Monday Midnight Madness Giveaways

 In Books, Let's Chat, Uncategorized

Technically it’s now Tuesday morning since it’s just past midnight as I’m writing this, but I thought it was time for some fun and it’s still Monday night to me. I’m including the first chapter of Secrets and Wishes for you to read below. Answer one of my questions in the comments for a chance to win gifts.

After all, ’tis the season to begin celebrating and sharing. I am so thankful for you, my readers, and would like to show my appreciation. Just to show say “thanks” I’m giving away copies of my novels, Rumors and Promises and the sequel, Secrets and Wishes. I’m also giving away an oven mitt set with an apple print, in honor of Maggie’s baking success, and a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card, winner’s choice.

Here’s Chapter One. Read the chapter and answer at least one question. For each additional question you answer, you will be entered additional times in the drawing.



Stone Creek, Michigan April, 1901

Maggie Galloway hiked up the front hem of her skirt as she raced across the schoolyard when she first spied the commotion. She held tight to her hat with her free hand.

“Yeah, get him, Philip!” A tall boy, from the group of children surrounding the tussle, thrust a fist into the air.

A girl gasped. “I’m telling Miss Oliver!” She marched toward the schoolhouse.

A red head of hair bobbed in the center, a definite sign of trouble. Her Philip? Unbelievable. Maggie’s heart did a little thud at the sight of her son. She dropped the hem of her skirt, stopped to regain her breath as far as her corset allowed, and

held a palm to her chest. “Boys.” She paused to inhale again. “Stop this fighting right now!”

Naomi Oliver stomped out the door of the schoolhouse toward the little crowd. Some of the children made way for their teacher while the errant boys’ fists flew toward each other, only hitting their mark half the time. “What is the meaning of this?” She grabbed hold of Philip’s collar.


Secrets and Wishes

The other students backed away and scattered. Everyone, that is, except Philip and his enemy. The other boy turned and ran.

“Zeke Harper, come back here!” Miss Oliver strode in Zeke’s direction, pulling Philip along with her. The other boy slowed and looked over his shoulder.

Maggie waited, giving Naomi space to do her job. An older woman pushed past the teacher and grasped Zeke by the collar. “I will gladly take care of him.”

“No, Mrs. Peaberry, I’ll behave, I promise.” Zeke’s blond hair fell into his eyes, and he flailed his arms.

“Since when? You’re coming with me. We’re going to tell your father what you have been up to.” The severe-looking woman shoved him away from the crowd and grabbed him by the ear.

Who was this boy, called Zeke, who no doubt provoked her gentle-hearted son to fisticuffs? And the pinched-faced biddy leading him away?

Maggie turned back to Philip. A shock of his red hair stood like a coxcomb. His shirt—untucked, dirty, and missing a button— added to the disheveled look. He swiped a hand across his soiled face. Her little gentleman had been transformed into a ruffian! Perhaps she’d grown used to his usual exemplary behavior, though always thankful for it. After all, he was Pastor Ian McCormick’s nephew.

Miss Oliver held his shoulders. A pouf of soft brown hair surrounded the young lady’s face. She pressed her lips together while shaking her head.

“Mrs. Galloway, I’m so sorry you had to witness such a thing.” The glance Miss Oliver slanted toward Philip contained a mixture of affection and disappointment.

“What is this all about?” Maggie wet her thumb with her tongue and wiped the streaks of blood and dirt from his cheek.


Philip frowned and pulled away. She didn’t like the look of the cut to the side of his eye.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened here. I’m afraid they’ve been taunting one another all day. I should have seen it coming.”

Maggie shook her head. “I will talk to him and make sure he’s disciplined.”

“Both young men will have chores to do—together.” Miss Oliver smiled.

Anger flashed in Philip’s eyes. “I hate Zeke Harper!”

“Hold still for a minute.” She grasped his chin.

“That’s not a reason to hit him.” She stopped dabbing her son’s face.

Kathleen Rouser

“Philip. You mustn’t say such things.” Maggie took a clean, white handkerchief from her reticule to wipe her son’s face. He jerked his hand up to push hers away.

“He said his dad was the best pharmacist in Michigan. I told him Pa . . . used to be . . . ” Philip sniffled. “I told him Pa used to be the best in the world!”

