Authors: Jean Hart Stewart
|Songs of the Mages |
|Jean Hart Stewart|
|Jasmine Jade (2009)|
Jean Hart Stewart
Blush: This is a suggestive romance (love scenes are not graphic).
Damien is a mage, inheriting from Merlin the potential for enchantment and wizardry. When he rescues Toria from drowning herself, Damien knows she claims a special place in his heart. He will need all his abilities to help Toria overcome her fear of being touched by any man after she was raped by her guardian. He hides her in a school for girls until she is of age, and then brings her to Tregaron, his home as Earl of Sinclair.
Toria’s lecherous guardian, Baron Heath, continues to stalk her. Damien must summon all his capabilities to protect her. As he tries to safeguard her life, the battle to conquer her fear of men looms ever more difficult. Damien refuses to influence her thinking with his extraordinary powers. Will he be able to triumph, save her from the wicked baron and finally claim Toria as his destiny?
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Damien’s Destiny Copyright © 2009 Jean Hart Stewart
Edited by Helen Woodall
Cover art by Dar Albert
Electronic book Publication June 2009
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Jean Hart Stewart
To fans, friends and family, and the happy confluence when all three are one.
Especially to Dianna Asmussen, who named this book, to my editing husband and my editor in chief, Helen.
Mage, synonyms from Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus:
Magician, charmer, conjurer, enchanter, magian, magus, necromancer, sorcerer, warlock, wizard.
Damien, the Earl of Sinclair, had always known he was a mage. A wizard, an enchanter when he chose. He’d never harbored a doubt. His parents had laughed and recognized him as his father’s true son when they found him chortling in his crib, rearranging colors from the spectrum in the air. He still found it relaxing to form the colors of light into beautiful patterns. He enjoyed his sorcerer’s power, although he seldom resorted to magic. Never to black magic. He occasionally bewitched someone but only if necessary. Mostly his powers were not needed. A strong man in his own right, he relied heavily on himself. His father had been just as powerful. The blood of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake ran strongly through the veins of his ancestors and in him.
And he never forgot that with his powers came the deep-rooted obligation of responsibility. In no way would he ever use his powers just to prove himself, or to harm anyone. His abilities were a blessing, a gift and at times a curse. Sometimes he’d really rather not see the future.
At this moment his powers certainly didn’t make a stone softer. Damien shifted a little, trying to find an easier location on the hard rock he’d chosen to lean against. He grinned at the thought of changing this huge boulder into a bale of cotton. No matter, he was sitting in the shade and positioned so he could watch the ocean. The sound and the pattern of the ever-surging waves always fascinated him. Gulls swayed and swooped close to the rocky shore seeking a little nourishment in the shallow water, hovering nearer to the surface than the few lapwings higher overhead. His stallion, Araby, munched on some tufts of dried beach grass sticking up through the scree. A dragonfly flittered around his rump and Araby tried to flick it away with his tail. Damien sent the persistent fly a small command to switch to another location and as it fluttered away Araby settled down. His horse seemed contented but his own hay might be tastier. Damien looked toward the horizon, where the sea met the sky and a small boat completed the perfect view. A beautiful day and one likely to remain scorching hot.
Still, he’d better get Araby home to proper food and some true shade for them both.
Just as he started to rise he noticed a girl walk into his view from around the craggy prominence to the west. Her long skirts touched the sand as she hesitated at the shoreline where the white-crested waves were crashing after each other. She was coming far too close to the water and her slippers must be drenched.
Then she unexpectedly walked straight into the ocean.
Didn’t the little fool realize this beautiful stretch of beach could be treacherous? Maybe not since she’d invaded on his private property. His very private property.
She marched as if on parade, her chin high. Her long skirts were soon soaked and doubtless dragging on her. He jumped to his feet to run toward her, shouting as he ran.
“Turn back, miss. Turn back at once. This water is treacherous.”
She either didn’t hear him over the roar of the ocean or chose not to. If she kept on she’d soon be in very deep water. Just as he reached the edge of the ocean a larger than usual wave swept her off her feet and she sank under. The top of her head surfaced for a moment and then disappeared. Damien gave one horrified bellow and then strode into the sea as fast as he could.
