Well, this isn’t one you are gonna want to miss! My new friend Leslie is ending 2016 with a bang for Fairy Tale Friday. Thank you so much to all of you who have participated. I have some AMAZING authors lined up for 2017, so stay tuned.
Leslie McKelvey has been writing since she learned to write, and her mother still stores boxes of handwritten stories in the attic. When her high school Creative Writing teacher told her she needed to be a novelist, she decided to give it a try. Finally, at the ripe old age of…forty-something…her debut novel, Accidental Affair, was contracted and published by Black Velvet Seductions Publishing. Two follow-up novels, Right Place, Right Time and Her Sister’s Keeper completed the Accidental Encounters series, and Runaway Heart, a standalone book, was released in March of 2016. BVS also published one of Leslie’s short stories in the erotic anthology First Submission, and her fifth novel, Final Kill, released on December 18, 2016.
Leslie is a war-veteran who served with the U.S. Navy during the Gulf War, and she was among the first groups of women to work the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. During her five years tour she was stationed at NAS Miramar and spent time on the carriers USS Independence, USS Ranger, USS Lincoln, and the USS Nimitz. The final two years of her enlistment were spent on Guam and her squadron frequently deployed to Japan and the Middle East.
She learned everything she knows about firearms and tactics from her police officer husband, who is a weapons expert, range master, and firearms instructor for one of the most highly-respected law-enforcement agencies in the world. She has three boys who contribute daily to her growing number of gray hairs. Her two oldest sons are United States Marines and the youngest vows to follow suit. She spends her off-time (kidding…WHAT off-time?) reading, taking pictures, and sending lead down range (that’s shooting, for those who are unfamiliar). One of her favorite scents is the smell of gunpowder in the morning….
The world doesn’t know Cat Beckett, CIA linguist and expert sniper. She does her best to keep her skills secret, but when a SEAL team is ambushed in the remote mountains of Afghanistan she doesn’t hesitate to take out the enemy. After saving the SEALs, the third Spec Ops team to be compromised in as many months, she realizes someone in her unit is giving classified information to the enemy. She suspects that Peter Mitchell, her supervisor and ex-lover, is behind the betrayal, and sets out on a dangerous quest to prove his treason.
Lt. Ryan Heller, US Navy SEAL, is accustomed to facing death. When his team is attacked by Taliban fighters he thinks his last day is upon him, until an unknown sniper saves their lives. The prickly, green-eyed beauty handles a rifle as easily as most women handle a purse, but who is she? And what is she doing in the middle of a war zone? He is intrigued, and attracted, but his instincts and her piercing, tiger-like stare tell him to tread carefully.
Afghanistan’s Bagram Valley is not the ideal place to find love, but these two are trained to make the best of bad situations. Geography alone makes starting a relationship challenging enough, but caught between extremists and an unhinged, obsessed Mitchell makes it downright deadly.
Cat lay down on her bed and slowly sipped the wine. As the candlelight and music washed over her, she felt the last of the adrenaline wear off. She sighed softly and pictured him: the eyes so blue they were almost violet, the sharp line of his jaw, the lips that made her melt, the tall, athletic body, the smile that was like sunlight to her soul. Desire swirled in her belly, and now it wasn’t adrenaline making her edgy. She wanted him so much she ached.
Frustrated, she sat up and put the wine aside. She looked around the room then turned off the candle closest to her. Shaking her head she rose, and was about to turn off the second candle when there was a soft rap on her door. Her head snapped around.
“Just a minute,” she said after a moment of surprised silence. Cat grabbed her robe, slipped it on, and tied the sash. Her bare feet whispered over the floor as she approached the panel and said, “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Cate. Can we talk?”
She was so stunned that for a moment she couldn’t move.
She blinked, shook herself, and opened the door. She looked at Ryan with wide eyes and backed up as he walked up the steps and into her quarters. He closed and locked the door behind him then turned to her. Looping an arm around her waist he pulled her against him.
“I changed my mind,” he whispered.
Ella bolted upright in bed as the sound of the great clock echoed in her head and gradually faded. Her heart pounded. A kaleidoscope of images danced through her brain: dancing, pumpkins, a fancy dress. Then, as dreams often do, the pictures darkened and all she was left with was a vague sense of disappointment.
“Oh, well,” she said on a sigh. “It was only a dream.”
Before she could take a full, deep breath, a bell on the wall tinkled, signaling the start of her day. A squeak pulled her eyes to the windowsill. She smiled.
“Ah, Gus,” she said. “Good morning to you. How are you on this fine day?”
She held out a hand and the large, brown mouse hopped onto her palm. His fur was velvety against her fingers and she felt the rapid pitter-patter of his tiny heart. He squeaked again, rubbed his head against her thumb, and jumped when the bell on the wall rang once more, more vigorously this time. Ella chuckled.
“Easy, little friend.” She held him toward the window and chuckled as he leapt back onto the sill. “I will return with some bread and cheese for you, provided my stepmother and stepsisters don’t eat everything.”
