Tuesday, 3 March 2020

A Little Bit Cupid

What if Cupid's Arrow is REAL???


What if Cupid’s arrow is real? When the ancient artifact is discovered by a newfound witch and lent to a friend for her Valentine’s Day display, all Hades breaks lose when it inadvertently falls into the wrong hands.


Magic is in the air as two polar-opposite people, sweet small-town Emma Hurst and big city man Stone Collins, are forced to deal with his over-the-top romantic gestures that threaten embarrassment at every turn. Being swept off her feet by a heartthrob is one thing, but having love forced on them by a spell is quite another, something Emma won’t stand for. Soon no one knows what’s real and what’s been caused by the tricky god of love. 


Will Cupid win or will cooler heads prevail? It’s going to take every last sprinkle of Valentine magic to sort out this kerfuffle….


EXCERPT:


“Oh, did you expect me to play fair?” Cupid laughed. “I am the god of love. I am never fair.”

—Rick Riordan, The House of Hades



Emma Valentine Hurst’s hand hovered over the open chocolate box. Hmm. A sinfully dark chocolate truffle or a heart-shaped melt-in-my-mouth orange liquor? After her dismal morning, both.

She slipped the first one into her mouth, closed her eyes and let it melt on her tongue while trying to ignore the ongoing struggle of wills between mother and son right behind her. A sudden, sharp snap alerted her to trouble. She whirled around to discover her new Cupid-with-arrow display teetering precariously on its pedestal. In a flash, she leapt the short distance, just in time to save the display from toppling over, but not in time to stop the child from taking off with his prize, clutched in his candy-stained hands—the bow and arrow recently held upright and loaded for action by none other than Cupid himself.

“Timmy! Stop that! Put that back right now. Don’t you dare, young man, I’m warning you!”

Timothy Adam Jones took off like a bat right out of, well, Hades for the front door of the newly minted Valentine’s Candy Shoppe, his mother Vanity trying desperately to catch up with the five-year-old. He seemed to have been blessed with feet that must be invisibly winged like Mercury or Hermes, depending on whether one preferred the Romans or the Greeks. Emma was personally more enamored of the Greeks, as their mythology came first, though Cupid was decidedly more Roman.

But the determined child, who had already made the front entrance, also had the advantage of being sugar-fueled, thanks to his doting mother allowing him to graze at each and every candy bin to his heart’s content, hence Emma’s dismal morning. To Vanity’s credit, she was hampered by her four-inch heels, a tight pencil skirt and a multitude of hair extensions that obscured her sideways vision like blinders on a plow horse. The fashion plate succeeded in only teetering dangerously back and forth on the tiled floor and within precarious inches of a towering display of cut-glass crystal stemware.

Emma swallowed the remains of the chocolate and charged after the child, waving off his mother, who gave her a grateful, though chagrined, look. After all, he had her Cupid’s arrow clutched in his tight little fists, having torn it from her new Valentine’s display. So now the display didn’t make sense, for why would Cupid be holding his arms out so awkwardly? Pretending to mime an arrow? It just wasn’t going to work.

And not to mention that her best friend Charm McCall had loaned it to her with the express order that Emma keep it safe and out of anyone’s hands. That it was the real deal. And, knowing Charm, that meant it was charged with magic, whatever that would entail. But right now, all Emma wanted was to get the precious artifact back in one piece and where it belonged before her friend found out what had happened.

Timmy turned the handle of the shop’s front door and slipped through the opening before she could grasp the back of his snowsuit.

“Whoopee, I’m Robin Hood!” he yelled at the top of his surprisingly robust lungs while tearing off down the street, holding his prize in front of him.

Emma took off after him, grateful for her running shoes. She ignored the frosty air that bit at her skin. February in Snowy Lake in the northern reaches of Canada’s heartland was a cold, cold affair. The next two weeks plus one day of celebrating the Winter Festival—claim to fame the longest one in Canada, beating out Quebec by twenty-four hours—concluded with a Valentine’s Dance on Saturday, February fourteenth. The town, competitive? Naw. Well, maybe. But it was the highlight of their winter and helped the residents, all twelve hundred and fifty-nine of them on a good day, beat the doldrums of the endless, white, freezing stuff that lined driveways and fields with equal abandon. Snow. The four-letter word that was greeted with such fanfare in late October, and vilified by most by early February.

