Good news everyone!

Just a quick update before I return to the abyss of my writing cave. I’m still writing for all you romance buffs out there but I’d like to announce that I will also be writing fiction as Vera Colon. Check out all the details here. Meanwhile I hope to have an update on the release of Conquest of a Queen very soon!

 

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Luck o the Irish

It seems everyone has it this weekend. So in honor of St. Patricks Day I’m happy to present a sexy little Irish tale inspired by a flash fiction contest. Enjoy and stay safe out there!

Chapter One

This is the story of two Irish sisters, twin sisters though you couldn’t tell by looking at them. Though the babies shared the same womb, when they were born one was the epitome of beauty. The other was so ugly that their father, having stumbled in from celebrating at the pub exclaimed “Faith and Begorrah!” before releasing a loud belch and dropping dead on the floor. Faith grew to be a lovely creature with hair like copper, eyes like the hills on a summer day and skin pale as moonlight. Her voice was rich as honey when she sang and she never had a harsh word to say to or of anyone. It was lucky that Faith was so lovely and fair for she was also dumb as a stump.

Begorrah, on the other hand, lived in her sister’s shadow. Dark and plain was she with hair dark and wild as a midnight gale and eyes deep as mud. Having spent most of her days frolicking in the sun, her skin was ruddy and dark and she barely spoke at all. Where her sister was loved and adored, Begorrah was met with uneasiness and disquiet. It was often whispered that the girl was a changeling brought in the moment of the father’s death. Still, Begorrah was shrewd and while she kept her mouth shut, her eyes were always open. She knew who in the village could be trusted and used her shrewd mind and intimidating manner to love and protect her little family.

One night as the household slept, Faith was gazing from her window up at the bright full moon and the star-filled sky above. The most beautiful of stars seemed to dance and float down to her from the heavens. Never had she seen anything so enchanting.

“Dance with us!” They seemed to say and so she did.

Out the door and down the path Faith danced with the stars. So happy was she that she sang out which woke her sister from her slumber. Begorrah gasped and called out, “Faith no! Tis the Teine Sidhe, the Fairie Fire, ye be dancing with!”

But her call went unheeded and the beautiful maiden disappeared into the woods. Begorrah swore, threw her shawl about her shoulders, and raced into the woods after her sister. Though she couldn’t see them, she was able to follow her sister’s song as it floated through the trees. Finally, she saw a brightness up ahead and stopped at the edge of the clearing. The girl frowned and ducked down, peering through the brush at the sight before her. It was a marketplace where no marketplace should ever be. Makeshift stalls lined the brightly lit clearing, showing their weird and exotic wares to the various creatures, beautiful and hideous alike, that strolled before them. Begorrah scanned the scene but could find no sign of her sister. Oh where could she be?

Suddenly, a great commotion drew the crowd’s attention to the opposite side of the clearing where a large and gaudy patchwork tent had been raised. Begorrah gasped and shook her head violently. Stalking out of the tent was a little man dressed in a bright green suit. A large green top hat sat jauntily upon his fiery brow and a crooked smile formed a chasm within his thick red beard. The jingle of the chains he held behind him echoed as the din of the crowd died down and on the other side of those chains was wrapped firmly around the dim and beautiful Faith.

“I must do something!” Begorrah thought. But what?

The crowd began to murmur and somewhere somebody shrieked.

“A human! He’s brought a human!”

“Pipe down all o’ ye!” The leprechaun spat. “This human is me prize. I won her fair and square!”

“Aye, and just this morning I suckled the Morrigan’s tits until she screamed me name with pleasure!” Someone called followed by raucous laughter.

“Twas me uncle disguised as a Buar Sidhe amongst the old farmer’s cows ye suckled again!” Came another voice followed by more laughter.

“Shut up all of ye!” The leprechaun shouted again. “We have ourselves a visitor.”

All eyes followed as the little man pointed to where Begorrah had been hiding. Drawing her most intimidating manner, she stood bringing gasps and more screaming from the crowd, and stepped into the clearing.

“Welcome to the Bodacha market, lass. I believe this is what ye have come for?” He yanked the chain and Faith stumbled forward with a jingle.

Begorrah stepped forward, causing those Fe closest to her to stumble back, and glared at the leprechaun.

“Ye will hand my sister over to me now!” She snarled even as her heart pounded with fear in her breast.

The leprechaun smiled. “Hand over me prize? Me prize which I’ve won fair and square? I think not!”

Begorrah smiled. “Fair and square? Pull the other one, even ye friends don’t believe that!”

A few of the Fe tittered in spite of themselves.

“Believe it or not, it happens to be true.” He laughed with a glint in his eye that heightened Begorrah’s suspicions. “But if ye be wanting your sister back I’ll strike a bargain with ye.”

Begorrah folded her arms over her breast. “Only a fool would bargain with a leprechaun!”

“Suit ye self.” He shrugged and turned.

Faith’s wide eyes pleaded to her sister as tears streamed down her face. Begorrah gritted her teeth and she silently cursed her sister’s foolishness.

“Wait!” she called. “What is the bargain?”

The leprechaun turned back, grinning ear to ear. He violently yanked the chain, pulling Faith to her knees, and dragged a stubby finger down her tightly drawn, trembling face.

“Your sister is quite lovely, even for a human. She will make a perfect teind for the demon Scathach, don’t ye think? Now if ye can find an even better tribute by the next full moon your sister is free.”

Begorrah shook her head. “No, I will not leave her with ye for so long!”

“Then ye best be moving on.” He smiled again. She was beginning to hate that smile.

“Be well, Faith, I will return.”

To her credit, the beautiful girl released a sob but threw back her tiny shoulders and nodded silently. Begorrah hated to leave her behind but what other choice did she have?

Chapter Two

“Ye left her there, with those monsters?” Her mother wailed. “Oh a thaisce, my treasure! What will become of her?”

Mamai, I promised to rescue Faith from the leprechaun and I will.”

“Begorrah, ye cannot trap another person to take Faith’s place! Tis an evil thing!”

“I know it but I will do what I can to free Faith.”

“Well, if ye must but find her replacement elsewhere. The last thing we need is to have the whole village upon us with pitchforks!” Her mother sighed, angrily.

So with a bundle of provisions and her traveling cloak about her, Begorrah set off to find a tribute fitting enough to release her sister from the clutches of the evil leprechaun. She wound her way through hills, forests and villages. It seemed word of her search journeyed ahead of her for soon the girl found herself facing boarded up homes and taverns. This was bad enough but being chased from town to town by angry torch wielding crowds was worse. Soon she found herself shivering beneath bushes, sleeping in ditches and living off nuts, berries and whatever small woodland creature she was able to capture and kill.

After one particularly bad encounter with a group of angry villagers, Begorrah sat beneath a tree deep in the woods, catching her breath and nursing a nasty cut on her leg where a pitchfork had gotten her.

“May I be of assistance?” She heard a man say.

She looked up, terrified that she had been discovered, to find a man standing before her so handsome it made her heart ache. He was tall and broad shouldered. His midnight hair danced in a breeze she herself did not feel. His grey eyes glimmered like pure silver as they peered at her kindly, almost caring. He wore the garb of a nobleman and Begorrah wondered what a member of the highborn would be doing in the deep dark woods at this time of night. She was met with a heady, intoxicating aroma when the man dropped to one knee and gently placed a broad hand upon her calf.

“May I?” he asked, his eyes seeming to burrow into her soul.

She nodded, unable to find her voice and he lifted her skirts over her knee to get a better look at  the injury. Her skin tingled where he ran a finger along side the long jagged cut. He whistled softly and shook his head.

“This must hurt a great deal.”

It should have hurt, in fact, Begorrah had no doubt she would bear an ugly scar the rest of her life but it didn’t. All she could feel was a delicious warmth creeping up from where the nobleman touched and stroked her leg. Her nipples tightened as she throbbed below. He smiled at her then and she thought she would burst.

“No pain? Ah, the maiden is brave as well as beautiful.”

