(Curse of the Phoenix, #2)
For three hundred years, Arabella’s life has been one meaningless death after another. In a cruel twist of fate, Osiris–god of the Underworld–gifts the phoenix her mortality and returns her voodoo magic. If she fails to harness her wayward magic and save a man worthy of a second chance, she’ll forfeit her power and her soul–forever.
Ex-soldier Greyson Meadows desperately wants to be freed from the nightmares and guilt that haunt him after the tragedy that brought him and Ari together. Confronted by the waif of a woman who forces him to face his worst fears, he resists, fighting the need to keep his personal demons hidden instead of setting them free.
When Ari becomes the target of her own magical blunder, it’s not just her life in danger, but now the one of the man she loves.
Excerpt - Chapter One
A snow-sleet mix pelted the flapping windshield wipers and doused the inside of the cab with a bone-freezing chill. The driver ignored any discomfort and even cracked his window to belch through the seam, then took a drag off his cigarette.
Mon Dieu, she had to pick this taxi. Arabella Durand shifted away from the smoke that mixed with the irritating atmosphere. A more perfect mood couldn’t have been staged for her pending death.
The driver belched again, filling the car with his noxious stench. Much more of him and she’d find a way to hang herself now and hope her next soul found his or her own way to survive—to hell with Osiris and his orders. But she couldn’t. She was only allowed to die for him, the Egyptian god of the Underworld, and who knew what he would test her with if she failed? Probably another three hundred years of purgatory.
She had only one option: find her mark and die. It was a cruel trick of nature, and in all the years she’d been at it, she’d never understood. No one had been there to save her people—from her. No. The god obviously hadn’t thought them worthy of a second chance. And he sure as hell didn’t think she’d learned enough to find peace in death.
The cab rolled to a stop in front of the flickering Country Store sign that highlighted the cabbie twisting in the seat. Thank the Loa for answering her prayers to end the torturous ride. Long strands of hair fell against his face as he draped a beefy arm over the back of the passenger-seat headrest. He resembled Popeye with his bulging muscles and too-tight shirt—but instead of a pretty sailor tattoo, he had a dagger piercing a skull surrounded by snakes inked into his arm. The warning didn’t go unnoticed. Ari believed in the signs the deities chose to bless on her.
The driver grunted. “Lady, are you sure?”
Sure that she’d suffer? Yes.
Sure that she’d die? Yes.
Sure that what she was about to do mattered to someone else? Yes.
Would it be enough? She paid a price with each death, but she didn’t know if she’d ever forgive herself. Too many sins laid their heads at her door.
“Yes.” She passed him a hundred—twenty more than the ride deserved—which was the last of her hard-earned cash. She’d spent the past few months as a nanny for a temp agency—not the highest-paying job around. Soon she wouldn’t need it anyway. Scooting across the seat, she held one hand to the scarf wrapped tightly around her hair. In this weather it would curl into an untamable mass and she wanted to look her best when she met the afterlife. The trip to the sun, Osiris’s home for now, would take its toll. No reason to help it along. Besides, she’d never hear the end of it if Sadie—her sister phoenix—saw her looking less than perfect.
To the women she’d spent the last three hundred years with, she was the strongest in the group. They gravitated to her whenever there was a problem, believing she would fix it or that she’d offer up some bit of wisdom to either make them laugh or cure their worries. Evidently, practicing voodoo and acting as the priestess to her village made her “all knowing.”
She’d never shared the deep sorrow she lived with, and she wouldn’t. This was her penance, her problem. She’d never tell them that she was a murderess who couldn’t face the pain of her past. She’d never see the disgust pass over their faces when they learned she’d wiped out her family and friends in one spell gone bad.
The driver cleared his throat, drawing her back to the problem at hand. One bushy eyebrow rose. “You staying or going?”
“Going.” She scooted to the edge of the seat and called back, “Merci.”
The passenger window hummed, lowering and allowing the man’s bellow to catch her while she picked her way across the frozen ground. What now?
He leaned forward with one arm planted across the back of the seat. “It’s a long way back to town. Should I wait?”
Ice droplets slapped against her slim-fitting, white leather jacket. Despite the misery caused by the rain, she couldn’t ignore him. She hadn’t expected concern from the man who hadn’t said more than a handful of sentences during the half-hour drive here. Hoping the smile she plastered on her face didn’t show the pain shuddering through her, Ari shook her head. “No, thank you.”
Wouldn’t do any good—after the god was done with her, there wouldn’t be anything left.
She spun back around and hurried toward her target and the shack/station/grocery. The store’s crack-riddled bricks supported a wavy roof. One corner of the metal topping smacked against the building with the rhythm of the wind. A few more cadences and she’d have all the makings of a good ritual beat. How many hours had she danced in front of a roaring fire to heal her people?
Let it go, girl. You can’t help them now.
Rachel Firasek grew up in the south and despite the gentle pace, she harassed life at full steam. Her curiosity about mythology, human nature, and the chemical imbalance we call love led her to writing. Her stories began with macabre war poems and shifted to enchanted fairytales, before she settled on a blending of the two.
Today you’ll find her tucked on a small parcel of land, surrounded by bleating sheep and barking dogs, with her husband and children. She entertains them all with her wacky sense of humor or animated reenactments of bad 80’s dance moves.
She’s intrigued by anything unexplained and seeks the answers to this crazy thing we call life. You can find her where the heart twists the soul and lights the shadows… or at www.rachelfirasek.com .