Monday, August 31, 2009
First Excerpt A Highlander Christmas
Okay, here goes. The first excerpt--the meet and greet-- between Isobel and Prince Daegan. As Prince of the Night Sidhe, Daegan can shapeshift, and his beast is a gorgeous White Hart. (Imagine a majestic stag, that's pure white)
In this excerpt, Isobel has gone into the woods at night to search for her hart, after her twin tride to hunt it. This is Isobel meeting Daegan for the first time, in his Hart form....
She’d saddled her mare quickly, retrieved the bag she kept hidden for her secret moonlit rides, and threw on a cloak and scarf, which she secured with her clan pin. Then she charged the short distance to the woods where she tethered her mare to a tree.
Whatever Alistair had said about people going into the woods, never to be seen again, she didn’t care. She needed to find her stag and make sure he had survived the hit from Ewan’s arrow. The hart had consumed her thoughts. The memory of his eyes haunted her. There was an almost human quality to them, and that look he had given her before running off? She didn’t understand it, but it compelled her to find him, to make certain he was still alive.
She didn’t think she had been gone long from the house, but when she looked up and saw the darkening skies over the barren tree tops, she knew she had tarried too long in the forest. But her senses, the same ones that told her to flee, were certain that the white hart was close by.
Carefully she stepped between the exposed roots of the giant oaks, holding on to their trunks for support. The caw of a bird startled her, and she looked up to see an enormous raven lift off the branch of a tall Scotch pine. It circled above her, dipping low, flying between the trees, then circling back. Despite the waning light and the dim moonbeams which could not penetrate through the thick canopy of pines, Isobel saw, or rather felt, the bird’s predatory gaze boring into her.
I only want to see my hart, and then I shall leave this place.
Stumbling over the roots and the thick underbrush of hawthorn, Isobel walked deeper into the woods, conscious of a sense of foreboding that worked its way down her spine.
The raven, she saw, continued to follow her, but he no longer circled her like a hawk circling a mouse. Now he flew from branch to branch, following her progression into the forest, its head cocking with what could only be described as curiosity.
Curiosity had killed the cat.
She hoped tonight she was not the feline in question.
Rounding a group of rowan trees, Isobel stopped abruptly. In a shaft of moonlight, beneath the leafless canopy of an old oak, lay her hart. He was asleep on the ground, hind legs buried beneath his great, muscular hide. His forelegs curled like that of a dog. His head, with the enormous rack, was pillowed on the snow that glistened with crimson drops of blood.
Its eyes flew open, and for seconds, the animal didn’t move. Its hide did not even flicker in agitation. There was nothing to show her that the animal was startled. No evidence that he would run from her.
Creeping forward, she extended a hand, whispering softly, “I won’t hurt you.”
He watched her, his large black eyes following her every move until she was a few steps from him. Then he lunged to his feet. His head dipped low, and she reached out to touch him, running her fingers down the slope of his muzzle. The stag allowed the touch, and she saw his eyes close as if he savored the feel of her fingers on him.
He was incredibly soft, his pelt like silk, the color unlike anything she had seen before. In the daylight he had been white, but in the moonlight he glowed almost silver, an incandescent color that was beautiful and otherworldly. It was as if his pelt absorbed the moonbeams and turned them into glistening crystals.
She studied the rack that Ewan had wanted as a trophy. It was wide and heavy. Awe-inspiring. Capable of impaling her and shredding her to bits. She trembled at the thought of feeling the thrust of his antlers through her chest, and she shrieked when she felt the warm wetness on her hand. When she looked down, she half expected to see her own blood on her palm, but there was nothing there save the stag’s mouth gently nuzzling her hand. Then the flat of his head was in her palm, and he was brushing against her like a kitten. His eyes were closed, nostrils flared, taking in her scent as he pressed closer to her, encouraging her to touch him.
“You are the most beautiful beast I have ever seen,” she whispered as she stroked one of the curling antlers. His hide flickered, shivering, and he lowered his head farther, encouraging another touch. “Such strength and power,” she murmured, “yet grace and gentleness, too.”
His head lifted, and he looked down at her. Standing beside her, his chest broad and lean, he dwarfed her with his size. He was any hunter’s prize kill, yet the thought of this magnificent animal slaughtered and stuffed made her feel ill. This regal stag was made to run free.
“He did hurt you,” she whispered as she saw the angry red mark on the animal’s side. She brushed her fingers over the wound, which looked superficial. While no doubt painful, it would not prove deadly. The stag sidestepped her touch, prancing just far enough away to evade her fingers, yet he kept close to her, circling her. She felt him at her side, her back. The ends of her hair tangled in his antlers, and she thought she heard him inhale deeply of the heather-scented soap she had used that morning.
You are mine, she heard whispered on the winter wind that made its low howl through the leafless branches.
Suddenly she felt warm, her legs weak, her belly fluttering with the sudden release of butterflies. It was a man’s voice. Dark. Sensual. Compelling.
