Today we have a special treat! A sneak peek at our upcoming romance, Love Overcomes by Angela Schroeder. Read below CHAPTER ONE & get your copy on November 4!
Shoving back a curl that had fallen into her face, Arabella neatly folded tiny T-shirts to place into her son’s little red Avengers suitcase. Quiet footfalls stopped in the doorway, and she glanced over her shoulder to see her older sister leaning lightly against the doorframe of Liam’s room.
“How’s it going? Are you two almost packed?” Clara asked.
“Almost.” She replied. “I’m just finishing up a few last things for Liam. Are you all ready?”
Clara shrugged her shoulders, glancing around the room as if one of the pieces of furniture might have the answer. She blew out a breath and her voice cracked when she finally spoke. “Yeah, I packed … Then I unpacked and repacked different stuff. I couldn’t really decide what I should wear out there.”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Arabella smiled encouragingly.
“Well, yeah. Not everyone gets their book turned into a movie.” A grin flashed across Arabella’s face. “So, they actually want Winnie to be there, too? Do they realize he really does eat everything? The studio will be empty before they know it. ”
“They want to see the dog that inspired the book. The animal trainer asked if I could bring him.” Clara gave a slight shake of her head and a small smile. “I don’t even know why I have to be out there. I don’t know anything about movies.” She picked up a tiny pair of blue jeans, folded them, and handed them off to her sister.
“I’m sure they want to have your point of view. It makes sense. I read in some magazine that Kelly Martin was an on-set consultant when they made The Afterlife of Lizzie Monroe into a movie. Besides, it’s just a month.” Arabella considered her sister who was now nibbling on her bottom lip. She was glad, for Clara’s sake, that the flight to California was tomorrow. She knew a lot of the stress of the trip was just waiting for it to arrive.
“That was a really good movie. Of course, the book was better.” Clara smiled and visibly relaxed, clearly choosing to move on to a different subject. “We should take the DVD with us. We can watch it on the plane.”
Arabella nodded, her mouth scrunching up. “Have you seen Liam? I don’t know where he put No Hop. If I don’t take that ratty thing he will cry for days.”
“He’s at the farm house getting spoiled. But, I think I saw No Hop on the couch down in the living room. ”
The two of them walked out of Liam’s bedroom and down the stairs. Arabella paused in the living room to collect Liam’s beloved bunny, turned back, and chucked it expertly up the stairs. It plopped on the ground directly in front of the bedroom doors. Clara raised her eyebrows.
“Just want to be sure not to forget it later.” Arabella laughed. “Did you drop off the flower garden quilt to Mrs. Johnson?”
Clara nodded, “She said it was perfect for her granddaughter’s bedroom.”
“Of course it’s perfect. Everyone loves your quilts. How many orders do you have to work on while we’re in California?”
“Only two. I figure if I hand stitch the pieces together during my free time, I can have both the quilts ready to be sewn together when we get home.” They stepped out into the hot, sticky July air and Clara groaned. “Do you think it’s this humid in California?”
“Isn’t it humid everywhere in July? I doubt California is much different than Iowa when it comes to that.” They walked across the gravel drive toward the large farmhouse, leaving their little cottage behind. An enormous white dog bounded up to them, jumping to put his muddy paws on Clara’s shoulders. “There’s our super star. Where’s your side kick, little man?” Clara asked, rubbing the big dog’s ears. Arabella looked at the wet muck on Clara’s shirt and rolled her eyes heavenward.
“I sincerely hope they were not playing together.” Her eyes searched across the large yard until they landed on a tiny, three-year-old little boy covered in mud. A very audible sigh escaped her.
“Good luck with that.” Clara grinned. Arabella watched her sister walk off toward the house while she continued on to her little mud monster.
“Momma, I made a mud castle!” Liam’s white teeth were brilliant against the mud covering his face, and his blue eyes shone triumphantly.
“I see that. We need to get you cleaned up for dinner. Where’s Mema? You were supposed to be with her.”
His muddy hand grasped hers.
“Getting carrots.” He bounced as they walked toward the house. “Mema says I get to go on an airplane.” His voice went a little shrill as he spoke, and his legs bounced a little higher.
“That’s true. But, first, you need a bath,” she laughed.
Arabella smiled down at her son. He was the one good thing that she had done in her life.
Before leaving the farm in Iowa, the sisters had searched for a hotel that was within their price range. Because Winnie would be staying with them, their options had been limited a bit, but eventually they had settled on one that seemed decent enough. The studio had given Clara a small advance, and they’d used the money to pay for the hotel for the month of July.
