Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Words of Wisdom....from The Scarf Princess: Book Tour for Taken by the Passion by Maxine Mansf...

Words of Wisdom....from The Scarf Princess: Book Tour for Taken by the Passion by Maxine Mansf...: Taken by the Passion  by Maxine Mansfield is a sexy story that incorporates some delightful humor.  It's a continuation of the Academ... Leave a comment for a chance at a 25 dollar gift card

Monday, August 5, 2013

Victoria's Book Obsession: Taken by thePassionby Maxine Mansfield~~~~~~~~~~...

Victoria's Book Obsession: Taken by thePassionby Maxine Mansfield
:Stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win a 25 dollar gift card from Amazon or B&N

 Taken by the Passion by Maxine Mansfield ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ BLURB: Lizbeth wasn't given a choice whom to marry. She'd ...

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Julia Jane Parham loves Will Keegan.  She also loves CHOCOLATE.

Ghiradelli plays an important part in A WANTED MAN.  You might say it's a lifesaver...

In honor of the Tuesday release of  the book, I'm giving away a signed copy of  A WANTED MAN and a tin of  Ghiradelli  Chocolates to one lucky person who  leaves a comment on this post during the party.

Good luck!

MOON DANCE- Giveaway

I have a Moon Dance cover mug up for grabs so that the next time there's a Goddess Fish party you'll have something to drink your coffee, your tea or your cocktail from. I mean, really, who wouldn't like a mug to sneak a coffee spiked with Bailey's Irish creme in? Or maybe some orange juice with a little champagne? Or how about a plain old sip or two of chocolate milk?

In my novel, Moon Dance, the hero, Gabe, is an attractive, buff man who keeps in shape in the ballet studio in his flat in London. He had dreams of being a professional dancer but his father decided that was no career for the macho man he wanted his son to be. Bowing to the pressure of his father's forceful personality, Gabe joins the fire department and soon becomes a hero who runs into flames rather than stand on the sidelines. One fateful day, Gabe races toward danger and in the process of saving the lives of an entire family, he's hit with a backdraft of flames. His retinas are burned and he loses his vision.

Gabe finds that he can only see vague shapes and distinguish between light and dark. He turns to his love of music and becomes a deejay. He soon becomes a celebrity due to his tragic past as a fireman who sacrificed so much to save a family of strangers.

I wrote Gabe as a very independent man but I'm afraid that the fact that I wrote him as a less than perfect hero may deter some from wanting to read his story. For a chance to win the mug, leave me a comment on how you feel about heroes with some physical issue. Have you read any books where the hero was less than physically perfect? If so, did you enjoy the book? Would you recommend it?

A WANTED MAN by Rebecca Hagan Lee RT Book Reviews

I'm so excited! Here's the first review of A WANTED MAN from RT Book Reviews.

RT Book Reviews A WANTED MAN

The Ties that Bind…

…a rancher and a lawyer, that is. Funny enough, it’s still the same answer it always is: family. Kat’s family moved out to this ranch when she was a teenager. She hated it at the time. But over the years, her parents’ dream of owning and working their own land became her dream. She’d sacrificed her childhood. Put her dreams away to live this life. Now someone was trying to tear it away from her. It wasn’t fair.

Jasper’s life had been devoted to fairness. He’d gone to law school and become a lawyer just to help people navigate the government bureaucracy from inside the system. It’s not the path his father had walked. And he had to leave his family behind in order to achieve everything his has. But he was determined to do things his way, the right way.


Universal Defiance, Book One

On a rural settler planet, Kat must resort to putting out an ad to find a husband. She doesn’t expect to find love—that’s a dream in these parts—just a partner to help work her ranch. Then the devastatingly handsome Jasper answers her ad and turns her on in ways she never dreamed possible. Too bad he’s not who he says he is.

Jasper doesn’t know what he’s getting into when he ventures undercover to investigate a legal claim against Kat’s ranch. But after a toe-curling night under her roof and in her bed, he’s willing to do anything to stay there. He can’t say no to the tough-as-nails businesswoman who makes his body come alive.

