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Excerpt for Pantar by , available in its entirety at Smashwords







PANTAR






PANTAR















Ginger Elinburg







Copyright© 2015 Ginger Elinburg





All rights reserved as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the Author. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the publisher.









This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, are coincidental.















Special thanks to everyone who took the time to help me with suggestions, word usage and picking out names for some of my characters.







As ever, to my girls, thank you for making me want to be a better person.

Amber, Tiffani and Paige



Other Works by Ginger Elinburg


Wicked

Wicked Welcome (Book 1)

Beyond Wicked (Book 2)

Wicked: Family Ties (Book 3)

Pantar (Book 4)

Damien: The Guardian (Book 5)

Dimitri: Deadly Obsession (Book 6)

Donovan: Unleashed (Book 7)



Standalone

Hunted by Death

Always Girl

Sharp Edges

Whispered Deceit

Killian's Pass

Draçon

Hunted by Death II

~ 1 ~

“You know if maman catches you doing that you’ll be in trouble.”

“Shut up. She’ll never catch me. Besides, I saw you doing the same thing last night.” Dimitri extended his claws, marveling over how sharp they looked.

Donovan stared down at his own hand and wiggled his fingers. “I tried to do it, but I couldn’t”

“Maybe not, but you called up a fire orb and that’s way worse than this.”

“She’ll have both of your asses if she finds out you’re testing your powers unsupervised.”

The boys spun toward the door and looked up at Nicolas. Leaning against the door frame, he looked from Donovan’s purple eyes to Dimitri’s bright green eyes. “How many times do we have to tell you guys, it’s too dangerous for you to practice alone?”

“You tell ‘em Uncle Nick.” Pushing past him, Damien walked into the room carrying a plate full of sandwiches, a two liter soda and a tote bag full of junk food.

Nicolas arched a black eyebrow and watched as the boys passed the plate around, each taking three sandwiches. “Hungry much?”

“Maman says growing boys have to eat. Would you argue with her if she were giving you food?”

Pushing away from the door, Nicolas walked into the room and started rummaging around in the bag. “You got any peanut butter cups in here?”

“What are y’all doing?”

Damien rolled his silver eyes in frustration. “Sha, you know you’re supposed to knock before coming in here.”

Flopping down on the bed beside him, she snatched up one of his sandwiches and took a bite. “You’re just worried I’ll walk in on you and catch you reading one of those magazines you have stashed under the mattress.”

Nicolas looked up from the bag. “What magazines?”

Shooting Sasha an evil glare, he looked at his uncle and felt his face turning red. “It’s nothing. Just a few magazines a friend let me borrow.”

Nicolas’ face twisted into a look of disgust. “Please tell me you didn’t just say you borrowed girlie magazines from a friend?”

“So… it’s no big deal.” Damien puffed out his chest and looked at Nicolas, as if daring him to disagree.

Looking at Sasha, Nicolas shook his head before casting his thoughts out to Damien. “What do you think your friend does when he looks at those magazines?”

Sasha covered her mouth to hide her smile when Damien’s nose wrinkled as understanding set in. “I can guess what Uncle Nick told you. Gross.” Laughing at her brother’s embarrassment, she jumped up from the bed and darted from the room.

“Exactly.” Looking back at the tote full of junk food, Nicolas made a show of wiping his hands on his jeans. “I think I’ll go see if your Aunt Christina wants to grill burgers or something.”

Nicolas walked out of the room but stopped in the hall when he heard Donovan whisper. “What did he say?”

“You heard him. Stop looking at me like that, you looked at the magazines too.”

Nicolas shook his head and walked off, laughing when he heard Donovan and Dimitri making gagging noises.

Walking down the stairs, he looked toward the open front door when he heard his wife’s low, throaty laughter.

Pushing open the screen door, he stepped out onto the front porch. “What’s so funny?”

Christina looked at him before inclining her head toward the front yard.

Walking over to her, he leaned a hip against the porch railing and watched as Camille jumped away from Nadia.

“Get your butt right back over here little missy! I’ve told you time and time again to stop putting that crap in your hair.”

“But mooooooom…..”

“Don’t you ‘but mom’ me. Here…now.” Crossing her arms, she tapped her foot and waited for Camille to walk back over to her.

