“I absolutely loved this novel.” Amazon Reviewer

Best Int 5 stars

~~~

Severely injured in an accident that forever changed her life, 10-year-old Olivia becomes another faceless, under-served 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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~~~

#FlashbackFriday: Meet Margot Schultz

Office manager Margot Schultz is the closest thing  closed-off attorney, Olivia Chandler, has to a friend. Margot doesn’t know all the details of her boss’ painful childhood, but she knows enough to understand Olivia’s quirky behavior and stunted emotions.

Margot returns in Family Matters.  Her loyalty to Olivia will be tested when another devastating loss leads Olivia to refuse help and push everyone away.

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Dynamic and vivacious Margot Schultz never met an obstacle she couldn’t overcome… or knock down. Executive assistant and office manager to child-advocate attorney, Olivia Chandler, Margot always seems to know the right amount of charm, wit, and panache to use when dealing with anyone from grumpy judges to cagey Department of Children’s Service employees to Olivia’s peers – some of whom are less-than-ethical.

Early in her career, Margot worked for some of the less than-ethical-crowd. While they could be gods and magicians in the courtroom, pulling out wins from seemingly unwinnable cases, outside the courtroom was another matter. Margot could remember each and every personal errand she’d had to do, each gift she’d had to buy for multiple girlfriends and mistresses, and every lie she’d told to one of her bosses’ wives.

When Margot heard through the courthouse grapevine that the executive secretary of a successful young, female child advocate attorney was retiring for health reasons and had no replacement, she grabbed her resume, took an extended lunch and went in search of Olivia Chandler. Despite her unusual approach, Margot and Olivia clicked immediately.

The two women have worked side by side for over ten years. Olivia admired Margot’s work ethic. She encouraged Margot to continue her education when time allowed, and even paid for it, calling it a ‘sound investment.’ Margot would eventually advance from executive legal secretary to executive assistant and office manager.

Margot knows Olivia has no family and was a foster care kid. She doesn’t know the intimate details, but she does know Olivia’s adolescence was bad enough for Olivia to keep herself closed off to most people. Her boss seems to ‘live’ when focused and working on a case for their minor clients. The rest of the time, Olivia just seems to exist.

The divorced office manager is not one of those people who believe a woman needs a man in her life to be complete, but Bruce Bellamy has suddenly appeared in Olivia’s life, and Margot will do her part to keep him there.

Things are going to get interesting.

~~~

Margot Rose (Parker) Schultz

Age: She’s not telling – but probably mid to late 40s

Born: New York, New York

Marital Status: Divorced – has adult twin sons who are both Marines

Is two classes away from a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management

Loves to dance and can be found on a dance floor most Saturday nights

Collects souvenirs from the Roaring 20s – always says she would have made a great Flapper

Plays acoustic guitar, but rarely does as it reminds her of her musician ex-husband

