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Duck ChatWelcome back to Duck Chat!

Today Annette Blair is our guest and you’re in for a lot fun!

Annette’s witch trilogies are full of magic and loads of fun. If you haven’t read any of them yet, try one. I can guarantee you can’t read just one. Her Accidental Witch trilogy entranced readers in 2004 when The Kitchen Witch hit the shelves, followed by My Favorite Witch, and then The Scot, the Witch and Wardrobe. The Triplet Witch trilogy featured the three identical sisters of the heroine in TStWtR, Sex and the Psychic Witch, Gone with the Witch, and Never Been Witched, also became readers’ favorites when the first book was published in 2007. Annette has now taken a new direction with her Vintage Magic Mysteries series this year. A Veiled Deception and Larceny and Lace are already making the rounds. And Annette’s Work Like Magick series will be out next year, Naked Dragon the first in the series. Plus, she has a number of historicals that were published well before her paranormals became so popular. Whew! If you’re going to start reading Annette Blair, you’d better start now!

Annette lives in Rhode Island with her husband. Her love of books started when she was young and discovered a library next door to her neighborhood playground. Many books and years later, her daughter challenged her to write her own book, and thank goodness she did. What a favor she did for us, giving romanceland Annette Blair. Leave a meaningful comment and we’ll put you in the running for a copy of Sex and the Psychic Witch and  A Veiled Deception, compliments of Annette!

Annette BlairDUCK CHAT: Annette, let’s talk about your witch trilogies first, the Accidental Witch trilogy and the Triplet Witch trilogy. They are such fun reads. Tell us how the ideas for the series came about and then we can talk about the books themselves.

ANNETTE BLAIR: I had taken to calling myself the “Accidental Witch-Writer” because I never intended to write a paranormal, and the way I got started was, well, magic. Half an emergency root canal the Friday before a scheduled weekend in Salem MA with friends made me want to stay home and die in my own bed. But I didn’t want to disappoint my friends, so I went. I lagged behind, and popped pain meds. I never thought I’d write a contemporary. I’d said as much. But a shop called The Kitchen Witch put a plot into my head that I couldn’t let go. The Kitchen Witch  got the attention of Nancy Yost, Legendary New York Agent, and Cindy Hwang, Legendary New York Editor, and the rest, as they say, is a writing career that got shifted into high gear. Each of my witches, by the way, is more paranormal than the last.

As I was about to consider what came after Kira’s story, my next door neighbors came home from school. They’re identical triplets I’d watched grow up. They shared triplet secrets with me, so I wrote a triplet witch series. I knew they would be psychic and each would have a different strength: the past, the present, the future. Harmony, Storm, and Destiny.

The Kitchen Witch

DC: Did the trilogies evolve as you originally envisioned them?

AB: The Kitchen Witch was, in my mind, a stand alone. But my editors and readers wanted more. I was glad that I gave Melody two friends, Kira and Vickie. Once I knew it was a trilogy, they exceeded my expectations. As did the triplets. I fell in love with them all, and their heroes of course.

DC: If you could retire any question and never, ever have it asked again, what would it be? Feel free to answer it.

AB: I would retire: Which book is your favorite? Or which hero/heroine are? My favorite is always the book I’m working on, because I’m deep into it and excited about revealing my characters and stories.

DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes?

AB: Expected characters go in unexpected directions. Characters pop up when I least expect them. A good example are my mysteries, because I was given a “Series Bible” with characters and situations outlined. However, surprise! Out of my editor’s ideas for a series came my own surprising characters: Cary Grant clone ghost Dante Underhill; Detective Lytton Werner aka Little Wiener; centenarian Dolly Sweet and her daughter-in-law Ethel; Chakra the cat. In Naked Dragon, I didn’t plan for a small blue guardian dragon to come through the veil with my man dragon, but there I was writing Jock who test smokes people and either approves or disapproves them depending on the color his smoke turns. Nobody else can see Jock except Bastian Dragonelli, until Bastian underestimates the power of water.

My Favorite Witch

DC: The Accidental Witch trilogy starts with Melody Seabright in The Kitchen Witch and then her two best friends take over in My Favorite Witch and The Scot, the Witch & the Wardrobe. Would you tell our readers a little about each book?

AB: Melody Seabright in The Kitchen Witch is the cooking show host who doesn’t know how to cook, but she wins the hearts of her TV audience with her style and showmanship. She also wins the hearts of her producer and upstairs neighbor, Logan Kilgarven, and his son, despite her sass and quirks.

