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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Genre: paranormal romance
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC
Date of Publication: May 31, 2014
Number of pages: 249 pages
Word Count: 73,300 (approx.)
Cover Artist: Elaina Lee/For the Muse Designs
On the night of the new spring moon, a near-fatal accident propelled Victoria Reeves-Ashton over a century back in time to awaken in the body of Katherine Kamarov.
Now, after three months of pretending to be Katherine and laboring to repair relationships damaged by Katherine's brash and selfish personality, quiet and gentle Victoria finds that her heart is putting down roots in Katherine's world, in her family relationships, and especially in a deepening friendship with Katherine's winsome cousin Michael.
Hidden letters reveal the story of other moonseed-time travelers like herself-and Victoria realizes that she and Katherine will likely be returned to their own times the following spring. Tension mounts when a rich and handsome suitor applies to marry her, and Victoria must choose whether to accept him for Katherine's sake or to follow her own heart.
Ryan Ashton, the husband Victoria left behind, is baffled by the woman his wife has suddenly become. Unwilling to believe her story about an exchange in time, Ryan struggles to understand the stark transformation of his timid, remote wife into a sexually aggressive and captivating siren. Against his better judgment, he falls hard for this new woman who is a perplexing mixture of cruelty, sensuality, and tenderness, a woman who he suspects has the power to either break his heart or heal the aching loneliness he has lived with all his life.
I bit my lip, wanting to avoid any subject that could ruin the easy camaraderie of our afternoons together. Michael had been friendly and funny, teasing me gently, treating me with the easy affection of an older brother. Once or twice I'd caught him watching me with a fierce intentness that made my heart skip. But then he'd grin or offer a quip that made us both laugh, and the uncomfortable moment would pass.
I enjoyed the lightness of our friendship, grateful for the reprieve. In the rose garden at Summerwood and later on the trip to San Francisco, I had felt the slow but persistent budding of a new feeling that both thrilled and frightened me. The lightest touch of Michael's hand pricked up hairs along my skin like electricity; his boyish grin twisted a slow, sweet pain deep into my body. His clean, male scent in close proximity could stun me with unexpected waves of need, often forcing me to look away so he wouldn't see the flame in my eyes.
I couldn't allow Michael to guess where my heart was taking me—because of Raymond.
Although many things were unclear to me, one fact seemed certain—Katherine must marry Raymond Delacroix and have at least one child with him. If I gave in to my new feelings for Michael, and if I were cruel enough to let him see them, then I risked both hurting him and ruining Katherine's chances with Raymond when she came back to her own time.
And Katherine would come back. I was convinced of it, all my desperate wishes to the contrary. She would marry Raymond, give birth to Elise, and secure a future that would eventually lead to her daughter painting a picture of Katherine and me at the bridge over Two Trees Creek. By the same token, I would return to life as a lingerie model and a cold marriage with Ryan Ashton. Ryan.
"What?" Michael's voice made me jump and turn my head.
"You said 'Ryan' again."
Michael had removed his glasses, and he blinked at me from only a foot away. God, he has beautiful eyes, I thought. Soft gray-green depths that held me breathless, fighting a slow, aching pull to be in his arms.
"He's…nobody," I said.
Michael was studying me, his eyes so solemn and searching that I couldn't look away. He didn't speak, but in that moment my heart yearned toward him, and he saw it. His expression changed. His gaze moved slowly from my eyes to my mouth.
I turned my face away and shut my eyes over a sudden sting of tears.
"Kat?" he said softly.
His voice held a new, cautious note of intimacy. A moment later his thumb brushed my wet cheek, and the tenderness of his touch wrenched a low cry from me. I pushed his hand away and struggled to sit upright.
"Don't touch me!" Pain made my voice sharp. "You can't touch me, Michael!"
But his hand was already under my elbow, helping me to sit. He pushed a handkerchief into my hand.
"Here. Take it." He sounded bewildered and hurt. "Seems you'd rather do the job yourself."
He watched me wipe my eyes and blow my nose with his handkerchief. I couldn't look at him, and after a moment he reached for his glasses and slipped them on.
In a tight voice he asked, "Do you still want to visit Union Square?"
I pressed the soggy handkerchief to my lips and nodded.
Michael pushed himself to his feet and thrust out a hand to help me up. We folded the blanket between us, careful not to touch each other's fingers, and he picked up the hamper. As we crossed the grass in uneasy silence, a fresh roll of tears made me reach into my handbag for a clean handkerchief. A flash of copper tumbled into the grass.
I stopped quickly, but Michael was quicker. He scooped up the coin, examined it briefly, and gave it back to me.
"You still carrying that thing around?"
I looked up at him, my handkerchief arrested halfway to my face. "My coin? What do you know about my coin?"
He squinted at me and frowned. "You're kidding, right? I was with you when you paid a nickel for that worthless thing at the county fair. You said it was good luck, and you carried it around in your pocket for years." He stopped at my look. "What is it?"
"Michael, are you certain this is the same coin?"
I handed it back to him. His gaze lingered on my face, puzzled, before he examined the coin. He weighed it briefly on his palm, flipped it over, and gave it back to me.
"Of course I'm certain." He pointed his finger at the familiar nick in the rim. "There's where the wagon wheel ran over it, and you were so furious because you thought the magic was ruined." He screwed up his eyes against the sun and studied me. "What's the matter with you, Kat? You're looking at me like I've got two heads."
I shook my head in dazed wonder, suspended once again in that universe where Katherine's world and mine overlapped and where it made perfect sense that her lucky coin should have somehow come to me—twice.
About the Author:
Judith Ingram weaves together her love of romance and her training as a counselor to create stories and characters for her novels. She also writes Christian nonfiction books and enjoys speaking to groups on a variety of inspirational topics. She lives with her husband in the San Francisco East Bay and makes frequent trips to California's beautiful Sonoma County, where most of her fiction characters reside. She confesses a love for chocolate, cheesecake, romantic suspense novels, and all things feline.
Website, blog & free weekly devotional: http://JudithIngram.com
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Music Playlist (Book Soundtrack)
So in Burdened you get two paranormal romances. The Nathan and Tracey romance where you are offered the choice to be with a burdened Sephlem. And the Glen and Scott romance where we experience the inconveniences of what happens when you are not offered the choice.
