Dark Rival
The Masters Of Time
Brenda Joyce

On Sale September 2007
ISBN-10: 037377219X

dark rival bookcoverChapter One

South Hampton, New York—September 4, 2007

Chapter One

South Hampton, New York—September 4, 2007

She stood naked at the window, aware of her lover’s deep, even breathing coming from the bed behind her. The Long Island night was blue-black and star spangled, the moon full and bright, and she could hear the ocean’s rhythmic roar. A sea breeze caused the upholstered shades to knock softly against the windows. As she stood there, clouds gathered. She tensed.

The sky darkened. Stars dulled. Shadows crossed the moon’s bright face, scarring it. The shutters began banging against the walls, almost frantically.

Allie stared at the moon, watching as it turned black.

She strained. And she felt evil intent forming.

Her pulse accelerated. She hurried across the room, about to step into her walk-in closet, when Brian stirred. He murmured, “Hey,” his tone drowsy

She smiled and swiftly returned to his side. “I’m starving. Want me to bring you some goodies from the kitchen?” She hated lying to him, but he would not understand.

He was snoring.

She waited a moment, impatience now gnawing at her. One of her best friends was a whiz with spells, but Allie didn’t have any powers like that and it was unfortunate at times like these, when a sleeping spell would have been great. Reassured that he was deeply asleep, she quickly stepped into a black tank top, black cargo pants, and black Nikes, picking up a black backpack. She didn’t bother to open it; it was loaded and ready to go. As deftly as a cat burglar, the sleeping man now forgotten, she slipped out the window and climbed down the trellis, as if she’d done so a thousands times, which she had. Then she ran across the lawn to the driveway where she’d left her Mercedes SL560.

Allie jumped in, but didn’t turn the car on. She sat very still, focusing her sixth sense.

A shadow of darkness and death was gathering in the north.

She felt malice, she felt lust.

Allie turned the ignition, adrenaline flooding her. Aware that she couldn’t peel out of the driveway, because that would wake the entire house up and no one in her family knew the truth about her, she focused on the gathering storm of violence, needing to pinpoint the location. She slowly cruised down the drive, the lust in the night intensifying. Allie felt its heart thudding, thick and strong, hot blood pulsing with evil carnal intent.

She turned onto the two-lane road and hit the gas. Rubber burned and screamed. She was going to save this vick, and she drove by instinct now, feeling the monster’s evil energy now. She ran two Stop signs. The damned monster had found its prey. She could feel it watching, about to pounce, to take, to kill. She was guessing both the predator and his or her victim was outside of one of the bars or restaurants on Highway 27. It was the weekend, and the nightspots were hopping.

A wave of pleasure began.

Allie cried out, because she could actually feel their sexual pleasure. It quickly began to escalate. The car ahead of her was obeying the speed limit and doing forty-five. Murder was always the outcome of these crimes of pleasure, and Allie stomped on the gas and veered dangerously past the car ahead of her—and narrowly by an oncoming truck. The truck driver blared his horn at her.

The pleasure became ecstasy, rapture. It flowed over Allie in waves—both victim and criminal were having orgasmic sex. It didn’t turn her on—it couldn’t. Her rage knew no bounds. It was going to be too late…

Allie sped into a parking lot adjacent a popular bar and restaurant overlooking the bay. Although the lot was full, she knew exactly where to drive—and in the back, far from the restaurant’s entrance, she saw them—a couple in the throes of sex on the ground. And it wasn’t rape….

As she stared, the man turned his head in her direction, sensing her white power.

Allie jammed on the brakes and leapt from the car. As she did, she felt dark power exploding in the night. It was too damned late!

For it was blinding and briefly, her senses were diminished. It was hard to see and she could not feel the victim, all she could feel was the triumph of evil and death.

She stumbled as she reached for her backpack, pulling out a gun with a silencer. Then she turned, bracing herself as she aimed.

The man stood, smiling, blond and beautiful, his features perfect, like a movie star’s. In fact, for all she knew, he was a movie star. Dressed like a model in expensive trousers and a beautiful shirt, he hurled his black power at her.

Allie cocooned herself in her white light, but it was a healing light, so it didn’t do a lot. Instead, she was slammed against the car so hard it felt as if he’d broken her back. She somehow lifted the gun and fired.

She was a good shot, but not after that kind of blow, still, she got him in the shoulder. Bad news was, he had so much power after taking the life from a victim that a shot wasn’t going to do much except cause a bit of inhuman bloodshed. He laughed at her and vanished into the stars.

