Seven tears cast upon the water summon the selkie, summon seal across the ocean, summon man from beast—liquid keys to break the curse. Freed one night every seven years, Ronin is doomed to repeat that cycle into eternity. Unless he can find a woman powerful enough to resist a selkie’s irresistible pheromones and sex magick.
Maille believes she lost reality between Maine and New Mexico. Between where she is now and where she should be. She believes in facts, not magick. But facts can’t explain how she wound up naked on a beach with the sexiest man she’s ever laid eyes on. Or how she knows in her bones that losing herself in the passion Ronin offers is a path to disaster.
It’s going to be a long, hot, wet night. Caught between sex magick and a sexy selkie, disaster is inevitable for Maille. To break the enchantment she has to rely on the oldest magick of all—the power of love-drenched hearts.
Other Books By Nara
An Excerpt From: THE SELKIE’S TALE
Copyright © NARA MALONE, 2013
Ronin was so tuned to the presence of a woman’s tears that he could swear he heard them fall. While hearing a tear hit the surf on the other side of the ocean was a stretch, there could be no mistaking the scent or the taste. Each woman’s tears were unique. These tasted of secrets and sorrow. Ronin held each on his tongue, decoding subtle clues and catching one after another.
Seven tears cast upon the water summon the selkie. Liquid key that broke the curse for one night. Sunset to dawn.
Ronin had twelve hours exactly on this night of Mabon, the autumnal equinox.
Obsidian black with foaming mane and tail, his liquid steed bucked and galloped across the Atlantic in the time it took a cloud to glide across the face of the rising moon. At the edge of Wolf Harbor, his ride dissolved into thrashing breakers along the jetty.
Seven tears summoned the beast across the ocean, carried the selkie to his intended on enchanted waters. Seven tears summoned man from beast.
The scent and taste of her—cool and crisp as new snow—washed through him, renewing his withered spirit. A vision of her tear-streaked face, framed in a wild mane of dark locks, was like a sun rising in his heart. Her need gave him power. Her hunger drove him up on the rocky barrier.
Metamorphosis clamped him in its jaws. Transforming Ronin form seal to man. He writhed and moaned like some great sea slug, belly down in a kelp pile. Bones shattered and reformed. Skin spilt at the seams until at last he crawled from the prison of his pelt. All indignities and agonies made bearable by the promise of holding her.
Growing taller with each breath, Ronin scrambled to his feet. Nothing equaled the sheer exhilaration and power of standing erect.
Ronin reached to the sky, and turning to face each of the four sacred directions, he named the elements. “Earth, wind, fire, water, I bow to your power. I am nothing on my own. Embrace the frailties and powers of this human form. Lend me your strength as I do the Goddess’s will.”
The wind carried a wolf song from shore. Tipping his head back, Ronin turned toward the moon, his voice rising to unite in song with his shape-shifting cousins. None but a being who walked the earth as both human and beast would recognize the subtle tonal differences and encrypted messages that signified the human souls beneath those canid hides. The pack leader’s solo answer welcomed Ronin ashore and promised no interference with his mission.
Satisfied, Ronin shook out his long hair and turned to face the wind. Heavy locks whipped back from his face and fanned out across his shoulders. A wave broke, colliding with the boulder he perched on. The resonant boom vibrated in his bones, cold spray making him shiver.
Maybe it was the remnants of the storm spinning up turbulence. Maybe it was the moodiness of autumn setting in, or maybe because it had been longer than usual since he’d last tumbled in clean sheets with a willing female, but tonight felt different.
Heat emanated from the water. Power dissipated by the goings-on at Shadowling, the magickal manor perched on the cliffs. The priestesses and their servants would be celebrating the Mabon, but the woman on the beach was not of them. Her tears didn’t carry the telltale electric zap of power. If she had power, it was dormant yet. Her summons had been born of innocent despair.
As such she was tonight’s innocent recipient of his eternal penance.
Shrugging off the mood, Ronin stashed his pelt under a cairn of loose rocks and dove back into the water. He had eleven hours and fifty minutes left. He wasn’t going to waste one second more than he had to. Still, he had to proceed cautiously.
