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Waterford Crystal Daydream – a Flash Fiction story by Leslie DeVooght

Declan paced, studying the techniques of the first-year apprentices. Each approached the furnace with wrinkled brows, all but Caitlin, daughter of Waterford’s senior blower, Patrick O’Malley. Declan had trained under him for five years, and her over-protective father was the only reason Declan avoided her.

She twirled the six-foot metal rod; her pale blue eyes drifting. Where was she this time? Her lips turned up slightly—definitely not in this manufacturing cave. Too bad he couldn’t join her daydreams. From her starry-eyed expressions, they were delightful.

As she swayed toward the twenty-five hundred degree furnace, Declan darted to her side, touching her elbow.

She jumped, dropping the rod. “Gracious Declan, you put me heart crossways.”

“Sorry.” He retrieved the rod.

She took it, placing it in the molten crystal. She blew and twirled the rod, gathering a bubble. “Hopefully, Da’ didn’t s—”

“Caitlin!” Mr. O’Malley glowered. “A sunny day in Ireland be here before ya’ get that crystal shaped. The group’s already to the molds. Stop your bolloxology—get moving.”

Declan cringed. “Sorry, I wasn’t faster.”

“Thanks for trying.”

“Of course, I like helping you … I mean it’s my job … helping you.”

“Of course, but I do like your help.” She carried the rod to her station and turned the ball against the wooden paddle, but it tilted.

“Lift it some, more pressure.” Declan slipped behind her. “Or it won’t shape, and—.”

“Caitlin Margaret O’Malley!” Mr. O’Malley clapped. “I don’t know what’s goin’ on in that noodle of yours, but the class is ready to head on.”

“Mr. O’Malley, I can stay, and help Caitlin try again.” Declan lifted the rod from her. What was he thinking? He must be mad as a box of frogs. If Mr. O’Malley suspected he was interested in Caitlin, he’d batter him.

“Fine, don’t let her break anything.”

“I won’t.” Declan exhaled.

As Caitlin turned, her ponytail brushed his cheek, and the scent of lavender caught his breath. “We need to reheat this.”

She didn’t budge. “Why are you going outta your way for me? Won’t your girl be wonderin’ after ya’?”

“I don’t have a girl but me mum.” He stepped back. “Let’s get this to the furnace.”

“So you’re playing the field—are ya’?”

“No, I only have eyes for one girl, but …” He took the rod and walked to the furnace.

“But …” She slid under his arm, grasping the rod.

Declan’s cheeks heated like he was in the furnace. “She’s off limits.”

“Intriguing,” she blew in the pipe and spun the rod, adding molten crystal. “Tell me more.”

“Turn it.” He reached around her, placing his hand over hers. “Like that.”

She shifted, meeting his gaze. “Not more instruction. More about your forbidden love.” She extracted the orange ball.

“She’s lovely although a bit of a dreamer.” As he handed her the paddle, their fingers grazed. His heart tripped.

“I bet she’d break the rules for a sweet, handsome guy like you.” Caitlin shaped a vase form with the paddle.

“Maybe … let me help.” He stepped behind her, wrapping his hands over hers on the tools. “Easy does it. Your da’ will have me head if anything happens to you.”

“Never mind him.” She checked the shape. “Ready for the mold?”

“Yes, careful.”

She stepped onto the block and fitted the form into the mold. She blew into the rod, twisting it.

He gazed at her. Her flame-colored hair draped over her shoulder like melting crystal. Like a Waterford masterpiece, she was a prism, refracting radiant joy. Her turning slowed, she raised her head, and lifted the vase.


“The vase or me?”

“Both but it doesn’t matter.” He followed her to the cooling chamber.

She spun around, encircling his waist. “Pretend to be my mentor. Da’ will believe that.”

His heart pounded. “Seems risky.”

“Not at all. Now, I owe you a pint … Mentor.” She glanced invitingly at his mouth. “Unless, you’d like to chance a snog.”

“You’re worth it.” He pressed his lips to hers. He must be dreaming.

She giggled. “It’s about time. When’s the next lesson?”

God is Faithful

In today’s world, everything is about outcomes. We plan and strategize to satisfy a goal or complete a project or retire early. I remember having a goal to have my son potty trained by a certain age. I’d read books and articles on the topic, talked to other parents, and purchased all the right supplies. I’m sure you can guess how that turned out, but the good news is eventually, he did start using the toilet. (Well, most of the time, but boys do like the great outdoors.)

