Authors: Charlene A. Wilson
Oracle Bay Books
Copyright © 2012 Charlene A. Wilson
All rights reserved
Cover Artist: Charlene A. Wilson
Editor: Susan Davis
Published in the United States of America
In memory of my father, Albert Joseph Reeves, who called me Papa’s Sweetheart even when I wasn’t so sweet.
One for Kami
Can love be true if shared with more than one? Kami doesn’t think so when she finds Ian is an elite and required to take three wives to eliminate the poverty-stricken population. Why can’t he be poor the way she thought he was when she fell in love with him?
Determined to find a realm that doesn’t have such dictates, she travels to dimension Three-Two-Three to begin her search. But is love truer in a place that only allows one spouse than it is in Ian’s heart?
~ * ~
“Love can show itself in all kinds of ways.
The kicker is accepting it for what it is.”
What they’re saying
“The Queen of Romance and True Love, Charlene A. Wilson, spins a unique, heartfelt tale of a girl looking for the One.”—
Anastasia V. Pergakis
“Sweet, romantic, and heartfelt. A great introduction to the author’s world.”—
J.D. Brown Book Club
“One for Kami is a story that will have you willing to give up everything for your one true love.”—
Annette, Gothic Mom’s Book Reviews
Table of Contents
Kami’s blouse bunched up her back as she slid down the wide oak’s trunk. Bark grazed her skin and snagged her hair with its aged layers until her bottom hit the ground. She cringed at the sharp pangs. Folding her knees to her chest, she buried her face in her arms and welcomed the punishment. Hurting Ian pained her more than anything she’d done in her life.
Autumn leaves crunched beneath his footsteps as he paced the woodland’s small clearing. Each stride matched two beats of her heart and crushed the sweet memories of their grove. Dust scented the air as he shuffled into a turn.
“Why are you just now telling me this?” His breath hitched and he cleared his throat.
Words wouldn’t form as Kami lifted her gaze.
Setting his hands at his slender waist, his hazel gaze shifted to the shadows of the young birch trees. A cloud of insects drifted through the pale trunks, soft hums filling the air as they paused. Wiping his hand across his strong jaw, he looked back at her.
“You know I love you, Kami.”
Tears stung as they seeped beneath her lids and she blinked to relieve the burn. “I need to be the only one, Ian. I can’t know you might love someone else more than me when you choose another wife.”
She lowered her gaze to the thick roots that surrounded her. They wove within the caramel-colored ground, creating a perfect lounge for two lovers in an embrace. How many times had they sat there and shared their secrets, their love? How many times had he told her she was the one, the only one? She cursed the fact that she was gullible enough to believe it could be true.
Kami forced her voice through her tight throat. “When I first saw you, you were playing with that scruffy looking little dog in the park. Its hair was so long and matted I thought you couldn’t afford to pay a groomer. I thought that sock with the knot in it was all you could come up with to be his toy.”
He lowered his gaze. “That stray lives at the park and I removed my sock to have some fun with him.”
“I know that
. But then I assumed you were poor. And after the third date of peanut butter sandwich picnics by the river, I thought I knew for certain. I mean, who could love peanut butter that much? And what member of the elite class prefers such a simple activity for a date?”
She scanned his solemn countenance. His love of nature was one of the things she adored about him, alongside the fact that he didn’t feel the need to flaunt his wealth. But to keep such a fact from her under the circumstances… “I fell in love with you, believing you would make me the one choice you were allowed as a member of the lower class.”
A gust of wind lifted his black hair to dance around his face. The cheery motion seemed to mock his lips as they dipped into a deep frown. “If it were up to me, I’d have only you. Can’t you believe that? I’ve waited, pushed the age limit to wed, looking for the right one to be my first. My
, Kami. The others will never mean what you do to me.”
“If you really love me, you’d want me alone. No other. Period.” Frustration bubbled in her chest at her misconception of their love.
He tilted his head and bit his lips together. “I can’t help that I was born an elite. If it were possible…”
“If it were possible, what? You’d give up your birthright and join the ranks of the vagabonds who can’t afford food for the one wife and child they’re allowed? Or you’d buck the system and refuse to wed the other two? That would only land you earthbound, exiled to a foreign dimension, and stripped of everything but the clothes you wear. And while you’re considering it, I’d advise you to wear a thick coat and heavy boots because I hear they choose some pretty rough climates for those who refuse to live by this law.”
The sarcastic response rolled off her tongue before she realized it, but she didn’t care. It wasn’t right. None of the counsel’s decisions on eliminating poverty was. The lower class weds one spouse and bears only one child while the elite must choose three and produce as many offspring that would come to them? It was absurd.
Find another way to spread the wealth than through inheritance.
She looked at him, and her voice rose with her exclamation. “I can’t stay here and conform to the laws of this dimension. Not when I know there are other places that don’t require such things. I need the freedom to love whomever I want whoever they are, without the stipulation of a quota. And if that means transferring, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“If your mother was alive…”
“Well, she’s not.” Kami scowled. She had expected him to try to bring her mother into this, but it hurt just the same. “But, I can’t believe she wouldn’t want me to be happy. She was one of a quota, Ian, one that had only one child. Father’s attention stayed on the others.”
Ian’s broad shoulders lifted as he took a deep breath and sent his gaze back to the trees.
