Every author has stories lurking in their backlist that they class as personal favourites, and those may not always be the stories that sell the best or get glittering reviews. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be dusted off and enjoyed again, and so I’ve decided to showcase a series of extracts from stories I’ve particularly had fun writing.
The first is The Nine Virgins, from the Ravenous Romance anthology I Kissed A Boy. As the title suggests, this is a compilation of male/male fiction, about first-time encounters, and featuring stories by authors including Ryan Field, Cecilia Tan, Heidi Champa and Jean Roberta among others. It came about because i wanted to write a story with paranormal overtones that didn’t feature the usual suspects – vampires, werewolves and assorted shifters. The Virgins of the title are a group of standing stones on the outskirts of an English country village that are reputed to have special powers. Simon, the narrator, has been invited to a pre-wedding reunion that leaves him feeling the awkward outsider; the one gay man in a group of well-meaning but slightly self-absorbed friends. Things take a distinct turn for the spooky when he excuses himself from the festivities:
Out in the cloudy night air, the throbbing in my head began to ease a little. It was only a five-minute walk back to the bed-and-breakfast, but for some reason I found myself turning in the opposite direction, tracing the route Matt had taken when he had driven us here. I walked past the handful of shops on the main road, closed at this time of night, and the village church with its little graveyard, many of the headstones so old they seemed in danger of toppling over. My feet seemed to have a purpose of their own and I carried on, clambering over a stile and beginning to climb the hill towards the Nine Virgins. In truth, I hadn’t realized that was where I was heading until I found myself in the middle of a circle of jagged, weather-beaten stones, the largest of which was only a little taller than I was.
When the owner of the bed-and-breakfast had described them to me I had been expecting something slightly more impressive, but I could not deny that these stones had an unmistakable, brooding power. There were so many theories as to why these circles had been erected; some experts suggested they were places of worship, others ancient calendars which marked the passing of the year according to where the shadows from the
stones fell. All I knew was that tonight, there was a distinct energy here; I could feel it. It was almost as though the Virgins were waiting for something—or someone. Dark thoughts of human sacrifice flashed through my mind, remnants of a religion older than the one which had built the church below me, and then the clouds parted and the moon
shone down on me, full and pale.
“They say that if you go up there when the moon is full and stand in the middle of the circle, the love of your life will come to you.” I recited the words to myself, understanding now how someone might come up with such a story if they visited the stones on a night like this, but that was all it was—a story.
Then I heard footsteps coming through the grass towards me.
As I watched, a figure emerged from between the stones on the far side of the circle. I could have sworn there was a slight halo around him as he approached, the cold white of moonlight, but my vision often blurred and played tricks on me when I had a migraine attack.
He came closer, and my heart lurched. He must have been around the same age as me, in his late twenties, with dirty-blond hair falling almost to his shoulders and soft brown eyes. His expression was open and friendly, and there was a dimple at the side of his mouth which deepened when he smiled. I felt the same pang of desire I experienced whenever I saw an especially hot man in the street, sharp and urgent.
Now he was so close to me that I could smell his unique aroma, a vaguely floral aftershave mixed with the sweaty musk of a man who does hard manual work for a living. “Who are you?” I asked. “Did you follow me up here?” Sexy as he was, I had the sudden fear that he’d seen me wandering along on my own with no real idea of where I was going and decided to rob me.
He put a finger to my lips. “Don’t ask any questions,” he said. “I know who you are, and I know what you want.”
Are the stones exerting their power, or is this an encounter of a more straightforward kind? Ah, but that would be telling…