Camille looked toward the porch, her amber eyes pleading with Nicolas and Christina. “Tell her everyone wears feather clips in their hair.”

Nicolas started nodding and Christina laid a hand on his forearm. “Your mom has her reasons, I’m sure.”

Poking her lip out in a pout, Camille unclipped the feathers and walked over to place them in Nadia’s outstretched hand. Looking down at her mother, she blinked and gave her a sad look before leaning forward and kissing her cheek. “Sorry, momma.”

Closing her hand, Nadia nodded and looked away to hide her satisfied smile. “Are these the last ones?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good.”

Opening her hand, Nadia let the feathers slide free and whispered a fire spell.

Camille lowered her head and watched as the feathers burned to ash before they even touched the ground. “When will I learn that spell?”

Nadia stepped forward and wrapped her arm around her daughter’s waist. “When you’re ready to listen. Right now, we’ll just practice on shifting and controlling yourself during the shift.”

“Moooooom!!! Celesta won’t take my necklace off!”

Nadia sighed and dropped her arm as they started up the front steps. “Chloé stop being a tattletale. Celesta, give her back her necklace and ask to borrow it next time.”

Celesta rolled her eyes and waved her hand, smiling when the necklace dropped into her sister’s hair, causing her to squeak in fright.

“Celesta! Who taught you that?”

Celesta took a quick step back when Nadia tried to grab her arm. “No one, momma, I just knew it.”

Nadia looked at the triplets, studying them through narrowed eyes. “Can all of you do that?” Camille and Chloé shook their heads. “Are there things that you can do that we haven’t taught you?”

Chloé chewed her lip and looked toward the forest.

“Chloé?”

Without saying a word, she disappeared.

Nadia’s mouth dropped open and she spun in a circle looking for Chloé. “What the he….”

Chloé reappeared, smiling and holding a fistful of flowers.

“Camille, what about you?” Nadia was still staring at Chloé, her mind racing trying to find the meaning behind what she was learning about her children.

Turning her attention to Camille, Nadia could tell by the way she was chewing on her jaw and twisting her fingers that she was nervous. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, mom, she’s just a little nervous is all. It’s okay, Mille, show her.”

Nodding, Camille took a deep breath and stared at Nadia, waiting for her reaction.

Nadia stood, frozen, hand over her mouth and looked at the woman standing in her daughters place.

“Holy shit! That’s . . . that’s amazing.” Nicolas walked around the woman, throwing quick glances at Nadia. “It’s you. She is you.”

“How is this possible?” Nadia held her hand out but she couldn’t bring herself to touch the woman standing in front of her.

“I don’t know. I just…”

“No, don’t speak, just change back.” Nadia breathed a sigh of relief when Camille stood before her once more. “Now, tell me how you found out you could do this.”

Camille shrugged and stared at the porch floor. “It just happened.”

Nadia shook her head and crossed her arms. “Nuh uh, it didn’t just happen. What were you doing to make it happen?”

Camille’s face turned red with embarrassment and she blinked away her tears of shame. “I was making fun of someone.”

Nadia turned a glare on Chloé and Celesta when she heard them giggling behind her. “Who were you making fun of? Knock it off you two, this is serious.”

“Damien…” Her whispered reply would’ve gone unheard by any other.

“Damien? First off you know better than to make fun of anyone and sec…”

“But mom! He was being a total butt to us, trying to boss us around; walking around with his chest poked out like a rooster.” Even as she said it, her appearance changed.

“Stop it! This isn’t a game young lady. And I thought I told you two to stop laughing? Go inside.” Pointing toward the front door, she waited until Chloé and Celesta were walking up the stairs toward the second floor before turning back to face Camille. “We need to talk to your sister about this. I’ve never seen any shifter with this ability.”

“I have.” Christina walked over to them and stared up into Camille’s amber colored eyes. “Your mom is right, we need to talk to Morgan about this. How long have you been able to do this?”

“Since I was thirteen.”

“Three years! You’ve been able to do this for three years and I’m just now hearing about it?” Nadia started pacing and she felt her beast rising up. “How could you keep this from me, from us?”

Christina stepped in front of Camille as if shielding her from her mother’s anger. “It’s alright, Nadia.”

“It is not alright.” Nadia’s words came out as a growl and her eyes flashed red. “She has been hiding a potentially dangerous ability from us and that is never alright. I’ve refrained from invading the girl’s thoughts because I wanted to give them privacy but I can see now just how wrong I’ve been.”

“Nadia that’s enough, you’re scaring her. Camille, go sit on the porch swing and we’ll be there shortly.” Morgan patted Camille’s arm as she walked by before turning her attention to Nadia.

“Morgan, you don’t understand, she…”

“I know. The girls found me and told me what was going on. I need you to calm down before we talk to Camille.” Grabbing Nadia’s shoulders, Morgan held her still and waited for her to regain control of her beast. “I’ve never known you to get this upset at any of your girls. Do you realize what almost happened just now?”

“I should never have giving them their privacy. I should’ve been in their thoughts from birth. How could she keep this from me, Morgan?” Nadia looked around Morgan and glared at Camille. “How?”

Morgan took Nadia’s hand in hers and guided her down the steps and across the lawn toward the woods. “Christina, can you keep an eye on things for me? I think I need some time alone with Nadia for a bit.”

Without waiting for a reply, Morgan led Nadia into the woods. “I’ll be back soon, my love.”

She smiled to herself and blushed as she heard Tréan’s reply. “Keep that sexy ass ready, mate; I’m not finished with you yet.”

Tréan had been in the process of slowly undressing her with his teeth when the girls started banging on their bedroom door; and if there’s one thing he detested, it was being interrupted during sex. “For you, I’m always ready, husband.”

As his laughter rumbled through her head, she shifted with Nadia and ran toward the river.

~ 2 ~

Nadia stomped along the riverbank, kicking the sand and mumbling under her breath. “Give them room to grow, he said. Don’t hover, he said. Well, look where that got us.”

“Nadia, please, calm down. We will get to the bottom of this and figure out why they’ve kept these things from you for so long. Just calm down.” Morgan sat on the sand and followed Nadia with her eyes as she stomped by.

“How can I calm down? How would you feel if you found out your boys were keeping secrets from you.” Stopping suddenly, she slowly turned to face Morgan. “What if they are?”

Morgan shook her head. “They think they are but they don’t know that Nicolas and Tréan share each other’s thoughts. Nicolas overheard Dimitri saying Donovan called up a fire orb last night.”

“But we know he can do that. They all have the power to create magic, but what else can they do?” Nadia nodded as she saw doubt enter Morgan’s eyes. “Maybe we need to call a family meeting.”

“Maybe you’re right.” Standing, Morgan dusted off her jeans and turned back toward the woods. “Are you going to put some clothes on?”

Sighing, Nadia mumbled the clothing spell that Christina had taught them. “I don’t think I’ll ever get the hang of shifting back to human form fully clothed.”

Morgan laughed as she looped her arm through Nadia’s. “Give it time, after all, you’ve had more important things to worry about for the last sixteen years.”

Arm in arm, they made their way through the woods, making plans for dinner and talking about mundane things.

As they stepped from the woods, they stopped short and stared, open mouthed, at Nicolas chasing Christina around the yard.

“Come back here, you little witch!”

“Get away from me, you horrible, horrible man.” Turning to face him, she lifted her middle finger and jumped to the side, dodging his outstretched arms.

Turning to run, she was lifted off her feet, as Nicolas wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her up against him. “You know better than to run from me, witch.”

He twisted his head to the side to avoid her flailing arm before catching her wrist in his free hand. “I never knew you to be scared of anything. What’s the matter anyway? It’s just a little pee.”

She gritted her teeth as his laughter rumbled in her ear. “Let me go, Nicolas. I’m not peeing on anything so just forget it.”

Morgan threw Nadia a concerned look before quickly making her way across the yard to stand in front of Nicolas. “What’s going on here?”

“Do you want to tell her or should I?” Nicolas’ voice was a sensual whisper against the curve of her ear.

Shivering, she moved her head to the side and tried to glare up at him. “You’re a bastard, you know that right?”

“So you’ve told me at least four times this week.” Leaning forward he nipped her ear before smiling down at Morgan. “She’s fighting me because I want…..”

“He wants my pee!”

Morgan wrinkled her nose and looked at Nicolas from the corner of her eye. “That’s…. disturbing. Mind if I ask why he wants your…pee?”

