The Riders: Three immortal brothers who kept the Baba Yagas safe, now stripped of their summons to protect. But fate is not finished with them—and their new callings are even more powerful…
Though his physical wounds have healed, Gregori Sun, the eldest of the Riders, remains in spiritual turmoil. His search for his mother, the one person able to heal his soul and save his life, is failing—until he crosses paths with a beautiful and fascinating librarian who might be the key to his salvation…
Ciera Evans’s bookish ways are just a guise. The product of a difficult past, she has dedicated her life to saving lost teens—by any means necessary. She works alone, but when a dark, brooding stranger proposes they team up to solve both their problems, she is tempted—in more ways than one…
After Ciera and Sun’s plans are derailed by dangerous enemies, they find themselves entangled in an ungodly affair—one that will force them to either find new strength together or be forever haunted by their pasts alone.
Dangerously Divine, comes out November 28th; so if The Dangerously Delightful Book Emporium gets your interest, make sure you check out the first book in the Broken Riders series, Dangerously Charming.
The Dangerously Delightful Book Emporium
Gregori Sun trudged down the snow-covered streets of Minneapolis, mentally running through his Yule gift giving list and trying to figure out where he was going to find the perfect presents for three powerful legendary witches, a rural sheriff, a Marine turned fisherman, a former Hot Shots fire fighter, a too-wise-for-her-years seven year old, and a snarky teenager. Plus, of course, his brothers, or at least the one that anyone could find.
He was so screwed.
It would have been an impossible task even if he had been in a town he was familiar with, but this was his first visit to Minneapolis, and he was working blind. He’d come to town to check out the Shira-in Shashin Monastery, where he was considering studying to become a Buddhist monk. He’d finally given up on finding peace in the Otherworld, where he had been healing from the grievous wounds—both physical and mental—he and his brothers Mikhail and Alexei had suffered at the hands at an evil Baba Yaga almost a year before.
Not that all Baba Yagas were evil, no matter what you might read in the old Russian fairy tales. The three who were responsible for watching over the United States were his friends, family really, for all that he hadn’t been in contact with them since things had gone so horribly wrong. That was one of the reasons he wanted these particular Yule gifts to be so special; they needed to send the message of love that he wasn’t capable of delivering in person right now.
But he’d walked through malls—ugh—and in and out of shops large and small all day, and hadn’t found anything that seemed just right. It didn’t help that he had such a diverse group to buy for, or that he had no real idea of what he was looking for, only that it needed to be just right. Not that any of the others would care. He knew they would rather have him there. But he had to find his way back to himself before he could find his way back to them, so he would have to settle for sending the perfect gifts instead.
The snow was falling more thickly as night fell and he was on the verge of giving up when he spotted a painted wooden signpost that directed shoppers down an alley to a cluster of small shops. One name in particular intrigued him. The Dangerously Delightful Book Emporium. He was entertained by the idea of a store that called itself dangerously delightful and one thing all his friends had in common was that they liked books.
In his experience, many bookstores were a disappointment, full of cookie cutter best sellers and memoirs by famous people he had never heard of, but he was desperate and it was worth at least taking a peek inside. Besides, he loved books too, and couldn’t think of anyplace he’d rather be on a snowy evening than in a bookstore.
The storefront itself was much more subdued than its name, which was painted in gold lettering on the front window of an otherwise drab brick building. But the window display was an amusing holiday scene featuring a rosy-cheeked lady reading to a variety of stuffed animals, so Gregori pushed open the door and entered.
A cheerful bell chimed and a middle-aged woman with short graying hair saved from boredom by a turquoise streak in the front, wearing a blue cardigan and glasses, came out from behind a counter located toward the front of the store. Rows of bookcases lined the narrow confines of the ship, with a comfortable-looking couch and chairs closer to the window. The lighting was bright enough to read by without being glaring and an electric tea kettle sent bergamot-scented steam into the air.
“Hello,” the woman said. “And a warm welcome on a cold evening. I’m Karen, the owner. Is there anything I can help you with or would you just like to browse?”