Is somewhat estranged from her parents and siblings since she dropped out of college nearly 20 years ago to elope with her now ex-husband

~~~

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Guard her soul or open her heart?


FM Choice


Olivia Chandler believed shunning personal relationships was her best defense to guarding her emotionally battered soul and never being hurt again.

Could she be wrong?

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~~~~~

Find out the back story.

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“In the Best Interest of the Child”

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Broken promises…

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Olivia falls back into old habits and defenses—a hard-line advocate for children during the day and a recluse by night, sequestered behind the large double oak doors of 4646 Beckwithe.

But it’s not as easy as she thought it would be… returning to the safety of the shadows. She’s seen as reckless and selfish, betraying those who have come to care about and trust her.

————————-

Snippet

Deciding a glass of Merlot would relax her, Olivia padded down the hallway from her office to the bar in the den.
Before she reached the den, the chimes of her front door bell stopped Olivia in her tracks.
Her thick eyebrows knitted together as she cast a frown toward the foyer.
I never get visitor’s so who’s at my front door?  She thought of  Bruce and for a brief moment her heart raced as the corners of her mouth tried to morph into a smile. But her brain stepped in, reminding Olivia she sent Bruce away.
With a reluctant change in direction Olivia headed for the front door.
The chimes sounded two more making Olivia believe the person on the other side had an urgent matter to discuss. However, she was still caught off guard when she opened the door.
“You are such a liar!”
The attorney recoiled at the bitter insult flung at her by Casey Bellamy.
“C-Casey -”
“I trusted you! I believed you! Your words and promise meant nothing… you’re just a liar.”
The young woman’s voice grew louder. Despite the wild look in her eyes, Olivia pulled her inside and closed the door.
“Don’t touch me.”
“Casey, please. I need you to -”
“I don’t care what you need, Olivia.”
“Please.” Olivia held her hands out to Casey Bellamy. “I’m not a liar. At least tell me what you think I’ve done.”
“Oh, my God! Save the clueless act, Olivia. It’s condescending.”
“Look, -”
She shoved an angry finger in Olivia’s face. “You said you would never hurt my dad. You promised me you wouldn’t, Olivia, you promised!”

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved.

———————–

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~~~

We all have “baggage”…

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Sometimes we can get so caught up in the drama of our own lives we fail to see… or understand what’s going on around us—even with those we care most about.

Such is the case with Family Matters‘ Olivia Chandler.

After losing her parents and spending her formative years in the foster care system, Olivia’s mental and emotional trauma was very real. However, it’s twenty years later, and while Olivia is a successful child advocate attorney, the pain of her childhood is never far away. Even though she enters into professional counseling, Olivia is obsessed with the totality of her own suffering and it leads her to push everyone away… even the man who wants to share her life.

Bruce Bellamy wasn’t a child when life knocked him down but that doesn’t mean it hurt any less.

He understands Olivia and will do what it takes to be with her, if only she’d let him. For the first time in fifteen years, Bruce is ready to risk his heart even though it didn’t end well the last time.

————————-

EXCERPT

When Bruce became a top name and moneymaker at the state level of racing, Joanna Hill was his steady girlfriend. And when Bruce gained national sponsorship and a spot on a professional team, Joanna became Mrs. Bruce Bellamy.
They led a charmed life for the next eight years. Their family grew by three and Joanna had everything she wanted—a big, expensive home, expensive cars, jewelry, an elaborate, designer wardrobe, and money in the bank.
What she didn’t have was an interest in Bruce’s career… just the money he made.
Had Joanna been paying attention, she would have known her husband was not happy. Bruce enjoyed racing and was a dedicated team member, but his heart wasn’t in it.
He didn’t want to race cars, he wanted to fix them, enhance them and make them high-performing machines. Like his father and grandfather, being an auto mechanic was in his blood and something he couldn’t shake.
When Bruce’s contract was up for renewal, he thanked his manager and team members, but declined. He felt good about his decision until he told his wife.
Joanna was livid.
Racing gave her the lifestyle she craved. How would Bruce take care of her?
Taking note Joanna said her and not her and the kids or their family, Bruce explained his plans to go into business with his dad and expand his current shop.
She scoffed at his pipe dream.
Bruce now realized Joanna would have left him right then had she not been four months pregnant with Breck.
At the time, however, he’d been hopeful. They had a great financial cushion and he had five months to show his wife everything would work out.
But things never go as planned.
Joanna sulked for the rest of her pregnancy, She paid little attention to Bruce or their children and never attended another Bellamy family event. Even on the afternoon Breck was born, Joanna gave him a cursory glance and requested he be fed in the hospital nursery.
Their home life turned into a nightmare.
Beds went unmade, Patrick and Casey were always late for school and Bruce’s family saved them from living on take-out.
Each day brought a new temper tantrum from Joanna. She wanted to take her mom to Vegas. She wanted to take her best friend to Hawaii. She wanted a nanny. The requests were endless, as were Bruce’s refusals.
Her disregard for him was annoying, but Joanna’s neglect of their children was inexcusable. His mother and aunt were at his home caring for the children so much his father and uncle complained.
Grateful for the assistance from his family and not wanting to cause anymore upset, Bruce re-thought the idea of a nanny. He hated the thought of giving in to Joanna’s selfishness, but he’d do anything for his family.
Life… and Joanna had other plans.
Arriving home late one evening, Bruce found his mother sitting in the family room and his children asleep.
The pained expression on her face bothered him but before he could ask why she was there, Bettie Bellamy blurted out, “She’s gone.”
He didn’t flinch.
“Do the kids know?”
She shook her head. “Joanna waited until they were asleep.”
Not up for any discussion, Bruce sent his mother home. When the tail-lights of her car disappeared from sight, he raced upstairs to his children.
Six-year-old Casey slept soundly in her Care Bear-inspired room. She clutched a natty Winnie-the-Pooh bear she’d been dragging around since her toddler days. Bruce kissed her forehead and went to the boys’ room next door.
Three-year-old Shaun and seven-year-old Patrick were asleep in Patrick’s bed after what Bruce was certain was an attempt to look at picture books by flashlight.
In the adjacent room, baby Breck lay in his crib cooing, preoccupied with his hand.
Bruce gathered him up in his arms and sat in the rocking chair next to the window.
He rocked his son long into the night. Even after Breck fell asleep, Bruce rocked, unsure of what to do next.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved.

———————–

Will Bruce be able to make Olivia understand everyone has baggage?