Kira Fitzgerald, a jilted witch with a twitchy wand, in My Favorite Witch, leaves her cheating jock fiancée behind only to end up working with, and falling for Jason Goddard, a playboy hockey player on medical leave. Together, they find a restive ghost, auguring crows, two little boys who steal their hearts, and a love to last forever.

Vickie Cartwright in The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a witch in denial. Shocked that she unlocks an old wardrobe that no Cartwright female before her could, she takes the contents, an antique carousel unicorn, on the Antiques Roadshow, only to catch the eye of Rory MacKenzie in Scotland whose family’s been looking for that missing piece of their history for a century. Now he knows exactly where to find it.

DC: Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing? Who usually wins?

AB: Must be from being a prep school department head for more than twenty years, but I always get my way, no arguing necessary. Though I do take their ideas into account, and if they’re good, I’m no fool. I’ll find the right place to weave them in.

DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?

AB: Sure to distract me are three precious little beings: Travis age 5; Kelsey age 3; Laura age 2. Two grands and a great grand. I’m the Nana who gets called if one of the grands is sick, and I drop everything to pick them up and take care of them until their parents get out of work. If one of them calls and says “I miss you, Nana,” or “come play with me” I’m a puddle of mush and on my way, unless it’s Laura, who lives several states away. I have to satisfy myself with Laura’s unexpected speed dial calls, aware that she’s stolen my daughter’s cell phone again. She knows which number is Gigi’s (mine) or Poppy’s (my husband’s) and she gives us equal attention. My daughter married Laura’s grandfather last year but she has her little hand clutched firmly around our hearts. I could listen to her babble for hours, though she says, “I wuff you” beautifully. We now travel from New England to New Jersey quite often.

Sex and the Psychic Witch

DC: In the Triplet Witch trilogy we get to know Victoria Cartwright’s sisters from the third book in the original series. Harmony, Storm, and Destiny are some very sexy heroines. Can you tell us about them and their heroes?

AB: Harmony senses the past in that she can read whatever she touches that’s old. She’s psychometric. So when she walks into King Paxton’s haunted castle, she can tell that the ghost haunting it is causing the turmoil in the air, which makes his renovation crew argue. Actually the Gussie the ghost made everyone argue since she died. Enter Harmony and everyone calms down. Work can get done. He can get rid of the family horror show faster with everyone getting along, so he hires Harmony to hang around while she searches for all the vintage clothes she wants. The big deal here is that King was born in the castle, so she can read him, and don’t think that she doesn’t take advantage of that.

Storm senses the present and whenever she’s near Aiden Quinn, she hears a baby crying. He won’t go with her on a trip to follow the sound so she seduces him into his motor home and out of his clothes. Then she takes out the purple fuzzy handcuffs. When he’s spread eagle in his skivvies and expecting her to, er, hop on, she waves, walks away, gets into the driver’s seat and drives away, paying attention to the sound of the baby crying in her head. Meanwhile, Aiden is almost glad for the reprieve, because he’s got a hell of a secret that he doesn’t have to bare so soon.

Gone with the Witch

Destiny senses the future and paints what she sees. Problem is when she and Morgan Jarvis get stuck sharing the same lighthouse, her paintings start to make sense. Add to the mix the ghost of a child, a lighthouse keeper, and an angel named Buffy, and havoc seems to take over. Oh, Morgan also has a secret, plus he’s a paranormal debunker, and he’s trying to debunk Destiny. He has a past to face, however, before he can look to the future, and Destiny is determined to help him, no matter how incompatible they are and how hunky he’s looking.

DC: What has been your favorite book cover from all of your releases and why?

Never Been Witched

You don’t expect a one title answer, do you? The cover of Sex and the Psychic Witch ties with Gone with the Witch because my witches seem so alive, seductive, and mysterious on those covers. However, the cover for Naked Dragon is drool worthy. This series is hero centric, and the stud on that cover will stop you in your tracks.

Thee, I Love

DC: How about your least favorite cover? Why?

AB: Thee, I Love is my least favorite because it’s historically inaccurate. It depicts an Amish schoolteacher with deep cleavage and flowers and lace on her short purple gown, her legs are bare, her hair down, and she has no Amish kapp on her head. The cover is colorful, attractive, but wrong, wrong, wrong!

