Interview with Sarina Chandler from the upcoming “Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2)”


Good day, WordPress bloggers and authors! Today we welcome a very special guest to the blog—Sarina Chandler, from the upcoming Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2). Sarina is the mother of Books 1 & 2 protagonist, Olivia Chandler.

SC: Excuse me?

FD: Yes, Mrs. Chandler?

SC: Well… technically, I was in book 1, too.

FD: Yes, ma’am you were. But only in a flashback or two, and you weren’t… um, yourself. I thought it best to not approach the subject.

SC: Oh, please! Now you sound like my daughter, not approaching the subject! I was crazy as a loon, out of my mind, off my rocker! It’s not as if I planned it or wanted to be committed to an institution and leave my daughter.

FD: Of course not, ma’am. I’m sorry.

SC: Please call me Sarina… and I’m the one who should be apologizing. I shouldn’t have been short with you. It’s just… I’ve missed most of Olivia’s life and a big part of my own. It angers me, I just have no one to be angry with.

FD: May I ask… when did your mind begin to clear?

SC: It’s been… about a year.

FD: What was the first thing you remembered, Sarina?

SC: *Looks down, fidgets with hands* The accident.

FD: Sarina, if this is too much for you…

SC: No, it’s fine. I’m fine. I’ve been silent for a third of my life. I need to talk, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to share that story first with my daughter. I owe her that… she deserves that.

FD: Not a problem, Sarina. Glad to hear Olivia is coming to see you.

SC: Well…

FD: Sarina?

SC: I don’t know for a fact she is coming.

FD: Pardon?

SC: I talked with Willis a few weeks ago. Willis Benson, the administrator of my husband’s estate. He and Olivia are close. I asked him to see if my daughter would visit me. But… it’s… been a few weeks now, and nothing.

FD: I’m sorry.

SC: Ugh! Stop apologizing already! Olivia and I were separated twenty-eight-years ago! I can’t expect her to make a quick decision for something like this.

FD: Why do you feel it’s such a difficult decision for her?

SC: Felicia, you know the last time I saw my daughter she was a ten-year-old. We had no other family and when I voluntarily came here… Olivia spent time in foster care. I’m told she last visited me five years ago… and I didn’t know who she was. I’m sure she has some resentment issues with me… and I can’t blame her.

FD: Is there a specific reason you want to see your daughter, Olivia, other than simply a mother missing her child?

SC: *Sighs* I need to apologize to her… for leaving her. While it wasn’t intentional or could have been changed, I still left her. Even if she never forgives me or sees me as her mother, I have to say the words.

FD: Why is that so important to you, Sarina?

SC: I had… issues with my parents. Before Ben and I married, I hated them. Afterward, I reached out to them for a fresh start but was ignored. I gave up, but if my mom had softened just a little and acted like she cared about me, I would have been there for her. It never happened. I don’t want to hide behind the walls of this place and allow Olivia to believe I don’t love her. I must try.

FD: I’m sure you will, Sarina. I’m sure you will. I hope Olivia decides to see you.

SC: So do I, Felicia.

FD: Thank you for visiting with us today, Sarina. I know it wasn’t easy.

SC: It’s easier than accepting I’ll never see my child again. She just has to come.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Child-advocate attorney Olivia Chandler has made major progress in overcoming her childhood trauma and issues with abandonment. However, her refusal to see her mother is having a negative impact on her new romance with Bruce Bellamy and everyone Olivia is close to.

Olivia enters specialized counseling for adults who suffer from childhood trauma but hinders her own progress when a major loss sends her spiraling back into the emotional comfort of the shadows in her mind.

With her sanity at risk, Olivia Chandler needs answers to break free from the traumatic stress which holds her captive, but the answers lie with the one person Olivia refuses to see.

Sarina Chandler.

Olivia Chandler’s journey continues in Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2), coming August 2017.

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“In the Best Interest of the Child”

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“Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2)” by Felicia Denise #CoverReveal


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“Family Matters”

Series: In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2

Author: Felicia Denise

Cover Design: Jenn Cunningham

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: August 2017

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Synopsis:

Olivia Chandler’s journey to wholeness continues as she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of Olivia’s forgiveness?

A Halloween party brings together a surprising group of people, and Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. Another Bellamy has a second chance at love – if he can put his old-fashioned ways aside.

The death of someone close to Olivia has her re-thinking the value of emotional connections. She withdraws from everyone, falling back into her old habit of burying herself in work. A surprise confrontation pushes Olivia to her limits and puts her heart on the line.

Her continued avoidance of confronting Sarina Chandler pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce Bellamy. Olivia must make a decision. Save them… or surrender to her emotional demons.

Excerpt:

“Olivia Chandler? I’m Sandra Riley, Sarina’s case manager.”

The tall woman grasped Olivia’s hand into both of her own, shaking briskly. “We’re so glad you’re here today. This is a big step forward for your mother.”

“Nice to meet you, Sandra, and honestly, it’s a big step for me too.”

“Oh, I’m sure, Olivia. Any questions for me before you visit with Sarina?”

Visit with Sarina. She made it sound so cute and homey, Olivia thought.

“Does she know I planned to be here today?”

“Yes, she does. When Sarina asked about you a few weeks ago, she said she also knew you’d have little or no reason to want to see her, but she’d always hoped you come someday.””

Olivia stared at the woman blankly, not knowing how to respond to the comment.

“I’m sure this is confusing, Olivia, and now isn’t the time for me to explain all that Sarina has gone through, but please know she is fully cognizant of her aging, of you, her late husband”, Sandra paused only for a second, “she even remembers the accident. It’s everything between the accident and a few months ago that’s fuzzy for her. It’s as though a switch was flipped off in her brain that was recently turned back on.”

Olivia frowned but didn’t ask the question on the tip of her tongue.

“May I see her now?”

“Of course! Follow me.”

