Cover Reveal Blitz: London Calling

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Today I am sharing the cover for

LONDON CALLING:
Three Scintillating Victorian Steampunk Tales.

This anthology is a steampunk romance title from After Glows Publishing, and it will be releasing on October 17th. Check out the cover and the books for the anthology below.

 

LONDON CALLING:

Three Scintillating Victorian Steampunk Tales

by Sorcha Mowbray,

TL Reeve & Michele Ryan,

and Dena Garson

Coming October 17

 

Book Blurb:

Take a journey to Victorian London where an assassin meets her match, zombies invade, and top scientists go missing.

Four talented authors come together to bring you three BRAND NEW, full length Victorian steampunk novels of seduction, adventure, and mystery.

A look inside..

Seducing the Assassin (Book 1, The Ladies League) by Sorcha Mowbray

Josephine Stanton, Madame and assassin, has another assignment to eliminate an enemy of the Queen. Too bad John Griffin, The Earl of Melton, has no intention of dying.  Neither of the pair expects the heat that steams them up between the sheets and ultimately sets New Victorian London on its ear.

Darkness Rises by TL Reeve and Michele Ryan

A zombie horde has invaded London, England. Jonah McRae and his band of ghoulish Dreadfuls are London’s only hope. However, when Annabelle Craig threatens his mission he doesn’t know whether to kill her or claim her as his. Can the hunter and the huntee team together to take down the horde? Or will London be lost forever?

Her Clockwork Heart By Dena Garson

During her search for her missing brother, Trixie is reunited with Nathaniel, the man she never stopped loving. Sensing that Trixie might be in danger, Nathaniel lends his skills as an investigator to her efforts. Their love is rekindled as they race across the country looking for clues to more than one mystery.

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AUTHOR BIOS:

Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.

She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!

Website | Facebook ProfileFacebook Page | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter | Goodreads

TL Reeve, a best selling, multi-published author with Cobblestone Press, Decadent Publishing, Evernight Publishing, and Loose-Id, was born out of a love of family and a bond that became unbreakable. Living in Alabama, TL misses Los Angeles, and will one day return to the beaches of Southern California. When not writing something hot and sexy, TL can be found curled up with a good book, or working on homework with a cute little pixie
Michele Ryan is an author with Decadent and After Glows Publishing. She embraced her creative passion and co-authored several books with fellow author TL Reeve. Michele has also published two solo novellas. Michele is a lifelong resident of the state of New Jersey, along with her husband and three children, whom she refers to as her hobbits. When Michele is not plotting or writing, she can be found either volunteering at her children’s school or reading.

Website | Facebook ProfileFacebook Page | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter | Goodreads

Dena Garson is an award winning author of contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi romance. She holds a BBA and a MBA in Business and works in the wacky world of quality and process improvement. Making up her own reality on paper is what keeps her sane.
She is the mother of two rowdy boys, two rambunctious cats (AKA the fuzzy jerks), and a loving Labrador. When she isn’t writing you can find her at her at the sewing machine or stringing beads. She is also a devoted Whovian and Dallas Cowboys fan.

Website  | Blog | Facebook Profile | Facebook Page | Twitter | Pintrest | Goodreads | Newsletter

 

 

Sexy Fairy Tales special promo!

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Grab a bunch of fairy tales with oh-so-happy endings and enter to win an Echo Dot!

These 40 books all add something new and different to time-honored tales we all grew up with. Cinderella. Beauty and the Beast. Sleeping Beauty. Rumpelstiltskin. Rapunzel. Little Red Riding Hood. Alice in Wonderland. Snow White. Hansel & Gretel. Goldilocks. Celtic and other old world myths as well. From the well-known to the lesser-known, new tales await you!

My book, Darkest Magic, is included in the promotion.

 

DARKEST MAGIC

 

Nik Epperstein’s alpha lost his mate two years ago and took an evil witch as his new bride. Ever since then, Eli’s leadership has become violent, bordering on insane. When Eli attacks him, Nik’s healing powers mysteriously vanish. He can’t defend himself, nor protect the wolf he secretly loves. Only through the help of a foul-mouthed witch and an overly-dramatic dwarf will he save her – but their assistance comes at a price.

