Eighteen-year-old Marisa MacCallum always believed that the man of her dreams was out there somewhere. The problem is--hes in another dimension.
After the death of her father, Marisa only wants to find comfort on her daily ride through the woods of Gold Hill. But when a mysterious lightning storm suddenly strikes, she is hurled into the alternate dimension of Carnelia where she is discovered by an arrogant yet attractive nobleman, Darian Fiore.
Stranded in an ancient world teeming with monsters, maniacs and medieval knights, she is forced to join Darian on a dangerous mission to negotiate peace with his cousin and archenemy, Savino da Rocha. Along the way, she starts to see Darian's softer side and unwillingly falls in love. But once she discovers that he is locked into an arranged marriage, her heart shatters.
When Savino falls for her charms and demands her hand in exchange for peace, Marisa is faced with an impossible choice: marry the enemy of the man she loves or betray them both and become the catalyst for a bloody war.
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About the Author
Cheryl Koevoet is a native of Portland, Oregon. She currently lives near The Hague, The Netherlands with her husband, four children, one sly tabby and the laziest greyhound on the planet. The Carnelian Legacy is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Carnelian Legacy
Book One of The Carnelian Legacy Series
By Cheryl Koevoet
Abbott PressCopyright © 2015 Cheryl L. Koevoet
All rights reserved.
It was the last place in the world she wanted to be.
Marisa MacCallum wiped away the tears that blurred her vision and stared at the mahogany casket. Maybe he was waiting for them at home. Maybe she would wake up to find that it had all been a dream.
But it wasn't a dream. It was a horrible nightmare.
Nearly a week had passed, and she couldn't believe her father was gone—his bright blue eyes and infectious grin still lingered in her thoughts. The smooth, baritone voice that had carried the slightest hint of a Scottish accent to his dying day still echoed through her mind.
She thought about that Saturday morning last fall when they'd cleaned out the garage, spending hours going through boxes of records, books, clothes and other stuff while remembering old times and laughing.
Just as she was closing up a box of old clothes to give to the Goodwill, her father let it slip that his cancer had returned much worse than before. Although he had fought the cancer years before and had seemingly won, the horrible disease returned with even greater aggression, shattering her dreams faster than they could say chemotherapy.
Stunned by his startling revelation, her entire world collapsed in an instant as her life took a dramatic turn into unfamiliar territory. Weekends that should have been spent enjoying football games, the homecoming dance and trips to the coast were crammed instead with hospital visits, trips to the grocery store and picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy.
Sure, his doctors had been surprised at how fast the cancer had spread, but none of them had predicted he wouldn't last another six weeks. Cancer was something that affected other families—not theirs. How could a man with such physical, mental and emotional strength succumb to his disease? It was almost as if he had just given up in the end.
And now that he was gone, Marisa realized that she'd been so busy managing the MacCallum household that senior year at South Medford High seemed little more than a blip on the radar. Not even her dreams of attending the pre-med program at UC Irvine could survive the storm of her father's illness.
"Amen," Pastor Holman said finally, breaking the silence.
Fighting back tears as the bagpiper's final note of "Amazing Grace" melted away into peaceful silence, Marisa shifted her gaze to the bouquet of fresh daisies at the next grave. The marble headstone was weathered and pitted from years of coastal winds and rain, but now at least her mother was no longer alone.
Staring up at the tall sequoias on the far side of the cemetery, she fought to keep Joe Robertson's moving tribute from affecting her. He'd been a friend of the family for as long as she could remember and their rock during each and every storm. Hearing his gravelly voice quiver and shake with each mention of her father was unnerving, and she had to look away.
Joyful times that had been spent with Dad, talking and laughing about every aspect of life now seemed painful, stabbing at her heart and crushing her chest to the point of where she almost couldn't breathe. She chewed on her lip and drew a long lock of chestnut hair behind her ear, sneaking a glance at her brother. Mark was staring at the lily-covered casket through red, puffy eyes. His hands were clasped in front of him, his head bowed solemnly. The way his shoulders were hunched over in a mode of defeat made her stomach tighten, and yet, she was determined not to cry. But when a pitiful sniffle erupted from her uncle standing next to her, she wanted to turn and bolt.
With his chestnut hair and sparkling blue eyes, Alistair MacCallum was the surviving carbon copy of their father—his tears were the hardest ones to bear. And now that Dad was gone, Marisa and her brother Mark were the only family the forty-eight-year-old real estate agent still had left.
She dabbed her cheeks with a crumpled tissue and took her uncle's hand, giving it a loving squeeze. He gazed down at her, his rugged, handsome face forcing a half-hearted smile.
"Can I have the keys?" she whispered.
Her uncle nodded, rummaging around in his coat pocket. "Here," he said softly, surrendering them with a heavy sigh.
She buttoned her wool coat and hurried down the hill to the parking lot, anxious to escape the notice of her father's coworkers. The staff of Rogue Valley Realty meant well, but she wasn't in the mood to hear from them what a terrific guy her dad had been.