When she tightened her lips, refusing to answer, Nicolas answered for her. “I think she’s pregnant.”

“Bastard.”

“Make that five times.” Setting Christina back on her feet, he kept his arms around her waist and held her as she tried to wriggle away.

Morgan looked at Christina and smiled, “Do you mind?” When Christina shook her head, Morgan laid her hand on her stomach. She was silent for a few minutes before stepping back and looking up at Nicolas. “You can let her go now.”

Concern caused him to tighten his hold and pull her closer. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Right now? Well, right now he’s angry that you’ve upset his mother.”

Christina’s mouth dropped open and she stared at Morgan with wide eyes. “I’m….I’m really going to have a baby?”

At Morgan’s nod, she turned in her husband’s arms and buried her face in his chest as sobs wracked her body.

Smoothing his hand over her hair, Nicolas held his wife as she cried. “Shhh, baby, it’s going to be okay. I thought you’d be happy about this.”

“Oh Nicolas, you don’t understand.” Pulling back, she stared up at him through her tears. “I didn’t think I could give you a child. We’ve been trying for so long, I had giving up on having a baby.”

“So….these are happy tears?” Using his thumbs, he gently wiped the tears from her face.

Nodding she hugged him tight and laid her head back on his chest. “We’re going to have a baby.”

Morgan motioned for Nadia to follow her as she made her way to the front porch. “I think they need some privacy and we need to talk to Caleb and Tréan before we call our family meeting.”

Stepping up onto the porch, Nadia walked over to the swing and stared down at Camille. “I’m sorry I got so angry earlier. We’ll be calling a family meeting later and we can discuss everything then.”

Camille looked at her hands and nodded. “I’m sorry for not telling you, momma.”

Nadia leaned forward and kissed the top of her head. “I know baby. You can go find your sisters now if you want.”

Nadia stepped back when Camille stood up. “Do you want me to tell them about the meeting?”

Nadia looked toward Morgan, who nodded. “Sure. And then come to the kitchen and help us get supper started.”

“Mooooom….”

Nadia and Morgan shared a knowing look as they watched Camille walk into the house. “Teenagers, they’re the best, right?”

They were standing at the island when Christina walked into the kitchen. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Morgan looked up from the onions she was cutting and sniffed back her tears. “You can help with the onions, if you don’t mind. Cutting enough for this crew makes a person want to ban them from the menu.”

Laughing, Christina pulled a knife from the chopping block and reached for an onion. “Well, we’ll be adding another one to the lot soon.” Dicing the onions, she was day dreaming about her future baby when she felt a hand on her wrist. Looking up, her smile fell when she saw the concern in Morgan’s face. “What?”

“What were you saying just now?”

Shaking her head, Christina laid her knife down and went to the sink to wash her hands. “I wasn’t saying anything.”

Nadia wiped her own hands and leaned back against the counter. “No, you were talking. I heard you as well. It sounded like a chant of some kind.”

“A chant? Did you hear any of the words?”

“No, well we heard them, but they were spoken so quickly and I’ve never heard the language either.” Morgan walked over to Christina and, without asking, laid her hand across her stomach. “He is fine; although, his heart is beating a little stronger than it did earlier.”

“Maybe that’s what the chant was all about? Helping him grow stronger?” Christina placed her hands over her flat stomach and smiled as she imagined it being round from her growing son.

“Maybe you’re right.” Giving Christina’s wrist a squeeze, Morgan walked across the room to stand at the kitchen door. “Girls, get in here and help us cook.” Her voice wasn’t that loud, but she had no doubt that they heard her.

Going to the pantry, she pulled the stepping stool down from its hook on the wall and opened it before climbing up. Standing on the top rung, she was on her tiptoes reaching for a jar of pickles when her foot slipped, sending her flying backwards through the air. Her heart clutched in her chest and she braced herself, waiting for the pain of hitting the floor.

“Gotcha.”

Morgan stared up into her sons beautiful mystic eyes before laying her head on his shoulder, trying to get her breathing under control.

Cradling her against his chest, Damien walked out of the pantry and carried his mother over to the kitchen table. Pulling a chair out with his foot, he sat her down before going into the pantry to get the pickles she wanted. “You’ve got to be more careful, maman.”

