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Tell us about yourself: In Hot Chocolate Kiss, Keela Branford meets with Rick Marston. I'm planning three more seasonal adventures for Rick and Keela for the spring, summer and fall.
Keela Branford is forty and feelin' it. She's been dumped by her husband for two twenties, and her kids don't want anything to do with her. So Keela goes for a mini vacation to do the one thing she still feels competent with--sking.
What makes you special?
I never really thought of myself as special. I tried to be the best mom I could, but teenage boys-well, why would they want to live with their mother who makes them do homework and clean up? Their dad is much more fun.
And speaking of their dad, I put up with Ken and his drifter ways for years. When we were younger it was exciting. But he drifted too far afield.
I'm a teacher, and the kids seem to like me. But I've always been just an average woman--until recently.
What differentiates you from your kind? Do you have special abilities?
I've always been believed in the supernatural and that paranormal experiences are real, but until recently the closest I've gotten to anything was during some deep meditation and Yoga. I’ve had readings done, bought crystals, that sort of thing. I feel something but could never see anything.
Now, I wonder if I do have special perceptive abilities. I mean, those witches and fairies were there on the ski slopes, on the river. Maybe they've always been there, and I just opened my mind and heart to seeing them. It's scary, but exciting as well.
Tell us about your most current adventure.
I was out for a couple days of skiing to try and get my mind off my troubles. It’s something I’ve always done well, and did before I met Ken. The weather was awful, and I shouldn’t have gone up top alone. The risk of frostbite, injury, hypothermia—what a dumb stunt. But I was driven by this need to conquer my anger over what happened with Ken and the boys.
The wind was fierce and The Witches were out to get me. And if Rick hadn’t known I was out there and come looking—it could have been a deadly mistake. But maybe it was just meant to be-if I stayed safe and warm, I would never have met Rick.
If you could offer your author advice, what would it be?
Please, let me see Rick again and have the chance at a new romance. There are so many things I want to experience with him. I've never been out of New England, for god's sake. Let me travel!
Are you happy with the way people perceive you?
No, they often think I'm a bitch, a loner. But that's because I'm so damn responsible. I don’t know how to have fun. And I’ve never really done anything different or special. My ex never wanted to do anything except extreme sports and that's a solitary life spent in the company of a bunch of oddballs. I hate to complain so much about him, and I really don’t want to blame Ken for all my troubles. I have to be more open, get out more.
What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you?
Well for sure this was the most interesting thing! Meeting The Witches personified, I mean. And going to bed with a man I just met.
Did you do anything special after your first adventure?
I was thinking about Rick all the way home. How romantic the whole thing had been. How special he made me feel. Damn, how hot that sex was, and how I couldn’t wait to see him again.
I went home to my empty house and instead of brooding, went online and ordered some sexy nighties--for the next time. I had a nice long bubble bath with this yummy cocoa butter scent-the ultimate luxury for me. The chocolate smell reminded me of Rick, and the hot chocolate kiss.
What motivates you to continue on these adventures?
I love the outdoors and have always been athletic. The cold never really bothers me. But now that I’ve met a guy willing to travel to warm, exotic places. Damn I’m ready to pack my bags and go. I wonder if I’ll find supernatural beings in other places as well, now that I’m opened to them.
What does your significant other think about your adventures? And how do they deal with it?
I told Ken I had a boyfriend. He didn’t seem to care, but why would he? I mean he has two girlfriends. He could have acted happy for me--that I wasn’t alone. But he basically ignored me and changed the subject. The boys took it much differently than I expected. They see their father with these other women. They go on trips with the two of them. But my sons were upset, angry. The older one said he was worried the guy was some creep.
Truthfully, I think the kids want me and their Dad to get back together. I have no idea what Ken thinks. I’d never ask him for advice--not that he’d give it anyway. And the boys, well,it’s not fair to ask two teenagers what they think about their mom and her new boyfriend.
What’s the kinkiest thing you’ve done? Stupidest? Craziest?
Well for sure this was the craziest. Having sex with a virtual stranger. And I mean SEX. Not kinky, at least not yet. This was our first time together.
Some say the backcountry expeditions were the craziest--there is tremendous risk of avalanche and rockslides. Ken and I even took the boys on our backs to hike in the White Mountains when they were little. My mother-in-law said she had a mind to call the authorities and report us for child abuse.
And the stupidest was going skiing that day. But I feel like a force more powerful than me was drawing me to do it-that it was meant to be.
Describe your abilities and how exactly did you get them?
Many times, I’ve sensed something before it happened. I often dream about friends and family who are dead, they come back to me to assure me they’re fine, warn me, guide me along a particular path.
Is your gift always right?
When I’ve followed their advice, everything worked out. When I haven’t, things went bad. My mother, who died when I was a teenager, came to me just before I married Ken and told me not to. I ignored her. I wouldn’t have my sons if I hadn’t married Ken, but who knows what might have been, what I could have become if he hadn’t held me back all those years?
I’m still alive so I guess my gift got me through this scrape.
Does your gift get you in trouble?
It did this time. But I got away and when I went back The Witches backed down.
If you could change one physical thing about you, what would it be?
Get rid of these stretch marks and mommy belly!
What’s the one thing you wish you could change about yourself?
My age. I would like to be twenty again. With a forty year old’s brain though.
How do you deal with stress?
Exercise outdoors. The more extreme the sport, the better.
Tell us about the first time you saw your husband with another woman.
Well only my Mom and Dad dying in a car accident when I was young was worse. This felt like a part of me was dying. I trusted Ken, put up with him for years, had children with him. I never cheated, never even thought of it. And I never expected him to either. The betrayal hurt and when I confronted him, and he walked out of the house, I felt like that kid abandoned all over again. I had no idea how I was going to manage, what I would do.
And I’ve been floundering for the last year and a half, feeling angry and betrayed and abandoned. Until now. Until this incredible experience. Now I have a lot to look forward to. A new romance. A newfound ability to nurture. New adventures.
So bad can come from good.
Thank you Keela for joining us today.
Meet Keela and Rick in Hot Chocolate Kiss
By Gianna Bruno
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