“Yeah, but then he laughed and said it didn’t count ’cause Pa’s dead.” Philip burst into tears. Maggie knelt in front of him, gathering him into her arms. He so much wanted to be a man but was still so very much a little boy.

“Young men sometimes do get overzealous in defending their fathers’ honor.” Miss Oliver gave Maggie a knowing look. Then she cleared her throat. “I’ll leave you two for a few minutes. I’ll be inside.”

Maggie could only nod. In her own grief and busyness, she hadn’t realized how deeply her son’s hurt still ran. She’d been preoccupied with keeping house for her brother when they had first moved to Stone Creek.


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Emptiness had engulfed her two years ago at the burial site of her husband Robert. She held fast to her five-year-old son’s hand. Philip stood as stiff as a miniature soldier. His tears would come later, but he squeezed Maggie’s hand so tight her fingers grew numb. Grandfather Galloway said, “Philip, you are the man of the house now.” Although Maggie told him he could be a little boy and grow into it, the stoic man’s words had bound her boy somehow.

“I . . . miss . . . Pa,” Philip managed to choke out between sobs. As much as it stabbed her heart to see the wound of grief opened afresh, relief filled her that he could finally admit to his loss.

Maggie swallowed hard. “So do I, dearest. So do I.” She let her son cry himself out.

Maggie blinked back her tears in silence and held her baby tight. She set her jaw at the thought of what the Harper boy said. How could some people’s children be so inconsiderate? Then again, the boy’s immaturity may have been the cause more than anything else.

“Is there something I can get for you?” Miss Oliver’s soft touch on Maggie’s shoulder gave comfort when she came back outside to check on them.

“Thank you, no.” Maggie appreciated Naomi Oliver’s thoughtfulness.

“The Harpers are new in town. Their father has his hands full. His wife passed on less than a year ago, leaving him alone to rear four children.” Caution edged the teacher’s voice.

“Of course.” The town’s new pharmacist had moved into the apartment above his shop. What could she do next to remedy the situation?

“Philip.” With gentleness, she took him by the shoulders and looked him in the eye. “Zeke is hurting, too. He recently lost his mama. When we hurt, sometimes we say things we don’t mean.”


Philip nodded as he sniffled.

He barely returned her gaze. “Turn the other cheek?” “Aw, do I have to?”

“Well, it’s a bit late for that now. Isn’t it? But you can forgive Zeke and tell him you’re sorry for your part in it.”

Kathleen Rouser

“It’s all well and good that you defended your father’s . . . memory.” She swallowed against the narrowing of her throat. Would the painful grief never heal? “But what does Jesus ask us to do?”

“You most certainly do. We are going to march right over to Mr. Harper’s pharmacy. Mr. Starks was kind enough to bring me to town since he had errands to do for Mrs. Myles. We mustn’t keep him waiting long, so get to it.” Maggie crossed her arms.

Thomas Harper attempted to roll out the tension creeping into his shoulders. He stared up at the clock. Only a few more minutes of peaceful quiet before his children arrived home from school. He’d sent his most recent housekeeper, Mrs. Peaberry, to retrieve them, hoping to keep things calm between his three sons and his daughter.

He picked up a book left on the counter and sighed. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Thomas looked forward to the end of the day when the children would gather with him in the cozy sitting room and listen to him read the pirate story aloud before they climbed into bed each night. At least they would listen with rapt attention, and at peace, for that half hour before bedtime.

His three sons were as spirited as the pirates sometimes. The task of training them to become good men loomed before Thomas. He had a soft spot for his daughter, but he treasured each one of


Secrets and Wishes

his children. He needed to find a better way to go about things since he became a widower.

The back door clattered open, and he replaced the book on the counter.

“Stop pulling my pigtails!” Abby Harper yelled from the hallway.

The mischievous chuckles of her younger brothers, Lyle and Josiah, followed, along with scuffling sounds.

That would do wonders for business. If I had any customers to begin with. He stood in the midst of what was left of his unpacked crates. Organization had never been his strong suit.

He needed her now more than ever. He leaned against the counter and closed his eyes at the thought. Bess. Somehow his lovely wife kept their spirited brood under control. Not only that, she helped him with the books. Anything out of place in the store miraculously found a spot on the right shelf. She would have had the soda fountain up and running by now, making sure the store was already profitable.

