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A Star in the Earth

The year is 1907. Alerted by her time-traveled parents that Jake Livingston, 39, plans to wed Marguerite Desmond, willful Emilee Schuyier, 19, charges home to Boulder, Colorado to set him straight. The problem is, how do you seduce the man who's loved you like a big brother from the day you were born?

Emilee tackles the problem obliquely. She and Jake are privy to knowledge of important coming events through the 'future history' remembered by her parents, now touring in Europe. Announcing her appointment as the new vice-president of Schuyier Enterprises, Emilee tries to convince Jake, the new president, to begin SE's development of a luxury resort the family will transform into a rehabilitation hospital after the coming World War. Jake is adamantly against her choice of site.

Emilee, however, has learned to dowse, and has her own way of knowing things. A German friend of Marguerite wants to buy a defunct silver mine owned by Emilee. She refuses to sell it to the "Kaiser's man," claiming her dowsing rods indicate the mine still holds valuable ore. Jake's new secretary, young Anthony Parmenter, becomes Emilee's secret ally. He introduces her to his uncle, who offers to loan SE the money to purchase and renovate the resort site Emilee wants.

Jake is a stubborn man, and enamored of his passionate fiancee. Emilee is certain she knows what's best for Jake, and her name isn't Marguerite. Meanwhile Anthony and Amos Carruthers, a young architect-about-town, vie for Emilee's affection. Jake has his hands full.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


C.J. Winters

     C.J. Winters was always more interested in Tomorrow than Yesterday. Then she discovered the American Past offers a wealth of backgrounds for some of her offbeat story ideas. Combining such backgrounds with her fascination for the extra-normal has led to ten-and-a-half books published or soon to be published by Hard Shell Word Factory. Show-Me Murder is a paranormal cozy mystery trio. Right Man Wrong Time, Sleighride, Moon Night, and A Star in the Earth are paranormal romances. The love stories of four generations of an American family unfold in Foredestined Summer, Fires of War and Winter, A Dazzling Spring and Autumn in Cranky Otter. Still to come is a contemporary romance, Mai's Ties, and half of a paranormal anthology, Deadknots. C.J. also has eight short stories included in five anthologies.

     Iowa born-raised-educated and Missouri seasoned, earth-bound C.J. feels compelled to follow her characters through their times, lifetimes, and the gauzy curtains separating them. Although she lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, she prefer rustic settings for her stories. Creating intense relationships and helping them unfold through intriguing, subtle or whimsical interplay is her idea of fun. She says, "Story plotting is like weight-lifting for the brain. You collect puzzle pieces and then find places to fit them."

     About herself, C.J. says, "My fantasy life began early, through movies more than books. Star-struck, I played Western roles on my pony, and kept a nightly serial story going in my head at bedtime, naturally casting myself as the heroine.

     "When my career as a copywriter ended, I began writing a different form of fiction--love stories with a different twist than those being published at the time. Then along came e-publishing, and a new, limitless niche opened. Admittedly self-indulgent, I first write to entertain myself, and it looks like I'm addicted to a life of fiction!"

     For more, visit my website, www.cjwinters.com

Reviews

"A Star in the Earth is both a sweet and sultry romance and an engrossing page-turner. Winters effectively weaves the different threads together and keeps the reader attached to the charming characters to create a fully satisfying novel."

Susan DiPlacido -- Blue Iris Journal


"C.J. Winter is a prolific writer. She is the author of the Cranky Otter series. A Star in the Earth is well written. The characters are well developed. Winter used just the right amount of humor to book of romance and suspense. Fans of romance and suspense will enjoy A Star in the Earth. 4 stars."

Debra Gaynor -- Review Your Book
Excerpt


Colorado, June, 1907

Jake rolled off his mistress, stepped down from the high poster bed and reached for his clothes.

"So soon?" protested Marguerite with a glance at her crystal bedside clock. "Why, I was having lunch not thirty minutes ago."

"Told you," he said over his shoulder. "I have to meet a train. I need some lunch, too."

Marguerite pursed her lips in a pretend pout. "That sounds as if you prefer food over me. It's not very flattering. Especially—" She stretched in languid invitation. "—at a time like this."

Refusing the bait, Jake plucked his shirt off the bedpost and shrugged into it. "Seems like ever since I got back from Detroit, it's 'a time like this.' Not that I mind," he added, grinning. "But if I'm going to keep you happy, I better keep up my strength."

In a lessened show of pique, Marguerite plumped her pillow. "I know it's bad form to delay a busy vice-president, darling, but I can't help being attracted to you."

"Good." He pulled on his trousers under her bold appraisal. "I'll do my best to keep it that way."

Buttoning up, he gazed down with fond appreciation at Marguerite's exotic, naked beauty—curling black hair, lustrous dark eyes and fair skin belied by the high color of her full lips, flushed cheeks and rosy nipples. She claimed Irish and Creole ancestry, but he suspected it might be more complicated than that. Not that it mattered. Except for his good-hearted ma, his own family back in Arkansas wasn't something to brag about. In any case, a man was what he was, not what somebody thought he was, and the same went for a woman.

"I forgot to tell you something," he said, which was a wicked lie. Repressing another grin, he took the carefully folded telegram from the inner pocket of his suit coat and handed it to her. He'd found the message waiting when he arrived at his office that morning and silently repeated it as she read:

New Vice President arriving Thursday two thirteen STOP Congratulations Mister President STOP Keefe CEO

"Mister President!" Marguerite scrambled to her knees in the middle of the bed, waving the telegram like a banner. "This is wonderful!"

"I think so, too."

Even for Jake, it was a modest understatement. After reading the telegram the first time, he'd groped behind him for a chair, and finding none, sat down on his new secretary's desk, much to Anthony's astonishment. Keefe hadn't even hinted at this before leaving with Tara and the youngsters on the first leg of their Grand Tour of Europe.

Still it was typical of the generous and sometimes secretive controlling shareholder of Schyuler Enterprises.

Their privately held corporation had undergone a good many changes in the twenty-two years since Keefe, Tara, and a green, seventeen-year-old backwoods boy named Jake Livingston had made their cumbersome way from Arkansas to Boulder, Colorado. Today, their initial source of capital, the Fallen Star silver mine, was all but petered out, and Sapphire Jackson now owned Tara's modest orchard and truck garden west of town. Their original mile-and-a-half rail spur, however, now crept around the sides of nearby mountains in a spidery eight-mile network, connecting the Fallen Star and five other mines to the smelter in Candletop, as well as to the Colorado and Northwestern line running east to Boulder. Even Tara's School for Women was beginning to show a profit. And groundwork for a Ford automobile dealership was being laid.

As for their private plans—well, Jake looked forward to every minute of every day, just like he had for the past twenty-two years.

"—but darling," Marguerite was saying, "Keefe doesn't say how much he plans to pay you. Or whether it's to be in money or stock."

Jake smoothed his vest over his lean belly and consulted his pocket watch. Nearly one o'clock. "I don't think we have to worry about that."

"Oh, I wasn't worried—"

His kiss and quick fondling took her by surprise. She gasped, her eyes lighting as, relying on what Keefe called the best poker-face this side of the Capitol, he drew out the moment of sensual pleasure. "I have a little favor to ask… before the dinner party tonight."

She reached for him, her eyes darkly brilliant. "What can I do for you, darling?"

Catching both of her hands in his, he dropped to one knee on the bed stool. "Marguerite Desmond, will you marry me?"


* * *

Jake's grin of self-satisfaction remained in place while he cranked the Packard and climbed into its tufted leather seat. Proposing marriage hadn't been nearly as terrifying as he'd expected, and Marguerite's enthusiastic "Yes!" had erased the last vestige of fear.