“Timmy! Stop! I’ll give you a big bag of candy,” she yelled at the small figure disappearing down the street, doing a dazzling display of male daring by pretending to shoot every person he met. He was also too busy darting around the legs of passersby to pay her any mind. She began to gain on him. Just a few more steps and I’ll have that little candy monster in my grasp.

Ah-ha. She reached for him just as he let the arrow loose from the bow. No! She watched in horror as it went flying into the air on a straight trajectory and right into the backside of a retreating figure. The person, a man, stopped in his tracks. Oh—fudge. He was walking alongside Charm’s Mountie, Ace Collins. She grabbed the bow from Timmy and clutched it to her stomach. The child slumped to the sidewalk and began to cry.

The tall man, as tall as Ace—who Charm had likened to Bigfoot on first meeting him out at Saskatoon, berry picking, last fall—turned around and stared right at her. Everyone else backed away a bit, leaving them to sort it out. Of course, they all stayed, lining the sidewalk—a good show in Snowy Lake was not something to be missed. A popcorn vendor was likely on his way.

“You could have just said hello, but I get your point,” the man said, his brown eyes locked with hers. She couldn’t seem to find her tongue to speak. Words. That’s what’s needed. He’d just said something clever, so now it was her turn. But what could she say to this fine-looking hunk of maleness who carried such a striking resemblance to the town’s newest Mountie? Right down to the rich brown, wavy hair and chiseled jawline. Oh. My. Goddess.

“I’m sorry. It wasn’t me. I mean, it’s my bow, on loan, but I didn’t shoot you. Timmy, tell the man.” She looked in desperation at the young boy still carrying on his now full-blown tantrum at her feet, rolling around the sidewalk in his bright blue snowsuit. “Tell him you shot him in the—aw—derrière, not me.”

No help in that direction. Timmy ignored everything but his own grief at the loss of his new toy. The man continued to stare at her for a few more intense seconds, eyebrows raised in disbelief, before seeming to realize he had an arrow attached to his backside. Ace, his ever-supportive brother, stopped laughing long enough to inspect the damage.

“Afraid we’re going to need medical intervention, Stone. That thing’s rather well embedded.” Ace’s tone was quite calm for a man whose sibling had just been shot.

“Just pull it out already!” Stone’s deep voice growled from inside his rather large chest. He wore a black leather jacket and a navy-blue wool scarf wrapped around his neck. Too bad the jacket isn’t a longer length. It would have better protected his, ah—assets.

“If you’re sure?” Ace did the honors. Emma stood frozen to the spot, in full view of the full-face wince that came over Stone’s handsome features as the arrow was withdrawn from the back pocket of his blue jeans, courtesy of his brother. She tried not to stare, but the removal of the arrow left a hole dead center of the pocket, though surprisingly no blood. Huh.

Ace handed her the arrow. “You might want to keep better control of this.” He didn’t look too concerned, a twinkle lurking in his eyes as per usual. He was of great value to the town. A good man who knew his job and had the smarts to be pairing off with her best friend. His brother took a few more seconds before joining them. Emma swallowed over the lump in her throat. Even though she should be freezing in just a blouse and pants, perspiration trickled down her underarms.

“Stone, I’d like you to meet Emma Valentine Hurst, the new owner of the Valentine’s Candy Shoppe. Emma, meet my younger brother Stone, who’s up to visit for a couple of weeks.”

She looked up, way up now that he was standing so close, and into deep brown eyes that matched the lovely color of melting chocolate, she decided in the moment. He removed his glove and offered his hand.

She took it, a spark of electricity zinging right through her whole body as their hands touched. It made her jump and she tried to pull her hand away. But he held on, his smile widening. His eyes gleamed with some kind of devilment.

“Lovely to meet you, Miss Emma Valentine Hurst.” Even the way he spoke the harmless greeting took her breath away.

“Ah, thanks, nice to meet you. I’m sorry about what happened.” No need to mention all the facts.

“If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of standing here right now speaking to such a pretty lady.”

Ace looked bemused. Actually, kind of flummoxed was more like it. He took off his Stetson and thrust a hand through his hair, then placed his hat back on his head. There was an odd twist to his lips. Had something else happened she wasn’t party to? He looked full of something.

