BY: ZRINKA JELIC
Kate Rokov’s grades are plummeting. She needs to get the voice out of her head, or she will flunk her finals. Matthias Zrin, a three centuries old immortal, born into an aristocratic family as Miles Rusinic, is enthralled with Kate. It is his voice preventing her from sleeping and her stubbornness is testing his limits. He wants her to write down his story to settle his late wife’s Earthbound spirit. His tragic love story has become Kate’s obsession since fifth grade during her summer trip to Rusinic Castle. Their coming together settles the old spirit and breaks an ancient curse and, in doing so, a flame spanning over three centuries reignites and burns with wild desire. In this tale of two life times and desire versus emotional need, both know some dreams will have to wait for the right time, but the magic between them is impossible to withstand.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Rose of Crimson by Zrinka Jelic, Kate Rokov is attending college in Ontario Canada. Kate begins hearing voices in her head and discovers that an immortal wants her to write his tragic story of doomed love and betrayal. Once she agrees, he reveals himself to her begins giving her visions of his early life three hundred years ago. And of course, Kate falls madly in love with him, but how much chance does she have with a three-hundred-year-old immortal? After all, she’s in her early twenties, a foreigner in a strange land, fighting discrimination and bullying, and running from her great-great-grandmother’s curse.
A prequel to Jelic’s Bonded by Crimson, the book reunites us with the main characters, combining contemporary and historical into a touching, heart-warming, and heart-breaking love story.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Rose of Crimson is the first book in Zrinka Jelic’s Crimson series. We get to see the characters before Bonded by Crimson starts, when Kate is still in college and first meets Mathias, only she thinks his name is Miles. He contacts her telepathically, explains that he’s a three-hundred-year-old immortal, and asks her to write his tragic story of love, revenge, and murder as she fights to break her great-great-grandmother’s curse, which caused by Miles in the first place. Kate pretends she can’t hear him, so to get her attention, he starts humming in her head until the poor girl has no choice but to give in and do what he wants.
Jelic has crafted a heart-warming story of forbidden love. I like the way she blends the contemporary and historical scenes into a well-written saga spanning three hundred years.
Guilt seared Matthias like branding iron, but he soldiered on. Wrong of him to sneak into Kate’s place and having to shield her mind from seeing him, poked hard at his conscience. His methods had yet to produce any results. Perhaps he should try a different approach. No, not this close to breaking through her defenses, he must persevere despite stabbing remorse.
He leaned against the wall and scanned the familiar unit. Not much to look at, nothing posh. A bulb on the range hood cast dim light over the basement flat. Kate’s neatly stacked books sat on the small table. In two steps, he closed the distance to the round plastic surface and picked up the thick text, Developmental Math, yellow sticker under the title read USED. The glossy pages flapped under his finger as he flipped through, he admired that she had not scribbled inside, but placed neon sticky notes at the edges. She wouldn’t lessen the value of her textbooks. She planned to sell them once she graduated and, if in mint condition, they’d be appraised higher.
Matthias put the volume back. Kate would be done with her school come May and he still had not made much of a progress with her. Stakes were high should he not succeed, Emina’s spirit would never settle. No. Failure was not an option. But he visited Kate for entirely different purpose than to fulfill his promise he had given to his wife on her deathbed.
The apartment door flew open, hitting the wall and taking him by surprise. He leaped backward with a start. Kate stormed in.
“Wicked, we totally got you this time.” The roaring laughter of the blockhead, Potter, reached Matthias just as Kate stepped onto safe ground and slammed the door of her unit.
Fury burned its way through Matthias’s nostrils while she picked slimy paper balls out of her hazel brown hair. Again, she’d ducked her head when she should have reported the two pranksters to the building manager. Matthias clenched his fists and couldn’t understand her passiveness when it came down to her mischievous neighbors.
Those two scalawags wouldn’t bother her anymore. Not his Kate.
“Why don’t you report them?” he growled through clenched teeth, temper seeping through his voice.
Kate didn’t look in his direction. She removed her coat and boots and put on her fluffy pink slippers. What had made him think she would act differently this time?
He clamped down on the urge to wrap her in his arms, moved out of her way, and flattened his back on the wall as she shuffled toward the chair. Just because he decided to stay invisible, didn’t mean she couldn’t bump into him. “Ignoring me won’t make me go away. You should know that by now. When will you answer me?”
She dropped onto a chair. Corners of her mouth dipped down and tears glistened in her eyes. Matthias crouched in front of her. His heart tore. How he hated to see her like this, exhaustion etched on her face, dark circles under her eyes. If she’d only open up to him, he’d make all her fears stop. But she was strong willed and kept ignoring him.
