Thankful for Heartwarming by Karen RockEarly in September, I received an email from our wonderful, Senior Editor, Victoria Curran asking if I would be interested in being one of thirteen authors writing Thanksgiving-themed Heartwarming online short reads that would be published every M/W/F (and T/Th the last week) of November. Although I had a deadline for my current WIP, Oct. 15th, I did some quick mental calculations and gave her an enthusiastic yes.
As September rolled into October, I crafted a Thanksgiving-themed story, THANKFUL FOR YOU, that I'm so proud to have written and share with our fans comin up on November 18th, my birthday!
A Happy Reunion?
Maggie James has worked hard to get over her commitment phobic ex, firefighter Lt. Eric Langley. Yet old feelings resurface when they’re reunited to put on a Thanksgiving dinner for foster children displaced by their group home’s fire. She still loves Eric, but she’d grown up vowing to have the traditional, nuclear family her loving parents provided and won’t accept anything less. This time around, does she dare give them a second chance?
After watching his vibrant mother retreat from life following his firefighter father’s tragic death, Lt. Eric Langley vowed never to inflict that pain on anyone, especially Maggie. When she’d begun talking kids, marriage, it’d nearly killed him to break things off. But how could he take the risks his job required if he worried about a family counting on his safety? Although he’d shut away his pain when he and Maggie had broken up, his old feelings rush back after one glimpse of her beautiful face. He should want to avoid her, but feels thankful for this time together instead. Is it possible some surprising wisdom from the children he saved could rescue him, too?
Thankful for You: Excerpt
Eric Langley shoved through the dense smoke of a disintegrating foster home, his breath harsh inside his helmet. Two children still missing.
Where were they?
A flaming section of ceiling crashed to his left and he ducked, his pulse throbbing in his neck. He ignored his screeching headset and the blistering, acrid air.
Dean, a newbie in Eric’s fire company, jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Back out!”
“No. We’ll find them!” Eric hollered.
“Chief’s pulling the hook!” Dean nodded at the retreating pipemen who hauled the line.
“I’m making the grab.”
Eric ignored Dean’s shout and sprinted upstairs. The metal banister twisted beneath his gloved hand. Taking the steps two at a time, his air tank thudded against his back, solid and reassuring. How much did he have left?
As if on cue, his SCBA shrieked. Eric swore. 20% oxygen and his world engulfed in smoke and flames. He silenced the pinging alarm and leapt off the crumbling staircase onto the second floor.
No going back now.
Grey ash swirled and visibility lurked near zero. A door bulged to his right. Electricity jittered through him. Just as he dove past, it exploded into the hall, an incinerating fireball.
He shoved to his feet, running. “Taylor! Hannah!” he hollered above the fire’s roar, using the names a hysterical staff member had shared. He squinted down the hallway. Marked doorways swam into focus. What had they missed?
Then Eric spotted it.
A half door above the baseboard, nearly obscured by the large sideboard rising above it.
A crawl space? Could a kid fit in there?
A desperate one?
Adrenalin surged. Scraping his ax against the wall to keep his bearings, he stumbled to a halt beside the set of drawers. His brain listed inside his skull, spots appeared on the edge of his vision. Grabbing the spindle legs, he squatted and peered at the small door.
“Hannah! Taylor!” he shouted.
“Here,” was followed by a faint gasp.
“I’m Lt. Langley. I’m going to save you.”
Crying erupted and he swallowed hard, his throat burning.
Wrenching open the door, he groped through the dark and touched a small hand. A pair of green eyes blinked up at him. A girl. Ten or so. “Don’t be scared, Hannah.”
“I’m not scared,” she said, nodding over her shoulder. “Taylor’s the one who’s crying.”
Eric bowed his head. Relieved. “You’re together. Good. Now listen. When I pull you out, cover your nose with your shirt and stay close until I grab Taylor, too.”
“I won’t leave him,” came her furious voice. “Why do you think I’m still here?”
Fair enough. Brave girl.
Beams whined overhead and plunged. One careened into the opposite wall in a shower of sparks. Eric doggedly kept his focus. They would make it out. Alive.
When he reached for Hannah’s hands, she jerked back. “NO! Get Taylor first.”
A small boy appeared, his eyes wide with fright.
At his name, the boy nodded and his mouth trembled. Tears streaked his grimy cheeks.
“Give me your hands, bud.”
Eric gently freed the pre-school aged child. Hannah joined them, coughing.
Eric considered his options. Any of the rooms had windows, but what condition were they in? They might enter and never come out.
As for the staircase, there wasn’t a chance it still stood.
Come on, think...
Also, Heartwarming authors are also running a blog tour where you can enter to win a multitude of prizes including gift cards, books, holiday-themed prize packs and, as a grand prize, a one year subscription to all 2016 Heartwarming releases! Check out the different spots to enter at Prism Blog Tours every day.
And if that's not enough, you can enter to win thirteen new Heartwarming releases on our Wholesome Romance: Harlequin Heartwarming Goodreads group! Winner announced Dec. 1st.
This has been such a great month because it also includes the release of my holiday anthology with Kristine Rolofson and Jennifer Snow, WINTER WEDDING BELLS. It's available for purchase now on Kindle (Use coupon code 1115HEART to shave a $1 off the price!) and
I’m thankful for many things this holiday season and at the top of the list is being a part of the wonderful Heartwarming family!