The first one is from The Spirit of the Place (Oberon, book 6) which is also included in the second Oberon box set, Return to Oberon.
In this excerpt, Marsha explains some of her Winter Solstice traditions to her fiance, Sam.
Marsha stood at her living room window and stared out at the blackness. It had been a long, long, tiring day, even if it was, technically, the year’s shortest. The last of her guests had finally departed, and still, the longest night of the year was only half over.
“You look tired, angel,” Sam murmured, coming up behind her to massage her shoulders and plant a soft kiss on her cheek. “Why don’t we go to bed now, and leave the rest of the clean up for morning?”
“I am tired,” Marsha agreed, as she relaxed against him, breathing a happy sigh. She turned her head to smile at him over her shoulder. “You can go ahead, if you want to, Sam. I’m gonna stay up—or at least, try to. It’s kind of traditional to keep vigil at the solstice, and stay awake until sunrise.”
“Really?” Sam looked surprised. “And what exactly do you do during this vigil?”
Marsha shrugged. “Well, it depends. It’s a change of cycle, you see, from dark to light, so I’ve always liked to spend it thinking about the past and making plans for the future. But, that’s just me. A lot of people pass the time baking cookies, or bread, or whatever else they plan to eat for breakfast the next morning. Making wishes for the new year. Celeste always made rice pudding with crystallized ginger and dried fruit. I don’t know if there was any particular significance to it, it was just...” It was just something she always did. Spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and eaten cold, it always seemed to Marsha that the dish evoked a feeling of bright sunshine on even the darkest winter’s day.
“You really miss her, don’t you?” Sam’s voice was soft with sympathy.
Marsha nodded, too overcome to speak. It was too cold at the window, the night too dark, and she felt…vulnerable, exposed. As though hostile forces might crash through the insubstantial glass and steal away her happiness. She turned away, and went to sit on the couch, where the fire’s heat could warm her, where the fire’s light could keep her safe.
Even now, after a year and a half, it still seemed so impossible that Celeste could be gone. It was like a bad dream, one that would surely be over soon?
“I’m sorry we never actually met,” Sam said, as he sat beside her, and took hold of her hand. “I imagine I would have liked her.”
Marsha smiled at him. “I think she would have liked you, too.” She had a feeling Celeste would have enjoyed matching wits with Sam, although it was possible there would have been a little jealousy there, as well. As there had been with Alex.
Marsha had loved Celeste as a friend, and always would, but she was never in love with her. Not the way Celeste wished she could be. It was something her friend had seemed to accept, but still, there was always a doubt in the back of Marsha’s mind. How much of Celeste’s dislike of Alex was actually due to envy?
That doubt was the main reason she hadn’t confided in Celeste when her marriage began to crumble. And it was why she never mentioned the spells she’d taken to casting on Alex, until it was too late. How different would her life have turned out if she’d had the sense to listen to her friend, all those years ago?
Sam gave her hand a little squeeze. “So, all this thinking and planning, is it something you need to be alone to do? Or can someone keep you company?”
Someone? She smiled at him once more. “Well, that depends. Is the someone you, Sam? Because, you know the answer to that is always yes.”
They stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment, and then he leaned in and kissed her, soft and sweet.
A wave of peace washed through her. I am so lucky, she thought, as he gathered her into his arms. I am so blessed to have this chance, to have this man in my life, to know even this much happiness, for however long it lasts. She felt his love surround her, bringing light into her darkness, and she closed her eyes, and gave herself over to the feeling of being loved, unconditionally.
The room around her wavered. Worries and concerns that had plagued her ceased to matter. Their love was a sacrament, as real and as holy as any prayer she could offer, any ritual she could perform. And, like all things sacred, it existed outside of ordinary reality, in a place where space and time could bend and change and melt together. Where dreams of the past and memories of the future could coexist in an endless present.Where love, changeless and evergreen, reigned supreme.
Read more about this title here: http://www.oberoncalifornia.us/Return.htm
Next up is Iron. This is the scene where Gavin comes face to face with one of Winter's princes:
Stray sunbeams piercing the gloomy gray sky lit up the landscape like visions of heaven. They did nothing to lighten [Gavin's] mood, however. Neither did the sight of the horseman stopped in the middle of the road just where it crested the hill overlooking the forge. The stranger’s aristocratic features were set in a sneer as he gazed down at Gavin’s demesne, causing an upwelling of territorial pride and anger in the smith’s heart.
“Can I help ye then?” Gavin asked as he came to a swaggering stop several feet from the stranger. If truth be told, between the drink and the bitterness besetting his spirits, he was spoiling for a fight; and the idea of wiping the boreen with this arrogant-looking young prick seemed all too appealing.
