Samurai by Night—A Halloween Hero


I originally wrote this short story (previously titled Samurai by Night) for the fall 2017 writing contest at The Write Practice. Though my story did not win, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other writers and reading their stories. I learned so much from the other writers in the contest that I would encourage all writers, beginner and experienced, to enter such contests and receive the invaluable feedback which serves to improve writing skills. I thank the awesome writers who read my story and offered valuable critiquing for its improvement! I wish each of you happy writing and much future success!


Samurai by Night—A Halloween Hero

By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017 (YA/NA fiction, Rated PG-13, Word count: 1515)


Emily stomped on her brakes, rush hour traffic wasn’t moving on the Phoenix freeway. “Of course,” she complained while sending a quick voice-to-text to her boyfriend. “Brian, I put my costume on at work. On my way to the party. Stuck in traffic. Will be late. Happy Halloween!”

“Oh look, traffic is moving again,” she said, picking up speed as traffic began to clear. “Should I let Brian know I’ll be there soon?” She considered it before answering, “Nah, I’ll surprise him!”

Once off the freeway she made her way down the surface streets and pulled into the dimly lit parking lot of Collins & Thorpe Accounting, where Brian was a junior accountant. The Halloween costume party would be the second office party she’d attend with Brian since the pair began dating five months ago, the first being the Independence Day bash.

The parking lot was full, so she parked near the back, next to an empty lot with some brush and trees on one side. She put the car in park, slipped off her flip-flops and pulled on her boots. She hopped out of the car, punched the lock button and quickly made her way toward the office building, looking swashbuckly in her pirate costume—excited to see Brian all decked out in his pirate gear too.

The main entrance of the building was a large oval foyer with hallways leading to the individual offices. Chairs had been cleared to make way for the party decorations. Cobwebs with plastic spiders were strung about, jack-o’-lanterns with tea lights were placed on countertops and near hallway entrances, and creaky, shrieky music filled the air. Tables were laid out with cauldrons of orange and purple colored punches and ghoulish snacks: treats made to look like bloodshot eyeballs, bat wings, spiders, and ghosts.

Emily’s eyes searched for Brian. She saw an Egyptian queen, a knight in shining armor, superheroes, cartoon characters, and the traditional black cats, Draculas, and Frankensteins. Finally, her sights landed on her handsome pirate. He had let his whiskers grow out a few days to look the scruffy pirate part. A patch covered one eye but there was no mistaking the deep green of the other and the thick black eyebrow it peered out from under.

She smiled thinking of the flirtatious things she might say as she approached him. She started in his direction but froze in her tracks when she saw a French maid come to his side. “Jenny,” she said under her breath in a bit of surprise. She suddenly felt as though she were a peeping Tom, spying where she had no business, yet Brian was her boyfriend. Her stomach wrenched as she watched them tease and giggle at each other and she began to feel sure there were inappropriate flirtations going on.

What was she to do, walk gaily over, pretend she hadn’t seen anything and hope they were engaging in innocent, coworker party behavior? Her gut told her there was more to it. She thought of the Independence Day bash when Jenny acted so coldly when she met Emily as though Emily was an intruder. She remembered how she kept catching Jenny staring at Brian and talking loudly whenever they’d pass near her and then mumbling something about needing another drink.

She tried not to worry about at the time but it had always gnawed at the back of her mind that Jenny might have feelings for Brian. She hadn’t wanted to let herself consider, however, Brian might return those feelings; after all, why would he be dating Emily if he were interested in Jenny.

Emily saw Jenny lean in, whispering in Brian’s ear. What was she saying? Her stomach turned and her chest heaved with panicked breath when she saw Jenny take Brian’s hand and lead him to an empty office. Brian peeked down the hall in both directions as though hoping to go unnoticed before they disappeared behind the door.

Emily was lightheaded as she tried to catch her breath. Her legs felt like jelly underneath her and she thought she might vomit. She wanted to scream and storm into the room, fists flying, but hot tears spilled down her cheeks and she turned and left the building.

“I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed, wiping her tears futilely as others quickly replaced them.

Her feet felt heavy as she walked. She remembered back, before the Independence Day bash and how Brian had told her, “These parties are always so boring. You won’t have anyone to talk to. My coworkers are stupid and would annoy you.” She realized now, Brian hadn’t wanted her to go in the first place. Was Jenny the reason why?

“How did I not see it?” she asked herself.

She continued through the parking lot, wrapped in her anger. As she approached her car, she saw two figures: one thin and short and another taller and thicker. She gasped but reasoned—they were headed to a Halloween party too.

They started at her and her instincts immediately warned—they meant harm… serious harm! She ran to the car, but they caught her; the larger man covering her screams with his hand. They dragged her toward the bushes. She swung and felt her nails scratching away at flesh as she tried fighting her way out. She kneed, kicked, flailed and screamed, but her screams were muffled and soon, still struggling, she was pinned down with a knife to her neck.

She knew she was about to be violated and she begged God in silent prayer to deliver her. The next moment something white, like a shining light appeared behind the man on top of her.

It was another man, dressed in some sort of white costume. He grabbed the man on top, yanking him off and punching him. As the first man stumbled back, the man in white grabbed the smaller man—punching him square in the jaw and sending him unconscious to the ground. The larger man got to his feet and came at the man in white but was quickly kicked in the chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him to the ground as well.

“Stay down,” he warned, pulling out his cell phone to dial 9-1-1.

He went to Emily and extended his hand to help her up. “Are you okay Miss?”

Emily couldn’t answer—she was shaken and trembling. She came to her feet but stumbled.

“Maybe you better stay seated. I’ve called for help,” he said, gently setting her back on the ground. He inspected her. “There’s blood on your neck. Looks like the knife cut you, but it doesn’t look life-threatening.”

Emily’s eyes grew wide on her tear-stained face. She motioned behind him. The larger man had gotten to his feet and was scrambling away.

“No, you don’t,” the man in white shouted, chasing after. He tackled him, rolled him over and punched him in the face—knocking him out.

“The cops will be here any minute,” he said, coming back over to reassure her.

“Thank you… for coming to my rescue,” she slowly muttered.

“Of course,” he said, smiling.

“Were you here for the party?” she asked.

“Yeah, my sister works here and invited me. I was late though, obviously.”

“Lucky for me,” Emily said with a grateful sigh of relief before adding, “Please tell me your sister’s name isn’t Jenny.”

“Nope, it’s Alyssa.”

“Thank heavens,” Emily said, sighing.

“Do you work here?” he asked.

“No, I was here with my boyfriend.”

“Well, where is he now?”

“With Jenny.”

“Oh, I see,” he said, drawing out his words in understanding.

“Is that some kind of Ninja costume you have on?” she asked.

“Nope, Samurai,” he answered. “By the way, I’m Jared. What’s your name?”

“Emily. How did you learn to fight like that?” she asked.

“I own Liberty MMA downtown. You should come take some classes; learn how to defend yourself against guys like that.”

She nodded. “That’s probably a good idea.”

The sounds of sirens approached. Jared pointed out the men to the cops and told them what happened as they cuffed them.

The EMTs attended to Emily as the cops took statements.

“I don’t need to go to the hospital,” she said.

Jared took her hand and encouraged her. “They’ll need to examine you for evidence, to build a case against your attackers.”

She nodded as the EMTs loaded her into the ambulance.

“Wait,” Jared said, “maybe I should get your number. To check on you and make sure you’re okay.”

Emily hesitated. She didn’t usually give her number to strangers, but this man had been an answer to a prayer—a literal Godsend to save her life. He had a gentle smile; not to mention his boyishly handsome face atop a mountain of muscles and the inherent kindness he had shown after rescuing her, made her feel safe. Besides, if Brian gave her any trouble over the breakup—Jared could kick the trash out of him! The thought made her smile, and she gave him her number before the ambulance doors closed.

