Dark Embrace
Book #1 The Rose Trilogy
The Masters Of Time

On Sale August 26, 2008

CHAPTER ONE—THE PRESENT
(Added Dec 2007)

September, 2008, New York City

The roar of human pain awoke her.

Brianna sat bolt upright, instantly awoken from a deep sleep, horrified by the sound. It was filled with rage and anguish—and disbelief. And then the pain cut through her.

She doubled over in her bed, clutching herself, as if someone had actually slid a butcher knife through her chest. For one moment, she could not breathe. It was the kind of anguish she had never experienced once in her twenty-six years. Panting hard, she prayed for the pain to end—and then, suddenly, it did.

But as the torment vanished abruptly, a man’s handsome image flared in her mind.

A new, terrible tension began. Very slowly, carefully, Brie sat upright, shaken and stunned. Now, her loft was silent, except for the sounds of the cars and cabs driving by outside on the street and the accompaniment of blaring horns. She trembled, glancing at her bedside clock—it was ten after one in the morning. What had just happened?

All the Rose women were empathic to one degree or another. Their empathy was supposed to be a gift, but too often, it was a curse, like now. She was highly empathic, but she had never experienced such intense feelings before. She had just been consumed with another human being’s pain. Something terrible had just happened, and she could not shake the dark handsome image she’d just had from her mind.

Brie trembled, tossing aside the covers. Was Aidan in trouble?

She became very still, her mouth dry, her heart thundering. She’d met him exactly a year ago, perhaps for two whole minutes. They hadn’t exchanged a word, although he’d been somewhat protective of her. Her best friend Allie had been missing for weeks and she’d returned briefly to New York with Aidan’s help—and she had come from the Middle Ages.

He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen, even if he was a medieval Highlander with otherworldly powers. Allie had explained about the secret Brotherhood and the men belonging to it, men calling themselves the Masters of Time, all sworn before God to defend mankind from the evil in the night. No one had been surprised—there had been rumors of such warriors for as long as Brie could remember. In fact, like Allie, she and her cousins, Tabby and Sam, had been thrilled that the whispers were reality.

Brianna had no personal delusions. He was absolutely unforgettable. But he hadn’t regarded her closely and he wouldn’t recall her, if they ever met again. She knew a man like that would never look at a woman like her twice—or think about her twice, either. And she didn’t blame him. She didn’t even mind.

She was really good at wearing baggy clothes to hide her curves and she never wore her contacts—her eyeglasses were downright ugly. She knew that if she had her dark hair cut and styled properly, if she dressed fashionably and wore makeup, she’d probably look exactly like her mother, Anna Rose.

Brie had no intention of ever looking like her beautiful, passionate and rebellious mother—or being anything like her, either. Anna had been that rare Rose woman who was not handed down any gifts. She had been destructive, not constructive; her touch and beauty had destroyed, instead of saving and helping others. In the end, she had hurt those she loved the most, and she had destroyed not only her own family, but herself. Brie didn’t want to recall finding her mother dead on the kitchen floor, shot to death in a jealous rage by her boyfriend, with her father weeping over her body. Being a retiring nerd was way better than following in Anna’s footsteps.

But Brie had other gifts, making her a lot less nerdy than she appeared. She had been gifted with the Sight. It was the greatest gift a Rose woman could have, handed down across generations, from grandmother to grandchild. Brie had been terrified of her visions at first, but her grandmother Sarah had explained that the Sight was a precious gift, one meant to be cherished. It was a great resource meant to help, save and rescue innocent men, women and children, which the Rose women were destined to do—and had been doing for hundreds of years. Grandma Sarah had taught her almost everything she knew about good, evil and life.

Brie was twenty-six years old now and almost accustomed to the wiles of Fate. Life wasn't easy and it wasn't fair and the good died young every single day. She didn't blame Anna for her uncontrollable passions. She knew Anna hadn't been able to help herself. She'd resented her sisters for having their gifts and their lives, and her own simple marriage hadn't been enough for her. She'd been an unhappy woman. She had been selfish, but not cruel and certainly not evil. She hadn't deserved an early death, but then, no one did.