When people start getting hurt, though, both Kat and Jasper have to decide how valuable one piece of land is. And the ranch that brought them together might be the very thing standing between them.

A Romantica® sci fi erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave


“So, if you don’t mind me asking, why didn’t you sell after your parents passed away?” His voice was tense and his body stiff as he sat in his chair. “I mean, I know you like it here, but I’m sure you could’ve made a handsome profit.”
The question itself didn’t bother her. She was actually relieved that the silence had been broken. And they were going to be sharing this land in good times and bad, which gave him the right to question her devotion to it. Still, the awkwardness of the evening had her on edge so she took a little extra time to steady her nerves before she answered. “There were some offers. And, yes, some were more than profitable. But this is my home. Ranching is the only skill I have. Where would I go if I sold? What would I do?”
Her answer didn’t seem to relax him the way she thought it would. His posture remained tight as he asked, “Didn’t you dream of doing something, being something, before you moved here?”
“I dreamed a great many things, Mr. Lee. That’s part of youth. When I became an adult, I put those dreams aside and stepped up to the responsibilities of my life.” She took another bite of her dinner only to have it land like a lead ball in the pit of her stomach. Her nerves were officially shot. Damn shame too, seeing as how much effort her cook had put into the meat-and-vegetable pie in honor of Mr. Lee’s arrival. “Now, may I ask you a question?”
 “The background check I ran said you were a lawyer. What kind of law did you practice and why did you decide to give it up?”
He gaped at her for a moment but then managed to mumble, “You ran a background check on me?”
“Of course. What kind of a businesswoman do you take me for?” She bristled at the insinuation. She might have gone looking for a husband through slightly nontraditional channels, but she had a brain. “I did a background check on my cook before I hired her and the worst she could do is steal the silver. After ten years, half my land becomes yours. I can’t let a criminal or a gambler get his hands on half my land. Besides, it was your background in law that made you stand out. An understanding of the law could be a big help around here.”
“I don’t think my field of law will be particularly helpful.”
She couldn’t imagine a field of law that couldn’t be put to some use. Even if he made his living chasing ambulances, he had to take coursework in other fields. “Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?” She smiled weakly at her pun but he didn’t seem amused.
He looked down at his food and sighed as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders before looking back up at her. “Okay. I guess it’s only fair you know. I represent the government in cases of eminent domain.”
An alarm went off in her head. “Eminent domain?” Her pulse raced with anger as she digested the words. The government didn’t let its lawyers just walk away. It paid for the lawyers’ school, gave them hefty loans and flashy gifts in return for a lifetime of servitude. It owned its lawyers from graduation to the grave. Which meant marriage had never been Jasper Lee’s goal. He’d been after her land from the start. And she’d foolishly given him a damn tour of it. “Get the hell out of my house.” The words were soft but her voice was steady and, thankfully, held its power. “And get the hell off my land.”
Thank you so much for joining me as I talked about Japer and Kat.
If you’re interested, you can find out more about me by visiting my website at, follow me on Twitter @ChandraRyan, or friend me on Facebook
If you want to know more about Ulterior Motives you can check out it’s page on the Ellora Cave site:



Available Today!

by S.R. Howen
"The old one will come. When he comes, his one true wife must carry within her a child of the old one who would be king. Only then can the heart be found and the evil of the world kept in its bounds." –The Prophecy of the Land

Sorann is the queen's daughter and training to be an empathic healer. Javert is a member of the wandering tribe called the Zingari and their future king. When Sorann's failed healer's magic test brings them together, they discover the prophecy governing the land is false. In order to prevent magic, and the Zingari, from being wiped from the land, Sorann must become Javert's wife and leave everything behind that she once held dear.

Tricked by demons, and followed by the queen's soldiers, they must find the fabled Wizard's Heart in the frozen Winter Valley.

What sacrifices will they have to make along the way, and will Javert ever discover the true meaning of the Wizard's Heart before his people and the love of his life are lost?

This is the first book in the fantasy series Tales of the Zingari.

Enjoy this excerpt:

The wolf growled, and she fell on her face in the frozen snow with the weight of the huge wolf on her back. Her cloak tore as the wolf worked to get at her flesh. Javert laughed.

