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We had a huge pecan tree near the pig pin, and one of my holiday chores was shelling nuts for the ambrosia. I loved my task. I'd eat more pecan halves than went into the bowl. Except for my two older sisters, the family members who gathered around that table have all passed on. The younger sister now hosts the family feast in her home. A few years back I had the privilege of flying home for Thanksgiving and sharing their holiday feast. Before blessing the food she asked each family member gathered around her table to name something for which they were grateful. I was deeply moved by the responses. The blessing came next, then the fun began as bowls and platters passed from hand to hand until everyone's plate was filled. Then silverware began to clatter as compliments on the good food were tossed out for the cook responsible to acknowledge.
Have you ever listened closely to the conversations going on above the feast? If you're from a large family you know what I mean. One aunt finishes her husband's sentences. A child interrupts his mother to announce "I don't like milk, I wanted juice," and his mother pours juice for him without missing a beat of the conversation she's sharing with an uncle. More voices start more conversations as stomachs fill. The volume of noise is barely tolerable, but no one complains. In our family this only happens twice a year in our family and it's obvious the attendees wouldn't miss it. The teasing, the concerned interest, the love flowing around the dining table like the river of hot food flowed earlier warmed my heart. Our home in California has become the gathering place for my family's feast. In the seventies I bought a dining table that seated fourteen to make us more comfortable when everybody came home for the holidays.
Twenty years later I decided I was getting too old to host big gatherings and gave that table away. It didn't change a thing, they all still come and I've lived to regret my haste. Right after Halloween my daughters start emailing, wanting to know what our holiday plans are, interpreted, Will you be there so we can have Thanksgiving with you? I don't know why. The menu never changes. We're all traditionalist, and everyone would complain if just one item was missing from the table, especially the 'green stuff,' a congealed salad with pineapple, sour cream and nuts. One year the daughter who lives four hours away invited everyone to her house for the feast. Most of us drove up that morning and spent the night. The oven caught fire while the turkey was baking, and my car was rear-ended going through LA. We arrived late, the Volvo's luggage compartment was jammed and for a while we were unable to get out the cranberries, but the feast went on as planned. I've decided it's not what you put on the table, but those gathered around it that determines the quality of the feast, the blessing for which I am most grateful. The one for which I give thanks.
Reclusive Jenny Hamilton wants only to be left alone. Afraid to venture far from her modern cabin in the Eastern Sierras, this widow and writer endures a solitary existence caring for her animals until Tom Driscoll washes up in the creek. She rescues the unconscious man, and when his injuries heal, he helps Jenny overcome her fear of men, the result of an abusive marriage.
Tom saves her from the burly intruder intent on rape who traumatizes Jenny. Her earlier fears come flooding back, convincing her there is no man she should trust. She sends Tom away with the sheriff who comes to pick up their prisoner.
When Jenny realizes Tom has taught her to feel again, she reaches out to him. He rushes back to her side, and she promises never to send him away again.
Love the cover and congratulations on the new book! Toni, thanks again for guesting and sharing with us your thoughts on Thanksgiving and about your new book.
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The words caught in Tom's dry, throat and growled across the distance with such harshness those dainty fingers he'd enjoyed watching so much froze in midair. The attractive young woman pivoted her golden head and peered in his direction, her doe-like eyes widening. Wetting her lips, she blinked at him, making him regret he'd interrupted her weaving.
"You're awake." Her whispered words fell from trembling lips.
Dummy. You scared her with your sudden outburst. A smile might ease her fright.
He tried to lift the corners of his mouth, but his dry, cracked lips stretched across his teeth. He winced, flicking out his tongue to circle his mouth, raking his parched lips with needed moisture.
He cleared his throat and tried again. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
Her hands settled in her lap. She clasped her fingers. Puzzled, he watched her knuckles turn white. She moistened her lips again, then chewed on the bottom one, her somber gaze never leaving his face. Those expressive eyes held a disturbing wariness he couldn't comprehend.
"You hurt your head," she whispered.
He tried to touch the spot that ached. Both his hands came up, connected by rope.
"What in blazes?"
The fairy rose, her golden head moving from his line of vision. He lifted his head to follow her movements. Rockets exploded behind his eyes.
He shut them again.
Her footsteps faltered, then moved toward him. He opened his eyes.
A pair of trim leather boots stopped beside him. The knees above the boots bent as she knelt in his line of vision and leaned back on her heels, considering him with a wary look.
"Your fever made you delirious, so I tied your hands."
Her words brought a bright flush to her cheeks. With the sun no longer shining on her head, her hair took on a darker shade, encircling her shoulders in a cape of chestnut satin.
"Did I hurt you?"
She nodded. "Last night. A little. Here, I'll untie you."