It was all ancient history. Dad had remarried-the best thing that could have ever happened to him. Anna was dead and buried, but not forgotten. Brie was determined to be as solid, dependable and trustworthy as her mother was not. Her life was helping others, giving selflessly-perhaps to make up for all the hurt Anna had inflicted. Her life was about giving, not taking. She was never going to become her mother's daughter. And she was thrilled to be employed by CDA-a secret government agency, dedicated to the war on evil. There, she fought evil from the basement, at a computer.

Her cousins claimed she was doing her best to hide from men. They were right. The last thing she wanted was for a man to notice her. She would probably die a virgin-and it didn't matter, not at all.

And Aidan hadn't noticed her, she was certain. But she had taken one look at him and had fallen hard. She was hopelessly infatuated. She thought about him every day, dreamed about him at night, and had even spent hours on the Web, reading about the medieval Highlands. Of course, the Rose women came from the northern Highlands originally, so she'd always been fascinated with Scotland's history, but now, foolishly, she almost hoped to learn more about him. When he'd brought Allie to the city, they'd come from 1430, and he'd appeared to be about twenty-five years old. Allie had returned to her lover, Black Royce, at Carrick Castle in Morvern. Brie wished she'd asked her friend about Aidan, but she hadn't, their visit had been brief. So she kept returning to Carrick's history, yearning for a mention of a man named Aidan, but that was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Still, there were many references to the powerful earl of Morvern and his fair Lady of Carrick, even over the centuries-and Brie was thrilled. Even across time, she knew Allie and Royce were fulfilling their destinies-together.

She would probably never learn anything about him, and she was sensible enough to realize it. But that didn’t stop her crush. A fantasy was harmless and she hadn’t ever tried to talk herself out of it. If she was going to fall head over heels in love and never act on it, why not do so with someone absolutely unattainable? Aidan, a medieval Highlander with the power to time travel and a mandate to protect Innocence, was as unattainable as a man could be. He was really, really safe.

But Brie was feeling sick now. It was one thing to have visions and empathy, but she had just heard Aidan roaring in anguish, as if he'd been in the same room with her. Hearing him was not empathy. How close by was he?

What had happened to him?

Frightened for him and afraid he was in the city and hurt, Brie got up. She was clad in a simple pink tank top and briefs. It was Indian summer, and even at night it was warm and humid. She hurried across her large, shadowy loft, hitting lights as she went. It was empty—she’d half expected Aidan to be present, maybe unconscious in the shadows and sprawled out on her floor, but that would have shocked her even more than hearing him cry out as she had.

At her front door, which was triple locked with multiple alarms, not that locks or alarms would keep a true demon out, she peered through the peephole into the hall. It was lit and empty, too.

And even though her loft was thoroughly fortified with Tabby’s spells and prayers, even though she wore a Celtic cross and never took it off, even though a small page from the Book handed down through generations of Rose women was framed and nailed to her door like a Medusa--to keep evil out--Brie said a silent prayer to the long ago gods.

She could feel evil outside on the street, very close by, drifting about, preying upon anyone foolish enough to defy Bloomberg’s voluntary curfew. But she didn’t want to think about the city’s problems now. Aidan had to be nearby and she had to somehow find him and make sure he was okay. She wasn’t particularly brave—Sam and Allie had always been the brave ones, and even Tabby was far more courageous than she was. Maybe Tabby and Sam could make heads or tails out of this. The other person who would probably have a clue was her boss, Nick Forrester. But she was hesitant to call him because at HCU she kept a very low profile. He knew nothing about her gifts—or her cousins and their extracurricular activities.

Brie grabbed the phone as she went to her computer. The wallpaper was the ruins of a castle on Loch Awe, belonging to the present day baron of Awe, the Maclean laird. She began logging into HCU’s immense database. The Historical Crimes Unit was a part of CDA. She spent her days—and even her nights—looking through two centuries of case files, searching for historic “co-incidentals”. That was code for a match between their current targets and demons operating in the past. It was amazing how many demons terrorizing the country today came from past centuries.

