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Friday Features’

Guest appetizer

Cheese Ball Pumpkin

by

HL Carpenter

October is National Pumpkin month, but we think such a beautiful fruit should get more than just one month of notoriety. So smile, say cheese, and make your own yummy appetizer for any holiday get-together.

Cheese Ball Pumpkin

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. onion powder
Paprika
The stem of a green bell pepper

Place all of the cheese in a large bowl and let soften to room temperature.

When cheese is soft, add Worcestershire and mustard. Blend with electric mixer or food processor on low speed. Scrape bowl and beat blended mixture on medium speed 1 or 2 minutes more until well mixed (do not over-beat).

Turn the mix onto plastic wrap. Pull the wrap up and secure with a twist tie. Shape the wrapped mixture into a ball. Score the pumpkin “ribs” onto the cheese ball with your fingertip or a flat knife.

With the plastic in place, set the cheese ball in a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle with paprika and add a bell pepper stem to top.

Keep refrigerated until the crowd arrives, then serve with assorted crackers.

To add even more fun to the party, discuss a good book. We suggest our young adult novel.

Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.

Then her dad is accused of financial fraud. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.

As accusations and innuendos pile up, Vandy retreats to a hermit-like existence in her childhood tree house and struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?
When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.

EXCERPT
A branch cracked behind me and leaves rustled. I scrambled to my feet.

Stenny had come after me! He really did love me, enough to follow me, and…

Pete Hawthorn stepped out of the woods, holding a flashlight. The backglow lit his face, which was drawn into the frown he wore lately whenever he saw me, and his mouth turned down into a scowl. “Don’t you have any sense at all, Dandy-Vandy?”

I should have known Stenny wouldn’t traipse through the woods searching for me. Running through the dark wasn’t his style. He’d use his phone.

My own phone, tucked in the pocket of my shorts, burst into the first bars of Boyfriend. I ignored the noise and poked a finger at Pete’s chest. “Quit calling me that. Don’t you have better things to do than skulk around the woods in the dark? Like maybe going to work?”

“I took the night off.” He peered at me. “Why are you crying?”

“None of your business!” Then, as his words sank in, I asked, “Why’d you take the night off? Is Gus okay?”

“Gramps is the same as he always is.” Pete slid the button on the flashlight and the bulb dimmed. “I stayed home because we heard the news about your dad. We’re going to help, in whatever way we can.” His voice barely carried across the small space between us, the words and tone sincere.

“That means a lot. Thanks. Tell Gus thanks too.”

“Yeah.” Pete turned the flashlight on bright again and waved it in a searching arc. “Where’s the jerk-off? He leave you alone out here?”

My gratitude evaporated like dew off grass. I planted my hands on my hips as my phone played Boyfriend again. “Stenny’s not a jerk-off, and he’s probably at the tree house, where I left him.”

“How nice to know he’ll stay where you tell him to. At least you won’t need to put a leash on him when the two of you are wandering around France.” Pete narrowed his eyes. “The woods are really dark, Dandy-Vandy, in case you haven’t noticed. Do you have a flashlight? Or am I gonna have to walk you home?”

I didn’t need him to babysit me. I opened my mouth to say so, and then reconsidered as the sounds of the night surged around me. He was right. The darkness crackled with noises I hadn’t paid much attention to during my rush to get away from the hurt of Stenny’s doubt. The air seemed ominous too, full of a sickly-sweet odor, a combination of gasoline, motor oil, and damp dirt. The mix stunk the way I imagined zombies – or worse, vampires – would.

“Thanks, Pete. That’s a good idea.”

“I have them occasionally.” He gestured with the flashlight. “The path’s this way.”

We strode along single file without speaking. The dry leaves crackled beneath our feet and the occasional haunting cry of a bird shredded the air.

“Nightingale,” Pete said.

We reached the end of the path, coming out of the woods behind a row of bushes fencing Kingsway’s open lawn. A line of solar lights illuminated the back yard, glowing against the pool cabana and the house’s white walls beyond – big, ornate…and home.

I smiled despite my worries. “I love how pretty our house is at night.”

Pete shut the flashlight off. “I’ll send you pictures while you’re enjoying your European adventure with the jerk-off.”

I was turning to him when a man carrying a portable video camera dashed across the lawn. I gasped. “He’s headed for the house! I have to warn Dad.”

