As a Multiple Sclerosis patient, it has become necessary for me to reinvent myself. I have ... and continue to ... refuse to lie down and die, or in this case, follow the normally prescribed drugs and treatments that do nothing to defeat my disease. I am not only surviving by pursuing alternatives, I am thriving. I do the things specialists told me I would never be able to do. I walk and hope to one day even run regularly. I retain my cognitive and creative abilities for the pleasure of my readers. Although you may never see me on my daily walk, you are welcome to read my novel(s) and in doing so, come to ask yourself, "How can the 'out of the box' protocol she has followed, help my loved one with an autoimmune disease like Multiple Sclerosis?"

Dark Days of Promise - Inspirational Romantic Suspense

Inspirational Romantic Suspense

Link to purchase from publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing.
Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Chapter One

"Um … Janine?" I dropped the letters I'd just tugged out of the mailbox decorated like a big, orange jack-o-lantern, and pointed at the four men in green dress uniforms approaching my front door. My mouth tasted like the Salt Flats.
Janine, my best friend and elderly neighbor, glanced at the house and back at me. "Vicki, it's going to be okay. Even the darkest of days hold a promise of good things. I'll be right here beside you."
I tried to breathe. I thought I had shielded myself from this ever happening to me with the divorce. I was wrong. Dead weight in both legs impeded my instinct to flee. With Janine leaning on her cane at my side, I raced for my front door in slow motion, each step seeming to come slower than the previous one. Struggling with the implications, I willed my feet to move. Step, step… now lift your foot. One step ... two, you can do it, just one more. I couldn't breathe. I advanced to the porch.
I sidestepped between the army green uniforms, ignoring the need for a polite acknowledgment. My hand, below the frayed sleeve of my faded red shirt, looked old and froze to the doorknob before resorting to automatic pilot. An unconscious reflex spurred me to open the door and usher them inside. The door hung wide, welcoming what I dreaded. I shrank back as though the officers would assault me. Janine came through the door, accompanied by the chaplain.
"Missus Laramie?" The taller officer glanced at his notes. "Victoria Laramie?"
I nodded, gripping Janine's aging arm, my whole body feeling numb.
I stared at each one in turn, focusing on the rotund officer. His initial words eluded me until, "... The President of the United States and we regret to inform you ..."
Shock turned to dismal horror at their news. My survival instinct put their voices on mute. I shook my head to rid myself of the awful nightmare.
They must be mistaken. Missing in action, but not dead.
My mind recoiled in open rebellion although in my mind I could see Marshall's cold body, covered in blood. The officers' expression's filled with gentle compassion. The weight descended upon me with venomous force, I backpedaled to reach the couch before I collapsed. Janine staggered under my weight. The chaplain caught my arm, taking care to lower me to the sturdiness of the couch, relieving Janine of her physical burden.
Their arrival provided information I couldn't absorb at the moment. Most of what they said sifted across the stifled and chilling air in the room without settling.
Can't they see what they're doing? I couldn't help feeling my life, my children's lives, the lives I'd worked so hard to stabilize, peeled away, layer by delicate layer. My automatic pilot persisted, their words not registering. A new and overwhelming task bore down on me, taunting me to tell the children without shattering the precious image of a father I'd woven. You mean the lie you've so convincingly developed. A lie I wanted to believe, did believe, sort of. Reality crashed down with the thunder of cruel finality. I reached for Janine, frail and aging, my life preserver.
"These are the personal effects recovered with his body." The officer pressed a small package into my lifeless hands. Immersed in shock, my mind gathered every memory of Marshall with frenzied detachment, hoarding them in my mind for our, my children.
"I'll stay with her," Janine assured the officers. "She'll be okay."
They closed the door behind them, the cruel military business of death complete for the moment, leaving me with the sickening pain.
Janine remained at my side while the weight of bad news settled on my shaking shoulders with devastating cruelty. She located a box of Kleenex, setting it on the coffee table. I sank into her outstretched arms becoming motionless, denying the bitter news, and clutching the unpretentious packet to my chest, caressing it. I cursed. How could he do this to me? Why tell me first and not his parents? I knew why. It didn't make this any easier. The divorce agreement stipulated inasmuch as the children and I still received his financial support, the news be delivered to us. If Phillip were ten months older, they would have pulled him from school, telling him personally.
I shook the contents out of the parcel onto my faded blue jeans. Marshall's bible and a small picture of the children fell into my lap. Their three laughing faces glowed in the candid snapshot. I should be crying, or should I? I smothered an irrational urge to laugh at myself, so totally unprepared.
I picked up the bible, fanning the pages. Tiny sand granules drizzled onto my lap. Folded within its pages I found a letter, his lucky ace of spades, and a snapshot.
I stared at the picture of Marshall standing arm-in-arm with another man in the center of the photo, barren sand behind them. The sun beat down on their bare and shaved heads; Marshall had referred to the haircut as high and tight. They wore camouflage uniforms accentuating broad shoulders, the ranking insignia too small to see. Both sported wry smiles and squinted at the sun while something just to the right of the camera seemed to have drawn their attention.
I didn't know what I expected, and yet I had dared hope for something proving he still thought of me. I knew he'd moved on to other women after accusing me of being bipolar. One of the other wives had even hinted knowing of a steamy liaison with her friend. I'd terminated all contact with her and the other wives. Janine became my sole support. Then and now she remained at my side, listening, comforting, strengthening, and encouraging me. In her peculiar way she taught me how to go on, how to find the strength within myself. She even tried to share her religion, claiming it existed for the building of God's kingdom on earth. Whatever. It did help to know someone loved me.
I glanced up at Janine. She had her head bowed in an attitude of prayer. I knew she often prayed for us and watched the rapid movement of her lips.
I looked closer at the picture in my hand seeing a smile so like Janine's. It even occupied an honorary place on her mantel. How? My fingers tighten on the photo. It can't be. Yet I recognized both smiles, not just the one reflected on my children's faces.
Janine finished her prayer, returning her attention to me. "What do you have there?" she asked in a curious tone.
"A picture of Marshall ... and Kelly."
I allowed Janine to take the picture from my cold fingers. She gazed at it, swallowing hard. "My Kelly? They didn't know each other. Did they?"

Dark Days of Promise Excerpt # 1

My mind grasped at an idea. Maybe I didn't need to tell them. "Janine, do you think they need to know?"

"Wouldn't you want to know if your father was killed?"

"They're so young," I argued.

"Young, yes. Entitled to the truth? Yes, I believe they are that too."

I clung to her, begging her with my hazel impersonation of puppy dog eyes. "Would you tell them?"

"Yes." She caressed my hand, the soft fragrance of her hand soap wafted to me.

I smiled, believing I wouldn't have to bear the burden alone.

"If they were my children I would definitely tell them. They are your children. You know them better than I do and although I love them, I can't guess how each of them will react to the news."

She dashed my hopes with her firm and loving words. "I don't know how. I can't do this alone."

"You won't have to. I'll be here." She patted my knee. "Your Heavenly Father is always close by. Maybe you should ask Him for help."

"You think God will come break the news to them?"

"You know He doesn't work that way. Have a little faith, my dear. Marshall would want you to do this."

I fell silent, remembering...

Dark Days of Promise Excerpt #2

The last thread of thought spurned me to action. My muscles trembled as I placed my hands on the couch, pushing myself to a sitting position. I half expected him to attack me again.

When he didn't touch me, I scooted into my corner of the couch.

"You were out for a couple minutes. I'm..." He swallowed, feigned a cough, and forced a hint of a smile before piercing me with his gaze. "You're sure you're okay?"

I gave a quick nod, no more.

"If you're sure."

I wasn't sure of anything except this wasn't a dream, and I was alive.

He stood and walked toward the front door with his slight limp. There he stopped, "I shouldn't have come here...I don't know why I did that. I'm sorry...I'll let myself out."

The door closed without a sound on his retreating form, shutting out the cold. Shutting out the danger. Shutting me inside the imagined safety of my home. A shiver traced its way up my back, confirming each nerve remained intact. My fingers braved the vast expanse from the couch to my throat. Shaking, they retreated to my lap. I slumped into the empty warmth of the couch as hot tears of relief stung my checks.

