Summer Solstice scene from The Oak King

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The Oak King is one of my latest releases. It's a re-telling of the Oak King/Holly King story, which means that many of the scenes take place during either the summer solstice or the winter solstice.

Here's a scene from very early in the book. It's when Kieran (the current Holly King) meets Fionn (the future Oak King) for the very first time.

But first, the blurb:

 Twice each year, Aine Murphy ventures into the woods to hold ceremonies to honor the Oak King and the Holly King, never dreaming these Lords of the Forest could be anything more than myth. When the legends spring to life in front of her, how can she help but fall for the sexy demi-gods she's loved all her life?

From midwinter to midsummer, Fionn O'Dair rules the Greenworld as the Oak King--a role he feels is beyond his abilities, and one that dooms him to a loveless future, forever craving the one man he can never allow himself to have. How can he resist what Aine offers--the sweet devotion that soothes his aching soul, and the slim chance to live a "normal" life as her husband, if only for half a year?

Holly King Kieran Mac Cuilenn never desired a human lover--until now. Seeing Fionn and Aine together fills him with longing for the love he threw away and awakens feelings he thought he'd buried with the last Oak King. Is there enough magic in the solstice to correct the mistakes he made years ago? Or is he doomed to be forever left out in the cold?

Available in digital format at AmazonLoose IdAll Romance eBooksKobo, and Barnes & Noble

June 1837
At the time of the summer solstice

The Holly King was not happy. Kieran Mac Cuilenn, Lord of Misrule and Ruler of the Waning Year, had been awake since before the dawn, intent on making the most of every last minute of freedom before his six-month reign began. He was also eager to be reunited with his lover, if only for a few short hours. But the day was swiftly passing, and the Oak King had yet to make an appearance. This made the third time since sunrise that Kieran had climbed to the top of this lonely hill to stand beside the Oak King’s tree, to lay a hand against the oak’s rough bark and whisper words of encouragement. But, just like the last two times, his pleas went unanswered. Naught but the faintest of pulses emanated from within the massive trunk, letting him know that his friend and lover continued to slumber.

“Damn you, Rory,” Kieran grumbled as worry and disappointment ate away at his temper. “What ails you? Why won’t you wake up?” He struck the tree with his fist, feeling more like a petulant child than a mature dru just settling into midlife.

He sighed in exasperation. It was getting harder each summer to coax the older tree spirit from his tree. If things kept up at this pace, Kieran imagined it would not be very long before the two of them would see each other only at the winter solstice when it was Kieran who would set the pace. If that was to be the way of it, he was half-tempted to play the same sort of game this next December.

Why should he not pay the Oak King back in kind for worrying him so? But he knew he would never do so. They already had so short a time to be together that anything less was unacceptable. All the same, however, something would have to be done. Kieran had been as patient as he knew how, but the time had come for action.

“I’ll be back soon, you old goat,” Kieran promised, dealing the heavy trunk another sharp blow. “And I’m warning you now, I will have you out of there this day if I have to set fire to your roots to do so.” Then he turned and headed back down the hill, a foggy idea already beginning to take shape.

He’d tried soft words and sweet enticements—they hadn’t worked—and Kieran was no longer in the mood for gentle coaxing. He would find another way to rouse Rory and draw him forth. All he needed was the proper goad, something to ignite the Oak King’s passion and force him from slumber. But what?

He’d gone no distance at all before the exact thing he needed appeared to him in the person of a handsome young dru lurking in the shadows of the trees adjacent to the path Kieran trod.

Kieran’s footsteps slowed. The lad was vaguely familiar, though Kieran did not know him by name. Something about the self-conscious expression on the youth’s face, the flush on his cheeks, the awkward way he dived for the shelter of the trees as though attempting to conceal himself, caught Kieran’s attention. He stopped in his tracks and fixed the lad with a piercing gaze. “You, there. Come out here at once and tell me what you are doing.”

The young man flushed even harder. “Why, n-nothing, sire. I mean, Y-your Majesty.” Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders, then stepped boldly onto the path. “I was just… I hoped… I wanted to wish you a H-happy Solstice, m-my liege.”

“Happy?” Kieran repeated the word thoughtfully. He did not consider either of the solstices to be joyful occasions. Once he might have done so, he supposed, but they’d long since become the dreariest of days, forever associated with sacrifice and loss.

“Aye, Your Majesty. And also…to wish you well as your reign commences.” He paused, tongue darting nervously out to wet his lips, then continued in a rush. “I know you are always with us, my liege, whether we see you or no. But the world will seem a bleaker place until you return again to grace us with your presence.”

“I see.” Kieran felt a rush of attraction such as he could not remember feeling in a very long time. It was followed almost immediately, however, by one of regret. What a shame they had not crossed paths earlier in the year. As it was, he now had no time to pursue anything with… “Tell me, what is your name, lad?”

“F-fionn, m-my liege. Fionn O’Dair.”

Fionn. Kieran repeated the name silently. He would really have to try and remember that. “Well, I thank you, Fionn, for your well wishes.” The boy was delightful, bright as a summer morn—an oak, obviously—and, perhaps because of that, Kieran was suddenly reminded, most forcefully, of Rory.
It was then that the half-realized ideas in Kieran’s head coalesced into a plan. What better way to gain the Oak King’s attention than to flaunt a new lover in front of him, to make love to this lad right in the shade of Rory’s branches? Why, nothing could be more perfect! He could indulge in a harmless flirtation with Fionn and roust Rory from his bed at the same time.

