Saturday, 28 October 2017

Have You Got Your Halloween On?



Kilchoan, Mainland Scotland 1672

Swathes of wet hair clung and tangled around her face in a heavy curtain, enough to obscure her view as another spasm seized her. Pain far worse than she’d ever imagined wrenched through her, and clutched deep into her belly to tear at her insides.
Pride refused to allow her to cry out.
As she surfaced, she snatched another lungful of air. The frigid waters chilled her to the bone, sending a fresh rash of shudders through her between each painful contraction.
The villagers crowded closer, faces twisted with fear and rage. People she’d known all her life, people she loved. Women she’d tended in childbirth, and men whose wounds she’d healed.
The sentiment turned vicious as the sun dipped below the horizon and the moon rose in the darkened sky.
After a full day of her tied to the ducking stool, their disgust in her was palpable at not obtaining the confession they sought.
How could she confess to something that wasn’t true?
She’d never consorted with the devil.
Hysteria driven, they leaned in closer to scream their blood lust.
“Kill the witch, kill the witch.” The terror of the moment was overcome with something far more important.
Another stab of pain seized her body, forcing her to contort once again, but she pried open her eyes and met his frigid, slate-gray gaze across the wide expanse of water.
Tall and regal in his gentleman’s finery, there was no trace of the passionate lover she knew so well. His handsome features were carved into a cold mask.
He could say something. In silent entreaty, she begged him to intervene. He could save her.
He chose not to. Instead, he took hold of his pregnant wife’s hand and turned away to stare up at the night sky.
Her heart died long before her body.
Tears flowed unheeded down her cheeks to streak through the slime of mud coating her skin as she sucked deep breaths into her lungs, ready for the next duck of the stool into the stinking, fetid depths of the river. She knew it was all in vain.
Death was upon her.
Moya drew on her last ounce of strength and concentrated. Every muscle in her body contracted as she bore down to push, while her power waned. The ducking stool plunged once again, to submerge her into the icy depths and steal her breath away. The burn in her chest spread while she held the air in her lungs for as long as she could, but it was pointless. She closed her eyes and forced her muscles to relax. Her body floated a little above the stool. The ropes stretched in the cold and the wet. Moya raised her hips high, and her attention never wavered as she remained centered on this last, essential feat.
Little effort was required to weave the curse, for any witch knew a curse did not need to be spoken aloud. Instead, she focused the last of her energy to accomplish her final deed.
Eyes wide again, she stared up through the dark murkiness of the water, into the night sky, where blood smothered the full moon and spread its tendrils out to blur beneath the overpowering cast of light.
She recognized her death written in the blood. Death and rebirth. She took cold comfort in the knowledge her curse had worked.
Agony clenched her body. She drew her lips back from her teeth and expelled the final, desperate clutch of air she held in her lungs. In a wild, frenzied scream, distorted by the bubbles, the sound carried to the surface. Ice froze the blood in her veins to numb her mind and dull the pain as she expelled the bairn from her womb in a cloud of thick mucus and crimson blood. It bloomed through the dark waters while her child spewed into the evil world.
The heat of her own blood stroked a tender warmth over her frozen hands in farewell as Moya floated, lifeless, to the surface.
The full moon, obscured by a blood-soaked cloud, transformed the land into a desolation of deep shadows and dark craters while the scarlet waters around Moya turned inky black as it bubbled and steamed in the chill of the Scottish night.
With proof of the witch’s existence, their screams pierced the dark as the villagers fled to hide behind closed doors and deny the wrongdoing they’d taken part in that night.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

