Four Years of Thankfulness

On this Thanksgiving Eve my mind turns to thoughts of just how much my life has changed in the past four years.

Thanksgiving Day fell on November 22nd in 2012 and I had two books on the New York Times Bestseller’s list that week.  Both NAKED and ALL IN were still indie published, I was still teaching 1st grade, and trying to figure out how I would juggle my precious time enough to write EYES WIDE OPEN in the next two months while managing the upcoming holidays and my teaching job.  Yes, I was busy, but I was also very happy to be full of so much hope and excitement for the future.  Dare I say my life was a lot more…simpler?  Of course it was, I had nothing more to do than work.  Hard work had never hurt me before, and I just had to buckle down and get it done.  Well, exactly one week later I was offered a major book deal for the trilogy, which I accepted.  That event set me on the path to realizing my dream of becoming a full-time author.  My life got even busier as I battled the learning curve of the publishing industry–something which will never end, by the way…but I digress.  The most important point is that I was so thankful for everything I’d been given.

Thanksgiving fell on November 28th in 2013, and that year I missed the dinner in lieu of putting on the finishing touches to CHERRY GIRL which was publishing the next day.  *sheer insanity to publish a book on Black Friday*  In the course of that year I’d traveled extensively, as well as moved my parents into assisted living in order to be close to me.  It was time.  My father had just been sprung from the rehab facility where he’d been recovering from a bad fall for the previous five weeks.  It seemed that as soon as I was semi-settled in my new career as a full-time writer, family illness stepped right into the forefront to demand my attention.  But I was still very thankful for my life and the freedom to help my parents when they needed me.  I knew I was blessed.

Thanksgiving 2014 found us in Sydney, Australia for a book signing combined into a whirlwind family trip. The Land of Oz was amazing, as expected, but I was exhausted mentally after the death of my father amidst the publishing of three new books that year (RARE and PRECIOUS THINGS, PRICELESS, and THE MUSE) in addition to some major traveling.  I fell and screwed up my knee which sucked, but I didn’t need surgery and it eventually healed in time.  Even though the previous year had been a hard one, I was still incredibly thankful for my family and our wonderful life that afforded us amazing experiences like trips to Edinburgh and Australia for book signings.  So very blessed.

Thanksgiving 2015 was only one year ago, but so much happened between the previous Thanksgiving I felt like my life was unrecognizable to what it had once been.  My mother died in May of 2015, just thirteen months after my father, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard on me.  I was sad, of course, but I wasn’t bitter in any way.  Death is part of life and we must accept when it comes calling.  No, the thing that turned my life upside down was the lawsuit that showed up exactly six weeks after I buried my mom charging me with breach of contract for two historical romances I’d published with a small press nearly five years earlier.  That really upended my life, and not in a good way.  It was very costly for my legal defense, while at the same time prohibiting me from publishing new indie books when the case was ongoing.  My readers weren’t happy with me because there were no new books for them.  I wasn’t happy as I struggled to keep my commitment to write a new book for Montlake at the same time while wading through all of the legal crap that bombarded me constantly with the lawsuit.  I’m sure my family wasn’t happy as they had to deal with the fallout of my emotions all over the place, some serious new health issues for me, and the financial stress from the lawsuit.  Still, as we sat down to dinner together as a family, I counted my blessings for all of the good and wonderful people in my life.  There was hope that things would get better again.  The lawsuit would end eventually, and I could get back to writing books in my “normal” life.  (The verdict arrived September 14, 2016, completely in my favor.  I won and the small press that sued me lost.)  🙂

So, that brings us to now.  Thanksgiving 2016, fresh on the heels of my first new release in two long difficult years. FILTHY RICH, book one in my new Blackstone Dynasty series, published exactly one week ago.  I can tell you that it feels equal parts good and strange to publish again after such a long absence.  This business changes rapidly, and what worked two years ago may not even be an option anymore.  I’ve had to learn a lot of things all over again, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it sure can be a challenge.   The old saying ‘you can’t teach and old dog new tricks’ comes to mind, but this “old dog” had no choice but to learn some new tricks.  I am once again counting my blessings this Thanksgiving because I realize I do have many.  Wonderful readers and fans who have waited patiently for a new book.  Book bloggers who generously read and reviewed (and pimped) the book to their followers. My author sisters and brothers, who encouraged me and helped spread the word to their own fan following about my new book. My husband and boys who stepped up and pitched in while I learned how to write a book again.  My friends who cheered me on and pushed me to keep writing when I was sure I’d lost my ability to coherently tell a story.  My heart is full for all of the good wishes and support I’ve been given for this new book.  Thank you to Kcee at Unbound Book Reviews for the book trailer.  I hope you watch it and are encouraged to give Filthy Rich and the world of my new Boston Blackstones a try.

Bottom line, I am thankful for the last four years as a writer, even the hard parts held value in showing me how rich my life is for the experiences and the people in it.

Be well and blessed this Thanksgiving.

xxoo R

 

 

Doing It Now

one day

One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now. -Paulo Coelho

Today is significant.  I’ve made it a goal not to be sad or closed-off emotionally on this day…because I know she wouldn’t want that from me.

One year ago today I woke up and had to accept that there wouldn’t be any more time to do or say anything with my mother.  Our window of time together grew narrower and narrower until just fifteen minutes into a new day, which happened to fall on the seventeenth day of May in the year 2015 it disappeared altogether.

This is normal and happens to all of us eventually.  The state of being alive, insures each and every one of us at some point in time, will die.  Some of us get a longer time to “do things” than others get, but the part that equalizes us all is that one small detail about not knowing WHEN it will happen for us.  We just don’t know how much time is left for ourselves, or for anyone. The older I get the more this plays out around me. With family. With friends. With beloved pets.

I don’t have regrets about my mother’s passing at all.  I made use of the time we were given, and said and did all the things I wanted to say and do.  The hardest part for me is accepting the fact it is permanent. I still have conversations with her, can hear her voice in my head, feel her familiar embrace, and see her influences in the decisions I make. For that reason, I have decided to embrace “Doing It Now” rather than waiting for later. My mother was my biggest fan and supporter, as only a mother can be, but she truly carried so much pride for my success as a writer. Even at her frailest, when death was literally tapping at her door, she still asked me about my latest book and how it was going.

I miss that simple inquiry from her most of all.

Today I am using her fierce belief in me to kick my arse (as Ethan would say) back into the game.  I’ve been gone, you see. Oh, I didn’t delete any of my social media, but I have been pretty much absent from actual writing for a long time. I’m talking about daily production of word counts–the incremental building of a story, scene by scene and chapter by chapter–which must happen each and every day in order for me to make a book become a reality. I can’t give an opinion on how it works for other writers, but for me it worked only if I wrote every single day.

Every.  Single.  Day.

original notebookIn the early days, the act of not writing actually hurt me. I carried around one of those black and white lined journals from the Dollar Store and scribbled notes in it during the day while I was teaching. Any idea had to be put down into words or I would have lost my mind. Here is an original page from when Naked was being born in a notebook with a pen, circa 2012. Everything on that page made it into the book.

