One Night of Eternity [Woodcutter's Grim Series]
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by Karen Wiesner
Description: For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter's Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless?and the terrors would escape to the world at large. The third in a four-book miniseries within the Woodcutter's Grim Series, dealing with the curse on the Shaussegeny family. Loosely based on The House That Jack Built. The curse pronounced on the Shaussegeny clan for all time was very clear: "Because the Shaussegeny name has long been synonymous with faithlessness, even unto your own chosen mates, only one chosen mate will be allotted to each of your kin henceforth. These chosen mates must also fall under the family curse, but these pairs will know true peace when they become one. Herein lays your salvation--and your damnation. Only if each of your clan remains faithful to their chosen mates in word and deed for all of their days will they have blissful contentment. Apart, mates shall be restless and forever unsettled, gripped by a sadness and despair unlike any other. A terrible fate will come upon the one who breaks the mate covenant." Gavin Shaussegeny has broken the covenant with his wife, Marnie, by cheating on her, and the betrayal carries a harsh penalty and punishment. Although Gavin regrets his faithlessness and loves his wife more than anyone or anything else, the house that he's built for himself is rapidly beginning to tumble down around him. There is only one chance for salvation for him now: Only his mate's undeserved forgiveness will free him from his punishment to relive his betrayal over and over for all time.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2012
eBookwise Release Date: August 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [87 KB]
Reading time: 50-70 min.
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Tuesday, July 12th
This is the house that Jack built.
This is the cat
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
The silver bullet felt unnaturally warm in her hand, as if the small, shiny object could be capable of burning her simply from folding it inside her fingers, pressed against her palm. But then of course she knew it was no ordinary bullet. It was magical, created out of the same fairy tale evil that ruled Woodcutter's Grim--and therefore capable of destroying anything of the same magic.
With the bullet held tightly in her fist, Marnie Shaussegeny got out of her car, slammed the door, and walked up to the house without seeing her surroundings. Once upon a time, this place had been her home, life, happiness--everything she'd ever wanted. Now each time she returned, she knew all had changed. Happiness was at an end. An end she herself had planned.
She strode through the house, undeterred by the voices that called a welcome to her, into her father-in-law Jack's library. When she sat heavily at the desk, she closed her eyes and two faces filled her vision, fueling her fury. She'd gone there...
Dear God, what had she been thinking? After her shift at the hospital, she'd gone to her husband's law office in town. She'd seen him playing up to his nubile, young secretary. I saw the way he looked at her, held her so tenderly. I saw the satisfaction in her eyes. She wants him. And she'll have him. She has the kind of confidence I've never had--certainly not with Gav. Other men, yes. But never with Gavin Shaussegeny.
Marnie would never forget that she'd once been the other woman in Gav's life, forget how easy it'd been to steal him away from his fiancee. She should have realized then that he was the type of man easily distracted by beauty, newness, even naivete. God, yes, I was all that. He was older, more experienced, so damn handsome, with the kind of self-assurance and strength that appealed to me instantly. Obsessed me was more like it. He had all the power back then. I would have done anything to be with him, to have him, to please him. I was a kid just out of high school, working part-time while I attended college, planning to become a doctor. Working at the Shaussegeny Law Offices paid the bills...and may have destroyed any chance I had of being independent. Wise. I lost everything. All because I fell in love with a man who can never be faithful, can never love me the way I need. And I can't forgive. I can't forget how he betrayed me. Not anymore. That's all I can see now between us, except under the full moon. It has to end.
She lifted the bullet in her fingers, studying it. Oh, she understood that this time of the month--between the last full moon and the next--she always experienced an agonizing negativity. Became restless. Insatiable. Unhappy and distrusting, as if she wanted to break out of her own skin to escape the pain--literally, as if this human skin was foreign and undesirable, something she craved to be free of for all time. Only when she transformed into the werewolf all Shaussegenys and their mates were cursed to become each month did she feel sure of herself, sure of the man she no longer wanted to love. Because love and hate have morphed into the same thing for me.
