Read Face the Fire Online

Authors: Nora Roberts

Face the Fire

Face the Fire
Three Sisters Island [3]
Nora Roberts
Hachette UK (2010)

Mia Devlin knows what it's like to love with your whole heart - and then watch your love walk away. Years ago, she and Sam Logan shared an incredible bond built on passion, legend, and fate. But then one day he fled Three Sisters Island, leaving her lost in memories of the magic they shared - and determined to live without love... Sam has now returned to Three Sisters with hopes of winning back Mia's affections. He is puzzled when she greets him with icy indifference - for the chemistry between them is still sizzling and true. Angry, hurt and deeply confused, Mia refuses to admit that a passion for Sam still burns up her heart. But she'll need his help - and his powers - to face her greatest, most terrifying challenge. And as the deadline for breaking a centuries - old curse draws near, they must take the first steps toward destiny-and come together to turn back the dark...

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Face the Fire

 

A
Jove
Book / published by arrangement with the author

 

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©
2002
by
Nora Roberts

This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.

For information address:

The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

 

The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is
http://www.penguinputnam.com

 

ISBN:
1-101-14637-0

 

A
JOVE
BOOK®

Jove
Books first published by The Jove Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

JOVE
and the “
J
” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

 

Electronic edition: September, 2002

Titles by Nora Roberts

HOT ICE

SACRED SINS

BRAZEN VIRTUE

SWEET REVENGE

PUBLIC SECRETS

GENUINE LIES

CARNAL INNOCENCE

DIVINE EVIL

HONEST ILLUSIONS

PRIVATE SCANDALS

HIDDEN RICHES

TRUE BETRAYALS

MONTANA SKY

SANCTUARY

HOMEPORT

THE REEF

RIVER’S END

CAROLINA MOON

THE VILLA

MIDNIGHT BAYOU

Anthologies

FROM THE HEART

A LITTLE MAGIC

The Once Upon Series
(with Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Marianne Willman)

ONCE UPON A CASTLE

ONCE UPON A STAR

ONCE UPON A DREAM

ONCE UPON A ROSE

Trilogies

Three Sisters Island Trilogy

 

DANCE UPON THE AIR

HEAVEN AND EARTH

FACE THE FIRE

 

The Irish Trilogy

 

JEWELS OF THE SUN

TEARS OF THE MOON

HEART OF THE SEA

 

The Born In Trilogy

 

BORN IN FIRE

BORN IN ICE

BORN IN SHAME

 

The Chesapeake Bay Trilogy

 

SEA SWEPT

RISING TIDES

INNER HARBOR

 

The Dream Trilogy

 

DARING TO DREAM

HOLDING THE DREAM

FINDING THE DREAM

To lovers, old and new

 

O love! O fire! once he drew

With one long kiss my whole soul through

My lips; as sunlight drinketh dew.

—A
LFRED
, L
ORD
T
ENNYSON

Prologue

T
HREE
S
ISTERS
I
SLAND
S
EPTEMBER
1702

H
er heart was broken. The jagged shards of it
stabbed at her soul until each hour, each moment, of what her life had become was a misery. Even her children—those she had carried in her body, those she carried for her lost sisters—were no comfort.

Nor was she, to her great shame, any comfort to them.

She had left them, even as their father had left them. Her husband, her lover, her heart, had returned to the sea, and the parts of her that were hope and love and magic had died that day.

Even now he would not remember the years they’d had together, the joy of them. He would not remember her, or their sons, their daughters, the life they’d made on the island.

Such was his nature. Such was her fate.

And her sisters’, she thought as she stood on the cliffs she loved, above a sea that boiled and bucked. They, too, had been fated to love and to lose. The one who was Air had loved a handsome face and kind words that had disguised a beast. A beast who had shed her blood. He had murdered her for what she was, and she had not used her power to stop him.

And so the one who was Earth had raged and grieved and built her hatred stone by stone until it had become a wall that no one could breach. She had used her power for vengeance, forsaken her Craft, and embraced the dark.

Now the dark closed in, and she who was Fire was alone with her pain. She could fight it no longer, could find no purpose for her own life.

The dark whispered to her in the night, its sly voice full of lies. Even knowing them for what they were, she was tempted by them.

Her circle was broken, and she could not, would not, withstand alone.

She felt it, creeping closer now, sliding along the ground in a filthy fog. It hungered. Her death would feed it, and still she could not face life.

