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Another impatient rap against the front window startles me. Since I have not received an uninvited visitor for over a decade, any guest now is more like to be an enemy.
I slide the accursed book into the safe hidden beneath the loose floorboards under my bed, then take up my sword and stalk down the hall. Anticipation of impending battle surges as I round the corner. Morning light seeps through my window, illuminating dust motes and casting a human shadow across the gleaming wooden floor.
If someone has come to steal the book from me, I will greet them with carnage and bloodshed.
I creep forward, weapon in hand. But the shadow disappears, replaced by a faint crunch of footsteps outside.
“Hey, freak of nature,” a familiar male voice shouts, punctuated by another knock. “I know you’re in there.”
God’s balls. This menace? Now?
Heaving an annoyed sigh, I yank open the door. A nightmare nearly as bad as the one I endured in sleep stands in the portal. Golden hair spiked above sleek brows and mischievous blue eyes, coupled with a glittery Hollywood smile, belies the gifted wizard’s immense power.
Bram Rion, Merlin’s only grandson and magickind’s most indulged pot-stirrer. Now I shall never have peace.
“Me, a freak of nature?” I grunt. “Coming from you, that is rich.”
“If today is your day to conduct beheadings, count me out.” He gestures to the sword in my hand with the cavalier wink that has charmed magickind and enabled him to navigate reputably cutthroat magical council politics for centuries.
Scowling, I prop my sword against a nearby wall. “It is not, but for you, I will make an exception.”
“Funny. Are you going to invite me past the magic circle guarding your place or must I continue to stand on the mat?”
“If I do not?” I’m heartily tempted to leave him outside to rot. True, the magical coxcomb has amused me once or twice, but he’s magical. I dare not trust him.
“Then you’ll miss the juicy gossip.”
I care not for whispers and rumors, but I know Bram. He will not leave until he spills his secret. The sooner I suffer his company, the sooner I can find Morganna in her new guise, then force, coerce, or bully her into unlocking that blasted book and setting me free.
Bram steps inside and shuts the door. “You look like hell. Did you sleep in yesterday’s trousers?”
I glance down at my wrinkled khakis. “Did you come all this way to be my mum?”
“If you need one…” He shrugs.
I stomp down the hall, snatching a fresh T-shirt and jeans from a drawer. “What the devil do you want? Say it and be gone.”
Bram hesitates. Losing patience, I trek across the hall to my bathroom. He follows. Since being in the same room with anyone magical gives me hives, and having Bram around is like a permanent case of leprosy, I slam the door in his face.
After donning the fresh clothes, I slide my brush through my dark hair. Ancient eyes stare back at me, filled with misery, anger, and thwarted lust. I look like hell.
“You’re not happy I’ve come. But only something gravely important would bring me to the Creepified Forest,” Bram finally ventures.
“Important to magickind.” Not necessarily important to me.
“Since I’m the only friend you have—”
“We are not friends.”
“All right, then. I am the only living being who knows of your immortality and still speaks to you.”
“I am not interested. I must hunt.” I reach for my toothbrush.
“The local market too civilized for your Dark Ages upbringing?”
Once I’ve finished with my teeth, I wrench open the bathroom door and glare at Bram. “Is magickind so starved for a comedian that you suffice?”
“What I’ve come to say affects you, too.”
He will only pester me until I relent. I sigh. “Why?”
He doesn’t speak right away. I cannot recall ever seeing the Bram Rion, magickind’s golden boy, nervous. “I’ve had a vision.”
“Have you not a magical healer for that sort of thing?”
He ignores my dig. “When it comes true, you’ll be in danger.”
“In case you are unaware, I cannot be killed.”
“But you can be tortured within an inch of your life.”
True, but… “I involve myself in nothing, least of all magical affairs.” I shoulder past Bram and head for the kitchen.
“I’m well aware. Have you ever heard of the Book of Doomsday?”
“Also called the Doomsday Diary.”
My uninvited guest grabs my shoulder. Immediately, I feel a tightening under my forehead, then between my temples. Bloody hell, the bastard is trying to sneak into my thoughts.
I jerk away and slam a mental door between us.
Bram rears back in surprise. Clearly, most humans cannot block him. But I have not survived half of forever without learning some parlor tricks.
“Never have I heard of the book by either name,” I growl. “Do not ever attempt to invade my head again, or I will slice you in two.”
“It would be amusing for you to try, human.” The wizard snorts. “Are you certain you’ve never seen the book? It’s small and red with gilt inlays. Ornate and centuries old.”
That sounds like… I shove the thought away, lest Bram read it.
Too late. His blue eyes brighten. “You do know something.”
I say nothing, either with my mouth or my expression.
He huffs impatiently. “The Book of Doomsday is integral to magickind’s lore. Since my grandfather’s nemesis created the book, I hoped you might know something about it.”
“Merlin meddled too often in King Arthur’s affairs, so he had many enemies at the Round Table and beyond. I know not which one you speak of.”
“You do. Morganna was your lover.”
“She sated my lust but once. Hardly the same thing.”
“Semantics. She’s the reason you’re immortal. She cursed you with that book, didn’t she?”
By hell’s fire, how could Bram know that?
“Shove off.” I stomp to the door, open it, and gesture with a wave. “And be gone.”
“Not until I share a vision of the future with you.”
More like his magical propaganda. “Keep your visions to yourself, you droning codpiece.”
As always, Bram does as he pleases, grabbing my arm and waving a hand in front of my face. A vision appears. I fall into it, unable to back away…