Excerpt

Ethan’s Daughter (Templeton Cove Stories, #7) by Rachel Brimble Promo Blitz With Excerpt

 

Author: Rachel Brimble

Title: Ethan’s Daughter

Series: Templeton Cove Stories, #7

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release Date: August 1, 2017

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There’s safety in solitude…isn’t there?

Single dad and best-selling thriller writer Ethan James has no problem being Templeton Cove’s most famous recluse…until a surprise visit from the past plunges him into a real-life crime drama just as feisty nurse Leah Dixon barges her way into his world.

Ethan’s first priority is to protect his daughter. His second priority is to keep Leah out of this dark web—and that means out of his bed. Except Leah isn’t going anywhere; she’s afraid little Daisy is in danger. Ethan couldn’t live with himself if anything happened to Leah…but pushing her away may be even harder!

 

Leah froze. How could she have been so stupid? He couldn’t possibly drive with his injured hand and now she’d have to endure sitting side by side with the man all the way to Clover Point. Which, strictly speaking, was a ten-minute drive tops…but still.

She forced a smile. “Of course, you are. I’ll grab a child seat from the trunk.”

Surprise widened his eyes. “You’ve got kids? I didn’t realize…”

“No.” She huffed a laugh. “But I am a little anal about being prepared for anything and everything.”

“Right.” His gaze softened with something that looked far too much like acceptance…as though he should have guessed as much. “Got it.”

Leah quickly looked away and walked to the back of her car. Shoving her first aid kit, car jack and mini tool box to the side, she pulled out one of the two child seats. Closing the trunk, she opened the back door and pushed the seat inside. She waved toward the open door. “All yours.”

She stood back as Ethan buckled Daisy safely inside, her gaze roaming over his strong back and perfectly edible ass encased in cargo pants. Sighing, and purposefully ignoring the twitch deep in her abdomen, she walked around to the driver’s side…but was too slow opening the door. Ethan’s steady gaze met hers over the car’s roof and for the first time in a long time, her automatic smile was far too long in coming.

She stood frozen to the spot.

The air seemed to charge with electricity as they stood staring at one another, until Leah broke the moment and took blessed escape by sliding into the driver’s seat.

Amazon: US | UK | AU | CA

 Other Templeton Cove Stories 

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. Since 2013, she has had seven books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and an eighth coming in Feb 2018. She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical Press.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest.

When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

 

Join Rachel’s newsletter HERE.

 

Excerpt

Sugar Lips by Aria Cole Release Day Blitz With Excerpt

 

 

 

 






When Nolan Redford finds a masked beauty in his arms at the office Halloween party, he’s instantly taken. Her seductive curves are at odds with her innocent smile—she’s sexy, uninhibited, and just the woman he needs to calm the animal inside. Tangled in a web of unbridled passion, their chemistry is combustible before masks are removed and true identities finally revealed.

Reese Hamilton is the last woman Nolan should want in his bed, but little does she know, he’s already addicted to her sweet taste. He’s taking steps to make her his—to make sure she never gets away.

Warning: Sugar Lips is over-the-top alpha male goodness, sweet enough to induce a toothache, and so sizzling Halloween will never be the same. Make a chocolate martini and spice up your night with Nolan and his sweet treat, Reese—love stories this scorching should be illegal!

 

ONE

 

   Nolan “Redford!” Clive, one of the junior partners, smacked me on the back as he walked up to my side in the men’s bathroom, whipping out his junk and pissing in the urinal next to me. The murky haze in his eyes and the sway in his gait told me he’d had one too many Jack and Cokes. I groaned inwardly, tucking my cock back in my pants and zipping up. “Whaddya say we hit some balls tomorrow?”

   Nice fucking pun, asshole. “Working tomorrow.”

   “Mmkay…maybe Hamilton will be up for a game.” He referred to my partner at Hamilton & Redford.  

   Maybe I should start hitting the Jack at these fucking horrid office parties. Small talk made me want to gouge my eyes out.

   I’d been at this Halloween party for nearly two hours. Surely, I’d done my duty and could get the fuck out of this place.

   I already spent sixty-plus hours a week slaving for the firm. Hell if I wanted to spend my after-hours here too.  I glanced in the mirror, catching sight of the black mask that camouflaged most of my face. I was ready to toss this cheap thing in the garbage and get home.  

   “Doin’ the shuffle next, Redford!” Clive swayed his hips pathetically. “Better see you out there,” he called, the bathroom door slamming behind me the only reply I had for him.  