But somehow, through the knock-downs and missteps of life, I lost my way and stopped writing. At first it was necessary for me to have time to grieve, and to take care of those things that needed to be done when a loved one dies, and I’d done the whole process only a short year earlier when my beloved father died. All normal and expected, yes. But then some other things happened on the heels of Mom’s death that really rocked my confidence, and my belief in myself as a writer, my love for my characters, my ability to create, my financial future…to the point I became paralyzed and stopped writing.

I STOPPED WRITING.

I stopped writing, and soon the process of “not writing” became habit forming.  I evolved into a writer-who-didn’t-write-anymore. I allowed some really shitty circumstances (events beyond and totally unrelated to my mother’s death) the power to steal my joy and my love for WRITING. I allowed it to the point that I forgot what it felt like to write. This spiraled on until I couldn’t seem to remember how to do it at all. That really hurt. It was scary. I was terrified I couldn’t write another book again. Or if I did manage to write a new book, people would hate it because it was crap. I had no optimism about things ever improving. I just accepted “not-writing” as my new reality…and I was miserable.

I was allowing extraneous information to bombard my creative output to the point of complete and total distraction. Like an ADHD squirrel hopped up on so many acorns he will never find where he’s stashed them all–my ideas for writing were my acorns–I was no different. I dashed from one thing to the next aimlessly trying to: chase the latest gossipy news in the author community, follow the hot new genres making a killing on Amazon, look into some new marketing trend, read a new series, study what successful authors did with their books, implement a new promotional strategy, do new [insert whatever you want here]. Basically everything except for Raine Miller writing another book. I was an educator for 23 years. I know very well what distraction does to creativity and output. I knew better than to allow myself to be  distracted, but I let it happen anyway. I was worse than some of my former First Graders who struggled to pay attention in class or get their work done in time for recess.

This is a painful admission for me, but I’ve known it was a task that needed doing for a long time. I’ve also known the actual date I would need to share my truth for my own emotional wellness. Today is that day. It has been over a year since my last “blog” post, which was the one about visiting Chatsworth in April of 2015–a place Jane Austen herself knew and admired. I even stopped writing my blog! That’s just crazy when I think about it. There have been other posts recently from brave authors in my community baring their struggles to find a rhythm in this business. A world where they not only function, but thrive as they once did. I’ve ached to find that rhythm in the past year-and-a-half. Ached. There has been no easy answer, nor did I discover a magic solution for solving my “writer’s block” or “dry spell” or “lack of new books” other than to just start writing again.

non-writing writerStarting to write again is much harder than it sounds. I cannot say why it was so hard for me, but it’s sitting right up there at the top of my “difficult-shit-I-must-do-or-else-list.” I had to get back to my writerly roots and return to scribbling ideas down in a notebook. I had to make myself bleed out a few hundred words even if I chucked every word of it the next day. I had to turn off Facebook and my email notifications. I had to power off my phone. I had to stop trying to explain to curious readers who demanded to know when the next book was arriving (most very nice about it, but some not so nice, and a few, downright nasty). I had to stop looking at what everyone else was doing and go back to that place in time when I never questioned what I was writing, or why I was writing it, or if it was going to sell, or if it was going to make lists, or any of a myriad of other irrelevant concerns…I just wrote. I had to get myself back to that place in my head.

At first it was simply jotting down ideas and plots in another Dollar Store journal. Then it was writing a synopsis for a new book and going through the entire plot with a rough outline. Maybe it was just one sentence that day–only ten words or so–but it was writing. I could stop working for the day and know I was making progress no matter how incremental. As I began to get back into it I realized I didn’t lose my skills at all. Everything I’d learned was still there in my head, I just hadn’t been utilizing much of it. I had allowed extraneous “input” to bombard my creative output to the point of complete and total distraction which led to no new books.

So, the purpose of this post today isn’t any big revelation or announcement about my books or my publishing schedule, it’s more about my need to be honest about my experience on my writing journey. That last highlighted bit is important. My journey. I know others have had to help their parents along the path into death. I know others have children who grow up and leave the nest when you don’t know how you will do without them. I know others have had legal matters complicate their lives and take up their valuable time and energy until a resolution comes. I know others have had fears and worries about their future in a competitive business that just seems to get more competitive by the day. I know other people have these things on their plate, too. The only difference was in how I chose to deal with what had landed on my plate. I knew what I needed to do to make the miserable feeling go away, and even though it took me over a year to get there, I finally managed it.

writeI am happy to share that I am back to being a WRITING WRITER again. I’ve written a whole new book, and am halfway into a second one now. I like what I’ve written. I think it’s good writing. I see books that people will enjoy and recommend to their friends. If you are interested in knowing more about my new series you can check out the Pinterest board for Filthy Rich and can find the Amazon pre-order link there, too.

Filthy Rich is being published by Montlake Romance, and will only be available on Kindle if you read ebooks. Again, the purpose of this post today is not promotional. Plenty of time for that later because there’s a lot more coming from me in the next months. You’ll see. Did I mention I am back to being a WRITING WRITER? Well, yeah…that. And it is the most wonderful feeling of all.

Before I sign off, I just want to reach out and say thank you to my supporters. Those of you who have continued to show their love and caring for me personally, as well as for my books. It hasn’t gone unnoticed, nor has it been disregarded. Your patient kindness and outpouring of love over the past year has kept me alive. Truly. I am so grateful for everything I have, the people in my life, the friendships, the wonderful humans and the non-human fur babies who have touched me in wondrous ways I could never express adequately my thanks if I had one hundred years of time to attempt it.

If you take anything at all from my ramblings today, I’d love for you to think about the advice of Mr. Coelho at the top of this post…

“Do It Now.”

I am.

Christmas Carols

Every year I give a holiday story to my fans.  This year it’s Gaby’s younger sister, Dani, and a certain hot detective at London’s Metropolitan Police, one Desmond Thorne.  I bet you’ll want to know when the book is coming when you finish reading.  This story has been in my head for a long time, and it’s not going anywhere.  *wink*  Blessings to all and best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous new year.

xxoo R

 

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Christmas Carols

 

London

21st December

 

christmas-carols-bells-with-musicChristmas in Merry Old England.  That would be me this year.  I hadn’t stood a chance of it being any other way either.  Not with my father and his persuasive tactics.  He’s been trying to get me to London for months.  Lately he’s really been pouring on the pressure because he thinks I’m not safe living in California.  And as much as I hate to ponder the idea, I’m forced to see that he might be right…

Last Friday he flat out commanded me to come for the holidays along with arranging a one-way ticket to London with my name on it.  He told me to pack my things and get myself to the British Airways counter at LAX by Monday morning and he wouldn’t have to make the trip across the pond to collect me himself.  He makes absurd threats like that, but the funny thing is he probably would.  Commanding is something my dad can do well.  He should be good at it since giving orders is a huge part of his job, that being a Chief Superintendent for London Metropolitan Police.

He’s also the most loving and protective father anyone could possibly have and I love him to death.

So as I make my way slowly through the long line at Immigration in the Heathrow Airport, I’m more than happy to be back in London so I can spend some quality time with him.  And my sister, too, although I know she’s pretty wrapped up with her new boyfriend these days—he’s a member of Parliament in the House of Lords and somewhat of a celebrity in Europe.  Gaby said he’s supremely hot so I can’t wait to meet this Ivan Everley and judge for myself.  He better be good for my sister or our over-protective-father-who-happens-to-be-the-police-chief will have something to say about it.  I can’t resist chuckling to myself at the thought of Dad and Gaby’s aristocratic new man having a throw-down.  But that’s how our dad rolls.  He won’t allow anyone messing with his girls with bad intentions.

