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But for Mackenzie Aldkin, the lightning can also signal something far more sinister.
After being struck by lightning, Mac is lucky to survive. But she didn't come home from the hospital unscathed. A feathered scar now circles her ankle and she can hear voices in her head. Voices she doesn't recognize.
As she tries to understand what is happening to her, Moira- nurse, healer and new friend- tells her old stories of fairies and their protection. Moira calls it a Fairy Kiss and she gives Mac a gift of a mystical kitten named Shaylee.
Before Mac can come to grips with the changes in her life, a killer's voice intrudes into her thoughts. She can't stop the killer's actions, but when the police suspect her boyfriend, Peter, she is determined to prove his innocence. And stop an other murder.
Working with Moira and Peter, Mac narrows down the suspects and sets a trap.
But will she be the one caught in it?
Grab your copy, and find out what happens!
Release date: December 31, 2017
Publisher: Sun, Sand & Stories Publishing
Print pages: 144
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Victoria LK Williams
They say you can tell when a storm is coming, but only if you pay attention. Growing up along the Florida shoreline, I should have known this. When you grow up here, the signs are easy to see. It's second nature to watch for them.
When a storm is near, there are subtle changes. There may be a shift in the wind that brings the salty smell of the sea onshore, the temperature can fluctuate from ever so slight to drastic, and the seabirds’ flight pattern could take a sudden turn. If you watch the clouds as they cover the horizon, you can see the storm approaching from miles away. The sky gets darker; the wind picks up, and the temperature drops. There's static to the air, even though there's no thunder or lightning. You can feel the change starting around you.
But only if you're paying attention. That day I let my guard down, and I wasn't paying attention. The storm came up on me without warning, and I paid the price.
That was the day everything changed, and my life suddenly went in directions I have never conceived.
The day I heard the first storm voice.
It was hot. Hot as only August in Florida can be. But it wasn't only the weather that was hot, so was the topic of conversation. The one I was having with the hot guy sitting next to me on the beach. I’d been in love with him since high school, but he didn't know it; I settled for being his best friend. I suffered through the current conversation while he bemoaned the rockiness of his newest love affair.
But being the best friend that I am, I commiserated with him, trying to help him out as best as I could. He didn’t have a clue about how I felt, and I would have been mortified if he ever found out. Somehow, I’m sure that little tidbit of news would ruin the most important friendship I had.
Peter and I have known each other most of our lives, but not until our high school years did we became fast friends. Our friendship began when I beat him in a cross-country race. After that, we started training and competing together, and through the sweat and tears, we formed a bond that lasted through the years. I’m always “Mac” to him. Not Mackenzie, my real name, which I think is much more regal and noteworthy, but just Mac. I don’t know if he even noticed I’ve grown into an attractive woman since I was just his buddy, and that was enough for both of us. Until I left home to go away to college, that is. Only then did I realize how important he was to me. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but my heart about broke with the emptiness of his absence. Oh, I tried dating. I even made some good friends, but none compared to Peter. I was thankful and relieved when, after six long years, I graduated and came back home to take my place in the family business.
But Peter had moved on, and he was dating a string of girls that made my head spin. I told myself that if he kept changing dates; it meant he wasn’t getting serious about them, and I still stood a chance. Someday, I reasoned, by some miracle, he would wake up and see me for the woman I had become. Of course, it would take a miracle, because the fear of rocking the boat kept me from taking a stand and proclaiming my love for him.
So today we sat on the beach, in our favorite spot, and I listened to him complain about the failure of yet another date.
“I don’t get it, Mac. I mean, this girl is gorgeous, smart, and looking for a long-term relationship. All the things a guy would want, but there was just no spark. It was like we were going through the motions. I took her to a movie, and we went to a nice restaurant, yet I knew halfway through the meal it wasn’t going anywhere.”
“Well, what movie did you go to? A nice romantic-”
“Of course not. We watched the newest Avenger movie. You would have loved it, Mac.”
I laughed out loud. Sometimes Peter didn’t have a clue. I mean, what girl wants to go to an action movie on their first date. Most girls would want a little romance, a little wooing. Myself included.
“Peter, you can’t treat the girls you're dating like one of the guys. They want and deserve to feel special.”
I tossed the sand I had been sifting through my fingers in his direction and he had the grace to look embarrassed. Shrugging his shoulders, Peter admitted that I was right. Putting his hands behind his head, he stretched out on the warm sand and sighed, closing his eyes. I think he knew he had blown it with this girl. I mentally gave a cheer. Deciding that he needed a little time to think, I got to my feet. Grabbing my straw hat, I turned and started walking down the beach, searching the sand for the elusive blues and greens of the sea-glass.