The exterior of the building had at one time probably been white, but now boasted a depressing rainbow of chipping paint, and an older ice machine down by the office hummed loudly enough to hint of impending mechanical death. They walked the length of the building, cringing as they passed a room filled with the sounds of angry shouting. They stopped three doors down, and Clara slipped the keycard in the lock as sirens wailed down the street.
Inside, they found two queen sized beds, a dorm fridge, and old box television sitting on a wall-length dresser. The small breakfast table with two chairs completed the standard cheap motel room decor. Closing the door behind them, Arabella pursed her lips and surveyed their surroundings. Bracing herself, she flipped back the covers of one bed.
“Well, okay, the outside is kind of scary. And obviously the picture on their website was from like 1988. But, at least the room doesn’t stink … And the sheets don’t have stains. Actually, they’re soft and they smell like Tide. It could be worse.” She shrugged and set Liam down. He leapt onto a bed with No Hop swinging in his hands.
“It is just as humid here.” Clara’s lower lip jutted out in disappointment. She walked to the window air conditioner unit and flipped it on. She stood for a moment and then smiled. “But the air conditioning works perfectly.”
“Winnie likes our room.” Liam grinned, watching the fluffy behemoth rolling on his back on the carpet.
Arabella snorted a laugh and got to work unpacking. The bathroom had a harsh florescent bulb that flickered when it was on, but at least that was also clean. The walls, floor, sink, tub, and toilet all shone white as if the cleaning staff had been liberal with the bleach. Laying out toiletry items, Arabella found herself humming.
“We have to be at the studio first thing tomorrow morning.” Clara’s voice called over the loud buzz of the bathroom fan.
“That’s fine. Let’s just eat breakfast in the room then.” She came out of the bathroom and grabbed the bag of essentials they’d picked up at a grocery store down the block. Opening the dorm fridge, she put the milk, juice, and a few bottles of water in the door. She stocked the remaining cold items quickly, cramming the little space full of lunchmeat, cheese, fruits, and other quick meal options.
“By the way, I set up a few readings and signings for you while we’re here,” she said casually, setting a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter on the dresser and mentally crossing her fingers.
A groan loud enough to be heard over the hum of the air conditioner made her look up to see Clara vehemently shaking her head from side to side. The color had drained from her cheeks. “I don’t want to do any. You know I don’t. Call them back and tell them that I can’t make it. Tell them … Tell them I couldn’t make it out here because of a severe case of the stomach flu.”
“A severe case of the stomach flu?” Her nose scrunched up wryly at her sister.
“It may as well be. All those people looking at me? I will definitely get sick. It’d be a shame to vomit on some innocent kid. Cancel, Arabella.” Clara plopped down into a chair.
“But you were okay at the library at home.”
“I knew almost everyone there! That is totally different than reading in front of a bunch of strangers. It’s not going to happen.”
Arabella sighed and sat on the edge of the bed that Liam was sitting on, bouncing No Hop’s little body up and down. “Okay, I get it. But it is really good publicity. I guess, as long as you go, I could read for you. They said you could take Winnie—well, two of them said that you could take him. The other place said their insurance wouldn’t allow it. So, you could just keep him still while kids pet him, and I’ll read the story. That way, all you have to do is sit with your giant dog and sign the books after I’m done. Alright?” She twisted open a bottle of water, handed it to Liam, and grabbed a second one for herself.
“Sure, fine. But seriously, please don’t set up any more. Three is enough.”
“Did the studio decide if Liam and I are allowed on the set? Or do we need to stay here while you are there?”
Clara smiled, color returning to her cheeks. “They said it’d be alright since they’re not actually filming anything yet. You just have to wear visitor badges. I guess there is a little park on the studio lot right next to the building where I’ll be working. You and Liam can always go play there if you get bored.”
“Great. I just don’t want to be in the way.” She glanced at her watch. “Are you hungry? Liam needs to eat. I could run across the street to that burger joint if you want.”
“Sure. Liam and I will take Winnie for a quick walk.”
Arabella pulled a small container of pepper spray in a cute pink case out of her purse and handed it to Clara. Before they had left home, she had bought a few bottles that clipped onto a belt loop or purse strap. The one in her front pocket was a blue leopard print.
“Pink pepper spray, Ara?”
“Hey! There’s no reason we can’t be safe and fabulous.” She teased. “Seriously, though, be careful, and don’t talk to anyone.” She said earnestly.
“We’ll be back before you are,” Clara assured her.
She nodded, kissed Liam on top of his head, and left to get their dinner.