All Hallows’ Eve – the night when the barrier between the physical and supernatural worlds is at its weakest and magic can happen.
When Sebastian, a dusty, sad antiquarian, throws a Halloween party, the last thing Jack expects the evening to be is magical. A wrong turn in Sebastian’s country house leads him to the cause of his employer’s sadness – the gateway into a dark and bewitching garden of temptation. Surrounded by nature at its most wicked, Jack is seduced by a master craftsman – a true force of nature.
At the edge of my vision I saw a flash of movement through the doorway of the derelict building. I left the musty embrace of the trees and made my way over to the stone shelter, hesitating outside as I heard a gentle tap-tap-tap coming from the shadows. I peered through the narrow slit that served as a window. What little moonlight penetrated the gloom revealed a muscular back and dark, unruly hair curling over the white nape of a man’s neck.
“Would you come inside? Or are you just spying upon my flesh?”
What the hell? “Um…” I muttered, my heart skipping a beat before hammering as fast as the tapping.
The man responded with a throaty laugh. “Come, or leave by the way you came.”
I walked to the door and ducked inside. The tapping ceased and the man looked up at me. He smiled, his eyes iridescent green even in the dim light. “Welcome. Most falter at the first step.”
“The mirror?” I asked.
“The Gateway…” He looked puzzled for a moment.
I glanced down. The man straddled a stone seat, his hands resting between his legs, holding a chisel and hammer. At his feet lay wood shavings and a roughly made willow basket holding tiny carved effigies.
“May I?” I asked. The man nodded and I moved closer, stooping to look inside the basket. I picked out an acorn, almost as small as the real thing, from among carved leaves, whittled snakes and delicate flowers.
“It’s perfect.” I said.
The man put down his tools and reached out, curling my fingers over the wood trinket. “It is yours to keep.” His hand was warm, and he held mine in his strong grip. His skin felt rough, calloused from working with carpenters’ tools. He released my hand and I slipped the acorn into my pocket.
“Treasure it,” he said.
The man laughed. “Of course.” His echo of my words was tinged with scorn and his face clouded with doubt. He rose to his feet – a formidable sight – a large, strong man, taller than me, stripped to the waist, his legs clad in some rough, woven cloth tied at the waist with a cord, his feet bare. That he had the delicacy of touch needed to create such fine objects was a mystery, but when he reached out to caress my face his touch was so gentle I caught my breath and understood in a moment…