Since it is October, and Samhain—a time when faeries can more easily enter our world—is approaching, I thought it would be fun to share a fantasy flavored excerpt. So here is the excerpt from Just Wait For me where Dugaid, the son of the High King and Queen of the Fae, is introduced. Caitrina's life will never be the same...
The approach to Castle Torne, the northern most castle in the Highlands
Urgency goaded Prince Dugaid to push his mount to greater speed. The midnight-black stallion galloped effortlessly through pristine snow. Forest and glen and village blurred when passed.
They halted at the edge of the North-wood. The fae horse hoofed the earth, snorted, and blew steam into the frigid air. Dugaid leaned forward over the beast’s thick neck and eyed the stone fortress, shrouded in mist, high on the distant sea cliff. To the untrained human eye, Castle Torne appeared a great stronghold, though no more so than many others in Scotland. Something else was at work there. The land and all within charmed by a most powerful fae enchantment.
Its potency pulsed over Dugaid’s flesh despite the many layers of garments and furs he wore as protection against the cold. A thrill ran through him; eager for the confrontation ahead.
Prince Torguil, an ancient sithiche prince, held court within those massive stone walls. Although a favorite noble of Dugaid’s mother, Oonagh, the High-Queen of the Fae, Torguil chose to reside on earth in this forgotten northern wilderness instead of Tir-nan-Og. ’Twas said he pined for his human wife, long since dead and buried.
Dugaid straightened his shoulders. He would need to prove his worth to gain the hand of Torguil’s halfling daughter. ’Twas time to stop waiting and put his plan into action. He wanted Caitrina with every fiber of his being. His mother would never forgive him, which made the match all the more perfect.
He scanned the approach to the castle. Out in the open for the distance, he would be exposed, though he doubted Torguil’s warriors presented a threat. Dugaid had sensed the fae scouts for the past few days, monitoring his advance. They’d let him pass so far without incident.
Dugaid walked the fine steed across the open moor at an unhurried pace, keeping his senses alert. With each step, the tingling of magic strengthened, and with it his determination.
At the base of the rise to the cliff top, he paused and twisted around in the saddle. Movement within the trees revealed the scouts still watched him.
Ice and loose stones roughened the climb, but the surefooted stallion proceeded unaffected by either the encumbrance or the tremors of magic. If only the enchantment didn’t affect Dugaid. Perhaps shifting into his alternate form…
Nae. He couldn’t allow others to lay witness to the transformation nor its results. He held the reigns in a tight fist, feeling more lightheaded as they proceeded. He hung on by sheer will alone by the time they reached the massive gates.
Without command, the outer portcullis slowly rose with a loud grating of metal. Dugaid urged the horse forward. The latticed grille dropped behind them much faster than it had been raised, and they were now caught between the two gates. If Torguil wished him ill, this was where the guards could easily take away his immortality and end his fae life with a single, well-shot iron dart to the heart.
“Who goes there?” The voice came from within one of the arrow slits cut into the side wall.
“You ken verra well who I am. Prince Dugaid, son of Oonagh.”
The inner portcullis finally rose, opening the way into the castle courtyard. The dizziness faded the moment he cleared the gate. The temperature rose, and Dugaid unwrapped multiple scarves in order to breathe in the briny sea air.
Five muscular fae warriors pounded down the keep steps. The ancient prince wasn’t taking chances with his uninvited guest.
“Welcome to the home of Torguil.” The leader waved an arm and bowed in greeting.
Although the blond faerie stood taller than his companions, Dugaid, at six-foot-seven, topped him by a good four inches. If there was trouble, Dugaid had the upper hand. A slow smile curled his lips. “I wish an audience with Prince Torguil.”
“Our prince is well aware of your presence. If you follow me, I will show you to a chamber where you can make yourself presentable.”
Dugaid followed the faerie, the other four warriors falling in behind. For Danu’s sake what harm did they think he planned?
After a much-needed bath and grooming, dressed in his black leathers, he restlessly waited for a summons. After pacing the width of the chamber for the umpteenth time, a knock sounded the arrival of the blond faerie who’d greeted him in the courtyard.
“Please follow me. I will escort you to Prince Torguil’s antechamber.”
Upon entrance to the chamber, Torguil strode forward and greeted him with a warrior’s embrace. On separating, the elder prince touched the gilt brooch at Dugaid’s shoulder. “You are of the unicorn brotherhood.”
“Do you bring a message from the high-queen?”
“I harbor nae love for my mother.”
Torguil rubbed his chin. “I see. Then why do you grace my hall?”
“I bring a gift.” Dugaid removed a wee leather sack secured at his hip and handed it to Torguil.
The elder prince released the thong and dropped the contents onto the table. Thirteen precious gems the size of a man’s thumbnail and the color of deepest purple settled on the tablecloth. The flawless amethysts winked in the flickering light of countless candles.
“A rare and exquisite gift.” Torguil fingered the stones set before him. “Truly beautiful. Far above par.”
“An offering for the hand of your daughter.”
“Ah!” The prince’s eyes narrowed. “Caitrina.”
“Aye.” Dugaid couldn’t read the impassive expression. Was Torguil pleased with the offer?
“Why should I grant your request? Allow you control over my greatest asset?”
“I am the only man capable of protecting her from Oonagh’s wrath.”
“Your prowess on the battlefield is well known. I would be proud to call you son.” Torguil hesitated. “Yet you dinnae speak of love?”
“I am fae.”
“As am I, yet I was verra much in love with Caitrina’s mother.” The emerald of his eyes—the same color as his daughter’s—deepened.
“There is nae time for human emotion. The third set in Oonagh’s challenge to Caitrina is in play. I will ensure your daughter wins.” Dugaid pounded a fist against his chest. “I will have her as my bride.”
“She will fight you.”
“I look forward to the taming.”
Hope you enjoyed this excerpt from my latest release, Just Wait For Me, the third novel in the Highland Gardens series.