A Gentle Fall of Snow
A short story followup to Shadow of the Swan.
After a frantic two weeks that involved a hasty marriage, falling in love, and defeating a dangerous enemy, Louisa and Henry Carstairs settle down to spend their first Christmas together (and Louisa’s first Christmas in England after a lifetime abroad). But a houseful of winged demi-fae guests and a forgotten Christmas present ensure that the day doesn’t exactly go as planned…
- paranormal romance, MF
- Word Count: 4,440
- Heat Level: 1
- Published By: Belaurient Press
The last thing Sir Henry Carstairs expected to see on Christmas Eve was a flock of winged demi-fae hovering over the spruce tree in the sitting room, delicately wrapping garlands of maroon cranberries around the deep green needles.
No. That was the second-to-last thing he’d expected to see this Christmas Eve. The last thing he’d expected to see was his beautiful wife curled up next to him in bed that morning. He was slowly getting used to the myriad shocks he had encountered in the last two weeks, but the most significant of them had turned out to be falling in love with Louisa Wallingford Carstairs—scholar, world traveler, and newly entitled Fae noblewoman.
Was it possible that they had only met two weeks ago? Their marriage had been a desperate gamble intended to keep Louisa out of the clutches of King Avery, a Fae royal known as the Swan King who had been carefully manipulating the Wallingford family for centuries. Avery’s ultimate goal was a part-Fae woman who would bear him a son capable of conquering all of Faerie, before setting his sights on other worlds.
But now the Swan King was dead, killed by his own daughter Nessa. In turn, she had been named Swan Queen by the rulers of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. It was the magic released by Avery’s death that had saved Louisa’s life, reaving away her mortality and transforming her into a full Fae.
And one of the side effects of that, as it turned out, was her newly discovered skill at speaking with the demi-fae. Henry had always known that a number of the tiny winged creatures lived in the gardens in and around Bedford Square. But he hadn’t expected Louisa to go out and chat with them in the mornings.
Or to invite them in when the weather turned cold and miserable. “Darling, would it be possible for us to install a conservatory in the back garden?” she had asked him yesterday over breakfast (cream tea, eggs, and toast for her, a small glass of blood for him).
He’d blinked at the request. “A conservatory?”
“Yes. Aodhan was saying that it gets quite cold around here in the winter, and it would be so much nicer for them to have somewhere where they could warm up.”
Aodhan? “We can certainly install a conservatory, if you wish. But we won’t be here to use it by the time it’s complete.”
She’d given him one of her warm smiles that made him want to slay dragons for her. “Oh, I know. But Mrs. Norris has already told me that she would also appreciate it for her herb garden. Some of her more delicate herbs are quite susceptible to the cold, you know.”
He didn’t know that. “And Aodhan is?”
“The leader of the local demi-fae. A sort of duke, if you can apply human rank to him.”
She’s been here for less than a fortnight. How did she learn all this? “Why don’t they simply return to Faerie if it’s too cold here for them?”
She made a delicate grimace. “Apparently there’s a long-standing disagreement between him and the current king of the demi-fae. Aodhan was betrothed to a demi-fae named Pansy, but King Rian fell in love with her and they eloped. Aodhan has sworn never to return to Faerie as a result, and his people support him in this.”
Just what he needed—Fae internecine struggles in his back garden.