Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
JUST YOUR AVERAGE MEGA-WITCH. . . .
It’s tough being a modern woman, but Persephone Alcmedi has it worse than most. Being the prophesied Lustrata has kicked her career as a witch into high gear, and juggling a wærewolf boyfriend who is about to become king of his kind and a seductive vampire who bears her magical Mark isn’t easy either.
Still, Seph’s beloved foster daughter, Beverley, is causing more trouble than these two men put together. The young girl’s been playing with a magical artifact that’s far more dangerous than she realizes. Now Seph must summon help from a mystical being so potent that even vampires fear him . . . and the cost of his aid may be more than she’s willing to pay. Seph, Johnny, and Menessos face threats from all sides—and a few from within. Will the forces of destiny cement their tenuous supernatural union, or shatter it forever?
The main door opened and Meroveus, Advisor to the Excelsior and currently their esteemed guest, entered the suite. “She is back?” he asked.
“That is what I’m told,” Goliath answered. “If you’re referring to Ms. Alcmedi, that is.”
“I am. Is she here?”
Leaning on one elbow, Goliath reclined. “She required a shower.” He wanted to give his nose a quick pinch to indicate she’d reeked of the scummy edges of Lake Erie, but he refrained. He was a Master now; taunting disdain was no longer acceptable.
Mero headed for the iron-studded door. Goliath cleared his throat.
In mid-reach for the knob, Mero stopped. His hand fell to his side and he turned on his heel. “I have been disrespectful. Forgive me, Haven Master.”
His sardonic grin flashed fang. “Does urgency always make you thoughtless?”
“I assumed that Menessos was still lord of these chambers, and that she was with him in the rear chamber.”
Goliath sat up, placed his elbows on his knees, and clapped his hands together. “Hear me, Advisor Meroveus, and do not forget my words: The former Haven Master may have extended you many courtesies, but barging into his private chamber—especially if you think Ms. Alcmedi may be attending him—would be particularly dangerous.”
Mero glanced at the main door as if he would leave, but there was uncertainty in his expression.
“To be honest,” Goliath added as he stood, “I have not yet made claim to these rooms, and, as you have assumed, the former Quarterlord is in the rear chamber. However, my Erus Veneficus has her own suite.” He used the formal title of the court witch for impact.
It seemed to Goliath that the other vampire had not considered that in declaring this the Cleveland haven and Goliath the master of it, Persephone would by default become Goliath’s court witch. Her services were now his to command.
There were many prophesies concerning the Lustrata. The one that the vampires were most concerned with claimed she was incredibly valuable to them. Because of this, they could not dare to kill her. But they could do much without killing her. The question was: What would interfere with her destiny, and what wouldn’t?
Menessos would know the most about it, so Goliath resolved to follow his Maker’s lead. “Dabbling in the destiny that Menessos, the witch, and the Domn Lup share is a hazardous pastime, Mero. I strongly suggest you stay the hell out of their way.”
Mero quoted the prophesy:
unspoiled into the light.
Sickle in hand,
she stalks through the night
wearing naught but her mark and silver blade.
The moonchild of ruin, she becomes Wolfsbane.
“According to my interpretation,” Mero concluded, “she must be marked.”
Menessos breathed deep. Releasing it, he said, “Your interpretation is bullshit.”
Mero’s brows rose in surprise.
Goliath struggled to keep a laugh from getting out.
“The Witch Elders Council will not stand for their Lustrata to be marked by the Excelsior,” Menessos said. “Would you risk a war?”
Opening the closet there, Beverley dug straight to the back where the item she wanted was stored. Her little hands grasped the cold sides of the rock-board and she pulled. It was heavy and the cast on her arm made the task more difficult. She lost her grip on the slate—the bottom edge dropped onto the top of her foot.
