Druid Temptation (A Druid Quest Novel Book 2)

BOOK: Druid Temptation (A Druid Quest Novel Book 2)
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Druid Temptation
A Druid Quest Novel
Stacey Brutger

ANOTHER DARK, ENCHANTING TALE OF LOVE AND MAGIC IN VICTORIAN ENGLAND.

D
iana Legend was abandoned
as a child when her Druid powers of premonition and her the ability to control animals manifested. Since then, her gifts have brought her nothing but trouble. She experiences stability for the first time in her life at a boarding school for children who have similar abilities, but when her new home is viciously burned to the ground, her life is torn apart a second time. The few students who escaped are now being hunted…including her. When a young girl goes missing, Diana breaks her vow of secrecy and uses her gifts to rescue the child, but soon finds herself trapped when her past finally catches up with her.

G
abriel Moran
, Viscount Mendenhall, would do anything for his little girl. When a stranger saves his daughter, he is fascinated against his will by her otherworldly beauty. Having been burned by a beautiful woman in the past, he refuses to play the fool again. In his pursuit to learn more about Diana, he becomes embroiled in a witch hunt—with Diana as the target. Vowing to keep her safe, Gabriel purposes a marriage of convenience. Only his plan backfires when he falls in love with his new bride.

D
iana refuses
to allow her past to taint her future. She must embrace her powers to keep her new family safe from a lunatic willing to do whatever is necessary to take her captive. As the attacks become more violent, Gabriel is more determined than ever to save Diana, refusing to relinquish his only chance to live happily ever after.

 

THEIR LOVE WILL EITHER DESTROY THEM . . . OR SAVE THEM.

T
his is a work of fiction
. Names, character, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

A
ll rights reserved
. No part of this book may be used or reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations for articles or reviews. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials.

C
opyright © 2016
Stacey Brutger

C
over artist
: Amanda Kelsey of Razzle Dazzle Design (
www.razzdazzdesign.com
)

E
ditor
: Faith Freewoman (
www.demonfordetails.com
)

A
ll rights reserved
.

Chapter 1
England 1880

W
ith a sick sense of dread
, Diana bolted upright in bed, her heartbeat thundering in her ears as she struggled to breathe. No lights penetrated her room, no voice preaching hellfire and brimstone, calling her an agent of evil.

Tension hung in the air, a stillness that heralded danger and repressed violence waiting to explode.

Despite her senses telling her otherwise, she knew she was no longer alone.

Williams had found her.

Again.

She ripped the covers aside, and quashed the shiver of fear that ran down her spine.

If he wasn’t waiting outside to drag her away, her dream meant he was near.

She could handle Williams—but unfortunately, like any mongrel, he never traveled alone.

If he managed to get his hands on her, he would have her committed to a remote asylum, where only he would have access to her, and could do whatever he wanted. His first order of business would be to break her spirit, punish her for witnessing the depravity festering in his soul.

He would allow no one else to discover his loathsome secrets.

Ever.

It would cost him everything.

He was running scared, and that made him dangerous.

At first he just wanted her dead…until he discovered she had a special talent he could use. Her visions allowed her to see the future, and it didn’t matter to him that they would slowly drive her insane.

She refused to allow him to use her to ruin even more lives.

She shoved her feet into her boots and grabbed the already-packed satchel from underneath the bed. Three blades came next. One went into her bag, the second in her boot, and she sheathed a third under her skirts along her thigh when someone started pounding on her door. She froze for a few precious seconds, then allowed her skirt to drop and quickly shoved what little food she had left into her bag, ignoring the slight tremor in her fingers. Ears attuned to the outside world, she listened for the sound of voices, the threat of danger.

And heard nothing.

Careful not to make a noise, she eased toward the door, palming one of the blades. From years of practice, she moved silently, her breathing measured and steady.

“Yes?” Diana placed her ear against the door, trying to gauge how many people stood on the other side. She eyed the window at the opposite side of the room, wondering if she could slip out without anyone noticing.

A five-minute head start could mean the difference between living or being dragged to her death.

“Miss, open the door.”

Diana jerk back in alarm.

The voice was deep, a resonant rumble that promised wicked pleasure, leaving her uncertain if she wanted to move toward him, or run and hide.

Definitely not the underhanded coward Williams.

The words didn’t sound drunken or jovial, someone looking for a good time—a woman living alone was easy prey. “Why?”

“We’re searching door to door for a missing child. She’s been gone since morning.” He answered the question in a form of a demand…but she heard a slight catch on the last word.

Heard the desperation.

“She’s not here.” Though Diana’s heart twisted with compassion, she ruthlessly ignored the twinge of conscience, and resisted the impulse to open the latch.

