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In Training is FREE!

No! I don’t mean that you can get training for free, though I suppose you could if you looked hard enough or if you did it yourself. What I mean is that my novella, In Training is FREE all through the month of June. All you have to do is follow this link and you’ll find way more than just In Training. In fact you’ll find all kinds of wonderful, spicy summer reads for FREE!

What happens when a girl meets her destiny and her doom in one gloriously hard-bodied, hot package in a pub the night before her life becomes a sweaty, muscle aching, joint straining, cardio pounding living hell? You can find out for free!

 

In Training Blurb:

Getting fit on reality TV is PR guru, Lauren Michaels’, brainchild for gym equipment and fitness company Physicality,
Inc. The brilliant PR stunt involves one brave volunteer who wants to be fit badly enough to submit to the not so tender training techniques of personal trainer, Wolf Jennings, whose successful, but non-conventional, methods would make a drill sergeant look like a fluff ball. But when CEO and owner of Physicality, Inc., Claire Amos, decides her PR ace in the hole needs to walk the walk, Lauren finds herself between a kettle bell and a hard place… er, a hard trainer. That’s nightmare enough, but for six weeks, 24/7, the explosive chemistry between the two will be sweated out live on camera for the whole world to see. What could possibly go wrong?

 

 

Chance Encounter: In Training Excerpt:

Lauren had nearly finished her second pint, when a man plopped down on the stool next to her. “‘Zat Sneck Lifter?” he asked.

She raised her glass and offered a nod.

“Ah, a woman with good taste.” He motioned for the bartender and pointed at her pint. “You don’t see many women tossing back real ale these days.”

He looked like he’d come straight from the financial district in London. It was a look not all that common in a Keswick pub, where walking gear and outdoor clothing were the Cumbrian uniform of choice. Dark hair and delicious bedroom stubble framed the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. The big city look lasted a whole two seconds before he shoved the jacket carelessly onto the stool next to him and jerked at the tie like it was a snake. That it had taken the strip tease for her to really appreciate that the man looked damn fine was a testament to how badly her day had sucked.

“Ah! That’s better,” he said with a northern accent that had local boy written all over it. “It’s like getting out of a straitjacket. Not that I’ve ever actually been in one,” he added, rolling his broad shoulders and cracking his neck from side to side.

When she offered only a jerk of a smile, he continued. “The best thing about a suit is taking it off.”

She couldn’t argue that point after seeing him in the act.

The bartender delivered his Sneck Lifter. He slapped down a tenner and raised his glass. “Here’s to new beginnings.”

“To new beginnings,” she replied, gulping back the last of her pint and ordering another.

Tall, dark and northern gave her the hard stare. “Spoken with the enthusiasm of someone going to their own execution.”

“Sometimes new beginnings aren’t what they’re cracked up to be,” Lauren replied.

The bartender delivered her drink and went back to stacking glasses on the shelf.

“Mind if I ask?” He didn’t wait for her reply. “Break up, divorce?”

She banged her glass down on the bar. “Why does it always have to be about relationships? Why is that the first question you ask a woman? Did it ever occur to you, it might be something else?”

He gave his dimpled chin a thoughtful stroke, not the least bit put off by her sharp answer. Moving closer, he leaned one elbow on the bar in such a way that she couldn’t help but notice the strain of hard muscles on well-cut cloth. “Work, then; you lost your job?”

“Since we seem to be playing twenty questions, no, I didn’t lose my fucking job.”

He clucked his tongue. “I would have thought for sure that was it, foul language and all. Did you have it out with your boss?”

She mirrored his posture and leaned into his solicitous smile, forcing a bitter one of her own. “Oh, I fucking had it out with the fucking boss all right, and it didn’t do a fucking bit of good. Any more questions?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” he said without losing a beat. “Where does a skinny-arsed chick like you put all that Sneck Lifter, and will I have to stuff you in a cab to send you home later?”

“I’m not skinny, and I can hold my alcohol just fine, thank you.” She raised her glass and chugged half of it.

He looked her up and down. “Well, you’re sure as hell not fat. Living on caffeine and fags doesn’t put much meat on a woman’s bones. I can handle that, I suppose, as long as you promise not to puke on my shoes later.”

