HE’S A MAGIC MAN
Chapter One and Two
The old woman wheezed, gasping for breath. Time was running out. “Jason,” she whispered. “Come closer.”
Jason obeyed, though she knew he thought her decaying body distasteful. Even she could smell the scent of subtle rot that permeated the hospital room. She was beyond even a Healer now. They couldn’t fight age. But she could. She just needed the sword.
“Ma’am?” Jason asked. He was frightened of her, big hard man that he was. The minute he wasn’t, she’d feel his hands around her throat. He thought he’d hidden his burning desire to lead the Clan. But he couldn’t hide from her. She’d seen everything at her age.
“Has Hardwick called?” she rasped.
She saw Jason’s look of dismay turn to relief as his cell phone chattered.
Jason snapped her a look of confirmation with a forced smile. “Hardwick.” He listened. She raised her hand off the bed an inch or so, an impatient command. “Just a minute.” Jason took the phone away from his ear. “He thinks it’s in the Caribbean.” Surprising. “A queen gave it to some pirate named Drake to hide it from the Spanish armada.” He looked puzzled then put the phone to his ear. “What’s an armada? Oh. Okay.”
It obviously didn’t take education to have the gene. But Hardwick’s theory made sense. Elizabeth couldn’t let the sword’s power fall into her archenemy’s hands. “Where in the Caribbean?” Her voice felt like leaves rustling in dry wind.
Jason listened again then got an anxious look. “Don’t know.”
How many islands in the Caribbean? She didn’t have time for an extended search. There was now only one sure way to get what she wanted.
“What about the Finder?” She’d been looking for years. She’d almost given up hope. But Prentice had gotten a lead before the Tremaine spawn killed him.
Jason answered eagerly. “I followed up on the notes Prentice left. They say the guy can find anything anywhere. Got a salvage business.”
Right neighborhood. Things might finally be going her way.
“I’ll head out.” He saw her expression. “I know--no publicity.”
“Don’t... trust you with this,” she breathed.
His eyes got a haunted expression. He must be remembering the punishment for his last failure. “Who do you want to assign?”
Drew Tremaine took a glass of champagne from the tray held by the tuxedoed server and one for her friend Jane. “Knowing your destiny is really a good feeling.” They made their way through the elegantly dressed crowd to the next lighted display case. How excited could you get about 5th century Anglo-Saxon cloak pins? Drew searched the room. He wasn’t here yet.
“It must be,” Jane said.
Drew realized she’d just been an ass. Jane knew the Tremaine secret, of course. She practically lived at The Breakers since her mother was such a witch (figurative, not literal.) But it must be hard to know you weren’t special like Drew and her siblings. “Apologies, Jane. You know how unthinking I can be,” she said.
“You can’t help what’s in your DNA.” Jane was forgiving. You could count on that. Drew wasn’t sure why Jane put up with her. Drew couldn’t help but outshine her shy friend. Most girls would have found a more comfortable BFF or gotten outlandish in some ill-conceived attempt to garner attention. But Jane was terminally loyal, even when it was difficult. You had to love her for that. And she still wore gray and taupe and sensible shoes, in spite of Drew’s periodic offers of a makeover weekend. Jane was just Jane. That was her destiny.
“Mrs. Lindstrom, how nice to see you,” Drew said smoothly, as a sleek older woman approached. They exchanged pecks on the cheek and a mock hug careful of their sequins. Mrs. Lindstrom’s copper was Stella McCartney if Drew wasn’t mistaken. Nice. “You know Jane Walker?” Mrs. Lindstrom greeted Jane politely. She was on the Museum’s Board. Not very effectual according to Father, but well-meaning.
“They’ve just done a wonderful job with the exhibition, haven’t they?” she gushed.
“Yes. It was so nice of you and the Board to arrange this opening for Mother’s favorite charity.” Drew’s parents were in the reception room, making sure the well-shod of the LA scene and the Hollywood crowd were ponying up the dough.
“Oh, yes, well, we couldn’t have acquired many of these pieces without your father’s largesse. And who doesn’t like supporting Children’s Hospital? They do such fabulous work.”
“Who, indeed?” Drew drawled. She didn’t think she could bear an extended conversation. The older woman was eyeing her dress. In a minute she’d be asking whose design it was. Boring. And Drew had more important things on her mind “Have you seen the coins with the porcupine engraving?”
Mrs. Lindstrom looked around. “No... I can’t say...”
“They’re over in case thirty-four,” Jane said. Mrs. Lindstrom smiled uncertainly, and went off in search of porcupines.
When she’d gone, Drew gave the room a quick scan. Nothing yet. “Knowing my destiny kept me from suicide after Father refused to let me go back to Brown,” she said to Jane as they found a corner out of direct circulation. “But living at home is driving me mad. Not to mention our constant ‘companions’ back there.” Three hulking members of her security detail were trying vainly to look interested in Anglo-Saxon artifacts about twenty feet behind them.
“Your father is only thinking of your safety.”
Drew heaved a sigh. “I know.” She smiled and shrugged. “I suppose I just hate being told what to do.”
Jane suppressed a chuckle. “No! Really? You?”
“But if I hadn’t left Brown, I never would have met Roger. Destiny will win out.”
“You’re only twenty-four,” Jane said. “You have plenty of time to find true love.”
Jane just wouldn’t believe that Roger was the One. “I knew immediately, just as the Parents said we would. Roger walked into the seminar and that was it. Maybe that’s my...uh, talent. Matchmaking. Remember Melissa and John? And I knew Maggie was made for Tris long before he did. Now I’m making a great match for myself. If you’d only let me work on you...”