~~~

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~~~

#52weeks52stories “Dream a Little Dream”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 26

Word Prompt: dream

Word count – 2007 words; Reading time – 7 mins

~~~

She was here.

His day went from good to great.

Everything else fell away from his viewpoint as he focused on her every movement.

After clearing the east entrance to the park, she loosened the harness on the huge malamute and looped the leash around her wrist.

Mark Evans had seen his mystery woman at the park enough to know the massive dog who could be mistaken for a small furry horse, was named Midas.

Though his size was intimidating, Mark had never seen the dog misbehave and was sure his mystery woman had no need for the leash.

Mark followed her with his eyes as she and Midas did a slow jog around the park’s perimeter.

She wore no knit cap or jacket today because of the warmer temps of late spring. Her dark brown curls pulled back into a messy ponytail, bounced as she ran.

She was beautiful.

His Dream-girl.

Only she wasn’t a girl.

Mark guessed her age was closer to forty than thirty, and her thick thighs could be proof her park laps with Midas were the most exercise she saw on a regular basis.

But it wasn’t a criticism.

He admired every shapely inch of her.

Mark had never spotted his Dream-girl with anyone else and he wondered if there was someone special in her life. Or a child.

Her unhurried park visits coincided with his own—in late morning—and were more than enough time for her to give her beloved pet some exercise while a spouse was at work or children in school.

Yet, somehow Mark didn’t think so. While the love and attention Dream-girl lavished on Midas was genuine and showed no signs of ennui in her life, Mark picked up on signs of loneliness. The restless way she rested her hands on her ample hips while waiting for Midas to retrieve his toy. Or the extended hugs she bestowed on him for behaving.

Or perhaps Mark was amplifying his own feelings onto her.

After the third lap, Dream-girl and Midas went to their favorite spot on the grassy knoll.

Dream-girl slipped a bright green tennis ball from her pocket and lobbed it across the park. It didn’t matter how far she threw it, Midas always returned it, moving with a speed that belied his large frame. After dropping the ball at her feet, Midas would sit and wait for his reward, mysteriously pulled from a different pocket.

Mark wanted to know her name, what she did for a living, and what she did when she left the park. He needed to know everything about her.

He also wanted to know if she’d ever noticed him.

His park visits began several months ago as the brisk breezes of autumn gave way to the freezing cold of winter.

Mark didn’t mind the cold. It cleared his head and allowed him time to think.

It also made him feel alive.

Like a man.

His future was at first dark and bleak. And while he still had no guarantees, Mark had hope, something that had been missing from his life for too long.

Dream-girl and Midas wrestled when the dog realized she had put the ball behind her back.

Mark could watch her for hours. She got so much joy from playing with her dog.

Not like Bonnie.

Shep would be lucky if she remembered to let him out into the backyard.

But when Bonnie left him, she’d insisted on taking Shep since she picked him out at the rescue shelter. Mark found out from a mutual friend Bonnie sold Shep to a dog breeder less than a week later.

Just something else to add to the list of things he’d lost.

Laughter drew his attention back to Dream-girl. Her laughter was deep. Throaty. Sexy. She could tell him everything would be okay and he’d believe her, soothed by her sultry tones. Minute tinglings of desire buzzed through Mark and he smiled.

Midas scampered to retrieve the ball again and kicked it with his paw, causing it to roll in Mark’s direction.

After a few hesitant steps, the dog stopped and sat. He could not approach strangers.

Dream-girl gave him a quick pat on the head as she jogged past him to grab the ball.

“Good boy, Midas!”

After grabbing the ball, she stood and gave Mark a warm smile that lit up her face.

“Hello.”

He returned her smile.

“Hello. You have a beautiful dog.”

Her smile broke into a wide grin.

“Thank you. I think so too, but I may be partial. I’ve had the big moose since I could lift him with one hand.”

They shared a laugh as she backed away. “Treats will only hold him so long. I’ve got to get Midas home for his lunch… before he eats a park bench.”

Dream-girl turned back to Midas and Mark was elated and sad at the same time.

She spoke to him! She took the time to speak to HIM!

And now she was walking away.

He took a deep breath trying to steady himself when she turned to him again.

“Where are my manners? I’m sorry. I’m June. I’ve noticed you here before.”