From the beginning, from the very first shared glance, Gavin had seduced her and captured her heart in his ruthlessly cruel fist. Only under the full moon could she truly believe he was hers the way she'd been his from the instant they met. Their relationship had been so intense back then. But, even after Gav broke his engagement to another girl and married her instead, Marnie had realized he didn't belong to her wholly and never would. He enjoyed other women too much to hold himself to one for all time. Oh, she well understood the way of the Shaussegeny men--the way it'd been for generations. You couldn't live in Woodcutter's Grim without hearing about their notorious affairs--and the blind forgiveness of the woman they loved. Gavin, his father, his grandfather, as far back as anyone could remember, Shaussegeny men were expected and encouraged to spread their prowess far and wide. After all, the wives would forgive and take them back. They always had. I should have been the one to break the cycle. But I couldn't. I was too weak to leave the man I loved more than life itself.
Within months of their wedding, Gavin had refused to see sex and love as mutually exclusive. Sex was simply sport to a Shaussegeny man. If he desired a woman, he had her. Love... Maybe they actually believed they loved their wives because in their hearts no other woman existed for them. But not one of them would ever feel the horror she had--that all the Shaussegeny wives before her had.
She'd belonged to Gavin. There'd never been any other man for her. Dear God, I wish there could have been...so he could feel a tenth of the pain I've suffered since I foolishly lost my heart to someone so undeserving. After a lifetime of being driven by her parents to be strong, to succeed, to get out of this evil town, Marnie had ended up falling under the spell of the son of another treacherous man who'd selfishly brought the moon curse down on his whole family.
The light caught the bullet in her fingers and also caught the gold gleam of her engagement and wedding rings. The engagement ring had belonged to another woman. Gavin's former fiancee had given it back and he'd passed it on to Marnie. She couldn't believe now that she'd worn it all this time without insisting that he give her something else, something new, something just for her. But, in retrospect, she realized she'd never given that other woman another thought. She hadn't cared that she'd probably loved Gav just as passionately as she herself did. She'd only cared about being with Gav... Would I have given myself to him even if he did marry that other woman?
Revulsion swept over Marnie when she acknowledged without a doubt that she would have. She would have sacrificed anything, any principal, to be with him. I couldn't have refused him anything. I wanted to believe he broke his engagement to that other woman because he loved me. Because I was the only one he could ever love and be with from that moment on. But I've never been that to Gavin. Never. Even after the curse was pronounced on all generations of the Shaussegeny family and their mates by Woodcutter's Grim's evil, I won't believe I'm the only woman he wants.
The curse... Marnie knew Gav's father Jack hadn't fully realized the scope of what he was doing when he made an alliance with the evil in the woods. He'd done it in exchange for strength and life. Thirty years ago, all Shaussegeny males fell under a genetic defect that resulted in a weakened state of bone and muscle and led to an overall decline in vitality during middle age. No modern miracle could be found to save them from the condition's ravaging effects. Marnie had often wondered whether the wives accepted the endless betrayals of their men because of the genetic defect. But what did it matter? She herself had fallen in line with the weak, forgiving women for so long--until her father-in-law had decided that the only escape would be to summon and command the magic living in Woodcutter's Grim and make an alliance with it so the defect would no longer plague him, his son and his son's sons for countless generations.
Did I sense that the curse would be my salvation? Perhaps in some way, she had. But she doubted Jack or Gavin had anticipated the full scope of the curse. Though they were no longer plagued by the deadly, debilitating disease, the curse also denied all family mates sexual sport outside of marriage vows. No, the pronouncement of their transformation to powerful creatures subject to the moon had come with another condition:
"Because the Shaussegeny name has long been synonymous with faithlessness, even unto your own chosen mates, only one chosen mate will be allotted to each of your kin henceforth. These chosen mates must also fall under the family curse, but these pairs will know true peace when they become one. Herein lays your salvation--and your damnation. Only if each of your clan remains faithful to their chosen mates in word and deed for all of their days will they have blissful contentment. Apart, mates shall be restless and forever unsettled, gripped by a sadness and despair unlike any other. A terrible fate will come upon the one who breaks the mate covenant..."
The curse had given Gav and his father a boundary they couldn't cross without facing dire consequences. The curse had saved her...but not from her own uncertainties and the ghosts of his many betrayals. Maybe the curse had forced Gavin to be faithful since it had come upon them thirty years ago, but she knew he'd betrayed her now, or he was thinking about it, just the way he had those years after they were first married. I can no longer forgive. I can't forget his previous transgression; so many of them. Perhaps most of all because I can't forgive and forget my own weakness that allowed him to come back to me each time, unpunished, still gaining full access to my body, heart and soul. I've given him everything. I have nothing more to offer. Now I take and never give. Now I have the power over him and he has none over me. I deserve that much. The only time I can't control myself with him is under the full moon. But only there does he get any part of me. Even that... I want it to end.