Dark Days of Promise Excerpt # 3

It took several minutes for me to realize I wasn't prepared for a winter emergency. I'd brought nothing, not even my wallet, but I had remembered to tuck my driver's license in my back pocket. Evaluating my options and taking into account the lack of any wind, which would cause hypothermia to set in, I had two choices. I could stay put and take the chance of freezing to death...not an exciting proposition. My second choice to get out of the car, make it to the road, and start walking seemed somewhat better. Both would be cold and uncomfortable. I have never been one to wait on fate, so I chose the latter option. I, dummy (my less-than-favorite name for myself.) You're more apt to open the door to danger, inviting it into the warm comfort of your home on the darkest of nights.

Well, I never claimed to be brilliant!

Dark Days of Promise Excerpt # 4 
The walk down the drive should've relaxed me. Instead my mind compared the men in my life. Farley...Kelly...Farley...Kelly.

I reached home and tried filling my mind with other things but my subconscious envisioned the photo from Marshall's effects. The photo brought a wry smile to my lips.

Farley seemed so different from Kelly and Marshall. He reminded me of the smooth con man, his gentle nature well practiced, if not always sincere. Maybe he is a con man. Or is he what I need?

I considered the two men smiling from the hot desert sands at me. Farley would never survive under such conditions. Both Kelly and Marshall carried weapons, yet I couldn't imagine Marshall being dangerous while Kelly proved himself very dangerous. Both wore their army fatigues, complete with berets.

I reflected on Janine's evaluation: a woman would find life without a companion, in particular one as young as my thirty-four years, rather difficult. A woman, just like a man, had needs, not just physical needs, but those of companionship and emotional support. It seemed unwise for me to remain alone. Which man, if either, would prove the better choice?

The doorbell rang, bringing my evaluation to an inconclusive end. Farley, by just showing up, took center stage.


Dark Days of Promise Excerpt #5

"Janine, you know you're never intruding." I lowered my voice so no one but Kelly would hear the distinct teasing quality in my voice. "Now Kelly on the other hand..." My unfinished sentence caught his attention. His expression reflected an acceptance of my teasing jab. What am I doing? I closed my eyes allowing brief seconds to pass while I considered my actions.

Kelly moved toward the kitchen while I watched Phillip load the DVD.

"Grandma, why are you so 'winkled'? Did you stay in the bath too long?" Krista asked, while I walked to my kitchen. I cringed at Krista's question and took a step closer to the tender exchange, turning my head to watch. The movie played several previews only the boys watched.

"No sweetie, these 'winkles' aren't from staying in the water too long. They're character lines." Janine's tone reflected the smile I felt sure graced her features.

Kelly joined me, peering over my shoulder at the pair as Krista touched Janine's face. I got the distinct impression Krista thought Janine's face might crumble if she touched it with too much pressure.

"Mommy doesn't have any 'winkles.' Do they hurt?"

"No, sweetie," Janine laughed. "They don't hurt, but the white hairs Kelly has given me over the years...they hurt."

Kelly stepped closer to his mother as if to intervene, positioning me against the back of the couch.

My emotions clashed, remembering how I'd taken flight from this very spot at his hands.


Dark Days of Promise Excerpt #6

Snow from Kelly's walk down the long drive left an adequate amount of moisture on his shoes. I turned around to watch him stomp his feet across the carpet before squeaking his new athletic shoes on the linoleum, the poinsettia still in his hands.

Amused, I smiled at his efforts. "If you were one of my boys I'd tell you to learn how to walk like a gentleman, without all the noise. Knowing how quiet you are when you want to be, I shan't say a word."

"You already said a few words," Kelly teased.

"True. How about continuing a conversation instead of your 'stomp, shuffle-squeak'?"

"I've never been good at conversations with females, soldiers or not, at least not the sociable kind." The house grew silent for several minutes. I considered his comment against his complete revelations the preceding week. I waited for him to make an effort at more conversation.

"Do you carry a rag with you whenever you're at home?" he ventured after several minutes of silence.

"Now that wasn't so bad. You even managed to tease me at the same time. No, I don't carry my dust cloth all the time, just when I'm moving the dust around in the house." I waved the yet unused dust cloth several inches away from his nose while quoting Shakespeare. "Out spot, out!"


Dark Days of Promise Excerpt # 7

"Look at me, Vicki."

I avoided his eyes.

"Damn it, Vicki, look at me!" His voice begged for my full attention. When I didn't look at him, he stood, placing me in the chair. He squatted down in front of me on his good leg. I met his gaze for the first time since he'd started talking. His eyes pierced me, imploring me to understand what he found impossible to explain. He began again.

