Summer is coming to a close and I’ve been a slacker with my blog. I need to get back into the headgame of writing. In October Mystic Love will be released, and I’m finishing off the prequel, Haunted Inheritance. I’ve a new story rattling around in my mind, so look out readers…

Here is the cover and blurb for Mystic Love.

Ericka Gilmore dabbles in life and death when she tries to conjure a ghost lover. But when flesh and blood, Joe Reeves appears on her doorstep in the midst of a storm, she has to rethink her destiny.

A car accident left the former cop with the ability to foresee death. No longer willing to watch people he cares about die, Joe goes in search of a shaman to remove his “gift”. His remedy until then is to avoid all relationships. But like a lightning strike, he experiences a strong connection with Ericka. A nearby mystical ley line could be Joe’s solution if he and Ericka combine their gifts. But her secret past and his fear of seeing her death keep them at odds.



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MYSTIC LOVE, are love and destiny entwined?


YES! Mystic Love is a story I’ve been working toward getting published for years. I created, massaged, deleted, recreated, and now it is at the point its ready for paranormal romance fans to experience (or anyone wishing to read an excellent story).

Here is a blurb:

Ericka Gilmore dabbles in life and death when she tries to conjure a ghost lover. But when flesh and blood, Joe Reeves appears on her doorstep in the midst of a storm, she has to rethink her destiny.

A car accident left the former cop with the ability to foresee death. No longer willing to watch people he cares about die, Joe goes in search of a shaman to remove his “gift”. His remedy until then is to avoid all relationships. But like a lightning strike, he experiences a strong connection with Ericka. A nearby mystical ley line could be Joe’s solution if he and Ericka combine their gifts. But her secret past and his fear of seeing her death keep them at odds.

Mystic Love

While you wait, check out my other books with The Wild Rose Press…jj Keller






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A Woman with Cancer

Update: Deborah Brown, aspiring author, passed away from colon cancer on June 8, 2016. Her faith, love, and kindness will be missed.

I visited a friend, Deb, in the hospital today. Despite her worsening condition, she maintains faith in her God and that he will help her survive cancer for the second time.

I met Deb when I taught a writing class for Fort Wayne schools. A group of aspiring authors soaked in the information I’d acquired writing and getting published. The diverse class members had a variety of topics and a strong desire to create their own stories.

Deb got stymied and asked for help in finding direction for her story.

Through discussion we discovered our paths might have crossed in the past. She worked in the graduate office at Ball State University when I finished my M.A. We also had similar views regarding mortality, war, and the simple love of humankind.

After further exploration, she revealed her complex past.

While her desire to pen a tale evolved from her commitment to God and doing good deeds in his name, the essence of her true story was her recovery from breast cancer and the murder of her husband.

My mouth dropped to the floor. Health Issues. Peril. A young boy deprived of his father. Not only had Deb suffered the loss of her first love, but also had to endure the trial of the woman who stabbed him.

A light shone in her face.

This aspiring author grasped what most creative novelists realize…passion and writing go hand-in-hand.

The words streamed and she couldn’t put them on paper fast enough. All of those emotions, she’d kept hidden inside, flowed from her and into an amazing narrative.


We’ve remained friends and see each other once a month, but her story isn’t finished.

Deb told me I came into her life for a reason, claiming I provided a means for her to sort out her past and have resolution. Perhaps; however, she has given me friendship and a role model for an authentically honest and good person.

I hope she’s able to complete her story.


Here is a photo of Deb helping me set-up for a book signing. She dreams of becoming a published author.

Deb Brown

Blessed be,


Face (1)


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Love this site…check it out

I follow Karen. At first I went to this book review blog because Karen is a Geek and who doesn’t love a bright mind? Then, I read the articles. All of the reviewers are articulate, clever, and their reflections/assessments held my interest.

In addition, I like the spiral bookcase. It is like falling into a very desirable rabbit hole.

Oh, they rant. Off the Wall Rants

LOL…please take a look and let me know if you agree.