“Oh, no. Not on your life.”
“You never let me do anything for you.”
“You are the most generous person I know, Drew. But no matchmaking.” Jane seemed to have given up on men. They’d spent a year in France without Jane falling in love, for God’s sake. Who could do that?
Jane’s brow creased. “Have you had any sign of.... you know?” She stepped into the shadows at the very periphery of the room.
“No. But that doesn’t bother me.” Except it did. It was the only ant at her very perfect destiny picnic. She’d been dating Roger since March and she had been sure, after they’d been intimate...but nothing. “Maybe I just don’t recognize it yet. Tris took a while to get his...his...talent. And I have a plan.”
Jane smiled. “What now? And what exactly is my role in said plan?”
“I’ve had a breakthrough in my research on the history of the Tarot. I reveal it tomorrow night. Which means my reward is at hand. Mother said you and I can have a whole week alone at the Ritz-Carlton. Father promised no security other than what the hotel normally provides.”
“See what I mean? That’s very generous.” Jane raised her brows. She knew there was a catch. “Is there something I can do in return?”
Drew was a little embarrassed. “If Roger just happens to check in at the same time...”
“I’m the cover for a summer romance.” Jane sighed.
“I’ll just have to get my...” she looked around. “My... you know... then.” Drew wasn’t above pleading.
“Drew,” a young man called.
Darn. Everett. He’d had a crush on her for years. She waved languidly, giving him a smile, and drew Jane off toward the Ladies. There was no way she was dealing with Everett now.
“If you don’t want to do it, I understand.” Drew whispered. “I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
“There’s nothing I’d like more than to help you get a week away from your family, dear as they are. And I’m always up for time away from Mom. It’s just...well, Roger is so much older than you are and he’s your professor.”
Drew chuckled. Jane was so straight-laced sometimes. “Modern relationships aren’t defined by ages or societal roles.” They ducked into the ladies room. The outer lounge area was quiet. And it had overstuffed chairs. Drew’s Jimmy Choo’s were killing her.
Jane tried to smile. “I just think he’s a little full of himself. I’d like to see the relationship on a more equal footing.”
Wow. She really wasn’t a Roger fan. But how could she be? If Drew found her one true love, where did that leave Jane? So Drew refused to take offense. “He can be...supercilious. But I’ll change that.”
Jane looked an apology. She seemed about to say something else, but thought better of it. “I guess time will sort it out.”
By the time they felt able to circulate again, Drew was getting worried. Where was he? He’d let slip that he’d gotten an invitation to the opening of the exhibit, but he didn’t seem to know her family’s role at the museum, or guess that she’d had her mother put him on the guest list. He’d be so surprised when he saw Drew. Her mother always said that little surprises were the key to keeping a relationship fresh.
There was Roger now. Drew could hardly wait to tell him about the plan. That was one good-looking man: shaggy blond hair, dreamy brown eyes. He was smart. Drew needed someone as smart as she was or she’d run all over them. She loved the way he wore a corduroy jacket to class, even in early summer. The leather elbow patches and the pipe really made him look like a professor. Tonight he was wearing an endearingly rumpled tux.
Girls did fawn on him of course. Understandable. There was one now, earnestly discussing bronze belt fittings, gaze glued to his face. The girl was stuttering something.
And Roger’s expression went soft.
Drew sucked in a breath. The exhibit seemed to recede. She knew Jane was standing beside her. But it all seemed distant. Because she knew what was going to happen. And it didn’t take a magic power to see it.
Roger lifted a hand and pushed a strand of the girl’s blond hair behind her ear.
Drew stopped like she’d bumped up against an invisible wall.
“You’re a very talented student,” Roger was saying.
No, no, no. You can’t say that. Her breath had gone ragged.
“Drew?” Jane asked. Drew couldn’t look away from the disaster unfolding before her.
“Thanks, Dr. Jessop,” the girl said shyly.
“Have you thought more about your dissertation subject?”
Drew clenched her teeth. She swallowed. Can’t do this. She turned around where she stood. “Let’s go, Jane, before he invites her to a coaching session over coffee.”
Jane took one look at her face and turned too. “I never really wanted to come tonight.”
As they strode away, Drew could hear him say, “I’d be glad to help you narrow down your choices. Why don’t we meet at the Student Union for coffee tomorrow?”
Drew broke into a run.
The tears were in there somewhere, but she wasn’t going to let them out. Jane had insisted on driving. The sound of the Maserati’s grinding gears was like a saw on Drew’s nerves. Jane was only going fifty on the 405, with very little traffic. Drew wanted away from the museum as fast as she could go.
“How long have you known?” Her words were clipped.
“A while.” Jane didn’t look at her.
Just perfect. Her staid little friend knew Roger was doing every girl in his classes and probably just couldn’t bear to disappoint Drew, who was so ridiculously sure of her destiny that she was apparently willing to see Prince Charming in every heel she encountered. Not her image of herself. Drew closed her eyes. “Does everybody know what he is?”
Jane chewed her lip. “Pretty much.”
Drew groaned. Worse. “Great. I’m a laughingstock as well as a dupe.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Drew. He’s a charming snake and he’s been doing this for years, but he’s got tenure and a reputation and nobody dares call him on it. He’s very careful not to seduce anyone under twenty-one.”
Seduce? That’s what she’d been? Seduced? Worse and worse and worse. “So I’m the only one who’s stupid enough not to see through him.”
