Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mistletoe Medium by Elizabeth Delisi

Chapter One

A New Beginning

Lottie Baldwin glanced in her rearview mirror and frowned. Red flashing lights reflected from the revolving dome atop a sheriff's car, trailing directly behind her. After driving four hundred miles, the final hundred with the afternoon sun glaring in her eyes, the last thing she needed was a speeding ticket. Why hadn't her tarot cards foreseen this? She eased off the accelerator and pulled into the breakdown lane of the small, two-lane highway.

The sheriff's car stopped behind her and a tall, muscular man in a black uniform got out. Lottie watched him in the mirror, patting her tousled blonde curls into place absentmindedly, fascinated by the lithe way he moved. She'd never been interested in the law-and-order type, but this one might be the man who could change her mind. She opened her window, letting in the unseasonably mild early December air.

He leaned down and removed his sunglasses. "May I see your license and registration, please?"

"Of course, Sheriff," Lottie said, smiling briefly to bring her dimples into view as she read his badge?Lake County, North Dakota Sheriff's Department. He was even more gorgeous up close, with dark blue eyes and broad shoulders that strained the top buttons of his shirt. The setting sun tinged his blond hair coppery-gold, a light breeze brought the subtle scent of his spicy aftershave to her nostrils. His proximity made her lightheaded. "What's the problem? Was I speeding?" she asked innocently as she rummaged in the bottom of her purse for her driver's license.

"You were going sixty-eight in a fifty-five zone, ma'am," he said, accepting her license and registration.

"I'm sorry, Sheriff. I've been on the road since six this morning. I guess I was anxious for the trip to be over." She smiled again, more intimately this time.

"Lottie Baldwin," he read from her driver's license. "Blonde hair, gray eyes. From New York?"

"Not anymore." She shook her head. "I'm moving to Cheyenne and I'm so sorry to make such a poor first impression on the local law enforcement. Can we start over?" She extended her hand.

The officer studied her for a minute then grasped her hand in his. "Pleased to meet you, ma'am. My name is Harlan Erikson. I'm a deputy sheriff here and as lovely as you are, I'm afraid I'm going to have to write you a ticket."

186 Mistletoe Medium

As their hands touched, tingles shot up Lottie's arm. Lovely, was she? The man had good taste! "You just do what you have to do," she purred. "I respect a man who does his job." She made no move to withdraw her hand, letting it lie trustingly in his.

Harlan stared at her for a moment, then blinked and dropped her hand. "Do you have a local address, ma'am?"

"Please, don't call me ma'am. It makes me feel old. You call me Lottie and I'll call you Harlan." She toyed with her gold hoop earring. "I'm staying with a friend until I find a place of my own. Her name is Janet Randall and she lives at 501 Chestnut Street, Apartment 3."

"You're friends with?I mean, you're staying with Janet Randall? You don't seem like?" Harlan stopped, a blush creeping up his neck.

Lottie laughed. "Janet is my dearest friend and yes, I'm staying with her. We've been friends since we graduated from college three years ago?though I know you may find that difficult to believe."

"Well, you never know, do you?" He shook his head, a bemused expression on his face.

"I know," she said. "I always know. And I have a feeling about you, Deputy Sheriff Harlan Erikson. I have a feeling we'll be good friends." She winked. "Very good friends."

"Oh?" He grinned and leaned closer, almost taking her breath away. "Well, normally I like to choose my own women, but in your case I might make an?"

"Unit Four." Harlan's portable radio crackled to life, cutting short the rest of his vision of their future.

Harlan straightened, turned away from Lottie and spoke into the radio clipped to his epaulet. "Four. Go ahead."

"We've got a 10-31 at 1910 Baker Street. You copy?"

"Four clear. En route." He turned back to Lottie. "You're a lucky lady. I have to go, so I won't issue you a ticket this time?just a warning to watch your speed."

"Thank you, Harlan. That's very kind of you," Lottie murmured. "I hope you're able to get there before the criminal leaves the scene of his crime."

Harlan's eyes narrowed. "How did you know that a 10-31 was a crime in progress?"

"Madame Carlotta sees all, knows all." Lottie waggled her fingers mysteriously.

