She has nothing left to lose…
When Breena stumbles into the enchanted borderland of Cake, she is given the choice to return to her world or face the unknown. Unable to bear returning to her empty life, she embraces the challenge, much to the annoyance of the handsome, brooding Rune.
He wants redemption…
Long ago, Rune failed in his duty to guard the Queen Likely and vowed never again to let desire rule him. Then he meets Breena, the last Likely, and least likely, to succeed. Sworn to protect her from the killer who seeks to destroy Cake, Rune is forced to face his awakening desire for the one woman he can never have.
Together, they embark on a magical journey to save Cake and while Rune abandons his heart, Breena discovers that she has everything to lose.
She blamed the buttered toast.
Thick slabs of white bread, toasted dark golden brown, with gobs of half-melted butter that pooled and dripped over the crust. One bite and everything had changed, culminating in the fact that she’d just walked through the blackened fireplace of the Apollo Cake Factory and into another world.
By the looks of her surroundings, Breena guessed she’d gone back in time.
Blowing out a breath of frustration, she peeled a strand of hair from her face, glued against her cheek from the sticky air. Bree gave another huff against the heat then put her hands on her hips as she appraised the landscape. She’d always hoped for an adventure like this. In her fantasies, though, a journey to another reality came with luggage, a tour guide, and pleasant weather.
When she’d left Somerville, it had been midnight, late October, just as the air was beginning to smell orange and red flames singed leaves on trees. Here, though, the murky gray sky declared it to be day and the climate was far from autumnal.
It was quiet. No birds chirped, no wind sang. Even the wisping atoms she’d followed through the fireplace had disappeared, flitting off into the air like pink and green fireflies. She was alone. This fact should have worried her but it didn’t.
As far back as she could recall, Breena had spent nearly every night of her life immersed in one adventure novel or another. In the books, the heroines always spent a good chunk of time convinced they were dreaming or crazy. Bree wasn’t that stupid. These sorts of things happened, especially to plain girls with boring lives.
Instead, curiosity flooded her as she turned in a slow circle, looking at the roofless shell of a building that boxed her. She picked her way through a tumble of fallen bricks, litter, and broken bottles until she reached the jagged archway that led outside.
Beyond the entrance to the ruins, a field of sick green sloped down until it reached trees that circled the crown of the small mountain on which she stood. Below and to her right was a barren wasteland. Ahead and down the mountain, the slanted rooftops of a town winked through the trees.
At least, she was fairly certain she knew when she was. Breena surely recognized these ruins. She’d seen pictures from a book about Somerville’s lost architecture in Dad’s study.
Sadness once again threatened to bury her as she remembered happy moments spent in her father’s study, times she would never again experience. Stepping quickly to evade the emotion, she walked through the broken arch into a field of fallen brick.
As she wandered among the crab grass and garbage outside the crumbling walls, she grew more and more convinced that this was the old Ursuline convent that once crowned Mount Benedict, where her neighborhood of two family homes with postage stamp lawns and the defunct Apollo Cake Factory presently stood. A mob of Boston Protestants had burned the mansion well over a hundred years previous to her time, convinced that the Catholic nuns were witches. Or so the mob had claimed.
And perhaps they had been witches. It certainly would help explain the magic of the fireplace in the old Factory. No doubt a leftover spell lingered over her neighborhood, just waiting for the right circumstances to activate.
The air was too hot! She fanned herself but the action only made her warmer so she headed back to the brick ruins. Roofless it was, but the remaining walls still lent some relief from the heat. Trickles of sweat ran down her back and into her pajama bottoms, which reminded her of her predicament.
Magic may have led her here but she would never have left the safety of home if it weren’t for that toast. The moment her teeth had sunk into the crispy toast, her doorbell chimed and after, she couldn’t help but think of toast when she remembered that horrible moment. If she hadn’t bitten into the toast, perhaps her doorbell wouldn’t have rung and the terrible news that accompanied that ring would never have been told, negating the accident altogether.
Superstition, Bree knew, but the illogical conclusion made perfect sense to her. It had then and it did now, three months later. She would never again eat buttered toast. And she blamed that toast for her current problem. Glancing down at her worn plaid men’s pajamas and loud yellow sneakers, she cringed.
“They’ll hang me for sure,” she muttered. Unless…
Whirling around, her gaze scanned the back wall of the ruin. Brick. Her portal was no longer there. “Uh-oh,” she said.
