Read an Excerpt
Midnight's Promise: Part 3
By Donna Grant
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Donna Grant
All rights reserved.
Malcolm watched Evie slide down the stone to slump on the ground. He tamped down his god and fell to his knees beside her.
"Why?" he asked her again.
Her throat moved as she swallowed. "They kidnapped Brian. This was my only choice so that no one else was harmed."
"Nay. Only you've lost your soul."
He wanted to get the information out of her right then. Malcolm sighed. He knew all about doing awful things in order to save family.
The label of murderer and betrayer was his to shoulder for eternity because he had protected Larena. How could he fault Evie for doing something for her brother?
Malcolm's skin sizzled as magic began to gather. It wasn't Evie, so that left the stone circle. They weren't happy he'd interfered, though they had gotten what they wanted. Another drough.
"Evie, we need to leave this place."
Her eyes were dilated and unfocused. "I can feel it inside me," she whispered. "It's a dark menace, coiling and slithering through me."
Malcolm should be repulsed by her now being drough. Instead, all he wanted to do was help her. There would be no getting through to her now, however. Malcolm gathered her in his arms and stalked from the circle, daring the stones to do anything.
Once inside the house, he set Evie on her feet by the back door and stripped off her clothes. Just before he wrapped the blanket around her, he noticed the necklace that had been hidden beneath her clothes. It looked old, ancient even. He pushed it from his mind and wrapped her in the covers before carrying her into the bathroom. After sitting her on the toilet, he turned on the water.
While the tub filled, Malcolm squatted before Evie and took one of her hands in his. Her skin was like ice. He rubbed his hands along her arm vigorously, trying not to notice the cuts on her wrists that had already stopped bleeding.
As soon as the water was high enough, Malcolm shoved aside the blanket and lowered Evie into the water. He sat there feeling helpless and useless as she tried to wrap her head around what she had become.
Her clear blue eyes suddenly turned to him as large tears gathered. "I'm evil now. I can feel it."
"Nay," he said sternly. "You choose what you do with the magic given to you. Use it for good or use it for evil, but it's your decision."
"When I die, I'm going to Hell."
How Malcolm wanted to lie to her, but it was better if she faced it all as soon as she could. "Aye."
"Oh, God," she whispered and wiped at a tear.
He watched her hand drop into the water as steam rose around her. The desire to hold her was overwhelming. He wanted to offer his support, but he also craved her touch. "You did this for your brother. Just as I did ... things for Larena. I made that choice. I killed a friend and betrayed those I called family. All to protect Larena. Those were my choices. I must live with them."
Her head swiveled to him as a frown marred her brow. "You killed?"
"The correct label is murdered." Malcolm shifted so that he sat on the edge of the tub. "When Deirdre unbound my god she promised me that as long as I did her bidding she would ensure Larena was never harmed. Larena was all the family I had. How could I refuse the offer?"
"I'd have done the same."
Malcolm gave a soft snort. "No' if you knew the person Deirdre truly was. I understood by agreeing to do whatever she wanted that my soul wouldna survive. Her first test was when she captured two Warriors who were my friends. She ordered me to kill Duncan. And I did. Every time I close my eyes, I see his face.
"I can no' go back and undo what happened. Duncan's twin, Ian, forgave me. Everyone said it was Deirdre's doing no' mine since they discovered my pact with Deirdre. I doona deserve their absolution," he said as he turned his head to look at her. "I could've refused. I could've fought her. But I didna."
Evie sniffed and drew her knees up to her chest to wrap her arms around her legs. "If I take this new potent magic inside me and use it to kill those who dared to threaten my brother, I'm evil. It'll be my decision to kill. It wasn't your decision to murder Duncan."
"But I did it."
"Yes, you did. That will never change." She placed a hand on his back. "You said she captured the two Warriors. Could she have stopped you had you tried to fight her?"
Malcolm frowned. "Aye, and I know what you're doing. Larena and the others did the same. They showed me how I wouldna have been able to win against Deirdre, and I could've died as well. I know all of that, but it doesna change anything."
"It changes everything. Would you have killed Duncan had it just been the two of you?"
Malcolm looked into her eyes and shook his head. "I'd have tried to find a way for him to survive."
"Was there anything Deirdre ordered you to do that you didn't?"
"Aye," he said softly as he leaned forward so that his forearms could rest on his knees. "It was after we'd been pulled into the future. She found a Druid she wanted to take her power from. The Druid, Tara, was a teacher. Deirdre wanted me to kill the children so the Druid would know no' to fight me."
Water sloshed over the side of the tub when Evie rose and wrapped her arms around him from behind. She laid her head on his shoulder and said, "But you didn't kill those children."
"I couldna. Larena and Fallon arrived and thankfully prevented me from getting ahold of the Druid. I might have bypassed the murder of children, but I did other things. Horrible things."
