Ailin O’Sullivan is a leprechaun on a quest for love. On Saint Patrick’s Day, a portal from Fairie to the mortal world opens for a few seconds and young leprechauns pour out and try to find love before the Spring Equinox. After skipping the event the year before, Ailin is ready to run out into the mortal world and take his chances. The music of a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration draws his attention, and he finds himself dancing with a sexy man. Mahon is a local farmer who’s tired of looking for love amongst the locals. When Ailin proves to be a match for him in everything they do, Mahon is quickly smitten. But will they confess their love to each other before the equinox, or will Ailin be pulled back to Fairie and trapped there forever?
An impatient energy filled the corridor. Ailin O’Sullivan hastened toward the impending twilight. As he hurried along, other young leprechauns joined him. With every step, the magic of the fading light urged them on.
“Hurry up!” Shamus O’Toole shouted as he pushed past Ailin. “If we don’t make it now, we’ll have to wait another year.”
“We don’t have far to go.” Ailin grabbed his friend’s arm. “The passage won’t open until the sun is down. We have time.”
Shamus shook him off. “So you say. These tunnels twist and turn, and the portal from Underhill won’t stay open very long. Well, you know that. You missed it last year.”
“Aye, and I’m glad I did.” Ailin kept pace with Shamus as they jogged with the others down the tunnel that would shortly become the only way in or out of the Summer Court. They didn’t have much time, but they had an advantage—he’d just learned where the passage would open this year. He’d spoken to the high mage himself and bargained for the information. Since the world beyond was always changing, the portals between Underhill and the mortals were always changing too.
“How can you say that?” Shamus asked. “You’ve been lonely all year. If you’d made it out last year, you’d have had a chance to find a mortal of your own.”
“Maybe I wasn’t ready,” Ailin replied. “Maybe I needed to learn a wee bit more about love afore I went looking.”
Shamus shook his head. “Ailin O’Sullivan, you’re a fool an’ a dreamer. I wasn’t old enough last year, but I told you then you should go.”
They rounded the corner, and Ailin’s heart dropped. They were only a few steps from where the high mage told him the portal would open at sundown, and the tunnel was already packed with people. There were so many leprechauns they couldn’t move without stepping on each other. Three tunnels came together at this spot to form the main passage. It wasn’t fair that so many of his peers would be so much closer when the portal opened.
“Damn all your hides!” Shamus shouted. “Keep moving. It’s almost sundown.”
The energy of the changing day flooded through the twilight halls of the Summer Court, bringing a hush to the gathered leprechauns. Everyone stopped moving and waited to see where the portal would appear.
Ailin grabbed Shamus’ arm and pulled him toward the grand statue of Titania that stood opposite the massive statue of Oberon. “Come on,” he whispered. Around them, everyone looked about, trying to be the first one to spot the portal opening.
The red hairs on Ailin’s arms stood on end, and magic sprang from the walls to coalesce into a shimmering portal near Titania’s right knee. A massive whooshing filled the tunnel’s crossroads. Then the passage way to the mortal world stood open.
“There!” someone shouted.
Ailin kept hold of Shamus’ arm as he ran toward the portal. “This way!” He cleared the portal. His stomach gave a massive lurch from the disorientation of passing through the barrier between the worlds, and then the other leprechauns were on him. He stumbled, and for a few steps, only the press of their bodies around him kept him on his feet. Then he fell. It was all he could do to curl up in a tight ball and summon a shield of magic over himself before they trampled him.
Getting through the passage was too important for everyone. Leprechauns weren’t like most of the rest of the fae; they couldn’t come and go into the mortal world with ease. Tied to Underhill, they had one chance to find mortal love, and that happened three days before the spring equinox.
The portal would open for a short period. Not even the high mage knew how long each opening would be. When it closed, those young leprechauns who hadn’t gotten through would have to wait until the following year to try. And those who succeeded, if they failed to find love by dawn the day after the equinox, would fade back to Underhill, forced to accept the company of the fae for the rest of their days. For most leprechauns, trying to find real love with a mortal was worth risking the unknown. A love that was honest and true. Something that didn’t involve the games and trickery so many of the fae lived by.
The stampede of little people subsided. Ailin waited a moment before dropping his magical protections. The new green grass was trampled flat, and not a leprechaun was in sight. He was completely alone. Somehow during the fracas, he’d even lost hold of Shamus. For several moments, Ailin sat in the grass. It was alive and growing. It felt good under him. It reminded him how much Underhill needed the mortal world. The two were linked, even as they were separated. Without one, the other would wither and die. That was one of the reasons the leprechauns sought love with the mortals. Of all the fae, they were the closest to the mortals. Only by sharing their life-force with a mortal could they each truly become immortal. He knew it was a gamble, but he had to try. Ailin didn’t want to be forever bound to the twilight realm; he wanted to be more. He wanted the freedom the love of a mortal would give him.
“It is almost the equinox, isn’t it?” A voice drew his attention back up the slight hill the portal had opened on.