Authors: Kathy Morgan
|Number I of|
Celtic Magic Trilogy
|Dreamweaver Publishing LLC (2014)|
In this present-day tale of magic, Irish-born Arianna Sullivan is raised in the States following her mother’s mysterious death. On the night her father dies, he appears to her with cryptic instructions to return to her birthplace. Upon her arrival in Ireland, she finds her fate intricately intertwined with that of a tall, dark and enigmatic Irishman: a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to someone she grew up with. In her dreams.
Caleb MacNamara is the Chief Brehon of the Túatha de Danann. Plagued by a primeval enchantment, the males of their race are forbidden to mate with a mere mortal women—the penalty for doing so, the woman’s gruesome death. After three thousand years, the evil geis has reached its deadline. And unless a mortal woman appears and succeeds in an impossible quest, a demonic abomination will be released upon all humankind.
When Caleb meets Arianna, he recognizes the little mortal as the woman who has haunted his nights. Could the lucid dreams mean she’s the woman foreshadowed by the sacred scrolls? And have the Fates chosen him to champion her against Anathema, the Beast shackled by a divine slumber, buried deep within the bowels of the earth? If so, he knows he’ll have to control his ravening lust for the girl...or risk killing her himself.
First Book in the
CELTIC MAGIC TRILOGY
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, incidents, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States by Dreamweaver Publishing, Atlanta, Georgia
Copyright 2014 by Kathy Morgan Rosenthal
ISBN 13: 978-0692288634 (Dreamweaver Publishing)
ISBN 10: 0692288635
All rights reserved/ This book, or any portion thereof, may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever, without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover design by Diana Buidoso
Cover Model by Boko Great
Interior layout by Thomas White
Author photo by Paige Sweany
I dedicate this book to you, Mom.
The One who taught me a love for words from my earliest childhood, The One who told me to Follow My Dreams, and The One upon whose unconditional love I could always depend.
I love you.
First, I would like to thank my sister, Judy Giovannetti, who read, edited, RE-read and RE-edited each draft of the manuscript for this book with the never-ending patience that only a sister can possess. Thank you, Sis, for believing in me all the way. You’re the greatest!
Second, I offer my sincere appreciation to my brilliant son, Eli Price, who used his sharp eye and detail-oriented line-edit skills to discover typos, question sentence structure and syntax, and spot places on the page where even a simple space was missing. Thanks, honey.
Many thanks goes out also to Amy, Carol, Kim, Laurie, Praty, and all the girls at the Diagnostic Clinic who passed around the first draft of this book, offering this new author much needed encouragement for the journey ahead.
he night was sick with evil. The dark man could almost taste its wickedness on his tongue. He considered the mere mortal woman from his place in the vision. She was staring blindly over the windswept cliff, the encroaching thunderstorm tearing at her clothes and hair like a violent lover. A man, of sorts, he could feel his body stirring as the rising winds molded her gown to each soft, feminine curve. Her head tipped slightly downward. Her gaze fixed upon rioting waves reminiscent of a watery leviathan, spewing froth and foam over the rocky outcroppings far below. Though the pallid moonlight draped her in a gray silhouette, it could not conceal her identity. Nor did it hide the fact that her reappearance in his troubling dreams could mean only one thing.
The Waking Madness had begun.
A tremor of unease skated down his spine as a profane shadow rolled across the vault of heaven. The scudding thunderclouds painted a dismal portrait over a sky that had been bright and star-studded only a short while before.
The night grew cold and darker still. Veins of fire lit the heavens. The wind’s screaming exhales threatened to lift the woman from her feet and toss her into the sea below. A stab of light slashed a paltry break in the thunderclouds, and the vision before the man shuddered and changed. Now his eyes were fixed upon an ancient gravesite, the 5,000-year-old dolmen that had stood, grim and forbidding, upon the gradient hillside of his property from prehistoric times. But now, stealing from its mist-enshrouded depths, he could make out sinister shadows.
From beneath the mantle of darkness covering the land a profound and somber silence fell. The total absence of sound brought an unnatural vigilance to the woodland’s night creatures, quieting their squabbles even as it quelled their instinctive hunt for prey.
As if even the wild things knew.