Knowing Rory as he did, Kieran was certain the oak would waste no time in making Kieran pay for his insolence. He’d be wont to take his wayward lover hard and fast—very much in the same manner as Kieran planned on taking Fionn, if he were willing. The thought only added to Kieran’s excitement.

A smile overspread Kieran’s face. “I wonder, young Fionn, how sincere you are in wishing me happy. For, if you’re willing, I can think of a way in which you might assist me in making this solstice a very happy one indeed.”

* * * *

The world was not what it once was. Of that Rory Tighearnach, high king of the drus—the tree spirits of √Čire—was certain. Why, he had only to look around him to see the proof of that! His home grove was naught but a memory now. All of his family, stately creatures, tall and proud, trees that had once clustered about him, that had sheltered him from wind and rain when he was but a sapling, were long gone. Even the deer and the squirrels that had once lingered in their shade, or browsed upon the abundance of acorns and nuts the trees let fall, had deserted him. He alone remained now, surrounded by gorse and furze and heather, with only a handful of birds—who still returned, year after year, to make their nests in his branches—for company.

Were he a simple dru, like others of his kind, he would have long since moved on. For contrary to what the legends claimed, tree spirits were not solitary by nature, nor must they remain always where their trees were rooted. But Rory’s life was no longer his own. He was the Oak King, Lord of the Forest, Protector of the Greenworld, Ruler of the Waxing Year, and it was these responsibilities that kept him bound here.

For six months—midwinter to midsummer—Rory was held in a kind of stasis, unable to take shape or venture forth. That was his body, but his mind was also not his own. Though not similarly constrained to remain in one place, it was almost completely subsumed by the Forestmind. His awareness flowed outward, through a wide and varied network of root and branch, rhizome and filament. Working its way through lichen and algae, through seaweed and moss, it circled the globe. It was everywhere at once, cognizant of all that transpired within the entirety of the Greenworld.
It was an honor to have been chosen for so exalted a purpose. And there was a certain amount of bliss to be had in his yearly melding with a will so much greater than his own. But it was a burden also. Some years, he’d been scarcely able to wait for the summer solstice to arrive. He’d been so eager to be released from his service—freed him to be just himself once again—that he’d fair burst from his tree the first moment he was able.

More and more often, however, he’d begun to find it hard to return to regular consciousness. The magic needed to extricate himself from his tree seemed more elusive than in years past. The Greenworld continued to pull at his soul in a way it had not done before. He could feel it calling him, urging him to stay submersed in its depths, to lose himself within it. Perhaps to lose himself permanently.

Today, for example, though the morning had fled—and most of the afternoon as well—he had yet to make the slightest effort to free himself. He could not recall a single reason why he should. Did the noonday sun not feel pleasant as it caressed his leaves? Was not the warm breeze that stirred amid his topmost branches a delight to experience? Why not tarry a while longer, right where he was, dreaming of days gone by? Why force himself to face the reality of a world grown bleak and dismal?

The sound of laughter filtered into his thoughts, such a gentle, rousing sound. Rory smiled when its source was revealed. Two drus were at play upon his hill, pursuing each other through the brush—naked and unafraid. As well they might be. For even if there had been humans present, they would not be seen. No human senses could pierce the magic veil that had been erected to keep the two species separated, and no dru would ever be so foolish to do so.

But ah, their laughter took him back, it did. Once upon a time he too had played such games. It warmed his heart to realize there was still some joy left in the world. His heart heated even more when he recognized one of the two men. Kieran Mac Cuilenn, the Holly King, he who ruled over the Waning Year.

The other dru was as yet unknown to him. Rory studied the newcomer with some interest. He was tall, though still somewhat gangly, with a curly mop of copper-colored hair bleached gold in places by the sun. Judging by his coloration and his build, Rory could tell he was an oak, but a very young one, little more than a stripling.

Kieran led his playmate to the very foot of Rory’s tree. There the chase ended. Kieran turned and fixed his pursuer with a heated gaze—part challenge, part invitation. The second dru halted but a few steps away. He glanced up briefly, uncertainly, hazel eyes growing wider as his gaze took in the spread of Rory’s branches, the majestic bulk of his trunk; then his eyes focused once again on Kieran.

The reverence with which the lad regarded the holly was as obvious as it was understandable. In his human form Kieran was stunning. Long limbs. Lean, sinewy muscles. His bare skin was winter-pale. His hair, dark as a crow’s back for the most part, was laced with starlight threads. And his eyes, as Rory well remembered, were the deep, pure green of a pine forest reflected in a moonlit lake.

The unknown dru stared longingly at Kieran. His hazel eyes held a stormy mix of doubt and desire. “Your Majesty?” He addressed Kieran hesitantly, clearly eager for more of his attention yet reluctant to overstep his bounds.

To read more about this title, please visit my website: http://www.pgforte.com/CelticLegends.htm

To read another Summer Solstice excerpt from The Oak King at: http://www.loose-id.com/the-oak-king.html#product_tabs_Excert

To read a Summer Solstice excerpt  from Scent of the Roses visit my other blog: http://oberoncalifornia.blogspot.com/

PG Forte inhabits a world only slightly less strange than the ones she creates. Filled with serendipity, coincidence, love at first sight and dreams come true.

She wrote her first serialized story when she was still in her teens. The sexy, ongoing adventure tales were very popular at her oh-so-proper, all girls, Catholic High School, where they helped to liven up otherwise dull classes...even if her teachers didn't always think so.

Originally a Jersey girl, PG now resides with her family on the extreme left coast where she writes contemporary and paranormal romance in a variety of sub-genres.

PG can be reached directly at: pgforte@pgforte.com