Stifling her yelp of pain, she regained her grasp and silently laid it flat on the floor before shutting the closet door. Crouching between the bed and the wall so she couldn’t be seen from the doorway, she studied all the strange symbols painted across the surface. She’d heard Seph and Celia talking about this. Great El’s slate.
They’d said that a person could talk to ghosts with this . . . and that Seph had used it to find her mother.
But how does it work?
Beverley ran her hands over the surface. Her fingers traced the lines of a symbol here, there. They tingled like the fine lines of her fingerprint weren’t so fine after all.
She studied her index finger, then compared it to her other hand’s index finger. If one tingles . . . what does two do? She picked two symbols she liked that were side by side and put her fingertips to the slate. Carefully, slowly, she traced both. The tingling began immediately and resonated through her hands and into her wrists. Suddenly, some force grabbed her hands. She gasped and tried to pull away, but it just squeezed tighter.
It dragged her fingers along to one symbol, then on to another. She watched in horror as all her fingers were pulled across the board, each finger moving independently. The more symbols she traced, the more the tingling increased. It became like a fire inside her skin, swelling up through her thin arms, crackling through the broken bone.
It hurt. It hurt so bad. She drew a breath to scream—
—and then it felt good.
It wasn’t hot, merely warm. It wasn’t warmth like summer, though, not something a thermometer would show. This was warmth of another kind. The kind only a heart could feel. She felt so . . .
A shimmer flashed across the surface of the board.
She whispered, “Mommy?”
Excerpt from SHATTERED CIRCLE:
Liyliy, a vampire-harpy, had tried to kill me a few hours ago, and the struggle left me exhausted and sore. That was the reason I was still abed at nearly two in the afternoon. When my satellite phone blared the opening riffs of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon,” it startled me, instantly reminding me about all the sore muscles I had.
Mid-reach, I stopped. That was Johnny’s ringtone.
He had tried to kill me, too.
My hand shook as my finger jabbed the Answer button.
“Red . . . I’m so sorry.” Johnny’s voice was barely audible.
I sat up and deliberated whether to play deaf and repeat my “hello” as if I hadn’t heard him. I considered being a jerk and hanging up. I even contemplated ripping him a new one.
Instead, I remained silent.
Two days before, minutes after I’d performed the forced-change spell on him and his loyal pack mates, Johnny had attacked me. He’d always retained his manmind while transformed, but that last time he didn’t—he’d been pure animal. The only reason I was still among the living was because I’d pumped ley line energy into him like a human Taser.
He’d frightened me to my core. The unshakeable faith I’d had in him had been shattered by an emotional earthquake. Damage was done. My fear felt like betrayal.
But . . .
Could going through the forced-change spell repeatedly have an undesired effect?
No. I was sure the whole terrible incident could be pinned on the fact that my mother, Eris, had revoked the tattooed bindings she’d placed upon Johnny eight years ago. He suddenly had access to all the power and potential she’d locked away from him. That was surely a disorienting, difficult situation.
I’d helped him dig up the clues, helped him achieve that goal. Hell, I’d even been a part of the reversal spell. So some responsibility for the consequences was mine to bear.
He rarely used my full given name; he usually called me Red, as in Little Red Riding Hood to his Big Bad Wolf. Or Seph like nearly everyone else. I had to respond.
“Then say something.”
Pushing back the covers, I stood and began to pace. “I don’t know what to say.”
He paused. “Can you forgive me?”
I wasn’t sure.
Part of me said I couldn’t allow his attack to be a personal issue because of the fateful trio that Johnny, Menessos, and I forged by binding ourselves magically. The other part argued that no matter the circumstances, attempted murder was very damn personal.
It all happened because Johnny had surrendered to his destiny. His unique ability to transform at will made him the Domn Lup—king of the wærewolves. It was a position with power, prestige, and perks such as a Maserati Quattroporte. Johnny knew his royal place was unavoidable, but he’d fought it and hid from it a long time. He’d finally pushed forward because it was beneficial to our triple union, but kinghood was costing him his dream of being a rock star.
