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Daughter Of Destiny
By Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe lurid, churning blackness swirled around KaiAlseoun. She moaned, turning over in the narrow bed and shoving the sheet off with her legs. No. No ... this can't be happening again! Since receiving her bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Navy, she'd found her life tumbling like an out-of-control F-14 Tomcat. Not even sleep brought her peace; nightmares stalked her every time she closed her eyes.
Breathing hard, Kai twisted her head from side to side. It was October and she was staying in her grandmother's old log cabin in North Carolina. But not even her return to the reservation could protect her from the darkness that plagued her in earnest now. It called to her in a hissing voice. Fear vomited through her. Kai hadn't known fear until the last few months. When Lieutenant Commander Ryan Thorval had accused her of assaulting him and breaking his nose - trumped-up charges - her hotshot combat-aviator existence had come to a shocking halt.
The reason she'd broken his nose in the Ready Room aboard the carrier was because he'd groped her. Thorval had come up behind her and slid his hand across her hip, angling down toward the apex of her thighs. Without thinking, Kai, who was a former national kick-boxing champion of North America, had lifted herelbow and shoved it backward into his face, fracturing his nose. Unfortunately, there had been no witnesses to his assault, so Thorval had pressed charges against her for striking a superior officer. He was a lieutenant commander and she a lowly lieutenant, and Thorval had made the charges stick. The board had a tendency to believe the superior officer, and Kai was below him in rank. With shame, she had come back to where she'd been born - the Quallah Eastern Cherokee Reservation near Cherokee, North Carolina - to salve her wounds. Her grandmother, Ivy Sanderson, the Elder Medicine woman on the reservation, took her into her humble log cabin in the Great Smoky mountains to recover.
Kai came from an honored and respected medicine family, her mother once renown for her healing abilities. She desperately wanted to erase the humiliating black mark on her family's name.
She turned on her side, pressing her face into the old feather pillow. Days after her return to the res, Grams had sent her up the mountain to ask the Great Spirit what she should do with her life. And this ... this nightmare had haunted her nightly since she'd come back down. For four days and nights she'd been without water and food while she prayed for a dream that would help her sort out her life. Well, the dream that had come to her up on the mountain was a nightmare, as far as Kai was concerned.
Moaning, Kai felt the roiling darkness begin to enfold her. No! Oh, no! Perspiration soaked the hair at her temples. Sweat covered her face. She turned over again, fists clenching and unclenching. The storm clouds were palpable. Heart slamming into her ribs, she couldn't see her way out of the suffocating darkness. She felt fear so vivid that she could taste it like burning acid in her mouth. Never had she felt terror like this!
The sensation of being spun around, as if in a tornado, began. It always started this way. What to do? How to escape it? Kai heard the shrieking of the wind as it tugged violently at her body. She felt the howling gale grasp at her like greedy hands. Where was it taking her? Where?
Groaning, Kai pulled the pillow over her head and flopped onto her stomach. If only she could escape this dream! But she couldn't. Out of the thick, cloying darkness, she saw a white glow in the distance. And just as before, it came closer and closer, racing toward her at what seemed to be the speed of light. She saw three hand-carved crystal totems. One looked similar to a mask that she'd seen worn by Cherokee medicine people, members of the Paint Clan. The mask was transparent, with slits for eyes and shaped to cover the upper half of a person's face. A lightning bolt had been painstakingly carved diagonally across it. Another carved crystal formed the head of the wolf. Kai knew that this totem belonged to the Wolf Clan, where all leaders and chiefs came from. The last crystal that hovered before her, sparkling and nearly blinding with its light, was a seven-pointed star that represented the Yam Clan. That was the clan that cared for the sacred Ark of Crystals - seven quartz crystals that had been a part of the Cherokee nation since it had been created in millennia. The Yam Clan was responsible for the ark's protection.
In her dream the three objects, all transparent quartz crystals, turned slowly in front of her. Then she saw the first crystal, the Paint Clan mask, arc across Mother Earth and land in the center of Australia. The second crystal, the wolf's head, flew to South America. The last one, the seven-pointed crystal star, arced skyward and disappeared onto the island of Hong Kong.
A voice kept whispering, "Seek out and find the Paint Clan mask...." over and over again. She knew she had to find it and make it her own. But fear stopped her.
In the midst of her nightmare, Kai screamed out for her grandmother. Grams was the most revered medicine woman on the reservation. She was the one of the few people in Kai's life who had ever loved her and protected her. Now Kai cried out for her help.
The slowly moving thunderheads in her vision were like the wall of a hurricane moving threateningly toward her. Lightning forked between the gray and menacing clouds. The sound created by the huge Thunder Beings caromed against her, vibrating like the roll of kettle drums through every pore in her body until she felt as if she were going to shake apart and burst into a million pieces.
"Seek and find the Paint Clan mask...." Kai heard the soft voice whispering in her ear again.
Yes, grab it!
She reached out to the mask hovering over Australia. Her fingers stretched to touch the glowing crystal. Groaning, she strained forward, but no matter how she tried to capture it, the mask hovered in space, just inches away from her fingertips. Impossible! Frightened, Kai felt the energy of the crystal throbbing. It was as if a stone had been thrown in a clear, quiet pool of water, and she could feel each wave as it reached her, sharp and clear. She felt battered by the powerful energy.
Excerpted from Daughter Of Destiny by Lindsay McKenna Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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