Salve for Souls

Thursday, September 15, 2022



The stallion’s hooves pounded the frozen earth along a narrow path through New York State’s rugged forest.

Twenty-three-year-old Laura Murillo leaned forward in the saddle. “Faster, Champ, faster!”

Vapor poured from the horse’s nostrils and despite below-freezing temperatures, sweat beaded on Laura’s forehead, mingling with the black curls escaping her helmet.

She thanked God that the former racing thoroughbred still had plenty of spirit. She prayed he wouldn’t spook and buck.

Laura heard the approaching roar of the ATV squeezing through snow-draped pine boughs hanging over the path, then a resounding gunshot.

Oh God, let someone hear.

But Laura knew she had wandered too far into the wilderness and that the dense forest muffled sound.

Her mind screamed. Why did I come back here again? What was I thinking? I could pay for this with my life. Champ too.

Laura forced back her panicked thoughts with characteristic determination etched into her attractive face. She knew every inch of the forest; one of its old, hidden trails was a mile ahead. Even though Champ was in full gallop, they seemed to move in slow motion.

At last, they reached the trail, and Laura pulled on the rein, instructing him to turn. The heavy brush swallowed them as another gunshot blasted. Laura held her breath as the ATV roared past and faded away into the forest.

Still, danger was closing in, and she had to warn the others.

It had all begun innocently enough, six months earlier—just three young moms escaping the doldrums of dinner, dishes and diapers to explore the beauty of the forest on horseback. The verdant canopy and gentle breeze on their faces provided relief from the sultry July afternoon.

Laura had invited Stella and Tiffany on the outing, glad for the company of her new neighbors who lived along the same rural road. But they were more than neighbors.

Married to Laura’s brother, Raúl, Stella lived in the family's rambling old farmhouse, several hundred feet from Laura and her family. Tiffany Cavanaugh and her husband, Stevie, had taken up residence in a newer home about a mile away. Laura and her husband, Chris, had purchased their own farmhouse.

The couple was living their dream. It included a recently organized horse rescue and boarding business. They built a stable and named the business Pine Brook Ranch and Rescue. So far, they owned three horses, Champ, the 16-hands tall, athletic thoroughbred and Buster, a bay-colored American Quarter Horse. Then there was Buttercup, a speckled old mare. They were also boarding four additional horses.

“One of these days, I'll start giving riding instruction,” Laura called above the clip-clop of hooves.

“And I'll teach a children's Sunday school class,” Tiffany injected, taking a thoughtful breath. “Sometimes I think I should wait until I get over this emotional funk. But if I wait until life is perfect, I’ll never get anything done, so I’m praying about taking this step of faith and claiming First Timothy 1:7. ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’”

Laura smiled. Coming from “the biblical scholar’s wife,” scripture had a natural flow. Tiffany could bring the pages of the Bible into the practical concerns of everyday life.

In the lead along the path, Laura, an accomplished equestrian, was astride the spirited Champ, while California transplant, Stella, rode the easier-to-handle Buster. Tiffany, who had never ridden a horse until recently, was astride Buttercup. The horses clip-clopped at a leisurely pace, occasionally whinnying, shaking their heads or snorting.

Laura's German shepherd, Lady, brought up the rear.

The friends chatted in English and Spanish. Although Laura and Stella were Hispanic, Tiffany was mainly of English and Irish descent. But she had studied Spanish in high school and college and was quite proficient.

Laura told them how the horses they rode came to the ranch.

“When Champ outlived his usefulness as a racehorse at age four, his owners kicked him out of the barn to make room for a young stallion. They all but abandoned Champ to the elements and left him to starve. Neighbors reported his exposed ribs and weakened condition. The authorities contacted Chris and me, asking if we would take Champ in. We couldn’t say no; as you can see, we loved him and fattened him up.”

Laura patted the horse’s side. “He earns his keep. We get stud fees by breeding him.”

“Buster was found wandering in the woods, also malnourished. Although it was winter, he could paw through the snow for plants. He had no microchip, so we have no idea who may have abandoned him or from where he came. No one claimed him. But he’s got a great disposition, and we were happy to take him in. The veterinarian estimates his age at seven.”

“Our sweet Buttercup was never neglected, but when her owner died unexpectedly, no one wanted Buttercup because she was too old at eighteen. She was well cared for, and it shows. We couldn’t resist.”

Laura changed the subject. “Hey, I’m glad we got the guys to watch the kids and get the cookout ready.”

“Yeah, our cavemen, cooking and guzzling beer,” blonde ballerina Stella laughed. “Maybe even Tiff’s hubby, ‘The Preacher,’ has guzzled a cold one or two.”

Tiffany smiled. “I don’t think so. Stevie doesn’t drink anymore because he’s concerned it might turn people away from his Bible studies.”

“Oh, who cares about those stuffed shirts,” Stella said with a good-natured toss of her head.

Sunlight shimmered in Tiffany’s red hair, cascading from her helmet. Her relaxed smile warmed Laura’s heart. She knew the rides and burgeoning friendship with herself and Stella were taking the edge off Tiffany’s anxieties about moving from Florida to New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Stevie’s home turf.

After living in Florida for a while, he had returned to start a church, but for now, was putting his law degree to use by working for a law firm while taking seminary classes and leading a non-denominational Bible study group. Laura and Chris, as well as Stella and Raúl, were among several young couples meeting in homes for the time being.

As if part of the magic that day, Laura spotted a doe and fawn, down an incline, drinking from Pine Brook. Its clean moisture perfumed the air, mingling with the fragrance of evergreens.

As quietly as possible, Laura pointed out the deer. The threesome paused to admire the peaceful scene and take pictures.

Viewing her picture, Tiffany remarked that the collage of greenery, branches, deer and sunlit brook lent an abstract effect. She forwarded the photo to her mother-in-law, Liz, an artist. “She might want to paint this.”

After smiling at her reflection in a small compact mirror, Stella adjusted her hair and admired one of the pictures she had taken, which focused on the speckled fawn.

“Beautiful!” she said, leaving Laura to wonder if she was referring to her reflection or the picture.

But the deer scampered away when Lady went to lap from the brook. Laura motioned to the others.

“Let's bring these thirsty horses down for a drink.”

The horses were soon drinking from the brook and shaking their manes.

Laura proclaimed the refreshing interlude “a perfect way to end a perfect ride.”

She led the group alongside an old stone wall leading to the back of her property. The rich aroma of meat grilling on a barbecue grew stronger as the trio approached. The men's hearty laughter and the children’s happy squeals grew louder. Lady ran ahead, announcing the riders' arrival.

Once the horses were cooled down and secured in the barn, the threesome joined their families around a table spread with food. The husbands and children had been waiting, and everyone was eager for hamburgers, chicken, potato salad, baked beans and corn on the cob. All ate to their heart's content.

Later that starry night, the couples and sleepy-eyed children gathered in the driveway to say goodnight.

Something had annoyed Stella, and she let the others know. “So, I send my dad the picture of the deer—and what does he say? Instead of ‘wow, that’s amazing, he said he doesn’t want his Princess going in the woods, even on horseback. He reminded me that his sister-in-law, Liz, was chased by a bear in that area.”

Stella rolled her pretty blue eyes. “He told me wild animals or perverts could be lurking in that lonely forest. Dad’s seen too much blood and gore in the Army. It’s stayed with him.”

Laura nodded in agreement. She knew Jack well; after all, he was married to her mom, Rosa, who had mentioned Jack’s nightmares about watching a buddy’s head explode when a sniper shot him. But Rosa was cathartic for him, and the couple lived happily in St. Augustine, Florida.

Suddenly, amid the din of chatter, Laura heard a bone-chilling scream echoing from the dark hills, directing her attention there. She pressed her finger to her lips. “Did you hear that? I could swear I heard a woman scream in the distance.

Catching the alarmed look in Tiffany's eyes, Laura wished she could take back her words.

“I thought I heard something too,” Stella concurred, her eyebrows pulled tight.