Gregori glanced around, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by the scope of his task. It was a feeling he’d grown used to over the last year, and he didn’t much like it.
“How are you at accomplishing the impossible?” he asked in a tone lighter than his actual mood.
“‘Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast,’” Karen said.
“Alice in Wonderland,” Gregori said with delighted recognition, suddenly more cheerful. “I have always been quite fond of that book.”
“Then you are surely in the right place,” the woman said with a smile. “Now, what impossible things can my humble bookstore and I do for you?” A large tabby cat strolled out from behind the back of the sofa and twined around her ankles, meowing softly before padding off toward the rear of the shop.
“I need perfect gifts for a number of very different friends, some of them quite eccentric, all of whom are too far away for me to visit for the holidays. It has been a difficult year, so the gifts need to show how much I appreciate them, while hopefully also making them smile.”
“Sounds like an excellent description of a book,” she said. “Challenge accepted. I have a surprising variety of different genres, and books both new and classic. Tell me a little something about the first person you need a gift for.” She cocked her head to the side, listening intently.
Gregori thought, privately, that the poor woman had no idea what she was getting into. But he had run out of other options, so he had nothing to lose by trying. “First is Barbara. She’s a strong woman, independent and tough, although recently she found love, which softened her hard edges a bit. Not much, though. She likes magic, dragons, herbs, and classic BMW motorcycles.” She was also a powerful mythical witch known as a Baba Yaga, but it was probably best not to mention that.
Karen thought for a moment, then held up a finger and darted down an aisle. She emerged triumphantly holding up a hardcover with the title, Dangerous Women. “How about this?” she asked. “It is a book of short stories by some great authors, including Diana Gabaldon and Jim Butcher. This is from the introduction.” She opened it to the first few pages and read, “‘Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.’”
Gregori laughed out loud for the first time in months. “That sounds just like Barbara. All right, let’s see what you can find for her husband Liam. He’s a small town sheriff.”
“Hmmm. I’ve got a complete set of the Longmire books, about a sheriff in a small Western town. What about those? You don’t have to get the whole set, of course.”
“Actually, that would be great. Barbara travels from time to time, and those would give him something to read while she’s on the road.” Gregori scanned a few of the nearby shelves. “Do you have any children’s books? Barbara and Liam have an adopted daughter, Babs. She’s probably the biggest challenge.”
There was no easy way to describe a child who had been kidnapped as a baby and spent years living hidden away by a crazy woman in a corner of the fairytale lands that were the Otherworld.
“She’s seven, but old beyond her years, very smart, serious, and literal-minded. Barbara and Liam are trying to give her a normal life after a pretty rough start, but it isn’t easy.” He missed seeing little Babs’ solemn face occasionally break into a breathtaking smile. “I don’t suppose you have something that is both deep and whimsical at the same time.”
Karen pondered for a moment. “Has she read Winnie the Pooh yet?”
“Who?” Gregori said. He and his brothers had lived for over a thousand years, acting as helpers—and warriors when necessary—for the various generations of Baba Yagas. But they didn’t have much time for popular culture. Especially not when it pertained to children.
The store owner blinked at him. “You’ve never heard of Winnie the Pooh?” She went into a section near the couch and pulled out a couple of colorful books, then hesitated a moment and pulled one off of a higher bookshelf above the counter. “These are wonderful books for kids of all ages. I have a few of the more modern versions, and also a first edition of the original, although you probably don’t want to spend that much money on a book for a seven year-old.”
Gregori skimmed through the newer books quickly, his lips curving as he followed the adventures of the silly round bear and his friends. Then he held out his hand for the first edition. To his mind, the original had a subtle charm the newer versions lacked, just like Babs would never be quite like other children.
“We are actually quite fond of old things,” he admitted. “I will take this one.”
Karen swallowed hard. “It’s, um, it’s over six hundred dollars, I’m afraid.”