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Last Chance at Love: Nominated

Hi all,

Last Chance at Love has been nominated for an award. AND you can participate in getting the wonderful sweet/peppery story to the top.

Here’s how:   Easy-Scroll down the page to near the bottom under PARANORMAL ROMANCE, Last Chance at Love click on nominate


Last Chance at Love has to garner at least 50 nominations within the time period in order to qualify for the next and final round. The nomination will start on March 14 and end on March 31. Invite your fans and reader community to nominate the book here:

Last Chance at Love


When Alyson McLeod returns to Jove, she never expects her high school sweetheart to knock on her front door. Sam’s arrival stirs memories she thought she’d banished long ago and awakens a fiery need no other man has been able to conjure.

The phoenix tattoo on Sam Crown’s arm immortalizes the woman he loved—and lost—long ago. Alyson’s return should excite him, but instead, she awakens a guilt he’s not sure even love can overcome.

Can these star-crossed lovers finally find happiness or will a wicked matchmaker’s antics keep them apart forever?




Alyson swung her attention from her laptop to the handyman bent over the kitchen cabinet. Chris’ powerful, flawless arms enabled him to wield the screw gun like a pro, and durr, durr, durr added a pleasant melody to the room.

The maple cabinets had been an impulse purchase, but she rather liked how the lighter color made the space appear larger. A bonus to having her kitchen updated, Chris modeled the hero in her current book. His white T-shirt pulled taut across his broad shoulders as he stretched to secure a bolt from a toolbox a foot away.

Jeans sheathed his tight, perfectly formed rear. His thick thighs enabled Chris to lift heavy pieces of lumber while her hero’s enabled him to hold the heroine against the wall during a hot, sexy, clandestine encounter. Chris’ dark blond hair, styled in a buzz cut, accentuated his sharp cheekbones and granite jawline. Her hero had light brown hair that touched the tips of his ears. However, the cheekbones and stubborn jaw…the same.

In a lot of ways, Chris reminded her of Sam Crown, her boyfriend at Chilton Academy nearly thirty years ago. Sam had been the love of her life, the man who’d created a cancer in her heart no other man had been able to cure. Returning to her hometown had stirred memories of their ill-fated romance, and she’d embedded some of those details into her book. In doing so, in giving fictitious-Sam and fictitious-her a happy ending, maybe she could finally eradicate him from her thoughts.

She scooted her chair away from the dining table and evaluated the renovations. The noise and scenery inspired her. She wouldn’t leave the area despite the strong odors of glue and dust. She had to think of another job to keep her handyman on site after the current project ended on Friday. At least long enough for her to write twenty thousand more words. She hated the thought of her “hero” leaving before her book was finished.

The whirring of the motorized tool ended, and wood particles flew into her nostrils. A couple sneezes had her frantically searching for the napkin she’d left amongst the clutter on the table.

“Ms. McLeod?” Chris’ resonant voice matched his six-and-a-half-foot frame. The scent of man-sweat radiated from him, so unlike anything she’d become accustomed to over the course of her marriage. Jasper, her ex-husband, was the type of man to hire people to shift a piece of paper from one side of the desk to the other, so she’d rarely seen him perspire. Not even after he’d played polo, but he’d sure been sweaty when she’d found him naked in their marital bed with his assistant.

She looked away from the carpenter’s sculpted upper torso, and he chuckled, his tools clanking and tingling. Oops. She hadn’t looked away quickly enough.

She lowered her gaze to the keyboard. “Yes, I’m sorry, Mr.—”

“Please, call me Chris.” He nodded to her laptop. “How’s the book coming?”

She glanced into his eyes. The blue-grays were so reminiscent of Sam’s. She had to get a grip on her overactive imagination. Would she see Sam’s face in everyone, all over town? One of her high school friends had told her Sam moved away, hadn’t been seen since the funeral.


“Sorry. Great. Good. The best one yet.”

Chris looped a thumb through a hanging hoop on his leather utility belt. “I’ll have a substitute here tomorrow. My son has a doctor’s appointment, and I need to check on another project. Sam will manage the installation of the countertop. It’s a simple task. He’ll arrive around ten in the morning.”

