Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Free Read!! First Chapter of Calypso's Curse

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Chapter One

1810

Israel Alexander watched his father sleep. How much longer his beloved parent would survive this world, he didn’t know. Jonah Alexander winced, then groaned and opened his eyes. Drawing on inner strength, Israel managed a comforting smile and smoothed the old man’s thin, grey hair. Jonah shuddered. Israel squeezed his hand to allow some of his youthfulness to flow into his ailing father.

Jonah’s mouth shifted into what could have been a smile, but appeared more like a pain-filled grimace. “Your mother would be proud,” he said, his husky voice barely a whisper.

Israel tucked the bed covers under his father’s chin. “Rest, Father. Save your strength.”

Jonah laughed the sound raspy and soft. “Save my strength for what?” He studied Israel as though he would never see him again. “There is something you need to know.”

“Please, Father, you don’t need to declare any indelicacies to me.” Israel smoothed the covers to distract his mind from its premature mourning. “You are a good man and always have been.”

“That is a load of bullshit and you know that!” the old man snapped. “Your mother, rest her soul and may I see her soon, died of neglect. I had no time or patience to care for her and three young sons.”

Bemused by his father’s rambling, Israel frowned. An only child, his mother died shortly after childbirth.

“I see doubt in your eyes, Son. No, I’m not mad.” Jonah patted his hair into place and heaved a deep breath. “You have two brothers, Ethan and Isaac, born on the same day as you, only a few minutes later.” His expression became wistful. “You were all tiny babes when Elizabeth passed, and I wasn’t willing to forego my freedom to care for the three of you. I met a woman—a witch I thought— who offered to take you and leave the others.”

Israel lowered to the rosewood armchair beside the bed. His father’s declarations worsened with each slurred word. The story would accommodate his mother’s sudden departure, but…Witches? And brothers—triplets, no less?

“The witch promised me wealth and freedom. In return, she wanted you. Son, I couldn’t hand you over. Greed ruled my heart. I bargained with her and kept you but handed over Ethan and Isaac. I thought if I kept you, the child she truly wanted, she would keep giving.” Jonah raised a shaky hand to his face. “Once a year, for twenty five years, the woman knocked on the front door and demanded you. Every year I, somehow, bargained my way out of losing you. The year you turned twenty-five, she knocked on the door and instead of asking for you, she cursed you.” Violent coughing suddenly wracked Jonah’s frail body.
Israel sat his father up and rubbed his back until the coughing subsided. Then he fluffed the pillows and gently urged the ailing man to lie down. “You must rest, Father.”

“I cannot rest! Israel, you don’t understand the direness of this situation. Your brothers, the other two triplets, are in different times.”

Israel straightened, alarmed by his father’s desperate tone. His only concern was to get the old man to rest so he could have him a few more hours. At this rate, Jonah’s temper and anxiety would kill him in minutes.

“Are you listening to me, Son?”

Israel studied Jonah’s reddened face. “Yes, Father.”

“There is a woman. Named after the daughter of a Titan, she is the only one who can release you. Find her and you will find salvation.” Jonah’s grip on Israel’s hand tightened. “Salvation. Do you understand?”

Israel nodded. “I understand salvation.”

“Named after the daughter of a Titan.” Jonah’s voice weakened as he slumped into the pillows.

Israel stood. “Father, you really should rest. Here, take the elixir the doctor gave you.” He tried to pry his hand from the old man’s grip, but couldn’t.

“There is no time! Unless you find Ethan and Isaac, you will never rest! To break the curse, you must dispose of the girl.” Shudders jolted through Jonah’s weak body.

Dispose? What exactly did he mean? Israel leaned over the bed. His father didn’t move. Panic stabbed at his chest. He lowered his blond head and listened to Jonah’s shallow breaths.

“Immortality.” Fear radiated from Jonah’s faded blue orbs. “What could be worse than living forever?”

Present Day

Chin in her hands, Calypso James stared at the blank computer monitor on her desk. She yawned noisily and became more alert for a moment. Sitting back in her chair, she glanced at her watch. 9:05 am. Only five minutes had passed since she sat down. She let out a moan and dragged a hand over her face.

Sleep had eluded her for weeks. Not even the strong coffee in the mug she held helped anymore. The weird dream kept her up all night. Dream? More like a nightmare with bloody broadswords and eerie echoes of death. Calypso shuddered at the memory.