After brushing her hair and changing into her drab, colorless day dress, Ella made her way down the stairs. She heard her stepmother and stepsisters chatting in the dining room but ignored it, making her way straight to the kitchen. Mary, another house servant, toiled over a boiling pot, her gray hair braided neatly down her back. Mary had been in the house since before Ella’s birth, and was her last remaining family.
“Oh, three minute eggs,” Mary grumbled. “Why do they always want three minute eggs?”
“You could give them three one minute eggs,” Ella suggested.
Mary arched a brow at her. “And listen to them moan and complain the rest of the day? No, thank you.” She jerked her chin toward the oven. “The bread is ready. If I leave now the eggs will be overdone. Take it to them, but be nice. Tonight’s the big ball at the castle, and they’re already buzzing like a swarm of bees.” She snorted. “If only using lots of honey made people sweet.”
Ella paused as an odd sense of déjà vu washed over her. It was strange because today was just a day like any other. She and Mary prepared eggs and bread almost daily, but for some reason Ella felt they’d played this scene before.
“If honey made people sweet, Anastasia and Drizella would be the sweetest people on earth.” Ella took a cloth, retrieved the bread, and put it in a basket. “I wonder if their teeth would rot?”
Mary shot her another look and reached for a spoon. Ella moved to her side, kissed her weathered cheek, and smiled.
“Their souls are already rotten,” Mary said flatly. She gave Ella a fond look. “But you, my lamb, are beautiful inside and out, even dressed in rags and soot. If the prince could get a look at you he’d never once glance at your nasty stepsisters.”
“Maybe they deserve each other,” Ella replied. “If Ana or Drizella snagged the prince then both they and Lady Tremaine would move into the palace and leave us be.”
“As long as you tread like one of those mice you’re so fond of, they’ll leave you be today. All they can think of right now is the ball.” Another snort escaped Mary’s nose. “You should be going, too. The invitation said ‘to the ladies of the house,’ and you are the lady of the house.”
“No, Lady Tremaine is,” Ella said. The dark, damp melancholy she wrestled with each time she thought of her father and how she’d come to be a servant in her own house made her throat tighten and tears sting. “Besides, what is so wonderful about balls?”
Mary gave her a tolerant look. “You’re too young to be knowing about that.”
Heat flooded Ella’s face. “Mary!”
Mary wiggled her brows. “Go on with you. If’n you can stay out of their way until they leave, at least tonight will be peaceful.”
So, Ella did as Mary suggested. She tiptoed around her stepmother and stepsisters, made sure to jump when they called, and completed her chores. In all, it had been an unremarkable day, if Ella discounted the nagging feeling that she’d lived it before. Just as she was about to retire to her bedchamber for the evening, Lady Tremaine rang the bell she always kept handy.
Lady Tremaine was a beautiful woman with dark hair, blue eyes, and fine features. Ella often wondered what her first husband had looked like, as neither of her stepsisters had inherited their mother’s looks. Anastasia was blonde haired, blue eyed, and unremarkable. Drizella had her mother’s dark hair, but her eyes were brown and her features heavier, almost masculine.
Ella approached Lady Tremaine and clasped her hands in front of her.
Lady Tremaine’s eyes roved over her, one finger tapping her chin, as if she was measuring Ella for something. Ella swallowed hard but maintained her stepmother’s gaze, keeping her expression neutral.
“You know, if you cleaned up, Ella, you’d almost be presentable.” Blue eyes raked over Ella again. “You will never be as lovely as Anastasia or Drizella, but I imagine there is a man somewhere who would find you mildly attractive.” Lady Tremaine’s eyes narrowed. “You must look like your mother, because I don’t see your father in you.”
That hurt. Ella gulped again but remained mute. People had always commented that she had her father’s eyes, eyes that were a mix of blue and green and changed with her mood.
“If you had a dress,” Lady Tremaine drawled, “I’d almost be tempted to let you attend the ball this evening.”
Ella’s heart seized up in her chest and a soft gasp escaped her. A shiver traversed her spine and again the feeling of having done this before blossomed inside her. Don’t be silly, Ella.
“Well, do you?”
Ella blinked at her. “Do I what?”
Lady Tremaine gave an exaggerated sigh and rolled her eyes. “Do you have a dress?”
A faint ray of hope, warm but fleeting, danced through her. Ella was certain she’d misheard. “Apologies, stepmother, but are you asking me if I have a ball gown?”
“Yes,” Lady Tremaine snapped.
Ella was so stunned that her voice deserted her. Her years in her childhood home since her father’s death had been, at best, bleak. She’d never once dared to think of anything above her station as a servant. To attend a royal ball was beyond imagination.
“I can make one,” Ella heard herself say.
A strange gleam entered Lady Tremaine’s blue eyes. “You have two hours, Cinderella. If you can be ready to go by then, I will allow you to accompany us.”
Ella stared, her heart vibrating against her breastbone. “Two hours. I’ll be ready.”
