San Francisco Dreams - Heading into the unknown.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always admired the pioneer spirit – people packing up all their belongings and heading off into the sunset, knowing they might never again see the loved ones they left behind. But the thrill of adventure always made me a bit envious too.
While Victorian times may not equal pioneer times, there were still those who left their lives behind to start new ones. For instance, Norah Hawkins and Gerard “Mac” MacKenzie, the heroine and hero of my historical novella, San Francisco Dreams. Despite modern conveniences like the electric light and the telephone, the early 1900s still held quite a few challenges.
As one of the largest cities in the U.S. at the time, San Francisco enjoyed a variety of cultures, and culture clashes. It offered vices such as gambling and opium dens, dancing halls and prostitutes. Men were warned against wandering off alone because they might be shanghai’d and never seen again.
The 1906 earthquake and its aftermath fascinated me. More than 3,000 lost their lives in the horrific disaster, and the city was nearly reduced to rubble. But the survivors had pluck. The following day, some businesses reopened. The mayor rebuilt the trolley system and launched it within ten days. Their triumph over the catastrophe was due to sheer will power.
Of course, as a writer, I couldn’t wait to toss two characters into the fray! Not just any characters – Norah and Mac come from disastrous pasts, and want to start a new life in San Francisco. They have no idea how the survival skills they’ve learned along the way will become critical.
You can view the book trailer, read the Story Elements, see the Casting Call (who I envisioned in these roles, a very fun blog series I started), and read the first chapter of San Francisco Dreams on my blog. http://catemasters.blogspot.com/2009/05/magic-of-lavender-contemporary.html
Here’s the blurb:
Can the daughter of a well-known prostitute start a new life where no one knows her family history? Norah Hawkins is sure going to try. When a letter arrives deeding her property in San Francisco, she packs her bags.
Irishman Gerard MacKenzie likes his life free and easy, but is tired of the snobbish East Coast folk. San Francisco has enough vice and folly to suit his needs. Meeting Norah gives him the opportunity to bartend in her saloon. Maybe he can convince her to let him play the piano too. She’s a shrewd businesswoman, and negotiating with her makes his blood boil. Damn if she doesn’t make his blood boil in other ways too.
The morning of April 18, 1906, a terrible earthquake buries their dreams beneath the city’s ruins. Can Norah and Mac rebuild their lives? Will rebuilding their dreams bond them forever, or tear them apart?
And an excerpt:
Mac’s fingers danced across the keys, and he gave himself over to the music. Ah but it felt grand to play after so long.
Ending one of his favorite Beethoven sonatas, his neck hair stood on end. He glanced up to see her only a few feet away, staring as if transfixed by the music.
He drew his hands away. “Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. If I don’t practice, I get rusty.”
“It was beautiful.”
So was she. Her hair, loosely bound in a knot and hanging to one side, made his fingers curl, wanting to explore the silken strands.
He forced himself to look away. “People generally like it.”
“Do you know other such songs?”
Had she never heard classical music? “Yes.” His fingers stroked the keys, teasing out another song.
After it ended, she sighed. “I had no idea.”
“Does this mean you’ll let me play for your customers?”
Defeat slumped his shoulders. Such a hard-headed woman. He’d touched her soul with his music, but it wasn’t enough. “Right.”
“I can’t afford to pay a bartender and a piano player.” It sounded more like a plea than an argument.
“We could always play a hand of poker, and you could pay me with your winnings.”
“What if I don’t win?” She evaded him.
He suppressed a smile. “The odds are in your favor by design, aren’t they?”
“What do you mean?” The softness left her voice.
“Your methods are good, but not undetectable. I knew what you were doing on the train.”
Her eyes widened. “Why didn’t you turn me in then?”
“I figured you must need it.”
She tilted up her chin. “I left that lifestyle behind in Trenton.”
“Or on the train.” He meant to tease her, but it had the opposite effect.
Her cheeks flushed a rosy hue. She squared her shoulders. “Yes. On the train. I’m making a new life here.”
Slowly, he rose. “So am I.” Did he really need to remind her?
“I know. Maybe in the future, I can help you.”
He scanned her length. She could help him right now. If he didn’t depend on her for his weekly wage, he’d take three steps to whisk her up in his arms, carry her up to her bed, and unleash the devil on her. Maybe bring out the devil in her too. Yes, he’d love to see that. Feel her slender calf along his waist, her hair tumbling around her shoulders. He’d quench the desire burning in her eyes.
Without thinking, he edged toward her. “That would be nice.”
She tensed. “Yes.”
The word caught him like a hook and drew him closer. “Yes?”
In closing the narrow space between them, the meaning had changed. When, at the last moment, she ducked away, he caught her in his arms. “Norah.”
Pushing at his chest, she searched his face, lingering at his mouth.
His chest tightened, and his lips met hers. At her caress on his cheek, he tightened his hold. When she returned his kiss with equal passion, all reason fled his brain.
“Norah,” he murmured. His growing need urged him to press his lips against her cheek, her jaw, her neck. Explore every inch of her, though the more he tasted, the more he wanted.
She clutched his shoulders, exposing more of her neck. He trailed his lips along its length, his desire heightened by her moans.
Until he realized what she moaned. “No. No no no.”
Dazed, he froze to be sure he heard her right. “No?”
Pushing from his arms, she stumbled backward, as if equally unbalanced by the kiss. Her fingers sought out the edge of the table behind her.
"No,” she said, breathless.
“But you…” He stopped short of accusing her of inviting it. Had she? He’d wanted her to.
“No,” she said more certainly. “And never do that again.” Fear edged her husky tone. So she’s not as hard-hearted as she wants everyone to believe. He could almost smell her need. But again her frightened look gave him pause.
San Francisco Dreams is available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZSC6UK
and Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/58233
Cate Masters has made beautiful central Pennsylvania her home, but she’ll always be a Jersey girl at heart. When not spending time with her dear hubby, she can be found in her lair, concocting a magical brew of contemporary, historical, and fantasy/paranormal stories with her cat Chairman Maiow and dog Lily as company. Look for her at http://catemasters.blogspot.com, and in strange nooks and far-flung corners of the web.
Cate loves to hear from readers. Email her at: cate.masters AT gmail.com
Best wishes, Cate, with all your books. It's been a pleasure to have you here for the last four days.