Today, I’m hosting Kay Berrisford on the blog! In return, she’s hosting me over on her blog! It’s a true blog swap. Kay is here to tell us about her holiday story, Simon, Sex, and the Solstice Stone. She’s also giving away a free copy of any of her backlist titles to a random commenter, so please leave a comment! And now, take it away, Kay!
Where’s the worst place to write a Xmas/Thanksgiving novella? Well, it turns out that it’s Tuscany in the middle of August. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy to be there, staying in a gorgeous villa overlooking a swathe of Chianti country, replete with vineyards and olive groves that came alive with deer and wild boar at dusk. Every morning greeted me with thirty-plus degree heat, relentless sunshine, and the prospect of a visit to a pleasant hill town or into the tourist melting pots of Florence, Siena, or San Gimignano – if I was feeling brave. Trouble was, I had a deadline pressing for a seasonal story, and my imagination was supposed to be wallowing in the mud, rain, and fog of late November and December back home in England.
This is the point I tell you that I just closed my eyes and conjured it all from my memory. After all, the novel was set in my home county. I had a strong image of the characters and the stone circles and burial mounds that starred, all laced in winter mist. Still I struggled to make that leap. My imagination crawled through the medieval alleys of Volterra and had Renaissance gents snogging on the Ponte Vecchio. Tucked down a lane near where I stayed, I discovered a newly converted villa with a provocative complex of shimmering pools, manicured lawns, and outdoor furniture—including no less than two outdoor double beds. A particularly naughty contemporary romance started festering in my brain—though I worried that any al fresco lovemaking in the environs ran the risk of being interrupted by one of those roaming wild boar.
I will admit that progress on the seasonal novella was not good. However, the holiday was over in a fortnight, and the end of August back home segued successfully into leaden skies and rain. I even made my deadline–well, nearly. On the other hand, I’ll never say never again. After all, if a writer’s books are going to be published “in season” it means constantly writing “out of season,” unless you’re terrible organized. I fear I’m not. Looking back, I wondered why writing England in Tuscany was such a challenge. After all, my current WIP is set in the twelfth century, a culture of which I have rather less experience. So maybe my troubles boil down to something simpler than the distracting beauties of Italy. I’m just not good in the bloody heat!
About the Book
Simon’s holiday season is looking grim. His boyfriend’s dumped him, and his self-esteem is rock bottom. Stuck in the UK where nobody celebrates Thanksgiving, the shy, geeky student drowns his sorrows at an ancient stone circle. When a gorgeous stranger, Aubrey, shows up and attempts to seduce him, Simon is flattered but also freaked—especially when Aubrey claims to be from an historic sex cult who’d uncovered the true powers of the circle. It’s a time machine. Aubrey intended to travel back three hundred and sixty-five days, but an error propelled him forward three hundred and sixty-five years into a world alien to him.
Simon reluctantly takes the lost time traveler under his wing, and Aubrey teaches Simon the ways of sex, love, and magic. Simon’s never felt so alive, but as their bond grows, Aubrey remains determined to perform a dangerous ritual and return home at the winter solstice. Fearing he’s no more to Aubrey than a sexual sacrifice, Simon must discover the dark secrets of Aubrey’s pagan past. Only then can Simon choose between risking all for the man he loves or a lonely Christmas without him.
“Wh-why have you brought me here?” stuttered Simon. “You should have called an ambulance.”
Confusion clouded Aubrey’s sharp eyes, but he seemed to dismiss Simon’s words. “Here, drink.”
Aubrey picked up a plastic bottle of mineral water that had been in Simon’s bag, unscrewing the top with his teeth. Simon took it, and Aubrey cupped a hand about the back of his neck, lifting him so he could take a swig.
The cool liquid refreshed and wet Simon’s dry lips, but his head hurt as much as ever. As for Aubrey? The man seemed frantic to keep Simon with him.
After screwing the lid back on, Simon threw the bottle down and slumped back into the man’s lap. “Look, you can take the phone. I’ve got nothing else of value.” Well, there were the car keys in his pocket, but he was not going to draw attention to those. Strange the man hadn’t already taken them. “Just…please let me go.”
