Authors: Rena Marks
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Born Again Copyright© 2007 Rena Marks
Edited by Helen Woodall.
Photography and cover art by Les Byerley.
Electronic book Publication: April 2007
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by
any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave
Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,
living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The
characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Dedicated to The Soapbox Divas, the world’s greatest
critique partners, who told me I could do anything, and so I did.
Special thanks to my editor Helen Woodall, who has the
patience of a saint.
Gwynneth was literally sick to her stomach. Her heart felt
like a chunk of stone, the heaviness pressing on her lungs until she couldn’t
breathe. To compound the breathing problem, she couldn’t inhale past the
swollen lump in her throat. This reality was so difficult to witness. Would it
be over soon? That was all she wanted, to finish it quickly so she could move
on to another place and time.
She heard yelling in the distance, growing louder and
louder, so she knew they were coming closer. She drew the foliage of the
overgrown bush she hid in more tightly around her withered old body.
Then they arrived, with great heavy sticks made for walking
and torches already lit, the flames burning angrily as the smoke curled densely
through the air. At the head of the crowd strode the priest, proud and
self-righteous. He alone entered the hut and forced the two women outside.
Lovely women, one with deep red hair, the other with raven
locks. Two gentle, loving women who had never hurt a fly. Their only sin—leaving
the church and rejecting the priest.
Gwynneth couldn’t make out all the words being said, but she
knew the angry mob demanded the ex-nuns confess to the charge of witchcraft.
The crowd dragged the sobbing women out into the middle of
the field to await their doom. After all, the church wouldn’t want the hut to
catch on fire because with no one left to claim the property, it would revert
to the priest.
Actually, only one woman sobbed. The redheaded woman was
slightly dazed and it was understandable. She’d just lost her lover not two
Knowing it was time to cast the spell, Gwynneth prayed, so
quietly she was impossible to hear.
“Great Goddess Hecate, hear my words. Now it begins. It is
time for the pieces to be set into motion, past, present and future. Intermingle
the paths, weave the settings, block the stench of evil—”
Her eyes popped open when one of the frenzied men in the
crowd nearly backed into her. With a startled glare, he raised the torch to
shine into the bush.
“Who goes there?”
Another voice in the crowd laughed nervously. “’Tis only the
old woman. Harmless and brainless. Hung out a lot with the witches.”
Gwynneth knew what the man was thinking. Why wasn’t the old
woman to be burned with them?
She turned her eyes to him. Startled, he jumped back. Gwynneth
knew the reaction well, for her eyes were odd-colored. A yellowish-green,
almost catlike, familiar to her and those she loved.
But the eyes frightened people. They truly believed she was
And true witches weren’t burned, they were avoided at all
Sara Michaels fingered the gloss of the tarot card in the
dimly lit room. Her touch lightly skimmed the slick surface, the familiarity of
the cards soothing her out-of-control nerves. The scent of a vanilla candle
burned, the one fragrance that pulled at Sara’s soul, triggering joyous
feelings from deep within. It was silly how she had such a weird fascination
for vanilla candles, but she always had. As long as she could remember.
“Well, what do you see?” The woman, as persistent as ever,
leaned in eagerly.
“Shh,” Sara reminded. “Patience or we won’t get a full
But her inner self was starting to pleasantly drift away,
her consciousness becoming thick and heavy. She felt her head loll about and
she stroked the polished card that she’d flipped over.
A beautiful woman looked up at her from the tarot, swirling
long red hair with striking, melting brown eyes. She wore a long white dress,
but the top half was pushed down to her waist, exposing small, exquisitely
Sara never connected the card with her own image.
* * * * *
“Sara,” called the nagging voice, snapping her from her
“Mmm?” she mumbled, preoccupied still.
“Back to the present, sweetie,” said Mrs. Alizo. Sara’s boss
frowned at her, her gray hair sticking out in frazzled clumps from the
humidity. It was Monday morning and Sara felt more distracted than usual.
“Sorry,” Sara said, a bright smile transforming her face. “It’s
the rain. It distracts me.”
That and the fact that she’d hardly slept after last night’s
Sara worked part-time using her psychic gifts and abilities
to offer readings in the apartment building where she resided.
She really didn’t want to do last night’s reading on Mattie
Webb, but the woman’s forceful personality coupled with her offers of money had
Sara going against her instincts. Mattie lived in the same apartment building,
so it was difficult to avoid her.
During the reading, Sara had an episode, an uncontrolled
flash into someone else’s life.
She watched two beautiful, nude bodies making love. One
male, one female. Her consciousness was stuck somewhere on the ceiling of the
ancient, candlelit castle. While she couldn’t see the male very well in the
darkened room she could tell he was extremely muscular, with skin the color of
honey. The woman was writhing on top of him, her creamy skin pale in contrast
to his. Her red hair was long, waving down to her waist and she held his wrists
up over their heads. Watching like a perverted Peeping Tom, Sara was sucked
into a vortex, straight down so fast she couldn’t catch her breath, right into
the woman’s body.
