Blessed Solstice! If you're just joining me, this is an official post within the Sexy Summer Solstic Bloghop and you can just click on the link to dive in for a chance to win ebooks, gift cards and even a Nook.
We have a very diverse offering this hop, from excerpts, to eyes candy, to an interconnected story. For your reading pleasure, I've done an offshoot of the wonderful starter chapter from the lovely Alanna Coca, that was fabulous fun to write! Please leave an email with your comments and I'll choose a winner of my July 4th release DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT. In the meantime, take a look at what else is happening around the Crimson Dawn Ranch.
“They’ve arrived. A rather eclectic bunch this year from the look of things.” Chemere waved a hand in front of the mirror and the images froze.
“Is Jessie there?”
She turned and looked at Feredrik a long moment. “As opposed to where, Rik? Who else would be greeting visitors to Crimson Dawn in her place?”
Rik shrugged, an amethyst hue taking his cheeks as blood rushed beneath his cobalt skin. “She doesn’t own it in that dimension, I couldn’t be sure.”
“Oh, sweetie, you really need to go and talk to her about how you feel already—in any dimension.” Chemere kissed her brother’s cheek. “It’s your turn. That dimension had Lindee Penton and Will Treadworth, so we’re close. But he came alone.”
“Treadworth?” Rik sighed. The gossamer loincloth swirled around his knees. He brushed his hand over the hem of his vest and touched the mirror. “Could it be a paperwork error, or a professional use? I mean how close are we?”
“Pretty close, Zoe is there but I don’t know the depth of her abilities. Try a few parallel’s to the left. We have a good time window, so go forward as far as you can too. We need Will to have taken his mother’s maiden name after the divorce, it shapes his entire approach to Lindee as well as his willingness to listen to Zoe’s prediction and take the plunge. Aim for dinner time, he’s always more comfortable around food.”
Rik brushed his fingers over the smooth surface, flipping through the onion layers separating the worlds that bordered Fairie. “What if we can’t get exacts? He was hiding his attraction through overcompensating disregard, that can be worked with, right? Maybe we’ll just have to make due.”
“Maybe, but not on that world.” She tucked a strand of hair behind a delicate, pointed ear. “First, the overlap is a concern. Liana has a claim there in John. If that wasn’t enough, Will has already thoroughly ticked Lindee off. Her anger might translate to arousal and receptiveness somewhere down the line, but not enough for our purposes. I can’t turn her fantasies of disemboweling him with her dessert spoon, into a happy conception of a future MoonWeaver. I’m not that talented.”
“You are.” He disagreed. “But I won’t make you work that hard. I know I have them both going in this direction, what are the secondary details I need?”
A deep breath drew wisps of the silver fog swirling around their feet, down into her lungs. “We need a Betweener. If Will’s collegue doesn’t show up, a Betweener can do all of the heavy lifting. Also, we need a better catalyst. A Dr. Santorini showed up for that one and he simply won’t due. I think we have a better chance if we go with the television contest over the radio.”
Rik laughed. “Because universities and corporations tend to send someone photogenic and pretty people who dig around in the dirt for a living are more likely to make great catalyst and even be Betweeners. Two for the price of one, I like your thinking.” He backtracked and enlarged the first image with a camera crew. They were packing up in the twilight, a few were eating. “Got it. The local television station is on the scene, Will and Lindee are talking.” He placed his hand flat and closed his eyes. “Dr. Santorini still won, but he’s not the only geologist on site. Colorado University pulled strings and sent Dr. Erik Lever.” His breath rushed out of him. “Chemmy, come look. I think Erik is dormant.”
Chemere touched the mirror, closed her eyes and looked out into the Wyoming expanse.
* * *
“Yes, that’s right.” Lindee leaned in the doorway connecting the two rooms and smiled at the incredibly handsome and vaguely familiar face she’d been trying to place in the hours since meeting him on the bus. “I’m the astrologer for the New York Century magazine.”
Will gave an enthusiastic nod. “I read your column ever day, you have a real talent. Most are just vague rambling, but you go into such depth and you’ve been spot on more times than not.”
“Wow, thanks. Most people think it’s nonsense or they believe, but only in a very general sense.”