And she had been. The mice had stood by for moral support, but she and Mary had worked wonders. Her dress was nothing like her stepsisters’ gowns, but it was simple and lovely. At least, it had been.
The mirror reflected an image that made Ella’s eyes well with tears. Her stepmother’s invitation had only been a ploy, and as Ella stared at the shredded remains of her dress the sound of the carriage pulling away from the house reached her ears. Red hot anger bubbled, simmered, and after several more minutes of stewing, finally exploded upwards.
“Now, that’s more like it,” an unfamiliar, and yet oddly familiar voice said from behind her. “I was wondering when you’d stop simpering and show a little fire.”
Ella gasped and spun. Before her stood a woman she’d never seen, dressed like she’d never seen.
White blonde hair curled wildly around the woman’s heart-shaped face. She wore a black dress, at least Ella assumed it was a dress, but the fabric was skin tight with a plunging décolletage and a skirt that barely covered the woman’s backside. Ella’s cheeks burned as she imagined going out in public wearing such a shocking outfit.
“Who are you, and where did you come from?”
The woman frowned, appearing perplexed. “Who do I look like and where do you think I came from?”
“I don’t know the answer to either of those questions,” Ella replied. “What are you wearing?”
“What do you mean, what am I wearing?” the woman asked. “I’m wearing….” Her voice died when she looked down. “Ooh, right.” She planted her hands on her hips and perused herself. “That’s what I get for fucking Father Time, a Gucci mini-dress. Guy is a total caveman but he has impeccable taste.” She snapped her fingers. A twirling white cloud enveloped her, and when the mist evaporated she wore an elaborate blue ball gown, her hair caught up into a style that made her nearly a foot taller. “Is that better?”
Ella was so confused all she could do was stare.
“Well? Is that better, or not?” The woman waited, her foot tapping the floor, obviously expecting a response.
“Uh, yes, much better,” Ella stammered.
The woman tugged at the bodice of the dress. “Damned uncomfortable, but when in Rome….” After fidgeting with the gown she let out a sigh and looked at Ella. “Now, let’s do this again, shall we?”
A pained look crossed the woman’s face. “Ooh, crap. I forgot he said you’d forget.” She wiped a hand over her brow. “All this time travel is killing my synapses.”
It was like speaking to someone from another country. Ella was lost.
“Now,” the woman continued, “to answer your questions I’m your fairy godmother, but you can call me Farrah. Where I come from is unimportant, and classified.” She smiled. “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.”
Ella blinked at her.
“And I should’ve known you wouldn’t get that,” Farrah said. She sighed. “Look, long story short, we’ve done this before, you and I, yesterday, and it didn’t work out so well. I mean, what was I thinking with pumpkins and mice and glass slippers? Who does that?” A sheepish smile curved her brightly painted mouth. “Yours truly, that’s who, so time for a do-over.”
“A do-over?” Ella asked.
Farrah waved a dismissive hand in the air. “Yes, a do-over. I give Father Time a blow…” She stopped in mid-sentence and cleared her throat. “I do something nice for Father Time and he allows me to re-do the day, set wrongs aright, fix the mistakes.”
“Is that why I’ve been feeling like I’m reliving the same day over?” Ella asked.
Farrah brightened. “Yes, exactly. Because you are.” She smirked. “I might have messed up with you, but when it comes to sucking co….” A choking noise escaped her and she went quiet. “Mmm, when it comes to doing nice things for Father Time I don’t mess up.”
Ella didn’t know what to say to that.
“I made his eyes roll back in his head and his toes curl,” Farrah continued. She arched a brow Ella’s way. “And tonight, you’re going to do the same thing and win your prince.” Her expression shifted, as if she’d just remembered something. She dug into a hidden pocket on her gown and pulled out a small vial. “I almost forgot. Drink this.”
Ella took the small, green bottle that had a label reading “DRINK ME.”
“What is it?” Ella asked.
“Oh, just a little something I picked up from my friend, the Hatter,” Farrah replied. “It’s called ‘attitude’. Tonight, you’re going to need it.”
Ella strutted down the hall toward the ballroom, the eyes of every footman, guard, and guest turning her way. The ruby red gown swirled around and behind her, but the cut-out in the front of the skirt showed off her red leather, over-the-knee boots to perfection, as well as a few inches of bare skin above that. No one’s losing a shoe tonight. Her outfit was scandalous, to say the least, but she’d never felt more beautiful or powerful.
Unlike the rest of the attendees she didn’t stop at the top of the staircase as her name was announced. The music died, dancers stopped mid-step, and whispers started swirling like dead leaves in a windstorm. Ella didn’t care. She walked with long, confident strides right across the floor and up to the prince. His dark brows rose as she insinuated herself between him and Anastasia. Ella curtsied deeply then rose, leaned forward, and looked into his eyes.
“Good evening, your majesty,” she purred. “My name is Sin, with an ‘s’.” She gave him a wicked smile and put a hand on his chest. “Care to indulge?”
THE END…. or is it…
Places you can find Leslie