Authors: Ann Gimpel
Tags: #Witches and Wizards, #Mythology and folklore, #gothic romance, #sword and sorcery, #mythology romance, #urban fantasy romance
A Paranormal Romance Novella
a menacing vortex where violence—and love—are the only way out
All rights reserved.
Copyright © January 2013, Ann Gimpel
Cover Art Copyright © December 2015, Fiona Jayde
Edited by: Angela Kelly
Names, characters, and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or people living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
No part of this book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, e-mail, or web posting without written permission from the author.
Publishing history: First published by Liquid Silver Books in March 2013.Re-released by Ann Gimpel and Dream Shadow Press in January 2016.
Despite two powerful parents, the magic gene bypassed Cassie. Too bad because she could use an edge. Her mother, a world-renowned psychic, is stuck behind a supernatural veil. Not dead, but not exactly alive either, she hasn’t spoken in almost a year. Cassie turns her electrical engineering skills to development of a special Ouija board to reach her mother, but something keeps sabotaging her work.
Enter Tyler, a cheap mage with magic of his own. He pretended to love Cassie, but all he wanted was to snatch up her mother’s clients. Cassie’s been trying to get him out of her house for months, but he won’t leave. When she upped the ante, he threatened to kill her—and her mother. Cassie’s never felt so scared, but she doesn’t want to bother Jeremy, her only friend. She’d have to admit what a huge mistake Tyler was, and she’s not ready to face the humiliation.
Jeremy’s loved Cassie forever, but his magical order forbids coupling with mortals. A serious clash with Irichna demons buys him a different answer. He’s known what Tyler is from the beginning, but Cassie ignored his warnings. Fresh from the demon battle, he uses his scrying pool to check on Cassie. What he sees spurs him into action. No matter if she returns his love or not, time’s about to run out for her, and he can’t let that happen.
assionetta Ceobbinn sat in her old Subaru and rested her forehead against the steering wheel. Her electronic design work had ground to a halt an hour earlier, and a headache pounded dully behind one eye. The garage of the Capitol Hill mansion rose around her, silent as a crypt. Her mother’s Aston Martin sat off to one side, gleaming white against the semi-darkness. Cassie girded herself to open her car door, grab her things, and go inside.
“It’s my house, goddammit,” she muttered to boost her courage. “So what if he texted me not to come home.”
The garage lights flared, blinding her, and the door leading into the house crashed against the wall. Before the ringing in her ears subsided, her live-in boyfriend stomped to her car. Well, the live-in part was still accurate, but the boyfriend part had evaporated like so much smoke.
“You weren’t supposed to come home tonight,” he growled. “I texted you hours ago. You can just turn that piece of shit around and go stay at your mother’s office.”
Fury boiled up from her guts. She took aim and opened the car door hard into his midsection, hoping she could clip a ball for good measure.
“Oomph. You little bitch.” He jumped back rubbing his hip.
You bet I am.
High heels slapping the concrete, she jumped out of her car and stood eyeball to eyeball with him. “This is my mother’s house, Tyler MacKenzie. I live here. Or have you forgotten?” Cassie yanked her shoulder bag and computer case off the passenger side of the front seat and stormed past him.
He grabbed her arm before she made the steps leading into the kitchen. “I have people over. It’s the full moon. I’m leading a séance. Your presence will disturb the energy.”
She twirled to face him, breaking his grip. “You mean you have Mother’s clients over. Where is she, by the way?”
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Haven’t seen her.”
Cassie turned away from him. He closed his hand over her arm again, hard enough to make her squeal. “If you don’t let me go,” she snarled through clenched teeth, “I will call the police.”
He loosened his fingers marginally. “But, sweetie...”
She heard compulsion beneath his words. Cassie didn’t have any magic of her own, but she recognized it in others. When Tyler wanted her to fall in love with him, he’d used honeyed words all the time, but they stopped once she let him move in.
“Can it.” She twisted her head so she could lock gazes with him. “Let me go. Now.” His hand fell away. “I want you out of here tomorrow—”
He narrowed his eyes and shoved long, red-gold hair behind his shoulders. A face she’d once thought handsome twisted into a sneer. “Fat fucking chance of that. We’ve had this conversation one too many times for my liking. I’m here, and I intend to stay. There’s nothing you can do about it. Unless you want to meet with an unfortunate accident.” A nasty laugh bubbled past his lips, followed by “Something unusual could happen anyway. If I were you,
, I’d watch my back.”
Cassie shuddered. She swallowed, but her mouth was dry. Maybe she’d underestimated Tyler. Once they stopped getting along, she’d viewed him as an inconvenience, not a menace. He’d never sounded quite like this before, though. There’d been threats, but they’d been subtle, veiled in double entendre.
She straightened her shoulders and squared off, facing him. It was the kiss of death to let bullies know they were getting to you. “I’m done with your crap.” She infused as much venom as she could into her voice. “I will call the police. You threatened me.”
He snorted. “I’d just deny it. They’ll believe we had a lover’s spat. Women are so emotional.” His blue eyes gleamed with an unnatural light.
She blinked. For a moment, he looked like a demon one of her mother’s psychic friends had raised by accident. Cassie knew enough about them—interdimensional beings that traveled from world to world wreaking havoc—to scare the shit out of her.
Don’t be ridiculous.
Ridiculous, ridiculous echoed in her head.
I’m seeing things.
Her heartbeat pounded loud in her ears, and she fisted her hands at her sides. “You’d better get back to your séance. Wouldn’t want any of those high rollers to get away.”
