The Sullivans, a family of hard-working Irish lawyers, came from nothing and built a life they can be proud of. The Deschanels amassed incredible wealth by siding with the North during the Civil War, betraying their people. Both New Orleans families have a dark and rich history, painted with secrets, treachery, and colorful, supernatural abilities.
The House of Crimson and Clover unravels the mysteries surrounding both families, pulling us further into their tangled, enigmatic lives.
The House of Crimson & Clover Box Set Volumes I-IV
The House of Crimson & Clover #1-5
The House of Crimson & Clover #1-5
by Sarah M. Cradit
Publication Date: August 17, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Amelia wandered into the college pub, looking to see if anyone she knew was hanging out. Then she saw him: Jacob Donnelly, that goofball from her high school, who had enough of an Irish accent to sound like he didn’t belong here. He wore a baby-blue collared shirt, first two buttons undone and one flap defiantly pulled free of his waistband. The belt cinched at his waist struggled valiantly to keep his trousers on. Black spiky hair atop his head pointed in twelve directions, as it always had, but his facial features had matured into a finer definition. His trademark goofy smile had evolved charmingly, giving an expression bordering on arrogance, but speaking more to his innocence.
Amelia’s heart caught in her chest as his appearance produced a completely unexpected reaction. Why is it she never noticed how beautiful he was? Or how that softly-grooved cleft on his chin invited her finger-tip’s touch?
Jacob was off in his own world, eyes closed, lost to an enthusiastic air drum solo of The Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.” He mouthed the words as his hands swung with every wild-yet-precise drumbeat, oblivious to the gathering crowd. When the song ended, he finished off his beer accompanied by applause from a handful of college kids. He offered them an exaggerated bow, and as he came back up, his eyes fell on Amelia, who shamelessly stared at him in dumbfounded awe.
“Miss Amelia Jameson! Princess of Prytania, Goddess of the Garden District,” he intoned, a great big smile spreading across his face as he sauntered over to her. His dimples appeared, accented by a light touch of facial hair. “You know it’s customary to tip when you enjoy the show.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she protested, flustered. Worse than the lie was that she couldn’t figure out why she was telling it. Playing coy had never been her thing, and she was certain he saw right through her. “I didn’t know you went to Tulane,” she added, attempting to veer the conversation away from her mortification.
The mischievous glint in his green eyes told her exactly what he thought of her falsehood. She half-expected him to flat out accuse her of gawking, when instead he asked, “Have you eaten? I was planning to take the streetcar into Carrollton and grab a burger at Camellia Grill. We can catch up along the way, and if you actually have something interesting to say, I might even buy your burger, too.”
Amelia had been too surprised to say anything but yes. And too smitten to recognize how dangerous being around him could be for her heart.
This was 1997, the year after the Deschanel Curse last struck the family, taking more than a half-dozen of Amelia’s relatives. Beyond the deaths, her cousin Adrienne went missing, and remained that way, fate unknown. Amelia’s grief was still raw and unchecked, and she hadn’t realized, until Jacob came into her life, how much she needed someone to brighten her gloomy world. Someone who was not a Deschanel.
They became fast friends, surprised at how much they had in common. Amelia found herself inadvertently looking for Jacob between classes, and caught him doing the same. She warned him she wasn’t looking for a relationship, and he assured her, with a twinkle in his eye, “Blanca, you couldn’t pin me down if you tried.” The friendship blossomed.
On weekends, they’d explore the city like a couple of adventurers, born of Jacob’s offhand comment that visitors likely knew more about the city than residents. This resulted in the two of them trying to “outdo” each other with their New Orleans facts. Amelia had a slight advantage because of her family’s rich past and connections to the area, but it quickly became apparent Jacob’s stubborn insistence on being right would lead them to an inevitable stalemate. Mere debate unsatisfactory, they took their conversations outdoors, determined to find new experiences.
They started in the Quarter, eating at a different restaurant each night after classes, bringing their historical notes with them. Often proprietors would eagerly share colorful stories beyond the dry historical accounts. Napoleon House was an especially fun experience, even though the legend about Emperor Napoleon plotting there in subterfuge was not actually true.
They branched out into the Garden District, where Amelia’s family–and many other Deschanels–lived. Jacob’s family lived closer to the river, near the wharves, but he told Amelia he spent many hours wandering the avenues as a boy, sketching some of his favorite homes. He would write stories about the people inside the houses, imagining what their lives must have been like.
“Tedious,” Amelia told him. “Mystery solved.”
“Easy for you to say.” Jacob reached over to her mouth and mocked wiping something away. “Sorry, you had a silver spoon still stuck to your lip.”
She rolled her eyes, but was smiling. “Calling me ignorant of my situation doesn’t make you somehow an expert,” she said. “But who cares about that, I want to see these sketches and stories!”
Jacob’s face flushed bright red. Embarrassment was not an emotion he showed very often, preferring to cover his awkward discomfort with dry humor. “They’re dumb. I wasn’t any good at it. Why do you think I’m going to medical school?”