This month I started working at our church part-time as the Director of Women’s Ministries. I prayed and prayed to determine if I could fulfill the duties of this job and continue writing. In the end, I knew I needed to take a step of faith and apply for the job. Now, if you follow me at all, you know I’m in the middle of writing a book. My goal is to complete this novel before I go to a writing conference in March, so I have to write a lot each week. The first week on the job I really didn’t know how I would reach my word count goals each day, but somehow each day it happened.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5

Y’all God is so faithful He doesn’t ask us to do something without giving us the tools to do it. I don’t need to worry about my story or how I will do this job. If He has called me to do something, He will make it work the way He intended.

Did you catch that last part? The way He intended. We only need to “be strong, fight bravely … The Lord will do what is good in His sight.” 2Sam. 10:12. Taking a step of faith, trusting God with your work requires courage and strength. Fight might seem like a strong word, but when you look at your schedule and every block is filled, finding time to rest sometimes feels like a struggle. I pray that you will rest in the comfort that God is faithful to his promises.

February GiveawayThe Line Between by Tosca Lee 

This book will have you turning pages faster than the apocalyptic disease in the story can spread across the United States. Wynter Roth is turned out of the religious commune she’s lived in for most of her life, and the end of the world that the cult leader predicted is now coming true. But nothing is as it seems, and Wynter finds herself in possession of the key to stopping disease—save the bacon, save the world.

To enter the Giveaway, comment on this post on the website and subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already. What is your favorite breakfast food?

Simply go to The orange comment button is directly under this post. Only USA residents are eligible. Last day to enter is February 28th.

Croquet Kiss, a Flash Fiction story by Leslie DeVooght

Happy February. I’ve been busy writing a new book, so I’m re-posting one of my favorite stories. It was actually the first flash fiction I ever wrote. It is set on Jekyll Island, Georgia during the early 1900’s when the millionaires would take their winter holidays on Jekyll. I encourage you to visit Jekyll and take a tour of their “vacation cottages.” I hope you enjoy this story.


Crouquet Kiss by Leslie DeVooght


Clarice’s yellow ball rolled to a stop beside John’s black one. With her precise putt, she’d created an irresistible target.

John pulled back his wooden mallet and swung with gusto. His competitive spirit vanquished his manners.


John’s ball smashed against her ball, sending it sailing over the manicured lawn. It rested in the rough under a sweeping oak. His shot went beyond defense and social graces, but her ball couldn’t have landed in a more perfect location.

Rowdy cheers rose from the gentlemen, entertaining her friends on the veranda of the Jekyll Island Club House.

Jekyll Island Club

Clarice glanced to the spectators.

The ladies paused—their glasses of lemonade suspended. They breathed a collective sigh, while their wide brim hats swayed like sailing yachts on an undulating sea.

With a smug grin, John tipped his hat to his friends. His chest swelled, confident of his skill. Surely this surge of masculinity would encourage him to act on the sparks that flew between them.

Clarice bit down on her lip, a smile pushing at the corners. Before John caught a glimpse of her expression, she tossed her white, lace sunhat and marched across the croquet court. She swung her mallet like a drum major’s baton, feigning irritation.

Last night, she’d tarried with John in the beam of the moon on the stoop of her uncle’s vacation cottage. And when John leaned into her, she tilted her chin, lips puckered—ready. But instead of warm lips on hers, he’d lifted her hand and politely pecked the back of her fingers—merely childhood friends.

Ire rose in her, warming her cheeks—time to take matters into her own hands.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Escape with a Good Book – I’m giving two away.

photo credit, Hanna Kirby

Who wants a free book? Read to the end of this post to find out how to get two. That’s right, friends, you could win not one but two books, just by reading this post and one other tiny thing, but it’s easy—I promise.

What are you reading? A huge part of learning to write well is reading. I love to read, and now, I can say I’m working when I’m ignoring the world around me, sucked it to a great story. But as I writer, I also need to read a wide variety of books. My to-be-read list has reached thirty, and that’s just fiction books. This year, I’m making a reading plan at the suggestion of a very wise man. In the past, my plan has consisted of reading whatever was suggested by reading groups or small groups. My plan is to read lots of new novels, two classics, three or four craft or professional books, and three or four books on faith matters. For one of the classics, I plan to read Crime and Punishment, but I still need a suggestion for another. Please give me your favorites.

