Promise Me Anthology

by Tara Fox Hall

With Every Goodbye (Sarelle)
Sarelle McGarran loves her new country life, her pets, and her husband, Brennan. When she loses him to a tragic climbing accident, Sarelle must fight depression, financial hardship, and her family and friends' good intentions to embrace a new destiny all her own.

Heart's Bells (Theo)
College students Theo and Casey are in love, but Theo's father's ambition for his artistic son stands in their way. When Theo's family is attacked by a werecougar on vacation, he alone survives. Now afflicted himself, will Theo dare endanger the one person he loves most, hoping their love will endure his new animal nature?

Total Eclipse of the Heart (Heather, Devlin, Ulysses)*
Heather is a hardworking college student studying to be a nurse. When she meets the vampire Devlin Dalcon, infatuation quickly becomes obsession. Will Heather heed Devlin's warnings, or let herself be destroyed by her dangerous desire?

Night Shift (Jordan, Heather) * and Just Business (Tony, Thane, Danial, Devlin, Nate, David, Jordan, Angelica, Lash)*
When the mortal teen Angelica witnesses careless vampires draining accident victims on the hospital night shift, she runs to her bosses, mobsters Tony and Thane, for protection. While angered at the problem, Devlin also sees possibilities for expansion with Tony and Thaneā€¦if he can maneuver everyone into place in time.

Partners (Danial, Devlin, Angelica, Theo)* this is an extended version
Vampire investigator Danial Racklan finds more than his target when the suffering werecougar Theo crosses his path one evening. For Theo is not only a man with a past as tragic as his own, but also destined to give Danial something he's never had before: a partner he could trust.

State of Grace (Nate)*
Made a vampire by accident, timid Rodney has been reduced to feeding on animals to survive. Befriended by a veterinarian, Jackie, Rodney goes after her the night she attempts to thwart a dogfighting ring alone. But can he kill others of his own kind to save Jackie's life?

Sonata (Devlin, Nate, David)*
When Nate challenges Devlin to seduce a human woman using limited words, the handsome vampire agrees to the bet, figuring to let a musical composition do the work for him. But Mary Ann, the woman in question, has an agenda of her own.

Night Music (David and Krys)*
Grieving Krys Markman has come to lose herself in family memories at Letchworth State Park, and try to figure out her next step. Yet the unearthly beautiful music she hears each night stirs her soul to romance. Can its creator, the attractive vampire David Helm, heal her broken heart?

Tears and Rain (Terian, Kyle)
Terian has come west, seeking his friend and former mentor Colin in an effort to forget his unrequited love for Sar and increase his magical skills. Instead, he finds a harsh lesson in the bonds of family, along with fresh purpose and determination.

Heart's Solace (Theo and Tasha)
When the badly wounded cougar comes to her father's country estate, Russian teen Tasha names him Nazdeha, the word for hope. But as time goes on, Tasha discovers that the animal is instead a werecougar named Theo, whose only thought once recovered is to return to his family. Scared that Theo is doomed to die if he leaves, Tasha bespells Theo with Heart's Solace, a magical love potion given to her by a mysterious cloaked figure.

*These stories link together to tell a wider story


With Every Goodbye


“Make love with me.”

I blinked, then turned over in bed. My husband Brennan was lying next to me. Daylight streamed through the double windows, giving his short light brown hair reddish highlights. Damn, but he always looks sexy in the sun. “What time is it?”

“7:23AM; the perfect time.” His warm blue eyes blinked once, his facial expression teasing.

I stretched, yawning. “Have you been awake long?”

“I don’t usually get up before you do,” he said, chuckling. “I was watching you sleep.”

I snorted. “And you were suddenly inspired to lust?”

“Something like that.”

I slipped my hand beneath the sheet, searching. Brennan straightened suddenly, grunting.

I stroked his hardened flesh. “Tell me you love me.”

Brennan made an attempt to look stern. “I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t, Sar.”

I let the corners of my mouth curl up just a hint, my hand not stopping its motion. “Come on. Say it—”

“I love you. I’d go to the ends of the earth for you.” He grasped my free hand in his, threading his fingers through mine. “Don’t stop.”

“Sorry,” I said cheerfully, straddling him. “Like you just said, it’s the perfect time for making love.” I brushed my lips over his, then pressed harder. Brennan groaned again, then pulled me close, rolling over onto me. I giggled, then sighed in bliss, feeling his lips kiss their way lower.

God, it was great being married

* * * *

“Slowly! Go slowly,” Brennan shouted at me, as I bore down on him atop my 55-HP John Deere tractor.

“I have things well in hand, just like I did this morning,” I said loftily, easing past him through the doorway with a foot to spare. “I’m getting very good driving standard.”

“Like hell,” Brennan called, as I parked the tractor inside the woodshed. “You nearly drove over my foot.”

“Maybe you should have stepped back,” I teased. After shutting the tractor off, I began to unload the wood from the tractor bucket, piling it from one end to the other across the length of the woodshed. Brennan came up beside me and began helping, dumping wood in armfuls onto my neatly begun row.

Don’t tell him he’s piling it wrong. It’ll just start a fight, and it doesn’t matter that much. “Thanks for helping.”

“I’m your partner,” Brennan said, matter of fact. He deposited another armful. “I’m supposed to help. Besides, it’s not as if you’re going to be the only one sitting by that woodstove come December. I’ll be right next to you.” A log slipped through his fingers, landing on the dirt floor. He picked it up with a grimace, tossing it haphazardly onto the stacked row. “It was a good idea to put it in. That saved us a ton on heating last winter.”

