Legends of Winatuke: Pennytook, book 4 & Peregrine’s Curse, book 5
Fire Star Press
My new release is actually 2 stories in one volume which finalizes the Legends of Winatuke series. PENNYTOOK is the first story, a short story about the Gypsy who has helped so many rid themselves of the Witch-Queen through his knowledge wisdom, and courage. In this short story, Pennytook finally finds love again.
PENNYTOOK, Legends of Winatuke book4
Myths are supposed to be false…but some are terrifying and true.
Pennytook is a war weary Gypsy who longs for peace from the past and wants something meaningful in his life.
Esmeralda, a Gypsy trick rider, has harbored a deep affection for the chieftain, Pennytook, for many years. But her dark secret will never allow him into her life.
A mythological creature is about to unleash its horror and change the destinies of Esmeralda and Pennytook.
"Aye. That mare in the ring would be a good match." Sabo tilted his head in the direction of the performer. A crowd of Chergari and Djamba Gypsies had gathered around the riding ring where they stood, and cheered as the performer flipped backward and landed with her feet on the horse's back. When she did the same trick through a ring of fire, the crowd's cheers grew even more enthusiastic.
"Do you know that chi? I must make her an offer for her mare." Pennytook hoped his friend could introduce her to him, but not just to speak to her of horses. "I wonder that I have never seen her before—not even at the annual horse trading in Vel'ka Mulano or at one of the festivals in Valmora. Do you know her or where she comes from?"
A breeze ruffled the eagle's feathers. The creature cocked its head as if it listened to some far off sound. Sabo made a clicking sound with his tongue and the bird settled quietly on his arm. "Her name is Esmeralda Kanaluka."
Something about her seemed familiar, but Pennytook felt certain he had never seen her before. Perhaps she reminded him of his beloved wife. He had lost Anka when they were imprisoned on the Dark Isle so many years ago. The horror of her death haunted him still.
The second story in the duet is a novella, PEREGRINE’S CURSE. This final story was the most challenging story I’ve written so far. Because the heroine is deaf, I had to find ways to make her communicate through sign language, lip reading, and her odd speech. She is also a dancer and I had to find unique ways for her to understand the patterns of music and move to them. Above all, this is a love story.
A musician who cannot love and a dancer who cannot hear …Can they find happiness?
Peregrine McKnight is a successful musician and composer who wants above all things to fall in love, marry a woman who understands him completely, and to have a family as close as the one in which he was raised. Though Peregrine is blessed with unusual music ability, he is cursed. After a foray into the dimension of Winatuke to save a prince from the witch-queen, Peregrine was thrown into the deadly Lake of Sorrows where he suffered a curse from the evil Nivasi king who ruled there. He managed to survive the curse, but its shadow remains preventing him from falling in love.
Parisa Jahida Habuba, a Bedouin, survived the war in Syria along with her older brother after their parents and younger brother were killed in the conflict. Her aunt and uncle, who live near Wilmington, North Carolina, adopted Parisa and her brother when they were children and gave them sanctuary in America. Her Uncle Rahim is a Christian minister and her Aunt Alice raises a line of superior Arabian horses. Her brother, Ahmad formed a friendship with Falcon McKnight and Thomas Zoradia and, through them, she learns of a position for a dancer with the famous musician, Peregrine McKnight, Falcon’s younger brother. It may be her only chance to prove she can dance in spite of her hearing loss.
When she falls on stage in the middle of a performance, Parisa believes she has ruined her chance at dancing. But when Peregrine helped her up and began to dance with her as if it were part of the performance, something unexpected happened between them.
It might take a miracle for Peregrine and Parisa to find love. But, in Winatuke anything is possible.
Peregrine ran his gaze over the filled seats in the audience and grinned. This is what I love; playing my music and having people enjoy it. He placed his violin under his chin and signaled to the small band of musicians and the backup dancers. The audience cheered as Peregrine began to play.
A couple of tunes into the show everything was going great. Peregrine felt confident that his new album was going to be a success. A glance back over his shoulder at the backup dancers told him Albert had done a terrific job on hiring the choreographer and dance company. The costumes were colorful, ruffled renditions of Gypsy dancers he remembered so fondly from that other dimension and his family’s secret world of Winatuke. He smiled to himself as he thought of his friends in that magical realm: Pennytook, the Gypsy chieftain, his brothers-in-law, Gabriel and Raphael Fionn, both princes in the kingdom of Valmora. The smile faded when he remembered the demon who threw him into the malignant Lake of Sorrows and the curse the Navasi king cast over him. With painful clarity, Peregrine remembered how the curse kept him from ever falling in love. He would never experience the most intimate relationship a human could have or ever hope for a family of his own. His music was all he had.
All of the sudden, the audience gasped, and Peregrine’s thoughts were swept away from Winatuke and his curse when he glanced back and saw one of the dancers had fallen. She glanced up and met his gaze with dark eyes filled with humiliation. He handed his violin over to another musician and signaled for them to keep playing. There’s only one thing I can do.
Peregrine walked casually over to the dancer and stretched out his hand to her. A cloud of confusion moved across her face as she took his hand and allowed him to help her to her feet.
“Am I fired?” she asked in an odd slurred voice.
“My God, woman, are you drunk?” Peregrine wrapped one arm around her waist and held her other hand in his.
The woman shook her head. “No, of course not.”
“We’re going to dance the Samba and make it look like it’s part of the act. Can you do that?”
She nodded her head in the affirmative. Her eyes were wide and alert and she certainly didn’t dance like someone inebriated. The Samba suited this piece of music perfectly and Peregrine was relieved when the audience clapped and cheered as he and the dancer began to move into the sensual dance.