BUY LINKS

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

REDEMPTION, Book Three of the Sun God’s Heir trilogy, the latest action adventure novel by Elliot Baker . This exciting book ties up the series with the same punch and pizzazz as the previous books and is sure to captivate you. Be sure to get your copy today!

Death is not life’s final stop. There are worse ends.

Two brothers, once disciples of the Pharoah Akhenaten, reincarnate in seventeenth century France. From Spain to Morocco to Egypt, one is determined to rule, the other to protect.

Horemheb, driven to destroy his brother and end their ancient rivalry, invites an African shaman to assist in recovering ancient artifacts of power that will ensure his dominance. Twice before, these artifacts have raised and then destroyed civilization.

The other, Rene Gilbert, escapes from the murderous sultan of Morocco, closely followed by the sultan’s personal guard, the Bukhari. Trained from childhood, these assassins live to kill.

Now, in the blockbuster conclusion to the Sun God’s Heir trilogy, Rene must find a way to fulfill a commitment made lifetimes ago. His long journey across the ages hurtles toward its climax, with the fate of his soul, and perhaps our very world, in the balance.

EXCERPT
The four swivel cannons fired simultaneously in an earsplitting crack. The four two-man crews reloaded the breech, loading cannons quickly and efficiently. Their survival depended on their rate of fire. Each two-man team loaded a premade chamber filled with explosive and grape shot. The chambers, which had been prepared in advance, could be loaded quicker than a similar bore loaded weapon. This rapid fire as well as its swivel mount was what gave this weapon its incredible lethality.

René was about to order the cannons to fire again when the smoke cleared enough for him to see the first shots’ results. One weapon was capable of clearing the men from a ship’s deck in a naval battle. Four fired at once literally created a quagmire of blood and body parts out of the fifty men and horses that had exited the ravine first. For a moment, there was absolute silence. No matter how disciplined the troops, it would take a while for whoever remained in command to organize the next attack.

“Move the right hand wagon to its flanking position.” René pointed east.

Moving swiftly and efficiently, Walid had the men reattach the already hitched horses and move the wagon along its prepared path. A flanking maneuver would encounter a very nasty surprise. Minutes later, Walid returned to René’s side. “We are set. They will not succeed in flanking our position. With your leave sir, I will recheck the elevations of these cannons.”

“As you will, Walid. What do you think of firing the guns successively rather than simultaneously?”

“I will make it so. We must inflict greater casualties on each charge to increase the time between charges. To do that we must allow more troops to exit the ravine. By firing successive shots, we can maintain a near continuous rate of fire if necessary.”

René expected another attack within the hour and he was not disappointed.

The Bukhari erupted from the ravine. And the ‘murderers’ began to fire. The result was the same only now there were more men and horses. The number of dead and dying on the field created an additional barrier for the troops to overcome. The next attack would be a flanking attempt. The Bukhari’s horses were more of a disadvantage in this particular location so snipers scaled the rocks.

“Let us make climbing those rocks a little more precarious.”

The men aimed their muskets and began picking off the outliers that were in sight. The battlefront quieted. The Bukhari would wait for the cover of darkness before attempting to flank them. The afternoon hours passed slowly. Waiting for battle was always difficult. René was confident the routines followed by Ismail’s troops were similar. You ate, you rested, you remembered.

“Walid, have the men unhitch the horses. Tie them up next to the trail a half mile back. We will not move the wagons and if needed, we can retreat faster on horseback. The forest grew dimmer as the sun sank. The giant cedar trees were silent. All the animals had deserted their homes when the first cannon fired.

Flashes of light and explosions erupted from the cannons on the right flank, a burst of light in the growing darkness. As expected, the Bukhari had first attacked their right. Men charged out of the ravine on foot. They tried to find cover behind their fallen comrades, and failed. At such close range grape shot shredded both the cover and the men. A musket ball whizzed past René’s head blowing a chunk from the backside of the wagon. The Bukhari scaled the rocky gorge to the left and managed to come around on that side as well. Walid detailed the left most cannon to swivel and focus on the men coming around the left flank. One cannon in each direction was not enough. In the three minutes it took to reload the cannon, Screaming scimitar wielding men reached the wagon.

René moved in front to protect the gun crews. With a sword in each hand, he met the first black giant of a man who managed to reach the wagon. Ducking below a vicious strike tasked with removing his head, René plunged his sword into the man’s chest and disengaged, allowing the man to drop to the earth. More men challenged him. None survived. The two men on the forward gun yelled and he hit the dirt, the red hot metal exploding out over his head. The sound beneath the gun was deafening. The Bukhari pulled back to regroup. René’s men could not withstand another attack. They were nearly out of preloaded chambers for the guns.

