Hope Springs Eternal
As spring leaps into full bloom, Kayla and Kaleb welcome the change in season as they celebrate their Love by exploring a more sensual side to their connection, while continuing to balance their Light Warrior training and daily lives.
But when the dead bodies of homeless men are found in the nearby town, the lovers worry they’ve been too caught up in each other to notice Shadow’s growing strength. Determined to investigate the cause of the murders, they seek to uncover Shadow’s plan. What they discover is that for every action, there is indeed an equal and opposite reaction, and their Love has had an impact-one which Shadow seeks to end.
Now more than ever, these Star Crossed lovers need to work together to ensure that where Love is concerned-hope always springs eternal.
They could hear each other’s voices as clear in their minds as if they were speaking out loud.
A noise in the kitchen drew their attention away from each other. “Hey you guys! We need to talk to you.” Marabel Lovelace’s voice called out to them in sing-song fashion. At the sound of Kayla’s former guardian’s voice, they scurried back into the kitchen.
Dawn Winters accompanied her. Kaleb’s former guardian took one look at them, shook her blonde tresses, crossed her arms over her chest, and pinned them with a blue-eyed stare. “Hope we’re not interrupting.” Her wry tone gave Kayla pause.
“Yes, we do.” Marabel’s brown eyes darted between the two of them, her practical tone of voice grating on Kayla’s nerves.
Kayla rolled her eyes. “Calm down. We were just goofing around.”
“Yeah, well—have you two been too busy to notice this?” Marabel thrust a newspaper at them, her brown hair glinting in the morning sunlight streaming in through the kitchen window.
Kaleb took it from her, and they huddled together to read the headline. “Sixth Homeless Man Found Dead,” he read aloud.
Kayla scanned the first paragraph of the article. “Authorities are stumped as to what has caused yet another death in the homeless population. Police haven’t ruled out foul play, even though the Medical Examiner’s preliminary findings suggest natural causes.”
Kaleb glanced up at the two women. “What does this have to do with us?”
Dawn grimaced. “Feel, Kaleb.”
Both Kayla and Kaleb closed their eyes at her grim tone. Clearing their minds, they focused into their Heartspaces to feel the energy behind the deaths.
“Oh my god,” Kayla whispered. She and Kaleb stared at each other wide-eyed.
Marabel raised a brow at them. “Now do you understand?”
Kayla glanced up as the bells above the door tinkled when they entered the quaint little shop on Fernwood Street. By the magical wards she sensed upon stepping over the threshold, this was no ordinary candle and scent shop. It fronted for something deeper, something most humans would never understand.
The spells enchanting the place allowed entry to other beings of Light, while warning the shop owner of those who dared to enter with more nefarious purposes.
“Interesting,” Kaleb muttered from beside her as their gazes swept the shop. Rows upon rows of candles, incense, herbs, tea leaves, and scented oils lined the interior walls. A couple of small tables in one corner showcased a tiny tea corner where patrons could enjoy a cup before moving on with their day.
“This is some place,” Kayla said in awe. “Why have I never been here before? I could get everything I need from this place.” She focused her attention on Kaleb, noting the frown creasing his brow.
“I know what you mean,” he added. “This place has everything we need for potions and enchantments. Why wouldn’t our guardians have mentioned it to us before? Beats going to the woods all the time to gather it ourselves.”
She shook her head in amusement. “I thought you enjoyed the solitude of the hunt?”
He coughed to hide a laugh. “Hunting for roots and herbs isn’t as exciting as tracking a demon.”
She patted his arm. “Well, they told us today. I guess it’s one of those things we were meant to discover in time. There must be a reason. Maybe we don’t need to literally go rooting around for what we need anymore. We’ll have help.”
A tiny, shriveled old woman emerged from the back of the shop, rattling strings of beads as she passed through the doorway. The best friends studied the woman as she approached, taking in her tight curly blonde hair, gold cat’s eye glasses, and hunched figure. Her eyes sparkled an intelligence not marred by age.
Kayla reached out with her energy. Something didn’t seem quite right. No crow’s feet around the eyes, gait steady, heartbeat strong, body structure solid...
The woman squinted at them, adjusting her glasses up higher on her nose. “Can I help you?” Her voice warbled, but Kayla wasn’t fooled. She knew a fake voice when she heard one. That is one hell of a disguise. But why?