“Anything I can do to make it up to you, please, like free chocolates, or anything, just ask. My store’s just down the block.” She forced herself to look away and deal with Timmy, who had finally stopped his over-the-top caterwauling. She helped the child to his feet and held on tight to his hand, making sure the bow was well away from temptation.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her friend Charm come flying out of the Tea & Tarot café. In mere seconds, she joined them, holding one hand over her chest to ease the sudden flight.

“Hey, I just heard what happened! Everyone okay?” she asked.

Charm looked as beautiful as ever, always making Emma think of Snow White. Perfect creamy white skin and shiny black hair, while Emma had the unruly red hair, sprinkle of freckles and the green eyes of a pixie. Double sigh.

“Sort of.” Emma hedged her bets with a fake grin. “Timmy shot Stone with Cupid’s arrow.”

“What? No!” Charm’s expression scared Emma right down to her running shoes. She shivered as a trickle of dread crawled its way down her spine. She’d been warned that this might not be a good thing. She needed more facts and she needed them yesterday.

“Yup, got him right in the—” Ace was interrupted by Emma, who accidently stepped on his instep.

“Ow, what was that for?” he demanded.

“Sorry, my foot slipped.” She gave a fake look of sympathy and leaned in closer to whisper, certain he was going to say the exact wrong word that any red-blooded male would say about his brother. “Did you know that Granny Toogood is within listening range?” Charm’s grandmother was a stickler for not swearing and she’d just joined the small crowd on the sidewalk.

Emma moved back, adding, “I gotta go. Take Timmy back to his mother.” She looked around but couldn’t see Vanity anywhere in sight. Natch.

“Yeah, sure.” Charm was kept busy chewing on a thumbnail, looking decidedly perturbed.

“I’ll come with,” Stone volunteered.

It was on the tip of her tongue to ask why, since he didn’t know her or Timmy’s mother from shinola, but she held it in. Maybe a few dozen chocolates would help ease the situation anyway. Some laced with caffeine would be perfect. Or a soothing liqueur.

“Me too,” Ace said.

“Me three,” Charm said.

“Okay.” Well, this is just weird.

And so, the troop marched its way through the crowd that was breaking up now that the best part of the shenanigans was concluded—hopefully for the day—and down the street to her new candy shop. Emma had a bad feeling, though, that it was really only the conclusion of Act One, and not the entire play.

“Chocolate, anyone?” she asked, picking up an opened box from the counter and holding it out. Vanity stepped up first and nabbed a few, handing a couple to Timmy, who just couldn’t seem to get enough sugar into his system.

“Thanks, we’ll be off now.”

“Are you sure there isn’t anything you want to buy?” Emma asked pointedly. The woman was notorious for allowing her son to graze, then stepping away from the scene of the crime. And while Emma hadn’t said much of anything about it to date, today she felt owed. Emma had taken the hit for her son’s behavior, certain that Stone still believed she was the one who had shot him. The woman blushed and pointed at the chocolate truffle display.

“I’ll take three of them.” When she saw that Emma was going for a paper sack, the less expensive option for so few chocolates, she added, “in a box, if you please.”

Emma did as she was bidden, took her exact handful of change, then watched the woman leave, her son trailing her and still eyeing the bow that she’d placed on the top shelf behind the counter. She squinted her eyes at him. Just you try, young man.


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Monday, 3 February 2020

The Dishevelled Duke: A Little Bit Cupid Collection


I am honored to have the fabulous writer, Eleanor Harkstead on my blog today! Please give her a Big Welcome! She has a lovely new book to offer the reading public available just in time for Valentines Day!

There’s all sorts of things I’ve ended up researching for my fiction — French chateaux, the finer points of cricket, how to look after a horse, the list is endless. For The Dishevelled Duke, my research involved cake. And I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s the best sort of research there is.

     The Dishevelled Duke is partly set in a café in London, where would-be professional photographer Billy works. It’s Valentine’s Day, so the café is full of Valentine’s themed cakes. Looking at Pinterests of Valentine’s cakes put me in the mood for the story, and inspired the café’s Valentine’s themed stock of heart-shaped biscuits and red velvet cake.