Morgan tried to control her trembling body and lifted her head from the table to stare at her son. “I’m just glad you walked in when you did, talk about perfect timing.”

She didn’t miss the look in his eyes before he turned his head away. “Yeah, perfect timing. Is there anything else you need before I go outside?”

“What are you not telling me?”

Looking back at her, he gave her his most charming smile, the one he used to get what he wanted. “Maman, you know I can’t keep anything from you.” Walking over to her, he placed a kiss on her furrowed brow before snatching up a cookie and walking from the room.

“He’s lying.”

Morgan looked over at Nadia. “Yeah, no shit. Did either of you see him come into the kitchen?”

“I was washing the cutting board. Christina did you notice him?”

Christina shook her head. “I was turning the chicken to keep it from burning.” Her words came out jagged as she continued shaking the paper bag that contained seasoned flour and raw chicken. “Maybe he came in after you called for the girls, who still aren’t here by the way.”

Nadia wiped her hands on a dish towel and looked towards the kitchen door. “Go find your daughters and tell them to get their asses to the kitchen.”

Why is it, when they’re in trouble, they suddenly become my daughters instead of our daughters?”

Because they get selective hearing like their father maybe?”

Caleb’s deep laughter caused her heart to race. “I always hear you, sugar.”

Ahhh, but do you listen? Go on and get the girls, we need their help to finish supper at a decent hour.”

Smiling, her eyes sparkled with amusement when she turned towards Morgan. “Caleb’s getting them for us. What should we have them do as punishment for not listening?”

A wicked smile teased the edges of Morgan’s mouth. “I think they should have to make the biscuits and the pie shells.”

Christina burst out laughing. “Oh they are going to hate you for that. You know they don’t like getting dough under their nails.”

“I know.” Morgan winked and covered her smile when the door swung open and the three girls filed into the room.

“Sorry we’re late, momma. Where do you want us to start?” Chloé picked up a cookie and took a bite, pulling out a chair to sit down.

Nadia snapped her fingers and pointed at Chloé. “No ma’am. Push that chair right back under the table and start getting down the mixing bowls. Celesta, you get the flour from the fridge and Camille, you get the pans ready for the ovens.”

All three girls groaned when they realized they were in charge of making the biscuits.

Camille crossed her arms and started tapping her foot as she narrowed her eyes at her sisters. “One of you will have to roll out the biscuit dough.”

Morgan stood up and wrapped her arm around Camille’s shoulder, giving her a squeeze as she smiled up into her face. “That means you get to make the dough for the pie crust. Way to step up and pitch in, little sister.”

Camille stiffened and looked down at Morgan. “Seriously? But that’s….that’s worse than making biscuits.”

“Well, I figured the first one that came in with an attitude, after ignoring us, deserved to make the pie crust. Unless you’d rather finish up the chicken.” Morgan pointed toward Christina, who held up her hands, caked with flour, milk and eggs.

Camille shuddered and stepped out from under Morgan’s arm. “That’s alright; making pie crust is….fine.”

“Thought so. Nadia?” When Nadia looked up, Morgan nodded her head toward the door that led to the basement. “Would you go down there with me please?”

Nadia walked over to Morgan and stared at her with questioning eyes. “What’s wrong?”

Morgan shook her head. “It’s nothing, I’m still shaken up a little from the fall and I’d feel better if someone went down there with me.” When Nadia continued looking at her, Morgan took her hand and laced their fingers. “It’s fine, really.”

Opening the door, Morgan flipped on the light and led the way down the stairs. Stepping off the bottom step, she stood for a minute and looked around the room. “You’d think after all these years I’d be over my nervousness of being underground.”

“It’s understandable, but at least we know the layout of this basement and it’s sealed off from any negative entities.” Nadia turned to the left and walked down the hallway, passing four doors before stopping in front of the fifth one. Lifting her hand, she knocked on the door before turning the handle. “Méric, are you in here?”

The rustle of cloth drew her attention to the corner of the room. Méric was looking at her with questioning eyes and a saucy smile.

“Nadia, is there something I can help you with?” His eyes slowly traveled the length of her body before returning to her face. Licking his lips, he stood up and walked over to stand in front of her.

Nadia retreated a few steps and looked toward Morgan. “Méric? Are you okay?”

Hearing Nadia’s voice shake, Morgan rushed to her side and looked into the room. “I think we should go back upstairs…now.”