She lifted her arms so the flame of her hair snapped in the wind that she called up with a breath. She had such powers left in her. And the sea howled in response, the ground beneath her shuddered.

Air and Earth and Fire—and the Water that had given her great love, then had stolen it away again.

This last time they were hers to command again.

Her children would be safe, she had seen to that. Their nurse would tend them, teach them, and the gift, the brightness, would be passed down.

The darkness licked along her skin. Cold, cold kisses.

She teetered on the edge, will straining against will as the storm within her, and the storm she’d conjured, raged.

This island, that she and her sisters had conjured for safety from the ravages of those who would hunt and kill them, she thought, would be lost. All would be lost.

You are alone,
the darkness murmured.
You are in pain. End the loneliness. End the pain.

And so she would, but she would not forsake her
children, or the children who came from them. Power was still in her, and the strength and wit to wield it.

“A hundred years times three, this isle of the sisters is safe from thee.”

From her reaching fingers, light whipped, spun, a circle in a circle.

“My children your hand cannot reach. They will live and learn and teach. And when my spell comes undone, three more will rise to form the one. A circle of sisters joined in power to stand and face the darkest hour. Courage and trust, justice with mercy, love without boundaries are the lessons three. They must, by free will, join to face their destiny. If this they fail, one, two, or three, this island will sink into the sea. But if they turn back the dark, this place will never bear your mark. This spell is the last cast by me. As I will, so mote it be.”

The darkness snatched at her as she leaped, but could not reach her. As she plunged toward the sea, she hurled her power around the island, where her children slept, like a silver net.

One

T
HREE
S
ISTERS
I
SLAND
M
AY
2002

I
t had been more than ten years since he’d stood
on the island. Over a decade since he’d seen—except in his mind—the wedges of forest, the scatter of houses, the curve of beach and cove. And the drama of the cliffs where the stone house stood beside the white lance of the island lighthouse.

He shouldn’t have been so surprised by the pull and tug, or by the sheer simplicity of pleasure. Sam Logan was rarely surprised. But the delight in seeing what had changed, and what hadn’t, surprised him by its depth.

He’d come home and hadn’t realized, not completely, what that meant to him until he’d gotten there.

He parked near the ferry dock because he wanted to walk, to smell the salty spring air, to hear the voices from the boats, to see the life flowing along on the little bump of land off the coast of Massachusetts.

And perhaps, he admitted, because he wanted a little more time to prepare himself before seeing the woman he’d come back for.

He didn’t expect a warm welcome. The fact was, he didn’t know what to expect from Mia.

Once he had. He’d known every expression on her face,
every inflection of her voice. Once she would have been standing on the dock to meet him, her glorious red hair flying, her smoky eyes alight with pleasure and promise.

He’d have heard her laugh as she raced into his arms.

Those days were over, he thought as he climbed the road toward High Street and the stretch of pretty shops and offices. He’d ended them, and had exiled himself, deliberately, from the island and from Mia.

Now, he was deliberately ending that exile.

In the time between, the girl he’d left behind had become a woman. A businesswoman, he thought with a half laugh. No surprise there. Mia had always had a head for business and a view for profit. He intended to use that, if need be, to wheedle his way back into her good graces.

Sam didn’t mind wheedling, as long as he won.

He turned on High Street and paused to take a long look at the Magick Inn. The Gothic stone building was the island’s only hotel, and it belonged to him. He had some ideas that he intended to implement there, now that his father had finally released the reins.

But business would wait, for once, until the personal was dealt with.

He continued walking, pleased to see that while traffic was light, it was steady. Business on the island, he decided, was as good as reported.

He had a long stride, and it ate up the sidewalk quickly. He was a tall man, nearly three inches over six feet, with a rangy, disciplined build more accustomed in the last years to tailored suits than the black jeans he wore today. The long dark coat he wore against the brisk breeze of early May billowed behind him as he walked.

His hair was black as well and, windblown now from the ferry ride from the mainland, swept past his collar. His face was lean, the long bones of his cheeks well defined. The planes and angles were softened somewhat by a full
and sculpted mouth, and with those black wings of hair flying back, presented a dramatic picture.

His eyes were alert as they scanned what had been, and would be again, his home. Somewhere between blue and green, they were the color of the sea that surrounded the house, framed by dark lashes and brows.

He used his looks when it suited him, just as he used charm or ruthlessness. Whatever tools came to hand were employed to reach his goal. He’d already accepted that it would take everything at his disposal to win Mia Devlin.