New Release = Along Came Dani



“Are you about to stand there all day dreaming of things that’ll never happen, or will you grab hold of the young deputy and shear the hair off him?” 
Heat swarmed up her neck into her face to burn her cheeks while the quiet snickers of her aunt’s patrons heated her ears. “But, I thought you…” 
“You thought wrong, sugar. I’m in the middle of curling Ms. Stewart.” 
It wouldn’t take her aunt long, and then she’d leave the woman’s perm to cook so she’d be free to cut Sean’s hair, but there was no point in arguing. It would only make her look stupid. Or scared. And she was neither. She raised her chin. She’d sorted the deputy out before; she could do it again. She tilted her head to one side, almost blew a bubble with her gum in childish rebellion, but knew the response she’d get from her aunt. 
Unable to turn and face him, she watched him through the mirror. “You want to take a seat?” 
In no apparent rush, Sean unfurled his long limbs from the low settee in the window where he’d sat to wait and rolled to his feet. Every inch of him exuded sex appeal. No longer a gangly youth, he’d shot up in recent times to fill out in all the right places, including his broad shoulders so like his gorgeous Uncle Sam’s. His slim hips were emphasized by the low sling of his gun belt, and as the platinum blondes pointed out, his ass was more than fine. She’d tried not to notice, but it proved difficult when the man was everywhere, and the platinum blondes in the salon drew her attention to him every time he walked by. Their undisguised flutter of eyelashes and fanning of faces elicited a small smile and a dip of his head as though he were shy. But Dani knew better. She’d seen the long parade of women he’d dated. Funny how men never got a reputation for that kind of thing, but if a young woman had sex a dozen times with someone she believed she loved and got pregnant, then she’d be labeled a slut all her life.
As he reached the chair, she swung it around so he could slide into the seat. 
“Aren’t you going to wash him first, Dani? What are you thinking of, girl?” 
Surprised at Jessie’s command, Dani whipped the chair around so he faced her. “You want your hair washed?” 
Most of the officers came in for a quick trim during their lunch break before they dashed back to work, but Sue always dealt with Sean. 
He gave a bashful dip of his head to accompany the casual shrug of those broad shoulders. Evidently, he was in no rush. “I don’t normally.” 
“Of course he wants his hair washed, child. Get him done.” Jessie’s voice slashed through the salon loud enough to make Sean’s mouth kick up in a lopsided grin. With less grace than dignity, Dani led him over to the bank of four washbasins and flicked her hand to indicate where he was supposed to sit as she rounded the back of the sink to stand behind him. She leaned over to wrap a towel around his neck, and the scent of warm cinnamon and spices rolled over her senses. She inhaled for the pure momentary pleasure of it. “Sit back, please.” 
It would have been polite to use his name, but it stuck on her tongue. She hadn’t spoken to him in years. It felt like she’d never spoken to anyone, her tongue rusty. She turned on the faucets, automatically tested the temperature, and when she turned back to him, he’d reclined with his face tilted to the ceiling, his gaze centered on her. The blunt cut she’d persuaded her aunt to give her swung in a neat curtain around her jawline but not enough to shield her face from his observation. It had always been a bit of fun to coax the woman to create the latest and hottest styles on her. Her Aunt Jessie was a minor miracle with a pair of scissors and was driven mad by three sons who wanted nothing more than a buzz-cut and a clientele who bordered on one foot in the grave. Her only daughter preferred the idea of piercings, tattoos, and thick black eyeliner when she could get away with it. 
Dani touched the side of her hand to Sean’s forehead to shield him from the spray of water and her from his intense gaze. Not quite the vibrant rust color of his Uncle Sam’s, his auburn highlights darkened as she soaked his hair. She chose one of the range of shampoos, pumped it into the palm of her hand, and then smoothed it over his head. The smell of almonds and coconut rose up against the heat of the water to mix with the masculine scent of the man. It drove her crazy. Five years and all she’d ever done was cast him furtive, longing looks. Now she had him at her mercy. Again. Just like she’d had him at her mercy five years previously when he’d been a shade shorter and a hell of a lot skinnier and she’d been almost full-term in her pregnancy. 
Dani glanced around at the older ladies. Their undisguised curiosity stilled all conversation in the room. Only the quiet strains of classical music stopped the silence from being total. Typical. On an ordinary day, the old dears couldn’t be persuaded to be quiet, but when she needed them to talk, to act normal so she could too, they decided to go all secretive on her. Even Aunt Jessie, oblivious to the atmosphere, slipped her hairdryer into its rack while she teased Abigail’s curls out with her fingers. 
With a gusty sigh, Dani turned her attention back to the gorgeous hunk under her control. She sank her fingers deep into his scalp to give him an Indian head massage. His wide shoulders loosened, and his body slipped down and relaxed deeper into the leather chair. Thrilled with the effect, Dani turned her hands and kneaded his muscular neck. His deep groan vibrated through the tips of her fingers as he closed his eyes and melted under her ministrations. “If I’d known you had such a talent, I’d have asked for you long ago.” 
Quiet snickers turned from amused to dirty in a flash as Emmy Lou James patted her hand against her heart and feigned a swoon, managing to roll her chair back two feet in the process. Dani dug in deeper and scrubbed above Sean’s ears in the hope it might cover the sound of the women’s laughter. He winked open one eye to let her know he’d heard and then closed it again. Another soft groan of ecstasy puffed from his firm lips to weaken her knees. 
Distracted, she picked up the faucet, trained it on Sean, and blasted a torrent of icy water straight over his head and down the back of his neck. With a yelp of pure horror, his eyes shot wide, and he flung himself forward to escape her. Dani’s hand jerked up, and the spray shot over his shoulders and gushed over his broad back, turning his shirt transparent as it stuck to his skin.