The sensations with the faceless man were so incredible, so
right, that Sara could only enjoy the moment, stealing the other woman’s
pleasure for a little while.
When the deep, husky masculine voice called out his
companion’s name, it shocked Sara clean out of her body.
For the name he called was Sara.
It rolled from his tongue with an accent, though. As if he
pronounced it “Serra”.
When she returned to the present, Mattie had disappeared and
Sara sat alone in the darkened laundry facilities of her building’s basement,
her tarot cards spread before her. Her thoughts as tumbled as the cards, her
breathing harsh and no doubt her cheeks pink.
“…I got another phone order for Beauregard Pierson. Usually
Mike prepares his meals and delivers, but he’s off on the Smytheson order. Will
you fill in, please? Beau needs this right away for a party,” Mrs. Alizo was
“He must throw more parties than anyone I know. The man is a
major account here. He’ll send every one of my children to college.”
“I’ll get to it,” Sara assured her and then walked to the
front of the small shop, punching a few buttons on the computer to print out Beau’s
Sara had worked at Simply Dinner Solutions for several
months now. The company planned several meals for the week, printed out the
recipes and supplied all of the prepared ingredients.
A modern-day convenience, a client merely had to walk in,
choose which recipes they wanted and shop right there for those already
prepared ingredients in the recipe. It was extremely successful in this day and
age of working parents, but once in a while you ended up with an eccentric like
Beau usually phoned in his orders, having them filled in the
shop and delivered to his home. Mrs. Alizo thought it was for frequent dinner
parties, since he was obviously a very wealthy bachelor. Sara had seen him
before, from a distance, but Mike Johnson was the one who always filled his
order, delivered his meals and then returned with gossip.
Mike was quick to volunteer, since he was more than interested
in Beau. He gushed on and on about how wonderful Beau was, how handsome, how
muscular, how rich. Unfortunately for him, Perfect Beau was straight. Which
only seemed to egg Mike on, like a challenge. As though he could convert him. Of
course, Mike was a little bit crazy.
It was the main reason why everyone stepped back and let him
take care of Beau, as if he were his personal property.
* * * * *
“That reality did not work, Serra.” Gwynneth wrung her
hands, a nervous gesture that did nothing to ease the ache that still twisted
in her soul. To keep herself busy, she reached for Serra’s long red waves and
began to expertly braid them, quick and nimble, a feat she’d performed
“What was the end result?”
“Burning at the stake.”
Although she couldn’t see her face, Serra knew just by the
lack of emotion in Gwynneth’s voice that it was painful for her to watch and
horrible to recollect.
“Just me?” Her voice was a whisper.
“Nay. Both of you.”
“Then we will try the other reality.”
* * * * *
The door chimed just as the order printed. Sara ripped the
thermal paper from the machine as footsteps stopped in front of her.
Her normal “May I help you” stopped in her throat at the
sight before her.
The man in front of her stood at least six foot two, light
skin contrasted with black hair which complemented the palest green eyes. The
color was so clear, you could see almost through them. He was abnormally
handsome, with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist. She was tempted to
walk around him to check out his rear view. The lightest stubble adorned his
jaw, dark against his pale complexion. The very kind that drove her wild.
Staring at him caused a sense of recognition to shoot
through her, but was gone before she could grasp it fully. Before her puzzled
brain wished it to be gone. It was almost like she knew him. How could she
possibly know the beautiful creature standing before her?
It was last night’s confusion with the tarot, that’s what it
was. He only appeared familiar because she had been in a stranger’s persona
last night. Although, last night’s man had been a tanned mountain of muscle.
* * * * *
Aric Ishee stared at the woman in disbelief. His soul
recognized her immediately. What were the chances that he’d finally found her?
And before Beauregard did?
Pure chance that he happened upon her in this shop. He
stared longingly at her creamy skin, the dark red of her hair exactly the same
as it had been all those centuries ago. Her eyes, the color of the melted
chocolate that he remembered, for the slow ticking of time did nothing to erase
that vision from his recollection.
Her lush, red lips. The memory of them soothing his cock so
His organ stiffened in remembrance, straining against his
zipper as the material bulged.
“May I help you?” Sara smiled hesitantly, making him aware
that he stared like a madman.
So she doesn
t remember me
, Aric thought. Just
as well, she wouldn’t scare off this time.
“My name’s Aric Ishee. I’m having a small dinner party
tonight and noticed your place here. I thought to try my hand at preparing
dinner instead of doing my usual catered party.” He gave her his most charming
smile and she took the bait, seeming instantly at ease.
