Authors: Rhenna Morgan
© 2016 by Rhenna Morgan
All rights reserved.
of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Content Editor – Latoya Smith
Copy Editor - Penny Barber
Cover Artwork - Natasha Snow Designs
hen it comes to writing
, it doesn’t take a village. It takes a horde. A fierce one that props you up when life tries to knock you over and runs interference while you’re trying to get one past the goalie. Honest to God, I couldn’t live without these peeps—Jennifer Adolph, Juliette Cross, Kyra Jacobs, Jaci Burton, Audrey Carlan, Dena Garson, Lauren Smith, Kami Adkison, Christina Gwin, and Lucy Beshara. Really, I couldn’t do this thing without each and every one of you.
I’ve also got a pretty fantastic editorial, graphics, and agenting team that deserve high fives all the way around. Latoya Smith, Penny Barber, Natasha Snow, and Cori Deyoe—thank you all for your devotion and care throughout this series.
As always, I’m sending super big cyber hugs for my wonderful readers. If I didn’t have you, writing these stories wouldn’t be nearly as fun or rewarding.
To my family go the biggest thanks of all. Writing would be empty without your patience, your encouragement, and your love.
or my mom and dad
. Your support, encouragement, and fathomless love are the foundations of every story I write. Thank you for teaching me how to chase my dreams and making me the woman I am today.
sweaty palm slipped on the steering wheel as she pulled into the parking lot of Plush and nearly took out a businessman fresh from the boardroom. God, what a nightmare. Fancy cars, bright lights, and shoulder-to-shoulder people decked out for prime time. Clearly, she’d lost her mind agreeing to her girlfriends’ latest scheme. Girls’ night out might be a good idea for other twenty-three-year-old women ready to usher in the weekend, but for Trinity it was bad, bad, bad.
Naomi waggled a twenty-dollar bill over Trinity’s shoulder from the backseat, her blood-red nail polish a perfect match for her body-hugging dress. “Just do the valet, Trin. The parking lot’s packed and I wanna save these heels for the dance floor.”
Like that was going to be a problem. With Naomi’s dark hair and mocha skin, she’d snag ample opportunities for dancing with or without her shoes.
Trinity ignored the cash and aimed her cost-conscious Accord toward the curb with a white-knuckled grip. “Twenty bucks for parking is insane.”
Right up there with her agreeing to set foot in this place. Nothing but wall-to-wall opportunities for physical contact and the none-too-subtle blasts of everyone’s dark and dirty secrets that came with it. “Y’all hop out and I’ll find a spot.”
“No way.” From her shotgun seat, Tessa snatched the twenty out of Naomi’s hand and motioned Trinity toward the waiting runners. Her sleek blond bob accented her modelesque jawline and bright hazel eyes. “Just park and let’s get inside. We’ll never get a table if we don’t hurry.”
“It’s cool, Trin.” Margo. Calm, cool, understanding Margo. Her average brown hair and modest looks matched her personality, completely unassuming. Trinity wouldn’t trade her friendship or her willingness to run interference for anything. Some people just didn’t get her phobia. “Drop us off and text me before you come in. I’ll meet you up front.”
Trinity shifted into park and the locks disengaged. The girls shimmied out curbside as the crowd’s rumble and laughter filled the car’s dark interior. Margo dipped for a quick wink through the front passenger’s side. “Take all the time you need, girlfriend, but get your ass in here eventually. You’ve got your own place now and no nasty mom to deal with or answer to when you get home. You need this. You need people.”
Both doors slammed before she could argue, dampening the social sounds behind the steady drone of her air conditioner.
Phobia indeed. More like an unfortunate result of her highly unusual parentage, though the haphephobia diagnosis all the baffled doctors had given her adopted parents did a good job of covering the truth.
Trinity navigated around a cluster of laughing women. Their long, spray-tanned legs were accented by short skirts and shoes that probably cost more than her car payment. She aimed toward the far end of the parking lot and checked her hair in the rearview one more time. The cut was killer—super short in the back and flirty long in the front for a wild pixie look—but compared to everyone else, she’d probably come off like a hick in her simple Levis and white button-down.
Then again, it wasn’t like she’d be going home with anybody. A simple kiss from a guy in freshman English comp had squashed any hopes for real intimacy. Instead of the raging heartbeat and delicious tingles promised in all her
issues, she’d earned a front row seat for every painful detail of his senior year. Talk about your mood killers.
