Category Archives: Books

Blackstone Resurrection is available. 

Hi everyone. Apologies for writing this post on my phone, so I’ll keep it short. I’m in hospital at the moment after undergoing a second thyroid operation on Tuesday. The first one was in mid August. In both operations the histology was positive for thyroid cancer. The good news is that I’m pretty sure that my fabulous surgeon (really, he’s a rockstar) got all of it out so this should be the end of it. I still have to ask myself what gives. Seems since 2015 my body has declared war on me, and I still have an operation on my right shoulder looming later this year or early next year. Which is why I’m thrilled to announce that Blackstone Resurrection is available at all retailers. And I must admit that it’s a huge relief to me that I published it on Monday night before going into hospital. Now all I have to do is concentrate on recovery and thinking about writing another book. A stand-alone book, I think. After three trilogies in a row I’m cured of writing more trilogies for now. 😂 LOL.

Again apologies to all of you who have waited so long for this third Blackstone book. Please click on the menu links above to find it at your preferred retailer. 🙂

Blackstone Resurrection

Hi everyone. I have news regarding the release of the third book of the Blackstone Trilogy. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ve had to push back the release date to the end of April, or possibly even later than that. I will make a more specific announcement closer to the time, but I want to reassure all of you that I remain committed to finishing  Blackstone Resurrection as soon as I possibly can.  Following below is the first four chapters of the manuscript, and I hope it will serve as  a bit of solace for those of you who have been patiently waiting for this book. Again, please accept my apologies for the delay, I am doing the best I can under the circumstances.

Blackstone: Resurrection

By Niki Savage

Copyright 2017 Niki Savage

This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Niki Savage.

Resurrection

Book 3 of the Blackstone Trilogy

Chapter One

“There must be a way,” Lily said, gently running her fingers through Aidan’s hair. He didn’t answer her, keeping his face pressed against her breasts, unwilling or unable to get back to his feet. He was in mourning already, even though she was strong and warm against his body. It scared her that he saw her death as a foregone conclusion, but she swallowed her fear, realizing that she was the strong one in the relationship now, possibly only because she failed to understand the gravity of the situation.

In Aidan’s horrified eyes, she had seen the agony of a nightmare repeating itself, a nightmare that had robbed him of his strength and willpower.

She glanced up at the darkening sky. Remaining on the roof of the mansion was becoming an unattractive option. Somehow, she had to get Aidan to his feet and to his bedroom.

She pressed her lips against his smooth black hair for a long second while stroking his back with both hands, trying to impart some strength to him. “Aidan, please I need you to come back to me.” She kissed his hair again. “Come on, we’ll face this together. We’ll find a way. Look at me, please.”

Slowly he raised his face to look at her, and she couldn’t hide her shock when she saw the twin tracks of tears on his cheeks. To see him so broken brought her protective instincts to the fore, and she hugged him fiercely. “Let’s go downstairs and get warm. We’ll think about this some more tomorrow.”

He made a half-hearted attempt to sit up before he thought better of it. “Leave me here. I’ll come down when I feel better.”

“I’m not going without you.” She slowly extricated herself from him and rose to her feet. “Come on. I don’t know you like this. Take my hand.”

He stared up at her for long seconds before his gaze shifted to the hand she held out to him. His hand trembled as he slowly reached up to grasp her fingers. She covered his hand with her other hand so that she had him in a firm grip. “That’s right,” she said as she shifted her weight onto her back foot. “OK. One, two, three.”

Aidan made it to his feet on the first attempt. He staggered for a few seconds before he found his centre, and stood there swaying. She kept hold of his hand and drew him close to her, alarmed at how cold his naked upper body felt beneath the palms of her hands. She looked up at him. “I love you. We’ll make it through this, I promise you.”

The despair was back in his eyes as he said in a wooden voice, “You don’t know what you’re saying. I’ve been through this before. There is no hope.”

~ . ~

Lily managed to get Aidan to his bedroom without too much trouble, and left him sitting on the side of his bed while she went into his bathroom and filled the bathtub with hot water. She was worried about his icy body temperature and believed that a warm bath would help him, as it had so often helped her. She added vanilla scented bath oil to the steaming water and took a deep breath as the soothing fragrance filled the air.

Steeling herself, she returned to the bedroom to find Aidan as she had left him, his shoulders slumped, his gaze fixed on the floor.

She took his arm and gently coaxed him to his feet. “Come, my love, let me take care of you. You’ll feel better after a hot bath.”

The expression in his eyes told her that he didn’t believe her, but he didn’t argue, allowing her to lead him to the bathroom.

He stood obediently next to the bath while she unfastened his jeans and slid them with his shorts down his legs. At her prompting, he lifted his feet and stepped out of the discarded garments, but still showed no inclination to help himself. She couldn’t help but notice that he had not stirred at her touch. Normally her hands on his body aroused him in seconds, but not this time.

His passivity scared her, but she tried her best not to let it show. “There you go. Into the bath with you,” she said, trying to sound positive rather than cheerful.

He climbed into the bath, sinking into the fragrant water and stretching his legs out in front of him. “Please join me,” he asked without looking up at her. His tone was hesitant, as if he expected her to refuse, but his need forced him to ask anyway.

“Of course,” she said, gripping the hem of her sundress and pulling the garment over her head. She peeled her panty off and put a gentle hand onto his shoulder. “Move forward a bit. I want to hold you in my arms.”

He cast a surprised glance at her, but obeyed wordlessly. She slipped in behind him, passing her legs on either side of his body so that he sat between her thighs. The water was deliciously hot, and her nipples contracted into hard points as her body adjusted to the heat.

She kissed the side of Aidan’s neck before winding her arms around his torso and pulling him onto her, so that they were both lying back in the fragrant water, his back pressed against her breasts and his head resting on her shoulder. “That’s better,” she breathed, kissing his earlobe tenderly.

“How can you still love me?” he asked, reaching up to cover the hand she had placed over his heart.

“How can I not love you?” she said, kissing the side of his neck again.

“But Zargun used my body to hurt you. I’m responsible for this just as much as he is.”

“Aidan, I love you, and nothing is going to change that. And I’m not ready to leave you alone on this earth yet. I’ll allow you this night to grieve, but tomorrow I expect you by my side, fighting this together.”

“How is it that you’re not affected by this?”

She sighed. “Doctors have been telling me for years that I’m going to die. But I’m still here. So a statement like that doesn’t scare me. I’m ready to fight this.”

Aidan lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles gently. “I wish I had your courage.” The tension slowly flowed from his body as he relaxed in her arms. He didn’t speak again, and after a while, she wondered if he had fallen asleep.

But when she leaned forward slightly to peek at his face, she found his eyes open.

“Aidan, are you feeling better? Do you want to go to bed now? Everything will look different in the morning, I promise you.”

“Yes, let’s go to bed.” He sat up abruptly, sloshing water over the sides of the bathtub. “I need to sleep, to forget for a while.”

He climbed from the bath, took a towel from the shelf and started drying himself. After he had finished, he wrapped the towel around his hips and walked to the twin basins to brush his teeth. Lily took heart from the fact that he seemed to be feeling better.

She climbed from the bath and toweled herself dry, hating the silence, but unable to think of anything to say. Apparently, Aidan felt the same way, because he left the bathroom without looking at her again or saying anything further. Through the open doorway, she watched as he draped his towel over the back of a chair before climbing naked between the sheets.

She decided to give him some space, and took a few minutes to apply a lavender scented body cream to her skin, noticing that her breasts were bigger, and that her nipples were dark pink and very sensitive. How had she not noticed these changes before?

She remembered Zargun’s remark that her breasts were getting bigger, and realized that he must have felt profound satisfaction as he said those words. But had his intention really been to kill her? Maybe he had just wanted them to be a family. Maybe he’d had a plan that would’ve allowed her to give birth to a live child and survive.

She stopped herself. Where were these thoughts coming from? Zargun didn’t love her. Even while tied to the bed he had been prepared to kill her by recharging from her energy field. He was a psychopath who cared for no one but himself. Whatever his reasons had been for impregnating her, none of them could’ve been good.

Aidan appeared to have fallen asleep by the time she entered his bedroom, leaving her to wonder if he wanted her to join him. Zargun had insisted that she sleep with him whenever he slept, but maybe Aidan wanted to go back to how they had been before.

She decided to follow her heart, and discarded her towel before slipping beneath the covers with him. She moved to his side of the bed and wrapped her arms around him while entangling her legs with his, filled with a desperate need to get as close to him as possible. His only response was a soft moan as he nuzzled his face against her neck, but it was enough for her, knowing that she could give him comfort.

~ . ~.

Lily woke abruptly. A glance at the bedside clock showed it was just after one in the morning. She remained motionless while trying to decide what had roused her. Then she heard it again.

“No, no,” Aidan mumbled against her neck, but she could hear the despair in his voice, as if he knew his pleas would be ignored.

He became more agitated, his arms tightening around her, as if he was trying to prevent someone from taking her away. “No, Elizabeth, don’t leave me.” His arms felt like iron bands around her body. Lily started struggling, fearing that he might not stop squeezing until her ribs snapped like twigs. “Aidan,” she gasped, “stop, you’re hurting me.”

“No, don’t leave me,” he cried, coming half-awake, his arms now impossibly tight around her.

Lily fought for air, unable to expand her lungs to draw a full breath. “Aidan, stop. Please.” she whispered hoarsely as bright lights filled her vision.

“Elizabeth!” Aidan shouted, and abruptly his grip relaxed, allowing her to draw a shuddering breath into her lungs.

Lily lay there for a few moments, limp with relief, gulping in huge breaths of air as she listened to Aidan sobbing into his pillow. It broke her heart to hear him cry, and she remembered that dream she’d had when he had found her in the woods, his sleeves dripping with blood, and he had cried when she rejected him. Well, she wouldn’t reject him now, or ever, she thought, filled with compassion for his plight

She switched the bedside lamp on, casting the room into soft light before she touched his shoulder. “Aidan?”

He spoke into the pillow, pain in his voice. “She left me. I begged her to stay, and she wanted to, but she couldn’t.”

Lily stroked her hand over his tense shoulders. “I wish I could help you feel better. I hate to see you in such pain.”

He reached for her and then his mouth was on hers as he kissed her with all the longing and desperation inside him. Lily responded, aroused beyond measure by his neediness, but wanting above all to provide him with comfort.

* * * *

Chapter Two

Lily stretched luxuriously as the warmth of the sun’s rays caressed her face. She knew it was late even before she looked at her watch, because the sun had to be high in the sky to shine through the skylight above Aidan’s bed. She had overslept, hopelessly, deliciously, sated from Aidan’s lovemaking. He had held nothing back of himself, satisfying not only her sexual needs, but also filling her with his life force, resulting in an experience that was both surreal and energizing. She felt great, in fact, more than great. But where was Aidan? A note propped up on her bedside table held the answer. She folded it open to see Aidan’s neat handwriting. “Good morning, my love. You were sleeping so peacefully that I didn’t have the heart to wake you. I’m at the crystal garden. My flowers are in need of some tender loving care. See you soon. All my love, Aidan.”

Lucky flowers, Lily thought, shuddering with pleasure as she remembered how tenderly and lovingly Aidan’s hands had caressed her body just a few hours ago.

The thought was enough to get her out of bed and into the shower, eager to join him at the crystal garden.

~ . ~

Lily smiled in happy anticipation as she depressed the handle of the crystal door that led to the garden. Inside the greenhouse, the heady perfume of thousands of flowers in full bloom left her in no doubt that Aidan had been busy tending to his garden. She spotted him on the far side of the greenhouse and ran towards him with light steps, eager to be back in his arms.

But Aidan gave no sign that he had heard her approach. He stood in front of a magnificent rose bush, his fingers stretched out towards the fragrant roses, caressing the petals with a lover’s touch. The roses preened and leaned into his hand in the same way that Oscar often pressed his head against Aidan’s hand, eager for attention. Aidan seemed unaware of her presence, clearly deep in thought, so Lily stepped to the side so that she could enter his field of vision without startling him.

In the split second before he registered her presence, she saw the longing on his face, and the twin tracks of tears on his cheeks. She instantly regretted intruding on such a private moment, wishing that she had called out to him while still some distance away. But instead of turning away from her to hide his pain, Aidan reached for her, and she rushed into his arms, realizing that their relationship had changed forever, and for the better.

“Everything will be alright,” she whispered, dropping butterfly kisses on the stubble of his firm jaw. “We will fight this together.”

Aidan clung to her for long moments, taking deep, shuddering breaths as he tried to bring himself back under control. When she felt him beginning to relax, Lily led him to a nearby bench and sat down, tugging at his hand to encourage him to sit beside her.

He covered her hand with his and sighed deeply. “It’s such a privilege to visit the greenhouse again. I had to stay away because my radiation would’ve killed the plants, and worse, Elizabeth’s roses would’ve died too.”

“Those are her roses?”

