Terran Realm Vol 1
By: Rae Morgan | Other books by Rae Morgan
Bonnie Dee | Other books by Bonnie Dee
Keira Ramsay | Other books by Keira Ramsay
Jeanne Barrack | Other books by Jeanne Barrack
Published By: Liquid Silver Books
Published: Oct 01, 2012
ISBN # 9781931761154
Bonnie Dee | Other books by Bonnie Dee
Keira Ramsay | Other books by Keira Ramsay
Jeanne Barrack | Other books by Jeanne Barrack
Published By: Liquid Silver Books
Published: Oct 01, 2012
ISBN # 9781931761154
Word Count: 425,048
Available in: Epub, HTML, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat, Mobipocket (.prc), Rocket
DescriptionSix full-length novels plunge you into the romance and adventures of the lusty, the willful, and the destructive! Passions explode and desires burn hot as the worlds of Terran and human collide in a battle that could destroy them all. Volume 1 takes you to a world about to be torn apart by an ages-old battle between the forces of good and evil. Discover love, seduction, and superhuman abilities that will steal your heart and sear your very soul!
When two worlds come together, passion explodes, and the line between loathing and lust blurs. Quakes on the coast are not the only thing causing the earth to move in this hot and steamy romance!
Measure of a Man:
One man discovers the power of love and fights to restore his damaged heart. Danger closes in and worlds collide as evil seeks to find the measure of a man!
Fruits of Betrayal:
World domination takes a front row seat in this hot and sexy romance about a good guy and a bad girl. Or is it the other way around?
The Shimmering Flame:
Fire and water are not the only things struggling to mix in this epic battle to defeat evil. Find out if two men and one woman can hold onto love and each other as chaos erupts around them.
A Perfect Symmetry:
Waging a battle on two continents will require a perfect symmetry of body, mind, and soul. Even then, it may not be enough to save the world. Discover for yourself when the power of three is unleashed!
Ultimate love confronts ultimate evil as events unfold with the power to reshape the landscape forever. Will Mother Earth survive as Talisman and Protector discover the ultimate passion and power they share when mated?
Reader Rating: (1 Ratings)
Excerpt:Terran Realm Vol 1
Keira Ramsay, Bonnie Dee, Jeanne Barrack, Rae Morgan
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1863
I am too young for this, have not witnessed enough, but what I see now, even without my gift, tells me the world is in serious peril. Even as I stand here amidst the shattered bodies scattered over this bloody field, I know this fight has been for a greater good which will be realized only as this young country matures.
Horrible, stupendous evil approaches. An evil that believes in the supernatural, and will attempt to seek out the Sorhineth and use it for impossible gain. And while the name of this madman is shrouded, his face and ultimate goals are as clear as if he were standing before me. The cunning lunacy gleaming from mud-brown eyes, his vision of the death of millions by starvation and worse, so much worse. The sigil of of his madness, the warped cross, fills me with an unfamiliar loathing, and my ears ring with the phantom sound of jackboots.
In this future, I see no sign of the Terrans who act as stewards of Mother Earth and mankind as a whole.
The Terrans no longer even attempt to right the balance, to seek out injustice and impropriety, and because of that—and the future I see so darkly beckoning—I have no recourse but to bury the identity of the Wardens who hold the Sorhineth, our most valued treasure. The Terran soul has become almost irreparably stained.
Clan Kennedy shall emigrate here, to the new world, and begin their lives anew … hidden from even the potential of danger. And should it arise, in the form of a Destroyer, then they will know intuitively, and keep the sacred book safe.
If I hide the Sorhineth, then a new future comes clear … over a century from now, a Spirit Talisman will rise and put right the imbalance, beginning the arduous task of bringing the Terrans back to what they hold most closely, their love of Mother Earth. The final moment of atonement will take place within the great pyramid, on the western shore, and the fate of millions will rest in the hands of two.
* * * *
San Francisco, California, 1989
The Destroyer stood on the top floor of the Transamerica building, clenched the ancient paper in his fist and heard the brittle crunch as it disintegrated. At long last, the Sorhineth. There would be no Spirit Talisman, or any Talisman for that matter, interfering in the dynasty he’d spent decades building, what the Keepers Of The Environment—KOTE—with him at the helm, continued to build. Giving up the piece of his soul that tied him to humanity was of little consequence compared to the profit.
Talisman, he thought with a curl of his lip. They were a phantom of memory, supposedly tapping the true, uninhibited power of their signature element. Only called upon in the world’s greatest moment of need; one hadn’t been even whispered of in over a century. And if he had anything to do about it, their memory would molder with the Sorhineth and its Warden in a locked dungeon.