A blinding white light flared from the passenger’s side of the car and Trinity flinched, smacking her knuckles on the steering wheel. She missed sideswiping the front end of a sleek silver sports car by all of inches. “Damn it, Dad!”
“She’s right, you know.” Her father’s low, almost deadpan voice barely registered above her hammering heart.
She rubbed the heel of her hand over her sternum and glared at the now occupied front passenger seat. “You gotta quit popping in like that. You’re going to kill me.”
“You’re not that easy to kill, and it sure won’t be your dad popping in on you that does it.”
Not exactly a statement that made her feel better. Being part human gave her a vulnerability most people failed to appreciate. Being part Spiritu? That was a whole different enchilada. A big one with huge responsibility and access to way too much information. The guidance aspect to the Spiritu’s purpose was beautiful, to walk beside their charge throughout their life, unseen and unknown, yet whispering words of inspiration and encouragement throughout their mortal lives. No sentient being went without a Spiritu, though not all of The Great One’s creations chose to listen.
No, that part didn’t bother her. It was the twenty-four, seven access to past, present, and future events that scared the ever-lovin’ heck right out of her. Every Spiritu was hooked into it. A hive mind connection to The Great One for both the Light and Dark passions. A job necessity if they wanted to steer their charges in the right direction. Other people might appreciate a glimpse into the big events headed their way, but she’d opt for human ignorance and bliss any day. “I take it you know what actually will kill me?”
Her father, Kazan, stared out over the long rows of shiny metal, his simple black T-shirt and jeans a far cry from the customary and erotic attire most of the Dark contingent wore. He wouldn’t answer. He never did. Spilling yet-to-be-unfolded information was a no-no, and Pops wasn’t exactly on good terms with the higher ups. Not after the stunt he’d pulled with her birth mother, Anaya.
Trinity whipped into a tolerable slot in the next to last row. “You know, a benefit of having an all-knowing dad would be to get a heads-up on when I’m gonna kick it. At least let me get my affairs in order.”
“Almost all-knowing. And everything can change. Free will has a way of rearranging the outcomes on a second-by-second basis. You know that.”
Ah, yes. Free will. The trump card for all beings. Spiritus included, which explained her existence. A Spiritu revealing themselves without royal mandate was punishable enough, but tangling in a physical relationship and falling in love? It was a wonder her father hadn’t forfeit his existence. Which was way more than she needed to contemplate with a bar full of too many contact opportunities in her immediate future.
Digging to the bottom of her knock off Michael Kors handbag, she found her lip-gloss, flipped down the sun visor, and smoothed on a quick touchup.
Kazan’s stare weighed so heavy the tremor in her hand jumped a notch. “You could be tuned in yourself if you’d accept your powers.”
And see what he saw day in and day out? No thank you. “I can’t leave Mom. I’m all she’s got.” Well, not her real mom. Anaya had died shortly after Trinity was born. Her adopted mom, Carol Blair, wasn’t the end-all-be-all in the realm of mothers, but she’d stuck by Trinity with her “phobia” when many others would’ve run like hell.
Never mind Carol also wielded her good deeds with a healthy dose of guilt when it suited her.
Trinity capped the tube of Raspberry Sorbet and glared at her father. “Wouldn’t you? Dealing with humanity is hard enough at the library. There’s so much skin in that club, I’m bound to come home with a truckload of TMI.”
“Maybe you should stop fighting it. Take it in.”
“It’s not right. It’s…I don’t know…”
“Part of you.” Kazan tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and his all-encompassing love wrapped around her solid as a bear hug. “Tonight’s a big step for you.”
The warm and fuzzy feeling wavered.
Trinity twisted in her seat. Her dad always came across a little pensive. Cold and reserved like a part of him was dead—particularly when it came to her avoiding her Spiritu gifts. But the groove between his eyebrows furrowed a little deeper tonight. Tension pinched the outer corners of his eyes, and his thumb skated back and forth on the door panel. The only other time he got this thoughtful and mysterious was when he talked about his brief interlude with Anaya. “Something in your all-knowing hive mind I need to know about?”
He shook his head and faced forward. “You know I can’t tell you. You have to live your life. Make your own choices.”
Kazan looked back, sadness and regret etched on his face. “I’ve already burned my one warning by loving your mother. I’m not about to forgo the rest of my existence and get ripped away from you by breaking the rules a second time. You’re alone enough as it is.”