DC: You have a new series in the works, Vintage Magic Mysteries. Please tell us how this trilogy came about.

AB: Well, the mystery series was presented to me on a silver platter, so to speak. My agent asked if I wanted to write a Prime Crime mystery series for Kate Seaver at Berkley. Cindy Hwang is my editor for my Berkley Sensations, so that was a surprise.

Evidently mystery editors (at least Berkley Prime Crime) have these “Blue Sky” meetings where they think up mystery series, and they came up with this one where the heroine would be a fashion designer, come home from New York for her sister’s wedding, solve a mystery and stay to open a vintage dress shop. And oh yes, Madeira Cutler can “read” vintage clothes. She touches them, kind of zones, and sees things that happened while people were wearing them. If you’ll remember, in Sex and the Psychic Witch, Harmony was psychometric; she could read vintage objects and know about their pasts and their owners. I guess that’s why they thought of me for this project.

I didn’t know if I could write a mystery, so they asked if they could send the mystery bible. I said sure. They set it in Virginia, I changed it to Mystic, Connecticut. I’m a New England girl. As a matter of fact, I literally live between Salem MA and Mystic CT. Each is about an hour away. They made Eve, her best friend, a math scholar and since math scares me, I made her a computer whiz, because I have a similar background.

Once I made the bible my own, they asked me to write a chapter. So I did, and, lo and behold, they bought it. A Veiled Deception came out of that first chapter and it got an RT TOP PICK when it was released this past January. Many of the characters are my own: Dolly the 103 year old. Dante Underhill the Cary Grant clone ghost. Naming Madeira and her siblings after wine; that’s mine. Detective Lytton Werner, aka, the Wiener, he’s mine, too. Oh, and the former morgue turned funeral chapel carriage house, that’s mine too. My husband and I rented that building for twenty years and yes, there were horse stalls for the horses that pulled the hearses and there were caskets and “stuff” when we moved in. But Maddie’s family, her FBI hunk, her English Professor father and her witchy aunt, those were in the bible. Between the blue sky story.

A Veiled Deception

DC: The first two books in the trilogy are already on the shelves, A Veiled Deception and Larceny and Lace. Would you tell us about them?

AB: A Veiled Deception is the first in the series, so it introduces Madeira Cutler and her family: Her mother was a witch? Home from the New York fashion world to plan her sister’s wedding, Madeira Cutler becomes a sleuth when the bride is accused of murder. Turns out, Maddie can “read” vintage clothes and follow their clues. What other gifts did she inherit from her mother?

Larceny and Lace, second in the series, takes place once Maddie opens her Vintage Dress Shop in town. She has two murders to solve in this story, because it begins with an intruder in her shop who’s trying to steal bones from a body drawer, left over from the old morgue. Seems somebody thought an abandoned building was a good place to hide a set of bones. We learn a lot more about Detective Werner in the second story. She and her best friend Eve really lead him a merry chase.

Larceny and Lace

Excerpt from Larceny and Lace:

“I find that it is vital to have at least one handbag for each of the ten types of social occasion: Very Formal, Not So Formal, Just a Teensy Bit Formal, Informal but Not That Informal, Every Day, Every Other Day, Day Travel, Night Travel, Theater, and Fling.” —Miss Piggy

Chapter One

If I hadn’t asked my New York cronies to mention my grand opening in their national fashion magazines, I might be able to breathe as if I weren’t wearing Scarlett O’Hara’s corset.

Thirteen days before Halloween. Thirteen days to open Vintage Magic, my dress shop for timeless classics and designer originals.

What was I doing to make it happen? Driving home to Mystic, Connecticut, from New York after working out my contractual two weeks’ notice, rather than forfeiting the bonus I needed to turn my building into Vintage Magic.

As I drove, grinning witches and twinkling pumpkin lights mocked me. I needed a tucking miracle.

My name is Maddie Cutler, well, Madeira, a former New York fashion designer, and I can fix anything, with the possible exception of cloning myself. So you can imagine my frustration two weeks ago at having to hand my shop’s renovation reins over to my father.

Harry Cutler, staid academic, planned ahead. His oldest daughter, creative free spirit—that would be me—did not, which is how I got myself into this.

The silver lining? I passed my departing construction crew near Mystic Seaport. Finished. Finally. And only three weeks late.

The flaw in the fabric? A faxed report from the construction crew’s night watchman. A rash of bumps in the night and running feet into the early hours of the morning. Note from said watchman: The Mystick Falls police are getting ticked at being called every night “with no perp to show for it.”

