Today I am so pleased to welcome Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt to Joyfully Jay. Irene & Liv have come to talk to us about their latest release, Bonfire (Hours of the Night book 1.5). They have brought along a deleted scene and an excerpt, as well as a great giveaway! Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
Thanks so much for having us back, Jay! Irene & I are so excited for the release of Bonfire, our holiday novella sequel to Vespers. Things have been pretty busy since Vespers release in September, but we’re really hoping readers will come along for the further adventures of Thaddeus and Sarasija.
For our post here today we wanted to try something we haven’t done before. Because of the way we pass the writing back and forth, we don’t end up with too many outtakes, or scenes that don’t get used in one way or another. When we were working on an early draft of Bonfire, though, Irene came up with a charming moment, and I was heartbroken when it didn’t make the final cut.
So, without further preamble, here’s a deleted scene from Bonfire… Sara’s Christmas Shopping! Nobody’s read this but us, and now you…
Sara’s finger hovered over the mouse. Too much? Thaddeus hadn’t seemed very excited about his plans to decorate the house. But it was Christmas. And thanks to Thad, he had a great job with an insane salary and almost zero living expenses. His mother had returned every check he sent her until he had finally given up trying to help pay off massive loan his father’s death had left her saddled with. Even setting aside a healthy nest-egg for any future education expenses, he had plenty in the bank for a little Christmas extravagance.
He tried not to think about the fact that his insane salary might come to an end next summer. The one-year-only contract applied to previous assistants. Not him. He hadn’t gotten around to actually discussing this detail with his boss in the same way he chose to forget how Thad had tried to break their contract completely a few months ago. But he wasn’t worried. He had months to iron out those pesky details. Right now it was Christmas and he had a pile of cash in the bank.
He clicked buy and smiled happily as his order was confirmed. Okay, what next? Ugly Christmas sweaters, for sure. Thad had been a monk, or at least an almost-monk, in his previous life. Maybe he would want the one with Happy Birthday, Jesus in blinking lights across the front.
Before he could decide between the red and green version, a knock at the door interrupted him.
His head whipped around and he stared at the door. Who the hell?
And okay, his life had seriously taken a turn when he got freaked by a knock on the door. One of the joys of being a vampire’s assistant he supposed, and spending the holidays in a cabin only accessible by boat. There were only two other people who came out here regularly and both of them would call first. It wasn’t the type of on-the-way location where friends dropped in unannounced.
He glanced at the time in the corner of his screen as he got up. Half way across the parlor, he hesitated. Thaddeus wouldn’t be up for at least another hour. They were isolated. He wasn’t expecting company. He inched toward a window instead of the door.
AND…I’m going to leave you hanging right here. ? Because yeah, it’s a holiday story, but there’s still a vampire involved, so you know there have to be some tense moments. The vision of Thaddeus in a Happy Birthday, Jesus sweater just cracks me up, though, so I had to share it.
There’s a lot to like about Louisiana bayou holiday traditions, and we had a lot of fun exploring how Sara’s youth and enthusiasm affected Thad’s stern self-discipline. Keep reading for an excerpt that *did* make the final cut, and make sure and enter our release-day giveaway. Thanks so much, and Happy Holidays to you!!
Two nights later, we went in search of a Christmas tree we could both live with, taking my truck to one of the roadside Christmas tree stands that sprang up every December. I don’t know why I thought we’d agree on a tree. My definition of small was miniscule in Sara’s vocabulary, and his definition of small would have occupied most of the front room.
“But we’ve got all those lights…” His voice drifted off, and he combed his fingers through the spiky branches of a tree marked Virginia Pine. “And this one smells so good.” The tree he’d chosen reached his shoulder, but it was almost rounder than tall. “Can we get it?” His eyes lit up so brightly, I couldn’t possibly say no.
I tried, though. “There won’t be much room to walk around that one.” Another group of shoppers brushed past us, and up near the checkout stand, a group of young people played bluegrass versions of standard Christmas carols.
“It’s not that big.” He offered me his hand so I could smell the woodsy scent. “The tree stand I ordered is for sure sturdy enough, and it’ll look so pretty.”