The case manager’s long legs covered the distance across the sitting area in no time at all, with Olivia almost scurrying to keep up with her. Margot and Randie teased Olivia about her brisk walking pace, but she had nothing on Sandra Riley! Olivia would guess Sandra to be at least six feet tall… and light on her feet.

Reaching an unmarked door in the far corner, Sandra held it open for Olivia, who walked through and found herself standing in yet another sitting room, only this one resembled the average family room. Large, comfy chairs, throw rugs and even a flat screen television graced the area.

“Welcome to Honey Ridge East, Olivia.”

“Honey Ridge East? I don’t understand.”

Sandra pointed to a bulletin board on the wall near the door they’d just come through.

“The residents here are grouped by floor, the severity of mental disorder, and the amount of care and supervision needed. The healthiest, most independent residents reside here in Honey Ridge.”

“My mother is here… in this section?”

She nodded.

Olivia tried to digest the information. Her mother was healthy? Required little or no supervision? Trying to reconcile this new Sarina with the bedridden, incoherent woman she last saw five years ago was difficult for Olivia.

“How long has she lived here?”

Sandra pursed her lips, thinking. Then she nodded.

“I’m pretty sure Sarina was here for the group’s Valentine’s Day dinner dance, so that makes it eight months.” Sandra tried not to laugh at the horrified expression on Olivia’s face.

“Don’t be shocked. We also have Easter Egg hunts and 4th of July barbecues. The residents got a big kick out of the Halloween hay rides.” Sandra leaned in towards Olivia, “ And I hear Santa will visit on Christmas Eve.”

Shaking her head, Olivia was incredulous.

“What kind of mental hospital is this? I mean, um…I thought…”

The case manager guided Olivia past the sitting area while answering.

“River Ridge Meadows is a private care, private pay, voluntary commitment facility. We’re fully licensed by the state and the federal government. Insurance isn’t accepted here, and no resident is here against their will. We currently have one hundred and sixty-one residents ranging in age from seven to eighty-six. Most are from throughout the state, but there are a few from other parts of the country, and even four from Europe. River Ridge has two permanent, board certified psychiatrists, two permanent, board certified medical doctors, six psychologists, and a nursing staff of 40 which includes licensed physical therapists.

The residents here are used to a certain way of life, and we provide that here, within reason. That’s why we also have an event planner and a social activities director on staff.”

Sandra stopped at the top end of a short hallway. “But we have all the time in the world for me to tell you about River Ridge, and even give you a tour, if you like.” She nodded towards the end of the hall. “Your mother is expecting you.”

Olivia pressed her hand against her stomach, the tiny nervous tremors threatening to morph into a full-fledged earthquake. Heat enveloped her body as the familiar tang of bile crept up the back of her throat. Closing her eyes, the nervous woman tried to will the anxiety away.

You’ve come this far, Chandler, don’t you dare freak out now!

 

~ Author Bio and Links ~

A wife, mother, daughter, sister, blogger and indie author, Felicia loves all things book-related and coffee-related. A southern girl by birth, the fifty-something, voracious reader now resides in Arizona (via Michigan and California) with her husband of thirty-three years. Their three adult children also reside in Arizona – with their dogs. Felicia frequently reminds them she is the only one of her parents’ nine children who isn’t a grandparent.

Writing has been a hobby of Felicia’s since grade school, but other than serving as editor and writing for her high school newspaper, she never publicly shared anything until the early 2000s when she began writing fan fiction. At the urging of a good friend, Felicia took on the challenge of NaNoWriMo in 2015, writing what would become her first published book, In the Best Interest of the Child, released in the fall of 2016. Her latest book, Free, a Novella, released May 30, 2017.

Sometimes serious and always sarcastic, Felicia continues her literary search for the ultimate non-alpha, non-billionaire, non-bad-boy hero with a non-sassy, non-feisty, non-bad-decision-making heroine whose relationship exemplifies true romance. Recommendations are always welcome!

 

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“My daddy’s dead, my mom’s in a coma and I have no one.”


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“In the Best Interest of the Child”

Author: Felicia Denise

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: September 30, 2016


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What Readers Are Saying!

“Debut novelist Felicia Denise definitely knows how to capture her readers’ attention with the depths of the characters she presents along with the layers of subplots that support the main story line very well.”

“Ms. Denise has done a wonderful job on her first novel. I loved the ending; Looking forward to book 2!”

“LOVED IT!! In The Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise is a powerhouse novel, overflowing with emotion and real life messages…”

“Can’t wait for Book 2. This new author is incredibly talented. Suspense, romance and drama all in one book, you get it all.”

“Let me tell you, Bruce is pure charm. I have never read a male lead with more sincere charm than this man and Felicia wrote him so well…”

“Olivia Chandler is honestly the type of woman I aspire to be in life. She is strong and confident…”

 

Excerpt:

Rena Averest was holding in an incredible amount of emotions. Pain, loss, fear, and even anger were waging war inside her, and not knowing how to deal with them at the same time, she held them all in. Olivia had seen it too many times. She had lived it.

Livvie stared at the wall, willing her tears not to fall.

“Oh, sweetie. Please don’t be angry. It will only make you feel worse. Everyone was only thinking of what was best for you”, the nurse cooed. She reached out to touch Livvie’s arm, but stopped short and pulled her hand back.

The child met her gaze with a defiant glare.

 “You wait days to tell me my daddy’s dead, and now days later, you tell me they already had his funeral.”

 “Honey, you were so weak, and your social worker said it was best for everyone not to tell you at the time, and just let you get better.”

 “What social worker?”

 “Your social worker, Mrs. Jenkins.”

Livvie’s eyes widened.

 “That tall woman with the ugly hair and mean face is my social worker?”

 “Livvie! That’s not nice!”

 “I only remember seeing her once, and she never looked at me… not one time. I don’t want her to be my social worker!”

The nurse sighed heavily.

