Once again, I have decided to participate in Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge, at Terrible Minds. This one is particularly interesting because he gave parameters, but had the participants use a random generator to choose the numbers that corresponded to the various options. My numbers were 2 (Erotic Fairytale), 1 (High School Prom) and 5 (A Talking Sword), and it can be no more than 1,500 words. Umm. Putting the capital C in Challenge! Here is what I came up with:
I ducked under a tangle of crepe paper hanging from the rafters and glanced around the darkened high school gym. The room was crowded with young couples swaying awkwardly to a slow song as the disco ball overhead threw flashes of light everywhere.
Ugh. High school hadn't gotten any better over the last 500 years, and I wanted to the hell out there as quickly as possible.
Of all places to hide the item I was searching for, this would have been the last I'd have thought to look in. Doc was a pain in my ass, but the dwarf's vast knowledge of esoteric crap did come in handy once in a while.
I edged my way through the gym, attempting to be inconspicuous. Get in, retrieve the item for my client and get out without making the evening news. That was my goal tonight. A boy, no more than seventeen and stupid with it, stepped into my path, a self assured smirk on his face. Did I look like a cheerleader to him? I narrowed my eyes and he backed away immediately, going pale.
Using the dim lighting as cover, I slipped behind the bleachers and began to count the bricks along the wall.
12...13...14...Ah. Here it was.
Marked with a faint X in the lower right corner, and looking a bit loose around the edges, was the chunk of stone that proved the dwarf's theory out. A frisson of excitement shivered through me. I carefully worked the brick from the wall, then pried out the ones surrounding it, creating a long rectangular open space. I blew away the grit and peered inside. A slender bundle, almost the length of my arm, lay wrapped in cloth. I reached in and drew it out with careful hands, hardly daring to breathe.
The Lost Sword of Spraak.
Cautious not to disturb the wrapping, I shoved it into the large pack I carried. The payment from this job would be more than enough to tide me over for the next few months. Maybe I could even stay in my rental for more than a few weeks. It wasn't exactly a dream apartment, but I was so tired. The constant looking over my shoulder, the running, the fleeing, had worn me thin, down to the very essence of my soul. I was afraid if I didn't get some rest soon there would be nothing of me left.
And although it wasn't my death, in a way, it would mean that she had won. I couldn't allow that.
Hitching my pack onto one shoulder, I turned to go. A shadow blocked my exit from the bleachers as a large man, his dark hair tied in a queue at the nape of his neck, ducked under. He straightened, narrowly missing bashing his head on the metal risers and crossed his arms, a smirk on his full lips.
"Going somewhere, Snow?"
Shit. I was so sure after the dumpster incident in Cincinnati that I had lost Hunter, but the man seemed to have a preternatural ability to track me down.
I dropped my pack and the sword slid out partway, hitting the floor with a clang as the cloth rolled back a little, revealing the ornate hilt. Drawing a dagger from the small of my back, I grinned, a rush of adrenaline heating my blood. We had been doing this dance for half a millennium, ever since I had fled the Palace at sixteen. The False Queen had murdered my father in his bed and then set her sights on me, thinking to shore up her claim to the throne. But she found it harder than she had thought to kill me and after several failed attempts, she set Hunter on my tail.
Where he had been ever since.
"I'm on a job, Hunter, and if I have go through you to finish it, I will."
After a few centuries, he had stopped really trying to behead me and I had mostly stopped attempting to gut him. It was more of a game now, a test of our skills.
Or maybe foreplay.
The music had changed. The scream of guitars and thunder of drums echoed through the gym, pumping through my blood, as we circled each other carefully in the dim light under the metal risers. Despite the poor lighting, I could see the play of muscles beneath his shirt, the way his powerful thighs flexed under a worn layer of denim. It was always like this for me; attempting to ignore the heat of my attraction for Hunter while avoiding the deadly slice of his jagged blade.
But there was no glint of metal in his hand tonight.
