Authors: Em Petrova
An eRedSage Publishing Publication
This book is a work of complete fiction. Any names, places, incidents, characters are products of the author’s imagination and creativity or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is fully coincidental.
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Trefoil © 2011 by Em Petrova
Cover © 2011 by Rae Monet
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By Em Petrova
TO MY READER:
Some writers begin with characters and create conflict for them. The trio of main characters in Trefoil came at me backwards, as the ending unfolded to me first. I wrote the ending scene, and as I was writing, other scenes flashed through my mind. At the time, I didn’t yet have a computer, so the entire novel was written longhand on spiral notebooks. Thirteen in all, and in this case, I consider thirteen to be a lucky number. Trefoil was actually the first book I wrote after a long stint of writer’s block following our first child’s death, and at the moment of inspiration, I just knew I had to bring these characters to life. Writing had never been more than a hobby to me, but with the birth of these characters, a new passion rose inside me, fueling a drive to be published and share these stories with readers.
While writing Trefoil, I fell in love with a secondary character, Will Cochran, who told me his story of the phenomenon known as The Calling, which links immortals to their mates. So the first book of the Immortal Series—Runes—was written second. Speaking in terms of time, Trefoil fits between scenes of Runes.
Every character in the Immortal Series speaks deeply to me, and I can’t wait to reveal more of their stories. However, as the first book I wrote after a seven-year dry spell, Trefoil will always hold a special place in my heart.
While I was writing this story, in one scene my characters chose to express their love and devotion to one another in a sacred site. No church was harmed in the making of this book.
The woman who paused on the cemetery path contained a soft, flickering glow like a candle in a very still room, wavering when first lit, and then swelling into yellow radiance. The weak winter sunlight contributed nothing to this, and Nathan knew if he drew her into the shadows, she would still possess a clear, golden look that only immortals have. He should know.
His eyes flashed open. He bolted upright in bed, his hands twisting into the sheets. His words were a harsh rasp tumbling from his open mouth. “The Calling.”
He blinked at his surroundings. Tall armoire, hand-carved by his father centuries ago. Wash basin with porcelain pitcher, the scent of his mother’s handmade soap still clinging to it. No glowing immortal woman.
Yet, he saw her.
His view of her was impaired, like looking through a fog or a keyhole. His tunnel of vision shifted upward to encompass a white lily tucked behind her ear, and a mahogany tendril of hair that had lifted on the stiff wind.
Nathan ground his teeth with frustration, desperate to see more. The keyhole shifted and he was offered a view of her lower lip as she pulled it, glistening, between her teeth.
He leapt to his feet, his forehead and neck soaked with sweat. Though his eyes were fixed on the soft light of dawn shimmering through his bedroom window, the images of her continued to come. The air palpitated with them. His heart palpitated with them. His immortal blood palpitated with them.
When the view shifted again, he was unprepared for the sight of her naked back, a rope of hair draped across one shoulder, and the zigzagging, floral tattoo on her spine. His fingers knotted into fists and his breath exploded from his lungs. His mouth watered to press his lips to that tattoo, knowing when he did, she would make the vital sound which would bind them—a gasp.
The sound itself was a sandpapery rasp, rending a hole in his chest that only she could fill.
He whirled to the window. The Vermont morning light was pale, watery and yellow, not the glowing green light that had spread its fingers through his room and fallen upon the body of the woman in his vision. But she was out there. She had Called to him, that woman with the flowering vine of a tattoo. Nathan trapped his skull between white-knuckled fists. Where? Where would he begin tracking her? He jammed his feet into his abandoned shoes and launched himself through the open window and into the brisk morning. . . running.
Lillian stretched across the king-sized hotel bed. The salty ocean air came in short pulses through the yawning glass doors and the Hawaiian sands rushed right up to their lip. The draperies, which were parted on each side of this view, were calm last night when her husband John had drawn them open to gaze at the stars, but now they shuddered violently.
His hand lifted to brush the lock of hair from her eyes. “Lillian,” he whispered like a prayer.
The sound of his voice woke her fully. It was not the voice of the man in her dreams. She cupped John’s face and drew him down for a kiss, partly because she wanted the unusual feeling her dream man’s voice had evoked to continue, partly because her chest burned with the guilt of spending the past eight unconscious hours with a man who was not her mate.
The breeze freshened once more, filling Lillian’s nose with the salt of the sea. It washed the dream from her mind, filling her with loss. For a long moment she basked in the memory of that dream.
She saw a fire crackling on a grate, and a light sweat dewing the skin of a beautiful man. His lips had met the corner of hers too briefly, before they tumbled into the depths of a feather mattress. The fingers on her spine were rough and erotically unfamiliar. When they were replaced by his mouth, she had gasped.
She could see him running.
Lillian slipped from between the snowy white sheets and padded across the thick carpet to the bathroom. She shut herself inside and leaned against the door, breathing hard. In the other room, she heard the television flick on and the broadcast of the morning news.