“It was a one-way ticket,” I answer the Immigration official when he asks me how long I’ll be staying in the UK.  After a few more questions from him, and the answers to those questions from me, I’m on my way to Baggage Reclaim, and just a tiny bit closer to my ultimate goal for the evening: a hot bath and some warm pajamas.  The over-the-knee boots I wore on the plane look great and all, but they’re not the epitome of comfort, and it was an eleven-hour flight.  And I’m also closer to a visit with my dad.  We haven’t seen each other in person since he came out to California for Mom’s funeral two years ago, a reminder of something that’s still hard for me to accept, especially at the holidays.  I miss my mom all the time, but now, after two holidays without her I realize that Christmas will never be the same again.  How could it be?

I force myself to think of a happy memory of her at Christmas, something I know she dearly loved.  That was to listen to me sing.  I was a member in the a cappella choir at my high school, and Mom had absolutely loved the Christmas concerts.  My singing performance may not have been stellar, but my mom sure made a big fuss over every performance I was ever in.  I swear she knew the entire library of Christmas carols ever written, and all of the obscure verses that were too hard to remember beyond the main lyrics.  She used to sing the carols with Gaby and me at Christmas and teach us all of those forgotten verses.  We loved singing with our mom.  We loved her and she loved us.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why my dad wants me here with him for the holidays.  He doesn’t like that I am basically alone.  He worries about me and I know he doesn’t like that I live in the US instead of London.  When Gaby moved to London I think it made Dad even more obsessed that I should do the same.

Angels we have heardAngels We Have Heard On High is playing on the speakers as I locate my last bag and stack it on the trolley cart.  It feels like a reminder from Mom that she’s still here with me somehow and I feel instantly better.  I think my Dad is under the impression that I’m staying in London for a while.  He did say he has a proposal for me—a way to insure my future safety as he put it—so I know I owe him the courtesy to hear him out.

My phone chirps out an alert to let me know that Dad has sent a text.  Think of the devil and he knows…   Dani darling, I’ve made arrangements for Detective Desmond Thorne to collect you and bring you to me. Definitely my very best man on the job and I trust him completely—so should you.  I’ve made a special surprise just for you tonight, and am so very happy to have my girl back.   -Dad

So Detective Thorne was my ride from the airport…  I’d heard about him from Gaby when she’d told me that Dad tried to play matchmaker with them.  Gaby said she liked him, and that he was a nice guy, but Desmond Thorne just wasn’t the guy for her.  And she was with Ivan now.  I’d heard my Dad sing the praises of Desmond Thorne before, but had no idea what he was like as a person.  God, I hoped he wasn’t one of those jock bodybuilders with biceps the size of my thighs…and the social skills of a caveman.  I really didn’t want to have to finish his sentences for him for the next hour and a half either.  The ride from Heathrow into the city wasn’t short.  I was exhausted and just wanted to get to my room in my father’s house.

I scanned the crowd gathered to meet their people, some with signs, others without.  Well, great.  How in the heck was I supposed to find this Desmond Thorne when I had no idea what he looked like?  Wait.  He was the detective, not me.  I should just let the man do his job and search me out.  Dad had probably shown him my picture anyway—

My inner ranting was cut off by a tall, suited form that stepped in front of me.  “Danielle Hargreave?” he asked.

I stared and forgot how to speak.

He tried again.  “Are you Rob Hargreave’s daughter, Danielle?”  This time he added the merest of smiles to his rather serious expression.

Serious but gorgeous with brown eyes that pierced right through me.  In a good way.

A very good way.

Good. God.  Detective Desmond Thorne was definitely no meathead jock, and so far his conversational skills had me beat by miles.  I managed to nod and sputter out a “yes” before he was forced to ask me for a third time.

I thrust out my hand.  “I am Danielle Hargreave, but please call me Dani.  I’m assuming you are the ‘Detective Thorne’ who works with my dad?” I suggested.

He frowned slightly before taking my hand to shake it.  His grip was firm and his skin was warm as his hand swallowed up mine in the handshake.  “Yes, that Desmond Thorne indeed, but you should always ask to see some ID, and please call me Des,” he replied, copying my own introduction of mere seconds ago after the mild scolding.  I don’t know who broke contact first, but I was struck with the idea that I didn’t want to let go of his hand.

Wherever that crazy idea came from, I have absolutely no idea.  You must be in need of some sleep, because you don’t know this man from Adam.

Tall…broad shouldered…darkly handsome.  He seemed serious, but not in a harsh way at all.  In fact, there was a kind of gentleness about him that put me at ease almost immediately.  He must have a girlfriend.  It was a given a man like him would have a long line of applicants.  I’d guess he was early thirties, and with the way he looked, the chances of him being single were slim to none.  I had to mentally bitch-slap myself for my intrusive thoughts into his relationship status and remember why he was here at all.

“So, you’re taking me home?” I asked, forcing a cheerfulness I didn’t really feel.

“Yes and no, Dani.”  His brown eyes had a little twinkle in them now.

“I think you’ll have to explain, Des,” I fired back.

“Well it’s a surprise from your dad so I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you that I will drop you at home where you are supposed to freshen up and get ready for an evening out.  Your dad has it all arranged down to the minute.”

“Hah, I don’t doubt that,” I said sarcastically as he pushed my baggage trolley towards the parking lot.

Swish_018

She figured out the surprise as soon as I pulled into Trafalgar Square.  The white spire of St. Martin-in-the-Fields stood out gleaming against the dark sky and the Christmas tree lights.  The scene was almost as beautiful as she looked when she realized where I was taking her.  Almost.  Because Danielle Hargreave was beautiful perfection to me.

5f62603dd8bc543afa9b26561de9cfbb“Dad got us in for the Christmas Carols at St Martin-in-the-Fields?” she asked incredulously.

“He did,” I said.  “And they’re all inside waiting for you.  Your dad of course, and your sister and her man, Everley, are here to welcome you home.”

“Oh my god, Des, the Christmas concerts at St. Martin’s are epic.  My mom went when she lived in London as a girl.  She always told me that it was something I must treat myself to one day.  I guess Dad really knew how much she loved Christmas carols.”

“Your dad knows a lot of things, so I imagine he did.  He wanted to surprise you and let you know how happy he is to have you home safe.”

She wiped at the corner of her eye.  “I know he is, and I’m happy to be home safe, trust me.  Weird stuff has been happening back in California and no one is sure where it’s coming from, or from who.”

“Your dad has told me a bit about it.  He’s been very worried about you I do know that.”

“Yeah, I know that too.”  She sounded sad.

“I’ll tell you what.  How about you forget all of the weird stuff for tonight and go in there and enjoy the concert with your family.  You deserve that one simple thing, Dani.  To appreciate some Christmas carols at the holidays.”

She turned away from the window to look me straight in the eye and smiled shyly.  Beautiful.

“Are you coming with us?”

“I’ll be in after I park the car.  Look, there’s your dad at the entrance waiting.”  I pointed him out to her.