I did not need anymore grief from my old nemesis, Detective Sergeant Lytton Werner, also known as “the Wiener,” thanks to a certain third-grade brat—that would also be me.

My complicated relationship with the local police aside, did the bumps in the night worry me? You bet your French knickers, they did. Why this sudden interest in a building that had been boarded up and left undisturbed for more than half a century?

I hoped never to find out.

Tomorrow I’d start moving in my stock and setting up my displays. How long could it take? I’d only been collecting vintage my whole life. Oy.

As I turned onto Bank Street, I heard raised voices in the distance, which anyone who’d passed the playhouse across from my shop heard at one time or another. Broderick Sampson, the curmudgeon of an owner argued with everyone. Just another sign I was home.

I pulled into the crowded lot behind Mystic Pizza to view my building from across the street. I had always admired the original copper weathervane, a ship in full sail time-coated a soft green, but I loved the new Victorian streetlamps brightening my parking lot, and the spotlit old-fashioned tavern sign hanging above the door: Vintage Magic in bold white on a dark eggplant-colored shield. Behind the shop name stood a pale lavender side silhouette of a woman who could be Jackie O., the sixties being such a popular vintage.

I finally uncrated my crying kitten, who would rather have been riding shotgun from the armrest, and she came to make her own assessment.

I refused to stress over the parking-lot debris marring the scene: empty wire reels and a mountain of boxes at my front door. You’d think the crew would have cleaned up.

The yellow fur ball purred and curled against my solar plexus chakra, an intuitive move on her part. She had the uncanny ability to calm me. Because of it, I’d named her appropriately. “What do you think, Chakra? Beautiful?”

She approved with a soft meow.

Genuine delight washed over me.

No more weather-ravaged, raw wood shack, though we hadn’t replaced a splinter that didn’t need it. No windows existed on the building’s main floor, but I didn’t want sunshine fading my vintage treasures, anyway.

We’d replaced the people door, but the huge, tall, front-facing double doors beside it, built for horse-drawn hearses, were now sealed . . . though the same could not be said for a similar door at the side of the building.

In front, however, their sheer size in lavender with eggplant crossbeams, made the sage building pop. Magical colors, according to Aunt Fiona, lawyer, godmother, and witch. Sage: the herb to clear negative energy and the color for prosperity; lavender for harmony; purple for wisdom.

In this incarnation, Vintage Magic oozed character and charm, leaving its days as a morgue, then a funereal carriage house, to the history books.

I moved Chakra from my lap, drove across Bank Street, and pulled straight into my smooth new tarmac parking lot.

I had yet to see the transformation inside.

Between the New York job and condo to sublet, I hadn’t been back in the last two weeks. But the minute both were done, I’d packed seven years of my life into a funky rental and beat my ETA by an hour.

As a result, Dad, Aunt Fiona, Eve, my best friend, and Nick, my hunky Italian boy toy, weren’t here, yet. They were due soon to crack open the secret room with me; secret being relative.

Dolly Sweet, friend and centenarian, who’d deeded me the place for the price of taxes, forgot to tell me about the second-floor storage room, its doors cut so seamlessly into a wall, I’d missed it on my pre-ownership tour. Like the rest of us, Dolly couldn’t wait to find out what she forgot she sold me.

Sure, reports of bumps in the night made me think twice about viewing even the bottom floor alone. But this was my building and I was the only one who hadn’t seen its transformation.

Besides, I had four things on my side. A key. A can of mace. Spiked heels. And a watch cat. Who could ask for more?

I was going in.

The key my father sent me slipped into the lock like a knife through flan, or cheesecake, or tiramisu. Hmm. I forgot to eat today. Forgot to sleep last night, too, I was so busy packing.

My stomach growled as I stepped inside, the scent of fresh paint filling me with a giddy Christmas-morning rush. Chakra jumped from my arms and hit the floor with a whomp to scope out the place.

The panel of switches and dimmers behind the enclosed stairway, near the door to my horse-stall dressing rooms, allowed me to flood the room with a soft wash of indirect pale pink light. I’d asked for a hint of art deco in the mahogany trim and it looked sensational, better than my sketches.

Crazy-quilt ideas for finishing touches, decorating, displays, and shop layout filled my mind.

I grinned as I perused my linen-paneled, three-thousand-square-foot dream-come-true. Vintage Magic.

