Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Needlework Tuesday - Planning my next quilting project

There is one thing I have long struggled with in my stitching, finishing one project completely before starting the next.  I have projects that were begun way back (I refuse to identify the year or decade, but it is almost considered ancient) that I still intend to finish.  For now, they sit in various bags stashed around my house. ouch.

I am now in the final stages of the blue quilt, thread ends to be buried, binding to attach and the last step of making and attaching the label.  While I physically working on those steps, I have been planning some future projects.  The top of the list involves these t-shirts.  I need a lot more than this, but it's what I have at the moment.  I also have two metres of bright orange-yellow fleece for the background.  Unfortunately, the bag containing the fleece is buried somewhere in those bags of other unfinished/in-progress projects.

I have a new approach in mind for this quilt and plan to write it up as a mini tutorial.  Hopefully by the end of March I'll have enough progress to share the technique with you.

Even though the weather has been gorgeous, I started a new pair of slippers.  I've been wanting to knit a dozen or so pairs to give to family and friends, but I want them all ready at the same time so the recipients can choose their favourite pair.  This is set #4.   These style of slippers are referred to as pocket slippers and are perfect for taking along when you are out visiting as they are small and fit easily in your pocket.  My daughters re-named them fittens, mittens for the feet.  I wrote and earlier post about them with a link to the pattern.

Yes, the knitting is a distraction from dealing with those thread ends, but what can I say in my own defence, I have a problem with task dedication.  I'll get it done as I am quite excited about getting the finished quilt back to my friend so she can enjoy it on her bed.

I got a little off track with my crafting/needlework planner and to-do list.  One week kind of stretched out to include three weeks. Not really a worry, today I will start the next week and I'll be back on track.  That's the cool thing I am finding about a bullet journal, it's free form and if you get of track, you can easily start again on any given day.  So as of today, I'm back on track. (little happy dance).

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Thanks for all your book recommendations last week.  I'll keep them in mind when I'm looking for future reads.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Home Sweet Motel - Welcome to Wonderland #1 by Chris Grabenstein

I never imagined that living in a motel could be such fun.  Having lived at the Wonderland Motel since he was born, P.T. Wilkie can list many reasons why he loves living there including an ice cream machine, swimming pool, housekeeping and a frog slide.  The only things missing from the motel are enough paying guests.

Along with his new friend Gloria, he sets out to entice visitors, with cash, to visit and stay at the motel.  Of course, an eleven year old has entirely different ideas on how to encourage these new guests.

The story starts with one of P.T.'s funny tales and it continues to get funnier.  The boy knows no limits to his imagination.  Author Chris Grabenstein's sense of humour is boundless.  He manages to turn everything P.T. does on it's side and make me laugh.  This book is well suited to all middle school students who possess even the slimmest of funny bones.  Parents will like that while P.T. and Gloria are getting up to various antics, they stay within sensible bounds and are acting to help the motel.  Nobody is injured in the commission of these shenanigans  with the exception of a large fibreglass statue.

A second book in the series is planned for release in July 2017.

Check out this interesting article on Brightly  by the author:

Not Just for the Laughs: The Value of Comedy in Middle Grade Reads

Also by Chris Grabenstein:

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

I received an advance reader copy of this book from Indigo Books and Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, 25 February 2017

Submerged by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

I thought I knew what would happen when I saw the cover of this book, but I soon learned that that was only part of the story.

I was on the edge of my seat for most of the reading.  Once I got going, I didn't want to put it down, but also, I didn't want to be sitting alone in a dark house in the wee hours of the morning reading with  book in hand.  I read to the half way point and then continued in the safe light of dawn.

I loved this book for both the creepiness and for the flowed characters.  We all don't get to be adults and have perfect lives behind us .  That would make for very identical people.   Marcus Taylor feels he has a lot to make up for in his life, and by working as a 911 operator, he can begin to atone for his errors.  Rebecca Kingston really can't be faulted for falling in love with the wrong man, but she does need help escaping him.

On a fateful day, Rebecca and Marcus paths cross and it has impacts on their lives that they couldn't have imagined.

That's it, no more clues to the plot as once this story gets going it's none stop action.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  It was an edgy read that keep me a little off kilter, yet it was also warming to watch their relationship develop.

Also by Cheryl Kaye Tardif:

Children of the Fog

Cover image courtesy Cheryl Kaye Tardif


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Needlework Tuesday - Little Finishes Count Big Time

 When I stitch  a few minutes here and a few minutes there, it doesn't seem like much effort is required.  At the end of the week when I add up all those minutes, wow, I might have spent and unexpected hour on a project.

I was at my quilt bee the other day and took along a ball of ruffle yarn.  I cast on a few stitches and started knitting.  I wasn't really paying attention to the needles, instead I enjoyed conversation with my friends.  When it was time to put my stitching away, this scarf was almost complete.  A few more minutes at home and it was done.  Totally made in found minutes.