 

Caroline has tried for two years to lure Nik into her bed and can’t understand his hesitation.  After all, she senses their mating bond loud and clear. Then Nik disappears. She confronts her father who tells her Nik is dead, and she’s next on his chopping block.  Without Nik to protect her, she flees the pack and is kidnapped by a man half her size.

 

Reunited at last, the young wolves have one last chance to ignite their bond. But love must wait when battle looms. Eli and his wife attack, and aren’t above using dirty tricks to win. If Nik and Caroline survive the battle, the dwarf and his wife will require them to make a promise that will change their lives forever…

EXCERPT: Nik frustrates Caroline

 

Caroline inhaled Nik’s woodsy scent and longed to rub herself against his flannel shirt and jeans. The man was gorgeous to look at. His dark hair swept low over his brow in an effortlessly sexy style. The stubble on his chin and cheeks lent him an outdoor-rough manly appeal few pulled off as well. She sighed and desire flooded her from head to toe. But, as usual, the desire left her unfulfilled. After all these years, Nik still hadn’t made a move on her.

Frustrated, but ever hopeful, she rounded the corner of the woodshed and pretended to bump right into him. He caught her easily, his warm, gentle hands circling her waist. For a few seconds, their bodies touched from chest to hip. The tingle zinged through her like an electric charge. Oh, God, how she wanted to give herself over to the wave of lust washing over her. The trouble would be getting Nik to go along for the ride. “Nik,” she breathed, raising her arms and putting her hands behind his neck. She slanted her mouth upward, lips parted in a blatant invitation. She sensed the instant his cock went hard. It pressed against her mound firm as an iron rod, making her womb clench. “Sorry for intruding,” she murmured.

His mouth sank toward hers until it hovered tantalizingly close then abruptly stopped. He released her and backed out of her reach, running his fingers through his hair as though trying to make sense of something. She missed the touch immediately and resisted the urge to fist her hands and scream. Nik’s hesitation more than exasperated her; it made her want to kick him in the ass.

“No problem, Cari.” He flashed her his usual conspirator’s smile. “What kind of trouble are you getting into today?”

She huffed, gritting her teeth as she slapped her thighs. “Nothing, really.” But I’d like to, if you’d only cooperate, you infuriating man. Taking another chance, she stepped close enough to whisper in his ear, “But if you have any ideas, let me know.”

Nik tilted his head back and gave a light chuckle. She took the opportunity to touch his chest, swiping her fingers across his solid pec. When he brought his head forward once more, his smoldering eyes set the region between her legs on fire. Oh yes, please, Nik. Please.

Buy Links:

Decadent Publishing

Amazon

Amazon UK

Readers Only #Giveaway from Secret Legends

***Attention Readers***Reader’s Only Giveaway***

secretlegends_giveaway

Help us spread the word out about Secret Legends, and in return, you go in the drawing to win these amazing prizes. All you have to do is like and/or share this post. Thanks and good luck!

1. PURPLE AND BLACK STEAMPUNK STYLE GOTHIC CORSET LONG PROM DRESS FROM DEVILNIGHT;
2. KINDLE FIRE (7”)
3. BRACELET & BITCH FACE COMESTICS EYESHADOW & LIP GLOSS;
4.SCENTED CANDLES (THE LIBRARY SET) AND NOVEL TEA WITH LITERARY QUOTES;
5. DRAGON BOOKMARK + GLOWING IN THE DARK DRAGON NECKLACE
http://secretlegendsboxedset.com/readers-giveaway/

You can also support by buying a copy for only 99 cents!

http://secretlegendsboxedset.com/

What happens when you put ten romance writers in a room together?

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sofia1

 

It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but you’d be wrong. It was our monthly get-together this afternoon, and as always, conversation ranged from mild to triple-X-rated, with laughter at every turn.

 

Writing can be a lonely occupation, and it’s scary as hell attending your first meeting. Even worse is being encouraged to read out some of your work. To strangers. Yup. That’s right up there with visits to the dentist on the I-don’t-want-to-do-this scale.

 

However, we had a LOT of fun doing that today. Everyone took a printed copy of the first two pages of their current manuscript, and we took turns to read each other’s words. Anonymously.

Friends laughing and chatting together at home on the couch

I tell you, we have a bunch of talented writers in our group. Half the group are currently unpublished, but you wouldn’t know it from the pages we read out. I’m proud to be a part of the group. Ladies, you rock!