It was nigh on the stroke of midnight on the Eve of Samhain…the Night of the Waking Dream, boundary of the Imaginal. On this one night each year the veil separating the spirit and natural worlds grew thinnest; and the portal to the realm of the underworld opened wide.
He heard it then: the distant tolling. The clock of the ages was sounding the alarm—a dire warning to all of humankind. The Abomination of Desolation, the Ancient Evil that had first been measured in millennia, and then in centuries and decades, would now be restrained but by a single year.
The countdown to the Day of the Awakening had begun.
A groaning arose deep within the man’s spirit, for he knew well the signs and the times. And that the slumbering Beast imprisoned deep within the bowels of the earth, in a netherworld beneath the void of eternal separation, had at last begun to Dream. Anathema, the creature was called, a being so damnable that throughout the ages his proper name had been spoken guardedly…and then only in the most solemn of whispers.
And as the Prince of Demons dreamt of the Awakening, a suffocating wave of despair rolled across the earth, flooding the hearts of man. Tempers flared. Docile husbands snapped and struck their wives. Children woke from night terrors, screaming of monsters in the night. Untold violence erupted across the globe with reports of murder and mayhem increasing a thousand fold. And through it all the desperate ones, those without hope, the lonely and the desolate, fought increasingly oppressive battles with the darkness invading their minds. And with the hypnotic voice that whispered, as if in benediction. “Take your life. Find rest for your soul. Death is peace, peace. Peace.”
As if powered by the tidal wave of wickedness, the robed spirits drifting from the passage tomb began to take shape and form in the ether. These descendents of the Beast, progeny of the giants spoken of in Genesis, moved en masse to a nearby faerie grove. There in a clearing that had stood bare for thousands of years, where no blade of grass, no tree or shrub, had been able to grow, the specters’ voices rose on the icy wind. Chanting blasphemies so profane they fouled the air, tainted the very heavens with heresy, the group encircled a rectangular slab of stone.
And there, the sacrificial altar in their midst, its pitted surface forever stained with the blood of innocents, began to well up and drip anew.
* * *
Arianna Sullivan awoke with a start, her heart hammering against her ribcage, every sense on alert. Adrenaline coursed through her veins like liquid fire.
Someone was in the room.
She forced her body to relax, her breathing slow and rhythmic, feigning sleep. From beneath her eyelashes, she searched the room’s shifting shadows, until she spotted the intruder in front of the window, a dark silhouette backlit by the light of a full moon. As he edged around the foot of her bed, moving stealthily in her direction, she called upon her many years of training in the martial arts. Centering herself, she measured his progress. One step, two. But just as she prepared to strike, he passed through a shaft of moonlight spilling through a crack in the curtains.
Blowing out a loud breath, she pushed up onto her elbow. A groggy glance at the glowing blue dial on her alarm clock revealed it was three-ten a.m.
“Daddy? What’s wrong? What are you doing here at this hour?” Her voice raspy from sleep, she cleared her throat. “Geez, Da, you shouldn’t sneak up on me like that. I was just about to jump up and beat the living daylights out of you.”
Arianna punched her pillow into a ball and stuffed it behind her back. Scooting her legs over, she made room for her father to sit down. The mattress on the full-size sleigh bed sagged beneath his weight. With a forlorn sigh, he reached over and swept the sleep-tangled hair away from her brow. It was something he had done often when she was a child. Why, she wondered, did that sweet, simple gesture leave her feeling so sad?
Her father didn’t say a word. He just kept sitting there in that brooding silence, a beseeching look in his smoky gray eyes. Unease descended over her now like a dark veil, a smothering, queasy sense of loss.
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to shake the feeling off. But then—like scenes from an old silent movie—jerky, fragmented images began to project against the back of her eyelids.
There was a mad rush to the hospital, the cloying scents of alcohol and antiseptic. And then a doctor’s grim face filled the surreal movie screen. Although Arianna could see his lips moving, the incessant buzzing in her ears drowned out his words.
Finally, a word here, a phrase there, began to filter through the white noise. “Your father…cerebral aneurysm…brain hemorrhage… Did all we could.”
All we could? Her body numb, mind gone blank, Arianna began to shiver. As if the planet had suddenly tilted on its axis, the room seemed to dip and swirl. It took one slow revolution, and then another, faster and faster. Like a nightmarish merry-go-round, the waiting room revolved around her, the off-white walls spinning until everything faded into a dizzying blur.
