Dreamspell

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Dreamspell

THE WITCH CHRONICLES BOOK 1: by Chandra Knight WHISKEY CREEK PRESS www.whiskeycreekpress.com Published by WHISKEY CR

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Pages 97 Page size 612 x 792 pts (letter) Year 2006

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THE WITCH CHRONICLES BOOK 1: DREAMSPELL by

Chandra Knight

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by WHISKEY CREEK PRESS Whiskey Creek Press PO Box 51052 Casper, WY 82605-1052 www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright  2006 by Jan Janssen Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. ISBN 1-59374-457-9

Credits Cover Artist: ESCORPIO Editor: Chere Gruver Printed in the United States of America

Dedication For my own real-life hero…you know who you are.

Prologue Come to me. The words washed over Mena with an urgency that set her heart pounding in a panic. Who are you? She shot the question into the ether, searching out the source of the commanding male presence that had taken over her dream, once again. I need you. Where are you? Mena’s question hovered at the edges of her mind. No answer. I want to help, but…a feeling of extreme warmth and protectiveness flooded her, swirling around her and drawing her upward. She was drifting above her own sleeping form. She struggled with the fear that invaded her mind. No! I can’t… The vortex that whispered like the wind released her, and she settled gently back into her body. When? the wind murmured. There’s no time to waste. A touch like that of a cherished lover flowed over her, causing her heart to ache for something unknown. Mena. A sudden, new cold engulfed her, causing an icy shiver to shoot through her. You’ll obey me! Get out! The earlier soft, warm wind howled around her in anger. Complete and utter terror took control. Mena’s subconscious grasped the warmth of her nightly visitor, and he 1

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pulled her back to full awareness, allowing blessed escape from the very lucid dream. She awoke to the quiet gray of dawn and the soft hooting of an owl, perched in the old chestnut tree directly outside her window. The gentle sound worked to soothe her, as she slipped easily back into sleep.

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Chapter 1 Mena reached far into the center of the garden and grasped the offending weed. She pulled slightly on the heavy foliage and met resistance. The rich soil was obviously too good to leave behind. She leaned further into her grip and yanked with all her strength. The plant suddenly pulled free and she went sailing backwards, landing with a thud in the garden across the used brick pathway. A disgusted yowl erupted as she settled momentarily into the catmint that surrounded her. She shot a look at the black and white cat where he sat watching her with what she swore was amusement on his feline face. “Oh, shut up, Rory. I’m getting out of your precious plants.” The cat blinked his caramel-colored eyes at her and watched as she crawled out of the flowerbed and dusted herself off. She still clutched the mangled weed in her right hand, so she tossed it into her wooden bucket, then plopped onto a nearby cast iron bench, shoving her heavy hair off her neck. She really should have put it up. The previously temperate autumn day was quickly becoming a very warm one for Indian summer, very unusual for late October! Mena surveyed her handiwork. Nearly done. The garden was pristine once again, the late fall weeds she’d pulled trailing in a bedraggled mass from her pail. 3

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She loved her garden. The riot of color, even this late in the season, soothed her and fed every corner of her soul. As she admired the calm beauty around her, a soft breeze lifted a tendril of damp hair and feathered it across her cheek in a soft caress. Immediately, she was reminded of her dream from the night before, the latest of many recent encounters; of the warm wind that had engulfed her and swept her upwards into what felt like a protective embrace. The dream had left her with a feeling of disquiet. The ones she’d been having for the last few months were different from the many others she’d experienced her entire life. Those had given her a feeling of protection as well—a benign protection—like being safe in the embrace of a loving parent. Lately, things had been different. Very different. The protective feeling that would wash over her was more like that of a possessive lover. A lover attempting to bind her to him, to keep her from harm. And last night, he’d said he needed her. He wanted something from her. There’s no time to waste. The whispered words echoed in her thoughts. A chill raced up her spine as she recalled the icy breath that had invaded her dream world just before she woke up. The whole damn thing troubled her! Once again, she silently cursed the gift that had dogged her footsteps her whole life, refusing to let her live in the quiet, ordered way she desired. She felt the gentle pat of a furry paw on her cheek, and it drew her out of the place she’d been about to fall into. The place of many dreams. Dreams that haunted her sleeping— and then waking—hours. Dreams that tried to tell her things she refused to hear. Dreams that turned into daytime visions, insinuating themselves into her daily thoughts. She heard the soft meow behind her, where Rory was perched on the wide back of the elaborate bench. She turned 4

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around and scooped the small cat into her arms, hugging him to her and rubbing the soft black and white fur against her face. His purring engine revved into high gear. “Thanks, Rory.” She kissed the tip of the cat’s nose and tickled him on the soul patch under his chin before cuddling him closer. “I really didn’t want to go to that place today.” She smoothed her hand over the unusual black and white markings of the feline. Rory was short for Rorschach, named after the famous inkblots tests, because that’s exactly what he looked like. Like someone had taken his little cat-suit, splattered it with ink, then folded it in half before clothing him in the soft fur. It amused her every time she looked at it. The cat seemed to tolerate her amusement well. As a tiny kitten, he’d appeared out of nowhere one day in early springtime, made himself comfortable on her porch and stayed. She welcomed him. Obviously, he was meant to be there. She accepted the fact that most things happened for a reason, despite her refusal to embrace her visionary gift. That she wasn’t ready to accept yet! The sun was getting higher, and hotter, in the sky. Mena pulled herself to her feet and set Rory down on the bench. Time to get back to the weeds. **** Francis Reilly was angry. Even with the weakening of his once strong body—the result of the draining of his considerable powers—his anger still caused the sky outside to darken, just like the clouds that gathered on his face. He could feel the strong emotion wearing him down even further though, so he struggled to rein it in. Besides, the tall man who stood defiantly in front of him had only his best interests at heart. He took a deep breath. 5

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“Keiran, I ordered you not to look for her. Not to contact her!” His thready voice rose on the last words. “How long have you been visiting her?” He studied the shuttered face of Keiran Donovan, his right-hand man, best friend…and so much more. They had a fast friendship, despite their age difference. He turned away and paced across the room with labored movements, trying to walk off the anger—and the fear. Francis was pissed all right. Francis never called him Keiran unless really ticked. There was no way he was going to tell Francis that he’d been going to Mena in her dreams for months. He’d have his head on a platter! But they needed help, and Philomena Blys was their best chance, whether Francis wanted to admit it or not. Besides, she needed them too. “Francis.” Keir followed his mentor and touched his arm lightly. “I felt him there.” As he said it, a chill ran through him. Had their nemesis found Philomena through his own rash actions? Had he taken one too many chances by travelling on the astral plane to Mena last night? A tiny feeling of guilt nagged at him. Had the evil one followed him? Maybe Francis had a point after all. The gathering clouds darkened further, as Keir’s own anger rose. “What?” Francis snapped. A crack of thunder sounded overhead, and both men glanced at the huge windows that lined one entire wall of the room. Well, he’d gone and done it now. He couldn’t leave her alone, like he’d promised himself he would, after last night. He’d felt her mind-numbing fear, even as she’d risen from her quietly sleeping form and wafted into his welcoming embrace. Blood surged to his groin and he groaned silently at his body’s immediate reaction to just thinking about Mena. He could feel her soft, sexy curves in his arms still, as if it had been a 6

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physical thing. She was the one he’d been waiting for…but she wasn’t ready to embrace what—and who—she was. Not yet. Could he help her change that? And could he protect her at the same time? “Keiran!” Francis’ harsh exclamation called him back to the here and now. “Did he follow you there?” He voiced Keir’s earlier worry. Keir tried to drag his mind away from thoughts of the sexy woman he’d connected with the night before and shoved his hand through his hair in aggravation before confessing. “I think he might have.” “Fuck!” the older man roared, gathering all his strength. His shoulder-length, black hair, streaked liberally with gray, crackled with energy and his green eyes took on an eerie glow. His sentiments exactly! Keir shook his head in selfdisgust. What had he been thinking? His anger at himself rose as he thought of Mena, blissfully unaware and possibly—no, certainly—now in danger. Because of him! “I’m sorry, Francis.” The next words were pulled from him. “In my hurry to get to Mena, I left a door open.” He chastised himself mentally, cursing his own carelessness. The fatigue of constant battle was starting to wear on him as well. Still, it had been a beginner’s mistake. And something he rarely did, but… “I thought I was protected well enough. He’s getting stronger, Francis, and better at cloaking himself.” Keir’s anger was edged with a sense of urgency that raced up his spine. As it did, a streak of lightning stabbed the now nearly black sky. The mounting darkness had even fooled a stray owl into thinking it was night. It swished past the window, wings extended, silent in full flight. The midmorning storm was an anomaly. It had come out of nowhere, and was probably a surprise to the average 7

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person. Both Keir and Francis knew exactly where it had come from, and as the elements howled and crashed around them, both men attempted to stifle their tempers. It was doing them no good, and the fall weather had been wet enough. With the combined thoughts of the two, the storm calmed. The room lightened up as the dark clouds began to dissipate. Keir heaved a sigh. Dark hair and gray eyes in a soft, appealing feminine face burned in his memory. What had he gotten himself—and Mena—into? “Okay, Francis, I fucked up.” His mentor nodded his agreement, but was silent. The sun found a crack in the thinning clouds and peeked through. “So, what the hell do I do now?” “You’ll have to go to her again, Keir.” Francis uttered the words reluctantly. Keir knew it was because he regretted having to drag Philomena into their mess. But it was too late. The damage was done, thanks to him. Now he had to undo it. No matter what it cost him.

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Chapter 2 The sudden, midmorning storm surprised Mena. It came out of nowhere, quickly drenching her as she scooped Rory off the garden bench and ran for the shelter of the sunporch. Then, as quickly as it had come, it disappeared, leaving an unseasonable humidity hanging in its wake. Too hot and sticky to work outside now, Mena retired to the comfort of her tiny cottage. It was her only day off from the shop all week. She was determined to make use of every moment. She plopped Rory onto the floor and settled herself into the huge, comfy chenille chair she’d picked up for a song at a neighborhood yard sale. It engulfed her within its soft folds and encouraged her to relax. She picked up the open romance novel from the polished old table beside it and buried herself within the pages. **** The warm wind feathered across her face in a light caress. The feel of it was already familiar. Her heart raced as the breeze tickled her ear, then whispered, Mena. A momentary fear paralyzed her. He was back. Her protector. The one who touched her as if he knew her intimately, like a lover. Now he wrapped her in a heated embrace, trying once again to draw her to him.

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With everything she had, Mena resisted. The panic she’d felt last time as she’d lifted from her body had nearly overwhelmed her. She didn’t know if she could let go again. Trust me. The words filtered through her mind. The confidence they radiated quieted her. I want to but…who are you? She asked the question once again, then listened to the silence for a long moment. Finally…just trust me. I would never hurt you. What do you want with me? Complete quiet greeted her request. Will you trust me? The feel of strong arms embracing her stole her breath, and caused her heart to race wildly. The emotion that overwhelmed her shook her to the core. She felt cradled within the soft wind. I trust you. She meant it. Whatever this dream vision wanted of her, she would give. In all truthfulness, she felt powerless to resist the pull of him. His deep voice and burning caresses were taking over her body and controlling her mind. Was he real, or imagined? She didn’t care. A tug on her hair as though fingers wove through it, caused her to raise her head. She received a fleeting image of an angular face, hooded warm brown eyes, and dark blonde hair, before she felt the insistent pressure of hard, male lips on her trembling mouth. Her body came to instant awareness as her shadow lover deepened the kiss, drawing the last of her breath from her. Heat rose between her legs and she had the sudden urge to wind them around her elusive dream visitor and bind him to her. To give him anything he wanted. Their connection felt so very right. Old and established, like time itself. She gave in to her overwhelming desire and anchored him to her with her tightly wrapped legs. She felt no resistance from him. In fact, he came to her willingly and she felt his 10

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cock—hard and eager—pressing against her moistening pussy. She moaned, spreading her legs as wide as she could while still holding him captive. His muscular body felt as real as if he were right next to her. Her nipples hardened and she arched into the feel of his hot, moist mouth closing completely over one tender areola, pulling on it through the thin fabric of her tank top. A gasp escaped her and her head fell back in invitation. It felt so good. How long had it been since she’d had a man between her legs? She longed to have him take her. To plunge his rigid cock into her and claim every bit of her. To make her come until she could see stars…touch the stars. She felt the penetration of a finger into her tight entrance, and she bucked against his hand, involuntarily drawing him deeper inside her. His thumb brushed against her, teasing its way between her sensitive folds. Her breath hitched as she froze, forgetting to breathe at all for a few seconds. He focused on her clit and massaged it with concentrated precision, his erotic touch bringing her to the very edge. He bit down gently on her nipple, scraping his teeth across the ultra sensitive tip, and the tiny attack was enough to send Mena over the precipice. Waves of heat rolled over her as she threw her head back restlessly and cried out in ecstasy. The vibrations touched her deep inside and seemed to go on forever. As she finally settled softly back down on planet Earth, she felt him withdraw his hand slowly from her. No! We’re not done! She reached for him desperately, refusing to unwind her legs, yet he eased slowly from her grasp, leaving her wrapped in the wonderful, sensual pleasure he’d given her. Please, don’t go…come back to me. I want all of you. Her words echoed around her.