“Well, not the only one. There are the other girls he’s, uh, dated.”
And dumped. If Jane was trying to make this better she was failing miserably. Drew felt betrayed. And by someone besides Roger. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Be...because you were so sure. And there is the family destiny. I thought maybe he’d change his ways when he met you.”
“No one ever changes, Jane.” But wasn’t that just what she’d been hoping for? That she could change the things she didn’t like about him?
“I don’t think that’s true,” Jane said softly. “People can change.” Since Jane rarely disagreed with Drew, that was a slightly shocking statement. But Drew couldn’t answer her. Tonight called into question everything Drew had ever believed. She’d been so sure Roger had the DNA with Merlin’s magic in it just as she did, and that their love would unlock magic in both of them. There was a destiny, of course. Her mother and father were certain proof. And when Tris and Maggie found each other, they both got a power. Maybe the gene was a recessive in Drew or something. Being special would pass her by and she’d be just like Jane.
Jane took the Hawthorne Boulevard exit, out toward the coast and the Tremaine estate. The Maserati coughed as she downshifted.
Uh, oh. The Breakers would be a living hell if anyone there found out about Drew’s humiliation. “You can’t tell anyone what happened.”
Jane glanced over to her, surprised. “You’re not going to tell your family?”
“Oh my God, no. Mother will fuss. Kemble will have anyone I ever look at twice checked out by...by the CIA or something. I’ll have to talk Tris out of putting Roger in the hospital. Lanyon and Tammy will tease me until I’m eighty-five.” Drew sighed. “And Father will have expected nothing better from me, because all girls except mother are just silly.” Jane was about to protest. “Don’t say that isn’t exactly what would happen.”
Jane closed her mouth.
“Promise,” Drew said in her most threatening tone. “Or I won’t invite you over to the house anymore.”
Jane half-chuckled. “Empty threat. No one ever invites me. And if I disappeared, your mother would worry and send out the troops to find me.”
Drew clenched her eyes shut. “Just promise, Jane,” she said, her voice flat.
Jane sighed. “Promise.”
“Drew, Drew! Cally did a flying lead change for me today.” Tammy came bursting into the second floor library, still in her riding boots and breeches.
“That must be the one where he looks like he’s dancing the tango.” Drew used her best, bored drawl. After a bad night, she’d retreated to the library today to avoid her family and had spent all day moping.
“Horses can’t tango,” Tammy protested, breathless. She must have run up from the stables. “You’re just being silly. It’s the one where he skips. Hi, Jane,” she added as an aside. Jane was reading in an armchair in the corner, her face in shadows and only the pages of her book illuminated by the afternoon sun coming in from the west. Tammy’s new black kitten, Bagheera, nestled in one arm. The sound of the surf drifted in through the open window.
Tammy continued as Jane smiled and waved. “You see, you sit down and pull your heel up against his side.” She balanced on one leg while she bent the other knee as though sitting on a horse. “You ask for the canter while he’s already cantering, but you use the opposite leg, so he skips and changes the lead hoof.” Tammy, who’d just turned fifteen, skipped around the library, ending at Jane’s armchair, where she scooped up her sleeping kitten. He was black with immense chartreuse eyes. When Tammy heard that black cats had trouble getting adopted from the shelter, Bagheera had a home.
“I get the idea,” Drew sighed and closed the huge folio on the reading table before her.
The flute music that had been floating in from the music room down the hall cut off in mid-trill. Impatient strides could be heard down the hall. Drew’s youngest brother, Lanyon appeared in the doorway, frowning, his black hair spiking out in all directions. “Tammy, leave Drew alone. She’s on a mission.” The whole family knew about Drew’s deal with her mother.
Tammy stopped in mid-skip. “Oh. Sorry, Drew. I forgot.” Tammy turned, a suddenly determined look on her freckled face. “But you’ve been in here for weeks with all these dusty old books. It isn’t fair. I’m going to tell Mom she should let you out of the deal.”
Drew lounged back in her chair. Pretty cute that Tammy wanted to protect her. “You know I like old books. I’m a history major. And anyway, I’m done.”
“Not like you to give up, Drew,” Lanyon said, disapproving.
“No. I mean I finished.” She pointed to the screen of her laptop, so incongruous next to the worn leather of the huge book.
“Yay!” Tammy crowed.
“Have you told mother the bad news?” Kemble asked, appearing in the doorway. All her brothers looked more or less like her father. Same strong jaw, black hair, broad shoulders. Lanyon was lanky at seventeen, but he was growing into them. And all the girls looked like their mother; porcelain skin, light eyes of green or gray or turquoise, cheekbones. Tammy’s hair was red, but she was unmistakably a Tremaine girl. Only Devin, taken in by the family after his parents died, was an anomaly, with his brown eyes and blond hair. But Kemble was an actual clone of her father. When had Kemble gotten little lines around his eyes that made him look older than his thirty-one years?
“Did you ever think it might not be bad news?” The family was amazed when their mother took up the Tarot. She was usually so sensible. But she believed it had come down from Merlin and that was the reason it appealed to her so.
Kemble frowned. “You’re kidding, of course.”
Drew shrugged as though she didn’t care. “Wait for the big reveal tonight after dinner.”
“So why the long face?” Drew’s mother caught her alone on the terrace, staring out at Catalina Island across the lawn that sloped down to the cliff above the beach. It was closing in on six-thirty, but it still felt like late afternoon. The sun glinted across the water.
