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Summer Heat

Star Crossed Series

Romance Divine LLC

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 17,943
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On the heels of one battle, Kayla and Kaleb race to aid their new friend Peggy Periwinkle. They discover her shop in shambles, and Kaleb senses at the heart of the attack a presence he hasn’t felt in a long time—a childhood friend who had disappeared when he was young. The news sends him reeling, and he disappears on Kayla to process what he’s learned. Worried Kaleb has gone on a renegade mission, Kayla seeks comfort and answers with her new friend Peggy. Together they devise a plan to find Kaleb and the man responsible for the destruction to her shop. New friendships forged, old connections strengthened, and the past gets cleared in their Hearts. As Shadow brings the heat to their summer, Kayla and Kaleb fight back with the only weapon strong enough to defeat the darkness—Love.

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Excerpt 1:

Kayla closed her eyes for a moment and reached out with her senses to find her friend. Peggy’s presence remained on the earth plane. Thank God for that. In fact, she swore she heard her swearing a blue streak.
Her eyes popped open to meet Kaleb’s concerned green-eyed gaze. To her surprise, a warm wind caressed their faces, and the smoke dissipated before their very eyes. She removed the cloth from her mouth, and looked around, searching for the source.
Peggy rounded one corner of the shop, waving her hands and muttering incantations, mixed in with the occasional curse word. Kayla thought she heard the word ‘bastard’ uttered a few times, but couldn’t be sure. She called out to her friend. “Hey! Need some help?”
Peggy jumped at the sound of her voice, then a relieved expression took over her features to become a palpable energy Kayla could feel. “Yes, please,” Peggy answered. “Fire is out. A small blaze I got under control. Now to clean up the mess. All magic welcome.”
Nodding in unison, Kayla and Kaleb set to work. Kayla noted Kaleb’s furrowed brow as they set about using incantations to set things in order. In no time at all, broken glass had been piled to the side, and between the three of them, they used levitation spells to put water hoses to work, extinguishing the fire.
Peggy conjured a small tornado of wind that dried the mess, and then Kayla set to work levitating items back on their appropriate shelves with a few spells of her own. Kaleb saw to the disposal of leftover ashes.
When everything had been restored to as good as it could be for the moment, Kayla addressed the worry she sensed in Kaleb. “You haven’t said a word since we arrived. What is it?”
He shrugged a shoulder, and responded in a gruff tone. “Not sure.”
His answer didn’t appease her. She could feel when he held back. Letting it go for the moment, she asked Peggy, “What happened here, Margaret?”
“Ahren.” Peggy spat the word. “That no good, two-timing, son of a b—”
“Did you say Ahren?” Kaleb snapped the question.
Peggy waved a dismissive hand. “Yeah, I should have known better than to let him into my shop.” Her voice dropped to mutters. “And here I thought you two would blow up my store…”
Kayla blinked, wondering if she’d heard right. “Wait a minute—this Erin and you are...?”
Peggy waved her hand again. “Were lovers, yes. And it’s pronounced Ah-ren, like—ah, Lord and Lady he’s handsome.” Her wistful sigh told Kayla that she doth protest too much.
Before Kayla could comment, Kaleb strode to Peggy and grabbed her by the shoulders. “How long have you known him? What does he look like now? Did he hurt you?”
Peggy attempted to step out of Kaleb’s grip. “Whoa there, cowboy—get a grip, and not on me.”

Excerpt 2:

Kaleb stretched out his left leg and massaged his knee. If he wasn’t afraid of being seen, he’d stand up from his cramped position behind the outcropping. Damn. So close. He’d been tracking Ahren since he’d sensed his presence at Peggy’s shop, and had actually come within arm’s reach a couple of times.
Goddamn. His knee ached something fierce. Upon teleporting here, he’d shoved his soul into his left knee to hide his Light. He’d pushed his training to the limits by following Ahren to the fourth dimension. How in the Universe had Ahren managed to fall so far off the path of being a Light Warrior? He’d watched his soul brother skulk around in the shadows for… He wasn’t sure how long he’d been gone.
He scratched his goatee, surprised to find the scraggly length at his fingertips. Raking a hand over his head, he felt the hair growth on the top of his skull. How long had it been since his visit to Henry?
Once more he scanned the shadowy land surrounding him. A reddish hue emanated from everything. Cave and stone dwellings dotted the landscape. Every so often, shadowy figures slithered up from cracks in the ground, floating around, then disappearing into rock outcroppings or caves.
Shadow had been growing in strength since his arrival. As a being of Light, he would have been detected straight away, so he chose to hide his Light as best he could. A skilled warrior performed research before taking on an enemy, and he’d been Ahren’s shadow until he could ascertain a good moment to apprehend him. Sickened by the decay in his brother’s soul, he’d observed Ahren feed off the shadows, and share information with others. A few times he’d gotten close enough to touch him. He’d wanted to teleport Ahren away from this place, but his brother had an uncanny way of slipping from his grasp.
Or maybe I was too scared. He suppressed a growl at the thought. The fourth dimension was getting to him. Negative thoughts had begun to chip away at his psyche. He had to get out of here before he got lost, and unable to return to his own time and place.
He certainly hadn’t liked what he’d seen in his friend. Darkness had eaten up most of Ahren’s soul until only a tiny spark remained in a corner of his Heart. Kaleb had to save him, but would the cost would be his own soul? Every second he remained in this place, the pull to stay grew stronger. Is that what had happened to Ahren—a mission gone haywire?
The nearby shadows retreated for the moment, and Kaleb took the opportunity to sit on his butt, legs outstretched in front of him. Exhausted, he needed to connect with his Light to replenish himself. He could only accomplish that once away from this place, but he doubted his ability to teleport safely out of here.
I have to try, damn it. He couldn’t stay, nor could he wait for Ahren to return. If he did, he’d risk becoming exactly like his brother.

