"An exciting story filled with romance, magic and mystery..." ~ Romance Reviews Today
"Kathleen Nance is a superb storyteller. Her books are guaranteed to captivate and entrance to the point where time has no meaning." Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews
Dia Trelawny spun in a flash of strobe light and glitter. Smoke roiled across the stage, and a frenetic rock beat vibrated beneath her feet as she vaulted onto the steel-pipe stand. She raised her hands, planted her feet, in triumph and confidence. Her lungs sucked in breath but her grin, a mix of show and genuine delight, concealed the exertion.
* * *
Behind her the whirling blades edged closer. Her blonde hair whipped around her neck and shoulders from the force of the generated wind. Dia shook her head,
clearing the untamed curtain back while Paolo, her assistant, snapped her wrists into the shackles above her head. She struggled and writhed against the iron,
a vivid demonstration that she could not escape the deadly bonds.
All part of the effect.
Throbbing drums mixed with the exhilaration of performance, her reward for hours of practice. Sweat enveloped her, hidden beneath her silver bodysuit. Before her, beyond the blinding stage lights and the insistent music, the audience waited, eyes on stage, while Paolo clicked panels shut around her, encasing her.
For one second Dia wondered if her sister had used the complementary tickets--the lights kept her from seeing out into the audience--then the question vanished beneath the demands of her performance.
Metal cut the air behind her, and the skin on her back prickled from heat and adrenaline. Those blades were real; the illusion was toothless without that very clear threat. The lady-sawed-in-half updated to the lady-shredded-by-a-jet-fan.
Dia flashed her grin again, while she tensed, waiting for the dazzling flares of light. Waiting for the flash, her cue, the perfect moment to complete the illusion.
No flares. No flash.
Smile frozen, Dia cursed. Her lighting tech had begged for one more chance, and she'd given in. Her fault for being fooled by his excuses. She hated being tricked.
The whoosh of blade closed in. Paolo hid his worried look behind an athletic flip. Abort the blade? his look asked. Just do the escape?
Behind the continuing stage performance, Dia grit her teeth and gathered her strength. She gave a nearly imperceptible shake of her head. Her show would not be second rate because she'd fallen for a line. She could do this without the flash. The timing just had to be faster, and she'd have to ignore the painful twist in her shoulder the move would require. Dia took a breath, flexed her muscles, and--
With an ear-splitting whine, the blades penetrated the surrounding panels, emerged to the front. Spinning metal pierced her, right through the belly. Or, at least that's what the audience believed, judging from their collective gasp.
Thankfully, the smoke came as planned, and the lady escaped from bonds and blades. Dia jumped off the platform with a flourish, displaying an intact body. As she took her bow to the precious sound of applause, she grinned in relief and utter joy.
Hugh Pendragon watched the finale to the magician's act, knowing it was an illusion, yet still unable to dismiss the cramp in his gut when it looked like the blades had gone through her.
Or the heat when she'd flashed that high-volt smile. Smoke erupted on stage, then a split second later Dia Trelawny, free of all bonds and dangers, sparkled through it. She spun and bowed.
The lady was good. A mistress of illusion.
Hugh doubted anyone else in the audience realized there'd been one tiny kink in the performance. He wasn't sure what exactly had gone wrong, but he'd seen the split second falter in Dia's smile and his muscles felt the alteration of her rhythm.
His cell phone vibrated in his pocket. Amid the thundering applause, Hugh slipped from his seat, glad to escape the confines of the crowd and the blood-rousing sight of Dia Trelawny in silver lamé. Offstage she was charming, but on stage she was mesmerizing. He'd bet a blood ruby that every man here was feeling something erotic.
Unwanted fantasies about Dia were a complication he didn't need in his life.
In the quiet lobby, he glanced at the caller ID: Armond Marceaux. Last week, the FBI agent had come to him with a missing person's case, a young woman believed abducted by a co-worker and taken out of state. Only Hugh's long-standing friendship with Armond had persuaded him to take the case and risk another failure.
