Here’s a timely excerpt from The Oak King to heat up the year’s longest night…
Twice each year, Aine Murphy ventures into the woods to hold ceremonies to honor the Oak King and the Holly King, never dreaming these Lords of the Forest could be anything more than myth. When the legends spring to life in front of her, how can she help but fall for the sexy demi-gods she’s loved all her life?
From midwinter to midsummer, Fionn O’Dair rules the Greenworld as the Oak King—a role he feels is beyond his abilities, and one that dooms him to a loveless future, forever craving the one man he can never allow himself to have. How can he resist what Aine offers—the sweet devotion that soothes his aching soul, and the slim chance to live a “normal” life as her husband, if only for half a year?
Holly King Kieran Mac Cuilenn never desired a human lover—until now. Seeing Fionn and Aine together fills him with longing for the love he threw away and awakens feelings he thought he’d buried with the last Oak King. Is there enough magic in the solstice to correct the mistakes he made years ago? Or is he doomed to be forever left out in the cold?
The Night of the Winter Solstice
Tonight Aine would not go to the woods to celebrate the solstice, as she had in years past. Tonight the woods had come to her.
That thought was uppermost in her mind as she lit candles in her bedroom. Just as they’d done earlier, when she’d lit the candles in her parlor windows, the words to her solstice prayers echoed in her mind. A part of her was still shocked by the course this night was taking, by her own boldness and the men’s agreement—Fionn reluctantly, Kieran even more quietly, but with such a look of eager gratitude gleaming in his eyes that she wondered how it was she’d ever thought him cold.
Underlying the shock, however, was a sense of surety. It felt almost inevitable. Even before she knew them, even before she understood that the oak and holly kings existed anywhere outside the realm of legend, she’d loved them. She’d loved their strength and their honor, their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of the world. But that was the ideal of them. The men themselves were not without their flaws, but then again, who was?
They strove to live up to that ideal, however, and that surely was the more important thing. And when they gave themselves—to an idea, to a person, to a goal—they gave themselves fully. A year and a half was time enough for her to have learned that about them. And what more could one ask for in a lover? In a hero? In a god?
“Is this not what you pray for when you make your ceremonies?” Kieran had suggested months earlier. “To commune with your gods? For them to appear to you in human guise?”
“And are you a god, then?” Aine had asked, smiling in response, mocking his attempts at solemnity. “Is that what you’re saying now?”
Kieran had snorted at that, his laughter laced with derision. “We’re creatures of earth and spirit. We’re no different at all from you in that respect. If he’s telling you anything else, he’s a liar.”
“Are you sure this is really what you want, a mhuirnīn?” Fionn asked now as he wrapped his arms around her from behind. He pulled her close and laid his cheek against her hair.
Was he hoping she’d say no? Or was he merely seeking to reassure them both? A tremor ran through her, excitement warring with unease. She had to swallow hard before she could answer. “Aye.”
She leaned back against him, resting for a moment in the comfortable familiarity of his arms. His erection prodded against her lower back—and that too was a comfort. For all his reluctance, it was clear he wanted this too. Emboldened, she nodded. “I do. I really want this, Fionn.”
Fionn sighed. Disappointment? Acceptance? Relief? Aine didn’t know what it signified. Maybe he didn’t know either, maybe there was no easy or obvious answer to the question. She made no protest as he turned them both around, so they were facing the room. So that she was facing Kieran.
The Holly King’s eyes were hot upon her, his desire plain to read. As he stalked toward her, erasing the distance between them, she felt her heart speed up. She wondered if Fionn could feel it too.
Kieran leaned in and cupped her face in his hand. When he brushed his lips against hers, it was more a promise than an actual kiss, sweet and soft, questing. As he moved to straighten up again, she rose up on her toes to follow him, wordlessly demanding more. More of his taste, more of his mouth, more of him.
Kieran’s eyes widened. For an instant, she thought he might push her away. Instead, he drew a quick, startled breath and leaned in again, eyes blazing. This time, his touch was sure and possessive. He clasped the back of her head in a firm grip. Canting his head to the side, he kissed her harder, moving in a half-step closer, until she felt herself sandwiched between the two men. She’d rested her hands on Fionn’s arm where it banded around her waist. Now she lifted one to reach for Kieran, skimming her fingers over his chest, using a soft, exploratory touch to learn his contours. His build was leaner, his hair more wiry than Fionn’s, his muscles more sinewy. Her mind was so busy cataloging all the little differences between the two men she almost missed the moment when Kieran lifted his head to meet Fionn’s gaze.
“Undress her for me?”
It was an order, a request, a plea… Perhaps even a test of sorts? Once again, Aine was not quite sure. The undercurrents of emotion that flowed between the two men were dark, hidden, like a subterranean stream. But all the same, identical shudders racked both her body and Fionn’s. Awareness. Heat. Eager need. Yes. Aine allowed herself a small, triumphant smile. He wants this. He needs this too.