I don’t know why my thoughts turn to Ireland on the Winter Solstice. Maybe it’s something to do with Newgrange? It’s a magical place–even when it’s not the solstice–I can’t imagine how amazing it would be there now. Although, none of us need imagine it, we can watch it live (for me, that’ll be at 12:45 am PST): HERE
And while I’m waiting, here’s a Christmas excerpt from IRON:
Nineteenth century Ireland. Blacksmith Gavin O’Malley is a bitter man, with a heart as hard as the iron he forges. He wants his life back–the one that was stolen from him the day his wife died in childbirth, taking their firstborn son with her.
When Aislinn Deirbhile, an immortal, shape-shifting fae, arrives on his doorstep, he knows he’s in luck. For Aislinn can give Gavin everything he’s been missing: A devoted-seeming wife in the image of his beloved Mairead, and children who are sure to outlive their father. Now, all he has to do is find a way to keep her–without losing his immortal soul in the process.
But Aislinn has an agenda of her own. On the run from a vengeful fae lord who’s vowed to either make her his or end her existence, she knows the iron that allows Gavin to take her captive will also keep her pursuers at bay. In order to put herself permanently beyond her enemy’s reach, however, Aislinn will need something more. She’ll need to win Gavin’s heart and convince him to willingly part with a piece of the very soul he’s trying to save.
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That Christmas was the happiest Gavin had known since childhood. He was up early for Christmas Mass, leaving the house shortly before dawn, and leaving a pouting Aislinn in his bed with the promise he’d be back within a few hours time to fix breakfast for her.
While the world lay silent and cold, he made his solitary way into town, his path lit only by the stars that sparkled overhead and the Christmas candles that burned in the front window of every house he passed. And a thought occurred to him, as he walked along the empty lane, that each flame was a sign of hope for the future—and that, perhaps, he could feel an answering flicker, newly kindled in the darkness of his own heart. And he laughed at himself then, for putting on such airs and for the absurdity of his thoughts and his breath puffed out in little white clouds that melted away in the frosty air.
When he got to Saint Ita’s he found a seat in the very last pew, where he’d be sure of being among the first out the door when mass ended. He didn’t take Communion, although he’d made his Confession just the day before and he was sure Father Cullen would remark on that fact the next time he saw him. But too much had happened between then and now and his soul did not feel easy with the thought of it. Although he’d still have sworn to anyone who’d asked him that the woman he’d made love to the day before had been his wife, a small part of him doubted whether the Church—or Mairead herself—would choose to see things in quite the same way.
Not that he regretted his actions of the day before. To the contrary, he felt more at peace with himself that morning than he had in many a year. But his mind was so consumed with thoughts of repeating the act he barely heard a word of the service and hurried off as soon as it was over, before anyone could engage him in conversation, or take notice of his agitation.
Then it was home again, where breakfast and a sulky fae awaited him. Aislinn was wearing her own, repaired green dress and, at Gavin’s request, she once again resumed her impersonation of Mairead. It was obvious she was less than happy about it, however. But Gavin was in a good and generous humor so, once the goose was cooking, he took a few minutes to tease her out of her bad mood. He sat her on his lap, just as if she were his bride in truth, and fed her pieces of orange, tickling her as she tried to eat them until she laughed and then licking at the juice as it ran down her chin, until, finally, her smile was restored. And she rewarded him with several songs while he saw to the rest of the meal.
He did nearly spoil things again, though, before the food was even on the table for he would speak mockingly of the fae and their heathen ways, and question the usefulness of a woman who couldn’t even cook a decent meal for herself, just to watch her eyes smolder. And, also, to remind them both that she was not Mairead. But when at last he bowed his head to make his prayers—over Christmas dinner, at his own table, and with the semblance of his wife seated across from him, once again smiling at him indulgently—he was all but overcome with gratitude. Even knowing it to be an illusion, and a short-lived one at that, he still felt as though he’d been granted a taste of the life he’d once hoped would be his and he felt anew the wonder of the day.