She ground her teeth. “First off, I don’t smoke. Secondly, I don’t recall us discussing any later.”

The bastard still wasn’t bothered by her belligerent attitude. “Hmm. I would have thought for certain he’d fired you—your boss, I mean. You know, didn’t like having a hard-drinking, hard-talking woman tearing him a new one?”

“She.”

“What?”

“My boss is a she, and no she didn’t fire me. I’m her golden girl. She just has a sick sense of humour. That’s all.”

He raised an eyebrow and took a thoughtful sip of his beer. “Didn’t see that coming.” He leaned closer. “Wanna tell me about it?”

“Let’s just say I’m in way over my head, and I have no idea how to get out.”

“Your boss isn’t organised crime, is she? A mafia queen maybe?”

In spite of herself Lauren laughed at the thought of Claire Amos smoking a big cigar and talking with a sharp New York accent. “No, nothing so sinister as that.” She gave a little jerk of her shoulder. “Okay, well there is the offer I can’t refuse part.” Before he could respond she waved a negating hand. “I really don’t want to talk about it. I’ll figure something out. I always do. So you’re obviously here to celebrate. What’s your reason? Just closed the big deal for your company?”

He smiled down into the ale he’d barely touched. “I ammy company, but something like that, yes.” He turned his attention to the bartender and ordered two waters. “Buy you a drink,” he said, pushing one in front of her.

“Oh, how sweet. You shouldn’t have,” she said raising the glass in salute.

“Actually, the way you’re tossing ‘em back, I shouldhave—what with your body weight, even if your metabolism is pretty high, you’ll need it. And let me guess, you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast, if you even had that. Either way, I’d say you need to hydrate.”

“Thank you, Father,” she grumbled.

“You’ll thank me in the morning when you don’t feel quite so shitty.”

“So,” she glugged back the water and scooted closer, “you think I’m skinny?”

“No, not really. You’re just not very well muscled. You look a bit wimpy to me.”

“Well, don’t you just know how to make a girl feel sexy,” she said, returning her attention to her pint.

“What can I say, I’m hot for dirty-mouthed, ale-drinking women.”

This time her laugh was genuine. “I think you need to work on your pick-up lines.” She couldn’t help the blush that climbed her cheeks. For the first time in a long time, she found herself feeling almost pretty—even with her lack of muscle.

“I don’t know. It seems to be working pretty well so far.” He reached out and curled a tendril of red hair that had escaped her day-old chignon around his finger. “I figure if you don’t hit me or knee me in the balls, and if I halfway behave myself, I might just get to celebrate with someone interesting and pretty too.”

She groaned. “Fine. I’ll celebrate with you—celebrate my last day of freedom.”

He quirked an eyebrow. “So that’s it then, you’re a convicted criminal off to prison after one last pint?”

She sipped her beer. “Might as well be.”

“I could bring you a cake with a file in it.” He suggested. “Though I don’t really bake.”

“Trust me,” she patted his hand, “I’ll probably be appreciating the cake a lot more than the file before long. And I don’t care if you bake it or buy it at Sainsbury’s.”

“Sounds harsh,” he said, then he added, “Look, I’m gonna be pretty tied up with work for the next few weeks, but I could show you around a bit if you’d like, you know, make your last night of freedom memorable. Beautiful place, the Lakes.”

She leaned in close. “How well do you know the area?”

“Well enough. I was born and raised in Keswick.”

“I’m all yours, then,” she said, downing the last of her pint. “Show me.” She all but fell off her stool and right into his arms.

“Thought you could handle your alcohol,” he said with a chuckle.

“Oh, I can handle that just fine,” she replied, feeling suddenly brazen and bold. “I caught my heel in the strap of my bag. That’s all. Lucky you were here to catch me.”

“Lucky, indeed,” he all but purred.