Begorrah gasped as her heart trilled. “Ye think me beautiful?”

“Aye, a stóirín, gentle as a lamb ye are with eyes like the down of a fawn and skin as soft. How I wished to taste the wine of your sweet lips when first I saw ye!”

He had drawn closer to her and buried his hand in her curls while cupping her face. Softly, he ran his thumb over her lips as he spoke, causing her to shiver. Begorrah realized she wanted this man, wanted his hands and lips on her body, and forgot all else.

“What is your name?” she croaked.

“Ye may call me a Ghrá mo Chroí.” He murmured and kissed her.

My heart’s beloved. It was a term of endearment, not a name but Begorrah didn’t care. His tongue tickled and tugged at hers and even as he pulled her to him, her body craved more. In the distance she heard a strange sound but dismissed it. The heat of his body met hers through their clothing and she wanted more than anything to lose that barrier between them. Her fingers fumbled at the ties on his blouse and trousers as he loosed her gown and pressed his lips to her throat. She threw her head back and moaned as he tasted his way down to her shoulder and cupped her breasts. A curious heat built up within and she whimpered with pleasure as he circled a nipple with his tongue. His mouth closed around it and suckled and she arched her back crying out and clawing his back as lightning raced up and down her belly.

The sound came again, like some kind of horn, but again she ignored it. He continued to lick, kiss and tease her breasts as his hands moved to caress her backside sending wave after wave of pleasure coursing through her body. Only when she collapsed, panting on the ground, did the man move his kisses down her belly.  He slid her gown off completely as he nibbled her hips and continued lower still. Impossibly the sensations began again, a pair of pink buds rose upon her breasts as her hips moved to meet his lips of their own accord.

When the beautiful stranger started to nuzzle the down between her thighs, Begorrah sat up gasping with fright. “No, ye cannot! Ye must not, tis a sin!” she cried.

The gorgeous man looked up and smiled. His eyes practically glowing as he responded, “O, a Shearc, It would be sin to not!”

He dropped his head and ran his tongue softly, slowly, up her throbbing slit. Begorrah dropped her head and slipped back to the ground with a low drawn out moan as she was overcome by a most delectable bliss. He continued to lap at her, long and slow at first, then quicker. His attentions grew more firm as he twirled, teased and dipped his tongue inside her. Begorrah was panting and slick with sweat, calling his name over and over again as the sensations grew stronger and more powerful. Somehow, he was able to bring her to the peak where she felt as if she might explode, then stifled her urgency, drawing out her pleasure so that it became more sweet before building it up again. Just when Begorrah felt she could stand it no longer, her entire body feeling like jelly, he plunged his tongue inside and she burst. Screaming as pleasure sprang from every limb, rushing from her fingers and toes like a bright light, the strange sound grew louder. Begorrah started to become irritated. What was that?

The man knelt between her legs, his impressive member hovering towards her. Even as she thought, yes, fill me! She noticed the clay pipe clutched between his teeth. Why would she notice that now? The sound grew louder still. The pipe, he was puffing on the pipe but there was no smoke? How?

EEEEYAAAAW!!!

Begorrah sat bolt upright. Sunlight trickled through the trees and she lay, fully clothed, at the foot of a donkey. She scrubbed her face and looked about her, confused. She was dreaming. The donkey had woken her up and she had been dreaming. Oh but what a dream! Begorrah blushed to think of it. Her mother would have her horse whipped if she knew but when did she fall asleep? She pulled back her skirts to check on her leg and gasped. Her injury was gone! There was no blood, no scar, no sign that she had ever been hurt at all.

A realization hit her then, she had encountered a Gancanagh! All women were warned of the handsome silver tongued faerie who carried a clay pipe but didn’t smoke it and seduced women that traveled alone. Any woman foolish enough to lie with a Gancanagh spent their remaining days pining for their lost love. Their days of suffering were often short as these women had a tendency of throwing themselves into the sea when they didn’t die of heartbreak. Like others her age, Begorrah had dismissed the tale as an attempt to frighten women into never venturing anywhere without a chaperone.

She looked up at the donkey that had saved her life. Where had he come from? It was no matter for it appeared to belong to her now. As she made her way out of the woods the donkey followed close behind. At night, it seemed to watch over her. It even let her ride on its back when her feet grew weary. Still Begorrah wept as she watched the moon disappear from the night sky. Time was running out and still she didn’t know how to save her sister.

Chapter Three

One night, having made camp amongst the soft rolling hills, she was awakened by the sound of galloping horses and the shouts of men. Her heart thundered in her breast as she leapt to her feet and looked around. Begorrah gaped as she spied an army of men riding circles around the largest mound. She rubbed her eyes and smiled as the land shimmered and a door suddenly appeared. She only had a vague idea where she was and had hoped she traveled in the right direction. Now she knew for she stood before the fabled Hill of Mullaghmast, home of Georoidh Iarla, the Earl of Fitzgerald!

Cautiously, the girl approached the hill wondering how she could enter without being trampled by the silver shoed steeds that raced past. Suddenly, a large gloved hand clamped over her mouth and powerful arms seized her and dragged her behind another hill. Being large and strong, Begorrah struggled and screamed, even biting the hand over her mouth but her captor made no indication of being harmed. Only when she tired and closed her eyes, expecting the worst, did her captor speak.

“That’s better. Now if ye would settle down I can help ye!” A deep male voice breathed into her ear.

Aye, even an ugly duck like she knew what kind of help he was thinking and she wanted no part of it. She relaxed her body and when he released her she spun around and brought her knee up to connect with the most masculine part of her captor. He growled and Begorrah suddenly found herself on the floor, her head feeling as if she’d been kicked by a mule. She looked up, fists balled, to find the man on his knees glaring back at her . So she had managed to hurt him.

Never hit a man like that!” he snarled.

“Well ye can’t use it on me now, can ye?” she bit back.

The man looked startled.

“Ye thought..” He blinked and then chuckled. “Fear not, cailin, I will not ravage ye.”

Begorrah looked at the man and suddenly felt foolish. Dressed as a warrior, his dark hair brushed his shoulders and fell into sharp green eyes that twinkled when he laughed. Of course he wouldn’t ravage the likes of her.

“Who are ye, laoch?” she asked the warrior.

“I am Ethal Anbual of Ulaidh.”

Begorrah blanched at the name and felt doubly stupid about her assumption then.

“Ethal Anbual,” she stammered, “The king of the Fe of Ulaidh?”

Ethal nodded. “The same.”

Begorrah stumbled to her knees with apologies but he held up a hand to silence her. His eyes bore into hers and suddenly her mouth went dry.

“Now, who are ye and what are ye doing in a place like this?”

“My name is Begorrah, sire, I have come to ask the Earl of Fitzgerald for help.”

Ethal looked at her oddly.

“Alone? Tis a dangerous undertaking for a girl such as ye.”

Begorrah blushed and nodded. “Aye, but my sister is in even graver danger than I. Tis for her sake that I am here.”

Ethal rose to his feet and held out a hand which Begorrah took, hesitantly at first. He pulled her to her feet and said, “Then we shall visit Georoidh Iarla and see what he has to say.”

They approached the massive hill and watched as the army continued galloping. Begorrah jumped as Ethal placed an arm around her waist and pulled her against his hip and took her hand in his. She looked up and realized they were walking faster.

“What are ye doing?” she asked.

“There is a small break amongst the riders that comes once every few days. We must use it quickly or prepare to make camp.”

“Oh but I don’t have time for that!”

“Nor I, which is why we must hurry!”

They seemed to rush headlong into the men and suddenly she saw it, the slightest sliver of a space between galloping horses. Begorrah would never have known to look for it but the two of them charged through and into the doorway. She bent forward to catch her breath as Ethal released her. She couldn’t be sure whether her breathlessness was entirely from the breakneck speed in which they ran into the hill or if her close proximity to the king had anything to do with it. She could still feel the heat of his body where it had been pressed against her own.