Quest For The Light Of Valmora (To Release February 12)
Legends of Winatuke, Book 3
By Sarah J. McNeal
Fire Star Press
Buy Links: Pre-order
A quest for a magical light...A Gypsy’s love…And a warrior’s sacrifice
The evil witch-queen, Mahara, has returned to the Dark Isle after her exile, even more determined for revenge on those who have tried to thwart her evil plans—and that vengeance begins with capturing Raven McKnight!
Raven’s son, Falcon, has distanced himself from the family after the near-death of his younger brother, Peregrine, which he believes was his fault. But now, he must push his feelings aside and return to save his father and the entire realm of Winatuke. Falcon, filled with self-doubt, knows he’s not an exceptional warrior. On top of that, he’s falling for Izabelle, the beautiful Gypsy woman who is Peregrine’s love—and that, he cannot allow.
Izabelle quickly comes to understand that her heart’s desire is for Falcon’s love—not Peregrine’s—whose affection seems to be solely for his music and his violin. As the terrible meaning of the QUEST FOR THE LIGHT OF VALMORA reveals itself fully, the sacrifices that Izabelle and Falcon must make seem unimaginable, and likely, unattainable. Neither of them may survive. Can Izabelle bring the Light of Valmora in time to vanquish Mahara and her cruel vengeance?
With the witch-queen’s anger aimed directly at her old flame, Raven, Falcon understands the only way to save his father is to take his place. No matter the consequences to himself, it’s the only way to keep everyone he loves safe from Mahara’s vindictive punishment. But will Falcon be able to survive even one night in her demonic captivity?
A mist crawled on phantom fingers along the forest floor as twilight threatened. Ebony trees, bereft of leaves, stood like soldiers that reached for heaven through the gloom. An unnatural silence fell upon the forest. Woodland creatures burrowed deep into the earth to seek comfort, their hearts fluttered with apprehension. A living cloud of birds darted across the darkening sky in an attempt to fly to the safety of some distant place where the light still held. Cicadas hushed their chatter and held themselves tight against the rough bark of the old oaks to become invisible. Not even the wind dared to breathe.
A few thin clouds clung to the darkening sky as the pale moon rose from the horizon. Out of the breech of trees, a horse with glowing red eyes galloped and upon its back, a rider appeared clothed in a dark cloak, its face shrouded in the depths of the darkened hood. The specter approached with urgent speed, hooves thundered on the forest floor and scattered dead leaves in its wake. Close enough now, a face appeared in the bleak light of the sunset. Its skin, unnaturally white and bloodless, glowed in the faded light. Obsidian tendrils snaked out of the hood to ride in the wake of the wind created by the swift ride.
Closer and closer she rode. Her soulless eyes filled with malice, glittered with death. Thin lips peeled back from her sharpened teeth as she croaked, "I'm coming for you and death to all who stand in my way." Upon the heels of her ominous threat, a hideous peel of laughter pierced the quiet while the shadows of night enveloped the Earth. The witch-queen of the Dark Isle rode with malignant purpose.
Without further comment, he scooped her up in his arms and waltzed with her to the place directly in front of the musicians. Falcon caught Peregrine's eyes and saw in them indifference. Anger swelled inside him. Peregrine could be such an ass. Didn't he care that Falcon danced with Izabelle much too close? What did Izabelle see in his apathetic brother who displayed nothing of the concern or interest he should in this astonishing woman?
Well, things are about to change.
Falcon dipped Izabelle low with only his arm to keep her from falling. He leaned over her body draped across his arm and inhaled her sweet essence floating on the night air. Her breath hitched and her eyes glittered in the dim light as she peered at him, those eyes wide and bright with surprise.
CURSED, Legends of Winatuke, book 2
(Formerly The Lake of Sorrows)
By Sarah J. McNeal
Fire Star Press
The Legend continues with A Curse…A Quest…and Undying Love.
Hawk McKnight is a troubled man with a secret life. Emma Dawson is a burned out doctor weighed down by emotional baggage. Can Hawk and Emma put aside their past romantic disaster long enough to save Hawk’s brother, Peregrine, from a deadly curse? Is there a chance Hawk and Emma can find happiness again, or will the curse consume Peregrine and replace any joy between Hawk and Emma with regret and heartache under its evil enchantment?
He downed another shot of Chegari whiskey as he remembered that terrible day when the demon, Inx, threw his brother into the Lake of Sorrows. It was certain death to even drink the water from the lake. It was said a man could lose his mind just by staring into the lake’s depths. Try though he did to reach into the lake to retrieve Peregrine, he couldn’t save him. The Nivasi creatures who occupied the lake’s murky depths, stole memories and created mind torture so terrible it was said the victims would pray for death to come quickly. Hawk shivered at the thought that Peregrine might have suffered in such a way before he died. No amount of alcohol could drive away the bitter loss of his brother or the terrible guilt that weighed on his heart for not being able to liberate him.
A messenger drew Hawk from his morose thoughts.
"My liege, I do not wish to disturb you, but Domingomae has delivered a message for you from Prince Raphael." Mericet entered the tent with a sealed parchment in his hand.
Hawk took the message and noticed that the boy's hair was wet and his clothes damp. "Water's scarce out here, Mericet. Mind you don't waste it by bathing in the middle of the day."
"Yes, my liege." Mericet nodded his head obediently and waited respectfully by the opening of the tent for further instructions.
Pulling the dagger from his wide leather belt, Hawk cut the seal from the parchment and began to read. The first words grabbed his attention immediately. "My God," he gasped aloud, "Peregrine is alive." He glanced at Mericet. "My brother is alive."
Mericet nodded. "That is good, my liege. I am glad for you."
Hawk leaped from his chair and paced as he continued to read aloud. Your brother is living among the Gypsies, playing his violin, and performing his water show twice a day. But he is altered, Hawk. You must come to Vel’ka Mulano with all due haste.
He stopped pacing. "Altered? What could he mean?"
