The Gift

 

The Gift

Copyright © 2007 by Sheri L. McGathy

Cover Art Copyright © 2011 by Sheri L. McGathy

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

 

 

 

The Gift

by

Sheri L. McGathy

 

 

Zachary kept his gaze trained forward as a bitter north wind pushed against his back, threatening to tear the tattered remnants of his cloak from his grasp. He wrapped the thin wool tightly about him, fearful he would lose what little protection left him and die alone in this winter wasteland.

And would his fate be any different when he reached the end of his journey?

He clenched his fist over the clasp of his cloak, grimacing as its sharp edges pierced his skin through the worn leather of his gloves. He must go on, if for nothing else than to see her face one last time before darkness took him. ‘Twas that single hope that kept him moving ever forward. He dare not dwell beyond that thought.

A mournful howl wound its way through the tall pines, the sound serving to enhance the solitude of the place. The wolf had trailed him for days, since he had entered this cursed land that had once been his home. The animal was never far from him, yet never so near as to leave itself vulnerable, if vulnerable it truly was.

“You shall not have me yet.” Zachary glanced toward the creature lurking within the murky shadows. “For I shall keep my promise to her. And then . . .” He halted and stared directly into the wolf’s glowing eyes. “And then, we shall see what fate holds for me.”

Zachary crossed the frozen river as the last struggling rays of sunlight gave way to the rise of the moon, leaving the land awash in pools of silvery light. As he climbed the bank, he spied the circle of stark white birch trees that shielded the dais from mortal eye on all days save this one.

An unearthly glow gave life to the evergreen boughs draped across his lady’s prison, the splash of color in an otherwise colorless world a beacon to his weary soul. This night would see him returned to the arms of his beloved, if only in his mind.

He knelt upon the dais and brushed aside the snow that hid her from his view. A shaft of moonlight shone down upon the form encased within ice, its glow illuminating the beauty of the face that had given him hope on an otherwise hopeless quest.

“My Lady of the Wood,” he whispered as he looked upon a face frozen in eternal youth. “At long last, I have returned to your side.” His numb fingers stroked the clear, smooth surface above her brow and trailed down the wavy outline of her delicate cheek. “And here I shall stay.”

A slight shift in the silence caused Zachary to pause. He need not turn about to know the wolf waited just outside the circle of birch.

He ignored the creature as he laid his cheek directly above his lady’s breast, and sighed as long sought understanding finally gave him clarity.

He pressed his lips against the ice and murmured, “My love, I have been a fool.”

The wolf inched forward, but halted when Zachary withdrew a small acorn from his pouch and placed the tiny nut within the branches of the evergreen. “On this night of all nights, when the impossible may be made possible and moonlight cloaks the land in its ethereal glow, I evoke the magic of the ancient grove and ask that the spirits of those who have gone beyond look favorably upon me.” He turned to stare into the wolf’s ice-blue eyes.

The wolf drew closer, never taking his inhuman stare from Zachary. As he stepped into the protective circle, his form shimmered and changed. Gray fur blurred into a long flowing robe as silvery as the moonlight that shone upon it, while padded limbs that had inched silently through the snow, transformed to arms and legs. A crown of holly graced hair as dark as a moonless night and rested on a brow as smooth as silk. The man was ageless, yet seemed as old and ethereal as time. The wolf turned man took a careful step forward while leaning heavily on a staff of ancient oak.

“By what right do you, a mere human, dare to ask a boon of the ancient grove?” The spirit lifted a bushy brow as he drew nearer. The spirit’s voice surrounded him, drifted past him, as illusive as the wind yet as tangible as the ice beneath Zachary’s fingertips.

“‘Tis my right as a fool.” Zachary fingertips caressed the ice as he spoke. “A fool who believed, Old Father, the half truths told him to assure he left behind that which was most precious to him, and most coveted,” he lifted a defiant chin to the spirit, “by you.”

The wail of the wind was the only sound that disturbed the silence between them. The spirit nodded toward the tomb. “She came to me of her own free will.”

“For me,” Zachary shouted, managing to halt his fist mere inches above the ice. “Though your lies blinded us both to your true intent.

“Yet I am blind no longer; my journey has come full circle. I have returned at a time when the moon above shines silvery bright and magic guides its glow to this ancient grove, here at the very moment time hesitates between the old and new.” Zachary looked upon the face of his beloved. “On the one night you and your kind cannot deny this fool his boon.”

“A fool, you claim? Nay, I think not, for a fool would still be searching. It would seem your journey served you well, for few now know the sacred binding of Oak and Holly.”

