Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Little Halloween Romance


Okay, I'm a day early, but I'm excited, aren't you? In keeping with the holiday, a few of us talked about posting Halloween Stories involving characters from our current WIP (Work In Progress). Here is mine, introducing Norah Cartright, a young witch/Tarot card reader, and Tristan Byrnes, a lone wolf shapeshifter, from Aces Down.

"Trick or treat?" asked a familiar voice in Norah's ear.

Trying to keep her expression neutral, Norah turned from watching a guy in a Wookie suit doing shots with a Vampira wannabe to face the hot guy from Byrnes' Bikes. Yow! She had to stop and blink once before she burst out laughing.

Tristan Byrnes smiled. "Do you have an apple for the teacher, young lady?"

In a tweed suit and wire-rimmed glasses, he looked like a college co-ed's wet dream. Wavy brown hair fell across his forehead and over the frames making her fingers practically itch to push it back. A striped shirt and bow tie peeked out above the matching vest. The suit had an appropriately rumpled look but could not disguise Tristan's broad shoulders and chest. Norah snapped her gaze back up to his amazing green eyes and tried not to blush. Yeah, he would have fit the role very nicely.

Meanwhile, his own gaze traveled over her costume with a rapid but thorough sweep that left her a bit breathless. One corner of his mouth quirked up. She'd been a little worried about the outfit, but he seemed to approve of her flirty schoolgirl ensemble complete with a skirt so short she didn't dare sit down, white thigh-highs, and shiny Mary Janes she's picked up at the thrift store.

She scrambled to retrieve her wandering thoughts and tried out a perky smile complete with a Valley Girl head tilt. "Will it get me a better grade, prof?"

Tristan's smile broadened into a grin and a wink. "Depends."

A shout burst out from behind her and Tristan's gaze shifted over her shoulder. He frowned and reached out to cup her elbow. "Why don't we go find some place a little quieter to discuss my grading scale?"

Norah's skin tingled where his fingers touched her elbow and she bit back a gasp. His aura was stronger than she expected and his warm energy flowed around her like a blanket. As a witch, she was used to the occasionally zing from contact with other paranormals, but this was a man with a lot of power.

She let him lead her back toward the front room where the majority of Alison's guests were dancing. She directed a fine tendril of awareness through the contact with his hand and received an image of fur and teeth. A wolf!

She'd suspected something like it from her first day at Josie's Java. As soon as he'd pushed open the door of the coffee shop, her personal wards had sparked in recognition of someone "other." And their slowly developed pattern of increasingly flirtatious chatter every morning had gotten to the point that Josie had insisted they meet.

"My party will be perfect!" Josie had declared. She'd ticked off her reasons on her fingers. "One, neutral ground. Two, mutually unfamiliar ground. Three, easy exit strategies. What's not to love?" She peered over her dollar store reading glasses at Norah and winked. "Finally, plenty of libations to ease the nerves."

"How do you know he'll come?" Norah asked, too honest to deny being interested.

"He always comes. It's a neighborhood tradition and, despite his biker vibe, Tristan is very traditional." Josie smiled.

Now, as they skirted the edges of the crowd, Norah saw Josie give a little nod, though whether it was for her or for Tristan, Norah wasn't sure.

"Wanna dance?" he asked.

Josie had pushed all her living room furniture to the walls, leaving a dance space larger than some clubs boasted. The music was smooth and slow, the sultry voice of a local songstress belting out a Patsy Cline song. Couples swayed back and forth, talking in low voices or snugged up close.

Norah hesitated for a moment. Slow dancing was so intimate and she didn't know how she felt about being so close so quickly. He evidently took her silence for acceptance, taking her hand and giving her a slow spin out into the space. However, when she faced him, he slid his other arm around her waist, not too close, and his other hand shifted into a traditional hold. The space he created between them helped ease her comfort level and she followed his lead easily as he moved them into the middle of the crowd.