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Barton Cottage Chapter 5 Part II

the drawing with color IIx

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Word count: 1763)


Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 5 Part I here)

Chapter 5 The Drawing

Part II Goodbyes


Sarah stood in the kitchen, peering through the glass of the French doors, smiling at the site of Caroline and Conner sitting together in the garden. Dottie walked up next to her—arms crossed—scowling at the same sight.

“Don’t they look cute together?” Sarah remarked.

“No, they don’t!” Dottie snipped. “My mother and I have invested too much into his future. When the time is right, he will marry a woman who will further his career. Any other girl will have to be disappointed.”

Sarah’s eyes widened. “How can you be so cruel?” she asked. “Do you really care more about political power than your own brother’s feelings?”

“He doesn’t have time for feelings! He’s following in my father’s footsteps. Do you not remember my father was a powerful and respected United States Senator well on his way to the White House when he died of a stroke? Conner will finish what Father started! And that girl has already entangled him in deceptions and lies!”

“What lies? What do you mean?” Sarah asked.

“You heard for yourself, Conner said he was going to spend the day with a college friend but he was with her! I saw them together with my own eyes. She made him lie so he could spend time with her.”

Sarah’s mouth gaped open. “There must be some misunderstanding,” she uttered.

“Well, don’t misunderstand this,” Dottie said, “my brother will be president one day and your daughter will not be at his side!”

Sarah stared at her, eyes wide with shock. “I do remember your father Dottie. He was a good and kind man. He would have wanted Conner to make his own decisions.” She shook her head before continuing, “And as for my daughter, she is an amazing young woman who will make a wonderful companion to a worthy young man one day and if Caroline and Conner choose each other, they will have my blessing.”

Dottie was unmoved, she remained cross-armed and glaring out the window.

Sarah sighed and left the room.


In the garden, Conner and Caroline sat in silence for several moments before Conner finally said, “Caroline, you must have questions and I…”

Dottie came toward them, walking briskly from the house. “There you two are,” she said with a pretentious grin. “Conner I’ve been looking all over for you, Mother would like you to call her right away.”

“Can it wait?” he asked.

“No,” she stressed, “she’s been waiting all day to speak to you and it’s urgent!”

He looked at Caroline with sorrow in his eyes and stood to walk inside.

Dottie grinned victoriously at Caroline and followed her brother.

Caroline waited until they were out of sight before heading straight to her room.


Upstairs, Sarah sat at her computer, searching the web to find a suitable place to move to. While she browsed, an email came in. She opened it to find a message from her cousin. As she read it, her feelings of frustration at Dottie were replaced by feelings of excitement at the news her cousin’s letter bore.


Dearest Cousin Sarah,

I’ve heard a rumor from family members you may be looking to move from Northland. We would be thrilled to have you and your lovely daughters come to Winston-Salem and live with us at Barton! We have a delightful four-bedroom cottage just a short distance from the main house and it’s sitting empty waiting for the perfect occupants. I would love to see your family fill it. I’ll take whatever rent you feel you can afford, (we can discuss that later), I know you are on a fixed income for the time being. The cottage is available at the soonest possible moment you’d like to take it. I hope you’ll consider it!

                        With Love,

                        Lloyd Honeycutt


Sarah jumped up and clapped her hands. This was a blessing which couldn’t have come at a better time. She hurried down the hall toward Caroline’s room, calling the other girls to follow as she went.

“I have some great news,” their mother said as soon as the girls were gathered. “How would you like to move to Winston-Salem? My cousin has a four-bedroom cottage on his estate and he’s willing to rent it to us for whatever we can afford!”

Maggie gasped and began tearing up. The reality of leaving Northland fell like a thick fog over the room.

Caroline offered the first reply, her voice despondent after the day’s events yet trying to sound cheerful for her sisters’ sakes. “Mom, it sounds like just what we need and with school almost out, it comes at a perfect time.”

Ashelynn followed Caroline’s lead. “I think it sounds adventurous, Mom, and you know I can’t wait to get away from Snotty Dottie!”

“Do we have to go?” Maggie asked.

Sarah gently took Maggie’s face in her hands. “It’s the right thing to do for our family. I know you aren’t happy about it, but everything will be alright, I promise.”


The Hathcock ladies were quieter than usual at the dinner table that evening.

“Anything the matter?” Frank asked as everyone was finishing up.

“Well,” Sarah said slowly in a dignified manner, “we have been offered a home in Winston-Salem on my cousin’s estate. I’ve accepted it and we’ll be moving as soon as school is out.”

Dottie perked up with a look of elation but Frank protested. “I don’t understand. Why are you moving?”

Sarah explained, “It’s affordable, sounds comfortable, the timing is right, and it will lessen the congestion in what is now… your home, Frank.”

Frank looked to his wife, who seemed pleased with the news. “Oh,” Frank stammered. “Well, I suppose it’s not too far and you’ll call to let me know how you are doing and if you need anything, won’t you?”

“Of course,” Sarah told him—realizing now no monetary offers of help would be forthcoming—the promise would go unkept.

Frank looked slightly concerned but no encouragements for them to stay were offered.

Caroline glanced at Conner to gauge his reaction. He seemed shocked and saddened but she wondered why it would matter to him now—after today?

Noticing the direction of her oldest daughter’s gaze, Sarah added, “Conner, I hope you will feel welcome to come for a visit anytime you’d like.”

“Thank you,” Conner simply replied.


School ended on a Thursday, and the moving truck arrived Friday morning.

“Why such a large truck?” Frank commented while standing out front, watching the moving crew load boxes of the girls’ personal effects. “They don’t have that much stuff, there’ll be room to spare in there.”

Suddenly Dottie came bursting out of the house shouting, “Frank, Frank, did you tell them they could take the grand piano?”

“Of course not,” he replied, as his wife grabbed his arm and hurried him inside.

“Well then tell them they cannot have it!” she insisted.

The Hathcock ladies were in the parlor, watching the piano being prepared for moving. Sarah walked over and calmly explained, “This piano was given to Ashelynn as a birthday gift from Grand Uncle James. He specifically stated in his will that she would retain ownership of it.”

“Frank,” Dottie hotly demanded, “do we have a copy of Uncle James’s will?”

“Yes, we do, but it won’t be necessary to read it,” Frank replied apologetically. “I do remember reading that the piano belongs to Ashelynn.”

“Well, I want to see it myself!” Dottie demanded with a snort.

Conner observed the scene from the doorway and walked over to put his hand on his sister’s shoulder. “Let it go, Dottie. You can get another piano,” he said with a soothing yet authoritative voice.

Dottie gritted her teeth and stormed out of the room.

Conner slipped out the back door to the patio. Caroline noticed and followed.

“Thank you,” she said, “for helping out with Dottie just now. It would have been the last straw if Ashelynn had to leave her beloved piano behind.”

“You’re welcome,” he said. “You’re all going to miss Northland very much aren’t you?”

Caroline nodded. “We came here when I was just seven. It’s been home for a long time.”

“If I know you, though,” Conner said, “you’ll make your new home a happy place for your mother and sisters. You’re the strength of your family, Caroline. That much I can clearly see.”

He looked into her eyes, and she thought for a moment he might confess he was falling in love with her, or at least say he was going to miss seeing her each day.

“I’m actually leaving too,” he said. “My visit here has been wonderful and terribly eye-opening all at the same time.”

He paused and she hung on the quietness, wondering what he was thinking. Was she part of the wonderful or the terrible?

He went on, “There are some things I must work out…”

She let out a breath she didn’t even realize she’d been holding.

Sarah poked her head out the door. “The truck is ready to leave, my dear. We’re following them to Barton. If we don’t go now, they’ll leave without us.”

“They’re done already?” Caroline asked.

“Yes dear,” she said. Looking at Conner she added, “You may have a moment but make it quick.”

She looked into his eyes, so many questions she wanted to ask. Did he think the same as his sister? “No time for silly girls!” She had heard it from Dottie but it was best she didn’t hear it from him. Even if he could put it into kinder words, it still meant the same.

