Double Keltic Triad Book One
In the fey Otherworld, a half-faerie child is born. To protect him from evil and a crusade to protect the purity of the faerie race, he is abandoned in the human world, never to know of his magical heritage.
Now the boy is a man rooted in reality, and fantasy is only something from an undisciplined imagination.
It ain’t easy being fey–when you don’t believe in Faerie tales.
In the fey Otherworld, a half-faerie child is born. To protect him from evil’s crusade to scour impurities from the faerie race, he is abandoned in the human world, never to know of his magical heritage. Now the boy is a man rooted in reality, and fantasy is merely foolishness from an undisciplined imagination.
Successful businessman, Jaye Zeroun prides himself on his realistic, but lonely, view of life. Until Allyn Keely, Celtic artist and friend of Faerie knots her way around his heart, filling his life with fantastic tales he refuses to believe.
Allyn finally finds a man to love but first she must help him discover his heritage and destiny in the Otherworld. She’s fully human, older than Jaye, and once he returns to his fey family, he could never love her.
When danger threatens Allyn, Jaye is forced to either accept the reality of a deadly, magical battle or lose the very things he never planned for in his life–family and a love beyond his wildest imaginings.
Enjoy Chapter One!
With three chubby fingers on one hand stuffed into his mouth, the child pulled himself upright. Wadding a corner of the blanket he sat on in his other hand and holding it to his face, he looked around. Something was different here. The colors were not so bright. He sniffed tentatively. The air was dirty and his fingers slipped from his mouth when he coughed.
He coughed again, and shook his head. This was not his place. Mother and Da were not in sight. Rolling forward onto his hands and knees, he scooted to the edge of the blanket. Making sure he had a good grip on the plaid material, he crawled onto the soft grass surrounding him.
The trees to one side looked dark and scary. He crawled away from them slowly, the blanket dragging a soft trail of leaves behind him. Tears filled his dark eyes and rolled down his rosy cheeks.
Crawling until his knees were stained green and tiny sticks made dents and scrapes in his small palms, he searched for his parents.
Finally, giving voice to his tears, he howled as only a lost child can. Suddenly, there were people around him, lifting him, comforting and cuddling. They were not his Mother, not one was his Da, but he curled safely into their arms. The tears slowly subsided, his loud sobs muffled by the dirty fingers filling his mouth.
A woman in rough, scratchy clothing came, took the child and held him awkwardly. She carried him and set him inside a loud, smelly machine, wrenching his blanket from his tiny hand. He curled into a ball of frightened silence. Just once, he looked back over the shoulder of the rough woman as the machine rumbled around him. The trees faded into the distance. He was alone.
Jaye struggled from sleep, fighting his way out of the dream and a tangle of sheets. Curled into a fetal ball, the blanket was wadded and clutched tightly in one of his fists. His other hand lay beneath his cheek, palm damp with the tears still trailing down the side of his face.
Tight muscles protested as he uncurled slowly. He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and drew his hand across his face to dry the wetness there. The crumpled blanket was still wedged in his fist.
Disgusted, he threw it to the floor and wiped his palm on the side of the bed. Another damn dream. Why now, when life was going so well, couldn’t he get a decent night’s sleep? After rolling his head, he hunched his shoulders and stood. The shudder of a yawn made him stumble when he started across the room. The phone by the bed rang shrilly. Clearing his dry throat, Jaye picked up the receiver.
“You asked for an early wake up, sir. It is now 5:30.” The voice was bored and detached. “Have a nice day and thank you for staying at the Towers.” Before Jaye could take a breath, the connection ended with a soft click.
Well, that was about 3 hours sleep. Jaye scraped his fingers through his unruly hair, headed for the shower and visualized a list, mentally ticking off each item needing completion before he checked the final set up for the evening’s event.
