Thanks for clicking over! Here are three samples from the stories in the Faerie Hearts romantic fantasy collection for your reading pleasure…
THE FAERIE MAIDEN OF THE OAKS
In the Realm of Faerie where the Bright Court gives way to the Dusklands, a fae woman waited. She was tall, as all spirits of the trees are, her red hair the color of a mortal sunset. The grove of trees encircling her rustled quietly in the wind, and overhead a few stars shone, never waxing or waning. Only the crescent moon sailed that gray charcoal sky, on its way to preside over the fey and midnight creatures of the Dark Court.
The woman stood, as still as the oak at her back. Finally, after a heartbeat or an eternity, the distant sound of a hunting horn rippled through the air. She swayed and closed her eyes, as green as new leaves in springtime. Then she turned and laid her hand upon the crinkled bark of the oak tree.
A door appeared, a soundless opening into darkness. With a feral smile, she stepped though.
“The faerie woman of the wood, is it?” The tavern keeper shook his head and plunked two flagons of ale onto the scarred wooden table. “Best take care, Conor O’Brien.”
Conor glanced up at the man. “I never asked for your opinion, Fergal. Let alone overhearing a private conversation.”
“Aye, well.” Fergal wiped his hands on the grubby apron tied about his waist. “If you bring trouble to Munster, we know who to blame.”
“The English are already here,” Conor’s companion, Teige, said darkly, grabbing his ale and taking a long draught.
“There’s trouble, and then there’s trouble,” the tavern keeper said.
“Leave me to choose my own, then.” Conor cocked an eyebrow at the man, then turned back to his friend, pointedly ignoring Fergal.
With a loud sigh, the tavern keeper went to tend his other patrons. No doubt he’d serve up the gossip alongside the red ale he brewed in the cellar. But there was little harm done. Few men would seek out the fair folk of their own accord.
Then again, Conor had always been outside the ordinary. It came, his mother had said, from being descended from Brain Boru, the greatest chieftain Ireland had ever known.
“I’m going to the grove tomorrow,” Conor said. “Perhaps I’ll catch sight of her again.”
It was nearly Samhain Eve, the night when the old year turned to the new and the doors between the worlds opened,
Teige gave him a mournful look. “And when you don’t return? When the fair folk snatch you away into their realm, what then? Who will become lord of Leamanagh Castle?”
“I’ll return,” Conor said, with more confidence than he should.
Still, he had no choice. His heart had been stolen, and he feared he would never get it back. But he must try.
HEART OF THE FOREST
Fanyaleth Lasgalen woke with a start from her moss-cradled sleep. The tall cedars of the forest waved above her in an invisible breeze, and she stared up at them from the green depths of her ferny bower. Something had echoed through her dreams—a strange, mournful call, a shimmer of magic…
Sitting, she lifted her palm and called a blue sphere of foxfire, then sent it to hover overhead. She’d been wandering the Erynvorn for three days, and was wary of encountering the strange creatures said to roam the depths of the forest. But her light revealed nothing dangerous—no insidious spawn of the Void that could only be vanquished by the power of a warrior-mage. No red-eyed dire wolves skulking in the underbrush, no scaled drakes or poison-fanged basilisks lurking, ready to pounce.
Not that Fanya was sure the latter creatures existed beyond the tales told to Dark Elf children to warn them to approach the Erynvorn with caution. If at all.
She’d had no choice, however. The prophecy spoken at her birth had commanded her to enter the dark bastion of the forest on the doublemoon after her seventeenth birthday. Since ignoring the Oracles was a sure path to madness and ruin, here she was, sleeping in the bracken, picking twigs from her long silver hair, and spending her days foraging for berries and mushrooms.
That shiver went through the air again, and Fanya rose, half crouching beneath the huge moss-covered log that had given her shelter. She dismissed her foxfire and took up her bow, which she’d laid close to hand. Quickly, she drew a sharp-tipped arrow from her quiver.
Something was coming toward her through the trees. Silver flashed, and she glimpsed a regal set of antlers. Then the creature was upon her, its graceful form soaring over her hiding place with a mighty leap.
As the White Hart sailed past, it sent her a look from one dark, liquid eye, as though it were trying to warn her. She caught her breath at its majesty, the luminous magic it trailed.
Then it was gone, and whatever was crashing through the underbrush after it burst through the trees. A figure on horseback, sword at his side, net in his hand. She hesitated a moment—but no one with pure intent would hunt the White Hart.
Fanya raised her bow, aiming for the rider’s shoulder. She wanted to wound, not kill.
Her arrow flew—just as his net descended over her, fouling her bow and pulling her arms against her sides with its weight. A cry of pain made her smile grimly, even as she twisted within the net. She might be snared, but her arrow had met its mark.
“Cruel beast,” the rider said, his words oddly accented. “How dare you wound me?”
He brought his mount to stop in front of her and slid down one-handed, clutching the arrow shaft protruding from the meat of his upper arm. Not quite what Fanya had intended, but close enough.
“How dare you hunt the White Hart?” she replied hotly. “It is a sacred creature.”
“But I’ve caught you, despite that.” The hunter grinned, though his smile turned to a grimace of pain as he leaned forward. “Now you owe me my heart’s desire.”