She hoped his shoulder hurt like hell!

Allie reeled, still in pain from the blow. Then she flung the gun into the convertible’s back seat and staggered to the prone victim.

Her senses began to work. The night was still and dead--lifeless.

Allie knelt, knowing it was too late. Had the woman still been alive, she would feel a flicker of her life.

The vick lay unmoving on her back, clad in a pretty halter top and skirt, eyes sightless. Allie cried out, because she couldn’t be more than fifteen years old. It was not fair.

She was so tired of the malicious murders. For every human being she healed, there were hundreds of victims like this one, their lives stolen by the monsters who stalked the innocent in the night and then used that power to cause even more mayhem and death.

But there was no end in sight. Social commentators kept talking about the breakdown of modern society, because the murder rate was sky high—and ninety percent of all murders now were pleasure crimes. That is, the victims did not struggle. Somehow, they were seduced by complete strangers, and bodily fluids showed numerous orgasms. But the victims all died. As if old and feeble, their hearts simply stopped during intercourse.

But the victims weren’t old. They were always young and beautiful and in perfect health. There was no reasonable medical explanation for heart failure.

Of course there wasn’t

Because science could not explain evil and it never would.

The far right wanted the death penalty for these perverts. The far right blamed law enforcement and the state and federal governments for the failure to apprehend these perps and for the rising crime rate. The far left wanted more studies and more research; they wanted better inner city education, health care, hospitals, dear God, as if the inner cities bred the perps. They did not.

The left and the right and the general public thought the criminals rapists even though there wasn’t rape—they thought they were human. But they weren’t human. It was a huge government cover-up. These sexual criminals did not have human DNA and Allie knew it for a fact. Not only did she know it because her mother had taught her to sense, feel and understand evil the moment she was toddling, but Brianna worked in CDA—the Center for Demonic Activities.

CDA was secret, too.

The perps weren’t human.

They looked human, but they were a race of evil, preying on mankind, sent by Satan himself, centuries ago. Crimes of pleasure existed in every century; what was new was the growing numbers of the demonic hordes. Their population was expanding at a terrifying rate. Something was wrong.

And she, Brie, Tabby and Sam couldn’t do this alone, nor could the handfuls of healers and slayers around the world. Why, why didn’t the good guys have extra-ordinary powers, too?

There were some in the Center who believed that a race of men existed who did fight the demons with super powers; some of the agents swearing they had seen these warriors. But the stories all varied—they were pagans, they were Christian knights, they were modern soldiers. They came from medieval Europe, they came from ancient Scotland, they lived in seclusion like monks, in a fortified compound in the Alps of France! One thread ran through every rumor—they could travel through time and they had sworn before God to fight evil. Allie grimaced. If such a race of uber heroes existed, why didn’t one of these pagan or medieval or modern warriors appear to help her out?

She needed someone to hold the line while she healed victims like this one.

As badly as she wanted to fight, it was hard to do so when a simple energy blow could send her across half of a football field.

Allie felt tears rising. She took the girl’s hands and showered her with a healing light. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, wanting to soothe her soul before it went to the next world.

And as she looked at the beautiful girl’s face, her outrage knew no bounds. And she showered her with more light, because she foolishly wanted to bring her back to life.

Of course, she couldn’t do so. She could not resurrect the dead. She had begun healing insects and fish as a toddler, her mother encouraging her. Every year her abilities had become stronger. By the time Elizabeth Monroe had suddenly died, when Allie was ten, she’d been easily healing the flu and the common cold. At fifteen, she could heal broken bones. At sixteen, she could heal an older person with severe pneumonia. At eighteen, she had given a boy run over by a car the use of his legs back. At twenty, she had healed a case of critical skin cancer.

She had to be careful—she had to be anonymous or she’d wind up being studied like a lab rat. Her mother often warned her to keep her powers secret.

But there was so much she couldn’t do--she couldn’t give the blind their sight back, and she couldn’t raise the dead. But Allie wanted to try.

She threw all the white power she had into the girl. She sat with her, tears streaking her face, straining to give her more and more white healing light. The girl remained still; her eyes remained sightless. Her heart did not beat. Allie screwed her eyes shut, refusing to quit. If only she could resurrect this girl, and save one of the demon’s innocent victims! But it was hard to grasp her power now and bring it forth and send it to the girl. Still, Allie somehow sent another shower of healing power through the girl. It hurt to do so and she moaned. Allie realized she was at her limits; she felt depleted, drained, exhausted, and she knew she had no more power to give.

