Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Incredible Shrinking TBR Pile

This is not my TBR pile. It's just a picture
of books. I didn't feel like getting my camera
and taking new pictures. #lazy
When I started writing, back in the early 90s, I was targeting Harlequin series romances. But to decide which series I really wanted to write for, I subscribed to several of them. I couldn't read as fast as I received them, so the piles grew and grew.

Eventually I narrowed it down and canceled some of the subscriptions. Then I started attending conferences, where you get free books (and in the case of the RWA National conference, LOTS AND LOTS of free books) and buy books at special booksignings.

And my TBR pile has been massive ever since. Because I keep going to conferences, but also because I don't stop buying books. Authors I love, stuff that sounds interesting...if I have an addiction, it's books.

Every so often, I weed out my TBR pile. Books I got free or even bought to help someone out but aren't things I like to read. (Historicals are the first to be weeded, for example.)

I'll also go on binges where I'll try all the books that I've had lingering because I don't think I'll like them. Sometimes I'm surprised, which is awesome. Sometimes there are personal triggers that override good writing—storylines or characters that I don't care for. So these binges can end up pulling a bunch of books off my TBR.

And then there are the very rare binge-reading-sessions where I plow through book after book because that's my main relaxation activity. I had one of those recently, and it led me to a scary place: a small TBR pile.

My Kindle used to have 6 pages in the "To Read" folder. I'm down to two! That's, like, 10 books! It almost started a panic attack, except I turned to my print TBR shelf and I've been concentrating on that lately. I got a little caught up in the ease of reading on the Kindle. So I have a couple dozen print books, which makes me breathe a bit easier.

But let me tell you, I cannot WAIT for my birthday. After insisting that I don't want anything and being badgered for a while, I give in and say to just get me an Amazon gift card. That's all I need! My wish list has over 40 books on it. I'm also paying a little more attention to the books being promoted all over my social media and stuff.

Top of my "yes, please" list is romantic adventure and paranormal YA (no vamps or shifters, though). So if anyone has any suggestions, please post them in the comments!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Meet the Characters from This Week's Select Contemporary Releases!

My Christmas-reunion-military-hero-small-town-heroine novella got a new cover and blurb for this week's re-release. Most of you who'd be interested in such a story probably already read it. (If you haven't, check it out here!)

So please let me introduce you to my fellow releasees this week! Below, we introduce the characters with some Dating-Game-style questions. You can read the tables turned in my newsletter and see how the guys answer their heroines.

We're also having a Facebook party Thursday evening. Come chat with us and comment to win prizes!

How to Fall
by Rebecca Brooks

Chicago math teacher Julia Evans has always played it safe, but when an impulse trip to southern Brazil introduces her to a gorgeous Australian traveler, she’ll risk her heart for a week in his arms—if his secrets don’t tear them apart.

Blake: If you could incorporate any fantasy into your real life, so you could have it whenever you wanted to, what would it be?

Julia: We come in from outside. We've been swimming, and you smell like salt water and sun. We have places to be—we're supposed to meet friends, or your production team, or whatever. But you don't care. You lay me down on the bed. Do you remember that first time we were in an actual bed, in the hotel in Rio? You kissed me like you'd never been so hungry. As your tongue slid down, you stopped to look up at me and that's the fantasy—the real-life fantasy—that gets me every time. It's the look in your eyes when you know I'm about to be screaming your name.

Second Chance Christmas
by Ellen Butler

Prominent DC attorney Emma Taylor is pulled away from a promising date the week before Christmas to pick up her ex-fiance from the ER after a bar fight. She’s in no mood to re-open old wounds, but it’s Christmas and she can’t just leave him alone and injured.