In the bathroom he winced, leaned against the sink and lifted his leg to rub at the persistent itch on his thigh. A sigh of relief expanded his chest. He bent sideways to peer closely at the nearly healed tattoo on the outside of his thigh. A lazy smile of satisfaction stretched his lips. It was a wonderful piece of body art.
The smile turned down into a frown. He hadn’t been much of a dreamer before he had the tattoo done. Could there be a connection? Chuckling to himself, he reached for his toothbrush. No time for such foolishness. It would be a tough day.
Hours later, Jaye folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the wall at the ballroom entry. The picture of calm nonchalance, his eyes darted around the room, stopping here and there while he made quick mental notes. Finally, he nodded satisfaction and stepped into the large hall–the silk of his tuxedo swishing softly with his movement.
One by one, his staff stopped and turned toward him as if he had been announced by a trumpet fanfare. He could feel the tense anticipation; hear the sudden silence of held breath. He maintained the silence a moment longer. “Everything looks great, folks. Another job well done.”
His deep voice carried to the far corners of the room. Jaye shook his head slightly, and resisted the urge to roll his eyes skyward when the faces turned toward him relaxed and a soft, collective sigh floated around the room. “You’d think I was a tyrant,” he muttered.
Jaye turned to the young man who had paused statue- like with one flower shaking slightly while suspended in mid air. The already perfect arrangement followed the swirl of a flowing ice sculpture. “Just talking to myself. Nothing to concern yourself with. The arrangement looks fine.” The young man smiled tentatively, the flower still trembling in his fingers. “Oh, carry on before you shake that flower to death.” Jaye turned away and did roll his eyes toward the ceiling.
“What do you expect? Everyone is in awe, amazed at the good fortune of being able to work with the great Jaye Zeroun, event planner to kings, to the stars, to the world. In fact, to the universe.” Jaye’s brows came together and he turned toward the laughing voice.
“Enough, Tommy.” The stern voice and stiff posture couldn’t hide the twinkle in his eyes when he faced his assistant. “Anyway, this event will be history in a few hours.” Jaye relaxed slightly.
“You should take a vacation. Have some fun. You’re definitely looking stressed.” Tommy smoothed his impeccable shirtfront and looked down, fiddling with a button. “Honestly, Jaye. You’ve worn me out. The whole crew could use a rest.”
Jaye smiled. “I know. I’m such a slave driver. Here. Take a look at the calendar.” Jaye pulled the company’s ever-present day planner from under one arm and passed it to his assistant. Tommy kept his hazel eyes glued to Jaye’s face while he ran his finger along the edge of the planner and felt for the plastic ruler marking the day. Finding it, he looked down, eyes growing wide when he scanned empty, crossed-off pages, counting to himself as he flipped through them. He counted through the pages twice in growing disbelief.
“Two weeks? You kept two weeks open? Weeks? Are you feeling okay? We’ve been so busy lately I haven’t even taken the time to check the upcoming events.” The young man stopped to take a breath. “Hey, this isn’t a joke you’re playing on your long-suffering assistant, is it?” Tommy’s gaze rose hopefully to Jaye’s face.
After lifting one finger to quiet Tommy, Jaye turned to face the room again. He cleared his throat. Instantly, all activity ceased. Jaye snorted softly, shaking his head. “It would appear,” he began slowly, “that there has been a scheduling, ummm, problem.” The staff glanced at each other warily. “But, a problem which is easily solved. For whatever reason, there have been no events scheduled for the next two weeks. Since there will not be work to keep you all busy,” Jaye paused for effect, “you will be forced to take a two week vacation.”
Jaye turned back to Tommy as a low murmur of disbelief raced around the room. “Satisfied?” Tommy could only nod, disbelief at the good fortune coloring his expression.
Jaye crossed to the wide doorway where he stopped and hit his forehead lightly with his palm. He turned back to the assembled staff. All eyes were still focused on him. “With pay, of course.” He slipped quickly from the room with a smile pulling at the corners of his lips.
