The Curse of Winford Manor (MF)
[BookStrand Historical Paranormal Romance, time travel, HEA]
Leslie Braddock feels responsible for her husband’s death. She is having trouble reentering the dating scene. Leslie travels back in time, where she meets Sir James.
Sir James Winford is a three-time widower. He believes he is cursed, and is certain death to any woman he loves. He has vowed never to love again.
Emily, the ghost of Sir James's first wife, has unfinished business, and still lingers at the Manor. She wants to see her husband happy, and she wants to bring her murderer to justice.
Rose has loved Sir James since childhood. She must live with the unspeakable things she has done trying to make James see her as more than a child. She believes she is close to achieving that goal when Leslie shows up.
Leslie and Sir James share the experience of losing a loved one. Will Leslie be the woman to break the curse? Or will she be just another victim?
A Siren BookStrand Mainstream Romance
Leslie searched for the road that led to the Gypsy camp. What was I thinking? When Stephanie canceled I should have just stayed home. “There it is. It’s a wonder anyone can find it at all.” She turned onto the dirt road. It was getting difficult to see in the fading light. Her small car found every bump in the road. Finally, she thought as the camp came into view. The bonfire in the middle of the camp and the music gave the place a mysterious and exotic feel. Darkness had settled in for the night.
“Excuse me,” she said to a young boy running by. “Where can I find the fortune teller?”
The boy stopped and smiled, showing his missing front teeth. “She’s in the blue wagon with the stars and moons.” He pointed in its direction before he dashed away. She was glad he added the stars and moons, because there were three blue wagons, each wildly decorated. She parked the car and made her way to the wagon. The people around the campfire glanced up and then went back to their conversation. The music never stopped. She reached up and hesitated a moment. Maybe she should go home. She felt sort of strange. Oh well, she was here. She pushed her reservations aside and knocked on the door.
A middle-aged woman in Gypsy garb, complete with kerchief around the head, jewelry, and bangles, answered. “Come in,” she said as she opened the door.
Leslie stepped up and entered a scene straight from the movies. Heavy curtains, beads, and ornate upholstery adorned the room. Two chairs and a table were in the center of the room. A crystal ball and a deck of tarot cards were placed off to the side on the table. Both sat patiently waiting for the fortune teller. Incense burned. Its fragrance added to the ambiance of the setting.
“Have a seat,” the woman said. Her hand made a graceful but exaggerated gesture toward the chair. “I am called Madam Galina. You are here to have your fortune told. Yes?”
“Yes,” Leslie said as she settled into the chair.
Madam Galina made a great show of rustling her skirt and clinking her bangles as she passed Leslie. She settled gracefully into her chair. She settled her skirt just so about her. “Let us get started. Give me your hands,” she ordered. Her thick accent added to the mysterious allure of the moment.
Leslie put her hands onto the table. Madam Galina took first one and then the other. She examined each carefully. She rubbed her thumb across Leslie’s open palm as if she were trying to clear away a smudge as she examined them. She squinted and frowned. It was a few minutes before she spoke. “You have had a loss in your life, and it makes you unhappy.”
It doesn’t take much to guess that. “Yes.”
“One moment while I consult my crystal,” she said as she moved her hands in circles over the crystal ball, now in the center of the table. Madam Galina’s rings caught the light and sparkled. Her bangles slid on her arms, creating a rhythmless music all their own.
The music outside, Galina’s bangles clinking, it all felt so contrived. How could Stephanie believe any of this?
“My crystal ball is of no use. All I can see is fog, nothing beyond that.” Madam Galina wrinkled her brow. “Quite unusual and disturbing I must say.”
“Maybe the cards can clear up the mystery. May I do a tarot card reading?” Madam Galina asked.
“Please shuffle the deck.” Frowning once again, she handed the cards to Leslie. Leslie shuffled the deck. “I’ve never seen fog in my crystal before. What could it mean?” she mumbled as Leslie handed the cards back to her. She then used a Tree of Life spread to read Leslie’s fortune.
* * * *
What can I tell this woman? Madam Galena thought as she looked at the cards. They point to no future, but not to death. Does that mean she’ll be in a coma? The cards about her past are clear. I can see the lost love. As for romance, a love will come into her life, and soon, but even that is strange. Leslie fidgeted in her seat, bringing Madam Galina’s attention back to her. “I am sorry it has taken me so long.”
“That’s okay,” Leslie said politely. Her face didn’t quite hide her agitation or her apprehension. “Stephanie said you were good. Maybe this is what she meant.”
“I am sorry if I have frightened you,” Galina apologized. “May I continue?”
“I see a man coming into your life.” That much was true. “I see a promotion at work or possibly a change in your job. I see a change of residence.” She saw these things, but they were jumbled, so she lied or guessed, depending on how you looked at it. “And I see car trouble.”
“Everyone has car trouble sooner or later,” Leslie whispered. “A tall, dark stranger?” Leslie asked sardonically.
“Actually, yes, I know it sounds cliché, but there will be a tall man entering your life very soon. I can tell you things about your past if you like. Some of the things I have mentioned may have already happened. The cards indicate they have, but also that they will. Your future is not clear enough for me to say.” At least that is the truth.
“No, no that’s enough. How much do I owe you?”
Madam Galina looked at the cards again. In all her years of reading fortunes, this was the first that truly puzzled her. “For that reading I cannot charge you. I usually receive more information from the cards. I am sorry.” She shook her head. She was puzzled and could only hope that no harm would come to the young woman sitting across from her.
“You’re not charging me?”
“Well, if you want me to…” she said as she stood.
“No, that’s quite all right,” Leslie put the strap of her purse over her shoulder as she rose from the seat and moved toward the exit. She opened the door. “Fog,” she said as she stepped outside.
Madam Galina gasped and put her hand to her chest.
“Thank you,” Leslie said. She carefully stepped down and out of the wagon.
“Be careful,” Madam Galina said. She made the sign of the cross, blessing herself, and said a silent prayer.