“We’re checking every house. Open up. Now.” The sinful voice turned dark with menace. A fist landed on the door, the wood reverberating with each blow, the force bowing it inward under the impact.

The flimsy lock wouldn’t hold.

Guilt vanished as panic flared through her, the knife nearly falling from her nerveless fingers. She was backing away from the door when her combat training took over. She re-gripped the knife and widened her stance, determined not to be taken without a fight.

Much to her consternation, her gift responded to the threat. The air thickened and grew heavy. The wards on her back itched in warning, heat licking up the designs etched along her spine, her gift ready to explode from her at the first sign of danger. She tried to pull it back, but it did no good.


Damnu Ort.
Not now.” Diana gritted her teeth, trying to swallow the anxiety clawing at the back of her throat.

She couldn’t allow anyone else to learn about her abilities.

It would get her killed.

As if sensing her distress, a lonely howl echoed nearby.

Sharp relief sliced through her panic.

Wolf would protect her.

Like a lash of a whip, heat scorched along her wards in retaliation for being denied, the vines growing thorns as her powers reluctantly dissipated under her skin.

The man at the door wouldn’t relent, wouldn’t give up.

Delaying the inevitable would only draw more attention to herself.

With Wolf on the way, she took a deep breath for courage and sheathed her blade.

“Stand back.” Diana flexed her shoulders to relieve the tightness along her spine, venturing closer to the door only when the pounding stopped. She fumbled, struggling to release the latch, nerves dancing in the pit of her stomach. She cursed herself for a fool, hoping she wasn’t making a mistake, when the lock finally released.

The door flew open under the man’s weight, and a large, black-haired male stumbled inside, barely catching himself before falling flat on his face. Even before he straightened, he began to search the room. Diana pressed her back against the wall to stay out of the way, watching as the man scattered her few remaining possessions in his search.

The man was huge, muscles straining his well-tailored jacket as he stormed around the tiny room, his head nearly brushing along the roof beams of her small cottage.

Those big fists of his clenched when he came up empty, his head dropping forward in desolation. His chest rose when he inhaled deeply, as if to calm himself before turning to confront her.

She barely managed to lock her knees before their gazes clashed, and he pinned her with the deepest, darkest blue eyes she’d ever seen.

He seemed to suck up all the air in the room.

Intimidating didn’t even begin to describe him.

She was tall for a woman, able to look most men in the eye, and they often found her direct stare off-putting. Next to this man, though, she felt petite, and needed to tilt her head back to maintain eye contact.

His lost expression tugged at something achingly lonely within herself that was better left buried. He studied her carefully, and wherever he focused, her skin burned with delicious heat.

His presence screamed danger…and temptation.

Wolf appeared in the doorway, his nails clicking on the wood floor as he leapt over the threshold, breaking whatever spell the man had woven to ensnare her. She relaxed even as the man stiffened. Ignoring him, Diana sidled over to where Wolf crouched low to the floor, his wiry grey and white coat bristling in warning. Diana inched past the massive dog, never looking away from the man, who was, in her opinion, the more dangerous of the two.

Wolf had been a pup, badly beaten and starved, when she rescued him. It seemed the more she fed him, the bigger he grew. The Irish wolfhound was a mixed breed, small for his kind, which meant he still outweighed her by a good twenty pounds. It had been love at first sight for both of them.

“Miss, move away from that mangy beast.” The man reached out to grab her arm, shifting closer as if to protect her.

Diana paused mid-step, confused by his actions. “He’s protecting me.”

“That beast is a vicious animal and could kill you in an instant.”

She stiffened, affronted by his attitude. “He is my protector. You stormed into my house and tossed my few possessions around without a care. If you ask me, you’re the only one who poses a threat.”

“Step. Away.” The demand rumbled deep in his chest. He never took his attention off the animal, those giant fists of his clenched as if preparing to fight Wolf…to protect her.

She frowned, baffled by his actions, and a healthy dose of suspicion niggled at the back of her mind. Unless…this man couldn’t actually be honorable, could he?

No one had tried to protect her in a very long time. Her stomach dipped and lurched, leaving her unsure how to react.

She trusted her instincts—they had kept her alive while she’d been on the run for the past year—and they remained stubbornly quiet around him. No urge to run…unless you count running toward him.

Against her better judgment, she found herself unbending. Despite knowing she shouldn’t become involved, something about the man compelled her to offer him assistance. “No, not until you tell me why you broke into my home.”

Wolf sensed her unease and hunkered lower, gathered his legs beneath him. His lips curled, displaying a row of sharp, bright teeth that glistened in the darkness, and his hindquarters twitched in anticipation.

