Sea of Love
Silver Wood Coven Book 12
A fractured team, a lethal foe, but the biggest enemy is time.
As Vesuvius rumbles above the ancient city of Pompeii, Summer and her team hunt for the first Fae artifact. But before they even begin, they are behind. The rogue Wiccans not only have a head start, they’re willing to do anything to win.
As Michael, Troy, the Templars, and the Fae form uneasy alliances, they struggle to avoid deadly traps. The historic city has its charms, but a vein of cruelty runs through it as well. As the team closes in on the powerful Fae artifact, it leads them to the most unlikely of places.
What Readers Are Saying
This is the 12th episode of the series that I've read, and I can't believe that each one seems to be better than the one before. Just when you think that the series has run out of places to go, or new plots to explore without getting ridiculous, Hazel Hunter springs a surprise and you think “Wow, didn't see that coming….”
A trip into the past is not turning into a dream vacation for the gang. Secrets and lies plague the team as they search ancient Pompeii. The tale moves quickly and I read it in one sitting. It should be interesting to see how they escape history that they've changed. I'm looking forward to the next book.
The descriptions in this book paint a vivid sensuous, almost tangible picture for the reader while allowing the characters to flex their skills. I found this book to be quite a masterful blending of real historical fact with myth, magic, folk arts, fantasy and the oh so hot romance.
I may have missed a few of the other books in between yet none of that matters. Oh my lord what a stunning book to add to this story. I'm so ready to know what's going to happen to them next.
What a ride – I love every word and as usual am BEGGING Hazel to write faster : )
IN A SPELL chamber at the headquarters of the Magus Corps, brilliant green light radiated from Summer Lautner. As it did time stopped. The counter on the bomb in her hands likewise halted at two seconds. The stink of the plastic explosives filled her nostrils as if she had been snorting old motor oil. Not a surprising odor for such an engine of death.
A bead of sweat trickled down her face as Summer stared at the device. She could think, but she couldn’t seem to move. The time-freeze enchantment came from the Emerald Tablet, the most ancient and powerful Wiccan grimoire. As its guardian she shared her soul with it, and could use its power. But in times of great danger it often acted of its own accord.
Not long ago Summer had resented that. Now she wanted to sob with gratitude.
But this wasn’t the time to fall apart. She had no idea who had planted the explosives, but she knew why. Someone wanted to stop her and her team before they could begin their journey back in time. If they died, then Wickerman, the murderous rogue warlock would succeed. He would recover four powerful Fae crystal treasures before they were lost to horrible cataclysms. In her dreams she had foreseen how he would use them to bring on the Apocalypse, and destroy the world.
But why couldn’t she move? The time-stopping intervention by the Tablet normally had no effect on her. Though she could move her eyes and was definitely breathing, her hands refused to move. Instead cold terror knotted in her chest and slowly sank into her stomach. But it wasn’t fear for herself. If she died, others would take her place to try and stop Wickerman. There were always enough good souls to stand against evil. But if her life ended in this room, Troy Atwater and Michael Charbon would die with her. As her sentinel mates they would not survive her death––and she would do anything to protect the two men she loved.
A low, deep voice said, “Beauty, I am here.”
Summer shifted her eyes up and looked up into Michael’s brilliant, jade-green eyes. He had dressed as a gladiator for their journey to ancient Pompeii, which perfectly suited his huge, brutally muscular frame.
“You aren’t frozen,” she said and found her mouth could move as well.
“So it seems.”
The big man crouched down beside her and inspected the satchel she was holding. He took in a sharp breath when he saw inside, but kept his voice low and pleasant.
“Be very still now,” he said.
“Not a problem,” she said, the words rasping in her tight throat. She swallowed hard. “Do you know anything about explosives?”
“Enough to know you should not move.” He turned his head. “Pagan?”
“We’ve got this, love,” Troy said, as he knelt down on her other side.
He’d cropped his long black hair in Roman style, and wore the garb of a trader. But his heavenly blue eyes remained as steady and loving as ever.
“Paladin and I will handle the bomb. All you have to do is keep time from restarting. Focus on that.”
Summer immersed herself in the Tablet’s power, adding her will to the entity’s efforts. Her gaze shifted to the other members of their team, who stood suspended in time.
