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Saturday 27 October 2018

Halloween Sale! Enjoy a snippet from - Autumn's Healing - A spooky and heart wrenching read - on Sale now

Happy Halloween

Autumn's Healing

Rarely do we get to pick our battles… Often, they choose us.

Single mom Mikaylah MacDonough and her only daughter Autumn have been on their own a long time. So, when Autumn goes off to school, it seems only natural for Kaylah to pull up stakes and follow, though with some clear-cut boundaries, of course. She’s determined to give Autumn space to enjoy the whole college experience but remain close enough for emergencies, meals and laundry. But when the closing date of the current house overlaps with taking possession of the ‘new’ house, along with orientation week, Autumn has to go it alone. From that moment on, Kaylah’s dreams of a new beginning turn into a complete and total nightmare.

When former serviceman Jerusalem Aames drives up to the century-old Cleary house, he sees dollar signs for himself and his all-veteran crew. The rundown, old place would finally put his fledgling construction-renovation firm in the black. But the moment he meets the gorgeous homeowner who had been duped into buying the money-pit, his attraction is swift and instantaneous.

However, there’s something very strange going on in the dilapidated house that has nothing to do with rotting timbers or shoddy wiring. Whatever it is, it’s affecting Kaylah’s state of mind, and Salem finds himself in a battle he's not sure he can win.

Autumn's Healing 30% off at Totally Bound - On Sale thru November 1st

Excerpt From Autumn's Healing

Chapter On

Kaylah closed her eyes and shampooed her hair. The hot spray from the shower stung her skin, but she didn’t care.

Her mind went back to the day Autumn and her friend Emily had set off for college.

“Best laid plans…” she mumbled in the mist.

It had started out as a bright, beautiful, sunny day, perfect for new beginnings. 

In the driveway, Kaylah tried not to wring her hands.

“Stop looking like that,” Autumn warned. 

“I should be taking you, though,” Kaylah repeated under her breath, as she Tetris-ed another box into the hatchback. It’d been an ongoing discussion since the girls had come up with the idea of driving alone. 

Autumn slammed the trunk of the overstuffed compact car. Her eyes sparkled with excitement, and all the other aggravation of the last few weeks fell away.  

“We won’t be in the same city for a while.” Autumn frowned and draped her arms around Kaylah. “It’s gonna be weird. We’ve never really been away from each other for more than a night or two.” 

“It won’t be long,” Kaylah reassured. “I’ll get things settled here and I’ll join you in about a week’s time—if all goes well, that is. Keep your fingers crossed. But I really wish I was taking you now.” 

“But this is kind of appropriate, too. I’m supposed to drive off into the sunset, while you wave profusely from the driveway. This is the way it’s supposed to be—the child leaving the nest and all that. And next weekend when you collect the keys and take possession of the new house, I’ll probably crash with you because I’ll have missed you so much.” 

“Me, too,” Emily chimed in, joining the hug.  

Kaylah nodded. The closing dates on the old house and the new place were about a week apart and coincided with Autumn’s orientation week. 

“Bye, Mrs. MacDonough.”  

Kaylah hugged Emily, as well. “Take care, Em.” 

“You, too. We’ll see you next week.” 

“I’m looking forward to it.” 

Autumn squeezed her one last time. “I love you, Mom. Thank you for everything.” She sniffled. 
“You promised. No tears until we can’t see each other anymore.” 

“I know. I’m sorry. It’s just harder than I thought.” Autumn let her go then took one last look at the house. 

“First step to the rest of your life.” Kaylah wiped her daughter’s rosy cheeks. “I’m so proud to be your mama. I love you, baby.” 

“I love you. And I’ll see you—” 

“Next week.” Kaylah managed a smile as she finished the sentence. 

The girls got into the car and Kaylah waved profusely as they pulled away—just as Autumn had predicted—before she gave way to tears. 

Kaylah rinsed the suds from her hair as the old pipes started to knock inside the walls. From experience, she knew the water would turn cold within seconds.  

