Marine Under the Mistletoe
Always a Marine #19
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?
Read An Excerpt
He grunted, but didn’t complain. The boys cleared out without further warning and the goddess in the pale, gray silk dress descended the stairs slowly. He didn’t get a glimpse of her feet, but the way the long skirt swirled around her, it gave her the effect of floating.
He parroted her tone. “Rowan?”
The man’s nudity hadn’t bothered Kaiden when he’d arrived, not really. He hadn’t been gone so long he didn’t remember the comfort most others had in their skin—hell, a comfort he’d once shared. But when Rowan achieved the last step, Kaiden fought the desire to strip off his jacket and throw it at the other man.
Realization dawned across Aaron’s chastised expression. “Oh. My apologies, you two haven’t met…I forgot. Rowan Harper—this is Lorraine and Henry’s son, Kaiden. Kaiden, Rowan Harper—she joined Blue Circle a few years after you enlisted, give or take.”
“Merry meet, Kaiden.” She smiled, walked straight to him and brushed her lips to his—the contact a violent shock to his system and he blinked once, going completely still. “It’s truly lovely to have you with us this year.”
It took his mind what seemed like a full minute to catch up. “Hello.” The word came out strained and harsh, but either she gave him a free pass as they were strangers or she didn’t notice it. Aaron, on the other hand, did and shot an odd look in his direction.
Rowan gestured toward the stairs. “Do you remember the way to your room? I put fresh sheets on the bed and fixed it up when your parents told me you had confirmed coming this year.”
He knew exactly where it was, but his manners finally kicked awake. “Please.” Following her up the stairs, he glanced back at Aaron once, aware of his amused gaze. Kaiden didn’t care for the sensation of being watched. He’s a friendly. They’re all friendlies. This is home.
The mental litany didn’t ease the tension winding him up. At the curve in the stairs, she paused to wait for him and Kaiden picked up the pace. He might be fucked up, but that didn’t mean he had to be rude.
“Sorry, it was a long flight.” Mentally groaning at the obviousness of the comment, he sucked in a deep breath, determined to do better, and inhaled fruity, deeply feminine, deliciously sensual scent that sent a shiver of awareness through him and his blood plummeted to southern regions.
“Undoubtedly, but you’re home now.” She started climbing again, lifting her skirt with one hand. “I meant what I said downstairs—I am very happy to welcome you home this year. Your mother speaks of you often.”
“She’ll be annoyed with me.” The effort to make casual conversation came out rough and jagged. “I got an earlier flight and thought I could avoid anything too elaborate when I arrived.”
“Ahh.” She hesitated and her teeth clenched together in a smile-grimace.
“It’s okay.” He held up a hand, palm out. “I know my parents. They’ve planned something special—especially since I haven’t been home for so long. They can still have it all happen, and I get some time to be here before it starts.”
“I could talk to them if you like.” It was a kind—if tempting—offer.
“Thank you, but the last place you need to put yourself is between my parents and I.” The sentence came out far tougher than he’d intended. Exhaling a hard breath, he concentrated on sanding down his attitude. “And by that, I mean I haven’t been the poster child for good son. They’re entitled to react in a way that makes them happy.”
They’d arrived at his door and he found the silence almost as unnerving as the house itself. He’d picked out this room all those years ago because it was farthest from the others, nestled off a quiet hall that had a storage closet and attic access.
“Rowan, please ignore me. I apparently haven’t been around real people in a while.”
“Oh?” Her too-innocent eyes glittered under the glow from the single lamp illuminating the hall. “And what mythical people have you been spending time with?”