With a scream, Sorann tried to push the wolf away, she regained her feet only to fall down again. She lay in Javert’s rocking wagon on his bed. Clutching the blankets tight around her trembling form, she sat up.

Javert sat in the padded chair with his feet resting on the trunk. This day, he wore black from head to foot. Not the sorcerer’s robe, but the clothing managed to convey the same sense of fear. With his dark skin and long black hair, he looked dangerous and sinister. Sorann met his gaze expecting to see anger and the same glowing evil she saw in them before she’d fainted. He stared at her, his face devoid of any emotion.

Javert swung his feet down and sat forward in the chair.Sorann let out a yip and pressed herself to the wagon’s wooden wall.

“Stay away from me.”

Javert got to his feet and moved to stand between the bed and the trunk.

“I mean it. I’ll scream. I’ll tell them all what you are.” Hysteria colored her voice. She didn’t care.
Javert sat on the trunk and withdrew a small knife from a pocket. Sorann leapt out of the bed, dropping the blankets and running into the door when the wagon lurched over a bump. She clawed at the bar across the door sobbing. The sturdy oak beam with an iron lock at both ends didn’t move. In despair, she sank to the floor only to realize she wore only a thin shirt--a man’s shirt.

“You were soaked to the skin,” Javert told her. Vaguely, Sorann remembered the water tank above the door crashing down during her struggle with Javert. Calmly, he opened the knife.

“When we stop for the night, you will see to Esmeralda.”

Sorann glared at him. She shuddered at the thought of him undressing her. “So I am your wife now,” she snapped.

Was it better to be raped unconscious or awake? Either way, she had been promised to him and now their marriage was a true one.

“I’m not a hideous creature who needs to render a woman unconscious to get her into my bed.” A smile tugged at his lips, and Sorann looked away.

“Do the others know what you are?” She’d almost screeched again how she intended to tell them. She held her words. When he took her to Esmeralda, she would tell her and any others she chanced talking to. They would get rid of Javert and help her.

“You think they don’t know? Come, Sorann, you’re not thinking at all.” He gazed at her as he cleaned under his fingernails with the knife.

“They wouldn’t let you live if they knew.” She scooted along the floor of the wagon on her behind keeping her gaze on him. Her clothes hung near the fire and she wanted them back on.

“You can tell Esmeralda if you like. You can tell the entire camp this night at the fire storytelling. They will laugh at your stupidity for touching my things.”

Sorann snatched her skirt down off the line across the back of the wagon expecting Javert to stop her. He kept cleaning his nails as if he wasn’t aware of what she did. She stood up, quickly tying the skirt around her. Unwilling to take off the shirt even with her back turned, she grabbed her blouse and sat on the end of the bed as far away from Javert as she could get.

“I doubted all the queen told me, but one thing is true, very true.” She sobbed. “The Zingari are creatures of evil.”

Sorann, everyone in this camp, and every other camp is well aware of who and what I am.”

Her new awareness told her Javert wasn’t lying. She glanced at the trunk he so casually sat on. Perhaps he was and could cover it. She planned to tell anyway.

Javert stood up so quickly she didn’t have time to react before he held her arms and raised her off the bed. He shook her, glaring at her.

Moon Dance- Recipe

In my London, England set romantic suspense novel, Moon Dance, the heroine attends a hen party- we call them bachelorette parties here in the USA- at a restaurant/pub called Weatherspoons. While there, she has chicken curry for dinner before the party is interrupted by a gang of troublemakers. I thought I'd share a easy chicken masala recipe here in honor of that celebration.

You will need a whole chicken cut into parts or for even easier prep, use boneless breasts. You'll need green onions and some tomatoes as well as garam masala.

Using olive oil, saute the chicken until brown on both sides. Add one and half cups of chopped tomatoes and one bunch of chopped green onions. Saute them a bit then add a quarter cup of water. Let that boil a minute or two then add two teaspoons of garam masala. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. If you like garlic salt, add a teaspoon of that, too.

You can add chopped carrots or peas to this as well for a variation on the menu.