“Yes, they are centuries old,” he said softly, and she felt a shudder rack his frame.

“Please, tell me about Elizabeth.”

He shook his head slowly, and the pain she saw in his eyes broke her heart. She tucked herself in under his arm and rested the flat of her palm against his chest, applying gentle pressure in the hope that he would find it comforting. “Please, Aidan, you can talk about her. I know that you loved her, and I know you love me too. Please, tell me about Elizabeth. Let me try to lighten your burden.”

“I added Elizabeth and the baby’s ashes to the soil because she had loved those roses so much,” Aidan said softly. “She had tended to them even when she was so weak that I had to carry her out to the garden. After she died, caring for her roses had been the only thing that kept me sane.” He sighed again. “After I turned the old servant’s quarters into crystal, I transferred the roses and their soil to the greenhouse, and they have been here ever since.”

“I’m sorry to ask, but how is it that you had their ashes? In the 18th century the burning of bodies was considered taboo.”

Aidan’s tensed, as if remembering something unpleasant. “Yes, you’re right. I had to go through the pretense of a burial, but I made sure that Elizabeth and the baby were preserved in a stone burial chamber, above ground. Once the people had left, I went in there and turned them to ash. I couldn’t bear the thought that inside that chamber their bodies would decay until they were unrecognizable. It seemed more fitting to reunite Elizabeth with her beloved roses, where I could visit her every day.”

“And your son?”

Aidan shrugged. “I put him with Elizabeth because I knew she would’ve wanted it like that, but I cared nothing for him. In fact, I hated him for taking her from me. And then, I hated myself more, because he was the product of my lust. He didn’t ask to be born.”

Lily stroked his thigh with the palm of her hand, feeling the tension in his muscles. “You’re being very hard on yourself. You’re only human, after all.”

“Am I human? I don’t think so. And I think if you had to ask Elizabeth, she would agree that I’m not human.”

Lily listened for a few moments to the chattering of the small birds flitting near the roof of the crystal greenhouse before she squeezed his thigh reassuringly. “I won’t let you do yourself down like this, Aidan,” she said firmly. “You’ve told me how it ended, but you haven’t told me about Elizabeth, and your life together.”

“Why do you want to know about her? All that is long past. I have you now, and I love you as much as I had loved her.” He pulled her onto his lap so that she sat facing him. “In fact, I love you more, I think.” His beautiful mouth twisted into a gentle smile that was a sharp contrast to the pain in his eyes. “I don’t have to hide from you, like I did with Elizabeth. You know everything about me, and yet you’re still here with me. You are my life.” He cradled her in his arms and took her mouth in a sweet, gentle kiss that seemed to last forever, and yet when he released her it didn’t feel long enough.

She settled against his chest, pressing her cheek to the region over his heart, and listened to its steady beat, wishing she could take his pain away from him.

Aidan was silent for close to a minute before he spoke, and Lily’s heart squeezed painfully when she heard the longing in his voice. “I felt like the luckiest man alive when I met Elizabeth. She had fiery red hair and a temperament to match. She challenged me at every turn, which, as you can imagine, was quite unusual in the early 18th century. Women those days were supposed to know their place. But I loved every minute of it. She had spent some time in Europe and could talk about a wide range of subjects. I was entranced, and after a suitable courtship, I asked her to marry me.”

“Did you have a big wedding?” Lily asked, slipping off his lap and settling beside him again. She was determined to put her feelings aside and allow Aidan to talk all he wanted.

“Yes. Elizabeth was the daughter of the governor of New York, so a huge wedding was expected. Due my standing in the community, and my financial means, the governor regarded me as a huge catch, so he was eager to show me off to all his friends and acquaintances. All two thousand of them, apparently. I hated the pretence, but went along with it for Elizabeth’s sake.”

Aidan remained silent for so long that Lily glanced up at his face and found him staring unseeingly into the distance, clearly lost in his memories. She wished that she hadn’t asked about Elizabeth. What was the point of him reliving everything now? All it was doing was making him sad all over again.

“We moved into the mansion, and for a while we were happy. But then the problems started.” He grimaced and clenched his hands into fists. “The governor wanted a grandchild to seal our union, and Elizabeth wanted a baby to keep her busy, because I was frequently away from home, tending to my many business interests. But of course, I was determined to make sure that Elizabeth never fell pregnant, because I didn’t want to lose her.”

“It must have been tricky with such limited options for contraception in those times.”

Aidan nodded slowly. “Yes, it complicated matters, and of course, Elizabeth believed that we were trying for a child, so that left me with even fewer options. But there was one method available to me that I used effectively for the first eight years of our marriage.”

“Oh. Can I ask what?”

Aidan looked at her, a slight frown on his forehead, and Lily blushed. “I’m sorry. I was just curious. I thought maybe it was some secret alien way, if it was available to you only.”

“Actually, you’re right about it being an alien way. I could see in Elizabeth’s energy field when she was fertile, so I always made sure that I was away on a business trip during those times. Of course, at the time I didn’t know that my semen was radioactive and therefore harmful to her anyway. Radioactivity was only discovered eighty years later, so there was no way I could have known, and I also had no way of knowing that my energy field was damaging her DNA every time we had sex. But with my constant absences, we were actually practicing something similar to the two-week rule that I implemented a century later with subsequent partners. I can only guess that was why she lasted so long, and I can only wonder what cancers she may have developed in later life if she hadn’t died so young. But the lack of a child took a toll on our marriage. As the years went by, Elizabeth became more and more withdrawn, believing that she was barren.”

Aidan sighed deeply and Lily glanced up at his face to see all his pain revealed. His expression turned bleak and he shrugged his shoulders as if trying to shake off his burden. “I hated seeing her like that, so I told her that the problem could lie with me, and that she shouldn’t assume that she was the infertile one in the marriage.”

“But how did she fall pregnant despite all your precautions?”

“I returned home early from a business trip to find Elizabeth hosting a dinner for her parents, her sisters and a few of our closest friends. She was overjoyed at my early return, and because I felt guilty for staying away so long, I changed into fresh clothing and mingled with the guests. I was also eager to show my in-laws that my love for Elizabeth was as strong as always and that our marriage, though childless, was a happy one. And strangely, as the evening wore on, it became easier and easier to show my affection, and even Elizabeth remarked that I appeared to be happy, a little drunk, and very affectionate.” Aidan grimaced. “Yes, I was drunk, but not from the wine. The cook had made a delicious dessert, so delicious that I, and many of the other guests, had indulged in a second helping. What I didn’t know was that milk and honey were among the many ingredients that made up the dessert.”

“Oh no,” Lily said, aghast.

“Yes,” Aidan replied grimly. “Of course you have firsthand experience of what happens when I, or in your case, Zargun, consumes milk and honey.”

Lily nodded quickly, her face heating as she remembered Zargun’s passionate embrace, and the wild sex that had followed.

Aidan touched a gentle finger to one of her glowing cheeks. “You did it to save me, Lily. And I love you all the more for it.” He kissed her forehead softly before he continued speaking. “Four months later, Elizabeth informed that she was pregnant. Of course, I was appalled, though I had to hide it from her. Everyone was ecstatic, but I was in mourning, mentally counting down the days to when I would be standing next to her grave.”

Lily lifted his hand to her mouth and kissed his palm. “I’m so sorry. I can only imagine how terrible it must have been for you.”

Aidan tightened his arm around her shoulders and dropped a kiss onto her hair. “It was horrible, looking back at it now. But at the time, I was trying so hard to save her that I didn’t even take a moment to think about how I felt. For the duration of her pregnancy, I stayed at home. Every night while she slept beside me, I repaired her energy field, hoping that I would be able to save her. I was still hampered by the fact that I knew nothing about my radioactivity, so I didn’t know there was a scientific explanation for what I regarded as my curse.” He shuddered. “I saw it in her aura when the baby died inside her. Looking back, I know now that the baby had died because his radioactivity had hardened the umbilical cord, leaving it unable to deliver nutrients and blood. I knew I would lose Elizabeth soon, because by then she was so weak that she couldn’t walk. Two days later, she went into labor, and died shortly after giving birth to a stillborn baby boy.”

His voice dropped to a whisper. “When she didn’t hear him cry out, she knew he was dead. She wept right to her last breath, devastated that she couldn’t at least have given me a child to comfort me.” He swallowed hard. “But I didn’t care about the child. I just wanted her, but she had slipped away from me.”

Lily fought her tears, but her voice sounded thick to her own ears as she said, “That’s what you were dreaming about last night.”

Aidan turned to her and gripped her shoulders urgently. “Get rid of it, Lily. Don’t let it kill you. I won’t survive it.” His eyes were glowing like those of a zealot, full of fervent hope. “Then Zargun would’ve failed.”

A cold hand gripped her heart. Murder her child, Aidan’s child. Could she do it? Life was precious. “Why didn’t Elizabeth have an abortion?”

“I never had the courage to tell her my secrets. Two centuries ago, people would’ve seen me as an abomination. I couldn’t bear to see her look at me in fear.”

“So you just watched her fade away and die? How could you do that to yourself, and to her?”

Aidan released his grip on her shoulders and sat back on the bench, his shoulders slumped as he stared at the green grass beneath his feet. “Elizabeth believed that her pregnancy was the answer to her prayers. Even if I could have convinced her to give up her child, abortions were illegal and dangerous two centuries ago. As the daughter of the governor, she would never have risked shaming him like that. So I was caught in an impossible situation, with few choices available to me.”

“But now you feel that the best choice is to kill your child, our child?”

Aidan gripped her shoulders hard. “Do you think that this is easy for me? I want nothing more than to have a family, to see a little girl or boy that is the product of our love. But if you go through with this pregnancy, I will lose you and the baby. So if I have to make a choice, I choose you, Lily. I can’t lose you, please.”

Lily shifted uncomfortably, unable to meet his eyes.

“Remember that Zargun made you pregnant to kill you, Lily. It was a cold, calculated act of hatred.”

“But perhaps he knew of a way that it could succeed. Maybe with today’s technology there is a way,” she said weakly.

He dropped his hands from her shoulders. “Lily, there is no way! Neither Zargun nor I can fix damaged DNA. We also cannot contain or nullify the radiation that the fetus will produce as it grows. And if we can’t do it, then medical technology can’t do it either. But the one thing that medical technology can do is to remove this fetus from your body before it kills you.”

“Please, let me think about it for a bit,” she said, lacing her fingers together and squeezing until her fingertips turned white.

“What’s there to think about? Please, I have seen the changes in your energy field already. Don’t do this to me. I’ll give you anything you want if you will just obey me in this.”

“Will you give me immortality?”

Aidan stiffened, but after a few moments he took her into his arms. “Yes, Lily. When the time is right, and if it is safe to do so, I will give you immortality.”

Lily sighed as she snuggled against Aidan’s hard body, dreaming of an eternity with him.

* * * *

Chapter Two

Lily opened her eyes and lay still for a few minutes, listening to Aidan’s deep breathing next to her. He had said to her that he would be in the study, reading, because he had no need for sleep that night. And yet he was next to her, so maybe he had changed his mind. A strange kind of light filled the room, and then she saw something approaching her, a small ball of light that floated about four feet off the floor. The ball was golden, and incredibly bright, and yet somehow it didn’t hurt her eyes. In fact, as she stared at it, a strange peace came over her. She turned to Aidan, shaking his shoulder to wake him, but a voice that seemed to speak inside her head, said, “You don’t have to wake him. He has seen all this already, but he has been keeping it from you.”

“Who are you,” she asked in her mind, and she heard a tinkle of laughter that told her that the ball of light could hear her, as if they were telepathically connected. But the voice of the ball of light didn’t speak English, even though it clearly could understand it. It sounded like a dozen crystal wind chimes tinkling lightly in the breeze, and she wondered how she could understand it, or whether she was in some kind of dream world where language was of no relevance.

“It is a dream,” the ball of light said. “Until I have human form I can only talk to you in your dreams, Mommy.”

Lily stared hard, as if somehow the light could reveal more answers. “Please, who are you,” she whispered.

“I am the son of Zargun. I’m also your son, Mommy.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t understand now, but soon you’ll understand everything,” the light said. “Come with me on a journey through space and time, and I’ll show you the marvels of the universe.”

“But I can’t travel through space or time. I’m human.”

“That’s unfortunate,” the light said regretfully. “Still he denies you immortality. You have to ask yourself why he keeps dangling it just out of your reach. I have to leave you now, but just remember that there is always hope. Even when he tells you that all is lost, there is still a way.”

“Please tell me the way,” Lily asked. “If there is a way that we can both survive, please tell me.” But the light moved away from her without answering. The room darkened, but before it became pitch dark, Lily jerked awake, breathing hard. She was alone in the bed. Aidan sleeping beside her had been part of her dream. He was still in the study reading his book, and she was alone. Totally alone.