“You don’t have to be good at something for it to be interesting. I love photography, but my mom and brother always tease me about how blurry the photos are. Do I care what they think?” She shrugged indifferently, as he gazed skeptically, eyebrow cocked. “Well, maybe a little,” she admitted.
“You don’t talk about your family much,” Jacob ventured. They had been sitting on a bench in Audubon Park, watching the geese play in the pond. It was spring and a light breeze formed off remnants of an earlier rainstorm, but it was an otherwise beautiful day.
“I don’t remember hearing your complete family history either, Donnelly,” she argued.
“I don’t recall you ever asking.”
“Well, I don’t recall you ever asking, either.”
“I just did,” Jacob teased. He leaned back, against the tree behind the bench, staring at her with that startlingly intense gaze of his.
“Well, my family history is well-documented,” Amelia responded with a dismissive wave, looking away to hide her unease. “Most of it is pretty simple to look up.”
“Do I look like I enjoy research?” he asked, leaning back on one elbow. When he smiled, his dimples appeared, and disappeared, his emerald eyes never leaving her. Her heart skipped a beat at how handsome he was.
Amelia laughed. “Some doctor you’re going to make then. Doctor of Bullshit, maybe.”
He sat up, feigning offense. “You know how to cut right through the heart, Amelia. Straight. Through. Clean cut.” His eyes started twitching and filling up with obviously faked tears. “Hurtful.”
“I would say I was sorry, but I don’t wish to be disingenuous.”
“Clean through the heart again! But I know how you can make it up to me…”
She lifted an eyebrow. “Oh, how?”
His face grew serious. Most of Jacob’s “serious” faces were some form of goofball mockery, but she knew his real one and this was it. Her pulse quickened. What if he asked for a kiss? What would she do? Her heart was already softening toward him and she’d been thinking it might be prudent to start spending less time together.
“First, I have to confess something to you,” he said. Her eyes widened, but he kept talking. “I actually know quite a bit about your family.”
“Then why did you ask me about it?” she demanded. His revelation had the effect of an ice cold shower. Foolish to think he wanted to kiss her! “I don’t understand where you're going with this.”
“Calm down, Blanca,” he said, lightly. “This isn’t some silly romantic comedy where you discover the dude you’ve been hanging out with has an ulterior motive. I didn’t plan meeting you on campus, getting closer to you and extorting you for information, only to fall in love with you against my better judgment.”
A smile played at the corner of her lips. He was such an ass! She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of a full smile though, until he told her what he was up to.
Jacob raised an impertinent eyebrow. “Not as funny as it sounded in my head? Okay, well, anyway... I know about all of the things that happened to your family last year.” He let that sink in.
Amelia’s breath caught, but she hid her annoyance. “Everyone does, Jacob, it isn’t exactly a secret,” she said coolly. Where was he going with this? Had she misjudged him all along?
“When your Uncle Charles, and his family, got into that car accident down near Abbeville, my mother followed the story closely. She couldn’t get over how sad it was, and how horrible it must have been for your cousin, Nicolas… both parents dead, three of his sisters also dead, and one completely missing. Her interest drew me in and I found myself wondering what happened to that family. Like I used to do with the Garden District houses when I was a boy.”
He looked for her reaction, saw none yet, and kept going. “I approached Nicolas once but he wasn’t very nice to me. I tried to give him my condolences and offered my help in finding his sister. He laughed at me and then told me to go fuck myself.”
At this, Amelia chuckled. This was exactly the response she would have expected from Nicolas, especially then. “He’s like that with everyone.”
“Yeah, he's charming. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Adrienne. How does someone disappear? If she had died, there would have been evidence of it.”
She interrupted him, wincing. Two years after this discussion, they found Adrienne alive and well. At the time of this otherwise happy memory, Amelia still keenly felt Adrienne had died, primarily because she could no longer sense her young cousin. None of the empaths or seers in the family could, either. “The police said the… gators probably got to her.”
“Amelia, you’re a student of biology. You know even if that happened, there would still be some evidence… pieces of her clothes, something. The heir of Charles Deschanel’s fortune… completely disappeared.” He stopped and his voice took a softer tone. “I’m sorry, I didn’t come here to lecture you about your family. Putting my foot in my mouth is not a skill I’m proud of. I know this is still a fresh wound.”
She nodded. “It is. Very fresh.”
Jacob put his hand over hers. “I am so sorry. This was a bad idea.” Amelia ventured a look up, and in his eyes saw a kindness that gave her comfort unlike anything else had since the tragedies.
She put her other hand over his. “You’re fine, Jacob. Really. Go on.”
He didn’t move his hand, and continued. “So I thought back to earlier in the year and remembered what happened to your brother.”
Amelia said nothing. She missed Benjamin every day. Amelia loved both her brothers, but she had loved Ben best.
He gently squeezed her hand as it was sandwiched between his. “And I thought, how can one family go through so much? And then at Christmas…”
“Danielle,” she finished. Tristan’s sister.
He nodded. “It seemed almost unreal for one family to go through so much in a single year. It was really Adrienne’s disappearance that piqued my interest to do more research. I found a lot of information about your family online.”
