Facebook: NineStar Press
Facebook Readers Group: The NineStar Niche
Author: Cheryl Headford
Release Date: November 13, 2017
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Word Count: 84700
Sex Content: Explicit/Fade to Black
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden-cheryl-headford/1127329281
All Keiron wants is a quiet life. Fat chance with a boyfriend like Bren. But if he thought Bren complicated his life, that was nothing compared to the complications that begin when he opens the door to what he thinks is a naked boy claiming to be his slave.
Draven is a fairy with his sights set on the handsome human who keeps a wild place in the garden for fairies. When Draven slips through a fairy gate into the city, he sets in motion a series of events that binds him to Keiron forever, and just might be the end of him.
While Draven explores Keiron’s world with wide-eyed wonder, Keiron does everything he can to keep Draven’s at bay, until the only way to save Draven and bring him home is to step into a world that should exist only in children stories.
Keiron hurried home at the end of a very long day, anticipating some peace and quiet. He liked a quiet life, so what had possessed him to take on a boyfriend like Bren Donovan was anyone’s guess. Whatever else it might be, life with Bren was certainly not quiet, and it was slowly wearing Keiron out.
It was almost a relief Bren wouldn’t be staying at the flat that night. Although they were practically living together, Bren had his own place and sometimes felt the need to stay there. This was usually because a member of his family—or particularly flighty friend—was coming to stay. It wasn’t as if his family wasn’t aware of their relationship, but Bren was shy about “rubbing it in their faces”. Keiron didn’t understand because Bren’s mother seemed to like him a great deal and considered him to be a stabilising influence on her son.
Keiron was a conservative person and so different to Bren, they might as well live in different worlds. As for Bren’s friends, they were usually very like him—loud, messy, and irresponsible. Keiron couldn’t stand them. He was lucky if nothing got broken, and they always left the flat in a complete mess. If Bren wanted to live in a pigsty, so be it. He could do it in his own home.
This weekend, with the bank holiday, Bren was getting both. His friends were congregating on Saturday. Then his parents and sister were coming on Sunday, and staying through until Tuesday morning. Keiron had a Bren-free weekend and was looking forward to it.
If it hadn’t been for their differences on this point, they’d have moved in together a long time ago. Bren chafed for it, but Keiron couldn’t handle his flat descending into chaos, and it wasn’t even as if Bren helped tidy up afterwards. Keiron cringed at the thought of having that chaos and therefore stress every day.
Not only that, but Bren was the most jealous person Keiron had ever come across. Keiron was constantly accused of looking at other men, and God forbid he spoke to one. Bren was a firebrand, completely living up to his fiery red-headed Irish-descended promise. Sometimes it was exciting, even invigorating, yet at other times Keiron longed for the peace and stability he used to have before Bren burst in on him. Maybe at twenty-two, he was just getting old.
Keiron ordered takeaway and, while he waited for it to arrive, wandered down to the bottom of the garden, a beer in his hand, his hair damp from the bath. The sun was still high and warm enough for him to be wearing a thin T-shirt and shorts. The smell of a barbecue drifted over from a neighbouring garden and his mouth watered.
Savouring his drink, he sank onto the stone bench under the rose arbour. It afforded a good view of the whole garden. It was a big one. A long lawn stretched ahead of him to the decking immediately outside the house, where a large wooden table, a number of items of garden furniture, and a shiny silver gas barbecue sat.
Sometimes, he had Bren’s friends around for a barbecue. They weren’t so bad out here in the garden, although they made such a mess of the barbecue itself that it took him days to get it properly clean. He smiled to himself. Sometimes, living with Bren was like having a teenage son. Fortunately, Bren was very good at things he’d hate to think any son of his could do.
The lawn was bordered on either side by flower beds and bushes, which hid the wooden fences separating his garden from the ones on either side. To his left, screened from the arbour by a yew hedge, was a garden pool with a rock fountain and fat koi swimming under lily pads. There used to be more fish—before Bren’s friends found the pond. He pursed his lips at the thought.
To the right was a shrubbery. A large variety of plants made up a wild area of about thirty square feet. Bren loved it, of course. He’d burrowed into it and, within a week, had made a green cave right in the middle. He’d floored it with an old piece of carpet he’d found on a skip. It had taken a long time and a lot of carpet-cleaner to persuade Keiron to enter it, but he had to admit, making love outside under the bushes in the darkness was something he’d come to enjoy very much.
Bren had been surprised he had such a wild place in his neat garden, in his neat life. Perhaps it was the thing that sealed the deal with Bren, who’d been reluctant to get involved with someone so unlike himself, and likely to “cramp his style”.
“But why?” he’d asked. “It doesn’t seem like you to have a wild place like this. It’s so out of place—with the garden and with you. Why haven’t you ‘tamed’ it? Everything else in your life is tame.
You’re the most vanilla person I know—except for this.”
They were in the “cave” at the time. It was dark but warm, and they were holding each other in the afterglow of amazing sex. Keiron had smiled lazily and sighed.