~ . ~

Lily broached the subject over breakfast, which consisted of delicious waffles slathered with maple syrup. “Aidan, I have to get back to New York. I’ve already missed two days of classes, and while I’m sure that Suzy has recorded most of our shared lectures for me, she won’t keep doing it if she doesn’t hear from me. Maybe she already thinks that I’ve pulled another disappearing act on her.”

“Would that be such a bad thing?” Aidan said before taking a long sip of coffee.

“Of course it would. Have you forgotten that I’m trying to finish my degree? I’m already a year behind because of what happened before. Please, I’ve been scoring well in my tests so far.”

“But it isn’t safe, Lily. In fact, I would prefer it if we left the country and went to one of my other homes.”

“We were back at the penthouse for more than three months already, and there were no problems.”

“I told you never to return to the penthouse. It was Zargun who took you back there, and it was only to use you as bait to draw out the St. Lucians. And he succeeded.”

Lily shuddered as she remembered the events of her kidnapping, and her stomach roiled in revulsion as she remembered O’Connell’s gruesome death. She pushed her plate away from her and sat back in her chair, trying to think of something fresh to drive the smell of boiled blood from her memory.

Aidan stepped around the table and wrapped her in his embrace. “I’m sorry you had to go through that, princess. You know I would never have done put you in danger like that.”

She turned into his embrace and pressed her face against his chest. “I know,” she whispered. “It’s just so confusing for me that someone who looks just like you was so cruel to me. I mean, it was your body, but someone else in charge. And sometimes I can’t distinguish the one from the other. I’m so sorry. I’ll try harder.”

“It’s alright. It’s only been a few days. Give me time, and I’ll make you forget him completely.”

“Yes, I’d like that,” she whispered. She released him. “But it will have to be in New York,” she said, keeping her tone firm. “Everything I know is here, and my friends are here, and I really do want to finish my degree.”

“Everything in me says that this is a bad idea, Lily. Please, let’s rather just pack up and leave. If you don’t want to leave the country then we can move to a different city. I can run my businesses from anywhere.”

Lily sighed. “Alright, let’s compromise. I’m prepared to move to another city, provided there is a university nearby offering the subjects I need to finish my degree.”

Aidan laughed softly. “You drive a hard bargain, Miss Childs.”

Lily softened. “I don’t want to cause you stress, Aidan. But there are things we have to take care of before we can leave. I’ll have to go to NYU to wrap up my affairs and to say goodbye to Suzy.”

“Please don’t tell her about the pregnancy. It’s a moot point anyway. I’ll make some enquiries to find out where we can have the abortion done. Please don’t ask Suzy for advice about that either.”

“I won’t,” Lily said softly, already having second thoughts about the abortion. After the dream she’d had the night before, she was more certain than ever that an abortion would be a mistake. Zargun must have had a plan, and the light that had visited her was the consciousness of her unborn baby, trying to tell her that all was not as it seemed.

* * * *

Chapter Three

Suzy and Benjamin were sitting at their usual table at Starbucks, and the familiar sight calmed Lily. Normality at last, instead of aliens with superpowers and a radioactive boyfriend. The thought sparked a surge of guilt. It was hardly Aidan’s fault that he was radioactive. He didn’t ask for it, and would no doubt love to get rid of his superpowers as well as his psycho passenger.

Suzy saw her and waved enthusiastically. “Over here, Lily.”

Lily smiled as she made her way through the tables. “Hi guys,” she said when she reached them. She took a seat in the chair that Benjamin held out for her. “Thanks, Benji.”

He smiled fondly at her. “You’re welcome. Can I get you some coffee?”

She hesitated, acutely aware of the tender life form growing inside her. “Um, yes please, but make it decaf, thanks Benji.” He frowned for a second, no doubt remembering that she had once mentioned that she drank coffee for the caffeine, and that decaf was just a waste of money. But he didn’t argue, and walked to the counter to join the queue.

Lily turned to Suzy to see the same questioning look on her face. “But you don’t like decaf, girlfriend.”

Lily shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. “Today I do. I’ve been feeling a bit jumpy lately.”

Suzy scanned her with shrewd eyes. “I’m not buying it. You look like death warmed up, and surprisingly un-jumpy. Why are you avoiding caffeine? Unless…” She stared harder, as if she was trying to see into Lily’s brain. “Are you?”

“Am I what, Suzy?” Lily snapped.

“Ooh, but you are grouchy today. Is it because of the morning sickness?”

Lily’s mouth fell open, and Suzy crowed with delight. “I knew it. Aidan has knocked you up.”

“Could you keep your voice down,” Lily hissed, grabbing Suzy’s forearm with enough force to get her attention.

“Aw, no need to get violent,” Suzy protested. “I think it’s wonderful. And you guys are getting married anyway.” But then she saw the empty space on Lily’s third finger. “You are still getting married, aren’t you? Where’s your ring?”

“Um, Aidan is having it resized. I’ll get it back within a few days.”

“But then why the funeral face? Isn’t Aidan happy about this?”

“No. He wants me to have an abortion.”

“What? Why?”

Lily almost gave her the real reason, but caught herself at the last moment. “This child will be born with severe birth defects. Aidan warned me right at the start that we could never have a family, and I accepted it.”

“I don’t understand. What kind of defects? And how can you be so sure?”

“It’s something that runs in his family.”

“But how come he’s around then?”

“Um, it’s a miracle he was normal. That’s why he has no brothers or sisters. All his siblings were stillborn as a result of massive birth defects.” Lily felt her throat tightening as the lies spilled from her mouth. Damn Suzy for being so observant. This wasn’t a conversation she had planned on having, and it was in direct conflict with Aidan’s instructions.

“Well then, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to make sure this baby isn’t normal before you decide to flush him or her?”

Lily felt physically sick at Suzy’s harsh description. Flush? Like flushing waste down a toilet. Could she dispose of Aidan’s, no Zargun’s offspring, so unfeelingly? But it was what Aidan expected of her. He had even said she would do it if she loved him.

“Earth to Lily, Earth to Lily,” Suzy said gently while stroking Lily’s arm.

Lily blinked, realizing that several minutes had passed, and that Suzy was still waiting for an answer.

“Quite frankly, I feel confused about this, so I think the best thing to do is to trust Aidan and do what he has asked me to do.”

“Is he going to go with you to the clinic?”

They hadn’t discussed that at all. But Aidan had said that he would find out about abortion clinics, so perhaps they would still have that discussion.

Suzy took her silence as a negative response. “I’ll go with you if he doesn’t want to, Lily. You’ll need someone there with you.”

Suzy’s eyes were kind, understanding, and Lily felt the turmoil in her mind calming. What would she do without her best friend, and how could she stand to leave her behind when they left New York?

“Thank you, Suzy. I’d appreciate that. But please don’t tell Benjamin.”

“Of course,” Suzy said, smiling at Benjamin as he returned to the table with Lily’s coffee.

Benji’s presence meant that the subject was off limits, and the conversation turned to everyday subjects while Lily drank her coffee, trying not to show her distaste for the decaffeinated brew, and wondering how to tell Suzy that she and Aidan were leaving again.

~ . ~

Everything seemed to be fine until they left Starbucks and headed towards their first class.

The pavement wobbled beneath Lily’s feet without warning. She grabbed Suzy’s arm for support. “Slow down,” she gasped. “I’m not feeling so good.”

Suzy stopped and turned to her with a concerned expression on her face. “What’s wrong?”

But Suzy’s voice had a strange echo, as if it was coming from far away, and then her face faded as Lily’s senses shut down. She vaguely heard Suzy’s scream as she felt herself falling to the pavement. And then there was nothing.

~ . ~

Lily opened her eyes and immediately realized that she was back at the mansion, in Aidan’s bed. The house was quiet, and she wondered where Aidan was. Then she heard his voice somewhere downstairs, and the happy laughter of a child. A few seconds later, she heard Aidan laughing too. She sat up. Aidan didn’t laugh very often. What was going on?

She climbed out of bed, and after pulling on her robe and pushing her feet into slippers, she cautiously made her way downstairs to the kitchen. Her mouth fell open at what she saw there.

Aidan was making waffles, but he wasn’t alone. A little boy, probably six years old, was helping him. The boy laughed as Aidan flicked a bit of flour in his direction. “No, Daddy. Mommy won’t like it if my clothes are dirty.”

Aidan crossed to him and after grabbing him in his arms, he swung him high, wresting a peal of laughter from the child. “Don’t worry, my boy. Go get changed quickly before Mommy wakes.”

The little boy ran to the door, but stopped when he saw Lily.

“Oh no, you’ve spoiled the surprise, Mommy,” he cried, disappointment in his voice.

Lily stared at him. He had Aidan’s pale skin and black hair, and she had no doubt that his boyishly pretty face would one day evolve into something similar to his father’s handsome features. But he had her green eyes. This was her child. Her and Aidan’s child.

She dropped to her knees in front of the boy and held her arms out to him.

Aidan smiled as the little boy ran into her arms. “You’re supposed to be sleeping, my love. We’re making waffles as a surprise for you on Mother’s Day.”

She laughed. “I’m sorry, but now we can all eat together.” She hugged the boy, loving how his warm little body nestled against hers. She kissed his soft cheek and he gave her a big wet kiss on her lips. “I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too, my darling,” she whispered, hugging him harder, wondering why she couldn’t remember his name.

He looked at her with wide green eyes and said, “Why did you kill me, Mommy?”

And as she looked down, he became more and more transparent until he completely faded away. “Save me, Mommy,” she heard his final cry as he disappeared.

She screamed in anguish at her loss, and looked for Aidan, but he had disappeared too. The kitchen that had been warm and fragrant had transformed into a stark, dark room, and she was completely alone. Abandoned. “Aidan,” she screamed with all her might. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Come back, please. Aidan!”

Somebody shaking her shoulders pulled her out of her nightmare, and Lily opened her eyes to see Suzy’s concerned face above her. “What?” she croaked, trying to sit up, but her body wouldn’t obey her commands.

“Don’t move, Lily,” Suzy commanded. “You’re in hospital. You were having a bad dream, so I woke you.”

Lily licked dry lips and swallowed hard. “Water, please.”

Suzy helped her to drink cool water from a glass she fetched from the bedside table. “There you go. You gave us all a hell of a scare. Benji was as pale as a ghost by the time the ambulance arrived.”

“I’m sorry. What happened?”

“You fainted, and you wouldn’t wake up. So I called 911.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Look, will you stop apologizing. This wasn’t your fault. You’re pregnant, for heaven’s sake.”

“I saw him, in my dreams. He looked like Aidan but he had my eyes.”

Suzy’s face softened. “And he was normal?”

“Yes. He was six years old already.”

“So it was a good dream?”

Lily shuddered, remembering how the dream ended, but she remained quiet, not prepared to share her pain with Suzy.

A tall blonde woman in a doctor’s coat entered Lily’s hospital room, ending any further discussion. “Good day, Miss Childs. I’m Doctor Morgan, and I’m in charge of your treatment here.”

“Hello Doctor,” Lily said shakily. “Do you know what’s wrong with me?”

“You’re pregnant, young lady, and you had an inexplicable drop in blood pressure.” She examined the clipboard at the bottom of Lily’s bed. “Which seems to have corrected itself. All we did was to give you some fluids intravenously. It’s possible that you were dehydrated.”

Lily shook her head. “I wasn’t. I always make sure that I get enough fluids. It’s become a habit over the past years.”

The doctor stared at her for a moment, her blue eyes speculative behind the lenses of her glasses. “Yes, your friend told us you used to suffer from leukemia but that you’re in remission. Our tests have found no trace of the disease, so that couldn’t have been a factor in your collapse. But I’m very concerned, Miss Childs, because we were unable to rouse you. You were completely unconscious, for no apparent reason.”

Lily swallowed. “Is my baby normal?”

Doctor Morgan smiled, causing the skin around her eyes to crinkle, and Lily realized that she was older than she had first appeared. Late forties, at least, and clearly very capable. “No need to look so worried. We did an ultrasound scan to ascertain the health of the fetus, and everything looks fine. All your blood tests have come back normal too.”

“Would you be able to see if the baby has abnormalities, even at this early age?”

“Is there a reason why you’re worrying about this?”

“Well, my boyfriend mentioned that there are birth abnormalities in his family. He wants me to have an abortion.” Now she was buying into her own lie, and enacting it for Suzy’s benefit.

Doctor Morgan frowned. “Well, at this early stage I see no abnormalities, but the fetus still has to undergo a lot of maturing. If you could get more detailed information from him, we could look for specific abnormalities, but at this point you have a normal fourteen week old fetus, in perfect health. Perhaps you should make an appointment to see me later in the week, and bring your boyfriend along.”

Lily nodded. “I’ll try.” But she had no intention of returning. Medical technology couldn’t do anything for her. Yet her dream had seemed so real, and her anguish even more so. Perhaps she needed to discuss this with Aidan a little more. Perhaps he should travel six years into the future to see if they have a healthy little boy. In fact, why hasn’t he suggested it?

Doctor Morgan left the room, leaving Suzy behind. The redhead seemed excited. “Surely that’s good news, Lily. You have a healthy baby.”