The interior of the hill was made up of vast archways and furniture that looked to have been carved entirely out of stone. There appeared to be symbols and pictures chiseled in the stone of the archways and across the room on a vast throne sat a man garbed like the soldiers who circled the hill outside. He gazed at the couple with eyes of ice as they approached. Ethal slammed a fist to his chest and bowed.

Go dtaga do ríocht!” He greeted the Earl. May thy kingdom come.

Gurab amhlaidh duit.” The reply came like the sound of leaves on the winter wind. And to you.

The Earl looked at Begorrah, who gave a courtesy, and asked, “A young maid, here?”

“Forgive my lowly presence but I need your help.” She said, unbidden.

“How may I assist you, child?”

Begorrah glanced at Ethal who gave a quick nod and replied, “My sister, Faith, has been captured by a leprechaun who is holding her as his teind. He won’t release her unless I find him a replacement he thinks suitable. I have no wish to subject another poor soul to her fate, to be sure. How can I stop him?”

A smile played on the Earl’s lips while Ethal simply gawked at her.

“Tis an arduous undertaking especially for a maid. Can your young man not help you?”

Ethal started while Begorrah’s face grew hot.

“Begging your pardon, this man is not mine.” She stammered. “That is I have no young man, I am alone in this.”

The Earl clucked. “Tis a shame. I shall appoint this man as your guardian in this quest. Tis dangerous to venture alone even for a man.”

Begorrah was horrified. Surely a king of the Fe had his own reasons for visiting a man who woke once every seven years hoping that the sleeping spell that held him would at last be broken so he could take his rightful place as ruler of all the Eire. She opened her mouth to object but Ethal was already speaking.

“It would be my honor to assist the young maid in her quest.”

“Excellent!” The Earl turned his gaze back to Begorrah. “Child, to rescue your sister ye must find something to entice her captor and bargain for her freedom.”

“If we journey to Connacht we’ll come upon the mound of Cnocc Midh where Iunadh, a queen of the Fe, dwells.” Ethal spoke up. “Queen Iunadh’s hair looks to be made up spun gold and is strong as it is fine. A single strand would lock and hold any doors shut that may guard the leprechaun’s beloved treasure against the strongest blade and the most nimble of thieves.”

“Good man!” The Earl said again, clapping his hands, “Fare ye well.”

When they left the hall, Ethal and Begorrah realized they didn’t need to rush at the door the way they had come in and they settled behind a distant hill.

“I thank ye for speaking to the Earl in my stead but I cannot ask ye to grant me any more of your time.” Begorrah said.

“Tis my honor to aid ye in your quest, Begorrah.”

“Ye have said as much to the earl but why?”

Ethal blinked. “Why?”

“Let’s not pretend ye are not so much more important than I, sire.” She said matter of factly. “Ye were waiting to see the Earl yourself yet ye only concerned yourself with my business. We have never met before today so why do ye wish to help me?”

Ethal looked into those deep brown eyes that flared gold as she spoke. This was no ordinary peasant woman. There was a sharpness in those eyes, determination, even anger. The women in his life swooned and flirted with him. A simple peck on a dainty hand and a quick but steady gaze in the eyes and a maid became soft and pliant in his hands. Begorrah, however, was guarded. Dare he say, she was even suspicious of him? Him, the dashing hero and king of the Fe of Ulaidh! Of course she had every right to be since they were strangers but it was a bit unnerving to find an untrusting woman. He took her hand in his and gazed into her eyes again.

“Would ye be more at ease if I said because it is my noble duty to aid damsels in distress?”

Begorrah stared back. “No.”

Ethal bit back a smile before pulling her close. He could feel her heart flutter as their bodies crushed against each other. Their breath mingling and he suddenly found himself falling into the amber pools of her eyes. He grew heady. What was wrong with him?

“What if I told ye your beauty has captivated me and one such as yourself should not suffer such slings and arrows?” He breathed.

Holding his gaze she replied flatly. “I’d tell ye to pull the other one.”

Ethal barked a laugh and released her, surprised by her candidness. It appeared Begorrah was a force to be reckoned with. He knew then that he would like her.

“So what can I tell ye that would ease your mind?”

“Ye can tell me why ye want to travel to Cnocc Midh. Tis at least a two day journey, nearly a week from where ye hail. So why there?”

Begorrah couldn’t believe her own insolence. She, a lowly human peasant woman was challenging a faerie noble! She tried not to think of all the stories the elders had told about the consequences of crossing the fe. Still, she knew enough about the sneaky nature of people from observing the people of her own village, never mind the untrustworthy nature of the fe, to suspect Ethal was using her for his own devices. She’d rather run the risk of being turned into a snail than fall into a trap she wasn’t prepared for. Ethal stared at her silently for several moments and Begorrah steeled herself for the man’s wrath but he merely chuckled and shook his head.

“Alright. The king of the Fe in Connacht, Fin Bheara, has been stealing from my people and ravishing our women. He has been a thorn in my side since I took up the crown and I intend to do away with him once and for all. His wife, Queen Iunadh, is rumored to be the most beautiful woman in the world. She wears a silver veil so no one living can say for certain but what is certain is she is fed up with her husband’s dalliances. I will gain audience with her and ask for her aid.”

Begorrah gaped at him. “You’re going to ask the queen to help you kill her own husband?”

“There are other methods for doing away with a nuisance besides death, Begorrah.” Ethal’s smile made her blood run cold.

Chapter Four

The pair traveled for several days before arriving at Cnocc Midh. Not surprising, Fin Bheara was not in residence but his wife received her royal guest and his shabbily dressed companion. As Ethal began his elegant speech to the lady, Begorrah was able to slip away and searched for the royal bedchamber as they had discussed earlier. Ducking into the shadows when she heard someone come down the hall, she was easily able to find the heavily perfumed room and slipped inside. Multiple swathes of silk of varying colors and transparency drifted down from the ceiling over a plush round bed. Dainty gold and ebony furniture dotted the room and a gilded covering had fallen over it all. Upon closer inspection Begorrah discovered the film to be hair shed from the head of the queen as Ethal had mentioned. She stuffed a handful into her bundle and turned to find a pair of tall guards hovering over her.

***

Iuradh yawned as she listened to the pretty words spilling from the perfect lips of the beautiful king standing before her.

“Pray, be silent!” she interrupted finally. “Ethal Anbual, ye are my enemy and the enemy of my people yet here ye stand plying me with words of woo. What is it ye want of me?”

“Nay,” Ethal responded dropping to one knee in a dramatic pose, “I and my people have no quarrel with ye and yours but with your husband, the king.”

The golden queen smiled behind her shimmering veil. “Ye and every other male in the land.”

Ethal Anbual was no fool, she knew, and would tread lightly as he ventured into dangerous territory. Iuradh was no fool either. The Fe were free and easy. Sex was a pleasurable way to pass the time. It allowed her people to express their devotions to deity and noble alike. When Fe men went off to war they often sought solace in the bed of another, being separated from their partners for a length of time. Men strayed, as did women, it was a part of life. Even the queen of the Fe took a lover when it suited her, though unlike her husband, she was much more particular. At the moment she could think of any number of things she’d like to do to the hard, well formed specimen kneeling before her now. It was the choices her king made in his dalliances that irked her. The man had no discretion, no tact in who he laid with and it was becoming an embarrassment to her. Iunadh knew of the recent troubles caused by Fin in Ulaidh and Ethal’s visit had been expected. Like him, the queen grew weary of her husband’s antics and she wanted a long respite. As she saw his plain and disheveled companion slink off into the shadows, she put her plan into action.

“Aye, the countless dalliances of the king of the Fe of Connacht is no secret, my lady.” Ethal was saying, “If I may be so bold, the man is a waste of the attentions of an enchantress such as ye.”

Iuradh smiled in a way she knew would make her eyes sparkle like sapphires.

“Are ye proposing to take his place, Ethal Anbual?” she cooed.

Ethal bowed his head in deference. “Aye, though I am not worthy of such an honor.”

