THE ONEIROI BOOK 1
Author: Christina McKnight
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Released: September 1, 2012
What's the book about?
When Lucessa Sarcona awakes from a recurring dream, she has no idea her life is about to be turned upside down. A stranger, familiar to her dreams, shows up in the flesh, and Lucessa knows she’s either crazy or experiencing something not of this world.
A war ensues between three demigod brothers. One, trained to rule Erebos, is violently replaced. One forced to return to his homeland and lead the dream-gods of the Oneiroi. And one is charged with the impossible task of protecting Lucessa. How is she linked to the Oneiroi? Why do two brothers seek to keep her hidden and protected? And how does another plan to use her against the two demigods who love her?
Will Lucessa’s dream man have the courage to claim her as his own or will he bow to the command of another, forsaking the one he loves?
Only in Her Dreams is a modern spin on a Greek legend--the new direction of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, moving from angels, demons, vampires, and witches and toward the realm of demigods.
Darius trained his eyes on the intimidating figure before him. Death surely awaited him if he allowed his gaze to stray.
The imposing figure finally spoke, his voice echoed off the cavernous walls surrounding them. “It’s been twenty-two years! What progress have you made?”
“She’s hidden well, my lord. My men and I have searched long and hard but to no avail.” Darius bowed his head showing the reverence his lord expected, but his eyes continued to watch warily through his lowered lashes.
“I thought we had an agreement, Darius.”
“We do, but I need more time.” Beads of sweat formed on his brow.
“More time? I’m not a patient man.”
A chorus of mocking snickers from the surrounding lifeless souls rang out behind Darius. Why can’t they keep their fucking mouths shut?
The Dark One had several millennia under his belt and Darius didn’t see how a few more years would change anything.
Darius lifted his head, hoping to convey his confidence in his own words. “I’ll contact my informant again. He may have some new information, a new trail to follow.” I fucking doubt it, but I don’t have to tell him that.
“This is your last warning. Do not make me question your loyalty to me or my cause. If I don’t get what I want, neither will you.”
# # #
A high-pitched melody pulled Lucessa from an all-too-familiar dream as her cell phone chimed with the latest pop song. Was it Britney or Beyonce? She couldn’t keep up with who was popular in music and who was yesterday’s news. Damn her boss, Julie, for always messing with her phone.
She rolled from the center of her bed to her nightstand and grabbed the phone. Who would call this early on a Saturday morning? “Hello?”
“Mrs. Flynn?” the voice on the other side asked.
“Yes, that’s me.” She held the phone away from her ear to squint at the display, but the number read ‘private.’ That’s weird. Who blocks their number nowadays? Telemarketers still addressed her by her maiden name, Sarcona. It’d been almost a year since she’d married Greg, but she was still working on changing everything over to her new name. Silly, but she cherished any connection to her parents-- one dead and the other’s mind slipping further away by the day.
“Madame?” the male voice inquired.
“This is Lucessa Flynn. How can I help you?”
“I am sorry about the time of this call, but I could not delay this matter a moment longer.” The accent sounded foreign to her. She heard a hint of a French influence, but it also held something else. “I am calling in regards to Gregory Flynn. You are listed as his kin,” the man paused, “Is this correct?”
Her palms began to sweat and her breathing quickened. “Yes, yes. That’s me. Who’s this?” Rubbing her eyes, she lowered her legs over the side of the bed, careful not to disturb her dog sleeping on the floor. Lucessa tried to keep the apprehension from her voice. “Is Greg okay?”
“I regret to inform you that your husband is on his way home to you.”
Her heart lifted. Lucessa had been juggling two jobs to pay the mortgage, student loans and other bills while maintaining a historical home in an older part of town. And caring for a puppy. She told herself daily and sometimes hourly, only four more months. Only four more months.
“That’s wonderful news.” Had he decided to withdraw from the six-month internship program in Uganda? He was probably homesick, having never traveled outside of California, but she wished he hadn’t given up so quickly. After all, he only had a few more months to finish. God, she missed him so much though, and the thought of having him home made her giddy. But why didn’t he call me himself? “Can I speak with him?”
“I believe you misunderstood, Mrs. Flynn. I must apologize, English is my second language.”
Dread, cold and heavy, settled in the pit of Lucessa’s stomach, threatening to pull her to the floor.
“I am afraid that Mr. Flynn has passed away due to a malarial infection.”
“A malarial infection? That’s impossible! He’s a doctor. He got all the necessary vaccinations before he left. There must be a mistake.”
“I am sorry, Madame.”
Her body hit the floor next to her bed as reality took hold of her. Sobs escaped her throat.
The rest of the conversation passed in a haze as she gave herself over to the tears. Her hand trembled as she struggled to keep the phone pressed to her ear. Lucessa caught the gist. Greg’s body would arrive back in the states within the week, but it would be held in quarantine at the Center for Disease Control located in San Francisco. She remembered asking several questions before the call ended, but the man’s answers were either totally unrelated to her question or completely unhelpful.
No, the man didn’t know how Greg contracted malaria, but he suggested an unhealthy soul may be to blame.