I’ve already finished Pursuing God by A.W. Tozar and highly recommend it. Another great part of being an author is being on launch teams and getting Advanced Reader’s Copies of books. One of the first books I read this year was The Line Between by Tosca Lee. It will come out at the end of January, but you can pre-order it now or wait for my February Giveaway and maybe you’ll win it. By the way, if you love books as much as me, a great place to get deals is They send you daily deals. I just got a book for $.99. (Wahoo! I love a great deal.)

This brings me to the second part of this post. Unless you are one of those people who doesn’t like to follow directions. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Dad.) Friends, this is the good part. I’m going to start doing Giveaways every month to help grow my subscriber list and interact more with you.

This month I’m giving away two of my favorite St. Simons Island books. The first is The Lighthouse by Eugenia Price. It is the first in the St. Simons Trilogy and begins the story of the man who would eventually build the first St. Simons Lighthouse. The second book is Images of a Golden Isle: Saint Simons Island by Anne Ford Nermoe. This is a beautiful book of photography, created by an Island Local, and bonus, it is signed by the author. When I need inspiration or just want to feel like I’m home, I’ll flip through these pictures.

So how do you enter to win? It’s simple. If you are reading this as an email, that means you have already completed part one. The second part is to comment on the website with a classic book selection, the book you are currently reading, your all-time favorite book, or where I am in the picture. You will have to go to the website: to comment. I love it when you reply to my emails, but to enter the contest you must comment on this post on the website.

Okay, now I thought I would give y’all some book recommendations from the books my family and I read last year. I’m leaving off most of the Christmas books, but be sure to check back next fall for Holiday recommendations. Happy Reading!

Contemporary Romance
Sweetbriar Cottage and Honeysuckle Dreams - Denise Hunter

A Twist of Faith and Charming the Trouble Maker - Pepper Basham

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck – Bethany Turner

Once Upon a Prince – Rachel Hauck (bonus: this one starts out on St. Simons Island and was made into a Hallmark movie, and I’ll be hanging with the author for four days in March.)
Slipt-Time – (this is when the story takes place in two different times, and they are connected by something from the past in the present.) 
The Writing Desk – Rachel Hauck

Freedom’s Ring – Heidi Chiavaroli                

Before We were Yours – Lisa Wingate

The Wedding Dress – Rachel Hauck
Christy – Catherine Marshal

The Shiloh Trilogy – Karl Bacon
Historical Romance 
A lady of Esteem – Kristi Ann Hunter

Ladies of the Manor Series – Roseanna White (Libby just read these a second time and there is a book review on my website.)
SuspenseThe Line Between – Tosca Lee
Southern Literary Fiction
Into the Free and Perennials – Julie Cantrell

Mourning Dove – Claire Fullerton
Young AdultTime Echoes Trilogy – Bryan Davis
Mainstream Historical Fiction
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

America’s First Daughter – Laura Kamoie and Stephanie Dray

A New Year’s Eve Song, a flash fiction story by Leslie DeVooght

Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a great start. I’ve been thinking about this story for a while and may have been writing notes while driving my son to school. (just at stop lights … mostly) It started when I heard a song on the radio, but then it evolved into a very different story. Several songs ended up inspiring different parts. I hope you enjoy it.

What songs do you think inspired it? What song would you like me to write a story about? I can always use inspiration. Blessings to you all.

A gust of frigid air swished down the jetway, pricking Melanie’s wind-burned cheeks. She wrapped her knitted scarf around her face until she could barely peek over the edge. Thank goodness for Great-Aunt Nadine’s hobby, creating items of warmth. Melanie had snuggled into them every day after skiing in Colorado’s winter wonderland. Her family’s annual trek from the Georgia Coast to the mountains always left her bittersweet—never quite ready to leave but longing for home.

She loved the peace that embraced her as she soared over the snow, silence in the roar of the wind whipping by her. And this year, she’d needed to escape that song—the one her sister insisted on playing on repeat. How would she react if she knew the truth behind it?

As people crammed closer together, Melanie tried to find peace. But after her flight was delayed, her grasp on patience was slipping from her frozen fingers, and now someone was holding up the boarding.

Glancing out the window, she studied the snowflakes clinging to the plastic, each crystal an individual representation of God’s handiwork. She exhaled, inching forward with the line.

“No problem, ma’am. Love meetin’ my fans.” His southern drawl, thick as molasses, stung Melanie’s ears. It could not be him.

She rose on her toes, peering over the shoulder of the woman in front of her.

“Hope y’all have a happy new year.” He passed an oxygen mask and a marker to the flight attendant, tossing her that irritatingly charming lopsided grin.