And because searching for co-incidentals involved a comparison with active cases, she had access to current criminal investigations, including Federal, state and NYPD records. Multi-tasking, Brie began to search for the most recently reported criminal activities as she dialed up her cousins. She imagined Aidan lying hurt in the city somewhere on a dark, slick street, but she knew it as only her imagination responding to her worst fears.

Tabby answered, sounding as if she’d been deeply asleep. She’d divorced well over a year ago, and had just begun dating again—it had taken her a long time to recover from her husband’s infidelity. But she taught Elementary School, she was very conservative, and Brie had expected her to be alone and asleep.

“I really need your help,” Brie said swiftly.

“Brie, what is it?” Tabby was instantly awake.

“Aidan is in trouble—and he’s got to be nearby.”

Tabby paused and Brie felt her trying to recall just who Aidan was. She inhaled. “Brie—you don’t mean the Highlander who brought Allie back last year?”

“I do,” Brie whispered.

“Can this wait until morning?” Tabby asked.

It wasn’t safe for anyone to tool around the city after dark. “I don’t think so,” Brie said grimly. “It wasn’t a vision, Tabby. I felt his pain. He’s in trouble—right now.”

Tabby was silent and Brie heard Sam in the background, asking what was wrong. The sisters shared another loft, just a few blocks away. “We’ll be right over,” Sam said.

Brie hung up, slipped on her jeans and sat down to seriously go over the cases she’d pulled. She was immersed in files when the doorbell rang twenty minutes later. She’d found nothing—and she supposed that was a relief. What she didn’t want to find was a dead victim with Aidan’s description, and for all she knew, he was immortal. She hoped so.

Maybe the worst was over, she thought as she went to let the girls in.

Maybe he’d gone back in time—where he apparently belonged.

Tabby entered first, a willowy blond in slacks and a silk tank top, who always looked as if she was on her way to, or from, the country club-and no one would ever guess from looking at her that that Tabby was an earth mother. Sam followed, shockingly gorgeous even with her short-cropped platinum hair, but then, she had a Lara Swift Tomb Raider body. Brie admired her immensely because she was so fearless—and so open about her sexuality. She also happened to know that her messenger bag was loaded with weapons, and she carried a stiletto strapped to her thigh beneath the denim mini skirt she wore. On anybody else it might be corny, but on Sam it was darned serious.

Tabby took one look at her and rushed to hug her. “You are so worried!”

Sam closed and locked the door. “Did you find anything?” she asked, nodding at the computer.

"He's probably gone back to his time," Brie said. She wet her lips. She was glad he'd escaped unscathed, if he had, but now, she was aware of an absurd disappointment.

“Don’t look so happy about it,’ Sam said, striding across the loft to the computer and peering at the screen. “I don’t think a man like that is easily hurt.”

“I think he was tortured. I have never felt so much pain,” Brie said.

Sam didn’t look up from the screen, scrolling through files she had no right to view.

Tabby put her arm around Brie, smiling. "You're so pale. Are you all right?"

“I’ll survive,” Brie said, forcing a smile.

“Are you sure it was Aidan?” Tabby asked, rather unnecessarily, as Sam sat down at the desk. She glanced at the poster from The Highlander movie which Brie had framed and hanged on her living room wall, her hazel gaze narrowing.

“One hundred percent. I saw him as clear as day, and while it wasn’t a vision, it wasn’t my imagination, either. I can’t empathize across time. I certainly can’t hear someone cry out from far away. He was here close by. He was hurt. Really, really hurt.” Brie trembled, feeling sick again.

"If he's hurt and in the city, we'll find him," Sam said firmly.

Brie felt reassured. Sam always got what she wanted—she was that determined.

“When did you put that poster up?” Tabby asked.

Brie blinked at her. “I don’t remember,” she lied—and she flushed.

Tabby stared. Then she smiled, moving towards the living area. “Well, this looks to be an all-nighter,” she said cheerfully. “It’s almost three in the morning, and I don’t think any of us will make it back to bed.” She began laying out her mother’s crystals on the coffee table.

And the roar or rage and anguish began again, deafening her.

Brie gasped, stunned by the bellow of rage and pain. Her hands flew automatically to her ears. His pain sent her instantly down to the floor, where she doubled over, crushed by it, consumed by it… imprisoned by it. This time, the pain was unbearable.