“So far, I guess,” Lily said, gently rubbing her hand over her belly, deep in thought.

“Can I get you anything?” Suzy asked. “What about a bit of chocolate? I saw a vending machine in the passage outside.”

Lily forced a smile. “Thanks, I’d like that.” She didn’t really want chocolate, but she needed a few minutes of quiet without Suzy studying her every move.

~ . ~

Suzy burst into the room a short while later without the chocolate she had promised to bring.

Lily stared at her, puzzled by her pale features and wild eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“We have to get you out of here. I’ll explain later. Your life is in danger.”

Lily felt the world dip for a moment before she marshaled her strength. “Why? What’s going on?”

“I heard two men talking outside. They’re coming for you. They want to kidnap you, Lily. They must know you’re engaged to Aidan. We can’t waste any time. Let me help you out of bed. Can you stand?”

Whatever Suzy had heard had clearly shaken her to the core.

Lily swung her legs over the side of the bed, the sickening fear of her previous kidnapping boiling in her belly. Her legs took her weight easily, which was a huge relief, but the iciness of the hospital floor echoed the chill running down her spine. Suzy handed her clothes to her and pulled the curtain around the bed for privacy.

“I’ll keep watch. Please hurry.”

Lily dressed quickly, her breath coming in short gasps. What had Suzy heard that had sent her into such a state of alarm? Two men who wanted to kidnap her. Were they from the Order of St Lucian? Of course, there was probably still an alert out on her. The minute she had been admitted to hospital, red flags had probably gone up everywhere, and the news of her pregnancy had spread like wildfire. Of course, they had no idea that the pregnancy was doomed, and probably planned to imprison her until she gave birth.

How they planned to do this without Aidan finding her before she gave birth was a mystery to her. Did they not know that Aidan could time travel to this very moment and follow them to wherever they took her. As Aidan has often said to her, the St Lucians really had no idea of what he was capable of doing.

* * * *

Chapter Four

The first inkling that Aidan had that something was wrong, was when he saw Oscar in the woods. The great cat was rushing towards him, skillfully avoiding the raised tree roots crisscrossing over the footpath through the woods. He didn’t need to read the alarm in the cat’s aura to see that he was upset. The animal’s ears were flattened against his head, and his body hair stood at all angles. His eyes were dark and wide with anxiety. Aidan frowned at the unusual sight, feeling a prickle of unease at the back of his neck.

He stopped and put his arms out to Oscar. “Come here, my boy. Have you been looking for me? What’s wrong?” He wasn’t expecting the cat to answer him. Rather he hoped that the soothing sound of his voice would calm the anxious animal.

Oscar leapt into his arms, driving Aidan backwards a few steps before he caught his balance. He cradled the distraught animal for a minute while whispering soothing words. “What’s the matter, Oscar? Come, let’s go home and I’ll light a warm fire for you.”

But as he took a few steps in the direction of the house, Oscar let out an ominous growl before baring his large canines with a loud hiss. Aidan froze. Whatever the problem was, it was at the mansion. Knowing how Oscar felt about strangers, he could only assume that there were strangers at the mansion. But how was that possible? Had the St Lucians somehow discovered the location of the estate? Impossible. But he didn’t intend to ignore the cat’s warning. He wasn’t far from the crystal greenhouse, so he walked in that direction, with Oscar close on his heels.

He opened the crystal door and Oscar followed him inside. The massive cat had his own entrance to the greenhouse, which also gave him access to a secret tunnel that led to the basement beneath the house. Aidan appreciated that Oscar had come to warn him instead of just taking shelter, but he wanted to make sure that the animal was safe before he took on whatever threat was at the mansion.

He gently fondled Oscar’s ears for a few moments. The animal huffed contentedly and pressed his head against Aidan’s hand.

Aidan smiled gently as he sank to his haunches. He gave Oscar one final stroke before he said, “Oscar, I want you to hide. You know what you have to do.” The cat’s ears had twitched at the word hide, and he stared back at Aidan with intelligence in his eyes. Aidan repeated, “Oscar, hide!” in a firm, commanding tone.

Without any further show of sentiment, Oscar loped off with long strides, heading towards the concealed entrance to the basement.

~ . ~

As he approached the mansion, Aidan saw a red BMW sedan parked in plain sight. How had the car managed to get through the gate? What had happened in the present while he had been in the future, trying to find a solution to his and Lily’s dilemma? He hadn’t found any solution, and had taken to the woods, walking for many hours before Oscar tracked him down.

He stopped while still in the shadows of the tall trees, and used his special senses to scan the mansion for foreign energy signatures, and found none. He recognized Suzy and Benjamin’s energy signatures from memory, and sighed in relief when he recognized Lily’s aura in her bedroom. But she was lying in bed, while Suzy hovered nearby. Benjamin was downstairs in the kitchen. Clearly, something had happened because he could see from Lily’s energy field that she was far from well.

Though he was upset that Lily had compromised the secrecy of his estate, Aidan decided to assume that Suzy and Benji were there to assist Lily, though he wondered why she hadn’t gone to the penthouse instead. Maybe something had happened that had left her doubting the security of the penthouse.

Aidan entered the house via the backdoor, and Benji whirled around from where he was perusing the contents of a kitchen cupboard. His surprise changed to a mixture of relief and embarrassment when he spotted Aidan. “Mr. Knight, I’m sorry to be scratching among your things like this, but Suzy wants me to make Lily a cup of tea.”

Aidan watched him squirm for a few moments before he forced a smile and said, “You’re a friend of Lily, and therefore a guest in my house. Please, make yourself at home.” He pointed to a cupboard on the left and said, “The tea and sugar is in there, and the cups and mugs are in the cupboard over there.” Again he indicated by pointing with his finger. “And there in the corner is the coffee machine. The capsules to make the coffee are in the cupboard above the coffee machine. Milk is in the fridge.”

“Thank you, sir,” Benjamin said, but made no move to get going with the tea.

“Please, call me Aidan.”

“Okay sir, I mean Aidan. Again, so sorry to barge into your home like this, but Lily said she wouldn’t be safe anywhere else. Apparently there were men at the hospital who…”

Aidan didn’t bother to listen to the rest as he bolted for the stairs and took them three at a time, desperate to make sure Lily was all right.

He burst into the room to find Suzy sitting on the edge of Lily’s bed. Suzy jumped to her feet but relaxed when she saw him. “Oh Aidan, I’m glad you’re here. Sorry I’m so jumpy, but we’ve had a rough morning.”

“What’s going on?” Aidan walked to the side of Lily’s bed was relieved to find her sleeping peacefully. Her aura looked weak, but he would remedy that as soon as they had some privacy.

“Lily fainted just after we left Starbucks this morning, and she wouldn’t wake up, so the paramedics took her to hospital, and even there it was almost two hours before she came around. The doctor said they tried everything, but she wouldn’t wake. They suspected low blood pressure, possibly because of the pregnancy.”

Aidan spun around to face her, unable to believe that Lily had ignored his orders to keep things quiet. “She told you she was pregnant?”

Suzy took a step back. “Um, no, but I kind of guessed when she ordered decaf coffee. I mean, she never drinks it. And anyway, they confirmed it at the hospital.”

“I see,” Aidan said, turning away from her, mostly to keep himself from incinerating her with a single gaze. He focused on Lily’s sleeping features. “What else did they say?”

“They said that she appeared to be having a healthy pregnancy, apart from the bout of low blood pressure.”

“I see,” Aidan said again.

Suzy cleared her throat loudly. “Um Aidan, Lily told me that you want her to have an abortion. She said that you have some family history with severe birth defects, and that you were worried about the health of the baby.”

Aidan whirled to face Suzy, furious that Lily had discussed their affairs with a busybody like Suzy.

Suzy swallowed hard, but didn’t back down. “But the doctor said the fetus is normal. She said that Lily must bring you to see her next week, so that you can discuss a plan going forward.”

“Suzy, while I thank you for your concern about Lily, I don’t think there’s any need for you to involve yourself in our private affairs.” Aidan said coldly, fighting his anger.

The redhead drew herself up to her full height. “Lily is my friend, and I can see how stressed she is, and how conflicted she is about having an abortion. You have no right to force her. It’s her body and she has the right to decide for herself.”

Aidan raised his eyebrows, impressed by her courage and her fervor, though this was hardly the time or the place, or the right occasion.

“Again I have to say that none of this has anything to do with you, Suzy. You’re a guest in my house, which is the only reason why I’ve tolerated this conversation. Now, why are you here?”

“Lily asked us to bring her here. She said the penthouse wasn’t safe. Those same men who had forced you to go into hiding were at the hospital, and they were plotting to kidnap Lily. I overheard them talking.”

“What did they say?” Aidan said, realizing that Suzy still believed the story that Zargun had concocted to explain their long absence, about how his life had been under threat, forcing them to flee New York.

“Something about that they were glad that the doctor had phoned them and that they hoped the other men would get there before Lily was discharged. And they were very excited about her pregnancy, and they said if the child was anything like his father, then this was a wonderful day indeed. They talked a bit funny, like very formal, which was why I started listening to their conversation. I was trying to feed some money into a vending machine when they arrived in the waiting room, but I got out of there as fast as I could to warn Lily. We sneaked out via the back stairs. She certainly has a lot of experience sneaking around in hospitals.” Suzy stopped speaking suddenly, and took a deep breath, staring at Aidan with apprehension in her eyes. “What are you going to do?”

Aidan sighed. “I’ll have to consult with my people about it, Suzy. Thanks for being there for Lily. Could you leave me alone with her for a while?”

Suzy nodded, at once businesslike. “Yes, of course. I’ll be downstairs with Benji.”

“Make yourselves at home,” Aidan said. “Tell Benji not to worry about the tea for Lily. We’ll be down in a little while.”

After Suzy had left, closing the door behind her, Aidan took a seat on the edge of Lily’s bed. She didn’t wake, and his heart ached when he saw the dark shadows beneath her closed eyes. She had been fine that morning at the penthouse, and his heart sank as he realized that the fetus was probably poisoning her already. What other explanation could there be for her collapse and long period of unconsciousness? But for now, he needed to spend some time repairing her energy field, and then replenish her strength reserves.

~ . ~

Lily woke suddenly, startled by the touch of soft lips on her eyelids. The scent of Aidan’s woody aromatic aftershave enveloped her at the same time as she opened her eyes to see his concerned face above hers.

He smiled and stroked light fingertips over her cheek. “Hi princess,” he whispered. “Let me help you get strong again.” He brought his mouth down on hers, and she relaxed, parting her lips to take him inside, reveling in the pulses of white light streaming into her body as she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him closer.

She reluctantly let go when he gently disentangled himself from her a short while later. “Thanks, I really needed that,” she said softly, reaching up to caress his cheek.

Aidan smiled, but the shadows in his eyes remained, and she sighed deeply. “What’s wrong?”

A muscle flexed in his jaw before he said softly, “What were you thinking, Lily, bringing them here? This is our stronghold, our secret retreat.”

“I didn’t know what else to do. There were men at the hospital, and I was sure they would know about the penthouse, from before, so I didn’t think it would be a good idea to go there.”

“What about Suzy’s house, or a hotel? What you’ve done now can’t be undone, unless I…”

“Don’t you dare! They are my friends. They’ve put themselves at risk to save me, and that’s how you want to reward them?”

He shrugged helplessly. “Do you have a better suggestion?”

“Yes, we trust them, because they’re our friends.”

“Really? You’re prepared to stake your life, and my freedom, on that friendship?”

Lily sat up, feeling a lot steadier. Aidan moved out of her way, and she swung her legs over the edge of the bed. “Look, I’m sorry. I panicked and made a mistake. But I’m sure that Suzy and Benji will keep quiet about this. And who would they tell anyway?”

Aidan didn’t look any happier. “This has been my home for centuries, Lily. I’m not happy, particularly now that the Order of St. Lucien knows that you’re pregnant. They won’t let this go, especially since their attempts at creating a child were unsuccessful.”

“You know that for sure?”

“Yes, while Zargun was in charge, he found and destroyed their secret research facility, as well as the scientists who were working on the project.”

Lily stared at him, aghast at his matter of fact manner. “Those people had families. They were just trying to earn a salary.”

Aidan frowned irritably. “Do you honestly believe that? Zargun found the dissected bodies of fifteen dead women and ten dead babies in the freezer room, as well as bottles containing various abominations of human life. Those scientists had been experimenting with my stolen semen, trying to create a superhuman being. They were zealots, not salary earners, and they deserved what they got.”

“Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry. I hate it when we’re at odds like this.” She reached for him, and he moved into her embrace. “We’re supposed to be a team and now that we have a new life to protect…” Aidan pulled away from her so suddenly that she stumbled forward, grappling at thin air.

“Are you crazy?” he said, his eyes wide with alarm. “Surely you don’t believe the lies you’ve been telling Suzy? This isn’t a fairytale. This new life will kill you if you don’t get rid of it. Please tell me that you understand this.”