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Soon, my love. The promise wafted to her as he seemed to read her mind, then she felt the grip of her otherworldly lover slip away completely. No! Her mind rebelled again. Her arms struggled to reach for him, but he drifted beyond her reach, leaving her with one last caress on her breast. Wait for me. Watch for me. It’s time. Mena felt bereft when the hot wind dispersed and silence settled around her. “No!” Her anguished cry, definitely out loud this time, yanked her back from the edges of sleep. She awoke to the sunny remains of the afternoon and the fallen romance novel jabbing into her side, where she was curled up into the cavernous confines of the old chair. She pulled the crumpled book out of the crack and looked at it ruefully. She really had to stop reading the damn things. Or go out and find a man to satisfy her! Like the one in her dreams. Her body tingled at the memory of his talented hands and mouth. Who the hell was he? Was he a vision? A dream? Or was he real? With her history of blurring dreams and reality, he could be any of the above. Watch for me. She recalled his parting words. It’s time. Time for what? She shook her head in confusion as Rory sprang onto her lap and meowed in her face. She looked at the gingerbread clock that dominated the mantle. Time for dinner, apparently. She heaved herself out of the chair and headed to the kitchen, Rory winding himself around her legs ingratiatingly. **** “Well?” The single word held a wealth of questions and pulled Keir from his self-induced trance. He opened his eyes to find Francis hovering over him expectantly. 12

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“Did you reach her? Speak to her?” Francis asked quickly. “Is she okay?” he finished with a worried frown. It had been almost six months since he’d last gone to Mena in his dreams. With the steady decline of his powers, he could no longer reach her when he was in the dream-state. He silently cursed his enemy for the loss of that important connection. He and Lily had agreed, many years ago, that it was the safest way for him to visit Mena, and he’d been grateful for even that. Seeing her was usually a regular thing for him, but the events of the last few months had prevented him from going near her. But thanks to Keir, it appeared that Mena would finally know who—and what—he was. He stuffed down the apprehension that rose at the thought. He’d always tried to keep that secret from her while he’d talked with her in her dreams. He’d watched over her from afar, and learned everything he could about her. Even contact with Lily had been kept to a minimum, for all their sakes. And he would have protected them from his nemesis, Ambrose Lachlan, with his life, if need be. It looked like he might just get that chance. Only now, the loss of his life might come much easier than he’d anticipated, the fight a much quicker one. But he wouldn’t be alone. He studied the darkened features of the man seated in front of him, reclining easily in the overstuffed, leather armchair. What was in it for Keir? He watched as his protégé came to full awareness and dragged his hands through his dark blonde hair, sighing quietly. Despite his return from the ethereal plane, Keir still wore a distant, slightly dazed expression. His green-flecked hazel eyes reflected weariness, and something Francis hesitated to define, especially when it came to Mena. But it was hard to miss. Deep desire burned there. Francis suddenly knew why Keir had gone looking for 13

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Mena. He wanted her for himself. He, too, would defend her with his life. With a strength much greater than his own. For the first time in months, Francis Reilly felt hope.

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Chapter 3 “Geez, I wish I could have dreams like that!” Allie moaned, and fanned herself with Mena’s romance novel. The one she’d picked up off the floor and smoothed open, trying to straighten the crumpled pages. She looked at the book with sudden interest as she sipped from the glass of wine Mena had just handed her. “Maybe I need to start reading these things.” She scanned the page quickly. “Do you think a hot guy would come and ravish me in my sleep?” “He didn’t ravish me completely!” Only because she’d woken up. No, strike that. He hadn’t ravished her completely because he’d slipped away like a wraith, leaving her cold and alone. Mena snagged the book out of Allie’s hand and tossed it onto the table. “He left before he finished the job!” She dropped into her old chair and took a deep swallow of her own evening glass of wine. Was that a disgruntled tone she heard in her own voice? She recalled the passing impression of a dark, masculine face framed with longish, blonde hair. And those eyes…the color of heated sherry, with latent fire in their depths. Firm male lips had covered hers before moving on to her breast. Her nipples hardened and tingled at the memory of his hot mouth. Her breath caught in her throat again as she relived the feel of hard, muscular arms around her, holding her close, the fleeting glimpse of greenish hazel eyes singeing her with a 15

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look, and a strong hand bringing her to complete climax before everything disappeared in a wisp of smoke. Damn! She was horny as hell, not to mention, already half in love with an imaginary being! He’d given her one of the best orgasms of her life, and it had only been a dream! She released a frustrated sigh. Maybe it was time to start thinking about dating again. Sometimes, she wondered why she was even bothering to still take the pill! She’d been caught up in getting her new business off the ground for far too long—obviously. Even a quick roll in the hay with the guy who delivered the mail was starting to look pretty damn good, and he had to be fifty, if he was a day! She shook her head in disgust. Hell, no. She wanted the man from her dreams. Something told her he could satisfy her like no other. Just thinking about him caused her pulse to pound and her pussy to moisten. Allie’s delighted laughter dragged her out of her sexinduced daydream. “Mena, honey, you need a man.” Mena moaned. “Is it that obvious?” Allie snorted. “Sweetie, I thought you were going to start dry-humping the corner of that table!” Mena smacked her best friend and business partner on the arm. “I was not!” But she could feel the flush that raced up her neck and set her face on fire. She tried to ignore it. “Are we going to go over this delivery list, or not? And one of us has to be at the shop early tomorrow. There’s a representative from a local winery coming to talk to us about some new food products. This is one of their wines.” She tapped the glass on the side table. “Pretty good, too.” She picked it up and drained the last of the raspberry-colored liquid. “Their new line might fit in with the expansion we want to do into gourmet foods.” 16

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“Oh crap!” Allie smacked her forehead. “I can’t, Mena. You know how I hate dealing with that side of the business. You’re the expert on what sells.” She shot Mena a pleading look. “Can’t you do it?” She should have known. Al was good with the books. She had a keen mind for numbers, and a sharp pencil, but she wasn’t really a people person. Mena usually dealt with the customers and salesmen. Allie was the accountant half of the duo, with a mind like a steel trap. Mena heaved a longsuffering sigh. “Fine!” She waved the sheet of deliveries in her friend’s face. “But these are due over lunch, so you get to stay and deal with that.” She smiled smugly. “I’ll go for an extra long lunch, to compensate for the early morning.” “Whatever.” Allie was just happy not to have to deal with a salesman. “Hey, do you think the delivery guy might be a hottie?” she asked hopefully. “Maybe I could seduce him in the back storeroom and have my wicked way with him while you’re off having your long lunch!” She winked at Mena. “Or I could hold him for you. Get rid of some of that sexual frustration.” She burst out laughing. “No thanks.” Mena refused to rise to the bait. “If he’s worth it, you keep him.” She patted Allie’s hand. “Just call me and let me know how long I have to stay away,” she teased. Allie saluted her. “Check.” She reached for the paper in Mena’s hand. “Now show me the damn list.” **** Lunch couldn’t come soon enough for her. Mena’s stomach rumbled and chewed ruthlessly at her. That’s what she got for skipping breakfast. She glanced at the clock for the fiftieth time. The guy from the winery still hadn’t put in an appearance and he was long overdue. She peered out the plate glass window one more time. 17

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Allie burst through the door with her usual exuberance, propping it open with the doorstop to let in the fresh, fall air. She tossed the bank deposit bag on the counter and came around it, bending over to open the small drop safe beneath, exposing her considerable cleavage. “Good grief, Al! Couldn’t you find a top with a bit more material?” Mena snapped the question at her. From her place near the door, she could see nearly to Allie’s navel. Allie’s head jerked up in surprise, one eyebrow arched briefly, before she bent over once again to put the bills she’d gotten from the bank into the safe. She straightened up and eyed Mena with amusement. “Feeling a little testy, are we?” She snorted. “Hon, I was only half teasing when I said you needed to get laid. Why don’t you come out bar-hopping with me tonight?” “Pass.” Mena released a long-suffering sigh. She wouldn’t say Al was loose, but she wasn’t as choosy as Mena thought she should be either. And she had terrible taste in men. On the other hand, Mena herself was choosy, and where had it gotten her? Two years without sex! She thought about the barhopping for a split second. “It might ease some of that sexual frustration,” Allie shot back. She tugged on her low-cut fuchsia top, attempting to cover a bit more skin. Mena’s comment had found its mark. “Oh shit, Allie. I’m sorry.” Mena hurried over and grasped Al’s hand where it fidgeted with her blouse. “I’m just a bitch today. And goddamn hungry,” she added. She patted the neckline back into place. “Leave it. You look fabulous, as always,” she said ruefully, looking down at her own pastel pink turtleneck sweater and demure gray pants. “Really, Mena, come out with me tonight. We’ll set the bar scene on its ear,” Allie insisted. 18

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Mena shook her head emphatically. She hated bars. Too many people, too many thoughts that even the loud music couldn’t stop from finding their way into her mind. “Thanks, Al, but I’ll just have to find a guy for hot sex some other way.” The clearing of a male throat from directly behind her caused her heart to plummet to her toes. Her mouth dropping open in dismay, she caught Allie’s eye quickly. Her friend’s mouth was also agape, only hers was obviously in avid appreciation of the owner of the deep voice. Mena refused to turn around. Pretending to ignore the man, whose presence she could feel radiating from behind her, she continued to study the emotions that flitted across Allie’s face. Oooh damn. It took a lot to make Al actually drool. He had to be hot. Mena hoped with all her might that he hadn’t heard the sex comment. Mustering all her dignity, she turned to greet the male customer awaiting her. Oh…my…Goddess! Warm, sherry-colored eyes studied her with more than a passing interest, then skimmed her body slowly and thoroughly. Oh yeah…he’d heard the ‘hot sex’ remark. And judging by the look on his chiseled masculine features, he was toying with the idea of volunteering. Mena felt her body burn instantly from head to toe as she caught and held his inquisitive eyes. A flash of recognition hit her like a freight train at full speed. Wait for me. Watch for me. She knew him…all too well. He was the man from her dreams, now solid and real in front of her.

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Chapter 4 It’s time. The words seem to reverberate around her as if spoken aloud by the imposing man who towered over her, charisma oozing out of every pore. “Time for what?” Mena spit out in exasperation, catching his knowing look. “Mena!” Allie’s surprised exclamation cut across her rude question. “Time for you to eat, apparently!” Her friend rushed around the counter and extended her hand to the man, running her eyes quickly up and down his body. “Please excuse my business partner, Mr…” she paused suggestively. “Donovan,” the deep, dark voice supplied. It sent shivers of remembrance up Mena’s spine. “Keiran Donovan, from Donovan Estates Winery.” “Allegra Edan,” her partner supplied quickly. Mena watched him grasp Allie’s hand and give it a firm shake. Despite Al’s best effort to catch his look, his eyes remained focused on Mena. Eyes that were the color of light cognac, with fiery green flecks circling the fathomless black pupils. She felt him watching her intently with those mesmerizing eyes while she struggled to gather her emotions, and she shuddered at the thought of what he might pick up from her. He’d reached her soul—and aroused her body—without even laying a hand on her. Mena feared what his flesh and blood touch might do to her. She pressed her fists tightly against her 20

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sides in a defensive posture and attempted to shield her thoughts before finally offering her hand to him. His touch was static electricity, arcing from his fingers to hers like lightning, bringing a sexual charge that was apparent to all three people in the room. But, along with the pyrotechnics, crept a wispy shadow. Its dark presence weighed Mena down instantly, causing a heavy feeling to settle around her. Her head shot up in protest and she jerked her hand away, clenching it behind her back to stop the tingling. Allie tossed her a puzzled look as Mena quickly stepped away from the good-looking stranger. Her friend’s expression clearly said ‘are you nuts?’ “Time for lunch, right?” Keiran Donovan’s smooth, rich tones cut the thick atmosphere. His calm voice belied the surprised reaction Mena felt course through him at their contact. He’d noticed her recoil from him, despite the instant physical connection. He refused to drop her gaze. “Let me make up for my very late arrival, and take you both to lunch.” “I can’t—” “No, I can’t.” Al cut Mena off quickly. “Thanks anyway, Mr. Donovan. I’m waiting on a delivery, and someone has to mind the store.” She backed up to the counter and shoved Mena in front of her. “But Mena…now she’s been waiting for you all—” she caught Mena’s threatening look, “—morning.” Mr. Keiran Donovan of Donovan Estates Winery grasped her hand again and bent over it slightly in an old-world gesture that seemed familiar to her as he brought it quickly to his lips for a kiss. Mena swore she saw blue fire ignite where his mouth touched. She glanced in surprise at the top of his head, resisting the sudden urge to plunge her fingers into the longish strands of burnished blond that gleamed in the muted lights of the store. The dark caramel color of his hair made her 21

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think of her favorite sundae topping and an unexplained hunger rose inside her. She was almost certain it wasn’t for ice cream. A longing for something unknown, yet long missed, nearly overwhelmed her. He straightened up to pin her with a burning look, but refused to relinquish his grip at her slight tug. “Then let me apologize by at least buying you lunch…Philomena.” He uttered her name with a soft caress. Mena’s glance shot to his. How did he know her…a lucky guess! He’d figured out what ‘Mena’ was short for. That’s all. More than a lucky guess. The words entered her mind unbidden from the air around them. The atmosphere in the store was definitely electric, and Mena squirmed uncomfortably, struggling to overcome the almost erotic energy surrounding her. Desire—and need—pushed for entrance to her body and mind. The strength of both hit her like a blow. Drawing on all she could recall her mother teaching her, she attempted to erect a protective circle of light around herself, but as quickly as the heat had overwhelmed her, it backed away, hovering—suddenly patient—at the edges of her consciousness. “Okay, Mena, get out of here!” Allie’s bracing voice hit the two people engaged in the secret battle of wills. Mena attempted another withdrawal from the striking man who still held her hand, but he slipped it into the crook of his elbow, despite another surreptitious tug. The tension wasn’t lost on Allie. She gave them both a puzzled look. “I see the delivery van parked outside. I have work to do!” She urged her partner and their ‘salesman’ to the door as she went to open it for the delivery guy, who—Mena noticed in passing—wasn’t bad looking, and was definitely built. “Take all the time you need, Mena. You could use the break. In fact, take the rest of the day,” she added cheerily. “I 22

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can see I’m going to be busy for awhile.” Mena caught Allie’s wink. Oh brother! She hoped that her storeroom would be intact when she returned. **** He was moving too fast. Pushing too hard. Keir chastised himself silently as he led Philomena a short way down the street to where his car was parked. But there really was no time to waste. Keir stepped in front of Mena as she reached for the door handle of his late-model Mercedes. As he did so, he felt a cold weight shove him backwards against the door, effectively acting as a barrier between himself and the suddenly startled woman in front of him. Fuck! Lachlan was relentless. It was taking nearly all his concentration to keep his foe at bay. He saw Mena stop dead, as if a brick wall had been erected between them. She felt the invisible, icy obstruction. Keir was sure of it. With intense focus, he penetrated the frozen wall with his arm and slid it tightly around her waist, stepping close to her and pushing through the silent, deadly barricade. He tried to keep the urgency from his voice as he spoke. “Why don’t we combine some pleasure with this business lunch?” He felt for the handle to the car door and yanked it open. He needed to get her to a safe place. Mena’s head shot up and she leveled a challenging look at him. “When pigs fly!” she snapped back. “I’m not that kind of girl!” She caught his raised eyebrow. Well, not when she was awake anyway! But doubt at the truthfulness of even that statement nipped at her conscience. Her gaze trailed down his body, from his wide shoulders, to muscles that were evident even beneath the well-tailored business suit. Damn! The man got her hot just being in the same vicinity! “And what’s with the hot then cold thing?” she continued in exasperation. At him or herself, she still wasn’t sure. She raised her hand and 23

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pushed angrily at the unseen blockage still hovering around her. To Keir’s surprise, it dissipated suddenly, leaving absolute stillness in its wake. He caught her heated gaze. It was like looking into the eyes of his mentor, even though Mena’s were a strange silver-blue. The power was there. The knowledge she had yet to accept hovered in their depths. Her thick dark hair, that much at least like Francis’, nearly crackled with energy, as she bristled in indignation. She reached past him and slammed the car door shut, then yanked out of the circle of his arm. Crossing her arms, she planted her feet firmly apart on the sidewalk and glared at him. “I’m not taking another step until you tell me just what kind of games you’re playing,” she insisted. “Just who the hell are you?” Her voice began to rise. “And how did you get into my dreams?” She caught his disconcerted look. “Yes, I recognize you! And—” Mena, my darlin’, we need you. Trust him. Go with him. Please. The thready words came to her from the ether, and her heart ached in sudden reaction to the weakness of the voice. A voice that was also very familiar, even with as frail as it was. Her first dream visitor, her protector and companion throughout her childhood and beyond. Her— “Father,” Keir Donovan whispered, watching her carefully. He’d be in shit now, from her and Francis! “Now will you come with me?”

