With Christmas fast approaching, I thought why not ease you all into the spirit of the holiday with ten chapters from my novel, KRINGLE. Yes! Ten free chapters for you to enjoy running Monday through Thursday until November 16th. Hope you enjoy!
To catch up on the story I’ve added the Links to the end of this post.
“Sorry to bother you,” said Erik Rayner, “but I need your oh-kay to bring in a toxicologist.”
“You don’t need my permission.”
“Actually, I need you to run interference. Thorne doesn’t want anyone touching his reindeer. He threatened to ban me from the Complex.”
Heat underscored my already-in-progress hot flash. “I’ll deal with him.”
I stripped off my cardigan. Why are hot flashes called flashes, as in flicker? Mine had strong perseverance. I phoned Thorne, going to voice mail twice. He knew I was calling. Scotchie is right. Royal Thorne is an åsna torka. Actually, calling him an ass wipe is being kind.
I phoned Bemidji who revealed Thorne was on another coffee break. I punched up the Complex kitchen webcam on my computer and saw him: feet up, coffee in hand, Tattle open in his lap. As he deliberated over a pastry box, my hot flash erupted with a volcanic explosion.
I activated the kitchen intercom. “This is your boss, the stupid cow. Answer your phone, Dr. Thorne. You don’t want me to come down there.”
He spilled coffee into his lap. Watching his chair toppled backward was icing on my cupcake. I disconnected when he claimed I’d misunderstood his words, and that his head cold prevented him from hearing out of his phone ear. I scowled at the flower arrangement on my desk. Their cheeriness ticked me off. I saw Candy’s face among the carnations.
“College interferes with my responsibilities. I’m dropping out.”
I saw Kris’s face in the chrysanthemums.
My hormonal passion surfing a tidal wave of fury, I shattered the flowers with frost. Their destruction intensified rather than relieved my anger. Applause jerked my attention to Mom, standing at the door swathed in la Parisienne couture.
“Your father will be proud you’ve acquired his flair for destruction. Your Nanny, however, would have been horrified.” My resolve to stay strong crumbled. Mom gathered me close. She smelled of Shalimar and solace. “Are you certain it is the oats?”
“No. Erik’s bringing in a toxicologist.”
“Is it just the Famous Eight, or are the Six-In-Training sick too?”
“SIT’s, too. Complex restrictions should have been enough protection. Not that I ever imagined they could be in danger.”
“The truth will come out. You’re doing your best.”
“My best isn’t enough. People expect more from me, but I gotta tell ya, Mom. I don’t have much more in me.” I wiped my tears. “You heard about Kris’s reaction to Candy’s engagement?”
Mom produced the latest Tattle with headlines screaming, Kringle Marriage Threat: Holly Furious over Candy’s Engagement to Brannoc. There was also a supposed quote from me: “I wanted him for myself.”
A photo showed me pulling Kris off Brannoc. The photographer could have been any one of my employees. “Wonderful. Nattie’s got a spy on the inside.”
Candy frowned at her father. Kris glared at me. I looked at Brannoc with a syrupy expression that could be mistaken for besotted. My gaze drifted to a photo in the side column of my pal Val with her cheeks peeking from a too short skirt. I loved her dearly, but…geez, woman.
Mom said, “This fascination for Brannoc, I do not understand.”
“He sells copies.” I scanned my messages. “People are attracted to the fragrance of his fairy blood. He’s aromatically irresistible.”
“Does anyone believe those stories about him?”
“You mean other than Kris, who is pathetically gullible?”
Gullible enough to believe Sandee’s sob story and approve her return to Polartown.
“If the stories about him are untrue,” Mom said, “surely he realizes so are ones about Brannoc.”
“Are we talking about the same Kris?” My messages concerned the reindeer. I tossed them. We would all know their fate soon enough. “He’s ballistic. It didn’t help for Candy to announce she’s dropped out of college.”
Mom moved to the fireplace to warm. “Not everyone is collège matériel.” The frost in her tone warned me to tread carefully. In recent months I’d noticed regret for a life that could have been now peppered her thoughts in her mid-sixties.
“Yah, but we hope Candy will do more with her life, aside from being a beauty queen.”
“I was a beauty queen.” Frost thickened to ice. LaRoux Sommet had been Ever Autumn’s first Miss Autumn Blaze. Then Kingston Cooper road into town on his arrogant horse and made her a child bride. I debuted nine months later. Nothing prevented Mom from getting a degree at her age, but I’d given that speech countless times. To repeat it would be superfluous.
“Could I trouble you for water? I am parched.” She sat beside the hearth.
As I handed her a bottle of Snowflake I noticed dark circles under her eyes. “Are you not sleeping well?”
“Not really, but tomorrow I will feel better.” She filched a Pitter Pat from the candy dish. My undigested irritation at breakfast must have shown on my face. “I didn’t eat breakfast, Holly. I’m hungry.”