Stay with me.
She trembled once more as the stag pressed closer, his muzzle now bent to her neck. Puffs of gray vapor rose between them and she closed her eyes, disconcerted by feelings that swam in her.
Something touched her, a hand on her shoulder, the press of lips against the bounding pulse of her throat. She felt the harsh exhalation of a held breath, followed by the movement of her hair over her shoulder.
The raven cawed loudly and swooped down between them, drawing the stag’s attention. Confused and frightened, Isobel bolted and ran over the uneven ground, falling to her knees over large, distended tree roots. Branches tore at her hair and the tartan scarf she had wrapped around her neck. Pulling the wool, she continued running, never once looking back until she broke free of the branches that seemed to have tried to keep her within the forest.
When she at last turned back, she saw the white stag standing on the edge of the forest watching her, his great chest heaving. His black eyes compelling her back to him.
She walked away, unable to stop looking back over her shoulder. The stag was still there, still watching her.
Next time, she heard through the night sky. Next time you will not run from me.
It's the day after, and in this next excerpt, in Daegan's pov, he meets her as a man....
She was the loveliest woman he had ever seen. Despite the fact that her glorious red hair was covered by the hood of her velvet mantle. Even with the shadows that concealed her pale skin and wide blue eyes, Daegan knew it as the truth. Isobel MacDonald was stunningly beautiful.
He had seen that beauty last night, when he had come to her in a dream. He had tasted her sweetness as her lips parted beneath his. He had felt her passion as he pressed her back on the bed and touched her.
Even now, he could still feel the tentative touch of her fingertips against his cheeks, his shoulders. She was innocent, but beneath her purity, there was a passion that burned hot.
Her gloved hands came up to her hood and she shoved it back, revealing a cascade of auburn ringlets that fell artfully from her coiffure. Her eyes were just as wide and clear as last night, yet he saw something different in them—awareness. That she was aware of him, that the memories of them together were flooding her consciousness made his blood hot. The animal in him wanted to press her back against the tree and mate with her. The Sidhe in him wanted her thoroughly enchanted before he claimed her and made her his. A quick rut was not what his Sidhe half desired. Only a full night exploring her body would satisfy him.
“How did you come by my pin, sir?” she asked breathlessly.
He could tell she recalled the dream and what she had allowed him to do. It was there in her eyes, the way her body seemed to grow lax. The perfume of her arousal that seemed to cloak him.
It was fortunate he had found the clan pin, for with his magic he had used it to enter her dreams. Once she had the pin back in her possession, the spell would cause her to return to him night after night in the groves of Annwyn.
“Sir?” she asked warily. “How did you come by my pin, and how did you know it belonged to me?”
“Are you not Isobel MacDonald of MacDonald Hall?”
She lifted her chin. “Yes.”
“Then this is yours. I found it while wandering the woods on my morning walk.”
“You have me at a disadvantage, sir.” she said, her gaze taking him in from head to toe. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
He smiled as he stepped closer to her. “Is that true, Isobel?”
She sucked in a breath as he came to stand directly before her. “I . . . I do not recall being introduced, sir.”
“I am Daegan, prince of these woods. Perhaps now you recall our acquaintance?”
Her eyes flared and her breathing grew harsh. “I am quite sure you are not known to me.”
He reached out and she flinched. He soothed her with a whisper as he attached the pin to her cloak. “I know you well, Isobel. And I intend for you to know me just as intimately.”
Isobel could hardly breathe. How could he be here standing before her. The man from her dream. Daegan. She remembered his name, that he had claimed to be a prince. She had thought it a bit of fancy, a remnant from a young woman’s childish fantasies of being a princess swept off her feet by a handsome prince. She hadn’t truly believed that the man was real, nor could she have imagined him being even more handsome and virile in person.
“Ah, I think the lady doth remember,” he murmured as his knuckles raked along her cheek. “Is it all coming back now, muirnín?”
“I. . .I dreamed of you,” she said. Blushing, she immediately looked away, but he lifted her chin to have her look upon him.
“More than that. Last night, I came to you in your sleep.”
His thumb, warm and soft, caressed her chin, then slid upwards toward the corner of her mouth, eliciting a warmth that rushed through her veins. “And . . . and . . .” Isobel swallowed hard, unable to finish or concentrate on anything other than Daegan’s thumb stroking her.
“And we kissed. Touched.”
She licked her dry lips, remembering how, and where he had touched her. “Am I dreaming now? I must be, for how can any of this be possible?”
“No. You are not dreaming. ’Tis real, this meeting. ’Tis fate.”
The sound of twigs and branches snapping beneath heavy footfalls shattered the tension that had grown between them. Daegan narrowed his eyes and growled at the disturbance.
“I cannot see you again,” she said, glancing at the open space where any second the earl might happen upon them.
“But you will, Isobel. You will. Tonight is the winter solstice, and when the moon is full, you will come to me, and I will tell you all you wish to know, and I will make you mine.”