Whom was he kidding? It was likely his dependence on her which had brought her to an end. Worn out, she’d succumbed to influenza. It should have been him instead. He hung his head. Because of his knowledge, he took responsibility for not coming up with the right cure, despite what any physician might say. The painful realization of not seeing his wife’s sweet smile again on this side of eternity cut a deep gash in his heart.

“Papa, Lyle and Josiah are being horrid to me again.” Abby stood before her father with hands fisted at her sides and her pigtails askew.

“And where is Mrs. Peaberry?” Thomas looked around the corner, hoping to find the answer to his question.

“Pa won’t be mad at us once Zeke gets back.” Josiah smirked


and hiked his thumb toward the rear entrance.
Lyle covered his mouth while he bumped into Josiah.

He paused as Josiah’s words settled on him. “Now what has Zeke gotten into?”

Kathleen Rouser

Thomas shook his head at all three. He placed a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “No need to tattle, little dove.” He turned to the boys. “You can work at being better gentlemen.”

“They aren’t far behind us. I’m sure of that.” Josiah averted his gaze.

“Josiah, I asked you a question.” The back door clattered open again.

“And furthermore, young man, I’ve never seen the likes of you or your brothers. There’s no reason for this kind of behavior. School is for learning. Not fisticuffs.” Bess’ image dissolved as the high-pitched voice of his latest housekeeper, Mrs. Peaberry, scraped at his nerves. “And how do you expect me to get the grass stains out of your knickers? I’ve got more than enough to do already.”

“Ow, ow! Let me go, you old battle-ax.” The back door pounded shut against the frame.

Mrs. Peaberry dragged Zeke down the hall with one hand grasping his collar and the other his ear.

“That is quite uncalled for, Zeke. Apologize to Mrs. Peaberry immediately.” Thomas crossed his arms and did his best to convey his sternest glare.

“But she’s hurting me.”

“And as far as you’re concerned.” Thomas faced the housekeeper. “Unhand my son’s ear. You could do permanent damage.” He flitted his gaze toward the other children, who snickered.

“You three, away with you. Go upstairs until we’re finished.” Thomas nodded towards the steps. Abby, Josiah, and Lyle took their leave. Perhaps he should be more careful about how he dealt


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with Mrs. Peaberry in front of them in the future.

“Well, I can’t believe this.” The housekeeper’s grin turned to a grimace when she let go of Zeke and placed her hands on her hips.

A smug grin sprang up on Zeke’s face, which wouldn’t do at all.

“Excuse me. I brought up six well-behaved sons, and all of them have perfect hearing.”

“I’m not implying you would try to hurt the boy, but please leave us, and I will try to remedy this situation.” Why was he attempting to deal with every problem instead of the other way around? He needed a woman who wouldn’t only discipline the children but also had an ounce of compassion for them. Someone who would smooth the way between his offspring and himself. Someone like Bess.

“If you think an apology is all that’s necessary, you’re sorely mistaken. The child needs proper discipline. That’s the problem here. Such disrespect is not to be tolerated. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get on to other chores.” Mrs. Peaberry marched toward the stairway with head held high. The clomp of her boots on the steps echoed in the little shop.

Towheaded Zeke had hair so much like his mother’s, but it was more tousled than usual. The rest of the boy’s disheveled appearance included a bruise underneath his right eye. He’d been fighting. Again. “Son, I thought we were going to start over in Stone Creek. We agreed you weren’t going to fight anymore.”

“It’s my first one, Pa, and I was defending your honor.” Zeke had a point. He hadn’t fought in over a month.

“I thought you didn’t want people to think you’re a bully.” The boy jutted out his chin. “Mrs. Peaberry’s a bully.”

“We’re talking about you, young man, and that’s not acceptable talk.” Thomas cleared his throat and lowered his voice to a whisper.


Josiah and Lyle fairly flew down the stairs, followed by Abby, her pigtails bouncing behind her.

