The Cauldron Stirred by Judith Sterling and @WildRosePress is a Fall Into These Great Reads Pick #ya
Title: The Cauldron Stirred
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: YA Paranormal
Ashling Donoghue never dreamed moving to Ireland would rock her perception of reality and plunge her into a mystery that brings legend to life. At seventeen, she’s never had a boyfriend, but she feels an immediate connection to Aengus Breasal, the son of the wealthy Irishman who’s invited her family to stay at his Killarney estate. For the first time in her life, a guy she likes seems attracted to her. But Aengus is secretive, with good reason. He and his family are the Tuatha Dé Danann, ageless, mythical guardians adept at shifting between this reality and the magical dimension known as the Otherworld. Evil forces from that world threaten the Breasals, the Donoghues, and all of Ireland. Ashling must open her heart, face her fears, and embrace a destiny greater than she could ever have imagined.
Aengus grinned. “You’re a few minutes early.”
“Patience is not one of my virtues.”
He chuckled. “Well, your wait is over. First, let’s shift into the Otherworld.”
Once we did, he reached out his hands, palms up. “Your hands, milady.”
I placed them in his and smiled as our fingers curled together. “I’m all yours.”
He stared into my eyes. “Promise?”
My heart raced. The power of speech deserted me.
He cleared his throat. “Right. Away we go.”
The next instant, we were standing in a wide, open field at the mouth of a cave. The entry was small, about three feet high and four feet wide.
I scanned the surrounding farmland. “Where are we?”
“Oweynagat in Cruachan, the ancient capital of Connacht.” He released my hands and motioned toward the cave’s entrance. “The opening is narrow, but it’s like a cathedral inside. In the Otherworld, at least.”
“Are we going in?”
“Then why did we come?”
“We’re here in honor of your birthday and in the spirit of your favorite holiday.”
“This cave has something to do with Halloween?”
He nodded. “It’s an important mythological site, and it’s been called the hell-mouth of Ireland.”
I twisted my lips. “Well, that sounds ominous.”
He clasped my hands and closed his eyes. Abruptly, our position changed. We now stood a good twenty yards from Oweynagat and viewed it from the side. A waist-high, dry stone wall served as a barrier between us and the cave, and it stretched for miles in either direction. Somehow, a tree had grown through the side of the wall and flourished.
Aengus smiled. “There. Close but not too close.”
“What do you mean?”
He laid his hand on one of the stones. “This wall is only visible in the Otherworld. The entire thing is infused with the protective energy of that hawthorn tree.”
“Do we need protection?”
“But we’re not going into the cave.”
“There’s no need. We’ve only to wait and watch what comes out at midnight.”
I glanced at Oweynagat. “What’s gonna come out?”
He grinned. “You’re about to witness something few have ever seen: the Wild Hunt.”
“A group of phantom huntsmen and other creatures who ride out into the night. They do it every year as All Hallow’s Eve shifts into November.”
A sudden, resounding chime pierced the silence. Then another rang out, and another. It sounded like the peal of a gigantic grandfather clock. The wind began to howl.
“Midnight.” He turned and pointed. “Look!”
From the mouth of the cave burst a symphony of specters. There were hunters on horseback and wailing hounds. Flying above and behind them were hundreds of nocturnal creatures. Living gargoyles. Gray ghosts. Copper red birds. Dark angels with massive, black-feather wings.
I suppose I should’ve been scared. But for someone like me, who’d embraced the magic and mystery of Halloween from day one, the Wild Hunt was a glorious sight. The stroke of midnight, the rushing wind, the mad pursuit across land and sky: all stirred my soul.
I craved freedom. I wanted Aengus.
I turned to him. The spectacle held him rapt. Between his roused expression and wind-ruffled hair, he was irresistible. And he was mine.
He turned to me. Our gazes locked. Our souls connected.
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. My entire life had led me to this moment, this man.
We came together in a surge of passion. His arms locked me in a powerful embrace as his lips captured mine. I gave myself to the kiss. It was wild, sweet, filled with longing. He ran his fingers through my hair and down my back. My hands slid to his shoulders, his chest, the small of his back. I pressed my hips against him.
He moaned. His tongue strained to deepen the kiss. Every inch of my body tingled. All thought was lost in a haze of desire.
That’s when it happened. A peculiar tug on my senses, as if my awareness aspired to be in two places at once. Part of me wanted to meld with Aengus. Another part compelled me to look left.
I pulled away from him and turned. Ten feet away, on the other side of the wall, stood a figure clad in black.
The man from my dreams. The one who’d lurked in the corner of my bedroom.
We stared at one another. I felt rooted to the ground, a slave to the hidden link between us. A ghost of recognition—of memories long buried—haunted the edges of my conscious mind.
The warring emotions of doubt and hope flickered in his ice-blue eyes. “Is it you?”
Grab a copy of the e-book for only 99 cents! The sequel (book 2) is also on sale for 99 cents. Hurry, because this sale ends soon.
What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
I had so much fun writing this story, the first in my four-book Guardians of Erin series. My inspiration was a set of circumstances similar to what the protagonist, Ashling Donoghue, experiences at the beginning of the story: (1) sudden and inexplicable homesickness for Ireland, a country I hadn't visited or given much thought to before then; (2) speaking Irish, a language I'd never learned, in my sleep; and (3) total certainty that I would--and in fact HAD TO--travel there. I was 17 at the time, just like Ashling.
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