Eternal Curse Kara Leigh Miller
(The Cursed Series, #1)
Publication date: Sept 15th 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
After pulling the plug on her mother’s life support, seventeen-year-old Chloe Madison moves to live with relatives she hardly knows. Her new hometown in the Adirondack Mountains is barely more than a pinpoint on the map, but it’s shrouded in deadly secrets and strange family legends. Chloe is determined to keep her head down, finish high school, and get the heck out of there. Until she meets the enigmatic Trent Halstead. Something intriguing hides beneath his quiet self-assurance and hero hair. Maybe there’s something—or someone—worth sticking around for after all.
But when a rash of unsolved murders leaves two of Chloe’s classmates dead, she begins to suffer from disturbing hallucinations that build to the horrifying image of Trent as a murderous vampire. With nowhere else to go, she’s stuck in a town she hates, surrounded by people she can’t trust, and she’s pretty sure she’s going to be lunch.
If all that isn’t bad enough, Trent is hiding a lethal secret, besides the whole immortal bloodsucker thing. He’s the not-so-proud owner of an ancient, family curse—no Halstead will ever know true love—and he’s desperate to find a way to break the curse. Could Chloe be the key to his happiness or just another secret Trent wished he never unlocked?
He hopped out of the truck and was around to my side with the door open before I even had my seatbelt unhooked.
“Everything all right?” He tucked his cell phone into his pocket, concern blanketing his face.
“You were frowning pretty intently.”
“Oh.” It was sweet how he was so worried. “Guess the heat is getting to me,” I said with a faint smile. The temperature must have jumped twenty degrees while we were at Trent’s house.
Trent put his hand on my forehead like he was checking me for a fever. The stark contrast of his cool hand against my heated skin made me shiver.
“You are pretty hot.” He winked.
I laughed. “That’s a horrible line.”
He raised a brow and lightly dragged his fingers down the side of my face, stopping to cup my cheek, making the hairs on my arms stand on edge. I looked into his crystal-clear eyes and held my breath. His mouth was so close, and I wanted nothing more than to feel his lips on mine. Why wouldn’t he just kiss me already?
“Do you trust me?” His voice was soft, almost hesitant.
It amazed me how quickly and easily I said that—and how much I meant it. I barely knew him, but deep down in the darkest corners of my soul, I knew he would never hurt me. I didn’t know how I knew that, but I did.
Slowly, Trent closed the distance between us. His lips pressed against mine, featherlight and much too quick. In the split second when our lips connected, I was hit with a wave of intense longing that had my knees shaking. And then in the next moment, he straightened and moved away from me.
Trent cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry.”
Kara Leigh Miller is a full-time wife; stay-at-home mom to 4 kids, 3 pit bulls, and 6 cats; writer, and the Editorial Director at Anaiah Press. When she’s not herding her family, she’s working out, reading, or binge watching Netflix. She’s previously published two adult Christian romantic suspense books that are no longer in publication. Though she’s published a young adult Christian romance (Perfectly Imperfect), Eternal Curse is her first foray into the secular young adult market.
He clinical smell of detergent penetrates my senses and my eyes flutter open. I find myself staring at a white-tiled commercial ceiling, questioning if I am awake or asleep – though it does seem like a rather strange dream to have. I blink. The ceiling remains. My senses give my brain a nudge and it fires up but provides no answers. Brows wrinkling in confusion, I begin trying to determine what is going on.
One thing I am certain of, is that my body is sore and stiff. Muscles aching, I remain as I am, twisting my head to the right. The sun glares through a wide, steel window. From the sun’s height in the sky, I estimate it has been there some time.
A feeling of guilt settles over me. It appears sleeping in isn’t something I indulge in.
To my right, between the bed and window, is a small white cupboard and a plastic-coated armchair. Sunflowers sit in a vase on the bedside cupboard. I like sunflowers. Though at this moment, I fail to recall why.
An irritating beep-beep sound comes from my left, and I swing my eyes in that direction, lifting my head slightly. Wires litter my body and a pink cellular hospital blanket covers me. The beeping begins to make sense, along with the plastic-coated chair and wires. I am in a hospital.