I passed two old fishermen, heading to the boardwalk and the beach’s exit. We knew each other from years of sharing the same beach and exchanged a friendly hello. Now, it seemed I had the beach to myself. I guess no one else wanted to swelter in the ninety-degree heat, not when they could be cooling off inside, where there’s air conditioning. The heat didn’t bother me; I was used to it. A gentle breeze blew enough to dry the sweat off, and if it got too bad, I figured I could always jump into the ocean waves to cool myself off. The beach to myself, the sun and breeze and crashing waves of the Atlantic, was my idea of paradise.
I must have walked farther than I realized, because when I looked around me next, I couldn’t even see Peter. The wind had picked up, and I put both hands on my head to keep my hat from blowing away.
I wasn’t nervous about walking the sands on my own, but something made the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. There was still no one else at the strip of beach with me, but the air had changed. There was a static to it that tried to warn me, but I didn’t notice the warning until it was too late. The static became supercharged and a flash of light like I’d never seen before in my life blinded me. Everything suddenly went black.
“Mac, oh Jesus, Mac, be okay."
I heard the pleading in Peter’s voice, and I tried to reassure him I was fine, but the words wouldn’t form. He said more, but the words were too far off to understand. Everything faded again.
The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing the blurry vision of an angel. But I don’t think that was right, because that would mean I was dead. I didn't feel dead. I had heard that when you die; you feel no more pain. That’s what made me sure I wasn't dead. The pain in my head was excruciating. A moan escaped me, and the angel moved closer, but my vision blurred and faded to dark. When she spoke, her words were faint, as if from a far distance. She told me I would be okay.
Time passed before I woke again, but I lost track of how much. This time my eyesight was clear, but my head still hurt. Making the mistake of trying to move to look around. The pain inside my head was fast and sharp. The pain started at the base of my neck and darted forward over the top of my head to settle over my eyebrows. It made any migraine I had ever suffered before pale in comparison. I moaned, and, in an instant, Peter stood at my side.
With a gentle stroke, he pushed the hair away from my face, and I saw tears in his eyes. I guess I was hurt more than I realized for him to be this upset, and I tried to smile and reassure him.
"Jeez, Mac, you scared me to death. It's good to see you awake. Just stay with me. I need to get the doctor, he’ll want to see you now that you’re awake.” As he spoke, Peter leaned over and gave me a kiss on the forehead. It was a brotherly kiss, but that didn’t matter because the kiss made my heart beat a little faster. Thank goodness, he was on his way out the door when the heart monitor hooked up my arm, increased its tempo, and threatened to give away my secret.
By the time he returned with the doctor and a nurse trailing behind, I had myself back under control, and my heart was beating at its normal pace. The doctor gave me a thorough exam, concentrating on my vision and responses. As he moved towards my lower extremities, he asked his nurse for a swab, and I looked into the face of the nurse as she responded.
My angel. I recognized her voice. Not only did I know her voice, but there was a deeper recognition, almost a recognition of souls. I didn't understand what was happening, but I had a premonition that somehow this woman would be important in my future.
The doctor touched my leg, and I drew my breath in with pain. I hadn't realized that my leg hurt, but he sure made me aware of it. Peter heard my deep inhale, and he moved to my side, holding my hand for comfort. I turned my head slightly toward him and asked what I needed to be answered.
"What happened, and why am I in the hospital?"
My question hung in the air, and there was a moment of silence. The doctor broke the silence and started a rhetoric of long, unpronounceable words as he tried to describe my symptoms and the cause. He lost me after the first sentence. I tried to follow his conversation, but my mind seemed to be fuzzy and concentration was impossible. Or maybe it was hard to concentrate because Peter continued to hold my hand.
With a satisfied smile, the doctor finished his diagnosis and looked at me as if I was a good child and had listened well. I almost expected a lollypop for good behavior. He put his pen back into his front pocket, put my chart back on the hook at the end of the bed, said a meaningless goodbye, and left me in the care of my angel.
She smiled and patted my free hand with reassurance.
"Well, Mackenzie, I can tell from your expression that, as usual, the doctor talked too fast and too technical for anyone to understand. I apologize for him, he's always in such a hurry. He means well, but he forgets to take the time to talk to his patients. Let me explain in terms you might follow easier."
As she spoke, she reached behind me to fluff the pillow to support my neck and make me more comfortable, and then handed me a cup of ice water. I sucked the water through the straw to ease my parched throat.
"Mackenzie, a bolt of lightning struck you. Not directly, but in a flash-over. What that means is lightning struck the ground close to you, and the charge jumped from the ground to your leg. That’s why your leg hurts so bad. There are burns on your leg. They will heal, and you may even have a scar, but that too will fade. You’re a very lucky girl, six inches closer, and the bolt of lightning would have struck you directly.” She watched me for a moment, as if making sure I understood her words, and continued.
