Char Chaffin started reading romance, science fiction and horror at a very young age. Her love of books is directly responsible for her overflowing bookcases, and the bounty stored on her new Kindle threatens to eclipse her entire paper collection. Char currently writes mainstream and contemporary romance filled with family, rich characters and engaging plots. For her, it all comes back to the love.
Char began her writing odyssey as a poet, crafting Victorian-style poetry, then went on to writing short stories. She found her niche when she began writing longer and longer short stories, until she wrote her first novel. It might never see the light of day, but writing it taught her a lot. Over the years she worked a variety of jobs, from farm hand to costume designer to fiscal accountant, before deciding a writing career was her true focus.
A native New Yorker, Char lives Upstate on a sixty-acre farm with husband Don, rat terrier Daisy Mae and two barn cats who constantly slack off on the job of keeping the barn free of varmints. The Chaffin extended family is scattered all over the United States and Alaska.
When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard or burying her nose in books and Kindle, she tends a huge vegetable garden and helps Don maintain a sixty-acre farm.
Annie Turner has lived in small-town Thompkin all of her life. Her family is poor but she and her siblings have loving parents and a roof over their heads. As far as she’s concerned, she’s a lucky girl.
Travis Quincy’s ancestors founded Thompkin, deep in the Shenandoah Valley. He’s known immense wealth from birth, and for him that wealth is a part of his life that he’s never had to question.
While still in grade school, Annie and Travis meet and fall in love. Neither understands why they’re drawn to each other, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Like two halves of a whole, they’re only complete when they’re together. And nothing is more important than the vow they make to someday marry.
Growing up together, the rich, privileged boy and the girl from the wrong side of town find that when it comes to keeping their pledge, it's easier said than done. Travis's mother, Ruth, has plans for her son and they don't include his marrying a Turner. Her painful and secret past gives her an unwanted connection to the Turner family and a reason to hate them all. With cold determination she sets out to destroy the bond between her son and Annie.
Love is magical at any age … and a promise is forever.
Excerpt (Chapter One):
Annie Turner fell in love with Travis Quincy on a hot summer day, over a tangled fishing line and a bucket of night crawlers.
From the moment he walked up to her in the sunlight and smiled at her, nothing else seemed to matter. Her frustration, as she struggled with the twine attached to the end of her homemade bamboo pole, wasn’t important. Anger over wet knots that resisted all her tugging, irritation because her brother Mark hoarded his new rod instead of allowing her to borrow it . . . . All magically gone, the very second Annie looked up into blue eyes as warm as the sky above, and lost her heart.
“Need some help?” He squatted down next to her on the ground.
She nodded, a flush heating her cheeks. Stop staring at him, Annie. She couldn’t get any oxygen into her lungs. Breathe, Annie . . .
After what seemed like an eternity of gawking at him, she cleared her dry throat. “I—my line got tangled, over in the reeds. I don’t think I can fix it. There’s not enough weight on the twine.” Her pulse sped up when he leaned in for a better view of her mangled pole. There were glints of blue in his thick black hair and his eyelashes were longer than hers. He’s so cute. She barely kept from sighing in his face.
He carried a small oblong box, which he set on the ground as he reached for her pole and examined the knotty lumps of twine. “Did you make this? I’ve never seen a homemade fishing rod before.”
“It’s not a very good pole,” she admitted. “I’ve made better ones, really.” For a few more seconds, she stared at him. “You live in that big, pretty house on the hill.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she wished she could have snatched them back because they sounded so dumb.
“Yeah. That’s where I live.” He shrugged. “It’s just a house.” He cocked his head as he looked at her. “What’s your name?”
She tried hard not to blush. “Annie Turner. And you’re Travis Quincy. I see your daddy in town once in a while.” More dumb words. She wanted to kick herself.
But Travis nodded and replied, “Yeah. He’s got an office on Market Street.” He gave up on the mangled pole, and tossed it down. “It’s too messed up to fix. You got any more twine? Maybe you could make another one.”