 “Certain decisions have to be made for you right now, Livvie, and since you’re not an adult, the state has to step in and help out.”

 “What about my mom?”

The nurse looked away and smoothed the bed covers.

“She’s still in a coma, isn’t she? And you weren’t going to tell me.”

Straightening her back and standing to her full height, the nurse’s voice took a firmer tone.

 “You have no idea what your body… and your mind have been through, Livvie. As a child, you’re not able to understand how serious this all is.”

Livvie pushed herself into a sitting position, wincing from the pain.

 “My daddy’s dead, my mom’s in a coma and I have no one. People who don’t even know me get to tell Little Livvieme what to do.” She continued before the nurse could speak. “We don’t have any more family. We only had each other. So strangers buried my daddy, and no one told me. I’m ten and a half, not stupid.”

She reached for the child, but Livvie pulled away, wincing again.

 “I didn’t even get to say goodbye. My daddy’s gone… and I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

 “Livvie, I’m so sorry-…”

Ignoring the pain, Livvie turned on her side with her back to the nurse and spoke in a hushed tone.

 “Go away. Just go… away.” Livvie exhaled when she heard the door open, then close. The tears she had fought so hard to hold on to, now wouldn’t come at all. She wanted to scream and cry.

 She wanted her daddy to run into the room and save her. Instead, she felt as if the lump in her throat would choke her. Livvie massaged her forehead slowly and closed her eyes.

“Why did you leave me, daddy? I’m so scared, daddy. I need you.”

Livvie felt her legs and back begin to throb and knew someone would come to give her medicine soon to stop the pain. The medicine would make her sleep and she wouldn’t have to talk. The thought made her smile slightly and remember another time when she couldn’t talk.

She’d had her tonsils removed two years ago, and despite being able to eat all the ice cream she wanted, she still cried because of the pain. Her daddy sat close to her on the bed and rubbed her back.

 “It’s okay to cry, Livvie-Lou, everyone cries. But I’m going to need you to work towards being strong for your dad. Too much crying is not good for your throat and I know you don’t want to go back the hospital. And you know how your mom feels about hospitals.”

Livvie opened her eyes suddenly.

She had no idea how her mother felt about hospitals.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2)

Coming August 2017

Cover Reveal June 29th!

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Good Morning, Mother

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52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 23

A scene from an ongoing WIP. Much to the horror of her family, Quinn Landon has filed for divorce from her adulterous husband. Her family doesn’t miss an opportunity to bully and berate her for ending a “sacred” union, and the number one bully is her mother.


Feeling rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep, Quinn danced around the kitchen to her favorite playlist while making herself a quick breakfast.

Today was the end of the work-week for Phero’s staff since Friday was a company holiday — the founder’s birthday.

Ronan Gaetan decided if countries could celebrate long-dead presidents, document signings, and wars, why couldn’t the company he started from the ground up celebrate his birthday as a paid holiday? For twenty-four years, Phero’s four sites in the U.S., Italy, and France honored their founder by not working on the date of his birth.

Quinn knew it was a concept American corporations would never embrace.

She planned to spend her day off at the Veteran’s Outreach Center. Quinn found volunteering there for the past five years personally rewarding, and it had given Quinn perspective.

Her current situation was not ideal, but helping others get back into the mainstream of living made Quinn realize how fortunate she was. Work kept her from volunteering for several weeks, and now she was anxious to reconnect with the men and women whose trust she’d earned.

Pouring her first cup of coffee, Quinn headed to her breakfast nook to go over her calendar for the day when her phone rang. Swearing under her breath, she reached for the cell, knowing only one person on the planet would call her before six in the morning.

“Good morning, mother.” She could hear Katherine Clark chuff over the phone.

“You sound awfully pleasant this morning. I’m at a loss at why you’re so chipper when you’re breaking your husband’s heart.”

And there it was… again.

“I’m doing great, mom… thanks for asking. How are you and daddy doing?”

“Don’t be flippant with me, young lady!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, mom. Give me a blindfold and a cigarette at dawn if I’m ever flippant.”

“Where did I go wrong with you? Honestly, I believe you’re being stubborn just to defy me.”

Quinn inhaled slowly… her anger building.

“Yes, mother. This is all about you. I’m divorcing my lying, cheating, low-down snake of a husband just to spite you.”

“Quinn Avery! Do not speak to me in that manner.”

“What do you want, mother? I mean, besides for me to stop the divorce proceedings, which is never going to happen. What do you want?”

“I want you to be reasonable, dear, and think this through. No good can come of a divorce. It will only leave you both bitter and disillusioned.”

“Too late, mom. I got over the bitterness after Oscar’s THIRD affair… you know… FOUR affairs back? But the disillusionment? That’s still hanging around. Mostly because I cannot understand why MY family paints me as the villain when it was Oscar who mocked his wedding vows and disrespected our marriage.”

“You’re still young dear, and learning about the little indiscretions of men.”

Quinn had enough.

“I’ll let you get away with saying one affair is an indiscretion, mom, but seven? That’s just an unfaithful, disrespectful jerk. And I’m three years away from forty, mom — hardly a child. While some women may feel it’s okay for men to stray, I’m not in that club. I hold everyone to the same standards — honesty, fidelity, trust. I no longer have any of those with Oscar. Way past time to end our farce of marriage.”

“Marriage is for a lifetime, dear… and ordained by God.”

Ding, ding, ding! Katherine Clark was hitting all the markers today.

“The union of marriage is ordained by God, mother, but if God didn’t bring two people together, why is He used to keep them together? And, correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t adultery the only acceptable reason for divorce in the Bible? And isn’t it listed in the Big Ten?”

Katherine Clark was silent.

“Oscar has been to church only a handful of times since we were married — you don’t get to play the God-card with me, mom.”

“People in our family do not get divorced, Quinn. You know this.”

Quinn chuckled.

“Yes, I do know, mom. I’ve seen the photos of long dead relatives who would rather have had their tongues cut out than divorce.”

