Madison Carter has been terrified of Scott Lee since the night he saved her from an evil sorcerer - then melted into a man-eating monster before her eyes. The werewolf is a slave to the moon, but Madison's nightmares are not.
Despite her fears, when Madison's brother, Clinton, is bitten by a werewolf, she knows there is only one man who can help. A man who frightens her all the more because even in her nightmares, he also thrills her.
Together for the first time since that terrible night, Scott and Madison drive to Clinton's home only to discover that he's vanished! Frantic now, Madison must overcome her fears and uncover hidden strengths if she hopes to save him. And she's not the only one fighting inner demons. Scott's are literal, and they have him convinced that he will never deserve the woman he loves.
Praise for Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective
"In this entertaining series opener, Amsden (The Immortality Virus) introduces readers to the eponymous Cassie, a decidedly mundane member of a magical family. ...Readers will enjoy Cassie's fish-out-of-water struggles as she fights magical threats with little more than experience and bravado."
~ Publisher's Weekly
|Publisher:||Paladin Timeless Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.61(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Christine Amsden
Twilight Times BooksCopyright © 2015 Christine Amsden
All rights reserved.
Two years later ...
Madison clutched her cell phone as, for the dozenth time in less than a week, her call went to voicemail. Her younger brother's too-cheerful voice started to ask her to leave a message, but she hit "end" before it finished.
"Where are you, Clinton?" Madison wondered out loud. It had been a month. An entire month since the last time they'd spoken on the phone. Sure, he was in college, young and having fun, but he had never been irresponsible. He had never gone this long without at least sending her an email. And while he wasn't a Facebook regular, he would normally have posted something about the end of finals. That, more than anything, had led to the frantic flurry of phone calls this week.
The school year was over for Madison as well. She had brought her fifth graders to tears when she had sung them a final good-bye that afternoon. There hadn't been a dry eye in the room, not even on the stonier faces of the tough boys. She hadn't meant to do it. She was normally very conscious of the power her songbird voice had to evoke emotions in those who heard it, but she had been distracted. Not thinking clearly. The prospect of a lonely summer loomed ahead, her fifth graders would move on to middle school where she would never teach them again, and worst of all, her anxiety over Clinton grew stronger as each new day passed without a word.
Clinton was, after all, the only family she had left. The only one who had never hurt or betrayed her. If anything happened to him ...
Her mind started sorting through possibilities once again, but nothing made sense. She was Clinton's "in case of emergency" contact at school, at work, and on his phone. If he had gotten into an accident, she would know. Which left what, exactly? That a straight-A student had suddenly dropped out of school and joined a rock band?
It was probably nothing. He had probably been busy. They didn't hang out in the same circles, she wasn't his mother, and for all she knew he could have dropped his phone in a toilet. Weeks had passed between calls before – rarely.
But she had nightmares. These days, she almost always had nightmares. Madison knew better than most what sorts of dangers lurked in the night, but Clinton had always been separate from all of that. On the outside. He, unlike her, was the product of two normal people having a normal child.
She dialed again, this time calling Clinton's housemate, who had always struck her as being irresponsible. She wasn't surprised when he didn't answer her call, nor that he hadn't responded to the three messages she had left for him. She did not leave another.
Now what? The sun had set, but the moon had not yet risen. It wouldn't be full tonight, but it was close enough to make her shudder with remembered fear.
There was one final call she could make, one she had been putting off making for days. She had not spoken to her adoptive father, Phillip Carter, since the day he had betrayed her – selling the identity of her biological father to that man's enemies for the bargain-basement price of $10,000. In the end, that was how much she'd meant to him.
But she and Phillip (she sometimes still thought of him as Dad, but she was getting better) had one thing left in common: Clinton.
She did not have Phillip's number programmed into her phone, but she dialed it from memory, her fingers automatically jumping from digit to digit. Those fingers stayed curiously still and calm as she waited through four rings. Then she heard the familiar gravelly voice for the first time in over a year.
"What?" he demanded without preamble.
Her breath caught, something got lodged in her throat, and it was a moment before she managed a "Hi." Stupid girl. Why do you still care?
"What do you want, Madison?" Phillip asked in the clipped, distant tone he'd always used when she misbehaved.
"I haven't heard from Clinton in almost a month. I was wondering if you have."
"No." There was a pause. "I'm worried." He probably was. Clinton, he cared about. Clinton was really his son. Clinton had never even accidentally brushed up against the world of sorcery.
Madison might have felt jealous, but Phillip didn't know how to show affection to anyone, not even his son. Which was why Clinton often agreed with Madison that they were all the family each other had.
"I'm going to drive to Springfield tomorrow to look for him." She hadn't made the decision until she'd said it, but now she knew it was her only choice. Maybe she was overreacting, but if that was the case then so be it.