The mahogany, waist-high hearse stalls against the back wall remained intact and set the style, while a cart of matching movable lower walls awaited placement along the front and sides. I’d be able to see my customers in whatever fashion type or designer nook they perused.

Unexpectedly, the wind grabbed the front door and slammed it.

I jumped and Chakra howled.

A metallic clank hit the floor above us.

My heart skipped a beat. Chakra flew into my arms, her fear becoming mine as I shivered in my Jimmy Choos.

Scrap! A bump in the night and no watchman in sight.

DC: How do you feel your male or female characters have evolved over your career? Do you think you write them differently now than you did when you started?

AB: Well, I like to think that I write both better. My editor told me that Bastian Dragonelli, hero of Naked Dragon, is her favorite of my heroes. I believe my heroines are stronger yet more whimsical. I think that my heroes are no longer entirely Beta but have more Alpha tendencies.

DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?

AB: I guess I would pretty much like to try every genre, eventually. I always have ideas for other genres.

DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?

AB: That’s easy: “Start writing romance when you’re home with your first baby, not when they’re both in high school, silly girl.”

DC: Your next trilogy is the Supernatural Employment Agency series, which will be out next year. Where did this idea for the series come from?

AB: Basically, they came from my “idea” that the veil between the planes is made thin by human magick, and that a witch must be a key character in the series, and they took off from there.

This is a series of situation comedies about supernatural beings and the mortals who hire and fall in love with them. The supernatural characters, according to their particular abilities, will change form, employ super strengths, libidos, vision, hearing, etc. They’ll shape shift, orb, fly, and make themselves and objects appear and disappear, shocking the hell out of their employers.

This is my official description for the Works Like Magic Novels: “They’re the chameleons of the universe—the magical, supernatural ancients—time travelers and shape shifters: dragons, angels, mermen, pirates—each with their own unique magickal talents. They’ve fought armies, advised kings, and even appeared to die for their beliefs, or their crimes, but they all end in Salem, where mortal magick has thinned the veil to a permeable mist and formed an entry portal in time. Whether the travelers were banished, came looking for secrets from their own pasts, or arrived by mistake, it’s a well known fact that it’s not easy going back, so once they arrive, they need a life and a living.

Enter Vivica Quinlan. She’s a young witch a big heart, a sense of humor, a good head for business, and a centuries-old legacy from an ancestor who survived the burning times of greeting and welcoming the ancients. Through “Works like Magick,” her small, discreet, supernatural employment agency, perfect for those who are more—and less than—human, Vivica actualizes the time travelers with all the legal trappings. She fits their talents, strengths and skills to each challenging job requirement. A perfect fit isn’t always easy to achieve, but it’s a skill for which Works like Magick bears a sterling reputation. And when the traveler fits the job, and finds love, in a way no mortal could, the results are often more than magick—they’re downright magickal.

Naked Dragon

DC: Naked Dragon, out in January 2010, and Bedeviled Angel, out in August 2010, are the first two books. Can you give us a smidge of a sneak peek?

AB: I’m going to give you the poem that begins each as a sneak peek.

Naked Dragon:

On the Island of Stars, on a plane beyond ours, A legion exists.
Romans. Knights. Males with fight.
Cursed. Exiled. Warriors still, breathing fire for sport
Casting shadows on the ground from the air, wings spread,
Bearing scales of gold, some silver, some red.
Dragons who hoped to be blessed with unlikely redress,
Humanity returned and put to the test.
But trapped by an endless lava sea, this army of dragons seems doomed not to be.
One sliver of hope, a risk: bound moons shade white magick from black.
One dragon per phase might be turned and sent back,
But who could be spared to make way for the rest? Who best?
The alpha stepped up to save his clan. Their protector nodded and chanted her plan:
“Shed horns, spines, claws and webbed wings. Shrink scales, spade and tail—”
The counter spell came in a lightning bolt. Bastian roared as he took the jolt.
But aborting now would mean certain death. No wasting time, not even a breath.
“Knight to beast now back, again. Send this man to the plane he began.”
Bastian roared as he twisted to shift from dragon to man in the steam from the rift.
Soothed by his mentor with a dragon tear, a magick so rare,
Hope grew, despite the scent of death in the air.