The Witch-Queen, Legends of Winatuke, book1
(formerly, The Dark Isle)
By Sarah J. McNeal
Published by Fire Star Press
The legend begins when love and evil collide.
Curiosity draws Isadore, the witch-queen’s daughter, deep into the Dark Isle’s dungeon to take a peek at the captive Nimway prince with the magical voice. In spite of enduring starvation and torture, Gabriel is kind to her even when Mahara forces him to marry Isadore to gain control over the Nimway Kingdom of Valmora.
But Isadore learns Mahara’s plans for Gabriel are darker still and his life is in grave danger. Her attempt to help him escape fails and she finds it is up to her to seek help from his brother, Prince Raphael, her mother’s greatest enemy.
Raphael crosses the dimension between Winatuke and the Strange Land to enlist the help of his family’s long time Earthly friends, Raven and Hawk McKnight. But as they travel back through time and dimension two bystanders, Raphael’s beloved Rose McKnight and her younger brother Peregrine, are accidently swept into the magic of the transport. One of the two will die as the warriors attempt to rescue Gabriel before it’s too late.
A little burst of happiness spread through her as she contemplated her mission. Of course, Mother would be displeased to find me disobeying her by searching for the Nimway prince she holds prisoner. That he was her mother's enemy only served to make the adventure more enticing. Her eagerness to see what he looked like aroused her imagination. Lucerne, Isadore’s aging nanny, told her the captive prince had golden hair, beautiful yellow wings and a heart of pure light. Lucerne had told her something important about his voice, but she couldn't quite remember just what she had said.
Isadore reached the bottom of the stair and made her way with tentative care down the narrow passage to the prisoner's cell. She had never ventured this far before. The dungeon was an awful place. It smelled of damp stone, urine, and fear.
In the shadows of the cell, she made out the Nimway's form as he stood facing the wall beyond the iron bars with his back to her. He stood tall with a broad back that tapered to a narrow waist and hips. From his back sprang two large, yellow wings etched in black. They reminded her of the stained glass windows now falling from their frames in the abandoned chapel of the north wing. The glow from a burning torch shone through his hair and, in spite of its unkempt length and its need of washing, it gleamed like a golden halo in the flickering torchlight. There he stood, magnificent and beautiful, the Heir Apparent to the throne of Valmora, Prince Gabriel of Fionn.
He must have sensed her presence because he started to turn toward her. Her heart pounded against her ribs. She could not catch her breath. Inside her mind her thoughts ran in excited disarray. But a smart rap on her shoulder gained her immediate attention. A gasp escaped her when she turned to find her mother standing close behind her. Mahara had found her out. "What do you think you are doing, Isadore?" Her black eyes darkened and narrowed with suspicion. Without waiting for an answer she grabbed Isadore’s hand in a painful grasp and jerked her around. "Come with me NOW," Mahara commanded.
Raphael struggled to fly against the northwest wind. A downdraft in this kind of weather could slam Raphael to the ground without warning. Another difficulty facing him was snow that fell so thick and fast it blinded his vision and the mélange of white sky with white, snow–covered ground disoriented him. The persistent headwind sapped Raphael’s energy. I only have a little further to go. As he recalled Isadore's determination to make the journey to Valmora for Gabriel’s sake, he became inspired. Without knowing how she would be received she made the journey tenaciously focused on her one objective...to save Gabriel's life. Raphael found himself amazed by the magnitude of Isadore's love for his brother. I only wish my own life could be that blessed.
As twilight arrived, Raphael settled to earth at the far side of the Lake of Sorrows. Across the frozen expanse, loomed the Dark Isle. The isle rose up from the murky depths of the lake into a black, ragged mountain that stood in stark contrast to the white, iced–over lake. Cradled in the jagged granite claw, sat the decaying remains of Mahara's castle, its inhabitants of the Black Blood Clan, and the imprisoned humans and Nimway. The black stone had weathered over the years and parts of it had crumbled away. The north tower was all but gone, its base stuck up from the bare ground like jagged teeth. A portion of the wall had collapsed from neglect and age. Great chunks of cut stones lay scattered around what was once a courtyard.
Raphael made out a faint light here and there from a narrow window and an occasional light moving about, which he assumed were guards with lanterns going about their rounds. At the mouth of the castle an iron gate with sharpened bars warded off the most intrepid trespassers from entering its gaping orifice. Raphael was not sure if he shivered from the cold or from the presence of such unbridled evil. He drew his cloak around him and blended into the oak tree behind him. He couldn't light a fire for fear of discovery, so he warmed himself with thoughts of Rose. He imagined her working in her garden with the sun lighting the gold in her copper hair. He envisioned her smiling up at him from his arms and remembered the warmth of her lips on his.
His yearning for her tormented him like a deep wound that would not heal. What a trick fate had played on him. His one true love preferred a man like Bill Harris simply because he was human.
A CHRISTMAS VISITOR
by Sarah J. McNeal
Prairie Rose Publications
Released December 6, 2018
Matilda Barton’s broken heart may never heal. The love of her life, Sterling Thoroughgood, has been gone three years with no word. Is he dead or alive? Why should it matter to her? She’s spent the past three years trying to save her father, her ranch, and her dignity—but her heart has taken the worst battering of all. Now that her father has died, the livestock has been sold off, and the ranch is in disrepair, her life is empty. When Sterling Thoroughgood rides up to her house on Christmas Eve, is it any wonder she greets him with a shotgun instead of a kiss?
Sterling Throughgood has worked hard to build a ranch in Hazard, Wyoming. Admittedly, it took longer than he thought, but he had to have a good start for Matilda, the woman he’s always loved. Arriving at her house on Christmas Eve, he discovers a lot has changed in three years. Her father, his mentor, has passed away—and Matilda has become bitter because of what she felt were empty promises Sterling made in the past. But Sterling is not a quitter, and he will pit his determination against Matilda’s iron-clad will any day of the week—even on Christmas Eve.