“My mother used to live out in the country somewhere when she was a child. My grandmother never took to city life. She told me once there was no room in a city for life, real life. Nowhere for roots to reach the earth. No place for the fairies.”
“Oh yes, she was very superstitious about fairies. Never had anything made of iron in the garden. Put out saucers of warm milk if there was a deep frost or snow. And always had a wild place in the garden—for the fairies.”
Bren had smiled at him. “I never thought you had any of that in you, Keiron. I guess there’s hope for you yet.”
Keiron had grinned and held Bren tightly in his arms.
Keiron smiled at the memory and took a drink of his beer. Something caught his eye, and he turned towards the shrubbery. He was sure he’d seen something move, shooting across his vision, behind the trees. He stared hard, but there was nothing there. It must have been a squirrel. He saw them now and again, scrabbling for nuts under the hazel tree or acorns from the enormous oak that overhung the garden from next door.
With a sigh, he settled back and took another drink. His stomach rumbled, and he glanced at his watch, wondering when his pizza would get there. The deliveryman was a regular, and if there was no answer at the door, he’d text to say he’d arrived. So Keiron could relax and not worry about—
There was definitely something there. It moved again. He’d seen it—a flash of white. A cat? Most of the neighbours had cats, and they liked to hang about in the shrubbery, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting birds. It had taken a lot of work to get rid of the smell of cat pee from the carpet.
Ah well. Although…something nagged at the back of his mind. It wasn’t a cat. It couldn’t have been a cat because it hadn’t looked like a cat. It had looked like a person. A small person with a pale pointed face. But it had only been a fraction of a second, a flash, an impression. It was nonsense, of course.
Maybe it was one of the fairies. He smiled.
There was no further movement in the bushes, so when the text came to herald the arrival of his pizza, he wandered back into the house.
He decided to eat his stuffed-crust vegetable supreme at the kitchen table. It was a beautiful night. Other than distant strains of music drifting over from the barbecue, there was the type of silence that magnified the slightest sound. Like the silence that came with snow. It was magical.
Keiron laughed at himself. Magical? That’s what you get for thinking of fairies.
Something flashed at the window and he glanced up sharply. There was nothing there, but there had been. In that fraction of a second between his head beginning to move and his eyes orienting on the window, there had been something or someone peeping in. Someone with a small pointy face. Shit.
Take it easy. If something was there, he didn’t want to frighten it away before he found out what it was.
He took up the uneaten pizza, making a show of putting it onto a plate and into the fridge. The back door was open to let in the summer warmth, and the bin was next to it, out of sight of the window. He folded the pizza box, and headed for the bin—only he wasn’t going to the bin at all. He lifted the lid, so the sound carried out into the garden, but before he let the lid drop, he dived for the back door.
There was nothing there, but there had been. There had been someone crouching under the window, peeping in. It was someone with long white hair, a pointed face, and unnaturally blue eyes. It was all seen in the blink of an eye, and after he’d blinked, there was nothing there and no sign there ever had been.
“I know you’re there. I’ve seen you three times now,” he called into the silence. “I know what you are.” Why had he even said that? It couldn’t have been anything but a figment of his imagination. Human beings couldn’t move that fast, and it was certainly no animal. Then what? A fairy? Hah.
Smiling at his own foolishness, he went back into the house and closed the door.
He was halfway through the remaining pizza, drinking his third bottle of beer and feeling pretty mellow, when there was a soft tapping at the back door. This surprised him very much. No one ever knocked on the back door. Why would they? How could they? They’d have to be in the garden, and there were only two ways into it, the door at which they now tapped or a tiny gate right at the bottom, which would have necessitated them traipsing right through the garden. Who would do that?
With a frown, gripping the bottle in his hand like a weapon, he walked through the kitchen to the door. He could see a vague form through the frosted glass. There was definitely someone there. He wondered if they’d disappear by the time he opened the door.
When the door opened, Keiron froze. He’d never seen anything—or anyone—remotely like the creature who stood on his back doorstep.
Keiron blinked, half expecting the creature to vanish before he opened his eyes. He didn’t. He seemed human enough. A boy of seventeen or eighteen years old, with long silvery-white hair and a pretty elfin face. Long white lashes swept over the downturned eyes and skin so pale it appeared translucent, seeming almost to glow in the gathering dusk. He was slender, willowy, and completely naked.
“Who the hell are you?” Keiron eventually asked. The boy looked up and Keiron recoiled. Nothing with eyes like that could be human. They were blue, but it wasn’t any blue he’d ever seen before. It was a brilliant electric blue with a metallic sheen that marked him as something very different to anyone Keiron had ever encountered.
“Draven,” the boy said automatically in a light singsong voice.
“What do you want?”
“Whatever you want.”
“I…want…I want to know who you are and why you’re standing naked on my back doorstep.”
“I’m…Draven,” he said with an anxious little smile. “I’m yours.”
Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play. Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a reenactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere. In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem.