Friday, July 13, 2007

Dark Encounter by Lauren Delaney


Lauren Delaney has always been an avid reader and writer of romance, especially paranormal romance and fantasy.

Lauren grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario and now lives in historic Kingston, Ontario. She has two beautiful daughters, a supportive husband and two cats that think they own the family.

Two of Lauren’s short stories, The Fall of Lions, and Race Against the Dark, have been published in the 2006 Kingston Writers' Group anthology, Snapshots.

Lauren enjoys discussing romance stories and writing, and invites you to visit her website at: to take part in a contest created to celebrate the release of her new paranormal romance story entitled, Dark Encounter, available through The Wild Rose Press.

Contact Lauren at:



Cressida Aylesworth - or Criss as her friends call her - is attending the gala masquerade ball sponsored by her employer, Maplethorpe Industries.

Another predictable company function, or so she thinks, until she meets the mysterious and unusual Rafael Ambrose and her whole life is turned upside down in one magical night.

The night has several unexpected surprises in store for Criss as she finds herself bonding with this man whose life is a secret.

Can Rafe accept that she could love him as he is? Could Criss be the one to uncover the secret of his past? What will happen if they defy convention and consumate their love in a night of passion that neither will ever forget?

Criss is an independent woman who does not give her heart easily, but can she see beyond Rafe's appearance to the brave heart within the sexy and tormented man-beast?

~ And can the moonstone that condemned Rafe, also save him?


“Trish, why did I let you talk me into this?”

The sound of running water and a little off-key humming was the only reply Cressida Aylesworth received to her question. She leaned her forehead against the bathroom door with a small thump, and sighed in frustration. She knew that her friend, Patricia Bennington, was only trying to improve Criss’s social life - but a Halloween masquerade ball? That was a little extreme, even for Trish. Criss would have preferred meeting someone new over coffee, thank you very much.

As Criss turned away from the door, she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror that hung on the opposite wall of her bedroom. She moved toward it slowly, appraising her appearance with a critical eye.

Her formal gown skimmed the lines of her body, accentuating both her slimness and the soft curves of hip and breast. The rich black velvet of the dress emphasized the creaminess of her skin and the unusual depth of color in her green eyes. Tightly fitted sleeves ended in points of fabric that rested against the back of her hands. Beneath the snug band of the gown’s empire waistline, the black velvet was split and a v-shaped panel of red velvet had been inserted into the front of the dress. The blood red color peeked out from the folds of black whenever she moved.

Criss had decided to wear her chestnut hair down tonight, and it curled against her throat and rested on her bare shoulders. The costume was stunning and showed off her lithe figure to perfection. She turned slightly, admiring the effect. Maybe those kickboxing classes were worth the time and effort after all. The click of the bathroom door latch opening interrupted her thoughts.

Trish emerged from the bathroom wearing an old green bathrobe. She ruffled her damp hair with a towel. Criss stepped out of range of the flying water droplets.

“Did you say something?” Trish asked, as she peeked out from under the towel. “Oh wow! Look at you, Criss!”

“I said…Oh never mind.” Criss shrugged. It wasn’t as if she had anything else planned for tonight, and unless she could think of a doozy of an excuse, she knew her attendance at the ball was expected. The masquerade ball was a gala fundraising event sponsored by her employer, Maplethorpe Industries.

Earlier that evening she handed out candy to all of the little ghosts and goblins that came knocking at her door, and enjoyed the fun. But now that the candy bowl was empty and the porch light turned out, she had to admit that the rest of the evening stretched ahead emptier than a costume shop two weeks after Halloween.

She faced her friend. “Honestly Trish, I don’t really feel like going. Why can’t we just stay in, watch a scary movie, and eat candy?’

“You promised!” Trish turned on the blow dryer and began vigorously brushing her honey colored hair. “Besides, it’ll be fun. How often do we get to dress up and play make believe?”

Everyday at work, Criss thought. The growing restlessness that she felt in her personal life was spilling over into her work. She knew that attending tonight’s ball was all part of Trish’s plan to get her back into the social scene after the tragic death of both of her parents last year in a car accident. She looked at her friend fondly and reached out to tuck in a few stray hairpins that protruded from Trish’s head at odd angles, as she sectioned and dried her hair.

Criss didn’t know what she would have done without Trish’s support and caring after the death of her parents. An only child, and without any other close family members nearby, Criss had felt bereft and very alone in the world. Trish had been there for her, just like always, and there wasn’t anything Criss wouldn’t do if Trish really needed her to and – a wry smile tilting her lips - she suspected Trish knew it.

Criss wasn’t ready to give in graciously just yet, though.

“I feel like a princess waiting for the stroke of midnight, so I can turn back into a pumpkin, or scullery maid, or whatever it was Cinderella turned into.”

“La, la, la, I can’t hear you.” Trish turned the hair dryer up to the next setting and as the warm air roared out of it, she raised the volume of her own voice to match. “It’s such an exclusive party and how often do we get to go to the Embassy Hotel? I heard Maplethorpe Industries has invited artists and musicians and actors - ”

“- and their wives,” Criss pointed out.

Trish stuck out her tongue and carried on as if she hadn’t heard Criss’s comment. Trish’s hearing was selective that way, Criss had noticed.

Both women were employees of Maplethorpe Industries. Trish worked as an executive secretary to the president, Darcy Maplethorpe III, and Criss was head of the Research and Development department. They had been fast friends ever since the day that Trish had plopped herself down beside Criss in the company cafeteria and asked her if she had noticed the handsome new guy from Marketing at the next table.

Trish shut off the hairdryer, satisfied that all the ends of her upswept hair were dry and in place. She moved back into the bathroom, and began to apply her makeup. A knock on the front door abruptly ended their conversation. Their eyes met for a moment in the bathroom mirror, and Criss looked both surprised and slightly annoyed.

