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While on a routine business trip, however, Silver gets the surprise of her life when she is called by magic through a mirror... and into another world.
Sangria is like Earth, but very different - because on this world, magic is real. Silver encounters this magic in the form of a young girl, who she quickly learns is more then she appears.
For although Keridwen is currently in the form of a ten-year-old child, she is really a thirty-four year old military commander, who was cursed ten years ago, and lost her command, her kingdom, and everything she held dear.
Through the magic, Silver becomes Keridwen's guardian; responsible not only for her health and safety, but also her actions, many of which land the Little General in a heap of trouble - and often over Silver's knee.
Despite Keridwen's size, and other shortcomings, Silver is determined to help her. Through their adventures, together, Silver finds herself falling in love with both the Little, and the grown-up General.
With the help of her new guardian, Keridwen manages to regain some control, and to stay tall for longer and longer periods of time, but will the growth spurts last, and will that be enough to ensure that Silver and Keridwen can find happiness in the strange world of Sangria?
It was close to two in the morning when Silvia Amanda Whelan, or Silver, as she was known to her family and inner circle, opened the door to her hotel room and dumped her suitcase on the floor. Letting the door close of its own accord, she fumbled with the light switch before stumbling the rest of the way in. She wasn't totally drunk, but had probably had a drink or two too many and knew she'd pay the price in the morning. All she wanted to do now, however, was sleep.
Kicking off her heels, she thought fondly of the red-head she'd shared the sangrias with. It wasn't her drink of choice, although the red-head seemed to be awfully fond them. It was just too bad that it hadn't worked out. It would have been nice to have company, but then she did have an early morning meeting.
Dumping her purse and sample bag next to her suitcase, she headed straight for the bathroom. Silver paused briefly as she passed the large mirror over the vanity. There were bags under her green eyes and her blonde hair was messy, the short cut looking like she'd done little more than run her fingers through it. Even if that was true, she still looked like death warmed over. No wonder the red-head had left.
It had definitely been too long since she last slept�almost two days. But then that was what she did. Silver was in sales, more specifically precious gems and jewelry, which had her not only crisscrossing the country, but occasionally going overseas as well. It was a family business, which had started back with her great-grandfather, who had come to California from Ireland during the Gold Rush. He never found any gold, but he did find a talent for manipulating the gold that others found.
As California grew, he became the go-to jeweler for everything, from wedding bands to elaborate precious settings for the new rich and famous of the newly established Golden State. Whelan Gold became a household name, or at least it had been back in the day. Now they had a handful of store fronts, but mostly worked as suppliers, making custom pieces as well as reproducible goods which they sold to the large names jewelers all over the world.
That was where Silver came in. She didn't have the talent to design like her brother, or the head for numbers like her sister. What she had was a silver-tongue, which had earned her her nickname almost from the time that she started to talk. She could talk her way in or out of almost any situation�or, as her father boasted, she could even sell ice cubes to an Eskimo. Of course her numerous bedmates might have a different take on her silver tongue, but then that was another story.
Too tired to look in the mirror a moment longer, she attended to her needs before returning to the main room. By hopping first on one foot, and then the other, she was able to wiggle out of her nylons. She also removed the gray-striped skirt and soft-pink, silk blouse, letting them both fall to the foot of the bed. Leaving the camisole and slip on, she then flopped down across the bed, only moving enough to scoot under the blankets before closing her eyes and welcoming the darkness.
It seemed like only a moment later when the loud shrill of Silver's cell phone woke her from her stupor. She winced, wondering who in the hell would be calling so early, and why they had to be so loud about it. Grumbling, she practically fell out of bed in a frantic search to make the noise stop.
Finding the offending device hiding inside her purse, she was tempted to throw it against the wall when she noticed the caller ID. "Stephen, do you have any idea what time it is?" Silver gruffly answered her older brother.
"Silver, please, it's past nine�"
"It's six� am," Silver interrupted, her voice etched in warning.
"Christ, aren't you in Boston?"
"Seattle," Silver corrected. "What do you want?"
"Damn, when did that happen?"
"Yesterday. Don't you look at the itinerary? There is a reason why we keep it posted in the home office."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm not at the home office. I'm in London. Sorry about that, I didn't mean to wake you."