Colton to Emma:
"All of your suits are at the cleaners, and you have to meet with a new client on the weekend. What do you wear?"
"Seriously Colton, all off my suits are at the cleaners?"
"Yes, all the suits are at the cleaners. What do you wear?"
"Why are all of my suits at the cleaners? I'd never be that disorgainzed, you know that."
"Emma, it's just a game. Answer the question."
"Nope. The question is silly. It would never happen."
Colton rolls his eyes. "Fine, the house burned down. All of your clothes are now ashes. What do you wear?"
"Why did the house burn down? Did you leave the coffee pot on again?" Emma points an accusing finger at him.
"Okay, okay, I'd call up Linda, my personal shopper at Nordstroms and tell her to put aside a suit, two blouses and shoes. I'd pick it up on the way to the office and change when I got there. Satisfied?"
"You're such a lawyer." Colton sighs.
"I know, but you still love me." Emma gives him a big smacking kiss on the cheek and a satisfied grin spreads across his face.

Hidden Away
by Jennie Marts

The only one on Cherry’s side is the sexy sheriff, Taylor Johnson—but she’s been hiding a secret that could rip their new family apart…
…and secrets have a way of revealing themselves.


What is something no one knows about you that would be a surprise to the people who know you best?

I love to read romance novels. I know I can come across as tough and sarcastic, but inside I'm just a ball of mush when it comes to romantic gestures. I know I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, and I love to read romance stories about second chances, because I really believe everyone deserves a second chance at finding love and happiness.

Priya in Heels 
by Ayesha Patel

Medical resident Priya lives life by cultural expectation, but when she falls for an American heartthrob named Tyler, her entire world unravels, leaving both wondering if love truly can conquer everything.

Priya Patel strives to be the perfect daughter for her traditional Indian parents. With her medical residency underway, she faces the inevitable pressures to marry an Indian man of her parents' choosing. She's perfectly content to do so until the Irish-American musician down the hall gets her attention and destroys everything she has worked so hard to build.

Tyler O'Conner can't stop thinking about the beautiful doctor who treated his sprained ankle in the ER. But between weekend band gigs, an intense workload at NASA, and trying to lower Priya's barriers, he doesn't expect to fall in love...with a woman who is meant to marry another man.

Priya struggles to maintain her relationship with her parents, to be their source of happiness, but falling for an American might be the one thing that unravels their world and leaves her in tattered pieces.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Remembering the Dream

I have been in this business—novel writing, specifically, but all the stuff that goes with writing and publication—for a really long time. Decades. I've written a lot of books, and lived through all the ups and downs of being a published author, with lots and lots of industry changes along the way.

I've also had the opportunity, through my services as an editor, copyeditor, and proofreader, to work with someone special. And I'm so excited that his book is now available for purchase.

Being immersed in the world of romance writing, I've met, mentored, and been mentored by a LOT of authors. Being a part of a community like that makes you feel like anything is possible. And it makes anything possible. It also makes it hard to realize that there are people out there who would love to write but don't have the community. The structured support. The education that seeps into you even when you're not looking for it.

That's why working with Dave has been special. He knew nothing about writing or publishing when we met, and was an absolute sponge. It was so much fun to see his work deepen and strengthen, and to share his journey over the years.

Dave has amazingly unique story ideas, and he has trusted me to give him advice on craft and business as we worked together on five books. His dream has been to share those stories and characters with others, and now he can do that with Diana's Magic, which is now available for purchase.

It's been a long time since I first held a book with my name on it and knew the words inside came from me. It's almost as exciting to share that with someone experiencing it for the first time. :)

I hope you'll check it out!

About the Book
Seeking to inspire problem students and build character, new elementary teacher Sarah Carter seizes upon an innovative class project for the school’s annual spring art show. At the same time, she struggles with a private personal tragedy. While coping with bullies, introverts, vampires, and school bureaucrats, Sarah strives to complete the project, support the encouraging growth of her students, and achieve closure with her impending loss. But the outcome is far different from anything she could have anticipated.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Spotlight: Death in the Family by Maggie Mundy

About the Book:
A Death in the Family is a 1920s murder mystery with a paranormal twist.

