When my publisher asked if I’d like to write a story set in my Melbourne After Dark series to give to readers for free, I jumped at the chance! Any time I can give back to the readers who support my career, I’ll take it.
This book is set at the same time as Unmasked and Hard Deal. If you’ve read Unmasked, you’ll be familiar with the Carmina Ball which is the central event for the series. In this book, we have Jason Allbrook next-in-line for his family’s architecture firm. He’s also the brother of Hard Deal’s hero, so you’ll get a little sneak peek at book #2.
Masked Seduction book #1.5 in the Melbourne After Dark series
When Jason Allbrook gets an email from a “secret admirer,” he laughs it off. Then he receives a package containing a masquerade mask and a request to meet at the Carmina Ball.
Dedicated to the family business, Jason has been working twelve-hour days without any thought to his own wants…or needs.
Maybe he should meet this masked seductress. After all, how could anyone dare resist such an enticing offer?
Subject: Something missing from your life…
I know something is missing from your life. As someone who cares about you, I’m concerned.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to help you out. Think of me as a Good Samaritan. You need a little more excitement in your life and I’m prepared to give it to you. Keep your eyes open—something will be coming your way very soon.
I recently entered one of the Writer’s Challenges over at the Harlequin forums, it was the first time I’d ever put a piece of work out to be read by others (well, other than my husband)…so a big step for me! It was extremely nerve-racking but I was pleased with how the piece turned out.
Theme: the story had to be 1,000 words or less, have a festive season theme and feature the following words; ice, snowman, bells.
Alone for the Holidays…
Ellen toyed with the glass in her hand, the ice cubes clinking against one another as the water pushed them around. It looked like it was going to be another scorching Aussie Christmas, outside it was already approaching thirty degrees and there were no signs that the heat was going to break. Despite the temperature there was a turkey in the fridge that would be roasted tomorrow – along with a kilo and a half of potatoes – because heat did not override the desire for a traditional Christmas lunch.
Yet Ellen was struggling to get into the Christmas spirit, it would be her first one without Dean and that knowledge was causing her stomach to churn. She missed him more than she ever thought it possible to miss another person. Ellen fought back tears as she turned and rested against the dining table, her hands trembled and some of the water sloshed over the edge of her glass. Cursing, she put the glass down and sighed.
Around her the house was a picture of cheer; a tall Christmas tree dominated the far corner of the room with lights that sparkled out into the night and Christmas cards from loved ones hung along a red cord above the dining room window. The snow globe that sat on the mantel piece caught Ellen’s eye; Dean had bought it for her on their first Christmas together. The memory of their first holiday celebration tugged her mouth upwards into a smile; it had been the most amazing night of her life.
She reached out and picked up the heavy ornament, the rounded glass felt smooth against her palm and the snow fluttered inside with the sudden movement. It was a simple globe with a gold base and some elegant etchings around the edge. Inside there was a chubby snowman and a penguin both wearing bow ties – Dean had always joked that the penguin reminded him of her, because she had a thing for tuxedos… and she waddled like a penguin during both pregnancies.
Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and she turned the globe slowly in her hand, watching as the snow swirled about the penguin and the snowman – their faces frozen pictures of joy. She wished that she was the one in the globe, stuck in that glorious moment where the magic of Christmas was still alive. She’d give anything to have Dean here with her, even if it meant living in a glass dome for all eternity.
Dean Martin’s White Christmas played softly over the radio and Ellen gently placed the globe on the mantle, the snow settled slowly around the figurines. She’d better put the remainder of the presents under the tree before she went to bed, the last thing she needed was to explain to the girls that Santa forgot their presents. She smiled as she passed the coffee table where a glass of milk and a plate of cookies lay untouched, there was a carrot there as well – for Rudolph of course.
Ellen swiped a cookie as she walked past and for once didn’t sweep up the crumbs. Evidence, she thought to herself as she munched on the gooey, chocolate chip snack. She snapped the carrot in half and left a piece on the table next to the milk.
Upstairs the more delicate of the gifts were wrapped and hidden on the top shelf of the walk in robe. Carly, her four year old, had taken to shaking the presents when she thought Ellen wasn’t looking – so the breakable items had to be stashed away in a secret hiding place – not really all that secret, just unreachable to four and six year old girls. Ellen reached up on her tip-toes and attempted to pull down the brightly wrapped packages from the shelf.
As she did, a small box tumbled down from the pile and landed with a soft thud on the plush white carpet. The box was wrapped in black paper and looked unlike the festively kitsch wrapping that adorned the other gifts. Curious, Ellen turned the box around in her hands – it was heavy for its small size.
There was no name, no gift tag or anything to discern its origin.
She peeled back the paper, being careful not to tear the thick wrapping in case she needed to wrap it back up again. Inside was a white box, again with no label or markings. Well, you’ve come this far…
Ellen opened the lid of the box and inside, nestled amongst the red velvet lining was a snow globe with a man and a woman inside. Ellen’s breath caught in her throat as she removed the globe from the box, watching as the snow picked up and whirled around the couple inside. The man wore a long coat and the woman was huddled against him, their arms linked.
Something caught Ellen’s eye as she turned the globe in her hands, there were markings underneath the base. She turned the globe upside down and saw the swirling marks of an engravers pen; words that made her heart flutter inside her chest.
‘I may be on the other side of the world, but I am thinking of you every moment. Shake the globe when you miss me and I’ll feel it in my heart’
A single fat tear dropped down onto Ellen’s cheek as she laughed at the thought. Shaking the globe vigorously, she felt warmth spread through her body as though Dean were right there beside her, telling her that everything would be OK.
Somewhere in the distance Ellen could swear she heard the sound of sleigh bells ringing in the night.