Chase Hudson, country music’s newest superstar and the last man Melanie wanted to see.

“You just let me know if you need anything.” The flight attendant hugged the mask to her chest, waving the passengers down the aisle.

Heat attacked Melanie’s skin, but she couldn’t remove her disguise. Hopefully, he wouldn’t recognize her under her stocking cap and scarf.

Talk about bittersweet. A perfect way to describe hearing his number one hit on the radio. At least, no one knew her secret, and she intended to make sure that didn’t change.

When a teenage girl held up her cell phone in front of Chase, Melanie squeezed behind him.

“Sure thing, sweetheart. Glad you like my little—”

Uh, oh—deafening silence met Melanie but no peace.

“Do you smell that?” A hand caught her wrist.

So close. She sighed, looking over her shoulder.

Chase’s sniffed the air. “Lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and the slightest hint of vanilla.” He lowered his gaze, holding her captive in those deep, brown eyes. “I’d know that scent anywhere.”

Her pulse raced, a bead of sweat sliding down her neck, but he didn’t deserve another second of her attention. “It’s very common.” She arched a brow. Try the produce section at any grocery store.” She tugged her arm lose and navigated down the aisle.

Click here to read more.

Happily Ever After

It’s that time of year again, the Hallmark Channel is showing back-to-back Holiday movies with those so predictable final kisses, more often than not under mistletoe or gently falling snowflakes.

Don’t you love them?

I can’t get enough. I love a Happily Ever After.

I’ve read books and seen movies with sad endings. I’ve even written a story that has a sad ending, but never fear there will be a sequel, and there will be a happy ending. This is one of the reasons I love writing and reading sweet romance. And I know I’m not the only one. How else could Hallmark keep two channels filled with movies with happy endings?

My husband says he can’t understand how I can watch them always knowing how they will end. First, I remind him that he watches the history channel which also has predictable endings. And second, I tell him it’s about the story, the twists and turns, but always knowing that it will end with that happy moment. (And usually a kiss—Ahhh.)

It is part of our being to want things to end well. And y’all, I have some good news.

Heaven is the ultimate happy ending. No matter what we do. How badly we mess up. We will have a happy ending because we have Jesus. Perhaps even better, our happy ending can start right now. We don’t have to wait for this one. (As y’all know, I’m not a fan of waiting, so this is my favorite part.)

Our eternal time with Jesus starts the second we surrender our lives to him. So even during trials or loss, we still have that eternal hope.

But it must start with our decision to surrender to God’s will. Yes, you might survive this earthly life without surrendering, and probably will do okay. But don’t you want to thrive.

If you’re struggling to trust God and surrender, maybe it’s because you don’t really know Him. And seriously, would you trust your life with someone you don’t know?

I challenge you to get to know God and be obedient to his guidance. Then be patient but wait with bold expectation as His plan unfolds. However it unfolds. Open your hands and surrender it all to Him.

I bet right now, some of you are thinking who has time for another Bible study or quiet time. There are only a few weeks until CHRISTMAS, and I can’t even get a shower in peace. I mean really who has the time for that? We’re busy. Trust me I totally hear you. I mean surely God can speak to us in our dreams if we can just get an extra hour of sleep, and then we’ll be more rested and better able to serve him. Bring on the Angel Trees.

Sounds good. But I’m sorry that’s just not how it works. We must spend quality time with God—preferably awake if we want to have a transforming relationship that will fill us with peace and joy.

Carve out some time, even five minutes, but be warned, soon you won’t be able to miss this special time, and you’ll want to make it longer. Spending time in prayer and scripture is the only way you can really know Him. It is not just about learning the rules, so we can be good little Christians, it is about being obedient to his commands, so we can show Him our love and know his revelations for our lives.

We can experience a Happily Ever After every day. Friends, let us “fill our minds and meditate on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learn, what you hear and see and realize. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:8-9) Ahhh …

Finally, as it says in Corinthians 15:57, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That’s what I call a happy ending, and now, I’m ready to sing Joy to the World!

Magnolia Mistletoe – a Christmas Novella by Lindsey Brackett

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m so excited to help you kick off the holidays with a FREE Christmas Novella by my friend and award-winning author Lindsey Brackett. If you read Lindsey’s first book, Still Waters, you are in for a treat. You will get to visit your favorite characters and see what’s been happening for the last few months. I have read this story twice, and it gets better every time. You will love it. This story is like hot cocoa and a warm fire on a brisk winter’s eve—sweet, heartfelt, and full of tingles.