Oh my God, what was happening to Aidan? Was he being tortured?

“Brie!” Tabby screamed.

And vaguely, she was aware of Tabby holding her, but it didn’t matter.

Brie knew they were ripping his heart out now. They were ripping her heart out. She wept in Tabby’s arms, her world spinning with shocking force and then going black.

Aidan, she somehow thought. He was dying from the torture, and she was dying, too.

********************
Added January 2008

Nick Forrester sat at his computer in his night-darkened living room, clad only in his jeans, having completely forgotten the leggy blond who lay asleep in his bed. In fact, he couldn't recall her name, but he'd picked her up outside of the Korean grocery and maybe he didn't even know it. It was late, but he didn't need more than a few hours of sleep, especially not after a long round of sex, which he found energizing. Sex always empowered him.

He was working; he was a workaholic. The “witch” burnings were on the rise. His latest intelligence debriefing had indicated that Bloomberg was seriously considering calling in the National Guard, and he thought it about time. While pleasure crimes still dominated the murder rate, those were random demonic acts and they were almost unpreventable—like suicide bombers. Vanquishing demons was a long, grueling and endless war. The “witch” burnings were another matter. They were so medieval in nature that he knew in his gut that the gang leader was a great demon from the past. His gut was always dead-on.

He wasn’t even in HCU’s immense database. He was immersed in medieval history, looking for any references to such burnings in past times. And while they had software to look for coincidental data, he didn’t trust the damn programs and he never would. The programs weren’t that sophisticated—it matched words and phrases. A single isolated burning—of a heretic, a traitor or a witch—didn’t interest him. And the burning of a thirteenth century peasant’s home—or a baron’s castle—didn’t interest him either. He was looking for a series of the violent crimes, probably committed by adolescents—but run by a very clever, evil entity.

His cell buzzed.

Nick picked up almost simultaneously with the first tonal ring. A woman he did not know said, “Brie Rose needs medical attention ASAP!”

“Who the hell is this?” He demanded, instantly on alert, but he was also annoyed at her commanding tone. He was wary, too--she could be a crank or even something else.

“Her cousin, Sam Rose—and if you don’t want her going to Emergency, you need to send your people in. Hurry—she may be dying.” The phone went dead.

Nick was already speed-dialing his own MediVac people while pulling up Brie Rose’s file on his HCU screen. In thirty seconds, he had sent his medical team on their way to her loft and he was pulling on a tee shirt, seizing his Beretta, his car keys and his shoes. He ignored the sleeping blond as he left his condo, stepping into his shoes in the elevator. A minute later he was peeling out of the building’s underground garage in his black Expedition; eight minutes later he was leaping out of the vehicle, an ambulance marked Cornell Presbyterian already in front of Brie’s building. The ambulance did not belong to the University hospital—it belonged to CDA and was purposefully mismarked.

He went up with the paramedics, and became instantly aware of Brie’s life and death struggle. He could feel her fighting for her life and he could feel her fear of dying. Alarmed, he searched the perimeter but did not feel evil nearby. He couldn’t discern what had hurt her and put her on the brink of death.

A beautiful blond who looked like a rock star met him at the door. He felt her power and instantly knew she was a vigilante warrior, glanced past her, and saw Brie unconscious on the floor, in another beautiful woman’s arms. That one had power too, but not a Slayer’s, and he didn’t have time to try to identify it. Although he knew the gossips nailed him as cold and uncaring, it wasn’t true. He’d hand selected every single employee at HCU and considered them all his personal responsibility, especially mousey Brie. He was even a bit fond of her—and not because she was brilliant. He was fond of her because he felt sorry for her—she was a recluse, and she had no life outside of work. Of course, he had sensed her powers before he’d hired her. It had taken him a moment to decide what they were—he could read minds whenever he chose and he was fairly conscienceless about it if it was in the line of duty--and he didn’t expect her to come clean. He knew that her unusual perceptions were often used on the cases he sent to her and that worked fine for him.

As the medics went down to take her vitals, he said grimly, “What happened?”