   I don’t know why I let John Hamilton talk me into promoting that guy. He did his job well enough, but something about him just grated on my last nerve. I hit the sleek, marble-tiled hallway. And instead of heading right to the rest of the party, low thumps of Bruno Mars pushing through my head, I took a quick left down the back hall that led to my oversized office.

     I sauntered at an easy pace, thoughts of the mini bottles of Grey Goose tucked in my office fridge calling my name. I’d check my messages, compulsive workaholic that I was, and have a glass on the rocks to unwind before calling the company car to drive me home. Bruno Mars bled into Taylor Swift, and just as I was thinking about finding a new DJ for the next office party, I bumped into a warm body, soft curves and a seductive scent filling my space.  

   “Oh gosh,” a tinkling voice uttered.  

   “Sorry ’bout that.” I reached out, catching her elbow to stabilize her on those spikes she called shoes. My eyes traveled down the creamy legs, thighs peeking out beneath the hem of a jet-black cocktail dress. Short. That dress was really fucking short.  

   Thank God for dresses like that.  I sucked in a breath, staggering for a second when her palm rested on my chest, one of those spiky high heels in the air as she twisted at the little strap that held it in place. “These things are killing me.”

   I huffed, clutching my fingers around her wrist to hold her steady. “Take them off. I always question the sanity of any woman I see wearing those death traps.”

   “So…” She cocked her head, smirk tilting to one side. “You’re calling me insane? Is that what you say when you’re charming all the ladies?”

   I couldn’t help the grin that shot across my lips. Been a goddamned long time since anyone had made me smile. “Forgive me. I’m known as the office asshole.”

   “That so?” She slipped off the shoe, letting it dangle on one finger. Hell, I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me, but I wanted to wrap my lips around that finger and suck. Instead, I dropped to one knee, unclasping the dainty little strap on her other ankle and easing the death heel off her foot.

   My fingertips danced across the soft skin, smooth as the finest silk. I traced a fingertip up the gentle dip of her calf, glancing over the back of her knee when a shiver rippled through her body. One hand tightened on my shoulder, her entire body swaying for a moment before she caught herself.

    “Thanks,” she said when I stood, my eyes holding hers.  Long beats passed, my heart thundering in my ears as we watched each other.  

   “Why didn’t you dress up?” she finally breathed, our gazes still locked.  

  I swallowed past the bundle of razors in my throat, licking my lips before answering, “I’m the boss. What I say goes.” I stepped closer, drawn to her as though we were connected by an invisible force field. “And I don’t do dress-up.” My fingers landed at her temple, eyes moving down to study the lush lips visible behind the white feathered mask she wore. “Not at work parties. I believe in maintaining a healthy distance in the office. Professionalism.”

   She turned, and I missed the gaze behind the mask. It did a hell of a job disguising her face, but her eyes, the brightest shade of azure blue, mesmerized me. “What brought you to the party tonight?”

   She pressed her lips together, the heartbeat at her throat fluttering like a hummingbird, steady, delicate.  

   Everything about her looked so graceful and perfect.  

   My fingers craved the feeling of her hips. I wondered if it’d be too damn forward to kiss her right now.  

   Did I even give a shit if it was too forward? No woman in my entire thirty-nine years had ever had this impact on me.  

   She finally cleared her throat, eyes fluttering closed. “I came with a friend.”

  I nodded, suddenly jealous of the fucker who’d brought her here. The thought of her going home with anyone but me made my vision bleed red.

   “Share a drink in my office with me?” I threaded my fingers with hers, backstepping across the hallway and pulling us both into my office. It was lit with only a dim lamp, and wall-to-wall windows showcased the city around us. She looked achingly beautiful in any light, but the way the shadows played with the tender lines of her face was out of this world entirely. “You won’t be missed, will you?”

   Her eyes met mine, a small shake of her head indicating she wouldn’t.  

   Christ, I couldn’t help the feeling that radiated through my balls, had me dying to find out what she’d feel like underneath me. My mouth watered at the thought of the taste of her on my tongue. “Grey Goose okay?”

   Our fingers still connected, we walked across the polished wood floor, getting closer to the windows that overlooked my world. In here, I was the master. What I said was all that mattered, always. So inviting her in here felt…intimate. Like inviting her into my life to take a look around like a voyeur.

   “I don’t really drink,” she finally answered, one palm hovering at the window as if she wanted to touch the pane, peer down the face of the thirty-story building. “Actually, I’m not really sure what I’m doing here.”

