Brenda & Toby
When Brenda Carmichael lays her hands on an ancient amulet, she is knocked off her feet and catapulted into a life she never dreamed of. Everything she knew to be true – about her life and who she is - is now false. Her friends are not who she thought they were either, and Toby, the gorgeous hunk she can’t seem to live without, is part of it.
Stumbling between needing stability in her life, wanting to pursue the irresistible Toby, and figuring out why she has become a pawn between two powerful supernatural beings, she discovers abilities she never knew she had and that she is inexorably tied to a witch and vampire. But discovering who she truly is, is only the beginning. She must navigate a new normal, but when the Original vampire comes to claim her and kill her friends in retribution, she must declare her birthright which requires the ultimate sacrifice. There’s only one problem.
She’s already dead.
Enjoy Chapter One below!
"I could cut myself on those chiseled cheekbones." I leaned close to whisper in Lia's ear, but my eyes were glued to the huge hunk of man sitting across the fire from me. "I don't know where he came from, but he's mine. I claim him." I slapped a hand to my chest.
Lia snorted and squinted at me, her brown eyes filled with amusement. She tolerated me and I knew it.
"He does have good cheekbones," she said, turning to study the object of my obsession.
Toby leaned back in his chair, his impossibly long legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankles. He wore tight fitting designer jeans, leather boots that were shiny and new, and a silky t-shirt that strained across his chest and arms. I wanted to wrap myself in those arms and let him hold on to me for dear life. He sipped from a black water bottle, some thick, dark liquid that left his lips stained red. I wanted to crawl into his lap and taste those lips, sure they would taste like strawberries.
But his eyes held me in place. Eyes of the deepest, purest green I had ever seen. They were clear as glass and swam with a curious intent that I wanted to explore further.
The first time I had laid eyes on him, I lost my ability to breathe. He took up the entire room, it seemed. He was tall enough that he had to duck his head when entering through most doorways. And his body was rippled with muscles I didn't know the human form could have. Yet he had a grace about him that seemed impossible for his breadth and height. His gate was smooth and unhurried, his movements languid.
And when he smiled at me, I puddled on the floor in a heap of drooling mess. Sometimes I wasn't sure how I could stand to be around him. My fingers constantly itched to touch him. I was proud that I had so far remained aloof on that measure. Oh, but it was coming. I could feel it in my bones.
There was something else about him. Something I could not put my finger on. The others had it, too, and it confounded me at times. They were a close-knit group and I envied that. They were like a family, something I had desperately wanted for as long as I could remember.
But that was morbid thinking and I didn't want to travel down that path. This was a celebration and I was determined to make the most of it.
"Why don't you ask him?" Lia threw me a sideways look.
I sat back and eyed her. "I could never ––"
"Oh, yes you could," she said, laughing. "You could always."
"You're right." I slid a glance over at Toby under my lashes. "I could."
He was deep in conversation with Zane, their two heads bent toward each other. Toby’s brows drew together, his gaze veering off to the far end of the pasture, toward the tree line. A shiver snaked down my spine.
I glanced over at Abby, who sat on the other side of me. She had gone through a lot these past few months. Her aunt and uncle had been murdered in this home. And a few days ago, her farm had been attacked by bandits. Luckily, Toby, Zane, Lia, and Dominic had all been here to fight them off. But now, Abby seemed different somehow. More sure of herself and confident and I was happy for her. Things had worked out for her. I regretted missing her impromptu wedding and wondered with a pang of disappointment, why she hadn’t waited. I was supposed to have planned the whole thing, but what did I know? Love was love and when the time was right, I guess, then you just did it. But I was secretly pleased that she’d loved the dress that Lia and I had made for her.
But there was that other thing, too. The thing they all had. The thing I couldn't quite get a handle on. I had to admit, if only to myself, that my curiosity grew on a daily basis. I wanted to know what it was about them.
Lia and I had been friends since kindergarten. Her parents had always been quirky and fun. And now I understood it. They were witches. They had often drawn circles with salt and chanted words I didn't know the meaning of. I often studied the little alter in their living room when they weren't looking. I hadn’t known what it all was as a child, but as I got older, things started to make sense. And I paid attention when others thought I didn’t.