She hugged him. “I’m going to miss seeing your face every day Conner Burroughs,” she whispered as emotion welled in her throat. She let go and studied the details of his handsome face once more before turning to go inside.

Everyone assembled out front; Frank and Dottie were not the hugging types, so none were given. Goodbyes were said and the Hathcock ladies looked over their old Northland home one more time before climbing into the car.

They headed out, down the long driveway, leaving Northland; bound for their new home. Sarah drove slowly, and Ashelynn began to bid Northland farewell as if to memorialize the old place. “Goodbye grand house, goodbye majestic trees! No one will ever love you as much as we did. We will remember you forever.” Maggie sobbed on Caroline’s shoulder while everyone wiped tears away. Leaving Northland was harder than they had imagined and sadness misted their eyes like a soft steady rain for the remainder of the drive.

Up next in Chapter 6: Barton—A new home!

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Why it matters to develop your narrative as an artist and writer

by Danie Botha 

What is your personal manifesto as a creative individual?

How do you respond when people ask you what you do? How do you refer to yourself?

Do you shrug your shoulders and say, I’m an accountant by day and a writer of fantasy by night? Or perhaps you’re a teacher, a nurse, a lawyer, a plumber, a doctor or a journalist who writes in your spare time and dream of your big break one day to quit your day job and write full-time. Perhaps you don’t even tell people about your writing. Maybe you’re a closet writer.

pic for post

Or, maybe you’re an established professional writer and published author! Irrespective whether you hold a regular day job and write as a second career or a hobby or are a professional author and writer, the question remains:


What is your narrative?

What is your story?

How do you present yourself to the world?

According to Daniel H. Pink, we don’t have to sell Buicks from an auto dealer’s floor to be a salesman; regardless of what we do for a living, we are all selling, in fact, “to sell is human”, he claims.

Speaking of narrative, we are not talking about fiction or nonfiction or genre or plot and character arcs and story development, but about what drives you as a person. What is the underlying thread in your life, what is the line that runs through your writing? If you’re not sure, go and look for it—it’s there.

What are you about?

What drives your ideas?

What drives your stories?

What grounds your stories?

This applies to nonfiction as well. What do you build, or hope to create through your writing or art? Yes, I know, in essence, it’s about making a living, sell your books/stories/ essays/poems and survive. And then repeat more of the same.

What if there’s more? (Because there is…)

According to Diane O’Connell, it is one thing to take yourself seriously as an author but an entirely different narrative (forgive the pun) to build a successful author career. To be a best-selling author or a professional writer who makes a living off one’s writing, irrespective of the publishing path you choose, you need to become an engaged entrepreneur and an informed marketer. Writing an excellent book is no longer enough. She points out how important it is to ask yourself these ‘why?’ questions from time to time. How do your training and experiences influence your author identity? Perhaps your writing is brave enough to tackle pressing issues of the day such as socio-economic injustices, corruption and power play in politics, the plight of refugees or perhaps the devastation of abuse and how hope is to be found amidst the ruins of life.

Diane further points at the importance of polishing your presentation as an author. No one else is going to do it for you—the importance of presenting yourself as a professional. You have to be committed; you have to put in the work. You have to take yourself seriously. Even smaller things such as your website, the way you present yourself online in comments, in articles you write, matter. Your book covers, your business card, the way you dress. The way you talk and what you say. It all matters. Which does not mean you shouldn’t have a sense of humor. Laugh often—it’s therapeutic. Learn to laugh at yourself. Life is short.

You will do yourself a favor by reading Jeff Goins’s most recent book, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. He makes a compelling case to debunk the myth that to be an artist (creative persons/artists/musicians), equals poverty and misery and being seen as a second-class citizen. His book is not a “quick-fix to become rich through writing,” but is filled with actionable steps for creative individuals on how to become financially independent while following their dream of creating art. What I found profound in the book is the importance for each one of us (as creative individuals) to take our art seriously. To place value on our work, take pride in our art, and then through hard work and entrepreneurship and close collaboration with other creatives, turn our work into an income stream. The goal is not the money (which is crucial) but the ability, by being paid well, to continue to grow as artists and keep on creating art and make our world a better place. My only critique of the book is its title; I would have preferred it to read, Serious Artists Don’t Starve.

When I look at my writing, I’ve noticed a thread which had manifested itself throughout; forgiveness and reconciliation and a willingness to delve into uncomfortable topics such as history we choose to forget, abuse in all its different formats and the importance of work ethics. Without setting out to do so, my published novel and novella, Be Silent and Be Good, as well as my soon to be published novel, Maxime, (31 October 2017) has forgiveness and the need for it, laced throughout—although, in a hidden fashion. I am convinced it stems from growing up in the African interior, growing up in a household where there was love, but also ample emotional abuse from the paternal side. Also following decades in the medical field, witnessing the devastation in lives when mercy and forgiveness are absent or scarce, abuse is rampant, and work ethics become blurred.

The challenge and our task are to find order amidst the chaos and to create beauty from a broken reality. How else can our writing offer hope (or escape) to our readers? I am a physician: an anesthesiologist, who writes. I blog at, and you will find my books and stories there.


What we read and the company we keep impacts us more than we care to acknowledge. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Daniel Plan and the Daily Hope devotionals, goes so far as to say, “I will be able to tell what kind of person you are without meeting you by the books you read and the friends you keep.”

We cannot be prolific or serious writers without reading wide and extensively. Learning how to read like a writer, is vital. The same goes for our writing collaborators. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings met on a weekly basis in Oxford for close to twenty years between 1930 and 1949, producing some of the greatest stories known to us.

Being multi-faceted is a good thing, if not vital to help us blossom into vibrant, well-balanced humans, endowed with humility and compassion. Never stop learning and diversifying your craft—remain a student for life.

Take for instance Kazuo Ishiguro, the 2017 Nobel prize for literature winner, who gave us works such as The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go and A Pale View of Hills. He’s a Bob Dylan fanatic, and a man who’s been playing the guitar and writing songs from before the publication of his first book.

Even if you believe you don’t need to develop your narrative, give it serious thought. I would love to be thought of one day, in Sebastian Barry’s words speaking of Ishiguro, as someone “between genius and gentleness … a measure of the best mankind can be.” Or, as Robert McCrum describes Ishiguro, “an artist without ego.”

How do we get there?

By giving thought to our personal manifesto first as human beings and second as writers and artists. You and I, as creatives, as individuals, play a role in how others read us, in what we become.

The choice to a large extent is ours!





  1. Jeff Goins: Why the story of the starving artist needs to die –
  2. Real Artists Don’t Starve – Jeff Goins
  3. Diane O’Connell: How to build your author career –
  4. The Guardian on Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2017 Nobel prize for literature win –
  5. Daniel H. Pink: To Sell is Human. The surprising truth about moving others.
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Barton Cottage Chapter 5 Part 1

the drawing with color

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Word count: 1727)


Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part I here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part II here)

(Read Chapter 4 here)


Chapter 5 The Drawing

Part I


Conner avoided Dottie the next morning, keeping to his room, waiting for her to leave. Caroline sat at the breakfast table casually scrolling through her phone, keeping a lookout for Dottie to go. Conner’s phone buzzed. “She’s gone,” the text read; and they headed out.

The morning sun glinted through the trees as they drove east toward downtown Asheville. Melted snows and spring rains had left the countryside lush and green.

Since Conner hadn’t eaten, they stopped at a breakfast house with an outdoor patio. Conner had an omelet and Caroline a small bowl of fruit.

Caroline stabbed a strawberry with her fork and asked, “Why didn’t you tell Dottie I was the friend you had plans with this morning?”

Conner swallowed a bite of omelet. “That must have been confusing for you. I’m sorry. It wasn’t a reflection on you. Dottie thinks I’ve been wasting a lot of time during my stay and she would’ve thought this morning’s activity was also a waste of time. I thought she’d ask fewer questions if she assumed I was with a college buddy.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Caroline said, shrugging her shoulders in agreement.


