Wishing you a Very Merry Solstice, Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dark Moon Intentions

On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, we will experience the darkest night of the month. I celebrate the Dark Moon each month either by myself or with a small group of friends. Because the Dark Moon signals a shift in the Moon’s energy, it is a perfect time to align focus, goals, and intentions with the night’s light. And that's what we do, share our focus, goals, intentions, what we want to achieve between the Dark Moon in January until the Dark Moon in February (which happens to be February 15).

In my home I’ve small windows on either side of the fireplace. When sitting on my couch I can see out the windows and watch the moon traverse the night sky. This is especially spectacular when the moon is full. But when it is close to as well as on the Dark Moon, the sky remains dark.

It was on one of those evenings when I was sitting on my couch watching the light from the Full Moon first appear and then grow brighter until I could see Grandmother Moon framed within  my living room windows that the inspiration for a story came to me. In fact when you read Grandmother Moon,you will see what I see from my very own couch. I doubt you’ll be surprises to learn that writing the setting in that story came fairly easy.

Where do you find inspiration?

FYI: You can find “Grandmother Moon” in the anthology Love & Magick. Included in the anthology are short stories by Sarah Raplee and Diana McCollum.


Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series at JudithAshleyRomance.com

Follow Judith on Twitter: JudithAshley19

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB! 


© 2018 Judith Ashley

Monday, January 8, 2018

Secret Messaging

If you are involved in social media, you most likely know that capital letters are indicators that you are shouting and exclamation points frowned upon also.

If you’re read my Romancing The Genre posts as well as the ones I write for this blog, it is highly likely you’ve seen me end a sentence or phrase with three exclamation points.

Just so you know, when I use three exclamation points I’m sharing the following power of three.

Usually they reference Maiden, Mother Crone.

Four exclamation points? East, South, West, North. The four directions.

I like ending written communication with people with the phrase

“In love and light,” To me, the world would be a better place for everyone and everything if we were bathed in the light of love as our major religions and spiritual practices suggest.

Or sometimes I end with a simple prayer such as

“Sending love, light and hugs your way!!!” Because I do believe, as I stated above, that we all do better if we are surrounded by the light of love and have our daily dose of hugs.


How do you send secret messages to others?

And I’m still in the process of creating a new look. It could be February before I invite you to check it out. I’m excited to be working with Christy Keerins who is creating professional looking graphics for The Sacred Women’s Circle series. I’ll certainly share those when they are available in a week or so.

In the meantime, you can still sign up for my email list and download your free digital copy of Lily: The Dragon and The Great Horned Owl. Lily is the first book in The Sacred Women’s Circle series.

Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series at JudithAshleyRomance.com

Follow Judith on Twitter: JudithAshley19

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB! 


© 2018 Judith Ashley

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!!!



Happy New Year!!!



May your 2018 be a year full of love, laughter, joy, health and happiness.
May your days be filled with inspiration and gratitude.
May your dreams become your reality.
I’ll be making changes to this blog and my website during 2018 so stay tuned!
During the first quarter of 2018, my plan is to publish “Visions of Happiness” a spin-off of “Lily: The Dragon and The Great Horned Owl” the first book in The Sacred Women’s Circle series.
I’ve also written a non-fiction book “Staying Sane in a Crazy World.” It still needs some work and a cover, etc. but it is doable to have this book also published in the first quarter.
Last but not least I will start another non-fiction book “Love, Power, Fun and Freedom: How To Get More.” In the early 1980’s, I created a workshop based on my training and work with The William Glasser Institute. This book is an updated version of that program. I don’t know that it will be published in the first quarter but my plan is to have the first draft completed.

Sign up here to be on my mailing list. I do not spam or inundate you with ‘buy my books’ but I will share with you my progress and updates in other areas of my life.



In love and light,

Judith

Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series at JudithAshleyRomance.com

Follow Judith on Twitter: JudithAshley19

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB! 


Monday, December 25, 2017

The Turn of The Wheel

Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women's Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual traditions that nurture the soul.

For those of us who look upon the natural world around us as proof of The Divine, Winter Solstice is an affirmation that on some level all is right in the world. In ancient times, the people were connected to the land in a way that most of today’s population is not.

Can you even imagine being so in tuned with the world around you that you would notice the difference in the amount of light there was between the Darkest Day and the next?

