I wanted to introduce you to Jayden and Arabella. Their story is my contribution to the Saint’s Grove paranormal book series – 12 books, 12 authors, all stories centered in the town of Saint’s Grove.
5 STARS: InD’tale Magazine: “There is a richness to the depth of the characters that adds color to the tales, no matter in what time they reside. Ms. Fall has a wonderful mastery of writing that brings her readers into the story. They are engrossed with the demons that come spewing out of the depths of Hell and are enamored with those who can vanquish them. This is a matchless novel that deserves to be in everyone’s romance library!” – Belinda Wilson InD’tale Magazine, December 2016 bit.ly/2hL0Z4v
Centuries ago, she was a princess and he a knight. Their forbidden love was torn apart by circumstances of the times, and her brutal death…
Arabella “Bella” Franklin has a nice, stable life in Saint’s Grove, Virginia. With no recollection of her previous existence as a princess, the newly-reincarnated young woman is living the dream—a successful bakery owner with some semblance of a social life. However, boredom and loneliness continue to be her constant companions.
Those feelings quickly disappear when the townspeople gather to witness a once-in-a-lifetime, major astrological event. Unbeknownst to them, the occurrence opens the seams of the universe, allowing any and all paranormal entities to descend onto the quiet town, transforming it into a place of mayhem and danger.
When Bella is attacked by a vicious demon, Jayden, an Angel of Death, comes to her rescue. Unlike Bella, he remembers everything about their past lives, and is delighted knowing that their reunion will give him an opportunity to possibly rekindle their passion, as well as regain his life as a human. But becoming human again comes with three caveats. He must convince Bella of the love they shared so many centuries ago, she must kill a demon – her murderer from her previous life – and she has to want Jayden to stay.
With only seven days to meet those demands, memories of her past life begin to surface. With them, comes the knowledge that if she can’t kill the demon before the seal closes, she—and possibly Jayden—may be forced to spend eternity in Hell.
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Her Forbidden Knight
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Arabella Franklin stood behind the counter of her bakery, Bella’s Bake Shop, known by the town residents of Saint’s Grove, Virginia as ‘Bella’s’—which was fine with her. She appreciated that everyone shortened her name. Before retiring, her mother had taught fourteenth century history at the local community college, and had given her a name popular during the medieval times. Frankly, she hated it, and used the abbreviated version whenever possible.
The sun would be setting soon, and she had decided to stay open late tonight since almost the whole population of Saint’s Grove would gather in the town’s square for the astronomical event. The planets Earth, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury would line up perfectly at the same time as a total lunar eclipse. The astrology professor at the community college stated that an event like this would most likely never happen again in their lifetimes…if ever again.
The City Council had decided to make a big party out of the event. Families would gather, blankets would be laid out on the lawn, and the mayor, Thomas Barlow—who had an uncanny resemblance to Hugh Jackman—even planned to give a little speech. The astrology professor would be present to answer any questions, and Bella hoped people would also want some of her cookies and cupcakes.
Being the only baker in town, she kept busy with weddings, birthdays, holidays, and even a funeral every now and then. With her shop situated in the town square, the morning crowd loved to come in for a cup of coffee and one of her freshly made muffins before heading off to their own jobs. The hair salon next door also provided a steady stream of customers looking for their afternoon sugar fix. Overall, business was good.
A woman who frequented her store in the mornings came in with a little girl in tow, and smiled at Bella.
“I’m so glad you stayed open,” the woman beamed. “The kids are dying for some of your chocolate chip cookies.”
Bella grinned at the little girl, whose hair hung around her face in messy, blonde corkscrew curls.
“Great! How many?”
The little girl jumped up and down. “Six!”
Her mother shook her head. “You aren’t eating six cookies, Mary. We’ll take four. That’s one for you, one for your brother, and your dad and I will each have one.”
“Mommy, can I have two?” the girl pleaded.
Bella met the mother’s gaze, wishing she could remember the woman’s name. She came into the store almost every morning, and Bella recalled she worked at the post office located kitty-corner from the bakery.
Reaching into the display case, she heard the bell ring, indicating she had more customers. She carefully removed four cookies and set them in a little blue box, then sealed it with a sticker carrying her business logo—a gold, foil circle embossed with the letter B.
The woman handed Bella a credit card, and she rang up the transaction.
“You’re going to close pretty soon, right?” The woman asked excitedly. “You can’t be working with this amazing event happening!”
Bella grinned. “I will. I wouldn’t miss it.”
“Good. Hopefully, we’ll see you out there, Bella!”
The woman and her child left, and Sophia Rose Neilson, the manager of Saint’s Grove Bank, stepped up to the counter. Bella had always liked the woman, as Sophia seemed to be one of those people who lit up a room whenever she entered. Her smart, blue eyes seemed to always gleam with happiness, and her long, dark hair always held glimpses of purple, similar to her own. The woman had been working at the bank for five years, and had actually given Bella her loan to get the bakery going. They chatted for a minute while Bella packed up two chocolate chip muffins, and then Sophia left. A steady stream of customers kept her busy for another hour.
By the time she thought to glance outside again, darkness had descended. She wished she had time to tidy up the store, but then came to the conclusion she’d stay a bit late tonight, or come in earlier than usual in the morning.
She stepped out into the cool night air and locked the door, deciding she’d love a cocktail. Walking across the square, she headed for the bar and grill. She heard the murmurs that the six planets had lined up in the sky, and she glanced upward. Six lights shone, all aligned together. She had also heard the astronomy professor had brought his telescope for those who wanted a closer look. Maybe she’d try to find him after visiting the bar.
Stepping into the Mountaintop Bar and Grill, she nodded at the owner, Genevieve Eleanor Whitaker, who went by Ellie. She stood behind the bar wiping down the wooden surface, her brunette hair in the usual ponytail, her milky skin glowing under the lights. The place was pretty empty since everyone was gathered outside.
Ellie gave her a wave. “Hey, Bella. Are you open tonight?”
She nodded. “I was. What about you? Have you been busy?”
“A bit. What can I get for you?”
Bella leaned over the bar so that the few other patrons wouldn’t hear her. “Vodka and tonic. Can I get it in a to-go cup? I’m going back to the store in a little bit to clean up.”
Ellie smiled. “You got it.”
It was illegal to have alcohol outside of a drinking establishment, but she felt certain there had to be a few hidden flasks among the crowd out there. She just wanted to enjoy her drink without any hassle.
They chatted a few more minutes. Bella threw a few bills on the bar and then headed back to the bakery.
Standing in the doorway of her store, she took in all the families, heard the chatter and laughter, and center of her chest ached.
At age thirty, she knew she missed something in her life, but couldn’t figure out what exactly it could be. If you’d asked her ten years ago to imagine her life at this time, she’d have said without hesitation that she’d be married with a couple of kids. She sighed at how wrong she’d been.
Her parents lived down the mountain in Roanoke, and she saw them a couple of times a month. Bella’s Bake Shop did well, and many people relied on her to help them make their holidays and special occasions extraordinary; which meant she didn’t get a lot of time to go out. Most of her friends were married with kids, so she didn’t see much of them. She dated every now and then, but found that most men didn’t interest her much.
Despite being busy, the feeling of emptiness only intensified with each day. If her life was missing something—or someone—it seemed to her she’d have to be aware of them. You couldn’t long for anything you didn’t know about. If you’d never known it before, how could it be missed?
Yet, she woke each morning feeling as though a part of her had disappeared. She didn’t understand it. She’d fallen into a huge rut, one she couldn’t climb out of. In a nutshell, her life bored her to tears, and she had no idea what to do about it.
As some of the kids ran around playing tag, she smiled. She would like to have children at some point, but in order to do that the old-fashioned way, she’d have to find a man. She didn’t subscribe to the notion that a woman “needed” a man to feel whole or complete, though. Perhaps she should consider adoption instead.
What could be her unnamable need? Could it be all she required was a trip to a therapist and some anti-depressants? Was it that simple?
The sounds of “oohs” and “ahs” returned her to the present, and she noticed that many people were looking upward. She followed everyone’s gaze, the crowd’s excitement almost causing friction in the air. The night had come alive with what she assumed to be a meteor shower. Bright, multi-colored lights zipped across the sky, as if it rained stars. It looked like they would land right on top of them, but it seemed like they somehow avoided the town square.
A moment later, an ear-piercing scream sounded from the front of the square, near the statue of the town’s founder, Peter Saint. She moved out of the doorway to try seeing what had happened, but couldn’t see past the throngs of people. Someone else yelled, and suddenly, all-out chaos ensued. A father picked up his son, grabbed his wife’s hand, and began running away from the square, his face a mask of terror. Another woman ran past Bella, carrying her two children, as tears streamed down her face. Confusion tore through her as people scattered in all directions, and she looked again to see what had caused the mayhem, but then someone jostled her back into the doorway of her store.
People began to act panicked, but also strange. A pale man took down a running woman, then brought his mouth to her neck. At first, the woman screamed and thrashed, but a moment later, she lay limply in his arms. The man glanced up, not seeing Bella in the shadows. Blood dripped from his fangs and down his chin. He stood and seemed to disappear right before her eyes.
Okay, that apparently hadn’t been a man, but a … a vampire?
Another woman ran up to her store, her long, black hair in disarray around her thin face. Bella dropped her cup as she stared into the woman’s glowing, yellow eyes, fear coursing through her.
“Get inside,” she hissed. “Keep the lights off.”
Out of sheer terror, Bella did as instructed, unlocking the door with shaky hands. Once secured inside, she sat in the darkness, gazing out the window. The woman began to tremble and dropped to all fours. A second later, a large, black wolf stood in her place. Bella backed away from the door as a grey wolf ran at the black one. They tussled on the pavement for a moment, fangs flashing and deep growls emanating from both. Then, the black wolf took off with her attacker right behind her.
Bella’s heart pounded in her chest and tears stung her eyes as she moved away from the door. Crouching down behind the counter, she watched the mêlée outside. Could she be in the middle of a nightmare? Had she lost her mind? Forget depression medicine. Right now, it seemed she needed to check into a psychiatric ward. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Vampires? Werewolves?
A man ran toward her store, a look of terror painting his face. He stood about six-foot, rail thin, with thick black hair and a matching beard. His icy blue gaze grew wide as he looked around at the chaos surrounding him.
“Help me!” he screamed, pounding on her door.
She stood and studied him, fairly certain she hadn’t seen him around town before, yet, a sense of familiarity overcame her.
“Please! Let me in! I’m going to die out here!”
Her gut told her not to trust him, but she couldn’t turn her back on her fellow man, could she? Not with the chaos that had erupted so suddenly—not after what she’d just witnessed. The body of the woman who’d been attacked by the vampire lay on the street just mere feet away. The woman who had turned into a wolf had left her clothing strewn across her doorstep. This man begged for her to help him, to allow him into safety. She couldn’t say no. Whatever had happened to cause this mayhem, the danger was very real.
Rounding the counter, she got halfway to the door and stopped. A man dressed in leather pants and vest descended from the sky, holding a long, silver sword and a matching knife. The black wings at his back spanned at least twelve feet from tip to tip. His dark hair tousled in the breeze. He hovered about ten feet behind the guy pounding on her door, his face a mask of dark rage.
She rubbed her eyes, hoping to clear what she saw. What was he? Some type of angel? Good angels wore white, right? Since he was dressed in black, did that make him … bad?
Rushing to the door, she opened it and let the man in.
“Oh, thank you. It’s just terrifying out there.”
Just as she tried to close the pane, the angel placed his foot in the doorway and shoved her backwards, trapping her between the glass door and the window.
“Don’t move, Arabella,” he snarled as his wings simply disappeared.
She stared at the space on his back where they’d been, then closed her eyes for a brief second, unable to believe what she’d just seen. It registered somewhere in the back of her mind that he knew her name, but she couldn’t find the words to ask him how.
The man she’d tried to help suddenly morphed into what she could only describe as a demon. His hands changed into claws while his skin took on a red glow, and his eyes became two black orbs. Fangs protruded from his upper lip, and a forked tongue jutted from his mouth as he hissed at her savior.
Paralyzing fear tore through her, and she screamed as she pulled the door closer to her. She longed to shut her eyes, but found herself mesmerized.
The angel raised his sword. “This time, you will not succeed, Ulric.”
The creature laughed, a deep, guttural sound that sent tremors of terror through her. “You failed once, Jayden, and you’ll fail again—you won’t be able to protect her. You’re a pathetic excuse for a knight.”