Finding out who killed her aunt means socialite Annabel Larch must give up her decadent life. She needs help from the mysterious Isaac Pennington, who carries physical and mental scars from World War 1 and for all she knows may be the perpetrator.

This thriller involves Brazilian artifacts, heroin dens and cult worship. Isaac and Annabel have to trust each other and sort through the clues to find out who slew her aunt and try not to get murdered themselves.

Why a Murder Mystery?
I have always written stories with the odd dead body turning up, but this was my first attempt at a murder mystery. I am not sure if there is a right or a wrong way to write one, but I didn’t know who the killer was when I started out. It was great fun to write and find out who was the culprit. I loved reading the old Agatha Christie novels and was always amazed by all the red herrings she would put in and hope I did the same.

I really enjoyed researching the time and was fascinated by how advanced criminal investigation was even back in the 1920s. I am in the process of working on a second book with The Larch Detective agency called A Death at the Theater.


“Get out of my way,” Annabel yelled, her headdress swiped aside and crushed underfoot as she reached Gwen. She fell to her knees as a groan of pain left her lips seeing her beautiful aunt’s neck bent at a strange angle. Annabel’s head kept shaking as if it was untrue, but her heart knew better. Her eyes knew better.

“No,” she screamed. The sound could never be loud enough or long enough to cover the loss. People moved away fearing the ferocity of her grief.

Gwen’s Cleopatra wig still covered her face. Annabel stared as if it was a picture she was trying to absorb but stay separate from. It didn’t work. She pulled Gwen in her arms as if hugging her would bring back life into the still body. It didn’t. The agony of loss cleaved through her body as if it was being drained of all energy. Rocking back and forth, her tears flowed down her cheeks as gut wrenching cries were drawn from her throat leaving it raw. This couldn’t be possible, her strength, her world had gone.

Now do stop that crying dear. You’ll need to find out who killed me. 

The world stopped. Annabel’s breath stopped. Who had spoken? It was Gwen’s voice but her lifeless form lay still in her arms. Annabel brushed the hair of the wig back from her aunt’s face. People were gawking at her, she didn’t care, but she didn’t want anyone to see Gwen like this. She wanted them gone. 

As Annabel breath left her mouth it misted as if she were outside. It was midwinter in Bath and you would expect it out there, but not in here. 

A blast of cold air blew across the back of her neck causing her body to shiver and brought goose bumps up on her arms. Annabel took a deep breath as she slowly turned towards where the cool air had come from. 

The scream left her lungs as she saw Gwen standing next to her. Only this Gwen was see-through. No one else screamed. They all stood around her ogling as if she was the ogre prizing its victim in its arms. They sickened her. It didn’t matter to them; they just continued to stare at the dead body in her arms.

Someone pushed me darling. There seems to be a knife in my back. I really do look a mess don’t I, and I had gone to so much effort this evening.

About the Author:
Maggie Mundy lives in Adelaide, Australia, and is a member of Romance Writers of Australia and the local chapter SARA (South Australian Romance Authors). She recently completed a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and English at Flinders University. She has four books out with Rogue Phoenix Press: Two erotic novellas called Blood Scent and Blood Oath and two paranormal romances called World Change and World Apart. She also has a supernatural thriller out with Soul Mate Publishing called Hidden Mortality and paranormal romance called Unknown Protector. A Death in the Family is her first self-published title.

She has also performed for many years in corporate entertainment for which she wrote her own sketches, which probably explains why her head is so full of characters. She loves writing romance but thinks falling in love can be scary, especially in her stories where creatures of the night really exist.

Monday, November 02, 2015

An Interview with Linda Bradley

Today's guest, Linda Bradley, is giving away a digital copy of her book to one lucky commenter! The winner will be chosen at the end of the week. Thanks for coming today, Linda!