“Aye, I learned much on my fool’s quest, but the time for talk is through. By the rights given within the ancient pact, you are bound to grant my boon for the trickery you visited upon me, a descendant of the first woodland clan whose blood gave life to this grove.”

“You claim blood rite of the First Clan?” The spirit circled him, wary as the wolf, a sneer upon his lips. “Yet, I claim foul, for ’tis you who has broken the pact by failing to return the heart to the land, the very heart you pledged to find.”

“The heart was here all along.” Zachary pressed his palm to the tomb. “You encased her in ice—my lady, my life. She was always the prize you sought, and I the tool you used to gain it.

“Yet enough of this useless banter. Do you not think I see how you seek to forestall until the moon ebbs from the circle? I will wait no longer. ‘Tis time you grant my boon.” Zachary tossed his cloak to the ground and shivered as the bitter wind leached away what little warmth left him. “Give her the life that yet clings to me . . . still my heart so hers may beat. I would know selfish joy once more before I draw my final breath.”

“Ah, ’tis true that you are not near the fool I thought you to be, nor as selfish as you would have me believe.” The spirit continued to circle him, the thump of his staff against frozen ground matching the beat of Zachary’s heart. “You offer your gift freely, yet must know you will not live to see it given or realize this selfishness you claim to possess.”

“I do.” Zachary nodded.

“‘Tis also true that I cannot deny your boon for I am held to the binding of Oak and Holly. You have indeed learned much upon your quest, Zachary of the Gray Woodlands.” The spirit offered him a feral grin. “Yet you remain the blinded fool who gives his gift most foolishly. A fool who has not considered the simple truth in his haste to give a selfless gift, for long after you are gone, I shall remain to claim her heart.”

Before Zachary could cry foul, the spirit lifted his staff above his head and released the magic of winter from within. “The boon has been stated and shall be granted. Prepare, young fool, to embrace your fate.”

Light flowed forward and wrapped itself about Zachary. He could no longer move. A chill far beyond the simple chill of the ice and snow invaded his body. What little warmth he still possessed fled. He grew numb.

He could do no more than watch as the spirit tapped his staff against the tomb, causing a crack to run across the smooth surface and down its sides. A glow built from its core, bathing the form within in silvery light.

Zachary fell down upon the frozen ground and waited for the nothingness to claim him. Though his eyelids grew heavy, he struggled against the power that sought to claim him. With no regrets, he had given his gift, though he remained unwilling to go without seeing the laughter in her eyes one last time. Yet, selfish joy was to be denied as his eyelids slid slowly closed. “For you,” he whispered as he floated toward a sea of darkness. “My lady, my life.”

He had not drifted long, nor met with the spirits of his woodland clan when warmth again found him. He struggled to pull that warmth about him. Energy he had thought long lost, flowed into tired limbs, and the oft-imagined touch of his love’s soft lips pressed against his.

“And my gift to you, beloved,” a voice near forgotten whispered near his cheek.

He opened his eyes to the sparkling blue gaze of his lady, his love . . . his heart. “Do I dream?” He drew her into his embrace even as he searched the circle for the winter spirit.

“He is not here.” Another spirit stepped into the circle. “My brother’s reign is over for another year, the season has turned toward the light, and darkness has been forced to surrender. ‘Tis I who must honor your boon now.”

The spirit wore a robe of green and a crown of acorns encircling a brow as fair as a newborn morn. Long white hair graced his ageless face. In his hand, he held a bough of evergreen. The spirit looked toward Zachary’s love. “My Lady of the Wood, your gift was given long ago and has now been returned tenfold.” He nodded toward Zachary. “And you, my child, have been granted a great boon.”

When Zachary raised a questioning brow to the ancient spirit, he merely laughed. “No gift ever truly remains without reward,” the spirit’s voice floated over him as he reshaped into the form of a great white bear, “when that gift is given from the heart.”

 

Blog Tag – Four Questions about my Writing

I wanted to take a moment to thank Marie Higgins for tagging me and inviting me to be a part of this Blog promotion! If you get a chance, please visit her at her site .

1. What am I working on?

I have not been writing much lately, but I do have three WIPS at the moment. Of those, I am trying to concentrate on “When the Dead Call.” It’s a bit different for me, a challenge, so who knows. I have been focusing a lot of my energy on cover art.

 

This is the Blurb, though it will probably change and remains unedited for now:

Blurb and lead in:

 

Having a ghost as your best friend had its drawbacks, but Sutton Ballenger was getting used to it. It kept things interesting and a long way from normal. Normal. She remembered normal in a fuzzy, dreamy sort of way. She had even thought of herself as normal once. Yet now, normal seemed like another lifetime ago.