Buy Links 

Amazon http://amzn.to/2x7oagv 
Amazon.uk http://amzn.to/2zg1qNR

Sunday, 22 October 2017

As Halloween Approaches - Have You Got Your Witch?




Kilchoan, Mainland Scotland 1672

Swathes of wet hair clung and tangled around her face in a heavy curtain, enough to obscure her view as another spasm seized her. Pain far worse than she’d ever imagined wrenched through her, and clutched deep into her belly to tear at her insides. Pride refused to allow her to cry out. As she surfaced, she snatched another lungful of air. The frigid waters chilled her to the bone, sending a fresh rash of shudders through her between each painful contraction.

The villagers crowded closer, faces twisted with fear and rage. People she’d known all her life, people she loved. Women she’d tended in childbirth, and men whose wounds she’d healed. The sentiment turned vicious as the sun dipped below the horizon and the moon rose in the darkened sky. After a full day of her tied to the ducking stool, their disgust in her was palpable at not obtaining the confession they sought. How could she confess to something that wasn’t true?

She’d never consorted with the devil.

Hysteria driven, they leaned in closer to scream their blood lust. “Kill the witch, kill the witch.”
The terror of the moment was overcome with something far more important. Another stab of pain seized her body, forcing her to contort once again, but she pried open her eyes and met his frigid, slate-gray gaze across the wide expanse of water.

Tall and regal in his gentleman’s finery, there was no trace of the passionate lover she knew so well.

His handsome features were carved into a cold mask.

He could say something. In silent entreaty, she begged him to intervene.

He could save her.

He chose not to.

Instead, he took hold of his pregnant wife’s hand and turned away to stare up at the night sky. Her heart died long before her body. Tears flowed unheeded down her cheeks to streak through the slime of mud coating her skin as she sucked deep breaths into her lungs, ready for the next duck of the stool into the stinking, fetid depths of the river. She knew it was all in vain. Death was upon her.

Moya drew on her last ounce of strength and concentrated. Every muscle in her body contracted as she bore down to push, while her power waned. The ducking stool plunged once again, to submerge her into the icy depths and steal her breath away. The burn in her chest spread while she held the air in her lungs for as long as she could, but it was pointless. She closed her eyes and forced her muscles to relax. Her body floated a little above the stool. The ropes stretched in the cold and the wet. Moya raised her hips high, and her attention never wavered as she remained centered on this last, essential feat.

Little effort was required to weave the curse, for any witch knew a curse did not need to be spoken aloud. Instead, she focused the last of her energy to accomplish her final deed. Eyes wide again, she stared up through the dark murkiness of the water, into the night sky, where blood smothered the full moon and spread its tendrils out to blur beneath the overpowering cast of light. She recognized her death written in the blood.

Death and rebirth.

She took cold comfort in the knowledge her curse had worked. Agony clenched her body. She drew her lips back from her teeth and expelled the final, desperate clutch of air she held in her lungs. In a wild, frenzied scream, distorted by the bubbles, the sound carried to the surface. Ice froze the blood in her veins to numb her mind and dull the pain as she expelled the bairn from her womb in a cloud of thick mucus and crimson blood. It bloomed through the dark waters while her child spewed into the evil world. The heat of her own blood stroked a tender warmth over her frozen hands in farewell as Moya floated, lifeless, to the surface.

The full moon, obscured by a blood-soaked cloud, transformed the land into a desolation of deep shadows and dark craters while the scarlet waters around Moya turned inky black as it bubbled and steamed in the chill of the Scottish night. With proof of the witch’s existence, their screams pierced the dark as the villagers fled to hide behind closed doors and deny the wrongdoing they’d taken part in that night.