Drew managed half a smile. “It’s not long.”
Her mother sat down beside her. “Oh, dear. Roger.”
Did she have to be so percipient? And did everyone know about Roger?
Her mother sat down next to her on the teak bench weathered to a gray patina. “Don’t look so appalled. The cards said you were coming into a very difficult time. And you’ve been talking about ‘Roger this’ and ‘Roger that’ for weeks.”
“I was a fool.” Her voice caught but she managed not to let the tears flow.
“Honey, we’re all fools sometime in our lives.” Her mother hugged her close. The touch was so comforting Drew almost started sobbing.
Drew swallowed before she could say, “Everyone else knew what he was. Even Jane.”
“No one gives Jane enough credit.” Her mother rubbed Drew’s shoulder.
“I thought he was the One,” she said, finally straightening. “I was sure.”
“You’re always sure, honey. Remember that French boy?”
“Yes. But I was eighteen then. I’m twenty-four. Oh, I knew Roger wasn’t perfect. But...”
“But you thought you could fix him. There are some things you can’t fix, and one of them is other people. You certainly can’t start a relationship thinking you can fix what you think is wrong with someone.”
Jane thought people could change. Her mother apparently didn’t. Drew was just confused at this point. She shook her head, helplessly.
“Don’t worry, honey. You can’t force it. Sometimes you just have to let things happen.”
Right. “I’m going to need that week at the Ritz-Carlton,” she sighed.
“And I can hardly wait to hear the results of all your hard work tonight” her mother said.
At least she didn’t ask Drew to cheer up.
The entire family gathered for dinner, as usual, including Jane. Drew’s mother was uncharacteristically quiet as the various conversations of her boisterous family swirled around her. Drew was glad for once that dinners were so chaotic. It kept the focus off her. No one would miss her if she didn’t join in. At end of the table Kemble and her father were talking about the logistics of deploying relief supplies to the Argentine earthquake last week. Jane seemed content to listen in. The Kee/Devin consortium had their heads together as usual. It was their last summer before they went off to UCLA. Ah, the excitement of feeling grown up. Kee was going to major in art and Devin in Oceanography, which would put them at different ends of the campus. They probably hadn’t been apart that much since Devin showed up on the Tremaine doorstep when they were both seven.
“Come on, you can do better than that,” Tris was saying to his new wife, Maggie. “You’re eating for two, now.”
“If you had your way I’d weigh five hundred and twelve pounds.” Maggie was about five-foot-nothing to Tris’s six-four. “Gotta stay in shape if I’m going to ride in Denver.”
Her brother looked like he might explode. “No more rodeoing until after the baby,” he sputtered. “I thought we agreed.”
Maggie grinned. “I’m talking about Denver a year from now.”
Her brother flushed. “Oh, well, okay then. But I’m not sure you should still be riding.”
“Tris, I’m only four months pregnant. Doc says I’m good to go until seven.”
“What do doctors know?” Tris grumbled. It was great to see big, bad-boy Tris a puddle of worry over his tiny, spitfire wife. These two had overcome a lot of emotional baggage to get to true love, but you’d never know it. Now they lived over the garages, next to Mr. Nakamura and his daughter. Her father wanted to build them a house on the estate. There was plenty of room. But Tris and Maggie had simple tastes. Tris would never understand that his father wanted to do something for him as an apology for never quite understanding him.
Jane got up to get dessert. Tammy and Lanyon’s conversation about the greatest songs about horses ever had descended into an argument about the exact meaning of the Byrds’ Chestnut Mare.
“It’s obviously a song about drugs,” Tammy said with a smug expression.
“What would you know about drugs?” Lanyon snorted. “You’re home-schooled.”
“Not my fault,” Tammy said darkly, glaring at her mother with accusation in her eyes. “But any song about some guy riding a horse off a cliff without getting killed is a drug song. Besides, it’s from the seventies. Aren’t you always saying that every song in the seventies was about drugs, Mr. Know-All-About-Music Man?”
“It’s more in the tradition of a tall tale, like Paul Bunyan,” Lanyon explained as if to a child. No fifteen-year-old wanted to be talked to in that tone.
Tammy sniffed. “It talks about putting a brand on that lovely horse. I hate that song.”
“It might be about a woman rather than a mare,” Drew observed when she saw Lanyon getting ready for a dissertation about the genius of Rodger McGuinn’s twelve-string arpeggios or Clarence White’s killer riffs. That stopped them both in mid-retort. They stared. “Which means I don’t much like the sentiment either, Tammy.”
“It’s historical,” Lanyon sputtered. “They weren’t enlightened back then.”
“So I’ve heard,” Drew said dryly. Jane brought out a huge bowl of trifle. “Well, this is as good a time as any,” Drew said, and tapped her spoon on her water glass.
Kee frowned. “You sound like you’re at some Moose Lodge dinner, or something.”
“Like you know anything about Moose Lodge dinners,” Devin smirked.
“It was the worst thing I could think of, off hand,” Kee admitted.
“All right,” her father said. “Let Drew talk or your mother will have a heart attack.” The family turned expectantly toward Drew. They knew this research meant a lot to her mother. And Drew knew it might change some family dynamics. She had to go carefully.
“In order not to bore some members of the family....” Drew began,
Lanyon interrupted with a “Puh-lease, Lord.”
Drew frowned at him. “I’ll give you the abbreviated version.” No one touched the trifle. “Everybody knows the first mention of the cards is thought to be in 1367. You can look it up on Wikipedia. Bern, Switzerland issued an edict against playing Tarot games.”