“Oh, there he is.”  She waved at him through the window, the bad thoughts forgotten as the boss came forward to greet his child.  “I’ll see you inside then,” she said with another shining smile, “And, Des, thank you for the ride, and everything.  I’m glad I got to meet you in person finally, after hearing about you for so long,” she announced cheerfully.  The boss and I shared a look before he hurried Dani up the steps of the church.

The music had started by the time I’d made my way inside.  I hung back, content to listen to the carols and study Dani in the soft glow of many thousands of candles.  She turned back after another minute and found me in the crowd with her eyes.  She motioned that I should come and sit near them.

I nodded to let her know I would join her in a minute.

I needed to process everything first.  And could I even do this?

wedding-rings-fort-stewart1My chest ached and I stifled the urge to rub it.  How was this ever going to work?  The boss was pushing into tricky territory with his daughter, and I didn’t see how she would ever agree to his mad plan.  I wouldn’t mind if she did though.  I’d do it.  For him.  For her.

I’d marry Dani to keep her safe.

 

 

In Search of Mr. Darcy

 

chatsworth_house2

My view as I arrived. The green and picturesque countryside is utterly breathtaking. I was left pretty much speechless.

I’ve decided my trip yesterday to one of my “bucket-list-places” was worthy of a blog post.  I know I’ve been mostly absent on here for a while, and I do apologize, but circumstances have pretty much taken my wishes out of the equation.

The important thing to take from this is how I made my way over to London for a slew of book signings plus The London Book Fair this month, and I think the trip will go down in history as one of the best I’ve ever had in jolly ole England.  First off, I hit the super lottery on weather when I experienced warm-and-sunny for 14 out of the 17 days I was there.  *this never happens*   For April it’s an anomaly to experience anything other than cold-and-wet per the Brits who live there.  Global warming anyone?

So, on one of those beautiful and rare sunshine-filled April days of my trip, I made my way to a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for more than a decade–>  Chatsworth.  The ancestral country estate of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire situated in the Derbyshire countryside.  But Chatsworth is more than just an estate though, much, much more.  In fact, if you’re a fan of my books and a lover of romance, you’ve probably SEEN this famous house in a movie before…because Mr. Darcy lives there.

I’m not kidding!

darcy

Marble bust of Mr. Darcy made for the movie and now on display in the gift shop. It has a cute sign below asking that visitors “Do not kiss”

In the film Pride and Prejudice, 2005, Elizabeth Bennett travels with her aunt and uncle to the Peak District of England on a sightseeing holiday and runs into Mr. Darcy when they take a tour of “Pemberly” as played magnificently  by Chatsworth House.

Mister.  Darcy.

Yes, people, I love him.  I fully planned on seeing him coming out of the fountain with a soaking wet shirt.  Ahhh, the joys of an active imagination, true?

20150422_123555

The walls are filled with gorgeous paintings like this one. One of the Dukes had this portrait done of his three granddaughters in the garden. Le sigh…

I took some pictures of my experience but they will never be able to do justice to what is there…house and gardens left me speechless for the most part.  I just stared wide eyed and sighed a lot.  This huge estate has just about everything from stunning paintings, to soulful sculpture, to country vistas of rolling hills of green, to flowers blooming beside a koi pond with friendly fat fishes in it.  I just can’t even…

Let’s just leave it right here:  I’m very confident you’ll see aspects of Chatsworth appear on the pages of my future books, both those set in the past as well as the present.

Happy trails,

Raine xxoo

An Ethan Valentine

I do love Mr. Blackstone’s romantic style.  He’s got it down for sure.  Brynne and Ethan’s first Valentine’s Day together in an excerpt from Rare and Precious Things.  Photo collage courtesy of Luna.

valentines letter ethanDawn was breaking as I woke. I was alone in our bedroom. When I saw the lavender roses, I remembered the day and smiled. Valentine’s Day. Our first one, in fact. I looked at what had been left out for me by my romantic husband.

Beneath the vase of flowers, an envelope was propped beside a black velvet jewelry box. I opened the box first. It was another vintage piece from his family’s collection no doubt, and it was beautiful -a filigree butterfly pendant with a large ruby for its body. So perfect for me. I slipped the chain over my head and admired it. I would love wearing this necklace as a reminder of my butterfly angel.

I reached for his letter and read it.

~Brynne (Rare and Precious Things, page 340) 

It’s a Wonderful Life

I write a holiday story every year for my fans.  This year it’s Mr. Blackstone’s turn to have the spotlight, and I’m guessing you won’t mind hearing his thoughts on the meaning of Christmas.  Blessings to all and best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2015.

xxoo R

 ~*****~

22nd December

Somerset

 

The smells of sweets and baking sugar biscuits filled the air as I made my way down to the kitchen.  Brynne and Marie had been busy making mounds of Christmas “cookies” as she called them, and from the delicious smell hitting my nose, I’d wager they were still hard at their task.

christmas-treeOur first holidays spent here in the country and it was shaping up nicely.  Last year the house had been too upended with renovations to consider trying to forge out some comfortable space for holiday festivities when it was in such a state of disorganization.  Especially with Brynne seven months pregnant as she’d been last year at Christmas.  But a year’s time had changed things.  My wife definitely wasn’t pregnant this year. And Stonewell Court had been beautifully refurbished where she stood high along the Somerset coast.  The old place was now as solid as the rock foundation underneath her fine architectural bones, much to my relief, and looked the part of the Neo-Gothic Georgian manor house she’d been built to be.  That last bit was knowledge that came to me courtesy of Brynne, who knew all of the art and architecture shit related to the house that I could appreciate but probably never understand very well.  I’m a security expert, and I happily leave all the artistic pursuits to her.  She is the art professional after all.

gate at StonewellI’d never regretted my impulsive decision to buy Stonewell for us after we’d discovered it on a walk.  It was when I’d brought Brynne to Somerset to meet my sister and her family for the first time.  The estate agency sign had called to me right away as soon as I’d found it was for sale.  I grinned remembering the other “surprise” we discovered that weekend.  Yeah, lots and lots of changes for us since that day in July when we wandered up the drive to check out the old house behind the iron gates.

Changes that had given me the kind of life I never believed I’d ever have.

But I did have it.

By some holy plan completely out of the bounds of my control I’d been blessed with a precious life, and I knew nothing but gratefulness at the knowledge of that fact.

Brynne had spent a lot of effort on décor and on the process of turning this house into a home for our family.  As evidenced by the really massive tree decked out in too many fuckin’ ornaments to count in a week if one was so inclined.  It was beautiful, though.  I stopped at the great room and admired the view of the tree at the cathedral window that went floor to ceiling, and looked out over the park grounds and circular drive leading up to the front steps. holly Mother Nature had dropped a substantial snowfall down on West England last night, and even though it would make the roads a bitch to navigate over the ice, the snow created a pretty picture when you were looking at it from inside a heated building.  I didn’t have to worry about guests traveling in to see us with poor road conditions either, because my dad and Marie had made it up here from London the day before the storm.  I can’t help thinking about the safety aspects of most every situation.  It’s just how my brain works.  I know for damn sure Brynne and Laurel won’t be in a car alone on these roads until the snow has completely gone.

Keeping my girls safe is my mission in life.

