Title – Sundered
Author – Beth Caudill
Genre – Paranormal Romance
Publisher – Moonlight Mountain Books
For years, reluctant earth witch Daphne Lowe has feared the strength of her powers. When she loses control, people are harmed. She already ruined Deputy Sheriff Stanford Morgan’s life once, when their relationship ignited his dormant magical powers and turned him into the legendary white stag. Getting involved with him again would just hurt him more. She has to ignore her feelings for him, and hope that someday he’ll stop loving her too.
Except the paranormal sanctuary of Willows Haven needs Daphne and Stanford together—she must anchor the town’s mythical willow trees, and he serves as guardian. Only then will the town’s supernatural residents be safe from the outside world. Trapped together by a snowstorm, Daphne and Stanford have a second chance at happiness if they can resolve their past issues.
When a dark witch invades the town, a final test of their commitment emerges. To succeed, they’ll have to truly trust in each other and embrace the power of their love.
Can a second chance at love survive vengeance from the past?
Searing agony jolted Stanford awake. His side burned as metal was ripped from his side and overwhelmed his senses. He grunted as a warm sponge pressed against his wound. His eyes opened, and he tried to roll away. Except his hands were tied above his head.
“Stop squirming.” Daphne rested her hand over his heart.
He stared into her sensuous brown eyes. His heart rate leaped, not from being restrained but from having her near. It had been years since they’d been this close.
Her hand slid along his flesh, marking a heat trail. He hardened under her touch. Even if she didn’t mean it sexually, he’d always been susceptible to her. Despite their time apart, he couldn’t stop himself from teasing her. “I’m at your mercy.”
She pursed her lips. “Be still.”
“I promise I’ll be good if you let me go.”
Her head shook while merriment lit up her eyes. “Why Grandpa, what big lies you tell.”
“The better to ensnare you, my dear.” The four years they’d been apart had not cooled his desire for her. If anything, the magic inside him pressurized—waiting for the moment when once again, their souls would merge.
She dropped the sponge into the bowl beside her. “That will have to do until you mend.” Her fingers swirled around the lip of the bowl, a nervous quirk she couldn’t contain.
“Daphne, talk to me, honey.” Icy chills climbed his spine. “Why aren’t you using your magic?” He sucked in a breath as another spike of pain shot across his side.
“I can’t,” she whispered. “I can’t risk your life.”
“What does that mean? Explain to me why you’ve been ignoring your powers.”
Her face twisted in misery. “I can’t be trusted.”
He tried connecting with the tree. To convince it to let him go. But it was as stubborn as she was. He couldn’t even wrap his arms around her.
“Nothing you can say will convince me you’re a threat to anyone. You don’t have the temperament for it.”
She was gentle, seeing the world as a thing of beauty and happiness. The despair emanating from her was out of character.
“Let me help you.”
She took a step back. “You can’t solve everything.”
“I’m not trying to fix you. But I do want to understand why you’re making yourself miserable. Talk to me, please.”
“Shhh.” She walked around the bed. Determination shone in her eyes. “You need to rest.” Tears pooled in her eyes. “I almost lost you.”
“I’m fine.” He winced as he turned to see her better.
She lay beside him. “You need to be more careful. I can’t live without you.”
He kissed the top of her head. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll always be by your side.”
Her eyes closed, her head pillowed by his raised arm. Not the most comfortable position, but if tying him up was what she needed to be close to him, then he’d suffer through it.
Just so long as she accepted that he was hers, and she was his.
Her hand crept across his chest while tiny snores emanated from her. Healing warmth sunk beneath his skin. Powerful magic that knitted together the torn muscles and closed the gauge in his skin.
She might not consciously trust her magic, but it hid within her. More powerful and eager to be used. Whatever had caused her to pull away from him had also hindered her magical development. Made her afraid of her heritage.
That was something he couldn’t let stand.
The man he had been before might have been able to walk away. But now, the stag understood the need for the protections offered by Willows Haven. Understood that she was the lynchpin around which the town revolved.
She needed to accept her role and the power she wielded.
He wasn’t sure how to convince her that she was wrong, but time was running out. The hunters sent for him were only the first strike. They’d carried enchanted weapons. Known what kind of creature he turned into.
The attack hadn’t been an accident—instead, a planned ambush.
Had it not been for his brother and Eiraurs, he’d be dead.
It was time for Daphne and him to stop running from their future together.
All the town's inhabitants depended on it.
The roots unwound from his wrists and retreated. Sparkles of green magic floated in the air around them. He wrapped his arms around her, snuggling close. “I’ll protect her.”
His eyes closed. Magic surrounded them in a cocoon. For the first time since the magic of the stag had been released, he felt whole. As if everything in his life was as it should be.
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Although Beth grew up in West Virginia, she currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, two sons and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who makes an excellent lap warmer. Blending the analytical and creative sides of her brain, she delights in creating fantasy worlds for others. She loves fairy tales, fantastical creatures, and stuffed animals.
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