“So tarot was an actual game?” Kee asked.
“Italian. Called Tarocco back then. Most sources say using it for divination didn’t come in until a lot later.” Drew glanced to her mother and saw her disappointment. Drew took a breath. Might as well get through the hard part. “There are a lot of hokey origin theories out there: that the decks were based on the cave paintings in France (which were pictures of aliens, of course) or that they were given to Egyptians by the god Thoth.”
“So, all hoo-ha?” Lanyon asked, casting sidelong glances at his mother.
“I knew this was a waste of time,” Kemble muttered.
“Thank you, Drew,” her mother said, her features under tight control. “You worked so hard on this.” For all her towering strength, their mother could be vulnerable.
“Hold on.” Drew put up her hands. “Genius at work.” She leaned forward. “I wondered why a Swiss city was so upset over Italian cards. Was it just wasting time, or was it sin? So I looked at Church documents. Lo and behold, a Father Valeré preached a whole sermon on the evils of trying to understand God’s will through the use of Tarocco cards. That means they were used for divination even in the fourteenth century.”
“Okay, so they were hokum back then too,” Lanyon shrugged.
“Doesn’t mean they came from Merlin,” Kemble said.
Drew frowned at them. “Okay, okay. Here’s the big reveal.” She leaned forward. “Father Valeré said the cards were a revival of the evil of the pagan Germanic invaders in the sixth century. That’s why everyone was so upset.”
“So what?” Devin asked. “I don’t get it.”
She knew this was going to be hard, but really. “Well. It might mean Tarot cards were used for divination in the sixth century by Germanic tribes.”
“I thought you said this was the short version,” Lanyon accused.
“Anglo-Saxons were Germanic,” she said slowly, and carefully. “Merlin and Arthur were fighting Saxons.”
Recognition started to light fires in the eyes around the table. “So. I started researching Anglo-Saxon interactions with the local Britons. At a burial site in Cornwall, they found Saxon references to something called “the Arcane” that told the fate of men.” Drew grinned. “And this ‘Arcane’ was said to come from a powerful local wizard who died a hundred years earlier.”
“The trump cards of the Tarot are called Arcana.” Her mother’s voice held excitement.
They all stared at each other. “That wizard could maybe be Merlin,” Maggie said, in her forthright way. “Didn’t Arthur live about a hundred years before the sixth century? Not that I’m a scholar or anything.”
“I agree,” Drew’s father said thoughtfully. “The wizard could be Merlin. The cards were used to tell the future even back then. And he gave the cards to the German tribes, who took them to Europe. Looks like I owe you an apology for what I’ve been thinking, Brina.” His expression was rueful. “The cards do come from Merlin. That may be why you have such an affinity for them.”
“I guess we should all apologize,” Kemble said, raising his brows.
Drew’s mother shook her head, her eyes full. “You’re sure?” she asked Drew.
“Hard to be positive about things that happened that long ago, and you know the historical existence of Merlin is not certain at all. But the part about the Tarot being used for divination by Britons at the time of Arthur is supported. I could publish.”
“Uh, that might not be wise,” her father said. “If it does predict the future, it could be used for evil as well as good.”
“I know.” Drew sighed. “And there’s one other strange thing.”
“Hard to beat that for strange,” Tris said, now digging into the trifle to serve Maggie.
“One of the early priests who came to Britain to convert the locals wrote about four objects he called Talismans. Each symbolized one of the Tarot suits and were said to confer incredible power on the owner.”
“What are the suits again?” Devin asked.
“Swords, Cups, Wands and Pentacles,” her mother said. “They were physical objects?”
“Apparently.” Drew shrugged. “But they were separated and lost. The Church has sent out several expeditions down through the ages to find them, but it now considers them myth.”
There was a minute of silence. Everyone looked to her father for his reaction. He seemed a little amazed by the whole thing. “I... I guess that was good work, Drew.”
Drew felt the old anger welling up. “Surprise, surprise, even a girl can be useful?” Her father was always all over the boys, pushing them to excel, but he never pushed Drew or Kee. Once Drew had thought she was just lucky, until she got older and realized that her father didn’t expect much of his daughters.
“Now, honey,” her mother said, playing the smoother as always.
“I won’t spoil the moment,” Drew muttered, rising. “I bet Mother feels like celebrating how right she was. And I’m celebrating a week at the Ritz-Carlton. That was the deal.” Her father’s brows drew together, but he didn’t say anything. Drew was pretty sure her mother had bullied her father into submission on this one. “I’ll be without any of my beloved family for whole week. Not that I don’t love living at home when I’m twenty-four. So I put a couple of bottles of champagne in the fridge.”
“And we all get to drink crow,” Lanyon pouted.
“Not if crow is alcoholic. You four get fruit juice,” her mother said.
“I’m eighteen,” Devin protested. “That’s legal drinking age in California.”
“And I’m almost,” Kee cried. “Next month.”
Their father suppressed a grin. “Just this once, anyone who actually likes the taste of champagne can have a glass.”
“Even me?” Tammy squeaked.
“Even you,” her father promised. “I’ll personally get you a glass.”
Tammy didn’t like champagne. Drew was hardly surprised. Kee made a big pretense of sophistication but only took a couple of sips. Lanyon didn’t even pretend to like it. He felt the word ‘dog slime” applied. Devin drank up. Guys who just turned eighteen will drink anything. Now Maggie and Tris had gone back to their quarters with heat in their eyes. No mystery about what they’d be doing. Kemble had some biography he was reading and her parents were talking quietly in the living room. The kids were in the den watching TV as Drew walked through, feeling lost. She didn’t even have an excuse to hide in the library anymore.
