Midday Masquerade

 

Happy Sunday everyone. I’m happy to be posting an excerpt from Midday Masquerade to celebrate this month of romance. Midday Masquerade, like all my romances, weaves Celtic character and a wee bit of magic into quirky small town romance. Hope you enjoy it.

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Primrose Lund walked into the architecture office carrying a stack of misaligned papers in one hand, a determined set to her delicate chin, and an air of purpose that never failed to bring a smile to Lorcan Flynn’s heart. Primrose was a woman of purpose. A woman of definite opinions. A woman who was so filled with depth and color on the inside that she dare not display such extravagance on the outside. Others thought her plain. Lorcan found her captivating and elusive, and he wanted to know every one of her secrets no matter how long it took to reveal her inner peacock.

They say one learns to covet what one sees every day.

Lorcan Flynn didn’t know if that was true in his case. He didn’t see Primrose Lund every day, although he did his best to.

He didn’t need to see her every day to covet her touch or to desire her warm brown eyes shining into his with that combination of shy intelligence and genuine generosity of spirit that ignited him and gave him a measure of peace at the same time.

Lately he’d seen more in her eyes than an interest in books and old maps and pocket watches that kept poor time. Lately he’d caught Primrose looking at him with a sensual intensity that had little to do with the shell of respectability she wore like armor. Lately he’d caught a glimpse of Primrose’s inner hellion. And, he liked what he saw.

He coveted that bit of her with the kind of scorching heat he feared wouldn’t go away until he turned ninety-nine. By then, he hoped, he’d be used to the elemental pull she had on him.

It all started with a mask.

Not a balaclava sort of mask designed for escape and evade. No, this mask was created to reveal inner desires: to entice the wearer to don it freely, and the viewer to be aroused by that secret glimpse into the depths of the wearer’s soul. Lorcan had designed it to evoke the kind of carnal pleasure that started in the psyche and ended in the flesh.

He’d poured his own raw needs into it as he wet, tooled and sculpted the leather. He’d refined his desires as he shaded it, adding layers of luminous paint with smatterings of copper and gold. He’d been thinking of a woman then, but one he saw only in shadow. He felt her rather than saw her, catching only fleeting images in his sleep.

He made the mask for her.

Because he needed to.

In those moments when he was honest with himself, he conceded that he made the mask for himself, because the woman who inspired it didn’t really exist. At least that was what Lorcan thought until the moment Primrose Scott walked into his office, asking him to design a new shop for her. Primrose had placed a hodgepodge set of sketches done in colored pencils on various sized sheets of paper, some that looked more like scraps than actual paper, and made a beeline straight for one mask he created, displayed among a half dozen others on the wall opposite his desk.

“This is lovely,” she’d said staring as if looking at something by Rodin or Da Vinci.

There was no mistaking that Primrose had been focused on his mask, when he’d asked if she’d like to see it closer.

She said, “Oh, yes, please,” in a voice that hit him in his gut, twisting it in a way that tightened every inch of him.

“Go ahead. Take it down. Feel it in your hands. Hold it to your face. That’s the only way to truly judge if it fits you.”

She didn’t hesitate; she took it off the wall and held his mask to her face. Her large chocolate colored eyes gleamed at him from behind molded leather that was created to entrance. It did more than that with Primrose, it transformed her into something approaching a creature of mythical allure.

It was a Green woman mask, crafted with leaf motifs, delicate ferns, twigs, and wispy golden and silver threads adorned with tiny hand-cut crystals that looked like floating drops of dew capturing the light, bending it, sending cascades of prism colors outward with every turn of Primrose’s head. It had a very Celtic flare about it by design. It was fit for a Celtic nature goddess, and Primrose wore it well.

It suited her.

It suited him.

So much so, he’d given it to her with no payment save for her promise to wear it at the Renaissance Faire three times during the summer season.

Lorcan got the feeling that Primrose was not the kind of woman who accepted presents from men she didn’t know, or even from those she did. She struck him as careful and calculated in what she gave and what she took. He didn’t judge that; he respected it.

Yet, she’d looked at him through his mask, and her eyes flared as if somehow he’d challenged her to do something she wasn’t sure she was capable of doing.

Her small chin went up. She squared her shoulders and pushed them down, elongating her neck, as if by doing so she could somehow look down on a man easily seven inches taller than her. She almost did too, albeit from across the room. He’d have smiled if he hadn’t been afraid that would scare her. He’d been told more than once that he looked predatory when he smiled.

She kept the mask on while she walked back to him, posture ramrod straight. She held her hand out for him to shake. “It’s a bargain, Mr. Flynn.”

He shook her hand, a feeling of supreme satisfaction flowing through him. She must have felt it too because she startled at his touch before squeezing with the kind of authority he’d experienced only from men, for whom their handshake was truly their bond.

Then she walked out. Still wearing what was now her mask. Never once mentioning the sketches she splayed on his desk.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

She’d struck a bargain with the devil.

An Irish devil with a smile that curled her toes and warmed her from the inside out, making her think of dark, elusive, wonderful things. The kind of things that dreams—dark, sensual and bone-meltingly sweet—were made of. Since the first day she’d seen him in Shute Pond, he’d haunted her, like an itch that no amount of scratching could satisfy.

