Originally part of the collection If Ever I Would Leave You, the first book in my Ablion’s Circle – The Deepest Cut – is now available to purchase on it’s own. 🙂
Links are below, as well as a sneak peek into The Deepest Cut.
For nineteen years, Anna has been plagued by dreams of lives lived only in legend. Finally free from the family that believed her hopeless and worthless, she’s ready to start her life over—alone.
When Anna meets an enigmatic stranger claiming to be the legendary wizard Merlin, she is forced to question the very reality she’s struggled to accept. With the mythic figures from her dreams intruding on her waking life, Anna learns that she’s been reborn to fight an ancient evil alongside King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Caught in an ages old conflict, Anna is the key to stopping a dark magic that will destroy the world—and Merlin wants to make sure that this time, Anna isn’t alone.
Note: Previously published in the anthology If Ever I Would Leave You
This life was no different than the others. She was absolutely beautiful. My Annwyl. Anna, I reminded myself. She was Anna now. I ached to go to her but held myself back. I had to be careful. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes I’d made before. I wouldn’t lose her. Not again.
“Why are we just sitting here?”
I glanced at Galahad but said nothing. Nothing I said would shut him up anyway. It had only taken one lifetime to learn that about the guy.
“It’s been weeks, Merlin. Weeks. If your goal is to be a stalker, mission accomplished.” He ran a hand through his hair, causing the dark brown locks to stick up all over the place. “I thought the whole point was to bring her home, complete the Circle, defeat evil, live happily ever after. What the fuck are we doing sitting in a dark club watching her… Ah shit, I’m pretty sure she just took something. I’m going out on a limb here, and saying it’s not Tylenol. And…you’re not surprised. Not even a little.” He sighed.
“No,” I responded simply. It didn’t surprise me she would turn to that. It wouldn’t be the first time one of us used a crutch to deal with what we remembered and lived with. Of course, understanding that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. It sure as hell didn’t ease the guilt I felt. It surrounded me, as it always did. I wished I had found her sooner, that I’d been able to shoulder some of the pain Annwyl…Anna experienced.
Galahad’s voice penetrated my thoughts, and I turned toward him again.
“What are we waiting for?”
“She’s… She might not be ready.”
“Ready for what?” he asked, eyes wide and disbelieving. “How is leaving her to deal with everything on her own helping her, or any of us?”
“She’s always been so fragile,” I murmured, almost to myself. “The fact that we found her this time, before she—” I could hardly swallow around the lump that appeared in my throat, let alone speak.
I’d never gotten to her in time. Every life, every fucking one, I’d been too late. Sometimes, by mere minutes. Her body still warm, as if she were simply sleeping and she’d open her eyes and see me. But that had only been an illusion, a desperate hope. It never happened that way. No, soon, even the hint of life leached out, and I was left with the empty shell, a glaring reminder of how I’d failed her yet again.
“Merlin.” Galahad laid a hand on my knee and leaned close. “You found her this time. The other times… Stop thinking of them. It doesn’t matter now.”
But it did matter, I wanted to scream. Of course it mattered. Because she would remember all of it. Know how I had been unable to save her time after time. The shame and guilt—my constant companions—wouldn’t be erased by kind words, even if they came from a well-meaning friend.
I turned my attention back to her, just in time to see the glass slip from her grasp and crash to the floor. It was clear, even from across the bar, that she was pretty well flying high. The bartender, the one who’d put her in that state in the first place, seemed to be checking to make sure she was okay. So, maybe he wasn’t a complete douchebag. Though, my magic flared, skittered along my body, just under the skin, wanting to knock him on his ass for daring to touch Anna. Then, it nearly exploded as they kissed.
“Throttle back,” Galahad said under his breath, and I realized the glasses on the low table in front of us were shaking, dancing on the shiny surface.
I cursed and reined it in, but fuck, it was hard.
“You can hardly blame her for having a relationship.” He watched me warily, as if I were going to level the place just because Anna had kissed another man.
Never mind that was exactly what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t. I wasn’t stupid and actually had more control than that. It wouldn’t solve anything to let my magic loose. Highly satisfying, but not worth it in the long run.