There were no clocks, no calendars in the day of the hunter/gatherers or earlier.

And yet our ancestors learned how to mark the passage of time.

Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of our year. For me, personally, it is my New Year’s Eve because it heralds the returning of the light.

If you follow the waxing and waning of the Moon, Winter Solstice starts the waxing of the Sun that represents light. From now until Summer Solstice, the Sun gains in strength. On the Summer Solstice that starts to wane as darkness becomes more a part of our lives.

One of the things that fascinates me is how our ancestors kept track.

Stonehenge and other stone and wood henges, The Great Pyramids of Egypt and pyramids and ancient temples are aligned with the stars, planets and the position of the sun and moon on particular times of the year like the Solstices and Equinoxes.

And when the Judeo-Christian religions took hold and grew, many of the traditions from earth-based traditions were incorporated. There are several books on the subject if you are interested in learning more.

For those people who celebrate life, Winter Solstice gives them a focus.

For those people who have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) it is a sign the days will lengthen and we’ll be out of winter soon.

For those people who prefer heat to cold, it reminds them that Spring/Ostara, the vernal equinox, when day and night are equal in length, and flowers are not far away.

In my Sacred Women’s Circle series, my heroines celebrate the 8 Sabbats, holy days that mark the turning of The Wheel of Life (Samhain, Winter Solstice/Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Summer Solstice/Lithia, Lammas, and Mabon). And, they each marry on a Sabbat.

Regardless of your spiritual path, I wish you all the light you need to show you the way to love.


To learn more about Sacred Women Circles, read my books. Start with Lily: The Dragon and The Great Horned Owl. In Lily, you can learn how to create your own Circle and your own Ceremonies.

Your free copy of Lily: The Dragon and The Great Horned Owl is waiting for you.

Go to JudithAshleyRomance.com and sign up for my occasional newsletter “Connections.”

Follow the prompts to download your own digital copy of the first book in The Sacred Women’s Circle series. While there, check out The Women to learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series.

Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series on my website.


Follow me on Twitter: @JudithAshley19

I’m also on Facebook

© 2017 Judith Ashley


Monday, December 18, 2017

Sharing a chapter from Diana

There is at least once in our lives a time when we come to a crossroad, a defining moment to change ourselves and our future. Diana has reached that moment. A moment of true conflict. If she stays in her loveless marriage, her envy and jealousy will destroy her relationships with The Circle. If she leaves, she faces a crisis in her own life of another kind. She has lived virtually all of her forty years as a reflection of what someone else wants her to be. Who is she? The real Diana? Finding the answers to that question starts with admitting the truth about her life now.

Kinslow, Ireland


Winter Solstice

Diana Pettybone sank onto the wide stone window sill at The Manor, the castle-like home of her friend and circle sister, Elizabeth. Outside the winter sun shone brightly, its rays streaming in the mullioned glass. It was a beautiful day for a wedding, but a disastrous day for her marriage.

Her tears drenched the silk robe pulled tight. She shook with silent sobs, her broken breathing the only sound. Shivering, she shifted, set her feet on the sill, her arms clutched her knees as she rocked slowly like a winding down pendulum, lost in a world of darkness. The clock on the mantle chimed the hour, the sun’s rays flashed through the window like shafts of lightning.

Her rocking eased, her tears slowed. Diana leaned her forehead against the glass, her gaze unseeing. She was hollow inside but not empty. The echoes of her envious, jealous, covetous thoughts feeding the self-loathing oozed into every cell as she searching for answers.

There were none.

Or perhaps she was blind.

Emotional exhaustion did that; immobilized the brain. Hers seemed unable to quit its painful thoughts, unable to give her any peace.

She hated the words that flashed through her mind, the envy that ate at her heart, the jealousy that sucked up her energy, the covetousness that stabbed at her soul. What else could she do other than what she’d been doing?

Every alternative had its own pain.

She rubbed her forehead against the cool glass, trying to ease the pounding in her head, to wipe the jealousy from her mind.

It did not work.

Instead she found shivers of emotion striking like lightning; the hated words an endless tape in her mind.

The clock on the mantle chimed the half hour. Diana sat on the stone sill, in this small sitting room in her friend’s home, her head bowed in futile repentance. A knock on the door, a voice calling to her; in her misery she did not answer. How can I face the woman on the other side of the door?

