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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Pretty Wiccan Rebecca Colby borrowed money from her father to start a bakery, and now he’s calling the loan due. When she learns he fell off the gambling wagon and owes big money to some scary people, she has to start making a profit—and fast—before the loan shark takes a bite out of her.
Hot Cowboy Dru Tanner is looking for his missing sister who left Texas to explore their New England Wiccan roots. She’s the only family he has left, and he’s desperate to find her. Dru has to hide the fact that he’s not a Wiccan long enough to infiltrate a coven in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It’s the only lead he has.
Dru needs a job and a place to stay while he searches for his sister. Rebecca needs cheap help so she can work some baking magic. Dru makes Rebecca an offer she can’t refuse—if only lust doesn’t drive them crazy first.
READ AN EXCERPT:
The bell above the door tinkled, signaling a customer. Jumping to her feet, Rebecca mumbled into the phone, “I’ll have to call you back, Dad.” She hung up and took a deep breath to compose herself.
Plastering a smile on her face, she turned toward the counter and caught her first glimpse of the most incredible man she’d ever seen. He was tall, at least six feet. His jeans hugged lean hips in such a way as to leave little to the imagination, yet he moved in them casually, looking totally comfortable.
When he reached the counter a gorgeous smile softened his rugged features. Blue eyes and sandy brown hair peaked out from under the well-worn cowboy hat. Am I looking at a real live cowboy here in New England?
He tipped the brim of his hat. “Mornin’ ma’am. Or I should say good afternoon. I guess it’s past noontime, after all.”
If he was rambling a little bit, she was grateful for it. She didn’t think she could speak right away.
“I was wonderin’ . . . that help-wanted sign in the window . . . ?”
Shoot. Should she tell the guy she might not be in business very long? Her Wiccan values had her believing that honesty was the best policy, but she could at least let him finish his sentence.
“Yes?” she prompted.
“Well, this is gonna sound pretty stupid if I’m wrong . . .”
His hesitation only lasted a moment. Then he gazed into her eyes with his piercing blue ones. “Are you by any chance a witch? Because if so, maybe we can help each other. I’m willin’ to trade my services for your help findin’ my sister.”
That sure wasn’t what she expected him to say. She almost tipped her head toward the ceiling to thank the Goddess.
“I—uh . . .Yes. I’m Wiccan. Do you want a locator spell?”
“Sure. If that’ll help me find her.” He reached into his shirt pocket and produced a picture of a young woman. She resembled him, but she looked much younger. Long blonde hair tumbled down from a similar cowboy hat, and she wore a checkered shirt, but the major similarities were her blue eyes and easy smile.
Rebecca hadn’t done a locator spell in a long time. And she’d never done one to find a human being, but the trade was a perfect idea. Witches aren’t supposed to make money by performing spells for other people, but a trade to save some money doesn’t count. Does it? She’d ask Hanna, later. For now, she was intrigued by the idea and the cowboy was waiting for an answer.
“Can you bake?”
He laughed. “I can learn.”
“No need. There are plenty of other ways you can help. I’ll have you fill out an application, and later I’ll check your references. By the way, our coven is meeting tonight. Would you be interested in attending?”
His brows shot up. After a brief hesitation he asked, “Do you think that’ll help me find my sister?”
“It might. You could also check out Myranda’s Occult Shop. She’s got loads of expertise and you can find any ingredients you need for a spell there.”
“A spell . . . Uh, sure, I’ll talk to Myranda.”
“Good! I hope to see you tonight,” she said. “I’ll get you that application now, and if your references are good you can start tomorrow.”
“Great. Can I get that application with a side of cherry pie?”
“Sure thing.” She smiled, already feeling a bit lighter.
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Witch meant “wise woman” to our Pagan ancestors, as it does to me. I cannot think of any more appropriate term.
Laurie Cabot (the official witch of Salem, MA) warned, “Do not teach this craft to fools.” I don’t think I hear that quite enough. There is great power, thus great responsibility, at our wand-tips. Those who are governed by knee-jerk reactions or vindictiveness have no business wielding magic as a weapon. For those who fear modern day Wicca, know that the number one fundamental lesson we are taught is “Harm none.” The next item on the Witchcraft 101 lesson plan is the rule of three. If you send out any black magic, it will backfire on the sender three times.
