Guest Post by Robin Danner
Want a delicious holiday read? Try Stroke of Midnight by Robin Danner.
It’s New Year’s Eve… What’s a fairy to do?
The king of the Fairies has granted his daughter Mariel one year in Regency London before she must return to their realm to be married. Several hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, a fairy is sent to fetch her home—her childhood love, Rhys.
Even though part her is glad to see the dark, handsome fairy again, she knows he’s been sent by her father to collect her. And she’s not about to give up her last precious hours in the world she’s grown to love.
But when Mariel learns that her father has chosen Rhys as her husband to unite their two clans, the idea of marriage sounds much more appealing. Especially once her new husband takes off his clothes and leads her to bed…
A beehive of activity filled the square. Vendors sold their wares, all the while jostling each other to gain the attention of each passerby. Mariel sniffed again and followed the smell to a vendor hawking tiny, delicate cakes topped with yellow frosting.
“One, please.” She passed over a coin and was handed a cake in return. She lifted it to her mouth and took a bite. The sugary confection burst with flavor on her tongue. She took another bite and savored it. “Thank you.”
She turned to leave and soon became absorbed in the sights and sounds. At night it appeared a romantic setting. The cobblestones gleamed pale gray in the light from several torches. Colorful streamers and banners hung from the buildings that lined the open area. Everywhere Mariel looked the people were in a festive mood. Champagne flowed, and laughter echoed throughout the night.
Mariel finished her cake and licked frosting from her fingers. Mid-lick, she glanced up. A man was watching her. He stood alone near the fountain, a tall shadow against the backdrop of rushing water.
Her pulse thrummed as her heart’s rhythm sped up. Rhys.
She turned her back to him and darted through the crowd. She held her pink skirts high above her ankles and broke into a run. Out of all the fairies in Aurora, why had her father sent Rhys?
The sounds of the square faded more deeply into silence the farther she ran. The crowd thinned until she reached the street. She risked a glance over her shoulder and exhaled with relief. She had lost him.
A smile crossed her face, and she dropped her skirts and slowed to a walk. The heels of her slippers made a clicking sound on the cobblestones.
“Good evening, Mariel.”
A shocked gasp escaped her, and she twirled around to face Rhys. “I thought I had lost you.”
He curved his lips into an amused smile. “I will always find you.”
She narrowed her eyes. “It is not yet midnight. My father promised that I would have a full year.”
“And so you have.” He was tall, like most male fairies, and possessed dark curly hair and striking green eyes that tilted up at the corners.
Her features were the opposite, petite and blonde. Her eyes were blue, not the enchanting shade of jade that Rhys had been blessed with.
He reached out a hand to her. “Come. Let’s return to Aurora.”
“No.” She backed away, shaking her head as she did so. “I have a few more hours.”
His broad shoulders lifted and fell as he sighed. “Do not be difficult. Your father is anxious to see you.”
There had once been a time when she would have done anything Rhys asked, but that had been years ago when they had been little more than children. She had given him her heart. She took it back once she learned that he’d been under her father’s command to stay close to her.
“I will return at midnight. Not one moment before.”
His eyes turned stormy. “Your father sent me to bring you home now.”
“You can tell him I refused.” She lifted her chin and tilted her nose into the air. She resisted the urge to cross her arms and stamp her feet. He had never failed to call her spoiled, and she saw no reason to give him the opportunity to do so now.
He shook his head, and his loose curls tumbled about his forehead. “I cannot do that.”
“Of course you can’t.” She twisted her lips into a sneer. “You never were able to stand up to my father.”
He snapped his brows together as he frowned. He drew himself up to an impressive height, yet his tone was calm as he spoke. “He is the king of the fairies. I must do as he commands.”
She waved a blithe hand through the air. “As princess, I command that you return at midnight. I will come with you then.”
He stepped closer until her skirts brushed the top of his shoes. “Stop being foolish. What can a few more hours matter?”