The Guardian by Cynthia D. Witherspoon – Cover Reveal

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Knowledge is power. 
Everyone knows that. 
But as Eva McRayne continues to recover from her last encounter with Elliot Lancaster, she discovers that knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Chapter One
 
 
There was a man standing at the end of my hospital bed.
I shifted my head just enough to get a good look at him. He was pale. Thin. The classic image of an American junkie. The stranger stared at me with a look of horror on his face.
“Who…” I cleared my throat as I struggled to sit up. A movement that was damn hard to do with the IV the doctor insisted I still needed. “Who are you?”
The man shimmered. He actually shimmered in the faint light that came from the television Cyrus was watching. I glanced over to my Keeper. He didn’t seem to notice my visitor. Nor did he rush to check on me. 
Ok. Weird. Cyrus hadn’t left my side once in the three weeks I’d been caged up here at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital. And he always responded to even the slightest movements I made. 
“Am I dreaming?” I frowned as I lifted up my arms as far as they would go. “Or is this the drugs?”
“Spoiled girl.” The man hissed. “You were me. You were like me. Dead.”
“Yeah. I remember that part quite well.” I dropped my arms to face him. “Who are you?”
“Dead.” He repeated as he pointed a single finger in my direction. “Like me. But you got saved. Because of what you are.”
“Yeah, I’m real special, alright.” I frowned. “Look, if there is…”
I shut up when the stranger grabbed at his head and started screaming. “Not fair. Not right. You are me. You are us.”
“Stop saying that!” I snapped. “If you have a message, then spill it already. Otherwise…”
“No!” The spirit gave me such a look of hatred, I shuddered. “You belong to Hades. You belong to us!”
I saw the shadows shifting around him until more forms appeared. Each wearing the standard green hospital gown I was in. Each face twisted with the same discontent. Men and women – some bloody with injuries I couldn’t identify began to approach my bed. I felt the fear as it rose up to the back of my throat. I began to tear at the wire holding me into place. 
I had to get out of here.
The man lunged forward. I felt the rush of cold air that followed him as he shoved me back against the bed. I grabbed at his arms and cried out at the icy chill that raced up my own. 
“We will drag you down to hell where you belong, Sibyl.” 
The man struggled against my grasp until he worked a single arm free. I watched as his face shifted from that of a junkie to the man who had put me in the hospital to begin with. Elliot Lancaster leered down at me.
“A heart for a heart, doll. I’ll finish what I started. I swear it.”
Elliot reached for my chest, his fingers inching closer to my heart when I grabbed for a vase of flowers someone had put beside my bed. I couldn’t get my fingers around the thick base. It tilted over to splash both me and my attacker with drops of water. 
“Hush, Little One. It’s alright.”
Elliot and the ghosts that surrounded him vanished at the sound of my keeper’s voice. I groaned when I felt Cyrus’ hand brush against my hair then twisted in the bed to sit up as I grabbed his forearms.
“What?” 
I tilted my head down, blinking away the last wisps of the images in my head. I was still in Charleston. Still in the hospital room that hadn’t changed since I’d gone to sleep. The television was indeed on. But there were no ghosts here. No mirrors to allow them entry. No Elliot. 
“What happened?”
“A dream, darling girl.” Cyrus brushed his knuckles over my cheek. “Lay back down. You shouldn’t be moving around until the wound is completely healed.”
Wound. I tightened my grip on his arms as my side began to throb. The gash that had been made by Athena’s Blade was healing, but at a snail’s pace. Not to mention the other injuries I had suffered at Elliot’s hands. I winced as I remembered the fight that had ended with me crumpled and broken on the sidewalk. 
“I,” I swallowed down the nasty taste in the back of my throat. “I really don’t want to go back to sleep.”
“Are you in pain?” Cyrus pulled away just enough to flip the switch that turned on the lights in my room. “I can get the nurse if you want.”
I shook my head and released him. I ran my hand over the thin blanket that covered me, but froze when I touched a wet spot just beyond my left knee. My head shot up and I saw the flower vase from my bedside table toppled over on the floor.
 “Cyrus, the vase…”
“Is fine.” Cyrus snagged my hand again to squeeze it. “You knocked it over in your sleep. I’ll take care of it.”
“No.” I shook my head as I began to tug at the IV. “He was here. Elliot. I’ve got to get out…”
“Evie, stop. You’re safe.” Cyrus took my other hand. “No one has been here since Joey left around midnight. And I can promise you, that damned…”
“No.” I swallowed back the sob threatening to choke me. “Listen to me. He was here. I saw him. He was a spirit. A man who said he would drag me to hell where I belonged.”
“Ok.” Cyrus nudged me over so that he could climb into the bed with me. My keeper had developed a talent for folding up in the small space. He managed to avoid the IV before he leaned back against the pillow and put my head against his chest. He started to run his fingers through my hair in an attempt to relax me. “Start from the beginning.”
I pressed my cheek against him with a shudder. “No. There’s no point. I’m sure you’re right. It was just a stupid dream.”
“Perhaps.” Cyrus agreed. “Or perhaps, it was a warning of some sort. It’s no secret that you are most vulnerable in your sleep, Little One.”
Vulnerable. I shuddered again at the word. It was the perfect description for how I felt at the moment. For all the gifts I had been given by Apollo to act as his conduit on Earth, none came in handy when I was asleep.
Or drugged up. Or tied to a damn hospital bed.
I heard the door to my room open. I leaned up enough to see the nurse peek her head inside as Cyrus disappeared from his spot beside me. 