Her arms tightened around him. Malcolm's throat constricted. He'd expected Evie to push him away, not console him. That was for those who earned it.
"I told you all of this no' so you'd feel sorry for me, but so you would understand that just because you're drough doesna mean you're evil."
"I didn't think it would feel so ... evil," she whispered. He felt her eyelash tickle his skin as she closed her eyes. "He told me what I would become."
"Who?" Malcolm asked, his muscles tensed as he waited for the answer.
"He only signed his e-mails as J."
"No, just the letter J. I looked into his e-mail account. I thought he checked out."
Malcolm turned so that he faced her. He smoothed away a wet curl that stuck to her face. "I suspect the J you know is Jason Wallace. We've been fighting him for some time now. He's more powerful than Deirdre ever was, and more cunning."
Evie stood and reached for a towel. She quickly dried off as she asked, "Is there any way the drough ceremony can be reversed?"
"I didn't think so," she said as she straightened and squared her shoulders. "Then I will do what I must for Brian."
Malcolm stood between Evie and the door. "Tell me what happened."
"He was kidnapped."
"What do they want? Money?"
She laughed dryly. "No. They want ..."
He tried not to show his agitation as she hesitated. Malcolm understood that she was determining whether to trust him or not. He inwardly sighed when her shoulders slumped.
"They want this," she said and touched the necklace.
Malcolm ran the pads of his fingers over it and felt a pulse of magic. "Because it's magical?"
"Yes. As I told you, I thought I was the only Druid. I put up that site and got hacked, but what I didn't tell you is that I think I was hacked because I put up a picture of this necklace."
"What does the necklace do?"
She shrugged. "I don't know exactly. My grandmum gave it to me to keep hidden. It's been in our family for as many generations as I know. We've always had it, and always hidden it." She cleared her throat as her gaze drifted over his body. "You have mud all over you."
"I woke to the feel of drough magic. I didna think of clothes as I went looking for you."
"You were willing to fight naked?"
He shrugged. "Clothes doona matter in battle."
"Well, I'm cold and tired of being in the buff. Get cleaned up while I find my clothes."
"They're no' fit to wear."
"Guess I'll have to try out my new magic, won't I?" she asked with a dour expression as she walked around him.
Malcolm wasn't finished getting answers from her. He hurriedly cleaned up and put on his clothes before he found her in the kitchen sitting at the bar staring at nothing.
He paused when he saw her jeans were dry and free of mud, just as her sweater was.
She looked at him and shrugged. "I may never do laundry again."
Malcolm grinned despite himself. The smile faded however, when he took the stool next to her and said, "Now, tell me what happened to Brian."
"I received a text." She shoved the phone at him so he could read over everything. "They made it clear I am to do as they asked or they'd hurt Brian. I looked for you, but you were gone, so I asked J if there was anything I could do. He told me of the stones and that if I turned drough I could defeat my enemies. He said I'd hear the stones long before I saw them. Something about how they recognized when a Druid was near and called out to them."
"What else did this J tell you about the circle? Did he tell you what to do?"
She perched her elbow on the bar and leaned her head against her hand. "Yep. I didn't memorize the spell though. It was the stones that told me what to say."
"Shite," he mumbled and quickly read the texts. "Noon, aye? What were you going to do?"
"I couldn't leave Brain, and I can't turn over the necklace. There is a spell hidden in the pendant."
"What kind of spell?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Unfortunately, I don't know. It was important enough that my family not only hid the necklace, but changed its look and put dozens of spells on it to keep it hidden. Then, they stopped handing down the information on the spell. I think to keep it safe. Whatever spell the necklace houses can be dangerous in the wrong hands. I can't have innocent deaths on my head."
"And you couldna allow Brian to die," Malcolm said with a nod. "You felt your only choice was to become drough."
"It wasn't an easy choice," she said defensively. "You think I want to go to Hell?"
He held her gaze and slowly shook his head. "Nay. What is your plan?"
"I don't know." She blew out a harsh breath. "I can't give up the necklace, but I have to get Brian back."
"I'll make sure you do. We're going to have to come up with a plan."
She sat up and shook her head. "Did you not read the texts? I can't bring anyone with me."
He gave her a droll look. "Do you really think I'd allow myself to be seen? Besides, I can sense magic. I'll know if you're dealing with Druids or not."
"You mean you'll know if it's Jason Wallace."
He raised a brow. "Aye. This sounds like something he would do. You've no' had any dealings with the likes of Wallace. You didna battle Deirdre or Declan. You've no' seen how easily they take innocent lives and destroy everything in their paths."
"And you've seen too much." She paused as her eyes softened. "My main concern is Brian. I want to make sure he's not hurt."
"You can worry over Brian. Let me worry about getting the both of you out alive. Because I guarantee whoever is meeting you tomorrow willna come alone. They're going to want you, Evie. You and the necklace."