“I’m leaving for a six-month stay in Three-Two-Three. With me gone, you’ll be free to start your family before you turn twenty-five. I won’t stand in your way to fulfill your obligation. You’ll have time to find a woman that will happily live by the law.” Her voice lowered to a mumble. “And I won’t have to see you do it.”
Ian’s heavy brow furrowed and his dark lashes narrowed his gaze. “And what will happen if you find someone while you’re there? That realm doesn’t know we exist, Kami. What will you tell him when you leave every six months to come back to renew your travel rights?”
“When I choose someone, it will be because our love is true. He’ll understand I need some time away.”
His mouth dropped open and he shook his head. “What love that’s true has those kinds of secrets?” A scowl crossed his face and he drew his hand through the air. “And what makes you think a love there would be truer than my love here?”
“They choose only one. They pledge their hearts and it lasts a lifetime.”
“Promises can be broken whichever realm you’re in.” Orange and yellow leaves scattered as he marched across the small tract and sunk to the ground before her. Taking her hands in his, he looked into her eyes. “Stay here. Marry me. Be my elite choice. There can be only one first time, and I want it to be you.
Let it be enough.
It took all of Kami’s strength to look away. She clenched her jaw, trying to control the hiccup that would surely release a sob.
Ian shook his head and his voice lowered to a plea. “Please, Kami. Don’t go.”
She pinched her lips together and the hiccup forced its way to her throat. Snatching her breath, she kept it silent, but it jarred her into action. “The consort has already granted my leave. I’ve taken the training and temporary employment is waiting for me. If I can make it work, I’ll arrange to stay longer.”
The frank tone of her voice gave her strength as she stood. “Goodbye, Ian.”
Ian’s hands slowly released her as he rose and stepped back. His square jaw flexed. “Never say goodbye. This isn’t the end.”
Tearing her gaze from his hazel eyes, Kami focused her thoughts on the Inter-dimensional Courtyard. A wave of heat sizzled through her veins as her elements prepared to shift through space. The scene before her distorted and a soft fizz buzzed in her ears as she synced into the atrium.
Keagan, you’re late.”
The voice fluttered through Kami’s senses as she solidified in the spacious atrium. Drawing a deep breath, her lungs filled with the smell of antiseptic and lavender. How anyone could expect the artificial floral scent to lessen the staunch odor she would never know. The aroma wafted from the circular fountain at the center. The design spiraled upward as if to reach the crown of the steel beams and glass ceiling, the spurts falling to a clear bowl-shaped base. A flurry of activity surrounded them as travelers and advisors headed from the hub through the web of paths that led to their transport sites.
She turned to her advisor’s image. Even though his hologram stood on a six-inch stage, the man’s head reached her shoulders at best. She had a perfect view of his cheap toffee-colored toupee.
If he’d gone a shade lighter, it might not be so bad.
“I’m sorry Henson. I needed to say good-bye.”
He nodded and pushed his black-rimmed glasses up his narrow nose. They obviously didn’t fit right, and Kami wondered if he didn’t have the money to purchase better items or it wasn’t on his list of priorities. Regardless, he held himself with a confident demeanor.
“Well, they’re on standby at transport
. Your baggage has been sent and placed in your temporary stay. Escorts are waiting to show you around.”
Kami blew a long stream of air through her lips and then allowed her nod to confirm her readiness.
Cocking his head to the side, he motioned toward the North-East facility. His starched lab coat swung like a bell as he leaned into his steps along the
runway. She imagined his black trousers banging against the sides with a deep
and the white glow that pulsed on the platform beneath each step could serve as a drum’s beat. Seeing the action as musical interlude lightened her mood and made it easier to keep pace on her way to her life-changing decision to leave.
As she entered the transport room, a sense of new beginnings blossomed in her heart. Amaryllis lined the right side of the cobbled path in shades of red and pink. A three-tier fountain stood among a spray of green and yellow ivy, the trellis wall curving to enclose the setting in a cozy nook. Tree ferns slumped beside it, blocking out much of the light from the few bobbles that peeked from beneath the throng—not that they were needed, Henson’s specialized trail gleamed to the left and highlighted the walkway plenty.
He led the way to a small clearing in the middle of the arboretum. A silvery glow rose at the center like a magical globe sliced in half by a pool of achromatic liquid. Though his path met the low platform, he halted before the circular stage. Kami’s heart skipped. Pinching her lips together, she ran her hands down her stomach to settle her nerves.
Henson turned and clasped his hands in front of him. “
Keagan, you’ve been found deserving of this transfer to plane Three-Two-Three for the requested six month leave. Keep the laws of this privilege at the forefront of your mind at all times.” He shoved his oblong glasses up his nose and lifted his chin to look at her through the spectacles. “You’ve been through briefing. Do you have any final questions?”
Kami heaved a sigh and shook her head, looking back at the argent circle.
“Very well.” At the little man’s nod, a pillar of blue and gray light issued from the base, silver sparks dancing through the bright illuminations. He held out a hand, motioning for her to proceed. “Should you wish to return before your allotted time, come back to the arboretum and hail dimension Two-Eight-Five-Henson. Be certain it is what you want to do. Not fulfilling your obligation set by the consort will blacken our credibility. And you do not want to be the cause of that. I believe you understand the consequences.”