All too aware of his hand on the small of her back, Norah tried to keep her pulse and her breathing even. Every morning, across the counter, she'd noticed his aftershave, something spicy and a little woodsy. Up close it was even nicer.

"You're a good dancer," she said, trying to keep it light.

He looked down at her, that crooked smile tugging at something in her chest. "You're a good partner."

They circled slowly for a few moments before he continued. "I've been wondering. Among other things, I noticed you've got a bit of a southern accent. What brought you way out here to Seattle?"

"Stretching my wings I guess," she answered. "I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, but most recently, after my mother died, I was living with my Aunt Mattie in Arizona."

He frowned. "I'm so sorry for your loss."

Norah nodded, taking a moment to swallow the lump in her throat. "Thanks. Anyway, I decided I wanted to see some more of the country and after a few months, I ended up here." She shrugged. "Seemed like a good place to stop."

He smiled. "I'm glad you did." He held her gaze for a few moments, enough to make her feel as if she were sinking into that green gaze, before he looked away.

Despite her mother's warnings about the dangers of witches mixing with other paranormals, Norah couldn't deny that there was something about Tristan Byrnes that called to her. Something that resonated with her, despite her efforts to keep her focus strictly light and friendly.

While the music continued and dancers shifted around them, Norah and Tristan exchanged life stories in bits and pieces, feeling out similarities and differences. She'd been raised by her mother since her father died in a car accident. He'd been raised by a single dad when his mother left for parts unknown. She'd gotten her Bachelor's Degree in English, he'd taken some night courses. He'd started his own business repairing motorcycles and had grown enough that now he left repairs to his general mechanic so he could spend his time customizing bikes. She'd worked one job after another, not finding anything that fit, nothing that held her interest. They both loved Italian and Indian food, but neither one had any patience for diet food or drinks.

The conversation far outlasted the slow dance music and they'd adjourned, with a couple of beers, to a couch on the edge of the room. Tristan gallantly surrendered his coat to provide Norah a little extra coverage when they sat down and the residual warmth felt wonderful as she curled her legs up beneath it.

Norah enjoyed listening to his baritone voice as the back and forth exchange of life stories continued through the remainder of the night. He had a habit of absent-mindedly shoving back that flop of hair, but it always, fell back over his glasses.

She took one opportunity to ask. "Are they real glasses or fakes?"

He grinned and pulled them off to hand to her. "Fake. I got them at the costume store."

She peered through them and nodded. She would have been surprised to find a shapeshifter with less than perfect vision. Imagine a near-sighted wolf. Wouldn't last long. She handed them back. "Wondered. since I'd never seen you wearing them before."

"Trick or Treat!" Josie called, walking into the room and tossing candy around. "Why should the kids have all the fun!" She strolled past the couch and tossed some mini-candy bars in their laps. "Enjoy." When she crossed behind Tristan, she gave Norah a thumbs-up and continued on her way.

"What?" he asked, noticing her smile.

She shook her head. "Nothing." She scooped up a few candy bars and held them out. "Trade. You mentioned you didn't like peanut butter and I love those."

"Works for me." He plucked them out of her hand and dropped his candy in hers. He set them aside and slid the fake glasses into his pocket. "Listen, I was wondering. Would you like to go out to dinner some time. I know a good Indian restaurant."

Delighted, she nodded. "I'd like that."

Choruses of good-byes floated from the front hall and he glanced around. "Looks like the party's breaking up."

Startled, Norah realized they were now practically the last folks in the room. Where had the evening gone? She pushed her feet to the floor and sat up. "Wow! I didn't mean to monopolize you all evening. Sorry."

He gave her another lopsided smile. "I'm not." He stood up and held out his hand. "Walk you to your car?"

She put her hand in his and he pulled her to her feet so fast, she staggered. For a moment, she stood, her hand against his chest to balance herself, her gaze locked with his, and her heart doing strange gymnastic feats in her chest.

