The setting sun dipped behind the bank of clouds above the distant Atlanta skyline, revealing lace made of gold. Something soft, like the inquisitive touch of a kitten, tickled her hand. Verity Alexander tightened her fingers around the nuzzling, full-blown rose pressing into her palm, wishing she dared use their power. Her imagination painted an image of the three women approaching, each writhing in pain while the sweet-scented vines bound them, slowly driving sharp thorns into their flesh. She closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath.
When she opened them, she noted the gazing globe centered in her front garden was still a charcoal-tinted orb. Exhaling slowly, she tried to send her growing tension out of her body with the expelled breath. She’d dreamed of this moment for months. An illusion of serenity would better serve her.
Oncoming twilight darkened the shapeless robes worn by her uninvited guests, but Verity knew the fabric was the color of human blood. Watching the women known collectively as the Triscaro move closer, her hatred toward these rulers of the adorii world seemed to scorch her veins, even while her heartbeat danced in anticipation of their message.
Her sentence was up.
Inhaling again, she studied the gilded clouds, seeking serenity from their beauty. The slow-moving group came to a halt at the edge of the drive, as though sensing the violence in her thoughts. They were wise to remain cautious here. This garden surrounding her home was not what it appeared.
“Verity Lavender Alexander.” Pallora spoke, she thought. Though hoods obscured their faces, it was always Pallora who spoke. “Your sentence, as well as Sage’s, will be lifted at moon’s zenith. As the one bearing the mark of her punishment, you may have the honor of informing your sister.”
Some fucking honor. The hated voice was the one haunting her dreams. The sound turned her determination to be civil to thistledown in a thunderstorm. What was the point of being obsequious now? Metaphorically kneeling before these cruel bitches wouldn't change their mindset. If Dignata, Verax, and Pallora were expecting Verity to be gracious, she hoped they handled disappointment better than they wielded power.
Squaring her shoulders, she stared into the dark cowl shrouding the face of the oracle who’d spoken, annoyed by her inability to see her condemner’s eyes. “I am as I was named. I reiterate my innocence. Sage and Rosemary are innocent as well. The Line may have been crossed, but not by one of my family. Your fear has become as acid, dissolving your wisdom.”
She sensed Dignata was the most offended by her caustic words, though she couldn't tell the three apart. Sage’s conviction meant the Alexander family had fallen from aristocracy to outlaw in adorii society. The shiny scars lacing Verity’s back seemed to tighten. Pain lanced her, but she’d be damned before she’d show weakness before these women. Her father was a demigod in his own right. Rex Hin may have rejected Verity when he learned of her mother’s trickery, but his blood still flowed in her veins. The Triscaro hadn't yet spilled it all.
“Blame not me, Verity. One you love deceives.”
“Speaking of deceivers, when will Rex Hin’s sentence end? Will you set my father free or do you fear he is still a threat to your rule?” Overhead, the clouds reformed, dividing into dark, roiling shapes above and a wide swath of gold below, as though the Goddess also mocked this rotten bunch.
The air around Verity began to shimmer, betraying her anger. Pallora’s silence was underscored by the roar of waves crashing against the cliffs fifty yards behind the spot where the Triscaro stood. The pounding of the ocean echoed in her pulse and seethed in her ears. The blood-draped trio turned as one, showing her with their backs what they wouldn't deign to say. Her father wasn't getting off his conjured island prison any time soon.
She didn't give a damn whether Rex Hin ever set foot on shore again, but Sage and Rosemary cared. Adrienne, Verity’s mother, cared. Adrienne cared about little else, in fact. Over the roaring waves, Verity heard another sound, the musical tinkling of her charms, signaling the all-clear. The prickling, uncomfortable feeling of being watched by unseen eyes eased. Janus had called his minions home. Verity blew out a harsh breath, relieved to be rid of the spirits. Rats. Informers. Tattletales. Whatever. Their absence felt like the first kiss of spring.
Her hated watchers formed a leaden fog around the Triscaro, as though they knew it would be wise to protect the women’s backs. She stared until they were gone, caressing the rose head, regretting she hadn’t taken the rare opportunity to send them on the attack. The ruling sisters were reluctant to set foot out of the adorii realm. For them to come here meant… she wasn't sure what it meant, but a smile crossed her lips. She’d known they were coming. Known, despite their ‘sentence’. Half-breed she might be, but Verity had powers from her Wiccan side the triumvirate could not suspend.
