Guardian’s Hope

 

Guardian's-Hope 300x397-1Guardian’s Hope

Available on Amazon and Smashwords and Barnes& Noble

Hope Parsons has heard about the evil of demons since she was a child in the little isolated community where she grew up. Demons were part of the outside world; demon sex, demon drink, demon music, demon woman. According to her father, her mother had a demon in her, too.

This is Hope’s world until she finds a box her mother hid years ago and the remnant of a letter her runaway sister wrote begging for help. These finds are the impetus she needs to embark on a journey out into the world and the city where she hopes to find her sister and learn more about her mother’s legacy. Once there, she learns her father was wrong about most of the evils of the outside world. Unfortunately, he was right about one; living, breathing demons are real.

Nico ad Nimeni, with his dark charm and magazine cover good looks, is a recent addition to Canaan ad Simeon’s House of Guardians. As a Guardian of the Race, it’s his job to protect his people, the Paenitentia, along with humankind from the demons who cross over from the Otherworld, but Nico knows there are demons other than those that stalk the night preying on the fear and flesh of humankind. Nico’s personal demons are the ones that plague a man’s soul and insist he stand apart.

When circumstances bring Hope to the House, she finds a place where everything she was taught about good and evil is turned upside down. In this world of witches and demons, vampires and Paenitentia, she learns that things are not always what they seem and that a shy, self-conscious country girl can be beautiful and find love in the arms of a suave sophisticate.

Join Hope and Nico as they search for her missing sister and discover in each other the healing power of love. Chapter 1 is offered below.

Praise For Guardian’s Hope

Guardian’s Hope is a fantastic second storyline in Jacqueline Rhoades Guardians of the Race series. Jacqueline is an indie author who has written a remarkable series that I hope will continue for a long time. I am looking forward to Jacqueline’s next installment. – Sandy, The Reading Cafe

Guardian’s Hope, book two in the Guardian’s of the Race, is available now and equally as amazing as the first! – Carole Dee Bitten By Paranormal Romance

An interesting, action packed story of good vs. evil in all it’s many forms! A compelling and insightful read. – Amazon Reviewer

I was surprised how I was pulled into this book so fast. Truly love both Hero and Heroine. I  recommend this book highly. – Frances Lucero on Amazon

I am loving this series, it is so great! Guardian’s Hope is the second book in the series and it features Hope and Nico. Hope leaves home searching for her sister and meets Nico at a club where he helps her to get home. From there the sparks fly. – The Jeep Diva

Tammy  rated it 5 stars I received the first book in this series from my goodreads.com lovers of paranormal group. I liked it so much that I went out and bought this book,the second in the series, so I could keep reading. I was not disappointed.

Amy Softa    rated it 5 stars  – Another great book.  I think I might have liked this even more than the first…not sure, too close to call.  Loved Nico and Hope……

 

Guardian's-Hope-Paperback-Cover-flat

Chapter 1

She had to go back into the house. She had to assess the damage, make repairs if necessary and make sure those awful creatures hadn’t come back. She couldn’t put anyone else in danger and those abominations were dangerous. Frightening and dangerous. She knew it. It was why she ran.

The new tenants were scheduled to move in on the first of the month and everything had to be moved out in the next few days. What little inventory was left needed to be shipped to the new owner and the computer files holding all the business records needed to be turned over as soon as the check cleared. She was being paid an unimaginable amount of money for that trashy website and she couldn’t afford to ruin the deal now. She had to go back into the house.

Hope stood, sheltered from the cold in the crevice formed where two large pines crossed their branches and stared at the shabby yellow house that had been her home for the last six months. Lenny’s house. The most irascible man she’d ever known, whose business was peddling sin. Despite all his faults, he’d been her friend and savior.

Lenny took her in when she had nowhere else to go. He taught her how to use a computer and how to run his business and asked for nothing but her friendship in return. She knew her father would say Lenny was now burning in Hell, but for the kindness and generosity he’d shown her, she prayed he found peace in Heaven.