No, the man didn’t know when Greg’s body would be released to her.
No, the man didn’t know how to contact the CDC.
Lucessa opened her eyes. Her forehead rested against the side of her bed. When had she hung up her cell phone? Had she dreamt the whole conversation? Her body was tense, her chest ached with emptiness. My life is changing forever--again.
“How should I take this?” Guy slapped the missive on the mahogany desk for Maxim to read.
Your secret is revealed. I suggest you make amends sooner rather than later. Don’t make your sacrifice in vain.
Always your Humble Servant,
Maxim stared at his elder brother as he paced the large chamber; his feet dragged on the plush rug underfoot. Maxim and Guy resembled each other only in their blue eyes; they differed greatly in every other way. Guy was thirty-five years older, and it showed in the lines on his face and slightly stooped shoulders.
The stress of leading the Oneiroi seemed to have aged his immortal brother. He held the problems of both Erebos and Earth squarely on his shoulders. And Maxim’s twin, Darius, wasn’t making it any easier.
Guy stopped his pacing in front of the oversized fireplace and faced the warm fire that licked the logs with bright orange flames. The blazing embers cast a shadowy figure against the far wall, which gave it the appearance that another attended their private meeting.
Neither spoke, the pop and sizzle of the resin-rich wood echoed in Maxim’s mind a thousand times louder than an approaching army.
Images of his twin materialized to dance in his mind’s eye--their joined bedchambers as children, the school work they evaded to play soldiers in the field behind their father’s stables and the bond they shared as they’d aged. That had all changed as Darius matured. Darius began holding Maxim at arm’s length shortly before their father passed. Now, they were not only separated by distance but also by their loyalties. Heartache pulled at Maxim’s chest.
“What is he trying to pull?” Guy said quietly. He resumed pacing as his fur-lined coat caressed the ground. Guy’s brow creased in concentration.
The message had been left at the gates sometime during the early morning hours. Its messenger had escaped the notice of the compound patrols. Maxim had been immediately summoned to Guy’s study. How had Darius returned to Erebos? Maxim feared this day would come and the power struggle would begin anew.
“He’s ready to make his move,” Maxim said as he stopped his pacing. The current problem not only impacted Erebos, but also the fate of Earth itself, and in turn, of mankind. He waited for his brother to give the instruction to intercept the current threat and possibly give Darius a death sentence.
“Have they taken the girl?” Guy asked.
“As far as I am aware, they have not.”
“As far as you are aware?” Guy whirled on his brother, his coat flying out behind him and the back-lit flames magnified his rage. “As my second in command--not only my brother--I assigned you the responsibility of keeping a close eye on her. Have you fallen short in your duties?”
The room had turned hot and unbearable around him. “I have watched over her in her dreams, as you asked.”
“That is good.”
Maxim could never chance losing his brother’s respect. He’d decided after the schism with Darius many years ago, to pledge allegiance to his new found brother. He made the decision consciously, verbally, and willingly. It’s what his father would’ve wanted.
His father, had set in place many safeguards for Erebos and Earth before he passed. Maxim couldn’t betray his father’s wishes as Darius had. There were reasons behind every law his father, and his father before that, established. They kept the Oneiroi safe, and it allowed mankind to live out its own destiny.
“You will travel to Earth and watch over her. Darius cannot be allowed to get his hands on her,” Guy commanded.
“Brother, that is forbidden.” Shock infused Maxim’s voice. “That is why you banished Darius and the Melas Oneiroi in the first place.”
“Nothing I wish is forbidden!” Guy’s stooped shoulders straightened with resolve. The sound of his angry voice reverberated off the walls in the large room. “I have spoken and you’ll obey. We must do everything in our power to ensure her safety, else both our worlds will be in ruins. I cannot fathom a world where Darius and his men have free reign to move between worlds at will--with zero safeguards.”
“Of course. I look not to challenge your authority.” Maxim turned to leave his brother’s study, to prepare for his journey to Earth. Will my skills to be enough to keep her safe?
# # #
Lucessa stared at her bed. It was time to sleep again, but it was getting harder to succumb to it. She started to think the day would never come when she could abandon herself to sleep without the feeling of being watched. Her dreams hadn’t been her own in such a long time.
He was always there. Never talking but always watching. Intently. As if he knew her. Security, even in sleep, eluded her.
She’d lost her father and her husband. Her mother was slipping away, battling a memory loss that was progressing daily. Her dreams were the only place she could remember a family, someone who cared. But he insisted on intruding. Every happy memory and every nightmare included his presence. Why did he always show up? How could she get rid of him?
Lucessa tried for the millionth time to find a solution as she climbed under the covers. Who am I kidding? There was nothing she could do. He was a dream! A figment of her imagination. She sighed and resigned herself to another restless night.
Lucessa was a child again. The cold, pine-scented wind tangled her hair as she descended the mountain path in front of her parents. Her family’s annual summer camping trip to Yosemite National Park was in its third day, and that meant they’d conquered the hike to Chilnualna Falls for the third year straight. Ever since her parents deemed her old and skilled enough for the challenge, they hiked it together. As a family.