     I admire anyone who can make red velvet cake actually look even a bit red. I’ve tried and failed myself. It doesn’t matter how closely I follow the recipe, nor the quality of the red food colouring, I just cannot get my red velvet cake to look anything other than brown.

     I’ve dabbled in baking to help out at charity cake stalls, but I’m not sure I’m all that good at it. At the last one I did, the stall was covered in trays of what looked like miniature cake artworks. I’d made vanilla cupcakes with heaps of primary-coloured buttercream icing on top, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. They looked like they’d been made by a toddler.

     But that made my cupcakes popular with the children, who walked up to the stall, ignored all the carefully crafted cakes with their spun-sugar decorations and gold-embossed cases, and pointed at mine. “I want that one, Mummy!” Well, it’s nice to be appreciated by someone, even if they like your cake because it looks like a cartoon come to sugary life.

     I was conscious that we didn’t have any gluten-free cakes on the stall. However elegant some of the cakes were, however much mine might look like the sugar fantasy of a three-year-old, no one with coeliac disease could ever eat them. I don’t like making people feel left out, so I did my research and found Nigella Lawson’s recipe for gluten-free chocolate cake (https://www.nigella.com/recipes/chocolate-olive-oil-cake). No need to wrestle with red food colouring in a fruitless attempt to give it a red velvet vibe, either. The result was a great big gooey blob of chocolate deliciousness, and it was popular with everyone. Not just small children.

     Whether your Valentine’s cake is an elegant confection or looks like the work of a small but eager child, whether it’s gluten-free or not, enjoy your 14th February!






About The Dishevelled Duke

Part of Pride’s A Little Bit Cupid Collection
Buy link


Will a photographer be swept off his feet by a duke who’s more dishevelled than dashing?

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s Billy last shift at The Chelsea Bunn. His photography career never took off, so it’s time to leave London, parcel up the leftover heart-shaped cakes and head back home to Hampshire.

Rumpled Charlie and his two mischievous dogs are Billy’s favourite customers, so when Charlie turns up at closing time with a mysterious wrapped gift and the offer of a whirlwind trip on the London Eye, Billy can’t say no. But Charlie is keeping a secret that could turn Billy’s world happily upside down.

As the snow falls over London and the big wheel grinds to a halt, Billy discovers that wishes aren’t just for Christmas.

About the authors:

Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead began writing together in the spring of 2017 and swiftly discovered a shared love of sauce, well-dressed gents and a uniquely British sort of romance. They drink gallons of tea, spend hours discussing the importance of good tailoring and are never at a loss for a double entendre.

They are the authors of numerous  short stories and two novel series, the de Chastelaine Chronicles, and the Captivating Captains, published by Totally Bound and Pride.

Author links:

www.curzonharkstead.co.uk



Twitter: https://twitter.com/madamegilflurt, https://twitter.com/e_harkstead

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/madamegilflurt/, https://www.facebook.com/eleanorharkstead/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catherinecurzon/, https://www.instagram.com/eleanorharkstead/
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/eleanor-harkstead

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Viscount meets His Match by Raven McAllan



Good Morning Everyone!

I have the wonderful opportunity today to introduce the lovely Raven McAllan to all of you. She's an amazing writer at Totally Bound Publishing and has a new book to offer you: The Viscount meets His Match! Read on for an exciting excerpt! We can only hope to have more books offered by this author in the near future.



The Viscount meets His Match

Raven McAllan

Published by Totally Bound Publishing 

How to persuade the lady your interest is genuine? No easy task. Has the viscount met his match, or can he win and claim a wife?
            What do you do when your father has no faith in you?

Ignore him.

David, Suddards’ father assumes—wrongly—that David gambles deep and has had an affair with a married lady before she has given her husband an heir. Enraged, his father issues an ultimatum. Marry within three months or lose everything that is not entailed.

David refuses. If that’s what his father thinks of him, he can go to the devil. He will marry when he is ready and not before.

What a shock then, a year later, when the one woman he is interested in shows no interest in him!

It’s up to him to persuade her he’s the right husband for her, and when he does…sparks fly. Can these two strong-willed people ever learn how to compromise and find that in fact they are the perfect match?

EXCERPT


David was honest—no well-brought-up young lady appealed to him. They never had, and he was wise to every trick any encroaching mama or deb might try to pull to ensure he had to make an offer.