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Chapter 5 Mena was briefly at a loss for words, a rather rare occurrence in her life. The ‘gift of the gab’ was something she’d gotten from her mother—the only parent she’d ever known. Her father was dead! And her mother had followed him only a short six months ago. “Liar!” She flung the word at the man who waited silently before her. “Both my parents are dead!” Saying it aloud still stabbed her to the quick. No, Philomena—the wispy voice penetrated the haze of confusion and anger around her. “Francis, I can fight my own battles!” Keiran said out loud. “Save your strength for more important things!” He stepped forward suddenly and scooped Mena into his arms, glad they were out of sight of her shop—and friend. Flinging her over his shoulder, he pulled open the passenger door of the Mercedes. Taking care not to crack her head on the roof of the car, he shoved her into the leather seat and slammed the door shut against her vitriolic protests. “Lover’s spat!” he explained to the passing couple who watched with alarm from the sidewalk. He hurried around the hood of the car to the driver’s door. As Keir Donovan made his way around the front of the vehicle, Mena tugged at the door handle, with no results. The damn thing should open. It wasn’t locked! But her efforts 25

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proved useless. Donovan slid behind the wheel and the engine purred to life. “Let me out, damn it!” She struggled with the door again, to no avail. “Allie will have seen,” she tried to bluff, “she’ll call the cops!” She turned to pummel the arm of the man in the driver’s seat. “You’ll be in real trouble, you son of a—” “Shh!” he commanded. Managing the wheel easily with one hand, he grasped both of her small hands with his other large, strong one and yanked them against his thigh to stop the pounding. Mena choked in frustration and—as she stopped struggling, to feel the hard muscles bunched beneath her hands—self-loathing at her body’s reaction. Her sudden desire for surrender was only to fool him into letting her go, she assured herself. “Be honest with yourself, my sweet, you feel it. Just as much as I do.” The words penetrated the sensual haze the feel of him had caused, and he flattened her hands against his leg tighter, running tiny, soothing caresses over them with his callused palm. His thigh muscles tensed as he accelerated quickly into traffic and her heart pounded harder in her chest. But she was pretty sure that the sudden speed of the car had nothing to do with it. Her hand slid further up his thigh in an automatic movement and clenched it briefly, her eyes riveted to the sudden bulge evident between his spread legs—a bulge only inches from her fingers. “We’ll get to that later, I promise,” he said softly. Amusement, riddled with desire, darkened his voice. “Right now, we have bigger problems.” He squeezed her hands in reassurance. “Now, if I let you go, do you promise not to brain me?” He met her eyes in serious question, fiery green blazing from their depths. But they were also filled with concern—and regret. 26

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Mena nodded silently. He released her hands, reluctantly it seemed, and settled his own back onto the wheel. Mena glanced out the window surreptitiously and realized that they were heading out of the small town of Crescent Moon Cove at a steady clip. She couldn’t let him take her far! What if he really did have some nefarious purpose in mind, and she was never heard from again? Even though Donovan Estate Wineries was well-known in the area, what if he wasn’t who he said he was? Wasn’t even Keiran Donovan? Her hand groped once again for the door handle. How much damage could she do to herself by rolling out of the car at ninety kilometers an hour? “I wouldn’t if I were you, my sweet.” His deep voice cut into her thoughts. “Don’t even entertain the idea. I couldn’t bear the thought of your lovely body battered and broken in the ditch.” He caught her eye in dead seriousness. As she watched, he removed his hand from the wheel again and she flinched in reaction. He released a frustrated sound and reached inside of his suit jacket. Very carefully, he withdrew his hand and presented her with a smooth, black leather wallet. Accepting it gingerly, careful not to touch his long, tanned fingers, she held it for a few seconds, absorbing the warmth of his body from it. “Go ahead. Open it,” he urged in a quiet voice. “I am who I say I am.” He was doing it again. “Please…get out of my head!” She shoved her heavy hair back from her face distractedly, then flipped open the wallet. His Ontario driver’s license stared back at her. Leave it to this man to actually have a good picture! It more than did him justice, and was a faithful likeness. She read the name beside it. Keiran Michael Donovan. It was all there, height, weight, date of birth, address. She studied the man in question for a 27

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minute or two, then handed the wallet back with a heavy sigh. He slipped it back into his pocket without a word. “Where are your glasses?” she asked. He gave her a startled look. “Contacts.” So were his eyes really that strange, attractive hazel color? “Yes.” He caught her exasperated look. “Sorry…” Mena continued. “Mr. Donovan—” “Keir…please…” “—am I to assume you don’t usually make a habit of kidnapping your possible business associates, and that for some reason, I’m the exception?” **** How had everything gone so completely wrong? Keir shook his head in frustration and muttered, “Yes.” “Is that ‘yes’ you kidnap all your business associates, or ‘yes’ I’m the exception?” Mena asked dryly. He shot her a wry glance and dragged one hand through his dark blonde hair, causing it to fan out wildly before settling back neatly against his tanned nape. He rubbed the back of his neck in a gesture of fatigue. “Because if you think you’re going to get away with this, you have another think coming!” Mena shot at him. “What are you trying to pull?” she added indignantly. She recalled the last word he’d said to her before unceremoniously kidnapping her. Father! “And—once again, for the record—my father died years ago. Besides, how do you know who he is—was— anyway? My mother never talked—” Suddenly, he swerved the car sharply to the right and pulled onto the gravel shoulder of the highway, grinding it into park. With a quick reach of his long arm, he dragged her up against his hard body, and pressed his mouth roughly on hers. It was like a surprise lightning strike, fast, hot and right out of the blue. 28

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Silence reined for a split second while Mena gathered her defenses, then a resounding slap echoed in the luxurious interior of the Mercedes. How dare he? “Oh I dare, Philomena,” Keir taunted, rubbing the fast reddening mark on his cheek. “In fact, I love a challenge. And you, my chatty captive, are certainly that! It appears that kissing you is a guaranteed way to shut you up!” He swooped in and laid his firm male lips over hers once again, drawing breath from her body as she exhaled to protest. His hand gripped the back of her head and his strong fingers dug themselves into her tangled hair, pulling on the tendrils, bringing back memories of that dream. The dream where he’d touched her, caressed her breasts and teased her nipples until heat ignited between her legs and caused her to drip with desire. Like she was doing now. And then he’d satisfied her in the most intimate way…and gone without himself. A moan escaped her. She sank into the warmth of his embrace and squirmed nearer in the confines of the car, despite the gearshift that separated them. Passion sizzled between them. Or was it plain, old-fashioned lust? Lust, Mena decided. Lust was good. Lust meant she only needed a really hot fuck and she knew just how—and where—to get it. Right now, and right here! She felt Keir’s hand slip to her breast, and she pressed into him as he cupped the sensitive tip through the soft wool. Her hand slid back to the bulge between his legs and it grew eagerly into her palm. With a muttered groan, he yanked up the hem of her pastel pink sweater and pulled down the pink lace cup that lay between him and bare skin. He pinched her aching nipple quickly, tugging it to a hard peak, then bent his head to draw 29

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it into his mouth and soothe the tiny hurt. Damn, that feels good! “You can say that again, sweetheart,” Keir murmured against her hot flesh. “So much better in real life.” Are you two finished? The intrusive thought, barely a labored whisper, jerked Keir’s head up from the puckered, pleading tip he was about to draw into his mouth once again, just for the sheer pleasure of hearing Mena’s gasp. “I thought I told you to stay out of my head?” Mena tried to sound harsh, but the words puffed out on a wisp of air, as she struggled to reel in the lust—yes lust—she felt for this man. He seemed to know how to push all the right buttons…face-to-face and in her dreams. “That wasn’t me, my sweet.” He reached down and reluctantly drew Mena’s bra back up over her soft breast. Francis, it’s not nice to watch me make love to your daughter! He shot the words silently at his mentor, then studied Mena’s burning look. “But he has a point. We have more important things to do right now. We’ll have to save this for later.” With a sigh of regret, he smoothed her pink sweater back into place. Mena felt heat suffuse her face as she pulled her hand back from where it was cupped over his hard cock. She’d assumed too much. Now she looked like an idiot! He caught the surprised—and embarrassed—look in her eyes. “No! You were right on target, Mena.” He pulled her hand back to his groin so she could feel how hard he still was beneath the smooth material of his pants. “You’re beautiful, Philomena.” He uttered the words honestly, his sherry eyes warm and sincere. “Inside and out. I already know that. I’ve known it for a very long time.” “How—” He cut her off with a raised hand. “And I promise you, there’s nothing more I’d rather do than take you right now, 30

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bury myself deep inside you and claim your sweet, responsive body,” he continued, meeting her eyes, letting her see the desire mirrored in his own. “I’d love to finish what we started yesterday on the astral plane—here, on the side of the road, in broad daylight.” His eyes blazed at the thought and Mena’s heart pounded in unison, wildly craving the same thing. She flushed hotly. My Goddess, I hardly know the man! He’s just kidnapped me, almost ravished me, and what do I do? Nearly beg him for it! She shook her head in disgust. Where was her natural reticence? Her careful study of a situation, before involving herself? She’d been dragged into this willy-nilly, and apparently, had decided to throw caution to the wind. Wind that suddenly whipped around her and chilled her to the bone. It pulled her back to the icy memory of that other presence she’d felt in her dream the first night that Keir had reached out to her; the same deathly cold barrier she’d met with before Keiran Donovan had forced her to come with him. “Fucking hell!” The curse exploded from Keir as he gunned the engine of the car back to life and pulled back onto the deserted highway. “It’s time to go…now!”

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Chapter 6 Mena was forced back against the cradling softness of the leather seat as Keir tramped the gas pedal to the floor and laid rubber on the warm pavement. His sudden seriousness communicated itself to her, and she elected to sit quietly for a moment. ‘Be still, and listen.’ Her mother’s constant mantra invaded her thoughts, and at the memory, a flash of her petite, blond parent rushed at her. How she missed her eccentric ways! With a twinge of sadness, she willingly heeded the wisdom of her mother’s words. Keir Donovan obviously had enough on his mind right now. He didn’t look to be in the mood for more questions. Mena snapped her seatbelt into place, gazing steadily at the man in the driver’s seat. His capable hands gripped the wheel, and although his large body appeared relaxed in his seat, his hands betrayed his tension. The knuckles whitened against his tanned skin, and he seemed to be locked in an invisible battle. He released a choked breath and it manifested itself as an icy puff. Carefully, she reached out and touched his arm lightly, making an instant psychic connection. The strength of it exhilarated and scared her at the same time. She’d never allowed herself to indulge in the clairvoyant and clairaudient episodes that had threatened to overwhelm her at times, but 32

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the power she felt in Keir Donovan was too obvious to ignore. Already, she craved the mental link she felt with him—to say nothing of the physical one—whether they were in the same room, or miles apart. As inexplicable as it was to her, it was also undeniable. Keir did things to her soul—and her body—that no one else had ever done. Touched her in places, both real and imagined, that no one else had ever reached. As in the store earlier with only that tentative touch on his arm, a sudden, frigid darkness flooded through Mena, more oppressive and frightening this time. Her head reeled from the attack and she felt instant energy surge from the man beside her in a protective, luminous white circle. But it was too late. The icy chill that reeked of evil shifted from Keir and invaded her mind. I know where you are now, Philomena. And soon, I’ll reach you in reality. You should have been mine! I’ll defeat him and his protégé, and take my revenge. Mena clapped her hands over her ears, but the terrifying voice refused to quiet. It pounded at her consciousness like a jackhammer, demanding admittance, unrelenting. The last thing Mena remembered was Keir calling her name urgently before the malignant blackness claimed her. **** The heated arguing of male voices roused Mena. She lay silently in the gloom of unfamiliar surroundings, and strained to hear what was being said. But the voices quieted suddenly, as if aware she was listening. All she could hear were soft murmurs, which seemed to be coming from the air around her. Giving up the effort to eavesdrop, she raised herself on one elbow to take in the room where she lay. It looked to be in an old house, for the ceilings soared well above her head, as 33

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did the windows, and everything was trimmed with wellcared for—and very old—wood. The hardwood floor gleamed around the ancient claret-colored area rug, and heavy curtains of the same color were pulled across all three windows in the bumped-out bay across the room from her. Two gold brocade-covered chairs gleamed in the subdued light that sneaked through the crack of the drapes, but Mena had no idea how many hours had passed. It didn’t appear to be dark, which meant that it probably wasn’t dinnertime yet. If she didn’t get home to feed Rory soon, he was going to be mighty ticked off. She slipped quietly out of the huge four-`poster bed and tiptoed to the equally large double doors that she assumed led to a hallway. Carefully, trying not to make a sound, she grasped one of the knobs and turned it slowly. It refused to budge. Why was she not surprised? Panic rose inside her, and she glanced around the room, trying to gauge her best bet for escape. Surely Allie would be worried sick by now, despite the fact she’d said not to come back? She would know that Mena would never take an entire day off from her fledgling business. What time was it anyway? And where in Goddess’ name was she? She turned back to the door and raised her fist to pound on it, when it swung inward suddenly. “Oh!” She stood face to chest with a surprised Keiran Donovan. And a nice chest it was, too. Looking even broader and more muscular, it was now clothed in a soft-looking, black, button placket T-shirt, long sleeves pushed up to reveal a dusting of dark blond hair on well-defined forearms. Wisps of hair also peeked out from the neck opening. Her eyes dropped to his long legs, covered in snug black jeans, and ended at his bare feet. 34

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Before she could react any further, he stepped quickly into the room and pushed the door shut behind him, locking it quickly and pocketing the key. “Let me out!” She held out her hand, palm up, and pinned him with a hard stare. “In due time.” He ignored her outstretched hand and stepped around her, heading for the large bed. “Come back to bed. You shouldn’t be up and running around.” He turned and studied her with a concerned look. “How are you feeling?” His warm hazel eyes focused intently on her. “You had us worried sick.” He had barely managed to keep Francis from going looking for Ambrose Lachlan on his own—either on the ethereal plane, or out on the streets—even in his weakened state. And that would have been a very bad idea. It was only his concern for Mena’s safety, and Keir’s promise to him that they would banish their crazy enemy together—all three of them—that had prevented Francis from going off half-cocked. That damn Irish temper could be a curse! Keir could sympathize though, because he suffered from the same problem at times. And the fear on Mena’s face right before she succumbed to unconsciousness had torn at his heart and soul. He’d half thought of joining Francis in the hunt, until common sense had prevailed. He watched Mena’s eyes turn from their normal pale silver-blue to a stormy silver-gray as her temper rose. Something else she’d obviously inherited from her father. Her father. How would he ever explain to her who she really was, what they needed of her…and what she meant to him? Especially when the last part he didn’t fully understand himself.