She bent over, gagged up bile.
Willing herself to back out of the terrifying vision, Arianna was shaken to the core. She searched her father’s face for answers, but found herself blinking, unable to focus on his eyes. Here, in the moonspun darkness, his features seemed insubstantial somehow, his profile all wavy and flickering like a defective hologram.
Arianna scrubbed at her arms, only now aware of just how icy cold the room had become. Anchoring her duvet beneath her chin, she had to lock her jaws together to keep her teeth from chattering.
“What’s wrong, Daddy? Tell me you’re okay.” Her whispered plea frosted the air between them. His response was a sad look of regret. And more silence. “Please, Da. You’re starting to
Now, Sean Sullivan was an Irishman, born and bred, and his many years in the States had done nothing to mellow his hearty Irish brogue. Which was why, as he finally began to speak, the difference in his speech pattern seemed so glaring. His tone was far too soft, his voice almost whispery. The sound of a cold winter wind soughing through the branches of a naked tree, Arianna reasoned, the thought further chilling her to the bone.
Leaning forward, she strained to hear what he was saying, but could make out only two words. “The truth? Is that what you said, Da? But the truth about
For a brief moment, what looked like frustration tightened his lips. But then his solemn gaze seemed to intensify. It was crazy. Arianna would have sworn his lips weren’t moving. Strangely, though, she could hear him clearly now.
“Forgive me, pet, for the things I was after keeping from you. Things I should have made known to you long ago. Wasn’t I only trying to protect you, love, but now, sure… God knows, I didn’t expect—I thought we still had plenty of time...”
“What are you talking about? Da, you know, you really are starting to freak me out.”
“Listen to me carefully now, child, for I’ve been granted only a moment to spend with you, to instruct you in what you must do,”
he continued, the urgency in his eyes sealing her lips. “
You’ve to go home to Ireland, Arianna, go back where you belong. For it’s there your future will intersect with your past, and light the way to your destiny.”
This sounded too much like “goodbye,” she thought, grief like a serrated blade carving her heart from her chest. Arianna fell into her father’s arms. “
Don’t go. Don’t leave me!”
He held her for a moment and then gently set her away, pity darkening his gaze.
“Follow your heart, me love, and open your eyes of faith. Though there’ll be much you don’t understand, remember, always remember, what our dear Lord said. That He has other sheep not of our fold.”
With one long last lingering look, he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.
, she told herself as his large, warm hand encompassed hers. She felt him press something small and hard into her palm and curl her fingers around it.
“Know that I’ll always love you, pet. And since I’ll be with God, I’m ever only a prayer away.”
With his final words a whisper of breath in the air between them, her father rose from the bed and began to cross the room, moving in a kind of gliding motion, his feet levitating several inches above the floor.
A nightmare, that’s what this is
, Arianna told herself, locked in full denial, even as the bedroom walls became transparent, revealing an ethereal glow emanating from the other side. Drawn toward this light, as a piece of steel to a magnet, her father passed through what should have been stucco and wood. Even with the otherworldly beauty of the world drawing him away from her, however, her precious father looked back longingly, as if mapping her face with his eyes one last time.
He looks so young
. Unspeakable joy lit up his countenance. Of course, Arianna thought, his one true love. The mother she had never known must have come to help him cross over to the other side. But then, before her eyes, her father moved into the embrace of a shining being of pure white Light. Melding, joining, his very essence became one with that glorious Presence, who pulsed like the beating of a human heart.
As the walls became three-dimensional once more, Arianna sank back heavily into her pillow. Still in denial. “A nightmare,” she kept repeating. “Just another lucid dream.” Although admittedly, this waking dream was substantially different from the many others that had plagued her since childhood.
Exhausted, she scrubbed at her gritty eyes with the back of a balled-up fist.
Wait, what’s this?
she wondered, referring to a small object clutched tightly in her hand. Sharp-edged and metallic, it brought her back to the moment Da had kissed her goodbye.
Turning her hand palm upward, she uncurled her fingers and stared in bemusement.
Cradled in her outstretched hand, all scratched and tarnished, was an old skeleton key.
A key Arianna had never seen before in her life.