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Celeste Garrett has finally found a happy balance in her life as the Chosen One, thanks in large part to a certain hunky Irishman. But if there’s any lesson she should heed since receiving her calling it’s that everything can change in the blink of an eye. Soon a terrible new threat, unlike anything she’s ever encountered, causes her to make a gut-wrenching choice that will strip her of someone she holds dear.
As much as she’d like to have a pity party for one, there’s no time for that now because wedding bells are ringing in Gainesboro! In between dress fittings and rehearsal dinners Celeste will have to fend off attacking demons and leering pirates. As if the Dark Army wasn’t scary enough our heroine is faced with the horrifying trauma of attending a bachelorette party with her mom and watching Grams do Jello shots. Is a walk down the aisle even possible for a member of the Garrett family when the Dark Army is out to destroy them? More importantly, will the Dark Army Glee Club sing at the reception?
Raise your glass to the happy couple, and get ready for a wedding…Conduit-style.
About the Author-
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Young Adult and Teen Reader
voted Author of the Year
2012. Stacey Rourke is the author
of the Gryphon Series. She
lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters,
and two giant, drooly dogs. Stacey loves to travel, has an
unhealthy shoe addiction and considers herself blessed to
make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that
live in her head. She is currently hard at work on the
continuations of this series as well as other literary
“Right jab. Left jab.”
My fists connected with the punching bag in time to the commands.
“Right hook. Left hook. No!” Bernard pointed his cane and electricity jolted through me. My muscles seized up, the world swam out of focus, and I could taste metal. “You’re being lazy! Again. Left hook.”
I used to have an irrational fear of garden gnomes. Then I met one. Turns out it wasn’t so irrational. They’re evil little jerks. Okay, that’s generalizing. Maybe it wasn’t all gnomes, just Bernard. In his defense, we didn’t really start our relationship off on the right foot. I have what you may refer to as “gnome-phobia”. They creep me right out. Therefore, when one walked into my bedroom after being introduced as my Spirit Guide, I had a slight case of the wiggens—by which I mean I screamed my fool head off and whipped every piece of my bedding and my sister’s at him. The low point came the moment I picked up my sister’s stuffed zebra. The second it went airborne things seemed to happen in slow motion.
Kendall screamed, “Mr. Hoofington! Nnnooooooo!”
Bernard got knocked clear across the hall when the dopey, grinning zebra walloped him.
In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best way to meet my new mentor. No wonder he got slaphappy with his zappy cane during our training sessions.
With still blurred vision, I swung blindly at the punching bag, missed, spun myself around and landed on the ground tangled in my own legs.
Bernard shuffled over, his cane clicking across the cement floor. Red pointed hat, long white beard, green shirt belted around his paunchy mid-section, and tan pants tucked into tiny little leather boots. Somewhere there was a flower bed with a Bernard-sized hole in it. He leaned against his cane and eyed me with contempt as he crammed one pudgy little hand into the satchel that hung around his waist. Extracting a handful of berries, he popped them into his mouth one after the other. They were fermented. He had a bit of an addiction.
Blue juice dribbled down his white beard as he chomped. “You’re not even trying. Such lack of effort by the Conduit is disgraceful.”
“Shouldn’t you be making cookies in a tree somewhere?” I grumbled under my breath.
“What was that?” He glared. The berries made him especially surly.
I tightened my ponytail and rose to my feet. “I said, ‘I’m sorry. Let’s go again’,” I lied with my best fake grin.
With a brisk nod, Bernard turned on his heel and marched back over to the perimeter of the musty garage. I fought the urge to quicken his trip by punting him there. Our training sessions normally took place at a clearing in the Appalachian Mountains, just outside of the tiny town of Gainesboro, Tennessee where we live. But a couple of weeks ago we got two feet of snow dumped on us. Grams didn’t want our warrior alter egos to get lax, so she transformed her one car garage into a training facility. It wasn’t much—a punching bag, space heater, and a small area the size of a mid-sized SUV for sparring—but it beat getting frost bitten toes.
I shook out my limbs and awaited Bernard’s next command. He banged his tiny cane against the floor to signal it was time to begin. I centered myself and let the power course through me. A smile curled my lips at the surging energy that electrified every muscle and joint of my body.
“Right jab.” Dust flew as my fist connected with its target.
“Left jab.” The bag rattled on its chain.
“Right hook.” Mid-swing a titter of laughter distracted me. Instead of hitting the bag, I caught it and steadied it.
“Remind me again why Kendall doesn’t have to train?” I stared daggers at my little sister. She sat huddled on the floor next to the space heater with Alaina, our ex-Spirit Guide.
At the mention of her name Keni’s head snapped up. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and the body of a dancer. Females everywhere would hate her if she weren’t a genuine sweetheart.
With a smile right out of a toothpaste commercial she beamed. “Because I don’t fight.” She leaned forward and let one ivory wing slide out of her back. Her feathers were impenetrable and had the ability to heal. A fact I relied on, and occasionally exploited, to keep me alive. “I protect.”
“Then why are you here?” I countered.
A flash of hurt shadowed her flawless features. “Moral support. So you don’t have to be out here in the dirty, dusty garage alone. Duh.”
“Conduit, back to work,” Bernard interjected.
I chose to ignore the angry little troll. “And swooning over bridal magazines is your idea of support?”
Alaina looked up guiltily. “That would be my fault.”
She pushed a wavy lock of auburn hair behind her ear. For a chick well over three hundred years old, she didn’t look a day over twenty-three. I assumed that—along with her pin-up model curves—is what drew my brother, Gabe, to her. Unfortunately, their relationship broke a lot of rules adhered to by The Council. (I have limited knowledge of them. To me they’re a group of snobs sent to make the lives of the warriors that fight for them miserable and they are astounding at that.) Because of her relationship with Gabe, Alaina got fired as our guide to all things mystical and her humanity was returned to her. She didn’t take this well. For weeks she wore nothing except her boyfriend’s sweats, refused to leave the couch, and ate ice cream by the gallon. I want to think it was love that prompted my brother to propose to her right around that time, and not his desire to get his sweetheart back into a regular bathing routine, but I can’t say for sure. Whatever his motivation, she said yes. He slipped that pretty little rock on her finger, her funk instantly vanished, and our house turned into Wedding Central.
Alaina flipped through the pages of her bridal magazine. “We’re searching for just the right dresses and I’m afraid it isn’t going well. Kendall agreed to loan me her knowledge of fashion to make sure everything turns out right.”
“Conduit,” Bernard tried again, his tone tight with irritation.
I cringed and smacked my head against the punching bag. “You’re gonna make me wear pink, aren’t you?”
Kendall’s face went blank, her eyes wide. “Of course!”
“You don’t get to ugh.” Kendall jabbed a finger in my direction and her lower lip protruded slightly. “You have a date for the wedding. Ugh’s are reserved for those of us that have to go stag because our boyfriend hit a growth spurt, became the star of the lacrosse team, and cheated on us with that skank Sydney Taylor.”
I pushed off the bag, cocked my head to the side, and raised both eyebrows.
Keni’s face crumbled. “Fine, she’s not a skank. I’m sure she’s a lovely person. A lovely person that made out with Keith during the Homecoming game while I was on the 50 yard line being crowned Queen.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. Part of my sister’s calling is a creature of love. All her powers and abilities are derived from the unlimited supply of warmth and goodness that bubbles through her. That makes it practically impossible for her to say anything mean or off color about anyone, even when she really wants to.
Our conversation was interrupted when an electric shock struck my left ankle and caused my leg to give out. I squealed and crumbled down on one knee.
“Conduit!” Bernard bellowed, his torturous cane still aimed my way. “Can you at least pretend that your calling is important to you? Perhaps attempt to take this seriously? Your lack of discipline is appalling.”