A sigh escapes my lips as I resist the urge to panic. Instead, I acknowledge my dislike of hospitals. Then again, name a patient or visitor who likes them. There is that clinical smell that lingers long after you have left, and they are full of sick people. At present, I am reluctant to place myself in the ‘sick people’ category, even if my brain is screaming at me, telling me I wouldn’t be here if I was fit and well.
Tentatively, I sniff the air. This hospital does smell nicer than the ones I have stayed in and visited before. At present, I am unable to remember ever spending time in or visiting a hospital, though I’m sure I have done so.
My eyes widen and adrenalin is released into my bloodstream. Hands shaking, my breathing quickens. Panic grips me. Why can’t I remember anything? My eyes fly round the room, unseeing. What has happened to me?
If I am in a hospital, I am safe and cared for. Quantifying this fact allows reason to be heard. Though my heart still hammers, its beat is more regular than it was. My memories are in there, somewhere, I just need to find them. It’s probably the drugs they have given me, clouding and confusing my brain.
Closing my eyes, I demand that my brain starts its cognitive processing. My demand falls into a black hole of nothingness. Not giving up, I decide to think about the sunflowers, as they’d triggered a feeling of happiness. Unfortunately, this simple request is met with vacuity, and a hollow feeling takes up residence in the pit of my stomach. The only mental input I receive is that sunflowers are bright, cheery plants.
My eyes fly open and I face the frightening fact that my life is a blank.
Kathleen Harryman is a storyteller and poet living in the historically rich city of York, North Yorkshire, England, with her husband, children and pet dog and cat.
Kathleen first published a suspense thriller in 2015, The Other Side of the Looking Glass. Since then, she has developed a unique writing style which readers have enjoyed and is now a multi-published author of suspense, psychological thrillers, poetry and historical romance.
The Art of Serendipity Karen Anne
Publication date: July 21st 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Lorelei Parker has her dream job teaching AP English at an elite prep school on the upper east side. Between her love of literature & moderating the school drama club, Lorelei is more than content. But when her star student is caught with drugs and expelled, Lorelei discovers life is about to become as complicated as one of her books.
When a call from his ex-wife alerts him that his son has just been kicked out of the prestigious Astley Academy, Jack Flynn’s quiet life on his ranch in North Carolina is uprooted. Not knowing how to fix Brodie’s shattered senior year, he takes his son under his wing, hoping life on the ranch and some hard work will be a way to reach the son he feels he’s lost.
The last thing Lorelei expected was an email from Jack Flynn asking her advice on how to help his son, Brodie. So begins an email exchange between the two that unlocks a secret, a way to get Brodie back on track, and a budding romance that can only be described as serendipity.
He got out of the stall and walked close to me. I drew in a breath as I took him in. He had on a blue button down chambray shirt with the sleeves rolled up and black jeans.
He walked right up to me, and for a minute, I thought he was going to kiss me, but he didn’t. He just stared into my eyes long enough to make my stomach do a flip. “How’d you sleep?” he asked, and I was surprised by his question.
“Great. Woke up early.”
“Me too.” His gaze fell to my mouth, and I felt that pang of longing remembering what it was like to be in his arms last night, to have his full lips move across mine. “Are you ready to meet the other horses?” he asked, and I blinked back at him, registering the fact that he still wasn’t kissing me.
He walked around the bend to another row of stalls. “We have twenty-four horses on the ranch, including little Rosie. Of those, fifteen are used for riding lessons, trails and so forth.”
Jack walked down the aisle, pointing out the various breeds and discussing their personalities. He knew so much about each individual horse, just as I could easily discuss any of my students at length.
“This is Annabelle. Very sweet temperament. She’s seven years old, knows the trail well. She won’t get you lost, so don’t you worry.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I wasn’t sure if you had ever been on a horse before, so I wanted to pick one you’d be very comfortable on.”
“You want me to ride her?”
“Well, yeah. This is a ranch.” He rested a hand on his belt buckle and laughed. “How else did you think we’d get up the mountain?”
“I thought we were going to hike up the mountain.”
Jack glanced down at my boots. “And those are the boots you chose for hiking?”
My ears prickled with heat. I glanced down at Jack’s boots, noting the spurs. “Why didn’t you say we’d be horseback riding?”
