Thursday, March 10, 2011

Excerpt of STONE KISSED by Keri Stevens

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Chapter One
"Yes. Right there, again, please!" The marble satyr moaned his pleasure as Delia scraped away bits of lichen from the groove of his outer thigh.

"Just shut up." She reached for her boar’s hair paintbrush. For the past two hours she’d been in Mrs. Hansdorf’s Bethesda, Maryland, garden maze cleaning the lewd little flirt, and he was relentless—as were most statues. This satyr was four feet tall and had been sculpted mid-leap, his arms outstretched for the nymph who stood on her own pedestal five yards farther around the turn. He was doomed forever to chase the nymph, who taunted him mercilessly.

"Hurry, Delia. I’ve got an itch," the nymph called, eternally giggling over her shoulder.

"You shut up too." Delia laughed and returned to the task at hand—the enormous task. From what she could remember of sex, this fellow was disproportionately large. But Mrs. Hansdorf had said her late husband had commissioned these particular sculptures, and the nymph bore a striking resemblance to a young Mrs. Hansdorf herself. Which begged the question…

"It’s a completely accurate representation." Eleanor Hansdorf sniffed, coming up the walk with a tray in her hands.

Delia closed her eyes. The little twits hadn’t warned her. She shook her head and kept brushing his flank. She’d earned a reputation as one of the fastest and best stone conservators in D.C. thanks to her ability to speak to sculptures. When they complained of a telltale itch or an odd pressure, she looked closer. The work of cleaning away old damage, patching in new compound and carving the perfect curve could be grueling and dull, but her charges filled the hours with centuries of stories and all the unsolicited advice a single woman with no social life could wish for.

"Delia," the satyr said. "Just a little lower, to the left."

She squinted up into the divots that created the illusion of his pupils. She’d already threatened twice today to snap off his "lower to the left" if he didn’t cut out the pervy talk.

"They look so lovely in the sun," Mrs. Hansdorf sighed. "Marvin made them for sunlight." Her wrinkled face widened into a huge grin. "And inspiration. Sunlight and inspiration. Speaking of inspiration…"

Mrs. Hansdorf settled the tray, with two tall glasses of lemonade and a china plate of oatmeal cookies, on the stone bench behind the satyr and handed Delia a condensation-coated glass. "You should meet my grandson.

He looks like Canova’s Perseus. Minus the Medusa head, of course."

Delia smiled noncommittally. Her cell phone rang, so she fumbled to remove her cotton glove and dig the phone out of her tool belt. It was a Stewardsville number, which never meant anything good. "Forrest Preservation, how may I help you?"
"Miss Forrest, this is Ian Baldridge of Baldridge and Sons."

The frail little man from the law office in her old hometown. Her stomach flipped. Good God. What had Father done now?

"I’m sorry, Delia. There was a fire at Steward House this morning. Your father was inside."

She dropped her lemonade. As his voice cut in and out, Delia watched the blood from the shattered glass well up on the top of her foot. His words washed through her and she responded, although she wasn’t entirely sure what she was saying. When he finally stopped speaking, she closed the phone gently.
Mrs. Hansdorf had already knelt to clean up the glass. She rose, placing another shard on the tray. "Is he alive?"

"Yes. He’s in ICU."

"Where’s your home?"

"Five hours south. Four. I’ve got to go."

Mrs. Hansdorf held the other glass of lemonade up to Delia’s lips and pulled the phone from Delia’s hand.

"Of course, dear. But a few minutes won’t make a difference. You’ve had a shock and need the sugar." She closed Delia’s fingers around a cookie. "You have time."

"Mortals," the satyr snorted. "Time’s the one thing you don’t have."

"I’m sorry." Delia placed the lemonade on the tray and shook the glass dust from her threadbare sneaker. "I really must go."

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When Delia Forrest talks to statues, they talk back. She is, after all, the last of the Steward witches.
After an arsonist torches her ancestral home with her estranged father still inside, Delia is forced to sell the estate to pay his medical bills. Her childhood crush, Grant Wolverton, makes a handsome offer for Steward House, vowing to return it to its former glory. Delia agrees, as long as he'll allow her to oversee the restoration.
Working so closely with Grant, Delia finds it difficult to hide her unique talent—especially when their growing passion fuels her abilities.
But someone else lusts after both her man and the raw power contained in the Steward land. Soon Delia finds herself fighting not just for Grant's love, but for both their lives...

Get on Kindle         meet Keri Stevens