Friday, September 5, 2008

Pentacles of Magick: The Bonding

The vision of a woman filling the screen took his breath away. The tumble of blonde hair cloaking her shoulders and back surrounded an oval-shaped face with wide set, deep green eyes. Perfect white teeth nibbled on the lower edge of ruby lips. It was her, the woman he'd been warned about. The one he'd been waiting for. He'd known she would be beautiful and difficult to resist. What he hadn't expected was the sudden surge in his power at the mere sight of her. Every cell in his body sparked when he first spied her on the security camera, and with the seductive power rushing through his veins he couldn't turn away.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but Mr. Scott isn't available for visitors at this time. Might I suggest you contact his secretary and schedule an appointment?"

He listened as his butler spoke in his clipped tone to the woman through the security speaker outside the front gate. She fidgeted nervously as she tried to convince Steven to let her in to see him.

"Please, sir, could you explain to Mr. Scott that I have come a long way to discuss some urgent family business with him? It is of utmost importance that I contact him right away." Her voice flowed through the speaker like the softest jazz on a sultry summer night, and Graelen felt the impact deep in his groin as his cock tightened.

"No, ma'am, I'm sorry, but..."

"Steven, let her in." Graelen hadn't even realized that he'd walked over to the intercom until he pressed the button, cutting off his butler in mid-sentence. He knew he should have let Steven send her on her way, but for years he wondered what event would finally lead her to him. Despite the danger and risk she posed to his family, he had to know. Over the years he learned to control the cravings to use the magick at every obstacle, and he was certain he could certainly hold his own with the petite woman now holding court at his front gate long enough to find out what she wanted.

"Ma'am, if you will return to your car I will open the gate for your entry."

Graelen watched as a small, smug grin turned up the edges of her full lips just as she pivoted back to her car. Her heart-shaped ass, clad in worn denim jeans, clung to her like a second skin as her hips swayed ever so slightly. As she reached for the car door she bundled her coat tighter around her waist, reminding him of the cooler temperatures that arrived this week, and signaling the imminent approach of Samhain in just four days--the most difficult time of year for him and his brothers to resist the temptations of using magick. The ceremonies and traditions of this time called to them, luring them to embrace who and what they were.

This was another uncomfortable indication that his mystery woman's appearance at his doorstep was all part of the prophecy his family feared. He should have sent her away and not even started what would likely be a fucked up chain of events. Yet, the power surge at her appearance intrigued him, and he had to know: why her and why now? He'd deal with regrets later.

He listened intently as Steven ushered her into the library to wait for him. He paced the room, trying to work off some of the adrenaline the power pumped through his body. He had to calm himself before he went to her. It wouldn't do for her to see him this close to the edge, fighting the seduction of the powerful magick that currently enthralled him. It would be so easy to use this extra magick to get what he wanted. He could just do a short spell and his little beauty would tell him everything he wanted to know. It would be simple to take her before sending her back on her way.

He shook his head clearing those thoughts from his head. Best to face this head on and meet the woman who would be my destiny.

* * * *

Rena couldn't believe she'd gotten in. She'd expected getting an appointment with the reclusive Graelen Scott would be next to impossible, and had planned out several clever ways to get him to see her. She arrived determined to do whatever it took to talk to him and get some answers.

As she tracked around the library, waiting for Mr. Scott, she marveled at the luxurious furnishings surrounding her. From her research she learned the financial empire surrounding the Scott family was funded by many different avenues and products. Over the years they had gotten involved in so many different offerings that it was impossible to pin their fortune on any one business or circumstance. It seemed that whatever the family touched turned to gold, or in their case millions of dollars. A very lucky family, indeed.

The dark mahogany furniture of the room, along with the forest green upholstery and accessories, spoke volumes about the kind of people living in this house. Men. The room was completely masculine. When she touched her finger to the chair behind the desk, she could almost see the man who sat here, and smelled the faint residue of his musky cologne mingling with the rich smell of the leather bound volumes lining the walls.

Careful, Rena. Don't get yourself too wrapped up in this place. You're here to complete the research for your benefactor and get back to the museum as quickly as possible.

Her gaze landed on a framed photograph of four men. Young men, early to mid-twenties, she would guess. All of them appeared strong and gorgeous, each in their own way, yet were similar in appearance. Drawn to the desk, she picked up the picture for a closer look. The two dark-haired men looked like twins. Despite their body language showing they were comfortable with each other and happy, their eyes spoke something entirely different. As if something was missing and they longed for something more. An alternate path? Now there's a creepy thought. Where did that come from?

Placing the frame back on the desk, she turned her back on the picture, shaking off the weird vibe she'd gotten from it. From the corner of her eye she spotted a familiar book on the shelf and wandered over to take a closer look. Yes, it was a recent copy of the Tarot Pedia, not unlike the one she owned herself. Interesting to know Mr. Scott had an interest in the metaphysical. She reached to pick it up...