"Have him call me when you find him." That was it. Phillip didn't want to hear from her, only from his real son. Otherwise, she could turn right back around and go to the devil, where she'd been heading. Well, what had she expected? A sudden change of heart? A declaration of love?
"I will. Bye, Da–" Madison just stopped herself. Old habits. "Bye."
Phillip ended the call without saying another word.
Madison tried to push thoughts of Phillip from her mind as she prepared for bed. She called Clinton one last time, not because she thought he would suddenly pick up the phone but because she wanted to leave one last voicemail telling him she'd be making the two-hour drive from Eagle Rock, Missouri to Springfield in the morning. Then she set her phone on the nightstand and started humming to herself.
The tune was a familiar one, a song she'd been working on for years. She had the melody right, but she still had not found the words to go with it. The song needed words full of hope and love, but nothing in her life had inspired that kind of poetry lately.
Not for the first time, Madison wished her songbird gift would work on herself – that she could sing a joyful song and draw that song's happiness into herself. But that was not how it worked. In fact, she didn't make people feel the song's emotions as much as she made them feel her own. The melody and lyrics helped set a tone she could embrace, but she had once managed to make someone cry singing, "If You're Happy and You Know It."
Today was that kind of day. Music was her refuge, but tonight worry followed her within its sheltering embrace. She gave up by nine o'clock, thinking she should at least try to get a good night's sleep before setting off in the morning. She only prayed that her night-mares would give her respite.
* * *
She is scared and hurt, but not alone. Before her stands the man who saved her life. He is only a few inches taller than she, but so broad and powerful that he seems much larger. His arms ripple with well-defined, sculpted muscles that she knows he can use to kill. His face is not classically handsome, but it is rugged and beautiful to her. She loves his eyes most of all. Those jade green eyes that carry the weight of the world within their depths. They say eyes are the windows to the soul, so she tries to peer inside to see.
He looks back, giving her the sense that he sees her as no man ever has before – as a woman. He extends a hand to her and she takes it, feeling the thrill of contact. This is it. This is what it's supposed to feel like when a man touches a woman. She is pure sensation, all flutters and tingles. She wants this man, if he'll have her. She is afraid to hope that he might.
Suddenly, he shifts. In those soul-deep eyes he betrays a flash of pain, then his body jerks and flexes. Hair begins to sprout even as his bones contort. He looks like he is fighting the transformation, but he is fighting a losing battle.
For one last, lingering second he looks on her with the green eyes she knows. Then he is the wolf, and when she looks into its eyes, Scott is gone. The beast has yellow eyes, without so much as a spark of humanity left.
The beast growls, baring its teeth. It lunges for her, sinking long, sharp canines into her throat. She cannot scream. Her heart is trying to escape her chest. Her throat works again and again, but the scream will not come.
She can smell the blood. It's everywhere. The beast is going to eat her alive. It lowers its muzzle to sink its teeth into her belly and tear out her intestines – the part it likes best. She knows what will happen next, and there is nothing she can do about it.
If only whoever is calling her on the phone could help her. If only ...
* * *
Sweat drenched Madison's sheets when she finally managed to pull herself away from her recurring nightmare long enough to understand that the phone truly was ringing at two in the morning. She fumbled with several objects on her nightstand before finding the phone, but she had long-since missed the call. Her blood ran cold when she saw that it had been Clinton who'd phoned in the dead of night.
No word for a month and now this? A phone call at two in the morning?
Madison crawled out of bed, removed her sweat-drenched night shirt, then fumbled through her drawer for another. She wanted a shower. She wanted to change the bed. She settled for a dry shirt before taking a seat on the floor near the foot of her full-sized bed and returning her brother's call.
He answered on the first ring. "Oh, thank God."
Madison's pulse jumped. "What's going on?
"I need your help."
"You're in trouble." It wasn't a question. "What do you need? Money?" Although, now that she thought about it, if he needed money he could have picked a more reasonable hour to call.
"I don't need money." Clinton drew in a deep breath, as though steeling himself for something. "I need magic."
Magic? Madison sat up straighter, the last tendrils of sleepiness melting away as if they had never been. Sure, she had a little bit of magic, but Clinton knew how she felt about using it. And even if using magic didn't make her feel somehow tainted, the fact remained that she really couldn't use it. Magic required a combination of potential, effort, and study. She had little potential, didn't care to put out much effort, and had only studied enough basics so she wouldn't hurt anyone with what little potential she did have.
Unless ... "What do you mean by magic, exactly? Do you want me to sing for you?" Most outsiders didn't understand the distinction – Madison herself had only started to understand in the past year or so – but a gift was not the same thing as magic. Her songbird gift was tied to the soul and was as instinctive as breathing. She almost couldn't not do it, which was something she had never been able to explain to Phillip.