I ground my teeth together and tried to remember what my mom said about respecting elders. For the life of me I couldn’t recall it right then …
”We’re in the garage and I’m fighting a bag on a chain.” My nostrils flared and I fought to steady my breathing. “I’m sorry I don’t take that as seriously as you’d like. Put an actual demon in front of me and you wouldn’t doubt my dedication for a second.”
Bad time for the side door of the garage to open and my half-demon boyfriend to saunter in, trailed by my brother. Bernard’s jaw set and his bushy white eyebrows drew together. He never made any attempts to hide his distaste for my beau.
“Except for that one,” I tagged on. I tried to sound sorry. Really, I did. But the rush of adrenaline I got whenever I saw the raven-haired Irishman put an audible smile in my voice.
Caleb. Tall, dark, handsome, and all mine. We’d been together for a few months, but the swoon factor of his unbelievable hotness had yet to wear off. I sincerely doubted it ever would. Hints of blue reflected in his glossy ebony locks. He possessed the chiseled jaw of a Greek god, and a slight crook in his nose that added a flaw of humanity to his otherwise untouchable perfection. What he saw in me I had no idea. But all he had to do was give me “that look” and any intelligent thought I had was replaced with incoherent ramblings of humhna-humhna-humhna.
I rose to my feet. Everything and everyone disappeared around us. He walked toward me, the glint in those beautiful emerald eyes bordering on mischievous. His lips curled into a knowing grin as he slipped one hand around to the small of my back and pulled me in for a quick kiss.
Kendall noisily turned the pages of her magazine. “Hi, I’m Celeste. I have a boyfriend and I rub it in people’s faces even when I know they just got dumped.”
Reluctantly I pulled away from Caleb to glare at Keni. “First of all, that whiny voice sounds nothing like me. Secondly, you didn’t get dumped. He cheated on you. Big difference.”
For a moment she just stared. “Thank you so much for pointing that out. I feel much better now.”
“You’re welcome.” I gave her my biggest, most cheerful grin. That threw her pout into overdrive.
Caleb tugged at the bottom hem of my t-shirt, his subtle signal for me to give my sis a break. Fine by me, I’d rather focus on him anyway.
Knowing I had limited time before Bernard got annoyed and shock-happy again, I gave Caleb another quick kiss then whispered for his ears only, “Any luck?”
Regret shadowed his face. “No. Sorry, lovey. He’s gone deep underground. I’ll keep lookin’, but I don’t think we’re gonna find him until he wants tah be found.”
In his spare time, Caleb had been scouring every corner of the earth for traces of my friend, Alec. Something demonic had a hold of poor Alec although we had no idea what, how, or why. Somehow, this decidedly evil Alec had figured out a way to make demonic playthings out of innocent people for his own enjoyment. Before I could figure out a way to stop him, he vanished without a trace.
I hid my disappointment behind a tight-lipped smile. “Thanks for trying.”
Caleb hooked his finger under my chin and tipped my head up. “I won’t give up. I promise.”
I nodded, but said nothing.
Bernard banged his cane against the floor in six rapid-fire successions. His round face flushed red, then purple. “Training time isn’t over!”
Caleb glanced over his shoulder at the glowering gnome. “What’s with the hostile envir’ment?”
“Oh you know, same old, same old. I don’t respect my sacred duty of pummeling inanimate objects, blah, blah, blah. Maybe Gabe will train with me to appease Mr. Sunshine.” I looked to my brother with a hopeful expectation.
Bernard folded his arms over his chest and scowled.
“Sorry, Cee,” Gabe raked a hand through his recently grown-out hair. He usually kept it buzzed, but Alaina insisted he grow it out for the wedding. He fiddled with the whole inch of it almost as much as Kendall did with hers. The two of them had daily scuffles over ‘mirror time’ in the bathroom. My low maintenance ponytail and I were very amused by this.
“I don’t need to train,” he said with a cocky smirk. “I’m a lion. It doesn’t get any more badass than that.”
Gabe ignored my eye-roll and circled his hands around Alaina’s slender wrists to pull her into his waiting arms. She giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Couples suck,” Kendall grumbled and tossed the bridal magazine aside.
Against the far wall of the garage—flanked by Gram’s flamingo lawn ornaments—Bernard’s pinched up red face warned of an impending gnome-sized embolism.
Just as he opened his mouth to unleash what was sure to be a nasty verbal bashing, Caleb intervened, “I’ll spar with her.”
Bernard’s beady eyes narrowed. “I don’t know … ”
“I think it’s a heck of a lot more effective than me fighting a bag.” I matched Bernard’s arm fold and raised him a challenging sneer.
Bernard took a deep breath in through his nose, and let it out through pursed lips. “Fine. Do not hold back,” he barked at Caleb, then pointedly turned his glare to me, “at all.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Caleb shot me a wink.
Gabe unchained the punching bag and leaned it against Grandpa’s dusty old work bench, then took a seat on the floor with Alaina and Kendall. Caleb and I faced off in the center of the garage. He yanked off his hooded sweatshirt and tossed it to his sister (That would be Alaina, by the way. Long story. He was abducted by a demonic army as a child and she joined the good guys as a Spirit Guide. Huh, look at that. I made a long story surprisingly short.)
He brought his hands up and struck a defensive pose. The thin material of his white t-shirt tightened across the sculpted muscles of his torso. That visual stimuli caused a wandering gaze that couldn’t be helped. With his knees slightly bent, his jeans hugged his thighs in a way that proved very distracting.
“Ahem … I’m up here, lovey. Not that I don’t appreciate a good oglin’.”
I hurriedly assumed a fighting stance, my cheeks and ears burning bright red. “Sorry. I’m good. Let’s do it. This! Let’s do this!” Gabe, Alaina, and Kendall all snickered from the sidelines. “Crap. Let’s just get this over with.”
Caleb’s handsome face folded in mock hurt. “Ya say it like that and I’m inclined tah think ya won’t enjoy it at all.”
“I think we both know that’s not true.” I grinned.
“Well then…” He jerked his head to the side to crack his neck and blinked hard. When his eyes opened the green was gone. In its place blazed brilliant red irises. Visible red flames danced beneath the surface of his skin. “Give us a kiss.”
I leapt forward and spun. My fist raised on a collision course with his throat. He caught my wrist and pinned it behind my back. I winced as my skin sizzled and blistered under his touch.
His breath tickled my ear. “Ya’r gonna have tah do better than that, lovey.”
He released me, and I backed away rubbing my charred wrist. That little move had awakened my inner warrior … and she was ticked. I brought my hands up and beckoned him to advance. “Again.”
He came at me fast. A mad flurry of blows and punches. Not one landed. I blocked every swing, countered every jab. We matched blow for blow until the sweat flowed and our damp clothing clung to us like a second skin. I answered an effective uppercut with a downward block and then utilized the split second it took Caleb to regroup to spin into a roundhouse kick. My foot connected with enough force to send him flying backward. He slammed into the metal garage door that twanged and rattled its disapproval. Our audience—except for Bernard—golf-clapped at my victory.
“Well done, well done.” Bernard nodded and crammed another handful of berries into his mouth. He eyes had turned glassy. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be confessing his undying love to one of Kendall’s old Barbie dolls that Grams kept boxed up out here … again. “Now why couldn’t you do that earlier? When I asked you to?”
I shrugged one shoulder and wiped the sweat from my brow with the back of my hand. “’Cause he’s hot.”
Bernard stamped his cane against the ground, “Of all the vain, juvenile excuses! His physical attractiveness should have nothing … ”
I held up my hands to calm the angry little man who was, quite literally, spitting mad. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! He’s got Titan blood in him, remember? He can control the elements, and he called fire to him. His hands were scalding hot. That was great motivation to not get hit!”
Bernard paused his rant to consider Caleb, who had pulled himself up off the ground and was straightening his jeans that had gotten twisted around his work-boots. For the first time ever, a glimmer of genuine appreciation broke through Bernard’s icy façade toward my demonic fella.
“That was actually quite clever,” Bernard begrudgingly admitted. “Well done.”
“Thank ya,” Caleb stood up and ran his fingers through his sweat-dampened locks. “Did it perhaps earn a free pass for our fated Chosen One?”
Just as quickly as the newfound appreciation came on, it vanished and Bernard’s go-to scowl returned. “Free pass? What does that mean? Allowing her to run the streets like a hooligan?”
Caleb struggled to suppress the grin that tugged at the corners of his heart-shaped lips. “Nothin’ like that, I assure ya. Just an evenin’ off to allow the lovely Celeste a chance to recharge her batteries. Any and all attempts at hooligan runnin’ will be thwarted. Ya have my word.”
This was so completely unexpected and unheard of with Bernard’s strict training regime that I crossed my fingers behind my back at the prospect of him actually agreeing to it.
Bernard shook the last of his berries from the satchel onto his palm and mashed them in his mouth. He’d started to sway, and leaned heavily on his cane to remain upright. “Fine, the night is yours. One night off. That’s it. Tomorrow you train and patrol without complaint.”
“Agreed!” I clapped my hands and bounced on the balls of my feet.
“Hey, does that go for us, too?” Gabe asked. “We don’t have to patrol tonight?”
Bernard waved one hand in the air. “All of you! One night off. But that’s it!” He didn’t bother with any further pleasantries. Two raps of his cane against the ground and he vanished into thin air. No doubt heading off to replenish his berry supply (or abduct a Barbie).
Gabe jumped off the ground in one fluid, cat-like motion. “Don’t have to tell me twice!” He extended his hands to Keni and Alaina, and yanked them both off the cold cement floor. “I’m thinking pizza and watching the game on TV. What do you say, babe?”
Alaina’s moss-green eyes glimmered with excitement. “I’ve got a better idea! I recorded a marathon of A Wedding Story on TLC. We can watch it and take notes on things we like!”
“That is even better.” Gabe’s broad shoulders sagged, but he did his best to feign enthusiasm. “Can we at least order a pizza?”
Kendall raised her hand. “I vote ‘yes’ to pizza. Grams is staying at Dr. Allyn’s again and we have limited food options. It’s pizza or week old Chinese.”
“Pizza it is,” Gabe declared and ushered them both out of the garage. “You guys coming?”
“No.” The way Caleb gazed at me made butterflies dance in my belly. “We’ve got plans.”
“Suit yourselves.” Gabe shrugged one massive shoulder and yanked open the side door. Snow and a bitter cold wind whipped in as the door opened and shut behind them.
“Alone at last.” Caleb grinned.
In a puff of black smoke he appeared in front of me and cupped my face in his hands. His lips found mine in a delicate caress. My hands wandered over his back. I reveled in the feel of his taut muscles under that thin layer of cotton.
Hot breath against my ear sent waves of euphoric bliss coursing through me as he murmured, “Are ya ready tah take a trip tah paradise, lovey?”
Book Blast & Twitter Party
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Top Ten Gryphon Series Quotes Cu's e-Book Giveaways Preview (Chapter One) April 23 Lubs Book Chatter Review & Character Interview with Celeste April 24 Give it to Cupcake Review & Rowan Guest Post April 25 Airicka Phoenix Write on 5 Karen Pokras Toz Author Spotlight April 26
Book Lovin' Mamas Review & Caleb Guest Post April 27
Rayborn Rambles Review April 28 Java John Z's Top Ten List Paranormal Tendencies Review & Excerpt April 29
My Family's Heart Book Reviews Review & Author Guest Post April 30
The Artistic Persuasion Review & Alaina Guest post