The horseman turned to him, a look of cold surprise on his face. Gavin was surprised, as well, and none too pleased. Bless my soul, if it’s not another bloody, damned Fae. ’Tis a fekkin’ plague of t’em, is what it is. This one had the look of a hunter, though, and coming so close on Aislinn’s heels it didn’t take a genius to figure out it must be he from whom she was running.
Not my kind, Aislinn had said of the fae that was in pursuit of her, and now that he’d had a look at him Gavin was much inclined to agree; the two were as different as day and night. As he took in the wintry expression in the stranger’s eyes, the cruel curl of his mouth, he felt the hackles rise on his neck. His temper flared hotter, burning off the effects of the alcohol, leaving him clear-headed, alert and murderously calm. How now, you cheeky devil? he thought angrily. You think you can just ride up to my door, bold as you please, and take her away from me, is that it? Well, think again.
Even without the promise she’d wrung from him and despite the anger he still harbored toward her; without knowing anything beyond what his senses had already told him about either fae, or anything at all about the argument between them, Gavin knew he’d not be handing Aislinn over to this brigand. Not without a fight.
But what weapons did he have with which to fight against one such as this? Despite the somewhat effete cast to the fae’s features, Gavin could sense the power that lay coiled inside him, as cold and deadly as any serpent.
“I’m looking for someone,” the stranger drawled at last. He had a voice like dry leaves scuttling across bare rock.
His mind racing as he searched for a solution, Gavin let his face relax into a drunken leer in an attempt to buy himself some time. “Lookin’, is it? Well, sure and I’d say you’dfound someone. Or amn’t I someone then?”
The stranger shook his head impatiently. “I’m seeking a particular someone. A woman. A young lady, in fact. Tall, with long, blonde hair, quite fair to look upon, she’s to be my bride. I thought to meet up with her hereabouts, but she seems to have ... gone astray.”
“Yerra,” Gavin shook his head sorrowfully. “’Tis a turrible t’ing that, young ladies goin’ astray. Have ye searched down in Cork for her? That’s usually where they end up, you see, on the streets o’ Cork City.”
“’Tis not what I meant,” the fae replied, staring down his nose at the smith. “I believe she passed through here quite recently. Perhaps you might have seen her?”
“What’s that?” Gavin feigned horror. “Me? Keeping company with some harlot outta Cork? Are ye daft, man? Who’s been telling such lies? You’ll have the missus down on me poor head if you go about spreading such stories as that!”
“Enough of your nonsense,” the stranger uttered in frosty tones. “Silence!”
Gavin fell dumb as the interdiction hit him. Like a cold hand it wrapped around his neck stealing his speech, almost stealing his air entirely. His heart labored as he struggled to breathe. Meanwhile, the stranger’s horse tossed its head and stamped impatiently, teeth snapping as it extended his neck in Gavin’s direction.
“Now, tell me,” the fae demanded, attempting to fix Gavin with his steely gaze, as he urged his restless mount forward. “Have ye or have ye not seen, or heard tell of, the woman I seek?”
It took all the willpower Gavin possessed to keep from answering; or to keep his eyes from meeting that fell gaze, but he knew he was as good as lost if he did. So he focused his attention on the stranger’s horse, instead. With an Irishman’s appreciation for horseflesh, he couldn’t help but be impressed, even despite the danger he was in. It was a beautiful creature, with eyes of coal, a dappled gray coat that shone with the same dull gleam as pewter, deadly white teeth, and those hooves--black as iron and probably just as heavy--ripe to cut a man down with a single kick, he didn’t doubt. Suddenly, Auld John’s words came back to him: “Nary a fae can abide the black metal--and their steeds be just the same.” And Gavin knew he had just one chance to save himself.
“I see how ’tis now,” he muttered, nodding like a simpleton, though it was a battle to say anything that was not in answer to the fae’s question. He dropped his packages carefully on the dried grass at the side of the road, hands fumbling slightly as the dug into his jacket pockets. But as they closed around his all-but-forgotten tools, he felt the pressure from the fae’s spell ease. “Sure and your beastie must have a stone stuck in his hoof, to put him in so foul a mood. But, ‘tis your lucky day, for I’ve just the thing for it.” And, so saying, he held up the implements of his trade--hoof parers and cleaning knife. The gray reared in alarm. Eyes flashing, whinnying fearfully, it stamped and twisted as it tried to back away from the smith.
“Put those away, you fool!” the fae ordered, savagely working the reins while his horse continued to pivot and buck in its efforts to distance itself from the iron.