A craft is something creative. It’s also something we practice. Authors create and practice their craft each time they write a story. Wiccans may draw a magic circle and put an intention out to the universe as part of practicing their craft. Because I wish to be a wise-woman, I never told a certain ex-friend that I was involved with the craft. She had a hair trigger temper and revenge was something she thought was good to get. Right after Hollywood released, “The Craft” she asked me if I knew where she could learn witchcraft. I told her she should probably realize that Hollywood wasn’t real. I went on to mention that Witches today were more like a bunch of earthy, peace-loving hippies. She quickly lost interest.
My latest series, Love Spells Gone Wrong is about a coven of good witches that goof! Hey, we all make mistakes, right? How did I get the idea for this series? Well, it happened to someone who asked for my help. (By the way, other than sending healing white light, witches can’t perform magic for another person without their specific request.)
So, my male friend asked for a date for New Year’s Eve. I felt he was a tough case, because he wasn’t exactly good looking (putting it mildly.) I supercharged my spell, using red (passion) instead of pink (romantic love.) My mistake! On January first he called me and demanded, “What did you do?”
Uh oh. “Why? What happened,” I asked, innocently.
He shouted, “I was practically date-raped last night.”
Yikes! As it turned out, he bumped into an old girlfriend who was obsessed with him. Coincidence? People who don’t believe in magic would say ‘yes.’ People who do believe in magic would tsk-tsk and tell him to find another witch.
Now, I have to confess, I’m a lazy Wiccan. I haven’t practiced in years and no one has asked for my help recently. (Thank goodness.) I don’t do spells for myself anymore, because my life is almost perfect, and I don’t want to mess it up!
But nothing is wasted on a writer! I’m able to use what I know to craft a believable story. And maybe that’s all I should do!
Ashlyn Chase is a best selling author who writes funny and sexy, light paranormal romances and erotic romances. Her latest releases for Lachesis Publishing include the The Cupcake Coven and Tug of Attraction in the Love Spells Gone Wrong Series. Connect with Ashlyn on her website and on facebook and twitter.
Ashlyn is organizing a reader/writer conference called FALL IN LOVE WITH NEW ENGLAD: ROMANCE READER/AUTHOR CONFERENCE in 2016.
While shopping the other day, I ran into a woman who reads my books. She asked me a question that I find I have to answer quite a lot. She wanted to know why I include food in all of my novels. Initially, I chuckled when she asked, and then gave it some thought, as I always do when asked that same question. I think it goes back to childhood, really, where meals together were an important time to catch up with our daily happenings, and to enjoy the taste of homemade goodness.
My mother was a great cook and an even better baker. We had wonderful meals, homemade bread and pastries, and in summer, our garden produced the best veggies ever. I watched Mom make delightful meals and luscious desserts. We always had dessert after dinner, and a yummy snack before bed. No junk food at our house, we lived in the countryside, where there were no stores to run to for snacks.
When I married, an Italian, no less, food played a huge part in our household. I enjoyed baking and still do. Back then, when certain fruits were in season, I’d make jams, jellies, pickles and all those delicious things we’d enjoy throughout the winter. My husband’s father was a chef, who taught me to make chicken cacciatore, eggplant casseroles, the tastiest pasta sauce ever, and many other meals that tickled the taste buds of our friends and family.
My kids grew up and left home, but became great cooks in their own right. Now my grandson cooks on Sundays, making meals for his week ahead. I guess that food plays a major part of all our lives and is comforting to us.
The Vinnie Esposito series began some years ago with Vinnie stopping by her parents’ house to cadge a meal from her family. Even though she and her father butt heads more often than not, he still manages to give her a bag of food to take home with her. Vinnie’s best friend, Lola Trapezi, owns a deli not far from Vinnie’s house, so again, food becomes part of the story. As the other characters in the novels stop by Vinnie’s house, she offers them a snack or a meal. Again, the story includes food. There’s just something special about that and I get comments all the time concerning the importance of how the food plays into the story.
