Source: Gett Fitt!
Hey Readers. Help me welcome author, Ann Gimpel to Ready, Set, Blog. (Ann doesn’t know it but I’m a bit of a fangirl) Anyway, get ready to: ‘Tumble into the icy danger of Antarcti…
Source: “Icy Passage” by: Ann Gimpel
Hey Readers. Help me welcome author, Ann Gimpel to Ready, Set, Blog. (Ann doesn’t know it but I’m a bit of a fangirl) Anyway, get ready to: ‘Tumble into the icy danger of Antarctica with a blazing hot romance. Mittens and fan required.’
And will you just look at the book cover! Icy? I say, NOT! Ann has been very kind to include an excerpt as part of this blog stop. I’m sure once you start reading, you’ll decide to ONE-CLICK IT!
Dream Shadow Press
Genre: Supernatural thriller romance
Fresh out of residency, Dr. Kayna Quan opts for a tour in Antarctica. Money is short, so she hires on as medical officer aboard a Russian research vessel headed for McMurdo Station. Primed for almost anything, she plays her paranormal ability close to the vest.
Stationed on remote South Georgia Island for two years, Brynn McMichaels is eager for a change. When cultures of the single-celled organism, archaea, overgrow their bins in his lab and begin shifting into another form, he worries he’s losing his mind and talks with scientists at McMurdo, but they have problems of their own—bad ones. Brynn agrees to help. The weather’s too uncertain to send a plane, so he hitches a ride aboard Kayna’s ship and brings his mutant culture colonies along.
Attraction sparks, urgent, hot and powerful, between Brynn and Kayna, but her disclosure about her magic is a tough nut to crack. It doesn’t help that her dead father is stalking her. Lethal cultures, bizarre illness, and McMurdo’s refusal to let them land force Brynn and Kayna into an uneasy alliance. Will their fragile bond be enough to thwart the powers trying to destroy Earth, and them along with it?
Excerpt from Icy Passage:
Micah Greenwich sucked air as he pushed up from his squat, a weight bar balanced across his shoulders. He did one more squat before a wave of dizziness threatened to bring him to his knees. Gasping, he shucked the bar onto pins protruding from the back of the squat rack and grabbed one of the metal stanchions for support. A headache pounded behind one eye, and he felt nauseous.
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” he muttered, still clinging to the metal cage shoved in a back corner of the gym at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. No one was in the gym. Not at this hour. Granted, the perpetual night for part of the year, followed by perpetual day, yielded some odd circadian rhythms, but Micah rarely had competition for any of the gym machines or weight equipment late at night.
He glanced at the weight plates balanced on the ends of the forty-five pound bar, thinking perhaps he’d misjudged and put too much weight on it, but that wasn’t the issue. He shrugged. Maybe he was getting sick. Something was going around. So far, he’d been lucky during his brief stint at the southern end of the Earth and had avoided the colds and flus McMurdo residents passed among themselves like candy.
He wiped sweat from his face with a ratty towel and decided to call it a night—at least for working out. He still needed to stop by his lab. Because he was the newest and greenest microbiologist, he’d been assigned archaea, the most ancient single-celled life form on the planet. His cultures had taken a decidedly odd turn, though, a couple of weeks back—growing like mad and not looking like any prokaryote he’d ever seen. While he might have started with archaea, what was in his bins didn’t look much like them anymore.
Another wave of nausea battered him, and he folded his arms around his midsection, wondering if he was going to vomit. Saliva flooded his mouth, but he choked it back. Even though he didn’t feel like doing anything beyond finding his bed, he left the gym and made his way three buildings over to his lab. McMurdo was a series of prefab buildings with interconnecting doors and insulated tunnel-walkways, so you didn’t have to go outside into the weather. Antarctica never got particularly warm, and nights were always bitter.
He glanced out a window at an inky sky shot with stars, and a reluctant smile split his face. It might be minus something outside, but it was beautiful too. He’d always loved wild, remote places, and Antarctica was about as wild and remote as it got—shy of signing up to be an astronaut, which was a long-standing dream of his.
Micah frowned, wondering if the astronaut gig was even possible. The United States had cut their funding for the space program rather dramatically. Besides, he needed more in the way of credentials to even be considered for something like that. With another swipe at his still sweaty face—the more he thought about it, the surer he was he was coming down with the flu—he pushed open the door to his lab and froze, not believing his eyes.
“Britta?” he called. “Marguerite!”
The women didn’t answer. They sprawled face down on the floor in front of his main workbench, clearly passed out. Wondering if they’d gotten into the high-grade, ethyl alcohol he used to preserve things, he called their names again, louder this time. The longer he looked at them, the weirder he felt. They were too still. Sudden fear gripped him, making the nausea worse.
“Jesus fucking Christ. Why me?” he muttered, and raced to the women. He bent, grabbed Britta’s shoulder, and shook her. When she didn’t respond, he flipped her over and stared at her cherry red face.
Fighting a deeply sinking feeling, he turned Marguerite over. She looked just like her friend and roommate. Micah squatted next to them and laid his fingers across their necks, searching for a pulse.
He placed his ear over their hearts, willing there to be something, anything, before he started CPR. Still nothing. He ground his teeth together, unnerved. How could there possibly be two dead women in his lab?
Even though he was pretty sure it wouldn’t do any good, he tilted Marguerite’s head back and breathed into her mouth before doing chest compressions. When he looked over at Britta, he understood he had to have help and lurched to his feet. Snapping up the wall phone, he punched in the after hours code for the clinic. As soon as one of the nurses answered, he screeched, “Send help now. Third micro lab.”
His headache worsened. So did his twisting, roiling guts, but he went back to the women. He didn’t need to be a doctor to recognize death. Despite the futility, he alternated CPR from one to the next. Five long minutes passed—but they felt like five years—before the door burst open.
“Christ!” One of the docs—Stewart maybe, Micah was too rattled to take a good look—pulled him off Marguerite. A tall, broad-shouldered woman Micah didn’t recognize examined Britta.
“Looks like carbon monoxide poisoning to me,” the female medic said flatly. “This one’s well past CPR.”
Dr. Stewart rocked back on his heels. “Yeah, her too.” He trained his blue eyes on Micah. “What happened?”
Micah shook his head. “Damned if I know. I just got here. I had dinner in the mess hall, worked out in the gym, and then I swung by here to check on my cultures.”