The sound of scuffling drew their attention and Ethal started and grew pale as his accomplice was dragged into the room by her guards. The queen watched with interest as the girl struggled against the men before being thrown to the ground. Rising to her knees, the wild haired girl lifted her head and regarded her with keen eyes that seemed to glow with gold. She noted the change in Ethal’s stance and demeanor as the girl had been brought in and heeded her movements as she bade the prisoner to stand. Though appearing as a common human peasant, Iunadh could sense there was much more to the girl. There was a determination in her face, even power, as she stood upright and proud before the queen. Iunadh laughed to herself. The girl had been caught stealing from her bedchamber yet stood before her like the bravest of knights. How interesting.

“Ye have been caught stealing from the royal bedchamber.” Iunadh boomed. “What say ye?”

“Aye.” The girl responded quietly.

No denial? No tears? No begging for mercy?

The queen smirked. “Theft of such a degree is an offense punishable by death. What say ye now?”

“There are other methods for doing away with a nuisance besides death, Highness.” She replied smoothly.

Ethal started at the remark and turned to Iunadh with a look of desperation she never thought to witness on the man.

“My lady, tis only out of desperation that this girl was found in your bedchamber.”

“Clearly, the girl hoped to take away a trinket or two to sell or trade for drink. Can she not speak for herself?” The queen barked.

“Aye.” She said again quietly.

Her expression was almost defiant. Iunadh smiled, the peasant had pride and she had managed to insult her.

“So, what was it ye hoped to swipe for your prize? My jewels, some silk, a vial of perfume, perhaps? What was so vital that ye would risk your life in such a foolish endeavor?”

“A lock of your hair to gain my sister’s freedom.”

The queen frowned, confused, and looked at Ethal who nodded solemnly.

“Explain.”

The girl poured out a tale of woe like nothing she had ever heard. Damn leprechauns were never a favorite of hers, like her husband they caused more trouble than they were worth. Ordinarily a queen of the Fe wouldn’t interfere in the trivialities of man but she was impressed by the girl’s bravery and determination. She was fueled by the love of her family and a need to protect them. Iunadh rarely ventured into the human world and rarer still, encountered a human with loyalty and integrity. She was moved to help the girl, especially as in helping her she would help herself.

“What is your name, child?”

“I am called Begorrah.”

“Ye are correct. There are other methods to do away with a nuisance besides death and ye shall aid me in doing away with the nuisance in my life.” She leaned forward. “Begorrah, ye shall find my husband, Fin Bheara, and seduce him.”

Begorrah flinched. “I am to seduce him?”

The queen smiled. “Aye. Ye shall appear to him luscious as a nubile nymph riding my prize steed. He will be thoroughly enticed by you and he will turn on his charms but do not let him seduce you. Instead, bade him to tame the beast on which ye ride for she abhors all men. Tell him only then will ye let him bed ye.”

Begorrah’s mouth fell open. “But I do not wish to lay with your husband.”

“That is good. Remember that when he sets your loins aflame and consumes your mind with thoughts of him inside ye.”

She chuckled as the girl reddened deeply from head to toe. Such innocence. Yes, she could see why Ethal was so smitten with her, even if he himself didn’t know it yet.

“Fear not, if ye do as I say ye will not have to lay with him. The beast on which ye will ride is Capall Sídhe, a shapeshifter in the form of a horse. Once Fin Bheara climbs upon her back he will be captured until I deem him worthy of release. My husband is a little too hot-blooded for the form of other females and needs to learn to be more particular. A few centuries beneath the waves should cool him off.”

***

Begorrah still trembled as she and Ethal left the hill. The queen of the Fe was as cold and frightening as she was beautiful. There was a reason humans were advised never to tangle with Faerie folk. Once all this was over Begorrah intended to have as little to do with the Fe as possible. She hoped Faith would learn the same lesson.

“Ye were wonderful!” Ethal beamed. His optimism was beginning to irritate her.

“Wonderful? I was caught by the queen’s guards. I was almost killed and now I have to seduce her husband. How could I possibly manage to do that?”

Ethal stopped walking and turned. His eyes roamed her form so intimately that Begorrah could feel herself flush.

“Tis not the impossible task ye may think.” He said finally. “Once we locate the Capall Sidhe ye shall bathe and shed your garments. The vision of ye upon a brilliant white steed would make any man yield his senses.”

Ethal’s words and the expression upon his face made Begorrah’s heart thud in her breast. She had seen such a gaze from the many men who adored her sister, her lovely, gentle, graceful sister. Never her, she must be going mad.

“Sire, I have never been seen by a man and it will be difficult to ride in such a state before Fin Bheara. I cannot allow myself to be seen by ye as well.”

Ethal smiled and her heart fluttered. He reached out and stroked her hair, rolling the unruly curls between his fingers, and Begorrah forgot how to breathe.

“Aye, the temptation would be far too great. However, when arranged strategically, your tresses shall preserve your modesty.”

They traveled to the lake and valley Queen Iunadh had directed them to find the Faerie horse. To their surprise, the queen herself appeared from the mountainside guiding a beautiful white horse with shimmering mane behind her. Begorrah had never ridden a horse and knowing what the beast truly was had frightened her. What was she doing? How could she hope to pull this off? Begorrah frowned as the half moon rose in the sky. She had to be brave, she was running out of time.  The queen sent Ethal to confirm Fin Bheara’s whereabouts while she insisted Begorrah bathe in the lake. Frightened at first, the girl realized if the queen of the Fe had wanted to harm or kill her, she wouldn’t have gone through such lengths to do so.

The water was much warmer than Begorrah had anticipated. As she ducked beneath the surface, shaking her head so her hair could fan out above her, she reveled in the smooth comforting feel of the water. This was no ordinary lake. No doubt it was the magic of the water Queen Iunadh intend to use to make the girl attractive enough to lure her husband to his fate. When she reemerged, her skin seemed to glow in the moonlight. Her frizzy curls had settled down and cascaded to her hips. Feeling self conscious standing naked before the lovely queen of the Fe, Begorrah arranged some of her hair down the front of herself as she stepped on shore.

“Wonderful!” The queen nodded approvingly as the girl approached. She brought the Faerie horse forth and Begorrah hesitated.

“Come now,” the queen laughed and held out her alabaster hand. “I am gifting this beast to aid ye in doing my bidding. No harm will come to ye.”

Begorrah managed to mount the horse with the queen’s help and had just finished putting her hair to rights, all the time listening to the queen’s instructions, when Ethal returned. He stood fast, his eyes on her as she approached on horse back, blushing furiously.

“Ye are a vision!” Ethal said in awe.

“Take hold of yourself, Ethal Anbual.” Iunadh admonished him. “Did ye find my husband?”

“Aye, he is sleeping off the drink on the edge of a clearing a short distance from his men who also slumber.”

“Then it is time.” The queen turned to Begorrah. Her eyes seemed to glow as she said, “Remember girl, ye are to entice him to ride the horse. Lay with Fin Bheara and I will end ye!”

Begorrah shivered and swallowed hard. “I will remember.”

Begorrah didn’t need to know where to direct the horse as she appeared to know exactly where to go. She wondered if she would be successful. She had no interest in bedding the queen’s husband and being already cautious from her encounter with the Gancanagh, Begorrah was determined not to let her guard down a second time. Perhaps when all was said and done she would do well to watch Faith more carefully. While she herself often went ignored by the opposite sex, the men of the village flocked to her beautiful and elegant sister yet she never succumbed to any of their wiles. The wagging tongues of the mens’ wives and intended held more of a threat to Faith and Begorrah knew how to handle the situation for her. She herself knew not how to defend against the attentions of men and had been caught off guard twice in recent weeks. She knew not what magic the lake in which she bathed contained but it appeared to be working judging by Ethal’s reaction in the clearing. She was determined to make this work. She had to get the lock of hair from the queen so she could rescue her sister and end this nightmare. She longed to return to her quiet life sitting by the fire in the cottage with her darning while listening to her mother spin tales as she stroked the hair of the gentle pretty girl who rested her head on her knee.