Damien took a few steps into the churning water and then started swimming. His powerful strokes soon propelled him to the spot where he thought she’d been swept under. Merlin’s power, he couldn’t see her at all. The water grew deeper as the tide came relentlessly in. He dived, searching frantically, coming up for air once and then diving again.
This time he spotted her, sinking slowly, her hair loose and floating around her like a silken cloak. Swimming underwater to her, he turned her on her back and surfaced. He also flipped onto his back, holding her to him in the classic way of rescuing someone from drowning. Perhaps he should just cast a spell and wish them both ashore? No, a spell involving transporting two bodies sometimes weakened both parties and this girl was already exhausted. He trod water holding her against his chest, thinking frantically how best to swim to shore and carry her at the same time. He could certainly use the backstroke and easily tow her but he feared the undercurrent might be too strong to make much headway in this restrictive position. She seemed to be barely breathing and he needed to get her to shore at once. His overhand crawl was more powerful and he realized quickly conveying her to safety could be of prime importance. Finally he flipped her over again and then grabbed handfuls of her long thick hair and tied them under his chin. For better security he gathered her skirts in his hands and knotted them around his waist. Now with her loosely but firmly secured to his back he breathed a prayer to Merlin and started swimming to shore.
She did not fight him. The fact she lay so limply against him allowed him to use his considerable swimming prowess and still fight the dreaded undertow. He reached the shore more quickly than he’d expected.
As soon as he found shallow water he stood and turned her body in his arms to carry her. Her damp hair clung around his neck and he tugged harder than he would have liked to work the long tresses free. She didn’t seem to feel the sharp jerks but then she lay white and scarcely breathing. When Damien reached the beach he turned her on her stomach and pumped her back with a closed fist, forcing the water she’d swallowed to spew forth.
She still didn’t move.
He patted her pale face.
“Can you hear me, my dear? I’m here to help you.”
Her head lolled and she said nothing. Merciful Merlin but she looked young and innocent.
Poor child. He could feel the cold emanating from her almost lifeless body as he lifted her in his muscled arms and whistled to Araby, who obediently trotted to his master. Damien’s wet coat would do little to warm the girl so he placed her face down in front of his saddle, leaving her uncovered to the sun. He vaulted onto his horse and began the climb up the steep bank to his home, holding her steady with one big hand. He tried to send his own heat through that connection but wasn’t sure how much warmth penetrated her chilled body. Araby made his way home with little guidance from his master, which didn’t surprise Damien. Araby was a prince among horses.
As they neared the mansion Damien smiled wryly at the thought of how his staff would be riddled with curiosity. It had been a long time since any female other than his servants and his sister was admitted to his sequestered house. This girl looked even younger than he’d expected when she strode with such determination into the water. She in no way tempted him beyond wanting to rescue her. He’d see she was warm and dry and then ask her a few necessary questions. After she’d given him some answers he’d induce sleep so she’d find a much needed rest.
When she awakened he’d want to know why she’d put her life in such mortal jeopardy.
She was just a child, for mercy’s sake. What could have driven her so desperately to such an extreme act as actually trying to end her life? He was fairly certain she’d acted deliberately. She’d marched into the water like a soldier going to battle.
He vowed to help her somehow with whatever problems distressed her. She was much too young to die.
* * * * *
Damien carried her inert body into one of the seldom used guest rooms. Servants came rushing to help but he shook his head and kept on striding with the pallid child in his arms.
“Open the door to the blue room, Stephens. It’s the closest.”
His butler rushed to obey and Damien laid her gently on the big bed. Thank heavens for excellent servants. He couldn’t remember when this room was last used but as Stephens turned back the quilt the sheets smelled sweet and fresh.
“Where is my sister, Stephens?”
“She’s in the garden, my lord.” Stephens looked almost as white as the girl. Doubtless he worried about dealing with a corpse.
“Find her and fetch her, please. I don’t want anyone else here but Lady Debora.”
As Stephens hurried off Damien stood looking at the girl for just a second, frowning at the violent way she shivered inside her sodden clothes. Well, he’d just have to get her out of them. He gently slid off her sodden slippers—of excellent quality but torn in places by the rocky stones. Running his fingers over the deep scratches on the bottom of her feet, he automatically healed them. She must have walked a long way indeed for the slippers to be worn so thin.