The woman narrowed her eyes and half-crawled to where Micah sat on the floor. She folded her fingers over his wrist and took him in with practiced hazel eyes. Her reddish hair was short, almost in a butch cut. She pressed her lips into a harsh line, frowning.
“I’m Ariana,” she said, letting go of his wrist. “One of the nurse practitioners. How have you been feeling?”
“Bad,” he admitted. “Think I finally succumbed to the community disease everyone else has.”
Dr. Stewart joined them and squatted next to Micah. He ran a hand down the side of Micah’s neck and listened to his chest with a stethoscope before exchanging a pointed glance with Ariana. “Where’s the CO meter in here?” he asked.
Micah gestured behind him. “On that wall.” He twisted to look at it, but the indicator light was green—safe. Maybe it was defective. His scientifically trained mind arranged informational bits into an unpleasant pattern. “The women,” he said. “If I’d been firing on all cylinders, I’d have figured it out as soon as I looked at the color of their faces. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning, didn’t they?”
“Probably.” Dr. Stewart said cautiously. “But it’s conjecture at this point.”
“That cherry red color is a dead giveaway,” Ariana said with conviction. “Nothing else will do that.”
“We’ll wait for an autopsy before we make statements like that.” The doctor eyed his colleague coolly.
“Yes, Doctor. Sir. King of all things medical.” She set her lips in a thin line, clearly biting back further sarcasm. “Meantime,” she ground out, “I’m pretty sure he—” she jabbed a finger at Micah “—has whatever killed these two.” She stood and punched numbers into the wall phone. “I’m calling security.”
Dr. Stewart sifted his hands through his untidy, blond hair. “Tell them to alert maintenance. Until we figure out what killed these two, we’ve got to get out of here. Now.”
Micah straightened. “Wait a minute,” he sputtered. “The meter says it’s safe. For all we know, Britta and Marguerite got poisoned elsewhere and just happened to be in here cleaning when they collapsed.”
Dr. Stewart got to his feet and hauled Micah upright. “For tonight, we’ll put you in the infirmary and run tests to check if your hemoglobin’s been compromised. I’ve got to alert the boss and talk with base security. We’ll to get to the bottom of this.”
“But my lab—”
Dr. Stewart made a chopping motion with one hand, and the rest of Micah’s protest died unspoken.
Ariana hung up the phone and nodded at Dr. Stewart. “You take care of the boss. I’ll deal with security and maintenance. Need to get the gas sniffer in here to make sure there’s not a leak.”
Micah tried to focus, but the room spun crazily. He really was wiped out. Much more tired than a thirty-year-old man had a right to feel.
“Can you walk?” Dr. Stewart nudged him.
Micah focused bleary eyes on the physician. “Yeah. I think so.”
“How are you feeling?” Ariana asked the doctor.
He shrugged. “Normal. But it takes time for exposure to take a toll. Micah probably lives in this lab, except when he’s asleep.”
“Yeah, but,” Micah pointed out, “those women didn’t. They clean all the science labs. Maybe one of the other ones is the problem.”
The doctor folded an arm around Micah’s waist supporting him, and led him out of the lab. “I’m on it. By the time you wake up, we’ll know more.”
Micah staggered through the door, flanked by Dr. Stewart and Ariana. “What are you going to do about the women?” he asked.
“You were there when I alerted base security. They’ll take care of them,” Ariana assured him. “For tonight, focus on getting well.”
* * * *
It hadn’t been just that night, though. Micah spent the next three days in the infirmary sucking bottled oxygen. When that didn’t clear his red blood cells fast enough, the doctors ordered chelation treatments. In the meantime, he had a chance to think, and he didn’t care for what he came up with. Besides, it was so fantastic, no one would believe him.
Maintenance had given his lab, and the other three microbiology studios, a clean bill of health, which meant he could go back to work tomorrow. Even more disturbing, the entirety of the science wing where the dead women cleaned showed zip in the way of evidence of a gas leak. In the interest of thoroughness, maintenance had checked the female dorms too, and found exactly nothing. Autopsy was conclusive regarding cause of death, but no one could figure out how the women had been exposed to a big enough dose of carbon monoxide to kill them.
The same was true for him—major exposure to something pigging up his hemoglobin, but without an identifiable source. Another few hours without medical intervention and he’d have been just as dead as Britta and Marguerite.
Armed with that knowledge—and a phalanx of unanswered questions—Micah spent his downtime in the infirmary mapping out a series of tests to run on his strange archaea colonies. He had suspicions, but needed facts before he presented them to Jack DeVoe, the man in charge of McMurdo operations. If he went to him now, Jack, who had a Ph.D. in biochemistry, would laugh him right out of his office. And there would go Micah’s hopes of earning his chops, so he could go on to something more prestigious than working at McMurdo Station.
About the Author:
Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2016 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and wolf hybrids round out her family.
Find Ann At:
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)
Welcome to Ready, Set,Blog. It is my absolute pleasure to spotlight Amanda Cowen’s, New Adult Contemporary Romance, Perfect Sense. I don’t know about you but the cover alone makes me want to one click! Then I read the blurb. Sold.
And he’s every woman’s dirty fantasy in the state of California.., except one… Quinn Ashby.
Recent graduate of Penn and top of her class, Quinn is whip smart, ambitious and interning as the new marketing coordinator for the Bexley Bruisers American Hockey League team. The last thing she needs is to waste her time on guys…especially one as lethal to her focus as Cash Brooks.
But once the bad boy hockey star tempts her into his world, threatening her professional future, she’s forced to decide whether to let him into her heart…or to leave him behind forever.
Meet The Author – Amanda Cowen
Amanda Cowen can be found eating cupcakes, singing off-key, or watching
a good RomCom when she isn’t trapped on her computer writing stories.
She is an “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fanatic, a hater of roller-
coasters and a country music junkie. She lives in Thunder Bay, ON where
the summers are short and the winters are long.
Amanda would love to hear from her readers. Contact her via her website,
www. amandacowen.com, become a fan on Facebook, follow her on
Instagram @authoramandacown, or follow her on Goodreads.
