by Jennifer Allis Provost
Date of Publication: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Bellatrix Press
Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor Design
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Tagline: Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.
After Karina and her brother, Chris’s, lives fall apart in separate yet equally spectacular ways, they leave New York behind and head to the UK. Karina buries herself in research for her doctoral thesis, all the while studiously not thinking about the man who broke her heart, while Chris—who’d been a best-selling author before his ex-fiancée sued him for plagiarism—drinks his way across the British Isles.
In Scotland, they visit the grave of Robert Kirk, a seventeenth- century minister who was kidnapped by fairies. No one is more shocked than Karina when a handsome man with a Scottish brogue appears, claiming to be the Robert Kirk of legend. What’s more, he says he spent the last few hundred years as the Gallowglass, the Seelie Queen’s personal assassin. When they’re attacked by demons, Karina understands how dearly the queen wants him back.
As Karina and Robert grow closer, Chris’s attempts to drown his sorrows lead him to a pub, and a woman called Sorcha. Chris is instantly smitten with her, so much so he spends days with Sorcha and lies to his sister about his whereabouts. When Chris comes home covered in fey kisses, Karina realizes that the Seelie Queen isn’t just after Robert.
Can Karina outsmart the Seelie Queen, or is Robert doomed to forever be the Gallowglass?
I sped back to the ruined kirk, my knuckles white as I gripped the wheel. The real reason I didn’t get on Chris about his constant mooning over Olivia was that at least he and Olivia had had something. I’d had nothing with Jared. No it hadn’t quite been nothing, but it may as well have been. One thing that Chris and I had both learned on this trip is that an ocean is not nearly enough distance to outrun your past.
I parked in the kirk’s tourist lot, leapt out of the rental and ran across the bridge and up the fairy hill, startling some of the local wildlife along the way. When I reached the Minister’s Pine I was panting, my heart pounding as sweat poured down my back.
I had to find that quartz. I just had to.
I dropped to my knees and felt around near the base of the tree. I found my brush rather quickly, along with my hairclip and the stupidly expensive Mont Blanc pen that my advisor had given me when I earned my masters degree. But the quartz, the quartz wasn’t anywhere. The bits of lunch I’d had turned to lead in my stomach; if the quartz was gone, then it was really, truly over.
“Lookin’ for this, are ye now?”
I turned toward the voice, blinked, and pushed my glasses up to my forehead. Yeah, he was really there. Standing in front of me was a tall man in what I assumed was period dress. Instead of a kilt—we American girls tend to think that all Scotsmen run around in kilts, no matter the occasion; sadly, this is not the case—he was wearing a padded brown leather coat topped with chain mail, along with matching brown pants and well-worn leather boots. A helmet was tucked under his arm, and I could see the hilt of a claymore, one of those medieval broadswords that were so heavy you had to swing it with two hands, poking up over his shoulder. A shield rested next to the sword’s hilt, its curved edge just visible above the man’s shoulder.
I hadn’t realized they did reenactments at Doon Hill, and I made a mental note to check the brochure for show times. I also noticed that the actor had his hand extended, with my lump of rose quartz sitting on his open palm.
“Yes!” I got to my feet, and grabbed the stone. “Thank you,” I said once I remembered my manners, stroking the stone with my thumb. The man looked at me intently, his expression wavering somewhere between confusion and curiosity. “What made you think it was mine?”
“Saw ye drop it, I did,” he replied.
“And you’ve been waiting here since then?”
“I knew ye would be back for me.”
I blinked, since I must have misunderstood his accent. What I’d heard as ‘me’ must have really been ‘it’. Accents do tend to garble words. “I really appreciate you waiting for me. Thank you,” I said, extending my hand.
He eyed my hand, dark brows low over his blue eyes. Then he grasped my fingers and brought them toward his mouth.
“What are you doing?” I snapped, snatching my hand away.
“I thought ye wanted me to kiss your hand,” he explained.
“I wanted to shake your hand!” He looked befuddled rather than offended, so I attributed this to yet another cultural misunderstanding. It was becoming quite the list. “Well, regardless, thank you. I’m Rina.”
“Rina,” he repeated, that Scottish brogue of his making my nickname sound positively decadent. “’Tis quite an unusual name.”
“It’s short for Karina,” I explained. “Karina Siobhan Stewart,” I added, wondering why I’d felt compelled to give him my full name. Historically I’d only been called Karina Siobhan when I was in trouble.
“And I am Robert Kirk,” he said, extending his hand. This guy was way deep in character, like method actor deep. I shook his hand, and we both smiled.
“Good to meet you, Mr. Kirk.”
“Reverend Kirk,” he corrected.
“My apologies, Reverend Kirk.” These reenactors sure liked to stick to their roles, though I’d never expected to see a reverend wearing chain mail. We stood there for a moment, holding hands and grinning like a couple of fools, and I took the time to really look at him. He was older than me, probably a bit older than Chris too, with dark, tousled hair, chiseled features, and a roguish glint in his blue eyes. They had obviously picked reenactors that would appeal to the ladies.
“Do no’ fash, Karina lass, no offense was taken,” he murmured, and my cheeks were suddenly hot. I took back my hand, barely resisting the urge to fan myself.
“I should be going,” I said. “My brother’s waiting for me.” I scanned the area around the Minister’s Pine, ascertained that I’d left nothing else of import behind, and turned toward the path. A hand on my arm stopped me.
“Ye canna leave me here,” the reenactor said. “Ye must take me with ye.”
“What? No!” I faced him, planting my feet before him and whipping out my cell phone. “I don’t know what goes on here in Scotland, but I’m an American citizen. Stay back, or I’ll call 911.” I didn’t even know if they had 911 in Scotland. Would I have to call Scotland Yard instead? I hoped my phone had some kind of app for international emergencies. I waved my phone in what I hoped was a menacing manner, and Robert—or whatever his name was—eyed it as if it would bite him.
“Put away your tricks, lass,” he said. “It was ye what called me here in the first place.”
I shook my head. “This is an act, right? Reverend Kirk, freed at long last from the Minister’s Pine?”
“’Tis no act, lass. Would that it were.” He stepped closer, and took my hands in both of his. Robert’s hands were warm and callused, and, despite all this nonsense, comforting. “I am Robert Kirk himself, and ye have freed me no from just a tree, but from Elphame, and the Seelie Queen herself.”
“Elphame?” I asked.
“Aye,” he replied. “Some refer to it as the Fairy Realm.”
I leaned against the Minister’s Pine. He claimed he was from Elphame. Of course he was. How did I always attract the weirdos?
It was generally agreed that when magic left the world, it was because the fairy realm had closed its doors to humans. Some claimed that human industrialization, and its rampant use of iron, had caused the fae to retreat, while others claimed the global shift from pagan to monotheistic faiths was the culprit. No matter which theory you favored, the end result was the same; there was no new magic. For hundreds of years humans had made do with a few crumbling artifacts and enchanted items, but those items were wearing out too. It was as if magic had a half-life, and we’d long since passed the middle point.
“You can’t be from Elphame,” I said. “It’s closed. It’s been closed for centuries.”
“Has it, now? I will say this, when I was a boy the land was thick with magic. Ye could hardly walk the roads without encountering one o’ the Good People.”
“When you were a boy,” I repeated, then I remembered that Robert Kirk had lived in the seventeenth century. Magic hadn’t started disappearing until a century later. “Still, it’s closed now.”
“Just because a door has been closed, does no’ mean it canna be reopened.”
I slid down to the ground and Robert sat beside me, both of us leaning against the tree he’d recently emerged from.
Wait, when did I start believing him?
“So, um, you think all of this is real?” I ventured, gesturing around the clearing. “The legend and all?”
Robert smiled wanly. “Ye have heard o’ me, then?”
“They say you told the world of the fairies’ secrets, so they imprisoned you in a tree.”
“That is no the whole of the tale.” Robert closed his eyes as he leaned his head back against the trunk. “I did have dealings with the Good People, but it was no them who abducted me.”
“Then who did?”
“’Twas Nicnevin, the Seelie Queen herself.”
My jaw dropped, and if I hadn’t already been on the ground I would have fallen. As it was, my arm went out from under me, and my shoulder bumped into Robert. “Are ye all right, lass?” Robert asked.
“Yes,” I lied. There was nothing all right about this. “Why did the queen take you?”
“She fancied me,” he replied. “Offered me an apple, ye ken. I said no, it angered her, she cursed me. And here we are today.”
I looked up at him. He still had his head tipped back against the tree, his eyes closed. “That sounds like the ridiculously oversimplified version.”
At that, he opened his eyes and speared me with his gaze. “Would ye be likin’ all the details, then, lass?”
I swallowed. “Um, maybe not just yet.” My gaze moved from Robert’s face to the quartz in my hand. “What makes you think I freed you?”
“Ye made contact wi’ the tree, wishin’ to rescue me. Wishes are powerful things, ye ken.” Robert leaned over and touched the quartz. “Then ye dropped your stone, and a door opened for me. I ha’ been waitin’ for ye ever since.”
“Wishes are powerful things,” I repeated. “Why do you want to leave with me? You don’t even know me.”
“I know ye freed me, and that is no small thing,” Robert replied. “I also know that as soon as Nicneven kens I’ve left me post, she will send her creatures to retrieve me.”
“Aye. And I do no’ want to be here when they arrive.”
I took a deep breath and got to my feet, Robert following suit. Once we were standing I looked into his clear blue eyes, his guileless face, and sighed. He was either telling the truth, or he was the greatest actor in the world. Or I was the world’s biggest idiot; the jury was still out on that.
“Well, let’s go.”
“Go?” he repeated hopefully.
“If you’re telling the truth—and I’m not saying that you are—I can’t just leave you here. And, if you’re not telling the truth, I’ll drop you at the nearest police station,” I added, trying to act tough in front of the armored man with the sword.
Robert inclined his head, and took both of my hands in his. “Lass, soon enough ye will ken that I only speak what’s true.” He once again brought my knuckles to his lips; this time, I let him kiss me. It was nice, having one’s hand kissed by a dark, handsome man. “Karina Siobhan Stewart, I am now your charge, and I shall follow your every command.”
“Okay. Um.” I looked him over and issued my first command. “First of all, you can’t tromp around Aberfoyle wearing chain mail. You’re going to have to take off your armor.”
Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library). An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.
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