Do you stitch during those extra few minutes that happen  in your day?
 I completed my daughter's pussy hat and having more yarn on hand, I started and then completed one for my friend's daughter.  The pale pink one is knit with 34 stitches of chunky yarn on 7 mm needles.  I can't believe how fast it went together.  It is actual fits an adult head and will suit the young recipient as well.  I have enough for both yarns for at least another hat each. 
Daughter is modelling her hat.  Yippee, she is home for reading week, and yes, she has been reading.  It's interesting the range of materials the sociology students cover. The two books she was reading yesterday; Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi and  The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse by Heloise d'Argenteuil.  Not surprisingly, she is using the same approach to reading these books as I often use in my projects.  Neither book is the type that you can easily read from cover to cover non-stop.  She has been reading them a chapter at time while working on other assignments in between.  By the end of the week, she should have most of both books complete.  Now I wonder where she learned that technique?

I hope that you have had a great stitching week and that you have made use of those small blocks of time that tend to occur throughout the day/week.

  Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you. I hope that you are having fun and making progress on whatever project is dear to your heart at this moment. 

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your needlework post.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

After being bullied at school and feeling scared for years, Lumikki decided it was up to her to fight back.  She thought running away would be enough, but she also had to learn to hide in plain sight and escape her persecutors notice.  When a classmate found herself in trouble and turned to Lumikki for help, she wanted to walk away and would have except for the fear she saw in the other girl's eyes.

As Red as Blood is set during the winter in a small Finnish town.  Early one morning, when Lumikki entered the school dark room and found thousands of Euro notes dripping dry and reeking of blood, she knew she needed to back out and pretend she saw nothing.  Unfortunately life rarely co-operates in such circumstances.

I liked the character of Lumikki, she didn't cower and wait for someone else to solve her problems.  She decided on a course of action that would work for her and embarked on it.  In spite of how others have treated her, she is still an honourable ethical person and can't abandon another who is begging for help.

The winter setting in Finland could have been almost anywhere, though the cold climate was needed for certain plot developments.  The idea of teens moving on their own to a distance city for school may seem odd to many, though I have heard of similar arrangements in many cities and countries and it is essential to this plot.

I felt that the teens reacted to their situation in a realistic manner.  Young people don't want to be running to adults to solve their issues, they tend to feel they can do it on their own or with the help from their friends.  Good start to a new series.  The story continues in White As Snow.


I received an advance reader copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This was a good vacation read.  I sat on a tropical beach looking out upon an empty ocean and could imagine Lo on the cruise ship Aurora as it travelled to the North Sea.  She was there to write a travel piece on the newly launched ship, but events happened that kept her mind off the job.  After reporting the disappearance of the unknown woman in cabin 10, she found herself more alienated by the staff and crew and totally isolated from the outer world.  She might as well have been adrift on the ocean I was gazing out at.

I enjoyed the set up for the mystery with the introduction of the guests and staff followed by the tour through the ship. I could easily imagine the crowding in the staff quarters and the claustrophobia that Lo felt.

The plot was well constructed and kept me guessing.  I didn't feel an affection for any of the characters but I did want Lo to get a grip and start being a better journalist.  She missed too many opportunities to do her job well.  She should have been much better as socializing and asking leading questions.

Overall, a good, easy to read story.


Cover image courtesy Simon And Schuster Canada.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Needlework Tuesday - Like a Breath of Fresh Air

 It's amazing what even a week long vacation can do for the body and sole.   I am much refreshed after my visit to Cuba.  The sun was hot, the people friendly and the company terrific.

Hubby and I spent the week at Varadaro relaxing.  As my regular readers know, I returned to work in August after being at home for twenty years. Wow, what a change of pace.  Retail is hectic during the holidays.  A week spent being pampered, ie: no cooking, no cleaning, was heaven.  Even the 3 1/2 hour delay of our departure from Hamilton didn't bother me much.  I did learn, that those $15. meal vouchers they give you when your flight is so so delayed, don't go work well when there is not enough food available  in the entire airport for that many people to purchase.  When the Tim Horton's ran out of food and I had lots of money left on my voucher, I purchased a coffee and donut for the fellow in line behind me.

The food was so so at the resort, but the pastry chef was great.  There was an assortment of delights at the end of each meal, my favourite being the pink confections.  Can't go wrong with pink.  ( I shared these desserts with hubby, well some of them anyway)

 It did feel like I was at my friend Janet's with the chickens wandering around.
 Cuba is also the home of the vintage car.  #ClassicCars
They are very popular as taxis.  The weather was too perfect for us to want a taxi, but I wish my brother could have been there, he would have been wanting a close up.

Not to be left out, I felt very at home with the horse and buggies, in some ways reminiscent of the Mennonite buggies seen in my neighbourhood.

The grounds of our hotel were most beautifully kept. Lots of trees and shrubs growing in profusion.

This is how we spent much of the week, on the beach reading.  Actually, our pasty skin was kept to the shade for the most part even with the heavy sunscreen.  I didn't take any stitching as it didn't seem right to be knitting in the sand.\

I did take some little bags and scarves that I stitched as gifts for the lady that cleaned and tidied our room.  Needless to say, our room was spotless and well stocked with towels and such.  I'm glad she appreciated my work.

Next week I'll be back with updates on my current needlework projects.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you. I hope that you are having fun and making progress on whatever project is dear to your heart at this moment. 

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your needlework

Friday, 10 February 2017

The GIrl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

 This is a well devised mystery that kept me guessing.  Playing off the perceived advantage of privilege against truth tends to have me cheering for the "commoner" and I was definitely rooting for DCI Erika Foster.