"Find something that interests you?"

Her arm jerked at the sound of the gruff, masculine voice behind her, and the book plummeted to the ground. She scrambled to pick it up, but in her haste her backpack slipped from her arm, landing next to her feet, its contents scattering around her.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." The gentle timber of his voice was both courteous and patronizing. She dropped to her knees and began collecting her things, stuffing them back in her pack as quickly as she could. Her heart raced as she took a deep, calming breath, holding for a few seconds before releasing it slowly.

"It's okay. I don't generally startle that easily, but it's been a long day of traveling to get here."

He knelt beside her, handing some of her belongings to her when his hand touched a lone Tarot card. His hands stilled and she heard a distinct intake of breath.

"What is this?" He turned to look at her as he asked. She got her first glimpse of his jade green eyes surrounded by long inky lashes, and she thought she might melt on the spot. His jet-black hair was cropped short with a touch of spikiness along the top of his head. His perfectly shaped lips were currently set in a grim line, but she could still clearly imagine them soft against her own. He stared at her intently, their heads so close to be almost touching, and for a brief moment she thought she glimpsed a molten heat before changing to a sharper more assessing look. She glanced down, finally realizing he was holding that card in front of him waiting for her answer.

"It's a Tarot card."

"I know it's a Tarot card." A quiet sigh escaped his lips. "What I don't know is what you're doing with it." His voice, barely controlled fury, raised the hairs on the back of her neck as she fought the anger his brusqueness rose in her.

She grabbed the card from his hand and waved it in front of his face. "This card is the whole reason I am here, Mr. Scott. You are Graelen Scott, right?"

"Yes, I am. And what do you mean this card is the reason you are here?" As he gently pulled her upright again, she took a few deep breaths and started in on the speech she had practiced for hours.

"Mr. Scott, thank you so much for agreeing to see me without an appointment. I'm Rena Gallagher from the Museum of Art History in San Diego, California. I am a staff historian there, where one of my specialties is Tarot History. Specifically Iconography, which encompasses many specialties, of which Tarot is a favored of mine." She paused long enough to take a shallow breath.

"Six months ago I was commissioned to study an ancient deck of Tarot cards believed to be completely different from all other known sets. This card is from that deck." She watched him turn the card over again and again as if pondering the meaning himself. She couldn't take her eyes off his hands as he tapped his fingers against different elements of the card.

"I was specifically tasked with constructing a detailed interpretation of each card, differentiating the variances between common interpretations of similar decks and anything standing out on these cards that were different." She peered up at him and took the glazed look on his face to mean he was bored with her speech, probably already tuning her out. She needed to switch tracks or he was going to throw her out before she could even get to the unusual details leading her to him and his family estate.

"Mr. Scott." She waited for him to raise his eyes to meet hers. She needed his full attention. "The card you have in your hand, the Ten of Pentacles, has led me to your doorstep. After months of research a simple Boolean search revealed that parts of that card are part of the Scott family crest and have been for centuries."

"Yes, Ms. Gallagher, that is true. But not a revelation. It's not a secret that during the Victorian occult revival certain members of our family were a little too deeply involved and developed our family crest based on this card. In fact, it was shortly thereafter the matriarch of the family was beheaded for her involvement. Despite her apparent lack of judgment at the time, her husband chose to honor her memory by keeping the new crest. All of which is public record for the research inclined." His voice lacked the enthusiasm she had hoped for as she grappled with the information he shared.

He strode across the room towards his desk, distracting her from her thoughts and giving Rena a moment to appreciate the movement of his lithe body in his black fitted slacks and black silk shirt. She imagined the powerful muscles of his legs that would flex under her touch. He sat in the leather seat behind his desk and leaned forward, looking at her intently. He motioned for her to sit in one of the chairs opposite his desk.

"The more important question, Ms. Gallagher, is how did these cards come to be in your possession?" He indicated the card with a slight wave of his hand. "Eighteen months ago these cards were stolen from our family safe right here in this house."

The impact of his statement was like a sucker punch to the gut, nearly collapsing her into the chair. As her knees buckled she gripped the arm of the chair to steady herself.

"Stolen?" She studied his face as he watched her, but there were no telltale signs of deceit. He was telling the truth. He leaned forward on his elbows as if he might whisper a secret to her.

"That's right, Ms. Gallagher, and it's damn odd you showing up here out of the blue with the most important card in the deck." His words were as cool and clear as ice water. Shocked by the insinuation, she clenched her jaw, struggling to bite her tongue and not fly off the handle with words she would regret later. She couldn't afford to get kicked out of his home before she even got to the important reasons for her late night unexpected visit.

"Mr. Scott, surely you don't suppose that I stole these cards?"

He arched his brow at her statement.

