Meara had been seconds from revelation, mere seconds. Now quivering with terror, she huddled in the corner of her electrified office while lights flashed and popped all around her, knowing there was no where to run. Monitors flashed and burst, exploding and sending shards of liquid fire into the air. A cop entered the small room, his arms stretched forward, gun in both hands and a flashlight on top of his gun.
Three more cops followed behind. No, they were government agents. The logo printed in white across their chest announced their profession.
Bright lights swept the room in a slow steady arc, searching for her. Finally resting on her face, she shielded her eyes. Smoke from the crucified computers filled the cubicle, making the agents choke. Sweat from fear beaded on her forehead, and her heart lurched to her throat. She closed her hands over her heart as if she could slow the furious beating.
"Hewitt, check this out. There might be more than this one. Barrister go search through the other rooms."
"My name is Jace McKenna," the man said as he approached cautiously, kicking debris from under foot until he stood above her. "Put your hands in the air."
His voice held so much authority and sounded so calm. For a moment she thought he meant to reassure then she remembered she was his prisoner. Well, she would be as soon as she complied with his demands.
Jace appeared dark, dangerous, handsome and tall, she noted at first. Very tall, which was hard to miss, since she was skinny and short. His eyes were an amber color with a hint of green. He towered over her. Beneath the deceiving bulkiness of his bulletproof vest, she observed next, his shoulders were very broad, and though his hips were lean, his thighs, tightly hugged by his jeans, were muscled and powerful.
His hair was blacker than the midnight sky, nearly indigo with its sheen, his amber eyes were cast into a rugged face that appeared naturally tanned. He was probably somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties. He seemed fierce, alive with a striking tension and a volatile energy that seemed to exude from him.
Shaking, sweat dripping down her face, Meara slowly raised her trembling arms. "D-don't shoot--me, please" She heard the pathetic whimper in her voice as she blinked the stinging sweat from her eyes where it melded with her mascara. Her heart pounded so hard against her chest she was sure it would burst through her ribs.
"Stand up, slowly." He swept the flashlight as well as the gun up and down the length of her body, which had been curled into a tight fetal position.
Rising to her feet, she leaned against the wall behind her, trying to keep her hands up and not fall flat on her face. She wiggled her butt against the wall and inched her way to a standing position. Her life flashed in front of her in a series of leaps and bounds until she saw the faces of her parents.
"Do as he says," they whispered. "Everything will turn out fine. You'll see. We love you." Then, just as they appeared, they vanished.
Their faces faded into the smoke and flashing lights. Her eyes open wide, she gazed at her enemy--her jailor. The man who was here to arrest her. Mind games, or was it mind think that her parents used to play with her, teaching her to communicate through thoughts instead of words. She focused on his brain, sending out feelers, trying to read his thoughts and trying to tell him she was no threat.
The next moment he was beside her, grasping one of her arms, and in one swift move he had turned her, both hands were behind her back and handcuffed. Her breath stopped for a moment. The movement had been so sudden she was thrown against the wall. Her face flattened on the smooth surface. Yet she was glad for that because the impact brought her back to the reality of this moment. Her mind cleared for a brief second. For courage she inhaled a swift deep breath.
Sweet Sexy Sadie
Sadie didn't know what to make of Brody. Exceptionally handsome and charismatic, he'd made her smile the first time she saw him sauntering down the road toward her. Good lord, but he looked as if he owned the world. Tall, tanned from the sun, amber-green eyes that sparkled as if he saw some light humor in everything. He was wiry and sleek; a quickness about him surprised her. His blue-black hair was tied back with a leather thong, his chin angular.
Perhaps he did own this part of the Sierra Madres. His family seemed to own most of this town.
Her research had brought her to this place, Cactus Junction. Now the prospect of getting to know an interesting man would be an added perk. In the bathroom she slipped out of her clothes and into a tepid shower. A few minutes later she emerged squeaky clean and ready for the next part of her adventure.
Unpacking her clothes and taking out her laptop, she opened it. What do explosive experts do? Hmmm....
Why, they blow up things. What would he blow up around here?
Lord but that sounded crazy to her. Before typing in the necessary info to pull something up on Google, she leaned back, relaxing into her chair. The wallpaper was outdated, and the old fan complimented the air conditioning. She realized she liked the atmosphere.
Enough musing. Mining in the Sierra Madres. Let's see, it says here they mined silver as early as 1521.
Sadie scrolled down the paper. Ok… Montezuma, in 1492, was already drinking hot chocolate from goblets made of gold. Maybe she should be studying this instead of her research thesis. The migration of butterflies. Once she'd thought the topic was romantic. Chasing after butterflies…
So what are they doing now? Junior drilling companies… She wondered if that was what the McKenna Clan was, a junior company. How soon was too soon to ask? Probably not on their first dinner together. Knowledge brought power and she firmly believed everything happened for a reason. Then her chance encounter in this place was not a coincidence.
This says the companies are drilling to find the ore. So… Do they still need explosives? If not, he didn't do much for his day job. Perhaps the family had millions stashed away. At first glance this hotel was theirs and Brody had told her the land this town sat on belonged to them. But millions in the Caymans? Probably not.
She closed her laptop. Then leaning back, she shut her eyes and tried to cleanse her mind of all thought. A little catnap might be in order, but her heartbeat so fast she didn't think sleeping was a plausible scenario. Eager to meet the McKenna Clan and begin her research, her body was wound tight as a rubber band ready to snap.
The bag of chips in her purse seemed to call to her just after her stomach growled its discontent. Trying to ignore the excessive calories and her empty belly, she rose and wandered to the window. Dinner would be that much better if she waited. Outside, the sun still beat down and one could see heat waves decorate the street.
The air conditioner chose that moment to blow out cold air. Sadie wrapped her arms around herself then turned the monitor down a notch.
Back at the window she looked at the street below. A man walked down the sidewalk, and as he grew closer, he stopped and shielded his eyes then gazed up to her room. Sadie's breath caught in the back of her throat and another chill swept through her. This time it wasn't caused by the air conditioner. The sight of the man sent an eerie feeling to the pit of her stomach. She stepped back in an attempt to remove herself from his line of sight.
The knock startled her away from the window. She jumped, afraid it might be the man she'd just seen but knowing it wasn't.
"Sadie? Sadie, you in there?" Brody called from outside the door. Damn, but she'd recognize his voice anywhere. A smile crossed her face. She meant to forget the stranger.
In a sign of unity, they linked arms and strode to Phaedra's room. She picked up the crystal, and walking onto the balcony, Phaedra held the clear orb toward the sun. "Take us to Jokul, wherever he might be." Phaedra began to chant as the crystal seemed to take on a life of its own.
Splinters of sunlight hit the glass ball. The glow surrounding the crystal flowed into and around the girls. The world turned and spun. All the colors of the rainbow wrapped them in a protective tunnel.
Margo closed her eyes against the blinding light, clinging to Phaedra as they hurtled through space. She felt the difference. Time was not changing, only their destination.
In a matter of seconds, they were set down on a ledge of ice. Laughter echoed through the hallway then thunderous booms. Margo motioned to Phaedra to follow her. With caution, they walked toward the sounds. The building they were in shook and the ice columns around them swayed as if they might fall.
"What is it?" Margo felt nausea roll in her stomach. For a moment, she closed her eyes, hoping to understand what was happening and how to deal with it. She tried to remain composed, knowing the ability to think and react in a rational manner would serve her well.
A young girl cowered in a corner, a collar around her neck. Tears flowed down her cheeks. She turned from them when she saw them, her body trembling.
Phaedra knelt beside her. "Are you Jokul's slave?"
The girl looked up, terror clearly written in her eyes and nodded, "yes."
"Where are they? Where is Jokul? And what is he doing?" Margo's impatience grew exponentially. Fear spiraled, yet she forced control of her emotions and tried to remember everything she'd learned.
"Down that hall. He has killed. The big cats didn't have a chance. He is keeping one alive just to torment him." The girl's shaking hand rose from her lap and pointed.
"You'll be fine." Phaedra cupped the girl's cheek with her hand. "I promise. When this is finished, I will come back for you."
The girl didn't say anything. Instead she stared back with a vacant and torn gaze as if she didn't believe Phaedra.
"Jokul will not survive this day. I promise you. You will be set free." At her sides, Margo clenched and unclenched her fists. She meant to do this and suddenly she was no longer terrified of Jokul, his ice or his threats. With each passing second, her courage and confidence grew.
Several heartbeats later, Margo stepped inside the room where the slave girl sent her. The sight caught her breath. Carr's siblings and cousin were frozen ice statues. Relief that Carr wasn't frozen swept through her. Yet fear for him immobilized her for a moment. She watched him leap into the air, avoiding an ice bolt Jokul shot at him.