Buy Links




Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Cover reveal!! - FOREVER THE STORM, Taken Series Book 3 by M.S. Kaye







A part of me saw her as a delicate beauty that needed protecting. But she wasn't a flower that gets torn apart in a storm; she was the storm.
Before it’s over, someone will die.
Attacks are coming from all sides: arrests, sabotage, picketing, even being framed for murder. Who is the invisible force behind it all?
And what secrets has Joe Bishop been keeping about both Adriane’s and Alec’s pasts?
Available November 4th.
Preorder:

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Release Day - Along Came Dani




Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2x7oagv
Amazon.uk http://amzn.to/2xXHsc6

Deserted by her boyfriend, labelled a tramp, and thrown out of her family home, 16-year-old, pregnant, Dani Westin leaves behind a life she would rather forget.
In a small town, where relationships are close and gossip rife, Dani tries to find a place for her and her daughter, despite the early influences of her own upbringing, and the cruelty of her mother.
With help from Aunt Jessie, and Hairway to Heaven, Dani works hard, keeps quiet, and flies under the radar, ever conscious of the town’s disapproval. Until the day she soaks the local Deputy Sheriff to the skin, grabs herself a whole load of unwanted attention, and appreciates what a real man is made of.
After his first encounter with the defensive sixteen-year-old, Dani, Deputy Sheriff Sean Swann has kept his distance from the luscious hair stylist. Not afraid of the trauma she might inflict on his person, he’s more concerned by the damage she may do to his heart.
For years he’s waited, but when he considers the time is right, Sean makes his move, undeterred by the disasters that come his way. Patient, but determined, Sean realizes Dani needs to leave behind her past for them to have a future.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

RELEASE DAY - AFTERNOON TEA & PIMMS




We had such a fabulous afternoon on Saturday with a group of absolutely gorgeous ladies who arrived for afternoon tea and Pimms to celebrate the release of Under the Full Blooded Moon. We put up a couple of gazebos and the sun graced us with its presence, so much so that we all sat around in a state of gentle tranquillity and enjoyed each other's company.

We had sandwiches with the crusts cut off and plenty of little cakes, the recipes for which I will be posting over the next few days.

It's release day today, if you'd like to get your copy, please follow the links:

Blurb

Since he lost his father and his childhood at the age of ten to a witch’s curse, cynical journalist Stuart Caldwell has searched the world in his quest to find the key to his family’s centuries-old curse.
What he finds when he lands on the Scottish island of Breggar is far from what he expects. Instead of a battle to the death with the cruel enchantress he believes resides there, Stuart finds he’s the one in the firing line, and the target is his heart.