They arrived at the gallery and Caroline enjoyed telling Conner all she knew about the work there. They walked; she talked; he listened and learned.

Conner was enchanted by the passion in her voice as she talked about the artists, colors, and stories behind some of the pieces. Though never having an interest in art before, he found himself wanting her to teach him everything she knew.

A man approached. “Hello, I’m Stan Jameson. I own the gallery,” he said with a friendly smile and outstretched hand. “I hope you are enjoying your visit.”

“Very much, sir,” Conner responded, shaking his hand.

“And you, young lady?” he asked.

“Delighted as always,” Caroline said. “I’ve been here before.”

“My friend’s giving me quite an education,” Conner said, motioning to Caroline. “And I was informed last evening she’s an award-winning artist herself.”

Mr. Jameson clapped his hands. “Wonderful! What kind of work do you do?” he asked.

Caroline disliked being the center of attention but she smiled humbly and replied, “I draw and paint with watercolors and oils…”

Mr. Jameson rubbed his hands together. “Could I talk you into drawing something for the gallery?” he asked with a jolly smile, motioning to a drawing table near the back.

“Now?” Caroline blurted, immediately thinking how awkward she might feel drawing an impromptu piece in front of Conner.

“Unless you have to hurry off,” he warmly appealed.

“Oh, we’re in no hurry at all,” Conner assured him while goading Caroline on with a teasing grin and raised eyebrows.

Her eyes widened, she wasn’t used to drawing in front of an audience, other than classmates who shared the same pressures of an assignment.

“Please,” Mr. Jameson begged. “I would be so honored to have you create a masterpiece in my own gallery.”

Her cheeks flushed rosy pink as she relented. “Well, I don’t know if I can give you a masterpiece, but I guess I can draw something,” she said.

The two men smiled at each other in triumph, and very soon Caroline was seated at the drawing table. She settled herself in the chair, closed her eyes to bring to mind some previous scene, opened them again and began to draw.

Her hand glided over the paper—back and forth, large sweeping motions and small delicate strokes—the pencil seemed to be part of her hand as the two worked in perfect unison.

Conner watched as a beautiful garden began to take form on the page, resembling the one at Northland. A gazebo housing a small orchestra appeared next, followed by a dance floor and then a couple dancing—resembling Conner and Caroline when they danced in the garden at Northland.

She finished and looked over her work, hesitating before daring to look at Conner. She drew a long breath, and looked up, anxious for his reaction.

His eyes were wide and his breathing heightened as he gazed at the picture. He was silent for several moments before expressing, “It’s stunning Caroline. Your drawing is masterful and the subject…” He paused to catch his breath before continuing, “well, it’s a beautiful drawing.”

She gently lifted it from the table and held it out to him. “Thank you. I drew it for you, I’d like you to have it.”

He backed away, a look of sorrow sweeping over his face. “I’m so sorry Caroline,” he said in a breathless whisper, “I can’t accept it. Please forgive me.”

The look on his face seemed to plead for her understanding. Dottie’s voice came to her mind: “No time for silly girls.” She nodded her understanding.

Conner walked to the front of the gallery to wait.

Caroline choked back emotion and stood in silent agony for several moments.

“My dear,” Mr. Jameson said softly, “why don’t you display it here? If it sells, you’ll make a pretty penny from it.”

She blinked tears away. She was conflicted between wanting to hide it under her bed, like a buried treasure, for the rest of her life and wanting to tear it to pieces the way her heart was feeling torn. She reluctantly agreed to Mr. Jameson’s request and handed it over.

“I think we’d better go now, Mr. Jameson,” she said.

“You come back and see me whenever you wish, my dear,” he said in a kindly manner. “And if you have any other such lovely pieces you’d like to display, just bring them in.”

She thanked Mr. Jameson as the two left the gallery.

As they walked toward Caroline’s car, parked a few shops down, they passed the window of a restaurant where Dottie sat with a couple of city council members. Dottie spied the two. Her eyes narrowed and her mouth gaped open.


Later that afternoon Caroline went for a walk in the garden to clear her mind. She hadn’t realized until the moment she decided to draw the image of herself and Conner dancing in the garden how deep her feelings were for him. She understood the challenges he faced with his family’s expectations and controlling nature but still the rejection of the gift hurt.

The late afternoon sun dipped below the tall pencil pines lining the back of the garden. She loved this time of year when the entire world was renewed with fresh growth and bursting color; but today, she took little joy in it. She sat on a stone bench at the far edge of the reflecting pool and stared at the very spot where they had danced, a tear fell and she turned away. She drew her legs up, wrapped her arms around them and rested her chin on her knees.

After a few moments of solitude, Ashelynn bounded up to her declaring, “You’re falling in love with Conner! And… it’s obvious he’s falling for you too,” she said with a grin plopping herself next to her sister.

While keeping her chin on her knees, Caroline turned her head to look at Ashelynn. “Humph.”

“You do like him, don’t you?” Ashelynn asked.

Caroline raised her head, drew in a frustrated breath, and let it out. “Of course, I like him!” she said. “He’s smart and kind and such a gentleman! And I know you don’t think he’s very good looking, but to me, he’s the cutest, most amazing man I’ve ever known!”

Ashelynn placed her hand over her heart and dramatically responded, “One day he’ll get down on one knee and ask you to be his bride, and at that moment, I’ll think he’s every bit as cute as you do!”

“That isn’t going to happen,” Caroline said.

Ashelynn furrowed her brow. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did your date to the gallery not go well?”

Caroline sighed, searching for the right words to explain. “Sometimes when I’m with Conner, I’m so sure he has feelings for me, and I feel as though we belong together. Then there are other times when I’m painfully aware we may only ever get to be friends.” She released her knees and her feet fell to the ground. “Maybe that’s for the best,” she continued. “I know what his family wants for him—demands of him! They want him to follow in his father’s footsteps and even become president one day! And I’m sure they’d prefer him to marry some senator’s daughter with powerful connections to better his chances.”

Ashelynn grimaced and shook her head. “Well, that doesn’t suit him,” she said. “They may want that kind of life for him, but I can’t imagine he wants it. No Caroline, I’ve seen the way he looks at you and I believe you two are meant to be and one day he’ll find a way to show you that he loves you!”

Ashelynn placed her arm around her sister, giving her a squeeze. Looking up, she saw Conner approaching. She announced she had some homework to finish and left the two alone.

Caroline straightened up, trying to look composed.

Conner sat at the opposite end of the bench. “I wanted to thank you for taking me to the gallery with you,” he said in a slow, even tone. “I did truly enjoy it and your talent is beyond compare.”

Caroline smiled, concealing the fact she had come to the garden to feel sorry for herself. “Thank you,” she replied, “I enjoyed it too.”

Leaning elbows to knees, he laced his fingers together and focused on the pool.

She gazed upon him and at that moment she thought he was so perfect she could never look upon another and find them half as handsome. She longed to tell him what she was feeling and wished he could declare some sort of feeling for her; something to put the fears to rest that they may only ever be friends. She looked back toward the reflecting pool and resolved instead that until he gave her some indication he may feel for her what she was feeling for him, the safest course was to keep her feelings to herself.

They both sat quiet—gazing into the reflecting pool, he on one end of the bench, she on the other; neither aware they were being watched from the house.

Up next in Chapter 5 Part II: Goodbyes


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Barton Cottage Chapter 4

Barton pic with others star warsx

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 2792, Est reading time: 2 mins)


Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part I here)

(Read Chapter 3 Part II here)

Chapter 4 Ashelynn’s Movie Night


Ashelynn’s friends—the not so well off and wealthy alike—arrived at Northland precisely on time the evening after the party. Ashelynn had texted them beforehand: “Don’t ring the bell, come to the back door, text me when you arrive, we’ll come get you.”

Dottie was in the study and unaware of the maneuvers going on in the other part of the house. Caroline played lookout while Ashelynn snuck her friends from the back door—tiptoeing through the halls—to the family room. They pulled the double sliding doors to a close behind them.