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Mena followed Keir’s progress across the room, until he sat on the edge of the bed and patted the soft coverlet that draped the mattress. “I don’t want to go back to bed!” Mena crossed her arms over her breasts and gripped her middle protectively, leaning back against the locked doors, as far from Keir as possible. She glared at the man where he relaxed on the soft bedding, and tried not to think about how attractive…no damn it, how sexy…he looked sitting there surrounded by the gold and claret hues of the room. His golden hair gleamed in the muted light, and his hazel eyes glowed at her, searching for something unseen. What, she wasn’t sure. She shook her head sharply in denial at the sudden rush that heated the pit of her stomach, then hugged herself tighter. She would not give in to the rising tide of desire she felt, and didn’t comprehend. She wanted answers, and she was going to get them. Whatever it took! “Then come and sit.” Keir patted the bed again. “Ask your questions. I promise to bare all to you…even my soul.” The last words were said only half in jest, and Mena’s eyebrows arched angrily. He was doing it again! He was inside her head, when she had specifically asked him to stay out. She paused for a minute. If he could read her thoughts, what else had he discovered while he was messing around in there?

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Chapter 7 “Only what you’ve allowed me to know, sweetheart,” he assured her softly. “Don’t you know your own power yet? You’re really damn good at shielding yourself.” He pinned her with a steady look. “Except when your emotions are deeply involved, then your control slips.” He’d seen—and felt—it, both in her dreams, and in reality. He knew her emotions were engaged. She wanted him, at least as much as he wanted her. She just hadn’t fully accepted it yet. But she was close. He could see the banked flames of desire in her eyes, even when she was mouthing off at him. He was looking forward to her further education, in both realms. The astral, and the physical. The last thought caused a sharp pulse to his lower extremities and he moved restlessly as he felt his cock grow. She was watching him doubtfully, her anger subsiding slowly, her curiosity rising. Now would probably not be the best time to throw her to the bed, lower himself on top of her delectable body, and ravish her like he’d been wanting to do for days, no…much longer than that. He’d kept his distance, because he’d promised Francis he would, but it had been hard. Very hard. Something had drawn him to Francis Reilly six years ago, and as he’d come to know the man and learn his ways, his own psychic powers had made themselves known. Until then, Keir had been searching, drifting, refusing to use his hard37

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earned degrees. But Francis had been instrumental in directing Keir in many things, including bringing Keir into the coven and carving him a place as Francis’ successor, despite opposition from a few members. Even with the split of the coven, and the dark animosity that simmered between the old members and the new ones who’d followed Lachlan, Francis had refused to abandon him. He’d seen something in Keir that no one else had recognized. Not even Keir himself. Something that he had accepted and embraced, as even Keir’s own family wouldn’t. Now, as far as Keir was concerned, he had no family, only Francis, who had become like a father to him. Then there was Mena, whom he’d desired from the moment he’d first laid eyes on her picture in Francis’ house six long years ago. Instantly, he’d understood that they were connected through time, and he accepted his fate readily. He was hers…she was his. Francis had made him wait. Now, as much as Keiran respected his friend and mentor, he had just let him know in no uncertain terms, that he would wait no longer. He wanted Mena, and he meant to claim her, in every way. “Keiran?” He looked up to see the subject of his thoughts standing directly over him, confusion lighting her strange eyes. Yes, my love? It had been the easiest way…to let her see what he saw, feel what he felt. To communicate silently. A gamble of the highest order. He had invited her openly into his mind. He felt exposed. How Mena would use her knowledge of him was still uncertain, but he and Francis had agreed, there really was no more time to waste. The Evil One, as Francis was wont to call Lachlan, hovered—waiting. And he knew about Mena now. They needed her with them. 38

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Keir reached up and touched Mena gently on the cheek, drawing one long finger down it to brush softly against her full bottom lip, refusing to shield his emotions from the woman in front of him. The woman he was certain had held his heart for a very long time. Her breath wisped against his hand, and she raised her own to catch his in a death grip, suddenly seeking reassurance, sure he could—and would—give it. How she knew this was beyond all comprehension, but something deep within her had recognized this man from the moment he’d entered her dreams. The connection had been strong and undeniable. “Will you explain to me what’s happening?” She spoke aloud this time and quiet wonder laced her voice. “Why do I know you? How do I know you?” How to tell her without scaring her away? Or risking her skepticism? “Mena, my heart, some things can’t be explained. At least, not in the light of modern-day beliefs.” She caught his glance. Trust me. His hazel eyes glowed with the reassurance she’d known would be there. Mena gave herself up to it. She sank onto the bed beside him and allowed him to take her hand fully, pressing it against his hard chest, where his heart beat strongly. A mix of emotions washed over her, but uppermost was how greatly he affected her. But it makes no sense. I barely know him! And yet, her intuition told her she knew him better than anyone else in her life. “Sweetheart, how do I explain that we’ve known each other for centuries…maybe even millennia?” He answered her thoughts. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed the sensitive palm, teasing it with the tip of his tongue. The action was strange, yet familiar. “I’m not really sure of the time frame. I haven’t delved that deeply into our past.” He pinned her gaze with his. “But when I saw your picture, it was instant 39

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remembrance. I knew you were mine! The other half of myself who I’ve spent life after life with.” Mena nodded. “Reincarnation. Yes.” He cast her a knowing look. “Search your soul, my sweet.” His words came quietly. His breath caressed her lips as he leaned close, his mouth hovering over hers. She knew he was right. The recognition in his eyes had reached out to her in her dreams, even before they came faceto-face. And their connection on first meeting was impossible to ignore. “All that remains is for us to get to truly know each other,” Keir whispered by her ear. His hushed words tickled the outer rim, sending shivers down her spine that shot straight to her pussy. She could feel moisture gather there as he dropped his hand to her waist and then down over her hip to the juncture of her thighs, cupping her intimately. Heat radiated from his palm as he massaged her through the gray flannel of her pants. He popped the button free and tugged briefly on the fly, sliding the zipper down and delving beneath the edge of her pale pink panties. Mena felt moisture seep into the cotton lining, and she squirmed in agitation. Keir paused, a question in his eyes. He was seeking her permission, and that simple fact melted the last of her doubt. She gripped his hand and slid it further under her silky underwear, pressing it against her lower abdomen in open invitation. “Are you finally going to finish what you’ve started…twice?” The words popped out before she could bite them back. Humor tinged his voice, but she could hear the hunger lurking beneath. “Were you disappointed?” “As hell!” Her honest reaction surprised even her. She realized she had no shame when it came to Keiran Donovan. 40

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She wanted him, any way she could get him! With secrets, with strange powers she had yet to understand, even with heavy baggage that looked like it might drag them both under.

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Chapter 8 As his hesitation lengthened, Mena closed the tiny gap between them and covered his hovering lips with hers in answer to his silent question. She craved the taste of him after the teasing touches and looks they’d shared all day. She was determined to leave no doubt in his mind about what she felt—or what she wanted. Keiran wasted no time in answering in kind. The subtle electricity that had arched repeatedly around them with their first look to first touch and beyond, felt like a laser light show in his head. As he pulled Mena up tight against him, her curves felt like heaven. Like what he had been missing all these years. A piece of his body and soul returned to him. With a muted groan, he cupped her cheek with his free hand, sliding it around to the back of her head and burying his fingers in the rich thickness of her dark hair. She’d pulled it up into a ponytail earlier, and he yanked gently on the elastic, allowing the mass to cascade down her back. Blood rushed from his head and pooled in his lower extremities. His cock jerked to eager attention as he ravaged her mouth. He penetrated the slight parting of her lips with a flick of his tongue, and delved deeper into the sweet, warm recesses of her mouth. At the intrusion of his tongue, Mena arched up towards him, opening fully to his questing mouth. The movement slid 42

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her lower body into closer contact with his other hand, where it rested inside the waistband of her panties. The invitation wasn’t lost on Keir. He struggled to control the sudden, pounding urge to rip every piece of clothing she wore off her body and bury himself to the hilt inside her. Do it. For the first time, she openly placed her thoughts into his head. I need you. The words flooded his mind. With them came an overwhelming rush of emotion so strong, that he paused as he bowed under the incoming flood. Was it her, or him? He wasn’t sure. The two of them had become entwined. Feelings mixed, danced and swirled around them, taking an almost physical light form in the darkened room. His hand stilled on the soft flesh where it rested on her belly, and he backed away from her mouth, resting his forehead lightly against hers to catch his breath. Slow down, Donovan. Slow down! He tried to calm his ragged breathing. No! I want you…I need you. There were those words again, with an appeal so strong, it clutched and squeezed his heart, and sent a throbbing ache to his cock. His erection strained against his jeans. Are you sure, my sweet? He answered her in kind, humbled that she trusted him enough to expose herself completely to him, psychically as well as physically. Her reply was hard to ignore. She took his hand from where it rested tentatively beneath her underwear and guided it lower, pressing it over her hot center. He could feel her moisture as it seeped from her channel and dampened the soft curls at her entrance. She wept for him. His cock twitched in answer and it was all the encouragement he needed. He swept her lightweight pants and flimsy underwear from her lower body in one swift motion. Mena felt his strong fingers caress her mound and she melted a tiny bit more 43

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inside. Hours, days or…centuries. Time no longer mattered. All that did matter was giving herself to the man who held her heart and soul—and body—in the palm of his hand. In this life, Keiran Donovan. She moaned softly and pressed herself into his touch. “Please, Keir.” The soft plea drifted on the charged air as she spread her legs in open invitation. “My God, Mena!” The moan was ripped from Keir as he parted the warm lips that sheltered her most intimate parts and plunged one thick, strong finger deep inside her. His thumb toyed with her clit as he massaged her everywhere his hand could reach. With a raging hunger, he planted his mouth firmly on hers again, pushing inside and making teasing forays into the moist reaches of her welcoming mouth. The dual penetration of Keir’s tongue and the movement of his questing finger inside her pussy nearly drove Mena to the brink. He pushed his hand up higher, inserting a second finger to spread her wider, seeking the hard nub that hid there. His first touch of the little node caused Mena to gasp and buck against him in shock. So quickly! Mena groaned and held her breath, trying to stem the tidal wave that threatened to wash over her. She squeezed her eyes shut. It had been way too long since she’d had a man. And she knew with absolute certainty that Keir was not just any man. He was the missing piece of the puzzle. The one she’d unknowingly been searching for most of her adult life. “Holy shit!” She gasped the irreverent words against Keir’s warm lips and he eased back slightly, but his hand continued to work magic in her lower region. “Nooo. Keir, not yet, I don’t want—” “Shhh…” His thumb worked her clit in a massaging frenzy as he inserted a third finger into her dripping pussy and tickled the hardened nub high inside. He pulled out quickly, 44

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then penetrated her again with all three fingers. The pressure was pulling Mena quickly to the edge and she moaned. “Come for me, my love.” Keir whispered the words against her lips as he claimed them again, pouring his warmth on her. “Come for me now.” He continued to delve deeply into her mouth as his fingers mimicked the movement in the unrelenting manipulation of her pussy. She could feel the steel hard length of his cock through the barrier of his rough jeans, where it pressed against her bare hip. “But, Keir—” He nipped her lower lip and refused to let her finish her sentence. His talented fingers continued their work as he kissed her deeply. Mena felt as if he were drawing her into himself, and the aching between her thighs reached a fever pitch. Let go, sweetheart. Come for me. The warm invitation washed over her. Mena could feel herself climbing the peak, despite her best efforts to prolong the agony that promised the ecstasy. She wanted him with her— “Believe me, darling, I’m right here with you!” Keir doubled his efforts, teasing her clit and ramming his fingers in and out of her pussy. “There’s time for us, my love, I promise. Right now, I just need to see you come for me. Spread yourself over me, give your most intimate self to me…please.” “Keir, I’m coming—” Her voice rose an octave as the rush of heat overtook her and her eyes popped wide open. Keir’s hot, brown ones watched her intensely, fire burning in their hazel-green depths as he stroked her pussy. Her own pleasure was reflected back at her and she instantly knew that this man was willing to do anything for her. The look in his eyes as she fell over the edge into an abyss of delight left her in no doubt. 45

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And her final understanding of that thought brought her figuratively to her knees, because she realized she would do the same for him.