Belatedly, Fanya realized she was facing a mortal man. His oddly short hair should have alerted her, his strange human eyes and round-tipped ears—just as in the tales her people told. It had been a long time since a human had been spotted in the Erynvorn, however. Clearly, the White Hart had brought him.
“Let me go,” she said, forcing one elbow through the net. Given time, she’d be able to free herself, but it would be much easier if he’d simply remove it.
“Not until you grant my wish.” Despite his bold words, he ended with a small grunt of pain.
She narrowed her eyes. “Free me, and I’ll pull my arrow from your arm and dress the wound.”
He glanced down at the protruding shaft, then back at her. “Although that’s a pressing need, it’s not my heart’s desire.”
“I’d think not bleeding to death on the forest floor would be anyone’s wish.”
“The injury’s not that bad.” He sent her a smile, his jaw clenched in obvious pain.
“Are all humans so foolishly stubborn? I nearly pierced your arm straight through.” She impatiently shrugged at the net covering her. “Release me, and I’ll help you.”
THE SALT PRINCESS
The first light of dawn lay soft over the hills outside Castle Clare, but the forest shadows still held the cool breath of night. Brianne O’Leary made her careful way through the underbrush, her green woolen cloak wrapped tightly about her, the hem dark with dew. Declan waited for her in the clearing where the ancient oak tree grew, and her heart sped at the thought of him.
In the charcoal darkness before sunrise, she’d crept from her room in the bower, where she slept with her two older sisters, and slipped out of the castle. Past the slumbering guard at the gate – and wouldn’t her father, the king, have stern words if he were to hear of that dereliction of duty – past the fields and farms, and finally into the sheltering woods. It was the only place she could meet with Declan, away from prying eyes and wagging tongues. For he was a miller’s son, and she was a princess, and her father would never allow them to wed.
Indeed, the king was in the midst of arranging marriages for all three of his daughters. Advantageous matches with neighboring lords that would cement his power in the west. Brianne had told him she had no desire to marry Lord Inchiquin, who was nearly twice her age, but the king had only laughed and waved his hand.
“It’s not for you to choose, daughter,” he said.
“But I don’t care for him. His breath smells of old cheese.” Brianne prided herself on always telling the truth, though her older sisters had scolded her for it more often than not.
“Must you be so blunt?” Colleen had said, when Brianne told her that her new gown was unflattering.
“It’s insulting,” Eva had agreed. “Just because we ask for your opinion doesn’t mean you have to answer so rudely.”
“If you don’t want to hear the truth, then don’t ask,” Brianne had said, a touch indignantly. “I won’t be lying to spare your feelings.”
Ever since their mother had died – although the king had assured his daughters the queen was going to recover from her illness – Brianne had no taste for sweet untruths. She far preferred the straightforward to the circuitous. Even if it angered her sisters.
“I’ll forgive you,” Colleen said, tossing her dark plait over her shoulder, “but only if you help make supper tonight.”
Brianne lifted one eyebrow. It was true that she’d a Talent for cookery, and she enjoyed her time in the kitchen, but she disliked the extortion.
“I will, at that,” she said. “Though not because you ask. Forgive me, or not, I don’t care.”
In fact, the hunters had brought in a brace of hares, and she had a rabbit stew recipe she was eager to try. The cook was happy for Brianne’s help, and the warm kitchen of Castle Clare was where Brianne felt closest to the memory of her mother. The queen had taught her how to bake and blend, fillet and fry, season and salt. She’d had a rare magic that way, too.
Indeed, like their mother, each of the princesses had a touch of the old Gifts. Brianne’s affinity for cooking went far beyond the usual, her dishes flavorful and unique even when she only had the most ordinary ingredients at hand.
Colleen had a way with metal, able to polish up silver with the simple swipe of a rag, or find any lost coins that had rolled away. Once a month she spent the day in the local smithy, where the blacksmiths swore they were able to work three times faster and turn out higher-quality work than without her presence.
Eva’s water empathy was useful, as well. She was in demand as a dowser when the farmers wanted to dig a new well, and her bath water almost never went cold, no matter how long she chose to stay in the large tub they used for bathing.
The king was pleased that his daughters had such useful skills, although right after the queen’s death, Brianne had been banished from the kitchen for over-salting the food with her tears.
Her grief had become more manageable over time. But the second anniversary of the queen’s death was fast approaching, sending a shadow of memory over the inhabitants of the castle. Still, Brianne’s blossoming relationship with Declan had reminded her that happiness existed in the world, too, hand-in-hand with sorrow.
She’d gone to the mill for a special sack of finely ground barley flour and ended up spending nearly an hour talking with the miller’s handsome son. For nearly a year now, they’d snuck out to meet one another in the forest, though Declan’s duties at the mill were taking up more and more of his time.
He was waiting for her beneath the oak, his brown hair the glossy color of ripe chestnuts, his hazel eyes like midsummer leaves, his smile warmer than the fire upon the great hearth of the castle. Brianne’s heart gave a thump of joy at the sight of him.
“Declan,” she called, and ran across the damp grasses to be folded into his embrace.
Thank you for reading these excerpts – I hope you come join the campaign!