"Oh, does she? Well, then, maybe you can tell me?" He shook himself. "Oh, no, you don't. I have to leave. Nice to meet you, Lottie. Enjoy Cheyenne!" He turned and strode to his patrol car.

"I'm sure I will," Lottie called out to his retreating form. "Come visit me at Janet's!"

He hopped into his car and pulled out into the road, lights flashing. As he passed Lottie's car, he turned to her and waved.

187 Elizabeth Delisi

Life in Lottie's new hometown was definitely looking up.

* * * * *

A few minutes later, Lottie pulled up in front of Janet's place. Her apartment was in a large older home with white clapboards and a spacious wraparound porch. True to the street name, two chestnut trees?majestic despite their December barrenness?towered over the front walk. Lottie located Janet's doorbell and pushed the button firmly.

After a moment or two, the door opened and Janet appeared. She looked exactly as Lottie remembered her?tall and slender, with short dark hair, wide green eyes and porcelain skin. Janet stared for a moment, then flung out her arms and pulled Lottie into her embrace. "Lottie! What are you doing here?"

Lottie returned the embrace with enthusiasm. "I'm moving to Cheyenne. Can I stay with you until I find my own place?"

Janet's eyes went even wider. "Wait a minute?you're moving to Cheyenne? Just like that? You make my head spin!" She pulled Lottie into the hallway. "It's so good to have you here?life is too dull without you around. Of course you can stay with me! Come on up and I'll make you a cup of tea. We have a lot of catching up to do."

Minutes later, Lottie was seated at Janet's red and white enamel kitchen table, sipping a cup of freshly brewed mint tea. Janet put a plate of cookies on the table, then sat down across from Lottie. "So, why are you moving to Cheyenne? I have to tell you, it doesn't strike me as your kind of town. It's quiet and sedate."

"I needed a break?quiet sounds good to me." Lottie's smile faltered. "Let's just say, the love train derailed and I had to get away. I couldn't bear another moment there."

"Oh, no! Don't tell me you broke up with Jack?" Janet reached for Lottie's hand and patted it.

"Yes, I did." Lottie ignored the self-pity tugging at her heart. She'd done her mourning and now it was time to move on with her life. Besides, if Janet gave her too much sympathy, she'd start bawling.

"Why? What happened?"

Lottie grimaced. "I should've figured it out a long time ago, but I guess I was blinded by love." She toyed with the spoon on her saucer. "My tarot cards kept telling me something was very wrong with Jack. But he assured me that everything was all right and foolishly, I believed him."

"What did he do, Lottie?" Janet asked.

"He was involved in some?unsavory activities. Apparently, he was fencing stolen jewelry." Lottie sighed. "I should've known?I kept drawing the Seven of Swords when I tried to do a reading on Jack. But like a stubborn fool, I refused to see it."

"The Seven of Swords? What does that mean?"

188 Mistletoe Medium

"Well, usually it indicates someone who's running away from responsibility, afraid to face the music. Someone who would rather go it alone. Naturally, I thought that meant he wasn't ready for a committed relationship with me." Lottie swirled the tea in the bottom of her cup. "But there's another, more literal meaning to the card?robbery or theft. I guess I was only seeing what I wanted to see. That's why I hate to read the cards for myself?I can't be impartial." She shook her head. "Anyway, that's over and done with. This will be the first time I've spent Christmas alone in a long time. But, that's all right. I'm starting over, here in Cheyenne. I'm taking charge of my life again."

Janet rose, came around the table and hugged Lottie. "You won't be alone, Lottie. I'm so glad you're here! You'll spend Christmas with me. We'll have lots of fun! I'll help you find a job and a place to live. Before you know it, you'll be all settled in! You won't regret coming."

"Oh, I can always build up another tarot clientele like I had in New York," Lottie said, waving her hand airily. "I'm sure I'll like it here. I've already met a very eligible man!" She winked at Janet, deliberately thrusting Jack and his deceptions from her mind.

"Good heavens, Lottie, you're certainly a fast worker! Who is he? Maybe I know him."

"I'll bet you do?at any rate, he seems to know you. He's Deputy Sheriff Harlan Erikson." She smiled as she remembered his parting wave. "I think he'll come visit me here before too long."