I glanced up and met his eyes, my throat going dry at the reflection of my own desire I could see roiling within the brilliant green depths. I licked my lips, tightening my slack grip on my weapon.
"The Queen is dead."
His words froze me in place. The woman who had murdered my beloved father, stolen everything I had ever held dear and driven me to the very ends of the earth was...dead? I raised my gaze, terrified to hope, fearful that his announcement was just another way to put me off my guard. But Hunter stood stock still in the shadows, his hands open at his sides, burning intensity written across his face.
My voice sounded rusty, as if it hadn't been used in a decade.
"Very, last time I looked." One smile curled the side of his mouth, and Hunter stepped forward. I brought the dagger up but it was more of a reflex and he ignored it, moving closer until our bodies brushed. "Do you understand what this means, Snow?"
I stared up at him, shaking my head in confusion. The sensual movement of his lips, framed by the dark glitter of his trim beard, sent a shiver of desire sliding down my spine, wrapping around my limbs and settling in my belly with a warm glow.
"This means—" Hunter's lips brushed my forehead, then my cheekbone, as he worked his way toward my mouth. My fingers went numb, and the dagger landed at our feet with a clang. "This means that the Queen's geas is broken. And I can do what I've been dying to do for the last four centuries."
His lips came crashing down and he wrapped his arms around my ass, hoisting me up. I automatically wrapped my legs around his waist, pressing myself against the hard, heated length of him entrapped in denim. We ripped at each other's clothing, panting with the need to feel skin against skin. Hunter tripped over my pack, nearly sending us both to the floor, slamming my back against the cement wall.
"Sorry, sorry!" His voice muffled, Hunter never lifted his head from where it was buried in my now bare breasts.
I winced at the soreness along my spine, knowing it would hurt more tomorrow, but couldn't stop the snickers that spilled out as I struggled to wrestle his tee shirt over his head.
"It's fine, I'm fine, don't stop."
Finally, we managed to shed our clothes, for the most part. He thrust, invading, conquering, giving me exactly want I needed. I moaned, dropping my head back against the wall, all amusement gone. Now, there was only the beat of the thundering music and the feel of him moving in me. He gripped my ass, pressing my back against the chill wall and I held him to me, my hands buried deep in his loosened hair. Sensation built, spiraling, pushing and I knew I was almost there. Hunter must have felt the ratcheting tension of my body, because his hips pumped faster, shoving me over the edge.
I bit down hard on the sleek muscle of his shoulder as I came, sending him into spasms of pleasure as he shuddered, his mouth pressed against my throat.
There was an odd sound, almost like a bell.
I blinked, glancing down at the pack where it sat next to Hunter's abandoned jeans. The Lost Sword of Spraak was glowing, the eerie noise coming from it building into a shrill ringing. Before we could move, there was a flash of green light that had me throwing my hand over my eyes as a searing pain stabbed my head. Hunter swore, letting go of me and I slid down the wall as he pressed the heels of his palms to his own eyes.
The light began to fade, almost as if it was folding itself back into the sword, leaving us both shaken and unsteady. Just before it disappeared completely, a deep voice extolled, "Done, and done."
And then it was just a sword again, the metal glinting dull in the dim light under the high school bleachers.
Hunter and I stared at it, then each other. What the hell was that?
"I think we're gonna need clothes for this."
I was tagged in The Next Big Thing blog tour by Roxanne Ravenel and Megan Paasch, and if you've been to Lady Scribes, you know how much I like a good interview. No matter what side of the table I'm on! I couldn't possibly say no. It would be rude.
Anyway, I'm going to answer a few questions about what I'm working on, have worked on, will work on, etc, etc, so on and so forth, cheese and sprinkles, Amen.
And away we go...