“I’m sorry. I really thought it was obvious, but if you don’t want to then we don’t have to.”
“No… I want to.” I didn’t sound convincing.
“Have you ever ridden before?”
“Sure, when I was in fourth grade and the girl scouts took us to a dude ranch but halfway through one of the horses got spooked and stood up on its hind legs. There was a lot of screaming, and we all had to turn around and head back. Oh, and another time I rode a camel at a Renaissance fair, but it was just in a circle, and there was a guy leading the camel by a rope.”
“Well, a camel isn’t a horse. I think this experience will be a lot better.” He opened the gate in front of Annabelle’s stall and led her out. “She’s already been saddled. Go ahead, say hello.”
I laid my hands on her chestnut coat. The horse didn’t so much as flinch when I touched her, making me feel invisible. She was beautiful and powerful and apparently going to carry me up a mountain.
Jack led another horse out of a stall. It was pitch black and much bigger than Annabelle. He was magnificent. “Who’s this?”
“This is Midnight. He’s Rosie’s father.”
“Is Pebbles going to be upset to discover her man is out with another woman?”
“We won’t tell.” He took my purse off of my shoulder. “You won’t need this.” He walked over to the far wall and hung the purse on a hook then took a black helmet down and handed it to me. “Put this on. It straps under your chin.”
I took the helmet from his hands and frowned like a child. “You’re not wearing a helmet.”
“I’ve been riding since I could walk, and Midnight knows me. I raised him. I know every bend and dip in the trail.” He took the helmet from my hands, placed it on my head, and fastened the buckle beneath my chin. “You, my dear, are about to have a maiden voyage, and I can’t take a risk with such precious cargo.”
He held my face up by my chin, studying me for a moment. My heart rate began to accelerate. Whatever Jack Flynn was doing, he was quite good at it. I really hoped I pulled off equestrian chic in that hat. At the very least, I’d settle for cute. He winked and dropped his hand, releasing me from his physical hold, but mentally, I was tethered to Jack and blindly about to trust him as he led me up a mountain.
Karen Anne was writing before she could read. As a toddler, she sat with a book in her hands and made up the stories, eager for the day when she’d find out if it all truly ended in happily ever after. Karen still determines the destiny of other people’s lives, but this time, the characters are her own.
She is a Contemporary Romance author who lives in New York.
Coffee drinker by day, wine enthusiast by night, she loves cats and deeply misses 90’s grunge.
Between the Pages Lauren Baker
Publication date: July 20th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Whatever possessed her to say yes?
Emmy Flanagan never thought she’d be forced into a Faustian pact to stop her beloved bookstore being turned into a luxury residence. But when her landlord, multi-millionaire Eric Oswell, offers to postpone the eviction if she’s willing to go on a few dates with him, it’s either accept or see four years of hard work and dedication go up in smoke.
The bad news is, he’s charming, well-read and irritatingly self-assured, and they spark off each other like two characters in a Lubitsch romcom. Which makes it very hard for her to resist the powerful physical attraction between them – even though she knows it’s a terrible idea. He woos her with classical concerts, nights at the opera, art exhibitions and a magical mystery Thanksgiving trip – but his deep-rooted trust issues and traumatic family secrets threaten to destroy their relationship before it’s had a chance to prove itself.
Set in contemporary New York City, Between the Pages charts a fast-moving romance with explosive chemistry between two very different but equally driven people. It’s Lauren Baker’s second novel after Finding Home, co-written with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bonnie Dee.
They stepped out into challenging weather — the rain had picked up in intensity while they were dining, coupled with a buffeting wind that made even walking a few hundred yards unpleasant work. Eric was holding her close, and mellowed by the food, the drink, the music, Emmy leaned into his body, instinctively seeking the warmth radiating from him.
“This time, I’m not letting you go home alone in this godawful weather,” he said, steering her towards the car that pulled over at their level.
Emmy would’ve resisted, but her body betrayed her, too happy to spend longer wrapped in his warmth and to escape being lashed by the wind and drenched by the rain. The car was warm and spacious, its leather seats comfortable, the driver a silent presence behind a glass screen, while Eric was next to her, his arm now slipped behind her shoulder, in a loose familiar hug that neither threatened nor excluded further action.