“I only took one piece. I didn’t think it would tangle like that.” If she’d been alone, she’d have stomped on the broken pole and tossed it into the pond. Now she’d have to give up trying to fish, and go back to the house. She’d been cooped up all week in the kitchen, helping her mama put up jam and chutney. Finally able to escape, Annie had run all the way to Bogg Pond, clutching her battered old beach bucket that she’d crammed with worms and wet leaves. She couldn’t wait to get her hook into the fattest night crawler, and catch her first bullhead of the morning.
She’d wasted too much time goofing with the knotted twine. And as soon as she returned to the house, Mama would grab her and drag her back into the hot kitchen to work. She’d miss out on a prime day of fishing . . . not to mention a chance to talk to the cutest boy in town.
Sighing, she got to her feet. “Thanks for trying to fix it. I’d better get on home.”
“You can still fish if you want. Use my fishing rod.” He reached for his oblong box and flipped back the lid. Inside, a rod, reel and some sinkers and hooks nestled in molded foam. He pulled out the sections and screwed them together, then threaded the line and attached the reel. He held it out to her and she reached for it, but changed her mind and pulled her hand away.
“I can’t. What if I break it? I break stuff all the time. My sister says I’m a klutz. I’ve never seen a rod like this, anyway. It looks like it cost a lot of money.” Annie’s fingers itched to give it a try.
He shrugged again. “I guess. I got it for Christmas last year and this is the first time I’ve had it out of the box.”
With the toe of his sneaker he rattled her dinged-up beach bucket. “Tell you what. I forgot to bring worms, and you need a rod. Why don’t we share? We’ll take turns. Maybe we could have a contest, too. See who gets the most fish. Winner takes all the fish, all the leftover worms and the fishing rod.”
“That wouldn’t be right; you said it was a gift from somebody. Anyhow, I break things, I already told you.”
“Who says you’re going to win, huh?” He gave her a challenging look as he dug in the bucket for a worm. “Maybe I’ll win it all. I’m a very good fisherman.” He hooked the worm and stood, holding the baited rod out to her. “Besides, I have other rods I fish with. So even if you do win, I don’t mind giving this one away.”
Annie rose as well and flashed him one more uncertain look, before her own competitive nature kicked in. She took the rod from him.
“I’m a better fisherman than you are.” She stuck out her free hand to shake on the deal, and he grasped her fingers firmly.
She swung her arm back to cast out, already anticipating a pile of bullheads so heavy, she’d need a wheelbarrow to carry them all home.
“I guess you’re a pretty good fisherman after all,” Travis commented, a few hours later. He poked at the string of fish Annie finished tying to a clump of marsh grasses. Eleven fat bullheads flopped around in the shallow water. He sighed. “I only caught three.”
“Some of yours are longer than mine.” She stood and brushed dirt off her knees. “But I did tell you I was better.” She smirked up at him in the afternoon sun and he elbowed her in the ribs. Her grin widened. In one short afternoon, they’d become friends.
She didn’t want to go home yet. This was the most fun she’d had all summer, away from her snotty sister, her dumb brothers and all the work she got stuck with during canning season. She didn’t really mind helping out; sometimes it could be fun. But hanging out with Travis Quincy was a whole lot better.
She held out his fishing rod but he waved it off. “You won fair and square. Keep it.”
“I can’t.” When he looked puzzled, she tried to explain. “My folks wouldn’t let me . . . it’s a fancy rod, right? They wouldn’t let me keep something so expensive.” She didn’t want to make him mad, but taking that rod would probably hurt her parents’ feelings. They couldn’t afford to buy her anything half as nice.
“Well, if you’re sure,” he replied. She nodded, relieved that he seemed to understand. He took the rod and started to break it down so he could store it back in its box. “You can borrow it anytime you want, okay?”