The Sorhineth was almost as much of a mystery as the Talisman … even his oldest scribes and seers only knew it held their history, their spells, their prophecies, and was an immeasurable source of power. Until now, until this missive from the past, he had never known its location, and he’d spent a large portion of his long life and considerable resources in the attempt. But now, it might very well finally be within his grasp.
Clan Kennedy couldn’t be very difficult to find, not with his vast assets. When he tracked them down, he’d send a nice, clean non-Destroyer to pick the book up. And as soon as it was in his hands, safe in the City, he would dispose of everyone who’d dared cross him over these many years.
Victory would be his at long last, and as he gazed out over San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate, he smiled.
Now all he had to find was a Terran with enough skill to convince the Warden of their need, but not one smart enough to realize he wasn’t retrieving it for his own means.
San Francisco, 1989, 7:35 am
Donovan Callahan leaned back in the seat of flight 1245 and closed his eyes as the plane leveled off. It was 21 December and the aircraft was full of families on their way to holiday festivities around the country with a stopover in Boston. He wondered if he’d make it through six hours of spoiled, screaming kids and numb parents without completely losing it. How he could stomach artillery shells and bullet ricochets, but still be annoyed by silly little things, was a mystery.
It wasn’t that he disliked flying specifically, since he’d seen the evolution of flight first-hand. The difference between the Kitty Hawk and the 747 he was on was nothing short of amazing. What he was about to do fell into that category as well. Protectors like him had become almost obsolete in the last fifty years, not really giving a shit what happened around them, as long as their piece of the pie was safe … and lucrative. For him to be heading out on his own was probably nuts, but it was something he knew, down in his bones, he had to do. He hadn’t felt this much conviction since World War Two, and it gnawed at him, pushing him toward acts of selflessness he’d given up long before Tunisia and Cambodia.
He’d spent the last fifteen years in private security, bodyguarding whiny, spoiled celebrities, and he was tired of it. So tired he’d left the business in the hands of his second-in-command, Mark, for the duration.
He reached into his coat pocket and ran a thumb over the smooth triangular jewels on his key fob. It had been a gift from a client just three weeks ago—a quirky old Terran who’d required only that they drive him around the City. It had been too expensive to accept, but as soon as his fingers closed over it, something deep resonated within him. Even now a feeling of peace, of purpose, settled over him. If nothing else, the key chain could serve as a personal reminder of exactly who and what he was. He would do what needed to be done.
He shut out the input, noise by noise, just as he’d learned to do in Tunisia, and felt himself beginning to drift, knowing what he would see in his dream, even as the vision came.
Jenalee’s stunningly beautiful voice beseeched him through the telephone lines, brought his father’s Protector nature to the fore as his mother’s Earth Elemental genes surged to tamp it down. As always, Protector won, even in the safety of his own home, with no visible threat.
“You need to snap out of this. This ‘noble cause’ is going to get us both in trouble. I want my old Donovan back.”
“You didn’t have any complaints when I was buried balls-deep in you last month.” His words and tone were cruel. More cruel than Jenalee deserved.
She let out a short, bawdy laugh which totally contrasted with her usually melodic voice. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no objections when it comes to that, lover. I miss you, miss talking to you, miss all of the things we used to do together as friends.”
Donovan just sat in silence and waited. He and Jenalee had been many things over the last eighty-five years, but lately, friends wasn’t it. Occasional fuck buddies, yeah, but he was through taking care of Jenalee when her flavor of the week didn’t turn out to be exotic enough. No woman was worth this kind of drama, and their shared childhood was the only thing that kept him coming back, even if he hadn’t seen her in over three weeks.
“That damned earthquake. It changed everything.” Bitterness tinged her words.
“Loma Prieta should never have happened, at least not to that extent. Never mind the other shit that went down this year which didn’t directly affect us. As Terrans, we know what we’re supposed to be doing, and it isn’t shopping Union Square or having lunch at the Yacht Club. I’ve just started acknowledging it, unlike everyone else.
“KOTE feeds us shit and we’re happy to eat it because they take care of everything. They hide up there in their ivory tower making pronouncements from on high. It’s wrong … they’re wrong!” All the anger, the disgust he’d been feeling since the 17th of October poured out, vitriolic and piercing in the close air.
“Hush, Donovan. You don’t know who’s listening.”
“Don’t you understand? I don’t give a shit. I’ve had it.”
Jenalee was quiet for a long moment, then spoke quietly. “You’re not the only one Donovan, but you’re definitely the loudest.” Her tone went almost sad, as if she was imparting something painful. “I heard something the other day… Promise me you’ll come see me first when you return.”