Sutton smiled. In that long ago lifetime, she’d been invisible, just your typical nobody that nobody seemed to notice. “Normal!” Her laughed, the sound loud enough to cause many so-called normal people near her to stop and stare, their expressions revealing that they sensed an oddity about her…yet had no idea what that oddity was. Sutton smirked as they shied away from her and quickly crossed the street. The normal people always managed to make quick retreats when they noticed her. She’d been one of them not so long ago. Normal, invisible, a nobody right up to the point when a scream turned her world upside down….

 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

 

I don’t know if my stories actually differ from others in the genre that I write. I haven’t yet managed to stand out or rise above, but I keep trying! I like to craft a tale by using old myth and seeing what I can do with it to make it different. Otherwise, I suspect my stuff in pretty much boring or plain vanilla compared to so many who write in my genre.

 

3. Why do I write what I do?

Oh, the answer to this is simple: Because I love fantasy, I love the magic, and the worlds, and well… I love it. It is my hope that my words impart a sense of the wonder and beauty and yes, the magic, that I so love about the genre.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

 

Usually I get an idea, just a germ of a notion, and then I think about it, see if it can hold water, so to speak. If I think the idea can be developed, then I start to daydream the characters, get to know them. I think the daydreaming is sort of like outlines or interviews. I think a lot of my stuff is character driven. And since I write, “Into the mist,” one never knows where the characters may take me or what might pop up in the world I’m creating. By the time I start the writing part, my characters and I are old friends. I’m comfortable with them. Once thing that never seems to change is the fact that I do know where I want to start, what I want my characters to achieve, and how I want the story to end. Everything else is an adventure. Sometimes even I am so surprised!

 

Thank you for stopping by my site. Appreciated! Next week, Jennette Marie Powell is up. Please visit her site if you have a moment. Here is a little bit about her.

Jennette Marie Powell www.jenpowell.com

TIME’S ENEMY and TIME’S FUGITIVE, unusual time-travel romance

 

Jennette Marie Powell writes time travel and science fiction romance. A lifelong resident of the Dayton, Ohio area, she likes to dig beneath the surface and find the extraordinary beneath the mundane, whether in people, places, or historical events. While she has no desire to change the past, she enjoys learning about local history, particularly the early 20th century. Her preferred places to time travel are from her computer or museums. By day, she wrangles data and websites in between excursions to search for the aliens and spacecraft that legends say are stashed away on the military base where she works.

 

Interview with Period Images

Today, along with Marie Higgins, I’m doing a “Share” interview with PERIOD IMAGES

If you think that name sounds familiar, that’s because I buy a lot of my stock from them and well…they just interviewed me  🙂
So, without further ado….

 

 

 

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Period Images is a wonderful website. How did you come up with the idea for creating a website like Period Images with the great models wearing those wonderful period costumes?
It started with a frienship and a dilemma. I had written my first Regency novel and I could not find images that even remotely fit my idea of how my hero and heroine should look like, and most importantly, how their manner of dress should reflect the elegance of that era. This sentiment was shared by a veteran author I’ve never met in person yet has become a good friend and mentor of mine—Marie Higgins. My friendship with Marie opened my eyes to the struggles of being an author; on what it was like to be in the shoes of a writer who must make every penny count. Cost of production is a reality one must face when crafting a book.  The cover, most especially, is a substantial concern. As we emailed back and forth on the seeming lack of acceptable images, I learned that other historical writers—not just the ones in my genre, have the same predicament. Of course, one can have a generic image modified and manipulated to fit a particular period, but not everyone could afford to shell out the amount of money required to make those kinds of changes. As a result, authors were forced to use whatever was within their budget, and settle with an image that most probably was not the one they had envisioned to grace their covers. For a Product Designer like me, this dilemma was something to ponder. My Creative team designs wardrobe for private clients and the entertainment industry. We have an extensive network of suppliers, fellow designers, and models in Los Angeles. I know my team and I, are well-equipped to solve this problem and do it in the way it should be done—with care, attention to detail, the right models, and proper Period costuming. Thus, with Marie’s help, I acquired more information on what her author friends were specifically looking for. As soon as the wish-list arrived in my inbox, the challenge began,––and a project was born.        
Who creates these amazing costumes? Could you tell us a bit about your staff and what they do?
It takes a village of skilled staff to create Period Costumes. My chief Wardrobe Specialist, Arleen Brown, researches the attires and proposes the concept to me. Upon approval, we do Color Mastering, sourcing and fabric selection. Then, the materials go to  one of my top designers, Rosa Candelario, who has extensive experience in film costuming, and Marcie Hernandez, my design consultant, to execute the attires. Once the basic ‘shells’ are submitted, Arleen goes back to me to consult with the right embellishments and trims. Upon approval, the shells go to one of Arleen’s assistants to finish the designs. (That is, if Arleen will willingly let them finish it. She tends to get “attached” to the costumes, LOL.) Then, all that is left is assembly and fitting—which for some perverted reason, I always become the Guinea pig.   
 JGP_2791pmfbMarie says: Sheri McGathy…I think I want this pic next!!!I say, How about this one?