The lip lock was not planned, but the feel of a hard male body, one that was actually interested in her, was just what she needed after the crap day she’d had. The knowledge it was going to get way worse before it got better emboldened her. She leaned in close to steal a kiss. She decided she really liked being a thief and stole another one. She decided she liked being a thief even better when those kisses were returned with enthusiasm and a stealthy flick of the tongue. He drew her up close to muscle and sinew and strength in all the right places and all the right proportions. She found herself practically on the man’s lap—definitely close enough to be certain he was enjoying the clinch as much as she was.

“Get a room, you two,” the bartender said with a quirk of a smile from under bushy raised eyebrows.

“Might just do,” big and brawny said without actually pulling his mouth away from Lauren’s.

“Might just do,” she repeated, her words distorted because her tongue had better things to do than ensure good pronunciation.

She hefted her bag, and he grabbed up his jacket and tie, throwing the jacket over her shoulders and looping the tie around her neck. Tugging the two ends playfully, he led her past the billiards table, and down a narrow hallway that passed the ladies’ room. Then he made a sharp left out past the open kitchen door into a small, but fairly private garden in the back.

“Don’t think we’ll make it to a room,” he said as they exited the pub and he tugged her into the garden up close to a
blooming lilac.

“Don’t think I care,” she replied.

“Maybe for round two,” he said as he backed her against the rough brick and picked up the mouth-to-mouth where they’d left off.

“Don’t know what’s the matter with me,” she managed between nips and licks and tugs and pulls. “I don’t do this sort of thing.”

“Neither do I.” His kisses migrated to her neck. He slid a hand up her thigh and beneath her skirt. “Celebrating new beginnings, I guess.”

“Must be that,” she agreed. One of the kitchen staff came through the door for a ciggy break, stopped short, gave them the once-over and went back inside. She barely noticed. She was far too occupied with hard muscles and an expressive mouth up close and personal. He cupped and stroked and explored, finding the fastest routes to bare skin and sensitive places. She returned the favour, hiking her skirt enough to hook one leg around his hip. He cupped her bum and lifted her off the ground with her offering an undignified little yelp. And there they were, panties creating friction against bespoke trousers that barely contained his desire, both of them shifting and rubbing and pressing for all they were worth.

It was her efforts to reach the condom in the side pocket of her bag that ruined the mood. The bag slid off her shoulder and ended upside down on the cobbles, the contents skittering in all directions. They both dropped to their knees laughing and gasping and scrabbling to pick up her things. He gave her a hard nip high on the thigh just as she reached for the condom beneath the picnic table. It was then that his phone fell out of his jacket that she had miraculously managed to keep around her shoulders. At the moment he grabbed for it, a text pinged. He started to shove it into his shirt pocket and then did a double take. He froze there on his hands and knees, the colour leeching from his face as he looked from his phone to her and back again.

“You’re Lauren Michaels?”

“In the flesh.”

“Your boss is Claire Amos?” His voice cracked, and he looked at her as though she’d suddenly sprouted horns.

“That’s right, why? Do you know Claire?”

He scrambled to his feet, offering her his hand. “You’re right.” The muscles around his chiseled cheekbones twitched. “She does have a sick sense of humour.” He stood for a second looking her over like he was seeing her for the first time. Then he jammed the phone in the pocket of his trousers. “I gotta go.”

Just like that he turned and fled, leaving her with his coat and tie and one more reason why this had been a totally crap day.

 

Amber Daulton: ARRESTING MASON Book Launch and Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Enter for a chance to win this Topaz Gemstone Necklace, Beaded Earrings, and some swag. One winner will be randomly selected. Just follow the link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arresting Mason is Book I of the Arresting Onyx Series

Their chance encounter resulted in a steamy affair, but will his former gang and a parole officer tear them apart?

 

Once you’re in a prison gang, you’re in it for life. That’s what Mason Harding thought until the boss accepted his resignation. After the State releases him on parole, a sexy divorcée behind the wheel of a car almost ends his life quicker than a shank. His chance encounter with Mia Eddison results in a night of passion, but her brother—his parole officer—catches them together and doesn’t approve.

 

Mia falls hard for the cocky ex-con, but not because of his chiseled body. She vows to break through his walls and discover his secrets, but never expects those secrets to threaten her life. When members of an organized crime ring kidnap Mia to force Mason’s return to the gang, he goes up against an old friend to save the woman he loves. Will his sacrifice be enough or will everything fall apart in a blaze of gunfire?