Instagram – @authoramandacowen
Goodreads – Amanda Cowen
Due to a scheduling snafu, #freebiefriday never posted the last 2 fridays, so… here is the remaining chapters of The Beginning, Witches Of the Bayou. Not appropriate for those under the age o…
Source: Freebie Friday
Due to a scheduling snafu, #freebiefriday never posted the last 2 fridays, so… here is the remaining chapters of The Beginning, Witches Of the Bayou.
Not appropriate for those under the age of 18
**For Chapters 1 and 2, please visit my previous Introducing #freebiefriday post.
Cecily sat at Al’s House Of blues for the fifth night in a row. She sat in the same seat, sipping the same drink and watching James play his trumpet. Having a date afterward had become a welcome routine. She was falling hard for the dashing, swoon-worthy musician and her libido had suddenly awakened from its life of hibernation. Wanting him on every level, not just physical, had her worried.
Did she dare to dream he felt the same way? He certainly gave off a territorial vibe when it came to her. And although being human was James’ advantage, it served as his drawback as well. The fact remained, she was a witch—a witch of royal status. The covens wouldn’t allow her to renounce her origins so easily.
She sighed. James hadn’t even kissed her yet and here she was thinking of a life outside the boundaries of magic.
“You look far away tonight. Everything okay?” James stood near, his aftershave soothing her anxiety.
He pulled a chair up close to her and sat down, taking her hands in his. “No. You were thinking about something that made you sad. I could see it in your eyes.”
“And that bothers you?”
“It bothers me a great deal.”
She stared at his mouth, licking her lips. “Why?” And why haven’t you kissed me?
Without warning, swift and certain, James leaned in and kissed her lips. The contact surprised her, making her pull back. But as she leaned away, he leaned forward, not allowing her to move out of his reach. His lips claimed her, branding her with a fiery passion she never experienced. The crowd was no longer a consequence as she returned his affection. Their tongues entwined in a blistering exchange sending a mass of intense impulses bolting through her blood.
The velvety texture of his mouth was more than she could stand. His tongue, hot and slick, moved in a sinuous rhythm, owning her, imprinting his being within her heart. This wasn’t a kiss—this was a declaration. And Cecily wanted more of it. When he pulled away, she felt exposed, like a raw bundle of nerves left unprotected in the smoky atmosphere.
Applause could be heard from behind her, the audience clapping at their display. The glorious feeling disappeared quickly when Cecily recognized Brigitte standing at the back of the room. James leaned over to whisper in her ear. “After this set is over—I wanna do that again.”
She gave him a nervous smile. “Yes. I’d like that. But right now, I need to use the powder room.” She fanned herself, gave him a wink and rose up on wobbly legs. When she headed for the ladies room she saw Brigitte fall in step behind her.
After they waited for it to clear out, Brigitte leveled a stern look at her. “A human man? Really?”
Cecily stood with her hands on her hips. “James. His name is James. And yes I want a human man because ultimately, I want to be human.”
Brigitte’s eyes widened as if Cecily had committed the worst of sins. “They are unworthy. Not just of a witch but—but you? You have aristocratic blood in your veins. You can’t be serious.”
“Oh I’m serious. Neither you, nor Percy and his band of blue-blooded bullies are gonna change my mind.”
Brigitte’s facial features relaxed. “We’ll just see about that. “Cecily panicked. She’d been living as a human for over a week, performing no spells, no magic. She washed dishes and clothes and floors. She purchased food at the market, she cooked. And she was comfortable doing all of it. Now, about to embark on a human relationship, so close to a physical, loving connection, an obstacle was thrown in her path.
Just like always. Her life was one big hurdle after another. Happiness was a breath away and once again she was faced with a complication she never saw coming. That kiss should have been one of her happiest moments but was ruined by the mere presence of another of her kind. Why was Brigitte here? How did she know where to find her?
In an instant, the answer came into her mind. She is spying on me! Cecily shook with anger. The ground moved under her feet, water burst from their pipes, mirrors shattered, sending shards of glass through the air.
Brigitte’s screams did nothing to snap her out of her fury. An invisible barrier was erected around Cecily, protecting her from the chaos. But Brigitte was too slow to act. When the tiles loosened from the wall, threatening to crush her skull, she cowered in the corner, begging for mercy. What little defenses she could muster were no match for Cecily’s power.
Suddenly, a familiar voice, the voice that grounded her, that served as beacon in the darkness, called out to her.
“Cecily! Can you get the door open? We’re having some sort of earthquake. Please, love. Open the door. I need to know you’re okay. I want to take you out of here. Please, Cecily. Open the door.”
His frantic plea sent her scrambling for normality. At once the shaking diminished but her body trembled with force. She looked around the demolished bathroom then called out to him. “I’m making my way to the door now. It’s pretty bad in here but I’m okay.”
“Hurry. Please. I need to know you’re alright.” He sounded out of breath as he continued banging on the door.
Cecily rushed toward Brigitte who knelt, covering her head with her arms. “Brigitte. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
Brigitte looked up, an expression of contempt on her face as blood trickled down her cheek. Shakily, she stood up. “Let this outburst be a warning to you. You suppressed your power for how long? A few days? And this is the result. Sure you’re happy now but, what of James? Couples fight Cecily. At least a witch has a fighting chance but a human? You know not what you do when the anger takes over. If you mate with a human, you’ll wind up killing him.”
Cecily shook her head in denial. “No. You’re wrong. I—I want a chance.”
Brigitte brushed off her clothing and jerked her chin at the door just as it was torn off the hinge. James rushed inside the bathroom, slipping on the slick floor and landing on his ass. Brigitte raised a condescending eyebrow as she watched Cecily’s human try to save the day. Cecily helped him to his feet.
James examined every inch of her. “You okay?” His lips pursed together in amazement. “Wow. Not a scratch. How’d you manage that?”
Brigitte let out a huff, rolling her eyes. “I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”
James gave her a once-over. “You’re bleeding. I’ll go get the first aid kit.”
“Mmm. ’Cause I’m sure the danger has passed, right? I mean you wouldn’t leave us here to go get a Band-Aid if there were going to be aftershocks.”
Cecily widened her eyes. Brigitte let out a sigh. “Look, they’re just superficial cuts. I’m fine. I’ll get myself looked at. Why don’t you two lovebirds fly the coop?”
After James insisted he walk them out, Cecily mouthed a thank you to Brigitte. Clearly opposed to the idea of her coupling with a human man, Brigitte shook her head in disapproval. When they emerged from the ladies’ room, Cecily noticed the bar was strangely intact except for a few overturned chairs and some broken glass.