He smelled masculine and enticing, with a hint of discreet cologne, and when she found herself inhaling deeply, he in turn pulled her in a little closer, until her head was on his shoulder and her whole body tingled with slow-burning arousal. It was both so very wrong and so perfectly right as they sped through the rain-soaked night, the city lights flickering in every puddle and wet surface they passed, the low hum of the engine lulling her into a sensual torpor.
The movement was almost imperceptible, but his hand was suddenly near her face, and his thumb brushed lightly against her full bottom lip, which sent unerring messages of lust through her body. His thumb stroked her mouth two, three times, before she parted her lips, and heard him draw a shuddering breath. Oh. Oh. He was at least as into this as her, clearly.
Next thing she knew his mouth was on hers, his hand sliding to the back of her head as he kissed her tentatively. His lips were warm, soft, and gentle on hers, the kiss light, but it set off a wave of desire rippling through her body, the strength of which shocked her. Eric was obviously holding himself in check — he was taking his time, dropping kisses from one corner of her mouth to the other, feather light touches that were unraveling her entirely. He tasted of bitter coffee and dark chocolate, and somehow these had just become the most delicious and exciting flavors in the world.
His tongue flickered out, sweeping against her lip, electric, and she couldn’t contain a whimper of raw need which in turn spurred him on, from tentative to more demanding, until she surrendered her mouth to him, and God, Eric Oswell could kiss.
He pulled her closer to him, chest to chest, her nipples erect and aching pressed against his solid frame, and she ran a hand up his shoulder and into his hair, fingertips cradling his head as the kiss deepened. His hands were stroking her neck and back, leaving trails of fire in their wake, and Emmy became aware of a deep throbbing need in her that was threatening to overwhelm her sanity. She wanted more, more of his insatiable mouth, more of his agile tongue, more of the masculine scent that was invading her senses.
When he pulled away and rested his forehead against hers, drawing shaky breaths as they both tried to regain control of themselves, she realized she was trembling. Also, that the car had pulled over in what, upon close inspection, turned out to be her street. Time to call it before they hit the point of no return, and no matter how desperately she wanted him to come up to her apartment, there was absolutely no way she was going to ask him.
London based journalist with a sideline as a romance writer; also a prolific reader, and keen on all things fiction – on the page, the stage, the big screen and the small. Dreamer at heart.
Keep Forever Alexa Kingaard
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: March 28th 2020
Genres: Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction
“Unlike some war stories that focus on intense, harsh and graphic depictions of post-combat trauma, this tale unfolds gently, like an Edna Ferber novel, spread across many decades, detailing the impact this soldier’s illness has on an entire family, including children and grandchildren. KEEP FOREVER is a wonderful, emotionally satisfying read that I highly recommend. ” GARY SEIGEL, author of “Haskell Himself”
Paul O’Brien’s idyllic childhood in Southern California comes to a halt when his mother dies in the summer before his senior year of high school and a very different persona of his father emerges – isolating himself inside the house, turning to alcohol for comfort, and barely noticing his only child. Simultaneously, the war in Vietnam is sending shock waves around the world and young men from one coast to the other are being called upon to serve. Paul enlists in the Marines before receiving his draft notice.
Elizabeth Sutton is eager to gain some independence from her father’s old fashioned notions and looking forward to her first year in high school. At fifteen years old, tragedy strikes with the loss of both parents in an auto accident, turning her childhood into one of responsibility and worry overnight. The four siblings are scattered when her nine-year-old twin sisters are sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle on Nantucket Island, and Elizabeth is left behind in Boston with their grandmother. Her older brother, Sam, enlists in the Marines, eager to join the conflict a world away as opposed to dealing with the one unfolding at home.
A bond develops between Paul and Sam in Vietnam, and both are injured in a bloody battle that costs Sam his right hand and sets the stage for a lifetime of nightmares and sleepless nights for Paul. Matched by similar tragedies at a young age, Elizabeth and Paul’s first introduction by Sam upon their return from Vietnam is the beginning of friendship and love that survives five decades.
After marrying, welcoming their first child, and inheriting a small beach house, the couple adapts to their new surroundings, but distant memories of Vietnam continue to haunt Paul. In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, he is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his loved ones amidst his his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As their lives unravel from the lingering effects of PTSD, Elizabeth learns to accept the burden that Paul brought home, and together they make their own memories to keep forever.