Heating with wood was a lot of work, between the stacking, the splitting, the chainsawing into pieces, and lugging trees out of the forest in the first place. “It does. I don’t mind the extra work, knowing we don’t have a mortgage on the place.” My words were awkward, like they were any time that I brought up finances.

“I wanted you to be okay, if something happened to me,” Brennan said, just like he’d said a hundred times before. “I didn’t mind putting all my savings into the house, along with yours. And we got the life insurance policies together, too—”

“Your mom thought it was too soon for us to think about dying,” I said darkly. “She still thinks I forced you into getting them. That I forced you into paying off my house.”

“Let’s not argue about my family,” Brennan said, his tone both defensive and supplicant. “My mom will come around in time, then so will the rest of them. It’s our house now, Sar.”

We stacked wood in silence, both of us unwilling to bring up the matter that neither one of our families had exactly embraced our marriage. Most days it was enough that we had each other, and we were making a new life for ourselves together. I reassured myself again that Brennan was right. It would just take a little more time.

* * * *

“Why do you have to go?” I asked for the second time.

“Andy,” Brennan said with false patience, his jaw muscle twitching. “My best friend from high school. He flew all the way down from Alaska for our wedding, remember? He’s getting a divorce and he needs a friend.”

“I’m not talking about that,” I said, shooting him dagger eyes. “I’m talking about the climbing expedition—”

“You’re making it seem like I’m going to Everest or something—”

“You told me it was a dangerous climb,” I said louder, determined not to be dissuaded. “Now you’re acting like it’s not. Which is it?”

“It’s not dangerous,” Brennan said. “He’s done it before. And I’ve done a lot of climbing myself—”

“Not in the last year you haven’t.”

“Because I moved here to the East, to be near your family and my new job,” Brennan said, irritated. “How am I supposed to stay in shape climbing mountains when there are no mountains, Sar? I’m not a novice. I’ve climbed most of my life. I have close to a decade of experience—”

Go for the big guns. “I just became a wife. I want a few more years before I’m a widow.”

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Brennan assured, hugging me. “Just because we took all those legal safeguards doesn’t mean I want to test them out! I just want some time with an old friend. Plus I can stop out West on the way back home and see my mother, Sar. My family has been making noises about me coming out there to see them this summer. I know you don’t want to fly out there—”

The truth was that we couldn’t afford it right now, not for both of us to go. And he did have a point that this wasn’t his first climb. My husband had been a climbing guide in both Wyoming and Colorado in his college days, even if he’d never climbed in Alaska before. “You win,” I said reluctantly, hugging him. “Just come home to me in one piece, okay?”

* * * *

“Be careful,” I said, hugging Brennan in the airport lobby. “Remember you’re climbing for two. Four if you count Ghost and Darkness. Six if you count Jessica and Cavity.”

“I’ll be careful,” he said solemnly. “You be careful, too, okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I’m not going to be hanging off the sides of mountains on thin ropes.”

“Accidents happen,” he said ominously. “Just be safe, okay? No chainsawing by yourself. And no splitting either.”

“All right,” I said reluctantly. It wasn’t as if I could get my chainsaw started by myself anyway; Brennan always had to start it for me.

“I love you. I’ll call you as soon as I get there.”

“I love you,” I said, then hugged him tight, finishing with a passionate kiss. Brennan returned it with ardour, then shot me a joyous grin, and headed into line, placing his bag on the scanner as he walked through the metal detector. He went through, then paused once to blow me another kiss before heading into line to board. Then he was gone, vanishing down the retractable tunnel to his plane.

Brennan called just like he said he would. But I had terrible dreams that first night, waking from nightmare after nightmare. I spent the next day in a fog, getting up only to walk our two German Shepherds, Ghost and Darkness.

They were really my dogs, but Brennan had known them their whole life, from our selection of them as puppies to their gawky adolescence to their sleek adult selves. Ghost was white as snow—so long as he stayed clear of mud—and Darkness was black as onyx. She was just as glossy, too, when she wasn’t mud covered from digging holes looking for mice. I’d done most of their training myself, and they knew several commands beyond the usual “sit,” “down”, “no,” and “stay.”

Our two cats, Jessica and Cavity, had also been mine. They were cats I’d spent my college years with, back when I’d lived with my mother. After she’d gotten remarried to my stepfather Chris, I’d sort of inherited them. When she’d found me a home in the country only a few miles from hers, I’d jumped at the chance. I’d always felt like I didn’t belong in the city, with its obsession on trim lawns and nosy neighbours. Now Brennan and I had our own place. We were building a wonderful life here. It was normal that the first years would be a little rocky.

I smiled, then got on my laptop computer, paging through to the classifieds. It was past time to look for a job. Brennan kept telling me that there wasn’t any rush, that he was happy being the breadwinner. But I knew that was just another strike his family held against me. They didn’t understand that I’d spent the last year painting, sanding, spackling, laying floor tiles, and doing other remodeling to our new home; they only saw that he worked a job and I didn’t have one. Now that most of the refurbishing work was done inside on our new house, I was going to find something to bring in some money. I’d held a full-time job after college, and I had my chemistry degree. There had to be a lot of jobs I was suited for.
"Promise Me Anthology" by Tara Fox Hall


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