Devotion Calls [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Caridad Pineiro
eBook Category: Romance/Dark Fantasy
eBook Description: In Spanish Harlem, real danger comes in nonhuman form. A night stalker haunts the barrio, feeding its insatiable hunger, craving the humanity only healer Ricardo Fernandez can give him. For Ricardo is cursed with the ability to heal, and hurt, by touching a talent he hides behind the practice of Santeria. Sara Martinez knows there's no such thing as faith healing, until Ricardo's gifts become her last hope. And Ricardo's passion becomes something she can't live without. But when the night stalker uses Sara as bait, Ricardo must choose between two evils: lose the woman he loves or lose himself to the darkness of his powers.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Nocturne
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2007
8 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure eReader - What's this?]: SECURE EREADER (RECOMMENDED) FORMAT [172 KB]
All formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Microsoft Reader ISBN: 9781552548233
Adobe Reader ISBN: 9781552548233
Mobipocket Reader ISBN: 9781552548233
eReader ISBN: 9781552548233
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Spanish Harlem, New York City
The saints' eyes followed him as he worked, scolding him for using them for his lie. Mocking him for denying the truth about what he was.
Ricardo Fernandez paused and laid his hands on the altar that embodied the fraud that was his life. All around him the statues of the saints condemned him. But he was used to such censure from those who refused to believe in his powers. Those whose fears forced him to hide behind the guise of a santero.
He looked down at his hands and, as he had countless times in his thirty years of life, considered why he had been chosen to carry this burden. Why these hands, which looked just like those of any other man, possessed the power to give life or take it away.
If he was a lesser man, he might have fallen into the trap of considering himself almost godlike. He might have opted to sell his abilities to those who paid the highest price to be saved. He could have even made a perfect assassin, able to kill without leaving a trace.
But Ricardo had done none of those things. Neither regrets nor revelry had a place in his life now, so he resumed his task. With a gentle touch, he removed the offerings he had placed on the altar the day before: the fine cigar, now just a half-burned stub and a pile of ashes, and the shot glass of fragrant rum, which had nearly evaporated from the heat of the radiator just a few feet away. After checking the water level in the vase of sunflowers he had placed beside one virgencita, he shifted to the last offering.
A small pile of coins lay at the foot of one statue. He gathered up the money in his hand and thanked the deity. While he himself was not a true believer in Santería, his customers held to this faith and he wouldn't besmirch their tenets. He hoped his prayer was deemed respectful enough by the deities that allowed him to use the powers with which he had been born.
Ricardo didn't like living a lie, but posing as a santero—a priest of the Afro-Caribbean religious Santería—was the only way he could use his healing gifts. Many of the people who sought him out might not have come to him if they realized his abilities were earthly. They preferred to think the powers came from rituals beseeching their gods.
Of course, if some god hadn't decided to give him this boon, who had? Ricardo refused to consider the alternative, since he had sworn never to use the dark side of his gift. Not even when someone asked for it.
As had happened just the other day with Evita Martinez.
He had been seeing Evita for just over a year now, ever since the doctors at one of New York City's more prestigious hospitals had told her that there was nothing else they could do for her cancer. They'd sent her home to enjoy what was left of her life.
But Evita hadn't wanted to die just yet. Having heard about his unique abilities from some of the other ladies in the neighborhood, she had come to him for help. She and her daughter, Sara.
Sara, he thought with a sigh, recalling the way she had stood before him nearly a year ago, condemning him with her body language as he talked about what he could and could not do for Evita.
He knew that Sara hadn't believed him. Worse, that she considered him a charlatan. Her bright hazel eyes had skewered him with disbelief, much like those of the saints.
The disbelief in her eyes turned to trepidation when, after finding out that she was a nurse, he had asked for payment of a most unusual kind—blood. For a moment he'd thought she might run, and take her mother with her, but then despair had crept into her eyes.
Sara loved her mother, and at that moment she had been desperate enough to do anything to help her—even if it meant bringing bags of blood to a man she considered less than dirt. Ricardo hated relying on that despair. He hated the lying, but he did what he had to so he could help people.
When Sara brought a blood bag later today, he would have to tell the prickly nurse that her mother's cancer was growing faster than he could contain it, and that Evita had asked him to help her pass peacefully when the time came, rather than suffer with the pain.
Healing and killing. His gift and his curse.
A tap sounded against the glass of his door. He turned from the altar and stared toward the front of his store.
Sara Martinez stood there, her chin tucked into the thick collar of the charcoal-gray down jacket she wore against the lingering chill of winter. A crazy gust of March wind sent her silky shoulder-length brown hair swirling around her face. With a gloved hand, she combed it back and shifted from foot to foot, impatient and intractable as always about these visits.
The early morning sun played across her pretty, heart-shaped face. She had a hint of a cleft in her chin, and hazel eyes that expressed so much with just a look. In his case, generally disgust. But he had seen how those eyes could warm to a molten caramel when they gazed upon someone she loved.
And her lips…They were full, at least most of the time. Not when she shot him a grim look, as she did right now as she waited at his door.
Drawing a deep breath, he prepared himself to break the news that would surely devastate her.
Copyright © 2007 by Caridad Piñeiro Scordato.