Her voice was close to tears now. She wasn’t above using hysterics to make a point, but this was extreme even for her. And, as always with Jenalee, he caved in.
“Boston. You’ll find the Sorhineth—and Warden Brenna Kennedy—in Boston.”
Donovan awoke with a start, heart pumping furiously as Jenalee’s words echoed in his mind. The Sorhineth. The Book of the Terrans. The collected true works of his people. Just the tool he needed to put shit back on the right track.
* * * *
Boston, 4:30 pm
Brenna Kennedy pulled the can of Mace out of her purse, and then took the time to fully survey her living room from the front door. The place had been utterly trashed, stuffing torn from the couch cushions, pictures ripped off the walls, broken glassware from the wet bar glittering on the Berber carpet. The big-screen TV was still in place, as was the state-of-the-art VCR. Her Pioneer sound system sat intact in its rack, and her Nikon hung on the hall tree, undisturbed.
She started to shake—not with fear, but rage. This was no ordinary break-in. She only hoped she was dead wrong about why her privacy had been violated. And if she wasn’t, then at least the Sorhineth was safe and sound, hidden in the most likely place someone could look, and therefore wouldn’t.
Ears attuned for the slightest of sounds, she backed out of the doorway slowly, looking warily down the long hallway where the baddie might still be lurking. When her pumps crunched on the scree of snow bordering the sidewalk, she sidled toward the safety of her Bronco, ignoring the snow falling around her in heavy sheets.
Brenna swung into the truck, jammed the keys in the ignition and sank down in the seat until she could just see over the dashboard, then fumbled for the massive “mobile” phone nestled in its travel case on the floor next to the gearshift. She didn’t give a damn if it was expensive as hell, she was using it, and dialed her brother with trembling fingers.
She pushed the fury out of her voice when he picked up, because if there was one thing she didn’t want, it was Tommy and half the freakin’ engine company hitting her house like the Patriots’ offensive line.
“I need you over at my place … now.”
To give her older brother credit, he didn’t ask questions, just hung up the phone.
Her heartbeat bumped back down and she began to doubt herself, doubt the reality of what she’d seen. R.E.M.’s Stand mocked her from the tinny speakers. What if she’d called Tommy away from the ‘house for no good reason? What if the rigs had to roll on a blaze and someone died because she was acting like a frightened little girl? When was she going to start acting like the Warden she was, rather than falling back on her brothers?
She straightened in the seat. According to family lore, it had been almost two hundred years since a Destroyer had “visited” Clan Kennedy, and that had been an ocean away. What made her think she, of all the Wardens, would be the one called upon? Especially when she was so woefully unprepared?
She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel, considering and rejecting going back inside her home. This would be the last time she leaned on Tommy, but right now she needed his strength behind her.
The legacy of the Wardens went back so far their origins had been lost in the mists of time. If her grandmother hadn’t been so resolute about the reality of Terrans and Destroyers in the stories she’d told, and the information passed to Brenna’s mom on Gram’s deathbed, Brenna would have written the whole thing off as a family fancy, and to be honest, had, to a certain extent. Until today. The reason her home had been violated wasn’t as simple as a break-in … it just didn’t feel like one. No, this was about her … about the Sorhineth. She could feel it in her all-too-human bones. And if it was a Destroyer who had left that feeling, she had a lot of catching up to do … as of yesterday.
The indescribable value of the Sorhineth, even if she couldn’t read more than a few words of it, demanded she keep it out of the wrong hands at all costs … even at the risk of losing her life. The tome had its own protection built in—it faded from sight, and any Terran’s enhanced perception—the moment she was more than three yards from it. Apparently the Terran who’d just ransacked her house wasn’t aware of that little tidbit.
It was always the youngest of the Clan who held the title of Warden, the baby. And for the last two incarnations, they had been female. Women in families dominated by hulking men who delighted in protecting what they considered theirs. And until today, no one had ever challenged such an ancient right, because there’d been no need to. Gram had died suddenly before Brenna was old enough to walk, making her the de facto Warden without ever really knowing what it meant, and leaving her with almost absolutely nothing to go on but the Sorhineth … which none of them had been taught to read. They’d figured out a tiny bit on their own, but not enough to really understand what the book held. She often wondered if Gram had seen her own death at the hands of a drunk driver, and had begun passing information on to Mom, but it wasn’t nearly enough, especially not today.
Yeah, her brothers had taught her the skills to protect the precious book—deadly combat techniques, defensive driving and the like—but she sure as hell had never taken it seriously. It had been more like a game, humoring an old woman’s hasty commands. It wasn’t as if she, as a librarian, would ever kill anyone … she would never ever do such a thing. Lose her own life protecting her heritage, yes. Kill someone … hell no.
One thing was certain. The destruction inside hadn’t been caused by a Terran. They were too cultured, too well-mannered for that kind of behavior. If and when a Terran ever showed up, they’d be up front and possessive as hell, at least from what Gram had told Mom. She’d been quite adamant on the difference between Terrans and Destroyers, one of the few things she’d been fierce about. She’d also made it clear Brenna would know, instinctively, who and what one was. One of the “gifts” of being a Warden.
From what her family had imparted over the years, Gram’s idealized conception of Terrans was little more than a fantasy. The modern-day Terrans had no respect for human life, and had turned their backs on everything right and good. In short, they were no better than the Destroyers Gram had claimed they fought against. They were just as much to blame for the human lives lost in natural disasters as a common murderer on the street. And Brenna despised everything they were.
But her legacy, her heritage, demanded she safeguard the Sorhineth for the moment one of them came calling, and lend them her presence should they want to view the Sorhineth. It grated that the Terrans were destined for such access, even as she recognized the Sorhineth could never fall into the hands of a Destroyer. Their magic, just like their name, was tainted by evil, and they were the reason the Sorhineth and Clan Kennedy had been hidden away for so very long. If the Sorhineth fell into their hands, it could very well mean the end of civilized life as the world knew it.
The first time she’d heard the ominous warning, she’d almost laughed aloud. She wasn’t laughing now. She strained her mind to recall everything her mentor had passed down, but her inner vision kept flashing back to the living room, thwarting her efforts.
Tommy’s massive truck pulled into her driveway, coasting to a soundless stop, engine muffled by the dense snowfall. She’d made the right decision, because of all four brothers, Tommy was the one who believed in her role as Warden the most. Unfortunately, he was also the most protective because of it.
She stepped out of the truck, lowering her voice to an urgent whisper. “Someone broke in and trashed the place. Didn’t take anything fencible, though.”
Tommy’s face took on a grim cast. “The Sorhineth?”
“Yeah, that’s all I can figure. But I didn’t want to go in there alone.”
“I would have kicked your ass if you had, little sister.” He walked to the back of the truck and pulled out a hooked grappling bar. Brenna realized he’d pulled it off the rig on his way out the door and hoped to God—again—he or his crew wouldn’t need it in the next few minutes. A gun wouldn’t have made much difference unless it was a head or heart shot—the Destroyers were that tough—but the fireman’s tool was something only used for good, for right, and therefore had karma beyond belief. Or at least that’s what Gram had said… “Always use karma.” She hoped against hope her wise old grandmother had been right.
Gripping her useless can of Mace, they walked to the front door side by side and slipped in.
Brenna grimaced again at the mayhem done to her living room. Stilling, she did what she should have done the moment she’d stepped foot into her home, but had been too scared to try alone. Some Warden she was. She closed her eyes and felt the interior of the house.
Nothing here right this moment, but she could scent a faint trail of energy, viscous and putrid green, painted on the air. Only a being of evil would leave such signature. She’d been right … it had been a Destroyer … she felt it deep in her bones.
“He’s long gone, but let’s be careful.”
“Damn straight.” Tommy advanced into the house, weapon extended, and cleared each room with Brenna a step behind. Every single one of those rooms had been trashed. Whoever had done it left their nastiest surprise in her bedroom.
“Fuck, Brenna. What the hell?”
“You can say that, bro,” she breathed, staring at the writing scrawled on the wall above her bed in scarlet.
WARDEN—I’LL BE BACK.
“Shades of The Terminator, eh?” Brenna joked, though her voice wavered.
“This is serious.” Tommy’s voice sounded—dare she even think it—scared.
“Yeah, no shit.” She swiped a shaky hand through her hair, pushing sweaty blonde bangs off her forehead. “I wish Gram was still alive, ‘cause this is seriously bad ju-ju.”
* * * *
Donovan paid the cabbie, oblivious to the icy air and falling sheets of snow, and looked over the little turn-of-the-century house on the corner with a tactical eye. It was well-kept, suburban, and the very last place he would have expected to find a book of lore. A big-ass truck and a little Bronco were parked in the driveway, doors still open as if the occupants had left in a hurry—or been pulled from within. The innocent appearance of the building had already set his senses on alert—it was too innocent looking, too staid, too perfect as a hiding place. The two vehicles simply confirmed his unease.