She knew those days were numbered. Soon Faith would marry the chieftain’s son and start a family by her own hearth. Her mother, still a beauty in her own right with gold streaking her red hair, pale blue eyes and lithe figure, had the attentions of the widower blacksmith. Once Faith was married, Begorrah knew it would only be a matter of time before her mother and the blacksmith tied the knot. As always when the questions came unbidden, Begorrah didn’t know the answer. What would become of her? She could serve as Faith’s handmaiden in her new home. She could continue studying with the medicine woman and hope to take her place in the village one day. At worst she could find herself wed to the old butcher. The man had managed to lop off a hand due to a combination of losing part of his sight and all of his mind but that didn’t stop him from grabbing at Begorrah with the other whenever he paid a visit to the blacksmith. Begorrah had been careful not to venture too close to the man but as best friend to her mother’s intended and soon to be man of her family, it was almost certain that the butcher would ask the blacksmith for Begorrah’s hand.

Though she was plain to look at Begorrah ached to be loved by a man who was good and kind. She knew she would never catch a wealthy or handsome man like her sister and mother but she didn’t need to in order to be happy. Her fickle heart had leaped at the attentions of Ethal Anbual but the man ruled over the Fe of Ulaidh. He wasn’t even human himself and Begorrah had had her share of magical beings. Still, if he ever asked for her… Concentrate girl, she shook her head, focus on rescuing Faith.

Chapter Five

The rustling leaves caught Fin Bheara’s attention and he sat up peering into the trees. More rustling made him stagger to his feet as a belch escaped him.

“Who’s there?” He called, drawing his sword. “Show yourself!”

Begorrah took her cue and burst into the clearing, a raven haired goddess riding sideways on the bare back of a magnificent white horse. As they circled the swaying man, Begorrah got a better look at her intended prey. Fin Bheara was tall and lanky with hair that showed like a golden halo in the moonlight. His elegant garb was stained with wine. His dark eyes attempted to focus on her as she rode closer and she could see fine stubble along his lip and chin. Even if she had entertained the idea of seducing the Fe king for her own devices, she knew she would have no problem keeping herself in check. Though Begorrah suspected the man was more attractive when he was sober, he still didn’t hold a candle to Ethal. She gave herself a mental shake and smiled at the confused monarch, now was not the time to be thinking about Ethal.

“Good morrow, my lord.” Begorrah said.

“Where dost thou hail, lady fair?” Fin asked, his eyes roaming her body.

“I ride from yonder vale as I do every night.”

He stepped closer. “Alone? Tis a dangerous undertaking.”

Begorrah threw her head back and laughed, “I have my gentle steed to protect me from harm.”

The movement allowed Fin a peek of the side of her breast and navel. His eyes widened slightly as a smile played upon his lips.

“Aye but a steed can only offer so much protection for a beauteous maiden.”

Begorrah imitated the gentile grin she had seen Faith employ many times and fluttered her eyes. “My lord, would ye be offering the services of your protection?”

Fin’s eyes twinkled as he stepped beside her and placed a hand on her bare knee. “Aye, as king of the Fe tis my sworn duty to assure all female folk of the realm return home safely.”

Begorrah dipped her head, allowing the king view of her other breast, “Ye honor me, highness. Will ye come with me now?”

She lowered a hand down to the king who took it and hoisted himself up beside her. The horse began to dance sideways and Begorrah tamped down her fear as she tightened the reins to settle hher again.

“My apologies, sire.” She turned her head and peered at him from beneath her lashes. “The beast does not hold favor with men, whatever their pedigree.”

“Mayhap it would take the firm hand of a king to tame the beast. Shall we find out?”

“Would ye not rather see me safely home first?” Begorrah’s eyelashes fluttered again and she leaned closer to him this time allowing the king full view of all that lay hidden beneath her tresses.

“Of course, lady fair, forgive me.”

Fin placed his arms around her waist as she turned the horse around and headed back into the trees. As they rode, Begorrah discovered just how talented the great Fin Bheara was at seduction, even drunk. He let his hands relax so that they caressed her hips and thighs with every movement of the horse. Slowly they traveled and slipped down to stroke her nub and behind until Begorrah was nearly undone. Fin chuckled softly when she shifted her hips and tightened her legs. His hands roamed up her back and belly and along her sides until he had reached up and pulled her hair away from her ear as the other cupped her breast. His teeth closed gently on her earlobe and tugged, sending a tingle through her body. She closed her eyes as his palm teased her nipples erect while his tongue tasted the sensitive skin behind her ear. She moaned, a mixture of relief and disappointment, as she saw they were nearing the vale.

Fin glanced up a moment as he smiled and said, “Odd. I know this vale.”

“Is it not so that the king should have intimate knowledge of every crevice within his kingdom?” Begorrah asked hoarsely, shifting her behind so that it rubbed against her passenger’s growing bulge as they rode.

“M’fhíorghrá, a chuid den tsaol. Tabhair póg dom!” He hissed into her hair, growing harder against her, and bit her neck. You are my true love, my everything, kiss me!

The horse took the couple into the vale and strode along the shore of the lake as Begorrah locked Fin in an embrace and he crushed her lips with his. She had to drive him to a frenzy before slipping off the horse as he entered the water so he couldn’t tell what was happening until it was too late. If her timing was off she too would be pulled down, the queen had warned her. She wanted to make the king as heady as the Gancanagh had made her. As his hands and lips roamed her body she closed her eyes and thought of Ethal. Her body responded to his touch as if it was the king of Ulaidh not Connacht that caressed it. She moaned as Fin pressed his trembling length against her pulsating warmth.

“I must have you!” He groaned, biting her shoulder.

A cold wetness brushed her toes and Begorrah’s eyes flew open when she realized they were riding into the lake. She also saw Queen Iunadh standing in the distance behind them glowing in the moonlight, her hair waving in all directions. Fin shifted and she saw he had released his manhood from his trousers and was preparing to enter her.

“No!” she cried and struggled against him.

Fin smiled and held her fast. “Fear not, little one, it will only hurt for a moment.”

“No, no! We can’t!” She screamed, pushing away from him and trying to slide off the horse as they ventured further into the water.

“Have a care, you’ll knock us both into the water!” He laughed then blinked.

He glanced around, noticing their surroundings, that he was knee deep in water, for the first time and turned to see his wife standing on the beach. His face twisted into a snarl as he turned back to find Begorrah was sliding herself into the water.

“Oh no ye don’t, ye little cunt!” Fin growled, pulling her across the mare’s back by her hair.

“Let me go!” She screamed, dragging her nails across his face.

He tugged her hair hard enough to make her yelp and pressed his dagger to her throat.

“Ye may have thought ye was clever, falling in league with my wife but if ye notice she isn’t coming to help ye. No one is coming to help ye. If I go down I’m taking ye with me!”

Begorrah could feel the water rising still and knew that soon she and Fin both would sink beneath the waves on the back of the Capall Sidhe. She had seen the queen fuming by the water and knew that she had gone too far with the king even though she had been thinking of another. In a matter of days her darling sister Faith would be sacrificed by that accursed leprechaun. Neither of them would see their mother, their people or their village again. She had failed!

Suddenly, Fin’s body jerked. They exchanged glances before both looked and saw a pool of blood spreading from the point of a blade sticking out of his chest. Begorrah felt a hand grab her and tug her off the horse as Fin slumped forward just before man and beast slipped beneath the waves. Ethal wrapped an arm around her and swam with her to shore. Numb and trembling from terror and the temperature of the waves she allowed herself to be dragged on to the sand. He saved her! The man she loved had saved her! Begorrah knew then that, even if he did not return it, her love for him was true. She pulled herself up to her knees and dropped her head, her curls shielding her modesty. After a moment a pair of silver slippers stood before her.

“Forgive me, highness. I went too far.” Begorrah said, closing her eyes and bracing for the queen’s wrath.

“Nonsense!” Iunadh giggled. “Ye did everything perfectly.”

