The story behind the story of a firestarter
How arson in a French village led to the birth of a firestarter called the pyromancist
Another beautiful morning breaks over the Gulf of Morbihan in French Brittany. I’m sitting on the wall of the fisherman cottage we’re renting for the holiday with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, watching the sun rise over the sea. It’s high tide. The water laps at the stone wall with gentle slush-slush sounds. Swans drift on the crystal surface of the ocean and gulls circle the fishermen boats with soft cries.
And then the noise of a helicopter shatters the scene.
The black aircraft rises above the horizon and circles the sea. The swans flee and the gulls flutter to the beach. The fishermen throw angry fists up in the air. I suppose the auditory assault frightens the fish away.
My husband exits with a breakfast bowl of coffee. He’s French and doesn’t use mugs and cups. His eyes follow the sound of the blades. “Another fire.”
“Fire?” I’ve been relaxing so efficiently that I’ve disconnected from the internet, television, newspapers and even the radio.
I gape at the charming little French town in the distance. “Why?”
He shrugs. “Who knows? Vindictive arson? A French outcry against the British buying up their territory and turning it into an English settlement? The police don’t know the motive yet.”
“Do they have a suspect?”
He taps the rolled-up newspaper under his arm. “This morning’s headline says it’s the grocery store owner.”
The grocery store is a small space crammed with everything from green beans to fishing rods and bait. I can’t imagine the friendly, elderly man behind the counter capable of burning down houses.
“Why would he do such a thing?”
“He’s denying the allegations, but they found his DNA at every crime scene.”
And just like that, my mental holiday flies away with the gulls and a story nestles in my mind. I see that helicopter land on the jetty, and a man – make him French and powerful and haunted and dangerous – lift the hatch. His masculine boot hits the wooden boards with a thud and he has to fold his tall frame double to fit through the exit. When he raises his head, his silver eyes make a shiver run down my spine. Totally mercurial.
His gaze fixes on something at the top-end of the pier. I turn my face that way and see a Japanese woman dressed in a blue rain jacket and red fishing boots. Why is he staring at her like that? She is frozen to the spot by fear. She knows he’s coming for her, but she doesn’t know why. From the determined first step he takes, he does. He’s looking for the firestarter, the pyromancist who is burning down the village.
A paranormal romance is born.
With the three thousand mysterious standing stones close-by in Carnac and the enchanted forest of Brocéliande – home of King Arthur and magical creatures – one couldn’t ask for a better paranormal novel setting. Of course there’s the Josselin Castle, which is privately owned, in the village of Josselin. Wham! The hero has a name. He’s the latest descendent of a long line of Josselins who inherited the castle. I love how my husband says it with his rolling French accent – Joss-la. Now I just need a name for my female protagonist.
My mother-in-law walks onto the terrace. “The kids are going swimming.” She breathes in the fresh air and gives a happy sigh. “I love this place. You know, my grandmother Clelia on the Italian side of our family always used to say…”
Her words drone on but her voice fades away. Clelia… I like the ring of it. It goes with the enigma and the dark elements.
“Where are you going?” my husband calls after me.
I look back at him over my shoulder. “To write a book.”
“I thought you weren’t going to write this holiday,” he says with a wink and a smile.
“You know how it is. Inspiration has no manners. It’ll interrupt you in the middle of your break.”
Inside, I dust off my laptop and switch it on. I start typing.
The dream was always the same. A helicopter circled over the sea, the blades casting a net of circles over the water, while she walked down the jetty like a bug to a windshield. Around her the forest on the border of the island was dark, and beyond it the village was burning.
Seven Forbidden Arts
Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Publisher: Satin Romance,
an imprint of Mélange Books
Date of Publication: 19 March 2015
Number of pages: 252
Word Count: 101 000
Cover Artist: Caroline Andrus
When you play with fire, you get burned.
