Saffron sucked in a harsh breath as she came instantly awake. But she kept her eyes closed tight, afraid to open them and see nothing but darkness. Again.
She heard the crackle of the fire in the hearth, and the wind as it rattled against the window from the fierce winter storm that had raged for days.
Three years of being blind, of fighting the darkness she had been confined to, and she was too frightened to open her eyes and see if the spell had truly been broken.
A spell that had been put on her by Declan Wallace, a Druid with unimaginable black magic. A Druid who had wanted to use her abilities as a Seer to his advantage.
Even now, just thinking of the power of his magic sent a cold chill snaking down Saffron's spine.
But it wasn't just his magic. It was the evil inside Declan, the malice and the spiteful soul that was as black as pitch. And owned by Satan himself.
Saffron had discovered all too painfully how extensive Declan's magic was. He had used her fear of spiders to torment her. To torture her endlessly, incessantly.
She inhaled deeply as the fear that had been with her for three years began to take over once more. Saffron struggled to remember the glorious feel of Declan's magic snapping as Danielle found his spell deep in Saffron's mind. And broke it.
Relief had poured through Saffron. Relief and … calm. She relaxed as the same mixture of emotions soothed her once more. The reversal spell, however, had affected Saffron in a way that even now made her stomach clench in terror.
She shouldn't have passed out. She shouldn't have felt the tug of Declan's magic as it struggled to keep a hold on her.
Yet she did. She felt all of it keenly.
"Stop being a ninny, and open your eyes," she whispered to herself.
Saffron swallowed past the lump in her throat and clutched the heavy blanket that was atop her. Her heart pounded with a sickingly slow beat that echoed in her ears.
And before she could change her mind, she opened her eyes.
There was no half measure for her. No cracking open a lid to see if she saw any light. It was all or nothing.
Instantly, she raised her hand to shield her eyes as the light from a table beside her made her turn her head away quickly. Her heart missed a beat as she blinked against the bright light.
Saffron sat up and swung her legs over the bed so that her back was to the light and she let her eyes wander the room. She had been in MacLeod Castle for several weeks. She'd gotten to know the room as any blind person would. By touch and learning how many steps from any given point to another.
But now she was able to look at the castle as everyone else did.
A wall of gray stone rose before her, broken by the window and a medieval tapestry with rich hues of burgundy, green, and gold. Saffron had to blink several times to allow her eyes time to adjust to the brightness that seemed so foreign to her.
She scrunched her toes on the rug and looked down at her feet. There had been a time in her life when she wouldn't have let a month go by without a pedicure. Her once impeccably polished toes needed trimming, and a good soak.
If her feet had changed so much, what would the rest of her look like? Even before her trip to Britain, she had gone to the gym regularly to keep fit. It wasn't just about staying trim, it was about being healthy, especially after her father's death due to heart disease.
Saffron promptly pushed thoughts of her father out of her mind. If she thought of him, she'd have to think of her mother and stepfather, and she couldn't deal with that and her new sight at the same time.
Slowly, Saffron rose from the bed and walked to the window. She knew it was exactly eight steps from the bed to the window, but this time she didn't count. Or at least she tried not to. It was so ingrained in her she couldn't help it.
When she reached the window, she pressed her face to the glass and sighed as the cold touched her. The movement of the water outside her window made her breath catch in her throat. She'd had no idea her room faced the sea. After a few more moments watching the dark, rolling water, she straightened.
Then she turned to face the rest of the room.
She had to shield her eyes from the light, and it took several tries before she was able to see past the glare. Her eyes roamed from the chest of drawers to her left to the small door that led to a private bathroom. Then on to a chair in the corner next to the door that led into the corridor. Beside the door were hooks that Saffron knew had been there since the castle was built.
Farther along was a dressing table where her brush and other belongings were laid out. Next came the bedside table with the lamp, the bed, and then the hearth.
Saffron stared at the flames, amazed at the hues of orange, yellow, red, and even blue that she saw. It had been so long since she had seen color that she found herself mesmerized. Completely enthralled.
She could easily allow herself to become lost in the firelight. The urge was so overwhelming that Saffron took a step toward the hearth, intent on doing just that.
It was the sound of footsteps approaching her chamber that pulled her attention from the fire to the door a heartbeat before the knock sounded.
The door opened a crack, and a woman poked her head in. Her gaze went to the bed first. She frowned slightly before her eyes moved about the room. When she found Saffron, she smiled and stepped into the chamber.
Saffron had no idea who she was. She knew voices and the cadence of a person's footsteps, but she didn't know anyone's face. Panic began to set in. She dug her fingers into the stone behind her and tried to control her breathing.
Saffron let out a sigh as she recognized Cara's soft brogue. She had been the first Druid at the castle, the one who had brought the MacLeods into the world. "Cara."
"Aye," said the petite brunette with kind mahogany eyes. Her curly chestnut hair was pulled back in a low, loose ponytail with curls framing her face. "Forgive me. I should have told you who I was."
Saffron waved away her words. "I knew as soon as you spoke."
"It doesn't matter. I should've thought of that. But I'm glad to see you up. How is your eyesight?"
"As if Declan's spell never was." Of course Saffron knew that to be the lie that it was. Declan's evil presence had been inside her for three long years. And her eyes were sensitive to light.
"That's wonderful news. Dani has been so worried about you."
"How is Danielle?" Saffron asked, knowing what a risk Dani had taken to go into her mind to break the spell. "I need to thank her."
Saffron knew just how awful it had been for Dani to go into her mind and feel the slick, cloying mass that was Declan's magic. Saffron had been so concerned it would harm Dani that she almost didn't let her try this last time to break the spell.
"Dani and Ian have been in their chamber," Cara said with a chuckle.
