Today I have chapter one from USA Today Best Selling Author AR DeClerck’s Desolation, the first in the Mythical Madness series.
“You know I can’t.”
Sheridan smothered a cry. “Gage, please! This is my sister we’re talking about. It’s Vinnie!”
He leaned forward, and she could see the animal in him was very near the surface. She’d known Gage Rbeau for a long time, and he was rarely ever out of control. Now, he looked nearly savage.
“I understand, Sheridan, I do.” He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair. “More than you will ever understand, I want to help Vinnie as much as you do. Maybe more.”
“Then do it, Gage.” Sheridan leaned closer to the glass. “You’re the only person with as much power as the Fates. We have to save her life.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Sheridan sighed long and loud as the glass went dark. Gage Rebeau didn’t make promises he couldn’t keep, but she damned well hoped to rope him into a promise to save Vinnie’s life. She tucked the scrying glass into her pocket and went to find her sister.
“I need to save her life.” Gage looked at the three women standing around him. They were the sisters of Fate. Morta, Decima, and Nona. His adopted mothers. Nona, who’d always had a soft spot for her older son, put a hand on his shoulder.
“We know that she is close to the end, my son.”
“Then let me save her.”
“We have agreed to let you try.” Decima, the middle sister, crossed her arms. “Her powers cannot be lost. If she succumbs, then Love will never exist again.”
“I can do it. I will save her.” Gage made the promise to himself and to them.
“Be careful, son. We will be watching.”
As they disappeared, Gage reached for the scrying glass, connecting to Sheridan with a plan already formulating in his mind.
Sheridan pocketed the glass and tried to cover her grin. She knocked on Vinnie’s door and opened it when her sister didn’t answer. Vinnie lay across her bed, her black hair spread around her on her white silk sheets. Sheridan crossed to her and climbed up on the bed behind her.
“Tell me what’s wrong.”
Vinnie didn’t move, but she squeezed Sheridan’s hand when it found hers. “Something bad is happening. I can’t stop it. It’s eating me up.”
Sheridan’s heart missed a beat, sweat breaking out over her body. She shook Vinnie’s shoulder. “Please, Vinnie. What can I do?”
Vinnie turned, laying on her back and staring up at Sheridan. “Let me die.”
A tear slid from Sheridan’s eye and landed on Vinnie’s cheek. “No.”
Vinnie shook her head. “Then leave me be.”
Sheridan sat up. “Where are your arrows? Your bow?”
Vinnie pointed, and Sheridan saw them on the table by the door. Though faint, they still glowed with some of Vinnie’s godly power.
“Let’s go to Earth. Use them, Vinnie, before you can’t anymore.”
Vinnie studied her, but finally nodded. She sat up and snapped her fingers, her favorite glasses appearing on her nose. She wore a plaid school-girl skirt and a white button up shirt. Sheridan smiled. She hadn’t lost her rebellious streak. Sheridan snapped her own fingers, transforming her voluminous gown into sleek jeans and a red sweater with leather half-boots. She took Vinnie’s hand and slid the bow over her sister’s shoulder.”
“I don’t know why we’re doing this.” Vinnie’s hand shook as she took up her quiver.
Sheridan took a fortifying breath. “I won’t let you die, Vinnie. I won’t.”
Vinnie smiled a small smile, but Sheridan could see that it took all her strength. “Here we go.”
They closed their eyes and headed for the Earthly realm.
We end up in one of my favorite places. I look around. Central Park at midnight. The sky is clear, the air is cold. Humans are bustling about from here to there and the noise and the smells usually revive me. Tonight, I am as cold inside as I am outside. Sheridan lets go of my hand and shivers.
“Why here, Vinnie?”
I shrug. I don’t know why we came here. I was under the impression that she’d chosen.
“It’s as good as any place.” I take my bow from my back and pluck the string. It makes a hum, like music in the still night. I pull an arrow from my quiver and sight it quickly. It is straight. I don’t make mistakes, but it never hurts to check. Rule number one; never make a mistake, but be prepared for anything.
I nock an arrow and test the bow. It is tensed to me specifically, and I pull it back as if it weighs nothing. Sheridan is worried as I look at all the passersby. Humans are always scurrying from place to place, even at midnight. They have a sense of urgency I wish I felt.
“They will come.” I assure her. I feel it in my bones, though it is duller than usual. Two people who are meant for love are close. The Fates have gifted me with this knowing. It is my privilege to bring them love. I create the spark and fan it into flames. My arrow will strike and begin the process. The loves I create are fated. They do not fade. I must always be careful because my power can create an obsession in the wrong people.
I see them. A man and a woman, strolling along in the park with their hands together. He is worried that she will reject him. She is worried he won’t ask. I catch Sheridan’s eye and she nods. She sees them too.
“Vinnie.” She puts her hand on my arm as I sight on the lovers. I turn my head and look at her. “I’m sorry.”
I want to ask her why, but she pulls an arrow from my quiver and I cry out as she stabs me between my shoulder blades. My bow drops and the arrow flies to the ground. I drop to my knees, the fire of my own power coursing through my body.
“Sheridan, what have you done?” My teeth are gritted in pain. This is too much. This power wasn’t meant for me. It is crafted for humans, not goddesses. I feel it as it ravages me. Sheridan drops down beside me, taking my face in her hands. She is crying.
“Vinnie, please forgive me. I have to save you.”
I am shaking, and my bow drops from my hands.