“Now, now,” Gavin soothed, keeping an eye out for those hooves as he moved closer to the frightened animal. “It must be hurting him turrible to put him in such a state. But ’twill be all right. Just hold him still, can’t you?” Reaching out, he quickly swiped the tip of the parers along the horse’s flank, as though he were striking a match. The response was every bit as immediate and inflammatory.
The horse let out a scream of pain, as though it had been burnt; its hind legs shot out in a vicious kick that had Gavin jumping back to stay out of range, and that nearly unseated its rider. Then it bolted down the road, while the fae, howling furiously, tried in vain to halt its flight.
“Yerra,” Gavin jeered after them. “Off with ye then.” Laughing softly, he watched the pair disappeared from view. “And a good riddance to ye both.” Then he pocketed his tools, collected his parcels and resumed his journey.
Read more here: http://www.pgforte.com/IronExcerpt.htm
Finally, an unedited excerpt from The Oak King...
December, 1895. At the time of the Winter Solstice…
“You’re thinking about him again, aren’t you?”
At the sound of her husband’s voice so close behind her, Aine’s thoughts scattered like a flock of wild birds flushed out of hiding. She paused in the act of lighting the solstice candles in her parlor window and turned round to face him. The look on Fionn’s face, so brooding and unhappy, caused an ache in Aine’s heart. For all that he’d wronged her by tricking her into this marriage, keeping the truth of his nature a secret until after they’d wed, Aine still loved him. For an instant, she even considered denying the charge, but what good would that do? If the guilty blush heating her cheeks hadn’t already given her away, there was still naught that would be solved by lying. Nor would she insult them both by asking Fionn who he meant. He could only be referring to Kieran, Fionn’s other half, his opposite number and Aine’s…
Ah, well, that was the question, now wasn’t it? What was Kieran to her?
He wasn’t family. Though he and Fionn were as intimately connected as twins, their lives forever entwined, the two men were definitely not brothers. He wasn’t her lover yet either, no matter how much she might desire him, or how much Fionn might fear that was already the case. In fact, now that she’d thought on it, she did know what Kieran was to her. He was a geis—a curse. He was a burden she’d taken on, all unknowing, when she’d married Fionn, one she must now live with for six months out of every year.
Very soon, Kieran would be by her side once again with those eyes that seemed to gaze straight into her soul—and which also gave away far more of his own feelings than he ever intended—with a smile that could tempt even the most virtuous of angels into sinning and a voice that…well, even thinking about it now caused her heart to race and her chest to ache with longing.
Strong but wounded, charming yet aloof, handsome, tormented, and just the slightest bit wicked—had there ever been a more enticing combination in a man? Just like last year, he’d soon be sleeping under her roof, sharing the meals she cooked, keeping her company throughout the long winter nights and soft spring days whilst Fionn was away…
In truth, the prospect excited her far more than it should.
Aine shook her head. She could hardly tell her husband that! “The solstice is nigh upon us, my love,” she said instead.. “’Twould be wondrous strange were I not to be thinking of him at such a time. Would it not?”
“Aye,” Fionn replied in grudging tones. “I suppose it would at that.”
Aine felt her gaze soften as she looked upon her husband. He was so handsome, so serious, so concerned—and he looked so completely out of place in her little parlor, which she supposed he was. He appeared larger than life somehow, also not a great surprise.
Even in the depths of winter, Fionn’s skin retained the same rosy flush she’d observed when first they’d met, as though he spent every day standing outside in the hot sun. He radiated warmth, vitality and strength—the very picture of every lush, summer day that had ever been, all rolled into one. All hers to enjoy. The thought sent a delicious thrill rushing through her, as it did each time she remembered it. Tonight, however, it also brought a renewed sense of urgency. For with Kieran’s arrival, Fionn would once again be forced to leave her.
Six long months would pass before they would see each other again and all she’d have to carry her through them was the memory of these days together. She ached to once more feel his body on hers—now, while she still had the chance. She yearned for those strong arms to wrap around her and hold her close, for those sure, masterful hands to caress her skin and bring her to ecstasy over and over again. The time left to them grew so short.
“’Tis you I married,” she said at last, for that was so much more important than the rest. “I bid you remember that, Fionn. ’Tis you who are my husband.”
“Aye. That I am.” A satisfied smile curved Fionn’s lips. His eyes lit up with a fierce, possessive gleam. Holding out his hand, he beckoned to her. “Now come here to me, wife, and let me remind you of that fact.”
Read more here: http://www.pgforte.com/OakKingExcerpt.htm
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