Coming to terms with Cyril’s absence isn’t easy, but Linden is doing her best to honor his wishes. Until she receives an unusual request from Moreaux, an estranged member of Cyril’s family. Bizarre things are going on with Mary, the former housekeeper, and Linden can’t let them go. But when her investigation leads to a mistake that nearly costs her life, Cyril’s best friend, Overton, steps in and violates a promise he made centuries before to bring her back from the dead.
Gratitude turns to comfort, comfort turns to desire, and desire leads Linden to a shocking revelation. In her charge to uncover the truth behind Mary and Moreaux, she discovers a spell she can’t undo without leaving wounds on her heart, wounds she knows will never heal.
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“Have a seat.” Overton motioned toward the couch.
“You sure it’s safe. I don’t want another shower.”
He laughed. “Sit on this end and avoid the throw. And don’t worry, I locked the door.”
Oh, yes, the bimbo. I didn’t respond, only glared at him. “So what do you need me to do?”
“The one thing only you can. I figured it would be easier from here, since you haven’t mastered ‘calling’ from a distance.”
I looked at the floor. My new role as soul guardian. . . releaser. . .escort—whatever I was—did not seem real, but it was my job. It never before occurred to me, but if Cyril failed to make me immortal and I didn’t get him back before I died, mankind was damned to purgatory. No pressure.
“Linden, you OK?
“As OK as I can be, realizing the fate of every soul on this planet depends on me.”
“It is quite a burden, but I’m here to help you.”
“Let’s just get this over with. What do you need me to do?”
He sat down beside me. “Here at the hospital I take the toughest cases. My pledge to Cyril was that I would stop using magic to heal humans. Once long ago, I learned we were never meant to play in the mortal world. Too many repercussions. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot help by every human means available to me.”
“So you became a doctor to help people?”
“Yes. I love children. I love the way they see the world, the way they see God, and the way they face adversity. I am very good at what I do. That’s why I have an apartment in the hospital, but I can’t do it forever. They catch on, but while I can, I do as much as humanly possible to save them. Unfortunately, sometimes my only choice is to help them die.”
Tears stung my eyes. “Isn’t that hard?”
“Yes. . .and no. Yes, when they are frightened it’s difficult, but you would be amazed at how often they understand death better than adults. They see things those who have been jaded by time cannot. Of course I’m sad for all of the experiences they will miss, but I know there is more to this. Cyril is proof.”
“It’s not like he’s God. Well. . .he might think he is.” I rolled my eyes.
“You’re right, he’s not, but knowing that someone like him lives makes God’s existence less of a stretch.”
He had a point. “What do you need me to do?”
“Well. . .I figured you could do it here. I’m not sure where the souls are, since I can’t see them. But there is one in particular that I made a promise to.”
“What kind of promise?”
“Her name was Essie. She was six. She had a rare genetic disorder that is in all cases a death sentence. No one thought she would make it past the first few years, but she did. She became my patient because of how rare her condition was. She was in and out of the hospital the past six years. She was my friend.”
His story broke my heart for the little girl, for him, but I had to ask. “When did she pass?”
He swallowed hard, looked at the floor. “Last night.”
“Oh, Stanton, I’m so sorry.” I threw my arms around him.
He patted my shoulder. “It’s OK. She was ready. I just want to keep my promise.”
He pulled back and looked into my eyes. “That you would release her right away.”
“You told her what I am?”
“Not exactly, but a promise is a promise.”
“What exactly did you tell her?” I raised an eyebrow.
“I told her you were an angel.”
The words wouldn’t come, and the moment hung, tears threatening my eyes. Was that how he saw me?
“OK. Let’s see if I can do this. You know I haven’t had much success calling the souls to me. Distance has been an issue.”
“I started admitting her to the room right below here as she grew weaker. That is where she passed. Her soul should be just below the floor, but if you could get any of the others in the building that would be most appreciated.”
I mumbled under my breath, “I have to get Cyril back.” It was all too much for me. I never signed on for this.
“You’ll do just fine.”
I closed my eyes and started my chant, then stopped. His arm rested on my thigh. “Could you scoot over, I’m having a hard time concentrating with you touching me.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Since when? It didn’t hurt last time.”
“Do you want me to do this or not?”
“I’ll be right over here if you need me.” He moved to the chair facing me. I bowed my head, worked to clear my mind.
The words Cyril taught me fell from my tongue, “Nium parnum omsti narum.”
Using my second sight when my eyes were closed had an interesting effect, much like an eighties video game. Outlines were visible, but somehow the majority of mass remained transparent.
I pictured swift winds blowing toward me. “Visualize it in a way you understand it,” Cyril always said. I did as he once commanded, but I couldn’t help but feel silly. I continued to allow the syllables to wash over my lips.