James looked around as if just noticing the stark difference between the rooms.
“That’s weird. I don’t think we ever had so much as a tremor, let alone a full blown earthquake. And the ladies’ room got the worst of it?”
Cecily let out a nervous giggle. “Well it is New Orleans. Stranger things have happened. Besides, I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks.”
“Maybe so. But that bathroom will never be the same.”
“I think it was time for a remodel anyway.”
Cecily felt James’ hand tighten around her fingers as a man approached. James pulled her slightly behind his shoulder. She didn’t think it rude, rather, it was protective.
“Hey Al,” she heard him say.
“What the hell happened to my bar?”
“Don’t know. News have anything?”
“Not a damn thing. Just affected the block but it looks like my bar got the worst of it.”
“Al, this is Cecily.”
The man was missing his upper first bicuspid and smelled of cheap bourbon and spoiled meat. She understood why James pulled her back. Al grunted in her direction then widened his eyes. “Say—you think she caused the ruckus? She looks like one of them there witches that hang out in the square. Got a nice rack, though.”
Before Cecily knew what happened, James pushed her back and threw a punch at the owner. In a fit of rage, Al fired the best blues band to ever grace the stage of his pitiful little dive and James was out of a job. Brigitte’s words echoed through her mind and she couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the first of many incidents that would be her fault. The thought made her heart sink.
She couldn’t control her temper or her power. She never could. And the two things together were catastrophic. James would bear the burden of her shortcomings and for that she needed to rethink their relationship. She should let it go but she questioned if she could. Cecily believed she already loved the struggling musician and walking away from him might prove to be very difficult.
James lived in a run-down section of the Quarter. The duplex apartment was cute but small. The living area was inclusive of the kitchen and a narrow set of stairs was to the left of the entrance. Being a witch, Cecily would have this redone in no time.
James looked unsure as he ushered her inside, giving her an awkward smile—a smile that said he wasn’t exactly proud of his living arrangements. He chucked his keys on a nearby table and turned to face her. “For nine fifty a month, I get a balcony and courtyard too.”
“I think it’s great. You just need a woman’s touch.” Or a witch’s.
He sauntered over to where she stood and took her hands in his. “Oh—I do, huh?” He looked around. Just to let you know, this isn’t exactly the kind of place I thought I’d be living in at thirty-two. Playing music doesn’t always pay the big bucks.”
“I’m not judging you, James. You followed your heart. That in itself is a great feat.”
He looked into her eyes as his fingers gently sought out the line of her neck. Cupping her nape, he pulled her toward him. “I never felt like this before.”
As their lips touched, Cecily felt the layers of uncertainty fall away. Her body was filled with need as every muscle coiled tight. Her limbs gravitated toward his body as if they were two missing pieces of a puzzle finally coming together. She knew at this moment, she was meant to be with him. Could this man—this human man be her match?
A low moan came from the base of his throat as he pulled back, breaking their heated kiss. The devastatingly handsome grin on his face gave her a thrill beyond comprehension. When he removed his shirt, her eyes grew heavy with desire. His chest lacked an abundance of hair but a small mass of curls gathered between his pectorals, traveling down over his abdomen and disappearing under the waistband of his dark denim jeans.
His build was that of an athlete, lean and defined. Cecily ran her hands over his shoulders and down his arms. The feel of his smooth skin, the taut muscles—it all felt so good underneath her fingertips.
“Your turn.” His voice, a low sexy whisper, offered an invitation she couldn’t resist. She stepped back and began to undo the buttons of her blouse. Her fingers fumbled: the slow and tedious chore was new to her. This seduction phase was never a part of her mating rituals before, not for lack of trying. Human men were sexy as hell and if the fire consuming her blood was any indication of what was to come, there would be no stopping her.
The sheer patience James displayed while watching her remove her shirt surprised her. Most witches had her naked and up against the wall in a flash. When she shrugged the blouse off her shoulders, it fell to the floor. What remained was her favorite pink lacy bra.
James’ eyes widened. Wasting no time, his finger gently trailed along the swell of her breast, circling, skimming down her cleavage, leaving a burning arousal in its wake.
“You are more than I deserve,” he said as he pulled her by the hand and led her up the stairs. Cecily swallowed hard. Although she’d had sex plenty of times before, she’d never had it with a human man. Or a man who had taken the time to know her. To love her.
Cecily wasn’t nervous by any means. She was aware their biology was the same. Male witches were able to go for hours—their main purpose was to breed. Some witches had sex for pleasure when paired with their true mate but humans always had sex for pleasure, sometimes going to extremes to prevent a pregnancy. That was the one thing about humans she would never understand.
As if he read her thoughts, James went to the bathroom and returned with a box. He held it up. “Just in case you’re not on the Pill.”
If only he knew superficial barriers never worked on a witch. If she was destined to get pregnant with his seed, it didn’t matter what they used. And as far as offspring, her genetics trumped his. If they had a child, it would be all witch—and if female, a witch to the tenth power. But Cecily didn’t want to think about that now. Instead, she hooked her thumbs under the waistband of her skirt and pulled it down. She stepped over the discarded material, standing in front of James wearing her bra and panties and high heeled shoes.
The silent moment before he grabbed her by the waist and kissed her was one of her most erotic. The hunger in his eyes, the strain of his jeans, the curve of his mouth, it all flooded her with desire. Cecily wanted him—needed him. To hell with the rest of it. Maybe she was being selfish, but she didn’t care. It was far too late for concern. She’d never hurt James. And as realization hit, she deepened her kiss, allowing him into her mind, her heart, her body. She loved him and this act meant no less to her than complete surrender.
James trailed hot wet kisses over her shoulders as he unhooked her bra. His lips left her skin for just enough time to remove the material between them. When she heard it hit the floor, her head fell back as his mouth explored her skin. His hands kneaded her breasts lightly, flicking her nipples with his thumbs. And when his warm tongue found the underside of her breast, Cecily was blinded by pleasure. He worked feverishly from one breast to the other, moving from a light, gentle suckling to hard, demanding nips with his teeth. He teased and tortured her in the most pleasurable way.