The clock on the mantle chimed the hour. Too exhausted to cry or rock, Diana stilled, leaned back against the window’s casing, prepared to face her personal nightmare; she’d be left with nothing if she didn’t find a way out of this morass. I’ll lose my best friends, my sacred women’s circle, if I don’t find the way out of my loveless, toxic marriage.

The idea of leaving had been on her mind a dozen maybe even a hundred times—but she stayed.

It was her choice, therefore her fault she remained with Dennis. A dark, humorless chuckle escaped as she reviewed the remnants of her reasoning.

No one in my family ever divorced. What a scandal that would be, especially when my parents had warned Dennis was not worthy of me. How ironic since I was and still am the daughter who never did anything right. And Bill? He needed - still needs a father, doesn’t he? Lastly I was raised in the Catholic Church and taught divorce was not an option.

Diana sat, her arms now wrapped around her knees, her eyes gritty from tears. Although bathed in the rays of the sun, her desolation wrapped her in darkness. Her head thundered, sparks of a sharper pain skittered across her scalp. Bands of steel in her shoulders and neck spasms added their unrelenting hold to her suffering.

She rolled her neck and shoulders, willing the stiffness away. I have to find a way, a way past this all-encompassing despair, this resentment so strong it’s only a matter of time before it consumes me and everything, everyone I love is lost.

It wasn’t just her circle sister Elizabeth’s wedding this morning that sparked her misery. Lily, the first in The Circle to marry, and her husband Jackson were celebrating their six-month anniversary today. Even after six months, their joy easily matched that of the newly-weds, Elizabeth and Michael. Since her arrival ten days ago and especially since Dennis’s three days ago, she’d had no relief. No relief from seeing their joy, no place to evade their happiness. Day in and day out she’d been faced with the reality of her marriage: empty, loveless, painful and more than that, toxic.

Once again she asked the questions that seemed to have no answer.
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I have a loving marriage?”

Diana slowed her breathing and consciously challenged her physical and emotional exhaustion. I want to move past this debilitating pain and incapacitating fear. She breathed deeply, a cleansing breath, breathed a second and yet a third time. If I want my life different, I must act and act now while I have this window of time to think, to choose, to plan. Her heart raced.

Anticipation? Dread? She didn’t know.

Slipping off the sill, she braced her arms on the stone ledge and waited for her legs to stiffen. Her attention focused on the small sitting room that had become her sanctuary, her haven. Restless, she paced around the room, blew out a guttering candle, and watched the thin spiral of smoke from the wick as it disappeared into the air leaving behind a trace of bayberry. Calmer now, she turned, taking in the details of the room. Her gaze paused on her Winter Solstice altar, on a stack of three books she was reading, and on the low table in front of the fireplace where her women’s circle’s Solstice gift lay: a starter set of Tarot cards.

Diana crossed the room to the chair by the fireplace, lifted the multi-hued green wool throw off the back and wrapped herself in its warmth in an effort to chase away the bone-deep cold, a residue from her storming emotions. Easing down to sit cross-legged on the rug in front of the hearth, she took the poker from the rack and stirred the embers. Bit-by-bit she added small pieces of kindling, blowing softly on the glowing light until the fire came back to life. Between the wool and the blaze the marrow of her bones warmed. She stared into the flames, blanking her mind in a short reprieve.

I have this small window of time to sort things out. Once home in Fremont my daily life, responsibilities, expectations, and Dennis will impinge upon my time.
It was dramatic to think now or never but those words rang clear, like a bell ringing in a pristine-dark night one can hear for long moments after it stops.

What do I want?
A loving, respectful marriage, a husband who is faithful to me, the passion Lily and Elizabeth have in their marriages, someone to look at me as if I am his world. I know what I want. So, what must change for me to have a loving, respectful, safe relationship in my life?

That was her question. Simple. Clearly stated.

The answer obvious.

Her husband, Dennis, was the main stumbling block to having the marriage she wanted. Yes, there were other issues: she just turned forty and finding someone else was daunting in and of itself; there were Bill and her parents; there was her Catholic upbringing. But in the end, being married to Dennis was the biggest obstacle.

Diana sat and watched the flames dance, their red, orange, and blue colors melding, flowing together.

One truth: Bill is gone. A sophomore in college he was building a life on the East Coast and it was time to let him go.