First came the paperback release of Lee Child's 17th Jack Reacher novel, A WANTED MAN. Then came Linda Lael Miller's reprint of her 2007 Stone Creek novel, A WANTED MAN. And now comes Rebecca Hagan Lee's August 06, 2013 release of (you guessed it) A WANTED MAN.

I'm very happy to be in excellent  company.  I adore Lee Child's Jack Reacher books.  And I adore Linda Lael Miller's books.  They are both on my automatic buy list.  I'm not complaining about sharing a title or book space.  I'm simply marveling at the fact that after brainstorming a title with my editor and agent for the book that has become A WANTED MAN, we should settle on a title that would be shared by two NY Times Bestselling Authors at the same time.

I view it as an affirmation.  "Hey, we picked a good title!"  I hope romance readers will want to read  A WANTED MAN by Rebecca Hagan Lee as much as they'll want to read Linda Lael Miller's or Lee Child's.

My A WANTED MAN is the story of Will Keegan, I first met when he appeared as James Cameron Craig's best friend and second in command at Craig Capital Limited in GOSSAMER. As James's best friend, Will was steadfast and loyal.  He supported James in his mission to rescue unwanted infant girls from certain death and to adopt them into his household so that they might thrive and become his Treasures.

Over the years, I've often been asked what became of Will Keegan and if I was going to write his story.  My answer was always the same.  "I hope I'll meet him again one day and be able to tell his story."

Imagine my surprise when he appeared out of the blue with a story to tell.  A most unlikely story
about a businessman on a humanitarian mission, running a high class saloon on the edge of 1875 San Francisco Chinatown and the determined British lady missionary on a rescue mission of her own...

A story of how they fell in love to the tune of  "Bringing in the Sheaves" and the sound of smashing glass and the love of Ghiradelli chocolates.

Now, my fervent hope is that I've done Will and Julie justice.

Happy Reading!



Favorite Movies! What are yours?

Movies are a big deal in my house! There’s nothing we enjoy more than going to the movies or curling up on the couch for a new one or an old favorite. I write historical romance and you’ll find a fair amount of history movies on my list. I’d love to hear your favorites! Here’s mine:

  1. Ang Lee’s 1995 Sense and Sensibility is my all-time favorite. From the music to the casting to the costumes to the script. The acting was superb as was the cinematography. Is there a more nuanced depiction of love and love’s foes, money and power, ever told? Emma Thompson’s screenplay triumphs.
  2. A&E’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice originally aired as a six part television series on the BBC. Wonderful casting and a story line faithful to Jane Austen’s original. And I realize this was never a movie, a real movie, shown in a theatre – don’t care! It’s a favorite!
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 is the only movie that I liked as much as the book. Gregory Peck’s subtle strength showed and didn’t tell and Scout’s narration still makes me feel like she was talking directly to me. This is an American classic.
  4. Parenthood 1989. I know. This is a real curveball. But rarely do you see such a raw and funny depiction of a family – all their warts and all the joys when families merge and grow, inevitable when introducing unknowns to a closed group with a single uniting strand of love.
  5. It’s a Wonderful Life 1946. This Christmas classic reminds us that doing the right thing, even in a trivial circumstance or setting, are the bricks that build our character. No one could have portrayed the value of the Everyman like Jimmy Stewart.
  6. Godfather 1972. Brutal film examining the relationships of power showcasing performances by arguably one the best casts ever assembled, including Brando, Pacino, Caan and Duvall.
  7. Annie Hall 1977. I can’t remove this movie from my list even knowing the creep level of Woody Allen. Brilliant and hysterical adult dialogue with a sprinkling of the absurd.
  8. Million Dollar Baby 2004. Eastwood’s piece de rĂ©sistance of a long career. While Gran Torino and Unforgiven were perfect vehicles for Eastwood’s personal brand of heroic isolation, MDB is all about Eastwood and Swank’s relationship and their love for each other. I can honestly say that no movie has ever made me cry as hard or as long as this one.
  9. Gone with the Wind 1939. What more is there to be said? Could there be a more conniving, mean-spirited heroine than Scarlett O’Hara? Vivian Leigh managed to make us admire and root for this survivor, quite a feat. And seriously folks, Clark Gable was flat-out gorgeous.
  10. Open Range 2003. I’ve always been a sucker for a good western and they are so rarely made. Settlers in the West were depicted realistically as independent and inter-dependent. Costner’s no Pacino but he is easy on the eyes and delivers a subtle believable performance with the help of Benning and Duvall.
  11. Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981. This action adventure had me in the opening scene watching Harrison Ford be chased by a massive stone ball. Speaking of Harrison Ford, not classically beautiful, but so handsome and MASCULINE, whether he was in his professor bow tie or in an open neck shirt, leather bomber jacket and fedora.
  12. Lincoln 2012. Spielberg and Kushner’s adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of the 16th President may or may not be accurate but it was a glimpse of what ‘probably was’ during the worst crisis our country has ever faced. Spielberg focused on one piece of legislation as it made its way through Congress and how important that vote was as we look back at history. All this woven through the life of a man carrying significant personal burdens. Daniel Day-Lewis should win the Oscar.
  13. Singin’ in the Rain 1952. I know all the songs and most of the words. Watching Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner dance makes me smile and I think one of the all-time funniest scenes ever is when Lina Lamont is doing her first ‘talkie’ and they sew the microphone into her dress.