 

Book Links:  

Amazon| B&N| iTunes  | The Wild Rose Press store| Goodreads

 

youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc0q0dLLFPM

 

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Length: 80k

Heat Rating: 5 Flames

 

 

Arresting Mason Excerpt:

“Which one is your car?” She glanced around the crowded parking lot. A few streetlights pushed back the darkness and shadows. The restaurant served customers until midnight on the weekends, but no one loitered in the lot, at least from what Mia could see.

“Don’t have one at the moment.” Mason hooked his thumbs in the belt loops of his jeans. “I took the bus. It stopped a few blocks from here.”

 

“Would you like a ride?” She pulled the car keys from her purse. “I feel a little ridiculous we met here tonight. I just wasn’t sure if you were some kind of freak.”

 

His eyebrow lifted, and he closed the distance between them as a tiger would zero in on its mate. A sexy, masculine smile curled his lips. “Have you made up your mind yet?”

 

“I’ll let you know in the morning.” Desire trickled down her spine. Mia nodded toward the passenger side of the car for him to hop in.

 

He confiscated her keys instead to unlock and open the driver’s side door for her like a gentleman. Then he leaned closer and nuzzled her temple with his nose.

 

Not sure if he planned to seduce her in the parking lot or if he merely wanted to tease her, Mia pressed her hand to his chest and tried to think straight. “You’re the first guy I’ve gone on a date with since my divorce. I haven’t slept with anyone since Evan.”

 

He tunneled his fingers through her wavy, chestnut-brown hair. “I haven’t dated anyone in a long time either. We’ll take it slow or fast, whatever you want, but I promise you one thing. After I’m done with you, you won’t even remember that bastard’s name.”

 

Oh, God. She almost melted right then and there. “Fast. I want you, Mason.”

 

“Take me to your place and you can have me.”

NetGalley Opportunity: 

Available for Review

Limited Time Only (promotion runs from May 1-15)

Find Arresting Masonon my publisher’s landing page – https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/publisher/82136

 

About Amber

Writing is the fruit of happiness.

Amber Daulton lives her life by that one belief even though she normally isn’t so Zen. As a fan of contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance novels alike, she can’t get enough of feisty heroines and alpha heroes. Her mind is a wonderland of adventure, laughter, and awesome ways of kicking a guy when he’s down. She probably wouldn’t be too sane without her computer and notebooks. After all, what’s a girl to do when people are jabbering away in her head and it’s hard to shut them up? Write!Nothing else works.

 

Social Media Links:

 

Blogsite – http://amberdaultonauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook Author Page – www.facebook.com/amber.daulton.author

Twitter – https://twitter.com/AmberDaulton1

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/amberdaulton5/

Goodreads – www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624921.Amber_Daulton

Amazon Author Page – http://amzn.to/14JoZff

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/amberdaulton

LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/pub/amber-daulton/87/538/368

Google Plus – https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AmberDaulton

The Wild Rose Press – https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/2362_amber-daulton

Don’t forget  a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Amber Dalton Reveals Cover for Arresting Mason

 

 

 

Arresting Mason Blurb:

Their chance encounter resulted in a steamy affair, but will his former gang and a parole officer tear them apart?

Once you’re in a prison gang, you’re in it for life. That’s what Mason Harding thought until the boss accepted his resignation. After the State releases him on parole, a sexy divorcée behind the wheel of a car almost ends his life quicker than a shank. His chance encounter with Mia Eddison results in a night of passion, but her brother—his parole officer—catches them together and doesn’t approve.

Mia falls hard for the cocky ex-con, but not because of his chiseled body. She vows to break through his walls and discover his secrets, but never expects those secrets to threaten her life.

When members of an organized crime ring kidnap Mia to force Mason’s return to the gang, he goes up against an old friend to save the woman he loves. Will his sacrifice be enough or will everything fall apart in a blaze of gunfire?