"Sorry," he said. "Sometimes I forget my own strength." But the look in his eye was far from sorry.

Norah stepped back and handed him his suit jacket. "Thanks for the loan."

Like everyone else, their outdoor coats were piled on Josie's bed. He held her trench coat for her and then dragged his leather jacket over his suit. At the door, Josie gave Norah a tight hug.

"Good work," she whispered into Norah's ear.

Knowing how sharp paranormal hearing was, Norah felt her face grow warm, but she just squeezed Josie and stood back so Josie could give Tristan his own hug.

"Thanks for coming," she said as they walked down the front steps to the sidewalk.

Tristan glanced up and down the street. "Where's your car?"

Norah waved a hand up the street. "A few blocks that way. Did you ride your bike?"

"Naw. Walked. I just live a few blocks over."

They walked the two blocks to her car in a comfortable silence, the sounds of the city filling the spaces. When they reached her mustang, she pulled out her keys, pressing the key fob to unlock the driver door.

"Thanks for walking me to my car," she said. She paused, uncertain whether she should offer to shake his hand, but he stepped closer.

"My pleasure." He looked down at her for a moment.

What the hell. She lifted her face to his and he quickly leaned down, his hand reaching up to cup her face as his lips touched hers.

His mouth was firm and warm against her lips, the pressure gentle, undemanding. However, gentle as it was, it ignited something warm and liquid inside Norah. She opened her lips just enough to touch the tip of her tongue to his bottom lip and, recognizing the touch for the invitation it was, he deepened his kiss. His hand shifted the back of her head, gently guiding her to a position that gave him better access to her mouth. His tongue slid across the surface of her lips and then between them to tangle with hers.

He tasted of beer and something a little spicy, pepperminty, and she matched his explorations with explorations of her own. Her hands slid up to his shoulders, to his hair. She wove her fingers through the soft lengths and a sound rumbled through his chest again. His kiss deepened and her body responded, pressing herself along the length of his.

He lifted his head slightly and she opened her eyes to find him smiling at her. "Nice."

She nodded. "Nice."

He paused and pushed some hair out of her eyes. "You know, I wasn't sure what I expected from seeing you tonight, but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say I was hoping for something like this."

Norah's cheeks grew warm and she glanced aside for a moment before returning his gently questioning gaze. "Then it's a good thing I was kind of hoping the same thing." She leaned forward, her mouth a breath away from his, her gaze locked on his. "I'd say this might be one of my favorite Halloween trick or treats."

He shook his head, his lips brushing across hers. "No trick, just treats."

I hope you enjoyed meeting Norah and Tristan and seeing how they met. My WIP, Aces Down, picks up their story a few years (and one terrible event) later.

Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and the Scholar is available now through the Wild Rose Press. Her second enovella, Collector's Item will also be published by The Wild Rose Press in 2013. You can also visit her blog at Golinowski's Gambol.


  1. delicious... :) thanks, Denise!

    1. Thank you, Joanna, for dropping by. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story and hope Sandy provided loads of poetic inspirations.

  2. Oh my! I can't wait to read more. I enjoyed their chemistry and hated when the scene ended. Yes, you ha me deliciously HOOKED! :)

    1. Hi Tina! Thanks for stopping in and commenting. It was hard to stop writing LOL! I'm going to begin shopping Aces Down around after the New Year. Fingers crossed.

  3. Lovely, Denise! Good chemistry, tension, setting... Can't wait to read the rest - and what a great hook in your description of the book. I'm hooked!

    1. Hi Sofie! Thank you for taking the time to read and give your comments. Yeah, after such a lovely beginning, Norah and Tristan are headed for stormy waters.

  4. Fantastic scene! Like Tina, I want to keep reading!

    1. Thanks, Leah! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I had a great time showing how Norah and Tristan initially connected.

  5. A cute one Denise. Good for you, for doing this.