ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: Sharing of this story is suggested, encouraged and applauded, but the author’s name IS NOT to be removed from it for any reason whatsoever. Please do not offer it for sale; it is a free read story for CJ England’s fans and designed only for those who are 18 and OLDER.
All characters in this story have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
“But something you no longer must worry about, my beautiful Ami.” Givré kissed her possessively. “I will never leave you again. This I promise you.”
“I love you so much, Givré.”
“Je t'aime, aussi, mon ange,” Givré answered hoarsely. “I will love you forever.”
“Get a room, you two,” teased Jordon just as Givré was about to kiss Amy again. “I’m sure we can spare you for a while.”
“See.” Givré gave Amy a wicked smile. “Did I not tell you? We can find one of those staterooms.”
“Hush, both of you.” Amy’s face was as red as the bows on the wreaths. “Or you’ll both get coal in your stockings.”
“So what about the big guy in the cowboy hat and the prissy looking blonde?” Dustin broke in, ignoring the banter. “She looks familiar. Who are they?”
Justin gave a snorting laugh. “Don’t you recognize her? That’s Melissa Barrows, star of that reality TV show, Your Life Is Mine.”
“Didn’t she do an episode where she was a call girl?” Heather’s voice was hushed.
“High class escort,” Lara corrected. “And she didn’t really…you know.”
“She’s got the best clothes,” Callie sighed. “I’ll bet that purse is a Dorlando.”
“Ladies, please.” Jordon shook his head. “Back to the matter at hand. Go on, Justin. Who’s the guy and how did he meet a celebrity like Barrows.”
“His name is Garth McKay and he’s the owner of one of the best Angus Cattle Ranches in Cedar City, Utah. But when his baby sister brought home a pregnant doe one day, he suddenly found himself running a goat farm as well.”
“I know where this is going.” Callie waved her hand like she was answering a question in school. “This is eight maids a milking, right?”
“Yup.” Justin grinned. “And Garth and Melissa met when the networks set it up so she would learn how to be a real milkmaid.”
“I bet that didn’t go over well.” Amy looked over at the very elegant celebrity. “I can’t see her doing any type of manual labor.”
“She couldn’t either,” agreed Justin, “and she let everyone know it, too. And not very politely. But Garth didn’t care about her image or her name. He just wanted to teach her how to be a milkmaid so she’d get out of his hair.”
“It sounds like they hated each other,” Favor murmured. “It’s a hard thing, that is.”
“Palesa,” Keeton soothed as he tucked her in close to his heart. “It’s not the same thing, love.”
“I think it was more mutual attraction they covered by sniping at each other.” Justin inclined his head as the man in question tipped his cowboy hat in greeting. “And once they realized it…well, let’s just say they went for a roll in the hay.”
Everyone laughed at his phrasing.
“So Melissa learned how to milk and they fell in love.” Lara looked up at her husband. “And that completes CJ’s part of the anthology?”
Justin nodded. “Yeah. For now. But she plans to do short stories for the other days of Christmas and then republish them in a complete Twelve Days of Christmas Anthology. But that won’t be for a couple years.”
“Twelve stories? All by CJ?” Heather said thoughtfully. “I’ll look forward to that re-release.”
“And that’s it.” Justin looked around the room. “That’s all her available books. The people here tonight are characters from all the books she has published right now.”
Keeton looked around. “But aren’t there more? I mean, I thought there were other characters from books that have been published. Where are they?”
“Yeah,” agreed Dustin. “I remember an angel falling in love with a demon, an Olympian god trying to grant the wish of a blind author, and two couples from down in Key Largo dealing with diving and treasure.”
“And weren’t there a couple of other series as well?” Jordon put in. “I know I heard of a couple of science fiction-fantasy books that were the first in a group of novels. One was a trilogy set on another planet. It’s about women being raised from birth to be tokens of peace and used as barter between races. It’s a nod to the TV series, Star Trek because it features an Empathic Metamorph.”
“Another empath?” Amy’s eyes widened.
Callie giggled. “Well, since CJ has some empathic abilities, she likes writing about them.”
“And the other series,” Jordon went on, ignoring the byplay, “is set on an alternative earth where those with psychic powers are feared and sometimes destroyed. But a family leads a rebellion against the shadowy agency trying to control them and finds love along the way.”