For the past decade or so, the real estate duo of Alan and Alistair MacCallum had helped hundreds of families purchase homes in their sleepy southern Oregon town of Jacksonville.
Known as honest men of integrity and all-around nice guys, the MacCallum brothers knew more than half the people in the county—most of them on a first-name basis. But no amount of kind words could ever bring him back now. So all she wanted to do was just leave that creepy cemetery and never come back.
"Risa! Wait up!"
Marisa glanced over her shoulder and saw Danielle, her best friend since third grade.
"Are you leaving already?" The short brunette with a pixie haircut panted, trying to catch her breath as she studied Marisa with concern.
"Yeah, sorry—I didn't know that you'd come."
"I got here late." Danielle looked down at the ground. "Gus was yelling at me for not raking the leaves. It didn't matter that I had a funeral to go to."
"I'm so sorry, Danny," Marisa replied. "But just think; in a few more months, you'll be free from foster care for good."
The girl's dark eyes glimmered with hope. "I can't wait. Once I hit eighteen, we're going on that road trip to California that we've been putting off. Then, no one can stop me."
"Maybe by then, I'll finally feel like celebrating my birthday," Marisa remarked, feeling the tears well up in her eyes.
"Are you okay?"
"No," Marisa answered, swallowing the lump in her throat. "I've got to get outta here." She pulled her into a hug. "Call you later?"
"Sure. And again, I'm really sorry about your dad."
Releasing her, Marisa hurried away down to the parking lot and opened the passenger's side door of her uncle's Land Rover. She slid into the seat and sank down low, scanning the crowds for her uncle and Mark. She didn't see them.
Resting her head on her hand, she hoped that no one would approach the car to talk. It had been a long week since her dad's death, and she was tired of the drama. From that first panicky call with the sheriff right up until the wake with family and friends the night before, she had tried so hard to mask her pain. She'd managed pretty well until the church service earlier that morning. It was the burial service that was the most emotional, the most difficult thing to get through. It was the final goodbye.
Glancing up at the crowds that were already starting to dissipate, she saw her uncle and brother halfway up the hill. She groaned when she saw that they were chatting with Mrs. Finchley. The way that woman liked to talk, they could be there for a while. Didn't Uncle Al know how badly she just wanted to go home? But it wasn't really home anymore. Not without Dad.
Minutes later, Uncle Al and Mark finally managed to slip away. They trudged down the hill to the car and climbed in.
Without a word, Uncle Al drove down the hill toward their historic brick home on the north side of town. The colorful autumn foliage reminded Marisa that her birthday was just around the corner. But with the recent blow that their family had suffered from her dad's death, an eighteenth birthday bash was the furthest thing from her mind.
Uncle Al covered the distance in less than ten minutes, parking the Rover in the street in front of their house. Mark said nothing as he stepped out onto the curb and loosened his tie. Like Marisa, he was nearly six feet tall and far too mature for his own good. With chestnut hair and hazel eyes, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that he was her brother. Although Mark was only sixteen, waiters had offered him wine whenever their family ate at their favorite restaurant in Ashland, not suspecting that he was just an average high school sophomore.
"Why don't you go get changed while I make us some lunch?" Uncle Al suggested, unlocking the front door.
She opened her mouth to respond, but then she saw her dad's weather-beaten rocking chair on the porch—the one where he'd sat on hot summer evenings, playing his guitar. Now she'd never hear him sing again.
She brushed past them and bolted up the steps to her room, slamming the door hard enough for the neighbors to hear. She collapsed onto the window seat and buried her face in her arms, angered by the fact that everything in sight reminded her of Dad.
There was a soft knock at the door. Uncle Al opened it cautiously, poking his head in through the gap. "Aren't you going to eat?"
She wiped her eyes. "I'm not hungry."
"You haven't been eating much lately."
"Come and sit with us then." He stepped inside, closing the door softly.
"I'm going for a ride." She quickly grabbed a brush and ran it through her hair, pulling it back into a high ponytail. Securing the shorter wisps with bobby pins, she stared at her reflection, avoiding his solicitous gaze. "I'll grab something when I get back."
"Risa, I don't think you should be alone so soon after"—he didn't want to say it—"everything."
She stopped to look at him. "I'm fine. I just need ... space."
"This isn't easy for any of us, but it doesn't do any good closing yourself off. Your dad would've hated to see you like this."
"I'm doing the best I can," she whispered.
He put a hand on her shoulder, his bright blue eyes boring into hers. "Are you? Really? Because sometimes when I look at you, I wonder what happened to that carefree, freckle-faced redhead whose hazel eyes used to sparkle each time she dropped the punch line of her latest joke. Can you please tell me where that young woman went?"
"She grew up."
"Maybe you think you'll never laugh again, but someday—maybe sooner than you think—you'll be forced to make a choice."
She looked at him, puzzled. "What choice?"
"How you want to live your life. You may not be able to live the sort of life you would choose, but you can always choose the sort of life you would live."
She crossed her arms. "Meaning?"
"That you make the best of it. Anyone can let the negative things spoil one's life, but it takes true character to turn them into something useful."
