Meghan Elam has been strange her entire life: her eyes have this odd habit of changing color and she sees and hears things no one else does. When the visions and voices in her head start to get worse, she is convinced that her parents will want to drag her off to another psychiatrist. That is, until the mysterious Cade MacRoich shows up out of nowhere with an explanation of his own.
Cade brings her news of another realm where goblins and gnomes are the norm, a place where whispering spirits exist in the very earth, and a world where Meghan just might find the answers she has always sought.
"For anyone who loves foundling tales, this is for you. If you love the tales of the ancient Celt and Fae intertwined with modern romance & discovery of who "I am" then you will love the first book of this trilogy. Very enjoyable book."– C. McMahan, Amazon Reviewer
"I love a good paranormal romance book, but this one was fresh and exciting, with witty humor and a great love story!"– Lyndsey, Amazon Reviewer
"This has a fresh spin on Celtic lore. It has surprise, action and romance. Excellent start to a fun series."– E. B. Owen, Amazon Reviewer
Someone was there in that clearing with me. Someone tall and wearing what looked like a hooded trench coat. As I sat in the dirt, my mind and my heart racing with everything that had happened that night, I watched my rescuer, hardly believing he was there. Where had he come from? Wasn't he worried the dogs would attack him?
The monsters rose up from wherever they had been thrown, growling and looking angrier than before. I realized that the man in the trench coat had somehow knocked them back. How had he managed to do so? I couldn't say. The dogs had to weigh well over a hundred pounds and the man didn't have so much as a stick to fend them off with. Turns out, I didn't have to wait much longer to learn about his methods.
One of the dogs lunged, the speed in which it did so impossible for any living thing to accomplish. I shouted some unintelligible warning, but apparently it wasn't necessary. The man was ready for the attack, and just as quickly as the dog had moved, he swung his arms around and grabbed it, throwing it so hard against a nearby sapling that the tree broke in half.
I blinked and felt my jaw go slack. There was no way any of this was real. True, none of my visions or delusions had ever been this realistic, but this simply could not be happening in reality. A dream, like I had told myself before, it was just a dream and all I had to do was wait for it to wear itself out and I could wake up, safe and sound in my own bed.
My superhuman savior quickly took care of the remaining dogs as I sat and played air hockey with my own conscience. But before I knew it the demon dogs were gone and I was sitting alone in the middle of a clearing with a stranger who could move like a comic book hero.
The silence seemed strange, after all of the growling and yowling that had filled the air earlier. The moon shone down just as brightly as before and a slight breeze rustled through the willows growing on the edge of the swamp. I was too frightened and astounded to move, and I had no idea what to say. The man stood fifteen feet from me, gazing off into the woods that spread out beyond the clearing. He didn't make a sound. It wasn't until I heard the soft panting behind me that I realized I had forgotten about the white hound who had led me here to begin with.
I turned to look at him, standing above me, his tongue lolling out. I had never really gotten a good look at him before, in those dreams I had where he acted as a guardian of sorts to my very young self. He was solid white, except for his ears. I couldn't tell their exact color in the moonlight, but my guess was that they were light brown or even rusty colored. Or maybe that was blood from the fight. Of course, upon further inspection, I saw no other dark marks on him.
The dog huffed out a breath and then lay down next to me. I wanted to pet him, let him know I was thankful for his help, but some movement out of the corner of my eye distracted me.
The man in the trench coat had pulled his eyes away from the trees and moved closer. I panicked, kicking at the ground in an attempt to scoot further away, but the dog kept me still, looking at me with curious eyes.
"Who are you?" I asked. My voice sounded weak and harsh.
The man didn't answer, but dropped into a sudden crouch, his elbows resting on his knees.
I squeaked and pulled away, afraid he might be one of the crazy people my mom had thought lived down here. What if he had a knife? What if he was a serial killer? All of a sudden, those zombie dogs didn't seem so frightening after all.
The man sat back on his feet, then hunched his shoulders over. His hood was still up and I couldn't see his face, but something in his stance was familiar.
"Hobo Bob?" I blurted.
I immediately cringed. I had never liked that nickname but that was the first inane thought that popped into my head, and honestly, I was a bit traumatized at the moment. I had just sleepwalked into the woods in the middle of the night only to be attacked by monsters. I think I was allowed a little slip of the brain for the next few hours. Or days.
"Sorry, I mean," I fumbled my words, worrying that I had offended the poor man. What was he doing here? Is this where he lived when he wasn't perched on the outskirts of the school campus? And furthermore, how on earth had he moved like that? The homeless man who had been hanging out around my school for the past few weeks was old and arthritic.
I was surprised when the man laughed. A light, easy sound that suggested youth. "Is that the title you've awarded me?"
I started in surprise. That wasn't the voice of a crazy old man. There was a strange accent to it, Irish or Scottish, and like his laughter, it was the voice of a much younger man. I tried to remember if I had ever heard Hobo Bob speak before, but I couldn't say for sure that I had.
And like the brilliant teenager that I was for the time being, my answer to him was a bland, "Huh?"
He laughed again, straightening up once more to his full height. I glanced up and gaped. He had to be close to six and a half feet tall, maybe taller.
"I often heard the spoken insults of the young people attending your school, but I never paid them much attention."