He hopes that the puzzle box he made for her with his special gift inside will prove to her his ever-constant love, but is it too late for that? Can Matilda understand his three-year absence amidst all the loss she’s gone through? Is their love lost forever, or does the peculiar puzzle box hold the key to happiness for both of them? Can Sterling be more than just A CHRISTMAS VISITOR…
“Don’t you even think about stepping up on this porch, Sterling Alexander Thoroughgood, or I’ll shoot a hole in you big enough for a team of horses to jump through.” The woman wearing a faded blue calico dress aimed the shotgun straight at his heart…and sometimes his liver since she wasn’t holding the shotgun all that steady.
Sterling raised his hands in the air. His bare hands were practically numb from the cold. He glanced up at the slate gray sky. Snow’s comin’. Then he grinned at the woman holding the shotgun. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Matilda.”
She dipped the shotgun for just a moment, but raised it again as if on a second thought. “What do you want here after being gone for three years? Did you break some hearts up in Wyoming? Maybe you have some fathers and brothers gunning for you and you thought you’d come running back here to hide.”
Well, there it was. He’d hurt her when he left and she wasn’t about to let him forget it. “I came to see Allister. I told him I’d be coming back soon as I got my place up and running. We had an agreement about him selling me some cattle and maybe a bull to get a good, diverse herd started of my own.” He reached out his hand to press down on the barrel of her shotgun pointing it toward the broken down boards of the porch. “So, if you could see yourself clear to let me speak to your daddy, I’d be obliged.”
Matilda placed a hand on her hip while the other held tight to that shotgun. “Seems you’re a little too late, Mr. Thoroughgood. Pa died last year from pneumonia. He’d been sick a while and I had to sell off all of the livestock except for the mule and a few chickens to pay for the doctor and his medicine. I guess you’ll be leaving here empty handed.”
“Tilly, darlin’, I’m so sorry to hear the news that Allister has passed away. He was a good man and a good friend to me.” He stretched out a hand to touch her arm, but she stepped back just out of reach.
“Don’t you dare call me sweet names or my nickname, you snake. You’ve been gone three years and not a single word from you in all that time. All that sweet talk means nothing to me now.” She opened the door and stepped back to wave him into the house.
“I need to get my horses settled in the barn first, but I’d be obliged if I could come in for some coffee after that. It’s been a long trip from Wyoming.” He tipped his hat and turned to step off the porch. Once he had hold of the reigns of both horses, he glanced back up at Matilda who still stood with her hand on the door wearing a strange expression on her face.
“Don’t be surprised at the condition of the barn. Part of the roof has a hole in it. You might want to put the horses in the stalls on the left to keep ‘em warm and dry. There’s a little hay in the loft still.” Her voice seemed less determined and ornery. Sterling liked it better when she cussed him than when she pretended to be obliging.
“Thank you, Matilda. I brought some feed with me. Do you have some stock you need me to feed or have anything I need to bring in for you?”
Her throat worked for a moment and her eyes took a watery sheen. Please don’t cry, darlin’. His heart hurt for her. Things must have been tough for her over the past year. Finally, she managed to speak and her voice had its defiant edge to it again. “Hector, the mule, could use some hay and there are a few chickens needing to be fed some dried corn, if you don’t mind a little work.”
Sterling chuckled relieved she had regained her starch. “No trouble at all. I’ll see to things in the barn. You best get on in the house out of the cold. You reckon we could have a cup of coffee and talk when I get back from the barn? I’ve been riding for days in the cold to get here and could use something hot to get me percolating again.”
“Ran out of coffee three days ago. Hot water might have to do.”
“I brought provisions with me and some things I thought Allister and you might need. I need to see to my horse first, so I’ll just get on out and get those chores done. You take it easy for a while and I’ll fix us up a fine pot of coffee as soon as I get back from the barn.”
Matilda nodded her head as an answer, took up her shotgun and walked into the house shutting the door with a decided bang behind her.
Buy Link: A Christmas Visitor
The Last Book in the Wilding Series
I Dream of You
By Sarah J. McNeal
Fire Star Press, imprint of Prairie Rose Publications
A Dream…A Kiss… And Deadly Secrets
Kyle Red Sky dreamed of the woman with fire in her hair, but when she comes to town, something dark and dangerous follows her. He wants to help her, but she is reclusive, avoids men, and the scarf she always wears around her neck tells him she harbors a dark secret.
Mia Beckett is a survivor. Finally, she has found sanctuary in a small western town far from danger where no one knows her or her past and she intends to keep it that way. But she can’t forget the man she saw once in a dream who told her the paths they walked were destined to meet. However, when she meets Kyle Red Sky and realizes he is the man from her dream, she knows, if the dream becomes a reality, he may die.
Kyle kicked open the door of his mother’s former dress shop despite the sign that read, No Men Allowed. The raging fire upstairs in the private quarters made this an emergency, certainly enough to ignore that sign. Smoke began to fill the shop as he raced up the stairs calling out the name of the new shop owner. “Miss Beckett! Miss Mia Beckett, where are you?”
As he reached the landing of the second floor, he heard someone cough nearby. With the wet blanket wrapped around him he rushed toward the direction of the cough until he found the woman lying on the floor almost unconscious from smoke inhalation. As soon as he removed the wet blanket he wore and wrapped her in its protective layer, he scooped her up in his arms to carry her away from the flames and smoke. The scarf she wore fell away from her neck and her head lolled back against his chest to reveal a thin, straight scar that ran all the way across her throat from her left ear to her right. It wasn’t an old scar, most likely no more than two or three months in the past. She attempted to raise a hand as if to cover her throat and replace the silk scarf. He’d always seen her wear a scarf of some description or another around her neck since her arrival in town. Now he knew all those scarves were not her unique sense of fashion, but her desire to hide the scar. She was a woman attempting to keep a secret.
