Friday, 25 December 2015

45. Season's Greetings

I’m dealing with the early mornings because I’ve found a new appreciation of greeting the dawn with our new puppy and getting the most out of the cooler weather for the short time that I have it. I’m still feeling a bit delicate (hubby prefers ‘grumpy’) in the evenings, but I’ve decided it’s because of the emotional roller coaster ride we’ve had this year. I’m sure that’s why my column is a little more subdued than usual.

For a variety of reasons, not everyone celebrates Christmas. To me, it means spending time with family and friends and hoping everyone stays safe over the holiday season. Regardless of our varied beliefs, I’m sure we all want our loved ones to be happy.

It won’t be an easy Christmas for us this year. There will be another empty chair at the table and I know my family isn’t alone in this either. It’s hard losing someone, but that first big family celebration without them, yet striving to stay positive for everyone else, is a huge task.

Things have changed since my childhood. I thought that time would last forever. As an adult, let’s just say some of those celebrations were extra ‘merry’. Christmas as a parent, wow, the magic was back again. But now, as time passes and we notice more empty chairs at the table, I know the one constant has been the happy memories and precious moments spent with our loved ones.

So, from my family to yours, whether or not you celebrate Christmas, be safe, be happy and be with someone you love, especially if they’re spending Christmas purely in your memories and your heart.

To dispel my melancholy mood, I cheered myself by reading. Ms Schwartz’s stories never fail to make me smile (sometimes through my tears.) ;)

You can find Jenny's books here - 
http://authorjennyschwartz.com/

REVIEWS

Djinn Justice (The Collegium Book 2) - From the cold of Siberia to the Mountains of the Moon, Fay and Steve are involved in an epic battle against evil enslaving people’s souls. If a person’s dream essence is stolen, so is their future.

Fay Olwen is still adjusting to life as one of a couple. She never expected to have a sexy leopard-were cuddling her at midnight in his huge bed in his gorgeous villa on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. But here she is, in love and in luck—finally! There’s not a demon in sight.

Pity she can’t say the same about the invading djinn.

As romantic plans are scuttled, Fay discovers she has a lot to learn about her new lover. Steve Jekyll isn’t simply the lethal mercenary she thought him. He’s also heir to the Suzerainty, the ancient order that delivers justice for all weres.

Steve hoped he’d have more time to reveal the many aspects of his complicated life to Fay; not least, his family. But with a rogue mage teaming up with a power-mad jackal-were to enslave innocent people, Steve doesn’t have time for tact. His family are just going to have to deal with the fact that his chosen mate isn’t a were. She is, in fact, their total and feared opposite: a mage.

Let the adventure begin!

*** “Djinn Justice” is for fans of paranormal romance who like their adventures filled with humour and heart. It can easily be read as a stand-alone novel, although the novella “Demon Hunter” tells the story of how Fay and Steve got together.

Once again, another action packed story and a great page-turner. Fay and Steve’s strengths and weaknesses balanced each other perfectly. This story focused on their partnership proving that there’s more to their relationship than pure romance. Magic, humour, danger, a little naughtiness – it’s all there much to this reader’s delight. As the story mentioned, you don’t need to read the first book to enjoy the second, but go on, you know you want to.  ;) And there’s a third in the series to come. :)

I also read Three Wishes (Out of the Bottle Trilogy)
She is the Bringer of Death

Cali, a djinni, has sworn to twist the wishes of humans so they die by their own greed and evil. Her latest master is arms dealer David Saqr, a man Cali believes deserves the fate she has in store for him. But this time she finds herself up against Andrew, David's guardian angel.

He is a Protector of Life

Andrew believes David can yet find redemption. He fights Cali for the man's life, even as he tries to persuade her to give in to the sizzling attraction between them. He shows Cali another side of David, and invites her to trust again, to hope. But centuries of being enslaved have hardened Cali's heart—it's going to take all of Andrew's love to convince her to open it and let him in.

This is the third in the series so I’ll be hunting down the other two. This had a few surprise twists and turns. I liked the way Cali twisted her masters’ wishes against them and how bitter she was on the outside, yet still so fragile internally. It would be hard for most to see through her façade, but fortunately, her hero is determined to see the best in her even when she can’t see it for herself - just as soon as he stops her from killing his latest charge whose own heart of gold is hidden so deeply Andrew has to work hard to reveal it.


