GENRE: Gay Paranormal Romance
LENGTH: 8,936 words
Revisit veterinarian Marc Elias and composer Owen Rhys from the best-selling story Just a Little Magic when Marc sets off to visit family for Christmas, feeling guilty about leaving his Wiccan lover Owen at home alone. But Owen, reluctant to meet Marc’s family, insists on staying to care for the houseful of stray cats they’ve taken in.
Marc leaves his marriage proposal in the form of a spell for Owen to find on the winter solstice when Owen celebrates Yule. At least Marc hopes it’s a proposal -- a borrowed spell book and some guesswork might not be good enough.
Owen finds the proposal and is desperate to know if Marc truly understands its meaning. Before he can find out, a disaster claims everyone’s attention, including one very grumpy cat with an agenda of her own.
Can a Christian, a Wiccan, and a cat come to understand one another and find the new life and new hope Yule promises?
It seemed a good time to renew the energy of the spells, so he went back in the living room. Most of the cats were enjoying a mid-morning nap, draped over furniture or splayed out on the floor in the squares of brilliant sunshine. He stepped over the bodies and made his way to his small altar.
The holly branches and pine boughs were still fresh, just disarranged from cats running through them. He set the candles upright and straightened the greens, and his fingers touched a box tucked in among them. Puzzled, he pulled it out and smiled. A Yule gift from Marc?
Suddenly the day seemed brighter. He pressed his palm over the top of the dark-green box and smiled. Marc must have left it to cheer him up, and it was working. He opened the box and gasped as he sank into a dining room chair. Inside the box on a bed of silver tissue was a faith bracelet. Owen’s eyes filled. It was a pledge of love and fidelity and a promise of growth.
Marc must have searched in Owen’s spell books to find this. Juniper, holly, and mistletoe berries strung on a white thread. He wiped his eyes and looked closer. Yes, Marc had even used a drop of his blood to seal the oath. What an amazing man.
He fingered the berries, tempted to call Marc and tell him he’d found the secret gift. He needed to know for sure Marc understood the significance or the faith bracelet. It was as if the man had hidden a wedding ring under the Christmas tree and then left without an explanation. Amazing, aggravating man.
Feline whimpers filtered through his thoughts of Marc. He looked up to see the cats -- all of them -- sitting up, ears pricked, listening. And all facing in the direction of the river.
A shiver crawled down his spine. Something was scaring them. He went out on the back porch and looked in all directions. Nothing unusual. The wind was blowing hard again, and he tucked his hands in his pockets. In the distance he could hear the river-ice breaking and shifting on the currents, but that had been going on for a couple days. The cats wouldn’t be freaked about that.
He came in and shut the door, blocking out the wind and the sound, and went back to the living room.
The cats’ murmurs of distress increased, mounting and melding and molding themselves into one long, horrible howl. Owen covered his ears and braced himself for the arrival of whatever was frightening them.
Then the noise just stopped. The silence reverberated with the echo of it, but it was over. The cats were no longer on alert -- they settled down and began grooming.
Something had happened. Something big. His fingers were trembling as he grabbed his cell phone and called Marc. No answer. It wasn’t going straight to voice mail. Marc just wasn’t answering. But that didn’t necessarily mean there was any trouble, did it? Marc would say he was overreacting, inventing omens of danger.
Owen knew he wasn’t.
He grabbed his coat and plucked the car keys from the basket on the kitchen counter. Pausing to check the clock on the stove, he forced himself to think. Marc hadn’t been gone long enough to even get through town. He was probably still stuck in traffic trying to get across the river. The river. The bridge.
Owen ran for his car.