I'm excited to show you all the cover for my next release. Mice and Marriage will be released September 28. I had such fun writing it as it's so different in some aspects than any other book I've written.
Walking in, he sauntered over to the picnic table the young woman was standing on. The thin plastic tablecloth was bunched around her feet as she turned around several times while he approached. Dressed in blue jeans, red wool pea coat, with her hair covered by a white knit hat, she looked to be in her late twenties. She was pretty but not stunning. She reminded him a bit of someone, but he couldn’t think who.
“Looking for something?” Turner asked as he neared the table.
Her eyes, big and round, spied him and became wider. She was surprised to see him. “A mouse. There was this huge mouse.” She spread her arms wide apart.
Turner, who had seen mice and rats all over the world hadn’t ever seen one that large, so he merely grinned. “Afraid of mice?” He stuck his hands in his jacket pockets. The early November day was chilly, and the open garage door made the room the same temperature as the outside. It wasn’t an issue while he was riding, but tucking his hands away felt good.
“Have you ever had one crawl up the inside of your pant leg? It’s a horrible feeling,” she said.
Turner was familiar with the experience and not eager to repeat it, but in a large pole barn in an urban area that wasn’t likely. Being the gentleman that he was, he figured it was up to him to aid the lady in distress.
He stood next to the picnic table and was now looking up at her. From his jacket pocket, Turner pulled the Velcro straps he wore at his ankles, controlling his pant legs as he biked if he weren’t dressed in riding clothes. Today, he had on jeans. He’d removed the straps and put them in his pocket just before he locked his bike.
“These will keep the mice from crawling up your pant legs, though I’m not sure one that large could get up them anyway.” Turner wrapped each pant leg with a strap around her ankle. Slim ankle. Shapely leg too, he noticed as he helped her down to the concrete floor. “I think you might not want to use this tablecloth.” He picked it up and shook out the wadded mess her feet had made. There were wrinkles and tears over most of it.
“Um, no, I suppose not.” She bit her lip, then began to laugh. “You must think I’m pretty ridiculous. My scream probably gave the mouse a heart attack.”
“Very likely. He’s probably in the next county by now running from you, scared for his life.” Turner smiled and held out his hand. “Turner Metcalf, at your service.”
“Oh, I’m Noelle Copeland.” She held out her gloved hand, and he took it, holding on a bit longer than necessary as he shook it. “Metcalf? Are you… Yes, you’re Kyria Jenner’s brother. I remember you now from the wedding.”
“That’s right. I was there. I don’t remember you though, and I’m sure I would if we’d met.”
A sadly shadowed expression crossed her face. “I kept a pretty low profile that day. Going through a rough patch in my life.” The smile she gave was forced, he could tell. “Better times now.”
Turner wondered what the rough patch was but didn’t ask. Two reasons crossed his mind. First, it was none of his business, and second, he wanted her to smile again.
The chirp of his phone took his focus away from Noelle. Checking the message, he read it, then said, “That’s from Kyria. She’s going to be late. Some decision about the house construction.”
The smile he’d wanted to see on Noelle’s face returned. “That’s happened a lot lately. I was so happy they moved here to Benton when Mark got the job at the hospital. I really like your sister. She’s becoming a good friend. I wish we could spend more time together, but between my work and the boys, her starting her decorating business, and building their house, finding that time has been tough. I get to see them at Hutch’s or the Jenners’ but not often enough. At church some, too.”
Noelle took the tablecloth from him and moved to toss it in the large black bag lined garbage can. Turner saw a pile of bags with more tablecloths and opened one, pulling the plastic sheet out. Together, they began covering the table after she wiped it down with a wet rag.
“So, this event is a Harvest Hop? Not exactly sure what that is,” Turner said. He had a general idea, but figured the topic would lead to more conversation.
“The church holds it every year for the children of the church and the area. It’s a way to do some outreach. Maybe get some families to see the reasons behind Thanksgiving and Christmas rather than just pigging out and buying presents. There are games and races and food, of course. A hay rack ride. They used to have an apple dunking, but too many kids got too wet doing it. Hutch gives a short talk about priorities and such. It’s fun. My boys love the quarter hunt.”
“Yeah, they’ll spread a couple of bales of hay out on the driveway and mix a few rolls of quarters in them, separated of course. Then, the kids dive in and hunt for the quarters. They divide the kids up into age groups. They love it. Get all itchy with hay in their clothes, but my boys don’t care.”
She’d mentioned her boys several times. Was she married? Turner glanced at her left hand. She wore no gloves as she worked with the slippery plastic. Her left hand had no rings, but when she reached to give him a corner he could see where a set had been; the indent was still faintly there.
Now he had a clue as to what the rough patch was. Noelle’s marriage had broken up. Not that long ago either.
“You have boys? How many?” They spread the cloth on the table and began another.
“I have two boys, Camden, who’s six and in first grade, and Mace, who’s four and in preschool.” She smiled as she told him, then it faded. “They’re with their dad this weekend. I’m hoping he brings them tomorrow.”
“You don’t sound very optimistic about the prospect.”
“I’m not. Ever since Brad decided his girlfriend was more in tune with his needs, he hasn’t been really keen on going to church sponsored events.”
Turner could empathize with that. He wasn’t necessarily too interested in church events either, although with the pretty, young woman standing at the other end of the table smoothing the plastic tablecloth, he might just enjoy one. Or more.
Mice and Marriage
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