After browsing the Hathcock’s extensive movie collection, the friends unanimously voted for Star Wars and Ashelynn put the disc in. She and Caroline passed out bags of microwaved popcorn and cans of soda. Ashelynn had prepared a large bowl of sugary treats and placed it on a cocktail table in the middle of the room. The movie began on the 65-inch screen and the theme song boomed in the speakers.

“Ashelynn turn it down,” Caroline warned, “Dottie will hear.”

Ashelynn turned the volume down but the chattering of her friends created another dull roar. Caroline shushed them and they kept it down for a few minutes until someone broke out in laughter and the noise level rose again.

Caroline put her finger to her lips. “Shh…” she said, trying to remind them to keep it down.

One of the doors slid open and the girls gasped, thinking it was Dottie, but Conner’s head poked through. On the screen, Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi were watching a hologram of Princess Leia pleading for help.

“What’s all this?” he asked.

Caroline waved him over and motioned for him to sit next to her.

“We’re watching Star Wars,” she said. “Have you ever seen it?”

“Of course, it’s a classic!” he answered with a broad smile.

“Dottie doesn’t know Ashelynn has friends over, so we’re trying to keep it quiet,” she whispered.

“I see, why don’t I stick around and help you keep a lid on it,” he said in a lowered voice.

She smiled in agreement and handed him a bag of popcorn and a can of lemon-lime soda.

All was quiet for a short while but like waves on the ocean, the chatter would swell and only break when Caroline, Ashelynn and now Conner, would shush them.

A couple of kids started talking loudly and someone threw a piece of popcorn, telling them to shut up. Another piece immediately flew back the other way and within moments popcorn was flying around the room—accompanied by bursts of loud laughter and shrieking voices.

Dottie came in search of the commotion. She slid the doors open. The Millennium Falcon was escaping the jaws of a gigantic snake Han Solo had mistaken for a cave. Popcorn, soda cans, and candy wrappers littered the room.

“What’s going on in here?” Dottie demanded, storming into the room. “This is my home! Nobody asked my permission for these people to be here!”

She growled like a snarling beast but before she could devour the guests, Conner stood up like a knight to the rescue—his shield a bag of popcorn and his sword a soda can.

One of Ashelynn’s friends called out, “Use the force!”

Another said, “These are not the kids you’re looking for.”

Dottie sneered at the jesters.

“Dottie, calm down and reconsider,” Conner said while the other kids chuckled. “It’s a harmless activity—a simple way for Miss Caroline and Ashelynn to reconnect with their friends and lift their spirits after grieving the loss of their father.”

“Well, no one asked my permission,” Dottie responded, crossing her arms. “If they want to plan something like this, they need to consult me first.”

Frank soon appeared. “What’s all the shouting?” he asked.

“Frank,” Ashelynn called out, “you said Northland was still our home. Is that true or not? If it is, then I should be able to have friends over without her screeching at me!”

“Well…” Frank stammered, “yes… but… you see, it would be best if you ran your plans past Dottie first.”

“I knew it!” Ashelynn said. “This is her house now, not ours! And we’re only allowed to do whatever she tells us to!”

“Oh, no dear…” Frank started before Dottie interrupted.

“I want these kids out now and this room cleaned up!”

Conner gently put his hand on his sister’s shoulder, leaned toward her and whispered. “Dottie, look around you, some of these fine young people are from some of the very families we met with last night.” He paused while she scanned their faces. “We wouldn’t want to offend anyone,” he continued. “I’ll stay with them and make sure everything gets cleaned up before they leave if you’ll let them stay until the movie is over.”

“Oh,” Dottie said, composing herself. “I guess, that’d be alright. I was just, well, I was taken by surprise—caught off guard. Of course, they are welcome to stay.” She forced a cordial smile before taking Frank’s arm and leaving the room.

“Sir Conner!” Ashelynn declared, bowing toward him. “Our knight in shining armor!” Everyone clapped and cheered.

One of Ashelynn’s friends called out, “He used his Jedi mind powers!” Everyone laughed.

A smile came over Conner’s face as he enjoyed the cheers.

He returned to his seat and Caroline asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a politician?”

“Yes, why?” he asked.

“That was very diplomatic,” she said with a chuckle.

“Then my professors would be happy to know my education wasn’t entirely wasted,” he said.

The movie ended and everyone pitched in to clean up the trash and tidy the room. Ashelynn walked her guests out, thanked them for coming, and rejoined Caroline and Conner in the family room as they were putting throw pillows back in place.

They hauled bags of trash out to the large cans by the garage. As they walked, Conner asked, “I seem to remember Caroline once telling me she liked to draw and was rather good at it. Do you still do any of that?”

“She’s amazing,” Ashelynn piped up in praise of her sister before Caroline could answer. “You should have seen the portrait she painted of our family.”

“Should have?” he asked. “Did something happen to it?”

“Well, it was over the fireplace in the parlor,” Ashelynn said. “But Dottie made us take it down.”

“Take it down. Why?”

“She’s replacing it with a picture of her family,” Caroline answered.

“Oh, I see,” Conner said, with a hint of sorrow in his voice. “I would still like to see it sometime. I’d like to see any of the work you’d care to show me.”

Caroline smiled. “It’s in my mom’s room, I’ll bring it out tomorrow and I’ll bring some other stuff out too.”

Caroline and Conner exchanged smiles while Ashelynn looked on. The notion struck Ashelynn that her sister was developing feelings for Conner and in a romantic fancy, she thought she’d encourage things.

“Did you know Caroline has a scholarship to UNC Asheville to study art?” she asked Conner.

“I had no idea,” he said.

“She won a state-wide competition with a painting she did as a senior in high school!” Ashelynn exclaimed. “The piece is on tour with other winning pieces from high school kids across North Carolina with the ‘Artists of Tomorrow’ exhibit.”

“Incredible,” Conner said. “What did it look like?” He looked to Caroline, eager for a description.

“She hates to toot her own horn,” Ashelynn said. “It was a stunning watercolor of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.”

“Ooh,” Conner said, “sounds beautiful. Did you paint it from sight or from a picture?”

“From memory,” Caroline answered. “Dad took us on a tour of lighthouses one summer. We saw some breathtaking sights. I’d love to go again one day.”

“Painting all along your way?” he asked.

Her cheeks colored and she nodded. “Absolutely.”

“Maybe you’ll paint something for me one day,” he added.

She smiled and repeated under her breath, “Absolutely.”

“Should I guess you’ll spend your life as a famous artist? No time for us regular Joe’s,” he said, teasing.

“Of course not,” she said with a laugh. “I would like to own an art gallery one day though. I want to travel the country to find works by new artists and showcase them in my gallery.”

Conner smiled at her. “I believe you’ll realize that dream one day.”


After dumping the trash bags in the large cans, they returned inside to find Dottie waiting for them with arms crossed and an impatient glare.

“Conner, have you finished up those thank you notes to our guests for yesterday evening?” she asked.

“No, I haven’t,” he said, sheepishly.

“Now would be a perfect time to do that,” she said. “And don’t forget, we are attending 9 a.m. Sunday service with the Mayor in the morning.”

“Of course,” he said. He thanked the girls for the fun evening and said “goodnight” before climbing the stairs toward his room.

Caroline watched, he seemed like an ox pulling a heavy yoke.

“Ladies,” Dottie said, in a low voice, “for future reference, you will consult me before having company over and… Conner is a busy man, stay out of his way.”

No time for silly girls, Caroline recalled as Dottie turned and walked away.

Ashelynn headed off to her room grumbling under her breath and Caroline went to the kitchen for a quick glass of water.

She found her mother there finishing preparations for Sunday’s dinner—pot roast, potatoes, and carrots—with a dessert of pineapple upside down cake being pulled from the oven.

“Mom, what do you think of Conner?” Caroline asked taking a glass from the cupboard.

“Well, he’s been rather quiet so far—as he always was, I suppose,” she answered with a shrug. “But he looked quite the gentleman last night dancing with my beautiful daughter,” she said with a romantic twinkle in her eye. “I will have some reservations however if he shows any signs of being like his sister.”

