EMPTY NESTERS’ CHRISTMAS by Carol Ann Erhardt

From Thanksgiving through the New Year, my heart sings with happiness. Hubby and I are empty nesters, but that doesn’t dampen my spirit and love for these precious family holidays. Memories abound of the years our children were still at home, the special joy at seeing their faces light up like the Christmas tree we’d decorate together. So many fun and heartwarming events happened in the house which is now vacant of the pitter patter of tiny feet…well, with the exception of the cats.
Our animals made many of our memories that we laugh about when we get together for our annual Christmas get together. For instance, our cat named Caesar once tackled our thawing pork roast while we were at the Candlelight Service at church one year. We came home to find him kicking and biting at the hunk of meat, rolling around on the floor having a good old time! And then there was our dog, Lady, who sniffed out the bag of candy corn sent to the kids by their grandmother. After demolishing the candy, the dog then ripped open several other packages to see if she could find anything else good to eat. Luckily I did get up early enough to rewrap the packages before the girls awakened. I also remember a cat named Linus who climbed our undecorated Christmas tree while we were out. He spread out on the branch as if he belonged there. Now we have three cats named Charlotte, Wilbur, and Templeton. We are constantly trying to keep them from destroying the artificial tree. How they manage to climb into the skinny tree without claws continues to amaze me. And leap! Wilbur once leaped straight up and snatched a beautiful bird perched on one of the top branches. One year I put silk and velvet poinsettias in the tree…those were doomed from the start. And I finally tossed the red cardinals I loved so much. They looked so beautiful on the green branches, and evidently very enticing to our cats. Currently our tree looks really nice. Our family get together is on December 17. I can only hope that it looks half as nice by that date! We’ll gather with the family to share food, laughter, and hugs.
On Christmas Eve, we’ll all go to Candlelight Worship service and hubby and I will come home to sit by the lit tree and reminisce. This year we are so blessed to have Christmas fall on Sunday when we can go to our church and celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Yes, we are empty nesters, but we have a home filled loving memories and new ones yet to be made.
Carol Ann Erhardt is an inspirational romance writer. TRAPPED is the title of her newest release and is the first novel in the Havens Creek series. The novel explores the issues around forgiveness  and trust. Learn more about Carol Ann and her available books by visiting her website at http://www.CarolAnnErhardt.com

TRAPPED by Carol Ann Erhardt

She’s a woman who doesn’t trust cops. He’s a cop. She’s determined to keep her past a secret. He’s determined to find out what she’s hiding. 
High school bus driver, Summer Grant, flees from death threats and winds up trapped in Havens Creek, a small town not far enough away from danger. With a broken leg and no transportation, she is forced to accept the hospitality of strangers. Staying with the police chief’s sister and five-year-old daughter in an isolated mountain home might be the ideal place for her to hide until she can get back on her feet, but if the man she’s hiding from learns her whereabouts, no one will be safe.
 Havens Creek Police Chief, Jake Taylor, always protects his own. He feels duty-bound to help Summer when she ends up in his small town claiming she has no family. He has a soft spot for strays, but this two-legged one is hiding something, and he’s determined to solve the mystery.
 An unwanted attraction draws them together. Evil threatens to rip them apart.
  