I’d just put the snow chains on her Rover myself in preparation for the drive over to Hannah and Freddy’s for dinner in a few hours.  I could have had Robbie do it, but I like getting my hands dirty and knowing the job is done right.  It’s a short drive anyway over to Hallborough.  When the weather is nice we walk back and forth between houses all the time.  Zara comes here almost every day and is quite the expert baby sitter with Laurel.  She loves her little cousin fiercely and it’s apparent Laurel adores Zara, watching her every move and soaking up all of her child wisdom.  I would guess I’m probably royally screwed in about fifteen years from now when my baby girl is a teenager.  I shudder at the idea and look out the window instead.

The Christmas snow has made everything look pristine, and quite like a scene from a Dickens’ novel here in the country as opposed to London.  The country life was something I’d not anticipated I could fit into so easily, but we’d both found we loved being in Somerset as much as possible.  Knowing we would be here for a good ten more days was a pleasant thought.  BSI execs take a long holiday at Christmas and New Year’s, which we fully deserved for the work we did.  I know Neil and Elaina were happy to get up to their place in Scotland for nice long stay.  Any events scheduled for this time of the year were handled by other capable employees who would see Blackstone Security ran smooth until Neil and I were back to London.

Jonathan and FriskI see my dad and Sir outside tramping about in the thin layer of snow.  Sir loves his rag bone and will retrieve it for hours if he can find someone up for it.  It looked like he was putting Dad to the test right now, but both seemed to be enjoying themselves and that was the point after all.

Having my dad here with Marie was another blessing I realized.  I’d always wondered how it had been for him being single for all those years after Mum died.  I imagine he just focused on Hannah and me since we were so young, and then it became routine to be alone because he was just doing what he had to do to get through each day without her.

Meeting Marie had changed everything for my father.

And how well did I understand that bit of news?

Crystal clear understanding, because it had been like that for me with Brynne.  One look at her and I was driven to know her, to have her attentions on me.  And what a lucky bastard I’d been that she became mine in the end.  A supremely lucky one is all I know.

Now I could be happy my dad was similarly blessed with a woman who loved him.  Technically Marie was my step-mother but it didn’t feel that way really.  I have one mother and I am totally content with the knowledge that somehow she’s aware of me from wherever she is in the vast universe.  I know Marie understands my feelings about my mum and doesn’t presume to take her place in any way, but just be a part of our family as Dad’s wife.   Just another reason why she is so perfect.  That, and the way she loves Brynne and has always supported her.  She’s also the best, most loving gran to Laurel.  The way I saw it, we could all only benefit from having Marie in our lives, and I was happy they were here to spend Christmas with us in the country this year.  Maybe we were starting a new tradition to celebrate in Somerset for Christmas instead of London.

Brynne and I had watched the snow falling last night right here in front of the window at the foot of the tree.  We’d done some other things too, after Dad and Marie had gone to bed and we were alone with just the drifting snowflakes reflecting off the lights on the tree through the window.

I closed my eyes and remembered us in this room last night.  How she looked and felt in my arms and spread out on the sheepskin rug.  So fuckin’ beautiful and good.love by the fire

It would be nearly impossible for me to forget the sight of my beautiful girl’s eyes on me as I made love to her in front of the fireplace, and I relished the chance to show her how much I loved and needed her as often as possible.

Everything was so good with her.  A new baby and the passage of a year hadn’t changed that, either.  If anything, we were stronger than before.  My sessions with Dr. Wilson at the Combat Stress Centre were helping me to accept my past and to put it in its place without destroying my present.  One day at a time was the best advice he gave me, and also not allowing a past event to hold more power over me than any other.  The good should be given just as much influence as the bad.  All were a part of the makeup of my psyche, and I was learning to put that ideology into practice with Dr. Wilson’s help and the steadfast support of Brynne.  Besides, the good parts of my life now were so exceptionally good, they helped to override all of the bad shit from my past.

Brynne still amazed me at how wise she was when it came to facing fears.  It was like she was made for me in all my fucked-upness, and no other woman on earth could have been more perfect to help me find my way back into the land of the living.  I was convinced that nobody could have done what she did in transforming the hopeless life of Ethan James Blackstone.

Only Brynne.

Again, I have to wonder at what kind of divine intervention occurred in leading me to finding her.

I focus on the angel placed peacefully atop the Christmas tree and give her a wink.  Images of my mum fill my head and are a comforting memory.  I wonder if she knows that we named Laurel after her.  I hope so.

I turn to leave the great room and head toward the source of all those sugary smells.

meltedsnowman_02I can hear them long before I get there.  Brynne and Marie are laughing at something, and I discover what it is when I get to the doorway and lurk without announcing myself.  They are decorating melted snowman biscuits.  Brynne made them last year, and I have to admit they are funny as hell when she puts the expressions on the snowman’s face.  They range from happy, to sad, to dismay, to downright fucking enraged at melting away.  Brynne is really good at making each one look different.

My little Laurel is on Marie’s lap watching her mummy put snowmen faces on the biscuits.  Such a little beauty she is already.  Just like her mother…

“I think Daddy will like this one,” Brynne says to Laurel.  “This guy looks like Grumpy Cat,” she laughs.

“Da da da da da,” Laurel babbles while gumming two fingers.

“You are saying “Daddy” aren’t you, little one?” Brynne presses a kiss to Laurel’s baby cheek.

“It sure sounds like she is,” Marie agrees, smoothing over the curls on her little head.  “Laurel reminds me of you with Tom when you were this age, Brynne.”

“That makes me happy to know.  She is definitely a daddy’s girl like I was,” Brynne says softly, and I imagine she is remembering her own father.

Laurel’s blue eyes find me in the doorway and widen.  “Da-Da!” she shouts, bouncing on Marie’s lap and leaning in my direction.

“Ah, the gig is up when she spies her daddy,” Brynne says with a wink at me.  “And I think that is confirmation right there that she is definitely saying “Daddy” don’t you agree?”

I give Brynne a kiss.  “I say yes, of course,” I answer as I hold my arms out to take Laurel from Marie.  I think my heart just stretched a little bit more at hearing my baby girl say “Daddy” for the first time.  She pats my face and continues to say, Da-da-da-dee-dee, over and over, seemingly very pleased with herself.  She has to be the most brilliant eleven month old child ever born, right?

Emotions sweep over me in a way I have never experienced, and  I can feel the weight of eyes on me—watching.  Laurel, bless her sweet baby heart, breaks the spell by bouncing and reaching out toward the window, giving me the distraction I need to keep from becoming a sap bastard weeping tears in the middle of my kitchen in front of Brynne and Marie.

I knew exactly what Laurel wanted, too.

“You want to see if Mr. Squirrel is out on the wall stealing the poor birds’ food again?”

I receive an affirmative grunt and kicks to my abdomen—her efforts to get my arse moving.

“Oh, let’s take her outside, Ethan, I want to get some pictures of the two of you in the snow before it’s all gone, and she can watch Mr. Squirrel pilfer bird seed at the same time.”

“I can’t say no to that offer, baby.  Let’s do it.”

article-2241366-165043CB000005DC-943_964x662After bundling Laurel into a warm coat and hat, with mittens firmly on her tiny hands, we head outside and experience snow for the first time all together.  The thieving red squirrel is there as expected, dashing back and forth along the stone wall delighting my daughter to no end—which is the only the reason he is allowed to be around.  Sir would be thrilled to death with chasing him off if he was here with us right now.

