In celebration of… oh, lots of things. The upcoming release of Heart of the Oak (the first of the Tales of the Grove), the fantastic reviews it’s been getting (which if I were a little more tech-savvy I could celebrate with a copy of the “Top Pick” icon on Susan Mac Nicol’s five-star review at The Romance Reviews), my sister’s incredible homemade cheesecake at Thanksgiving dinner. All that. So I thought I’d give you a peek at the (unedited) work in progress, Tempted from the Oak — the second of the Tales of the Grove. The POV is Tearlach’s — he’s a Gille Dubh, the animating spirit of a darag, an ancient oak tree in the Scottish Highlands. Enjoy!

  Gavin lies on the ground, his back against the darag, and against me, looking up at the Moon. I run my hand lightly over his head. I cannot get enough of the strange sensation of short hair under my palm; it tickles, it makes me want to laugh.
I have never seen hair this short. I bend to kiss the top of his head, and this time I do laugh, at the way it feels against my lips, kiss-tender for the first time in centuries. Is there a reason for it?
I can feel his shoulders stiffen where he leans against me. Should I not have asked?
He shakes his head, leaning a little into the hand that has dropped to lie along his cheek, as if to tell me not to worry. “Nothing wrong with asking.”
    His voice is so different from the ones I heard in my old life, if it were not for the fortunate accident of his blood against the root of the tree I think I would be completely lost in listening to him. Happily so. If you would rather not answer…
“It’s all right. It just seems out of place here.’ He turns, partly, to look up into my eyes, my face emerged from the darag, and I trace the line of his jaw with my fingertips. “It was nearly to my shoulders until yesterday. But my roommate–the man I live with–likes it long.”
    Something, perhaps my heart, plummets. Pleasure and joy and delight are gifts meant to be given and received, but I will never knowingly interfere with a pair-bond. How can I, when such a bond is my life? You mean, he likes it short, yes? I pull my hand back within the darag.
“No. He likes it long. But he has the attention span of a mayfly on meth, and he decided to get back at me for needing to work the night of our five-month anniversary by bringing a new guy home with him. So I like it short. Juvenile of me, I suppose, but…” He shrugs, and his attention . “I’d rather not talk about him. Not here.”
    Some of his words are beyond my understanding, even with our shared blood. But the pain I hear in his voice, that I understand, even though he tries to pretend not to care. I reach for him again, stroking his cheek. Let us talk about something else, then.
His hand closes around mine, and even such a hesitant smile as he turns on me is enough to send a thrill racing down to the very tips of my darag’s roots. “I’d rather not talk at all. If you’re willing. A dream can only last so long.”
You are not dreaming, I whisper yet again, as he turns to me and takes my mouth. But I fear I may be.