Captured within the mind of Cleo Little by the disgraceful dark mist of Madonna, Greta Smith was taken on a wild, wicked journey she fought to escape. Greta presented the problem to the Shuvihani and Thad to vanquish the evilness of her childhood friend.
Against Thaddeus Porter’s better judgment and by the order of the clan’s witch, Thad entered the minds of the dark coven out to destroy the clan. The only way to save his people was to join forces with Greta to defeat the evilness prevailing around them. Their energy was strong, the clan’s Shuvihani was missing, and dark evil was out to steal the souls of the caravan.
Could Greta and Thad’s Magical Love be sufficient to conquer the jealousy, betrayal and dark magic to save their people?
Stephy Smith was born and raised in the Northwest Texas Panhandle. She owns and operates her own ranch. Most of her inspiration comes from the weather, wildlife, and imagination from country living. When she not spending time with her three sons, she loves to read, ride horses, watch rodeo’s and paint. Stephy is a member of Panhandle Professional Writers, American Quarter Horse Association, and Foundation Quarter Horse Association. Stephy is an award-winning author of Shining Moon Rises. You can find her books at www.barnesandnoble.com www.amazon.com www.audible.com www.smashwords.com and www.kobo.com
1866 East Texas
“Come on, Cleo! Doriya is starting the storytelling. You know she doesn’t like to be kept waiting,” Greta Smith called over her shoulder as she ran down the path to the gypsy camp. Tufts of soft, smooth grass cooled her bare feet. She ducked and dodged swinging moss from the branches of the tree-lined trail. Greta slowed her pace so Cleo could catch up with her.
“I love to hear the old witch’s stories. One day I will be a powerful and respected Shuvihani.” Cleo Little huffed out a breath.
Greta stopped behind a vardo. Her bright red and purple skirts flared as she twirled around to face Cleo. The words rushed from her mouth before she could stop them. “If this is so, when did you start your training? Did you start when Thad and I did? When are your classes? Who is your partner? Do you think Doriya will let us take our lessons together?”
Greta’s mind whirled with possibilities of other students to practice magic with. She had been practicing with Thad for so long they could read each other before the lesson was finished. Greta reached out to touch Cleo’s arm, but Cleo backed away.
“When did you start learning to be the clan’s Shuvihani?” Cleo asked as she raised her chin. Her hands fisted. Her green eyes turned dark and menacing.
“I don’t know exactly. I was very young and don’t remember not taking the lessons. There’s a lot involved in the art of white magic, healing herbs, and everything that goes with being a witch. But of course you already know this.” Greta sucked in a breath and then laughed.
The amulet hanging from a strip of leather around her neck turned icy cold. Her skin prickled at the frigid breeze circling around her. Her heart pounded against her rib cage. A shiver ran down her spine.
Greta cowered down from the storm brewing above her. Cold air of the spirits of her ancestors rallied to protect her from the sinister dark fog that whirled overhead. She turned to Cleo who didn’t seem to notice the battle.
Cleo’s face turned red, and her lips bunched up. Her eyes transformed into black hollow holes. The dark foggy form of a woman entered Cleo’s mouth and nose. Cleo shoved Greta and sidestepped past her. “I don’t take classes…so I wouldn’t know.”
The foreign mist that entered Cleo sent a strange sensation in Greta. At the same moment, Greta was telling her about the training she received from the good witch Doriya. The hurt and anger of not being chosen as a Shuvihani like Greta burned in Cleo’s eyes. The mention of Thad’s name deepened Cleo’s rage. It was Greta’s destiny to marry Thad. The clan respected and encouraged the union.
Even Doriya’s late husband had been anointed with the honor. Cleo’s thought waves penetrated Greta’s mind loud and clear. Greta tried to block them. Something prevented her from closing the invisible gate. Her mind remained open to all of Cleo’s ranting. Her body took on the heartache, pain, and all the emotions Cleo was feeling.