Erika has been brought in from her bereavement leave to investigate the murder of a high-profile socialite. Almost from the start she realizes the victim was not as squeaky clean innocent as everyone thought but that is still not a good reason for her to be dead.

I enjoyed Erika's character, particularly when she fought to allow the investigation to follow her hunch/intuition.  Her dogged determination let me know that she wasn't going to cave into the demands of a  titled man used to having everything go his way and have everyone bow to his requests. 

A good start to a new series by author Robert Bryndza.

Cover image courtesy Bookouture.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Needlework Tuesday - My Family Stitches Along

 While I am away in a hot climate for some post-Christmas recovery, I have a few photos of my families stitching to share.

My sister is crocheting this lovely afghan for her (oops, not sure if I'm allowed to say who it's for, but it will certainly brighten up any room it adorns).

It is crocheted with a front triple crochet V design.  I love the progression of colours.  She is planning to make it to cover the top of a queen size bed.
 My mom has been working on this beauty for a while now, two years I think as I remember cutting pieces for her when she was laid up with her broken leg. I love it, hint hint if it doesn't already have a recipient in mind.  It is a free pattern from Bonnie Hunter, Lozenges - a 2014 Leader and Ender design.
Mom is also piecing the En Provence mystery quilt by Bonnie.  She decided to make a small version with one block .

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you. I hope that you are having fun and making progress on whatever project is dear to your heart at this moment. 

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your needlework

Sunday, 5 February 2017

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

Growing up never seems easy, and when you are Finn Easton and have lived your life as the epileptic boy, it's even harder.  As a little boy, his mother was killed in a horrific accident and he was left with epilepsy.  Over time, he let his illness define who he was.  His father wrote a cult-classic novel, in which one of the characters is also named Finn. As a sixteen year old, Finn finds himself questioning where the fiction ends and his real life begins.

During a college visit trip with his best friend Cade, the twp experience a life changing event signalling their passage to adulthood.  It also brings the two families closer together.

My enjoyment of this story grew as I progressed further into the book.  Finn is transfixed by the passage of distance travelled by the earth. Instead of counting seconds, he counts miles.  I felt this was odd, until I realized that this was a coping method. He was trying to hold control over some portion of his life since his epileptic episodes took that away.  Once I became used to it, I found myself converting the distances to seconds and it made total sense.  I felt that the language of the boys was totally consistent with their age.  It's not vocabulary most adults would use, but then again, author Andrew Smith wrote this book was written for a teen audience.

This book should be enjoyable by male and female readers alike.  We learn a lot from Finn, mainly that you don't have to your illness, instead you can be a kid who happens to have an ailment.

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by Kirby Heyborne 6 hours 42 minutes.

Cover image courtesy Tantor Media.


Friday, 3 February 2017

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

At seventeen, Jasper Dent had experience more than most people would ever want to in an entire lifetime.  He is a good kid trying hard to live down his father's dubious honor of being the most prolific serial killer in the United States.  Jasper, or Jazz as he's know to his few friends, wants, make that needs, to prove to himself and the the public, including the Chief of police G. William Tanner, that he is not like his dad in any way.

When a woman's body is found outside town, appearing to be a copy cat killing using his father's MO, Jasper is desperate to help the police solve the murder.  Even with the help of his best friend and his girl friend, he struggles to maintain his perspective and possibly his sanity.

Author Barry Lyga has written one of the most unusual teen novels I've read.  Jazz is a good kid who had a bad parent.  He has been trained from the earliest years by his father to become the best serial killer there has ever been.  It was interesting to listen in on his internal self talk, would he be good or bad. Nature vs nurture  in an intense battle.  At times I found this audio book difficult to listen to, not due to the deaths, but due to the bad parenting.  As a parent myself, I can't imagine how Billy Dent could expose his young child to such activities.  While most teens will never have to face these particular decisions, they do have to make choices and will rely on their family, friends and other significant adults to help them along the way.  I found myself cheering for Jazz and hoping that he would continue to make good decisions.

I hunt Killers is part of trilogy plus prequel.

Cover image courtesy Hachette Book Group.


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Amoveo Legend series ebooks free today February 1, 2017

Hi All, I am passing along a message from Sourcebooks.  I have worked with them on book tours and reviews for several years and have enjoyed the experience.  They have been wonderful about sending review copies and sponsoring all sorts of contests for readers.  If you are in the market for a new series, give the Amoveo Legend a try.  I have read Unbound, book 5.5 from this series and enjoyed it.

Have you ever read a Sara Humphreys' Amoveo novel? Well if you haven't, it's time to change that! In Sara Humphreys' upcoming release Undiscovered, Sara introduces readers to a new Dragon Clan by blending them into her bestselling Amoveo world. Today it's time for you to Discover Sara Humphreys! For today only, the entire Amoveo Legend series will be FREE on all e-tailers.

Sit back, relax, and discover Sara Humphrey's award winning series!