“Sorry, I skipped too, so I’ll join you.” As I bit into the confection, the raspberry buttercream exploded on my tongue. “Geezopete, this is good. If I weren’t so insane over Kris’s sugar-madness, I could understand why Kringle candies are impossible for him to resist.” I sipped my water. “What a day. Kris is powdered before breakfast. Noak, too. Candy wants to quit college. Get married! Our reindeer are—” I ate another chocolate, disrespecting it with two chews before swallowing. “Once Kris sees the Tattle, my upset over his sugar addiction will take a backseat to me stealing Brannoc from Candy. I hate being caught in the middle.”
“I’ve been in that position throughout my marriage.” Mom referred to the tension between Dad and me over his refusal to train me for Nature.
“Nanny said Nature was my birthright.”
“You were seventeen.”
“A mature seventeen.” I talked by age two, read the newspaper by four. At fifteen I entered college. Then Nanny Anian died, and Dad took possession of her ring, the Förvandling. “He said he would orchestrate Nature until I was ready. When I argued that I was ready, he told me scary stories of the perils he had faced when he’d assisted Nanny. He made himself sound like James Bond.”
Mom nodded. “And I supported him. He frightened me with images of you dying a horrible death. Unfortunately, he was almost right.”
I’d badgered Dad to let me help build a volcano and ended up in the hospital. “He said Nature talent skips a generation. I asked him, if that were true, then why did the talent go to him and not me? His answer? ‘Because I’m a man.’”
Mom shrugged. “His answer for everything.”
“I pestered him until he screamed, ‘My mother gave me the Förvandling. Not you. She didn’t think you were competent to be Mother Nature.’ God, it hurt to know Nanny thought I was incompetent.” When Mom didn’t respond, I said, “I still feel sick that she thought I couldn’t cut it. I asked Dad if I could read Nanny’s journals to understand where I’d failed, but he said she didn’t keep any. Thirty-two years later, Dad has a heart attack and says it’s time for me to train. What? Age is immaterial. Either I have it or I don’t. You know what he said?” I mimicked Dad’s arrogant timbre. ‘You’ll never be as great as I am, but you can be trained.’ He made it sound like he could train Dova’s monkey to do the job.”
“You are like me. You trust to a fault.” Mom stoked the fire. Since I was flashing again, I made a mental note to call Hearth-Master Inglenook to shut it down. “We want to believe people are honorable, but what you have to wonder is, what do they want you to do? Why do they want you to do it? And, what do they get if you do it?”
“This is Polartown, Mom. Good people live here.”
“So does Nattie Blather, Pecan Sandee, and whoever poisoned the reindeer.”
I slumped with defeat. “People want me to tell them the reindeer will be fine. I know I’m the go-to person, but I’m sick of people dumping their problems on me. I don’t dump on people. Do I dump on you?”
“Not anymore, though I miss being needed.”
A simple statement, yet I heard volumes of pain. “Mom. I need you. The kids need you. Dad needs you.”
“The King! He needs me as much as he needs confidence. He needs me to nag him to obey doctor’s orders so he can call me silly. He needs me to correct my opinion because it doesn’t match his. He needs me to impress when no one else is around to watch him show off. We need to talk. I’ve seen the expression you wear in my own mirror. I know what you’re going through. I went through it myself at fifty.”
“See Dr. Havelock for details. He’ll give you a list of symptoms that will curl your toes and at the same time make you glad you don’t have them all. He can also recommend a women’s therapy group so you won’t feel alone. They’ll give you permission to rant when you want to, cry when you need to, and consume all the chocolate you care to because chére, no matter how much you diet, everything you eat will still end up on your ass.”
I gasped. Mom laughed. “Let’s schedule a day at Winter Wonderland Spa. I recommend the Hot Flash Hottie package which includes an aromatherapy facial, a mani-and-pedi-combo, a sea mud bath, brow, lip and bikini waxing, and a superb lemongrass and ginger friction massage to remove body toxins. And, you may keep your spa robe.”
“I don’t need another robe, Mother. I need…” What did I need? A new life? A life where people didn’t line up to suck the spirit out of me? A life where my children’s behavior reflected I had done a good job raising them? A life where my husband appreciated me. Respected me. Behaved like a mature partner and not like my out-of-control first born.
“I have a full life,” I said. “Too full. I’m needed by too many who expect me to do too much. It didn’t used to be so overwhelming, but lately, issues I once shrugged off now get to me. And more often than not, Kris is at the heart of my irritation.”
Mom toyed with her candy wrapper. The soft crinkle reminded me of Kris unwrapping peppermint after peppermint while I melted down over his decision to let Sandee return.
“J.J. Rime saved Polartown,” he had explained to me. “Your investigation into their business dealings makes it seem like we aren’t grateful. Sandee appealed to them for a job. She’s completed her therapy. She’s been gone twenty years. We should support J.J. Rime.”
Sandee had been back two months. As she had not (yet) shown cause for continuance of my initial straining order, Kris suggested I rise above my previous grievances.
Huh? She tried to kill me. How do you rise above that?
Mom interpreted my dark mood. Or maybe she’d noticed the stranglehold I had on my water bottle. “You love him for the very reason he allowed Sandee to return. He believes people are good at heart. He believes she’s changed.”
