Guest Post: Delilah Night and Comet’s First Christmas

comet's first christmas cut

It’s Black Friday, which to me is the start of the holiday season. Our Elf on the Shelf, Chippy, is hiding somewhere in the house. We’ll decide which type of tree we want to set up this year, and decorate it with lots of decorations, many of which commemorate trips. My favorite decoration is probably this super delicate ornament of a swan boat from Boston (my hometown).

Of course one of the traditions of Christmas season for many is the return of the Hallmark Christmas movie. But there are none for queer women. And while I didn’t write the story of the big city lawyer who moves back home and falls for the small town vet…I did write the story of one of Santa’s reindeer and an elf falling in love while trying to solve the mystery of who’s ruining belief in Santa.

A bad Santa is turning believers faster than melting snow. Can the mystery be solved in time for Christmas?

Claudia
I’ve dreamed of this day for years, and now it’s reality. I’ve been called up for the Big Show. Official Pole phone and email, Naughty-or-Nice login, and upgraded I.D. with my new job title—Comet. In three weeks, I’ll be part of the team flying Santa around the world.

In an instant my life goes from peaceful, if boring, to a blizzard of last-minute flight preparations, route planning, and anxiety-triggering stress.

The moment I meet my P.A., Jillian, her beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes are an oasis of calm. But I’ve barely got enough time to wonder if her plump lips taste as sugarplum sweet as they look. Disturbing news has popped up on Santa’s radar.

Someone is turning Santa’s most fervent believers into non-believers overnight. If we can’t find and stop this hacker, there won’t be enough reindeer cutout cookies and hot chocolate in the world to restore balance to Santa’s Naughty-or-Nice list in time for Christmas Eve.

Note to reader: What sweet Christmas romance would be complete without reindeer, The Nutcracker, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and New York pizza?

Even though I knew it wasn’t a real date, I spent the full hour getting ready. I wanted time to try out different outfits. Because reindeers could morph, the apartments had very little in the way of “real” clothes beyond some extra outerwear in the front closet. I stood in front of the mirror I’d discovered on the inside door of the human bedroom closet and morphed through a number of outfits. Red sweater, black jeans? Bor-ring. Blue sweaterdress with silver tights and knee-high boots? Too cute for a mission, and I looked like I was trying too hard. Orange sweater and jeans? I looked like I worked for Halloween, not Christmas. Little black dress? Sexy, and something I’d wear on a real date, but it was a little too exposed for humans in December in New York, and it wasn’t a real date. The time passed so swiftly that I’d barely finished deciding on my outfit when I heard the knock at the stall door in the other room.

“Just a second!” I called. I frowned, changed my mind, and morphed my black pants back to jeans. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I went to meet Jillian.

“You look beautiful,” said Jillian.

My face burned with pleasure. “Thank you.” I’d chosen a white cable knit sweater and jeans with black boots. “So do you.”

Jillian looked edible. She was also wearing jeans, but they clung to her curves. The blue plaid flannel shirt matched the sapphire of her eyes. I noticed, for the first time, that her ears were pierced—little gold hoops hung from her lobes. Her blonde hair was in a loose braid down her back. I also noticed a little scar through her eyebrow, and I wondered how that had happened.
The subway was crowded when Jillian and I boarded. There were no seats, so we stood facing each other holding one of the central poles in the car. As the train headed downtown, it filled with more and more humans, pushing Jillian and I closer and closer.

“One more stop.” Jillian had leaned into me, so she could speak directly into my ear instead of shouting over the noise. Her breath was warm against my skin. I shivered, wishing I knew if she liked me, even a little. As the train screamed down the track, she gave me a smile. Then she leaned in again. “How do you like the subway?”

Another millimeter and my lips would graze the shell of her ear. “I like flying better.”

Her laughter crackled over my skin, making me want.

Our eyes met, and the screeching the train and the chatter of a dozen languages faded away. I felt my tongue wet my suddenly dry lips, and her eyes went molten. She was leaning in, my heart pounding so hard I was shocked it wasn’t audible above the cacophony. Then someone pushed past me, shoving me into Jillian’s arms. She caught me, our arms instinctively going around each other.

Plastered against Jillian, my heartbeat kicked up to a gallop. Our eyes met, and it was like we were enveloped in one of those snowstorms that make everything hushed and quiet. Her lashes were long, and dark with mascara. She had a light dusting of freckles across her cheeks. Her eyes were a deep blue, almost like a Caribbean Sea. When she licked her lips, my eyes were glued to the action.