Excerpt 3:

Kaleb stood in the middle of Kayla’s back lawn, fists clenched at his side, body rigid, seething with rage. Growling, his gaze zeroed in on Ahren who crouched inside an energetic cage. The makeshift prison had Kayla’s signature all over it.
Pride surged up inside him at her handiwork. Love slithered in between the anger like sunrays through cloud cover. He grimaced in pain as his Light fought off the darkness. Shuddering, he refocused on Ahren, rage once more burning bright.
Snarling, Ahren crawled on the ground like a caged beast. Kaleb answered in kind, then pointed a finger at his brother. “We settle this now!”
Ahren swiped out a hand, fingertips grazing his prison of Light. A crackling sound filled the air around them. “Tell them to let me out and it will be my pleasure!”
“Do it!” Kaleb roared, addressing the guardians who had now come to stand as a barrier between him and Ahren.
Murmured discussion travelled round the group, further agitating the two men itching to fight. Through the red haze of his anger, Kaleb caught snippets of their conversation.
“We need to keep them apart until they’re fully healed,” Dawn said.
“I agree,” Marabel concurred.
“We’ll make sure they don’t hurt each other,” Trey put in, smoothing back his blonde hair.
“And one of you get Kayla,” Henry said. “Perhaps she can get him to see reason.”
“No!” Kayla’s shout caused everyone to turn in her direction. With slow, deliberate steps she walked down the porch stairs and onto the lawn. Ahren’s prison disappeared with a wave of her hand.
Ahren jumped to his feet with a howl of triumph. Kaleb noted the wild gleam in his eyes, and conjured a fireball to hurl at his friend. He wouldn’t allow the other man to escape until they’d settled their score. Years ago, Kaleb had felt abandoned by his friends, and anger at the Universe for the unfairness of his lot in life bubbled up from the bottom of his heart. Since that moment, he’d sought to protect those he cared about so they wouldn’t have reason to leave. A desperate move on his part, and it was time to unleash his fury.
Kaleb’s attention was diverted from the inner workings of his Egoic mind when Ahren rounded on Kayla. “You’re an idiot,” Ahren spat in her direction. “You think I’ll stick around now that I’m free?”
Once more, anger overrode Kaleb’s consciousness. Protect her at all costs. He wouldn’t allow Ahren to hurt anyone else, especially Kayla. He raised his arm with the intention to release the fireball directly at his old friend.
Without batting an eye, or looking in his direction, Kayla raised a hand and brought her fingers together in a closing motion, distinguishing Kaleb’s fireball. He blinked in surprise, attempting to conjure more in the palms of his hands, but he couldn’t do it. Mumbled chanting reached his ears, and he glanced over to the porch where Peggy stood as if in a trance. Somehow she’d blocked his powers with her magic.
With her attention still on Ahren, Kayla addressed him, her voice calm, cool, and collected. “Calling me an idiot is passing judgment.”
Ahren snarled in response, and advanced on her. Waving her hand, she threw up a wall of energy between them. The force of it struck Ahren, and he crumpled to his knees. Panting, he glanced up at her, expression wary.
Kaleb watched as she crouched down in front of him, and said, “All four of you—go. Margaret and I have this.”
Cautious agreement travelled round the group of guardians, but nevertheless, they stepped aside, and walked together toward the back porch.
“Now,” Kayla went on, speaking to Ahren again. “We will do this my way.”
“The hell we will,” Ahren growled.