   Her profile was lit by slivers of moonlight, drawing me in, begging for my touch. “Does there need to be a reason?” I dragged one fingertip down the curve of her arm, following the soft line and watching as goose bumps formed in my wake. “So turned on,” I hummed, inching closer to her lips. “I think we both know what you’re doing here.”  

   She sucked in her thick bottom lip, and the urge to bite it nearly overwhelmed me.  

   A low growl ripped from my chest before my hands were pushing into her soft waves and my tongue was tracing the moist seam of her pink lips. One of her arms wound around my neck as my palm dug into the creamy flesh of her thigh and wrapped her leg around my waist. Moving her seamlessly against the glass, I planted one hand behind her head, cupping her gently while my mouth melded with hers.   

   Quiet moans slipped past her lips, the nails of one hand biting at the muscle of my shoulder as our tongues twisted. “Taste sweeter than candy.”

   I spun her in my arms, striding the few feet to my desk and laying her across it. My hands raced up her body, delving into her creamy curves and wishing I never had to come up for air.  

   She arched, her hips moving beneath me. My cock pressed against the edge of my desk, grinding with just enough pressure to release the pain and prevent myself from sinking into her for God and everybody to hear. Then again, guess that’d announce to all those bastards out at the party who she belonged to. My balls tugged with something primal at the thought.  

   Claiming her.  

   Planting my seed in that sweet cunt and tying her to me for life.  

  With one palm sliding up her calf, I kissed my way along the path to the promised land, taking my time and savoring every inch like a man starved. I moved over her knees, enjoying the way she squirmed and arched when I hit all her sensitive spots. The scent of her juicy pussy pushed me on, the hemline of that short little dress rising higher and higher by the second until a pair of bubblegum-pink satin panties came into view.  

   A strip of bubblegum fucking pink stood between me and the only thing I wanted.  

   “Jesus, look at you wrapped up all pretty like a piece of candy for me.” I dusted a fingertip across the damp satin, a serrated sigh burning off her lips when I did. “Can’t wait to taste your sweet come on my tongue.”

   A bowl of Halloween candy corn caught my eye, my secretary having left it on my desk earlier to “add a little cheer.”

   A grin parted my lips as I grabbed a handful, taking my time tracing a line of candy across the waistband of those little panties, down to the apex of her thighs and landing on the silky covered pussy that was about to be all mine.  

   Her chest rose up and down as she watched me with aroused eyes, small shakes wracking her body whenever my knuckle dusted a sensitive spot. I beamed when I’d finished my job, making a candy-corn bikini overtop of all that bubblegum. “I really love candy, sweetheart.”

   She stopped breathing when our eyes met and held.  

   I winked once before pushing my tongue out and licking a piece of the candy off her waist. I followed the line, working my way around her gorgeous cunt until the damp spot at the center of her crotch had grown bigger, until the scent of her pretty pussy in the air was too much for me to bear.

   I needed inside her. I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t know what the repercussions might be tomorrow, but I would deal with them then. She was so sweet and soft, lying beneath me like this, looking up at me with those mesmerizing ocean eyes, a mountain of white feathers hiding the contours of her face.

   I flicked the tip of my tongue along the crease of her thigh, teasing as I moved my way along, gobbling up her candy-covered cunt, wishing to hell those panties were edible so I never had to stop. I moved to the small X of candy I’d made atop the tiny bud of her clit. I sucked in the sugary confection, nearly groaning when the scent of her cunt met my taste buds.  

  I’d pound my dick into the wooden desk in the next two minutes if I wasn’t inside her before then.  

   But I couldn’t. She was special. I wanted to please her first. I wanted her desperate for me.

   I nibbled the last of the candy off her clit then locked my lips over the outline of the bud, warming it with my breath, then pulling on the sensitive flesh with my teeth. Her hands pushed into my hair, pulling softly as a slow wave of pleasure rolled through her body.  

   “Oh God, oh my God,” she whimpered, making me want to slide a finger inside those bubblegum panties and tear them from her body. Soft moans turned to ragged gasps as I slid one thumb against the mound of her clit. Like I’d pushed a button, she shot off in a thousand shudders around me. She sounded like a goddamn angel when she came. I didn’t know that was a thing, but hell if it wasn’t true.  “Watching you come makes me want to take you home and tie you to my bed and do this on repeat all weekend long.”

   A lazy smile spread over her lips. “That sounds amazing.”

   “Mm, well, I don’t like to make a habit of inviting strangers to stay in my home, but an exception could be made…” I slid my hands up her body, cupping her full tits as I did, licking at the flesh that pushed out of the V-neck. Sucking between her succulent cleavage then over her collarbone, I tasted the hollow of her neck, making a point of leaving a small hickey. My mark on her, just like it should be.  