“Now, you will have headaches for a while, and you may find that your hearing may give you a bit of trouble, but this will all fade away. And in no time, you'll be back to normal."
I looked at her in astonishment, and then over to Peter for confirmation. With a nod of his head, he agreed with the nurse. I looked back at her in disbelief. I couldn’t believe it, I had been struck by lightning. It didn’t matter if it was a flash-over or a direct hit, I had let the one thing I'd been warned against my entire life happen.
Florida is notorious for lightning strikes. The storms come up so quickly, and people are often caught unaware. I couldn’t believe I’d missed the signs that I have been taught to watch for all my life. The tears welled up and my remorse change to embarrassment.
"Now, don't go sitting there feeling sorry for yourself or reprimanding yourself. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it. It’s just something that happened. Right now, we need to concentrate on getting you healthy and back to your normal routine. And the first step is to get some rest."
I looked up at the woman standing next to me, startled. It was almost as if she had read my mind. But that couldn't be. Of course not. It was something much more mundane. Like the fact she was a good nurse, had been through this situation before, and could anticipate what her patients were up against. She gave me a smile of understanding, and as she moved to pull the covers up closer to my chin, I noticed her name tag. Moira, an unusual name. Possibly Scottish? I wasn't sure, but it seemed to fit her. She reached for my arm to take my pulse, and it was like a second bolt of electricity shot through me. I looked at her, wondering if she felt it too. When she gave a slight smile, I knew she had experienced the same thing. There was a strong connection between the two of us, one I didn't understand and one I'm sure that went beyond modern medicine.
Peter had been standing on the other side, unaware of the exchange between Moira and myself. He kept looking at me as if to make sure I was okay. Finally, I returned his look and gave him a smile of reassurance.
"Peter, go home. I’m sure you have plenty of things to do without standing here at my bedside. I'm fine. The doctors and staff will take good care of me. I'll be home before you have a chance to miss me."
Moira nodded her head in agreement. "She's right, you know. All she’ll do for a while is sleep. I'm sure if you're here, Mackenzie will worry about you. You can come back at visiting hours later. By then, Mackenzie should feel more like herself."
Peter looked between us. “Understood,” he said as he bowed to us. Despite my pain, I chuckled. “I’ll swing by your house, Mac, and pick up some clothes for you to wear home tomorrow.”
As the door closed behind him, I sighed with relief. That was odd because I was always comfortable, almost complete when I was with Peter. But today, it was all too much for me, and I wanted to be left alone. Without even realizing it, my eyes closed, and as I began drifting off again, I sensed a change in the atmosphere. A static in the air almost like earlier in the day. I tensed in fear. The comforting touch of Moira, as she patted my hand, eased my tension, and I drifted off peacefully.
I don't know what the doctor gave me, but it was strong. The next time I opened my eyes, the room was in darkness, and I was alone. I didn't bother to try and lift my head; I could vividly recall the pain from last time. Instead, I took in a visual summary of what I could see directly in front of me. The TV was on low, set to music. Funny, it wasn't music I usually would listen to, but it was soothing, and I enjoyed it. I could hear the beeping of the monitors as they recorded my every heartbeat. At least I knew I was still alive. I closed my eyes for a moment, and I swear that my senses were tingling in heightened awareness. I could smell things that I usually wouldn’t have noticed, and I was more aware of the noises outside of the room than what should be possible with the music from the TV on.
I was also more aware of my own body, feeling each finger and toe acutely, and I swear I could feel the blood making its journey through them. It seemed odd to be so aware of myself.
I still had a headache, but it wasn't as bad as it had been. The pain in my ankle was now more of an irritant and I longed to reach down to rub it. This was a clear sign the medicine dripping into my IV was doing its job. Before I could contemplate the dilemma any further, the door cracked open and Peter stuck his head in.
"Hey, Mac, are you awake?" His whisper wasn't exactly soft, but he meant well.
"Yeah, come in, Peter." My voice cracked, and I realize my throat was dry. Peter must've heard the hoarseness in my voice because he reached over and poured me a glass of water and brought it to me as he walked into the room. He held the straw for me so that I could get a good swallow, and then he set the cup back down after I assured him I had plenty for now.
"You have no idea how glad I am that you’re okay, Mac. You gave me the biggest scare of my life. I really thought I'd lost you."
I could hear the sincerity of his emotions, and I tried to blink back the tears. Peter must've seen them because he reached over and gently wiped the corner of my eyes. Before either of us could say anything, the tender moment disappeared as a nurse came in. It wasn't Moira, and I felt disappointed. The woman quickly went about her business, taking my temperature, blood pressure, and then adjusted the bed so that I could sit up more comfortably. I was amazed that the headache from earlier had gone from a pounding to a dull ache. When she left, I pointed to the end of the bed.
