Book five in the Hearts of Fire series.
The Chosen. Eight strong individuals gifted with unique paranormal abilities and tasked with protecting shards of an ancient crystal--the Heart of Fire.
Brought together by destiny, each couple has managed to bond and fuse their crystal pairs through a hot and intense sexual joining. The four couples have overcome great personal challenges and remained apart, preparing to face an ancient evil once again.
Now the time has come for the eight Chosen to join forces and defeat Asmodeus, Prince of Hell, once and for all. Their plan is clear yet complex--activate a hidden energy network, gather on spiritual lands and fight an epic battle between good and evil, which will impact mankind for eternity.
Of course, nothing ever goes as planned. And Asmodeus has some tricks the Chosen never anticipated.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Entwined Hearts by Nicole Austin
"Is this thing on? Can you hear me now?" Angela Raguel adjusted the laptop and watched as her mirror image moved in a small box on the screen. Her dear friend Mirriam Redwing sat beside her.
While Angela appreciated receiving the wonderful and expensive gift, she didn't trust this newfangled technology. Give her a regular old telephone any day. Or better yet, she'd prefer to have written a letter but time was of the essence. Together, she and Mirriam had finally figured out how to make the contraption work.
"You don't have to shout, Angela," Dee responded. "We can hear you just fine."
There were four video boxes open on the computer along with the one bearing her image, which Angela found unsettling. It was very strange to watch a slightly time-delayed version of herself. Instead, she focused on the other images. Her loved ones--the Chosen.
Her girls had changed and grown after finding their mates. The men completed them--accentuating strengths, supporting dreams and diminishing weaknesses. Happiness shone in all of their bright, smiling faces. It was a sight that warmed her heart. She hated the fact that she was putting them, and their men, right back in the line of danger. But it couldn't be helped. This was their destiny. Besides , they would never be truly safe until the eight crystals were joined and the demon, Asmodeus, was defeated.
"Memory, how are the wedding plans coming along, dear?" Mirriam asked.
"I do hope you're setting some limits, Marco. Otherwise she'll invite everyone on the planet." With Memory's huge heart, Angela knew she wouldn't want to leave anyone out of the celebration.
"Actually, we agreed that we'd keep it small and just include family and close friends," Memory replied.
"Of which Memory has about a thousand," Marco added.
Memory elbowed him lightly. "I'm telling your mom you're being mean."
"Oops." Marco grinned and changed the subject. "Charlotte, I think that plant behind you is moving."
Angela smiled as Memory laughed and muttered, "I'm still telling." Memory had become nearly as much a daughter to Mirriam as she was to Angela. It warmed Angela's heart to see Memory surrounded by the love Marco and Mirriam lavished on her.
"Charlotte, child--" Angela shook her head. "While all those plants surrounding you are beautiful, it looks like a jungle. Creed, son, you really must convince her to transplant some of them outside before they take over the house."
Creed, looking as big and fierce as ever, came into the picture as he took Charlotte's hand in his, raised it to his mouth and kissed it. "I don't care how many plants she has, Angela, as long as she's happy." He gave her a wink. "And as long as there's room for me in bed."
"Hush, Creed." Charlotte blushed even as she scolded him, but Angela could see the pleasure in her eyes. There was no denying the love that flowed between them.
Angela was glad that quiet, sensitive Charlotte had found a man who realized what a treasure she was. Creed Lawson was the kind of man who protected what was his. And there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he considered Charlotte to be his.
"We watched your online performance last night, Faison. The new songs are beautiful." Mirriam batted away tears that revealed just how deeply his singing had affected her. "You were right, De'alla. It felt just like being at the show in person."
Faison gave a gracious bow of the head and Dee rolled her gaze toward the ceiling.
"Miss Mirriam, his head is already too big to fit into the car, please don't go giving him any more reason to preen," Dee snorted.
"Yeah, but..." Faison responded with a gentle nip to Dee's ear that made her visibly shiver. "I was singing about you, sweetheart, so of course the new songs would make anyone tear up and run for the tissue."
"Okay, give him more compliments you guys." With a sigh Dee leaned into Faison's side and smiled like a loon.
By far the youngest couple had changed most of all. Angela had always worried that McKenna's spirit would never settle down. Even though he was several years younger than she, Ryker managed to bring a sense of balance to their wild child. Angela had never seen Kenna looking more content or relaxed.
"I'm dying to see the bracelet, Ryker. Kenna was so excited when she told me how hard you worked on her birthday present."
Modest to a fault from hard-learned lessons, Ryker tipped his hat, covering the blush spreading across his cheeks. "Shucks, Miss Angela. It wasn't any big deal, just a simple piece of silver and stone."
Kenna punched his shoulder and moved closer to the camera, proud to show off the jewelry Ryker had crafted with loving care. "Isn't it gorgeous?"
The speckled stone had been mounted into a thick silver bangle. An etched design curved along the band to encompass several small pieces of rose quartz. It truly was a breathtaking design.
After they all took a moment to express their appreciation, Angela knew the time had come to get down to business. "Mirriam and I have conducted an extensive study of metaphysical locations, sites of great power and ley lines. With the help of the ancient texts we've pinpointed locations in Sedona, Arizona where you must activate the earth energies before uniting the Hearts--"
"I've done a lot of thinking about the Hearts," Mirriam interrupted. "Girls, why do you feel it's safer to keep them apart?"
"That's simple," Charlotte stated. "Gather all the crystals in one place and we make things easier for Asmodeus."
Kenna nodded. "It would be like waving a red flag in front of the bastard or painting a big bull's-eye on ourselves."
"That's true," Dee agreed. "Since he can only manifest on this plane for a short time, getting together would give him the perfect opportunity to attack us all at once."
"There's no way that slimy greaseball would be able to resist the temptation," Memory finished.
"Okay," Mirriam said. "That makes a certain sense, but there's great strength in numbers. You will always be stronger together than apart."
Marco shifted closer to the camera. "Mom's right. We each have our strengths, as individuals and couples. Bring the eight of us together and there's no way Asmo stands a chance."
"Staying apart is no longer an option," Creed stated. "This needs to be finished once and for all. I want that bastard sent back to hell where he belongs."
"So where are we going, ladies?" Ryker asked.
Angela filled the Chosen in on what she and Mirriam had determined. "There are seven key vortexes in Sedona, Arizona that resonate with our chakras or energy bodies. I emailed you each a map. The vortexes connect along a ley line--Long Canyon, Grassy Knolls, Devils Bridge, Sugarloaf, Airport Mesa, Twin Buttes and the edge of Lee Mountain."
"Others have held ceremonies to activate the Sedona Landscape Temple," Mirriam explained. "All failed. They were not the Chosen. Only the eight of you together have the power to connect the energies."
Angela tapped a spot on the map she held. "Once the energies are activated at the four vortexes we've indicated you must all gather at Sugarloaf to unite the Heart of Fire and unleash its power."
Ryker's lips stretched into a devilish grin. "Y'all thinkin' what I am?"
Marco gave a thumbs-up behind Memory's back as Faison pumped both fists in the air and Creed smiled. "Road trip."