   Our lips connected, soft and slow, my cock nestled against her hot pussy and grinding as my head and my heart warred. I wanted to dive into her. I had a feeling if I did, I’d get lost and forget to come up for air, but I didn’t want to overstep.  

   “If I’m gonna make you come all weekend, I should at least know your name. What do I call you, beautiful?”

   Her eyes widened before averting to the ceiling. “Reese.” Then those coastal blue eyes connected with mine and held, one hand pulling the feather mask off her face. “Reese Hamilton.”

    And just like that, a fucking mortar burst inside my chest.  

   She was gorgeous. She didn’t look anything like I remembered. Hell, my head was hazy with any memories of her beyond a passing nod when she walked through the office.  

   But dammit, she was so beautiful. How the fuck had I gotten myself here?

   I groaned, suddenly feeling like her touch burned, launching off her body as though my life depended on it. Hell, it did. I’d been about to fuck my partner’s daughter. The one I’d watched grow up—from pigtails to high heels, preschool to college, I’d been there for just about all of it.

  “Fuck me.”

 

Aria Cole is a thirty-something housewife who once felt bad for reading dirty books late at night, until she decided to write her own. Possessive alpha men and the sassy heroines who love them are common, along with a healthy dose of irresistible insta-love and happily ever afters so sweet your teeth may ache.

For a safe, off-the-charts HOT, and always HEA story that doesn’t take a lifetime to read, get lost in an Aria Cole book!
Follow Aria on Amazon for new release updates, or stalk her on Facebook and Twitter to see which daring book boyfriend she’s writing next!

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Uncategorized

Rainy Days (Four Days #1) by A.S. Kelly Cover Reveal

 

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Title: Rainy Days (Four Days #1)

Author: A.S. Kelly

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: November 5, 2017

Photo Image: Wander Aguiar Photography

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Pre-order your copy for 99 cents!

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Synopsis

Tormented rock star Liam O’Reilly left Dublin and achieved success, hoping to build a new life, free from the demons of his past. Now that seems he’s got everything he ever wanted, why isn’t he happy? Is it because he’s realized that the most important thing in his life is the promise that he never kept?

Sensitive and damaged Rain O’Donovan lives with her brother and his friends in a tiny seaside town north of Dublin. Once a popular and lively schoolteacher, a car accident has wrecked her life, so that her only pleasure is walking in the rain, and her world revolves around mundane tasks, devoid of hope for the future. The amnesia around the time of the accident that changed everything means that her struggle with life is a day-to-day torture, and, more than anything else, she longs for answers.

When Liam returns to his home town after his two-year absence, he’s determined to try to make amends for the terrible mistakes he made.

But is it too late to put things right?

Rainy Days is a complete standalone and a part of the Four Days Series.

 

 

About The Author

 

as

A.S. Kelly was born in Italy but lives in Ireland with her husband, two children and a cat named Oscar. She’s passionate about English literature, she’s a music lover and addicted to coffee. She spends her days in a small village North of Dublin, looking for inspiration for her next stories.

 

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Cover Reveals

The Right Direction by Kathy Coopmans Cover Reveal

 

Cover Model – Ryan Vandyke

Photographer – Eric David Battershell

Back cover model – Tessi Conquest

 

BLURB

From USA Today Best- Selling Author comes book one in The Sweet Sin Series.

 


Meet the men of the rock band, Trained in Black.

 

 


“Our someday will come soon, Joslyn.” Those words were the last words I heard from Roman Nixon before I walked away. 

I knew our someday might come, but not the one he and I had always dreamed about. 

 

His life headed in one direction, mine in the other. While Roman became the lead singer for the successful rock band Trained in Black, I became a ruthless attorney. 

He moved on and married someone else. As I was forced to observe him and his bride on the cover of every magazine out there, I deserved to suffer because of what I had done. 

What I didn’t expect was a phone call that led to me becoming his new attorney. 

 

After years apart, our opposite worlds collide. This time, we may get our someday. But first, we have to find a way to steer us in the right direction.

 


 

 

 

RELEASING DECEMBER 6, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add to your TBR: http://bit.ly/2yJqa2Q

 

PRE-ORDER TODAY!

Amazon Live Alerthttp://bit.ly/2lcCXGi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Kathy Coopmans

USA Today Best Selling Author Kathy Coopmans is a Michigan native where she lives with her husband, Tony. They have two son’s Aaron and Shane.