1. What is the working title of your book?Bad Intentions. I love this title. It makes me want to read the book, so I figured it might draw a reader's attention too.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?I'm not sure anymore. It's been so long since I started the book. Most likely a song, though. I almost always get the kernel of my ideas from a song. Even the pop and rap songs. All I need is a good hook, or even just a phrase.3. What genre does your book fall under?Regency Romance, or possibly Historical Romance.4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?The hero, Gray (The Earl of Belhaven), has always been Ian Somerhalder. Always. With a little less eye and nostril flaring, though. That smirk, that lazy, sarcastic, bitter facade, hellbent on revenge no matter who gets in the way? Gray, to a tee.I have an image of Lady Charlotte on my Pinterest page, and I have no idea who she actually is! But she is perfect. Same coloring and everything. I was drawn to the picture immediately and knew exactly who she was- for me.
The only other character I have cast is Ryland Walsh, Belhaven's younger bastard half-brother. He's Irish, gorgeous, disillusioned and angry. That was an easy pick! Jonathon Rhys Meyers, of course.5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?The duplicity of a friend and the woman he thought to marry has left Gray Brantford, the Earl of Belhaven, with only one option; the subversion and seduction of his enemy's sister, the intractable and delicious Lady Charlotte.(Okay, that was incredibly hard. Two or three sentences would have been perfect. One? Gah!)
6. If you plan to publish, will your book be self-published or published traditionally?
I don't know yet. I'm planning to submit it to agents and publishers once I'm done with my revisions, but who knows what the future will hold? 7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?Ha! Yeah. Hmm. Eight months, maybe? A year? It was very stop and go. I had (have?) no idea what I was doing! It's the first full length novel I've ever written. Since I finished I have written two novellas and they are being sold on Amazon, etc. But that first draft was tough. And terrible. Ooo. It was BAD. And not in a good way, but bad bad. Yikes. It's still a bit messy and needs some cleaning up, but the first chapter won The Heart2Heart contest for Historical Romance this year, so I take that as a sign of encouragement!
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?Worst question ever. You're asking me to compare myself to authors I love. I can't do it. But... I've asked around and here is what people tell me.Tessa DareMary BaloghSuzzane EnochJulia Quinn
(Eep! I should be so lucky!)9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?I ran out of books to read at the library? Haha! Hmm. Just the love of a good story, I suppose. I've always had little scenes floating around in my head, characters that come and go, act out their parts and dialogue, then drift away. One day I just figured I should try to get them to stay a while...10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?Let's think... Bad boys and good girls, fancy parties, fabulous fashion, art, gilded and frivolous Regency England, the dark and dangerous underbelly of London, seduction, retribution and redemption, and a whole lot fun in between. The road to revenge is paved with bad intentions...
To tag the next batch of writers for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Have fun, ladies!Gina Miel HeronMaire ClaremontErica MonroeSamantha Grace Catherine Gayle
Gray, Earl of Belhaven, thinker of bad thoughts, doer of bad deeds, man with a secret.
The frustratingly loyal Lady Charlotte Patterson.
Rylan, bastard younger brother to Belhaven, and...er...self-made man.
I'm really late announcing this on my blog, but in late October, I found out that I won the Historical Romance catagory in the Heart2Heart contest! You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard the news. SO. EXCITING!
The Heart2Heart contest is held every year by the lovelies at SFA Romance Writers of America. The contest has several different categories for unpublished authors to compete in, historical only being one. It was a huge honor just to final in the contest (along with one of my critique partners Robin Delaney- how fun is THAT?!) and to win feels amazing.
People keep asking me what I won, haha! Umm. Bragging rights? Confidence? Validation? Yes. All of it!
It's a heady feeling, a contest win. Enough to send my tiptoeing to the edge of contest-whoredom, but I decided to just take my win and be happy. I don't need ten wins or finals. I got exactly what I wanted: a good feeling and some great feedback from the judges.
I'm now working on polishing a Regency romance novella, which should come out in the next two weeks. (Crossing my fingers!) I am also revising the full book length Regency romance, Bad Intentions, that won the Heart2Heart. They only saw one chapter, thankfully, because...it still needs some work. I hope to finish that soon and get it out the door, on its way to agents and editors!
I have several other projects in the works and many, many ideas lined up in my mental queue. I'm just not happy if I don't have at least three projects going at once, although it makes it hard to keep everyone's names straight sometimes!
So, that's what's up with me. Drop by Lady Scribes sometime and say Hello, okay? ;D
This is my entry for the Terrible Minds Halloween Flash Fiction Challenge (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/10/26/flash-fiction-challenge-game-of-aspects-halloweenie-edition/). I've never written horror in any form before, so this was a fun mental stretch for me! And damn Chuck Wendig and his "must not exceed 100 words" rule- cutting the piece down from 1,146 to 1,000 was like tearing small, vital chunks of my soul out. No, I am in no way dramatizing this. Anywho, here goes nothing...
New Orleans, 1802
"Bonsoir, cher. What is a handsome man like you doing walking all alone?"
The whore's call pulled Ethan from his musings, and he glanced up. A woman stood a few feet away leaning against the wooden wall of a seedy tavern, her face hidden by shadows.
"Need a woman?" she asked idly.
Clearing his throat, Ethan shoved his spectacles back up his nose and blinked. He looked over his shoulder but the darkened New Orleans street was empty, willows drooping over rickety, crooked fences.
Women never talked to him. He was invisible. Well, not really, but he might as well be. Ethan was...forgettable.
He cast around for something to say. "Um. Thank you, but...but I am...late."
"I can give you pleasure like you've never known."
Her voice was throaty and smooth, like fire-warmed whiskey, but it scraped along Ethan's skin like a rusty metal comb.
The back of his neck itched, a persistent little sting.
Shadows swirled around the woman as she moved forward. Nerves snapped as Ethan edged back half a step, one hand going to the spot on his neck now itching with a vengeance. He massaged absently, all his focus on the form sliding through the dim light.
The whore stepped into the yellow glow of the gas-lit street lamp, her long skirts swinging gently, and relief eased through him.
A trick of the night. An over-active imagination.
The young woman in front of him wasn't alarming at all. Why, she was quite charming, in fact. He couldn't fathom how he had thought her a prostitute at all.
Blond ringlets were tucked up under a trim little hat perched on her head at a jaunty angle. High cheekbones, a delicate frame, and a distinct elegance declared that this woman was a lady.
She called to him. A fascination with her gilded curls and lush figure took root and dug deep in a matter of seconds. His blood crackled and heated.
"Mademoiselle," he breathed, moving toward her. Such a tiny thing. She needed to be protected, sheltered. Worshipped.
Cocking her head to the side, a smile played on her red, red lips as the woman pressed herself to him, her curvaceous body soft and warm. Unthinking, Ethan slid one arm around her tiny waist. She smelled like night jasmine, a heady scent that enthralled him.
"Would you help me? I just need a small favor."
She looked at him with hope on her exquisite face. Ethan swelled with reckless, almost drunken pride. She needed him. He would do anything for her, anything at all.
"Of course, mademoiselle. Your wish will be my very command."
The lady's smile widened now, pearly teeth flashing in the gloom. "You offer me aid in any form I should choose, of free will?"
Strange wording, but Ethan's wits flowed sluggishly, his natural caution dulled. Desire surged through him, sharp and jagged. He touched one golden curl where it lay against the tops of her pale breasts.
"I am yours."
Satisfaction flared brightly within that cerulean gaze, and the woman's expression turned fierce. Her lids lowered, giving her a sensual, slumberous look. His trousers grew even tighter. Ethan wanted her desperately, his muscles rigid with anticipation and sweat dampening his brow. He held her closer, but she slipped from his grasp with a low laugh, her eyes dancing with wickedness.
"Now, now, my darling. All in good time."
But he wanted her now. He needed her now.
Ethan stepped forward again, confused by her sudden withdrawal, but she paid him no mind.
"Ah, I hate to do this in such a dirty place. So vulgar. Ridicule," she muttered.