“Oh no, I know that there’s real influence. Just like the tides are swayed by the heavens, our inner cycles react as well. We have free will of course, but we make those decisions based on the influences.” He stuck his hands in his pockets. “Sorry, I must sound a little, well, something. My mom is into all of this, so I grew up with very particular views.”
Lindee hoped her face wasn’t flushed and her smile wasn’t too big. “No, you sound fine. I mean I believe in the influence completely, but I’m totally Team Free Will!”
“I love that show.” He replied.
She didn’t quite know what to do with that. Either he was into monsters and bloodshed or he was into hot guys, or worse, he watched with his girlfriend. None of those sounded particularly promising. Maybe if he’d arrived with said girlfriend, but Lindee hadn’t done something like that since college. A blush tried to form. “It’s a great show.” She said quickly.
“I know, it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I cover it in my column, The Best TV You Probably Missed.”
Oh thank goodness, he watched for his column. There was still hope. He didn’t have a ring, he was interested in her work and although a little hard to tell, she felt pretty sure he was flirting. “Treadworth, yes, I read that column. It’s in Entertainment Today, right?” Of course she recognized him, his picture was on the website next to his article every Saturday.
He shrugged. “Will GreenTree actually. I used Treadworth for the magazine to keep it separate from my other work.”
“As an astronomer.” She interrupted. “You did a companion piece to one of my seminars last year.” How had she missed it? It was like a veil lifting from her memories.
“You remember that?” He stammered through an incomplete sentence and took a deep breath. “It was a great time.”
“It was a fabulous time.” She gave him a playful punch in the arm. “What happened to you? I looked for you afterwards and you just disappeared. You said all of those kind things about me and I wanted to take you out for a drink.” Lots of drinks in fact and to let it lead where tequila often does. How had she misplaced the face that stalked her dreams for months when it stood right in front of her now?
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disappear. I had some things to settle. It was the first time I’d been back stateside in a while and I needed to catch up on some things and uh, see some people.” He looked at his feet and took a breath. “If I’d known, I’d have looked you up when I was done.” He met her gaze. “Since we’re here and all, maybe I can take you up on that drink when we go down to dinner.”
“That would be great!” She looked down at her hands and the bits of red soil still clinging to them. She’d made a wish for her life to have more excitement before tossing the soil into the bonfire with everyone else. This had a lot of promise. “Just let me wash up and we can head down.” The dining hall would probably have everyone in it. She’d loved all of the attention during the ceremony from the geologist, Eric, or as she and Zoe had dubbed him, Professor Nice Ass; but he was just being polite. It was a professional passion not a real interest, she could tell by how quickly he’d left to his room. This with Will could be something real and there was no need to share it if she didn’t have to. She cleared her throat. “Or if you’d like to see if they have room service.”
“Uh, well, I.” He crossed his arms. “Yeah, that, yeah, um, it.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “It would be nice, sure. Sounds good.”
Lindee pinched the skin between her thumb and forefinger to keep her smile from becoming a laugh. “My co-worker said the foods amazing here, he came up last year. Just order a few things that seem interesting and I’ll jump in the shower.”
He froze a second. “Do you want me to close this door?”
“Um, that’s sweet, Will. I’m sure the bathroom door has a lock. You don’t plan to kick it in or anything and put my twelve years of self defense to use, do you?”
“Oh dear god, no. I wouldn’t dream, I’m not that kind of, I mean.”
She slapped her hand over her mouth at his look of shock and horror. “Oh no, it’s okay, I’m just kidding, Will. It’s okay. I know you’re a good guy. I talked to three dozen people about you, trying to figure out where you went or where to send a thank you note. I’m not worried. Let’s just keep it simple. This door open. Bathroom door closed. It’s all good.”
He let out a breath and nodded. “Okay. As long as you know and everything. In fact,” He walked over to the main door. “I’ll open this and wait for room service and everything will be great. Sound good?”
Eric Lever stood on the other side of the door, one hand poised to knock. “Well that’s great timing. It’s good to see you, Will.”
They knew each other. Lindee didn’t know what to do with that, but all sorts of interesting thoughts cropped up to keep her company in the shower.