* * *

Bedeviled Angel:

Two souls touch
A moment sublime
Wrapped in chaotic time
While Angels stand behind

Through fate’s delay
Wild events convey
Paths leading away
While Angels walk beside

No turning back
An undeniable fact
A life-lesson lack,
Tho’ Angels have your back

DC: If you were a book, what would your blurb be?

AB: Sassy and snarky, she’ll make you laugh, cry, and end up with a heart full of hope and the belief that life is good.

DC: What would be your “voice’s” tagline?

AB: “Magic stories with Heart.”

DC: You Can’t Steal First is your novella in the Hot Ticket anthology with Julia London, Dierdre Martin, and Geri Buckley, and will hit the shelves next month. Would you tell us about it?

AB: My story, You Can’t Steal First, is about Tiago and Quinn who met when she beat him up in the sandbox. He was from the wrong side of the tracks. Her family owned the tracks. They were each other’s first, but the next morning, Tiago was gone. Now, thirteen years later, he’s a big name Red Sox player on his Hot Ticket Express (train) to spring training, and she’s been tricked into going along for the ride. There’s no right or wrong side this time, they’re riding the tracks, and they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Hot Ticket

Excerpt from You Can’t Steal First:

Tiago looked down at the station platform, from the parlor car in which he stood, at Quinn Murdock, all prim, and proper, and appalled, as beautiful as ever, even dissing his train.

His heart raced at the implications–Quinn, for three days, neither of them on the wrong, or right, side of the tracks, but square in the middle.

Maybe, he’d get some long-overdue answers.

Maybe . . . they’d finally kill each other.

Quinn stepped away to read the plaque on the railroad car, and the sun came out and gilded her hair to copper. Then the wind lifted it around her face, and Tiago could swear he caught its scent. He remembered the silk of it sliding between his fingers. His body remembered as well.

“Mickey Mantle?” Quinn asked, the sudden set of her lips enhancing his hard reaction. She stepped back and read the names of the baseball greats on several railroad cars. “You wouldn’t!” She turned on her gofers, and they stepped collectively back. “I told you about Tiago in confidence!”

Tiago’s heart skipped. Thirteen years, and she still talked about him?

“Please!” Quinn said, “Tell me this moldering old excuse for a locomotive is not Tiago’s Hot-Ticket Express to Spring Training!”

“This is not Tiago’s Hot-Ticket Express to Spring Training,” Charm Boy lied as ordered.

Tiago braced himself, as much against the train’s first halting surge as against the razor-sharp blade of Quinn’s presence slicing open his sorry past and threatening to make him bleed.

“Let’s get you on board,” Charm Boy said. “Damn train’s starting to move.” Despite Quinn’s protest, the man shoved her, ass-up, onto the train while Tiago bit off an objection to the familiarity.

Quinn gave her attention to fighting and cursing the ham-fisted jerk behind her, so she didn’t know who stepped out and caught her hand to keep her from falling on the tracks–couldn’t know that touching her again revved more than the Amtrak engine up front.

“Traitors,” she shouted as she turned, retrieved her hand, and caught her balance, still focused on the tricksters who got her here.

Charm Boy sprinted beside the train and tossed two suitcases in after her. One hit the floor at her feet, split, and belched enough gauze and spandex to make a hooker proud.

The second broke the bones in Tiago’s left foot.

“Effing-A,” Quinn said as she fell to her knees, rescued a rippling cellophane halter top, and shoved it back in the bag’s gaping belly. She rifled through the rainbow of bare-flesh wet dreams, and with rising anxiety, she checked the second bag, a street-walker’s shoe store. “Where’s my underwear?” she shouted. “Derek, there’s no underwear!”

Her male gofer grinned, saluted, and stopped trying to keep up, and as the distance grew between them, he rubbed his hands together at a job well done. Quinn’s female contingent caught up to him, and they high-fived each other.

Quinn screeched when she saw, and about gave Tiago a stroke when she leaned out the door. “Loserrrrrrs!”

The losers grinned, nodded, and waved.

Tiago caught the death-defying tigress around the waist and hauled her back in, against her will, his heart racing over her stunt, her scent, her lush familiar curves. “Damn, but I forgot what a pain in the ass you are.”

Quinn Murdock–the only woman who ever ran away from him–in his arms again. Tiago held her against him, eye to eye, her feet about six inches off the ground.

“Son of an effing bustard,” she snapped. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Put me down you dumbass gorilla.”

Tiago chuckled. “I missed you too.”

The pointed toes of her biker-type knee boots made hard contact with his shins.