Lily sat on the edge of the bed again. “But the doctor said that the baby is normal in every respect. Maybe this time it will be different…”

“It won’t be any different,” Aidan shouted, his cheeks flushed with anger. “This baby will look perfect right up until the day it is born, perfectly dead. And you would have lost your life for nothing. Please, you have to listen to me.” He dropped to his knees in front of her and stared up into her eyes. “You have one chance to save yourself, one chance to stay with me. I love you, Lily. Please just do as I ask.”

Lily closed her eyes to shut out the sight of Aidan’s pleading face, wanting so much to give him what he wanted, but her conscience wouldn’t let her. Fat tears squeezed out from beneath her eyelids as she whispered, “I can’t do it, Aidan. I had a dream about you and me and our little boy in the kitchen, making waffles. He was six already, and so beautiful. But when I held him in my arms, he asked me why I had killed him, and then he faded away. I looked for you, but you had also disappeared, leaving me cold and alone. The dream left such a terrible ache inside me. I would do anything to avoid feeling like that again.”

All resistance left Aidan’s body as he slumped forward, burying his face in her lap. Eventually he stirred, and stared up at her with eyes that were far too dark. “When did you have this dream?”

“Um, while I was in the hospital, before I came round. Suzy thought I was having a nightmare, so she woke me up. It was a nice dream that ended horribly.”

“It was just a dream, Lily. Wishful thinking. We don’t have a six-year-old child, and we never will. I’m sorry, princess.”

The sadness in his voice was her undoing, and Lily burst into tears. She covered her face with her hands as sobs tore from her body. “I wish all this would just go away.”

“I wish it too. And it can go away, princess. We just have to deal with it, and then we can move on with our lives. Maybe Zargun didn’t realize that his mischief could be so easily undone.”

Lily stared at him, taken aback by his callousness. “Mischief? It’s a life, Aidan. A child. Your flesh and blood.”

He stared at her. “It isn’t a life. It’s your imminent death, growing inside you. You have to keep telling yourself that, Lily. You have to live, for yourself, for me, for us.”

… (to be continued)

Final Notes on the Crossfire Trilogy

A little while ago, while feeling nostalgic for my favorite characters, I reread the Crossfire Trilogy and also the Driftwood Trilogy, and an interesting thought occurred to me. Is the Driftwood Trilogy really a spinoff of the Crossfire Trilogy, or is it just a continuation of the story, with the prequel, in the form of Crossfire: Driftwood thrown in somewhere in the middle. And I wondered to myself if I shouldn’t rather rebrand and market the six books as the Crossfire Series instead. But then I wondered whether Crossfire: Driftwood shouldn’t then be the first book in the series. After all, chronologically Driftwood happened many years before Crossfire.

But then I remembered that I wrote Driftwood after finishing the Crossfire Trilogy, and that Driftwood demonstrated some of the fears and problems that Marcelle had carried over to the first Crossfire book. And I realized that Driftwood needed to be read with the knowledge of the Crossfire Trilogy already in mind. I think it heightens the tension a bit more that the reader can easily guess who the strange man is that Nancy finds on the beach, simply by his description, and it lends a particular note to the story that the reader has information that the main protagonist, Nancy does not have.

So in the end I decided that the order is correct, and that Driftwood should be the fourth book in the series, because it also answers a question that is posed in Crossfire: Hearts on Fire, which is why is Karl so bitter and twisted about Nancy?

So yes, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about this, mainly because when I look at sales figures, it is obvious to me that the Driftwood Trilogy has not had the same sales numbers as the Crossfire Trilogy. Not that it has sold badly at all, but what I mean is it is obvious to me that many people who read and enjoyed the Crossfire Trilogy didn’t go on to read the Driftwood Trilogy. It makes me wonder if I failed in my marketing of the two trilogies, and didn’t make it obvious enough that the two are connected?

This returns me to my first question, whether I shouldn’t rather rebrand the six books as one series. I would love some input on this, if anyone has an opinion. I don’t know if an author is allowed to love their own books, but I love the saga of Marcelle, Stefan, Kris, Karl and Nancy and their trials though the years. Those characters have been with me for a long time, because I wrote the Crossfire Trilogy way back in the nineties! And I realized upon reading it again that the Crossfire and Driftwood trilogies are primarily about betrayal and forgiveness. And whether love, whether romantic or familial love, can really overcome all.

And I really hope in real life that it can overcome all, because in this past year our family has experienced the lows of betrayal and anger as we were forced to go to court to protect a minor child from a predator. I can’t say too much about it, save to speak hypothetically. Let’s just say that there are predators who like to target single, sometimes desperate, women with a child or children of a certain age. Do you see where I’m going with this? And sometimes this woman is blind to what is happening, or what could potentially happen, and no amount of talking or reasoning will help, leaving her family no choice but to resort to the highest court in the country to keep this child safe, and keep this predator away from her.

We have provisionally succeeded, but the case is still on going, and the threats and abuse from the respondent in the case has been on going for this entire year. The cost to our family has been enormous, both financial and emotional, and our relationship with the respondent has been destroyed, which means we stand to lose everything, including our relationship with the child in question, if we should fail in our endeavor to protect her.

But I’ve always believed that the only way that evil can succeed in the world is if good people do nothing. And when I look at this beautiful child with her whole life still ahead of her, I know it will all be worth it in the end, knowing that we have prevented her childhood from being stolen from her. One day I will be able to face her and say to her that I did everything in my power to protect her. But the cost has been great, not the least in my productivity as a writer. I’ve been trying to get the third Blackstone book written, but all too often have found myself staring out of the window, my thoughts far away as I try to find a way to settle this whole affair peacefully, and try to heal the rift in our family at the same time.

And sometimes I have to wonder when things are going to improve. I mean 2015 was a pretty crap year health wise as I wrote in this blog post and this one . But still I managed to bring out Crossfire: Broken earlier this year, which I believe, and which some reviews have also mentioned, is one of my best books to date, in terms of the conflict and tension, and I must say that I loved writing it, because even though my body was hurting, it was an escape for me, and more importantly, I was fully immersed in my characters.

But now, my mind is restless and my soul is tortured. What do you say when your godchild says to you with tears in her eyes that sometimes she pinches herself to check if she isn’t a ghost, because her mother, (the respondent in this case) barely talks to her, and pushes her away when she wants to hug her. She is in agony, our family is in agony. I am in agony. But the child’s mother is filled with revenge and rage and hatred because she feels she has been wronged, and that we shouldn’t have interfered. It is monstrous, and unbelievable that in today’s times it should be so difficult to protect a child.

I must apologise for such a morbid post, but I felt that you guys deserve to hear the truth about why the third Blackstone book won’t be ready in December. I will do my best to complete it as soon as I can. I know that many of you are waiting to see what happens next, and I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’m hoping that I might have it done by March at the latest. If I manage to finish it earlier, I will always announce it here first. 🙂

 

 

The Driftwood Trilogy is complete!

And what a relief, I have to say. I’m looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation, and then it’s back to work to finish the Blackstone Trilogy. So without further delay, Crossfire: Broken is available at Smashwords , AmazonItunesBarnes & Noble, and Kobo. Thank you to all the readers who came to this blog to chat to me and chase me a little bit,  I really needed it. Thanks again.

Final cover for Crossfire Broken.jpg

Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_artranq’>artranq / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

First Three Chapters, as promised

As I promised a few days ago, here are the first three chapters of the third Driftwood book, which is provisionally being called Crossfire: Broken.

Crossfire: Broken

By Niki Savage
Copyright 2016 Niki Savage
 This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Niki Savage.

Crossfire: Broken

Book 3 of the Driftwood Trilogy

Chapter One

Clad in a black leather teddy, the six foot tall blonde dominatrix shook out the coils of the bullwhip she held in her hand. Some distance in front of her stood her helpless victim, but in this case, not quite so helpless. He has chosen to be here, has even brought the whip he wanted her to use, and has decided for himself how many lashes she should give him. He wanted two hundred in total, divided into ten visits. His visits were irregular, mostly four weeks apart, but after his third visit he was absent for seven weeks, leaving her panicking at the prospect of losing her biggest paying customer.

This was his fifth visit, and by the end of it, he would have received one hundred lashes in total. By now, their routine was familiar, with him already in position by the time she entered the room. It was a bit disappointing, because she would’ve liked to see his face before she punished him.

She had an intense interest in human nature, and wished that she knew why this beautiful man needed her to punish him so viciously. A bullwhip in her expert hands was a fearsome instrument. Though she was supremely skilled with the instrument, able to inflict maximum pain without breaking the skin, it was still a terrifying and excruciating experience.

None but the most hard core enthusiasts came to her for this particular treat, and even they often invoked the safe word by the fifth lash, and that was when she was going easy on them, using the bullwhip to terrify more than to injure. But it was enough for many of them to get turned on enough to get their reward, a fuck that blew their minds, because she was good at that too.

Which was why this man vexed her. She had noticed right from the start that he derived no sexual gratification from the whipping or the humiliation. Whatever pain or anger he felt, he internalized, because little of it showed on the outside. But she knew he felt the pain, because after their last meeting he had winced when putting his shirt back on. That wince had been enough to give her the sexual gratification she sought. This was a job, after all, but she wouldn’t be doing it if she didn’t enjoy it.

She focused on the man in front of her. He wasn’t secured to the rack, rather he gripped where the shackles protruded, which made it look as if he was restrained, but it was just an illusion. She knew it was for her benefit, and he has never let go of the shackles during a beating, maintaining the effect that he was helpless.

His back was smooth and tanned, showing no marks from the eighty lashes she had inflicted over the past four months, and she was proud of herself for that. He stood about six feet tall in his blue denims and black boots, and his thick black hair hung to where his neck met his shoulders. She remembered from before that he had piercing pale blue eyes, which he often hid by allowing his hair to fall into his eyes, playboy style. He always had a few days of dark stubble on his jaw, but it looked good on him. Again, she wondered why he felt in need of punishment, and she wondered about the precise amount of lashes he had requested.

But she had a job to do, so without further delay she sent the whip snaking in his direction. It let out a satisfying crack before it connected his skin, and she was gratified to see him flinch. Without giving him a moment to compose himself, she sent the lash in his direction again, harder this time.

The man sucked in a huge lungful of air after the fifth lash, and she wondered if he was about to scream, like so many of them did, but again he disappointed her, dropping his head and absorbing the pain. But she wanted his pain, wanted to see his pain, hear his pain, and so she sent the whip out again, her blood singing in her ears as the whip cracked before making contact. The man didn’t use his safe word, and she realized that this was what he wanted. She had been too easy on him until now. He wanted the pain, and she no longer cared why, intent on drawing her own satisfaction from hurting him.

~ . ~

The man hanging on the rack was in a world of agony. Fire consumed his entire body, and reignited every time the lash of the whip bit into his skin. Breathing was difficult, because the dominatrix wielding the whip gave him no time to recover between lashes. Finally the woman understood what he wanted, understood that he needed to be punished. Her blows were harder than before, and as a red haze of pain clouded his senses, he wondered if she had finally seen his black soul. If she knew what he had done, she wouldn’t stop beating him until he lay dead on the floor.

He wished that he had the courage to let his tormentor tie him up, so that he could feel the helplessness that ‘she’ must have felt. Even after all this time, he couldn’t say her name, not even in his thoughts. He wasn’t worthy, wouldn’t be worthy until all the poison had been bled from his soul. With every blow that rained on his back, more poison seeped from him. But would it ever be enough, or would he become addicted to the pain, needing more and more of it to feel the peace that came afterwards?

He bit back the cry that rose to his lips as the lash cut his skin, and after the fierce burn, he felt a warm rivulet of blood dribbling down his violated skin, soaking into the waistband of his jeans. Yes, his tormentor finally understood. He needed her to beat him like a bad dog. She had to make him pay for his sins.

~ . ~

By the time the dominatrix came to her senses, the man had multiple rivulets of blood dribbling down his back, but still he held on to the shackles on the rack. He had taken all twenty lashes without using the safe word, which made this a dangerous situation, for her as well as for him. If she couldn’t control herself, and he didn’t stop her, where would it end?

“It’s over,” she said loudly, expecting that he would let go of the shackles and reach for his shirt, as he had before.

But after letting go of the shackles, he slowly sank to the floor, remaining on his knees and hugging himself as if to keep the pain inside. She ripped her mask off and ran to him as fast as her stiletto boots allowed. From close up his wounds looked bad, and she cursed herself for losing control. She touched the man’s shoulder with her gloved hand, but he didn’t respond to her touch.

“Are you alright?” she asked, tugging more urgently at his shoulder.

He took a deep breath and turned to her. “Like that,” he said in a husky voice. “That’s what I want, just like that, every time.”

She was unaware that her mouth had dropped open as she stared at him, noticing how his blue eyes glittered in the dimly lit room, as if a light came from inside them. Whether it was the light of near insanity she couldn’t say for sure, but it made her feel sick to her stomach.