"I can't do this by myself. I know I don't deserve it, but I'm asking you to help me. I'm asking you to consider being my anchor in the sanity of civilian life. Marshall asked me to take care of his family should anything happen to him. I believe he meant you, as well as the kids. I don't know how to do that without being a soldier. Soldiering is all I know. Do you realize I walk the perimeter of both our houses every night?"

I gasped in surprise.

"Sometimes twice if I'm not sure everything's right. I even carry a weapon when I feel you might be in danger. The boys have made a lot of tracks in the snow, which is why you haven't noticed. It's okay; I'm not a 'Peeping Tom.' I don't peer in your windows or invade your privacy. You should close the blinds though. You're beautiful, even in your old pajamas."

"You can't see in my windows, can you?" I choked.

What do Dark Days have to do with Promise? They don't go together. Better yet, what Promise might Dark Days hold? Now you're asking the right question.

When thinking of Dark Days we all have our own lists. Some lists include dark, stormy days in the literal sense. Others would think of days of depression and gloom or the death of a loved one, still others would consider the days of unemployment and family turmoil. Still others would think of days of life changing illness.

I encourage you to take a moment to consider what you would consider a dark day.

Would any of the above be correct in relation to my upcoming release Dark Days of Promise? Most certainly, yes. Which one? Ah hah, one must read to find out. You've now been supplied with at least one clue to the mystery.

But what do any of these have to do with Promise? That depends entirely on the promise one is referring to. What Promise would you prefer? I like the idea that tomorrow will be better than today. For some, that may be promise enough. But for at least one of my characters there is just that promise. Wouldn't we all love to have a friends promise that tomorrow will be better than today fulfilled?

In Dark Days of Promise, Vicki, the main character is given such a promise by her closest friend in this opening scene.

Janine, my best friend and elderly neighbor, glanced at the house and back at me. "Vicki, it's going to be okay. Even the darkest of days hold a promise of good things. I'll be right here beside you."

But can an elderly friend deliver on such a promise? Read, then you decide.

Dark Days of Promise will be released for sale through Desert Breeze Publishing in September 2012.

Thirty-four year old Vicki Laramie must learn to trust before she can love, but she might die trying.

While Vicki’s children grapple with the death of their father -- a man whom she’s successfully fabricated as loving, a lie her rebellious teenager recognizes -- she must find a way to support her family and find a role model for her boys. She never intends to fall for Staff Sergeant Chase, her best friend’s son, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’d much rather choose a safer man to love, but her children have a voice in the decision she makes. With two deaths to deal with, a suitor after her money, a rebellious son, and Sergeant Chase’s repeated attacks, she can only hope to survive the danger she faces. If she doesn’t, her children will be left without either parent.

Vicki's first (post divorce) sizzling kiss:

With the mistletoe still in hand, he placed it at the back of my head. His fingers entwined in my hair. My heart accelerated its beating dance, knowing a much more euphoric rush would accompany his kiss. More than his first visit, more than his peck on my cheek, more... A warm quiver of anticipation settled over me, fixing me to the spot. The music from the movie in the next room swelled, intensifying the moment. His lips brushed mine, hinting of gingerbread and milk. I wondered if I'd ever experienced such a kiss. The gentle, warm, sweet pressure, invited me to live in the moment. An experience I'd never known in all my years with another... I couldn't even remember his name. My adrenalin roller coaster revved its engine in my stomach before climbing with massive force in an upward motion before dropping to my deepest core. Yet it didn't last long enough. He no sooner released me than I had the distinct feeling of his reclaiming every intimate emotion he'd shared with me.

"I shouldn't stay. It's not safe for you." He withheld his smile, his eyes hinting at something I didn't understand.

"I don't understand." Damn... This can't be over!

Army Veteran Reviews Dark Days of Promise

As I read Mrs. Gonzales novel, I felt as IF she was writing it about me and my life. I can relate to all three main characters. I found myself wondering when she had been able to glean so much information and bring it all together in such a way as it riveted me until I finished reading her novel. Shaunna had me falling in love right along with her characters, stirring up emotions ... and an eyeopener.

This is a very good read!

T.Jaymes, Army veteran