I-will-wait-for-you2

 

Or this one?

 

Prelude to a kissAs you can see, I love Period Images stock!

 

If authors / cover artists are looking for models in period clothing and with props? For example: A girl in period clothing, perhaps dressed in a winter coat/cape, warm bonnet, muffler, sitting on a bench or box, lacing up her skates. Is Period Images considering staged poses with no backdrops?
Yes! In fact we have just released a set of images in a garden setting and other props. As long as the requested props or wardrobe are readily available, this should not be a problem. 
Sometimes cover artists find the perfect look in a model, but maybe they are wearing the wrong clothes. Have you considered creating a “clothes closet” – a series of shots of just the costumes laid out or hung up at various angles so the cover designer can change the models clothes…sort of like paper dolls?
For this one, because we have so many images of our models in costumes in different poses already, I think it would be easier to just trade the models’ heads, instead of trading the attires. But if you must absolutely have the dress on a hanger or whatever, it’s no biggie—we can take a quick shot for you. In fact, we just did that for someone who was looking to extend a dress so that it encompasses the front and back cover of a book.
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Before starting Period Images, did you have friends who were models? How do you go about finding your models? What, to you and your staff, is the “perfect,” model?
Yes. Because we design very high end events, it is common to meet models. We knew quite a few and I was friends with the owner of a model staffing agency. On how we find our models––it’s weird, because most of the time, they find us! Jax Turyna, who is a well-known cover model and a part of P.I. staff, found me before I found her! I almost never have to do casting calls unless it’s crucial, or I am looking for a very specific look. Most of our models are referrals from our current models. Authors and Cover Artists also send a bunch our way to check out.
The perfect model for me is someone who is bankable. In other words, one who is psychologically matured, professional, industrious, and goes out of his way to promote his work. Someone who is reliable and will not do things that would be detrimental to his carreer or the companies he represents. I like to invest in people who I know will deliver results, and will be an asset not only to my company, but also to my clients. 
Briefly describe a normal photo shoot from start to finish.
The crew normally comes in an hour before the shoot. Wardrobe crew goes into a quick meeting on which attires will be worn by which model on what shoot. MUAs (Make-up Artists) and Hair Stylist go to their designated areas to prep their stuff. Then, I do a quick briefing for everyone on the shoot schedule, models’ looks, hair, attires, and how much time is alotted for MU and Wardrobe changes.
The first batch of models come in 45 minutes before the shoot. They go into make-up, hair, and then wardrobe. I brief them with the script for the Exclusive shoots we are doing. Photographer comes in a half hour before shoot starts and begins prepping the equipment.
As the shoot progresses, more models start coming in and the same routine takes place. The photographer and I do several consults during the day to make sure we are getting the right shots and we’re happy with the results. I also check the models’ looks several times to make sure their appearance is right for the type of shoot we are doing. During the actual shoot, two assistants monitor the hair, make-up and wardrobe, and do touch-ups as needed.
At the end of the shoot, everyone usually hangs around to talk, wind down, and eat.
 JGP_6199pmfbAd
Do you have a memorable moment?
I have several, but I assume you’re talking about my experience with Period Images. It was the night after our last big shoot in December. After everyone had left and I was all alone, I sat in the dark, staring at my computer screen, at the page where some of the book covers with our images where showcased. As I browsed through them one by one, I felt a sense of accomplishment—not just for me, but for all the people who worked hard to make these images possible, for all the authors who had mentored and supported us along the way, and the cover artists who had taken our images and turned them into works of art. Once again, I acknowledged and  re-affirmed, that there are no coincidences. Marie and I met for a reason, and our friendship had a purpose. And for all it’s worth, everything worked out for the better good.   
What other plans do you have in the works?
Top secret for now—we love surprises, lol
 Jax Max-JGP_0140pmfbAd

 

So, would you care to tell us a little about you away from Period Images?
As a person, I am funny, a foodie, and I understand everything that has got to do with design, except for when it comes to dressing myself. When I am clueless about something, I am never embarassed to admit it and ask for directions. I don’t care about popularity; what I do care about is genuine friendships. Oh, and I love cats!
If you could have one free do over in life with no repercussions, what would that be? 
I would write and tell more stories.
 