* * * *

Chapter Two

Karl glanced at Nancy, who sat beside him on the veranda of her house in Sandton. On the large green lawn in front of them, Danny played with the boy from next door. After their return from their holiday on the North Coast of South Africa, Danny looked tanned and healthy, so different from the pale, emaciated child he had rescued from the Somali pirates.

At the same time as he remembered the rescue, the unwelcome image of Stefan broken and motionless on the deck of the pirate ship flashed through his mind. He moved uncomfortably, shaking his head slightly.

Nancy put a comforting hand on his thigh. “What’s wrong? You look as if the world’s just descended on your shoulders.”

He sighed. “It’s back to reality tomorrow, I guess.”

She stroked his thigh gently. “It doesn’t have to be.”

He turned to her, a slight frown on his forehead. “I don’t understand.”

“You could stay longer, or maybe forever.”

Karl’s frown deepened. “I thought we agreed that once we’re married, our home will be on La Montagne.”

“I know, but these past ten days have been heavenly. It was so nice to see you on the beach, just being a normal father to your son.”

“I am a normal father. What are you getting at?”

“You’re not a normal father, Karl, not really. I worry about what might happen to Danny if you were suddenly…gone. He’s grown so attached to you that I fear he might never recover.”

“What’s brought this on?” he said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.

Nancy clasped both her hands in her lap. She stared at Danny and his friend clambering on the jungle gym for a few moments before she took a deep breath. “I can’t stop thinking about…Stefan and Marcelle. It’s been ten months, and nobody knows if Stefan’s even still alive. It’s so horrible, and I can’t imagine what Marcelle and her children must be going through.”

Karl clenched his teeth and counted to ten before he said, “Marcelle is tough, and she’s a good mother. She’ll get through this.”

“I don’t care how tough she is. The love of her life is missing, presumed dead, and one day her little boys are going to want to know where Stefan is.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Karl said, keeping his tone even while trying to relax the tension gathering between his shoulder blades.

“Have you seen Marcelle recently? I just assumed that I would run into her on La Montagne, but Charlotte told me she hasn’t been back since she left with her kids.”

Karl cleared his throat. “I haven’t seen her in a while.”

“While Stefan was in hospital you were all over her, and now you’re just ignoring her? Why?”

“I’ve been busy with the search for Stefan, and running Omega, and visiting you and Danny. And in between all that, I’ve led a few missions in Europe, and two in Africa. We’re running short of senior personnel with Heinrich and me sharing the administrative duties. I’m going to appoint a senior man to do the admin, because Heinrich and I are required in the field. Our expertise is wasted behind a desk.”

“But you’re safe there.”

Karl stiffened. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you think it’s time?”

“For what?”

“Karl, you have me, and you have Danny. Imagine how we would feel if one day…”

“Get to the point, Nancy.”

“I just mean I would sleep better if I knew you were safe. You asked me last week to marry you, and I said I would think about it. But all I’ve been able to think about is…” She pressed her hands to her mouth. “I can’t say it.”

Karl didn’t answer her, keeping his eyes focused on the boys playing in the yard.

When Nancy touched his arm, he stiffened. “Is this what you think about all day? Me dead and you alone? I thought we’d moved past that?”

“I can’t get past it. Every day I think about Marcelle and imagine her pain, and I know I wouldn’t survive it if that had to happen to us. Her children are too young to remember Stefan, but Danny is turning eight next year.”

“I’m trying to think where this conversation is leading. What are you trying to achieve here?”

“I want you to choose us. Choose life. Be with us.” When Karl didn’t answer she carried on fervently, “I’ll marry you and live on La Montagne with you. I’ll give up my job and my friends and everything I know. We can have more children, anything you want. I love you, so much.”

Karl jumped to his feet, his agitation not allowing him to remain seated. “I seem to recall we’ve had this conversation before.”

“I know what I said in Mozambique.”

“And?”

“My viewpoint hasn’t changed.”

“You just learned to hide it a bit better, didn’t you?” Karl said, a sneer marring his handsome features. “You thought if you gave me time to get attached to Danny, I might give in this time, and let you neuter me for good.”

“Neuter? What do you mean?”

“What do you think it would do to me to watch my men go on missions while I sit behind a desk? I’m still a young man, and in the best shape of my life. My skills are in demand on the battlefield, and the war we’re fighting against terrorism is far from over.”

“But Danny…”

“What about Danny? I love him, but I’d prefer it if he remembered me as a man who fought for what he believed in, rather than a weakling who spent his time behind a desk so his wife could feel secure. Do you realize what you’re asking me do? You might as well cut my balls off and put them on your mantelpiece as a trophy.”

“That’s not what I want. Please, just listen to me.”

“I have listened to you. You’re singing the same tune you sang in Mozambique and I didn’t fall for it then, nor am I falling for it now.”

Nancy’s back stiffened. “You’re being very disrespectful. I don’t deserve this.” She wrung her hands together in her lap until her knuckles showed white. “I want you to think about this, and I want you to choose. I deserve more than what you’re giving me.”

Karl’s mouth fell open in surprise. “You mean my love isn’t enough? I’ve taken you back into my life, despite the circumstances of your rescue. Despite the fact that my best friend is missing, possibly dead, and his wife is in agony. I’ve looked past all that and loved you and Danny anyway. And now you say that isn’t enough.”

“True love demands sacrifice.”

Karl laughed incredulously. “Sacrifice? What about the sacrifice Marcelle has made? Her husband is gone. My friend is gone. We made sacrifices so that you could live. But what have you sacrificed?”

Nancy remained silent and dropped her gaze to her lap.

“Tell me!” he shouted with such vehemence that she jumped in her seat.

“I feel as if you hate me right now,” she said in a small voice.

“Hate is overrated as an emotion,” he said coldly. “I warned you if you started your shit again, I would walk away without looking back. Well, consider me gone.”

“But what about Danny?”

“I won’t let you use him as a weapon against me. Call me if you want him to visit and I’ll send the plane for him.” He shrugged. “Or don’t. But whatever you do, you’ll have to answer for it when he’s older.”

Nancy stared at him, her eyes bright with tears. “I guess I was a fool thinking this could work.”

“No, I was the fool to let you draw me back in again. Goodbye, Nancy.”

Without a further word, he strode into the house and grabbed his bags, still packed from their trip to the coast.

Five minutes later, he was in his rented BMW, speeding up the street, heading for the airport. But the anger seething inside him needed an outlet and a short while later he pulled into a side street and cut the engine.

For a few seconds he sat motionless, trying to bring himself under control. But his breathing increased as he lost the battle, and he roared with rage as he slammed both his fists onto the steering wheel, again and again as his fury rose inside him like a tidal wave.

Long minutes passed before his anger ebbed, leaving him wrung out and breathless.

He should have taken the time to say goodbye to Danny before he left, he thought, filled with regret as he imagined the boy’s surprise to find him gone. But Nancy had left him no choice. The moment she had started speaking about Marcelle the scene had been set for a confrontation.

He has made every effort to get over what happened to Marcelle and Stefan, and move on with his life, and it was partly the reason why he’s avoided contact with Marcelle. He moved uncomfortably at the thought, remembering the vow he had made. But instead of keeping his vow, he had chased his own happiness, enjoying a carefree holiday while Marcelle suffered and Stefan remained lost.

Inadvertently Nancy had reminded him of that fact, while at the same time pushing her own agenda. Instinctively he knew that getting out of there had been the right thing to do. He had left before he said things he could never recall. The amount of anger he still felt towards Nancy had astonished him. He thought he had moved past all that, but the mere mention of Marcelle and her pain about the loss of Stefan had brought it all to the fore again. Without knowing it, Nancy had pushed all the wrong buttons and sabotaged herself in the process.

The guilt settled heavily on his shoulders. He could never give Nancy what she wanted, and he could never give Marcelle back what she needed. But maybe he should at least try.

~ . ~

Karl checked into the Southern Sun Airport hotel but declined the porter’s offer to carry his bags to his room, preferring to do it himself. He had no choice but to stay overnight, because the Omega jet was only due to pick him up the next morning, and wasn’t even on route yet, which was fortunate. He picked up his phone and made the call to cancel the jet. He planned to take a commercial flight to his next destination.

* * * *

Chapter Three

Marcelle sighed as she pushed open the door of her hotel room in Stuttgart, Germany. She had hoped that winning the world championships for a fourth time might lift her spirits, even if just for a little while, but after the press conference she had felt her mood plummeting. Perhaps the celebrations later would lift her spirits. Several of the French riders were staying in the same hotel, and they planned to meet in the bar downstairs later that evening.

After a long, hot shower, she dressed in a comfortable gray tracksuit and stretched out on top of the covers of the double bed. She was exhausted from her exertions earlier in the day, and fell asleep within minutes.

~ . ~

When she opened her eyes a few hours later, she saw Karl sitting on a chair beside her bed. She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again. But Karl still sat there, watching her with kindness in his eyes. Her heart plummeted. He had to be the bearer of bad news. She sat up, and without warning, tears spilled from her eyes. No, no, no, no.

“I’m sorry,” she said with a sniff. “It’s just a bit of a shock, seeing you here. Is Stefan still alive?”

Karl leaned forward and took one of her hands in his. “To be honest, Tiger, we don’t know. It’s been ten months, and we’ve found no sign of him.”

She stared at the lines of hardship around his mouth, and wondered if Kris had them too. The twins were suffering, not knowing what had happened to the cousin that they had come to regard as a brother.

She flicked her tears away with impatient fingers, angry with herself for having such a fragile hold on her feelings. “So why are you here then?”

“Do I need a reason to see my favorite sister in law?”

Marcelle tried but failed to smile. “I guess not.” She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and rose to her feet.

Karl jumped to his feet and grabbed her shoulder to steady her as she swayed for a moment before finding her balance.

She grimaced. “Sorry, low blood pressure. I shouldn’t get up so fast. And today’s race was hard.”

“For you, Tiger? I can’t believe that.”

“I’m not as fit as I usually am. Yes, I could still give those girls a hiding, but I had to put a lot of effort into it.”

“Well, congratulations. World champion again. But I thought you were planning to sit this season out, and have a baby.”

Marcelle led the way to a couch and sat down. Karl settled next to her.

“Yes, that was the plan,” she said. At Karl’s questioning expression she continued, “They implanted four embryos, and not one of them took. Actually, one of them did take, but I miscarried after six weeks.”

Karl pulled her into his arms. “I’m so sorry. I know you had hoped to draw comfort from carrying Jean-Michel’s child.”

She snuggled against his chest. “Even that has been denied me. The doctors said we can try again in a few months, but I’ve decided against it. I’ve realized that I’m really in a bad headspace right now. The miscarriage was probably nature’s way of protecting me. I’m hardly in a fit state to deal with the hormone changes of pregnancy.”

“So you started training again.”

“Yes, though I had missed most of the season, I trained and gained enough fitness to participate in the Tour de Feminin, and that brought me to race fitness to do world champs. And here I am.”

“And where are the boys?”

“With their grandparents. They’re happy to take care of them. They feel as if they’re getting a second chance with Jean-Michel. They’ve shown me his baby photos, and the resemblance is uncanny. Perhaps this will help them to heal too.”

“But what about Nicky?”

“They regard me as their daughter, and Nicky is a part of me, so as far they’re concerned he’s family too. They call him Nicholas instead of Nikolai, but I guess the French form is easier for them to pronounce.”

“When last did you see them?”

She sat up, moving out of his embrace. “About two months ago,” she said, an expression of guilt passing over her face. “But the season is over now, so I’ll be returning to the farm to be with them again. I’m sure they haven’t even missed me.”

“Are they talking yet?”

Marcelle smiled softly. “Just baby talk so far, but I’m sure they’ll get there.”

“Well, the reason I’m here is to invite you to La Montagne for the off season, the same as always. It’s your home too, you know.”

She shrugged, tears glistening in her eyes. “How can it be my home if Stefan isn’t there?”

“But we’re there, and your friends are there. Everyone would love to see the twins and spend some time with you. You’re family. Please Marcelle. Even if you just come for a month to brush up on your training. Remember you’re a rich woman, and therefore a target for kidnapping. I’m glad to see you’re still wearing your watch.”

Marcelle lovingly stroked over the gleaming timepiece on her wrist. “I never take it off. I don’t want to disappear without a trace again.”

“How do you think I tracked you to Germany?” Karl said with a wink. “Have you considered getting something similar for the twins? If you bring them to La Montagne we can explore a few options for a wrist or ankle band.”

“Actually that’s a great idea.” A shadow flitted across her face. “If I had to lose them too, I don’t know what I would do. But I guess they’re safe for now. I mean the world doesn’t even know of their existence. I was on La Montagne for my entire pregnancy, so there were no paparazzi pictures to entertain the public.”

“Best we keep it that way. Can you imagine if they knew? You wouldn’t have a moment of peace.”