“Quinn-…”

“I watch my brothers and their wives, barely able to be in the same room with each other, but too afraid of upsetting you, so they languish in marriages that should never have been. I do not intend to spend my life that way. I’m not stopping the divorce.”

“Your brothers are all happily married!”

“No, mother. YOU are happy they’re married. Myron and Aaron both never smile anymore. They bring their families for Sunday dinner to appease you and daddy, but always look like they’d rather be somewhere else.”

“You do not know everything, young lady. Aaron and Cecelia are talking about having another baby. They’re very much in love.”

“Oh mother, please! They’re talking about it because you suggested it. Cecelia is just as unhappy as Aaron and wants to be closer to her family back east.”

“Cecelia has loving family right here.”

“No, she has you and daddy, always butting in trying to run their marriage.”

“Quinn Avery! How dare you? I will not tolerate your disrespectful attitude!”

“Then we should end this call, mom, because I’m just being honest. I refuse to live in your fairy tale. Enjoy your day, mom.” Quinn ended the call, gripping the phone tightly. She took a couple of deeps breaths, then gently placed the cell on the counter.

Quinn emptied her now-cold coffee down the drain, and poured a fresh cup. A faint smile graced her lips. She’d endured one of her mother’s self-serving phone calls and was already mentally moving past it — all in less than twenty minutes.

Quinn remembered times when the same phone call would have thrown her off her game and ruined her entire day.

Not this time.

Things were definitely looking up.

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Need a Good Read for the Weekend?

Livvie in the hospital

“I’m ten and a half, not stupid.”

In the Best Interest of the Child

Severely injured in an accident that forever changed her life, 10-year-old Olivia becomes another faceless, underserved child in foster care. With no time to mourn or grieve, the young girl is easy prey for uncaring social workers and ambivalent foster families.

Olivia quickly learns to hold her tongue and mask her emotions. Even when exposed to neglect, bullying, and assault, no one seems to care. Holding fast to the teachings of her late father, Olivia ages out of the system broken, but no longer a victim.

Now a successful child advocate attorney, Olivia is a passionate voice for children. However, a routine case assignment by the court plunges Olivia back into the trauma of her childhood. If she doesn’t face her demons, a child will be sent into foster care, and Olivia will lose the only chance at love she’s ever had…or wanted.

Foster care for her young client is not an option. But Olivia’s emotional scars run even deeper than she realized. Reconciling with her past means Olivia must confront the one woman she blames for her battered soul.

A woman who has no idea who Olivia is.

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Anderson Bell and His Dead Lobsters


Lobsters


Anderson is my protagonist for a proposed full-length romance novel. This is not a story excerpt, but more character development.


How many seafood wholesalers does it take to sell five hundred dead lobsters? Just one. One slimy, sleazy, lying bag of garbage! Rage still coursed through Anderson Bell. Focusing on the road, he took deep breaths trying to calm down.

This was a rare feeling for the forty-seven-year-old restaurateur. Running an upscale restaurant with as many as one hundred employees during the summer months had its own unique stressors. Overbooked reservations, rude dinner guests, sick employees and late supply deliveries were weekly issues Anderson had long ago put in their proper place…deal with it and move on.

He’d learned this as a child from his father.

But the lobsters. The dead lobsters. The five hundred. Dead. Lobsters.

A sense of foreboding swept over Anderson when the delivery truck driver rang the exterior bell for entrance to the back lot.

He was six hours early.

Anderson immediately headed for the delivery bay. Falling into step behind Vance and Eric, two members of his stock crew, the three men silently approached the bay doors. Eric threw the release lever, and the doors began to rise. Anderson couldn’t wait. Just as the doors reached waist height, he bent over and went under them, walking out to the end of the dock.

The driver was already at the rear of the semi, releasing chains and keying in codes to get to his precious cargo. However, before he was finished Anderson could smell it. Spoiled food. Decay. Rot.

The driver smelled it too. He frowned as he caught hold of the door latch and swung the door open.

Simultaneously, the four men took several steps back and turned away. The odor was indescribable. During a special assignment, back in his Air Force days, Anderson’s unit had stumbled upon the decomposing bodies of murdered locals. The fumes coming from the truck were ten times worse.

Vance suddenly ran to the truck, slamming the door closed.

Eric gagged.

Feeling a wave of nausea, Anderson took a few more steps away from the bay and tried to inhale fresh air in through his nose. Turning back to the truck, he saw Vance advancing on the driver.

“Man, what the hell is this? You got shit for brains or something? Those lobsters have been dead for days!”

“I-I…I didn’t know. I just picked the trailer up less than an hour ago!” He backed away as Vance approached, his hands raised in front of his face.

Returning to the edge of the bay, their words replayed in Anderson’s head. Dead for days. Picked up the trailer less than an hour ago. He didn’t like where this was leading.

Jumping off the dock, Anderson’s face didn’t reflect the pain that shot through his recently repaired ACL. Gesturing for Vance to stop, Anderson questioned the driver.

“What’s your name?”

“Dell. Dell Hanks.”

“Was this a scheduled run for you, Dell?”

“N-No, sir. I just got in this morning with a load of coffee from Georgia. I was ahead of schedule and my boss will get every damn second out of you he can. Anyone else would have let me go home to sleep. But Paul said he’d just got a call for a local run I had to do before my shift timed out. He gave me two addresses. I was to show up at the first one, and they would hook up the trailer, then take the load to the second one — here — and it would be unloaded.”

“Son of a bitch!”

Anderson glanced at Eric who had figured out what Anderson was already thinking.

He’d been scammed.

Anderson Galen Bell had been a mild-mannered, easy-going person all his life…much like his father. A successful and well-respected dentist, Arthur Bell believed life was far too short to spend it angry and vengeful. He and his wife, Sara, had taught their boys it wasn’t so much about turning the other cheek, as it was deciding their own path and who they allowed to control them. His line of thinking didn’t always work, but it had served Anderson well for most of his life.