Until now? He quashed that thought to be re-examined later. His tastes had always run to those females who were up to snuff and needed a man to dally with and satisfy them. That usually meant bored matrons—and only those with the requisite number of children of the correct sex, whose husbands accepted dalliance would be the next step. Plus, he didn’t approach opera dancers or the demimonde, whatever the grand dames of the ton chose to think. In fact, he ruminated as he glanced at the silent woman next to him, just lately he hadn’t had time to dally with anyone. Parts of him could well have seized up through lack of lubrication.

However, he had to acknowledge her lack of interest intrigued him.

Josephine halted just outside the ballroom and the tug on his arm made David stop mid-step. He looked at her inquiringly, and she grimaced before she must have remembered herself and curtsied. A gesture that was correct to the nth degree, he could imagine how much it had cost her.

“This is far enough, thank you. I, ah, appreciate your help,” she added stiffly. “Although I could have dealt with him myself, I do thank you for your intervention.” She didn’t add, ‘unnecessary as it was,’ but David could imagine her wishing she could.

“Of course you do,” he replied genially. “Why would you not? “

She flushed and he wished he had held his tongue, if not his actions. Because with regards to his intervention, he wasn’t so sure what his intentions were. Lord Reginald had a reputation for acting first and thinking later—and not always in a good way. The problem was how to divulge the information so she understood, took action and did not ignore him—or indeed overreact.

“Is it all men or only me you have an aversion to?” he asked as she began to walk away. He pitched his voice just loud enough for her to hear. She might ignore his question but there would be no chance of her not hearing it. “For if it is me, what have I ever done to you to deserve your contempt?”

“What?” She turned and took the three steps necessary to get within arm’s reach once more. Her blue eyes sparked in a way he had never noticed before and his body responded accordingly and tightened with interest. Again, she tempted him in a manner he would not have thought possible. How he’d like to shake her out of her present mood, but not in a manner that would be at all acceptable.

Not yet, anyway.

Again a notion to contemplate. Was he really debating dallying with this woman? His head said no, the rest of his body, the opposite. Why had he never really examined her luscious curves before? They appeared perfect in every way.

“Dare you not answer me?”

She frowned as if puzzled by his remark. David repeated himself. “How have I earned your contempt?”

“Sadly, as far as I can see, from my knowledge of your sex it encompasses all men, my lord. Although, with your reputation, I would put you near the top of my list.”

Well, that told him. David bowed and with a swift look around decided, if she thought she knew him, he might as well live up to the sort of person she thought she was.

He grasped both her arms, drew her close and pressed a hard, swift kiss to her lips.

The jolt of immediate arousal was as unexpected as it was exciting. 
Buy Amazon UK

Buy Amazon USA

Totally Bound Publishing

 Raven is the author of both Regency and contemporary stories and also writes rom com as Katy Lilley.

She lives in the Trossachs, in Scotland on the edge of a forest, with her long suffering husband, who is used to rescuing the dinner from the Aga and passing her a glass of wine as she works.

Raven loves hearing from her readers and you can find her at www.ravenmcallan.com where all her social likes for Facebook and twitter are also found.






Thursday, 14 March 2019

Racing the Tide nominated as Best Mysterty/Thriller/Suspense for 2018 at LR Cafe


Cole and Gabby, undercover in Vancouver’s Chinatown, have no time for the attraction developing between them. Not when the race is on to rescue a kidnap victim before time runs out.


My name is Cole McClintock. My new job with the TETRAD Group has me working with a woman that’s gotten me so tied up in unfuckingbelievable knots that I’m a certifiable nut job. I mean, just look at her. The woman is beyond hot with those big doe eyes and luscious curves that makes me want to possess every single inch of her.


One look at Cole McClintock and knew I should stay right the fuck away from him. My name is Gabriella Banks and I’d be the first to admit I’m complicated, but at least my job as a new operative with The TETRAD Group keeps me too busy to dwell on my lack of a sex life. I never thought I’d be admitting this, but my strong-woman exterior hides a craving for something more—something only Cole can provide…

Read an Excerpt: 


Day One: 5:13 a.m.