The angel, apparently named Jayden, lunged at the demon, his sword barely missing its head. Ulric dodged the blow, causing Jayden to go crashing into one of her display cases, then to the floor. The glass shattered and cupcakes flew around the store. Ulric pounced on him, and they traded blows. Jayden gained the upper hand and slammed the demon into the other display case, and it, too, met its demise. Ulric tried to get to his feet, but the smashed cakes made it difficult for him to keep his footing. Jayden grabbed a chair and raised it over his head. Just as he brought it down, the demon rolled away, sprang to his feet, and ran out the front door.
Bella stared after him, her whole body violently trembling, and the sound of splintering wood still echoing in her head from the crushed chair.
After a moment, she turned to Jayden. He looked at her, his chest heaving in labored breaths. Their gazes locked, and a feeling of recognition came over her. As she studied his dark eyes, high cheekbones, and square jaw, she tried to place from where she knew him. It was a ridiculous thought, because she didn’t hang out with angels. In fact, she kept waiting to wake up safe in her own bed, relieved this evening had only been a horrible nightmare.
He stepped toward her as a trickle of fear clawed down her spine, and she held on tightly to the door, the only barrier between them.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Arabella,” Jayden reassured her.
She swallowed as tears clogged her throat. “My name’s Bella.”
Why she felt it important to correct him on her name, she didn’t understand. She had just witnessed an epic battle between an angel and a demon. What he called her seemed irrelevant.
Then, she remembered her thought from earlier—how had he known her name?
She tried to speak, but the words remained caught within her throat.
Confusion crossed his face just for a second, but then disappeared as a gentle smile took its place. “Very well. I’m not here to harm you, Bella.”
She glanced around her ruined store. If he’d wanted to hurt her, he already would have. Instead, he’d protected her from that ugly, awful, terrifying … thing.
“We should shut the door,” he said softly. “The Evil is still out there. We don’t want to invite it in.”
It seemed like a rational thing to do, but she couldn’t seem to let go of the pane. Her knuckles were white from holding on to the metal bar so tightly.
He came closer and placed his hand on the edge of the door. “Let me close this.”
As he pulled, it slipped from her grasp. He turned the key in the lock, then glanced over at her. “I’m sorry about your bakery.”
She really couldn’t believe the mess. Smashed pastries and cakes littered the floor, topped with sprinklings of broken glass and splinters of wood. A little tidying up had turned into an epic clean up—almost a complete remodeling. At least the walls still stood.
He held his hand out to her. “Right now, this is the least of our worries.”
She gazed up at him, and then back at his hand. Chaos continued outside, and the cries of people and strange creatures met her ears.
Should she trust him?
As she glanced out into the mêlée, she stared at the woman who had been attacked by what she could only describe as a vampire. She had no idea what she should do. She didn’t know how to handle mythical creatures. Did you put a stake through a vampire’s heart? Or was it silver bullets? Did they even have hearts? There was also something about garlic … and how did one fight off what she could only call a demon? She couldn’t recall even one legend on how to stop a rabid werewolf … no, she was so far out of her league on how to survive something like this. The only thing she could think to do was crouch in the back bathroom and wait for morning.
Staring up at the angel again, she needed to put her faith in someone because at this point, she felt completely scared, alone, and lost.
He gazed at her intently. “Let me get you to safety.”
Finally, it seemed her tongue worked. “How do you know my name? Who and what was that … thing? What did he mean that when he said that you couldn’t protect me?”
“There’s time for all that later Bella, and I promise to tell you everything. For now, we need to get out of here. We must get away from this area.”
He still held his hand out to her, and she met his gaze again. The feeling she knew him overcame her once more, and a little voice inside her whispered that she should trust him.
Placing her palm in his, she nodded.
“Is there a back door here?”
“Yes.” She pointed toward the hallway behind the decimated display case.
“Let’s go. Hopefully, the chaos hasn’t moved outside the main town square, and we’ll be able to leave without too much trouble. Is your home near here?”
“It’s about a mile away.”
“Okay. Please, stay close to me and do as I say.”
Taking a deep breath, she followed him through the disarray that used to be her quiet, boring, unassuming life. How odd to think that just moments ago, she’d been wondering what she should do to put some excitement into it.
Never in a million years would she have chosen this.
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