Before she could think, she was naked on the bed. The look he gave her sent chills through her as she watched him undress. Slow and steady, he removed his jeans. When he pulled his briefs down, he was indeed fully aroused and ready. The large erection looked painful as it gravitated toward her body. Her mouth watered as she thought about sucking him—something she’d never considered before. For the first time, Cecily concentrated on the pleasure and nothing else.
Sitting up, she moved to the edge of the bed and reached for him. Excitedly obliging her, James stood between her legs. A low, carnal growl rumbled from his throat as she wrapped her lips around his shaft. Sucking and pulling his penis into her mouth, Cecily opened her legs wide and touched herself. A moan of satisfaction escaped her when she felt how slick and ready she was for him.
The act of fondling herself seemed to fuel James’s desire. Pulling her away, he quickly dropped to his knees, hooked his arms under her legs and yanked. She lay flat on her back, legs in the air. She trembled, realizing his mouth was lined up with her pussy. And when his tongue flicked through her folds, the sound she made couldn’t be classified as human. It was a guttural, intense shrill of pleasure that had her fisting her hands and flailing her head. Who knew human men could make such magic with their tongues? She’d never come this way but the feeling would quickly push her over the edge until there was no turning back.
His tongue licked up one side of her labia and down the other. Her folds were swollen and raw with need as he fired her up only to cool her down. As he mercilessly teased her with his mouth Cecily begged for relief. It was then he added a finger, circling her opening, then inserting it, wiggling it while he sucked gently on her clit. It was enough to send her careening into a soul splintering orgasm. Every muscle coiled tight and released. The aftershocks sent her reeling as he crawled up her body, stopping to tease her hard, beaded nipples.
When he lifted his head to gaze into her eyes, his voice sounded desperate.
“I can’t wait a minute longer, love.” He sucked her neck hard as his cock slid between her pussy lips. Cecily let out a scream of ecstasy as his cock stretched her, demanding entrance to her body. He pushed in, slowly moving in and out, making her burn for him. Stimulating her body almost beyond the realm of possibility, Cecily opened her eyes to make sure he was real.
He was watching her. The heavenly look of pleasure had her body singing. They groaned together, their release imminent. But when James whispered, “I think I’m falling in love with you,” Cecily’s orgasm hit her like speeding bullet, spiraling her into a blinding orgasm as he emptied himself into her body.
Sated, exhausted, they lay together wrapped in one another’s arms. James kissed her lightly on her forehead, turning their bodies to the side. He lay behind her, spooning her. She ran her fingers up and down his arm.
“Why do you have a tattoo of a fleur-de-lis on your arm?” She asked.
He laughed. “Do you think it’s weird?”
“Well, we are in New Orleans. It’s everywhere you look.”
“True. It’s a lotus flower and it has many meanings.”
“And what meaning is most special to you that you would brand yourself with it?”
“It means perfection, light and life.”
She rolled her eyes. “Aren’t you sure of yourself.”
He laughed. “Let’s just say I’ve been through a lotta shit in my life. I liked the story of water lilies showing a soldier how to safely cross a river to succeed in battle. Plus, it looks pretty cool.”
She pulled his arms around her even tighter and kissed his skin. Twenty minutes later, James slept peacefully with Cecily in his embrace. The position brought tears to her eyes. She was never treated like this after mating. This she could get used to.
The happiness she craved was hers for the taking, yet something nagged at her. Could she make a life with James? Or would her coven drag her back against her will? Brigitte was the only witch who saw him and Cecily had to make sure it stayed that way. Her mind churned with solutions to problems which had yet to exist. But she would take no chances. No one must know about her fraternization with a human. No one.
Cecily awoke, her body tingling. Fingers were stroking her breasts, circling her puckered nipples. Heat blasted through her body as James deliberately rolled on top of her. He was quiet, his eyes closed, his breathing steady. Still half asleep, he moved tenderly, unrushed. He buried his face in the crook of her neck as he leaned his weight in between her legs. Cecily burned for him, her slick need evident as he slipped inside her.
His sinuous moves made her wild as she tried to stifle her own movement and eagerness for pleasure. Afraid to wake him completely, she relaxed, opened her legs wider and let him take her. The feel of his lips on her neck as he pumped into her sent her into a quick orgasm. Clenching him, milking his cock when he came gave her the ultimate satisfaction. She’d never get enough of him.
James collapsed over her body. What surprised her was her unwillingness to push him off. She wanted to be underneath him, just like this, always. When he rolled off, he fell back into a deep sleep. The moon blessed her with its white light as it shone in through the window. It illuminated the room, allowing her eyes to wander over James’s sleeping form. She watched his chest rise and fall. She stared at his beautiful face, the chiseled features, strong jaw and long dark lashes. Love. It was definitely, love. It occurred to her—would she ever be able to let him go?
The thought made her sit up in bed and stare down at his sleeping form. But what if he decided it was over? Would she become one of the desperate witches that cast spells trying to lure their lovers back? Her kind didn’t cast spells for love but it could be done by a certain kind of witch. She shivered when she thought of those who had fallen prey to the darker side of magic. She couldn’t allow that to happen to her. The repercussions would be devastating.
Her mind searched for a solution. Could she be honest with him? It wouldn’t be the first time a human came to know of their race, although most of those humans were considered to be a little off. She settled back against the pillow, trying to dispel the thoughts from her mind. When James reached out for her, she let out a sigh of contentment as he pulled her body against his. Cecily finally fell asleep dreaming of the possibilities of a lifetime with James.
The morning was filled with hot coffee, croissants and sex. When James played his instrument just for her, she felt as if her whole body melted into the mattress. It was the best morning of her life and there wasn’t a witch in sight. Staying inside all day wouldn’t have bothered her but James insisted they go out. Now she was feeling the stress of her world colliding with his.
They had walked hand-in-hand into a nearby park. The weather was perfect except for a few scattered clusters of clouds, but it didn’t stop Cecily’s witchy senses from flaring. There was evil nearby, lurking. The clusters were a dead giveaway. She looked around, uneasy. A chill settled between her shoulder blades, her hands becoming clammy, causing her to drop James’s hand. There was a sick feeling streaking through her body, and she knew what it meant.
Her body trembled as the malevolence moved closer. A flash of power radiated from her pores, trying to send it a warning but at the same time, she tried hard to stifle it. She was afraid to let her presence be known to the warlock who stalked these grounds.