“‘Uh-oh’ is right,” a cruel voice echoed behind her.
Her head had snapped up and she turned.
Now that was a surprising find for nineteenth-century Massachusetts.
He was not what she’d expect an elf to look like. Sure, he had the prerequisite pointed ears and he oozed glamour, but he wore a pinstripe black suit and lots of gold jewelry, no velvets and jewels. His eyes pierced metallic blue and he styled his black hair slicked back with so much oil that she could see the ravines a comb had made. She imagined that if she touched his hair, it would feel like hard plastic.
Revulsion wet the back of her throat. She took a step back. There was a sinister aura about him that made her skin crawl and her stomach feel cold and empty. And there was something about his eyes that triggered a memory she couldn’t quite place, perched like an imp just beyond the grasp of recollection.
He raised his hand, opened his fist, and blew a cloud of gold dust at her from his open palm. She sneezed and the nearly captured memory scattered into the still air.
“I guess I haven’t gone back in time,” she wondered aloud as her old reality faded and this one took root. Faerie, then, she decided. That made sense. The ruins were probably projections of her subconscious and the elf… She drank in that coiffed black hair and a grin that promised nightmares. Impulsively, she grimaced.
The elf blinked as though surprised. His grin turned to a scowl. “You are supposed to fall besotted with me,” he said, almost angry.
Bree shook her head. “Pardon?”
He opened his fist again. This time, he held a small mountain of gold dust. He reached out and dumped it over her head.
“Hey!” Startled, she jumped back, brushing her clothes. “What–” She fell silent, paralyzed. Somewhere deep inside her, alarm bells rang.
“Now that’s better,” the elf said and slipped close to her with his predator’s smile. “You really are clueless, aren’t you? You’ve no idea of where you are?”
She frowned and shook her head.
“Then, it is as I’d hoped. I’ve intercepted fate,” he drawled with satisfaction and began to circle her, gaze raking her from head to toe. “‘Tis a shame, though, eh my pet? I’ve been waiting a very long time for you to walk through that door and you…” He drew an icy finger down her cheek. “You will die never knowing the true extent of your failure.”
Bree could barely hear him. All she knew was that he smelled like cheap cologne. She hated perfume, but somehow, the scent held her captive. There was no resisting the pull toward him even as her instincts screamed in protest. She couldn’t help but reach out and stroke his bare chest, alabaster beneath a crisp white shirt.
“Your end, thus the end, is near, my pet,” he explained, a funny glitter in his eyes.
He chuckled like a prowling leopard, so low and guttural she barely heard it. She wished she hadn’t. The sound froze her bones, but she couldn’t stop stroking his perfect skin.
Pulling her against him, he grabbed her wrists in one hand, ignoring her gasp of pain. Her blood turned cold but she had no will to fight or even remember why she should, and when his lips barely touched hers, her own lips parted in anticipation.
“At last,” he crooned. His breath smelled like cologne, too. Yuck.
“Are you going to kiss me?” she asked and felt her eyes widen at the words she couldn’t seem to control. “Please?” she begged. She wanted it so badly. What had been in that gold dust? Why wouldn’t he hurry up and kiss her?
“Now that’s an idea,” he said. “I’ve waited a long time to kill you.” He cocked his head, studied her. “But you are rather comely for a human, tainted as you are. I find I simply cannot resist.”
He smacked his lips together. Inside, she shuddered even as she clutched him closer.
“We’ll have a little fun first, eh, my pet?” His arms tightened around her and he bent her back. Brushing his cheek against hers, he said, “I’m going to ravish you and after I kill you, I’m going to have your skin sewn into a pair of breeches, eh?”
“Okay,” her voice agreed. Her head pained as her brain struggled to control her outward actions and nausea tumbled her belly. She felt like a puppet, helpless against the elf’s will. His arms tightened. Her heartbeat spiked with fear.
“YEW!” a voice shouted behind them.
Breena and her captor both turned their gazes to the man running at them, sword raised. The most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.
Smeared with dirt and sweat, hair scruffy and riddled with twigs and dead leaves, he looked like a warrior angel back from some demonic war. He stormed through the rubble, gray eyes flashing and focused only on her.
This was the one. Fate had thrust her through the fireplace of the Apollo Cake Factory and into this world to be his. Of that she was certain. After all, that’s what always happened in the adventure novels, even to the plain girls. Still stuck in her captor’s embrace, she smiled at him.
“Get away from him, foolish girl!” he bellowed at her as he skidded to a halt a foot away.
