I love Halloween – more so as an adult than I did as a kid. It’s not just all things spooky, but the atmosphere of Halloween. I love the burnished leaves, the coldness, the smell of sulphur from fireworks and sparklers. I love orange decorations and experimenting with my artsy side with pumpkin carving (a pleasure I discovered only in recent years!)
Happily, this Halloween is also the time when myself and some friends have released a paranormal themed box set called Emerald Isle Enchantments! Not only do I love, love, love Halloween, but I also love Ireland – my homeland – and the setting for these seven spooky stories. That’s why I decided to participate in Melissa Snark’s amazing Snarkology Halloween Blog Hop.
I’ve been mulling over what I should blog about and I decided to share with you all an excerpt of my Emerald Isle Enchantment Desire and the Djinn. As well, I am offering a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card.
I hope everyone will follow the hop, and leap onward to the next blog! All the participating authors will be hosting amazing giveaways and spotlighting their books – so the journey will be worth it. After you enter my giveaway, by commenting GIVEAWAY in the comments and following my blog, you can click the link below for Melissa’s landing page! Have fun and Happy Halloween!
Giveaway ends 31st October 2016 – so get entering! Good luck!
Excerpt for Desire and the Djinn
“Welcome to the O2 messaging service—”
Ciara hung up, silencing the automated voice. She was in such a foul mood that she’d barely noticed the regal beauty of her suite. Enraged, she’d thrown her shoes in a corner, stripped off her sodden clothes and stood naked in the middle of the room. In her weekend bag she’d packed three gorgeous sets of lingerie; delicate wisps of silk and lace, naughty and seductive. Now, as the skies darkened outside and the temperature dropped, she longed for the old flannel pajamas she’d bought in Primark five years ago for less than ten pounds.
She heard a knock on the door and hurried to the closet, wrapping herself in the thick monogrammed bathrobe she found within. Wooden hangers clattered noisily as she crossed the room and opened the door.
“Good evening ma’am,” said a young lad. He carried a shiny ice bucket, from which the neck of a bottle poked out. “Compliments of Kayla on Front Desk. She…” The boy cleared his throat. “She seems to think you might be in need of this, tonight.” Ciara accepted the bucket he thrust towards her, smiling slightly at the self conscious way in which he swept his fingers through his dark hair.
“Thank you,” Ciara said, easing the door shut. Ice cubes clinked as she pulled out the bottle of wine and read the label; a nice sweet rose, exactly the kind she would have bought from the local liquor store at the corner of her street. Pleased at how well Kayla had picked for her, Ciara immediately poured herself a glass. Gulping a hearty sip, she located her mobile phone on the vast king-size bed and switched it off. “Two can play that game,” she said aloud, raising her glass in salute to her newfound determination. This might have started as a romantic long weekend for two, but there was no reason why Ciara couldn’t enjoy the rest and relaxation alone.
Ciara hefted her bag onto the bed and began removing the clothes she’d packed with maximum seduction in mind. Her fingertips brushed over the soft silk fabric of the brand new negligee she’d purchased – paying far too much money for it – on a whim. On the store mannequin it had looked like a work of delicate art; falling over slim limbs like liquid, draped over pert breasts. In a moment of delusion, Ciara had thought it might look just as good on her. Maybe it would have, if she lost fourteen pounds. Tossing it away, she continued to unpack her bag, pausing occasionally to swill wine from her glass.
At last, she turned her attention to the antique bottle, wrapped in sodden tissue papers. Carved into the bronze was a beautiful floral pattern that adorned the whole body of the vessel. Ciara’s fingertips traced the impossibly detailed pattern, marveling at the petals, the interwoven stems, the curling leaves and even the jagged thorns. A single, thick stem twisted around the neck in a helical spiral, ending only where the stopper began. “Beautiful,” whispered Ciara as she fully appreciated the elaborate mandala top.
She pulled hard on the stopper, surprised when the pointed end came away from the neck with a decisive popping sound. Almost at once, a fine wisp of smoke unfurled from the bottle – beginning as a twisting ribbon and continuing until the entire suite was shrouded in a cool, thick mist. Terrified that the opaque, odorless smoke was toxic, Ciara dropped the bottle and searched the bed for a t-shirt to cover her face with. She coughed, edging towards the door, waiting for smoke alarms to begin blaring, half expecting her second soaking of the day when the sprinkler system came on.
The plume of smoke began to coalesce, moving as though compelled by an invisible force. Ciara, stunned at the spectacle unfolding before her eyes, dropped her guard for a moment and lowered the t-shirt from her face. In the middle of the suite, the mist took form, the rounded edges solidifying into an unmistakably human form. “Holy shit…” Ciara said, pressing herself hard against the wall. She flicked an anxious glance at the door, trying to decide whether or not she should run for her life – but her feet were rooted to the carpet. “This cannot be real.”
