Seventh Key [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Evelyn Vaughn
eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: Married to one of the richest men alive, she was a kidnapping target. But Maggi Sanger-Stuart never took the threat seriously--until she and her baby were abducted. It wasn't her husband's fortune they demanded. No, the notorious Adriano family wanted Maggi's expertise on ancient artifacts--and they'd hold her daughter until Maggi obeyed their orders. But if Maggi does bring them the mysterious Black Madonna mosaic, the Adrianos will use its legendary power to destroy Europe. Millions *will* die. Now, with the help of her powerful husband, Maggi has just hours to find the key to the mosaic's power before all she loves is lost forever.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Bombshell
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2007
17 Reader Ratings:
Once, not long after the Romans crucified a prophet and kindled a religious revolution, a handful of woman refugees arrived in Southern Gaul. Their leadership revived an ancient tradition of priestesses, spreading good news and wisdom while guarding against the rise of patriarchal fears, in hopes that their descendents would survive and someday save the world.
I regained consciousness slowly. For a while, I hung in grayness, almost able to believe this was only a nightmare.
Then I tasted the very real gag in my mouth—folded silk against my tongue—and I knew better. Fear hit me, the reality of my situation almost too awful to face through the disorientation of the drugs. Yet despite the temptation to drift back into that painless place, even my addled brain knew there was one precious thing that made facing reality worth any price.
I concentrated on finding my hands. I had trouble with even that, through the haze. Fingers. I had fingers, right?
Pretty basic thought processes for someone with a Ph.D., but a struggle. A memory of baby talk flirted with me: Are those your fingers? Whose fingers are those…?
No, Maggi. Concentrate. I'd been in tight spots before, hadn't I? My fingers curled at my command.
A mechanical purr surrounded me. An engine. Was I in a truck? A plane? I fought all distractions, even the memory of how I might have gotten here or who had taken me. Freedom first. Now that I'd established fingers, I focused on my tied hands. I began to flex my wrists, just a bit. If I figured out the bonds, maybe I could slip them. Once I freed my hands, then I could consider—
"She's moving," said a male voice, nearby.
A sharp pinch in my shoulder—crap!—and I slid back into memory….
* * *
Having a baby is life altering—and I don't just mean the leaky breasts, time off work or baby-proofed house. I mean, it changes you. Me at least. I was still Magdalene Sanger-Stuart, a comparative mythology instructor for a small northeastern college, still somewhat tall, still brown-haired. I was still a grailkeeper, intent on finding the sacred cups of ancient goddess worshippers for the empowerment of women. I was still very much in love with my new husband, Lex Stuart.
Yes, that one. Billionaire Alexander Rothschild Stuart III, and you don't know the half of it.
But all of that, all of it, was now filtered through the ever-present awareness of my baby daughter, Kestrel.
One of the many ways this manifested was that I now kept track of time by how old Kestrel was.
I first learned about the Black Madonnas after getting home from the hospital with my two-weeks-early redheaded offspring. Of course I'd heard about Black Madonnas—comparative mythologist, remember? "Black Madonnas" are black-skinned representations of the Virgin Mary. Usually the term refers to older works—they were the big thing during the Middle Ages, at the same time that a record number of cathedrals were named Notre Dame and subversive troubadours sang of a divine and unattainable lady. I've always believed there was something pagany about that gothic fad—see above: goddess grails.
But the Black Madonnas that my friend Rhys Pritchard called about from Paris sounded different from the norm.
"You should be with your baby," he insisted, once I told him the good news. Considering that we'd once flirted at a romance ourselves, barely a year earlier, Rhys's congratulations sounded remarkably heartfelt. "I can call at a better time."
"This is a perfect time," I insisted. Actually, I had uncomfortably engorged porn-star breasts and was wearing a sanitary napkin manufactured for a race of giants. But I'd dropped into a comfortable chair in my embarrassingly fine new Connecticut home when I answered the phone. Compared to other adventures I'd had—like being thrown in front of a subway train in France, scuba diving in storm conditions off Egypt and more than one real sword fight—this was bearable.
And I couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, I ought to spend a few minutes focusing on something other than the timbre of my baby's cry or the color of her poo. "Kestrel's asleep with her daddy. So tell me about these Black Madonnas."
"The iconography's unique. She's wearing a sword, and holding not just the child but a key. She has a white jug or jar at her feet, similar to—"
"Mary Magdalene," I finished for him, about the jar. Intriguing! Having had that name my whole life, it was good to see the Magdalene finally getting some good press and losing the trumped-up prostitute image. But despite recent rumors about her own motherhood…a Madonna? I wasn't quite ready to go that far. Rhys and I talked for a few minutes about the similarity of Madonnas to Isis statuary—Isis had been popular for thousands of years before Mary. She held a child, and was often represented as black. We speculated on the possibility of her blackness being symbolic—a mix of all colors, or the absence of all colors. Then Rhys mentioned a more disturbing bit of information. "The relics are Catrina's, actually. Catrina Dauvergne's. She found them. We're…together now."
There'd been bad blood between me and that museum curator.
"Ah," I said, and shifted with lingering discomfort. Just afterpains and muscle soreness, I think. Catrina Dauvergne seemed surprisingly unimportant just then. "Good for her."
That's when my husband, Lex, made his entrance, wearing only pajama pants, cradling our tiny darling against his bare, scar-etched chest. Lex's hair was a ginger brown, though it had been red in his childhood, and he carried himself like royalty. Kestrel's head was pointy, her eyes barely focused and her little mouth hung open, as if to taste the world around her.
Copyright © 2007 by Yvonne Jocks.