He turned her onto her stomach and saw the buttons too wet to undo easily. Besides, he didn’t want to wrench her arms trying to pull them out of the sopping dress. There was only one easy way for both of them. Shutting his eyes briefly, he wished her clothes from her body and beside the bed. As every stitch fell to the floor he moved to cover her with a blanket.
He stared for a second or two at her narrow waist and softly curved hips. Her breasts were small but sweetly rounded. She might be a trifle older than the twelve or thirteen he’d first estimated. He folded back the sheets, laying her nude body on the bed. Her unexpectedly beautiful body. He went to the closet to find some extra blankets.
She still shook and shivered as she began to thrash her wet head from side to side. Fetching a towel from the wardrobe he dried her hair and reached for a fresh pillow, then sat on the edge of the bed. He lightly fingered her hair, a dull golden shade and he suspected a glowing color when completely dry. She suddenly sat up, her deep blue eyes open and staring blankly.
“Don’t let him find me. Please don’t let him find me. He laughed and said I’d learn to like those horrible kisses. That ugly thing he stuck in me hurt so. He said he’d take me every night. I’d rather be dead. Don’t let him find me!”
She tried to rise from the bed, in her delirium wanting only escape. Damien looked at her thoughtfully and then tucked her in again and added the two blankets on top. He also added a small quieting thought.
He sat for a while, thinking furiously. Could he be mistaken? Or could some villain have actually raped this child? There seemed little to mistake about her pitiful comments. May the fires of hell consume the bastard who would forcibly take any female’s virginity, especially a youngster like this. Yet if she woke and saw him in his natural state his dark hair and virility might frighten her. His very youth might threaten this poor abused girl.
He’d adopt his Merlin persona, the one where he appeared as a bearded old man. Not the long beard though. He couldn’t stand so much hair dragging at his chin. It would be enough to have a white beard clipped fairly short. Still he’d look much older when she next saw him.
Then he went to the door to await his sister. Seeing some maids standing in the hall and staring, Damien curtly dismissed them.
“Lady Debora will call you if she needs you.”
He left the room even as he admitted his sister. Better Debby take over sitting with this innocent until she fully awakened.
A female would definitely be less alarming to this maltreated youngster when she opened her eyes.
* * * * *
Debora Townsend sat appalled as she listened to the dreadful mutterings. Only once did she interrupt when she asked the girl her name. Her charge was not fully conscious but she answered Debby’s soft question.
“Toria. That’s what my parents always called me. They’d be so ashamed of me now. That monster calls me Victoria.”
She gave one anguished sob. There was a short silence and then Toria thrashed herself against the bed, half-rising and then sinking back.
“I hate him, I hate him. I wish I’d had a knife. I could have stopped him.”
And then later she muttered so low Debora strained to hear her. “He’s going to take me and hurt me like that every night. He said he would. What can I do? I have no place to go.”
Her cultured voice left Debby with no doubt she’d been raised a lady. A very young lady but still one well-bred.
She soothed the girl as best she could and going to the door, called for a servant to fetch her brother.
As soon as Damien appeared she turned to him, tears filling her eyes.
“She’s not really resting, Damien. Can you help her a little more?”
“Yes, of course but I wanted you to hear her yourself. I don’t want to be mistaken.”
Damien nodded and went to the bedside. Soon Toria laid quietly, this time sound asleep.
Debby snorted. “Hard to mistake her pathetic comments. Her name is Toria. She prefers the shortened version to Victoria. Of course she’s been sexually assaulted. We cannot send her to her home when she recovers.”
Damien nodded his head. “I agree. But I wanted to be sure. It’s such a horrid deed to suspect. Her name is a great help. I’ll institute inquiries immediately. It’s probably her guardian or relative who has abused her. And I have no intention of sending her back. I need to know more and especially the name of the brute who’s responsible. I’d guess she’s from somewhere fairly close to us, since she walked to the beach.”
He wheeled and left the room. Young Toria would not be leaving until he discovered how much danger she was in and how to protect her. And who in hell’s own blazes had been such a bastard as to rape this young child. This beautiful but young child.
* * * * *
Toria slept for twenty-four hours while Debby helped keep watch over the girl. Slumber was a much needed respite for her mind and body and Damien saw that she had it.