The Witch Chronicles #3
Release Date: 11/7/14
Genre: Dark Paranormal Romance
Jenna falls in love with two very different men. Standing on the verge of Earth’s destruction, will she defy convention and follow the song in her heart?
Jenna’s a special witch, sort of, when her magic works, which it often doesn’t. One of three remaining demon-stalkers, she and her sister witches, Roz and Colleen, are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. On the heels of Roz’s and Colleen’s weddings, Jenna is headed for the U.K. when a demon confronts her. Any other witch could teleport out of the plane, but not her. Frustration about her limited power eats at her. It would be pretty pathetic to get killed for lack of skills a teenager could master.
Tristan is a Sidhe warrior, but his primary gift is attunement to others’ emotions. He fell hard for Jenna, but hasn’t had an opportunity to act on their attraction beyond a few kisses because she returned to Alaska, and he’s been in the field fighting demons.
As seer for the Sidhe, Kiernan is haunted by visions, particularly an apocalyptic sending that seems to be coming true. A confirmed bachelor, he doesn’t understand his attraction to Jenna, but it’s so strong he can’t fight it, and after a while, he doesn’t even try, despite recognizing Tristan’s claim to her.
Startling truths surface about Jenna’s magic, and then there’s the problem that she’s falling in love with two very different men. At first she believes she has to pick one of them, but her spirit refuses to walk away from either. It’s impossible to choose between a seer with dreams in his eyes and a beautiful man who intuits her every need. Standing on the verge of Earth’s destruction, will she defy convention and follow the song in her heart?
Writing and Ski Mountaineering
Thanks so much for inviting me to guest post on your blog. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Many of my stories have a winter theme. Wonder if that's because I live in a place where it's winter better than half the year?
Don't get me wrong. I love winter. There's something pristine and delightful about endless vistas of white. And the crunch of skis on new snow has a sound all its own. There's nothing quite like coming into a warm house after hours outside in the cold, although my husband reminds me of all the winter nights we spent in a tent with a blizzard flapping the nylon and tells me I've gotten soft. Part of what he said is right. We did spend many a night with me sandwiched between him and one of our dogs. With a minus twenty down bag, I even managed to stay warm. But I prefer my camping in the summer. One of the biggest problems with winter trips is the days are short and it gets really cold the second the sun sinks below the horizon. So cold, you have to get into the tent and into your down bag. Or else, you need to keep moving. It's too cold to stand around outside cooking or chatting.
For a while we used a Bibler stove. You hung it inside the tent and the tent actually got warm enough to take your gloves off. Of course, you had to keep a door open so you didn't asphixiate. They don't make Bibler stoves anymore. Too many lawsuits, I guess. The other issue with winter ski mountaineering is you get lots of condensation inside the tent. When you touch the side of the tent, it showers you with ice crystals. Down is a wonderful insulator so long as it stays dry. The minute it gets wet, watch out. The sleeping bag manufacturers use a variety of "water resistant" nylons to try to keep the down dry, but it's a losing battle. Between the heat from your body traveling through the down from the inside of the bag to the outside and the dampness inside the tent tryiing to go the other way, no matter how well made a sleeping bag is, the down eventually gets damp--and heavy.
When my husband came back from trying to climb Mt. St. Elias, his down bag must have weighed twenty pounds. Hanging outside on a line in the hundred degree heat in the Sacramento Valley, it took over a week to get dry.
In the winter on skis, or in the summer on foot, some of my best story ideas come from long hours in the backcountry. I don't think it's accidental that my short stories with a backcountry focus have sold to the first place I sent them. The backcountry is a part of me. I understand how the Sierras fit together. How you can travel from pass to pass to get where you're going. Years ago, I had the same bone deep knowledge about the Cascades, but it's faded over a forty year span.
I still remember meeting Andrea Meade Lawrence on a ski lift here before I knew who she was. All I saw was a little, old lady who turned a goggled face to me, grinned, and told me the snow in Wipe Out was great. Wipe Out is a double black diamond run. I asked if I could ski it with her and she said, "Sure!" I still remember watching her disappear down a skinny little couloir between two boulders. Wow! That woman, who won double golds in the Olympics in the nineteen fifties, could still ski with the best of them.
No apologies here. I do love winter. What's your favorite season and why??
…Her thoughts turned to Tristan. Before getting snared in all the demon-muck with the minion in the plane, she’d been hoping the tawny-haired Sidhe would be part of the greeting party at the airport. There were lots of possible reasons he might not have met her, but the most likely was he wasn’t interested in her—at least not that way.
