Authors: Ranay James
The Book Shelf
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Feedback & Thank You
I would be remiss in failing to mention those in my life who had faith in my dream.
Laurie, Jodi, Alethia, Mary Beth and Katherine –You ladies are the best.
To my Husband - Thank you for supporting my vision and being my partner through life.
Book One - The McKinnon The Beginning - Nic
Book Two - Unfinished Business - Connor
Book Three - Shades of Grace - Cullen
Book Four - Of Purest Blood - Gage
Book Five - The Missing One - Decklyn
Book Six - A Whisper In The Dark - Robert
Book Seven - Armed and Dangerous - Mason
Book Eight - Bones of Contention - Josh
Book One - Apartment 42 - Slade
Book Two - The Queen's Heart - Chase
Book Three - A Garden For Eden - Micah
Book Four - Second Son of Cain - Asher
Book Five - Guarding Anna' - Cade
Book Six - Jade's Paradox - Alexander
Book Seven - The Reluctant Queen - Garrick
Book Eight - Blood So Sweet - Garrick
Book Nine - The Beast Within - Maddox
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying , recording or by any information storage and retrieval system.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are 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.
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“Wake, child! Run! Run, Morgan, go!”
Morgan heard the frantic voice of her mother as if yanked by a physical force from a deep and dreamless sleep. Already the fire was spreading at an alarming speed. Toxic black smoke was so thick she could hardly see the hand in front of her face and labored just to breath as the fingers of death reached for her, wrapping around her legs in a certain death grip.
She heard the voice, again.
“Mother!” she screamed as the ceiling began to collapse around her. “Rhiannon? John? James?” She called for her younger brothers and sister as she crawled along the stone floor. They had been sleeping in the same bed with her, but now were nowhere that she could see. The flames were gaining ground, licking at her gown, and embers singed her hair as she found the chamber door.
“Turn right, Morgan and run as fast as you can.”
She unflinchingly followed her mother’s voice.
Morgan ran down the hallway then traversed the stone stairs. The heat was so intense that the stone burned the tender skin of the bottom of her feet, yet she was heedless of the pain.
“Turn left, now!”
her mother’s voice demanded her.
Morgan instantly obeyed, finding herself only a few feet from the main entry door. Flames completely engulfed the opening in a deadly inferno of burning wood and molten metal.
“Trust me, Child. Go through that door.”
Morgan felt rather than heard the voice in her head.
Morgan’s sense of survival was almost too strong to follow that demand from her mother’s voice.
“Trust me, go! There will be a way provided. Go or die!”
Morgan took a leap of faith. Bounding over the last three steps of the staircase, she made a running dash for that flaming door. Only feet from the massive blaze, the door baring her exit fell, crashing outward as a massive beam fell from the ceiling. This unburned beam was the bridge she needed as she dashed out of the massive gap left from the missing entryway.
Out into the night, Morgan ran through the snow in her bare feet until she could no longer feel the searing heat. Turning to look back, she called to her family, screaming at the top of her lungs, forcing her voice to rise above the roar of the firestorm.
Had her family survived? She saw no one in the outer bailey as she ran through the outer gates trying to escape the fire that was rapidly spreading to all the outbuildings and stables. It was as if the whole of the castle was deserted and she was the only living soul.
She saw her father stumbled out of the castle carrying her mother and relief flooded her. She ran to him where he had fallen to the ground, burned and dying.
“Mamma, Papa, oh God, somebody help them!” she cried, looking around for any hope of assistance for the father she adored and the mother she loved beyond life itself. There was no help for either of them as she watched her adored father take his last breath holding his beloved Duchess whom he had died to save.
His efforts had been in vain.
Alison Pembridge, Sixth Duchess of Seabridge, fought the hands of death pulling her into the spirit world. She had one thing she had to do before leaving this physical earth behind her.
“Morgan, listen to me.” Alison struggled to speak past the pain and damage to her lungs from the searing flames. “I love you, heart of my heart.”
“Mamma, save your strength. You will be fine. I’ll make you better, I promise. Just don’t die, please. I’ll take good care of you.”
Morgan’s young mind could not fathom what was actually happening. Her brain was not allowing her to see this for what it was. Alison knew that. Reality would find her lovely daughter soon enough.
Alison also had foreseen this night long before she had married the dashing and charismatic Morgan James Pembridge, Sixth Duke of Seabridge. She could not change things or stop the hands of fate. She had tried to spare her children the pain of what this night had brought to them all. As a mother, she had failed. Destiny had brought them here, regardless of her efforts to change the flow of time and how this event would unfold. It simply had been out of her control to stop the hands of fate.
She had also foreseen other events, and she had to pass onto her daughter what she could while there was still time.
“Listen to me, child. You must be strong. You're now the Seventh Duchess of Seabridge. It is your destiny, and the path ahead will make you strong if you do not let him kill you. Only you can find the inner strength to survive, Morgan. Take heart, the great sorrow will pass and great triumph will follow. Remember the contract I showed you?”
Morgan nodded as tears streamed, cutting a clear path down her soot-covered face.
“Do not forget it, Morgan, and just as you heard my voice tonight, know I will always be there to guide you in time of greatest crisis. I…love…you.” Alison’s hand fell away from her daughter's face.
“Mamma? Mamma!” Thirteen-year-old Morgan watched as the light went out of her mother’s emerald green eyes.
Morgan screamed as her Uncle Lester Brentwood picked her up and carried her away from her parents’ bodies.
“No! Put me down! Let me go!” She fought him as she saw a man dragging her father further from the flames. Brentwood needed indisputable proof his step-brother, wife, and children were dead.
“Morgan, listen to me. They are gone! They are all gone except you and me.” Lester watched as the remainder of his home went up in flames. Morgan was too distraught to notice that a wagon, a covered carriage, and several horses were already ready to leave. “I’m taking you home to Seabridge. Then I will go to King Henry. As your father’s only brother, I am your only living relative, Morgan. You are now my responsibility.”
Morgan was numb. She had suffered the greatest loss a child could experience, but she clung to her mother’s words.
“I will guide you in times of crisis.”