And finally, because it’s a time of sharing, here’s a little story to cheer my readers. :) It doesn’t have a Christmas theme. It’s my entry for the 2015 Little Gems (PG-rated) contest. It just missed out on a place, but it was such fun to write that I had to share it. Enjoy! :)


PAIR-A-DOE!

Pulse racing, heart pounding and spine stiffening to breaking point, Professor Edmund Charles Darlington the Fourth turned to face the figure striding toward him.
He’d encountered scabbard-wielding nomads and a band of black market pirates in his quest to find the peridot artefact that would change everything. That same desperate search had caused him to cross paths with supernatural creatures too. What other explanation was there for the man who morphed into a mountain lion and chased him through the San Carlos Apache foothills. And no amount of alcohol would wash away the memory of the giant serpent that crushed him in its coils when he fell into an underground stream. The beast vanished when the churning water emptied him into the Limpopo River leaving him with cracked ribs, a broken collarbone and a mark on his skin where the peridot talisman had rested against his chest. Darlington couldn’t explain how he’d survived the encounter but it appeared the healing myths surrounding the mystical gem were true.
A shaky hand reached for his handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his face. He refused to think it and the shirt sticking to his back were a reaction to anything other than the mid-summer Australian heat. His other hand fought to uncramp itself from the archaeologist’s brush he held in his vice-like grip. The figure was closing in and he argued with the voice in his head that suggested a man who’d faced such adversity could surely manage a simple conversation with the first woman who’d fired his blood since his teens.
‘Everything okay?’ she asked as she handed him a water canteen and flashed him a look that suggested he couldn’t quite cut it in the oppressive humidity. Given that he felt as though all the moisture was on the outside of his body leaving behind a desiccated husk, her smirk was a little too close to the truth.
‘I’m fine. Thank you for the drink,’ he said and cursed the crisp, pompous sound of his voice.
He didn’t think himself superior, yet to his ears, everything he said sounded like he thought he was. It appeared as though the rest of the hardened team of ASIO agents believed it. They’d made it clear they had better things to do than watch over his lily-white ass. Despite proving he wasn’t quite the fool they seemed to think, he hadn’t seen fit to dissuade them of their lowly opinion. But her, oh he’d dreamed of meeting and impressing the sun-bronzed agent ever since his superiors showed him her photo and explained her safety was of upmost importance.
And to think she thought she was protecting him.
‘You’re welcome,’ she replied, her smile widening as he let his surprise show.
Please let her think it was because she’d mimicked his cultured British accent to perfection, and not because the brush of her fingers against his as he handed back the canteen affected him more than he cared to admit.
‘Feeling lucky?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Are you feeling lucky? Is the artefact here?’
‘Oh, oh I see. No, I haven’t found anything yet but I’m close. My calculations... I’m sorry. I must be boring you.’
‘Not at all, Professor Darling, and damn him if he didn’t blush when she called him that even if he couldn’t decide whether she was flirting or teasing him. ‘I like the way you talk to me as though I have half a brain in my head.’ She took a step closer. ‘And I like the fact that you look me in the eye when you say it.’
Who wouldn’t want to look into her beautiful eyes? Eyes as green as the peridot he so desperately sought.
‘But they don’t?’
He inclined his head toward the men who’d followed her every command since his arrival three weeks ago. They’d helped him escape an ambush in the Scoria Quarry in the Victorian township of Mortlake, and again at the Brisbane Airport before making their way to Chudleigh Park in Far North Queensland, one of the few remaining places the peridot piece might be. After Mortlake, his fear of failing to procure the correct artefact had increased.
It had to be here.
He let his gaze fall back to their companions. If there was any sign of disrespect or contempt for her gender or her superior position as their commanding officer, he hadn’t noticed it.
‘They wouldn’t dare,’ she said as though she’d heard his thoughts and followed her words with a laugh that oozed seduction.
The brush fell from his hand.
Cramp, he told himself, not schoolboy nerves that had no place here, not when he longed to be as composed as the agents were even if he’d seen and done things they wouldn’t believe possible.
The men didn’t seem to notice as she bent to retrieve his brush, but Darlington couldn’t look anywhere else. She’d lose her respect for him if she knew the thoughts bombarding his mind now. She’d most likely knock him out with the butt of her gun the way she’d done to the hulk of a man who’d cornered them in Brisbane. The giant thug didn’t stand a chance just as the denim of her jeans could do nothing but cling to the curve of her...
Concentrate, damn you. Find the brooch and keep her safe.
All coherent thought vanished as she straightened, the movement coursing a longing for her touch through his veins.
‘Exactly how close are you to finding this pair-a-dot?’ she queried as she dropped the brush into his sweaty palm.
‘Pair-a-doe,’ he said, the speed at which he corrected her horrified him and yet brought a wicked gleam to her eye to which he ached to know the cause.