“Not blaming her for anything,” I bit out, though a part of me wondered why. Why was she kissing him? She had to have her memories from before and know what we’d been together. But, instead of waiting or seeking me out, she was in a bar getting high and kissing the bartender. It hurt, more than I’d ever admit. Though, the way Galahad was eyeing me, he could tell. Aside from Arthur, he was the best friend I had, and he was too perceptive for his own damned good.
“You don’t know anything about her life, aside from what your creeper ass has seen the past couple weeks and what you’ve managed to dig up online.” He leaned back against the couch cushions and rested his booted feet on the table, ankles crossed.
“I know,” I conceded, ignoring the creeper comment. “I’m not making any— Who the hell is that? And why is Annwyl leaving with him?”
Annwyl—fuck, Anna—was following a skinny, greasy looking guy out of the bar. I started to stand, but Galahad yanked me back, only flinching slightly when I whipped around to glare at him. I knew he could feel my power snapping, like static electricity surrounding us.
“Give it a few minutes,” he advised. “She’s smart, Merlin, okay? She doesn’t need us following her around in the shadows.”
“She’s…she’s high.” I looked between my friend and the door. “Already not making smart choices, G.”
The Annwyl from before—God, how many lifetimes ago?—had been the smartest woman I’d ever known. It was one of many things I’d loved about her. But it wasn’t like that now and hadn’t been for a long, long time. It made no sense. I couldn’t figure it out. Everyone else came back the same. Exactly the same. So, why didn’t she?
When I asked the question aloud, Galahad shook his head. “Not exactly the same, you know that. Christ, just look at Morgana.”
I scowled at him. “That’s not what I meant. Morgana always struggled with the choice, even the first time around, but she didn’t change. Her personality, her determination, everything that makes her her never changes. But Anna isn’t acting like the Annwyl we knew.”
He nodded then shrugged. “And we’ll find out why. When you stop following her around like a crazy person and actually talk to her. I know you’re scared, Merlin. Don’t try to bullshit me,” he snapped when I opened my mouth to protest. “You’re scared, and who the hell could blame you after everything, but you found her this time. Now, you need to act, bring her home. She’ll be safer with us, and your focus won’t be as split.”
I tried not to feel guilty, and failed miserably. Ever since I’d found her, everything else had been shoved to the side. I wasn’t spending much time with the rest of the group or trying to figure out exactly what magical threat we were up against this time around. The task of finding the missing members of the Circle—Morgana and Lancelot—had fallen on the others’ shoulders.
Pushing it from my mind for now, I looked around the bar again. Anna wasn’t back. Galahad sighed when I met his gaze and stood.
“Let’s go find her,” he said, clapping a hand on my shoulder as I rose. Together, we wove through the crowd and out of the building. I stopped on the sidewalk and closed my eyes. I could sense Galahad next to me, his connection to me through the Circle strong and tangible. Even from a distance, I could feel Arthur. I couldn’t feel Lancelot or Morgana, but hadn’t for some time. That meant they were too far physically.
Anna’s connection… That was trickier, for some unknown fucking reason. I fought to relax. Being tense only got in the way, strangled my magic. Finding her took all of my concentration, and it shouldn’t. Not with her magic. It had drawn me to her from the beginning, before all the business with the Circle and destinies. I couldn’t figure out why it took so much to find her, but that was a question for another time.
Sweat rolled down my temples as I tried to focus. I felt Galahad’s hand on my upper arm, and I finally, finally grasped the weak spark that was Anna. She was just around the fucking corner, and I could barely feel her. Anger rushed through me as I hurried in her direction. She shouldn’t be hidden from me, not like this.
Entering the alley, I stumbled to a halt at the sight before me. The anger of a moment ago was nothing, it was fleeting, compared to the rage that consumed me and ignited my power. I didn’t even think as I pushed forward, physically and magically. The man who dared pin my Annwyl to the ground and lay his hands on her flew through the air. I was already on my knees at her side when the sickening thud of his body against the wall echoed around us.
Anna held her arm close to her chest and tried to sit up, her eyes blinking owlishly at me. Her mouth worked as if she was trying to speak but all that escaped was a pained whimper.
“Shhh, it’s all right. You’re safe now, Annwyl, you’re safe…”