The dream remained vivid in her mind. She could recollect the entire scene and the man who dominated not only her dream, but also every man around him. Green eyes, bright with the insanity of war, had pierced her soul.

“Ethan Alexander.” The whispered name trembled from her lips. She glanced around her sunlight-drenched office, fearful the man would appear. Ethan Alexander. The name fit him like a glove.

“Calypso!”

She started at the sudden voice. A small amount of coffee sloshed over the side of the cup and onto her lap. Letting out a cry, she stood and brushed the hot liquid from her pants.

“Hey, are you okay?”

Calypso cast an annoyed glare at her friend, and co- worker, Hilary. “I’m awake, now. Thank you very much.”

Hilary peered over the desk and chuckled. “That’s the most heat your thighs have felt in a long time.”

Calypso’s glare turned cynical. “Whatever, wise ass!”

“Come and see the new shipment.” Hilary grasped her hand and pulled her from the office. “It’s easy on the eye. Nearly as easy as the gallery’s new art restorer.”

“So, when are the two of you going out?”

Hilary let out a gasp and covered her heart with a hand. “Your assumption offends me!”

Calypso raised her eyebrows in mock amazement.

“Tonight!” Hilary blurted out. “Jeez, Cal, stop with the interrogation.”

“What’s his name?”

“Paul.” Hilary frowned. “I think.”

“You think?” Calypso stopped on the stairs that led to the storerooms of the art gallery and glanced behind her. The strange sensation of acknowledgement washed over her. A shift in the atmosphere.

“Here, look at this,” Hilary called.

Calypso hurried down the last few stairs and into the storeroom. A dozen paintings waited for cataloguing, the name Israel marked on every surface of the crates they arrived in. She moved to where Hilary studied a portrait propped on a crate.

Calypso’s breath caught in her throat. Easily the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen, the blond-haired man in the portrait mesmerized her and drew her forward. Rugged, sensual features brought a flutter to the pit of her stomach. Reaching out, she traced her finger along the outline of his lips, lost in his mocking gaze.

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” Hilary asked with a dreamy sigh and peered into the grey orbs. “Sometimes I think he’s watching us.”

Calypso glanced towards the stairs, sure someone did watch her. “Who is he?”

“Who knows? Some guy called Israel sent the paintings to us. He’s coming today to check they transported okay. At least there’s something worth looking at, now.” Hilary headed for the stairs. “Unfortunately, he’s only a painted object.”

“They don’t make men like they used to,” Calypso replied as she followed her friend across the room.

“What’s this?” Hilary teased. “The emotionless Calypso James actually admitted to feeling something. The next step Cal is to find a real man.”

Calypso let out a scornful laugh. “Find me a man like that and I’ll gladly fall in love.”

“It’s a deal.” Hilary shook her hand.

“Excuse me. Have my paintings arrived, yet?”

Calypso turned to the owner of the clear, cool voice. Her eyes widened. The blond man who stood on the stairs looked exactly like the man in the portrait. An easy smile played at the corners his perfect lips. A white t-shirt stretched across his shoulders and thick chest, and black jeans clung to the muscles in his long legs.

Calypso couldn’t help but gape. She glanced at Hilary. Her mouth had dropped open and she gawked, obviously stupefied. The man held out a long fingered hand. “I’m Israel.”

Finally, Calypso plummeted to earth. A blush warmed her cheeks as she shook his hand. “Hello Mr. Israel.”

A dimple danced at the corner of his mouth when his smile widened. “Actually, it’s Mr. Alexander… Israel Alexander. And you are?”

Calypso’s face now burned under his amused gaze. “I’m sorry, Mr. Alexander. I’m Calypso James, Peter Brooks’ PA, and this is Hilary Andrews, our resident art restorer.”

“Calypso.” Israel said her name slowly. “The daughter of Atlas. She kept Odysseus hostage for seven years.”

Under his constant stare, Calypso became conscious of the rings under her eyes and the way her dark hair fell in lifeless spirals from her ponytail. “So the story goes,” she said quietly.

“Finally,” he muttered, “after two hundred years, it will happen.”

“Excuse me?” Hilary drew Israel’s eyes away.

Calypso heaved a sigh and wiped a hand across her brow, annoyed at how much she trembled. Why did Israel give her such mixed emotions? As gorgeous as he was, something about him screamed danger; and she didn’t want any part of that.