She hadn’t realized she was lying down, on her belly, until she clawed the dirt, seeking her healing power. But it was finally gone…

The ground began to spin.

Allie closed her eyes, dizzy and faint. She heard voices coming from the bar but she was too weak to even tense. They were coming her way and she couldn’t move—she was utterly defenseless. She strained her senses—there was no evil. Allie moaned and collapsed.

And her last conscious thought was that she had tried, but she hadn’t resurrected the dead.

Allie awoke, feeling heavy and drugged.

She opened her eyes, feeling as if they’d been glued shut, and tested her fingers and toes, her hands and feet, relieved that, although weak, everything was in working order. She’s been asleep, but not in her own bed, and she felt nauseous, too. She started, suddenly realizing that she was in a hospital room, hooked up to various monitors and an IV. What the hell?

And instantly, she remembered trying to bring the dead girl back to life and finally passing out. Someone must have found her and called 911.

She sat up, realizing she was seriously exhausted from the effort she’d made, but not so much that she couldn’t get up and leave. She grimaced, imagining the questions she’d be asked when she summoned a nurse. Questions were to be avoided.

Allie tore the tape off the IV and was removing the needle as gently as possible when she felt warmth filling the room. She tensed, recognizing the white power, and looked up.

And her mother appeared by her bedside. Allie gasped in shock. Although her mother had died fifteen years ago, Allie had never forgotten her. Her legacy—and her compassion-- had been far too great. There was no question that her mother had come to visit her from the dead, for the first time. She was as fair and blonde as Allie was dark, with an oddly ageless appearance, and now she smiled at her. But her eyes shimmered with urgency.

It is time now, darling. Embrace your destiny.

Stunned, Allie reached out—but her mother was already fading. “Don’t go!” She cried, sliding from the bed to stand.

But her mother kept fading, becoming a vague shadow.

Golden.

Her mother was speaking again! Allie could hear her, but her voice was weaker, and nearly inaudible, as she drifted away.

But of course she was fading—it would be almost impossible for her to come back to this realm after being dead for so many years. “Mom! Don’t go! What is it?” She was shocked, she was thrilled and she was also alarmed. If her mother was trying to communicate with her from the dead, after so many years of absence, something had to be terribly wrong.

Trust…

Her mother’s image was gone, and she was alone in the small, curtained cubicle. “Who do you want me to trust? I trust you!” She cried.

The golden Master.

Allie stiffened, confused. And very doubtful she had heard correctly, a stunningly clear image instantly formed in her mind.

One of the most gorgeous and most masculine men she had ever seen took over her mind. Allie saw a bronzed hunk with disheveled dark gold, sun-streaked hair—and he was stark naked. Her interest escalated. He was a mass of bulging muscles, interesting slabs and amazingly defined planes. The man was built like the mythological Hercules—and he was hugely packed. He was drop-dead gorgeous, with nearly perfect but oh-so masculine features set in a very strong face, but his expression terse and hard, with stunning silver eyes that were piercing.

His eyes were so hard.

So was that body, which belonged on a knight from another time.

In fact, she could envision him with a sword in hand. He also looked ready to rock and roll.

She swallowed, terribly breathless.

What was she doing? She was hearing her mother speaking from the dead and fantasizing about the kind of man she’d never meet, except maybe in a romance novel. But his expression wasn’t one she could ever make up, not in a million years. What did that mean? And did it matter? She had to get the hell out of the hospital before someone tried to question her.

“Allie?”

Allie tensed as one of her best friends stepped through the curtains. Brianna actually was a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner, but it was almost impossible to realize that, because she wore shapeless suits and black eye glasses, pulled her hair severely back, and she was the shyest person Allie knew. She was also the smartest, and she was a techno-geek. Their gazes locked as Brianna hurried to her.

“Why did you cruise alone?” Brianna whispered, her pretty green eyes clearly visible, in spite of the serious spectacles she wore which only enhanced her nerdy appearance. “I saw what happened!”

“I’m okay,” Allie whispered. Brianna had the Sight. Of course she’d have rushed to Allie’s side after she’d made herself so sick. “Aren’t you late for work?”

“It’s six in the morning,” Brianna returned. “They brought you in at three am. I’m sorry! I was at HCU all night—I was so engrossed in a case—or I’d have known sooner. Sami and Tabby are outside. C’mon. Let’s get you out of here before CDA gets a wind of this.”

