Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yule Fire by Lena Austin

Yule Fire

Author: Lena Austin
Artist: Amanda Kelsey
ISBN: 978-1-60168-167-6
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Publication Date: 12/19/2008
Sexual Content: Erotic
Buy Link:
Belle is hiding her multi-millionaire preschooler from the press. Jacques is hiding his business dealings and playing the reluctant war hero Belle must host as a promo stunt for her magazine. All they both want is a quiet holiday season in each other’s arms, but not if Belle’s obnoxious boss has his way.  What are a witch and a war hero to do but become co-conspirators, determined to have a little food and fun with no strings attached? But Someone else has plans for them both that go beyond the holiday season.
She set out the perfect pink candles with the same care she'd used in making them. The symbology had to be as close to ideal as she could make it. Every drop of the precious rose and vanilla essential oils used was expensive in the extreme. There could be no waste.  
Her hand trembled as she lit the candles with a match. Her altar accoutrements were her best, all of the finest silver and crystal, passed down for generations. They glowed richly in the candlelight.  
She lifted her face to the moon, just visible, rising above the buildings of her apartment complex. "Lady Mother, you and the Lord know what is needed more than I."  
She bowed her head. "I'm a simple woman. I want my daughter and grandson to be happy. If that means someone out there is meant for them, I hope you'll take a hand so they meet."  
The old woman sat in her rocking chair, and stared into the flames of the candles until she felt sleep ready to claim her. Then, content that she'd done her best to ask for Divine help, she went to bed.  
* * * * 
"Hey, Jack! Give it up, man. You've had that issue of Weird magazine for three days now. Did you fail sharing in kindergarten?"  
Startled, Jacques looked up from where he was sprawled on his cot. T hree of his Marine tent mates, dirt and dust from their patrol covering their camouflage uniforms, stood over him. "What do you bozos care? T here's no naked women in this."
Staff Sgt. Smith, the squad leader, snatched the magazine from him. "Right now, I'm so bored I'm reading the UCMJ for the millionth time. Now that's bored.” He looked down at the page Jacques had been reading and whistled. "Wheeo! Oh, baby, who is the blonde? She could fuel a few fantasies."  
The others crowded to look over his shoulder, making catcalls and wolfish howls. 
Jacques sighed and didn't try to get the magazine back. It wasn't worth it. "She's Belinda Hawthorne, the editor. She was at that convention I went to almost six months ago. Just do me a favor and don't tear her out, please? I was at the convention and..."  
"You met this dish? Dayum! I didn't get so lucky.” Lance Corporal Roberts was almost drooling on his combat boots. His case of Georgia mushmouth always got worse when the blood wasn't moving to his brain.  
"Makes me want to attend one of those Star Trek conventions in my hometown.” Sgt. Smith rattled the magazine roughly as he turned a page. "I'd put up with listening to folks who believed in this shit to meet her."  
Jacques nodded his agreement. No sense in explaining science fiction versus pagan religion to these fellows who hadn't seen a woman not wearing a uniform or burqa in months. All they cared about was getting the job done here in Afghanistan and going home. Reminders of home were precious. "I didn't talk to her, but her speech was informative. She was tres belle."  
"Will you stop with the fancy French expressions, you fucking coon-ass? Can't you just say she's gorgeous like the rest of us?” PFC Washington stormed out of the tent.  
Sgt. Smith cleared his throat. "Sorry 'bout that, Petty Officer LaPorte. I'll speak to him."  
Jacques shrugged and refused to acknowledge the old scars of prejudice. "I'm used to it, Sarge. Washington is from Baton Rouge , and I am from Breaux Bridge . You can't erase the prejudices of tradition. I'm a Cajun, and that's that. He'd only stop doing it in front of your face."  
Roberts shuffled his feet. "Ain't all the South that treats Cajuns bad, Jack, even if I can't pronounce your name right.” He threw a murderous look out the tent flap. "Would serve him right if he gets wounded and you sorta forgot to patch him up.” He flexed his right arm, where Jacques had bandaged a small shrapnel cut the day before.  