It had been my fear that he’d lose who he was in the course of this alliance of ours. More than ever, it seemed this fear was being borne out.
On the other corner of our triangle was Menessos. He now bore two witches marks—mine, of course. That made him my servant. When Heldridge, his former right-hand man, learned of my authority over Menessos, he tattled to the highest vampire authority, the Excelsior. To protect us against the personal grudge of the truthseeing vampire-harpies sent by VEIN to make formal inquiry, Menessos had allied himself at great personal expense with someone dangerous—a “nameless” guy I had aptly dubbed Creepy.
The secrets he’d wanted to hide from VEIN—secrets even I didn’t know—were apparently safe, but our little who-marked-whom secret was out. Menessos lost his haven and his status as Northeastern Quarterlord. Johnny had accepted great power and lost a lifelong dream. Menessos had lost great power and accepted serious personal risk. It didn’t seem fair.
And what about me?
In the last several weeks I’d learned that I was the longprophesied Lustrata, the Witches’ Messiah, She Who Walks Between Worlds, She Who Will Bring Balance, blah blah blah. As this news spread throughout the nonhuman communities, some scoffed and some believed. I was fine with the scoffers; it was the believers who were dangerous. They wanted to know if I truly possessed the power that accompanied those titles. Yeah, I was a magnet for nasties who either a) wanted me dead to be sure I didn’t have that power, or b) wanted to try to force me to wield power for their gain.
I guess I’d accepted the endless complications of my status and was well on my way to losing all scraps of naïveté.
At that thought, I stopped pacing. As I stared into the nothingness of a darkened corner, it felt like my innocence had slipped from my grasp and I was watching it skitter across the floor, waiting for it to come to a stop so I could reclaim it.
I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort to look for it. Or perhaps it would be impossible to find if I made the effort. Maybe it had rolled into some crack, never to be seen again.
I heard Johnny breathing through the phone.
It wasn’t Johnny who had rescued me last night.
When I defeated Liyliy, Menessos had been there to bring me to the haven. Sure, Menessos had a hand in creating the monster she now was. And it was he who had imprisoned her, creating her need for revenge. But it was me and my marks upon him that had brought her to Cleveland. When she pursued me from the haven—according to the Offerling I’d spoken to—Menessos had sent everyone out to search for me.
Had Johnny even known I was missing?
It was shitty of me to compare the two men in my life, but I couldn’t help myself. Though Menessos had drunk my blood numerous times, he hadn’t tried to kill me.
Yes he did! He nearly killed you not long after you first met.
We were strangers then, I argued with myself. Now, we know each other well.
Better, perhaps, than you should. . . .
Defiantly, I ignored my conscience’s scolding. I will not regret what I did last night. During the predawn hours, reeling from my encounter, I’d kissed Menessos.
Fine, but clearly you were able to forgive him.
That was true. Considering this, I felt hope. I sighed heavily into the phone. My whispered answer was, “In time.”
“There’s so much I need to tell you.” Johnny’s voice was raw, and the rev of an engine punctuated his words. I wondered where he was going. And I wondered if I should tell him about kissing the vampire.
It hadn’t been a peck.
When our lips had touched, I felt the promise and power of a more intimate union. He’d definitely felt it. It wasn’t only the power of the marks between us that had been kindled.
“I don’t know where to begin,” Johnny said.
His voice drew me out from my memory of a passionate moment with another man. Guilt swelled around my heart . . . but not remorse. What am I going to do?
About the Author
Linda Robertson is the mother of four wonderful boys, owns three electric guitars, and is followed around by a big dog named after Bela Lugosi. Once upon a time she was a lead guitarist in a heavy metal cover band and has worked as a graphic artist. She still composes and creates art, when time permits. Linda currently writes and rocks in northeast Ohio. Visit her at AuthorLindaRobertson.com and @authorLinda