SUMMER FOR LOVE BLOG HOP
(6) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Cards
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Winners for the (6) Grand Prizes will be drawn and announced on THE ROMANCE TROUPE blog by June 10th.
Before we begin, let me announce that from the 4th through the 6th, you can buy Lost in the Stars (vol. 2 of the Three Worlds saga) for just 99¢ on Amazon! Sorry this price couldn't stick around until the 8th and thus the full run of this blog hop, but Amazon has conditions on its sales.
Welcome to my stop within the "Summer for Love" Blog Hop! Hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned to the bottom of this page for a chance to win a FREE EBOOK!
SUMMER! Astronomically, it occurs between June 20th-ish and September 22nd-ish. But that's if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. In the southern one, summer happens while we northerners are having winter.
Thus it is that our two lead characters in the superhero romance, Touch of Danger (vol. 1 of the Three Worlds saga), find themselves meeting and romancing during summer, even though it's February. Being that they're in the tropics doesn't hurt either.
Lina O'Kelly was just starting her own vacation...
. . .
White fear washed through her like ice, and once again Carolina O’Kelly asked herself if now wasn’t a good time to take another step back from life. She couldn’t think straight. This was all getting too real, and if she got flustered she’d die.
The hotel was burning down around her.
Wishing wouldn’t stanch the smoke. She shivered in the heat of the tropical morning.
Come on, do something! she ordered herself through the numbing daze. Focus on goal A. Okay, this is me now, doing something. She sat frozen on the bed.
The hotel posted no fire instructions on the door that allowed tendrils of smoke to curl into the room, despite the wet towels stuffed under it. No fire trucks had yet shown up here in the middle of nowhere.
Hard reality was that no matter how anxiously she wished, the ParaNet was probably on the other side of the world stopping some war or another. The harder reality was that Lina O’Kelly was too damned unimportant for even the most minor of ParaNetters to care about.
It was up to her to save herself. As usual.
“This is not funny, God,” she muttered, and the flames of righteous indignation blazed through her inner freeze.
She jerked the knot on the sheets in her lap tighter, letting out an “umph!” for her efforts. It didn’t feel secure to her. She stepped on one sheet and pulled up, testing—and the knot slipped.
So she reknotted it and pushed the thought of failure away as if it were a physical thing. It was five long stories to the ground from this rapidly-crumbling firetrap someone had advertised as a hotel. A bitter, dark fume oozed out of the electrical outlet next to her.
She set to work on the next sheet, tying it to the thin blanket with renewed determination. All she had to do was plan and take action: one, two, three, like all the Zig Ziglar motivational speeches she listened to.
Goal A? Get out of hotel. Alive.
Dying was not on her list of life goals. Sure, she might break a leg on the way down, but if she did, she’d still be able to crawl to safety.
She tugged on the new knot. This one held—good. Hope bloomed within her. Gathering up her prize, she ran to the balcony and threw it over the railing. It unwound down the side of the ugly cement structure—less than halfway. The bloom soured into a tight ball in her gut.
**You’ll need more sheets,** they told her.
“I noticed,” she replied. She closed her eyes, took a deep, cleansing breath and tried not to notice the burning taint that came with it. Squaring her shoulders, she hauled the liferope back up. She looked around her room desperately. Long locks of dark hair still wet from her shower slapped against her face as she turned. The room’s curtains were already ripped; they’d never begin to hold her. Where could she get some more sheets? How much time did she have?
Damned cheap hotel! She should have paid more and stayed down the road in St. Catherine, at one of the nice, nonflammable hotels there. Trying to save a few bucks—stupid! Stupid! Lina cursed herself as she dragged her chain of sheets back inside.
She grabbed some clothes, her wallet and her iPad, and stuffed them into her beach bag before she paused to stare at it. What was she doing? Having something to wear besides this nightgown was a B goal at most. This was not survival.
She was getting rattled again. Remember Goal A. Everything was expendable except herself. Still, the bag was packed; no need to waste it. She tossed it onto the balcony to grab on the way out.
She fumbled at sneakers, but her hands shook too badly to pull the laces into any kind of bow or knot. Get hold of yourself, Muttbutt! she berated herself. She hurled the shoes out over the balcony, venting her rage and frustration. Put the shoes on once she was down and safe.
Lina wanted to kick the walls and scream. This damned cardboard hotel didn’t offer much for survival. Hell, the fire alarm hadn’t even peeped yet. She’d used up all her room’s resources. What was left? Oh—other rooms. Behind a chair stood a connecting door to the room next door.
Of course it was locked. Nothing in this life came easy. She hurled herself at the door—yowch!—did it again—and it gave. One more heave and it crashed open.
The cloud of dark gray smoke hanging in this room whirlpooled from the disturbance. After she pulled her nightgown’s bodice up to cover her nose and mouth, Lina yanked one corner of sheets and blankets off the bed there as quickly as she could. Still she had to pause to cough out the bitter smoke.
Suddenly someone pounded at the hallway door. The sound stopped. She heard male coughing in the corridor, then the pounding resumed. Please, God, let it be a fireman!
