Kaiden Nelson looked like every other Marine, only
most of his guys didn’t grow up in a family of nudists, celebrating the wheel
of the year and the lunar cycles. His buddies wouldn’t name him a witch,
either. But after more than a decade at war, Kaiden isn’t sure he can—or even
wants to lay claim to that calling anymore. He’s got too much blood on his
hands and he’s tired…tired of war, tired of fighting. Some days…he’s tired of
living. When he’s sent on leave for the holidays, he’s unsure if he can ever
really go home again.
a candle in the night…
Rowan Harper lives in two worlds, the mundane where
she handles tech issues for a major corporation and the pagan where she
celebrates the sabbats and esbats with her coven. Like so many in the region,
she keeps her beliefs private. It makes life more bearable from others who
would judge, and she likes nothing better than the great sabbat retreats the
coven takes to the sprawling Lake House. It’s a time where she sheds the
shackles of everyday life and embraces the divine.
When Kaiden turns up at the coven Yule, his Circle
of family and friends are eager to welcome him. He feels unworthy of the open
warmth and shies away to the darkness, but Rowan refuses to leave him in the
shadows. Can the inexorable pull of one woman help him face down his demons as
they hold vigil against the longest night of the year?
bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science
fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are
filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime.
From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather
might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters
drive the books. When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes
her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like
your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines
so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll
enjoy her worlds as much as she does.
the following excerpt for Marine Under the Mistletoe:
He grunted, but didn’t complain. The boys cleared
out without further warning and the goddess in the pale, gray silk dress
descended the stairs slowly. He didn’t get a glimpse of her feet, but the way
the skirt swirled around her, it gave her the effect of floating.
“Rowan?” The man’s nudity hadn’t bothered Kaiden
when he’d arrived, not really. He hadn’t been gone so long he didn’t remember
the comfort most others had in their skin—hell, a comfort he’d once shared. But
when Rowan achieved the last step,
Kaiden fought the desire to strip off his jacket and throw it at him. “Oh.”
Realization dawned across Aaron’s chastised expression. “My apologies, you two
haven’t met…I forget. Rowan Harper—this is Lorraine and Henry’s son, Kaiden.
Kaiden, Rowan Harper—she joined Blue Circle a few years after you enlisted,
give or take.”
“Merry meet, Kaiden.” She smiled, walked straight up
to him and brushed her lips to his—the contact a violent shock to his system
and he blinked once, going completely still. “It’s truly lovely to have you
with us this year.”
It took his mind a full minute to catch up to the
wrench in his body. “Hello,” the word came out strained and harsh, but either
she gave him a free pass as they were strangers or she didn’t notice it. Aaron
gave him an odd look.
Rowan gestured to the stairs. “Do you remember the
way to your room? I put fresh sheets on the bed and fixed it up when your
parents told me you had confirmed coming this year.”
He knew exactly where it was, but his manners
finally kicked awake. “Please.” Following her up the stairs, he glanced back at
Aaron once, aware of his amused gaze. Kaiden didn’t care for the sensation of
being watched. He’s a friendly. They’re
all friendlies. This is home.
The mental litany didn’t ease the tension winding
him up. At the curve in the stairs, she paused to wait for him and Kaiden
picked up the pace. He might be fucked up, but that didn’t mean he had to be
“Sorry, it was a long flight.” Mentally groaning at
the obviousness of the comment, he sucked in a deep breath, determined to do
better and inhaled fruity, deeply feminine, and deliciously sensual scent that
sent a shiver of awareness through his body and his blood plummeted to southern
“I don’t doubt it and I’m a total stranger.” She
started climbing again, lifting her skirt with one hand. “But I meant what I
said downstairs—I am very happy to welcome you home this year. Your mother
speaks of you often.”
“She’ll be annoyed with me.” The effort to make
casual conversation came out rough and jagged. “I got an earlier flight and
thought I could avoid anything too elaborate when I arrived.”
“Ahh.” She hesitated and her teeth clenched together
in a smile-grimace.
“It’s okay,” he held up his free hand, palm out. “I
know my parents. I know they’ve planned something special—especially since I
haven’t been home. They can still have it all happen, I just get some time to
be here before it starts.”
“I could talk to them if you like.” It was a kind—if
“Thank you, but the last place you need to put
yourself is between my parents and I.” The sentence came out far tougher than
he’d intended. Exhaling a hard breath, he concentrated on sanding down his
attitude. “And by that, I mean I haven’t been the poster child for good son.
They’re entitled to react in a way that makes them happy.”
They’d arrived at his door and he found the silence
almost as unnerving as the house itself. He’d picked out this room all those
years ago because it was furthest from the others, nestled off a quiet hall
that had a storage closet and attic access.
“Rowan, please ignore me. I apparently haven’t been
around real people in a while.”
“Oh?” Her too innocent eyes glittered under the glow
from the single lamp illuminating the hall. “And what mythical people have you
been spending time with?
Ok I have to admit when I first started to read this one I
was like HUH? But then as I continued I was like AHHH!!! And now I have you all
wondering what the heck I’m talking about…
In this Marine story we meet Kaiden, a man who is home from
leave for the first time in ten years. His first greeting at arriving at a
cabin is his lifelong friend Aaron naked (yeah this is where I was like WHAT?),
my first instinct was to think Heather Long wrote a nudist colony? But fear
not, that is not at all what she did… Kaiden is part of a Pagan coven (and
that’s the AHHH moment)… He’d stayed away from home not thinking he deserved to
be accepted amongst all those who believe as he did growing up. In his eyes
he’d violated one of their cardinal rules, he was doing his job as a Marine,
but it was hard for him to accept that and believe the others would too.
That is where Rowan comes in. A fairly new member of the
coven, she came into the group a few years after he’d already enlisted so she
didn’t know the man from before. She is able to see him differently, which goes
a long way into helping them both bond. She doesn’t have expectations for him
like so many of the others do. She doesn’t see the hard, changed man. She only
sees the man who is trying to beat himself up for doing his job. Her
objectivity helps him see that it’s okay to still do his job and live with the
beliefs he grew up with. She also teaches him how important it is to follow
your gut, your instincts and that we all have a path we need to follow. That
there are reasons for every event we have experienced in our lives.
I have to say it really did make me so much more curious
about the Pagan way… So I might just have to research it and thank Heather Long
for teaching me something new…
I hope this review made you all curious enough to want to go
out to read it, because it really is a fun read… Happy Reading… Adri
Thanks to Heather Long and Decadent Publishing for continuing to provide an Always a Marine addict with more stories to read. This is the third holiday story that Ms. Long is releasing for the holiday season.
Like Adri, at first I was really confused, but I trust Heather to give me a great story, so I kept going. I don’t know much about the Pagan ways, but this story was an interesting way to learn something new. Leave it to Heather to find a way to teach me something new.
Kaiden and Rowan meet when Kaiden returns home to celebrate Yule with his parents. What Kaiden didn’t expect was Rowan becoming important to him during his visit. Rowan was able to break through that tough Marine exterior and get Kaiden to open up to her and she found a way to make him understand that he was still a part of the coven and he could still be a Marine.