I've had a couple people email me about Winter's Desire, so I thought I'd post a bit about it. It's our take on a holiday tale--the Winter Solstice and it's steeped in Celtic folklore. (Beltane and Samhain will follow in other collections)
My novella, Midnight Whisper's takes place during the Crimean War. It's about a young wife whose husband is an officer and killed during the battle as well as the younger soldier who comes to break the news.
Sinead is the heroine, and Kieran is the young soldier. The Gaelic name Kieran means Black and he's very much like his name's meaning--dark, brooding, dangerous and deeply in touch with his masculinity. Her husband, David was blond, a gentleman, and very careful with Sinead. Sinead loved and adored him. But Kieran brings out those deep womanly needs she never expressed or showed to David. Sinead thinks of Kieran as her dark, and David her light.
Months go by and Sinead is trying to convince herself that she cannot allow Kieran's attentions, while Kieran believes he needs to step up his game. lol!
What insues is a romantic, passionate and very sexy tale of finding oneself and growing in life. I love Kieran, and my editor, says 'Kieran fairly smolders on the page'! It's the first time Lara and I worked together and it was really rewarding. It made this novella, which was really hard to get out, much, much easier.
I will tell you, though, that I found this novella excrucinatingly difficult to write. When I was 24, I was widowed. When I came up with the story (inspired by Dido's Christmas tune, On Christmas Day) I figured I was well past those feelings. after all, it's been fourteen years and I have re-married and become a mother. But I was wrong. It brought back feelings I thought I had long ago buried and moved past. My love story was not quite as beautiful as Sinead's with David, and at times I found it hard to write her widowhood in positive light. Now when I go back to it, I like what I've done with Sinead's story. And I like Kieran. Oh, boy do I like him.
Here's a little snippet from the story. I'll post a more formal excerpt in the next week or so on my website. Winter's Desire releases Nov 09 from Harlequin Spice.
Enjoy! It was warm in the cottage, despite the open window above the porcelain sink. The late December wind was cold, biting, as it blew in through the lace curtains. It should have cooled her, but Sinead felt so very warm, cocooned in the small cottage that sat at the edge of the village and a heavily wooded forest.
The sun was setting, streaking in dark pinks and purples across the sky, the vivid colors disappearing behind the tops of the naked tree branches. Snow, white and fluffy fell gently, like cotton fluff, from the heavy grey clouds, to cover the earth in a blanket of white—as soft and beckoning as the finest goose down.
Glancing away from the falling snow, a flash of gold caught her eye as she picked up the dough and set it into a bowl to rise. Her wedding band. Her fingers dusted white with flour and dough, Sinead held her hand up, studying the simple gold ring in the light cast by the fire. It was a reminder of a past, the mark of a new life that had never had a chance to grow, the visual of a commitment and love that defied even the grave.
A haunting reminder. A source of guilt. Always the shame came whenever she saw the gold band David had slipped onto her finger when he had spoken his vows to her. Vows that were never intended to be broken. Vows she had clutched steadfastly to. Yet the words, with my body, I thee worship had taken on new meaning whenever she heard them in her thoughts.
Dunking her hands in the bowl of warm water, Sinead wiped them on her apron, and turned to the little brick oven where a loaf of bread, golden brown and steaming hot, was waiting to be pulled out with the long handled paddle.
“Let me get that.”
The deep resonant drawl skated along her skin, and she glanced once more at the band on her finger, fighting the flicker of awakening that rippled along her body.
She did not turn to greet him. She did not want to see him, did not want to feel his hand brush against hers as he took the paddle from her. She did not want to smell him, the scent of clean male sweat and freshly laundered cambric. She did not want to know the sensation of his broad chest engulfing her back; his hands, beautiful and strong snaking around her middle. She did not want to see that sinful mouth and imagine the kind of pleasure it could bring her.
She had thought too many times of those things, dreamt them too many times. In her mind she had tasted his mouth, his tongue against hers. She knew what she would taste—man. She knew how his hands would feel on her naked body, strong, weathered, masculine.
With her back to him, she composed herself, willing her body under control, her mind from envisioning him overtop her, dominating her with his strength and a muscled body she knew would sexually master hers.
She had dreamed of that body, tall and thick and so warm. She had fantasized about succumbing to him, allowing him to have her. She craved his strength, his masculinity. She yearned to be a woman with him—his woman, in every sense of the word.
He was the opposite of David, yet no less intriguing. Perhaps, if she were being honest with herself, he was the most captivating and arousing man she had ever met. And every moment spent in his company was a lesson in torture, for she could not allow herself to discover the pleasures of his body loving hers.
The wood which he had just cut, fell with a thud to the stone floor. The noise was followed by the tread of his boots across the small space between the hearth and the kitchen. Their fingers touched, brushing skin against skin. His so cold and roughened by the elements; hers warm, soft, slipping supplely between his like his body would slip inside hers, then out, only to slide deep within once again with a powerful thrust that would at once inflame, yet soothe.
Her core clenched in memory, her body trembling with the need to feel passion once again. She hungered for it, this physical intimacy with another human being. The warmth of being touched, held, whispered to. The heavy feel of a man on top of her, her hair wrapped around his hand, her chin tilted to receive the thrust of his tongue as he filled her with his phallus.
She had not been touched by a man in three years. So long…
Sweat trickled down her neck, sneaking beneath the ribbed bodice of her serviceable work gown until she felt it captured between her breasts. He would know her thoughts. He always knew. He would hear her labored breathing, recognize the flush in her cheeks, see her nipples hardened beneath her worn corset and thin cotton gown. He would discover her wicked thoughts, the vision of the two of them naked, mating like animals. He would know because he watched her. He always watched her with those black, mysterious eyes that were fathomless in their depths.