Widowed at twenty-one, his new fiancée at twenty-four was not only a lush, sophisticated beauty, but an intelligent conversationalist, an astute manager of the modest monthly income bequeathed by her late husband, and as passionate as any man could wish. Following their meeting two years ago, it was she who'd sought him out—first as a dinner companion and then as a lover.

Innately wary, Jake had enjoyed her favors for months before suggesting she devote herself exclusively to him, an arrangement to which she'd readily agreed. He supposed they should've married a year ago. By now there could be a child on the way. As it was, they'd have to wait until the Schuylers—his family—returned to Boulder in the fall. Keefe, Tara, Emilee and the twins, Nels and Erin, were to set sail for London at four this morning. He'd send a wire today, but it would be two or three weeks before they received confirmation of his engagement.

He had planned to propose a couple of months ago, before the trip to Chicago and Detroit, but he'd been so busy concentrating on the contacts he needed to make, there wasn't time to do it properly. Since his return two weeks ago, he'd been enmeshed in meetings with Keefe, their lawyers, investors, bankers and employees. Even the evenings were filled with coordinating schedules and connections for the Schuyler trip and ironing out arrangements for Jake's oversight of the enterprises.

Thank God for Anthony Parmenter, who'd come along and rescued him soon after their poor secretary, Charles, was trampled to death by a runaway horse and buggy.

Jake's mind raced as he guided the Packard from the dusty road onto the hard-packed street leading into the business heart of Boulder. It wouldn't take long to transfer Marguerite's furnishings from her apartment to his house in town, but for propriety's sake, they'd wait until after the wedding. Marguerite was ambitious for him—as a wife should be. She'd promised to see to all of the arrangements for the ceremony and reception—billing the delightful expenses to him, of course—thereby allowing him time to concentrate on his new position and responsibilities.

President of Schuyler Enterprises! President of anything, for that matter, considering where he'd come from.

From where I'd come, he mentally corrected. Through Keefe's rough and Tara's polite correction, he'd overcome most of his rural Ozark speech patterns. Listening to Emilee and the twins learn to talk had helped him, too. The Schuylers never made a fuss about it, but it hadn't taken long for him to realize the importance of approved speech and behavior in social and financial circles. An occasional 'ain't' or 'he don't' still slipped out when he was upset, but most people accepted him as a Western gentleman, and Emilee had stopped teasing him about his lapses.

Emilee… What was the little scamp doing right now? Nothing good he'd bet, with a smile of pity for whatever poor sailor had snagged her attention. Now nineteen—three years since he'd seen her—she'd have grown up, matured. Still, it was going to take some man to master that sass and sparkle. If he lived to be a hundred, he'd never forget his first sight of her—red and yelling, mad as a wet hen. A moment later, she'd grabbed his finger with her tiny fist, and never let go of his heart.

Swerving the heavy machine to avoid three geese making their arrogant, unruffled way across the road, he grinned. The poultry trio better enjoy such triumphs while they can.

Keefe and Tara, whose incredible claims always proved correct, swore that in a few years, automobiles would rule the streets and back roads, displacing not only geese, but horse-drawn vehicles.

They also said it wouldn't be long before ordinary men like himself soared through the air in those incredible flying machines. Damn! He could hardly wait!

He parked across the street from the rail depot and stopped the engine, his mind canting to the new vice-president of Schuyler Enterprises. Keefe, the sly fox, must've planned this latest surprise weeks ago in order to send the man west as soon as the Schuylers reached Boston.

"Afternoon, Mr. Livingston," said George, the station master, his dark eyes as sharp as a sparrow nestling. "You lookin' to meet somebody special? Seein' it's you and the Packard."

"Can't tell you who, though," Jake replied with a grin. "I don't know myself."

They chatted amiably about the Schuyler trip—everyone in the surrounding counties seemed to know of it—until George cocked his balding red head. "Rails hummin'," he declared, and turned to go inside. "Six minutes, fifteen seconds, reckon you'll be lookin' at your mystery fella."