Late that evening, Jaye stood packing the last of his special glasses into padded carrying cases. He sighed and lifted the heavy container to the top of the stack on the handcart. After a quick glance around the small service room, he nodded with pride. The crew left the area spotless. Grunting softly, he pushed the handcart to one side, stashing the carriers away from the main traffic flow. Hotels provided their own distinctive fine china but he would, more often than not, use his own specially designed stemware. Jaye Zeroun was very particular and had the growing reputation of his business to consider.
The ballroom received a final quick glance when he wandered through. Another satisfactory wrap-up job. The staff would be complimented on their thoroughness–after the two-week vacation. One sharp nod and he could delay the inevitable no longer. It was time to return to the room he had reserved on a whim for the weekend. What am I going to do for two weeks? He didn’t need to look at the calendar left in the storage area to know the next two weeks were highlighted and empty. No parties, no receptions, no nothing. Jaye was not accustomed to an empty calendar.
He wandered the deserted hotel reception area, nodded briefly at the bell captain, who brushed at his ornate uniform and nodded in response before picking up the phone. Jaye ambled off. It was even too late to stop in the bar for a drink, and he didn’t feel like leaving the hotel to look for a 24-hour eatery.
So he took off his jacket and threw it casually over one shoulder. He wandered the common areas of the hotel, peered into empty rooms and silent waiting areas, critiqued the décor and furniture placement in each room and stopped to sketch a flower arrangement on the back of an envelope.
In one large meeting room a young couple were arranging tables, chairs and boxes. Jaye watched for a few moments from the doorway before wandering over to the pair. Moving behind them, he peered over their shoulders at the pile of brochures on the table.
“Oh, my God.” The young woman jumped when Jaye’s sleeve brushed her bare arm. “You scared the heck outa me.” She glared up at him and then glanced down at her watch. “What’re you doin’ here anyway? Registration doesn’t start for another six hours. Now, go away.”
Her companion laughed. “Calm down. Maybe he just wants to make sure he gets a place for the good presentations.” His eyebrows lifted when he glanced at Jaye’s formal attire. “But you will have to wait for registration to start.”
“Registration for what?”
The young woman snorted. “Why, for the Con, of course.”
“Yes”, she said slowly, “the Con. The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Convention. It starts tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. Well, registration does anyway.” The young man held up a brochure and waved it slowly back and forth. She grabbed it roughly, but smiled at him before turning the smile on Jaye. “Sorry, sir. We just have so much to do before then. The rest of the committee won’t be here until morning. Here’s the info about the Con. Come and enjoy yourself.”
Jaye returned the smile. “I’m sorry to have startled you. I’ve been wandering the hotel, trying to work up a tired feeling so I can get some sleep. But, no luck yet.” He shrugged and looked around at the piles of tables. “You know, I have a little experience setting up tables. Would you like some help?” When the young couple looked skeptical, he added quickly, “To make up for the scare?”
After a glance at each other they both turned in unison to Jaye and nodded happily. Producing a hastily drawn diagram, the young man directed Jaye in table placement and the distribution of brochures, forms and other papers for the Con.
Two hours later, the room set up was complete. Jaye had tactfully offered suggestions for improving the traffic flow and opening the gathering areas within the room. Stretching and rolling his sleeves back down, Jaye promised he would be back for at least part of the convention. The pair waved happily and turned away, involved with each other.
Jaye thought he might finally be able to rest, so he headed for the elevators. When he passed the hotel bar a small piece of paper balancing precariously on the edge of a large potted palm caught his attention. He reached down, swiped up the paper and glanced at it. Pale yellow in color, the words Bedtime Story were printed across the top. A low chuckle rumbled through him. It was one of those romance coupons popular around Valentine’s Day. But it wasn’t even close to February.
He ran his fingers over the surface of the thick paper. Circle one it read, listing Romantic, Funny, Sexy and Traditional. “I wonder which one I’d choose?” he asked himself.
“Sir?” A night custodian paused, duster held high in his hand.