 

 

She is a sports nut. Her favorite sports include NASCAR, Baseball, and Football.
She has recently retired from her day job to become a full-time writer. 


She has always been an avid reader and at the young age of 50 decided she wanted to write. She claims she can do several things at once and still stay on task. Her favorite quote is “I got this.”

 

Stalk Kathy Coopmans

Website: http://www.authorkathycoopmans.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKathyCoopmans/
Instagram: @authorkathycoopmans
Twitter: @authorkcoopmans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveals

He Loves Me Knot by RC Boldt Cover Reveal

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He Loves Me…KNOT by RC Boldt is coming soon on NOVEMBER 14th!

Check out this beautiful cover!

EBOOK-HeLovesMeNot

→ Add it to your GR TBR: https://goo.gl/eAco2g

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PREORDER NOW:

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HLMK- Teaser 4

Sometimes love needs a second chance…

I never looked back after skipping out on my own wedding, even if it did leave me estranged from most of my family. Eight years later, I have the life I’ve always wanted. As an advertising account executive, my world is damn near perfect.

Until I come face-to-face with my past. With the man I once loved. The man who holds my future in his hands. The man who’s hell-bent on getting even with me for leaving him at the altar.

Even with all the unfinished business between us, I still love Knox Montgomery. The only problem?

He loves me…KNOT.

HLMK -Teaser 2

HLMK-Teaser 6

About the Author:

RC Boldt is the wife of Mr. Boldt, a retired Navy Chief, mother of Little Miss Boldt, and former teacher of many students. She currently lives on the southeastern coast of North Carolina, enjoys long walks on the beach, running, reading, people watching, and singing karaoke. If you’re in the mood for some killer homemade mojitos, can’t recall the lyrics to a particular 80’s song, or just need to hang around a nonconformist who will do almost anything for a laugh, she’s your girl.

Email: rcboldtbooks@gmail.com

Facebook Reader Group: http://bit.ly/2iNvOqS

Website: http://www.rcboldtbooks.com

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Chapter Reveal

Witch For Hire by Shyla Colt Chapter Reveal With Pre-Order Link

 

Witch For Hire

by Shyla Colt

Release Date: November 27

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BLURB

Young, terrified, and bound to a vampire, Louella Eschete fled the bayou and swore off magic. Years later, she’s returned to the tiny town of Cypress, Louisiana to take her rightful place as head of her magical family, whether she likes it or not.
In order to keep the tentative peace formed between the various races of powerful beings who rule side by side, she must face her own demons. Mainly one, Cristobal Cortez. Now a master vampire, and lord of the seven cities surrounding New Orleans, her former lover has moved up in the world. Their relationship gets way more complicated when his court is framed for a rash of murders they didn’t commit.
Forced to play her role as his bond mate, and launch an investigation into the darkness threatening to overturn truces, she may be in over her head.

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36219693-witch-for-hire?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon Pre-Order: http://smarturl.it/WitchForHireSc

***Also Available on Kindle Unlimited***

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Chapter 1

 

I’ll be eating crow until I’m shitting black feathers. The space that had once been alive with bright, colorful bobbles, herbal remedies, and homemade beauty supplies, is now a sad, barren wasteland. Bright yellow, everything must go, signs mock me. Puke orange markdown stickers on empty shelves sing their own song all about failure. I curl my lip up at the smiley faces. Fuck you too, pal.

There’s nothing happy about pedaling your wares at a ridiculously low price to make back every dime you possibly can to survive until you can land a new gig, or in my case return to doing the very last thing I wanted to. I was born with a very special set of talents. Ones my family swear I’m wasting. I set them all aside when the thing that once filled me with joy unlike anything I’d ever known became the cause of pain, misfortune, and paranoia.

I could never pretend I wasn’t a witch. It’d be like denying I’m a person of color when my skin is golden brown, my hair is coarse, and my heritage is rich with the history, sacrifice, and customs of the strong African American men and women who came before me. It’s something I am. My choice to discontinue consciously practicing felt like severing a limb.

I walked around for months, disoriented without the balance of the earth and the voice of my ancestors whispering in my ears. I had to relearn how to live life. That meant getting as far away from the backwater, Cajun Parish I’d been born and raised in as possible. The relocation had its pros and cons.

The tiny Kentucky town had been good to me until recently. The economic crash made the extras I offered impossible to continue to buy. I held on as long as I could and eked out another six months before finally admitting defeat.

I’m currently in the process of scrounging up everything I can to go back home with my tail tucked between my legs. I could handle the botched business. It’s the inability to survive on my own that burns my toast. Seven years away wasn’t nearly long enough. The reality of my new life coming to a close cuts me to the quick. My knees weaken, and I sink to the stool behind the counter.