Here is the playlist for both. These are song I heard during and after writing the book that reminded me of the characters and their situations. As well as Burdened’s theme.
Demons – Imagine Dragons
Almost Is Never Enough – Ariana Grande & Nathan Sykes
The Last Song – Rihanna
Kill and Run – Sia
Reload – Sebastian Ingrosso
I Choose You – Sara Bareilles
Red Light – Tiesto
Latch – Disclosure Feat Sam Smith
Permanent – David Cook
Magic – Cold Play
Come A Little Closer – Cage the Elephant
Ten Feet Tall – Afrojack & Wrabel
Heaven – Beyonce
Find You – Zedd
Kiss Me – Ed Sherran
Safe and Sound – Capital City
Glen and Scott Bonus Tracks.
Say Something – A Great Big World
Just A Fool – Christina Aguilera Feat Black Shelton
Breath Me – Sia
Down – Jason Walker
A Drop in the Ocean – Ron Pope
When a Heart Breaks – Ben Rector
Never Say Never – Fray
I’ve Told You Now – Sam Smith
A Burdened Novel
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Number of pages: ebook (381)
Number of pages: paperback (423)
Word Count: 142K
Tracey Warren has everything an eighteen year old girl should. She lives a life of expectancies; go to school, please her parents, party with friends, and revel in life as a young adult.
That is until she experiences an unexpected life changing accident caused by Nathan Newcomb; an illegally attractive yet perplexed guy who has her fumbling over her words and cracking her head on the concrete. In being enthralled by his overwhelming existence, Tracey neglects his promise of death (which never falls short of Nathan) and in ignoring his guarantee, she chooses to give into love over sanity and risks her life for the opportunity of being with him.
Nathan, knowing the risks gives into this want to have Tracey presuming it may be better to jeopardize their possible ending, than to allow her to endure the pain of his devoid. Nonetheless, with him being a burdened Sephlem, not only are they burdened by their adversaries who will risk everything but the exposure of their existence to see Nathan fall. But Nathan and Tracey come to find that their most sinister enemies lie under their same roof and regrettably share the same bloodline.
We walk out of the house to the backyard, and over to a gazebo that sits off to the side, equal distance from the house and the fence. There are cushioned benches and a beautiful water fountain surrounded by lilies. It’s dimly lit and the rest of the light comes from the remainder of the setting sun.
“I’m sorry about him, Tracey.” He sits down, pulling me to sit across him.
“No, it’s okay. There’s something off about him though. I know you know him better than I do—him being your dad and all. But there is something about him that doesn’t sit well with me. Why all the questions all of a sudden? Just the other day he was the least bit interested in us.”
“He’s an ass. That is how he is. He is one way one day and a different way the next. Fortunately, you were not able to hear what he was really saying—only what came out of his mouth.”
“And what was that?” I’m curious.
“‘This isn’t about you. This is about Nathan.’” He points to himself.
I tense, feeling a slight discomfort. That’s what the Nathan-look-alike said to me the other night, and in that same tone. “That sounds familiar.”
“You said that to me the day you tricked me.”
“That wasn’t me, again, and what do you mean?”
“That exact same tone, those words. When the guy—” I can’t recall his name. “—cut me, that’s what he said.” My hands start getting cold.
Nathan thinks for a moment, or maybe looks in my head. I sit quiet until he says something. “We have today. I’ll worry about it tomorrow,” he responds, ten minutes later.
I smile at him. Although, that really doesn’t give me much for whatever conclusion he came up with, or if he came up with a conclusion. We sit in silence. I try to wrap my head around Nathan’s father and his mixed personalities.
“What is he going to try to talk to us about?” I ask.
“He has no plans of talking with us. Rather, I have no intentions of speaking with him—not with you in the room anyway.”
“Why not with me in the room?” The distant Nathan is back.
“I would say things to him, and perform in a way, that I don’t want you to see.”
“And what, by you doing so, will make me think differently of you?”
“That’s not what I’m saying.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I have no respect for my father. I don’t care about hurting his feelings—if he had any. I also don’t use control when I deal with him.” He looks towards the yard.
“What are you saying?” I probe.
“Tracey, this is not a conversation I’m ready to have right now.”
“Why do you hold things back from me?”
“My life is difficult. My relationship with my father is not like others. How would it sound to you if I said I want to kill my father, and every time I try, the only thing that saves him is my mother? That I don’t mind losing control around him, in hopes that I would murder him—with no doubts or regrets.” He looks at me with no hurt in his eyes about his feelings.
“But if you murder your father, wouldn’t you kill your mother as well?”
“No, she will remain alive, but she will be miserable and out of character.”
“Wait, I’m confused. I thought one could not live without the other?”
“The female can live without the male, but not the other way around. Remember, your heart beats in replacement of mine. So if I die, your heart will still beat, but if you die, that’s it for the both of us.” That’s some crazy shit. “But if I’m hurt, you can always heal me, and I you. You may also be able to feel my hurt now.”
About the Author:
A love for reading transpired into an admiration for writing at a young age for Peiri Ann. Starting off in writing poetry and short stories she indulged in the possibilities of creating new worlds and lives to live within them opening a window of unanticipated possibilities. In high school a pin and notebook never left her grasps and in college the pin was replaced by a keyboard and the notebook replaced by a computer screen. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and certified in business management.
When Peiri Ann is not writing, reading, doing homework, or working in the downtown of Chicago she enjoys spending time with her little girl, watching action flicks, and spooning peanut butter from the jar as a midnight snack.
Web – www.peiriann.com
Twitter - @peiriann
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/aburdenednovel
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Monday, July 21, 2014
The Loving Husband Trilogy
Box Set- All Three Books
Genre: paranormal romance
Publisher: Copperfield Press
Date of Publication: 6/10/14
Number of pages: 782
Word Count: 265,000
Cover Artist: LFD Designs
Meredith Allard’s beloved best selling paranormal/historical Loving Husband Trilogy is now available together for the first time, with bonus material about the series. The collection includes the full texts of Her Dear & Loving Husband, Her Loving Husband’s Curse, and Her Loving Husband’s Return, plus a Q&A with Meredith Allard, series inspirations, and discussion questions. The Loving Husband Trilogy Box Set will please the most devoted James and Sarah Wentworth fans as well as fans new to the series.
Book One: Her Dear & Loving Husband
James Wentworth has a secret. He lives quietly in Salem, Massachusetts, making few ties with anyone. One night his private world is turned upside down when he meets Sarah Alexander, a dead ringer for his wife, Elizabeth. Though it has been years since Elizabeth's death, James cannot move on.
Sarah also has a secret. She is haunted by nightmares about the Salem Witch Trials, and every night she is awakened by visions of hangings, being arrested, and dying in jail. Despite the obstacles of their secrets, James and Sarah fall in love. As James comes to terms with his feelings for Sarah, he must dodge accusations from a reporter desperate to prove that James is not who, or what, he seems to be. Soon James and Sarah piece their stories together and discover a mystery that may bind them in ways they never imagined. Do vampires and witches live in Salem? Will James make the ultimate sacrifice to protect Sarah and prevent a new hunt from bringing hysteria to Salem again?
Book Two: Her Loving Husband’s Curse
How far will you go to protect the one you love?
Finally, after many long and lonely years, vampire James Wentworth's life is falling into place. Together with his wife, Sarah, the only woman he has ever loved, he has found the meaning behind her nightmares about the Salem Witch Trials, and now they are rebuilding the life they began together so long ago.
But the past is never far behind for the Wentworths. While Sarah is haunted by new visions, now about the baby she carried over three hundred years before, James is confronted with painful memories from his time with the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. Through it all, the persistent reporter Kenneth Hempel reappears, still determined to prove that the undead walk the earth. If Hempel succeeds in his quest, James and Sarah will suffer. Will the curse of the vampire prevent James and Sarah from living their happily ever after?
Book Three: Her Loving Husband’s Return
What would you do to return to the only one you have ever loved?
Vampire James Wentworth’s secret is no longer a secret, and now he and his beloved wife, Sarah, have been separated. While suffering his own internment, James is reminded of his time with Japanese-Americans in the Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II, and he cannot allow the past to repeat itself. With the help of his friends—Chandresh, Jocelyn, Timothy, even the irreverent Geoffrey—James learns what it means to return, and he is determined to return to his Sarah no matter the challenges—or the consequences. In the end, it may be up to Olivia, the most powerful of witches, to grant James’s most fervent wish. Will James and Sarah be reunited once and for all despite the madness surrounding them?
Excerpt from Book One
I am looking lovingly into the eyes of a man, though I cannot see his face because it is featureless, like a blank slate. We are standing in front of a wooden house with narrow clapboards, and there are diamond-paned casement windows and a steep pitched roof with two gables pointing at the laughing, hidden moon. I am certain I hear someone singing sweet nothings to us from the sky. From the light of the few jewel stars I can see the halo of his hair, like the halo of an angel, and even if I cannot see his eyes I know they look at me, into me. I stand on my toes, he is much taller than me, and I point up my face and he kisses me. As the warmth of his lips melts into mine, making me weak from the inside out, I feel my knees give from the thrilling lightness his touch brings. I know the face I cannot see is beautiful, like the lips I feel. His hands press me into him, clutching me closer, closer, unwilling to let me go. I grip him with equal strength, wishing he would carry me inside, yet I cannot bring myself to break our embrace.
“I shall never leave you ever,” he whispers in my ear. I promise him the same.
I do not know how I have been so fortunate to have this man in my life, but here he is, before me, wanting me. I am overcome with the joy of him.
Sarah Alexander didn’t know what was waiting for her in Salem, Massachusetts. She had moved there to escape the smog and the smugness of Los Angeles, craving the dulcet tones of a small town, seeking a less complicated life. Her first hint of the supernatural world came the day she moved into her rented brick house near the historic part of town, close to the museums about the witch trial days, not far from the easy, wind-blown bay. As the heavy-set men hauled her furniture inside, her landlady leaned close and told her to beware.
“If you hear sounds in the night it’s ghosts,” the landlady whispered, glancing around to be sure no one, human or shadow, could hear. “The spirits of the innocent victims of the witch hunts still haunt us. I can feel them stirring now. God rest them.”
Sarah didn’t know what to say. She had never been warned about ghosts before. The landlady peered at her, squinting to see her better.
“You’re a pretty girl,” the old woman said. “Such dark curls you have.” She still spoke as if she were telling a secret, and Sarah had to strain to hear. “You’re from California?”
“I moved there after I got married,” Sarah said.
“Where’s your husband?”
“I’m divorced now.”
“And your family is here?”
“In Boston. I wanted to live close to my family, but I didn’t want to move back to the city. I’ve always wanted to visit Salem, so I thought I’d live here awhile.”
The landlady nodded. “Boston,” she said. “Some victims of the witch trials were jailed in Boston.”
The landlady was so bent and weak looking, her fragile face lined like tree rings, that Sarah thought the old woman had experienced the hysteria in Salem during the seventeenth century. But that was silly, Sarah reminded herself. The Salem Witch Trials happened over three hundred years ago. There was no one alive now who had experienced that terror first hand. Sarah wanted to tell the landlady how she believed she had an ancestor who died as a victim of the witch hunts, but she didn’t say anything then.
“Yes, they’re here,” the landlady said, staring with time-faded eyes at the air above their heads, as if she saw something no one else could see. “Beware, Sarah. The ghosts are here. And they always come out at night.”
The landlady shook as if she were cold, though it was early autumn and summer humidity still flushed the air. When Sarah put her arm around the old woman to comfort her, she felt her skin spark like static. She rubbed her hands together, feeling the numbness even after the old woman pulled away.
“It’s all right,” Sarah said. “I won’t be frightened by paranormal beings. I don’t believe in ghosts.”
The landlady laughed. “Salem may cure you of that.”
For a moment Sarah wondered if she made a mistake moving there, but she decided she wouldn’t let a superstitious old woman scare her away. She thought about her new job in the library at Salem State College—Humanities I liaison, go-to person for English studies, well worth the move across the country. She saw the tree-lined, old-fashioned neighborhood and the comforting sky. She heard the lull of bird songs and the distant whisper of the sea kissing the shore. She felt a rising tranquility, like the tide of the ocean waves at noon, wash over her. It was a contentment she had never known before, not in Boston, never in Los Angeles. She was fascinated by Salem, looking forward to knowing it better, certain she was exactly where she needed to be, whatever may come.
