The Stone Awakened (Guardians of Erin, Book 2) by Judith Sterling and @WildRosePress #ChristmasinJul
Title: The Stone Awakened (Guardians of Erin, Book 2)
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Since moving to Ireland, Ashling Donoghue has tackled one challenge after another. Now the mystery of her parents' disappearance seems unsolvable. Are they dead or only missing? No one—not even the godlike Breasals—has a clue. Hope and fear war inside her, but she's determined to find answers and stay strong for her siblings. Even as she hones newfound powers, her banshee-in-training sister Deirdre needs her support. Ashling could use a little help herself. She's struggling to navigate her first romance, and while Aengus Breasal stirs her body, mind, and soul, his nemesis Lorcan does too. Both men harbor secrets about her past life as Caer. One has ties to Aoife, the scheming wind demon whose influence is on the rise. As the Stone of Destiny awakens, so does the conflict within.
That same night, I found myself back inside Muckross Abbey, surrounded by the cloisters’ arches. I stood two feet from the quadrangle’s yew, exactly where I’d been before. I looked down at my pink, satin pajamas and bare feet. Winter’s chill had no hold on me, and all was twilit.
Okay, I thought. This is either an astral trip or a dream. But which one?
My gut told me I’d left my sleeping body. How better to discover what Aengus hadn’t wanted me to see in the Otherworld version of the abbey’s graveyard? Then again, I did have vivid dreams.
A sudden gust whistled along the deserted corridor to my right. I turned as a robed figure disappeared up a winding stairwell.
Startled, I whirled back around toward the velvety voice. Lorcan! Clad in black like a character out of a 19th-century romance, he peeked out from behind a stone pillar.
“He’s merely a monk. That is, he was.” His ice blue eyes were intense, even in the soft light.
I swallowed hard. “Why are you here?”
“Why are you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t you?” Leaving the cloister, he sauntered toward me.
My pulse quickened. He was every bit as handsome and alluring as Aengus, and my mutinous body knew it. No. Aengus is the one for me. Only Aengus. I grasped for an explanation, an excuse that would lighten the weight of guilt dragging me down. I’m asleep, and this is all just a dream.
Lorcan stopped an arm’s length away. “You’re here because I was thinking of you. And I’m here because earlier, you stood right in this spot thinking of me.”
I regarded him through narrowed eyes. “You spied on us?”
“Don’t you think I could’ve felt it?”
“That’s not a straight answer. And I don’t know you well enough to guess what you could or couldn’t feel.”
His pupils encroached on the lighter blue. “Your soul knows me.”
Unquestionably. But what history did we share? “I’m not sure I can trust you.”
“I realize that. But you can.”
I cleared my throat. “Well, I think I came back here to see what I didn’t before. The graveyard, as it looks in the Otherworld.”
“A worthy goal. Among the buried are ancient chieftains, including the O’Donoghues, and the last King of Desmond. Aengus stopped you, didn’t he?”
“He said he was protecting me.”
“Ha! From what? The mysteries of the night? Dark and lovely, they are.”
Again, my eyes narrowed. Did he know the paranormal fascinated me? Maybe he’d sensed my excitement over the Wild Hunt on Halloween night. “Mysteries?”
“There are many associated with this place. Have you heard of the Brown Man?”
I frowned. “No.”
“He was a newlywed whose bride found him here, in this very graveyard, feasting on the flesh of a dug-up corpse.”
“Then there’s the religious hermit who lived here all by himself for a decade in the eighteenth century.”
“That doesn’t sound too strange.”
Lorcan arched an eyebrow. “No? Every night, he slept in a coffin.”
He nodded. “Then there was Herbert, a local landlord who ordered his servants to dig up some of the graves, burn the remains, and scatter the ashes in his garden.”
“Okay. Now you’re just making stuff up.”
He gave me a sidewise look. “Am I? Later, a woman in white attacked Herbert, right outside the abbey. Tales like these inspired Bram Stoker when he visited the area.”
“Bram Stoker? The author of Dracula?”
“The very same. He was often seen wandering these ruins at night.”
“After what you’ve told me, I can see why. Some people fear the unknown, but I’ll bet it fascinated him. I mean, you’ve got a ruin like this and a graveyard. When darkness falls, it’s the perfect setting for a gothic story, or the inspiration for one.”
He inched closer. Silky and seductive, his energy reached out to me. I could almost imagine he was touching me. My face. My shoulders and arms. My waist.
“Then you feel it too,” he murmured.
His eyes smoldered. “The lure of the dark.”
“Don’t deny it.”
Please let this be a dream! I found my voice. “Yes.”
“I knew it.” His devilish grin made my stomach flutter. “And you are Caer.”
“I was. A long time ago. Now I’m—”
“Ashling.” He drew out the pronunciation of my name, as if his tongue took great pleasure in articulating it.
He drew ever nearer. “Cold?”
I shook my head and took a step backward. “Is this a dream?”
He halted, but his passionate gaze burned on. “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
What I love most about the holiday season:
I love watching classic Christmas movies with my family. Because The Stone Awakened takes place around Christmastime, I had to include in the story some of my favorite Irish Christmas traditions, like wearing “ugly Christmas jumpers” and reading James Joyce’s The Dead.
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