Excerpt


A wave of tiredness swept over him as he rounded the corner of the house and came to a standstill.
She was there. The lush grass under her naked feet, the brilliant sparkle of sunshine on the water behind her almost blinded him, while the white-streaked sky framed her dark beauty. Her wild locks churned in the wind as she fought the sheet she attempted to put on the line until she could pin it down with wooden pegs.
Unable to tear his eyes from her willowy form, he waited while his heart thundered and his pulse raced.
The brightness of the day just served to make her stand out against her background as she bent to retrieve a pillowcase. Her struggle far less than before, she bent once more, flicked out the last pillowcase and punched the pegs onto it to tether it to the line.
Fascinated, Stuart crossed his arms over his chest and squinted against the glare of the sun reflecting off the water. Pleasure rippled through him at the simplicity of her actions, the fluidity of her moves. Somewhere in his hesitant thought process, he recognized the surge of passion which had his blood thundering through his veins. The swift rush of it filled his ears until he could hear nothing. He couldn’t attribute it to jetlag, but to the undeniable beauty of the woman who drew him to her with her quick, efficient moves.
As the wind whipped her long hair over her shoulder and she turned in his direction, she froze at the sight of him. Her green gaze glowed from a face as pale as porcelain.
Storm clouds rolled in thick and furious behind her to blot out the brightness of the day. The wind lashed at her long, dull brown dress and made a vicious grab at her hair. Stuart’s stomach lurched in confusion and his vision tunneled to narrow in on the apparition before him. Water churned thick and fetid, rising over her ankles to drag at the material of her dress.
Her gaze entranced him while she reached out a ponderous hand, ragged nails blackened with dirt clawed the air in an entreaty. Emerald eyes pleaded with him as they swamped with tears. Her full lips quivered while she begged without words for his help and wrenched at a little part of his consciousness like a memory dredged from deep within.
Dizzy, he raised a hand to his forehead and blinked, convinced he’d lost his mind. He sucked in a deep breath and fought the confusion, pushing back on the darkness.
“Stuart?”
The picture flashed negative in his mind's eye followed by a blaze of vibrant green grass, bright sparkles on the white spume of the sea, and a clear azure sky.
Tempted to shake himself, he ducked his head to stare at his feet as a wave of nausea struck him. It had to be jetlag. There was no other explanation. While he hauled in another lifesaving breath, powerless to stop her move toward him, he swayed on his feet. Perhaps all he needed was to rest in a darkened room, rid himself of the powerful vision still vivid in his mind.
“Stuart? Are you all right?”
Not yet ready for her, he raised his head, his pulse raced fast and erratic.
He wanted to ask her how she’d done it, but the look of genuine concern made him falter.
Whatever she’d done to him, it had left his mind in a pure fog and evaporated his ability to speak. He raked his gaze over her with narrowed eyes and felt the ground solidify beneath his feet again. “I’m fine.” His voice thick and rusty, he gave a small cough to clear his throat.
“Are you sure? You’ve gone very pale.” She reached out one elegant hand, clean nails clipped square, and touched her cool fingers to his cheek. He may look pale to her, but fiery heat rushed to his face, to scorch his skin so only the gentle graze of her touch could cool it.
With no thought to his intent, he pressed his hand against hers to hold it against the blaze of his skin. Her fingers gave an almost imperceptible spasm, but instead of removing them, she brought her other hand up to cradle his face.
Lost in the misty depths of her sea green contemplation, Stuart took one of her dainty hands in his and placed a kiss in her palm.
She curled her fingers inward and tucked the kiss inside, warming his heart with the simple action.
Time slowed down so when he dipped his head, he knew without a doubt in his mind he was about to kiss her sweet, lush mouth, which curved in secret invitation.
So secret, it appeared Ruth had no idea of his intention as she dropped her light hold on him and stepped back.
“I think you should sit down before you fall.” She gave a flick of her fingers in an airy wave at the picnic table and bench, but her accent had thickened through the husky tones of her voice. “I’ll make you a cup of tea.”
She was gone. In the blink of an eye, she disappeared. Bereft he gazed after her.




Buy Links



Where to Find Diane Saxon

About the Author
After working for years in a demanding job, on-call and travelling great distances, Diane gave it all up when her husband said, “follow that dream”.
Having been hidden all too long, her characters have burst forth demanding plot lines of their own and she’s found the more she lets them, the more they’re inclined to run wild.


Saturday, 8 July 2017

New Release

I must apologise for my tardiness in posting today. I hope you will excuse it as I have a great reason. In celebration of the forthcoming release of Under the Full Blooded Moon I decided to hold an Afternoon Tea & Pimms Party. Not only is Afternoon Tea considered rather English, but I do believe Pimms is also exclusive to us. We tried to get a game of croquet on the go, but guests were more interested in the tea, Pimms, cucumber sandwiches and miniature scones with cream and homemade strawberry jam.
The afternoon was a huge delight. I got to read an extract (which is below) from Under the Full Blooded Moon and my lovely ladies were all given a gift of a tote bag and bookmark.
Under the Full Blooded Moon is due for release on 11th July, but if you wish to reserve your copy, it is on pre-order right now.
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2t68wnl
Amazon.com Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2taBQd7
Kobo http://bit.ly/2t62Adz
AppleiBooks http://apple.co/2uyWv7k
Barnes&Noble http://bit.ly/2sBrfmH
 Under_the_Full_Blooded_Moon-Diane_Saxon-500x800
Where to Find Diane Saxon
Website - http://dianesaxon.com/
Blog - http://dianesaxon.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authordianesaxon
Twitter -  https://twitter.com/Diane_Saxon
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7122072.Diane_Saxon
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diane-Saxon/e/B00DDL4C5W/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Pinterest - https://uk.pinterest.com/DianeSaxonAuthr/