Sarah’s first days in the library were hectic since it was the start of an autumn term. She spent her shifts on the main floor, an open, industrial-style space of bright lights, overhead beams, and windows that let in white from the sun and green from the trees abundant everywhere on campus. Across from the librarians’s desk, a combined circulation and reference area, was a lounge of comfortable chairs in soothing grays and blues where some students socialized using their inside voices while others stalked like eagle-eyed hunters, searching the stacks or the databases.
By Wednesday afternoon, as she saw the short-tempered rain clouds march across the Salem sky, Sarah thought she would have to buy a car soon. After driving and dodging in nail-biting Los Angeles traffic for ten years, she liked the freedom of walking the quiet roads from home to work, watching in wonder as the leaves turned from summer green to an autumn fade of red, rust, and gold. But she had been living in the sunshine on the west coast for ten years, and she had forgotten about the sudden anger of New England thunderstorms. They could appear just like that, a crack of noise overhead, then a gray flannel blanket covered the sky as fast as you could blink your eyes, water splashing all around, wetting you when you did not want to be wet, and she was caught unprepared. She held out her hand and shook her head when she felt the drops splash her palm. Jennifer Mandel’s voice sang out behind her.
“Need a lift?”
Sarah wiped her palm on her skirt, grateful once again for Jennifer’s assistance. Jennifer had been the head librarian at the college for five years, and she had taken Sarah under her wing, showing her where everything was, introducing her to the rest of the staff, answering her questions. There was something almost odd about Jennifer’s intuition—she always seemed to know when Sarah needed her, like a clairvoyant magic trick. They sprinted to the parking lot, trying to avoid the sudden splats of rain soaking their thin blouses through, and they clambered into Jennifer’s white Toyota, laughing like schoolgirls jumping in puddles. Jennifer drove the curve around Loring Avenue to Lafayette Street, the main road to and from the college.
“Where were you before you came here?” Jennifer asked. “You’re obviously not used to the rain.”
“I worked at UCLA.”
“A small town like Salem must seem dreary after living in the big city.”
Sarah looked at Jennifer, saw the compassion in her eyes, the understanding smile, so she said just enough to make herself understood. “I’m recently divorced.”
Jennifer held up her hand. “You don’t need to explain. I have two ex-husbands myself.”
They drove quietly, letting the sound of the car’s accelerator and the rain tapping the windshield fill the space. As Sarah watched the small-town scene drift past, she thought it might not be so bad to drive in Salem. Everything back east, the roads, the shops, the homes, was built on an old-time scale, narrower and smaller than they were out west. But here people slowed when you wanted to merge into their lane and they stopped at stop signs, so different from L.A. where they’d run you over sooner than let you pass.
“Why don’t you come over tomorrow night?” Jennifer asked. “We’re having a get-together at my mother’s shop.” She leaned closer to Sarah and whispered though they were alone in the car. “I should probably tell you, and I’ll understand if you think this is too weird, but my mother and I are witches.”
Sarah studied Jennifer, her hazel eyes, her long auburn hair, her friendly smile. “You don’t look like a witch,” she said.
“You mean the kind with black hair and a nose wart? The kind that fly around on broomsticks? Not that kind of witch.”
“You mean you’re Wiccan?”
“Yes, I practice the Wiccan religion, among other things. I’m the high priestess of my coven. I’m also licensed to perform weddings here in Massachusetts, in case you ever need someone to preside over a wedding for you.”
Sarah laughed. “I just got divorced. I won’t be getting married again any time soon.” She paused to watch the drizzle slip and slide on the windows. “I’m surprised there really are witches in Salem.”
“Ironic, isn’t it? The city known for hanging witches is now a haven for mystics.” Jennifer shook her head, her expression tight. “Is this too much information? I don’t usually tell someone a few days after I’ve met her that I’m Wiccan, but you have a positive energy. You don’t seem like someone who’s going to assume I’m a Satanist who loves human sacrifices.”
“I don’t mind. I’m just surprised. I’ve never known a witch before.”
“There are all sorts of interesting people you could meet around here.” Jennifer nudged Sarah with her elbow. “So will you come tomorrow night?”
“I don’t know, Jennifer.”
“You don’t need to participate in the rituals. Come make some friends. I think you’ll like the other witches in my coven. They’re good people.”
A Wiccan ceremony did sound odd, Sarah thought, but she had always been fascinated by different religions and cultures. Librarians had to keep learning—a healthy curiosity was a job necessity. And it would be nice to know some people in Salem, even if they were witches.
As they continued down Lafayette Street, Sarah saw the sign for Pioneer Village and she added it to her mental to-do list. “I haven’t had a chance to see much of this part of town since I’ve been here,” she said.
“How about a quick tour then?”
“What about the rain?”
Jennifer turned right down Derby Street. “I’ve lived here my whole life. A little water doesn’t bother me.”
Jennifer drove down one tree-lined street, then down another street, and another until Sarah didn’t know where she was. Though Witch City was small, Sarah was still learning her way around. She tried to gauge her surroundings and saw the tall, white lines of the Peabody-Essex Museum, then further down was the Hawthorne Hotel. Past that was the brick, colonial-looking Salem Maritime National Historic Site. As she watched the history flip past, like a stack of photographs from time gone by, she noticed a house she thought she knew though she was sure she hadn’t been down that way before. The one that caught her attention had wooden clapboards, diamond-paned casement windows, and two gables on the roof. It was old, though it didn’t seem to be a museum as the other old buildings were.
“What is that house?” she asked. “It looks familiar.”
“James Wentworth lives there.”
“Do you know him?”
Jennifer’s answer was stilted, as if she considered each word, weighed it, measured it, decided yes or no about it, before she let it drop from her lips. “He teaches at the college. He—his family—has owned this house for generations. It’s over three hundred years old, one of the oldest standing homes in Salem.”
Jennifer slowed the car so they could get a better look as she drove past. “Does it still look familiar?” she asked.
“Yes. Even that crooked oak tree in front seems right. I can picture the man I dream about standing in front there kissing me.”
“What dreams?” Jennifer gripped the steering wheel more tightly and her eyes brightened. “My mother’s friend Martha is great at dream interpretation. She’s done a world of good for me.” She winked at Sarah. “And you dream about a man? Is he a good looking man?”
Sarah pulled her arms around her chest, wishing she could take back her casual reference, afraid she had already said too much.
“Do you have a lot of dreams?”
“Yes,” Sarah said. But that was all she could manage. When Jennifer had waited long enough and Sarah had to offer something more, all she could say was, “It’s not a big deal. I just thought I knew the house from somewhere.”
“A lot of houses around here look the same,” Jennifer said.
Sarah looked at the houses, the tall, Federal-style ones, the Victorian ones, the brick ones, the modern-looking ones. Suddenly, as they drove around the green of Salem Common, the rain cleared, the sun brightened, and the clouds flittered away across the bay.
“That must be it,” she said.
She lowered the car window so she could smell the wet air. Though she missed the rain when she lived in Los Angeles, at that moment she was glad to see the serene blue reflection of the northeastern sky again.
They drove the rest of the way in silence.
About the Author:
Meredith Allard is the author of the best-selling novels The Loving Husband Trilogy, Victory Garden, Woman of Stones, and My Brother’s Battle (Copperfield Press). She received her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from California State University, Northridge. She has taught writing to students aged ten to sixty, and she has taught creative writing and writing historical fiction seminars at Learning Tree University, UNLV, and the Las Vegas Writers Conference. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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The Winter King
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Avon Romance
ISBN 13: 9780062018977
Wynter Atrialan, the Winter King, once lived in peace with his southern, Summerlander neighbors, but when Falcon, the prince of Summerlea, stole Wynter’s bride and murdered his young brother, Wynter vows vengeance. Calling upon a dangerous Wintercraig magic called the Ice Heart, he gathers his armies and marches against Summerlea, crushing their armies and spreading icy winter in his wake.
After three long, bitter years of battle, Summerlea is defeated and Wynter comes to the heart of the kingdom to issue his terms for their surrender. The prince of Summerlea stole Wynter’s bride and slew Wynter’s Heir. He wants the loss replaced. The Ice Heart is consuming him. Wynter hopes holding his own child in his arms will rekindle the warmth of love and melt the Ice Heart before he becomes the monster of Wintercraig legend, the Ice King.
The Summer King has three very precious daughters whom he loves dearly. Wynter will take one of them to wife. She will have one year to provide him with an Heir. If she fails, he will turn her out in the ice and snow of the mountains and claim another princess for his wife. And so it will continue until Wynter has his Heir or the Summer King is out of daughters. All the while, Wynter will enjoy the vengeance of knowing the Summer King will suffer each day without his beloved daughter(s), as Wynter suffers each day without his own beloved brother.
The plan is perfect—except for one small detail. The Summer King has a fourth daughter. One of which he is not so fond.
Blamed as a child for the death of her beloved mother, Khamsin Coruscate, the forgotten princess of Summerlea, has spent her life hidden from the world like an embarrassing secret. Dressed in cast-off gowns and left to her own devices, with only the determination of her loyal nursemaid to ensure she receives the education befitting an Heir to the Summer Throne, Khamsin haunts the abandoned towers and gardens of Summerlea’s royal palace, close to her beloved late mother’s treasures, and waits for the day her father will recognize her as a Princess of the Rose. But though she dreams of the valor and sacrifices of ancient Summerlea heroes and pines for paternal love that will never come, Khamsin is no sweet, gentle, helpless princess-in-a-tower. She is a fiercely passionate creature with a volatile, rebellious temper that is often as reckless and destructive as the dangerous forces of her weathergift, the power of storms.
Together will their stormy personalities be able to meld or will their powers destroy not only their love but the whole world?
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Prologue ~ Scarlet on Snow
Vera Sola, Summerlea
“Do you have to go?” Seventeen year old Khamsin Coruscate clung to her beloved brother’s hand as if by her grip alone she could anchor him fast and keep him from leaving.
“You know I do. Our treaties with the Winter King are very important.”
“But you’ll be home soon?” Whenever he was gone, the ancient walls of the royal palace of Summerlea that had been her home and her prison since birth seemed somehow more confining, more restrictive.
“Not this time, little sister.” Falcon shook his head. A strand of black hair that had pulled free of the queue at the back of his neck brushed against the soft, dark skin of his cheek. “It will take weeks to negotiate the treaties.”
Khamsin scowled, and the wind began to gust, sending Kham’s habitually untamed hair whipping into her mouth and eyes. “Why does he have to send you? Why can’t his ambassador negotiate the treaty? He’s sending you away because of me, isn’t he? Because he doesn’t want you spending so much time with me.” Her hands clenched into fists. The wind sent her skirts flying and a dark cloud rolled across the sun.
Their father, King Verdan IV of Summerlea, didn’t love her. She knew that. He kept her isolated in a remote part of the palace, hidden away from his court and his kingdom, on the pretext that her weathergifts were too volatile and dangerous and she couldn’t control them. That was all true. Kham’s gifts were dangerous, and she couldn’t control them any better than she could control her own temper. Until now, however, he’d never stooped to sending his other children away to keep them from visiting her.
“Here now. Be calm.” Falcon smoothed her wayward curls back, tucking them behind her ears. Compassion and pity shone softly in his eyes. “I wish I didn’t have to leave you. But Father believes I’ll have the best chance of getting what we want from Wintercraig, and I agree with him.” Summerlea, once a rich, thriving kingdom renowned for its fertile fields and abundant orchards, had been in a slow decline for years. Although the nobles and king maintained a prosperous façade for political and economic purposes, beneath the gilded domes and bright splendor of Summerlea’s palaces and grand estates, the rough tatters of neglect were beginning to show. “Besides, you won’t be alone while I’m gone. You have Tildy and the Seasons.”
“It isn’t the same. They aren’t you.” He was the handsome Prince of Summerlea, charming, witty, heroic. He’d lived a life of adventure, most of which he shared with her, entertaining her with the tales of his exploits…the places he’d seen, the people he’d met. His hunts, his adventures, his triumphs. No matter how much her nursemaid, Tildavera Greenleaf, doted on Khamsin, or how often the three other princesses, Autumn, Spring, and Summer, snuck away from their palace duties to spend time with their ostracized youngest sister, Falcon was the one whose visits she couldn’t live without.