In a whisper he could barely hear, she said, “Please, don’t let them see.” And then she fell unconscious.
“You have my word.” He knew there was little chance she could hear his promise, but it didn’t matter.
IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE
Releases on January 15, 2018 (May be preordered until then)
Logline: June believed Kit loved her…until she married him
June Wingate has just married the man of her dreams only to overhear a conversation at her reception regarding the truth about why he married her. Her heart and trust are broken. She cannot return home to the unhappiness that exists there. Her only alternative is to refuse her husband’s bed and publicly pretend their marriage is happy until she figures out the truth and determines what to do.
The newly elected mayor of Hazard, Kit Wilding needs a wife to satisfy the town’s demands that their mayor be a married man. He’ll do whatever it takes to make Hazard a better place for veterans and orphans. Ever since he returned from WWII, he has suffered with “battle fatigue” and wants to keep his condition a secret while he tries to heal from the horrors of war. He trusts June, but now that they’re married, his wife has become distant and secretive. Never-the-less, Kit is not the kind of man to give up easily.
A loud slap echoed through the house. June’s hand stung as she placed it back in the pocket of her dressing gown, part of her vast trousseau paid for by her parents.
Kit stepped back and rubbed his reddened cheek with his left hand while Snort, Kit’s dog, barked. June couldn’t help but notice the flash of his golden wedding band in the light of the dressing room. Her heart clenched at the sight of it. They’d been married only a few hours and now this…
“Hush that barking, Snort.” The dog quieted, but kept a sharp eye on June just in case. Kit glanced from the dog to June. “What the hell was that for, June? Did I do something wrong by trying to kiss my wife?”
“You bet you did. I thought you loved me and now…” She wasn’t quite sure how to say it to him now that she knew the truth. Honestly, she could barely believe what she had overheard at their wedding reception. How could she explain to him what she heard and express the doubts she had about his love because of it? Well, best to find a way because it seemed quite evident to her that he wasn’t about to leave her be until she did.
“You’d best tell me what this is all about, June, because I’m beginning to have doubts about your sanity and beginning to wonder about my own.” He cocked his head and narrowed his blue eyes at her. If this is one of your cockamamie jokes, it isn’t funny—and please don’t tell me you married me just to spite your parents. I’m fairly certain your mother doesn’t think I’m good enough for you. She’s only spoken to me about four times in all the years I’ve known you. It’s a little late for second thoughts, June.” Snort began to pace between June and Kit as if to decide whose side he should take.
Buy Link: AMAZON
SONG OF MY HEART
Contemporary short story by Sarah J. McNeal
Logline: Facing death might change Gideon’s life.
Something electric sparked in the air as silence ensued. He gazed into her eyes as if attempting to read her heart. The oxygen left her lungs and her heart flung itself against her ribs as he moved his lips closer to hers. The black irises in his eyes widened. His hand held the back of her neck and his fingers slid into her ponytail and loosed the clip that held it in place. The moment stilled. His voice sounded no more than a raw whisper when he spoke. I've wanted to do this for so long. It feels like I'm in a dream.� Then his lips, firm and warm took hers in a kiss that started as gentle as a snowflake falling on a pine bough.
Lila returned his kiss and it grew into something filled with urgency and longing. She moved her hands around his neck to bring him closer and closer still. Warmth spread throughout her being like a thousand lights all turned on at once. They drew back from the kiss, took a breath and kissed again. His eyes darkened from aqua to navy as his hands pulled her closer until they pressed into one another from hip to chest. His breathing hitched as he pulled her close to him and enfolded her in his arms.
Memories of Maple Street: Pawprints On My Heart
Have you ever had a pet that left indelible paw prints or
hoof prints on your heart? Pets we've rescued that rescued us, as well and
animals that maybe weren't so much pets as acquaintances who've taught us a
thing or two
Imagine my surprise when my mother picked me up at school and told me about the strange, furry creature who came to our house.
HOME FOR THE HEART
(a Wilding Western Romance)
Love doesn't come easy...for some, it may never come at all.
Though Hank Wilding and Lucy Thoroughgood have been lifelong friends, Lucy has managed to lose her heart to the handsome rancher. But Hank's a sworn bachelor after a soured engagement two years earlier. His heart begins to thaw when Lucy introduces him to the orphans she cares for, but a Lakota premonition threatens the happiness of the inhabitants of Hazard, Wyoming, and may end in tragedy for Lucy Thoroughgood.
Excerpt: (The Bargain)
In the quiet of the barn filled with the smell of fresh hay, horse manure, and leather tack, Hank sensed rather than heard someone enter the building. Ah, the smell of sunshine and roses. Must be Lucille Thoroughgood. Without turning to look at her, he set the pitchfork against the wall of Lonesome's stall. What do you want, Lucy? he grumbled as a greeting.
Mr. Wilding, I have something I'd like to propose to you. Her voice sounded tense. When he turned to face her, he saw those blue eyes dart away from his to peer at the straw on the floor. She promptly straightened her spine and must have forced herself to look him straight in the eye. Her starched manner made him want to mess with her.
A proposal? He moved closer to her maybe too close. He felt something shift in his chest like a warning bell. �Well now, I haven't ever had a lady propose to me before. He joked, badly, just to get her goat. Generally, women were not to be trusted. He'd learned that lesson the hard way. But Lucy was his old friend since grade school. Even though she must have been born straight-laced and proper, she spoke her truth, plain and simple. Beneath that barbed wire exterior beat a heart of gold.
Lucy propped her fists on her hips and he thought she looked like a charming sugar bowl all ruffed up in her pink flowered dress and her sweet, straw hat that sat askew on her gleaming brown hair. She knitted those brows together and narrowed her eyes at him. I'm not proposing marriage to you, Mr. Wilding. I'm proposing a business deal sort of.