About the Author
New
Diane Saxon lives in the Shropshire countryside with her tall, dark, handsome husband, two gorgeous daughters, a Dalmatian, a one-eyed kitten, a ginger cat, six chickens and a black Labrador called Beau, whose name has been borrowed for her hero in For Heaven's Cakes.
After working for years in a demanding job, on-call and travelling great distances, Diane gave it all up when her husband said, “follow that dream”.
Having been hidden all too long, her characters have burst forth demanding plot lines of their own and she’s found the more she lets them, the more they’re inclined to run wild.
Here's an excerpt:
“You’ve heard the tales of selkies?” Her voice wasn’t quite as controlled as she thought it would be. The tremble in it not from nerves, but desire.
“Many of them.”
“Aye. There are many. Folks reckon half the population here has selkie in their blood.”
“Do you?” Doubt laced his low whispered question.
It wasn’t an obscure prospect, given the history of the entire island, but there was no selkie in Ruth’s blood. “No, but you may not have heard this tale yet.” Not many of the islanders repeated it. They found it too close to the truth rather than a mythological fantasy. Uncomfortable with it, most folk steered clear of her. Rather than let little hints of gossip taint his view, she decided if there was to be anything between them, as she knew there must be, then the tale should come from her. The truth as she knew it.
With a light step and hope in her heart, she moved into the circle of stones and sank onto the soft, cushiony ground. The moss so thick and cool, it gave underneath her, like a downy pillow.
Stuart joined her, tucked his knees up to his chest, and wrapped his arms around his legs. As he wasn’t used to the cold, she should have warned him to wear warmer clothes. Her woolen shawl kept out the chill and fell to well below her knees, so when she sat, it kept the icy dampness of the ground from soaking into her backside.
He waited in silence for her to begin, so she switched off the flashlight and let the last rays of weak light filter through the gaps in the thick umbrella of leaves above them. The gloomy shadows of the trees deepened by the moment. Relaxed in the darkness, Ruth drew in a slow breath before she started.
“For generations, my family have passed this tale down from mother to daughter. As far as I’m aware it’s still as accurate as the first telling, although I imagine you understand from your own studies how stories can get twisted out of shape.”
She gave him a sideways glance and tucked her hair behind her ear, so the curls didn’t bounce about her face to obscure her view of him. He appeared relaxed enough. His hands dangled from where he rested his forearms on his knees. Shadows deepened to give a sinister appearance to his handsome features and made her wonder if it would have been better to keep the flashlight on.
His slow nod encouraged her to continue, but the air thickened in her lungs. She glanced away at the surrounding stones to get her balance back. She was safe there. Nothing could harm her within the circle of stones, although she hadn’t cast her circle in deference to his obvious doubts about her magical abilities. She had no physical fear of him, which was why she’d invited him within the protective ring. She was more concerned about the damage he could do to her heart.
The salty evening air settled in a heavy blanket around them, but his scent wrapped around her to heighten her senses. His closeness she felt just as sure as if he stroked her skin.
She scraped her fingers through her thick mop of hair to stop it falling across her face, and with determination, turned her attention back to the story.
“The year was 1672. This tiny island was virtually uninhabited—a mere handful of people. Some say they came from shipwrecks, some that they were escaped criminals from Edinburgh jail.” She gave a shrug and peered through the shadowy light at Stuart to see the glitter of his eyes in the shadows. “They were all of them, strong people. For whatever reason, they’d survived, and they banded together for safety and company. Strange bedfellows so to speak. No one knew how many lived here, not many I imagine, from the small numbers we currently have. Counting probably wasn’t their strong point.” She smiled, but he remained motionless, his silence an indication of how intent he was on the story. She paused for a moment while she gathered herself for the next part, but Stuart remained still as she continued.