She’d summoned him without knowing he existed, or the workings of his enchantment. Most women didn’t embrace strange men who walked naked from the surf.
* * * * *
She wasn’t crazy.She was asleep. Sitting on that moonlit beach, the one she used to count on to bring her happy dreams, Maille could think of no other explanation. When she opened her eyes again, pushed to her feet, the nightmare refused to stay a dream. It got up with her and followed her around.
Turning in a slow circle, she expected to see adobe walls. Or to hear the desert sounds that might wake her—a coyote or screech owl. She didn’t.
She mentally retraced her path back to reality, but like the breadcrumb trail from a fairytale, there were too many bits missing to make sense of it.
Above her a million stars winked. She could name all the constellations, knew how to navigate by them. She knew this beach down to the placement of every sand dune and patch of wild grass. Yet she had never been so lost, lost beyond the ability of maps or stars or teachings from the ancients to guide her.
She could interpret the wants and needs of animals so accurately some swore she spoke to animals in a secret language. She was versed in the healing properties of thousands of herbs. She could find the hidden dwellings of all the creatures along this stretch of beach, which to the untrained eye would seem deserted. Yet, no one had ever taught her how to find reality once she’d lost it.
Reality was somewhere between Wolf Harbor, Maine, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Between where she was now and where she should be. That was all she knew.
A shore-breaking wave slapped her knees, igniting a fire in one that sent her hustling backward.
The bite of salt in a bloody wound intensified the burn of unshed tears and a tightness in her throat.
She sucked in her breath and plopped down bare-bottomed—cold, gritty sand feeling too real to be a dream. She could add two more items to the list of things she knew, she’d lost her clothes and injured her knee.
“What the fuck happened to me?” she shouted at the sky. “Why am I naked?”
The slap of water against sand, the rattling of wind through wild grass the only response. What did she expect? It wasn’t as if she believed in any divine beings. And while it might be handy if a little prayer would set the world straight again, everything had a price. Magick had cost her too much already.
The foamy edge of a breaker swirled around her toes and slid back down the sand into the heaving sea. She hugged herself and looked up and then down the beach. There had to be an explanation that made sense.
Naked in a public place screams dream. A dream you can’t wake from screams…what?
She shoved the thought away, choosing to treat the situation as real. For now. Breath in. Breath out. Slow and steady, doing mental multiplication to steer her mind from the pain. Dread settled like a weight in her belly. But she was done crying. Time to solve problems.
More important than her lack of clothes was how she’d injured her knee and how badly.
A puffiness around her kneecap, something felt more than seen, suggested damage more than skin deep. If she could feel pain this intense, this must be real. But it was impossible for this to be real and for her to be where she was.
The last step she’d taken had been to shut a balcony door. Had something happened at that point? Could she have died—fallen from the balcony or been crushed by a falling tree?
What those doors and that balcony had been attached to?
Panic made her stomach heave and toss like the ocean. Her chest felt too small for her lungs. She hugged her knees to her chest and put her head between them, concentrated on taking slow, deep breaths.
She couldn’t feel nauseated if she were dead.
She was fairly certain on that point.
For the last half of her life, she’d been sure death was the end of everything. So, what did that leave?
The cottage nestled on a shelf between sheer cliffs and boiling ocean looked just like the one where she had lived with her grandmother as a child. Just on the other side of the jetty, to her south, the cliffs curved back again and sheltered the tiny village of Wolf Harbor. Around the north point, cliffs rose straight from the sea.
Those were facts as true now as they had been when she’d left Maine fourteen years ago. Facts were good. If she concentrated on facts, she might be able to make sense of where she was. When life tipped out of balance, facts could be counted on to tip it back.
A long, mournful howl drifted from the cliffs above. It sounded like a wolf. A chorus of canine voices joined in.
Maille shivered and listed the facts she was sure of aloud. Made it an incantation to banish vulnerability.
“Fact—there are no wild wolves in Maine.”
When a doctor wanted to determine if you were in your right mind what was the first thing he asked? What day is this?
That answer tumbled out automatically. “The first day of fall, Mabon.”