“I can’t say I’ve ever looked,” Amelia said, meticulously wiping away a tear that had sprung up. For Amelia, tears could be dangerous, her emotional acuity both a “gift” and potentially her destruction. “But I’ve never needed to, because my family keeps good records.”
“Mine didn’t,” he said, without elaboration. “So in my digging, I discovered what happened last year was not the first time large-scale tragedy struck your family. Maybe you already know those details.”
“I figured. But what was interesting to me was a group of archived letters I found on a genealogy website. Someone had posted them anonymously as a contribution to family records, so I don’t know where they came from. They were letters between an Ophelia Deschanel and a friend of hers, someone named Edna Wallace. Do those names sound familiar?”
“Edna doesn’t, but Ophelia was my mother’s great-aunt. She died the year I was born.”
“She lived a long time,” he agreed. “In the letters, she talks about the stuff that happened through generations of your family, and she specifically states her belief none of it was an accident.”
Amelia’s heart skipped. She had never seen these letters, and was even more alarmed they were online, for the public to see. She thought she knew where he was going, but was terrified of what he might say next. Would he laugh at the superstitions of her family? What if he asked if she believed in it? Surely he would. What would he think of her if she confessed the truth?
She swallowed. “Go on.”
“Amelia, are you aware that some members of your family believe the Deschanels are cursed?”
A sensation, not unlike the pressure of being underwater, came over Amelia. The world around her muted unnaturally, and she felt light-headed as her heart attempted to thump clear out of her chest. How was she to answer this question? Honesty was an option, but she might lose him completely if he saw her as a superstitious biddy. She had never wanted to be defined by her belief in this, and she had never, ever shared it outside the family. Amid the swirl of emotions, she also considered perhaps it would be for the best if he did bolt.
Ultimately, Amelia would never deceive anyone. It was not in her to pretend to be someone she wasn’t. She always spoke the truth, come what may.
“Yes, Jacob, I am,” she declared, head up, shoulders squared.
“Do you believe in it?” he hedged, carefully.
She paused only briefly. If he judged her for it, then so be it. “Yes,” she said, “I do.”
Jacob nodded slowly, then moved his top hand off hers. She drew in a nervous breath. What had she done? Then he lifted the same hand and gently laid it against the side of her face, in an entirely unexpected tenderness. Amelia closed her eyes and let herself lean into his touch, as he kissed her forehead.
“Does it feel good to finally say it out loud?” he asked.
She nodded, but her throat was too constricted to respond. This was not how she expected this conversation to go, if she were ever to have it. He still hadn’t told her what he thought, but his kindness assured her that he wasn’t running for the hills. Her emotions warred between relief, and growing fear of her feelings for him.
“I don’t know what to think about it Amelia, but I grew to respect your aunt through her writing. And while I don’t know your mother all that well, she seems like an incredibly sharp lady. She would have to be to operate on brains all day, right? And obviously, she produced you.” Jacob smiled warmly. Her heart rate slowly subsided to normal.
“If three very smart, astute women believe in this, then there’s something to it. I don’t know what, exactly, but something,” he concluded.
When she sat speechless he added, “I didn’t plan for you to show up at the pub and ogle me, Amelia. I never expected any of this, but since we’re here now, I thought you should know. I don’t want secrets between us.”
Amelia’s eyes welled with more perilous tears as the weight of this discussion pushed her thoughts to more serious matters. “I can never have children.”
He processed that for a moment and then nodded. “Okay.”
She released a long, slow breath. Jacob didn't think she was crazy. He knew her darkest truths, and he was still sitting beside her.
“Amelia, I don’t want children,” he said to her, in a tone that suggested he’d been mulling her comment over. “I never have. I didn’t have… well, the best childhood growing up. Maybe I will tell you about it someday. But I want to dedicate my life to helping others. I could live happily with someone amazing by my side. Someone who also accepts children aren’t a part of our future.”
Their careful tempo established, Jacob allowed her to digest his words.
When she didn’t speak, he clarified, “I’m not proposing, you ridiculous girl! I’m not even asking you out.”
Amelia drew back in mock offense. “What the hell was all that about then, Donnelly?”
He put his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into him, easily. It felt natural, as if she were with family. “Because I want you to know you’re safe with me.”
She fell in love with Jacob Donnelly, at precisely that moment. From then on, there was never a chance of protecting her heart, for it already belonged to him, and always would.
With Jacob, she was safe.
Sarah is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Paranormal Southern Fiction series, The House of Crimson & Clover. The series was born of her combined loves of New Orleans, family dramas, and the mysterious nature of love and desire. Her books combine elements of paranormal, mystery, suspense, intrigue, and romance. She is always working on the next book in the series, and absolutely loves connecting with her fans.
Sarah lives in the Pacific Northwest, but has traveled the world from Asia to Europe to Africa. When she isn’t working (either at her day career, or hard at work at writing), she is reading a book and discovering new authors. The great loves of her life (in order) are: her husband James, her writing, and traveling the world.a Rafflecopter giveaway