I don’t think I could be any happier than I am already, but Brynne might have something to say about that.  She is watching and analyzing where my head is at most likely.  She knows me better than anyone else and realizes how emotional I got when Laurel called me “Daddy” in the house a few minutes ago.

She weaves her arm through mine and snuggles in close into my side as we enjoy watching Laurel shriek every time the squirrel thief streaks across the wall in a panicked dash with his stolen loot.  “I was gonna wait to give you this news but I think now is the perfect time to tell you something, Mr. Blackstone.”

My heart stutters a little at her words.  I hope the bloody thing serves me well for a lot of years to come, because it sure takes a regular thrashing since Brynne came into my life.  “What news is that, Mrs. Blackstone?”  I have an idea of what it will be.

She looks up at me with a smile, her beautiful eyes sparking greenish-brown, and touches my cheek.  “You are an amazing father, and I love you.”

“You never cease to amaze me, baby, and you are a perfect mother.”

She nods thoughtfully, never taking her eyes off mine.  “So…it’s a really good thing then we’re such outstanding parents…because in August we’ll have a new baby Blackstone wanting some attention around here.”

I don’t know what I said or did at that point except keep my feet planted firmly on the ground because Laurel was in my arms.  There were some kisses, and maybe a happy tear or two might have slipped from my eye, but all that mattered to me was that I was in the here and now.  With Brynne and our children, present and future.

I had survived other things in order to make it here to this place in my wonderful life.

My very blessed and very wonderful life.

~*****~

For links to past –> Christmas stories.

 

For my Spanish readers, here it is in español.  Translation courtesy of  María J. Losada.

 

Una vida maravillosa

 

22 de diciembre

Somerset

 

El dulce olor a galletas de azúcar recién horneadas flotaba en el aire mientras me dirigía hacia la cocina. Brynne y Marie estaban ocupadas haciendo «cookies» de Navidad, como ella las llamaba, y teniendo en cuenta el delicioso olor que inundaba mis fosas nasales, apostaría a que la tarea estaba siendo todo un éxito.

Eran las primeras Navidades que pasábamos en el campo y todo estaba yendo sobre ruedas. El año anterior, la casa estaba siendo rehabilitada y demasiado revuelta y desorganizada como para considerarla un espacio cómodo para las festividades. En especial con Brynne embarazada de siete meses como había estado el diciembre pasado. Pero ahora, un año después, la situación había cambiado mucho. Definitivamente mi esposa no estaba en estado y Stonewell Court ya había sido restaurado por completo y lucía toda su elegancia en lo alto de los acantilados de Somerset. Para mi alivio, el viejo lugar era ahora tan sólido como las rocas que sostenían sus cimientos, y la mansión, de estilo georgiano neogótico, volvía a mostrar el esplendor con el que había sido construida. Eso último era un conocimiento que me había llegado por cortesía de Brynne, que se había interesado por el arte y la arquitectura relacionada con la casa, algo que aunque yo podía apreciar, no entendía demasiado bien. Era experto en seguridad, y le dejaba a ella todo ese rollo de las actividades artísticas. Después de todo, se dedicaba a eso.

Jamás lamenté mi impulsiva decisión de comprar Stonewell para nosotros después de haberla descubierto en el transcurso de un paseo. Fue cuando había llevado a Brynne a Somerset por primera vez para que conociera a mi hermana y a su familia. La chica de la inmobiliaria me había llamado de inmediato en cuanto supo que estaba en venta. Sonreí al recordar la otra «sorpresa» que habíamos descubierto aquel fin de semana. Sí, aquel día de julio, en el que paseamos por el camino que pasaba ante las viejas puertas de hierro de la vieja casa, trajo muchos cambios para nosotros.

Unos cambios que me habían proporcionado un tipo de vida que jamás pensé que tendría.

Pero que tenía.

Por algún plan divino que escapaba por completo a mi control, había sido bendecido con una existencia maravillosa, algo que agradecía mucho aunque seguía sin explicarme la razón de que hubiera sido tan afortunado.

Brynne había dedicado mucho esfuerzo a la decoración y al proceso de convertir aquella casa en un hogar para nuestra pequeña familia, como demostraba el enorme árbol de Navidad cubierto con tantos adornos que no se podrían contar ni en una puta semana. Sin embargo, no pude negar que era hermoso. Me detuve en mitad del amplio salón y admiré la imagen del árbol junto al ventanal que ocupaba la pared, por la que se podían ver los terrenos del parque y el paseo circular que conducía a los escalones de entrada. La madre naturaleza había obsequiado la noche anterior al oeste de Inglaterra con una considerable nevada y, a pesar de que las carreteras se habían convertido en un infierno, la nieve creaba una bonita imagen cuando se estaba en el interior de un edificio con calefacción. No tenía que preocuparme por huéspedes que viajaran en malas condiciones climáticas porque mi padre y Marie habían llegado el día anterior a la tormenta. Era incapaz de dejar de pensar en los aspectos relativos a la seguridad en cada situación. Era como si mi cerebro estuviera programado así. Y tenía claro que ni Brynne ni Laurel recorrerían las carreteras en coche hasta que la nieve hubiera desaparecido por completo.

Mantener a mis chicas a salvo era la misión de mi vida.

Acababa de poner las cadenas de nieve en el Rover de Brynne, como paso previo a ir a casa de Hannah y Freddy, donde cenaríamos dentro de pocas horas. Podría haberle dicho a Robbie que lo hiciera, pero me gustaban los trabajos manuales y así estaba seguro de que el trabajo estaría bien hecho. De todas maneras, el trayecto hasta Hallborough era muy corto. Cuando hacía buen tiempo, íbamos y veníamos de una casa a otra a todas horas. Zara venía de visita casi todos los días y se había convertido en una niñera experta para Laurel. Adoraba a su primita y era evidente que Laurel también la adoraba; la observaba a cada paso que daba y absorbía sus movimientos con su mirada de bebé. Pensé que dentro de quince años, cuando mi niña fuera una adolescente, iba a estar bien jodido. Me estremecí ante la idea y miré por la ventana.

La nieve recién caída hacía que todo pareciera impoluto, y me recordaba a una escena de Dickens pero en el campo en vez de en Londres. Vivir en plena naturaleza era algo a lo que no pensaba acostumbrarme con tanta facilidad, pero me gustaba tanto vivir en Somerset que veníamos todo lo que podíamos. Saber que todavía permaneceríamos aquí durante diez días era un pensamiento muy agradable. Mi socio y yo habíamos decidido tomar unas largas vacaciones de Navidad y Año Nuevo, algo que nos merecíamos después de lo duro que habíamos trabajado siempre. Sé que Neil y Elaina estaban deseando llegar a Escocia para disfrutar allí de su estancia. Todos los eventos programados para esta época del año habían sido asumidos por otros capaces empleados de Blackstone Seguridad hasta que Neil y yo regresáramos a Londres.

Vi a mi padre jugando fuera con Sir sobre la fina capa de nieve. Sir adoraba su hueso de juguete y era capaz de correr para recuperarlo durante horas si encontraba a alguien dispuesto a lanzárselo. Parecía que en ese momento estaba poniendo a prueba a mi padre, pero los dos disfrutaban  de lo lindo, y eso era lo más importante después de todo.