Now was not one of those times.

“Eric. Vance. You guys get the protective gloves and masks out of storage. And bring some for Mr. Hanks, here.” The driver tried to protest, but Anderson cut him off. “This goes above and beyond anyone’s job description. You, as well as my men over there, will be well compensated for disposing of this nightmare.”

Dell’s eyes widened at the thought of making a few bucks.

“You’re not going to call my boss, are you?”

“As far as I’m concerned, Dell, you made your delivery and went on your way.”

The long-distance trucker visibly relaxed.

“Now, do me a favor, and pull the rig around to the incinerator. It’s to your right over there, down a small incline. Eric and Vance will meet you over there and you can give these poor crustaceans a…proper cremation. Don’t dump the water. God only knows if it’s toxic or not. I’ll go call the water treatment plant.”

Trying not to visibly limp, Anderson returned to his office. Placing a call to the water treatment plant, he wrote down the instructions for getting rid of the tainted water. He then made out three checks, each for five hundred dollars and sealed them in individual envelopes. Turning to his computer monitor, Anderson scrolled through his recent invoices until he found what he was looking for, and made several notes.

Satisfied, Anderson attempted to stand. Pain shot through his knee, causing him to cry out and fall back into his chair.

Dammit! Dr. El-Kass had warned him about doing too much too soon. He had not been happy when Anderson cut his physical therapy short and returned to work. The doctor told him one wrong move could not only undo the repair but also do additional damage.

Anderson Bell had grown tired of sitting around at home with his leg up.

He had an efficient staff and good managers. Luminarias did good business whether he was there or not, and the customer feedback box was always full of compliments for food and staff. But the summer months were special to Anderson. As a child growing up just outside Detroit, Anderson’s family made several day trips to Bayview during the summer, and always spent the first two weeks of July there, without fail. Those trips were the best times of his life, and Anderson couldn’t miss out on another chance to try and recapture the simplicity and innocence of his youth.

Bayview was gearing up for the arrival of tourists and no less than ten festivals before the cool breezes of fall swept in off the water.

Anderson had to be a part of it. It was all he had to look forward to. The restaurant and the days of summer.

Not much of a life, but it was his.

He’d lost his dad to bone cancer six years ago. Sara Bell died less than a year after her husband from a heart attack. Anderson’s brother, Lawrence, lived in northern California. His parents each had one brother and neither had ever left Pennsylvania as his parents did. Anderson knew little or nothing about them or his cousins.

He was alone.

Taking a deep breath, Anderson slowly rose from his seat. The pain was subsiding, his knee almost numb. He knew that meant swelling.

Dammit!

He didn’t have time for this.

Anderson grabbed the bottle of anti-inflammatory pills and swallowed two without water.

Taking a few steps toward his office door, Anderson tried not to limp. He didn’t want to stress his knee or appear weak in front of his staff.

He also couldn’t appear weak during the errand he was about to run.

Clutching the envelopes in his hand Anderson Bell went in search of his day manager, Gayle Norman. He frowned finding her office empty. Passing the banquet rooms, Anderson heard Gayle’s deep throaty laugh. Following the sound, he found Gayle at the beverage counter instructing the newest member of his summer staff on the proper way to change the filters in the ice maker.

“Did I demote you?”

Gayle turned at the sound of Anderson’s voice, already laughing at his comment.

“Bennie’s wife went into labor, Nina had a flat tire on Old Highway 14, and Willie fell off his porch this morning. Broke his wrist. I am the wait staff right now.” Laughing at her own words, Gayle gestured at the young woman next to her. “This is Donna, the new hire I told you about a couple of days ago. She wasn’t supposed to start until next week, but she has prior experience, which I need today. Donna, this is Anderson Bell, the owner.”

Anderson shook hands and exchanged greetings with the pretty African-American young woman, and turned back to Gayle.

“Vance and Eric are doing a disposal job at the incinerator. A delivery driver is helping them. When they’re done, give them each one of these.” He handed her the envelopes. “And give this to Vance — I have a quick errand to run.” Giving her the instructions to dispose of the near toxic water, Anderson was already thinking about his next stop.

Shaking her head, Gayle pointed at Anderson’s leg. “That knee says otherwise.”

“I’ll be fine, Gayle, and this won’t take long”, bowing as he backed away, “thank you, ma’am!”

Anderson almost believed he would be fine until he reached the doorway and turned. The jolt of pain caused him to freeze in his tracks. Checking over his shoulder, he saw the two women were back to work and hadn’t noticed his misstep.

Exiting his restaurant, Anderson quickly made his way to his late model Chevy Tahoe. Taking one more look at the address he’d scribbled down, his anger easily reared its head again as he pulled out of the parking lot.

Last Day of the Valentine’s Book Sale and Giveaway!

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“In the Best Interest of the Child” #Excerpt

Best Interest_Full_Revised

In this short excerpt from In the Best Interest of the Child, Olivia Chandler is meeting Bruce Bellamy for lunch. There is a definite attraction between the two, but both are holding back – though Bruce…not as much! Enjoy!


Having arrived fifteen minutes early, Olivia took a few minutes to visit the ladies’ room to check her hair and makeup, and wash her hands. She was glad no one else was around because every time she glanced at her reflection in the mirror, she couldn’t stop herself from grinning. “Get a hold of yourself, Olivia Louise! It’s just lunch with a man. You’ve done this more times than you can count.” Exhaling slowly, Olivia hung her head. Yes, lunch with a man who seems to like me. Lunch with a man I actually like even though I just met him. Olivia groaned and leaned against the sink. She should never have agreed to this. Bruce seemed like a decent man. He didn’t need to be getting involved in the dark pit which was her life. But even if she walked out the restaurant right now, Bruce would not disappear. Courtney and Marissa were his

Olivia groaned and leaned against the sink. She should never have agreed to this. Bruce seemed like a decent man. He didn’t need to be getting involved in the dark pit which was her life. But even if she walked out the restaurant right now, Bruce would not disappear. Courtney and Marissa were his family, and he was very much involved in Rena’s life. The silly grin returned to her face. Honestly, she didn’t want him to disappear. They may never do more than have lunch, but Olivia wanted it badly. She wanted to be normal and have a life without her past hanging over her like the Sword of Damocles. Steadying herself with a couple of deep breaths, Olivia decided to stop hiding in the ladies’ room and talking to herself like a crazy person. She grabbed her handbag and went in search of her lunch date.