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Release Date: April 30th, 2018

Print ISBN: 978-1-5092-2007-6

Digital ISBN: 978-1-5092-2008-3

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Length: 80k

Heat Rating: Spicy/Hot

 

Free Digital Photos – attribution required

Buy Links for Arresting Mason:

Amazon – https://amzn.to/2GFLk6M

iTunes – https://apple.co/2FVAQMP

The Wild Rose Press store – http://bit.ly/2FSVvBa

Barnes and Noble – TBA

Kobo – TBA

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39005064-arresting-mason

 

Free Digital Photos – attribution required

 

 

 

Arresting Mason Excerpt:

They reached her store and he stared at her car parked by the curb. “Harper doesn’t know where you live or anything about you. That means you’re safe for now, but he’ll probably search this area to find us. Stay cautious, okay? Drive your car from now on. Don’t walk anywhere.”

“Why are you avoiding my questions? You can tell me anything.”

“Not this. If you trust me, don’t ask those kinds of questions.” He tightened his fingers around her forearm as she tried to jerk free from his grip. “Listen to me, damn it. You mean a lot to me, but I can’t tell you this. At least not right now. That’s nothing against you. It’s all on me. I just need time to take care of this problem. Okay? I’m fucking stressed, in a shitload of pain, and I don’t need you to hound my ass.” He dropped his hand from her arm and scowled as though he just noticed the dirt and blood on his knuckles. “I’d like to go upstairs to clean up before you take me home. I don’t want Alan to know what happened.”

Mia dug through her purse with shaky hands, so angry she didn’t trust herself to speak.

He took the keys from her before the little pieces of metal slipped between her fingers, and he hugged her despite the grime on his skin and clothes.

Tears clogged her throat. Her mind screamed at her to push away from him, but the strength in his arms enveloped her and stole her will. His heartbeat soothed hers, and she no longer cared about his lies or if filth caked him.

At least not at the moment.

“I never meant for this to happen, Mia. I will fix this.”

“I know, but at what cost?” She pried her face from his chest to stare up at him. “You’re nothing if not determined, but I’m scared and confused. You have answers to my questions, but I won’t hound you for them as you so eloquently stated. I just thought we got past this. I thought you knew I would never insult or condemn you for whatever it is you did.”

“And I thought you knew not to push me too fucking hard.” His deep voice sent shivers of unease down her spine. “I have to keep certain parts of my past to myself.”

“Whatever.” Mia finally pushed against his chest for freedom and stomped to the stairwell door.

 

 

 

 

About Amber:

Writing is the fruit of happiness.

Amber Daulton lives her life by that one belief even though she normally isn’t so Zen.

As a fan of contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance novels alike, she can’t get enough of feisty heroines and alpha heroes. Her mind is a wonderland of adventure, laughter, and awesome ways of kicking a guy when he’s down. She probably wouldn’t be too sane without her computer and notebooks. After all, what’s a girl to do when people are jabbering away in her head and it’s hard to shut them up? Write! Nothing else works.

 

 

 

 

Social Media Links:

Blogsite – http://amberdaultonauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook Author Page – www.facebook.com/amber.daulton.author

Twitter – https://twitter.com/AmberDaulton1

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/amberdaulton5/

Goodreads – www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624921.Amber_Daulton

Amazon Author Page – http://amzn.to/14JoZff

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/amberdaulton

LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/pub/amber-daulton/87/538/368

Google Plus – https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AmberDaulton

The Wild Rose Press – https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/2362_amber-daulton

 

 

 

 

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

Happy Holiday Easter for those of you who celebrate. Happy April Fools Day for those of you who like a good joke, and happy damp spring weekend for everyone else.

Today, as promised, I’m sharing the second instalment of my new WIP, Concerto — which may, as the story evolves end up being called Sonata. Beautiful music and those who create it and mysterious isolated places have always intrigued me. Both have inspired this story. I hope you enjoy the second instalment. Once again, I remind you to be gentle with the author. It is, after all, a work in progress.

 

The music stopped with a brutal glissando, and the only sound that broke the breathless silence following was a cold baritone voice. “You’re trespassing.”

I would have answered but the fall had stunned me and knocked the air out of my lungs, which was more distressing than the wet cold stone of the patio, but less so than the chill in the pianist’s voice.