Saffron shifted her feet on the cold stones. Ian just returned to the castle, with Dani's help, after four centuries of being gone. But his disappearance hadn't been his doing. It had been Declan's. And Deirdre's.
The thought of the other drough made Saffron shiver. Deirdre and Declan weredroughs, Druids who gave up their pure magic to have black magic. And with it, their souls to the Devil.
Saffron learned about Deirdre through the other mies, or good Druids, at the castle. Deirdre had been alive for over a millennium, and she was the one who had unbound the gods in the MacLeods, thereby beginning the war they were waging. A war that the rest of the world had no idea was taking place.
But Dani and Ian had found each other. Dani, another Druid, had needed Ian's help to reach the castle. And Ian, struggling to control the god inside him, needed Dani to get the upper hand over his god.
Gods. Saffron inwardly laughed. That's who she lived with. Druids and Warriors with primeval gods locked inside them. These Warriors were able to detect magic, but more than that, they were immortal and had amazing powers.
Or at least she had been told about the powers. She hadn't actually seen them herself.
But she had heard the roars of the Warriors. She knew their strength, like the feel of Camdyn's thick muscles beneath her hand.
Just thinking about Camdyn made her stomach flutter. Saffron swallowed and shoved thoughts of him out of her mind. She told herself she was only drawn to him because he'd been the one to free her from Declan's prison.
There was no doubt in her mind that if she'd been told the Warriors had the power to control fire or teleport, it was true. But she couldn't wait to see it for herself.
"Saffron?" Cara asked.
She shook herself and blinked as she looked at Cara. Saffron began to wonder what everyone else looked like. She especially wanted to see the couples together, like Cara and her husband, Lucan MacLeod. "Apologies. I'm--"
"No need," Cara interrupted her with a wink. "I understand. Are you hungry?"
"Starving. How long did I sleep?"
"Just through the night. Dawn broke an hour ago."
Saffron glanced down at her clothes from the day before and grimaced. "Let me change first."
"We'll be waiting." With one last smile, Cara was gone.
Saffron walked to the chest and opened a drawer. She looked at the socks inside, all white, and all folded neatly so she would know what she grabbed. She took a set, determined to buy every color imaginable now that she could see again.
She hurriedly pulled the socks over her icy feet and jerked off her jeans and sweatshirt. She smiled as she thought of how offended her mother would be to see her not only in jeans, but a sweatshirt as well.
Her smile grew as she dug out another pair of jeans and a soft yellow sweater. She took a look at her clothes and noticed they were all solid colors that could easily intermingle with each other so she wouldn't mix anything up.
All the clothes she had were given to her by the other Druids in the castle. Nothing in the drawers was hers alone, except for her panties and bras. Reaghan had brought a bag full of lingerie to her, and to Saffron's delight, they were all lacy and sexy. And all different colors.
There was so much she needed to take care of. First and foremost, she needed to call her lawyer. If what Gwynn had told Saffron the other day was true and her mother was trying to claim her legally dead, then her mother and the son of a bitch that was her stepfather would get all her money. Money her father had refused to give her mother.
"Over my dead body, Mother," Saffron said as she stuffed her feet into black boots.
She ran a brush through her hair, unable to look at herself in the mirror. One thing at a time. It was going to take much more courage than she had right now to see herself in the mirror after three years.
Saffron walked out of her chamber and turned right. She paused a moment, listening to the sound of voices below her in the great hall. The castle was huge, but her hearing had improved when her eyesight had been taken.
There was laughter and conversation. Meals in the castle were almost always an entertaining affair. There were so many couples in the castle, from the three MacLeod brothers, Fallon, Lucan, and Quinn, and their wives, Larena, Cara, and Marcail, to Hayden and Isla, Galen and Reaghan, Broc and Sonya, Logan and Gwynn, and now Ian and Dani.
She wasn't the only single person at the castle, however. There was Marcail and Quinn's son, Aiden. Fiona, and her grown son Braden, and the newest Druid to the castle, Kirstin. Then there were the other Warriors, Ramsey, Arran, and Camdyn.
Saffron ignored the way her heart raced when she thought of Camdyn. She had sensed a gnawing inside Camdyn, a viselike grip on him that refused to relent. Yet, when he dealt with her, he was always gentle, if not silent.
What did he look like? She rubbed the pads of her fingers over her thumb as she remembered the silky, cool texture of his hair against her palm when he had caught her from falling the last time she'd had a vision.
Camdyn always seemed to be near her. Even when he didn't say anything, she knew he was there. And oddly, that comforted her. Everyone looked out for her at the castle, but with Camdyn it was different. He had a different undertone in his voice when he spoke to her, and there was a distinctive gentleness mixed with power when he touched her.
She'd touched his face once. It had been the only way to know what he looked like with her eyesight gone. Her palms still felt the prickle of his whiskered cheek, the sharp angles of his face, and the full, wide lips.
He hadn't known what she'd done because she'd been quick, but the need to know him had been tantalizing. She'd gotten a peek at his face using her hands, and it had been enough for her to mentally draw an image of him.
And it was a glorious image.
The question now, however, was whether he would live up to what her mind had created.
Something akin to excitement ran through her at the idea of seeing everyone for the first time. She was at the stairs leading to the great hall when she realized she wished she had washed her hair and maybe put on a bit of makeup first.
Her head swung in the direction of the voice as a woman with long silver-blond hair jumped up from her spot at the table and raced over to her.
Saffron recognized the cadence of the walk and couldn't help but smile as Danielle Buchanan's arms wrapped around her. She returned Dani's embrace and squeezed, realizing then that she had missed Dani and Ian's wedding the night before.
"It worked," Dani whispered.
For the first time since waking, Saffron found herself blinking back tears. "Yes. You did it, Dani. Your magic let me see again."
Copyright © 2012 by Donna Grant