"Ooh! He's a hunk, that's for sure. But do you think he's really your type? I mean he's pretty straitlaced."

"Don't worry, honey. I'll unlace him in no time flat." Lottie arched her eyebrows.

Janet giggled. "It is so good to have you here! Cheyenne will never know what hit it."

* * * * *

Tall, Blond and Handsome

The doorbell buzzed. "Lottie, can you get that?" Janet called from behind the bathroom door. "I'm not finished with my hair yet."

"Sure, honey, don't worry." Lottie set aside her magazine and stood up. As she walked down the stairs to the front door, a vision popped into her mind of blond hair, broad shoulders, a black uniform. "Harlan, I'm delighted to see you again!" she cried as she pulled open the door.

Harlan's mouth dropped open. "How did you know it was me? I didn't tell anyone I was coming here." He frowned down at her.

"Ah, but you forget, Madame Carlotta sees all, knows all." She grinned.

"Just what does that mean? Never mind!" He cut her off as she opened her mouth. "It's probably safer if I don't know." He paused. "Well, aren't you going to ask me in?"

189 Elizabeth Delisi

Lottie laughed. "Oh, yes, of course! Where are my manners? Won't you come in, Deputy Sheriff Harlan Erikson?" She bowed grandly.

Harlan brushed closely past her and stepped into the hall. "After you, Madame Carlotta," he said, gesturing toward the staircase.

His proximity flustered her. She covered her sudden shakiness by marching up the stairs and into Janet's apartment. "Janet!" she called from the living room. "Harlan's here!"

"I'll be out soon," came the muffled reply.

"Have a seat," Lottie said to Harlan. Her temperature rose as he chose the middle of the couch instead of a chair, crossing his long legs in front of him. "Can I get you some tea?" she asked.

"No, thanks. I just thought I'd stop by and make sure you were obeying the traffic laws," he said, grinning and patting the cushion next to him invitingly.

"Oh, yes, I am, Officer," she murmured as she sat down next to him, closer than was strictly necessary. "I wouldn't want to run afoul of the law!"

"Glad to hear it! So?how do you like Cheyenne so far?"

"Well, it's quite different from New York City," Lottie said slowly. "But I think I'm going to like it here." She smiled at him. "I certainly like the people!"

Harlan uncrossed and recrossed his legs. "I thought you'd enjoy a tour of the town. Such as it is," he said. "Would you like to have dinner with me tonight? I'm afraid there's only one decent restaurant in town?Nicky's?but they make terrific fettuccini Alfredo. Afterward, I'll drive you home and point out the sights along the way."

"Why, Harlan, I'd love to." Lottie smiled seductively. "I'm sure there are lots of things you can show me."

Harlan flushed. "Maybe one or two?"

The phone rang. "Excuse me for a minute, will you?" Lottie got up and went to the kitchen, then picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

"Lottie? That you, honey?" came a smooth voice.

Lottie sighed, her stomach lurching. "Yes, Jack, it's me. How did you find me?"

"I knew you'd go to Janet's. You don't have anyplace else to go. When are you coming back?"

"I'm not coming back, Jack. I told you that when I left." Lottie twisted the phone cord around her index finger. "Please, let's just leave it at that. What we had is over. Let's not make it ugly."

"Oh, c'mon, honey, you know you love me," Jack wheedled. "You're just mad. You can't live without me and you know it."

"Don't kid yourself. I can live without you very well," Lottie retorted.

190 Mistletoe Medium

There was a brief silence. Then he spoke again, all trace of supplication gone from his tone. "Nobody leaves me. Nobody. Have you got that? Now, get your ass home, pronto!"

"No, Jack," Lottie repeated, trying to keep her voice from shaking. She had no intention of letting him know how much he frightened her. "I'm not coming back and you can't make me."

"Oh, yes I can," he growled. "If you don't come back on your own, I'm coming out there after you. I'll drag you back by your hair! You hear me?"

"I'm hanging up now, Jack," Lottie said. "Don't call me again. We're finished." She dropped the receiver into its cradle, then leaned against the counter, trembling. Suddenly, a warm hand stole over her shoulder and a sense of safety and peace flowed through her.