 
THANK YOU PERIOD IMAGES for letting us interview you!! I am very happy to have you visit and I’m looking forward to whatever you dream up…and LoTR and, and Once Upon a Time….and … well, you get the hint 🙂 
 

Winner of the Valentine Day’s Gift Basket is…

Melissa Keir!!

 

Congrats! And thank you for entering our blog hop contest!

 

Here are the answers to the contest questions:

 

Amy’s Question and answer:

Where did Amy and her husband get engaged?

The answer is, Cafe du Monde in New Orleans!

 

Marie’s Question

What is Eli’s father’s name and where is he at?

The answer is, Joshua Montgomery and he’s in a mental institution.

 

Judy’s Question

In the Silver Sage Creek series, Sam Coulson, the Comanche half-breed, had an Indian name. What is it?

Answer is, Samarjit.

 

Sheri’s question

What does Nerys do to free herself from Gerard’s grasp?

Answer is: She pulls out a dagger and slices the ends of her hair away that Gerard had wrapped around his fingers.

 

Mary’s Question

Mary’s wedding wasn’t your typical wedding, where was it?

The Answer is: They were married at a University of Utah Tailgating.

 

Thanks again, everyone!

 

 

Valentine’s Day Contest and Blog Hop

Welcome to my little cyber home!

It’s Valentine’s week!!! To celebrate, a few of my author friends and I are having a cyber party! Since Valentine’s Day is all about romance and love, we invite you to share your favorite love stories, movies, or true experiences. Please post, because we’d all love to hear!

 

Plus, we are having a little blog hop contest. If you play along, you’ll have a chance to win this great gift basket! (Approximate value is $50.)

giftbasket

 

Marie Higgins: Download of Crazy for You and $5 GC to Amazon

 

Amy Durham: Download of Dusk and $5GC (your choice Kindle and Nook)

 

Mary Martinez: Download of Honky Tonk and $5 GC to Starbucks

 

Sheri McGathy: Signed Print book of Elfen Gold (Please note the paper copy only applies to within the USA. If you live outside of the United States, you will receive a PDF copy of Elfen Gold in your e-mail.)

 

Judy Baker: Download of Better She Die and a $5 GC to Amazon

 

 

 

How can you win? You need to answer the five questions listed below. Each question has a link where the answer can be found. E-mail your answers to one of the five participating authors. Deadline is midnight 2/14/14. Winner will be announced along with all of the answers on all blogs on 2/15/14. Good luck.

 

 

1. What does Nerys do to free herself from Gerard’s grasp? Find answer here.

2. Mary’s wedding wasn’t your typical wedding, where was it? Find answer here.

3. What is Eli’s father’s name and where is he at? Find answer here.

4. Where did Amy and her husband get engaged? Find answer here.

5. In the Silver Sage Creek series, Sam Coulson, the Comanche half-breed, had an Indian name. What is it? Find answer here.

 

 

Thank you for participating. We look forward to your stories and comments. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Sheri L. McGathy, Marie Higgins, Mary Martinez, Amy Durham and Judy Baker

 

 

 

And now, an excerpt from Within the Shadow of Stone

 

~ And She Shall Be Named Shroud ~

 

The mist pooled at Bree’s feet, each step causing it to swirl in small eddies about her ankles. Its touch was gentle, a cool caress across her skin.

 

Sun Orb sat low in the sky while the silent hush of twilight hung over the land. Hazy streams of fading sunlight trickled down through the mist and cast the circle in dusky shades of gray. Soon, Moon Orb would claim the night sky to mark the passage of another day.

 

A warm breeze played over her skin and brushed the edges of her hair from her face. She closed her eyes and listened to its soft whisper. Within its voice, she thought she heard the teasing echo of a piper’s tune. She paused, her breath held, willing the song to life, if only within her mind. She began to hum. The notes swept through the circle to fill the silence with its haunting melody. The song called to her—invited her to join with it, to come and dance within its magic. Keeping her eyes sealed lest she awake from the dream and spoil the enchantment, she swayed to the rhythm of the pipe.

 

The song was an ancient one. The Legend of the Stone. She hadn’t heard it since she was a child. It had been a part of the Spirit Dance, sung on the day a Shroud gave her pledge to the stones and wed her chosen.

 

“A day I will never have.” Bree sighed. Her gaze sought the Spirit Stones standing like silent sentinels along the circle’s edge. Their presence a mocking reminder of what she could have been.

 

The music grew stronger, its voice calling her away from the past and back to the present. She straightened her shoulders. “Yet, I can still dance.”

 

Holding her arms before her, she stepped sideways, then back. Pointing her toe, she tapped it on the ground twice, then skipped forward while swinging her arms upward until her hands met. She clapped once, then turned back the way she’d come.

