11 August 2007
Pre-Order IN THE GLOAMING on Amazon!
My trade paperback anthology, IN THE GLOAMING, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com! This anthology contains the print version of my novella, ABHAINN'S KISS, along with two other stories by J.C Wilder and Isabo Kelly.
Order now and get the sale price!
Her peaceful world shattered, she has only days to fulfill her destiny. She must defy a curse that dooms her to hide from the sun, and take her rightful place in the Great Circle on the Isle of Avalon. Only Abhainn can restore the balance of Dark and Light, and heal the rift between humans and Fae. That’s a tall order for a one fragile Faery.
Michael Craig is on a quest of his own, one grounded in cold, hard reality. Fairy tales? They’re for children and dreamers. But when he rescues Abhainn from certain death with an accidental kiss, he finds himself thrown into a very different reality. One he’s reluctant to accept, even as it unfolds before his eyes. Only one thing holds him there—Abhainn will die without him.
Abhainn’s life depends on Michael’s kiss, his sword arm…and his ability to believe.
He grabbed his shirt and pulled it on without buttoning it. He was halfway to the caravan door before he realized the taste on his tongue wasn’t just part of the dream. She must have kissed him in his sleep before slipping out. Still, she had no business being out there alone, no matter how many friendly Fae surrounded them.
The familiar tinkle of her laughter drifted in through the caravan’s half open door. He stepped quietly outside and settled on the driver’s seat to watch the scene before him. The horse, unhitched, grazed nearby; Eoth lay draped across its back, sound asleep. Michael’s gaze swept the stone-littered meadow, and at last he found her.
She sat on a boulder, legs folded beneath her, arms thrown wide. Unabashedly naked as the day she’d been born. His groin tightened as, unobserved, he let his gaze pass over her body. Tiny as she was, there was no doubt that Abby was a full-grown woman, all slender curves and high, firm breasts. The morning light glowed on her pale skin, so fair as to be translucent, traced with river-maps of blue veins, flawless from the tips of her toes to the delicate points of her ears.
All around her flitted a cloud of tiny, winged Fae, who tended to her as if she were a queen in waiting. Which, he realized suddenly, she was. As the last of her kind, she by default was the Queen of the Asrai.
Humming like a swarm of honeybees, the Faeries combed and braided her white-gold hair, washed a smudge of dirt from her nose, handed her damp handfuls of moss with which she cleaned herself, rubbing it over her skin—all her skin—in slow, sensual delight.
More Faeries brought her sips of water and a sticky substance that looked like nectar, cupped in spring flowers. She tipped her head back and accepted their offerings on her tongue, smiling and licking her lips after each taste, catching stray droplets on her fingers and licking them, too.
The ache in his groin hardened into a painful knot. Blood pounded in his ears so hard that for a second he couldn’t trust himself to move. Despite the lust that roared through his veins, he remained conscious of the delicacy of her small, fragile body. She’s like porcelain. Like one wrong touch could break her.
Yet for that second, he understood what had driven Blaen of CraighMhor to risk everything for one night with a Fae.
And he lost it all, Michael reminded himself.
As if she sensed his eyes upon her, she turned her head and looked at him. She blinked once, slowly, and the smile on her face grew brighter. She held out her hand.
Abruptly, the attending Faeries screeched and scattered. Only one stayed, hovering above and just behind her golden head. Its buzzing grew into a snarl, and before Michael’s eyes it changed from a thimble-sized thing to a fox. It bared its fangs and bunched its muscles to spring at Abby’s unprotected back.
With a sickening lurch that took him back to his combat days in the Marines, time slowed to a crawl. Every detail of the scene sprang into sharp relief. Before Michael could do more than shout a warning, Abby’s face went blank.
Then, as the fox sprang, she changed into a statue of clear, hard ice.
The fox yowled in frustration as it clawed and bit at the back of her neck, but managing no more than a few superficial scratches.
Michael took advantage of the time she had given him by lunging into the caravan to retrieve the rusted sword. He lay hands on his rucksack and threw himself out of the caravan, pulling the sword out and dropping the bag on the ground as he ran, spilling the contents.