Download the entire Amoveo Legend series for free:

"Darkly sensual, rich with emotion, a wild unsettling ride."
—Christine Feehan,
New York Times bestselling author

He’s the man of her dreams
A long time ago, Zander Lorens was cursed to walk the earth stripped of his Dragon Clan powers. Every night, trapped in a recurring nightmare, Zander relives his darkest moment. He can hardly believe it when the dream changes and a beautiful young woman appears. Zander believes she’s the key to ending his torment. Finding her in the real world is one thing, but how will he convince her of who—and what—she really is?

She’s the end to his nightmare
Rena McHale uses her unique sensitivity as a private investigator, touting herself as a “human divining rod” and finder of the lost. By day she struggles with sensory overload, and by night her sleep is haunted by a fiery dragon shifter. Nothing in her life makes sense, until the man from her dreams shows up at her door with a proposition…
Available March 7th 

Chapter 1
Mine. The deep, gravelly voice of the beast reverberated through the air and ripped through Rena’s mind, with terrifying force. Mine. Mine. Mine.
The ferocious, ear-splitting roars of the winged monsters rumbled through the forest and the earth trembled as the vicious battle raged on. The nightmare had persisted for months, and even though she was all too familiar with how it would play out, it continued to horrify her.
Frightened and exhausted, Rena McHale crouched behind the trunk of the towering pine tree and prayed they wouldn’t see her this time. Her heart thundered in her chest, and she pressed her hands against her ears, attempting to drown out the stomach-churning bellows of the monsters. Sweat trickled down her back, and she kept her eyes squeezed shut, trying to slow her breathing. She had been here countless times before, and though the nightmare was always the same, Rena prayed this time would be different.
It wouldn’t be. They would find her and they would kill her. She would wake up, terrified and drowning in pain, seconds after being swallowed by a sea of agonizing flames.
Wicked heat flashed behind her and seared her shoulder. She bit her lip and swallowed the scream, but she didn’t move from her hiding spot. The snarls and sharp sounds of gnashing teeth had gotten closer. Dirt, leaves, and bits of rock rained over her as an enormous clawed foot skidded past as one beast slammed into the other. Shrieks of fury filled the forest and the sound was more than she could bear because Rena knew what would come next. There would be nothing except excruciating pain while she burned alive.
“Not again,” she whimpered. “Shit, not again.”
The monster scrambled to its feet, and Rena opened her eyes in time to see its long spiked tail whip past. She yelped as the weapon-like appendage slammed into the tree above her head, and bits of bark showered down, stinging her skin.
“No more! Stop it!” The words ripped from her lungs in scream after scream, and she shut her eyes, not wanting to see the fire this time. “Go away and leave me alone! I want to wake up. Help! Someone, please help me! I can’t take it anymore.”
Rena didn’t know how long she sat there, screaming the words over and over again. She fully expected the fire to claim her as it had every time before. But this time, the flames didn’t come.
Exquisite silence filled the air, and other than the sound of her own breathing, Rena heard nothing. The earth no longer trembled, there was no more snarling or growling, and instead of fire, a cool mist drifted over her bare arms like a soothing blanket. Though her heart still beat wildly against her rib cage, Rena finally found the courage to open her eyes. The woods were now bathed in golden rays of sunlight, and a white fog rolled low along the ground, covering any evidence of the destructive battle that had been raging only moments ago.
With trembling hands, Rena pushed her stiff body off the ground and stood on shaky legs. She brushed leaves and dirt off the back of her pajama pants and her tank top, the outfit she had gone to sleep in that night. She gripped the tree trunk, the bark rough beneath her palms, and looked around warily, half expecting the beasts to spring out at her from between the trees, but she was alone.
“That’s it?” Her voice shook and sounded odd as it broke the silence. “All I had to do was have a crybaby fit to make those two assholes vanish?”
The words were barely out of her mouth when the earth shook with the familiar thunderous footsteps of the monsters.
“Oh great,” Rena whispered. She pressed her back against the tree before peering around the trunk in search of the threat. Another tremor rattled the ground and the tree branches wavered above as her heartbeat picked up. “Wake up, girl. Come on. Wake the hell up.”
Run. The man’s voice, a deep, gritty baritone, whispered around Rena out of nowhere, making her go completely still. This was new. Right now. You can’t let him find you. Not like this. He won’t understand.
Her eyes flicked open, and she scanned the dark, misty woods for the source of the voice. “Who won’t understand what?”
As far as she could see, there was no one there but her. Rena gasped as another tremor rocked the earth so hard she almost lost her footing. It was getting closer.
Now! His voice, filled with urgency and a hint of impatience, seemed to come from nowhere and yet he was everywhere. Run, woman. Move!
Another tremor. Stronger now. Dangerously close.
“Where the hell am I supposed to run?” Rena asked in a shaky whisper. “This is a nightmare, and there’s no place to run to, unless I wake up. Which I would love to do, by the way.”
A brilliant crimson light flashed past the trees to her left, like a mirror glinting in the sun, and that’s when she felt it.
The spirit stream.
The warm, soothing strand pulsed and wiggled through the air before sliding beneath her skin like ribbons of silk. Rena sighed at the pleasurable sensation as it seeped into her chest.