His generosity surprised her. “Okay.” She waited until he stood, then shyly offered, “You can have some of my bulls, Travis. If you want them, that is.” The smile that spread over his face was worth losing a few of her catch. Thrilled she could give something back to him even if it was only some fish, she busied herself with using the remainder of her twine to string the biggest fish they’d caught. She’d keep the small ones for herself.
As they trudged down the narrow path leading toward Boggy Creek Lane, he said, “If you don’t have to go home yet, you could come over to my house for a while. Maybe have some lemonade. I’m thirsty; aren’t you?”
She glanced at him, startled at the flush riding high on his cheek. He sure looked hot and thirsty. Come to think of it, so was she. But, go to a boy’s house? Annie hesitated, unsure. Silence stretched between them, broken only by the hum of cicadas and an occasional cricket.
Be brave, Annie. It’s only lemonade. Still, she stuttered when she agreed.
As they got closer to his house up on Thompkin Hill, nerves churned in her stomach. His folks might kick her out for smelling like worms and fish. By comparison, Travis looked as if he’d lounged by some expensive pool all day. She envied him his spotless tee shirt and pressed jeans. Dirt was probably afraid to jump on his clothes. She sighed in resignation. Dirt always seemed to come looking for her.
A wide, white porch wrapped around the front of the house. Beyond double doors, the hallway they stepped into had a crystal chandelier that hung from what looked like the tallest ceiling in the world. Tables covered with vases of real flowers and silver-framed photos sat in the corners. She swore she saw her own reflection in the floor. She didn’t know where to look first.
As she paused in the massive hallway, sweaty with nerves, a low, cultured voice floated down a curved staircase. “Travis? Is that you? Where have you been? You were due home an hour ago.”
The voice grew clearer and Annie saw a tall, thin woman descend the staircase, one hand trailing along the polished banister. She couldn’t help but stare. This was someone’s mother? She looked like a model or a movie star!
Thick, black hair, drawn back into a smooth bun, crowned her head. She wore a sleeveless dress formal enough for somebody’s wedding, and dainty pumps in the same shade of pale blue. As she moved closer Annie saw her eyes were identical to Travis’s, but there the similarity ended, for there didn’t seem to be a drop of warmth in them.
“Travis, you smell of the pond. Your sneakers have dirt on them. And who is this—child—you’ve brought home?” The woman’s voice spiked sharply.
Travis wiped his feet on the thick runner in front of the door, before he caught Annie’s hand and pulled her forward. “We’ve been fishing. Annie, this is my mother, Ruth Quincy.” As he spoke Travis inched her closer to his mother and her silky perfection. Annie saw her shrink back to avoid their grimy hands.
She stammered out a breathless, “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.” Her voice echoed around the elegant hallway.
“Indeed.” With one word, Travis’s mother dismissed her and frowned at her son. “You are late for your riding lesson. Desmond can’t wait forever; he has other students to see to.” She eyed the string of bullheads he carried. “I suggest you dispose of those horrid fish and prepare for your lesson.”
“I can’t dump our fish. They’re some really large bulls. I’m going to give them to Martha, and—”
“You will not bring those foul things into my kitchen. Martha has more important tasks than dealing with slimy fish caught in a nasty pond. She’s already preparing dinner. Councilman Cabot and his family are dining with us tonight. I repeat: throw them out and attend to your lesson.”
Annie cringed to hear the way this woman spoke to her son. Her mama would never talk to her and her brothers and sister like that, even when someone broke a glass or one of her brothers walked through the house in muddy shoes.
She knew Mama would pull her into a hug or tickle one of her ribs when she came home with her load of tasty bullheads. Even when Mama made her help out in the kitchen, she found ways for everybody to have fun. This tall lady with the silky dress and the perfect hair probably didn’t know what the word “fun” meant.