Hannah Calhoun knows what she wants for Christmas. But before she can become a full-fledged partner in her mother’s wedding planning business, she first must prove she can handle her own shortcomings. Benjamin Townsend is an entrepreneur always looking for the next big thing—and if hosting weddings on Edisto is it, he’s all in. Even if that does mean spending a lot of time with Hannah, whose world is full of way more happily ever after than his. Once the magnolia and mistletoe are hung, will an Edisto Christmas be exactly the magic these two need?

Now, I know y’all want to read the whole story, but you will have to subscribe to Lindsey’s newsletter to get the link to download the novella. Click here for Lindsey’s newsletter . Best of all, this is just a taste because next summer, Lindsey’s second full-length novel will release and bring y’all back to Edisto. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this story as much as I have. So make yourself a mug of your favorite warm beverage and curl up with Hannah and Ben.

Defining Success

What does it mean to be successful? How do you define success? We probably all have similar variations on the answer. But God’s idea of success and ours may be very different, depending on our decision to seek Him first in our lives. One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Matthew six, and one of my favorite verses is Matthew 6:33. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Before this statement of truth, Jesus has explained that we need not worry about the necessities of life because God knows we need them. He encourages us to seek God first, and we will be richly blessed.

As we seek God, we draw closer to knowing our purpose, to knowing success in His eyes—not the world’s. In life, we can’t be positive of the outcome. Regardless of how much we prepare, mold, and refine, the product and so much of the results are often different than we expect. This is quite frustrating for a recovering control freak like me. Can I get an, “Amen,” or at least a, “bless your heart?”

But there is good news: The all-powerful God can do so much more than we can imagine. C.S. Lewis puts it this way it is “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.”

Although the end result may be different than we expect, if we pay attention, we can identify success along the way. We can celebrate small accomplishments that may have huge returns.

As I waited in the Jacksonville airport for my very first writer’s conference, trying to stay calm, my phone buzzed. It was my husband. He’d called to tell me that our daughter had just said how proud she was of me for going after my dreams, persevering, working so hard. I mean, Wow! That is probably enough right there. That my children are learning perseverance from watching me. I can’t wait to see how these seeds of faith grow into amazing accomplishments for God’s Kingdom.

But that’s not all, people have made connections through me. At my second writers’ conference, I shared a room with Lauren Crews. Lauren is an amazing Bible teacher. (You should check out her website at )  When we returned home from the conference, Juana Jordan, the pastor-in-residence at my church, told me she was a writer. I promptly set up a lunch to introduce Juana to Lauren. Honestly, I don’t even know why I thought they should meet–obviously, God. Anyways, they became good friends and prayer partners. Lauren supported Juana in her ministry efforts in Jacksonville, and Juana provided Lauren with a forum to teach and worship. I’m going to call that success. We never know how far reaching a simple act can be.

These are only two stories of God’s faithfulness, of how God is working through my writing journey, but there are so many more, and so far, success hasn’t come in the form of a publishing contract. As much as I want my books published, I’m okay (most of the time) with serving him faithfully, and I can say without a published book, “I have been successful.”

Flash Fiction: Waiting for Her Soldier

Happy Fourth of July! As we celebrate our independence, I hope this short story will remind us of those who help ensure our freedom every day and the sacrifice they and their families make for each of us. We are so blessed to live in this great nation.

*********************************************************************************************  With a permanent marker, Whitley crossed off the date. She rubbed her stomach, while Will, Jr. continued his afternoon kickboxing session on her ribs. Only two squares left on the calendar before his predicted arrival, and like his daddy, he couldn’t wait to get out in the world on an adventure.

Tracing Liam’s face in the family photo, her chest tightened. “Daddy might not be here for your big day but know he loves you so much. He had an important mission.” She counted the days back to Liam’s last call—too many. Tears pushed at the backs of her eyes.

Liam always volunteered for the dangerous missions. She’d begged him to let someone else take this one, but he’d refused. In the end, she’d barely mumbled, “love you.” As her stomach churned, bile stung her throat.

The door slammed against the refrigerator.

Swallowing, Whitley gripped the counter.

“Mommy.” Mallory toddled across the kitchen. “Park.”

Mom followed her, disentangling Mallory from Whitley’s legs. “Give Mommy a minute.” Mom rubbed Whitley’s back. “Stop worrying. He’ll make it in time.”

Whitley shook her head. “Unlikely, and I need to accept it.”