Moments later, she detected the source. It was coming from the red light flashing in the distance, calling her to safety like a siren.
Spirit streams, a term she had come up with years ago to describe the unusual phenomenon, were like an invisible trail of bread crumbs only Rena could see and feel. She had no idea why or how she was able to sense them, but she had never been more grateful for the gift than right that second.
Ever since Rena could remember, she had been able to detect the invisible trail left behind by all living creatures. She could find any person on the planet by simply connecting with their spirit streams. She had never found one in a dream before because she had to touch an object the other person had held in order to connect.
But then again, this was no regular dream. More like a recurring nightmare.
Move your ass! The man’s voice was louder this time and rife with impatience. Unless you enjoy getting fried like a chicken?
“Bossy and sarcastic?” Rena glanced over her shoulder as another tremor hit. “What a charming combination.”
Rena ran as fast as she could toward the otherworldly red light, her arms pumping with the effort. She ducked beneath a low-hanging branch but stumbled when the ground shuddered again beneath her feet. She regained her footing and an earsplitting roar filled the air but Rena didn’t look back. Fear gripped her by the throat and her heart threatened to beat right out of her chest, but she kept running toward the light.
If she followed the spirit stream, it would lead her to safety. She didn’t know how she knew that; she simply did. Deep in her gut, she was confident whoever was talking to her was inherently good. Spirit streams didn’t lie because they possessed the essence of the person they belonged to.
Good or evil, the truth was revealed every time.
A wave of heat flashed over her back as the deafening sound of the beast’s footsteps grew nearer still. Leaves crunched and branches cracked loudly as the monster tore through the woods, giving chase. With one final push, Rena broke through the tangle of branches and found what looked like a dead end. A rocky wall blocked her path, but the spirit stream drifted to the right and Rena followed it, even though it seemed to be going nowhere.
When she rounded the side of the mountain, she discovered a small opening in the rocks, and the crimson light flashed from within. With the beast bearing down, there was no time to ask questions. She dropped to her knees and crawled into the narrow space, inching along on her belly. Rocks and dirt scraped at her, but she kept moving toward the light, which glowed brighter and larger.
With sweat dripping into her eyes and panic creeping in, Rena finally came to the other end of the narrow tunnel, and what she found left her speechless. It emptied into an enormous cave with a glittering pool of bright-blue water lit from beneath. She climbed down the sloped, rocky wall carefully, and when she finally reached the bottom, she looked around in awe. The sheer size of the underground chamber and the serenity of the space was enough to leave her humbled, but it was what was buried inside the wall that left her speechless.
Curled up in a fetal position, behind layers of translucent quartz and stone, was one of the beasts that had been haunting her nightmares. Rena let out a shuddering breath and moved closer to the crystalline surface. The creature was as beautiful as it was terrifying. A prism of crimson and gold glinted behind the frosted wall in a breathtaking kaleidoscope pattern.
“Whoa. That is so cool. I’ve never seen one when it wasn’t trying to kill me. What is it? It looks kind of like a—”
She reached out to touch it.
Don’t! The man’s voice echoed through the cavernous space. Not in the dreamrealm.
Rena dropped her arm to her side and spun around, scanning the mammoth cave for any sign of her new friend.
You must go to him and find the others like yourself. The Amoveo can help you…and him. He must be awakened in the earthly plane by his mate. It’s the only way to break the curse, and we are almost out of time. If you don’t reach him by All Hallows’ Eve, he will be trapped here forever.
“Okay, first of all, what curse and who are the Amoveo?” Rena said slowly. “Second, there are no others like me. Trust me. I’m a total freak. Just ask any of the foster families I lived with and they’ll confirm it.”
“Hello?” Rena settled her hands on her hips and looked around. “Yo! Mister? You still here? And what’s this business about a mate?”
You don’t know about the Amoveo? His voice was thick with surprise and a fair amount of confusion. How is that possible?
“Please,” Rena scoffed and swept her arms in big circle. “This fits right in with the rest of my weird-ass life. Listen, I appreciate you saving my ass back there and everything, even though this is only a dream. albeit a really weird dream, but what’s with the monster in the rocks? Why have those two assholes been killing me night after night and who must I go to?” She settled her hands on her hips again and arched one eyebrow. “And while we’re at it, who the hell are you?”
Silence, heavy and thick, filled the cave once again and Rena practically choked on it.
I’ve never encountered one like you before.
His voice and spirit stream bounced off the nooks and crannies of the rocks, effectively masking his location. Another first.
“Yeah? Well, I’ve never been interrogated in my own dream before. I call us even.”
What’s your name?
She answered the ludicrous question. “Rena McHale.” This dream was her subconscious. Why would she ask herself her own name? “Why? What’s yours?”
Pick up the stone.
“That’s a weird name,” she deadpanned.
Pick it up! We don’t have time to waste. Not anymore.
His voice boomed louder, from behind her this time. Rena spun around and spotted a jagged piece of red quartz perched precariously on a rocky outcropping along the wall. About the size of a large egg, it glowed from within, like the water in the pool. Rena let out a slow breath and ran both hands through her short brown hair before lacing her fingers behind her head.