 

Breaking the Rules

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A few months ago, I read a blog post by Kristen Ashley (I think, and I wish I’d saved the post, because I’d love to reference it again), about how she broke the rules in writing.

I skipped the post the first couple of times I saw it in my Facebook feed, and when I finally clicked it, I was so glad I had.

The words inspired me, and made me literally say “I want to break the rules”

Which is where Hacking Wonderland came from. A romantic suspense, techno-thriller duet inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

I was really nervous about writing these books. They’re not like my standard, lighter stories. But I loved diving into this world, and early readers are agreeing.

The first of the two books releases Aug 14, and I hope everyone else is as enraptured with this story as I am.

Buy Reagan Through the Looking Glass

Reagan Through the Looking Glass

ReaganCoverFull

She’s stepped into a world where everything and everyone has a price, and her time is running out to discover who holds the bounty on her head.

When Reagan’s student adviser is found dead, the police say he’s the victim of a burglary gone bad, but it’s not that simple. Jabberwock—the kingpin of the deep web, and the man who killed her brother—knows she’s close to discovering his identity.

Two men insist they can keep her safe and help her find answers. Hare is sweet, soft-spoken, and introduces her to a wicked walk on the wild side, spiced with temptation and thrill.

Hatter has kept secrets from her since they met. But he speaks her language, and a single touch from him ignites her desire.

As she follows the tracks down the rabbit hole, Reagan is dropped headfirst into a world of the dangerous and surreal, where everything and everyone has a price. And her time is running out to discover if it’s the Hatter or the Hare who owns Jabberwock’s bounty on her.

Buy Reagan Through the Looking Glass

Excerpt

Reagan’s front tire was flat. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Do you keep the spare and jack in the trunk?” Ponytail-Guy asked.

On any other day, at any other time, under any other circumstances, she’d probably be flattered at the implication he was going to change the flat for her. “I’ve got it. Thanks.” As she spoke, his gaze drifted toward the trees at the far end of the church parking lot. “Excuse me?” Could she drive this thing any distance as it was? If she walked to the nearest convenience store, would he follow? Maybe heading back into the church was her best bet. “I can see you’re busy. I’ll be on my way.’

Shh.” He didn’t look at her.

Her irritation spiked, pushing aside fear. “Hello?”

He grabbed her wrist and yanked her down next to him as he dropped into a crouch. He covered her mouth and locked his gaze on hers. “I’ll be clearer.” A growl cut through his whisper. “Shut the fuck up.”

And here was anger. She preferred it to the fear that wanted to resurface when she tried to break his grip and couldn’t. She raised her other hand, and his eyes hardened.

“Stop.” The way he said the word rolled down her spine like freezing water. “Someone out there is watching us. Watching you, I suspect.”

Hatter?

“Everyone else is gone,” he continued. “If I pull my hand away, you’re welcome to scream or rant or whatever the hell it is that gets you off, but only I and whoever is out there will hear you. Do you understand?”

She nodded. What else was she supposed to do? In her head, she calculated if she could sprint to the church or the convenience store faster. In the church she could bolt the door. Call the police. Hide.

She started to rise the moment he let her go. An ear-shattering bang ripped through the air. The window next to her head exploded, glass shards flying everywhere. A scream tore from her throat without permission.

Did someone just shoot at her? Was it Hatter?

Buy Reagan Through the Looking Glass

About Allyson Lindt

Allyson Lindt is a full-time geek and a fuller-time contemporary romance author. She prefers that her geeky heroes come with the alpha expansion pack and adores a heroine who can hold her own in a boardroom. She loves a sexy happily-ever-after and helping deserving cubicle dwellers find their futures together.

Find Allyson Lindt Online

 

 

His Hand-Me-Down Countess Pre-Order!

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Today I am sharing the cover and pre-order links for HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS, the first book in the Lustful Lords series. This book is a historical romance title from Jack’s House Publishing, and it will be releasing on September 20th. Check out the pre-order links for the book below.