A grimace crossed his finely chiseled features before he spun on his heel and trotted smartly into the house. Tyler cut an elegant figure with his richly-embroidered gypsy cape, broad shoulders, and handsome, Nordic bone structure. Flowing ruby silk pants rode low on his slim hips. No wonder she’d been taken in by him.
Fuming—and scared shitless—she followed him into the house, but turned hard left before she hit the kitchen and took what had once been the servants’ staircase. It had been stupid to fall for Tyler, one of the dumbest things she’d ever done, but there was no going back. She couldn’t unravel time and choose not to tumble into his arms and his bed. That part was a done deal. If she listened to him, his residency at
Eleanora was a done deal as well.
Worry for her mother filled her, obliterating her fears for her own safety. Eleanora Ceobbinn was—or had been—a well-known psychic, but she’d apparently made one too many trips to the far side of the veil. She was still alive, but she hadn’t spoken a word in nearly a year, rattling around their old house like a ghost.
Eleanora came from money—and made plenty on her own—so at least that wasn’t a problem, but her mother was definitely fading. It was almost as if someone—Tyler?—was feeding off what little energy she had left. Unable to shake her earlier sense of foreboding, Cassie shivered. If she hadn’t been holding onto her purse and computer bag, she would’ve wrapped her arms around herself.
Maybe because she was thinking about her mother—and the house had a mind of its own—she wasn’t surprised to find herself beneath a full-sized oil painting of Eleanora. Lush dark hair ended at knee level, and her haunting violet eyes seemed alive. People had told Cassie she looked like her mom, but she’d never thought so. Eleanora was beautiful—and ageless. Cassie had the hair and the eyes and the striking six foot height, but the effect wasn’t nearly the same.
She still had no idea what went wrong the day her mother checked out. She’d come home from work to find Eleanora sprawled face down on the Oriental carpet in the séance room, candles smoking black gouts of greasy flame. If there’d been clients, they were nowhere to be found.
Her mother had regained consciousness, but that was about all. Cassie knew better than to lug her around to a bunch of doctors with their uncomfortable questions and pained silences after the first one asked, “Your mother does what for a living?”
Cassie dragged herself away from the portrait. When she was a little girl, she’d believed her mother’s painted eyes held the gateway to a magical world. When she asked Eleanora if the painting led to fairyland, her mother gifted her with a warm smile and said, “Stranger things have happened, child. It’s best not to test this one.”
Cassie pulled a key out of her bag, unlocked her bedroom door, and then used the voice activated electronics she’d designed to spring the second lock. She was almost positive Tyler was stealing from her, but that wasn’t why she kept her door locked. Even the marginally gifted could wreak havoc if they got hold of your things. Her father, Francis Statton Braxbury, a British seer, taught her that before his visits to Eleanora petered out.
Cassie locked the door behind her and tossed her things onto a chair. She kicked off her high heels and sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing her sore arches. This thing with Tyler was way out of control.
He fell into her life right before her mother’s accident. He’d been an ardent lover, and ever so solicitous about her mother. Cassie was pathetically grateful she wasn’t alone dealing with Eleanora. Couple that with being lost in the first flush of sex with a new man, and she wasn’t as on top of things as usual. By the time she realized it was a shade too convenient Tyler was in the right place at the right time to snap up all her mother’s clients, he’d moved in.
That was almost a year ago. Tyler dropped any pretense of a relationship with her after the first few months, but he’d been marginally friendly—even polite—until recently. She shook her head, trying to figure out what changed. It was useful to have him help watch Eleanora, which was why she hadn’t tried harder to get rid of him.
Most of her non-Eleanora time was devoted to developing an electronic version of the Ouija Board because she hoped it would be a way to reach her mother. Usually her circuitry was spot on, but for some reason this project had dragged on for months, dogged by one setback after another. Everything she’d learned getting her degree in electrical engineering didn’t apply to her current project. She was still stuck on the basic circuit board strategy. Until that was successful, there wasn’t much point in designing software or hunting for a microprocessor.
Speaking of which, I need to hunt for Mother.
Cassie got to her feet, stuffing them into slippers before heading into the hall. She glanced around nervously before locking her door. Tyler had moved into the guest suite at the north end of the ground floor, but the mood he was in, it paid to be vigilant.
Hector, Eleanora’s large, black tomcat, landed lightly not ten feet from her, his tail pluming as it swished back and forth.
Cassie jumped. “Awk! Where’d you come from?” She bent to scratch his head. The cat arched his back in pleasure. “Do you know where Mother is?”
“I take it that’s a no.” She turned a wall dial. Crystal sconces lining the long hallway brightened. Polished hardwood with Aubusson runners stretched before her. Leaded glass panes lined the hall. Priceless paintings graced the walls at intervals, interspersed with elegant bronze sculptures. Cassie checked her mother’s bedroom. Empty. Eleanora’s wonderful, earthy scent lingered. It made her sad. If ever she needed one of her parents, it was now.
I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. I’m twenty-five, for God's sake. Time to fight my own battles.
Not finding Eleanora anywhere on the second floor, Cassie mounted the stairs to the third. Faint chanting drifted from downstairs, and she wondered whose dead relative was on the hook tonight. She believed in the spirit world, and she’d always trusted Eleanora to hold the gates. Her faith in Tyler’s ability to do the same was pretty truncated.
Oh my God. Is that how he’s planning to hurt me? By proxy?
Her heart slammed against her chest. It was hard to breathe around the thickening in her throat. Some spirits could do a lot of damage, mostly through suffocation or running people off cliffs...