“Does this have to do with that curse you mentioned?” she shouted to the empty cave. “I’m not buying what you’re selling, dude. I have enough problems without getting involved with some weird curse.”
Pick it up. Now! It’s the only way.
“It’s a good thing you’re a disembodied voice and not a real live guy.” Rena dropped her hands to her side and cautiously approached the stone. “I’d have to deck you for being so damn bossy.”
Please. He dragged out the word as though it was painful for him to ask her nicely. Pick up the stone.
“Jeez.” Rena rolled her eyes before scooping it up. “Fine.”
The instant the quartz touched her fingers, the cave erupted in an explosion of light. Another spirit stream that was almost identical to the other but far weaker in strength whispered beneath her flesh. Rena sucked in a shuddering breath and wanted to open her eyes but couldn’t. They were heavy with sleep.
As darkness closed in, the man whispered, You are his only hope.
Zander Lorens rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he reached around blindly for the cell phone that was somewhere next to his sleeping bag. Early morning sunlight streamed in through the vents of his tent, and he squinted against it while swearing under his breath. The dream was still fresh and the woman’s face securely imprinted on his mind, to say nothing of her energy signature.
For the first time in five centuries, Zander had hope that the curse could be broken.
When his fingers curled around the smooth, familiar device, he snatched it and sat up. Bleary-eyed, he scrolled through the screen, looking for the old witch’s phone number. It was one of the only non-business-related contacts he had in there. Referring to Isadora as a friend was probably a stretch, especially since it was one of her sisters who had cursed him and his brother all those years ago.
Over the years, in spite of the history between their families, she had become a trusted acquaintance. Hell, she was a powerful old broad, and if she wanted to hurt Zander, she could have done it a hundred times over. Complicated past aside, Isadora was his only surviving connection to the supernatural world.
Zander had no other options.
The early morning chill of the surrounding mountains crept in, but Zander barely felt it. Excitement and a healthy dose of nerves had his blood humming. He pressed the phone to his ear and unzipped his tent. Sucking in a deep breath of crisp morning air, he stepped out, uncaring of his nakedness. There was nobody there to see it other than the forest creatures, and since he wasn’t exactly Snow White, they wouldn’t be paying him any mind.
After six or seven rings, Isadora finally picked up.
“You better have a damned good reason for calling an old woman at this hour,” she croaked. “The sun is barely up.”
“I found her.” Zander tried to keep his voice even and his eagerness at bay, but it was no use. “Last night. In the dreamrealm. Arianna was gone, and a woman I have never seen before had taken her place. She was—”
“Hold on a damn minute,” she rasped. “Slow down.”
“Zed spoke, Isadora. He actually spoke.” He let out a short laugh of disbelief and pushed his shaggy, dark hair off his face while staring at the rising sun. “The voice was more beast than man, but he uttered the same word over and over again as soon as he saw her: mine. Don’t you see? The woman in the dreamrealm, whoever she is, has to be Zed’s mate.”
When the old witch didn’t respond, Zander thought the connection had been lost. He pulled the phone away and checked, but he had plenty of bars. He growled with frustration and put it back to his ear, but two seconds later, a crackling sound erupted behind him.
Zander spun around to see the old woman standing there, a cloud of purple smoke disappearing around her in the early morning light. Her long, straight, salt-and-pepper hair hung to her waist, and her tanned, wrinkled face was covered with a mischievous smile. Those dark eyes of her twinkled wickedly as they flicked over his naked body, lingering longer than he’d like on his dick.
“I thought we should talk in person,” she said with a wink. Isadora pointed one crooked finger at his crotch before leaning both hands on her tall walking stick. “You better cover up, or I’m going to get the wrong idea.”
“I’m too old to go diving behind a tree.”
Zander hit End on the phone and strode toward the tent as her cackling laughter filled the air. Nudity wasn’t a big deal for the members of his race. Shit. After five hundred years on earth, trapped in his human form, nothing was a big deal anymore.
“And I’m too old to take advantage of the situation,” she snickered. “In this body, anyhow. Now, if I had used my younger-self potion before my travelin’ potion, we wouldn’t be doing very much talking, if you know what I’m gettin’ at.”
“I have an idea.” Zander threw his cell phone in the tent and grabbed his jeans, trying not to imagine what the old woman looked like under her long robe-like dress. “You know, we could have continued this conversation on the phone.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” She leaned on her cane and gave him a sly smile as he pulled his pants up. “’Sides, given everythin’ you were goin’ on about, we need to be real clear about what comes next. Best to have this talk in person.”
Zander nodded his agreement and settled both hands on his hips as he studied the ancient witch woman closely. Her energy signature, like most supernatural creatures, was far stronger than a human’s. It was the spiritual fingerprint each individual possessed. After Zander had been cursed, being able to detect those powerful streams of energy was the only gift he had left.
Well, that and being immortal. But as far as he was concerned, immortality wasn’t any damn gift he’d ever wanted. At least, not like this.