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Chapter 9 Mena drifted leisurely on a deep turquoise sea, waves lifting and lowering her gently. The calmness that engulfed her, coupled with the euphoria of her release, nearly lulled her to sleep. Lights still pulsed erratically behind her eyelids though, and the blue flash was enough to keep her grounded in the moment. “Are you still with me, my love?” The quiet, deep whisper penetrated the remaining fog she drifted in. Mena dropped back to earth and opened her eyes to study the face so close to her own. Hunger radiated from his heavy-lidded eyes, and she placed a hand gently against his hair-roughened cheek. “Oh yeah, I’m here,” she assured him huskily. The banked fire in his look leapt higher at her touch, and a feeling of wonder overcame her. He refused to cloak how her touch affected him. She marveled at his ready response, and her obvious power over him. “You have no idea of the strength of your power…” His murmured words split the sexually-charged air around them, and the double meaning wasn’t lost on Mena. Maybe she’d had no idea about any of her power, but she was learning quickly. His next movement drew her back to the moment. “Feel what you do to me, my love.” He pressed her back into the bed. The rock hard length of his cock pushed against her 47

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thigh like an immovable object which had found its irresistible force. How had he come to mean so much to her in such a short time? And how was it that she had only discovered him today? He should have been in her life forever. “I’m here now, and I intend to make up for lost time, my sweet.” He rubbed his groin suggestively against her mound. The heavy fabric of his jeans titillated her sensitive skin and caused her pussy to begin moistening again. Suddenly, slow and sweet wasn’t going to cut it for Mena. She had the urge to test her power…all of it. With a wicked smile, she decided to make use of their special connection. She allowed the image of them naked and locked in a fiery embrace to flood her mind. The feel of his cock penetrating her deeply as he rode her high, slamming into her as far as he could, drenched her in heat. The friction of his plunging motion felt so real, that the muscles of her pussy contracted in response, and she imagined them contracting around Keir’s stiff cock. “Holy fuck!” The harsh words were yanked from Keir as he gripped her shoulders and burned her with a look. “When you figure out how something works, you really get the hang of it fast, don’t you?” Mena shuddered as her own imagination pulled her to the edge of another orgasm. “Keir?” she moaned his name, out loud this time. “Yes?” He gritted his teeth around the words as she continued to manipulate their thoughts. “Take your goddamn clothes off and fuck me!” she gasped. She sat up quickly, yanked her pink sweater off over her head and tossed it across the room. One quick snap on the front of her bra and it fell to the floor as well. Then she reached for the hem of his black T-shirt. He beat her to it. 48

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The shirt followed her sweater across the room, and his impressive chest was bared to her view. Tanned skin sprinkled with a light dusting of golden hair wrapped over rippled muscle in all the right places. Hers, all hers. Mena sighed and reached for him. His hand came out to stop her. “No! Not yet.” He slid from the bed and unzipped his jeans, then shucked them and his underwear all in one motion, wincing briefly as he dragged the clothing over his groin. He kicked the clothes aside with his bare foot and stood in front of Mena, watching her with a hungry look that ate her, bit by tiny bit. Keiran was beautiful. The thought came unbidden to Mena. Beautiful shouldn’t describe a man, and he was definitely all male, but beautiful was the word. His body was smoothly muscled, shoulders wide and strong, a chest that made her want to reach out and sculpt along it with her hands, follow it down to the narrower V of his waist, then even further, to the nest of dark blond hair between his welldeveloped thighs. Her gaze lit on his groin and a soft puff of air escaped her. She could feel a flush of arousal start at her toes and rise like the tides to the very tip of her head. His magnificent cock stood at attention, jutting proudly from his body and the sight caused her heart to jump in her breast. A slight moment of fear flashed through her as she wondered if she could take all of him inside her. Hell, she’d die trying! Keir released a bark of laughter as he returned to the bed and came down on top of her, pressing her onto her back. “We’ll fit, my sweet. We’re made for each other, don’t you know that yet?” He crushed her to the mattress with the weight of his body and rested himself on his forearms, chest to breast, his arms caging her head against the pillows beneath her. As she watched, the humor in his face turned to hot desire and he lowered his head to drop a blistering kiss on her 49

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lips before slipping lower to tug her left nipple into his mouth. He nipped at the engorged tip, causing it to tighten to a diamond hard point, then sucked strongly, pulling as much of her pink areola as he could swallow into the moistness of his mouth. Mena felt a twinge deep within her womb, and her pussy responded with a dripping need of its own. She needed him now! Her urgency flooded Keir’s consciousness. He released her nipple and met her gaze. Her eyes devoured him, and she snaked a hand between their bodies to grip the steel hardness of his erection. Her open invitation to do it—and do it now—penetrated his brain. Foreplay no longer figured into the equation. Her hunger communicated itself to him, wrapping around him like an inferno. He’d deny her no part of himself, especially not his cock. It belonged to her, and her alone. “Keir. I can’t wait. I want you in me, now. I need you in me.” She arched up and pressed into his groin, grinding her hips against his engorged penis in desperation. She needed the ultimate possession. Keir had said he was hers. She’d heard the thought in her head, and felt the flame that engulfed them both. But she needed the proof, the physical reassurance that only his gorgeous body could give her. And she needed to let him know that she was his. She gasped as she felt his finger penetrate her slick channel. He was testing for her readiness, so he wouldn’t hurt her in the penetration. How could he know it had been a while for her? Even as she wondered, she knew. Her heart swelled. He nudged her thighs apart and she spread them willingly, welcoming him between her legs. Her eyelids fluttered shut and she spread her legs wider still, opening her pussy to his possession. 50

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“Open your eyes, Mena.” His soft command sliced the thick air. “I want to watch you while I take you. While I ride you to the peak.” Her eyes popped open at the order and she met the determined look on his face. He stroked her one last time with his finger, then pulled out. Settling himself into position, he caught her gaze. With the slowest of movements, he teased her entrance with the tip of his swollen penis. Creamy cum was already trickling between her legs and he rubbed his cock through it, moistening the velvety smooth skin. His eyes locked on hers, then he edged between her slick folds gently, burying himself deep within her tight vagina. “God! Mena!” A moan ripped from him and he froze momentarily. Mena wrapped her legs tightly around his ass and pulled him insistently against her, rising up to take him deeper inside. A groan rumbled from his chest. “Keep that up, love, and this will be the shortest fuck on record.” Mena raised both hands to his face and cupped her palms against his carved cheekbones. “Fuck me fast and hard, Keir.” The words came out on a gasp. She pushed against his groin, taking his cock to the hilt. She flexed her hips, massaging his hard length with the tight muscles of her pussy. The action ripped the air from Keir’s lungs and he returned the favor by ramming hard into her, then withdrawing completely from her opening before slamming back into her with a muffled growl. She milked him as he slid into her, and she felt his cock pulse against the sensitive lining of her cunt. “Oooh, baby.” Keir wrapped his arms around her upper body completely. “It may have been a while for both of us, but what you’re doing to my cock sure as hell feels right!” He 51

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dragged her against the hard muscles of his chest, crushing her breasts and grazing her tender nipples. The exquisite torture knifed straight to Mena’s pussy and her muscles clenched tighter. “Keir!” she breathed his name on what felt like her final puff of air. She’d never been so ready for a man in her life! Keir could bring her to orgasm quicker than she’d ever thought possible. As he crushed her lips with his, branding her with a searing kiss and dueling with her tongue, he pumped his hips in a frenzy, rocking her on his hungry cock. The constant scraping against her G spot—that tiny little nub that brought on excruciating pleasure—it began to vibrate in unison with his movement. Almost. There. Mena strained to reach the peak. She held her breath for an eternal second, hovering on the edge, before leaping off the cliff. Spasms rocked her and a low scream tore from her, swallowed up by Keir’s demanding lips. I’m with you, babe! The breathless words reverberated in her reeling mind. She could feel Keir’s cock harden to forged steel inside her, and her pussy massaged him lovingly, like iron hands wrapped in kid gloves. Oooooh fuck! Hang on, love, I’m— Keir’s thought was cut short as Mena felt his body stiffen against her. As she pulsed one or two more times around him, he released a muffled shout, spilling warm cum into her vibrating pussy. The world paused for a few seconds, no longer spinning on its axis, as their eyes met and clung in a blazing look. As their bodies shuddered in unison, Mena swore she could see eternity in the fiery sparks of Keir’s gaze.

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Chapter 10 Wow! The single word exploded in her brain. Her thought or Keir’s, she wasn’t sure, but she agreed wholeheartedly, whoever was thinking it! She could feel his semi-erect cock still twitching inside her slick pussy as the vestiges of lovely spasms rolled over her. She released a replete sigh. Keir’s eyes flashed his own satisfaction at her before he finally tore his gaze from hers and lowered his head to nuzzle the side of her neck. He nibbled teasingly on the sensitive skin just below her ear. “Sweeter than I could ever imagine, my love. And I always thought I had a pretty good imagination!” He worked his way across her cheek and planted a burning kiss on her lips, invading her mouth with his tongue. His touch oozed open invitation, and she longed to take him up on his offer. Her vaginal muscles sensed the ready swelling of his penis as it rested inside her. But now that the first rush of hungry desire had been assuaged, questions and worries were free to crowd Mena’s mind once more. And they came flooding in like a thundering waterfall. Keir felt her mental withdrawal. Not that he could blame her. It had been one hell of a day, for all of them! He placed one last gentle kiss against her lips, then reluctantly pulled his cock free from the warm confines of her pussy. Her turbulent 53

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thoughts were already nearly overwhelming him, as they pinged his mind. He levered himself off her and settled on his side, using an arm to pull her tight to his body. He might be willing to back off for now, but there was no way he was letting her go, ever again. His possessiveness wasn’t lost on Mena, and she felt a momentary fear at what the future might have in store for her. She quickly killed the emotion. Keir had been nothing but honest with her right from the start, even about her father. Father. There it was, that word. It reverberated in Keir’s head, snatched from the confusion that was Mena’s mind at the moment. Keir sighed. She needed to know…everything. It was time to take her to her father. **** Mena studied the wizened man in front of her in amazement. This was her father? This man, who had obviously once been tall and straight, but was now stooped over as if from a great weight? Without comment, Keir had led her into the room where the man sat behind a huge desk, and as the stranger rose to greet her, she’d been drawn in instantly by the green fire of his eyes. She’d tried to assimilate the strength reflected in them with the wasted form that stood silently before her. His nearly completely gray hair, tinged with remnants of a hair color that might have once matched her own, rested against his bent shoulders. This was not the mental image she had always carried of her absentee father. He appeared to be nearly eighty, and somehow, Mena had never thought of her lively mother being attracted to a man so much older than herself. If she’d lived, she’d only be forty-nine this year. And yet, those knowing 54

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green eyes spoke volumes, hid secrets, and burned into hers with a steady look. “Francis Reilly.” The voice sounded younger than its owner, but weak. The undertone of it caught at her memory, ringing a distant bell. She took his hand in a firm grip, and at the touch, pieces of dreams—long forgotten—played quickly through her mind. Conversations and outings, shared confidences and a shoulder she’d cried on, all in her dreams. She gasped and pulled her hand free as if she’d been scorched. Francis Reilly cursed silently. Damn! He wished fervently that Mena didn’t have to see him like this and even more, he wished she’d never been dragged into his fight. This wasn’t how he would have chosen to meet his daughter for the first time. Not by a long shot, and certainly never under these circumstances. He caught Keir’s eye. His protégé watched Mena closely, and protectively. Relief washed over him. Keir would be there. He had complete faith in his friend’s strength, and judgement. Both of them were about to be sorely tested. Mena jerked her head back to the silent man who stood beside her watching the exchange between father and daughter. Father and daughter! She shot Keir a blistering look, then turned again to Francis Reilly. She still couldn’t accept the knowledge that percolated to the surface of her consciousness and presented itself as the truth. Her father? Maybe! But one thing she did know, Francis Reilly was no stranger! His voice was that of the lifelong friend and companion who had guided her in her dreams and listened many times to her deepest, darkest secrets. From those of a little girl of six or seven, right on up to the angsty teenager she’d been and beyond. Oh. My. Goddess! She flushed hotly. This man knew all her secrets! And he was real! 55

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“Try not to panic.” The quiet words came from the bent stranger before her. “Everything you’ve shared with me over time is locked away in confidence forever, Mena.” Mena tried to assimilate the images of past dreams and desires shared with her imaginary friend into the reality of the actual time she must have spent with this man who claimed to be her father. Wrapping her mind around it was giving her a monster headache! Why hadn’t she paid more attention to her mother when Lily had tried to educate her on the ins and outs of astral travel, psychic connections and spending time between the worlds? “Because you thought it was nonsense, despite what your heart told you.” Francis’ voice broke into her thoughts. Shit! She shuddered. Was her mind an open book to both these men? “And I was quite happy to have it that way,” Francis Reilly continued. “Your mother was a gentle soul, Mena. Even though she wasn’t as powerful as I am—was—she had a common sense and wisdom that I truly admired. She believed, and that made her strong.” Francis paused, appearing lost in thought for a minute, then continued. “And as much as I loved Lily, I also knew how flaky she could be. I figured you would dismiss most of her ideas as New Age nonsense as you got older. It was safer for you that way.” He pulled in a deep breath and seemed to grow taller for a second or two before contracting back to the stooped man he was. “But…I also knew your gifts were real. How could they not be? It was inevitable that you would have to acknowledge them one day. That day is now.” Sorrow filled his face. “I’m just sorry that you’re about to be thrown in at the deep end. I’ll do what I can to keep you afloat, but as you can see for yourself, my strength is nearly at an end. And your 56

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mother is no longer in the world to help support and protect you.” He shriveled more as he uttered the last words, pain shooting across his features. “Enough, Francis,” Keir said quietly. “There’s nothing more you can say or do right now.” He studied the overwhelmed look on Mena’s face and his heart swelled with pain for her. “Mena needs some rest, and so do you.” He watched as Francis finally sank wearily back into his chair. “I’ll get Derek to help you upstairs to your room.” He strode to the door and opened it, beckoning to someone outside in the hallway. As Mena followed Keir’s progress to the door, a sudden bang on the desktop behind her startled her. She whirled around just in time to see Francis Reilly raise his clenched fist once more and slam it down angrily against the polished wood. “Damn it, Keir, this isn’t right!” Francis’ eyes spit green fire as he struggled back to his feet. “I don’t need help!” He stumbled against the desk and gripped it quickly to save himself. “I shouldn’t need help!” He balanced himself with difficulty. “Fuck! I’m fifty years old! Not a hundred!” As he uttered the words, he took a misstep and faltered, dropping suddenly to his knees on the hardwood floor. Both Mena and Keir sprang forward to reach him, each sliding a shoulder under one of his arms to support the weakened man. Francis Reilly’s head was bent as he studied an object in his now open palm. The subdued light of the room caught the ring and it gleamed, shooting blue fire in all directions from a large sapphire that glowed in the center of a carved, silver pentacle. Mena’s gaze was mesmerized by the riveting color as it bounced off the walls and reflected back on them like a kaleidoscope. Then, suddenly, the eerie light was 57

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extinguished and the exhausted man they held up between them pitched forward in an unconscious heap.