˜*˜
Agent Olivia Harper curled his motionless fingers around the brush and fought back the grin threatening to escape her tanned features. It would never do for the men to see her like this, but the professor’s obvious attraction for her and the depths at which he fought to hide it did wonders for her ego.
Hell, not just her ego.
She hadn’t wanted this boring assignment. She wasn’t in to babysitting spoiled, not to mention delusional, Englishmen who thought fossicking in the Australian mid-summer heat was an ideal holiday. Harper craved excitement, danger, adventure. And while it was true she’d been without a sense of purpose for some time, the last thing she’d sought was the added complication of a relationship. She’d told him that to fill in the silence when he’d stare at her as though he’d forgotten how to work those sexy full lips of his. He’d appeared disappointed at first, but she’d liked the look of determination that followed it. He’d told her little of his true intentions outside of searching for an artefact, not fossicking as she’d first believed. Everything about him should have sent her internal alarm bells ringing, not humming with a need she couldn’t explain, yet here she was responding to an attractive man and dropping her guard because she found the professor too charming to ignore.
Harper had fought hard to get where she was and had the scars, both mental and physical, to prove it. She also had a team of loyal agents who’d follow her to hell and back. She’d earned their trust and respect, and while an occasional show of blatant femininity might cause her men to raise an eyebrow or two, crack a joke at her expense or act like overprotective big brothers, she was used to them. Harper wasn’t sure how to respond to the professor with the hot body and downright sexy accent but he was an enigma she couldn’t ignore.
How did a supposed bookworm get so buff anyway?
Harper figured she already had her answer considering she’d been watching over him, okay; make that watching ‘him’ for the past few weeks. He worked as hard as any man did in her team. She’d seen him move heavy rocks aside with little complaint whilst traversing a collapsed tunnel when their navigation equipment failed. He drove an ultra-terrain vehicle like a seasoned racing car driver and the way he’d handled himself during both ambushes had been to the standard she’d seen only amongst other ASIO agents. And he was no agent. She was certain of that. What excited her most though was the intense look his sunburned face would acquire when he believed he was close to achieving his goal. He was a man who had purpose, the very thing she lacked.
Harper took a mouthful of water and imagined she could taste the sweetness where the professor’s lips had been moments before. Their gazes locked as she lowered the canteen and she wished he’d drop his ‘proper’ façade and just kiss her already. To hell with what her men thought or the teasing that was sure to follow.
Her keen gaze noted the way his pupils dilated indicating either stress or excitement.
The latter, she hoped, and with any luck, his mouth was opening to initiate that kiss or perhaps release more of those proper sounding words that sounded so decadent to her ears. Maybe he’d linger over the pronunciation of her name again and send delicious spears of desire shooting through her body. Maybe he’d abandon whatever protocol kept him so damned restrained around her and...
‘What’s the temperature here again?’
‘Not hot enough, apparently.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
She hadn’t said that aloud, had she? Surely not.
‘It feels like forty but I’m guessing thirty-five degrees C.’
‘And the last time it rained?’ he said turning his sunburned face, though she was sure he was blushing, to the clouds that moved like grey gondolas through the darkening sky when one of the agents gave a loud, sharp whistle. Everyone turned to follow his hand signal southward to where three dust clouds churned in the distance.
She grabbed his arm and with a sharp, ‘Follow me,’ headed for a shallow creek bed that in all likelihood hadn’t seen the rain the professor had inquired about for at least a year.
˜*˜
He thrilled at the way she ordered him to do her bidding when he knew he should be concerned with finding the peridot brooch before their unwanted company arrived. He couldn’t keep her safe without it.
Apart from the words she’d spoken and the stir of steel-capped boots scuffing the hard ground, there wasn’t a sound. He admired the ten-strong ASIO team’s ability to work as if they were a single entity. Simple hand gestures had some of the agents retreating to their vehicles. Two more streaked across the open ground to hide behind the few vertical structures in which the team had sheltered, and the last three ran after their commanding officer ready to form a human shield to protect her and the Pommy git if necessary.
She may have pushed him. He may have fallen, but Harper and Darlington tumbled into the creek bed in a tangle of limbs, gun, brush and canteen and disappeared from view. His body cushioned her decent, her watch scratching against his cheek hard enough to leave a dark streak.  He didn’t notice. All he felt was the lushness of her curves pressed full length against him.
‘Stay down,’ she ordered.
Like he wanted to move.
‘Damn! I thought we lost those guys in Brisbane. What’s so special about this gem anyway?’
He tried to speak, to tell her the truth, but she shushed him.
Harper wriggled across him to reach the edge of the bank and peered over it as gunshots shattered the eerie silence. She swore as she ducked, her shoulder smacking against a withered tree root, and pressed into him again.
