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Authors: Nina Croft

Tags: #Supernaturals, #UF, #Fantasy, #Erotica, #PNR, #Novella

The Calling

BOOK: The Calling
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THE CALLING

Laws of Segregation ~ Book 2

by

Nina Croft

Breathless Press

Calgary, Alberta

www.breathlesspress.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The Calling

Copyright© 2011 Nina Croft

ISBN: 978-1-77101-000-9

Cover Artist: Mina Carter

Editor: Clarissa Yip

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

Breathless Press

www.breathlesspress.com

For Rob... my hero!

Contents
Prologue

Twenty-two years ago...

Freya huddled on the narrow bed, one arm chained to the metal post at the corner, the other resting on the swollen curve of her belly.

The birth was close.

It was the time of the witches’ moons. Through the narrow slit of window, she watched as the blood-red crescents emerged over the high wall that surrounded the Keep, casting their sullen glow over the empty courtyard below. At the sight, her hopelessness clawed its way closer to the surface, and she gasped aloud at the pain.

The baby stirred inside her, and Freya recognized the now familiar hum of magic. Moon magic. Witch’s magic that would doom her child to a life of slavery.

If her baby had been a boy, she would have gladly given him life.

But she knew what the future held for any girl child she bore.

Her daughter was restless, as though she could discern Freya’s thoughts, and she stroked her stomach soothingly. The hum of power increased, emphasizing the empty place within her where her own magic should be, and her resolve hardened.

All her eighteen years, she’d lived as a slave to the Order. She could remember little of those years; she’d moved through her life as though through a thick fog. Only when her daughter was conceived had she awoken and felt the first stirrings of despair. The moon magic was strong in her daughter, and Freya had finally understood what the Order had taken from her. She couldn’t allow them to do that to her child.

She’d been fighting the choice, praying to the Goddess for some sign of hope, some indication that they were not completely forsaken.

But the Goddess no longer listened to their prayers.

Maybe all witches were damned, as the Order claimed.

There was no one else to free her daughter, and Freya knew she had to act quickly.

The room was empty but for the bed, and she was naked, only a thin sheet drawn up over her body. The walls were bare stone, and a black metal door stood opposite where she lay. A small grill in the door allowed them to watch her, and every couple of hours a face would peer in. She stroked her stomach one last time and blinked away a tear. “I’m sorry, little one.” She’d have given anything to hold her child, to see her grow. But not in this world. Instead, she would give her own life to save her daughter from suffering the fate of the witches of Arroway.

Lifting her hand, she studied the thin skin of her wrist where she could see the tracery of blue veins and the blood so close to the surface. She raised it to her mouth and bit down. The skin was tougher than she’d thought, and a sob rose up in her throat. Ignoring the pain, she bit harder and a spurt of warm blood filled her mouth. She gagged and spat, then worried at the wound with her teeth until the flow was strong and steady.

She glanced at the door but there was no one there, and she curled on her side and lowered her hand over the far side of the bed where it wouldn’t be seen by a casual observer.

It didn’t hurt so much now, and she sang softly under her breath.

Songs she had learned from the other women, songs borne down over the generations during a thousand years of captivity.

Of a world of beauty, magic, and freedom. A world lost long ago.

The air was heavy with the sweet stench of fresh blood, and nau-sea roiled in her stomach. But her life force was growing weaker, and the baby was quiet inside her. She closed her eyes, humming low under her breath as darkness invaded the corners of her mind, draining her consciousness.

The door opened, and fear flashed through her mind. She kept her eyes closed and prayed they would see nothing remiss and would believe she was sleeping.

“Freya?” The voice was harsh with urgency. “Freya!” He spoke louder this time, his tone laced with panic.

Confusion filled her. She couldn’t remember a time when one of them had called her by name. That would have meant seeing her as a person, and they could never do that and live with what they had done.She turned her head to the side, forcing her heavy lids open. A man stood beside the bed, staring down at her. Tall, dark-haired, pale-skinned, with a long wooden staff clasped in his hand. She rolled away, curling her body into a ball.

“Freya, listen to me. I’m here to help.” She took no notice of the words. Soon he would cease to matter.

A few minutes more, and she would be beyond anything they could do to her.

“In the name of the Goddess, what have you done?” Hard hands clasped her shoulder, wrenching her around. She no longer had the strength to fight him, and she lay quiet as he ripped the sheet from her body. The bed was drenched with blood, warm around her cold body.

Her eyes fluttered closed. Behind her lids, she saw a vision of a woman, dark-haired, pale-skinned, with the mark of three sickle moons on her right cheek. Freya gazed upon the face of the Goddess and knew she hovered on the edge of death. So close now.

No!

The word was clear in her mind.

It’s not your time yet.

But I want to come.

Save your daughter. Her name is Shayla, and she’s needed. Do this,
Freya, or Arroway will die.

Then she was gone.

Freya shivered as regret washed through her, followed by resolve, and a fleeting spark of joy. The Goddess had not deserted them.

She pried her lids open. The warlock sat on the edge of her bed.

He grabbed her hand and swore as he stared down at her wrist. The flow had slowed, but blood still oozed from the jagged wound.