Ethan's confusion grew, and the beginnings of unease stirred within him. He shook his head, muddled as if he had been drinking, but he hadn't had a drop this evening. Had he?
This never happened to him. Women didn't choose Ethan, for anything, to be frank. He was just a barrister's clerk, and a poor one at that.
Ethan shook his head again, the skin on the back of his neck prickling hard enough to draw a gasp from his lips. The lady turned back sharply, her blue eyes narrowing.
"Oh, no you don't. I'm starving."
"I don't...I don't understand," Ethan said weakly. Everything stilled, as if the night itself held its breath. Murky fog hung in the air, and even the muffled sounds of the nearby tavern were silenced.
The woman's skin seemed to thin until she looked almost cadaverous, bones protruding sharply, gleaming teeth elongating. Breath strangling in his throat, Ethan staggered back as she glided forward, sinuous, as she stalked him.
"You will understand everything, Ethan Richard Hadley, in but a few moments." The thing in front of him captured his wrist in a lightning motion, her grip as unbreakable as iron. The sensual spell she had cast over him snapped. Menace poured off her, its strength frightening Ethan. The ravenous blue of her eyes now burned with an unearthly evil.
"How do you know my name?"
Her grin was hard, victorious. "Everything you are is mine now...or it will be very soon."
Fear clamored and horror screamed inside Ethan's mind. He pulled frantically against her, but he couldn't break the creature's grip. He must get away. She was danger; she was death. His death. He could see it now in her eyes.
"Come now, darling," the thing crooned, inexorably drawing him out of the light and taking him with her into the inky dark of the alley. "Come, come..."
Ethan fought her, cursing and jerking against his bondage like a wild animal caught in a hunter's snare, but soon the darkness swallowed him. A scream rent the air, full of despair and pain, dwindling to whimpers before it was silenced.
The street was quiet again. Peaceful. The fog slid away and the stars came out, twinkling down on the city and her inhabitants, who were blissfully unaware of what walked amongst them.
I've taken this excerpt from The Lady and the Duke, my current work in progress. Here's a small lead up to the passage I've lifted:
Lady Audrey is in a bit of a muddle. Just a few days ago she had been kissed nearly brainless by an eligible, intelligent, amusing man, one William Langston, Duke of Halford (with a dimple, no less). However, his lips had barely left hers before apologies and decrees were being thrown all over the place. She couldn't help but be insulted. One moment he's staring at her with that intense, melted chocolate gaze, in the next his back is stiffer than a post and he's attempting to send her from his presence.
It's enough to give a girl a complex.
Less than a week later, Audrey encounters Will at a garden party and is uncertain of what to do. Ignore him? Freeze him out? Pretend nothing happened? None of that is her style, which consists more of saying whatever happens to occupy the forefront of her mind at the moment. Will asks her to walk in the garden and to her surprise, she finds herself accepting. Perhaps it's the dimple. Perhaps it's the way he always seems to be watching her with those dark eyes. Or, perhaps it's the kiss that she just can't shake...
A little frisson of shock went through her at his words and she studied him a moment, then a tug of reluctant amusement lifted one corner of Audrey’s mouth. “So, what you are saying is, you are apologizing for the apology?”
He seemed to consider this carefully.
“Yes, that sounds right.”
Audrey snorted. “You’re cracked in the head, do you know that?”