Her captor released her and she fell like a sack of potatoes onto her behind. The elf straightened before she could say “ouch” and turned his evil smile on the man with the sword. He threw up his hands in mock horror, his lips forming an O.
“Oh no, Rune! Whatever shall I do?” he said in falsetto. “Dearie me, I haven’t a weapon. ‘Twould be most dishonorable of you to strike me now.” He smiled, long and slow, and Bree thought of circus clowns. Dropping his voice, he added, “And what is dear Rune without his honor?”
The man’s–Rune’s–knuckles turned white as he squeezed the sword hilt. A vein in his temple pulsed. “You are a walking weapon,” he said through gritted teeth. Still, he lowered the sword and ignoring the elf’s chuckle, faced Breena.
Everything in her smiled. She grinned at him from her seat on the ground.
He did not grin back. In fact, he seemed rather angry. She let her smile fade.
“‘Okay? Okay’ did you say?” He roared at her. “You would choose to be with him? Are you crazy or just stupid?”
“I–I couldn’t help it,” she said to herself as much as him. As she spoke, the fog in her mind seemed to lift. “The gold dust…”
“That spell was strong,” the elf murmured with disappointment and pulled at his earlobe, puzzled. “It should have held.”
Bree rose and, brushing grass stubble from her, glared at the elf. “So you did put a spell on me!” she accused. He only glared back but she thought she saw a flash of fear cross his face. “So you did put a spell on me.” Grumpy now, she turned to Rune and said, “Wasn’t my fault.”
He stared at her in disbelief. “This is what we’re left with? Our destiny rests in the hands of this weak-willed little girl?”
All she heard was “little girl” and she immediately felt like one. “The spell was strong,” she grumbled but he’d turned from her as the elf began to laugh.
“She doesn’t know, noble Rune. She doesn’t know.”
“Know what?” she asked, pretty sure she’d missed something. The elf laughed again and began to dance away from them. Rune didn’t appear to notice. Instead, defeat, horror, and finally sneering contempt settled on the man’s face. “It was coercion,” she insisted and whispered, “I’m not stupid.”
Fate had been wrong. Or I have. She had been foolish. To think fate would throw her such a gorgeous man… Romance was one thing that happened in books that could never happen to her. She wasn’t made for that kind of love.
He’s a jerk anyway. She nodded her head to emphasize that thought. Still, her cheeks burned under his glare and her gaze shifted from his. Go away, she willed. Just disappear.
Feeling his eyes still on her, she looked up with an exasperated sigh. “Look, I–” She gasped at the arc of silver flashed behind him. “Look out!” she screamed, pointing at the elf who had suddenly appeared behind Rune.
Rune whirled before the word “out” fell from her mouth, his sword an extension of his arm, easily slicing through the assailant. Except there was no assailant. The elf had disappeared.
Bree gaped in disbelief. A pinstripe suit jacket lay like a puddle over the crab grass. A glance at Rune told her that he wasn’t surprised. Instead, he stood with his shoulders forward and his head bent. He grimaced, eyes squeezed shut as if in the grip of some wild internal battle, before he slowly raised his head and met her gaze.
His eyes were bleak. She thought she knew how he felt. In that moment, she felt blood rush from her head as she understood just how close to death she had come. How close they had both come.
Three hours ago, she might not have minded dying–anything was better than that endless numbness she’d been feeling since July–but since walking through the portal, her old energy had sparked to life. She gave him a tremulous smile. He’d saved her.
“I think you should go back now,” he said with a pointed glance toward the ruins.
She nodded. “Good idea.” How? she wanted to ask but didn’t want him to think her any denser than he already did. Facing him, she held out a hand.
“Goodbye,” she said and he gripped her hand in his large one. Electricity ran up her arm and down her body. “Uh…thanks,” she added. “For saving my life.”
He tilted his head toward her and she saw the odd combination of regret and relief cross his features. “It’s for the best,” he murmured, and he seemed distracted as he turned his gaze toward the woods. Dropping her hand, he turned and strode into the trees that skirted the hill.
She watched him for a moment before turning and picking her way through the rubble to the wall where the portal had been.
Reaching her hand out, she touched the spot where she’d entered this enchanted land, but saw no pink and green neon atoms dancing around her as she had when she came through from the other side. She frowned. Nor did she feel dizzy. She stepped close to the wall, rested her cheek against the rough brick. Nothing.
“I can’t go back,” she said and once again was not surprised.
After all, what waited for her back home? Tears smarted her eyes. All the books said you had to have a focus to return home from other lands. What did she have?
The wrinkled face and sharp blue eyes of her elderly neighbor flashed across her mind. Yes, she would miss her nightly porch talks with Mrs. O’Shaughnessy. And there was Frederick.
A smile crossed her face, banishing the threat of tears, as she thought of her teapot. She sometimes suspected that she might be a sandwich short of a picnic, as Mom liked to say, but she enjoyed her one-sided conversations with her gaily-painted teapot.
At least he listened to her. Her little black cat, Cream, only paid attention when his food dish was empty and now Mrs. O would take care of that chore when Bree didn’t return.
No one needed her. There was nothing for her there. Just her lonely apartment and the empty one above her own few rooms. Weeds now strangled the tomato plants in the back yard and the once cheery two-family home seemed to weep. She didn’t want to be in that abandoned place anymore. She just hadn’t realized how much until she’d arrived here.
Whatever here was. “Elves,” she whispered, awe in her voice.
Apprehension or excitement, she didn’t know which, bubbled inside her and she squared her shoulders against both emotions. It didn’t do any good sitting on top of a mountain waiting for the next elf to kill her. Or another Rune to save her.
“Best get to it, then,” she said, clenching her fists in resolution. Without a second glance, she left the roofless building and circled the bare mountaintop until she found a worn path through the trees.
No, she didn’t want to go back. She wanted to move forward. Bree took a breath, stuck one yellow sneakered foot onto the path and walked away from her old meek self, her home, her world.
5 CUPS – “I was thoroughly pleased with the new way Ms. Keratsis laid out the world, and fascinated by Breena’s journey.” – (Krista, Coffee Time Romance ) Review of 2006 edition
“There is a lot of tragedy, humor and great characters in this book…I found Cake: A Fairy Tale a really refreshing read. There is plenty of action, lots of magical creatures and sweet romance. It’s all about reality meeting fantasy and realizing maybe that two aren’t really that different. If you want a book that’s beyond the norm and you believe in Camelot, elves and magic you will love this book.” – (Janet Davies, Once Upon a Romance) Review of 2006 edition
TOP PICK – “Dina Keratsis pens a winner with her fantasy e-book, Cake, A Fairy Tale. With an imagination that is out-of-this-world, Keratsis captivates the reader with her wit. This tale is a roller coaster of emotion through the land of King Arthur and other complex characters…I found it very well-written and fast paced. I truly laughed out loud and found myself enjoying this novel. Keratsis does not disappoint her readers with this e-book.” – (Kym Oetting, Romance Readers at Heart) Review of 2006 edition
“Starting with one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read, CAKE, A FAIRY TALE by Dina Keratsis transports the reader to a fantastic world. From laugh out loud funny to the bitter sting of tears, this tale mixes old legends with new, while imaginative twists carry you on a wild ride of emotions, never letting you go. And, you’ll never look at buttered toast the same again. A keeper!” – (* lizzie starr, author of Romance with a Sparkling Twist)
Some songs reflect a character’s mood, others capture the aura of a setting, and some evoke the spirit of a book. These songs helped me wander through Cake.
“American Woman” The Guess Who
“It Ain’t Like That Anymore” Alice in Chains
“Green” by The Throwing Muses
“Virginia” by The Banditas
“Afternoon Song” by New Model Army
“Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
“Death Bell Blues” by R.L. Burnside
“Nine While Nine” by Sisters of Mercy
“All Come True” by World Party
“Ain’t No Easy Way” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
“Room a Thousand Years Wide” by Soundgarden
“This Corrosion” by Sisters of Mercy
“Jinx” by Tad
“Cross-Bones Style” by Cat Power
“When He Comes Home” by The Banditas
“Tears” by Chameleons UK
“Party at the Bottom of the Swamp” 8-Ball Shifter
“Voodoo Rhythm” by The Meteors
“Swamp Thing” by Chameleons UK
“Aniron” by Enya
“Eleven Years” by New Model Army
“Song to the Siren” by This Mortal Coil
“Throw Your Arms Around Me” by Hunters & Collectors (sung by Eddie Vedder)
After living in Cree Cabot’s perilous head while writing Kicking Sideways, I was a tad burned out by the time I submitted her tale to the publisher. And while most writers have a flurry of ideas in their heads just itching to be immortalized on paper, I’m a one idea, one story at a time sort of gal.
