Addie & Erik’s fourth outing is a week away!
Here’s a quick taste under the cut…
A low chime sounded as she walked up the porch and hit the threshold to the house, one Addie was certain only she could hear. Magic crackled in the air, warm and comforting, wrapping ethereal arms around her as she entered her home. The Sanctuary bond, between both magic practitioner and her dwelling, was nearly impenetrable.
Like another kind of bond she didn’t want to think about.
She hit the kitchen first, worn hardwood creaking under her steps, went to the sink to wash her hands. Without turning she felt, rather than saw, the figure hanging in the doorway at her back.
Addie stifled a sigh. “How’s the patient?”
Robbie Milford hesitated, as always. A cat shifter who almost never changed, he’d lived in Havelock when she did, never revealing himself to be one of her sworn protectors until she was in danger and forced to come to terms with her birthright.
He was also in love with her. A fact which she tried very hard not to acknowledge, but the nearer he was, unspoken words hovering beneath the surface, the more difficult it was to ignore. She didn’t feel the same way, never would, but love came with a stupid, stupid hope that she knew he’d always feel, despite all logic.
Another thing she was intimately familiar with.
“Awake,” Robbie answered at last, his voice putting him a few steps closer. “Wants to leave.”
Of course he did. An injured bakemono who’d originally appeared at her doorstep as a fox—baffling them all as to how it swam all the way across the lake—after having been caught in an entirely human trap.
Addie’s job as a Sanctuary extended temporary care to anyone and anything that needed it, including healing and a place to rest. Thus far few had shown up at her little island. Her kind had been hunted nearly to extinction, and although the magical call of her house would draw in those who needed it, it would take some time for word to spread of her presence.
She’d tended to the bakemono as he shifted into an ethereal, ghost-like human shape, given him a room to rest in and taken care of his wounds. That was three days ago and she’d expected him to leave soon; the house itself told her, shifting and mumbling with the patient’s restlessness all morning.
“Let Murphy know,” Addie said. “Maybe he can offer a boat trip.” More than likely the creature would just float across the lake or blink into another dimension, but it seemed rude not to offer. “Any word from Naliah?”
Inwardly she cursed. Naliah Harris was supposed to be back days ago. She was busy, true, and had her own business to deal with, but she knew Addie was stuck here and needed some…things. The waiting and the wondering was driving her mad.
Addie shut off the water and dried her hands on a tea towel, steeling herself before turning.
Robbie was near, nearer than she’d expected, just a few steps away. Tall and lean with sandy hair now in need of a cut, a lopsided grin that always managed to seem pained, he was a good guy trying to do right by her, she knew. Sexy and sweet, any woman would fall into his arms immediately.
But she wouldn’t. Couldn’t. There was no spark there and, knowing how deep his feelings ran, she never gave any encouragement at all.
Addie sidestepped him. “I’ll check in on the patient before he goes.”
She paused in the kitchen doorway, pinning her gaze to the faded floral wallpaper, letting the yellowed daisy pattern fall out of focus.
“You don’t seem…okay.” He said the words with care, gently.
She had to fight a bitter chuckle, swallowing the harsh sound. Tears seared her eyes again. “Because I’m not.”
The floor creaked as he neared her again, air crackling as he reached for her.
She took a few swift steps away, twisting to face him. “Don’t.”
He splayed his hands and stopped approaching. “I’m worried. We’re all worried.”
The laughter spilled from her lips even as pain cleaved at her heart. “How am I supposed to be okay? Erik’s dead because of me. All these people gone and it’s my fault and he’s…” She couldn’t quite bring herself to say the words, hating herself a little for even thinking it—that she could stand all those deaths but not his. Not Erik. The guilt was heavy but would pass.
But not the wound of his death.
“I still feel him,” she whispered, her lips trembling. “I still feel him.” Since she’d met him, there’d been a bond between them, an invisible cord that seemed to go from his chest to hers. No matter the distance, she felt him; knew when he was hurting, knew he thought about her. She expected, as he bled out on the grass, breathing his last, that the bond would then sever.
But it hadn’t. It was like he was still there, somehow, though she couldn’t see him—that he existed somewhere, his soul or spirit or whatever, and while he didn’t haunt her in the traditional sense, he hadn’t merely disappeared.
Robbie stepped closer again, his hands coming up to clasp her shoulders and draw him to her. There would be warm comfort there, reassurances, love.
And while he wouldn’t speak the words, she knew what he thought: that she’d get over it. She’d only known Erik a few weeks—never mind all they’d been through together in that time. She’d grieve, then forget, then need comfort, and Robbie would be there.
So she resisted. Again. Took a few steps back, wresting free from his arms, and stumbled away. Tears were hot in her eyes, falling down her cheeks and blurring her vision. Right hand out to touch the wall, she felt her way to the old staircase and raced up to her room, closing and locking the door behind her.
The warm arms of magic belonging to the house reached out for her, lulling her as she sank with her back to the door and collapsed onto the braided carpet at her feet. She clasped her hands tight, closed her eyes. Begged whatever deity might be out there to hear her as she cried, praying for whatever force brought Erik into her life to somehow bring him back again.
I still feel him. And surely if she felt him, he was out there, somehow, despite his body being buried overlooking the lake a twenty yards from the house.
And maybe, just maybe, he could hear her calling wherever he was.
© 2016 Asha King
Adelaide Deveraux has at last come into her powers, but her gifts have come with a price: she has lost the love of her life. Now surrounded by allies but still utterly alone, she’s seeking to build a new Sanctuary and provide shelter for those who need it, even though none of it will heal her broken heart.
Tiger-shifter Erik Wells was willing to sacrifice everything to save Addie from the psychopathic sorcerer after her, including his life. But despite paying the ultimate price and annihilating their enemy once and for all, he still isn’t at peace. Some greater power is seeking to resurrect Erik, willing to move heaven and hell to see him breathe again. Whether that power is good or evil, he doesn’t know, and he’s running out of time as something’s hunting him in the underworld, seeking to destroy his very soul.