Would you look what I found? Why it’s the most beautiful girl in town walking down the street all alone. Where is your precious boyfriend today, Amanda? Is he off flirting with some other pretty maiden?” The tall handsome deputy refused to let her pass.
“I have a lunch date, Mr. Lansing, if you will excuse me?” She tried to push around the intolerable man. He may very well be handsome, but he is one of the rudest, most inconsiderate men she had ever encountered.
“Did I make a date with you? No, you turned me down for the lowlife storekeeper. Remember, at church you said you were going to spend today with him?” His voice reaped with hatred. She shuddered from his intense narrow eyed glare.
Looking up, her confidence returned as she watched Nick strutting across the street. The pounding in her chest slowed.  She inhaled a long breath. “Like I said Mr. Lansing, I must be on my way.” She latched onto Nick’s offered hand.
“Oh, how I loathe that man. What makes him think he is the king of kings? Just because every girl in town wants to win—his affection does not in the least mean I wish to do the same. Some day he will be relieved of his pompous ways.” She gripped tighter to Nick’s arm.
Fresh brewed tea and coffee along with the aroma of roast beef floated inside the restaurant as they entered. Amanda’s stomach rumbled and growled. He pulled a chair out for her at a table next to the window.
The more she talked throughout the course of the meal a vast amount of the stress Cody tossed upon her vanished. She glanced at Nick and was taken aback by the way his focus on her lips sent shameless desire to illuminate his eyes. Heat rose from her chest and across her face.
Her own curiosity in matters such as bedding a husband entered her mind. She had heard talk of the encounters from other girls her age, but never had the thought stuck in her mind as it did now. In a week, she would find out on her own. 
After their meal, Nick guided her back to the store and she helped stock the shelves with items he removed from the crates.
“Isn’t this a beautiful locket?” she raised the precious necklace to shine in the sun. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to work here after we’re married. I’ll want to take too much of this home with me.”
His sturdy hand removed the chain from her grasp and he gently kissed her on the cheek. “I never thought you would want to work here. I assumed you would want to stay at Harper’s Hope and do all the wifely things women do.”
“What wifely things are you referring to Nicolas Tandy Harper?” she balled her fists and rested them on her hips.
“How should I know? I never had a wife before. You and your grandmother are always coming up with impressive things to do. I didn’t mean anything by it.” His voice stammered.
“I want to help you with the store if you don’t mind. For the most part, I will try to stay away or continue to help Grandmother and Mother. I may find many projects to keep me busy out at the plantation.” Her heart twisted into a tight ball. How would he know what she wanted to do when she wasn’t even sure herself?
She wasn’t that fond of coming to town and listening to a stream of cackling hens spreading gossip and such. Working near Nick was nice and peaceful until some of the busy bodies crossed through the door. When they entered, she would make up an excuse to go to her Uncle Sam’s office or to the back of the store. 
The bell on the door jingled. “Hello Amy…”
“Amanda. My name is Amanda.” She wondered who the woman was. There weren’t many people she didn’t know in Courtview, and this was one she had never encountered before.
“Why yes of course it is. My mind leaves me sometimes. I don’t remember like I should. I do recall hearing the two of you are getting married. I wanted to wish you good luck and congratulations.” The small gray haired lady slipped on a pair of glasses and searched her handbag. She pulled a paper with scribbled lines out and handed it to Amanda.
Nick reached for the paper, “I’ll fill the order for you. It looks like you are getting your usual items. Do you need anything else?” he busied himself pulling supplies from the shelves. Amanda watched as he glanced at the paper a time or two.
“I don’t think anything else will be necessary young man.” The woman pulled a handkerchief from the bosom of her dress, and heaved a throaty cough.
Amanda stiffened at the noise, pivoted and ran to the back room of the store. She closed the door behind her then covered her mouth with both hands and tried to contain her laughter the best she could. Never in her life had she seen a woman display such an attraction. If it had of been a man, she simply would have ignored it and went on about her business. The bell on the door rang again and she quietly peeked out from behind her hiding spot to watch the elderly woman leave the building.
“You’re right Nick. My place is out in the country. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face if I had to go through that again. How did you read her writing?”
She managed to sustain a giggle.
“She can’t read or write so she plays this game with me. I remember what she orders every week and when she comes in I fill it and place it in the box in the order she requested the first time she came in. I would hate to taste her cooking. If one thing is out of place she doesn’t know it.” He placed his index finger across her lips. “You must never tell another soul of this.”
Maggie and Robert entered into the store giggling. “Sounds like the two of you have enjoyed your day of freedom from your children.” Amanda said.
“It has been a lovely day indeed. Do you have your list, Maggie?” her mother handed the list to Nick.
“Put it on our bill. Amanda, you will see our order out to the wagon I presume?” She nodded her head to her father as he guided her mother to the wagon.
She placed a kiss on Nick’s cheek and then opened the door for him to carry the supplies to the wagon. Her heart melted at the disappointment in his eyes. The longing to stay with him was just as prevalent in her soul as it was on his face. “I’ll see you in a few days.”


Want to know what happens next?  Head over to Astraea Press to find out!

Thank you so much for reading!


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