Begorrah gaped at her, realizing the beautiful queen did in fact looked pleased. She glanced at Ethal who did not look pleased. His eyes glittered and his jaw set as he looked down at her. If she had been successful then why was he so angry with her?

Chapter Six

Inside the Hill of Mullaghmast, Begorrah was bathed and dressed in fine silks with flowers weaved into her curls. Her faithful donkey had been transformed into a fine black stallion and another donkey had been laden with sacks of gold, jewels and fine fabrics for her to take back home. True to her word, Queen Iunadh gave Begorrah a lock of hair from her head and allowed her to keep the hair she had picked up from the floor of her bedchamber. Much to the girl’s surprise, Ethal insisted on journeying home with her.

“Leprechauns are tricky and devious. I will make sure he does not go back on his word and releases your sister to ye.” He said.

He had shown her nothing but kindness since they met and she knew she had no reason to doubt him, especially as he no longer seemed angry with her. She also realized that her village was on the way to his home in Ulaidh and that Ethal was doing her yet another kindness.

It was the eve of the full moon when Ethal and Begorrah appeared in the Bodacha market. This time the patrons bowed and scraped, some even trembled as they passed and approached the large tent. No one dared interfere in the business of a king of the Fe. When the leprechaun emerged he blanched before growing angry.

“What is this? How dare ye involve the highborn of the Fe in our business!” he screamed, waving a fat little finger in Begorrah’s face.

“Where is the maiden, Duoan?” Ethal bellowed and the leprechaun winced at the sound of his given name.

“She is here, highness, but we have an agreement, this maid and I.”

“She has told me of your agreement and she has fulfilled her part in it.”

The leprechaun eyed the stallion and pack mule greedily and rubbed his hands together.

“That remains to be seen, sire, although she has made a valiant start.”

He started towards the animals when Ethal held out a hand. “Hold leprechaun, there is nothing to concern yourself with there.”

The little man frowned, confused, and glared at Begorrah. “What have ye brought me then as a fit tribute to Scathach that I may release your sister to ye?”

The crowd gasped as Begorrah drew forth a single strand of gold.

“Tis a hair of Iunadh, queen of the Fe of Connacht. No weapon is strong enough to break it, no fire is bright enough to burn it. Where ever it is ye hoard ye treasure, this strand can be used to protect it from theft.” She told him.

A low whistle escaped from the leprechaun’s fat lips and Begorrah smiled. She had done it. He reached for the hair but Begorrah pulled her hand back and when he shot her a nasty look she met his eyes with a steady gaze.

“Is it satisfactory?”

The little man chewed his lip for a moment before giving a brief nod.

“Now where is my sister?”

The leprechaun snorted then disappeared into the tent. After a moment, Faith emerged. Her clothing was a bit tattered, her hair disheveled but she looked otherwise unscathed. Tears erupted from the eyes of both sisters as they fell into each other’s arms and kissed each other senseless.

“O Begorrah, you’ve returned!”

“Silly goose, I said I would, didn’t I?”

They giggled and looked each other over. Begorrah had completely forgotten about her fine attire until Faith began to moon over it. A voice interrupted the reunion.

“And now may I have me prize?”

Faith’s eyes widened when they saw Begorrah’s grow dark and her jaw set. She knew what that look met but stayed silent and stepped to one side.

“Oh yes,” Begorrah replied, “Ye shall have your prize.”

She and the leprechaun approached each other. He held his hand out as she reached inside her bag and drew a much larger shinier strand of hair. She grasped his arm, spun him around and started whipping him with the hair. The throng of onlookers screeched with laughter and cheered as the little man howled and jumped about. Begorrah held him with an iron grip and whipped the leprechaun until her arm grew tired. Then she switched hands and continued to beat him soundly. At last, she threw him to the floor and tucked the hair away again. This time she drew the original strand of hair she had shown him, one of the few she had picked up from the floor of the queen’s bedchamber, and tossed it to the floor beside him.

“That is to ensure ye never take a human as your teind ever again!” Begorrah told him as he whimpered. “If I ever hear that ye are even entertaining the idea of tricking another human that way again, ye had better leave the country for ye will get more of the same!”

The leprechaun trembled and crept back into his tent, cursing all humans. Ethal placed Faith upon the back of the stallion and he and Begorrah made their way back to the village.

There was much rejoicing when the sisters returned. Their mother hugged her daughters with equal gusto and the villagers cheered. The Chieftain held a special feast in Begorrah’s honor and Faith married his son that very afternoon. The village was most honored by the presence of a king of the Fe and bestowed many gifts upon him for helping rescue their beloved Faith.

***

A weary Begorrah slipped away from the festivities later that evening for the sanctuary of her room in the loft. The couples had paired off and Ethal Anbual was being regaled by tales of the bravest warriors of the village while prettier maids than she fawned and blushed over the man. Life in the little village would return to normal soon enough and Begorrah would fade into the background once again.

“There ye are!” Her mother said, her head popping up from the floor. “Tis not polite to keep guests waiting, Begorrah.”

Begorrah furrowed her brow. What guests? Everyone was still celebrating in the square. She climbed down the ladder after her mother and smoothed her skirts as she turned. In the main room stood her mother, the blacksmith, Faith and her new husband along with the chieftain himself and Ethal.

“What’s happening?” she asked as she looked from one face to the other.

“Tis a momentous occasion.” The chieftain, a large hairy ginger, boomed. “Ethal Anbual, king of the Fe of Ulaidh, has asked for your hand.”

Begorrah blinked. “Who’s hand?”

“Yours silly!” Faith giggled.

Begorrah blinked again. “He did?”

Ethal crossed the room, his eyes shining as he took her hand in his.

“He did.” He replied softly.

Begorrah forgot to breathe.

“Why?” She whispered.

He leaned his forehead against hers and gazed into her eyes.

“Táim i ngrá leat.” He whispered back. Because I am in love with you.

Tears welled up in her eyes and he pulled her to him and kissed her. Her heart swelled and as his kiss deepened, his hands grasping the fabric of her gown into fists, she could feel parts of him swelling as well and her body answered.

“So will ye marry him?” Begorrah heard her sister say. “Will ye take him for your husband?”

Yes, her heart answered. Forever and always, yes!

 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY FANS!

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Wow, how time flies! It has been one full year since I started this blog. I’ve read and reviewed some great and not so great books. I’ve gotten to learn the ins and outs of the publishing and self publishing industry and met some great people along the way.

So what will 2014 bring us? Well, as you may have already seen I have pulled down the original renditions of Heroes and Hearts and Descendants of Quendaris. I’ve merged both stories and, after talking to some other writers and reviewers I’ve picked up a lot of great tips and insight that I am now using to revamp the new novel. I have spoken to a few publishers and agents who are interested in reading the finishing product and I hope to have it ready for submission by the Spring. In the meantime I will also be flexing my writing muscles via contests and short stories. It’s been years since I’ve actively picked up a pen and paper (hey I’m old school, I don’t write on computers;) but I feel confident that I’ve brushed away all the cobwebs and I’m now ready to throw down!

So keep watching this page for updates, stories, articles and of course feel free to fan or like or whatever my fan page.

Most romantic cities in America

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Recently Amazon put out a list of romantic cities based on sales of romance novels and relationship books. Not only is the list kind of a shock to most people but the cities named seem to be the antithesis of romance (hence the high rate of romance novel and relationship book purchases I guess). I mean of all the cities in Florida alone when I think of romance Orlando, Miami and Clearwater don’t exactly spring to mind. So, just in time for Valentine’s Day, here is my top 5 favorite romantic cities in America in no particular order.

1. St. Augustine, Florida

This is one of my most favorite places in the US. As the oldest city in the state (possibly even the country) St. Augustine has old world charm of cobblestoned streets, quaint shops, and great restaurants.

Visit the fabled Fountain of Youth or the local winery, San Sebastian. Take a historic tour via horse drawn carriage or ride across a beautiful sandy beach on horseback!