“Now there’s a pretty compliment. Careful, my lady. You’ll turn my head.” He smiled, and warmth poured into her. It was no wonder the ladies of their father’s court swooned at the slightest attention from him. Falcon had a magical way about him. He could he literally charm the birds from the trees with his name-gift—controlling any feathered creature on a whim--and the weathergift inherent in his royal Summerlander blood was stronger than it had been in any crown prince in generations. It was as if the Sun itself had taken up residence in his soul, and its warmth spilled from him each time he smiled.
Kham took a deep breath. The sharp edge of her temper abated, and in the skies, the gathering storm began to calm. Perhaps King Verdan truly had chosen to send his only son as envoy to Wintercraig for political reasons. Long, long ago, as a small child crying herself to sleep, she’d decided Falcon was the reincarnation of Roland Triumphant, the Hero of Summerlea, the brave King who had defeated an overwhelming invasion force with his wit, his weathergifts, and a legendary sword reputed to be a gift from the Sun God himself. If anyone could charm the cold, savage folk of the north into concessions most favorable to Summerlea, Falcon could.
“Will you at least write to me?” she asked.
“I’ll send you a bird every week.” He tapped her nose and gave her a charming, roguish grin. “Cheer up. Just think of all the swordfights you’ll win when you’re fighting invisible opponents instead of me.”
Kham rolled her eyes. He’d been teaching her sword-fighting for years, but she had yet to best him in a match.
“You know,” she said as they walked towards the doorway leading back into the palace, “it might actually be a good thing that you’ll be spending months in Wintercraig.”
“Yes. You can use that time to find out what happened to Roland’s sword.”
Falcon tripped on an uneven flagstone and grabbed the trunk of a nearby tree to steady himself. “I’m sure I’ll be much too busy to chase fairy tales, Storm.”
She frowned in surprise. “But you’ve always believed the stories were true.” Blazing, the legendary sword of Roland Soldeus, had disappeared shortly after the heroic king’s death. Legend claimed it was the Winter King, the father of Roland’s betrothed, who had spirited the sword away so Roland’s brother Donal couldn’t claim it. Every royal Summerlea Heir for the last two millennia had dreamed of finding the legendary blade and bringing it back home where it belonged. Falcon had spent years chasing lead after lead, determined that he would be the one to find Blazing and restore Summerlea to its former glory.
“What about those letters?” she added. “The really old ones you found tucked in that monastery? You said they proved the stories were true.”
“That was six years ago. I was seventeen. I wanted the stories to be true.” He gave her a quick hug and a brotherly kiss on the forehead. “I’ve got to run. I’m meeting with Father and his advisors to go over our list of demands and concessions one last time before I leave. I’ll see you in a few months.”
“I’ll miss you every day.” She trailed after him, feeling bereft and forlorn when Falcon turned the corner and disappeared from view. But this time, she also felt confused. She’d never known Falcon to give up on something he felt passionately about. And he’d been passionate about finding Roland’s sword. He’d been certain he was on the right trail. He’d shared his discoveries with her because he knew she was just as hungry as he to find the legendary sword.
So why would he deny it now?
* * *
“She's not good for you."
Wynter Atrialan, King of Wintercraig, cast a sideways glance at his younger brother. "Don't say that, Garrick. I know you've never liked Elka, but in six months time, she will be my bride and your queen."
Garrick shook his long, snow-silver hair. Eyes as bright and blue as the glacier caves in Wintercraig's ice-bound Skoerr Mountains shone with solemn intensity that made the boy look far older than his sixteen years.
"You love too deeply, Wyn. From the moment you decided to take her to wife, you’ve blinded yourself to her true nature."
Wynter sighed. "I should not have shared my worries with you when I first met her." Wyn was an intensely private man, but he'd never kept secrets from Garrick. Not one. Wyn had raised his brother since their parents' death ten years ago. And in those years, he'd never tried to sweeten the ugly world of politics, never tried to gloss over his fears or concerns—even when it came to the more personal but still political matter of selecting a queen. If something happened to him, Garrick would be king, and Wyn didn’t want his brother thrown into such a position without preparation.
Unfortunately, the years of openness and plain, unfettered talk had paid unanticipated returns. Because of his unflinching honesty with Garrick, no one in Wintercraig--no one in all the world, for that matter--knew him better than his young brother. Not even Wyn's lifelong friend and second-in-command, Valik. Such deep familiarity could be as troublesome as it was comforting.
"She is cold," Garrick insisted. "She does not love you as she should. She wants to be queen more than she wants to be your wife."
"Elka is a woman of the Craig. She is as reserved with her feelings as I."
"Is she? So that is why she laughs and smiles so warmly when the Summerlander is near?"
Wynter frowned a warning at his brother. "Careful, Garrick. Elka Villani will be my wife and queen. Insult to her is insult to me.”
“I offered no insult. I merely asked a question. And based on my observations, it’s a perfectly legitimate one.”
“You are misreading what you see. Elka knows it’s vital the Summer Prince feels welcome here if we are to come to an amicable agreement." The lush, fertile fields of Summerlea provided much needed sustenance to the folk of Wintercraig during the harsh, cold months of a northern winter. Their grains, fruits and vegetables, which Wintercraig bought with furs, whale oil and forest products, could mean the difference between life and death for his people during years when their own harvests were poor. That had, unfortunately, been quite often of late, since the summers had grown shorter and food from Summerlea had been growing steadily more dear after Wynter had taken the throne. Falcon Coruscate, son of the weathermage king who ruled Summerlea, had come three months ago at Wynter’s invitation to negotiate terms of a new treaty that would ensure longer summers in the north and more affordable trade in foodstuffs for the winters.
“She makes him feel welcome to more than the court,” Garrick corrected. “She flirts.”
Wyn arched a brow. “And if she does, where’s the harm in it? A pretty face and a sweet smile can persuade a man better than cold figures and dry treaties—especially self-indulgent peacocks like the Summer Prince.” He smiled when Garrick rolled his eyes. “You don’t remember our mother, but she could charm a Frost Giant into the fire. Father used to call her his secret weapon. Elka merely uses her gifts to aid the realm, as any good queen would.”