She sensed Kaleb assessing the situation as well. “We’re looking for Peggy Periwinkle,” he said, thrusting his hand into his jeans pocket, drawing out the business card given to him by their guardians earlier that morning.
“I’m she.” Keeping up the fake voice, the old woman continued to regard them in a shrewd manner.
The hair on Kayla’s arms stood on end, as Peggy sent energetic feelers out to them. Okay, so she’s more like us.
“Who are you?” The woman narrowed her eyes at them.
Kayla extended her free hand. “I’m Kayla Webber, and this is my… partner, Kaleb Warner. We’re looking into the murders of the homeless men, and our guardians told us to consult with you.” Beside her, Kaleb nodded to corroborate her story.
“You!” Peggy’s eyes widened for a moment, then she shrieked. “You two! Get out of my shop! Get out now!” Before their very eyes, she morphed into a tall, thin woman with flowing blonde hair, a skin tight red sundress showcasing legs that went on forever.
Kaleb gawked, and Kayla smacked him in the chest with the back of her hand. “Focus,” she hissed.
Peggy’s green eyes sparked fire from behind the gold frames. She advanced on them, making shooing motions with her hands. “Get out,” she muttered repeatedly while backing them toward the door.
“Easy lady.” Kaleb held out his hands in a gesture of surrender, but Peggy shrieked again, and the next thing Kayla knew, he was pinned up against the front window by an invisible thread of magic.
“I don’t need fireballs in my shop exploding off of shelves. Whoever sent you to me must be off their rockers… Wait—what did you call me? Lady?” Peggy shrieked again. “I may have appeared as an old woman, but I could kick your butt six ways from Sunday. Now what do you want?”
“Look,” Kayla intervened. “He could disarm your magic right now, but in good faith, he won’t, and I’m not going to do anything either. So, please let him down and we promise not to destroy your shop.”
Peggy’s voice drifted up from the basement. A faint glow of light illuminated a path down the steps. “What are you two doing up there? I’m waiting.”
Kayla tugged on his arm. “Come on—let’s go down and see what she’s got for us. We haven’t trained for nothing.”
“Fine, but stay behind me.”
“I thought we came to an understanding you weren’t the boss.”
“And I thought you said we were going to find the exit.”
Kayla huffed at his gruff tone. “Marabel and Dawn wouldn’t have suggested we visit Peggy if they thought we were in danger. You already came to that conclusion in your head.” She started down the steps before him. “So, come on.”
Heaving a sigh, he followed her down, but in an instant, the light they walked toward appeared to swallow her whole. He swiped a hand out in front of him, only catching air. “Kayla,” he whispered.
“Kaleb.” Kayla’s worried voice warbled up to him. It sounded like her, but at the same time, it didn’t.
Taking the steps two at a time, he bounded to the bottom where a party scene in full swing greeted him. The sound of the music hit him like a ton of bricks. Shaking off the surprise, he searched for Kayla who stood in conversation with a tall, blonde man. They appeared to be flirting, and the man reached out a hand to stroke her arm. Even as Kayla stepped away from the caress, Kaleb’s protective instincts rose up again in full force.
As he made his way over, strong arms grabbed hold of him from behind. A voice hissed in his ear. “She doesn’t need you, oh mighty warrior. Let’s see how she fares on her own.”
Kaleb struggled against his invisible and impossibly strong captor. He witnessed Kayla push at a young, brown haired man who tried to pull her into his arms for a dance.
Forced to continue to watch, he observed the scene morph into a paranormal fight club with Kayla in a make-shift ring, surrounded by demons. He yelled out to her, but she appeared not to hear him above the din. With renewed vigor, he struggled against his captor, determined to help, only to be forced to his knees.
“Now watch…” The voice from beside him faded off into nothing.
Unable to move any part of his body, he knelt, frozen in place, helpless to assist his best friend in battle as she fought multiple opponents. Every time she took a hit, he felt the blow too. Frustration welled up inside at his inability to help her.
“What the hell is going on?” he muttered. The harder he struggled, the tighter his invisible bonds became. Angry that he’d been duped by Peggy a second time, he recited every incantation he knew to help rid him of the energetic bonds. Nothing worked.
Inhaling and exhaling deep breaths, he closed his eyes for a moment, connecting to his inner self. Physically, he couldn’t help Kayla, so what could he do? How could he support her?