Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ritual Love, Beginnings: A Samhain Anthology Kate Davies

Excerpt: Ritual Love, Beginnings: A Samhain Anthology

“Naught but the one, me laird,” reported Keir, returned from his search through the grove.

Aedan nodded once, staring hard at the intruder. Behind them, the bonfire cracked and hissed, a reminder of the incomplete ritual. A pang of regret pierced him, but he set it aside for more serious matters.

A spy in their midst could spell the death of him—and of his men.

Two of his men held the stranger in a punishing grip, one to each arm. The stranger had struggled briefly, but subsided soon enough. Aedan did not doubt that those arms would sprout bruises afore long.

The spy glared at him, but said naught. And if Aedan did not miss his mark, there was a touch of fear in those eyes.

Good. He needed every weapon at his disposal in this battle. The element of fear was a powerful weapon, indeed.

One of the men jostled the intruder, who stumbled before pulling upright. “Look, I said I was sorry,” he said again, in his high clear voice.

Aedan frowned at the reminder of just how green this lad was. The first time he had spoken, it had taken all of Aedan’s skill to mask his surprise. Why, the lad’s voice had not changed yet. Had Columba truly sent a mere child to search out followers of the ancient rites?

Christians. In all his years, he would never understand them.

“It wasn’t deliberate,” the boy said, the words almost tripping over one another in their haste to escape his mouth. “I got lost in the fog. I know you neo-pagans take this seriously, so I’ll just go and let you commune with whatever you’re communing with. Okay?” He tugged once again at his captors’ grip, but they held fast.

Aedan narrowed his eyes. It did no good to let the lad chatter away when every second word was nonsense.

“Can’t you just let me go? Please?”

Aedan shook his head. “And let ye run back to Columba with tales of our forbidden rites? Nay, that I canna do.”


Keir stepped forward with a forbidding glare. “Do ye deny that Columba sent ye?”

“I don’t even know who you’re talking about,” the lad said.

At the blatant falsehood, Aedan crossed his arms over his chest. “Bind him,” he said with a nod to his men.

One of the men took both of the captive’s arms and tugged them behind his back, holding them fast. Another man brought out a length of rope and began to wind it around his wrists.

“What the hell?” The spy struggled in earnest now, twisting against his much stronger opponents. The strange garment he wore pulled taut against his chest, and…

Aedan stepped forward, eyes narrowed, as he looked at the captive more closely.


At the sound of his voice, all movement ceased. Even their intruder froze.

“I see I have been mistaken.” He took another step forward. “I thought ye were naught but a green lad.”


With one hand, he traced the intruder from the shoulder down, his palm skimming over the curve of her breasts, the indent of her waist, the luscious curve of her hip.

In dress and manner, she portrayed a man. But in truth, she was a woman born.

“How dare you?” The lass gave him a heated glare that rivaled the Samhain fire. “Who do you think you are?”

He straightened, a smile fighting to break free. She had spirit, this one did. “I am Aedan ap Crannog,” he said. “Laird of Ormaig. And the knowledge that ye are a woman changes all.”

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