Her aunt sat at a table by the window, worry lines creasing her brow as she flipped over a tarot card and set it on top of a row of others. “They’ve been saying the same thing all day. The threat I’ve warned you about draws near.”
Sera stared down at the cards spread neatly across the small table with a new appreciation. “You have no idea how right they are.”
“He’s here now,” Mary said, tapping a card with her index finger.
“I know,” Sera agreed. “He just left my house.”
“What?” Mary looked up, surprise and alarm widening her eyes.
“Trent,” Sera pushed through her tight throat. She still couldn’t believe after all this time he’d just shown up on her doorstep with a bouquet of roses in his hand as if he’d only been gone a few days and not eight years. And damned if he didn’t look better than she remembered.
“No, not Trent,” Mary insisted, shaking her head and looking back down at her cards. “He’s not the threat.”
Sera slapped both palms down on the table. “Of course he’s the threat. The man has been missing in action for eight years and suddenly he decides to show his smug face and tell me Aimee’s in trouble? I’d say that’s a threat. What am I supposed to tell her about him?”
Mary sucked in a quick breath through her teeth. “He said Aimee’s in trouble?” She quickly stood.
“Yes, that’s why I’m here. You have to help me get rid of him. I don’t want him here, and I don’t want him anywhere near Aimee.”
“He can help you, Sera. You must listen to what he has to say. There’s a demon close by. The cards told me so. Trent can keep Aimee safe from the demon. You must let him help you. You can’t protect on your own.”
Sera wanted to scream and yell and throw a good, old-fashioned fit. But she wouldn’t. Obviously, her aunt was having one of her weird delusions again. They’d been happening more and more of late, and yelling at her would only make things worse. Instead, Sera took a deep breath to steady her voice, and said, “It’s okay, Mary. There are no such things as demons, and even if there were, why would one want Aimee? She’s just a little girl. No, the threat is Trent. He’s back, and I need you to talk to him. Can you please ask him to leave before he causes me any more trouble?”
Mary leaned toward her, and grabbed both her arms in her bony grasp. Her eyes, wide and full of fear, captured Sera’s and sent a chill down her spine. “I’ve told you for years she’s different. Aimee’s special.”
“Of course she’s special. She’s my baby,” Sera insisted, her voice breaking.
“Magic is in her blood. It makes her desirable and easy for demons to find her. You won’t be able to protect her on your own.” The look in Mary’s eyes, the tone of her voice…she was dead serious.
A shiver shook Sera. “You’re scaring me, Mary.” She turned away from her aunt, her gaze moving over reptile heads that stared at her through cold, glassy eyes. Voodoo dolls hung suspended from the ceiling, and apothecary jars of powders and herbs lined the shelves of the shop.
Why was she surprised her aunt had finally lost it? Look where she spent all her time.
Sera inhaled a sharp breath. “Mary, Aimee’s smart, beautiful, and talented, but she’s not magical.”
Mary grabbed her hands. “You can’t deny her blood heritage. That’s why you must listen to Trent. He is here to help you. There’s a lot about him you don’t know.”
“What I do know is Trent walked out on us. He’s never kept in contact, has never been worried about his daughter before, and now suddenly he has to protect her? I know all I need to know about Trent Droulliard. He can’t be trusted, and he has never been there for me or for Aimee.”
Mary squeezed her hands. “Hasn’t he?”
Sera bristled and pulled away. “Yes, he’s provided for us financially.” Handsomely, in fact. Their house was paid off. Life for them was good. Lonely, but good. “But that doesn’t mean I owe him. He was the one who left us. I wanted him to stay.” Her voice broke over the words and tears burned behind her eyes—tears of frustration and outrage. Tears she wouldn’t let fall.
Sera flung her arms wide. “Why am I defending myself to you? You are the one person I thought would be on my side.”
Mary sighed and gave her a small smile. “I am on your side. But turning your back on the one person who can save Aimee is not the answer. You have to see him. Listen to what he has to say. Do it for Aimee’s sake.”
“I can’t let him waltz in here and worm his way into Aimee’s heart only to watch him leave her in shambles when he waltzes out again.”
“Is it her heart you’re worried about? Or yours?”
Sera looked away. Her aunt always had been able to read her too easily.
“Sera, what matters here is that Aimee’s in danger and Trent is the only one who can protect her.
Why did she keep saying that?
Bells tinkled throughout the shop as the front door opened. Trent strolled in, acting as if he owned the place. Acting as if he’d never been gone. Sera’s stomach tightened. For the first time, she noticed his faded blue jeans, worn and snug over muscular legs, and a black leather jacket that made him look dangerously sexy. A vein in her temples began to throb. “What are you doing here?” she said through gritted teeth.
“I thought neutral territory might make it easier for you to listen to what I have to say.”
Blue eyes that had once made her melt every time she saw him, now looked tired and worried. His shaggy blond hair was overdue for a trim, and he hadn’t shaved in days. Somehow that only made him more appealing. She sighed.
Mary reached for him, a large, traitorous smile on her face. “As I live and breathe.”
“Hello, sweetheart,” Trent said, and kissed her cheek.
Sera clenched her hands, certain that if she stared at him any longer, she would self-combust.
“So what can we do to help you?” Mary asked him.
Surprise slammed into Sera as she heard her aunt’s words. This wasn’t happening.
“We need to get the amulet on Aimee as soon as possible. It will mask her aura from the demon who’s after her. For now.”
They both turned and looked at Sera.
“Fine. If I give her the amulet, will you leave?” Right now, she’d do just about anything to get him away from them.
“I’m sorry. I can’t. Not just yet.”
“Why am I not surprised?” She closed her eyes and gnawed her tongue until she tasted blood. She had to find a way to get rid of him. When she opened her eyes, he was standing right in front of her. Her heartbeat quickened, her chest rising and falling too quickly.
He reached for her. She took a quick step back but hit a wall. His eyes didn’t waver. The sharp angles of his face, the strength in his jaw, and the intensity in his gaze boring into hers kept her frozen. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.
Before she could stop him, he had her in his grasp and pulled her hard up against his chest. “No,” she blurted, placing her hands between them, trying to brace herself. With a twist of pain, she remembered his smell, his touch, and how safe she’d once felt in his arms. Back then, she’d thought nothing or no one could destroy what they’d had together.
And then he was gone. Just like that.
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