Meadow's Keep (The Gatekeepers Series)

BOOK: Meadow's Keep (The Gatekeepers Series)
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MEADOW'S KEEP

by Shanon Grey

THE GATEKEEPERS – Book Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meadow's Keep

Copyright © 2013, Shanon Grey

Digital ISBN:
9781301844364

Cover Art Design by
Book Graphics

Digital
release, May 2013

 

Crossroads Publishing House

P.O. Box
723

Emporia, VA 23847

 

Warning: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work, in whole or part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, is illegal and forbidden, without the written permission of the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Characters, settings, names, and occurrences are a product of the author's imagination and bear no resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, places or settings, and/or occurrences. Any incidences of resemblance are purely coincidental
.

Crossroads Publishing House

www.CrossroadsPublishingHouse.com

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

I want to thank so many people who encouraged me to do this book. If I have forgotten someone, please forgive me, you are there in the heart of the book.

First and foremost, I want to thank my family, who always believes in me, yet isn’t afraid to make a comment, suggestion, or an edit. They take endless hours reading and rereading my manuscripts, until I’m sure they could quote it by rote. You are my mainstay, my reason for being. I love you all so very much.

I want to thank my publisher, Crossroads Publishing House, for continuing to love my stories and for helping me get them to the public.

I want to thank Linda and Judy for being the kind of best friends a writer needs.

I want to thank Pam for being a genius and for pushing when I needed that extra push, as well as all the Pearls for having my back, no matter what.

I want to thank Tara for encouraging me and being willing to spend her lunch hours plotting or rehashing a scene.

I want to thank Ruthy and Doris for being the kind of women I have always aspired to be. They keep me on my toes and thinking ~ ever striving to do my best.

I want to thank Doug for inspiring me to add my poem, my heart, to Meadow’s Keep.

And I want to thank my readers and fans for your letters, cards, and messages of encouragement. You are the reason I work to produce the very best stories I can. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

There are those that are fortunate to have never witnessed violence to themselves or someone else. That number is fewer than I’d like to admit. For others, violence comes swift and unexpected, at least in the beginning. Then, for many reasons, that violence is endured until the victim gets help or dies.

One of the obstacles, often
ill perceived, is that they feel they have no options and no place to go. But that isn’t so. There are real places, similar to my fictional Safe Harbor, ready and willing to offer a haven, safe from those that would cause them harm. It is to those places and the incredible people that dedicate their lives to helping the victims of domestic violence that this book is dedicated. In a perfect world, places like Safe Harbor wouldn’t be necessary. Until that time, let us commend the people that dedicate their time and money helping those in need.

For more information, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest Nation Network) is a good place to
begin. Here’s the link: http://www.rainn.org/

On their site is listed the following hotline: National Sexual Assault Hotline |
1.800.656.HOPE(4673)
| Free. Confidential. 24/7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safe Harbor

 

The doors we close

Bear the Weight

Of silent cries and hasty goodbyes

As we disappear into the night

Shrouded—protected by the dark

Seeking shelter—a co
mforting hand

To wipe the tears

And heal the wounds

From tortures left unseen

To all but a few—us

 

 

~
Shanon Grey
~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Jasmine Monroe hauled the suitcase out from under the bed and, using both hands, hoisted the reinforced leather case onto the mattress. With swift movements, she flipped the latches on either side of the handle. Sweat beaded and slid down the cleavage between her breasts. She twisted her shoulders and pulled the damp
T-shirt away from her body, fanning it.

She threw back the lid. Inside lay a tangled mass of chains and locks, some open, some closed. She grabbed a large lock and cursed when it resisted her tug, captured by the weight of the chaos around it. Holding the closed padlock in her right hand, she narrowed her eyes, focusing on the mechanism. She heard a crackle as the current moved from her body. The shackle slipped out of the lock and twisted to the side. She upended the lock to allow the chains to fall back into the suitcase and tossed the lock on the bed.

