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December Roses

by Fiona Glass

December Roses - Fiona Glass
Pages: 200

A mysterious garden... an enigmatic man... but are either of them real?

Recovering from a bombing in 1990s Belfast, British soldier Nat Brook is sent to remote army rehab unit Frogmorton Towers to recuperate. At first he’s lonely and depressed, but then he finds the remnants of a once-beautiful garden, meets the enigmatic Richie, and begins to fall in love. Gradually, though, he realises there’s something odd about Frogmorton. He can rarely find the same place twice, and Richie proves every bit as elusive as the Chinese pagoda or the Scottish glen. Nat begins to question his own sanity, because if the garden is imaginary, what does that make the man he loves? Faced with the shocking truth, Nat must decide whether to stay with the army - even though that means hiding his sexuality - or find acceptance elsewhere.


Richie led the way at such a pace he’d have had trouble keeping up even when he was fully fit. Now it was killing him. He stuck it for a couple of hundred yards, until they reached a different terrace, one without a pool. There he stopped, bent over with his hands on his knees, and called. ‛Hang on, mate. I’m still hopping about on this bloody leg.’

‛Sorry, I forgot.’ Richie sounded contrite. He slowed down, but the way was still a confusing maze that confounded Nat's sense of direction so thoroughly he had no idea where he was. They marched through a rockery full of gullies and ravines; they clambered beside a tiny, splashing stream; and finally the path curved down under a high cliff, part natural, part made of stone.

‛The Great Wall of China.’ Richie flung the words over his shoulder, but whether it was a joke or not, Nat couldn’t tell.


Richie stopped soon afterwards on the edge of a lake. It was too dark to see how big it was, but water lapping over pebbles created soft music and the scent of damp earth filled his nose. Twin stands of giant rhubarb framed the stygian view, grey on indigo on black until the moon rose and splashed silvery light on the pallid timbers of a little ‘Willow Pattern’ bridge. At the far end of the bridge a summer-house nestled amongst the trees; as they got closer he realised it was a pagoda, roofed in pantiles and covered in red and gold paint. It was fronted by a verandah that led out across the pool, and along the balustrade hung a row of tiny bells. He shook the nearest one and it tinkled, the sweet high note clashing with Richie’s throaty laugh.

‛That’s prosperity sorted, then.’

‛You what?’

‛All the bells have different meanings, apparently. Health and wealth and long life and so on. Typical Oriental mumbo-jumbo if you ask me, but then what do I know?’

‛And you can tell which is which just by hearing them?’

‛Comes of being a musician. The third one along’s for love.’

He knew he shouldn’t, but some inner demon drove Nat to reach out and tug the third bell. It chimed once, a lower tone than before, and then the echoes caught it, tossing it back and forth across the lake in a rising crescendo of one repeated note. Nat found he was holding his breath, shivering in the cool air as the dizzying harmony faded to a silence charged with hidden sound.

‛I’ve never heard it do that before.’ Richie’s eyes were wide. ‛Must be an omen.’

‛Good or bad?’

‛Dunno. I’ve never been one for all that mysticism. Best left for the fairies. Are you going to stand there all night or are you coming indoors?’ And taking a key from a nail by the door he opened up.


About the Author

When she isn't being a pane in the glass, Fiona writes darkly humorous paranormal romance, often featuring gay characters and almost always with a twist in the tail. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines including Mslexia, Paragraph Planet, and The Library of Rejected Beauty. Her books include m/m paranormal romances 'December Roses' and 'Trench Warfare' and m/m vampire romance 'Echoes of Blood' - all available on Kindle.

Fiona lives in a slate cottage within stone-throwing distance (never a good idea in Glass houses...) of England's largest lake with her husband, several pot plants and a vast collection of books. She enjoys history, gardening and photography, and rarely has her nose far from the pages of a book - or a cup of tea.