From across the street, he studied Café Book. He should have known Mia would have taken what had been a neglected building and turned it into something lovely, elegant, and productive. The front window held a display of books and potted spring flowers scattered around a lawn chair. Two of her deepest loves, he mused. Books and flowers. She’d used them both in a way that suggested it was time to take a break from the yardwork, sit down, and enjoy the fruits of the labor with a ride in a story.

Even as he watched, a couple of tourists—he hadn’t been away so long he couldn’t tell tourists from islanders—walked into the bookstore.

He stood where he was, hands in his pockets, until he realized he was procrastinating. There was little more turbulent than Mia Devlin in full temper. He expected her to lash out at him in blistering fury the minute she laid eyes on him again.

And who could blame her?

Then again, he thought with a grin, there was little more arousing than Mia Devlin in full temper. It would be . . . entertaining to strike swords with her again. Just as it would be satisfying to soothe that temper away.

He crossed the street and opened the door to Café Book.

Lulu was behind the counter. He’d have recognized her anywhere. The tiny woman with a gnome’s face almost
swallowed up by silver-framed glasses had, essentially, raised Mia. The Devlins had been more interested in each other and traveling than in their daughter, and Lulu, the former flower child, had been hired to tend her.

Because Lulu was ringing up a customer’s purchases, he had a moment to look around the store. The ceiling was pricked with lights for a starry effect and made the prospect of browsing through the books a festive one. A cozy seating area was arranged in front of a fireplace with a hearth, scrubbed and polished, used as a haven for more spring flowers. The scent of them sweetened the air, as did the pipes and flutes playing softly on the speaker system.

Glossy blue shelves held books—an impressive array, he reflected as he wandered through, and as eclectic as he would have expected of the proprietor. No one would ever accuse Mia of having a one-track mind.

His lips quirked as he saw that other shelves held ritual candles, Tarot cards, runes, statues of faeries, wizards, dragons. An attractive arrangement of another of Mia’s interests, he thought. He’d have expected nothing else there, either.

He plucked a tumbling stone of rose quartz from a bowl, rubbed it between his fingers for luck. Though he knew better. Before he could replace it, he felt a blast of frigid air. Smiling easily, he turned to face Lulu.

“Always knew you’d come back. Bad pennies always turn up.”

This was his first barrier, the dragon at the gate. “Hello, Lu.”

“Don’t you hello-Lu me, Sam Logan.” She sniffed, skimmed her gaze over him. Sniffed a second time. “You buying that or do I call the sheriff and have you hauled in for shoplifting?”

He laid the stone back in the bowl. “How is Zack?”

“Ask him yourself, I don’t have time to waste on you.”
Though he had her by a foot in height, she stepped forward, jabbed her finger at him, and made him feel twelve years old again. “What the hell do you want?”

“To see home. To see Mia.”

“Why don’t you do everybody a favor and go back to where you’ve been gallivanting these past years? New York City, Paris, and oo-la-la. We’ve all done fine without you taking up space on the Sisters.”

“Apparently.” He gave the store another casual look. He wasn’t offended. A dragon, in his mind, was meant to be devoted to its princess. In his memory, Lulu had always been up to the job. “Nice place. I hear the café’s particularly good. And that Zack’s new wife runs it.”

“Your hearing’s just fine. So listen up. Go on and get.”

Not offended, no, but his eyes turned edgy, the green in them deepening. “I came to see Mia.”

“She’s busy. I’ll tell her you stopped by.”

“No, you won’t,” he said quietly. “But she’ll know in any case.”

Even as he spoke, he heard the sound of heels on wood. It could have been a dozen women, descending the curving steps in high heels. But he knew. As his heart stumbled in his chest, he stepped around the bookshelves and saw her just as she made the last turn.

And the look, that one look at her, sliced him into a thousand pieces.

The princess, he thought, had become the queen.

She’d always been the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. The transition from girl to woman had only added polished layers to that beauty. Her hair was as he remembered it, a long tumble of flaming curls around a face of rose and cream. That skin, he remembered, was as soft as dew. Her nose was small and straight, her mouth wide and full. And he remembered, perfectly remembered, the
texture and flavor. Her eyes were smoke-gray, almond-shaped, and watched him now with a studied coolness.

She smiled, and that, too, was cool, as she walked toward him.