Que mi padre estuviera allí con Marie era otra bendición inesperada. Siempre me había preguntado cómo se las había arreglado para seguir estando solo durante tantos años después de la muerte de mi madre. Imaginé que se había centrado en Hannah y en mí, cuando todavía éramos pequeños, y que luego estar solo se convirtió en una rutina consistente en seguir haciendo lo mismo día tras día.

Conocer a Marie había cambiado su vida.

¿Por qué lo sabía?

Lo sabía porque a mí me había ocurrido lo mismo con Brynne. Fue verla y querer conocerla, que se concentrara en mí. Y como soy un cabrón con suerte, acabó siendo mía. Sabía muy bien lo afortunado que era.

Así que me sentía muy feliz de que mi padre hubiera sido bendecido de manera similar con una mujer que lo amaba. Si fuéramos literales, Marie era mi madrastra, pero nuestra relación no había tomado ese cariz. Ya tenía una madre y me satisfacía pensar que de alguna manera ella velaba por mí desde donde quiera que estuviera en el vasto universo. Sabía que Marie entendía mis sentimientos sobre mi madre y no pretendía ocupar su lugar, solo formar parte de nuestra familia como esposa de mi padre. Otra cosa que conseguía que todo fuera perfecto. Eso, y la manera en que adoraba a Brynne y cómo la apoyaba siempre. También ella estaba loca por Laurel, a la que mimaba sin descanso. Tal y como yo lo veía, todos habíamos salido beneficiados desde que Marie formaba parte de nuestras vidas, y me alegraba que hubieran venido a pasar la Navidad con nosotros en el campo. Quizá estábamos dando inicio a una nueva tradición, la de celebrar las fiestas en Somerset en vez de en Londres.

Brynne y yo habíamos visto caer la nieve por la noche, delante de la ventana, junto al árbol. Habíamos hecho algo más también después de que mi padre y Marie se fueran a la cama y nos quedáramos solos frente a los copos de nieve errantes que reflejaban las luces del árbol a través de la ventana.

Cerré los ojos para recordarnos en esa misma habitación la noche anterior. Para volver a vivir cómo se veía, cómo se sentía entre mis brazos, tendidos sobre la alfombra de lana. Hacer el amor frente al fuego había sido jodidamente sugerente.

Era casi imposible que olvidara los ojos de mi hermosa mujer clavados en mí, mientras le hacía el amor frente a la chimenea, disfrutando de la oportunidad de demostrarle lo mucho que la amaba y que la necesitaba tan a menudo con fuera posible.

Con ella todo era bueno. Haber tenido un bebé y que hubiera pasado un año no había cambiado eso. En todo caso, ahora éramos todavía más fuertes. Mis sesiones con el doctor Wilson en el Centro de Estrés Postraumático de Combate me ayudaban a aceptar mi pasado y ubicarlo en su lugar sin destruir el presente. «Vive día a día» era el mejor consejo que me había dado mi terapeuta, y también que no permitiera que un suceso del pasado influyera sobre mí. Que lo bueno debía tener más presencia que lo malo. Todo formaba parte de mi psique y el doctor Wilson, con el firme apoyo de Brynne, me ayudaba a aprender a poner en práctica esa ideología. Además, las partes buenas de mi vida eran ahora tan excepcionales y buenas, que eso también contribuía a anular la mierda que tenía en mi pasado.

Me sorprendió mucho lo sabia que era Brynne a la hora de enfrentarse a los miedos. Era como si estuviera hecha para mí en todos los putos aspectos, y no podía existir otra mujer en la tierra más perfecta para ayudarme a encontrar el camino de regreso al mundo de los vivos. Estaba convencido de que nadie más podría haber transformado la vida sin esperanza de Ethan James Blackstone.

Solo Brynne.

Una vez más me tuve que preguntar a qué tipo de intervención divina se le había ocurrido llevarme hasta ella.

Me concentré en el ángel que había colocado en la punta del árbol de Navidad y le guiñé un ojo. Mi mente se llenó con imágenes de mi madre, y eso supuso un reconfortante recuerdo. Me pregunté si sabría que habíamos llamado a Laurel igual que ella. Confié en que sí.

Me volví para salir de la enorme sala y me dirigí hacia el lugar de donde provenían todos esos dulces olores.

Las escuché antes de llegar. Brynne y Marie estaban riéndose de algo; intenté descubrir de qué se trataba deteniéndome junto a la puerta sin anunciar mi presencia. Estaban decorando un muñeco de galleta que parecía nieve derretida. Brynne ya había hecho ese dulce el año pasado y tuve que admitir que era muy divertido ver cómo ponía expresión en las caras de los muñecos. Algunos eran felices, otros estaban tristes; transmitían desde consternación hasta furia por estar derritiéndose. A mi mujer se le daba muy bien dotar a cada uno un aspecto diferente.

Mi pequeña Laurel estaba en el regazo de Marie, viendo como su mamá ponía las caras a las galletas. Era ya una pequeña belleza, igual que su madre…

—Creo que a papi va a gustarle esto —estaba diciéndole Brynne a Laurel—. Esta galletita parece un gato enfadado —añadió riendo.

—Pa pa pa pa pa… —balbuceó Laurel mientras mojaba los dedos en el dulce.

—¿Estás diciendo ya «papá», cariño? —preguntó Brynne dándole un beso en la mejilla.

—Estoy segura de que está diciéndolo, sí —convino Marie al tiempo que acariciaba los suaves rizos del bebé—. Laurel me recuerda mucho a ti con Tom cuando tenías esa edad.

—Me alegro de saberlo. Es una niña de su papi, como yo —aseguró mi mujer en voz baja. Supuse que en ese momento estaba recordando a su propio padre.

Los ojos azules de Lauren me vieron en la puerta y se abrieron del todo.

—¡Pa-pa! —gritó, comenzando a dar botes en el regazo de Marie y tendiéndome los brazos.

—Oh, has pillado a papi espiándonos —dijo Brynne al tiempo que me guiñaba un ojo—. Creo que esta es la confirmación de que, sin duda, está diciendo «papá», ¿no os parece?

Besé a Brynne.

—Estoy de acuerdo, por supuesto —respondí mientras tomaba a Laurel en brazos. Creí que el corazón me daba un vuelco al escuchar que mi niña decía «papá» por primera vez. Me acarició el rostro mientras continuaba diciendo «pa-pa pa-pa pa-pa» una y otra vez, aparentemente muy satisfecha consigo misma. Estaba seguro de que era el bebé de once meses más brillante del mundo, ¿verdad?

Las emociones me recorrieron de una manera que jamás había experimentado, y sentí en mí el peso de los ojos que siempre me miraban. Laurel, bendito bebé, rompió el hechizo con sus contoneos para intentar alcanzar la ventana. Eso me proporcionó la distracción que necesitaba para no convertirme en un puto llorón de mierda delante de Brynne y Marie

Sabía muy bien lo que quería Laurel.

—¿Quieres ver si el señor ardilla está ahí fuera, robando otra vez la comidita de los pobres pájaros?

Recibí un gruñido afirmativo y sus patadas en mi abdomen me indicaron que quería que moviera el culo.

—Oh, llévala fuera, Ethan, quiero sacaros algunas fotos más a los dos en la nieve antes de que se derrita. Ella podrá ver también cómo el señor ardilla roba las semillas de las aves.