Silver let out a long breath. She'd never had the best relationship with her brother, and didn't even know why she'd even answered the phone, but it was too late to second guess that now. "That's all right. I was gonna get up soon to hit the gym anyway. So what's going on?"
"You sound hung over, are you hung over?"
"Jesus, Stephen. Give it a rest. Yeah, I had a couple of drinks last night. I deserved to celebrate."
"You make the deal?"
"Of course I did," Silver rolled her eyes. "Please don't tell me that's the only reason why you called."
"No, you know me better than that. I'm calling about Thanksgiving."
Silver groaned. There was a reason why she set up her schedule the way she did. The week of Thanksgiving, she'd purposely booked meetings on the other side of the country. That was always the best excuse to miss the holiday. "I'm going to be in Florida," she started to argue.
"Mom wants to see you," Stephen interrupted.
"Why? You know that's not a good idea."
"Grace is pregnant."
"Really? When did that happen?"
"She announced it last week. Don't you ever check your Facebook?"
"Why should I have to check Facebook to find out my own sister is going to have a baby?" Silver protested. "Why doesn't anyone ever tell me anything?"
"Maybe because you're always gone. Hell, I didn't even know what time zone you were in," Stephen scolded.
"Not my fault you didn't check the itinerary. It's not like I'm hiding," Silver snapped back.
Stephen was quiet for a long moment before he started more softly, "Look, I'm only calling as a favor to Mom. She would have called, but you haven't answered her the last three times she tried. She just wants everyone home for Thanksgiving, is that too much to ask?"
Silver set her jaw. She wanted to say yes, that it was too much to ask, but eventually sighed. "I'll try."
"Great. We miss you, Silvia. You should try to call her, or at least answer next time she calls you," Stephen gently scolded. "I know you don't see eye to eye on certain� things, but she still loves you."
Silver shook her head. Her mother was the last person she wanted to talk to, much less see. Ever since she'd come out at nineteen, they'd been at odds. There was a reason why she was on the road, rather than taking a desk job like most of her other family members. It was always easier to run than to see that look of disappointment in their eyes. "Silver? You still here?"
"Ah, yeah. Sorry Stephen. Okay, I have a big day. I need to get moving. Take it easy, and I'll see you at Thanksgiving."
"Great," Stephen returned, sounding pleased. "I'm looking forward to it."
Hanging up the phone, Silver sat on the edge of the bed, trying to fight the dark thoughts surrounding that idea. The last place she wanted to be was home. Her father wasn't too bad, but the only one who truly accepted her was her sister Grace, and even she could only go so far. Her mother, Cynthia Whelan, was the matriarch, and whatever she wanted she usually got. It didn't matter that other people, much less her own children, were made miserable in the process. Shaking off the thought, she decided that hitting the gym wasn't such a bad idea. She had a pounding headache, but then when didn't she? Between constantly shifting time zones, hotel bars, and strange beds, she had one more often than not.
Making her way back to her suitcase, she pulled out a pair of yoga pants, a t-shirt, some clean underclothes, and her cosmetics bag. Heading into the bathroom, she again attended to her needs, before brushing her teeth and running a comb through her hair.
Taking a moment, she looked at herself in the mirror, and noticed the bags were still under her eyes. That was another constant problem, but one that she knew a hot shower and liberal amounts of makeup would take care of later. With a sigh, she turned away from the mirror, only to catch a movement out of the corner of her eye. Looking back at the mirror she noticed a small, bright-blue butterfly on the top right corner. Studying it for a moment, she was surprised to see it flutter away and then disappear. Blinking and shaking her head as she wondered if she'd just imagined it, she grabbed a hand towel off the counter and left her room in search of the gym.
After an hour in the gym and a short, five mile run on the treadmill, Silver had to admit that she was feeling much better. Now freshly showered, and again dressed in a business suit, she was glad she'd opted for pants today instead of a skirt. It was supposed to rain, and the last thing she wanted to worry about was freezing in a skirt and hose.