“Get on with it,” she muttered to herself. She’d been by the place at least twenty times in the last few weeks at all hours of the day and night. There’d been no sign of the horrid things that had sent her running. She took a step out from the shadows and shrank back as something moved on the narrow porch at the front of the house. Her breath blew out in exasperation. It was only a cat. It leapt the three steps to the sidewalk below and marched across the street directly to her, where it sat at her feet and meowed.

“I know. I’m a coward.” The cat meowed again as if it agreed. “You’re absolutely right. There are things that need to be done. Whatever those creatures were, they’re not there now.” Hope shrugged and stepped out from the shadows. “Maybe I never saw them at all. Maybe Father is right and I’m as devil ridden as my mother.”

Hope crossed the street and entered the house, the cat following close at her heels.

The living room was torn apart. Lenny’s battered brown sofa stood on end, leaning against the wall, arms and back shredded by three-toed claws much larger than any cat’s. Dirty grey stuffing hung from the wounds. His beloved television lay on its back in the corner, the glass screen shattered by the leg of the rickety end table that once sat beside the couch. The overstuffed chair she claimed for her own was upside down, three legs poking skyward, the brick that served as the missing fourth leg missing as well. Lenny’s few pictures were torn from the wall and the remains of three lamps covered the room in chunks of ceramic and glass. Ugly brown and deep grey stains spattered the walls and she knew without further investigation that it was blood, as was the crusted mat of rusty brown that covered the center of the threadbare carpet.

Her altar, in memory of her mother and lovingly placed in the corner, was shattered, the incense and herbs scattered, the candles crushed and broken. Nothing was as it should be.

Mindlessly, she righted the chair, found the brick beneath and returned it to its position as substitute leg. She sat and surveyed the destruction, winced and snapped her head to the side as her mind rebelled against the vision of what must have happened here. She knew she should check the rest of the house, but she couldn’t bring herself to move. She could only sit and stare.

The creatures she’d seen were real and this room was her proof. The grotesque creature was not a figment of her imagination and the snarling visage that flickered in and out of the other’s human form was not the result of her father’s frightening stories and her fear. They were real. And the woman Hope was supposed to meet, what was she? Whose blood was on the carpet and the walls? A scratching in the corner behind another overturned end table distracted her from her thoughts.

“No,” she said sharply as she leapt from the chair and made a grab for the cat. One of Lenny’s lines leapt to her tongue, “This may look piss poor but that’s no reason to pee in the corner.”

The tiny cat easily evaded her grasp, flicked its tail in disdain and sat a few feet away staring at the corner from which it came. Hope checked for a puddle of evidence and gasped. Five glass candle holders, each shaped like a five pointed star, a small cut glass bowl, and a remarkably clear rose quartz crystal the size of an egg, sat along the wall unmarred by chip or crack. These were her mother’s things, the ones she’d found hidden in the rafters of the gardening shed. Her athame, the ceremonial double edged dagger, was the only thing missing. Hopefully she would find it when she cleaned up the mess.

“Thank you.” She nodded to the cat who purred in response. Hope laughed quietly. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you understand me.” She raised her eyebrows in question. “Maybe you’re my familiar. You know, a witch’s cat.” The tawny yellow cat rose and arched its back, hair standing on end. It hissed as it walked from the room with its twitching tail held high. Hope laughed again and shrugged. “Okay, maybe not,” and followed the cat.

What was once a dining room, now an office, had suffered only minor damage. The bulletin board rested on the floor where it had slid from its nail on the wall. Notes and reminders were still push-pinned to the cork. A leg from one of the tables and the neck half of the whiskey bottle she’d used as a vase sat side by side against the opposite wall under a broken window. The rose that had once graced the bottle lay on the sill, its pink perfection dried and brittle. The rest of the room looked untouched and Hope sighed with relief when she opened the doors to the cabinet that held the computer. Everything appeared intact. She stroked a few keys and the screen came to life. A few more and she smiled. Nothing was missing.

Relief made her brave and she searched through the rest of the house. The kitchen and two upstairs bedrooms were just as she’d left them, a coating of dust the only evidence she’d been gone. Whatever happened here had happened quickly and no one had been here since.

