The holly maze in Twelvetide was modeled after the maze depicted in this sixties vintage postcard featuring the holly maze at the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg on sale at Cardcow.com. I imagined the Twelvetide holly maze as more expansive and with only one tree at its center, an ancient oak. The spot where Caelan awaits Ashley, first when she was seven and later, more importantly, when she was a grown woman.
Unfortunately, it is my understanding the maze at Williamsburg is now privet and much shorter.
An excerpt from Twelvetide:
Ashley raced across the car park. The flame in the lantern flickered, its beam of light dancing crazily over the snow-covered, icy gravel. Slipping, she teetered, but regained balance. Hurry. She hadn’t come this far only to be too late. She slid to a stop at the gate and fumbled with the key. Dammit, her hands shook. Hurry. Hurry. She inserted the key and twisted. Crap. It didn’t fit quite right. With firm jiggling, she forced the key into position. The locking mechanism finally clicked. With a relieved sigh, she pushed the grille open and stepped within the ancient garden.
The maze wasn’t there. Was she too early or too late?
Precipitation no longer fell and the storm clouds slid away on a south-easterly wind. A bright half-moon cast silvery illumination over the landscape, diminishing the need for the lantern. She strolled toward the dolphin fountain. A dazzling light flashed in the sky, blinding her for a moment. When Ashley’s vision cleared, everything had changed.
The garden was as she remembered.
Bright sunbeams shimmered down from a cloudless cerulean sky. A warm breeze carried the mingled scents of roses and honeysuckle. Ashley parked the lantern on the edge of the fountain and dropped her wool coat to the ground as she had as a child. Pulse racing, she walk-ran over the stepping stone path to the holly maze.
With the key clutched in a firm grip, she hesitated at the entrance, swallowed hard, and entered the winding twists and turns. On her last visit, she’d had the blond-headed boy to follow through the maze. Where was he now? Would Cael be at the oak tree, if and when she found it?
Close your eyes and trust in your heart.
“Who said that?” The androgynous voice sounded corporeal, but no one was there. Was it a ghostly voice? Was Cael haunting the maze, trying to spook her with a disguised voice?
Why would he do that? He’d made her promise to return to him.
Believe in the magic and find your heart’s desire.
Ashley shivered, spooked by the voice in her head. Get a grip, Ashley. You’ve been waiting to return to the garden for what felt like a lifetime. She inhaled a deep breath and closed her eyes. Ignoring mounting anxiety, she groped with her hands like a child playing blind man’s bluff, and walked straight into a prickly holly hedge.
“Ouch!” She popped her eyes open and stuck a stinging finger into her mouth.
Damn. This wasn’t working and time was wasting away. She didn’t know how long she’d have with Cael before the magic expired. She shoved the key into a jeans pocket and took the first right. Hung a left. Another left. Turned right and hit a dead end. Grrr!
“Cael, where are you?” she shouted.
No response. With fisted hands, she retraced her steps then went right again. Left. Left. Left. Ending at a T-juncture. Ashley jammed her hands in her pants pockets and blew out a puff of air. Should she go right or left?
“Please, Cael, help me find you.”
Close your eyes. Believe in the magic.
That strange voice again. She swallowed uneasily, wary of such potent magic. Well, she’d just need to get over her apprehensions if she wanted to find Cael. And she did want to find him.
Okay. She closed her eyes, waiting, listening to silence.
Hmmmm. A faint humming. Should she? Slowly. One step at a time. Twisting and turning. She followed the hum through the maze. Astonishingly, she managed not to walk into the shrubbery walls. After taking a countless number of turns, the droning sound rose in pitch no longer mellifluous. She popped her eyes wide. The irritating noise instantly died.
In the center of the square clearing, the large oak tree stood proud as she remembered.
Her heart plummeted. He wasn’t there. Cael wasn’t there. Her shoulders drooped. Moisture pricked the back of her eyes.
Cael stepped from behind the tree, sporting a sexy grin. Damn, the man, the real man, was hotter than her dreams.
Ashley’s insides turned to mush. She ran toward him and stopped just short.
Twelvetide is part of the Enchanted Highlands collection from authors April Holthaus, Victoria Zak, and Dawn Marie Hamilton and can be found at Amazon for a limited time.