ALEXA KINGAARD was born in San Diego, CA and has lived most of her life in the area. She currently resides in Carlsbad and is the mother of a son and daughter who continue to be her biggest fans and cheerleaders.
Her debut novel, KEEP FOREVER, was inspired by her late ex-husband who batted the residual effects of the Vietnam War for decades after his return. The burden he brought home is shared by combat veterans of all conflicts, and her fictional account highlights the collateral damage encountered by family members and loved ones living with PTSD in their midst.
Her second novel, MY NAME IS ROSE, departs from her personal experiences and focuses on the collective memories of her generation. She loves writing about nostalgia and the human condition, the common denominator of our lives.
The Run Around Bernadette Franklin
Publication date: April 28th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
Arranging a wedding for her brother and a five-time thoroughbride tests Hope’s skills and patience. She’d believed the vows would be the most dangerous part of the ceremony, but a baseball to the head during the photography session proves her wrong and lands her in the sights of her brother’s best friend, Fredrick.
He wants her to plan his wedding.
She wants to be his bride.
Diving into the treacherous world of wedding planning, Hope keeps her word and arranges the vows for the one man she believes she could love. He doesn’t know how much she cherishes him and his friendship.
What she doesn’t know lands her in the heart of a royal mess.
A sensible woman would’ve been delighted to be her future sister-in-law’s maid of honor, as it implied cordial relationships or some sort of bullshit like that. I knew better.
I made an excellent scapegoat.
As the wedding party’s weakest link, everyone expected me to trip on my dress, maybe break an ankle along with my neck, or spill the entire wine fountain onto the floor. My brother claimed he loved me, but I believed he’d been the one to spread the rumor I was the world’s clumsiest woman.
When I secured my revenge, it would be sweet.
But first, I needed to survive my brother’s wedding without being responsible for a single hiccup. Playing to my brother’s misconceptions, I’d spent months tripping over nothing on purpose so I could transform myself into the image of traditional beauty and grace.
I’d even lost twenty pounds so my dress would fit.
The wedding would be a disaster, but I would emerge from the chaos smelling like roses, red wine, and garlic bread. Honestly, I doubted the wedding would make it to the reception.
Some weddings had bridezillas. We had a thoroughbride, and if she got it into her head to run, I wished my brother the best of luck catching her before she fled from the church. My proposal to have the wedding on a yacht, where my brother’s thoroughbride couldn’t escape, hadn’t earned me points with anyone.
The bride hated the ocean.
My brother was smart enough to catch onto my implication.
It wasn’t my fault Amy wasn’t exactly the most reliable woman in the world when it came to marriage. Once was a fluke. Twice was a trend. Five incidents of running from the wedding was evidence the thoroughbride would strike again, and my dear old brother would be saddled with the fifty thousand dollar bill, as he refused to believe Amy would run out on him.
Oh, no. Amy would never run out on him.
Bernadette Franklin is a figment of imagination owned and operated by two cats, a few plants, and a human.
Child of Mine Jana Richards
Publication date: February 20th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Lauren didn’t intend to sleep with her brother-in-law Cole on the day of her husband’s funeral. But now that she is pregnant, she’s not sorry. Cole’s given her a baby, a long-wished-for miracle. He’s been her friend forever, though she never told him or anyone else how unhappy her marriage to his cheating brother was. And she’s afraid to tell the small town that considered her husband a hero that the baby isn’t his.
Cole’s been in love with Lauren since he was sixteen. It kills him that everyone believes the baby is his dead brother’s. All he wants is to claim the baby, and Lauren, as his own. Though she marries him, will Lauren’s heart ever be his?
Lauren must tell the truth or risk losing Cole. Is her newly-discovered love for him greater than her fear of scandal in her hometown?
“We asked you to come here this evening because we have something we want to tell all of you. Lauren and I are getting married.”
The room went deathly quiet. Lauren tightened her grip on his hand. Her face turned pale as she stared at her family’s stunned expressions. Cole put his arm around her waist, afraid she might faint.
He needn’t have worried. She lifted her chin at a defiant angle and turned to face the others.