At the same time as mysterious fires commence to rage through Clelia d’Ambois’ home village in Brittany, France, she starts sleepwalking. Daughter of a Japanese orphan, Clelia’s heritage is riddled with dark secrets that threaten anyone she loves. In a recurring nightmare she sees Josselin, the haunted man who abandoned their village nine years earlier, come for her, but she doesn’t know why. All she knows is that she has to run. As fast as she can.
Leader of a paranormal crime taskforce, Josselin de Arradon is called back to his hometown with a mission–find and kill the firestarter responsible for Larmor-Baden’s blazing destruction. Sensing that Clelia is the key to solving the crime, Josselin kidnaps her to use her as bait. The battle doesn’t turn out quite as he expected. Nothing could have prepared him for the truth, or the depth of his desire for his prisoner.
This is Book 1 of the Seven Forbidden Arts series, but also reads as a stand-alone.
This book contains adult content with explicit language and consummated love scenes. Suited for an audience of 18+.
Josselin had only spoken to her once. It was on a summer day after school. She had wandered to the dense forest at the back of the schoolyard because she knew that was where she would find him. She stood behind a tree and watched him–studied him–the movement of his hand as he smoked a forbidden cigarette, the manner in which he pulled his fingers through his dark hair, and the way he laughed loudly into his gang of friends, even if his eyes cried, or blazed.
That day, however, he wasn’t with his friends. He was with a girl. Her name was Thiphaine and she was the most popular girl in school. She was blonde and slim and beautiful with blue eyes and red painted fingernails. Clelia watched from her hiding place as Josselin slowly backed Thiphaine up until her body pressed against the trunk of the witch tree. It was a thuja occidentalis but the townsfolk had baptized it so because of its twisted and crippled branches. The setting was eerie for a romantic adventure, and yet, it suited Josselin. He seemed right at home, while Thiphaine looked around nervously. His hand went to her cheek, his palm huge and dark and rough against the porcelain paleness of Thiphaine’s face, while his other hand slipped under her blouse. His gray eyes looked like melted steel when he lowered his head.
His shoulder-length black hair fell forward when he pressed his lips to Thiphaine’s and he moved his hand from her cheek to brush it back behind his ear. Clelia remembered the deliberate movement of his jaw, the way the muscles dimpled in his cheek, the hand under Thiphaine’s blouse, all the while maintaining his composure while Thiphaine came undone under his caress. The beautiful girl made low moaning sounds. Her knees buckled, but Josselin, without breaking the kiss, grabbed her waist, pulling her so tightly into him that her back arched, keeping her up with his arm while he made her weak with his touch and his tongue.
Watching them ignited both yearning and pain inside of Clelia. The hurt she felt speared her heart. The aching in her soul was suddenly greater than the heat in her pores and on her cheeks, but she couldn’t tear her stare away from the forbidden sight. It was Iwig, a boy from her class, who broke the painful spell when he discovered her behind the tree.
“What have we here?” he said.
His eyes darted to the distance where Josselin and Thiphaine were embracing. He knew what she had been doing. He was a tall, blond boy with a strong build, and Clelia disliked him for his habit of hunting abandoned cats with his pellet gun.
“A peeping tom,” he said, taking a step toward her.
When she tried to back away, he grabbed her long braid and tugged it painfully, causing her to yelp.
“Not so fast, witch.” He grabbed her arm and hauled her so that she stumbled into him. “You like to watch, don’t you?” He grinned. “How about a taste of the real thing?”
She opened her mouth to scream, but he had already brought his down and kissed her so hard that his teeth split her lower lip. In reflex her free hand shot up, aiming for his cheek, and collided with its target. The force of the blow shot Iwig’s head back and froze him in his action, but only for a second, before Clelia saw his arm lift. Not able to free herself from his grip, she cowered instinctively, but instead of his fist coming down on her, another pair of arms grabbed Iwig by his shoulders and flung him to the ground.