"Peter, can you pull the blanket off? They said I would have a scar and I'd like to see how bad the burn is."
"I'm not taking the bandages off, so I don't know what you think you're going to see.”
Before we could go any further, the door opened again, and this time it was Moira. She took in the situation in a glance, realized what Peter was doing with the blanket. Shaking her head, she chastised me for my impatience.
"This will not heal properly if you take the dressing off before it’s ready. And you, sir, did you sterilize your hands before touching her?"
Peter dropped the blanket like a hot potato and blushed. I could see the smile lurking on the corners of Moira’s mouth as she turned to me.
"You're not going to be at ease until you see this, are you? All right, I’ll take the dressing off, and you can take a peek. And that’s it -- I’m going to get that wound covered right back up, so the medicine can do its job. Then, maybe you can stop worrying."
She worked with gentle hands that were skillful and efficient. I didn't even feel the pull of the dressing as she lifted it off, inch by inch. She then helped me to a more upright position and held me sturdy as I leaned over to look at my ankle. She was right, there was a scar there. It wasn't a cool scar like the one JK Rowling had given her character, Harry Potter, but it was interesting. It had the faint resemblance of a feather etched into my skin, and it seemed to circle my ankle, wandering a bit up my calf. If I'd been into tattoos, I probably would've wanted it to stay. But I had always taken pride in my legs, they were probably my best feature, and I was disappointed that they were now marred.
I hadn't realized that Peter was looking over my shoulder as well, and his voice made me jump. He grinned and gave me a thumb-up.
"On anybody else, that would be a scar. But on you, Mac, it’s a beauty mark."
His words made me feel better, and I couldn't help but smile as I blushed. Any compliment from Peter was a gift. He just didn't give them out often, to me anyway. Satisfied that I had seen enough of my ankle, my caretaker eased me back onto my pillows and then deftly re-bandaged my injury. She then turned to both of us with a serious look on her face.
"Mackenzie, they will not allow you to stay here for long, beds are needed for other patients, as I'm sure you know. But you're going to need some care when you get home. That ankle is going to be sore to walk on, and your headaches are going to be intense for a while. We still need to monitor your hearing. You will need somebody to stay with you for the first couple of days, and then a therapist from the hospital will come daily to check on you. Do you have someone to stay with you?"
I knew I could call one of my girlfriends, and they would be there in a second to help me. But they would also hover and try to take over--I dreaded the thought. Before I could decide who would be the easiest to get along with for a couple of days, Peter chimed in.
“I’ll stay with her,” he stated in a somewhat bossy manner, clearly still concerned.
I was astonished. I knew we were best friends, but this was a lot for somebody to do.
"Peter, you don't have to do this. I have plenty of girlfriends nearby, and they can do this. Besides, you have a job to go to."
"You know as well as I do that I can work from home—it’s one of the perks of working in my father’s business, I can make my own hours. Besides, my parents would agree, taking care of the people you love always comes before work. Come on, Mac, you would do this for me."
He was right on all points, and I was thrilled that he had offered. Having my best friend with me when I needed him would be the best therapy I could get. I gave a nod to him and then turned to Moira.
"Okay, I guess I have a roommate for a couple days."
"Well, that's just perfect. Peter, I'll get you a list of supplies that she will need and directions for her care. The doctor told me she’ll be released tomorrow afternoon, so you’ll have time to get yourself set up." She looked pleased that everything was working out so well and then looked back at me, ready to give me my instructions as well.
"Right now, I would like you to get some more rest. In the morning, you’ll have some testing done on your eyesight and hearing. You'll also need to be fitted for a crutch. Your friend can stay for fifteen minutes, and then I want you lying back down healing."
I gave her a thumbs-up, and Peter indicated that he understood her instructions as well. As soon as the door closed behind her, Peter sat on the edge of the bed and held my hand as we talked. Those fifteen minutes went by fast and before I knew it, Peter was saying goodnight, promising to be there tomorrow for my release. I made him promise not to come in the morning, worried that he would fall behind in his work.
Before he left, he gave me a light kiss on the forehead and then dimmed the lights as he walked out the door.
I laid back and close my eyes, content, and tired, and I snuggled into a more comfortable position. I was just about to doze off when I heard someone to the right of my bed. I felt too tired to open my eyes, assuming it was just another nurse. She didn't ask me any questions, but instead, I heard the woman's voice say the oddest thing.
"This is the one. There is immense potential here, powers waiting for instruction. But she will need guidance and wisdom to get her to accept them."
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