—No puedo rechazar esa oferta, nena. Venga, vamos…

Después de poner a Laurel una cazadora y un gorrito forrado, y de cubrirle las manos con pequeños mitones, nos dirigimos al exterior para disfrutar de la nieve juntos por primera vez. La ladrona ardilla roja estaba allí, como era de esperar, correteando por la fachada de piedra para deleite de mi hija. Su alegría parecía no tener fin, y esa era la única razón de que permitiéramos que el animal se acercara tanto. Sir estaría encantado de perseguirla si estuviera con nosotros en ese momento.

Pensaba que no podría ser más feliz de lo que ya era, pero Brynne parecía tener algo que decir al respecto. Me miraba como si supiera en qué coño estaba pensando y, con toda probabilidad, así era. Me conocía mejor que nadie, y se había dado cuenta de lo mucho que me emocionó que Laurel me llamara «papá» dentro de la casa.

Enlazó su brazo con el mío y se acurrucó contra mi costado como tanto nos gustaba para ver cómo gritaba Laurel cada vez que la ardilla rayada recorría la fachada con su botín.

—Iba a esperar para darte esta noticia, pero creo que este es el momento perfecto para decirte algo, señor Blackstone.

Mi corazón se detuvo ante sus palabras. Esperaba que ese músculo estuviera en plena forma para durar muchos años, porque sin duda estaba sufriendo una buena paliza desde que Brynne había entrado en mi vida.

—¿De qué se trata, señora Blackstone? —pregunté, aunque tenía una leve idea de qué me iba a decir.

Ella me miró con una sonrisa. En sus hermosos ojos brillaban chispas de color avellana cuando me rozó la mejilla.

—Eres un padre increíble. Te amo.

—Y tú jamás dejas de sorprenderme, nena, eres la madre perfecta.

Ella asintió con la cabeza, pensativa, sin alejar los ojos de los míos.

—Creo que es fantástico que los dos seamos tan buenos padres… porque en agosto vamos a tener otro bebé Blackstone que requerirá un poco más de atención.

Más tarde, no supe lo que había dicho o hecho en ese momento, solo fui capaz de recordar que había intentado mantener los pies firmes en el suelo porque tenía a Laurel en brazos. Nos besamos, y quizá se me escapó alguna lágrima, pero lo único importante era que estaba allí, en ese momento. Con Brynne y nuestros hijos; presente y futuro.

Había sobrevivido a muchas cosas para estar allí, en ese lugar, para vivir esa existencia maravillosa.

Porque, sin duda, mi vida estaba siendo bendecida y era muy, muy maravillosa.

 

Skip to the Good Part

skip to the good partToday is release day for this super fun anthology I was a part of.  Twenty hot scenes from some amazing authors for a fun compilation of the really “good part” you want to find in a book.  Genius idea.  Wish I’d thought of it.  LOL

 

 

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On the Map~

I was invited to do something really cool when Placing Literature asked me to come on over and map a scene from each of my books.  I had a blast doing it, and found that it really brought the stories into focus as more than just the character’s feelings and actions throughout the book.  Placing Literature is an interactive website that allows readers to go in and map scenes from a favorite book they’ve enjoyed, to the real location on a map of the world.  Here is my podcast interview if you want to listen.  I ended up choosing one place from each of my books, and then two places from my latest release, The Muse.

These are the places I mapped:

The Passion of Darius – Church of St. Mary, Kilve, Somerset.  Built in the 17th century, the scene where Darius would sit behind Marianne in church, smell her perfume, and think some rather lustful thoughts about her.Kilve_church

The Undoing of a Libertine – Quantock Hills, Somerset coast.  The country scenery as Jeremy brings Georgina to her new home at Hallborough Hall in Somerset.Quantock Hills

 

 

 

 

Naked, The Blackstone Affair Book 1 –  The Liverpool Street Station where Brynne gets off on her way to visit Ethan at his Blackstone Security International, Ltd. office in London.London_Liverpool_Street_Station_entrance_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1188393

 

All In, The Blackstone Affair Book 2 –  Cleopatra’s Needle at the Victoria Embankment on the River Thames where Ethan and Brynne reunite after a break up.

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Eyes Wide Open, The Blackstone Affair Book 3 –  Hotel Samarkand, Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill, London where Brynne fights off her kidnapper.Lansdowne

 

Cherry Girl –  The [fictional] Lake Leticia on the Hallborough estate near the commercial lavender fields in Somerset.Somerset Lavendar

 

 

 

 

Rare and Precious Things, The Blackstone Affair Book 4 –  Porto Santo Stefano, Italy where Brynne and Ethan have their honeymoon.porto santo stefano

 

Priceless, The Rothvale Legacy Book 1 – Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland where Gaby gets lost on the country roads trying to make her way to Ivan’s estate, Donadea.glens-of-antrim

 

 

 

The Muse –  St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in London is the site of Graham and Imogene’s wedding, chosen because it is placed right beside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  Graham is a [fictional] founder of The National Gallery in the book.  The second scene I mapped is the stone circle on the Gavandon estate Graham had built for Imogene.stone circle woodsst-martin-in-the-fields-church

 

I have been to most of these places and all are amazing and wonderful.  I have not been to Italy yet, but it is on my bucket list for sure.  I hope you head on over to Placing Literature and check it out.  You can map any favorite scene from a book you love.  You don’t have to be an author to do it, but you do need a Google account to log in.  I had a lot of fun exploring the map and look forward to mapping more scenes for future books.

 

xxoo R

 

LIVE and… Priceless

happy timesThis whole experience of publishing Priceless has been…….well, priceless.  Amazon decided to go ahead and roll it out today instead of the 12th. Please know I have zero control over this situation.  Regardless of what I planned, the book is now live on Amazon and can be purchased from the links below.  If you pre-ordered it from Amazon previously, and got an email informing you of the cancellation, then you need to buy it again with the new link.  Sorry for the confusion, you and me both on that.  If you pre-ordered from another vendor, it won’t be live until the 12th on iBooks, KOBO, and Nook.

I do hope you enjoy Ivan and Gabrielle.  They know how to have a good time together once they figure it out.  *snickers and goes off to drink a blueberry mojito*

Amazon.com
Amazon.Canada
Amazon.UK
Amazon.Australia
All other vendors

Amazon Pre-Order Cancellation—NOT!

keep-calm-new-amazon-links-coming (1)Okay then…  Yeah, sometimes things happen that are out of the realm of our control and this is one of those times, folks.  Amazon, in all of its infinite wisdom and publishing know-how has had some problems   *I’m trying to be diplomatic here* with the pre-order file upload of PRICELESS.  These problems have been ongoing since the pre-order started back in August.  The decision was made early today to pull the pre-order from publication.  So those that did indeed pre-order will be getting an email from Amazon that your order is cancelled as well as your payment.  They don’t ever charge you for a pre-order until the book releases.

DO NOT PANIC.  I repeat, DO NOT PANIC.  I have re-published the book in a new file and am hoping for live links very soon to provide for Amazon.com; UK; CA; AU.  The book is already uploaded and ready to hit your kindles at midnight September 12th.  The other platforms (iBooks, Kobo, Nook) are unaffected–this is only the Amazon pre-orders which have been cancelled.

Sorry for the cock up (as Ivan would say) and please Keep Calm and Carry On (as the natives would say).

xxoo R