1. When did you decide you wanted to write a book?

I always thought I’d publish children’s books, but when I started reading women’s fiction in healthy doses, I realized I wanted to write books for women about women. When Maggie and Chloe popped into my head, they stayed, and that’s when I found my voice. Maggie’s Way is my debut women’s fiction novel.

2. What inspired you to write this story?

I had been thinking about the story line, but it was filed in the back of my brain with a clutter of other ideas. After seven weeks of radiation treatment for breast cancer, I decided it was time to start fresh so with a new plan to keep myself organized, I connected with my characters and started writing.

3. Do you work on projects simultaneously?

This past year I did because I wanted to enter a short story contest and I had another idea for a women’s fiction book with magical elements, completely not related to the Montana Bound Series. That project gnawed at the edges of my mind until I just had to stop what I was doing and get it on paper.

4. What was the rest of your life like while you were writing Maggie’s Way?

Well, I was recuperating from cancer and I am happy to say, I have a clean bill of health. I was planning my wedding, teaching full time, working at a clothing store a few hours a week and raising two boys. My youngest was away at Michigan State and my oldest was at home working and going to school. It was crazy, but somehow the busy schedule forced me to buckle down and focus on getting the words on the page.

5. What are some of your favorite quotes from Maggie’s Way?

“It was easier to blame myself for ignoring my instincts and playing the game. Beckett had finally understood who he was, now I was left to my own devices to figure out who I was going to be.”—Maggie

“Looking west, the sun filled the sky with streaks the color of summer sherbet.”—Maggie

“We were victims of our own expectations.”—Maggie

“When you are ready to accept those things that only loved ones can give you, your heart will be whole again. You do not choose life. Life chooses you.”—Glad (Maggie’s mother)

6. What were some of the reactions from Maggie’s Way readers that brought you joy?

The reviews had started coming in and I was doing my best to stay focused on planning my return trip to Montana to do more research, more riding, and capture the magic that inspired my vision. One day, the phone rang and it was my girlfriend’s husband. I was surprised he was calling. He then explained the reason for the call. He told me that he started reading Maggie’s Way and was prepared for a chick lit read, but to his surprise he was hooked and wanted to know when the next book was coming out. He told me that he’d be reading the rest of the series. It was a huge compliment, especially coming from a male reader. He was pleased to report that Maggie’s Way had something for everybody.

I received another unexpected phone call. I recognized the number and wasn’t quite sure why the Cancer Center was calling. The woman on the other end of the phone identified herself as the receptionist and told me that I owed her a large cup of coffee and a tube of eyeliner for her tired eyes because she was up all night reading Maggie’s Way, that she couldn’t put it down. She asked what she could do to help spread the word about my debut novel.

When I met with the Literary Goddesses, a book club in Lansing, Michigan, I sat next to a reader that said, she had finished the book just before coming to dinner. She told me it wasn’t that she couldn’t get to it. She had delayed reading the last chapter because she didn’t want it to end.

One Amazon reviewer wrote, “When I laugh out loud and need a box of tissues, I know I'm reading a good book!”

I am touched that my characters have connected with my readers. It truly is a book filled with a cast of misfits waiting to steal your heart.

Linda, those are amazing reactions, and so deserving! Congratulations on your clean bill of health and your new release! Readers, continue below for information on the book and Linda, and don't forget to comment to be entered to win a copy! The winner will be chosen at the end of the week.

Maggie's Way
by Linda Bradley

Sometimes you have to lose your way to find yourself.

Middle-aged, Maggie Abernathy just wants to recuperate from cancer during the solitude of summer vacation after a tiresome year of teaching second grade. Maggie’s plans are foiled when precocious seven-year-old, Chloe McIntyre moves in next door with her dad, John. Maggie’s life changes in a way she could never imagine when the pesky new neighbors steal her heart. With Maggie’s grown son away, her ex-husband in the shadows, her meddling mother’s unannounced visits, and Chloe McIntyre on her heels, somehow Maggie’s empty house becomes home again.

