She’s got a new book out, just this month, and I’ll let her tell you all about it:
Stacy nodded then strode into the main gallery, past statues of a few founding fathers, paintings of historical incidents, and cabinets displaying the city charters and noteworthy proclamations. Slipping through a door at the far end of the room, she entered the courtyard.
Despite the chill air, Stacy spied a few tattooed men and women gathered around a small table, discussing a class while nursing cups of coffee. One woman sitting with them had silvery gray eyes that shone like beacons. Hard to miss.
Stacy stared at her a moment longer, trying to figure out the nature of the color. Putting the woman’s eye color down to a set of extremely cool contacts, she smiled and gave the woman a jaunty salute then reached out for the empty glasses lining the next abandoned table. The woman still watched her.
Uncomfortable, Stacy strode to the far side of the courtyard to escape the woman’s scrutiny. Something told her to look back.
The woman with the startling eyes stood right behind her, glaring. Her eyes glowed like quicksilver.
Miss Silver Eyes smelled of patchouli, musk, and some other strange scent Stacy couldn’t identify.
She leaned close to Stacy’s ear, and her voice sounded raspy when she spoke, “We will have this ground. This harshad time, Stacy Macken, the ground is ours, and they will never dance again.”
Harshad? How did she know about harshads? Had the long-awaited war truly come, then?
Stacy stared as impossibly long incisors slid down from the woman’s gums like snake fangs. Miss Silver Eyes clamped a hand around her upper arm. The woman’s steely gaze, the ruby and alligator’s tooth earring glittering in her right earlobe, and the dark threat mesmerized Stacy.
“You won’t if I have anything to say about it.” A cool male voice brought the silver-eyed woman up short and the fog lifted from Stacy’s mind.
Aaron Fielding stood before her dressed in casual jeans and a gray, cable knit sweater. He seemed right at home here among the students, and yet somehow he also stood apart.
The air shifted. Stacy could have sworn his leather coat, for just an instant, took on the shape of a golden eagle’s wings.
A high-pitched whine scraped from the silver-eyed woman’s throat. Taking Aaron in, she cocked her head. A bemused smile spread across her face, as if at some private joke.
Aaron retrieved an item from his coat. At first, Stacy thought the object might be a baton. A hint of blue light flickered between his fingers, barely there; almost hidden by the glare of the courtyard lights. Then the object changed shape and substance, wood to steel. The innocuous baton became a sword.
“Now, wait!” Stacy jumped to her feet and caught the baton before it bashed the woman’s face in.
Aaron grasped Stacy’s upraised hand and thrust her behind him. “For your own good, don’t interfere.”
Miss Silver Eyes screamed. Steel glinted from her fists as she rushed headlong at Aaron.
He raised the weapon while muttering something in a foreign language.
An explosion of light split the air. A blue starburst flashed at the edges of Stacy’s vision. Cringing and blinking in the brightness, she saw that the woman, hands outstretched, had gone utterly still.
Stacy frowned as she studied the woman, wondering what happened.
Aaron turned back to the silver-eyed woman, grasped her arm, and whispered in her ear. Her feet began to move, one step, then another, as a zombie might—unseeing and stiff in posture. Aaron kept a hand on her back, leading her to the entrance. He opened the gate and shoved her through, then slammed it shut with an Irish curse. He proceeded to mutter something, tracing a finger along the gate’s edge.
His words reminded Stacy of something out of Chaucer. Azure light danced around the gate’s perimeter.
Aaron turned to face her. “This should never have happened,” he said. “Forgive me, Stacy.”
Surprised to see his medallion glowing with a soft reddish-golden light and his eyes an unearthly shade of green, Stacy gasped.
Aaron shook his head. “We were lax in our vigilance, and this intrusion never should’ve been allowed.”
His gaze came back to hers. The glow in his eyes was gone. Had she hallucinated?
“I give you my solemn vow that I’ll do everything in my power to see it doesn’t happen again.”
Shaking, she recalled the fables she’d heard all her life about women and fated love with mystery men. Was the tale just the stuff of silly bedtime stories? Was Aaron merely defending her from an attacker as any gentleman might? Or did his purpose spring from something other than chivalry?
Taking her hands, he tried to soothe her. “These grounds have been violated,” he said. His expression melted into a solemn frown. “And we’ve work to do to restore the safeguards. If you’ll come with me, we can get down to the business of ensuring that.”
Safeguards? Stacy couldn’t believe her ears. Work to restore the safeguards?
Oh, God. Oh, God! Why now? Would that her whole life could’ve passed without having to hear those words.
Yet, she knew what he said was true, and reached out to him. Stacy’s breath caught in her throat as he raised her hands to his biceps. His expression held a combination of intensity and passion. Her heart raced.
His voice, a mixture of seduction and gravel, rumbled through her. “Hold on tight. I don’t want to lose you along the way.”
The lights at the corners of the courtyard flared. Digging her nails into Aaron’s arms, Stacy squinted. They glided upward, and she looked down, disbelieving what she saw. They floated above the floor as if they’d become no more than a puff of smoke.
The puff thinned, stretched out in the light, blinding her as it blended along the spectrum. A thin whining sound screamed in her ear. She shot along its frequency, until she felt she was one with the universal energy pulsing through her, until all she saw turned to white darkness that seemed to go on forever.