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Chapter 11 Mena stared unseeingly at the ornate plaster ceiling above the bed. Well! She’d found out exactly nothing in that little encounter! She snorted in frustration as her mind reeled with questions that would have to wait a while longer, because the man who could answer them best now lay in a comatose state two doors down from her. She would get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounded her father—including what made a fifty year old man appear to be eighty—no matter what it took. She rolled over onto her side, tugging at the oversized Tshirt she’d slipped on earlier. Keir had dug it out of a drawer for her as a replacement for her rumpled clothes, and she’d welcomed its softness against her naked skin. As she struggled to make sense out of what her life had become in the last several hours, a soft knock penetrated the fog and she turned over to watch Keiran enter the dimmed room. Even from this distance, she could read the concern— and fatigue—on his striking face. Shadows defined the angles of his cheeks, and his green-flecked eyes held a soft glow, hidden beneath the tiredness. Mena already knew his face as well as her own. His feelings ran through her as if they belonged to her. Now that the psychic door was open, she realized there was no turning back. They were irrevocably connected. Keiran was tied up in her fate, just as her father 59

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was. Her intuition told her that both men needed her help. With a desire that overwhelmed her, she pledged silently to give it, even without answers. She watched Keir walk toward her with a loose-limbed, sexy gait that he seemed completely unaware of. It caused a tingling in every secret region of her body. She groaned inwardly. That was part of the hell of this whole situation! She was connected to him on an emotional and psychic level, all right. Of that, there was no doubt. But worse than that, she feared he already owned her physically as well. Their lovemaking earlier confirmed it. Her eyes followed him, watching the tight muscles of his ass flex as he continued past her to the window. He drew the drapes against the now dark night before turning back to her silent scrutiny. Could he read her mind? Quite likely! Mena tried to shield her lustful thoughts. “Mena, you have no idea how sorry I am that you’re here.” The serious words were dragged from Keir as he moved over to sit on the edge of the bed. Preoccupation with something else had caused him to miss the replaying of the carnal images of the two of them in her mind. Then, what he’d just said registered on her brain. She cast him a startled look. “That wasn’t the impression I got earlier!” she shot back. She felt her face catch fire as he raised one brow at her in sudden amusement. “It’s not that…” He reached out to her, but hesitated to make the connection. Instantly, Mena knew why. The chilling presence she’d felt when she touched him in the car was back. The coldness emanated from him, and penetrated to her very soul. She knew he wouldn’t willingly pass it on to her again. She steeled herself, using her mind to erect a barrier of light around them, and grasped his hand. 60

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“No!” Keir attempted to pull from her grip, but with determination, she clung to him fiercely, wrapping her arms around him completely, refusing to relinquish her hold. “We’re one, you and I,” she gasped at Keir. “We both know it!” She dragged in a deep breath as icy cold swirled through her, trying not to succumb to the darkness it brought with it. She felt the presence of true evil in the room. Using everything she could remember, she attempted to banish it and hold herself together at the same time. As she clutched Keir tightly, she could feel his reluctant acceptance of her help and he allowed her strength to meld with his. But instead of releasing the dark entity that plagued them, he drew the presence back into himself. “You’ll have to go through me to reach her, Lachlan. To get either of them!” Keir’s harsh words were softly muttered, but Mena managed to separate them from the static that rattled in her mind. A roar of anger erupted in her head before they both fell backwards across the bed, shoved by an unseen hand. Coldness engulfed them one last time before a loud crack sounded and the room temperature returned to normal. Mena clenched her eyes shut, refusing to open them for fear of what she might see. The way her day had been going, she wouldn’t be surprised to see Satan himself standing at the foot of the bed. That is, if she believed in Satan! “Not Satan. But close!” Keir said wryly. As she continued to hold him tightly, she felt his body begin to warm again, from desire or anger, she couldn’t tell. Mena attempted to gather her shattered senses. At last, she found her voice. “Is it…he…gone?” Her words barely penetrated the oppressive atmosphere that hovered in the room. 61

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Keir heaved a fatigue-filled sigh. “For now.” The strength and charisma she’d sensed in him from their first meeting appeared diminished as he raked a hand through his dark blond hair in frustration. Mena pushed herself to a sitting position on the bed while Keir raised himself up on one elbow to watch her intently. His hungry gaze followed the line of her breasts where they strained against the soft fabric of the T-shirt, and she could feel her nipples harden instantaneously in invitation, her pussy moisten just as readily. His eyes darkened with desire as if he could feel her response to him, but his expression was still strained. She locked her gaze on his face, trying to ignore the sexual clamorings of her body for his. “Is anyone ever going to tell me what’s going on here?” Her own exasperation with the whole situation she’d been dragged into began to bubble to the surface. “What the hell just happened?” She tried to slap Keir’s soothing hand away as he reached for her again, but he refused to budge. Instead, he dragged her back into the mattress and slid one leg across her bare thighs, pinning her effectively. “Where do you think you’re going?” Some of the energy was returning to his voice and he studied her with darkened eyes. “Home! I need some distance from all of this to think clearly. And for the record, I don’t need your protection.” She recalled the threat he’d made to their invisible attacker. “I can take care of myself! In fact, I’ve even been saving your ass!” Her voice rose in irritation as she attempted to get up from the bed once more, trying not to recall the sight of that firm ass in the black jeans that encased it. She’d only end up naked in his arms again! The thought caused her pussy to tingle. “Really?” Keir’s arm snaked out and wrapped around her just below her breasts, anchoring her to the spot. Mena fought 62

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the sudden heat that raced through her. His dry rebuttal pissed her off further. “Yes. Really!” She squirmed against his confinement, and he shifted over her completely, crushing her into the softness of the comforter with his muscular weight, his intention clear in every line of his hard body. Ignoring the blatant invitation in his touch, Mena raised her knee quickly, attempting to ram it into his balls, but he forestalled her by grabbing her thigh, pressing it hard to the bed. “You fight dirty when pushed, don’t you, sweetheart?” he said. “Good!” he added with satisfaction. His voice dropped an octave, from smooth and silky to a dark velvet caress. “But of course, you know there’s no way I can let you leave.” A trace of renewed fear licked up Mena’s spine as she gazed into his face, now indistinct and slightly threatening in the duskiness of the room. After all, how well did she really know this man? A few hours of acquaintance—and some hot sex—hardly made a relationship, and past lives didn’t count, did they? Because she couldn’t remember a damn thing about them! Besides, she only had his word on that connection. Her subconscious pricked at her with this thought and she moved restlessly under him, her uneasiness subsiding. She’d felt it too. “You know I’d never hurt you, Mena. I swear.” His quiet voice came to her from the gathering gloom. Nightfall had finally settled over them, and for a moment, all Mena felt was intense weariness. Her thoughts flew to Allie—and Rory— who was probably wondering where the heck she was. Keir rose to a sitting position and dug deep into the front pocket of his jeans. He held out a cell phone to her. “Call Allie. Set her mind at rest. Something tells me she probably is worried about you, even though you were supposed to take 63

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the rest of the day off. But…” his look snagged hers, green fire snuffing out the warm sherry color, “…who the hell is Rory?”

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Chapter 12 Mena snatched the proffered cell phone with relief. “Rory is the only male in my life at the moment, and I’m seriously thinking of keeping it that way!” She started to punch in Allie’s number when the cell phone was pulled from her hand. Keir rose quickly from the bed, snapped the cover shut and shoved it into his back pocket. “I said Allie. No one else!” He uttered the words harshly, but she caught something in his look before he masked it with indifference. Hurt. She sighed. There was a distinct possibility that she wasn’t the only one who was having a hard time processing the feelings that had eddied around them before they’d even officially met. Keir seemed so strong, self-confident, in control, yet… Mena thought about Rory winding himself around her legs, meowing as she dished out his favorite food. She pictured him curled up in a soft, furry, black and white ball on her lap, purring to beat the band and— “A cat!” Keir’s voice was sheepish. Shit! He was a goddamn idiot. He was jealous of a cat! He shook his head. They’d known each other barely eight hours and already he thought of her as his.

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“There’s a good possibility I might be,” Mena admitted softly, confusion lurking in her voice. “And I’m sorry. I baited you deliberately. I’m just so damn mixed up here—” He stepped forward, dragging her from the bed and into his arms, pressing her hard against his body. He dropped a light kiss on the top of her head where it rested beneath his chin. “Mena, I know this day hasn’t been normal, even by my standards.” Normal! Hell, it had been fucking crazy! She raised her head in surprise. Ahh, she’d heard that. Obviously she was getting very good at this. Reading his mind, putting her thoughts into his head. “Honestly, most of my days are perfectly normal,” he reassured her. He thought about the last six months. “Okay, let me rephrase that. Except for the last six months, most of my days are what I’d consider normal.” Mena moaned and rested her forehead against the solid wall of his chest. There were too many missing variables about the events of the day. No sense could be made of what happened. She shuddered with fatigue. Keir’s arms tightened around her and he tucked a finger under her chin, raising her face to his. “You need rest.” As he said it, his eyes burned into hers, as if the last thing he wanted to give her was rest, of any sort. The strong sexual attraction that arced between them was never far beneath the surface, and despite her fatigue, she felt her stomach pitch with desire and heat settle between her legs. “Don’t tempt me, my love,” he whispered. Now she didn’t even have to think. It was like he was experiencing her emotions right along with her. The more time they spent together in the real world, the deeper their connection was becoming. 66

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He slid his hand down the back of her oversized shirt and dipped it under the hem, caressing the rounded contours of her exposed ass. Mena arched into his heated embrace while she struggled with the idea that she might never be alone in her own skin again. “But you’re in mine, too,” Keir said quietly. He placed her hand over his heart. She could feel its strong beat, and the tiny jump it gave as she touched him. They stood like that for a minute or two, no words passing between them, but the silence seemed to speak loudly. At last, Keir pulled away. “I can feel your fatigue, sweetheart.” He reached behind him and pulled out his cell phone again, handing it back to her. “Make any calls you need to,” he said softly. He pointed to the bed. “Then lie down and rest.” He headed off her protest with a quick, searing kiss. “Trust me, Mena. Please.” He grimaced. “I know I’ve been saying that to you a lot, but I would have explained everything to you before this, if Francis hadn’t passed out cold on the floor. Most of this story is his, my love.” His eyes begged her for understanding, and a little more patience. “You just need to stay here with me…with us. You’re safest here.” She caved in to the urgency in his voice. She’d shared her most intimate self with this man, and she would do it again in a heartbeat. Her subconscious knew more about him than her conscious did, and right now, she was willing to take that on faith. She reached for the cell phone. “I’ll call Allie. She can look after Rory for me.” He pressed another kiss to her lips, his full male ones tasting and teasing. Her arousal was instant, and she backed away. “Leave me with somewhat of a clear mind, Keir,” she pleaded softly. 67

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He trailed one long, strong finger across her cheek. “I’ll go check on Francis, and I need to talk to Derek about something.” Mena recognized the name as belonging to the man who had helped them get her unconscious father to bed. She felt a niggle of guilt. She hadn’t thought about her father since Keiran Donovan had walked into the room. But then, she wasn’t used to having a father. Especially one who obviously needed her for something. She pressed her hands against Keir’s chest gently, pushing him toward the door. “Go and do your thing.” She met his eyes. “I’m not going anywhere…for now.” He studied her intently. “I promise!” She crossed her heart, turned her head and spit. A deep rumble of laughter erupted from Keir at her gesture. “I’ll definitely hold you to that.” And if she tried to leave, he’d hunt her down and bring her back. There was no way she was getting away from him. He intended to protect her, at all costs! Mena watched him head for the door. His last thought reverberated in her head. Protect her from what? Or should that be who? **** Derek stopped Keir at the door to Francis’ room. Although the two men were roughly the same height, Keir was more whipcord lean and sleekly muscled. Derek was built like a linebacker, who looked like he’d forgotten to take off his shoulder pads. His menacing demeanor was off-putting to most people. Keir, Francis—and Derek—liked it that way. “I just checked on him.” Derek’s gravelly voice rumbled in the silent hallway, even though he’d spoken the words in 68

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hushed tones. “He’s out again, but he came to for a bit. He’s just sleeping now, I think.” Keir caught his concerned gaze. Neither one of them were doctors, so anything to do with Francis’ condition would be guessing, at best. But how could they call in a doctor? Or take Francis Reilly to the hospital and explain why a fifty year old man closer resembled an eighty year old one? Ambrose Lachlan had plenty to answer for, and Keiran intended to see that his ex-covenmate got exactly what was coming to him! This was way over the top in revenge for the acrimonious break-up of a coven! His temper climbed as he recalled his latest encounter with the power-mad egomaniac. It had been too close for comfort. And almost every time he’d dueled with him recently, it had been on the astral plane, within an arm’s length of Mena. The bastard’s strength was growing, and Keir knew exactly where he was gaining it from, the weakened man behind the closed bedroom door. Fear crawled up his spine as he also accepted the fact that Francis Reilly was no longer Lachlan’s only target. Mena had been pulled into the mix, thanks to his own carelessness. And in a ridiculously short space of time, she’d come to mean more to him than his own life. If forfeiting it meant she’d be safe, so be it.