"Linda Bradley’s fresh voice will keep readers riveted from beginning to end. Bradley delivers a heart-warming story full of disarming honesty and beautiful drama…This one stands out!"—Jane Porter, New York Times and USA Today best selling author

About the Author:

Linda’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her women’s fiction highlights characters that peel away outer layers of life to discover the heart of their dreams with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her writing integrates humor found in everyday situations, as well as touching moments that make readers connect with her characters. Maggie’s Way is her debut novel, the first in her Montana Bound Series. She is currently working on Maggie’s Fork in the Road and Maggie’s Montana.

Linda has an associate's degree in interior design and a master’s degree in reading and language arts with undergraduate work in elementary education and fine arts. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book, The Hunter, for her master’s degree. Linda is a member of RWA as well as the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA. You can follow her on TwitterFacebook and

Linda has two grown sons and lives with her husband and rescue dog in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Reticule Dump by Guest Blogger Alina K. Field

Everyone, please welcome today's guest, Alina K. Field! Thanks so much for visiting today, Alina!

I’m riffing today on a theme my friend, author Collette Cameron, blogs about: the Purse Dump. And, since the heroine of my latest novella, Liliana’s Letter, is a proper Regency lady, she didn’t carry a purse, she carried a reticule, a tiny little bag with about as much capacity as a contemporary evening bag.

What is Liliana carrying in her reticule? 

1. Money, as in coins, mostly pence, and not a lot. For one thing, a lady out walking could quickly find herself in an unsavory neighborhood. London still had no police force, and cutpurses worked the streets. Also, Liliana is putting money aside to bring her brother back to England. She’ll carry a bit more only when she needs to travel into the City to visit her solicitor.

2. Vinaigrette—not that she herself suffers the vapors. Never! And Katie, the heiress she is bringing out into society, has as yet never fainted, but a good hired companion must be prepared.

3. A tiny tin of Rose Lip Salve to ward off chapping from the cold damp weather.

4. A paper of pins. Since some parts of lady’s dresses were literally pinned together, one must always be prepared for a wardrobe failure.

5. Crisp white calling cards. She and Katie are making the social rounds, paying morning calls on old and new acquaintances.

6. A handkerchief—for the occasional weather-related sniffle, not for tears. A lady does not make a spectacle of her emotions; well, except perhaps when her solicitor presents her with a most disappointing letter from her brother.

Oh, all right, her hanky is quite the rumpled mess.

7. That infuriating letter from her brother, crumpled and tear-stained.

What’s not in her reticule? 

House keys—the footman on duty will open the door.

A driver’s license—only the coachman drives, and of course, there was no police force requiring licenses.

An ink pen—the inkpot would leak.

A comb—not enough room, and anyway, her hair is done up and stuffed under a bonnet.

Liliana’s Letter
by Alina K. Field

The Matchmaker

Lord Grigsby wants nothing more than to retreat to his study, but a promise to his long-dead sister has forced him back into society to broker the marriage of his nephew to the heiress whose money can save the young man’s earldom. If only the young lady’s starchy hired companion would move out of the way. 

The Matchbreaker

Hired to launch an heiress’s society debut, seemingly straitlaced spinster Liliana Ashford’s future as a professional chaperone depends on the girl’s successful marriage. But Liliana had her own close encounter with a scoundrel years ago, and she won’t let her charge be forced into marriage to the same kind of rogue, no matter how hard the man’s widowed uncle tries to woo Liliana around to the match.

Secrets and a Scandalous Murder

A shadow from Liliana’s past appears bearing an unfortunate letter she wrote long ago, and then the earl is murdered, evoking the scandal of the season. While she scrambles to make a respectable match for her charge before her own past can be exposed, Grigsby sets about finding his nephew’s killer—and Liliana’s secrets.  

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Nook

The woman at Grigsby's side was like a lightning rod expecting a bolt to strike, or like a Fury about to deliver one. This close, scent wafted from her, roses and lemon, he'd guess. Tall, straight, and stiff, underneath her self-possession was a temper ready to unleash. He would bet on it.