It was at that moment he decided to lower the hood of his coat. I felt my jaw drop again. Luckily, he was glancing off to the side, so he didn't notice my sudden gawking stupor. From what light the full moon provided, I could gather that my rescuer was a very good looking young man and all the names of the boys Tully, Robyn, and I had listed off earlier that night seemed like ugly ducklings in comparison. His hair was dark and his face well-sculpted. I couldn't see the color of his eyes, but I could tell that they were dark, calculating even as he considered a stray stone on the ground beside his foot.
The light wind from earlier picked up once again and my body felt suddenly chilly. I looked down, only to discover that my night gown was hiked practically up to my waist, showing off my pink, polka-dot underwear. Flushing with embarrassment, I quickly pulled it down and wrapped my arms around my torso once again. I suddenly felt very vulnerable.
My movements caught the young man's attention and he glanced back at me. His sudden gaze made me blush even more. I hoped he couldn't see my red face in the moonlight.
"Forgive me," he said in a serious tone, "you must be very cold."
Before I could do so much as blink, he had unbuttoned his trench coat and had thrown it over my shoulders, pulling it closed in front of me. His touch was light and careful, the opposite of what I had seen him do with those dogs. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, I tried to study him a bit more now that he was closer, but all I could make out in the moonlight was what he was wearing: jeans, a designer T-shirt, and what looked like utility boots, the kind my dad often wore to work, the ones with steel toes.
After draping his coat over me, he backed away. I caught a glimpse of something metallic around his neck, but it was only a glimpse. I had no idea what it might be. For a while, I simply breathed and enjoyed the warmth of his coat. It smelled strange, not in a bad way, but like something vaguely familiar that I hadn't smelled in years. I read somewhere once that scent was one of the strongest senses in recalling memory, but for now I couldn't place those memories. I only wrinkled my nose, thinking of these woods after a rainstorm.
At some point in time I managed to find my voice again. Clearing my throat, I said, "What were those things, those dogs?"
The young man grimaced and glanced off into the trees again. "Cumorrig," he answered, "hounds of the Morrigan."
"What?" The Morrigan? Like the Celtic goddess Robyn had dressed as for Halloween?
He ignored my question. "Most modern day folklorists would call them hellhounds."
"Hellhounds?" I'd heard of those before. In one of my literature classes last year we had read some stories of mythology. I vaguely remembered a mention of hellhounds but I couldn't describe them. Guess I didn't really need to anymore.
I looked back up at the tall stranger, and feeling one of us needed to say something, I took a breath and said, "Thank you for helping me, and I am very grateful, but who exactly are you?"
He smiled, forcing the corner of his eyes to crinkle. I had to look away. Why couldn't the boys at school be this attractive? It might make their taunts more bearable.
"You were right in guessing who I was earlier," he said, standing up once again.
I had to crane my neck to keep an eye on his face. Even though he had the charm of a well-versed movie star, there was no way I was going to trust him. To wake up from a dream and find myself in the middle of the forest, surrounded by the living corpses of dogs, then to have him appear out of nowhere and chase them off with superhuman speed? Yeah, that was normal. Right.
He took a deep breath then ran both his hands through his thick hair. I watched him carefully, not sure what his next move would be.
"Meghan, I'm afraid we've met under unsavory circumstances."
He glanced down at me with those dark eyes. "Our first meeting wasn't supposed to go this way. Those hounds," he paused and grimaced, "let's just say it was my job to take care of them earlier, and they slipped past me."
I blinked, feeling myself return to my previous stupor. What was he talking about? He knew about those horrible dogs? It was his job to take care of them? What did that mean? And most importantly, how did he know my name?
I felt ill, as if I were going to throw up. I tried to stand, letting the trench coat slip off of me. All of a sudden it felt like a net meant to trap me like a bird.
"Meghan," he said, reaching out.
But I cringed away from him, and offered him his coat with a shaky hand.
"Thank you again, but I really should get back home."
"Not on your own Meghan, not with those hounds still lurking around these trees somewhere."
His voice had deepened and that only made my stomach churn more.
"Please," I whispered, feeling the first prickle of tears at the corners of my eyes, "please, I just want to get home."
Suddenly he stiffened and his gaze intensified. "You're afraid of me."
It was a statement, not a question. I knew I was doomed then. Wasn't it true that if a victim revealed to her attacker just how terrified she was, then she had already lost the game? Sure, he had chased off those dogs, but maybe only to keep me whole so he could take me off to some bomb shelter somewhere to torture me slowly. I shivered both from the return of the autumn cold and from the knowledge that I was completely at his mercy at this point.
The man merely sighed deeply and said, "I fouled this up completely, but I'll make it up to you somehow. Right now, however, I think it is best if you forget most of this."
He held up his right arm, palm out, as if he was planning to hit me with some kung fu move.
"What are you doing?" The panic in my voice matched the racing of my heart.
"Tomorrow, this will seem like a dream, but in a week's time I will send Fergus to you. Follow him, and I will introduce myself properly, at a more reasonable time of day. Then I'll explain everything."
I stared at his hand as he moved closer, wondering if I should try and fight him off if he reached for me. My mind seemed to grow fuzzy, my vision blurred.
Just before I passed out, I managed a barely audible, "Who are you?"
"You can call me Cade, but you won't remember this, so it doesn't matter."
And then I was swallowed by darkness.