“I’m so glad I can read,” Favor sighed. “They all sound so interesting. But where are they now?”
“They’re still around.” Justin took a glass of champagne from a passing server. “CJ is looking for the right publisher for their re-releases. She’s really picky about who we belong to.”
“When CJ called to set this all up—” Lara stole Justin’s glass and took a sip of her husband’s champagne, “—she told me she’s got five other stories ready to be submitted. Three are stand alones and two are the beginnings of new series.”
“Did she give you the hint?” questioned Givré. “What are they about?”
Lara smiled. “A little of everything. The stand alones include a contemporary about a good girl who falls for a bad boy, a paranormal about a pair of vampires who find their soulmates in an extraordinary magical way and an incubus who finds the one woman who can see though his evil nature and find the good within.”
Amy shook her head. “Wow. CJ dreams such amazing dreams. What about the two series?”
“The first one features a kind of shapeshifter who can shift into any creature he chooses. When the hero meets a woman who can talk to animals, a long awaited prophecy comes to fruition.” Lara took another sip of Justin’s champagne, and exasperated, her husband waved down a waiter to get a second glass for himself.
“And the second series is one of her hottest yet. Literally. It takes place on Mayall II, a planet with extremely high temperatures. It’s about a beautiful judge who falls madly in love with a crime lord and when he’s falsely accused of a Jack the Ripper type murder, she has to keep their relationship secret while trying to clear his name.”
“Those both sound great,” Callie sighed. “I can’t wait to read them.”
“CJ told me once she has so many ideas, she doesn’t know what to do with them,” Favor offered. “She says her To Be Written file is so full she often wishes she could split herself in two so she could get them all done.”
“As it is, she thinks she’ll be writing until she’s old and gray,” Amy added.
“Hell,” Dustin snorted, “if I know CJ, she’d stop the preacher from delivering the eulogy at her funeral just so she could finish writing whatever scene she was on.”
They all laughed. CJ was nothing if not tenacious. Nothing left her computer without her final approval and while her editors might despair of her perfectionism, her fans appreciated it.
“Well, I hope she finds homes for everyone soon,” Keeton said. “I’d like to meet a crime lord. And I have to admit being curious about an incubus.”
Callie grinned. “I’d like to meet that bad boy and find out just what makes him so bad.”
“Hey now,” Jordon protested, giving her a quick pinch. “If you want a bad boy, I can oblige just fine. You don’t need to go searching for one.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll meet some of them.” Justin stopped the argument before it started. “CJ told me she plans to have a Christmas party every year from now on, and all the new characters will be invited.”
“How cool!” Amy clapped her hands together. “Maybe we’ll have it in Aspen next year.”
“Or Nashville,” Heather said with a smile. “The Wildhorse Saloon does parties.”
“Knowing CJ,” Keeton muttered, “it could be in England, Singapore or all the way out in outer space.”
“It doesn’t matter where it is—” Favor elbowed her husband, “—this one has turned out to be so much fun.
“This is true,” Givré admitted, giving Amy a squeeze. “At first, I did not want to take the time away from my Ami and our story, but I have met many good people, and—” he grinned at Justin, “—made the sport with new friends.”
Dustin choked back a laugh as Justin looked pained. Amy giggled. “I think you meant you watched sports with new friends.”
Givré frowned. “There is the différence?”
Rolling his eyes, Jordon tossed back the rest of his champagne. “I think it’s time we all made a little sport. It’s almost midnight.” He handed Callie his empty glass and dropped a kiss on her smiling lips. Jumping back up on the stage, he lifted his brow. “You two with me?”
Quickly, Keeton and Dustin downed their own drinks and joined him. Keeton took his place at the piano, while Dustin picked up his guitar. Jordon did the same, but came forward to stand before the microphone.
“Hey all,” he said as he gave a little strum of his guitar to get everyone’s attention. “It’s almost midnight and I have a special toast for to give, so make sure you have a drink in your hands.” Jordon reached down and grabbed a fresh glass of champagne. Raising the glass he looked around the crowded salon of The Lucky Lady.
