Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Magic of the Season: Chloe's Magical Christmas Cookies

Tis the season for Christmas Cookies. Have you ever wondered if cookies could be imbued with magic?  Grandma's Christmas Cookies, for example?  We all have memories of those special hand crafted treats from a loved one.  In celebration of the season, and of baking, a labor of love at Christmas time, I'm sharing an excerpt from one of my Christmas stories, A Christmas Kiss.  In this story, Chloe is trying to get the man she loves to come forward and declare his affections. She's resorted to using magic in the form of cookies. She's baked cookies, and imbued them with some very special magical properties to make the recipient of her gift fall head over heels in love with her. The only problem is, she ends up giving away several samples to other men . . . . Will they be affected by her magic? 

    Excerpt from A Christmas Kiss, Copyright Lily Silver, 2013: 
       Dressed like a princess in a fairy tale, Chloe carefully carried the plate of biscuits down the stairs. She didn’t dare leave them sitting in the kitchen for fear one of the staff would eat them. She had asked Gareth to join her near the Gazebo, so she might give him his gift.
Rupert passed her in the hall and snatched up a biscuit. “Thanks, darlin’.” He winked at her as he shoved it into his mouth.
       “Shame on you!” She scolded him. “Those were not for you.” They stood facing each other in the narrow hall leading to the kitchen. “They are a gift for someone special.”
       “Well, hoity-toity, ma’am.” Rupert looked her up and down as if insulted. “What are you complaining about? You’ve still got a pile of ‘em left, don’t you now?”
       That wasn’t the point. She made eight lemon biscuits, true, but they were for Gareth, and none other. “I made these special. Don’t you have something to do?” She gave him a scowl. He did look very nice this evening. He was dressed in his own suit instead of his footman’s livery.
       “Aye, I’ve been running hither and yon for that paunchy cook, setting up the feast in the parlor, seeing to the musicians and you’d begrudge me one little biscuit.”
      “Rupert.” Mr. Ambrose Duchamp, the count’s steward, stepped up behind them. “Off with you, that’s no way to address Miss Ramirez.” He waved his hand and the head footman went striding off quickly. The dark haired Frenchman had that affect on people. It was rumored he had been the King’s assassin before joining the count’s brigade of pirates in the East Indies. He grabbed a biscuit from the plate and popped it into his mouth, without even asking first.
      “Mr. Duchamp—I—I—“ Chloe sputtered, horrified by the implications of her magic making this man fall madly in love with her. “I was just on my way.”
      “Eh, you wish an escort, ma petite?” He was gazing at her with too much curiosity, more than she liked.
      “No, I—I’m fine, thank you.” She curtsied to the fellow, something she didn’t typically do, but she was so nervous over not one man but two stealing her enchanted biscuits, she didn’t have hold of her senses.
     “Evenin’ Duchamp.” Mr. O’Leary, another of the count’s men, breezed past them. “And Miss Ramirez?” He stopped, and turned about to gaze at her. “How lovely you look, Miss. Ah, thank ye!” He snatched up a third disk, making Chloe’s heart sink further.
A Christmas Kiss is part of this Trilogy
“Good day, sir—I mean, sirs!” She whirled about and hurried away, holding the plate gingerly in her palms, before they decided to make a meal of her remaining hopes. Chloe made it to the gardens without losing any more of her precious biscuits. She brushed past Sally, the maid, and ran right into Mr. O’Reilly.
     “Omphf, Steady on, Miss Ramirez. Sally, wait, don’t be angry, Luv.” Mr. O’Reilly called after the maid. He had stopped in front of Chloe, however, and was eyeing the plate of golden yellow disks.        
      “What’s this? Lemon biscuits, my favorite.” Another one was felled by the cruel fates as he didn’t wait for her to offer him one but grabbed one and popped it into his mouth. “Thank you, Good Christmas, Miss.”
      Chloe groaned and hurried down the path toward the gazebo. She thought she was safe, when Mr. Marceau stepped out from behind a statute. “Miss Ramirez, why how pretty you look tonight.”
      “Oh, no you don’t!” She avoided his approach by stepping around the statue to keep it between them.
      “Pardon?” The tutor followed her, ducking back and forth as if he were playing a game of hide and seek with a child. “Do not be offended, mademoiselle.” His nose was red and his eyes watery. Dios, he’d been at the wine again, he was more than a little silly at the moment.
      “I’m meeting someone.” She said, holding the plate steady as she backed away from him. “I will see you later, inside.”
      “A dance, sil vous plait?” He followed her retreat. He moved clumsily. “You will save a dance for me? Oui, my little rose petal?” He snatched a cookie, but in his awkward movement, his hand made her tip the plate. The remaining three biscuits dropped to the cobblestones at her feet. She crouched to pick them up and brushed them off with her fingertips.
     “Yes, yes—of course. Excuse me, sir.” Marceau was drunk, and he had a lecherous look in his eyes. He didn’t need any magic biscuits or fake mistletoe. She knew what was on his mind.
Original Cover, 2013
  “Is this great bag of wind bothering you?” Captain Rawlings came up the walk from the terrace with his nephew in tow.
      “Captain!” Chloe gasped. Apparently every guest invited to the party decided to linger outside in the garden while they waited for the countess to open the parlor doors at eight o’clock. Every male guest--except Gareth.
      “Oh, look at these!” The little boy exclaimed, reaching for one of her biscuits.
       The captain’s hand came out and caught his nephew’s wrist. “Mind your manners. You’ve had enough sweets for one day, and the party hasn’t started yet.” He looked from Peter to Chloe. “Are you all right, Miss Ramirez?” He drew close and gazed at her with concern.
       “Yes. I was looking for Mr. O’Donovan.” She said, backing away, lest the captain snatch a biscuit and lower her chances of getting the magic into Gareth. “Thank you. Good day, sir. I will see you later.” She made her way toward the gazebo.