Interestingly enough, Robert Duvall is in three of my top movies. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Godfather and Open Range.

My new historical romance is called Cross the Ocean and already has 7 five star reviews at Amazon! Visit for more information about my books.

1871 . . . The very proud Duke of Wexford was about to have his orderly world blown apart.  At the age of nineteen Blake Sanders had wed a beautiful, dutiful wife and she had borne him three children. But now as mid-life approached, the Duchess had the unheard of temerity to leave him! Too mortified by her behavior to mix in ton company, Blake sought companionship with his best friend and neighbor, Anthony Burroughs and his wife Elizabeth.  But Blake had forgotten the Burroughs were entertaining a houseguest, Elizabeth’s distant cousin, a spinsterish ‘Amazon from America’.
Gertrude Finch, a champion for women’s rights, had long ago decided most men were pretty useless other than Uncle Fred who’d raised her on his horse ranch near Chicago.  While traveling with other Suffragists, Gert lectured women on the perils of passion and the value of independence but thought of neither when Blake kissed her. While opposite in nearly every way, other than an attraction neither could deny, their one night of passion would change her world, and send Gert scurrying her way back home across the ocean. 
When Blake discovered his heir had stowed away on Gert’s ship, he set out on his own adventure to America, to bring the boy home and to see Gert once again. Traversing America’s vast wilderness, Blake discovered that this tall, loud Suffragist had changed his life. Whether riding the rails or meeting common folk, Blake saw a whole new way of living but most of all, he realized something about love. He found he was not immune, and his heart could love, and love deeply.

Answering an Ad for all the Wrong Reasons

Jasper doesn’t want to get married. He’s not opposed to marriage in general. He just has a plan for his life and being married to a rancher on a remote settler planet isn’t going to get him where he’s decided he wants to be. But he does need investigate what’s going on. A lot of government land seizers have been coming across his desk lately. And when the ad for a husband catches his eye, he knows that would be the perfect cover for his investigation. He’s going to have to sell himself to Kat, though, without overselling and coming off like a creep. So this is how I imagined his reply to go.

I am a very courteous and respectful male in my mid-thirties. I do not have any warrants and have never been arrested or ever charged for any crimes. Though I’ve never worked with animals or been on a settler planet, I am a hard worker and a quick learner. I also have a solid background in business, which I believe could be a benefit to you and your ranch. My interest in your ranch is purely from a business perspective. It would be nice to develop a friendship and camaraderie over time, but I have no expectations of physical intimacy if we do reach an agreement.


Universal Defiance, Book One

On a rural settler planet, Kat must resort to putting out an ad to find a husband. She doesn’t expect to find love—that’s a dream in these parts—just a partner to help work her ranch. Then the devastatingly handsome Jasper answers her ad and turns her on in ways she never dreamed possible. Too bad he’s not who he says he is.