Mark couldn’t keep the grin from his face. “I’m Mark. Nice to meet you, June.”

“You too. Well, I’ll see you around. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

She threw the tennis ball toward the east entrance and Midas ran, grabbed it and met her before she’d covered half the distance.

Mark watched dog and owner leave the park, still mesmerized by the encounter.

He’d been right about her age. The soft wisps of gray hair forming at her temples and the adorable laugh lines in the corners of her eyes proved she was close to his own age. Her caramel-colored skin was flawless and his fingers itched to touch her face.

And that voice. So deep, rich, and smooth Mark was sure someone had dipped him in hot chocolate.

He wished he’d had more time to talk with her.

“Okay, Mr. Evans. I think you’ve had enough sun today.”

But it wasn’t meant to be.

Miriam, his day nurse, slipped her book into her bag as she walked over to his wheelchair. She returned his seat to its full upright position before releasing the chair breaks and heading for the west entrance.

“Such a beautiful today, isn’t it, Mr. Evans? Not too breezy, not too hot. A perfect day to get some fresh air… and make new friends.”

Mark was glad she was behind him and couldn’t see his face. The wily grandmother was invading his thoughts.

“I couldn’t agree more, Miriam. And why do you insist on calling me Mr. Evans?”

“Because it annoys you and I can’t have you getting too complacent, now can I?”

They both chuckled as Miriam pushed him across the street and continued on to his three-bedroom home a half block away.

June. As warm and inviting as the month she shared a name with.

Her dark brown eyes sparkled like the stars on a clear June night when she looked at Mark.

At his face.

In his eyes.

Not at the chair which served as his prison for most of his waking hours.

Not at the legs held together at the knees by a strap and hidden by jeans now two sizes too big.

June may not have seen Mark Evans, the man, but she saw him as a whole person… and there was no pity in her eyes.

Mark was lost in thought as Miriam pushed him up the driveway and stopped to open the garage door.

He wished June could see him as he was before the accident. Mark would never be mistaken for a male model but he had worn the lost forty-five pounds well.

The accident had also cost him in other ways.

For a short time, he’d lost his memory, but even as it returned, his independence and personal freedom did not.

Paralysis had also cost him his marriage though Mark lost no sleep on that loss. He knew his marriage to Bonnie was a mistake, still, he tried to make it work. But her multiple affairs with younger men and her endless excuses for not starting a family killed any interest Mark had left and just a few short weeks before the accident, he’d decided to end the year a single man.

Though devastating and life-changing, the job-related accident gifted him with the fastest… and cheapest divorce possible.

Saying she didn’t sign on to be a nursemaid and that she wasn’t emotionally strong enough to handle Mark’s injury, Bonnie packed, filed for divorce, and fled even before Mark had a full prognosis.

Had she not been so quick to leave, Bonnie would have found out Mark’s years of paying long-term disability insurance premiums resulted in very lucrative benefits for him. And accepting full responsibility for the faulty crane which dropped the steel beam on Mark, Sunburst Construction avoided a lawsuit… and bad press by paying him his full claim. All eight figures.

Now Bonnie was shacked up across town with some muscle-bound idiot eleven years her junior who supported her with a part-time job as a bartender and selling illegal steroids.

Good riddance.

Mark Evans didn’t care about the money though. Except for paying for his round-the-clock care, his bank account went untouched.

What he was glad Bonnie didn’t know was he wasn’t a true paraplegic.

Initial tests first showed the tissue around his spine much too inflamed for clear test readings.

Mark had no feeling or movement below the waist and only minimal movement of his arms. Doctors were convinced MRIs and CT scans would soon show a severed spine.

It never happened.

It baffled doctors how an eight-hundred-pound beam could fall on a man and he not only survive it but also have no broken bones.

Mark Evans was living proof it could happen.

He was also proof swelling in spinal tissue could subside but it didn’t mean sensation in his legs and the ability to walk would follow.

His doctors were cautious in their encouragement but assured Mark the day might come when he could walk again.

Mark’s frustration with his situation soon became depression, and it was Miriam who insisted on taking him out for daily walks, forcing him to concentrate on something other than himself.