Turning off the taps before that happened, she then grabbed a towel from the rack and wound the terrycloth around her shoulder-length hair. She yanked another towel from the shelf and dried off.  

The entire bathroom was filled with steam. Obviously, it needed a new fan and some better ventilation. Another addition to the ever-growing list of upgrades this ‘new’ house needed. What a nightmare the entire undertaking had turned into. Even the contractors she’d interviewed had shied away from the massive workload the turn-of-the-century home presented. It required updating on every level, not to mention the work it needed on the outside.  

The home had been grossly misrepresented, but Kaylah blamed herself. She and Autumn had found and bought it, sight unseen, over the Internet. It had been so beautiful—or so they’d thought.  

She’d gone so far as to contact a lawyer, hoping he could give her a rundown of her options. But, as of this morning, he still had not returned her call.  

Nothing was going right. Nothing had since Autumn had left for school. 

Kaylah stepped out of the shower and looked toward the vanity mirror. It was frosted with condensation, but that’s not what caught her eye. She pulled the towel tightly around her body as her gaze darted around the tiny room. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and a shiver ran through her body. Her heart began to pound. It looked as if someone—or something—had written a message in the film on the glass. 

The word had started to run, streaking the letters down the glass, dripping off the edge and into the sink below.  

That name. She’d been seeing it everywhere recently—on newspapers, street signs, on the side of transport trucks, when she flicked on the TV. She’d even driven through a town near Geneva, New York, named Jerusalem on her way here. Now this.  

Irrational anger flooded her. “What are you trying to tell me?” she screamed.  

She picked up the closest thing—her handheld hairdryer—and threw it at the mirror. The glass blew out and shattered all over the sink and the bathroom floor—one more thing to add to the repair list. 

Kaylah hurried to her bedroom. She dressed quickly then left the house.  

* * * * 

Kaylah stood on the bridge, looking down over the water in the park. It was so peaceful here, but the craziest thoughts raced through her head. Ever since Autumn had moved and Kaylah had taken possession of the new house, her thinking had been muddled, unpredictable. She didn’t feel like herself at all—one minute angry as hell for no logical reason, the next crying uncontrollably. Like now, looking down at the water from the great height on the walkway, she had the most overwhelming urge to jump—to end it all.  

It would take away the crushing pain in her chest.  

She pulled her cell phone out of her jacket pocket and quick-dialed Autumn. 

“You’ve reached Autumn. You know what to do. Beep.” There was a little giggle, then the digital sound followed.  

Unbidden tears filled her eyes at the sound of her daughter’s voice.  

The water beckoned.  

Jerusalem, the wind seemed to whisper.  

Kaylah jerked at the sound and looked across the bay. Her gaze collided with another sightseer. He didn’t scare her, but he watched her intently. She stared right back.  

Jerusalem.” The stranger’s mouth seemed to form the word, but Kaylah’s mind rebelled. There was no possible way she’d have really heard that. 
“Ma’am. Ma’am? Are you all right?” 

At the sound of the voice from behind, she realized she’d stepped up to the wrought-iron railing, her hands poised as if to pull herself up. And what? Over? Dear God! She jumped down.  

Swiftly, she wiped her cheeks and stuffed her cell back into her pocket. She didn’t even turn or wait to see if the passerby had been addressing her. She fled the scene. 

As she walked briskly by the downtown shops, she began to feel more in control and aware of her surroundings. A shop window with huge steaming cup and saucer painted on the inside pane beckoned.  

“Don’t mind if I do,” Kaylah mumbled under her breath as she tugged open the door to the inviting establishment.  

Once she was seated at the little restaurant with a hot cup of coffee, Kaylah looked around but didn’t really take note of any of the other patrons.  

She took a deep breath, inhaling through the pain in her chest. Absently, she rubbed it. She’d experienced this before, prior to her diagnosis. Was the cancer back? Had she already diagnosed herself? And, in so doing, could this explain the mood swings? The unexplained sorrow and irrational anger? The symptoms all went hand in hand when dealing with any illness, along with the self-pity and why-me syndrome. 

