Gift of the Holly King was originally published as part of the Babes in Toyland II anthology last year but today it’s been re-released as a stand-alone ebook with a gorgeous new cover! Just in time for Yule!
A Wiccan priestess recovering from a devastating accident comes face to face with the impossible when she senses the spirit of a holly tree. Ilex can’t believe he has feelings for a human, especially when he’s in service to the Goddess. Every year he must fight, and die, in her honor.
The path was well-defined and Kayleigh continued along it, sinking a little deeper into her trance. She loved the feel of nature and the trees around her. Alone in the woods, she could have been the only person in the world, at home with the Goddess and the sense of impending Yule.
Though not a major sabbat, she’d always had a special place in her heart for the Winter Solstice and the trappings of Yule. The knowledge that she was witnessing the longest night of the year always gave her hope. The adage that tomorrow would be a sunnier day was really true.
Tugging off her gloves, she reached out to caress the wide, craggy bark of a pine tree that had to be a hundred years old. She wouldn’t even be able to get her arms around half the trunk. Fingers quickly growing cold, she stuffed them and her gloves into her coat pockets.
Her steps took her further down the path, touching bushes and dodging the few spider webs that impinged on the trail. It seemed like she walked forever — away from the loud modern world and into a timeless, primeval realm.
Her breath caught, a sense of excitement flooding through her newfound peace. A shiver traced down her spine and goose bumps rose on her arms. A presence, an ancient, inhuman sense of wisdom and power, flooded over her mental shields. It seemed somehow masculine, deeper and rougher than the feminine Goddess energy she usually felt. And it was very close.
What is out here?
A blind turn in the path, around a large maple, brought her to the edge of a clearing. The crowded woods abruptly gave way to a grassy open space with a huge holly tree in the center, flanked by two smaller holly trees.
“Goddess, where have you brought me?” Her own whispered, reverent words seemed to flow out into the still otherworld of the clearing on the fog of her breath, twisting and turning as she stood in awe of what she saw and felt.
Every instinct and training told her this was no ordinary landscape feature. This was a sacred place of some sort and it belonged to the presence she felt. The huge, ancient holly tree in the center seemed to be the focus.
The longer she looked at the tree, the more she felt a need to touch it, to be near it. The smooth bark almost glowed in shades of tans, browns, yellows and golds. The spiky leaves were a glossy, dark green and created a lush canopy that overshadowed two smaller holly trees.
The overgrown grass, yellowed from the cold fall weather, was wet. It seemed deeply wrong to just walk into the clearing. That space belonged to the presence and no matter how much she wanted to get near the huge holly, she needed to remember she was only a visitor—an uninvited one at that. A wave of tingling electric sensations ran over her skin and just under it, an eerie sensation made it clear that whatever lived here had noticed her.