His Hand-Me-Down Countess (Lustful Lords, #1)
by Sorcha Mowbray

Coming September 20

PRE-ORDER IT NOW!
Kindle US | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google

Kindle CA | Kindle UK | Kindle AU

PURCHASE IN PRINT FROM AMAZON

 


Book Blurb:

His brother’s untimely death leaves him with an Earldom and a fiancée. Too bad he wants neither of them…

Theodora Lawton has no need of a husband. As an independent woman, she wants to own property, make investments and be the master of her destiny. Unfortunately, her father signed her life away in a marriage contract to the future Earl of Stonemere. But then the cad upped and died, leaving her fate in the hands of his brother, one of the renowned Lustful Lords.

Achilles Denton, the Earl of Stonemere, is far more prepared to be a soldier than a peer. Deeply scarred by his last tour of duty, he knows he will never be a proper, upstanding pillar of the empire. Balanced on the edge of madness, he finds respite by keeping a tight rein on his life, both in and out of the bedroom. His brother’s death has left him with responsibilities he never wanted and isn’t prepared to handle in the respectable manner expected of a peer.

Further complicating his new life is an unwanted fiancée who comes with his equally unwanted title. Saddled with a hand-me-down countess, he soon discovers the woman is a force unto herself. As he grapples with the burden of his new responsibilities, he discovers someone wants him dead. The question is, can he stay alive long enough to figure out who’s trying to kill him while he tries to tame his headstrong wife?

 

 

—————————-

AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.

She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!

For more information about Sorcha, please visit her website, “Like” Sorcha on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads. Join Sorcha’s newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming releases. She’s loves hearing from her readers. Email her directly at sorcha@sorchamowbray.com.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter | Goodreads

InkSlinger Blogger Final

#AmEditing

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I’m deep in the edit cave at the moment, working hard to get Juliet’s Soldier (Out of Time #4) ready for release.

If you’ve read any of the series so far, you’ll know that Lieutenant Marc Gallagher hasn’t had an easy time of it (no pun intended). Is this finally the chance for him to fall in love?

Oh wait, five hundred years in the future, love doesn’t exist any more. What’s a guy to do?

 

Juliet’s Soldier (Out of Time #4)

 

Breaking the rules has never been more dangerous

The first two rules of time travel are
– Never interfere, and
– History is set in stone

Juliet broke the first without meaning to. Now, to save the man she loves and undo her mistake, she’ll have to risk her entire future by breaking the second.

Juliet’s father wants her to marry for prestige, but she’s less-than-pleased with the partnership he’s arranged for her. To keep her freedom, she convinces Marc to ask for her hand instead. He insists the union is only temporary, but she’s got two weeks of travel with him to the 1990’s to convince him their relationship is more.

Then she makes a mistake that not only threatens the timelines of the past, but puts the future at risk too. She’ll have to break the rules to set things straight, and even then, she may lose the man she loves forever.

 

~ * ~ * ~

 

Juliet’s Soldier will be released 4 August, but is available for pre-order on all major platforms: https://www.books2read.com/u/4DAdpA

 

~ * ~ * ~

 

Here’s a sneak peek:

 

Marc couldn’t take his eyes off her. She could be a different person to the meticulously groomed student he’d seen in his own time. Here she was relaxed, her cheeks flushed, her smile easy. She talked like a native. In just a few hours, she fit better into this society than Marc would after a month. She belonged, in a way he couldn’t begin to imagine.

“Let’s replace the drink you spilled.” Juliet cocked her head to one side. “For Larz? Forgive me, Marc, but are you well?”

“Yes.” Marc had to rein back his wayward emotions. He was not a novice soldier; he was a ghardian with years of training. He could handle any situation. With effort, he pulled his composure into place. “Who or what is Larz?”

“The lead singer of the band.”

“And Stella?”

Juliet’s lips twitched, as though she was trying not to laugh. At him. “The beer he’s drinking. I saw what happened. What were you doing?”

Trying to find you. He decided to ignore the question in favor of moving. Coming to the pub was a mistake. He was close to making a fool of himself. He’d buy the beer and continue on his way. The students were fine.

Juliet walked with him, and squeezed into a gap at his side when they reached the long bar top. “There it is.” She pointed to a glass cabinet behind the bartender. “Stella Artois. It’s good. You should try it while you’re here.”

He spun to look at her. “Are you intoxicated? I should take you back.”

“Of course not.” Her gurgle of laughter was unexpected. She leaned close to his ear and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I’ve drunk alcohol before, you know. And I bet you have too. Am I right?”