“Oh, Mom, he’s nothing like his sister,” Caroline said. “He’s so sweet and kind!” Her eyes sparkled as she continued. “You should have seen him tonight. He saved us from a snarling Dottie. She came into the family room demanding for all of Ashelynn’s friends to leave, but Conner talked her out of it!” She sighed in delight, recalling his gallantry.

“I see,” Sarah said with surprise. “I guess I’ve been so busy in the kitchen I missed it all.” She searched her daughter’s face, bright with expression and smiled as she took notice of Caroline’s budding affections for Conner Burroughs.


A beautiful, sunny Sunday morning dawned over Northland. Caroline opened her window to the sounds of chirping birds and a gentle breeze rushing through the trees—she fancied the sound a chorus of hymns.

She showered and donned a pink floral print dress, hoping to catch a glimpse of Conner before they left. She emerged from the east wing as Conner emerged from the west.

He stopped mid-step. “You look beautiful this morning,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied, “and you look very handsome.”

“Thanks,” he said, starting toward her as if wanting to say more until Dottie’s loud voice was heard booming around the corner.

She, Frank and little James appeared and Dottie hurried them down the stairs. They were running late.

From the top of the stairs, Caroline watched them all the way down. They reached the front door and Conner glanced up at her. Her heart raced at the quick smile he gave her before they disappeared—off to rub elbows with the Mayor at Sunday services.


An hour later, Sarah and her daughters left to quietly attend their neighborhood church as they’d always done.


After church and sandwiches for lunch, Dottie went to put little James down for a nap and Conner joined the Hathcock ladies in the parlor.

Caroline brought out several of her art pieces and delighted in showing them off. Conner “ooh’d” and “aah’d” and praised her talent.

“Is this the portrait my sister made you remove from over the fireplace?” he asked holding it up.

Caroline nodded.

Conner shook his head. “That’s too bad, it deserves to be seen—look at your father’s smile and the brightness in his countenance. You captured it beautifully and it shows the love he had for your family.”

Caroline smiled. “That’s how I feel about it too.”

He continued looking over her work from sketches in books to paintings on canvas; he claimed to think all were beautiful.

Caroline watched him looking over her work and mentioned, “There’s a great art gallery downtown I’d love to take you to.”

“I would like that,” he responded.

“Tomorrow morning perhaps?” she asked.

“Sure,” he agreed.

Ashelynn sat at the piano and played inspiring tunes. Some from the church hymnal and others from popular plays.


After a while, Dottie strolled in. Her high heels click-clacking on the marble tile as Ashelynn played was like a turntable needle scratching across a record in the middle of the song.

Ashelynn stopped playing.

Dottie peered over Caroline’s artwork. “Hmm,” was all she uttered before saying, “Conner, can I speak to you for a moment?”

“Sure,” he said, excusing himself.

She led him to the study, out of hearing range of the rest of the household. “Conner,” she began with a sisterly affectionate yet overbearing smile, “have you finished those thank you notes?”

“Yes, I finished them last night,” he said. “I’ll put them in the mail tomorrow.”

“Excellent,” she said. “Now aren’t there other things you could be doing with your time? More productive things?”

“What do you mean?” he asked somewhat confused.

“You could be writing letters, making phone calls, getting in touch with some of Dad’s old acquaintances, doing research. Anything would be more productive than sitting around with the girls,” she said.

Conner furrowed his brow and any trace of a smile disappeared. “Dottie, do you have a problem with me spending time with Frank’s sisters?”

She sighed. “It’s not that, it’s the kind of future Mother and I have in mind for you. I don’t want you sitting around wasting time when you could be putting your efforts to better use.”

“Dottie, it’s Sunday,” he calmly said, “a day of rest, a day off from work, and family is never a waste of time.”

Conner returned to the parlor with the girls, not saying a word about his conversation with Dottie.

He picked up a Bible sitting on an end table. “My father used to read to me on Sunday afternoons. Do you mind if I read aloud?”

“That would be nice,” Sarah said with a smile. “Thomas used to read to us out of that Bible.”

“I don’t have any particular chapter or verse in mind. Let’s just flip it open and see what we find,” Conner said as he let the Bible fall open where it may. It opened to Matthew chapter 11. His eyes skimmed to verses 28 – 30.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

He sat in silence for a few moments before looking up with a sad smile and excusing himself from the room.


At breakfast the next morning everyone dug into stacks of pancakes Sarah was turning out—hot of the griddle.

Dottie laid out Conner’s itinerary for the day. “A meeting with a city-councilman, lunch with a senator…”

Conner interrupted her with a calm, soft voice. “Dottie, I’m sorry, I’ve already made plans this morning.”

“Plans?” she questioned. “With whom?”

He thought of their conversation last evening about him “wasting” time with the Hathcock girls. “A friend,” was all he said.

“A friend? What friends do you have in Asheville?” she asked, mockingly.

“When I was at Duke I met people from not only across North Carolina but all across the United States,” he explained. “I do have former classmates right here in Asheville.”

“Well, tell this ‘friend’ you have more important things to do,” she demanded.

“But I’ve already given them my word. It wouldn’t be right to go back on it now,” he said.

“What about my plans?” she asked. “I went through a great deal of trouble…”

“I’m sure you did and I’m truly sorry,” he said. “Next time check with me in advance so I can clear my schedule.”

Dottie huffed and left the table, muttering that no feminine waist-line could afford pancakes.

Up Next in Chapter 5: A drawing and a rejection

If you were to have a movie night with your friends, what would you watch? Answer in the comments below.



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Barton Cottage Chapter 3 Part II

Chap 3

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 1719)


Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

Chapter 3 Conner Burroughs

Part II

(Read Part I here)


She saw him walking straight toward her.

Her pulse began to race, she remembered the words she uttered before meeting him that evening and hoped she had not given offense. She reasoned, however, he wouldn’t walk over just to tell her his feelings were hurt.

“Miss Caroline,” he said with a polite smile taking a seat next to her. “I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve seen your family.”

“It’s all right,” she said. “If we’d made more of an effort to visit your family in Charlotte, we would’ve seen each other more often.”

“But,” he added almost laughing, “I do seem to remember how your father felt about my mother…” They both chuckled in agreement.

Conner and Dottie’s mother, Mrs. Burroughs, was a haughty woman and Caroline’s father took so little pleasure in visiting with his son’s mother-in-law they rarely made trips to Charlotte to see them. The last time they went, he’d become so aggravated with her disdainful comments they hadn’t made any further attempts to see Dottie’s family.

Conner’s smile faded as he added, “I was very sorry to hear about your father.”

“Thank you,” Caroline said.

The gentleman of the couple sitting with Sarah called over to Conner raising his glass toward them. “I’d dance with that pretty girl if I were you, young man.”

Caroline’s eyes widened and she looked away—embarrassed.

Conner stammered to answer, “Oh, yes, well, I think I will…that is, if she’d agree.” He looked at Caroline—the equivalent of the poor deer caught in headlights—she almost giggled but nodded her consent instead.

Her legs felt rubbery, she wondered why she felt so nervous, as they walked to the dance floor, a raised wooden platform which had been brought in for the evening.

She still felt guilty about what she said earlier in the reception line. As they began to dance, she softly said, “Conner, I need to apologize…”

With a little chuckle, he replied, “I just hope the poor man you were talking about has a good enough personality to make up for his unfortunate lack of good looks.”

She looked down with embarrassment, giggled, and looked back at him with a grateful smile. She felt the kindness she remembered from their youth.

“It seems your sister is very interested in shaping a future political career for you,” she commented.

“Yes,” he acknowledged. “Everyone seems interested in that.”

“But perhaps it’s not what you want?” she questioned.

A puzzled look came over his face. “What makes you think so?”

She worried; maybe she was wrong. She continued, “Well, it seemed your sister was more excited about dining with the governor than you were.”