“Huh? Oh, nothing. Have a good night.” Jaye retreated into the open elevator and pushed the button for his floor. The custodian was still watching him as the door shushed closed. Amused, Jaye shook his head. When he reached into his pocket for his key card, the coupon slipped from his fingers.
Much to his surprise, Jaye did wander into the convention early the next day. Leaning against the wall, he watched the wide variety of participants. Although he thought there would be only teenagers or college students attending, from what he could tell under some of the wild costumes, all ages were represented.
Jaye registered for a couple of seminars at the insistence of the couple he had helped during the night. Before the first was scheduled to begin, he visited the sales room and chuckled under his breath at some of the strange items convention goers were buying. He couldn’t believe all the booths selling alien masks and fantasy weaponry.
Making his way around the room, he stopped here and there to examine an object or chat with one of the participants. A strange, continual pull tugged him toward one far corner of the room. Trying to shake the feeling off as an overactive imagination, he turned away. But before long he would find himself heading in that direction again. He fought the impulse, slipped his hands into his jeans pockets, and pretended interest in the tiny pewter figurines on the table in front of him.
Finally, unable to defy the pull any longer, he stomped to the small corner table and glared down at the display. A collage of hand-drawn Celtic designs covered the surface of the table–the swirls and spirals of the patterns flowing from one design to the next. Jaye relaxed and smiled, his inner artist appreciating the effectiveness of the display. Perhaps it was a good thing he had come to this end of the room after all.
Occasionally tracing a plastic covered design with one long finger, he slowly scanned the display. All at once, a design at the furthest corner of the table popped into sharp focus and seized his attention. He snatched up the ink drawing, peered at it closely and gasped.
“Something you like?” A soft female voice asked.
“Where did you get this design?”
“It’s one of my own. As is every design on my table.”
“That can’t be.” Jaye rubbed absently at a sudden itch on his leg. “It’s exactly like a tattoo I just had done.” Jaye looked up. A pair of deep violet eyes watched his hand as he rubbed his thigh. Embarrassed, he jerked his hand away, using it instead to gesture at the drawing. “I drew this design for the tattoo myself.”
Light brows lowered in speculation and the woman lifted a delicate hand to nibble on her thumbnail. She sighed, looked at her thumb and brushed the end of her red-gold ponytail back over her shoulder. Twinkles of humor lit her eyes when her gaze met Jaye’s. A jolt of recognition spun deep into his belly before fading quickly away. He wondered at the amazing eye colors achieved with contacts. The drawing vibrated when she reached out and touched it lightly.
“I’m sure they may be similar, if you used the basics of Celtic design. But exactly the same?” She cocked her head and looked at him.
Jaye shook the drawing at her. “It is exact. I’ll show you.” Dropping the drawing, his hand slapped to his thigh. A sheepish grin crossed his lips and he looked around, suddenly conscious of the milling crowds edging toward the far doors.
She laughed; her tinkling giggle made him smile. “Umm, not now.” She giggled again. “I’m signed up for a seminar anyway. I’ve got to go. The room will be closing, too.” She came from behind the table and walked away. Jaye watched the sway of her long floral skirt and the bounce of her hair, his lips stretching further into a silly grin. Denying the rise of emotion, he shook his head to clear it.
“Wait. I want to buy this.” Jaye held the drawing out to her when she turned back. “How much?”
Crossing her arms, she closed one eye in thought before lifting her shoulders in a graceful shrug. With a quick wave of one hand she turned away. “It’s yours.”
“No. Wait. I really want…”
The skirt swirled around her legs when she turned to face him again and jammed small fists against her hips. “I said it’s yours. Since you say it’s the same as your tattoo, then the drawing should be yours also.” She waved away the proffered artwork.
“Now,’ she paused, and then continued, spacing each word as if explaining to a wayward child, “I have a seminar to lead. You undoubtedly have somewhere to go.” One eyebrow lifted in speculation.