I crossed my arms, though in my heart I’d already conceded defeat. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a Christmas tree.”
“Really?” For a moment, he stopped fussing with the Virginia Pine.
“Well”—I shrugged—“there didn’t seem to be the need.”
“I can’t even.” With a shake of his head, he took hold of my elbow and drew me deeper into the racks of trees. “I just figured you didn’t have a stand for some reason, but if this is your only Christmas tree, we gotta make it a good one.”
Something about his tone of voice made me look harder at him. He had a lost quality I couldn’t put my finger on. Why would this be my only Christmas tree? If Sara insisted on getting one, I’d indulge him, and I certainly had no plans to send him away. Perhaps he intended to leave, to fulfill his contract and then go home to Seattle.
The thought left me bereft, so when he finally narrowed his search to a slender cedar with elegantly drooping branches and a taller, rounder Virginia Pine, I insisted he choose the pine, though I had no idea where we’d put it. The relative importance of making Sara happy far outweighed my strict self-discipline. I would never compel him to stay, but the loneliness inherent in crawling into the bed we’d shared frightened me.
“This is going to look awesome.”
His excitement was catching. “Bonne Christmas, Sara.” And thank you for bringing such happiness to my life.
He tucked his hand in my elbow, and I stiffened before I could stop myself. There were a handful of people nearby, and I still felt compelled to hide the nature of our relationship. At the same time, I didn’t want to upset Sara, because he’d adapted to so much. In the end, he might leave simply because I could not overcome so many lifetimes of habit.
We dragged the tree to the checkout stand, where another family was making a purchase. Father, mother, older brother, younger sister, all four of them small and dark and weathered, as if they’d been called up from central casting to play the perfect Bayou family.
To our left, the young musicians filled the air with a rousing version of “Jingle Bells.” A young woman with long, dirty-blonde hair and a ring pierced through her nose played fiddle. She appeared to be directing the others. One man played banjo, another played guitar, and a third kept the beat with a simple snare and bass drum combination. Out in front they’d placed a hat and people had given them change. A sign behind the hat read “Help Our Friend Get Home” in surprisingly tidy print.
The cashier, an older man with a ginger flattop fading to gray, finished wrapping the last customer’s tree in a tight mesh net. Working together, the little family’s two adult members hoisted the tree, the kids doing their best to support the middle.
I presented our selection to the cashier, who punched some buttons on an old adding machine.
“Be seventy-five dollars plus tax, gentlemen,” the cashier said.
Sara startled. “Seventy-five dollars?” His eyes grew large, and the corners of his mouth curled like he was fighting an embarrassed smile. “I’m sorry, Thaddeus. We can get a smaller one.”
“Don’t worry.” I brought out my wallet and began counting out bills, apparently infected with Sara’s love for the holiday. “Tell me your favorite carol.”
Sara’s laugh held a note of relief. “There’re all good, though I’ve never heard ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ on a banjo before.”
Silent night, holy hell.
Thaddeus and Sarasija are spending the holidays on the bayou, and while the vampire’s idea of Christmas cheer doesn’t quite match his assistant’s, they’re working on a compromise. Before they can get the tree trimmed, they’re interrupted by the appearance of the feu follet. The ghostly lights appear in the swamp at random and lead even the locals astray.
When the townsfolk link the phenomenon to the return of their most reclusive neighbor, suspicion falls on Thaddeus. These lights aren’t bringing glad tidings, and if Thad and Sara can’t find their source, the feu follet might herald a holiday tragedy for the whole town.
This holiday novella can be enjoyed alone or as book 1.5 of the Hours of the Night Series. Bonfiretakes place the December after the events in Vespers.
About Irene Preston
Irene Preston has to write romances, after all she is living one. As a starving college student, she met her dream man who whisked her away on a romantic honeymoon across Europe. Today they live in the beautiful hill country outside of Austin, Texas where Dream Man is still working hard to make sure she never has to take off her rose-colored glasses.
About Liv Rancourt
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.
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