Marnie had no confidence in her chosen mate's love for her. Instead, the curse had turned her justifiable jealousy into something both crazy and unbearable. The time between full moons, when the darkness came into her being, she couldn't rein in her need for revenge. And Gavin's growing displeasure with her hadn't been dimmed by his futile efforts to prove himself to her. Last night, she'd seen lipstick on his shirt in a shade she wouldn't be caught dead wearing. She'd smelled another woman's flowery perfume on him. Ivy's lipstick. Ivy's scent. His betrayal. Soon it will all end, and I'll have my revenge.
Marnie caressed the bullet she'd stolen tonight after seeing her husband with his arms around his secretary. Knowing she wouldn't be able to break into the sanctuary of Woodcutter's Grim's guardians against the evil--the Protectorate--she'd waited until Sheriff and head guardian, Gabriel Reece, had gone into the police station. She'd broken into his truck and taken a silver bullet from his glove compartment.
But can I go through with this? Can I destroy everything? Destroy myself, my marriage, my children? Marnie had fought her own feelings for so long. Now she no longer saw a choice. She couldn't walk away from her marriage, couldn't let her treacherous mate have another easy out. Her teeth clenched. I want him to feel the punishment I've suffered since I gave myself to him. I want blood. I want to see him punished eternally. I deserve it.
More than once, she'd considered getting her revenge by cheating on him. What a satisfying twist. But she knew she couldn't do that--and not simply because the curse would restrain her. She couldn't give herself to any man but Gav. Besides, would it even torture him to know I've betrayed him? Finding out he doesn't care... Dear God, that would kill me. I accept that there is only one way to end this hell.
She stared at the bullet, then brought it to her lips. The warmth of the magic spread through her, promising peace the way nothing else had, nothing else could.
The full moon was nine days away. She would take the serum her younger son Ransom had created to prevent transformation under the moon. After her in-laws and her daughter Glynnis left the house to hunt under the moon, Gavin would transform...and she would use the silver bullet.
The plan made her tremble. In shock, she gasped for breath. Everything was wrong, and not simply between her and Gav. Their oldest son Lance had gone to New York long ago, possibly in search of his chosen mate, and Marnie knew he suffered from staying away from the only place he could survive indefinitely and be whole. Their middle child, Glynnis, was stubborn and reckless. She'd grown up to be a woman without patience, without the ability to bend and compromise and see anything but her own desires. Ransom had resisted the curse even as a boy and his health had been compromised to the point where he'd never been off the family estate because he was ill all the time.
All wrong. In our life. Our family. Our marriage. Gav feels it, too. I know he doesn't love me. Maybe he never has, and all those full moons we gave ourselves to each other fully... Long forgotten. Because he's sniffing around another female. His new secretary, one just as young and stupid and easily seduced as I was by such a potent, irresistible man. But Ivy has something I never had. Ambition and cold-blooded calculation. She knows exactly what she's doing. There's nothing naive about her. Killing them both is the only way I can gain the peace I'm entitled to.
Killing the girl would be easy, of course. One twist of her frail neck, and it would be over. But, since the transformation, she and Gav were evenly matched. She couldn't kill him with her bare hands--any wound inflicted on them healed quickly now, instantaneously under the full moon and magically fast even when they hadn't transformed. Killing him would require something supernatural--the kind of firepower the Guardians alone possessed. The silver bullet would end Gav's existence the way nothing else in the human world could. Out of the magic he'd sprung as a werewolf, the magic bullet would extinguish his life just the same way.
Permanent. Death. She would live out the rest of her life without him. Free of his transgressions. The memories. Her children, Gav's parents, wouldn't deny her the revenge she deserved. They were under the same curse--they would understand exactly why she needed to do this. None of them will ever recover from the loss, though. Still, I can't consider that. I won't think of my own grief when it's done. I gave him everything and it was never enough for him. Long enough, I've paid the price for my desperate love. Now it's his turn to pay, his turn to feel pain that will never, ever heal.
Nine days and more than thirty years of hell would be over... end excerpt