“My daughter.” He said each word slowly, his teeth clenched so tight a muscle ticked in his jaw.

Diana’s heart lurched at the deep loss shadowing his eyes, and a pang echoed in her chest. She knew loss. She’d been abandoned by her parents because of her gifts. All she had left were a handful of friends who stood by her, the closest thing she had to a family…until they, too, had been taken from her a little over a year ago.

They had scattered and gone into hiding, barely managing to escape with their lives.

Now they were being hunted.

But tonight, instead of hiding, she could use her gift to find his little girl and alleviate his pain.

Still, she debated the wisdom of coming to his aid. Doing so would be ill-advised.

It would risk exposure.

If anyone discovered her true identity, she might as well be dead.

Despite knowing the dangers, she couldn’t turn her back on the unspoken plea in his eyes—she could literally see his heart breaking.

It would feel good to be useful again. She’d find his daughter then vanish, buying herself a few months before Williams ultimately cornered her again.

“How old is she?” Diana touched Wolf, her fingers sinking deep into his wiry fur. He instantly sat, brushing against her legs, his tongue lolling out, as if sensing the opportunity for a hunt. “We can find your daughter.”

“Emilie is six. You’ll keep that beast away from her, or I will order everyone to shoot him on sight.” He gave her a brief, narrow look, menace vibrating in the small space.

His vehement refusal stung, and anger seared along her back. Her spine tingled, her powers tightening around her with the need to lash out. “You would turn down an offer to locate your daughter?”

A cynical laugh reverberated off the walls. “I want her found alive.”

Diana sighed in exasperation, planting her hands on her hips before she did something she might regret…like clobbering the idiot. “And your only chance of finding her could be Wolf. He is a mixed breed, his size more intimidating than his disposition, but he’s fully capable of locating your daughter.”

The man didn’t answer immediately, revealing just how frantic he must be to consider accepting such questionable assistance. As the silence stretched, tension built in her shoulders. She was surprised how much she wanted—needed—to find his daughter, needed to be useful again.

“If he hurts her, you’ll both suffer the consequences.”

She shivered at the threat, knowing he meant every word. After a slight hesitation, Diana knelt in front of Wolf, took his face in her hands and stared into his yellow eyes.

“Describe the girl. What is she wearing?”

“She has black hair, brown eyes. This high,” he held his hand out waist high in measurement. “Her dress is pink with lace.”

“How long has she been gone?”

“Since this morning. Eighteen hours.”

She mentally formed a picture of the girl in her mind and projected the image to Wolf, keeping her touch light, barely brushing against his mind. Warmth flooded her as her powers shimmered awake, and the connection snapped into place.

After the initial connection was established, linking with an animal became easier each time, although she had to be careful not to be pulled under the sway. The possibility of freedom from all thoughts and fears was a seductive lure. If she fell too deep into Wolf’s mind, she would have difficulty untangling herself.

Or worse, she might not be able to find her way back to her own mind at all.

She scratched Wolf under his chin. “Find the girl.”

Wolf’s eyes flickered in understanding. He bounded off, sniffing the area at random, first one direction then another, before taking off to repeat the process thirty feet away.

The man followed Wolf, completely ignoring her, which suited Diana perfectly. She grabbed her cloak, but couldn’t help watching his long strides as he followed the dog, the way his muscles flexed when he moved. The man was so very comfortable in his body that she couldn’t tear her eyes away.

Diana knew the instant Wolf caught the scent. His excitement swirled against her skin like static, and he charged into the darkness.

Much to her surprise, the man gave chase, taking off at a dead run with an ease she couldn’t help but admire—and moving a lot faster than she expected, given his size.

Both man and dog quickly vanished.

Closing her eyes, she focused on Wolf. The wards tingled as she sank deeper into the connection. The link gave her the ability to locate him anywhere. It would only be a matter of time before she caught up with him. Wind whipped past the dog, urging him forward, the faint scent of the girl curling around him as he raced north.

On her way out the door, Diana halted on the threshold and grabbed the short bow and quiver she’d hidden above the doorway, unwilling to leave without some way to protect herself. She would not be helpless.

As soon as she exited the cottage, she sprinted after Wolf, allowing the wild, animalistic side of the connection to take over, which granted her some of Wolf’s characteristics. Her hearing sharpened, and her sight became crystal clear. The nighttime world came alive. The fresh smells of the outdoors was exhilarating, the wind tugging at her clothes as she picked up her pace. The pins securing her hair loosened and scattered, sending the fine strands tumbling down her back.

BOOK: Druid Temptation (A Druid Quest Novel Book 2)
6.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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