Excerpt: (the Lakota Prophesy)
Kyle brought the truck to a stop as close to the front door as the driveway allowed, but before Lucy could open the door, Kyle clasped her arm. She turned to face him and noticed a faraway look in his dark eyes. What is it, Kyle? Is something wrong?
His face took on a grim expression when he spoke. All I know is something dark is coming. Be careful, Lucy.
Something in her chest clutched. Kyle had a special gift and his words were not to be ignored. Is something bad going to happen?
I'm afraid so. I wish I knew what it was, but I don't. I only know it's evil.
You're scaring me, Kyle.
I don't mean to. Hank and I will keep an eye out. Tell your dad what I said.
Excerpt: (the prophecy comes to pass)
Love Me Tender played on the radio and reminded Hank of Lucy dancing with him to the song. The light, fragrance of roses filled his senses. Lucy's perfume.
Reality settled back into Hank's consciousness as they entered the emergency room.
By Rising Star Reviews on June 1, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
HOME FOR THE HEART is one of Sarah McNeal's books I call "straight from the heart." This is another offering in the Wilding Series--this time about Hank Wilding. Since he's loved and lost once, he's wary and a bit difficult to pin down. That's fine with Lucy Thoroughgood--she can wait. Her life is full with orphans whom she tries to help with meaningful activities. Hank's horses are the perfect thing she needs--if only he doesn't turn her down.
Each of the Wilding novels have a touch of Lakota mystique, and this one does not disappoint. I'll leave it to you, the reader, to learn about that.
Also, one special orphan has captured her heart, and she wants nothing more than for this young Lakota to be made whole.
I highly recommend Home for the Heart
Rising Star Reviews
THE BEAST OF HAZARD (SHORT STORY)
A Terrorized Town...A Killer Beast...And Deliverance
Joey Wilding isn't certain what's killing the livestock in Hazard.
Some believe it's a bewitched beast, others a wolf gone rabid. As the town
veterinarian, he's seen mutilation before, but not like this, as if something
enjoyed the killing.
As they stepped out into the dark night, a chill ran down Joey's spine as he remembered that terrible growl he heard in the woods. He was comforted a little by the light on the barn that flooded the space between the barn and house with a pale light. From off in the distance, a sound came from the depth of the forest that shook Joey to the core.
Claire's face grew pale and her eyes widened. We should hurry, she said in a voice tight with fear. Whatever that thing was out there, Claire must know something about it. The woman who had a huge wolf as a pet suddenly looked afraid of the thing out there. Her response made him very uneasy. Could he trust her?
Buy Links: Amazon
When Love Comes Knocking
Buy Link: Amazon
A lonely widow...an indiscretion...a gift for redemption
Penelope Witherspoon was charmed into marriage by Evan Thoroughgood only to learn she loved a philanderer, who gambled away his inheritance and drank too heavily. It came as no surprise that four months after their marriage, Evan was shot dead for cheating at cards. Since his death, Penelope has come to depend on his older brother, Gil. In fact, she has come to love and respect him. No two men could be further apart in character. But, if Gil learns of her secret indiscretion, he will want nothing further to do with her. What is Penelope to do?
As soon as she made it back home, she got out her laundry pot and heated the water on the stove. She washed clothes with her lye soap and hung everything on the line that Gil and Banjo made for her. It was about two in the morning before she ran out of laundry to wash. Her hands burned from the lye. Finally, she slipped into her worn, cotton nightgown and slipped into her bed. She didn't even bother to bank the fire.
Penelope sat in her bed with her back to the pillows, her knees pulled tight to her chest and her arms wrapped around them and listened to the still of the night. The only sound she heard were the trees whispering messages to one another on the wind. She laid her cheek on her knees and wished...and wished...and wished.
Now available in single short story for 99 cents
Buy Links: Amazon
A broken dream...a cancelled wedding...and an unexpected blessing
When Juliet Wilding's dreams are crushed, she cancels her wedding plans to Harry O'Connor. But Harry is not about to give up on the only woman he has ever loved. What neither of them expects is the event that will forever change both their lives.
"When will the new owners be moving in?" She asked the question without making eye contact.
"On the twenty-first of June."
She slowly turned to look up into his face. "Why that's when our wedding day was supposed to take place."
"That's when our wedding day will take place, Juliet. And this house is my wedding gift to you. Actually, it's a wedding gift from your family, too. They helped me renovate it with you in mind." He lifted his hands to encompass the whole house. "All of this, it's all for you, darlin'. It doesn't have much furniture yet, but--"
She extended her arm and kept him away with her hand on his chest. "No, Harry, this can't be our house."
"I assure you it can--it is."
A tear slipped from her eye and made a path down her cheek.
What the hell? Had he been wrong to buy the house? "If you don't like it, I can change it. I'll do whatever you want. I just want you to be happy."
"It's not the house. It's not you; it's me. I can't marry you. I refuse to ruin your dreams or your life." She wrestled out of his arms when he attempted to embrace and reassure her.
The earth was churning under his feet and his heart clenched so painfully he wasn't sure he could get his breath. "I know you love me, Juliet. You're my dream. You're my life and my future."
Fire Star Press
Can the heart live inside a violin case? Can a message reach across time?
Genevieve Beaumont is haunted by dreams of a drowning man she is helpless to save. When she buys a violin and discovers news clippings and pictures of its owner and how he died from downing, she knows he must be the man in her dreams.
She travels to the little town where he died 90 years before to investigate who he was and how he died. Little does she know how her own life is tangled in the mystery...until she steps through the threshold of time to 1927.