“Can I get you a refill?” the waitress asked cheerfully with the coffee pot poised over her cup.  

“Please. Thank you.” 

“Are you just passing through?” 

“No, we’re new to the area. I purchased the Cleary property.” By mistake, she added, silently.  

“That’s a beautiful old place,” the server replied, her eyes lighting with interest. “Needs some major TLC, though.” 

“You’re telling me. I’ve been shopping around for contractors.” 

“Where are you coming from?” 

“Out West,” she answered vaguely.  

“Jenna! Customer at booth two,” the rotund and harassed-looking cook in a stained yellowed apron hollered across the dining area. 
“Sorry. Gotta go. This one’s on the house. Nice meeting you. I hope you’ll be back.” She smiled. 

“I will. Thank you.” Kaylah cracked open a creamer and poured it into her cup.  

Her cell phone vibrated. She dug through her purse, frantic to get to it. 


“Hey, Mama.” 

Closing her eyes, Kaylah savored the sweet sound of her eighteen-year-old daughter’s voice. These days, nothing seemed to set her back on an even keel better than Autumn.  

“Hey, baby, how are you?” she said, upon opening her eyes. 

As she stared out of the window, a small blonde girl charged along the sidewalk. Kaylah watched her and grinned as she skipped along, her pigtails bouncing. She remembered when her little girl was that age, curious and full of energy and endless questions.

‘Who’s that man, Mommy? Why do dogs lift their leg when they pee, Mommy? Why do I call you Mommy but my friend Bonnie calls one of her mommies ‘Mommy’ and the other one ‘Pam’?’  

It seemed like yesterday.  

“I’m okay,” Autumn replied. “I miss you, though.” 

More tears sprang to her eyes. “I wish you could meet me.” 

“Mom…we talked about this.” Another awkward silence stretched between them.  

“How are classes, baby?” 

“Good. I love lecture hall. Everyone else falls asleep, but I find it the most informative part of the week. I’ve learned so much about how things work here, and the teacher is an absolute angel.” 

“That’s good.” 

“I have this big assignment due in about a week, so I’m going to shut out all my new friends and funnel all of my energies into it.” 

“There’s a good girl. Make your mama proud.” 

“I will.” 

“You always do.” 

“Thanks, Mom. How’s the new house?” 

“It’s too quiet.” Kaylah picked at a paper napkin. 
“You’ll get used to it.” 

“I know. I haven’t got a choice.” 

“Have you met any people? Neighbors?” 

Still spellbound by the little person flouncing about, Kaylah watched as she and the adult accompanying her entered the café through the glass door, making the bell ring. 

“Why is that bell there?” the little girl asked. 

The question made Kaylah chuckle. 

“To let the servers know a new customer has entered,” the man with her answered. 

“Well, that’s just silly. They don’t need a bell for that when they have eyes.” 

Her handler hesitated, then he nodded his dark head at her logic. 

Kaylah paused at the mere sight of him. Very handsome.  

“Yes, I’m meeting people.” Kaylah turned her attention back to the conversation.  

“Good. I’m glad. Meet any men-type people?” 

“Autumn…” she cautioned, which prompted a giggle. 

Kaylah’s attention strayed back to the new customers.  

“What do you want to eat, Lindsay?” As she’d expected, Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome’s voice was deep. 

“I’m having trouble hearing you,” Autumn said. “You sound very far away. I’ll let you go for now.” 

“Oh, no, don’t. You don’t have to do that. I can run outside.” Kaylah felt the familiar disappointment. Would this separation ever become any easier? Autumn’s calls were what kept her sane.

“I’ll call you later…to say goodnight. All right?” 

“Okay. Talk to you then. I love you, Autumn.” 

“I love you, too, Mama.” 

Kaylah ended the call, but her attention was riveted on the other customers.

“What do you want, Lindsay?” The man prompted the girl again. Kaylah studied his back. He was solid, muscular and had incredibly broad shoulders.  

“Umm, fries and a Coke.” 

“Fries and milk,” he corrected. 

“French fries and chocolate milk,” she countered.  

“Deal. Go hop up at our table.” 

The girl turned and eyed Kaylah. 

She swung around and tugged his back pocket, directing Kaylah’s focus to the snug denim.  

“Uncle Salem, there’s someone at our table.”


“Then pick another,” he said while retrieving his wallet. 

“No, that’s our table,” she pouted, scowling at Kaylah. 

Kaylah made eye contact with the girl. With an exaggerated facial expression, she pointed at the table. “Is this your table?” she asked. 

The child nodded but wrapped her arm around her uncle’s leg.  

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’ll move so you and your uncle can have your spot. Would you like that?” 

With her lip still jutting, the girl simply stared at her.

“You don’t have to do that,” the distracted man said, after paying for their snacks. He shoved his billfold back into his jeans and turned fully in her direction.  


He approached the table, walking with a bit of a limp.  

“No, I don’t mind. I was leaving anyway,” she said, shuffling out from between the table and the banquet seat. As she straightened to her full height, she gazed up him.  

The little girl scooted onto the bench.  

He was a good-looking man in a rugged sort of way. A sexy layer of stubble coated his strong chin as if he hadn’t shaved that morning. He assessed her with shrewd hazel eyes as he yanked a worn ball cap from his head. A thick swatch of dark hair tumbled over his forehead, which he was quick to slick down. Yet, in contrast, the sides and the back were shaved close. No doubt Autumn would call it a ‘righteous flow’. 

“Please, don’t let us rush you,” he said, as he shrugged out of his plaid jacket. The cut of his black T-shirt fit snug to his sculpted biceps. “She needs to learn the world doesn’t stop for her. Her mom spoils her rotten as it is.” 

“Chocolate milk?” Kaylah called him out on how he’d caved to Lindsay’s wishes.  
Passing his hand over the back of his neck, he looked down at the floor then grinned. He had nice teeth and full lips. “Yeah, well, I’m her uncle. I’m allowed. Besides, we negotiated, right, Lindsay? That’s different.” 

“I’d rather have the pop,” she replied, dragging a napkin over the tabletop and now standing on the seat.  

“Aw, is that how it works?” Kaylah responded.  

“Hey, why don’t you join us? I see you’ve still got a full cup there.” 

“No, I’ve got to go, but thank you. Nice meeting you…both.” 

To her surprise, he stuck out his hand. She hesitated, staring at it stupidly before tucking hers in his. His palm was warm, his grip strong. A jolt of sensation shot up her arm.  

“Jerusalem Aames,” he introduced himself.  

Kaylah’s stomach clenched. Her vision tunneled. “Jerusalem?” she echoed in a whisper, peering into his eyes.  

Her head swam as the message on the bathroom mirror shimmered in her mind. 

Jerusalem,” she said again.

©Copyright H K Carlton 2017


5 Stars from Reviewer: Alberta  Manic Readers

By the time we find out the true story, Kay & Salem are deeply in love, but she has demons that Salem isn’t sure he can vanquish. I can’t say anything more about the story, without giving it away, so suffice it to say, it’s tender, loving, & totally worth the occasional tear it will evoke. Get it right away, & look for more by this author.
Read the full review HERE

From Amazon 5 more stars!
WOW! What a heartwarming, beautiful tale of two people struggling through the pain of unexpected disasters. I promise you that you will cheer for Kaylah & Salem to come together, their characters being so finely drawn by the author. Long past reading this page turner you will remember them. And wish them well. Not to mention the story is spicy hot with sexy, powerful scenes set against an intriguing backdrop. Throw in an unexpected plot twist that makes perfect sense in hindsight, one that you’ll never see coming or at least I didn’t, and you have the real deal. I look forward, with pleasure, to reading more books by this fine author.

Autumn's Healing 30% off at Totally Bound - On Sale thru November 1st

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