“Cole and I have decided this child needs the best possible start in life and that means having a mother and a father. We’ve always been friends, so what better way to start a marriage then with friendship?”
Garrett pushed himself to his feet and came forward. “I think it’s a hell of an idea. You two will make wonderful parents.”
He enfolded Lauren in an embrace. Cole heard her murmur her thanks to her brother. “I think you’ll make a wonderful uncle.”
Charlotte was next in line. She kissed Lauren’s cheek. “I’m so happy for you, sweetie. When’s the big day?”
“In a couple of weeks,” Cole said. “As soon as we can arrange everything.”
Lauren’s parents, Robert and Grace, also extended their congratulations. If they had reservations, they kept them to themselves.
Only his mother remained in her seat, staring at them in disbelief. Cole sat next to her. “What do you want to say, Ma?”
“You can’t replace Billy.” She choked out the words.
“I know that.” He’d known he was second best in her eyes all his life. “I wouldn’t even try.”
“But to marry his wife, to raise his child? It’s wrong. They don’t belong to you. You always wanted what belonged to your brother.”
He wanted to shout at her that the baby was his, that it had nothing to do with Billy. And Lauren was his, too. He’d loved her first. His brother had never appreciated what a gem he’d had in her. He’d squandered his marriage the way he’d squandered the love that had been lavished on him all his life, from his parents, from Lauren, and even from him.
Instead he pressed his lips together and said nothing. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and saw that Lauren stood beside him.
“I know this is difficult for you, Ella. I know you’re grieving. But I have to raise my child in the best way I know how. Aside from my brother and sister, Cole is my best friend in the world. He’s a good man, and I know he’ll be a wonderful father. You should be very proud of him.”
His mother stared at Lauren as if she couldn’t believe what she was saying. Her face twisted. “Don’t you miss Billy at all? Don’t you grieve for him? Nobody understands. Nobody.”
He said the word a little sharper then he’d intended, but at least it got her attention. She looked up at him in surprise.
“I’m sorry if it hurts you, but Lauren and I are getting married. We care about one another and we care about the baby. The three of us are going to be a family. I wish you could be happy for us.”
Ella dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. Finally, with a shuddering breath, she turned to look at him.
“For Billy’s baby’s sake, I’ll try.”
The pain was swift and unexpected. If she’d stabbed him through the heart with a dagger it wouldn’t have hurt as much.
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with an elderly Pug/Terrier named cross Lou. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com
A Love to Keep Me Warm Gina Ardito
Publication date: November 10th 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
After living in the carnival world, Polina Kominski is anxious to put down roots and build a life that includes a permanent home and, someday, a family. But first, she has to spend Christmas in Kraków, Poland to satisfy the final request of her late mother. Angry at having her strings pulled one last time, she’s resigned to follow the detailed instructions left to her, but refuses to believe the superstitions and allusions to magic Mom wants her to experience. And what’s with number eight on her mother’s itinerary, Kiss a Stranger?
To avoid facing his family’s sins, international banker, Rhys Linsey, will travel the lengths of the globe in his quest to regain the collection of ancient artifacts stolen from him years ago. When he runs into Polina on a Kraków street, he volunteers to help her experience the beauty of the holiday while sharing the history and folklore of this charming city. No matter how much she denies the existence of magic, he’s determined to prove her wrong.
Christmas in Kraków weaves a powerful spell, but Polina is running toward her future, while Rhys is stubbornly mired in the past. Can the magic of the holiday extend beyond December to bring Rhys and Polina full-circle to love?
The day after they meet, Rhys takes Polina on a tour of Krakow and begins with the city’s origins according to legend:
“Back in the eighth century, all of this land was a village on the River Vistula, with nothing but mud huts and peace-loving people who traded goods up and down the river. Set into the deep side of Wawel Hill was a cave where a terrible dragon named Smok Wawelski slumbered.”
She stopped in mid-step on the sidewalk and tilted her head to stare at him with disbelief. “A dragon? Really?”
“Give me a chance to prove it, okay?”
He gave her a pleading look that melted her polar heart. How on earth did he plan to prove a draconian legend? Curiosity overrode common sense, and with a light laugh, she agreed. “Go for it.”