Jasmine thrust her hand back into the mass of chains. Using the back of her left forearm, she wiped the sweat away from her upper lip.
Ah, gotcha!
She twisted through the chains and yanked several times. The $1,400.00 military-grade titanium padlock moved a few inches, then stopped, still attached to two heavy-duty links of metal. As before, she held the padlock and concentrated. Nothing happened. She pressed her lips together. Her obsidian eyes narrowed. As her other hand moved forward, she resisted the urge and pulled it back. No, she had to be able to do it single-handed. She felt the energy build and move into her hand. With a loud pop, the padlock’s shackle gave way. She yanked it free of the chains and, turning around, slid down the side of the bed to the floor, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Her
gaze drifted down. Through the blur of tears, she could still see the scar on her wrist. Never again would some son of a bitch chain her to anything. Never again would another person have control over her body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

The peregrine falcon broke from its handler’s arm and soared above the crowd
, its screech piercing the air as it circled. It swooped down. Jasmine thrust her arm up in defense. Staring into the eyes of the diving predator, her world tilted. Her vision skewed and she was looking down upon her own upraised arm. The falcon thrust its wings, caught the air and descended onto the cashmere-covered perch. Jasmine blinked again and stared into the face of the bird, its head tilted as if studying her.

The crowd turned. Jenn sat rigid next to her, not moving a muscle.

Jasmine stared at the feathered predator, which blinked long looks back at her.

“Well, aren’t you a pretty thing,” she trilled in a soothing tone, not sure which of them she was comforting.

“Just be still, miss.” The trainer approached, his voice shaky. He was watching her arm.

“I’m fine,” she commented and looked from him, seeing the long, thick glove encasing his hand and arm, to the bird balancing gingerly on her thin arm. She felt no pain from the talons. She shifted her full attention back to the bird.

“Maybe if you give me a glove for my other arm, she’ll transfer.” Jasmine lifted her other arm out toward the handler, never letting her eyes move from the bird.

An assistant slid off a glove, handed it to a handler, who eased it onto Jasmine’s outstretched arm. She moved her arms closer, close enough for the bird to step across. She was concerned that the talons might catch in the sweater and tether the bird, frightening her. Jasmine stared at the bird. As if in silent communication, the predator stepped over to the gloved arm and proceeded to groom its beak on the glove. A single thread of yarn remained attached to the longer back talon. She moved her arm away. The thread didn’t budge. She slipped her arm inside the sweater until she could grasp the thread with her fingers. She looked at it with an intensity only Jenn caught. The thread disintegrated, not harming the bird. A faint whiff of burnt wool touched her nostrils.

“Time to go home, I’m afraid,” she cooed and turned the bird over to the handler. The bird looked back at her before hopping onto the perch of the man’s gloved arm. Jasmine nodded.

The handler moved away with the bird as the crowd burst into applause, thinking Jasmine to be a shill, planted as part of the show. She smiled, stood, and picking up her drink, stepped into the
midway.

Handing Jenn her drink, Jasmine pulled off the heavy glove as the handler rushed over, now free of the falcon. Jasmine smiled and handed him the glove.

“Are you hurt?” he asked, his eyes scanning her arm.

She let her smile reassured him. “Not at all. She’s very gentle.”

“Not normally. Bryn doesn’t like humans very much. A hunter killed her mate. She wasn’t thriving when we found her.” Still not convinced she was unharmed, he stared at her arm until she pushed up her sleeve, revealing smooth, unmarred skin.

“I’m sorry about her mate. But, she was extremely careful with me.
"

He handed her his card, hesitating before he spoke. “Well, if you have any problems or questions, you can call me. My cell number is the second one.”

She flashed her dark eyes. He blanched, then flushed. Now certain it wasn’t a come on, she rewarded him with a genuine smile. “Thanks,” she said and took the card.

She and Jenn walked a good ways down the midway before Jenn spoke. She seemed to be pondering something. “What was that?” She asked the question quietly, not with the agitation that Jasmine could feel pouring off the smaller woman.

“I have no idea.”

Jasmine stopped when Jenn did, turned and faced her. She lifted her shoulders. “I really don’t have any idea what took place back there.”

Jenn turned back and took a step forward.

“Except….” Jasmine added.

Jenn turned back and waited.

“For an instant,” she took a deep breath, “when she was in flight, our eyes met and we seemed to connect.”

“How?”

“I’m not sure.” Jasmine frowned, thinking back. “It wasn’t even communication. Or…maybe it was. I’ve never felt anything like it. I didn’t call her, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Jenn shook her head. “She came right to you. It seemed to be the most natural thing. When you raised your arm, I thought….” She took another step and turned again, started to say something, thought better of it and started to turn. “Never mind.” She was silent for a couple of steps, then spoke, “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.” Jenn’s assessing eyes studied her. Jasmine had come to Safe Harbor, Jenn’s pride and joy, not abused by a family member, but kidnapped and attacked by a madman. As Jasmine healed, their friendship grew.

Jasmine put her arm around her short friend, giving her a quick hug and making Jenn’s blonde curls bounce. “Are you kidding? I can’t tell you the last time I went to a state fair.”

Jenn laughed, a bubbly tumble of merriment that often escaped her lips. Jenn had a joy for living that Jasmine had seldom seen in anyone and especially not in someone who faced such tragedy every day. That laughter was infectious—and healing—as so many women and children could attest.

“I’m so glad you were willing to go with me. This escapade usually falls to Morgan, but I can’t see Dorian sending her up to Virginia when she’s so close to delivery.”

“Not likely,” Jasmine agreed. “He’s become an absolute lunatic when it concerns Morgan and the baby.” She laughed. She never thought she would see the day Dory would lose his cool. Morgan’s appearance in his life had done just that.

Jenn interrupted her thoughts as she pointed to a sign. “Hey, let’s go there.”

Jasmine turned.
The Mysteries of Eryk Vreeland
blazed in 3-D graphics. “You want to go to a magic show?” Jasmine raised a brow.

“Why not?” Jenn laughed. “It might be fun.” She took off in that direction.

Jasmine shook her head, smiled, and followed, dumping what remained of her sweet tea in the large trash bin outside the building.

They came to a stop at the poster outside of the auditorium. Neither spoke. They
were held spellbound by a pair of emerald green eyes—all that could be seen of the face—staring at them. The green was facetted, like Morgan’s—a trait specific to
some
of the descendants of the founding families from Ruthorford. Not a trait Jasmine shared, her own eyes black as coal. A shiver ran up Jasmine’s spine. She looked at Jenn.

“You first,” Jenn
gave a nod toward the door.

“You sure you want to do this?” Jasmine asked. This didn’t bode well. A member of a founding family in a magician’s act? Highly unlikely. However, being a member of a founding family herself, Jasmine knew
her obligations to Ruthorford, Georgia and Abbott House, the foundation started by the original family. No matter where she was living, Jasmine’s ties to Ruthorford were strong. She took a steadying breath.

At Jenn’s positive nod, Jasmine stepped through the door.

Dim lights cast shadows across the auditorium. A black curtain hung in deep folds in front of the stage. Jasmine led Jenn halfway down and stopped, letting Jenn go in first. They took the two seats next to the aisle. Although the auditorium was mostly empty, Jasmine had no intention of being hemmed in by people. They waited as more people filed in. Surprisingly, it filled quickly.

Music began
and an announcer stepped out from between the curtains, proclaiming the amazing feats they were about to see were like no other. At the end he touted, “…with eyes that read the soul. Are you brave enough to let him read yours?”

Jasmine and Jenn looked at one another.

The music died as the curtains parted. Eryk Vreeland appeared in the middle of the stage out of nowhere. The audience resounded in loud gasps. Vreeland turned his head and looked directly at Jasmine—or, so it seemed.

Jasmine and Jenn clasped hands and squeezed. On stage stood the spitting image of Dorian Drake, Morgan’s husband. With a white, billowy shirt tucked into tight black pants, he looked every bit the pirate. His black hair, longer than Dorian’s, brushed his collar. Lithe, well-formed muscles bulged beneath the tight fit of his pants as he moved. He was downright gorgeous
.

He began talking, letting his gaze linger on them. Then, just as Jasmine began to feel uncomfortable, he turned his attention toward the full audience. The voice was different, still sexy, but with a European accent. Jasmine wondered if the accent was real. She studied the man on stage. There was something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on. He was Dorian, yet not.