“Walid, spike the guns and then take these men and collect the other gun crew. Fall back to where the horses are. Make sure that all four cannons are rendered useless”

“What about you?” Walid asked.

“I will be right behind you. Leave a horse for me, but do not wait. Ten men cannot stand against hundreds.”

“I cannot leave you, Captain.” Walid’s face constricted as if horrid memories flooded his mind. “I will not fail again.”

René put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “There will be times when we fail each other. No man is invincible. But I am confident that this will not be one of those times. I am not sacrificing myself. I intend to create a diversion that will afford us the time to escape”

“I will help you.”

“In what I am about to do you cannot help. You do not have the training. Trust me and go quickly for our enemies will move soon.”

“Do not die, El Muerte, for I cannot face the sheikh’s daughter without you.”

There was a hint of a smile on his face, but he was deadly serious.

“Do not worry. I am not ready to leave yet. I will be there.”

Walid gathered the two gun crews and they disappeared into the trees.

René backed deeper into the lush cedar grove. Being late fall, the trees all had cones filled with sap. He walked over to a one hundred and thirty foot patriarch of the grove and kneeled. With his hands opened in reverence to the trees and with regret at what he was about to do, he took a deep breath and sank deeper into the levels of consciousness. As he moved through the energy centers that control the physical body, his consciousness enlivened those centers that connected him with the wider universe of energy and matter. He began to know the tree. Not just the image his physical senses brought to him, but its life and spirit. He thanked the tree for its sacrifice and began to speed up the tiny packets of energy that made up the tree’s physical presence. Faster and faster their movement, invisible but manifest until a wisp of smoke was present on the outside of the tree’s bark. The smoke increased, becoming a small flame and then larger until the entire tree burst into flame with an explosive crack. The intense heat spread the fire quickly. The tree’s cones exploded like musket fire, sending arcs of flame into neighboring trees. René went to the other side of the trail and ignited another tree and then another. The winds coming off the mountains fanned the fire and in minutes a conflagration raced from one side of the grove to the other. René sprinted for the horses. The fire would not delay the Bukhari forever.

Award winning novelist and international playwright Elliott Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and performed throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott has turned to writing novels. His debut novel, The Sun God’s Heir: Return, Book One of the trilogy, was released this past January.

A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook. Like Elliott’s Author Page to learn when new books are available.

Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

Romance Writers Weekly – If I had a million dollars.

By S.C. Mitchell

Today’s topic comes from the wonderful Leslie Hachtel – If someone handed you a million dollars, what would you do with it?

Well, after seeing the topic my mind instantly jumped here:. . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

A Writer’s Haven

Friday Features

Free Book

Sizzle in the Snow

Sizzle in the Snow: A Soul Mate Christmas Collection is eight holiday romances packed into one volume. Majanka Verstraete of InD’tale magazine rated the collection four stars and five steam pots. She called the book “an interesting holiday collection” with “smooth and polished style” storylines. “Each story is full of wit, charm and – most of all – romance.”

Our story is Kissing Santa:

When Sam S. Klaus, a professional Santa, has a fling with a beautiful elfette at a Santa Conference, he wants to make her Mrs. Klaus, but his intended disappears before Santa can pop the question.
Excerpt from Kissing Santa:
     Anna Noel studied the trim backside of the Santa standing in front of her. He appeared younger than most of the Santas at the Santa Claus conference she’d chosen to attend this year. A lot more attractive than any Santa she’d ever met. For the briefest of moments she let her mind wander, lingering on Christmas wish number nine—make love to Santa. A heated flush climbed her chest as she envisioned the scene, and she flapped the jacket of her green elf costume to cool down.
     Her gaze traveled over his hips, chest, and to the beginnings of a snow white beard. Then to his shock of silver hair underneath the white-trimmed, red Santa hat.

     Yep. Definitely a Santa she wanted to know. Too bad she wouldn’t be the elf to his mall Santa. They could get to know each other and more.
     The conference registrar drew her out of her Christmas fantasy with a loud, “Miss? Are you with this Santa?”

     “What? No. I don’t have a Santa. I’m here alone.”