"Bloody hell," she said and banged her hand on the bar. "I never thought of that."
He lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "The place you're meeting is going to be filled with people. You willna be able to use magic without being seen."
"I get your point," she said testily. "I didn't think any of this through."
"Then let me help," he urged.
Her clear blue eyes were filled with fear and hope. "Please do. I need you, Malcolm."
His chest constricted at her words, words he never thought to hear from anyone — much less her.CHAPTER 2
"I'm no' kidding when I say I'm about to toss that laptop in the ocean," Logan growled from across the table.
Gwynn looked over the screen at her husband and grinned. "You can try, sweetie."
"You've been on the wretched thing all night."
"What's the matter, Logan?" Hayden asked as he sauntered into the great hall from the kitchen. "You can no' keep your wife in bed."
Isla elbowed Hayden in the ribs. "I wouldn't go there if I were you."
Hayden laughed and tossed Isla up and over his shoulders. "Let me show you how it's done, Logan."
"Hayden Campbell, put me down now," Isla said with a squeal.
Gwynn couldn't contain her smile. "Isla, that might be effective if you weren't smiling and rubbing his bum while you said it."
"You all need a real man to show you how it's done," Galen said as he sat beside Logan and speared two sausages from Logan's plate before dumping them onto his own.
Reaghan gave a loud snort as she walked from the kitchen. "Oh, you mean how you fell asleep watching The Wedding Date last night?"
"Baby, that's no' a real movie," Galen said around a bite of sausage. "I need action."
Gwynn exchanged a look with Isla who had taken the seat beside her after Hayden set her down. "Which I bet you might have gotten had you not fallen asleep."
Everyone laughed, including Galen who raised his glass of juice to salute her. Gwynn looked around at her family. The gloom had been lifted from MacLeod Castle with Larena's recovery, but there was still a cloud hanging over them.
"What is it?" Logan whispered.
Gwynn met his hazel eyes. "Evangeline Walker. The Web site she had talking about Druids and the necklace. Well ... I'm not the only one who hacked it."
"What?" Tara asked, rubbing her eyes as she walked down the stairs with Ramsey at her heels. "How do you know someone else hacked in?"
Gwynn shrugged. "It's difficult to explain. It's just things you see in the keystrokes logged in between this time and the last time I hacked it."
Cara, Sonya, and Dani walked into the hall with large platters of food while Marcail and Saffron held pitchers of coffee and tea.
Roni walked to Tara and handed her a Coke. "Do you know who hacked the site?"
Gwynn shook her head as she caught sight of the others coming into the hall. "I've tried to see, but they covered their tracks well. Too well, in fact."
"Which means what exactly?" Lucan asked.
Gwynn sighed and stretched her shoulders. "What it means is that whoever hacked into the site is a genius who makes no mistakes, or I'm not as good as I thought I was."
If it was the latter, Gwynn had some work to do. She hadn't started out as a hacker. In fact, it had come as a surprise, but the more she learned, the easier it was to do.
While some people could sing or draw or dance, she knew computer code. Her magic never came into place with her hacking, not that she wasn't above using it if the occasion arose.
"You're that good," Logan stated, as if daring her to argue.
She mouthed "I love you" to the man who had brought her into a world of magic and given her everything she could have ever dreamed of.
"Aye, you are that good," Quinn seconded. "How many geniuses are out there anyway?"
"Less than a handful. I can't imagine this site would've caught their eye," Gwynn said. She bit her lip as she stared at the screen full of code. "I can't help thinking this hack was too neat."
Cara cleared her throat, her chestnut hair pulled over one shoulder in a braid. "What she means is that Gwynn studies other hackers. She knows their moves. No two hackers gain access to a site in the same way."
Ian rubbed his chin as he peered over Gwynn's shoulder at the screen. "I'm no' sure how you can read anything, but we trust you. If it seems odd, then it most likely is."
"I hate to say it," Saffron said as she dumped sugar in her coffee, her tawny eyes meeting Gwynn's. "But could magic have played a part? Evangeline's site is about Druids. She wanted attention, and it looks as if she's gotten it."
Gwynn considered the code she was reviewing. "I can see where Evangeline has gone in and strengthened her firewalls and set traps. I've gotten past them, but I did it through a back door that would hide most of what I've done. If Evangeline looks, she'll see I've come in."
"And?" Sonya urged.
Gwynn looked around the table and shrugged. "And the other hacker did it with finesse that leaves me scratching my head. I didn't think about magic being used before, but now I can see that it might have."
"Wonderful," Camdyn said sardonically.
Dani passed the teapot to Ian and asked Gwynn, "Is there anything you can do to check to see if it was magic?"
Excerpted from Midnight's Promise: Part 3 by Donna Grant. Copyright © 2013 Donna Grant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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