“Tonight we are all here to enjoy this wonderful holiday season and in a way to celebrate our lives. We exist because of the dreams and imagination of a wonderfully creative woman, CJ England. As you all know, CJ writes in quite a few different genres. We have contemporary stories—” he grinned and toasted himself and his fellow musicians, “—from Taipa, Macau to California to Nashville and all the way to New York City.”
Jordon met the eyes of Calion Sáralondë and nodded respectfully. “We’ve got some great fantasy stories featuring visiting royalty from beyond the faerie myst and beyond the sun. And fantasies closer to home about—” he raised his glass to Givré and then to Peter who still stood near the roulette table, “— some of our most beloved holiday characters.”
He turned and his gaze swept over the many paranormal characters, all who stood silently watching. “We have shapeshifters, Ethereals, witches, vampires, faerie, angels and demons. We even have the oldest being that has ever lived, one who was here when the world began.” Jordon raised his glass to Milcham Phoenix, who smiled and lifted his own in return.
“But no matter what CJ dreams, her characters can all be assured of one thing.” He glanced down at his wife and smiled that seductive smoky smile she loved so much. “We will fall in love and find the ones that complete us. No matter what we have to do. No matter where we are and what struggles we have, we know eventually we’ll have our Happily Ever After. Because that’s what true romance is. The meeting of two people destined to love each other forever.”
“Hear, hear,” Clint Braddock shouted. “No matter how many dead rats they get tossed at them.”
Everyone laughed as Gabrielle rolled her eyes and punched her lover lightly in the arm.
“And,” Jordon went on with a chuckle, “I have to admit, CJ has given us another special gift. One I know I didn’t expect. Through this party and other appearances together, we characters are all becoming friends. And—” he nodded at Justin and Lara, “—I just heard we’ll have a party every year at Christmas time just so we can get together and reminisce, as well as get to know those new characters we haven’t had a chance to meet yet.”
A resounding cheer filled the room. Even the Skyhawlks on the roof joined in with their loud rusty steam pipe screams. Once everyone quieted down, Jordon spoke again. “CJ often says the only books she keeps are ‘friend books’. Ones she loves to read over and over again. That means in her mind, those books—and of course, we’re included—are keepers, not just words on a page, but people she really cares about. And after meeting all of you tonight, I can understand why she thinks that way. I think we’re all something special, too.”
As everyone chuckled again, Jordon raised his glass. “So here’s to all of us. To the paranormals whose love has to navigate supernatural mysteries. To those fantasy heroes and heroines whose fantastical tales are hard to be imagined. To the science fiction characters whose romances are among the stars and beyond. And finally, to we contemporaries, who can take simple everyday life and make it extraordinary when we add love to the mix.”
“And to the Lady CJ!” Prince Calion announced, his deep voice rolling over the listening crowd. “After all, without her we would be nothing but dreams.”
“And to CJ.” Jordon nodded in response. “Someone none of us could do without.”
All glasses were raised high. “To CJ,” the room chorused.
Behind Jordon, Dustin did a quick riff on his guitar. Keeton followed up with a smooth fingering of the keys as he played the familiar melody of a song. Jordon’s smoky voice sang out the beautiful holiday words that spoke of love and friendship not only in the past, but in the present.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
Down below, Givré pulled Amy into his arms. “You see, mon ange,” he whispered. “It is as I have said. In the past, the present and in the future, the love…it is what truly matters.”
“CJ knows exactly what she’s doing, doesn’t she?” Amy snuggled closer into his strong arms. “In a sense, she’s writing her very own love story every time she picks up a pen. All she has to do is let her imagination flow.
“Oui.” Givré bent and kissed her gently. “She is one who has discovered the truth.”
Amy cocked her head. “And what truth is that?”
Givré smiled and his ebony eyes glowed with the magic of the Christmas season. “She understands that to find love you have only to follow your dreams.”
Anyway, as much as I love doing this FREE READ blog, it will have to go on hiatus for awhile as I move around the continents over the next couple months. Then I'll be back with the rest of my Nephilim story just for you.
Enjoy the new year and remember when you dream, dream big. Because as all my characters know, if you follow your dreams, they can come true!
Until we meet again...
Follow Your Dreams