They hunted constantly, looking for witches or humans with supernatural powers. They needed them to fuel their life force, their power. Ingesting their souls was the only way to insure their survival. And according to Brigitte, they were getting audacious. She had to agree. To be here—out in the open—during the day, was never their way. Times were changing. As Cecily surveyed the area, she spotted him. Disguised as a balding, middle aged man, the warlock meandered not far from a little boy.
James sat down on a nearby bench. Leaning back, he rested his arms over the top of the seat and watched her. His gaze curious, he patted the empty spot next to him. “Come here, before I drag you back to my place and have my way with you.”
Although her body responded with a blast of heat, her mind dismissed him. She had to figure out what to do. Quickly. “Hold that thought. Would you mind going to get me a bottle of water?”
He raised his brow, studying her, then let out a sigh. “Sure. I’ll be right back. Save us the bench.” He pecked her cheek and took off in a slow jog. Cecily knew she had to make it quick. She headed right for the little boy. As she got closer she noticed the little guy’s quandary. There was a rainbow colored kite stuck in the tree. It wasn’t too high up. Maybe she could retrieve it. The warlock circled but kept his distance. She was surprised. He must have felt the subtle wave of power she pushed at him.
She bent down until she was eye level with the boy. “I see you have a bit of a dilemma.”
He pointed. “My kite—I can’t get it loose.”
She looked around. She could see the warlock slink away as if he’d been punched in the gut. Well now, she wasn’t that forceful. Then, a sick feeling encroached upon her space. Could he know she was a witch? Would he come for her? Was he remaining aloof? Waiting? He could hurt James. Why did she have to be so foolish? But Cecily couldn’t stand by and allow a little boy to get hurt in the process.
She put her finger in the air. “Wait just a minute. I’ll get the kite.”
Cecily leaned her weight against the tree, making it look as though she would climb when in reality, she would levitate and knock it loose. It was her gift after all and it was times like these that she enjoyed it most. Slowly, her feet lifted into the air: one inch then two until she was five inches off the ground. It always gave her a thrill and when she recovered the boy’s kite, his excited smile of thanks was best of all.
“You’re very welcome, young man.” It was times like this she wished she had children.
The little boy cast his eyes away before looking up at her. Cecily narrowed her eyes.
“You have a question for me?” She bent down to meet his gaze.
The little boy frowned. “You floated.”
“Yes. But only a little. It’s my talent. Like a magician.”
“I’m a magician too.”
Cecily pursed her lips together. “I know, sweetie. What can you do?”
“I can move stuff.”
“Mm. That’s neat.”
“Here comes my mom.” A short woman with blonde streaks through her dark hair approached them. She smiled with a hint of appreciation as her son ran to her.
“Mommy, this lady floated up the tree to get my kite.”
The woman nodded her head at her son then rolled her eyes at Cecily. “Thank you for floating up the tree for my son.”
Cecily beamed. “The pleasure was all mine.” She watched them walk off together. It actually felt good to use her true calling. Witches were born with special powers but it was the true calling that set each witch apart. The special power surfaced when a witch came of age, usually between the ages of nineteen and twenty years, pulling all the powers together in one mass of energy.
Although she wanted to go after them and make sure the little boy would be safe, Cecily saw James returning with two bottles of water. From the distance she spotted the warlock hiding behind a nearby tree. She watched as his eyes followed James—unsuspecting and gifted James. The man she was falling in love with. Oh hell no!
A bolt of fright sizzled through her blood until heat radiated from her fingertips, sending an electrical current through the ground. It singed the grass as it furiously burnt a path directly to where the warlock stood. She saw his eyes flicker as he searched the ground. She watched him flee the scene—away from the direction of the little boy and away from the direction of naive James. Ha! Chicken shit!
Cecily walked toward James, sated by the release of her power. She had to find a balance between her world and his, and the sooner the better. The one obstacle in her path was Brigitte. Could she convince her to keep her secret?
When James wrapped his arms around her, she decided to do whatever it took, with the exception of black magic, to keep Brigitte quiet. In the meantime, she would enjoy her love affair and continue her charade. The happiness she found with James had its pitfalls but it was as close to perfect as she’d ever come.
Cecily stared in the mirror at her shocked expression. With her mouth agape, she shook her head. Could it be possible? Pregnant! For a witch, no test was ever necessary. It was instinctual but, she had to be sure. And now she was. Holding the pee stick up in front of her face for the tenth time changed nothing. It. Was. Positive.
Cecily had heard of human men who ran when faced with the prospect of a child, considering it to be a burden. She hoped James was not one of them. Besides, this could get ugly. She never could hold a pregnancy to term and when she lost it, she was left in tatters for months afterwards. Cecily was so afraid to be happy. It’s not like she and James could marry, run away and raise their child. If she were to birth a male it was possible, but she’d have to stay in New Orleans until the birth.
Of all the days to discover this news it had to be the day Brigitte was about to come calling. Cecily hoped the witch didn’t surmise anything. As she ran the shower water, steam slowly billowed up, clouding the mirror. She stepped into the shower, cleared her mind and ran her hand lovingly over her abdomen. Still, she had to focus. She dropped her hand as she silently scolded herself. Hiding her excitement would be of the utmost importance and she couldn’t falter.
An hour later the two friends faced off. Cecily pleaded, “Brigitte please! I love him.”
“It’s been four weeks Cecily—I get it. I really do. I feel for you but you’ve got to understand, this is an entire race we’re talking about. There’ll be no, James and Cecily sitting in a tree, if we don’t step up. That includes you. A royal has a better chance of producing a tenth power—especially if you consummate with a supernatural being. An affair with a human is a waste.”
“I’ve never asked you for anything, Brigitte. Please. Give me more time with him.”
“I haven’t told anyone Cecily. Your human man is and will remain a secret until—”
“Until?” An ember of hope hung on her question.
“Until you pull your head out of your ass! I know you love him and you no longer want to mate with another witch but, if you are nearing a tenth pregnancy there’s a chance you could have a girl—a tenth power. This is the destiny of the covens and the world as we know it. Can’t you keep James on the side? Human men do it all the time.”
The truth was, Cecily wanted to walk away from it all. Her royalty, her gifts, her life. She wanted no part of a witch society but she’d never get away. Brigitte would call Percy and they’d stop her. James was a sitting duck here in New Orleans. She wouldn’t be surprised if one day he was convinced he no longer cared for her.