She got to her feet and wiped at a tear hanging from the little star shaped scar on her chin. The reminder of her clumsy childhood she always hid had not marred her face. It only added to her perfection. He was going to kiss that spot. Someday.
After rummaging through the fridge, she pulled out a clear container with leftover pizza, and then placed two slices in the microwave.
Matthias tracked her as she poured a glass of water from the filtered pitcher. “What did the doctor say?”
Her hand holding the glass stopped half way to her lush lips. She huffed. Would she answer his query? “Like I’ll tell you.”
His heart missed a beat, a hint of joy kindled in him. After a year and half, she finally acknowledged his presence. “Did he diagnose you with tinnitus?”
She snapped her glance in his direction–only took her eighteen months to do so. Her green eyes seemed to settle on him and narrowed as if struggling to focus. But her wandering gaze assured him she couldn’t make him out. He waited on Kate’s answer, which wasn’t forthcoming. “You were afraid to talk about your true symptoms, weren’t you?”
Kate turned away from him and faced the sink. “When will this stop?”
“When you stop ignoring me.” Matthias’s voice came out heavy with need.
She plugged her ears, shook her head, and mewled. “Stop talking already and leave me alone,” she snapped and left for the bathroom, locking the door. A second later, the sound of running water drifted from the shower. With his hand on the doorknob, he fought against the urge to follow her there, to admire her nude perfection.
The building walls shook as the door of the unit above hers slammed shut, snapping him out of his desire. He scurried to the apartment’s door. Through the peephole, he caught a glimpse of Chris Miller’s camouflage green pants at the top of the first landing as he stormed out of the building.
What, did the boys have a fight over the last beer? A smile stretched his lips. With Miller gone, this was a good opportunity to get Potter alone–the right time to pay him back for how he treated Kate by scaring the socks off the boy.
The voice ceased and Kate’s rage calmed under the warm shower. She came too darn close to giving in to her hallucinations. Ignoring the voice in her head was her last defense. No way could she allow her mind to slip. Hearing aid or surgery, the options the doctor had given her pressed on her mind. At twenty-four, neither appealed to her, nor would they, no matter her age.
She turned the shower off, stepped out of the tub, and wrapped herself in a purple bathrobe. Silence greeted her outside the bathroom. The quiet state was temporary. The voice would return. Always had.
Her dinner overheated and she sat at the table with a glass of milk, waiting for the slices to cool off. The doctor couldn’t help her today. It wasn’t tinnitus that bothered her day and night. It was the alluring voice of a man. The paranormal would be Dyane’s expertise. She’d have answers to all this, but Kate couldn’t ask her. After all, it had been Kate who had stated that renewing their friendship would only work if they didn’t speak about ghosts. That Dyane claimed to see them pop up everywhere spooked Kate.
What the heck? If her friend could cure her, it was worth a try. She grabbed the cordless receiver and dialled the overseas number.
Kate was about to hang up after four rings when Dyane answered, sleep making her voice harsh. “Hallo.”
Kate cringed, darting her glance at the clock on the stove. With six hours difference, eight o’clock in Toronto meant it was only two in the morning in Croatia. Well done, Kate.
“Hallo?” Dyane sounded a bit more awake.
“Dyane, it’s me, Kate. So sorry. I wasn’t paying attention to the time difference.”
“Kate, sweetie, don’t worry. I’m glad you called. How are you?”
“I’m all right.” Kate bit her lip. Dyane would detect the tremble in her voice. “I don’t know. Things are different here. Dumb students are popular, not the smart ones.”
“Oh, honey.” Dyane huffed. “The same idiocy is catching up in our schools. A hunch tells me you’re not calling me because of this.”
Kate drew in a sharp breath. A knot in her chest seemed to loosen with her friend’s words. “You’re right.”
A long silence followed on Dyane’s end. “And you’re not calling about that two timing, good-for-nothing son of a–”
“You’d think I’d call overseas because of him?” Kate snapped. The boy, for she could never refer to immature male as a man, was not worth her effort of dialing the thirteen digit European number.
“I think you’ll find this last bit funny.” Dyane laughed. Of course, gossip was the main past time activity in their small town. “He’s gone AWOL. Two girls claimed they were preggers. Turns out the bimbos lied to get him. But they were after his daddy’s money.”
“Still a skirt chaser, I see. Flashing his dad’s money made him popular. Nevertheless, who in their right mind would want to waste a moment on him?”