And that’s when he saw her… his Dream-girl.

Temperatures were dropping below freezing, but Miriam still insisted on his daily outing. She didn’t stop to read her book on those frigid days but she would push Mark around the paved concourse twice.

The park would be abandoned except for Dream-girl and her dog.

He marveled at her steadfastness and dedication to her pet. He decided any woman so loyal and committed to a pet would also stand by her man.

She occupied his thoughts as he created scenarios on what her life was like.

She occupied his dreams as he dreamed about what life would be like with her.

Miriam said something about lunch and Mark agreed, not sure what he was agreeing to. She pushed him up the ramp to the back patio doors and set the breaks while she opened the doors.

Now his Dream-girl had a name.

June.

And she knew his name.

Mark would give anything to run and play in the park with June and Midas.

It could happen.

It was just four days ago Mark spilled his morning coffee in his lap… and he felt it. Not just the sensation of the weight of the heavy, damp fabric, but also the warmth of the coffee. This morning he’d wiggled the toes on one foot. He’d tell Miriam before Chuck arrived and she left for the day. Mark knew she’d give him hell for not telling her sooner, but she would also be thrilled for him.

It was happening. He would walk again one day. He knew it.

Mark also knew his infatuation with June may never get past greetings in the park and comments about Midas.

But he had hope.

And he had his dreams.

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Writer Wednesday | “Family Matters”

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Even though loss shaped Olivia Chandler’s life, she never learned how to deal with it. Thrust into the foster care system as a child, little Livvie Chandler was told to ‘just forget’ and ‘be good.’ And for twenty-eight years, that’s what she did.

In this short snippet, Olivia finds out Willis Benson is terminally ill. The executor of her father’s will has been protector, mentor and surrogate father to the closed-off attorney.

Olivia moved on after her father’s death and her mother was sent away, but this could be the loss that sends her spiraling out of control.

***

“How long has he known?”
“Since July.”
“July?” Thoughts and images raced through Olivia’s mind. She spent time with Willis five or six times in the last four months. And never suspected a thing.
“How-”
“No one knows. Two weeks… two hours. Any answer would be a guess.”
“That’s unacceptable, Ian. His condition must tell them something. Who is this doctor? Maybe we should get a-”
“Olivia, stop.”
She frowned.
“Dad signed a DNR.”
Dizziness and nausea gripped her. Heat enveloped her body as sudden fatigue caught hold and dragged her toward the floor.
Ian was the only reason Olivia didn’t fall. He held on and propped her against the wall.
Ian spoke to her but Olivia heard no words. Her jumbled thoughts were of Willis Benson, the man in the brown suit she met as a ten-year-old. The only constant in her life since that fateful day when everything changed.
Ben Chandler planned well for his daughter’s future. But it was Willis Benson who fought for Olivia… and her mother. He risked his own job future and status in the firm to carry out Ben’s wishes.
When Olivia turned eighteen and took partial control of her inheritance, Willis was at her side. He answered Olivia’s questions and gave mild guidance, but Willis insisted she make her own decisions.
Years later when Olivia refused to visit her mother ever again, Willis accepted it and continued to stand by her.
Now Olivia needed to accept the fact if… no, when Willis suffered another cardiac episode or seizure, no life-saving measures would be taken.
He would die… and leave her.

****

After winning her young client’s custody battle, Olivia Chandler knows she can no longer hide from her own childhood trauma. With support from Bruce Bellamy and his family, she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother for the years Olivia spent in foster care. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of forgiveness?

Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. But her continued refusal to visit her mother pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce. The unexpected death of her mentor blind-sides Olivia causing her to withdraw back into the darkness of her mind. She pushes everyone away… including Bruce Bellamy.

Defeated, Olivia Chandler believes it her fate to concede to the same trauma-born mental illness that took her mother. But two voices, one from the present and one from the past, will challenge her to fight for the future her father intended for her to have… or succumb to madness.

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