2. Seattle, Washington

Probably the one selection on Amazon’s list that I agree with. Located in a valley surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains, Seattle is ideally located for those who like to hike, go berry picking, swim, sail and like a bit of night life.

Pike Place Market is a must see but so is the sweet little Waterfall Garden in Pioneer Square. There are plenty of great places to stay in the city but if you want to snuggle by a cozy fire in the mountains head to the Salish Lodge and Spa in beautiful Snoqualmie.

3. Savannah, Georgia

You just can’t have a romantic city list without Savannah, the most beautiful city in Georgia. Visit old cathedrals, quaint markets, ride on an old fashioned riverboat and take part in the annual Valentine’s Day vow renewal ceremony.

4. Charleston, South Carolina

Again, no list would be complete without Charleston. History fanatics can stroll through plantations or take a pirate tour.

Culture buffs will enjoy the various wine, art and music festivals that occur throughout the year while foodies have their pick from an array of dining choices.

5. Poconos, Pennsylvania

Adventure seeking outdoorsy types will love it here. There’s skiing, tubing and snowboarding in winter and boating, rafting and horseback riding during the warmer months. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Poconos as it’s home to my favorite cheesetastic romantic getaway Caesar’s Cove Haven.

Flush with 70s style decor, heart shaped and champagne glass tubs and private swimming pools and starlight ceilings, this all inclusive romantic resort is great for a long weekend. You’ll feel like you’ve been there for a week.. in a good way!

Whatever your price range, whether you’re in a high priced resort or feeding each other strawberries and sparkling wine at home, your romantic adventure is what you and your significant other make of it.

 

Body Image and the Romance Novel

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It never fails. When reading a romance novel, the men are always well built and muscular with enormous genitalia while the women are gorgeous and well proportioned with smooth skin and smell of either some type of flower or confection. Some say this sets the reader up for unrealistic expectations and the beautiful characters can’t be related to. I agree however, there are a few things to consider.

 #1 A large majority of women hate how they look

It doesn’t matter how beautiful, thin or curvy a woman is, most of us absolutely hate how we look. I won’t get into the whole debate about body image in society, impossible expectations portrayed by the media etc. because we’ll be here all day. The fact of the matter is women are our own worst critics. Personally, I look in the mirror at least twice a week and frown at my graying hair and extra flab. Meanwhile my husband can’t seem able to keep his hands off me and I have friends who tell me I’m gorgeous. This brings me to my second point.

 #2 The hero will always find the heroine attractive 

That’s just the way the formula goes or at least that’s how I use it. If you notice, in many novels the heroine hates her body or doesn’t feel she measures up to the goddesses who surround her yet the hero absolutely adores her. The same traits she might hate seem to drive him crazy with desire. Even if she appears homely to the hero at first, it isn’t long before he takes a good look at her and realizes, wait a minute, this woman is beautiful! In my opinion this is where fantasy and reality meet. No matter what any of us looks like the person who makes your heart skip, your pulse race and causes butterflies to flutter in your stomach with a simple touch or look is the loveliest person you will ever meet.

 

#3 How do you write a “realistic body”?

She stood framed in the doorway, her satin robe caressing her figure. He approached her, a goofy look on his face as he undid the sash and slipped the robe down to her feet. He smiled, noting how the corn pads drew his attention to the shimmering polish on her toenails. The varicose veins, born from hours of standing on her feet as a waitress, fanned out like a roadmap on her legs. He massaged her cellulite dimpled behind as he kissed his way up and around her panis. He relished in the feel of her swollen nipples brushing his forehead as he kissed his way up to her bare breasts. As he stood upright, his soft belly jiggled and slid against her body. She groaned, caressing his bald spot and running her hands through the thick hair of his back. She squeezed the extra cushioning along his waist.

“Your love handles drive me crazy!” she murmured.

****

Not too sexy is it? At least, not as sexy as a scene describing a more perfectly formed couple anyway. Reading in general is a form of escapism and the romance genre especially so. While the hero and heroine don’t have to be underwear models, I think there is a growing tendency to make these couples to be a little more realistic while still maintaining artistic license. There’s not as much call for washboard abs and perky breasts and I can’t remember the last time I’d read of a virginal heroine gasping when her hero unleashes an appendage the size of a tree trunk. There are writers who specialize in BBW romances which feature plus sized women and men and I applaud those writers. I understand they’re doing very well and I intend to study those books as I’m curious how they handle the descriptive scenes. There’s also the growing trend of books featuring men who are physically or emotionally damaged and so far the books I’ve come across in this trend are very well written. I’ll encourage anyone to seek out and pick up books featuring these types of characters if you haven’t already.

Some day we may see romance novels featuring people who look just like you and me but to be honest, wouldn’t it be more fun to pretend to be a beautiful enchantress who is driving some gorgeous hunk absolutely wild, even for a little while?

Short Story Preview: Romancing Mrs. Claus

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Happy Holidays to all!

Well my novel is finished but I’m still having an issue with naming the thing. Usually I leave the title until the end hoping the flow of the story will inspire me but this time it’s just not working, maybe because it’s a hybrid, I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve also decided to try the traditional route to get the book published so I’m actively searching for literary agents to help smooth away any rough edges I missed and help get my book out there. So, if you know of (or are) any literary agents who’s not afraid to push the envelope and are genuinely interested in fantasy romance that doesn’t involve vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts etc. feel free to drop me a line!

In the meantime, I’m working on a few new projects and short stories to gather more readers and continue to hone my writing skills. Recently, a story idea jumped ahead of the cue with so much enthusiasm that I just had to give it my undivided attention. It’s a sweet romantic story about how Mrs. Claus feels unappreciated by her husband and is whisked off on an adventure by the suave and sexy Jack Frost. Can old St. Nick win his wife back? Here’s a sneak preview of my new short story: Romancing Mrs. Claus.

***

Damaris sighed as she stood in the back of the room, waving though she knew the gesture went unseen. Her husband rode off on his sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer and cheered on by a multitude of ecstatic workers. The din barely died down as the little men and women rushed off to have their own celebrations in the village, their work for the year now complete. Damaris had to smile. The elves worked diligently from dawn to dusk with smiles on their faces and a song in their hearts. Their only compensation was the smiles on the children’s faces Christmas morning and the stories Santa brought back with him after his long night of delivering gifts to the world’s recipients. Often Damaris wondered how much the man embellished and how much he kept to himself. She knew that while he thrived on delivering gifts to the world’s children, there were times when he entered a home to find a much older, curvier and scantily clad occupant waiting for him to arrive. Nikolai sure got a kick out of these occurrences the first few times they happened and, in his usual jovial manner, he would relay to his wife how he would tip his hat and respectfully decline the lady’s offer before leaving again. Sometimes the woman wouldn’t take the hint and Santa became adept at gingerly dropping gifts beneath the tree while being chased around it. While these adventures tickled her husband immensely, Damaris was not amused and after seeing how upset they made her, Nikolai had stopped telling her about them. This of course made matters worst for not knowing made her believe he was being accosted in practically every home he entered. Then of course she began to wonder when amusement turned to desire and how often he was receiving more than cookies and milk on these treks.

The portrayal of the magical couple made Damaris laugh. She never understood where the idea that they were an elderly couple came from, perhaps the fact Nikolai had been doing this for so long, but the fact of the matter was the jolly old man was simply a disguise he took on to satisfy convention. Old St. Nick was actually a big bear of a man standing nearly 6 foot tall with dark curly hair and a closely cropped mustache and beard. He did have a good heart, a deep belly laugh and the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen to date, at least that much the stories had gotten right. Damaris, on the other hand, was a slender woman whose head barely reached her husband’s shoulder so that she had to stand on tiptoe to kiss him. Her ebony hair flowed down to her waist and her eyes were, as Nikolai once said, as green as the Mediterranean before a storm. While she used to travel with him often when they first married, Damaris couldn’t actually remember the last time she had left the North Pole and was anxious to see this strange new world Nikolai described.