“I’m surprised at you Miss Caroline,” he said.

She held her breath, wanting to kick herself for saying anything, sure now she was wrong.

“You’re keenly perceptive,” he added, “and maybe one of the few people on earth who understands.”

She breathed out slowly in relief.

The song ended, and before he could thank her for the dance and head back to his sister’s company, she quickly asked, “Would you like to go for a walk? There’s a pond beyond the stables; it’s gorgeous when there’s a full moon out, like tonight.”

He looked around wondering if he’d be missed if he snuck away. “I suppose it’d be alright,” he replied.

They left the garden walking along the path to the stables, continuing to become reacquainted along the way.

“So, if not politics,” Caroline said, “what then?”

“Can you keep a secret?” Conner asked.

“Sure,” she answered.

“I’ve been doing some work with my family’s business—incognito,” he said in a spy-like voice. “The staff I’m working with know who I am but my mother says ‘that’s what we pay others for’ so, I use a pseudonym, the way a writer would.”

“But you’ve been away at school. How did you manage it?” she asked.

“Well, there’s a funny thing we have these days called technology… you know, it keeps the world connected.” He teased her with a grin.

“Oh, stop it!” She laughed, giving him a shove.

“I haven’t told my family yet though,” he went on, “but I do prefer business to politics. I have so many ideas for improvement and we’ve been working on some great stuff!”

He paused and looked at Caroline smiling sincerely. “I haven’t told hardly anyone—outside of the staff who have promised to keep my secret—but somehow it feels easy to talk to you.”

“Why haven’t you told your family?” she asked.

“My mother and sister have different plans for me,” he explained. “The eldest son of the late senator. My duty to the legacy of political influence… we’ll have a Burroughs in the White House one day!”

“I see,” Caroline said, her eyebrows raised, “that’s quite an expectation to fulfill. Is your brother Randall expected to do the same?”

“Sure,” he answered. “Though Randall has a real taste for it. He loves knowing people think he’s important because he’s the son of the late Senator Burroughs. My dad would have never wished for such a notion!”

“Your dad was a good man,” Caroline agreed. “And I remember your mother’s and father’s ideas were sometimes at odds. I am sorry though, your family can’t respect your choices.”

“Thank you,” he said. “Please don’t misunderstand me, though, being an elected official is a sacred trust, I respect anyone who dedicates their time to public service and I’m truly proud of my father’s accomplishments. I love my mother and sister for dreaming I could possibly be president one day—it’s a great dream! The problem is… it’s not my dream.”

“That’s understandable,” she said. “What makes America great is people applying their God-given talents where they can do the most good and if your talents lean more toward business than politics then that’s what you should pursue.”

He looked at her for several moments and smiled wistfully. “My thoughts exactly,” he said.

They arrived at the edge of the pond and gazed over the water as the moonbeams shimmered on the surface—the occasional ripple sent them dancing.

“You’re right,” he said, “this is beautiful.”

Caroline looked from the pond to Conner and noticed the moonlight shining on the red highlights of his dense auburn hair. She studied the details of his face, the strong brow line over his steel-grey eyes, glistening with a hint of slate-blue. She noticed how his full lips seemed to form a perfect heart shape when he smiled. She couldn’t agree with her sister that he wasn’t attractive; she thought his might be the most handsome face she’d ever seen.

They walked along the edge of the pond and Conner picked up a rock skipping it on the pond’s surface. He challenged her to do the same. She looked around and found a perfect skipping rock—hers skipped farther than his. They laughed and skipped a few more.

After deciding it was time to head back to the party Conner commented, “This has been a wonderful night. I haven’t had this much fun since…”

He paused and by the look in his eyes, she could tell there were several thoughts racing through his mind. Some not so happy she perceived as his eyes turned down and his smile fell but then brightening he looked up again.

“Do you remember that Christmas, when we first met and went sledding in the snow?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered thinking back to the time and smiling.

He nodded. “Since then.”

A grin overtook her face to think some of his best memories included her.


While they made their way back to the garden, they talked about some of their favorite things. Caroline discovered his favorite flavor of ice cream was pecan praline, and Conner found out her favorite gemstones were…

“Sapphires, of course,” he remarked. “Makes sense, they match the color of your eyes—which haven’t changed a bit by the way,” he said a little under his breath, “still as beautiful as ever.”

His compliment left her breathless.


Moments after stepping back into the garden Dottie started toward them, looking furious. She got to them and pulled Conner aside. “Where have you been?” she asked, in an angry whisper.

“I took a walk with Caroline, we were catching up,” he answered.

Dottie huffed. “I gathered these important people here tonight for you and you run off with Caroline? You owe your time to our very powerful guests here and now,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” he mouthed, to Caroline as Dottie towed him away.

Caroline felt selfish and guilty, I shouldn’t have distracted him from such an important party. She reconciled to make a full apology.

The rest of the evening was spent with Dottie towing Conner around, showing him off like a prized pony.

Caroline was asked to dance a few more times by friends and acquaintances. She caught Conner glancing at her on occasion as she danced but they didn’t get a chance to speak again for the rest of the evening.

She waited for the guests to leave and found Dottie in the kitchen. “I want to apologize,” she started, “I know you went through a lot of trouble putting this party together for your brother. I shouldn’t have taken him away from such important people. I’m sorry.”

“And you should be,” Dottie quickly replied. “But I’m glad you understand. His career will take years of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work! He has no time for silly walks and… silly girls. He must focus all his efforts on his future goals without wasting time.”

Caroline’s eyes widened realizing how heavy the weight of expectation was on Conner’s shoulders. How does he bear it, she wondered.

She lied in bed that night, waiting for sleep to come, wrestling with feelings of wanting to help Conner make his family understand but finally reasoning there was nothing more she could do than support him as a friend. Her thoughts returned to their stolen stroll and she fell asleep remembering how she felt when he told her her eyes were beautiful.

Up Next in Chapter 4 part: Ashelynn’s movie night

Who did you last dance with and where were you? Answer in the comments below.

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Barton Cottage Chapter 3 Part I

Chap 3

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 1971)


Volume 1 Leaving Northland

(Read Chapter 1 here)

(Read Chapter 2 here)

Chapter 3 Conner Burroughs

Part I


The next few weeks at Northland were stressful as remodelers and landscapers worked their magic tending to Dottie’s total estate make-over wishes. Sarah and her daughters did their best to steer clear of the construction and keep to the east wing—which was receiving none of the “make-over” attention.

“Looks like the projects are nearly completed,” Sarah commented at breakfast one morning as the workers applied the finishing touches.

“Yes,” Dottie said, “and just in time since I’ll be hosting a party in the garden this Friday evening.”

Ashelynn glanced at Caroline, her eyes wide with anticipation. Caroline knew how much she loved parties. Caroline liked the idea too—after weeks of mourning their father and adjusting to life with Dottie—a party might lift their spirits.

“The party will be in honor of my brother, Conner’s graduation from Duke University,” Dottie continued. “He’ll arrive Friday evening with guests from Charlotte who will also attend the party. Afterward, Conner will be staying with us for a while. A crew will be here in the afternoon to set up, so try to keep out of their way.”

Caroline poked at her scrambled eggs with a fork. Conner Burroughs, she thought with a smile. The last time she had seen him they were both awkward teenagers; she wondered if he would even remember her.

“May I invite some friends?” Ashelynn asked with guarded enthusiasm.

“You want to invite someone?” Dottie asked with a haughty laugh. “And what sort of people would you invite?”

Ashelynn answered slowly as if she were a school kid being scolded by the teacher. “The nice sort, neighbors, friends…”

“Are you aware the mayor, two congressional leaders and the governor are going to be here Friday evening? My brother has just received his degree in political science and this event will be the springboard for his career,” Dottie informed them.

“Well,” Ashelynn offered, “one kid I wanted to invite has an uncle who plays golf with former President Bush.”