Darlington hoped like hell that his stupid hormones wouldn’t dare make themselves known.
Not here. Not now.
In spite of himself, he let out a moan of pleasure as his pelvis rocked against hers, turning his head away as if the futile gesture would ensure she couldn’t hear him. His averted gaze caught a flash of something.
A ricocheting bullet? A glint of a knife? No, it was...
‘I don’t believe it.’
‘Believe me, if you don’t be quiet...’ She let the threat hang for a moment before adding, ‘And keep still, damn it. I can’t concentrate on saving you if I’m thinking about.’
She moved again, one hand on her gun and the other on his chest to steady her.
Torn between the desire to stay and his duty, Darlington hesitated before inching downward and stretching out his hand. His fingers waggled uselessly in the air. His other hand landed on Harper’s thigh to brace himself as he twisted toward his goal. Her gun fired above him and she swore but whether the curse words came from the liberty he’d just taken or the heat of battle, Darlington didn’t know. He reached for the brush he thought he’d placed in his pocket and let out a similar profanity when his hand came out empty. He glanced to the right and found it balanced precariously on the edge of the canteen. He strained, praying his fingertips would flick the brush toward him and not out of reach. His grip on her thigh tightened hard enough to bruise at his efforts.
Harper fired again and rocked back just as the brush fell into his hand. He twisted and grunted in pain, the movement aggravating his tender ribs. Once more he stretched, his collarbone launching its protest with a sharp jolt of pain. The bristles connected. Bullets whizzed past the stump. One of the agents crashed into the creek bed behind them with no sign of rising. And then, despite the dried mud covering it, Darlington spied a glimmer of green as the brooch dropped into his hand.
The second his fingers closed around it, the shooting stopped, the heavens opened and droplets of warm water fell upon them.
‘Agent Harper! Agent Harper, I found it.’
She slid down, her cheek coming to rest on his shoulder.
‘Olivia, I found it. I. Oh, bloody hell.’
˜*˜
Agent Olivia Harper was floating in a sea of green. Sparkles of foamy water carried her to a distant shore. She knew she was dead. Two bullets to the chest and another in her throat - she hadn’t stood a chance. She’d died honourably. There was peace in that thought, but more than anything, she wished she’d kissed the handsome professor she’d given her life to protect when she’d had the chance. And then her hand moved in another’s grasp and she opened her eyes to see the professor press his lips against her flesh.
‘I thought I lost you,’ he murmured against her tingling skin.
Well he had, hadn’t he? This wasn’t happening, however much she wished it were.
‘But it worked. It really worked.’
Wait! What?
Harper almost knocked him over in her haste to reach a sitting position, an action she immediately regretted.
‘What worked? What happened?’ And then, ‘Where are we?’ she asked, clinging to him as another wave of dizziness engulfed her.
‘HQ, London.’
‘London? How did we get here? And whose headquarters exactly?’
‘It’s a long story. Cliff notes version – I belong to a secret society that collects powerful artefacts and keeps them from falling into the wrong hands.’
‘Well damn, Indiana, where’s your whip?’
‘I beg your pardon. Oh wait, you’re making a joke about that Jones fellow. As it turns out, his adventures aren’t so far from the truth. Now let me finish,’ he hastened to add as he took in her sceptical look. ‘There are items that have amazing abilities if the proper portents are in place and terrible consequences if used incorrectly. HQ charged me with the task of finding a peridot brooch known to restore life to the wearer.’
His determined look told Harper he spoke the truth.
‘It was my job to find the peridot that would save a woman who.’
‘Who’d what? Save the world?’
It was a lame joke but logic was battling with her emotions now.
None of this was real. It couldn’t be.
‘I travelled the world to find it. A tiny Egyptian-owned island in the Red Sea. The Mogok Mines of Myanmar. Then the Arizona foothills, and even within the diamond mines of South Africa. The moment the trail led to Australia, HQ contacted ASIO and had you and your team meet me in Victoria. When I failed to find anything in Mortlake, I knew Chudleigh Park was my last chance to find the brooch.’ He paused, his face overflowing with emotion. ‘Only the brooch would save you.’
‘Save me? I don’t understand. A gem can’t restore life.’
‘Look at your shirt.’
She saw it then. The bullet holes, the dried blood, and pinned to the carmine-stained pocket was the brooch.
‘Darlington HQ believes you’re destined to be one of our protectors. It’s dangerous work. There’s not much of a health plan but it has its bonuses - a sense of purpose, excitement, adventure... and me.’
His shy smile made her want to scream ‘yes’ to whatever he was asking and everything he wasn’t.
‘You knew about this? Even before we met?’
His worried gaze met hers as he nodded and she could see how much he wanted her to believe, to understand, to stay.
‘And my agents?’
‘That depends on your decision, but either way, we will look after them.’
‘So,’ she drawled and she wasn’t sure it was her accent or her smile that caused his expression to change into one of deep longing. ‘All this because of a pair-a-dot?’
Darlington froze when she winked but his hopes soared as she raised her lips to his. Then he grinned and uttered a single word before claiming her waiting mouth.
‘Pair-a-doe!’