Maybe it’s the comfort of food, or the fact that is brings warmth and meaning to our lives. I’m unsure of the answer, but when I’m asked why I include food in all my novels, I simply say, “It brings us together.” For, if you truly think about it, food does that. How many times do we meet friends for a meal, a snack, or a cookout? Often, we have business meetings that include food. Somehow, it soothes our anxiety.
So, tell me this, how do you feel about food and what does it mean to you? I’d really like to know. In the meantime, I’m off to throw an antipasto together for later. Good eating my friends and thanks for stopping by!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
This is what Vinnie Esposito knows: When you see a guy floating in the water, you jump in and save him. You don’t stop to ask if he’s connected to the mob. Unfortunately for Vinnie, he is. And now she’s in trouble. Again.
Her boyfriend, hunky State Trooper Marcus Richmond, is fed up with Vinnie’s misadventures, not to mention that every mobster in town seems to know who she is. At least Vinnie knows she can rely on her best friend Lola Trapezi to whip up some delicious dinner at her deli. She also knows Lola is always ready to help, even if it means getting into some hot water herself.
Everything Vinnie knows and doesn’t know—including how she really feels about her sexy friend and upstairs tenant FBI Agent Aaron Grant, and whether her dad really is connected to the mob—is all up in the air. And what Vinnie doesn’t know, might just get her killed.
Please don’t be dead.
I peered at the floating body as I stripped off my jacket and ran toward the water. Frigid temperatures and freezing waist-deep water numbed my skin, leaving me with uncontrollable shakes as I hauled the body toward shore. Struggling against strong winds and soggy clothing that hugged my skin, I slogged on. His clothing drenched, he grew heavier and heavier as we drew closer to land.
Blood floated halo-like around his dark hair, leaving a trail behind us. While blood is my least favorite thing in the whole world, I doggedly ignored it in order to get this stranger ashore. My stomach hadn’t revolted from the sight of it, not yet anyway, and I guessed I was safe. In shallow water, he became heavier still, and my breathing labored at the strain of his weight. Land was within reach. So what if it just happened to be a cemetery, big deal.
In good physical shape, I stand just short of six feet, tall for a woman, but I take after my aunt Livvy. I’m not a weakling either, though my struggle to pull this inconsiderate fool ashore tested my strength. We finally reached dry ground. Shivering and puffing from exertion, I dragged him by his arms and flipped him onto his back.
Pale, cold skin stretched tight across his prominent features. He wasn’t dead pale, so I dropped down onto my knees and felt his neck for a carotid pulse. Pressing an ear against his chest, I listened for a heartbeat before I checked for breathing. With my cheek near his nose, I didn’t feel any warmth from his breath. I should have known better, I’m never that lucky.
My jacket lay on the ground where I’d flung it before wading into the bitter and still wintry water of the Scituate Reservoir. With fingers stiffened from my recent drenching, I fumbled in the dry jacket pocket for my cell phone. I dialed 9-1-1 and set the phone on speaker mode. In the time it took for the operator to answer, I had started CPR. I’m not trained as a professional life-saver, but I’m certified to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Besides, I figured the guy had nothing left to lose.
A distant male voice echoed as I counted chest compressions. His voice droned from the speaker as he asked what the problem was.
“I’m performing CPR on a guy who drowned in the Scituate Reservoir. Send me some help. I’m in the cemetery behind the church in Scituate village.”
“What church would that be, ma’am?”
“The only damned church with a full-on cemetery behind it.” I breathed into the man’s lungs and started counting compressions once again.
“Ma’am, that isn’t enough information. What is your name and present location?” The voice was calm. I was not.
“One and two and three and four and five and . . .” I counted and breathed, counted and breathed. Silently, I prayed this man wasn’t beyond help.
The cool, collected dispatcher waited for enlightenment. Of course he wasn’t soaked to the skin, freezing his ass off, performing CPR on a dead guy, and trying to talk all at the same time, either. I could have used a break here.
“Listen up,” I yelled toward the phone, “alert the freaking North Scituate Fire Station and tell them to help me, Vinnie Esposito. They’ll know who, and where, I am.” I ignored the man’s babbling and multi-tasked for another moment.
