Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Books of the Kindling Book One
DEA agent Nick McKenzie is sure magic exists—a dangerous drug called Smoky Mountain Magic that’s wreaking havoc on the streets of Atlanta. He’s also sure that locating and eliminating the source could mean his death.
When he arrives undercover on Woodruff Mountain, the beautiful owner’s anxious attempts to scare him off tell him something’s afoot, and it’s not her secret patch of a rare, ancient species of ginseng.
As her dream of seeking medicinal plants in the Amazon fades into the distance, Grace Woodruff struggles to come to terms with an inherited magical gift she didn’t want, and searches desperately for the meaning behind her late grandfather’s final, cryptic message.
The last thing she needs underfoot is a handsome, enigmatic writer recovering from a recent illness. Until an accidental touch unleashes a stunning mystical force and Grace senses the wrath of a malicious blight at the heart of the mountain. Now she must choose between her need to hide her gift from the world…and her desire to save Nick’s life.
Warning: This book contains a fiery redhead whose magic cannot be contained and a handsome DEA agent whose final case might give him a second chance at life.
Genre: Contemporary RomancePurchase links: Samhain Amazon ARe Kobo iTunes B&N
Content/Theme(s): Suspense, DEA agent, a touch of Magic
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
He lifted his hands in the air, eyeing the shotgun slung over her shoulder, but smiling in spite of it. "My receipt for a week's cabin rental is in my back pocket," he said. "Your agent can verify—"
"She did. Don't worry," she cut in. "The gun's for other dangerous critters that might wander in, not you. Can't be too careful up here."
He looked around and lowered his hands. "I see. Well, sorry for the late hour. The trip up here took a bit longer than I expected."
His smile broadened as he spied Pooka. The hound looked up at Grace for permission, and she nodded. She watched Pooka advance, tail wagging slowly. Instead of sticking his hand into Pooka's face as most people would, their guest stood still, inviting Pooka to approach. Well, he got some points for knowing how to greet a strange dog, anyway.
"What breed's this fellow?" he asked as he stooped to greet the dog.
"The state dog of North Carolina. Bred to hunt bear and wild boar," she replied. "Which still wander by now and again."
"Bear and wild boar, huh boy?"
Pooka grinned as only Pooka could and nearly wagged off his tail as Mr. City Man ruffled first the fur on his shoulder and then his back.
Mr. City Man's smile was bright and genuine. And there was at least one dimple too, hidden in a slight shadow of stubble. Coal black hair, now that she saw him a bit closer.
"And what do they call you, boy?"
It was a nice voice, Midwestern, or perhaps further north than that. Cultured and metropolitan, for all that he was trying not to sound citified. But a nice voice nonetheless. Pooka liked him too, butting his head against the man's hand for more stroking.
"Oh, he gets called all kinds of names, some of them not repeatable in decent company, but he goes by Pooka most of the time," she said. "Although some of our youngest guests insist on calling him Poo."
There was a stifled snort of a laugh and she realized she was failing miserably at scaring him off.
"Can't say I know him well enough to lay that on him. And since he hasn't sniffed me properly yet, he doesn't know me well enough either. We have to do all the rituals, don't we boy?"
Grace watched with admiration as he earned Pooka's total adoration with a quick rake of fingers down his back and a thorough butt scratch, allowing the dog to sniff his trouser leg and the arm of his jacket. Pooka knew better than to sniff anywhere else.
"You're better trained and more polite than most city dogs. But then, I understand completely, seeing who likely trained you." The last was a husky whisper right in Pooka's ear, but Grace felt it tingle in her own.
His eyes slid up to hers. Soft gray, like unpolished pewter. She stepped back as he stood, extending his hand.
"Nick. Nick Crowe."
"Y-yes. Nice to meet you Mr. Crowe." She held out her hand.
He grasped the leather-covered hand firmly in his own. "Please, call me Nick." His smile quirked sideways and that dimple appeared once more. "Unless there's some ritual involved before we can use our given names?"
She pulled her hand away, nearly losing the glove when she did.
"Quite a hunk", Trish had said. Quite a hunk indeed.
"I'm Grace. Grace Woodruff."
"Woodruff. So you're—"
"The owner. Yes. As Ms. Moore probably told you, we're on a skeleton staff right now." A skeleton consisting of one bone. Oh yes, and Jamie, and Pooka. Two bones then.
"Trish explained all that. I'm afraid I twisted her arm a bit to get up here, but— Well, this place is perfect for my purposes. Did she tell you I was writing a book?"
"Yes she did." And I bet you charmed the socks right off of our Trish, Mr. City Man. Grace pressed her lips together, trying not to smile. "She also said you had recently been ill. I hope you're feeling better." There, that was circumspect.
"Yeah. Well, it's kind of obvious, I guess." He gestured to himself apologetically. "I picked up this nasty parasite in Colombia while I was down there working on the book. It took a lot out of me, but we beat it down. I figured staying up here a while could only do me some good and the docs agreed."
Parasite. Columbia. What the hell kind of book are you writing Mr. City Man? "A parasite. How interesting. Do you happen—"
He grinned, waving his hand. "Trish warned me you might give me the third degree, but to be honest, I have no idea. Can't pronounce it. Don't want to. I'm just glad to be rid of the thing." The gray eyes seemed to dance a bit. "But if you want to try some of your famous herbal medicine on me, I'd be glad for any help putting on some pounds."
Grace assessed the man before her. He did look like someone debilitated by an exotic fever of some kind—nearly burned out and left a husk. There was evidence the man took good care of his body, or had before something nearly killed him. His eyes seemed clear though.
"So, any remedies to recommend?" His voice was teasing and Grace realized she had been staring a little too long.
"I hesitate to recommend anything without the details," she said, looking away. She gestured to Pooka who trotted obediently to her side. "But your doctors were right. Simple food, good clean air and water, mild exercise, and sound sleep should speed things along. If you remember the name of the parasite and any details of your treatment, I'd be glad to make some suggestions."
"Well, since I'm doing a good job of forgetting the whole experience, I may have to stick with the simple food, clean water and sound sleep approach." Nick looked around at the trees. "But I should've brought a white noise machine, I think."
She frowned. "For what? We don't have any loud machinery here. And there are certainly no traffic noises." She waved toward the house. "Our chickens are quite a ways downslope beyond the solar array and the greenhouses, and the rooster—"
"Whoa!" He laughed. "That's what I'm talking about. It's too quiet here."
Cocking her head, she listened. Oh.
It was the deep quiet of the woods readying itself for the darkest days of winter. The peepers and bull frogs and assorted musicians of the forest symphony were all tucked away in their beds for their icy winter hiatus.
A deep breath of moist air, redolent with the pungent smell of decaying leaves, reminded her again that she had missed her favorite season entirely.
"Yes. Well—" she cleared her throat, "you will hear some rather loud noises out there. Falling trees and branches are the loudest, but there are owls, foraging deer—" She recalled her objective almost too late. "Coyotes, bears—"
"Wild boar?" he asked solemnly, but she could swear a smile was tugging at the corner of his mouth.
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