Jasper doesn’t know what he’s getting into when he ventures undercover to investigate a legal claim against Kat’s ranch. But after a toe-curling night under her roof and in her bed, he’s willing to do anything to stay there. He can’t say no to the tough-as-nails businesswoman who makes his body come alive.

When people start getting hurt, though, both Kat and Jasper have to decide how valuable one piece of land is. And the ranch that brought them together might be the very thing standing between them.

A Romantica® sci fi erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave


When he opened the door to the guestroom, though, the blaring of an alarm stopped him from going any farther. At first he thought he’d somehow triggered the noise but as soon as he smelled the first wisps of smoke, understanding filled him. Something was on fire. He wanted to rush out into the safety of the open grounds but he fought against the instinct. He had to make sure Kat got out as well.
He raced back to the bathroom to find her standing in the hallway, wrapped in nothing but a towel, with her dark hair flung over one shoulder in a curly mess. There were no tears or hysterical rants despite the fear clearly reflected in her expression.
His job required him to make quick assessments of situations and he excelled at it. But sometimes that left him blind to the more subtle aspects of life. He’d seen a competent businesswoman when he’d first laid eyes on Katarina Maxim. She’d been nothing but efficient and practical from the moment she held her hand out to him. But now, as she shivered in front of him with alarms going off in the background, he realized how much he’d missed in that original assessment. He’d seen her as a businesswoman but the person standing in front of him now possessed so much more.
The vulnerability of the moment and her calm resolve in meeting it added to her strength and touched him.
“I came to find you as soon as I heard the alarm.”
“Most men would’ve gone to battle the blaze first.”
His heart sank at her words. She saw him as a coward. Not that it mattered how she saw him. He wasn’t really trying out for the role of her husband. As soon as he finished his report, he’d be on his way back to his real life. But her words still stung. He’d like to be the hero at least once. To be the one who rushed in and saved the day.
“Don’t look at me like I just kicked your damn puppy. I meant that as a compliment. Most men stupidly let their hormones control them and they tend to get in the way,” she added as she walked past him. “I’ve never been impressed with the gender as a whole.”
He felt fairly certain they did not share the same understanding of the word “compliment” but didn’t dare ask for a clarification as she bustled down the hallway all businesslike.
I’ll be back a little later to tell you about the conflict that binds Jasper and Kat as they struggle to find out what’s going on with the ranch.
In the mean time, you can find out more about me by visiting my website at, follow me on Twitter @ChandraRyan, or friend me on Facebook
If you want to know more about Ulterior Motives you can check out it’s page on the Ellora Cave site:

Moon Dance

Available now at

Olga Quinn hopes her relocation to London to work on their space shuttle program is the life changing move she needs after the loss of her co-worker in a workplace explosion. She meets Gabriel Swicord, a former fireman turned celebrity radio personality and deejay. He lost his sight while rescuing a family in the line of duty and has immersed himself in music and work since then. For a few days, Olga and Gabe burn hot for each other and then things turn cold.

Someone is murdering women who patronize the club where Gabe spins records. It appears that he's the connection to the dead women and his name and face are plastered all over the news. Things are not looking good for Olga's peaceful new life and when the killers turn kidnappers, things really begin to heat up.



Available Today!

by S.R. Howen

Tales of the Zingari Book 1 The Wizard's Heart

Copyright © 2012 S.R. Howen
All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

Standing in the makeshift shower, peace descended in a comfortable blanket. Nighttime birds sang and whistled to each other, a frog croaked bass, and the crickets formed the string section. Conceivably, Cryant lived far enough away from the city for the emotions of those in the city not to carry into his compound, to reduce the overflow from battering at her shell.

Sorann let down her guard, expecting a deluge of energies to cause her to feel dirty again. A dog barked and went silent. The pig grunted in its pen, perhaps upset at having its mud rearranged. But no feelings invaded her. In her palace rooms, a shield stayed in place to protect her from the invasion. Could the same be true of Cryant’s canvas?

Dim moonlight spilled in when she pushed the flap aside. She stepped outside marveling at the emotional vacuum she found herself in. Silly to think Cryant could afford the spell needed to empower a canvas to keep out the extended aura of others.