Seconds later, sirens blared as trucks left the station less than a quarter mile away. Sound carried in the small rural village, edged by the reservoir. Within those same seconds, my victim coughed, spewing water and saliva onto my clothes as I leaned over him.
How lucky could I get?
Turning him on his side, I watched the bedraggled man while blood continued to dribble from his head wound. Folding my legs beneath me, I leaned back and listened to him haul ragged gulps of air into his lungs. His breathing steadied as color flowed into his face. I huffed and puffed, shivered and shook, while watching the man become stronger with every breath.
Fire and rescue trucks halted at the top of the slope. I glanced over my shoulder. The rescue team was heading toward us at a run. Relief spread through me like warmth from a crackling fire.
Bill MacNert, an old timer at the fire station, approached. His lips always held a secret smile and I never could figure out what went on behind his twinkling eyes. I’d known him and his family for what seemed like forever. He drew closer, his eyes on me, while shaking his head back and forth.
Directing the younger men toward the victim on the ground, as though they didn’t already know what they were doing, I moved back and smiled at Bill.
“Leave it to you.” He smirked.
“Hey, I did my good deed for the day,” I said and took the emergency blanket a team member handed me.
The EMS crew knew their stuff. They worked on the floater and then loaded him into the rescue. A large bandage was wrapped around his head, heavy blankets were piled over him, and an oxygen mask covered his nose and mouth. I watched the rescue move away, figuring the stranger was fortunate indeed.
Eyeing me with a keen gaze, MacNert asked, “Ya know this fella?”
“Never laid eyes on him until today.” Shivering, I walked toward my coat where it lay in a jumbled pile on the ground. I glanced around and realized that I’d hardly visited with my dead aunt.
There’s always tomorrow, Livvy.
Visits to Aunt Livvy usually occurred when my life had turned to crap or I’d managed to stick my way too curious nose some place it didn’t belong. I would unload my woes onto her grave and feel better for having done so. Livvy isn’t a ghost or anything. Don’t get me wrong, she’s as dead as they come, but it just gives me comfort to know I can come here and talk. She had always been a great listener. I missed that the most now she was gone.
A local cop arrived on the scene. Slowly, I hiked up the slope toward the road, my feet squishing in soggy sneakers while drenched jeans chafed my skin. Dressed in winter attire, with a heavy jacket and husky boots to keep his dry feet warm, I envied the cop. Knowing full well that he would want a report, I sauntered forward. Gosh, I was cold, shivering so hard my teeth chattered nonstop. After all, it was only the beginning of March, and in Rhode Island, it’s a cold, wet month.
“Are you Lavinia Esposito?” The officer stared at me.
“The one and only.”
His narrowed eyes held a doubtful gleam, but I ignored it. Cops tend to be suspicious about everyone and everything. I know this for a fact, since I teach criminal justice at a local university to cops, or po-pos as they’re called, and to security personnel, nicknamed wannabes by the cops. Often, a few legal students take my classes as well, which, in turn, creates an interesting, yet kindergarten-like atmosphere. The egos alone are a challenge when it’s time for order in the classroom. I know they’re adults, but it doesn’t always seem as if they know it.
“Did you see the accident?”
“No, I heard a splash. Branches snapped, and I went to see what happened. The guy was floating face down in the water.”
His wary expression never left my face. “What were you doing here?”
Like what you’ve read?
Cheers! and Happy Reading.
She helps murdered girls cross over. Can she figure out who their killer is before she’s his next victim?
What it’s About:
Following the light can’t be that hard, right? So why don’t the dead just do it and leave Stephanie Stewart alone?
However nothing is ever as simple as it should be, as Stephanie learns when her hidden ‘gift’ becomes more than a nuisance, quickly turning unto a liability.
If she can’t learn to trust someone with her secret, the world as she knows it will go to hell. Literally. But if she doesn’t choose wisely, she might just end up learning firsthand how hard it is to follow that light.
Because she’s next on the list to be crossed out.
I couldn’t deal with Mom and her holier-than-thou attitude about decorating crosses. If she had any clue why I needed to do this, maybe she’d back off.