The tightness in her stomach doubled, and a weird unease settled in her chest. Whatever was eating him was more than just his customary moodiness, and it amped her need to run for the hills into overdrive. She rummaged for her phone and flipped on the overhead light. “Why don’t we head back to the house? We can talk—”
Kazan clasped her hand, stilling her fingers over her smart phone. “You’re on the right path, Trinity. You’ve got the kindest heart I know. Just like your mother. But don’t forget, you’ve got my nature flowing through your veins too.”
A Dark Spiritu. Unlike their Light brethren who spoke to conscience and goodwill, the Dark were advocates and inspiration for headier, more decadent passions. From the rush of a daring leap into something new and unknown, to the toe-curling thrill of a lover’s first kiss, no being went without a Dark Spiritu’s decadent encouragement. A mantra she’d heard over and over since the day Kazan first visited her on her eighteenth birthday.
“When passion hits you, don’t run from it,” he said. “Embrace it. Revel in it. Then you’ll know what it means to truly live.”
Okay, something was definitely wrong. Way too much mumbo jumbo and side-speak. “Dad, seriously. I’ll text the girls. Heck, they’re probably expecting it with my track record. We’ll go have dinner and talk.”
He released her hand and straightened in his seat. Formal. Distant. “It’s better you go. Something you need to do.” He fisted his hand on his thigh. “And this will be my last visit for a while.”
His Adam’s apple bobbed, and his gaze stayed rooted on the sea of shiny cars.
Oh, hell. Her crossroads. It’d been five years since he’d first been granted permission to visit her and explain who and what she really was. In that time, he’d crammed every bit of love and guidance he could into their stolen time together, trying to make up for the crap environment her adoption had landed her in. But he’d also hinted of a time she’d face an all-important destiny. “I won’t push you for details, Dad. I’d rather have you here and
talk about whatever is bothering you than for you to disappear.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about. It’s me who’s bound to break the rules and share something you shouldn’t know, even if I do it subconsciously.” He closed his eyes, head dipped slightly, and then faced her. “I love you, Trinity. A father couldn’t be more proud.”
Why did he sound so desperate? So final? He couldn’t be going for good. He was all she had. The only true connection with another living being who not only knew what she was, but could touch her in a normal, healthy way.
As if he heard her thoughts, he held out his hand, palm up. “If you ever change your mind and decide you’re ready to receive your abilities, call out and I’ll hear it.”
Trinity gripped his hand in both of hers, like the contact might somehow prevent his form from fading. So tangible. Warm. She couldn’t lose him. Not now. She wasn’t ready. “I can’t leave Mom.”
“You can’t save Carol from her bitterness. Only she can do that.”
“She stood by me. Found a way to care for me when other people would’ve taken me back. How many parents would stick by a cranky toddler who can’t abide touch?”
“Several.” Kazan pulled his hand free and went back to glaring out the windshield. “My people should have done better looking out for you while I paid my sentence. Found someone less inclined toward fanaticism.”
“Free will, remember?” Trinity nudged his shoulder, eager to pull him out of whatever morose thoughts held him tight. “Besides, I’m not living with her anymore. I’ve finally cut the cord and got my own place. That’s a good first step, right? Maybe someday, when I know she’s adjusted—”
“You don’t have to explain. I know what we are scares you.” He relaxed with a sad smile, leaned across the distance, and laid a tender kiss to her cheek. “I’m here. Always.” He pulled away and jerked his head toward the building. “Now go. Try to have a good time.”
He began to fade, and his gaze locked onto hers with an intensity that pierced her soul. “And remember, destiny is what you make it.”
* * *
amsay zipped through downtown Dallas
, the top down on his Porsche Spyder and Hinder’s
All American Nightmare
cranked loud enough to mingle with the engine’s growl.
Jagger twisted in the passenger seat and rubbernecked a leggy blonde in a short, pale blue skirt. “Makin’ it hard to take in the scenery.”
“Not like we can fly in,” Ramsay shouted over the music. “Might as well do the next best thing. Been too damned long since I got to drive it anyway.” Ramsay whipped left into Plush’s parking lot then dodged right into the valet line.
Jagger eased the door open and unfolded himself from the cramped interior, drawing a host of head-to-toe scans from the women waiting in line. Not surprising. The fucker was as big as Ramsay and all the rest of his warriors, but had a golden-surfer-boy vibe women couldn’t resist. “Man, you drive as crazy as you fly.”