Cleo whirled around to face Greta. Thad would be out of Cleo’s future. He was taking the training with Greta and destined to become her husband. Cleo fisted her hands as the wicked fingers of pain wrapped around her heart. The dark lady moved in closer, causing fury to rise in the soul of Cleo.
Even though Greta gasped at the things her mind processed, she tried to warn Cleo, but the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth. Cleo raised her hand level with Greta’s throat. Without touching her, Cleo squeezed her hand shut. Greta fought for air. Her lungs burned. She wondered if it was Cleo or the dark lady preventing her to breathe and to back out of Cleo’s thoughts. Why did either one of them think Greta would be the least bit interested in the evil Cleo planned to create?
Your time will come. You will be the queen of the witches if you follow my instructions, Cleo. You will be more powerful and respected than Doriya or Greta. You have my word, I’ll see to it, the dark lady whispered in Cleo’s ear as she glared at Greta.
Greta stood paralyzed as the dark lady pointed her fingers and twirled them around. A large heavy metal chain clanged as it wrapped around Greta’s ankles, pinning her feet with two long spikes threaded through the end links and pushed deeply into the soil.
“If your words are true, I should rejoice with Greta for her current victory.” Lightning shot above their heads; sparks peppered the air as hot and cold breezes whirled against each other. Cleo’s eyes flashed dark and menacing until the breezes moved away from the area. Greta glanced around but couldn’t see anything. The murkiness of the dark lady lingered in Cleo’s body.
No. You should stay away from her. She knows of our plans. Together, our black magic is stronger than her white magic. We will control the clan together, the dark lady telepathically ordered Cleo. The dark lady’s cackle reminded Greta of banshee wails. Greta continued to fight the power that refused to let her out of the conversation with Cleo. You will gain the respect and unconditional obedience of the clan.
Greta opened her mouth to warn Cleo to stop her ties with the dark lady. No words came from her. The dark lady had taken control of her and Cleo. Cleo was actually enjoying the confidence of the dark foggy entity. “What is your name?”
Oh, I’m Madonna. I was assigned to help you gain your freedom of life from these people. Such restrictions should not be placed on free spirits such as you.
Greta couldn’t believe the things the dark lady was implying. She hoped Cleo would resist the spirit, but she embraced, even encouraged, the friendship instead.
“What are you… a healer?” Cleo’s excitement of meeting someone with so much power echoed in Greta’s mind.
Greta choked on the breath trying to escape her lungs. She tried again to scream out to Cleo that she could hear everything the black magic witch said. Madonna squeezed her hand tighter to choke off any more attempts.
More of a soul catcher. You are asking too many questions, Cleo. You will learn everything you need to know in time. I must be off. Practice what you have learned today. I will return soon. And stay away from Greta, Madonna called out to Cleo as she left Cleo’s body.
The hold on Greta was broken. She rubbed her hand over her neck, and the chains around her legs fell into heaps of metal and disappeared. “Don’t listen to Madonna, Cleo. She’s evil…” But Cleo ignored the words Greta called after her as she ran toward the camp.
Greta held her breath. Tears pooled in her eyes. Cleo never treated her with hatred. What had she done to make her friend unhappy? Was Cleo mad because she didn’t know Greta had been chosen to follow Doriya’s path? She walked to the circle and took her usual place on the ground beside Cleo.
Cleo scooted away with her back toward Greta. Once again, the amulet turned cold against Greta’s skin. She glanced at Doriya who waved a crooked finger to her. Doriya sent a telepathic message to Greta. Do not worry. Other plans are in store for you and Cleo. It is time for you to let your friend go. Greta nodded, even though she didn’t understand why Cleo had listened to the evil spirit.
Footsteps stopped behind Greta. A strange sensation ran down her spine. Her heart picked up a beat when the amulet grew warm. The aroma of fresh cut wood and sweat wafted in the air. Goose bumps trickled across her skin. A slight brush against her shoulder pulled her attention from her thoughts. She peeked over her shoulder at the shadow on the ground.
