Dark Celebration


Chapter 1

For my beloved daughter, Cecilia, who has always given us reason for celebration!

For My Readers

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Many thanks to Diane Trudeau for her help with the recipes. Cheryl Wilson, you know you are invaluable. Denise, Manda and Brian, thank you for your unfailing support and all of the work you do to help me put these books together.

Dear Readers,

Over the past few years, I have received thousands of letters asking for a reunion of the Carpathian characters. I resisted the idea for a long time, uncertain how one could bring so many vivid and larger-than-life characters together in the same book. It seemed a daunting task. Then one evening, I was sitting around a fireplace talking with some author friends about the mess we'd made of the dinner that night. We'd rented a house together to work, and unfortunately, some of us were a little lax on the cooking skills. (I'm not mentioning names here or raising my hand, but a few of the disasters depicted in this book actually did happen, sadly enough to say.) We were laughing so hard, and the idea of a Christmas party where the Carpathians cooked for their friends was born.

I pitched the idea to my editor as a special thank-you gift book at Christmas time for my readers. I was very excited to have a fun, lighthearted book to write. I was thrilled with the idea of adding in the Dark Desserts, and so many wonderful people from all over the world sent in the most scrumptious recipes. The concept was completely different than anything I'd ever conceived of writing, so it was going to be great fun! And then I sat down and

started to write it...

First of all, it hadn't occurred to me that there was no hero and heroine, and that I would have to find a way to transition each chapter smoothly. And second, and more important, I don't write fun and lighthearted. My characters tend to take over the book and run away with it, and this book was no exception. No matter how hard I tried, the book turned-yes, you guessed it-dark!

Once I called my editor and warned her that the book had taken on its own life and I wasn't going to be delivering that lighthearted book, I simply accepted it and allowed the characters free rein. They took over, and Dark Celebration became a huge part of the rich tapestry that makes up the Carpathian world. I had fun revisiting the characters and finding out how they were doing together and what their lives were like as couples as well as what the Carpathian society was like as a whole.

The book turned into something very unexpected, but in all honesty, I thoroughly enjoyed myself writing it, and I certainly hope you have just as much fun reading it. When I write, the characters definitely dictate the story, so several were very forthcoming while others hung back a little more than I would have liked. All in all, in the end I think we caught a glimpse of old friends and what their lives are together. I found myself smiling a lot while writing it and hope you have the same reaction reading it!

Warmest regards, Christine

Chapter 1

Stars glittered across the night sky and the moon spilled light, illuminating the trees below and turning leaves a glistening silver. A female owl skimmed the canopy, dipped lower to speed through the labyrinth of trees before rising again just in time to avoid a thick branch. A second, larger owl chased her in a wide circle above the forest surrounding a clearing where a large two-story stone house sat. The female plummeted toward the steep roof, talons extended toward the chimney, pulled up at the last heart-stopping second to race away from the male, wings flapping noiselessly, the wind riffling iridescent feathers.

Raven! Mikhail Dubrinsky warned his lifemate sharply. That was far too close.

It was exhilarating.

Raven, you are going to get tired. There was a soft warning growl in Mikhail's voice, as if a wolf lurked inside the body of the owl.

Her laughter bubbled up, soft and warm in his mind as they telepathically communicated. I'm not a newbie anymore, Mikhail, and after all these years, I think I can handle flying. I love it. It's my favorite thing to do. Are you