“Dancing with the Stars isn’t on until tomorrow,” Lanyon protested, grabbing the remote.
“Maybe Idol? Or America’s Got Talent. Give me that.” Tammy stretched to where he held it away.
“How about Survivor? I think this is the week someone has to eat bugs.”
“Not on your life.” Channels flipped by as Lanyon fended off Tammy.
“Hey! Here’s a show called Treasure Hunter,” Lanyon announced. “That sounds right up our alley tonight, what with everybody hunting for lost Talismans, and such....”
“I agree.” Drew plopped down between them. She could spare some time for her little brother and sister. Otherwise she had zero prospects of doing anything but moping tonight.
“O-kay,” Tammy sighed. “I always lose.” Lanyon turned up the volume.
“You and I watched Dancing with the Stars last week,” Drew reminded her.
“And now, we’re live out of Key West as we talk to Brandon St. Claire, newcomer to salvage, about what drew him to this expensive game.” The guy holding the microphone approached a large boat that looked like it was meant for fishing, swaying gently in its moorings at a dock. The name of the craft was clear on its hull: The Purgatory. The sky was blue behind the white of the boats. They were in some kind of a marina. The tilting masts made a spiky background for a guy in a navy yachtsman’s jacket and white slacks. He was clean-cut with a beefy build and a ruddy complexion. His blondish hair was beginning to thin.
“Well, Jim, for a man like me, who’s competed in yacht races and circumnavigated the globe, there just wasn’t much to be excited about anymore....”
The camera panned to a guy jumping down off the boat to the dock. He stumbled and then righted himself.
Drew sucked in a breath. The interview faded into silence. Tammy and Lanyon seemed to recede until Drew was in a darkened place, alone, gazing at the figure on the flat screen. The man who’d stumbled was big and muscular, with dark curling hair and what were probably brown eyes. His skin was either tan or naturally olive-colored. Exceedingly handsome, she felt herself realize, as though from a distance. He had a prominent nose that wasn’t quite straight. Didn’t matter. Still gorgeous. He was dressed in cargo pants and boat shoes and a white, wrinkled shirt that stood out against his skin. His features burned into her brain as another man steadied him, and the camera quickly panned back to St. Claire.
It took a moment for Drew to blink back into awareness. She was actually breathing hard. The room came into focus. St. Claire was babbling about his background. “Enough of this creep,” she muttered.
“I’m not changing the channel,” Lanyon said, his chin jutting out stubbornly.
“You better not,” Drew hissed. She didn’t even glance at her little brother. She was afraid to miss a glimpse of her guy in the background. But all she got was an impression of bare ankles as she saw his butt and his legs climbing back up into the boat. It was a good butt. And she’d never seen anything in her life as sexy as those ankles.
“And what makes you think you’ll be successful where others have failed?” the announcer was asking St. Claire. “The Santa Angela has been sought for centuries.”
The ruddy-faced man glanced behind him. At the beautiful guy? “I just may have a secret weapon.” He gave the camera an easy smile. “But you’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
“And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll be back to see whether Mr. St. Claire can make good on his promise as he goes after one of the most famous shipwrecks in history, rumored to have been carrying a fortune when it sank. Now, we go to Audrey, who is deep in the Black Hills of North Dakota with a man who found a gold nugget the size of a man’s fist...” The marina disappeared.
Drew bounced to her feet and started to pace. What had happened here? She’d had some kind of out-of-body experience over... over a fourth rate TV show on some cable channel?
Who was that guy? And why was she so.... so captured by him?
“Are you all right?” Tammy asked, concerned.
“Yes. Of course.” Drew stopped pacing and whirled on Tammy. “I mean no. I have a headache. Must be the champagne. I... I think I’ll go to bed.”
“Who goes to bed at nine-thirty?” Lanyon asked, frowning.
“I do,” she snapped and practically ran from the room.
She hurried upstairs, grateful to be able to slam the door of her room and lean against it. She was actually shaking. In the dim light from the windows, the familiar blue and beige Aubesson carpets, the faded tapestries, and her own indigo satin quilt sprinkled with stars and moons like a wizard’s tunic should have been comforting. But it all seemed...wrong. She shouldn’t be here. All she could see clearly were those starkly handsome features. She could imagine that body without its rumpled clothes. That was making her.... “Get hold of yourself,” she whispered. “What’s wrong with you?”
She pulled her mind away from that glimpse of some man a continent away and started taking off her clothes. A shower. That’s what she needed. The old hacienda-style house had been remodeled so each bedroom had a full bath. That was one way to keep peace in a big family. She left a trail of clothes on her way to the bathroom.
“Going whacky over a guy you saw for less than sixty seconds on TV?” She shook her head and turned on the water in the big, walk-in shower. “This is even more stupid than falling for Roger.” The steam began to rise. She grabbed one of the huge white towels and hung it on the hook placed just out of range of the spray. “You’re going down hill, fast.”
Like, for instance, having conversations with herself.
The water sluiced over her head and down her naked body. Sinuous rivulets danced over her skin on the way to the drain. She soaped a loofa briskly. She wouldn’t think about that. She scrubbed herself without mercy, allowed not an extra second of time in the deliciously hot water than required and slapped off the shower handles. Then a vigorous job with the towel and she was ready for a nightgown and bed. No skin routine. No hair drying. She’d just sleep off whatever this was.