When she looked up, she stared into the face of Josselin, and what she saw was frightening. His features were twisted into a terrifying expression, and before she could say anything, Josselin bent down and lifted Iwig by his jacket lapels. Iwig’s legs dangled, flapping like fish on soil, while his arms flayed in the air as if swatting flies. Josselin let go of one side of the jacket, his fist arching and hooking under Iwig’s chin, while at the same time unknotting his other hand from the fabric of the jacket. The impact sent Iwig flying through the air. When he hit the ground, she could hear the loud thump as the air was knocked from his lungs. Josselin moved forward, his arms away from his body, his fingers flexing, his shoulders pushed forward, until he stood wide-legged over the submissive body of Iwig. Iwig lifted his hands in front of his face, mumbling pleas for mercy.
“If you ever touch a girl in that way again, I’ll hang you from a tree under a pack of wild boars and watch them eat you from your feet up to your useless dick, until they rip your stomach open and your insides fall out and you beg me to die,” Josselin said.
He spoke very softly, but the woods had suddenly gone quiet. His voice all but echoed in the absence of the sound of birds and wind. From the corner of her eye, Clelia noticed Thiphaine who stood to the side, hugging herself.
“And if you ever lift your hand to a woman again, I’ll cut off your balls and make you eat them and then I’ll feed you to the boars. Do you understand?”
Iwig tried to scurry away on his elbows, but Josselin stepped on his jacket.
“I asked if you understand.”
“Yes. Yes,” Iwig said. He had started crying.
When Josselin lifted his boot, Iwig scrambled to his feet. He didn’t look at Clelia before he ran down the path in the direction of the school. Only then did Josselin turn to her. She shook from head to toe while Josselin studied her quietly. After a moment he walked to her, took her chin in his hand and tilted her head.
“You’re bleeding,” he said, trailing his thumb over her lower lip.
And then he did something that shocked her wildly. He brought his thumb to his lips, slowly, his gray eyes holding hers prisoner while he slipped his finger into his mouth and licked it clean, tasting her blood.
Clelia couldn’t move. She stood still, unable to speak or blink.
He took a white handkerchief from his coat pocket and wiped it over her mouth before pressing it into her hand.
“He won’t bother you again, but you’d better go home.”
She only nodded. He was much taller than her, so that she had to crane her neck to look up at him. He shifted and then his face was obscured by the shadows with the sun at his back. She remembered wondering if he had forgotten about Thiphaine, who still stood to one side, silently observing, her eyes wide. Clelia looked from Thiphaine to Josselin. When life finally returned to her legs and she started to hurry down the path, he said, “What’s your name, girl?”
She stopped. “Cle … Cle…” Her teeth chattered.
He frowned. “Take a deep breath. You’re in shock.”
She did as he instructed, and found her jaw relax slightly.
“That’s better. Now, tell me again.”
His lips twitched. “The witch?”
She flinched. That was what her classmates called her.
He didn’t show any kind of emotion. Only his smile became a little bit more pronounced. “How old are you?”
“Fourteen,” she said through parched lips.
“You’re too young to wander alone in the woods.”
When he said that, his voice became soft and dark again, like when he had spoken to Iwig, and without sparing either of the lovers another glance, Clelia sprinted home and curled into a ball on her bed with his bloody handkerchief in her hand.
About the Author:
Charmaine Pauls was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She obtained a degree in Communication at the University of Potchestroom, and followed a diverse career path in journalism, public relations, advertising, communications, photography, graphic design, and brand marketing. Her writing has always been an integral part of her professions.
After relocating to France with her French husband, she fulfilled her passion to write creatively full-time. Charmaine has published six novels since 2011, as well as several short stories and articles.
When she is not writing, she likes to travel, read, and rescue cats. Charmaine currently lives in Chile with her husband and children. Their household is a linguistic mélange of Afrikaans, English, French and Spanish.
Read more about Charmaine’s romance novels and psychological short stories
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