Eyes crinkled with a secret smile, he gave one simple nod. “Thank you. Generations were warned against waking the dragon and unleashing its fury upon the poor village, but one day several young boys who, like you, refused to believe the tales, strode bravely up to Wawel Hill to see the dragon for themselves. They crept into the cave and soon came upon the enormous scaly tail of the horrible beast. Well, apparently, one of the boys was so terrified, he screamed, awakening the dragon. The children turned and fled, but the damage was done, and the horrible creature soon began wreaking havoc upon all the townspeople. The dragon would come into their village, day after day, stealing the livestock and carrying off the virgins to be devoured at its leisure.
“The villagers attempted several times to kill the beast, but always failed miserably. Until one day, a shoemaker’s apprentice named Krakus mixed up a huge vat of sulfur and coated dozens of sheep with the mixture. When the sheep were ready, he led them to a grassy spot where the dragon was sure to see them. The dragon, naturally, spotted the sheep and swallowed them just as quickly. Soon the sulfur began to take its toll, and the dragon could not contain his thirst. He raced to the River Vistula and drank, but no matter how much water he swallowed, the thirst continued to burn inside him. He nearly drank the river dry until, at last, he swelled so much, he burst like a balloon. Boom!”
As Rhys’s hands flew in front of her face, Polina jumped back with a squeal of surprise.
Chuckling, he pulled her closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Nothing had ever felt so right as this man’s arm holding her close to his heart. She tilted her head at a slight angle, studying his lips, wondering how they’d taste against hers. All he had to do was bend his head forward a few inches…
“Well, of course,” he continued, apparently oblivious to her thoughts, “the village rejoiced at the dragon’s demise.”
She shook off the romantic silliness and refroze her heart. What had she been thinking? A kiss? Good God, she was behaving like her mother, acting on impulse, rather than logic. The last thing she needed was a love affair. Furrowing her brow, she took a step away from him to increase their distance then tried to refocus on his story.
“Krakus was named king and built a castle at the top of Wawel Hill where the dragon’s lair once sat. The village prospered into a city and was named Kraków in honor of their hero.”
Outside Wawel Cathedral, he stopped in front of a large stone wall where a strange collection of bones sat chained against the rock. An odd-looking snout rode above a rib cage about the size of a giant whale’s, some kind of bizarre cloven feet at the base.
“Behold,” Rhys whispered against her ear, sending delicious ripples of warm breath across her neck. “Proof. The dragon’s bones.”
Soft laughter escaped her lips. “Right. Good thing you brought me here. I wouldn’t want to waste my time on dusty old artifacts when I could see something as authentic as a dragon skeleton.”
I kill houseplants. There. Now you know one of my greatest shames. I’m not boasting. I just figure that if you’re reading this, you’re looking for more than how wonderful life is as a writer. So here are a few more of my flaws:
I sing all the time. I sing in the car. In the shower. While I’m grocery shopping. And I headbop while I sing. When I’m not singing, I talk to myself. Just ignore me and move on. You get used to it after a while.
I don’t eat my vegetables. Seriously. I’d rather have a cookie.
I’m extremely fair-skinned and could burn under a 60-watt light bulb.
I can’t sleep without background noise. If it’s too dark and too quiet, all I have are my thoughts. And even *I* don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.
Don’t ask me to Zumba, line dance, or march in the parade. I have absolutely no rhythm.
Regrets. I have more than a few.
My favorite activity is sleep. I don’t clock a lot of hours, but I powernap like a Persian cat and rejuvenate within ten minutes.
I consider shopping and dining out excellent therapy for anything wrong in my life.
My feet are always cold. Always. My husband claims it’s because I’m an alien sent to Earth to destroy him. (He might be right about that.)
Coming to my house for a visit? Unless you’ve given me plenty of advance notice, be prepared. My floor will not be vacuumed, there will be dishes in my sink, and I only make my bed when I change the sheets once a week (I’m climbing back into it ASAP. Why make it?) Housecleaning is not high on my priority list. Okay, to be totally honest, it’s not on the list at all.
I can resist anything…except ice cream.
Since this is our first date, I figure I’ve revealed enough secrets for now. But if you’ve read this bio and think I might be the author for you, pick up one of my books. You won’t be disappointed.