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Chapter 13 “Keir?” Derek’s sharp-edged query dragged him back to reality. “Yeah?” Keir shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Where the hell were you, man? I’ve been asking you the same thing for five minutes!” Keir opened his mouth to reply, but Derek held up one overlarge hand. “Forget it. I know exactly where your mind was. On the hot little number you dragged in here today over your shoulder.” Derek chuckled. “Isn’t that a little cavemanish, even for you, Donovan?” He raised one questioning brow at Keir and leaned against the wall next to Francis’ door, arms crossed over his broad chest. “Fuck off,” Keir muttered, only half-kidding. The day had been way too long. How could Derek Blackburn make jokes at a time like this? Did he not see what the hell was going on? Keir could feel the atmosphere thicken around him as his anger rose a notch. “Wo—” Derek levered away from the wall and studied his good friend’s face intently. Thunderclouds lurked there, and any time now, thunder would also start rumbling outside, if Keir didn’t relax. The man had a connection to the elements Derek was just beginning to understand, and the last thing he wanted to do was get on the wrong side of it. 70

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“Okay, okay, no more rude comments about the woman you carried in here.” He said the words calmly. He winced as the expected thunder crashed overhead. “Calm down, Donovan!” he ordered in his most professional, hard-ass voice. “I’m assuming she has something to do with Francis?” He nodded to the closed door. “Mena has everything to do with Francis. She’s his daughter.” Derek started in surprise. “The hell you say!” With interest, he studied the door to the room where Francis lay. “Well, isn’t he the quiet one?” He shook his head in amusement. “I didn’t even know he was married, never mind that he had a daughter. Our coven leader really does like to play his cards close to his chest, doesn’t he?” Speculation glittered from his dark brown eyes. “Sooo…what happened to the wife then?” Are you two going to stand out there and speculate about my private life, or are you going to come in here and update me on what’s happened, while I’ve been sleeping like a goddamn baby? “He’s awake.” Keir uttered the words in quiet resignation. “I got that from the look on your face,” Derek replied with a grin. “I really need to work on my mind-reading skills. How the hell do you two do it?” he finished curiously. Keir shrugged. “Just always been able to do it. Francis helped me a lot with developing my skills when I first met him, though. That’s one of the many reasons I owe him.” Derek shoved his hand through his thick, black hair. “It’s gotta be my pragmatic cop nature. It’s a bugger to get around, you know?” Frustration edged his voice. “Practice!” Keir shot the advice at him as he reached for the doorknob to Francis’ room. 71

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“Yeah, right. I’ll do that while I’m out catching the bad guys.” He snorted. “Speaking of bad guys, what about Lachlan?” Concern entered his voice. “I’ve been searching for him on my own time, Keir, but he’s really run to ground. And anyone who might know where he is, isn’t saying!” “Fuck!” Keir met Derek’s questioning gaze. “Keep trying will you, Blackburn? The only place I can find him is on the astral plane, and he isn’t sticking around long enough for me to figure out where he might be, the crafty bastard.” He rubbed his hands over his face, trying to erase the fatigue from his mind. “He’s after Mena. I think—no, I’m sure—he plans to use her to get to Francis, once and for all. To deliver the final blow.” His chest contracted in sudden pain at the thought of anything happening to Mena—or Francis. “I really think he’s done all the damage he can to Francis for now,” he added hopefully. “He needs something more to hurt him. That something is Mena.” “But how does he know about—” Keir cut Derek off. “That’s what I’m about to find out. Francis has not been totally honest with me.” His face darkened again. “There’s more going on here than I know.” He shoved the door open and stepped into the huge bedroom where the wizened body of his mentor lay buried under mounds of blankets. “I’ll keep looking, Keir.” Derek’s promise followed him inside. **** A curse of complete frustration emanated from the heap of bedcovers, as Francis struggled to sit up when Keir entered the room. At least he was still breathing! Francis could feel Keir’s overwhelming presence as he walked toward the bed. It hit him like a physical force. Normally, he would barely notice it, when he was in a normal 72

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state anyway, but the anger and frustration pouring off his protégé was hard to miss. And in his weakened state, it settled on him like a granite weight. The time had come to test Keir’s loyalty, and the first thing he had to do was own up to the lies he’d been telling Keir for the last six years. “I’d say it’s the least you can do!” Keir’s words were laced with exasperation. “How the hell am I supposed to fight something when I’m no longer sure what I’m fighting?” He raked his hands through his hair in frustration. “Correction, who I’m fighting, and why.” He caught the guilty look in Francis’ eyes. There was definitely more here than he knew. He parked himself in the old wingback beside the bed and crossed his arms firmly over his chest. He wasn’t budging until he had answers. The real answers! Ambrose Lachlan was who knew where, doing who knew what. Mena was safe for now— “Ambrose will never get to Mena!” Francis said in a hard voice. “We have to make sure of that! Never let your guard down, Keiran!” he finished harshly. “I’m beginning to realize that,” Keir shot back. “Even when it comes to you, Francis.” He raked an angry gaze over his mentor. “You know, it just hit me that I may have led Lachlan to Mena.” He raised his hand briefly. “Guilty as charged! But it’s occurred to me…how the hell did Ambrose even know about Mena in the first place? You’ve kept her a well-guarded secret from everyone but me. No one else in the coven knew. Derek’s reaction just now confirmed that. So, what makes Ambrose Lachlan so damn special that he’d know your secret?” “He’s my brother.” Dead silence followed his answer into the room.

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Chapter 14 “Holy shit!” The exclamation was finally pulled from Keir. He slid to the edge of the chair and pinned Francis with a shocked look. “All this time we’ve been battling your brother?” The knowledge should have surprised Keir, but it didn’t. In fact, it made so much more sense. Lachlan’s powers, for one. They nearly matched Francis’. They must be— “From my mother.” Francis heaved a sigh and leaned back against the mound of pillows. “We’re half-brothers, actually. My mother remarried when Ambrose was eight. He never did forgive her.” He shook his head in regret. “And he hated me from the day I was born.” “But then how did he ever end up in the coven with you?” The question begged asking, and Francis grimaced. “I won’t go into my sad family dynamics with you, Keir.” He held Keir’s gaze. “A couple of years ago, I wanted to believe that we could put our history behind us, and maybe learn to get along. He appeared changed. I let him back into my life.” He seemed to sink lower into the bedclothes. “I was a goddamn fool! He’d just gotten much better at hiding his true nature from me. He was only trying to get to Lily, and Mena. When Lily told me six months ago that Lachlan had found her—” “Lily?” Keir cut in. 74

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“Philomena’s mother, my wife,” he said sadly. “You said your wife died a long time ago! And that you had no idea where your daughter was for years.” Keir pinned his mentor with a hard gaze. The revelations were coming fast and furious now. What else was Francis hiding? “Mena told me her mother was dead.” “She wasn’t, at least, not until a few months ago—” Francis’ voice broke as sorrow shadowed his features. He attempted to sit up once more. “I’ll get him for that, Keir. And I owe him for so much more!” He struggled to sit on the edge of the bed. “We’ll just see who pays in the end!” **** “Mena?” Allie’s strained voice came to her over the phone. “I tried to call you at your place earlier and there was no answer.” She babbled on. “Hon, are you okay? You’ve had me worried sick—” “Allie!” Mena jumped into the conversation when Allie paused to catch her breath. “I’m fine.” She caught the hesitant pause on the other end. “Really!” she added reassuringly. “Then where the heck are you?” Allie asked. “I’m with Keir,” she answered softly. “I’m safe, honestly!” “Safe?” Allie latched onto the word. “What do you mean safe?” Mena bit her tongue. Crap! “Mena? Are you still there?” Mena could hear Allie’s voice rise an octave. “If that guy has hurt you, I’ll—” Mena dragged in a deep breath. “Breathe, Allegra, breeaathe,” she soothed her friend. “Everything is okay, I swear.” Her mind flashed to the earlier encounters she’d had with the ice-cold entity who kept invading her dreams, and her waking visions. She shook it off with a shiver. 75

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“Philomena Blys, I heard that shiver!” Allie insisted in her ear. “What’s going on? If you’re lying to me, your life won’t be worth living!” Allie’s threat hit a little too close to home today. Mena struggled not to spill her guts to her long-time friend. Nothing to tell. No explanations to give…yet. “Allie, can you just go and check on Rory for me? The poor animal probably doesn’t know what’s up.” She thought about the little cat. Actually, she wouldn’t put it past him to know exactly what was up! He was weird that way. “What is up?” Allie had calmed down some. Curiosity edged her voice now. “Nothing, really.” Mena’s mind whirled for an explanation. “It just turns out that Mr. Donovan’s winery is farther out of Crescent Moon Cove than I realized. He took me to tour the winery, and it’s too late to head back now.” “Mena!” Her friend’s gasp was very audible. “You’re spending the night with a total stranger? And a hottie at that?” “Hey, what happened to all the concern?” She could hear Allie chuckle. “Hmmm, well, on second thought, you sound okay. In fact, maybe the shiver was something else entirely,” she finished suggestively. Mena laughed weakly. “Stuff it, Al. Just remember Rory, okay?” “Will do, hon.” Mena went to hang up, when she heard Allie shout, “But—” She put the phone back to her ear. “What?” “If you’re not back at work bright and early in the morning, I’ll be sending the cops after you. So remember that!” “Yes, Mother.” Mena went to flip the phone shut. “And another thing!” Allie hollered. 76

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“Arghh, what?” Mena said in exasperation. “I’ll expect details, woman!” Allie laughed and the phone clicked in Mena’s ear. Well, that was one worry off her chest. Now, if she could only make sense out of the others that plagued her. It appeared that the only answers to be found were on the ethereal plane. With an exhausted sigh, Mena dropped to the soft claret cover on the bed. Rest. Rest sounded good right now. She shucked the heavy t-shirt completely in order to feel the sinfully soft caress of the coverlet when she pulled it over her, then gave herself up to the dark. **** “Is that all of if?” Keir tried to keep the anger, and hurt, masked. He’d thought Francis and he had no hidden secrets. That they knew and trusted each other, like father and son. Obviously, it had been a one-way street. “I’m truly sorry, Keir,” Francis said. Fatigue was evident in every line of his wasted body. “Lily and Mena were the most important things in my life—always.” He wavered slightly where he sat, and Keir reached out a strong hand to steady him. Francis gripped his arm weakly. “You are like a son to me, Keir. And I’d trust you with my life.” He hesitated while he gathered his thoughts. “But you don’t understand my brother. He’d do anything to take all that I have away from me. Including Mena. It’s a hate that couldn’t have grown within a single lifetime. I’m sure of that!” Francis battled to his feet, refusing to give in to the pressure of Keir’s hand to force him back into bed. “And now that he’s taken Lily,” his disheartened voice cracked on the words, “Mena will be the final thing on his list.” As his voice died on the air, a frantic brushing at the window drew their attention. 77

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Keir strode to the window and yanked back the curtains to reveal an owl beating its wings desperately against the glass, as if in a bid to gain entry. “What the—” Keir! The desperate plea reverberated in his head. The terrified cry penetrated the sold oak of the closed door, communicating urgency to the two men who stood frozen in surprise. “Mena!” Fear clutched Keir’s heart and caused his chest to tighten with pain. He sprinted from the room, leaving Francis swaying unsteadily on his feet. **** She’d thought she could do it. Her powers were growing quickly, weren’t they? She’d felt the positive energy rush when she’d made the connection to the astral plane. But…Mena struggled against the confining darkness that had started out safe and welcoming, but now pressed down on her ominously. She felt a cold hand brush her cheek and expand to wrap itself around her. She was dragged from her dreamy meditative state into a distorted reality. Her surroundings were shrouded from her view, but she could discern a frightening presence nearby. More than nearby…everywhere! Confusion and mind-blowing fear dropped her to her knees as freezing air crept along her skin and into her very pores. Her naked flesh pebbled with the chill, and as she opened her mouth to scream, her breath puffed on the air that surrounded her. “There’s no point in screaming, my dear.” Mena wasn’t sure if the words had been spoken aloud, or placed in her head. What she did know was that the calm, cold edge on them cut her more deeply than any sharp piece of ice could have. Terror crawled up from the hole she’d been shoving it into for the last few days and took over her mind. Her panicked scream reverberated throughout the void she 78

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found herself in before a threatening, male laugh drowned out the sound. “I’m in charge here, Mena. Your refusal to accept and refine your gifts will be their downfall, because you’ll be no help to them as my brother had hoped! They won’t defeat me.” The voice fell silent for a moment, then, “But, they will come for you.” An icy breeze blew harder against her exposed body. “I’ll be ready when they do.” They can’t touch me on the astral plane, my ‘dear’ niece, because they’ll never find me on the Earth one! Mena tried to absorb the gloating words as she called out Keir’s name in shock and desperation.

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Chapter 15 Keir burst into the room he’d shared earlier in the evening with the woman who’d come to mean more to him than his own life. Cold fear gripped his heart when he glimpsed her stretched out on the bed. The covers were thrown off her and her beautiful body was exposed for all to see. Her fine skin had a translucent quality to it, as if carved from marble, and as a soft breath escaped her lips, the air crystallized around it. Thank the Gods she was still breathing! “Mena!” The words were torn from Keir as he hurried to the bed and dropped to it, reaching to pull Mena into the protective circle of his arms. He drew the soft coverlet around her and attempted to warm her with his heat. The limpness of her body and the slackness of her cool lips as he tried to kiss her awake, told him that what he’d feared the most was happening. He’d failed to protect her, and if he didn’t hurry, she might be lost to him for eternity. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to the porcelain skin of her forehead, brushing the long lashes that rested against her cheeks with a tender finger. A tear rested at the corner of her eye, and he kissed it away with gentle lips. Hang on, my love. I’m coming! He slid completely onto the bed and drew Mena’s cold, lax body into his strong embrace, wrapping her completely in his shielding warmth. He knew now, that although he and 80

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Francis had thought they needed her help, that time hadn’t yet come. There was more she needed to learn. Right now, she needed him, and he would give whatever he had to in order to keep her safe. **** Mena felt a sudden warmth surround her. Keir! I’m with you, my love. His words comforted her almost as much as the secure feel of his arms around her. She looked around her eagerly, but could find no trace of the man she’d fallen hopelessly in love with. There was only her and a muted light that allowed her to see nothing of her surroundings. The twilight around her grew more menacing by the minute. Of course. Her dreams. She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them tightly and concentrated. A soft kiss brushed Mena’s lips. I’m still here, sweetheart. Just hang on. With that, the cold air enveloped her once again. No! Her cry was absorbed into the atmosphere, as if it were stuffed full of cotton wool. Keir’s warmth had disappeared, and all noise seemed deadened. Although the odd light still glowed, her environment had become impermeable to sound. Mena doubled her concentration in an effort to reach Keir. He would not take on this madman without her! She attempted to connect to him through her thoughts. “I knew you’d come, Donovan. Can’t let anything happen to the best lay you’ve had in months, right?” The crude words echoed around Keir. “Francis send you to do his dirty work for him?” The voice rose angrily. “How typical of the sniveling coward! My brother always manages to get exactly what he wants. Well, not this time!”

