If the surprise outcome of the recent UK referendum - on whether to leave or remain in the European Union - teaches us anything, it is that supposedly worthy displays of democracy in action can actually do more harm than good. Witness a nation now more divided; an intergenerational schism in the making; both a governing and opposition party torn to shreds from the inside; infinitely more complex issues raised than satisfactory solutions provided. It begs the question 'Was it really all worth it' ?

~ Alex Morritt

He poured a splash of liquid into a second cup. “Come in and warm yerself by the fire.” Ariana walked deeper into the room, toward the glow of the hearth. It’s heat enveloped her skin and eased away the chill with such expediency, she almost sighed. Connor appeared beside her with a metal cup extended. “I canna sleep often myself.” She closed her fingers around the cool surface and glanced at the dark liquid within. A sharp scent hit her nostrils. “Whisky,” Connor said. He was perfection in the firelight. Shadows etched his jaw while the light softened his face, his lips. The powerful lines of his chest were visible at the neck of his leine, as well as a dark peppering of small curling black hairs. “Whisky,” Ariana said with a forced stare at the cup instead of him. “Of course. I drink this all the time.” “Aye, I knew that about ye. When I first saw ye, I thought, ‘Now there’s a lass who can handle her whisky.’” Connor winked at her with disarming playfulness. “It’ll do ye some good. Take off the chill and settle yer thoughts.” “Why do you assume my thoughts are unsettled?” she asked. He took a swallow from his cup. “Because sleep comes easily to those without weight on their minds.” Ariana took a careful sip from her own cup, the way she’d seen men at the card tables drink. The liquid burned like sin down her throat and caught in her chest. She gritted her teeth and swallowed hard several times to keep from sputtering. Though she’d hoped to keep her reaction discreet, the grin on Connor’s face told her he saw through her guise. “It’s good.” Her voice came out in a croak and Connor laughed. It was a warm, rich sound and she found it terribly pleasing. His eyes crinkled. “Now that we’ve discovered yer love of whisky, why dinna ye tell me what’s got yer thoughts heavy?

~ Madeline Martin