The bar staff were all busy, and Marc knew there was no chance of being served immediately. He wanted to say yes to her. To admit he kept a secret supply of Scottish-made vodka in his apartment. His anesthetic of choice. That would come close to admitting he needed the escape of alcohol sometimes.

Since the jury was still out on whether or not Juliet could be trusted, Marc said nothing. Instead, he glowered at the nearest member of staff, in the hope of being served. The music increased in volume, which made further conversation impossible, but Juliet stayed, her perfume teasing at his senses.

It was a few minutes before Marc was able to buy the replacement bottle of beer. He was about to hand over his money, when Juliet tugged on his sleeve. “Have one as well. This place closes soon, and we’re having a great time. I’d love for you to stay. Please.”

He hesitated. Why? What in heaven was stopping him from walking out of the door and doing his job?

Could he follow Juliet to her table, to sit with the students and make small talk? To laugh with them and be accepted by them? Even to get up and dance on the overcrowded floor?

“I’m your sentinel. Not your friend.” He couldn’t look at her. She was temptation in human form and would be his downfall. He slid a ten-pound note to the barman, told him to keep the change, and then handed the beer to Juliet. “Give this to Larz.”

Hurt shone in her eyes but Marc ignored it. He’d been picked for this mission because he had control of his emotions, and he’d make sure it stayed that way.

Marc pushed his way through the crowd to the exit, and then walked slowly up the street while his eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness. Funny how a few strides gave him some perspective. He stared up at the sky. A combination of low cloud and pollution meant there was nothing to see.

Nothing. A good metaphor for his life.

 

~ * ~ * ~

 

Want to know more?

Check out my Pinterest page for related images: https://nz.pinterest.com/sofiagrey1/juliets-soldier-out-of-time-4/

Listen to the Juliet’s Soldier playlist on Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/user/12165779057/playlist/368qePCmz2UthzsjtapZvo

 

 

 

Too hot to handle

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Dear readers

I don’t know if it’s summer or winter where you live but I have to tell you it’s been too hot these last few days and we are only at the beginning of July. We still have plenty more 100 degree days coming up in August. When it’s this HOT out what’s a girl to do?

You might say, head for the nearest body of water and that’s not a bad idea – if I were a swimmer. Since I’m not and I’m pretty fair skinned I prefer to stay somewhere air conditioned and indoors.  That means more time lazing about for reading. Oh darn!

Well it’s time to get out the old Kindle TBR  pile and see what we’ve got. Mostly a mash-up of Science Fiction, SciFi Romance, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, Gay Romance, and a few Cookbooks. There are some misc. contemporary and billionaire romances mixed in ’cause really, who can resist them? So from that expansive list you’d think I could settle one something to read…The truth is i find it very tough to pick what to read next. I am a woman of many moods and if the right thing doesn’t jump out at me I might get fed up and go play with my chickens. And that is how come I have so many books in the TBR pile that I don’t manage to read until years after I bought them – long after everyone else has already it. So if I seem a little slow on the uptake…. and you find me gushing about an author you read say five years ago (LOL), that would be why!

Happy reading everyone,

Eva

 

Afternoon Tea & Pimms Party

I must apologise for my tardiness in posting today. I hope you will excuse it as I have a great reason. In celebration of the forthcoming release of Under the Full Blooded Moon I decided to hold an Afternoon Tea & Pimms Party. Not only is Afternoon Tea considered rather English, but I do believe Pimms is also exclusive to us. We tried to get a game of croquet on the go, but guests were more interested in the tea, Pimms, cucumber sandwiches and miniature scones with cream and homemade strawberry jam.

The afternoon was a huge delight. I got to read an extract (which is below) from Under the Full Blooded Moon and my lovely ladies were all given a gift of a tote bag and bookmark.

Under the Full Blooded Moon is due for release on 11th July, but if you wish to reserve your copy, it is on pre-order right now.

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2t68wnl
Amazon.com Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2taBQd7
Kobo http://bit.ly/2t62Adz
AppleiBooks http://apple.co/2uyWv7k
Barnes&Noble http://bit.ly/2sBrfmH

 Under_the_Full_Blooded_Moon-Diane_Saxon-500x800

Where to Find Diane Saxon

Website – http://dianesaxon.com/

Blog – http://dianesaxon.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authordianesaxon

Twitter –  https://twitter.com/Diane_Saxon

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7122072.Diane_Saxon

Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diane-Saxon/e/B00DDL4C5W/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Pinterest – https://uk.pinterest.com/DianeSaxonAuthr/

 

About the Author

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Diane Saxon lives in the Shropshire countryside with her tall, dark, handsome husband, two gorgeous daughters, a Dalmatian, a one-eyed kitten, a ginger cat, six chickens and a black Labrador called Beau, whose name has been borrowed for her hero in For Heaven’s Cakes.