Checking herself in the vanity mirror, she narrowed her eyes as she again saw something near the top of the mirror. She looked behind her, thinking that it might be a reflection, but turning back to the mirror, she realized there could be nothing that would make that sort of shape. This time it appeared to be a large cat, possibly a panther or a tiger. It was off in the distance, the details so obscure, it was nothing more than a shadow. It was crouching, stalking some sort of prey, before then it leapt, disappearing from sight.
Frowning, and making a mental note to have her eyes checked, she shook her head as if to clear it. She really needed to get more sleep. Silver took a few minutes to finish her make-up and tidy up. She never did like leaving things out for housekeeping to find. Finally, she grabbed her bag of samples and headed out the door.
After a quick stop at the local Starbucks for a muffin and a coffee, it didn't take Silver long to find her destination. Most jewelry stores were either large and gaudy, or stuffed inside malls. This one was the former. It was part of a chain though, and therefore had huge potential. She was meeting with the head of development to exhibit the latest designs and show off a newly created stone. The purple diamond, as it had been dubbed, was somewhat unique, and so far everyone she'd shown it to had gone crazy for it. It was bright, and although mostly purple, held almost every color as it hit the light. It was also exclusive. They held a patent on the design and the color. It had been created by one of her cousins and she couldn't be more proud to sell it.
Stepping away from her rental car, she entered the store, and asked to see her contact. While one of the salesmen went to find Mr. Holiday in the back, she took a moment to study herself in the floor to ceiling mirror that decorated the entry to the store. Sniffing the air, she suddenly caught the scent of roses. It was sweet, and fresh, and Silver wondered whether it was one of those plug in things or someone's perfume. Looking back at the mirror, however, she almost stumbled backwards to see that it was covered in flowers. Not just roses, but daffodils, lilies, daisies, lilacs, and many more that she couldn't begin to describe.
"Ms. Whelan?" a voice pulled her from the sight.
"Oh, have you ever�" Silver said, trailing off as she noticed a middle-aged man in a suit looking at her strangely. "Ah, hello. Mr. Holiday?"
"Yes, are you all right, Ms. Whelan?" the man asked.
Silver looked from him back to the mirror, this time only seeing her own reflection stare back at her. "Yes, I'm fine, and it's Silvia, please. Tell me, do you smell roses?"
"Roses� no." He again looked at her strangely.
Silver managed a small smile. "Maybe it was just someone's perfume. It just smelled familiar to me. It's nice to meet you, Mr. Holiday," Silver quickly recovered, offering her hand. "I hope you're ready to have your socks knocked off."
The man chuckled. "You must call me Charles, then, and if you have what I've heard about, you just might. Is it true you've also developed an azure colored stone with the same properties? Come on into my office, Silvia, I'm curious to see what you have to show me."
Silver smiled, happily following Charles, but paused to look over her shoulder one more time, almost disappointed to see only an ordinary mirror behind her. She definitely needed more sleep.
It was midafternoon when Silver awoke. She was glad that the meeting with Charles Holiday was the only appointment she had set that day. She had two more tomorrow, and then was scheduled to fly to Vancouver tomorrow night. For now though, she had needed the sleep. The two hour nap had been refreshing. She was almost feeling back to her old self.
Stretching, and feeling her stomach suddenly grumble, she realized that she'd skipped lunch, and, still being somewhat on East Coast time, that had been a mistake. She wasn't just hungry, she was starving.
Briefly debating, she thought about heading to the hotel bar, or perhaps the charming bar she'd met the red-head in the night before that was across the street. Happy Hour should be starting about now, and she could enjoy the half-priced appetizers, but she wasn't in the mood for company tonight. The only reason to go to the bar was for company, and for some reason, this trip that didn't sound as appealing to her. Last night had been a strike out, but then she'd practically been a zombie anyway. Sometimes things happened for a reason.
Instead she decided to take it easy and just order in. She'd kick back, watch a movie on TV, and just enjoy the quiet for once. Finding the menu, she ordered a turkey sandwich, some potato soup, and a piece of cheese cake just because.
Silver had already changed back into her yoga pants and t-shirt from earlier, but her mouth felt like she'd been chewing on an old sock, so she ventured into the bathroom to brush her teeth and use the toilet. After her recent experiences with mirrors, however, she was a little cautious about the large mirror over the vanity. She was hoping it was just because she was tired, or at least that was what she kept telling herself, and she was more than relieved not to have anything but an ordinary experience in the bathroom.