The bed trembled, its legs jerking and thudding about in a kind of macabre dance. Cole woke instantly. Is this the big one? The king-size bed shimmied and rattled a few more times, then settled back down, coming to rest slightly askew on the hardwood floor of his bedroom, the earth having released its rage. Another fucking tremor. He ran his hands through his sweat-damp hair, glancing over at the bedside table.


Five-fourteen a.m. He slid his gaze from the clock to the picture, as he did every morning, ready to administer his daily punishment. During the long night of sleeping intermittently, he had made up his mind, but now, looking at her face, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t dishonor her memory in that way. Especially not in that way. The coward’s way.


His mind zeroed in on the single event defining his life, the day haunting him every second the clock ticked. The day almost a year ago when he’d pulled into his driveway after a voice message he could make no sense of. Finding the front door ajar. Walking down a hallway so silent he could hear the pounding in his skull echoing his slamming pulse. Finding the bathroom door shut against him. One more obstacle. Turning the handle as slow as a swimmer in deep water, finding it unlocked, his throat tight and aching. The creak of the hinges. The door swung open. His vision darkening around the edges as he took in the horror of the scene. The heaviness in his chest that made him sink to the floor, gathering her into his arms. No. Oh, God no. Not like this.
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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Chapter One: Romancing Rebecca being released February 19th!




Good Morning You!

Just a quick note from the frozen Canadian prairies this fine sunny morning. :-)

Please find below an excerpt from Romancing Rebecca. The story of Rebecca and her almost Duke was a joy to write. I can only hope it brings you the same enjoyment in the reading.

Thanks for visiting!

Hugs, January Bain

Chapter One:


“Oh, my God. I’m driving the wrong way!” Rebecca Fairfax quit staring at the lovely wildflowers growing in profusion by the side of the country road and hit the brakes—hard—skidding the back wheel of her cherry-red Honda Gold Wing motorcycle to an abrupt halt.


“Damn it, why can’t everyone the world over commit to driving on the same darn side of the road?” she muttered from under her safety helmet, using her foot to help rotate the heavy bike around to face the correct way. Running late, check. Needing to use the bathroom, check. Losing my bloody mind, as evidenced by my accepting the Ringers’ dare to kiss a duke, check and mate.


After backtracking for a mile, she noted the brown tourist road sign she’d missed the first time. Castle Piers, next exit, with an image of a castle outlined in white. Sixty seconds later she made the turn, loving the sensation of the huge bike vibrating between her thighs while the world lived close, the air sweet with the aroma of honeysuckle, the wind caressing the bare skin of her cheeks. Riding a bike made being human different, somehow more raw and real. No other form of travel could compete. And, thanks to Lacey’s William James Thornton Ш, the powerful bike had been waiting at the five-star hotel when Rebecca had arrived in glorious London last night.

Then Castle Piers came into view and the oh my God stuck in her throat.

Perfection. Surrounded by a vast moat stippled with water lilies and swans a-floating? She half expected the Lady of the Lake to rise and present her with Excalibur. Mesmerized, she rolled back on the throttle, bringing the bike to a standstill, bracing it with her feet and turning off the motor. She kicked out the back stand, and, with one booted foot outstretched to add stability to the motorcycle, leaned back in the leather saddle, determined to take the time to drink in the awesome sight. The sweet, fresh fragrance of early summer assailed her senses and she tipped her head back, eyes closed.

Then a new idea hit, making her reach for her notebook from under the elastic cord on the seat behind her. She began scribbling down her first impressions, afraid she’d regret not getting this moment back for posterity if she let it go, whether she was running late or not.

Xaviera St. Clair, her alter ego and the superheroine of Rebecca’s International Intrigue series, was scheduled to visit a castle during her next adventure. Rebecca’s skin tingled with ideas for the fun plot she’d dreamed up. Xaviera was going to learn how to handle the wiles of one Pierce Knight, art thief and man of a thousand faces. The steamy story included a definite proclivity for over-the-top escapades in the bedroom. Rebecca’s body heated further as she imagined the twists and turns of their delicious romps before switching her attention to capturing the view in front of her. This was her last book to finish out her contract before she began writing in her new genre, historical literary, and she wanted it to be the best one yet.

Okay.

