Divine by Choice
“Bring a goblet too.” I shouted at her back as she (literally) ran across the room to do my bidding.
“Of course, my lady!” she shot back over her shoulder before she disappeared through the arched door that led to the kitchens.
Sometimes it was just damn nice to be Goddess Incarnate and Beloved of Epona. OK, I’ll admit it – it was more than sometimes nice. Please – I was surrounded by opulence and loved by the populace. I had a veritable herd of eager handmaidens whose sole purpose in living was to see that my every need was met, not to mention wardrobes filled with exquisite clothing and drawers brimming with (be still my beating heart) jewellery. Lots of jewellery.
Let’s face it – I was living well beyond the means of an Oklahoma high school teacher’s salary. Big surprise.
THE GODDESS OF PARTHOLON series
New York Times best-selling author
DIVINE BY MISTAKE
DIVINE BY CHOICE
DIVINE BY BLOOD
And coming in 2010 from MIRA Books:
Find out more at www.mirabooks.co.uk
Divine by Choice
Book Two of the Goddess of Partholon series
This is another one for my dad, Dick Cast (Mighty Mouse – the Old Coach). With all my love (Bugs).
Thank you to the wonderful team (especially Mary-Theresa
Hussey, Stacy Boyd and Adam Wilson). It’s a pleasure to work with all of you.
Much appreciation to my agent and friend,
Thank you, dad, for letting me use your terrible break-through-the-ice-and-almost-die accident, even though
seeing it in print gave you the heebie-jeebies.
and a special and loving THANK YOU to the
Divine by Mistake fans who have been waiting five long years to get this sequel. My fans are the best!
Dear Lovely reader,
Right now I’m writing my twenty-first novel, and I can tell you without any hesitation that out of all those books the heroine with whom I most easily identify – the heroine I like the very best – is Shannon Parker. I’ve been thinking about why that is and, oddly enough, it isn’t her strengths that endear Shannon to me. She’s certainly funny and smart and honest. That’s nice – but that’s also like a zillion other heroines. What I like best about Shannon are her flaws. She messes up. More than once. She gets pissed off and says things she’s sorry about later. She gets overconfident and stubborn, all of which make her delightfully real. I’d like to have a glass (or twelve) of wine with Shannon. If someone’s made me mad, I’d like to call her and have her get pissed off on my behalf. Shannon would be a loyal friend, and she damn sure would never be boring or spineless.
In Divine by Choice Shannon has several very difficult decisions to make, and while she doesn’t always make the perfect choice, she makes the real choice, and she does it with a sense of humour and an exuberance for life and love that I hope you, too, will find endearing.
Welcome to Divine by Choice, and another grand adventure in the magical world of Partholon.
Like ink running down a sheet of black paper, the darkness at the edge of my vision wavered, sending a chill of foreboding shivering across my skin. What the hell? I peered into the shadows. Nothing. Just an empty, starless night that had turned cold and windy.
Clearly I was losing my friggin' mind.
The Fomorian War had been over for months. No winged demons lurked about waiting to pounce on me. I mean, please, I was in the middle of my own temple, which, despite its beauty, had been built as a fortress. Even had some kind of freaky monster been loose upon the world (and in this world, one never knew), I was more than perfectly safe. Seriously, I was in more danger of being pampered and adored to death than I was being monster-grabbed. Yet I still had the awful “someone just walked over my grave” feeling. And tonight wasn’t the first time I’d felt as if something was wrong.
As I followed the marble path that led to the monument I thought about the weird sense of foreboding I seemed to be carrying around with me. Had it been weeks? Damn! Now that I really thought about it I realized that it had been at least two or three weeks that I’d been feeling off. I’d definitely been off my food, which was bizarre in its own right because I seriously love food. But a lingering stomach virus and/or stress could account for that. What was most odd was the way I’d been jumping at shadows. And the shadows seemed dark and thick and filled with something definitely malevolent.
Okay, yes, I’d just been through a truly awful war in which the good guys (naturally, the ones on my side) had to battle horrid demonic creatures and save the world from enslavement and annihilation. Literally. And yes, that could make a girl slightly jumpy. Especially if the girl was really a high school English teacher from Oklahoma who had accidentally been exchanged for the Beloved Incarnate of a Goddess in a world that more closely resembled a weird mixture of ancient Scotland and mythological Greece than Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (a lovely suburb of Tulsa). All true. But the war was over. The demons extinguished, and (supposedly) all was right with the world. So why did I feel like the damn booger monster was out there in the darkness waiting to leap on me?
Jeesh, I had another headache.
When I got to the MacCallan’s memorial I tried to still my roiling thoughts by breathing deeply and savoring the peace and serenity that always blanketed me when I visited it. Tall, graceful columns ringed a three-stepped marble dais, whereon an ornately carved pedestal stood as the resting place for a weighty urn that was kept perpetually filled with sweet-scented, forever-burning oil.
Tonight the silver-gray smoke curled lazily up through the circular hole in the domed roof. I walked slowly toward the urn, enjoying the way the brilliant yellow flame contrasted with the backdrop of the starless night’s sky. I had specified that the monument be built with no walls, just columns, a dome and this ever-burning flame. I believe the man memorialized here would have liked the freedom it symbolized.
A breeze stirred my hair and I shivered. The cool air was almost moist. I was glad I’d let Alanna bully me into wearing my ermine-lined cloak, even though the memorial was only a short walk from my chambers.
“Lady Rhiannon!” A young maiden rushed between the columns on the far side of the edifice. She paused long enough to drop almost to the floor in a fluid curtsy. “May I bring you some warmed wine? The night has become chilly.”
“No.” Distracted, I barely glanced at her, quickly searching my memory for her name, “Maura. I don’t need anything. You may go back to bed.”
She smiled at me shyly. “Yes, my Lady.” Then she blurted, “But you will call if there is anything you require?”