 

She dipped forward, the action sweeping her hair over her shoulder to form a silken curtain about her face. Stepping sideways, she skipped around the altar and reached toward one of the stones.

 

Bree paused with her arm stretched before her. The act—such a simple gesture—held great meaning to her. She recalled how, toward the end of the Spirit Dance, the men led the women forward, threading a path in and out amongst the towering megaliths, each woman caressing the rough sides as they swept past.

 

“And she shall be named Shroud.” Bree dropped her hand to her side.

 

She pushed her heavy locks aside and leaned her head back, letting her hair cascade downward. Lifting her arms, she clasped her hands above her head and pirouetted, her hair twirling out behind her as she spun across the circle.

 

When she reached the circle’s edge, she bowed low and waved one arm in front of her in a slow, graceful motion. As she rose, she balanced her arms out before her to spin one final time, coming to rest with her hands crossed over her chest.

 

“Joined, they shall be as one,” she whispered. “And her touch shall set them free.”

The music echoed through the circle, yet she no longer had the heart to continue the dance. Biting on her lower lip, she folded her arms beneath her breasts and stared down at the swirling mist as it wrapped itself about her legs.

 

If only things had been different, she found herself wishing. If only….

 

Bree closed her eyes. A single tear escaped through her sealed eyelids. There is only one I would have chosen, and he is beyond my choice.

 

The feather-light brush of fingertips caressed her cheek to wipe her tear away before tracing a path along her throat.

 

“‘Tis never too late to dream,” a voice whispered near her ear.

 

She opened her eyes.

 

Nathan held out his hand. “Come.”

 

She placed her hand in his and smiled as they skipped forward four steps. He paused. Stepping before her, he trailed his fingers across her waist while he danced around her. Then, gathering her in his arms, his long stride guided them across the circle, keeping their pace in time to the phantom piper’s tune.

 

Nathan led her along the circle’s edge, their steps weaving in and out amongst the silent stones. Bree reached out and caressed one, the rough surface scraping against her fingertips, as they swept past.

 

Moon Orb loomed overhead, its pale rays filtering through gaps in the mist to cocoon them in a shell of soft light. Fog hung low to the ground. The ethereal vapor rolled back in billowy waves as they glided through.Moisture laced the air, its dewy touch causing their skin to glisten in the moonlight.

 

An errant wind swept through the circle to snatch up the piper’s tune and carry it away. A mournful wail announced its departure and cast the circle in sorrow.

 

Nathan moved away from the stones and back within the circle. Pressing his hand against her back, he drew her close and slowed his steps. Laying his cheek against hers, he continued to twirl them in slow, lazy turns around the altar long after the music had faded and left them wrapped in silence.

 

They came to rest at the circle’s center. Nathan cradled her within his arms, his chin resting upon her head. Bree sighed and laid her cheek against his chest, comforted by the steady beat of his heart. The faint smell of heather tickled her nose, its scent a reminder of the springtime of her youth and of a world where dreams held promise.

“You have named me true, even if only in my mind,” she whispered against his chest. “And I have chosen you.”

 

He placed his finger beneath her chin and coaxed her to look up. Without taking his stare from hers, he bent down and brushed his lips across hers. “Joined, we shall be as one.”

 

Then, like the music, he too faded, leaving her alone.

Trading Guest blogs

Hello all, I am/was a guest at Marie Higgin’s blog. Please feel free to drop over and read the section, leave me a comment? I’d love to hear from you. AND, today I am hosting Marie on my blog. She has a wonderful new release that I think you are going to enjoy!

So, without further ado I would like to welcome the very talented Marie Higgins to my blog. She is not only a multi-published author, but also one of the nicest folks you could hope to meet. Please come on over and meet her! You’ll be glad you did! Sheri

 

What is it that draws readers to series books?

I can only speak for myself, but I enjoy family life. If there is a story about a family and the writer has written her characters so vividly that I feel as if I’m part of the story, I’m definitely going to read the rest of the series to find out what happens to the others.

I love the kind of books that tease the reader, giving little hints about the other characters’ lives without giving away the whole story. Because these are the type of books I like to read, these are also the type of stories I like to write.

Once upon a time, there were three brothers who did not want to become the scandalous, deceitful, irresponsible man like their father had been. Trevor, Tristan, and Trey—the terrible T’s—each had different trials in their lives, and each one had obstacles to climb which would make them emotionally stronger.

In book #1 of the Sons of Worthington series, you meet Trey Worthington—the youngest brother in the series. He’s been told all of his life he’s exactly like his father. Can the love of a woman make him want to change? Find out in—“The Sweetest Kiss”.