Kathleen Rouser

“Perhaps if you behaved better, so would she. Now, go get cleaned up. And I expect you to explain to me what happened at school, not to mention, have some apologetic words for Mrs. Peaberry when you’ve calmed down.” Thomas placed his hand on his son’s shoulder for a passing moment. He connected with the pain in Zeke’s eyes. Thomas could never make up for the absence of a mother, nor for the void in his own life.

A scrape and a thud were followed by Mrs. Peaberry’s ear- piercing scream. “I can’t take any more of this. Get back here, you rapscallions!”

“I didn’t do anything.” Abby’s voice held a pleading tone. She frowned above her round, wire-rimmed glasses and hugged a book close.

The boys tried to contain their chuckles, but the laughter escaped in waves. When one calmed down, the other bent over again in a fit, barely able to catch a breath.

“What have you done now?” Thomas feared the worst of the boys’ shenanigans. Couldn’t he have one day of peace in his home? His life? He passed a hand over his hair.

“I’ll tell you what happened.” Mrs. Peaberry appeared at the bottom of the stairs. The front brim of her dark-gray hat curved downward, giving her a hawk-like appearance. “I found a snake in my drawer. A snake!”

Next, she held up a banana peel. “And they were all too happy, with their unsanitary practices, to leave this on the floor of my room. I turned and ran only to fall on my . . . on my . . . posterior.” Her voice lowered as her face reddened.

Thomas put his hand out to receive the brown fruit skin, as empty and disheveled as he felt.


Secrets and Wishes

“Children,” Thomas began in his most serious tone. “But . . .”

“Don’t waste your breath, Mr. Harper. This brood of vipers is hopeless. I am leaving your employ this very minute.”

“Nothing would entice me to stay. Nothing. You can send my bags and the remainder of my wages to the Pink Hotel. That is where I will be staying tonight. Good day!”

Thomas stared after the ill-tempered woman as she walked out onto the boardwalk, slamming the door behind her, which resonated throughout the shop.

“Go do your homework.” He couldn’t even look into his children’s eyes. Their footsteps retreated up the stairs. For one afternoon anyway, Thomas was relieved at the lack of customers.

Philip squared his shoulders and promised to follow close to Maggie. He brushed away her offered hand. Without a father, Philip instinctively pushed himself to become the man of the house. Wistful thoughts of a chubby toddler tugged at her memories.

The new Harper Apothecary on Main Street, with freshly painted letters on its sign, showed Stone Creek’s progress. Some townspeople were concerned its presence might cut into Dr. Moore’s income, as he had been the only one to provide proper medicine thus far. However, others saw help for the aging doctor, someone to provide helpful services when he was busy elsewhere. He couldn’t ever take the doctor’s place. That wasn’t Mr. Harper’s job or his calling. But the wise older man welcomed the idea of Stone Creek having its very own pharmacy. This would be healthy growth for the town. Hopefully, it would prove to be the healthy alliance the dear physician expected.


“Yes, but Pa’s was prettier. It was green.”

Philip, wide-eyed, sidestepped the woman. “Mama, is that lady addlepated?”

Kathleen Rouser

Maggie stopped short to examine the show globe displayed in the picture window. The tall rounded jar stood proudly in the center. An ornate stopper plugged the clear glass container filled with liquid bluer than any summer sky. “This reminds me so much of your father’s show globe. Do you remember?” The liquid shimmering in the daylight had at one time attested to the apothecary’s prowess, or as it had been further in the past, their skills at alchemy. Through the ages, the show globe had become symbolic but still an artful representation for the profession. She recalled the day Robert had explained it all to her as though it were yesterday. Maggie sighed.

He set his freckled face in determination and, she feared, a bit of defiance. Still, she had to smile. Loyal to the end, wasn’t he? “You’re right, but before you were born, he mixed it up blue for a while.”

The door opened, a bell jingling in its wake. The older woman she’d seen earlier strode out of the shop as though escaping the plague. “Snakes.” The woman shook her head, ignoring Maggie as she pushed past them. “A . . . most ill-behaved brood . . . of . . . vipers.”

“Shh, that’s not a polite thing to say. Now, let’s stay on the task before us. Have you decided what you’re going to say?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Philip nodded, looking none too happy.

He held the door open for her and Maggie waited so they could face his enemy together.