He set her down. “Son of a– A few more bruises, Hot Stuff, and I’ll end up shining the bench at spring training.”

“Turn your back on me, and you won’t make that cut. Despite her bluster, Quinn stepped away from him to come up against the undulating Pullman car at her back. Tiago’s heart skipped when the chasm between the platform and the car opened and closed beneath her, as if trying to suck her down and swallow her whole.

“Get your sweet ass away from there.” He offered his hand, but Quinn’s eyes narrowed to sparks of fiery emerald, so he grabbed her by the waist and lifted her off her feet to set her down in a safe spot between the car doors.

He brought her bags over as well. “Got any tassels in there?” he asked, catching a flying scrap of silk like a line drive to second. Then he pressed a button to shut the doors and cut the whirlwind trying to suck her wardrobe into oblivion.

Quinn snatched the silky scrap from his texture-testing fingers.

“Leave it to you to call your employees losers,” he said.

She shoved the scrap in her pocket. “They’re not my employees. They’re my friends.”

“You have friends?”

She placed a fast boot heel on her belching bag to nail a diaphanous strip of pink champagne and keep it from floating away.

Tiago grinned. “With all that leather you’re wearing, I keep looking for your whip.”

“You wouldn’t know haute couture if it bit you in the butt.”

“Stop it, you’re turning me on.”

“Bite me.”

“There you go again.”

Quinn tried to toss her hair over her shoulders, an assertive, attention-getter she’d used as a teen, except that her long nutmeg “wings” had been clipped, likely for the boardroom, and there was no length left. Short, stylish, and businesslike, her hair fell longest around her face where it curled beneath her chin and met like the inside point of an inverted heart, framing her features into a sassy, sexy whole while showcasing the sweet, sublime line of her neck.

She firmed her spine and raised her chin.

Twice as hot as the designer-chic curves revealed by the calfskin outfit she’d been shoe-horned into that morning, Quinn Murdock had never looked better, except for maybe the first time he saw her . . . in the sandbox.

They were five.

She gave him a black eye.

It was love at first smite.

DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?

AB: I’d still be a Development Director at the prep school where I worked for more than twenty years, until I left three years ago to write full time.

The Butterfly Garden

DC: You’ve written a number of historicals. Will you be writing any more in the future?

AB: I love historical romances, so yes, I’d love to write more. There are two rogues I never wrote, Hunter Elijah Wylder’s story and Myles Quartermaine’s story, and I have a sequel in mind for The Butterfly Garden. Yes, definitely more historicals, if I can.

DC: Do you prefer writing contemps/paranormals over historical or vice versa?

AB: I can only write the stories that I fall in love with. It really doesn’t matter which genre. Some authors choose according to the brevity of research, but I believe that contemporaries take every bit as much research as historicals. However, I am really shocked at how much I enjoy writing my first-person cozy mysteries.

DC: What else is on the horizon for Annette Blair?

AB: I have four books out this year and three scheduled for next so far. I hope to write more Vintage Magic Mysteries and more Works Like Magick Novels. I’d like to hit the New York Times and maybe win a Rita.

Lightning Round:

– dark or milk chocolate? – milk
– smooth or chunky peanut butter? – smooth
– heels or flats? – Heels if I didn’t need new knees; flats because I don’t have a choice
– coffee or tea? – tea
– summer or winter? – summer
– mountains or beach? – beach
– mustard or mayonnaise? – mayonnaise
– flowers or candy? – flowers
– pockets or purse? – purse
– Pepsi or Coke? – Coke
– ebook or print? – print

Because they’re still a lot of fun:

1. What is your favorite word? – “Yes.”
2. What is your least favorite word? – “No.”
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Creatively: Peace, art, movies, a writing retreat with good friends. Spiritually: Nature in its glory; a beach, a cathedral of trees, a full moon. Emotionally: a house full of family, my grandchildren talking, laughing, singing, watching them discover life in all its aspects.
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Creatively: exhaustion. Spiritually: intolerance. Emotionally: War.
5. What sound or noise do you love? – The birds in the morning (especially when I’m on my way to bed after writing all night).
6. What sound or noise do you hate? – An alarm clock.
7. What is your favorite curse word? – Scrap!
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – Artist/painter.
9. What profession would you not like to do? – Pope.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Good Books. Welcome. Your mother and father are waiting.”

DC: Annette, thank you so much for being with us today!