Jaye held the picture to his chest for a brief moment then moved forward. “Since you’re giving me presents, I’m Jaye Zeroun.” A faint floral scent filled his nostrils and he inhaled deeply when he passed her. “Coming?”
Accustomed to having his name recognized, Jaye didn’t think further about the slight narrowing of her eyes at his name. She fell into step beside him. “I’m Allyn. Allyn Keely.”
In spite of his misgivings Jaye enjoyed the two seminars he attended. Of course, the focus was on Celtic art, a personal passion. When he discovered Allyn Keely was the facilitator of both sessions, he was doubly pleased. Jaye learned more of the history, styles and creation of Celtic knot work than he would have thought possible in two short hours.
Their eyes met repeatedly during the seminars, and Jaye was sure her eyes rested on him in speculation when he wasn’t looking. But that wasn’t too often. He enjoyed looking at Allyn Keely. The sureness of her hands when demonstrating a knot pattern on the whiteboard entranced him. By the time he had almost decided her eyes were truly violet, not enhanced by contacts, the second seminar was over.
He needed to talk with her about the design he still carried carefully, about the seminars, about her. So he remained in his seat while other conventioneers pressed forward with continued questions and admiring comments.
Jaye studied the design they had both drawn. The longer his eyes were fastened to Allyn’s drawing, the more he was convinced the designs were the same. So convinced, he felt tiny prickles of hair lifting on the back of his neck.
Retreating voices became softer until the room was filled with silence. Jaye looked up and everyone was gone, including Allyn. Rushing to the door, he paused to look around. The hall was filled with milling conventioneers, but no Allyn. Knowing he would be able to find her in the thickest crowd, he swiveled his head from one side to the other. Her image, deeply imbedded in his mind, led him on a torturous path through the mass of people. He found his way at last to the sales room. The doors were locked; no one was visible through the sidelights.
His shoulders slumped and he leaned his forehead against the glass panel. Did he misread the interest in her beautiful eyes throughout the day? “Okay, Jaye,” he told himself softly, “chasing after a violet eyed woman who obviously doesn’t want to be chased is not your style. Buck up, man.” But Allyn’s image, her shoulder length ponytail of golden red hair and wide violet eyes, continued to haunt his thoughts.
He laughed, but the humor sounded false in his own ears. Shrugging, he started toward the main lobby. Perhaps he would go out for pasta tonight.
Jaye leaned over the sink in the small hotel bathroom and stared into the mirror. A disgusted glance fell to the watch lying on the counter. Two in the morning. Once again sleep escaped him. Passing a comb through his disheveled hair moved the waves into some semblance of order. He yanked on the closest pair of slacks, grabbed his key card, left the room, and hoped he could wander the hotel again until he was tired enough to fall asleep.
His lonely supper was spent daydreaming about Celtic knots surrounding Allyn and pulling her to him. Many of the restaurant’s female patrons tried to capture his attention, but none of them had violet eyes. Jaye punched the elevator’s lobby button fiercely. She just disappeared. A young man sat at her booth when he’d checked the sales area after his meal, but Jaye refused to ask after her. Damn his pride sometimes.
Jaye leaned against the doors with both hands as the elevator sank to a stop and waited for them to open. Thick carpeting cushioned his bare feet when he stepped into the lobby. Across the open expanse of space, Allyn sat in a deep chair, watching the elevators. Jaye thought–hoped– she was waiting for him.
The first impulse was to rush across the lobby like a love-struck teenager and fall at her feet. He stopped in his tracks. Love-struck? Jaye Zeroun? Nah. Debating his feelings while he crossed the lobby, he came to no answer before he sank into the chair next to Allyn.
Her soft voice filled him with surprising contentment. “Can’t sleep?”
Almost afraid to speak, afraid of what he might say, Jaye shook his head and took a deep breath anyway. “You?” Was that a slight crack in his voice?