Sleep was nowhere to be found. She was wet between her legs, tossing and turning, thinking about that guy on TV.
Finally, she just gave up. She threw back the covers, pulled on a white silk robe edged with feathers and some matching mules and crept down the stairs for a change of scenery.
Slipping out to the terrace, she felt better. The charcoal gray of the ocean was cut by the moon’s silver channel of light. It hung only a couple of hand-spans above the horizon. The cool air calmed her. She walked across the flagstone terrace to the lawn that sloped away to the cliffs and kicked off her heeled slippers. The grass, color drained to black by the night, was cool and damp on her bare feet. It almost made up for the fact that her core was still hot and wet.
Her life was spinning out of control. Her destiny suddenly wasn’t comforting. She felt like some kind of failure. She’d been wrong about Roger. And she had to admit she’d thought that French boy might be the One too. She was screwing things up somehow. Maybe she’d snapped under the strain of knowing she was failing and that’s why now she was crazy fixated on some guy she didn’t even know. Certifiable.
Or... She heard, in her mind, her father telling his kids that when you found the One, you knew instantly. He knew immediately with her mother. And it was true that Tris had been attracted to Maggie immediately.
Maybe...maybe this guy was the real deal, when no one else had been.
She sighed. And then she couldn’t help but chuckle. So, your true love is some guy in Florida you saw on TV for thirty seconds? Right. Get a grip, Drew. He doesn’t even look Celtic. Lots of Italian descendants of Merlin hanging around--not.
She wandered over to the path that led down to the beach trail. There was a bench on the cliff that allowed you to look north around Santa Monica Bay. An ornate birdbath sat in front of the bench surrounded by Mexican sage and lavender bushes. The birdbath drew small birds and hummers all summer long, making this one of Drew’s favorite places when she was growing up. The barking of seals on the rocks at the base of the headland echoed up from below. She sat. This was better. This felt right.
She sat there, just breathing, calm for the first time tonight. The moon turned the water in the birdbath almost into a mirror. The breath of breeze made infinitesimal ripples that moved from left to right. Almost mesmerizing...
A picture appeared in the silvered water.
Drew gasped. She jerked to her feet. But the change of angle didn’t make the picture change. It was actually clearer when she could look down on it. My God, it’s me.
No question. There she was, in a sleek linen suit she owned with the big Coach satchel she always took on planes because you could stuff everything you needed into it. She was walking through a crowd into an airport terminal. The sign said, “Welcome to Miami.” Under it were signs in Spanish and English that pointed the way to baggage claim and rental car pickup.
She glanced around, looking for something that might be projecting the image on the still water of the birdbath. When she looked back, the water was just a dark, translucent pool. At this angle the moonlight didn’t even turn it silver.
Drew sucked in little panting breaths. What was that? She’d never been to Miami. And how would images get projected onto the water in a birdbath in the middle of the night, even if she had? “Lanyon?” she hissed into the night air. He was the practical joker of the family.
Suddenly, the security of the garden was gone. The shadows made by the moonlight loomed rather than comforted. Drew whirled and hurried back to the house. She ran up the stairs and down to the end of the north corridor to Lanyon’s room. Quietly turning the knob, she pushed in. There he was, his gangly limbs splayed out over the bed in sleepy disarray. His flute, an almost constant companion, lay beside him. As though he sensed her, he stirred then settled back into deeper sleep.
Whatever had happened out there, Lanyon hadn’t done it.
Drew stood in her brother’s dark room and began to shake. Something insideher knew what had happened, and she didn’t want to listen to what it was telling her.
Somehow, she backed out and pulled the door shut behind her. She found herself running back down the hall, her bare feet slapping on the hardwood floors between the carpet runners. Her pretty mule slippers weren’t all she’d left outside.
Her life would never be the same again.
She pushed into her room and shut the door behind her.
She’d never been to Miami. She’d had an actual...actual what? A... a vision. Of herself in Miami.
Could she have been seeing what would happen. In which case, she’d just gotten a magical power. But not because she’d found true love with Roger. Roger and true love didn’t occur in the same universe, let alone the same sentence.
It couldn’t be.
She wouldn’t let it be.
She could not have found her destined lover by seeing some guy in Florida on the TV.
Drew was up early, in spite of a nearly sleepless night, because the person she wanted to talk to most was an early riser. She threw on a jogging suit, glanced in the mirror and then wished she hadn’t, the circles were so pronounced under her eyes, before she headed out to wait at the stairway the led to the apartment over the garages. It wasn’t long before Maggie came trotting down, dressed in jeans and boots and a plaid flannel shirt over an extra-small men’s tee.
Maggie started when she saw Drew. “Whoa.” She peered into the dim dawn light. “Didn’t expect to see you out before breakfast. You okay?”
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine,” Drew lied. “I... I need to talk to you.” Where was her vaunted drawl now? She sounded like a desperate teenager.
“Well, come on down to the stable with me. I’m going to exercise a couple of my horses before Tris gets up.” The tiny woman strode out across the circular drive toward the stable.
“Great. Thanks.” Drew had to hurry to keep up, though her legs were longer.
“By the way, that was a neat job last night. Sure made your mother happy.”
“Thanks.” Drew waved a dismissive hand. “I...uh, wanted to talk to you about when you found your magic.”
Maggie cast her a sideways look. “You lookin’ for the G version or the R version?”