“Ms. McRayne?” The woman spoke in soft tones. “Are you alright? Your light is on.”
“Yeah.” I sat up. “Just a bad dream.”
The nurse clicked her tongue against the back of her teeth as she approached my bedside. She lifted up my left hand and frowned.
“Your IV is coming loose. I’m sure this is why you are awake at such an hour.”
I didn’t have it in me to tell her that 2 a.m. was considered a working hour for me. After all, how scary would chasing ghosts be in the daytime? I watched her dig through a cabinet positioned close to my bed before she returned with a tiny package and a roll of tape.
“Look,” I snatched my hand away before she could get a hold of it. “I don’t think the IV is necessary. I feel fine.”
“I’m sure you do thanks to the medication prescribed to you.” The woman ignored my protest and grabbed my hand. She bent over it as she took off the tape that had been holding the metal into place. “But give it a few hours to wear off.  You will feel as if you had been hit by a truck.”
“Or shoved out of a four story window?” I smirked. “I’m sure you’ve seen the show, lady. I heal quite well on my own.”
“Your recovery has been remarkable.” The nurse tugged the metal piece out of my hand. “But you are nowhere near ready to leave us quite yet. Your bones have not yet fully healed. Nor has the puncture wound on your side.”
“Fine.” I pouted. “How much longer is this going to take?”
“I’m already done.” The woman beamed at me. I flexed my hand as she fiddled with the bag attached to the wire. I had to give it to her. The nurse knew what she was doing.
“No, not with the IV.” I lowered myself back against the pillow. “How long am I going to be here? I need to get back to my life in L.A. I have work to do.”
“Only time will tell, dear.” The nurse pressed a button on the machine next to my head. “Now get some sleep. That will help you heal faster than anything I can give you.”
She flicked off the light and slipped out of the room in less than a minute. When I heard the door click behind her, Cyrus returned to my side.
“She’s right, you know.” My keeper leaned down to kiss me on the forehead. “You need to sleep.”
“I need to get out of here.” I sighed as I felt my eyelids grow heavy. “Cyrus, I’ve been gone too long.”
“No, dear girl. You have done what you must.” 
I don’t know what type of medication was in the IV, but I was dozing in and out within minutes. I may have been falling asleep, but I was still awake enough to hear Cyrus’ phone go off in his pocket. I couldn’t help but smile. Apollo was my patron god and the only deity that could contact Cyrus directly. I was sure he was calling to check on my progress.
I started to ask Cyrus for the phone so that I could convince the Golden One to get me out of the damned hospital faster. But I stopped when Cyrus stepped over to the window to answer it on the second ring.
“Jonathan, thank the gods you responded to my message.”
Jonathan? Who the hell was Jonathan? I struggled to stay awake as my Keeper continued.
“Yes, she will be fine. She’s too damned stubborn not to be. But I need your advice, Mentor. The entity that is after Eva has become emboldened by his hatred. He would have succeeded in killing her if Hermes hadn’t been present when she was attacked.”
I listened as Cyrus launched into the story of my unfortunate situation. Elliot Lancaster had once been my best friend. The love of my life. But that all changed when I became the Sibyl and we started a television show together.  One soul kidnapping and my romantic relationship with Cyrus drove my former friend over the edge. He turned to Hera for power to get revenge against me.
Power was exactly what he got. In exchange for blood sacrifices, Elliot was granted the position of Hera’s pet. He could transform into a wolf. He had unimaginable strength. Strength that he had no problems using against me. So far, we’d fought twice. The first time, I stabbed him through the heart. The second time?
Yeah. That’s how I ended up at Bon Secours.
“Would the spirits be willing to aid her?” Cyrus grew quiet. “I understand, mentor. I will consider your offer, but I do not wish to leave the Sibyl.”
Cyrus went silent again. Longer this time. I was almost asleep when his voice broke through the fog in my mind.
“That is very kind. Of course. Given our current situation, I will certainly consider it.”
Cyrus came over to the bedside to place his hand against my cheek. I made sure to keep my eyes shut and my breathing steady when he fell into the seat he had claimed on day one. I stole a glance at my beloved in the darkness as he ran his hand over his short dark hair.
“It has been quite some time since I’ve heard that term.” Cyrus shifted in the chair. “Do you and yours need assistance? I’m quite sure that…”
He let his words trail off as the other man began to speak. When Cyrus responded, I felt myself jump.
“Your Blue Aura sounds quite impressive, mentor. I look forward to meeting him one day.”
For the fifth time since Cyrus had gotten on the phone, I wished that he had put the damned thing on speaker already. I mean, really. No one except me and Apollo were supposed to have access to him through the device. Now he was getting a mysterious phone call from a man he called ‘mentor’?
“I agree with your assessment.” Cyrus sat up straight. “Perhaps. I will speak with Apollo to see if the proper arrangements can be made. Are you sure I won’t be interfering?”
The mysterious mentor must have been speaking again and my keeper must have liked what was being said. He let out a short laugh filled with his relief.
“Very well, Jonathan. I will contact you as soon as I am able.”
 
***
 The Sibyl:
Amazon  
 
The Fanatic:
 
The Seer:
 
 The Thief:

 

 

Cynthia D. Witherspoon is an award winning writer of Southern Gothic, Paranormal Romance, and Urban Fantasy. She has been published in numerous anthologies since 2009.
Her work has appeared in several award winning collections including Dark Tales of Ancient Civilizations (2012) and Pellucid Lunacy (2010). Thief is her fourth full length novel in the Oracle Series.
 

 

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