Oh give it a rest. It’s not like he’s so much as called or e-mailed in the weeks since I left the U.K. I’ll just embarrass myself—and look pathetic—if I ask after him.
Ronin had said something about Tristan being assigned to one of the garrisons dealing with the Irichna who’d been running rampant through the U.K. countryside. There was at least a slender chance he couldn’t just drop everything and show up to greet her. Worse, maybe he’d been forced into the Dreaming by a demon. Sidhe were immortal, but they could be compelled to leave the human world if they were injured badly enough.
The Rolls slowed at the carved, wrought-iron gates to Ronin’s estate. Magic flashed, and they swung slowly inward. “It’s just past ten,” Colleen said. “What’s scheduled for tonight?”
“Nothing in particular, but we do need to talk,” Ronin said.
“More to the point,” Jenna spoke up, “what ground did you cover before I got here? Is there anything I need to catch up on?”
“Oh, that’s right.” Colleen turned toward her and cocked her head to one side. Like Roz, she was dressed in a fleece jacket, jeans, and lace-up boots. Far more practical clothing than Jenna’s short skirt, high-heeled boots, and inadequate jacket. “You told us your problems, but we didn’t share ours.”
A cold fist of fear closed over Jenna’s stomach and squeezed hard. “I’m not sure I want to know, but what happened?”
“Well, we got here okay,” Roz answered. “Not here, exactly. We came out above the Sidhe armory, closer to the center of town.”
“Thought we’d pick up a few Seraph blades,” Duncan noted. “Since we can’t handle iron like you witches, the blades come in handy fighting Irichna.”
Jenna cracked her knuckles in frustration. “Yes, but what happened?”
“What else?” Colleen made a sour face. “Irichna.”
“How they figured out where we’d materialize will remain one of the mysteries,” Roz mumbled. Even though her words were casual, Jenna picked up a hint of fear beneath them. She shook her head to clear an almost paralyzing fog from creeping in. What she’d been afraid of—that the Irichna employed minions to spy on them—was looking more and more real.
“How many?” she asked, her throat so dry it was hard to get the words out.
“Fortunately, only three, but they didn’t exactly lie down and cooperate,” Ronin said. He focused his next words at the driver. “Just drop the lot of us off at the main house, Kiernan. It’s probably best if we hash out a plan before everyone turns in for the night.”
“Long story short,” Colleen picked up Roz’s tale, “it took until just before we met up with the car and Kiernan to neutralize the demons and ferry two of them to the Ninth Circle of Hell. Ronin and Duncan annihilated the third one. We never did get into the armory to pick up blades for the men.”
“Does that mean the U.K. problem is solved?” Jenna asked.
“Probably not,” Duncan replied. “There are always more of those blasted buggers, no matter what we do.”
“And they show up in different forms,” Ronin added, “which makes it tough to know if these were the ones causing all the problems.”
“It’s not as if they’re a static population,” Roz said. “We’ve never been able to estimate their numbers.”
“Isn’t that the truth,” Jenna groused as the car rolled to a stop in front of Ronin’s home that looked more like a castle than anything else. Built from interlocking flagstones and huge beams of lumber, it soared five floors. Light glowed from leaded glass panes, adding a welcoming touch. Even though it was night and she couldn’t see the grounds, Jenna remembered them to be immaculate. Sidhe didn’t employ many servants. Most of the day-to-day tasks were accomplished with magic. She snorted inwardly. Maybe she could pick up a few housekeeping tips, along with whatever else the Sidhe taught her.
She exited the car behind Roz, and a thought struck her. “Aw, hell.”
“What?” Roz’s hands flew upward to draw power.
“Nothing like that,” Jenna said. “My luggage. It’s still at the airport.”
“No worries.” Ronin walked to Roz and draped an arm over her shoulders. “I’ll send someone round to fetch it.”
“You’ll have way more than us,” Colleen pointed out, “since we teleported.” She leaned toward Duncan and gave him a kiss.
Jenna glanced from one couple to the other and hoped to hell no one picked up on the emotions running through her. She was happy for her friends. Duncan and Ronin were amazing men, but the surfeit of connubial bliss underscored just how alone she was. Earlier she’d told Roz and Colleen to hurry up and produce a child or two so she could settle in as a maiden auntie and spoil them shamelessly, but nothing like that was likely to happen anytime soon. Not until they got the demons on the run.
