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…?”
“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!