The smoke had transformed into a human being – a living creature standing in the middle of her hotel room where, moments ago, she’d been entirely alone. The uninvited guest, a broad shouldered gentleman of well over six foot, was heart-stoppingly gorgeous; dark-skinned, south-Asian in race with long black hair and a spectacularly angled face. Ciara was as much beguiled by his beauty as she was by whatever trickery had caused him to be in her bedroom.
When he spoke, he did so with a lilting Irish accent that was entirely unexpected. “Still here?” he said, sweeping emerald green eyes around the room. “Well, this is a turn up for the books, isn’t it?”
“Er, excuse me…” Ciara, recovering from her surprise, found she was really quite annoyed. “Is this some kind of joke?”
The man squared his shoulders and rolled his neck, oblivious to her bewilderment. “Where did you find me?” he asked, leveling his gaze on Ciara for the first time. “What year is it?”
“This isn’t funny,” Ciara snapped, marching across the room to the door. “Get out. And let your colleagues know I will be writing a stiffly worded letter to management about this.” She pulled the door open, but the man remained stationary, his expression neutral. “I said get out!” Ciara screamed, her hand trembling on the doorknob.
“C’mon now, sweetheart. Calm yourself.” The man turned in a circle, located the chaise lounge positioned beneath the windows, and threw himself onto it with dramatic aplomb. With unselfconscious ease, he fluffed a tasseled pillow behind his head and folded his hands casually over his torso. “Not to be an arse, but you’re not being very courteous.”
“Courteous?” Ciara echoed in disbelief. “Courteous? Are you fucking kidding me? Get out of my bedroom, you lunatic!” An elderly couple, arm-in-arm, strolled past Ciara’s open door, and turned their heads to survey the commotion.
“Are you all right dear?” the woman said, angling her head past Ciara, looking for the source of her ire. Her gaze landed directly on the tall man lying prone on the chaise but, as though he were entirely invisible, her eyes moved on.
“No,” Ciara said. “I am not all right. This crazy person won’t leave my room.”
The couple exchanged worried glances.
“They can’t see me, darlin’.” He picked at an imaginary thread on his long sherwani tunic, then chuckled as though he’d told himself an amusing joke. “Ah, I missed this part.”
“Would you like me to get someone for you, my dear?” the elderly gentleman had removed his fedora, clutching it against his chest, like he were somehow mourning Ciara’s lost sanity.
“You can’t see him?” Ciara asked, gesturing to the chaise. The couple looked beyond her, frowning. “Oh I get it… this is some kind of practical joke, isn’t it? I’m on candid camera, right? I have to say, this is all in bad taste.” She stepped away from the door, striding furiously across the room. “All right guys, where’s the cameras. Got me. Funny ha, ha, now if you all don’t mind, I’d like some privacy.”
Aghast, the couple stared in openmouthed silence. Finally, the woman cleared her throat. “Joseph, I think we should go get someone.”
“Yes! Security, that’s a good idea,” breathed Ciara, throwing a disdainful glare at the infuriating man residing in her room.
The couple shuffled off, whispering to each other. Despite their advancing age, they moved quickly. A few seconds later Ciara heard the chime of the ancient lift and the rattle of the inner gate. Then silence, as she realized she was alone with a deranged stranger.
Ciara clutched her bathrobe right across her chest, achingly aware of her nakedness beneath the terrycloth. Green eyes followed her across the room, sweeping with unmasked appreciation over her body. Somewhat resigned, Ciara pressed her back against the wall – as far away from him as physically possible. “All right,” she cajoled. “What do you want? How can I make you leave?”
The man sighed, turning his head away from her, peering up at the ceiling. “What year is it?” he asked calmly, and somewhere in her mind she recalled him asking his previously, too.
Just play ball, she thought. “Twenty sixteen,” she told him.
“Twenty sixteen,” he repeated, letting his eyes fall closed as he considered this. Ciara couldn’t help notice his long eyelashes, the curved shadow of which fanned across his cheeks. “Fifteen hundred years of this, and still nothing surpasses human stupidity.” He made a sound with his tongue – disappointed, dismissive, a little impatient perhaps. “To be honest, I was expecting Straight Jacket Anton to conjure me.” He looked at her again, a lengthy, imploring gaze that made Ciara feel totally naked.
“Don’t be apologizin’,” he swung long, thick legs over the chaise. “You’re far easier on the eye.”He stretched long legs outward, crossing at his ankles. Ciara absorbed the image of him, dressed in a long black tunic made of silk and matching pants. The fabric was embroidered with intricate designs, from the high collar all the way down the front in a narrow strip to the hem. The stranger was entirely bare-footed. His brown feet were long and slender.
She felt her chest tighten with indignant rage. “I wasn’t apologizing,” she snapped. “I meant ‘excuse me?’ as in, could you please explain what the fucking hell you’re talking about.”
He made a face. “Really? It wasn’t inferred. That’s a lot of subtext for two words, isn’t it?” His smile, if he weren’t such a pain in the ass, was disarmingly handsome; perfect, straight white teeth in a Cheshire Cat-like grin. The kind of smile that could wangle a man out of an awful lot of trouble. “Straight Jacket Anton was a psychiatric patient from St. Clements who escaped in November 1927.” The man rested his forearms on his broad thighs. “He’d gone a bit dolally searching for the elusive Djinn of Shiravar. Folk were sick of his ramblings that The Chichesters held a djinn captive in their castle. So they committed him.”