Méric’s eyes were swirling from blue to black when he looked toward Morgan. “Is there a problem, Mistress?”

“Nothing I can’t handle.”

Three pairs of eyes looked down the hall and watched as Nicolas came down the stairs. “Méric, we’ve talked about this. You can’t stay down here staring at the security monitors all the time. Come with me.”

Méric looked back at the women before bowing low. “Forgive me, Mistress, Nadia, I forget my place.” Stepping around them he followed Nicolas up the stairs, glancing back once with a wink.

“That was fucking weird.”

“No doubt.” Morgan rubbed her arms as if chilled, “Let’s just get the apples and get the hell back upstairs. Tell me… why did we think buying another house with a basement was a good idea?”

“Beats the shit out of me, but we all agreed this would suit our family.” Nadia walked further down the hall and into the cold room where the apples were stored. “How many do we need?”

Walking around her, Morgan picked up a stainless bowl and started piling apples inside it. “Two of these bowls should be enough, if not…fuck it, we’ll figure out a second dessert.”

Nadia looked toward the ceiling and sighed. “They’re arguing again. Come on, we may just have to send them back outside.”

Morgan propped her bowl on her hip and turned out the lights before closing the door behind them. “You ever think that maybe they argue just to get out of finishing their chores?”

Nadia was still shaking her head when they stepped into the kitchen. Her mouth dropped open and she stared from one daughter to the next. “What…have y’all…done?”

Morgan almost dropped her bowl as she doubled over laughing. “And I thought my boys were a handful.”

“This isn’t funny Morgan! Look at them, look at the mess they’ve made.”

“Celesta started it, she….” Chloé sputtered as flour puffed up from her bowl and landed in her mouth. Anger made her face turn red and she looked toward Camille.

Camille’s outraged scream echoed through the kitchen and she began picking wet pie dough from her hair. “You little…” Balling up the dough, she drew back her arm and threw it at Chloé; who ducked and stood up laughing.

“You missed, ha ha…..what? Why are you looking at me like that?”

Camille lifted a shaking hand and pointed over Chloé’s shoulder. Turning her head slowly, Chloé sucked in a shocked breath. “You’re in so much trouble, Mille.”

Sitting her bowl on the counter, Nadia reached up and began wiping the dough from her face. She spoke without looking at either of her daughters. “You will clean up this mess, finish making the biscuits and pie crust and then….then you’ll deal with me.”

Morgan jumped back when Nadia turned to face her. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go wash this mess off and cool down before I lose what’s left of my temper.” When she stormed from the room, they followed the sounds of her footsteps with their eyes as she stomped up the stairs and down the hallway; slamming the door to her room.

“You heard her, clean up this mess and finish what you were told to do. Christina, let’s leave the rest of the meal to them.” Walking from the room she turned back and looked at them. “You’ve got two hours to get supper finished; don’t screw it up and don’t make me send your father in here.”

As the door closed behind her, Morgan could hear them as they started a whispered argument.

“It’s all your fault, Celesta. Why’d you splash me with milk?”

“It was an accident, you big cry baby. Don’t you throw that at me!”

Morgan spoke under her breath and smiled when all three girls screamed in surprise.

“Your sister thought I needed to come see what you girls were up to.”

Caleb’s deep voice held a hint of laughter as it reached Morgan’s ear. Looking over at Christina, she smiled and started walking toward the sitting room. “Shall we take a break, then?”

Sasha had just finished drying the last plate when Morgan walked into the kitchen. “We’re about to call the family meeting and I wanted to see if you needed help finishing up in here.”

Sasha smiled at her mother before leaning down and kissing her cheek. “I’m finished, maman, but thanks for offering.”

“I don’t understand why you don’t use the dishwasher or even a cleaning spell instead of washing dishes by hand.”

“Because someone I love very much taught me a long time ago that just because I can doesn’t always mean that I should. Besides, washing dishes relaxes me and it gives me a lot of time to think.” Wiping down the counter with a disinfecting wipe, Sasha looked over at Morgan when she cleared her throat. “What’s the matter, maman?”

“You’re so grown up. How did you become a grown woman without me noticing?” Blinking the tears from her eyes, Morgan pulled a wipe from its jug and started wiping down the stove.