As Olivia approached the hostess stand, the young woman working there smiled. “Good afternoon, I’m Connie.” Olivia returned her smile and gave her Bruce’s name. “Yes, Ma’am. He’s already here.” Laughing, Olivia shook her head slowly.

“That man. Of course, he is.” The hostess smiled but looked confused, not understanding the joke. Olivia waved her hand. “It’s nothing. Lead the way.”

Olivia tried to spot Bruce as they approached the main dining room, but was caught off guard when the young hostess turned right and proceeded down a short hallway. No stranger to the Black Dragon, Olivia knew there were formal banquet rooms in the opposite direction, but she’d never been down this hallway. The hostess stopped in front of a small elevator. “I never realized the restaurant had an elevator. I thought it was a single story building.” Connie nodded.

“You’re right, it is.”

“Then where does this lead? You have a basement?” Covering her mouth to hide her giggles, Connie nodded.

“We do, but trust me, you do not want to go down there. This elevator goes up to the mezzanine.” The elevator doors opened as she finished speaking, and both women stepped inside.

“Well, I didn’t know you had one of those either!”

“Few people do. The owners don’t advertise it much. It’s usually for special guests or customers who request a more…intimate setting.” Olivia’s eyes quickly widened. Connie gave her a knowing grin.

Intimate setting? She had no time to process the hostess’ comment. The doors opened. Connie took a step outside the elevator and motioned to the left.

“Your date is right over there.”

“Date? But this isn’t a da-…” Connie quickly stepped back into the elevator, leaving Olivia with a wink as the doors closed.

“What am I going to do with this man?” She only had to take three steps before she spotted Bruce. Olivia froze as her mouth gaped open. Rising from the table, Bruce walked towards her. Olivia still had not moved, too in shock at his appearance. Gone were the weather-beaten jeans and worn Henley shirt. The thick heavy work boots? Gone too. The Bruce Bellamy standing before her was elegantly attired in a charcoal gray, two-piece Brooks Brothers suit and gray Sardegna Loafers. And he’d had a haircut. He leaned in and kissed her cheek.

“Good to see you again, Olivia.” He glanced at his watch. “And right on time. Why am I not surprised?”

Olivia still stared at him, wide-eyed.

Bruce frowned. “Olivia? Is something wrong?”

Taking a deep breath, she finally found her voice.

“Who are you? And what’s all”, she motioned up and down his body, “…this?” His big boyish grin returned as he took her hand and led her to their table.

“I’m a successful businessman having lunch with a gorgeous, successful attorney in one of the city’s finer restaurants. I couldn’t very well show up in jeans and boots, could I?”

“Well, no…but- “

“And besides, I had to show you I could dress myself and behave appropriately in public.”

Olivia threw her hands up, laughing.

“There you are, Bruce! How nice to see you again!” Filling their wine glasses, Bruce stopped mid-pour to keep from spilling it the laughter hit him so hard.

Laughing along with him, Olivia visibly relaxed and placed her hand on his arm.

“And just so we’re clear, Mr. Bellamy, I like you in jeans and work boots too.” The smile he gave her nearly took her breath away. Suddenly self-conscious, Olivia placed her hands in her lap.

Bruce didn’t miss the gesture but continued pouring the wine while changing the subject.

“Would you like to look at the menu, or do you already know what you want?

“No menu needed! I definitely know what I’m having!”

He chuckled as he handed her a glass of wine, then signaled for the waiter.

“I had a feeling.”

Olivia smirked.

“Think you have me figured out already, Bellamy?”

“Not even close, beautiful one. But I do look forward to the adventure.”

She grinned at the compliment and the comment.

“Oooo! I’m an adventure!”

Bruce couldn’t help but stare at her face. The way her eyes sparkled, the genuineness of her smile. She was the same woman he met in his cousin’s driveway, but there was no sign of the sadness he saw in her eyes that day. He had long ago made peace with his own issues of abandonment, but this woman was the first woman to actually make him want to risk his heart again. Bruce was getting lost in Olivia Chandler, and he had no problem with that. His cheeks reddened as heat rose into his face when he realized the waiter and Olivia were staring at him. “I’m sorry. What?

“Where did you go, Bellamy? Are you ready to order?”

He nodded.

“Of course, but ladies first.” Olivia clasped her hands together excitedly.

“I’d like Yum Nuah salad, Tom Yung Kung with shrimp, and with steamed rice, and Pad Thai with chicken…extra spicy, please.” Bruce’s eye widened. Olivia frowned. “Is that too much?”

“Not at all. It just sounds like my usual meal here. But my brother goes on and on about me not trying new dishes, so I promised to try a different entrée on my next visit.” He turned to the waiter. “I’ll have the same as the lady, but instead of Pad Thai, I’ll have Phad See-ew with beef.”

After the waiter left, Bruce folded his arms and leaned towards Olivia. “So…how long have you been into Thai food? The dish names usually confound most people, but you seem to have memorized the menu.”

Olivia laughed while shaking her head.

“Only my favorite dishes. And like you, it wouldn’t hurt me to try something new.” She folded her arms on the table and leaned in his direction. “I first had Thai food during my intern days. This place wasn’t open yet, but Siriwat’s was around the corner from the courthouse.”