Just before Mrs. Quincy turned away, Annie said, “It was nice meeting you, ma’am,” which she either didn’t hear or chose to ignore. Her back as straight as a steel pole, Travis’s mother walked toward the staircase. She paused when a side door opened and Mr. Quincy walked out, his pipe in hand and a folded newspaper tucked under his arm.
He reminded Annie of her daddy, tall and lean with twinkling eyes and gray speckled through his dark brown hair. He wore slacks and a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. When he spotted her he winked, then turned to kiss his wife’s cheek. She smiled slightly but her eyes narrowed as she looked pointedly at his wrinkled shirtsleeves.
Mr. Quincy murmured, “Don’t fuss, Ruthie. It’s Saturday, remember?” To Travis he added, “Now, what’s that I see, Trav? Bullheads! My favorite fish in the entire world. I bet if you ask Martha nicely, she’ll cook them up for us later, what do you think?” He sent another wink at Annie.
His wife glared at him. “Don’t encourage your son in his uncivilized behavior. Martha is not cooking a mass of vile fish. Travis, do as I say and throw them out.”
“Now, Ruth. Bullheads are to be savored, not tossed out with the garbage. I’m sure Martha won’t mind cooking them. And if for some reason she can’t, well then, Trav and I will man the kitchen and the fry pan. Won’t we, son?” Travis nodded eagerly at his father’s suggestion, while Annie offered a smile.
Ruth Quincy didn’t seem to find the idea worthwhile, though. To her husband she accused, “You let the boy run wild in the summer, and I won’t have it. Spending a valuable Saturday flipping about in a dirty pond isn’t part of his weekend schedule. Desmond has now waited thirty minutes and Travis has yet to clean up and present himself for his riding lesson.”
She might have said more, but when Mr. Quincy laid his hand on her bare arm and squeezed gently, she stopped talking. The tight look on her face was probably due to lots of anger.
“Ruth, this is Thompkin, not Newport News,” he admonished. “It’s summertime and of course a boy wants to hare off and have some fun, especially when he has a cute little friend like—I’m sorry, we weren’t properly introduced. I’m Ronald Quincy, Travis’s father.” He held out his big hand to Annie.
She grasped his fingers. “I’m Annie Turner. I really like your house.” Her admiring words just popped out, but Mr. Quincy just chuckled.
He whistled at the number of fish Travis still held. “Fishing must have been good today. I used to go all the time when I was your age, Annie. Sometimes I’d catch the biggest, wiliest old bullheads. And the ones that got away? Why, they were huge!” With both hands he measured a longest bullhead anyone could imagine, and made Annie giggle over his silliness.
She smiled at him happily. “Can I go fishing with you someday?” Ruth Quincy gasped in horror. Annie winced at her own boldness, but Travis and his father laughed, sounding almost identical.
It was obvious to her Travis had inherited his father’s easygoing personality. Mr. Quincy beamed. “Well, of course. Nice to meet you, young lady. You come back anytime. Travis, take those fish into the kitchen and clean them for Martha, there’s a good boy. And don’t worry about Desmond and your lesson. I’ll call down to the stables and send him home.”
When Travis’s mother growled under her breath, his father continued, “Ruth, before I dress for dinner, I need your advice on a very urgent matter.” He took her arm and led her away.
Travis let out a relieved sigh. “I hope Mother didn’t upset you. She can be sort of strict. And Dad likes everyone; he’s really friendly. Let’s go get some lemonade now, and then we can gut and clean the fish before I give them to Martha. She’s our cook,” he explained.
Annie’s nerves, having melted away during Mr. Quincy’s reassuring presence, flooded back with a vengeance at the word “cook.” God, it was like another world here. A huge, fancy house, a fancy mother and now a cook. Riding lessons, too. Annie trailed along after Travis as he headed toward the kitchen.
How on earth they could ever be friends when their lives were so very different?
My Website: http://char.chaffin.com
My Blog: http://charbchaffin.wordpress.com/
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Don't miss the chance to ask a question tomorrow when Char Chaffin returns for an interview