Hiding is no longer an option. I have to face my past. I bow my head. I’m a strong woman. I can handle a lot. But I’m also smart enough to know when I’ve reached my limits. It’s why I fled in the first place. I’ve learned a lot over the years, but I’ve eluded just as much. The gaping wound in my heart is still raw and bleeding out. The doorbell jingles and I force a smile for my current best friend, Heather. On the outskirts of the Appalachian Mountains, my community is full of small businesses and thoughtful folks who live off the land and possess the secrets and practices of those who came before them. It’s the closest I could come to living among my kind.

Heather pauses in the doorway and offers up a sweet smile tinged with sadness. I asked to work the last few hours alone. There’s something about having an audience to hear the last death rattle of Homespun that sours my stomach.

“How are you?”

“Empty,” I say. And scared out of my mind for reasons I can never share with you.

“Is there anything I can do?”

“You’ve done more than enough, helping me push out inventory and working all those hours for a mere pittance.”

“Hey, friends help one another out around this way. You know that.”

The corners of my lip flicker upward despite my dark countenance. “I do know.” I’m going to miss the beautiful simplicity and willingness to help a neighbor.  Where I’m from friends often look like foes, and power corrupts. And silly little girls with stars in their eyes and hearts wide open are manipulated like marionettes and destroyed from the inside out by the one they love most. Bitterness springs up inside me like water from a freshly drawn well. It’s always there, lurking beneath the surface like some hungry beast who waits to pounce during my most vulnerable moments and devour me whole.

“You really didn’t have to come, Heather,” I say.

“There’s no way I was going to let you close for the last time alone. I get it, boss, you’re a badass. You don’t have to prove it every second of every day. I’m here for you wither you like it or not.” The fiery brunette with flashing hazel eyes has a backbone as hard as steel, and a capacity to love wider than the star-dotted sky above the building.

I chuckle. Not many would dare come for me the way she does. I’m intimidating. From my height that tops out at six foot one, to my intense gaze, and short hair with fiery colors throughout. It’s an image I’ve carefully constructed to keep others at a distance. Heather saw through all of those things and extended a hand in friendship. I couldn’t pass that up. Not when it came from such a sincere place. The only thing that matches her capacity to care for others is her loyalty. She helped me soften the folks who were born and bred in this town.

They weren’t a fan of a strange woman moving in and buying up prime real estate. I spent the first year proving myself and living the life of an Amish person who’d been shunned. They didn’t know at the time, it was exactly what I needed. Standing on my own against a town that refused to acknowledge me, regrew my self-confidence and gave me a task to focus all of my attention on.

I grew a healthy online following and brought in folks from the cities. In the end, it helped not just me, but local businesses as well. That was the crack in the icy façade.

“Okay, short stuff. Let’s lock the door one last time, and pop the lid on the jar of moonshine I have in the back with our names written on it.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about! I told Boyd I wouldn’t be home till late tomorrow.”

With a turn of a mechanism and a deafening click, I begin my silent goodbyes to the life I’ve carved out. I wrap my arm around Heather’s shoulders and shut off the main lights as we walk through my personal graveyard of dreams. The stark white of empty shelves are the bleached bones of a carcass picked clean of all its meat. With every flip of a switch, the darkness blots out more of the light. The perfect analogy for what’s about to happen to my life.

***

The apple moonshine hits my throat, setting it ablaze as it slides down and spreads warmth from my belly to the rest of my body. I dance around to the folksy music playing on vinyl. I spin. The off -white skirt with layers of ruffles bells out. I enjoy the feel of the cotton against my legs. Cool air from the fan blows against my bare belly. The off the shoulder crop top has a matching ruffle across the bottom. It’s one of the more popular clothing items I carried. Made by one of Heather’s cousin, the Bohemian fashions did well. Closing my eyes, I take another swig and raise my hands above my head. I peer up at the skylight and glimpse the stars spread across the dark blue velvet.

I open up my senses for the first time in too long and gasp as the power flows to me. It’s like gaining sight after being blind. I can feel the earth. Its life-force is alive and pulsing with a heartbeat all its own. Steady and soothing it grounds me. I long to sink my toes into the dirt.

Even the cotton feels artificial against my skin. It’s all I can do not to strip down and practice my craft skyclad. My body tingles, and my soul rejoices. The magic of my sisters surrounds me. There are root workers up on the mountain. Practitioners who use the old southern folk magic that originated with Africans.