“I’m Sara,” she said, her greeting smile blossoming into a
full, real one, curving those sensuous lips. “I’ll show you how it operates
She reached in front him for a stack of printed menus, her
scent wafting across his nose. As if unaware of her effect on his senses, she
held one up for him to take. Reaching again across him, she opened it and pointed
out the weekly menus.
“What were you thinking of fixing?”
“Lasagna, I think,” he said, quickly scanning the meals on
“That’s a good choice,” she complimented. “The brochure
tells you how much that dish costs, how much you need to feed how many people
and which recipe to grab. The recipe itself tells you exactly how to prepare
it, which sides to fix, which wine complements the meal, everything you need.”
“Not everything,” he murmured.
She raised a brow, encouraging him to go on.
“I need a date.”
He regretted his words when her face shut down. Once again,
he turned on the charm.
“I’m the host. My other friends are a couple and want me to
be. Hence the dinner party.” He allowed his face to wash with sorrow. “My wife
passed quite a few years ago. I don’t date. I merely need a compassionate
someone who understands that while my friends have good intentions, it becomes
a little trying for them to always fix me up.”
He’d hooked her. He played the poor widower trump card and
caught her interest again. He saw the quick pity that swept across her face,
before interest took over once more.
Poor Sara would have no idea that his wife’s death had been
extremely long ago and that she was that woman. Stolen by his enemy Beauregard
Sara had wandered off to another buffet and motioned for him
“Okay, so we take you over to the food preparation. How many
guests will you need to feed?”
“Four, including…my date.”
She smiled hesitantly and let that one pass. “Easy enough,
especially with lasagna. We grab the menu, here and see how it lists all of
your ingredients? Notice the amounts? We fill these little containers with the
exact measurements, then there’s no measuring at home. You prepare everything
knowing it’s all the right amounts. Are you having any side dishes? Dessert?”
“Depends on whether or not you’ll help me out. I’d like to
make your favorite chocolate delight in exchange for your assistance. No
strings attached. Just pretend that you and I are actually dating, so my
friends won’t be worried about me still being an unattached bachelor. Nothing
More on the pity factor. Sara had always been a sucker for a
sob story, it was written into her basic makeup.
“Well, I don’t have plans tonight,” she said hesitantly.
“And you have to eat.”
She smiled. “I do have to eat.”
“My meal will be all prepared,” he teased playfully.
But something nagged at Sara, something he’d said. Her
favorite chocolate dessert. How did he know she loved chocolate? The hairs on
her arms stood on end and she looked at him warily.
“How do you know what my favorite dessert is?” she asked.
His handsome face looked worried for the slightest bit
before it smoothed. “Isn’t every woman’s favorite chocolate? Should I not have
Sara took a deep breath and went against the usual caution
that she carried on her shoulder like a chip. The defenses she kept up to
cushion her sensitive psychic abilities, because it was no fun knowing that
people were disgusted with you for being different. She could avoid “reading”
him when she sensed that he lied. For once, she could act like a normal human
being. “Okay. I’ll help you out.”
He smiled, a devastating look that made her forget to
breathe. He reached into a pocket to pull out his card. “If you’ll write down
your address, I’ll send my car for you.”
Send a car? She’d never before had a car sent. It was enough
to make her reach for the pen and scribble her address on one of his cards
without thinking of the consequences of giving personal information to a
complete stranger. He took the card and placed it in his pocket.
He handed her another card. “So you can call me.”
She took the card. It was another sign of wealth. It was
heavy, the paper textured. Very unlike the dime-a-dozen cards printed for the
He paid and she bade him goodbye and watched him walk out
the door, not once caring that he could turn around and catch her stare. Then
she went about filling her order for Beauregard Pierson. She was actually happy
with the decision to go out with a stranger. She felt brave and daring for once
in her life. Much like the other redheaded woman from her vision. The one who
had been in bed with a handsome, but different man. Because that was the
feeling she had gotten when she was in the woman’s body, that the faceless
lover was different from the woman somehow. Maybe he was married, maybe it was
a racial thing. She could delve into the mystery more, but damn. It was time to
get her own life on track instead of worrying over someone else’s.
Once the groceries were sacked and tallied to Pierson’s
bill, she loaded her car with the purchases and consulted her map, figuring
exactly where Beauregard Pierson’s house was.
Posh side of town
he tips well
* * * * *
Sara had to balance one bag of groceries to ring the bell
and to her surprise the door opened on its own.
She stepped over the threshold, the bags in her arms. The
house was large and lovely and obviously very bachelor. A bachelor with a
housekeeper, because she couldn’t imagine a man scrubbing the expanse of floors
or dusting the antiques that were casually placed about the room as if they
were normal, everyday furniture.