A second truth: I’m no longer Catholic. Over eight years ago she’d joined this women’s circle. Together they had crafted a spirituality with a foundation built on the “old ways” of earth-based religions. Their ceremonies brought peace and joy to her heart. Lily, a member of her women’s circle and one of her closest friends, saw today as the beginning of a new year. As a rule in pagan traditions, it was Samhain. I haven’t really thought about it, even after all this time, but maybe Winter Solstice is a new beginning for me, too.

A third truth: My parents, even now in their seventies, will surely criticize me if I leave Dennis whether by separation or divorce. But it would be nothing new. When have they ever praised me, been please with me, approved? I can’t remember a time. Her posture slumped. Their disapproval is still painful. Determination straightened her spine. While their disapproval is still painful, Dennis’s on-going infidelities are intolerable.

The Deck I Used
Diana stood and looked around the room seeing the light from the sun make mullioned window patterns on the dark carpet, seeing the flickering from the fire dance on the walls, seeing The Tarot cards beckon to her.

In her circle, Hunter, Sophia, and Gabriella used The Tarot cards regularly and even Lily, Elizabeth, and Ashley used other kinds of divination cards. She participated in group readings but had never attempted her own reading. Until this gift she’d not even owned a deck. As a beginner, she appreciated the meanings were printed on each card to help a novice discern more easily what the cards were saying.

I know the basics: have a question in mind and concentrate on it as I shuffle the deck, and lay out the cards. What would it hurt? It would be doing something different. Actually for me it would be doing something very different. She smiled as tingles of excitement skittered across her skin.

Diana padded to the table and sat facing the fire. The cards like a siren, called her to take a chance, to dash herself on the rocks in order to break free, to find a new way forward. She reached behind her for a pillow off the couch and tucked it under her. Her fingers slipped around the box drawing it closer. As she opened it and took out the deck, wisps of anticipation snaked up her spine.

I have to have a question. Her brow furrowed in thought. The feelings of anticipation evaporated; hopelessness slithered in. This is so dumb. What am I doing? She started to put the cards back in the box.

A knock on the door.

Dennis’s voice snarled, “I know you’re in there, Diana. What the hell are you doing?”

The door knob rattled as he tried to push his way in. She sat in silence unwilling to acknowledge him. Her heart pounded, her hands dampened, her breath locked in her lungs.

“You’ll pay for this little escapade! Oh, hi there, Montgomery.”

Diana marveled at how quickly Dennis could flip the switch and change. His bonhomie was evident in his tone as he engaged Jackson. She heard Jackson’s deep voice but he was too far away from the door to make out his words.

“Just checking on Diana. Nothing to worry about, I can assure you.”

She listened as Dennis’s now jovial voice dimmed, signaling he was moving away. Her heart slowed, she wiped her hands on the throw, her lungs gasped for air.

Her hands shook as she put the cards back on the table and took a deep breath.
I want my life to be different, to have a man who loves me, respects me, and is faithful. Show me the way.

Her hands grappled with shuffling the new deck of cards. Show me the way.

Her hands grasped the cards more confidently as she shuffled them a second time. Show me the way.

Her hands easily shuffled them a third time as she chanted under her breath, “Show me the way.”

Judith is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual practices that nourish the soul and celebrates the journey from relationship to romance.
Your free copy of Lily: The Dragon and The Great Horned Owl is waiting for you.
Go to JudithAshleyRomance.com and sign up for my occasional newsletter “Connections.” 

Follow the prompts to download your own digital copy of the first book in The Sacred Women’s Circle series.


Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series at JudithAshleyRomance.com

Follow Judith on Twitter: JudithAshley19

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB! 


© Excerpt from Diana 2014 - Judith Ashley

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Favorite Scene from "Elizabeth"

Judith is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual practices that nourish the soul and celebrates the journey from relationship to romance.
I’m doing something a bit different this month by sharing favorite scenes from at least the first two books in the series Lily and Elizabeth. Last week, my favorite scene from the New Year’s Eve chapter was published. Today I’m sharing part of Sacred Space chapter. Let me know what you think and if you’d like to see this a regular feature!

Elizabeth is in Ireland and Michael’s stud farm. They have had a falling out and these are the first steps in finding their way back to each other.