“What in hell do you mean coming outside in this weather half naked?” He was up from the piano and kneeling to throw a blanket around me before I could catch enough breath to respond. What I did manage was another undignified yelp as he lifted me into his arms as though I weighed nothing, turned on bare feet and carried me in to the lounge where he plopped me unceremoniously onto a sofa covered in richly woven tartan throws. “You’ll catch your death, and it would serve you right spying on me, trying to seduce me dressed like that. Who sent you?”

“Are you serious?” I forced my way upright on the couch shoving the blanket aside, not wanting to be flat on my back and vulnerable to meet my accuser. “No one sent me. I woke up and heard your music. It was a bit of a surprise since the landlady told me there was no one here but me.”

“So, my playing disturbed your sleep, did it?”

“No. It’s just I woke up, and the storm had passed. I heard music and …”

“And?” He studied me with a raised brow. His dark hair was mussed and slightly damp, as though he too might have just come in from the out of doors.

“I wondered where it was coming from, that’s all.”

 

 

“Well now you know.” He nodded me toward the open French doors.

But in the few minutes we’d been talking, the rain had started again and a gusting wind flung the lace curtains about as though they were nothing more than wisps of fog.

“Fine, you don’t have to be so rude.” I shoved off the couch with as much dignity as I could manage and stormed toward the patio. “You might have considered that flinging your doors open in the wee hours of the morning and playing music like that, someone would want to listen.” I braced myself for the slog back to my cottage as another gust of wind flung a cold spray in my face.

“Wait.” He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back, then with some effort against the growing gale, slammed the doors. “You can’t go out in that.”

For a long moment, he studied me where I now stood shivering, freshly chilled and wet. At last he gave a hard put upon sigh and, before I knew what was happening, he stripped out of his shirt and handed it to me. “You’re … not decent.” The muscles along his high cheekbones tensed at his words. “And you’re wet and cold.” He gave a quick nod to the front of my nightshirt. I hadn’t noticed until now that the fall and the rain had rendered it transparent. “Besides, you’re a distraction. I can’t play with you … like that.” He turned his back, and I found myself blushing furiously as I stripped and slid into his white shirt, still warm with the heat of his body. He was not a small man, and the shirt fell to my knees. It smelled of the night chill and the lightning heat of the storm, though I suspected the disturbingly arousing scent was more his own than that of the storm.

When I finished fumbling with the buttons, he once again stood facing me, holding one of the throws. He wrapped the tartan around me, moving close enough that I could feel the heat radiating off his stripped torso, and I was struck again by his size. I don’t know why I had thought a pianist must be a tall, thin wraith of a man, who lived on the music and little else. He was robust and well muscled, with a peppering of scars low across his belly.

I couldn’t help myself. Maybe it was the fact that the whole incident seemed like a dream that I half expected to wake up from at any minute, one of those that I would long to go back to once it vanished in the daylight. “And you don’t think this will distract me from the music?” I rested my palm against his chest, and he drew a tight breath between his teeth, trapped my hand with his own, then lifted it away, with more of an effort than the act should have demanded.

“Trust me,” he said holding my gaze with milk chocolate eyes, “when I play, you won’t be distracted by anything.” He curled a finger under my chin and lifted my face until my heart accelerated and my mouth watered at full lips slightly parted, so close to mine. Those lips curled in a smile and he pulled away. “That is what you came for, isn’t it? To listen.”

And just like that he turned like a man with a purpose and seated himself once again at the piano, nodding me to back to the sofa.

 

Concerto: A New KDG Story Part 1

I wanted to write something special for this holiday weekend, something new. Some of you may remember a few years
ago I blogged about a wonderful trip Mr. Grace and I made into the Scottish Highlands and onto the Isle of Skye with my sister. The remote place we stayed at while we were on Skye was an inspiration, the place was as mysterious as it was remote. This story is inspired by that place and by my love for classical piano, or piano music of any type for that matter.

 

I’m not sure how long the story will be, but I’m happy to share the first instalment today, and to ask that you be gentle with me as you read it. Remember it is a work in progress. I hope you enjoy.

