Spellbound

By: Amber Carew

Chapter 1


"Merlin, what was that?" Lucinda Divine rubbed the sleep from her eyes, then pushed herself up on her elbows. Moonlight illuminated Merlin’s slight profile, and his vivid green eyes stared into hers questioningly. Then he yawned and settled his head back down on her stomach, his eyes dropping closed again.

"I don’t know why I bother talking to you," she grumbled, as she glanced at the clock.

Three forty-seven.

The last time she’d been awakened in the wee hours like this, Randalph had been calling for help. But it wasn’t Rand this time. So who was it? Could it be work related? Three of her current cases were straightforward remove-a-curse types, but she had taken the precaution of putting monitor spells on her other two clients. Still, if it had been one of her own spells warning of trouble, she wouldn’t be in doubt as to the origin.

She pushed the covers aside, ignoring Merlin’s sharp protest at being ousted from his comfortable position.

"Oh, stop complaining. It’s not like it was my idea to get up at this time of the night."

Merlin leaped off the bed and strutted away, stiff-legged, tail held straight as a post. He jumped onto her rocking chair and curled up, his glossy black back toward her.

"Okay, be like that." Just like Merlin. He wouldn’t lose sleep over a late night caller.

She turned her attention away from the cat and took a deep breath. Stilling her thoughts, she listened for a repeat of the call that had awakened her. A moment later it rippled through her awareness, strong and insistent.

The Call!

She had received The Call?

But that didn’t make any sense. She had been born of human parents, not wizards. Only those with wizard parents could be mentors.

The Call burst through her again, transforming her confusion into resonating joy.

It was true! A new wizard had appeared in the world, and she had been called upon to be his mentor.

To guide a new wizard through the difficult time of learning to control his power--this had been a secret dream of hers for almost three centuries, even though she’d known it would never--could never--happen.

She didn’t know why she’d been chosen, but pride bubbled through her that Fate had entrusted her with such an important role. She hoped she could do as well as her own mentor, Randalph. He had taught her to look beyond herself and reach past the limitations of everyday. In so doing, he had given her a level of control over her life she’d never thought possible. She would always love him for that.

She could hardly wait to get started with her own student.

Trying to quell her mounting excitement, she reminded herself that The Call occurred upon birth of a new wizard. She smiled, thinking of the new baby born into the world, the child she would guide to the fulfillment of his wizardly powers. But over a decade would pass before she took an active part in his life. Right now, he was just an infant in his human mother’s arms.

She imagined a tiny, naked baby staring up at her, a smug expression on his little face, and an irresistible impulse to go see him tugged at her.

No, this was silly. She could take a peek at him tomorrow, after she’d had a good night’s sleep. After all, she would not play a significant role in his life until he reached puberty.

She remembered that period in her own life, when her changing hormonal balance had triggered the ability to control magic. It had been a frightening, confusing time and she didn’t envy her new charge the ordeal ahead.

An insistent, yet indefinable, urge coursed through her. She wanted--no, she needed--to find this wizard. Right now. She absolutely had to see him.

That’s odd, she thought. She’d never had any particular inclination to stare at babies before. Could it be The Call affecting her like this? She frowned. From everything Rand had told her during her insistent questioning, she’d imagined a slight niggling feeling connecting her to this new person, not an overwhelming urge.

It dragged steadily at her senses now. Alarm spiked through her at a new sense of urgency that fueled the pull. As if he might be in trouble. Could this baby have been abandoned? Could he be alone and frightened?

Merlin’s sharp mewing cut through her mounting apprehension. His bright green eyes stared at her and his ears perked straight up.

"Merlin, I’ve got to go to him. He needs me."

Merlin made an insistent warbling sound and she planted her hands on her hips. "Well, I know I don’t know anything about babies." She wagged her finger at her furry friend. "But I won’t allow any wizard I’m responsible for to wind up in an orphanage. If I need to, I’ll bring him here and take care of him myself!"

Merlin bleated rudely, leaped from the chair, and strutted away.

"What do you mean you feel sorry for the poor kid?" She glared at his retreating back, wondering what she’d done to deserve such a rotten cat.

Pushing aside her irritation, she closed her eyes and concentrated, trying to zero in on her subject. She visualized the incoming thread of anxiety-triggering energy and grasped it, tracing it backward, letting it draw her toward the source. She fluttered through space, her body light as chiffon billowing on a summer breeze. Time and matter quivered around her, meaningless in the process of transporting through the Earth.

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