Intriguing. He dared to poke her ire. "You clearly don't approve of the match. Do you intend to openly oppose it?"

Her head whipped around, and she glared. "It's not for me to approve or disapprove. Katie—Miss Mercer—will decide."

Passion flashed in her eyes, sending an answering spark through him. She was magnificent—though so very mistaken. "Really? Then her father is more liberal than I expected."

She looked him over more closely. "What do you know of this matter?"

I might ask you the same question. Her tone had been stiff, like the crystallized dome covering bubbling lava. He fixed her with his sternest glare, not entirely surprised at her cheek.

His glower didn't impress her. She lifted her shoulders higher. Stood a little taller, proud, lovely, and filled with indignation.

Quite righteous indignation. He gave into an unmanly sigh, truly weary of his responsibility for Thomas. "I know a good deal, Miss Ashford. I have been negotiating for these nuptials. The arrangement is my doing as much as Mr. Mercer's. Much more than it is my nephew's. He is probably the least culpable, except for his abominable behavior."

She clenched her hands tightly. "I see."

"Thomas's mother was my older sister. I made a promise to her that I would look after him." Her gaze softened, and she bit her lip in a way that made him want to taste the part that she was nipping.

And where had that thought come from?

"And your nephew needs money and an heir."

He nodded. As a woman of the ton, of course she would understand how marriage worked. Marriage wasn’t about love, or the bride’s approval, or a plump lower lip that begged to be kissed.

"He needs money most of all. He has a younger brother in the army who would make a far more dutiful earl."

He covered his mouth with his hand. The words had rolled out, shocking him. He rarely spoke this frankly with any woman.

Very well, he never spoke this frankly with any woman.

She released a soft breath. "And there is the matter of the ore."

His mouth gaped and he quickly closed it. Mr. Mercer had shared that information? Well. "That part of the county is rich with newly discovered veins of iron."

That information brought her up straighter. She looked away, gazing intently at a thick, dark spot of foliage, making him want to pry into that sharp mind.

"I see,” she said. “I believe we should go back in now."

Not yet. He tucked her hand over his arm but did not move. "I had hoped we were not finished talking. I've learned your Christian name is Liliana, but I don't know anything else about you. I don’t know where you're from or anything about your family."

He sensed her bristling, and waited for some reaction, perhaps a slap, verbal, or, with a woman of her passion, even a physical one. Strictly speaking, he was importuning her, and damn if he wasn't enjoying the nerves rippling through her. 

About the Author:
Award-winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and German literature, but she found her true passion in reading and writing romance. Though her roots are in the Midwest, after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband and a blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner in the novella category, Rosalyn’s Ring, a Regency novella; and the novel-length sequel, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, both Soul Mate Publishing releases. 

Visit her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Welcome Guest Blogger Anne B. Cole, Author of Souls Estranged

Thank you, Natalie for hosting my new release, Souls Estranged!

Since Souls Estranged is book two of a trilogy, I thought I’d talk a little about a supporting character who appears in all three books.

My heart belongs to my hero and heroine, Sam and Gretta, but in Souls Estranged, I have to choose Katarina as my favorite supporting character.

Sam's ancestral grandmother, Katarina has her spirit entwined within Ruby, an elderly nurse who befriends Sam and helps him throughout the story. Katarina also entwines within a terrorist in order to enter Tartarus in an attempt to rescue her daughter. And finally, she entwines within a squirrel to keep an eye on Gretta.

Katarina's fiesty determination to break the curse and protect Sam and Gretta is emotionally touching and adds a bit of humor to the story.

The squirrel in this picture often visits my peach tree. As I edited Souls Estranged, she began stealing peaches before they were ripe. I watched her from my writing spot and quickly grabbed my camera. She was kind enough to pose so I wrote her (and the peach) into my story.

Thanks, Natalie for hosting me today.

