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By Alexis Fleming
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Alexis Fleming
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt all looked like a scene from a movie. A bad movie. One she hadn't agreed to participate in.
She swung her gaze back to her captor. He stared at her, his brow dragged down in a deep frown, his mouth a tight line. Ignoring the flash of anger in his eyes, she asked again, "Where am I?"
"If you want specifics, you're in the bathing chamber of my hunting lodge. I found you lying in the snow and brought you here to save your life. Much longer and you would have succumbed to hypothermia."
"If you want the broader picture, you're on an island called Alterra, situated in the middle of what is known in the human world as the Bermuda Triangle."
"Off America? I can't be. How did that happen? This isn't possible. I was in my mother's garden in northern Australia." Tia shook her head. "First, a lightning bolt zaps me and now this? I should be dead, but you tell me I've ended up in the Bermuda Triangle? It's a nightmare. I'm going crazy."
A bubble of laughter, tinged with the taint of hysteria, erupted. "Crazy Tia. Maybe my mother was right after all."
Panic swept through her. She no longer knew what was real and what wasn't. Her throat tightened. She couldn't breathe, the air trapped in her lungs. She forced herself to drag in a deep breath, to calm down. The wheezing rattle in her chest eased and the tension seeped away, her body relaxing.
Connor stared at her for a moment before swinging her up into his arms and wading out of the water. Tia had no time to react or object.
"Let's get you more comfortable and we can talk." He set her down on one of the lounges before grabbing up a couple of drying cloths. Draping one about her shoulders, he took the other and moved behind her, blotting the moisture from her hair.
The moment he touched her, Tia broke free of the mental fog holding her in its grip, jerking away from his hands. When he circled the couch and settled down beside her, self-preservation burst to life and she slid to the other end, as far away from him as she could get.
The towels held tight about her body, she faced him. "How did I end up here?"
"Answer me this first. You have no knowledge of where you are, do you?"
She shook her head.
"I can only assume you were sailing through the Bermuda Triangle and the magnetic anomalies dragged you through the vortex."
Tia wrinkled her brow, trying to understand what he was saying. "N-no, it wasn't like that. I was in my mother's garden."
Now it was his turn to frown. "That can't be right. Humans are only taken from the sea or the air immediately above the Triangle."
Humans? Why did he speak as if he wasn't a part of the human race?
"Tell me what happened to you. Maybe then I can understand."
Tia wanted to rail at him, to demand immediate answers, but one look at his face told her they were going to do this his way. She shrugged. "There was a storm, but it wasn't ... It was different."
"Dark roiling sky and purple lightning?"
She nodded, her mind winging back. She was confused. Had it happened today? Yesterday? Time seems to have lost all meaning. "I've never seen lightning like that. It zeroed in on me. Deliberately targeted me."
"Something must have triggered it. What was different? Something happened to focus the energy on you."
"I was angry. Maybe that was it."
Connor frowned. "Everyone gets angry."
"Not me." Tia shook her head.
"What was different this time? What made you lose control?"
The adoption papers. A shaft of the same anger and hurt bled back into Tia's soul. She clenched her fist. Energy zapped through her body. As she'd done throughout her childhood, she took a deep breath and released it, allowing the anger to seep away. It didn't matter now anyway. Her mother was dead.
Connor stared. Waves of rippling power radiated out from Tia like a force field. For a moment, he could have sworn he saw a shimmering green aura about her. In that moment, the last lingering doubts disappeared. He was correct, but first, he needed to know how, after so many years, she'd returned to her rightful home.
He leaned toward her. "Tell me what made you lose control."
"Today I found out my mother had lied to me. She's not my mother. Apparently, when I was no more than a few days old, I was left abandoned on the steps of the children's home where she worked. No one knew where I'd come from, or who my parents were, and I assume no one else wanted me, what with this white hair and the ugly birthmark on my forehead. My mother adopted me when I was a couple of months old."
Yes, I was right. She is not of their world. "And that made you angry enough to lose your temper?"
"There's nothing wrong with being adopted, lots of children are. It was more the fact she made it plain she didn't want me. It was how she treated me."
"She forced you to bury all your emotions. No outbursts, no lack of control." Just like we teach a pure blood child at puberty.
"Yes." She frowned. "When I found out she wasn't my mother, the anger took over. I think somehow I caused the storm."
"What happened next?" Impatience warred with caution in his soul.
"The lightning struck me, but instead of being killed, I ended up here."
He moved closer and grasped her hands. "Don't you see? The release of your emotions triggered the power of the Oracle. It worked like a beacon, activating the positive charge of the emerald ice particles all Oracles contain in their brain. The energy from the electrical charges must have caused a change in the electrons in your body, allowing you to travel through time and space. The lightning was the conduit to take you from the human world and bring you home."
Tia dragged her hands from his grip. Fighting to keep the panic at bay, she struggled to steady her rapid breathing.
"I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about. This isn't home." She scrambled off the lounge and backed away. "You talk as if you're not a member of the human race." Her voice rose hysterically on the last word.
When he stood and moved toward her, she held her hands out to ward him off. She didn't want him touching her. It was hard enough to hold things together without that.
In one small corner of her mind, she registered his lack of clothing but for the loincloth. In other circumstances, she might have responded to the sight of a near-naked man standing in front of her. Now, all she could feel was the mind- numbing panic. "Who are you?" she managed to say.
"I am Lord Connor, nephew to the Ruler of Alterra. This is an Earth-based colony, a stargate to the home planet of Beretez in the Lotar galaxy. And you're right, I'm not of the human race. In your vernacular, I'm an alien."
Darkness pushed against her mind as she tried to digest his words.
"But you ... You're so much more."
She forced herself to concentrate. "Wh-what are you talking about?"
"Not only are you alien, but you may well be the salvation of our race on this planet."
"This can't be happening," she whispered. "I really am going mad. I'm not-"
"You're not human either."
Excerpted from Emerald Ice by Alexis Fleming Copyright © 2006 by Alexis Fleming. Excerpted by permission.
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