Lemuel Bowers and Cyrus Shelton, the two Templars they had agreed to take with them, stood staring at the bomb. Bowers’s face looked oddly lifeless, while Shelton’s stern features appeared confused. Between them Elettra GemSage, the last surviving member of the renegade Fae clan responsible for creating the crystals, had turned to look at Shelton. Pretending to be a Wiccan and disguised as an ordinary brunette, the Fae woman had an expression of such longing that Summer felt her heart clench. After being buried alive in a diamond crypt for ten thousand years, Elettra had only been freed for a few days. She had already sacrificed everything to protect the world from her clan’s deadly crystals. She didn’t deserve to die like this.
“Captain Banning said there is an anti-violence ward protecting Magus Corps Headquarters,” Michael said to Troy. “Will it prevent the device from exploding?”
“The enchantment renders all weapons useless, so theoretically it should,” the dark warlock said. “Unless the spell chamber was made exempt. Sometimes protective wards interfere with spell casting.” He turned his head, his eyes narrowing as he scanned the chamber. “With all the power in the room, I can’t tell. We have to defuse it.”
“The timer is wired to the detonator,” Michael said. He pointed at a bundle of gray wires leading from the digital display to a small metal box with two lights. “If we cut all the wires, it cannot send the signal to set off the bomb.”
“Unless one of the wires triggers the bomb if it’s cut,” Troy said. “The same thing might happen if we try to remove the battery from the timer. If we could just freeze the timer and detonator instead of–”
He abruptly stopped and rubbed his hand over his perspiring face.
“Beauty, can you transport the bomb from here to the sea?” Michael asked.
“I don’t have the time to do it,” Summer said. “Even with the Tablet’s help, I’d need at least a few seconds to cast the spell.” She saw Troy’s eyes glow with the blue light of his elemental power. “What are you doing?”
“It’s my turn to freeze time,” the dark warlock said. He clamped his hand over the digital counter, which turned frosty white. “My sweat isn’t enough. I need water, as much as you can find.”
Michael got up and went to check the tall urns flanking the door. He seized one and wrenched out the flowers before carrying it back.
But as Summer watched, a new sensation stirred inside. The energy of the Tablet was slipping.
“I can’t hold time any longer,” she said quickly.
“Here, Brother,” Michael said, setting down the urn.
Troy stretched out his free hand, summoning the water inside with a flick of power. The stream formed an undulating mass over the bomb, and rained down in thin streams. It filled the satchel and immersed the device. When he removed his hand, the water froze around the bomb, containing it in a block of ice.
Troy glanced at Michael, who nodded. “We’re good now, love. Let it go.”
Another burst of green light swept through the chamber as the enchantment ended. Time snapped back into motion. Bowers shouted something in Latin, and Shelton shoved Elettra behind his massive body.
“What is a bomb?” the Fae woman asked as she peeked around the Templar. “Is it something bad?”
“Damn me,” Bowers said and strode over to stare down at the device. “Did you defuse it?”
“No,” Summer said.
Although the counter numbers glowed red through the ice, they remained stopped at two seconds. She stood up to cast the transport spell, but saw Kord Westbrook and Allan Banning rush in.
“Someone planted a bomb in our gear,” she told the head of the Magus Corps’s ruling council. To the captain, she said, “Troy has frozen it, but I don’t know how long it will keep it from blowing up. Will your anti-violence wards deactivate it?”
“Yes,” Allan said, his young face suddenly matching his old, shrewd eyes. “But not as long as it remains in this chamber.” He came over and carefully retrieved the satchel, his expression stunned as he looked in at the frozen device. “Gods. There is enough C-4 here to have incinerated the building, and they knew just where to put it.” He regarded Summer. “You have saved us all, my lady.”
“Captain,” Westbrook said, his voice tight. “Take it to the safe room, and have our seer examine it.” As Allan left with it, Westbrook turned to Summer. “Ms. Lautner, I will not rest until I discover who is responsible for this act of madness. I promise you.” He eyed the Templars. “And I know where to start.”
“We brought nothing to this place,” Bowers countered. “There were witnesses. Nor were we ever left alone.” He met Westbrook’s glare with one of his own. “This was none of our doing.”