Allie seized her hands. “Brie. I just saw my mom.”

Brianna hesitated. And her green eyes glazed over. “We’ll talk later,” she said after a significant pause.


Allie studied herself critically in the mirror. Her father was holding a political fundraiser and she had to be downstairs in a few moments. A lot of concealer hid the dark circles that remained under her eyes, and while she was feeling better, she was not herself and she knew it. She had gone too far, trying to raise the dead.

But the sea-foam chiffon evening gown floated sensually down her body and made her olive complexion and dark eyes glow. Allie had used some serious teal eye shadow, dark liner and now she added pale gloss to her lips. For someone who’d awoken in the hospital that morning, she looked okay.

Her mother had returned from the dead, trying to communicate with her. Allie still couldn’t figure out what she had meant. Had she even heard her correctly?

And what about Sir Golden Right Down To His Toes? He’d become engraved upon her mind, and she had to admit that she wouldn’t mind hooking up with him.

“Alison Monroe, you are late!” Her other best friend Tabby sailed into the room, looking drop dead gorgeous in a bronze evening gown. She’d recently divorced and Allie knew the smile was fake—she’d been dumped for a younger woman and her heart was badly broken. Brianna had seen it coming.

“You look awesome,” Allie smiled.

“Thanks. I almost feel pretty again,” Tabby said, closing the door. Tabby was of medium height, slim and blond—when she wasn’t practicing spells and scrying for evil, she was practicing yoga. She was a first grade teacher and her ex was a Wall Street high roller. It had been a Cinderella story—or so they’d both thought. “I thought I’d give you a heads up. Brian wants to know why you walked out on him last night.”

Allie grimaced. “I guess I got caught.”

“Not for the first time,” Tabby said softly. “I hate it when you cruise alone! You could get hurt! You did get hurt—thank the gods Brie felt it so we could rescue you from the clutches of the police.”

Tabby no longer smiled. Tabby, Sam and Brianna knew her secret—they’d known she could heal since they’d become friends as children. But Allie knew their secrets—they all had powers which they used to fight evil. Although Brie worked in CDA, no one knew her ability to see evil, and they all kept the lowest profile imaginable. “I guess another one bites the dust,” Tabby said softly.

Allie glanced away. Brian had started to act like he was really interested in her. And that was not a good thing. But men had always swarmed to her like bees to honey. Yet she’d never been able to do more than go through the motions of being in love. She was twenty-five and she’d never been in love, not even a schoolgirl crush.

And she was always getting caught sneaking out in the middle of the night—and it was still just as hard trying to make up excuses for her behavior. And that behavior always ended every relationship, sooner or later. Allie knew she didn’t have time for love. In fact, love would probably interfere with her destiny as a Healer.

“I’m so tired of lying—and hiding who I really am,” Allie said, sitting down on the bed. “But of course I’ll tell him you called with a broken heart and I had to come right over.”

“At least you’re not in love,” Tabby said significantly, referring to her own broken heart.

Before Allie could answer, Sam came in without knocking. While Tabby was as elegant as a woman could be, Sam had really short, choppy blond hair and favored distressed denim and biker boots. She had slipped on a very tiny, very immodest black dress for the affair, revealing the fact that she was as buff as a personal trainer, with a lot of black eye shadow and really pale lips. She was so beautiful that no amount of Rocker Meets Biker attitude could change that. “Your father’s looking for you. I heard that. Some of us are liberated women who only need a guy for one thing only.” She winked at Allie.

Sam understood her—she always had. Sam was really tough—the kind of tough that happens when tragedy strikes in front of your face when you’re young—but not too young to forget and move on. Unlike her sisters, she was not romantic at all. Allie got it. She was on her own quest—hunting demons-- and love would not get in the way—ever.

“I wish I could be like you and Sam,” Tabby said very seriously. “I wish I could date and have a good time and walk away whole.”

“No one can change who they are,” Allie said softly. “You’re perfect the way you are.” She wasn’t going to reveal that sometimes she wondered what love felt like and worse, sometimes she was tired of being so damned alone.

Tabby snorted, inelegantly. “Well, as I am swearing off of men, forever, I guess that will be our secret.”

“Just swear off Mr. Right—because he’s always Mr. Wrong,” Sam said, sitting on a chair and crossing her long, chiseled legs.