A fingernail of moon appeared above the clouds. Closing her eyes, Verity tried to let go of her anger, focusing instead on the pull she felt from the fat quarter. Desire pulsed in her feminine tissues for the first time in eleven lunar cycles. Not tonight. Soon, she’d find a willing male and give in to her burgeoning desires, but now she had an appointment to keep. When she opened her eyes, the gazing globe had returned to its silvery state. Verity smiled at the reflection of the roses, topped by a circular reflection of the dusky gold and blue clouds overhead.
She was free. Stepping off the porch, she moved down the front walk. When she passed the pedestal supporting the decorative ball, she let her fingers skate across the smooth, yet slightly wavy glass. The mercury-filled piece felt warmer than the evening air, drawing her attention.
The curving image on the ball began to move. The deep red reflection of the surrounding rose petals began to fold in on themselves, turning into rectangles that became bricks. The bricks piled onto one another. The round image of the sky became a square, then a dirty display window. When all motion stilled, the image had resolved, not into a reflection of anything around her, but a dilapidated storefront. Verity thought the building looked familiar, but the sphere warped the image to the point she wasn't sure which realm it was in, human or adorii.
No matter. If the building was important, it would find her.
Bunt! Who the fuck laid down a bunt with two outs in the bottom of the ninth? Cursing aloud, Mike Reardon charged toward the ball rolling slowly away from home plate. It was too much to hope the fucking thing would go foul. He didn't glance at the rookie, now hurtling down the first base line. Mike's entire focus was on the nine-inch sphere of white leather, held together by precisely one hundred and eight red stitches. Halfway to home plate, the damn thing lost all momentum. Charging hard, Mike extended his left arm, palm up. He was taking a risk, trying to scoop the ball up with his glove alone, but this was the top of the ninth in a goddamn exhibition game and he still didn't know whether or not he’d earned the starting job as Atlanta’s third baseman. So, fuck it, he was going for broke.
Leaning over while still running flat out, Mike’s attention diverted to the piece of supple leather he wore on his left hand. His cleats churned the rust-toned infield dirt. It seemed to take forever before the tip of his short infielder’s glove touched the sphere. Flipping his wrist, he grinned when he saw the ball jump into the air. Snatching the ball with his bare right hand, he dug his cleats into Turner Field, trying to stop his forward momentum, knowing he’d fall. Twisting at the waist, he pulled the fist grasping the ball level with his ear before hurling the ball toward the first baseman. The force of his throw and the torque put on his frame by his competing motions threw him off his feet, but falling was something he had a lot of experience doing.
Tumbling over the snowy chalk line marking foul territory, Mike rolled to a stop and got to his knees. Cameras flashed all over the stadium, blinding him. Gulping a lungful of air, he held it, barely able to see the ball fly across the infield for the spots before his eyes and the roiling infield dust. He strained to hear one voice in fifty thousand.
The blue shirted man behind the first base bag balled his right fist. “Yer out! Ball game!”
Yes. Mike pumped his fist, looking around at the roaring crowd in the stands. He was officially off work now—well, after an interview or three—and Mike knew exactly how he planned to celebrate. A new town and a new team meant it was time for new ink.
To be continued on April 8th.
Now, jump with me over to the blogs of my two baseball-lovin' pals and see what Jennifer Simpkins and Kathleen King Grieve have in store today on the baseball theme. Together, we're the "Baseball Babes", so named for our mutual love of the sport. All season, the three of us will be posting on a baseball theme every Monday. I'm going to kill two birds with one stone and rewrite this older WIP, since my hero is a professional baseball player.
Also, Breaking Glass is now available on Amazon! How would you tell your lover you wanted a ménage with his best friend?
Free spirited, passionate Jillian picked the wrong moment to blurt out her fantasy, causing her husband Dylan to turn so cold she asked him to move out. Now, rather than celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary, the Carmichaels are headed for divorce court.
Enter Eros, popcorn-loving owner of those passion-tipped points. When a hot jolt of lust doesn’t melt Dylan’s hard heart, what’s a demoted demigod to do? It’s gonna be a long night, because Eros has been given only one to rekindle the Carmichael’s love.