Checking her phone display, Mom quirked her lips like she was hiding a smile. “I’m with Mallory. Let’s walk to the park. Everything’s better in the sunshine.”

Sighing, Whitley hugged Liam’s shirt around her. If only it were his arms. “Y’all go. I’m not in the mood.” She inhaled deeply, but his scent no longer lingered. What if she never felt his embrace again? Click here to read the rest of the story.

A Derby Win by Carlton DeVooght

Last spring, I told my husband, Carlton, about a flash fiction writing contest that wanted stories about sports and romance, and he wrote this fun piece about the Kentucky Derby.  Then he endured my brutal edits, and we’re still happily married, but we won’t do that again. This Saturday is Derby Day, so I thought it was the right time to share it. I know you’re going to love it. 


What a miserable day. As rays from the setting sun, pushed through the clouds, Clint raked his fingers through his wet hair, surveying the damage.

The torrential rain shower had drenched his new seersucker suit, leaving it transparent. His pink shirt shown through the white stripes in his jacket, making it look like someone had sloshed raspberry lemonade on him. Mud from the infield and a variety of spilled drinks had turned his once white Bucks into a Jackson Pollack work. The pathetic lemon bow tie dangled around his neck, warped by the hours of rainfall—Sinatra’s disdain was palpable.

With his shoulders hunched over and arms hanging limp, he began his walk of shame, his damaged sartorial goods were just the start.

Lori Anne had gushed over his invitation to join him at the Derby in his sought-after seats on the final turn. Her lack of depth reared itself when she abandoned him to join some celebrity’s posse in a box on the stretch. All he had left was the stack of plastic mint julep cups, commemorating the 143rd running of the roses—a pitiful trophy.

Under the shadow of the Churchill Downs’ Spires, he attempted to scan the crowd for his group. Instead he experienced a solar eclipse brought on by a gigantic emerald green hat covered in a cacophony of red roses and white feathers. The feathers swatting his nose tore the cap of politeness off, spewing his frustration and spiking his blood pressure.

He batted at the offending plumage. “Do you mind removing that thing, the race is over.”

The head under the hat snapped around. Her fiery eyes scorched everything in their path, searching for the offending party.

He straightened as her eyes bore down on him. His heart beat like the hooves of the racehorses. But he couldn’t pull his eyes away from her. The millinery framed long red curls and alabaster skin—an enchanting fury.

She arched an aristocratic brow. “See-through seersucker suit and an ugly bowtie don’t make you in charge of Derby fashion.”

Ouch. Harsh honesty that he deserved, but it still stung.

Dropping her gaze to his feet, she grimaced. “And what color Bucks are those?” She was leading down the stretch, giving a final glower to push her over the finish line. “Certainly not white.” She smirked, daring him to respond.

But that’d be a mistake driven by impulse. Instead he’d do the gentlemanly thing and admit defeat. He tugged on his labels, rocking back on his heels. “Forgive me ma’am. It’s been a long day, and I’ve lost a lot more than the original color of these shoes.”

She tilted her head to the side, pursing her lips. Through narrowed eyes, she studied him. His mea culpa had either touched a suppressed nerve of empathy or simply confused her.

“Humility is not something I often find in Kentucky men.” Was that a hint of pity in her jade eyes? At this point, he’d take it.

She smiled sweetly. “Your stab at dapper may have failed, but there appears to be something attractive underneath those fancy clothes.”

Sighing, she flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Did your horse lose too?”

“Apparently, my horse didn’t like the mud.” He showed her his losing ticket from the betting window.

She tapped the ticket. “That’s ’cause you bet on the seventeen horse, and no horse has ever won from that slot. If you don’t have a horse running, best odds are on five or ten.” She tilted her head, blocking the sun with her green headgear of sinamay and feathers. “Or you could pick the horse wearing the prettiest silks like I did.” She winked—a font of Derby knowledge.

He shrugged. “Wish I’d talked to you three hours ago.”

She tossed him a smile.

Heat surged over his face. His impulse moves were winless so far, but why not try another. He wiped his hand on his soaked trousers and extended it. “Name’s Clinton Tanner, but please call me Clint.”

Despite his damp hand, she clasped it, firm and steady. “Mary-Brighton.” This was not a normal filly. She was special, and not afraid to race with the colts.

“Don’t suppose you’d like to get out of here and have a drink with me.” He tried his lopsided grin.

She nodded towards his trophy. “As long as it doesn’t include bourbon.” She hooked her hand around his arm.

A winning day after all and his odds were looking better for post time at the Preakness.