“Trust me, you noticed. Don’t you remember all those arguments we had with you telling me I was still a child while I was demanding that I was a grown up?” Shaking her head, Sasha scoffed. “Little did I know how right you were. Was I ever as bad as the aunts though?”

“I don’t remember you ever giving me that much trouble. But you have to admit, you were one hell of a brat at times.” Morgan laughed to herself as she remembered the time Sasha tried to cut her hair.

“That’s wasn’t funny, maman. Not only did you make it impossible for me to cut my hair, you turned it a hideous shade of green for a week.”

“As I recall, you wore that green hair like it was your favorite color. You came up with some pretty amazing hair styles that week too.” Morgan tossed her used disinfecting wipe in the trash and washed her hands. “Let’s go find the others and get the meeting started.”

Walking into the study a few minutes later, Morgan looked around the room at her family. They were all seated around the table that sat in the middle of the room, talking in small groups. The only one who was quiet was Méric, as he stared down at the phone in his hand.

Looking up he noticed that she was watching him closely. “Mistress Morgan, good evening.” Standing quickly, he rushed to her side and pulled out her chair.

“Thank you Méric. Is there a problem with the security system?” She waited for him to return to his chair before she sat down.

“I’m not sure, Mistress. The alarm along the outer bank of the river keeps going off but so far I can’t find a reason for it.” Picking up his phone, he hit a few buttons and then pointed at the large flat screen monitor hanging on the wall. “As you can see, it’s going off right now but, when I switch to the camera view, there’s nothing there.”

“Search the entire embankment and the surrounding forest. We have spells in place but, as we learned many years ago, they don’t always keep out the unwanted.” When he looked at her with a raised eyebrow she nodded. “It was bad. I’d like for you to go check everything out now please.”

Standing, he bowed toward her before turning and leaving the room.

Nicolas cleared his throat to get her attention. “Is there a reason you didn’t want him at this meeting? We’ve always included him.”

Holding up her hand for silence, Morgan cast a spell to sound proof the room and blind any hidden cameras. “Tréan, I need you and Nicolas to search this room and look for any listening devices or cameras. Caleb, I need you to keep track of Méric. I want to know what he’s doing and where he’s going.”

When they looked at her in confusion, she sighed. “Nadia and I noticed he was acting strange earlier and now we’re having security problems. Did any of you happen to notice the paw prints in the sand along the river bank?”

“I saw them.” All eyes turned toward Damien. Standing, he walked over to the TV and passed his hand in front of it. Suddenly the screen was once again filled with the images of the river bank. “Look here, to the right. See those paw prints? Those don’t belong to any of us and I find it odd that Méric didn’t notice them.”

“But we all missed them; you can’t blame him for missing them when we didn’t see them either.” Christina crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair, frustration making her eyes narrow.

“It’s understandable that we’d miss them, but he’s being paid to notice shit like that. Sorry, maman.” Damien’s cheeks flamed red with embarrassment as he looked down at his hands.

“Right now, I’m more concerned with how you’re able to do that.”

“Do what? Turn on the TV?”

Morgan nodded and pointed toward the TV. “That too but how’d you spot the tracks? Méric only flashed that angle for a second.”

Damien shrugged. “It’s the first thing I saw when it came on the screen. I was waiting for him to point them out but…”

“But he didn’t.” Nicolas ran a hand through his hair before looking toward Morgan. “When I took him out earlier he was quiet and he stayed away from the river’s edge. I tried to get him to go down to the beach for a swim but he refused. Do you think there’s a chance that whatever is down there, it’s got him scared?”

“It’s possible but that doesn’t explain his behavior. Did you happen to ask him about that?”

“He asked him, but Méric acted like he didn’t know what Nicolas was talking about.” Tréan came back to the table and tossed down three cameras and a small microphone. “Did you find anything on your side of the room?”

Nicolas walked over and slammed his palm on the table. When he removed his hand, four shattered pieces of metal lay on the table. “Why? Why would he spy on us in here when he’s been to every one of our meetings? It doesn’t make sense.”

You know why. How many times have you fucked Christina on this table?”

Nicolas roared with fury and turned toward the door. Morgan jumped up and stepped in his path, holding out her hands. “Wait! We don’t know that he’s the one who put the cameras in here!”


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