Drew felt herself blushing. “I know that episode out at the camp for disabled kids was after you and Tris had.... had been intimate. But, before, when you rescued him from that accident with the truck.... he said you used your power to calm him, so he didn’t feel the pain.”
“That’s about right.” Maggie pulled the big stable door aside on its track. She flipped on the lights in the barn aisle. The horses made sleepy nickers down the row of stalls.
“Well, uh... that was before.... before you and Tris....”
“Yeah,” Maggie said, stopping in front of the tack room to think. “Yeah. I’d only met him three times, all in one day. We mainly argued up to that point.”
“So... you didn’t need to actually...” Drew cleared her throat. Be a big girl here. “...have sex to get your power?”
Maggie paused and considered. “Nope. That night Tris was in major stress. Leg broke. Shoulder torn up. I was so attracted to him, I was practically crazy with it.”
“You were?” Drew asked in a small voice.
“Bad,” Maggie said, raising her brows and shaking her head. “Not normal. But in spite of how worked up I was, I calmed him within an inch of his life. He practically fell asleep.” She chuckled. “Didn’t know then that was a magic power, of course.”
Drew nodded slowly.
“Why you want to know?”
Drew came to and shook herself. “No reason,” she said in her brightest voice. And before she could say anything stupid, she turned around and left.
That was it, then. It was early, but she had to call Jane. The feeling of urgency that had kept her up all night just reached lift-off intensity.
“So, I’m not going to the Ritz. But you are. You’ll have a wonderful week.” Drew had her roller bag out and was stuffing essentials into it. It was big enough that she’d have to check it, but she didn’t want to take more than one. She tossed a pair of strappy high-heeled sandals back in the closet. Her closet was an entire room off her bedroom. Dear Father had an old-fashioned dressing room converted for her clothes collection.
“And where, exactly, are you going?”
Jane was standing between Drew and the suitcase when Drew came out of the closet. “No information, no deal. I’ll stay home.”
Drew wilted. “Oh, Jane. You’ll think I’m crazy.”
“I’m tending that way anyway. You’re not meeting Roger are you?”
“Good God, no. I’m not that stupid.”
Jane raised her brows. Jane could be surprisingly forceful when she wanted.
“Oh, okay.” Drew cleared her throat. How did you explain this? But it was the only way she could enlist Jane’s help. “Uh, last night I...uh... saw a guy on TV, and I was immediately attracted to him. Like not just attracted, but super-abnormally attracted. And then later I was really upset, because I just couldn’t get this guy out of my mind, so I went out to that bench by the birdbath, and I saw...” What she saw now was Jane’s eyes getting an incredulous expression. “I saw a vision of me getting off a plane in Miami in the birdbath,” she continued. “And I’ve never been to Miami, so it must be in the future.” She swallowed. “I think this guy is my destiny, because he raised my powers. I can see the future.” There. For better or worse, it was done.
Jane chewed her lip, thinking what to say. At last she settled on, “Name of guy?”
“I...I don’t know.” Drew held up a hand to forestall objections. “But the name of his boat is The Purgatory and it docks in Key West. I should be able to find him from that.”
“Did you actually listen to that explanation?” Jane’s voice was, as ever, calm and quiet.
Drew sighed and plopped down on her bed. “I know. I know. I’m probably having some kind of a breakdown. But I did see me in the Miami airport.”
“In a birdbath in the middle of the night when you were really upset about Roger.”
“But I wasn’t upset about Roger. I was upset at how...attracted I was to a guy I saw for maybe thirty seconds on TV.”
Jane just raised her brows.
Drew took a big breath. “You’re right. I have a bad track record. But, Jane, I’ve got to give it shot. What if he is my destiny, and I let the opportunity to grab the brass ring pass me by? I’ll regret it the rest of my life. I’ll end a cranky old maid.”
Jane gave a wry smile. “Not a pretty picture.”
Drew knew she’d won. “Definitely not pretty.”
“What do you need me to do?”
Drew got up and started packing again. Boat shoes and a windbreaker. A navy and white striped, boat-neck sweater. “Well, I...I need some money. Cash. I can take a couple thousand from my account without causing suspicion. But I’ll have to pay cash for the plane ticket and all expenses or Kemble will be able to track me. I’ll pay you back, with interest, of course.”
“Done. I can get you maybe six. Will that do?”
Drew leaned over and hugged her. “You’re the best friend a girl could have.”
“Be back in a week, though. I’m not lying to your family,” Jane warned.
“They won’t ask. And it won’t take me that long anyway, especially if you’re right. I’ll be back in a couple of days to join you at the Ritz Carlton, where I will drown my sorrows in massages and peach Bellinis.”
Jane frowned. “You aren’t worried that the same people who attacked Tristram and Maggie will find you? I don’t want you in danger, Drew.”
“No one will even know I’m gone,” Drew laughed. “Including those creeps. I’m leaving my cell phone with you, so anyone will think that’s where I am. I wouldn’t put it past Kemble to check up on me in spite of my deal with Mother,” she said darkly as she put her make-up bag into the suitcase. “I’ll give the hotel my credit card number for charges to the room. You buy clothes and drinks and dinner, and shop at those expensive little shops in the basement. The security guys will just think I’m sticking to the room.”
“Do you have plane reservations?” Jane asked.
“Kemble would trace that. I’ll pay cash at the counter for the first available flight.”
September 12, 2012
Amazon ASIN: B007SH6YL2
Barnes & Noble ID: 2940015282085
“Susan Squires has a fascinating, unique voice; she is a rare talent.”
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