Had that one faint vision been enough? Dense trees, the woman's damaged face--too little to go on when she hadn't much time left.
Chest tightening, Hugh flipped open the phone. "Pendragon."
"We found the lady," Armond told him. "She was right where you said she'd be, in his hunting cabin near the Canadian border."
"Alive?" asked Hugh, gripping the phone. Bars of cold iron banded his chest, until breathing almost stopped. He forced himself to drag in a painful breath.
Armond hesitated. "She was alive, but just barely. We almost didn't make it in time."
Breath came easier. Almost was too close, however, and next time, if he interpreted the scant image wrong--
"Thanks for telling me." Most of the law enforcement types who consulted him were too busy--or afraid to jeopardize their case in court if it got out they'd consulted a psychic detective--to get back to him. He was used to their ambivalence and discomfort about asking for his help in the first place, but he disliked discovering the results in the paper. Or in his dreams. Armond understood, perhaps because he had talents himself.
"You deserved to know. Thank you. It's good to know I can count on--"
"I'm retired," Hugh interrupted softly.
"I didn't think you were serious."
Hugh edged away from the stream of bodies leaving the theater. "I only did this last one because you asked it."
"You can't retire from yourself. Trust me, I know."
"I can, and I have. How's Callie and the baby?" Hugh changed the subject.
"Both well," Armond answered with a touch of pride. "Louis is almost sleeping through the night, and Callie is preparing to film more of the video series."
"I saw the first show. It was good; I went and bought a case of wine."
Armond laughed. "I'll tell her. Hugh--" His voice sobered. "Take care of yourself. If there's anything I can do--"
"All I need is some solitude." And maybe his failures would cease haunting his dreams. Gently, he flipped the phone closed.
Bodies from the departing audience brushed against him, the small touches disquieting. He moved away, into a small, protected niche, until the lobby of the theater emptied then he prepared to leave.
The door to the theater seating swung open from a final straggler, and Hugh slipped inside to stand at the rear. Dia strode across stage, already changed into shorts and a lacy top, her blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. She passed through a beam of light, shimmering and glittering as he remembered.
For six months, one vivid image had haunted him--Dia Trelawny passing through a beam of candlelight as she strolled, hips swaying, across the room at the wedding party for his friend, Armond. For that one timeless moment, she had seemed infused with amber.
When he'd seen she was performing in Chicago, he'd come, hoping to exorcize the lingering image. Instead, he was left with a mild arousal and the amber image now glittered with diamonds.
Hugh cast one last glance at the curtained stage, then left. He'd had one of his increasingly rare dreams last night. His dreams were sometimes prophetic, sometimes insightful, often painful and confusing, but they were rarely wrong.
Dia Trelawny would soon come to him.
He could wait.
* * *
Backstage, Dia plunged into the after show bustle. At least they'd be playing this venue for several performances, so they didn't need to knock down everything, just reset the props. A tour was exhausting, and with a small crew, every one had to pitch in for the work, but every splinter was worth it. Dia lived for the moments when she got on stage, when her magic held an audience rapt.
What she didn't enjoy were the administration hassles. "Mick?" she shouted, rotating her sore shoulder and looking for her fast-talking lighting tech. "Where's
"Mick always disappears when there's work," grumbled Anya, the sound tech, running a hand through her cropped, scarlet-tinted hair.
"He took off before the applause died, because he knew our dear Dia would be fuming." Paolo paused in setting up the massive picture frame she used in one
sequence. "Good show. You recovered well."
"But Mick's got the wrong karma; his disharmony disrupts our flow."
Dia cared more about results than karma, and with Mick as a lighting tech, the result was a sloppy performance, discontent among her stage crew, and a
pain in her shoulder.
Anya was more blunt. "How many more chances to screw up does he get?"
"None." Leaving her with two problems: finding Mick to fire and finding another tech on short notice.
"Dia!" The enthusiastic call carried through the back stage noise. A moment later Dia was enveloped by soft arms, honeysuckle perfume, and cotton print. Liza,
her sister. "I adored your show. How clever of you to take mother's tapping spirits and turn them into a puzzling illusion.."
Dia returned her sister's hug. "Glad you enjoyed it. Where are the twins?"
"Talking to somebody." Liza waved a vague hand. "They are thrilled, and I so appreciate this. You are a lifesaver."
"I'm just glad you could use the tickets. Look, I need to finish--"
"You're busy, and here I am running off at the mouth." Liza made a scooting motion with her hands. "Go ahead. Finish."
"I thought we could get something to eat when I finish."
"Great, teenagers are always hungry. Trust me. Lukas and Cameron drink at least a gallon of milk a day, and Elena devours fruit. Where can the twins wait?"
"I have a dressing area--"
"We'll find it." She gave Dia a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks again. You don't know what this means to me."
Dia watched her departing sister, bemused. Such enthusiasm over tickets and a family weekend in Chicago? Why hadn't she thought to do this earlier? Liza probably didn't get a chance to get out much. Anya paused in coiling a wire. "Relative of yours, Dia? She looks like you."
"My older sister."
"Is she a magician, too?"
"No." She and her sister looked alike, but the temperament genes had split down the middle. "Liza's into motherhood and macrame."
"How many kids she got?"
"Four. Two sets of identical twins. Fourteen and twelve."
"Ouch. Better her than me."
Dia laughed. "Me, too. She's a single mom, and I don't know how she manages, 'though they're basically good kids."
The crew, sans the errant Mick, worked efficiently and were soon set up for tomorrow's performance. "Dia," called Paolo. "We're about finished. Everyone's
heading out for drinks and a meal. You'll join us?"
"Not tonight, I've got plans. Tomorrow though." Dia hurried over to her dressing room, as the tiny closet she'd been given was grandly deemed, anxious to spend
the remaining evening with Liza and her nieces and nephews. How long had it been? Last December?
The boys, fourteen, hadn't bothered to wait in the room, she discovered as she rounded the corner to the narrow hallway. Not surprising. Her main impression
last visit had been one of endless motion and restless energy. If the twitchings of a teen-age boy could be harnessed, there'd be no energy crises. Cameron was
dribbling a miniature soccer ball, feinting left and right against an imaginary defender. Lukas slouched against the wall, his foot tapping to the music that must be playing through the headphones hanging in his ears while his fingers manipulated the controls of a hand held electronic game.
"Hey, guys." Dia gave them both a hug, figuring they wouldn't mind with no one to see, and tousled their identical red hair, dislodging Lukas's ear phones. "When did you get taller than me?"
Cam rolled his eyes. "Mom asks that all the time. I expected something original from you, Aunt Dia."
"Awesome show." Lukas's eyes gleamed.
"You use computers to orchestrate it?"
"Some. Where're the girls?"
Cam jerked his head toward the dressing room. Inside, Elena sat at Dia's dressing table, trying on make-up, while Claire sat curled in one corner, reading and twisting a strand of her brown hair. Where Cam and Lukas mostly ignored being identical twins, except when it suited their purpose to play the role, Claire and Elena fought it, highlighting their differences by clothes, hairstyle, hobbies, and attitudes. Today it manifested with Elena in tight shorts and a handkerchief print shirt with an extra button undone, while Claire was into black with three narrow braids dangling over her shoulder.
Elena leaped up when she saw Dia. Her face glittered. Blue pencil and shadow outlined her brown eyes. "Aunt Dia, this sparkle foundation is sooo fantastic.
Can I borrow it, puh-leeze?"
Dia plucked the bottle from Elena's fingers. "That's stage makeup, sweetie. Too strong for street wear. Besides, aren't you too young?" She gave her a hug.
"How's things been?"
"I am so glad school is out, it is so boring. And I'm twelve. Old enough for makeup."
"Not that kind. Why don't you try that remover? It's good for your skin." Dia turned to her other niece, still sitting quietly. "What are you reading, Claire? Must be good."
"It is." Carefully Claire put her bookmark in her page and closed the book. "It's the diary of a young woman written during her twelve years in a mental institution."
"Oh." Not sure what more to say, Dia looked around. Cam and Lukas propped up the doorway, Elena smeared cream on her face, and Claire was stuffing her book in a small pack. "Where's your Mom?"
"She couldn't wait," Cam answered.
"She said to tell you she was sorry, but the plane was leaving," added Lukas.
Dia blinked. "Excuse me? Leaving?"
"She's going off for romance and adventure." Elena sighed. "Just like Grandma."
"Going off?" Dia cleared her throat. "Where? How long?"
The four looked at each other blankly. "I don't think she ever said," said Cam at last.
"It's some wilderness trek," Claire said.
"She said she'd keep in contact by e-mail," Lukas offered.
"Mom gets this way every so often." Claire was utterly matter-of-fact, and the others nodded in easy agreement. "All gooey eyed over some guy. Don't worry, she'll be back before school starts."
"Who's picking you up? Who's watching you for the summer?" Dia's stomach knotted. No, Liza wouldn't do this to her. Liza had the maternal instincts; Dia couldn't keep a goldfish alive. Liza knew that. Four pairs of eyes, two feminine brown, two masculine blue, turned toward her.
In unison, four mouths uttered the dreaded words: "You are, Aunt Dia."
Blood rushing south to her toes, Dia dropped to her chair. "No. I can't. I've got shows scheduled all over the Midwest--"
"We're supposed to go with you." Claire again. "Mom thought it would be an education."
"Look, it's impossible. She should have asked me--"
"She did. Mom said she talked to you, and you agreed," Elena accused.
"I didn't--" Dia's voice trailed off. Liza had called last month after a show, when Dia was bone tired. Her sister had a tendency toward many words and little substance, and Dia had long ago formed the habit of listening only to the cadence of her sister's ramblings as her cue for a polite murmur.
One of those, Liza must have taken as a "yes." Or had heard what she wanted to hear, not what was said, another of Liza's habits.
"I'm sorry; I can't keep you with me." Especially not now. "We'll have to find someone to stay with you. What about Grandma?"
"Grandma's off on one of her spiritual treks." Claire hitched her pack onto her back.
"Still?" Dia bit her lip. Her mother, Adele, had surfaced a month ago asking for Dia to wire funds to Thailand, but Dia thought she'd come home since.
"We got a postcard from Nepal last week," answered Lukas.
"Mom couldn't find anyone to stay with us," said Cam. "That's why she asked you."
"There has to be someone." No other relatives to call on; the twins' father hadn't been heard from since the girls were two. Dia sorted through her acquaintances,
but couldn't think of a single one who'd want the job. "Maybe we could put out an ad."
Claire's eyes widened. "And possibly turn us over to the care of a criminal?"
"We'll check references."
"Do you know how easy it is to forge something like that?" asked Lukas.
Dia had the distinct impression she was being manipulated here. "All right." She stopped the cheers with a lifted hand. "I'm in Chicago for two weeks. You can stay with me for that long." How was she supposed to fit four kids--especially two the size of Cam and Lukas--in her efficiency sublet? "But when I find someone, no protests."
"You won't find anyone who'll keep us for the summer," predicted Lukas.
"Then I'll just have to find your disappearing mother, won't I?"
"Kathleen Nance is a superb storyteller. Her books are guaranteed to captivate and entrance to the point where time has no meaning. The only thing I could think of was to finish this outstanding book in order to see how it would end. I eagerly look forward to my next fix." Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews
"As with the other two books, THE SEEKER is packed with multiple storylines which Ms. Nance deftly handles with superb skill, gluing the reader to their seat as they turn each page. An exciting story filled with romance, magic and mystery; seek out your own copy of THE SEEKER today!"" Sondrea Cash, Romance Reviews Today
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