After working for years in a demanding job, on-call and travelling great distances, Diane gave it all up when her husband said, “follow that dream”.

Having been hidden all too long, her characters have burst forth demanding plot lines of their own and she’s found the more she lets them, the more they’re inclined to run wild.

Here’s an excerpt:

“You’ve heard the tales of selkies?” Her voice wasn’t quite as controlled as she thought it would be. The tremble in it not from nerves, but desire.

“Many of them.”

“Aye. There are many. Folks reckon half the population here has selkie in their blood.”

“Do you?” Doubt laced his low whispered question.

It wasn’t an obscure prospect, given the history of the entire island, but there was no selkie in Ruth’s blood. “No, but you may not have heard this tale yet.” Not many of the islanders repeated it. They found it too close to the truth rather than a mythological fantasy. Uncomfortable with it, most folk steered clear of her. Rather than let little hints of gossip taint his view, she decided if there was to be anything between them, as she knew there must be, then the tale should come from her. The truth as she knew it.

With a light step and hope in her heart, she moved into the circle of stones and sank onto the soft, cushiony ground. The moss so thick and cool, it gave underneath her, like a downy pillow.

Stuart joined her, tucked his knees up to his chest, and wrapped his arms around his legs. As he wasn’t used to the cold, she should have warned him to wear warmer clothes. Her woolen shawl kept out the chill and fell to well below her knees, so when she sat, it kept the icy dampness of the ground from soaking into her backside.

He waited in silence for her to begin, so she switched off the flashlight and let the last rays of weak light filter through the gaps in the thick umbrella of leaves above them. The gloomy shadows of the trees deepened by the moment. Relaxed in the darkness, Ruth drew in a slow breath before she started.

“For generations, my family have passed this tale down from mother to daughter. As far as I’m aware it’s still as accurate as the first telling, although I imagine you understand from your own studies how stories can get twisted out of shape.”

She gave him a sideways glance and tucked her hair behind her ear, so the curls didn’t bounce about her face to obscure her view of him. He appeared relaxed enough. His hands dangled from where he rested his forearms on his knees. Shadows deepened to give a sinister appearance to his handsome features and made her wonder if it would have been better to keep the flashlight on.

His slow nod encouraged her to continue, but the air thickened in her lungs. She glanced away at the surrounding stones to get her balance back. She was safe there. Nothing could harm her within the circle of stones, although she hadn’t cast her circle in deference to his obvious doubts about her magical abilities. She had no physical fear of him, which was why she’d invited him within the protective ring. She was more concerned about the damage he could do to her heart.

The salty evening air settled in a heavy blanket around them, but his scent wrapped around her to heighten her senses. His closeness she felt just as sure as if he stroked her skin.

She scraped her fingers through her thick mop of hair to stop it falling across her face, and with determination, turned her attention back to the story.

“The year was 1672. This tiny island was virtually uninhabited—a mere handful of people. Some say they came from shipwrecks, some that they were escaped criminals from Edinburgh jail.” She gave a shrug and peered through the shadowy light at Stuart to see the glitter of his eyes in the shadows. “They were all of them, strong people. For whatever reason, they’d survived, and they banded together for safety and company. Strange bedfellows so to speak. No one knew how many lived here, not many I imagine, from the small numbers we currently have. Counting probably wasn’t their strong point.” She smiled, but he remained motionless, his silence an indication of how intent he was on the story. She paused for a moment while she gathered herself for the next part, but Stuart remained still as she continued.