“Those kids are out late.” She walked towards the hallway.

“Mmph” Trish replied, as she carefully applied her lipstick.

Must be teenagers out trick and treating later than their younger counterparts, Criss thought, as she went to answer the door.

“I turned out the porch light and the candy bowl’s empty, you’d think they’d take the hint,” she called over her shoulder to Trish. Criss opened the door. “I’m sorry but the candy’s all gone…”

The man in the chauffeur’s uniform looked apologetic - and confused.

“The car is ready, Miss.” He gestured towards the darkened street where the longest limousine Criss had ever seen was parked. It gleamed under the streetlight.

“Thank you, Mr.…” Trish had walked up behind Criss and her voice faltered, as she found herself momentarily at a loss for words.

“Charles, Miss.” The man stood motionless, peaked cap in hand.

“Thank you, Charles. We’ll be out in a moment.” Trish swung the door closed and looked at Criss with an amused twinkle in her eye.

“A chauffer?” Criss’s voice was incredulous. “You didn’t say anything about a driver. Surely not everyone going to the masquerade ball tonight gets picked up in a limousine?”

“Not everyone. Just you, Cressida Aylesworth,” Trish reached for her wrap, “and me, because I’m going with you. Mr. Maplethorpe arranged it and told me to keep it hush, hush. I think you have a secret admirer.”

Trish changed the subject hastily at the warning look in her best friend’s eye. “Let’s get a move on. We don’t want to keep Charles waiting.”

Criss admitted defeat. “You win.”

She picked up her mask from the hall table and linked arms with her friend. Trish glowed in a white full-length chiffon gown, fine gold braid wound through the swirls of her upswept hair. They looked at each other from behind their sequined and feathered half-masks, like a pair of exotic birds - one dark and one light - and laughed as they walked towards the waiting limousine.


Why did you become a writer? Was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I’ve always been a writer and a storyteller, but for many years I focused on the visual arts and it has only been in the past four or five years that I have sought publication for my writing. I currently have three stories in print - a paranormal romance with The Wild Rose Press, and two stories - a police procedural and a fantasy - that were included in an anthology sold as a fund-raiser in support of a local hospital. I am currently in the process of polishing and editing a novel and a novella for submission.

What do you love about being an author? Is there anything you dislike?
I love capturing the stories that are in my head and putting them down on paper. The characters become your closest friends for a time and you become swept up in their adventures. Writing is solitary work, however, and it is wonderful to have the support of friends, family and fellow writers - and of course, the readers!

How do you balance your personal and writing time?
Ah, * the * question! It’s always difficult to find the balance between work and family time – but if writing is your work and you love it, then you will find the time for it. Having a regularly scheduled time for writing – morning works best for me – helps a lot.

How do you write? Do your characters come to you first or the plot or the world of the story?
Sometimes it’s the place - a sudden flash of a specific time and place – that comes first, and I find the characters standing there, waiting to tell me why they are there, and what is happening to them. It’s a little startling at first but also exciting, and you can’t wait to tell their story and share it with your readers.

What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
I enjoy writing in different genres. I have written police procedural, historical fantasy romance, and paranormal romance stories – and each genre offers a chance to visit a new world with your characters. I enjoy writing character-driven stories with elements of adventure, so that in the end, no matter what circumstances they may find themselves in, they are characters that you care about and want to succeed.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I think that all good characters have elements of real people in them –personality quirks that one sees in the course of everyday living, even though you may have forgotten from whom or where.

Out of all the characters that you've written, who is your favorite and why?
I love them all, but at the moment I would have to say Cressida and Rafe, the heroine and hero of my paranormal romance story, Dark Encounter. Cressida has just come through a difficult time after the loss of her parents but she has an open and brave heart. Rafe has been scorned and hurt so many times in the past that he has almost come to expect that is how others will treat him, yet somehow he finds the courage to trust again.
Someday there may be a little more to their story – they tell me that it has only just begun.

What would you want readers to take away from your books?
I would hope that readers might take away from my books a feeling of hope, and know that despite place and circumstance, there is truth in the knowledge that love changes everything.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers in regards to writing a book?
Don’t be afraid to try and fail. It’s your story to tell and so make yourself sit down and tell it. It is a fact that your twentieth story will be much better than your first, simply because you will have learned so much through the act of writing and honing your craft – and so go ahead and tell the story that is inside of you. You may surprise yourself.

What are you reading right now?
Neil Gaiman, mostly. After reading American Gods and Anansi Boys, I’ve begun Neverwhere. In between, I’ve also enjoyed the historical romance Lion’s Lady by Suzanne Barclay as well as the paranormal romance Master of Swords by Angela Knight. I have a very long TBR list.

If you could be anyone or anything that you wanted, who or what would you be?
I think that I am at a place in my life where I’m doing what I love to do and - despite the same daily concerns that everyone faces - happy to be who I am, and so I don’t think I would trade places with anyone else right now.


"Dark Encounter is a short story perfect for a short road trip. The mystique of this man from the night keeps us enthralled in the possibility of saving him from his curse. Cressida or Criss as she has come to be called is still suffering from her loss and startles readers with her bravery amongst all her angst. Lauren Delaney proves good things come in small packages with this novelette, and I am looking forward to other stories from her in the future."
- Jayne, Fallen Angel Reviews

Dark Encounter by Lauren Delaney
Genre:Romance/Dark Fantasy
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press/Black Rose
Release Date: November 2006
$3.00 from The Wild Rose Press

Dark Encounter ~ now available as part of the Black Rose line of the Wild Rose Press, and through Fictionwise. Purchase it HERE!!

posted by Rachelle
at 3:32 PM