eBook Details

Once Upon A Kiss

By: Claire Delacroix | Other books by Claire Delacroix
Published By: Deborah A. Cooke
Published: Oct 23, 2011
ISBN # 9781927477069
Word Count: 107,000
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Available in: Mobipocket (.mobi), Epub
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Categories: Romance>Time-travel Romance>Romantic Comedy Fiction

Description
For over a thousand years – so legend has it – the brambles have grown wild over the ruins of Dunhelm Castle. Many believed that the thorns were a sign that the castle was cursed, so no one dared to trespass, and the secrets that they protected and concealed have remained hidden – until now…

Armed with a pair of gardening shears, Baird Beauforte is determined to clear away the brambles that hinder the development of his resort, and he won’t let local superstition deter him. Dunhelm Castle is supposed to be the latest jewel in the Beauforte Resort chain, but the renovations can’t be finished if the workmen are frightened of a so-called curse. To dispel any lingering fears, Baird decides to vanquish the briars himself. What he never expects is to find a mysterious slumbering beauty…

Aurelia is like no one he has ever met before. Upon awakening, she demands to know his identity and why he is in her father’s castle! Bemused by her claim of being a king’s daughter, he is certain he has never met this “princess” before, although something about her rouses a haunting sense of familiarity. Soon, dreams plague this by-the-book businessman…dreams that feel more like memories. And Baird begins to wonder if he can claim his heart’s princess – now and forever – with a kiss…

“Claire demonstrates that she is one of the most talented writers of time travel romances with Once Upon A Kiss, a wonderful tale that fans of the sub-genre will devour.”
Harriet Klausner for Painted Rock and Affaire de Coeur

This edition includes excerpts from LOVE POTION #9 and THE COUNTESS.
 
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Excerpt:
Baird switched on the flashlight he had brought.

Hotelier and lawyer gasped aloud simultaneously. A slab of stone, as tall as Baird and covered with fantastic carving, filled the wall directly before them. They gawked silently at the treasure that just a moment before had been hidden in secretive shadows.

The slab was made of the same local gray stone as the rest of the castle ruins. At the top was a massive crescent carved in relief, almost like the curve of a sundial, points down, its interior writhing with Celtic knots.

On closer inspection, the knots were made of fantastic animals, all twined around each other. The imagery reminded Baird of the illuminations in the Book of Kells.

A bent arrow made a V across the crescent, its crook at the lower center of the crescent, its head pointing to the top right corner, its fleche to the top left.

Below this was a backwards Z, about a foot high, which seemed to have flames erupting from either end. On either side of this character were two disks, again filled with knots made of entwined creatures. A snake writhed around the perimeter of these elements, its body an intricate braid, the end of its tail in its own mouth.

The lower half of the stone was graced with the image of a woman in repose. Though her features were not clearly etched, it was obvious that she was a beauty. She looked to be sleeping, her hands folded across her chest and garments pooling about her slender form.

"Whoa!" Julian breathed. "It would be good to move that somewhere more visible in the resort."

Baird bent and ran his fingertips over the row of crosshatched lines that ran up the right side. "It must be an inscription," he mused, recognizing runic letters and wondering what they said.

Julian showed no interest in such mysteries. He shivered and shrugged, throwing Baird a smile as he shoved his hands into his raincoat pockets. "Definitely worth a visit. Now, let's get a brandy."

"Not until we see what's behind it." Baird pushed on the slab, but it did not give in the least.

"Behind it? It's just a frieze, Baird."

"No, it's a door."

"A door? Come on, where could it go? It's just a wall mural or something, maybe some kind of pagan altar." He shuddered elaborately and looked around himself as though expecting hostile pagans to spring from the shadows. "Do you think they slaughtered things here?" he demanded in a horrified whisper.

"It's a door," Baird repeated. He was oddly convinced of his conclusion, though he refused to think further about that. "Now, are you going to help?"

Julian winced. "It doesn't even look like a door to me. I mean, where's the knob? How do you open it?"

"It's a door. Trust me. We're just going to have to figure out how it opens." Baird set his lips grimly, resolving that he would not leave before seeing what was behind this door. "Then, you can have your brandy."

Baird turned back to the carved stone, scanning its width and breadth. There had to be a lever or a hinge somewhere, likely hidden away if something precious was hidden behind the door.

And Baird knew in his heart that there was.