Niall surged to her side, along with Krae and Llyr. The changeling swept unkempt black hair out of his dark eyes and caught hold of her arm. “Don’t paint the devil on the wall.”
“Huh? When did you start reading minds?”
“I’ve always been able to, and Krae showed me an easier way where I don’t have to use hardly any of my own power.”
“Really?” Jenna stopped at the top of a dozen broad stone steps and glanced at the changeling. “How?”
He grinned like an imp. “Simple. I borrow yours.”
“Thanks. It’s not polite to help yourself to people’s thoughts, though, or their magic.”
“Maybe not polite,” Niall’s grin widened, “but very interesting.”
“Humph.” Jenna pushed on the ten foot tall oak door carved with runic symbols. At first it didn’t budge, but the air brightened around her hand, and then the door swung open. Someone, likely Ronin, had done something to countermand the warding protecting his home.
Kiernan shimmered into being in the great hall. Jenna drew back and blinked in surprise. He’d obviously teleported from the driveway, but she wasn’t used to squandering power so casually. Something drew her gaze upward; by the time she realized it was Kiernan’s magic, she was looking into his blue-green eyes. They were cool, laced with mystery, but fire smoldered in their depths, as if in challenge. When she tried to look away, she couldn’t. Jenna drew herself up and squared her shoulders, but the Sidhe was still taller than her by a good few inches. “Don’t force me,” she sputtered. “If you want something, ask first.”
“I’ll keep it in mind, witch.” With a cross between a smile and a smirk, he turned and trotted into a broad, furnished hallway that ran much of the length of the downstairs. Snug black pants fit like a second skin, outlining a high, tight ass. A faded, gray T-shirt strained across his heavily-muscled back and arms. He was built like an ancient Viking warrior with shoulders so broad she could almost imagine him at the helm of a warship, shaking his fist into the teeth of a shrieking tempest. Unlike Duncan and Ronin, who kept their hair long enough to braid, Kiernan’s black locks were close-cropped, which emphasized his angular cheekbones and strong, clean-shaven jaw. Breath caught in Jenna’s throat, and her belly tightened with a rush of sexual energy.
Because she couldn’t tear her gaze away, she stared after the Sidhe. Coaxed by magic, lights flared on when he passed, and an assortment of plush leather furniture in earth tones came into view. Occasional tables laden with antique sculptures, cut crystal lamps, and other artistic pieces were scattered about. Jenna took a deep breath to ease the tingling in her nipples and then another, hoping her face wasn’t as flushed as it usually got when she was turned on. To divert herself, she spun in a circle, taking in grandeur museums would have gone rounds to own. “Where do you want us?” she asked Ronin.
“Back study,” he said as he and Roz swept past, followed by Colleen and Duncan. “It’s cozier, and we’re a small group.”
“Oh-oh.” Niall nudged her. “Better watch it. I felt that flash of energy from twenty paces.” Jenna stuck her tongue out at him, and he reached back to pinch her, edging out of the way before she could slap his fingers.
A swoosh of power behind her sent her heart into overdrive. She twirled, ready to shout at Colleen and Roz to come back and help, but the words died on her lips. Kiernan stood there beaming like a Cheshire cat. Despite the smile, he looked arrogant and dangerous, with a raw sexuality that practically held a life of its own. Breath clattered from her lungs. “But you were ahead of me,” she stammered. “Up there.” She pointed behind her and felt like an idiot.
“Observant of you.” He closed the distance between them until he stood scant inches away. The heat of his body eddied toward her, and it took all her willpower not to throw her arms around him and drag his mouth down onto hers.
“Do, er, did you want something?” Her voice came out high and squeaky, and she coughed to cover her discomfiture. As if she were drawn by invisible puppet strings, Jenna leaned toward him, so close her breasts brushed his chest, and her breath hitched uncomfortably. She clasped her hands behind her to reduce the temptation to touch him.
“I want many things, but most of all I want to get to know you better.” He ran a finger down her cheek, leaving a trail of iridescent motes that floated before her eyes. “Once we’re in with the others, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity to tell you that.”
She opened her mouth to say something, anything, to break the sexual tension that overshadowed common sense, but he dissolved into nothingness, and she was left blinking at the afterimage of where he’d stood. Jenna breathed deep to settle herself. If she was going to spend hours training with Kiernan, she had to get her libido under control, and damned fast. Otherwise she’d be so addle-brained she wouldn’t learn a thing.
About the Author:
Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.
Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.
In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)