“Fact—on the first day of fall, on any day in Maine, the ocean is not warm as bath water.”
“Fact—my knee is burning like a son-of-a-bitch and I can barely think past that.”
But she had to think. Had to remember. For now, the only way forward was to step back through the past.
The image of another door took shape. A door she’d opened just before the balcony doors. A wave-shaped crest, gold embedded in ebony, mounted in the center. And the knob was old-fashioned faceted crystal that caught the light and sent a rainbow arcing across the floor.
And before the rainbow door, a pair of double doors so heavy she’d had to lean her full weight into them when she lifted the wrought iron latch.
All she had were doors. The spaces between those portals, the rooms on either side wouldn’t materialize. Her hand had been closing around a brass handle…then, as if a tornado had dropped from the sky, roiling darkness enveloped her. Sucked her into a spinning vortex and spit her out.
Not much to go on, but more details than she’d had just a few moments ago. If she kept at it—
A piercing cry rose above the thunder of surf. Human? A seal could sound so human it was hard to tell the difference. Whichever, Maille recognized it as a wail of mortal distress. She couldn’t say how she understood that, no more than she could say how she wound up on the beach. One fact she was certain of—she couldn’t ignore it.
Without thought for consequences she plunged into the surf, diving under swells, power-stroking through roiling water.
Once past the breakers Maille paused, treading water as she turned in circles, searching in the inky swells for the curve of a human head. Impossible with the waves breaking moonlight into sequined facets and the rise and fall of swells tall as houses. She’d never find him. She needed him to cry out once more.
“Come on. Give me a hint.”
An irregular shape, not seal-like or wavelike, caught her attention. As she paddled closer, she made out a man waving, heard his hoarse cry before his head disappeared below a wave. He resurfaced choking.
She dove under the water, swimming straight for where she’d seen him last. She resurfaced as he went under again, but she was close enough now to reach his long hair, swirling like dark kelp in the water. She grabbed a handful.
It was surprisingly easy to pull him along, as if he had managed to overcome his instinctive terror and submit to her rescue. He might not have been so submissive had he realized, as she did now, that they weren’t making progress.
Maille fought down a sudden kick of panic in her chest, struggling to swim parallel to the shore, caught by swells that tossed them dangerously close to jagged rocks. She had to concentrate her energy on swimming north until they were beyond the rip where she was free to swim shoreward.
When her feet finally found ground, a wave slammed her, flinging them both onto the sand. Depositing them in a tangle of limbs. Maille on top.
A small wave washed over them, and the sensation was that of a liquid blanket settling around her shoulders and then melting away. Panting, draped over his body, Maille was too spent to lift her head from a pillow of seaweed.
Another wave swept up, warm liquid fingers caressing her thighs.
She needed to move him higher up the beach, away from the rising tide, see to his needs. With a groan she pushed up to hands and knees, still straddling his body.
Damn! She’d hauled in one hell of a wet dream. Jet-black hair fanned out on the sand. His body lean, long and lusciously muscled. She started to lick her lips, caught herself, and forced her tongue back in her mouth. She was supposed to be saving his life, not jumping his bones.
Something was wrong. That realization drowned attraction in a wave of adrenaline.
His chest didn’t seem to be moving. Her breath caught and her heartbeat kicked up to double time. Maille thought there’d been a slight rise and fall of his chest beneath her breasts when they’d first washed ashore. His lips looked blue. But when she put her ear to his chest, the beat of his heart was strong and quick.
She scraped her mind for facts.
Fact—a heart could beat for several minutes after breathing stopped.
Would his lips still be blue?
Fact—in the moonlight everything looked blue.
Fact—his eyelids were at half-mast, and there was a barely perceptible gleam aimed at her. He probably didn’t need to be resuscitated.
Fact—she could discover the state of his respiration in other ways than this slow descent of her head and the pressing of lips to his. He tasted like sin and secrets.
His lips were warm and firm under hers, and they parted in a humid mingling of breath. Goddess, he smelled wonderful. She inhaled the scent of male and mystery laced with magick. Worries over what was real, what wasn’t, where she was, trickled away like so many grains of sand.
Fuck a bunch of facts.