The woman holding her in her arms looked up at him. He felt his interest quicken, because she could be on the cover of Town and Country and she was elegance and beauty personified. She said hoarsely, “She’s empathic, and someone we know was being tortured—and she was feeling everything they did to him. She’s hurt.”

“No kidding.” He was wary. These women were outsiders. How much did they know? And vigilantes always messed up his investigations. He looked at his watch—it was 3:24 pm. “When did it start?”

“Eight minutes ago,” the blonde with the body said. From her voice, he knew she was Sam Rose.

“Frank?” he asked.

“Her pulse is weak and her BP is low,” the medic said, administering oxygen.

Brie’s eyes fluttered and as they did, Nick knelt. He said, smiling, “Hey kiddo. We’ll take care of you. Tell me about your friend.”

She gasped weakly, “I think they’re slowly killing him, Nick.” Tears fell. “Please help him, he’s one of us.”

He stared at her, instantly lurking. His eyes widened; she knew that Aidan was a Highland warrior fighting their war? And this was the first Brie was revealing it?

“She had an episode earlier, around one in the morning,” Sam said tersely. “That was when she called us.”

Nick absorbed that. “What do you know about the Highlander?”

She was good, he had to hand it to her, her eyes didn’t even widen, not a drop. “I am worried,” she said. “If this person is being tortured, Brie might go through this again when they start in on him.”

“She won’t make it,” the other blond cried. “I’ve never seen her like this.”

“Take her to Five,” Nick said. Because the agency was covert, and the press could not get wind of their activities, CDA had its own medical facilities. But as Brie was loaded onto a stretcher, he pulled Frank aside. “Can an extreme empathic reaction kill her?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is it a safe bet to keep her sedated until we can remove the source of the empathic reaction?” When Frank nodded, he said, “Do it.”

The Town and Country blond said, “I’m staying with her.”

Nick seized her shoulder, staring as coldly as he could. It wasn’t hard to do; he was getting pissed. How much did these women know? And Brie had met one of the Highlanders; he was her friend? His agents had been hoping to bring in a Master for a long, long time.

“Lady, you are not cleared, and you and your friend are coming with me, now, to my office.”

She stared at him, visibly close to tears. “After we tell you what we know, I beg you to let me stay with her.”

“I’ll think about it.” He looked at the warrior, Sam; she would be a good recruit. And because he didn’t like the look in her eyes, he read her mind. “You’re coming with me, but I’ll put all my agents in the field. If your friend is in the city, we’ll find him.”

Sam stared at him, clearly unhappy with his decision. He was aware she wanted to hunt. “Yeah, well, I hope you find him alive,” she mocked.

*************
Added February 2008

Brie struggled to swim through the thick heavy darkness. She heard voices, but they seemed impossibly far away; still, she wanted to reach them. Some of the darkness shifted, lifted. Hope surged. Her mind flickered. She needed to think. There was something happening—and something she had to do. She didn’t know where she was, but she somehow knew Tabby and Sam were nearby, and there was relief in the comprehension.

“Brie? It’s me, Tabby. Can you hear me?”

Tabby sounded closer now. Why was she so heavy, so groggy? Brie fought to swim to her cousin. Light began shining against her closed lids, and she somehow opened her eyes. Instantly she blinked against the sterile white light of an office or a hospital room.

Tabby held her hand. “Welcome back.”

Brie met her concerned amber eyes, which were an utter blur. Without her glasses, she couldn’t see further than her hand, but she didn’t have to see Tabby clearly to know it was her. Her mind remained sluggish, but it wanted to scream in urgency at her. And suddenly she gripped Tabby’s hand hard in return. “Aidan!” There was total recall now. “Did you find him?” She gasped. And even as she spoke, she saw the blur that was Sam standing next to Tabby, and dear God, her boss was behind them. He was entirely out of focus, but it didn’t matter—she felt his hard, unwavering stare.

“No, we didn’t.” Tabby slipped her eyeglasses on for her. “Is that better?” She smiled softly.

Brie couldn’t smile back. Her limbs were heavy, her mind thick, and she knew she was sedated, but so much fear for him began. Without a doubt, even as groggy as she was, she knew now that he was being tortured by great evil. He could still be alive and in torment—or he could be dead.