Which meant a Wiccan had to be responsible, Summer thought, and concealed a shudder. “I think it’s best we go now, Council Member.”
“If there are any other acts of sabotage,” he said, his face grim, “use the spell-joined mirror if you can.”
She nodded as Elettra joined them. “You have a traitor among you,” she said to Westbrook. “It will likely be the one you least suspect, so start with those you think too simple, or too good. Or you may wish to kill everyone, just to be sure.” She leaned close to whisper. “That is what my king did.”
“Thank you, madam,” Westbrook said through white lips and left the chamber.
“I do not think he will take my advice,” Elettra said, frowning. “Perhaps we should go now.”
Summer saw the men had finished searching the satchels. “Yes, I think we should. Everyone, in the circle please, and join hands.”
Michael and Troy flanked her, and laced their fingers through hers. Elettra stepped between the two Templars, and smiled up at Shelton as he took her hand.
“God protect us,” Bowers muttered as he completed the circle.
Summer closed her eyes, and once more summoned the power of the Emerald Tablet.
“From this our time we journey away, take this circle of travelers to Pompeii, the day seventeenth, the month August, the year seventy-nine A.D. So may it be.”
• • • • •
Troy watched the spell chamber blur as the power of the Emerald Tablet poured into him from Summer. It filled him with verdant light before it streamed out of him and into the Templars, the Fae woman, and his sentinel brother.
A crackling sound made him glance up to see a large, murky portal forming over them. Something spun in the very center of the dark aperture, but he couldn’t make out what it was at first. As the Tablet’s power surge closed the circle by funneling back into Summer, an idyllic countryside scene appeared in the portal. Beyond it sprawled an archaic city built in the shadow of a towering mountain with its lower slopes reaching all the way to the sea.
He felt his lover grip his hand tightly, and braced himself. The six of them lifted slowly into the air, hovered for a moment, and then were dragged into the portal. Troy expected to feel some sense of being hurtled through time, but a heartbeat later he found himself standing in a field of lush, tall grass.
“That was a piece of cake,” he said.
Sweltering heat engulfed him, as did the smell of rich soil. The air was so clean it made him a little dizzy. Beside him Summer staggered a little, and he quickly released her hand to put his arm around her waist.
“Still with us, love?”
As Summer nodded, Michael looked over her head at Troy.
I will check the others.
Troy studied Summer’s pale face. The lack of color made her dark opal eyes seem even more vivid. She’d pulled back her gold-streaked brown hair so the head drape hid most of it. Not a speck of make-up colored her face. But even shaking and terrified she was the loveliest thing in the world.
The two Templars seemed dazed by the time jump, but Elettra spoke as if she were completely unaffected.
“I am well, Charbon. I may have to puke, but I will avoid your sandals. Summer, we landed outside the walls.” She stood on her toes and peered at Pompeii. “What a tiny place. If you wish to rest here, I can search it by myself. What would it take, an hour? Two?”
“You shouldn’t go by yourself,” Shelton said flatly. “Bowers.”
“We should get rooms in the city first,” the shorter Templar said. “We need a place for the gear. Then we’ll retrace Kember’s movements.” Bowers realized he was scrubbing his palm over his cap of golden bristles, and stopped. “Sorry. That little trip was…interesting.”
Elettra eyed him. “Being frightened out of your wits interests you?”
While Michael sorted out the satchels, Troy kept his arm around Summer’s waist.
“We can rest for a while, if you need a break.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said. “Just don’t ask me to fool with time again until we’re ready to go.” She leaned against Troy as she looked around them, and some of the tension eased from her body. “Goddess above, what a beautiful place. It’s like Litha made into a country.”
The ancient world appeared to be bursting with abundance. Wide swaths of vineyards and olive groves terraced the area to the south, while large herds of cows and sheep grazed the pasturelands to the east. The faint scent of the ocean made him turn his head to see the Bay of Naples glittering in the distance like an ocean of aquamarine.
Unlike the Romans, Troy knew the fertility of the land came from volcanic fallout from Vesuvius some fifteen hundred years before Pompeii had even been built. The people who lived here didn’t know Vesuvius was a volcano. There wasn’t even a word for it in Latin.
Shelton and Bowers shouldered their satchels and walked toward a wide, hard-packed dirt road that crossed the field. Beyond them Troy could see the long white walls surrounding the city.
