It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas (take two)

I'm blogging about this same subject over at the Nine Naughty Novelists' blog today as well. I guess you could say it's on my mind, especially as I gear up for this weekend's Holiday Rush Blog Hop. Time was, I'd be drowning in Holiday Cheer at this point...uh, in a good way, that is. But somewhere along the way, writing stories centered around Christmas (well, at least in part) seems to have superseded actual decorations, at least in part.

So here's a few short excerpts from some of my Christmas-themed books. Enjoy!

A blacksmith with a tragic past. A faery princess with an uncertain future. And a love that burns like iron.

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.
Read more about Iron HERE

There’ll be a lot of creatures stirring in Oberon this Holiday Season. It’s Christmas. Got ghosts?

Christmas Eve dawned foggy and cool. The heavy air seemed to muffle sound.   Long before the silent night could fall, the day had a hushed and breathless feel to it.  As if the whole world was holding its breath....
Last minute shoppers thronged The Crone’s Nest all day long, keeping Marsha too busy to ponder the irony.  It flew in the face of logic, but every year she sold more of everything on the day before Christmas than she did on the day before Yule.
Business was brisk at Cavanaugh’s nursery, as well.  Shortly before noon, Dan packed up most of the unsold trees from the lot and delivered them to a local food bank.  There, they would be handed out to the families who came in to pick up boxes of groceries and canned goods that kids in the local elementary schools had spent weeks collecting.
At Lupa e Cervo, goodwill of a slightly different kind was being dispensed.  Sinead had set up a table of appetizers in the winery’s tasting room, turning the daily free wine sampling into an impromptu party.
Out of deference to Adam’s feelings on the subject, she’d had a separate table set up on the terrace outside the tasting room—and out of his direct line of sight—where she offered prospective customers a holiday twist on the winery’s usual offerings.
Mulled wine?” Adam stared at her, appalled when she explained what she was doing.  “Hot mulled wine?”
She nodded, lips trembling as she tried not to smile too broadly.  In truth, it was all she could do to keep from laughing out loud at his outrage.
“You’re taking my wine and...heating it?  In a...in a crock pot?  With—?”
“With spices, yes.”  She smiled at him, and added, gently, “That’s how it’s done, I’m afraid.  It’s what we did last night, too, you know.  Out on the back terrace?”
Adam shuddered, his revulsion obvious.  “No.  I didn’t know.  Thank the gods for that.”  He eyed her suspiciously, and then asked in a voice filled with dread.  “Which vintages?”
But Sinead knew better than to answer a loaded question like that.  She was just damn glad Nick could have no idea about Adam’s feelings on the subject.  There was no telling how much mileage he’d try to get from it, if he did.
As it was, she was more than a little worried about what kind of surprises the two men might have in store for each other…
It was a subject that was causing Scout some concern, as well.  “I can’t believe you won’t tell me what you got Adam for Christmas,” she complained.  Perched on the kitchen counter, she watched as Nick pressed fresh dough into the pasta maker, turning it into noodles for tonight’s lasagna.  They were celebrating this evening with his daughter Kate, who would be spending the next couple of days with her mother.  Tomorrow, they would be going to Lucy’s.
If she were honest, Scout would have to admit that she wasn’t all that disappointed that Adam and Sinead would not be at Lucy’s as well.  She’d already spent two days this week playing referee.  She deserved a day off.
But, she would have found it a whole lot easier to relax if she hadn’t learned—only last night—that both Nick and Adam had purchased presents for each other.  And, how weird was that, anyway?
Nick glanced up from his pasta and smiled.  “Tell you now?  And spoil the surprise?  No way.”
She watched him for a moment longer, but he was focused on his work, and his expression gave away nothing. “It’s not something that’s gonna...oh, I don’t know…blow up in his face, or something.  Is it?”
“No, of course not,” Nick said, feeding another sheet of pasta into the machine.  “I mean, not unless he’s really careless.  If he got distracted, or something, then I guess, theoretically, it might be possible.”
“Oh.  Right.”  Scout rolled her eyes.  “So, I guess, in that case, your plan is to be around when he uses whatever it is.  So you can make sure he’s distracted?”
Nick grinned at her, eyes twinkling.  “You know, you used to be a lot more trusting of me.”
“You used to be a lot more predictable,” Scout snapped.  She thought about that for a moment. 
Maybe predictable wasn’t quite the right word.  He’d just been…defensive.  Like a fighter who had gone too many rounds but was still too stubborn to stay down.  Sheer determination might keep bringing him to his feet, but he had nothing left for anything more.  He was too beaten up by life to do anything other than put one foot in front of the other and, over and over again, walk right into the next punch it threw him.
Scout thought back over the last year.  He was so much more relaxed now.  So much more lighthearted and carefree than he’d been, even last Christmas.  She’d like to think she could take some of the credit for that.  Maybe, after a year and a half, he’d finally begun to trust that, this time around, the happiness that had eluded them for so long would not be snatched away again.
She slid from the counter.  Nick turned his head to smile at her as she came up behind him and put her arms around his waist.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.
Nick nodded.  “There sure is.  Just stay right where you are.  That’s all I need, you know.”
“Good,” Scout murmured happily, resting her head against his back.  “Me, too.”
She’d been running for such a long, long time.  Right now, staying put was all she ever wanted to do.