I pushed my hair aside and looked down at the wooden beams. My box of Sharpie pens lay close to my side. I had to get the design just right. Roses, or something plainer? It didn’t help that it was so cold in the garage.
Why was it so hard to help the dead go to the other side? It’d be a whole lot easier if they told me what they wanted on their crosses. Dead girl comes, asks for help, and tells me she’s into pink roses. Yes, that would make my job a lot easier.
But one thing I’ve learned is, life isn’t easy. Cliché, but true.
Figures, this was how I’d spend my time on a Saturday – sitting cross-legged on the floor in our garage, worrying about finishing a cross for some dead girl. In a few hours, Mom would drag me to Mrs. Swanson’s house for a sleepover. I didn’t really have time to decorate a cross.
And each time I tried to sketch, thoughts of the meeting drove any thought of the design out of my mind. I mean, how could I even think of helping others – albeit dead ones – when my own life was such a disaster?
I didn’t want to go. But Mom was using the whole sleepover as a way to get me to be around Hillary, whom she thought would be such a good example for me. But I couldn’t tell my mother the truth – I hated Hillary. Yes, we’d once been close, but it wasn’t as if we were BFFs anymore. No, Hillary made sure of that when I was stupid enough to trust her with my secret. A secret that was better left hidden. No one believed the dead could talk to you.
According to my last counselor, the only way that could happen is through serious Steven Spielberg special effects.
When I admitted to seeing one of my dead friends, he didn’t freak. No, he did something worse. He ended up suggesting to my parents that I needed to see a doctor – for serious psychological help. I mean, only crazy people see the dead.
And, I hate to say this, but the anti-anxiety meds and antidepressants don’t keep them away. Sometimes I wished the drug cocktail could just erase them. It sure would make my life a lot easier.
Sighing, I decided to go with pink roses. What girl didn’t like pink?
A sudden coldness permeated the garage. Jeez did Dad forget to close the back door again?
I pulled my hoodie tighter. Working in near darkness was bad enough without the drop in temperature.
Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.
I dropped my black Sharpie.
Over in the corner of the garage loose papers and dust whirled around – a funnel growing larger and larger.
A light shone next to Mom’s holiday plastic boxes, illuminating some Christmas ornaments, tinsel, and wrapping paper.
The childish voice grew louder. A chill went up my back. I know that voice!
I blinked once and when I opened my eyes I saw the girl. Her long dirty blond hair was clumped into two pigtails, and her bikini top and cut-off Levis brought back memories of the YMCA pool three years ago where I‘d spent my summers.
Omigod! I pushed the wooden cross aside. A tingling sensation burned through my whole body. Once I helped a dead person cross over, that was supposed to end the whole rescue scenario. The bright light appeared and poof! Well, not this time.
I scooted away, over the rough, cold pavement. This didn’t make sense. Though I was used to visits from the ―other‖ side, having Allison reappear scared me. I didn‘t know what to do.
“Allison, why are you here?” My voice broke.
She took a step toward me. Her lips trembled. “Careful…danger….”
Danger? Did that mean her murderer was out of prison? Just the thought of that perv touching or killing someone else made me want to hurl.
“Allison, what are you trying to tell me?” I slowly got up off the ground. “Is the guy who killed you, out?”
Allison shook her head. It still freaked me out how much the dead looked like us, not fuzzy or semi- transparent like they show on TV. The ones I helped still looked the way they had when they‘d been killed, complete with all the blood and stuff.
Yet here was Allison. She should be in Heaven singing in one of those heavenly choirs Mom always talked about.
I bit my hangnail, ripping it off. I couldn‘t deal with this. Not now.
The wind picked up, tossing loose papers everywhere. None of this affected Allison.
I had so many questions to ask her. I missed her. I knew she‘d understand me, even when others – including my mom – were clueless.
“Allison, what‘s it like to be…?”
The wind howled drowning out her answer. And just as quickly, Allison left.
I felt as if something had punched me in the stomach. I pushed back the sickness threatening to escape.
What was going on? But even worse, I didn’t know what to do. One thing had been made perfectly clear. The rules had all changed and no one bothered to give me the new players’ guide.