“And your boss always had lunch delivered to keep you working, right?”

Olivia shook her head. “It was more the boss’ wife dropping in and reprimanding him for working me so hard, and dragging me out of the office to Siriwat’s. After one visit, I was hooked.”

“Wow! The boss’ WIFE? Sounds like you made an impression.”

“Miss Dee is good people. She and Judge Dennison have always been kind to me. He’s actually the judge who assigned Rena’s case to me.”

Bruce whistled.

“He must be really confident in your abilities. I knew you were a legal shark!”

“I am not a shark! The judge just taught me to pay attention to the details, and what is not said. I’ve never forgotten that, and it’s always seen me through, especially with the difficult cases. What about you? When did your love affair with Thai food begin?”

He refilled their wine glasses, while Olivia wondered when she’d emptied her glass.

Slow down, Chandler.

“That is yet another story in my life which involves Court.”

She smiled remembering their antics.

“You two are really close, aren’t you?”

“As brothers. He seemed to be at my side during all the important moments of my life. Including my introduction to Thai food.” They shared a chuckle. “It wasn’t too long after Joanna, my ex-wife had left. Mom and dad had taken the kids for the weekend. I’d planned to use the time working on cars, but Court shows up, says he’s hungry and orders me to get in his truck.” Olivia grinned.

“HE ordered YOU?”

“Never underestimate Courtney Bellamy. He may not be a big man, but he’s all muscle and heart. He’s dropped me on my ass more than a couple of times.” She laughed aloud and he scowled. “You laugh so easily at my pain.”

This made her laugh even harder. Olivia buried her face in her hands, embarrassed as Bruce continue to stare at her.

“I’m so sorry, Bruce. I don– “

“Don’t ever apologize for laughing, Olivia.” He reached over and pulled her hands from her face.

Olivia placed one on the table, but Bruce had not released the other. She didn’t pull away.

“Or for enjoying yourself. Makes me feel good to know you’re comfortable with me.”

Still holding his gaze, Olivia slowly flipped her hand over until they were palm to palm, and squeezed.

“I’m very comfortable with you, Bruce, and yes, I am enjoying myself.”

Bruce froze. The squeeze of her hand and the sexy timbre of her voice had gone straight to his crotch. She was flirting with him and he loved it! Bruce assumed from her demeanor, Olivia would be a tad more skittish. Perhaps she truly was comfortable with him…maybe even liked him a little. He deftly adjusted himself under the table.

“But you didn’t finish telling your story about you, Courtney and Thai food.”

“Oh yeah. Well, he gets me in his truck and we drive over to Blaine. I think we’re headed to Mike’s Dugout for meatloaf and mashed potatoes, right? He pulls up to this tiny little building near downtown. I have no idea where we are because the name is not written in English. I ask tons of questions before we even get out of the truck, and Court just said, “Trust me.” I follow him inside like a big goof, and the aromas hit me in the face. It smelled like every food dream I’d ever had.”

Olivia’s brows furrowed. “Food dream?”

“Yes, food dream. Women are not the only thing men dream about.”

“Good to know.” She smirked.

He pulled a face at her and continued. “Court had only been there a couple of times himself. Of course, introduced to it by the Mighty Marissa, so we asked the owner to bring us an order of whatever it was we smelled, and keep it coming.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep. I’m sure I had at least three orders of Pad Thai and Tempura vegetables.”

“What appetites!”

“The food was great, but it wasn’t just that. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to admit how I felt about Joanna walking out on the kids and me. The family knew I was hurt and upset, but Olivia, I was pissed off…and it felt good to say it. Even if she didn’t want to be with me, what kind of woman walks away from her children? Breck wasn’t even six months old! And she just…leaves.”

Olivia tightened her grip on his hand. She understood all too well how it felt to be abandoned. But she couldn’t share that with him…could she? He made it look so easy to admit his feelings. He was open and honest. No. She couldn’t tell him her story. He’d see how thoroughly damaged she really was and walk away. Olivia knew she couldn’t have Bruce in her life forever, but she greedily wanted whatever time with him she could get. Just the chance to feel normal for a little while was better than not at all.

Bruce appeared lost in his thoughts too when she spoke. “It must be wonderful for you and Courtney to have each other to lean on. And you mentioned a brother?”

He cleared his throat.

“Actually…I have–“ Bruce was interrupted when the waiter appeared with a huge tray of hot food, followed by a co-worker with still more food. Olivia gasped.

“Bruce! What did we order?”

“Oh no, no, no! Not ‘We’…YOU. I was just following your lead, Counselor.” Glancing at the food-covered trays, he added, “And I hope you have more than a thirty-minute lunch hour.”

“That’s your defense? Blame me?”

“Only if it’s working.” One of the waiters turned away and covered his mouth to keep from laughing. “Olivia, you’re disturbing these gentlemen while they’re trying to work.”

Her mouth flew open. Then, she didn’t even try to stop the laughter bubbling forth. Neither did the waiters.

The couple chatted amiably as they devoured the hot and spicy food. Bruce loved that Olivia wasn’t one of those women who wouldn’t eat in front of a man, choosing to munch on lettuce and sip water instead.

Olivia couldn’t remember a time when she’d had more fun, and was so relaxed. Bruce was easy to talk to and attentive. She reveled in his admiring glances, so different from the leering, lecherous looks she learned to ignore around the courthouse. He told her about building up his business until he had the current dozen auto shops – and plans to open two more – and Olivia suggested new advertising ideas to him because the guy doing his commercials always looked sleepy. Learning the guy was actually a supervisor at one of Bruce’s shops, and that he had taken acting lessons at the local college especially for the commercials, caused Olivia to nearly choke on her food.

“You okay?” Bruce stood behind her, patting her back and trying not to laugh.

“I’m glad…you…find…this amusing, Bellamy,” Olivia sputtered, the coughing only made worse by her laughter.