“No problem.” Good God, even her old flame’s name came into play.

“The sub’s my dad.” At the mention of his father, pride splashed across his roughened features. “He’s a professor.”

“Architecture or construction?”

“He’s a math professor at West Indiana State University. He’s been teaching a reduced load of classes this semester and going stir crazy with nothing to do. This project came at the perfect time.”

She wanted to jot down notes about mannerisms. Some of his phrasing was priceless. She lifted scattered papers and searched for an ink pen. Finding one, she slid a glance at him, put ballpoint to notepad and quickly scribbled to get the ink to infuse.

“I understand that happens,” she mumbled. “Maybe he needs a hobby?”

Wiping his hands on a red, thin square towel, he smiled and showed off his pearly whites. “Oh yeah, a hobby would be good.” He pointed to her computer, the cloth waving like a banner. “Is that the type of book you write? Hobbies?”

Heat infused her cheeks. She’d just finished a sex scene for the vamp character. Nope, not a book about typical hobbies. “Not exactly. I—”

The ding of a cellphone sounded and a light shone through his jeans pocket. He dug the phone out and glanced at it. “Excuse me. I need to take this.”

The younger man swiped a finger across the screen, and after a few mumbled comments, glanced at her as he took a few steps into the corridor. He wouldn’t have privacy in the Echo Wall hallway.

Alyson put the pad of paper in front of her keyboard and focused on the computer screen.

“Dad, Mrs. Clydesdale called and said you ditched her.” He paused.

She leaned forward, wanting to know more. Might be useful information for her book.

“Yes, she does look like her name, but you can’t keep dating women one time and…” Chris exhaled. “No, I don’t want to hear about that aspect of your life. I know. I’ll meet you at the usual place. Someday maybe we could meet at a coffee shop instead. Yeah, I miss her too. I’ll be on time.”

Alyson choked back a chuckle and lowered her laptop’s screen. In her own style of shorthand, she jotted notes. Busy trying to catch up from the previous interaction, she failed to hear more of the conversation. Usually, she couldn’t care less about other people’s phone discussions, but for some reason, the dialogue between Chris and his father had piqued her interest.

“Time to leave?” she asked when he returned.

“Yeah, something came up with my dad.” He tucked his phone back inside his pocket.

She smiled, hoping to reassure him she hadn’t overheard his conversation, at least not all of it. “I understand about complicated families.”

He nodded. “Oh, I forgot you’re a widow too, so you understand. Even after a year and a half my father’s adapting. He and my mother were really tight.” Chris packed up his tools. He slid screwdrivers into the loops of his utility belt and plunked heavier items into the metal toolbox.

She didn’t want to correct him about her single status. Perhaps her brother, Grayson, had declared her a widow. He’d arranged the construction company. Maybe Grayson didn’t want his friends to find out she’d left her husband. Divorcees had their own set of barriers and stigmas.

She dreaded the questions, the ones her friends would ask. From her experience, people were either predominately nosy or, the polar opposite, caring.

Chris looked barely twenty years of age, too young to lose a parent. Then again, maybe his parents had him later in life.

He returned to the table. Tools were no longer distributed throughout the kitchen. A sudden sense of loss snatched the warmth from her.

She slid the notepad forward. “I’m sorry about your mother. How did she pass?”

Chris hoisted his toolkit. “Cancer. She was an amazing woman.” His cell phone dinged. “Dad—Sam—will be here tomorrow around ten to do prep work and accept the delivery of the countertops.” He nodded toward the panel truck in the driveway, visible through the kitchen window. On the side, “Stiles Construction and Remodeling” was written in bold black letters over a sun rising on a blue sky. A ladder sat on top. “But we’ve remodeled a couple of kitchens, so he has skills.”

“Okay, thanks. I look forward to meeting Sam.” She stood, wishing she’d made more notes about the way Chris talked, some of the charming language he’d used and his magnificent facial expressions, but she always had next time.