With a stealthiness born of too many years of combat, he sidled to the sidewalk leading to the house, breath pluming in front of him. The front door was wide open as well. Was he too late?
As he entered the interior his hackles rose. The place had been tossed, no doubt about it, but the untouched television and stereo screamed it wasn’t a burglary, or at least not a normal one. What if the Warden had been harmed? What if the criminals were still in the house?
Scanning the room with his Protector senses, he detected something “off,” but it was nothing he’d ever experienced before. His recent work in the earthquake relief efforts had given his Earth Elemental side a taste of despair, of fury, of sorrow, but not anything resembling this. Even his days as a soldier through three bloody wars hadn’t felt like this.
Voices from the back of the house caught his ear.
Donovan tensed, then shrugged out of his jacket. He wasn’t above using the skills he’d excelled at on the battlefield and his Protector power to snatch the Sorhineth and fly his ass right back to San Francisco, weather notwithstanding.
Drawing a well of energy from within, he walked silently down the hallway toward the voices. The key fob in his pocket grew strangely warm against his thigh, but he shook it off as a consequence of drawing power.
Two figures stood in the farthest bedroom—a man and a woman. They both exuded a quiet, competent energy, though it was tinged with anger and more than a little fear. But nothing else … these two were human as could be and therefore not the threat he’d sensed.
From behind, they were as different as night and day. The woman, Brenna Kennedy he assumed, was tall for a human female and of medium build, with hair the pure, untainted color of sunshine. The man was huge, heavily muscled, and dark as the night.
Donovan drew more power. If it came down to a fight with this man, he would need all the help he could get. Then he saw the words written on the wall and felt a wash of certainty—the woman was indeed the Warden he sought. Behind the surety came a bit of wonder stained with a faint curl of apprehension. What he had sensed before could only be one thing … a Destroyer. Until this second he’d thought them nothing more than a myth meant to scare Terran children into being good little preternaturals.
All the evil he’d seen in his life, the experiences which had irreparably marred his soul, had been human, not Terran. Why something different had occurred now was … worrisome.
Both humans whirled, and the behemoth brought a wicked-looking weapon to bear.
Donovan made a show of not flinching, of not even turning his gaze to his opponent. “I mean you no harm. Are you Brenna Kennedy?”
“Who in the hell are you?” the man growled as he shifted the hooked staff up just beneath Donovan’s chin.
Donovan ignored him, focusing on the woman in front of him instead. She looked at him with a startled expression. Eyes which had been widened in fright now dawned with a kind of resigned awe. Aye, she understood what he was. Knew it because it had been bred into her, carried down in genes centuries old.
“It’s all right, Tommy.” Her smoky voice slid over him, setting his body jumping in a way he hadn’t felt in a very long time. Over forty years, as a matter of fact. Since Angeline.
“You know this guy?”
Donovan answered for her. “I am Donovan Callahan, of the Protector and Earth Element clans. I am Terran.”
Tommy backed up two steps and sat down on the bed hard, suddenly deflated. Interesting. So the male knew the history as well. Good. It would save them all unnecessary explanations.
Brenna Kennedy still stared at him, breath hitching in her throat. He swept her body in one assessing glance. Nice, very nice. Rounded in all the right places, but not something he would usually notice, not after being around Jenalee and her groupies for as long as he had. But notice he did.
He berated himself. He wasn’t here to scope out the local hot chick, but to take back his heritage. With any luck, he’d be on the nine oh five flight back to San Francisco tonight. Then his self-imposed mission of restoring order could begin in earnest. He hadn’t decided yet if it was a fool’s errand, but some part of him, one that hadn’t been burned away by death and destruction demanded he try. His dedication to humans—not Terrans—drove his actions now. The Terrans, with the exception of Jenalee and a few select others, didn’t deserve a fragment of his attention. Their dereliction of duty—and his—left a sour taste in his mouth he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to get rid of.
“You’re here for it.” Her tone was resigned now, but underneath it he sensed a hint of … disgust?
“Yes.” He gestured to the words above her bed. “And given what I see behind you, I’ve come just in time.”
She sighed and sat on the bed next to Tommy. Donovan noticed the similarity in their faces for the first time, now that he wasn’t being threatened with bodily harm. Siblings. It was the facial structure, he decided. Unusually shaded blue eyes above high cheekbones and strong mouths. What should have looked masculine on Brenna instead made her appear strong-willed and sexy as hell. Yeah, her mouth was definitely something that caught his attention.
She cast a look at her brother, then her eyes met Donovan’s. Her stormy gaze brought to mind rumpled silk sheets and long, sultry nights. Tangled, sweat-slicked bodies and moans of completion.
“You know I can’t just hand it over, right? I need to meet with my family, and then I’ll have to accompany it.”
Donovan shook his head, both to deny her words and banish the image of her spread out like a feast. “No need, Warden.”
“Uh-uh.” She stood, crossed the space between them in one long step and poked him in the chest. In pumps, she only came to his nose. Donovan bit back an unexpected smile. Feisty, wasn’t she? Apparently her earlier discomfiture didn’t extend to fear of who and what he was, even when he towered over her by a good six inches. When was the last time someone had stood toe-to-toe with him, unafraid?
Her scent, light, airy, with a hint of jasmine, curled around him, teasing his senses before settling deep in his lungs. His cock jumped in response, and it took an effort not to lean in and find out if she tasted as good as she smelled. Somehow he didn’t think she or her brother would appreciate the action.
“The Sorhineth doesn’t leave my sight, ever, unless I’m dead. My Gram was exceptionally clear on that point.” Now her voice was flat, brooking no argument.
Donovan tamped down his temper and his body’s rapidly rising response to her. Now was not the time. He’d never heard such a thing, but it wasn’t surprising, since the Sorhineth and the Wardens had become little more than myth over the last century. Hell, as far as he knew, no one had even tried to contact a Warden in well over a hundred years, and what had happened this year could only be a direct result of that. Perhaps the direct approach was best.
“You have seen the destruction wrought this last year.”
“Yes I have,” she replied, anger snapping suddenly in her eyes. “And if the Terrans would get off their asses and do their jobs, I’m sure Loma Prieta and Hurricane Hugo wouldn’t have been as bad.”
Donovan dipped his head in acknowledgement and did what he’d always found the hardest. “And that is the reason I am here. Will you help me, Warden Kennedy?”
Holy shit, a Terran. And what a Terran he was. Big, well-muscled, and tall in a holy-crap-this-guy’s-a-Sequoia way which spoke of outdoor exercise rather than hours spent in a gym. Wearing tailored dark slacks, an immaculate dress shirt and a hideously expensive silk tie, he looked every image the successful businessman … until he moved. Then you saw the feline grace beneath the suit. The hint of danger. The curl of sensuous lips that could easily be cruel if the situation warranted it. He reminded her a bit of Tommy actually, all dark and brooding and dangerous, but without the massive upper body strength.
And even as she appreciated Callahan as a fine physical specimen, her conscious mind told her that he was scum. Just like the others, letting the world go to Hell in a handbasket and not giving a shit, as long as it made a profit.
She cast a quick glance at her brother. He looked as shell-shocked as she felt. Even with the lore her Gram had passed down, she’d never expected to actually meet one of them in the flesh. It was so much easier to believe in the evil of the Destroyers and the—at best—ineptitude of the Terrans after the awful things she’d seen year after year. And that brought her back to her original accusation.
“That’s all well and good, but where in the hell were you during hurricane season, or in October?”
Callahan exhaled heavily, and she could hear frustration in the sound. He obviously wasn’t someone used to being questioned. She didn’t give a damn. While she might have written off the Sorhineth as a joke before, it sure as hell wasn’t now.
“It’s complicated, and more than I’m willing to go into when that,” he gestured to the blood-red letters on the wall, “is staring me in the face. Is there somewhere we can go to talk this through? Somewhere safe?”
Tommy rose, having regained his composure. Now he bulled up to Callahan in a mano-a-mano display.
Brenna sighed. They didn’t have the luxury of time for this macho crap, even if she agreed with Tommy for standing up to him. Someone needed to, and it looked like it was going to be her distasteful duty. She raised a hand, stopping her brother before he began to speak. Blown away though she might be, the threat was very real. Only the Terrans, the Destroyers and her family knew of her status as a Warden, and by extension, what the Sorhineth was, according to lore. No one else could have trashed her place and not taken a damned thing.
“Tommy, he’s right, and I don’t want to endanger the rest of the family by showing up at Mama and Papa’s. We can use one of the rooms at work. It’s neutral—and where we need to be. Get the rest of the family together in an hour. We’ll meet you there.”
“I don’t want to leave you alone with this joker. We don’t know enough about him yet.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. He’s Terran, and it’s his right. You know it as well as I do, can feel it as much as I. I need to do this, Tommy. By myself. It’s my heritage. He’s not dangerous to us, just an obligation.”
Tommy looked hard at her, obviously considering her argument, then shrugged, but the motion was forced. “You’re the Warden.” He stooped, giving her a quick, fierce hug. “Be careful, little sister.” Then he turned to Callahan. “I’m holding you personally responsible for her safety. Understand?”