She trailed her fingers over the face of her reflection in the mirror. Her clear skin—other than looking green beneath the fluorescent lighting—appeared unchanged. She saw the same thick, wavy hair and small frame. But when she lifted her eyes, she did not see the calm, grey sea that John claimed them to be. They were bright and wide, burning still from last night’s dream.
it a dream? When she thought of the man who had fallen to the feather mattress with her, she was presented with other images. A speeding airplane, the white expanse of sky, and a man’s watch on a strong wrist. A wrist that did not belong to John.
She twisted to see her spine in the mirror. Yes, the immortal tattoo was still there. The flowering vine tattoo had been part of her always.
She splashed her face with icy water and twined her hair in a rope over one shoulder. To the timeless reflection she added a splash of red lipstick and a delicate rope of pearls. But when she stepped into the lavender sheath dress she called for John.
He appeared behind her at once. With over sixty years of practice, John could anticipate her every need. His fingers traced the curve of her spine, making her squirm with the memory of her dream and the man who had pressed his lips to that very spot.
“John,” she said, hoping her impatience passed as eagerness to explore the island.
In one swift maneuver, he had her zipped and turned into his arms. “You’re beautiful as always,” he said.
She felt her face heat.
“I can still make you blush after over six decades.” He laughed and drew her into the suite. The table for two was beautifully turned out with china and fine hotel silver. John guided her to a chair with a hand on the small of her back. When she stiffened, he ducked to see her eyes, which she averted.
He held out the chair for her to sit and seated himself opposite her. As she lifted the teapot and poured the fragrant Chinese tea, his gaze never left her.
“You’ve forgotten your bracelets,” he said.
Lillian stifled a gasp. Had she? She had never forgotten in all these years, and yet in her dream, her wrists had been bare. That man had gripped them in one hand.
“You’re right,” she said, fighting her panic. “I’ll get them after breakfast. It smells wonderful.”
She brought the china teacup to her mouth and took a scalding sip. John’s long dark brows were knitted as he studied her. His hair flopped into his smoldering black eyes. Where John was dark, her dream man was light.
As she thought of him, her mind was flooded by new images, a newspaper flapping in his face and long, artistic fingers tapping his knee. Those fingers. . . .
“What’s on the agenda today?” she asked. “Beach?” She glanced out at the baking sands. She longed to stretch beneath the sun and sleep. A sailboat drifted past and she heard the faint cry of ocean birds.
“I have something else in mind,” John told her. He rose from the table and offered her his hand. “Shall I get your sweater?”
“Oh, please,” she said with a wave. “Who needs a sweater in Hawaii?”
While he waited, she enclosed herself in the bathroom once again. As she snapped the wide silver cuff bracelets onto each wrist, she stared hard at her eyes in the mirror.
You must stop this at once, Lillian.
When she emerged, she hoped her face didn’t reflect the erratic beat of her heart. At her appearance, John shuddered as if a frigid wind had gusted through the suite. She lay a hand along his hot cheek.
cold?” she asked.
He released a short huff of laughter. “Ghosts walking over my grave,” he said.
They spent two heartbeats reading each other’s eyes, and then Lillian looped her arm through his and allowed him to lead her off into the sunlight.
* * * * *
Lillian stared at the plaques lining the walls of the USS Arizona memorial. The silence pressed on her eardrums and created a stupefying vacuum. Why were they visiting this monument? Over the decades, she and John had visited many sites of burial and death. He had evaded much gunfire in his centuries as a soldier, but never had he mentioned being a participant in World War II, let alone the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Behind her, his breath rasped as if he were escaping the very gunfire that had washed that ship from the earth’s surface. Every decade he liked to revisit the spots where he’d buried his friends. From the Civil War through WW II, he had lost many. Outlived them all. Pondering his immortality—with a certain splash of accompanying survivor’s guilt—was a big part of his reason for the visit. And yet, this trip was different in many ways. He wore his strain like a military uniform.
And they’d never visited this memorial before.
She focused on the names once more.
“Howdy, ma’am.” The honeyed southern drawl made Lillian freeze. The voice—the intonation and inflection—were so familiar. She rifled her memories, willing recognition. John forgotten, she examined the man from beneath her lashes.
No, she didn’t know him, had never known him.
She returned to reading the lists of names. But that phrase continued to rotate through her brain like a gleaming brass key she couldn’t catch. "Howdy, ma’am. Howdy, ma’am". The key whooshed past. Her mind filled with muddled images of being pressed into the damp earth, the scent of fresh grass filling her nose, her lungs filling with laughter, and a cowboy hat tumbling to the ground.
She folded her arms over her torso to still the fluttering in her stomach. Her senses were playing tricks on her. She smelled grass, the sterile, unfamiliar smell of the memorial and the musky perfume of last night’s dream man all mixed with the salt of the sea. She started to tremble.
The crackling loudspeaker interrupted the silence and John jerked forward to claim her hand and lead her off to the shuttle that would take them on their next leg of the tour.
Chugging across the silvery waves, the tourist with the drawl chattered to his family while John held Lillian’s hand. The sun was a hot glare on the water and gave her an excuse to drop her eyes.
As she entered the shrine room of the USS Arizona Memorial, her mind was invaded by more images. Lines of men in crisp white like so many teeth on the face of the gigantic vessel and a sun-filled kitchen, a porcelain jug brimming with exotic flowers.
She scanned the room, wishing for an exit. A small bead of perspiration trickled down the base of her neck. John’s hand clamped her to his side. His heavy breathing indicated he was experiencing memories of war, but she escaped his hold and crossed the space.
The plaque on the far wall drew her like seismic pull. But the wave of energy caused by the sudden breaking of earth’s rock did not compare to the wrench Lillian felt. She felt a fine thread between her and the engraved letters. If someone passed between her and the tablet, the tie would be severed and she would be injured. That invisible chord ran straight to her heart.
The southern drawl echoed in her ears as the tourist spoke with his family.
“Have you found granddaddy’s name yet?”
“We’ll get some pictures of us over there in that spot of sun.”
“I’m getting hungry.”
Her fingertip traced the name etched in marble. The cadence, when she said it in her head, was good. It was familiar.
The gasp made her whirl, the name forgotten. John’s jaw was locked, but she knew he had issued that sound. Her high heels clicked as she rushed to him. She leaned into his arms, feeling more unbalanced than ever. His expression was twisted yet plastic like a soda bottle tossed into flames.
She tuned out the tourist’s drawl and the marble plaque and the name Robert Albright, concentrating solely on John. His eyes were glazed as he stared at the tablets of names. She began to search the names for one that she may recognize from his painful past. But deep down, she felt an uneasy ripple, knowing if she cared to delve into her own consciousness, the name could be plucked from her own memory.
* * * * *
The spiny sea creature relaxed upon Lillian’s plate, so long that its scaled tail dangled off and touched her silverware. John eyed it and edged his plate away. She tossed her long braid over her shoulder and laughed. She loved seeing his disgust when she tried a new dish. She cracked into the shell and began spooning out the flesh. He averted his eyes.
The outdoor café was situated off the beach, but the ocean was always a warm neighbor in Oahu. The breeze blew straight at their faces, drying the sweat that slicked Lillian’s skin.
“It looks like rain,” John commented.
“We’ll have to run for cover.”
“Why?” she asked around a mouthful of seafood. “My flower needs water.” She tipped her head up to the heavens as if to water the bloom tucked behind her ear.
He continued to dart glances at the grey clouds. The table vibrated as his knees bounced. His fingers drummed the top. She knew he needed to move, and soon.
For John, walking was essential. As a child in colonial Virginia, he had walked out of necessity. As a soldier his feet had carried him from battle to battle along the east coast. And later, when a horse or train or automobile became available, he said his legs were restless. To walk was to commune with the world, to be part of the whole. And a man who had spent over two centuries walking the earth must remain connected.
Minutes later they meandered toward the inner village. The mist dampened her hair and caused it to frizz about her temples. When the wind struck her full in the face, the wisps blew into her eyes.
Suddenly John stopped walking and spun her into his arms. He tenderly brushed the curls away and moved in with exquisite slowness, lips lowering inch by inch. Lillian shivered at his rough, unshaven jaw and sweet, searching kiss. She swayed against him, one hand lifting to grip his shirt front. The heat of him spread through her and sizzled down to lodge between her thighs. His taste alone could ignite her need. Couple that with his thorough tongue kiss and she was trembling for more.
He smiled into her eyes, anchored her to his side and continued their walk. As they strolled, he hummed a Mozart piece she’d heard him play many a time. When John’s fingers were set to the piano keys, he commanded the room. At the last party they attended, their host begged John to play. He threw his tuxedo tails over the piano bench and captivated the audience.
Lillian leaned against the piano to watch, memorizing the coal black hair of his jaw against the crisp white shirt he wore. The sight of his capable fingers rippling over the ivory keys brought her desire to the surface. She wriggled from her panties, looped them off her high heels, and dropped them into the pianist’s tip jar.
John’s eyes hooded and a rakish grin spread over his handsome features. When he’d finally gotten her in his clutches, they had combusted.
Tripping along the quaint streets together, Lillian’s head swung side to side, taking in the older houses that bore American flags and tropical plantings. She couldn’t see the blue-grey of the ocean from here, but the sound of breakers against the sands reached her. The feeling of
touched her too, and she drew to a halt.
The house before her was deep sea blue with white wooden shutters. A spattering of flowers grew beside the narrow steps. Without a second thought, she climbed the stairs and rapped on the door.
“Lillian?” John’s voice was faint and strangled.
“I. . . .I think I know who lives here,” she said without turning to him.
Before she could knock, the door swung inward and a young boy faced her. Could he help her? She shook her head in confusion. A glimpse at the sunny yellow kitchen beyond dizzied her. The ghostly imprint of a porcelain jug of flowers flickered before her eyes.