The medicinal odor, wrapped in a strange mixture of valerian and peppermint, forced her back in time. Maggie half expected to see Robert standing behind the counter, mortar and pestle in


Secrets and Wishes

hand, ready to wait on her. Instead, a taller man emerged from the afternoon shadows. His sad hazel eyes emanated weariness. A curly wisp of sandy-brown hair fell across his rather high forehead. Lines furrowed the brow of his handsome face, though he didn’t look as though he were yet forty. “May I help you, ma’am?”

Maggie reached out her hand, wanting to keep things businesslike. “Mrs. Maggie Galloway.”

His brows rose as though surprised at her confidence. He gave her a firm, but polite shake. He was a gentleman. “Thomas Harper.”

“I believe my son, Philip, had a scuffle with your son, Zeke, this afternoon?” She arched an eyebrow with the question.

“Ah, yes.” Mr. Harper glanced toward the stairway before returning her gaze with an expression of sincere remorse. I’m sorry he behaved in such a way. Zeke . . .” He paused. “Zeke has been a bit of a bully since he lost his mother. He wasn’t always like this. He and I are working on correcting his bad habits.”

Though Mr. Harper was immediately apologetic, tension hung between them.

“I brought Philip to make up with your son. I think they should work this out.”

Mr. Harper smoothed his hair back, then wiped his hands together. He looked at the floor and then up at her, then down again. Did he expect the boy to rise up out of the floorboards? Maggie looked toward the ticking clock. Mr. Starks would want to return to Apple Blossom House, the estate where she rented a cottage, soon.

“Would you mind calling your son, sir?”
Really. Who was in charge here? This man? Or his child?

As if he despaired of doing such a thing, Mr. Harper sighed. “If you insist.”


A boy not much bigger than Philip slid down the banister. His feet hit the floorboards with a thud.

Kathleen Rouser

He retreated toward the stairs to the left of her and tucked just into the hallway. “Ezekiel. Please come down here right now.” He walked toward her again. “Is there anything I can help you with while we wait?” A strained smile revealed a dimple in the man’s right cheek. Endearing.

Maggie surveyed the store. Jars of different sizes perched too near the edges of dusty shelves. Empty gaps stood where important remedies should have occupied them. “Hmm.” She hadn’t meant to say that aloud.

Mr. Harper’s questioning look unnerved her. Maggie didn’t want to criticize the man when he was new in town. She bit back her comments.

“Hi, Philip!” he called out as though seeing a long lost friend. “Hi, Zeke. Sorry I punched you.” Philip rubbed his neck.

Philip raised his hand in a curt wave. Maggie placed a firm hand on his back, urging her son forward.

“You’re all right. I shouldn’t have said what I did.” The other boy shifted his weight to one leg. He possessed an attitude and stance beyond his years.

“Shouldn’t you two shake hands on it?” Did she have to tell them how to do everything?

“What a good idea. Don’t you think?” Wasn’t it a little late for Mr. Harper to take charge?

“You’re all right, too.” Philip nodded and smiled, putting forth his right hand. The boys grasped hands and pumped them up and down like they were operating the lever on a water pump.

Finally, the smile returned to her son’s face. His grief was forgotten for the moment, and she was beyond pleased he made up with Zeke. Maggie glanced beyond the two children. Two more boys and an older girl peered over the railing of the stairs.


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“You want to see my pet snake?” Zeke motioned Philip toward the stairway.

“Is it poisonous?” Maggie looked to Mr. Harper.

“No. Most assuredly it’s a harmless garter snake. I want you to take it back out to the garden now, Zeke.”

“Aww, Pa.” But he must have seen the pleading look in his father’s eyes. In fact, the man seemed too tired to produce anger.

“Yes, Pa.” Zeke turned to Philip. “Come on; you can help me bring down the box he’s in.”

“Really?” Philip followed at the other boy’s heels. The rest of the Harper children greeted him with eagerness.

Maggie hadn’t seen such enthusiasm in her son all day. “We have to leave as soon as you’re done.” She hated to keep them from mending their acquaintance. Surely it would make things easier for the kind Miss Oliver as well if the children got along.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Silence ensued. Maggie turned to find Mr. Harper watching her as though sizing her up. For a moment, her gaze stuck on his. She was dangerously close to being drawn in by the sadness of those eyes. No. She had Philip to think of first.