“I am not robbing you.” Aubrey stroked Simon as he might a feral cat ready to sink fangs into him any minute. “Neither would I keep you here against your will.”
“Then what the fuck are you doing?” Simon rolled off the man’s lap, catching himself on his hands, and then collapsed face-first into the carpet of leafy mulch. Feeling Aubrey’s touch on his shoulder, he turned over and glared.
Aubrey reached toward him, then snatched his hand back. “Wounds like this can be dangerous. You must—”
“What the hell do you expect me to do?” Simon moaned, pressing his hand to his head. “We’ve known each other for five minutes, and you stuck your tongue down my throat.” He’d not complained about that bit at the time, but it seemed a moot point now. “And why are you carrying a knife? It’s against the law. Don’t you know?”
Aubrey slid his hand to the hilt. Simon’s blood congealed to ice, but the man drew the dagger only to place it on the ground between them. “If it ails you so much,” he said, “I throw it down.”
Simon grabbed the weapon and examined it. Though the cutting edge had been sharpened, stained with something dark red that looked disturbingly like blood, the flat was dull and mottled through heavy use. As for the handle, with its spiral motif and slender hand guard that curved up around the hilt like a bow, Simon could jump to only one conclusion.
This weapon had been meticulously crafted and dated from the English Civil War. It looked like the kind pikemen and musketeers carried as a backup. Simon regarded Aubrey’s dress anew. The man’s short trousers had buttons at the knees, much like seventeenth-century-style breeches. The white shirt, which the rain had set clinging to Aubrey’s shoulders, could have dated from any time in the past six centuries but didn’t appear of modern cut.
“Are you with the Sealed Knot or something?” Simon placed the dagger down on his side farthest from Aubrey. “Is that why you’re camping here? You’re in one of those history reenactment groups?”
Aubrey sucked in a shaky breath and drew his fingers across his lips. “You speak of many strange things. Pray tell me. What year is this?”
“Eh?” Simon wrinkled his nose. “It’s 2012.”
“Oh ye gods.” Aubrey’s weather-bronzed face whitened.
Suspicion stole through Simon’s veins. “What’d you think it was?”
Aubrey looked so helpless. He inched his shoulders up in a shrug, and his voice cracked. “Yesterday it was 1647.”
The man’s meaning impacted Simon like a second blow to the head. “Say what?”
“I…don’t know.” Aubrey scanned the ground as if seeking answers amid the leaves and fungi. “I was supposed to go back. To undo…” He trailed off and was quiet for a long moment, squeezing his lower lip between his teeth. “Something went horribly wrong.”
“You bet it did.” Simon performed the mental mathematics. “Just assuming I believe you, and I’m not saying I do, you’ve been sent forward three hundred and sixty-five years.”
“I was supposed to go back three hundred and sixty-five days! I have to get home.” Aubrey covered his face with his hands, and Simon resisted an impulse to reach out, to comfort him. This didn’t strike him as a man easily reduced to despair.
But that was not the issue. Simon was still a captive, kind of. And Aubrey tore time? He’d actually completed that andaga ritual?
Well, the Stones were powerful—Simon harbored no doubts about it—and Aubrey did remind him of Doctor Who, but… No, the Stones were not a time machine. That was just insane.
He made a renewed attempt to raise himself. “I’m the one who needs to get home.”
“No!” Aubrey grabbed him, gouging into his waterproof jacket. “Since I got here, you’re the only person who’s understood anything of what I speak. I need you.”
Aubrey pleaded with his eyes and his lips, his anguish as tangible as a punch to Simon’s solar plexus. Coupled with his ravishing looks, it was all too much to bear. No way could this guy need him. At best Aubrey had to be a rival student taking the piss. Shit, maybe Pete put him up to it. At worst he was a psycho toying with his prey.
Simon twisted from Aubrey’s grasp, forcing words from a fear-tight throat. “Get away from me.”
Remember, Kay is giving away a free copy of any of her backlist titles (to the right) to a random commenter, so please leave a comment!
My website: http://kayberrisford.com/
Buy it now links for Simon, Sex, and the Solstice Stone and all Kay’s other titles: