He used to believe in magic…
Kaiden Nelson looked like every other Marine, only most of his guys didn’t grow up in a family of nudists, celebrating the wheel of the year and the lunar cycles. His buddies wouldn’t name him a witch, either. But after more than a decade at war, Kaiden isn’t sure he can—or even wants to lay claim to that calling anymore. He’s got too much blood on his hands and he’s tired…tired of war, tired of fighting. Some days…he’s tired of living. When he’s sent on leave for the holidays, he’s unsure if he can ever really go home again.
She’s a candle in the night…
Rowan Harper lives in two worlds, the mundane where she handles tech issues for a major corporation and the pagan where she celebrates the sabbats and esbats with her coven. Like so many in the region, she keeps her beliefs private. It makes life more bearable from others who would judge, and she likes nothing better than the great sabbat retreats the coven takes to the sprawling Lake House. It’s a time where she sheds the shackles of everyday life and embraces the divine.
The wheel turns…
When Kaiden turns up at the coven Yule, his Circle of family and friends are eager to welcome him. He feels unworthy of the open warmth and shies away to the darkness, but Rowan refuses to leave him in the shadows. Can the inexorable pull of one woman help him face down his demons as they hold vigil against the longest night of the year?
There is yet another holiday that occurs in December, that of the Winter Solstice also known as Yule. This book is set in that holiday.
Kaiden comes home for Yule for the first time in a long time. Serving as a Marine, he is now conflicted and not sure he belongs anymore. After all a cardinal rule is ‘an it harm none’.
Arriving at the Lake house for the holiday he is greeted by Rowan. She is beauty and grace personified.
In spite of his parents trying to match them up, Rowan and Kaiden stumble their way into a relationship. This is a favorite scene as they get to know one another.
“So why don’t you quit?” He rolled onto his side, no longer bothering to pretend he had more interest in the view overhead than the woman sprawled next to him. Her eyebrows climbed.
“Why don’t you?”
“Marines don’t quit.”
“They also don’t leave men behind,” she murmured.
“No, ma’am. They don’t.” The rocks on his chest compressed.
She didn’t turn away from him, holding his gaze long enough he could see the sadness and concern creep into her eyes. “So why did you leave yourself over there?”
Shock rippled up his spine, and his mind locked. “What?”
“You’re still there, Kaiden.” She rolled onto her side, mirroring his posture, and cupped his cheek with a cool palm. “Something bad happened to you—or maybe a lot of something bads. I don’t know. You can tell me to butt out. I won’t be offended.”
“Are you psychic?” He rejected the question even as he asked it, since it didn’t take a psychic to read his body language. The wariness he’d seen in the eyes of his friends and family—the seemingly unsurpassable gulf surrounding him lent more credence to her words than anything else.
“I’ve been accused of being psychotic before.” Light teasing sprinkled the statement, and she grinned.
Another rusty laugh broke loose. She began to withdraw, but he captured her wrist and kept her palm to his cheek. It was soft, softer than anything he’d felt in a long time. “I’m pretty messed up.”
“Okay.” Acceptance, no questions.
“You’re not asking me why.” He couldn’t quite wrap his mind around the concept.
“I think questions might harm you, and I don’t need you to tell me anything. But I will listen if you want to.” The salve of her kindness soothed the abrasions in his soul. “I’m going to hug you, okay?”
“Why?” Not that he minded.
She smiled and scooted closer, wrapping her arms around him. “So you’ll lie down and gaze at the sky and know you’re here, and not there. You’re not alone.”
The lean softness of her fit him perfectly and he settled onto his back, curving an arm around her to tuck her in closer. She nestled her head on his shoulder.
“Breathe,” she whispered, and he let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “And just be.”
The scent of cherry blossoms teased him, and he had to wonder if it was her shampoo or a perfume. Grass cushioned him, the woods surrounded him, the sun warmed his face, and the muscles in his back relaxed. Rowan massaged her palm against his chest in slow, easy circles. Bit by bit, his arms shuddered with the release of tension.
“Are you really single?” he asked, one-hundred-percent sure what he wanted for her answer.
“Yes, I’m really single.” She chuckled and the vibration teased him. “I’m not dating anyone, either. But you need to concentrate on relaxing, not on me.”
The answer satisfied him—for now. “Don’t go away,” he told her.
“I won’t.” And she didn’t. He had no idea how long he lay there, but eventually his eyes closed. Breathing exercises, not so long-forgotten that he couldn’t manage them, helped to steady his heartbeat. Sleep stole over him, and he let it, aware of her head resting on his shoulder and the warmth of her cuddled to his side.
Long, Heather. Marine Under the Mistletoe (Always a Marine series Book 19) (Kindle Locations 389-417). Decadent Publishing Company, LLC. Kindle Edition.
A heartwarming tale, the story of Yule, and a treat that makes the holiday sweeter.
I laughed and sniffled as this conflicted man works his way to peace and love with the help of a sensitive, intuitive woman.
5 Contented Purrs for Heather!
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USA Today bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas in the summertime.
From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories–her characters drive the books.
When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.