Callahan nodded, one swift movement of his head. Sure, strong, invincible. Too bad that didn’t extend to doing his damned job. “Protecting is what I do best. Have no fear, Tommy Kennedy, we’ll be at the rendezvous site.”
Tommy hefted the grappling hook, propped it over one shoulder and walked down the hall, his shoulders tense, back ramrod straight, as if he was abandoning his duty by leaving her behind. Brenna shook her head. She appreciated the sentiment, more than Tommy would ever know, but it was time for her to stand on her own two feet. Time for her to learn exactly what her legacy meant.
“C’mon, Callahan, let’s boogie before he comes back.” She motioned to the ruined wall above her bed with a quick flick of her hand.
He moved quickly enough, and was good to his word. He ranged in front of her, blocking the hallway with his body, a picture of coiled, ready ferocity. If a Destroyer showed up now, she had no doubt Callahan would take care of it, just as he’d promised Tommy.
He retrieved his suit coat, and when they reached the front door, she felt the weight of a protection spell settling over her. It wasn’t something she’d ever experienced before, but recognized nonetheless on almost a cellular level. It felt … funky. Strange and tingly, as if insects were crawling over her. It wasn’t unpleasant, just … weird.
“Do you really think that’s necessary?” Since you haven’t given a shit about any human’s safety … ever? She tried to keep the sarcasm out of her voice—if not her thoughts—and must have succeeded, because he just shot her a glance over his shoulder.
“It certainly can’t hurt.”
Good point, that. “How’d you get here?”
“Cab from Logan.” He shouldered through the door, then stopped, blocking the doorway. “Shouldn’t you be retrieving the Sorhineth right about now?”
“It’s not here, otherwise you’d probably sense it.”
“Then where is it?” There was a thin thread of desperation in his voice. Interesting. The Sorhineth meant more to him than he was letting on.
“Safe. No worries, Terran, it’s secure.”
He assessed her with a long look and stepped out into the twilight. She locked the door behind her and hefted her purse on one shoulder, then slid in behind him as they moved toward her Bronco. When she was safely ensconced inside, he slammed the door and moved quickly around the front of the truck, folding himself into the passenger seat and buckling in.
They backed out of the driveway and scooted down the residential street. Brenna looked in the rearview mirror, wondering if it would be the last time she ever saw her house again.
Panic clutched at her chest. She’d never asked for this … privilege. Why couldn’t her mother have held the position? Then it would be passed on to one of her grandchildren. Instead, the situation was hers to handle. She would succeed or fail on her own.
“How did you find me?”
“KOTE has probably always known the location of the Warden; they just chose not to share it with me, and obviously didn’t feel the need to call upon you. I found you through my best friend, who’s pretty well connected. I’m not sure how she found out.”
“What is this KOTE, and why would they keep me a secret? Heck, why would they even know who I am? We’ve been buried deep for a long, long time.”
Callahan shifted in his seat, stretching his long legs and getting comfortable in the tight confines of the truck. “Keepers of the Environment. Though they obviously haven’t been doing much of that lately. They’re basically the ruling body of Terrans, and have been incorporated as a nonprofit environmental organization since the turn of the century. An Air Keeper by the name of Carlyle Winthrop heads it up now. You’ve probably seen him on television.”
Brenna heard more than a trace of bitterness in his tone, and it surprised her a little. He was right about one thing; she had seen Winthrop on the tube, usually with the starlet of the month draped on his arm. She opened her mouth to ask what in the heck an Air Keeper was, when he continued.
“As for you, they’re perfectly happy in leaving things as they are. We’ve been living with our heads in the damned sand for decades, maybe even centuries. After Loma Prieta I thought they’d do something. But no, they just keep on keepin’ on. I couldn’t—won’t—stand by anymore and watch them destroy the earth and humans through sheer apathy. And even though no one really knows what the Sorhineth is anymore, a friend suggested I start with tracking it down.”
Well, that was one hell of a speech. Brenna studied him discreetly, a bit discomfited by his words. Although his tone had remained even, color flagged his cheekbones. He was obviously upset, and while she could certainly understand why, something didn’t jibe.
“Well, I’ve certainly never even heard of KOTE, even though Carlyle Winthrop is a news hog. I wanted to ask you about something you said earlier. What’s an Air Keeper?”
“Air Keepers are Terrans whose signature element is Air; they own their environment and can control it at their disposal.”
Brenna hummed noncommittally and turned his words over in her head. They were so in deep shit. She knew next to nothing, and his little rant had thrown her for a loop. He wasn’t what her family had led her to believe. “You’ll have to fill me in on all this ‘Keeper’ stuff as we drive, so I know who and what I’m dealing with.”