Excerpt:
Summer got out of the car and patted the dog. He wriggled sideways bumping her leg.
Jake smiled. “He’s glad to see you. Come on in.”
“Do you mind if I wait here?”
He gave her a puzzled look. “If you want.” He pointed to the canopy swing. “Have a seat. I’ll only be a couple of minutes. Do you like pizza?”
“Yes.”
“The best pizza around these parts is Pizza Haven. Sound all right?”
“Sure.” Though she didn’t think she’d be able to eat. Not with the way her stomach was churning.
“Be right back.”
Jake walked into the house and Summer sat in the swing.
In just a few minutes, he returned. He handed her a bottled water and sat beside her.
She took a drink, grateful for his thoughtfulness.
 He placed an arm across the back of the swing.
“Do you mind if we talk before we leave?” he asked.
She took a deep breath. “No. What did Michael say?”
He pulled her close against his side. “Tom Beery, one of my officers stopped at the diner to eat. He spotted the Impala and a man I’m assuming was Michael getting inside. They had a conversation about the car. Then Michael mentioned he was in town looking for an old friend.”
He looked at her. “You.”
Summer felt a chill despite the heat.
“Said he had left the directions to where you were staying at home.”
Summer flinched. “And I suppose Tom told him how to get to Becca’s place.”
“You suppose right,” Jake said. “I’m not happy about it and I’ve reprimanded him for his actions. He had no business disclosing the information to a stranger no matter how convincing he was.”
“Michael has a knack for manipulating situations to his benefit. I hope you weren’t too hard on him.”
“No more so than necessary. Tell me more about Michael.”
“Where should I start?”
“At the beginning. I want to know everything about this creep.”
Summer looked at Jake. “You mean you believe me?”
“Of course I believe you.”
She stared at him looking for a reason to doubt his words. She found none. He believed her.
Like an overflowing fountain, she spilled out everything that happened. “When I moved to Pine Cove I rented a small house only two doors from Michael’s place. He didn’t seem like a friendly neighbor, but after I was there a few months I learned everyone knew and respected him. He kept busy working in his garage. He’s a mechanic. A good one from what I hear. After I turned down an offer to have dinner with him, he never gave me the time of day. His son, Dylan, was a great kid. He liked to sit on my front steps and we’d talk in the afternoon after school. Sometimes Michael would finish work early and if he saw Dylan with me, he yelled for him to get home where he belonged.”
“That kid’s dad has a serious problem.”
That kid’s name is…was Dylan.”
He took her hand. “I’m sorry. Dylan’s dad has a serious problem.”
She sniffed. “Dylan was a good kid, a star football player. I really liked him. He was the opposite of his dad—warm, outgoing. He shouldn’t have died.”
“What happened was a terrible thing, but it was an accident. You weren’t to blame for his death, no matter what his dad thinks.”
She’d finally accepted that as fact after her therapy sessions. “I know. But I was a bitter reminder to Michael of what had been stolen from him. His only child.”
“That must have been tough, but it doesn’t give him the right to harass you. What he did was illegal.”
“Worse,” she said. “When I was in the hospital, Michael came to see me.” She shivered, reliving that horrible moment. “He brought me a vase of dead roses.”
Anger crossed Jake’s face, tightening the muscles around his mouth.
She took a drink of water.
“I tried to talk to him,” she continued. “I told him how sorry I was. I asked him to forgive me but he…he just stared at me…and then walked away. That hurt so bad.”
“What about his wife? Or would that be ex-wife?”
“His wife died when Dylan was little.”
Jake shook his head. “Poor kid.”
He laced their fingers together. She took a deep breath and continued.
“About four weeks after the accident, I started receiving phone calls late at night. I didn’t have to recognize the voice to know it was Michael. He said one word. Murderer.”
Jake’s fingers tightened on hers.
“A few months later, things got worse,” she said. “I found a note on my windshield that said I should kill myself before someone did it for me.”
He released her hand. “What? The sheriff didn’t tell me about the note,” he said.
Bereft of his touch, she folded her arms across her chest.
“After the sheriff found nothing to verify the phone calls, I didn’t tell him about the note. I couldn’t prove Michael typed it. He didn’t sign it.”
“It was proof that somebody was threatening you,” he said.
She would not cry. “I didn’t think he’d believe me.”

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Inspirational romantic suspense writer, Carol Ann Erhardt, touches the hearts and emotions of her readers. Fans categorize her books as emotional, suspenseful and inspirational. Carol Ann spent her early writing years working at a corporate job and writing late at night. Her first novels, contemporary romantic suspense, sold well, but she didn’t feel fulfilled—in fact, felt as if she’d compromised on what her heart wanted to write. She began praying for God’s guidance in her writing. In the quiet solitude of prayer, God showed her the path He wanted her to take. Her third novel was an inspirational romantic suspense. Now she writes each and every day hoping to bring messages of hope, happiness, and inspiration to those who read her novels. She gives all the glory to God. Visit Carol Ann Erhardt

Liebster Blog Award

Thank you to Susan Tuttle for awarding me the Liebster Award! My dear friend is a fellow ACFW member and an encourager to so many with her uplifting and inspiring blog, StepSusan.


The Liebster is awarded to bloggers with less than 200 followers. 
My choices reflect bloggers who work hard at building friendships and encouraging others along the way. 


The rules:
1. Thank the giver of the award and link back to them.
2. Give the Liebster to five bloggers and let them know with a comment to their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award onto your blog.
4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. Have blogging fun!


And the drum roll please…
My choices for this cool award:
1. Marianne Evans – A Minute With Marianne
2. Brenda Anderson – Spire Reviews
3. Annette Irby, Dawn Kinzer, Angie Arndt, and Ocieanna Fleiss – Seriously Write
4. Joanne Troppello – It Only Takes A Mustard Seed
5.Carol Ann Erhardt – Carol Ann Erhardt


And thanks again, Susan, my precious friend! 
God bless you and your writing.