Her dress, a dull gold, clung to her curves, showed off long, long legs. The heels she wore were the same tone and made her look like something glowing with heat. But he felt no warmth from her as she arched a brow and looked at him in turn.

“Well, it’s Sam Logan, isn’t it? Welcome back.”

Her voice was deeper, just a few degrees deeper than it had been once upon a time. Sultrier, smokier, silkier. It seemed to wind its way into his belly even as he puzzled over her polite smile and detached welcome.

“Thanks.” Deliberately, he matched her tone. “It’s good to be back. You look amazing.”

“We do what we can.”

She tossed back her hair. There were citrine stones at her ears. The details of her, down to the rings on her fingers, the subtle scent that surrounded her, etched themselves into his mind. For an instant, he tried to read hers but found the language foreign and frustrating.

“I like your bookstore,” he said, careful to keep his voice casual. “Or what I’ve seen of it.”

“Well, we’ll have to give you the grand tour. Lulu, you have customers.”

“I know what I’ve got,” Lulu muttered. “It’s a workday, isn’t it? You don’t have time to go showing this one around the place.”

“Lulu.” Mia merely angled her head, a quiet warning. “I’ve always got a few minutes for an old friend. Come upstairs, Sam, see the café.” She started back up, her hand trailing along the rail. “You may have heard that a mutual friend of ours, Zack Todd, was married last winter. Nell’s
not only a close friend of mine but she’s a spectacular cook as well.”

Sam paused at the top of the stairs. It annoyed him that he had to get his bearings, seek his balance. The scent of her was turning him inside out.

The second floor was just as welcoming as the first, with the added enticement of a bustling café on one end and all the wonderful aromas, of spices, coffee, rich chocolate, that wafted from it.

The display glass sparkled in front of a dazzling selection of baked goods and salads. Fragrant smoke streamed from an enormous kettle where even now a pretty blonde ladled out soup for a waiting customer.

Windows on the far wall let in glimpses of the sea.

“It’s terrific.” That, at least, he could say without qualification. “Just terrific, Mia. You must be very proud of what you’ve done here.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

There was a bite, a quick, nasty nip, in the tone that had him looking back at her. But she only smiled again, gestured with an elegant hand that sparkled with rings. “Hungry?”

“More than I’d counted on.”

A glimpse of that bite snapped, for an instant, in those smoke-gray depths before she turned and led the way to the counter. “Nell, I have a man with an appetite.”

“Then he’s come to the right place.” Nell grinned, her dimples fluttering, her blue eyes friendly when they met Sam’s. “Our soup of the day is chicken curry. Special salad is shrimp diablo, and the sandwich of the day is grilled pork and tomato on olive loaf. Plus our regular fare,” she added, tapping the counter menu, “with our vegetarian offerings.”

Zack’s wife, Sam thought. It was one thing to realize
that his oldest friend had taken the plunge and another to see the reason why. It gave him yet one more jolt.

“Quite a selection.”

“We like to think so.”

“You can’t make a bad choice when Nell’s prepared it,” Mia told him. “I’ll just leave you in her capable hands for the moment. I do have work. Oh, Nell, I should have introduced you. This is an old friend of Zack’s, Sam Logan. Enjoy your lunch,” she said, then walked away.

Sam watched surprise race over Nell’s pretty face, then every bit of warmth drain away. “What can I get you?”

“Just coffee for now. Black. How’s Zack?”

“He’s very well, thank you.”

Sam drummed his fingers on his thigh. Another guard at the gate, he thought, and no less formidable than the dragon, for all the soft looks. “And Ripley? I heard she got married just last month.”

“She’s very well and very happy.” Nell’s mouth formed a firm, unwelcoming line as she set his coffee in a to-go cup on the counter. “No charge. I’m sure Mia doesn’t want, or need, your money. They serve a very nice lunch at the Magick Inn, as I’m sure you know.”

“Yes, I know.” A pretty kitten, and very sharp claws, Sam mused. “Do you think Mia needs your protection, Mrs. Todd?”

“I think Mia can handle anything.” She smiled now, thin as a blade. “Absolutely anything.”

Sam picked up his coffee. “So do I,” he agreed, then wandered off in the direction Mia had gone.

The bastard. Once she was behind the closed door
of her office, Mia let out a splinter of the rage. Even that had books and knickknacks on her shelves rattling and
jumping. That he would have the nerve, the insensitivity, the
stupidity
to waltz into her store.

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