Thaddeus Porter lowered his lanky body between Greta and Cleo. His face reddened as he glanced toward Greta. “Hi, Greta. Have I missed anything?” He leaned his muscular shoulder into Greta. His warmth gave Greta a sense of security. The tightness in her shoulders relaxed.
“No. Doriya hasn’t started yet.” Greta leaned into Thad. “She’s going to send a message to the older kids today. They can benefit from the lessons if they will listen to her.”
Greta pulled away from Thad. Over the years they had both made a number of changes, mentally and physically. His golden skin enhanced the depth of his strong facial features and brown eyes. He swiped a strand of his black hair away from his face. “She is a wonderful teacher.”
Greta bit into her bottom lip. She glanced over at Cleo. An eerie cackle raised the hair at the nape of Greta’s neck. The breath caught in her throat. She gasped at the negative energy in the air. Cleo acted as if they had never been friends, like it was nothing of importance.
“Do not let negative thoughts rule your mind, Greta. Cleo is changing, and it’s best to let her take her own path without you.” Thad’s nearness heated her core. When they were twelve, she was attracted to his sweet attitude and brilliant mind. As they grew older and wiser, her thoughts of love, marriage, and children confused her vision of him. He rested his calloused hand on Greta’s forearm. The amulet grew hotter. Greta sucked in a deep breath.
Had Doriya and Thad looked into Cleo’s future? It was something they were taught wasn’t necessary since they live for the day. The gypsies never looked into another gypsy’s life for the future. Doriya’s voice sounded in Greta’s mind. It is not wise to read Cleo’s thoughts, Greta.
I’ve tried not to, but the dark witch named Madonna won’t let me close my mind off to Cleo. I don’t understand, Doriya. Why is she treating me this way? Greta turned her gaze to her advisor. The gray-haired woman flashed a saddened smile. I can’t ignore the evil taking over Cleo.
When the time is right, the answer will be revealed to you. And to your question, no. Thad and I have not ventured into Cleo’s mind. We know no more than you. We have both seen the changes taking over her. It is best to leave her be. She must carve her own path, and so must you.
Greta lowered her gaze to her hands. Heat crept up her neck and settled on her face. Thad and Doriya were right. She should let Cleo go, but it still didn’t keep her from wanting to help her longtime friend. The amulet grew cold, and Greta glanced over at Cleo.
Cleo glared at Greta. Her distinct smirk sent shivers down Greta’s spine. A low growl filtered from Cleo’s clinched teeth. Greta refused to break the awkward stare. She stiffened her back and rose to the test, even though she had no idea what the challenge was. Cleo turned back to the people on the other side of her.
Greta let out the breath she was holding. Cleo’s aura turned a murky brown and continued to grow darker. Greta let her mind wander, but never crossed over into Cleo’s thoughts. The colors surrounding Cleo chilled Greta to the bone.
Thad nudged Greta in the side. “It is easier to see the changes when you’re not close to them. Distance yourself for a few days, and you’ll see Cleo for who she truly is.”
“What little I have seen today worries me. Cleo has always been my friend. Today she turned on me. Does she know what’s happening to her?” Greta massaged her brow.
“Greta, Thad, it’s time.” The raspy voice of Doriya interrupted them. Thad rose and offered his hand to Greta. She gazed into his soft brown eyes. Tiny specks of gold glistened like stars against a moonless night. His straight white teeth gleamed between his parted lips. He nodded, she took hold of his hand, and he pulled her to a stand. They walked beside each other.
Greta glanced around at the crowd. The clan gathered around the outer edge of the circle. Her heart picked up a beat. A shimmering white light surrounded her and Thad as they lowered themselves next to Doriya. It was the light she had been told to expect since she was little. The light was a symbol of her willingness to take full acceptance of magic, the promise to use magic only for the good of the clan.
The amulet warmed against her skin. Greta was on the path of righteousness. She reveled in the love the charm sent to her heart, soul, and mind. Raising her hand to the amulet, she grasped it and brought it to her lips. It was her sign to the clan to follow the ways of the Shuvihani.
As the amulet pressed against her lips, the encounter with Cleo on the path invaded her mind.