"As I told you I was commissioned to study the hidden meanings in these cards, and the card you have there, your family crest, has taunted me for months now." She eased back into the chair, taking deep breaths to release the tension that had built over the last few minutes.

"And who, pray tell, hired you to study these stolen cards, Ms. Gallagher?" Rena shivered as his sarcasm snaked along her spine with every syllable. Her hands gripped the arms of the chair as she struggled to remain composed.

"I'm not privy to divulge that information. The benefactor wishes to remain anonymous."

"Convenient, wouldn't you say?" he retorted.

This conversation was getting away from her, and she needed to get it back on track. She needed him to focus on what she had to tell him, not the actual location of the cards or why she studied them.

"Mr. Scott, please. I wasn't aware of any issues with these cards being in my possession, but that's not the reason I am here. I'm here because of what I discovered in these cards." She reached down into her backpack and pulled out the black velvet sack that contained the rest of the tarot deck. She moved a few items on his desk to clear an area where she immediately began a detailed layout with some of the cards.

* * * *

He eased back in his chair, watching her delicate hands finger the cards one by one as she arranged a Celtic Cross layout on his desk. Her nails were clipped short and free of fancy polish, but the shape of her fingers and their graceful movements lured him into watching her every move. He fought an inexplicable urge to cover her hands with his own.

"Mr. Scott--" Dragging his gaze back to her face, her eyes shone with purpose.

"Please, call me Graelen."

"Fine, Graelen, this arrangement is called a Celtic Cross layout."

He compressed his lips to keep his amusement inside so as not to insult this silly woman who mistakenly thought he needed a Tarot lesson. She continued on to explain the traditional meaning and placement of each card. "I didn't find a lot of differences until I got to this card, the Ten of Pentacles." Her hand shook as she placed it down on the desk in the final slot of the layout.

Graelen leaned across the desk to examine the card closely. "Uh, Ms. Gallagher--may I call you Rena?" She nodded her assent. "I don't see anything different about this card. It's been in our family for generations and, while it is a beautiful depiction, I don't see what has piqued your interest." His hand reached for the card and brushed against hers for a brief moment. A whisper of power sparked through his arm and his heart stuttered in shock. Her sharp intake of breath told him she had felt it, too.

"There--there is a hidden story in these cards, and I believe this card is the key to the answers."

Withdrawing his hand from the card, he stared into her eyes. His power stirred through his body with the familiar seductive call, and he knew his eyes had darkened. Something about this woman was pulling at him.

"This--this card, when I touched it I felt something. A pull. As if being tugged into the scene on the card."

He found himself physically drawn to her voice, her passion, as she reluctantly told him the story. The story of his family she had found depicted in the cards, the curse of he and his brothers lives.

Four male witches born every other generation. Two sets of twins bound to carry The Power through the family line, if they could avoid the seductive call of the darkness every time they used their powers. The combined power of the four would be unlike any other, but the cravings created from using their magick would darken their souls piece by piece until the ability to tell right from wrong would disappear, and the magick would quickly destroy their life forces.

Anger, greed, and lust, all luring them to the evil potential of their magick.

He watched her fidget nervously with the card, her agitation growing as she continued through the family story she had managed to decipher from a seemingly typical deck of cards.

"Until this card..." He sat forward placing his hand over hers, giving in to temptation as well as attempting to reassure her, to calm her obviously frazzled nerves. When his hand covered hers atop the Ten of Pentacles a streak of energy surged through her hand into his body, slamming him back in his chair pushing it against the shelves behind him.

He gulped in air as magick flooded his body. In his fight to hold it in check he almost missed the difference. Instead of the dark weighty feel of his typical powers, this magick was light and bright with a different feel altogether.

What the fuck?

"It's true then? You are a witch." Her hands trembled as she knotted and twisted them together. He wanted to deny her claim, but as he sat there struggling to maintain his composure, a free flow of energy swept through his system, making it impossible to deny. And a closer examination of her eyes revealed she knew the truth. She obviously came here knowing and just needed some evidence to prove her theory. He decided to play along ... for now.

"Yes. I am a witch, and the story you just told is my family's history." Back under control, he pulled his chair to the desk and leaned forward tapping the Ten of Pentacles with his finger. "And what exactly do you think is so important about this card? It's just a simple depiction of a flourishing wealthy family."

"You're right. That's what I thought the first hundred times I looked at as well. Until..." She bent down to rummage through her backpack, making the sexiest little grunting noises in apparent frustration, before finally pulling out a small magnifying glass. "Until I found something a little unusual. A symbol here in this banner." She pointed to a family banner placed on the wall in the background.

"Rena, that symbol represents one of the brothers. There are four of them throughout the card."

She shook her head furiously. "Hold on. Let me finish. That's what I thought, too. But more research and digging into the symbol tell things differently. In the 1800s when your crest was developed, that symbol didn't stand for a witch but a different being all together. An empath."