Feeling rather silly, she left the bathroom, only to stop in the short hallway that turned into the main room. There on the closet was also a mirror, only this time she didn't see a butterfly or flowers. There was a woman standing there. She was in a dark cloak, and the only real features Silver could make out were a hint of blonde from long tendril that peeked out from beneath the hood, and stormy gray eyes. The eyes were eerie, made worse by the fact that the woman just stood there and stared at her, almost looking through her rather than at her. Silver instantly knew that it wasn't a real person, and screamed, her eyes going wide in fright, and turned back into the bathroom, slamming and locking the door behind her.
Silver was shaking badly as she slunk down against the door, sitting on the floor in shock. "No, no, no, no, no. You've got to be kidding me. You're still dreaming, you have to be," she told herself. "You're still seeing things. Maybe someone slipped something into one of your drinks last night. This is crazy. I did not just see that," she continued to ramble.
She swallowed, and, taking deep breaths, was finally able to talk herself into how silly the whole matter was. What she needed to do was switch rooms. Yes, there was something strange about this room. She needed a new one. Maybe a new hotel altogether. Maybe she'd even be better off sleeping in her rental car.
Swallowing again, Silver managed to talk herself into opening the door. She cautiously looked out, briefly scanning the immediate area and being relieved to see nothing other than her own reflection in the mirror. Reassured that she must have imagined it, she grabbed her purse, her bag with her samples, and the closest pair of shoes before heading down to the lobby to request a room change.
Making it to the elevator, she managed to slip on the sneakers, but then paled as the doors closed. She'd been so preoccupied she hadn't realized that the entire inside of the elevator was mirrored. Feeling her heart start to pound, Silver realized that she was surrounded, trapped inside a mirrored box, and thirty floors from the ground.
Silver closed her eyes. Whatever it was, at least she wouldn't see it. What she wasn't prepared for, however, was the smell. Suddenly the overwhelming scent of pine assaulted her nostrils. She tried to ignore it, telling herself that it was just an air freshener or the lingering smell of some cleaning agent, but as time passed the smell changed. It wasn't just pine anymore. It was dampness, like wet dirt and wood right after a summer rain. It was grass, dewy and bright as a summer sunrise. It was leaves, freshly crushed to the ground, and wrinkling her nose, she detected a musky scent, probably associated with an animal.
That thought startled her and forced her to open her eyes. She immediately regretted the decision. All around her, in the mirrors, were trees. Below her feet was the image of a forest floor. It was real, but at the same time she was still in the elevator. She could see the buttons light up. She could see the crack where the door would open. She could even feel the motion as the elevator continued its descent.
Watching as the lights on the control panel counted down, she held her breath and tried to ignore the forest around her. It had to be a hallucination� or something. The key was to stay calm, and ignore it. It would eventually go away.
Taking another deep breath, she heard a noise behind her. Silver told herself not to look, and again immediately regretted doing so. Behind her, headed in her direction, was one of the biggest, scariest, grizzly bears she had ever seen. It appeared to be angry, and after everything that she'd been though, she couldn't risk not believing in it.
Frantically she hit the door open button, and when that didn't work, she grabbed for the emergency phone. Opening the door to the panel, however, the only thing she found was branches and pine needles. Her panic deepening, she again looked over her shoulder at the bear. It was standing there, as if watching her and deciding whether she would make a good meal.
Hitting the button again, she was almost relieved to hear the door ding. If she could just get out, just get away from the bear and the mirrors, she'd be fine. Keeping a close eye on the bear, she backed out of the elevator. Her relief lasted only a moment before the doors closed and she realized that she was no longer on the right side of the mirror. Somehow, she had crossed over, and now the forest around her was very real.
The problem was the forest wasn't the only real thing�so was the bear. Silver stood still as a statue for a long moment, hoping the bear would just move on, but when it continued to come closer, she panicked again. She knew she shouldn't run, or at least that was what she'd read. Even if she did run, she knew the bear would be faster. Working against instinct, she did what she thought was her only chance and fell to the ground. She put her hands over her head to protect it, and made herself as small as possible while doing her best to appear to be dead.