“Now, let’s get back to business.” Isadora thumped her walking stick into the ground with her gnarled hands. “You think you may have found a way to break my sister’s curse? I thought the only way to get rid of it was for one of you boys to commit an act of pure, unselfish love?”
“Since Zed has been trapped in hibernation in his dragon form for the past five centuries, it cut our odds in half.”
“Fair point.” She let out a groan as she settled her round backside on a tree stump next to Zander’s makeshift fire pit. “But you’re still here. Why ain’t you been able to get rid of the curse? Ain’t you done any good deeds in the last half a millennium?”
“What a load of crap that turned out to be,” Zander scoffed under his breath. “I’ve spent the last five centuries doing good deeds and random acts of kindness all over the globe and not a damn one worked. Do you have any idea how many cats and drowning kids I’ve saved?”
“Well, it’s a lot. Shit,” he huffed. “I’ve lost count. I’ve fought in wars for the greater good, built homes for the downtrodden, and bought groceries for strangers. I’ve tossed countless coins into paper cups that were clutched in the hands of homeless men, women, and children. Nothing has made a difference. The curse has remained in place. Zed is stuck in the dreamrealm and I’m…here.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “You and your twin brother got screwed.”
“He got it worse than me,” Zander said quietly. “Zed has been languishing in the dreamrealm. Night after night, we relive that fight—the one that changed everything. I’ve tried to reason with him, but he stopped hearing me long ago. He’s…tortured.”
“Grief and regret will do that.”
“He’s been reduced to his most savage state. The man is gone and only the beast remains.”
“Right, I know all that,” she said with waning patience. “So what makes you think this woman is the key to breaking the curse?”
“He saw her, Isadora,” Zander said with a smile. “And he spoke. I can’t tell you the last time he did that. It was only one word, but it was a damn good one.”
“Mine,” Isadora said quietly. Worry edged the wrinkles around her eyes. “So you’re tellin’ me that you think this woman in the dreamrealm is Zed’s mate?”
“Zed sure as hell thought she was. Besides, why else would some random woman land in there with us?”
“Why do you think—”
“She’s Amoveo,” Zander said quietly.
Isadora’s eyes widened, and she nodded slowly as an expression of understanding washed over her. The Amoveo, an ancient race of shapeshifters similar to the Dragon Clan in many ways, found their mates in the dreamrealm. Once they connected there, they could find each other in the physical plane.
“She’s a shifter. Like you were.”
“No.” Zander’s jaw clenched. “The dragons were cousins of the Amoveo. We aren’t the same.”
“Pfft.” She rolled her eyes. “That’s what you call semantics. The Dragon Clan was considered the eleventh clan of the Amoveo by most everyone—except the dragons. Which of the ten Amoveo clans is she descended from?”
“From the Fox Clan, I think.”
“Like someone else we knew.” Isadora sniffed. “Seems a little too coincidental for me.”
Zander pretended to ignore that last comment.
“Her name is Rena McHale, but I don’t think she’s a pureblood. If she was, she would know what she is because she would have gone through her first shapeshifting episode during puberty, like all of the Amoveo do. There’s no way she knows there’s Amoveo blood in her veins, which is going to make this a hell of a lot more difficult. I had no idea the Amoveo could even breed with humans.”
“Most of ’em don’t know what they are,” Isadora said flatly. “Comes as quite a shock to ’em.”
Zander stilled.
“You mean there are more like her? Part human and part Amoveo?”
“Yes, sir. Prince Richard has had his men out looking for ’em and bringin’ ’em back to his ranch, over in Montana.”
An image of Zed in his hibernation cocoon flashed into his mind. His twin brother was deep beneath the earth, where no one would find him. Humans rarely ventured that far under the ground, and other than Zander and Isadora, nobody even knew Zed was there.
“They still occupy that land? I thought for sure they would have sold it off over the years.”
“You didn’t sell yours,” she said, referring to his property in West Yellowstone.
“It’s all I have left of my clan.”
“Maybe they feel the same. You aren’t so different after all.” She shrugged her narrow shoulders and waved one hand. “Richard and Salinda’s place is more of a compound, really. They had themselves some trouble over the past few years. Purist Amoveo caused a ruckus. Guess they were none too pleased about these hybrids popping up. The Council has been dissolved and—”
“You’re not serious.”
The Council was the Amoveo’s governing body and was comprised of two members from each of the ten clans. Eons ago, long before Zander and Zed were born, the Dragons had even been a part of it. He couldn’t imagine the kind of chaos that must have ensued with the dissolution of the Council.
“Deadly so, I’m afraid. There were assassination attempts. Nasty business. I ain’t seen the ten Amoveo clans fight among themselves like that since…well…since that business with you and your brother and that Fox Clan girl.”
“That was a long time ago, and this woman, whoever she is, isn’t Arianna but she is Zed’s mate.”
“Or yours,” Isadora whispered.
“No,” he said adamantly. “I’m not letting that happen again. She’s meant for Zed.”
“Who she’s meant for ain’t up to you, now is it?”
“This woman is his only hope.”
Zander grabbed two large, thick branches and snapped them in half, using his pent-up frustration to do it. Silence settled between them as Zander squatted down and arranged some sticks in the fire pit. He stuffed some newspaper underneath before lighting it up.
“’Bout time,” she groused. “It’s colder than a witch’s tit out here.”