I sensed it when I first arrived. Like attracts like. I choose to shield my presence. Time slows as I reconnect with this secret part of me long neglected. I’m reawakening. The void I couldn’t fill shrinks.

Heather dances around me. I feed off her sisterly presence. We all have a type of magic inside us. Woman together create a very potent energy. One simply needs to know how to tap into it. I want to thank her for all she’d done. I form the Latin words in my mind, gathering the power of my ancestors. I bless her with the gift of prosperity and success. The days of struggling to make her crops yield fruit and gather enough wood for the long winters will be over for a time. Her eyes widen. She feels the enchantment taking hold.

The world becomes a blur. Wind tugs at my hair playfully, welcoming me back to the world few know exists. I throw my head back and release the laughter bubbling up inside me. There’s happiness here in the midst of sadness. Such is life. Balance must be kept in all things. Which is why even at the darkest moments, light remains.

I embrace this experience and breathe deeply. I’m a conduit. The excess energy I’ve gathered and stored is bursting from my crown, fingertips, and through my soles. Pink spots formed on the apples of her cheek. She releases a throaty laugh, and we spin faster as the track changes to a more upbeat song.

High on the emotions swirling around inside me, I wonder why I ever stopped. I am a part of the universe, and the universe lives in me. The sense of oneness is more intoxicating than the alcohol in the mason jar capable of running a car. The transcendent experience opens me up wide. Too wide. The breath rushes from my lungs, and I feel him. Blood drains from my head, and my knees weaken. A flicker of awareness rises. He latches onto the open connection like a striking viper. My body jerks. I’m immersed in the feel of his mind, cool, ordered, and ancient. The scent of leather, forest, and expensive whiskey fill my nostrils.

Louella? The smooth, cultured tone makes the words roll off his tongue like a sonnet. The old-world elegance he exuded has yet to lose its effectiveness. I take a shaky step and slam the door between us like a steel trap. I close my eyes and re-ground myself. The slow panic sinks in.

It was a split second, and I’m already drowning in everything that is Cristobal Angeles Pilar Cortez. Images of his angular aristocratic face, framed with chestnut brown hair streaked with a sun-kissed gold. It always struck me as the ultimate irony that one such as he seemed blessed by the sun.

“Lou?”

Heathers’ concerned voice pulls me out of the too-deep waters I’m floundering in. I blink and focus on her concerned gaze.

“You okay? You’re pretty good at holding your alcohol.”

“Yes. It finally hitting me I’m heading back home. I have some unresolved issues I’m getting ready to jump head first into.”

“Man trouble?” she asks.

I frown. “Why do you guess that?”

“Girl, the entire time I’ve known you, the only interest you have in a man is to scratch the occasional itch before you send them on their way. Only the ones who agree with your arrangement stay longer than a month or two. I know you’re independent, but people who tend to avoid attachments usually do so because they’re wrapped up in something or someone else.”

I sigh. “I could deny that, but I’m not in the habit of lying. It’s complicated. I put it in a box and placed it on a shelf to get dusty.”

“But you could never forget, not completely. It’s why you haven’t healed.”

I sigh. No, I’m bound. The words are on the tip of my tongue, but I know better than to share. This isn’t her world. I won’t drag her into it.

“No, I couldn’t.” I take a long draw out of the Mason jar. “It’s past time I figure things out quick, fast, and in a hurry.”

“Or maybe just admit the truths you already know,” she says.

I know she’s looking for a romance novel-worthy story. But my tale is about power, foolishness, and loss of innocence. The kind of things that would turn a young girl off trusting men altogether. Then again, he’s not really a man, is he?

“Perhaps. The answers will come to light soon whatever side of the fence my emotions fall on.”

“You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. I’m sure you could pick up some spare work here and there—.”

“Yes, I do. But it’s not like we won’t keep in touch. I was never afraid of putting in regular time with pen and paper,” I say.

She smiles. “I’ll look forward to hearing about your adventures. Louisiana is a far cry from our tiny town.”

“Not as much as you’d think. I’m in the Bayou, not the city. Now Nawlins is a world all its own.”

Heather lifts her jar. “To new beginnings.”

“New Beginnings.” We clink rims. The ting sounds like the dinner bell the maid used to ring at the extravagant dinner balls I once attended. Back then, I’d been enchanted by the glitz and glamour. This time around is different. I’m the one up on the carving block. We continue to drink and switch out records. I’m reminded of my youth. Full of music, dancing, and family and friends, it was a charmed period of time I remember fondly. I’ll add today to those cherished memories. We pass out on the bed as the sun begins to rise and the sky turns from deep purple to lilac. I welcome the oblivion of sleep.