She looked back at her smiling parents as they held hands and strolled down the path after her. Her mother, Marie, looked casual in her jeans and the blue “Keep Lake Tahoe Blue” shirt that hugged her frame. Her father wore a San Francisco Giants baseball cap, his salt and pepper hair visible around the edges. They looked like a couple out of the travel magazine that Lucessa had seen in her father’s study weeks ago.
“Dear, watch where you’re going!”
Lucessa turned back to the trail and almost collided with a man lounging against a tree just off the path. He was dressed in thigh-hugging dark pants and a billowy tunic that had to be from one of the buccaneer films she liked so much, he pushed off the tree trunk and tipped his hat. His blue eyes sparkled with mischief in the evening twilight, letting off a faint glow. The man looked eerily recognizable.
She looked back to reassure her mother she was okay, and she scanned the woods behind her. But her parents were gone.
Only the familiar stranger remained.
Lucessa woke with a start. Oh God, why? Can’t I have one night of peace? This wasn’t a good way to start her work week. She rolled out of bed knowing there was no way to control it. Her boxer, Goosey, was stretched next to her on the bed. Her feet hit the hardwood floor, and Goosey moved over to greet her with a wet tongue across the face. Gone was the big-footed puppy her husband had brought home before he left. The pup had grown into a happy, well-behaved dog. As her constant companion, the dog slept most nights curled against Lucessa’s side supplying the warmth a husband should provide.
With a sigh, she stood and headed downstairs to start her coffee pot.
# # #
The normal workday over, Lucessa headed to her second job. Sure, she made decent money as an executive assistant at a large advertising firm in Modesto, but with only one income to cover all the bills, it had been necessary to pick up a second job when Greg left for Uganda. After his death, she not only needed the money but something to occupy her time and her mind.
She rushed through the door of The Queen Bean, and bumped her hip on the corner of a table. “Excuse me.”
“Hey, Lucessa.” The customer smiled up at her.
“Hello, Mrs. Johnson.” She smiled at the nurse who came often to enjoy a cup of hot coffee with her friend, a freelance painter.
“Hello, Jack, how’s the new exhibit coming along?”
“I’ve lost my muse and things have slowed down. I’m here to track her down.” He winked at her.
Eclectic jazz music wafted through the colorful room. A pair of hipsters browsed the take-and-leave library while a business exec sipped her coffee and snuck a peek at the price tag on a new photograph Jeff Broome had brought in the night before. Lucessa had the feeling the photograph featuring the local cityscape would be sold before tomorrow.
She slipped into the bathroom to change out of her dress slacks and into her uniform, a slim-fitted polo, jeans, and crocs. Crocs went out of style years ago, but she enjoyed the breeze that the holes allowed; the non-skid soles helped in the kitchen. A person can only wear heels for so long.
A familiar voice greeted her as she exited the bathroom, “Hey, girlie.”
“Hi, Julie. Looks pretty busy today.”
“Yeah, Bret’s out back setting up the stage. The band should be here any minute for their sound check,” Julie shouted over the coffee grinder.
Lucessa turned toward the door as a group of young people dragged their heavy instrument cases to the back patio. Once a month the local high school band put on a gig to raise money for the Youth Arts Program. Julie and Bret were always more than happy to donate the back patio and a portion of the evening’s profits.
After clocking in, Lucessa surveyed the shop to see what needed to be done before the locals filed in for an evening of classic big band hits. She loved the atmosphere and people who frequented the place. Grabbing a bottle of Windex, a towel and broom, she walked out back to clean up before the crowd arrived.
“How’s the book coming, Mr. Jacobs?” Lucessa asked a man hunched over a laptop, his fingers flying across the keys.
“It’s a screenplay, young lady. As you well know!” Mr. Jacobs huffed. His fingers barely paused to give Lucessa her daily reprimand. It was their private joke. She pretended not to take an interest in the old man, and he enjoyed calling her ‘young lady.’
“You don’t say, Mr. Jacobs?” She raised an eyebrow with her usual response.
She’d been told on her first day at the Queen Bean to expect Jebediah Jacobs every day from one o’clock in the afternoon until five-thirty in the evening. And, like clockwork, he never missed a day. Rumor around the coffee shop was that Jacobs had a breakout screenplay turned into a movie and had been directed by none other than Roman Polanski back in the early 1970s. Since then he worked tirelessly on another screenplay--the next great revolutionary film.
It should be extraordinary after he’d slaved away on it for over four decades. She continued outside through the open back door and onto the patio. People were already arriving, choosing tables with a good view of the make-shift stage but far enough from the speakers to protect their eardrums.
Julie’s voice floated across the tables from the open order window. “Hey, can you come help take orders inside? This is a large crowd for a Monday night.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
As Lucessa re-entered the coffee shop, she noticed Mr. Jacobs had departed for the evening; she glanced at the rooster-shaped clock on the wall, yep...five-thirty.
Another man sat in his place. It only took Lucessa a second to place the clothing and those clear blue eyes. She gasped, her stomach clenched. It was him.
In her town.
Sitting in her coffee shop.
And he was staring straight at her.
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