12 Days of Xanthus

an excerpt



Chapter One


Violet O'Shea pulled the goose feather down jacket closer to her petite frame and breathed in the crisp air as she stood out on the wooden deck in front of the house. The O'Shea family cabin was where she always came to get away from the stress of her job as a television screenplay writer and the demands of her large family. The setting had worked its magic. All thoughts of her job were gone and the crisp air felt invigorating. Her breath fogged and turned white. The golden orange rays of the sun washed everything a deep red, followed by a purple that morphed into the inky, velvet-blue of the night sky. Stars winked from their position above the Earth and a child-like exuberance filled her as anticipation increased her pulse and warmed her cheeks. There was always something incredibly magical about watching the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights.

She tilted her head back and watched as the blazing, blue-violet streaks stretched across the sky, followed by bright green and ruby red. Each color appeared a bit closer to the Earth. She leaned out over the porch railing and closed her eyes. The vivid hues remained etched on the inside of her eye lids and she allowed herself a moment of frivolity. If you could wish upon a star, why not the lights? Besides, during the holidays, didn't everyone get to make a Christmas wish? A giggle escaped. I'm being silly. A nervous flutter filled her stomach. Just make the wish, Violet. She gave into the urge, clenched her lids shut, and put her whole heart behind the request like a young child the moment before they blow out their birthday candles. Please bring me my true love.

The silence around her thickened. She swallowed as she opened her eyes. Her gaze scanned the area around her and she let out a self-deprecating laugh as disappointment flooded in. What did you expect, crazy? A man to appear in the middle of this frozen tundra? She shook her head and turned to walk inside. The lights had lost their allure for tonight.

A loud crack made her jump. She spun around. There was no downed tree so what made the noise? Strange white lights pulsed and grew brighter in the sky, drowning out the Northern lights. She winced. I've never seen this before! The illumination was too powerful for her to continue to look at, so she glanced down, grateful for the instant relief the simple act provided. Lord, don't let me go blind up here by myself. A loud boom shook the Earth. The logs piled up in front of the cabin rattled together and fear constricted her throat. She reached out, grasped the smooth, rounded hand rail, and held on for dear life. Her body shook as loud cracks continued to fill the air. Bright flashes tattooed themselves to the back of her eyelids. This must be what it'd feel like to be trapped in the middle of a firework display.

The shaking ceased, the ground settled, and the brightness that had assaulted her lids faded. She opened her eyes just a sliver and found everything had returned to normal. Had she dreamed the entire thing? A visual sweep of the perimeter said she might have, until a vague shape out in the distance caught her eyes. She squinted startled when she realized the shape resembled that of a human. The broad build of its shoulders and the height put the person at about six-four, which persuaded her to believe it was a man. She blinked rapidly. Had she come down with a case of snow blindness or a hallucination caused by too much work and not enough recreation? A quick hand to her forehead told her she didn't have a fever. No dizziness or disorientation seemed present, and still the shape came closer. He was a mountain of a man with broad shoulders, chiseled abs, sculpted biceps, pecs, legs, and golden skin.

Her mouth watered and she shook her head to clear it. This has to be a vision. Maybe a wet dream? She'd wake up any moment now in her cozy little bed and laugh at how absurd her thoughts would be. She pinched her arm.

"Ow." No, not a dream at all.

The man wore two strange black cuffs around his wrists and a tiny, fur loincloth that left nothing to the imagination. He must be freezing. The reality of the situation sank in. A man three times her size and weight walked toward her at a steady clip and if his ill-equipped clothing was anything to go by, he wasn't quite right in the head. Violet spun on her heel and bounded for the door. She flung it open, grabbed the shotgun they kept by the door in case of wild animals, turned off the safety, and placed the butt of the rifle against her shoulder. As the second oldest of a family that boasted five boys, she knew her way around a firearm.

"Don't come any closer!"

The man's eyes narrowed in what appeared to be confusion. Lined with a thick fringe of lashes and winged eyebrows, they were an impossible black. With his broad forehead and strong jaw line, he was gorgeous.

"I am sorry, Mistress, I mean you no harm."

He had a strange accent that sounded like nothing she'd ever heard before.

Mistress?

"What are you doing out here? This is private property." When he remained silent, she growled, "You start talking, or I'll start shooting."

The man sank to his knees and bent over. His body sank into the thick snow. Her jaw dropped. There weren't any mental hospitals nearby she'd never heard about, were there?

"Please don't be angry, Mistress. This is where my craft crashed. I did not know the land belonged to you."

She relaxed. He crashed? That would explain what brought him to such a remote location, but not the weird attire, or what she heard earlier. No car would ever make that sound and she would've seen the smoke from an airplane wreck. Heat spread over her body. Maybe he and his woman were into kinky sex games. He did call her mistress. Anger burned hot in her belly as another idea struck. The production staff had put him up to this.

"Get up now!" He complied immediately.

"Okay, Paul, Brad. You had your laugh, now call him off and give him a blanket before he freezes to death."

Silence. She lowered her gun about half an inch. It's not like he could be concealing anything. She looked him over once more. Even his feet were bare. Her gaze lingered on his loin cloth. I wonder if the anatomy the cloth covers matches his massive build. She cleared her throat, praying the cool wind would counteract the flush she felt in her face.

"Where did you crash?"

"Over there a ways, Mistress. If it pleases you, I'd like to join you in your... dwelling."

"I'm not so sure I want you that close to me." She jerked her chin up. "Why are you dressed like that?"

"This is the way all slaves dress on Zenton."

Say what?

"I didn't catch that."

"I do not understand. I didn't throw anything."

Jesus I have a real life, Castiel. The quote from the television show Sanctuary popped into her head.