     Sexy Santa turned and held out his hand. “Me, too. I’m Sam S. Klaus.”
     A smile curled her lips as she took his hand. “As in Sam Santa Claus?”
His warm palm sent tingles through her fingers as he gently squeezed them.

     A lopsided grin slanted his cheek upward, and he flashed a brilliant smile. “You have the same warped sense of humor as my parents.” He gave her a mock bow. “Sam S., for Santa, Klaus, with a K.”
     “That’s your real name?” He let go of her hand. She fought to keep from grabbing it back. A real Santa Klaus? How great was that?
     “The same, and you are?”
     “An—” She stopped, suddenly unwilling to reveal her name. A rollercoaster of emotions raced through her, suggesting she might hit number nine with this Santa. If she did, and it didn’t go well, she wouldn’t want Sam Klaus to know her real identity. “An elf, who needs a Santa,” she said. “How about we team up? I’ll be your personal elfette, and you can be my Santa.”

Want to know what each story is about… besides romance and Christmas? Well, here it is! (If you like their blurb, check out each author’s other books by clicking on their name!)

SANTA BABY by Beth Carter

Unlucky-in-love Brooke Woods finds herself with a Christmas delivery and it isn’t from Santa. When her boyfriend leaves her for their neighbor, she heads to the nearest bar, meeting hunky, nice guy Anderson Bradley. The two only exchange first names, and their hot fling leaves them both wanting more but their anonymity makes that impossible.
Brooke never thought she’d end up in a hospital pregnant at Christmastime. Will a Santa Baby bring the new mother and father together or tear them apart?

SECOND CHANCES: A CHRISTMAS STORY by Amy Deason

When Grace Sellers needs to start over, she moves back to her old hometown with her two young children in tow. But the last person she expects to see is her high school crush, Michael Dennison.
Is this unexpected encounter a mere coincidence or a second chance at true love?

‘TWAS THE CRAZY NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Crystal Firsdon

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when plans led to danger
For Clara and Drew, who until now were strangers.
As they run for safety, desire comes fast . . .
Will they have each other, or is this night their last?”

THE SNOW BIRD by Kim Hotzon

Lauren, a young single mother, is struggling to keep her children fed and a roof over their heads as the holidays approach.
Christmas is looking bleak until a sexy and wealthy property developer unexpectedly shows up in town, offering to repair her roof . . . and a whole lot more.

TAMED BY CHRISTMAS by Ryan Jo Summers

Years ago Paige and Shane experienced a tragic event in their romance. Unable to move past it, they broke up. Yet the passion remains, and she returns at Christmas time in an attempt to rekindle the love she and Shane once shared. It’s a rocky road, and it seems they might not succeed until a freak accident shows them what they really have to lose.
Can Shane tame Paige’s heart by Christmas? Or should they just let those still burning flames slowly die?

OPERATION SANTA by Tina Susedik

When Marci Hofer becomes fed up with the lack of attention from her husband, David, she decides to leave him. Devastated, he begins a campaign to bring her home. Calling it Operation Santa, he learns what he thought would be as simple as sending her gifts can backfire in the most embarrassing ways.
Will he survive the battle to get her back?

CHRISTMAS EVE SURPRISE by Cheryl Yeko

Steve knows he screwed up, but he’s determined to reclaim the woman he loves and the babies she carries.
But when he sweeps back into her life on Christmas Eve, Amy’s not sure she’s ready to forgive him for abandoning her six months earlier.

Buy Link

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shares

THE STORM WITHIN

by

Cerian Hebert

Note from Donald: I got to read an advance copy of this book and finished in one day. The characters were believable, well developed and the story did not let me put the book down. Another excellent addition to the collection.

THE LEGEND OF THE SOUL MATE TREE:

I am old, I am ancient, my purpose is clear
To give those who are needy a treasure so dear.
They who come to my roots, touch my bark, stroke my leaves
Find the soul of their lives if they but believe.
When I call and you listen, your prize will be great
If your heart remains open and you don’t hesitate.
Do you yearn? Be you lonely? Is your time yet at hand?
Reach for me and I’ll give to you. I’m yours to command.
For your trust, for your faith, keep my secrets untold
And I’ll gift you forever, to have and to hold.

 

An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds. To some, it’s nothing more than a dream. To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations.

For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift.

THE STORM WITHIN
By
Cerian Hebert

Healed from her own loss, Juliana Hopkins wants nothing more than to mend reclusive artist Aidan Byrne’s heart, and help close a chapter in his life that has haunted him for over twenty years. Risking their newfound love, Juliana is determined to release the ghosts he can’t let go.