Michael was hot, tired, and dirty when he came through the kitchen door. He’d mucked out stalls, hauled hay and bags of oats, and worked his horses all in an effort to forget the beguiling woman in his house. It’d been three days since he found Elizabeth unconscious, since his heart stopped, since his confrontation with The Lady.

Although She’d been quiet, he knew better than to think She’d given up. She was biding her time, waiting for the right time to come forth again. She was the spirit of this place, as old as time. She was energy manifested in the ancient blue robe of the sacred feminine, the Goddess. No, he was certain She hadn’t given up.

From the kitchen he strode down the hall to the back stairs leading up to his quarters. He desperately needed a shower, clean clothes and something to eat - in that order. Thirty minutes later he was showered, shaved, dressed, descending the main staircase for the last item on his list: to satisfy his hunger.

He noticed something different about the place, as he moved down the main staircase the tips of his fingers trailing along the smooth finish of the banister. Before he could identify what that difference was he heard Elizabeth singing.
“She’s been waiting … .”

The purity of her sweet voice, the words of the old song held Michael transfixed.
“ … to return.”

Michael remained standing on the bottom step listening to the words of a song he’d not heard in over a year, not since Shannon had left.

“ … alone.” She drew out the last word, her voice caressing the last note.
Silence.

Michael stood in the stillness, his heart beating rapidly. What if we … “No,” he muttered harshly to himself. “No,” he cursed under his breath. He stepped down the final riser to the tiled floor, his boots echoing in the large hall.

She was standing in the doorway to the front parlor, her hair tied back in a blue ribbon he was sure matched the blue of her eyes. A long dark blue skirt swirled around her bare ankles. Even though her hair was tied back, strands had escaped. Fascinated he watched her hand brush the inky tangles away, tuck them behind her ears. The indifference he’d managed the past three days, that is once the panic had dissipated and he knew she’d recover, dissolved in a rush of unrequited lust. His blood surged, his arousal stiffen.

A look of uncertainty marred her features, hesitancy her movements. She’s changed, flashed through his mind, but he couldn’t put his finger on how she was different. He stood staring at this woman, realizing he cared for her not just about her, cared far more than he wanted to. Hell and damnation. Now what, boyo?
Elizabeth’s senses were caressed by the sandalwood scent wafting across the space. His blue-black hair, still damp from his shower, showed the ridges where he’d combed it. To her, he looked spectacular: tall, dark, and handsome as sin.
Outwardly she remained still under his unrepentant gaze, inwardly a cascade of nerves sizzled. Her gaze steadfast, she straightened her spine, lifted her chin, and took a few steps away from the doorway.

“Hi, Michael, how was your day? How is Brian Boru?” Elizabeth said her voice not as soothing as she’d hoped. Her heart fluttered, her face flushed with heat, and her palms dampened.

From the moment she’d been aware of his presence, Elizabeth had scrutinized his every move and saw the subtle signs of his nervousness. Smiling, she stopped a few feet in front of him.

Michael was mesmerized by her gently swaying hips, her bare feet gliding over the floor. Her scent of bergamot and the indefinable something surrounded him, filled his senses. Her mouth, those luscious warm kissable lips were moving, were saying something. He shook his head.

“…mind, Michael. I can take them down, if you do.”

He cleared his throat, ran his tongue inside his now very dry mouth, “Sorry, Elizabeth, I didn’t catch all that you were saying.” His mouth stretched in a caricature of a smile.

“I was saying that if you mind, I’ll take the altars down. I put one up here,” she said and gestured to the table to his right, “and one is now in the front parlor. I wanted something to do and thought of creating a specific point of sacredness within each room. Would you like to see them before you make up your mind?”

At his terse nod, she moved to stand by the main hall altar. “As your life here at The Manor revolves around horses, I used them on this altar.

As you can see, I put the bronze of the foal in the East as that direction represents new beginnings, spring, birth. The mare is in the South to stand for abundance. I put the jumper in the West as that is the void and from the meets, I now know that the jumper doesn’t know what is on the other side of the jump. It’s like they are jumping into the void and it is their trust of the rider that allows this miracle to happen. I’m not sure what the significance is of the stallion in the North. It was the only place left so I just trusted that it was the right place for him to be.”