“I don’t. Twenty years is a flake in a snowstorm. He betrayed me.”
“I don’t understand him anymore. His cavalier attitude about his health is the tip of the iceberg. He acts as though Father Time will let him return to his twenties where he binged without consequence. I don’t like being short with him. I love him. But lately, I don’t like him, ya know? I don’t like how he makes me feel.”
Mom grasped my hand. “He makes you feel, how?”
“Aside from betrayed? Like I’m his parent and he’s my rebellious teen. I shouldn’t have to nag him to take care of himself. He should want to because he loves me. Loves our children. Loves the world’s children. He should want to do whatever it takes to be alive and well for us. Instead, his insane need for sugar has come between us.”
“Have you told him this?”
A third Pitter Pat found its way into my hands. “Yah, but it’s like he has sugar cubes stuck in his ears. I remember you and Dad had problems. He slept in the guest room. You visited Grandmère Sommet for a while.” I shoved the whole chocolate into my mouth and spoke while I chewed, as only a daughter can with her mom. “Did physical distance between you help?”
“Well.” She took a genteel sip of water. “I survived my problems with an affair.”
Shock caught the chocolate midway down my throat. I coughed and wheezed.
“Cyber-affair, you know?” I didn’t. She explained. “I met him in a chat room named Love on the Rocks. He called himself Silver Fox. I was Diable Rouge.” She fluffed her hair. “I never met Foxy, he lived in New Zealand, but he helped me through dark times. Not that I suggest you slink into a chat room with a sassy name.” She shrugged. “If I possessed half your confidence, I would have taken control of my life without seeking outside comfort.”
I saw pain behind her smile. Marriage to Kingston Cooper had to be difficult when he was also Father Nature. Dad turned one hundred and five his last birthday. Physically, he looked to be in his mid-sixties. The wearer of the Förvandling ages one year to every ten human years. Dad married Mom when she was sixteen. After fifty-one years of marriage, Mom looked older than Dad. I hugged her. She felt fragile.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, back in your Diable Rouge days.” I pulled back. “They’re over, right?”
“The past is dead. I now live in the present, which is why I am here. Are you free for lunch?”
“Not really. I’m behind in my work. Candy’s sculpture is unveiled at five. I want to call Dr. Havelock. I need relief from these hot flashes.” Mom wore a peculiar expression. “What?”
“I’ve made a decision and wanted to tell you before it became Tattle fodder. Not that I need your advice. I’ve made up my mind.”
“Does it have to do with your insomnia?” I asked.
“Perhaps. I’ve decided to divorce your father.”
Chapter 1-Part 1. Chapter 1-Part 2. Chapter 1-Part 3. Chapter 1-Part 4
Chapter 2-Part 1. Chapter 2-Part 2 Chapter 2-Part 3 Chapter 2-Part 4
Chapter 3-Part 1 Chapter 3-Part 2 Chapter 3-Part 3
~ * ~
Holly Kringle has a very full plate. She is Highest Mayor of Polartown and President of Kringle Enterprises–the company that puts the ‘Merry’ in Christmas and the ‘Happy’ in Holidays. She is also the mother of teenagers and wife to Kris Kringle–the World’s Biggest Kid. When the reindeer are poisoned three days before Eve Launch, Holly adds amateur detective to her resume. With just about everyone in Polartown under suspicion, she doesn’t have time to dwell on employee problems, personal family issues, her 50th birthday, or investigate her husband’s highly suspicious behavior. If Dancer dies, her soulmate Dasher won’t want to live without her. And like a pod of whales beaching on the shore, the remaining Famous Eight will surely follow.
10 KRINGLE chapters will post Monday through Thursday until November 16th. Naturally there is my hope that you will be caught up in the story to want to buy the book, either paperback or ebook, and to make it so much more enticing to you, I’ve dropped the prices. Plus every penny of profit will benefit cats from a local colony. All of my fur babies, except for Herman, came from that colony. While I cannot afford to adopt another cat — when I took in Candy, Elly and Chevy over the past 12 months with Els and Chev being FIV+, that brought the Wonderpurr Gang up to 13 — I would never turn away a hungry animal who wanders into my yard, especially in winter.
Hope that sounds enticing to you Christmas novel readers. And if it does, I have created three ways for you to purchase KRINGLE, if you so desire.
KINDLE eBooks – If you enjoy ebooks, KRINGLE is available on Kindle for $3.99 with a generous royalty profit of $2.73 for the kitties.
Amazon.com – You can purchase the paperback for $7.95 where the royalty is .54 (grrr) and shipping is about $4.59.
CREATESPACE – I’ve set up a Createspace store specifically for KRINGLE readers. There the book is priced at $7.95 with a royalty of $2.13 and standard shipping is about $3.59.
I hope you enjoy the ten free chapters. And if you do, please tell your friends. Better yet…buy a book, either as a gift for yourself, or for someone on your gift list who enjoys campy, funny, holiday mysteries.
Love to you all!
Kim, Herman, Dori
and the Wonderpurr Gang