Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ends of the Earth - excerpt

Chloe Saint James stood slowly, brushing coarse dust from her brown woolen gown as she surveyed the newly formed fissure rending the dry southern California earth. The surrounding terrain was as nondescript as it was enthralling, colored in shades of umber and dusty green and gray. Small clumps of mesquite and rounded granite boulders dotted the horizon, relieving the otherwise flat landscape. Austere as it was, it was perfect for her state of mind and heart--a heart that had just discovered a new purpose within the chasm at her feet.

Remnants of ancient power sang along her nerve endings. It called to her from the very soil itself, twining into a soul that had been bereft for too many years.

She raised her head and threw her arms wide joyously, letting the energy flow over her, reveling in it as it replenished her from the inside out. It danced on her fingertips, swam through her blood, flowed like a river of the finest wine on her tongue.

Oh yes, the earth cried out to her, but it was more than that. A power almost as primitive and complex as that of the land was buried in this Siren’s song and she recognized it for what it was ... a rune. More specifically, the Rune of Domain. Its unique signature was distinct, something she could feel down to the marrow of her bones.

How yet another artifact from the Realm had found its way across an ocean and continent was of no concern to her. Finding the rune was.

As Elder to the Earth Sect of the Realm of the Fae, her destiny, her fate, might very well lie beneath the parched earth. She might finally be able to return home to the emerald grass and loamy soil of her adopted homeland. To the extended family she hadn’t seen in over forty years.

A brief thrill zinged through her as she considered returning to the Realm with pride and a measure of redemption, rather than because she was so lonely she thought her soul had begun to splinter.

Wrong! She wasn’t lonely. Her solitary existence was because she chose it to be so, not for any other reason. Certainly not for the reason most in the Realm suspected.

Regardless of her motivation, it was imperative the stone be returned to the Realm. With the Rune of Fate so recently recovered, she had sensed a strengthening in the bond of the High Council. What would happen if this rune, her rune, were discovered?

Arms still raised, she petitioned the earth itself. If answers were to be found, she would discover them beneath her feet.

* * * *

Logan Whitefeather topped the small rise, eyes on the ground around him. It was snake season, and getting hit by a diamondback this far away from proper medical care was a sure recipe for disaster--something he knew from first-hand experience, which was why he carried a snake-bite kit now. Not that it would do a bit of good this far from town. He’d been lucky the first time, damned lucky.

But even with the snakes, how he loved the desert, how he missed it when he was crammed into his tiny cubicle at Los Angeles Air Force Base. Hell, he even missed the reservation when he’d been down the mountain for more than a few months. He spent far too much time reading dusty tomes and compiling statistics. Yeah, it brought in a decent amount of money, but most of that went back to his parents, and by extension, his tribe.

One of these days, he would find the artifact he sought, the stone he was fated to find, if his teenage vision quest was correct. The relic that had first elicited his interest in archaeology and kept him in a lower-paying job once he’d completed his degree so he could freely rove across the desert. He could only hope finding the stone would bring his people the direction they so sorely needed.

He shifted his backpack more comfortably on his shoulders, prying the shovel blade away from his back and lifted his head, his attention snagged by fragments of words riding the scant breeze, lyrical and potent. Then he saw her, and stopped dead in his tracks.

A pagan goddess stood, not twenty yards away, brown robes swirling in a strong gust that cycloned around her, but nowhere else. Long, chestnut hair tumbled down her back in a riot of curls stopping just shy of her ass. Slender, well-defined arms were flung out, as if welcoming the world. Her chant raised the hair on his arms. “Mother Goddess, I humbly beseech you; return the Rune of Domain to its rightful guardian. Show me, with your guiltless wisdom, where it lies.”

Logan’s heart stuttered to a stop in his chest as he quickly considered what she was asking Mother Earth. Rune of Domain? There damn sure couldn’t be two mystical stones hanging out in the Los Angeles hardpack, so he was almost positive she was referring to the Moonstone. His relic. The question of the day was what he was going to do about it, if anything.

She solved it for him by swinging around and piercing him with a sharp, assessing glare, her face half hidden by a swath of hair. He wondered what had given him away, because he could’ve sworn he hadn’t made a sound.

“Begone mortal. You have no place here.”

No place here? Logan was stunned, sudden anger boiling his blood. This was his tribal land. Whoever she was, she was the usurper. “No place here? I have every right to be here. Who in the hell do you think you are?”

“I know who I am. Who you are is irrelevant.” She actually waved her hand, as if shooing him out of a room.

He strode forward in furious, ground-eating strides until he was within an arm’s reach of her. “That’s where you’re wrong, medicine woman.” He surveyed her body in one slow sweep, from the tips of her toes to the riotous mass of curls still covering half of her face. The side he could see was radiant, beautiful and so unbearably arrogant he had the insane, overwhelming urge to wipe the expression from her face with a punishing kiss. So he stepped forward to do just that.

What he got when he grasped her arm was the very last thing he expected. Power screamed up his fingers, crawling through his body like a living thing. He yanked his hand away with a muttered curse and stared at her.

“What are you?”

She still looked at him haughtily, face half-hidden, but something flickered behind her eyes.

“It is of no concern to you,” she paused as if weighing her words, “human.” When she answered him, he detected a hint of fatigue. Even with, or perhaps because of that fatigue, her voice took on a throaty Lauren Bacall rasp that shivered over his skin like pure sex.

Before he could blast her for performing rituals on the reservation, before he could even begin to consider the electricity still dancing over his nerves, she began chanting in a language Logan had never heard before and placed a cool hand on his forehead.

Logan’s muscles immediately froze, locked in place. Even his vocal cords were immobilized. Only his brain seemed to work, and it was whirling like a dervish. What in the hell had she done?

“Have no fear. The binding spell will only last a few moments.” Now the weariness in her voice was more evident. Not that he gave a damn.

She removed her hand and shifted, revealing her whole face for the first time.

As stunningly beautiful as one side had been, the other was covered in a mass of scars snaking across her cheek and chin, winding around one eye and disappearing into her hairline. Logan would have gasped if he’d been able. Her face was a perfect dichotomy.

A bitter smile tipped her lips. “Shocking, isn’t it? I can see it in your eyes.” She lifted a hand in salutation. “As always, it is of no matter. Be well, human.” Then she was striding away from him in quick, loping strides, robe billowing around her, molding to a delectable body that would have made his cock stand at attention--if it’d been capable of vertical motion.

Long moments passed as he stood, petrified, capable of only one thing--thinking. What in God’s name was she? He turned her words over in his head, hearing again the phrase that seemed the most important--Rune of Domain.


Anonymous annalisa said...

This excerpt was wonderful! It made me want to read more! :)

3:28 PM  

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