An excerpt from a special holiday novella, Twelvetide, Twelve Nights of Highland Magic...
Cael hadn’t kenned that the moment of death for a life cut short would begin a repetitive cycle of loneliness stuck within the in-between, only able to cross into the hidden garden maze when the veil thinned and ripped.
A ghost. He’d become a wretched ghost.
Since meeting the wee lass, he’d haunted the maze during each Yule hopeful Ashley would visit with her family to attend the festivities and he’d catch a glimpse of her as she grew to womanhood. He rubbed his empty chest over the spot where his heart would beat had he been alive. He’d kenned all along she wouldn’t come until the time was right. Still, he’d roamed the forsaken place year after year, ever yearning.
He’d sensed during the waning autumn the time neared for her return. The veil thinned, though not fast enough to suit him. Over the years, he’d never once doubted her commitment to their promise. Movement on the other side of the misty, diaphanous fabric separating the earth from the realms of the supernatural made him jounce on his heels with excitement.
There! Ashley stood beside the dolphin fountain—a newer addition to the ancient Druid garden. The maze wouldn’t appear until the solstice, but she had come as promised.
Freezing rain fell, yet still she’d come. He hoped she didn’t catch a chill from the foul weather. In one hand she held a lantern to light the way. With the other, she lifted the hood of her coat and covered her hair, but not before he noted its luster. He wanted to run his fingers through the dark brown locks the color of the finest sable fur, imagining their softness. A flush reddened her cheeks and her firm lips curved in a pout. He wanted to kiss those lips and wrap his arms around her and feel her life-giving force.
Cael could do none of that. He made a fist then flexed the fingers. For all the saints, he was a ghost. An apparition without substance. Yet Durrell had assured him on Ashley’s earlier visit that the wee lass held within her heart his destiny.
Her amber gaze darted from place to place in search of something. Likely the maze, which wouldn’t appear until the exact moment of the solstice.
Too soon. She’d come too soon.
Ashley turned toward the gate to leave and his chest tightened in panic.
Please don’t go!
She spun back as if she heard the words in his head. Kenned he stood there. Impossible. The veil hadn’t thinned enough. Not yet. He could do naught but watch in disappointment as she frowned, shook her head, and walked away.
When the Druid woman appeared, the vise on his chest loosened. The light-bearer would guide Ashley to him. ’Twas their destiny.
However, another obstacle awaited them. Durrell, the gatekeeper, had also revealed the elders required Cael to make a sacrifice. Nae matter. He would do whatever they required.
Hope you enjoyed this wee excerpt from the novella Twelvetide: Twelve Nights of Highland Magic.