“Suleiman.” Michael reached out to stroke the bronze stallion reared on its hind legs. “This is Suleiman, the stud that built this place, the ancestor of Brian Boru.”

“Then Suleiman is in the right place,” Elizabeth’s voice was soft, she touched his sleeve with her hand. “Are you all right with this altar, here, in this space, Michael?”

His voice wasn’t steady so he remained silent, looking at the altar she’d created from bronze statues, stones, and a crystal bowl. Energy flowed from it. Welcoming and powerful, like being at the races with his horses pounding down the course, straining with purpose for the finish line, focused on the love of running. Their beauty, grace, and power were like an aphrodisiac, beckoning him to indulge in the glory of the win, endorphins taking him higher into the light of joy.

His voice was brusque, “It’s fine where it is.” He started for the door to the hallway that led to the kitchens. “I’m hungry. I’m going to see what Seamus has for dinner.” He called back over his shoulder as he kept going, “Are you coming?”
***
Elizabeth remained by the altar. He’d been affected by it. The main clue was when he’d absent-mindedly stroked Suleiman. She pressed a hand to her unsettled stomach. I miss him more than I can say and I’ve not even left for Fremont. Catching herself up short she reminded herself this line of thinking wasn’t useful. I’m hungry and dinner is waiting. The right time to talk to him will present itself. She looked at the wall beyond which lay the Sacred Grove and The Lady. Trust The Lady. She brought you here for a purpose. Trust. “Trust,” she murmured and started after him.

Your free digital copy of the first four chapters of Elizabeth: The Lady and The Sacred Grove are available here.

Go to JudithAshleyRomance.com and sign up for my occasional newsletter “Connections.” 

Follow the prompts to download your own digital copy of Lily: The Dragon and The Great Horned Owl the first book in The Sacred Women’s Circle series.

Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series at JudithAshleyRomance.com

Follow Judith on Twitter: @JudithAshley19

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB!

© Excerpt from Elizabeth 2014 - Judith Ashley

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Favorite Scene from "Lily"

Judith is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual practices that nourish the soul and celebrates the journey from relationship to romance.
I’m doing something a bit different the next couple of Mondays by sharing favorite scenes from at least the first two books in the series Lily and Elizabeth.

We’ll see how it goes and maybe I’m make this a regular feature!

This is part of the chapter New Year’s Eve. Lily attends Jackson’s annual New Year’s Eve party to make sure his mother, Eleanor, doesn’t overdo. Jackson lured Lily under the mistletoe for an intoxicating kiss before the guests arrive.

The evening progressed with Jackson bringing friends over to introduce or reintroduce to Eleanor and he included Lily each time. A few of his friend asked her to dance and, at El-eanor’s insistence, she had. She was dancing a second time with Daniel, a slow number and with the number of people dancing, they were inching their way along, when she heard him curse.

“What’s wrong?” Lily strained to look around her but with the crush she could see nothing.

“I know for a fact, she wasn’t invited.” Daniel’s look was solemn, his tone serious.

And then through an opening of bodies Lily saw who he was referencing. Susannah had arrived and was now draped over Jackson. At least she’d describe it as draped. Was his arm around her? She couldn’t tell. Between the crowd of people and the ever-changing view as they moved slowly around the dance floor, she caught glimpses, bits and pieces but that was all.

A flash of heat blazed through her and for a moment she was under the mistletoe, locked in his embrace, her body melding with his. She stumbled, lurched against Daniel’s chest, and stepped on his feet.

“Don’t, Lily,” Daniel’s quiet voice was barely heard above the music and chatter. He squeezed her hand. “There’s nothing going on there. He hasn’t seen her since Thanksgiving. And I know for a fact, she wasn’t invited.”

Lily glanced over her shoulder at Jackson and Susannah. She saw Susannah’s arm around him, saw her reach up and kiss him. She couldn’t see if his arm was around her and she couldn’t tell if he kissed her back. Her stomach lurched and tightness crept through her body. All along she’d known she wasn’t Jackson Montgomery’s type. She gave herself a mental kick, reminding herself of her history of being drawn to men who were wrong for her.

However, as she and Daniel danced, her eyes seemed to move of their own accord, capturing vignettes of Susannah and Jackson. As the dance ended, she closed her eyes and immediately, on a visceral level, his lips were on hers, his arms encircled her body; their cocoon of heated energy swirled through her.