 

Concerto: Part 1 A Little Night Music

I started awake from disturbing dreams that I couldn’t quite remember. In the tight-fitting darkness, it took me a minute to remember where I was. Isle of Skye, a small tatty cottage so remote that the landlady had to deliver me there in a battered Land Rover. To say I was off the grid was an understatement. No phone, no Wi-fi, no transportation until the woman came back for me on Monday morning. There was only me the hills and the sea with storms predicted – a typical bank holiday weekend in the UK. In my whole life I’d never been so isolated. The thought of being alone was a writer’s dream of solitude and inspiration come true, wasn’t it? I’d had neither solitude nor inspiration for a while now, and I was doing it up right. I didn’t care about the rain. I had no plans but to sleep and possibly read. I was exhausted and as empty as the landscape beyond my cottage. Upon arrival, I’d made myself a sandwich, drank half a bottle of Malbec and went to bed.

Sometime while I slept, the storm had passed. Even the sound of the sea seemed muted in the muffled dark of the room. I assumed it was the sea I could hear. It was dark and the storm was already raging when we arrived. The landlady seemed unperturbed by the return journey she faced, as though the storm were nothing. She showed me around the place that had been well stocked for my arrival, since I would be going nowhere for the next three days. She wished me well at the door and left me alone.

And now here I was wide awake with three days of nothing but my own company stretching before me. I was considering watching a movie and grazing through the package of shortbread left on the counter near the tea service. The landlady assured me the ancient DVD player in the lounge worked, and there was a fair sized library of movies. That was when I heard what I couldn’t possibly have heard. There was piano music coming from somewhere close by. I slid from my bed holding my breath as the melody built to a pounding crescendo that reminded me of the storm. The landlady had told me I was the only guest in the converted stone stables that now housed three cottages. There was room for three more, but the money had run out. The stables were all that was left of a summer home owned by some wealthy lord now long dead. The house was in its prime when the Victorians found the Highlands and anything Scottish all the rage. But the place was just too remote and its maintenance too expensive, or so the landlady said. Now what remained other than the stables and a collapsed stone barn was just a rubble heap. Though I could see none of that in the dark and driving rain.

But it wasn’t raining now, and I definitely heard piano music. Holding my breath not wanting to miss a single note, I slipped from the bed and switched on the lamp to find no electricity. The landlady had warned me that it sometimes went out during the storms. There were torches stashed strategically in each room, but my eyes were accustom to the dark, so I moved through the cottage on tiptoes listening to the music that had become more plaintive, full of longing that made me ache in places that hadn’t felt much of anything in a long while.

A peek out the kitchen window left me gaping at the thick blanket of stars where Milky Way spilled across the clear sky. The sky, the music, the feel of the night so close around me made the emptiness inside suddenly more companionable. Without thinking, I threw open the kitchen door and stepped, barefoot, out into the soft chill, barely feeling the wet cobbles beneath my feet. There was no breeze, a calm that I knew wouldn’t last. A glance around revealed the hulk of the collapsed barn and, beyond that, less pronounced heaps of stone and rubble, the remains of what had once been an impressive estate. Once again the music crescendoed and I turned to find the source. Candle light flickered from the cottage at the end of the stable yard and something in the music that drifted from an open window filled the night with the very ache I felt.

I don’t remember moving to the patio of the place by the French doors, the only nod to elegance any of these cottages had, but I will never forget my first sight of the source. The doors were flung open to the night, curtains barely stirring. A baby grand piano filled the space beyond and as the music softened and then crescendoed again, my gaze came to
rest on the creator of such exquisite sounds, a man tall and straight. His eyes were closed, his hands moved over the keyboard as though the instrument were a lover, and the sounds he coaxed from it were very much the sounds of love and all the pain and lust and joy and sorrow that come with.

I couldn’t help myself. I moved forward as though I were in a trance, lost in the music, lost in the intimate weave of sound and silence and human connection. And then, full attention focused on the man and the music, I didn’t see the empty stone planter in front of me until I was doing an inelegant swan dive over the top to belly flop on the paving stones with a breathless yelp.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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