Hi everyone!It's been a while since I posted a blog, and I just wanted to let you know that it may a little while longer before I start up regular posts again. I am neck deep in several manuscripts at the moment and having a hard time finding time for small things, like blogging...or sleep.In the meanwhile, however, you can find me twice a month at The Lady Scribes Blog. (http://ladyscribes.blogspot.com/) I was so honored to be asked to be a part of that talented group of ladies, in the new year, and I'm having a lot of fun over there.Also- I am working on a novella that I might just self-publish early this spring. Like the Danby Anthology, it's set in Regency England, but it has a much lighter, fun tone to it than Harry and Lily's story. I'm really enjoying writing it! So, be on the look-out for news about the novella. I'll let you know when I'm getting ready to publish it. Of course, I'm still waiting to hear back from the Golden Heart, since they don't post finalists until about March, I think. I decided that the agony of uncertainty wasn't enough, so I'm going to also enter a manuscript in the Beau Monde's Royal Ascot writing contest. The Beau Monde is a special Romance Writers of America chapter devoted to all things Regency. For the untested and unpublished Regency author, this move is akin to running the gauntlet through a ring of burning fire...over hot coals...naked...while everyone stands around with their iPhones and snaps pictures. I'm looking forward to it!Umm. What else?Oh! I bought my tickets and reserved my room for the Romance Writers of America's national conference this July, in California. I am so excited! My husband is thoroughly sick of listening to how excited I am, and we still have six more months to go. He's a good guy, though. He just nods and smiles, and pretends to listen with glazed eyes. If any of you are going, feel free to stop me in the hall or wherever and introduce yourself. I love meeting new people, especially romance writers and readers!So, that's what's new with me. What's new with you?
So, I read this blog tonight that says blogs don't matter. Okay, correction: most
blogs don't matter. Do you know why? Because the blogger has no idea what they want to achieve with their blog. Or they do, but they might be using the wrong format to get their message out. Or they think bigger is always better, and fail to produce a blog of quality that reaches their core target properly.
I think the author of the blog I read is right. (I mean, there are some pretty stupid blogs out there, let's face it.)
Then, I started thinking. Do I know what I hope to achieve with my
blog? Is it for writers? Is it for readers? Is it because I enjoy the sound of my own typing?
(That might be it, actually.)
Because some days, my posting is sheer, spot-on brilliance... and other days I fumble around saying profound things such as "I can see Russia from my backyard. You betcha!". Why do I do it anyway? Because I want to, and because I can. I love crafting fun, snarky little posts and I'm probably the person who visits my site most on blog days, just to enjoy my own witticisms. I know that most of the people who drop by never comment (because I get reports, lurkers!), but I enjoy chatting with the few brave souls who do comment.
I figured out why I blog. I do it for the fun of it. If I learn something along the way, or teach someone something (odds aren't likely), then that's gravy. But, what I really want to do is make you smile.
True? Without a doubt.
There's enough doom and gloom in this world to go around. Me, I'd like to spread a little cheer. If you're having a crappy morning, if you spilled berry smoothie all over your front hallway on the way to work, if you hate your new, smarmy boss, if your editor is making you insane, then hopefully, for just a few moments, you can open this blog and have a laugh. So, that's my goal. And I don't care if it reaches five thousand people, or just five, as long as it reaches them.
And, you know what?
I'm good with that.
Good morning everyone! To celebrate sending off my entry to the Romance Writers of America’s national contest for unpublished writers (The Golden Heart) I decided to interview the lead male character in my novel (named Blankety Blank for the purposes of this blog.) I tracked him down one afternoon in the library of his extensive townhouse in the Mayfair district of London.
“Good afternoon, my lord! I’m here as we previously discussed, for the interview.” Lord Belhaven squints up at me from where he is laying on a couch, then throws his arm back over his eyes.
“Yes, well, I’m not sure why I need to wake up at this ungodly hour. Couldn’t we have arranged to do this at a more civilized time?”
“It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, my lord.”
“Is it? Huh. All right, then,” he sighs, and heaves himself into a sitting position, his jacket terminally crushed from sleeping in it and his cravat in a heap on the floor. “I suppose I shouldn’t have stayed out drinking and gambling until four o’clock with Alex, but it’s no use crying over spilt brandy.”
“Um, okay. Can we start now?”
“What? Oh, yes –begin.” He waves his hand graciously, leaning back against the cushions. I seat myself across him in a large wingback chair and open my notes, folding my hands primly on my lap.