She thought, as she had many times since that night, she ought to call the police, but what could she tell them? Two slavering monsters with a woman companion leading them had charged into her house. They were obviously afraid and running away from someone or something, though what could frighten such fearsome, hideous creatures she couldn’t guess. Yes, Hope was expecting a woman who called herself Andi. No, she didn’t know the woman or even if Andi was her real name. She could picture the looks on the officer’s faces. Would they offer her a sketch artist or a trip to the psychiatric ward?

No, calling the police was out of the question. She retrieved a broom and dust pan from the kitchen and set about putting the place in order.

As she worked, picking up the broken pieces of a less than stellar life, she thought about the man who’d made her future possible. She missed the cantankerous Lenny, but she wouldn’t miss his business and was glad to be rid of it. Every time she placed an order with a supplier or shipped an order to a customer, she felt dirty. No matter how much he teased about her red-faced naiveté, selling kinky sexual paraphernalia just wasn’t the future she was looking for. She silently laughed at the picture that popped into her head; her father’s furious and apoplectic face. Easy to laugh when she didn’t have to face him and explain. The laughter silently died. It was all over now anyway. There was nothing left to explain. Lenny was gone, the business was sold and the house was rented with an option for purchase. After what happened here, she could never sleep comfortably. Why hadn’t she used her head? How many times had Lenny warned her about the dangers of the internet?

“This ain’t the world you grew up in, girlie,” Lenny would say, “And that there computer is a source of more evil than even your daddy can imagine. Folks say things and order merchandise they wouldn’t have the nerve for if they had to do it face to face. You be careful.” This from a man who earned his living from the very people he warned against. “Ain’t never claimed to be no saint. I know what I am and you know what I am. It’s them folks you don’t know that should be a worry to ya.”

She wouldn’t have agreed to meet a stranger in the middle of the night if Lenny was still here. It was the loneliness and the prospect of finding a kindred spirit who could help her learn what her mother hadn’t had time to teach her that led her to agree and it had turned into the most horrifying mistake of her life.

“What’s done is done,” she said aloud. Thanks to Lenny, she had enough money to do what she’d come to the city to do. She no longer had to worry about getting enough to eat or finding a safe place to sleep.

She fixed herself a bowl of soup and called the cat to a saucer of milk, but the cat had disappeared.

 *****

 A fire blazed in the hearth, adding a sense of warmth and solace to the room that central heating never could. The parlor hadn’t changed much, or so he’d been told, since this House of Guardian’s was established over a hundred years ago. Normally, this was his favorite room in the house and while the others good naturedly argued about who would have what room in the new wing when the construction was complete, he’d opted to take over Otto, the old vampire’s former apartment in the attic just so he could be close to the comfort of this room. Today, though, he found no peace.

Nico sat in his favored place, a high backed wing chair to the left of the fireplace with a clear view of the door. His finger ran absently over the page of the book he’d been trying to read for the last fifteen minutes and his eyes strayed to the mantle intricately carved with lilies and the House crest.

The athame stood on its point, held in place by Col’s handiwork; a delicately carved wooden stand. The dagger’s ivory handle, yellowed with age and carved with ancient runes, and its finely honed silver blade called to him. The tool, meant for the rituals of magic, had almost turned the young Guardian trainee into a vampire just a few short weeks ago when Col had followed two demons and a witch to a little house on Pearl Street. Manon, Otto’s beloved, assured them the athame had never before been used for evil and Nico believed her, for every time he held the piece, he felt an electric tingle through his blood that sang to him. The feeling was addictive and his hand itched to hold the thing again, but he restrained himself. Impulsive behavior wasn’t something he approved of or indulged in.

The grandfather clock in the hall chimed nine and the aroma of something sweet and fresh from the oven wafted through the open door. Nico gave himself a mental shake and went to the kitchen where, as usual, the rest of the House was gathered. It was a huge room, brightly lit and completely modern with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, running almost the full width of the house. Grace, their Liege Lord’s mate, also served as cook and kept the house smelling of good things to eat.

She was currently baking cookies, deftly sliding the delicacies from the metal sheet onto the brown paper that covered a portion of the counter. She used her spatula to take a playful swipe at Nardo, their newest Guardian, when he tried to sneak a cookie from the paper.

“Touch those cookies before I get them on a plate, buddy, and I’ll whack those fingers right off your hand.” She grabbed a second tray, already loaded with balls of raw cookie dough, opened the oven, removed another sheet loaded with baked cookies and replaced it with the raw.

While her hands were full, Nardo reached around her and grabbed a handful of hot cookies. He popped one in his mouth and tossed two to Canaan before Grace could grab her weapon. Only the quick reflexes of his kind saved Nico’s shirt from the fourth chocolate missile directed at his chest. He caught the flying cookie and used it to salute the cook who stamped her foot.

“Grrr,” she huffed, but she was on the verge of laughter when she turned to Canaan. “You’re as bad as they are. You’re their Liege Lord. You’re supposed to set the example. I thought you guys would have a civilizing effect on the twins. Instead…” She threw up her hands in mock disgust. Canaan took the opportunity to kiss her with a resounding smack on the lips. She was laughing outright when she pushed him away and licked the cookie crumbs from her mouth. “You’re all a bunch of…”

“Barbarians,” Broadbent finished for her. He was the oldest of the trainees and had only recently found his calling. His penchant for lecturing, tweed jackets and pipe all led to his nickname of Professor. He sat waiting patiently for his cookies with a small plate, teacup and saucer, and Earl Grey tea steeping in the teapot under its cozy. “In my humble opinion, your hopes of civilizing the twins will prove fruitless. Where are the charming chimps? The smell of food generally brings them running.”

“Out partying, where else? Since they got those bikes, there’s no stopping them.” Nardo brushed crumbs from his vintage Green River t-shirt and followed the trail down to his worn jeans artfully shredded along one thigh. He picked up another cookie, this time from the serving plate, a huge yellow smiley face that sat at the edge of the six-foot square center island.

“They haven’t been home for three days. What could they be doing?” Grace put the cookie sheets in the sink and began to wash.

“Go ahead, Professor. Explain what the boys are up to.” Nardo pressed his lips together to keep from laughing. The snort came from Canaan.

“I hardly think carousing in disreputable saloons in pursuit of loose women for purely prurient reasons needs explanation.” Broadbent refreshed his tea.

The men laughed. Grace shook her head and laughed with them. “I know what they’re doing, but three days?”

“Strength and stamina, Grace, strength and stamina. We’re loaded with it.” Nardo popped another cookie.

Canaan put his arm around his mate’s shoulders. “You’re right. They really should come home.”

Nardo put up his hands. “Don’t look at me. I’m on patrol with you tonight and we really should get going.”

All eyes went to Broadbent. “Oh please, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea where to begin. Additionally, I need to finish packing if I’m to make my flight.” He sighed deeply. “The summons of the pater familias must be answered, I suppose, but I’m not looking forward to his stern lectures or the anguished tears of my mother over my choice to become a Guardian of the Race. It would be so much easier if I had the skull and tears to prove I was beyond their influence.”

“I’ve said you’re ready. All you have to do is ask,” Canaan said seriously. He was the Liege Lord of this House of Guardians and it was he who decided when a trainee was ready for the mystical ceremony that would bring them fully into their powers.

“I know, but it seems a bit cowardly, not to mention unethical, to ask now. Flashing the skull and tears as a way of telling my father to stuff it doesn’t seem to be an appropriate motive. When I return, we’ll talk.”

Canaan nodded and turned to Nico, standing with his ankles crossed and his hips resting against the counter. “About the twins, I don’t suppose…?”

One side of Nico’s mouth curled up in a sardonic smile. “I’ll go, but if I find them and they won’t come willingly, I won’t guarantee their physical wellbeing.”

“Fair enough,” agreed Canaan.

“Thank you,” said Grace with a grateful smile. “I know I shouldn’t worry. They’re grown men. Still…”

“You worry,” Nico said. It was one of the traits that made the woman so endearing. She was so open with her love and her worry for them all. He felt a small pang of envy toward his Liege Lord and it startled him. He never sought or expected happiness in his own life, what reason would he have to be envious of those who had it in theirs?