The sky above her wore a sprinkling of bright stars on an inky background. The cool night air caressed her skin. Goose flesh rose over her entire body. The hard ground under her feet felt warm with leftover heat from the day. The stones she stood on glowed in the faint luminosity of the yard light, wet here and there, the water from the shower ran in twin streams on each side of the stone path.

The clarity of her mind extended beyond her in the absence of others emotions and feelings. The world came to her in clear brightness--a veil of gauze lifted. She ran her hands over her stomach, her own skin felt different. The bumps caused by the cold felt alien and as she ran her hands over them, she could feel the tiny hairs on her skin, a chill shook her. She hadn’t even realized a barrier existed between her own hands and her flesh before.

Animal smells came to her, the scent of the soap was even stronger. Why did everything feel magnified? Perhaps subdued?

A result of the shell she kept in place? She’d lowered the shell before, and it wasn’t like this--not even in her rooms with their encasing spell. She spun around holding her arms out in the moonlight. She caressed her own arms, enjoying the feel of the gooseflesh on them. She laughed at the feel of the mud between her toes. She stepped off the path and took slow steps with her toes spread, so the mud curled as it squished between her toes. More laughter escaped her. Her hands traveled to her breasts, her nipples went hard in the cool breeze--had that ever happened to her before? Perhaps she hadn’t felt it?

“Sorann, you dressed?”

With a gasp, Sorann scrambled into Cryant’s robe. It stuck to her wet shoulders; luckily, it was over large for her. With quick movements, she wrapped her hair in the towel.

“Yes,” she called back. “I just need to re-rinse my feet. I . . . I accidently stepped off the path.”

“I’ve got soup on.” Cryant stood holding up the door flap. “Stay on the path.”

She quickly rinsed her feet in a clear puddle that remained on the platform under the barrel--the water mixed with mud creating patterns as it ran off her feet. Still puzzled, but prepared for the onslaught of Cryant’s life, she moved to the slice of light coming from Cryant’s doorway.

Cryant moved back so she could enter without touching him. Sorann almost tripped over the threshold. Nothing came from Cryant, no feelings, no buzz singing along her nerves in a stinging assault.

The upper wall revealed how the home stayed warm. Inside, plaster coated it, and, going through the door, she saw the wall consisted of two parts with what looked like straw stuffed in between.

The inside of his home held the aroma of potato soup and fresh bread. A slightly musty smell road on the tail of the soup. She rubbed her nose. Things in the room, a small wooden table with two chairs, a handmade broom leaning in the corner, two glow lamps, and a braided rug jumped into clarity. Things in her life were always fuzzy, smells, sizes, shapes, colors--all made so, she assumed, because of her constant battle to keep out the everyday life of others.

Perhaps the hog knocked her unconscious, and this was the result? A dream? She pulled Cryant’s robe up around her neck, aware of how low the neckline rested over her breasts. The fabric carried a slight scent--a slight male scent. Cryant’s robe hadn’t been laundered since the last time he wore it.

“Here, sit by the fire,” Cryant told her. He stood near a makeshift clothesline stretched across the room. Using wooden clothes pins he hung her now clean clothes so they would dry.

Sorann carefully sat on the chair nearest the fire. Cryant finished hanging the clothes before he retrieved two wooden bowls from a homemade shelf hanging over a tin washtub. He spooned soup into both of them and set them on the table.

“Thank you,” Sorann managed. Questions tumbled through her mind. Why could she let her guard down in Cryant’s house? Why had she been so overwhelmed at first, but now--now since Cryant touched her in the pig pen--skin to skin, she didn’t need to be on her guard? Was it possible Cryant’s left over aura on his clothes allowed her a measure of control? Maybe Cryant himself?

Cryant picked up a small crate from near the fireplace and brought it to the table. He set the box on the floor in front of Sorann and set the thin towel covering the top aside. Small bird voices started up in a demand for food. Sorann pushed the chair back ready to spring away from the birds. She stopped.
“You saved the birds?”

“Some of them,” Cryant answered.