She heard him take in a slow breath then he spoke to her in a more relaxed, quiet tone. "I beg your pardon, miss, I didn't mean to curse. What's your name?" The younger man's voice soothed her as he knelt beside the couch where she lay. He wrung out a cloth in the bowl of water beside his knee, folded it, and applied it to Genevieve's brow.
"My name is Genevieve Beaumont. I was just standing at the window and now I'm here." She lifted a shaky hand to her brow. "My head is pounding."
"You bumped your head when you fainted. Is that a French name?" He lifted a quizzical brow and smiled.
She lifted her eyes and got a good, close-up look at him then. Her heart almost stopped beating in her chest. She sucked in a deep breath. What was happening to her? How could any of this be possible? The man holding the cool cloth to her head was the man in the pictures she found in the violin case!
She would not have guessed he had auburn hair, or that his eyes were such a vivid, bottle green. He wore a collarless, khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up and suspenders instead of a belt held up his tan, canvas trousers. Oh, but he was handsome,so much more than his pictures ever allowed. She didn't have time to admire the young man's good looks because her mind swirled round and round with the unfathomable implications of her situation.
BUY LINKS: in paperback and all e-book formats including Kindle
HOLLOW HEART just released as a single on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents
Buy Link: AMAZON
Lost love and the hope for possibilities
Madeline Andrews is a grown up orphan. Sam Wilding made her feel part of his life, his family and swore he'd come home to her when the war ended, but he didn't return. With the Valentine's Ball just days away, the Wildings encourage Madeline to move forward with her life and open her heart to the possibilities. But Madeline is lost in old love letters and can't seem to let go.
Madeline folded the letter and slipped it back into its envelope. Her heart ached as she put the envelope back into the box. She placed it with reverence on her dresser beside the picture of Sam and her, laughing into the sun on that beautiful summer day, years ago. She twisted the gold ring with the little heart-shaped ruby around her left ring finger. Sam had given it to her the day he left for deployment to Europe. He said it was a promise ring. The ring would remind her of his love, his promise to return, and his pledge to wed her when the war ended. A sigh escaped her. None of his promises had come true.
CAST AWAY HEART
Fire Star Press
An abandoned piano, rejected love, and hope
After her fiance humiliates her and breaks her heart on what was to be their wedding day, Ella
Dubois has vowed never to open her heart again.
Nickoli Vesa, a Romanian pianist, has loved Ella for years, but she sees him only as her friend.
How can a deserted piano heal a shattered spirit and inspire it to sing again?
The music spilled from the heart of the baby grand and poured its sorrow on Ella until she
didn't think she could bare the terrible loneliness of its mournful sound another moment. Her
eyes welled with tears. Her own deep, unrelenting sadness came to the surface and ate at her
heart. The piano stood in dignified repose like a stalwart soldier waiting for orders, but all the
while knowing there will be no further orders, no further requests for its talents. Ella felt the
love of her life had done the same to her and she, like the piano, must press on with whatever
dignity she had left. How long would the piano suffer like this? How long would she?
When Nickoli completed the song and the notes died under the falling snow, he returned to
Ella and took her in his arms as if guessing how sad the piano made her feel. He whispered
close to her ear. "She still has hope. She still sings."
BUY Links: AMAZON
FOR LOVE OF BANJO, revised edition just released May 15, 2014
Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding's love for Maggie O'Leary and his search for the father he never knew.
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past. To earn the right to ask for Margaret O'Leary's hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O'Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo's mysterious father and the Great War.
In one graceful movement, he dismounted the pinto then stepped to the porch where Maggie stood with unrestrained tears that flowed down her cheeks. Banjo swept her into his arms and kissed her. The kiss wasn't his brotherly, friendly peck on the cheek. He kissed her with a slow burning need and ran his tongue along the groove of her lips then slipped inside.
He tasted of coffee and mint. Maggie reached up to weave her arms around his neck. She stepped on her tiptoes to better reach him and taste him. Her heart raced and heat rushed hungry waves of yearning into places in her body she never knew existed as she responded to his explorations with her own. If only she could slip into his pocket and follow him wherever he went. She wanted to become the marrow in his bones, to always be a part of him.
Just when she thought he would take her to her room and make love to her as she had asked, the kiss ended. Banjo bent his head his rough cheek rasped against hers. The fragrance of him, a combination of horse, pine and crisp snow, caressed her senses. He slipped his hand into her hair and gently rubbed the tender skin of her neck where her blood pulsed beneath his thumb.
His mouth so close to her ear she felt the warm moisture of his breath as he spoke his last words. She would never forget them, not as long as she lived. Breathless from the kiss, he said, "Don't forget me. Write to me every day and I'll write back. You are the star in my sky and my compass home. I'll come back, if it's the last thing I do, I will come back. I swear it."
HARMONICA JOE'S RELUCTANT BRIDE
revised edition by Prairie Rose Publication releases 4-23-2014
A haunted plantation...A mysterious trunk...And a date with destiny
When Lola Barton inherits a rundown plantation, she believes her life has finally taken a positive turn. But, when she finds a mysterious trunk in the attic, it takes her into the past and to a man with dark secrets...and she.s married to him.
Harmonica music floated down from the attic...the last place in this tumble down
wreck of a house Lola Barton wanted to go. Had someone or something taken up
residence there? Lola made her way up the darkened attic stairs measuring each
step as the ancient boards creaked in protest under her feet. Her flashlight
beamed a narrow circle of light illuminating the cobweb-covered door at the top
of the landing. Her heart raced and pulsed in her ears. Hands trembled with the
surge of adrenaline as she pressed forward. She ignored her inner voice that
warned, "Don't go!"
Her cynical mind told her the rumors that Misty Oaks Plantation had ghosts
weren't true. The tales of murder and betrayal had to be the overactive
imagination of the local townspeople. A homeless vagrant had to be the most
logical explanation for the disturbance.
