A spiritual quest throws Bard, naked and alone, from his world to the desert Sahara. Each grueling step through the shifting sands only adds to his questions and confusion. What did the seven Guardians mean for him to learn in this strange place? Will he discover a way home?
Burying her emotions, Kaelea retreats into the research of fey texts, searching for a clue--for anything, to protect her clan from an ever-present evil. The appearance of a stranger at the oasis is an unwelcome interruption. Her instant fascination with the man is even more distracting.
Hotter than the desert sun, attraction blazes between Bard and Kaelea, but personal concerns and that ancient evil drive a wedge between them. Alone, and together, they discover answers, and their soulfire. But will it be enough to keep Bard in Kaelea’s worlds, and at her side?
He wasn’t ready to die.
The struggle to move one leg in preparation to rise was nearly more than his abused body could tolerate. He rested his crossed arms on the top of his thigh and panted, the breath wheezing from his lungs. He would stand. Bard lifted his head.
The painful widening of his eyes made him blink and glance away from the sight before him. When he looked again, tears blurred his vision until he blinked the dampness away. There had been nothing there before—had there? Where once had been nothing but sand, and sand upon more sand, now hovered a spot of lush green. Where once he had heard nothing but the wind scraping sand from the dunes, was now the faint tinkling of water upon stone. Where once there was despair, he found a rising hope.
If the vision were only that—a vision—a trick of his exhausted mind... Bard didn’t care. If it was cool, if there was shade to shield him from the sun, if there was water...
A word of praise burst from his lips, breaking open a deep, dry crack and releasing a trickle of warm blood. Brows drawn close over his eyes, Bard licked the salty blood, winced at the stinging pain of his tender lip, and rose awkwardly to stand. He stared at the grove of trees.
He took a step. Then another. Until he ran mindlessly. Fully expecting the trees to fade from sight as he neared them, he could not tear his eyes from the splotch of green and stumbled over the smooth sand. Flailing his arms, Bard regained his balance, paused, then ran again. The trees were still there. His heart sang with the joy of discovery, of hope. The trees were still there.
Beneath his feet the sand gave way to more solid ground. The softness of patches of grass tickled between his toes, the bruised blades giving rise to a fresh, green scent. Bard smiled and slowed, listening, following the crystal sounds of water bubbling over rock.
His soul surged with the promise of renewal. Soon his body would experience the renewal as well. First, he would drink. Then, if there was enough water to allow it, he would cover himself with moisture. Then, he would drink once more.
The siren’s call drew him closer and he silently thanked the Guardians before asking forgiveness for his doubt. He inhaled deeply. Damp air caressed his nostrils and the lush scents provided him the Guardians’ response. He would not doubt again.
Rising over the sounds of the water came a new sound. Bard frowned. Singing? He stepped from under the trees onto a grassy knoll beside a wide, clear pool. The water called to him, urging him recklessly forward, but the bare back and flowing dark hair of the woman singing in the center of the pool froze him in place.