Her eyes swept around the shop in a desperate attempt to think of what she needed. “White willow extract.” The words left her mouth, unbidden. “Do you have some?”

“Certainly, but have you tried aspirin?” He searched the shelves. “I’ve taken the powdered drug, all the way from Germany, and pressed it into tablets which are much easier to swallow.” As if that made a difference. He held up the preparation.

“Mr. Harper, I prepare my own remedies with the best ingredients I find available.” Maggie sniffed. “I’m not interested in newfangled products. If I wanted a form of some medicine man’s chicanery, I’m sure I could find it at Neuberger’s Mercantile.”

The pharmacist held the bottle closer to her. “I assure you this is an exceptional product. The chemical base is the same, but more


potent and exacting in each dose. The future of pharmacology, I’ll warrant you.”

Kathleen Rouser

“If my husband were still alive, I’m sure he would beg to differ.” Maggie’s voice rose. “My husband was cautious and wise. He didn’t rush into selling newfangled remedies like some snake oil salesman.” She narrowed her eyes at Mr. Harper.

“I see. Then I take it you know so much because you had the same amount of training as your husband or I?” He drummed his fingers on the counter.

“Your point being?”

“Case in point, Mrs. Galloway, I’ve heard your snickerdoodle cookies are legendary in this town, but I wouldn’t pretend to know what spices to put in a cookie—”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t.” She sucked in her breath and stepped back from the counter. “I’m guessing I know a bit more about pharmacology than you do about baking.” His eyes sparkled with humor, and his lips twitched. How dare he make fun of her! “I’ll be taking my leave now.”

“And not share your wealth of knowledge first?” Mr. Harper snickered.

She turned to call for Philip and found all five children staring at the two of them. How had she not heard them make their way back down the stairs? Zeke carried a box.

“If you’d like, I can still get some willow extract for you.” The former worry returned to Mr. Harper’s face.

“If you can find it in this mess you call an apothecary.” Maggie shook her head and waved her hand about.

“No, Ranger!” Too late, Zeke Harper tried to push the escaping reptile back into its box, but it flipped out of his grasp onto the floor.

Maggie screamed and grabbed Philip by the hand, doing a staccato dance around the slithering snake. She managed to pull


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her son out the door and run down the street toward the Myles’ buggy. “A most unpleasant mess!”

“But I was having fun,” Philip whined.

Maggie didn’t slow down. She wanted to put as much distance between herself and the loose snake as possible. She shuddered.

“You sure got mad at Mr. Harper. Don’t you owe him an apology?”

The sincerity in her son’s eyes melted her. “I mean, doesn’t Jesus want you to be sorry when you hurt someone?” Philip pressed her further.

Maggie opened her mouth but didn’t know what to say. By her own words, she’d been condemned. Perhaps it wasn’t only the snake she sought escape from, but also from a handsome widower who needed the balm of compassion. Well, that balm was going to have to come from someone else.




The above images are both in the public domain. {PD}


What are the names of Thomas Harper’s four children?

  1. What is the name of the baking contest Maggie entered?
  2. Who is Mr. Starks?
  3. Where did Maggie and Philip move after her brother, Ian, married Sophie?

Names will be drawn randomly for each prize. Have fun! You have until Monday, Nov. 30.

Disclaimer for giveaways: Winners will be notified by email and the winners’ names will be announced in the comments. No one under 18 can enter this giveaway. No purchase is necessary.

All winners have one week to claim their prize. USA shipping only. Offer void where prohibited.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Marilyn R

    The Harper’s children names are: Zeke, Lyle, Josiah and Abby Harper. Their dad’s name was Thomas Harper.

    Maggie entered the “Don’t Rest on Your Laurels’ Baking Contest” sponsored by the Silver Leaf Flour Company.
    Mr. Stark was the butler to Gloria and Asa Myles at the Apple Blossom House.
    Maggie and Phillip Galloway moved to the carriage Apple Blossom Cottage after Ian married Sophie.

  • Kathleen Rouser

    A perfect score, Marilyn! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂


    And the winner, who will have her choice of prizes, is Marilyn R.! Congratulations,
    Marilyn! I will contact you soon!

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