The one ace up her sleeve was the baby she carried. James might be human, but the baby? The baby would be a witch. Maybe the bloodline wouldn’t be as potent but the mother’s blood was all it took to produce a witch. Providing she carried this one to term, Cecily might convince the covens to let her go in exchange for her baby. A baby I could never give up.
Cecily rested her head in her hands. There has to be a way. But she couldn’t stand by and watch the covens fall. Even if she ran away with James, how far would she get before the evil would rise up? If they had a daughter, she would have to be raised within the boundaries of a witch society. But, if she were to have a boy—a flicker of hope ran through her. A boy wouldn’t possess the tenth power. Her inner turmoil was showing as Brigitte stood by idly waiting for her to crack.
Cecily raised her tear streaked face. “I’ll end it tonight,” she whispered.
Brigitte cast her eyes away. “I’m sorry, Cecily. It’s for the best. In the meantime, you have my word, no one will know about this lapse. Ever.”
Lapse? You miserable bitch! Cecily faked a smile. “Thanks.”
When Brigitte left her apartment, Cecily paced like a trapped animal. Considering everything from deceit to black magic, she felt stuck. She would have no other choice than to say goodbye to James. If by some miracle she carried to term and by some even bigger miracle she birthed a female, she could wait to tell Percy about the lineage as a bargaining chip.
She’d have to give birth in a holy cavern. She could stick it out until then. If she had a boy, she could return to James and live as a human. The coven couldn’t brand her a defector if she insisted on calling a council and officially asking for a renouncement. But, what if James didn’t want her? What if he didn’t want a marriage? A baby? There was only one way to find out—she’d leave him. And she’d do it tonight.
Cecily fought back her tears as she held the rose bud James had just given her. She choked out the words that put an end to their affair. In a few short weeks, she’d grown to love him, an emotion she never thought she’d feel let alone have reciprocated. But to what end would he go for her? Did he love her enough to commit? She had to be sure.
James’s life would be in danger unless she renounced her heritage, a process that simply wasn’t done without the participation of a council. She was unwilling to take that step if James wasn’t up to the task of pledging his life to her.
The turmoil on his face was evident as she stared at him. Afraid she was unable to proceed with the pretense of a break-up, she turned away from him, heading for the door. He stopped her. She could feel the heat from his body at her back as he slid up against her. His hands rested against the door, hindering her departure. His cheek brushed against hers, his groin pressed to her bottom.
“Please, Cecily. Don’t go.”
The plea came in a whisper and it made her heart swell.
“I have to. You don’t understand,” she whispered.
He moved his hands from the door to her arms, running his fingers enticingly over her skin.
“I love you. That’s all there is.”
She closed her eyes at the sweet sting of his words, the arousal of his touch. She rested her forehead against the door. So far so good.
“It’s my family. They’ll never agree to this.”
She heard his sharp intake of breath, then a sigh of relief. James rested his hand on her shoulder. “Is that what this is about? Your family?”
He turned her around to face him. “You’re a grown woman. Tell them to go to hell. I want to marry you, not your family.”
Marry me? Cecily froze at his words. Everything she ever wanted was at her fingertips. A marriage to a man she loved. A baby on the way—a baby she hoped she would carry to term. If that baby was female, she’d have to turn her over to the covens. Why must her happiness be so shadowed? This was the moment of truth. Cecily braced herself as she looked into his eyes.
“I’m pregnant.” She spit the words out like she was ripping off a Band-Aid.
His eyes widened in surprise as he pulled his head back, as if to get a better look at her. When his eyes swam with tears, she creased her brow.
“Even better,” he said.
Did she just hear right? She dismissed his words and continued with her confession.
“I’ve had many miscarriages. This might not turn out well.”
“If it gets me you, it will turn out fine.” He placed his hands on her stomach, a look of wonderment on his beautiful face.
“I can’t. At least not yet.” It will take time to figure out how to ask for an abdication.
“Soon then.” He leaned in and kissed her. The sweet assertion made her toes curl, her emotions bubble over. Happiness—it was almost hers for the taking. She held on to the rose as James kissed her deeply, until the urgency of a physical connection outweighed anything else. His hands took liberties with her body, staking his claim, owning her. And he did. His hands traveled to her breasts before he broke their kiss. His heavy-lidded gaze made his intention clear. “So? We’re okay?”
With his lips teasingly close to her mouth, his chest heaving with desire, he waited for an answer. There were no words. Cecily nodded her head. The corner of his mouth curved up into a sly smile.
James caressed her breasts through the material of her shirt. He leaned in licking her lips, nibbling her chin, applying soft kisses to her throat. She heard herself moan from the heat of his mouth as it trailed down her neck, reaching the swell of her breast. James’s hand slipped under the waistband of her pants, seeking, teasing. When he cupped her pussy, his mouth found hers and through the intensity of their kiss, Cecily’s rosebud slowly opened until it burst into full bloom.
Brigitte, using her power to gain entry into Cecily’s apartment, shivered from an unseasonable cold. It was wrong to infringe on her friend’s privacy but she chalked it up to the greater good. Able to unravel her protective spell easily enough, Brigitte shook her head in dismay. With a human for a few weeks and already you grow soft.
She looked around her apartment. It wasn’t messy but not meticulous like most witches’ living quarters. Brigitte got the distinct feeling Cecily was living as a human. It’s worse than I thought. But Brigitte got the surprise of her life when she spotted the pee stick in the bathroom. Pregnant? With a human man?
Unsure of the consequences of such a pregnancy and how it would affect the tenth power, she knew she must speak with Percy immediately. She wasn’t sure this was Cecily’s tenth conception but she wasn’t willing to take any chances. She made sure to leave the apartment untouched, leaving the way she entered.
When she got into her car, she noticed her windows were fogged. She ran her finger down the windshield, drawing a streak in the middle. A rancid smell filled the space. Brigitte grabbed for the door handle a little too late. The warlock made his presence known, trapping her inside with his evil stench. Willing herself to take a peek, she glanced at him. The balding, middle-aged man smiled at her, the evil grin causing her bowels to loosen.
“Where is your friend?” he demanded.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she cried.
“Be still, my dear. It is the traveler I fear. By stealing away his witch I might have some leverage.”
“He was at the park today.”