"I couldn't help but overhear," Harlan said. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

She straightened but couldn't face him. "No, there isn't. Though he threatened to follow me out here, Jack's all talk and no action. I doubt he'll make good on his threats. But, thank you."

Harlan grasped both her shoulders and turned her around. "If this Jack character gives you any trouble, I want you to call me and I'll take care of him. Promise me you will?"

She looked up into his eyes?they radiated care and concern. The ice in the pit of her stomach suddenly melted. "All right, I promise. Thank you. But for now, let's just forget about him. He's in the past." She winked at him. "I'm much more interested in the future."

Harlan pulled her hand into the crook of his arm. "Allow me to escort you back to the 'parlor'. I want to hear all about you!"

* * * * *

Lottie's life story had progressed as far as her one-day expulsion from high school when she'd turned over The Lovers card during an impromptu tarot reading for a friend and had been accused by the vice principal of "displaying indecent material".

"His eyes nearly popped out of his head!" Lottie giggled, wiping her eyes. "I thought he was going to explode."

Harlan leaned his head back on the couch, laughing freely. After a moment, he sat up and gasped, "Lottie, I haven't laughed so hard in ages. I think you're going to be good for me!"

"All right, now it's your turn. Tell me about you."

"Not much to tell." He shrugged. "I was born here, went to school here. I did go away to Fargo to get my police sciences degree, but I came back home after I graduated. I've been working for the sheriff's department ever since. I guess I've led a boring life?until now," he said, regarding her warmly.

191 Elizabeth Delisi

"Well, then, tell me more about your job," Lottie urged. "For instance, did you catch that burglar you were after when we met?"

Harlan frowned. "I can't tell you the details, but there's been a second burglary. And no, we haven't caught the guy yet. I don't think he's dangerous?he never takes more than one or two items and leaves the most valuable things behind. Just to be on the safe side, though, you and Janet should keep your doors and windows locked."

"We will," Lottie murmured. A vision nibbled at the edge of her mind and she leaned back and closed her eyes to focus it. Flowers?a strong scent of flowers. Tarot cards floated through her mind?the Seven of Swords and The Moon. Treachery?and deception.

"Lottie? Are you all right?" Harlan's concerned voice pulled her out of her vision.

"Yes." She rubbed her eyes. "There's something about this case that isn't right. These robberies aren't what they appear to be. Flowers are involved somehow."

Harlan snorted. "Flowers? You think it's the local florist pulling off these jobs?"

She shook her head. "No. I mean, I don't know. My visions aren't easy to interpret and sometimes they only make sense in retrospect. I wish I could help more." She spread her hands in a helpless gesture.

"Don't worry," he said stiffly, frown lines etched deep in his forehead and around his mouth. "I may not have psychic abilities, but I assure you, I know how to do my job."

"I'm sorry. I wasn't questioning your abilities. I was just trying to help. These visions appear to me at random. I can't control them." She moved an inch or two away from him and looked down at her feet.

After a minute, he sighed. "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have jumped on you. It's just?well, this case is aggravating. There's no apparent motive for the robberies, since the thief leaves behind most of the valuables. The victims don't appear to be connected in any way. It makes no sense. But don't worry," he added. "We'll catch him. We always get our man?or woman."

"I hope so," Lottie said, moving closer at his encouraging tone.

Harlan squeezed her hand and rose. "I have to go now. I'll pick you up at six. Is that okay?"

"Perfect!" Lottie said. "See you then." She walked him to the door and closed it gently behind him.

Janet came out of the bathroom. "At last! I thought he'd never leave."

"You could have come out, Janet," Lottie protested. "You didn't have to stay locked up in there."

"I wanted to give you two some time alone. So?did he ask you out?" Janet arched her eyebrows.

192 Mistletoe Medium

"Yes! We're having dinner tonight?as long as he doesn't change his mind." Lottie frowned. "Maybe I shouldn't have told him about my psychic abilities so soon. It scares a lot of men off."

"Not Harlan," Janet said. "He may take some time to adjust to new ideas, but he's pretty open-minded."