Zander let out a huff of laughter at her silly comment and shook his head before sitting beside the fire. Isadora always did have a way of diffusing tense situations. He pulled his knees up and settled his arms over them as the heat washed over the bare flesh of his chest. The crackle of the wood as it was consumed by the flames filled the air, instantly putting him at ease.
For most people, the power of fire was frightening, but it made Zander feel at home.
“You miss it, don’t you?” she asked, her voice pulling him from his memories. “The dragon.”
“Embracing my dragon again is all I’ve wanted, and ironically, it’s the very thing that’s tormenting Zed.” He tossed another branch on the fire, sending sparks into the air. “If I can get this woman to the cave where Zed is hibernating and give her a spirit stone from our tribal land, she might be able to use it to wake him up.”
“That’s a big might,” Isadora said firmly. “Boy, you got nothin’ but maybes and could bes.”
“Yeah. That’s about all I’ve got and we’re running out of time. This Saturday is—”
“Oh hell.” She tapped her cane on the ground and pursed her lips. “It’s All Hallows’ Eve, ain’t it?”
“Damn,” she said with a sigh. “Those five hundred years surely did fly right on by.”
Zed let out a bitter laugh.
The past several centuries had felt more like millennia as far as he was concerned. However, he clamped down on his moment of self-pity and reminded himself that nothing he went through could compare to Zed’s painful existence.
“That’s why I need your help. If we don’t break the curse before sunset on Saturday, then it will never be over, and Zed will be trapped there. Forever. Tormented. Alone. I can’t live with that, and thanks to your sister’s curse, I can’t even put myself out of my own misery.” He sighed wearily. “Living forever sucks…at least living like this.”
He turned his gaze to hers and threw a prayer to the universe that she would take pity on him. The old woman, her long white-and-brown robe draped over her thin form, stared into the fire but said nothing. He sensed she was weighing her options.
“Please, Isadora. Put me in touch with the prince or one of his people. I’ve got to get on that property. You and I both know that I can’t just walk up to the gates. And I can’t try and sneak on because they’ll sense my presence. You know I’m right.”
“Can’t say you’re wrong.” A look of understanding flickered over her weathered face, and she nodded. “But if you had an Amoveo hybrid with you…one looking for sanctuary…”
“We kill two birds with one stone: Rena can connect with her people, and I have a chance to free my brother.”
“Seems more complicated than you’re makin’ it.”
Zander let out a beleaguered sigh.
“Can you help me or not?”
She pushed herself to her feet, using her cane for support. Zander hopped up before going around the fire and scooping the tiny old witch up in a big hug. Her frail, five-foot-tall frame was easily engulfed by his far larger one.
“My sister was a troublemaker and always sellin’ her magic to the highest bidder. It ain’t right, and if she weren’t already dead, I’d have a mind to kill her myself. It’s witches like her that gave all of us a bad rap. I swear. The fairies are a bunch of troublemakers and we’re the ones who look bad in the human stories. Ain’t right, I tell ya.”
“Thank you, Isadora.”
He set her down and planted a kiss on her soft cheek as his gratitude swelled.
“All right, now.” Her wrinkled cheeks pinkened, and she patted him on the arm. “Better be careful with all that kissin’ on me. We may be about the same age, but my body ain’t weathered the years as well as yours.”
Her brow furrowed and her smile faltered as her gaze skittered over his bare chest. She tapped one of several scars on his torso with a gnarled fingertip and made a tsking sound.
“I guess you aren’t exactly unscathed, are you?”
“No, ma’am.” Zander pressed both hands to his chest and stepped back before extending his arms wide. “But thanks to your sister, I am indestructible.”
“And handsome as ever.” She pulled a small glass bottle from one of the folds in her robe and flipped the cork out with her thumb. “Better stand back, boy.”
Zander did as she said and put a healthy distance between them.
“I’ll get a message to the Amoveo. If I had to venture a guess, you’ll be gettin’ a call from a Dante Coltari. He’s the one been wranglin’ the hybrids to the ranch, but that’s all I can do for you. After that, you’re on your own. I don’t like to meddle where I don’t have to.”
Zander arched one dark eyebrow at her and she shrugged.
“Yeah, that ain’t true. I love messin’ with people. Keeps my mind and magic sharp.”
She was about to swallow her potion, but Zander held up one hand, stopping her.
“Don’t give them my real name. Tell them—”
“Won’t matter. Trust me.”
“Isadora,” he began, “I hardly think they’ll welcome a dragon to their property. Even before my people were extinct, we were the outcasts. Some of the Amoveo even helped the human dragon slayers hunt us into oblivion, Arianna’s father for one.”
Anger surged at the painful memories, but he stuffed it back down. Better to save it for another day. If he was going to have to deal with a ranch full of Amoveo, he would need all of his strength. In his experience, rage was one hell of a weapon.
“Yeah,” she snorted. “But you ain’t a dragon no more. The dragons are all gone and only exist in human fairy tales and folklore…for the most part.”
Before he could protest further, Isadora swallowed her potion and vanished in a cloud of purple smoke. As the haze of her departure dissipated, Zander’s thoughts went to the woman from the dreamrealm.
If she didn’t know who and what she really was, how the hell was Zander going to tell her about him and his brother? Or that she was Zed’s intended mate?
What a shit show.
Yep. He was fucked. Again.
All he knew was her name and where she was located. Though the curse had stripped him of virtually all of his Dragon Clan abilities, he was still able to identify her unique energy pattern—and it showed him exactly where she was.
He wasted no time. Zander packed up his tent and backpack, and pointed his Harley in the right direction.