       “Miss Ramirez.” The captain called after her.
       “Yes.” She turned about, her fingers holding the platter tight. The captain was one who always intrigued her. If not for having her affections set upon Gareth, she might have considered him a possible suitor. He was a fine man, a very fine man.
       “I hope we can have a dance later.” The captain said in a softened tone that was not his usual brusque sea voice. “I should like that, very much.”
       “Yes, yes. I would as well.” She stood still, feeling awkward and torn. She wanted to find Gareth, but for some reason, she felt drawn to the captain tonight. He had dressed in finery for the evening. Perhaps that was it. His hair was gleaming like burnished gold, and he had on a blue uniform jacket with brass buttons. Typically, he was very informal when he visited the count’s home.
       “I shall count upon it.” He nodded to her and moved up the path with his nephew.
Chloe sighed and muttered a curse. The one man she might have wished would take one of her magical biscuits did not even try to.   
       “My dear lady.” She whirled about, and nearly shrieked at the sight of Mr. Barnaby rounding the cobbled path. A grandfatherly sort and she had no wish for him to form an affectionate bent toward her. “I was just taking in the night air before the festivities. Care for a walk with me.”
      “I’m meeting someone.” Chloe muttered, glancing about with hope that her target might appear. “Mr. O’Donovan, have you seen him?”
      “No, I believe he is in the parlor, with Kieran and the others. Madame wanted family in the parlor before they opened the doors. “Are those Fritz’s lemon biscuits?”
      “No.” Chloe lied. Dios! This was turning into a nightmare. “They are old baking biscuits, for the dogs.”
       Mr. Barnaby smiled kindly at her. “The dogs have been locked in the stables for the evening, I’m told. Shall we go inside the house. It’s nearly eight o’clock.”
      “If you would just wait one moment.” She said, and hurried to the gazebo. Gareth was not there. The party was about to start. She had three little biscuits left. What to do? She could hide them here, but an animal might eat them and her spell would be wasted.
Perhaps it was wasted, she thought, feeling the first stirrings of doubt.
New cover, 2015
“Miss Ramirez?” Mr. Barnaby ducked beneath the hanging curtain of leaves and came into the gazebo. He looked at her plate of biscuits and then at her, as if he knew what was truly going on. “If I can be of assistance, you’ve only to ask, my dear.”
       “I made these, for Mr. O’Donovan. I can’t find him, and the party is starting. I cannot be late. What should I do? Five other men have helped themselves to my labors, and I made these for Gareth alone, not for any of them.”
       “I’ll take them for you.”
       “No, you don’t understand . . .” She burst out, ready to fall into tears.
      “I do, my dear. I do.” He said it with a gentleness that was compelling. “Love magic is not always successful. Let us hope tonight that it is not successful. But if you wish, I will keep these safe for you and give them only to the man who is destined to become yours.”
       “How did you know?” Chloe looked away to hide her rising tears.
       “My dear girl.” The old apothecary pulled his handkerchief from his vest and handed it to her.     “You were quizzing us today on magical herbs to secure a suitor. Now you are rushing about like a serving maid at a party with a plate of wafers and trying to keep everyone from eating them. Never try to fool an old wizard, Miss Ramirez. You’ll only look the fool yourself.”
        Chloe took his handkerchief. She set the platter on the seat so she could repair her appearance. “So, you admit to being a wizard, Mr. Barnaby?”
        “Don’t tell my young apprentice. Kieran likes to think he’s the only one with intuitive powers. It pleases me to let him have his fantasies. I’m told you possess a magical heritage as well, Miss Ramirez.” 
        The beginning of a song echoed out through the garden. The musicians were tuning their instruments, getting ready to begin.
       “Oh dear!” Chloe gasped. “We have to go. What should I do with these?”
       “Why, I have a little case right here.” He pulled a small leather case from his inside vest pocket. “I promise not to eat your love biscuits, but to only keep them safe and hidden until the right man comes along.”
        “But . . . Gareth promised to be here. He promised me. What does it mean?”
The old man held her gaze, but didn’t speak for a moment. He took the three remaining biscuits from the plate and placed them in his little case, and then put it in his vest pocket.
       “Yes, several men encountered you tonight, my dear. Each one was quite taken with you, before tasting your love potion. Suppose one of them is destined to be your true mate, the one who will complete your soul. Could it be you are overlooking the obvious in your pursuit of the obscure?”
       “And what is the obvious? Not Mr. Marceau?”
      “I doubt it. He is hardly the most gallant of the bunch. What does your heart tell you, my dear girl?”
       Her heart was a confused mess, a roiling, churning sea of uncertainty. She sought only reassurance from her beloved, security and the promise of forever. Was that too much to ask?
       “Come, Miss Ramirez. The spell will wear off and Destiny will sort itself out, all in good time.” The old gentleman offered her his arm. “Let’s go have a Christmas Dance, shall we?” Excerpt from A Christmas Kiss, Copyright Lily Silver, 2013.  

A Christmas Kiss is on sale during the holidays for .99 cents. It is a short story of about 57 pages. Buy A Christmas Kiss on Amazon

Chloe's mission seems to have failed. And yet, the Christmas Eve Ball is just about to begin. She still has time to maneuver Gareth O'Donovan under the mistletoe and steal a Christmas Kiss. And what about all those other men who stole her magical cookies? She may be in for a long, exhausting night on the dance floor.   Merry Christmas to everyone, may your own Christmas dreams come true.

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