“One night a squall blew up. We have many storms, but this particular one raged for three nights. I would imagine not dissimilar to the storm which accompanied your arrival.” She gave an embarrassed laugh and then continued before he could ask any questions and distract her from her story, but it seemed from his silence she’d captured his attention. “The islanders believed the fury of the gods punished them. Food became short because they couldn’t fish in the torrid seas and of course, in those days, it was the mainstay of their diet. The wind was so strong they feared to go outside of their little stone houses in case it whipped them away.” Absorbed by her own story, Ruth stared at the stones. Each one touched the one next to it. None had ever been moved from where they’d laid for centuries. “On the fourth morning, the storm broke, the sky cleared, and the sun shone through. A few of the islanders went down to the water’s edge to forage, desperate for food and fresh water. Shipwrecks brought in a good haul after a storm. Pirates were rife in these waters in the 16th and 17th centuries, and their bounty could be rich.” She raised her head and stared through the dusk at Stuart’s impassive face again. Could he be bored, or did he listen intently? She squinted into the dark shadows obscuring his features, but he never moved a muscle. Only the subtle sound of his light breath could be heard in the silence.

She took a breath before she continued.

“What they found, though, was not what they’d expected. Among the debris lay the body of what they first believed was a woman. Long flowing hair, sleek and black. It covered half the naked body. Where the hair ended, the rest of the body appeared to be that of a seal.”

“Frightened to approach, they edged forward, none of them brave enough to touch the woman, but a pitiful cry emitted from under the swathes of hair and seaweed. One brave young girl picked up a stick and lifted the heavy weight of the hair from the half human, half seal. She exposed the body of what they later described as a selkie. It was, in fact, a male. Beautiful beyond belief.”

Ruth paused, waiting for a response, while the air thickened and grew heavy with tension. She leaned in, quieted her voice in the stillness. “The story goes the young girl fell in love with him in an instant. In his arms, he cradled a tiny bairn. A newborn with its umbilical cord still attached to the placenta. Its pathetic wail enchanted the young girl, so she leaned in and took it from the circle of the selkie’s arms. As she cuddled the bairn to her breast, the selkie opened his eyes.” Ruth closed her own to envisage the scene better as though it were her own memory and not just folklore. “Liquid black gazed up at her to melt her heart. Afterward, she claimed he’d spoken, but no one else heard his words, just the muffled sound of an animal in pain. What they were witness to was her swearing to protect the little one for all time. A human baby girl with hair as black as night and eyes as deep green as a summer sea.”

As the night turned pitch black Stuart never moved, but she felt his attention on her as the air between them sizzled with his interest. They sat so close she realized it must have been her who had shuffled nearer until their knees touched and their faces were separated by a mere sliver of air.

Aware his interest lay in the story, she swallowed to ease the dryness of her throat before she continued, conscious her brogue thickened as she slipped deeper into the story. “After the bairn was removed from the haven of his arms, and he’d gained the promise from the young woman, it’s said the selkie turned back into a seal and died. Legend has it he’d clung onto life until he knew the bairn was delivered into safe arms. It’s said that his descendants have continued to grace these shores with their presence, protectors for generations of the wee bairn’s kin.”

The rustle of Stuart’s clothes drew her attention in the silent circle as he moved for the first time, shuffled even closer to her. His interest was palpable. “What happened to the baby?” His warm breath puffed across her cheek.

“The young woman raised her as her own. She never married but lived to a ripe old age. They say she never fell in love again but died content that love had touched her soul.”

“…and the child?”

She had to lean away from him for her own sanity, but her voice thickened as she replied. “She grew up, married and had a daughter of her own.” She loved the romance of the story. The whole idea intrigued her of being rescued and living a life loved by the people who surrounded her.

“Where did she come from?”

Ruth shrugged, it didn’t really matter to her. It had been centuries before and who would have been able to tell in those days? “It could have been a shipwreck.”

“Could she have come from the mainland? From Scotland?”

It seemed a strange thing to question. Why would she have come from Scotland? The crossing for a baby would have been too far, too cold. She would have died. The only logical explanation was she’d been in a shipwreck, and the selkie transported her to the nearest island. The magical powers of the selkie were well known, but would one have been able to cast such a powerful net of protection over a newborn to transport it so far?

Ruth puffed out an impatient breath, unsure why she felt so irritated by his line of questions. There was no logic. It was folklore, a tale. She’d related a story; it didn’t mean she had all the answers. “I suppose, but it’s more feasible to be a ship in those storms.”

“Was there nothing to indicate where she’d come from?” He placed his hand on her thigh and shot heat straight through to her heart, avid in his attention, unaware of the effect he had on her.