“Oh, I see,” Dottie said, her tone changing as her lips turned up. “Why don’t you give me a list, Ashelynn dear. Include their parents’ names and numbers, and I’ll give them a call. If I find they are right for our gathering, I’ll offer the invitation.”

Ashelynn nodded and quietly sighed.


After breakfast, Sarah and Caroline saw Ashelynn and Maggie off as they left for school. Ashelynn would drop Maggie off at the elementary before heading on to the high school.

“That comment about staying out of the way on Friday was aimed at me,” Sarah grumbled as she and Caroline walked back inside. “Dottie’s point was to tell me I no longer have any say in what goes on around here.”

Caroline sighed in agreement. “I’m sorry, Mom. Try to have patience, things may get better soon.”

“My patience is running thin this morning,” Sarah said. “Living with them might be more difficult and detrimental than we originally thought. And since I believe Frank will honor his promise to your father to help us with extra money, it may be time to start looking for another place.”

“You might be right Mom but has Frank offered any money yet?” Caroline asked.

“Well, not yet…” Sarah answered.

“It’s been weeks,” Caroline said, “if he was going to offer extra money I think he’d have done so by now and with the amount of money they must have spent on all this remodeling, what if he’s no longer able to give us extra? If we decide to move, we’d better stick to something we can to afford without his help, just to be safe.”

Sarah was silent for a moment before telling her daughter, “You have so much of your father’s good sense in you.”

Caroline felt proud to have any of her father’s attributes.


Friday evening arrived and Caroline and Ashelynn sat primping at the double-seated vanity in Ashelynn’s room.

“I should’ve known Dottie would only invite my richest friends,” Ashelynn ranted.

They wore boat-neck, vintage tea dresses, Caroline’s azure blue with small white polka dots and Ashelynn’s cream-colored with a floral pattern.

Caroline listened quietly to Ashelynn’s complaints as she fluffed the golden blonde ringlets in her shoulder length hair; her blue eyes gazing back in the mirror, trying to convince herself she looked adequate enough to see Conner again.

“I had to apologize to my other friends and explain if it were up to me, everyone would’ve been invited,” Ashelynn said. She polished her lips with a dusty rose gloss and gathered her long, auburn hair to one side, securing the curly locks with a ribbon.

She turned to Caroline with a rascally grin. “So, do you know what I did to make it up to them?”

The mischievous sound in Ashelynn’s voice unsettled Caroline and she asked with worry, “What did you do Ashelynn?”

She explained in unconcerned tone, “I invited them over tomorrow night for a party of my own, and I’m not going to tell Dottie. I told them to show up at seven o’clock and we’ll watch movies, play games and hang out!”

“Oh,” Caroline replied, “like a normal Saturday night around here before everything changed.” She let out a long sigh, sad to think such an innocent activity would likely aggravate Dottie and cause further contention. There was nothing to be done about it now so her thoughts returned to the evening’s party.

“What do you think Conner looks like now?” Caroline asked.

“I don’t know,” Ashelynn said with a shrug. “He was kind of dorky looking when we were kids but I’m sure he’s at least decent looking now. We haven’t seen him in so long, though, how do we know he hasn’t become just like Dottie?”

“But he was always so nice, more like his father than the rest of the family,” Caroline muttered, reminiscing. She remembered him being quiet and awkward but kind and gentle with a cute smile.

“True, but his father’s gone now isn’t he?” Ashelynn countered, “And he’s been under the influence of his pretentious mother and snotty sister for the past few years. Who can say what he’s like now!”

Caroline shrugged, hoping Ashelynn was wrong.

“Come on,” Ashelynn said, jumping up from the vanity. “Let’s not let this party get started without us!”


Soon everyone was in the garden and the festivities were underway. Circular tables were dressed with white linens and centerpieces of red and blue flowers—a patriotic theme. Clear lights were strung around the trees, gateways, and walkways. Lighted candles floated in the newly added reflecting pool and the smell of jasmine graced the air. A small orchestra in the newly built gazebo played classical melodies.

Caroline strolled through the scene, committing every detail to memory. Her passion was drawing, and she would want to recreate this scene later on paper.

Ashelynn darted toward Caroline, disturbing her concentration. “I just got a glimpse of Conner,” she hastily reported.

“Oh,” Caroline said, trying not to sound excited. “What does he look like?”

Ashelynn looped her arm through her sister’s as they walked toward the trellised archway where Dottie was introducing Conner to the guests. “Well, he’s still dorky looking but his pimples have cleared up,” she said with a teasing laugh.

The girls stood in the line of guests waiting to be introduced to Conner. Caroline tried looking over and around heads and shoulders to catch a glimpse of him without luck. “I can’t imagine he’s completely unattractive?” Caroline said.

Ashelynn did not reply. Caroline looked at her sister’s face and knew immediately something was wrong. Ashelynn had a tightlipped smile and looked as if she wanted to tell Caroline to shut up.

Caroline felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see Dottie glaring at her with Conner at her side. Caroline had been looking in the wrong direction not realizing they were at the head rather than the end of the line. She immediately felt sick to her stomach thinking of her previous statement, hoping he hadn’t heard. The look on Dottie’s face suggested they did.

“Caroline and Ashelynn Hathcock,” Dottie said, overlooking the impropriety and introducing them in a formal manner, “you remember my brother, Conner Burroughs?”

The girls said hello and expressed their delight in seeing him.

“It’s a pleasure seeing both of you again,” Conner said.

He looked into Caroline’s eyes, smiling as if wanting to tell her, it was okay. The expression surprised her, and she found herself returning an awkward, embarrassed grin.


Dinner was announced and everyone moved to their assigned seating. Dottie, Frank, and Conner sat at the head table with the governor and the other political leaders. From Caroline’s table, several down from the head—marking the inconsequence of Frank’s step-family—she discreetly watched Conner throughout dinner and noticed while he seemed polite in manner and decorum, he also seemed relatively uninterested in promoting himself to the powerful political leaders.

After the dinner service was removed the governor stood at the podium to speak, followed by a few remarks from one of the congressman before Conner got up to speak. Caroline supposed his speech was going to be about his grand plans to go into politics, but it was not, instead, he humbly spoke of other things. He first thanked his sister for the lovely party, then his family for their support of his education and his professors for their tireless efforts in educating himself and his classmates. He went on to thank God for the country in which they lived and declared it was a true blessing to live in such a free country. He spoke of his gratitude for the founders whose dedication and sacrifices had built a free and independent nation. The conclusion of Conner’s unpretentious testimonial met with resounding applause.

The slanted smirk on Dottie’s face suggested it wasn’t quite what she expected, perhaps she had wished for Conner’s speech to be more self-promoting—given the company they were in—still, Dottie clapped along with the others as though she was pleased. When Conner returned to his seat, next to his sister’s, she bent toward him to whisper in his ear. The uncomfortable look on Conner’s face left Caroline wondering if Dottie had scolded her brother for a timid performance.

The speeches concluded and the orchestra began playing tunes for dancing, while the guests began to mingle. Caroline watched Conner as Dottie dragged him around from one VIP to the next.

She told herself she should stop watching him then failed in her attempts to keep her eyes off him.

After a while, she turned her chair in an earnest effort to turn her attention away from him. Maggie had been seated next to her mother and sisters throughout dinner, but had made the acquaintance of a couple of kids her age and went to show them around the garden. She skimmed her eyes over the guests to see how Maggie and her new friends were doing. She spied them at the reflecting pool, swirling their fingers in the water, trying to make the floating candles spin. She giggled to see them having fun.

Ashelynn had also met with some friends and had left the table; Caroline’s eyes searched them out. She saw them gathered together at the west end of the garden, talking and laughing. She smiled; pleased they were having a good time.

She tried to listen in on the conversation her mother, still seated next to her, was having with a couple from their neighborhood—the ones with the relative who golfs with the former president—but soon realized her eyes were once again searching for Conner.

She couldn’t immediately see him and thought it was for the best, but before she could convince herself to stop looking, she saw him walking straight toward her…

Up Next Chapter 3 part II: Distracted


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