“That’s why I took them straight to the farm. I had promised Jean-Michel that his children would grow up on the farm and get to know the wine business. Of course, I had hoped that he would be the one teaching them, but his father is still young enough to do it, so I guess that’s fine. But it would only be fair for them to spend time on La Montagne too, so that Nicky can learn about what his father has built.”

Karl smiled, but he had a sad look in his eyes. Clearly, he didn’t have much hope of finding Stefan after more than ten months.

“But I’ll continue to keep their existence a secret. They haven’t been to my apartment even. Not even my teammates know I have two children. Only Claude knows, and Anthony, and of course Doc Louis. But not Pierre-Henri. I still haven’t forgiven him for that time he gave me amphetamines and nearly killed me.”

Karl nodded. “Stefan wanted to sort him out for that, but the doc made him promise to behave.”

“Is Stefan really gone, Karl? Have you looked, really looked?”

“We’ve used all of Omega’s resources, and we’ll keep doing so. Sooner or later he has to surface.”

“If he’s still alive.”

Karl grimaced. “If he’s still alive.”

Marcelle stared down at her hands. “The thing I miss the most is being held. I miss his arms holding me tight when I feel like I’m ready to fall apart. I need his arms around me now, but I’m alone. I thought that winning the world champs would make me feel lighter, but it only lasted a few minutes.”

Karl moved closer and put his arms around her, cradling the back of her head in the palm of his right hand before pressing her face against his chest. “I’ll hold you, Marcelle, for as long as you need me to. I know it’s not the same, but it’s all I can offer.”

# # #

The joys of sleeping on a recliner

Some of the best naps I’ve enjoyed have been on a recliner, specifically the one I normally use when I write. A few years ago, after the second operation on my right knee, my orthopaedic surgeon suggested to me that sitting at a desk with my knees bent at ninety degrees might not be the best option for me. Being a writer, which normally would involve sitting at a desk, I thought about this for a while, and came up with a great solution, which resulted in me buying my first recliner. Of course I wasn’t trying to write while in a reclined position. What I was really interested in was the front part of the recliner that elevated my feet, which kept my knees in a slightly flexed position, just as my doctor suggested.

I also bought one of those laptop stands with the cooling fans built in, so that I could rest my laptop on my thighs. And that’s how I’ve been writing the past couple of years. Of course the best benefit of writing like that, is that even with the backrest of the recliner in the upright position, it’s really comfortable. This can present a problem at times, because sometimes, when I’m really thinking deeply about what’s going to happen next, and I get into a bit of a dreamy state, I drop off to sleep.

The advantage of that is that it allows my subconscious to come to the rescue and supply me with the next part of the story, and it’s really great when that happens. If not, I’ve lost an hour or two of the day, oops. I think that part of the reason why I fall asleep is that I’m constantly running in the red when it comes to sleep, so any time I get too comfortable I run the risk of dropping off.

Why am I running in the red, you might ask. Well, to summarize, somewhere around the age of thirty five I developed a fear of sleeping. That was when, for some inexplicable reason, I started waking up at three in the morning, in the middle of a fight or flight reaction. Medically it’s called a panic attack, or an anxiety attack, but basically it’s the result of a massive release of adrenalin while asleep, and boy is that a nasty way to wake up. You’re filled with intense fear, except that there nothing there to be afraid of, your heart is hammering, you’re hyperventilating and shivering and consumed with an insane desire to go outside and just run. From what? There’s nothing there. But try telling your body that.

Of course all medical technology could offer was sedation, which didn’t work, mainly because I found that while it could dull your senses, it didn’t take care of the panic, and I hated not being in control, so I gave that up after a short while.

Sleeping became a problem, but by resisting my body’s desire to sleep, I inadvertently stumbled onto the solution. By going to bed at three in the morning, I avoided the panic attack and normally slept through until eight, by which time the house was normally so noisy that it was difficult for me to continue sleeping. So that’s five hours at least. Certainly better than nothing, but an hour in the afternoon is often irresistible.

And what do I normally do until three in the morning? I watch TV, read, work on my latest manuscript, or just wander around the house. Being a bit of an introvert (more than just a bit), I’ve grown to relish the silence in the house while my family is sleeping, and quite frankly, after ten years it has become a habit.

But let’s get back to the fact that I’ve had some of my best naps on a recliner. Just an update to my post, “Disappointed“, I did finally have my knee operation on February 18, when all my blood levels were back to normal. I then had to wait a few months for my knee to heal before I could have my shoulder fixed up. And all that from one misstep off a ladder? Freakin’ unbelievable. Anyway, before I went to hospital on May 28 for the operation on my left shoulder, I wondered to myself how I would sleep for the six weeks that my arm would be in a sling. And then I remembered about my recliner, and how it would probably be a great idea to sleep on my back in a slightly raised position.

My mind made up, a few days before my operation I bought a new recliner for my bedroom. Of course my kitties all had to test drive it first, but when they realized that I was giving them my bed, with the electric blanket permanently switched on, they decided I could have my recliner.

We got here first!

We got here first!

And wow, I wish I had realized before how comfortable this would be. I used to wake up in the morning feeling as if I was broken, mainly due to five heavy kitties piling onto me the minute I got horizontal, twisting my body into all kinds of unnatural positions. Just try to imagine having traction that’s pulling in five different directions all at the same time.

I found there are two advantages to sleeping on a recliner. Firstly I’m held in position very securely, so no chance of turning onto my side by accident and hurting my shoulder. And because I’m sleeping on my back, no sleep wrinkles from mashing my face into a pillow. What a bonus, I look younger already. 😉 I’m seriously considering continuing to sleep this way even once my shoulder is healed, which could take a while. Even though I can stop using the sling in about two weeks time, I’m still looking at a few months of physiotherapy before this arm will be anything close to fully functional.

But I know the burning question here is whether I’m able to work on the next Blackstone book while my shoulder is healing. Well, for the first two weeks after the operation my left arm was completely out of action, and I spent my time watching TV and listening to music and reading and trying anything that kept me from going out of my mind. Yep, I hate being helpless and the truth of the matter is you need two hands for just about everything.

Accepting help from my family for things that I took for granted was difficult for me. One weekend we went to my brother’s house for a barbeque, after my sister had helped me dress, my mother had tied up my hair and my father had laced up my boots. And at the barbecue my sister casually leaned over and cut my meat into small little blocks that I could just pick up with a fork. Yes, that’s love and I felt about five years old. Ugh.

Anyway, those of you who want to know what was wrong with my shoulder. In the fall that I described in the post, “Disappointed”, what had actually happened was that I had torn my bicep tendon and injured my AC joint, which is a little joint on the top of the shoulder that helps with the rotation of your shoulder. Anytime you reach across your body, let’s say to put on your safety belt, you’ve used your AC joint. And if you reach up for something above your head, your AC joint is at work again.

So anyway, after the operation my doc said that he had managed to repair the tendon successfully, but he’d had to shave away a lot of bone to get my AC joint functional again, which in fact had already been compromised even before I fell. According to him it was one of the worst cases of shoulder impingement he had ever seen, which explained why my left arm had been practically useless before the operation. Basically the narrowing of my AC joint, combined with the injury sustained in the fall had trapped the tendons of my shoulder resulting in pain and reduced mobility.

I remember even while finishing Somali Sunrise that I had been in intense pain from my shoulder, and had to take regular breaks because my chest muscles kept cramping. Oh, the pain of creation. 😉

The good news is that by the third week after my shoulder operation I was able to get back into a regular schedule of writing. I managed that by propping my elbow up on the arm of my new recliner, thereby supporting my shoulder, and then releasing the clip of my sling so that I could rest the heel of my hand on the palm rest of my laptop. From there it was easy for me to reach the keys of my laptop and type quite comfortably without straining my shoulder or upper arm at all. I include a photo for illustration.

Yoda keeping watch and editing as I write. LOL.

Yoda keeping watch and editing as I write. LOL.

Of course, Yoda, one of my kitties, decided that she would help to keep my arm steady by providing support. She’s such a little darling and guards me day and night. I think she senses that I need a little extra help at the moment. And of course we enjoy wonderful naps together.

But I’m quite confident that I’m on schedule to publish the third Blackstone book by December. And as always, I’ll announce it here first.

Crossfire: Somali Sunrise

Crossfire: Somali Sunrise is now available at AmazonSmashwordsBarnes and Noble, and Apple. I would like to thank everyone for being so patient and supportive these past months, and I hope you’ll enjoy this latest offering in the Driftwood Trilogy.

Image courtesy of 123rf.com Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Disappointed

I have been meaning to write a blog post regarding the release of Somali Sunrise, but I kept putting it off, hoping to be able to give better news.
The end result of that is that I’m now writing this blog post from my hospital bed on my iPhone 6.
Yep, it sucks big time. But let me give a little background first. The photo you’re seeing is of the back of a factory where I feed feral cats. I’ve been taking care of the feral cats at that factory for eleven years. And for eleven years I’ve been climbing up on that wall to fill up the two auto feeders that are on top of that container but underneath the carport. It’s a great sheltered location and I can put up to a week’s supply of food in the auto feeders there, and know that it’s safe from rain, ants , rats and birds. Problem is it’s quite high up. There where you see the food container is where I normally stand. So yes, better not to look down.
So I’ve been doing this safely for 11 years but on the last Sunday of November my odds ran out. Not too badly though. I mean, it could’ve been worse. I fell off the ladder, not the wall. Didn’t really fall, but stumbled on the second last step, landed awkwardly on my right leg, at which point it gave way with a funny click and I hit the ground like a ton of bricks, but not before bouncing off that big blue garbage container.
But having been a competitive cyclist for many years, I’m used to hitting the deck so I got up and dusted myself off. My knee was hurting and my shoulder was bruised but I didn’t have time to be injured so I just carried on.
Big mistake. By the time I went to my orthopedic surgeon (two weeks later) and had an MRI done I was on crutches. And the MRI showed I had twisted my  knee and torn something which had now become wedged inside my knee joint. Yes that sounds as painful as it is.
Anyway so an operation was needed except that because it was by now the middle of December, my doc was going on leave until 7 January 2015. Bummer. But he’s been my knee doc for twenty years so I didn’t want to use another doc. And everyone else was going on leave too anyway.
Entirely my own fault that this happened. I had been so obsessed with finishing my manuscript that I refused to let life get in the way. Except that then life came and took a big bite out of my ass.
Approx three days after my doc went on leave my knee blew up and from there it was antibiotics and cortisone and anti inflammatories as my general practitioner tried to deal with something that wasn’t his speciality.
And through this haze of medication I was still trying to finish Somali Sunrise, but to be honest, I was losing the battle.
It’s really difficult to get into the ‘zone’ if a throbbing leg keeps pulling you back to reality.
Anyway, I prevailed and then finally was booked for my operation for 14 Jan 2015, which is this Wednesday. Except that on Saturday morning I woke up with my entire lower right leg swollen and very red.
Of course I rushed to hospital, mainly worried that I might have developed a blood clot in my leg from sitting with it elevated all the time.
Anyway, I was promptly booked into hospital and put on blood thinners and megadoses of antibiotics.
The blood thinners was until a DVT (blood clot) could be ruled out and the antibiotics was to treat the cellulitis that I had developed in my lower leg.
Tests revealed that I had picked up some kind of ‘bug’ in my bloodstream and of course it had gone for the weakest part of my body, mainly my wonky knee.
It’s now Monday and I’m pleased to report that I’ve just been for a sonar of my right leg and it showed zero blood clots. Phew! I am relieved.
But the cellulitis and leg swelling is still ongoing and being treated. So for the time being I’m still in hospital but hoping I might be discharged tomorrow.
Of course my knee op has been postponed yet again because I’ve been on blood thinners and doc won’t operate while I’m ‘septic’ which is wise, I agree. He only has my best interests at heart.
What does all this mean for Somali Sunrise?
Good news is that through all this I’ve actually finished the manuscript. The bad news is that because I couldn’t work at my normal pace, it hasn’t yet been edited.
So I’m asking for a little indulgence here, please. As soon as I’m discharged I’ll get cracking on the editing. For a manuscript this size (110000 words) I’ll need four to six weeks to edit and polish. And in between all this I still have to have my knee operation. Ja, before another bug gets hold of me.
It seems that with working with feral cats and getting scratched and occasionally bitten I’m a prime candidate for things like this. But I plan to be more careful in future. Promise.

This photo following is of the space above the container and shows one of the feral cats ‘posing’ for a photo.

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Aidan’s Redemption is available

Aidan’s Redemption, the second book in the Blackstone Trilogy, is available at  AmazonSmashwords  and Barnes & Noble.

Smashwords will distribute to  Itunes, Sony, Diesel, Kobo, and Blio. This will probably take around two weeks, but could take as long as a month. Please be patient, but if you don’t want to wait, Smashwords has the correct format for all modern electronic readersAidan's Redemption .  I will be updating the links as they become available.

Aidan’s Redemption available January 10, 2014

I have been getting some enquiries regarding Aidan’s Redemption, which is the sequel to Lily’s Reprieve, and is also the second book in the Blackstone Trilogy. I had hoped to publish just after Christmas, but I had underestimated how busy my December would be. The good news is that the cover is done, and the manuscript is complete. I am busy now with final edits, after which I will publish, either on or before January 10, 2014.

For those readers who can’t wait, here’s a three chapter teaser of Aidan’s Redemption to see you through.

Copyright 2013 Niki Savage

Aidan’s Redemption

Chapter One

“Why do you hide beneath the ground like a wounded animal? Why do you not teach these humans a lesson they will never forget?”
Aidan smiled sadly. As usual, Zargun just wanted to destroy and conquer. “And what lesson would that be?”
“That they must worship us, or die.”
“I could not convince even one human to remain loyal to me. How would I convince billions?”
“Are you still moping over that harlot? She betrayed you. Is that love? You should have destroyed her like the others.”
“I could no more hurt her than I could hurt my own flesh.”
“And yet she watched them beat you, and did nothing.”
“She was as much a prisoner as I was.”
“But you keep forgetting that she had put you in that position. If I had not stepped in, you would be dead now, or locked in a dungeon.”
“And you were only too happy to take advantage of the situation,” Aidan said bitterly.
Oscar glanced up, startled by the sound of his master’s voice. Until now, the verbal exchange had been silent. Zargun spoke in Aidan’s mind, and Aidan answered him in the same way.
“Could I have predicted that the radiation of the sun would set me free?”
“You must have suspected,” Aidan said, answering Zargun in his thoughts.
“I hoped, and my hope was rewarded. You have been too easy on these humans.”
“You forget that I am human too.”
“Your innocence astounds me. You gave up the last of your humanity when you allowed me to teleport us to the sun. Could a human survive such a feat?”
Aidan rose to his feet and walked to an ornate mirror that complemented the antique furnishings in the luxurious room. He studied his image for a few moments before declaring aloud, “I look human. I am human.”
Zargun laughed. “Except that you glow in the dark, despite all your sessions with the black stone. Anyone who comes near you will die within hours, and that includes sweet Lily. But she is as good as dead anyway. By now the leukemia would have destroyed her body.”
Aidan grimaced in pain. “You cannot know that for sure.”
Zargun laughed again. “I can only hope. Let us travel into the future, and see if she is still alive.”
“I will not do that.”
“Why?”
“Because that would destroy the last bit of hope I have.”
“I fail to understand what you see in her. You are better off without her. You are stronger without her. You made yourself vulnerable to protect her, and she used it against you. How can you still care for her after she betrayed you?”
“She betrayed me because I failed her. I should have told her everything from the start, and I should have been true to her.”
“But you were true to her, in your own way.”
“It was not good enough.”
“Well, I think it is time for me to take charge.”
“You, take charge? You are just an alien talking in my head. You have no power over me.”
“You will discover that you are wrong. You are a mere thousand years old, but I have been alive for millions of years. Do you think you can stand against me?”
Before Aidan could answer, incredible pain ripped through his skull. He fell to his knees, screaming Lily’s name as red hot, molten agony tormented every nerve ending in his body.

* * * *
Chapter Two

Lily lay on an unfamiliar bed, staring at the crystal wind chime she had hung near the window. The September sun shone through the window, instantly transformed by the crystal facets of the wind chime into brilliant colors that danced on the cream-colored walls of the motel room. Yet the room remained chilly enough for Lily to consider adding a jacket to the jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt she already wore.
James was in the room next door, and they had been on the run for six months. During that time, Lily had discovered that James was under the impression that Aidan worked for a clandestine government organization. He had told her that Aidan had instructed him to go on the run with her if she or Aidan gave him the keyword Ulysses, because that would mean Aidan’s cover had been blown.
It sounded almost believable, if you left out the fact that Aidan was part alien, radioactive, and deadly to anything that crossed his path.
In the beginning, Lily had been under the impression that James expected some kind of contact from his employer. But as the months passed by, it became obvious that Aidan had left them to their own devices.
After exhausting the five locations that Aidan had specified, they had kept on the move, changing location every few days, pretending to be father and daughter on a road trip through America. Most people accepted their story readily, if they were even curious enough to ask.
A sharp rap at the door that connected her room with James’ room startled Lily from her reverie. She sat up and called, “Come in.”
The door opened, and James entered, a smile on his face, though she could see the lines of hardship that the months on the run have carved on his features. He wore beige chinos and an open necked blue shirt, but Lily didn’t think she would ever get used to not seeing him in a suit.
“Having a nap in the middle of the day, luv?”
Lily didn’t have the heart to tell James that she hated it when he used that endearment. It reminded her of Victor, who had fooled her with ease, and tricked her into betraying Aidan. Though he and Patrick had paid for it with their lives, Lily couldn’t move past the fact that she had fallen for their deceit. Self-condemnation haunted her, but she had to bear her burden alone, unable to tell James what had happened that fateful morning when she had betrayed Aidan.
She forced a smile. “Nothing much else to do. And I feel as if I just can’t catch up on my sleep.”
“You slept all day in the car yesterday. Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”
“I’m fine, but I have this horrible headache that just won’t go away. Do you have some Advil in your room?”
“No, luv, but we can get some after lunch. There’s a good restaurant down the road. I think we need a solid meal to get our strength back.”
Lily suppressed a shudder at the thought of food. “`I’ll give it a miss, if you don’t mind. I’m not hungry.”
“I’ll bring you a takeaway, in case you change your mind. And I’ll see what pain pills I can get.”
“Thanks,” Lily said, glad that he had not insisted that they stay together.
James left, and she lay down again, resuming her contemplation of the crystal wind chime Aidan had made for her.
In the rush to leave the Central Park penthouse, she had grabbed what she could in the allotted fifteen minutes. She had left behind all the beautiful designer clothing she owned, and had instead filled her suitcase with sensible shoes, jeans, T-shirts and jerseys. The kind of clothes that she imagined someone on the run would need.
Then she had used five precious minutes to take her wind chime down from the ceiling and pack it in its box. Afterwards she had run to Aidan’s room to grab his favorite woolen sweater and a bottle of his aftershave, tools she could use when the longing became too much to bear.
But she had also disobeyed James’ orders. She had left all her credit cards and her laptop on her bed as instructed, but she had packed her iPad and her iPhone. Aidan’s cell number was in the contacts list of her iPhone, so she had planned to purchase a prepaid sim card, and then call him. But since then a few things had happened that left her hesitant to contact him.
During the first months they had been on the run, she had often woken during the night, sure that she had heard Aidan calling her name. And while awake, she would hear his voice in her mind, telling her over and over that he loved her. She had wondered about that at first, wondering if that was what Aidan had meant when he told her that teleporting to the sun had changed him into something else.
Maybe he had reached a plane of higher enlightenment. Maybe he was now capable of mental telepathy, like the aliens on the planet Hedon. Maybe he was trying to reach her, to reassure her that he was in good health and that they would be together again somehow.
But if he had wanted to do that, he could just have phoned James. At each of the five locations, James had found a locker that contained new papers and an unlisted cell phone. But no call had ever come through on any of the phones, adding to James’ belief that Aidan was dead, because he had not contacted them as agreed. But Lily knew better. She had betrayed Aidan, had trampled on his love for her, and this banishment and uncertainty was her punishment.
Her eyelids grew heavy as she stared at the crystal wind chime, and a few minutes later, she fell asleep.

~ . ~

Lily woke what felt like only minutes later when James burst into the room. She jumped to her feet, startled, but then immediately sat on her bed again as the world turned dark in front of her eyes. She took a few deep breaths before looking up at James. “What is it?”
“We have to get out of here,” he said, two spots of high color in his cheeks. “Some strangers at the restaurant were asking questions, looking for someone of your description.”
Lily yawned. “I’m sure this town is filled with plenty of blonde twenty something girls.”
“They described a scar on the girl’s forearm.” He grabbed her right arm and pushed back her sleeve to reveal a crescent shaped scar dating back to her childhood. “They described this scar.”
Lily gasped as her insides turned to ice.
“You need to pack,” James said. “We’re leaving in ten minutes.”
Lily didn’t need ten minutes to pack. She rarely unpacked her suitcase anymore. It took her three minutes to unhook the wind chime and pack it into its box, and a further thirty seconds to sweep her toiletries off the bathroom counter and into her toiletry bag. Slipping on her trainers and tying her shoelaces took less than a minute. Only five minutes had passed by the time she walked through to James’ room with her suitcase.
He had already slammed his suitcase shut. “We’re getting good at this,” he said, trying to inject humor into the tense atmosphere.
Lily played along, forcing a smile. “Practice makes perfect. Where to this time?”
James frowned. “Let’s just keep heading north, as far away from New York as we can get. When we see a town we like, we’ll stop off for a couple of days again. I just don’t know how they keep finding us.”
Lily didn’t know either, but she had a strong suspicion. Last night she had used her iPad, and today strangers were looking for her. Victor had once asked to borrow her iPad while his had been in for repairs, which strengthened her belief that the iPad was suspect. “James, I forgot something in the bathroom. You start the car. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Don’t be long,” he said as he headed out the door with his suitcase.
Lily stepped back into her room and opened her suitcase. Her iPad lay on top of her clothing. She grabbed it and ran into the bathroom. After lifting her iPad high above her head, she smashed it onto the edge of the bath. The back cover of the device shattered, exposing a tiny circuit board, and a blinking red light. Two small leads attached the circuit board to the battery of the iPad, and Lily tugged it free before grinding it to pieces beneath her heel.
This explained a lot, and she felt a surge of rage at the damage Victor was still wreaking, even though he was long dead. No doubt, he and Patrick had planted the device, hoping it would lead them to Aidan’s hideout, but she had never taken her iPad to the mansion, knowing that she wouldn’t need such entertainment with Aidan in the vicinity.
But after her escape, the Order of St. Lucian had found another use for the tracking device, and only because she had disobeyed James, who had told her to leave all electronic devices behind in New York.
She left the ruined iPad in the bathroom, grabbed her suitcase and stormed out of the room to where James waited. She still kept her iPhone, because it had never left her possession, so she knew that Victor couldn’t have installed a tracking device in it.
Minutes later, they drove out of town. In the next town, they planned to use one of James’ false identities to trade the brown Ford they were travelling in for a different car.
Always moving forward, always running, trying to remain alive, but was this living?

* * * *
Chapter Three

With the new car fueled up, James and Lily took turns driving, sleeping in shifts, and stopping only for food or fuel. As the sun rose the next morning, Lily slipped her sunglasses on, and glanced at James’ sleeping face. She felt a stab of guilt, knowing she had put his life at risk. Six months on the run wasted because she had a tracking device in her iPad.
The leads attached to her battery told her that the device had been feeding off the power of her iPad, which is why they’d had times of relative peace when her battery had been flat, and she had not bothered to charge it.
But last night she had discovered that the motel had free wireless, so she had charged her iPad and logged on to the internet, desperate to check her mail, hoping to find an email from Aidan. Instead, she found close to a hundred emails from Suzy, imploring her to respond.
She had thought it was safe to use her iPad, because she had removed the sim card and disabled location services before they had left New York.
But she had no way of knowing that the tracking device would report her general position every time she logged on to a wireless network. And that could have cost James his life. He would have fought to the death to defend her, and he was capable of it. Lily had discovered that James had worked most of his life for a British agency in London, who hired out bodyguards who posed as butlers.
James had told her that when he reached retirement age, Aidan had approached him and offered him employment as caretaker of his apartment in New York. James had jumped at the opportunity, eager to explore new horizons.
But had he signed up for this? The order of St. Lucian wasn’t interested in him, though they would kill him if he stood in their way. No, they wanted her, for reasons she could only imagine. But she had a few ideas. The first obvious idea was that they wanted to use her to draw Aidan out into the open. But how would they achieve that, if she didn’t even know where he was?
But another, far more sinister agenda worried her. She had heard Charles and his father talking in the elevator while she had been in the coffin. From the conversation, she had gathered that Charles had found the hazardous material container with the used condoms. God only knew what they planned to do with that, but she was quite sure that they meant for her to play an integral part in their plans.
James woke and stretched as best he could in the cramped confines of the passenger seat.
“Did you have a good rest?” Lily asked, glancing at him.
He frowned as he stared at his watch. “You were supposed to wake me three hours ago.”
She smiled. “You looked like you needed the rest, Grandpa. I still have quite a buzz going from that enormous cup of coffee I had at midnight. Go back to sleep, it’s all under control.”
James relaxed again and closed his eyes. “If you say so, luv. Wake me when we reach the next town. I think it’s time we find somewhere to book in so we can get cleaned up.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Lily said brightly, fighting the exhaustion hovering behind her eyelids. A sign indicated fifty miles to Bellingham, a town close to the border of Canada.

Look out for the rest of Aidan’s Redemption on January 10.