“See, you’re talking. I can see your lips moving, but I have literally no idea what you’re talking about.” Ciara, having lost some of her earlier fire, had lowered her defensive stance.
“I am speaking English, right? One time, I swear, I thought I was speaking English to Sir Henry – turns out I’d been rambling in Hindi for three quarters of an hour.”
“That’s not even possible,” replied Ciara, her eyes falling upon the bronze bottle on the floor. Was it heavy enough to conk him on the head with?
“It really is. Sir Henry leans over to me and says,” the man affected an accent of British aristocracy, “‘My dear boy, if you’ve lost your marbles, I’ll put you in that bottle and never let you out.’.” He laughed. “Decent man, the old fella was. I suppose he’s dead now.”
Ciara sighed. “So, now I’m all caught up on your version of history – and don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating. Would you mind leaving? See, this is supposed to be a private, intimate weekend—”
The man straightened. “Oh la la,” he said with faint whistle. “I got the subtext this time. Loud and clear, Mistress. When should I come back? Is Alastar still here? He’ll be thrilled to see me, I’m sure.”
“Come back? Why would you come back?”
When he stood up the gold thread embroidered into his sherwani seemed to glimmer, as though somehow enchanted. “Lady, I’ve been a perfect gentleman. I don’t enjoy making anyone feel stupid, but you’re making it really hard for me. I don’t how long I can mosey around waiting for realization to dawn on you. You found this,” he swiped the bottle from the floor, swinging it before her face like a pendulum. “You opened this. Big dramatic scene, room fills with mysterious smoke, I appear from nowhere – dressed like this,” he gestured to his elaborate Indian attire. “The clues are all there, really.” When Ciara didn’t supply the answer he was waiting for, the man tossed the empty bottle on the bed with a groan of frustration. “Djinn. I am your djinn.”
Ciara felt as though the world has descended into chaos. The entire day had been nothing short of bizarre, from Matthew’s sudden absence, to almost colliding with a tractor, to finding the bottle, dipping mud all over the castle foyer, meeting the bizarre Alastar, Guardian of the Library, in the hallway and now this. She felt as though she’d slipped and banged her head, or been spiked with some potent hallucinogen. Nothing made sense; up was down and front was back.
“I don’t even know what that is,” she said. “If this is a practical joke it’s lost on me.”
He made a sound, throwing his head back. “My name is Kamal and I am a djinn, you know… a genie.” He pointed to the bottle. “Genie in the lamp… or in this case, bottle.”
“This is insane,” she pinched the top of her nose, warding off the headache forming behind her eyeballs. She was tired, hungry and nowhere near drunk enough. “Listen pal, I came here for a relaxing weekend. This whole production you’ve got going on is, admittedly, quite impressive. But I’m over it. Enough.” He opened his mouth to protest. “Enough,” Ciara insisted, lifting her hand to ensure his continued silence. “I wish to be left alone, just me, two bottles of wine, room service and a great movie on TV. Is that too much to ask?”
Kamal shook his head. “No,” he said. “It’s a perfectly reasonable wish, albeit something of a waste. But as always, your wish is my command.” He lifted his large, dark hand and with the same special effects employed for the bottle trick, a plume of smoke rose from his palm. And then he was gone, disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Ciara started, searching the suite for wherever Kamal had disappeared to. She yanked open the closet, burst into the bathroom, pulled back the shower curtain – and found nothing. She was alone – for a few seconds at least, until she heard a knock on the door.
The young lad from earlier was back again, but in place of his beatific smile he seemed decidedly reserved. “Room service, ma’am?” he said, pushing a cart laden with domed plates into her room. Another ice bucket contained two bottles of the same rose wine from before, already de-corked. “While I’m here… Alanna, the general manager asked me to check that you’re… all right? A couple of guests reported you might be in distress.”
Ciara flushed, lightheaded with confusion, hot with mortification. This weekend was not turning out as planned – at all. And now the entire body of staff at Castle Tullamore had been made privy to the lunatic woman in the east wing. “I assure you, I’m fine. Thank you.” She accepted the docket, scrawled her name across the receipt and rummaged in her purse for a twenty euro note, which she pressed into the lad’s hand. “Have a good night,” she said, ushering him to the door. “One more thing,” she added as he stepped into the hallway, tucking the twenty into his breast pocket. “Who ordered this food?”
Blue eyes widened in surprise, and Liam took a step back. “I’m not sure ma’am. I could check for you. I would assume… you did?”
“Yeah…” Ciara concurred. “I must’ve done.”
“Yes, well, goodnight.” Liam hurried off at a light jog, the urgency of his departure more than apparent. Ciara closed her door, sliding the chain into place, making absolutely certain there would be no more unexpected guests in her suite tonight.
EMERALD ISLE ENCHANTMENT BOXSET AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON: