Winter Solstice Dream by USA Today Bestseller @vscotttheauthor is a Christmas Festival Pick #romance
Title: Winter Solstice Dream: A Magic of Claddare Novella
Author: Veronica Scott
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Torn from her home in the Dales as a child, Nadelma has made a place for herself as the head cook in the Witch Queen of Azrimar’s castle. She stays in the background of the busy court and uses her gentle magic gifts sparingly to help others. More or less content, she’s made peace with the hard facts of her life. Romance, marriage, a family – all beyond her dreams any longer.
Then Halvor, an ambitious Dales lord rides into the city, bringing his mercenaries to serve the king, with the promise of a rich reward, including a title and an estate. The only catch? He has to marry a highborn Azrimaran noblewoman to seal the treaty.
Fate conspires to throw Nadelma and Halvor into each other’s company and the attraction is instant and deep but both resist the attraction. She knows she can never have him for herself. He must fulfill the treaty to secure a safe place for his people to live, since their holding in the Dales was destroyed by the black magic of the Shadow. Marriage to a noble damsel of the king’s choice is his fate.
Until he met Nadelma he thought his heart was frozen by the loss of all he cared for, back in the Dales. Now he knows better but his people must come first.
The situation is hopeless…or is it? For the king declares the city will celebrate Winter Solstice and hold a ball, where wishes and dreams just might come true.
Nadelma sat in the peace and quiet of her empty kitchen. At this late hour there was no one else left in the area to bother her and the fires were banked. The dozens of loaves of bread for tomorrow had been set to rise and everything was clean and organized for the mad rush of morning. Nadelma drank her tea slowly, giving the special herbs mixed in time to have an effect on her headache. The kitchen cat sat on her lap purring and she had her stockinged feet up on the footrest, soaking in the heat from the fire.
A sound in the outer kitchen, footsteps coming in her direction had her pushing the cat to the floor where it began an indignant bath, and she pulled one of the biggest knives from the wooden block close at hand, hiding it in her lap below the table. “Who goes there?”
The man who appeared in the pool of light surrounding her refuge was totally unexpected. “Beg pardon, mistress, for disturbing you. I need a pot of hot water for tea.”
She eyed his unusually gaunt face and opened her mind’s eye a little way. Gesturing to her own steaming mug, she said “Have you the thunder headache? I suffer from it, when the weather changes violently with winds in a certain direction, and have brewed myself the proper herbal remedy.”
Halvor nodded and rubbed his temple. She knew the misery all too well.
“You could have sent a servant for the water,” she said, rising to fetch the pot and another mug. “You’re of the nobility after all. I leave a tweeny on duty overnight in case there’s need from the above stairs residents.”
“I saw her as I came in, asleep on her cot by the main door. It’s not my nature to ask others to do a simple task I can manage. I’ve boiled enough water on the trail, for one reason and another.” Clearly unwell but grimly determined, he fumbled with a small leather pouch at his belt and brought out a scant handful of dried leaves, which he placed in the mug she handed him.
Nadelma detected nothing but the slightest whiff of the fragrance such herbs should have. She frowned as he turned the pouch inside out and shook a few tiny fragments from the seam into the cup. He looked up, catching her eye. “This is the last of it. I’ve had these headaches since I was a boy and Ingrimma would make up this mixture for me. I’ve hoarded this final dose against a time it would be desperately needed.”
Sitting down again for her legs were tired after a long day on her feet, supervising the immense kitchen operation, she asked, “And tonight is the time?”
“We ride out tomorrow at dawn to hunt down and eliminate several large bands of thugs and ruffians which have been allowed to flourish unchecked and prey upon the trade routes through Azrimar,” he said, sinking into a chair. “This is the meat of the first part of our contract with Aerrol and must go well if we’re to win all that we’ve been promised. I cannot display the weakness this damned headache brings in its wake. I have to lead the column. Too much is at stake for my people.” He made a visible effort and flashed her a smile. “And for Azrimar too of course.”
“Aerrol needs to send a powerful message the careless days of the old queen have ended and he’s going to aggressively guard and defend what’s his.” She voiced her heartfelt agreement.
“You speak as one who sits in the inner council,” he said admiringly.
“I hear everything. And any fool can see the danger to Azrimar creeping up on us, not only from the Shadow but ordinary thieves and murderers.” She rose and unlocked a special cabinet, returning to the table with a small ceramic canister in her hand. Setting it down, she reached for his mug. “If you’ll permit me, my lord.” Without waiting for his permission, she dumped the paltry, wizened flakes into the trash nearby and pinched a good quantity of freshly dried leaves from her private stock. He watched in amazement as she poured the boiling water into the mug and set it down in front of him again.
Halvor took a deep breath of the steam and sighed. “I feel better already, mistress. You grow your own herbs and make simples then?”
“I do.” She held out her hand. “If I may have the pouch, I’ll be glad to refill it for you. You’ll likely need two cups of the tea tonight,” she said. “If you’ve endured many hours without any relief. You’re welcome to remain here, or I can send a pot of boiling water to your quarters.”
Drinking the tea avidly, Halvor glanced around the darkened kitchen and the warm circle of light from the fire where they sat. “If you’ve no objection, I find the atmosphere here soothing. But I don’t wish to keep you from your bed on my account.”
Fighting a blush, because she wouldn’t be averse to taking him to her bed with her and the unusual longing startled her, she said, “I’m having more tea as well first.”
“Well, then, the matter is settled.” Apparently feeling somewhat better, he sat back in his chair, holding the mug between his hands and stretched his legs out, boots to the fire. Nadelma found herself fascinated by the sight of his strong fingers grasping the mug and imagining those fingers touching her in intimate places.
Share a holiday family tradition:
When my daughters were young, I’d sew them matching Christmas nightgowns to wear on Christmas Eve, and I’d sew matching ones for their current favorite dolls!
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:
I combine winter, fantasy, a touch of magic and a Cinderella-type theme to give the reader a cozy read for a chilly night by the fire!
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USA Today Best Selling Author Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Veronica-Scott/e/B006CUCJ92
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