Allie said, “You’ll meet someone who is as perfect for you as you are for him.” She smiled and went to the mirror, pretending that she wanted to touch up her makeup. She didn’t. She didn’t want to keep talking about love.

Tabby said softly, “Hey, are you forgetting I am pretty telepathic?”

Allie glanced at Tabby’s reflection in the mirror. Her favorite movie was Kate and Leopold, not that she would ever admit it. She wouldn’t trade her gift for anything, or anyone, but her life was hard and it was also isolating. It was lonely. She didn’t know what she would do without such incredible friends. She said firmly, “My life is helping others, not falling in love. I have never been in love—and I doubt I ever will.”

Allie turned and silently warned Tabby not to reveal her secrets. Tabby squeezed her hand. “On a more sober note, Brian’s pretty upset about last night, Allie. He asked me if you’re cheating on him.”

Allie bit her lip. And this was another reason nothing ever worked out—sooner, not later, her lovers figured out she was vanishing in the middle of the night. “Can you send him into the arms of a really hot babe? By dawn he won’t remember me.”

Tabby gave her a look. Allie knew she’d cave. No one was as kind or caring as Tabby and she’d never let Brian walk around heartbroken. Tabby finally smiled, just a little. “It’s against the rules to send him his soul mate, but I’ll try to set Brian up.”

Sam stood. “Duty calls, ladies.”

Allie didn’t move away from the bureau. “Any chance Brie’s here?” Allie asked.

Sam gave her an incredulous look. “Brie wouldn’t come to a party if her life depended on it. If she’s not at work, I guarantee you she’s at home, by her lonely, with a glass of wine, buried in classified HCU files.”

HCU was the Historical Crimes Unit of CDA. “I need a favor from her,” Allie said.

Tabby stared. Allie had mentioned her mother’s visit that morning when they were in Sam’s SUV, on their way home from South Hampton Hospital. Now she thought about her mother’s strange words and a really buff, warrior-hard, muscle man with a sun tan. She tensed, actually feeling the stirrings of desire. “I need to know what she meant.”

Sam snickered. “No, you want to know if a golden sex machine is in your future. Man, I can always use one of those—although I prefer my men dark.”

Allie had to smile. “He’s mine, girl.”

Sam shrugged.

But Tabby was serious. “How many times have you wished for a warrior to help you while you healed? I do recall that being your exact word—warrior. And Sam, I am not belittling your powers. Because you have come home really hurt and beaten up, on too many occasions to count! How many times have I wished for someone strong and determined to protect the children? I am having this sense that your mother is sending you someone.” Her eyes were bright with excitement.

Allie’s heart raced. “Maybe she’s sending me a CDA agent.”

“Those guys are ex- Special Ops. That’d do the trick,” Sam said.

Tabby whispered, “I’m not Brie. Not by a long shot. But should I get my cards?”

Allie tensed. Tabby was gifted with the Tarot. She didn’t have Brie’s incredible Sight, but the cards usually spoke to her. “Use mine.”

A moment later, Tabby had laid out a simple seven card spread. While Allie was familiar with the cards, she never read them like Tabby—but instantly, she saw the Knight of Swords. “Is that him?” She asked quietly, the hairs rising on her neck as she looked at the knight on his white charger, sword in hand.

Tabby looked up. “No. That’s him.” She pointed to the Emperor. He had been dealt upside down.

Allie’s eyes widened. “Are you sure?”

“This spread is about him, Allie—and it is Fate.” She pointed. “Five of these cards are from the Major Arcana.”

Allie trembled. “I see that.”

“Someone is coming from the past—not your past—because there is another woman here. And she’s hurt. But he is a powerful older man—with great authority. He has power and he has faith and his quest is Justice.” She added, “Allie, he is blessed.”

Allie breathed. It was hard to believe that her golden warrior would be an older man. “Is the other woman my mother? Is my mother hurt?” Had her mother become trapped between worlds? She’d heard it was possible—and that might explain her odd visit.

“I don’t know who this other woman is—but like the Knight of Swords, she is a bridge between you and this man and she is very important to you both. She’s come up as the Queen of Cups. Allie? Your life is about to be turned upside down.” Tabby pointed at Tower—which was being struck by lightning, people jumping from it. It was next to the Death card.

Most readers refused to read death in the cards. Every deck claimed the Death card did not symbolize death. Not Tabby. In her world, the Death card was just that, if juxtaposed correctly to other cards. “Does someone die?” Allie wasn’t chilled—the innocent died every day. Death was a fact of life.