She smiled. Dorian. Her first love. Actually, her only love to date. Her ill-fated love. They had been too alike. She felt the sizzle in her fingertips and looked down as the tiny fibers of the sweater danced on end. Yes, they were definitely alike—only no one knew it but her, and, even then, only for the last year.

Applause brought her attention back to the stage. As the show progressed, she relaxed
. He was definitely talented. Definitely a showman. With great drama, he bisected his beautiful assistant, the shrill scream of the saw filling the auditorium. Gasps rose as blood sprayed across the stage. Having donned a lab coat, now spattered with red, the magician wiped his brow, pulled the saw back, and separated the apparatus. With eyes glued to the stage, no one made a sound until his assistant wiggled her feet. Then, the audience burst into applause. He pushed the pieces back together, unlatched it, and helped the lovely woman, obviously unharmed, step from the contraption.

Later, he performed Houdini’s Metamorphosis. He stepped into a large black cage, pulled the door closed with a loud clink and, with a flick of his hand, held onto the bars as the cage lifted and swung out over first few rows of the audience. With another wave of his hand, it rose higher, swaying in suspension.
He yelled a corny, “Abra-ka-dabra” and a loud pop sounded as smoke filled the cage. To squeals of delight, the smoke cleared to show the beautiful assistant had replaced him in the suspended cage. Spotlights panned over the audience, back and forth, until finally, they stopped, converging on a single spot in the back. From one of the very back rows, the magician rose and bowed. The crowd went wild.

As he loped down the aisle toward the stage, he passed Jasmine’s seat. The hair on her arm stood on end. He stopped, turned, and looked from her to Jenn, studying them, a look of consternation on his brow
.

He spun back toward the stage and jogged down the aisle. People were throwing roses on stage. As he stepped onto the front of the stage, he turned toward the audience, lifted his hand and a rose froze in midair, suspended. He flicked his fingers and the rose exploded into a sparkling ball of energy, which he sent out over the audience. A collective gasp rose from the people. The ball hovered, swaying gently back and forth, then suddenly flew toward Jasmine. Without thinking, she raised her hand and the ball of energy careened back onstage, over his head, where it exploded into a shower of rose pedals. For barely an instant, his mouth hung open, then he looked at his audience and took bows to the standing applause.

Jasmine grabbed Jenn’s hand and pulled her into the aisle. Ducking, they made their way toward the exit, hidden by the standing crowd. Outside, they stopped, turned and started talking over one another.

“Did you see that?
Did you see his eyes?” they asked one another.


What did you do?” Jenn grabbed Jasmine’s arm.

They went silent,
staring at one another, each weighing what they’d just seen.

Jasmine pulled the phone out of her pocket and started pacing, running through the numbers on the phone. She looked at her watch and dialed one.

A hoarse male voice answered the phone. “This better be good.”

Jasmine laughed in spite of the situation. “And a fine ‘how are you,
’ old man.”

“Jasmine?” The voice sounded genuinely stunned.

“Yeah, Bask, it’s me.” A flicker of a smile touched her lips and was gone. “We have a situation.”

Without hesitation, he was firing questions. “Location? How many? Will one team do?”

“Whoa!” She waited to get his attention. “It’s not that kind of situation. I’m at the Virginia State Fair. There’s a magician here. Eryk Vreeland. Except,” she hesitated and took a deep breath, “he’s Dorian with Morgan’s eyes.”

She listened to the silence and pondered what to say next.

Her exasperation showed as she rolled her eyes and snapped into the phone, “No, I haven’t been drinking. Geez, Bask….” Her voice grew louder as she argued into the phone.

Grabbing the phone, Jenn said, “She’s not kidding, Mr. Bask. This is Jennifer Davis. This man looks exactly, and I do mean exactly, like Dorian. Except,
as Jasmine just told you, he has Morgan’s very green and very
different
eyes.” She handed the phone back to Jasmine.

Jasmine listened and burst out laughing. “And just how do you expect me to get a sample of his DNA, you old pervert?”

Jenn tugged at her arm. Jasmine turned to see the man in question striding toward them.

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