Damaris sighed again as she realized there was a lot that she and Nikolai used to do together. While he was still courteous and kind to her, she often felt more like a maid or housekeeper than a wife. She missed the feel of his arms around her, the electricity of his kisses, the smell of him. Each were so submerged in their duties that they barely spoke any more and often times, Damaris would fall into an empty bed at night and awaken alone in the morning. The warmth of the wrinkled sheets beside her was the only confirmation she had that her husband still slept by her side. It was a far cry from when they first met.

Damaris hailed from the thriving metropolis of Pompeii. Her father had owned and operated the largest hotel in the region, located on the edge of the city with sprawling views of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. He often boasted of the wealthy and important clientele the hotel attracted though they rarely seemed worth the hoopla to Damaris. If they weren’t incredibly rude, yelling at and hitting the staff, they were very stingy and constantly haggled prices down below the rate of even the worst hovels. Perhaps this was the reason their male guests insisted on taking liberties with the staff during their stay making it necessary for Damaris to intervene between a flustered employee and drunken official. She also had to face irate wives who accused the young woman of enticing these grabby men herself! It was often miserable work and on extra rough days, she would seek solace on her rooftop garden.

The day had been extraordinarily hot for the season and Damaris stood behind the reception desk brushing away the hair that had escaped her long braid when he walked in. She looked up as the doorway darkened and her breath caught in her throat. He practically filled the entire room by himself and Damaris shivered. She thanked the gods for the feast of Vulcanalia, without which they would have had a vacancy. If he was as hands on as most of their guests, she would have a hard time fighting him off. He was dressed oddly, wearing thick black boots instead of sandals. His tunic was made of material far too warm for the current climate with long sleeves and was closely cropped to the neck. He was incredibly pale compared to the olive complexion of the locals. Damaris tried to speak but only a squeak came out. She composed herself, cleared her throat and tried again.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Yes, I require a room for myself and my horse.” He replied, a thick accent colored his clipped rendition of her language.

Damaris swallowed a smile as she told him,

“I’m sorry sir, while we do have space in our stables for your horse, the hotel is full for the holiday.”

The man looked confused for a moment and Damaris wondered if he understood her. She opened her mouth again when he asked,

“Would it be possible to share the stable with my horse?”

Damaris barked a laugh before slapping a hand over her mouth.

“I’m sorry, sir, that’s not a request we’re used to hearing around here. I’m afraid Father wouldn’t approve.”

He leaned across the desk and winked.

“Perhaps you could tell him I’m the stableboy looking after a guest’s horse.”

“No one could believe that you were a stable boy.” Damaris giggled as she ran her eyes over the man’s large frame. “Besides, I make it a habit never to lie.”

He regarded her for several moments with sparkling eyes and smiled,

“Good girl, if only there were more women like you.”

She blushed deeply. Keep it together, she thought.

“I am sorry, but it really wouldn’t be seemly to have you bed down in the stables with the animals.”

He waved his hand, cutting her off.

“I assure you, Miss, the scent of an animal does not offend me and Quicksilver is one of my oldest and dearest friends. The truth of the matter is I am in desperate need of rest and there is no space anywhere in the region. If you wish, I will pay double the rate of your best room for the use of your stables for the night. That should appease your father, no?”

Damaris gasped and she shook her head.

“Oh no, I couldn’t ask you to do that!” She pursed her lips and continued. “Alright, come with me. I will deal with my father.”

She led him into the back corner of the stables where she watched him remove a large black saddle edged with gilded bells from his white horse.

“This area has just been cleaned and fresh hay laid down so there’ll be less fleas and vermin and you should be warm and comfortable, not that you’ll freeze in this heat,” she sighed, brushing loose strands of hair from her face again.

“Thank you very much, I appreciate your kindness, Miss…?”

“Damaris.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Damaris, I am Nikolai Klaus.” He replied, taking her hand and kissing it.

Damaris blushed again. Suddenly the ground rocked beneath her feet tossing her against him as he stumbled back against the wall. The animals inside the stable began to stomp and scream and the bells on Nikolai’s saddle jingled maddeningly as the building shook. After what seemed like an eternity, the shaking stopped and Damaris found herself pressed against her new guest, the feel of his breath on her cheek sent shivers through her. She pushed herself off him and straightened her tunic.

“Are you alright, Mr. Klaus?”

The man was visibly shaken but he nodded as he righted himself.

“What was that?”

“An earthquake. I must warn you, they’re fairly normal in this area, although they seem to be coming more frequently of late. That’s why this year’s Vulcanalia is extra special. The priests say the volcano god grows restless and we must send two willing brides this year to appease him.”

Nikolai started and asked, “Anyone I know?”

Damaris laughed,  “No, these women are beautiful, pure and goddess like. They have been bred specifically for this honor. No ordinary woman will suffice.”

Nikolai reached out and brushed loose strands from Damaris’ face. His fingers brushed her cheek and lingered for a moment. She gazed into his eyes, brilliant pools of blue, and her mouth went dry as her heart pounded in her chest.

“Well, I can’t say I’m not glad but I think the priests missed out on something.” he said, hoarsely.

Damaris took a step back, taking a shuddering breath, and as professionally as she was able replied,

“I must check on the staff and make sure everything is in order. Dinner is at 7.”

Nikolai nodded, a slow smile spread across his face that made Damaris’ heart flutter again and she turned and hurried out of the stable. She stopped outside the door of the hotel and gasped. Earthquakes were a part of life in Pompeii. Some said it was the price to pay for living in a beautiful location with abundant food and wine and pleasant weather more often than not. Still, the earthquakes were becoming more frequent and more violent in recent years and the government had been slow on repairs. Damaris knew from her staff that the poorer parts of town had yet to receive any help, the citizens having to rely on each other to rebuild and start over. The most recent quake managed to knock down a few buildings down the street and off in the distance she could see smoke rising and hear the screams of people rushing to put out fires and rescue those trapped in the rubble. High above the city, Mount Vesuvius had started smoking and terror gripped the girl in the pit of her stomach. She hoped the priests were right and that Vulcan would find this year’s sacrifice acceptable.

*****

While I know it’s far too late to catch anyone’s attention this year, I’m hoping the story will get picked up in a holiday romance compilation very soon 🙂 Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!

New Release Announcement

Greetings and salutations!

Apologies for the silence but as I mentioned in July, I have been hard at work on revamping the Crystal Palace Chronicles series. Originally the stories I had in mind for Heroes and Hearts and Descendants of Quendaris were one and the same but I figured I would expand the story into two books, giving Isabel and Nancy their own stories. Well, the ladies and their heroes made it abundantly clear that they did not like to be separated and I was unable to work on book 3 until I went back and fixed a few things. So the couples are together again in an even bigger, more elaborate adventure!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Chronicles of Quendaris, Book One: The Heart of Kendra. Estimated release date: November 15, 2013 in ebook and paperback form!

Synopsis

She wanted help from no man, yet she had a vulnerability that drew him to her.

For a quarter of a century, war has ravaged lands, torn families apart and destroyed lives. It even affected those oblivious to the fact there even was a war. Isabel Kendra, a chef raised by a single mother in New Jersey, flees from her home after being attacked on a dark and stormy night. She soon finds herself embroiled in a battle against fallen deities, witches and monsters bent on her destruction while finding the balance between drawing on inner strength and accepting help from a dashing prince insistent on coming to her rescue.

She was no one’s pawn!

Groomed to be the perfect Southern belle, debutante and trophy wife in Texas, Nancy has had every aspect of her life dictated to her and she’s sick of it! The sudden death of her parents sets Nancy on an adventure filled with spies and intrigue, magic and of course, an arranged marriage she wants no part of.

Deep within the dark depths of the earth an ancient enemy awakens from his slumber…

Determined as ever to conquer the world, the Goblin King wakes to discover his chance to win the war, and only an ancient and powerful magic can defeat him. Do Isabel and Nancy have what it takes to lead the Crystal Palace Alliance to victory, reveal a traitor, and bring peace to Otherealm once and for all?