In book #2, you meet the oldest brother, Trevor Worthington, Duke of Kensington. He’s been hurt by a woman and he doesn’t think he wants to love again. Will the woman he almost killed be able to change his mind? Find out in—“The Sweetest Touch”.

Now, the much awaited book #3 is out, Tristan Worthington who is the middle brother. “The Sweetest Love”. After three years of only remembering pieces of his life, Tristan Worthington is kidnapped by the one woman he wishes to forget. Wanting revenge against the man who ruined her life, Diana Hollingsworth wants Tristan to suffer as she has. But fate has other plans… When both Tristan and Diana are accused of murder, their worlds crash down around them. Their only hope is to find the true killer so they can be together. Will they be able to find true happiness once again?

Watch the book trailer

(Book #4 of the series will be coming out later this year – “The Sweetest Secret”)

 

Excerpt from The Sweetest Love:

“Ever’one raise yer glass and toast ta Lord Tristan’s nup…nup…shuls.” Tristan Worthington slurred his words as he tried to ponder on what he wanted to say. Realizing his mind was too unclear, he laughed and stumbled against the man standing next to him, spilling his whiskey over the side of his tumbler.

The man rolled his eyes. “Worthington, will ye quit toastin’ to yer own weddin’? We all ‘no ye aren’t gonna marry the lady.”

Tristan scowled at the bloke. What was his name… “Ah, but my good man, ye’re wrong. T’morrow afta-noon, I’ll be there in church standin’ next to my beautiful bride, lady…er…lady…” Tristan rubbed the throb growing in his forehead.

The other men who’d gathered in the tavern, released a fit of laughs. One belched loudly and lifted his cup. “Worthington has fergotten her name already.”

Blast it all! Tristan grumbled. What was her name? “Doesn’t matter. I’m marryin’ her t’morrow.”

His legs wobbled and he plopped his butt down on the chair before he ended up on the floor like he had last night. Inwardly, he groaned. How many nights had he been visiting the taverns toasting his nuptials, anyway? Too many to count. Tomorrow his life—his very freedom—would end no matter how badly he wished for a different fate.

You’re making a colossal mistake, Worthington, the warning came from the back of his mind. Yet, he figured by marrying Lady Jane he would be able to put his past to rest once and for all, so it must be done.

“Ah-ha!” he called out loudly to his nameless associates. “I remember now. Her name is Lady Jane Fair…er…burn, or something like that.”

Once again, the men broke out with boisterous laughter so loud it nearly shook the walls. Tristan’s headache threatened to crack every bone in his head. He couldn’t take any more of this celebrating. He must return home and sleep off his drunken stupor, especially since he needed a clear head tomorrow when he walked into the church.

Glancing down at his wrinkled clothes, he tried to smooth out the material. He needed to change, as well. It wouldn’t be seemly to arrive at the church looking this unkempt. His mother would certainly not have her son acting—or looking—like a fool in public. And heaven knew Tristan had brought enough worry to the woman in the past few years. Her health couldn’t take any more. He must be clean and dressed appropriately for his wedding.

His mother had high hopes of Tristan marrying into a good family, especially after the turmoil he’d had the past three years… He’d nearly died and lost his memory for a good twenty-four months before his brother, Trey, found him. And because the one woman—the woman he thought he’d given his heart to—was not in his life any longer, he needed to do something to move on. Marrying the young widow, Lady Jane Fairbourne was exactly what he needed in order to put Diana in the past where she belonged.

“Milord?” The toothless bugger next to him grinned. “Do ye need me to stand with ye for yer big day t’morrow?”

Tristan waved a hand through the air. “As much as the idea sounds appealin’, I must decline.” He lifted his drink to his mouth and finished every last drop before slamming it on the table. “My friends,” he called out, “I shall take my leave now. The next time I come ta this fine ‘stablishment, I’ll be a happily married man.” Well…he wasn’t too sure about the happily part, but he most certainly would be married.

The men inside the tavern cheered his name and lifted their cups in a salute as Tristan left the building staggering his way toward his coach.

Although his fiancée was beautiful and wealthy—thanks to her late husband—this was a marriage Tristan didn’t really want. Lady Fairbourne had been paraded in front of him so many times in the past few years he’d grown tired of looking at her. But he was even more tired of trying to look for the woman he could give his heart to. Now he just wanted to marry and start a family, and it didn’t matter with whom. Most of the ton’s married couples didn’t love each other anyway, so why should he be any different?

He stopped and leaned against the building, blinking to clear his vision. Where is my bloody coach? He scrubbed his hand over his face, trying to think of where his driver had parked. “Ah, there it is!”

