Welcome to the JustRomance.Me Blog Hop! It begins right HERE if you want to find the beginning.
It’s the Summer Solstice! The longest day of the year, and a day filled with myths and legends all around the globe. Here in Wyoming, there is a ranch called Crimson Dawn. Folks gather to sit around a bonfire and tell stories before participants make a wish as they toss a handful of red dirt on the fire. In honor of the celebration, I’ve written the beginning of my take on the event, and some other bloggers have picked up where I left off. Enjoy!
Jessie Bolton sat astride her mare, shaking her head at the diverse crowd stepping off the KISS FM 93.7 tour bus. They had come from all over the country, and Jessie imagined that not one of them had ever been to Wyoming, let alone the top of Casper Mountain. Crimson Dawn Ranch had hosted the annual Sumer Solstice gathering since the 1930s. Some say a woman’s ghost haunts the area, but Jessie didn’t believe it. She’d worked at Crimson Dawn since she’d turned sixteen and had never seen anything but pranks and hoaxes.
Jessie grinned, and nudged her horse into the clearing to greet the newcomers. Perhaps this year would be more entertaining than the others. These nine folks had gone to great lengths to win the trip to Crimson Dawn to take part in the Solstice Celebration. Surely there was at least one trickster in town who would come up with a prank for these city slickers.
“Howdy!” Jessie swung out of the saddle, handed the mare off to one of Crimson’s cowboys, then knocked the dust from her gloves. “Welcome to Crimson Dawn. I’m Jessie.”
The man in front of her looked down his long nose, but did reach for her outstretched hand. “Dr. Martin Santorini.”
Ah yes. She remembered his information. The “world famous” geologist that Jessie had never heard of. She tried not to giggle at his pretentious attitude, or his handlebar mustache. Who knew they still made wax for those? “Welcome, Mr. Santorini. I hope you enjoy your–”
“That’s Doctor Santorini.”
Someone in the crowd snorted, but it didn’t seem to bother the geologist. He wandered away and Jessie focused on the next in line.
“Hi, I’m Carla Hildebrand. So excited to be here! I kept expectin’ cowboys and Indians in stagecoaches and stuff, ya know? I’ve never even set foot outside Georgia, so I’ll be takin’ lots of pictures.” To prove her point, Carla snapped one of Jessie’s deer-in-the-headlights look. “I’ll have to post these on my blog. Karl is just gonna shit. Karl’s the cook where I work. He thought I was pullin’ his leg about winnin’ this trip. I never win anything!” She squealed and snapped another picture.
Jessie stepped aside to offer her hand to the next newcomer. Oh yeah. This had to be Jerri Carlsile, the stripper from Atlantic City. Fake boobs, fake hair, fake tan…even a fake smile.
“I’m Jerri. I don’t suppose you sell those boots in your gift shop, do you? They’d go great with one of my outfits.”
“Uh…no. I’m sorry. Maybe on your way back to the airport the driver can stop somewhere–”
“You’re too damn cute.” Jerri winked and snapped her gum before sauntering away.
Jessie focused on the tight-faced woman in flowing paisley silk. Her eyes were the lightest blue Jessie had ever seen. She found that she couldn’t look away from the direct stare.
“Zoe Redner, darling.”
Oh. The psychic. Jessie hoped her eyebrow didn’t quirk as it was known to.
“I do hope you don’t spend your entire summer up on this mountain. There is a lot of energy in this area. Not all of it kind.” Zoe spread her hands out, palms down. If she was getting a read on the gravel beneath their feet, Jessie hoped the psychic wasn’t afraid of rattlers.
“I’ve heard stories, but I’ve spent a lot of time at Crimson Dawn. Unfortunately I haven’t seen anything extraordinary myself.”
“You need to close your eyes…and open your mind.”
With that, Zoe flared her nostrils and walked away. Jessie couldn’t hide her bemused grin as she faced the next visitor. This had to be Phineas Walton. The Computer programmer from Dayton Ohio blinked rapidly, as if he was filing images away in his brilliant brain. Jessie had never met a “geek” who looked this good. Before she could check him out too thoroughly, he reached for her hand and pumped it vigorously “I’m Phineas. Very nice to meet you. Tell me you have Wifi.”
Jessie laughed. “Yes we do. After the ceremony I’ll get you all set up in your rooms for the night.”
“Great!” He pulled out his smartphone and tapped the screen.
“Hello. Lindee Penton. I’m the astrologer for the New York Century magazine.”
The man beside her cleared his throat.”And I’m Will Treadworth. I have a real job.”
Lindee’s face flared with color. “I swear to God, Mr. Treadworth. If you don’t shut your trap about my career, you can expect a scathing review of your latest article by my colleague.
Will shrugged. “Big deal. What’s your circulation, fifty?”
Lindee’s lips turned white, but Jessie was glad to see that she spun away rather than continue the argument.
Making a mental note to change the Treadworth and Penton rooms from connecting to opposite ends of the floor, Jessie shook Corey Thurston’s hand. Strange how cops looked like cops even in street clothes. He did have a nice smile though, and the scar on his cheek only added to his attractiveness.
After scratching behind Officer Thurston’s German Shepard’s ears, Jessie turned toward the last man off the bus. He wore head to toe black. From his Stetson to his boots, and even his long duster. She peered through the shadow of his hat and caught sight of a black goatee, and an equally dark expression.
“John,” he growled. He didn’t offer his hand, and Jessie was a little relieved. John P. Smith was the only one of the KISS FM winners that hadn’t bothered to fill out the personal information section on the pre-notification packet.
“Welcome, John.” As intriguing as the man was, she forced herself to face the group. “Welcome all of you! We’ve got some great storytellers lined up for this afternoon’s solstice. We’re set up just around this bend. Tonight we’ve saved you the best vantage point for the bonfire. The solstice will arrive in less than an hour, so we’d better get set.”
As Jessie led the motley crew down the path, the gravel beneath her boots hummed. Â She shook her head. She didn’t believe in witches, warlocks or fairies. It was just another day out of the year.
Thanks for stopping by today. At the end We’ll be chatting on Saturday evening (7pm EST) Â at Gem’s Place. Hope to see you there!