“So, Lord Belhaven, how do you like being a hero in your very own book?” I ask brightly. He looks at me blankly for a moment.
“My own what?”
“Your own book. I wrote a book titled Blankety-Blank, and you are the star. Well, sort of. You do share the book with several other people.” I explain patiently.
“Oh, well, I guess I’m…pleased?” He cocks his head to the side, considering. “Yes, I’m pleased. Although, I would re-name the book. Shabby title, in my opinion. Perhaps something like The Wonderful Lord Belhaven or The Exciting and Amazing Amorous Adventures of a Handsome Earl?” He grins and waggles his eyebrows at me, pushing back a hank of overly long, silky black hair that flopped into his eyes.
“Er, yes. I’ll take that under advisement.” I pause and look down at my notes to re-orient myself. Even when used benignly, the earl’s smile packs a punch and I need a moment to recover. “Soo, you aren’t upset then about Miss Langford, then?”
The earl slowly sits up, his dark brown eyes narrowing. “What do you mean? Everything is going swimmingly with Miss Langford. I was just thinking last night that it was time to talk to her father, and make an offer for the girl.”
“Oh, well…about that.” I shift uncomfortably.
“Yes?” he asks ominously, leaning forward. I lean away as casually as possible, and take a deep breath.
“She-ran-off-with-your-best-friend-and-now-everyone-is-laughing-at-you!” I say it quickly, squelching my eyes shut in trepidation.
I open one eye carefully, peeking at the motionless figure of the earl sitting in front of me, staring at me with a blank expression.
“Say that again,” he says, his voice empty.
“She ran off? With the Earl of Conway? Your best friend?” I squeak, my nervousness making my statements sound more like questions.
“Pardon me, I’ll be right back.” I watch as the earl carefully stands up and calmly walks out of the room, quietly shutting the door behind him. I lean forward, straining my ears , my notebook sliding off my lap and onto the floor.
Belhaven wrenches open the door and strides back in, his dark hair disheveled; the dust of what must have been several priceless antique vases still clinging to his trouser hem. I jump up from my chair, but he waves me back down. I sit gingerly and pick up my notebook, as he throws himself onto the couch across from me again, breathing heavily through his nose.
“Right. As you were saying?”
“Oh, um. Okay.” I clear my throat, but he just stares at me with unreadable, heavy lidded eyes. “I’m sorry it was such a surprise, but-“
“I’m sorry it was such a shock, but not to worry,” I continue loudly. “You can still fulfill the conditions of your father’s will! You end up marrying Charlotte Patterson, so you see? It all works out.”
“Oh, for the love of… Are you trying to kill me, woman? Mirabelle runs off with Conway, and you replace her with his little sister, The Terror of Wiltshire? The Great Pest? The Pain in My-“
“Yes, yes! I understand it will take some getting used to but you’ll thank me in the end, I promise.”
“Not likely,” he says succinctly, folding his arms and glaring at me. I glare back. “I’m baffled as to why in the world you would think to pair me with her? Is she even of age yet?”
“She is almost twenty-one, my lord, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised when you finally take a good look at her. She’s really quite pretty.”
“She’d have to be, to make up for that mouth. Charlotte Patterson,” he scoffs. “Of all the crazy ideas…” He trails off, a thoughtful look coming over his face. He hums, then taps his lips with his fingers. I want to ask what he’s thinking but when I open my mouth, he shoots me a quelling look and I close it again quickly.
“Actually, madam, your suggestion may have some merit after all.”
“Um, it does? I mean, yes, it does!” I’m confused at his sudden good cheer.
“I will seduce the Patterson chit, ruining her thoroughly, and torture her brother by pretending to think about whether or not I’ll marry her. By the time I give in gracefully, he’ll be reduced to begging. I’ll get my revenge and my inheritance. You, madam, are a genius.”
“No, no! I meant that you are going to fall in love with Charlotte, and live happily ever after.”
He snorts. “Do not hold your breath. That will never happen.”