She opened her eyes and looked into Daniel’s concerned face. As he escorted her to Eleanor’s side he leaned toward her and whispered, “Don’t pay any attention to what’s going on over there.” He gestured with his head in the direction of Susannah’s loud, brittle laughter. “She doesn’t stand a chance against a class act like you.” He kissed her cheek and bent down to do the same to Eleanor.

“I’m the luckiest guy here with you two gorgeous gals for company.” He proved that he meant it because he lounged against the window and kept up a running chatter to distract the two women from the scene across the room. Every few minutes, Susannah’s shrill laughter pierced the air. After one particularly discordant sound, he leaned down toward Eleanor and pitched his voice low. “She’s been drinking. I’m going to see what I can do avert disaster.”

Lily and Eleanor had front row seats before the large flat screen television as the clock began striking midnight.

“One minute to go.” Eleanor’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “I love seeing the old year out and the New Year in.” She leaned over and confided to Lily, “every year I feel the power of turning away from the old and embracing the new.”

Suddenly their view of the screen was blocked. Jackson stood before them. Bending over he put his hand on the outside arm of Lily’s chair effectively blocking her from getting up. As the countdown continued he leaned closer to Eleanor, looking at her with such tenderness, saying softly that he was so glad she was with him here in Fremont. As the clock started to strike twelve, he kissed Eleanor on each cheek. His eyes shifted to Lily, his gazed heated and he straightened. While the clock still chimed, he wrapped his hands around hers and pulled her into his arms.

“And, I’m very glad you’re a part of my life,” he whispered as he bent to kiss her. This time it was soft and brief. Leaning back while not letting her go, he looked deeply into her eyes and then lowered his head for a kiss that was no longer soft and brief but hard and long.

Lily found herself clinging to Jackson’s broad shoulders, felt his strong arms holding her tightly, pulling her closer until there was nothing between them except fire burning deep inside. She clung to him and as he deepened the kiss, passion’s flame leapt within.

“Really, Jackson! How could you!” the shrill voice shrieked. “You bitch! You think you can get him by being nice to his Mommy? Well, I’ve got news for you!”

Jackson fought his way up from the drugging impact of Lily’s kiss. He turned, effectively blocking Lily from Susannah’s sight.

“Get out of my house, Susannah. Now,” he growled in an ice-tinged voice. When she just stood there, mouth open, star-ing at him, he pointed toward the door. “Now,” his frost-laden voice matched his frigid glare.

“You can’t mean that, Jackson. Surely you don’t mean you want me to leave.” Susannah tossed her head, her long burgundy-red hair swirling around her, an expression of disbelief etched on her features and mirrored in her leaf- green eyes. “You can’t be serious.”

She moved toward Jackson, a look of seduction on her face, her hips tilted at a suggestive angle, her voice a husky whisper. “Remember how it is between us, Jack-son? You know how much I can please you.”

“I want you out of my house, Susannah, now.” Jackson’s finger stabbed toward the door, his voice a dangerously low growl. “Now!” His jaw clenched as he visibly held back seething anger.

Daniel stepped forward, took Susannah by the arm and turned her toward the door. “Come on, Susannah. Let’s get out of here. We can find someplace else to party, someplace that’s not so stuffy.” He looked over his shoulder at Jackson and mouthed, “You owe me,” as he led a stunned and uncharacteristically silent Susannah out of the house.

Jackson turned and gathered Lily in his arms. “I’m so sorry, so sorry,” he whispered as he caressed her back and rained soft kisses in her hair. “She crashed, Lily. If I’d ever thought anything like this would’ve happened, I’d have kicked her out when she first showed up.”

“I’m all right, Jackson,” Lily murmured. His large hands ranged up and down her back leaving warmth and flickers of heat behind. “Really, I’m all right.”

And, those words were true, she was all right. So lost in their kiss it had taken a minute before she realized what was happening. Staring at his broad shoulders, hearing the steely determination in his voice as he ordered Susannah out of his house was truly a surreal experience. It had always been her job to protect, to put her body between danger and the vulnerable.

Safe and frightened. The strange mix of emotions churned through her. In that moment when he’d first taken her in his arms, she had felt safe, safer than she had for almost two decades — truly safe, and — it frightened her.

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© Excerpt from Lily 2014 - Judith Ashley