She was tempted to let it go, but something still struck her…
“If KOTE’s inaction bugs you so much, why didn’t you do something before?”
He waited a long moment before answering, as if pondering her shift back to their original subject, and when he did, his voice was tired. “Because until a few months ago I was just like them.”
* * * *
Donovan realized he had to be up front with Brenna if he was going to convince her to return to San Francisco with him willingly, but saying the words aloud pained him more than he’d imagined. It was hard to admit you hadn’t given a damn until devastation unfolded in your own backyard.
He’d hardened his heart to everything after World War Two, having seen too much, experienced too much, for anything to faze him anymore. But Loma Prieta had changed that, given him back a measure of humanity he thought he’d lost in France.
For her to understand what she was getting into, he had to tell her the rest. But first…
“How did the Destroyer know to find you?”
“I don’t know, but it’s weird they’d be searching for the Sorhineth within hours of your arrival, isn’t it?”
Donovan cocked his head and looked at her. She was beautiful in an understated way, with classic features artfully emphasized by careful make-up. Highlighted blonde hair was held back in a chignon, leaving her face open to his inspection. His first glance back at her house hadn’t done her justice. Her overall “look” was accentuated by casual yet elegant clothes … form-fitting tan slacks and blazer and a tailored eggplant blouse. He smirked. If it weren’t for Jenalee, he wouldn’t know eggplant from fuchsia, but spending almost ninety years, off and on, with a singer who reveled in the finer things had definitely broadened his palette.
Regardless of how Brenna looked, she exuded a quiet strength and competence he recognized in male and female warriors the world over. And her question deserved an answer, even if he didn’t have one.
He rubbed a hand over his face tiredly, the adrenaline leaking out of his system like a balloon. He shouldn’t be this fatigued. He’d seen and done things that would make most men wet their damned pants, but this trip, and the concept behind it, had taken more out of him than he’d imagined possible.
“Weird … the Destroyer and I arrived almost of the heels of each other? Yes, definitely. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. While I know, instinctively, that a Destroyer was in your house, I’ve never dealt with them personally, at least not to my knowledge.”
Brenna merged onto the freeway seamlessly, windshield wipers pushing away fat flakes of snow as they plopped on the glass. He wasn’t so wasted that he couldn’t appreciate her driving skills.
“Then it appears we’ve got a lot to figure out from each other, because it sounds like we’re in the same boat. Gram passed some of her knowledge down to me through my Mom before she died, but I can’t even read the Sorhineth. Trust me, I’ve tried.”
“Then let’s hope I can.”
Brenna punched the accelerator and wove between the thickening Friday afternoon traffic slowed by the storm, her attention flickering between the traffic ahead of her and the side mirror. As much as she disliked everything Donovan Callahan stood for, his protestations notwithstanding, she still had a job to do. “Sedan following us, two cars back. You can look, windows are smoked.”
Callahan twisted in his seat, glanced out the rear window, then faced forward again.
“Any chance you can you lose him?”
“Even in this weather and traffic?”
They were approaching a traditional Boston bottleneck … the approach to the Central Artery and the stop-and-go construction that always seemed to be in mid-phase. If she was going to do something, now was the time.
“Especially in this traffic. If he ain’t local, there’s no way he can tail me, and even if he is, this snow will make it much harder.” It sounded like bragging, but she’d been driving these streets for almost ten years. It didn’t hurt that her oldest brother Terry was a cop and had taught her more than most defensive driving courses ever could. Of all the training she’d struggled through, driving was what she’d been best at, the thing she felt most comfortable with.
Zipping in between smaller cars, she waited until the sedan was in the middle lane, then flipped the truck into four-wheel drive, rumbled over the freeway shoulder, and gunned down the median past gaping construction workers before thunking back onto the freeway ahead of the pack. Thank God for Ford’s new on-the-fly drive train. There was no way in hell a sedan would be able to get into the median with its low clearance, and as she’d said, the snow made it an even bigger deterrent.
Disengaging the four-wheel drive, she floored the accelerator, flying down the sparsely populated lanes and onto the elevated freeway, leaving their pursuer far behind.
“Damn, woman, that was slick.” Callahan grinned at her unabashedly. It was the first time she’d seen anything but consternation or a carefully blank expression on his face, and it made her heart beat faster than their little expedition into the grass.
“Aim to please.” She smiled back without thinking, adrenaline spiking through her body.
“So, where exactly are we going?”
“Where do you go when you want a book?”
He looked at her blankly.
“The library, of course!”