“Hold on!” she cried as she unlocked the door. It stuck. The person on the other side threw himself against it. As it finally slammed open, a new, darker cloud of smoke followed. Heat poured in like a wave. Lina doubled over in a paroxysm of coughing. The blind sound of man-coughing echoed her. He wheezed as he shoved the door closed behind himself and then pulled Lina closer to the balcony and fresh air.
She gasped it in and rubbed her tearing eyes.
“You okay?” the man asked.
She blinked against the blur. Tall. Brawny. Dark hair, medium-brown skin. A familiar, chiseled jaw line and even more familiar black clothing. Valiant? Awright, Valiant! Yes!
Valiant of the ParaNet.
Valiant equaled safety. Lina’s shoulders sagged with relief.
But... but he wasn’t doing anything. He wasn’t putting out the fire with his parapowers, wasn’t sweeping her up in his arms to fly her from this horrible mess. This had to be someone dressed like the famous parahero.
But no. The right sleeve of the costume might be in shreds, but the face was definitely his.
“I’m, I’m fine. Thanks,” she managed to say. One step farther back; this wasn’t reality, was it?
“Oui, I’m the real thing,” he assured her, and his voice held Valiant’s French-Canadian accent, the rich timbre. “But non, maintenant I have no powers. Sorry. Don’t worry. We’ll get out.”
He scanned the area outside the balcony, assessing the situation much as she’d done. Then he turned back into the room to circle the place as he kept low out of the smoke, checking what was in drawers, searching for tools. Valiant tried the phone but put it back when someone told him no one was answering downstairs. Oh—she had. Her body was talking while she numbly stood somewhere behind herself. Too far from reality, Lina. Come back. Don’t forget the fire.
Valiant without powers! How had that happened? And a helluva time for it to happen. God was certainly having a good belly laugh at her expense today, but He had no business laughing at Valiant. Valiant was one of the good guys. He was Important.
Valiant went out to the balcony again.
“There’s no way down out there,” she told him. “I think we have to make our own rope. Help me with these sheets. Please?”
He grunted his acceptance of her plan and together they wrestled the final sheets off the bed. While he dragged the bundle to her room she retrieved towels out of the bathroom.
Once back, she wet the towels and stuffed them around the connecting door as... Valiant... snapped the TV off. CNNi had been airing PanRand, with that spectacular footage of Valiant towing a transatlantic jet on his back to a safe landing. The powerless version here and now sat on her bed and knotted cheap sheets together.
He nodded with his chin at the sheets she’d already worked. “They’ll never hold,” he declared. “Watch.”
He made some kind of sailor’s knot with his sheets: over, over and through. He gave it an ineffectual tug and frowned.
“I’ll get used to this,” he muttered, and then jerked the knot tight with more force than was necessary. He displayed the result to her before starting on a new sheet.
Lina quickly undid her knots and retied them the way he did. When she pulled on the two ends, the connection was definitely stronger.
Her guides’ warning cut through Lina’s concentration. **Get out now.**
“You could have given me a little more warning,” she griped.
“Warning?” Valiant asked.
“Sorry, not you,” she said quickly. “Um, we’ve got to get out now.”
He fished inside his black vest. “I have some twine we could add to these knots. You have a scissors or knife?” he asked.
“Sorry,” she told him, trying not to panic at the stream of **hurry, hurry, hurry,** in her mind, “but we’ve got to get out now, ready or not.” She knotted her first sheet to the balcony railing. Throwing the line of sheets over the edge, she caught the last corner. “Come on, give me yours,” she demanded.
“Not yet. We’re in enough trouble as it is. We have time to make this safer.”
“No, we don’t,” she told him. “They say we have to get out now. Hurry!”
“Qui? Who says?”
“My guides. Please don’t argue with my guides; they’re usually right. Usually.”
He sat there on the bed, frowning at her and not moving.
“I know it sounds weird, but please. Please! We’ve got to hurry. Now, they say.”
**Tell him to roll when he hits.**
“And they say to roll when you hit,” she added as she grabbed the sheets from him. He opened his mouth to say something when she held up a warning finger. “Tell me I’m crazy once we’re down. Please, we’ve got to get out now!”
He shook his head in surrender and worked the final knot himself. “It should be more secure,” he warned, then shrugged. “The cards we’re dealt,” he said as if that decided things.
Lina watched the line of sheets and blankets fall. The final length was close enough to the ground; good. “Okay, you go first. I have to get my—”
But he was already lifting her up, swinging her over the railing as if he’d done this a million times before. “You’re first. Make it quick.”
. . .
Hope that piqued your interest! Now that you've made it down the bottom of this page, I've got an EXTRA special offer for you: Leave your name and email address in a comment (make sure you write "[at]" instead of "@" to discourage spam robots) to be put on my e-newsletter mailing list (which I must get around to writing) (I'll only send it out every few months, and you can opt out at any time), and be entered NOT ONLY in The Romance Troupe's overall contest, but also in a contest to get a free e-version of any of my books! If you can't comment for whatever reason, send me an email (this won't enter you in the Romance Troupe's contest, though): carolastrickland [at] yahoo.com (see how it works?). (If you want Lost in the Stars as your prize, you'll have to wait to receive it until it goes into wide distribution somewhere around the 20th of this month.)