Read more about The Spirit of the Place HERE

When you live forever, you're bound to make a few mistakes...

Holding her breath, Suzanne went up on her toes, her arm stretched out as far as it would reach, to hang yet another sparkling ornament on the tree. Her hand hovered over the branch tip. She released the hook and smiled as the tiny, silver bell swayed safely in place. Relaxing again, she took a deep breath. The scent of pine was so strong it nearly knocked her off the ladder.
She loved Christmas—all the shiny, bright wonder of it. Familiar carols playing on the stereo. The cool taste of peppermint tingling on her lips. The sugar and spiciness of gingerbread cookies still warm from the oven mixing with the buttery fragrance of freshly made popcorn. And, this year, she was going to have the best Christmas ever. There could be no doubt about that.
Cocking her head to the side, she admired her handiwork, or as much of it as she could see from this angle. The tree was so big it was impossible to take it all in at a glance, so big that, even standing on the top of the stepladder, she still couldn’t reach the highest branches. That meant the placing of the final star would have to be done by someone else, by Conrad, she hoped, as her mind started spinning a happy little fantasy.
They would stand on the ladder together, his arm around her shoulders, and after he’d affixed the star to the top-most branch he’d turn to her with love in his eyes and a smile on his lips. “Merry Christmas,” he’d whisper as he bent to kiss her…and outside the house, in the dark, star-filled San Francisco night, it would begin to snow…
Well, maybe someday. Or, then again, maybe not. What were the odds, really?
From inside the room—where it was almost as dark as night—came a long, low, furious rumble to distract her from her thoughts. Words she didn’t know, yet whose meaning couldn’t be more clear, spilled in a seemingly endless stream from Armand’s lips.
“You know what’s funny?” she said as she turned to face him. “Even in French, cursing still sounds like cursing.”
Eyes narrowed, he glowered at her, glancing up from where he sat on the floor surrounded by the string of lights he’d been attempting to fix. Most of the exterior decorations were already in place when this string had inexplicably gone out and the workmen, unable to discover the problem, had returned it to Armand in its present condition: a dark, tangled seaweed-looking mass. That had been almost an hour ago.
“This is all your doing,” Armand growled, sounding so much like Conrad, she had to laugh.
“I know,” she said, unable to keep from ginning. It was for her—all for her—that Conrad, that Armand, that all of them, were doing this. The tree, the tinsel, the cookies, the lights—all because she said she wanted it. And she wasn’t about to feel the least bit sorry about that, either.
Armand watched her for a moment longer, his expression softening until he was smiling too. “Well then, don’t you think the least you could do is come down here and help me straighten this mess out?”
“All right.” She jumped down from the ladder, grabbed the plate of cookies from the side table, then seated herself across from him, with the bulk of the lights—and the plate piled high with gingerbread—on the floor between them. “Now, what do you need me to do?”

Read more about In the Dark HERE

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