“Here, try this.” Sliding his large hands under her upper arms, Bruce raised them straight up into the air. Within seconds, her coughing stopped. Leaning her head backward, Olivia looked up at him, frowning.

“Where did you learn that, and why did it work?”

Bruce was momentarily speechless. Staring down into her eyes as she leaned back against him tested all his resolve. He knew Olivia was special. When he dared consider his future, he saw her by his side. Bruce didn’t know how or why, and he wasn’t about to second-guess himself. He hadn’t wanted to spend more than a few hours with any one woman since Joanna left. He’d known Olivia Chandler less than a week, and he couldn’t get enough of her. Bruce hadn’t even had the pleasure of kissing Olivia, but he would wait for that too. He would do what it took to make the vision of his future a reality, but it would never happen if he followed his carnal mind in this moment. Bruce quietly exhaled, grateful for the chair separating his hardening erection from Olivia’s back.

“Just something you pick up during the journey of raising kids.” He slowly lowered her arms, then side stepped behind Olivia to adjust himself. Clearing his throat, Bruce returned to his seat, sitting down extremely slowly. “You know kids…little scamps. They can turn a quiet movie night into a high-speed car ride to the emergency room in a heartbeat. Happened to me more times than I care to remember. And boys are the worst. I took Casey, my daughter, to the ER one time in eighteen years, when she had the flu and spiked a high fever. But those boys?” He shook his head. “Science experiments gone wrong, superhero stunts, bike races…no matter what they were into, an accident could…and usually did happen.”

Olivia didn’t miss the faint smile playing on his lips.

“I’m glad everyone was okay…eventually. But, you look as though you enjoyed it.”

Bruce grinned. “Every last second!”

“Sounds like they are lucky to have a dad like you.”

“No, I’m blessed to have them. My life may not have gone the way I intended, but my children saved me. Without them, I would have been just some loser guy spending way too many evenings sitting in a bar. Having them made me see what was truly important.”

Olivia nodded slowly.

“Yes, they are definitely lucky to have a dad like you.” The slight tilt to Bruce’s head let her know he didn’t understand. “I have no problems believing you would do anything for your children.” She glanced away unable to hold his gaze. “There are far too many people on this planet having children and then treating them as an afterthought, or even a burden. Some even believe their young children owe THEM something.”

“I didn’t miss the fact you did not refer to these people as parents.”

“No. Bringing life into the world does not make one a parent.”

“I guess you see a lot of ugliness in your line of work.”

Olivia was still looking away, focused on a spot in her mind she couldn’t clearly see when she heard him.

“Excuse me, what?”

Looking concerned, Bruce grazed his fingers across the back of her hand.

“Where did you go?”

Embarrassed, Olivia tried to slide her hand away from his, but Bruce gently, but firmly caught her hand and held on.

“I meant what I said the other day, Olivia. I’m a good listener. Anytime you want to talk, I’m available. No sermons, no judgments, not even any advice. I’ll just listen.” He watched her slowly raise her head to look at him, and squeezed her hand as the pain he saw hit him like a punch in the gut. What haunted this beautiful, intelligent woman? She was engaging, witty and funny. She spoke with purpose and authority. But, something triggered a memory. An event? A person? Bruce wasn’t sure, but whatever it was caused Olivia’s walls to rise swift and high.

“Thank you, Bruce, I just may take you up on that.” He smiled as he felt Olivia squeeze his hand in return. It gave him hope.

“I hope you do, Olivia. I’ll take any opportunity I can get to look into those beautiful eyes of yours.” Before Olivia could respond, Bruce raised her hand to his lips while his eyes were still lost in hers, and kissed it gently. He didn’t miss the slight tremble in her hand nor her barely audible gasp. He was not in this alone. Olivia was affected too. Neither spoke for several seconds, both of their minds…and pulses racing. Olivia leaned towards Bruce about to speak when the Imperial Death March from The Empire Strikes Back began to play. Bruce’s eyes widened, then he smirked. Olivia had already buried her face in her free hand, totally embarrassed.

“Guess you’re a really big Star Wars fan, huh Olivia?”

Raising her head, Olivia tried to avoid glancing in Bruce directions as she slipped her hand down into her bag to retrieve the offending cell phone.

He leaned in trying to glance at the screen. “Who merits such an ominous ringtone?”

Olivia’s lips twitched as she tried to decipher the text. She figured it out on the third try and her mouth fell open.

“I’m going to kill her!”

Bruce watched Olivia, amused and curious. She finally met his gaze, smiling sheepishly.

“My office manager, Margot. She can be a bit of a…pain.”

Frowning, Bruce asked, “Has she fouled up a case or upset a client?”

“Oh, no. Nothing like that. Margot’s a jewel. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

“And yet, you want to kill her? What am I missing?” He leaned in again, still trying to see the cell screen.

“As an executive assistant and office manager, she’s the best. As a friend, Margot can be over-the-top pushy.”

Recognition dawned in his eyes.

“Was that text about me?”

Olivia dragged her hand over her face. “Just kill me now.”

Bruce pumped his fist in the air.

“I’m trending with the women!”

Olivia roared with laughter. “There’s only two of us, Bellamy. I hardly call that trending.”


What readers are saying…

“I can’t wait to read the next installment, and I highly recommend this book to everyone. I don’t care what your preferred genre is, read it.”

“I wanted to read the whole book in one sitting but had to pace myself because I wanted to savor the wonderful words that Felicia has written.”

“LOVED IT!! In The Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise is a powerhouse novel, overflowing with emotion and real life messages that quite frankly NEED to be said...My heart strings were pulled from cover to cover!”

“Fantastic debut for Felicia Denise. Incredible character study.”


Best Interest front cover

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Valentine’s Day Book Sale and Giveaway! #Sale

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Romancebooks.blog is a platform for collaborative author marketing events that provide great romance books at great prices to romance readers.  A few times a year, we will host sales of romance books at deeply discounted prices.

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