So I fretted and wailed and decided that I had become an empty vessel. My brief foray into book publishing was over.
Then the ideas began to swirl, but three really played a role in Cake’s inception.
It started with an intense dream about going back in time as King Arthur’s scullery maid. A dark and stormy night (naturally) …Arthur and his knights had just returned from battle, beaten and worn. Ignoring Arthur, Guinevere rushed to Lancelot’s side and as I swept ashes back into the bright orange fire, I was angered at her callous treatment of so grand a husband. I followed Arthur to his room and, um, tended to him. Months pass. Pregnant, Arthur smuggles me out of the castle to escape Guinevere’s wrath. I go through a hole and am back in the twenty-first century.
An idea! And one I really liked but although the beginnings of my semi-Arthurian saga seemed promising, the tale was just too dark for my frame of mind. Around the same time, however, I became more and more fascinated with the history of an old factory building adjacent to my neighborhood. Nowadays, the space is used as an office but the words “Apollo Cake” were painted on the chimney until the owners rebuilt the chimney a couple of years ago, erasing another bit of history from the area.
As you can see, it’s an unremarkable building but like our Breena, I get a little chill every time I pass it on my way to Louie’s Ice Cream. I became intrigued with the idea of a story about Apollo, long cast from Mount Olympus, immortal but useless, a character reminiscent of Ronnie in “Moonstruck.” A modern day fairy tale.
By then, spurred by the Apollo Cake Factory and the god’s scrumptious treats, I was obsessed with cake. I couldn’t stop thinking about the Mississippi Mud Cake at Worcester’s old El Morocco Restaurant, a favorite spot of Hollywood folk (my uncle swiped the dessert spoon Dustin Hoffman used). The restaurant is long gone now, as well as the recipe for that cake.
Now I’ve had many versions of Mississippi Mud Cake over the years, fudge cakes, tortes, to die for ganache, Death by Chocolate, cakes touted as the best chocolate cake in the world, but none compare to Joe Aboody’s Mississippi Mud.
Unlike other chocolate bombs, you could eat this cake and never feel sick. So black that it looked like a lump of wet coffee grinds, it was a dense, moist pound cake with a crispy crust, smothered in pillows of unsweetened whipped cream. Some liquor, a Persian spice perhaps, something unidentifiable in the recipe married to the chocolate melted in the diner’s very soul and transcended the idea of cake and became the veritable Turkish Delight of Narnia.
Legend says that people offered great sums of money for the recipe but Joe always refused, and to this day the recipe remains etched in his brain, trapped in the secret of his grave.
In my mind, a slice of that cake will always define perfection. Well, that and Chris Cornell in the early Soundgarden days.
The word itself is perfect. C-A-K-E. Say it. Succinct, strong… cake…maybe even magical.
What if Apollo Cake were a magic place?
Why wouldn’t it be? Some of the old timers in my neighborhood call the area Witch Hill. Long before Somerville annexed the land, the glacial drumlin known as Ploughed Hill was part of Charlestown. An Ursuline convent was built here in 1824 but was burned down by an anti-Catholic mob in 1834. The rumor back then was that the nuns were really witches.
Eventually, the ruins and the hill they sat upon were razed and used as a landfill before my neighborhood was built. But the witches came first. There’s magic here. Maybe even a portal to Faerie.
The three ideas mixed into one story and as I wrote, I conjured my favorite childhood tales–fun, magical, whimsical stories with hints of danger, physical journeys that are really roads to self-knowledge and the heroism found in each of us.
For flavor, I borrowed Elven language from the wonderful Elven Kingdom of Arèthane site for my Blooded (a.k.a Faerie) race.
I also came across some old maps of Somerville and became most intrigued by place names–Ten Hills Farm, Milk Row, Glass House Court, Brickbottom, and many more. The land of Cake was built around these place names.
Finally, there’s Frederick. Frederick is a real teapot. Unlike Bree, however, I don’t talk to him (at least, I won’t admit it). Frederick needed to be a part of Cake. He claims he is Very Important (hey, I didn’t say he doesn’t talk to me!)
The trolls…well, I’ll leave them for you to discover.
And so Cake was baked. Please enjoy with a cup of hot tea on a rainy day.
Somerville historical information from Beyond the Neck: The Architecture and Development of Somerville, Massachusetts. For a first hand account of the convent fire, read The Burning of the Convent by Louise Goddard Whitney, one of the school’s students.