“The paintings,” Israel said. “After two hundred years they will finally hang again.”

“The family resemblance is strong.” Hilary turned to the painting. “Even after hundreds of years.”

“Handsome devil, isn’t he?” Hilary laughed, right on cue.

Despite Israel’s friendliness and jokes, Calypso couldn’t ignore the icy fingers of insecurity that ensnared her heart when she looked at him. The desperate need to get as far away from as possible overwhelmed her. She glanced at her watch and gasped with feigned surprise.

“Oh no, look at the time! I’m sorry but I need to go. There’s a deadline to…type those things…Peter asked me to type.” Calypso cursed her sudden inability to lie as she gave Hilary a pointed stare.

“What a shame.” Israel moved to block the entrance to the stairs. “My appointment with Peter isn’t until 10:30.”

“There’s a coffee shop across the road.” Calypso wished she could swallow the cold tone of her voice when sadness crossed his handsome features.

Hilary now stood beside her. “Surely you could spare half an hour, Cal.”

“No, Hilary, I can’t. I need to get back to work.” Calypso avoided Israel’s questioning stare. “Hilary will give you a guided tour of the gallery if you like.”

Israel’s eyes changed from silver to storm cloud grey. “As you pointed out, Miss James, there is a coffee shop across the road.” He brightened. “A little coffee never hurt anyone.” He flashed a smile before he walked up the stairs, his footsteps fading.

Calypso released the breath she subconsciously held. She didn’t understand the way she felt; caution, mixed with annoyance, and a lot of admiration.

“What are you doing?” Hilary demanded. “He’s hot for you and you told him to take a hike.”

“You wouldn’t understand.” Calypso hurried to her office with Hilary close on her heels.

 “I wouldn’t understand? Are you insane? That man is the closest thing to perfection you’ll ever find. He’s absolutely gorgeous, wealthy, well spoken, charming…” Hilary counted Israel’s attributes on her fingers.

 “And weird.”

“W-weird!” Hilary screeched. “You’re the weird one.”

Calypso sat at her desk and turned the computer on. The hand Israel touched still burned and she shook her fingers as though they really hurt.

Hilary stared at her. “Where are you hormones? I know women who would kill for a man like that.”

Calypso sat back and met her friend’s wide eyes. “Please leave me alone.” Her emotions confused her, not to mention the way her body responded to the mere thought of the man.

 Hilary heaved a piteous sigh and removed herself from her perch on the desk. “Okay, but don’t complain to me in thirty years about that adorable creature, Israel Alexander, who slipped away.” Shaking her head, she left the office.

Calypso chewed on a fingernail. Her gaze moved to the window, and the coffee shop beyond. Israel relaxed at an outside table, his legs crossed at the ankles, folded newspaper in one hand, coffee cup dwarfed in the other. Maybe she’d overreacted. Just a bit. The man hadn’t threatened her. Well, except for the threat of passion in his heavenly eyes.

Irritated at her train of thought, she groaned and turned away from the window to shuffle papers around her desk. She needed something, anything, to distract her and she wished Hilary would return and hound her for a while. Her attention returned to the coffee shop. Israel still drank coffee as though he hadn’t a care in the world. Meanwhile, her emotions swirled and tangled together until she wasn’t sure what she felt.

* * * *

He’d found her. Excitement bubbled in Israel’s chest. For two hundred years, he had aimlessly traipsed the earth looking for what had become an obsession. He didn’t want to be immortal anymore. He didn’t want to deal with people and adjust to the shifts in civilization.

He wanted to grow old.

He wanted to die.

 Above all, he wanted to love.

His gaze moved to the art gallery. Calypso still watched him through the window. He hadn’t expected her to be so attractive. Long lashes had bordered amber colored eyes, and thick, dark hair had cascaded in loose ringlets from her ponytail to her shoulder blades.

Israel had also noticed large black smudges under her eyes from lack of sleep and wondered if he’d inadvertently caused them. He looked at the newspaper but didn’t see the words. What he truly didn’t understand was the way his heart pounded when he looked at her or the flutter in his groin when she smiled. Dimples had stabbed her peaches and cream complexion. How could dimples create such a fierce sensation of yearning?

At least Calypso James had made one thing completely clear. She wouldn’t help him willingly. A wicked smile spread Israel’s lips and he chuckled. Life had become quite entertaining.


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