“What have you done?” I ask again. I can no longer sit up, and I fall forward, into my sister’s arms. Her tears wet my face as she looks down at me, pushing my hair back.
“Gage promised to help you.”
I feel tears on my own cheeks. Are they hers or mine? The pain is knives to my skin, tearing delicate flesh from bone. It pierces me and my brain tries to short circuit, it’s more agony that I’ve ever felt. Molten lava runs through my veins, and though it hurts for the shortest of moments it feels good to feel anything at all.
“Do I have to die, to be saved?” I gasp as my spine straightens with a snap, and the power reaches my heart.
Sheridan shakes her head, her blonde braid tickling my nose. Her grip on my hand is tighter, and her face is pale. She is afraid. I am too.
“No, Vinnie. No.”
She looks around, the moonlight touching on the perfection of her face like a soft caress. She is the epitome of loveliness. Her eyes are wild with fear and panic when she looks back to me. “He promised he would be here, Vinnie. I swear, he said he could save you.”
I shake my head, the world around me darkening. “No one cures Desolation.” I remind my sister.
My eyes flick to the voice. It is a man, kneeling beside me, across from Sheridan. As my vision darkens, I can’t make him out, but his eyes are sharp under long, black lashes as he looks at me sternly. “Sorry, I’m late.” He traces a finger over my sister’s cheek, and I’m angry. Why am I angry? I realize I don’t want him to touch anyone but me. I start to fade, and Sheridan’s cry is farther away.
“Don’t worry” he says. “I promise, Sheri. I will save her.”
I want to scream, her name is Sheridan. My name is Lavinia. I can’t speak as the pain overwhelms me at last. His eyes are dark, I notice as he leans close to my face.
“Go to sleep, Vinnie.”
So I sleep.
“Gage, what have I done?”
Sheridan held her sister close, gazing down at her drawn, pale face. Lavinia would never believe it, but she was the loveliest of all the goddesses. Her midnight hair, pale round face and electric lavender eyes made her mysterious and intriguing all at once. She looked up at the man who studied Lavinia. He shrugged, apparently unconcerned.
“You did what you had to. The only way to counteract Desolation is with its opposite. Life, Love. Without the power in her blood, the sickness would keep growing until she became hollow and empty. Eventually, she would lose control of her magic and the Fates would call me to destroy her.”
His eyes never left Lavinia’s face, Sheridan noticed. When she’d realized what was happening with her sister, she’d raced to him first. He was the most powerful being she knew. She’d promised him anything to save her sister. The price was still undetermined, but she was willing to pay whatever he asked. His eyes flickered to hers and she shivered at the barely contained beast within him. “She’ll live.”
Sheridan nodded, her heartbeat still erratic. After all the years, she’d known him he still made her shiver with the wildness in him.
“I’ll take her home.” She started to rise, but his hand stopped her.
“She stays with me.”
Sheridan froze. His voice was flat, but it brooked no argument.
“That wasn’t part of the deal. You said–”
He cut her off. “I said I’d save her, and she’s alive, but she’s not cured. Lavinia stays with me.” His touch was gentle as he gathered her sister into his arms and stood. Lavinia wasn’t a small woman, but he carried her with ease. “She needs the kind of care that you can’t give her, Sheridan.”
Sheridan wavered. This was her most beloved sister. A powerful goddess whose magic could hurt or heal. It worried her, what this enigmatic man wanted with her. She trusted him with her own life, but trusting him with Lavinia’s was harder.
“Will you hurt her?”
His look was ice. She might have worried about herself, it said, for making such a statement. She met his eyes steadily. She was a goddess in her own right, and far from young. His grin erased the sharpness of his face, He was younger now, and the savage glint in his obsidian eyes was softened by the light of humor. . It reminded her that this was Gage she was talking to. He was here as her friend, not as the Asesino.
“I said I’d help her. What good would come of hurting her?” Not a denial, but close.
“She’s difficult to understand.” Sheridan hated making excuses, but Lavinia wasn’t like the other goddesses. She was most definitely ruled by her own ideas. He shrugged, making the muscles of his arms ripple.
“She will learn.”
Sheridan didn’t want to argue, but Lavinia had never followed rules well. Except for her own three cardinal rules. One, don’t make mistakes but expect others to. Two, never let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Three, be true to yourself.
“You can see her in seven days.”
Sheridan could tell it was hard for him to make a concession, but she nodded.
“I want to speak to her as soon as she’s awake. I have to explain.”
His face closed, and she felt an almost physical wall go up.
Sheridan took a step back at the sharp spike of his tone.
He looked at the sky. The moon was nearing full. “Two more days, Sheridan. It won’t be safe until then.”
Sheridan shivered and gripped Lavinia’s bow and quiver. “I’ll take her things home.”
He nodded, his hair falling over his forehead. “She’s going to be angry, Sheridan. It might take time for her to forgive you for this.”
Sheridan dropped the bow over her head, squaring it on her shoulders. She took Lavinia’s hand in hers and squeezed it, placing in gently on her stomach next to his chest.
“Whatever the consequences, at least she’ll be alive.”
His face was a mask, but Sheridan thought there might be some pity underneath it all when he looked at her.
“Sometimes, death is preferable.”
Sheridan heard the wisdom of experience in his tone, but she couldn’t let it sway her.
“Keep my sister safe, Gage. Cure the Desolation, and let her go.” She disappeared with a gust of wind, and he pulled Lavinia closer.
If only it were as easy as that.
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