BEGINNINGS: RITUAL LOVE
originally published in the Beginnings anthology (out of print)
by Kate Davies
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release date: Oct., 2006
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Scientist Moira Sinclair doesn’t believe in magic. Or at least she hasn’t since childhood. She’s only come to Iona in remembrance of her long-deceased grandmother, the last person who encouraged her fanciful side. But now she’s stumbled onto a secret druid ritual—and into another time.
Aedan Ap Crannog is furious to discover an outsider spying on their sacred, banned Samhain rites. With her strange garb and stranger mannerisms, Moira is unlike any woman he’s ever known. But she could cause trouble for him and the people who follow him in the ancient ways. To prevent her from sounding the alarm, he takes her captive, hiding her in the labyrinth of caves along the far shore.
Despite their differences, sparks burn between them as brightly as the Samhain bonfire. Now captive and captor must find a way to bridge the centuries before the magic disappears with the dawn…
© 2006 Kate Davies
Her jaw dropped. “What?”
“Samhain,” he said.
“What about it?”
“‘Tis the time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is lifted. And if the dead can walk among the living, why could a living soul not travel across time, as well?” He shoved a hand through his hair. “It explains much. Yer strange clothing, yer words, yer mannerisms.”
“Setting aside the fact that I could say the same thing about you, it’s impossible.”
“Time travel doesn’t exist.”
“Are ye so blinded to the world beyond yer ken, ye canna consider the possibility?”
“Of course I canna—can’t—consider it. I’m a scientist, for God’s sake!”
“And what would that be?”
Moira blew out a frustrated breath. “Someone who believes in facts and reality, who researches and predicts and accepts the natural world as it is, not someone who indulges in fantasy or wishful thinking.”
“And ye know all of the world as it is?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Can ye devise another explanation?”
“Well, no, but…”
“But ye are unwilling to consider this explanation, at least for tonight.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine. Explain it.”
“Gladly.” Aedan stretched his legs out in front of him. “First, ye are right ignorant of life today.” He lifted a hand. “Not to say ye are a fool, just—unschooled.”
Unschooled? After two advanced degrees?
“Ye know naught about Columba, nor the struggle between his people and ours. Ye talk of things I know nothing about. Ye believe me to be something I am not, and I know naught of what you are.”
“How do I know you aren’t just pretending?”
He leaned toward her until their faces were mere inches apart. “I dinna lie, and I dinna pretend. Can you say the same?”
His expression darkened. “Then I dinna understand why ye keep denying the truth, and yet call me the liar.”
She glared at him. “Okay, not a liar, but not grounded in reality, either.”
“Reality.” He snorted. “Ye deny reality.”
“I deny reality? You think I’ve traveled fifteen centuries back in time!”
“And why could this not happen?”
“Because the only way that it could happen is magic, and magic doesn’t exist!”
He regarded her with something uncomfortably close to pity. “It must be a sad, empty time ye live in.”
She opened her mouth, but clamped it shut again. How could she argue with him when she’d come to Iona because of that very reason? Once Gran was gone from her life, the magic had disappeared, too.
It didn’t mean she believed his fairy-tale explanation for what had happened tonight. But he was right.
Her life was sad. And empty. But she couldn’t bring herself to tell him so.
Instead, she closed her eyes. At least she didn’t have to look at his too-perceptive, too-attractive face.
Why did he have to be so gorgeous, when he’d obviously been dropped on his head as a child?
Because face it, the man was about as close to perfection as she’d ever seen. She squinted one eye open, inspecting him surreptitiously in the dimness of the cave. His light brown hair was just past shoulder-length, tied back with a leather thong at the base of his neck. Rich brown eyes, the color of bittersweet chocolate, gazed out at the darkness beyond the cave. A fierce strength suffused his face, reminding her of a bird of prey.
The rest of him was just as impressive. A bronze torc circled his neck. Broad, strong shoulders strained against the rough woolen cape fastened across his chest. Underneath, he wore a tunic of the same indeterminate color over leggings that hugged his powerful thighs.
“And do ye like what ye see?”
Her gaze flew upwards in time to see the smug look on his face. “I wasn’t…” But of course, she had been, so she just clamped her mouth shut and glared at him.
In response, he laughed softly and settled back against the wall of the cave opposite her, his long, muscular legs pressing against hers. Moira tried to shift, but in the cramped confines of the cave she didn’t have anywhere to move. Instead, the friction of their legs rubbing against each other sent an unwelcome shock of sexual awareness through her.
No, dammit. She did not want this man.
Well, she didn’t want to want him, anyway.
“We have many hours until the dawning,” he said. “Ye may sleep if ye wish.”
Yeah, right. The last thing she wanted to do was fall asleep with a man who’d kidnapped her. “I’m fine.”
He shook his head. “Ye are a stubborn one, aren’t ye?”
“Me?” She threw up her hands, which she’d forgotten were tied together until they smacked her in the forehead. Swearing, she let them drop back into her lap.
Immediately, Aedan was up and at her side. “Are ye hurt, lass?” He ran his fingertips over her forehead, searching for a bruise or lump. “That was quite a wallop.”
“Stop,” she insisted, but it came out as more of a plea than a command. The breathless quality of her voice made her blush.
His hand stilled, and he looked into her eyes. She could see his Adam’s apple bob. “If it is what you wish,” he said, withdrawing his hand slowly.
As soon as his touch was gone, Moira was struck with a pang of regret.
Maybe she was the one who had been dropped on the head as a child.