She peered back into the box. Birds. Young birds. The way they looked--one with a bandaged wing, another laying with its neck outstretched and its sides heaving as it tried to breathe.

“I can’t heal them,” Cryant said. His voice carried a note of sadness.

Slowly, Sorann reached into the box. She touched the gasping bird and almost shrieked when she felt its young body hit the pavement. Instantly, she knew about the bird’s broken bones, its injured ribs--the bird struggled in her grasp. She set him back in the box where he strutted around the other injured birds squawking and chattering at her.

“You healed him,” Cryant blurted. “But . . .”

Sorann reached into the box and one at a time she picked up the hurt birds. When she set them down they strutted about whole and healed. Cryant leapt to his feet and brought out a small cat from behind a curtain hanging around his bed.

He held the tiny black cat out to her. Sorann took the kitten in her hands and saw from the cat’s point of view the cart coming towards it and felt a flash of pain as the cart ran over the kitten’s leg and hip--her body didn’t feel as though she’d been run over. The cat’s feelings didn’t overcome her. She used her hands to completely surround the cat and in moments it struggled to be free. She let him go, and he ran to the box of birds and began batting at them. Cryant picked the kitten up.

“Out you go, but not in the street this time,” he said. He shut the crooked door over the curtain after he scooted the cat outside. “What they say about you, it isn’t true.”

Sorann looked up into his blue eyes. Lines creased his forehead, his thin face betrayed his puzzlement. She’d never noticed the shadow of stubble on his face before, or the tiny scratches, perhaps inflicted by an injured animal, like the kitten.

“It is true. I can’t heal. I get caught up in the emotions and can’t even diagnose what’s wrong because I feel as if all the things are happening to me. I don’t understand this at all. With animals, you aren’t supposed to receive the clarity to diagnose and heal the way you attain it with a person, but I didn’t expect to simply hold them and poof they are back to normal.” Her stomach rumbled, and she felt as if she’d eaten her last meal weeks ago.

“Eat, eat,” Cryant said and shoved both bowls of soup toward her.

She picked up the slightly bent spoon and touched a small bite to her tongue. Flavors exploded across her mouth, rich deep flavors of spices and onions she’d never experienced before. Spoonful after spoonful, each one a new adventure in taste and satisfaction until she cleaned both bowls of soup without a thought.

“Do you think the stories, you know from the Lost Lands, the ones about The Dark Towers are true?” He spooned more soup into the bowls.

Sorann glanced up at him and continued to shove food into her mouth. Her stomach kept begging for more with rumbles and demands she couldn’t ignore.

“I mean, the orange cat, outside, the one with three legs, sometimes, it almost feels like she is trying to talk to me.”

“The stories about those dark wizards turning their enemies into animals?”

Cryant nodded.

Sorann chewed more food. She let out a small laugh. “I don’t think there is enough magic left in the world, dark or otherwise to turn people or animals into something else.”

“But isn’t that what we do with our gift?” He sat back and spread his hands on the table in front of him. He snapped his fingers shut. “Isn’t what we do magic of a sort? We take broken bones and turn them into whole bones, something other than what they were.”

Sorann stared at him a moment before she spooned more soup into her mouth. Around the food, she said, “Broken bone that was once whole bone, not something entirely different. Take the cat, where would all the difference in mass go?”

“Still, I think I would like a cat who could talk to me and could understand what I say.”

“I had a cat once, when I was small, I used to think she understood what I said. I think they do on many levels, if I can feel what they have eaten and their enjoyment, then . . .” Sorann shrugged. She looked up at Cryant after her spoon scraped the bottom of the wooden bowl.

“I’m sorry. You lied when you said you weren’t a good cook. I’ve never tasted anything, well, anything so full of flavors. I didn’t mean to eat all of it,” she added with a glance at the empty pot.

“Never mind. I have more friends in need, will you . . .?”

Sorann laughed, energy jumped along her nerves--she could heal. A miracle had happened this night--the speck of dust that sparkled with light--a wish fairy, if any still lived with the bounty on most things magic? Sorann laughed again, whatever had happened, she could heal. “Yes, yes, I will.”