Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne - Romance>Fantasy
She was born to save what he is sworn to destroy
A lapsed Wiccan, Indira Simon doesn't believe in magic anymore. But when strange dreams of being sacrificed to an ancient Babylonian god have her waking up with real rope burns on her wrists, she's forced to acknowledge that she may have been too hasty in her rejection of the unknown. Then she meets mysterious and handsome Father Thomas. Emerging from the secrecy of an obscure Gnostic sect, he arrives with stories of a demon, a trio of warrior witches--and Indira's sacred calling.
Yet there's something even Tomas doesn't know, an inescapable truth that will force him to choose between saving the life of the woman he's come to love--and saving the world.
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Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Dammit straight to hell, I was being sacrificed again.
I stood on the edge of a precipice, the hard ground under my bare feet already warming beneath the rising, scorching sun. The unblinking redorange eye of an angry god rose slowly over distant desert sands, beyond endless dunes, watching as I paid for the sin of practicing magic without a license.
Just as I had been at every execution before, I was dressed in almost nothing. A white scrap of fabric tied at my hip, covering one leg and leaving the other bare below the knot. Another length of the same stuff was draped around my neck, crossed in front to cover each of my humongous boobs, and then tied behind to keep it there. My hands were tied behind my back. I wore no jewelry. Resentment rose up in me at the notion that Sindar, High Priest of Marduk, had stolen it. And then I wondered how I knew that.
This isn't me. I mean, it feels like it's me, but it can't be me. She's olive-skinned. She's gorgeous. Her boobs are huge. I'm pale and blonde and too thin. No curves here. Not like those, anyway.
And yet it was me. I was there. On that cliff. In that body. No denying it.
There were two other women, dressed pretty much the same way I was, one standing on either side of me. I felt close to them. I loved them.
Three men stood behind us. I felt the one behind me, his hands, warm and trembling, resting softly on my back, low, near my waist, where the skin was bare. My back was screaming with pain I didn't understand, but that man's touch was good. Soothing. I tried to relish it, thinking it was the last time I would feel it or anything good. Ever.
I wanted to turn my head, to look back at him, to see his face, but somehow I could not convince my dream self to do that. It didn't matter, though. I knew what he looked like. In my mind, I saw him clearly: his long black hair, his fine white tunic with a sash of scarlet, the fat gold torque around his corded neck. His arms were banded with steel and coated in fine dark hair. He was strong, and he had ebony eyes.
I didn't need to see him, nor the poor, half-dead man being held captive by soldiers a bit farther away. He'd already been beaten bloody, but he was struggling to break free as they forced him to watch. I'd glimpsed his face as they'd marched us up the cliff, far from our city gates. He barely looked human. His own mother wouldn't have known him.
And Sindar, the High Priest, he was there, too. I knew his face, as well. Eyes lined with kohl, lips darkened with the juices of rare desert berries. The rolls of fat at his neck, sporting layer upon layer of gold. His robes of the finest fabric, imported from the East. His belly so big that the golden cords of those robes had to be tied above the bulge, making him look like a mother about to give birth. I knew he was there, knew the secret lust in his eyes for what was about to happen to us. He was twisted, turned on by violence. Or maybe just by the rush of knowing he held the power of life and death in his hands.
I was going to have to kill him one day.
I tried to look at the other women, because, aside from the touch of those large male hands on my skin, they were the most interesting part of this whole thing. They had dark hair and dark eyes, just like I did. But as I looked at them, they changed, the way a reflection in still water will change when a stone is dropped into it. One briefly became a blue-eyed platinum blonde, the other a fiery redhead, modern women in modern clothes. It was brief, the illusion, and then the High Priest was speaking in some long-dead language, and the hands at my back began trembling harder than...