“One night a squall blew up. We have many storms, but this particular one raged for three nights. I would imagine not dissimilar to the storm which accompanied your arrival.” She gave an embarrassed laugh and then continued before he could ask any questions and distract her from her story, but it seemed from his silence she’d captured his attention. “The islanders believed the fury of the gods punished them. Food became short because they couldn’t fish in the torrid seas and of course, in those days, it was the mainstay of their diet. The wind was so strong they feared to go outside of their little stone houses in case it whipped them away.” Absorbed by her own story, Ruth stared at the stones. Each one touched the one next to it. None had ever been moved from where they’d laid for centuries. “On the fourth morning, the storm broke, the sky cleared, and the sun shone through. A few of the islanders went down to the water’s edge to forage, desperate for food and fresh water. Shipwrecks brought in a good haul after a storm. Pirates were rife in these waters in the 16th and 17th centuries, and their bounty could be rich.” She raised her head and stared through the dusk at Stuart’s impassive face again. Could he be bored, or did he listen intently? She squinted into the dark shadows obscuring his features, but he never moved a muscle. Only the subtle sound of his light breath could be heard in the silence.
She took a breath before she continued.
“What they found, though, was not what they’d expected. Among the debris lay the body of what they first believed was a woman. Long flowing hair, sleek and black. It covered half the naked body. Where the hair ended, the rest of the body appeared to be that of a seal.”
“Frightened to approach, they edged forward, none of them brave enough to touch the woman, but a pitiful cry emitted from under the swathes of hair and seaweed. One brave young girl picked up a stick and lifted the heavy weight of the hair from the half human, half seal. She exposed the body of what they later described as a selkie. It was, in fact, a male. Beautiful beyond belief.”
Ruth paused, waiting for a response, while the air thickened and grew heavy with tension. She leaned in, quieted her voice in the stillness. “The story goes the young girl fell in love with him in an instant. In his arms, he cradled a tiny bairn. A newborn with its umbilical cord still attached to the placenta. Its pathetic wail enchanted the young girl, so she leaned in and took it from the circle of the selkie’s arms. As she cuddled the bairn to her breast, the selkie opened his eyes.” Ruth closed her own to envisage the scene better as though it were her own memory and not just folklore. “Liquid black gazed up at her to melt her heart. Afterward, she claimed he’d spoken, but no one else heard his words, just the muffled sound of an animal in pain. What they were witness to was her swearing to protect the little one for all time. A human baby girl with hair as black as night and eyes as deep green as a summer sea.”
As the night turned pitch black Stuart never moved, but she felt his attention on her as the air between them sizzled with his interest. They sat so close she realized it must have been her who had shuffled nearer until their knees touched and their faces were separated by a mere sliver of air.
Aware his interest lay in the story, she swallowed to ease the dryness of her throat before she continued, conscious her brogue thickened as she slipped deeper into the story. “After the bairn was removed from the haven of his arms, and he’d gained the promise from the young woman, it’s said the selkie turned back into a seal and died. Legend has it he’d clung onto life until he knew the bairn was delivered into safe arms. It’s said that his descendants have continued to grace these shores with their presence, protectors for generations of the wee bairn’s kin.”
The rustle of Stuart’s clothes drew her attention in the silent circle as he moved for the first time, shuffled even closer to her. His interest was palpable. “What happened to the baby?” His warm breath puffed across her cheek.
“The young woman raised her as her own. She never married but lived to a ripe old age. They say she never fell in love again but died content that love had touched her soul.”
“…and the child?”
She had to lean away from him for her own sanity, but her voice thickened as she replied. “She grew up, married and had a daughter of her own.” She loved the romance of the story. The whole idea intrigued her of being rescued and living a life loved by the people who surrounded her.
“Where did she come from?”
Ruth shrugged, it didn’t really matter to her. It had been centuries before and who would have been able to tell in those days? “It could have been a shipwreck.”
“Could she have come from the mainland? From Scotland?”
It seemed a strange thing to question. Why would she have come from Scotland? The crossing for a baby would have been too far, too cold. She would have died. The only logical explanation was she’d been in a shipwreck, and the selkie transported her to the nearest island. The magical powers of the selkie were well known, but would one have been able to cast such a powerful net of protection over a newborn to transport it so far?
Ruth puffed out an impatient breath, unsure why she felt so irritated by his line of questions. There was no logic. It was folklore, a tale. She’d related a story; it didn’t mean she had all the answers. “I suppose, but it’s more feasible to be a ship in those storms.”
“Was there nothing to indicate where she’d come from?” He placed his hand on her thigh and shot heat straight through to her heart, avid in his attention, unaware of the effect he had on her.
“No. She was naked as far as the tale goes. A wee newborn. Nothing to indicate she came from anywhere but the sea.”
“But she wasn’t a selkie herself?”
“No.” Heat rose up her neck, to stifle her until she jerked her leg away from his hand and came to her knees in front of him.
Oblivious of her discomfort, Stuart shuffled closer. “How can you be so sure?”
“Because she would have turned into a seal at some point and from what happened with the male selkie, certainly when she died.”
“No one ever saw her change?” He also came to his knees and leaned in until the heat from him touched her, washed over her until she thought she would suffocate with his tangible annoyance. A shard of dusky light highlighted his features so she could once more see the depths of his piercing pewter eyes. She faltered for a moment before she replied. He seemed desperate for her to agree the young bairn had been a selkie, but she couldn’t bring herself to weave that kind of ambiguity around a tale she’d lived with all her life.
“Not in any of the tales I’ve ever heard. It’s never been questioned before.”
“Perhaps she managed to hide the fact from them.”
Angry now, she shot to her feet. All she’d wanted was to please him with her tale, steal a kiss or two in her magical place, but he’d spoiled it with his insistent questions. She flicked her shawl tight around her and jammed her hands into the woolen folds.
Her throat had become so dry that the next words she spoke came out on a strangled breath.
“There would be no reason to. Everyone knew she’d been delivered there by a selkie. One who gave his life for hers. Besides, everyone knew she was a witch.”
His harsh intake of breath accompanied his quick leap to his feet.
“You never mentioned she was a witch.”
Offended by the accusation that she’d deliberately withheld information, Ruth leaned in until her nose almost touched his, and the air between them sizzled to life. “Well, I tried to tell you a story, Stuart. You interrupted. Several times. I was getting there.”
This time she was left in no doubt he was as irritated as her as he flung himself away from her to trace the stones around the circle’s inner edge, his back to her.
“What’s the stone circle got to do with it?” He touched his toe to one of them and her muscles bunched in anticipation of him kicking them.
It may have had no connection, just a place where she liked to find contentment, but Ruth knew there was strong magic there. Ancient magic which drew her constantly, and she had no desire to see it desecrated because the control on his temper had slipped.
In an effort to appease him, she softened her voice. “The story goes the young girl insisted they bury the selkie here. She asked for a humble stone cottage to be built for her and the wee bairn.”
He stared down at the stone his shoe touched, hands on hips, silent but for his breath drawing in through his teeth, no longer it appeared in anger, but disappointment. The warmth she’d gained from his closeness had turned to ice. Regret slammed through her. What had she done? What had she said? Her heart trembled in her chest. Distressed, she stared at him. He’d taken her words to heart, and somehow, she’d managed to hurt him.
“Stuart?”
He whipped his head up as though he’d forgotten she was there. “Yeah?”
The dark pits of his eyes were unreadable, and Ruth realized time had flown since they’d arrived. She had no desire to hurt him anymore, nor would she allow him his way with the story. She couldn’t change it to suit him, and the best course of action seemed to be to back off. She hugged herself and stepped to the edge of the circle. “I think it’s time for supper.”
He rubbed his hand over his mouth, then turned and stepped over the stones to stride away in the opposite direction.
“Stuart? You’re going the wrong way. Supper will be ready.”
“Ask Clarisse to keep mine warm. I’ll be back later.”
“But it’s dark. You might lose your way.”
“It’s a goddamned island, Ruth. How wrong can I go?”
As his temper whipped back to slap at her, she had no idea what she’d done to annoy him, but she wasn’t tempted to apologize or grovel. Dammit, she thought he’d want to hear her tale. He’d been fascinated by everyone else’s. What was wrong with hers?
Never easy at the thought of hurting another, she called out in the dark. “Do you want the torch?”
He’d already disappeared from view, but his voice drifted back to her. “I’ll be fine. Go home, Ruth. Go back to your nana.”
The strange flutter in her stomach distressed her. She hadn’t meant to upset or annoy him. She’d hoped he might hold her hand on the way back, maybe press his lips against hers again. A sweet promise of more to come.
She bent to pick up the flashlight, and a blue flame shot skyward as her fingers reached for it, wrenching a high-pitched squeak from her. She slapped a hand over her mouth and peered into the darkness, grateful Stuart had departed. She didn’t need him to witness yet another pathetic pyromaniac accident.