Aidan has been in love with Juliana since the first moment he saw her, but if she can’t leave the tragedies of his past alone, he won’t be able to make a life with her.

She offers him a love he never dared to want, but loving her could rip open all the old wounds he’d never been able to heal.
Available now for pre-sale. Releases: November 15, 2017

Buy Link The Storm Within

Book Trailer for The Soul Mate Tree Series:

Bio:

It’s all about the romance. Since the age of twelve, Cerian has believed this and has wanted nothing more than to write stories with a Happily Ever After. Countless notebooks are filled with her stories written over the years while she’s worked jobs like cleaning stalls in New York to booking cruises in Maine. Currently she’s happily settled in southwestern New Hampshire, working for a company that offers professional development for educators. In her spare time, she’s busy weaving stories and continuing to pursue her dreams.

Bio picture

Find Cerian at:

Website Facebook Twitter Goodreads Pintrest Amazon Author page

Other blogs/info on The Soul Mate Tree books:

Soul Mate Tree Page

Book One: Realm of the Dragon, by CiCi Cordelia, Blog post

Book Two: Can’t Stop the Music, by C.D. Hersh, Blog post

Book Three: Between Venus and Mars, by S.C. Mitchell, Blog post

Book Four: The Trail to Love, by Tina Susedik, Blog post

Book Five: Make Me a Match, by Mackenzie Lucas, Blog post

Book Six: A Promise Remembered, by Erin Riley, Blog post

Book Seven: Never Give Up On Love, by Maggie Mundy, Blog post

Book Eight: Once Upon a Lady, by Addie Jo Ryleigh, Blog post

Book Nine: Sweet Sacrifice, by L.D. Rose, Blog post

Book Ten: Soul Song, by Mikea Howard, Blog post

Book Eleven:

Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

Why Writing a Novel is Like Space Exploration #MondayBlogs #AmWriting

By Lucy Mitchel

The other day, during a bout of procrastination, I found myself thinking about astronauts, space travel, rockets and aliens. To my surprise I discovered a few novel-writing similarities.

Here is my list:. . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

BlondeWriteMore

Friday Features

Guest blogger is

Leigh Goff

In my newest young adult fantasy, Bewitching Hannah, Hannah’s Aunt J promises sixteen-year-old Hannah a sweet surprise. The young witch hopes the surprise will be her favorite sugary treat—Lavender Honey Macarons. As she describes them, “They were the most amazing little delights; a melt-in-your mouth combination of whipped egg whites, honey, and French lavender…”

LAVENDER MACARONS with HONEY BUTTERCREAM

Macarons
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp. dried lavender buds
¾ cup almond meal
2 egg whites
3 tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend the confectioner’s sugar, lavender, and almond meal in a food processor until fine, then whisk everything into a large bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat egg whites and sugar together until you create a stiff meringue in a medium-sized bowl. This can take up to 10 minutes. Scrape any meringue clinging to the beaters back into the bowl.

Add the almond meal mixture into the bowl all at once.

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites and also rub the meringue against the side of the bowl to knock the air out of it. This is not a mixture combining that you need to baby. You want to deflate the egg whites don’t be gentle. By the time it’s ready, its consistency will be runny, closer to pancake batter than cake batter.

Fill a pastry bag with the batter. Use a pastry bag with a coupler or with a tip. Pipe your shells onto the parchment-paper lined baking sheets, about 1 inch. Space them 1 inch apart.

When you’re done piping, lift the pan and whack it down hard against your counter twice. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and repeat. You might see tiny air bubbles appear on the top of the rounds, a good sign. Do the same with the other pan. Slide the pans into the oven and bake about 15 minutes, at which point the shells should be able to be cleanly picked off the parchment paper.

Let the shells come to room temperature, then fill your macarons with the honey buttercream (recipe below). Use a pastry bag or a spoon.

Honey Butter Cream
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. honey

Beat the butter using the whisk attachment for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, and whisk until well incorporated.

Pour in the honey. Beat until well mixed.

Makes about 40 shells, or 20 macarons
Adapted from Brave Tart

While the shells come to room temperature here is something to pass the time.

EXCERPT

The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

“W?”

A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

“To help you. I want to help you.”

“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

“You read the note.”

His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”

“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

What was he besides completely contemptible?

“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”

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Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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