Centered in the middle of the water, above the soft gray mist, stood a castle right out of myth and legend. Its sheer greystone towers rose skyward, with only a narrow causeway across the lake giving access to the gatehouse with the great nail-studded oak doors. A pennant flying atop one battlement snapped and fluttered briefly against the pale sky before changing direction, and a barely visible rainbow, leftover from the early morning drizzle, floated in a semicircle, caressing the tops of the trees with their lace of leaves. Wow. Just wow.


The mythology rushed over her, tugging at her soul. She could write here in her spare time. Research more about Samuel W. Piers, the founder of the Hermetic Order of the Rising Sun, a Freemason and ousted ancestor of the Piers family, until the cows came home. The expression amused her, and she gave a soft chuckle, remembering summers spent on her adopted grandparents’ farm helping pluck eggs from under irate, territorial chickens. The dusty smell of the henhouse sprang instantly into memory and she sneezed aloud in sympathy for her childhood self.


Time to quit dawdling, Rebecca. She tucked the slim journal back under its elastic holder, then gave a booted kick with her right foot to release the stand keeping the bike upright, pressed the starter and hit the gas. Maybe she could catch up with the tour yet.


Down the causeway she drove at a somewhat more circumspect speed, careful not to spill the motorbike over the steep sides and into the lake. Ha, imagine arriving covered in trails of green foliage like a water sprite rising from the mists. Not the first impression she’d want to make for the Piers family, hosting her this summer while she researched their ancestral home’s secrets.


Okay. So they don’t know my full agenda, thinking me here just to help run their social affairs. And, I might add, paying for the privilege, thanks to my Brass Ringers’ wish package. She snorted. Who else would get away with that bit of cheek but a family living in a castle right out of Camelot?

A second later, she had the oddest sensation of leaving her old life behind when she hit the halfway mark of the land bridge, a sense of being at a crossroad so unusual that she slowed down again, shaking her head to dispel the disquiet
.

“Help! Thief!”


The frantic words surged into her brain, thrusting away misgivings. She gunned the bike, driving under the portcullis and into the courtyard. Catching a blur of a figure out of the corner of her eye, she slammed the bike to a stop, sending the back wheel spinning into a semicircle before the machine ground to a jerky halt. She jumped off, asking forgiveness for the mishandling. She hated to take the time to kick the stand into place, but she couldn’t bear to see the bike take a tumble. She ran full pelt toward the spot where she’d spied the furtive action.


Where did they go?


She swiveled her head, trying to catch another glimpse of movement.


There.


The perp vanished between two stone pillars in the courtyard. No one followed on her heels, though she strained to catch any sounds of pursuit. She ran full tilt. Thank goodness I memorized the layout of the castle before I left Canada.


Her heart beating too rapidly, her boots slapping noisily on the pavestones, she dared a glance backward. A small group of tourists hovered about what looked like the tour guide in a yellow safety vest, pointing in the direction she was running, as if to direct her. No help there. She turned and ducked under a narrow overhang, wondering if she were nuts. If something had been stolen, it wasn’t hers, after all. But, damn it, it’s the principle of the thing.


Cooler inside, the massive stone castle pressed in around her, causing a sense of dislocation. Footsteps echoed hollowly, making her run faster, down the length of the corridor.


“Damn it anyway! Who steals from a fortress surrounded by a moat?” The map she’d pored over didn’t show any way out in this direction, though it could be missing some key features kept secret.

Her lungs burned. Note to self—up the workouts. Far too easy to beg off and write another scene for the current manuscript and skip the less fun part.


She glimpsed the culprit taking another turn. There were damn fast, she’d give them credit for that. They’d been up and down so many passageways her head was spinning.

Dashing around another corner near the kitchen, she tripped, catching herself with one hand pressed against a sharp stone edge. Dank, cooler air assailed her nostrils. An abyss lay dead ahead with steps leading downward and out of sight. She teetered on the edge, jerking her body backwards at the last possible second. Great. Just about ended myself before my overseas adventure begins. Second thought, looks like it has begun. This is right out of an action movie set. She made light of what could have been a critical error, sweat trickling down her spine, her guardian angel hissing in her ear about the cost of being careless.


“Yeah, I know,” she muttered.


She clambered down the stairs, holding on to the cold stone sides. No handrails, of course. Down, down she went, moving into uncharted territory she had no mental map for, making the going a whole lot riskier. She swore she could hear a bell tolling, upping her apprehension.