The End.


For now, I hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones and I look forward to chatting to you in 2016. By then, I’m sure I’ll be used to the early mornings, the ‘grumpy’ evenings will be a distant memory and hopefully, there’ll be some more good news on the writing front.

All the best. :)



4 comments:

  1. Hi D! Belated but heartfelt Merry Christmas! You captured that sense of how Christmas changes perfectly. I read in a newspaper that it has a melancholic aspect, and I can see that. The end of year, the taking stock, especially emotionally. But the warmth of family and friends is so wonderful -- and you have Dante :)

    Thank you for those great reviews. They brought a sparkle to my Monday as I commit to catching up with my word count. Ugh. How can words be so hard some days, especially when talking is easy ;)

    I love your story. Vivid characters and world building (as always) but what really sets it apart for me is the evocation of Australia. It reminds me of how Keri Arthur does that with her Harri P series (one book so far - I want more!). Seeing different possibilities in an Australian setting is gripping. Thank you for sharing that tantalising excerpt!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merry Christmas to you too, Jenny, and wow, thank you for such lovely words. :) This time of year always comes with mixed feelings. It's only lately that people are acknowledging that not everyone finds it a joyous time of year.

      My pleasure for the reviews. There's more to come as I have more to read. :) I wish I was as productive as you are so I don't think you need to worry too much about your word count. You are churning out the stories just fine. :)

      I'm thrilled you enjoyed my story. :) I will have to find Keri's story. I love reading stories that have an Aussie twist too.

      Delete
  2. Merry Christmas. I often find myself wishing I could enjoy Christmas like I did when I was a kid. It was so different then, with all the family and extended family and friends all getting together and having a ball playing cricket in the backyard at Mum's.
    Loved your story. Very enticing and made me want more. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merry Christmas Shelley. :) I miss the magic of Christmas as a child too. We played backyard cricket too although softball influenced my batting abilities. lol

      So pleased you enjoyed my story. The words just flowed and I was very happy with it. :)

      Delete