But Lia never talked about it. In all our years of friendship, she had never once said a word about her parents' activities. And I never asked. It was something I had observed and come to realize on my own over the years.
Now, sitting around the fire pit, I looked at each of them. Lia, Dominic, Abby, Zane. And Toby. They were all so incredibly beautiful. Their skin seemed like porcelain, clear and smooth. Their movements were graceful and easy. They seemed to glide more than walk. And often, the two couples seemed to communicate with each other without saying a word.
But it was more than all of that. As I leaned back in my chair, keeping my eyes on Toby across the flames, I vowed to get to the bottom of it.
I was fascinated by them.
Watching Toby, I decided to start with him. I wanted to know who he was, where he came from. His accent was English, but I knew he had lived in America for quite a long time. Perhaps he had come with his parents when he was a child. Maybe he had been sent over to live with relatives. Maybe he ––
"Well, let's have a toast, shall we?" Elizabeth, Lia and Abby's aunt, said, uncorking a champagne bottle.
She and her sister, Fiona, were another enigma to me. There was something familiar about them, as though I’d met them before but I was sure that wasn’t right. It niggled at the back of my mind, like an old memory that refused to surface. But the more I tried to recall it, the deeper it seemed to bury itself.
I held up my cup when she came around. She smiled down at me, her eyes wary but warm. Her gaze seemed to linger on me a bit too long and I squirmed, my eyes sliding away as though I had something to hide.
"To Abby and Zane," she said, raising her cup. "May you both have a long and happy existence... er, life... together."
I was quicker than they gave me credit for. I caught the slip but brushed it off and looked away as though I hadn't heard it.
“To Abby and Zane,” we said in unison. Taking a small sip of the champagne, I leaned over to squeeze Abby’s hand and noticed the small wrapped parcel she’d put under her chair earlier.
"What's that?" I asked, hoping to divert attention from me. Elizabeth and Fiona both seemed distracted by my presence, their eyes often seeking me out.
At my question, conversation stopped and all eyes turned toward Abby. Mission accomplished.
Abby leaned down and brought out the bundle, wrapped in a heavy cloth.
"Anne revealed things to me," she said.
"Who's Anne?" I said around a mouthful of burger.
Instead of answering me, Abby turned to Lia. "There's a third. I don't know how she fits into it all, but there's more. So much more."
I swallowed hard. All pretense of being distracted was forgotten as I listened to Abby tell a story about someone named Ryan being hired by Lilith's maker. I didn't know who Lilith was, or Ryan, but I assumed it had something to do with the attack on Abby's aunt and uncle.
"He also mentioned he had been given a seat on the High Council if he ––" Abby glanced at me "–– killed me."
I jerked back and dropped my burger. "Killed you?"
"It's okay. As you can see, I'm fine."
"Someone tried to kill you?" I knew the farm had been attacked recently but I had no idea they had tried to kill Abby, too.
I jumped when Lia's hand landed on my knee.
"It's not over," Abby said, her voice grave.
The air of celebration vanished as though a dark cloud had descended over our group.
No one said a word as Abby unwrapped the small bundle in her lap.
"The third amulet," Lia said, leaning forward to get a closer look.
"Yes. Anne has said we must find the other person."
"How do we do that? Where do we look?" Dominic asked.
"The old homestead," Zane offered.
Morbidly curious, I tilted my chair toward Abby to take a closer look at the object in her hand.
"That looks ancient. How old is it?" I asked, my fingers itching to touch it.
"I'm not sure. Centuries."
I reached out, my hand hovering above it. "May I?"
At first, I thought she might refuse but she held out her hand to me. I peered at it, inexplicably drawn to it.
My fingers closed around it. And I burst into flames. Purple flames. I screeched, jolted out of my chair, and tumbled backwards, landing hard in the dirt.
Everyone was one their feet. Lia and Abby rushed over to me, staring at me wide-eyed.
"Dear God," Abby said. "She's the one."