The warlock laughed at her ignorance and fear. “You witches are all the same. For that I am glad. I’ve been getting a slight bit hungry. I think I’ll have your soul for a late night snack.”
Fear streaked through her body, then surrender as the thought came in a whisper, James—traveler? Could it be? Right before the warlock ended her, Brigitte’s last thought was of Cecily’s pregnancy. She smiled. There is hope after all.
James got up before dawn and changed into his running clothes. Before leaving his apartment he scribbled a note to a sleeping Cecily. He stood over her, admiring her long dark wavy hair caressing the pure white sheets. Her breathing was relaxed, her eyes closed in a peaceful slumber. Her shoulders were bare, her skin so creamy and smooth, he fought the urge to strip and climb back into bed. He knew what lay beneath the sheet was nothing far from ecstasy. He was surprised at just how much he loved her in such a short time.
He took another look at his beautiful woman before stepping outside onto his small balcony. It overlooked an unkempt courtyard with very poor lighting. This was the sole purpose of choosing this place to live. Before carefully closing the door as to not disturb her, James took one more look at Cecily. He smiled—he was happy.
When he turned around, he looked up to the sky. It was dark with very little moonlight. Clouds were gathered in one spot in particular. James sniffed at the air, breathing in its scent. In one swift moment, he shifted into a hawk and flew off into the night.
James followed his nose to a secluded area in the bayou. The stench told him a warlock was present. It would be a few more weeks until it was ready to feed but James had become so good at seeking them out where they hid, he was able to track them earlier than most. Within minutes, he stood face-to-face with the warlock from the park, the stalker of innocent children.
The imitation of a man wore old clothes and sandals. When he spoke, his voice morphed somewhere between man and beast.
“They call me Phineas.” The warlock’s eyes glowed red as it trembled. Face-to-face with an immortal traveler, it gave way to its true self, the monster underneath the human cloak. As its skin decayed, the flesh hanging from its masticated bones, its fingers lengthened into knives.
James paced, keeping a safe distance between himself and the creature. He’d hunted for far too many centuries to be fooled by such new evil. He needed information and for that he knew he had to engage with the warlock before destroying it. The warlock’s mouth began to expand, the jaw cracking and the gums exploding open to accommodate its oversized fangs.
“They call me Jacques LaFeure.”
The change in the warlock’s demeanor was immediate. His yellow irises and red piercing pupils moved in unison with Jacques. Watching. Waiting.
Jacques laughed. “So you’ve heard of me?”
The warlock backed up. “I have. You are legend,” it garbled.
“Tell me Phineas, where can I find Zacharias?”
“You will destroy me either way. Why should I tell you?”
“You are right, I will destroy you. But if you tell me, you have my word that I will do it quick.”
The warlock studied him. When he spoke, his voice began to waver, sounding more and more like the demon he was.
“Zacharias has the gift of the veil—he sees the future. You cannot outwit him. It is what makes the army of Natas grow. We will outnumber all of you. And when we do, we will rule. It is what has been seen.”
Jacques laughed. “Is that so? Tell me Phineas, did Zacharias tell you how he achieved this gift of the veil?”
Phineas looked around, his eyes coming back to Jacques.
“It’s just you and me, Phineas. I can assure you no one is coming.”
“You can destroy me traveler, but you will never destroy our army. We are growing, more and more each day. Zacharias was born with the veil and even in death, when he lost his soul, he has held steadfast to it.”
“How many souls have you taken, Phineas? You see, here are some facts Zacharias hasn’t shared. If you kill a witch, one who has come of age and knows their gift, you can use it to your advantage. You simply find out what they can do before you absorb their soul and you too can have the power. In other words, feeding off supernatural humans may get the job done by keeping you alive but it doesn’t make you anything special. It just puts you on a course to find your next meal.”
“Why would Zacharias keep this information to himself?”
Jacques laughed. “Oh—you’re a big warlock. Figure it out.”
Phineas moved swiftly through the trees. In seconds, Jacques was in front of the beast at a safe distance. The warlock’s only defenses were their hands and those blades were something he didn’t want to get close to. “Now Phineas, you weren’t thinking of sharing our secret, were you? Because I know how this is going to end. You see, Zacharias absorbed the soul of my identical twin, whose gift mirrors my own.”
The warlock’s eyes widened. “You have the gift of the veil?”
“Yes, I do.”
As fast as lightning Jacques struck. He produced his gleaming sword from the air, slicing each hand clean off within seconds of each other.
“Sorry, big guy. I gotta get home.”
Jacques was at Phineas’s back, his feet anchored in the dirt for traction. Without his defenses, the warlock could only struggle against Jacques’s strength. But the warlock was no match for the timeless traveler who had hunted and killed for hundreds of years.
With both hands gripping the giant incisors, Jacques gave one big burst of strength and felt the great teeth loosen from their sockets. He smiled triumphantly as he ripped the fangs out. Black blood spurted through the air, and the warlock fell to the muddy ground, an agonizing screech drowning out the sounds of the night. A gray, wrinkled bag of bones was all that remained of Phineas. Jacques threw the teeth on top of the pile as he watched the mist of souls climb high into the sky. One by one, the trapped souls of the supernatural were released to the heavens.
As dawn broke over the bayou, Jacques hung his head—another dead end and with it more frustration. More anger. More disappointment. He waited for it to submerge him in a pool of self-pity. But somehow, this time, it didn’t. The emotions that often buried him weren’t weighted upon his shoulders. Cecily. The word echoed in his mind and from it, he derived strength. Jacques finally felt the passion for living he’d lacked for hundreds of years. Although the veil only showed him bits and pieces of events, he’d learned to trust his instinct. By being with her, he was alive again in ways he never thought possible.
Just before Jacques shifted into his trusted image of a hawk, the veil made its presence known. He bent over, his hands resting on his knees. It showed him anger, hurt, betrayal. It showed him a female child born of confusion. It showed him his mistake. Jacques gripped his chest, the grief overwhelming him. When it was over, the voice of the master came to him in a whisper. Do not be deterred. Do not be misled. Your instincts will serve you well, my son. Believe in true love.
Jacques felt his heartbeat slowly return to normal, his fists relax. His breathing evened out, his mind becoming clear. He would do what needed to be done to save his dying race. It rested with his child and although Cecily would hate him, it was a willing sacrifice. For now he would go to her and love her until they could be no more.