[This is the original version of the scene of the morning after Wren and Shrike perform the Samhain ritual. While steamy and fun, it felt redundant to have two love scenes back-to-back. You can read the rewritten scene in Oak King Holly King—available on Amazon • Apple Books • Barnes & Noble • Bookshop.org • Kobo • Overdrive • Smashwords—and enjoy the original below.]
Wren had drifted off to the hooting of owls in the trees above and the steady rumble of Shrike’s breath through his own ribs as they lay thoroughly entwined within the warm folds of the fur-lined cloak.
Sharp birdsong forced his eyes open to behold the dawn creeping up over the tree-tops, illuminating the crimson and golden leaves like brilliant bursts of flame. The tip of his nose felt not unlike an icicle, but the rest of him remained quite snug within Shrike’s cloak.
Shrike himself, however, had vanished.
Wren sat up, bringing the cloak with him as he rose so as not to lose its vital warmth. He ran a hand through his hair and found it far more tangled than a typical night’s sleep would allow. His breath formed plumes of vapour in the air before him as he glanced ‘round to see where Shrike had gone.
Candles still stood at the five points of the pentangle. Between them, however, the ring that Wren had carved into the earth had grown over with white-capped mushrooms. The candles themselves had melted down as if true flame and not faerie fire had lit them the night before—though the wicks remained pristine. Above the continuing birdsong, Wren heard the faint babbling of running water.
Wren wrapped himself up in the cloak and stepped gingerly out of the faerie ring. While Shrike’s garments had vanished, his own clothes remained folded-up where he’d discarded them last night. He picked them up but did not don them. First, he wanted to get cleaned off, and following the sound of water seemed the most prudent course towards that particular goal.
A few minute’s wandering sufficed to bring him to his quest’s end. The forest opened up to reveal a stream splashing hither and thither over its rocky bed until it took a splendid leap over an outcropping and plunged in a waterfall to a broad pool beneath, before bending and continuing on its merry way through the wood.
And in the midst of that pool swam Shrike.
Wren had thought Shrike handsome by the eerie glow of faerie fire. By the dawn’s light filtering down in stained-glass columns through the canopy, with the spray of the brook sparkling over his bronzed skin and pouring down through the waist-length waterfall of his silver-shot black locks, he appeared nothing less than glorious.
Shrike turned, and as his dark eyes caught sight of Wren, his handsome face split into a wild grin. He held out his hand, beckoning for Wren to join him.
Wren flung off the cloak and leapt into the stream.
An icy shock drove the breath from his chest. He burst up from the water with quaking limbs. So enticing had Shrike’s visage seemed that he’d quite forgot the season. Now, naked in cold water up to his chest, he had half a mind to kick out for the rocky bank.
But as he shoved away the errant lock of hair that streamed water into his eyes, he saw Shrike again, wearing an alarmed expression and darting towards him as swift and agile as an otter.
“It’s—bracing,” Wren admitted through a jaw clenched against chattering.
Shrike let out a huff of laughter, though a wrinkle of concern still marred his brow. He’d drawn near enough now to wrap his sinewy arms around Wren’s narrow shoulders. Bonfire heat radiated from him alongside his intoxicating woodsmoke scent. Wren soaked up the warmth of his embrace, and by the time their lips met and Shrike’s slender hips brushed against his own, he no longer felt the least bit cold.
“Better?” Shrike murmured against his mouth.
“I think you can tell for yourself,” Wren replied, already at half-mast against Shrike’s thigh beneath the water.
Shrike kissed him anew and took him in hand besides. Wren’s hips thrust to meet him of their own accord. He gave up fumbling for Shrike’s prick when he felt it slide against his own and dug his nails into Shrike’s back instead, Shrike’s mouth devouring his gasps and moans. He swore an oath into Shrike’s lips as he spent, Shrike’s cock pulsing and shuddering alongside his, Shrike’s rough palm stroking them both to a blazing eruption.
The stream washed away sweat and seed alike, leaving Wren more refreshed than otherwise as Shrike kissed him back to wakefulness. Centuries of flowing water had smoothed flat a once-mighty boulder that dared jut out into the brook. Wren sunned himself dry upon it as he watched Shrike wring out his hair, his nearness enough to keep the chill nip of the turning season at bay. With some reluctance, Wren donned the trappings of society, stealing covetous glances all the while at Shrike’s shirt, tunic, and hose. Then they returned to the ritual site and, joining hands, stepped through the mushroom ring.
Hyde Park had never before seemed so feeble and infirm as when contrasted against the ancient growth of Sherwood. Nor had London’s acrid and omnipresent fog ever choked Wren so in the decade since he’d come to live in the city. He wondered how Shrike could stand it.
“May we meet again before midwinter?” Wren asked.
Shrike gave him a wry smile. “I should very much like to.”
Wren found himself biting his lip in response. He recovered his senses and said, “I have a half-day on Saturdays, and the whole day to myself on Sundays.”
Shrike cocked his head to the side in thought. “Would you care to spend Saturday night with me on into Sunday morning?”
“Yes,” Wren blurted almost before Shrike had finished speaking.
Shrike’s smile broadened into a grin. “Then I shall meet you beneath Achilles.”
“One o’clock,” Wren agreed. Then, as he realized he’d never seen Shrike with a pocket-watch, added, “Just after mid-day.”
From the gaze Shrike cast down upon him, Wren thought he’d have liked to seal the promise with a kiss. Instead he clasped Wren’s hand between his own, his rough palms and sure grip infusing the gesture with as much passion as any wanton embrace. Wren, his heart thrumming with anticipation and bursting with desire, had almost enough nerve to throw caution to the wind and kiss him regardless—Hyde Park be damned.
But then Shrike released him and, with that wry smile Wren loved so well, fell back through the faerie ring and vanished.
Oak King Holly King is a gay Victorian fae romance, available now wherever fine books are found!