Silly question. She had wasted an entire year on that idiot. His sweet babe, he’d called her and, once she’d succumbed to his persuasions and slept with him, he discarded her like yesterday’s trash. Never again would she let a man make a fool out of her.
“Listen, we talked enough about him. I called about something different.”
“I know,” Dyane said. “Well, since you’re calling in the dead of the night, there must be some sort of problem. I’ve sensed this would happen to you.” There was a pause from the other end of the phone. “Kate, there is a powerful male presence around you. I know we agreed on no reading fortunes, but I had to find out. I did a spread.”
Kate winced at Dyane’s words. “I just want us to be as we were. Don’t like this pretending. It won’t change the fact you have a special gift.”
After another long silence, Dyane sighed. “So do you, but you keep ignoring your gift. Someday you’ll come to your senses. I’m glad you’re not mad that I read your future in Tarot cards.”
“How can I be mad? Tell me, what did you see?” Dyane already mentioned trouble, just how much of a disturbance was there?
“A King of Wands was in your spread, a very determined man is hanging around you, but he’s not letting you see him until you acknowledge him. He will test you. Do you have trouble sleeping?”
“Why do you ask?” Kate gasped. Dyane was right on.
“The Moon was right in the middle. It predicts troubling rest, but at the end was The Chariot. You will win this. Tarot cards don’t lie.”
Kate swallowed the lump forming in her throat. An entity was testing her and she’d have to find the tactics. “I’ll win? How? Some days I’m sure a man’s voice is in my head, yet sometimes sounds like he’s near me, but whatever the case, he’s here.”
“He wants you to listen to him.” Dyane yawned.
“The voice seems to want me to converse with him. So far, I’ve been ignoring it. God almighty, the entity is persistent.” Guilt stirred in Kate, she should let her friend return to bed. “Fine, I’ll listen to him. Once. Now go back to sleep. I’ve kept you talking long enough.”
“Spirits can be tenacious. Sorry I’m not much of a chatty cat at this hour. If cards in your spreads change, I’ll send what comes up via email.”
“Sounds good. Say hi to everyone for me. Except the fool.” Kate’s words rushed out before Dyane could hang up. The unspoken rule never to mention her ex-boyfriend’s name remained enforced. “And, Dyane?”
Dyane sniffed. “Yes?”
“I wish you were here. It would make everything so much easier.”
“Honey,” her friend croaked. “You’ll graduate this spring and then you’re coming home, right?”
Kate pushed back tears. Nothing would bring her more joy than the fact she’d be going home after her graduation. “Not exactly.”
“Why?” Dyane’s whisper pressed heavy on Kate’s mind.
“I had to take out a loan and must repay it. Plus, my mom thinks the old curse won’t reach this far.” The hex imposed by long dead Great-Great-Grandma could go to Hell. It was the money, or rather lack of it, that prevented Kate from returning home.
“Oh, Kate, I’m so sorry to hear that. Maybe this one time you could ask your dad–for money.”
The despair in Dyane’s voice shattered Kate’s hopes. God forbid she could approach her father for help. “No, let him keep every penny of his inheritance along with the house and land.”
“Hang in there, sweetie. Things will turn out for the best.”
A breath of a smile pushed out of Kate. “Thanks, I needed to hear that. Bye.”
A sudden, heavy thud on the ceiling caused her to jump and spill milk from the glass. Damn Potter and Miller’s rudeness up there. As if a voice in her head wasn’t enough torture. All of a sudden, she’d lost her appetite and tossed her dinner in the garbage bin under the kitchen sink. After gulping down two capsules of a sleep aid, she slipped into her bed and tugged the blanket to her chin. All she wanted was to face the three tests tomorrow well rested and not haunted.
Under the warm covers, her tension eased and her eyelids drooped while she slipped into the dreamless sleep.
The smooth, masculine voice pierced through Kate’s sleep, waking her in the darkest part of the night. With a heavy head, she rolled to her side and glanced at the clock on her nightstand. Three-thirty in the morning flashed in bright red numbers on the display. Just great. Would she ever sleep through one single night?
The pill had let her sleep exactly four hours. Or was it the ghost, since the darn medicine lost its effect too fast? Without sufficient sleep, she ran the risk of failing the exams. She flipped to her side, wrapped the pillow around her head and moaned.
“Why can’t you leave me alone?”
She was awake now. Experience told her the voice wouldn’t let her go back to sleep. The down duvet crinkled as she kicked the cover to the side.