Allyn lay her hand on his. “I’m a night person, especially these nights when the moon is dark.”
“Oh, a vampire.” Jaye cringed. Smooth conversation. She’s gonna think I’m a total nutcase.
Allyn laughed. “Not even close. I simply enjoy the quiet and solitude of the night. Sometimes large groups of people, like at these Cons, are distressing to me. And, I get some of my best ideas at night.”
Jaye willed his voice to stay in one register and took another deep breath. The touch of her hand was playing havoc with his raw nerves; his skin tingled and burned with the contact. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. Ever since I got the tattoo, I just can’t seem to get any rest. It’s not that it hurts and the itching is almost gone. In fact I really don’t think my not sleeping has anything to do with the tattoo. Both just happened around the same time. I, well, I just can’t even seem to explain it.”
“I understand. Have you tried–?”
Jaye interrupted, voice unintentionally sharp. “I’ve tried everything anyone has suggested.” He glanced sideways at Allyn. “Sorry, I’m a little touchy about it, too. I refuse to resort to sleeping pills. I’ve tried relaxation techniques and visualizing times when I haven’t had any problems with sleep. Until it’s nearly dawn, but I just can’t stay asleep.”
Allyn clicked her tongue against her teeth. “Well, when you remembered good sleep in the past, what stands out most? Maybe you should try that.”
With his long legs stretched out in front of him, Jaye shrugged and leaned back in the chair. He slipped his hands into his pockets and felt a crumpled piece of paper. A mischievous grin spread across his face when he pulled it out and smoothed the pale yellow scrap on the arm of the chair.
“I remember one of my foster moms reading bedtime stories. Allyn, do you ever use coupons?
“Coupons? What do they have to do with…?”
Jaye leaned forward eagerly. “Do you ever use coupons?”
“Well, sometimes.” She giggled. “When I remember I have them.”
“Okay. Now, if you were a store,” Jaye lifted a hand to stop the comments obviously hovering on Allyn’s lips. “Just play along with me here. If you were a store, would you accept coupons?”
Allyn shrugged. “Oh. I suppose so.”
“Good.” Jaye picked up the scrap of paper and held it in both hands. “Here is a coupon. I would like to redeem it.”
Allyn looked at him, rolled her eyes and tentatively reached out her hand. Taking the slightly crumpled coupon, she pursed her lips and blew out a long, slow breath. Jaye shivered.
Cautious, Allyn looked down at the paper in her hand. Once again her tinkling laughter flowed through the large lobby, knotting and twining itself around Jaye’s heart. “A bedtime story?”
Before he could answer, Jaye had to pause and catch his breath. His hand trembled slightly and he fought to control the tremor. Allyn lay the coupon on her knee and smoothed the wrinkled paper.
“One of my foster moms used to read or tell me stories to help me go to sleep. Just imagining it didn’t work. Maybe a real story will. I’ll bet you know lots of stories.”
“Where did you get this?”
“I found it last night.”
“Yeah. Right.” She leaned forward to hand the coupon back to him.
“Really. Please, won’t you accept my coupon? Help me out.”
Allyn looked deeply into Jaye’s eyes and he wondered if she was searching for his soul. Something inside opened to her willingly. Surprise touched her eyes before she blinked and sat back. Glancing again at the coupon, she took a few moments to fold it carefully and put it into her skirt pocket. “This isn’t a very good place for a bedtime story.”
“You’ll do it?” Jaye jumped to his feet.
“Yes. To help out a friend.” Allyn smiled up at him, took the hand he offered and let him pull her out of the chair. “You need to be in a familiar space. I suppose your room would be the best.”
Jaye eagerly pulled her toward the elevator. Abruptly, he stopped, turned to her and rested his hands on her shoulders. It was difficult to resist the urge to knead them gently. “I have no ulterior motives, Allyn. I really just need some sleep.”
Reaching up, she patted one of his hands. “I wouldn’t agree if I thought otherwise.”