“Someone dies,” Tabby whispered seriously. She pointed at the Sun, lying beneath Death. “But from the ashes, comes a new day.”

Their gazes locked.

Brianna stepped into the room, clad in a shapeless black pantsuit.

Allie started.

Brianna didn’t smile. She walked over to them and stared at the reversed Emperor. “He is here.”

It was midnight when Allie stepped outside onto the flagstone patio by the pool. The fundraiser was political, and she’d had enough. She didn’t give a damn about politics except when the politicians fucked up and the little guy suffered because of it.

She’d stolen out, leaving Brian at the bar with Tabby and a few other guests, not having had a chance to really talk with him. She had a head ache. She never had head aches. She knew she was still off from last night.

She wanted to get past the guests who were lingering at the brilliantly lit up pool without being waylaid. She crossed the lawns, leaving the pool and her father’s guests behind, thinking about her mother, the golden warrior and Brie’s stunning statement. She paused by the split rail fence so she could watch their Thoroughbreds grazing under the moonlight. Was her golden warrior really present?

Was her mother sending someone to her, someone to help her in her ambition to heal those in suffering?

Allie smiled almost sadly. On the day of her death, as if she’d known she was going to pass, Elizabeth Monroe had asked Allie to make vows. She’d sworn to keep her powers secret and worship as she’d been raised, in her mother’s ancient religion. And she had sworn to never turn her back on any suffering creature, great or small, human or beast, if it was innocent.

Her father hadn’t ever gotten over her death. Her father was a Fortune 500 entrepreneur, as different from Elizabeth as anyone could be, and maybe that was why he’d loved her so. Unlike his friend Trump, he paid people to keep his name—and her and her stepbrother’s—out of the news. William Monroe hadn’t remarried, although he had many model girlfriends.

Allie loved her mogul father, but didn’t understand him very well. She had learned long ago not to let her father see her spiritual side, just as Elizabeth had hidden it from him when she was alive. He didn’t have a clue that she was a healer. He expected her to serve on various boards and marry Brian or someone just like him. Allie didn’t mind being on the Board of Directors of the Elizabeth Foundation, which gave away huge sums of money to philanthropies and charities, with her direction. She’d barely made it through high school, and while healing could easily be a full time job, she didn’t dare do so openly. She was the Monroe Heiress, and the media watched her pretty closely. She had to be careful, always.

She had to pretend to fit in with everybody in his world when she didn’t really fit in at all, except with Sam, Tabby and Brie—and the evil monsters who wanted to murder them all. Allie sighed, staring at the grazing horses. She didn’t like events like this one, and even in bed with a great guy like Brian, she had to pretend to be something she was not. Allie was certain her father suspected that his wife had been far more than your average socialite; she was determined he’d never guess the truth about his daughter. But hiding most of the time out was hard.

And then she felt Brian, even before he called her name.

She shoved her brooding aside. Brian was approaching and she smiled at him, hoping Tabby would put a love spell on him really soon. He was going to be hurt and that went against her very nature. Unfortunately her sex drive was too high for her to avoid men and be celibate.

“Hey. Are you okay? First you split on me last night and tonight you’ve been quiet. You’re never quiet.”

Allie hesitated. “I have a head ache. Are you still mad about last night?”

“You cut and ran, Allie,” he said quietly, but not with accusation.

“I couldn’t sleep so I went out for a drive.” That was, she thought, a part of the truth.

His gaze was searching. “You’re an amazing woman, Allie.” He hesitated. “It’s not happening, is it?”

He knows, she thought, saddened but relieved. She touched his arm. “I am awful at relationships, Brian. They never last. It’s not you. It’s me. I’m not like other women. I’ve never been in love.”

He shook his head. “Unfortunately, that makes you even more desirable.”

It was time to tell him it was over, she thought. But then Allie tensed. A huge power had settled around them, hot and male.

She was stunned. She had never felt such power in her life. The power wasn’t dark or demonic. It was pure and white--but it was not a healing power, for it was charged with testosterone—it was aggressive.

It was the golden warrior.

Stunned, she tried to see across the pasture, past the horses, into the night. The power was holy. It came from her gods. But hadn’t Tabby said he had faith—that he was blessed? A terrible excitement consumed her.

And then she saw his aura.

Orange and crimson burned, powerful and bright, and she saw him, at last.

And time stood still. The world around them vanished. Brian was gone, the horses disappeared, it was only her and him and the night. She had found her golden warrior.