“How do you feel?” Nick asked.

Brie was almost afraid to look at him now that she could see. He was a really macho-looking man of about thirty, muscular, tall and really good looking; women were always trying to pick him up. He was one cool player. But he was all work and no play when it came to HCU. That is, he had a line drawn at the Unit. If crossed, no agent or employee survived his wrath.

“Am I drugged?” She finally looked at him, and sure enough, he had that steely, no prisoners taken, look in his eyes.

“Pretty heavily, but we’re taking you down so we can chat.” Nick smiled at her, as if encouraging her to be candid, but that smile never reached his blue eyes.
“It’s been twenty-four hours, Brie,’ Tabby said softly, squeezing her hand. But her gaze was filled with worry.

Brie stared at her, almost reading her mind. Now, she remembered fighting the pain in this very room. “He’s still being tortured,” she gasped.

“Every time we brought you down, within an hour or so, you were having extreme empathic reactions to your friend,” Nick said flatly.

Brie blinked at him. He’d stressed the word ‘friend.’ How much had she said? Nick was pissed; she could feel it, even as messed up as she was.

“Maybe you can tell Nick something to help his people find Aidan,” Tabby murmured.

“It’s hard to think,” she whispered. Had Tabby told Nick about the Masters of Time? As groggy as she was, she was certain he wouldn’t be surprised that the rumors floating around the Agency about a race of evil-fighting warriors were true. Sometimes Nick seemed to know everything.

Nick said to the physician, “Take her down a bit more.”

And as the sedation was further decreased, Brie realized she was really ill with exhaustion. She was nauseous, and she began to realize how utterly sore her body was—every muscle throbbed—as if she was the one who’d been mercilessly tortured. But her mind leapt to life as the sedation was reduced. What had they done to him? Was he alive? “How can I help?” She asked Nick, trembling.

He dismissed the doctor and turned to Tabby and Sam. “Goodbye, ladies.”
Tabby was alarmed. “I can’t leave her.”

Nick gestured at the door. “You can—and you will. It will only be for a few moments.”

Brie didn’t want to be alone with him and she knew Tabby knew it. Sam gave Nick a cool glance. “Don’t bully her,” she said.

When they were gone, he said, “I need you to come clean, kid. Your friend is one of us? If you want to help him, you need to clarify exactly what we’re looking for.”

Brie wished she could think more clearly. “His name is Aidan—and he’s not from New York,” she stopped. “He’s from the past, Nick.”

He leaned close, his face expressionless. “When did you meet the Highlander, Brie?”

He was really mad. “I met him a year ago,” Brie breathed, hoping she was doing the right thing telling Nick the truth, and their eyes locked. “You’re not surprised.”

Nick folded his muscular arms across his brawny chest and stared at her.
“Tell me more about him.”

Brie tried to think clearly. The Brotherhood was secret, and Allie had stressed that—but so was CDA and every unit within. “When I met him, he’d come from 1430, from Carrick Castle,” she said. “He has powers, Nick, special powers, just like the demons do.”

Nick searched her gaze and Brie had the uncanny feeling that he was searching her mind. He said softly, “Does the name Aidan of Awe ring any bells?”

Oddly, the name resonated with her.

“Take her up,” Nick snapped.

Brie felt the last bit of fogginess dissipate, at last. Nick became completely clear, staring coldly at her, his eyes blue steel. He knew all about the Masters, she realized.

“Yeah,” he said, “and I’ve wanted to bring one in for a long, long time.”

But he hadn’t even finished when she heard Aidan.

And this time, his roar of pain was filled with despair and protest.

This time, it was the roar of grief.

Brie went still.

He had lost everything. And before she could assimilate that, a huge weight fell on her, crushing her. She cried out in alarm and fear as more stones fell, rapidly burying her in darkness.

Brie wanted to panic, and she wanted to scream and fight the rocks; she wanted to try to push up against them, but instead, she lay very still, absolutely calm, aware that she was entombed.

“Brie, what is it?” Tabby seemed to cry, but she was far away.