"No, that's not it. I need real magic."
"You know I don't have enough to count." But Madison had a feeling she knew where this was going.
"You can ask your other brother for help." Clinton said, confirming her suspicion. He always sounded jealous when he talked about her other brother, as if her recent discovery of the existence of a half brother meant she felt differently about him.
"Why don't you tell me what's going on first?"
"I don't want you to freak out."
"How can I not freak out when you call me at two in the morning?" Madison's voice rose as all her worst fears came tumbling back through her mind.
"More, then. I don't want you to freak out more. But I need some magical help, and I need you to get it for me."
"Wait a second, are you honestly suggesting that I act as a go-between when I don't even know what it is I'm going between?"
"Yeah. Pretty much."
"Madison." Clinton had switched to his wheedling tone. If he were there in person, looking at her with the big brown puppy dog eyes they had both inherited from their mother, it might have worked.
"Clinton," Madison said, trying and failing to match his tone. "The thing is. Look. I can't handle losing you right now."
"Why would you lose me?" Madison could feel her heart pounding a little faster in response to the fear in her brother's voice. She had never heard anything quite like it there before. Her palms felt slick, and it was hard to hold onto the phone.
"If I told you what was wrong, I might. It's-look, I called because I met someone tonight who swears he can help me, but I don't trust him."
"You should go with your instincts."
"My instincts have been telling me to run away, but I can't run from this."
"From what?" Madison didn't yell, but it was a near thing. She felt like a string about to snap in two.
"This guy I met says tomorrow will be too late."
"The guy you don't trust? What happens tomorrow night?"
Clinton didn't respond. Madison's mind whirled. What would happen tomorrow night? Well, that was obvious. The full moon. She always knew when the full moon was coming because ...
No. It couldn't be.
"Please tell me this doesn't have something to do with the full moon tomorrow night," Madison pleaded. Her hand shook and her voice trembled.
"Don't freak out."
"Okay. Okay!" Clinton was talking faster now. Breathing faster.
"You know that girl I told you about last time I called? Clara, the new waitress at Chili's?"
"Four weeks ago she came up to me and said she wanted to be my mate. I thought that meant she wanted to ... well, you know. So I said sure, great. She wanted to drive out to this secluded spot to do it, so I took her, but when we got there she took off. Then the moon rose, and out came this giant thing ... hard to describe ... it didn't really look like a wolf. I ran for my car, but it bit me on the back of the knee just before I got inside."
It was a good thing Madison was sitting on the floor, because if she hadn't been, she would have fallen. She knew the rest of the story, even before Clinton told her the details. The next day he got sick. Really, really sick. He almost died. He was sick for three weeks and missed his finals. When he woke up, it was to find Clara tending him. She seemed happy that he'd survived, and that he would now be a werewolf just like her.
"I didn't want to believe her," Clinton whispered. His voice was so low she barely heard him. "All week, I've been trying to figure a way out of it. It's not like I didn't grow up believing in things like werewolves, but you don't want to think it can happen to you, you know? And I've been in Springfield for three years, where most people don't believe in magic."
Madison could feel the delicate threads of her life slipping through her fingers once again. She should be used to it by now, perhaps, but this ... In her worst nightmares she never could have imagined this.
"Madison, are you still there?" Clinton's voice sounded far away, and agitated, as if he had been trying to get her attention for a while.
"You're freaking out."
"I'm fine." She wasn't. Her whole body was shaking. From somewhere in the bowels of the house the air conditioning kicked on; it felt like a draft of arctic wind.
"I need help, Madison. I don't know who else to ask. Clara's so strong and has such good hearing. I had trouble getting away from her. Tonight I did, and then I met this guy at a bar ... he says if I go with him he can fix me, but it has to be before the full moon. Before the first, um, transformation."
Madison didn't believe there was a way to fix it, but she couldn't tell him that, not when he had called her for hope. He wasn't the only one who needed hope.
"I'm scared," Clinton said.
"Can you help me?"
"Don't go with him," Madison ordered. "Promise me you won't. I'll get you some help, one way or another."
Madison closed her eyes and swallowed, hard, knowing what this promise would mean. Clinton thought it was simple. He thought there would be a cure. She knew better, and she knew that however powerful her other brother was, Evan Blackwood wasn't the man who could help Clinton. The man who could help Clinton was the reason she couldn't sleep at the full moon, and the reason she had so many nightmares at other times of the month. He was the reason her hair clung damply to her forehead at that very moment, and the reason she needed to change her sheets.
"Really," Madison promised.
Excerpted from Madison's Song by Christine Amsden. Copyright © 2015 Christine Amsden. Excerpted by permission of Twilight Times Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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