Once she gained the landing, she blew the cobwebs from the door and leaned her
ear against it to listen for any movement on the other side. Wisps of harmonica
music lifted in the air. Perhaps someone left a harmonica lying around and the
wind blew hard enough through the cracks in the walls to make it sound as
though someone played the instrument. Just the wind. No ghost.
With her courage bolstered by her logical conclusion, she grabbed the doorknob
and turned it.
Find Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride at:
You Gotta Read Reviews
HARMONICA JOE'S RELUCTANT BRIDE
Lola Barton does not scare easily. She has experienced the bad side of life and come through it just fine. Until she climbs the stairs to the attic of the house she inherited from her mean Aunt Callie and leaves her life in the present day behind.
Harmonica Joe Wilding resides in 1910 Hazard, Wyoming. He is a doctor of sorts who has won his bride in a card game. The Queen of Hearts not only got him his bride, she may have also brought him the love of his life.
Lola finds a trunk in her aunt's attic and begins to rifle through the contents. She tries on the clothing found there, but the playing card takes her on a journey of a lifetime straight into a wedding in 1910 Wyoming. Joe has played the card game of his life in order to rescue a woman who he believes is Callie, a cold-hearted woman who has stolen money from a man who is intent on seeing her pay for the crime. Only certain traits begin to make him see that this is not the Callie he knows. Instead, her niece has fallen through a rip in time and right into his heart.
Can you just imagine leaving your life behind and stepping into the shoes of someone who not only resembles you but is despised by most of the town? Lola's attitude towards Joe made me laugh out loud several times. She has a twenty-first century attitude in an early twentieth century world. I found her easy to relate to. The writing pulls the reader into the story and keeps them glued to their seats until the very end. And the love scenes are steamy and sensual. Ms. McNeal has certainly impressed me with this wonderful tale. Beware though, the publisher's site for this book does give the warning that this is for adults only.
Good Reads Reviews 4 Star review by Kimberly Murray
FLY AWAY HEART
My YA western that takes place in the Great Depression from Painted Pony Books is available in Paperback, Kindle and all ebook formats.
The Great Depression...Rum Runners and Old Fears...Love Against the Odds
Lilith Wilding can't remember a time when she didn't love the English born Robin Pierpont, but she knows he loves another so she hides her feelings beneath a hard veneer of self-protection.
Robin Pierpont dreams of flying airplanes and winning the heart of the one he loves, but when he gets involved in illegal rum running to help a friend, those dreams seem to turn into just a fantasy. When he is called upon to face his worst fear to save Lilith's life, his fate may be sealed in death.
Robin heard the crack of the limb as it began to buckle under the weight of the little girl with red curls. His heart pulsed into his throat and hammered in his ears. The smell of pine filled the air. Of all the trees Lilith chose to climb, why didn't she pick something sturdier, like an oak?
"Reach up and give me your hand, Lilith and be quick about it." He stretched his arm to her as far as he could reach. A few inches remained before he could grab hold of her.
"I'm not scared, Rob," Lilith said in a voice filled with bravado but, when she lifted her brown eyes to peer up at him, he saw the wells of tears she refused to shed. She choked on a sob. "All the same, if I'm gonna fall and die, don't tell Daddy I climbed this tree. He told me not to do it."
Robin had to work to stuff down his laughter at
her brave attempts to appear fearless. "Come now, Lilith. Quit acting stupid. Reach
up and grab my hand. You can worry about your daddy's punishment later." Another
ominous sound of splitting wood issued from the limb. A flock of birds took
flight as their habitat began to crumble. Robin knew the limb couldn't hold
much longer. Twenty feet or so below them, the swollen Wind River plunged over
jagged rocks heavy with the surge of melted snow from the spring thaw from the
Tetons. On a good day, the rapids could sweep a person off his feet and carry
him over the falls a short distance down river, but the high water and rapid
current were deadly now. Robin's own fear caught in his chest at the sight of
the surging water.
Fly Away Heart is now one of 5 sweet western romance novels included in a boxed set titled LOVE'S FIRST TOUCH for only 99cents!
Buy Link: AMAZON
A Husband For Christmas
A Husband For Christmas
Also available as a single for 99 cents
Buy Link for single
A night of horror and a wish for a new life.
Jane Pierpont and her son, Robin, survived the Titanic, but her husband went down with the ship and the emotional scars of that night have kept her and her son locked into that frightening event. Robin is terrified of deep water and Jane has nightmares and survivor�s guilt. She yearns for a family, a loving husband and maybe another child, but she feels disloyal to Michael's memory whenever Teekonka RedSky comes near her.
Teekonka RedSky loves Jane and her son, but all his efforts to help them past their painful memories of the night Michael Pierpont died have been unsuccessful. Unwilling to give up, can his Lakota beliefs help him bring peace to Robin and free Jane to love again?
Teekonka let go of the latch and stepped back into the room. He took Jane's hand in his, its warmth radiating into her chest. "I wondered if you and Rob would attend the festival with me."
Jane felt confused. "The hotel is just down the street from here. We can manage to get there quite well on our own."
He shook his head and squeezed her hand. "You don't understand, Jane. I'm asking you and your son to go with me because I want to court you."
Jane pulled her hand free. Self-reproach engulfed her. Before her stood a handsome, strong man who wanted to court her and include her son, but she couldn't. It wasn't right. Surely, Michael's spirit was close by, and he would never approve. He couldn't help dying. "I...I'm flattered that you should ask, but I can't. My husband..."
Teekonka's jaw clenched. "Your husband is dead. He's been dead for seven years." He stepped back from her. A frown turned his firm lips down. After he walked to the door and lifted the latch, he turned to her again. "I'm sorry. I apologize for reacting so angrily. You still love your husband. I understand." The door closed, and he was gone.
Jane stood alone in a room that had suddenly grown cold and dim.