“Not a problem,” Gregori said. The Riders didn’t have much use for money, but the queen of the Otherworld had ensured they had all been well supplied when they completed their recoveries and returned to the Human world on the other side of the doorway. He lived very simply as it was, and if he went through with his plan to enter a Buddhist monastery, would have even less use for it than before.
“Now, what do you have for a California hippy surfer girl who makes jewelry and lives for the water, and her husband, who is a fisherman?”
It took almost two hours, but true to her word, Karen found the ideal books for everyone on his list. There was an impressive stack—stacks, actually—on the front desk by the time they were done. He had added another couple of books on herbs for Barbara, including another first edition of a rare antiquarian herbal he remembered her mentioning to him once as something she wished she could find.
“I don’t suppose you ship,” Gregori said when they were done. “I have a motorcycle, and it might be hard to get all of these safely to the post office.” Also, he had been planning to get back on the road first thing in the morning, since there were another couple of options he wanted to check out before making a final decision on where he would go to seek the peace that had so eluded him for the last year.
“I do, actually,” Karen said. “Most of my income is from books I sell online. To be honest, I’ve been wondering lately if there was any point in keeping the brick and mortar shop open. I wasn’t sure it actually served a purpose anymore, other than to indulge my love of having it.”
“It certainly served a purpose for me,” Gregori said, gazing around with something like wonder. “It was like the answer to a prayer.”
“And your coming in was an answer for me too,” Karen said, blinking back tears. “I mean, obviously, the insane amount of money you just spent helped.” She gave him a watery smile. “But you also reminded me of why I love being here, helping people to find just the right book at just the right time.”
“Then I guess we were each other’s Yule gifts,” Gregori said. “That seems quite fitting, really.”
“You know, you got something for everyone else, but you didn’t get a book for yourself,” Karen said. “If you’d allow me, I’d like to give you one, as a thank you for all of this.” She waved her hand at the piles on the counter. “And for reminding me of my purpose.”
“I wish I were as sure of mine,” Gregori said ruefully. “I’m actually in town visiting the Shira-in Shashin Buddhist monastery, trying to decide whether or not to become a student.”
“Ah,” she said. “Then I think I have just the thing.” She smiled a little shyly and ducked behind the counter, returning a moment later with a slim, well-worn paperback. “I’m afraid this is my own copy, so it isn’t exactly pristine, but I have gotten many hours of enjoyment from it, and it has helped me through some difficult times. You liked the Winnie the Pooh, so I think you might like this.”
“The Tao of Pooh?” Gregori asked, raising one feathery black eyebrow.
“It’s a mixture of wisdom and whimsy, using Winnie the Pooh to explain the principles of Taoism. It always makes me smile.”
Gregori added it to the pile on the counter and bowed deeply, his hands in front of his chest. “Then I would be honored to accept it, as a gift from a new friend.”
Purchases paid for and the addresses to send them to handed over (along with a surprisingly large amount of cash), Gregori headed back out into the chill night air. But it seemed to him a little warmer than before he’d entered the Dangerously Delightful Book Emporium, which had in fact proven to be both dangerous and delightful. The snow sparkled a little more brightly under the lights of the street lamps, and the city was just a little prettier than he remembered it being, a few short hours before.
Perhaps he would return after all, sometime not too long from now. He had, after all, found all the gifts he had been seeking for his friends. Maybe that was a sign that he might find the gift of peace he sought as well. That would be a Yule miracle indeed.
Meet Deborah Blake!
Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga Series from Berkley, the Broken Rider Series, and the Veiled Magic series from Berkley and has published ten books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 130-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with multiple cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.
Wickedly Magical (Baba Yaga #1)
Veiled Magic (Veiled Magic #1)
Everyday Witch Tarot Cards
Everyday Witch Tarot
The Witch’s Broom: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Broomsticks
The Goddess Is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch
Circle, Coven, & Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice
Everyday Witch Book of Rituals: All You Need for a Magickal Year
A to Z Spellbook: Wonderfully Witchy Blessings, Charms & Spells
Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft
Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft Without Breaking Your Budget
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