“The Templars are impatient,” Troy said to Michael, and spotted a small dust cloud on the road in the opposite direction. “Someone’s coming.”
“Pompeii is a port town in the time of harvest,” Elettra said. “There will be many traveling the roads, and they will likely be rough sorts.” She covered her hair with her palla, and helped Summer to adjust her head drape. “You and I walk between your mates. Keep your eyes down, and do not speak to anyone but Troy or me. Atwater, if they hail you, be civil, but not friendly. Charbon, as the hired man you must follow behind us, and not too close. Scowl but say nothing. Your size will do the rest.”
“How do you know all this?” Troy asked her.
“Things in the mortal realm may change, but the people do not. Men are powerful, and women are vulnerable. We are strangers here. ‘Tis how we should behave.” She hesitated before she added, “I am not simple, Atwater. I know this world better than anyone, because it has not changed so much from mine. We must go carefully now.”
Other than finding the crystals, Troy hadn’t realized what an asset the Fae woman would be.
“Do you think anyone will challenge us at the city gates?” he asked.
“They expect we have made a long journey to come here. Show them you are tired, and annoyed, and they will think nothing of us.” Elettra tucked her arm through Summer’s. “Now come.”
Troy led the way to the road, and kept an eye on the dust cloud as it drew closer. The clop of hooves and the creak of heavily-laden wheels became louder, until a shift in the breeze wafted away the billowing dirt. Out of it came a small caravan of horse-drawn wooden carts piled almost to overflowing with bulging grain sacks, clay jars, and other goods. The bald men leading the horses all appeared gaunt and dirty in their threadbare loincloths. As they rolled passed only one glanced at Summer and Elettra before he averted his face.
“Slaves,” Elettra murmured to Troy, and nodded toward a fat man riding behind the carts on a grumpy-looking mule. “Master.”
“Ave, traveler. Pretty wenches there,” the fat man said to Troy, reining in the mule to a slower plod. Thinning gray hair had been curled into pasty ringlets to frame the Roman’s plump face. Large sweat stains yellowed his tunic. “Either for sale?”
The translation tattoo that the Magus Corps had inked on each of them was working.
“My wife and her sister,” he replied, sounding bored.
“Yes, and either for sale?” the trader repeated, and then uttered a dry laugh. “If you are well, it is good, for I am well. Say, do you know if Polibyus was elected duovir?”
Troy shrugged. “Does it matter?”
“Eh. The muleteers supported him, but he spends like the emperor. If we’re to keep the brigands from buggering us, he’ll have to drop coin on more than bread and blood games. And now my slaves seek to drag their feet, rot their lazy asses. Gods smile on you.”
He kicked the mule’s sides, and trotted off to catch up with the wagons.
Troy felt a little smug, until he saw the fat man uncoil a short whip and lash one of his slaves across the shoulders. Without thinking he started after the caravan, but Elettra tugged him back.
“They are his property,” she reminded him. “As such they have value, so he will not kill them. But if you interfere, he can have you beaten or jailed. You know this, and you will see worse in the city. You must blind yourself to it.”
“Can you?” he demanded.
“If we are to find RainLance, then yes. I can. I must,” Elettra said and nodded toward the city. “‘Tis not a piece of cake, Atwater. If we fail, there will never be cake.”
Troy looked ahead at the fat Roman and his slaves. He had lived in eras when the use and abuse of enslaved mortals had been commonplace, but he had forgotten how much he despised the practice. He lifted his gaze to Vesuvius and felt his temper cool. In a week the magma chamber inside the saddle-backed volcano would erupt and wipe out two cities and thousands of mortal lives.
And RainLance, the crystal of water hidden by the Fae, would somehow be the cause of it.
Book 1: Rescued
Book 2: Stolen
Book 3: United
Book 4: Betrayed
Book 5: Revealed
Book 6: Lost
Book 7: Divided
Book 8: Gone
Book 9: Burned
Book 10: Reclaimed
Book 11: Call of Fate
Book 12: Sea of Love
Book 13: Palace of Pleasure
Book 14: House of Desire
Book 15: Ship of Dreams
Book 16: Lens of Time
Silver Wood Coven Box Set