Read Believe Online

Authors: Victoria Alexander


BOOK: Believe
4.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Victoria Alexander

This book is dedicated with all my love

to my husband, Chuck,

who has always believed in me,

always been my white knight,

and always wanted a book of his own.

He deserves one.


Chapter One

“…So even though it’s a charming story, it’s a myth,…

Chapter Two

“Holy shi—”

Chapter Three

Tessa swiveled slowly and swallowed hard.

Chapter Four

“Okay, Big Guy.” Lady Tessa sighed. “What’s next?”

Chapter Five

“I simply cannot believe you have dragged me back here…

Chapter Six

“Awaken, fair Tessa.”

Chapter Seven

“There, Tessa.” Galahad gazed at the distant horizon. “’Tis where…

Chapter Eight

What in the hell was she supposed to do now?

Chapter Nine

Tessa leaped to her feet and took off in her…

Chapter Ten

Galahad’s voice rang hard and cold and ’twas all he…

Chapter Eleven

“This has got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever…

Chapter Twelve

“…And then, when I was in third grade, my dad…

Chapter Thirteen


Chapter Fourteen

“Tessa!” Galahad caught her before she could hit the ground.

Chapter Fifteen

“I can deal with this.” Tessa stared at her very…

Chapter Sixteen

“You are remarkably quiet, Tessa St. James.” Galahad’s comment was offhand,…

Chapter Seventeen

“Tessa!” Galahad’s hard tone jerked her from a restless sleep.

Chapter Eighteen

Where was Tessa?

Chapter Nineteen

“So how’s that plan coming?” Tessa said through clenched teeth.

Chapter Twenty

Mordred stepped from the shadows of the trees, sword in…

Chapter Twenty–One

Why was he not eager to return? To fulfill his…

Chapter Twenty-Two

Tessa struggled to catch her breath. Was she really back?


“You cheated, you know.”


o even though it’s a charming story, it’s a myth, a legend, with no more substance than a fairy tale.” Tessa St. James favored the class with her superior I-am-the-instructor-and-therefore-I-know-what-I’m-talking-about smile and waited for the inevitable question.

She didn’t wait long.

A perky brunette in the second row raised her hand. “But couldn’t it be real?”

Tessa bit back the impulse to roll her eyes toward the ceiling. After all, questions from students were good. Part of the learning process. She just wished they’d learn a little faster.

“No, it couldn’t. As I said earlier in the hour, if Arthur existed at all, he was a fifth- or sixth-century Celtic chieftain. The stories about Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table and everything else are straight from the fertile imagination of men like Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Mallory.”

“But what about the search for the Grail?” a skinny long-haired kid said with an insolent challenge in his voice. She knew the type. They were a campus
subculture. Raised on computers and
Dungeons and Dragons
, these unique individuals never let the high-tech nature of one passion overshadow the fantasy of the other. More than likely, all he knew about the Grail came from
Monty Python

“The Grail search is, of course, an integral part of the Arthurian legend. But it’s almost more a necessity, a technique really, to make the entire story work.” She pulled a deep breath. Wasn’t this class over yet? “If you have a bigger-than-life hero you need a bigger-than-life quest. What’s more noble and heroic than the search for the cup of Christ? It’s the stuff myths are made of. And that’s exactly what we’re dealing with here. A myth. Nothing more.”

“How then do you explain the many and varied landmarks throughout Britain that mark the life and death of Arthur and his knights?” A tall, distinguished-looking gentleman leaned against the wall in the back of the classroom.

Tessa narrowed her eyes. Who was this guy? And when did he pop in? She sure hadn’t noticed him earlier in the hour. He looked suspiciously like a visiting professor. His accent was slightly British, his jacket was traditional herringbone, his silver hair short and his steel gray goatee trimmed to perfection. All in all, he bore a vague resemblance to Fred Astaire. Definitely a professor. Damn, the administration was supposed to let you know when you had another instructor auditing your class. Tessa wasn’t at all fond of guests, expected or otherwise, in her classes. Especially this class.

“It’s not uncommon for ancient legends to leave their mark on a landscape. The prime example is Mount Olympus in Greece. There is no question the
mountain was never the home of the gods but—” The bell that signaled the end of the hour in undergraduate buildings clanged, cutting her off. Too bad. She was just warming to her favorite subject. Students surged from their seats and headed toward the door amid the usual bedlam of changing classes and she yelled after them in the futile hope of being heard. “Next week, we start the section on Norse mythology. Check your syllabus for the required reading.”

She sighed, scooped her books off the desk and remembered the visiting professor. Who was he and why was he in her class? She scanned the room and the remaining students flowing toward the door. Great, he had already left. She strode through the doorway and glared up and down the hall. Nothing. Well, she’d probably hear about him sooner or later. Hopefully much, much later. Her goal these days was just to last to the end of the semester and Christmas.

Tessa made her way through the packed corridor to the tiny office allotted her as an assistant professor. It could have been worse. It could have been a grad student’s cubicle. She dropped her books on the already littered desk, sank into her chair, leaned her head back and closed her eyes.

Three more weeks
. The words repeated themselves over and over in her head like a mantra and for the first time today, a smile creased her lips. Three more weeks and she’d leave the snow and ice of the Midwest behind for sunny Greece. The ancient home of Aphrodite and Apollo. The mythical location of Atlantis itself. A legendary playground for modern man.

Her smile widened. Oh sure, she’d be doing research during her six-month sabbatical for her book on the
origins of Greek mythology but she wouldn’t be spending all of her time in dusty old libraries. No, delving into the legends of that historic land meant real field work. In the most wonderful fields on earth. Small, whitewashed villages that hugged the shores of the sapphire blue Aegean…

“I’d know that smile anywhere. You’re not in Kansas anymore, are you, Dorothy?”

Tessa laughed at the familiar voice but refused to open her eyes. “No way. Kansas was never like this.”

“You’re in Greece again, right?”

“You got it.” Tessa snapped her eyes open. “Three more weeks.”

“I know, I know.” Angie Whitcomb sighed with ill-concealed envy. “I’d kill to go with you. But right now, I’ll settle for lunch. Oh, here.” The short, chunky graduate student thunked a large box down in the middle of the debris on Tessa’s desk. “This came for you in today’s mail.”

Tessa eyed it curiously. “What is it?”

“Beats me. I didn’t open it. I didn’t even shake it.” Angie pushed tendrils of dark hair away from her face. The haphazard ponytail she habitually wore was never up to the task of imprisoning her unruly hair. “I think I deserve a reward for that.”

“For doing what you’re supposed to?”

“Well, sure.” Angie shot her an indignant look. “It’s not sealed well. I could have peeked right in and no one would ever have known. It took a great deal of willpower not to check it out.”

Tessa grinned. Angie’s curiosity was legendary around the classic literature department. “I’m impressed. What fortitude, what strength of character, what—”

Angie plopped down in the only other chair in the cramped office. “It’s from your mom.”

“I thought you said—”

“I read the return address.” Angie shrugged. “Shoot me.”

“I wonder what it is?” Tessa studied the box idly. Her mother was always sending her odds and ends she thought would interest her.

“Probably a Christmas present. Something for your trip maybe. Tanning oil, sunglasses,” Angie grinned wickedly, “a tiny little bikini.”

“Angie, I’m going to work and that’s all.”

Angie snorted her disbelief. “Right.”

“Really.” Tessa’s protest sounded weak even to her own ears. “I am.”

“You’ve been writing that book for two years now. You and I both know there’s no need to go to Greece to finish it up.”

“And your point?”

“My point is—it’s a scam, Ms. St. James. Plain and simple.” Angie crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in the chair. “You can call it research or a sabbatical or whatever you want but I’m saying you’re planning on mixing a whole lot of pleasure with a little bit of business. And I’m also saying the Greek gods you’re looking for won’t be entirely mythical.”

“Angie!” Tessa should have been indignant at Angie’s far-too-perceptive assessment of her plans, or at least defensive, but the very idea of how close Tessa was to the trip—no—the adventure of a lifetime tempered any possibility of annoyance. “I admit, I’m planning on having a ball. I’ve dreamed about going to Greece most of my life. And if a god or two gets in
my way, well,” she shrugged, “I’m certainly not going to pass up the chance for a little fun on the other side of the world.”

“Love on a Greek island.” Angie sighed. “Sounds like a movie title.”

“Wait a minute, pal.” Tessa leaned forward and stared at the younger woman. “Sure, a Greek god sounds like a good time but I’m not looking for love.” She shrugged. “I’ve given up believing in love.”

“Everyone believes in love,” Angie said firmly.

“Not me. It doesn’t exist in my case.”

“Why not?”

“Simple. I grew up with two loving parents in a wonderful relationship. That’s how I thought my life would be.” Tessa shook her head. “But every time I fall in love, and I have experienced that unstable emotion on a number of occasions, thank you, every single time I offer my heart to some man, he crushes it. It’s not going to happen again. No way, no how. Love is as big a myth as the gods on Olympus. Which is, in case you were wondering, a ski resort today.”

“Hey, everybody’s heart’s been broken at least once. It’s part of the game. You know, the emotional equivalent of no pain, no gain.” Angie studied her. “I don’t see why anyone doesn’t believe.”

“Oh, I believe all right.” Tessa grinned. “I believe in tall, handsome Greek gods. I just don’t believe in mortal men.” She picked up a pen and aimed it at her friend. “But I’ll believe that dreams come true if I can just survive the next three weeks.”

Angie smiled sympathetically. “You still hate that class, don’t you?”

“It’s not bad enough that I had to take it over in the
middle of the semester but I missed the sections on Greek and Roman mythology, Mediterranean legends…” Angie’s long-suffering expression pulled her up short. Tessa wrinkled her nose in chagrin. “You’ve heard this before, haven’t you?”