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Keir watched Mena as she glanced desperately around for him, her disorientation and alarm obvious. Anger rose inside him like a volcano. “Lachlan, you bastard!” His gaze flew to the man who now stood before him mockingly. He bore little resemblance to the man Keir once knew. His true nature was written on his features, and they were distorted and ugly. “You’re a fucking idiot, do you know that, Donovan?” With a maniacal laugh, Ambrose Lachlan used the power of his mind to surround his nemesis with fire. “My brother is using you, just like he’s used everyone he’s ever known!” Without acknowledging the inferno that raged around him, Keir planted his feet in a wide stance, refusing to back down from the ranting lunatic. The fiery ring surrounding him disappeared. His concentration split by his desire to keep Mena from hearing their exchange was drawing more energy than he could spare, but this lunatic had forced enough pain onto the people he loved. Mena didn’t deserve to find out about her family from this evil entity that passed as her uncle. “Lachlan, you’re the fucking idiot.” Keir crossed his arms over his chest, and studied the man who looked nothing like Francis, despite their connection. He could feel himself wearing down, even as he stood poised to rebuff any more mental attacks Lachlan might try. The effort of manifesting on the astral plane was beginning to drain him. He had to get Mena out of here soon, before he was too weak to fight back. Without Francis’ added strength, fighting Lachlan was getting harder with each encounter. Keir focused his intent on the raging man, who looked more than half beast. If he could piss him off enough to let down his guard, he might be able to pull Mena back with him to the Earth plane. 82

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“You’re a pathetic excuse for a man, Lachlan,” Keir sneered. “Hiding in the ether, operating like a hit-and-run artist, instead of coming out into the open to get your sorry ass kicked for real!” Lachlan let loose a roar and sprang for Keir. With a quick thought, Keir shifted away and materialized behind him. “You’re wasting your time, Lachlan. And mine!” Keir said dryly. “Why don’t you take that evil soul of yours back to whatever dark hole it crawled out of, and leave the rest of us to live our lives in peace?” As he issued the challenge, Keir’s glance caught Mena where she knelt—now quietly—in the strange light below them, as if listening to the exchange. He tried to ignore the fact that she was stark naked, and focused instead on the inquisitive tilt of her head, her long dark hair swirling loosely down her back. That was his Mena. He could see the wheels turning from here. Suddenly, thick, gray fog draped around him obscuring his enemy from view, and hiding Mena as well. Brief panic licked through Keir before he pushed it down. He felt a punishing constriction around his throat and knew that Lachlan had homed in on the brief scent of fear he’d felt for Mena. “Fuck!” The choked curse escaped him as Lachlan’s phantom grip tightened triumphantly. “Oh yeah, Donovan. I know! I watched you two going at it. Quite the little slut, my niece is. I also know she didn’t get that from her mother. I had to force Lily to come to me! And even then, it was a fight to fuck her!” Keir gagged, whether from the increased pressure on his larynx, or the sickening distaste over what he’d just heard, he wasn’t sure. Hate slithered like a snake in the other man’s voice though, and as blackness began to roll over him, Keir was convinced of one 83

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thing. Ambrose Lachlan wouldn’t rest until he’d destroyed his own brother, and everything he held dear. Keir! The whispered command penetrated the growing darkness of Keir’s mind. My love! His response was automatic, his heart and mind drawn irresistibly to his soul mate. He forced his psyche to meet hers, and in his mind’s eye, there she was. Right in front of him. The strangling sensation was removed from his throat and as he looked around, he realized that they were enclosed in a dazzling sphere of protective white light. He caught her deep blue look in awe. She gave him a satisfied smile, and reached for his hand. “I think I could get to like this.” She pulled him close to her naked body and he rested willingly against her, surrounded by a power he’d never felt before. It emanated from her like a beacon and embraced them lovingly. She raised her lips to his and pressed a promise of a kiss to them. Come with me, darling. Let’s get the hell out of here! With her last words, a rush of wind enveloped them. Keir hung on to her, determined to enjoy the ride, as his love dragged them back from the ether. A bellow of impotent rage followed them.

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Chapter 16 “What the fuck just happened?” The question rang in Keir’s ears and he opened his eyes to see Mena’s precious face lying next to his on the pillow. She was safe, and she was smiling. But the words hadn’t come from her. Not unless she’d suddenly developed a bass voice. He lifted his head to see Francis leaning weakly against the doorframe. He opened his mouth to reply, but Mena raised herself to a sitting position, clutching the soft coverlet against her breasts, and met her father’s questioning look. “Francis,” she hesitated. “Father…” She drew a deep breath. “I think he’s gone—for now. I’m not exactly sure how. I think he meant to follow, but he didn’t.” She shrugged in confusion. “Maybe he couldn’t?” Then she nailed him with a hard gaze. “And you owe me a major goddamn explanation.” Her eyes softened at his worried frown. “But not now. You need—” “Rest,” Keir cut in. He rose from the bed and strode over to Francis. “I’ll take you back to your room.” “No!” Francis pulled away from his friend and stood as steadily as he could. “I can find my own way back.” He looked to Mena where she sat quietly on the bed. “You stay with my daughter and keep her safe!” he ordered. With that, he edged slowly out the door and they could hear him as he shuffled back down the hallway. 85

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Keir studied Mena intently. “What?” Mena asked him warily. Keir ignored her and turned to lock the door instead. With complete determination, he stripped off every last piece of clothing he wore and stood in front of her, his cock quickly coming to full attention as she watched him. Returning to the bed in three long strides, he sat on the edge and raised his hand to her face, still pale from her otherworld encounter. “I have my orders, and I intend to take them very seriously.” He trailed a finger down her cheek. “It was torture keeping my mind on the matter at hand while you were parading around stark naked on the astral plane!” His hand slipped lower, coming to rest on the full curve of her breast. “You’ve been keeping secrets, my love.” He watched the flush rise from beneath the blanket pressed to her breasts and tinge her rounded cheeks with pink. Then she dropped her head, hiding behind the curtain of her rich, dark hair. “Not really, ” she said quietly. “I just finally let go of the restraints I’ve been putting on myself all these years.” In more ways than one, Mena now realized. She glanced up and caught his probing look. Odd how his eyes were no longer those of a stranger, but more familiar to her than her own. “You went after him, didn’t you?” Keir pulled her to him and wrapped her in a tight embrace. She could feel the soft whisper of a kiss on the top of her head, before he pulled her closer to his rock hard, nude body. “Damn it, Mena, when I came through that door and saw you, I thought he’d taken you, that I’d already lost you, before I even really found you.” He pulled in a ragged breath. “Why did you do such a fucking dangerous thing?” She tilted back her head and pinned his gaze. “I had a strong motivation. I thought I could keep you safe if I met him 86

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head-on and found out what he was after.” Temper flared in his face. “Keir, it’s me that sick maniac wants, not you. He told me that the very first time he invaded my dreams.” She put a hand up and rasped it against the fresh prickle of Keir’s beard. The deep, golden shadow on his face made him look dark and dangerous, and so damn sexy. And the erect cock between his solidly muscled thighs made it nearly impossible to follow the conversation. Mena felt the heat begin to rise in the pit of her stomach once more, then settle relentlessly between her legs. Her heart jumped into her throat and lodged there. Her feelings for the man who held her so protectively against his broad chest, as if he’d never let her out of his sight again, hit her like a sledgehammer. She watched him struggle with his fury over what she’d done, while she fought with the desire that raged within her. Suddenly, all she wanted was to have him between her legs, deep inside her—right now—to reassure them both that they were indeed, still alive, back in the real world and safe, together. At her last thought, he leaned back a bit and burned her with a look before letting the anger wash away. “You know I’ll give you anything you ask of me, don’t you?” His eyes grew heavy-lidded in anticipation, sexual energy arching between them, but he hesitated for a minute. “My sweet, I love that you care enough to look out for me,” he slid his hands over her shoulders, then down to grip her arms and give her a tiny shake, “but don’t you ever do that again! I can’t afford the years it takes off my life!” He dropped a punishing kiss onto her lips. “We’re both in this now, okay?” He tipped her head up with a strong finger under her chin, until she was forced to meet the green glitter of warning in his hazel eyes. “Don’t go anywhere without me. And especially not into the astral!” he 87

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ordered harshly. His voice was laced with fear, and Mena silently agreed. She’d nearly bitten off more than she could chew, and she still didn’t understand why this Lachlan person hadn’t followed them back. His ugly words still echoed in her head, and she would never forget what he’d called Francis…brother. She pushed the knowledge away ruthlessly. How could it be? “I don’t know the whole story yet, my love, but I intend to find out.” She jerked her head up in surprise. “We’ll do it together,” he added. “We have to stay together, remember? And protect each other.” His teeth flashed in a wicked grin, distracting her. He pushed her back against the welcoming softness of the mattress and drew down the coverlet from her bare breasts. “Beautiful,” he whispered, his warm breath teasing the sensitive tips. She absorbed the heat of his gaze and basked in the warmth. She could feel her nipples harden just from his look and when he lowered his head to pull one hard, tight point into his mouth, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Her body responded to Keir like no other man she’d ever known. She moaned and arched into his touch. He owned her, body and soul. “As you do me.” His quiet words vibrated against the delicate flesh of her nipple and she shivered. She reached down and gripped his head with both hands, dragging his eyes up to meet hers. She couldn’t wait. “Keiran, I love what you do to me.” She tightened her fists into his longish hair and hung on. “But if you don’t take me right now, I think I might expire.” She raised her hips suggestively against his hard cock, where it rested eagerly against her thigh, and grinned as Keir sucked in a pained breath. 88

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“But I want—” “Are you going to make me beg?” Mena asked the question half in amusement and half in desperation. “Because I will!” she assured him, pushing him over onto his back and climbing on top of him. His cock stood ready and willing, and with a sudden burst of wild desire, she slid down his body and pulled it into her mouth, burning for the taste of him. He arched up into her mouth and let out a groan of delight that rolled over her in waves. “You’re going to make me beg instead, aren’t you, witch?” Mena turned her head at his labored question, her glance riveted to his. She kept her eyes glued to his face and watched the raw emotion on his features as she sucked his thrusting cock enthusiastically, doing her damnedest to drive him to the edge. To have him needy and wanting—like her. “Fuck! Mena, I’m already there!” The words were torn from Keir, as he pulled her mouth from his penis and dragged her up the solid length of his body. With one swift motion, he urged her to his erection, and she raised herself eagerly, coming down on him to bury his steel hard cock to the hilt inside her moist, welcoming pussy. They gasped in unison, and Keir gripped her hips, staying her automatic desire to rock on his rigid length. “No! Sweetheart, let me enjoy the feeling for a minute.” She caught his inflamed look. “If you move now, I’ll go off like a Roman candle and then where would we be?” He growled as she twitched her hips teasingly. “Mena!” His warning came out on a moan. She wiggled again. “Shit!” He fired a heated look at her and clamped his hands around her hips. With all his strength, he drove up into her and Mena rode with him, slamming back against him and 89

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then riding up again. Goddess! The tip of his cock tickled the entrance to her womb and she felt full, complete. And ready to burst. Keir moved one hand to her clit and as he pinched it between his fingers, the simple nip and massage was enough to bring her to her peak. “Oooh. My—” Mena drove down onto Keir one last time, trying to prolong the tumble into beautiful oblivion, but she felt the climax roll over her. Her pussy milked Keir’s stiff cock, and just as the last contractions eased, Keir growled mightily. He rammed up into her one last time, then spilled himself into her receptive channel. Mena collapsed across Keir’s muscular chest, resting her arms along his broad shoulders and absorbing the heat from his sweat-slick body. She propped her chin on her crossed arms and met his satiated gaze. He wrapped his arms around her exposed body and hugged her close. Rolling onto his side with Mena still in his arms, he pulled the claret cover over them both. “This has been one hell of a day!” He smiled smugly at her. “And this time, I mean that in a good way!” Mena sighed and looked at the clock on the bedside table. “It’s four in the morning, Keir. I think it’s finally a new day.” Suddenly, fatigue overwhelmed her. Less than twenty-four hours since she’d first set eyes on Keiran Donovan, and she was already willing to lie down and die for him. Her mind still struggled to grasp the realities surrounding her. How had she fallen in love so quickly and completely? And where would it lead her? Keir placed a soothing kiss against her lips. To me, my love. Always back to me.

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Epilogue “I almost had him, Keir!” The frustration in Derek’s voice exploded into the quiet of the study and Keir raised his hand to calm his friend down. It was five a.m. and he’d slipped quietly out of the bed he’d shared with Mena when he heard Derek prowling the hallway outside the bedrooms. Derek moderated his voice to a deep rumble. “One of his covenmates tipped me to Lachlan’s whereabouts. She’s scared shitless of him! She says she’s never seen anyone so close to the edge.” He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans and paced like a caged tiger. “I told her to get the fuck out of town and don’t come back.” He paused to meet Keir’s concerned look. “But when I got to the house she told me about, Lachlan damn near ran me down on his way out.” He released a pent-up curse. “Fuck! He knew I was coming, Donovan!” He threw himself into an overstuffed chair with a dark look. “Shit!” the word exploded from Keir. He was certain Derek had gotten to Lachlan when the bastard hadn’t followed them back. Now where the hell was he? An urgent pounding on the study door startled both men. Keir shot over and pulled it open. Cassandra, one of the newest members of the coven, hovered there. She sighed in relief when she saw him. “Keir!” She stepped into the room and grabbed his arm. “I checked on Francis and there’s 91

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something seriously wrong!” She dragged him toward the door. Derek leapt from the chair and followed them. “He’s just lying there, eyes wide open and staring into space.” She shuddered. “He looks dead, Keir!” Her voice cracked with worry. When they crowded around Francis’ bed, cold anger clutched Keir. He gently touched his mentor on the jugular, and felt a thready, but even, pulse. Thank the Gods! At least he was still alive. Keir caught Derek’s eye. “Lachlan?” Derek spat. Keir nodded in resignation. “It looks like Ambrose isn’t done with his brother yet.” He backed away from the bed. “You better hone your skills, Blackburn. Physical and psychic. We’ll need all the help we can get!” With that, he exited the room. The battle had just begun.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chandra Knight is an author of Erotic Romance. She’s been writing for many years, and refuses to divulge her age! In her books, she likes to mix things up, shake them hard, and see what comes out. Consequently, her erotic romances are funny, serious, and sometimes suspenseful. But one thing they have in common is that all of them are sexy. She hopes you enjoy her novels. If you do, keep coming back for new ones. And if you don’t, well…try another one anyway…you might like it! Firespell: Book 2 of The Witch Chronicles will be released by Whiskey Creek Press—Torrid in October 2006. You can visit Chandra online at http://chandraknight.janjanssen.org

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