Will just stood there. “What can I do for you, Eric?”
“ Come on, I gave you the entire trip here and the ceremony to adjust to me being here. Invite me in. I have a proposal.”
“Is it the indecent kind?” Lindee asked before she could stop herself.
“It can be. I didn’t know I’d be getting a two-for-one special with this visit.” Eric answered. “Initially, however, I’ve come for your hands.”
“What?” They asked in unison.
“Your hands. The soil has a special reaction with natural body oils, I’d like a chance to collect samples before you wash your hands if it’s not too late. Also, samples from your clothes where you might have wiped your hands would be invaluable.” He opened the messenger bag slung across his body and pulled out a bottle of scotch. “It’s single malt, expensive and a clear bribe to be indulged. I’ve also taken the liberty of calling room service and ordering. I hear the food is amazing. It’s all on me. Just let me in.”
“Fine.” Will stepped aside. “Eric, you’ve met Lindee. It was her seminar I spoke at last year for the record.” He closed the door and leaned against it. “Lindee, this is Eric, the reason I disappeared last year.”
“Wait, he’s what you had to do last year?” She asked.
“Wow.” Eric laughed. “The two of you went to intimate conversation quickly. What kind of details did you share, should I be embarrassed?”
Damn! Damn, damn, damn! He did watch the show for the hot guys. She’d been making a complete fool of herself—with both of them no less. Damn! “I can go. I don’t want to get in the middle if the two of you need some personal time.” She said.
“Really?” Eric asked. “The indecent proposal was your idea. Besides, we’ve always had such great compliments from people in the middle of us when we shared personal time.”
Her mouth hung open. She closed it. “Um.” That was all she had. A knock at the door saved her from admitting it.
“That’s room service.” Eric smiled. “Let me swab your hands, we can drink, eat and work out the details along the way. Sound good?”
It sounded very good. Intense, titillating and completely crazy, but definitely good. She was the one that asked for the proposal and the one that wished for excitement. “Sounds good to me.”
* * *
Chemere let go of the mirror and laughed. It was all perfect. “With that combination I can do better than a MoonWeaver, brother. I can make a Monarch. There’s a High Queen or King in their genes. This is beautiful.”
“It’ll be a perfect cascade, yes? Monarchs and MoonWeavers in all touching dimensions. We found the exact one we need.” Rik said.
“No, not we, you found it. This is all do to my perfect other half.”
She pulled the scene back and moved through the rest of the ranch until she found Jessie. She stood near the stables, looking up at the night sky, lost to her thoughts in the descending darkness.
“Perfect.” Chemere kissed her brother’s cheek and placed her hand on his back. “You know I love you don’t you, Baby Brother?”
“Chemmy, what are you doing? You only use those eleven seconds to make me your baby brother when you’re about to do something.”
She touched the mirror with her other hand and smiled. “Every Queen needs a consort, right? Go talk to her, make me some options.” With that she pushed him through.
Rik stumbled in the grass. The loincloth billowed around his legs and conformed in a feather soft covering of denim. The matching vest became a t-shirt in the same hue as his cobalt skin. Skin that took on human tones of chestnut and copper. The crown, nestled in intricate Fae braidwork, became a Stetson covering his usual emerald tresses that now fell to his shoulders in deepest black. Dwarven sandals grew into the well-worn cowboy boots that Rik knew well.
He looked behind him, the portal long gone. “Chemmy.”
“Rick?” Jessie said.
“Uh, hey, Jessie.” He gave another look over his shoulder and walked over.
“I didn’t know you were coming up. It’s good to see you. You missed the ceremony though.”
“Yeah, I had work to do. We got in some new breeding stock, I had to help go over some things.” He said.
“Did Kim come up with you?” Jessie asked.
“I’m sure she’s getting into something around here somewhere. I’ll find her in a little while. She and I have some serious things to go over.” He leaned against the stable wall. “How have you been?”
Jessie shrugged and looked up at the sky again. “I missed you. I’m glad you’re here.”
He glanced over to the empty clearing. Chemere met his gaze from the other side of the veil and nodded encouragement. “I missed you too, Jessie. How about we get some food and talk?”