I had an irrational thought—I was sure she’d kiss me. The desire was written clearly on her face for anyone to see. I was sure that my own desire was nakedly obvious on my own. She leaned in…

The subway shuddered to a stop. “42nd Street – Bryant Park,” crackled the distorted audio.

The moment was over, but I was (mostly) sure I hadn’t hallucinated it.

Although I spent the first thirty years of my life in the Northeast of the United States, I lived in Southeast Asia from 2010-2017. I currently live near San Francisco with my partner, our two kids, and two cats.

I’m a writer who doesn’t take myself too seriously–my characters range from parents trying to reconnect post-kids to shape shifting reindeer to photographers to a would-be pirate lass.

Pick up any of my deliciously naughty bedtime stories for a solid plot and steamy romance.

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Email delilahnight at gmail dot com

Book Sales to Benefit Mighty Oaks Military Charity

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Book Sales to Benefit Mighty Oaks Military Charity

Every year at this time, in honor of Veteran’s Day and all our soldiers and their families, Tracey Cramer-Kelly chooses a veteran-focused charity to which she donates a percentage of all of her book sales (usually more) during the month of November. This applies to all of her books (although if you are a military romance fan, you may especially enjoy TRUE SURRENDER or the ARMY RANGER SERIES).

This year she’s pleased to again support the Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, a faith-based organization that teaches combat veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress how to get beyond combat trauma and live their lives in the manner God intended.

As a former Army combat medic (and current EMT), soldiers and their families are near and dear to her heart; this is just one way she can help.

When you purchase any of her books throughout November, you not only get a great story, but you help veterans, too! So check out her books on Amazon or her web site and get started!

 

Many experiences influence Tracey’s writing, and she has been known to undertake unusual endeavors (such as firefighter training and learning to fly a helicopter) just for the sake of the experience. Being an Army-trained combat medic and a “biker chick” for over 30 years has had significant influence in her books, but even “ordinary” events have struck a chord or inspired a character or plot idea.

Tracey lives in small-town Minnesota with her husband, two kids, and two cats. They are a true “soccer family” (she even worked as a referee for two years). She enjoys downhill skiing and spending time at the family lake place. She has also owned and operated an MC business, Leader Motorcycle, for 17 years http://www.leadermotorcycle.com/

 
 

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Spotlight & Excerpt: The Envoy’s Honor, by Antonia Aquilante

The Envoys Honor-Slider Aquilante, Antonia

The Envoy’s Honor
The Chronicles of Tournai, #8
By Antonia Aquilante
M/M Fantasy Romance
Publisher: NineStar Press
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Release Date: November 9, 2020
Length: Novel

Second son of an earl and cousin to the Crown Prince, Griffen has worked hard to forge a career in diplomacy for the principality of Tournai, but he never expected his diplomatic skills would be necessary for a problem so personal to him and his family.
A delegation from the mysterious kingdom of Ivria has come to Tournai to make sure the secret of their people—the magical Talent allowing them to change into dragons—and therefore their kingdom itself remain safe. The delegation is concerned with Corentin, an Ivrian, and the man Griffen’s older brother is soon to marry.

The Ivrians seem to want to drag Corentin back to Ivria for the offense of revealing their secret, but Griffen refuses to let it happen. His determination puts him into contact—and conflict—with Kirill, a negotiator for the king of Ivria who possesses the dragon Talent himself. The two clash and connect, getting closer and pulling away as they try to negotiate the needs of their people and an unwanted attraction between themselves. However, just as trust might be growing between them, a plot is uncovered and a member of the Ivrian delegation murdered. Griffen and Kirill must discover who is behind both for the safety of their countries and the people they love…and for a chance to be together.

Goodreads / NineStar Press / Amazon / Apple / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords

Griffen’s day had been utterly normal—boring, even—until the dragons arrived.

The only mildly interesting thing that had happened was Bastien for once being convinced to attend a family dinner at the palace. Griffen didn’t delude himself into thinking his persuasion and prodding had anything to do with his older brother’s decision. No, Philip’s order had gotten Bastien and Corentin, the man he would soon marry, here. The prince rarely ordered his family about—and never in this type of situation, so Philip’s edict had probably been at least half joking—but Bastien was too dutiful to ignore it, despite his preference to be something of a hermit.