"You think so?" Lottie asked doubtfully.

"I know so! Madame Janet predicts." Janet laughed. "Now, let's have some lunch. I missed breakfast while I was stuck in there and I'm starved!"

(c) 2007 Elizabeth Delisi - Do not reproduce in any form without the permission of the author/owner.

If you like this sample chapter, you can read the rest and 5 other stories by purchasing a copy of ENCHANTED HOLIDAYS, available from Cerridwen Press http://www.cerridwenpress.com in both electronic and print.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

For your Christmas pleasure I am posting an excerpt chapter from one of the stories included in ENCHANTED HOLIDAYS. This sample chapter is from the novella FATE'S LITTLE TRICK - a story by Sheryl Hames Torres, a very talented author. Enjoy!

Jared clicked off the radio. The incessant Christmas babble and hokey country Christmas songs were beginning to grate on his already-frayed nerves.

He looked down at the restless child lying in his lap and wanted to bawl like a baby. The seat belt stretched at an odd angle across Emily's little body. She had to be uncomfortable, but he didn't have the heart to wake her. She was completely exhausted. He watched her signing nonsense words in her sleep and touched the back of his hand to her pale brow. At least her fever was lower.

He cursed the reasons for having to drag his little girl across the country. They should be home decorating the tree and making out Christmas lists. He shouldn't have to do this. He shouldn't have to run. But if his best friend, Rick, hadn't called when he did, they might not have had the chance to run. He still didn't understand how his former in-laws figured they had the right to file for custody of his child. The Daltons had enough money to make the court see things their way. Jared's bank account offered him only two choices, stay and fight for about fifteen minutes, lose Emily and everything else, or fill the car with gas and run.

With a heavy sigh, he drove farther and farther up the ridiculously winding road, deeper into the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. If these were the foothills, he'd hate to see the actual mountains. The intense darkness swallowed the feeble light from his high beams. He'd never seen dark so black before.

A child of the city, he was used to streetlights reflecting against smoggy skies. There were few houses this far back in the woods, but covered in lights and decorations, they were like ornaments in the night. Between the houses, the only illumination was the vast amount of stars twinkling down at them from the inky sky. Maneuvering another hairpin curve, Jared decided he'd never seen so many stars, either.

He wished he could just stop and look at them, enjoy them a bit, but they had to reach the cabins as soon as possible. The devil might not be after them, but the threat was just as dire?and just as frightening.

For the last two hundred miles, in between the innocuous Christmas ditties, the radio announcer continuously touted an early snowy forecast for the southeastern part of the U.S. They didn't know when it would hit exactly as it had stalled several times as it made its way cross-country, just sometime in the next few days. Real specific. The system apparently sped up and slowed down as it crossed the country. At the moment, it was in slow mode. He would have thought snow in the mountains in mid-December wouldn't be a big thing, even this far south.

38 Fate's Little Trick

He didn't care one way or another. Let the snow come and bury them up to the roof until spring. All he cared about was getting to the cabin, locking the door behind them and staying inside for as long as it took.

But how long would that be? Would Emily be a teenager and he a bearded old mountain man by the time it was safe to emerge into the light again? Well, if that's what it took, so be it. Emily was his child, the only good thing from his disastrous marriage to Kirsten. He'd be damned if he'd let those usurpers?those interlopers?take her from him. If Em wasn't good enough for them before, what did they think would be different now? She was still deaf.

As he rounded a corner, the hunting retreat finally came into view. The words uttered by that old storeowner in the valley as he thrust the magazine ad into Jared's hands came flooding back to him.

"Miz Fuller should have room for y'all. She's on up there." He nodded his head toward the mountain with its upper half completely obliterated by the low-hanging clouds and coming dusk. "Now, she's a right bit odd, but she runs a clean place, tight and secure. Reckon folks are a might afraid of her hermit ways, but you needn't worry none. She's just sad. Sadness does that. Makes folks hunt for excuses to avoid anything that'll add more pain to what they already suffer. Made-up fear is just as good a reason as any."

Pulling up in front of a quaint cabin marked "office", Jared squinted through the darkness. A screened-in porch spread at an odd angle across the front of the cabin, following the terrain instead of the architecture of the building. The dim light at the windows was cheery and flickering. Fireplace or candlelight, he surmised. Shifting into neutral, he set the parking brake and cut the lights.

He didn't notice the door open, but suddenly a woman dressed in a long skirt and heavy blanket or shawl stood silhouetted against the flickering light, as though she'd been there all the time, waiting for them.

Leaving the engine and heater running, he slipped out from under his sleeping daughter's head as easily as he could and opened the car door. Standing half in, half out of the car, he called into the dark.

"Hello, ma'am. I'm Jar?Jake Matthews." Fast thinking. He hated lying, but he had no choice. "I'm sorry I didn't phone ahead?"

"You do realize that in a matter of days we could be snowed in here?" Her voice was soft despite her hard tone.

"Yes, ma'am." Jared's defensive hackles rose on the back of his neck. Even in the dark, he felt the intensity of her stare, the sensation that it was cutting through him sent a shudder creeping up his back. "We needed to?um?get away for a while."

"Fine. Two bedrooms, I'm assuming." Her voice was strange, clear but guttural almost, as though it hurt her to speak. Without waiting for his answer, she shoved the screen door open, moved down the two steps and walked away from him.

39 Sheryl Hames Torres

He got back in his car and followed her up the road, actually climbing higher up the mountain to the last cabin on the lane. None of the cabins appeared to be occupied and he wondered why she was taking them so far. Following behind her, they were barely creeping along.

"Ma'am, wouldn't you rather ride up?"

Ignoring him completely, she moved ahead as surefooted as a young mountain deer, though she carried no lantern or flashlight. His headlights were the only illumination in the pitch darkness of the night. A little general store sat halfway up the mountain between the groupings of cabins. Heavy-branched firs leaned over it in a motherly fashion.

He pulled to a stop in front of the last cabin on the lane. She unlocked and opened the cabin door while he lifted Emily from the seat. Stepping into the small house, warmth enveloped him and he noticed that not only were the lamps already turned on, but a fire roared in the fireplace.

Alarm bells rose inside him and he hesitated. He searched the room for the woman, but she had already started down the hall. Jared followed.

If the lights and the fire shocked him, it was nothing compared to finding the room set up to accommodate a little girl. Frilly pink curtains adorned the windows and matched the quilt on the little canopy bed. On the floor, toys were scattered around the walls.

"This is her room," she said, her tone still gruff. She lit a hurricane lamp that sat on the bedside table. As if reading his mind, she said, "Don't worry about the lamp. She's young, not stupid. She won't touch it."

He turned his eyes in her direction, but she was already leaving the room. Emily still in his arms, he followed his new landlady. "Ma'am, what is all this? How?"

"Trail map's on the table. Store opens at eight. Goodnight."


Instead of stopping, she pulled the door closed behind her with a resounding click. Jared stood there in the center of the warm room, staggered. How was all of this possible? It was as though she expected them, but that was ridiculous.

And she hadn't given them any information at all. Not about price?not even about herself. In fact, it dawned on him that he never even saw her face.

What he did see as he scanned the homey little room was a small, unopened bottle of children's fever reducer on the counter. His eyes went back to the closed door and a chill when through him. How could she have known? One-handed, he turned the deadbolt with a click that echoed unnaturally loud against the backdrop of popping wood in the fire.

* * * * *

40 Fate's Little Trick

It was long past midnight when Gemma finally pulled her eyes and mind away from the cabin up the mountain and stepped inside her own. She'd stopped feeling the cold hours ago, but now, as the warmth enveloped her, she shivered violently.

How ludicrous was this? They were just people. Nothing special. A man and his daughter. Oh, how she wished she could convince herself of that. Why had he come back now? And with that woman's child?it was like a slap in the face. Gemma felt like the character in that silly one-act play they did in high school?the one where the woman and her daughter show up at a man's house just as he's about to commit suicide, only to reveal they're the ghosts of his late wife and child.

Of course, they weren't the family she'd lost and she wasn't planning suicide. She learned when Ray and Lila died that she was too much of a coward to kill herself. But the torture of having Jared here with his child might just do the job for her. Perhaps she should call her lawyer and have him draw up a new will immediately. She could just leave everything to him and his little girl and walk off into the woods.

Maybe then it would stop.

Why now? Why after all these years? She came up here to be alone, to simmer in her own soup and not add anyone else's problems to the pot. So, why did they have to come now? Regretting his choices? Well, his choices and his regrets had stopped being her problem long ago. That woman's child had no right to crawl inside her head against her will. And he had no right to come to her for help. Even if he didn't know that he had.

She ran her hands through her wind-matted hair and fought down the desperate urge to step back out onto the porch. Maybe the icy wind would have more effect if she left her clothes inside.

S he could see the headlines in the afternoon paper, Crazy Woman Found Naked and Frozen on Screened Porch. Not many folks around the area would be surprised.
Walking to the window, she turned her eyes again to the lit cabin up the ridge. She wished he would go to sleep and stop thinking. If only he would just shut up. He chose his boss's daughter, her arms and her lips?her money. She didn't want to care. She didn't even want to know what their problems were. But, despite her best barriers, slowly, little by little, his thoughts were seeping into her brain and pretty soon, she'd know everything.

And what was this ruse with the phony name?

Picking up the lamp, she started down the hall. Turning for one last glimpse at the door, she purposely left the lock unturned, the fire unbanked. Why bother? It had all started again and she couldn't control it anymore.

Goodnight. Don't be mad.
The child's clear sweet voice ricocheted off the folds of her mind and Gemma's feet stopped as if planted to the spot. She closed her eyes, fighting against tears she'd long ago forgotten how to cry.

Hush, baby. You need to sleep.

If you like this sample chapter, you can read the rest and 5 other stories by purchasing a copy of ENCHANTED HOLIDAYS, available from Cerridwen Press http://www.cerridwenpress.com in both electronic and print.

(c) 2007 Sheryl Hames Torres. Do not reproduce without permission from the author/owner.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas is Almost Here

I can't believe it's less than a week away. Yes, Christmas is almost here and I've finished shopping (except for food--to do tomorrow). I hope everyone else is ready. My husband and his brother went to visit their mother Monday and Tuesday while I stayed home to take care of our dog and cat. My husband and I are going back to see her after Christmas while my brother-in-law takes care of our pets. We don't like leaving them alone and they wouldn't do well at a kennel or traveling. But that's another subject.

My decorating is all done, finally. We did some last week, but I finished tonight with the small nativity scene and the kitchen table with center-piece (one word or two, not sure) and table cloth. I need to do more winter cleaning, and except for the cooking for Christmas Day everything should be done. I even mailed out Christmas cards this year. This is something I haven't done in a while--probably 2 or 3 years, except for one to my mother-in-law who insists on a card, and mailing it to her, even when she's here for the holidays. She's not going to be able to come up this year and the reason for the two visits to her home--about 4 hours away.

We'll be spending Christmas Day with my youngest son, a friend and my brother-in-law for sure; and my oldest son will try to bring my grandson for a visit too. I sure hope they will be able to make it, but if they don't, they're on our way to my mother-in-law's house, so we'll either stop on the way there, or on the way back.

I also finished with college for the fall semester, signed up for Spring 2008 semester, and have my books. My first day back will be next year on January 15th. Almost a month off. Btw, thanks to everyone who helped me with information for my research paper for Expository Writing. I'm happy to announce I made 92 on it and I was able to maintain my A average in the class. I passed the final exam which was graded either pass or fail (fail the exam, fail the course). I'm also happy to announce that I made all A's this time, but next semester appears to be much harder than the fall semester was. So wish me luck, or better yet, pray for me. I'm going to need it.

And to top it all off, our book, Enchanted Holidays has just been released in paperback and can be found at the publisher's website for print: http://www.jasminejade.com/default.aspx?skinid=13. Amazon.com also has it and I understand Borders stores should also carry Cerridwen Print Books. Enchanted Holidays is a Romantic Parnormal Suspense with 3 holidays stories, including: Christmas, New Years and Valentine's Day novellas (2 of each holiday). My story, Haunted Hearts is actually a Valentine's Day story.
So everything is looking pretty good on the home front this Christmas. Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.