“No. She was naked as far as the tale goes. A wee newborn. Nothing to indicate she came from anywhere but the sea.”

“But she wasn’t a selkie herself?”

“No.” Heat rose up her neck, to stifle her until she jerked her leg away from his hand and came to her knees in front of him.

Oblivious of her discomfort, Stuart shuffled closer. “How can you be so sure?”

“Because she would have turned into a seal at some point and from what happened with the male selkie, certainly when she died.”

“No one ever saw her change?” He also came to his knees and leaned in until the heat from him touched her, washed over her until she thought she would suffocate with his tangible annoyance. A shard of dusky light highlighted his features so she could once more see the depths of his piercing pewter eyes. She faltered for a moment before she replied. He seemed desperate for her to agree the young bairn had been a selkie, but she couldn’t bring herself to weave that kind of ambiguity around a tale she’d lived with all her life.

“Not in any of the tales I’ve ever heard. It’s never been questioned before.”

“Perhaps she managed to hide the fact from them.”

Angry now, she shot to her feet. All she’d wanted was to please him with her tale, steal a kiss or two in her magical place, but he’d spoiled it with his insistent questions. She flicked her shawl tight around her and jammed her hands into the woolen folds.

Her throat had become so dry that the next words she spoke came out on a strangled breath.

“There would be no reason to. Everyone knew she’d been delivered there by a selkie. One who gave his life for hers. Besides, everyone knew she was a witch.”

His harsh intake of breath accompanied his quick leap to his feet.

“You never mentioned she was a witch.”

Offended by the accusation that she’d deliberately withheld information, Ruth leaned in until her nose almost touched his, and the air between them sizzled to life. “Well, I tried to tell you a story, Stuart. You interrupted. Several times. I was getting there.”

This time she was left in no doubt he was as irritated as her as he flung himself away from her to trace the stones around the circle’s inner edge, his back to her.

“What’s the stone circle got to do with it?” He touched his toe to one of them and her muscles bunched in anticipation of him kicking them.

It may have had no connection, just a place where she liked to find contentment, but Ruth knew there was strong magic there. Ancient magic which drew her constantly, and she had no desire to see it desecrated because the control on his temper had slipped.

In an effort to appease him, she softened her voice. “The story goes the young girl insisted they bury the selkie here. She asked for a humble stone cottage to be built for her and the wee bairn.”

He stared down at the stone his shoe touched, hands on hips, silent but for his breath drawing in through his teeth, no longer it appeared in anger, but disappointment. The warmth she’d gained from his closeness had turned to ice. Regret slammed through her. What had she done? What had she said? Her heart trembled in her chest. Distressed, she stared at him. He’d taken her words to heart, and somehow, she’d managed to hurt him.

“Stuart?”

He whipped his head up as though he’d forgotten she was there. “Yeah?”

The dark pits of his eyes were unreadable, and Ruth realized time had flown since they’d arrived. She had no desire to hurt him anymore, nor would she allow him his way with the story. She couldn’t change it to suit him, and the best course of action seemed to be to back off. She hugged herself and stepped to the edge of the circle. “I think it’s time for supper.”

He rubbed his hand over his mouth, then turned and stepped over the stones to stride away in the opposite direction.

“Stuart? You’re going the wrong way. Supper will be ready.”

“Ask Clarisse to keep mine warm. I’ll be back later.”

“But it’s dark. You might lose your way.”

“It’s a goddamned island, Ruth. How wrong can I go?”

As his temper whipped back to slap at her, she had no idea what she’d done to annoy him, but she wasn’t tempted to apologize or grovel. Dammit, she thought he’d want to hear her tale. He’d been fascinated by everyone else’s. What was wrong with hers?

Never easy at the thought of hurting another, she called out in the dark. “Do you want the torch?”

He’d already disappeared from view, but his voice drifted back to her. “I’ll be fine. Go home, Ruth. Go back to your nana.”

The strange flutter in her stomach distressed her. She hadn’t meant to upset or annoy him. She’d hoped he might hold her hand on the way back, maybe press his lips against hers again. A sweet promise of more to come.

She bent to pick up the flashlight, and a blue flame shot skyward as her fingers reached for it, wrenching a high-pitched squeak from her. She slapped a hand over her mouth and peered into the darkness, grateful Stuart had departed. She didn’t need him to witness yet another pathetic pyromaniac accident.