Brie’s eyes widened. Oddly, she could breathe. And she was looking up at black stone; it was as if she was the one buried alive. But she wasn’t drugged and she was in CDA’s hospital, wasn’t she? Still, she tried to move her arms, her legs, but stone pressed in one her from all sides.

No, Aidan had been buried alive.

And he was utterly calm, utterly resigned, a man without hope.

She reached out to him.

She felt him start.

She went still. She tried to focus entirely upon him. He was physically trapped and like her, he lay unmoving. Like her, he had no difficulty breathing. He was staring at the blackness. She had no doubt. She felt him more acutely now. The stones were painful, their weight crushing, but he didn’t care. They weren’t crushing him to death. It was the heartache that was killing him.

And she felt his acceptance of death.

He was waiting to die.

“Brie, honey, it’s okay. You’re here with us, on Five.”

Aidan, Brie tried. You can’t die!

If she had reached him, he was now gone. He had slipped so far away that she couldn’t feel anything at all.

“Can you hear me?” Nick asked, sounding far away.

She could, but she couldn’t answer Nick now. Aidan had god-given powers. He could surely break free of the rocks and stone. If she had reached him a moment, ago, surely she could find him again. She was almost certain he had felt her, or heard her. She strained for him. She called his name. She focused and begged, Aidan, break free of the stone. She waited for him to respond. A long time seemed to elapse, and he never moved, never answered.

And she couldn’t stand this last straw. Don’t die!

Nick was speaking to her again.

“Brie, it’s Nick. We’ve given you Ativan. It’s an anti-anxiety med, and you should be feeling pretty good right now. You’re having an empathic reaction again. You’re at CDA on Five and we’re taking care of you. Look at me.”

Brie felt her body soften, she even felt herself smile. She looked at Nick. His handsome face and sexy body formed before her, coming gradually into focus. Someone had put her eyeglasses on, she thought inanely, and she smiled.

“Good. To find the Highlander, we need you now. Where is he?”

And oddly, she could see him so clearly now, in his grave beneath the rubble, a red castle soaring form a loch above him. Brie said, “There’s a castle on a lake. He’s in Scotland…and he’s in the past” She was so surprised by her response that she faltered, but she knew that she’d sensed the truth.

“Are you certain?” Nick asked. “Are you certain he’s not in the city?”

“Yes.” Brie had never been more certain of anything. She had been wrong earlier. He hadn’t been close by. She’d try to figure that out later, she thought. “We can’t let him die.”

Nick turned away and said, “Her Encounter last year should have been reported—and now that I know what you two ladies are up to, any Encounters or Sightings come right to me. Failure to do so is against the law.”

“I’m not aware of any such laws,” Sam said bluntly.

“It’s against Nick’s law,” Nick said swiftly. “And you really don’t want to break Nick’s law.”

Brie was floating even as she heard the exchange, feeling really wonderful now—as if she’d had three or four glasses of champagne. Sam sat down and smiled at her. “Your boss is such a jerk.”

“Yeah, he is,” Brie agreed, aware that Nick had walked out. No, he’d stalked out, like a hunting tiger.

Sam leaned close and whispered, “I’m calling in every favor I have. If he’s here, someone’s seen him. You just rest.”

“He isn’t here. He’s far away.” Her happiness was gone. “I don’t want him to die. I love him, Sam.”

Sam’s blue eyes went wide. “Brie, I know you’re high right now, but if it’s Fate, you know we can’t change it.”

“It can’t be his time,” Brie whispered and she wasn’t sure what happened next. But Sam was gone, as was Nick, and it was only her and Tabby, who sat by her bed, holding her hand. Then Brie blinked curiously. A little boy was standing at the foot of her bed, clad in a white hospital gown that was oddly belted. He started speaking urgently to her, his blue eyes so familiar, as if she knew him, but she didn’t think she did. Brie realized she was too high to hear a word. He seemed frightened. She knew he wanted to tell her something important, and she turned to Tabby. “What is he saying?”

Tabby was surprised. “Who are you talking about?”

Brie looked at the foot of her bed, but the little boy was gone. “I guess it doesn’t matter,” she said.

She must have been dreaming.

 

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