* * * * *

The next day, Alyson tossed clothing on her king-sized bed. She’d collected a lot of designer eveningwear during her ten years of marriage. She selected a dress for the upcoming Wish Upon a Star charity event but added most of her gowns to the donation pile. She probably wouldn’t use formal attire as often now that Jasper was no longer dragging her to one black-tie affair after another.

With a smaller closet, she should have thinned out the older garments before moving back to Indiana. She’d donate the unused clothing to a local woman’s shelter. From the height of the pile, she’d need a truck to transport them. Most of the dresses could be converted into casual wear or business attire if their new owners were so inclined.

Dressed in her camisole and panties, she tried on summer outfits to determine if she needed new sizes. She didn’t want to think her hips had expanded or back fat had appeared. As a realist, she understood changes occurred in a woman’s body as she aged, but she didn’t want to admit she couldn’t keep a husband or that she’d gained weight in all the wrong places.

A knock sounded on the front door.

She glanced at the oversized medallion clock. Nine. Chris’ dad wasn’t due to arrive for another hour.

Her sleek emerald robe hung off the edge of a beige barrel table. She grabbed it and slid her arms into the sleeves as she scurried down the hallway and into the dining room. She bypassed the security panel and eased the white plantation shutter open to peer outside.

Her heart thudded to a stop. “Sam,” she whispered, not truly believing what she was seeing.

The man on the porch was Sam. Her Sam. The love she’d never been able to forget. The one who’d broken her heart over two decades earlier.

Fantasies with spice and humor.






Last Chance at Love October 2015

The Valkyrie and the Marine, Pippa’s Rescue, Memory of Love&

Trade Agreement, LASR Best Book, Prop in the movie RED. print and eprint.

All rights reserved.  Star-crossed #lovers: find happiness or will a wicked matchmaker’s antics keep them apart? #LastChanceatLove @jjkellerauthor


I just finished reading Last Chance at Love. I truly enjoyed it.

I loved that sexy cupid at the start, the gorgeous art work Sam and Alyson made, Tina’s growing understanding, and the depth of the emotion as the story built to resolution. A feel good factor of 10. Daisy Banks


All Romance Ebooks

Cobblestone Press



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Julie has a stalker. What’s worse? Everyone in her sleepy town thinks she’s the threat. Not to anyone’s life, to the video shoot bringing big bucks into town. After the mayor asks her to leave, Julie retreats to a secluded cabin. Trouble, however, follows her.


When his production company arrives in Jove, Match isn’t prepared for Julie James. His attraction takes on a new dimension when he discovers she’s a magical healer, and he needs a miracle to save his baby brother’s life.


As the deviant closes in, Julie and Match’s lives become entwined, but tragedy is hovering on the horizon.







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so BIG

rabbit printRabbit footprints.


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Resolutions: Four Words

Four word Resolutions: Debunked


At the beginning of the New Year I typically create resolutions…as most people do. Historically, I’ve found four easy enough to manage for an entire year.

After age 30 I added “lose weight” to the resolution list. As the metabolism slows the exercise must increase in order to maintain balance or eat less…but that’s a joke, as I enjoy cooking and especially savoring good food. So resolution number one…discredited.

Consistently exercise: the easiest of the four as I enjoy making my body stronger. I’ve discovered the importance of health, but time and motivation counteract my good intentions.

Help my children improve their lives: the most difficult because how does a mother know when to cease guiding and let the child make his or her own way. Making mistakes is a powerful learning tool. In retrospect I wished I had taught, “LISTENING” and “CONSEQUENCES” to a greater degree.

My third resolution is to be a better friend. As I grow more mature I learn the value of friendships and how harmony in one’s life evolves around health, wellness, family and friendship. However, friendship seem to mock me as we’ve moved to a larger city and I’ve found social groups are diverse and harder to infiltrate. I pledge to be a better friend to those I have—even if it’s via email and text.

Now, seventeen days into the year 2016 I’m debunking the four resolutions set. I refuse to let fear of the unknown dictate my thoughts, and I accept the reality of life…it ends without notice. I’m going to laugh, love and live so I’m going to embrace each day as if it is, indeed, the last.