"Do you mean like turning lemons into lemonade?"
"So, Dad has only been gone for four days, and I'm supposed to be happy and cheery?"
"That's not what I said. I meant that you can't afford to let the heartbreaks in life ruin your future."
He slipped his arms around her shoulders, drawing her into a hug. "You're a fighter, just like your mother. You won't give up."
She smiled gently at him. "I don't know what I'd do without you, Uncle Al. You're the only thing keeping me sane right now."
"I'm glad to help." He patted her back. "Now, about lunch—"
"I'm not hungry, really. I'll eat later."
"Are we having lunch or not?" Mark asked, barging in.
"Your sister and I were just discussing it," Uncle Al replied, moving toward the door. He looked at Marisa. "How about I make some of my fabulous club sandwiches? I'll leave them in the fridge for you when you get back."
"Sounds good. Thanks."
He stopped. "Oh, and Risa?"
"I hope you're not planning to ride up into the woods above Gold Hill. You know your dad didn't want you up there by yourself."
"She's always going up there," Mark tattled.
"Not always." Marisa glared at her brother. "Besides, everyone knows it's all a bunch of superstitious nonsense."
"It's not nonsense," Uncle Al said, wagging a finger at her. "And don't think for one moment that I'm going to let you do all the stuff your dad didn't let you do."
"You don't have to worry. Besides, I'll have my phone with me." She waved it at him.
"You two may think you're adults, but in this house you're still under my protection." Uncle Al stopped, watching her reflection in the mirror.
She grabbed her riding boots, glaring at him. "Okay! I get it! Now, will you go get your lunch and let me change?"
Mark shrugged and turned to go. Uncle Al shook his head as he closed the door behind him, still muttering to himself.
Grabbing her favorite Kutless concert tee from the laundry basket, she slipped it over her head, comforted by the clean, cotton scent. She pulled on her track sweatshirt and skinny jeans, searching her closet for the olive riding cape that had belonged to her mom years before her fatal car accident. Her dad couldn't bring himself to get rid of it and finally decided to give it to Marisa the previous winter.
The cape fit her tall, slender frame perfectly, and she wore it whenever she went out riding. Danielle thought it made her look frumpy, but she didn't care. It kept her warm, and besides, each time she wore it, she felt a little closer to the mother she had barely known.
Throwing the cape around her shoulders, she slipped an arm through her leather satchel and reached for her phone, groaning when she saw that the battery was dead.
She dug her solar charger out from under some papers on her desk and slipped it into the vinyl case. She would charge it up once she got Siena out on the trail.
As she turned to leave, the purple diary next to her track ribbons and equestrian trophies suddenly caught her eye. Her dad had given her the book the same day he'd been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer, but she'd never found the time to read it since. She grabbed the book and shoved it into her satchel, flying down the creaky old stairs.
"I'll be back in time for dinner," she called, snatching her set of keys and riding gloves from the coat rack.
"I always am."
She jogged down to the '68 Mustang that her father had bought over in Coos Bay the year before, hoping they could fix it up. But with all the doctors' visits and chemotherapy, he never seemed to have enough time.
She turned the key in the ignition, listening as the low rumble of the V-8 engine broke the silence of their sleepy neighborhood. The motor revved with impatience each time her foot tapped the gas pedal, the pumping sound of the pistons like music in her ears.
She shifted into first and stepped on the gas, rolling the window down. As the car crawled up toward the north side of town, she inhaled the scent of autumn leaves blowing in the wind. The air was crisp, fresh, and still a bit misty from the Pacific rain showers that had saturated the asphalt the night before.
With one hand on the steering wheel and the other resting on the open window, she noticed the sunlight reflecting from her diamond ring in the form of tiny rainbows flicking and bouncing across the dashboard.
The ring had belonged to her mother. When she died, Marisa's father had kept it until he felt that she was old enough to have it. She wore it on her right hand to keep their nosy neighbor, Mrs. Conroy, from starting some wild rumor that the MacCallum girl had gotten engaged. Marisa's father used to joke that whenever someone on the north side of town sneezed, the south side already knew about it before the north had a chance to say "God bless you."
Cruising up the old highway through the beautiful Rogue Valley, Marisa glanced up at the rearview mirror and saw the same silver Audi that she had spotted around town a lot lately. She didn't recognize the driver, but that didn't surprise her. Their town was always being invaded by fresh waves of rich Californians. The man in the Audi was probably some hotshot photographer shooting nature pictures up north for a couple of weeks.
As the homemade, carved sign announcing the Myrtle Ranch Stables came into view, she slowed down and turned off the highway onto a long, gravel road, following it for several hundred feet over the rise of a small hill. She turned into the empty gravel lot, parking the car under a tall ponderosa pine.
Grabbing her satchel, she hopped out and locked her door, trying to avoid the numerous mud puddles as she hurried along the dirt path. She approached the log-cabin stable and slid the door aside on its rails, smiling at the chestnut-colored mare in the middle stall.
Excerpted from The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet. Copyright © 2015 Cheryl L. Koevoet. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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