Souls Estranged (Book 2 of The Souls Trilogy)
by Anne B. Cole

Back from their adventures in Souls Entwined, Sam Daggett begins a new relationship with Gretta Dobbs, whose memories of their time-traveling experience have been erased. Determined to never leave her again, Sam vows to help Gretta, despite the bad luck curse on her heirloom ring. Within hours of their return, tragedy strikes. As Sam becomes the third victim of the bad luck curse, Gretta’s memories of her time spent in the past begin to return. Unable to remember more than snippets, she realizes that anyone close to her is in grave danger. In order to keep Sam and her family safe, she flees in the middle of the night. Finding the perfect summer job in the back hills of Virginia, Gretta unknowingly crosses paths with a serial killer. With guidance from their ancestral spirits, Roxana and Katarina, Sam desperately attempts to find Gretta before the curse strikes again.

Buy now from Amazon 

Also get Souls Entwined, book 1

About the Author:
Anne B. Cole is a genre-bending author who enjoys combining supernatural suspense, time travel, and sweet romance with a touch of magical realism in her books. Anne lives in Indiana with her husband and three teenage children. She teaches preschool and makes time to run so she can eat ice cream and doughnuts. Anne is currently working on Souls Endure, the final book of The Souls Trilogy. Find Anne at her website, blog, Twitter, or Facebook.


In the dim morning light of the hospital room, Sam Daggett watched the little cat stretch its front paws before zeroing intense green eyes on him.

“Roxana?” He scrutinized the feline for the slightest twitch of recognition.


Doubting Roxana’s spirit remained entwined within the gray and white cat, he moved his focus to Gretta Dobbs. She slept peacefully with her hand nestled in his. Neither of their families had returned to the hospital. Her garnet ring caught his attention and immediately a sense of foreboding crept up his spine.

His heart sped as images of his time traveling, out-of-body adventure with Gretta flashed through his mind. Roxana, Gretta’s long-dead ancestor, enabled their souls to entwine within nineteenth-century lovers in order to gather information on the cursed ring. Pride, determination, and fear filled him.

“I’m so sorry we didn’t find all of the answers we needed,” Sam whispered as he lifted her hand to his lips. He watched her eyes and listened for the beep of the heart monitor to quicken, satisfied she remained in dreamland. “I know you don’t remember our time together or what we’ve been through.”

He shuddered at the memories. His gaze fell back to the ring. Frustration filled him. The urge to rip it off her hand pounded through him, but he remembered she remained cursed with or without the ring.

Control. I must control my emotions.

He refocused his thoughts on the present and relished in the gratitude of simply being in the same room with her.

A soft sigh escaped her lips and she squeezed his hand before slipping into a deeper slumber.

“With you, nothing is impossible.” Careful not to bump his broken collarbone, Sam leaned closer and murmured, inches from her ear, “Brave and beautiful. Ready and willing to face pirates, spirits, and the horrors of the purgatories to end the family curse.” His heart hammered in his chest as memories of seeking treasure, falling in love, and losing it all flashed within his mind.

“I love you, Gretta. I’ll do everything in my power to earn your love.”

Tracing his fingers over the back of her hand, he touched the face of the ring’s oval red stone. He remembered every moment of their time together, while Gretta’s memories had been erased. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t prevent his thoughts from wandering. Concern prickled his skin as he recalled their quest to understand the ring’s curses.

The most dangerous one, a curse of bad luck, remained a mystery.

He inhaled and pushed his failures away. “Katarina told me to keep my distance from you because of potential tragedy. Nothing will keep me away. I vow to protect and love you forever.”

Gretta’s grip on his fingers tightened. With her hand remaining in his, he brushed a stray lock of hair off her cheek. She released his fingers and nuzzled into his palm with a tiny sigh. He closed his eyes, content to be back in his own body and time with her.

Yet uneasiness crept deep within and the dreadful feeling of impending tragedy grew stronger with every passing minute.