Authors: Julie Leto
Tags: #Julie Leto
THE PHANTOM SERIES
A trilogy of sexy paranormal novels
New York Times Bestselling Author
PRAISE FOR THE PHANTOM SERIES…
“A sexy page-turner you won’t want to miss!”
~ Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author on
“When Hollywood magic meets real magic, the collision leads to a sexy and thrilling tale.”
~ Jill Smith, Romantic Times Book Review, on
“Kiss of the Phantom is a mystery, love story, drama and adventure all rolled up into one book.”
~ Amy Wroblewsky, The Romance Reader, on
Kiss of the Phantom
His hand shaking, as much from age as from fear, Paschal Rousseau, noted Romani scholar, shut the door to his study and said a silent prayer for more time. He’d once thought he’d had more of that commodity than he could stand, but not any longer. His enemies were closing in on him of this, he was sure. He wouldn’t go without a fight, of course, but despite his best efforts to remain in good shape, ninety-plus years did take their toll on a man. In the meantime he had to bolster his arsenal with as much information as he could gather in the quickest, if most draining, way he knew.
To that end, he had to act. He had to push through the final barrier of his mind and connect with the past.
Not his past. He knew his own history, his own wild tale, which had led him here to the States to seek the objects he needed to counter the Gypsy curse. No, tonight he had to attempt something more dangerous. He had to seek a path into the distant past—into memories that were not his.
Flicking on the lamp on his desk, he stared at the oil painting he’d propped up on the blotter, knowing it had been the artist’s last work. The purplish clouds scuttling across the top of the canvas raged with rain. The whitecaps beneath the listing schooner sparked with anger and turmoil. Paschal had searched for this stormy seascape for years, learning more about the intricacies of art dealing than he’d ever intended. But he’d found the piece, and now it was time to use his so-called gift to take the final step.
He sat. Clutching the curved armrest of his chair with one hand, he reached out with the other and gingerly traced the name of the artist, rendered in bold strokes across the bottom of the canvas.
. He concentrated on everything he knew about the man, closed his eyes and painted his own picture of the artist in his mind. The only other rendering of the man existed in a place Paschal could no longer reach. Luckily, although he’d lived a somewhat unnaturally long life, his memory remained strong and reliable.
Once he saw Damon’s dark hair, steely eyes and rigid jaw in his mind’s eye, Paschal spread his fingers and palm over the center of the painting. At first he felt nothing but cool canvas and the stiff texture of dried enamels. But then, slowly, his hand seemed to meld into the painting. His flesh transparent. His mind transported.
The connection made, he pulled his mind’s eye out of the schooner in the gyrating ocean and concentrated on the night, more than two hundred and sixty years ago, when the artist and his entire band of brothers disappeared forever.
Tonight the war began.
The war? No, the slaughter. And if Damon Forsyth and his brothers didn’t reach the town of Umgeben before morning, their cherished sister would die in the impending massacre.
Damon kicked his heels hard into his mount’s sweaty flanks, pushing the animal onward despite the blinding rain and rocky landscape. Lightning flashed, briefly illuminating the distant cliffs. They were close to the cursed town. He could feel the vibrations beneath his horse’s hooves. The electricity spiking through the sky connected with the magic that pulsed beneath the ground and surged through his soaked clothes.
Valoren, land of the lost, prison to the Gypsies exiled from England by the first King George, was tucked into a mostly uninhabited corner of land between Germany and Bohemia. For nearly thirty years, Damon’s father, a British baron, governed the land. But even he had been powerless against the magic—powerless against the enemy who had used sorcery to steal Sarina from her family.
Damon howled a curse and kicked the horse harder. A few lengths behind him, his brothers echoed his battle cry. The chorus of five pulsed with desperation, anger…fear. Fear for their sister. Fear for their exiled family. Fear for the very continuation of the Forsyth name.
At the sight of a rider charging toward them from the west, Damon yanked on the reins. He held up his hand, and his brothers stopped alongside, their horses snorting heavily so that their hot breath created a gray mist in the frigid rain. Molded to his horse’s back like an extension of its spine, the approaching horseman galloped over the crags and rocks in the road.
Damon immediately recognized his half brother, Rafe, who slid into their circle and tossed back the hood on his cloak. His long, raven black hair merged with the darkness, but his clear blue eyes—so much like Sarina’s since they shared the same mother—were bright with fury.
“The mercenary army advances at dawn,” he reported.
Damon nodded, though his mind reeled. How had the confrontation escalated so quickly? From his trips to court, he’d known that the second King George often grumbled about reclaiming his land from the wanderers. Over the years, rumors flew that troops comprised of British and German mercenaries were being gathered to cleanse the enclave of the Romani. But Damon had never believed troops would arrive. Or that the offensive would put his family—good British citizens, save his Gypsy stepmother, youngest brother and only sister—in such grave peril.
“Then we have time to find Sarina,” Damon declared.
His brother Aiden, next in line to inherit, drew his sword. “Not if Rogan has spirited her away. He’s brought this danger on her. On us. He must pay for his betrayal!”
Rogan. Damon’s blood froze. He had brought Lord Rogan here to Valoren from London, introduced him to his family—and to his starry-eyed, trusting, barely seventeen-year-old sister—never guessing that the wealthy traveler had designs on taking the Gypsy land for his own. Rogan’s machinations had likely stirred the jealous king to action. Damon had unleashed the lion into the coliseum, and now everyone in the Gypsy colony would pay with their lives.
Damon held his hand against Aiden’s weapon, which glittered white when another bolt of lightning streaked across the sky. “Remember, we must find Sarina before we kill Rogan. He cannot die until we know where she is.”
The brothers said nothing, but their faces darkened, their jaws tightened and their eyes burned with hatred.
“We must ride!” Damon declared.
Once again, their band took off toward the cliffs. Between the rocky jags they narrowed their line, entering through the pass one rider at a time. By the time all six of them emerged in the valley, a cold weight dropped with a thud in Damon’s stomach.
The village of Umgeben appeared untouched. Still. Had the Gypsies not received the warning sent a few hours before? Fires flickered in the windows, smoke curled from the hearths of the common houses and music echoed from a faraway
, an elaborately decorated wagon the Gypsies had been forbidden by English law to move. But John Forsyth, their governor, had rescinded the order hours ago to help the Romani escape the incoming hoard. Why weren’t they uprooted? Hitched to mules in advance of the exodus that could possibly spare their lives?
Colin, the third brother, rode up silently, his voice only slightly louder than his usual whisper. “Where is everyone?”
Damon urged his mount through the town’s open gates and from his saddle tore open the curtains of the nearest cottage with his blade. He smelled meat stewing on the hearth, yet no one tended the fire. He rode around to the back and saw the animal pens unlocked and empty. He heard his brothers behind him as their horses’ hooves sucked in and out of the slick clay, each one riding to nearby houses and announcing the same results.