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By Nora Roberts
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShe was born the night the Witch Tree fell. With the first breath she drew, she tasted the power - the richness of it, and the bitterness. Her birth was one more link in a chain that had spanned centuries, a chain that was often gilded with the sheen of folklore and legend. But when the chain was rubbed clean, it held fast, tempered by the strength of truth.
There were other worlds, other places, where those first cries of birth were celebrated. Far beyond the sweeping vistas of the Monterey coast, where the child's lusty cry echoed through the old stone house, the new life was celebrated. In the secret places where magic still thrived - deep in the green hills of Ireland, on the windswept moors of Cornwall, deep in the caves of Wales, along the rocky coast of Brittany - that sweet song of life was welcomed.
And the old tree, hunched and gnarled by its age and its marriage to the wind, was a quiet sacrifice.
With its death, and a mother's willing pain, a new witch was born.
Though the choice would be hers - a gift, after all, can be refused, treasured or ignored - it would remain as much a part of the child, and the woman she became, as the color of her eyes. For now she was only an infant, her sight still dim, her thoughts still half-formed, shaking angry fists in the air even as her father laughed and pressed his first kiss on her downy head.
Her mother wept when the babe drank from her breast. Wept in joy and in sorrow. She knew already that she would have only this one girl child to celebrate the love and union she and her husband shared.
She had looked, and she had seen.
As she rocked the nursing child and sang an old song, she understood that there would be lessons to be taught, mistakes to be made. And she understood that one day - not so long from now, in the vast scope of lifetimes - her child would also look for love.
She hoped that of all the gifts she would pass along, all the truths she would tell, the child would understand one, the vital one.
That the purest magic is in the heart.
There was a marker in the ground where the Witch Tree had stood. The people of Monterey and Carmel valued nature. Tourists often came to study the words on the marker, or simply to stand and look at the sculptured old trees, the rocky shoreline, the sunning harbor seals.
Locals who had seen the tree for themselves, who remembered the day it had fallen, often mentioned the fact that Morgana Donovan had been born that night.
Some said it was a sign, others shrugged and called it coincidence. Still more simply wondered. No one denied that it was excellent local color to have a self-proclaimed witch born hardly a stone's throw away from a tree with a reputation.
Nash Kirkland considered it an amusing fact and an interesting hook. He spent a great deal of his time studying the supernatural. Vampires and werewolves and things that went bump in the night were a hell of a way to make a living. And he wouldn't have had it any other way.
Not that he believed in goblins or ghoulies - or witches, if it came to that. Men didn't turn into bats or wolves at moonrise, the dead did not walk, and women didn't soar through the night on broomsticks. Except in the pages of a book, or in the flickering light and shadow of a movie screen.
There, he was pleased to say, anything was possible.
He was a sensible man who knew the value of illusions, and the importance of simple entertainment. He was also enough of a dreamer to conjure images out of the shades of folklore and superstition for the masses to enjoy.
He'd fascinated the horror-film buff for seven years, starting with his first - and surprisingly successful - screenplay, Shape Shifter.
The fact was, Nash loved seeing his imagination come to life on-screen. He wasn't above popping into the neighborhood movie theater and happily devouring popcorn while the audience caught their breath, stifled screams or covered their eyes.
He delighted in knowing that the people who plunked down the price of a ticket to see one of his movies were going to get their money's worth of chills.
He always researched carefully. While writing the gruesome and amusing Midnight Blood, he'd spent a week in Romania interviewing a man who swore he was a direct descendant of Vlad, the Impaler - Count Dracula. Unfortunately, the count's descendant hadn't grown fangs or turned into a bat, but he had proven to possess a wealth of vampire lore and legend.
It was such folktales that inspired Nash to spin a story - particularly when they were related by someone whose belief gave them punch.
And people considered him weird, he thought, grinning to himself as he passed the entrance to Seventeen Mile Drive. Nash knew he was an ordinary, grounded-to-earth type. At least by California standards. He just made his living from illusion, from playing on basic fears and superstitions - and the pleasure people took in being scared silly. He figured his value to society was his ability to take the monster out of the closet and flash it on the silver screen in Technicolor, usually adding a few dashes of unapologetic sex and sly humor.
Excerpted from Captivated by Nora Roberts Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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