Angie’s eyes twinkled with amusement. “Just about every time you have to teach that class. Thank God it’s only two days a week. I still don’t get it. I can see why you’d prefer hot-blooded Greeks frolicking with lowly peasants to Norse gods in the land of ice and snow, but who in their right mind doesn’t like King Arthur and Lancelot and all that good stuff?”

“Me, that’s who. Think about it, Angie.” Tessa tapped the pen on the desk in an authoritative manner. “First of all, it’s set in medieval times. A disgusting, crowded, filthy, smelly period. Full of plague and pestilence. Even if you had money and power and lived in a castle, life was primitive at best.”

“Okay, so it doesn’t sound as good as Greek gods cavorting under the hot sun beside a sparkling sea wearing nothing but a toga and a smile.”

Tessa laughed at the image. “Sure, but what does? The Middle Ages can’t compete. Have you ever seen a suit of armor?”

“Yeah,” Angie said grudgingly.

“Would you really want to wear cold, heavy metal? Let alone cuddle up next to it? Well?” Angie looked distinctly uncomfortable at the thought and Tessa pressed her point home. “Or better yet, throw yourself in the arms of a man who’s been encased like a canned ham all day? Not my idea of a good time.”

“I’ll give you that one, but what about love? It’s a terribly romantic story.” Angie compressed her
lips into a stubborn line. “Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot.”

“Love?” Tessa scoffed. “More like infidelity, betrayal and disillusionment. At least when love enters into a Greek legend it has a purpose. Explaining the change of seasons or whatever. Arthurian myth doesn’t even have a great moral other than, maybe, don’t trust your best friend with your wife.”

Angie shook her head. “You are positively sick, Tessa St. James.”

“I am not.” She laughed. “I simply believe the Greek legends, and the Roman ones too for that matter, are classic, and Arthur and his pals are just plain grubby. Besides, it’s make-believe. It’s not real.”

“Neither are Greek gods, but that doesn’t seem to bother you.”

“Okay, I admit it. None of these gods or kings or people ever existed. Period. Now.” She rose to her feet and considered the package on her desk. “Let’s see what goodies Mom sent. There should be a pair of scissors here somewhere.”

Angie dug through the odds and ends cluttering the desk. “Don’t you ever clean this mess up?”

“Sure. At the beginning and the end of the year.”

“Got ’em.” Angie presented the shears with a flourish. “My Lady Tessa, your sword.”

“Very funny.” Tessa ran one blade of the scissors along a long strip of mailing tape, opened the box and pulled out fistfuls of crumpled newspaper.

“Very nice,” Angie said, “a little light reading for your trip.”

“My mother has always been a fanatic about packing boxes. She doesn’t think anything shipped should
be allowed to move around.” Tessa cleaned out the last bit of newsprint and smiled. “Well, look at this. Mom’s been bargain hunting again.”

“What is it?” Angie strained forward to peer into the box.

“Books. Old books.”

“Books?” Disappointment rang in Angie’s voice. “That’s it? No Christmas cookies? No peanut brittle? No homemade fudge? Just old books?”

“Yep, sorry. But not any old books.” Tessa pulled out the top book and studied it. “Children’s books. Old children’s Christmas books. I’ve been collecting them for years. Take a look at this, especially the illustrations.”

Tessa handed the volume to Angie, who flipped it open and paged through it. “It is kind of neat.”

“Isn’t it?” Tessa excavated three more books from the apparently bottomless box. “It looks like these are from the twenties or thirties. They were mass produced but, even so, I think the quality is much better than today.”

Angie grabbed another book and flipped through it. “I like the old-fashioned style of the drawings. It’s kind of innocent.”

“I know. Mom must have found these at garage sales. She’s a bargain hunter from way back. I grew up with her dragging me from one sale to another on Saturday mornings. Now, whenever she runs into something she thinks I would like, she picks it up and sends it to me. Oh, good, here’s a note.” Tessa fished out a folded sheet of monogrammed stationery.

“So, what does it say?”

“Well.” Tessa scanned the note. “She’s still pissed
I’m not going to be home for Christmas, even though we are celebrating together on the day before Christmas Eve.”

“Understandable. My mother would have a fit that would last through Easter if I wasn’t home for Christmas.”

“But she does understand a bargain. And she can’t argue with the great air fare I got by flying on Christmas Eve. It also says, ‘Everybody needs a bit of magic.’” Tessa shrugged. “Whatever that means.”

“Maybe she knows you don’t believe in love and hopes at least you believe in magic.”

“Wrong on both counts.” Tessa stared into the box. “There’s another book in here.” She reached in to grab it. “It’s jammed in kind of tight. If I can get my fingernails…Hah! Got it.” She pulled out the book, stared at the lengthy title and broke into a grin. “You won’t believe this.” She handed the volume to Angie.

BOOK: Believe
4.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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