"I'm still going to write him up.” Sgt. Smith grinned wolfishly, his reddened eyes making him look a little like a rabid dog. He passed the magazine to the men. "Reminds me. We've got an embedded photojournalist coming in. Jack, I'm gluing him to your side for your patrol tomorrow. Just a little goodwill mission to that village we were at today. Food, candy for the kids, and a little medical care. Elders are friendly."  
Jacques leapt off the bed and lifted his medical kit from under his cot. "I'll take good care of him, Sarge. Would you mind authorizing a few extra bandages, just in case?"  
The next morning, Jacques put the extra supplies to good use on a small boy wounded in the arm when a homemade bomb went off just after the patrol passed safely out of range. The kid's face was still smeared with the remains of a chocolate bar, as well as his own blood.  
The photographer, Alan Richter, had finally put away his video camera. Now he clicked away with a still camera covered in dust as he captured the chaos for his news agency.  
Jacques looked in the worried, tearful eyes of the mother, and gave her an encouraging smile. He'd learned she spoke a smattering of French, which was helpful because his Pashto was worse than rudimentary. He muttered to the little boy that he was sorry he had to hurt him. "Ahmed will be fine, Madame. I will be back in three days to change his bandages."  
The woman nodded bravely and gathered her son in her arms. Her soft voice was barely audible over the screams of others needing his assistance. "May the blessings of Allah be upon you, Monsieur.” She disappeared from the doorway of tent carrying the boy.  
Jacques packed up his supplies and stood, still crouching against unseen but audible gunfire. Two locals carried in a stretcher and set it down close by. Jacques sighed. Yet another civilian man lay still and silent only about thirty feet away, waiting for triage, the medical assessment of his life or death.  
Alan Richter wandered toward the new victim, his auto-winder whirring as it tried to keep up with his continuous documentation.  
 Jacques noted the dried blood on the civilian victim's clothes. This was an old body, not a new casualty. The loose trailing scarf of his lungee headgear covered his ashen face. Why would someone cover his airway? He glanced around to locate the men who'd brought the body to triage.  
Where were they?  
Jacques' heartbeat quickened. Even the most inexperienced medic wouldn't pack a wound that clumsily. The combination of some common and some sixth sense, warned him of the trap. He screamed, "Get down!" and instinctively dove for Alan, catching him and bearing him down to the ground. The bomb beneath the body exploded with deafening force. Pain ripped through Jacques' left thigh.  
The photographer lay boneless beneath him, but his chest rose and fell with gasping breaths. He struggled out from under Jacques, every movement sending new waves of agony through Jacques' body. "Fuck me! You're hit!"  
Jacques managed to raise himself on one elbow despite the dancing lights that threatened unconsciousness. He gazed down on his own gaping wound. Something was odd about the shredded remains of his pants leg, as if something else remained. "No shit. My bag. Find my medical bag."  
Alan crawled over to the bag with the Red Cross clearly emblazoned on the front. "Got it.” He crab-walked back. "Here."  
The fluttering remains of a blood-soaked paper caught Jacques' eye. Understanding dawned, and he reached into the flap of his pants where his thigh pocket had been. Despite the pain it caused, he drew out what was left of his magazine. Beautiful blue eyes looked back at him from the page where he'd read last, the only part not soaked in his blood. "Looks like you saved me, Belinda Hawthorne." 
"What?” Alan looked down. "Weird magazine, huh? You think it slowed the shrapnel?” He reached for the camera, still miraculously looped around his neck. 
The metal shrapnel piece dripping with his blood fell out of the pages. Jacques watched it hit the ground. "Yeah.” He reached inside his bag for bandaging, but the agony sang a newer more powerful song. He passed out.

"Write Drunk..., Edit Sober..." Ernest Hemingway
Lena Austin

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