Today I am so excited to share a short story with you from Amy Lignor author of the Tallent & Lowery series. Leah Tallent and Gareth Lowery are a duo who work together solving the most unusual mysteries as they face paranormal dangers and uncover ancient relics. Leah Tallent is Head of Research at the New York Public Library and Gareth Lowery has spent his life searching for the ultimate artifact that he is certain exists together they unearth treasure.
The ‘Tallent & Lowery’ Christmas Tale
Leah Tallent stared up at the large stone mansion and swallowed hard. “Now I know how prisoners felt when they rode the boat to Alcatraz.”
She heard the loud laugh beside her and turned to Gareth Lowery. His emerald eyes sparkled in the light coming from the decorated windows that looked as if a Macy’s designer had been called in from New York City to this small Connecticut town just to make Leah’s mother happy.
The only warmth Leah felt as they stood in the cobblestone driveway waiting for the door to open on one of her biggest nightmares was the heat coming from Gareth’s hand, holding her own.
Her voice filled with hope. “Remember when we were here the last time, and I said we should go to an island paradise instead?”
Gareth leaned over to kiss her cold cheek. “I remember,” he whispered.
“I want to officially put that idea back on the table.”
Taking her into his arms, Leah stared up at the most handsome face she’d ever seen. “This is your family and you love them, Leah.”
She sighed. “I’d rather be in that famous freezing cold manger sleeping with the goats.”
“Lambs.” He winked.
“Come on…this will be fun,” he said, smiling wide. “Christmas is a happy occasion. Just look at the wreath.” He pointed at the huge green circle decorating the door. “That bodes well, you know. The Christmas wreath is all about faith and joy. Long ago, they were used to protect a house from evil spirits trying to get inside.”
As the door swung open, Leah faced the smiling woman whose diamond necklace glittered even more brightly than the chandelier hanging above her. “Wreath didn’t work.”
“Sweetheart, you’re here!” Mary Tallent threw her arms out and pulled Gareth Lowery into an enormous hug.
Leah rolled her eyes. “Here we go again.”
Stepping into the foyer of her childhood home, all Leah could think of was how much she wished she was back at the NYPL, relaxing in the basement with her cup of coffee and reading books by masters of the art form.
Reaching over, she dimmed the lights. “God, Mom! It’s like the Vegas Strip in here.”
Frowning, her mother kissed her on the cheek. “Merry Christmas to you too, dear.” Tilting her head to the side, her frown deepened. “Stand up straight.”
Taking Gareth by the arm, she led him into the house. “It’s so good to see you. I must say, no matter what faults my daughter has, her choice in men is not one of them.”
“Actually, I chose her, Mrs. Tallent,” Gareth remarked.
Leah laughed, as she stared at her mother’s confused face. “You’re now officially out of the running to be a wise man, Lowery.”
“There she is!”
Turning to the voice she loved, Leah smiled. “Merry Christmas, Dad.”
Walking toward her, David Tallent took her in his arms, and Leah melted into the bear hug. No matter what evil she and Gareth had faced, or what was waiting for them up ahead, she could always count on her father’s love to make her feel safe. “Oh, sweetie, how are you?”
Knowing what she had gone through, her father nodded his head and sighed “Well, thank God you’re safe.” He extended a hand to Gareth. “And you’re here, too, of course.”
Leah tried to hide her smile. Her father’s reaction to Gareth hadn’t changed, even though he knew all the poor man had done to protect her over the past few months, even going so far as to save her life on more than one occasion.
Gareth immediately straightened his spine, as if he was a soldier being scrutinized by MacArthur, himself. “Merry Christmas, Sir.”
“How do like the decorations?” Mary Tallent’s loud voice entered the conversation, breaking the awkward moment.
Leah stared up in awe at the monster tree standing at the foot of the stairs.
“My God,” Gareth breathed. “That thing is huge.”
Leah fought to keep her voice professional as the card catalogue opened inside her mind and coughed up some information. “It’s supposed to be, actually. The Christmas tree was a sign of male fertility.”
Her father and Gareth shot her the same surprised gaze, as her mother’s face grew stern. It was as if she knew her daughter was about to make one of her usual inappropriate comments. “Leah—” she began, her voice a tone of warning.
“Male fertility?” her father asked.
“Didn’t you know that?” Leah shrugged. “In ancient times Canaanites and Phoenicians viewed the tree as a symbol of fertility. The purpose of it was to display the male symbols they were most proud of. There was the trunk,” Leah pointed up at the numerous decorations, “the balls–”
“Leah!” Her mother stomped one of her high heels down on the marble floor, as her father burst into hysterical laughter, and Gareth looked away.
“What? It’s true!” Leah said. “You should be proud, Dad. A tree like this in your house means you’re good to go. No wonder you had so many kids.”
David Tallent reached out and kissed his daughter on the cheek, laughing all the way. “I miss you when you’re not around, you know that?”
The matriarch of the family spun on her heel and quickly marched toward the dining room. “Dinner’s ready!”
With a wink, David Tallent followed after her.
Gareth tuned around, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. “Must you always do that to her?”
“I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.”
“True.” He wrapped his arms around her waist. “And you are one of a kind.”
“I think all we’ve been through has scrambled your brains, Lowery.”
He leaned back with wide eyes. “Maybe it’s my fertility. Too many chemicals might be racing through my system. You’re so stunning, Madame Librarian, that it’s difficult to think straight.”
Leah grinned. “Maybe you should be represented by your own Christmas tree.”
“I am. But out of the kindness of my heart, I lent it to Rockefeller Center.” Taking her by the hand, they walked into the dining room.
Cringing, Leah stared up at the familiar hand-painted wallpaper that depicted British hunting scenes. She saw Gareth immediately look at the floor, avoiding the pictures of foxes bleeding to death atop the impressive steeds. “I hoped your mother would have gotten rid of this by now,” he said quietly.
Leah took her seat beside him. “Don’t let her angelic looks fool you; Mom is definitely the Lizzie Borden type.”
“Then I’m surprised she never gave you forty whacks.”
“Me, too.” Leah laughed. “It’s probably because they don’t make axes with diamond-studded handles. Mom would have to have the best, after all.”
As Mary Tallent took her place at the end of the table, Leah offered her a smile. “Sorry, Mom. The decorations look great.”
“Thank you.” She smiled back. “I am so happy. I found you the perfect gift this year, honey.”
Anxiety immediately invaded Leah’s body. The last perfect gift was a cell phone that rang out, ‘Here Comes the Bride’, just to remind Leah that she should claim Gareth fast before he woke up from whatever spell she’d put him under, and ran for his life. “Mom…please don’t do this.”
“I promise, honey. You’ll love this one, I swear. Besides,” she winked at Gareth, “I had help this year.”
Leah stared at the small card that’d somehow appeared in her mother’s hand. Taking it carefully, a bit worried it was a weapon of some kind, Leah opened the envelope. The logo of the New York Public Library met her eye, and she released her breath. “Cool. Is this one of the certificates to the gift shop? I want those Patience and Fortitude mini-statues.”
Her mother remained quiet as Leah read the card enclosed. Her heartbeat began to race and the sweat broke out on her forehead.
“What is it?” Gareth asked, leaning over to stare at the beautiful hand-drawn calligraphy.
Leah could detect a strange humor in his voice. “Well, look at that. It’s all booked.”
She couldn’t take her eyes off the card. Leah didn’t believe it. Her mother had actually booked her most favorite place in the world…for the wedding of Leah Tallent and Gareth Lowery. “This isn’t happening.”
Standing from his chair, Gareth walked over and kissed Leah’s mother on the cheek “You’re an angel.”
“The angel of death,” Leah muttered.
She didn’t even notice the complete silence that filled the room, until her father gasped.
Quickly, she looked up at Gareth who was now on one knee beside her chair. Her brain went into overdrive, wondering if there was any way she could pole-vault over his shoulder and run out into the sleet-filled Connecticut sky. But the pure emotion that filled Gareth’s eyes stopped her escape.
“We’ve been through it all,” he began. “I love you, Leah. You have the most incredible mind and the most amazing heart,” he paused. “Your humor stops me in my tracks,” he added with a smile. “And the Lord decided to wrap all those amazing gifts up in the most stunning package ever created.”
Taking a deep breath, Gareth opened the small black velvet box in his hand to reveal the most beautiful sapphire Leah had ever seen.
She looked quickly from the ring to his face, wondering what shone more brightly; the sapphire, or the emerald green eyes that were filled with love and…hope.
“Leah Tallent. Will you be my wife?”
Her mind was the only part of Leah that was still working. The trusty card catalogue opened up and shot images at her of the past. The moment she’d met Gareth, discovering him in her own library. That day she had found him blowing up the cornerstone that Carnegie had laid to find a book that’d led them on an incredible, frightening adventure.
Images followed of the haunted mansion, the street where evil once lived, Loch Ness, Egypt, the Acropolis, the Garden, the Cave of Cleopatra—everywhere they’d done battle and survived in order to solve the next puzzle they’d been handed.
For Leah, the room had disappeared. Only Gareth remained, and there was only one thing she could think of to say. “Yes.”
His handsome face broke into a smile. “Yes?”
She nodded, as the ring was placed on her finger. “Gareth…there’s no Tallent without Lowery.”