So consumed with their fight, neither male noticed their entrance to the room. Time was apparently on her side. Before anyone knew she was there, she shot fire at the three guards, their bodies aflame. The inferno lit the room. Then she turned her attention to the demon. Focusing on Jokul's back, she raised her hand, sending fire his way. Seeming to feel the searing heat, he whirled.
Rage lit his face then a smile. "You have come back to me but it is too late." He sent a torpedo of ice her way. Unflinching, she met it with fire. For a second, confusion creased his brows. She saw determination and rage in his face and a moment of confusion.
"You cannot defeat me." More powerful than ever, he sent another wave of ice towards her.
She met ice with fire. "No, Jokul, I'm not an innocent young girl who has no idea how to use her powers. Phaedra has taught me well. Did you think I would always be weak and in your control?"
Rivulets of water from the melting ice ran across the floor. Carr let out a mighty roar and leapt toward Jokul, bringing him down. They rolled on the floor, Jokul caught between Carr's claws.
At the close proximity, Jokul was able to slather Carr in a coat of frost. He broke free, scrambling to his feet and sending a small coating of frost to entomb Carr.
Margo could not risk Carr's life. Yet she remained ready for the battle, waiting for the right moment. Jokul left his mark on Carr once more. Then he rose, his frown growing.
"I will end you, Jokul," Margo said. "There is no other way." Her arms extended, her hands pointing to Jokul, she was poised on the brink of no return. She recalled the spoken words of caution. If she ended his life, there would be repercussions felt around the world. But if she did not, her life as well as the McKenna's would be threatened.
"You're very certain." Jokul's laughter encased her soul and terrified her. Once again, he sent a stream of ice, and once more she melted it with her fire. "You're no longer the weak little girl who fled my care."
"I told you it was so. I am strong, stronger than you because I have love for these people. You have only hatred to guide you." Her heartbeat slowed and assertive energy surged through her.
Phaedra remained behind Margo. "You must finish this. His strength is great. You must strike now before he regains his energy field. You cannot outlast him and you have the others to think of."
Margo tipped her head slightly, noticing how Carr had thrown off the cloak of frost and was stretching his muscles. While she kept her focus on Jokul, Carr looked at her and nodded.
She heard Carr's words in her mind. You have no choice. He means to kill all of us if he survives.
Sweet Talkin' Sugar
In observation mode, he walked through the casino, hands in his pockets, listening and watching, his heart racing. Before the blackjack table at the end of the row, he paused to reflect and decide on a course of action. The air inside was sultry, hot and smoke-filled. He swept one hand through his damp hair, fresh from a summer rain. He forced his mind from the heat and the rancid smell of cigarettes, and with single-minded focus, stared at the table and the cards lying innocuously on the green felt.
The picture of cool calmness, she sat on a bar stool, a drink in hand and cards in the other, her legs crossed provocatively. Her daringly cut emerald V-neck dress didn't leave much to the imagination, but he forced his gaze to the man beyond who stared at her as if he owned her. Every hair on the back of his neck stood on end and a chill slivered down his spine, nerves on edge, muscles tensed. His brows furrowed when the man turned his attention, for one brief moment, his way.
The dealer gave her another card and she tipped one corner up to look at it then let it go. Her body language spoke volumes to him and he wondered if the dealer noticed too. The poker face she so obviously tried for was something she'd never possess.
Deacon McClain paused before settling on a bar stool across the table from her. He waited for the last hand to finish before placing his chips in front of him and nodding to the dealer he was ready to play. His fingers closed around his glass of whiskey as his heart thundered in his chest. She glanced his way, inquisitively cocking her head to one side before slanting him a sexy-as-hell-grin.
The grin sent a message that nearly catapulted him from his seat. Inhaling a deep breath to calm his splintering nerves, he turned his attention back to the cards he'd just been dealt. Not good, not good at all, he motioned for another, then sat back and gazed at Lyonesse. Lyn McKenna, the woman he'd been sent to find and bring home. He'd never believed this gig to be an easy one, but now he felt sure this might be his most difficult assignment of all. Her easy grin sent his heart into a tailspin and her long shapely legs were hard to ignore. What would happen if she gave him her full attention?
He'd lose all sense of perspective and balance.