The winner is... Spirit Warrior- Link to Boru. And congratulations to Susan W, the winner of my contest. She'll soon receive a paperback copy of SEALs on Fire signed by all the Sassy Seven authors (except Nicole Austin. Darn it. She'll be moving to Colorado as the rest of us get together for The Naughty Sleepover in San Antonio.)
Ahhh. I cannot tell you how good it is to have my mental path cleared to get back to writing. I feel so damned good, I've decided to post the second chapter to Spirit Warrior. Plus you, dear readers, deserve it. You've put up with three starts to three very different stories. I appreciate your patience and your input. Truly.
In case you want to read or re-read the first chapter to Spirit Warrior-Link to Boru, click HERE. And, as always, I'd love to hear what you think of this second chapter. Feedback, people! Give me feedback! Plus I'd love it if you would share this story with your friends if you like it.
And now, Chapter 2 of Spirit Warrior-Link to Boru by Brenna Zinn.
While he slept, Cahara rested her wrist against O’Brien’s forehead and then silently gave thanks to Danu, the mother goddess. His fever had finally broken. The worst was over. Sean O’Brien would live.
If he hadn’t been such a big man, she could have killed him. The mere thought of losing what she prayed so long for sent a wave of sickening nausea to the pit of her stomach. She had only taken from him what she needed, yet restoring her powers and her body’s deteriorated state had required a good deal more of his strength than expected. She’d been far removed from an O’Brien and the River Shannon for over a hundred fifty years and should have been dead ages ago. Little wonder she had claimed nearly all his energy.
Holding out her hand and turning her palm up and back down again, she marveled at the renewed smoothness of her skin. The age spots which had covered nearly every inch of her body had faded away too, leaving only healthy, creamy white flesh. Having lived in a weathered and wrinkled shell of a body for so many seasons, she barely recognized herself.
Cahira caught sight of her image in the large mirror hanging on the far side of the room. Though she had seen her youthful reflection several times in the last few days, the shock of seeing herself as she appeared over a thousand years ago was unsettling. So much had changed in the world since her rebirth, yet she remained exactly the same.
She raked her fingers through her hair and watched as the long black strands came to rest against the pale blue of the shirt she now wore. Crisp and clean, Sean’s shirt felt infinitely better against her skin than her old, tattered gown. The ends of the too large garment billowed around her knees with her every movement like a sail catching even the slightest breeze. Soon, she would find something more suitable to wear, as well as new shoes to cover her feet. But for now, as long as the sleeves were rolled up snuggly to her forearms and she could move without constriction, his shirt would have to do.
Allowing her gaze to drift across the bed, she noted the outline of Sean’s large, muscular body under the patchwork quilt. Yes, indeed, this man was big. Almost as big as Brian Boru. And just like the last High King of Ireland, Sean O’Brien would be her savior, and she would be his.
At the thought of Boru’s name, Cahira’s chest contracted and her pulse quickened. Images of the great king pulled at her memory, luring her from the present to the past. She closed her eyes and drew in a breath until her lungs could hold no more. Several moments passed before calm washed through her and she allowed the trapped air to be released. Strong feelings were not welcome and had no place in her world. Strong feelings led to weakness and mistakes. Oh how she had learned that painful lesson so long ago.
Despite the tranquil state she had forced herself into, she could still detect a faint ache in her heart. Even now, after a thousand years of existing without Boru, the deep longing within had yet to release its claim on her. She would never love another man as she loved him.
Preserve the clan, she reminded herself as she opened her eyes. The pledge she had made to Boru would never be broken. She would guard and shield the men of the O’Brien clan from all harm with her powers and body, no matter the cost. Especially the man resting before her. He was, after all, her only hope for going back home and returning to her people. And, if the exchange she had overheard between him and the dark-skinned man called Washington was true, Sean O’Brien needed her protection.
She gently brushed back a stray lock of hair from Sean’s face. In the bright morning light his thick coppery mane, so much like Boru’s, shone like newly struck half-pennies against the snowy white of his pillow. A lad too comely for his own good, Cahara mused, running her fingertip down the side of his stubbly cheek. Even his nose and strong jaw resembled those of his ancestor’s.
Sean’s hand grabbed her wrist with a force as strong as steel. Each of his fingers held on to her like a vice. His eyes, narrowed and ferocious, bit through her.
“Touch me again and it will be the last thing you ever do.”
Cahara gently lowered her arm. Breaking Sean’s hold would be easy, but doing so risked causing him further harm. In his weakened state, even slight excursion could render him injury. “I’m not here to hurt you, O’Brien. I’m here to protect you.”
“By drugging me?” Sean ground out slowly. He tightened the pressure on her wrist. “You think I’m going to buy that?”
“Calm yourself, O’Brien. You were not drugged. I only took from your power to replenish my own.” Cahara carefully twisted and pulled her forearm, hoping to remove his grip without breaking his fingers. “I’ve told you before, my name is Cahara. I am the láech for the clan O’Brien.”
Sean raised himself from the mattress and pushed her down onto the bed beneath him, his face only inches from hers. “That means nothing to me,” he rumbled darkly.
His forcefulness pleased her. He was more of a warrior than she’d first given him credit. Modern living may have dulled his senses – no O’Brien hardened by living off the land would have failed to notice her entry into his home as he had - but his survivor’s spirit and the quick rejuvenation of his strength clearly signaled the ancient bloodline flowed strong in his veins.
So how was it he had no knowledge of her existence?
Dread settled over Cahara like a cold fog, chilling her body to the core. Had she been away from the clan so long they no longer knew of their own protector?
Cahara searched Sean’s face, looking for clues as to how to handle this unfamiliar man. Like a cornered wild animal, he showed no fear, only confusion fused with anger. Arguing with him or pushing back would only provoke him to fight harder.
Allowing herself to go limp under his weight, she submitted to his authority. If Sean believed he was in control and she spoke in hushed tones, he might relax enough to listen to her. Believing her would be another matter.
“I am the warrior and protector of the O’Brien clan. You are a member of my clan,” she said, carefully weighed each word before speaking them aloud.
“I belong to no clan.” He pushed her further into the mattress. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. “I’m an American.”
Her sensitive hearing picked up his heartbeat, which pounded rapidly like a war drum in the heat of battle. His face nearly glowed red. If she didn’t get through to him quickly, she would have to use force instead of reason to keep his weakened heart from exploding.
“Do you know of your heritage?” she whispered, further trying to calm him. “You are the descendant of Brian Boru.”
A glimmer of recognition registered on his handsome face. For one brief moment he hesitated, but that moment was all she needed. He did know something of his ancestry.
“You are the son born to a man whose father and generations of grandfathers were born to men of the O’Brien clan. Brian Boru established our clan over a thousand years ago.”
“How do you know this about me?” He barked.
“Do you remember how I appeared when you first saw me?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know what I saw.” He rose slightly and shifted his body until he straddled her torso with his knees. “But I do remember this.”
With a speed greater than Cahara thought he was capable of, Sean reached down and drew her dagger from its sheath. Her breath caught in her throat as terror gripped her soul.
Sean held the only weapon in the world capable of ending her life, and she didn’t doubt for a second he would use it.