The tunnel narrowed, pools of water appearing on the floor. She gave a quick look to check out why. Oh, boy. Tiny waterfalls were following the path of narrow crevices worn into the walls. The water level deepened, more than could be explained by the trickles. Where was it coming from? She splashed through water up to her ankles. It flowed over her boot tops, soaking her feet and chilling her to the bone. Oh, my God, I’m under the goddamn lake. The thought made her breath freeze solid, two lumps of ice for lungs. This was a whole different enchilada. What if something above was just about ready to give way? Her fear of drowning reared, nearly stopping her heart.


To up her courage, she began to sing an old Johnny Cash song. “How high’s the water, papa? Sixteen feet and rising. How high’s the water, mama?” Her voice echoed off the walls. If the deluge got as high as in the song suggested, she would mostly likely drown, trapped in the tunnels under the castle like a sewer rat. She shuddered and kept up the singing, louder now to drown out the fear and the voice of reason.


She stopped mid-tune at an odd thudding sound very close by. Rebecca pressed on, far more frightened than she’d ever been before during her quarter century on the planet. I don’t want to die, not before I’ve lived. Think about something else. Anything else. At least a few sconces lit the way, some kind of portable device someone had rigged up. Maybe the thief?


She stopped mid-stride. Her peripheral vision had caught a glimpse of symbols carved into the rock, something man-made. An eye within the compass and the square, forming a partial pentagram. Not large, but distinct, and old, centuries old, Freemason imagery, found in many locations the world over. But it was the addition of another symbol nudged up against it that sent a shiver of excitement racing through her bloodstream. King Solomon’s seal.


She swallowed hard, her heart pounding as she stared at the marking, taking it all in, never having thought that her research would lead to so powerful a find so early in her journey to England. It boggled her mind what it meant, what it stood for. The threads of time were staring her in the face, and not many could make the connections her feverish brain could.


The pentagram within a double ring with an Egyptian ankh housed inside was a secret symbol known only to a few souls who didn’t mind spending time in musty libraries. The pentagram was also an alchemical symbol, the intersecting triangles representing the elements of fire and water or the elements of male and female. The symbols had later beenadopted by a group of like-minded occult seekers, by one of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s splinter charters, the Order of the Rising Sun. And the reason she was at Castle Piers.


The Piers family tree included a black sheep, the leader of the splinter group, one Samuel W. Piers, who’d run the Osiris-Sun Temple for the Rising Sun Order more than a hundred years ago. The mysteries of his leadership, the missing artifacts and the secret knowledge he was said to possess called across the ages, fascinating a small band of researchers, of which she was one—though she left the magical demonology part of the practice to others.


She reached out a hand with awe. She was about to touch her Holy Grail. Her fingers traced the ancient carvings, steeped in such mysterious history and beauty, and she shook her head in disbelief. Gobsmacking. Rudyard Kipling could not have been prouder, the storyteller behind The Man Who Would Be King, the tale of a pair of Freemasons looking to be kings of Kafiristan. He’d borrowed the imagery of that order, and now here she stood, tracing the stardust of that mythology connected to King Solomon.


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Wishing you a great day! :-)


Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Invitation to receive a free ebook from January Bain

Good Morning,

I hope you are having a great day! I was inspired this New Years to reach out a bit more to the world and share my hopes and dreams. And that means sharing my writing. :-) 

Please accept this invitation to receive an e-book of your choosing from the list below. It will be sent directly to your email inbox as my gift to you!

(1) Winning Casey: Book 1 in the Brass Ring Sorority series. 

(2) Chasing Lacey: Book 2 in the Brass Ring Sorority series.

(3) Romancing Rebecca: Book 3 being released February 18th 2019

(4) Racing The Tide: Book 1 in the TETRAD group series.

(5) Racing Peril: book 0.5 in the TETRAD group series being re-released April 16th 2019

Wishing you all the best in 2019!

Hugs, January 




Saturday, 17 November 2018

Answer for the Fun Game to WIN at The Romance Reviews!



If you are playing the Romance Review Game, here's the question & answer!
In Winning Casey, what is the name of the island in Canada on which the Templar treasure is buried?

A. Snow

B. Dog

C. Oak

D. Green
Casey and Truman search for buried treasure on Oak Island. Canada's very own money pit!