It's Friday and time for my second Lucky 13 post. Today I'm sharing page 13 from my paranormal M/F novella Windswept. It's available as both a stand-alone e-book for only 99 cents...
...or as part of an anthology with four other stories in both print and digital:
I originally wrote Windswept in 2007 for the Aphrodite's Apples anthology line Masquerade. The series explored the timeless theme of gods consorting with mortals, the premise being that the Olympian gods invited select mortals to an annual masquerade ball. I knew I wanted to write something a bit different with one of the less popular gods, but Hades was already taken by a fellow "dark romance" author. While researching a steampunk story, I somehow stumbled upon demi-god Aeolus, the Keeper of the Winds, and I found the god I wanted to write about.
I meant to write a short story but Windswept grew into a 20,000 word novella. I also deviated from the dark romance I'd envisioned with what is probably my sweetest, lightest story to date. It's the closest thing I've written to "traditional" romance with equal parts homage and spoof of various Harlequin and Avon tropes. I made my lead female a geeky meteorology student, named her Tempest Rayne, and then whisked her away from the masquerade ball to Aeolus's remote island home. As for my take on the Wind Keeper, he was inspired by a mix of JD Robb's Roarke and Anne Rice's Louis. I also had a lot of fun with the Greek god theme, depicting Zeus as a swinging lounge lizard, Aphrodite as a bling-decked jetsetter, and the Three Graces as a fashionably-hip stylist team.
The original publisher went under and Windswept sadly went out-of-print. I found hope in 2009 when Tease Publishing announced their Love's Immortal Pantheon line, which explores similar themes as the Masquerade series did. I reworked Windswept accordingly, submitted it to Tease, and found Aeolus and Tempest a new home.
Page 13 sees a freshly-coiffed Tempest (courtesy of the Three Graces' mad makeover skills) arriving at Aeolus's island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Enjoy, and check back next Friday for page 13 from my short story Efflorescence.
** BLURB **
When Tempest Rayne receives an invitation to the annual Gala of the Gods, the awkward meteorology student thinks it's too good to be true. Allowed to meet one Greek god of her choice, Tempest requests to meet Aeolus, legendary Keeper of the Winds -- to talk about the weather, of course.
Granted eternal custodianship over the Four Winds, the once-mortal Aeolus quietly watches the world pass by from his remote island home. When Hera tells him of the young woman who has asked to meet him, the lonely wind keeper is intrigued and agrees to honor Tempest's request.
Neither mortal nor god is prepared for the encounter that follows. When the Olympians brew up a little Mediterranean squall, Tempest and Aeolus must ride out the storm together, plunging them into a whirlwind of passion, leaving them both...Windswept.
** PAGE 13 EXCERPT **
The yacht slowed, nearly stopping. Steered cautiously by unseen hands, the hull deftly avoided bumpy rocks where they jutted through shallow pools of water. Leaving the strait, the yacht entered a private cove, protected by a ring-shaped island, the indigo water shining clean and pure.
"Look," said Aphrodite. Bracelets clinked as she fluidly extended one regal arm and pointed. "Aeolus's palace."
The steepest crag of the island, directly opposing the small harbor's mouth, loomed into view. The base of the crag was surrounded by a wall of bronze, the metal gleaming like a shiny copper penny in the sun. Tempest noted a giant door set into the wall, and knew three more like it represented each cardinal point of the precipice.
Aeolus really holds the winds down there, she mused to herself.
Above the bronze wall, hundreds of kingfishers flew in and out of countless burrows dug into the pumice layer of the mountain. Tempest's gaze drifted upward. Sun-bleached stucco walls with arched windows appeared to grow naturally from the rock, taking shape as an elegant palazzo. Flat-topped turrets set at each corner were bedecked with spinning anemometers alongside miniature satellite dishes. While the palace proved impressive, in Tempest's mind, she had envisioned a more antiquated structure.
Puzzled, she knitted her brow. "It looks so...modern."
Aphrodite shrugged. "We update his house every few centuries in a fashion appropriate to the time."
As Tempest absorbed this, she contemplated the true meaning of immortality. In one sentence, Aphrodite had glossed over countless centuries as though they were days. The goddess might as well have been discussing a daily mundane activity like grocery shopping or sorting laundry.
The cruiser nudged gently against the dock. Tempest's gaze followed a set of wooden zigzagged ramps that led to a narrow break in the bronze wall, which in turn opened to steep steps dug into the mountain's side.
Tempest shifted in her high heels, her feet already sore. "We have to climb to the top?"
"Of course not!" With a harrumph, Aphrodite snapped her fingers.
Tempest blinked. Her head reeled as her mind comprehended the wide span of the harbor, now open below, the yacht reduced to a toy boat, the harbor resembling a bathtub. The goddess, a miniature doll from where she stood on deck, waved and blew a kiss, and then the yacht slowly pulled away from the dock.
"What? No!" Tempest pleaded, certain the goddess could still hear her. Helpless, she watched from on high as the boat veered back toward the passage strait.
Clutching her backpack, Tempest swallowed the lump in her throat. Swaying on her heels, she pivoted and faced the door, carved of thick oak, the wood etched in an intricate floral pattern. She started to use the large brass knocker, then noted and tried the doorbell rope instead. The muffled sound of a gong reverberated from somewhere deep within the house.
A few moments passed as Tempest patiently waited. The door creaked, and Tempest found herself greeted by an elderly gentleman, his stern face framed with silver waves of hair and a neatly-trimmed mustache of white. He wore a simple suit of black.
Was this Aeolus? While the man looked to be around the age she had placed the Wind Keeper, somehow she had thought he would be taller and would look more...
Greek. Kingly. Godlike.
"Buon giorno, signorina," the gentleman said with a bow, his manner crisp but his Italian smooth. He reached out and took her backpack, holding the battered bag at arm's length with a look of distaste. "Step this way, per favore."
"Grazie," she thanked him, realizing the man must be a steward. Of course, a god who lived in an enormous home would have servants. Wholly out of her element, Tempest took a deep breath and crossed the threshold.
** Copyright 2007 by Katrina Strauss
Windswept is available via the following formats and venues:
Print or digital anthology Love's Immortal Pantheon, vol 2: