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A few days ago…
Thankful that I’d dressed for freezing conditions, I cast a look around the snow frosted landscape. I’d been waiting for Heather Rainier to arrive for the interview for the last several minutes.
The portal was right where she’d told me it would be, and my destination was obvious when I finally got up the guts to open my eyes. I’m not a fan of rollercoasters but that’s how the pit in my stomach felt for several minutes as I crossed the frozen ground and climbed the curving flights of steps leading to the castle. Even frozen, it was a beautiful sight, all capped with snow like frosting on a cake.
I admit to feeling a little cowardly about using the knocker on the massive front door without Heather at my side. She knew these guys…or at least knew they wouldn’t devour her on site. As a stranger showing up on their doorstep, would they show me the same consideration?
The unmistakable feline inquiry made me twirl around, the snow and slush crunching under my boots as I turned. An elegant, pristinely white cat perched on a wide baluster nearby. She sat there, Sphinx-like, as if she knew her greeting would startle me, the minx. She blinked eyes which were the color of violets and her ears twitched when an icy wind tossed her silky fur about.
She stood and stretched as I came close and reached out to stroke her. Hello there, kitty. You wouldn’t happen to know the occupants of this castle well, would you?
Purr-kitt, she replied, leaping into my arms and rubbing her chin against mine, as if she knew me already. She made herself comfortable in my arms and began to purr. The sound and deep vibration had a definite calming effect on me as I turned back to the door and eyed the knocker, a representation of the face of some ferocious beast. The thought of lifting it and knocking didn’t fill me with confidence. I really wanted to wait for Heather to arrive, since she’d set the interview up, but I was freezing my butt off, and surely the cat wanted inside, too.
As if in response, she meowed again. Her tone, not plaintive with cold, but instead reassuring, gave me the confidence to go for it. Later I could tell Heather, who must’ve gotten held up, that I’d taken her advice. Seize the day, baby!
Maybe it was my nerves, but the sound the knocker made against the beast’s face seemed to boom through the whole castle. Somewhere within the structure, a door slammed. The cat nonchalantly watched the door, while making biscuits on my arms. I took a deep breath. She had to live here and she looked really well cared for. Surely if they didn’t eat her they wouldn’t eat me.
The door was flung open. What— A shadow filled the door, like filled it to the top, and a frightening beast suddenly loomed out and spotted me. No, he definitely glowered at me. He had fangs. He yanked open the door farther, coming into the light, and revealing his huge clawed hands.
I did what any self-respecting sissy would do. I screamed. He winced, showing more of his fangs, and I screamed again, even louder. Beasts in theory are one thing. Beasts in reality are a whole different deal. Still screaming, I had enough presence of mind to notice that the cat rolled her beautiful violet eyes and leap into his arms.
He winced at my screaming, looking at me as if I was some crazy loon while clasping the cat to him. With a sigh, he looked at the cat and said, Fleur, one guest is all I can handle right now. This one looks like she enjoys talking, and I don’t want to talk to anyone.
Purrrrr-kitt, the cat replied, bounding to his shoulder so she could rub against the side of his head while she purred.
He looked at her with surprise. Heather sent her?
Rowr. She wacked him on the side of his head with her long tail. I had the impression she was telling him to get with the program.
Sorry, my manners, the beast said in a gravelly, almost painful sounding voice. Please come in… He lifted a brow expectantly.
Eniko. Pleased to…er…meet you. I extended my hand and he began to offer his, looked down at the claws, and put it behind his back. He tried to smile which only showed more fangs and then settled for bowing to me.
You may call me Bestiale, he said as he beckoned me into the dark shadows of his domain. Fleur’s purring eased my nerves as I walked into his lair. With a wave of his huge hand, candlewicks flamed to life in holders all about the huge entry hall.
My brother, Charmeur, Bestiale said, gesturing to another beast, just as huge, yanking a velvet and brocade coat into place on his massive torso, tugging gently at lace sleeve cuffs as he approached and gave me a courtly bow. Bestiale’s fur was a dark brown, and Charmeur’s was a lighter color. As he came into the light, I realized it was a deep auburn color.
I nearly giggled as Charmeur winked at me. This one was as huge as his brother, but Charmeur was every bit the pussy cat Heather had promised me he would be. If he’d answered the door, I wouldn’t have started this interview out with hysterics. And then he smiled. Okay, so I would probably have screamed, because fangs!
Charmeur is mute, so I will speak for him. Bestiale didn’t look happy about having to converse with a stranger twice as much as necessary. Charmeur pointed at her and rubbed his arms, as if indicating I must be cold, and reached for my coat. After he’d hung it with my hat and gloves on a coat tree nearby, he beckoned me with a gesture that was elegant and courtly, despite the presence of razor sharp claws.
As we entered a receiving room, I noticed that Bestiale was hurriedly tying the stock on his shirt, shredding it dreadfully with his claws, cursing beneath his breath until Charmeur knocked his hands away and made quick work of wrapping it and tying a loose knot. Was Bestiale nervous about talking to someone? A stranger?
I waved a hand. Please don’t go to any trouble because of me.
It is no trouble. We both just came in from…a run.
Yes. It helps…to run…sometimes. Please, have a seat near the fire. It will warm you. He cleared his throat. Mademoiselle Eniko—
Just Eniko, is fine… Bestiale. I know my arrival has caught you off guard. Heather was supposed to be here with me but something must’ve happened to delay her. She said she’d cleared this with Selena. I used one of her fae portals to get here.
A deep growl rumbled in Bestiale’s chest until Charmeur whacked him, cutting the scary sound off. He looked at his brother for several moments and then nodded. Selena failed to mention this to us. The fae enchantress is punishing—
A sudden draft whistled down the chimney, and blew sparks out of the fireplace, where they quickly faded to cinders. Charmeur’s furry brows shot up and he made a slashing motion across his throat with his clawed hands.
Bestiale nodded at him and then looked at me once more. Selena failed to mention your visit. We already have another visitor.
You do? I asked, excitedly, rising from my seat, but neither of them looked inclined to share my excitement. Can I meet her? Please?
Bestiale breathed deep and then let out a long sigh. I’m afraid she has locked herself in her room. She will not speak to us.
I glanced at Charmeur, and the last of my hesitancy or fear about interviewing them dissipated at the tender look of longing in his eyes, as he gazed toward the ceiling. But he looked sad, too, as he rested his chin in his clawed hand, and looked to us once more.
That seemed like the best place to start and I opened my notebook that contained my list of questions. Could you tell me about your visitor?
He hesitated and looked at Charmeur and Fleur, who crowded close to him. Finally he looked at me. Angel is beautiful. Her hair is a mass of wavy red locks. She smells very…good. And she has this way of looking at you…
Like she can see into your souls? I offered, letting my romantic side show a little.
No, well yes, I suppose.
But that’s not what you meant? I’m sorry. Please tell me?
She has this way of looking at you, and you know you’re in big trouble. We got that look right before we left for our run. Right before you arrived. He paused and then nodded and said, Charmeur hopes you didn’t have to wait long at the entry before I answered. You looked cold. We didn’t know you were here.
I shook my head, impressed by their thoughtfulness. I didn’t wait long. And the fire has already warmed me. So why is Angel mad at you?
Bestiale gazed at the fire and then said, She would like to go home but she can’t. And we can’t let her go. It’s not up to us—He glanced between Charmeur and Fleur who were leaning close to him and then finally said out loud. Stop talking at the same time! You’re making my head ache. I know! I know! Not you, he added to me. They were clamoring at me.”
I blinked wide. Clamoring? Then I remembered Heather had told me Charmeur and Fleur communicated telepathically with Bestiale, since neither could speak. And I remembered that she’d also said they might be limited in what they could say about certain subjects. Evidently that fae was having some fun at their expense. Sparks sprang up in the fireplace again and I decided to veer to safer subjects.
Where do you sleep?
We have chambers in the castle towers.
So you sleep in beds like men? Oh that came out way worse than I’d intended. I mean, you choose to sleep indoors rather than outside?
He didn’t seem to take any offense. The first few years, I didn’t care where I slept. Outside, inside, it was all the same endless torture of winter. But Fleur complained when I slept outside, saying it made me look wild, and that I’d never… Just suffice it to say she was afraid no one would want to have anything to do with me if I didn’t look at least modestly civilized. I suppose she was right. Angel would’ve been much more frightened of us if I’d confronted her with an unclothed and unkempt appearance. Of course, Charmeur, he said, indicating his brother, never gave in to the wildness. He’s much more conscious of his clothing and appearance, and his former humanity. He is more courtly than I am. Fleur has her own chamber but has fully embraced her feline nature and will nap in your lap if you let her, or anywhere else she has a mind to.
Do you sleep in night clothes?
Bestiale shook his head, showing no trace the question was too personal. I liked to ask such questions in interviews because you never knew what the interviewee would say, and sometimes it helped to break the ice or take the conversation in a fun direction. Such didn’t seem to be the case until I noticed Charmeur shake his head and then sweep his hands across his torso as he half reclined on the chaise he sat upon. He gave her a half shrug and winked at her. Of course he slept in the nude.
Then Bestiale said, Our fur is very thick and warm, so additional clothing is simply for effect. In the nude doesn’t feel like ‘in the nude’ when you’re covered in fur.
Interesting. What is your favorite color? Bestiale, you go first.
Bestiale paused and then said, A clear blue… He rubbed his callused thumb against the rough surface of his fingers as if searching for the right words. With just a tiny hint of green. The color of Angel’s eyes. It changes with her emotions, growing stormy and darker when she’s upset with us—with me.”
I wanted to reach out to him, to reassure him. I had a feeling Heather would work it out so he would see what Angel’s blue-green eyes looked like when she was happy as well.
I looked to Charmeur and Fleur. What about you?
The answer was almost instantaneous in coming, as Bestiale said, Red, the color of Angel’s hair. It is lovely and dark. We find red very appealing.
I’ll bet, I replied, feeling a faint blush cross my cheeks at the naughty smile on Charmeur’s face as he looked up at the ceiling again, before making eye contact with me. He held up his hand, and by magic, a rose at the peak of blooming sparkled to existence in his hand, the petals a lovely dark red with a hint of mahogany. He offered it to me and nodded when I took it. It was mine to keep.
How lovely. Thank you. It isn’t very often you’re offered a magical rose and I wasn’t about to turn him down. I carefully placed it beside me and scanned my list of questions.
I’d wanted to ask them what word best described them. Sitting with them now, their very names were self-explanatory, but some instinct pushed at me and I asked them anyway.
Bestiale took his time in answering and I was glad I asked when he said, Worried. Maybe resigned?
Could you elaborate?
Worried that not only is Angel mad at us right now, furious, in fact. I’m also worried that she may be trapped her with us for all eternity, through no fault of her own. And I’m resigned because I’ve accepted that we may be in these forms for all eternity. I see no way forward for any of us. Who could love this? he asked, holding up his hands and gesturing to his large and animalistic features. She is right to be fearful of us, especially me. I am socially inept, as you’ve probably guessed.
I shrugged. I don’t know about that. You do all right.
He gazed at his brother and then looked back at me. Evidently his brother had reminded him of his manners. Thank you for saying that.
Shared communication didn’t seem to take long, because a moment later he said, Charmeur asks me to tell you that he is hopeful. And Fleur … Fleur is a flirt.
Fleur’s response to his utterance was instantaneous, as she made biscuits on the leather of the coat he wore, a durable garment that would’ve been in fashion many years in the past. On him it still looked regal and manly, giving me a hint of the man he’d once been. Fleur purred loudly as she rubbed the side of her face against his furred cheek while wrapping her long tail around the back of his head.
She bids me to tell you she is also hopeful, because she’s going to pay Angel and visit, as if that would somehow do any good.
Purr-kitt! Oh ye of little faith!
Fleur jumped down and padded across the floor to me, rubbing her head against my calves before bounding from the room. I watched as she scampered down the hall to a large staircase and flitted up the steps. Maybe she could somehow coax Angel from her tower rooms. It would be cool to get to meet her but Bestiale said nothing about that.
What makes you laugh out loud?
He shook his head. I haven’t laughed in a very long time. There isn’t much to laugh at around here. Charmeur tapped his shoulder, gestured the fireplace, made an exploding motion with his hands, and then Bestiale gave a slight smile and nodded.
There was this one time I almost laughed, and Charmeur laughed so hard he gave me an ache in my head. Fleur didn’t find it funny at all.
She sat on the hearth one day, complaining for the millionth time that she was sick and tired of having to tongue bathe if she wanted to feel clean, because as a cat, she couldn’t stand getting her fur wet. Evidently, the fae heard her complaints and had grown tired of them, because stray sparks exploded from the fire, which she was sitting too close to, and the sparks landed on her tail and it caught fire. She hardly ever complains about her feline toilette these days.
Poor kitty! Did she recover? Wait, how did you know it was the fae that did it, and not just stray sparks?
Because she suffered no permanent damage or scarring. Her tail returned to normal within hours and she complained much less often after that.
What is your greatest fear? Living as a beast for eternity?
They both frowned and shook their heads in a negative fashion and though there were differences in their coloring, it was easy to see that they were brothers. Finally, after glancing at his brother, he held up his hands palm up, showing the rugged calluses, similar to what a leonine predator would have, along with the long, scary claws. We are most afraid of harming Angel, of giving her just cause to fear us. You must understand we would never willingly hurt her, but… He seemed to have trouble getting the words out and Charmeur caught my eye and bared his claws and gave me a mock ferocious expression.
I see. You wouldn’t want to harm her, but you still have the nature of a predator. Is that it?
Charmeur nodded solemnly for both of them and, hoping to lighten the mood, I asked, Do any of you have nicknames? The effect was a charming one as both beasts smiled, and I even heard a little rumble of amusement from Bestiale.
Gesturing to himself, he said, Growing up, my mother would call me Bête. Sometimes they call me by that name. I hope eventually Angel will feel comfortable with it as well. Angel has given Charmeur his own nickname. She calls him Char-moo. The French pronunciation of his given name is hard for her and I think she is self-conscious of her attempts to use it, so she teases sometimes and calls him Char-moo. And Fleur? Understandably, we have nicknamed her Cinder-tail which she finds incredibly irritating.
We spoke a while longer and then I spotted the question I’d saved for last. What one word best describes Angel?
It grew so quiet in the room all I could hear was the crackle of the fire and the occasional gust of wind against the leaded glass windows. It took longer to answer that question than any of the others, but Bestiale finally said, Determined. No, that’s not right. Strong? Powerful. She is all of those things.
One word, I pressed.
He looked to his brother and then looked at me and said, We are of one mind in this. He knows not only what I think but some of what I feel. He says she is everything. Every hope. Every fear. Every dream. With that said, his face relaxed, not exactly into a smile, but at least he seemed to be satisfied with that response. Charmeur nodded.
This question isn’t a part of the interview. I’m just curious. What will you do next?
Bestiale gave a half chuckle. Gesturing at his brother and himself, she said, The last time she saw us we’d lost our tempers with each other and were brawling, right out there, he said, pointing in the direction of the main corridor we’d entered through. She was quite angry at us for not being able to let her leave, which was justifiable, if not totally in our hands. Charmeur will continue in his campaign to charm her, and me? I will give her room to explore the castle. I will probably work in my greenhouse—
You have a greenhouse?
Yes. That is where the rose Charmeur gave you originated. It is the only thing that still grows here, amongst all of us thorns, he added with a wry smile. As I was saying, I will probably work out there and stay out of her way until perhaps she would be willing to spend time with us. And all the while, we will be hoping for assistance from the fae enchantress, Selena.
I had the feeling, even though Heather hadn’t said as much directly, that Selena was behind the current state of affairs in the castle, might possibly have even had something to do with why Heather hadn’t made it to the interview after all. Even so, I couldn’t doubt that Heather would make sure Bestiale, Charmeur, Angel, and even Fleur’s story turned out right in the end.
After I thanked them for taking the time with me, the two beasts invited me to stay for supper, saying that I would be most welcome. I wondered if perhaps they hoped Angel might come down out of curiosity, but I didn’t want to interfere in their plans to woo her, and I already had a date for supper planned, with a hot hero all my own.
I wished them luck at the door, and Bestiale bowed with a regal air. Charmeur took my hand and kissed it, tickling my knuckles with his fur while Fleur twined herself around my calves, wanting to be picked up.
I almost cancelled my plans just to stay a while longer, to soak up the old world charm, and experience the magic just a little longer. But then I remembered Heather’s admonishment. Saying my farewells once more, I returned to my own world, to seize the night and make a little magic of my own.
So, what do you think of my adventure?
You can find out how Bestiale, Angel, and Charmeur’s love story turns out when it releases on October 20, 2017 at BookStrand. Use the pre-order link to reserve your copy today. You can read an excerpt there too.
Cursed with a beastly appearance by a fae enchantress, Bestiale and Charmeur live a lonely, wintry life in exile until a spirited redhead bursts into their lives—right out of thin air.
Angel Hunter challenges them at every turn, determined to return to her home because she misses her friends and what little family she has left. Though she can’t deny the growing connection she shares with Bestial and Charmeur, she must refuse them.
With the help of their crafty little sister and a meddling fae enchantress, they plan to convince her that the Northern Kingdom of Tangere is the only home she could ever want.
When an evil from Angel’s former life finds his way to her new home, intent on her destruction, will the magic of her happily ever after prevail?
Beasts in Winter is book 1 in the Tangere Tales Series by Heather Rainier. As you might know I am a big fan of Ms. Rainier’s Divine Creek Ranch Series and I am so looking forward to venture in her new world. I hope you will join me too.
Book 2, Midnight of the Fae is releasing November 10, 2017
After discovering an odd little canine while exploring a cave, Caresse stumbles into a world where fae magic and shape shifters are commonplace. She even has her very own distractingly handsome faery bodyguard.
On notice that the queen will pick a bride for him if he won’t cooperate with her plans to become a grandmother, Prince Sebastien wants nothing to do with any of the debutantes his mother keeps pushing at him.
Sebastien’s fae cousin, Leandre has a bombshell of a secret. Her name is Caresse, he’s her faery bodyguard, and he loves her even though she’s meant for Sebastien. Caresse is unaware that she hasn’t just stumbled into the mystical Southern Kingdom of Tangere, she’s actually returned home.
A powerful bond develops between the three of them as she comes into her own unique powers, jeopardizing the plans of an old, malevolent enemy.
Book 3, Dance of the Dragon Sorceress is releasing December 1, 2017.
Basile and Rainger are sworn to defend and foster the baby dragons of the Eastern Kingdom. While searching for the heir to the dragon king’s throne, they fall under the spell of a bewitching brunette. Desire takes a back seat to duty because they must find the baby dragon before it falls into the hands of the evil queen, Draconia.
Seeking shelter from a storm for herself and the odd little stray she picked up, Elaina takes refuge in the stronghold of the Knights of the Order of the Dragon. She’s discovered sound asleep with the tiny dragon king curled up beside her, and mayhem ensues when the prince, the huntsman, and the seven knights learn firsthand she’s not some damsel in distress.
When Draconia learns of the enchanting beauty has stolen the hearts of the men whom she desires for herself, she sets a plan into motion that endangers Basile and Rainger’s love for Elaina before it’s barely begun.
To keep in touch with Ms. Rainier and check out all her yummy books, follow the links below and if you chat with her, tell her I said hi😀
And if you missed my other chats with Ms. Rainier or her hunks, you can check them out by clicking on the links below. If you didn’t, they are worth another read 😉
One lucky commenter, chosen by Sexy Mr. Random will get an e-book of Beasts in Winter, courtesy of Ms. Rainier. The contest is open until 8 pm EST, Friday, October 20, 2017. GOOD LUCK!!!
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