Taking slow and careful steps, he headed toward his vehicle. Tristan released an agitated breath. Lady Fairbourne would look as good on his arm as his wife. She knew how to tease men to make them quake, but Tristan had never really envisioned her by his side making him truly happy for the rest of his life.

As quickly as that thought came, another one followed, and he pictured a lovely, young woman with auburn hair—perfect ringlets framing her heart-shaped face.

Diana.

Stars had danced in her green eyes, and when she’d turned her gaze upon him, her smile had melted his heart. When he’d met her three years ago, he’d had his share of women, yet in her presence he truly felt like a man. How could he not when he knew she stared at him with so much admiration in her astounding eyes?

Groaning, he pushed the torturous memory aside. He’d been foolish then, believing that love could conquer all. He’d fallen hard and fast for this woman, and his head had literally been in the clouds during that time. Thankfully, though, reality crashed around him and made him realize there was no such thing as a faithful woman…or love.

 

Now tell me…as a reader, what do you like most about series books?

For a chance to win a PDF format of this story, please leave a comment with your name and email. I’ll choose one winner.

 

Marie Higgins is a best-selling, multi-published author of sweet romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Visit her website / blog to discover more about her.

To buy Marie’s latest:

Meet Elizabeth Delisi

Today, I’m talking to Elizabeth Delisi, a wonderful writer, editor, and by golly, a great tarot reader, too!

Get to know more about her and her many talents here:

1)    Tell us a little about yourself, and what inspired you to become a writer.

I’ve always enjoyed reading, and have wanted to be a writer since I was in first grade. I love having the opportunity to share the stories in my head with others. There’s not much better in life than a good read! And there’s no thrill like someone saying, “I loved your book.”

2)    Tell us what FATAL FORTUNE is about.

FATAL FORTUNE is a mystery with a touch of the paranormal. No one in Cheyenne, ND believes in Lottie Baldwin’s psychic abilities; especially not Harlan Erikson, Lottie’s boyfriend, and Chief Deputy in the Sheriff’s Office. When a friend’s husband disappears, Lottie can’t leave it to Harlan. Armed with her courage and her tarot cards, she tries to solve the mystery herself, regardless of who attempts to stop her: Harlan, her friend—or the criminal.

3)    If you were casting the movie version of FATAL FORTUNE who would you choose for the leading roles?

Lottie would be played by a young Joan Blondell. She looks the part, and would be a perfect fit for sassy, independent Lottie.

Harlan would be played by a young Robert Redford. He’s got a great sense of humor, and has no trouble being strong when it counts.

Be sure to check out FATAL FORTUNE for yourself!

4)    Tell us about a hidden talent you have that most people don’t know about.

I know how to tat, alas a lost art. I also know how to do card-weaving, and my husband and I built an inkle loom for weaving.

5)    What’s your favorite comfort food?

Chocolate anything, of course! No contest. Current favorite: Almond Roca. Yum!

6)    Are you an outliner or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I outline before I write. I feel too uneasy if I have no idea where I’m going. Outlines don’t constrict me, as I feel free to change and adapt them as I write.

7)   What’s your favorite season and why?

I love all the seasons. But here in beautiful New Hampshire, I’d have to choose fall. With all the gorgeous leaves in shades of red, scarlet, orange and gold, I’m in a constant state of wonder.

8)    If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’d probably own a combination book store/yarn store/coffee shop. Just the kind of store where I’d like to shop.

9)    Tell us about anyone famous you’ve met.

Ooh, let’s see. I met Captain Seawhiskers when I was five and got to be on the show. J I’ve met Jim Nabors, Gary Puckett, Kathleen Sibelius, and Peter Noone. My most recent meet: Steve Smith, a.k.a. Red Green, from the PBS “Red Green Show.”

10)   What’s your favorite non-writing-related website?

Definitely Ravelry, for yarn lovers: www.ravelry.com and Aeclectic Tarot for all things tarot: http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/

Thanks so much for your time, Elizabeth.

More about Elizabeth Delisi

Elizabeth is a multi-published, award-winning author of romance, mystery and suspense. Her time-travel romance set in ancient Egypt, Lady of the Two Lands, won a Bloody Dagger Award and was a Golden Rose Award nominee. Her romantic suspense novel, Since All is Passing, was an EPPIE Award finalist and Bloody Dagger Award finalist. Her paranormal mystery, Fatal Fortune, was a Word Museum Reviewer’s Choice Masterpiece. Elizabeth is also an instructor for Writer’s Digest University. She is currently at work on Deadly Destiny and Perilous Prediction, the sequels to Fatal Fortune, and Knit A Spell, a paranormal romance. Elizabeth lives in New Hampshire with her husband and feisty parakeet. She invites her readers to check out her website at www.elizabethdelisi.com