Chris unintentionally came to the rescue. “It was just a red fox. You know their shrieks can sound like a woman screaming.”

“That’s probably it,” Laura replied to assuage Tiffany's fears.

Yet, in her heart, Laura knew she had heard a scream—and it was human.

She wondered if she should call the police. But her brother—a sheriff’s deputy was right there and he didn’t seem alarmed.

Reasoning that he should know, Laura tried to put the incident in the back of her mind.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Could Carlos be the reason for Liz's unhappiness?

Another 5-Star Review for Love's Sweetest Truth, Book 3 in the Castle in the Sun romantic-suspense series.

I followed the series and this third book was as good as the previous two. I liked how the characters evolved to be and I liked how the story got more complicated and now Carlos is the one who might be the reason for Liz's unhappiness. I don't like giving spoilers, so yet again I will not do it. I'm truly glad I read this series and one more time - I highly recommend it! ★★★★★

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

COMING SOON! Bibles and Bones in the Forest

In Bibles and Bones in the Forest, an inspirational thriller coming soon from Miller Words, dreams are coming true for three young friends in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains.

For equestrian Laura Murillo, it is operating the Pine Brook Horse Ranch and Rescue with her husband and exploring the forest on horseback.

Monday, July 18, 2022


 Unaware of what awaits them, Liz and Carlos are living their dream. They built a lavish new home with a pool, a baby is on the way and they are deeply in love. The radiant Florida sky seems to glow with their joy. An artist, Liz captures its beauty in a painting.

All seems perfect until a secret leaks out about Carlos' womanizing past—and everyone seems to know but the happy couple. 

Even a little child has overheard and can't stop talking. Could the secret cast a cloud over Liz and Carlos' sunny life? A dark area in Liz's painting seems like a warning of the gathering storm. When the truth rains down, lives are changed forever.

What or who is the secret? Find out in Love's Sweetest 

Truth, Book 3 in the Castle in the Sun romantic-suspense 


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

A Problem With The Man She Loves

5-Star Review!

 Liz is one more time facing a problem with the man she loves. This time, with a baby on the way, and this time she's completely unprepared. The story untangles and Liz and Carlos have the first big issue they should overcome as a couple. It was interesting to read their story, I'm glad I did. I recommend it.

Find out more in Love's Sweetest Truth, Book 3 in the Castle in the Sun romantic-suspense series.

E-book 99 cents! Paperback $4.50


Friday, May 13, 2022

5-Star Review for Love's Sweetest Revenge

 The book title to me meant the book would be somewhat of a thriller, but its a mystery intertwined with a love story that touches upon family conflict, faith, and forgiveness in an eloquent way. It starts with a pulse-pounding chapter as the main character encounters danger while out in the woods and in her rush to get away from it falls, finding an old locket that's been hidden among stones - for likely a generation or two. The locket contains clues to star crossed lovers from long ago, people Elizabeth is determined to find. After that opening, the book slowly evolves into a gentle, intricate read as Elizabeth puts past hurt behind her and takes a chance on love and reconciliation. It wasn't quite what I expected but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

* Covers by Mark Miller of MillerWords Books. Visit them on facebook.

Book 1: Love's Sweetest Revenge: FREE for a limited time.
His eyes were inviting, but she had been fooled before.

BOOK 2: Love's Sweetest Deliverance
Red flag warning! Hurricane Steve is on his way.

Book 3: Love's Sweetest Truth
Our past is past . . . Or is it?

Tuesday, March 8, 2022



Flora Reigada
As the Great Depression looms, Naomi is born with a mysterious birth veil over her face. In those more superstitious times, some said this was the mark of a prophet. But what would "the veil" really mean to Naomi, then to her daughter and granddaughter--and what does it mean to us today? Join the women as one by one, they discover the secrets of "the veil."
Here, Naomi peeks at us through the curtain of time.

During World War II, two handsome warriors vie for Naomi's heart, but does one really have murder on his mind?
Step inside for warmth, family, a tasty meal and a saga of generations.

ONLY $1.99

The Face Behind the Veil by [Flora  Reigada]