Tallent & Lowery Series
In 1902, in a dark room on the fifth floor of Carnegie Hall, thirteen people came together to continue a tradition that had been set in stone thousands of years before. In 2012, Leah Tallent is Head of Research at the New York Public Library. Stoic and stable, brilliant and cynical, she has forever enjoyed her existence among the book stacks. But even with her unparalleled intellect, there was no way to know that on the historic steps between America’s famous lions, she would become involved with a crazy man on a fanatical quest.Gareth Lowery has spent his life searching for the ultimate artifact that he is certain exists. His life’s pursuit has been to retrieve twelve keys hidden by men whose job it was to protect the single biggest secret ever kept. To find the keys he must enlist the help of an unwilling guide who, unfortunately, knows much more than he bargained for.
From the first page to the last word, this fantastic duo become immersed in a whirlwind treasure hunt with historical and passionate repercussions. From the strange and eerie Winchester House to the blustery darkness of Loch Ness, Gareth and Leah will quickly learn that the theory of duality is correct: For every bad there is a good and, for Heaven, there most assuredly exists…Hell
After going up against a man who believed he was the Devil, himself, the beloved characters from 13 – Leah Tallent and Gareth Lowery – are beyond exhausted. Now they are about to embark on the most terrifying journey imaginable…a trip to meet Leah’s parents.When Leah arrives where the ‘home fires burn,’ her sarcasm burns even brighter, while Gareth Lowery – the handsome adventurer – uses his charm to sway the ‘odd’ Tallent clan. But when a frightening call from Gareth’s sister arrives telling him that her love has disappeared, the daring duo is soon running away from one horrific situation directly into another. A new puzzle from the past has come to life. Following clues left behind, the courageous couple becomes embedded in a world filled with liars, killers and greed. And when the riddle of a famous ‘Bard’ is solved, a strange woman appears who has far more in common with Leah than she can possibly imagine! The heart-stopping suspense of this new quest takes them from Coptic Cairo to the magical world of Petra, in search of a cave deep underground that once housed a true ‘Illuminator.’ Yet again, they must find the answers and stay one step ahead of true villains who are determined to make sure that – this time – Tallent & Lowery do not survive.
The Hero’s Companion
Tallent & Lowery #3
Purchase: Amazon|Barnes and Noble
Leah Tallent and Gareth Lowery have seen it all. From walking the halls of an eerie house that held clues to one of the biggest puzzles in history; to going up against literal madmen in order to save a relic that could alter the world, the Tallent and Lowery team have had to utilize everything they had to survive. Now . . . Leah’s father has gone missing. They have only seven days before he will be killed, and the only clue to follow is a picture of one of the most famous icons of all time. Heading to her hometown, Leah begins her search for anything that will point her in the right direction. But all she finds is a mother who has fallen apart, talking about things that Leah doesn’t understand. Discovering a strange map stuck to the bottom of her father’s desk, Leah and Gareth are joined by a young woman who has a secret all her own. Teaming up, the trio must solve this new mystery that will take them from the pinnacle of the Acropolis to the depths of Cleopatra’s caves in order to unmask the man who has a definite score to settle. This frightening adversary will do his best to capture Leah and take her far away from the protection and love of Gareth. In a location that’s been buried under rock and dirt for centuries the battle will begin, and the team will have to face the one foe that will expose secrets and unleash unheard of power in order to get what he wants. As it was with the mighty Athena, Leah is seen as ‘The Hero’s Companion’—the one woman who will do anything to make sure the right side wins. But without Gareth, her time may just run out.
I have read and enjoyed the first two books in this series and look forward to reading The Hero’s Companion. Leah & Gareth make a dynamic team and their adventures are suspenseful and entertaining.
About the Author
Being the daughter of a Research Librarian, books and information were always a ‘gift,’ and there is nothing I like more. In fact, if the NYPL would let me live in their basement, that’s where I would be. I am very proud of my books – especially the ‘Tallent & Lowery’ series – which has been so well-received that I am beyond humbled. Being able to ‘link’ historical locations together and create puzzles that bestselling authors have called, “The Da Vinci Code With Heart”; “Action/Adventure Gold”; and “The Best of the 21st Century” has been beyond my wildest expectations. I am the Owner/Operator of The Write Companion; and I recently was beyond honored to be asked to take on the role of Editor-in-Chief of Hallowed Ink Press – an amazing traditional publisher that will break new ground in the industry. Life is busy…but it’s good. And I have a wealth of friends, family and fans to thank for allowing that to happen! My favorite advice? “While I live, let me LIVE!”
Amy Lignor has graciously offered to give five luck winner an eBook copy of 13 the first book in the Tallent & Lowery series. Just enter the rafflecopter below:)
Never miss a post by adding Caffeinated to your Inbox
Your email address will not be shared with anyone