Rubbing her sore eyes, she tapped her feet on the hardwood floor until her fluffy slippers tickled her soles. She floundered in the dark basement flat to the kitchen counter and hugged the coffee machine. The appliance was timed to start brewing at eight o’clock, but she needed a big cup of java right now. With her hip braced against the edge, she yawned again as the first drops dribbled into the pot. Freshly brewed coffee wafted to her, exorcising the last bit of sleep from her eyes.
How many twenty-four-year-old females can say they hear voices in their heads? Kate shuddered. It had to be the stress of the workload. No ghost, no tinnitus. This thought set her at ease better than facing a future wearing a hearing aid. Another three weeks until the end of the fall semester, then she’d put her brain on the shelf and not think of school.
With her fingers digging into her scalp, she braced her elbows on the Formica countertop. The possibility of landing a teaching position after graduation was slim. A wise person would have dropped out of the program while still ahead, but she wasn’t a quitter.
The coffee machine finished brewing with a loud gurgling noise and a big puff of steam. Armed with a mug, she snatched the pot and poured. Black and bitter, just like her life since she’d moved to Canada. With all the tuition, textbooks, rent, and food expenses, she had managed to stretch her scholarship fund for two years. A year ago, she had been forced to take a student loan. Heck, by the time she graduated, she’d be working just to pay it off.
The worn-out cushion of the sofa that had come with the apartment sank as she lowered. Her body formed around the familiar lumps. The screen on her laptop lit as soon as she moved the mouse and the Google page loaded.
The first sip of coffee burned inside her mouth, she smacked her lips. Her sore eyes adjusted to the piercing light of the screen. The possibility she was afraid to face pressed on her mind. While hugging the mug in her hand she typed S-c-h, into the search engine. This was insane. If she really was schizophrenic, there would be other symptoms, not just a voice in her head.
An invisible hand brushed hers and the cursor moved backward, deleting the three letters she had typed. “You are not schizophrenic.”
Her heart dropped, her spine went rigid. All she could do was grip her mug and hold her breath. He was here. Only a ghost could come through the door bolted with three locks. The sincerity in his voice and Dyane’s advice convinced her she should listen and try to communicate with him. But she was afraid. Of what, she didn’t know. No more touches came from him and her body relaxed.
Scolding herself for getting so messed up over nothing, she rose from the chair and turned toward the small television. Late night programs had become her best friend since this insanity started.
A click of the button on the remote and the picture appeared while laughter from the audience filled her small apartment.
A rerun of Saturday Night Live wasn’t to her liking so she continued surfing. Gosh, basic cable, thirty-seven channels, and nothing on but commercials.
“There is a voice in your head.” The announcer’s voice blared out as she zapped to the next station.
She frowned, cocking her head. “You got that right.”
“Don’t ignore it. Listen to your inner voice.” Golden pizza crust appeared on the screen. “Call five-three-six-double o-double-o now…” the advertisement went on as she flipped to the next channel.
She snorted. A pizza commercial came so close to curing her illness. But even they said to listen to her inner voice. What she heard was a man’s muttering, definitely not her inner voice. So far, she tried everything except listen. Even the blaring music from the headphones and hours in the gym had stopped working. By now, it was obvious she wouldn’t get rid of the murmur. So why not try and see if she could cooperate with the voice? Then she’d tell it to leave her alone.
She crossed her legs, closed her eyes, and inhaled deeply. Her heart pounded with anticipation. Okay, here goes nothing.
“I’m listening,” she said with a quivering voice.
Nothing happened, just as she’d predicted, but the hushed whisper didn’t cease. She opened one eye and placed her coffee on the table. After mustering some courage, she cleared her throat and spoke louder, “I said I’m listening.”
“And it’s about time.” The deep male voice answered in her native Croatian.
She sprang to her feet, her eyes refused to return to their normal size. Her breath caught as her chest tightened. “Wha–where y–you–” she stuttered in the same language, scanning over the dark interior. “You can hear me?” Okay, she had asked for this, but she had never expected the darn thing would work.
“Uh-huh.” Air brushed her neck, as if someone breathed the answer.
Her hands clutched the couch for support, and Kate leaned against the armrest. “Potter? Miller? Is that you?” Her voice trembled.
“You really think I’m one of those dickheads?” A dry laugh resonated with disappointment. “My name is Mat–Miles. I’m Miles.” The voice came from behind her this time. A cold air brushed her bare shoulder.
“Please don’t touch me.” Fear gripped her, yet the smoothness of the man’s voice had an unexpected calming effect on her frail nerves.
“I know you are afraid now, but don’t be.”
Cold fingers wrapped around her arm. A shrill scream ripped from her. She yanked her arm away and backed against the wall. “What do you want from me?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to scare you. I just want you to listen to me, to understand.” His voice came from a few feet away.
“You are the only one that can help me.” The despair in his voice almost had her convinced.
“How?” she breathed.
“By listening. Things have happened in my life and it’s too late for me to right them, but someone needs to know.”
Her glance drifted toward the phone on the corner stand. With a slow step backward, she approached and grabbed the handheld from the cradle. Her shaky fingers dialled the number of the police but, in the next instant, she pushed the off button. What would she tell them, that there was an invisible intruder in her home? Sure way to get lectured on how pulling pranks on emergency services was a serious offence. “Why can’t I see you?”
“You will see me soon.” From the sound of his voice, she determined he was standing behind her.
Her heart seemed to steady. “Are you a ghost?”
Heat must have come on and pushed the cool air from the ceiling vent. Or could it be he brushed her bare arms with a feathery touch.
Miles’s soft laugh embraced her. “To be a ghost, I’d have to be dead.”
She rubbed her arms. “You’re saying you’re alive?”
“For all intents and purposes, yes.”
Unsure if she should be annoyed or sympathetic, she turned in the direction of his voice. “Do you see the light? You should go into it.”
“There’s no light,” he whispered close to her ear. “I’m not dead.”
She took a long step back. Her heart thudded and, despite the warm air blowing down on her, cold shivers raked her spine. What kind of trick had he pulled to make himself invisible? “Please leave me alone. And stop this incessant whispering in my head.”
His invisible fingers tucked a strap of her camisole back on her shoulder. His action did not freak her out. “I can’t leave you, but if you paid attention, you’d notice that the sound has ceased.”
She cocked her head, listened, then relaxed her shoulders. There was no humming in her ears. Joy filled her and she couldn’t suppress a smile, liberated from the sound that had kept her up at night and filled her waking hours to the point she had thought she was going insane. “It’s gone. Oh, thank God.”
“Had you opened your mind earlier, you wouldn’t have gone through all the torture.” The voice took on a cheerful tone, invisible knuckles brushed her arm.
Goose bumps rose on her skin. Was she an idiot because she seemed to enjoy his soft touch?
“Now you expect me to do something for you or the humming will return. Right?”
Excitement filled her as she anticipated his caress again. Or could it be the mystery that was building? Stupid of her to get all giddy. He could inflict that God-awful humming in her ears and take her back to the miserable time.
At least she now knew nothing physical was wrong with her, however it seemed there was only one cure for this kind of ailment. Do what he wanted.
“Something tells me I won’t have to do that again.” A husky tone laced his whisper.
© 2015 by Zrinka Jelic
Boundless Book Reviews:
I was given a copy of Rose of Crimson by the Author Zrinka Jelic in exchange for a honest review. I really enjoyed this novel. When I was first approached, I was thinking to myself “Great another Vampire story” and not in a good way. I found Rose of Crimson very refreshing in its approach. The novel didn’t revolve around the Paranormal but around the love story and Kate’s present life, I loved that!
I found myself immersed in the past as Miles told his story to Kate and Kate’s present college experience. Of course along the way Kate and Miles can’t help to develop strong feeling towards one another. I would have liked that more if it had taken more time, especially on Kate’s part.
There were a few points in the story that I thought were a bit silly and took away from the overall love story. The entire Amanda plot I thought could have been left out. Kate is picked on and not popular I get it, but and the same time that felt more like high school than college. It was funny at times and did give us a villain. However, overall it didn’t add anything to the story other than allowing Miles coming to Kate’s rescue a few times. I guess I’m not one who cares much for damsels in distress. Then that is just me.
This is a prequel to Bonded by Crimson which I can’t wait to read. I really did enjoy Rose of Crimson despite of few minor personal hang ups I have with Kate. ~ Sara, Boundless Book Reviews
Author, Trish Jackson:
Who is the mysterious ‘Miles,’ who appears in Kate’s apartment and tells her he is the one who has been trying to communicate with her? He says he’s not a ghost, and he doesn’t feel like one. He says he’s not a Vampire, and he doesn’t look like one.
He tells Kate he is someone from a past life, and he needs her to document his story, and thereby to break an ancient curse. Kate knows she should really be studying, but she becomes entranced by his story when she finds out he is linked to a castle she once visited.
Over a period of several meetings, their centuries old romantic flame is reignited, and Kate finds herself desiring his touch more each time he is close to her. But how can a mortal mate with a spirit?
This story will keep you reading if you want to find the answer. Beautifully written, enthralling, and very romantic. ~ Trish Jackson, Author