Garrick gave a snort. "How fortunate that she takes to the task so well. All right, all right.” He held up his hands in surrender when his brother’s glance sharpened. He paused a moment, using hammer and chisel to chip unwanted ice from the frozen sculpture he was working on, then added, “But even if you trust her, you’d best keep an eye on the Summerlander. He’s up to something.”
“Foreign dignitaries are always up to something. That’s called politics.”
“He’s been asking too many questions about the Book of Riddles."
Wyn’s hand stilled momentarily in its work on his own sculpture. “Has he?” He tried to pull of nonchalance, but shouldn’t have bothered. Garrick knew him too well.
“That’s what he’s really here for. To get the book and find Roland’s sword.”
Roland’s sword was a fabled Summerlea weapon of inconceivable power. It had disappeared three thousand years ago, not long after the Summer King who first wielded it sacrificed his life to save his kingdom from invasion. Many myths and legends swirled around its disappearance. One of those legends suggested that the Winter King of that time, fearing the sword’s power would be misused by Roland’s successors, had smuggled the sword out of Summerlea and hidden it in a place it would never be found. The Winter King had also left behind a book of obscure clues and riddles that supposedly led to the sword’s secret hiding place, in case his own descendants one day had need of the legendary weapon’s vast power.
“Well, good luck to him with that,” Wynter said. “The sword is a myth. It’s long gone by now, if it ever existed at all. And he won’t find whatever treasure the Book actually does protect, either, because he will never find the Book. It’s kept in a place no man can go.”
“But Elka can.”
He scowled. “Garrick, stop. She is my betrothed. She will be my queen. She would never betray me.”
Garrick heaved a sigh. “Fine. She is your true and worthy love. I’ll never suggest otherwise again.”
“Good.” Wyn pressed his lips together and focused on the small block of ice sitting on the pedestal before him. Patient as time itself, he carved away the excess ice until he revealed the hidden beauty inside. Fragile, shimmering, a bouquet of lilies emerged, petals curved with incredible delicacy, each flower distinct and perfect, rising up from slender stems of ice. “What do you think?” he asked when it was done.
"That's beautiful, Wyn. One of your best yet."
Wyn smiled. When it came to ice sculptures, Garrick hoarded his compliments like a miser. Only perfection earned his highest praise.
"Do you think she will like it, then? Frost lilies are her favorite."
Garrick stepped abruptly away from his own sculpture--a complex scene depicting a family of deer welcoming their newest, spindly-legged member into the herd--and brushed the dusting of ice crystals from his furs. "Any woman who truly loves you would love it, Wyn. It's obvious how much care you put into it."
"Then she will love it. You'll see."
“I’m sure she will,” Garrick said, but his eyes held no conviction.
“Coruscate!” Wynter’s roar shook the great crystal chandelier that hung in the entry hall of his palace, Gildenheim. He stormed up the winding stairs to the wing where royal guests were housed and burst into the suite that had been occupied for the last two months by the Prince of Summerlea. The rooms were empty, and judging by the state of the open drawers and the clothes flung haphazardly about, the inhabitants had vacated the place in a hurry.
“He’s gone, Wyn.” Valik, Wynter’s oldest friend and second in command stepped into the room. “Laci checked the temple. The book’s gone, too.”
Wynter swore under his breath. Barely two weeks ago, Garrick had warned him to keep an eye on the Summerlea Prince, and Wyn had dismissed his concerns with such blind, confidence! “When did they leave?”
“About an hour after we left for Hileje. Elka and his guard went with him. Bron didn’t think anything of it. The Summerlander kept blathering about not letting some fire ten miles away ruin a good day’s hunt.”
“We’d better start tracking them, then.”
“There’s more, Wyn.” Valik hesitated, then said, “I think Garrick went after them. He and his friends rode out not long after the Summerlander. Bron heard them talking about something the Summerlander took that Garrick meant to get back.”
Wyn’s jaw turned to granite. With Valik close on his heels, he ran back down to the courtyard.
Still saddled and ready to ride, Wynter’s stallion was waiting in the hands of a stableboy, and beside him, a dozen of Wynter’s elite White Guard held Prince Falcon’s valet at swordpoint. The valet looked nothing like the sleek, meticulously turned-out peacock Wynter’s courtiers had mocked amongst themselves. He’d traded his velvet brocade livery for rough-spun woolens, a furred vest, and a heavy cloak. His knuckles were scraped, and his face sported a bruised jaw and an eye that was swollen shut and rapidly purpling.
“We found him in the village trying to bribe a merchant to smuggle him out in a trade cart, Your Grace.”
“Where is he?” Wyn grabbed the valet by his vest, yanking him up so fast the man’s feet left the ground. Wynter was tall, even for a man of the Craig, and holding the Summerlander at eye level left almost two feet between the man’s dangling toes and the icy stone of the courtyard. “Where is that Coruscate bastard you serve?”
“I don’t know!” Clearly terrified, the man started babbling. “I swear to you, Your Majesty! I didn’t even know he was leaving until one of the maids delivered his note. And that only advised me to leave Wintercraig as quickly and quietly as possible.”
“In other words, the coward abandoned you while saving his own skin.” Wyn threw the man aside. “Lock him up. If we don’t find his master, he can face the mercy of the mountains in his prince’s stead. The rest of you, mount up. Time to hunt.”
Minutes later, Wynter, Valik, and two dozen White Guard were galloping down the winding mountain road that led from Gildenheim to the valley below. Wynter howled a call to the wolves as they went, sending a summons to the packs that were spirit-kin to his family’s clan. Wolves were faster in the dense woods, and they tracked by scent rather than sight. The Summerlanders’ smell was alien to this part of the world, so the wolves should have no trouble picking up their trail.
He wasn’t sure if the prince would try heading south, towards Summerlea, or west to the Llaskroner fjord. The fjord was closer, and the port there was a busy one, full of strangers from distant lands. For thieves looking to get out of country quickly, that was the better destination. When the wolf call came from the west, Wyn knew he’d guessed right. He whispered to the winds, calling to the old Winterman in the north to blow his icy horn, then summoning the Vestras, the freezing maritime winds of the western seas to send their bone-chilling fog.
As he and his men rode west, following the call of the wolves, the temperatures began to drop. If the Summer Prince fought back with his own weathergifts, that would pinpoint his location. If he didn’t, the rapidly worsening weather would slow his escape. Either way, Wynter would track him down, and make him pay for what he’d done to the people of Hileje.
The prince had hours on him. That was the purpose of the fire in Hileje—a distraction to get Wynter and his men out of the palace so Falcon Coruscate could steal what he came for and make his escape. But the distraction had been much more than a mere fire. The Summerlanders had raped and murdered dozens of villagers, then locked the rest in the meeting hall and burned them alive.
Eighty-six lives wiped out in one senseless act of violence. Eighty-six innocent Winterfolk who had depended on their king to protect them. And he had failed.
The tone of the wolves’ howls suddenly changed, the howls becoming longer, mournful, announcing a loss to the pack. Wynter sent out his thoughts, connect to the pack mind and seeing through the wolves’ eyes as he searched for the source of that cry. He caught a glimpse of scarlet splashed across the snow, bodies that were clothed not furred.
“No!” He knew instantly why the wolves howled and for whom. “No! Garrick!” He spurred Hodri faster, galloping at a reckless pace. The wind whistled past his ears. Snow flew from Hodri’s hooves.
It didn’t take long to reach the clearing where the wolves had gathered. The smell of death filled the air—a dark odor Wynter had smelled before. It was a scent few men ever forgot.
He reined Hodri in hard, leaping from saddle to ground before the horse fully stopped. The first two bodies were boys Wyn recognized. Garrick’s friends. Sixteen years old, the same age as Garrick. Arrow-pierced through their hearts. They’d been dead within minutes of being struck.
A moaning cough brought Wyn scrambling to his feet. He half-ran, half-stumbled across the snow towards the source of the sound, but when he got there, he felt as if his heart had stopped beating. He fell to his knees.
The coughing boy was Garrick’s best friend, Junnar. He’d been gut-shot, and the dark, matter-filled blood oozing from the wound told Wynter the boy was a dead man even though his body still clung weakly to the last threads of his life.
Junnar lay atop the prone, lifeless figure of Wynter’s brother. An arrow--its shaft painted with the Prince of Summerlea’s personal colors --protruded from Garrick’s throat.
“Garrick?” After moving Junnar to one side and packing his wound with snow to numb the pain, Wyn reached for his brother with trembling hands. His fingers brushed the boy’s face, and he flinched at the coldness of his brother’s flesh. Garrick had been dead for hours. Probably since before Wyn had left Gildenheim in pursuit. How could Wyn have lost the only family he had left in the world and not known it the instant it happened?
Horses approached from Wynter’s back. Then Valik was there, laying a sympathetic hand on Wynter’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, my friend. I’m so sorry.”
Wyn nodded numbly. The ache was consuming him. The pain so deep, so indescribable, it was beyond feeling. His whole body felt frozen, like the ice statues he and Garrick carved together.
“Help Junnar.” How he spoke, he didn’t know. His voice came out a choked, gravelly rasp. “Make him as comfortable as you can.”
He waited for Valik to lift Junnar and settle him off a short distance before gathering Garrick’s body into his arms. He held his brother for a long time, held him until Junnar breathed his last and the White Guard packed the bodies up for transport back to Gildenheim. Their hunt for Prince Falcon of Summerlea had ended the moment Wynter found his brother’s corpse. But there was no doubt in any of their minds that this was far from over.
Wynter carried Garrick in front of him on Hodri’s back, cradling his body as he had so many times over the years after their parents had died and it had fallen to him to raise his brother. He carried him all the way to Gildenheim, releasing him only to the weeping servants who would prepare Garrick and the others for the funeral pyre.
Wynter stood vigil by his brother’s side throughout the night. He murmured words of sympathy to the parents of the other lost boys, but shed no tears of his own though his eyes burned. At dusk the following night, he stood, tall and dry-eyed beside the pyres as the flames were lit and remained standing, motionless and without speaking, throughout the night and into the next morning. He stood until the pyre was naught but flickering coals. And when it was done and there was nothing left of his brother but ash, Wynter mounted Hodri and took the long, winding road to the Temple of Wyrn, which was carved into the side of the next mountain.
Galacia Frey, the imposing and statuesque High Priestess of Wyrn, was waiting for him inside the temple. She had come the night before to bless his brother and the others and to light their pyres, before returning to the temple to await his visit.
“You know why I have come.”
Her eyes were steady. “I know. But Wyn, my friend, you know I must ask you to reconsider. You know the price.”
“I know and accept it.”
“There’s no guarantee the goddess will find you worthy,” she warned. “Many men have tried and died.”
“You think that frightens me? If I die, I will be with my brother. If I survive, I will have the power to avenge him.”
She closed her eyes briefly and inclined her head. “Then take the path to the left of the altar, Wynter Atrialan, King of the Craig. Leave your armor, clothes and weapons in the trunk by the door. You must enter the test as you entered the world. And may the goddess have mercy on your soul.”
About the Author:
C. L. WILSON grew up camping and waterskiing across America, from Cherry Creek reservoir in Denver, CO, to Lake Gaston on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, to Georgia’s Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona. When she wasn’t waterskiing and camping on family vacations, you could usually find her with a book in one hand and a sketch pad in the other—either reading, writing stories, or drawing. Sometime around the ninth grade, she decided she was better at drawing her pictures with words than paints and charcoals, and she set aside her sketchpad to focus entirely on writing.
Wilson is active in Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA), her local chapter of Romance Writers of America. When not engaged in writerly pursuits, she enjoys golfing, swimming, reading, playing video games with her children, and spending time with her friends and family. She is also an avid collector (her husband says pack rat!), and she’s the proud owner of an extensive collection of Dept. 56 Dickens and North Pole villages, unicorns, Lladro figurines, and mint condition comic books.
Wilson currently resides with her husband, their three wonderful children, and their little black cat, Oreo, in a secluded ranch community less than thirty miles away from the crystalline waters and sugar-sand beaches of Anna Maria Island and Siesta Key on Florida’s gulf coast.