I find myself on the wrap around porch of my Meme’s home. She sits a regal beauty in her long, white gown. Her coarse snow-white hair is covered by her colorful purple, gold, and green scarf. The creak of the rocking chair as she moves back and forth is familiar. She turns toward me and delivers a wide smile that softens her face, and brightens her dark brown eyes.

“Meme?” I ask trying to figure out if it’s more than a usual dream.

“Finally, you’re coming back to me, Cherie. I been waiting a long time for this moment.

I’m glad one of us is excited.

“Humph, you forget who you dealing with?” She asks reading my thoughts with ease.

So it is more than a dream. “No, ma’am. But we both know I left for a reason.”

“Ran is more like it. You know better, Lou, Lou. You can’t escape your destiny.”

“Destiny?” I scoff.

“Nothing happens by chance,” Meme says.

I grind my teeth to keep from saying something disrespectful to the matriarch of our family. She’d slap the taste out of my mouth quicker than I could say I’m sorry.

“Go on and speak your mind,” Meme says.

“What’s to say? You have your opinions, and I have mine.” I shrug swallowing down the words dancing on the tip of my tongue.

“Ain’t my opinion girl. The spirits talk.”

I shake my head. This is what I hadn’t missed. My life becoming a chess game for my long-dead ancestors and their spirit friends dictating the way things should go.

“And what do they say Meme.”

“That your future is more than you ever imagined. You spent a long time denying who you were. You belong back here with us. And what you have between that man of yours. Huh. That’s not over by a long shot.”

“He’s not a man.”

“Eh girl, You picked him. Don’t be upset about it now. We all tried to warn you about his true nature.”

“I was young and stupid. I didn’t think I’d have to suffer over it for the rest of my life.”

“That’s up to you. Either way. You’re going to have to deal with it. Dat boy’s been moving up the food chain while you were away.”

“Stop,” I say not ready to think about him.

“You’re an Eschete. We don’t run from anything. You have a duty to yourself and this family. You’ve always been gifted. It never took a genius to see you’re the one who was supposed to lead the next generation into the future. We gave you your time to grow up and grow strong. A storm’s brewing and you’re going to be in the eye, so I hope you rested well.”

I look down and sigh. “What if I’m not able to live up to the expectations?”

“You think just anyone can stop practicing magic and come back like that?” Meme snaps her long, wrinkled fingers. “Non. You’re special.”

Her words are blows to the walls I’ve barricaded myself behind. They come on like battering ram. Cracks form. My lower lip trembles. My vision blurs, and my eyes sting.

“It’s okay honey. Let it out.”

I walk over to the chair and place my head on her lap. She runs her hands through my hair, and I inhale the scent of lavender and sage that always seem to cling to her clothing. Cradled by the woman I’ve always seen as a second mom I allow myself to properly grieve.

For the purity I lost, the love I gave and had rejected, and my shattered soul. The tears are a purge. A necessary cleansing. Sobs shake my body, and I let them. Thunder booms above our heads, and a flash of lightning flickers in my peripheral vision. Tonight, even the Bayou mourns with me.

When I have no more tears left I lift my head and meet Meme’s dark, steady gaze. She nods her head. “That’s what you needed. Time, and a release. Now you pick up the pieces and come back better dan ever. It’s okay to be knocked down as long as you get back up.”

Her words are a soothing elixir applied to my wounded pride.

“Never be ashamed of your mistakes. Long as you don’t continue to make the same ones, it’s nothing more than a learning experience. Things only have the power we give them.”

She’s right. I’ve turned this into the defining moment of my life. It’s time to create a new turning point.

witch2

About The Author

shyla1

Shyla Colt is the sassy USA Today Bestselling author of the popular series Kings of Chaos and Dueling Devils M.C. This genre-hoppers stories feature three of her favorite things: strong females, pop culture, and alternate routes to happy ever after. Listening to her Romani soul, she pens from the heart, allowing the dynamic characters, eccentric interests, and travels as a former flight attendant to take her down untraveled roads.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, this mid-west girl is proud of her roots. She used her hometown and the surrounding areas as a backdrop for a number of books. So, if you’re a Buckeye, keep an eye out for familiar places.

As a full-time writer, stay at home mother, and wife, there’s never a dull moment in her household.
She weaves her tales in spare moments and the evenings with a cup of coffee or tea at her side and the characters in her head for company.

 

You can interact with Shyla Colt online via her website:
http://www.shylacolt.net
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