Soon enough, two opalescent, glowing orbs lay at my feet. I should have used a cloth to retrieve them, but part of me wanted to see their experiences. Leaning down, I closed the orb in my fist. The visions were blurred and the memories scattered past and then repeated like on a loop. There were no visual memories, only muffled noises and blackness. A baby. So sad. I wanted nothing more than to bring him peace. I closed my hand and walked to the window. I opened it, shivered from the chill, and repeated my chant, “Nium parnum omsti narum.”
And on a prayer, I cast the sparkly powder to the wind. I paused, taking in the moment of serenity. There was an all-knowing wave of consciousness in that moment and clarity beyond comprehension.
I turned around and looked at Overton, who wore a somber expression. “That wasn’t her.”
He hung his head. Even though he played Mr. “I Understand This Is the Way Things Are,” the girl’s death affected him deeply.
I walked back to the sofa, bent over, and collected Essie’s soul. The moment my fingers touched, a memory played out in my mind.
It was Overton. He leaned over the girl and brushed her hair from her face.
Her soft voice spoke to him. “I know it’s time.”
She adjusted her hospital gown, which featured small puppies and kittens. “Do you know that feeling you get after someone asks you to do something, but you say, ‘Wait a minute,’ and there’s that feeling that you know you’re going to have to do something real soon and the more you delay the worse it gets?”
He gave her a weak smile. “Yes, I do.”
“That’s how I feel, Doctor Stanton. Like I keep saying, ‘Wait a minute.’ But I think I need to go.”
He tucked one of her large brown curls behind her ear. “Sweetheart, only you can know when it’s time, but I promise you, when you finally decide to do what’s being asked of you, a beautiful angel will pick you up and she will hold you in the palm of her hand. She’ll make sure you make it safely to your new home.”
“Does she have wings?”
“I’m sure she does. She is magical.”
The little girl coughed. “Is she pretty?”
“More beautiful than anyone you’ve ever seen. Stunning red hair and the most vibrant green eyes. You will find her quite lovely.”
“She’ll protect me?”
“Oh, yes. I’ll make sure I’m there with her too. She loves you as much as I do. We’ll make sure you make it to God, safe and sound.”
“Thank you, Dr. Stanton.” She reached out and squeezed his hand.
“What awaits you, dear Essie, is a wonderful adventure. Close your eyes and get your rest.” He bent down and kissed her cheek. He righted himself and pressed the button on the wall to shut off the light.
“Don’t worry. I’m only going to sit here in the chair. Your mother will be back in a few minutes. She doesn’t like to leave you alone.”
The child reached between the railing and the bed and retrieved a stuffed bear wearing tattered plaid clothing. “Good. But what I was going to say was, when I go, will you take Mr. Mickles? I want you to have him. Mommy doesn’t like him. She says he’s dirty and disgusting.”
“I’ll make sure Dr. Stanton gets him and keeps him safe.” Essie’s mother, a woman in her early forties with the same dark curly locks as the child, entered the room.
Overton leaned over her, placed another kiss to her forehead, and said, “Now off to sleep with you. Sweet dreams.”
He patted the woman on the shoulder. She smiled. He returned her smile and walked out, his white coat billowing behind him.
I felt Essie’s happiness, the way she believed and trusted Overton. The importance he had in her life.
The wetness hit my chest. I sobbed—for her, for him, for all the children, for the world.
I walked to the window, and I felt Overton’s hand on my back. I clasped my hands, and her memories raced by. I would not delay her any longer to indulge my curiosity. With the last syllable of the chant, I said my prayer and threw the shimmering dust into the air. I turned and collapsed in Overton’s arms. The tears and sobs were crushing. So much to reconcile. The girl, death, my new life, Overton.
He lowered us to the floor and held me and brushed his hand through my hair, murmuring soothing sounds. It wasn’t fair, I should have been comforting him, helping him grieve, and instead I sat on the floor in his arms, a big blubbering, fucked-up mess.
He moved my hair out of my face, and I looked past his shoulder to see Mr. Mickles sitting on his shelf among the priceless treasures that decorated the place.
He cradled my chin and forced me to meet his gaze. “I don’t know what you saw. But I have never loved you more than I do in this moment.”
That made two of us. Never had I loved him more.
“I don’t want you to be sad. I never considered you’d see. The last time you used a cloth. Let’s get out of here. I have a surprise for you.”
He stood and held out his hand. “But my car...”
“I’ll have it taken care of. Just come on. This was not the evening I had planned.”
I wiped my tears on my sleeve. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was tired of surprises.
About the Author
testosterone imbalance caused by living in a house full of men.
When she isn’t putting pen to paper crafting sensual stories filled with
supernatural lovers, she spends time with her beyond-supportive husband,
two wonderful sons and three loving but needy cats.
Her debut novel, Symphony of Light and Winter, finished second for Best New
Paranormal Series of 2013 in Paranormal Cravings Battle of the Books
and received a third place award for Best New Paranormal Romance of 2013
in The Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers Choice Awards.
She is also a founding member of Coffee Talk Writers and the Coffee Talk website–a site designed to support established writers and foster new talent.