And that was exactly what he was—the golden warrior she’d envisioned earlier—except, he wasn’t naked. He was tall and muscular; he wore a pale tunic and boots, his thighs bare, along with two swords and a plaid, which was pinned over one shoulder. He was a Highlander. He could have stepped out of Braveheart.

His gaze unwavering on her, he started to approach.

No, he had stepped out of time, she somehow thought. Allie trembled, her heart accelerating so wildly, she felt faint. There was so much power emanating from him, and finally he was bathed in moonlight. Allie breathed hard. Not only was he exactly as she had dreamed, he was even better. Big, bronzed, beautiful—and oh yeah, she’d been right about the club.

Their gazes met and locked.

“That guy’s a loon. Let’s go.” Brian took her arm.

But the man’s gaze held hers, and Allie didn’t even feel Brian’s grasp, instead, she felt desire fist in her gut. And his silver gaze widened as if he was startled by her somehow, too.

Then his face hardened. “Lady Ailios,” he stated, using an old Gaelic version of her name, speaking with a heavy brogue. “Dinna fear. MacNeil has sent me. T’is time.”

His words washed through her with such warmth she realized he had powers of enchantment and he was attempting to enchant her. But she didn’t mind. She smiled at him. “Okay.”

His gaze narrowed with suspicion.

“I am not afraid of you,” Allie whispered.

And she felt the dark coming. She froze--and he half-turned, stiffening, and she knew he was sensing them, too.

A cloud turned the moon blood red.

The warrior said firmly, in a tone of command, “Ailios. Go into the house with yer man.” And as he spoke, she saw his aura erupt in blast of more intense red and gold light. It was savage determination, explosive and hot; it was the battle readiness of a warrior.

But Allie wasn’t going anywhere. “Are you kidding?” Allie cried. Real concern for Brian began. He’d get hurt if he stayed to fight. She whirled. “Hey.” She smiled and pressed close. “I know this guy—he’s from high school—and yes, he’s weird—but he’s harmless.” She could barely believe such a lie. “I know we have to finish our conversation. Let me get his number and I’ll meet you in my room. Bring a bottle of Dom,” she added with another smile.

Brian’s eyes widened. “I don’t like leaving you with him, Allie. But we do need to talk.”

Allie wanted him to rush off and she almost hopped up and down. “He’s on his way to a costume party at the Grussmans’ in Bridge Hampton.”

He stared suspiciously at her.

“Go to her room and take her with ye. Go now, Brian,” Mr. To-Die-For said.

And a terrible chill fell.

“Allie, let’s go.” Brian took her arm, clearly enchanted.

Allie tried to pull free but failed, for she was too small to succeed. “I am not going,” she told the golden warrior, their gazes locked. “I will fight, too, I’ll help!”

His eyes widened, incredulously. “Ye think to fight?”

And black clouds filled the space between them.

The chill became arctic.

The warrior seized her, pulling her behind his huge body as if he meant to be her human shield. The demons formed, all blond and perfect—meaning that they were the highest level of diabolical power. Allie took a stiletto from her garter as one demon was flung backwards by the Scot’s energy blast. Allie was jubilant—he had the kind of power the demons had! She tried to step past him as Brian was thrown to his back by a demon. But more energy was being hurled at them and she was flung back herself, landing hard on the grass. For one moment, pain exploded in her back again, and she was stunned. Then she rallied and looked up and saw the golden warrior, sword in hand, behead two demons almost simultaneously. Only one demon remained—somehow, while she’d been flung backwards, he’d vanquished the third.

Allie got up. He was just like a frigging super hero, and just what the world needed. She wanted to jump and cheer but she saw Brian prone and pale, lying face down in the grass.

The single remaining demon was almost as tall and muscular as the warrior, making him no slouch, but he wore long, dark robes—like a friar or a monk—and Allie was certain he’d come from a past era, too. He murmured, “Ruari Dubh, ciamar a tha thu?” He grinned. Black Rory, how are you?

Allie crept closer, grasping the knife, understanding every word of the Gaelic the demon spoke when she had only translated the prayers bequeathed her by Elizabeth. Brian wasn’t dead, but he was hurt, bleeding internally, and his life was compromised. Rage engulfed her. She was not going to let him die, too.

The demon looked at her. “Hallo, a Ailios. Latha math dhulbh.”