How about you? Do you make resolutions? Stick to them?
Are you going to fling aside rules and cherish friends, family and time?
Fantasies with spice and humor.






Last Chance at Love

The Valkyrie and the Marine, Pippa’s Rescue, Memory of Love&
Trade Agreement, LASR Best Book, Prop in the movie RED. print and eprint.
All rights reserved.

121 characters: Star-crossed #lovers: find happiness or will a wicked matchmaker’s antics keep them apart? #LastChanceatLove @jjkellerauthor

I just finished reading Last Chance at Love. I truly enjoyed it.
I loved that sexy cupid at the start, the gorgeous art work Sam and Alyson made, Tina’s growing understanding, and the depth of the emotion as the story built to resolution. A feel good factor of 10.
Daisy Banks
A Gentleman’s Folly
Marked for Magic
Christmas Carols


All Romance Ebooks

Cobblestone Press




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Believe…do you?

Interiew with a hunk!

I’m trying something different with this blog. An author friend, Kathleen Grieve, is going to interview Jensen Palmer, Chicago Police Force Detective, star and hero in Believe. He also reappears in Melody’s Song, the third in the series. Kathleen wrote a terrific medical romance, The Doctor’s Deception.

I’ve posted the book cover to the side, so you can see what a hunky man he is…also, you can read an excerpt by visiting my website, or at Cobblestone Press

Picture this setting: Jensen’s mansion, outside city limits, has a country feel with trees and plants surrounding the estate. We are in the conservatory, which has scrumptious beige, brown and cream Italian slate floor. The furniture is bamboo, with bright printed tropical print cushions. A silver serving tray with a carafe of water, a bowl of lemon wedges, and a plate of cinnamon bread, his favorite according to Mikhail, rests on the glass coffee table top. Kathleen has a seven inch notebook PC and Jensen has a PDA that he’s continually punching buttons. Introductions have been made, so I’ll sit quietly in the corner and Kathleen will take over, from her point of view.

Kathleen opens the dialogue: Mr. Palmer, how long have you been with the CPD?

Mr. Palmer: Please call me Jensen. I’ve been with the CPD for ten years, and half of that as a detective.

Kathleen: (Nods.) Yes, I’d love to. Jensen, how do you feel about co-starring in Believe?

Jensen: My role progressed quickly and the action was rapid fire. My co-star is well, as you can see, beautiful and intelligent. (He points into another room, where Mikhail is tinkling piano keys with their son, Jack. She is a attractive woman, blond hair, lean body, pretty face. Mental note: keep jealousy at bay.)

Kathleen: How did you first feel about your co-star, Mikhail?

Jensen: I was instantly drawn to her. She is gorgeous. After I got past the fact that she was a fortune teller, let’s say I’ve adjusted to her abilities, and now…well you can see how it all turned out.

Kathleen: At the end of Believe you hadn’t caught the leader of the Dark Angels. Do you catch her in Melody’s Song?

Jensen: I guess your audience will have to read it to find out. (Wink).

Kathleen: (I couldn’t keep the excitement out of my voice.) Will there be another book in this series?

Jensen: (He smiles, that sexy slight lifting of his mouth. His blue-gray eyes twinkle and my PC slips a little on my lap.) I believe there may be another novel. It certainly depends on how well the readers respond to Melody’s Song. I wouldn’t mind being the hero again.

Kathleen: Mikhail had some trials to get past in Believe, and you of course, hero that you are, saved her. How did it make you feel to see her in such jeopardy?

Jensen: (He glances toward Mikhail, she glances up and smiles. The energy between the two was so sharp and intense I thought my tiny PC would melt all of its circuit’s right then.) The process of loving another being changes a person’s perspective. I don’t look at an object or situation the same today, as I would have prior to loving Mikhail. She is a strong independent woman, she’ll always be so, (I think he mumbled “much to my dismay” under his breath), so when she was in a tight situation it was imperative for me to act. There hadn’t been true thinking or plotting involved. I simply had to get her free and to safety. I’d give my life in exchange for hers.

Kathleen: (I squirmed in my seat a little. Hot. Hot. Hot.) How did you feel about your author?

Jensen: jj’s great. She developed my character in a logical and sensitive fashion. I think she could have added a few more sex scenes for Mikhail and me. (He winks and I’m drawn to the little groove under his lip. Perfect set of lips. Perfectly matched set of lips. Calm down…)

Kathleen: Did you have any problems with your author?

Jensen: I would have liked to have fired my gun more. (He smiled at jj.) I voiced this before she wrote Melody’s Song.

Kathleen: So, there’s gun play in Melody’s Song?

Jensen: He shrugged his broad shoulders, encased in a dark blue Armani suit, and I completely lost my train of thought.

Kathleen: Ah, how easy is jj to work with?

Jensen: She’s very considerate. I know Sable, from Cobblestone-Press, loves her work.
Kathleen: We have ten minutes left. Do you want to talk about your role in Melody’s Song, which is being released in the spring of 2008, right?

Jensen: In Melody’s Song I’ve tracked down some of the drugs being used on the kidnapped children in Believe. Several thefts occurred in a local hospital. The star, Devon Siegal, is a pediatric oncologist. He helps me track who’s stealing the drugs. Unfortunate for him, the evidence points to his love interest, Melody Haney. She’s a waitress and opera singer. The girl has a fabulous voice. The release date is in April, I think.

Kathleen: From what you’re telling me you’re the hero in this book too? (He shot me a look that seriously made me squirm. His dreamy eyes, adorable smile and quick wit had won me over.)

Mikhail laughed from the other room. Jensen glanced at her. She shouted, “Sorry for the interruption.”

(Damn, I forgot she could read minds. Clear the mind. Erase all lustful thoughts.)

Jensen: Devon’s the real hero of Melody’s Song. I just get to use my Glock! (He tapped his gun lodged inside a shoulder holster strap. And then, he chuckled.) And of course I protect my constantly interfering wife.

Mikhail laughed louder, jj snickered, and a sweet youthful laugh chimed through the air.

Kathleen: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with me today. Perhaps I can return once Melody’s Song has been released and talk with you again? (I powered down and stowed my PC in my oversized handbag.)

Jensen rose from his chair, held out his strong masculine hand. I quickly put my palm against his and he assisted me from the sofa. I couldn’t break eye contact with this fabulous hero and was reluctant to let go of the connection.

Finally, jj coughed and I released the hunk’s hand and meandered toward his equally handsome son and beautiful wife.

End of Interview.

Thanks, Kathleen!

Mikhail Romanasky has the gift of second sight. When her latest vision is of a kidnapped child, she reluctantly approaches the Chicago Police Force, endeavoring to prevent the crime.

Detective Jensen Palmer doesn’t believe in the ability to foretell the future. But when his nephew is targeted, he is forced to trust his only source of information, the ever-so-attractive Amazing Mikhail. To do his job, his has to believe in the impossible.

Neither is looking for love. Both are looking for a criminal.

Will they find love along the way?

All rights reserved.

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Daisy Banks Free Holiday Read

Hi all, popping in to share the great news….my friend Daisy Banks is sharing a tale to excite and give you Holiday cheer….check it out.

This year as a Christmas gift I have a free read to offer you. Christmas is a time for magic and the telling of tales to lift the heart. I hope this little story will please.

Below is  the first chapter. If you’d like to read the rest simply leave your email address in a comment and I’ll be happy to send the story to you.

This is a sticky post and other posts appear beneath it.