He sprinted the few yards that separated him from Abby, a hoarse cry in his throat and the sword raised to strike. The fox saw him coming, issued a series of short, harsh barks, then shapeshifted again.
Michael found himself looking up into the face of what could only be described as a vampire-like woman, complete with glistening fangs and black wings sprouting from her shoulders. With a hiss she flew at him, driving him back. He let her come, knowing it would draw the creature away from Abby.
“Come on, come on, bitch! What ya got? Come on!” he growled, goading her with the sword.
The vampiress closed in, and with moves too quick to see, she knocked the sword away then hit him square in the center of the chest with the leading edge of a black, leathery wing. Michael caught his heels on the rucksack and landed on his back, flinging his arms wide to break the fall.
His hand fell on his grandmother’s precious stone, which must have rolled out of the rucksack when he’d dropped it.
Wrapping his fingers around it, he waited, heart speeding to dangerous levels as the vampiress closed within striking distance. Waited, sweating, until her hot breath blistered his face, until he could count the veins in her bulging eyes. Then he swung at her head.
Instead of spurting blood, the broken skin on the side of the creature’s face erupted with huge horseflies the size of golf balls. In moments, the thing had completely dissolved into a cloud of the droning black bugs. Abby’s attending Faeries chased them all away, leaving the morning eerily quiet, as if nothing amiss had happened at all.
Panting, Michael hauled himself to his feet.
He spun and found a tall, Tolkienesque elf lounging against the side of the caravan, idly examining his fingernails, longbow thrown casually over one shoulder.
Michael relaxed and straightened. “Thanks for the help,” he said dryly.
The elf raised an eyebrow, as if he were actually offended. “You did well enough on your own. Had you needed it, I would have intervened. The Lady chose well.” With that, the elf sauntered away into the trees.
“I will never get used to these people,” he muttered, turning toward Abby as thunder rolled overhead.
Abhainn still hadn’t changed back from the block of ice. It was a perfect replica, captured just as she had been sitting on the rock.
He crouched by the rock, afraid to touch her. “Abhainn. Abby, can you hear me?”
Huge, fat raindrops began to splat the ground.
Maybe she can’t change back.
His mind kicked into gear, looking for a way to keep her from melting and running in rivulets down the side of the rock. But as the first drops of rain struck her head, she shifted back into normal form and fell, shivering and blue with cold, into his arms.
“Jesus, you scared me, woman,” he said, gathering her closer, rubbing her arms. The bare skin under his hands felt like the ice from which she’d just shifted. He quickly lifted her hair to examine the back of her neck. Relief flooded through him. Her skin remained unbroken.
“I…I…knew not…I c-c-could do that,” she managed through clattering teeth. “I-I-I sensed the Mei was behind me and-d-d it j-just happened!” Then, incredibly, she began to laugh. “I wonder…w-w-what else I can do?”
Before he could stop it, anger flared white hot in his chest. How could she laugh? She had come within a hair’s breadth of death, and yet she laughed!
Shaking, not trusting himself to speak, he scooped her up in his arms and strode toward the caravan.
“Mícheál?” she gasped between giggles and shudders of cold. “W-what is it?”
“The fate of your people depends on you,” he gritted out. “And you sit there laughing when your quest almost came to nothing.”
She leaned back in his arms, her laughter fading to a gentle smile. “But it did not,” she said simply. “I have you to protect me. All is well. And I have found that I have powers I knew not I had. Why not enjoy the moment?”
He stopped dead in his tacks, light rain tapping on his head. He had no answer for her.
“Mícheál,” she said gently.
He shook his head, surprised at his inability to speak, jaw clenched tight. She could have died. She could have…
“Mícheál.” This time her lips touched his ear.
At the touch of her breath on his skin, he drew her to him tighter still, buried his face in her hair, inhaling the fresh-rain scent of her. He could find no words to say other than her name.
The skies let loose with a torrent of rain.
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