“Fuck you,” Allie cried, and she lunged past the warrior, intending to stab the demon in the eye if she could. It would not be the first time she had blinded a demon, at least partially.

But the golden warrior seized her arm, pulling her back into his embrace where she writhed furiously, wanting a chance to murder the demon. “Stay still,” he roared at her. “Or do ye wish to die?”

The blond demon laughed at Allie. “Latha math an-drasda.” He vanished.

Allie stopped struggling and began shaking wildly, instead. Goodbye for now. What did that mean?

And as sick with fear as she was for Brian, she was shockingly aware of being in the warrior’s thick, impossibly strong arms. His body was huge and hard and powerfully male—and she felt a very large package stirring beneath her. She closed her eyes—she had to heal Brian. It was hard, because her body began screaming at her, delicious sensation rushing across her skin, inflaming every fiber of her being. “Let me go so I can help Brian,” she said hoarsely.

He released her.

She met his hot, glittering gaze and that fist slammed her again, hollowing her more acutely than ever before. And he knew. A slight, smug smile tilted the otherwise still line of his mouth.

He wouldn’t be so smug in another hour, she thought. Because he was going to have the time of his life.

She turned and ran to Brian and dropped down besides him, reaching for him, flooding him with her white healing light. And even as intensely focused as she was, she was acutely aware of the warrior, and she felt him as he came to stand behind her. Instantly she knew he was standing guard over her so she could heal.

Her heart thundered. When this night was over, she was going to thank all the gods for answering her prayers.

“Can ye heal him?”

She swallowed. “I’ll die trying.” But her temples throbbed. She was still off from last night. It almost hurt to heal Brian now. Pulling out her white light felt like pulling out her own teeth, one by one.

He was silent, but not for long. “Are ye hurt?”

She panted and took a short break. “Last night…I got hurt.” She glanced up at him.

He did not seem happy to hear that.

She breathed deeply and turned back to Brian, flooding him with her light. Brian’s life flickered and blazed.

Allie was swept by an intense wave of dizziness. She felt the land tilt wildly and she was dismayed. The huge warrior knelt, embracing her from behind and holding her steady against his chest.

She gasped. His scent was overwhelming. Man, sex, power and the clean Highland mist and more sex. His body was overwhelming. He could have been honed from steel. And the thighs beneath her ass were even better than a soccer player’s. This man rode horses and ran hills.

Allie opened her eyes and shifted to meet his gaze. The night had changed. It was charged. She was weak but she needed this man—and she wasn’t thinking about a partner to combat crime. Oh, no. In fact, suddenly, strangely, it was all she could think about, and she sensed he was using his powers of enchantment again.

His eyes hot, he moved away from her, standing. The tunic lifted and Allie instinctively looked. She didn’t know any man could be built that way, but then, he wasn’t an ordinary man. “Who are you?” She whispered, forcing her gaze to his eyes.

But Brian sat up. “Allie?” He was alarmed. “What happened?”

Allie jerked with dismay—she’d been so mesmerized by the warrior she’d forgotten about Brian.

The Highlander stared at Brian. “Go to the house. I’ll bring her soon enough.”

Brian stood and left without a word.

Allie met his gray gaze and this time, she knew her eyes were wide. “It’s all true, right? You’re one of them…a warrior who can travel through time…with super powers…defending mankind.”

His gaze dropped to her mouth, and it slid lower, to her breasts, which were barely covered by the corset-style, push-up bodice of the evening gown. “I dinna ken,” he said softly. But his silver eyes were hot and an arrogant smile played on that incredible, chiseled face.

And a shadow fell over the night.

Allie glanced up in alarm; the moon was gone, covered by black clouds. She tensed, glancing at the pool, but it remained brightly lit. It didn’t matter. Huge and heavy, blackness swiftly approached them again.

Incredulous, she looked up at the warrior. She was too weak to fight more demons now! She scrambled to her feet, not as steadily as she’d have liked—as an arctic chill fell.

Fear and anger warred in her heart. Allie looked at the warrior—and he looked at her. He was grim.

And she knew something bad—really bad—was about to happen. “I’m okay,” she lied. “Where’s my knife?”

He shook his head, jaw flexed. “Ye canna fight again,” he said firmly. His grasp tightened. “Ye need to hold me tight.”

Allie was about to say that was fine by her, when they were flung across the pastures, over the horses, into space. If she could have, Allie would have screamed. Instead, she gasped as her body was ripped apart, into shreds of hair, tissue and skin.

 

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