BanksDaisy KeepTheFireBurning


Chapter 1

Not a mushroom in sight!
Cora tutted at the lack of fungi and continued her search. She couldn’t return to her aunt’s cottage with nothing but a few herbs. This autumn season seemed all wrong, too dry for mushrooms even here in the usually damp forest. Some of the leaves clinging to the boughs had already turned to shades of gold and bronze and rattled crisply. All of it seemed too soon.
The ground quivered. Judders shook her, and the basket tipped, spilling its contents. She dropped onto her knees, scrambling to pick up the herbs, but fell forward as the turf rippled and shifted.
Earth tremor.
She closed her eyes. “Don’t let me die today.” A thunderous growl rumbled beneath her.
She tried to stand but stooped again, for around her, like blades of grass in the wind, tall trees wavered. Several fell onto their neighbors with terrible groans. One lush evergreen missed those about it and thudded to the floor with a mighty crash.
Cora huddled into a small ball with her hands over her ears and prayed.

* * * *

Prince Randolph of Merin grasped the nearest boulder at the edge of the subterranean pool and hauled himself out of the warm water. A deep moan came from the roof above. Part of the cavern’s ceiling gave way and spewed rocks into the far side of the iridescent blue pool.
The light from the glimmering water dimmed as ripples raced over the surface. He strode across the stones to reach the bundle of his clothes. His foot slipped on a mossy patch on the rock and his back foot sank to his knee into the gap between two boulders. After three painful attempts to pull free, he paused at another low rumble near where he stood.
The small gravelly patch of sand and his pile of clothes slowly descended into a sink hole. Twirling like dancers, his boots disappeared last.
Each time he tried to move, a merciless weight ground hard against his flesh.
His stomach lurched as the rock beneath his front foot tilted and his precarious position grew more uncomfortable. He balanced with his leg stretched farther to keep his place on the unsteady boulder. If either of the rocks tipped much more, the impact on future generations of the royal house of Merin would be serious, for he’d be split in two.
The cold air chilled his skin.
A gentle tinkle of pebbles replaced the crashes from earlier. He breathed a sigh. The earth movement seemed over. Shivers raced down his back as he stared around in the wavering light from the water.
None of his attendants knew where he’d ridden this morning. Why had he been so determined to come here alone? They might take days to discover his horse tethered outside the entrance to the tunnel. That was if Starlight, poor beast, hadn’t fled or been killed by the earthquake. The palace and all those in it might well have been swallowed whole in the tremor.
He grinned. The thought of his Uncle Owen, presently guardian and protector of the kingdom, devoured by the might of the earth was enough to bring about a sense of deep pleasure. However, if Owen were still alive, he’d probably not make much effort to discover what had happened to the one person who would end his rule in four months and three days’ time.
I’ve played right into his hands. Given half a chance, Owen will make sure I’m never found.
The need to get out rose in a volcanic wave and he yelled at the top of his voice. “Help!”
The sound echoed. More pebbles fell into the pool. He shouted again.

* * * *

Cora rose to her knees. Trees, tipsy as guardsmen after a vat of ale, lay across the tops of others on each side of the glade. Creaks and groans from tortured wood hurt her ears. The birds had fled. She wished she could fly too. Her journey home would take much of what was left of the day and be far more perilous than the walk here.
She grabbed her basket, scooped up all the spilled herbs and rose. Her knees still shook, but the ground remained steady. She edged away from the forest path and moved toward the trail leading back along the Ridgeway toward her village.
She rarely used the hillside pathway for fear of robbers. However, with the other littered by fallen trees and this one looking much clearer, she’d no choice.
The raw squeals of a horse sent a shiver through her. The concern for the screeching animal drew her back toward a glade in the trees. Wild-eyed, the creature stamped and struggled against reins tethering it to a branch.
Poor thing. Who might have left it here? Only a nobleman or a robber would have such a mount. There seemed to be no one around though. She set her basket down and made comforting low sing-song noises to calm the horse as she approached. Beyond anything but fear, the animal reared screeching, and threatened her with metal shod feet.
A different sound reached her as she backed away from the horse. A cry? A word?
Yes. Someone called for help. She listened harder and tried to guess the direction. Parting the dark shrubs, she discovered the mouth of a tunnel into the spine of the Ridgeway. Another cry came again from the depths. This had to be the magic place whispered about by the villagers. A forbidden place of wonder and terror, but she must go inside.

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