“It will.” I insist.
“Truly, you have delusions of grandeur. Even you, my writer friend, will never persuade me that love isn’t merely for fools and babies.”
“I’m not the one who will do the persuading, my lord.”
He merely shakes his head patronizingly, and flashes me another one of those blindingly sexy grins, causing my brain to fizzle. When I manage to pull it together, he is wandering the library, searching the shelves and muttering something about some military strategy book named The Art of War. I sit for another few moments, but he seems to have forgotten me. As I quietly gather my things and tiptoe out the door, I glance over my shoulder at the tall, handsome dark-haired lord. I laugh to myself and slip out the door, letting it swing shut silently behind me.
In our house, family gatherings = food. Every Friday night, my husband and I pack up the boys and head to my parents' house two streets away, for dinner. It's not usually fancy, but we all look forward to this communal meal, especially my sons, who know that Nana and Pocky (don't ask!) keep the BEST desserts. Which, to them, means Little Debbies.
Sometimes we throw together a pasta dish, sometimes we roast a chicken and make rice, sometimes we grill. But the food is just the excuse to bring us together, to spend some time as a family and catch our breath at the end of a hectic week. It's our signal that the weekend has begun, and even if we are scheduled up to our ears, it's the cue for us to relax and let the stress of the week go. It doesn't hurt that we polish off a bottle or two of wine in the process.
When I was growing up, we had BIG family gatherings with my dad's family for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. I have many, many cousins and the holidays all saw a packed, noisy house with tons of food and roaming children. We rotated where each holiday was held every year, because it was so much work -but it was always fun. As my cousins and I grew older, into our teen years, we began to disappear after dinner, heading out to the pool hall (where my male cousins taught me pool -or tried to, anyway) or even just to sit out on the front stoop, away from our parents. Sometimes I miss those days. Things seem pretty simple when you are fourteen, stuffed full of your grandma's mashed potatoes and laughing at your cousin's goofy antics.
Holidays now are much quieter, since most years it's just my husband, my parents, the boys and me -but they can be just as enjoyable, I've found. I get to spend more time actually talking to my parents and husband, and the boys always like being the center of attention, so that works out well for them. I've also found that the holidays are less stressful; more about the process of cooking, and watching football, and putting together puzzles and Lego towers. I'm looking forward to watching Ralphie be humiliated by having to wear that big pink bunny suit, and getting to see all the balloon floats in the Macy's parade.
I'm looking forward to setting out the china and crystal, since we only get to use it two or three times a year. (Five and three year old boys -do I really need to say anything more?)
And this year I have something extra to look forward to! My cousin is flying up from Florida to share Thanksgiving with us, and the boys are SO excited. It will be nice to have a guest for the holiday. I enjoy all the little things you do when you have company... like clean.
I have much to be thankful for this year, and I think I will make it my own personal goal to stand still at some point on Thursday, and just take it all in. So, remember, when you are stressing about getting all the food to the table at the perfect temp, or when someone tracks dirt into the house, or when you send your spouse out for cranberries and they come back with jelly in a can- take a deep breath, relax and be grateful for what you have. And don't forget to save room for dessert....
Here's a recipe that I decided I want to try this year. I love cranberries, and take every opportunity to use them when cooking for the holidays. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter (or margarine)
1 1/4 cups cranberries (fresh)
1/2 cup chopped pecan (or walnuts, if you prefer)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature (or margarine)
3/4 cup white sugar (I prefer to use brown sugar all the way through)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (if you want whole wheat, use pastry flour b/c it's not as heavy)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon saltDirections
(Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent leaking. (You can also use a regular cake pan, but line it first with parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the sides for easier removal from the pan.) Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter. Bring to a boil, then pour into bottom of springform pan. Sprinkle with cranberries and pecans.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream. Pour batter into prepared pan.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter and carefully remove pan. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.
No blog today, just something to get you over Hump Day, and hopefully tickle your funny-bone. Cheers!