His staff clattered to the stone floor as he pulled a key from his pocket and released her from the chain that tied her to the bed. He tore a strip off the sheet and wrapped it tightly around her forearm, stemming the flow of blood.

“Why?” he asked.

“Couldn’t let you do to her what you have done to me,” she mum-bled.“Goddess, I was almost too late.” He ran a hand through his hair.

“Can you move?”

Freya tried to push herself up, but her arms were too weak. She managed a slight shake of her head. He studied her for a moment, then reached down and picked up his staff. Holding it over her, he whispered the words of a spell, and strength flowed into her limbs.

Her body pulsed with the power, and inside her, the baby responded, kicking out hard and strong. Freya lay still and savored the feeling.

“Is the baby alive?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Good. I’m here to help you both.”

“Why?”

For the first time, he appeared uncertain. “You don’t know who I am?”

“You’re a warlock. I don’t need to know any more.”

“I...” He trailed off as if unsure what to tell her, then reached out a hand and stroked her cheek.

The touch was light, but she flinched and jerked her head away.

She didn’t understand what this man wanted from her, and she didn’t care. She didn’t trust him, but for her daughter’s sake, she would accept his help and worry about his motivations when she was free.

Free.

Was it possible?

She sat up, and his gaze dropped to her breasts, heavy now. Her body was awkward, clumsy as she rose to her feet, dragging the sheet with her and wrapping it around her body.

He led her out of the small room into a wide corridor. Torches along the wall lighted the way. They saw no one, and he finally came to a halt at a heavy wooden door that led out into the main courtyard.

He turned to her. “I’m Jarrod.”

She shrugged. She cared nothing for who he was.

“I’ve cast a spell,” he said. “Cleared the way. There is a small door, to the right of the main gate—it should be open. If you head due south, I’ve left clothes and supplies under the big oak tree not far from the walls.”

She nodded and he continued. “Wait for me there.”

“What?”

“I’m coming with you. I need to stay and make sure the spells hold until you get clear. I’ll join you as soon as I can.” She cast a sharp glance at his face. She didn’t want him with her.

She would be happy never to set eyes on a warlock again as long as she lived. But she didn’t argue. Instead, she opened the wooden door and slipped outside.

Her whole body trembled with the need to run, but she kept her pace slow. She saw no one as she crossed the empty space of the courtyard, one hand fisted in the sheet, the other splayed across her belly.

She was finding it hard to release her mind from the fear and despair that had gripped her for so long, to accept that maybe there was a future for her and her daughter.

Once she was out of the Keep, Freya stopped for a moment, gazing around her at the open space. She’d never been outside the walls before. Then she broke into an awkward run, only slowing when she reached the cover of the trees. She found the pile of clothes as he’d said and dressed quickly, in baggy pants and a white cotton shirt that stretched over the bulge. Slipping the leather thongs onto her feet, she picked up the bag. Inside he’d packed bread and cheese, and a canteen of water. She slung it over her shoulder and glanced back. The Keep loomed, dark and oppressive, in the dim light, but nothing moved, and it didn’t even occur to her to wait for the warlock.

She was free, and if she had her way, she would never again kneel before one of their kind. Never allow a stinking warlock to lay one finger on her.

Turning her back on the place that had been her only home, she headed deeper into the forest.

Chapter One

Jarrod forced his rigid muscles to relax, his fists to unclench at his side. He couldn’t afford to let Malachi see the deep burning need that coursed through his veins at the sight of the woman.

Down in the courtyard below, she’d come to a halt just inside the gate, and Jarrod willed her to look up. The man leading her gave a tug on the rope, and she lashed out at him with a booted foot, but with her hands bound, he easily evaded her. He jerked the rope, and she stumbled then righted herself.

Jarrod caught his first glimpse of her face. His breath stuck in his throat, and a shaft of pain pierced his heart. She was still beautiful, had hardly changed in the twenty-two years since he had last seen her. Except now, her body was slender, no longer swollen with child.

Though, while she appeared physically unchanged, something was different. He studied her, trying to understand, and it came to him quickly. She no longer had the cowed appearance of a pleasure slave. And it wasn’t only that she was dressed as a man in dark pants, a cloak over her shoulders, and boots on her feet; she stood up straight and tall, her long dark honey hair loose down her back.

Why hadn’t she waited for him?

The question had taunted him all these years, though the truth was, he’d always known the answer. He still remembered his shock when he’d realized she hadn’t even recognized him. She’d knelt before him, pleasured him, made a child with him. Yet, to her, he’d been just another warlock. She must have hated him, and how could he blame her?“You still want her?” Malachi’s softly spoken question interrupted his tormented thoughts.

Jarrod gave himself a moment to wipe the expression from his face, then turned away from the window.

Malachi sat in the high-backed wooden chair, his booted feet resting on the desk in front of him, a small smile playing across his face.

He appeared relaxed, but Jarrod knew that the head of the Order rare-ly loosened the tight grip on his control.

A shiver of revulsion ran through him as he studied the other man. Jarrod visited the Order infrequently, but each time he came to the Keep, he found Malachi altered. The changes were subtle and slow and probably only aware to one who had known him through the years.

BOOK: The Calling
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