Bastien wasn’t truly unsociable—he just preferred to spend his time quietly on their family’s estate of Ardesia and not at court or even in the capital. Since Corentin taught at the university here in the city, Bastien could no longer spend all his time at Ardesia, unless he wanted to be separated from Corentin, which he obviously did not. And since they were cousins to the prince—Philip’s mother had been their aunt—though they were not royalty themselves, they were expected to be seen at court perhaps even more than others. Griffen had no problem with the expectation, but his and Bastien’s similarities ended with their appearances. They looked almost identical but couldn’t have been more different in personality.

What Griffen had never understood was why it was so difficult to get Bastien to casual family gatherings. Tonight’s dinner was not a court function. They gathered in Philip and Amory’s private sitting room—the royal couple having created a homey place for themselves in the grandeur of the palace—sipping drinks and chatting before dinner. Philip and Amory’s son was with them; Philip held the sleepy toddler now, rocking Julien slightly as he spoke with his cousin Cathal and Lord Marcus. Marcus did some sort of mysterious work for Philip, but he was with them tonight because he was going to marry Alexander, another of Philip’s cousins. The match was an interesting one—the older, serious, self-contained Marcus and the mischievous, outgoing Alexander. Faelen, Alexander’s twin, was chatting with Amory, and Flavian, Cathal’s husband, with Maxen, the man Faelen would marry later in the year, bringing them more wine.

No, it most definitely wasn’t a court event or formal in any way.

This family had grown so much in the last few years—and grown closer too. Griffen loved it, was honored to be a part of it. He was tied to Philip by blood, but blood wasn’t what made a family. If only there wasn’t a hint of sadness dragging at him. So many of his family had paired off— more, had found love matches, something rare among royalty and the nobility who were more likely to marry for power or position.

And Griffen…wanted that for himself.

He’d had his share of affairs with various people over the years and parted amicably after each, everyone enjoying themselves and not looking for more. None of those liaisons had ever been serious or had a possibility of becoming so, which had been fine. Then. Somewhere along the way, it had stopped being fine to him.

“Everything all right?”

Griffen jumped a little before facing Tristan who’d come to his side. “Fine.”

Tristan frowned, an expression that always seemed vaguely wrong on his face. A bright smile seemed to go with his shining gold hair and sparkling blue eyes. Griffen had enjoyed his smiles, and other things, during the handful of nights they’d spent together. What they’d shared hadn’t even been something so formal as an affair, and it had been over long before Tristan married Etan, another of Philip’s cousins. Etan was here, too, talking in a corner with Bastien and Corentin—about something related to one of their studies if the faintly perplexed look in Bastien’s eyes was anything to go by.

“You seemed far away for a moment,” Tristan said, capturing Griffen’s attention again.

“Just thinking. I guess I’m easily distracted tonight.”

“I hope by something good.” Alexander winked as he appeared in front of them, decanter in hand, ready to pour more wine for them. His eyes narrowed as he studied Griffen. “Uh oh. Not good?”

Tristan’s gaze sharpened. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Griffen smiled, warmed by their concern. When neither man looked reassured, he added, “Really.”

And there wasn’t—though they still didn’t look as if they believed him. He was just…thoughtful.

A sharp rap on the door saved him from having to convince Tristan and Alexander. Before anyone could move to answer the door, it flew open, and Ligeia tumbled into the room.

Surprise froze Griffen for an instant. His sister had elected to stay home that evening—though Philip and Amory would’ve been happy to have her join them if she wanted—with Patia and Idalia, two of the cousins who’d become Bastien’s wards several months ago. She shouldn’t have been at the palace, certainly not looking wild-eyed and near panic with her light-brown hair escaping its pins and her dress one she never left the house in.

He broke his paralysis and spoke at the same time Bastien did. “Ligeia?”
“What happened?” Bastien continued. “Are you all right?”

She halted a few steps inside, after pushing the door closed behind her—it was amazing the guards had even let her through looking the way she did. “Fine, I’m fine,” she said, breathless. Had she run through the palace to get here?

“But…”

“What is it, Ligeia?” Philip asked as her gaze darted around the room. He didn’t exactly use the tone of voice that Griffen identified as more prince than family, but the way he said the words commanded attention, nonetheless. From all of them.

Ligeia focused on Philip immediately and took a breath. “Some people came to the house, looking for Corentin. From, um, his home.”

Marcus and Maxen looked confused, but everyone else froze. They knew exactly what that meant.

The dragons.


Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats, which she shares with friends and family, and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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