Finally, Sinead allowed her held breath to escape when he did not linger as he usually did when they touched. Even the barest brush of their skin had been cause for him to stop and look at her. Sometimes he had reached out, to touch her cheek, but always he would check himself, drawing his hand away and replacing it at his side. Sometimes she was relieved when he remembered himself. Other times she was left aching, her body crying out for one simple touch of a man’s hand against her skin.
Kieran’s touch. For it had been this way for months now, her wanting Kieran—needing him—as more than a protector and helper. Ignoring her suffering, he slipped the paddle beneath the round loaf, pulling the fresh baked bread from the oven onto a wooden platter before replacing the paddle beside the brick hearth.
“Thank you,” she said, busying herself with a coarse brush and a little dish of melted butter. “Will you not take it home for your dinner tonight?”
There was a pause, where only breaths, ragged and fevered could be heard. Won’t you invite me to stay? She heard his silent question, but did not look up from the golden butter that trickled over the top of the freshly baked loaf.
“I made some stew that would go well with it. Tis cold today, and you’ve worked all day long outside. It’s the least I could do in payment for all your hard work.”
Swallowing hard, she evaded his gaze, which she knew would be narrowed at her. He did not want her charity. He would not take a pence from her, even though he had repaired the neglected cottage and seen to the winter preparations. Her root cellar was full of potatoes, and turnips, carrots and onions. The larder full of flour, butter and eggs. The woodshed was stocked with thick dry logs that would see her warm the winter through.
He had seen to her home, her safety, her comfort. But she daren’t pay him in anything other than a full belly and conversation.
As she suspected, he said nothing as he walked past her and started stacking the logs in a pile beside the hearth. On the glowing embers, he tossed two thick logs and stirred the coals, the dry wood catching, the flames crackling, licking their way up the chimney.
From beneath her lashes, Sinead watched him, bent on his haunches, his muscular back rolling beneath the thin long sleeved cambric shirt. His black hair, long and untamed grazed his broad shoulders as they moved fluidly with his movements.
Kieran Thompson was as wild and black as the meaning behind his Gaelic name. Dark and quiet. Mysterious and dangerous. He was the first man since David that made her burn. The only man who had awakened the darker sexual needs inside her. With David she had been a curious virgin, an inexperienced but eager lover. With Kieran, she would be a woman, not afraid to ask for what she wanted, nor afraid to take it when offered. She would not blush at the sharing of her body with another, but indulge in the passion and pleasure to be found.
And there would be passion, and much pleasure with Kieran, she was certain.
Except to take what he offered would be a betrayal to David. To the vows she had said with such fervor. And yet, she knew her David was not coming back to her. Thinking to free her mind, Sinead reached around her waist and untied her apron then laid it on the worn work table. Crossing the small kitchen, she stood before the window that faced the forest. The trees were heavy with snow, the sun now below the horizon, casting grey and black shadows over the earth. The windowpanes were ice-covered, streaked with fern like lines of frosted snowflakes. Reaching out, she traced the path of one line, only to have a dark hand placed overtop hers. Slowly, his forefinger traced her fingers, one by one, then slipped down to her hand, where he traced the delicate blue veins beneath her pale skin.
For long seconds, she closed her eyes, savoring the gentle, erotic play of his hand on hers. His finger was calloused, rough, yet masculine and strong. She thought of those hands touching her more intimately, and she whimpered when she felt his finger slip to her wrist where he drew tiny circles over her bounding pulse. Greedily, she accepted his touch, absorbed it, clutching the memory for safekeeping where she could relive this moment night after night.
“You grow more lovely day after day. You intoxicate me until I cannot think of anything other than you.”
“I see it in your eyes. You want this. You’ve wanted it to happen since that first day I came to the cottage.”
She shook her head, denying what was the truth.
“I’ve wanted it, Sinead, your body, your warmth. I’ve dreamt of having you, dominating you, making you mine.”
“Do you know what they say about me in the village?” she asked, her voice sounding breathless.
His head dropped down beside hers. She heard him inhale deeply of her hair, then felt his chin brush her unbound hair. “Aye, I know what they call you. Witch. You enticed your husband, the second son of a noble family, with little more than a wicked spell and the promise of your luscious body. You made him give up everything for you, his family, his fortune, his friends, in order to have you as his wife.” Lips, warm and strong caressed the column of her throat in the softest of invitations. “Black widow,” he continued, “for they believe that after lying with you, you cast another spell to kill him. They say it was not the battle in the Crimean that saw to your husband’s demise but the spell of your body and your cursed love. They say you draw unsuspecting men into your sensual web where you seduce them, break them…fuck them,” he whispered darkly.
She shivered. He was coarse, yet her body responded as never before. Between her thighs she was wet, with just the sound of his voice whispered huskily in her ear. What if he were to touch her? What havoc he would cause inside her body, her soul.
“They say that while in the glimmer of ecstasy you enchant these men, you take their lives—the cost of sampling your abundant charms, and sensual mystery.”
“And are you not worried that you may turn out to be my next prey?”
“I do not believe in idle village gossip, nor the hurtful words of women who are filled with jealousy and intent on ruining the reputation of a good woman. And if it were indeed, true, that you are a merciless Black Widow who can cast spells and enchantments, I would risk it, just for a chance to share one night inside your body.”
“You would give up your life, to…to,”
“Take you?” he asked. “What other kind of death could a man wish for, Sinead, then to die between the thighs of the woman he has waited so patiently to come to him? Do you want that, Sinead,” he asked in a dark whisper that caressed her neck, “me between your thighs fucking you?”