Lorcan Flynn. His name suited him. Strong. Mysterious. Celtic.

Just like him.

He was everything she let herself dream about when she imagined her ideal lover. Dark hair, tall, with lithe yet sculpted musculature that enticed but didn’t overwhelm, and blue eyes as bright as the sky in June. It wasn’t his physical appeal that made her heart beat faster when he walked into a room. It was the way his eyes warmed when he looked at her, as if she were water to a thirsty man or the finest Scotch whisky to a connoisseur. Every time he looked at her, she felt precious to him.

He made her feel important every time he smiled.

Midday Masquerade is available alone at:

and also as part of my Four Seasons of Romance at:

Summer Magic

2016-06-12 18.12.37-1Summer is a magical time in Wisconsin. There are festivals in Milwaukee, many at the lakefront, and plenty to enjoy outdoors.

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Not to mention the Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Festivals that dot the summer weekends with camaraderie and Highland joy.

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Then there are the gardens…..

I tend to stress over work, over writing, over political platforms and whether those in need will be cared for, my children and their wellbeing…damn, there’s always something worth stressing about along with plenty that isn’t worth the worry.

 

When I stress, I garden. I love time in the garden. I love sipping coffee in the morning and tea at night (or single malt) among the blooms.

What helps you celebrate the season? How do you decompress and de-stress?

I’d love to hear from you – I’m always looking for ideas.

 

Leigh

LOOKING TOWARD THE LIGHT ~ Yule, Christmas & Hogmanay Celebrations~aka:WE SCOTS HAVE FUN

This Friday is the Winter Solstice, the close of the dark half of the year and the rekindling of the light half, which begins on Saturday. I love this time of year, not only because Yule & Christmas celebrations are in full swing, most of which are joyous, but because the resurgence of the light fills me with renewed energy and more than a little hope that the New Year will bring more blessings.

I am a light person. I wouldn’t fare well in Alaska where there is no respite from the light during the sun season, but I’m not one for complete balance either. I like more light than dark. Yule, Christmas and Scottish Hogmanay are all celebrations of light and hope, love and joy.
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In Celtic traditions, evergreen boughs are traditionally brought in to decorate the home and remind us of the greenness past and to come. Fires are lit to capture the essence of the sun and to celebrate it. Holly is traditionally venerated because it stays green year round and its berries, red and white, are seen as representative of the Deity. I love the symbology, the richness of the season and most of all sharing it with those I love.
Hogmanay
I come from Scottish and Norse traditions and love everything about them. HOGMANAY is a uniquely Scottish celebration. There are some loose translations for the term, including: “Great love day”, “New Morning”, “Man is Born-or-ReBorn”. Yule is a Norse festival and the New Year is called, “Yules”.  As many of you know northern Scotland, especially the Isles, has a strong Norse influence, making their festivals a dramatic joy to behold. I embrace it all!
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Here’s a photo of the Norse Up-Hella-A held in Scotland (Shetland) as part of the Yule Fire Festival. The farther north (Shetland and Orkney are far north) the more noticeable and powerful the coming light is and the fire festivals hold huge significance. In southern Scotland fireballs are thrown into the air for Hogmanay. Hospitality is always huge, but especially on New Year’s Eve when a “tall, dark, handsome stranger” at your door carrying a piece of coal (prosperity-comfort) and cake (fulfillment) is a good omen. Blonds…not so good (left over from Viking raids). This is the tradition of “first footing” and although no one much cares about hair color anymore, gifts of warmth, food and probably whisky are given to all those entering the home.

Cleaning is still a Hogmanay tradition. The idea is to say goodbye to the old year and its sorrows by sweeping away the old and those things no longer needed and welcoming in the new with a clean heart and the open arms of hospitality.

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More recently (1788) the singing of Scottish poet, Robert Burns’, Auld Lang Syne is sung to an even older (1700 or so) Scottish tune. In the last 20 years the Loony Dook has been practiced on New Years Day morning when people get dressed up in their finery, go down to the River Forth, strip and take a dip. I won’t be doing that, no matter how much Scotland’s bonny river banks may be calling.

We will celebrate the Solstice, Christmas and Hogmanay with those we love this year. We will each light a home-made candle and help lay the fire. We will sing and dance and welcome the New Year with joy in our hearts and hope for even better days. We will eat Krumkake (Norwegian cookies) and Macski’s Haggis (National dish of Scotland) and  smoked salmon. And I think more than one glass will be raised to you and all those we hold dear.
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Merry Christmas, Happy Yule and a “Guid New Year” at Hogmany to you All!

Krumkake Recipe (handed down by my grandfather):

3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup flour. Beat eggs until light and gradually add remaining ingredients. Drop 1 Tbs into the center of a heated krumkake iron. Savor the goodness.

Scottish Haggis, Neeps & Tatties:

Simple and delicious, prepare one Macski’s hagggis per instructions and serve with buttered mashed potatoes, boiled & mashed rutabagas or parsnips, and a wee dram of your favorite Scotch whisky.

A traditional Yule Ball plays a part in A Potters Woods Christmas, a Christmas short story that is part of Authors of Main Street Christmas bundle.