Julian cleared his throat, an annoying habit that usually indicated he was going to be particularly lawyer-like. "If it is a door - and I'm not in the least bit sure that it is, mind you - there is some question as to whether there might be historic artifacts within. As your legal counsel, I would strongly suggest we summon authorities of antiquities to be present - "

"Forget it, Julian," Baird interjected crisply. "We crossed every t and dotted every i acquiring this place. I've had it up to the eyeballs with paperwork."

Julian inhaled sharply, but Baird tossed his friend a wry grin. "Come on, what can it hurt to look? You know me better than to worry about the fate of anything we find here."

"You are painfully scrupulous, much to my ongoing disappointment," Julian acknowledged with a rueful smile.

"So, how can we open this? Any ideas?"

But Julian was not prepared to abandon his argument so easily.
"Baird, we could get someone down from PR, you know, and manage this opening as an event..."

"No!" Baird was surprised by his own vehemence. "Forget PR!"

"We never forget PR."

"This time we will." Unable to explain his need to do this alone, Baird turned back to survey the door. "Look, the sooner we get this open, the sooner you can have your brandy."

It was troubling to feel so strongly about something he knew nothing about, especially when he made it his business to feel as little as possible in the course of life. Feelings got a man into trouble. They were unpredictable, unreliable.

They made a man hope for things that could never be.

But still Baird couldn't even consider walking away from this door before it was opened. This was the root of his fascination with Dunhelm. Baird knew it. He couldn't turn away and leave the job half done.

He had to solve this puzzle now.

When Baird said nothing more, Julian did not hesitate to warm to his theme. "Baird, this is about more than brandy! You can't simply barge in and do whatever you want here. We're in a foreign country, after all, and it won't pay to step on any toes."

"It won't hurt to look, if we can even get the door open," Baird corrected with growing impatience. "And if there isn't anything there, summoning anyone would have been wasting their time, as well as our own."

"We shouldn't do it."

Baird's lips set in a tight line. "Look, Julian, I don't have to tell you that we're way behind on this restoration, mostly thanks to bureaucrats. And I am not going to spend another six months in government offices getting the right to open a door on an estate when the title to that estate is in my pocket and the bill for the property taxes lands on my desk, especially when there's probably nothing in it!"

"Well!" Julian's nostrils flared. "I don't know what you pay me for, if you aren't going to listen to what I have to say!" The lawyer smacked the wall to punctuate his frustration.

Julian swore, Baird turned to argue, then a low rumble stole away anything either man might have said. They pivoted to find the carved stone sliding slowly to the left, revealing a dark space.

Baird glanced back to find Julian nursing the back of his hand, his eyes round. "What did you do?"

"I hit that thing." Julian pointed to a gargoyle grimacing on the wall beside him. It was the only decorative detail in the small space at the foot of the stairs and Baird only now noticed the oddity of that.

Baird shone the flashlight on the gargoyle. He touched its outstretched tongue and discovered that it was actually a lever. When he carefully depressed it, the door slid closed with a grating of stone on stone. Baird repeated the move and the door opened once more.

"Well, we have to look now," Baird said with a smile that he hoped hid his burgeoning anticipation.

Julian took a tentative step forward, as though fighting his own legal instincts, and peered over Baird's shoulder into the shadows. "I can't believe that you were right," he breathed. "It is a door."

"I told you to trust me." Baird ducked through the portal and flicked his flashlight around the revealed chamber.

A woman, garbed precisely as the one on the door itself, was sleeping on a slab on the opposite side of the room.

Baird stopped so fast that Julian bumped right into his back. The glow from the flashlight bounced off the walls and seemed to illuminate the entire chamber.

But Baird had eyes only for the woman.

Her long golden hair spilled over her shoulders and the stone, a garment that had once been richly embroidered clung tenuously to her curves. Baird's mouth went dry and he nearly dropped the light.

"How in the hell did she get in here?" Julian muttered, but Baird wasn't interested in anything his friend had to say.

Because the jolt of recognition Baird had felt upon seeing Dunhelm was nothing compared to this.

He found himself halting beside the stone slab without any recollection of deciding to cross the chamber. Baird stared down at the woman, astonished at the turmoil of emotion let loose within him.

How did he know her?

Her heart-shaped face was delightfully feminine, her ruby lips sweet and full. She was small and delicately built, her hands slender and gracious.

And Baird wanted to kiss her more than anything in the world.

Once Upon A Kiss

By: Claire Delacroix
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