Mystic Man by
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have E.J. Russell here today talking about her latest novella and with a special excerpt for all to read. Welcome, E.J.
Many thanks to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for inviting me to stop by today as part of the Mystic Man blog tour! Mystic Man is a contemporary novella set in Connecticut, part of Dreamspinner’s States of Love collection. To celebrate the release, at the end of the tour I’ll be giving away a $20 Amazon gift card and an ebook copy of Clickbait (another of my contemporary romantic comedies) to one lucky commenter.
(In this excerpt, Aaron meets Cody’s niece, Kaya, who’s having a very bad day.)
Cody led the way through the hallway into a room with french doors that opened onto a deep lawn. The mellow oak floor and the deep orange walls, warmed further by the sunlight spilling in through a pair of bay windows, reminded Aaron strongly of pumpkin pie. He sniffed experimentally, expecting scents of cinnamon and nutmeg, but instead, the aromas were much stronger. Maybe… curry?
A man and a little girl were sitting on a brown corduroy sofa in front of a fieldstone fireplace, the girl’s feet barely clearing the deep cushions. She had the same brown skin, black hair, and liquid dark eyes as the man next to her, so Aaron made the leap that this must be Cody’s niece and brother-in-law. The man looked rather harried, and the little girl… drooped. She held a booklet, covered in green construction paper and bound with brass brads.
“Hey, Hiran. Kaya. This is Aaron Templeton, the guy I was telling you about. Aaron, my brother-in-law, Hiran Chaudhri, and my niece, Kaya Chaudhri-Brown.”
Hiran stood up and shook Aaron’s offered hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
“My pleasure entirely.”
“Aaron’s a historian.”
Kaya looked up from under her bangs. “I hate history.”
“Kaya!” Hiran’s tone was admonitory but tempered with an obvious kindness.
“It’s okay.” Aaron smiled down at the girl, who was wearing a Dinosaur State Park T-shirt that matched her pink high-tops. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.”
Cody dropped down on the sofa next to Kaya. “But you were so excited about it. I seem to remember reading about three hundred and seven internet pages about Amelia Earhart with you last week.”
“That was before,” Kaya said darkly.
Hiran’s pocket beeped, and he pulled out his cell phone. He winced at the screen, then glanced at his daughter, obviously torn between the message and the distressed little girl, who was glaring at her feet, kicking her high-tops together.
The phone rang, and Hiran clutched his hair. “I’m sorry. The entire team is about to melt down. I must—”
Cody shooed him toward the door. “No worries, BIL. We’ve got this.” He gestured to the sofa on the other side of his niece, and Aaron sat down gingerly as Hiran strode out of the room. “What changed your mind, munchkin?”
“I’m not a munchkin, Uncle Cody. They wear stupid shoes.” She punctuated her words with a double kick of the pink high-tops.
Aaron wondered what Cody was up to until he noticed that Kaya’s sadness had morphed into indignation. Ah. Redirection. Apparently Cody wasn’t afraid to take one for the team.
Cody leaned into the cushions and dropped an arm across the sofa back, behind Kaya. His fingers brushed Aaron’s shoulder, prompting an involuntary shiver.
He tapped the little booklet in Kaya’s lap. “Why don’t you tell us what the problem is? You wouldn’t let me see the final project at dinner the other night.”
“That’s because it wasn’t done.”
“Well, it’s done now. Can we see it?”
She clutched the booklet to her chest. “No. Ms. Jenkins said it was wrong.”
Aaron didn’t miss the flash of anger in Cody’s eyes—and he didn’t blame him. For a child Kaya’s age, just starting her long academic slog, discouragement from a teacher could be crushing. The same thing had happened to Aaron when he was in first grade. Those kinds of scars stayed with you. Although he had to admit that Kaya seemed like a kid who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Aaron cleared his throat. “Kaya, Cody told you that I’m a historian, but I’m a librarian too. I love all kinds of books. Won’t you show me yours?”
She tilted her head and gazed up at him, her huge brown eyes narrowed with suspicion. “A liberrian? Really?”
“Well. Okay, then.” She took a deep breath, her narrow shoulders rising and falling, then opened the report almost reverently. Aaron felt a spike of his own anger. Clearly she’d been proud of this. It mattered to her, but her teacher had shot her down.
The first page had “Amelia Earhart” written in the shaky block letters of someone still practicing penmanship. The second page had a crayon rendering of a figure in a 1930s flight helmet. Although it was representational as only children’s art could be, it was still recognizable as a female pilot.
“Amelia Earhart was born in Kansas. She liked basketball and cars. But her favorite thing was airplanes.” Kaya turned the page to another picture of Earhart standing next to a bright yellow plane. “She called her very first plane the Canary because it was yellow like a canary.”
“Really?” Aaron asked. “I didn’t know that.”
“Uh-huh.” She turned the next page, which featured a plane dangerously close to very choppy bright blue water. “She did lots of things first. She was the first girl to fly across the Atlantic Ocean by herself.” On the next page, the plane was aloft over a cornfield. “The first girl to fly across America by herself without stopping.” Another page, this time with Earhart standing next to a woman in a grass skirt. “The first person, boy or girl, to fly from Hawaii to the rest of America. Then she decided she would fly around the world.”
Aaron braced himself for what was coming next—the disappearance of Earhart and her copilot in the middle of the Pacific. But when she turned the page, the picture was of Earhart with a… kangaroo?
“And then she visited Australia.”
Cody caught Aaron’s gaze and shook his head. “What next?”
Kaya turned the page, revealing an obvious parade between tall buildings. “And when she got to New York, they gave her a parade.” But Kaya wasn’t done—there were still more pages to go. The next one showed Earhart—still in her flight helmet—next to a tree with exuberant green leaves and dozens of red dots. “Then she went to Bishop’s and picked apples with her family.”
The next page showed Earhart in a rocking chair surrounded by a crowd of smaller figures with skin tones ranging from Earhart’s peach to a brown slightly darker than Kaya’s, all wearing pink high-tops and their own flight helmets. “And she had seven daughters and seven times seven granddaughters, and they all flew planes too. The end.”
Cody tugged gently on the heavy braid that lay on Kaya’s shoulder. “That’s kind of a big family, don’t you think?”
“No.” Kaya closed the report and hugged it to her chest again. “History doesn’t have enough girls in it. It should have more.”
Aaron met Cody’s gaze over Kaya’s head and quirked an eyebrow. “You know, she’s got a point.”
A States of Love Novella
When a series of personal crises prompt risk-averse research librarian Aaron Templeton to apply for a job on the other side of the country, nobody is more surprised than he is. He nearly runs home before the final interview except for one little problem: he has no home anymore. He put his condo on the market before he left California and it’s already sold. Only an encounter with free-spirited Connecticut native Cody Brown at the Mystic Seaport Museum staves off Aaron’s incipient panic attack.
Cody loves nothing better than introducing newcomers to the great features of his beloved home state, and when the newbie in question is a rumpled professorial type with the saddest blue eyes on the planet? Score! The attraction between the two men deepens as they explore Cody’s favorite spots, but when difficulties arise and Aaron’s insecurities threaten to overwhelm him, will Cody’s love be enough to keep him in Mystic?
About the Author
E.J. Russell–grace, mother of three, recovering actor–writes romance in a rainbow of flavors. Count on high snark, low angst and happy endings.
Reality? Eh, not so much.
She’s married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, C.H. also loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and Satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set).
E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/ej_russell
Bookbub author page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/e-j-russell